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Laughter

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White smudges the voluminous sky, edges sharply blended into the backdrop of dark blue and orange rays slant through sparse cloud layers, illuminating the vast space with almost blinding luster. The evening breeze lifts the hem of Kazuya's shirt by an inch, then flutters back down, cotton brushing across his back like the light skim of fingers. Kazuya leans his abdomen against the metal railing, arms hanging loosely over the barricade as he watches grey-clothed players give a loud bellow of "Osu!" in response to the coach; one voice rings out particularly enthusiastic to his ears, and the corners of his lips tug upwards to a self-indulgent grin.

"Ah, Miyuki!" Eijun separates from the crowd that's slowly dissipating, some pausing in their steps to throw a curious glance but otherwise paying little attention to his presence. Kazuya finds himself shifting closer to the railing, metal pressing into his stomach as Eijun reaches him, red still coloring his cheeks from the adrenaline rush of the match. "You're really here!"

"I said I'd come," Kazuya says, taking the grey sleeve of Eijun's jersey between his fingers and giving it a small pull. Eijun's face twists into a scowl almost immediately. Kazuya continues on, undeterred, "White suits you better." 

The dissatisfaction from his face evaporates in an instant and Kazuya marvels how quickly his mood changes as he watches Eijun's lips pull to a familiar curve. "I like Seidou's better, too!" 

Eijun catches Kazuya's fingers when his grip loosens on the sleeve, and Kazuya lifts a single brow inquisitively. "I..." Eijun averts his eyes away, red creeping up his neck to his ears.

That's unusual. Kazuya lets the corner of his lips pull to a smirk. "What is it?"

"Stop it, ass," Eijun says grumpily, giving a half-hearted slap on Kazuya's shoulder, "thank you, okay?! I didn't expect you to make it."

"It's your last game before your final exams," Kazuya deadpans, looping an arm around Eijun's neck with some difficulty as he stretches a little more over the railing, "what, did you think I wouldn't come?"

Eijun's warning glare is enough of a reply, and Kazuya rolls his eyes, pulling Eijun closer to him with their interlinked fingers. Eijun's eyes round wide, indignant remark ready on his tongue, but Kazuya's lips pressing against his forehead mutes him, and Kazuya smiles against his sun-kissed skin when Eijun's fingers tighten around his; be it instinctively or not, it makes warmth pool in his abdomen and hot tingles spark down his legs with the rise of goosebumps on his skin. 

"What was that for," Eijun says, obviously trying for a grouchy effect with his puffed cheeks, but the twitching ends of his lips give him away and Kazuya laughs as he untangles his fingers away from Eijun's. 

It suddenly feels a little colder with the empty gaps between his fingers, and he flexes his fingers a bit. "Give me a minute." 

Eijun's eyes narrow to suspicious slits. "What do you - hey!"

Kazuya ignores him, fingers curling around the metal railing as support before he secures his footing on the highest bar he can reach and swings both his legs over. "Shush, idiot." 

"The railings are there for a reason!" Eijun protests, arms poised out rigidly as if Kazuya can fall any time. Kazuya bites back a laugh when he imagines himself letting go of the bar on purpose - Eijun's wrath will be something to see. Not today, he thinks as he finally gets the soles of his shoes on the other side of the barricade and drops down on his feet with a light thud. He dusts off the front of his pants with a satisfied grin, and Eijun scowls as he punches Kazuya on his shoulder once he sees that Kazuya's safe without any broken bones before him.

"You could have fallen!" Eijun fumes; his brows knitting together and the usual shine in his eyes sharpening to a glint as the ends of his lips dip to an unhappy scowl - Kazuya finds that to be absolutely adorable, and not at all intimidating. Not that he'd say that out loud now, with the way Eijun's eyes are leveling angrily on his. 

"It wasn't that high, idiot," Kazuya says, the bite that should have been in his tone long faded to something else, something raw and affectionate, like he's laying his heart bare when he lets words fall from his lips like that. 

Eijun continues glaring. Kazuya lets a soft exhale escape between his lips, knuckles bumping against Eijun's. "You've a celebratory dinner to attend, don't you?" 

"Yeah," Eijun answers shortly after a moment. "Don't do that again." He slants a stern gaze at Kazuya, eyes brimming with vivid brightness, gold encapsulating him with its raw concern, face awash with the threatening expression that Kazuya has seen only once before. 

