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Faster Than The Speed of Gravity

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The sound of the ball hitting nothing but net is drowned out by Kisumi’s whoop as he bounds over to Makoto and holds his hand up for a high-five.

“That was awesome,” he gushes, as Makoto readily meets his palm. “What did I tell you? We make a good team!”

“Nice work, Tachibana,” Kagami says, clapping Makoto on the shoulder.  “You play pretty well for someone who doesn’t play basketball competitively.”

Makoto beams at the praise, and lifts the front of his shirt to wipe the sweat off his chin. “It’s really all thanks to Kisumi’s amazing passing skills,” he answers, humble as ever.

“You mean Kisumi-chi’s dirty distraction tactics,’ Kise complains, though he’s grinning as he lightly cuffs Kisumi on the back of his neck. “That was mean.”

“Not his fault Ahomine turns stupid at the mention of boobs,” Kagami replies, earning him an angry, very emphatic finger gesture from Aomine across the court. “Imaginary or not.”

“All’s fair in love, war and streetball,” Kisumi quips, and smiles sweetly in Aomine’s direction. He gets the finger too, which is par for the course by way of rude gestures one can expect from a standard game of streetball involving the generation of miracles, particularly Aomine and Kagami.

Makoto's shot won them the game, breaking the three-win streak Aomine has been lording over Kagami for the past month. Kisumi happily tunes out Aomine's sourgraping as he catches up to Makoto and Kagami who are gathering their things to make way for some high schoolers waiting for their turn at the court.

“Hey, you guys want to drop by my place for dinner?” Kagami asks, as he slings his duffel bag over his shoulder. “I cooked a lot of green curry this morning to each for lunch, but Kuroko took me out for burgers so there’s still a full pot at home.”

Makoto immediately lights up like a puppy promised a juicy bone, and Kisumi hides a smile behind his hand. “Green curry is my favourite!”

“It is?” Kagami raises an eyebrow, surprised yet seemingly pleased with this information. “Feel free to help yourself to it as much as you like then. Come on, my place is just around the corner.”

Kisumi smiles fondly as he watches Kagami sling an arm around Makoto and lead him out of the court. It’s feels so good to see Makoto fitting right in within Kisumi’s group of friends. It’s like their situation back in middle school, only in reverse. Back then, it was Kisumi who was an outsider to Makoto’s world, the lone basketball player in a group of swimmers. Now, Makoto is doing the same thing Kisumi did all those years ago, slowly carving a space for himself in this part of Kisumi’s world, almost effortlessly at that.

Kisumi didn't have any problems then, and Makoto doesn't seem to have any problems now. Then again, Makoto has always been the type to adapt easily. It’s one of the few traits the two of them have in common, which is probably why they’re such great friends.

“Kisumi, are you coming?” Makoto calls out, stopping to look behind him. From this angle, the setting sun gives his hair a golden glow, complementing the beckoning brightness of his smile.

Kisumi really likes that smile. Maybe a little too much, but Makoto gives them freely, so Kisumi doesn't allow himself to feel guilty.

Really really great friends, he reminds himself.  He shakes himself off his stupor and jogs to catch up with them.

*

That was a month ago. Since then, Kisumi has brought Makoto along to their streetball games at least four more times, much to his friends’ (and neighboring ladies’) delight. Kagami in particular, has been vocal about seeking Makoto’s participation, which delights Kisumi to no end.

He sees Kagami occasionally giving Makoto pointers on the game-- correcting his stance, teaching him footwork and positioning, and anticipating opponents’ movements to know when to time a block. Makoto’s natural athleticism makes up for his lack of competitive basketball experience, and he always gets a little better each time no doubt due in part to Kagami’s effort.

In fact,  Kagami and Makoto get along so well, that sometime during that month, they eventually took their time together out of the court and into restaurants and parks and Kagami’s apartment, all without rousing suspicion among their other friends, which is no mean feat, considering how their group includes both Kise and Kisumi.

Really, Kisumi should have seen it coming.

He finds out when he walks back into his university’s locker room after hours to retrieve a textbook he left on the bench, only to catch Makoto pinning Kagami against the lockers, his hand shoved down Kagami’s basketball shorts, and possibly performing the kind of strictly off-court ball handling moves that has the proud Kagami letting out these disturbingly delicate mewls that Kisumi will never ever unhear for the rest of his natural life.

Kisumi, for lack of a better term, is shocked. Not because he caught them making out -- he’s shocked because he caught them making out.

After all this time, he’s surprised there are still things he has yet to learn about Makoto. Like, how his hands clearly aren’t as clumsy as he insists they are, judging from how Kagami is really into whatever magic Makoto is applying to his dick, so much that he doesn’t see Kisumi gaping after them like landed whale.

Kisumi snaps out of his shock long enough to realize there’s no way he’s getting his book any time soon, and just resigns himself to a few extra hours in the library. He attempts to quietly sneak out, when the door opens again with a loud slam, and Kise’s tinny, ill-timed voice whines out:

“Oi Kisumichii what’s taking you so long?”

Before Kisumi can even properly react, Kagami and Makoto violently pull apart. There’s a loud yelp of pain, several random English curses, and Makoto’s panicky voice.

And then Kagami just crumples against the lockers, a look of immense agony on his face as he clutches at his crotch, and that’s all Kisumi needs to know really.

He stumbles back, accidentally kicking the metal trash bin behind him, making a much bigger ruckus. “I am so--”

“--sorry, Kisumichi and I will leave now,” Kise interrupts loudly, tugging at Kisumi’s wrist and dragging him away.

They run out of the locker room and into the university courtyard. “Tachibanachii is totally going to blow him tonight,” Kise whispers excitedly-- because of course he’d pick this time to be discreet when they’re 100 feet away from the people they caught about to do pornographic things to each other.

Kisumi makes a face. “How do you even know that?”

“Because he needs to make it up to Kagamichi! And if I deduce this all correctly, Tachibanachi is really good with his mouth.”

For some absurd reason, this tidbit of information makes Kisumi both intrigued and annoyed. “What do you mean by deduce it all correctly ?"

Kise smiles, like he's been waiting for the right opportunity to present his genius. "Well... A couple of days ago, Aomine was talking about porn again and asked people for opinions on what makes a great blowjob. Kagamichii was the only one who answered "lack of gag reflexes." At first I didn't have a clue, and thought Kagamichi was just being this crude, edgy Westerner but after seeing what I saw today and putting two and two together--”

“--I get it Kise, thanks.” Kisumi shoves his hands in his pockets, wishing he never asked.

“Yeah well, aren’t the two of them just so cute? I mean Kagamichi may look scary at times especially with those eyebrows but we all know he has a soft marshmallow core, and Tachibanachi is.. well, he’s just a soft toasty marshmallow period.”

Kisumi thinks about how tickled Makoto would be to hear him being described as a campfire treat. Especially since it’s only true 90% of the time. “Yeah? Wait til you hear him playing video games,” he says, as he vividly recalls the magnificent level of trash talk Makoto is apparently capable of when someone snipes him from the back in Halo. “You might get shocked.”

Kise shrugs. “Whatever,” he says. “The point is, they’re both beautiful people and they deserve each other. Don’t you think?”

“Yeah, they do. I just wish I found out some other way...”

Kisumi blinks. Whoa-- where did that last bit come from? He's no stranger to accidental voyeurism--  he once straight up walked into two people literally in the middle of passionate congress (it was dark, but Gou apparently acquired glow in the dark condoms somewhere and Sousuke’s package is extremely visible) and he never really felt upset about it-- embarrassed yes, but not annoyed like he is now. It takes a lot for Kisumi to get annoyed, and catching your friends in compromising positions isn’t supposed to count for a lot.

Whatever. He'll figure it out later. Besides, it’s really not his business who Makoto sleeps with, even if it’s with a dumb jock like Kagami.

Okay, wait now that was not cool. Kisumi feel ashamed of himself for such a mean-spirited thought, especially since Kise is right-- Kagami is the perfect boyfriend. The guy is well-off, has a rocking hot body, amazing culinary skills, and is an actual sweetheart whose favourite movie is Toy Story. Toy Story. Seriously, how is Kagami even real.

Doesn’t change the fact that he’s a dumb jock though, that persistent mean voice in Kisumi adds.

Shut up.  God. He’s having a weird debate with himself about Kagami’s boyfriend brownie points inside his head, what the fuck. He’s thought about Kagami more in this past few minutes than he has for the rest of the time he has known the guy.

“Uh, are you okay?” Kise asks, waving a hand in front of him. “You look like you just ate three sour drops.”

Kisumi snaps back to reality, away from his terrible thoughts and automatically plasters a sunny smile on his face. “Yeah, sorry, was just remembering this paper I had to do,” he lies smoothly.

“Well okay. Thought you were really upset about Kagamichi and Tachibanachi getting it on or something.”

“Pfft, me? Please.” Kisumi stuffs his hands in his pockets and shrugs, willing this terrible feeling away before he runs out of bravado. “It’s just sex. No big deal.”

*

As it turns out, it’s not just sex. Because when Makoto sneaks into their unit later at ten in the evening, and finds Kisumi watching TV on the couch, the first thing he says is:

“Taiga just asked me to be his boyfriend."

Kisumi doesn’t miss Makoto’s use of Kagami’s first name. He turns his attention away from the TV and pastes a smile on his face, looking at Makoto expectantly.

“And..." Makoto takes a completely unnecessary deep breath. "... I said yes.  But uh, you probably already got the idea because… you know...”

Makoto face is pink-- from embarrassment or the cold outside, it’s hard to tell, but either way, he’s glowing with happiness. His lips are also noticeably swollen and cherry red, Kisumi notes, and he’s painfully reminded about Kise’s crude insinuations earlier.

The mean spirited voice in Kisumi starts to make noise again and he immediately shuts it out, putting on his most winning smile.

“Congratulations!” he exclaims, and means it, he really does, because annoyance aside, Kisumi has always been supportive of his friends. But because he also likes to tease, he points to the completely clean corner of Makoto’s lip and smirks. “By any chance, does that have to do with that white stuff on your lip?.”

Makoto’s hands immediately fly to his mouth, horrified. “What! Taiga said I looked fine!” he says frantically wiping at his mouth before noticing Kisumi’s shoulders shaking.

“Oh my god, Kise was so right,” Kisumi sputters out between laughts. “You did give him an apology blowjob.”

Makoto flushes crimson and he covers his face with his hands. “I can’t believe this… I’ve been commuting for an hour.

“No wait-- “ Kisumi stops laughing long enough to reassure Makoto before his poor roommate collapses on the floor from undeserved humiliation. “I’m sorry, you’re clean, I was just messing with you.”

The priceless look on Makoto’s face makes Kisumi wish he had his phone within reaching distance for instant documentation.

“So,” Makoto starts slowly, his voice trembling just a bit. “I wasn’t walking around with cum on my face?”

Kisumi has to bite the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing again. “No.”

Makoto breathes a sigh of relief before glaring at Kisumi. “You’re mean.”

“Consider it payback for making me catch you fondling Kagami’s balls.”

Makoto frowns, but he just nods, accepting. “Fair enough. Can we not mention this again ever?”

Kisumi pretends to think about it for a moment before nodding decisively. “Well alright.”

Makoto smiles in relief. “Thanks Ki--”

“Wait one last thing!”

Makoto looks at him apprehensively. “What?”

