home & away

Joker/Yuki story from Cool-B March 2015


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home & away

There was a wall of white on the other side of the window. I couldn't really see the scenery outside since it was blurred by the snowstorm.

I'd really come. Before it could even sink in, I went through the arrival gate straight ahead and broke into a run.

"Joker-san!!"

On the other side of the gate, my lover, Joker-san, welcomed me with his usual smile.

"Добро пожаловать в Россию! (Welcome to Russia)"

~~~

I had come to Russia, taking advantage of the winter break after New Year's.

After Christmas was over, we had both gone back to our respective homes. That's where I received a sudden letter from Joker-san. In the letter, along with a note saying bundle up tight and come here, there was a plane ticket to Russia.

I'd really come to Russia. I was realizing it, seeing Joker-san wearing a heavy coat and fur hat and way the other people looked in the airport.

We left the airport to go to the station and a freezing wind blew shrilly along with some small clouds. At the bitter cold, before long, my ears and head started to hurt like they were being constricted. I was stiffening up like I was frozen in place, and suddenly something warm was snugly enveloping my head.

"You'll catch a cold if you don't have one of these here."

With that, Joker-san had put a fur hat on my head. It was fluffy, like the one Joker-san was wearing. And it had earmuffs attached and was really warm.

"Yeah, it's perfect. It really suits you. I had some things made I thought would be good on you before you came. It's really cute, just as I imagined."

"Thank... you. It's really warm."

I was plenty happy just that he'd prepared a hat for me, but I was even happier at Joker-san's huge smile as he saw me wearing it.

"A hat is a necessity here. I like it cold like this though. If it's not below freezing, it doesn't quite feel like winter♪"

Regardless of my innermost thoughts, Joker-san was his usual self. All I could do was smile bitterly at his words like he enjoyed everything that happened to him.

"It's just like you to enjoy this cold. When I left Japan, I wondered if I really needed such a heavy coat, but I was wrong."

"See? I was right when I said to bundle up tight."

Joker-san smiled and winked, petting my head through the hat. Maybe it was because it had been a long time since I had seen Joker-san's handsome smile from close up, but I unconsciously blushed. Even though we hadn't seen each other for a little bit of winter break, the fact that just seeing his smile made me so excited, it was like I had an extreme Joker-san shortage.

~~~

After that, we left the airport and headed to the station. From inside the warm train, I watched the foreign landscape I'd never seen in my life. The streets obscured by snow were completely different from the landscape in Japan. The signs I could see from the window were all in Russian and I had no idea what they were showing. Even the voices I could hear around me were all in Russian. If it were English, although it was just to the extent of what I'd learned in class, I could vaguely understand at least a little of the mood and nuance. But I didn't understand Russian at all. I didn't understand any of it or even what to ask first, and I ended up deflating completely. Joker-san must have noticed because he chuckled and spoke to me.

"If you don't understand, you can ask me anything. First, why don't we go sightseeing when we get to Moscow, before going to the house? I'll be your tour guide."

"Yes, please!"

My heart swelled with expectation, since I had seen the sightseeing guide on the plane on the way here. Since everything was strange to me, I had to make sure we didn't get separated.

"Even if you get lost, I'll be able to find you, so don't worry."

