There was a one-month temporary substitute for the music theory class after Father Jacobs left. She was an old nun named Sister Margaret. She was tone deaf and hard of hearing. To this day, nobody knows why she was asked to substitute.
Kato woke again sometime in the morning. He was drenched in sweat. He was still feeling awful, but he was very warm, almost too warm in fact. He assessed his situation. He remembered a little of last night. He realized that he was sleeping in bed with Takahashi, with nothing but very thin boxers between them as Takahashi was still spooned up against Kato’s back. He felt Takahashi’s breath on the back of his neck. It tickled a little but in an indescribably pleasant way, which embarrassed Kato a little. Takahashi’s arm was wrapped around Kato’s abdomen with his hand on Kato’s chest, embracing him. It was very intimate.
Kato sat there for a long while wondering why he was embarrassed at the situation and yet didn’t want to do anything about it. He had never been held before in such a way. He had never been cared for in such a personal way before. And he didn’t want it to end. He didn’t know it could feel so good to have someone care about him enough to do this.
He awoke again to someone gently rubbing his chest. He grabbed Takahashi’s hand and said, “That tickles.”
Takahashi snickered, his breath on the back of Kato’s neck sent goose bumps throughout Kato’s body.
Kato wasn’t cold anymore but still felt rough. He was also covered in sweat and he could feel the sticky sweat between his back and Takahashi’s front. “I’m warm now.”
“Good. You shook so badly last night. I was really worried.”
“Thanks for keeping me warm,” Kato said.
“Do you want breakfast?” Takahashi asked.
“Not yet,” Kato replied. “I just wanna lie here a little longer.”
Takahashi hugged Kato. “Fine, take your time.”
“I’m sorry to have troubled you,” Kato lamely apologized.
“Don’t worry about it.”
The more Kato thought about it, the more he wished he could stay like this, embraced in someone’s caring and warm arms. It was a wholly new experience.
“Gotta pee,” Takahashi said as he let go of Kato and got up. He tucked Kato back into bed and donned his bath robe and left.
Kato immediately noticed Takahashi’s absence, as if it were a piece of him had been torn away, leaving an empty void. He secretly hoped Takahashi wouldn’t be gone too long.
Takahashi returned with a bowl and a washcloth. “Sit up, Ren-san.”
“Why?” Kato asked.
“Well, you didn’t shower last night, and we were drenched in your sweat all night, so you need to be cleaned up a bit.”
“What?” Kato asked incredulously.
“Just do it and stop asking questions. I’ve already seen you naked a bunch of times. We slept last night next to each other, practically naked. I mean what’s left?”
Kato didn’t really know “what’s left,” but he wasn’t sure he wanted to find out.
“So just sit up and let me take care of you. It’s not hard. You don’t even have to do anything.” Takahashi reasoned.
Kato begrudgingly acquiesced. He sat up and moved the blankets away. Takahashi dipped a washcloth into the bowl of hot water and started to rub Kato down. He started by gently wiping Kato’s face, then his neck, then his back. He rubbed down Kato’s chest and stomach, but he didn’t go inside of his boxers, to Kato’s relief. He then had him lift his arms to clean. He felt a little shy when Takahashi pushed up Kato’s boxers up to his groin, as he started there and worked his way down Kato’s legs and to his feet. Nobody had ever touched him so close to his groin, ever. Kato was sure that the only valid reason to submit to this invasion of his privacy was that he was sick, and Takahashi was taking care of him.
Still, it was slightly embarrassing to have someone touch him, especially another boy, so intimately all over. “There,” Takahashi said. “You should be good until showers tonight.” He went over to Kato’s clothes and grabbed a pair of fresh boxers. “Get up and change into these.”
Kato suddenly felt bashful.
“Ren-san. I’ve already seen it.” Takahashi gently reminded him. “You’ve been in those long enough and they are probably soaked in sweat. Change for me, please.”
Kato sighed. He stood and removed his boxers. He felt Takahashi watching him. At first, he thought he would be super embarrassed doing this, but, in actuality, it didn’t bother him as much as before. Is it really possible to lose my modesty over time or am I just that sick? he wondered.
Takahashi handed him the fresh boxers and took the used ones. Kato wobbled slightly as he attempted to put the fresh ones on. Takahashi reached out and held Kato’s shoulders and steadied him. Kato pulled his boxers up and Takahashi went and put the used ones into Kato’s laundry bag.
“Thank you,” was all Kato said.
“You’re as weak as a newborn kitten. Sit for a bit in the chair now. I’m going to get dressed and get some fresh linen. You still look very rough even though your fever broke.” Takahashi put the bowl and wash cloth to the side and then dressed himself and left. Kato was still in his boxers. He looked at the clock and it was 5:42 am. He felt wretched and weak. He did not want to get up to breakfast, so he just sat there until Takahashi returned about 15 minutes later.
He watched Takahashi remove the blankets and linen and put fresh ones on.
“Tachibana-san should be back in a few minutes. I thank you again for taking care of me.”
“He’s not coming back today,” Takahashi informed him.
