“What are you doing?” Kyouichi says, like it doesn’t matter. Tatsuma is blowing bubbles into his milk through the straw, and maybe it doesn’t matter but Kyouichi needs it said.
“I don’t know,” Tatsuma says honestly, meeting Kyouichi’s gaze under the glitter of the midday sun. “What are you doing?”
“Waiting to see him get what he deserves,” Kyouichi tells him, without looking at the figure sitting silently in his wheelchair on the other side of the playground.
“Hm,” says Tatsuma softly, non-commitally, and sucks up the last of his milk hard enough to hollow his cheeks. Then he turns, drops his empty carton into the bin and crosses the yard back to Ryuuji’s side. Kyouichi frowns after him, and then sighs and tips his bokken back over his shoulder and sets off after him.
Tatsuma isn’t going anywhere without him; never again, whether he likes it or not.
“Don’t you hate him? Just a bit?”
It’s not that he asks out of a desire to hear Tatsuma say yes or no; but it’s hard to understand and he can man up and admit that. The Kasou seems frighteningly at ease everywhere they go; turning the charm on and off like it’s a fucking faucet and it makes Kyouichi sick to watch. Tatsuma just smiles and goes back over and says their goodbyes and then patiently wheels Ryuuji out of the bar, down the street and to the next stop, and then the next, and the next, Kyouichi trailing three paces behind.
“How can I hate him,” Tatsuma sighs, when they stop for food. They’re sitting opposite each other in the café booth, and he doesn’t seem at all worried that the kid has wheeled himself off to the bathroom alone, like it hasn’t even crossed his mind that he might not come back. “When he’s me?”
Something about that makes Kyouichi want to hit something.
“He’s fucking not,” he snaps, dumping one, then two, then three sugars into his tea and then grunting when he realizes he’s just made it undrinkable. He pushes it away from him in disgust. “There’s nothing about you that’s like him. I don’t want to hear you say that shit again.”
Tatsuma bestows on him another smile, and reaches for the abandoned cup. “If you didn’t want to know, you shouldn’t have asked,” he points out amiably, and takes a sip of the tea and then smiles again. “Mm, this is good.”
“You’re trying to save him.” Kyouichi isn’t sure he can stand to watch this much longer, but he can’t leave Tatsuma alone with him either. “And it’s a waste of time and if I seriously thought I could knock some sense into that thick god damn skull of yours…”
Tatsuma bumps shoulders with him as they walk. Kyouichi really hadn’t thought it was okay to leave that guy alone up there, but Tatsuma had just smiled and told him it would be fine, and that he wanted a drink from the Lawsons. So, Kyouichi had shrugged and gone with.
“Of course I am,” Tatsuma says mildly, and his smile in Kyouichi’s peripheral is teasing. “Isn’t that the point?”
The doors to the Lawsons swish open and they step into the cool interior, and in the harsh fluorescent lights, Kyouichi knows what Tatsuma’s saying, but…
“Why? And don’t give me that crap about him being you again, Tatsuma, or so help me God I’ll…”
“Why did you come after me yesterday?” Tatsuma asks suddenly and for a second Kyouichi isn’t sure he’s heard him right.
“What? What the fuck kind of stupid question is that?! Because you were being an idiot!”
Tatsuma pauses, and straightens, and smiles at him faintly through the frosting refrigerator door before tugging out three cartons of strawberry milk and stepping back to let the door suck shut again.
“I know,” he says, as honestly as he’d said he didn’t, that morning. “But why do you care?”
Kyouichi just stares at him. Why? Why? Everything they’ve gone through together, and he’s asking him why? Because… Because Kyouichi… Because they’re friends, god damn it, and Kyouichi will be fucked if he’ll stand back and let someone he cares about mess his life up; not while he still breathes.
“Because somebody pays me to, you asshole,” he grates, but by Tatsuma’s smile, he already knows it’s bullshit.
“I want to save him, Kyouichi,” Tatsuma says softly, taking just one step towards him, bringing himself into Kyouichi’s personal space, the strawberry milk cradled in his arms between them, brush of his forearms against Kyouichi’s abs and Kyouichi can feel the cold coming off the drinks almost like he can feel the warmth coming off Tatsuma. “I want to save him because you saved me.”
“I didn’t-“ Kyouichi stutters, jerking back a bit.
“Yes you did,” Tatsuma counters, and it sounds both fond and accusatory. “And not just then. The only way I can thank you is to try and do the same for him.”
“Tatsuma…” Kyouichi starts, but Tatsuma is already half way back down the aisle, heading towards the counter. Kyouichi stares after him, at his back, straight, strong, sure, and Tatsuma’s totally got it the wrong way around.
“Hey, Kyouichi,” Tatsuma calls, cheerfully. “Grab some o-cha pocky and lend me some yen!”
Fifteen hundred yen later, they’re heading back the way they came. Tatsuma digs into his bag and offers Kyouichi a strawberry milk and Kyouichi scowls at him and pushes him off and they keep walking in easy, comfortable silence, and it’s always been easy with Tatsuma, Kyouichi thinks. From the second they met, it’s been like they fit together just right, and they’re almost back to the hill when Kyouichi stops, and it’s clanging around inside his skull, what it is he has to tell Tatsuma, before he loses his nerve, before…
“Tatsuma…” he starts, and Tatsuma stops a few paces ahead and turns back, bag in one hand, milk carton in the other, and a bemused, expectant smile on his lips.
Kyouichi swallows, takes a breath and braces himself and for a second, it’s like going into battle.
“It wasn’t… It wasn’t for you,” he says in a rush, and geez he can feel his face heating but he’s going to say this or be damned. “I’m a selfish bastard and I didn’t do it for-“
He blinks, breaking off, because Tatsuma is right there, right back in his space and smiling that smile and his eyes are kind and deep and Kyouichi could fall, just fall…
For a second, it almost feels like he is, and then he realizes it’s because Tatsuma has leaned over and up, and his soft mouth presses against Kyouichi’s like forgiveness, like a promise.
“I know,” Tatsuma says gently, stepping back. “But that doesn’t mean it didn’t work.”
Tatsuma steps back, slight brush of his hand against Kyouichi’s fingers, a brief, bright touch, and Kyouichi wants to hold him back, to pin him down, but he’s already rising up, off towards the hill and the fallen boy who waits at the top.
And overhead, the stars come down.