His words, as if he had read my thoughts, made me breathe a sigh of relief from the bottom of my heart.

~~~

We transferred to the subway on the way and arrived in Moscow. With Joker-san as my guide, we went to the Red Square, saw Saint Basil's Cathedral and the Kremlin, and went shopping in a department store.

Joker-san gave me detailed explanations and translated everything I saw and heard. Thanks to that, sightseeing in Moscow was really fun. Of course it was cold, but in the end, I enjoyed the sightseeing enough to forget about that.

"Well then, we've seen the famous places, so shall we go to the house?"

We got into the car that had come to pick us up and headed to Joker-san's grandfather's house, where I would be staying.

Not long after leaving central Moscow, we arrived at the house and I was speechless when I saw it. Since the car that had picked us up seemed expensive, I had imagined it to an extent, but I hadn't thought it was like this.

Joker-san's grandfather's house was a mansion so splendid that it looked like it could be the scene for a movie. It was a long way from the gate to the house and in the huge garden, several obedient-looking hunting dogs watched me intently. Joker-san said they wanted to play with me, but playing seemed more like I'd get hunted.

We got out of the car and when the large, heavy door of the mansion opened, a white, fluffy, large ball suddenly flew into me.

"Uwaaaah!!"

I landed on my butt in surprise and the large fluffy thing licked my face.

"Ahaha, Ivan-kun seems to be giving you a big welcome."

As my whole face was getting licked, I remembered that the name of the Samoyed dog that Joker-san had since he was young was Ivan. Since his tail was wagging furiously, he really did seem to be welcoming me. Once Ivan finished his bout of licking my face, he sat fawningly at Joker-san's feet. This dog loved Joker-san too.

As I thought that, his grandfather came out of the mansion, as cool as a movie star and with attractive gray hair. He gave Joker-san a loving hug and they kissed on the cheek. That exchange seemed really natural and I recognized that Joker-san really did have a foreign upbringing.

As I stood there flustered, Joker-san pointed at me and said something in fluent Russian. Then his grandfather came over and suddenly hugged me. Welcome, he said in slightly broken Japanese, and he kissed me on the cheek. He started speaking in a rush of Russian and kept hugging and kissing me with a smile.

It was probably a common greeting but since I wasn't used to it, I didn't know what I should do at a time like this. As I stiffened, I regretted not learning at least a few greetings in Russian before coming here.

Seeing me frozen, Joker-san chuckled and came to my rescue.

"He's delighted because it's so rare for me bring a friend."

Joker-san said something in Russian to his grandfather and he finally released me from the intense hug.

Since I had heard that Joker-san's grandfather was someone in a high position in the Soviet era government, I had imagined he was really stern, but he didn't seem that way at all. Anyway, he seemed to be very welcoming and I was kind of relieved. And even I could tell his welcome was genuine.

Dinner that day was an incredible feast. I thought it was too many large serving platters with more food than anyone could eat, but then lots of Joker-san's relatives and his grandfather's acquaintances arrived and it became a bit of a party.

It's like this the whole time around New Year's, Joker-san had explained, but I had been imagining a more homey meal so I was pretty taken aback. Joker-san's grandfather introduced me to lots of people. I didn't know what they were saying, but each time was shaking hands, hugging, and getting kissed.

The feast was all amazingly delicious. There was borscht, shashlik, and cabbage rolls. I felt like I could have eaten forever, but every time I got food, a lot of maids and cooks portioned it out and I felt vaguely guilty, so instead I got nervous.

I tried saying it's delicious and thank you and stuff in Japanese, but I wonder how much they understood....

When I saw Joker-san speaking Russian mingling with all the visitors, I suddenly felt very disconnected and it kind of made my chest start hurting.

"Excuse me. I'm going on ahead to the room..."

I whispered softly into Joker-san's ear and headed to Joker-san's room where I'd be sleeping. Joker-san said he'd come with me, but since he was talking to his relatives, I told him I was fine alone and went on ahead to the room by myself.

Joker-san had said he'd had that room since he was little and there were lots of pictures all over the spacious walls and furniture. I looked at the pictures, picking them up one by one.

"Joker-san, you were so cute."

When I said that, I found it kind of funny and laughed. I thought cute would never be a word used for Joker-san while he was at school. But he really was cute. With fine hair, white skin, and beautiful big blue eyes that sparkled, he was as cute as an angel or fairy.

I guessed he was five years old in that picture? I felt like pictures from when I was five all had me with a runny nose or some food spilled all over me. Since there were so many pictures that seemed like they were taken at a photo studio, I could tell that Joker-san was really loved.

"Huh?"

The family pictures that seemed to be taken every year stopped at ten years old. And not just the family pictures, I couldn't even find one snapshot since then.

"Oh."

I unconsciously called out. Joker-san's accident had definitely happened around that time. That's why Joker-san didn't have an eyepatch in any picture.

I'd heard that even though Joker-san's house was in the city, since there was no one there, he went back to Russia when there were long breaks. He said he didn't like the mood to get like he was being pitied, so he didn't talk about the accident much. Although I hadn't really heard it definitively, Joker-san's parents weren't in Japan or here in Russia either. Wait, did that mean they...?

"That picture is cute, isn't it?"

I turned around in surprise at the sudden voice and Joker-san was right behind me. He must have opened the door without me noticing. From behind me, Joker-san reached out his hand to the picture frame I was looking at.

"I guess that was me at four years old. Oh, I know. Do you want to try seeing an album?"

"Y, yes..."

Maybe it was because of the prying thoughts I'd just been having, but my response was kind of awkward. Acting as if he hadn't noticed, Joker-san began to pull a large album from a shelf.