Kisumi makes a big show of leaning back against the couch, holding his hands behind his head. “So..." He licks his lips, giving Makoto the smarmiest look his cotton candy prince features are capable of. “You have no gag reflex huh?”

Makoto throws a pillow at his face and stomps over to the kitchen, the tips of his ears as red as his new boyfriend’s hair.

Kisumi rubs his nose where the corner of the throw pillow hit it and grins, before following Makoto into the kitchen to beg for forgiveness.

Totally worth it.

*

And so, for the duration of their second year in college. Kagami slowly makes a place for himself in Makoto’s circle. He immediately gets Haru’s approval the first time they meet, Haru caving in fast to the feast of mackerel dishes Kagami serves him when Makoto brings him over for lunch. Rin and Rei are absolutely besotted by Kagami's OC domestic skills, while Sousuke and Gou are duly impressed by Kagami's dedication to his sport (Gou in particular, is fascinated by the amazing shape Kagami is in despite eating his weight in food every single day). Nagisa says he's mostly captivated by Kagami's unique eyebrows, but then again, one has to be an evil puppy-kicking piece of human offal for Nagisa not to like them.

More often than not, when Kagami stays over, he cooks enough food to feed a small village as Makoto just gazes adoringly at him from time to time while doing his homework (which Kisumi suspects also includes Kagami’s if the scratchy handwriting and random English is any indication). It should be sickening really, the way they make up for each other’s faults, the way Kagami lets down his guard in front of Makoto, the way Makoto has this undeniable glow about his person whenever he talks about Kagami, but Kisumi can't find it in himself to be embarrassed by any of it. Kagami and Makoto are such wonderful people individually. Together, they are positively deadly.

And weird, totally-not-jealousy feelings aside, Kisumi can never ever resent either of them. Not when Makoto’s face lights up when Kagami sets the table for three, nor when Makoto always keeps a portion of food for Kisumi. Even with Kagami being a constant presence by Makoto's side, Kisumi never feels left out. He doesn't know if it's some subconscious effort on Makoto's part or if Kisumi is just really fucking oblivious sometimes, but over time, Kisumi finds it easy to ignore his feelings, if it's to protect Makoto's.

*

Kagami and Makoto break up after a year.

Makoto tells him the news over milk tea and greasy Chinese take-out, as they’re both settle down in front of the TV, for their weekly bonding moment over Animals Unleashed.

“So uh, I’m single again,” Makoto mumbles into his rice box, before stuffing a shrimp dumpling into his mouth.

Kisumi accidentally drops a spring roll into the front of his shirt. “What.”

Makoto chews his food slowly before swallowing. He grips his chopsticks tightly in his hand, staring straight at the TV. “He has a dream,” he answers softly. “And it’s somewhere else.”

Leave it to Makoto to explain a break-up like it’s something wistfully poetic, instead of the most gut-wrenching ordeal every single love song ever written says it is. “A dream,” Kisumi echoes in disbelief. “Is that seriously what he told you it was? Wait-- he didn’t tell you the whole “It’s not me, it’s you” thing right? Because if he did, I’m going to--”

“--I was the one who told him that,” Makoto interrupts. “About him chasing his dream I mean.”

What. “You mean, you’re the one who told him to break up with you?!”

“No. It’s more like, I wanted him to realize his dreams more than I wanted him to stay with me.”

Kisumi just stares at Makoto.

Makoto shifts uncomfortably. “Look. We were happy. But I think-- I know he could be happier if he can chase his dream, without anyone tying him down. And… given the choice to seek something greater than yourself... well, isn't that worth looking into?”

Kisumi couldn’t believe what he’s hearing. “Makoto, these are your feelings okay-- this isn’t some video game where you can find a save point and choose a different option if stuff doesn’t happen to your liking.”

Makoto actually laughs at that-- weakly, but genuinely. Kisumi’s not sure what to make of it, because on one hand, he’s being completely serious; on the other hand, he made Makoto laugh  despite the fact that he is currently going through one of life’s most painful rite of passages.

“I guess that’s one way of looking at it,” Makoto admits. “But it’s for the best.”

Kisumi’s jaw drops open, in a way that he hopes adequately expresses the sentiment: "Are you fucking kidding me right now."

Makoto being Makoto, immediately recognizes it and blushes. “I’m serious-- don’t look at me like that, I know it sounds like a line but it’s true okay?”

“Sure it is,” Kisumi scoffs-- because he still can't believe it, he has spent a year accepting the fact that Makoto and Kagami are meant to be and then this happens. “What’s next, ‘There are other fish in the sea?’ Always look at the silver lining? There’s a rainbow always after the rain?”

“Cliches are cliches because they’re true,” Makoto quips, though it does nothing to mollify Kisumi. "I really am okay Kisumi, don’t worry.”

Really. Kisumi raises an eyebrow. “Are you sure? You just your dipped spring roll in your wintermelon tea.”

“...I will be okay,” Makoto corrects himself, and promptly shoves his wintermelon-soaked spring roll into his mouth. He doesn’t even make a face at the taste, which only confirms Kisumi’s suspicions that Makoto is being far from truthful right now.

Kisumi doesn’t say anything. Instead, he reaches into his pocket for his phone and scrolls through his contacts.

That, Makoto notices. “What are you doing?”

“Calling for reinforcements,” Kisumi answers bluntly, as his thumb pauses on the contact: Nanase Haruka.

Makoto panics. “Wait-- please don’t tell Haru!” he pleads. “Tomorrow’s the qualifying meet, and I don’t want to distract him. You’re the only one who knows right now.”

Kisumi frowns. “But--”

“I promise I’ll tell him after his meet,” Makoto says. Then, he adds, a little softer: “Well, after Taiga’s left the country at least.”

Right. Kisumi is all too aware of how Haru gets when Makoto gets hurt, even with the best of intentions. “And when is that?” he asks.

“This weekend.”

Kisumi sighs. “Fine."

Makoto smiles gratefully. “Thanks Kisumi.”

“No problem," he responds, and puts back his phone on the table.

And then, he waits.

He waits as Makoto half-heartedly goes back to his meal, watching TV without really seeing it.  He waits as Makoto puts away his food, half-unfinished, and lean back against the couch, pretending to be fascinated by cute animal antics on screen. He waits as Makoto slowly inches closer, his hands fidgeting with the material of his sweat pants, bottom lip caught on his teeth.

The flickering light from the TV sends an ashen glow over Makoto's face. He blinks, his breathing going heavy, his eyes slowing going vacant, unseeing.    

And then, a smile splits his face like a jagged crack on glass, and he stands up abruptly. "Sorry, I just need to use the bath--"

Kisumi swiftly grabs his wrist, pulls him back down, and hugs him.

Makoto freezes, but he doesn't struggle to get away.

"It's okay," Kisumi whispers, gently pushing Makoto's head into the crook of his neck. "You don't have to pretend anymore."

It takes three seconds for Makoto to hug Kisumi back. Another two for Makoto shudder against the warmth of Kisumi's chest. Five for Kisumi to feel the first drop on the skin of his neck.

And then, and only then , does Makoto finally surrender.

*

Life goes on. Makoto doesn’t wallow in his sadness for very long; in a couple of weeks, he is already back to his old self. He keeps in touch with Kagami, though this isn’t surprising-- Makoto had stressed that the breakup was amicable, and if there’s anyone Kisumi believes could genuinely be friends with his ex-lovers (aside from himself), it’s Makoto.

Sometimes, he sees Makoto sighing wistfully when he sees Kisumi’s basketball jerseys and Kisumi pretends not to notice. Time will heal all wounds or so they say. He hates that he’s admitting to a cliche, but Makoto is right: cliches are cliches because they’re true.

Now that Makoto is single again, Kisumi takes it upon himself to come to terms with how he feels about him. He thinks that maybe, just maybe, he’s falling in love with him, but he really doesn’t know for sure. It’s not some form of active denial on his part, it’s just that Kisumi feels a little in love with a lot of people.

But he has to admit, the “little” part doesn’t apply to Makoto. Not anymore. He has a feeling it has stopped applying ever since he saw Makoto work his magic on his little brother. Makoto didn't just teach Hayato to swim; he taught him how to face his fears. Hayato used to be paralyzed at the thought of going into open water, now he laughs and swims like he was born in it. Understandably, Hayato has been smitten with his former coach ever since (he practically sang in joy when Kisumi announced who he'll be living with) and maybe it was contagious.

Sometimes, he thinks about reaching forward across their cheap plastic table to grasp Makoto’s hand-- Makoto has this habit of drumming his fingers on the most convenient surface when he’s thinking about something. Sometimes, he thinks about the way Makoto’s bedhead looks so adorable in the morning, when he stumbles into the kitchen bleary-eyed, moving as if held up only by the powerful aroma of brewed coffee. Sometimes, he thinks about the way Makoto looks and smells so good after a shower, with his hair all slicked back and how he never really dries himself off properly, always leaving several droplets of water streaking down his skin.

Most of the time though, he thinks of Makoto sitting beside him on the couch, as they relax in front of the TV after a full day at work, doing the same thing they’ve always done, finding comfort in familiarity and routine.

Most of the time, he thinks about Makoto staying and never wanting to leave.

*

In all that time spent thinking about his feelings, Kisumi discovers a little too late that he neglected to think about one crucial thing: confessing.

He realizes this several months later on their third year in college, when he walks into their apartment after taking a monstrously long accounting exam, and sees Makoto on the couch, sitting way too close to possibly the most gorgeous man Kisumi has ever seen in his life.

Makoto spots him and stands up quickly, flustered. “Kisumi! You’re here! I thought your classes ended at 8 PM...”

“Our professor had an emergency, so he cancelled class today,” Kisumi answers, subtly eyeing Mr. Tall Dark and Handsome. Apart from having perfectly symmetrical cheekbones, he has this fancy streak of white hair in the middle, and a cool looking scar across his face-- basically, all markings of a bad boy but the facial expression of a lamb. “Didn’t know you’d be having some company...”

“Ah yeah, of course! Kisumi, this is Shirogane Takashi,” Makoto introduces, beaming. “Shiro, this is my roommate, Kisumi.”

Shiro stands up, and boy, is he tall-- which is saying something, since Kisumi spends a lot of time with basketball players. Kisumi hates that he has to look up slightly to catch his gaze.

“Hello. It’s a pleasure to meet you! Makoto has told me so much about you,” Shiro says with a warm friendly smile, as he reaches out to give Kisumi a firm handshake.

A firm, solid steelhandshake, because unless they’re back in the middle ages where suits of armour was a thing, Shiro is sporting a metal appendage.

No wonder he’s the manliest man, the guy’s a fucking cyborg.

“He has a metal arm!” Makoto pipes up unhelpfully.

How do you even exist in this century? Kisumi wants to ask, but he bites it back and gives Shiro his best winning smile. “That’s awesome. Where did you get it?”

Immediately, he wants to hit himself on the face because seriously, what kind of question was that? It’s not as if they have boutiques in the mall for mechanical body parts. That exam of his must have fried his brain more than he thought.

“From my professor actually,” Shiro answers because on top of being hot, he’s also a super nice guy who’s willing to overlook Kisumi’s indiscretion. “I volunteered for the experiment, and it worked out.”

“Experiment?”

Makoto touches Shiro’s arm shyly. “He’s in Japan to finish his PhD in astrophysics and robotics,” he explains.

