The front door slammed shut in his face, rattling the entirety of the little house, causing Kaito to flinch and stop short. It had never been his intention to hurt the boy, but he also felt that it had been his responsibility to try and set him straight, as gently as possible. Needless to say, Len had reacted badly.
Kaito could've pinpointed the exact moment when the light left Len's sky-blue eyes, and knew in his heart that the boy would listen to nothing else he had to say afterward. He watched the infinite, glistening sorrow crystallize, rendering Len's eyes an icy blue befoe his temper splintered into pieces. "I'm not just some kid, Kaito!" he'd spat, suddenly fierce, clenching the arm rests. "My feelings aren't any less important than yours."
At that, Kaito winced guiltily. He really hadn't considered seriously the possibility that Len loved him romantically. But even if he truly did, his love would've come to nothing.
"Len . . . I'm sorry."
That wasn't what he'd been expecting—he could tell from the slight widening of the boy's eyes, before he remembered his anger and growled, looking deliberately away in an attempt to disguise his embarrassment.
"I didn't mean to imply that your feelings aren't as important as mine."
Len stubbornly refused to meet his eyes, although Kaito could feel his anger dissipating.
"Maybe," he said, fishing for a reaction, "I should explain my feelings for you." He could almost see Len's little ears perk up, hoping against hope that this time his words would be different. Kaito took a steadying breath, not wanting to crush Len's hopes a second time, but knowing that this had to be said. "Honestly," he sighed, "you're like the little brother I never had. I mean . . . me and Akaito, we—we were never very close, and . . ." He paused, unused to talking about this. "And I sort of missed out, I guess, on having a brother—somebody to have my back no matter what, and to take care of in return. You've made up for whatever emptiness I felt because of that. I do love you, Len."
The boy's eyes were on him now, seeing through him with an endless clarity.
"Just not the way you're thinking."
A silence blanketed the room, heavy, and when he looked up again, tears were gathering in Len's eyes, and even when they filled, the boy refused to spill even a single burning drop, quivering slightly with the effort it took. Am I not worth the tears? Kaito wondered. Or is this some kind of demonstration of strength to show that you don't need me? He sat and watched as Len finally looked down, bowing his head so far that Kaito couldn't have seen his face if he'd tried.
"I knew I shouldn't have told you." The normally bright voice was subdued, and slightly husky due to his tight throat, which he tried to remedy by swallowing repeatedly, hard.
Kaito heard only the accusation, the bitter words that told him he had just betrayed a deep trust, and felt his own throat tighten as he realized, I'm the first one who's ever broken his heart. This would certainly ruin their relationship, which he loved as it stood, but . . . That didn't matter. He couldn't be selfish about this. He had to do what was best for Len, end of story.
"I can't return your feelings in the way you want, and I'm sorry for that, but . . . I'll always be your friend, Len. That'll never change, unless you push me away, which—I hope you don't, but if you do . . . I'm prepared for that."
"But Kaito," the boy choked. He chose this moment to lift his head, revealing his pained, twisted face. It looked so wrong on him, and Kaito felt something within him uproot itself and attempt to wrench free, ripping. "We're only three years apart! It's not . . . that's not abnormal!"
"It is when we're this young, Len," he said, as gently as possible. "The age difference is much more acute. People would think I was—a pervert!" There, he had said it. He hadn't meant to be harsh, but it would help get his point across, anyway—the boy had to understand that what he wanted was impossible.
"So . . ." A smile turned up his small lips. "You only care about what people think? . . . You're so shallow." He laughed slightly, and not in a good way. "You would really turn me away," he whispered, "just because it wouldn't be the norm. Maybe . . ." His eyes began to drift away and he became eerily calm. "Maybe you're not who I thought you were." With that, he stood up and walked out of the room without looking back.
"Len?" Kaito sat up, listening intently. The footsteps continued. "Len!" He pushed up from the chair and shot into the other room.
Len broke into a full-on run, throwing open the screen door and dashing through it.
Kaito arrived just in time for it to slam in his face. He shoved past it, onto the porch, and watched Len running down the street—blindly, he guessed. He plopped down on the front porch steps with a deep sigh, watching until the boy disappeared around a corner.
Where are you going? You can't run away from this, Len, you have to face it. Doing this won't help.
He put his head in his hands, then passed them repeatedly through his hair, oblivious to its rapid descent into dishevelment, and tried to recall any signs that might have alerted him to Len's confession. If had had a hint, he could have better prepared himself to respond to this. He wracked his brain, but he came up a total blank, Len's image filling his head instead.
"You know you can tell me anything, Len," he said, leaning forward and peering at the boy across from him with no small amount of concern. He had never seen Len so fidgety and uncertain. The boy usually made direct eye contact, not the sort of shifty connection he did now, as if his eyes were desperate to dart away, escape . . . "Anything," Kaito emphasized, folding his hands and pressing them between his knees, trying his best to appear open and patient.
