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Summer Rain

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“SAWAMURA DAICHI, PLEASE BE MY BOYFRIEND!”

None of the three sophomore university students walking across the grassy quad that morning were expecting to be subject to a sudden proclamation of love. And none of them were expecting to hear such an audacious request from an unknown, pale haired man with hands clenched at his sides and legs spread wide, eyes squeezed tightly shut over brightly flushed cheeks.

But more than anything, the two men on either side of the student in question didn’t expect the answer that left their companion’s lips, without a hint of shock nor hesitation.

“Sure.”

The strange man gave a deep bow and said to the grassy earth beneath him, “Thank you very much!” He straightened and opened his wide brown eyes for the first time since his sudden arrival. “Then, I’ll meet you here in this spot at four!”

Daichi gave a nod, “Okay.”

The man visibly gulped, blinking rapidly as his flushed cheeks turned an even brighter shade of red. He spun on his heels and ran across the quad in the opposite direction, leaving no trace that their encounter had ever taken place except for the shock and resonating silence between the three men he left behind.

Tanaka turned towards Daichi, “What the hell was that all about?”

“Who was that?” Asahi asked, clutching at the strap of his bag across his chest.

“I don’t know,” Daichi admitted and turned back towards the school, hands in the pockets of his jeans.

“You don’t know?” Asahi and Tanaka followed after. “You don’t know who he is and you accepted his confession just like that?”

“I don’t see what the issue is,” he said simply. “My girlfriend broke up with me last week so I’m free.”

“The key word here being girlfriend,” Tanaka said dully. “Since when are you gay?”

“I’m not.”

Asahi rubbed his temples stressfully while Tanaka sighed.

“I can’t tell if you’re an idiot or just cruel.”

Daichi chuckled, "Well, hopefully neither." He lifted his eyes to the leafy canopy above his head. "But I guess we'll find out."


 

I did it, Sugawara Koushi thought as he clutched at the jumping heart in his chest and rushed off towards his first class of the day, for which he was already late. I actually did it! He curled his fingers around the tan strap of the bag cutting across his chest and squeezed. And he accepted. He actually accepted…

Sugawara paused to lean against the wall of the hallway, sucking in big gulps of air. He had never expected his spontaneous confession to end in such easy success. Daichi was supposed to promptly reject him so he could put his feelings to rest and move on with his life. But instead, he had immediately accepted his feelings without so much as a question or hint of doubt.

Was he an idiot or just cruel?

Sugawara dug his fingers into his scalp and screamed soundlessly at the ceiling, Now what the hell am I supposed to do?

He wasn’t supposed to say yes! Sugawara had no plans. No idea as to what he was even supposed to do with a boyfriend. Was it the same as having a girlfriend?

For some reason he just couldn’t imagine the larger, darker, and- let’s be honest here- manlier guy being happy about sharing a milkshake or holding hands during a movie at the theater.

Just what the hell did one do with a boyfriend?

I should take it back, he decided, turning dejectedly towards his class once more and continuing on at a much slower pace, feet dragging. Apologize and admit that I made a mistake. Go back to being strangers and get on with my life like I originally planned.

But he had said “sure.” Why did he say “sure”? It just didn’t make sense to him. Sawamura Daichi had a reputation of being an infamous playboy, bouncing from girl to girl at the drop of a hat. Never once had Sugawara heard of him dating a guy. And yet he had accepted his confession so readily without batting an eyelash as if it was the most normal thing in the world.

“He’s weird,” Sugawara said under his breath. “He’s definitely weird.”

It had to be some kind of trick. A ploy in order to torture Sugawara by deeming him a homo and ridiculing him with the help of the entire student body.

Sugawara sighed.

No.

Definitely not.

There was no way that Daichi was that kind of person. Sugawara just couldn’t believe it after the past few months he spent shamelessly spying on the man from a distance. Sugawara had seen all the care and attention he put into each of his relationships, always listening attentively and following along wherever his girlfriends pulled him, no matter how selfish the request.

If he had any shortcoming, it would be that he was too nice, too lenient.

He always followed along wherever everybody else went.

But what about Daichi’s feelings?

What did Daichi want?

Surely, if he was dating him, Sugawara would want Daichi to be more selfish.

And that was the beginning of his crush.

If Sawamura Daichi was my boyfriend… it was a thought that led Sugawara down a path of outlandish imagining during times of boredom that eventually gave birth to an unhealthy attachment to the man to whom he had never spoken a word. And as his feelings grew, he watched closer and longer, only feeding his crush more and more. After his two months of distant yearning, he came to one conclusion of which he was one hundred percent sure.

Sawamura Daichi wasn't cruel.

He may be an idiot though.

After all, he had accepted this idiot’s unprovoked confession so early on a Monday morning.

He's weird, Sugawara decided with a nod.

He's totally weird.

 


 

“He actually came.”

Sugawara peeked around the trunk of the tree, eyes locked on the figure standing in the middle of the quad, in almost the exact place they had met that morning.

“Is this some kind of sick joke?” he whispered.

Sawamura Daichi shoved his hands in the pockets of his jeans and turned his face up towards the sun, eyes closed.

He's weird.

Sugawara took a deep breath and used the opportunity to scrutinize him.

It was no secret that he was an attractive man. He was immensely popular. His stature, broad. His face, kind. His jawline was cut and strong, cheekbones high, eyebrows straight and thick over deep brown eyes.

Model material, Sugawara sighed.

Sawamura Daichi could be the model for an underwear brand or athletic wear. He was fit and perfectly tanned and charismatic and exactly the type that belonged under a camera lens.

The complete opposite of Sugawara, who was small and thin with hair that never sat where it was supposed to. His cheeks were round and he sometimes still got mistaken for a highschooler and had even been mistaken for a woman one time, (though he preferred to forget that incident. His cousin still called him Milady from time to time, a habit he should really beat out of him before he said it in front of the wrong person.) On top of that, he was so deathly pale that he needed to lather on an entire bottle of sunscreen before stepping foot into the very idea of a beam of sunlight.

The complete opposite of Sawamura Daichi who looked literally born from sunlight and everything good and warm and manly in the world.

Sugawara gulped.

So he was attractive. Did that mean he was Sugawara’s type? He hadn’t the faintest idea. After all, Sugawara had never been interested in another man before. And his tastes in women followed a much different recipe, preferring loud, feisty girls who were smaller than him with long hair and bright, doe eyes.

Was it possible to have such conflicting tastes? Though he supposed the fact that he was apparently just as attracted to men as he was women, a revelation that caused many a late night crisis, was just as (or more) conflicting.

Sugawara straightened away from the tree and let out a trembling breath, eyeing Daichi nervously. The man was still patiently waiting, despite it being half an hour past four, not showing a single hint of frustration at being made to wait. Sugawara’s chest tightened and he gripped at it, hands shaking.

He inhaled deeply and finally stepped out from behind the tree. He trotted in Daichi’s direction, calling out, “Sorry! Have you been waiting long?”

Daichi turned towards him and smiled gently, “Not long.”

Liar.

“That’s good then,” Sugawara smiled back.

Daichi stared for a moment before saying, “Uhm. So can I ask your name?”

Sugawara blanched.

“So-sorry!” he bowed suddenly, forcing Daichi to take a step back. “My name is Sugawara Koushi! Sorry!”

He didn’t even know my name?

He stared at the ground beneath his sneakers with wide eyes.

Is this guy some kind of idiot?

Daichi chuckled and placed his hand on Sugawara’s shoulder, “Why are you apologizing? And quit bowing. I’m not anybody important or anything like that.”

Sugawara straightened, face and ears hot. He cleared his throat and avoided Daichi’s gaze.

“I confessed without even telling you my name,” he said under his breath. “How embarrassing.”

Daichi hesitated before saying, “We’re dating now, right? You don’t need to feel embarrassed.”

Sugawara glanced up at him and then quickly away when his face turned hot again.

What the hell is my problem?

“So anyway,” Daichi put his hands back in his pockets. “Now what? Is there somewhere you wanted to go?”

“Ah,” Sugawara gulped. “I didn’t really have anywhere in particular in mind. I just thought maybe we could walk home together…”

Daichi stared at him as he mumbled under his breath, cheeks bright red, eyes looking anywhere but his face.

“Alright,” he finally said, turning away. “Let’s go then. We can stop for ice cream on the way.”

Sugawara caught his breath for a moment before chasing after him, hands wrapped around the strap of his bag across his chest. “Okay! I'll get snickerdoodle! What's your favorite flavor, Daichi?”

"Ah... uhm... I don't know."

"You don't know?" Sugawara cocked an eyebrow.

"I'm not a huge fan of sweets," he admitted.

Sugawara stared at him, "Then why did you suggest we get ice cream?"

Daichi's brows furrowed slightly, expression turning perplexed. "Because... I guess because it's summer... and that's usually the type of thing someone would get when walking home with their boyfriend? And, you like it, right? So it's fine."

Ah.

There it is.

"So... you want to get something that you don't particularly like, just because it's the typical thing to do and I like it?"

Daichi hesitated, "I... I guess."

Sugawara stared up into his face.

“But wouldn’t it be better to stop for something we both like instead?”

Daichi was quiet.

“Do you like hot dogs? Or maybe burgers… I know of a good food truck along the way that sells great gyros… or there’s a ramen stand near the bus station and a taco joint not far from that…”

“Which do you want to go to?”

Sugawara fell silent, staring straight ahead. He pushed a frustrated breath through his lips and muttered, “I want you to decide.”

Daichi glanced at him.

Sugawara puffed up his cheeks, lips pressed tight in a childish pout.

Daichi covered his mouth with a hand but it did nothing to hide the sound of his chuckling. Sugawara's cheeks blazed.

"Alright," Daichi lowered his hand once more and cleared his throat. “You win. Gyros it is.”


"Hey Daichi."

He glanced over at Sugawara and cocked an eyebrow, mouth full of his latest bite of his gyro.

Sugawara leaned back on the bench, staring down at his half eaten gyro as he poked at a lettuce leaf, "I was wondering..." he pursed his lips momentarily, stretching his legs out in front of him on the sidewalk. "What... uh... what do you like best about people?"

Daichi chewed and swallowed slowly, mulling the question over.

"I mean," Sugawara straightened and looked up at him, "What kind of qualities attract you?" His cheeks tinted pink and he looked away again, "Ah... or not attract... but like... your friends. What about your friends made you want to be their friend? Are there specific qualities that you like best about them?" 

Daichi hummed and stared forward again, watching a woman tug the hand of a small child as they walked across the park.

"Specific qualities that I'm attracted to, huh?" he lowered his gyro. "I suppose... I like it when people are tenacious. And strong and courageous."

Sugawara didn't reply.

"For example," Daichi leaned back. "Tanaka, he's strong. In body and mind. I've known him for years and I've never seen him get discouraged. And Asahi? He's a huge coward," he smiled crookedly. "But he always manages to make it through situations that he's absolutely terrified of. That takes a lot of courage. I admire that."

"Huh..." Sugawara took a bite of his meal, head cocked as he chewed and stared absently across the park.

Daichi watched him for a moment. 

It was incredible, really.

Sugawara Koushi was an open book.

Daichi could see him drawing in to his thoughts, his eyes glazing over and his lips pursing, and he decided to take the opportunity of his inattention to really examine his new... boyfriend.

Sugawara's pale, unruly hair was a complete mess, as if he had just woken up from a four hour nap. His simple clothes were disheveled, his blue t-shirt slightly ruffled around his left bicep and the hem folded and tugged over his right hip, revealing the smallest sliver of pale skin between it and his faded jeans.

Daichi's first impression was that Sugawara seemed to exist in a state of frazzled, vulnerable, absent-mindedness. He was an open book with dog-eared pages, messy notes scribbled in the margins, and all the important bits highlighted in bright colors.

And on top of that, he was shockingly...

Daichi furrowed his brow.

Pretty?

Was that the appropriate word to describe Sugawara? Daichi had never used that word to describe another man before but he'd definitely say that Sugawara was pretty. His brown eyes bordered on hazel and were gentle and round. His gaze, soft. His jaw was delicate and his chin pointed. The only blemish- if you could call it that- on his porcelain skin was a mole under his left eye and Daichi admitted that it merely enhanced the beauty of his face.

Model material, he decided, taking another bite of his gyro.

Sugawara Koushi could be the model for some modern clothing line in the big city. He seemed to belong in pastels and florals, smiling under the lens of a camera amidst tall stalks of sunflowers or lilac bushes.

Ah, he'd look good with rhododendrons, Daichi pursed his lips.

"So basically," Sugawara's voice drew his attention once more. He gazed up at him, eyebrows lifted on his forehead, "Your type is the main character?"

Daichi blinked, "Main character?"

"Yeah. The hero that runs head long into the adventure and is brave and strong," Sugawara smiled crookedly. "That's your type."

Daichi chuckled, "I suppose that makes sense."

Sugawara crossed his ankles and bit into his gyro happily, seemingly pleased with his deliberation about Daichi's preferred type.

"What about you?" Daichi finished off his meal and rolled up the wrapper. "What attracts you about people?"

Sugawara's eyes went wide and he covered his mouth with a hand as he chewed quickly.

"I like support characters!" he exclaimed after giving a hard swallow and turning towards him on the bench.

Daichi sputtered and laughed.

"You know..." Sugawara went on, eyes bright. "The people that are perfectly okay with blending into the background so that others can take the spotlight. Those are my favorite. Because they're underappreciated!" He held Daichi's stare with serious intensity, "Even though they don't stand out, they're important. They support everyone else and are usually the ones to help the main character when he really needs it. They're selfless and kind and strong and never ask for anything. I like those people."

Daichi smiled.

"And whenever I see a great support character, I just think," Sugawara pressed a hand to his cheek and closed his eyes. "Ahhh, I wish I could give them a hug. You know?" He opened his eyes again and peered up at Daichi, "I want to give them the love and support that they deserve but never ask for."

"Hmm..." Daichi tossed his rolled up wrapper into the trashcan a short distance from the bench. "Is that me?"

"Huh?"

He grinned and turned back to Sugawara, left eyebrow ticking up, "That's me, right? The support character."

Sugawara's face flushed bright with color and he turned forward, "No! I... uh... no. Uhm... you're definitely a main character. You... you stand out too much. You're definitely... definitely a main character."

Daichi's grin shifted into a smirk, "Hmhm..."

"A-anyway," Sugawara finished off his gyro and tossed the trash. "Let's go!" He leapt to his feet and headed down the sidewalk without a backwards glance, arms stiff at his sides.

Daichi chuckled and followed, shoving his hands into his pockets.

Interesting...


 

“My apartment is this way,” Sugawara gestured down the street to their left.

“Mine is this way,” Daichi said, pointing to the right.

Sugawara gazed down the street, “What’s the name?”

“Stetson.”

“Mine’s Orion.”

Daichi’s mouth curled into a rueful half smile, “Sounds like we’re practically neighbors.”

Sugawara twisted the strap of his bag, staring down the right street with a pleased smile and glittering eyes. He looked up at Daichi and lifted a hand in a wave, entire face brightening. He grinned wide, corners of his eyes wrinkling.

“I’ll see you tomorrow!” He turned and took a few bounding steps down the left street before Daichi’s voice stopped him.

“Sugawara!”

He slowed and looked over his shoulder, “What?”

For a moment Daichi just leveled him with his steady stare, not speaking, until Sugawara started to fidget under the attention.

“Earlier,” he finally said. “You called it... a confession.”

“Huh?”

“You said that you confessed. But... you just asked me to date you, right? So I'm just a little confused on what you mean by confession...”

Sugawara whipped his body towards him and the words died on Daichi's tongue at the sudden intensity of his wide-eyed stare.

He pressed a hand to his chest and blurted out, “I like you! Like... a lot!”

Daichi blinked. His mouth went dry and he floundered, taken off guard by the sudden announcement. He wasn't... expecting that. He gulped, cleared his throat, and waved, “I’ll... uh... I'll see you tomorrow... then?”

“Yes!” Sugawara returned the wave exuberantly and ran down the street, eventually disappearing from view.

For long seconds, Daichi remained where he was, the sun (it was the sun, wasn't it?) warming him to the core.

He... likes me?

Daichi wasn't expecting that.


 

“Summer rain is my favorite rain.”

Daichi glanced down at Sugawara as he peeked out at the warm rain falling outside the cover of their shared umbrella. He reached a hand out and caught a few droplets on his palm.

“It gives you a break from the summer heat but it’s not too cold either,” he went on, curling his fingers against the moisture. “And it blocks out the sun so I don’t have to worry about getting burned.” He retracted his hand and stared down at his pale palm.

Daichi hummed.

Apparently Sugawara was feeling melancholic at the moment.

Was he expecting something?

Did he want something?

He pursed his lips and wracked his mind.

It had been a week since they had started dating and Daichi was somewhat at a loss.

Sugawara never asked for much.

He seemed perfectly content with merely eating lunch and then walking home together after classes, making idle conversation about nothing in particular. If they stopped somewhere on the walk home, he insisted on paying for himself and had even paid for Daichi on more than one occasion, despite his reluctance.

Daichi didn’t understand.

All of the women he had dated in the past had been very happy when he spoiled them. When he bought them gifts and food and willingly went along with all of their whims.

But Sugawara… every time Daichi tried to do the same for him, he pressed his lips in a tight line and stubbornly refused until Daichi bowed.

He didn’t understand.

Was it just that Sugawara preferred to be the one to do the spoiling?

Daichi... didn’t know how he felt about that. Having others pay for him or giving him gifts… it made him… uneasy.

“But rain makes my hair stand up,” Sugawara drew his attention once more. He absently patted at his flyaway hair, attempting- and failing- to flatten that stubborn lock at the top of his head. He inhaled deeply and then let it out.

What does he want?

What do I do to make him happy?

Daichi chewed the inside of his cheek.

Sugawara wiped the remaining rain drops from his palm against the thigh of his jeans and Daichi glanced down at his own hand holding the umbrella between them.

Maybe…

Daichi shifted the umbrella to his other, sure to keep it over Sugawara’s head, and then timidly reached for his hand, which hung at his side once more.

Maybe…

“Ah! Look, Daichi!” Sugawara suddenly darted out from under the cover of the umbrella, leaving Daichi grasping at air.

Sugawara crouched on the edge of the sidewalk, gazing down into the flower bed at the outskirts of someone’s front lawn. Daichi blinked in surprise and then followed. He crouched next to him, holding the umbrella over his head once more as Sugawara reached out and rustled around in the flowers.

“Bam!” Sugawara thrust his hands towards Daichi’s face. “Look!”

Daichi leaned slightly away so that his eyes could focus on the face poking out from in between Sugawara’s thumbs.

“Isn’t he cute?” Sugawara grinned. “It’s a salamander!”

Daichi peered at the dark eyes staring back up at him over a small, slimy nose.

“I think it’s an ezo salamander,” Sugawara went on, opening his hands slightly and laying a finger gently across the amphibian’s back when it attempted to scurry away. “There are a lot of them living around my parents’ house. My brother and sister and I used to catch them when we were kids.” He patted the salamander’s head softly.

Daichi pursed his lips.

So Sugawara liked salamanders? Should Daichi take him salamander… hunting one day?

Was that a thing?

“Here!” Sugawara took the umbrella from his hand and then held out the salamander. “Want to hold him?”

“Ah…” Daichi blinked, “I don’t th—”

“It’s okay, he won’t bite,” Sugawara giggled. “Hold out your hand.”

Daichi slowly did as he was told, brow twisted uncertainly.

“Careful, he’s going to try to run,” Sugawara warned before gently dropping the creature into his palm.

Daichi quickly cupped the salamander with his other hand, hiding it from view and holding it captive.

“It’s slimy,” he observed for lack of anything better to say.

Sugawara snorted and Daichi glanced up at him. His nose crinkled, soft brown eyes squinting.

Ahh… Daichi gulped. He’s… kind of…

“I’ll bet he came out to enjoy the summer rain,” Sugawara leaned his chin in the palm of his left hand and then twirled the umbrella with his right. “Maybe I was a salamander in a past life,” he smiled warmly.

Cute…

Daichi’s mouth went dry and he glanced down at his closed hands. The salamander wiggled and pushed at his fingers.

“Give him a little pat,” Sugawara urged.

Daichi bit his bottom lip and timidly opened his hands. The salamander scurried out between his fingers and dropped to the ground.

“Ah!” Sugawara reached for it, lost his balance, and grabbed Daichi’s hand. The salamander scampered off into the flower bed and disappeared once more.

“Oh, he got away,” Sugawara steadied himself and looked up into Daichi’s face. “Missed your chance, Daichi.” He squeezed his fingers and laughed lightly.

Daichi’s heart rate sped momentarily before slowing back to its normal pace. He took a short breath and then closed his hand around Sugawara’s, smiling softly.

“I’ll be sure not to hesitate next time."


 

“Suga, over here!”

Sugawara glanced towards the voice and spotted Asahi waving from the picnic table near the northwest corner of the quad. He stuck his sucker back into his mouth, pulled his knitted, periwinkle skull cap down lower over his shameful bedhead, and trotted off in the direction of the table.

“Ham and cheddar again?” Tanaka said when Sugawara dropped his brown paper sack down on the table beside him and slid onto the bench, pulling his book bag up and over his head.

“Haven’t you heard the old adage?” Sugawara said, dropping the bag on the ground at his feet. “Consistency is the very spice of life.”

"I'm pretty sure that's wrong," Asahi mumbled.

“And haven’t you heard the old adage, you are what you eat?” Tanaka said, snatching the cap from his head and revealing the tragic mess that lay underneath. “One of these days you’re going to wake up a soggy, sad, floppy ham and cheddar sandwich and Daichi will break up with you for real.”

“This time I brought a cup of applesauce too,” Sugawara said, ignoring Tanaka’s threat and theft of his hat. He unrolled his paper sack and pulled out his sad lunch.

“Where is Daichi anyway?” Asahi asked, pouring steaming soup from his thermos into the cup.

“Getting drinks.” Sugawara bit down on his sucker and cracked it in half.

Tanaka gazed at Asahi’s thermos with a dull stare for a moment before nudging Sugawara with his elbow, “At least you’re not soup in summer guy over here.”

“Soup is a yearly treat,” Asahi muttered, lifting the cup to his lips and blowing gently.

“Now that you’ve dissed everyone’s meal, why don’t you show us what you’ve got today?” Sugawara suggested, crunching on the remains of the sucker.

“Don’t mind if I do,” Tanaka pulled the Tupperware container from his bag and placed it on the table. He popped the lid off and displayed a row of hard shelled tacos complete with a side of Mexican rice and refried beans. “Today’s lunch courtesy of my neighbor Mrs. Gonzales.” He snickered and lifted a taco. “It pays to have charm.”

“It pays to live next door to a Hispanic couple recovering from empty nest syndrome,” Asahi corrected.

“Charm.”

Sugawara tossed the chewed sucker stick into his empty paper bag and started unwrapping his skinny ham and cheddar sandwich from its plastic wrap.

“Anyway,” Tanaka said through a full mouth. He and Asahi both turned their eyes to Sugawara.

He took note of their stares as he took a wolfish bite of his sandwich.

“So you and Daichi have been going out for two weeks now,” Tanaka said.

Sugawara chewed quietly, waiting for him to go on.

Asahi checked the area uneasily.

Tanaka leaned closer, dark eyes wide, “So you guys done it yet?”

“Done what?” He took another bite, cocking an eyebrow.

“You know, butt stuff.”

Sugawara choked on the bite. He dropped the sandwich to the table and coughed, covering his mouth as tears stung his eyes.

Tanaka beat on his back until he gained control of himself once more.

“Not just that,” Asahi said timidly, untwisting the top of his water bottle. “It’s just that Daichi never talks to us about that kind of thing and we never see you guys touch so it doesn’t even look like you’re in a romantic relationship...”

Sugawara’s cheeks and ears burned. He cleared his throat and looked away, “Jeez you guys lack tact.”

“C’mon, what’s wrong with being curious about our friend’s sex life?” Tanaka leaned his cheek on the palm of his hand and poked Sugawara’s forehead. “Normally, Daichi doesn’t even introduce us to his girlfriends so this is a rare opportunity getting to know his significant other.”

“You don’t have to go into detail,” Asahi said. “We just want to know whether or not you do anything.”

“It’s… not like that,” Sugawara refused to make eye contact, staring off between the two. “That stuff... uh... we don't... we don't need to do that.”

“Huh?” Tanaka scowled. “What are you talking about? He’s your boyfriend, isn’t he?”

“Well yeah but… I guess I haven't put a lot of thought into that part...”

Asahi and Tanaka exchanged a look.

“It’s not really the physical stuff that I’m after,” he continued, cheeks reddening. "So I haven't thought much about it yet."

"Then..." the tendon in Tanaka's jaw flexed. "What are you after, Suga?"

Sugawara hesitated.

"I just... like him."

Asahi sipped his soup quietly while Tanaka stared at Sugawara with a flat look.

"You know..." Tanaka said in a low voice. "You're not the first person to-"

"Tanaka," Asahi interrupted. He gave a short shake of his head.

Tanaka's lips twitched and he let out a huff, turning back to his lunch.

Asahi looked to Sugawara, "Suga, why do you like Daichi?"

Sugawara's cheeks flushed and he cleared his throat, "Wh-what do you mean? Why does anyone like him?"

Tanaka slapped his hand down on the table, scaring a squeak out of Sugawara. "That's it. I'm getting real-"

"Tanaka," Asahi snapped, quieting him down once more. They glared at each other for a long second before Tanaka backed down, grumbling as he crunched on a taco. Asahi looked to Sugawara, who stared between them fearfully. "Suga, why do you think Daichi is so popular?"

"Huh?" Sugawara's cheeks grew even hotter and his eyelashes fluttered. "Well... uhm... obviously because..." He covered his face with his hands, "Ahhhhh, do we have to talk about this?"

"Quit dodging and just answer," Tanaka demanded.

Sugawara groaned and then slowly lowered his hands, avoiding their stares.

"People like Daichi because he's so..." he squeezed his eyes shut. "He's so hot!"

The others stared at him in shocked silence.

"I mean..." Sugawara opened his eyes again and flapped his hands around his face. "He's so fit! And... and he's got such a nice looking face and always smiles and is super charming. And his voice is really low and su-sultry... and he's so polite and respectful and he treats everyone so nicely no matter who they are..." he groaned and dropped his forehead down on the table. "Crap."

"Wait a minute."

Sugawara rolled his head to the side to stare up at Tanaka, who wore a perplexed expression, eyes wide, eyebrows high on his forehead.

"Do you seriously believe all that?"

Sugawara's stomach twisted, "Of course! Why else would he always have new girlfriends every couple of weeks?"

Tanaka let out a loud laugh and Sugawara slowly sat up again.

"What?" he frowned.

Tanaka pounded him on the back, "Sorry for doubting you, Man."

"Eh? Doubting me how?"

"Phew! What a relief!"

Sugawara shoved him off when he draped an arm over his shoulders, "What are you talking about? Don't leave me out of the loop!"

"Don't worry about it," Asahi smiled, drawing his attention. "It's just reassuring to learn that you actually like Daichi for who he is. And don't have any ulterior motives for dating him."

"I don't get it," Sugawara whined. "What ulterior motives? Tell me!"

Tanaka laughed, "I like you more and more every day!"

Sugawara complained loudly and shook him.

"Anyway," Asahi said, sipping at his soup. "From what I've seen so far, I think you're good for Daichi."

Sugawara released Tanaka, "Am I?"

"Definitely," Tanaka nodded, crossing his arms over his chest. "You don't order him around. So you're already way better than all his past girlfriends."

Sugawara pursed his lips and gazed down at his lunch for long seconds.

"Say..." he said slowly. "What's the deal with that anyway? How come he never keeps a girlfriend for very long?"

Tanaka and Asahi hesitated, exchanging a wary glance.

“Hard to say,” Asahi finally said, looking away. “All these years we’ve been with him, I’ve never seen Daichi be the one to break it off with a girlfriend. He’s always just been dumped really fast after starting to date.”

“Which is bullshit, if you ask me," Tanaka scowled. "He’s quality material. Good lookin’, smart, going somewhere with his future, and he always works really hard to keep everyone happy. Sounds like a perfect guy to me.”

“And on top of that, he always does whatever his girlfriend wants," Asahi frowned down into his soup. “He always smiles, hugs, and kisses whenever it's required of him and doesn't ever say a thing against them when they make selfish requests."

Ah, Sugawara poured a mouthful of the applesauce into his mouth. So he’s noticed it too.

Tanaka coughed into his hand, “Abort conversation.

All three turned the direction from which Daichi approached, holding a plastic grocery bag in his right hand.

“Welcome back!” Sugawara greeted nervously, sweat lining his temples.

Daichi paused, standing opposite him at the table, next to Asahi. He glanced towards the other two but they avoided his stare, putting their attention into eating their lunch.

Daichi slid onto the bench and placed the bag on the table. He pulled out a can of chilled coffee and a bottle of apple juice. He passed the juice over to Sugawara and cracked the coffee open.

“So what were you two talking about with Suga before I got here that’s got him looking so guilty?” Daichi said calmly, lifting the can to his lips.

Tanaka grinned, a long, thin string of cheese hanging out of the corner of his mouth. “I’ll bet you’d like to know, wouldn’t ya?”

“That’s why I asked,” Daichi smiled, though there was a warning in his eyes.

“If you really wanted to know,” Asahi said, pouring more soup out of the thermos and into his cup, “Instead of asking the two you are well aware are perfectly capable of lying to you, you might want to ask your open book.”

Daichi turned towards Sugawara, who immediately stiffened, clutching the applesauce cup tightly in his left hand. His eyes widened as the attention was placed on his face.

“I—” he flapped his mouth. “I— I… I’m bad at calculus.”

All three guys stared at him silently as his confession hung in the balmy summer air.

He gulped and looked between them, “Like… really bad. And I’m getting a little concerned about it, you know? Because exams are coming up really fast and I can’t do about half of the problems on my study guide. I’m afraid I’m going to fail and have to take it again.”

Asahi and Tanaka looked at one another.

Daichi leaned his chin on the palm of his hand, “Would you like me to teach you? I’m good at math.”

“Really? Could you?”

“Sure. After your last class today we can study together.”

“Wow! Thanks! That’ll help a lot!”

Tanaka leaned into Sugawara's side and cupped his mouth to keep his words from reaching across the table as he murmured, “If you can’t stop the honesty, stop the conversation, am I right?”

“If it works, it works."


 

“Thanks for agreeing to help me study,” Sugawara said as he and Daichi met up and headed across the quad that afternoon.

“It’s no problem,” he said, hands in his pockets.

“So where are we going to go? The library?”

Daichi gave a shake of his head, “The afternoon librarian is strict. I don’t think I’ll manage to get much teaching done in there if I have to whisper.”

“Hmm… then should we go to a café or something?” Sugawara ran his finger along the strap of his bag. “Java Cabin or someplace like that?”

Daichi shook his head again. “Since most students’ classes are done by now, the usual hang out places will be packed and noisy.”

Sugawara frowned, “So then where should we study?”

Daichi glanced down at him momentarily before staring straight forward again, “Well… why don’t we go to my place?”

“Okay!” Sugawara exclaimed without a moment’s hesitation. He smiled wide, step turning slightly to a skip as he swung his arms at his sides.

Daichi smiled crookedly.

He was constantly amazed at just how open Sugawara was. The smallest of emotions not only ran rampant across his face but played throughout his entire body, making it impossible to keep the slightest bit of change in his attitude a secret.

Over the past couple of weeks, Daichi had learned well how to read the tiniest shift in his motions. Not only was he easily decipherable, but he was awfully consistent. In just two weeks, Daichi had memorized just about every one of his emotional cues. From the timid way he scratched the back of his neck when he felt backed into a corner to the rough scuff of his heel on the sidewalk when he was annoyed, Daichi had carefully filed away each and every one of Sugawara’s ticks and quickly developed the accurate response required for them all.

Even the clumsy deflection from earlier wasn’t lost on Daichi’s ever vigilant scrutiny. It was all too apparent that Tanaka and Asahi had pressured him into talking about something he wasn’t entirely comfortable with discussing. It was also obvious that it was a subject that Sugawara would deem far too embarrassing to speak of in front of Daichi. That was why he had heeded his training and calmly accepted Sugawara’s desperate plea for a change in conversation and didn’t push him farther.

