Once upon a time, there was a dark haired boy who fell in love with his best friend.
Tsubasa doesn’t break when he’s seven, and he meets Kaname for the first time. (Although that might have something to do with the fact that he’s seven, and he doesn’t know).
He sees a boy with eyes the color of hazelnuts smiling at him across the school grounds—
And that’s it. Tsubasa falls in love before he even knows what love is.
You were born wanting to always be together. And yet.
Tsubasa doesn’t break when he’s eight, and Kaname collapses. He screams and cries and yells at his friend, because “you’re such an idiot, Kaname, why didn’t you tell me you had the Fourth Form?”
But Kaname comes back to them, to him. (And well, if Tsubasa latches onto Kaname more than ever, fusses around him and shadows him, tries to protect someone who hates being protected—well, that’s no-one’s fucking business, is it?)
A Form of Alice that wears away at your life.
Tsubasa doesn’t break when he’s nine, and Kaname almost dies—literally.
The idiot maxes out his Alice, and that’s not done, that’s not done at all. Not even to protect Tsubasa, especially not to protect Tsubasa.
Tsubasa tells him that, later, in the infirmary, loud and angry as only a nine-year-old can be—“You’re too important to die for me, Kaname!”
Kaname laughs. He laughs.
I’m sorry for worrying you, Tsubasa.
Tsubasa doesn’t break when he’s ten, and Misaki, Megane, and Kaname start “branching out their friendships”—that is, having friends other than him.
Like that nincompoop Inu, who follows Kaname around like a puppy (of course he would, Tsubasa thinks derisively, with that name). And worse, Kaname actually talks to him, and has actual conversations with him, and interacts with him. And Misaki goes and becomes best buddies with Hiyori. And even Megane makes friends. Megane. Socially awkward, nerdy, stuttering Megane.
Tsubasa sulks, of course. He sulks, long and loudly silent. Because he might be a little shit at interacting with People Who He Doesn’t Know, and may have a sum total of three friends, but—
So nope, he definitely doesn’t break down. And he’s not the least bit jealous. Or angry.
(Or maybe he is, but it’s worth it, when, later, Kaname pulls him into a hug and flashes him that heart-melting smile, “we’ll always love you, you idiot”
And I don’t know when I’ll get to come back again.
Tsubasa doesn’t break when he’s eleven, and Kaname collapses. It’s happened before, and it’s no big deal.
Or so he thinks, until the doctor, grave-faced, solemn, speaks to the three of them—Tsubasa, Misaki, and Megane—as they’re huddled in the hospital corridors, the stench of cleanliness and death filling their nostrils.
“I’m sorry, but he’s going to be permanently hospitalized.”
But Tsubasa holds everything together, pushes everything into corners of his brain and shuts the door and locks it, because Misaki’s crying and Kaname’s in a coma, and he’s not coming out of hospital, and everyone’s a mess and there has to be someone who’s got their shit together, who actually listens to the doctor, who comforts Misaki and Megane, who watches Kaname until he’s alert again.
I want the future that I spend with the ones I love to go on just a little longer.
Tsubasa doesn’t break when he’s twelve, and he realizes, sitting on one of those hard, uncomfortable hospital stools, waiting for his friend to come back from yet another operation, that he wants to kiss Kaname.
Not a flash out of the sky, though. No-one dies. There are no grand realizations or machines stopping. He just sits on his chair, and thinks, for the millionth time: why?
And the answer comes to him easily. I love him.
It’s not a shocking realization. It should be, but somehow Tsubasa’s gotten so used to Kaname and everything and life that this seems almost ordinary. Normal, somehow, like it was *who he was from the beginning, only he didn’t know it then.* (1)
You’re so stubborn and won’t accept help from others.
Tsubasa doesn’t break when he’s thirteen, and he discovers that people can be assholes. And not people as in random strangers and bullies. People as in friends. People as in himself.
It’s not like he tried to pretend that homophobia doesn’t exist, *only he’s not gay, and no, he’s not straight, and he’s not bisexual, he’s whoever he is dammit*(1i) and he can like whoever he fucking wants to and that’s the end of it but there’s no word for fear of that, except maybe panphobia, because the only label he can think of that fits remotely is pansexual, but that’s not the point.
