Yuu thinks he’s perfectly fine on his own.
He’s completely fine; so fine, that there is absolutely no reason he needs to have actual friends or what have you. He’s never been the type to hang out with too many people, or any at all—in fact, he likes being on his own, likes spending all of his free time bothering Guren or just doing his own thing. He was perfectly fine skiving through freshman year of high school with barely an acquaintance made (luck, really, since his first impression of the students at Hīragi Academy had been blackmailing demons) and, really, he’s fine with that, so what if people are put-off by his loud personality? So what if they think he’s a little too fixed on his goals, too rough around the edges, or just plain scary because he can take on a gang of five delinquents and beat them to a bloody pulp in less than ten minutes?
Yuu doesn’t need people like that.
He has himself, he always has, and he only needs himself. And Guren. Maybe.
So that is his perfectly valid excuse for why he has been sitting in front of Guren’s flat screen, a PS4 controller in his hand, a headset over his ears, countless empty cans of soda and bags of chips littered around him, snarling at some idiot about how camping is so not a strategic move so much as it was being a total asshole for the past six hours.
“Have you been here this entire time?”
Yuu pauses for a second, glancing over to find Guren covering his eyes with his hand by the doorframe: his classic ‘Why Did I Decide To Adopt A Kid?’ pose so Yuu deems everything alright with the universe.
“Hey, Guren! We ran out of soda, can you go buy some more later?”
“No,” Guren deadpans. “I’d rather address how pathetic this sight is.”
“You’re pathetic. So, soda?”
Guren sighs. “No, Yuu. This has gone too far. You’re embarrassing every fifteen year old boy with a PS4, turn that thing off.”
“Shut up, who do you think is the one getting you all these trophies?” Yuu scowls, returning his eyes to the television.
“I don’t care about the trophies, Yuu, it’s midnight!”
“Past your bedtime,” Yuu remarks without missing a beat.
“You’ve been sitting in front of that TV since six. This is worse than that time that idiot Norito decided he’d dedicate his life to playing video games because his girlfriend dumped him for being a stoner.”
“Wrong, because I’m winning,” Yuu throws back, like that’s an actual reason.
Guren rubs a hand down his face. “Why are you like this.”
“I dunno’, you raised me,” Yuu smirks.
Guren slits his eyes, but Yuu just mashes buttons smugly.
He doesn’t get why Guren is making such a huge deal out of this again. Why can’t he just leave him alone to wallow in his loneliness and brutally crush newbs on COD? Yuu decides ignoring him works best, mashing the trigger button and killing off that asshole camper for the fourth time.
“Fine,” Guren uncrosses his arms and places one hand on his hip, all patience and nonchalance. Yuu knows better. “If you’re not going act like a normal teenager—”
“—this is being a normal teenager—!”
“—then I’ll just make you. Shinya doesn’t know what he’s talking about, leaving you to handle things was the worst idea he’s ever had.”
“Was not,” Yuu complains. Guren had been on his ass about everything in middle school. Everything. They were truly terrible days. Guren could be a menace when he wanted. “I don’t get what I’m doing wrong! I’m doing okay in school! I even got a B in math, that’s the first time that’s ever happened! I read all of the books in English, even the one the teacher recommended!”
“I don’t mean your studies,” Guren scoffs. “I mean, your social life.”
Yuu eyes him suspiciously. “What about it?”
“It’s been a year and you haven’t brought a single friend over!”
Moving to a new city had no effect on Yuu, unlike how Guren initially believed it would. Guren had been relocated to a new base just after Yuu graduated middle school and had promptly enrolled Yuu into a military-based high school after the move; one handled by the famous Hīragi family with an ROTC focus that Yuu had been registered in since he first started. It had been going well, really, until Guren realized that Yuu never really got rid of his bad habit of not making friends all throughout middle school. Then he’d been pissed that Yuu managed to hide it from him for so long (mostly because Guren had been more focused on his grades and conduct than his social skills). It wasn’t pretty and, yeah, maybe Yuu felt a little lonely and that’s why he spent most of his time bugging Guren (so he could get his fill of human interaction even if that interaction meant talking to his uptight foster dad). But Yuu liked it, he was fine, really, and it was only when Shinya suggested that Guren let Yuu take things at his own pace that he stopped hounding him about everything.
Until now, apparently.