Daichi glanced down at Sugawara when he started to hum happily, eyes bright with excitement as they moved from the grass to the sidewalk and turned towards Stetson Street.

Daichi was finding that he quite enjoyed dating someone so open. He much preferred an easily readable open book to a complicated locked diary of explosive emotions and indecipherable meaning. Compared to Sugawara’s basic fourth grade level Japanese, Daichi’s past girlfriends- his last one in particular- were more like collegiate theses on neuroscience written entirely in Arabic.

“Hey Daichi,” Sugawara pulled his attention to him once more. “Got any videogames at your apartment?”

“Don’t you need to study?”

He grinned, “I do better when I can be rewarded occasionally!”

Daichi smiled, “I’ll make you dinner then.”

“Wow! Really? You mean it? Are you a good cook?”

“I’m not bad.”

“Awesome!” Sugawara clenched his hands into fists. “I’m an awful cook so this will be my first home cooked meal since Christmas!”

Daichi chuckled, “I’ll do my best to make it tasty.”

As they rounded the corner of Clock and Stetson, Daichi halted.

Sugawara paused at his side and glanced up at him. “Something wrong?”

Daichi’s eyes locked onto the silver Cadillac parked directly in front of the tall, modern apartment building on the corner. His left eye twitched momentarily and his hands clenched into fists inside his pockets.

“Daichi?”

Daichi swallowed and then turned to Sugawara with a calm smile, “I suddenly want to see your apartment. Can we study there instead?”

“Huh? You want to? Well, it’s fine with me,” he crossed his arms over his chest and cocked his head to the side. “Although I don’t have any ingredients for a meal in my fridge… Unless you can make something out of beer, butter, and pickles.”

“We’ll stop at the corner mart on the way,” Daichi turned back down the street they had come. “I don’t need much to make something simple.”

“Okay!” Sugawara chased after him. “I don’t mind studying at my place, but why so suddenly?”

“I just remembered how filthy my apartment is and don’t want you to see it is all,” he smiled down at him.

Sugawara’s brown eyes bored into his face for a prolonged moment before turning forward once more, “That’s fine then.”

Daichi gulped as he examined him.

This is one I haven’t seen before, he realized as he scrutinized Sugawara’s suddenly unreadable expression.

Instead of the usual honest palette of expression, it was like all emotion had completely vanished. In place of Sugawara’s basic fourth grade Japanese, Daichi found himself staring at a completely blank canvas, devoid of any hint as to what he was thinking or feeling.

And in truth, it terrified him far more than the convoluted Arabic of any of his past girlfriends.


 

“Ahhhh,” Sugawara leaned his back against the couch from his place on the floor, low coffee table covered in books and notes spread out in front of him. “This is so confusing! I’m never going to get it!”

From across the table, Daichi browsed over a set of sloppily written notes, a pair of sleek, clear framed glasses perched on his nose.

“Your notes are so unorganized,” he said, lowering the page. “So messy. You should clean them up and highlight important formulas.”

“Which ones are important?” Sugawara dropped his head back on the couch and stared up at the ceiling.

Daichi sighed, “You won’t be able to do any serious studying until you can actually understand the material you are studying. So we should rewrite your notes. I can teach you the formulas along the way. It’ll help you memorize them if you write them anyway.”

Sugawara let out a groan and sat forward, leaning his elbow on the coffee table and propping his cheek up in his palm. “That’ll take forever!”

“Maybe. But it’ll help.” Daichi set the notes down and then passed him his notebook. “Ready?”

Sugawara lifted his pencil and took the notebook with a grumble.

“Alright. Let’s start with this one…”

The sound of Sugawara’s cell phone ringing interrupted.

Sugawara pulled the device out of his pocket and glanced at the screen. Daichi watched as that same unreadable expression crossed his face and he silently ignored the call, placing the phone on the ground beside him and turning back to his notes.

“Which one?” he asked, putting his pencil to the paper.

Daichi resisted the urge to ask who it was that was calling and instead read off the formula.

As Sugawara copied it down, his blank slate turned strained and stressed, eyebrows knitting and forehead wrinkling.

Daichi hesitated. Sugawara held his head in one hand and scratched the numbers and letters down, chewing on his bottom lip.

Daichi leaned back and said gently, “How about we take a break?”

Sugawara glanced up at him, “Can we?”

He smiled, “I’ll make something to eat. You can just relax and let your brain regenerate.”

Sugawara let out a deep sigh and slumped over on the table, resting his cheek on his opened calculus book, “Oh thank God…”

Daichi stood and walked behind the breakfast bar, into the kitchen. “Should I make you some coffee while I’m at it?”

“Yes please,” came the mumbled reply.

Daichi moved around the small kitchen, making himself acquainted with the cupboards and drawers, learning it upside down as he gathered the materials he’d need. He started the coffee and then went about collecting the ingredients for the meal he’d decided to make. Sugawara’s ringtone went off again and Daichi glanced over the breakfast bar as Sugawara held the phone in front of his face.

The light from the screen glinted off his emotionless brown eyes as he silenced it once more and then held the power button down until the screen went completely black. He then tossed it onto the couch beside him, still leaning heavily on the table but turning his head to face the opposite side of the room to hide whatever expression followed his blank slate.

In reply, Daichi turned towards the opposite side of the kitchen to hide the irritation on his own face.

He was slicing an eggplant a few minutes later when a sound came from the front door of the apartment. Sugawara sat up suddenly and Daichi looked to him. There was a click and several thumps, followed by the sound of the door swinging open.

“Koushi!” a female voice called.

He jumped to his feet as the door slammed and a young woman with long brown hair stomped down the short hallway. Daichi stood next to the breakfast bar as she came into view past the wall of the kitchen. She wore a short baby blue sundress and white sandals, a white purse hanging off of one shoulder.

“Risa!” Sugawara rushed up to the woman as she removed a pair of thick, dark sunglasses from her face and tossed them and her purse onto the narrow hallway table as she passed it. “What are you doing here?”

“You’ve ignored all of my calls so the only thing I could do was come here!” she said, full pink lips turning down into a scowl.

“How did you even get inside?” the energy seemed completely sapped from Sugawara’s voice and face as he stopped in front of her.

She lifted a small silver key, “You gave it to me, didn’t you?”

Sugawara didn’t answer.

“Why have you been avoiding me?”

He glanced towards Daichi, who stood watching from the kitchen quietly.

“We don’t have anything to talk about so I didn’t—”

“Don’t have anything to talk about?” Risa repeated, voice rising in volume. “Are you kidding me?”

“Please… can you just go for now and I’ll call you later?”

“No! Because I know the call will never come!”

“Risa, please…”

She followed the nervous track of his eyes and finally noticed Daichi. She glanced towards the living room over Sugawara’s shoulder.

“I promise I’ll call you,” Sugawara said, drawing her attention once more. “So just leave for now and—”

“You,” Risa turned towards Daichi. “Who are you? This guy’s tutor or something?”

Daichi cocked an eyebrow, “No… I’m actually—”

“It’s fine,” Sugawara interrupted. “You don’t need to answer her. I’ll walk her out right now,” he reached for her purse but she grabbed his wrist and yanked it away.

Risa’s large brown eyes locked onto Daichi’s, “Go ahead. Answer me. Who are you?”

The woman’s willful attitude made his eyelid twitch uncontrollably. He suddenly wanted to put her in her place before she somehow managed to completely wrestle the situation in her favor.

“I’m Suga’s boyfriend,” he announced.

All of the color drained from Sugawara’s face as the apartment turned deathly still and quiet. Daichi was just starting to wonder if maybe it had been the wrong decision to make such an audacious remark when Risa broke.

“His what?” she hissed, turning towards Sugawara.

He gulped and avoided her stare, “Y-you heard him…”

“I’m sorry,” Daichi took a step forward, well aware of Risa’s ever tightening grip on Sugawara’s wrist. “But I don’t quite understand the situation here. Who are you, exactly?”

Risa’s eyes flew back to him. “I’m his girlfriend.”

Daichi’s eyebrows lifted. He wasn’t expecting that answer.

“Ex!” Sugawara quickly corrected, finally pulling his wrist from her grip. “I broke up with you a month ago!”

“And I told you that I didn’t accept it! I refuse!”

“You can’t just refuse!” he argued, squaring up to her, eyebrows knitting together. “That’s not how this works!”

“We didn’t even talk about it!” she said. “We’re supposed to discuss it and find a way to get through it! You can’t just suddenly drop a break-up on me and then disappear like it’s nothing!”

“It wasn’t suddenly,” his hands squeezed into fists. “You know it just as well as I do. This has been in motion for much longer than that!”

“You never told me. How would I know?”

“Uhm…” Daichi drew their attention. He glanced between them before settling on Sugawara, “Maybe I should leave…”

“No!” his eyes widened and he took a step towards him. “Don’t go… we still…”

Daichi stared at him for long seconds. His hands trembled and his eyebrows pulled together.

“I’ll stay,” he decided. He glanced towards Risa, whose face was turning red as she crossed her arms over her chest. “You two should talk though.”

“We don’t need to talk,” Sugawara said sternly, reaching again for Risa’s purse.

“I’m not leaving!” she said, giving him pause. “Not until you talk to me!”

“I told you I have nothing to say to you…”

“Koushi!” Risa grabbed his arms and moved closer to him, eyebrows furrowing, eyes filling with moisture. “I said I was sorry, didn’t I? Why do you have to overreact all the time?”

“I don't think it's an overreaction to break up with your girlfriend when you walk in on her having sex with another man,” Sugawara said under his breath.

“It was only one time! I slipped! I didn’t mean to…”

“It wasn’t just one time,” Sugawara’s voice gathered strength and anger, rising in volume. “You know it wasn’t just one time.”

“No—”

Sugawara whirled and stomped back into the living room. Risa gave chase.

“Koushi!”

He sat on the couch and she sat next to him, turning in his direction.

Daichi went back to the eggplant, eyes flicking up from the vegetable to the couple in the living room. Risa spoke softly to Sugawara but they were far enough away that the conversation didn't reach Daichi's ears. At one point, Risa reached out and took Sugawara's hand. She rested her forehead on his shoulder for a few seconds before leaning back and taking his chin in her free hand. She turned his face towards her and Daichi's fingers tightened around the knife in his hand.

Risa moved closer to Sugawara on the couch, leaning her face towards his.

Really?

Daichi gritted his teeth.

Seriously?

Was he really being forced to witness this?

Are you kidding me?

Sugawara covered Risa's mouth with his hand and pushed her away.

Daichi's chest filled with the unexpected sensation of relief.

Ahh... 

That was something he wasn't used to feeling.

Sugawara spoke in a low voice, too low for Daichi to hear, and Risa yanked her hand from his.

Her face turned red and her eyes filled with tears. Her voice rose loud enough to reach the kitchen, “How can you say that? After I gave you the past two years of my life? What was all that for, then?”

Sugawara retorted, lips curling in distaste.

Risa clenched her jaw and she straightened her spine.

They exchanged a few more low words before her face twisted and she suddenly slapped Sugawara across the cheek, the sound of the blow echoing through the apartment. Daichi swallowed. 

Sugawara turned his face from Risa and stared at the table, cheek turning bright red from the slap.

“So that’s it then?” her voice turned shrill. “That’s it? Two years down the drain just like that? Just because I made a little mistake?” She stood and lifted her left hand. She flung the small silver key at his face. It connected with his slapped cheek and then bounced down his chest before settling on the floor between his feet.

FINE! Fuck you then! You will never find anyone as good as me!” she turned and stomped back towards the door.

When she paused to pick up her purse and sunglasses, Daichi spoke.

“Are you insinuating that you are better than me?”

Risa whipped her head in his direction.

Fuck you," she hissed. "Goddamn fags. Just rot in hell where you belong.”

And with that, she left, door slamming behind her.

Daichi turned his eyes towards Sugawara. He slumped back on the couch, one arm draped over his eyes.

“Sorry,” he said. “Sorry. Sorry. I’m sorry.”

“Who are you apologizing to?” Daichi asked, turning towards the pot of coffee. He opened the cupboard overhead and pulled out two mugs.

“She’s crazy,” Sugawara said, voice weak and tired. “She’s fucking crazy. And I knew she was crazy. But instead of just answering her calls and handling the situation calmly, I enabled her craziness and you were forced to see her like that…”

“So you are concerned about how I view her?” Daichi calmly poured two cups of coffee.

“She wasn’t always…” Sugawara sighed and moved his arm to his forehead, staring up at the ceiling. “No… I shouldn't defend her. She was always crazy. But… you didn’t have to know that I was the type of sucker that would not only fall for her in the first place but then date her for two whole years before finally calling it off.”

Daichi dropped three sugar cubes into one of the mugs and stirred it silently, popping open vanilla creamer from the fridge with his other hand.

“In my defense,” Sugawara muttered. “She was a really good liar."

Daichi carried the coffee mugs to the couch. He sat down beside Sugawara and offered the paler of the two coffees to him. Sugawara took it with quiet thanks. Daichi took a sip, watching silently as Sugawara blew on the steaming liquid.

“Girlfriend, huh?” Daichi said, turning his eyes to the opposite side of the room.

Sugawara’s cheeks flushed, “We-well… uhm…”

“I’m just a little curious,” Daichi interrupted, tapping the mug with his index finger. “Am I your first... boyfriend?”

"Yes..."

"I see..." His eyes slid to his flushed face. "And... why me?"

“It’s because I like you!” Sugawara suddenly exclaimed, sitting forward and spilling his coffee on his jeans. He cursed and patted at the wet spot, holding his mug away.

Daichi took a moment to wipe the shock of his confession off of his face, heart racing.

He likes me...

Daichi wasn't sure if he'd ever get used to hearing those words directed at him.

“Sorry,” Sugawara mumbled, wiping the coffee stain dejectedly.

“Who are you apologizing to?” Daichi's voice was rough and he lifted his coffee and drank slowly.

“It’s just… I’m positive I sound like a crazy person,” he continued. “I’ve done nothing but spout stupid nonsense ever since I first spoke to you.”

Daichi tapped his finger once more, a hint of annoyance edging its way in as he stared at Sugawara’s downcast face.

“I probably never should have even asked you out in the first place. It was just a spur of the moment thing. I saw you and the others walking across the quad and I just… acted on instinct,” he sighed. “It was the first time I had ever done something so impulsive. Maybe it was a mistake.”

“Are you telling me you want to break up?”

Sugawara jerked his head up, “That’s not it at all!” His cheeks flushed bright red and he lowered his eyes once more. “That’s not what I meant at all…”

Daichi pursed his lips, “Then…”

“It’s not that I want to break up. I like you, after all. I really, truly, and honestly do. And... if you'll let me... I'd like to stay with you.”

His eyes flickered anxiously in his direction and then away. He let out a heavy breath and pressed his hand to his face, eyebrows knitting together. “Man… could this day get any worse?”

Daichi contemplated for a moment. “I don’t know,” he mused. “It wasn’t so bad. I got to learn a little more about you.”

Sugawara chuckled and rubbed the folds between his brows. “I guess so.” He dropped his hand, eyes shifting to the floor. He leaned over and reached for something between his feet and then sat back with the silver key. He turned it over in his hand slowly for a moment before glancing at Daichi. He inhaled and held the key out to him.

Daichi cocked an eyebrow.

“Do you want it?” Sugawara asked.

Daichi smiled ruefully, “We’ve been dating for a few short weeks and you’re already offering me a spare key to your apartment? You sure move fast, don’t you?”

“It’d go to waste otherwise,” he said. “You don’t have to use it if you don’t want. But you might as well have it, just in case.”

Daichi hesitated for a moment before finally taking the key from his outstretched hand. He fingered it quietly for long seconds.

“You don’t have to think so hard about it,” Sugawara said and took a sip from his coffee. “It’s not like I’m proposing or anything.”

“I know that,” Daichi said, voice low. “I’ve just… never received something like this before.” He smiled, cheeks warming pleasantly.

Sugawara’s eyes widened and he suddenly reached out and snatched the key from his hand, “Wait!”

Daichi stared at him in shock.

“I didn’t realize you’d be so happy,” Sugawara said hurriedly, face reddening. “Now I don’t feel good about just flippantly giving you Risa’s sloppy seconds. Just wait a couple of days and I’ll make a new copy, and gift it to you properly!”

Daichi blinked at him. Sugawara huffed, avoiding his stare, looking anywhere but at his face.

Pfft,” Daichi covered his mouth with his hand. Sugawara winced and glanced up at him as he started to laugh. “Sloppy seconds, huh?” he leaned back on the couch. “I didn’t think of that before, but now that you mention it, that’s kind of annoying, huh? Alright then,” he smirked. “I’ll wait for my own. And that one,” he pointed to Sugawara’s clenched fist. “You’re going to retire it, right?”

Sugawara nodded vigorously, “I’ll never use it again. I’ll throw it into the ocean.”

Daichi chuckled, “Now there’s a plan.” He smiled and propped his elbow on the backrest of the couch, resting his head against his fist. “I’ve decided then. Once you have that new key, we’ll go on a date to the boardwalk. Ride the rides and dispose of your ex’s sloppy seconds.”

Sugawara’s face brightened, “Really? You mean it? A date? An actual date?”

“Yeah.”

“Alright!” he sat forward. “Then next Sunday! I’ll have a new key by then, and I have the day off from work too!”

“Okay. Sunday it is.”

Sugawara smiled happily and held his coffee mug up. "Sunday," he repeated, voice barely above a whisper. His bottom lip caught between his teeth and he let out a giggle, corners of his eyes crinkling.

Daichi swallowed, warmth spreading through the pit of his stomach.

Cute...


 

Sugawara sighed and shoved his math textbook into his bag, followed by his notes and pencil, before slinging the strap over his shoulder and leaving the room.

“Well that was a disaster,” he muttered under his breath.

He was one of the last to finish the review quiz his math professor had sprung on the class unexpectedly, and his confidence in his work was almost nonexistent. After Risa had shown up and ruined his and Daichi’s study date, he hadn’t been able to concentrate on the material at all.

I'll never pass at this rate...

Sugawara made his way down the hall, rubbing the sore spot on the side of his neck. He wondered if maybe he ought to ask Daichi to tutor him again, but then sighed. What was the point? Math just wasn’t his forte. No amount of tutoring would ever make him any less of an idiot.

“Yo! Sugawara!”

He glanced in the direction of the voice to three of his classmates standing next to a soda vending machine. They all sat near him in his biology class, but he had only ever spoken to them to borrow a pencil or pass over a handout. The guy in front, the one built like a bear and wearing a huge grin, waved him over. Sugawara racked his brain for a name but turned up with nothing.

“What’s up?” he asked as he drew near. “Is Biology cancelled or something?”

“Nah,” the guy said. He held out a can of Pepsi. “I accidentally pushed the wrong button. Want it?”

Sugawara blinked in surprise and reached for the can, “I can have it?”

“Yeah, none of us like Pepsi,” he said, gesturing at the cans of Mountain Dew in their hands.

Sugawara took the soda, mood lifting, “Well, free is free—” He cracked the top of the can and soda fizzed and bubbled from the mouth, overflowing and streaming over the sides, coating his hands and wetting the front of his shirt and pants in the sticky drink. The liquid seeped through the sleeves of his long sleeved shirt and trailed up his arms to the elbow and Sugawara held the can, much too slow, away from his body.

“Shit,” he hissed as it continued to drip on the hallway floor.

Sugawara’s three classmates burst into laughter.

“Oops,” the front man said, smirking. “It burst all over you!”

“Yeah,” one of the others said, nudging him in the stomach. “But then again, I hear he likes it when that happens.”

The third guy snickered, “Yeah, I’m sure it happens to him all the time!”

“Huh?” Sugawara blinked at them. “What are you talking about?”

The first guy snorted and turned away, “Let’s go.”

All three headed down the hall, leaving Sugawara sticky and dripping and thoroughly confused. After a moment he let out a sigh and shook his right hand, shedding even more soda to the floor.

“How immature,” he muttered, lifting the mouth of the Pepsi to his lips and taking a long drink. “Whatever. Free is free.”


 

“Sorry,” Sugawara said as he peeled his damp shirt up over his head and wrung it out over the sink. “Normally I’d just run home and change, but I’ve got a test in half an hour.”

“It’s alright,” Tanaka said, lighting a cigarette and blowing the smoke in the direction of the small rectangular window near the ceiling of the university bathroom. “We didn’t do much in weights this morning so my clothes shouldn’t be too smelly or anything.”

“Thanks,” Sugawara unbuckled his pants and kicked them off, reaching for Tanaka’s grey sweats. “It would’ve sucked sitting through the test in wet clothes.”

“So some guys just gave you a shook up pop?” Tanaka said, leaning his shoulder against the wall. “What are they, elementary school kids?”

“I dunno,” Sugawara pulled the sweats up and tied the drawstring.

“Give me their names and I’ll put the fear of god in them.”

“Nah, it’s fine. Just a little prank. Not that big of a deal. I still got a free soda out of it anyway.”

“Yeah but still. It’s stupid.” He puffed on his cigarette with a scowl.

The door of the bathroom swung inwards and two guys walked in. Sugawara recognized them as another two of his classmates from his calculus class.

“Hey,” he called. “How’d you guys do on the quiz?”

“Uh…” they exchanged an uncomfortable look. One of them left the bathroom as the other avoided Sugawara’s stare and answered, “I don’t know. I don’t have to pee anymore though so… bye.” He turned and chased after his friend.

Tanaka and Sugawara stared at the door quietly.

“What the fuck was that about?” Tanaka said under his breath, annoyance causing his eye to twitch. He glanced at Sugawara, who continued to stare in the direction the boy’s had disappeared, not speaking.

Tanaka sighed and scratched the back of his neck, “They were probably weirded out about the shirtless dude stripping in the bathroom.” He walked up and lightly knocked Sugawara on the back of the head with his fist. “Hurry and get changed. You don’t want to be late for your test, do you?”

“Oh, sorry,” Sugawara grabbed the red, wrinkled t-shirt from his bag and pulled it on over his head. Tanaka held his cigarette in his mouth and glanced at the wet pair of clothes Sugawara had shed.

He felt uneasy.

Something didn’t quite feel right.

“Ew, Tanaka, this shirt smells like BO hardcore.”

“Ungrateful child, wear your pop top then.”

“No thanks, I’ll get over it,” he grinned up at him. “Thanks.”

Tanaka blew a slow puff of smoke out between his lips and scrutinized him.

Sure, Sugawara reeked of gullibility, but he didn’t necessarily come off as the type that people normally toyed with or avoided. The guy was too cheerful and likable for anyone to really want to torment him.

“Well anyway,” Tanaka ground his cigarette out inside the sink, flipping the faucet on to rinse out the ashes, and then tossed the butt in the trash. “I’m done with classes for the day so I’m gonna head home. I’ll take your soggy clothes and give them a wash for you. Wash my gym clothes and bring them back to me tomorrow, got it?”

“Aye, aye, Captain!”

“You’re such a nerd,” Tanaka smirked and stuffed Sugawara’s wet clothes into his gym bag.

“Actually, I’m pretty sure I’m too stupid to be a nerd,” he admitted, pulling his bag on over his shoulder and stuffing his feet into his sneakers.

“Well, you’re smart enough to admit that, so you can’t be too dumb,” Tanaka draped an arm over his shoulders and steered him out of the bathroom. “Don’t sell yourself too short now!”

Sugawara smiled, “Thanks.”

Tanaka gave him a little push as they turned down different directions in the hall. “See you tomorrow. Good luck on your test.”

“I’ll do my best to not fail!”

He chuckled, “Good. Good.”

Halfway down the hall, Tanaka hesitated. He glanced back, watching Sugawara walk cheerfully, a slight bounce in his step.

He watched him until he disappeared around the corner.

He turned forward once more, frowning.

Something just didn’t feel right.


 

“Ugh,” Sugawara groaned, rolling his head to the side in attempts to stretch out the knot that formed in his neck after hunching over a test for the past hour and a half. “I need to get wasted,” he murmured to himself and raised his arms over his head. His steps turned light as his thoughts drifted off to a daydream of going to the bar with Daichi.

I’ll bet Daichi is a whiskey straight up kind of guy, he thought. That, or a beer connoisseur.

Sugawara was deep in thought about all the possible directions Daichi's personal alcohol tastes could point as he neared the concrete stairs that led down to the grassy quad. Maybe he evenhis thoughts were cut off when something hard slammed into his back, pitching him forward.

“Ah!” Sugawara cried out as he missed the first step of the stairs. He threw a hand out for the metal railing, making contact with his middle finger and causing the first knuckle to crack loudly and send pain shooting up his arm. His body continued to fall forward until his left shoulder and hip slammed into the hard concrete stairs and he flipped and rolled the rest of the short way down to the bottom.

“Shit!” he immediately pushed up onto his knees, leaning heavily on his left hand and holding his right against his chest. Laughter from above drew his attention over his aching shoulder at the three college students at the top of the stairs. The same from the vending machine earlier.

“Oops!” one guy said, punching another on the shoulder playfully.

“Dude!” he said, swiping at his back with a look of disgust.

“My bad.”

The third glanced down at Sugawara, smirking. “Hey, are you okay?” he called. “Sorry about that. We didn’t see you there.”

“Ah… I’m—”

“Yeah, I don’t actually care,” he turned and walked away. The two others laughed and followed.

“Later fag!”

Sugawara blinked quietly for a moment, sitting back on his heels.

Fag?

He looked down at his hand. He was unfamiliar with the feeling of broken bones, but if he had to guess, his finger was probably cracked in the very least. He lowered it silently and assessed his appearance.

His bag had flown off of his shoulder halfway down the stairs. The flap had come open and his books and papers were now scattered all along the concrete. His shoulder and hip were stinging and upon closer inspection, there was a fresh rip in the thick fabric of his borrowed sweats just below the hip bone. The skin underneath was raw and bleeding.

“Fag,” he whispered, lifting his head to stare across the quad before him.

Ah. Now it made sense.

Sugawara was being bullied.

Chapter Text

“You’re not walking home with Suga today?” Asahi asked as he and Daichi headed down the street.

“He sent me a text in the middle of my political science class that he got sick and went home early,” he said.

“Sick with what? He seemed fine at lunch.”

“I don’t know. I offered to bring over some medicine but he said he had enough and didn’t want me to catch it.”

Asahi gazed at him for a moment before turning his eyes forward once more. “You know… you seem pretty cheerful these days.”

“I do?” he cocked a dark eyebrow. “How so?”

“Just do.”

Daichi stared at him quietly for a second before looking away, “Hm.”


 

“Hey Mom,” Sugawara pressed his phone to his ear, a shopping bag with a new pair of sweatpants in his other hand. “Just wondering, but am I still covered under your health insurance?”

“Yep. Until you turn twenty-five. Why?” came the reply.

“Oh, I should probably make a stop by the hospital.”

“Are you okay? Did something happen?”

“Nah. I just fell on my finger and think it might be broken or cracked or something.”

“Does it hurt?”

“Well, obviously.”

“Is it swollen or bruised? Can you move it?”

“Swollen, bruised, can’t move it.”

“Sounds broken.”

“Yeah, thanks for the diagnosis. I’ll be sure to get it checked out.”

“Good. So how are you doing? Are you eating actual food?”

Sugawara sighed and looked both ways down the street before crossing to the opposite sidewalk, “What do you consider actual food?”

“Here, how’s this instead: have you used anything other than your microwave to make food since your last phone call?”

“Me specifically?”

“Koushi, you gotta eat healthier. Just because you’re not gaining weight doesn’t mean you’re not getting unhealthy. You have to eat vegetables and fruit every day, you hear me?”

“Yes Mom.”

“And have you been drinking enough water? Don’t tell me you only drink juice and soda. You were the worst about that in high school. I swear your blood was half carbonated sugar drink.”

“Mom.”

“Oh but now I guess you also drink alcohol, too, huh? Please don’t tell me you’re the type of college kid that gets drunk every weekend. You haven’t been to any crazy parties, right?”

“Okay Mom, it was nice talking to you, but I’m gonna have to go now,” Sugawara interrupted.

“Well alright. I love you. You should call me more often. And your dad too. I’m sure he’d like to hear from you from time to time, you know, before we’re old and demented.”

“Jesus, Mom.”

“I’m just saying! We’re getting up there in age. Anyway, how are you and Risa doing? Thinking about tying the knot anytime soon?”

“Me and Risa broke up.”

“What? When did this happen? And you just weren’t going to tell your mom? Tell me what happened. Did she cheat on you or did you find someone you liked better?”

Both.

“I gotta go, Mom. I’ll talk to you more later, alright?”

“Okay, okay. I love you Sweetie. Don’t forget to call your siblings occasionally too. Kiyoko’s got herself a boyfriend now. Eita doesn’t seem to like him too much yet but he seems like a nice boy.”

“Alright. Talk to you later.”

“Okay, I’ll see you. Come visit sometime soon. I’ll make your favorite dinner.”

“Bye,” Sugawara hung up before she could wrangle him into another five minutes of conversation and then slid the phone into his pocket.

Once he was home he would change into new clothes and go to the hospital. Hopefully the injury wasn’t too severe and he could get away with light treatment. He was going to have to come up with some kind of excuse to feed Daichi and the others tomorrow.

“Falling down the stairs isn’t too weird,” he admitted aloud as he examined his swollen finger. “I’ll just say I fell down the stairs outside my apart—” as Sugawara drew closer to home, he slowed to a stop.

From his view on the street, he could see the front of his apartment clearly where it stood on the second floor. He could also very clearly see the words spray painted in bright red paint all over the door. A long list of horrible expletives were scrawled in harsh lines over the wood, but the most prominent stared him down in the very center.

DIE FAG.

For the longest time, Sugawara just stared from where he stood, running his eyes over the words over and over again until they ran rampant in his mind, taunting him from within. Eventually, he became aware that the shopping bag had slipped from his hand and was lying in the street at his feet.

“Oops,” he bent and picked it up. “I’ve already ripped one pair,” he said. “It would be pretty clumsy of me if I also ruined these ones.” He walked forward once more, climbing the metal stairs off to the side of the building. He reached into his bag and pulled out his keys as he moved down the outer walkway of the apartment complex and stopped in front of his door. He hesitated momentarily, swallowing the lump that formed in his throat. The smell of fresh paint stung and burned his nostrils and eyes.

Slowly, he tried the doorknob.

He let out a deep breath at the resistance of the lock against his twist.

He shakily inserted the key and unlocked the door. Once inside, he tossed the shopping bag to the table at the entrance and went to the kitchen. Under the sink he found a bucket of cleaning supplies and took it with him outside. Since his right hand was virtually useless, throbbing with a swollen ache, he used his left to squirt window cleaner all over the paint and then scrub at it with a rough sponge.

“Good afternoon, Suga-kun!” a light voice drew his attention to the right, down the walkway. A man with black hair and thick, square-rimmed glasses approached him, waving a hand cheerfully. “It’s been a while since I’ve seen you, even though we’re neighbors,” he chuckled. “Isn’t that funny?”

“T-Takeda-san!” Sugawara hurriedly moved in front of the door, “H-hello!”

“Oh my, look at your pants!” he covered his mouth with a hand. “There’s blood! Did you hurt yourself?” as he neared, his eyes landed on the mess Sugawara had failed to hide behind the spread of his back. He gasped as he read over an especially nasty word. “Oh my…”

“N-no…” Sugawara panicked. “Uh… it’s not what it looks like. It’s just… someone decided to play a little prank on me and they just went a little too far… but uhm… it’s okay because I’ll clean it up.”

Takeda was silent for a moment, glancing down at the bucket of cleaning supplies at his feet. Finally he let out a sigh and said, “That won’t do the trick. Hold on, Suga-kun. I’ll go to the hardware store and buy some paint and we can just paint over it, okay?”

Sugawara gulped, “You don’t have to do that. I can do it myself.”

He smiled, “Now, what kind of neighbor would I be if I made you do it yourself?”

“But—”

“You wait here. I’ll be back soon.” He turned and headed the opposite direction down the walkway.

“Wait!” Sugawara opened his door and shoved the bucket inside. “I’ll come with you!”

“Oh but—”

“I’ll carry the paint,” he said, catching up with him. "Please, I insist."