Kisumi nods absently, already formulating a mental scorecard for Makoto’s new beau. Tall, Dark and Handsome. Check. Sweet and sensitive, check. Possesses the kind of intelligence nominally found only in rocket scientists, check. A cyborg, double check.  

Fuck. Kisumi never imagined Makoto would ever find anyone to match the staggeringly high boyfriend bar Kagami has set, but clearly, Kisumi has underestimated his roommate’s charms.

“We met in the library two weeks ago,” Makoto says, taking Kisumi’s awestruck silence as confusion as to how the two of them ever got together, considering Makoto’s major was a far cry from rocket science.

“Makoto helped me do some research on physical therapy,” Shiro explains further. “I was under a lot of stress for a project and wanted to look up some ways to destress, and we bumped into each other. He was extremely helpful.”

“Oh I’m sure,” Kisumi agrees. “Extremely.”

“Yeah. Well, the library’s kinda full right now so I invited Shiro over here to keep studying.” Makoto wipes his hands on his jeans and looks down. “Sorry, I guess we lost track of time.”

Makoto doesn’t need to explain further. Kisumi bites his lip, knowing what Makoto is really asking.

Goddammit, he just got here, but he’s so terribly weak when it comes to Makoto’s pleading face, especially since Makoto rarely asks for things.

Biting down a sigh, he summons the last dregs of his energy and claps his hands as dramatically as he can. “Oh-- right! I just remembered I have to see Ryouta tonight for dinner.” He takes a moment to treasure the grateful look on Makoto’s face before hurrying over to his room.  “I’ll leave you to it so you can, uh concentrate better. How long will you be studying?”

“Um...” Makoto’s bright red ears tell him that they plan to be concentrating all night long.

Before Makoto can come up with another terrible euphemism, Kisumi blurts out: “Actually, you know what, I forgot I also promised Sousuke I’d take him out for some beers, so I might just stay over.” He makes a big show of grabbing his knapsack and slinging it over his shoulder, fighting back a wave of jealousy, upon seeing Shiro whisper something in Makoto’s ear.

He clears his throat and puts on another huge smile, as he opens the front door again, five minutes after he’s just entered it. “Good luck with concentrat-- I mean studying! See you tomorrow!” He bites back the urge to add “Stay safe!” and closes the door before either of them can reply.

*

Sousuke opens the door and takes one look at Kisumi’s face before smirking. “Let me guess,” he drawls. “Sexiled?”

Kisumi holds up his overnight bag in response, pouting pitifully. Then, he adds, just to be safe. “I brought beer.”

Sousuke lights up, and opens the door wider. “Then, welcome home.”

*

“Why are they always so likeable?” Kisumi slurs, as he pops open the tab of his third bottle of beer. “They’re all as nice as they are hot. I can’t even get upset because Makoto always looks so happy with them. Is that normal?”

Sousuke takes a sip from his own bottle, looking at him incredulously. “No. You’re not even upset? Dude, you know how many people would kill to have your kind of mindset?”

Kisumi makes a face. “Are you saying I’m lucky?”

“No, I’m just saying you’re better off at handling your emotions than most people. I mean, I can’t imagine what I’d be feeling if say, Mikoshiba got to Gou before I did.” Sousuke shudders and takes a long gulp from his beer. “I don’t ever want to imagine it.”

Kisumi toys with the neck of his beer bottle, unsure of how to react to that. “Maybe I’m not in love with him as much as I thought I was.” 

Sousuke shrugs. “Maybe. Or maybe you just love him too much to ever resent anyone who makes him happy.”

Sousuke says it like it’s a good thing, but all Kisumi feels is a sweeping ache in his ribs, and that’s how Kisumi knows that it’s Sousuke who has it right.

*

That night, just as Kisumi settles down for the night on Sousuke’s couch, in a blissful state of alcohol-induced buzzed, his phone lights up.

 

 

Makoto: <<Are you staying over at Sousuke’s?>>

Kisumi sighs, happy mood dropping a little as he taps out a reply. <<Yeah. I told you before didn’t I?>>

 

 

Makoto: <<Yeah I know, but I just wanted to make sure you’re not out in the cold this late>>

 

 

<<Don’t worry. I’m good.>>

 

 

Makoto: <<I’m glad. Hey, thanks for giving me privacy earlier. I’ll treat you to lunch tomorrow okay? I’d cook, but I’m not good enough yet, even after Taiga’s lessons.>>

 

Kisumi pouts, and in a rare show of petulance, taps out: << Make Shiro cook then.>>

 

 

Makoto: <<Lol are you kidding? He’s even worse than me before Taiga’s influence.>>

 

Kisumi snorts. <<Someone worse than you? Wow, that’s actually pretty astonishing, statistically.>>

 

 

Makoto: <<Hey, I’m learning okay. I can cook eggs and bacon now. I’m moving on to pancakes next.>>

 

<<Why pancakes?>>

 

 

Makoto: <<Because you love them.>>

 

Makoto says it so simply and unabashedly, like he just didn’t admit to wanting to learn something to make Kisumi happy. It warms Kisumi’s heart and he lies back down, feeling the heaviness in his chest lift.

Impulsively, he presses the call button. Makoto answers immediately. “You’re the best roommate ever,” he croons. “Did you get a lot of ahem, studying done?”

Kisumi can practically hear Makoto blushing over the phone. “Y-yeah, you could say that. I learned a lot of... English words.”

“Oh yeah? Like what?”

“... Are you seriously asking me that?”

“Come on, indulge me. Wait let me guess-- does it include “Take Me, harder ohmygod--”

“Kisumi!”

“You’re not denying it.”

“You’re terrible. Why did I even pick up the phone?”

“Because you lo~ve me,” he says in singsong voice, despite how hard the words hit him.

Makoto laughs. Kisumi imagines Makoto’s eyes, luminescent in the dark of his room as he cradles the phone in his ear.  “Yeah, okay you got me.”

Kisumi grips the phone a little tighter, relishing the honesty of those words and the ease with which Makoto says them. “You’re still treating me to lunch right?”

“Not if you keep teasing me.”

Kisumi pouts, even if Makoto can't see it. "Fine, I'll stop."

"Alright. Then--" Makoto cuts himself off, and Kisumi hears Shiro's deep voice murmuring something, before Makoto goes back on. "I have to go. I'll see you tomorrow okay? Let's go to your favourite restaurant."

"It's a date," Kisumi says, before he can stop himself. Sure, he's above throwing himself a pity party for his penchant for self-sabotage, but he isn't above pettiness.

Makoto just laughs quietly. "Yeah okay. Goodnight Kisumi."

"...Good night Makoto."

~tbc~

Chapter Text

Much like Kagami was, Shiro is annoyingly perfect , save for his atrocious cooking skills. He’s charismatic, intelligent, loaded, and extremely useful with tasks involving manual labour, or kicking ass. Not that Kisumi has ever seen or heard Shiro beating someone up, but he’s seen the videos Makoto takes of Shiro’s “work out.” Which consists mostly of sparring against practice lab droids in nothing but skin tight pants and a tank top at least two hours a day. Sometimes, when Makoto asks nicely, he gets rid of the shirt, and those videos, he secretly shares with Gou when Sousuke’s not looking.

To top off Shiro’s already exceptional boyfriend score card, he is reportedly godlike in bed too, if the way Makoto glows like the sun crept out of his skin whenever Shiro stays over is any indication.

It’s summer, and the heat lies heavy over Tokyo. People have taken to hanging out in malls or coffee shops to avoid the sun. This particular summer is especially humid on top of being unbearably hot; it’s a wonder people aren’t dying on the streets yet.  

Luckily for Shiro, his 2LDK has central airconditioning, and luckily for Makoto, being Shiro’s boyfriend means possessing a key to said apartment.

Luckily for  Kisumi, Haru, Sousuke and Gou, they’re very good friends with Makoto.

Today, they’re all gathered in Shiro’s living room, taking refuge in cool 16 degree temperature. Gou is happily curled up against Sousuke on one end of the L-couch, while Shiro and Makoto take the other half. Haru takes one arm chair while Kisumi settles for the giant bean bag on the floor. They’re all lazy and full from tonkatsu and miso-mackerel, courtesy of Sousuke and Haru’s joint efforts to make use of Shiro’s fully equipped yet woefully underutilized kitchen.

They’re supposed to watch a movie, but no one seems to want to make the effort to even pick one, much less play it. So they’re just lazing about, doing nothing in particular.

Which, in Kisumi’s opinion, is kind of the best thing ever, save for the fact that he and Haru are currently the two extra wheels in the room.

After a full five minutes of nothing, Haru closes the nature picture book he’s been perusing and looks up, briefly meeting Kisumi’s surprised gaze before turning to their host. “Shiro,” he starts, as he returns the book to its place under the coffee table. He tilts his head, looking unusually curious, despite the air of boredom in his voice. “Makoto showed me your videos.”

This immediately catches the attention of every other person in the room. Makoto in particular, straightens up, looking both nervous and surprised, which is par for the course whenever Haru consciously expresses interest in topics that don’t have to do with water, mackerel or swimming.

Shiro’s Gatorade stops halfway to his mouth. “... Which ones?”

Haru looks amused as he ever gets, as he leans back against the armchair. “The ones where you were testing your bionic hand’s weaponized functions.”

“Oh that. ” Shiro smiles in relief, and takes a long gulp of his drink. “Yeah, it’s still experimental but I’m making good progress. What do you think?”

“I have no comment about your fighting prowess.”

Shiro’s brow furrows. “Um... okay...”

“But, I just need to know,” Haru continues. “Are you and Makoto being safe?”

It’s nice to know that even the impeccable Shiro is not above spittakes. Kisumi pats the damp spot on his jeans with a handkerchief and hands the mortified Shiro a paper napkin.

Makoto worriedly pats him on the back while throwing an exasperated look at Haru. “Haru! What kind of question is that?”

Haru doesn’t even pretend to show remorse. “A legitimate one.”

“That was completely inappropriate--”

“I actually agree with Haru,” Sousuke pipes up, and isn't that a rare and unusual occurrence. Kisumi sits up, a lot more alert than he was thirty seconds ago.

Makoto groans. “Not you too Sousuke.”

“Makoto, he uses the same hand that destroys droids to do… well, you.”

Makoto stares long and hard at Sousuke before turning his head and making pitiful noises against Shiro’s shoulder.  “I can’t believe this is happening to me.”

“I assure you, I take our safety very seriously,” Shiro answers, recovering from his social faux pas earlier. He wraps his arm around Makoto and squeezes his shoulder affectionately. “I would never do anything to hurt Makoto.”

“Good to hear. Next question, how does that work?” Sousuke asks leaning forward, and resting his elbows on his knees. “Your arm has… what, different settings for different tasks?”

“Well…” Shiro starts a bit hesitantly, when he senses Makoto stiffening beside him. “You know how in Star Trek, they have phasers that you can set to stun or kill? My arm has something like that but with different options.”

“Like what?” Sousuke presses. “Sex and violence?”

Kisumi tries to stop himself from laughing and almost chokes on his own saliva. He makes a mental note to include this in his Sousuke report to Rin when they go on their Skype session later.

Makoto has stopped hiding on his boyfriend’s shoulder, and has resorted to giving them all the patented pleading puppy face. “Guys…come on…” he whines

Gou frowns, and raps Sousuke sharply on the arm. “Don’t be crude, Sousuke,” she scolds before turning towards Shiro again, eyes wide in fascination. “It’s probably something like vibrate and hacksaw, right?”