Laying on top of each other on the bed, the two of us looked at the album. Little Joker-san in the album was dressed as a prince on a stage, and as a little soldier. On the next page, he was dressed in an outfit like a white dress and singing. The kids were all cute, but Joker-san looked like he outshone them all.

"This is when I sang in a choir. Back then, people said I was as cute as a fairy. Now every time I see my relatives here, they say I was so cute, it's such a shame that I'm all grown up now."

Joker-san said with a bitter smile, and I immediately denied it.

"That's not true! You're still really beautiful and cool!"

"Really? If you say so, that's good enough."

Joker-san said and gave me a kiss across my shoulder. But I reflexively stiffened.

"What's the matter?"

"It's nothing... well..."

"Did you not like the food before? I made it dishes that I thought you'd like, more or less, but I can't judge, you know."

Come to think of it, since the food was all on serving platters, there must not have been any with a flavor that Joker-san could eat. I was so engrossed in eating that I didn't notice at all, and I felt terrible.

"That's not true. The food was really delicious!!"

"It was, huh."

"Oh..."

"Did something else bother you?"

He rolled me over and Joker-san peered at me, facing me directly.

"I kind of... got a little nervous."

"Is that why you came back to the room by yourself? Will you tell me?"

With that clear eye watching me steadily, I felt like I had been stripped naked right down to my heart. Searching my own feelings, I timidly opened my mouth.

"I'm really happy that you invited me to Russia, took me sightseeing, and welcomed me. But since I got to this country where I don't understand the writing or speech, it's like I'm feeling out of place, or that I'm in an unfamiliar, completely different world.... Then, I suddenly got to thinking."

Little by little, I put the gloomy feelings in my heart into words. Along with making my feelings clear, the pain in my chest grew stronger.

"What did you think?"

Joker-san didn't try to hurry me, he just waited for my words.

"That maybe this is how it felt, the sensation you had of being disconnected from the world. What I felt may not compare, but when I thought that, I suddenly got kind of sad..."

"So you ended up thinking about that."

"Why did you invite me here?"

Joker-san looked a little surprised, like my question was unexpected, and he looked uncomfortable with a strained smile.

"Because I've spent half my life so far in Russia. Japan and Russia are both home ground for me, and I love them both. So I just wanted to show you a half of what I like."

Joker-san hand's reached toward my cheeks. He touched them gently and pulled the corners of my mouth into a smile.

"So I didn't invite you here to make you look so sad."

I started smiling a little too, at Joker-san's gentle smile. He seemed satisfied and, petting my hair, continued his words in a gentle voice.

"But, to tell you the truth, that wasn't all. I come back to Russia every year at the end of the year. That's usual for me. But this year I got really lonely. I invited you here because I wanted to see you so much I couldn't stand it."

"You were lonely, Joker-san?"

It was my turn to be surprised. Since it was Joker-san, who I only ever saw enjoying himself, I never imagined words like that would come out of his mouth.

"Yeah. I'm surprised too. That I could come to feel like this."

Joker-san shrugged his shoulders while I was there with my mouth gaping open.

"Until now, everything around me has been only either boring or fun. So I didn't care what other people were thinking or what they thought of me. I thought, as long as I could find something fun, that was enough."

That had been my impression when I first met Joker-san. So, not having a clue what he was thinking, I had been completely at his mercy.

"But, since falling in love with you, I've wanted to know your feelings so much I can't stand it. When I think about you, all sorts of feelings well up inside me that I want to tell you. That's a sensation I've never had before now."

Joker-san spoke to me, choosing his words carefully. It wasn't a figure of speech, maybe he really was bewildered by his own feelings.

"You're the one who destroyed the wall between me and the world, Yuki-kun. That's why I feel that without you, I might end up separated from the world again."

"I won't let that happen!"

Seeing me unconsciously lean forward, raising my voice, Joker-san chuckled, petting my hair.

"Just by being able to accept my changed circumstances as the way things are, I didn't think to try and force a change until now. But now that I've learned I can feel the world through you, I don't want to go back to my old self. Since, for me, you're absolutely essential and you've become a part of me."

I forgot even to breathe as I took in the words and Joker-san embraced me tightly.

"You're the only one who has made me feel like this."

"For me too, you're the only one I've felt like this for, Joker-san." I returned Joker-san's embrace. "I'm... happy. That you feel like that about me, so happy..."

Holding him tight, I buried my face in Joker-san's chest. I took in a deep breath of Joker-san's scent and I felt like the happiness was soaking right into my body. That I was irreplaceable to Joker-san, that he thought of me as part of himself made me so happy I couldn't stand it.

Joker-san laughed happily above my head and whispered. "But I still have a lot to learn. I put my own feelings first and made you feel lonely."

"I don't feel like that anymore. Besides, even I have a ways to go about a lot of things." Blushing, I looked up and Joker-san dropped a soft kiss on my forehead.

"Then I'll become a piece of you. So why don't you become a piece of me too, and make up for what I lack? Then neither of us will be lonely."

"Yes... Joker-san."

Joker-san smiled in satisfaction at my reply.

"Let's be together even more than before. In a deeper place in body and heart."

I nodded and he pulled me close, both of us slowly collapsing on the bed. Softly brushing my hair out of my face, Joker-san smiled gently. I returned his smile and touched his hair.

"Whatever happens from now on, I'll protect that smile of yours. No matter what. So don't worry about anything and just be yourself. Since that's what makes me happy."

"Me too. Joker-san, you being happy and having fun makes me happy too."

"Then, let's always stay happy. That way we'll always be happy."

Joker-san's warm lips covered my own. With the sound our tongues made reaching my ears, I wrapped my arms tightly around his back.

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