The point is that he thought homophobic assholes were a vague minor part of society. He’s not prepared for Misaki to laugh and say “Tono’s so gay” like an insult, or for the whispers about Hyuuga and his sidekick (they’re kids they’re nine, part of his brain thinks furiously, but no, apparently, people don’t care about that).
And dammit, he’s not prepared to face the fact that he’s joining in. Maybe not actively, but he laughs at all the gay jokes, freaks out when it’s proper to, and generally acts like a right proper bastard.
Yeah, it hurts. But life hurts, and no-one dies. And he’s safe, and he hates himself, but that’s how it is, isn’t it?
I feel like when I’m gone, you really will be all alone.
Tsubasa doesn’t break when he’s fourteen, and Mikan happens.
See, he loves the kid. She’s amazing. She’s kind. She’s smart.
And she likes Kaname. Anyone who likes Kaname, and, more importantly, who Kaname likes, is worth it.
The problem is, she’s herself, honest and forward, and it shouldn’t hurt this much, but it does. It fucking hurts, and Tsubasa doesn’t know why.
Or maybe he does. But there are words he can’t say, even to himself. The parts of himself he boxed away when Kaname was permanently hospitalized have never come back out, and now he’s scared of what he’ll find there. He’s scared of the fact that when he visit Kaname, the smiles and touches will reveal what he’s been hiding so well, and Kaname will start hating him.
So maybe part of it is the fact that it’s OK for Mikan to feel like this even though she doesn’t know Kaname like Tsubasa does, even though she’s ten, but it’s not OK for Tsubasa to, according to the rest of the world.
The rest of the world can go fuck themselves, he thinks, but isn’t brave enough to say.
When I think that and look at the starry sky, my heart feels almost like it could break.
Tsubasa doesn’t break when he’s fifteen, and he kills a man.
Sure, he’s done hit-and-run missions, but they’re hit-and-run missions. Knocking people down, sure. Immobilizing them, injuring them, he’s done that, even caused permanent injuries. Not on purpose, but they’ve happened. And he’s felt enormous, soul-eating guilt.
But he’s never actually killed someone in cold blood, and when he does, it’s like a part of him dies too.
It’s actually really simple—he immobilizes their shadow, takes out a gun, and shoots. It’s the aftermath that’s horrifying, the blood, the terror, the realization that he actually fucking killed a man and he’s a murderer now, he’s killed on purpose, and he thinks he qualifies for ‘monster’ because that’s what monsters do, isn’t it?
At this point, he throws up.
And he thinks he throws up part of himself, or maybe something of him worms itself into the bullet that took that man’s life, because he changes. Something in him twists and changes, fucking changes, because he’s killed. He knows death.
He is death.
And he knows in his heart of hearts that he doesn’t deserve Kaname anymore, if he ever did. He doesn’t deserve him because, even if the impossible happened and Kaname likes guys, he’s still an angel. And Tsubasa’s still a killer.
But I’m sure you’ll be alright without me.
Tsubasa doesn’t break when he’s sixteen, and realizes that Kaname is actually dying.
So maybe he should have realized this eight years ago, or at the very least five years ago. And his brain knew then, but something inside him (his heart? his soul? He doesn’t know, and he doesn’t fucking care) only believes it, when they’ve been shut out of the ward and there are hushed whispers and shared looks which frighten him.
And in the midst of it all, he thinks Kaname might die.
A little part of him goes, Yes he might.
And Tsubasa’s world almost ends.
Kaname is everything. Kaname is the world. If Kaname dies…what’s left?
And the thing is, death’s not an abstraction anymore, a loss and an empty space. It’s brains all over the floor and twisting and change and hate and guilt, and what did Kaname do to deserve that?
He prays desperately to any God that’ll listen, prays with every fiber of his being, prays from the very depths of the mangled mess that is his heart, for a miracle, for Kaname to be ok. He’ll give anything, his life, what little worth it has, a limb, all his limbs, anything. He’d rip his heart out and eat it if it meant that Kaname would live. Fuck, he thinks he’d give up Kaname, not be able to talk to him or even see him, if that would make anything change.