“You’ve got a month to make a friend and bring them over to show me or I’m sending you to Shinya’s twelve week, intensified, boot camp over the summer. Oh, and Mika doesn’t count,” and he leaves, just like that, hand in pocket, humming some obnoxious tune like he hadn’t just ruined Yuu’s entire COD weekend marathon.
“Wha—I don’t need friends, Guren! GUREN!” Yuu screeches, furiously button mashing. “I’m fine! This is completely normal, you ASS!”
“One month,” Guren repeats, and Yuu may have permanently depressed one of the buttons in his mashing spree. And it’ll totally be Guren’s fault for being a jerk when he finds out.
“This is so fucking stupid,” Yuu mutters to himself. “Why can’t he just…MIKA SO COUNTS!” he shouts.
“No, he doesn’t!” Guren cheerfully shouts from his study.
“…Stupid Guren,” Yuu reluctantly agrees, but only to himself because if Guren found out, he’d be obnoxious about it. Yuu drops his controller, scowls when he’s subsequently shot in the fucking head, and wonders if being on talking terms with the infuriatingly cheerful Mikaela Hyakuya, student body president, actually counts as friendship.
Yuu lowers his eyes when he realizes, no, it doesn’t. And that makes him feel—sad? Disappointed? Yuu shakes the feelings off. He’s always had his guard up in front of people. Guren, even. So it’s not all that unusual, right? For him not to have friends? His gut still twists sourly at the thought of not being Mika’s friend. It’s not like it hasn’t been true this entire time, though: it doesn’t count when the only real interaction he has with Mika is when his demon blackmailer sends him on errands or when he bites off more than he can chew and Mika gives him standard first aid because he’s too beat up to do it himself…
That isn’t friendship, that’s Mika just being a nice person because he’s that perfect and Yuu has trouble—letting people in.
Even though Mika strong-armed his way into some sort of thing with Yuu—friendship, partnership, person of convenience, something—and it may have made Yuu feel not so alone in a way he hasn’t ever felt before in his life. But whatever this thing is, it’s not friendship, it’s—Yuu can’t even describe it and it makes a self-depreciating smile curl the corners of his lips because this just proves Guren’s point, proves his once-therapist’s point, proves the goddamn Grinch of a social worker's point.
The screen flashes.
He’s been shot in the head again.
On his headset, the jackass he’d been thrashing for being a camper is screaming in victory.
And Yuu decides that maybe he does need an actual friend.
He starts with the least likely candidate—it’s more of an accident, really.
Yoichi Saotome is a scrawny boy, lanky and still awkward in his skin even at fifteen; the type to hide behind lampposts if he spots something scary in the distance, to bring home a good report card and go to sleep at curfew. Guren’s ‘dream-child’—or so he’d claim. Yuu is pretty convinced Guren is full of shit ninety percent of the time. He would probably lose his head if he had a goody two shoe son just because Guren thrives on banter and disaster about as much as Yuu does.
They make a good team—banter and disaster.
Yuu tries not to think about what that says about them too much.
But Yoichi is soft-willed, not confrontational in the slightest. Unsurprisingly, he’s also soft-spoken, and has a particular leaning towards formal language. Yuu knows this because he heard him speak once on his way to the Dean’s office for another ear-ringing lecture on on-campus fighting.
Therefore, Yoichi is on the lowest tier of the high school social ladder, and the fact that he’s one of the few in the student committee to verbally enforce the uniform policy every time someone breaks it really doesn’t help matters.
Yuu gives him points for trying.
“I-I’m sorry,” Yoichi squeaks in the hallway, head ducked. “I’ll get you a n-new drink if you’d let—!”
And Yuu doesn’t concern himself with the weak. He isn’t as good of a person as to think that he can save everyone, and interfering usually makes things worse in his experience. Yuu can’t count on both hands the amount of times he’s saved some kid from being bullied and it resulted in said bullies turning their attentions to him and trying to ambush him after school (or before school, or at the grocery store, or that one time they actually jumped him at the DMV and Guren bought Skittles and told him he’d give him half if he talked his way out of it).
“—um, g-guys, those shirts are a cl-clear violation of the—ow—!”
Yuu clenches his fists in his pockets when Yoichi is shoved into a wall. Again.
“Shall I add loitering to the laundry list of offenses you have committed on school grounds, Yuu-san?” a voice purrs from overhead and Yuu stiffens, snapping his head up to see long locks of violet hair spilling over slender shoulders. Shinoa Hīragi—demon blackmailer, forever on his hit list, and definitely not a friend—smiles charmingly when Yuu just frowns at her.