"Very well then.”


 

“You fell down the stairs?” Tanaka repeated.

“Yeah, the ones outside my apartment,” Sugawara said with a full mouth. “Ripped your sweats. Sorry. Hope the new ones are okay.”

“They’re fine,” he said. “I just can’t believe you’re that big of a klutz.”

“Everyone falls down once in a while,” Asahi said.

“How long until it’s healed?” Daichi stared at Sugawara’s hand. His middle finger was taped to his fourth finger with thick white medical tape.

“Since it’s only a small fracture, the doctor said I can get it off in about a month,” he said.

“Yesterday sounds like it just wasn’t a good day for you,” Asahi said, stirring his stew with a plastic spoon. “First you spill soda all over your clothes, then you have to wear Tanaka’s nasty gym rags, then you break your finger falling down the stairs? What’s your star sign?”

“Eh? Uhm, Gemini I think.”

Asahi produced his phone from his pocket and tapped at the screen, “Gemini, huh?”

“I can’t believe you actually believe in that astrology shit,” Tanaka said, pouring a line of hot sauce on one of his enchiladas, courtesy of Mrs. Gonzales.

“The truth lies in the stars,” Asahi said. “Okay here we go. Gemini,” his eyes darted across his phone’s screen. “Yep. Says right here this is a bad month for Gemini. Suggests you stay indoors and avoid Capricorn at all costs.”

“I’m a Capricorn,” Daichi pointed out, lifting his coffee can to his lips.

“Me too,” Asahi frowned. “Maybe you and Daichi should take a break to let things cool down.”

Sugawara’s hand hovered over his lunch.

“Don’t tell him shit like that,” Tanaka snapped. “You know this guy will believe anything someone tells him.” He glanced at Daichi, who watched Sugawara intently as he slowly went back to his food, eyes lowered to the table.

“It says that your unlucky numbers are four and fifty-five. And your unlucky items are lemonade and shoelaces,” Asahi continued, ignoring the mood.

“Is there nothing good on it?” Sugawara asked, face openly displaying his worry.

“Hmm… well it says that this month’s misfortunes will be easily avenged, but that’s about it.”

Tanaka confiscated Asahi’s phone before he could deliver any more blows to the young man already appearing to be knocking on death’s door.

“Ignore him, Suga,” he said. “That astrology shit is fake. What they do is make some broad assumption that could be relevant to anybody and people eat it up because they’re gullible.”

“Says you!” Asahi snatched the phone back.

“All of that stuff could apply to me too, you know,” Tanaka said with a scowl. “After all, it was my clothes that got ripped when Suga fell down. And I totally bombed my last research essay in environmental science. Not to mention I forgot my history book at home and couldn’t use it for the pop quiz today. So, how about it? Is it an unlucky month for Pisces too?”

Asahi glared at him and scrolled across his phone’s screen. He was silent for a long minute before locking the screen and sliding it back into his pocket, “Well, whatever.”

“Told you,” Tanaka flipped him the bird.

Daichi leaned his elbow on the table and propped his chin in his palm, watching Sugawara closely. “It’ll get better,” he said calmly. “How about we go get some ice cream after class today?”

Sugawara brightened for a moment before sobering, “Actually… I can’t. I have to work today.”

Daichi was silent as he stared at him. Eventually he smiled, “Another time then.”

“By the way, Suga,” Asahi said. “What happened to your usual soggy sandwich? Where’d you get that lasagna?”

Sugawara glanced down at the half eaten serving of lasagna in the plastic Tupperware, “My neighbor, Takeda-san, gave it to me. He lives alone so he had a lot of leftovers.”

“Yeah!” Tanaka stood and lifted his hand in Sugawara’s direction. “High five for cool neighbors making us lunch!”

They slapped hands, grinning.

Daichi tapped his index finger on the table, the tight press of his lips the only indication of his annoyance.


 

When Sugawara walked into his government class, every head turned in his direction.

Huh?

What?

He brushed off the unnerving sensation that spread through his chest as he climbed the steps to his usual table. Murmuring picked up as he reached his seat and lowered his bag to the ground.

I feel like the protagonist in an angsty high school melodrama, Sugawara thought dully as he slid into his seat and pulled his text book from his bag. It wasn’t until his supplies were all on the table and he was ready for the class to begin that he turned his eyes to the front of the room. Scrawled across the white board in bright red marker were the words,

Sugawara Koushi loves cock!

“What the…” his eyebrows knitted together.

A group of boys huddled on the left side of the room burst into laughter, sputtering and nudging each other with tears in their eyes. A couple of girls sitting in front of them spun around and scolded them.

“It’s not funny!” one of them hissed.

“God,” the other snapped. “Grow up.”

“Good afternoon!” the professor walked into the classroom and Sugawara’s face went cold, draining of color. “Did you all get the reading done?” he set his bag down on his desk and then sipped his coffee. “I didn’t prepare a quiz like I threatened, but I might assign a short essay at the end of class if I’m feeling it,” he set the coffee down and turned towards the white board. “Alright, let’s get right into—” he fell silent as he read the graffiti. He crossed his arms over his chest and turned back to the class, “Okay, who wrote this? That’s not funny, guys.”

More of the class giggled and murmured.

“I mean it! Whoever wrote this needs to come down immediately and erase it and apologize to—”

Sugawara stood, raising his hand, “Ah, sorry Professor Rhodes. It was actually me that wrote it.”

“Sugawara-kun? But—”

He headed down the steps, grinning sheepishly, “I was just practicing my penmanship before class and forgot to erase it all, I guess. Sorry about that. I’ll erase it now.”

Sugawara grabbed the rag hanging off of the nail on the bulletin board next to the white board and started swiping at the profanity. It took him a few seconds to realize that the harsh lines weren’t disappearing. He scrubbed harder and laughter erupted behind him.

“That’s enough!” Professor Rhodes snapped at the uproarious classroom.

“Ah…” Sugawara’s scrubbing lost its energy. “Sorry Professor… looks like I may have accidentally used permanent marker…”

“Sugawara-kun it’s fine. Take a seat, I’ll find a way to clean it off after class.”

“I hear you can get rid of permanent marker by writing over it with dry erase marker!” one of the students called.

“Yeah, just do that!”

“I said settle down!” Professor Rhodes shouted. “Sugawara-kun, take your seat, I said I’ll clean it after class.”

“But Professor,” another student said. “How will you write your notes?”

Sugawara gulped and reached for a blue dry erase marker magnetized to the board.

“Sugawara-kun.”

“It’s okay, Professor,” he uncapped the marker, holding it awkwardly in his splinted hand. He smiled over his shoulder, “I’ll get rid of it so we can get the most of your lesson.”

Professor Rhodes frowned, eyes sad.

Sugawara turned forward and held the marker over the first character of his name. Slowly, he traced it and the others following, rewriting the childish taunt. Snickering slowly rose in the room at his back as he hesitated at the last word. He swallowed the dry lump that formed in his throat and then quickly traced the final strokes.

“Well, you saw it from the man himself!” a voice called. “Sugawara Koushi loves him some big ol’ cock!”

“Jirou!” Professor Rhodes yelled as the room burst into more laughter. “I won’t tolerate that type of behavior! Do you want me to kick you out of the class?”

Sugawara swiftly erased the marker with the rag before replacing both in their designated spots.

“Everyone shut up!” the professor continued to rave as Sugawara turned and headed back up to his seat. “You’re here to learn about government, not act like childish little brats! If I ever find out which one of you pulled this prank, I’m going to report you to the dean and fail you from my class!”

“So harsh, Professor!” a student said. “Sugawara himself said that he was the one that wrote it! Fail him if you want justice!”

“I know it wasn’t him! Who would write such disgusting things about himself?”

Disgusting… Sugawara’s steps slowed.

He gulped and turned down the aisle to his seat, sliding down into the chair heavily. Two girls behind him whispered.

“Maybe he really did write it,” one said.

“Yeah, I mean, he could’ve just scribbled over the top of it with the marker but instead traced every line. It’s like he’s admitting it.”

They giggled and Sugawara opened his textbook silently.

Disgusting, huh?


 

Tanaka inhaled deeply on his cigarette, crossing one ankle over the other as he leaned heavily on the bike rack. He glanced at his watch apathetically.

Three pm right on the dot.

Sugawara should be coming out of Lincoln building any second now.

Tanaka turned his attention to the front doors of the building and waited. The uneasy feeling hadn’t left him ever since Sugawara had come asking to borrow his clothes the day before.

It just didn’t feel right to him. His gut churned and his hands were clammy. Whether it was something about Sugawara’s story or just the situation itself…

Something wasn’t right.

Five minutes ticked by before Sugawara finally made an appearance. His eyes were downcast as he exited the building and walked across the path in the direction of the quad. All of the cheer he had had at the end of lunch when they had gone their separate ways for class was completely gone from his face, the set of his shoulders, and the tired way he dragged his feet across the sidewalk.

Something just wasn't right.

Shortly after Sugawara left the building, two boys ran after him. One grabbed the collar of his shirt and yanked it back. Tanaka threw his cigarette butt to the ground and took a step forward but paused as the boy shoved something down Sugawara’s shirt and then ran off with his friend, laughing.

Sugawara straightened his shirt, shaking it gently until the handful of loose trash fell out of the hem. He knelt down to collect the garbage and then carried it to the nearest trash can.

Then, as if nothing had ever happened, he walked towards the quad once more.

What the hell?

Tanaka scowled and pulled his pack of cigarettes from his pocket. He plucked one out and as he stuck it in his mouth and lit it, two girls appeared at the bicycle rack.

“Is that the one?” one of the girls asked, staring in the direction of Sugawara.

The other glanced over her shoulder and then knelt by the bike rack to unlock the chain on a purple bike.

“Yeah, that’s him. Sugawara Koushi. Dee said that he’s queer.”

Tanaka narrowed his eyes.

“How does Dee know?”

“Apparently he dumped Risa in order to date another guy.”

“No way!”

The girls laughed.

“I know, right? How embarrassing for Risa. To think she was dating a gay guy ever since they were in high school,” she rolled up the chain and slid it into her backpack, rising to her feet again.

“What a waste,” the other one said. “He’s so cute, too.”

“Hey,” the girl with the bike leaned in close to her, giggling, “So what do you think he is? Top or bottom?”

“Bottom, definitely,” the other girl replied without hesitation.

“Right? That’s what I was thinking too!”

“Hey,” Tanaka called before the girls could leave. They turned in his direction. He gripped the cigarette between his index and middle fingers and then pointed at them, “Quit your shitty gossiping or else everyone will think you’re boring bitches who have nothing better to do than slam other people behind their backs.”

The two girls gaped at him.

“Wow, rude,” the girl with the bike said.

“Don’t you know cigarettes are disgusting?” the other snapped.

“Let’s see how disgusting they are when I’m grinding them out in your eye sockets,” he hissed and took a menacing step towards them.

“Freak!” they shrieked and retreated.

Tanaka leaned on the bicycle rack once more, tucking the cigarette in the corner of his mouth.

He didn’t know whether or not he ought to be satisfied with the information he just received. Sure, he had found the source of the bad feeling in his gut, but now that he knew that Sugawara was being bullied, just what the fuck was he supposed to do about it?

He rubbed his eyes tiredly.

"There's no way I signed up for this shit."


 

“Hey Koushi,” Ennoshita leaned over the counter, propping his cheek in the palm of his hand.

“What’s up?” Sugawara said over his shoulder as he stocked the magazine rack in front of the cash register.

“I’ve been hearing rumors about you,” he said, examining the fingernails on his left hand.

“Rumors?”

“Yeah, from the guys at the bar I’m a regular at.”

“Oh yeah? What were they saying?”

“Something like you like guys or whatever.”

Sugawara froze and sat back on his heels. He turned in Ennoshita’s direction, “It’s even gotten around to you?”

He shrugged, “A lot of college kids drink at that bar. So anyway, is it true?”

His cheeks flushed, “W-well… I mean… I…”

“Whoa,” Ennoshita straightened, sleepy eyes widening. “It’s totally true, isn’t it? Who’d a thunk? I thought you were dating a super cute girl though?”

Sugawara stood, rubbing the back of his neck, “Ah… we broke up.”

“And now you like dudes?”

“It’s not really that simple…” Sugawara lifted the empty cardboard box he had been pulling new magazines from and used his box cutters to slice the tape on the bottom.

“Yeah, I figured it’d be pretty difficult to date a dude. I mean, who gets to stick it in?”

“Jesus, Chikara. That’s not what I meant,” his cheeks reddened.

“Oh? So you’ve got it figured out already then? Who are you? The one sticking it in or the one getting it stuck in?”

“Neither!” he broke the box down and carried it around the counter to stand next to his coworker. “I haven’t done anything like that and I’m not in a rush to do it!”

“C’mon, you gotta at least be curious.”

“I’m not.”

Ennoshita stared at him for a few seconds before turning and leaning on the counter, “Alright then. So. You’ve got yourself a boyfriend.”

Sugawara didn’t answer, but his face flushed bright red.

“How long you been dating?”

“Almost a month,” he replied shyly, dusting off the cash register absently.

“You like him?”

Sugawara blinked, staring at the buttons as he dragged his fingers over them. He nodded, pressing his lips together to keep a smile away.

Ennoshita smiled and rubbed his nose with his index finger. “Then that’s all that matters, right?”

Sugawara cleared his throat and glanced up at him, “You’re not weirded out by it?”

“Weirded out?” Ennoshita cocked an eyebrow. “Kou, I’m too old to be weirded out by a guy with a boyfriend.”

“You're like... twenty-two?”

“Exactly. Only petty preteens give a shit about a dude’s sexual orientation,” he turned and leaned over the counter, snatching a Snickers from the rack in front of it. He pulled it back and ripped into the wrapping. “Besides,” he took a bite. “I’ve been to a gay bar before. They played better music than the ones I usually go to.”

Sugawara laughed, “Well… it’s not like I’m completely gay…”

“What do you mean?”

“I’m dating a guy right now, but only because it’s him, you know? It’s not like I could just date any guy.”

“Well, it’s not like I can date any girl just because I’m straight,” he said. “Everybody’s got a type.”

“No, but I still like girls.”

“So you’re bisexual.”

“I don't think…”

“Look,” Ennoshita finished up the candy bar and set the wrapper down on the counter. Sugawara took and scanned it, placing a bill into the register as payment. “This isn’t rocket science. If you can imagine yourself fucking both sexes, you’re bisexual.”

“But I don’t want to have sex with Daichi!" he cleared his throat and looked away, "Not… like... entirely…err... y-yet...”

“Then why the hell are you dating him?”

Sugawara groaned and rubbed the folds between his brows, “It’s not that easy to explain…”

“Then don’t,” Ennoshita yawned and leaned on his elbows on the counter. “Whatever floats your canoe. You won’t catch any judgment from me.”

The front door of the convenience store opened, triggering the bell overhead. Sugawara turned forward once more.

“Thanks.”

Ennoshita glanced at him in the corner of his eye.

“You don’t know how much that means to me.”

He chuckled, “It’s not really something worth thanking me over. I’m not doing anything.”

“I know. Thanks.”


 

“I’m going to take the trash out,” Ennoshita called as he headed for the back door.

“Okay!” Sugawara replied from the chip aisle. The work day had been long and uneventful and was finally coming to a close. He just had to last another ten minutes before he could go home and finish off the rest of the leftover lasagna Takeda had given him the day before.

“Just keep thinkin’ ‘bout that pasta, Koushi,” he whispered as he moved along the aisle, straightening the product absently.

The bell over the door rang and he almost groaned out loud. The store was closing in ten minutes, couldn’t they find somewhere else to go? He moved to go back to the counter to wait but when he turned, the aisle was suddenly blocked by two bodies.

“Hey Sugawara.”

Sugawara's back straightened rigidly.

The one on the left grinned, hands shoved into his jeans pockets. His eyes were big, giving him a slightly crazed look as he stared Sugawara down.

“Fancy runnin’ into you here,” he said. “Don’t you think it’s a nice coincidence, Yousuke?”

Yousuke ran his fingers through his short red hair, “Suppose so.”

“Yeah… we were just in the neighborhood. Thought we’d stop by here and see if you have what we need,” the one with the big eyes glanced around absently.

Sugawara forced a smile, “Well I’d be happy to help you find whatever you are looking for.”

“Yeah,” Yousuke mumbled. “I bet you would.”

Big Eyes stepped back, “Hmm… so, you guys sell condoms or not then?”

Sugawara gulped, “We do have some small packs, but not much of a selection… you’d have better luck at a larger store. Just down the street—”

“Well, we are in this store now, aren’t we?”

Sugawara hesitated but smiled nonetheless, “You’re right. I’ll just show you ours then.” He slipped by Big Eyes, who didn’t even bother to give him room and forced him to rub up against the shelf behind him. “They’re right over here,” he led them across the store to the far wall and pointed at the small selection of condoms.

“Ya know,” Big Eyes said. “I always hated wearing condoms. Once you get them on, the mood has pretty much died, and they just don’t feel as good as going in raw.” He stared at Sugawara, “Ya feel?”

He cleared his throat and took a step towards the counter, “Once you’ve picked something out, I’ll check you out at the register—”

“Check us out?” Big Eyes repeated, loudly, voice cracking with laughter. “Gross.”

Sugawara ignored him and turned away, but suddenly he threw his arm around his shoulders and hauled him roughly into his side.

“You see,” he said, tightening his hold around him. “As much as I hate wearing condoms, I know I gotta do it.” He reached out and pulled a box of Trojans off of the shelf. “I don’t want to get any girls pregnant, ya know?”

“Ah…” Sugawara shifted uncomfortably, attempting to ease his way out from under the larger man’s grasp. “Y-yeah…”

“Of course, you never have to worry about that, do you?” he stared down the length of his nose at him, mouth twisting up in a smirk. “I bet your boyfriend does you raw all the time, huh? Seein’ as how guys can’t get pregnant and all.”

Sugawara reached up and peeled his arm off from around his shoulders, smiling amiably. “Well,” he said, taking a step back. “Stranger things have happened, I’m sure.”

He turned on his heel and headed to the counter. Once behind it, he let out a deep breath, a false sense of safety washing over him. Big Eyes and Yousuke followed and Sugawara quickly scanned the condoms and dropped them into a bag.

“Six eighty-two please,” he said and Big Eyes dropped the money on the counter.

After Sugawara returned his change and passed the bag over to him, the two left without so much as a backward glance. He waited until he could no longer see them through the windows at the front of the store before slumping over the counter, hiding his head in his arms.

He was trembling.

The second Big Eyes had touched him it had taken all of his willpower to keep from punching him into the next dimension.

Disgusting, he knotted his fingers in his hair and squeezed.

Don’t touch me.

Don’t fucking touch me you disgusting pig.


 

Ennoshita had only been gone for a few minutes.

Five at the most.

He might have dragged his feet a little bit in a weak attempt at making the final minutes of the work day disappear.

It was just a few minutes.

And yet in those few minutes, Sugawara had gone from his humming, cheerful self, to slumped over the counter, arms wrapped around his head. And he was probably shaking a little bit too.

Though Ennoshita couldn't quite tell for sure.

It may have been a trick of the light, now that he thought about it.

“Closing time,” he said and clocked him on the hip with the empty waste basket. “You sleeping on the job, Kou?”

Sugawara slowly straightened, rubbing his mouth with his left hand.

“Nah,” he said.

Ennoshita stared silently at the serious expression on his face before it folded away into his usual affable smile.

“Sorry. Just spaced out a bit. It’s been a long day. I’ll go lock the door,” he moved around the counter.

Once the store was locked up and the lights were out, Sugawara and Ennoshita headed out through the back door. Ennoshita locked the door behind him and they walked together down the alley to the street.

“Well,” Ennoshita shoved his hands in the pockets of his jacket. “I’m off to the bar. Want to come?”

“No thanks. I have some homework to do,” Sugawara smiled. “But thanks for the invite.”

“Don’t sweat it. Drinking’s more fun with a buddy anyway.”

“Maybe next time,” he gave a wave and turned to the left.

Ennoshita watched him go for a minute. Usually Sugawara bounded off into the night excitedly, thinking about whatever food he had waiting for him back home.

So now, why were his shoulders hunched as he walked swiftly but cautiously down the sidewalk? And why did his head turn from side to side every few steps, as if he was scanning the darkness around him for anything suspicious?

Ennoshita scratched the back of his head and turned away.

It was probably just his imagination.


 

Once Sugawara was changed out of his work clothes, he took the bucket of black paint Takeda had given him, the paint brush, and the dirty, ragged towel to the walkway outside his apartment. He closed the door behind him, spread the towel out on the ground in front of it, and pried the lid off of the paint with a Flathead screwdriver.

He dipped his paintbrush inside and got to work erasing the hateful graffiti covering his door.

He hummed softly to himself as he worked, thinking about the lasagna that was warming up in the microwave at that very second. He started from the top of the door and made his way down, carefully leveling out any drips.

Painting is fun!

The way the red disappeared underneath the black was cleansing.

Painting is soothing...

Not that that made any sense.

He knelt down as he reached the bottom half of the door, still humming softly. The sound of the microwave beeping floated through the walls and he painted faster.

When black finally covered the entire door, he wiped the excess paint off of his brush on the side of the paint can and placed the lid on top. He used the handle of the screwdriver to hammer the lid down and wrapped his wet paint brush in the plastic bag with which he had brought it out.

He folded up the towel, pausing momentarily to press his right forearm over his eyes as they stung with moisture and his throat grew itchy and hot.

A few moments ticked by before Sugawara regained his composure, stood, and went inside, closing the freshly painted door behind him.


 

Tanaka huddled under the cover of the bike rack’s awning, arms crossed over his chest as he glared through the torrents of rain outside. Students ran by with umbrellas, squealing and laughing as they rushed to their morning classes.

He checked the time again, impatiently.

Sugawara was late.

How annoying.

Tanaka had even arrived at the college an hour before his first class so that he could catch him before he went to math, and he had the nerve to be late?

“This is how he repays me for worrying about him?” Tanaka muttered as he felt for the cigarette carton that was absent from his back pocket. He had run out earlier that morning and was already feeling the irritating itch. Maybe that was a sign that he needed to cut back.

He glanced to the left and straightened away from the bicycle rack as he saw Sugawara’s familiar form trotting up the steps, orange umbrella in hand.

“Finally,” Tanaka emerged from the cover of the awning and jogged in his direction.

Sugawara’s startled jump and wary sidestep didn’t escape his notice as he drew nearer.

When Sugawara realized it was Tanaka approaching him, he turned and met him halfway, holding the umbrella up to cover his head as he stepped underneath.

“Why are you standing in the rain?” he asked.

Tanaka shook water from his shaved head.

“Isn’t your class at ten?” Sugawara continued, shielding his face from the water droplets that he shed. “Why are you here so early?”

Tanaka reached out and pinched a lock of Sugawara’s pale hair between his thumb and forefinger.

“What’s this?” he asked.

“Huh?” Sugawara blinked and went cross-eyed in attempts to view the hair he had captured. “What’s what?”

“It’s black.”

Sugawara paled.

“Is it paint? Have you been painting?”

“Uh,” Sugawara gently pulled the hair from his grasp. He smiled nervously, “Yeah. A little. It… calms me.”

Tanaka stared at him for a few tense seconds before he sighed and shoved his hands into his pockets.

“Alright,” he said. “There’s no point beating around the bush.”

“What do you mean?”

“I know you’ve been getting harassed.”

“Huh? No… I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Don’t lie to me. I’ve seen it myself.”

Sugawara stared up at him for a moment before averting his eyes to the ground, “It’s just some lighthearted teasing. It’s not that serious.”

Tanaka’s eye twitched, “If lighthearted teasing gets to the point that bones are broken,” he grabbed his right wrist and held up his splinted hand. “Then it’s pretty serious.”

Sugawara pulled away, “It’s fine. I can handle it on my own.”

“How? By ignoring it? Laughing it off?” Tanaka’s voice grew terser with every word. Man he really needed a cigarette.

“It’s not like I’ve never been bullied before,” he said softly. “I’ll deal with it my own way.”

“Tch,” Tanaka clicked his tongue and rubbed his hand over his head. “What worked in junior high isn’t going to work here.”

Sugawara was silent.

Tanaka sighed, “Listen, this kind of harassment is different from whatever bullying you got as a kid, understand? This isn’t some pimply preteens picking on you because you’re a nerd or suck at sports. This is bigotry.”

Sugawara gulped.

“These people don’t just want to make you cry. They want to torture you, got that?” Tanaka jabbed him in the chest with a finger. “Sure, it might start out with them just calling you a faggot,” Sugawara stiffened at the word. “But it’s going to get worse from there. You’re a minority around here. People aren’t as accepting as they are on the TV.”

Sugawara stared at his feet.

Tanaka sighed, “It's not you... It’s just how people were raised in this area. They’ve never been taught that what they say and do is wrong so they don’t feel bad about saying and doing it. But listen up,” he leaned forward. “Those are the most dangerous type of bigots. They’re the ones that think that they’ve got the right to treat people like trash. They’re the ones that will push you down the stairs and then laugh about it. And why?" He lifted his chin, "Because you deserve it.”

Sugawara looked up at him, fear evident on his face.

Tanaka straightened again, “And they won’t stop just because you ignore it or laugh it off. Instead of getting bored, they’re just going to get angry. Then they’re going to get more violent. Believe me,” the corner of his mouth twisted in a snarl. “I’ve seen it before.”

Sugawara swallowed hard and tugged on the hem of his jacket, “So what am I supposed to do then?”

“Give me the names of the guys doing it and—”

“And what?” Sugawara snapped, eyebrows knitting together. “And you’ll go kick their asses? What’s that going to solve? They’ll only start harassing you too.”

“What are you talking about?”

He avoided his gaze, “If you start going around protecting me, everyone’s going to assume that you’re the one I’m dating and just start doing the same things to you that they’re doing to me.”

“And you think I can’t take care of myself?” he scowled.

“It’s not that… but they’ll start…” the handle of the umbrella creaked as he gripped it tighter. “They’ll call you… fag… and assume that you and I…”

Tanaka snorted, “Who gives a fuck? Let them think what they want.”

“But—”

“I said I don’t give a fuck.”

“Well I do!” Sugawara turned and marched towards the school. “This is my problem, so just butt out of it!”

Tanaka stomped after him, “You want me to butt out? Fine. I’ll just tell Daichi and get him involved instead!”

Sugawara skidded to a stop, “Don’t you dare!”

“Why not?” Tanaka smirked. “He’s your boyfriend, right? Are you going to tell me that it’s not his problem either?”

He gritted his teeth and looked away.

“Daichi will agree with me,” Tanaka continued. “You can’t just let this go on. It’s going to get worse!”

“I’ll handle it,” Sugawara muttered.

How?”

He strode towards the school once more. “I’ll handle it! So don’t even think about telling Daichi!”

“Why the hell not? Why won’t you just let someone help you? Are you really that proud?” Tanaka chased.

Sugawara grabbed the door and ripped it open, snapping the umbrella closed before stomping into the building. “I just…” he kicked his wet shoes against the rug just inside as Tanaka came in behind him, door slamming shut once more.

“You just what?”

“I just don’t want to cause anyone any problems!” Sugawara smacked the wet umbrella against Tanaka’s arm. “It’s not about pride or my shitty ego. It’s about me not wanting Daichi or you or Asahi to have to deal with the same shit I’m dealing with!” He huffed and looked away, face turning red with anger. “You think I’m some kind of fragile child that needs protecting? Fuck you then! I’m a man, damn it! And if I say I’ll handle some bullies, then I’ll fucking handle it! My own way!”

Tanaka pressed his lips together, hands clenching into fists.

“So don’t tell Daichi a word about this!” Sugawara punched him in the chest, forcing him to take a step back. “And don’t do anything stupid on your own! Or else I’ll never forgive you!” He turned down the hall, “Now if you’ll excuse me! I’m late for my god damn calculus class, you fucking piece of shit!”

Tanaka watched him run off, desperately holding the amusement from his face at the usually cheerful Sugawara’s sudden violent outburst.

That was new.

Once he turned the corner and disappeared from view, Tanaka let out a chuckle and covered his eyes with a hand.

“Maybe he’ll be fine after all,” he whispered and dropped his arm to his side once more. He shoved his hands into his pockets and let out a deep breath, turning around to stare at the rain through the glass door. Man he really needed a cigarette.


 

Daichi blinked, umbrella resting against his shoulder. Sugawara and Tanaka stood in front of him, soaking in the rain. Sugawara wore an annoyed expression, shoulders slumped as Tanaka grinned proudly at his side. Daichi lifted an eyebrow and slowly held the umbrella out to shield Sugawara, and half of Tanaka, from the rain.

“What’s going on?” he asked curiously.

“Ol’ Suga here finally agreed to let me tag along to check out his workplace!” Tanaka said brightly.

“I didn’t agree,” Sugawara argued. “I just realized there’s nothing I can do to stop you.”

“Close enough!”

Daichi cocked his head to the side, “Then I’ll come too—”

“Nope!” Tanaka held up a hand. “You weren’t invited. Sorry.”

Daichi’s eyes narrowed.

“Besides, me and Suga have some very important, top secret stuff to discuss and we can’t have you listening in on it,” he continued.

Daichi opened his mouth to argue, but Tanaka stopped him by putting an arm around Sugawara’s shoulders and pulling him close, “C’mon! You get to have him to yourself any time you want! Share your cute boyfriend with me every once in a while!”

Daichi’s eyebrow twitched.

Sugawara wiggled out from Tanaka’s grasp and held him at an arm’s length, “Sorry, but I only like Daichi. Please keep your hands to yourself, jezebel.”

Tanaka laughed, glancing at Daichi, whose sour expression had disappeared, replaced with a pleasant mask that was just a sunbeam away from growing flowers.

“Anyway,” Tanaka said. “If you’ll excuse us, Daichi. We’ll be off now.”

Daichi ignored him and looked to Sugawara, “You don’t have an umbrella?”

“Well…” he scratched the back of his neck and Tanaka narrowed his eyes.

“Here,” Daichi offered the handle he held in his right hand. “Take mine.”

“But what about you?” Sugawara frowned.

“I have a shorter distance to walk,” he said, smiling gently.

“But—”

“If you don’t take it, I’ll be forced to carry it for you all the way to your work.”

Tanaka pried the umbrella from his hands, “Alright, alright. Enough lovey dovey banter. Thanks for your charity. See you tomorrow, Daichi.” He bumped Sugawara and they headed down the sidewalk, waving.

Daichi lifted a hand in reply and after a moment, he turned and headed in the direction of his apartment, paying the rain no mind.

“So,” Tanaka said when they were out of earshot. “What happened to your umbrella?”

“Not important,” Sugawara replied, adjusting the strap of his bag on his shoulder.

“Did someone steal it?”

He sighed, “No. They didn’t steal it. At least not for good. When I wasn’t paying attention… someone had cut out dick shapes in the fabric.”

Tanaka snorted, “Wow.”

“So I tossed it,” Sugawara lifted his chin. “It’s no big deal. I got it cheap at a yard sale anyway.”

“Hm,” Tanaka stared forward as they walked down the sidewalk. “So you’re still determined not to tell Daichi about this?”

“That’s right.”

He tapped the handle of the umbrella, “He knows something is up, you know.”

Sugawara didn’t reply.

“I can see him getting annoyed that no one is talking to him,” Tanaka continued.

“It doesn’t matter,” Sugawara muttered. “No matter how annoyed he gets, he’ll never force me to talk.”

Tanaka glanced down at him, lifting his eyebrows at the hint irritation in his voice. “That’s true. But that won’t stop him from seeking answers somewhere else. He’s not an idiot. Eventually he will hear the rumors.”

“It will have all blown over by the time he does,” Sugawara said, giving a short nod for emphasis.

Tanaka stared forward once more, “We’ll see about that.”


 

“Do you really need to come inside?” Sugawara hissed as they stood outside of the convenience store.

“Is there a reason you don’t want me to come inside?” Tanaka answered, peeking through the window.

“Yeah. You’re annoying!”

Tanaka ignored him and pushed into the store, signaling the bell and alerting Ennoshita of his arrival.

“Welcome,” Ennoshita called apathetically until he noticed Sugawara coming in behind him. “Oh, hey.”