Makoto makes a noise like a sheep stuck in a fence and buries his face in his hands.

“Well,” Shiro starts solemnly-- how he manages to keep a straight face while fielding questions about the questionable uses of his robo-arm, Kisumi will never know. “... I don’t have a hacksaw in my arm.”

Gou sighs dreamily and reaches over to pat Makoto’s knee. “You’re so lucky.”

Shiro beams. Sousuke’s eyes narrow. Haru just looks vaguely concerned, though that's probably because Makoto is so red, Pantone would have to make an entirely new shade in his name. Kisumi wishes he could grab some popcorn and watch this show unfold from behind a bulletproof screen.

“Thanks, Gou-chan,” Makoto mumbles after a long, awkward silence. “I guess.”

“It’s dangerous though,” Sousuke grouses, obviously unhappy about never ever getting a robo-arm his girlfriend would lust after. “I mean, just get the setting wrong once, and killer sex takes a literal turn.”

“Okay!” Makoto swiftly stands up and claps his hands, with a smile so forced he almost looks demented. “I’m going to Family Mart to buy some snacks,” he announces and promptly marches towards the door. “And maybe some dignity.”

Haru stands up and strolls after him. “I’ll go with you,” he says, before ushering Makoto out the door, leaving Kisumi to deal with a sulking Sousuke, an awestruck Gou, and a panicking Shiro.

Kisumi sighs and runs a hand through his hair, shooting Shiro the most baleful glower he can muster. “You know you could have just said you use condoms, right?”


*

 

Another year passes. Shiro finishes his masters with flying colours, after which he joins Makoto and Haru on their traditional return to Iwatobi for Obon, and Makoto introduces him to his parents for the first time.

On their return home, he receives an invitation to a prestigious breakthrough space program in America.

And then another week later, he and Makoto break up. Twice now, has Makoto lost his love to the great American dream.

This time, Kisumi only finds out from Haru. He’s currently in Tower Records, purchasing the latest Old Codex album, having just recently rediscovered their music and realizing the lead singer sounds a lot like Makoto. He intends to give it as a belated gift to Makoto and Shiro for their anniversary just for yucks.

The text lights up his phone just as he’s finishing paying for the CD. He nearly does a double take when he sees the sender, but freezes when he sees the message preview.

 

Nanase Haruka                                18:04

Shiro and Makoto broke up. Go home now.

Kisumi nearly drops his phone and the shopping bag he’s carrying. The cashier sends him a concerned glance, but Kisumi just thanks her, grabs his purchases and leaves. Once he gets a decent grip on his phone, he immediately presses call on Haru’s name. Haru answers on the seventh ring.

“What happened?” he demands, as he starts hurrying towards Shibuya station, nearly toppling over three middle school kids as he joins the sea of people at the intersection. “They just celebrated their anniversary a week ago... fuck, are you there with him right now?”

“No, I’m in Australia with Rin for a sponsored training event,” Haru answers, sounding furious at himself for the terrible timing he couldn't have prevented. “We need to be here for the rest of the week, but we’re taking the earliest flight home. Rin has already contacted Sousuke.”

“Okay okay,” Kisumi responds, as he sprints up the escalator and heads towards the Keio line, practically slamming his wallet on the turnstiles scanner. “I’m heading home as fast as I can.”

“Hurry. Don’t leave him alone.” Then Haru hangs up without saying goodbye.

Not that Kisumi really minds; overseas calls are hella expensive, and Kisumi’s still on a student budget. Moreover, he’s much too worried about Makoto at this point. Knowing Makoto, he’s probably internalizing this way too much and trying to find a way to blame this on himself. Given enough time, Makoto could make himself feel guilty with just about anything.

When he gets home, around an hour later, he finds Makoto sitting on their couch, his phone cradled against his ear. Kisumi hears some puttering coming from the kitchen, which means Sousuke must already be here.

“Yeah, I’m okay Haru,” Makoto is mumbling over the phone, his face half covered by his hand, though he does spare Kisumi a quick glance. “No really, I’ll be fine. Kisumi’s here. Sousuke’s here too. He uh, he said he’s gonna take care of me.”

‘Taking care’ is a bit of a stretch, especially when Sousuke returns to the living room with a tray containing several items: a shot glass, a carafe of iced water, a jar of sugar cubes, a unique stylized spoon, a strangely shaped glass with dose lines and a bubble bottom and lastly…

….a bottle of Absinthe.

Kisumi blinks, rubs his eyes and blinks again. Yep, the 140 proof sign and the green fairy soulfully staring back at him on the label leaves absolutely no doubt about the kind of substance Sousuke intends to inflict on Makoto tonight.

On one hand, Kisumi has to give it to Sousuke-- the guy pulls absolutely no stops. On the other hand...

“Haru is going to kill you,” Kisumi whispers, when Sousuke puts down the tray on the coffee table. Makoto doesn’t even bat an eyelid at it, murmuring more reassurances to Haru over the phone.

“What he doesn’t know won’t kill him,” Sousuke replies, as he sits down beside Makoto and gets to work, pouring the green liquid into the fancy glass until a certain line. He then proceeds to place the fancy spoon so that it lays horizontally on the rim of the glass, and then carefully places a sugar cube on top of it.

“He’s going to find out,” Kisumi argues, gripping Sousuke’s arm. “You know he and Makoto share a brain when they're within seeing distance of each other right?”

Sousuke pulls his arm back effortlessly, and fetches a lighter from his pocket. “Yes well, you know what they say, it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission.”

Kisumi stops him before he can light the sugar cube on fire. “Not this method Sousuke, please,” he hisses, because getting Makoto drunk is one thing, and potentially setting his apartment on fire is another. “No flames.”

“But it’s slower,” Sousuke complains.

“You’re using the traditional method or you’re not serving it to Makoto,” Kisumi says firmly. Sousuke rolls his eyes but relents, tucking away the lighter and grabbing the water carafe instead. “Why Absinthe anyway?”

“Because it matches his eyes,” Sousuke deadpans, while carefully pouring water over the sugar cube, and into the glass. “Because it’s 140 proof, jeez Kisumi don’t you know anything.”

“I know that!” Kisumi hisses, watching as the sugar water slowly clouds the green alcohol already in the glass. “I just don’t think alcohol this strong will do him any good right now.”

Sousuke looks at Kisumi as if he has grown an extra eye. “Are you seriously trying to stop us from drinking? You?”

Before Kisumi can respond to that, Makoto turns back to both of them, seemingly done with his phone call. He casts a wary look at the foreign alcohol on the table. “What is that?”

“This, Makoto, is called Absinthe,” Sousuke announces with a flourish, picking up the glass he just finished preparing and handing it to Makoto. “Also known as the green fairy. She’s every broken hearted person’s best friend.”

Makoto eyes the swirling green liquid curiously. “Is it strong?”

“Stronger than your ex in beast mode.”

Kisumi glares at Sousuke. “Are you familiar with the concept of “Too Soon” or would you like me to give you a ---”

Makoto snatches the glass from Sousuke’s hand and swiftly chugs down the contents in a single sitting.

“-- primer,” Kisumi finishes glumly, watching as Makoto shudders and nearly drops the glass after drinking. Sousuke hurriedly catches it, and immediately starts preparing the next batch.

Kisumi groans. “Wow, you don’t fuck around, huh?”

“Nope. This is the most efficient way to achieve the level of drunkenness warranted by a break up.” After a while, Sousuke raises the next concoction he just finished making, lips tracing around the rim lightly, and just like Makoto, downs it in one go. He closes his eyes briefly and then tips his head back, letting the initial effects of the alcohol pass.

Kisumi takes the glass away from him. Now that he’s taken a closer look at Sousuke, he seems unusually riled up. While he’s never doubted Sousuke’s noble intentions to “comfort” Makoto via judicious application of borderline illegal alcohol, he has a feeling there’s something more to this that Sousuke isn’t telling. “I get Makoto but why are you drinking? And don’t tell me you’re just commiserating-- you’ve never really liked fancy liquor.”

“I like them fine now,” Sousuke answers stubbornly, before grabbing the bottle to refill his glass. ‘

Kisumi stops him. “You didn’t answer my question.”

Makoto seems to have recovered from his initial drink, and reaches beside him to touch Sousuke’s knee. “I think,” he starts gently, taking a brief moment to glance at Kisumi. “That you should tell him.”

Sousuke shakes his head, scowling. “I thought tonight is going to be for you.”

“I don’t see why it can’t be for both of us.”

The bad feeling gets worse. “What’s he talking about-- what do you mean both of you?” Kisumi demands. Don’t tell me...

Makoto gives Sousuke another encouraging pat on the knee. Sousuke sighs, relenting, and leans back, hands clenched into fists at his side. “Gou accepted a student exchange program in Australia for her women studies. It’s going to be for a whole year.”

“And…?”

“Well, we kind of got into a huge fight,” he answers quietly. “I think she’s going to break up with me.”

Kisumi’s jaw drops. Fuck no. No. This is not happening.

Makoto rubs comforting circles on Sousuke’s back. “Like I said before, let’s not get too hasty Sousuke,” he says. “I think you just need some space to think about it and maybe discuss it again when you’ve both had the time to look at the matter objectively.”

Kisumi lets go of his shock long enough to admire how calm Makoto is, considering his own situation. It never fails to amaze him how Makoto’s way of coping with his own pain is to focus on fixing others.

“I don’t really want to think about it,” Sousuke mutters. “I don’t think I can be objective anyway.”

“Well then, we can just commiserate together,” Makoto encourages, refusing to give up. “We’ll get through this Sousuke.”

“I guess. Oh well, at least Kisumi has one thing going for him in this shit show.”

It takes a moment for Kisumi to realize what Sousuke is talking about, and another moment to summon all the latent venom he has in his body and channel it into the glare he levels at Sousuke. Possible break-up with his girlfriend or not, Kisumi won’t be so forgiving if he slips up in front of Makoto now, in the worst possible time. Thankfully, Sousuke gets the hint because he immediately averts his eyes and grows quiet.

Makoto tilts his head curiously at them. “What’s he talking ab--”

“--Less talking, more drinking,” Sousuke interrupts, shoving a new glass at Makoto while preparing another batch for himself. He mouths an apology to Kisumi over Makoto’s head.

Still, Kisumi can just imagine Sousuke getting more careless as the night wears on. This is going to be a problem. Kisumi doesn't like it but it seems staying sober is mandatory for tonight.

Decision made, Kisumi stands up. “Okay,” he says, rolling up his sleeves. “You guys carry on. I’m gonna go arrange for precautions. Please do not vomit on anything important.”

“You’re not drinking?” Sousuke asks incredulously.

“Yeah well, someone has to be the responsible person around here,” Kisumi answers, with a dramatic, long-suffering sigh. “I can’t believe it’s me either, but there’s a first time for everything.”

Without waiting for Sousuke to answer, he makes his way to the kitchen and starts gathering supplies (emergency barf bags, paper towels, a pitcher of water, an ice bucket, and some cola), mentally preparing himself for the arduous task ahead of him.

Haru and Rin owe him big time.