The witty remark Kazuya's ready to unfurl at the tip of his tongue somehow rolls back, down his throat with a swallow. He doesn't say anything at first, only stepping closer and turning his body inwards to press against Eijun, arm sliding across his back and fitting his hand around the younger boy's hips. "Okay," he breathes, Eijun's hair tickling his cheek. 

Eijun relaxes against him, tilting his head upwards with an answering grin. And Kazuya's again struck by how versatile his moods are, this boy he has his arm wrapped around. The straightforward, almost frighteningly earnest boy has probably no idea how Kazuya feels when he nuzzles his cheek against Kazuya's shoulder in response, or later, when he fills the gap between Kazuya's fingers with warmth and tugs him forward.

The exit sign glows an eerie mix of green and white in the darkness above the door, still a good few feet between them, and Kazuya's mildly surprised when Eijun doesn't make any outward response to the darkness that's starting to shroud them both as they leave the comforting cast of glow from the only light pole that's switched on in the field.

"Not scared of the dark anymore?" Kazuya asks, and Eijun's staring straight ahead, the lack of lighting making it difficult to see the myriad of expressions that are probably skimming across his face at this very moment.

"Nah." Eijun tightens his fingers around Kazuya's, and with his terrible eyesight, can only see the flash of white teeth in the darkness before he feels a light bump on his shoulder - he realizes a second later that Eijun had just headbutted him and snickers.

"So, have you heard?" Kazuya says, conspiratorially soft, pulling Eijun closer with a curve of his lips.

Eijun takes a few more steps forward before he replies: "What?"

"I heard that this stadium is actually - "

"Shut up, bastard," Eijun says blandly, and Kazuya's slightly disappointed he's unable to see the scowl that's sure making its way on Eijun's face right now.

It's quiet for a few minutes when they push through the door and walk towards the parking lot; then they stand at the corner, conveniently tucked behind a thick pillar of the entrance of the stadium, neither of them saying anything. Kazuya spots Eijun's teammates just a few feet away from them around the corner, boisterous laughter rising in the group as they bump fists, exuberance from the victory of the match evidently still rushing through their bodies with their toothy grins and radiant faces. 

"All right, have fun," Kazuya speaks up after a beat of silence, pulling his fingers away from Eijun's. "They're waiting."

Eijun's emotions are bared on his face as usual: confusion, embarrassment, and finally determination settles into his features as he squares his shoulders with a silent huff as if he's giving himself an inner pep talk. Kazuya lifts a brow, but says nothing and waits. Eijun throws a glance over his shoulder where his teammates are still indulging in their spontaneous celebration in the car park, singing horribly with off-tune voices of "We're the Champions" at the top of their lungs. 

He's surprised by a firm clasp around his arm, turning his eyes to meet Eijun's. It's like the world has dulled to a mess of blurred grey and black; the noises fading to nothingness when Eijun presses a kiss at the edge of his mouth, murmuring a soft "thank you" as he pulls away, blush unfurling across his cheeks. 

Kazuya feels hotness rise to his cheeks, and when Eijun's about to turn, he tugs him back by his wrist and without noticing how the group behind them has fallen silent, he frames the deliciously-pink, heated skin underneath his hands before he slants his mouth over Eijun's, a soft press of lips against lips, and Eijun's quick to pick up on his lead, one hand reaching to fist the front of Kazuya's shirt as he pushes in deeper, tongue sweeping the entrance of Kazuya's lips.

Desire weighs heavily at Kazuya's abdomen, aching and searing through his veins as he forces himself to pull away, eyes dilating when he notices the thin strand of saliva connecting between their lips before it breaks apart. Eijun's breathing is considerably more labored now, face flushed and eyes bright with a look Kazuya knows too well. He grins, pats Eijun's left cheek playfully. "We can continue this after you get back." 

"Shut up, who says anything about continuing?!" Eijun retorts, face burning a scarlet red as he hastily adjusts the strap on his shoulder before he looks up and makes a face. 

"Oi, Sawamura! We've seen enough! Hurry, I'm starving!" One of the boys calls, cupped hand to his mouth; it's then Kazuya notices some of them looking away with flaming cheeks and the others with too-wide grins on their faces. 

Oh, Eijun's gonna get into so much trouble.

Kazuya lets the rise of laughter tumble out from his lips and drops his hands from Eijun's face. "Bye."

"Bye," Eijun says, ends of his lips curling to a smile, "be safe on your way back."

"Yeah I will," Kazuya says, feels warmth spreading throughout his body at that, "you too."