“Hey Chikara,” Sugawara muttered and shoved around Tanaka.

Tanaka followed as he went to the counter.

“Hello!” he said to Ennoshita, smiling.

“Afternoon,” he nodded.

“You don’t have to be nice to him,” Sugawara said sourly.

“Now, now, I’m a paying customer, you know? You should treat me more gently,” Tanaka leaned against the counter, smirking.

Ennoshita stared at him for a moment before glancing at Sugawara, “Boyfriend?”

“Hell no,” Sugawara snapped. He turned to Tanaka, “Okay, you’ve seen where I work. Now please leave.”

“Not until I get a pack of cigs,” Tanaka said, straightening and pulling his wallet from his back pocket. “Shouldn’t you be getting changed?”

Sugawara grumbled as he stomped to the backroom.

Tanaka grinned at Ennoshita, “We’re great friends, honest.”

“What brand?” he asked, turning to the wall of tobacco products.

“Give me some Reds,” he said, pulling bills from his wallet.

Ennoshita scanned the pack, not looking at Tanaka.

“Chikara, was it?” Tanaka eyed him closely.

“That’s what they call me,” he replied dully.

“How long you been working with Suga?”

Ennoshita sighed, “I dunno. A year maybe?”

“Ya don’t say.”

“I do.” Ennoshita leaned over the counter and grabbed a Snickers, which he also scanned and then opened, taking a bite with eyes locked on Tanaka.

Tanaka narrowed his eyes and passed over the money for the cigarettes and the candy.

Ennoshita popped open the cash register and said, “So the fact that you're treating me suspiciously means that I was right, huh?”

“Right about what?”

“Right about people targeting Koushi,” Ennoshita slammed the drawer shut and held out Tanaka’s change, chewing sloppily.

Tanaka stared at him for a few seconds before reaching out and taking the change.

“You knew?”

“I had a hunch,” Ennoshita leaned his elbows on the counter and smirked up at Tanaka. “I was right, wasn’t I? He’s been acting weird the past two days. Not his usual cheerful self. And he thanked me for not making a big deal out of finding out he's got a boyfriend. I figured it was because there were a few people that did make a big deal out of it. Huh?”

Tanaka lifted the pack of cigarettes and peeled it open, “Some bastards have been harassing him at university.”

“Oh?”

“I don’t know the full extent of it,” Tanaka slid a cigarette out of the pack and tucked it in the corner of his mouth. “Stubborn guy won’t tell me the full story.”

“What about his boyfriend?”

Tanaka shook his head, “He doesn’t know about it. Not yet. Suga refuses to tell him and won’t let me do it. Says he’s going to take care of it in his own way.”

Ennoshita was quiet for a moment before straightening away from the counter. “I wouldn’t worry about it too much. Koushi’s tougher than he looks.” He tossed the candy wrapper into the trash and finished off his treat.

Tanaka pulled his lighter from his pocket, “I wouldn’t be worrying about him if he actually intended to stand up for himself. But the damn idiot thinks he can fight fire with smiles and sunshine so damn straight I’m worried about the little fucker.”

Ennoshita snorted.

“I can smoke in here, right?” Tanaka said as he lit his cigarette and inhaled deeply.

“I don’t care.”

Tanaka slid the lighter back into his pocket and then examined Ennoshita closely. After a moment, he reached into his bag and pulled out a pen. He flipped over the receipt he received after paying for the cigarettes and scribbled on it.

“Here,” he said, passing the receipt over to him. “My number. If anything happens, give me a call. I want to know about anything suspicious.”

“Hmm…” Ennoshita took the receipt, glancing apathetically at the number. “You give off a cute big brother type feeling, you know that?”

“I’ll take that as a compliment.”

“You and Kou are pretty close, huh?”

Tanaka hesitated, pulling the cigarette from his mouth and blowing smoke from his nostrils. “Nah,” he finally said. “Not really. But I grew up with Daichi. He’s a bit slow and won’t do a single thing that his partner doesn’t want him to do.” His eyes glazed over as he stared towards the front windows of the store and the rain still pouring outside. “So if there’s anything I can do to pick up the slack in order to keep him and his bratty boyfriend happy… I’ll do it.”

“So are you like, secretly in love with Koushi’s boyfriend or something?”

Tanaka let out a laugh and pinched the cigarette between his lips once more.

“Well, I admit that would make things a little more interesting,” he snickered. “But nah, unfortunately my motives aren’t that tragic.”

The click of the back door opening drew their attention to Sugawara as he emerged into the store, wearing his uniform. When he saw that Tanaka was still hanging around, he scowled.

“Why are you still here?” he snapped. “Go home already! And no smoking in the store!”

“He said I could do it,” Tanaka pointed accusingly at Ennoshita.

Sugawara didn’t look especially surprised as he turned a dull eye to Ennoshita, who winked in response.

“Besides,” Tanaka blew out a puff of smoke, “I had to get at least one in me before plunging back out into that wet wonderland out there.”

“I’m not lending you Daichi’s umbrella.”

“I didn’t ask. Daichi would have my ass in a handbasket if I nabbed it from you anyway.” He let out a sigh and stretched his arms over his head, “Well, guess I’ll take off then.” He looked to Ennoshita, “Nice meeting you. See you tomorrow, Suga,” he gave a wave and left.

Sugawara looked suspiciously at Ennoshita, “What did you guys talk about while I was gone?”

“You.”

Sugawara sighed and rubbed his temples, “I don’t even want to know the details.”


 

“You look kind of tired, Suga,” Asahi said, pausing in the middle of writing in his notebook. “Have you been sleeping okay?”

Tanaka and Daichi turned to him as he yawned for what seemed like the twentieth time since they all gathered together in the university canteen.

“I’m okay,” he said unconvincingly, rubbing his bloodshot eyes, which were accompanied by thick dark bags. “Just been kinda busy with homework and studying.”

Tanaka glanced at Daichi. He obviously wasn’t buying Sugawara’s lie, but didn’t say a word in argument.

“Wow so this is what it’s like when you get diligent, huh?” Asahi on the other hand, ate up the excuse easily. He looked back down at his notebook and scribbled in it absently. “How have you survived this long?”

Sugawara didn’t answer and leaned his chin on the palm of his hand.

“Have you been painting something?” Daichi asked.

Sugawara considerably stiffened, “What makes you think that?”

Daichi pointed at a black mark on his arm, “That’s paint right? Or is it some weird bruise?”

“Uh… uhm…” Sugawara rubbed at the mark, Adam's apple bobbing. “I’ve been painting… a little bit…”

Tanaka narrowed his eyes.

“What have you been painting?”

Sugawara was silent for a long, drawn out moment as he stared at the table. Finally he answered with zero confidence, “A b-boat.” He squeezed his eyes shut as the other three stared at him.

“A boat,” Tanaka repeated, irritation in his voice.

“Yeah. A boat,” Sugawara said, voice weak. “Like that you sail in.”

“I don’t get it,” Asahi said. “Is it some kind of extracurricular thing? Like some club work? But you aren’t in any clubs…”

“Uhm… it’s more like a hobby, or rather… a favor.”

Tanaka glanced up at Daichi to see if he was buying any of this.

He wasn’t.

Big surprise.

“Uh… see… you know how I get food from my neighbor now? Well it’s because he’s the one with the boat. And he wanted it painted. So I’ve been helping him. And he makes me food as payment.”

“Haven’t you been working until late these past couple of days though?” Asahi asked. “When do you have time to paint a boat?”

Sugawara stared at the tabletop and tapped it slowly with his right index finger, “After work. Just a little bit each night, before I go to bed.”

“In the dark?”

“There’s light.”

“But didn’t you just say you’ve been studying every night? Do you really have the time to spare to paint a boat?”

Sugawara swallowed, “It’s okay. It relaxes me.”

Asahi didn’t look convinced.

Big surprise.

Tanaka let out a sigh and leaned back in his seat, deciding to throw him a bone (just this once), “Is it really that surprising? We all know how weird Suga can be. Makes sense that he’d spend what little free time he has painting his neighbor’s boat.”

“I guess you’re right,” Asahi went back to writing in his notebook. “I mean, this is the guy that confessed his love to a straight man out in public.”

“Sh-shut up!” Sugawara’s cheeks flamed red. “What’s that got to do with anything?”

Tanaka glanced at Daichi. His jaw was clenched, the tendon in his temple twitching as his eyes stared somewhere across the canteen.

Not good.

Daichi was getting far too frustrated. If his fury built up too much, then when he did finally find out about the abuse Sugawara had been put through, he was going to cause havoc of criminal proportions.

Tanaka glared at Sugawara as he and Asahi bantered.

Hurry up, Dumbass, he willed him silently. Don’t you know the caliber of the loaded gun you’re playing with?


"Daichi!"

Sugawara slid to a stop next to the man and bent over, hands on his knees as he panted open-mouthed towards the floor. Daichi turned towards him.

"Something wrong?" he asked.

Sugawara looked up, face bright, "I have the short shift tonight!"

Daichi cocked an eyebrow. 

"I don't have to be there until six!" he straightened, wiping the sweat from his forehead with the sleeve of his shirt. "So..." he gulped, "Uh, if you're not busy, I was wondering if you wanted to hang out until then?"

Daichi smiled, "I'm not busy."

A wide grin spread over Sugawara's lips, "Great!"

"What did you have in mind?" Daichi straightened the strap of his bag on his shoulder and cocked his head to the side. "Did you want to get something to eat or-"

"Let's go to the arcade!"

Daichi blinked in surprise, "The arcade?"

"I'm really good at Frogger!" Sugawara held up a fist.

Daichi's eyes widened and he let out a laugh, "You don't say?"

"I do say. I want to show you my skills!" he karate chopped the air, kicking a leg out in front of him. "I'm also pretty good at Galaga. Oh and Centipede! We should play together so I can slaughter you!" his grin turned wolfish.

Daichi snorted, "Is that a challenge, Suga?"

"Oh I'm sorry, did I not make myself clear enough?" Sugawara cocked an eyebrow. "That's my bad. Daichi," he placed a hand on Daichi's arm. "I am going to wipe the floor with you in Centipede. And yes, that's a challenge."

Daichi chuckled, "Well, I guess we will just have to see about that ourselves, now won't we?"

Sugawara grinned wide. After a second, his eyes flickered to the right and the smile slowly faded. He removed his hand from Daichi's arm and cleared his throat.

"A-anyway. Let's go! I'll take you to my favorite arcade. It's really close to the university," he turned and headed down the hallway.

Daichi cocked his head to the side. He glanced over his shoulder in the direction of Sugawara's earlier look. Three students stood a short distance down the hallway, laughing and talking, but other than that, there was nothing.

No indication just what it was that had triggered Sugawara's sudden shift in attitude.

Daichi turned forward and followed after him.

Sugawara Koushi was an open book.

Daichi could read the words across his pages as easily as the words in his philosophy text book.

However, just like the words of his philosophy text book, the expressions on Sugawara's face didn't always make sense to him.

Something had wiped the cheerful grin and the glow of excitement from his face, but as to what that something was... Daichi had no idea.

How annoying...

They walked side by side from the university and Daichi let Sugawara take the lead down the sidewalk towards the arcade. The somber mood he had adopted slowly disappeared and he spoke animatedly about something a coworker had told him about a rumored sighting of Bigfoot somewhere in the west.

"I mean, obviously... Bigfoot isn't real," Sugawara said with a wave of his hand. "Obviously. But like... what if he was?"

Daichi grinned, "Suga, do you believe in Bigfoot?"

"No! I know he's not real! But I'm also just saying that there's a lot of things in this world that we don't know!" he gave him a pointed stare. "They found an entire tribe of people in a forest somewhere in South America that had never made contact with any outside society. If we can overlook an entire people then we can overlook a species of... of..."

"Bigfoot."

"You know what I mean!"

"Yeah, Bigfoot."

"Daichi!"

He laughed.

Sugawara stared up at him for a long second before turning forward, small smile on his lips. Daichi examined him momentarily, glancing down at his hand swinging lightly at his side between them.

Maybe...

Daichi slowly reached out and wrapped his fingers around Sugawara's hand. 

Sugawara jumped in surprise, entire body tensing momentarily before relaxing. His cheeks tinted pink and his Adam's apple bobbed. His eyes darted nervously down at their clasped hands and he gave Daichi's fingers a timid squeeze, which he returned, stifling a smile.

Ah... he's cute.

Sugawara's lips curled slightly in the corners and his steps lightened, cheeks flushed as he stared straight ahead. After a few moments, the smile slowly slipped from his mouth and the color drained from his face. Sugawara gently pulled his hand from Daichi's and cleared his throat into it.

"Ah, it's right over there!" he said, forcing brightness to his voice as he pointed across the street. "Are you ready to get your ass kicked, Daichi?" He smiled up at him but it didn't reach his eyes.

Daichi blinked, "Uh, yeah. I guess..."

"Bring it on!" Sugawara jumped off of the sidewalk and rushed across the road to the arcade.

Daichi followed slowly after, watching his back.

Failed again.

Did Sugawara have an aversion to physical affection? Was Daichi pushing him out of his comfort zone by touching him? 

That couldn't be it. He had smiled. He had looked happy. But then...

He huffed, brow furrowing.

Sugawara Koushi was turning out to be much more complicated than Daichi had imagined.

Inside the arcade, Sugawara grabbed the strap of Daichi's bag and hauled him down a line of games.

"Alright let's start on Centipede and make our way down," he said brightly. "We'll start off strong with me making you cry like a little bitch and then lighten things up with games I'm less overpowered in."

Daichi snorted, "You sure think highly of your abilities."

"For good reason!" Sugawara smirked up at him, "You'll see."

Half an hour later, Daichi saw.

Fuck, he saw.

"Argh!" Daichi gripped at his hair. "The fucking spiders! It's goddamn bullshit! They just fall from the fucking sky and how am I supposed to dodge them in time?"

Sugawara wheezed and doubled over, clutching at his stomach.

"Daichi you suck!"

"Shut up! This game is just broken!"

Sugawara laughed and leaned against the machine.

"Wow," he wiped a tear from his left eye. "The way you were talking, I thought I'd at least have some competition. How embarrassing."

Daichi scrunched up his face and turned away, "I don't want to play this game anymore."

Sugawara laughed and chased after him as he moved down the aisle, "Aw, someone is a poor loser!"

"I'm not!"

"You are."

Daichi stopped in front of a new machine, "Asteroids. I'll kick your ass in this one."

"You are really naive, you know that?" Sugawara hopped next to his side and started dropping coins into the slot. "Asteroids is my third best game."

Daichi turned, "Okay let's play Street Fighter then-"

"Get back here!" Sugawara grabbed the strap of his bag and yanked him back. "I'm not letting you pussy out of this. Besides," he smirked up at him. "Street Fighter is my fourth best game."

"All of these games are rigged," Daichi muttered as he took his place beyond Sugawara's shoulder.

"Uh huh," Sugawara giggled and started up the game. "Keep telling yourself that."

Daichi waited quietly until Sugawara was in the middle of his round, tongue sticking out of the corner of his lips as he stared with utmost concentration at the screen. When he was least suspecting, he covered his hands with his own, jerking the joy stick in the opposite direction and pushing the buttons erratically, careful not to bump Sugawara's splinted fingers.

Sugawara laughed and elbowed him.

"Stop! Cheater!"

"It's not cheating," Daichi argued. "I'm just leveling the playing field..."

"You're cheating and you know it!" Sugawara bumped his hip against his.

They struggled for a few seconds, laughing, until an asteroid slammed into Sugawara's space shuttle and it exploded.

"Noooooo!" Sugawara collapsed to his knees, leaning heavily against the machine.

"Ha!" Daichi stepped away, propping his fists up on his hips triumphantly.

"You monster," Sugawara sobbed dramatically. "He was so young!"

"He died for his country," Daichi nodded. "A true hero."

Sugawara snorted and looked up at him, "You're a fuckin' idiot, you know that?"

Daichi stared down at him for a long moment. His hair was a frazzled mess- as usual- and his round cheeks were flushed bright with color. The corners of his practically glowing brown eyes crinkled as he grinned wide, lips stretching over white teeth.

Cute.

Holy fuck?

He's pretty...

Daichi gulped.

Sugawara climbed back to his feet.

"Fine, let's play a game that I'm bad at," he ran a hand through his hair- which did nothing to tame it- and glanced around. "Oh, how about Paper Boy?"

"Paper Boy?" Daichi followed him to a new machine. "How do you play?"

"Simple, you just deliver people's paper," Sugawara dropped coins into the slot. "I'll go first and show you how it's done."

"I thought you said you were bad at this game?" Daichi narrowed his eyes.

"I'll go first and show you how it's done, poorly," he corrected.

Daichi chuckled.

A few minutes later, it was Sugawara who was groaning about rigged games.

"How have you not gotten hit by a car yet?" he wailed, leaning in on Daichi's side as he clumsily directed his character across the screen, tossing rolled up newspapers through the windows of black houses.

"It's not that hard if you actually take your time," Daichi grinned. "You try to go too fast."

Sugawara grumbled and rested his cheek against Daichi's shoulder, causing his heart rate to jump erratically.

"You're cheating," he muttered. "That's the only explanation."

"Now who is the sore loser?"

"At least I'm not messing you up."

Daichi grinned. He steered around a pair of jerky characters brawling in a driveway, whistling when he nearly crashed into a lawn mower.

Sugawara snickered, the sound vibrating through Daichi's arm. His chest warmed.

Having a boyfriend was... 

Fun.

Daichi couldn't remember the last time he had had this much fun. But whenever it was, it was probably in the company of Tanaka and Asahi, and not one of his numerous exes. Dates with his past girlfriends had been... pleasant enough. But was there ever a time when he had laughed this much? When he had relaxed and felt so carefree?

Maybe it was the arcade. None of Daichi's ex girlfriends had asked to be taken to an arcade. It was always a cafe. It was always a movie or a shopping mall or a zoo. Not that those dates weren't nice. They were calming, in a way. Daichi knew what to do in those situations. He knew how to make small talk. He was good at giving the compliments on a certain dress or jacket or new hairstyle. He never said or did the wrong thing and his date was always happy by the end of it, not having to pay for anything or open a single door for themselves.

Daichi was the perfect boyfriend, after all.

But back then, even though he had felt comfortable in his abilities to make a date pleasant, he had never had fun.

At least, not like this.

"Look out!"

Daichi blinked in surprise, drawing back to the present in time to watch his character slam headfirst into a passing car.

"Ooooo," Sugawara groaned, pretending like he wasn't desperately holding back triumphant giggles. "Slaughtered."

Daichi laughed, "Oh well, I still got the high score."

"Boo!"

"Jealousy is so ugly, Suga," Daichi grinned as he keyed in his name.

Sugawara leaned away, "Psh, I'm not jealous. I can wipe the floor with you in any of these other games. So whatever. Enjoy your win."

"I will, thank you," he cocked an eyebrow and smirked down at him. 

Sugawara smiled warmly for a moment before his eyes flicked to the right. His Adam's apple bobbed in his throat and the smile slowly faded from his face.

"Ah..." he scratched the side of his neck. "How about we play some Rampage next?"

"Sure..."

Sugawara turned and headed across the arcade. Daichi followed.

There it was again. 

That shift in attitude.

Did Daichi do something wrong?

He frowned.

Sugawara stopped in front of the machine and bent to fill it with coins when Daichi said,

"Do you want a soda?"

Sugawara glanced up at him.

Daichi jerked his thumb in the direction of the soda bar on the other side of the arcade.

"Oh, yeah..." Sugawara reached for his wallet but Daichi held up a hand.

"I'm paying."

Sugawara scowled, "No I-"

"I'm not going to take no for an answer so don't even try it," Daichi said sternly. "You always pay. It's my turn for once."

Sugawara's eyes widened slowly and then he let out a snort, capturing it in his hand. His nose scrunched and he giggled, cheeks flushing.

"Okay, if you insist, Daichi. Jeez."

He grinned, "Wait here."

"Yes Captain!" he turned to the machine. "I'll play a round while you're gone!"

Daichi chuckled, "Alright. I'll be right back," he turned and headed across the arcade, smiling softly to himself.

Having a boyfriend was fun.

The man behind the soda bar was busy speaking to a couple of teenagers at the other end and so Daichi leaned his elbows on it and waited patiently for his turn. After a few moments, his attention was drawn to the sound of a voice clearing at his back.

"Sawamura-kun?"

Daichi turned towards the two women standing side by side behind him.

Dread filled his chest.

He smiled, regardless of the uncomfortable way his stomach twisted.

"Yes?"

The woman on the left nudged her friend and she blushed, eyes lowering.

"Uh- uhm..." she clasped her hands together in front of her, "Sorry for bugging you! I noticed you come in and I'm in your philosophy class and well... I-I was wondering... if maybe you'd like to go out sometime? I-if you're not too busy."

No matter how many times Daichi had done it, it was still difficult to turn down a heartfelt confession. He admired the amount of courage it took for a person to bare their soul in front of him. Daichi wished that he could always give them the answer that they desired.

"Sorry," he said gently. "I'm in a relationship. So I can't take you up on that."

The girl's eyes widened, "O-oh! You are? I see..." she rubbed her lips together, "Th-then just forget it. Sorry to bug you..."

"You didn't bug me," he smiled. "I appreciate the offer."

She nodded and then she and her friend turned and headed towards the front of the arcade.

"It's okay," her friend said softly, patting her back. "We'll try again next week."

Daichi gulped and faced forward.

Next week.

She'll try again next week.

He dragged a hand through his hair with a tired sigh. It was true that Daichi's relationships rarely lasted longer than a few weeks. But was that really so widely known that people actually expected each and every one to fail?

Like clockwork.

schedule.

Were his relationships set in stone as doomed in everyone's eyes?

Try again.

Would Daichi really be single this time next week?

If his reputation was any indication, then yeah... he was due for a break-up. This was usually around the time when...

But Sugawara...

Sugawara was different, right?

He didn't...

Daichi didn't want...

He let out another sigh and rubbed his eyes.

Simply put, he didn't want to break up with Sugawara.

"What can I get for you?"

Daichi dropped his hand and ordered two drinks from the soda bartender. After paying, he walked in the direction of the Rampage machine, drinks in hand.

Halfway there, he ran into Sugawara, who walked his way, head ducked, hands tugging on the front of his shirt.

Daichi cocked an eyebrow.

"What's up?" he called as he neared.

Sugawara's head jerked up, eyes wide.

"Uh!" he gulped.

Daichi stared down at the dripping, orange stain on the front of Sugawara's light grey shirt.

"What happened?"

"Oh..." Sugawara blinked rapidly. "Uhm, it's nothing. Someone just accidentally bumped into me and... spilled their soda."

Daichi furrowed his brows.

"It's no big deal," Sugawara smiled weakly up at him. "I was just gonna go rinse it off in the bathroom. I'll... be right back," he sidestepped around him.

Daichi hesitated and then set the sodas down on a nearby table. 

He followed Sugawara to the bathroom and stood to the side and watched as he immediately turned water on the faucet and pulled his bag up and over his head. He set it on the floor and tugged his shirt under the sink, wetting the stain. Orange water flowed down into the drain.

Daichi didn't speak, struggling to read the expression on the face in the reflection of the mirror over the sink.

"I sure have gotten clumsy lately," Sugawara said brightly, though his voice failed to force the lightness into his words. "First I fail my review quiz, then I fall down the stairs... lose my umbrella..." he swallowed and went silent.

Daichi didn't speak for long moments, staring as Sugawara drenched his shirt under the faucet, eyes cast to the task.

Eventually, Daichi let out a deep breath and removed his bag from across his chest.

"Here," he said, grabbing the hem of his hoodie. He pulled it up and over his head, sliding it off of his arms and then straightening it. "Take off that shirt and wear this."

Sugawara turned and stared at him with wide eyes.

"Huh?"

"You can't walk around like that," Daichi pointed at the dripping front of his shirt.

"B-but..."

"Not taking no for an answer," he smiled ruefully. "So don't even try it."

Sugawara hesitated, eyeing the hoodie warily for long seconds. Finally, he twisted the knob for the faucet, shutting the water off. He gathered up the front of his shirt and wrung it out over the sink. When most of the water was squeezed out of the fabric, he took the hem and pulled it up and over his head.

Daichi dragged his eyes over the pale expanse of skin, ignoring the uncomfortable heat that filled him at the sight. A soft speckling of freckles dotted randomly across Sugawara's chest and stomach, and Daichi found them strangely... endearing.

Which was silly. They were just freckles. They were only small beauty marks that marred his otherwise perfectly smooth, milky complexion.

They certainly didn't warrant the increase in Daichi's heart rate and hitch to his breath that came shortly after laying eyes on them.

Sugawara set the shirt down on the edge of the sink, used a paper towel to dry his hands and stomach, and then took the hoodie from Daichi's hands. His cheeks tinted a pleasant shade of pink as he thrust his arms inside and pulled it down over his head and shoulders. His head popped out from the hood, hair standing up wildly, and Daichi chuckled at the sight.

Sugawara stretched his arms out, gazing down at the navy blue fabric reverently.

"It's big," he said softly, lips curling in a gentle smile.

Daichi's mouth went dry and his heart clenched.

Seeing Sugawara in his clothes was...

Cute.

"I'll wash and return it," Sugawara promised, grinning up at him, flapping the too wide sleeves.

"Keep it."

Sugawara blinked, eyebrows lifting, "Huh?"

Daichi's face warmed and he looked away, "Ah... I just thought... maybe you could... keep it."

Sugawara was silent for long seconds and Daichi awkwardly pulled his bag back over his chest.

"I mean, if you want. It's just that you never let me buy you anything, so I figured you could accept... something like this."

He glanced nervously in Sugawara's direction, adjusting the strap of his bag. A slow smile crept over Sugawara's face and he averted his eyes to the floor.

"Well... if you insist," he grabbed his shirt and wrung it out one more time before thrusting it into his bag and draping it across his chest. "Now come on!" he grabbed Daichi's hand and tugged him towards the door, walking backwards as he grinned brightly up into his face. "I gotta show you how good I am at Rampage!"

Daichi smiled and followed.

"Just don't feel bad when I make you look like a total loser, okay?" Sugawara's smile turned crooked.

Daichi laughed, "Gee, I'll try my best."

"And I'll try my best to not make you cry. Too much."


 

“You look like shit.”

Sugawara lifted his eyes to Ennoshita, “Huh?”

He slammed his locker shut and turned towards him, “You look like shit. You’ve got huge bags under your eyes, your hair’s a mess, you’re pale, you’ve been walking around the store like a zombie all day… and now look at what you’ve done with your buttons.”

Sugawara glanced down at his shirt to see that he had royally fucked up the buttons, matching them up with all the wrong holes.

“Damn it,” he muttered and pulled at them once more.

Ennoshita walked up and took over the task quietly. Sugawara sighed and dropped his arms to his sides.

“You need to relax,” Ennoshita said dully. “Come drinking with me tonight. Wash your worries away with some whiskey.”

“Thanks, but I have something to do tonight.”

“Isn’t that the story every night?”

“I’m a busy guy.”

“I can see that.”

Sugawara closed his locker and grabbed his bag off of the ground, slinging it over his shoulder. “Some other time. Promise.”

“Mmm…” Ennoshita pulled a leather jacket on over his plain white t-shirt. “Sure thing.”

The two made their way out of the store and Ennoshita locked the door behind them. At the end of the alley, they said their goodbyes and headed in opposite directions.

Ennoshita reached into the inside of his jacket and pulled a fat cigar from the pocket there. He hummed softly under his breath as he tucked it into his mouth and searched for the lighter in his jeans pocket. As he did, three bodies peeled away from the darkness beside the convenience store and headed down the sidewalk in the direction Sugawara had gone.

Ennoshita lit his cigar and slid the lighter back into his pocket, turning to watch the dark forms pick up their speed.

He inhaled deeply and plucked the cigar out of his mouth, breathing out a large cloud of smoke in a heavy sigh.

Kid’s hopeless, he thought, staring across the street absently. He pulled out his cell phone and scrolled through his contacts, stopping on the name, ‘Bald Guy’.

Ennoshita puffed on his cigar for a moment, contemplating whether he should give him a call or intervene himself.

He had no idea who the they were but if they thought he didn’t know their motive for hanging around the convenience store for the past two hours, occasionally peeking through the window and searching until spotting Sugawara as he made use of his time on the clock, then they were obviously idiots.

The question was: were they the kind of idiots Ennoshita felt like dealing with?

Before even drinking a single drop of whiskey?

“Hey!” a voice faintly called out from down the sidewalk.

Ennoshita let out another sigh and turned back towards the direction Sugawara had gone, sliding the phone into his jeans. He puffed nonchalantly on his cigar, left hand in his pocket as he made his way towards the small group of people making a fuss in the dark.

“I just want to go home,” Sugawara said with a tight voice. “Please let me pass.”

“And we just wanna hang out for a little bit,” a guy in a grey sweatshirt with the hood pulled up and over his head said, grin glowing in the darkness cast over his face as he blocked the sidewalk in front of Sugawara. The two other men flanked him on either side, cutting off any escape route.

“Maybe some other time,” Sugawara said, gripping the strap of his bag with tight fingers.

“Aw, he’s being shy,” one of the other men said, snickering.

“Yo,” Ennoshita called, drawing all four men’s attention. He pulled his cigar from his mouth and blew out the smoke. “Can Koushi hang out with you guys a different night?”

“Huh?” the man closest to him turned in his direction.

“He kinda promised me we’d go drinking tonight,” Ennoshita flicked his ashes to the sidewalk.

“Who the hell are you?” the guy in front asked, voice terse.

“You mean you hung around outside our store all night like some pervert stalkers and don’t recognize me?” Ennoshita stepped close to the nearest guy, cocking his hip and leaning towards him with a grin. “You sayin’ I ain’t as pretty as Koushi?”

He took a step back. “You some kind of fag or something?”

Ennoshita walked up and put an arm around Sugawara’s shoulders, “Why, you want to take me out on a date?”

“In your dreams!” one of the others barked, face distorted in disgust.

“Pity,” he steered Sugawara out from the middle of their cage. “It’s obvious you guys know how to show a guy a good time.”

Ennoshita led Sugawara down the sidewalk without so much as a backwards glance, puffing on his cigar casually.

He waited until they were out of earshot before saying, “You okay?” keeping his dull stare straight ahead.

Sugawara let out a shuddering breath, head dropping forward, hiding whatever expression he wore.

“How many times have they done that to you?”

“Just once,” he muttered.

“They ever touch you?”

“Not in the way you’re thinking.”

Ennoshita flicked his ashes absently, “Called the cops?”

“What for? All they do is say some nasty shit to scare me and then leave.”

“Looks like tonight they were planning on a little more than just that.”

“I would’ve killed them if they laid a finger on me,” Sugawara’s voice lowered.

Ennoshita grinned, “Atta boy. Now, how about you drown your sorrows in some well-deserved whiskey?”

Sugawara finally lifted his head , “Yeah. That sounds great.”


 

“One more bar!” Sugawara thrust his fist into the air and stomped clumsily down the middle of the dark street.

“Hey, don’t you have class tomorrow?” Ennoshita stumbled after him, scratching the back of his head with a wince. There was definitely going to be a bump in the morning.

“Ah…” Sugawara slowed and stood swaying, shoulders slumped. “Right. School…” He turned and headed the opposite direction. “I should go home.”

Ennoshita caught up to him and draped his arms over his shoulders, pressing into his back and resting his chin on Sugawara’s light hair. “Kou, lemme crash at your house, okay?”

“Huh?” Sugawara reached up and wrapped his fingers around Ennoshita’s wrists. “Why?”

“It’s closer than my place. I’m too fucked to make it back there on my own. Okay?”

He groaned, “I don’t know, it’s too much of a pain…”

“It’s cool. I’ll just crash on the couch and see myself out in the morning, no biggie.”

Sugawara let out a heavy, drawn out sigh before finally agreeing, “Fine. Then you pay for a cab to take us there.”

Ennoshita pulled away from him and walked at his side, “No way. I used all my cash on booze. Let’s just rough it.”

“Stingy!”

They klutzily marched down the streets for Sugawara’s home, deviating occasionally to chase after a plastic bag or stray cat.

Finally, around two a.m., they neared Sugawara’s apartment building.

