I like to look at him when he sleeps.
It's not that I make a habit of doing that. It's just that, sometimes he stays overnight at my apartment, and I always happen to wake earlier than him. That's not by design either. I'm an early riser and a light sleeper. I can lie in bed the whole night and just listen to his soft breathing coming from the couch.
In the morning I'd wake up and the first thing I'd see is the pale, dim light of early dawn coming in through the window and bathing everything in shades of blue and gray, and the first thing I'd feel is his presence, faint and familiar and comforting.
I'd get up and walk across the tiny one-room apartment to the even tinier kitchen alcove and put on the kettle. Then I make coffee and I sit across from his couch in my favorite chair and I hold the cup in front of me, steam rising up in curls like smoke from joss-sticks. If I feel particularly energetic, I'd make miso soup and rice, a proper Japanese breakfast. But most of the time it's coffee and toast, and cereal, sometimes. I have to be careful with cereal when he's sleeping over. I'm always afraid that all that crunching and popping would wake him up. So I let the cereal get soggy in the milk before I eat them. Now I actually think it tastes better that way.
It's not his couch, of course. It's mine, a sagging, creaking, moth-eaten contraption bought from a junk store. It constantly spews forth little clouds of feathers now and then. I'm surprised he can even sleep in it. I want to offer him the bed, but... I don't know why I never did. But he seems content with the couch, and I'm happy too, because I can sit across from him and stare at him in the dim, sad light of departing night.
I don't know why he sleeps over sometimes. He has his own room in the university dorm, one he shares with Sakuragi-kun. But after particularly late nights at the little 24-hour cafe down the block, me and him and Sakuragi and his girlfriend Haruko and the rest of our little group - Kiyota, Maki, Mitsui and Fujima (all with their own fanclubs, haha) - discussing strategies for upcoming games, he'd walk with me back to my place and take up residence on the couch.
Sakuragi teases him about it occasionally, says he can't get enough of me, but Rukawa just calls him several kinds of stupid and ignores him. He must know that such an action is guaranteed a hysterical reaction from Sakuragi, who will then start shouting about tensai's and useless foxes. But he'd drop the subject, at least until later. Sometimes I think those two understand each other on levels no one else will ever comprehend.
I like to look at him when he's awake too, but I have to be careful. On more than one occasion, I've caught Maki giving me measuring looks after I've spent some time staring at Rukawa. Does Maki know? Does he suspect? I don't care either way, actually. But Rukawa must never, ever know.
I take him fishing with me on Sundays. Usually we go to this river on the outskirts of town on our bicycles. It's a nice river, perfect for fishing. I'd sit there the whole afternoon with my line in the water and he'd sit beside me, asleep most of the time. Once we went in my neighbor's car to the seaside but we got lost halfway and reached there when the sun had almost set. Still, I took out my stuff and selected a spot on the wooden jetty and dangled my line into the water. He sat beside me and we watched the sun sink into the distant line of sea and sky. Evening fell in a blanket of light that reminded me of the blue-gray light of early dawn, and there were no sound but for the waves gently lapping against the jetty, and us, together and alone in the descending quiet.
There is a contentment there, like the feeling I get when I wake up in half-darkness and I remember that he is here, sleeping on the couch.
There is once, a morning like any other, when I sat on the floor next to his couch and alternated between staring at him and at the squares of dawn light on my floor which were slowly paling into the light of day, and suddenly staring at him seemed not enough for this feeling that was getting bigger and bigger in my chest. So I reached over, and I brushed the soft strands of rebellious hair from his forehead, and I leaned close and whispered in his ear, a secret,
"I love you."
Maybe someday I'll say that to him when he's awake.