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5 Centimeters Per Second

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"Hey, they say it's 5 centimeters per second."

"Huh? What is?"

"The speed of falling cherry blossom petals is 5 centimeters per second."

"Really? You know a lot of stuff like that, Yusuke."

Yusuke gave a small chuckle, and he walked along side the other boy as the petals fell past them.

"You know, they look just like snowflakes," he commented, reaching out his hand to catch one.

"I guess."

Yusuke began to run ahead a little, and the other boy tried his best to follow. "Hey! Wait up!"

Yusuke ran across the train tracks, causing the other boy to stop as a train passed by.

"Yusuke!"

"Akira."

Akira waited for Yusuke to speak again. "I hope that we see the cherry blossoms together next spring."

'Dear Akira Kurusu,

I'm sorry that I haven't written for so long. Sensei has kept me busy with my artwork, and so I haven't had a lot of time to myself to be able to sit down and write to you. He wants me to improve, and so I know I should be painting, but I found myself thinking about you.

The last time we were together was at our junior high school graduation. It's been half a year since then. Do you still remember me?

I miss you and hope to hear from you soon.

-Yusuke.'

Akira smiled and began to write his reply.

'Dear Yusuke Kitagawa,' he wrote,

'It's quite alright, I understand. I know how busy your sensei would keep you when you were here.

I think about you a lot, and I've been meaning to write but I've been busy myself, with school.

Sometimes, it's hard without you around. I don't have many friends, but it's alright. I can manage by myself.

Oh, I got a cat, by the way. His name is Morgana and he's pretty cute, however he's kind of picky about which food he likes.

And of course I remember you. How could I not?

Oh, and I miss you too and I hope to hear from you rather soon as well.

-Akira.'

'Dear Akira,

Thank you for writing me back. It made me so happy. It's already well into autumn and the leaves are turning beautiful colors. Perhaps I should paint them.'

"Akira?"

It was Makoto, the student council president.

"Hi," Akira said, smiling as he held the half read letter in his hands.

"What's that?" Makoto asked, looking at the letter. "A love letter?"

Akira blushed. "No, it's not," he said quietly, looking away.

"Sorry for having asked you to do all that," she said, and he looked back at her, and he nodded.

"It was no problem."

"Thank you. Hey, are you really transferring to another school–?"

"–Yeah. At the end of the school year."

"Where?"

"To Kagoshima, because of my parents."

"Really? We'll miss you."

'I want to paint you as well, it's just been so long since I've last seen you that I'd a picture of you to refresh my memory so I can remember exactly what you look like. Perhaps you should send me some pictures with your next letter, of you, your new cat, and whatever else you'd like.

Love to hear from you soon.

-Yusuke.'

Akira smiled.

'Dear Akira,

How are you? Lately I've been getting up early because I'm busy with school activities, so I'm writing this letter on the train. The scenery here is very nice. I bet you'd love it too.

I wonder when I'll see you again. I miss your smile that could never fail to cheer me up. How are things, by the way? I hope you and everyone else is doing well.

Don't forget to send me pictures! I really want some of you specifically. I want to paint you, and like I said, I need to refresh my memory.

You know, I've changed quite a bit since we last saw each other. You probably wouldn't even recognize me now, huh?

I bet you'll change little by little over time, too.

-Yusuke.'

Akira hugged the letter tightly to his chest.

Later that night, when he got home from school, he began to write his next letter.

'Dear Yusuke,

How are you doing? I hope you're okay. It's getting colder here with every day that passes. I like cold weather, though.

I'm moving soon, at the end of the school year, to Kagoshima, which means I'll be transferring schools, but I'm used to it. You're used to it too, aren't you?

Also, I hope you like the pictures I've taken this time. I'm going to put them in the envelope before I send this to you. Last time, I forgot.

It's been so long since I've last seen you, but I think I'd still recognize you any day. There's just something about you, something I'd never forget.

By the way, how's school? How's Madarame? I hope all is well.

-Akira.'

'Dear Akira,

Are you doing alright even with all this cold weather? Here, it's already snowed a few times. I've been painting a lot. Which reminds me, thank you for the pictures you sent me of you and your cat, Morgana. I'm going to paint you one day soon, I promise.

Also, I was really surprised when I heard that you'll be transferring schools. We both got used to transferring schools when we were little, didn't we? But still… Kagoshima… that's kind of far away, isn't it? It makes me feel rather sad to know that I couldn't hop on a train to come see you whenever… Although, I suppose Tokyo is pretty far now too.