But he manages to hold it together, to act calm and OK, even if, later, he does watch Titanic and break into tears every five minutes, chugging a bottle of beer and a tub of cookie cream ice cream he paid two months’ allowance for. He held out until he got to his room, at least, so he thinks it’s not a break down, it’s appropriate behavior when you realize your best friend and crush (infatuation? Or is it love? Maybe, but he’s not going there, nope, he’s not in a fit state for that) is dying, really realize it. (What is the appropriate behavior? He doesn’t think anyone will be able to tell him)
I’m sorry for not being able to be with you.
Tsubasa breaks down when he’s seventeen, and Kaname dies.
It happens like this.
Kaname’s been getting steadily worse, something which Tsubasa had known, but not thought, was possible. And it’s been coming since they were eight, and really, Tsubasa should have known, that what with Kaname being Kaname, that it would happen this way.
Kaname decides to switch all the machines—all the Alices—that have been keeping him alive off.
“It’s for the best,” he says quietly, to the three of them. The others have said their goodbyes earlier (Why isn’t Mikan here? Why? Is fate really that cruel?) and Misaki, Megane, and Tsubasa are crowded around Kaname’s bed. “I get to choose how I go, and I get to say goodbye. Most people aren’t that lucky.”
You shouldn’t have to say goodbye, Tsubasa wants to yell. It’s not OK, you should live to a hundred and have a lovely wife and ten kids and a million grandchildren and be happy. But he’d said that before, when he and Kaname were alone, and Kaname had just shaken his head. “At least I get to choose.”
And maybe Tsubasa will never understand that, or maybe he might someday, but right now, Kaname’s going to be dead soon, and no, that—that’s wrong.
But Kaname’s speaking again, and Tsubasa forces himself to listen.
“Well, this is it, guys,” Kaname’s quiet, so quiet. “So long. Don’t cry too much, OK? And take care of Bear, please. Find Mikan and give him to her.”
“We promise,” Tsubasa says fiercely. Misaki and Megane nod.
Kaname’s smile is brighter than the sun, and his eyes, when they meet Tsubasa’s, are warmth and love. And Tsubasa knows, before he says it—
“Tsubasa, please…can you…?”
It’s not really coherent but Tsubasa knows anyway. He and Misaki and Megane are Kaname’s best friends, sure, but out of them Kaname and Tsubasa are the closest. (And Tsubasa’s the only one who’s killed in cold blood, but he’s trying very hard not to think about that—only Kaname knows, Kaname’s the only person he’ll bare himself to—*when you love someone…truly love them…you lay your heart open to them. You give them a part of yourself that you give to no one else, and you let them inside a part of you that only they can hurt. You literally hand them the razor with a map of where to cut deepest and most painfully on your heart and soul.*(2) So maybe he loves Kaname then. Yes, he loves Kaname. Bad time to realize that. Really bad time.)
“Of course I will.”
Kaname smiles again. Tsubasa snatches it, holds it to him, frames it.
The other two seem to know what they’re talking about, because they quietly take their leave. Megane has tears rolling down his cheeks, though he’s trying to hide them as he melts into Kaname’s embrace before letting go. Misaki hugs Kaname tightly, holding on for moments that seem to last an eternity. Her eyes are resolutely dry. She’s refusing to cry, refusing to come apart, and Tsubasa thinks distantly that she’s really strong, that maybe, in another life, he would have grown to love her.
The two of them file out of the room.
Tsubasa takes a deep breath. “Well, it’s goodbye, then.”
“Not forever, Tsubasa,” Kaname says, blinking softly.
Tsubasa shakes his head (he doesn’t believe any of that shit, but he’s not going to start an argument, not now).
Kaname holds out his arms, and it’s an invitation. Tsubasa sinks into them, lets himself go for a moment, clutches Kaname’s shirt, breathes in the scent that’s apples and cherries and Kaname for the last time.
“Hey, Tsubasa?” Kaname murmurs into his neck.