*

The impromptu task of babysitting his two drunkard heartbroken friends actually turns out better than Kisumi expected. There were no tears, no accidental violence, no unwarranted stripping, no projectile vomiting or any other vomiting for that matter; just two grown ass men keeping each other company while reflecting upon their respective romantic failures.

Makoto is an affectionate drunk. He doesn’t break out in giggles, or shamelessly cuddle against the nearest available warm body, but there’s a notable increase in his physical gestures-- his touch lingers on Sousuke’s knee, he rests his head on Kisumi’s shoulder when he wants to reorient himself after imbibing a fresh shot of alcohol, he has no qualms pressing himself against either of them.

Sousuke is an unpredictable drunk. Sometimes he’s really handsy, other times he just grows quiet and pensive. And then when it’s his turn to walk to the kitchen to grab some water, he pretty much moves like overgrown ambulatory furniture that keeps bumping on stuff and falling down.

Absinthe, man. That stuff is slow sweet death in a bottle.

It’s around 10:30 in the evening when Kisumi sneakily hides the remaining half of the bottle when Sousuke and Makoto aren’t looking. It’s unclear who between Makoto and Sousuke drank more, though Makoto is a lot more visibly flushed. As a last-minute show of camaraderie, Kisumi graciously allows himself half a glass, which of course, does little to affect his sobriety.

While Kisumi starts clearing out the fancy glasses, replacing them with bottles of Coca Cola, Sousuke siddles next to Makoto on the couch, drapes an arm around him and leans in close, already switching to his handsy drunk mode.

Kisumi pauses, eyes narrowed as Sousuke all but touches his nose along the shell of Makoto’s ear.

“So,” he drawls, his voice softer than normal but still loud enough for Kisumi to hear. “You’re single, I think I'm about to be single.”  He turns his head just slightly to look at Kisumi, eyes surprisingly lucid despite the haze of alcohol he’s under.  Kisumi watches as the tip of Sousuke’s tongue traces his upper lip, never breaking Kisumi’s gaze.

“What do you say we do something we’re going to regret for the rest of our lives?”

*

And that’s how they end up at a small tattoo parlor in Harajuku at 10 in the evening. The neon sign reads “Pulse,” and unlike most tattoo parlors in Tokyo, they’ve extended their business hours up to midnight, which probably takes advantage of the kind of clientele who are gullible enough to believe that getting permanent art on their bodies is a genius decision to make with five to ten shots of hard liquor in their system.  

Clientele like Sousuke and Makoto for instance.

Kisumi is a good and patient person. This is why he took care of his two broken hearted friends through their descent into the rabbit hole of inebriation, kept himself sober, and made sure they smelled okay and dressed decently when they decided to leave the safety of the apartment and venture out into the Tokyo Metropolis at 11 in the evening.

Kisumi is a good person. He is not, however, a great person because otherwise, he wouldn’t have indulged Makoto and Sousuke this ridiculous decision, and risk Haru and Gou’s wrath (Kisumi can at least count on Rin to be find this hilarious as he does) in the process.

“Can I have something like your arm’s design?” Makoto asks, eyeing their tattoo artists’s forearm with a mix of admiration and curiosity.

Their tattoo artist (whose nametag reads “Snow”), is a foreigner-- blond, ruggedly dishevelled and has shoulders that look like he can benchpress cars. For a tattoo artist, it’s weird he only has one tattoo-- a complicated series of lines on his forearm, with a red eye in the middle.

Snow shakes his head with a grimace.  “Oh trust me, you don’t want one of these,” he says, before handing Makoto a black clear book. “Here, we have plenty of designs, I’m sure you’ll find something you like!”

“Oh okay.” Makoto graciously takes the book without question, and turns to Sousuke behind him. “Come take a look, Sousuke.”

Sousuke shuffles forward and sluggishly leans his chin on Makoto’s shoulder as they browse through the designs. Snow starts preparing his gear, while Kisumi starts deleting unnecessary photos on his phone to make space for the video evidence he’ll take of Sousuke and Makoto making impractical decisions together.

Not even thirty seconds later, Makoto’s eyes light up and he hurriedly shows the book to Snow.

“This one,” Makoto exclaims, pointing to a tiny black Orca decal on the page selection.

“Cute,” Snow remarks. He grins at Makoto, and gestures towards an extremely unique chair, which, upon closer inspection, is actually a modified motorbike where the chassis seems to be molded out of silver statues of 2 beautiful ice goddesses lying on top of each other. “Have a seat please.”

Makoto dutifully climbs up into the chair and sits down on it, though he keeps one leg hanging over the side.

Sousuke takes a spare stool, sits down beside Makoto and and lifts Makoto’s leg up to stare at the chair’s chassis unhindered. “Has anyone ever told you that your chair is really hot?”

Kisumi muffles a snort, and immediately gives himself a pat on the back for managing to capture that particular moment.

“All the time,” Snow answers without missing a beat, as he gathers his tools from a table before turning towards his first customer. “So, Makoto, where do you want it?”

“Um…” Makoto twists his hands on his lap, looking uncertain, as if the subject only occurred to him now. “...Where won’t it hurt?

Snow smiles apologetically. “It’s gonna hurt no matter what.”

Makoto winces and looks down. “Well uh… where would it hurt the least?”

“Somewhere that isn’t close to the bone,” Snow answers. “The upper arm is the usual candidate. Though I suggest you pick a different design if you want it there.”

Makoto shakes his head, lips pursed in a way that really shouldn’t be as cute as it is, but Kisumi has long accepted his bias when it comes to Makoto. “But I really, really want this one.”

Snow clucks his tongue, though he doesn’t argue. Instead, he moves around to Makoto’s side and places his hand on Makoto’s shoulder. “Okay can I see your arm then?”

Makoto removes his jacket and long sleeved shirt without preamble, leaving him with only his pants on. Kisumi immediately decides against turning off the video on his phone in favour of panning it up Makoto’s chest. When opportunity knocks, and all.

Snow scratches the back of his head, eyes looking apprehensive. “Well I could technically still do it, but it won’t look as nice.” He swipes a finger along the cuts of Makoto’s upper arm, smiling appreciatively. “Such a simple design would be wasted on biceps like yours, just saying.”

Kisumi immediately presses the stop button on his phone and tries his hardest not to glare at Snow.

Someday, Kisumi will take Makoto to a public place where no one will actually try to hit on him. Someday. But today is clearly not that day.

Makoto blinks, which is one of the many signs of his drunkenness, else he’d be smiling softly and blushing at the obvious compliment. “Um. Okay… do you have any suggestions where else I can put it?”

Snow doesn’t seem all too perturbed at Makoto’s lack of reaction. “How about your pecs?” he suggests. “I could curve the tail around here…”

To Kisumi’s complete shock, Snow skims his finger lightly around the skin of Makoto’s nipples, which are now quite erect-- from the cold, Kisumi would like to believe, and not from anything else, least of all Mr. Snow, who is now sporting a delighted grin when Makoto noticeably shivers . “How about it?”

Makoto looks down, seemingly mesmerized at the movement of their tattoo artist’s fingers on his perky bits. “Wow… that would feel-- I mean, look nice,” he mumbles, soft pink already dusting across his cheeks.

Kisumi tries not to bang his head into the graffiti’d wall behind him. Really, of all the tattoo parlors he could have chosen, why did he have to pick this one? Makoto hasn’t even been single for 24 hours and already, he’s consenting so some random stranger touching his nips.

Snow nods encouragingly and steps even closer to Makoto. “Right? If you’re willing, I can even throw in a nipple piercing for--”

“-- Hey wow, that’s a really cool pendant!” Sousuke blurts out, moving into Snow’s space and taking a closer look. Kisumi has never loved him more.

Snow blinks and looks at the silver, shell-like pendant around his neck as if only remembering that it exists and is surprised to see it there. His face falls and he steps away quietly. “Thanks. My fiancee gave it to me a long time ago.”

Makoto’s eyes widen. “Oh you’re engaged? Congratulations!”

Snow scratches the back of his head sheepishly, though there’s genuine longing in his eyes, as if harking back to a fond memory. “Yeah,” he whispers, almost to himself. “It’s been a long time since I’ve seen her though.”

Sousuke’s brows furrow. “How long have you been engaged?”

“Five hundred years?” Snow shrugs. “Maybe more.”

Sousuke and Makoto openly gape at him while Kisumi raises an eyebrow, trying to gauge if Snow is fucking with them or if he just made an honest mistake, but Snow cuts them off before they can react any further. “It’s a really long story. Anyway, Makoto, are you good with the chest tattoo and nipple piercing?” he asks. “I’ll give you a really good price for it.”

“Oh um... you’re serious about the nipple piercing haha...ha...ha..” Makoto swallows nervously.

Sensing Makoto’s discomfort, Kisumi pipes up. “I think that’s a bit too much.”

Snow raises an eyebrow. “It’s actually not as painful as you think. And even then, if you’re worried about the pain, I can give him something to bite onto while I work.”

Makoto looks like he’s trying really hard not to whimper. “Oh um, I don’t think I’m ready for my nipples to be… uh…”

“Violated,” Kisumi supplies helpfully.

“Decorated,” Makoto corrects, smiling weakly. “Um... So maybe we can do the tattoo... someplace else?”

Snow taps his chin and looks up the rest of Makoto’s body critically. “Can you stand up for a bit? I’d like to see your back.”

Wow, Snow does not let up. Kisumi considers himself an expert in flirting but this guy is giving him a run for his money.

Makoto complies, unconsciously flexing a bit as he does so. His jeans hang low on his hips, accentuating the visible swell of his ass. KIsumi bites his lip to keep from sighing out loud, because even if he has seen Makoto half naked for pretty much most of his college life, he can never ever get tired of seeing this.

He’s getting really tired of seeing Snow obnoxiously grope Makoto in front of him though.

“How about on the small of your lower back?” Sousuke suggests. “I’ve seen a lot of people put theirs there.”

Kisumi wrinkles his nose. “A tramp stamp? Look, I know you’re trashed but this is crossing the line.”

Makoto taps his chin to think about it for a moment. “Maybe somewhere to the left then? Like Harry Potter’s scar isn’t really on the center of his forehead…” To Kisumi’s mixed horror and delight, Makoto pulls his pants lower, exposing pretty much the top fourth of his ass, and reaches behind him to tap two fingers to the spot he wants his tattoo on. “Like here maybe? Snow, is this okay?”

Snow looks like he just won the mega lottery and a year’s supply of his favourite candy. “Yes, that is definitely okay,” he agrees.

Kisumi resists the urge to throw the nearby supply of ink at him.

“Well if Makoto’s getting his done on his ass, I’m going to take Snow’s original suggestion,” Sousuke announces, closing the artbook with a loud snap. “But no piercing, and I want the whaleshark design.”

“Excellent choice,” Snow affirms, pleased at Sousuke’s approval, and takes the art book from him and hands it to Kisumi.  

Kisumi stiffly declines. “No thank you. I’m just here to hold their hands.”

Snow laughs. “You’re either the best friend or the worst friend for letting them do this drunk,” he chides, before averting his gaze back at his latest canvas a.k.a Makoto’s half exposed butt. He taps a finger on his chin thoughtfully, a slight frown marring his features. “Do you think they’ll regret this tomorrow?”

Kisumi shrugs. “Maybe, but I’m a big advocate of letting people learn from their mistakes.”

Snow veers his gaze to Sousuke, who is currently coaxing Makoto back to wearing his shirt. “I see.” He smiles, and puts down his needles on the table.