I just hope that you'll be fine. I hope you make new friends as well.

School is fine, however the other students do not seem to like me very much. Sensei is well, and I am too. Are you?

-Yusuke.'

Akira wondered what to write next. It'd been quite a while since he'd last received a letter from Yusuke.

He sat down anyway, Morgana jumping into his lap and curling up into a ball, going to sleep.

'Dear Yusuke,

I'm doing okay. It hasn't snowed here yet, but I'm sure it will soon. And it's good that you've been painting, but don't work yourself too hard, okay? Remember to eat and sleep, and please stay healthy. Remember to take care of yourself.

And you're welcome. I'm glad you liked them.

And I get that you'd be surprised. It is a lot farther away, I must admit, but don't worry. I'm sure things will turn out okay.

Also, why do you think that the students at your school don't like you? What's not to like?

I miss you a lot. I hope to hear from you soon.

-Akira.'

'Dear Akira,

I'm so happy we'll see each other on March 4th. It will have been a year since we last met. For some reason… I feel kind of nervous. I don't know why I feel this way – it's only you, after all.

I wish to give you a painting if I can. Something to remember me by until the next time I see you after March 4th.

There's a big cherry blossom tree by my house, and in the spring, the petals will fall at 5 centimeters per second. Perhaps I'll paint the tree when the flowers bloom and send it to you as a gift one day.

I wish spring could come when you do though.

I'm glad you're coming all the way out to the station closest to me, but it is far from where you are so please be careful.

I'll be waiting for you in the station's waiting room at 7 o'clock that night.

-Yusuke.'

Akira carefully folded the directions to get to where Yusuke lived and put it safely in his pocket. He was supposed to go to practice, but he couldn't because he had to leave soon to make sure he could meet Yusuke by 7 o'clock.

He got on the train in Yongen-Jaya, watching as it left the station, headed for Shinjuku.

That afternoon, on the day that he was to meet Yusuke, it started to snow.

Akira gazed out of the window, sighing softly.

As he looked back, he thought he and Yusuke were very alike somehow.

One year after he transferred to the school in Tokyo, Yusuke transferred there, too, and was in his class. Apparently there weren't very many art schools near them, especially not for Yusuke's age, so until he got older, he had to go to that school.

They were both kind of small for their age, and they both sort of had anxiety. The other kids didn't really like them that much. Akira thought that was why they always found themselves spending so much time together reading in the library or doing whatever they liked.

Naturally, they got close to each other.

It caused their classmates to tease them. They didn't think Yusuke and Akira acted like normal friends. They said that two boys like them usually weren't as close as Akira and Yusuke were unless they were in love, but they didn't care. It didn't matter much to them at all. They knew what they were, even if others didn't understand.

They were friends.

Best friends.

And naturally, Akira just assumed that… they'd end up going to the same senior high school until they both graduated… and that they'd always be together.

Akira got off of the train in Shinjuku station and hopped on the next train.

It was the first time he had been in Shinjuku station alone, and it would be the first time he'd been to any of the places on his route.

His heart was pounding.

He was going to see Yusuke. He couldn't wait another second to see Yusuke again.

Akira was waiting for the next train, and he shivered in his heavy coat as he looked up at the falling snow and thought back to when he found out Yusuke was leaving.

"You're transferring schools?" He'd asked over the phone, surprised. "What about all the work you did to get accepted into the same school as me?"

"Sensei said he'd do all the paperwork to get me into the very nice art school they have in Tochigi… I'm sorry…"

"No… you have nothing to apologize for… it's just… that's so far away… I'll miss you…"

"I told Madarame-sensei that I wanted to stay in Tokyo, even if it meant not being able to go to a nice art school, but he said no, that he wouldn't accept it."

Akira could hear the sadness in Yusuke's voice, he could tell that he was about to cry.

"Alright… don't tell me anymore… that's enough… I- I don't want to hear it…"

He was about to cry too, and he buried his face in his knees.

"Sorry," Yusuke murmured sadly.

He held the receiver so tight in his hand it was like… he could just feel Yusuke's pain through the phone.

But there was nothing he could do.

Akira checked his watch as he heard the train would be delayed. Until that moment, it'd never even crossed his mind that this would happen.

Suddenly, he became really worried.

"Due to snow, the train is running ten minutes behind schedule. Please accept our apologies for any inconvenience."