“It’s at the end of this street,” he said, grabbing Ennoshita’s wrist and shaking it up and down.

“’kay,” he yawned, dragging his feet.

“Ennoshita, your tolerance is high, isn’t it?”

“Hm? Not particularly. I’m just about as drunk as you are,” he rubbed his eyes sleepily.

“But I only drank half of what you did,” Sugawara climbed up from the street to the curb of the sidewalk and turned right.

“Isn’t your tolerance just too low?”

“Is that it?” Sugawara went to a metal staircase on the side of a building and climbed. “I guess so. I don’t drink that often.”

Ennoshita grabbed the railing and followed, “Well I’m a little bigger than you too. That could be it. And I had some cheese sticks at the second bar.”

“No way! Why didn’t you share?” They headed across the outside walkway of the building.

“You were playing darts with some old dude.”

“Oh…” Sugawara stopped in front of the last door and started fumbling around in his bag for the key. “Yeah that geezer was really good at darts. He kicked my ass sideways all three games we played.”

Ennoshita leaned against the walkway’s railing, eyes closed for a moment as the world tipped. He needed some water. Sugawara continued to rant on about his adventures challenging an assortment of bar flies to a variety of bar games as Ennoshita breathed the night air in deeply. Unfortunately, the air, which should’ve smelled refreshing, was overshadowed by the harsh chemical stench of fresh paint.

“Hey,” he opened his eyes, “Does it smell like—” the words died in his mouth as he took in the sight of Sugawara’s apartment door for the first time. He straightened away from the railing, eyebrows sliding together. “Hey… what’s with your door?”

“Huh?” Sugawara finally found his key and held it up. He glanced at the door and then back at Ennoshita. “Uhh… Oh. That’s… yeah whatever. I’ll take care of it tomorrow.”

Ennoshita ran his eyes over the disgusting graffiti in disbelief. Those punks were willing to go so far as to vandalize his home? And he just brushed it off like it was nothing? How many times had they done this in the past?

Sugawara unlocked the door and pulled it open. He hummed happily as he went inside and Ennoshita hesitated a moment before following.

“Ahhhh, I’m pooped!” Sugawara tossed his bag to the floor next to the hallway table and stumbled into the kitchen, flipping lights on as he went. Ennoshita closed the door behind him, glancing off to the side, where a can of paint and a paintbrush wrapped in a plastic bag sat next to a dirty towel and rusty screwdriver.

The sound of the refrigerator opening drew Ennoshita’s attention. Sugawara pulled out a gallon of water and popped the lid off. He drank from it greedily, eyes squeezed shut. Water sloshed over the corners of his mouth and slid down his chin before dribbling on his shirt, but he paid it no heed. When he had his fill, he lowered the gallon and let out a satisfied sigh. He wiped his mouth with his sleeve and offered the gallon to Ennoshita.

“Need some?”

“Thanks,” Ennoshita took it and Sugawara headed towards the living room, kicking his shoes off along the way.

“I’ll grab you a sheet and pillow,” he called as he went to the hallway closet.

Ennoshita drank from the water gallon and then replaced it in the refrigerator. When he moved into the living room, Sugawara emerged from the hallway with arms full of bedding. He dropped them on the couch, grabbing the arm rest to steady himself as he swayed and nearly fell.

“Okay. There you go,” he straightened. “Uhm… bathroom is the second door on the right. Help yourself to anything in the fridge. Not that there’s much… but yeah… You good?”

“Can I smoke in here?” Ennoshita asked.

“Crack a window,” Sugawara turned. “I’m going to bed. Night.”

“Night.”

Ennoshita sloppily made his bed on the couch and then threw the window open and collapsed on the couch with a lit cigarette. He pulled his phone from his pocket and unlocked the screen. He pulled up Tanaka’s number and called, leaning back and sucking deeply on his cigarette.

“Hello?” Tanaka answered after a few rings.

“Yo,” Ennoshita blew out a puff of smoke.

“And this is?”

“Chikara. Koushi’s coworker.”

“Ah. Snickers.”

Ennoshita didn't acknowledge the nickname.

“What do you want?” Tanaka pressed.

“You told me to call if anything happened, right?”

This time Tanaka didn’t reply.

“S’that mean you don’t want to hear what I’ve got to say?”

“Is Suga alright?”

“He’s fine. Drunk. But fine.”

“Are you with him right now?”

“Yeah. I made him go drinking with me so I’m crashing at his house now.”

“So tell me what happened.”

Ennoshita pulled the cigarette from his mouth and explained everything that had happened that night, from the several hours that the stalkers had hung around the convenience store to the graffiti on his door.

“I think they’ve done it before,” Ennoshita said, grinding his cigarette out on a dirty plate on the coffee table. “He didn’t seem surprised at all to see it and even has a paint can and brush ready just inside the apartment.”

“Mother fuckers,” Tanaka muttered.

“Personally, I don’t think he should walk anywhere alone anymore,” Ennoshita continued. “They’ve proven tonight that they’re planning something nasty if they can get him by himself.”

“Shit…” Tanaka sighed. “Alright. I’ll be over there in half an hour. Open the door for me, okay?”

“Are we going to have a slumber party?” Ennoshita smirked.

“That’s right. Careful, I dominate in pillow fights.”

“I’ll believe it when I see it.”

 

Chapter Text

“Ah! You bastards drank all of my beer!”

Tanaka roused from his slumber and slowly sat up, rubbing his left eye.

“Eh?” he blinked blearily until he spotted Sugawara in the kitchen, glaring at him over the breakfast nook.

“I had a full pack of beer in here last night and now it’s gone!” Sugawara said, pointing over his shoulder at the refrigerator.

Tanaka reached over to a can of beer on the coffee table next to him. He took a drink drowsily and let out a sigh, “I just wanted to get on your guys’ level.”

“You said I could help myself to whatever was in the fridge,” Ennoshita mumbled as he rolled over on the couch, not even bothering to open his eyes.

Sugawara sighed and moved back into the kitchen, “What are you even doing here, Tanaka?”

He leaned his back against the couch and sipped the warm, flat beer apathetically, “Was in the neighborhood.”

“Bullshit.”

Tanaka eyed Sugawara silently for a moment as he drank thirstily from a gallon of water.

He elbowed Ennoshita awake.

“Hm? Ah?” he stirred and lifted his head lethargically.

“I thought you said he was fine,” Tanaka muttered under his breath as Sugawara moved around the kitchen, grumbling to himself.

“He is,” Ennoshita yawned. “I watched over him properly.”

“Then what’s with the fat lip and the cut on his cheek?”

Ennoshita glanced at Sugawara absently, “Ah that’s nothing. Just a souvenir from the bar fight we got into last night.”

“A bar fight? With who?”

“Dunno. Some drunks getting a little too rowdy during a game of pool. Got us kicked out too.”

Tanaka scowled.

Daichi was going to flip.

“We won, in case you were wondering,” Ennoshita yawned. “Kid’s got balls, gotta admit. Fights like a honey badger. No technique but a ton of energy.”

Tanaka let out a grunt and pulled a cigarette from the pack lying on the table.

“Gimme one,” Ennoshita thrust a hand over his shoulder.

Tanaka handed the cigarette over and grabbed another.

“I don’t have anything to eat here,” Sugawara told them as he came around the breakfast bar into the living room. “So don’t expect breakfast in bed.”

“Well it’s true this ain’t exactly a resort,” Tanaka mumbled, cigarette bouncing in the corner of his mouth.

Sugawara bent and picked up a lighter on the other side of the table and tossed it to him. “I’ve got class in an hour so I’m gonna take a shower.”

“Take one for me too,” Ennoshita said, taking the lighter from Tanaka and lighting his cigarette.

Sugawara ignored him and headed to the bathroom.

Once the door shut behind him, Tanaka sighed, blowing out a puff of smoke. “So now what do we do?”

“We?” Ennoshita sat up and leaned against the couch’s backrest. “There ain’t no we, Buddy. I did what you asked. That’s all.”

“You saying you don’t care what happens to him?”

“Hey, if I see it happen in front of my face, I’ll stop it. But more than that?” he shook his head. “I’m not into extracurricular activities.”

“You’re a piece of shit.”

“Kou doesn’t want our help anyway, so why go through the effort? I told you before, the kid’s tough. He can take care of himself.”

“And I told you that he’s not even trying to take care of himself!”

“So that makes it your duty to watch over him?”

Tanaka turned and glared at him.

Smoke curled and billowed around Ennoshita’s dull expression as he stared back, unblinking. “You’re just sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong.”

Tanaka opened his mouth to argue but Ennoshita didn’t give him the chance.

“You can’t help someone that doesn’t want to be helped,” he leaned forward and flicked his ashes on the plate they had been using as an ash tray all night. “That’s just the way it is. I suggest you just give it up.”

Tanaka clicked his tongue and looked away.

Ennoshita watched him for a moment, “Seriously, what’s your deal? Why are you so obsessed with this? You said yourself that you and Kou aren’t even that close. What’s driving you to be such a busybody?”

Tanaka was silent for a short time, tugging on a loose thread on the knee of his jeans.

“I’ve seen this shit before,” he finally said in a low voice. “A kid in my high school was outed in our sophomore year and he was just tortured by the other guys.”

Ennoshita cocked an eyebrow.

“It started out as just teasing and what not but slowly progressed to some seriously fucked up shit. I wasn’t friends with the guy so I mostly ignored it… but…” he paused to take a deep drag from his cigarette, staring off across the room. “One day, me and Daichi caught them in the locker room. We got there before they could do anything too dangerous, but… didn’t matter. Damage was done, you know?” He leaned forward and ground his cigarette out. “Intent is enough to traumatize a guy.”

Ennoshita let out a soft sigh.

“Anyway. I had never seen Daichi so pissed before in my life. He beat the living shit out of the pricks and was suspended from school for a whole week. Almost expelled.” He scowled, “I couldn’t understand it. Daichi didn’t know this kid. They weren’t friends. And yet he had stuck his neck out for him and was even punished for it.” He pulled his knees up to his chest and folded his arms on top of them, “I didn’t understand it, yeah. But in that moment, when Daichi jumped in and started throwing punches and pulling the pigs off of the kid…” he let out an airy laugh, “Man he looked really cool.”

Ennoshita leaned over him and ground out his cigarette butt.

“Daichi does whatever he thinks is right, no matter the consequences and I really admire that part of him. Maybe that’s why I’m so desperate right now,” he scrubbed at his shaved head. “If I just stood by and watched while Suga was being tormented like this, I wouldn’t feel like I had any right to stand on equal ground as Daichi. I’d be too ashamed to even call myself his friend.” Tanaka straightened and let out an exasperated breath, “And that just pisses me off! So there’s no way I’m gonna stop!”

Ennoshita chuckled, “You’re in too deep.” He stacked his hands behind his head and stared at the ceiling. “Admiration, huh?” He chewed it over for a moment before saying, “I guess I can kinda relate.”

The sound of footsteps drew both of their attention to the hallway. Sugawara walked into the living room, wearing nothing but a towel tied loosely around his waist. He glanced at them momentarily and scowled before heading for the kitchen.

“You guys are still here?”

“What, and miss this opportunity to see you in a towel?” Tanaka lifted his phone from the coffee table and opened his camera.

“Sorry, but I only like Daichi,” Sugawara said, walking back into the living room with the nearly empty water jug, which he lifted to his lips. “Don’t you need to get ready for class?” he asked before taking a long drink.

Tanaka snapped a photo as he answered, “I’m ready whenever.”

Sugawara lowered the water gallon and wiped his mouth with the back of his forearm. “You’re ready? In the clothes you slept in and without brushing your teeth?”

“What’s the point in brushing them when I’m just gonna smoke three cigs on the walk to the school?” he said absently as he attached the photo to a text message and sent it to Daichi with the caption, What a view.

“Those things are going to rot your enamel,” Sugawara scolded as he finished up the water and then tossed the empty gallon into the trash. “It’s a waste of perfectly straight teeth.”

“Wanna lend me your brush then?”

“Fuck no.”

“Then quit nagging me.”

Sugawara looked to Ennoshita, “And what about you? What are your plans? Just going to vegetate on my couch all day?”

“Can I?”

“No.”

“Then I guess I’ll bounce,” he sighed and rose to his feet, stretching his arms over his head.

“You know where the door is,” Sugawara said and headed back down the hall.

“He sure has gotten sassy in his old age,” Ennoshita said as he gathered up the bedding from the couch.

“He’s all sunshine and unicorn farts around Daichi and then a willful brat when he’s gone,” Tanaka agreed.

"Ungrateful."

"Ungrateful is right."


 

Daichi stared down at the text message, left eyebrow twitching in annoyance.

Why was it that Tanaka seemed to spend more time with Daichi’s boyfriend than Daichi did?

Why was it that Tanaka got to see Daichi’s boyfriend in nothing but a towel before Daichi did?

And why the hell was Sugawara’s face bruised like that?

On top of that, why did Daichi’s gut churn with uncomfortable heat at the sight of Sugawara’s pale, lean stomach and toned thighs?

He gulped and shoved his phone into his pocket.

It’s just unexpected.

That’s all.

Daichi didn’t expect to receive a near naked photo of his boyfriend so early in the morning.

That’s all.

He traveled across his apartment, grabbing a light jacket and his bag along the way.

Normally, Daichi and Sugawara didn’t walk to school together in the morning due to the fact that all of Daichi’s morning classes started an hour or two later than Sugawara’s.

But today… Daichi got the sudden urge to leave a little earlier than usual.

He gazed at the picture from Tanaka as he rode the elevator down to the first floor, contemplating whether or not he should reply.

What would he say? If Sugawara were a woman, he would probably write an angry text threatening to kick Tanaka’s ass for ogling her half naked body.

But… Sugawara was a man.

And typically a man seeing another man in a towel- or even naked- wasn’t really that big of a deal, right?

Judging by the casual posture Sugawara had in the photo, he seemed unconcerned by the attention.

So was Daichi even allowed to be angry?

Was Daichi even angry?

A little annoyed, maybe.

But mostly because it seemed that Tanaka spent more time with Daichi’s boyfriend than Daichi did.

Mostly because it seemed that everyone was keeping secrets from Daichi.

Mostly because it seemed like Sugawara was drawing himself ever-so-slightly away from him.

And mostly because it seemed like Tanaka was helping.

So yeah, that was kind of annoying.

Because Daichi didn’t like to be in the dark.

He shoved his cell phone back into the pocket of his jeans as the elevator slowed to a stop. The doors slid open and he walked out into the apartment lobby. He nodded to the doorman on his way past and then turned down the sidewalk in the direction of Sugawara’s apartment.

Why was Tanaka at Sugawara’s place anyway? And so early in the morning too? Tanaka didn’t have class until eleven that day, right? Did he sleep over?

Why not me?

Daichi let out a small huff and straightened his shoulders.

He knew it was childish.

But why not me?

Was it because they were dating? Maybe Sugawara was too nervous to have Daichi sleep over. Maybe it was easier for him to spend the night with friends than with his boyfriend. But it wasn’t like Daichi would touch him. Not unless he wanted him to.

So why not me?

Daichi didn’t like to be left in the dark.

But he hated being followed even more.

He slowed to a stop at the corner and turned towards the silver Cadillac creeping down the street behind him. He gave the tinted windshield a stern glare and lifted his right hand, middle finger extended.

After a short pause, the Cadillac's right blinker lit and the car turned down a side street in the opposite direction.

Daichi waited until it disappeared completely from view before facing forward once more and continuing on.

“I said I’d do it!”

Daichi lifted his eyes across the street. His gaze fell on Sugawara’s apartment on the second floor.

Sugawara stood outside the door with two others, one of them Tanaka and the other an unfamiliar man with neat black hair.

“Look! So sloppy!” Sugawara pointed down at the walkway in front of his apartment. “If you were going to do it poorly then you should’ve just let me do it!”

“Wow, ungrateful child!” Tanaka reached out and ruffled Sugawara’s hair.

The other man said something in a voice too low for Daichi to hear from where he stood.

“Shut the fuck up,” Sugawara snapped and stomped towards the stairs on the side of the building.

The unknown man followed close behind and threw an arm around his shoulders.

Daichi’s left eyebrow twitched.

The trio made it to the sidewalk before spotting Daichi.

Sugawara paused midway of calling Tanaka a dumb bastard as his eyes fell on him across the street.

Daichi lifted a hand in greeting.

“Daichi!”

Sugawara shrugged the other man’s arm off of his shoulders and smoothed down his hair- to no avail- as Daichi crossed the road and joined them on the sidewalk.

Cute.

“I thought we’d walk to class together,” he said, smiling softly.

Sugawara’s face brightened momentarily and then flushed with color.

“Ah, uhm, sure!”

“So this is the boyfriend?” the unfamiliar man leaned his elbow on Tanaka’s shoulder, dragging his bored expression over Daichi’s appearance.

“Oh, uh,” Sugawara turned to him. “Chikara, this is Sawamura Daichi,” he glanced up at Daichi, “This is Ennoshita Chikara. We work together.”

“Nice to meet you,” Ennoshita said, still slowly examining him.

“Likewise,” Daichi smiled, pretending that the dissecting stare wasn’t the slightest bit unnerving.

Or was it annoying?

“Now Daichi,” Tanaka slapped him on the arm. “I know what you’re thinking. And yes, Snickers here is responsible for your boyfriend’s sorry face.”

Daichi’s jaw clenched, eyes flicking towards Sugawara’s bruised cheek.

So he was the one…

“Chikara didn’t do this!” Sugawara pointed at his wound with a firm scowl.

“Yeah, I only hit below the belt,” Ennoshita said dully.

Sugawara turned towards Daichi, “He didn’t hit me, I swear!”

“On purpose,” Ennoshita added.

“Don’t you have some place to be?” Sugawara glared at him.

Ennoshita hesitated, giving Daichi another stare, before removing his elbow from Tanaka’s shoulder and turning down the sidewalk in the opposite direction of the university.

“See you later, Kou,” he waved over his shoulder.

Sugawara and Daichi turned to Tanaka.

“Guess I’ll take off too, then,” he rubbed the back of his head. He and Sugawara shared a silent stare and Daichi pressed his lips in a thin line. “See you two at lunch,” Tanaka chased after Ennoshita. “Yo, Snickers! Let’s share a taxi!”

“Fuck off, Baldy.”

“So harsh!”

Sugawara cleared his throat and Daichi glanced down at him. He flashed him a bright smile and turned towards school.

“Shall we go?”

“Yeah…” Daichi followed as he headed down the sidewalk.

“It’s true,” Sugawara said, stuffing his hands into the pocket at the front of his green hoodie. “Chikara didn’t hit me. Though maybe he is responsible for it. I can’t remember.”

Daichi frowned, “What happened?”

“We went drinking after work last night,” he said sheepishly. “I wasn’t going to, but he always asks and I always turn him down so I felt a little guilty. Uhm, but anyway. We got pretty smashed and may have ended up in a little bar fight with some drunks over a game of pool,” he shrugged. “The details are a little fuzzy. I think we won though!” He smiled up at him.

And Daichi couldn’t help but smile back.

“I’m glad you’re not too hurt,” he said. “It’s kind of dangerous fighting drunks.”

“I’m tougher than I look!” Sugawara held up a fist. “You’d be surprised how well I can hold my own in a fight, Daichi.”

He chuckled, “I’m sure I would.”

“My friends always get into fights and I usually get dragged into them,” Sugawara went on cheerfully.

“Your friends?”

“Yeah!” Sugawara hesitated and then glared up at him, lips pouted out. “I have friends!”

Daichi let out a laugh, “I never said you didn’t. I’ve just… never heard you talk about them before. Do they go to university too?”

“Yeah, well… not this one,” Sugawara faced forward again. “I’m actually from out of town. All my friends went to the university in our hometown while I came here.”

Daichi slid his hands into his pockets and hummed, “Why’d you come here anyway? Is there a special course that the other university didn’t offer or something?”

Sugawara fell silent for a long moment.

“Uhm. Well, actually the reason I came here is really lame and I’m kind of embarrassed to tell you.”

He cocked an eyebrow, “Embarrassed? Why?”

He let out a deep sigh and stared at the sidewalk beneath his feet, “I came here because Risa wanted to come here.”

Daichi stared forward.

Ah.

That’s kind of…

“I know it’s a lame reason!” Sugawara kicked his heel against the sidewalk. “But I really liked her and I didn’t want to break up and long distance sounded hard and so… I followed her here.”

Annoying.

Daichi chewed on the inside of his cheek.

It was annoying that Sugawara followed someone like her to this town. It was annoying that Sugawara was willing to leave behind his friends and family to nurture a relationship with someone like her.

It was annoying how unappreciated the gesture was.

She didn’t deserve him.

“I’m glad I came here though.”

Daichi glanced down at him in surprise. Sugawara smiled up at him, bounce back to his step.

“After all, if I didn’t come here, I probably would’ve never met you. And if I never met you, then I never would’ve had the courage to ask you to date me. And if I never had the courage to ask you to date me, then I wouldn’t be dating you!” His smile stretched into a toothy grin, eyes crinkling in the corners. “So really, I’m glad I came here.”

Daichi smiled, warmth spreading slowly through his chest.

“Me too.”


 

Big Eyes- or Rei, as Sugawara had only recently learned- pressed his palm to the wall next to Sugawara’s head, blocking off his escape route. Sugawara stared steadily up at him as he smirked and stared back down the length of his nose.

Sugawara forced a smile, “Do you need something?”

He didn’t answer for a moment, dragging his eyes slowly across his face.

And Sugawara felt dirty.

And he felt like vomiting.

And he really just wanted to go home.

Because he was just so tired of it all.

“Where you headed off to in such a hurry?” Rei finally said.

“Uhm…” Sugawara glanced down the hallway. “Lunch…”

“Who are you having lunch with?”

Sugawara hesitated, “My friends.”

“Not your boyfriend?”

Sugawara’s eyes darted to the right. Why did the hallway choose to be abandoned now of all times?

“What makes you think I have a boyfriend in the first place?” he asked, lifting his chin slightly.

Rei shifted, and somehow his large body seemed larger. And taller. He seemed closer and darker and much… much more threatening.

Sugawara gripped the strap of his bag with his left hand, holding his breath.

“So? You’re not eating with your boyfriend? Or is he going to be there too?” Rei loomed over him, eyebrows lowering over his dark eyes.

Daichi.

Sugawara had to protect Daichi.

If Rei and the others knew that he was dating Sugawara then…

Sugawara swallowed the dry lump that formed in his throat.

“Just friends. They’re just my friends.”

Rei continued to stare down his nose at him for long, tense seconds. Sugawara’s heart thudded painfully in his chest and his palms turned clammy.

Believe me.

Please believe me.

Rei shifted again, moving slightly away, shrinking from that looming threat to a somewhat… easier to manage threat.

“If that’s so then they won’t mind if you ditch them and eat lunch with me instead, right?”

Sugawara’s eyes widened, “Wh—”

Rei reached down and grabbed the wrist of his injured hand, squeezing tightly. Sugawara winced.

Don’t touch me.

Don’t fucking touch me.

“It’s fine,” Rei said, voice low. “Just come spend a little time with me. It won’t hurt…” he leaned in, pressing his lips close to Sugawara’s left ear, “much.

DON’T FUCKING TOUCH ME.

“Oi! Suga! There you are.”

Rei stepped back, releasing Sugawara’s wrist. He resisted the urge to scrub the feeling of his touch from his skin. They both turned towards the voice.

Tanaka stood at the end of the hall, watching them with hands in the pockets of his jeans. His eyes flickered between the two, lingering on Rei before shifting back to Suga.

“Hurry the fuck up,” he said, voice lowering. “We’re all waiting for you.”

Sugawara pulled his bag up higher on his shoulder and slid out from between Rei and the wall. Rei didn’t move to stop him, but merely watched silently as he padded quickly down the hall to Tanaka’s side.

“Let’s go,” Sugawara muttered when he reached him, sweeping past and turning down the next hall in the direction of the canteen.

Tanaka hesitated for another second and Sugawara hissed,

“Tanaka!” over his shoulder.

He turned and followed.

“What was that about?”

“Nothing,” Sugawara snapped. “Just mind your own business.”

Tanaka huffed, “If you’d just let me help—”

“I’m not bringing you into this!” Sugawara’s voice rose and he sucked in a deep breath as the words reverberated off of the walls around them. He ducked his head, staring at the floor beneath his moving feet as moisture stung his eyes. “Just forget it,” he said, softer. “I’ll take care of it so just forget it.”

“Hey,” Tanaka grabbed his elbow and yanked him against his chest.

Sugawara stiffened as he wrapped his arms around his shoulders and hugged him.

“You’re okay now,” he said, leaning his chin on the top of his head. “I won’t fight the shithead. Sorry for stickin’ my nose in your business. But you’re alright now. So just calm down before you see Daichi or else he’s gonna know somethin’s up. And probably think I was the one pickin’ on you.”

Sugawara gulped and sunk into his chest, hiding his face in his collarbone.

They stood there for a long minute, Sugawara’s eyes closed as he struggled to regain his composure and force the stinging anger and fear down once more.

It’s fine.

I’m fine.

They won’t do anything to me.

It’s just a scare tactic.

Sugawara inhaled deeply. Tanaka stunk of cigarettes but it was a good distraction.

I’m alright.

He reached out and pinched Tanaka on the stomach, “You stink.”

Tanaka rubbed his knuckles on the top of his head, disheveling his already messy hair.

“Don’t make me kick your ass.”

Sugawara giggled and pulled away, wiping at his eyes with the back of his forearm. He lowered it to his side once more and smiled up at him.

“Okay let’s go to lunch before Daichi comes looking for us and sees you trying to make a move on his boyfriend.”

“Ew, as if. If I liked dudes I’d pick a way hotter guy than you.”

“No such person exists!”

Tanaka laughed and ruffled his hair again as they pushed through the door to the canteen.

Sugawara swept his eyes eagerly across the large room until he found Daichi sitting at a table across from Asahi. He perked and rushed in their direction, Tanaka following behind.

“Daichi, I can’t believe you sent your dog out to come find me,” he said cheerfully as he slid into the chair next to his.

“Watch it,” Tanaka sat next to Asahi. “This pooch will bite.”

Sugawara stuck his tongue out at him and he returned the action, adding an extended middle finger to the insult.

Sugawara looked up at Daichi and smiled.

He cocked an eyebrow, “What’s wrong with your eyes? They’re all red.”

Sugawara hesitated for a moment and then rubbed them with the back of his wrist, “They hurt from staring at the computer all day! Government is going to kill me!” He dropped his hand in time to see Tanaka roll his eyes.

“I’m surprised, Suga,” Asahi said, twisting the lid off of his tea. “You’re much more studious than I thought you were.”

“Is that an insult?”

“N-no. It’s just surprising. That’s all.”

Tanaka pushed to his feet once more, “Well, I’m gonna get a drink from the vending machine, anyone want something?”

“I want apple juice!” Sugawara dug in his pocket for his wallet.

“Nope, put it away. It’s on me.”

“Ah! Fuck you! Get back here, let me pay—”

Daichi placed a hand on Sugawara’s shoulder and stood. Sugawara glanced up at him questioningly.

He smiled, “I’ll buy you one.”

“But—”

“Not taking no for an answer.”

Sugawara pouted his lips but Daichi didn’t wait around for more complaints. He and Tanaka headed across the canteen.

“You should just let him buy you stuff,” Asahi said, sipping his tea. “It’s not like he’s short on cash or anything.”

Sugawara faced him, “Hm? But… he doesn’t have a job, right?”

Asahi paused, eyes growing wide.

“Where does he get money?”

“Err… uhh…” Asahi looked right and left, as if hunting for a path to flee. “Uh, anyway!” he choked and coughed loudly into the crook of his elbow. “So… are you doing anything fun this weekend?”

Sugawara decided to allow the change in conversation lest Asahi literally fall into an anxiety induced coma.

“Actually, me and Daichi are going to the boardwalk!” he said happily, opening his bag and pulling out his lunch.

“Oh? That sounds fun. A date, huh?”

Sugawara grinned wide, “Yeah. Our first official date. I’m really excited for it.” He paused and then slapped a hand down on the table, surprising a jump out of Asahi, “Whatever you do, don’t tell Tanaka!

Asahi blinked at him, mouth flapping, “H-huh? Why not?”

“Because he’ll try to ruin it,” Sugawara scrunched his nose.

“Eh? Why would he do that?”

“Because he’s Tanaka and he ruins everything.”

“Uhm…”

Sugawara unrolled his paper sack, “Just don’t tell him. I don’t want anything to ruin my and Daichi’s first official date.”

“Okay…” Asahi chewed his bottom lip and stared down into his tea.

“Just wait,” Sugawara said softly. “It’s going to be perfect.”


 

“What are you doing here?” Sugawara pulled his house keys from his pocket and threw them directly into Tanaka’s smirking face. He turned to Asahi, who stood sheepishly just behind his shoulder. “And you? Fuckin’ traitor!

“S-sorry!” he hid behind Tanaka. “It slipped! I didn’t mean to!”

Sugawara growled and stomped his feet. He looked up at Daichi, who stared steadily at the others without speaking.

“Daichi, let’s go somewhere else!”

Daichi looked down at him, “But we already bought our tickets,” he showed him the stamp on the back of his left hand.

“Yeah… but…” he glared back over at the two intruders.

Tanaka walked up and put an arm around Sugawara’s shoulders.

“Suga,” he said sweetly. “Let’s talk. You and me. Over here,” he dragged him across the path and away from the others.

“I’m going to kill you,” Sugawara muttered when they were out of earshot.

“A date, seriously?” Tanaka’s voice lowered, losing all the easygoing cheer it had earlier.

“Yeah, we’re boyfriends. It’s normal to have dates with your boyfriend.”

“I thought you didn’t want to drag Daichi into your little… problem.

Sugawara jabbed him in the side, “I don’t!”

“And you think it’s safe to go on a date… alone with Daichi at the fuckin’ carnival?”

Sugawara hesitated.

Slowly, they both glanced towards the others. Asahi was speaking, scratching the back of his head anxiously but Daichi seemed to be ignoring him, watching Sugawara and Tanaka with a steady gaze, left eyebrow twitching.

They turned away once more.

“It’s not that big of a deal,” Sugawara said weakly.

“Wouldn’t be, if you told Daichi what was going on,” Tanaka muttered, removing his arm from around his shoulders. “These dudes are bold enough to corner you when you’re alone. They’re violent enough to break your bones. They even graffiti your fucking apartment. Graffiti private property. You don’t think they’d follow you here?”

“I haven’t seen—”

“So just because you haven’t seen them means they’re not there? Because you haven’t been all giddy and heart eyes with Daichi the whole walk here?”

“Sh-shut up.”

Tanaka sighed and rubbed his hand over his shaved head, “Listen. We’ll do our best not to ruin your date. But I just think it’s safer if you have a group with you. They’re cowards. They won’t make a move when you’ve got mean faced Asahi and genuine badass me around. Let alone Daichi, the fuckin’—” he stopped, cutting the line short.

Sugawara cocked his head to the side.

“Ah…” Tanaka cleared his throat. “Anyway. With all three of us around, we’re just ensuring that you’re not gonna get attacked, okay?”

Sugawara pushed a breath through his nose and stared down at the cobbled path beneath his feet.

Finally he let out loud, groaning huff and punched him in the chest.

Fine! Just don’t be annoying! And don’t stick your nose in every two seconds!”

“Okay, just every five seconds.”

“I’ll kill you.”

Tanaka laughed and flicked the center of his forehead. “Okay, c’mon. Your boyfriend is glaring daggers at me right now and I really don’t want to be on the receiving end of his jealousy.”

Sugawara gulped, cheeks flushing with warmth, “He’s not j-jealous.”

“Hm… if you say so.”

They rejoined the others and Asahi let out a sigh of relief.

“Let’s go, Daichi,” Sugawara took the sleeve of his shirt and pulled him down the path in the direction of the boardwalk carnival. “Let’s ride a rollercoaster!”


 

Despite Tanaka and Asahi ruining their date… Sugawara was having fun. Having the others tag along made it feel less like a date and more like just a group of friends hanging out, but it was still fun.

After all, he got to sit next to Daichi on every ride. And he got to pretend he was scared and clutch onto his arm or hand.

And it was fun laughing at Asahi’s terrified tears in line for every ride.