“In that case, I have just the thing.”

*

“How does it look?” Makoto asks, twisting his head around.

“Pretty good,” Kisumi answers, muffling a giggle. “Want me to take a picture?”

Makoto nods vigorously, and Kisumi allows himself to take a picture of Makoto’s tattoo, where the orca rests on the swell of his left butt cheek.

“How much alcohol did I drink to make the tattoo not hurt at all?”

Kisumi shares a knowing look with Snow, who he’s feeling slightly warmer towards, mainly because he has found a way for Kisumi to get the priceless reactions he’s gunning for without any of the actual repercussions. “That’s because it was just a small design,” he explains, patting him on the back, while continuing to admire the impressive henna tattoo Snow has so skillfully applied on the swell of Makoto’s ass.

On the other side of the room, Sousuke is checking out his own henna whaleshark design, which rests right in the middle of his right pectoral, nodding approvingly.

“Sousuke, if you’re done admiring your pecs, get dressed. We’re going home,” Kisumi calls out before turning back to Snow. “How much do we owe you?”

Snow shakes his head, and waves his hand dismissively. “Oh it’s on the house. Your friends were very entertaining.” He takes another long look at his work on Makoto’s backside before winking at Kisumi. “Also, that ass is worth the price of admission.”

Kisumi groans. Welp, there goes that small surge of fondness he just had for the guy. “Does the fact that you’re engaged mean anything to you or what?”

Snow shrugs and grins. “Hey, I’m just calling it like it is, that’s all.”

Kisumi has to agree with that. “Well, at least you have excellent taste,” he sighs, before hauling a sleepy Makoto to his feet. “Come on, let’s get you home.”

*

By the grace of some generous god of drunken witching hours, Kisumi somehow manages to lug both Makoto and Sousuke’s heavy, inebriated asses back to their apartment. He’s never going to take arm and core day for granted again, ever. Watching Makoto and Sousuke make a fool of themselves was fun and all, but Kisumi’s not sure he can do this again; at least not without Rin and Haru around to take responsibility for their respective best friends. Being the reliable person sucks , how the hell do Makoto and Rin do this on a regular basis.

“Our tattoo artist was really cute,” Makoto mumbles against Kisumi’s shoulder, as Kisumi struggles to unlock their door one-handed.

Sousuke sways a little and finds his balance by reaching past Kisumi and grabbing on to Makoto’s waist. “I heard him tell Kisumi that he thinks you have a great ass.”

“Really? Maybe I should ask him out.”

“He’s engaged remember?” Kisumi answers curtly, annoyed with the direction this night has taken. He somehow manages to work the door open, and immediately heads inside, pulling Makoto along. “Also, may I remind you that it’s only been a day since you broke up with Shiro.”

The moment the words leave his lips, he immediately wants to gobble them back. Makoto falls silent at his side, and Kisumi swears there’s an unseen heaviness that seems to settle onto his shoulders.

“Way too soon,” Sousuke calls out-- loudly because he’s an unhelpful asshole on top of being a handsy drunk.  

“Shit.” Kisumi turns towards Makoto, who has started to untangle himself from Kisumi’s side. “I’m so sorry Makoto....”

Makoto mumbles something that sounds like “‘s’okay,” before fully breaking away from both Kisumi and Sousuke’s hold and making a beeline towards his room.

Panicking, Kisumi starts to chase after him, only for Sousuke to grab his arm.

“Wait.”

Kisumi tries to wrench his arm away but Sousuke’s strength, even with half a litre of super strong liquor in his system, is nothing to scoff at. “Sousuke! Let go!”

Sousuke’s grip stays firm. “Just listen for a sec.” Kisumi frowns but relents, and Sousuke’s grip finally slacks. “Look. Makoto is one of the strongest people I know,” he starts slowly, his words measured, obviously with a lot of thought put into them. He takes a deep breath before meeting Kisumi’s gaze, his eyes surprisingly clear. “But he needs you to be stronger than him right now.”

Kisumi’s brow furrows. “What do you mean?”

“I mean, whatever happens, just remember, he’s not in any position to make any rational decisions right now.” Sousuke finally lets go of Kisumi’s wrist, though he never loses eye contact. “He’s drunk and devastated. The only reason I’m not completely shitfaced right now is because Gou and I still have the chance to talk this out. Makoto doesn’t have that luxury.”

It’s times like this, when Kisumi is reminded that no matter how shirty or sardonic Sousuke can become, he’s still one of the most amazing friends anyone could ever ask for. “Okay,” he agrees, smiling wanly. “I’ll remember. But hey, how about you?”

“I’ll be okay. Don’t worry about me.”

Kisumi checks the clock of their microwave oven and sees that it’s way past 2 in the morning. “I hope you know you’re staying the night here. No way I’m letting you out on the streets this late.”

Sousuke raises an eyebrow at him. “Yeah, because I look like the epitome of helpless prey right?”

Kisumi snorts. “Sousuke, you didn’t even stand a chance against the light pole you ran into earlier.”

Sousuke scowls. “It was an accident.”

“You apologized to it.”

Sousuke folds his arms grumpily, clearly unimpressed by Kisumi’s snark right now. “Fine then. But I’m taking your room.”

Kisumi sighs and reminds himself that Sousuke could also use some time alone right now, and if he has to give up one night in his own room, so be it. “Alright, but if you vomit on my sneaker collection I will gut you with a teaspoon,” he warns before making his way to Makoto’s room.

He hears the telltale sound of Sousuke stumbling into his room and the quiet click of the door closing.

Sousuke taken care of, Kisumi takes a deep breath and cautiously turns the doorknob of Makoto’s room, breathing out a sigh of relief when he founds out that it’s unlocked.

He opens the door a sliver. The room is dimly lit, the only source of light seemingly coming from  Makoto’s pale yellow desk lamp, though the light seems to be concentrated down towards the floor instead of across the room. “Makoto?”

There’s no answer. Kisumi knows Makoto is awake though, because the bed is empty and he can see part of Makoto’s foot surrounded by some papers on the floor. Kisumi opens the door an inch wider. “Makoto,” he repeats softly. “May I come in?”

He waits a couple of beats before he hears Makoto’s mumbled assent. Quietly, he steps inside and closes the door behind him.

He takes one look at Makoto and he swears he hears the sound of his own heart breaking for him.

Makoto is sitting on the floor beside his bed, legs folded, elbows hooked on his knees. What Kisumi thought were papers are actually photographs, arranged haphazardly on the floor in front of Makoto. A quick look at them show that the pictures are actually the ones Makoto handpicked from his vast collection of selfies with both his exes. Even from afar, Kisumi can recognize Kagami’s wide brilliant grin and funky eyebrows, and Shiro’s scarred, handsome face and perfect teeth.

Makoto looks so happy in all of them.

Kisumi suddenly feels out of place, like he intruded on something private, but it’s too late to turn back now.

Makoto looks up just as Kisumi casts a shadow on the pictures, his eyes clear and dry.

“Someday,” he starts quietly, his voice unwavering despite the obvious brokenness of his expression. “I want to experience what it would feel like to love somebody without fearing they will leave one day.”

The words cut through Kisumi like a barbed wire, and to his horror, there’s something in those soul-crushing words that actually gives him hope , which pretty much makes him the worst friend ever. He wants to answer: Then love me. All I’ve ever done is stay by your side.

He doesn’t though. Now is not the time for those things. Instead, he just sits down beside Makoto, careful to avoid touching the scattered photographs, and reaches over to place his hand over Makoto’s. “You will,” he reassures quietly, curling his warm fingers between Makoto’s cold and clammy ones. “If there’s anyone in the world who deserves to be happy, it’s you.”

Makoto looks at their joined hands and bites his lip, though he doesn’t pull away. “Thank you for saying that,” he answers quietly. “But I don’t think I should single myself out. Everyone deserves to be happy Kisumi.” He turns his head and looks out the small window of his room, eyes distant and unseeing. “That’s why they both left.”

Kisumi wishes he could be shocked at Makoto’s subdued answer, but he’s lived with Makoto long enough to expect Makoto’s penchant for dismissing the gravity of his own sacrifices for the people he loves. “They left because you loved them enough to let them go.”

“You think too highly of me. I know I’m not important enough to stay behind for.”

Makoto being less important than anything offends Kisumi on a deep subterranean level. “How can you say that?” he whispers. “They loved you so much .”

“I know they did. They told me that so many times. But in the end, it doesn’t change the fact that dreams are more important than people.” Makoto’s eyes veer towards an old basketball jersey poking out of his laundry hamper. His grip tightens around Kisumi’s hand.

“That’s a matter of opinion,” Kisumi argues.

“Oh come on. Kisumi, if you had the chance to cure cancer or be with someone you’re in love with, which one would you choose?”

“Why do I have to choose?” Kisumi counters. “Why can’t I have both?”

“But if you had to choose?”

“I’m going to choose the path that lets me have both,” Kisumi insists, stubborn to the very end. “I will find a way.”

Makoto shrugs, but there’s a small awed smile on his face. “I wish I was as strong as you.”

Kisumi tilts his head to the side, confused. “Don’t you mean you wish they were as strong as me?”

Makoto shakes his head ruefully. “No I meant me. They were both willing to keep the relationship. I was the one who preferred to break it off completely.” The last words were mumbled, almost as if Makoto didn’t want Kisumi to hear them. It’s impossible not to though, considering how close Kisumi is, and how naturally attuned he is to Makoto’s every move. “I said it was for them to focus on their dreams but deep down, I just didn’t want to be someone who held them back.”

“But isn’t that the same thing?”

Makoto laughs, but it was a hollow sound. “You don’t understand. It’s the fact that I could be someone who would let them down that drove me to choose to end things.” A shadow passes over the bottle green glow of Makoto’s eyes, and his lips twist into something akin to shame. “In the end, I wasn’t strong enough to take the risks. In the end, I broke things off because of a possibility.”

Kisumi says nothing. He just scoots closer and wraps both his arms around Makoto again, letting the side of Makoto’s head rest against his cheek. Makoto leans into his touch with a slight shiver.

“I’m sorry. I’m not the saint you think I am,” Makoto whispers. His breath is hot and clammy on the skin of Kisumi’s arm. “Are you disappointed?”

Kisumi runs his fingers through Makoto’s hair with all the gentleness his calloused hands are capable of. “Yeah. But not because of your reasons for breaking up with your exes,” he murmurs. “I’m disappointed with how little you think of yourself.”

Makoto stiffens in his arms, but he doesn’t make a move to extract himself from Kisumi’s embrace. “Kisumi--”

“--It’s okay to feel the way you feel,” Kisumi interrupts softly. “Your reasons don’t make you a bad person.”

“My reasons are selfish.”

“That’s not always a bad thing. The important thing is you loved them and wanted them to achieve their dreams, even if it meant hurting them, and yourself.”

Makoto stays quiet for a few long moments. Kisumi keeps stroking his hair, in a soothing motion he usually uses on Hayato when he can’t fall asleep.

Eventually, Makoto closes his eyes, and nuzzles his forehead on Kisumi’s shoulder. His fingers curl on the soft material of Kisumi’s sweater, and Kisumi marvels at just how vulnerable Makoto is at this moment, and the fact that he allowed himself to be vulnerable at all.

After a long while, Makoto speaks up: “Can we talk about something else?”