What could possibly be bothering him this bad? He didn't have the slightest clue. Well, he is reaching that age . . . It's probably about a girl, and since I'm an older role model for him, he might want my advice. He scratched the side of his face bemusedly. Though I'm really not the person to come to for this kind of stuff . . . But I'll give it my best . . .And so he steeled himself and waited.
Len coughed slightly, cleared his throat, and stilled his dancing feet. "I—I—"
Stuttering, even? Kaito almost couldn't believe his ears. He saw the boy swallow, flick his tongue over his lips, before glancing up at him.
"Spit it out," he said, almost pleadingly, resting an encouraging hand on the boy's arm. As he watched, his skin began to break out in goosebumps, and the little blonde hairs to prickle and stand up. Am I making him uncomfortable? He frowned. "I can see that whatever this is about—it's really troubling you, Len. I want to help, but . . . There's nothing I can do if you don't tell me what's wrong."
Len summoned all the confidence he could. "Well, what I have to tell you . . . It's really important, but may seem—kind of stupid to you. Just promise me—promise me you won't laugh." His voice had grown small again.
Kaito gave his arm a little squeeze, smiling slightly. "I promise."
"Okay." Len gave a little sigh, pursing his lips. "Maybe now . . . I can do it."
"Kaito . . ." Len's eyes willingly sought his own this time, as if hungry for the contact, or reassurance. "I . . . I love you." It came out evenly, not at all the embarrassing proclamation he'd expected it to be. Even still, it hung there, heavy between them.
For a moment, Kaito couldn't even respond, and Len interpreted it as a bad sign, glancing at Kaito's hand, which lay frozen on his arm, then to Kaito himself, whose deep blue eyes were awestruck.
"I thought—" He licked his lips again; they were unnervingly dry. "I thought I was crazy or something," Len blurted, uncontrollably. All he could think of was what conclusions Kaito must be jumping to right now. "I thought it would go away," he went on. "I almost wanted it to sometimes, it was so overwhelming." He blushed slightly. "But I—it never has." His eyes sought approval, a reaction, anything. "Say something," he begged.
Kaito withdrew his hand, slowly, sensing the fear and uncertainly rolling off of Len in waves. "Len," he began, gently, "you're just confused. You're mixed up. You feel strongly for me, but that's not love—not like you mean it."
"It is like I mean it," Len shot back. "Don't insult my intelligence. I love you, Kaito. Like Gakupo loves Luka, I love you . . ."
"Len . . ." He felt his frustration building. "You may think you do, but you don't. You can't fully understand something like what Gakupo and Luka have."
"I think of you all the time," Len admitted, softly.
Kaito felt his heart flutter—at the boy's determination?
"When we're together, I think of how much fun we're having, and how it's never been this way with anyone else, how—" He blushed suddenly, and Kaito felt his heart swell, as if preparing to burst.
"Say it," he demanded.
"How—how kind you are . . ." The boy trailed off, voice getting fainter as he grew more embarrassed. "How thoughtful, how . . . beautiful . . ." It was almost a whisper.
Kaito clenched his eyes shut. "No, Len." A harsh, quick bark. "No more." He said it again. "No more." And he had watched the hope and trust drain out of the eyes of the person he felt closest to in the world. Just like that.
I'm so sorry, Len, he moaned. So sorry . . .
Something splashed onto his head, and he looked up, startled, petting his hair. It was wet. Rain. Droplets spattered the cement steps he sat on, the street . . . The trees bent and rustled and leaves broke off and skittered loudly across the pavement.
How did I not notice the sky get so dark? I must've been really lost in thought . . .
The spattering suddenly became a complete downpour, and Kaito leaped up with a yelp. A fork of lightning blinded him for a moment as he shielded his face from the rebounding water. There was a deep rumble of thunder, and he jumped, startled. His first thought: Len! He'll be caught out in this!
He rushed inside, grabbed his long white jacket and threw it on, then wrapped his favorite blue scarf around his neck for good luck.
What am I doing?
Without answering himself, he dove straight into the downpour. It was harsh and heavy, true to its appearance, and in only a moment, his hair was plastered to his forehead and ears and he was soaked through, but he gritted his teeth and kept going, not knowing where. He could hardly see through the sheet of rain, but continued moving anyway, as if motivated by some unseen, internal compass.
What seemed hours later, he could make out a small white shape, and gasped when he ran towards it, his feet plunging into a huge, freezing-cold puddle he hadn't noticed. Still gasping, he bent down to the huddled lump.
Please . . .
It was almost a prayer.