Even Daichi had cracked a grin and chuckled when he screamed so loudly that the actor in the haunted house fell over in surprise.

It was fun.

And Sugawara’s sides hurt from laughing so much.

And his cheeks were tired from smiling so much.

And it was as if all of the exhaustion from the week disintegrated into thin air.

It was easy to forget all about the bullying, the harassment, the graffiti, the tears, when Daichi was struggling so cutely over trying to get a bite from Sugawara’s cotton candy.

Sugawara let out a laugh as he pulled it away yet again, leaving Daichi biting at air, teeth clacking.

Daichi’s eyebrows lowered and he let out a growl, grabbing Sugawara’s hand and yanking the cotton candy towards him. He pulled it too hard, expecting resistance, and ended up smashing his entire face into the blue candy cloud.

Sugawara’s laughter rose almost to the point of becoming a scream and he doubled over, clutching his stomach. Tears stung his eyes as he guffawed. Daichi released his hand and Sugawara peeked up at him.

His face was bright red and he didn’t look at him, blinking rapidly.

“Shut up,” he mumbled and Sugawara laughed harder.

“That was so cute!” he giggled, straightening. Daichi’s face turned redder and Sugawara grinned. “Slick Daichi is super cool but clumsy Daichi is so cute.”

He cleared his throat into his fist.

“Alright,” Tanaka and a somewhat green Asahi approached. “Asahi said he’s gonna spew if we ride anymore spinning rides.”

“Teacups!” Sugawara cheered.

Asahi gagged and turned his face away, holding a hand over his mouth.

“Hm,” Daichi faced them, cheeks losing some of their embarrassed blush, to Sugawara’s disappointment. “How about we ride the Ferris Wheel then? It moves fairly slow and I hear the view from the summit is beautiful.”

“Eh,” Sugawara made a face, “That sounds boring.”

“Sounds romantic,” Tanaka corrected, closing one eye and peeking at Sugawara with the other, lips barely holding back a smug smile.

“Ferris Wheel it is!” Sugawara grabbed Daichi’s wrist and yanked him down the boardwalk. He bit into his cotton candy, stomach growing tight and warm as his heart fluttered.

Was this his chance? The key in his pocket was burning a hole through the fabric. He wanted to give it to him. But every time he managed to get a moment with Daichi alone, Tanaka or Asahi showed up and ruined it.

I want to give it to him.

As they stood in line for the Ferris Wheel, Sugawara waited until Daichi was preoccupied with patting Asahi’s back while he complained and rubbed his eyes before turning to Tanaka.

“You guys ride your own,” he murmured behind his hand.

“What’s this? Are you going to make a move?” Tanaka smirked.

“Bitch, I might.”

He snickered, “Yeah okay. Whatever. We’ll take the one after you. Just remember that we’ll be able to see you guys. So no blowjobs, alright? Hand jobs might be a little more discreet.”

Sugawara swatted at him, cheeks blazing. He laughed and dodged the blows.

Asahi and Daichi turned towards them.

Daichi cocked an eyebrow, “What’s wrong?”

“N-nothing!” Sugawara cleared his throat and faced forward. “D-don’t worry about it.”

Tanaka chuckled evilly and Sugawara whirled to smack him one more time.

When it was their turn, Daichi and Sugawara climbed into the gondola. Asahi moved as if to follow but Tanaka grabbed his shirt and yanked him back.

“Ehh?” Asahi looked down at him. “They can hold eight people—”

“We’ll catch the next one, right?” Tanaka gave him a pointed stare.

A tick of realization crossed Asahi’s face, his mouth forming an O.

“Y-yeah!” he waved at them. “You go on!”

Nice one, Tanaka, Sugawara smiled smugly and sat on the seat across from Daichi. The door closed behind them and the wheel turned slowly to the next gondola.

Sugawara shifted anxiously, crossing his legs, then uncrossing them, crossing his ankles, and then turning towards the window to his right to gaze out towards the ocean.

Calm down.

Calm down.

He already knows you’re going to give it to him.

Calm down.

“You and Tanaka seem to have gotten close recently.”

Sugawara glanced at Daichi. He stared out at the ocean, expression unreadable.

“Oh, I suppose,” Sugawara gulped. “He’s annoying sometimes but also kinda feels like a big brother, you know?”

“Hmm…”

“He’s different from my brother so it’s kind of refreshing, I guess,” Sugawara cleared his throat.

They didn’t speak for a moment as the wheel moved up another fraction.

“What about you, Daichi?” Sugawara smiled brightly at him. “Do you have any siblings?”

Daichi stared at him silently for a long second, eyes wide.

“Uh… yeah. I have a brother.”

“Older or younger?”

“… older.”

“Hmm…” Sugawara leaned his elbow on the lip under the window and gazed out at the gentle waves. “Do you two get along?”

“No.”

Sugawara glanced at him. Daichi’s face had taken on a stiff expression, eyebrows low, lips pressed in a tight line.

“We don’t get along at all,” he leaned back in his seat.

“Why not?”

Daichi’s brows furrowed and he tugged on the front of his shirt.

“Ah,” Sugawara straightened and held up his hands, “You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to. I’m not trying to pry into your family problems or anything…”

Daichi’s brow smoothed and he let out a low chuckle. “It’s alright. We… we’ve never gotten along. We’re only half-brothers. Same dad but different moms.”

Sugawara watched him closely, leaning forward eagerly.

Daichi’s life.

I’m going to learn about Daichi’s life.

Daichi reached up and dragged his fingers through his short black hair. “He’s an okay guy. Really serious. And… I think he means well but…” he frowned. “He tries to control my life. To the point of going to extremes to be sure that things go his way.”

Sugawara chewed on the inside of his cheek.

Controlling.

Sugawara could... relate.

“What about you?” Daichi drew his attention. “You said you have a brother. Is that all?”

“One brother and one sister,” Sugawara smiled.

“Older or younger?”

“Same age!”

Daichi blinked at him in surprise, “Same?”

Sugawara’s smile stretched into a grin and he held up a peace sign, “I’m the youngest of triplets!”

Daichi’s eyes widened, “Wow… really?”

“Hmhm,” Sugawara pressed his hands together between his knees. “Not identical, unfortunately. My brother and sister are both really ridiculously beautiful and then I’m just,” he shrugged, scrunching his nose. “You know.”

Daichi cocked his head to the side, “No… I don’t.”

“Yeah, you know. Like… I’m pretty normal.”

Daichi’s mouth fell open slightly, “Normal?”

“Yeah…”

“That’s what you call normal?”

Sugawara flushed, “Y-yeah. What’s so surprising about it? I’m normal.”

“Suga. You’re not normal.”

“S-so I’m weird?”

Daichi let out a laugh, “Not weird. Pretty.”

Sugawara’s eyes flew wide and he pressed his hands to his cheeks, “P-p-p— What are you talking about?” He looked away hurriedly, “I… I’m not. Uhm… you obviously have never seen a really pretty person. M-my brother is way better looking than me. And my sister has been proposed to four times and she’s barely in her twenties. I… I still look like I’m in high school and can’t go out into the sun without three layers of sunscreen.”

“And that makes you not beautiful?”

“B-b-b—” Sugawara stumbled over the word and bit his tongue. He blinked rapidly and stared through the window as they shifted slowly into a higher position on the wheel. “Uhm… okay so anyway… I get along pretty well with my siblings,” he forced the conversation away from the uncomfortable subject. “Uhm… but they get into a lot of trouble! Like all the time. And I’m not really all that responsible myself so when I try to help bail them out… it doesn’t go too well.” He lowered his eyes, “Actually… I usually make it worse and end up having to get bailed out myself…”

Daichi chuckled.

“They kind of baby me,” Sugawara added sheepishly. “But not in a nice, big brother, big sister kind of way. More like a you’re useless without us kind of way,” he made a face. “But at least I don’t start fights like they do! So in a way, I think I’m the big brother. Because I’m not as irresponsible,” he gave a firm nod.

Daichi hummed, “Sounds nice.”

“I’ll introduce you one day!” he brightened. “Er… if you want.”

Sugawara peeked up at him. Daichi’s lips turned up in a soft smile and his gaze was warm. Sugawara’s fingertips tingled.

“I’d like that,” he said.

Sugawara shifted and the key in his pocket stabbed into his thigh.

Now. I can give it to him now.

The wheel turned until they were at the very summit. Sugawara glanced at the ocean and then back at Daichi.

“Uhm… Daichi…” he reached into his pocket. “I—”

Daichi’s eyes slid over Sugawara’s shoulder and he let out a sudden snort into his fist, turning away.

Sugawara blinked in surprise, “What?”

“No…” Daichi shook his head and held up a hand. “No. Nothing. Don’t turn around.”

“What? What is it?” Sugawara turned on his seat and gazed through the gondola’s window.

Directly across from them, Tanaka’s and Asahi’s gondola rocked slightly. Pushed up against the window facing them was Tanaka’s bare ass, and he looked around at them, grinning wide.

“Oh come on!” Sugawara let out a laugh as Tanaka wiggled against the window. He covered his eyes and turned forward again. “Fucking Tanaka!”

Daichi laughed.

“Daichi, quick, moon him back!”

“No way in hell.”

“Okay, I’ll do it,” Sugawara stood, fumbling for his belt.

“I don’t think so,” Daichi grabbed his arm and yanked him down on the seat next to him.

Sugawara fell into his side and laughed. He leaned against his shoulder, heart thundering in his chest. The gondola shifted and then the wheel’s movement picked up and grew steadily, all of the empty gondolas finally filled.

Daichi hesitated momentarily and then his hand slid down from Sugawara’s arm to his hand between their thighs. He slowly laced their fingers together.

Sugawara’s entire body tingled and he closed his fingers around Daichi’s hand, marveling at how much bigger it was.

Marveling at how warm it was.

Sugawara’s fingers felt icy in comparison.

His heart fluttered almost painfully in his chest and yes.

This was what he wanted.

This was what he was waiting for.

Daichi was warm and solid and steady, even if Sugawara’s nerves were the opposite.

It wasn’t much. A touch of their hands and Daichi’s shoulder beneath his cheek.

It wasn’t much.

But it was like all of the fear and exhaustion and angry tears of the past week had never existed in the first place.

The key in his pocket poked into his thigh and he considered trying again to give it to him, but the image of Tanaka’s bare behind was burned into his retinas and the moment just didn’t feel right anymore.

“Hey Daichi,” he broke the easy silence.

“Hm?” Daichi’s fingers squeezed.

“When does the sun set?”

He hummed, “I think around seven or eight?”

Sugawara fell silent once more.

“Why?” Daichi asked.

“I thought that it’d be pretty to see it. From up here,” he glanced through the window as the wheel brought them to the top again.

“Should we ride it again later then?”

Sugawara smiled. “Yeah, let’s do that.”

I’ll give it to him then.

Sugawara closed his eyes.

It’ll be perfect.


 

“No, no, but what about when you screeched like a fuckin’ baby on that one ride that drops you down?” Tanaka pushed at Sugawara’s shoulder.

“Shut up! That one is easily the scariest ride here!” Sugawara pushed him back, leaning over the table to reach him. “There’s no shame in being scared of that one!”

“At least he didn’t cry like Asahi,” Daichi pointed out calmly, biting down on a French fry.

“I felt my stomach in my throat,” Asahi’s voice had no energy. His complexion was ashen and his long hair was a mess, half fallen out of the sloppy bun on the back of his head. “I think I saw hell.”

Sugawara sputtered into his fist.

Tanaka watched the tender way Daichi smiled at him, leaning his chin in the palm of his hand. All annoyance that he had had at the beginning of the date was gone.

Thank God.

Tanaka had not been looking forward to being on the receiving end of Daichi’s anger.

“Ah,” Sugawara pushed up from the table. “I’ve gotta go to the bathroom. I’ll be right back.”

Red flag.

Tanaka stood as well.

“I’ll go with you.”

“Ew. Can’t I pee in peace?”

Tanaka frowned and opened his mouth to rebut but was suddenly being dragged a short distance away from the table by the front of his t-shirt.

Sugawara released him once they were out of earshot of the others.

“Can I please- please- PLEASE have a couple minutes by myself?” Sugawara glared up at him under furrowed brows.

“Maybe I have to pee too,” Tanaka lifted his chin.

“You just went like five minutes ago,” Sugawara’s frown deepened.

“Well I drank a Coke.”

“I need a break,” Sugawara rubbed his eyes. “Please give me just one break. We’ve made it through this entire day without anything happening. We’re in public for fuck’s sake. No one is going to attack me in broad fuckin’ daylight.”

“You don’t know th—”

“If you follow me into the bathroom, I’m punching you so hard in the dick that your grandchildren will be born with black eyes,” Sugawara’s voice lowered, his eyes darkened.

Tanaka grinned.

“Just one break,” Sugawara held up a finger.

Tanaka held up a hand, fingers splayed. “You’ve got five minutes. If you’re not back by then, I’m storming the bathroom.”

“Fine,” Sugawara extended a middle finger at him and turned. He jogged off in the direction of the nearest bathroom.

Tanaka rolled his eyes and rejoined the others, noting uncomfortably that the annoyed tick was back in Daichi’s left eyebrow.

I’m gonna get my ass beat, Tanaka frowned and slurped loudly from his soda. And it’s all Suga’s fault.

“Well,” Asahi said, breaking the tense silence. “Aside from all of the horrible, horrible rides, today has been pretty fun.”

“Dude, the rides were like eighty percent of the day,” Tanaka snickered.

Asahi ignored him and looked to Daichi, “Sorry for ruining your date, Daichi. Tanaka made me come.”

Tanaka felt Daichi’s glare on his face.

“Oh, did he?”

“I was bored!” Tanaka straightened his shoulders. “The anime I usually watch today didn’t have an episode this week so I was free.”

“Hm,” Daichi ate another fry. “So you decided to crash our date instead of visiting your sister?”

“Err… she’s still out of—”

“Her Twitter said she just flew in for the week.”

“Wow, you follow Nee-chan on Twitter, talk about weak, Daichi,” Tanaka laughed weakly and looked away.

“Should we test how weak I really am?”

“I’m gonna go get another Coke!” Tanaka hopped to his feet and fled the table.

He lingered at the food stall, flirting with the girl working there, before finally returning to the table. Sugawara was still absent.

He sat down next to Asahi, checking Daichi’s expression to be sure that he wasn’t still planning on kicking Tanaka’s ass into the nth dimension.

He seemed preoccupied, tapping his fingers on the table and staring around the boardwalk silently, bottom lip worried between his teeth.

Tanaka checked the time.

Nearly five minutes had passed.

“He’s a little late, don’t you think?” he asked, glancing over his shoulder.

“The nearest bathroom is kind of far,” Asahi mused.

Tanaka looked down at his watch again.

4:55.

He stared at the watch’s hands for long seconds.

4:55…

He narrowed his eyes.

“Hey Daichi,” he lifted his head. “What’s Suga drinking?”

Daichi cocked an eyebrow and lifted Sugawara’s drink. He sipped the straw and then set it back down. “Lemonade. Why?”

Lemonade.

4:55.

You’ve gotta be kidding me.

Tanaka rubbed his eyelids tiredly, “Hey Asahi, that horoscope you read for Suga… do you remember the unlucky stuff?”

“Uh…” Asahi furrowed his brows. “Let me check,” he pulled his phone from his pocket, tucking a loose strand over his ear. “Why are you asking?”

“Just curious.”

“Okay…” he chewed on his thumbnail as he scrolled down his phone screen. “Gemini, right? It said that his… unlucky numbers are four and fifty-five. And his unlucky items are lemonade and shoelaces.”

Daichi absently checked the time on his cell phone.

Tanaka stared over his shoulder.

“I don’t feel good about this.”


 

Sugawara shook water from his hands on his way to the paper towel dispenser.

“Yo Dude, your shoe’s untied.”

Sugawara glanced first at the man toweling off his hands next to the trash can and then down at his sneakers. The laces of his left shoe flopped on the tile floor.

“Oh, thanks for pointing that out,” Sugawara smiled at him.

“No problem. Don’t trip,” he grinned, tossed his towels in the trash, and left the bathroom. Sugawara dried his hands and then crouched down to tie his laces.

It was nice to finally get a moment of silence. The day was fun. It was nice spending time with Daichi and yeah, even Tanaka and Asahi weren’t being as big of a drag as he expected them to be. But it was nice to take a break from the talking and the laughter and the banter and just exist within himself for a few short minutes.

The door of the bathroom opened just as he was finishing tying his laces into a double knot. He stood, eyeing his hands and contemplating if he needed to wash them again.

He turned for the sinks once more just to be blocked off by a large body.

Just halfway up the broad chest Sugawara knew who it was. His eyes didn’t even need to reach his face to know.

That Tanaka was right.

And Sugawara was stupid.

Because he was overconfident.

He was too trusting.

He was impossibly stubborn.

And he had just run out of luck.

Rei’s fist flashed out and connected with Sugawara’s mouth, knocking him back several steps. His tooth sliced into the inside of his lip and blood instantly pooled over and dripped down his chin. He winced and stumbled back, reaching up with his left hand.

“Look at that!” Rei’s voice was loud, speckled with humor. “What are the odds that I’d see you here?”

Sugawara finally met his eyes.

His large, crazed eyes.

A chill ran down Sugawara’s spine.

“It must be fate,” Rei’s mouth stretched wide in a smirk.

“Not fate,” Sugawara said, wiping at the blood with the back of his hand. “How long have you been following me? Since my apartment?”

I can take him.

He’s just one guy.

If I just get a kick between his legs I can—

The door of the bathroom creaked open and three others slunk in.

Sugawara’s mouth went dry.

One of the men went to the bathroom stalls, casually checking each one. Another reached into his bag and pulled out a small, black camcorder. He pressed a button on the side and popped open the screen. The third moved around Rei, glancing around the bathroom nonchalantly, hands in his pockets.

Sugawara took a wary step backwards.

“My friends are here,” he said weakly. “If you—”

“Right here?” Rei held up his hands in a shrug and peered around the bathroom. “Yousuke, are you this dude’s friend?”

“Nope,” the one checking the stalls turned towards him, grinning. “Definitely not.”

“What about you two?” Rei asked the others.

They both sang their disagreement.

“Hm,” Rei faced Sugawara again. “Unless your friends are these urinals, it looks like you’re alone after all.”

Sugawara slowly slid his hand into his pocket, reaching for his cell phone.

“Seriously,” he said, voice low. “I’m warning you. Stay away from me.”

“Warning me?” Rei took a step forward. “What are you going to do?”

“I’ll—”

Yousuke moved closer on his right side and Sugawara took a hasty step to the left.

Stay away from me.

He yanked his cell phone from his pocket and hurriedly unlocked the screen.

“Whoops!” the other man darted forward and kicked the phone out of his hand before he could dodge.

“Ah!” Sugawara leapt after the phone.

Yousuke intercepted him, grabbing him by the hair and yanking him sideways. The cell phone clattered to the floor across the room.

Pain spiked through his scalp and all the way down his spine. Sugawara winced and grabbed Yousuke’s wrist with his left hand.

“Let go of me!” he demanded, kicking out.

Yousuke released him and Sugawara stumbled back.

“I’m serious!” Sugawara’s voice rose. He panted heavily, chest heaving. His eyes flashed as he struggled desperately to keep every single one of them in his line of vision. “Don’t touch me or I swear I’ll—”

You’ll what?” Rei took another step towards him, unfazed by Sugawara’s hollow threats. “Are you going to beat us up? Make us cry home to our mommies?” he laughed. The sound echoed and bounced off of the bathroom walls. “I’m not afraid of a little fag like you.”

Sugawara moved away. He was backing into a wall. Soon he would be trapped. He needed to find a way to escape before one of them got a hand on him.

Before he was cornered.

His eyes darted to the man on the left. He was closing in, hands still in his pockets, feigning nonchalance.

Or maybe he wasn’t pretending.

Maybe this was like a walk in the park for him.

Funny.

It felt like a walk through fire for Sugawara.

“I just want to go back to my friends,” he said, voice weak. “I won’t bother you so just—”

“Well that’s the problem,” Rei interrupted. He dragged a hand through his hair, “Just the fact that you exist bothers me. So unless you plan to change that…”

Sugawara gulped.

His window was closing. Yousuke moved nearer, forcing him farther back, nearly to the wall. He glanced towards the man with the camcorder. He stood away, pointing the camera in their direction. He was leaning carelessly against the frame of a bathroom stall. He wasn’t prepared. If Sugawara could somehow make it between Yousuke and Rei, the cameraman wouldn’t have time to catch him. He could make it to the door and call for help or run to Daichi.

Sugawara was quick on his feet.

He could do it.

He just needed to wait for the opportunity to slide between them.

But they were closing in.

Even Rei was stepping slowly forward, grin growing wider and wider the narrower and narrower Sugawara’s odds became.

Run.

Just run.

Sugawara’s breath turned shallow and his head hazy.

Just run, Kou.

It was what everyone always told him to do.

If you’re in trouble, just run.

But…

We’ll watch your back.

But there was no one at his back. Not this time.

There was nothing but a wall at his back.

He took the last step and his shoulder blades connected with the towel dispenser, triggering the motion sensor. The machine whirred as it spat out a length of paper towel. The sound echoed eerily through the room.

Rei’s grin stretched ever wider and his crazed eyes flicked to the man on the left.

Sugawara bolted the instant the other man dove forward.

His hands narrowly missed his arm as he darted towards the small gap between Yousuke and Rei.

“Hey—” Rei stepped after him and Sugawara skirted his lumbering body, moving closer to Yousuke- the smaller of the two.

The redhead reached for him and Sugawara cocked his left arm back. He snapped it forward, crushing his fist into his nose and sending him staggering backwards. The blow sent pain coursing through his knuckles and wrist but Sugawara pushed it down.

Run.

Run.

Escape.

He flew past the cameraman before he could even react. The door was directly ahead. He could reach it. He was close. Four more steps. Three.

Two.

He grabbed the handle and ripped the door open.

“Where do you think you’re going?”

A hand slammed into his neck and gripped.

Sugawara let out a gasp, pushing the remaining air from his lungs before the fingers tightened and closed off his throat.

The fifth man shoved Sugawara back into the bathroom and released. Sugawara stumbled backwards into Rei’s chest. A thick arm wound around his stinging neck and cut off his air once again. Sugawara gripped at the forearm and yanked, coughing.

“Wow, you let him get that far?” the fifth man rolled his eyes and stepped back out of the bathroom. He grabbed the door and pulled it closed on a terse, “Hurry up.”

The door clicked.

“Well now I’m a little mad,” Rei’s voice rumbled against Sugawara’s back. “I was just going to make you cry a little bit, but then you had to go and pull something like that…”

Sugawara struggled against him, squeezing his eyes shut as his head went light.

Air.

Air.

Need—

Rei turned, dragging him like he weighed no more than a mannequin, and then thrust him towards the wall once more. Sugawara stumbled, sucking air into his starving lungs.

“Now I’m pissed,” Rei said, voice rising. “You were actually going to run away, weren’t you? You even punched my buddy.”

“Just let me go,” Sugawara said, voice rough. “Let me go and I’ll pretend this never happened.”

Rei laughed, “You act like I’m scared of you for some reason.”

“You should be.”

“Ooooo,” Rei and the others guffawed.

Sugawara gritted his teeth.

“We’re so scared,” Rei gave him a dull stare, humor slipping from his expression. “Now are you done? I’d really like to just get this over with.”

“I—”

“Pow!” Yousuke jumped forward and slammed his knee into Sugawara’s stomach.

He doubled over in pain, tears stinging his eyes as the snickering redhead stepped away once more.

“Revenge,” he sang.

Sugawara skittered backwards, holding his stomach with his right arm.

Run.

He searched the bathroom frantically. There had to be something.

Somewhere.

Anywhere.

A window.

A fucking hole in the wall.

It didn’t matter what.

Just so long as Sugawara had something to focus on.

Just so long as he had a chance.

If he could slip past Yousuke again, he could maybe make it to his cell phone where it lay near the bathroom stalls. Then he could duck into one, slam the door and lock it. It might buy him enough time to call someone.

The police.

Or Tanaka.

Anyone.

If he could just make it past Yousuke one more time…

“Time’s up.”

Sugawara jerked his eyes back to Rei.

Too late.

Yousuke and the other one flanked him on either side and grabbed both of his arms.

“Wh— stop!” Sugawara pulled against their hold until Rei grabbed his shoulders and forced him back against the wall of the bathroom.

“On your knees,” he said in a low voice and the two holding his arms yanked down.

Sugawara slammed to his knees and the two shifted, forcing his palms to the floor and then grinding the heels of their shoes down into the back of his hands, pinning him in place.

“N-no—” he writhed against them but Rei leaned his knee down on Sugawara’s left shoulder and nudged it roughly, shoving his back against the wall. The two on his sides- keeping their feet securely on his hands- shifted his arms closer to the wall until his torso was stretched painfully from his hips to his shoulders, legs bent and quivering on the floor beneath him.

He strained against the position, struggling to get his hands free, or in the very least, get his legs up in front of him so that he could kick at Rei. But he was stuck. The toes of his shoes were pressed tightly against the wall, same with his shoulder blades. His knees were spread wide, allowing at least some semblance of balance that kept him upright and prevented him from collapsing completely.

“That’s better,” Rei purred, reaching down and gripping Sugawara’s chin.

Don’t touch me.

Don’t fucking touch me.

Sugawara panted frantically, eyes darting left and right.

There had to be something.

Anything that he could do.

“How’s the angle?” Rei asked over his shoulder to the cameraman.

“Perfect,” he gave him a thumbs up.

“Then let’s go ahead and get it started,” Rei reached for his belt buckle and Sugawara’s eyes went wide.

“Don’t.”

Rei chuckled, “Look at you. Do you really think you’re in the position to order me around? Though I’m not opposed to hearing you beg me a little… if you want to give it a try.”

Sugawara felt sick. His stomach twisted and churned and every muscle in his body tensed and tightened.

His body shuddered uncontrollably, panic spreading.

Rei got his buckle off and started on his jeans’ button.

Sugawara sucked in deep breaths, chest heaving.

“Anything you put in my mouth,” he growled, voice low and rough. “I’m biting it off.”

Rei hesitated.

“Oh yeah?” Yousuke said, grinding his heel down harder into Sugawara’s broken finger.

He cried out, tears springing into his eyes.

“Are you sure about that?” Yousuke snickered.

Rei chuckled and flicked off his button.

“I already told you, didn’t I?” he grabbed Sugawara’s hair and yanked his head back until their gazes met. “I’m not scared of you.”

You should be.


 

“Tanaka wait!” Daichi chased after his friend as he bolted down the boardwalk. “What’s wrong?”

“No running, please,” Asahi wailed, struggling to keep up. “I’m going to throw up…”

Without warning, after listening once more to the horoscope, Tanaka had jumped up and run off without a backward glance.

Why?

What for?

I thought Tanaka didn’t believe in that astrology stuff…

But something told Daichi that this wasn’t just about some randomized horoscope on the internet.

His gut twisted uneasily and he picked up his pace.

Sugawara hadn’t returned from the bathroom, after all.

Did he get sick?

Or maybe it was something else.

He had been acting weird lately.

And Tanaka knew why.

So if Tanaka was making a fuss, Daichi was going to fuss too.

“Where’s the fuckin’ bathroom?” he heard Tanaka pant, head swiveling left and right.

“There,” Daichi pointed to the building a short distance away.

They turned in its direction, Asahi’s complaints floating after them. They rounded the corner of the brick building and slowed to a stop. A man leaned against the door frame, staring out at the boardwalk lazily. Tanaka and Daichi exchanged a look before striding in the man’s direction.

He caught sight of them and straightened away from the door frame.

“This bathroom’s out of order,” he called. “There’s another down—”

Tanaka slammed his fist into his nose, earning a satisfying crunch.

“Tanaka!” Asahi squeaked. “What—”

Shit!” the man stumbled to the side, eyes darting between them as blood trickled down over his lips. “Fuck this,” he turned and fled.

Daichi stared after him for a moment, “Who was—”

Tanaka grabbed the handle of the door and thrust it open. He bounded inside and Daichi quickly followed.

At first, everything was deathly silent. The moment that Daichi and Tanaka took in the sight before them was met with nothing but complete and utter quiet. The sounds of the boardwalk didn’t reach their ears. No one spoke.

No one breathed.

Daichi sucked in a slow, shuddering breath.

The first moment was shock.

Shock at seeing Sugawara there, on his knees and shoved back against the wall, hands under the feet of two men Daichi didn’t know. Shock at seeing the blood smeared across his chin. Shock at seeing the man standing before him, hands on the waistband of his pants as if he were about to remove them.

And what was he going to do once they were removed?

What were any of them going to do?

Daichi let out the same trembling breath.

At first, everything was deathly silent.

And then Sugawara’s chest quaked and he let out a weak whimper.

Daichi…

And noise came rushing back.

First, the sound of his blood pulsing in his ears.

Second, Tanaka’s bellow as he leapt at the nearest man, the one with a camcorder.

And what was he going to do with that?

Third, the scrambling curses of the other three men as they released Sugawara and bolted for the door.

Fourth, Sugawara’s painful gasps ripping their way through his lips as he collapsed forward on his hands, arms shaking as he bent over the floor, hair falling over and hiding his face.

Tanaka punched the one with the camera three times in the face and then let out a shout and jumped towards a lanky redhead as he passed, narrowly missing grabbing onto his arm.

And Daichi should move.

He should do something.

He should grab that large one buckling up his belt as he moved around him and headed for the door.

But shock rooted him in place.

And he could only stare.

Stare at the way Sugawara’s back trembled, hunched over his filthy hands.

Stare at the limp and tired way his hair hung over and hid his face from view.

Stare at the fingers of his left hand as they curled, nails scraping the tiles beneath it.

Even when Asahi was crying out.

Even when Tanaka shoved past him, chasing the others from the bathroom, expletives streaming from his mouth in a furious snarl.

Even when the door slammed shut once more, leaving Daichi and Sugawara alone in the suddenly silent bathroom.

Daichi could only stare.

Sugawara pushed up to his feet and scrambled across the bathroom. Daichi jumped in surprise at his sudden motion. He fell into a stall, slamming the door behind.

The sounds of his retching echoed off the walls.

Daichi reached up, hand quivering, and dragged his fingers through his hair. His stomach churned and his chest ached.

Why?

Why?

Why did this happen?

Who were those men?

Why were they… to Sugawara…

Daichi covered his face with a hand.

Was it a random attack? Or was it something deeper? Something more sinister? Was it something that had been in motion for longer than this? Longer than Daichi knew?

Why didn’t Daichi know?

Tanaka knew.

Tanaka knew all along, didn’t he?

And yet he had told Daichi nothing.

He and Sugawara both had kept this a secret from him and why?

Eventually the sounds of Sugawara’s vomiting faded and then ceased altogether, followed by a flush of the toilet. Daichi waited, expecting him to come back out and give him the explanation he so desperately needed.

But instead, he heard a thump as Sugawara sat on the floor and leaned against the door. Daichi could see the hem of his shirt and the waistband of his jeans in between the gap of the stall and the tiles.

For a moment, there was silence.

And then a sniffle.

And another.

And then Sugawara was moaning and sobbing, his trembling body causing the door to rattle softly.

Daichi approached the stall, chest aching, heart hammering.

Why?

Why would anyone do this to Suga?

Why?

I’m sorry,” Sugawara whimpered. “I’m sorry. Sorry. Sorry…

Daichi gulped. He reached out and pressed his palm to the door.

“Who are you apologizing to?” he murmured.

Sugawara sniffed and his voice came again, somewhat muffled. “Today was supposed to be fun. And then I had to go and r-ruin it. I’m sorry.”

“You didn’t ruin anything. Suga, it’s not your fault that—”

Sorry. Sorry Daichi.

Daichi squeezed his eyes shut.

It hurt.

His words.

His voice.

The sounds of the sniffling sobs that he was so obviously trying to muffle in the sleeve of his shirt.

“Suga, you don’t need to apologize. You didn’t ruin anything,” he slid his hand off of the door. “Will you please come out?”

He didn’t answer for several seconds. Daichi was just opening his mouth to beg him again when he heard shuffling. He glanced down at the gap between the stall and the floor as Sugawara’s shirt disappeared.

