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Taiga comes back, or maybe Tatsuya comes back, or maybe it's a coincidence that they meet again. Maybe it's the universe conspiring, laughing at Tatsuya and screwing him over with one calculated move.

"Tatsuya," Taiga says, and he's taller and broader and his smile is as bright as the sun. Tatsuya is fourteen and he knows this feeling, heart hammering in his chest, only it's never been like this before, like he's drowning in a bottomless sea.

*

And then Tatsuya ends up following in Taiga's footsteps and the universe is laughing again. Because Taiga is even taller and broader and brighter, and Tatsuya wants to crush his little shadow and grind the dust into the ground. Tatsuya is seventeen and he knows he can't escape this anymore.

"Tatsuya," Taiga says but he touches the shadow, not him, and Tatsuya reads a novel in that one touch and that one look they share.

*

"Muro-chin," Atsushi says and knocks at the cubicle door, and Tatsuya's ever so grateful that he doesn't just look over it. "What's wrong?"

The universe, Tatsuya thinks and wants to laugh, to let out a hysteric giggle that tastes like bile. Three years spread out like a desert between him and that one touch, Taiga's hand on a narrow shoulder, leaning onto it. Somewhere out there must be a universe where Tatsuya wasn't this stupid or this much of a coward or a fool, where he reached out instead of pushing away, where they were never brothers at all but something else. Wherever that is, it's not here.