Furuya doesn’t know him very well, but he knows his name, his friends, his classroom. He knows why he’s here. Miyuki Kazuya, a year Furuya’s senior, permanently attached at the hip to Kuramochi-senpai. He’s here because he’s dangerous, too dangerous to be left on his own. None of it is really that important to him.
This was supposed to be a place where he would fit in, where he could make friends, but Furuya hasn’t found what he’s looking for yet. His year mates, he supposes, count as friends, but they always seem closer to each other than they are to him. They tease him when he’s in a good mood, and try to comfort him when he’s not, so it’s better than anything he’s had before. But it’s not the connection he’d been hoping for, either. They don’t always understand him and he can’t find the words to explain. The lives they’ve lead until now have been too different.
Miyuki-senpai, though. Furuya feels it, like a hook through the gut tugging in his direction, when their eyes meet. Understanding, resonating between them. They’re not the same, haven’t lived the same experiences, but something close, maybe. It’s enough, at least, that they can recognize each other’s isolation, resignation, loneliness. They’ve talked briefly, always in passing, but Furuya wants more. He wants to know what it’s like on the inside, and, just maybe, what it’s like to mean something to someone.
Furuya is a freak. A mutant. He once jumped off the bridge over the old, dried out riverbed, just because he could. It smashed up both his legs and one arm, but was able to walk home all on his own. All he had to do was lie there, gasping in agony, until his body knit itself back together. Usually they call it rapid cell regeneration. Sometimes its called superhuman healing. He’s always called it a curse.
He didn’t learn about it until one of the kids in school shoved him down onto the pavement. He’d felt the flesh over his knees tear as readily as the cotton of his pants, had known the sting of gravel forced through the skin covering his palms, but there’d been not a scratch on him when he stood up. At first, the other kids had been scared of him, leery of that which did not bleed, but word traveled fast. It didn’t take long for someone to get brave enough to hurt him. It took him even less time to realize he had no way to prove they were hurting him. Furuya has had more black eyes, split lips, and broken fingers than he can count. There’s not a scar on him.
Most days, Furuya hides in his room during the free hours in the afternoon, but today is different. One of his professors had suggested he ask another student for help with his math homework, and whether it was honest advice or a misguided attempt to make him reach out to his peers, Furuya is going to take full advantage of the opportunity. Miyuki is standing in a ring of other boys, Kuramochi on his left and Zono on his right. He knows all of them by name, but it doesn’t make the idea of interrupting them any less daunting.
What does he have to be afraid of? What can any of them really do to him? Pain is brief, a passing torment. All he needs to do is step forward, so he does. It’s Kawakami-senpai who notices him first, but Shirasu-senpai is the one who calls attention to him. They all turn to him, watching him questioningly. It makes him nervous, so he squares his shoulders, lifts his chin.
“Miyuki-senpai, can I talk to you?”
Miyuki scrutinizes him, hands shoved in his pockets, shoulders hunched. He has a penchant for trying to look smaller than he is, less threatening. Furuya appreciates it.
“Sure,” he says breezily, extricating himself from his classmates. He leads without being asked to, but Furuya doesn’t mind following. He takes them to a corner of the walled in yard, to a stone bench surrounded by flowering bushes. Miyuki plunks down, legs extended and hands tucked under the opposite bicep. Furuya hovers awkwardly before taking a seat beside him. He doesn’t know how to broach this topic. He’s pretty sure, “I think you get me, can we be friends?” isn’t a normal thing to say to someone.
“Furuya,” Miyuki says. He looks annoyed. Furuya wonders if he’s been silent too long.
“I need help with math,” Furuya says finally. It’s not what he really wants to say, but anything to prolong this meeting.
“You should ask one of your classmates,” Miyuki points out, eyeing Furuya critically.
“I wanted to ask you,” Furuya murmurs, lowering his eyes. He’s not sure how to proceed, how to make Miyuki understand what he wants.
Furuya frowns, curses his tongue for it’s continued silence. Why would he ask Miyuki? Because Miyuki is dangerous. Because he knows what it’s like to be feared and hated and alone. Because… because Furuya thinks about him at every quiet moment he has.
Miyuki doesn’t let anyone get too close, doesn’t let anyone touch him, so Furuya moves quickly. Before he can react, Furuya wraps his hand around Miyuki’s wrist. Miyuki’s eyes go wide, wild, and then he jerks back violently, as if burnt by Furuya’s touch. He yanks and yanks, but Furuya clings stubbornly. He knows why Miyuki is reacting like this, can feel the stinging burn in all the places their skin is touching, but it doesn’t matter for him. Furuya’s skin can corrode away, and it won’t mean a thing.
Miyuki stops finally - jaw tight, eyes hard, chest heaving - and glares down at him.
“Let go of me.”
Furuya tightens his grip. It hurts, a nasty, biting pain, but it’ll only hurt until he lets go. He needs Miyuki to grasp what he’s saying first.
“It doesn’t bother me,” Furuya says. Miyuki’s nostrils flare.
“Please senpai,” Furuya pleads. He doesn’t even know exactly what he’s asking for, but he tries to let it show in his expression. He just wants to be closer to Miyuki, to see if there’s anyone out there who can understand him.
They stare each other down in silence - Miyuki’s shoulders tight and Furuya’s hand aching. Miyuki relents first.
“All right, all right. Just… please let go?”
This time, Furuya listens. He pulls his hand back, cradles it close to himself out of Miyuki’s view. He can feel his flesh reaching across the chasms burned into it, trying to mend itself back together. It’s not nearly as gruesome as he’d thought it’d be, considering how long they were touching.
“How bad is it?” Miyuki asks, and his voice is smaller than Furuya has ever heard it. He looks down at his palm - nearly healed now save for the top most layer of skin just beginning to weave itself together - and offers his hand to Miyuki.
Miyuki watches with morbid fascination as Furuya’s skin becomes whole again, and lifts his eyes to Furuya’s face. His hands are cupped in the air, like he’d want to wrap them around Furuya’s, if he could. There’s something dawning on his expression, like he’s only beginning to understand what’s being offered. Furuya hopes he is, anyway.
“You need help with your math homework?” Miyuki asks finally. Furuya nods. Miyuki’s jaw works, like he’s chewing on peanut butter. He inhales deeply, holds it in his lungs as the seconds tick by, exhales slowly.
“When are you free?”