Yuu has never been affected by her smiles unlike half the student body. This is probably due to the fact that when they first met, she threatened to report him for cheating (which he totally was, but it was still uncalled for) and now she has him run odd jobs for her under the threat of blackmail. And Yuu holds horrible grudges so he'd never consider her a friend ever, probably.
He’d ignore her except the campus fights are bad enough and if Yuu adds ‘cheating’ to the list, he really will be expelled, and Guren already warned him what expulsion would result in.
The military is where he’s going one way or another—just not the army, and Lieutenant Colonel Guren Ichinose is a piece of shit guardian who would make him work for it if he got himself expelled before he was of-age. Yuu has a reputation, connections, skill and physical condition. He has everything he needs to go in solid with the Marines special unit and if he fucked this up for himself—
“What do you want, Shinoa?” Yuu grouses.
“Why, I’m just wondering what that awful crying sound is. It sounds like a poor little kitten being mauled by a pack of dogs,” Shinoa sighs dramatically, turning on her back so she can lean out of the window even more dramatically. “I’m hoping that perhaps you could quell those sad sounds?”
“Tch, it’s not my business. Besides, aren’t you vice president or something? Why don’t you do it?” Yuu squints.
Shinoa beams. “I would except I’m busy!”
“Wha—then call someone else to deal with it!”
“I am,” Shinoa looks at him expectantly. “Or perhaps you would like the fact that you ch—!”
“I’m going,” Yuu grits out, storming over to the three guys who were having a field day torturing Yoichi again. Yuu glances over his shoulder before he reaches them, finds Shinoa gone, and pauses. Those guys were leaving already and it’s not like Shinoa would really know he never helped the kid out since he’s always being bullied. Yoichi doesn’t seem to have friends outside of the student committee, possibly because the pack of guys who bullied him were upperclassmen and mingling with Yoichi meant taking the brunt of those three bullies attention, too.
And it’s not like the committee could really do anything about it if Yoichi always waved his bullying off and denied it…
So, after some deliberation, Yuu heads the other way, ignoring the way his chest tightens when he hears Yoichi’s sad bumbling down the long corridor. He reaches the vending machine and kicks it at just the right angle to have a cold can of tea tumble out of the slot.
It doesn’t taste as good as it usually does, but he takes another long chug anyway.
Guren told me not to involve myself in things I can’t fix, Yuu reminds himself, walking down the way those bullies went so he could head home. He spots them again, some ways down the block. Yuu takes another drink of his cold tea and ignores a muffled plead from Yoichi. I can’t save everyone. That’s what they’ll teach me when I enlist under Shinya, too.
He’s turning away when he hears it—the magical words, as if something in the universe is telling him to listen to his gut from now on.
“—like an animal!”
Instantly, Yuu crushes the can in his hand and shrugs out of his backpack as he approaches them. “Hey!” Yuu calls out, roughly. “What did you just call him?”
“Who the hell are you?” one of them speaks up, confused.
“I said, what did you just call him?” Yuu repeats, and his eyes light with dangerous intensity—hungry and promising dark things. He sees the second bully take a wise step back at the look, glancing at the third guy uncertainly.
“An animal,” the first guy states, unrepentant. Yuu’s eyes sharpen. The third guy gulps, also taking a step back. “I mean, look at him, he’s practically a fucking dog—!”
He doesn’t see his fist coming. Yuu makes sure of it as he grabs his shirt and slams his fist into his face again for good measure. His lip splits, blood stains his knuckles, and Yuu’s lips twist in a mock of a grin. Yuu grabs a fist aimed to his right, bends it back, and shoves that guy away harshly, stomping on his gut with enough force to have him dry heaving. The third one is even easier than the last two: a kick and swift backhand take him out, and Yuu glowers at the boys who are clutching their stomachs and faces on the ground.
“If I ever hear you call someone that again, I’ll break your fucking legs,” Yuu hisses. He glances at Yoichi, whose cupping his face, brown eyes watery but sparkling, and feels awkward all of a sudden. The blood-thirst evaporates as if it were never there even though Yuu knows it’ll always be there. It’s become so stitched into who he is that without it, Yuu would not be himself. That word—referring to people like animals, treating them worse than that, it strikes a violent chord in him because Yuu still has nightmares about rough hands grabbing his hair, slamming his face into walls with growled, muffled words like “beast” and “animal” and “demon spawn” resounding in his head—a tick tick tocking that’s worse than any clock, because at least he can tune that out.