Daichi took a step back.

The lock on the door clacked and then it slowly opened. Sugawara stood before him, rubbing his nose with the sleeve of his shirt. His cheeks were flushed, eyes bloodshot, the skin around them swollen and red.

He met Daichi’s gaze for less than an instant and then averted his eyes to the floor.

“Ah…” he tugged on a lock of his hair and sniffed. A weak, trembling smile curled his lips. “Sorry. It’s alright now. I uh… I’m okay,” he slipped past him and headed across the bathroom. “I guess I just got a little overwhelmed there,” he said, forcing energy into his voice that Daichi didn’t believe for a second.

He went to the sink and turned on the faucet. Daichi followed him and stood at his side. Watching as he held his hands under the water.

“I’m not used to so much… excitement happening in one day,” Sugawara continued, eyes lowered as he gently scrubbed his hands with soap. “Looks like I might need to get this splint replaced. It got a little dirty. And uhm… I wasn’t supposed to let it get all that wet anyway.” His Adam’s apple bobbed in his throat. “Maybe I’ll make a stop by my doctor’s office on the way home.”

Why?

Why was he trying so hard to fake a smile? Daichi had seen it. He knew what had happened. Why did Sugawara feel the need to pretend any longer?

Sugawara bent over the sink and splashed water on his face, washing the blood from his chin and pressing his hands to his eyes for a short moment.

And what could Daichi do?

Was there something that he should say?

Should he pull Sugawara into his arms and hug him and tell him that everything was okay?

Just what the fuck was he supposed to do?

Sugawara lowered his hands from his face and twisted the knob of the faucet, cutting off the water flow. He held his dripping hands over the sink, staring down at them quietly.

“It’s too bad today wasn’t much of a date,” he finally said with that same forced brightness. “I think I should probably go home. I’m a little tired, I guess.”

He lifted his face and smiled.

And it was painful to look at.

“I had fun with you and the others though,” he said. “Riding the rides and stuff… that was fun!”

Daichi gulped, stomach tightening.

“Suga—” he reached towards him.

Sugawara winced and cowered away from his touch.

Daichi froze.

“Ah… uhm…” Sugawara ducked his head and dug in the pocket of his jeans. He pulled his hand out and lifted it up. Between his fingers was clasped a black key. “I said I’d g-give it to you today so…” he stared at the key until his eyes turned glossy. “I-I wanted to give it to you on the Ferris Wheel but it didn’t work out like I had hoped.” He cleared his throat and offered the key to Daichi, “If… you still want it…”

Daichi reached out and took the key from his hand.

“I made it black so that it would be different,” Sugawara said. “Different from the one I gave Risa. I thought that you might like that better,” he gulped and dug in his other pocket. He pulled out another key. The silver one. “And…” he held it out to him. “Since we didn’t get the chance to throw it in the ocean,” his eyes filled with moisture and then the tears broke and pooled over, slipping down his cheeks and off of his jaw. “Y-you can do whatever you want with it.” His chin quivered and he ducked his head, “I don’t need it anymore.”

Daichi took the key and then stepped closer to him.

“Suga, I—” he reached for his arm.

Sugawara moved out of his reach and turned. He walked across the bathroom and bent to pick up his cell phone from where it rested on the floor. He stared down at it, unlocking the screen. He wiped his eyes with the sleeve of his shirt and sniffed.

“I’m gonna go home,” he said.

“I’ll take you there—”

“I’ll take a taxi.”

“I’ll go—”

“You won’t.”

Daichi clamped his mouth shut.

“I’m going to go home. By myself,” Sugawara slid the phone into his pocket and turned towards Daichi, though he didn’t meet his eyes. “And I’ll see you later.”

Neither of them spoke for a long, tense second.

Finally, Sugawara let out a deep sigh and dragged his fingers through his hair. He smiled brightly.

“Don’t worry! I’m fine. I’m alright. Honest.”

He headed across the bathroom towards the door and Daichi followed.

“I need some sleep, that’s all,” Sugawara continued. He grabbed the handle and pulled the door open. They walked out onto the boardwalk. “I’ll just catch a taxi… stop by the doctor’s… then go home and sleep,” he nodded firmly.

Daichi walked quietly behind him as he moved down the boardwalk towards the street. He noticed Tanaka and Asahi standing a short distance away. Asahi twisted his hands together in front of him, face ashen, brows furrowed as he stared after them. Tanaka was doubled over, hands braced on his knees as he panted towards the ground, sweat dripping off of his temples.

Daichi turned back to Sugawara. He paused on the edge of the curb and looked both ways down the road, still speaking calmly.

“I’ve been a little stressed by school lately,” he said. “Math is brutal and I’ve had a lot of homework. I’ve just been so busy that I don’t think I’ve been sleeping enough.”

Stop.

You don’t have to make excuses.

Please talk to me.

Daichi stared at the back of Sugawara’s head. His pale hair was slightly matted down at the back, hanging limply at his neck, lifeless and dull.

Please explain it to me.

Please.

“Oh, there’s one,” Sugawara waved down a yellow taxi and it rolled slowly to a stop in front of him.

Daichi took a step forward.

“Suga—”

Sugawara opened the door and turned to him. He smiled, eyebrows trembling.

“Thanks for the fun time! I’ll go straight to sleep when I get home so you don’t have to worry about me. Uhm…” his eyes lowered. “S-sorry.” He slid into the taxi and closed the door.

Daichi reached after him, but he was already giving directions to the driver. He was already pulling away from the curb. Daichi watched through the window as he lifted his hands and covered his face, shoulders drawing in and quaking.

He stared until the taxi turned the corner at the end of the street and disappeared.

And finally the shock was gone.

Daichi clenched his jaw until his teeth creaked. He squeezed his hands into fists and turned on his heel. He strode quickly up the boardwalk to where Asahi and Tanaka were waiting. He grabbed Tanaka by the front of his shirt and yanked him roughly forward and up until their noses were nearly touching.

“You knew!” Daichi twisted his fists in the fabric of his shirt. “You knew all about this, didn’t you?” His stomach roiled and his chest was hot and tight and it wasn’t fair.

It wasn’t fair.

Why was Daichi in the dark?

“I knew,” Tanaka admitted calmly.

Daichi gritted his teeth, “Nnnnh…” he loosened his hold on his shirt, pulled back, and punched him once in the face. Tanaka staggered backwards.

“Daichi!” Asahi squeaked, grabbing his arm. “Stop!”

“And you?” Daichi looked to him, chest rising and falling rapidly. “Did you know?”

“No!” he shook his head. “I didn’t know anything! I still don’t!” he looked to Tanaka, who was holding his jaw in his hand, eyes squinted shut. “What the hell is going on?”

“What the fuck does it look like?” Tanaka snapped, lowering his hand. “Those fuckin’ shitheads have been torturing him this past goddamn week! Maybe even earlier, who fuckin’ knows? Not like he would tell us if they were!”

Why didn’t you tell me?” Daichi demanded. There was a sour taste at the back of his throat and he momentarily feared he might actually be sick.

“He told me not to!” Tanaka pointed in the direction the cab had disappeared. “He kept saying that he’d handle it. He’s handling it. Well look how well that worked out!”

“You should have told me!”

“Yeah! I fuckin’ should have! But I didn’t! Get the fuck over it!”

Daichi grabbed him by the shirt once more, shaking him roughly, “You Bastard. How could you just sit by and watch this shit happen?”

“At least I noticed!” Tanaka gripped his wrists and squeezed. “You’re his fuckin’ boyfriend! How did you not notice?”

Daichi clenched his teeth and groaned. He wanted to argue. He wanted to hit him again and send him sprawling to the ground.

But he was right.

Damn it!

How had Daichi not seen?

God damn it!

He shoved Tanaka away and dragged his hands through his hair.

“I haven’t just been watching,” Tanaka grumbled, straightening his shirt. “Me and Snickers have been lookin’ out for him. As much as he’ll let us, anyway.”

Asahi gulped, “Is… is that the reason why you were so insistent that we join their date today?”

Tanaka looked away, “Why else? I’m not that big of a dick that I’d just want to ruin their date for shits and giggles.”

Daichi pressed the heels of his hands into his eyes, fingers crooking in his hair. His skin was icy. His stomach continued to churn and yes, he was definitely going to be sick.

None of them spoke for long seconds until finally, Asahi’s whisper broke the silence.

“What are we going to do?”

Daichi lowered his hands and glared at both of them.

“What the fuck do you think we’re going to do?” He turned and headed down the boardwalk, brows lowered over his burning gaze. People moved from his path as he passed, skittering out of the reach of his icy anger.

“We’re going to ruin their lives.”

Chapter Text

Just in case.

Daichi wasn’t going to approach him.

He could tell that Sugawara wanted to be left alone.

But just in case, he would be sure that he got home safely.

“Right here is fine,” Daichi said to the taxi driver and he pulled over to the curb halfway down Sugawara’s street.

After giving short orders to Tanaka and Asahi concerning Sugawara’s situation, he had immediately found a cab and headed for his apartment. If he really did go to the doctor’s office to get his hand checked out, then Daichi should make it there before him.

He handed a wad of bills to the taxi driver and slipped out onto the sidewalk. The taxi pulled away from the curb and drove away.

He wouldn’t approach him. He would hang out across the street where he wouldn’t be seen and he would wait.

Just in case.

He didn’t know the full extent of these bullies’ audacity. He didn’t know how far they were willing to go. But Daichi had seen enough with his own two eyes to not trust Sugawara alone.

Just in case.

Daichi jogged across the street to the building opposite Sugawara’s apartment. In the fading evening light, he could remain relatively hidden in the shadow of the building’s outer stone wall. He decided on a position, leaned his back against the warm stones, and turned his eyes towards Sugawara’s apartment building.

And a chill raced down his spine.

The sun cast bright illumination on the door of Sugawara’s apartment, practically igniting the hateful, bright red graffiti in a fiery glow.

And yeah, Daichi was definitely going to be sick.

A whole slew of disgusting words were spray painted across Sugawara’s door. Threats, slurs, insults…

Just the sight of them churned Daichi’s stomach and made his knees go weak. He slid down into a crouch, leaning heavily against the wall. He clasped his hands together over his mouth.

He couldn’t drag his eyes away.

How?

How could anyone do this to Sugawara?

Why?

How long had it been happening?

How often?

Every day?

Every other day?

More than once a day?

Why?

Suddenly, things were clicking into place.

Painting a boat, Daichi hid his face in his arms and squeezed his eyes shut.

He knew it had sounded suspicious. Why would Sugawara be painting a boat? It was so stupid. It wasn’t even a clever lie. It was such a lazy and unbelievable excuse.

And yet Daichi had just accepted it.

And why?

Because that was what Daichi did. He was the perfect boyfriend. He followed orders and never stepped out of bounds. He did exactly what his partner wanted him to do. Whether it was look away when they told him to look away, or let them go when they wanted to leave.

Because Daichi always did what his partners asked.

Well look how well that turned out.

He lifted his head and stared once more at the graffiti. His body trembled with unexpressed rage and frustration.

How dare they?

HOW DARE THEY?

How dare he?

How dare he not see that this was going on?

Daichi was…

Useless.

For long minutes, he huddled against the wall, not standing from his crouch. He didn’t tear his eyes away from the red paint as he wracked his mind for more hints, more clues that he had completely missed.

And then, when he was thoroughly riled, he started to plot.

He was deep in his murderous plans by the time the taxi rolled around. He straightened slightly as he watched Sugawara climb out of the vehicle and it slowly pulled away from the curb.

Sugawara gazed up at his apartment for a prolonged second before heading around to the stairs at the side of the building.

React.

C’mon.

Please be surprised.

Please prove to me that they haven’t been doing this all week…

Sugawara went to his door, tried the handle, and then pulled his keys from his pocket. Daichi watched silently as he twisted the lock and then went inside, closing the door softly behind him, sparing not even a moment to look surprised at the destruction of his apartment.

Daichi buried his face in his arms once more.

Damn it.

Damn it.

God fucking DAMN IT.

He lifted his eyes enough to peer at the building across the street. He waited for several long minutes but Sugawara never reappeared.

The sun was setting.

And Daichi could’ve been on the Ferris Wheel right now with a laughing Sugawara. He could have seen him blush and stammer over his words as he offered the key to him. It would’ve been nice and warm and comfortable and perfect.

And maybe Daichi would’ve been bold.

He might’ve pulled him near and closed the space between them to steal a taste of his lips.

What did a boyfriend taste like?

He probably tasted like the cotton candy they had shared. But also something else. Something that was specifically Sugawara.

And after the kiss, he probably would’ve turned bright red and laughed awkwardly and avoided looking in his eyes.

And it probably would’ve made Daichi’s heart ache and race.

It could’ve made Daichi understand a little better, what was so calming and comforting about having Sugawara as a boyfriend.

But that moment was stolen from him.

He gritted his teeth.

He was never going to get that moment back and the realization burned him so fiercely that his head started to pound with a dull ache.

Daichi stood. He gave the apartment one last stare but it didn’t seem that Sugawara was going to make a reappearance.

He turned down the street in the direction of the hardware store.


 

Sugawara stared at the screen of his phone.

It was a miracle that it was still working after taking such a tumble back in the bathroom. He was glad he had splurged on the more expensive protective case, though it had nearly physically pained him to fork up such an unreasonable amount of cash for such a small thing.

He pulled his blanket up and over his shoulder as he scrolled through his contact list.

Maybe he should text Daichi.

Let him know that he had made it home alright.

But wouldn’t that imply that there was the chance that he could have possibly not made it home alright?

Sugawara didn’t want to make him worry.

And he didn’t want to drag him into this.

Maybe I should get help.

He paused on a pair of names in his phone, staring at them for long, quiet seconds.

No, he let out a sigh and continued down the list. He couldn’t call them. Not unless he wanted to be an accomplice to murder. Which, no, he did not. For very obvious reasons.

He continued down the list until he reached another name. His thumb hovered over it for several moments before clicking it.

He pressed the phone to his ear and huddled down into the mattress of his bed, staring at the dark wall of his bedroom.

A few rings later, the call picked up on a soft voice,

“Hello Koushi.”

“Hi Kiyo,” he replied, voice weak.

His sister didn’t reply.

“I…” Sugawara bit his bottom lip. “I heard you have a boyfriend. Tell me about him?”

He could hear a gentle intake of air and then she was speaking once more in a steady stream.

“It’s not all that serious. He’s been pursuing me for a while now. We are in a few classes together. His father owns a bike shop and he works there part-time.”

“Bike shop? Like… bicycles?” Sugawara’s eyes filled with moisture.

“No, like motorcycles.”

“O-oh… he sounds really cool…” he sniffled.

“Depends on your definition of cool, I suppose.”

“Is he nice?” Sugawara’s voice broke and tears slipped out of his eyes, tailing down his temple until they disappeared into the pillow beneath his head. He pressed a hand over his mouth to muffle the sobs that came next.

Kiyoko hesitated but then answered.

“He’s nice enough. He sometimes expects a little too much out of me but it’s easy to put him back in his place,” she continued to speak calmly, shifting the conversation away from her boyfriend to their brother and the latest trouble he had caused. She never once slowed or fell silent, even when Sugawara’s sobs grew louder and more difficult to contain.

She talked on and on for an entire hour until Sugawara’s crying faded out to the occasional sniffle and breathless gulp.

“So you know,” she said. “Business as usual, I suppose. I was beginning to think they were calming down, until the whole… car chase thing.”

Sugawara laughed and rolled onto his back. He stared up at the ceiling, “I miss them. I miss you. I miss all of you.”

“We’re all still here,” her voice gentled. “You know where to find us. We’re not going anywhere.”

Sugawara swallowed and rubbed his eyes with his forearm, “Yeah… I know. I’ll come visit soon. I promise.”

“Good.”

He smiled.

“And…” her voice lowered even more, barely above a whisper, “if you ever need a distraction again, give me a call.”

He pressed his lips together in a tight line.

“Yeah. I’ll be sure to do that too.”

They said their goodbyes and Sugawara ended the phone call.

He felt better.

His head was pounding and he was completely drained… but he felt better.

He rolled out of bed and went to the bathroom to wash his face and blow his nose. It was getting late. If he didn’t paint over the graffiti on his front door, the neighbors were going to see it- if they hadn’t already- and probably report him to the landlord- if they hadn’t already. It was a miracle that Takeda had been so understanding, even going to far as to help him paint over it. But others might not be so kind.

He crossed the apartment to the entrance and crouched down to gather up his painting supplies.

He paused at the soft sound of something sliding against the outside of the door. He stared at it silently for a long moment.

What?

An animal?

The wind?

Or were they back again?

He gulped and rose as quietly as he could. He padded into the kitchen and then leaned over the sink to the window there. He gently pried apart the shades and then pressed his head to the cabinet, peeking through the glass at the walkway in front of his door. At first he saw nothing.

And then, the arc of a broad back that leaned slightly away from its place near the bottom of the door.

Who…

He leaned back even further, giving Sugawara a clear view of his face as he looked up at the door. He lifted an arm, paintbrush in his hand, and wiped the sweat from his forehead with the sleeve of his shirt.

Sugawara pressed a hand over his mouth as his eyes filled once again with tears.

Daichi dipped his paintbrush in a bucket of paint and turned back to the door, leaning out of Sugawara’s view.

Sugawara backed away from the window, turned, and fled back to his bedroom to cry once more.


 

Daichi checked his watch for the seventh time in the past half hour.

Sugawara was late.

Or… he was going to be, if he didn’t leave his house in the next thirty seconds. His class was at eight, wasn’t it? Had Daichi gotten the days mixed up? No… Monday was an early day. Sugawara was always at the school a full three hours before Daichi and the others.

So then…

Daichi stared up at the door of Sugawara’s apartment.

Just where the fuck is he?

Daichi hadn’t missed him, had he?

No… he couldn’t have. He had been standing across the street from his apartment for the past hour. There was no way that Sugawara would leave that early for his class.

So was he just running late?

Or was there a different reason as to why he had not shown up?

Did something happen in the middle of the night when Daichi had been at home?

Had those bastards come around again?

Maybe they broke into his apartment. Maybe they took him away. Maybe they were still there now.

Daichi was already halfway across the street when the phone in his pocket buzzed. He hesitated, climbed the curb to the sidewalk directly in front of Sugawara’s apartment, and checked the new text message.

 

From: Suga

Not feel 2 well

gona stay home 2day

work hard!

⌒(o^▽^o)ノ

 

Daichi stared at the message for a long second.

He wasn’t feeling well.

Daichi lifted his gaze to the door of his apartment.

He wasn’t feeling well.

There was probably truth behind the lie. Sugawara might actually not feel well after the ordeal from the day before. He probably felt sick down to his stomach. His lip probably hurt from where it had been split open. His hand probably ached from where it had been ground into the floor.

Sugawara probably didn’t feel well.

And knowing why only made the anger in Daichi’s stomach grow.

He tapped out a quick reply.

 

To: Suga

Should I bring you something?

 

The following message was immediate.

 

From: Suga

No!

 

Daichi narrowed his eyes. Another message buzzed in his hand.

 

From: Suga

I’m fine!

have medicine

gona nap all day

 

To: Suga

Food?

 

From: Suga

Will make something

 

Daichi huffed.

He’d make something? How? With what ingredients? The one time Daichi had been in his apartment, the refrigerator had been completely empty save for several gallons of water, a full pack of beer, a carton of eggs that were well past the expiration date, and a whole row of various hot sauces, all several degrees too spicy for Daichi’s tongue.

Just how the hell did he intend to make anything?

It was just another lie.

Another lie to keep him from worrying.

Daichi had been an oblivious idiot all this time. He hadn’t noticed Sugawara’s torment even after realizing that he and Tanaka were keeping secrets from him.

He was ashamed.

What kind of boyfriend was he?

And Sugawara… he had done nothing to deserve the torture these bastards were subjecting him to. He was kind. And cheerful. And bright.

And Daichi was not going to stand by and watch as he was mistreated.

You picked with the wrong man’s boyfriend, Daichi slid his phone back into his pocket and crossed the street once more.

He was going to make everyone that had a hand in Sugawara’s misery suffer.

First, he had to find out who they were.


 

Tanaka tossed his cigarette to the sidewalk and ground it out with the toes of his sneaker.

“Daichi’s doing recon,” he said as he tapped out a reply to the text message he had just received.

“Recon where?” Asahi twisted his hands together in front of him.

“Suga’s place. It’s been getting vandalized lately. He’s gonna see if he can catch the ones doin’ it.”

Asahi lowered his eyes to the ground, “Poor Suga… I had no idea he was being bullied.”

“Yeah, well you and Daichi are both idiots,” Tanaka shoved his phone into his pocket. “No point in whinin’ about it now. Let’s see if we can find the jackasses on our own.”

Asahi chased after him as he headed towards the university.

“How will we find them? What will we do if we do find them?”

“We just need some names,” Tanaka said. “Daichi will take care of the rest after that.”

“Okay… but…”

“You saw them yesterday, right?” Tanaka glanced over his shoulder at him. “Did any of them look familiar?”

Asahi hummed and scratched the back of his neck, “I think I had seen that redhead around… but I don’t have any classes with him.”

Tanaka turned forward. “They’re not in any of my classes either. But I’ve seen that big guy a lot. He seems like the leader, if I were going to make a guess.” His lips twisted into a scowl, “He’s going to be the biggest problem. He’s not above cornering Suga in broad daylight. I saw him do it in the hallway a few days ago.”

“R-really? Why didn’t you do anything?”

“What am I supposed to do?” Tanaka’s voice hardened. “I stopped the bastard before he could do anything dangerous. But Suga is a stubborn prick and won’t accept my help beyond that!”

“Since when do you need someone to accept your help?”

Tanaka glared forward.

“Usually you just—”

“Yeah I know!” he snapped and Asahi squeaked. “I know! I should’ve done something more! But…” he clicked his tongue and rolled his shoulders. “I don’t know what it is. He’s so determined… I don’t really have the heart to go against what he tells me. Like I think… Ah, he’s got it under control, even though I know he doesn’t.” He grumbled and rubbed his head, “I dunno. It doesn’t make much sense.”

Asahi was silent for a moment before letting out a long, drawn-out sigh. “Well… there’s no point in dwelling on the past. We’re going to help him now. That’s all that matters.”

The corner of Tanaka’s mouth ticked up and he threw an arm around Asahi’s shoulders, “Look at that! Our big cowardly giant is showing some resolve for once in his life!”

“I… I show resolve from time to time!” Asahi stooped under the weight of his arm. “It’s just… I need a good reason to!”

Tanaka cackled and ruffled his hair, dislodging it from its neat bun.

“Ah, Tanaka, look.”

He stopped making a mess of his hair and followed the direction of his point.

“Doesn’t he… uh… doesn’t he look familiar?”

Tanaka’s eyes fell on the student leaving the building nearest them. He had a bag slung over his shoulder, eyes cast to the camera in his hands as he cleaned the lens with a rag.

His face was bruised and swollen and yeah, it was familiar.

“Ah…” Tanaka removed his arm from Asahi’s shoulders and cracked his knuckles. “I faintly recall the feel of that face under my fist.”

Asahi gulped, “Wh-what are we going to do?”

Tanaka turned and headed towards the student, “We’re going to get answers.”


 

It took a few hours before they showed up.

Daichi was just dozing against the stone wall across the street from Sugawara’s apartment when he heard the cackling laughter drifting his direction. He straightened quickly and shifted into the shade of the building, pressing tight to the wall in a sorry attempt to blend in.

Two men walked down the sidewalk in front of Sugawara’s apartment, each with a bag slung across their chests. One, a lanky redhead, looked familiar to Daichi. He was there the day before. Daichi gritted his teeth. He was one of the bastards that had been holding Sugawara’s hands down.

They stood in front of the apartment building and glanced around suspiciously.

“How’s it look?”

The redhead’s gaze swiveled in Daichi’s direction and he pressed closer to the wall.

“Clear. Let’s get this over with.”

The two turned and moved around the side of the building. They spoke in low voices as they climbed the stairs to the second landing. Daichi’s stomach twisted and churned as he watched. He didn’t make a move until they stopped outside of Sugawara’s apartment and reached into their bags.

The instant he caught sight of the first can of spray paint, Daichi was moving. He darted across the street, eyes locked on the men as they shook their cans and aimed them at the door in front of them. As he reached the sidewalk, Daichi picked up his speed, rushed around the side of the building, and took the stairs three at a time to the second landing.

He rounded the corner and instantly reached for the shoulder of the redhead. He wrapped his fingers in the fabric of his shirt and yanked.

Ahh! Shit!” the redhead dropped his can of paint and Daichi wrenched him away from the door.

Fuck!” the other one ditched his spray paint and bolted around Daichi. He made a break for the stairs and the redhead called after him,

Fuckin’ traitor! Get back here—

Daichi silenced him with a single punch to his mouth. He glanced over his shoulder at the other man, but he was already down the stairs and sprinting down the sidewalk, sparing not a backwards glance.

Shit, fuck,” the redhead covered his mouth with a hand. “You fuckin’ piece of—

Daichi hit him again, clenching his jaw tight.

The redhead fought back momentarily, kicking out and writhing against his hold on his shirt.

Daichi fisted his other hand in the front of his shirt and hauled him sideways, lifting him off of the floor.

Let me go, you—

Daichi slammed his back down on the railing of the balcony and shoved forward, leaning the redhead’s body far over the edge, held up only by Daichi’s strong grip on his shirt.

He let out a terrified scream, legs kicking out desperately.

Stop! Stop!” he begged, grabbing for Daichi’s biceps. “Pull me up! I’m sorry!”

Daichi inhaled deeply and then let it out slowly.

Control it.

Control it.

He leveled the redhead with a fierce glare, impervious to his pleading cries and teary eyes.

Name,” he growled.

“Huh? Huh?” the redhead hooked a leg over Daichi’s hip, trembling as he struggled for a hold on anything to prevent him from plummeting backwards to the sidewalk below.

“Give me your name,” Daichi shoved him farther over the side of the balcony.

Waaahhh! I’m sorry! It’s Yousuke! Amari Yousuke!

Daichi removed his right hand and Yousuke shrieked and scrabbled for him.

Please don’t let go!” tears streamed down his temples. His face was almost as red as his hair and he quivered in terror.

Daichi reached into his pocket and pulled out his cell phone. He opened up his notepad and typed the man’s name down.

“And your friend?” Daichi’s eyes flickered to his sobbing face. “His name?”

H-Hashimoto. Jirou!

Daichi added it to the note.

Please let me go! I’ll tell you everything you need to know!

“Tell me the names of every single person in on this,” Daichi commanded, ignoring his pleas to pull him back onto the balcony.

Yousuke let out a loud sob and started listing names, all of which Daichi put down in his phone.

“And?” Daichi asked after the last name.

“That’s all! I swear! That’s all I know about!”

Daichi stared at the seven names for a prolonged second before replacing the phone in his pocket. He turned back to Yousuke, knotting his right hand in his shirt once more. He pushed him farther over the railing of the balcony and he cried out and gripped onto Daichi’s shirt sleeve with shaking, white fingers.

“Tell me everything,” he said in a low voice.

Yousuke wailed, “Please pull me up. I’ll tell you everything. Just pull me up!

“Quit crying,” Daichi pushed him farther. “A fall from this height won’t kill you.”

Please!”

“If you’re lucky, you might only break a finger,” Daichi snarled.

Yousuke winced as if he had been struck. He clamped his mouth shut, chin trembling.

“Ready to spill it?” Daichi asked.

He nodded vigorously, “R-Rei was the one that organized the wh-whole thing. He came to us one day and said that Sugawara was a fag—”

"Choose your words wisely!" Daichi thrust him down lower.

Ah! Sorry! Sorry! He said that he- he had a boyfriend! I’m sorry!” His chest heaved with a sob and he went on, “Rei told us that we were gonna make his life hell and so we just went along with it! He’s callin’ all the shots, I swear!” He squeezed Daichi’s sleeve tighter, “I want out! I don’t want to do it anymore!”

Daichi’s lips twisted, “Why does this Rei bastard give a fuck that Suga has a boyfriend? Why does he want to make his life hell?”

“I… I don’t know…”

Daichi loosened his grip on his shirt and Yousuke slipped.

“Ahh!” he clutched onto him tighter. “Okay! Okay I’ll tell you! S-Sugawara used to date this chick named Risa…”

Daichi’s blood turned cold.

Risa.

Risa.

“A-and Rei always had a thing for her but she would never give him the light of the day even though she cheated on Sugawara all the time, alright? It’s because… because she’s got a type. Th-the pretty boy type. S-so Rei doesn’t fit the type but—”

Get on with it,” Daichi gave him a shake.

Risa told some people that Sugawara dumped her to date another guy and so Rei thought he’d be able to score points with Risa if he got revenge for her!

Risa.

Sugawara’s ex-girlfriend.

The woman for whom he had left his friends and family. The woman to whom he had given a key to his home.

The woman who could make a blank slate of Daichi’s open book.

Of course she was the cause behind this.

“Her full name,” Daichi demanded. “What is it?”

“Uhh… uhh… Nagachika Risa.”

The pulse in Daichi’s throat raged.

Nagachika Risa.

It was her fault.

“What else does this Rei bastard have planned?” Daichi asked, setting aside the issue of Sugawara’s ex-girlfriend for the time being.

“He… he… I don’t think he has anything big…” Yousuke sucked in deep, gulping breaths. “He was just going to t-torture him a bit and see if he’d drop out. But when it wasn’t working he decided he’d beat him up…”

Daichi’s brow twisted, lips pressing in a tight line.

“B-but lately… I haven’t been liking the way things are changing. He wants to… to publicly out him, or… something like that.”

Something like that?

Yousuke winced at the harshness of the hiss. “He wants to videotape him! F-film him… getting… having… stuff done to him… and he wants to send it out…”

NNnnnh!” Daichi lifted him up higher and leaned against the railing, holding his entire body over the edge save for his calves, which kicked erratically, searching for purchase where there was none.

Ahhhhh! I’m sorry! I’m sorry! Please don’t! Please!” he sobbed. “Ahh… my shirt is going to tear! Please pull me back!

Daichi sucked in a deep breath and then slowly let it out.

Control it.

Control it.

He hauled Yousuke up and then slammed him down on the walkway. Yousuke let out a choking gasp and clutched at his heart, mouth gaping open, eyes staring wildly above him. Daichi knelt beside him and grabbed his shirt once more, giving it a hard yank and drawing his terrified stare to his face.

“You and I are going to get real close,” Daichi said, voice soft and low. “You’re going to come at my beck and call. You’re going to give me every piece of information I demand, understand?”

Yousuke nodded vigorously.

“You’re going to leave Suga alone,” he leaned over him. “You’ll never touch him. You’ll never speak to him. I don’t want you to even look in his direction, do you hear me?”

“Y-yes.”

“You’re lucky, really,” Daichi released his shirt and patted his cheek. “With your cooperation, I’m willing to forgive all of your past sins.”

“Th-thank you, Sir.”

Daichi eyed him for a long second, until Yousuke was sweating under the weight of his gaze.

“You’re not going to betray me?”

“No Sir,” Yousuke’s Adam’s apple bobbed in his throat.

“How can I trust what you say?”

“I… I promise I won’t be-betray you. I wanted to stop anyway. It… it was fun at first but I didn’t want… I didn’t want to do anything illegal…”

“Since when is vandalism not illegal?”

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I won’t betray you, I swear.”

Daichi leaned farther over him, placing a hand on the walkway next to his head, “God damn right you won’t betray me. If you do… next time I’ll find a balcony higher than this one.”

“I’ll do everything you say. I promise. I won’t look at Sugawara. I won’t talk to him. I definitely won’t touch him. I’m sorry for everything I’ve done. I’ll never do a bad thing ever again.”

Daichi hesitated for a long second until he deemed the pallid fear on Yousuke’s face satisfactory. He stood, dragging the redhead to his feet.

Yousuke hunched over, trembling.

“Th-thank you for sparing me, Sir.”

“Stop calling me Sir,” Daichi grabbed his bag from where it had been dropped and placed it on Yousuke’s shoulder. “My name is Sawamura Daichi. Call me Sawamura-san.”