Kisumi shrugs with the shoulder Makoto isn’t leaning on. Both of them could use a little less gloom. “Sure.”

Makoto shifts a little more in his seat to enable himself to look up at  Kisumi from his position. “How come you’ve never had a serious relationship Kisumi?”

Kisumi’s hand stops for a brief moment. Of all the questions Makoto could ask him, that was the last thing he expected.

“Don’t say it’s because no one likes you-- you’re gorgeous and friendly and sweet,” Makoto adds when Kisumi doesn’t answer right away.

Someday, Kisumi will stop getting these pesky thrills in his gut whenever Makoto showers him with praise. Someday. Not today though. “I know I’m irresistible right?” he jokes instead, resuming his previous activity of petting Makoto’s hair, now that Makoto has clearly shown how much he likes it. “But nah. I’m waiting for my right person.”

Makoto smiles and much to Kisumi’s surprise, gives his hand a quick, tight squeeze. “Well, whoever they are, I really hope they come around soon,” he says with so much sincerity, Kisumi has to close his eyes for a long while to stave off the sheer irony.

“Yeah,” he manages to croak through the lump in his throat after several moments. “That… that would be so… wonderful .” He takes a deep breath, and wills away the sudden surge of longing in his chest-- it’s been a while since he has felt this strongly again, but he’d rather eat his toes than give away anything to Makoto now. He needs to change the topic. “Anyway, I’m couch surfing tonight, because Sousuke took my room so, if it’s okay, can I borrow some--”

“Pyjamas?” Makoto is already off him and halfway to his closet. “Of course, give me a sec.”

Kisumi blinks. “I was going to say blankets, but yeah, I’d appreciate some comfortable clothes.”

Makoto hands him a large light blue shirt and some basketball shorts. “Here you go!”

Kisumi takes the clothes from his hands. “Thanks.”

“No problem,” Makoto replies almost cheerfully, as he kneels down and gathers the photos from the floor. “But hey, you don’t have to stay on the couch you know.” He puts the stack of photos on his desk. “Why don’t you just sleep with me?”

It’s a good thing that Kisumi’s still sitting on the floor, because he’d have probably tripped over his feet if he was standing up. “…What?” His voice sounds like a frog on helium.

Makoto turns around, seemingly puzzled by Kisumi’s reaction. “My bed can accommodate both of us.”

Kisumi just stares at him.

“I mean, is it an issue that Taiga technically gave me this bed for our anniversary or….” Makoto’s eyes widen in realization, face rapidly regaining a colour Kisumi only normally sees on firetrucks. “Oh no, I didn’t mean sleep with me like-- like that ,” he sputters, waving his hands, as if it will somehow undo the last thirty seconds of this conversation.  “I meant sleep beside me on my bed. I swear I wasn’t coming on to you. I’m not… I don’t…” He trails off and looks down, his hand reflexively grasping the back of his neck. “... Wow this is awkward.”

Kisumi breathes out a sigh of relief, though there’s still that small hormonal part of him that is disappointed. Thankfully, it’s the part that he’s learned to smother long ago, in his continuous quest to master the art of self-armouring. It’s how he’s still able to stand living with Makoto and watching him love someone else for so long. Somewhere over the past few years, tolerance eventually mellowed out to acceptance, and what used to be jealousy and hurt fizzled into a dull ache-- ever present but manageable. “It’s okay-- you’re not the first person to tell me that you know?” he covers up with a wink. “I’ll have you know, I’m an awesome cuddler.”

It works, his flippant attitude immediately dispelling the awkwardness. Makoto smiles and flops down on the bed, and stifles a yawn. “Really? I’ll be the judge of that.”

Okay that , Kisumi wasn’t prepared for.

Makoto pats the space beside him invitingly. Kisumi swallows and hopes the smile on his face hasn’t slipped away to reveal his internal breakdown.  

Kisumi will be wearing Makoto’s clothes and sleeping in the same bed Makoto has shared with Kagami and Shiro, with a 99% chance of cuddling. It feels surreal.

“Makoto’s strong but you need to be stronger than him right now.”

So this is what Sousuke meant.

*

Kisumi worries about Makoto snuggling up to him for about 10 seconds, until he realizes that there’s really nothing to worry about, because Makoto succumbs to his exhaustion pretty much instantly. Kisumi takes a deep breath and touches the arm Makoto has thrown over his waist, deciding to treasure this gift he's been given, and enjoy it for what’s its worth.

Exhausted himself, Kisumi closes his eyes, leans a little more into Makoto’s warmth and finally sleeps.

*

It’s well past 10 in the morning when Kisumi wakes up.

Kisumi knows for a fact that no matter what position Makoto starts off when he goes to sleep, he always ends up turning around and wrapping himself around the nearest malleable object; sometimes it’s a pillow, more often than not it’s a boyfriend.

It’s the first time, it’s neither, and Kisumi simultaneously feels both smug and giddy and a tinny bit vindicated. He feels like he has reached an invisible milestone.

Sousuke can keep his room, if Kisumi can just wake up next to Makoto like this every day.

Then he remembers that this is all entirely because Makoto had his heart broken for the second time last night and his happiness evaporates almost instantly.

Oh my god I’m a terrible person. How can he be happy when Makoto is hurting?

Though it’s hard to tell, looking at him like this. Makoto’s face is so peaceful in his sleep, his breathing even, lips slightly open, loose fist curled next to his forehead. This close, Kisumi sees details he’s never really noticed before: a hint of a stubble growing on Makoto’s chin, tiny scattered freckles across his face, and hair sticking out in seventeen different directions.

It’s almost as if last night had just been a very weird dream.

An uncomfortable pressure on his lower abdomen reminds him why he woke up in the first place, Makoto’s knee unintentionally doing something unfortunate against his spleen. With a regretful sigh, Kisumi takes one last close-up look of Makoto’s face before quietly extracting himself from the bed and waddling out the room.

After finishing his business in the bathroom, he briefly considers going back to Makoto’s bed to sleep in, until he notices that his own room is already empty.

The door to his room is open, which means that Sousuke must have already left. His room smells faintly of blossom fresh Lysol. Huh. Sousuke must have cleaned up before leaving. How considerate of him.

Kisumi proceeds to make his way to the kitchen, following the alluring scent of freshly brewed coffee. When he finally steps inside, he finds an impressive breakfast feast laid out: a large plate of waffles, a plate of fried chicken fingers and a bowl of fluffy scrambled eggs on the kitchen table.

And a note on the fridge, in Sousuke’s messy scrawl:

Gou dropped by this morning. We made up. Thanks for the support. I made breakfast.

PPS: Your sheets are in the dryer. She really really liked that tattoo.

It takes Kisumi a couple more rereads of the note before he realizes what Sousuke was trying to imply, and he groans out loud. Jeez. Sousuke must have swallowed more than half a litre of 60% Alcohol last night last night, how the fuck did his dick even get up this morning.

Oh well. At least he apologizes in style.

He hears some shuffling from behind and only realizes that Makoto has woken up too. Makoto brushes up against him as he passes by, taking in the whole breakfast ensemble with a mix of confusion and awe.

“Sousuke and Gou made up,” Kisumi explains, and Makoto raises an eyebrow.

“And Sousuke was so happy he cooked us breakfast?”

“I forgot to mention, he and Gou made up on my bed.”

Makoto winces and pats his back in understanding. “I’m sorry. Make-up sex can be really... intense.”

Kisumi smiles wryly and shrugs. “Yes well, the important thing is, he’s back together with Gou.”

“Yeah I know. It’s… I mean, that’s really great. I’m so happy for the two of them!” Makoto chirps with a massive megawatt smile, before striding over towards the cupboards to grab some plates and utensils. “Come on, I’m starving. Sousuke’s cheesy scrambled eggs are the best.”

He sets the table enthusiastically, his movements much too perky despite only being awake for two minutes. Kisumi’s smile fades, as he remembers Makoto’s words from last night.

I’m not the saint you think I am.

There’s an edge in Makoto’s smile, the kind that cuts the wearer, and Kisumi knows Makoto enough to realize that he’s experiencing a massive internal struggle-- between his nature to be happy for his friends and a stinging bitterness at his own irreparable situation. His hands shake just a little as he scoops up a pile of cheesy scrambled eggs with a serving spoon.  

“Makoto…” he starts, carefully watching his roommate pile food onto his plate.

“Yeah?” Makoto’s smile is still unnervingly bright before he shoves a spoonful of egg and waffles into his mouth. He doesn’t look at Kisumi directly, though his face is angled towards Kisumi’s direction.

Kisumi doesn’t say anything for a while. Years of living with a person will teach you neat tricks, like hearing what they don’t say. He’s no Haru yet, but loving Makoto means understanding him little by little, being able to read what’s on the surface without needing to actively peel back the many layers Makoto subconsciously puts up.

So, he pretends not to notice. Another thing he learned from Makoto is that sometimes, it’s a kindness to let someone pretend. Sometimes, it’s a kindness to distract someone from the real issues, until they’re ready to face them again.

Sometimes, it’s a kindness to let someone lie to themselves, just for a little while.

“I’m gonna tell Haru you said that,” he teases instead, and Makoto’s eyes immediately shift to something like gratefulness.

“Please don’t,” he begs. The strain in his smile is starting to fade, slowly being replaced by genuine mirth. “He’s going to sulk so much .”

“I guess,” Kisumi answers, as he takes his turn to pile food on his own plate. “Also, Sousuke’s gloating will be insufferable. But chances are, they’re going to have a cooking showdown in our kitchen. Which is a good thing because the last time they had one of those, we didn’t have to worry about food for a week.”

“It’s never just a friendly competition when it comes to those two,” Makoto agrees.  “Or Rin.”

“Who cares?” Kisumi scoffs as he shoves a forkful of waffle and eggs in his mouth. “We still get free food.”

As they go on about their Sousuke-sponsored breakfast, Makoto’s mood gradually lightens, his smile reverting to something less forced, his laughter radiating genuine affection. Eventually, as they’re finishing up the last of the chicken fingers, Makoto reaches out, touches Kisumi’s wrist briefly.  

“Hey Kisumi?”

Kisumi looks up at him with a mouthful of chicken. “Hmm?”

“I really am very happy for Sousuke and Gou,” Makoto says quietly.

Kisumi swallows his food, before flashing Makoto what he hopes is a reassuring smile, though it’s probably messy and filled with chicken and egg bits. “I never doubted that.”

Makoto smiles again, and Kisumi forgives himself for the way his heart soars with new hope.

*

A month later, right before Rin is scheduled to go back to Australia, the six of them are once more gathered in Makoto and Kisumi’s apartment.

“I think I will enjoy singlehood for a while,” Makoto announces. “I mean it, no more boyfriends until I finish college.”

Kisumi blinks. “That’s… that’s a year.”

“Yeah. I, Tachibana Makoto, do solemnly swear to go on a man-free campaign for a whole year .”

This announcement is met with a long silence, some blinking and in Kisumi’s case, the sound of his heart cracking in two.

Sousuke shoots Kisumi a concerned look, and Kisumi forces himself to shrug nonchalantly, even if he wants to run away from the room screaming. Welp. If it's not one thing, it's another. Makoto is simultaneously the most difficult and easiest person to be with in this world.