His birth father’s words will always ring clear in his mind.
“Hey,” Yuu coughs. “You okay?”
“Th-thank you so much for helping me, Yuu-san!” Yoichi squeaks and Yuu blinks. “Thank you! I don’t know what I can do to repay you—!”
“Eh? Wait, how do you know my name?”
“Ah, yes, um, Sh-Shinoa-san mentions you sometimes during council meetings, and Mika-san has told me a lot about you—!”
“Damn that Mika.”
“That’s not very nice, Yuu-chan. And here I was almost impressed by how you handled the situation,” Mikaela drawls, faintly amused. “Next time, you call security and let them handle it, though, okay?”
Yuu jumps, green eyes widening at the sight of the student body president, standing there with perfect posture and heady summer blue eyes boring into his own; intense in a way that always made Yuu fidgety and unsure of himself, which is something he’s never felt before but something Mikaela Hyakuya brings out in him anyway. Yuu doesn’t even know why—all he knows is that whenever he’s under Mika’s inspection, even if it’s just a passing glance, Yuu feels all warm and clumsy. It’s even worse when Mika says something dumb, like how pretty his green eyes are or how his disheveled hair compliments him. Then his entire body just feels hot.
So Yuu firmly believes Mika just likes to embarrass him.
“S-shut up, Mika, if you were here the whole time why didn’t you do anything?”
“Because you were handling it so well,” Shinoa chirps, materializing from behind Mika. Mikaela merely offers him a smile, the gentle one that has Yuu hastening to push down the lump in his throat before he does something dumb like trip over his feet.
That happened, once.
Shinoa never lets him live that down, either.
Yuu grimaces. “Great. You’re here, too.” He picks up his backpack and slings it back on, turning to the shaking boy. “Listen,” Yuu says, “You can’t just let them push you around like that. I might have helped you out this one time, but if you don’t learn how to stand up for yourself, there’ll just be other people who’ll take advantage of you and I can’t always be there to protect you from them. I get that if you tell, it’ll be worse for you, but if you don’t try to do anything about it, it’ll keep being hell. You wanna’ pay me back? Get stronger,” Yuu demands, then flushes when Yoichi’s eyes widen like he’s found Messiah. Yuu coughs into his fist. “A-anyway, bye. I guess.”
“Bravo!” Shinoa claps behind him. His cheeks flush. “Excellent pep talk! You could use a little help with your closings, though.”
Yuu gives her the finger.
“That was a very kind thing of you to do, Yuu-chan. I’m happy,” Mika says, smiling that smile that has his skin prickling pleasantly. “But I’ll handle it from here. I think this has gone far enough. Have a safe walk, Yuu-chan,” Mikaela waves, then moves to help Yoichi off his feet.
“Yeah, whatever! And don’t go talking about me to random strangers, Mika, or I’ll kick your ass next!” Yuu shouts over his shoulder, hurrying so he doesn’t hear what the other boy has to say. But once he’s far away enough, Yuu rubs the back of his neck, aware that his face is hot and it has nothing to do with the way he practically ran down the block.
He’s just got this weird, warm, giddy, feeling in his gut at the thought of Mika talking about him to other people.
Guren meets Yoichi on the very last day of his friend deadline—or, more specifically, Guren watches with a shitty grin as Yuu jogs up to his car and Yoichi comes careening out of the school seconds after, screaming Yuu’s name and pouncing on him the instant Yuu spun around, knocking him clear off his feet and onto the ground.
“Ugh,” Yuu wheezes. “Wha’sa matter, Yoichi?”
“They’re waiting for me by my locker!” Yoichi trembles, panicked. “I-I’m sorry, Yuu-san, but I didn’t know who else to call!”
Yuu sighs. Those assholes again. Yoichi has been coming to Yuu for help recently and, well, even if Yuu makes a big deal out of it sometimes, he doesn’t mind helping him out every now and then. But Yuu will set them straight later, right now there’s something more pressing at hand. “Do you have any homework due tomorrow?”
“Well, yes, but it’s all from the textbooks and those are at home.”