Time seemed to stand still. He could hear nothing but the thunderous rain all around him, and it seemed as though they were all alone in the world, isolated . . . He reached down and ran a hand over the small blonde head, which lifted, slowly, as if not daring to believe it, as if acknowledgment would shatter the sensation.
Kaito grasped both the shoulders, pulling him upright, and moved to clasp the boy to him. "Oh, Len," he murmured, doubting that the boy could hear him and feeling it safe to spill his thoughts. "Thank God you're safe . . ."
And Len pushed away—a violent, sudden movement. "Get away from me!" he shrieked, and it must have been loud, because Kaito could hear it clearly, even over the pelting rain. "Just get away!" This was a roar.
Kaito could only stare at the boy, shocked by his animal behavior; Len stood there twitching, as if afraid and ashamed even of himself. So Kaito did the only thing he knew to do—he took a step towards the boy, so that they were very close. Len jerked when he did so, as if to bolt, but it seemed he'd changed his mind and gone on the alert instead, his manner tense, edgy, as if he would flee at the slightest provocation.
What's the matter? Does he think I'm going to hurt him?
He wrapped one of his arms around the boy's back, drawing him closer.
Len's eyes bulged in shock as he felt his face being pressed into Kaito's shoulder. He didn't resist, but instead allowed Kaito to enfold him against his chest, securing him with both his arms. When he came in contact with Kaito's warmth and it began to seep into him, his shivers grew even more violent, and Kaito sympathetically pressed him closer, murmuring something Len couldn't make out, but for some reason soothed all his fears away.
Wanting to be closer, Len nestled himself into the crook of Kaito's neck, which was easy, since Kaito's head was conveniently bowed. Again, to his surprise, Kaito allowed it, and a moment later, he felt long, slender fingers stroking through the hair at the back of his head, and they didn't stop. Len shivered again, this time out of pleasure, and clutched at the front of Kaito's shirt with a sigh. This was better than anything he'd ever pictured—Kaito sheltering him from a rainstorm, actually giving him affection instead of protesting against it . . .
A sleepy smile spread over Len's face, and he peered past Kaito's arm and noticed the rain was beginning to slow. The sun was peeking through a little crack in the clouds, and Kaito looked up, his eyes fluttering open. "It's over . . ." he murmured, then cast his shockingly vibrant eyes at Len's golden head.
"Len, are you alright? You're shaking . . ." One hand picked through the boy's wet locks. No response. "Len!" He pulled back to reveal the boy's face. He was sound asleep! Eyes closed and a faint smile on his lips, which were bright blue—probably due to being so cold and wet. At the sight, Kaito had to laugh, and did—a single, bright, beautiful note as the last of the droplets tumbled from the sky and rolled down his head and face. He scooped the angel-faced boy into his arms and began the soggy, muddy hike home, dodging puddles and Len's thin, dangling limbs.
When he began the climb the steps to his front porch, Len stirred and Kaito looked down and watched his eyes open, and as the remembrance came flooding back and the boy's lips curled into a small, sweet smile. As he reached out to open the door, Len captured his hand in his own smaller, more delicate one, his blue eyes filled with a new knowledge and serenity.
"You love me too," he said, voice soft, child-like. "Don't you?" This felt like the tiniest of presses. Len released his hand. "You don't have to say it," he said, confidently, unaffected by Kaito's silence. "I know now. And you don't have to worry. I won't tell anybody . . . not even Rin." And he reached up and put his thin arms around Kaito's neck, pressing his cheek to his head.
Len smiled, pleased, as always, with the easy, familiar depth of Kaito's voice.
"And—" He smirked. "—just for the record . . . I love you too. I always have." He felt his face go warm at the admission, but it felt somehow wonderfully right, and he felt . . . free, as though he was floating.
When Len pulled away, Kaito saw that he was flushed with happiness, too. The look the boy gave him was complete and utter admiration, with an intensity to it that left Kaito dumbfounded.
I misjudged you, Len. Do I deserve this?—You?
Len chuckled, a sound he'd almost forgotten, and Kaito set him down, baffled and scratching at the back of his head.
Are my thoughts really THAT obvious?
When Len's giggles had subsided, the boy asked, teasingly, "But what about the age gap?" His lips were pouty, his eyes suddenly huge and puppy-dog innocent.
"No problem," Kaito laughed. "I'm patient, Len. I can wait for you to grow up."
Len was speechless. "You'd wait . . . for me?"
Kaito chuckled. "Yes, for you. Like a rainbow waits for the end of a storm."
"Like a . . ." Len blushed, before feeling a gentle, guiding hand against his back. "A rainbow!" he realized, pointing across the street. He tugged at the older man's jacket. "Oh, Kaito, it's so beautiful!"
Kaito smiled charmingly. "Yes, quite beautiful," he agreed. "Just like you."