Not having locks for their dorms was practically an invitation to visit at all hours of the night and day. Which is exactly what Nakatsu did. Admittedly, barging into his friends' rooms uninvited lead to some awkward moments, but Nakatsu preferred to think of such free and easy access as a means of strengthening the manly bonds between the guys in the dorms.
Befitting the tortured state of Nakatsu's soul, it was late at night when he slipped into Sano's darkened room. Stealth was not in Nakatsu's game plan. He sank to his knees on the floor next to Sano's bed and wailed: "Sano~"
Sano--the dear friend of Nakatsu's heart--kicked Nakatsu through his covers.
Nakatsu clung to Sano's generously proffered foot. "Sano," he said, "Sano." Nakatsu chose to interpret Sano's irritated grunt as: "Nakatsu, please pour your heart out to me!" Since that was precisely Nakatsu's plan to begin with, he sobbed with gratitude and said: "I think I'm gay!"
Sano had given his foot up as lost. He sighed and peered at Nakatsu from under his arm. "Mizuki is a girl," Sano said, as if Nakatsu needed the reminding.
"I know," Nakatsu said, "I saw her--" Sano's eyes narrowed dangerously and focused on Nakatsu's flushed face. Nakatsu paused. No, there was no good way to finish that sentence. "This has nothing do to with Mizuki!" Nakatsu said instead, shaking Sano's foot for emphasis.
Sano sighed again, resigned to his role in Nakatsu's drama. "What time is it?" he muttered, shaking off Nakatsu's clutching hands with a force Nakatsu privately deemed excessive.
"It's the dark night of my soul," Nakatsu moaned. Sano's silence was cold enough to burn. "Or midnight. Either one works," Nakatsu said.
Sano pulled himself upright and scooted backwards until he was resting against the wall, his long legs stretched out before him. Nakatsu joined Sano on the bed, and collapsed with his head buried in his hands in a pose of deep and heartfelt dejection. His shoulders shook with the strain of holding back his emotions. Sano contributed to the somber mood of the moment by smacking Nakatsu across the back of the head with his pillow.
"Are you going to tell me what happened, or am I supposed to guess?" Sano asked, his voice still rough with sleep. Sano's normally alert expression was blurred around the edges, making him look softer than he usually did. This was a Sano that very few people were allowed to see.
Sano looked younger, and almost vulnerable. Nakatsu couldn't feel guilty about waking Sano up so early in the morning when it was so much easier to talk to him like this.
"I met a boy, Sano," Nakatsu said before falling silent. He stared intently at his hands, his fingers twisting together in restless confusion.
The bond of manly friendship between Sano and Nakatsu failed them at that moment. Sano didn't grasp the nuances of Nakatsu's statement. "You meet boys all the time," he said. "Now, good night."
"This was different!" Nakatsu said. "He was different." His eyes grew distant and dreamy. "He had the longest fingers, and the brightest eyes I've ever seen. He was so cute, Sano."
If possible, Sekime had been even less of a romantic than Sano. He had dug one of his pointy elbows into Nakatsu's ribs and said: ""Stop acting so creepy, Nakatsu. You're staring."
Nakatsu thought that was a highly unfair assessment. He wasn't creepy.
"No," Sano said flatly, when Nakatsu relayed Sekime's accusation to him, "you are creepy." He motioned for Nakatsu to check his nose.
Nakatsu started guiltily, and dragged the back of his hand under his nose. His hand came away clear of blood. Nakatsu shot Sano an outraged look. "Sano," he whined, deeply betrayed, "when did you become so cruel?"
"When you woke me up in the middle of the night," Sano said, unmoved. "Again."
"Don't be coy," Nakatsu said. "I know that my visits are the highlight of your night. Especially since Mizuki isn't here anymore." Wait, why was Sano blushing? Oh. Oh. "Sano, you dog."
"Shut up," Sano muttered in embarrassment. "It's not what you think."
Nakatsu wasn't so certain of that. He had so many thoughts that surely a few of them must be on target. Romantic late night massages? Mizuki shyly asking Sano to scrub her back? Cuddling together on Sano's bed, on the very spot Nakatsu now sat? Nakatsu swayed, one hand held to his burning forehead.