“Okay, then you don’t need your backpack. So, do you wanna’ come with me and Guren to get Chinese food? I’m starving,” Yuu shoves Yoichi off him, dusting himself off, then remembers that Guren doesn’t know Yoichi. “Uh, Guren, this is Yoichi. He’s, uh...”
“Hello, sir!” Yoichi fumbles, straightening up while Guren watches blandly from the rolled down passenger side window. “I’m Yoichi Saotome! I’m Yuu-san’s friend! It’s nice to meet you!”
Guren flicks his eyes to Yuu’s for a second and nods over to the driver’s side. “You’re driving. Do not exceed the speed limit or I’m taking the car away for another week.”
Yuu grins, ecstatic, forgetting the shock that Yoichi considers him a friend in favor of driving. “Okay, yeah, I promise! YES!” He rushes over to the other side, waving Yoichi into the back when the boy just stands there awkwardly.
“Hey, you, kid,” Guren calls suddenly, and doesn’t bat an eye when Yoichi stiffens at attention in the back. “I’m Guren Ichinose, Yuu’s guardian,” Guren introduces himself, yawning into his palm as Yuu fastens his seatbelt and nearly shakes out of his seat in excitement at driving. “It’s nice to see the brat finally made a friend.”
“Shut up, Guren,” Yuu says distractedly, pulling out of the parking space and merging into a lane just like Guren taught him. “I told you I could do it.”
“Too bad, too, I wanted to see what fresh hell Shinya had in store for returning recruits,” Guren drawls, but both know he doesn’t actually mean it, especially when Guren hides a tiny smile by looking out the window and Yuu grins spectacularly in front of him.
In the backseat, Yoichi beams.
Shihō Kimizuki is a dickbag.
He’s also another accidental friend.
Yuu is starting to see a trend.
But there’s really no other way to describe him for Yuu—he’s a dickbag and he’s always looking for a fight. He’s a junior year transfer student, sixteen just like Yuu, and the first time Yuu met him, Kimizuki punched him because he wanted to see how strong he was and they ended up in the nurse’s office twenty minutes later, glaring at each other and swearing to never talk to each other again.
They have a bad habit of insulting each other whenever they’re in the same room.
Mika does this adult-thing where he rubs his eyes and sighs whenever he catches sight of Yuu glowering at Kimizuki from across the room.
But it’s not like Yuu can help it: Kimizuki has hard-on-the-eyes highlighter pink hair and a perpetual scowl, almost as bad as Yuu except Yuu thinks that Kimizuki’s scowl is uglier than his could ever be. He wears his uniform like Yuu does: blazer unbuttoned, shirt untucked, although Kimizuki goes further and breaks dress code by wearing two metal studs on his right year. Yuu thinks his horn rimmed glasses are dumb-looking, thinks Kimizuki is dumb-looking in general, but Yuu also knows that Kimizuki has a great adoration for his sickly little sister and he’d wreck anyone who spoke badly of her.
So Yuu respects him for that because family is important and even though Yuu’s family was fucked up, that didn’t mean everyone else’s family had to be, too.
“Yoichi!” Yuu shouts, pointing down the street to where the school is. It’s only been two hours since class ended; the president has a meeting today, so Yuu is sure he’d still be on campus. At least, he hopes so or else he’ll be bleeding out on concrete and the last time that happened he was eight and desperately alone. “Get Mika! Tell him I need his help now!”
“Y-yes—I’ll—YES!” Yoichi stammers, then runs away.
Yuu is distracted enough for a punch to land on his cheek. In fact, he can feel his cheekbone start to swell and blood flood his mouth, but he doesn’t let that stop him: he snarls and lunges at the upperclassmen who is twice his size and three times as mean. Yuu doesn’t usually mess with these types because they’re strong—really strong, quarterback footballer strong and huge—and because they’ve never bothered him before in his life. He doesn’t even know who they are; they’re not wearing the colors of his school.
But Kimizuki has a bone to pick with them and Yuu would have ignored them if Kimizuki hadn’t spat that no one talked about his sister like she was a burden, useless and dead.
So Yuu decided he could loan him a fist and stood by Kimizuki, even if the pink haired delinquent told him this wasn’t some kiddy fight.
It certainly wasn’t.
Yuu doesn’t regret it one bit.