The stations seemed unbelievably far apart, and each time the trains would stop, it felt like an eternity would pass him by. Akira was afraid he was going to be late.

And as he checked his watch, his heart sank when it changed from 6:59 to 7:00 and he still had such a long way to go.

Because of the snowstorm, all of the trains were delayed. This was frustrating.

He was already late to meet him, and he was sure Yusuke was probably worrying by now. Akira pulled the letter he'd written for Yusuke out and looked at it.

On that day… the day he got that call… Akira realized that Yusuke must've been more upset than even he was.

And Akira wasn't able to do a thing. He couldn't fix anything.

He felt so ashamed of himself.

"Well," Yusuke began quietly, watching as Akira looked away, feeling hurt.

'Don't say it,' he was thinking. 'Don't make this harder.'

But Yusuke wasn't a mind reader, and he said it anyways. "I guess today we say goodbye."

Akira felt so lost when Yusuke was leaving. Yusuke was pretty much the only friend he had, and he was about to lose him.

There were just so many things Akira wanted to tell him, so many things he wanted to ask him, but he never knew where to start.

The next train departed, and Akira hoped it wouldn't be much longer.

But it was.

It was 7:41 and Akira still wasn't in Tochigi yet.

At 8:15, he waited for the next train. All he could do was keep going and hope that Yusuke would still be there, waiting for him.

He walked up to a vending machine. He was extremely hungry, and so he reached in his pocket to grab some yen, but…

The letter he wrote slipped out, and the wind took it away.

Akira felt like crying. He'd poured his heart into every word written, and now it was gone.

Tears did well up in his eyes, and he took his glasses off to wipe them away. He then walked away, no longer wanting to eat.

The train then arrived, and Akira got on, feeling sadder than he should be. He was going to see Yusuke and yet… he just felt sad.

At 8:54, the train stopped, due to the heavy snowfall.

'Dear Akira,

How are you? Lately I've been getting up early because I'm busy with school activities, so I'm writing this letter on the train. The scenery here is very nice. I bet you'd love it too.

I wonder when I'll see you again. I miss your smile that could never fail to cheer me up.'

When Akira read Yusuke's letters, he always envisioned him alone.

In the end, the train sat, motionless, for about two hours, in the middle of nowhere.

Every minute seemed like an eternity.

Every second had broken his heart a little bit more.

Time slowly crept by, and Akira wondered if he'd ever get to see Yusuke. All he could do was grit his teeth, try to hold back his tears and wait.

'Yusuke,' Akira thought, closing his eyes tight as his watch read 10:22, 'Please… please… don't wait for me. If you just go back home…'

At 11:15, the train finally arrived at Akira's destination. He walked to the station's waiting room, going inside, feeling dejected and angry at himself.

But as he looked up, all he felt was happiness and relief when he saw Yusuke sitting there, most likely asleep, in the chair by the heater.

Akira walked over to him slowly, and despite how cold it was, his hands were sweating. "Yusuke," he whispered, and the blue haired artist lifted his head slowly, opening his eyes to look up at Akira.

Yusuke's lips parted, and he pulled Akira closer by his jacket, his forehead resting on Akira's stomach.

"I… I'm so glad you're safe…"

Yusuke pulled away after a moment. "Please sit by the heater. You must be freezing and hungry. I brought food."

Akira nodded, sitting down like he was told. They eat together, drinking some tea Yusuke brought in a thermos and Akira told Yusuke what happened.

"I figured it was because of the snow," Yusuke uttered, and Akira sighed out.

"Yeah, I'm sorry," Akira said softly, and Yusuke smiled.

"It's nothing, don't worry about it. Oh, by the way, I have something for you."

"You do?"

"Mhm."

Yusuke pulled out a small canvas, passing it to Akira. It was a lovely watercolor painting of a cherry blossom tree, and what Akira assumed was his and Yusuke's intertwined hands at the top.

"Yusuke, it's… it's beautiful…" Akira whispered, looking over at the artist, who blushed. "Thank you."

"No, thank you… I'm… I'm glad you like it."

"I love it. Really, thank you." Yusuke nodded at that, and Akira leaned over to hug him.

"So…" Yusuke began, and Akira pulled away. "You're going to move soon, right?"

Akira nodded a bit sadly. "Yeah, next week."

"Kagoshima, huh?"

Akira sighed. "It's so far away…" He murmured, and Yusuke gave a nod.

"Yeah…"

"But turned out Tochigi is quite a ways away too."

"It is, and it's so late… I guess you won't be able to go home now."