Sousuke’s face shifts into one of deep contemplation. Then he looks up, meeting Kisumi’s gaze and his expression further morphs into what Kisumi deduces to be his “You’ll probably hate me now but you’ll thank me for this later” face. Kisumi’s back straightens, hoping to impart the full expanse of his disapproval with dramatic eyebrow gymnastics alone.

Sousuke. You fucker. Don’t do it.

Sousuke takes out his wallet, and pulls out some cash, staring at Kisumi all the way. “Okay, I’m calling it. 2000 yen,” he says, throwing the money into coffee table. “You’re going to break that campaign in three months.”

Oh. My. God.

Makoto stares at the money, then at Sousuke, clearly poleaxed. “Wha--”

“--I’ll take that bet,” Rin pipes up, grinning as he throws the same number of bills on top of Sousuke’s. “But I’m a good friend who has more faith in Makoto than that. Six months.”

Makoto snaps out of his shock long enough to protest. “Wait-- you guys are serious ?”

Gou takes out her purse and throws two 1k yen notes in the pot. “Yeah. I’m in for five months.”

“I thought you guys are my friends!”

Haru looks at the pool of money contemplatively, chin cradled between his fingers.

Makoto shoots him a warning glare. “Haru, don’t you da--”

“--Raise you to 3k yen,” Haru interrupts coolly, pulling a 5k yen from his billfold and holding it between two fingers. “Two months.”

There’s a full second of silence, before Rin lets out a low whistle. “Whoa. That’s pretty cold, even for you Haru.”

Makoto has a look of deepest anguish on his face. “You’re my Best. Friend.”

Haru shrugs, unperturbed. “I have a feeling.”

“Well your feeling is wrong,” Makoto huffs, crossing his arms over his chest. “I can’t believe you of all people would have so little faith in me.”

“What I can't believe is that no one actually thinks your man free “year” will last more than 6 months,” Sousuke pipes up, earning him a dirty look from Makoto. “But okay, call on 3k.” He fishes out two 500 yen coins from his pocket and throws it on the table.

Rin shrugs and throws in another 1k note. Gou clucks her tongue and adds two 500 yen coins. Haru places the 5K note on the table and gets two 1k notes.

“Kisumi hasn’t made a bet yet,” Rin reminds everyone, much to Kisumi’s chagrin. He raises an eyebrow in Kisumi’s direction. “What it’ll be Kisumi?”

Sousuke takes a long sip of his drink, eyeing Kisumi critically, waiting for his move. Kisumi bites his lip, feeling his heart sink with every passing moment. He really really doesn’t want to take part in this bet. He has no idea what Sousuke plans to accomplish with this stunt, but if he thinks Kisumi will be swayed by money, he’s got another thing coming.

Well no, he actually doesn’t think Sousuke would be that shallow, but that just means he has an underlying motive, and that complicates things.

The words are bitter on his tongue. “What if I believe Makoto would keep to his word and last a year?”

Makoto turn to Kisumi like a sunflower to the sun, eyes shining. “Thank you Kisumi,” he gushes.

Sousuke slowly lifts his can of cola from his lips. “Then you’re definitely going to lose,” he answers, eyes as hard as his voice, his words more of a challenge than a threat.

More importantly, he’s not talking about the bet.

That’s when Kisumi finally understands where Sousuke is going with this.

Everything that has resulted to Kisumi losing Makoto so far is because of bad timing. Kisumi lost Makoto to Kagami because he didn’t realize he already liked Makoto that way until it was too late. He lost Makoto to Shiro before because he spent too much time questioning his own feelings and not enough planning to make a move.

Sousuke recognized this and resolves the issue by giving him a steady reminder and allowing Kisumi to set his own timeline.

Times like these, he can really see what Gou sees in Sousuke.

“Fine.” Kisumi leans back against his chair and folds his arms. “But before I make my bet, can we clarify the parameters? By man-free, do you mean all non-platonic contact with other guys? Or do they have to be your boyfriend?”

“Hey wait, if the parameters include fucking, I’m changing my bet,” Sousuke protests.

“No fucking!” Makoto all but yells. He claps his hands to his mouth and checks if he closed all the windows, before lowering his voice. “I mean, it’s not included.” He slaps his forehead with his palm. “Wait, what am I doing, I’m not condoning this-- Sousuke!”

“So you’re going on a man-free campaign but casual sex is not off the table?” Rin clarifies.

“What? No! I’ve never even done casual sex!” Makoto cries. “I’ve only slept with two people in my life. Two!”

Kisumi’s brow furrows. “So... when I caught you with Kagami in the locker all those years ago, that was not casual sex?”

Makoto cheeks grow pink, and he bites his lip, carefully avoiding anyone’s gaze. “Well, I really liked him back then, and honestly wanted to be his boyfriend… so… yeah but anyway the point is, I don't think I can sleep with anyone I can’t see myself getting serious with...”

“You're so adorable sometimes, Makoto-senpai,” Gou coos with a slight giggle. “You should try it though, it’s a great source of stress relief.”

Rin snorts. “No offense Gou, but you’ve been with Sousuke since the start of college; you’re not in any position to lecture someone on the benefits of casual sex.”

Gou raises an eyebrow. “What are you talking about Onii-chan, don’t you know we fucked before we dated?”

“Right so going back to the topic,” Sousuke speaks up hurriedly, before Rin can properly react to that particular tidbit. “Makoto clearly doesn’t fuck around. But what about handjobs? Second base?”

“He said sex is off the table, stop badgering him,” Haru says, sounding annoyed, eyeing Makoto who looks likes he’s about to have a conniption.

“A kiss then,” Rin suggests, though his eyes are still narrowed at Sousuke, a tick throbbing dangerously on his forehead. “Also, don’t think you’re off the hook Sousuke, I will be speaking with you privately later.”

Sousuke ignores him, determined to pin the conversation to the surprisingly profitable state of Makoto’s love life, much to Makoto’s chagrin. “So he could fuck someone but not kiss them and the bet will keep running?”

“I told you, I don’t--”

“Basically, yes,” Gou answers, shooting her brother a reprimanding glare as she consoles her boyfriend with a soothing hand on the back. She shifts her gaze towards Kisumi, a small smile playing on her lips, and Kisumi finds himself briefly wondering just how much Sousuke actually shares with her. “So… what’s your bet Kisumi-san?”

Everyone, even Makoto (who has wisely given up on salvaging his dignity), turns towards Kisumi, with an interesting mix of curiosity, apprehension and encouragement.

Sousuke in particular, is staring at him with enough intensity to drill holes through the earth’s core. Kisumi averts his gaze and reaches into his back pocket to retrieve his billfold. “If it’s just a kiss,” he starts. “Then…” He fishes a 10k yen note and throws it on the table, getting Haru’s 5k note and 2 more 1k notes.

“One month.”

Another long silence. Makoto’s face crumples into what is possibly the ultimate betrayal, even worse than what he sported after Haru. Kisumi leans back and folds his hands behind his head, summoning all the suaveness and poise he has in his body and projecting it into his expression, hoping against hope that no one suspects that he’s melting down inside.

He actually said one month, what the fuck.

“Confident,” Sousuke remarks a long while. He’s grinning though, obviously pleased, because Kisumi probably played into his master plan or something.

“Or desperate for cash,” Rin snorts. “15k yen is no joke.”

“One month really?” Makoto demands, finally snapping out of his stupor.

“Hey, the little mermaid only took three days to get her man,” Kisumi quips.

“Ariel wasn’t heartbroken twice,” Rin points out.

Makoto glares at the money on the table and folds his arms. “If you all turn out wrong, I’m going to get the money and buy new friends.”

Kisumi laughs genuinely. “Awww, when did you start getting cheeky Makoto? I love it.” He’s overdoing it, he knows, but he’s on a roll from what he just declared.

“I still can’t believe you only gave me a month,” Makoto grumbles.

Kisumi laughs, and sidles closer, throwing a deceptively casual arm around Makoto. His pulse is roaring in his ears, at the painfully bold declaration he’s about to say. “Don’t worry,” he says, squeezing Makoto’s shoulder. “When I win, I will use some of the money to treat you and your new boyfriend to a nice dinner.”

Sousuke makes a sound like he’s choking on his own spit. Kisumi smirks at him. Take that you scheming bastard.

Makoto blinks. “Really. Wow that’s… awfully nice of you-- wait no, that’s not fair, I’m still mad at you for doubting me!”

Kisumi bats his eyelashes and makes a sad shivering kitten face that is probably not half as effective as Makoto’s, which is probably why Haru beans him with a throw pillow.

Rin laughs as Kisumi pouts, rubbing his cheek, but refraining from retaliating because Haru is sitting next to Rin, and he doesn’t want to accidentally cause an all-out pillow fight in his living room which he just cleaned an hour ago. “Welcome to the modern fairy tale, where you get instant cash based on the timeliness of your kiss,” he says in a sing-song voice, slinging an arm around Makoto. “Wait, does this make you the prince or the princess?”

Sousuke taps his chin with a finger. “Hmm, if we’re basing it on Ariel, Makoto has got to be the prince.”

“Of course Makoto is the prince,” Haru says, sounding almost offended. “He won’t be stupid enough to give up everything he has for some confused royalty who can’t even remember him.”

“Oh god, we’re not doing “the Little Mermaid is the dumbest princess argument today” Haru. Please.” Rin says wearily.

“If Makoto-senpai is a princess, he’d be Sleeping Beauty, and his man-free campaign is his sleeping spell,” Gou suggests.

“I think that’s a better story of true love’s kiss to be honest,” Kisumi pipes up. “Forget the dragons and forest of thorns, only true love would compel me to kiss a mouth that’s been asleep for 100 years.”

This is met by collective groaning and Makoto reflexively covering his mouth before realizing it, and throwing an ineffective glower in Kisumi’s way instead. He doesn’t, however, knock Kisumi’s arm from around his neck.

“When someone asks you why you haven’t had a steady relationship in forever, this is why,” Rin deadpans.

Kisumi wants to laugh because that is so far from the truth. Instead, he puts on his flirty face and leans back against the couch, pulling Makoto along with him, twirling a lock of hair in one finger. “I’m the perfect boyfriend,” he says. “You plebes just don’t appreciate my style.”

Sousuke snorts at that and Kisumi sticks his tongue out at him just because.

“You are all terrible people,” Makoto grouses, folding his arms. “I hope you know that.”

“Love you too, Makoto,” Kisumi responds sweetly, relishing the pink blooming across Makoto’s cheeks.

He’s glad he’s reached a point where he can say this to Makoto and mean it, and Makoto would believe him. Not in the way Kisumi would like, but love is love, no matter what form. It’s something.

As the rest of his friends all start a new debate on which Disney Princess Makoto would fit best, Kisumi excuses himself to grab everyone drinks from the kitchen. As soon as his back is turned, the playful smile slips from his face, and he squares his shoulders, his mind racing with the gravity of what he just pledged to in front of everyone.

He doesn’t really care about the money, but the bet gives him a timeline, something he can work towards, something that he can plan around.

He has all the advantages. He lives with Makoto, knows his schedule like the back of his hand, knows all his little ticks and idiosyncrasies. He has Sousuke’s loyal, if a bit twisted support, a little brother that Makoto is especially fond of, and no evil witches he has to bargain with.

And if there’s anything Kisumi is good at, it’s planning. Scheming even, if he wants to go that far.

One whole month for one kiss that will make or break him. Third time’s the charm right?

 

~tbc~