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It was nearly dark when Isumi got home. That was probably why he mistook the figure sitting with bent head and drawn-up knees on the steps to his apartment building for Waya, at first. He was opening his mouth to call Waya’s name, before his thoughts caught up to his eyes and he registered the bright dyed bangs. He shook his head. Something in the way Shindou was sitting, maybe.

“Shindou-kun!” Isumi called, starting up the steps. “Whatever are you doing here?”

Shindou looked up. He was glowering a bit, in a way that Isumi wasn’t used to seeing from him. He’d seen Shindou glaring – not at him, but anyone who’d been in a room with both Shindou and Touya Akira a few times had seen Shindou mad – and he’d seen him when he was feeling down. But Shindou just in a bad mood was strangely incongruous. The set of his shoulders reminded Isumi of a ruffled cat.

“Be honest,” Shindou demanded. “Have you ever thought that I am really freaking annoying, Isumi-san?”

Isumi blinked. “Uh.” He turned his door key over in his hand. “Why would you … did you want to come up?”

Shindou sighed and unfolded himself. He shoved his hands in his pockets as he stood. “Yeah,” he said. “Thank you.”

Isumi shot him a glance as they started up the inside steps towards his third floor apartment. “Of course I don’t think you’re annoying,” he said.

Shindou growled under his breath, and Isumi blinked at him, startled. “No,” Shindou said. “No, I am incredibly annoying. And reckless, and way too laid back, and have you ever thought how stupid my hair is?”

He jumped onto the step above Isumi and abruptly shoved the dyed part of one of his bangs in front of Isumi’s eyes. “I’m destroying my hair with bleach once a month and it’s for a really stupid hairstyle that everybody thought I would grow out of!”

“Shindou-kun.” Isumi put his hands on Shindou’s shoulders, easing him back.

Shindou slumped.“Ugh. Sorry. Sorry, Isumi-san.”

Isumi frowned, dropping his hands. He was starting to be really concerned. “Why are you being so hard on yourself tonight? Did something happen?”

“No, I didn’t mean …” Shindou shoved his hand through his hair, then grimaced and dropped it again. He pushed his hands back into his pockets, ducking his head. “Today is just – today is too weird,” he mumbled.

Isumi hesitated before he started climbing the stairs again. Beside him, Shindou sighed hugely, hanging his head as he started climbing too.

Isumi didn’t think Shindou had ever visited his apartment before – he must have asked somebody for Isumi’s address to get here at all – but he didn't show any signs of curiosity when Isumi let him in. He didn’t bother looking around, just toed off his shoes and leaned against the wall while he waited for Isumi to close the door.

Isumi chewed his lip, trying to work out what his lines were here. “Did you need to … was there something you wanted to talk about, Shindou-kun?” he tried.

Shindou scuffed his feet against the carpet, not looking up. “No,” he said. “I just – I had to get away, and I just – I felt like I –” He buried his head in his hands, an inarticulate sound of frustration escaping. Then he dragged his hands down his cheeks, looking away. His mouth quirked unhappily. “I guess you’re always going to be the one I want to talk to when I’m going crazy,” he muttered.

Isumi blinked. “I – what? Is this – is what's bothering you related to what you were going through after your pro test?” He couldn’t think of any other reason Shindou would turn to him specifically. Isumi wanted to help, but it felt as though everything he’d said so far was wrong, somehow.

“No,” Shindou said. He shot Isumi a glance and then looked down again. He was fidgety – more fidgety than Isumi had seen him before, he thought.

“Then –”

Shindou drew in a deep breath and lifted his chin. “Isumi-san!” He fixed Isumi with the full force of a challenging stare. His eyes were wide and determined as he went up on his toes, his hands catching Isumi's cheeks. Then Isumi was being pulled down into – oh, into a – a kiss.

Shindou’s mouth was firm and almost desperate against Isumi’s for a second. Then Isumi was released and Shindou dropped back onto his heels.

Shindou stared at him, wide-eyed and searching, but Isumi couldn't speak. He had a numb feeling that if he opened his mouth he was going to blurt something senseless, like that there was someone else. (It wasn't true, not really. If he had thoughts sometimes, well, everybody had a friend they had thoughts about.)

“Shindou-kun,” Isumi managed finally. “I’m sorry. I didn’t realise you –”

Shindou slumped. “Damnit, I’m a coward,” he mumbled. He pushed his hand through his hair again. Then he lifted his head and gave Isumi a clear-eyed, rueful smile. “I’m sorry. That didn’t mean what you thought it did, I promise.”

“Oh."

“I should go.” Shindou matched the words to actions and started putting his shoes back on.

“You don’t … have to?” Isumi said. “I mean – I wasn’t – I don’t feel that way about you, but I wasn’t offended, or … it’s not bad, or anything.”

He was tying himself into knots of awkwardness. But now that his thoughts had kick-started again he thought he might understand Shindou calling himself coward right after he kissed Isumi. Isumi must have been a practice run for the person Shindou really wanted to kiss.

If Shindou was that nervous, at least Isumi could offer some form of support as a friend.

Shindou chewed at his lip, meeting Isumi’s eyes. “Yeah?” he said. There was a fierceness to his gaze that Isumi couldn’t read. Shindou was hesitating in the doorway, one hand on the door. “I should – I mean – I’ll call you tomorrow. Or, not me, but – he said it would be fixed tomorrow, and how he has experience with anything like this I don't even – but you’ll be home tomorrow night, right?”

Isumi nodded. “Tell me how it goes, if you want,” he said. He tried to keep his tone light, so it didn't seem like he was prying.

Shindou jiggled on his heels. “Yeah,” he said. He started towards the stairs, turning to walk backwards a couple of steps. He flashed a smile full of nervous energy. “Yeah," he said. "You’ll – you’ll know, Isumi-san.”