"Idiot," Sano said. He had definitely shaken off the worst of his grogginess. Thinking about Mizuki had stirred his blood, Nakatsu thought with a private grin. "Aren't we supposed to be talking about you?"
Sano might hide behind stern words, but truly, he was a friend beyond compare. "Sano," Nakatsu said, deeply moved by his friend's concern. "You're right. We can talk about your naughty behaviour later."
"Get out. Now," Sano said. The flush on his face was at odds with the normally cool and composed Sano everyone knew.
Sano was such a kidder! He was obviously entranced by Nakatsu's tale of awakening love. Nakatsu's eyes grew unfocused once more as he returned to his beautiful memories. "I thought that he might be like Mizuki. How could any boy possibly be so cute?"
"How many cross-dressing girls do you think there are?" Sano asked.
Nakatsu gave Sano a deeply pitying stare.
"Outside of manga," Sano said.
"Oh, ho, Sano, my naive friend," Nakatsu said, "you have no idea." During the Great Homosexuality Crisis of the Mizuki days, Nakatsu hadn't simply confined himself to yaoi doujinshi for research purposes. He had looked into reputable sources, too, and that had been a real eye-opener.
Sano pursed his lips. "If you already have everything figured out, what do you need me for?" he asked.
"A man needs his friends at his side in times of great personal crisis!" Nakatsu said brightly. He deflated quickly, and his voice was low and serious when he spoke next: "Sano, I'm not ready to be gay."
"You were ready to proclaim your love for Mizuki to the entire school," Sano said, and his dour expression left no doubt about his opinions on that matter.
"Mizuki was different," Nakatsu said. "I would have been gay for Mizuki, but--" Nakatsu shrugged awkwardly, rubbing at the back of his neck. "It's not the same."
Sano leaned forward and clamped his hand on Nakatsu's shoulder. "Too bad that being gay for my girlfriend is out of the question," he said. "Nakatsu, stop thinking."
"Do you not understand that I'm in crisis here, Sano? My life is in flux! My world is shifting beneath my feet!" Nakatsu clutched at his head, peering at Sano from between his fingers. "I like boys! Pretty boys with big eyes, and soft lips, and--"
"You can finish that thought in your own bed," Sano said.
Nakatsu drew his hand away from his face in order to point an accusing finger in Sano's direction. "Even my best friend has turned against me!"
Sano batted Nakatsu's hand aside, but otherwise ignored the accusation. "You're over-thinking things," Sano told him. "You're getting yourself worked up over nothing. Did you even talk to him?"
Nakatsu reeled back. "Talk?" He had yelped when Sekime elbowed his ribs. The beautiful boy had turned in his seat and graced Nakatsu with a look of mild concern, but no actual words had been exchanged. ". . . Not exactly," Nakatsu said. "Ours was a meeting of the heart."
Sano yawned, loudly and very pointedly in Nakatsu's direction. "The next time you wake me up at midnight, make sure you've at least talked to the guy." He continued in a wry tone: "If there's anything you know how to do, it's talk."
Nakatsu preened. "I do have a charming personality."
"I don't remember mentioning charm," Sano muttered, but he was smiling. He dropped onto his back, arms folded comfortably behind his head. "I'm not saying that it'll be easy, but you have friends to watch your back."
Nakatsu snuffled back his manly tears. "Sano, you're the best friend ever. In honour of our friendship, I'll even do my best to forget Mizuki's--" he cupped his hands before his chest meaningfully, and waggled his eyebrows.
"You do that," Sano said grimly.
"No promises," Nakatsu said, his smile gleaming in the darkness of Sano's room. His eyes rounded in sudden realization: "Wait! Wait! Sano. . . I like Mizuki's boobies! I think I still like girls!"
Sano slapped a hand over his face, and groaned in defeat. "I'm never going to sleep again, am I?" he asked no one in particular.
"I like girls!" Nakatsu cried. "And boys! Sano! What am I going to do~?"