“Fuck, fuck,” Kimizuki grits out, throwing another punch. Yuu manages to take one of the guys down but there’s four more and absolutely no way they’re going to get out of this okay without some help. Mika’s help, specifically, because, for all his insufferable attitude, Mika is a better fighter than Yuu on a good day and he’s only begrudged to admit it when he doesn’t need the help. With Mika here, they can win, and the president would probably get out with little to no damage while Yuu spent the entire week holding ice to his banged-up face, glaring at the sunny blonde who’d (inevitably) drop by his home with some sweets and more gauze until he was better.
“Giving up already, asshole?” Yuu grins, wiping the back of his hand across his mouth. It comes back red.
“Hah,” Kimizuki grins right back, all bloody teeth and forced laughter, “as if, dumbass, I’m just getting started. But we have to finish this soon—my sister,” his face twists in pain, more than he’s shown during this entire fight and Kimizuki has taken some pretty harsh blows. “She’s…the hospital called and…”
“Wait, don’t tell me she needs you there?”
Kimizuki looks down.
“What the fuck are you still doing here then?” Yuu snarls.
“If I don’t fight back they’ll just—!”
“Who cares what they’ll do! Your sister needs you and this isn’t the time to let your pride get in the way!”
“It’s not my pride getting in the way!” Kimizuki snaps back, defensively. “I can’t just go after her. I need to settle this.”
“You need to go! She’s family, she’s more important!” Yuu insists. “And if these assholes follow us, I’ll just beat them up outside the hospital!” Yuu promises. Kimizuki’s eyes widen. “COME ON!”
“Hey!” one of the upperclassmen shouts. “Where the hell do you think you’re go—HEY!”
Yuu is dragging Kimizuki by the sleeve in no time at all and, eventually, both boys even out and run as fast as they can to the hospital. Yuu can hear two guys tailing them, approaching fast, but he doesn’t stop until they’re about a block away from the hospital.
“You go on ahead!”
“What? There’s no way you can—!” Kimizuki sputters.
“Tch, I’m not as weak as you are!” Yuu forces on a smirk. He turns his back to him. “I can take ‘em! It’s not five against one like before, it’s just two! Besides, your sister needs you, and if they cause a scene at the hospital…”
Kimizuki’s eyes harden at the thought. He looks at Yuu and then at the guys who are fast approaching. “I’ll pay you back for this,” Kimizuki promises solemnly.
Yuu grins. “Hell yeah you will—now, go,” and turns back just in time to rush at the bastard on the right, managing a swift punch and getting one back right on his diaphragm, hard and unrestrained. But it still doesn’t hurt like their beatings, Yuu reminds himself, it doesn’t hurt like when his dad strangled him against the edge of the tub. It doesn’t hurt like when his mom looked at him but never really saw him. It doesn’t hurt like when his dad locked him up in the bathroom for two days and it certainly doesn’t hurt like when his mom forced a kitchen knife on his neck and smiled and said it’d be better if he was just gone.
Nothing will hurt like that again, and that’s what will always keep him going.
“You’re done, kid,” the last standing punk breathes against Yuu’s forehead, punching him. Blood runs hot down Yuu’s lips. But the punch is weaker than the others; he’s finally run out of strength.
It’s his chance.
“Fuck you!” Yuu snarls and knees him right between the legs hard, harder than he’s ever kneed anyone before; it even hurts his kneecap a little, but it’s what it takes for the guy to slump over with a howl of agony—enough for Yuu to crawl back and slam the heel of his boot into his face for good measure.
“Leave Kimizuki’s sister out of this,” Yuu pants, stumbling upright, “If you have a problem, take it out on us, not her,” and casts an unsteady look at the mess he’s leaving behind before he drags himself in the opposite direction of the hospital.
He’ll rub this in Kimizuki’s face later, when he isn’t feeling like he’s going to puke.
Mika is standing stiffly by his door, fists by his side, when Yuu stumbles into the hall of his apartment.
“Why did you—Yuu!” Mika gasps when Yuu slams into the wall for support. He spits and it’s red and gooey. Yuu grimaces at it before Mika grabs his chin and makes him look at him—but Yuu isn’t looking at the way Mika shields him from nosy neighbors, he’s looking at the way brilliant summer blue eyes have become stormy with a winters chill, all ice and threat. “Who was it—who did this to you, Yuu, did you go pick a fight again?”