“Don’t forget me, please. I…I don’t want to be forgotten. Ever.”
Tsubasa pulls away. “We’re never going to forget you, Kaname,” he promises, carding his hands through the other boy’s hair. “We’re going to tell stories about you to our children and grandchildren, and you’re going to be some sort of legend.”
“Thanks,” Kaname whispers. Then, “The…the button’s next to my table. There’ll be about thirty seconds, maybe a minute after you press it, then everything will turn off…”
Tsubasa nods, because what else can he do? “Okay,” he says, only his voice is stuck in his throat, and it’s coming out hoarse and rough.
And Kaname’s looking at him, and Tsubasa can’t, but he forces himself to, presses down, and it’s easy, even though it shouldn’t be, even though Tsubasa knows that death’s not as simple as that.
“I love you,” he says quietly. He means it platonically, he can’t tell Kaname now, or ever, but Kaname’s smiling up at him, that soft, slow, smile of an angel.
“I know, Tsubasa, and I…I’m sorry, I love you as a friend, but I can’t…Not now…I know that I’m not straight, but I can’t love you like that, not like I am.” Kaname looks so tired and helpless, and Tsubasa won’t let this be how he dies.
“’S OK, Kaname,” he says gently. “It doesn’t matter.”
“It does,” Kaname whispers, more to himself than anything. Then he reaches out and guides Tsubasa’s mouth to his own.
It’s just a gentle kiss, close-mouthed and slow, but it seems to last forever, and when Tsubasa finally draws back, Kaname…Kaname is gone.
And he can’t wrap his mind around it, around anything, except that Kaname knew, and he didn’t hate Tsubasa—
Except maybe he always knew.
“Promise me you’ll never hate yourself, Tsubasa, for something you can’t change,” eight-year-old Kaname had asked, one day, in the infirmary.
That day, Tsubasa hadn’t answered—he’d been too confused to.
Now he knows, he thinks, and he wonders what else Kaname knows, but—“I promise, Kaname,” he whispers. “I promise.”
And maybe he thought that would bring Kaname back, and maybe he wanted to say that to Kaname, but when he looks at the bed—forces himself to look, really—Kaname’s still lying there, peacefully, as if he’s asleep, and Tsubasa can’t begrudge him that, not really, not after everything he’s been through—
But Kaname’s gone. And nothing can change that.
It hits him in the gut, and then there are tears falling, pouring hot and thick down his face, dripping onto his lap, and he doesn’t even try to wipe them away.
Once upon a time, there was a dark haired boy who fell in love with his best friend. And this is where the universe split in two.
“Mitsuki, wait up,” Tsubasa called.
“No, Dada, no!” the little girl laughed and kept running.
“Relax, Tsubasa,” Kaname murmured into his ear, grabbing the other man’s waist. “She’s not going to get far, Mr. Bear will find her.”
Tsubasa leant into the touch, folding his head beneath Kaname’s neck. “I know, I know…but the adoption agency’s coming around next week to check how she’s doing—”
“And she’ll be doing fine,” Kaname promised. “Now relax, love, unless you want me to kiss you dead.”
Tsubasa pretended to think. “Oh, let’s see…‘kiss me dead’ sounds good, doesn’t it?” he murmured.
Kaname nodded, flushed and sparkly-eyed, and caught Tsubasa’s mouth in his own. Tsubasa deepened the kiss, forcing Kaname flush against him—
“Dada! Papa! Eeeew!” Mitsuki cried, wide eyed. “Stop!”
Kaname jumped, and this time, it was Tsubasa who laughed. “Little menace,” he said fondly, grabbing Mitsuki and spinning her around.
“You can have ice-cream if you stop running away,” he told the squealing girl.
“Ice-cream! Now!” Mitsuki demanded.
“OK, OK, kit. No need to be in such a hurry,” Kaname said gently. Then, to, Tsubasa, “We’ll finish this at home?”
Tsubasa nodded. “I love you, Kaname.”
Kaname smiled and, grabbing Tsubasa’s hand, kissed the ring that nestled on his fourth finger. “I love you too.”
And they lived happily ever after.