The man in the waiting room knocked on the glass to get their attention. "I'm sorry, guys, but we're going to have to close up. I'm sorry there's no more trains."

"Okay," Yusuke told him, looking at Akira now. "Come on, let's go."

"Take care, it's snowing heavily out there."

"We will, thank you."

They left the waiting room, walking through the snow.

"Can you see it?" Yusuke asked, pointing off into the distance. "That tree?"

"The one you wrote about in your letter?"

"Yes, the cherry blossom tree."

They walked up to it, looking at it in the moonlight. Snow was falling all around them.

"Hey," Yusuke whispered as a snowflake fell into his hand, and Akira looked over at him. "They look like snowflakes…"

Akira's lips parted as he remembered what Yusuke said a long time ago. "You're right," he said softly, smiling, "They do."

For a second, it was like all time had stopped, as Akira's eyes met Yusuke's. And slowly, they both leaned forward as their lips met.

At that moment, Akira felt like he understood things, like the existence of eternity, the heart and the soul. He felt as though they had shared all the experiences of Akira's sixteen years.

And the next moment, Akira became… unbearably sad. Sad, because he didn't know what to do with Yusuke pressed against him, or what to do with that soul, or how long he should hold onto them.

He also came to the realization that they would not be able to stay together.

The overwhelming weight of their lives to come, the uncertainty of time hung over them. But soon, all of Akira's fears began to melt away, much like the falling snow would in time, leaving only Yusuke's soft lips on Akira's.

He wanted to touch him somehow, his hands aching to do something, anything. But he wasn't sure if he should carefully pull Yusuke closer, cup his cheek or even just brush hair from his face. In the end, he just balled his cold hands into fists and hoped they'd never have to end this.

When they finally broke apart, Yusuke hugged Akira tightly, and Akira hugged him back, blushing.

He didn't want to let Yusuke go, because he felt like, if he did, he'd lose him. All Akira wanted was to stay like that forever, to never let go, and perhaps that way, he and Yusuke could be together for eternity. They'd never have to lose what they had right in then, in that moment.

That night, they stayed in a tiny shack nearby, cuddled up together in a blanket, talking until they both finally fell asleep.

The next morning, when the train started, Akira got ready to leave.

And there, Akira and Yusuke said goodbye.

"I…" Yusuke began, at a loss for words. "Akira… Akira, I think… you'll be…  you'll be okay. I know you will be…"

"Thank you for that…"

"I'm going to miss you so much…"

Akira gave a nod, swallowing the lump in his throat. "Yusuke… I…"

Yusuke gripped Akira's jacket a little, shaking his head. "I know…"

Yusuke knew, but didn't want Akira to say it. It'd make things a lot harder.

But Akira, too, wasn't a mind reader, and he said it anyways.

"I think I'm in love with you…"

Yusuke nodded, pausing. He swallowed, and his voice came out next so quietly, it was nearly a whisper.

"I think I'm in love you with back…"

Akira blushed, leaning forward to kiss Yusuke one last time, cupping his cheek softly.

For some reason… it just felt like this was the last time, and Akira swore he felt his heart breaking a little, but he tried not to think about it.

They had to break apart then, as the doors on the train began to close.

"Take care of yourself, Yusuke…!" Akira said as the door finally closed, placing his hand on the window. "I'll write to you… I'll call… I promise…"

"Take care of yourself as well, Akira… maybe one day soon… we'll get to see the cherry blossoms together again… like we did a long time ago…"

"Yusuke…"

"Akira…"

And then, the train was gone.

Yusuke stood in the snow, watching as it left, and Akira with it. He pulled a letter out of his bag, one he'd planned to give to Akira but didn't, and he sighed sadly, hoping one day, he'd see Akira again.

Akira didn't even mention the letter he lost, because after they'd kissed beneath the tree, it seemed like the whole world had completely changed. It was like he'd said everything he ever wanted to say to Yusuke, just with that kiss alone, and it was enough.

Akira wanted so badly to be able to protect Yusuke, even though if Yusuke knew that, he would say that he didn't need protecting, and Akira would have laughed and told him that it was because he wanted to.

Akira wanted so badly to be able to kiss Yusuke just one more time, and to let him know he really did mean it when he said he was in love with him, but… he was sure that Yusuke already knew.

Akira wanted so badly to be able to be together with Yusuke, even though he knew that he couldn't, and he never would be able to, but that was all he could think about, as he gazed absently out of the window.