“Kimizuki’s sister,” Yuu croaks out, closing an eye as Mika digs into his pockets for his keys. They stumble into the apartment together and, for once, Yuu is glad that Guren spends most of his time at the military base than at home. He hasn’t seen Guren since yesterday and he’s sure he’ll be gone another four days which should be enough time for his wounds to fade enough that Guren won’t reprimand him for it. Too much. “These guys, they said something about her. Kimizuki was going to take them by himself but—!”
“You decided to help him,” Mika understands. Instantly, his eyes lose their frightening coldness and become that gentle shade of blue that makes Yuu’s heart thud. It’d be racing right now, anyway, if he weren’t in so much pain. Yuu’s whimper is what makes Mika run to the bathroom, take out the first aid kit, and sigh in relief when he finds that Guren must have restocked it recently because Yuu sure as hell doesn’t.
“Lay down, you’ll be more comfortable that way,” Mika prompts when he returns, helping Yuu recline on the couch. Yuu tugs at his dirty shirt, pushing it up until Mika properly strips it off him. The president's warning hiss at the sight that meets him makes Yuu crack an eye open.
“Don’t speak. This…doesn’t look good. If anything is broken, we’re going to the hospital,” Mika tells him, firmly. It’s the same tone he uses during council meetings, the few times Yuu has dropped in out of boredom.
“What? No, wait, Mika, No!” Yuu gasps, stiff under his touch. “If Guren finds out, he’ll—!”
“It doesn’t matter. I’m not risking your well-being just because Guren may be angry if he finds out,” Mika insists, then proceeds to show Yuu that he’s more than ready to enter medical school with practiced touches and sharp observations. “I can’t tell if your ribs are broken or just bruised. We—!”
“They’re not broken.”
“How can you tell?” Mika frowns.
Yuu touches his side, closes his eyes and presses his hand in sharply. Yuu grimaces but when he opens his eyes again and finds Mika staring at him, mute and surprised, he can only smile bitterly. “I know what broken ribs feel like,” he tells him softly. “This isn’t it.” He drops his hand and breathes out carefully, tensing only the slightest bit when Mika brings something wet to his chin and mouth.
“…You have blood everywhere.”
“I bit my tongue when I was punched,” Yuu shrugs, and then it’s quiet as Mika patches Yuu up again. Honestly, Yuu doesn’t really recall how this started to become a thing. But it’s around the same time Shinoa blackmailed him during freshman year. That’s when she began to order him around, most often with something that involved Mika and his duties as student body president. Mika had always been polite and disgustingly cheery, something that irritated Yuu to the nth degree at the time because it felt like he was making fun of him somehow—that is, until Yuu realized that the president’s sunny disposition hid something much darker.
Mikaela Hyakuya was downright terrifying when he wasn’t smiling.
Shinoa wasn’t kidding about that.
The first time Yuu saw Mika fight, it was because a group of guys jumped him when he was sick with a fever. Dick move, but Yuu had really thought he was going to have to call Guren from the hospital when Mika stepped out from the shadows, calmly telling them to let Yuu go before he became involved.
“Fuck off—this is between us and this bastard.”
Yuu vividly remembers Mika peeling off his gloves one by one. It sounds innocent, really, just taking off gloves, but what he remembers most is the unnerving stillness of it all. Yuu was familiar with it: threat, danger. Then that look—that unsettlingly stare that sent a tremble down Yuu’s spine. They were eyes that reminded Yuu of Guren’s when he returned from his second tour, when he told him Mito was dead and he heard her die over his com. They were eyes that reminded Yuu that danger lurked in nearby places and the dark was always deep enough for one more.
Things changed after that.
Yuu wasn’t so prickly towards Mika, more secretly impressed by him, and Mika never gave Yuu those eyes. Usually, the only reason Mika fought at all was because Yuu bit off more than he could chew. This year, Mika hardly interfered in his fights. Yuu likes to think it’s because he’s gotten better, but he has a feeling it has to do with the fact that he hasn’t involved himself in actual fights. The idiots at school weren’t strong enough for Yuu, and he had all of them scared already as it were. So most of the fights at school were verbal volleys and almost-punches; things that, since Yoichi started to hang around him after Yuu saved him from those bullies last year, he backed out of because, well, Yoichi was basically a human marshmallow and if Yuu got in a fight and Yoichi got hurt, not only would he feel like a dick but Shinoa was really scary when she was pissed and he was sure Mika would be disappointed in him for putting someone in danger like that.