Kazuya's listlessly flipping through his book when his phone vibrates on the table, buzz reverberating on the glass almost deafeningly loud. He sighs tiredly, reaching over to grab his phone before he leans back against the couch again.

"Hello?"

It sounds like static on the other end, like flicking to a channel with the television cables not connected right. A crease forms between his brows, and he's about to check the caller ID when Eijun's voice breaks through the mess. "-yuki?!"

"Where are you now?" Kazuya asks, setting his book down on his lap, "please don't tell me you're at a club and dead drunk."

"I'm not!" His voice bursts through a little too loud, but Kazuya doesn't bother to move the device away from his ear, shifting himself to a more comfortable position.

"Tone down, idiot. You're too loud." Kazuya chuckles under his breath as Eijun splutters over the phone. "What happened?"

"I don't really know, actually," Eijun says, and there's a click on the other end, like a door opening. "I think we got into an accident." 

Icy fear trickles down Kazuya's spine and he's upright in a moment. "Are you okay? Where are you? I'll go - "

"It's fine, I'm fine," Eijun says, and the reassuring tone he takes on appeases Kazuya, though only slightly. His stomach tangles into nervous knots as he bends slightly over his knees, phone close to his ear. "The police is talking to the driver, so I'll just go take a bus home."

"It's pretty late now," Kazuya says, glancing at the clock. "You sure you'll be fine?"

"Yep!" The loud affirmation settles his nerves, and Kazuya breathes a little easier. 

"All right," Kazuya relents, "don't get lost."

A loud huff greets his ears, then: "I won't!" 

He hangs up, and Kazuya gets up from the couch after he flings the book on the couch, shuffling to the kitchen to make a cup of coffee. He startles when a loud shriek shatters the peace of the night, and he takes the freshly-made coffee into his hands, warming them up with his fingers wrapped snugly around the cup as he moves over to the window. Probably the neighbor's pet again. The night has been pretty tranquil - save for the ear-piercing meow just now - and Kazuya enters the living room, setting the cup down on the table with a sharp 'clink'.

"Hopefully get a chapter in," Kazuya mutters to himself, interlacing his fingers together and stretching his arms, feeling his joints ache deliciously with the pull. He lays the book open, highlighter in his other hand as he starts reading; it's strangely peaceful tonight, almost unsettling so, with the lack of complaints about furniture bumping into kneecaps and shouts of burnt supper from the kitchen - a wry grin turns his lips upwards as he flips the page soundlessly.  

It's about twenty minutes when the phone rings again, and Kazuya bites into the single slice of bread between his teeth before he grabs the phone from beside him to answer the call.

"'ello?" He says, tearing a chunk of white away before he starts chewing the bread with slow, contemplative bites as he mulls over his notes.

"Why did you only pick up now?!" Eijun's practically yelling into the phone, and even though he is a shouter, his voice is high-strung, compact with anxiety as he breathes heavily through the line. "I tried calling you for like ten times!" 

Kazuya takes the phone away from his ear to check his notifications. "No, you last called about thirty minutes ago," he says, but his fingers are tight around the phone, gut twisting queasily in his abdomen. "What - "

"Hello? Can you hear me?!" Eijun's voice sounds pinched, and this makes Kazuya gets on his feet in a fluid motion, highlighter sliding from his fingers and hitting the table with a hollow thud before it rolls off the edge. 

Kazuya doesn't spare it a single glance. "Eijun? Are you there?" 

"I'm - the - " The line cuts off abruptly, static filling his ears again. Kazuya takes another quick glance at the clock. He better be fine, that idiot. He punches in Eijun's number with practiced taps, pads of his fingers flying over the familiar numbers that fill his screen.

No one picks up, and Kazuya's brows crease, before he tries again. 

No response. 

"Idiot," Kazuya mutters, though it holds no real bite in it, and it's said out loud more to soothe the unexplained anxiety gnawing his insides, festering slowly but steadily, building into a ball of nerves churning in his stomach; he feels nauseous all of sudden - it's not like Eijun's in any danger, he tells himself, he's just lost and being an idiot as usual.

Even as he says that, he finds himself unable to concentrate on the black letters in bold print on his text, glaring harshly back at him and barely making any sense; it's almost like he's studying Greek and these characters are completely foreign to him. He exhales heavily, pulling off his spectacles by its hinges and rests the arm on his thigh; the other reaches to massage the bridge of his nose as he slides his eyes shut. 

The vibration on the table snaps him out of it and he immediately snatches his phone off and slides his finger across the screen to answer the call. "Eijun? Are you okay?"