“Huh?” Kato was surprised.
“Yeah, he told me to just stay here another day with you and help you recover.”
“Oh.” Kato said.
Takahashi smiled. “Don’t sound too disappointed. You’ll have your old roommate back soon.”
“That’s not it,” Kato weakly replied. “I am sorry for inconveniencing you.”
Takahashi sat down in the chair next to Kato and put his hand on Kato’s forehead. “I keep telling you to stop worrying about it. If I didn’t want to do this, I wouldn’t be here.” Then he ran his fingers through Kato’s hair, attempting to straighten it out a bit.
Kato looked at him then looked down.
“I really wish I could stay with you all day, though,” Takahashi mused.
Kato looked up again. “Huh?”
“I’m not sick, so I have to attend class. I’ll let the instructor know that you went to the infirmary and you’ll be excused. I’ll also collect any homework for you. But you need to stay here and rest today.”
“Oh,” Kato said.
“I’m going to breakfast and I will bring you something back. It will be something easy on your stomach. But not soup. I think you need something with a little more substance.”
Takahashi felt Kato’s cheeks with the back of his hand. “You look terrible,” he chuckled.
Kato gave a little smile. “I feel it.”
“Why don’t you get back in bed for a little more and I’ll be back soon.”
Kato agreed and got up. Takahashi helped Kato get in bed and then covered him with blankets. Then he simply smiled down at Kato and left.
Kato was feeling some very complex emotions all knotted up in his heart. He was realizing that he liked being taken care of, but at the same time felt guilty to put so much on Takahashi. He wanted to be just left alone but when Takahashi was gone, his absence left that indescribable void inside Kato. He concluded that it must all just be because he was sick.
He awoke to Takahashi returning to the room carrying a few items. He sat up as Takahashi brought a bowl over. “What’s this?” he asked.
“I made some oatmeal with a diced-up apple, some honey, and a dash of cinnamon. It should be easy on your stomach and still be palatable.”
Kato started eating. He was hungrier than he thought as he devoured the food. Takahashi went to the desk and poured Kato some milk. “Drink this up. It’s good for a growing boy, though I’m not sure you’re growing anymore.” Takahashi chuckled.
Kato said hoarsely , “Ha. Ha. Ha. Not funny.”
Takahashi gave Kato some medicine and then had him lay down again and covered him with some blankets. He sat on the edge of the bed and moved that pesky lock of hair out of Kato’s eyes and simply stared at Kato.
“What?” Kato asked.
“Nothing. Makes me sad to see you sick, is all.” Takahashi lamented.
“I’ll be fine. You should go to school,” Kato said.
“Yeah. I’ll be back for lunch. Just rest.”
“Okay,” Kato replied. He closed his eyes and listened as Takahashi made some noises getting ready and then the door opening and closing as he left. That lonesome feeling crept back into his heart. He hoped lunch would come soon so that Takahashi would return.
Takahashi came back into the room and Kato was sitting up, attempting to read Moby-Dick. “How you feeling?” he asked.
“Meh,” Kato said.
Takahashi smiled. “That good, eh?”
“I got super bored and I can’t sleep so I thought maybe that means I would be temporarily immune to this book’s sleep-inducing spell.” Kato smirked.
Takahashi laughed. “Yeah, that book. We’ve gone a few rounds too.”
“What’s for lunch?” Kato couldn’t resist asking.
“Come and sit in a chair and see.”
Kato got up, and realized he was still in his boxers. He still felt naked, for all intents and purposes, but he wasn’t bashful as he sat in the chair.
Takahashi pulled out two hamburgers from a bag and gave one to Kato. “This wasn’t on the menu, but I convinced one of the chefs to make it for me.”
Kato smiled happily as he thought he could finally eat real food. He devoured the hamburger while Takahashi was only halfway through his. Takahashi chuckled and reached in the bag and fetched another burger and gave it to Kato. This time, Kato ate it more sensibly, enjoying it more.
Takahashi pulled out a piece of paper from his pocket. “Here’s the homework assignments. You already have the schoolbook, so the instructor wants you to do these exercises.” He put the paper on the counter.
“Okay, thanks,” Kato said.
Takahashi pulled a bottle of ramune out of the bag. “You can have this, after you take your medication.”
Kato really hated medication. But he agreed to the bargain. “Good boy,” Takahashi smiled.
“I’m not a dog,” Kato said in protest.
Takahashi winked in return.
“Well, the homework will give me something to do this afternoon. It’s boring here.”
“Tonight, I’ll bring my guitar and play for a while.”
Kato liked the sound of that, and honestly, the sound of Takahashi staying for another night. He felt that Takahashi was quite likable when he wasn’t acting like a wolf.
“I think I would like to lay down for a bit. I suddenly feel a little tired again.”
“Probably the food and medicine.” Takahashi guided Kato back to the bed and pulled the blankets back and then over as Kato got in. He tucked Kato in again. He felt Kato’s forehead and smiled. “Rest for a bit.”
Takahashi sat in a chair and started reading out of a book. Kato fell asleep.