He’d be disappointed in himself.
“All done,” Mika says softly.
“I’ll get you some painkillers and heat up some food for you later,” Mika says. “Don’t fall asleep while I do.”
“Mm. Thanks,” Yuu mumbles, dead tired. “Mika…”
Yuu doesn’t fight him when Mika palms his head softly, a pat becoming gentle stroking as Mika’s fingers card through unruly black locks before he leaves. Then Mika murmurs his name—Yuu thinks he can hear it pressed closely to his ear, a husky rumble that warms his chest. He opens his eyes enough to see Mika hovering over him, gazing down at him with a look he can’t bother to read into in his sleepiness.
“Uh huh,” he reaches out and takes the pills from Mika’s hands. He dry swallows them and manages to look sheepish when Mika hisses that he needs to drink water, immediately, because dry swallowing pills is the worst. He does so, begrudgingly, and makes a face when the water just tastes rusty with his blood.
“There’s some cupcakes in the pantry,” Yuu mumbles sleepily. “Can have some.”
“Go to sleep, Yuu,” Mika says instead, returning his fingers to his hair. “About the ribs,” he begins again, hesitantly, willing to let it go if Yuu wished. But that wakes Yuu up a little. Mika isn’t looking at him. “…what fight have you gotten into where you’ve broken them? I’m guessing it’s been more than once.”
Mika’s jaw tightens.
Yuu closes his eyes, lets out a soft breath. “My parents,” he says and notices how Mika stills suddenly. “M’an orphan. My parents…hated me a lot so they beat me since I was little. They thought I was some sort of demon child, like an animal or a beast, so they would always beat me up,” he pretends he doesn’t notice how Mika’s eyes widen in realization at those words (beastanimaldemon) and Yuu doesn’t bother confirming it, “Dad would kick me hard enough to break my ribs. I know how it feels because I’ve been to the hospital for it a couple of times, and they told me what to look for.”
“How did they even get away with that?” Mika asks, breath baited, voice low.
“I always told them I got them during sports practice. I didn’t want—!” Yuu stops, considers his next words, lets his voice crack a little because—he doesn’t know why. Mika might not be a friend, really, but he’s something. He’s something and Yuu trusts him because Mika was the only who—tried, even if Yuu always pushed him away, even if Yuu always snapped at him. Yuu trusts him so much it’s kind of ridiculous, but Mika has never let him down. Mika has always tried when no one else would, just like Guren. “I kind of thought I deserved it. I didn’t want to leave them. But it didn’t matter, anyway, because when I was eight my dad lit up the house after my mom suicided in the bathtub. The police found me in the basement an hour later.”
“Is he…?” Mika prompts.
“No, he's dead,” Yuu says, evenly. “I was picked up and sent to an orphanage because they couldn’t find any other living relatives. Guren adopted me when I was ten.”
“…My parents pushed me out of a running car,” Mika tells him, suddenly and without warning.
Yuu stares. “What?”
“I’m an orphan, too. I was adopted when I was eight, by Krul,” Mika reveals with a smile. He goes back to carding his fingers through Yuu’s hair. “Krul was the one who found me on the road. She saw what happened. I was only in the orphanage for about a month before she came back for me. My parents didn’t want me, either, they felt like I had ruined something between them, and they just—” Mika looks down and for once the blue in his eyes is sad, so unbearably sad, that Yuu can’t help but sympathize because he knows what that feels like to be unwanted like that, to be treated like some sort of burden, a curse.
“That,” Yuu attempts a smile but thinks it comes out a little brittle, a little tragic, a little furious, if by the way Mika grips his hand says anything. He squeezes back, tighter. “That’s shitty.”
“It’s not as bad you, though. My parents never broke anything.”
“It’s still shitty,” Yuu says through his teeth and he thinks Mika understands the unspoken it hurts the same that should have come after that. Because no one deserves what he went through and the thought that Mika (with his sunny smile and perfect posture and perfect everything, why is the world the way it is?) went through some form of that abuse, that Mika suffered just like he did, makes something in Yuu just want to—
“Mm. It is.”
Yuu doesn’t think about how long Mika kneels there by the couch, his fingers tangled in Yuu’s hair, his other hand grasping Yuu’s, white-knuckle hard.
What he does think about is how what took Guren a whole year to do, Mika did in less than an hour:
Learn what keeps him up at night, and what makes him stronger altogether.