"Hello? Please tell me you're there." His voice sounds far, like he's holding the phone a few inches away from his mouth and Kazuya frowns, increasing the volume by a notch - he's never had this problem with Eijun before.

"I'm here," Kazuya says slowly, unsure where this is going. "Have you found your way home yet?"

"Kazuya." It makes shivers run down Kazuya's arm, the way his first name rolls off and wraps around his throat, like tendons of his heart are intertwined around the younger boy's tongue, tugging painfully sweet with every spoken syllable. "I don't know where I am." 

The quivering voice makes a dent form between Kazuya's brows. "What are the road signs?"

"I don't know. The roads are so dark." There's a small sniff at the end of the sentence.

Kazuya's fingers reflexively pushes the receiver closer to his ear, and he struggles to find something comforting to say. "I thought you aren't afraid of the dark anymore?" 

"That's because you are with me!" 

Kazuya breathes in sharply at the blunt, earnest response that comes without hesitation, heart thrumming hard against his ribs as he tries to gather himself. He releases a heavy breath, air pushing between his lips with a soft whoosh. "I'm with you now, aren't I?"

"Sort of, I guess." Eijun sounds more assured now. "Yeah."

The corners of Kazuya's mouth lift. "Okay, now where are you?"

There's a small fumble on the other end, then: "I see the grocery store!" 

"Good. It's going to take you about ten minutes?" 

"Yeah!" The reply is both cheery and bright, ebullience rushing through the phone with his usual enthusiasm as he gives another unnecessary addition of: "Osu!"

"Seriously," Kazuya says, feeling silly about his worrying all of sudden, pushing his spectacles back to rest on his nose. "Then I'm hanging - "

"No! Wait!" Panic fills Eijun's voice again, and this time Kazuya feels more amused than worried, knowing that Eijun's just fine. "Stay on."

Kazuya's lips tug to his usual smirk. "Why?" He asks, keeping his voice carefully neutral.

"I know you're snickering or whatever you do over there!" Eijun hollers, and Kazuya lets laughter pass through his body with small tremors as Eijun blusters over the phone.

"Okay, you need to relax," Kazuya says, voice still quivering slightly with amusement. "So, what happened? You got lost, didn't you?" 

"I - I didn't," Eijun stumbles over his words, flustered. "I was riding the bus we usually take, but it's just going down some really dark road - I didn't know where I was. It felt like I was riding in it for so long and I just kinda panicked. And," his tone turned accusatory, "you didn't pick up!"

"I did," Kazuya replies, taking the bread off the table to stuff the rest into his mouth as he clamps the phone between his shoulder and ear. 

The static dies down significantly. "You didn't," Eijun insists petulantly, and Kazuya can visualize the pout he must have on his face, trying hard to rein in the grin that's pulling the ends of his mouth upwards. "It was scary, okay?! Just plain black around me and there's no one here on the bus. I felt like if I got off now I'd be lost forever."

Kazuya lifts a brow. "It's the night, in case you don't know. Not many people are out this late."

"Shut up, smartass," Eijun grumbles, there's a small crackle on the other end before he continues, "it was just really weird. When I couldn't text or call you, I tried dialing Kuramochi and Harucchi, but I couldn't get through them either."

Kazuya turns the volume back down before he bends over to pick up the fallen highlighter on the floor. "Your connection sounds like it really sucks just now. It only just got better." 

"Really?" His voice comes through clearer now. "I don't know, when I'm talking to you it seems like it'll go on the right path home."

Kazuya cards his fingers through his hair, amusement making it difficult to let the grin on his face die down. He's going to hold this against Eijun for a long, long time. Maybe tell Kuramochi the next time he comes over or something. "So you're saying I'm like your compass to guide you home?"

"H - hey! I didn't put it like that!"

"You did."

"No, I didn't! I swear, if I'm there right now I'd throw my sneaker right in your face, you smug bastard!" 

Kazuya doubles over, laughter tumbling out from his throat and making him gasp for air at the end; it has never failed to amaze Kazuya how much Eijun makes him laugh - it's like every reaction Eijun does is deliberately set to trigger random bouts of laughter. 

"Stop laughing!" His voice is crisply clear now, and Kazuya's mouth twitches, but he reels in the instinct to aggravate Eijun more. He can wait for later. "Oh! I see the bus stop!"

"The one a few feet away from our apartment?" 

There is a loud sigh of relief. "Yes! Thanks for not hanging up."

The immensely earnest tone Eijun adopts makes Kazuya's urge to rile him up shrivel away, and his lips curve. "I'm always here," he pauses a bit, "you've to thank me good later."

"Ugh," Eijun mutters, "but it's really dark, I don't... oh well, I will see you later! I just got off the bus!"

The line hangs up, and Kazuya stands up to take his cup to the kitchen for a wash, gulping the rest of the coffee down as he pads to the kitchen. He flips the tap on and starts washing his cup with languid motions, lazy to do it quick. 

The moment he pushes the tap off, he can hear the buzzing on the table again. He pats his hands dry on the towel hanging beside the basin and makes his way back to the living room, sliding a finger across the screen as he moves to the window. There's a pair of streetlights coming down the street but he can't spot Eijun anywhere close.

"I can't find our apartment!" Eijun exclaims the moment the line connects, "I can't find the entrance to the building - where is it?"

"It's there, idiot," Kazuya says, "for someone who boasts so much about his perfect vision - "

"Oh, I found it! Thank God. And shut up, your eyesight's terrible!" 

Kazuya rolls his eyes. "Of course you can find it." He looks down, the streetlights continuing their approach down the flat - red and blue flashing lights...? He furrows his brows. "Did you come home in a car? Like hitch a ride with the police?"

"What?!" Eijun sounds incredulous over the phone. "I told you, I took a bus." 

Hm. Kazuya stares down. No sign of Eijun anywhere. "Where are you?"

"I'm going to take the lift now." Kazuya feels a heavy sense of foreboding as two police officers step out of their car and tilt their heads back like they are searching for a certain apartment in the dark while they lift their walkie-talkies to their mouths. It's a moment before they disappear into the building.

What the hell? Did something happen?

"I'm - in - lift." His voice comes through between abrupt cut-offs, and suddenly Kazuya's scrambling to his front door, chest unbearably tight as he inhales sharply. "I'm coming out soon! Make some iced chocolate for me later! I need a good drink!"

Kazuya's pressing his fingers against his door, peering through the peep-hole. Two uniformed officers turn into view, and their mouths move in muted whispers as they take their caps off and put them against their chests. 

"Oh God." Kazuya almost doesn't recognize the broken voice that comes out of himself, raspy and weak. 

"Oi, Miyuki?! Iced chocolate okay! I just came out of the lift!" 

"Yeah, iced chocolate," Kazuya manages to say, eyes intent on the officers as they continue the discussion outside.

"Thanks for guiding me home!" His voice rings painfully loud, the cheeriness in his tone crashing down on Kazuya's entire being. 

It's as if an entire chunk of his insides has been dug out and splattered on the floor; giant weights push his lungs together and squeeze the air out of him as the room dims to a black and white. 

"Can you see me?"

Kazuya takes in a shuddering breath, watches as the officers start nearing his door. His throat constricts, and he tilts his head back a little, blinking rapidly to keep the burning tears in. "Yeah, I can."

"Great! See you in a few!" 

He swallows hard, tries to relax the muscles clenched around his throat. "See you," he whispers. 

The dial tone blares like sirens in his ears, echoes so loud in his head he thinks they’re about to split him inside out.

It’d be okay to, he thinks numbly, it doesn’t matter anymore.

Two knocks rap on the door in rapid succession.

His arm weighs like pure lead, and the phone slides from his ear and drops by his side, dangles limply like bones aren't in him anymore; like blood isn’t flowing through him any longer, like there are fingers squeezing his heart mercilessly tight and pushing it to splatter to a red, morbid mess inside him.

It’s so difficult to breathe.

Is it normal? To feel like the world’s crashing down on you? Bubbles of laughter rise at the back of his throat at this supposedly exaggerated description, and he makes a gagging sound, bracing himself against the door as another knock reverberates through his hand.

Tastes bitter –

Oh.

It isn't laughter.

Laughter is when Eijun wakes up beside him, mouth stretching wide to a yawn before he loops his arm absently around Kazuya’s neck for a bleary morning kiss on the cheek; laughter is when Eijun bursts into his room in a flurry of panic, apron tied loosely around his waist and burning smell coming from the frying pan he holds in the left hand; laughter is when Eijun interlaces his fingers with Kazuya’s and presses his head against Kazuya’s shoulder before he tilts back to face Kazuya with a grin so wide it feels as if sunlight is poured through the cracks of his soul; laughter is when Eijun’s hands cup his cheeks and wipe hot trails of messy tears away with glistening eyes of his own –

Laughter is Eijun.

 

 

This isn’t laughter.