“Sawamura…” Yousuke straightened, eyes widening. “S-S-Sawamura…”

Daichi blinked slowly, “Yeah. Sawamura Daichi.” He grabbed Yousuke’s hand and shook it roughly, squeezing it until he winced.

“I’m Sugawara Koushi’s boyfriend. Nice to meet you.”


 

Sugawara was sitting in his living room, staring at the muted TV from his cocoon of blankets on the couch when the buzz of a text message drew his attention. He lifted the phone from the cushion next to him and checked it.

 

From: Daichi

Can I come over?

 

Sugawara pressed his lips together.

He wanted him to.

He wanted to see Daichi.

He wanted to so badly that it hurt.

But…

Sugawara sniffled and sent a reply.

 

To: Daichi

still not feeling well

dont worry about me

ill just go 2 sleep early

(⌒ω⌒)

 

But he wanted to see him.

Sugawara hugged his knees to his chest and buried his face in his blanket. When his phone buzzed again, he ignored it. It was too difficult to read his words.

He wanted to see him.

But he was a mess. Daichi wouldn’t want to see him in this state. His hair was a rat’s nest and his eyes swollen and bloodshot. His bottom lip was split and garishly bruised halfway down his chin. There were blue-black marks on his throat and hands and he hadn’t even had the energy to brush his teeth or dress in anything other than a pair of exercise shorts and the hoodie Daichi had given him.

Sugawara couldn’t let Daichi see him like this.

What would he think of him?

He would think he was so troublesome.

He was… after all.

So troublesome,” he whispered into the fabric of his blanket.

Ten minutes later, his door clicked.

Sugawara slowly lifted his head.

Had he forgotten to lock it?

He stared across the living room in fear, hugging his knees tighter.

Is it them?

Did they come for me?

His heart thundered against his ribcage and tears pinched his eyes.

He didn’t even have the strength to make a run for the kitchen for a knife to defend himself.

So what, was he just supposed to die then?

Fuck that.

I’ll claw out their eyes.

I’ll rip out their balls.

Bring it on.

But instead of Rei or the others, it was Daichi that appeared in his living room, body illuminated only by the dull blue glow from the muted TV, and all of Sugawara’s fears dissipated.

Daichi stared at him for a long second before lifting the black key in his hand.

“I hope you don’t mind,” he said softly.

Sugawara’s chin quivered and he sniffled.

“St-stupid,” he whispered.

The corner of Daichi’s lips twitched upwards and he walked across the living room.

“I’m sick,” Sugawara lied. “You should go. You’ll catch it.”

“Then I’ll catch it,” Daichi sat next to him on the couch and set the bag he had been holding in one hand on the coffee table. He opened it and reached inside, “You haven’t eaten, have you?”

Sugawara didn’t answer for a moment as he watched Daichi pull out two Styrofoam containers.

“I didn’t know what you were in the mood for,” he admitted. “So I just bought you a gyro and fries from that truck we went to last time.” He offered one of the containers to Sugawara.

He gulped and crossed his legs in front of him on the couch. He took the container timidly and set it in his lap.

“Do you want some tea or coffee or something?” Daichi stood and maneuvered around the coffee table in the direction of the kitchen.

Sugawara watched him go quietly.

“Or just some water, maybe?” Daichi popped open the refrigerator and stared inside.

Sugawara inhaled deeply, “A beer.”

Daichi glanced over his shoulder.

“A beer,” Sugawara repeated. “I need a beer.”

“When you’re sick?”

“Beer.”

Daichi hummed and leaned down, “Alright then…” he grabbed two beers and walked back into the living room. He passed one over to Sugawara and he cracked it open and took a long gulp without a word.

Daichi sat next to him on the couch once more, opening his own beer and sipping it.

Sugawara eyed him silently for a moment. He stared straight ahead, light from the TV gleaming in his dark eyes. He set his can down on the coffee table and grabbed the second container. He opened it and pulled out his gyro. Sugawara watched him take a bite and chew slowly, gaze centered on the volleyball match playing out on the screen of the TV.

Sugawara glanced down at the container in his lap. He set his beer aside and opened it. He lifted his gyro and slowly took a bite.

So good…

Sugawara sniffled, vision blurring. He ate slowly, not even bothering to wipe the tears away when they started streaming down his face and dripping off of his jaw.

When he was finished eating, Daichi wordlessly took his empty container and carried both of them to the kitchen.

“Want another beer?” he asked gently.

Yes,” Sugawara groaned and slumped back on the couch. “Fuck.

Daichi returned, handing the drink over. He sat down once more, glancing silently at him as he opened his second can and sipped the mouth.

Sugawara sunk into his blanket cocoon, leaning his head on the back of the couch. He avoided Daichi’s stare, watching as the players on the screen scrambled to save the ball. Daichi leaned back next to him.

“I used to play volleyball,” he said. “In junior high and high school.”

Sugawara hummed, “Me too.”

“Position?”

“Setter. You?”

“Wing spiker.”

Sugawara sipped his beer, “You look like a wing spiker.”

Daichi chuckled, “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“You’re big, and strong, and reliable,” he said softly.

“Well you look like a setter.”

“How?”

Daichi smiled, “Graceful. Calculating.”

Sugawara stared at him for a moment and then turned his eyes away, “Well… sorry to disappoint you, Daichi. I wasn’t all that good. I wasn’t even a regular.”

“You don’t have to be a regular to still be graceful and calculating.”

Sugawara pursed his lips, “My friends were way better than I was. A couple of them are even still playing at university.”

“Ah… so is one of my friends from high school. He got a scholarship to play at a famous school.”

“What position does he play?”

“Setter.”

“Do you ever go watch him in games?”

“I’ve gone a few times. When the games are nearby.”

They talked for another hour about easy things. Volleyball and high school and the past.

A time when Sugawara didn’t have the fear in his gut of being attacked on the street.

A time when he was carefree and happy and unworried about what direction his life was headed.

And three beers later, he managed to find a laugh.

“I was so mad,” Daichi rested his head on the back of the couch and stared up at the ceiling. “I know he didn’t do it on purpose, but fuck I was so mad. Our manager refused to come anywhere near the club room for weeks after that. And the coach even hung up a list of acceptable under garments just inside the door.”

Sugawara laughed and leaned forward to drop his empty can on the coffee table. He swayed slightly, throwing a hand out to catch himself.

“Classic Tanaka,” he giggled. “I can totally see him doing that.”

Daichi chuckled, “Not my proudest moment as a captain. It definitely wasn’t how I wanted to be remembered.”

“You had to have been better than our captain,” Sugawara slumped back on the couch and turned towards him. He grinned, “Our captain, the idiot that got his arm stuck in a vending machine half an hour before our first match at nationals.”

Daichi laughed, “Oh no.”

“We almost had to play without him. And our regular setter too, since he laughed so hard that he started throwing up.”

Daichi finished off his beer and set it aside, “I can’t believe it… but I think your team may have been rowdier than mine. Incredible.”

“Oh it was. Trust me. I didn’t even tell you about the time our wonderful libero shot a firework into the center of the practice gym and singed off our vice-captain’s eyebrows.”

“How were these kids allowed to continue playing?”

“I think the staff was afraid of them.”

“For good reason, it sounds like.”

Sugawara giggled and closed his eyes.

He felt good. The beer had gone straight to his head and his limbs felt light. He was probably dehydrated from crying so much, and the gyro was the only thing he had eaten all day. It wasn’t a good combination, but oh well.

Because he felt nice.

He felt warm and comfortable in his cocoon, sitting beside Daichi and laughing as if yesterday had never happened.

It never happened.

Sugawara had not been attacked.

He had not been held down.

He hadn’t been about to…

And Daichi didn’t see.

He didn’t see a thing.

They could continue going as they had been.

Happy and oblivious and warm.

Ignorant.

Innocent.

The couch bowed next to him. Sugawara opened his eyes and stared as Daichi shifted closer.

His heart flipped and clenched.

Daichi drew nearer and nearer until Sugawara could feel the heat of his body through his barrier of blankets. His arm rested on the back of the couch behind his shoulders and Sugawara’s mouth went dry.

And Daichi was staring at him with dark eyes. His expression determined and serious and…

Scary.

Daichi is scary.

But he wasn’t.

Sugawara knew that.

Daichi was kind and gentle and caring and he would never do a single thing to hurt Sugawara. He would never do a single thing that Sugawara didn’t want him to do.

But he was big. About the same size as Rei.

No… bigger.

Daichi’s shoulders were wider. His arms were thicker and his hands larger.

And Sugawara felt tiny in the shadow of his body as he shifted closer to him on the couch.

But he was Daichi. So long as he kept his eyes open, staring at that face that belonged only to Daichi and no one else…

It’s Daichi.

And then he reached out and Sugawara used every ounce of strength in his body to keep from flinching away.

Because it was Daichi.

It wasn’t Rei.

It wasn’t one of the others.

Daichi pressed his hand gently to the side of Sugawara’s face, cupping his jaw. Sugawara’s skin burned and flushed. The arm on the back of the couch slowly slid down over Sugawara’s shoulders and his entire body tingled.

The pulse in his throat raged almost painfully.

It’s Daichi.

It’s Daichi.

It’s not him.

It’s not them.

Daichi’s touch was gentle. His fingers tenderly brushed the sensitive skin behind his ear and then trailed down behind the curve of his jaw, palm warm against his face. His thumb traveled over his chin, lingering on the bruise before making its way to his bottom lip. For a long moment the warm, soft skin of his thumb merely brushed slowly, softly over his bottom lip, sending shivers down Sugawara’s spine.

They could continue moving forward as they had been.

They could pretend that the events of yesterday had never transpired.

The date ended as they sat down to eat.

Nothing happened after that.

Nothing.

Sugawara could forget it.

And Daichi could pretend he saw nothing.

He saw nothing.

Daichi’s thumb settled back on his cheek and he slowly leaned forward.

We can be happy.

Ignorant.

Innocent.

Sugawara closed his eyes, holding his breath.

Daichi was close enough that the tip of his nose brushed gently against his. He could feel the warmth of his breath on his lips.

It’s Daichi.

It’s…

The image of Rei looming over him flashed inside his eyelids.

Sugawara let out a gasp and jerked backwards. He cowered down into his cocoon of blankets and stared, terrified, into Daichi’s shocked face.

Shit.

Daichi’s eyes were wide, mouth slightly agape, hand still held out where Sugawara’s face had once been.

Shit.

Fuck.

Sugawara’s stomach twisted and churned.

Daichi’s mouth slowly closed and he cleared his throat. He retracted his arm from around Sugawara’s shoulders and sat back, dragging his fingers through his hair.

“Ah…” he breathed out, looking away. “Sorry.”

No.

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry.

Sugawara buried his face in his knees, desperately willing the moisture in his eyes to go away.

I’m sorry.

The sound of Daichi’s cell phone ringing scared a wince out of Sugawara. The couch shifted as Daichi’s weight left it.

Sugawara peeked over his knees and watched him walk halfway across the room, back to him as he lifted the phone to his ear.

“Hello?” he answered in a low voice.

Sugawara took the opportunity to slow his racing heart.

Calm down.

It’s Daichi.

It’s been Daichi this whole time.

“I’m at Suga’s place,” Daichi said. “Yeah. Why?” he was silent for a moment. His shoulders straightened, “Are you… okay. I understand. Yeah. Wait for me.” He ended the call and slid the phone into his pocket. He turned back to Sugawara and he quickly hid his face in his knees.

Daichi cleared his throat again and approached.

“Suga… do you want me to stay?”

Sugawara sucked in a deep breath, “I’m… I’m going to go to sleep.”

Daichi was silent.

“Maybe tomorrow I’ll feel better.”

Daichi let out a soft sigh, “Text me tomorrow. I’ll bring you anything you need.”

“I’ll be okay.”

There was a moment of silence and then Daichi gently smoothed back Sugawara’s hair.

“Text me,” he said softly, removing his hand.

Sugawara listened as he gathered his things. The beer cans clanked together as he collected them. His footsteps faded into the kitchen as he discarded the trash.

“I’ll see you tomorrow,” Daichi called carefully.

Sugawara didn’t reply.

After a slight hesitation, Daichi’s footsteps withdrew and then the door was opening and closing once more.

And Sugawara was alone.

And Sugawara was very cold.


 

Was Daichi some kind of idiot?

After what Sugawara had been through just the day before… did Daichi seriously think that he wanted to be kissed?

He had to be some kind of idiot.

Wasn’t it traumatizing enough to have some random guy force himself on him? The last thing Sugawara needed was Daichi also forcing himself on him.

Idiot.

Fucking idiot!

Daichi dragged his fingers through his hair and held them there as he strode down the sidewalk towards home.

Maybe he was drunk.

He had thought that his tolerance was higher than that. But maybe five beers was enough. Enough to make him drunk. Enough to make him think that kissing Sugawara Koushi the day after he was nearly sexually assaulted was a good idea.

“Fuck,” he moaned and scrubbed at his face.

He couldn’t help it.

Sugawara had looked so…

Beautiful.

In the dim glow of the TV, with cheeks flushed and eyes bloodshot, wearing that too big sweatshirt that once belonged to Daichi, smiling as if nothing outside could touch him in that one, soft moment… he had looked so beautiful. And Daichi was so weak.

So weak to that smile… a genuine one amidst all of the fakes.

So weak to this man that could laugh when he was sad and worry about others even when he was in pain.

It was so alarming just how weak Sawamura Daichi was for Sugawara Koushi.

So it was really no wonder that he couldn't hold himself back from trying to capture just a small piece of that moment between his lips.

How did this happen?

When did this happen?

Just when had Daichi started to… care so much for Sugawara?

And not just care… but long for him?

There had to be something wrong with him.

He sucked in a deep breath and picked up his pace towards his apartment. There, he met Asahi and Tanaka in the lobby and they rode the elevator to the seventh floor.

“Hope we didn’t interrupt anything,” Tanaka said, hands in his pockets.

Daichi stared straight forward and didn’t reply.

“Oh shit. We totally did, didn’t we? Sorry dude.”

Daichi sighed, “No. It’s fine. You called at a good time, actually. Stopped me from doing something stupid.”

The elevator fell silent.

When they reached their destination, Daichi unlocked his apartment door as Asahi explained the situation.

“Me and Tanaka were at school and we saw one of the guys that had attacked Suga,” he said.

Daichi clenched his jaw and they moved into the apartment.

“It was the bastard with the camera,” Tanaka added, closing the door behind him as Asahi and Daichi kicked off their shoes. “So we had a uh… a little talk with him.”

“Did you kick his ass?”

“Fuckin’ of course.”

“Good,” Daichi growled, flicking on lights as he walked further into the apartment.

“A-anyway,” Asahi followed. “I think we scared him enough that he won’t be doing anything to Suga anymore. And we also… uh… acquired some… evidence?”

Daichi went into the kitchen and grabbed a bottle of water from the refrigerator. He turned to them and cocked an eyebrow, “Evidence?”

Tanaka reached into his bag and pulled out a small black camcorder.

Daichi’s stomach churned.

“If… if you don’t want to watch it, then we’ll understand,” Asahi rushed to say, waving his hands. “But we figured that we’d wait to check if you did want to see…”

“I want to see,” he said firmly. He twisted the lid off of the bottle, staring at the motion. “I’ve been in the dark for too long. It’s time I completely understand what I’ve been missing.”

Asahi and Tanaka exchanged a look.

“I’ll be fine, c’mon,” Daichi led the way into the living room and sat down on the couch next to Tanaka as Asahi connected the camera to the TV.

Daichi drank from the water silently, heart racing.

He didn’t want to see.

But he had to know.

He had to understand everything that Sugawara had been keeping a secret from him.

He couldn’t let him fight alone anymore.

When it was set up, Asahi sat next to Daichi on the couch and held up the remote control. He gave Daichi one last uncertain look.

“Are you ready?” he asked.

Daichi sucked in a deep breath and nodded.

Asahi gulped and started the video.

If people are able to trace this back to me—” a voice spoke from behind the camera as it turned onto a pair of men sitting across a table of what looked like a fast food burger joint.

They won’t,” one of the men said. He was large, with wide eyes and dark hair.

Rei… Daichi’s lip twitched.

It’s fine,” he went on, lifting a burger to his mouth. “We’ll edit it. Blur faces and distort voices. I’ll make a fake account and upload it and send it to everyone.”

The camera shifted and moved until the cameraman was peering into the lens. He hummed and used his sleeve to clean it, casting the screen in darkness.

Okay… but if I get caught I’m sellin’ you out in a heartbeat.

Wow. No loyalty among rats.

Like you wouldn’t do the same?

He turned the camera back around and zoomed in on Rei’s face. He extended a middle finger.

So, Rei, tell the world. How does it feel, on your way to beat up your first fag?

Rei grinned and the other man let out a laugh, lifting a soda to his lips.

Daichi clenched his hands into fists in his lap.

First of many, if I’m lucky,” Rei leaned forward and grabbed a handful of fries from the cameraman’s tray.

Ah! Those are mine you prick!” the camera turned to the side and the video suddenly switched to a different scene.

There was the sound of a throat clearing as the camera lifted from a dark street corner. It focused on a group of people further down the sidewalk. It was the late hours of the evening and they were illuminated only by the streetlamps.

Daichi gulped at the sight of Sugawara standing amidst three men, gripping the strap of the bag slung across his chest.

His eyes flashed warily from man to man as he said, “I just want to go home. Please let me pass.

And we just wanna hang out for a little bit,” the man standing directly in front of him said and Daichi recognized his voice.

Rei. I’ll fucking kill him.

Maybe some other time,” Sugawara glanced side to side as the two other men moved slightly towards him.

Aw, he’s being shy!” one of them chuckled.

Yo!” a voice called and everyone turned. The camera bounced and moved to find the owner of the new voice, zooming in once it spotted him. Sugawara’s coworker approached, puffing on a cigar nonchalantly. He pulled it from his mouth and blew out a cloud of smoke, “Can Koushi hang out with you guys a different night?

Huh?

He kinda promised me we’d go drinking tonight.

Who the hell are you?” Rei asked, terse voice revealing his annoyance.

You mean you hung around outside our store all night like some pervert stalkers and don’t recognize me?” Ennoshita moved up next to one of the men and cocked his hip towards him with a cocky grin, “You sayin’ I ain’t as pretty as Koushi?

The man took a step away from him and asked in a voice laced with disgust, “You some kind of fag or something?

Ennoshita placed an arm around Sugawara’s shoulders and cocked an eyebrow over his lazy eyes, “Why, you want to take me out on a date?

In your dreams!

Pity,” he led Sugawara out from their circle and Daichi let out a breath of relief. Maybe this Ennoshita guy wasn’t as bad as he had thought. “It’s obvious you guys know how to show a guy a good time.

Ennoshita and Sugawara walked away.

"Next round is on me, Snickers," Tanaka muttered.

The cameraman emerged from where he had been hiding and approached the others. He centered the camera on Rei’s face, shrouded inside the hood of a grey sweatshirt.

So, Rei. What’s it feel like to get rejected?” he snickered.

Rei glared at him and swiped at the camera, “Shut the fuck up.

The scene shifted again and Daichi’s stomach tightened.

The camera settled in on the view of Sugawara, blood already smeared across his chin as he backed away from the three men surrounding him in the boardwalk bathroom. Daichi reached up and rubbed at his lips as uncomfortable anger spread under his skin, making him itchy and restless.

My friends are here,” Sugawara said, voice weak. “If you—”

“Right here?” Rei interrupted. “Yousuke, are you this dude’s friend?

Nope. Definitely not.”

What about you two?” Rei glanced at the cameraman until he received a call of disagreement.

Hm…” Rei turned away from the camera. “Unless your friends are these urinals, it looks like you’re alone after all.

The camera zoomed in slightly on Sugawara’s face.

Seriously. I’m warning you. Stay away from me.

Warning me? What are you going to do?

The camera zoomed back out in time to catch Rei taking a step forward.

I’ll—” Sugawara took a sudden step to the left as Yousuke shifted closer to him. “Stay away from me.” He pulled his hand from his pocket, phone clutched in it but didn’t manage to use it before one of the men kicked it across the bathroom. Sugawara cried out and tried to chase it but suddenly Yousuke was in front of him. He grabbed Sugawara by the hair and dragged him to the side.

Daichi made a mental note to hit him as hard as he could the next time he saw him.

Sugawara managed to free himself, kicking at the redhead and then staggering backwards, panic written over his face.

I’m serious!” his eyes were wide, darting from man to man in desperation as he panted, chest rising and falling quickly.

Daichi rubbed his lips again.

Don’t touch me or I swear I’ll—”

“You’ll what?” Rei and the others moved closer, forcing him back another step. “Are you going to beat us up? Make us cry home to our mommies?” His laughter swelled through the room. “I’m not afraid of a little fag like you.

They backed him farther into a corner and Sugawara’s voice was even weaker when he said, “I just want to go back to my friends. I won’t bother you so just—”

“Well that’s the problem. Just the fact that you exist bothers me. So unless you plan to change that…

Sugawara’s brows quivered and his Adam’s apple bobbed in his throat.

And Daichi’s chest hurt.

I’ll kill them.

I’ll kill them all.

And then Sugawara’s expression of panic and fear slid away for just a moment. His eyes drifted from man to man, lingering on the cameraman for a tick longer than the others.

And he was planning.

Daichi could see the cogs spinning in his mind. He was planning and thinking and yes.

Run.

Fight.

Escape.

He held his breath as Sugawara took one more step backwards, bumping the paper towel dispenser and triggering the sensor. The sound of the towel being ejected from the dispenser echoed through the room and suddenly everyone was moving.

The man on Sugawara’s left dove for him, hands groping, but Sugawara dodged his grasp and bolted towards the gap between Yousuke and Rei.

Hey—” Rei went for him but Sugawara darted closer to Yousuke and promptly punched him in the face, sending him stumbling backwards.

Daichi’s heart leapt.

Yes.

Yes.

Good.

Escape.

Even though he knew how this ended, he still longed for the impossibility that Sugawara would somehow make it past them all and run to where Daichi and the others had been so stupidly waiting for him.

Please.

The camera jogged and dipped as Sugawara ran past, but found him again just as he was wrenching the door of the bathroom open.

A hand flashed out and gripped him around the throat and Sugawara let out a loud gasp before he was being shoved back into the bathroom, directly into Rei’s chest.

Daichi’s stomach dropped.

Even though he knew how this ended.

Rei wrapped an arm around Sugawara’s neck and he struggled against him, coughing and yanking at his arm desperately.

Asahi sniffled next to Daichi, reaching up and wiping his eyes.

Tanaka muttered expletives under his breath and shifted his weight on the couch.

Daichi swallowed.

The man that had captured Sugawara scolded them and stepped out of the bathroom once more.

Well now I’m a little mad,” Rei snapped. “I was just going to make you cry a little bit but then you had to go and pull something like that…

Sugawara was still fighting frantically against him, pulling at his arm, legs kicking.

He can’t breathe.

Let him go.

Daichi’s eyes stung and he blinked rapidly, covering the lower half of his face with his hands.

Rei hauled Sugawara around and then shoved him away. He stumbled towards the wall, clutching at his throat and gasping.

Now I’m pissed. You were actually going to run away, weren’t you? You even punched my buddy,” Rei’s voice rose and his hands clenched into fists.

Just let me go,” Sugawara begged. “Let me go and I’ll pretend this never happened.

“Mother fucker,” Tanaka stacked his hands behind his head.

Mother fucker, Daichi agreed.

Rei laughed, “You act like I’m scared of you for some reason.”

You should be.

A chill ran down Daichi’s spine.

Even though the others laughed and took it as a joke, Daichi swallowed uncomfortably.

Because Sugawara had said the threat with an expression he had never seen before. A dark, unreadable expression that suggested that rather than a threat, the words were a promise.

And Daichi had thought for a moment that yes.

They should be terrified.

Though he didn’t have a clue why.

Are you done? I’d really like to just get this over with,” Rei said once their laughter faded out.

I—”

Yousuke leapt up and kneed Sugawara in the stomach, singing, “Revenge,” as he danced away and Sugawara doubled over.

And Daichi made a mental note to beat the ever loving shit out of him the next time he saw him.

The panic was back on Sugawara’s face as he frantically searched for an escape route. And Daichi wished he would find one. Somehow, some way.

Run.

But it was no use.

He couldn’t manage one more attempt at running before the men closed in on him, completely shutting off any hope of escape. Yousuke and the other one grabbed him by the arms and yanked him down to his knees at Rei’s command.

Daichi’s stomach churned and roiled and he clenched his jaw.

He didn’t want to see it.

But he had to understand.

The men forced Sugawara back into a strained position, torso stretched tightly from hips to shoulders and Daichi bit the inside of his cheek to keep from jumping off of the couch at the sound of his trembling,

N-no…

Rei’s knee was pressing down on Sugawara’s shoulder and he reached out and took his chin, saying, “That’s better,” in a voice that made Daichi’s blood boil.

Asahi moaned next to him and covered his eyes with his hands. Tanaka crossed his arms over his chest, looking away.

But Daichi continued to stare.

Stare at the frantic, panicked expression on Sugawara’s face as he panted, chest heaving, entire body trembling.

How’s the angle?” Rei glanced over his shoulder.

Perfect,” a voice from behind the camera spoke.

Then let’s go ahead and get it started.

The camera zoomed in as Rei reached for his belt.

Don’t,” Sugawara said, eyes going wide.

Rei snickered, “Look at you. Do you really think you’re in the position to order me around? Though I’m not opposed to hearing you beg me a little… if you want to give it a try.

Disgusting.

Disgusting pig.

I’ll kill you.

Rei released his buckle and grabbed the button of his pants.

Daichi stared at Sugawara as another expression of calm clarity crossed his face and he growled out,

Anything you put in my mouth… I’m biting it off.

Yes.

Yes.

Daichi rubbed his eyes momentarily, relief flooding his chest.

Oh yeah?” Daichi peered at the screen again as Yousuke leaned onto his foot that was pinning Sugawara’s broken hand to the floor.

Sugawara cried out and Daichi made a mental note that Yousuke was not to be allowed to live.

Rei unbuttoned his pants and laughed, “I already told you, didn’t I?” he grabbed Sugawara by the hair and jerked his head back. “I’m not scared of you.

And he really should be scared.

Scared of the expression that crossed Sugawara’s face.

Scared of whatever plans he was making in his head at that moment.

Scared of Daichi and everything he could do to him.

Rei should be terrified for so many reasons.

He released Sugawara’s hair and straightened, reaching for his pants once more.

Alright,” he said, and Daichi felt sick at the cheerfulness in his voice. “Let’s get this over with.

Enjoy your meal,” the man on Sugawara’s left side sang and then laughed loudly.

And then the sound of the door opening drew everyone’s attention, though the camera stayed centered on Sugawara. There was a single moment of hesitation and then Sugawara let out the whimper,

Daichi…

And Daichi’s heart broke yet again.

Tanaka’s voice erupted and the camera slid down to the floor as sudden sounds of struggle filled the speakers. The camera bounced and jerked before finally going black.

Daichi leaned back on the couch and dragged his fingers through his hair.

“Well that fucking sucked,” Tanaka grumbled.

Asahi’s frame shuddered with a sob, “P-poor Suga…

Tanaka turned towards Daichi.

“So? What’s the plan?”

Daichi inhaled slowly and then let it out.

“Let me think about it. And I’ll let you know in the morning.”

Tanaka nodded slowly.

Two arms surrounded Daichi and he glanced over his shoulder at Asahi, who was still crying, tears streaming down his flushed cheeks.

“It’s okay, Daichi!” he wailed. “We’re going to make it all better! So don’t worry!”

Daichi chuckled and patted his arm, “Isn’t it Suga that you should be trying to comfort?”

Asahi pressed his face against his shoulder, “You need it too. You deserve comfort too.”

Daichi furrowed his brows.

Tanaka stood and fetched the camera with a loud sigh.

“Alright. Keep up posted. Don’t wait too long,” he shoved the camera into his bag. “I’m itchin’ to kick some ass.”

Asahi released Daichi and sniffed, rubbing his sleeve against his nose.

“Yeah,” Daichi stood and shoved his hands in his pockets. “I’ll think something up. Thanks.”

He walked with them to the lobby and then leaned against the wall of the elevator, staring at his feet silently.

It was worse than he had imagined.

So far Sugawara had been fortunate.

Fortunate that Ennoshita was around the first time they tried to get him alone.

Fortunate that Tanaka had come on their date.

If you could really call any of these events fortunate.

He inhaled deeply.

Now he understood. There were probably dozens of other instances that Sugawara was still keeping to himself. But now Daichi knew what he was dealing with.

He knew that Sugawara’s life was in danger.

And it was all Rei’s fault.

No…

It’s all Risa’s fault.

He gritted his teeth.

Everything began with Sugawara’s ex-girlfriend.

So it made sense that that was where Daichi would begin plotting his revenge.

He pulled his cell phone from his pocket and scrolled through his contacts until he found the name he was searching for. He clicked it and pressed the phone to his ear as the elevator reached his floor.

It rang twice before the call was picked up.

“Hello?” a voice sang sweetly.

“Hey,” Daichi stood in front of his apartment and keyed in the code on the pad next to the door. “I’m gonna need to call in that favor you owe me.”

There was a gentle chuckle on the other line.

“Why Sawa-chan… I thought you’d never ask.”

Chapter Text

“I have news you’ll be happy to hear.”

Risa blew on her tea, “I find that hard to believe. Unless there is an incredibly handsome man standing outside waiting to ask my hand in marriage.” She peered through the window of the café, hand shading her eyes, “Aaaaaand nope. Take me away, woeful disappointment.”

Anna took the seat across from her at the table and rolled her eyes, “Wow, you’ve gotten depressing in your old age.”

Risa grunted and sipped her tea.

“Anyway, no this isn’t a handsome man with a big honkin’ ring in a velvet box,” Anna lifted her spoon and dipped it into her vanilla pudding. “But it’s just as sweet, if you ask me.”

“Alright, you have my attention. Spill it,” Risa leaned her chin in the palm of her hand.

“Okay. So,” Anna’s eyes gleamed. “You know how Koushi broke up with you to date a dude?”

“Ugh!” Risa straightened, nose scrunching. “Why is this still a topic of discussion?” She crossed her arms over her chest, “I get it! I lost my boyfriend of two years to another man and I’m so pathetic. Why do you have to keep rubbing salt in my wound?”

“I’m not rubbing salt in it,” Anna insisted. “I’m about to make you feel better!”

Risa pursed her lips and eyed her warily, “Better how?”

Anna smirked, “Apparently there are some guys that are giving him what he deserves.”

Risa didn’t reply. She stared quietly for a moment before uncrossing her arms and wrapping her hands around her tea.

“What he deserves?” she repeated unsurely.

Anna giggled, “Remember Rei?”

Ugh! You’re hitting all my sore spots today, aren’t you?”

“Well when Rei heard that he was gay—”

“Anna!” Risa interrupted, eyebrows pulling low. “You weren’t supposed to tell anyone about that! Seriously! I don’t know why I tell you anything.”

“Hear me out, hear me out,” Anna flapped a hand. “So anyway, Rei and these other guys have been going after Koushi.” She stuck the spoon into her mouth and then pulled it back out, “I haven’t heard everything yet but I told Jirou to keep me posted on how it goes.”

Risa gulped, “Going after him… what do you mean?”

“I dunno. It’s not a big deal. Just some light teasing and stuff. You know, punishment for embarrassing you.”

Risa stared into her tea, “Fuckin’ idiots. I never asked them to…”

“You should be happy. Don’t pretend that you didn’t want revenge. You were so pissed two weeks ago.”

“Well yeah, I got dumped. Who wouldn’t be pissed?” she scowled. “But I never…” she tapped her finger against the side of her tea and let out a sigh. “Whatever. They can do what they want. It’s not like… not like I care or anything.”

Anna hummed and took another bite of pudding, “Anyway, when are you going to tell me about his boyfriend? You saw him, didn’t you? Who is he?”

“How am I supposed to know?” she snapped. “There weren’t any introductions.

“Well then what does he look like? Wait! I’m going to make a guess,” she leaned back in her seat. “Hmmm… short. Fat. Ugly,” she snickered.

Risa glared at her, “Don’t be a fuckin’ idiot. Koushi has good taste. Or else he wouldn’t have dated me for so long.”

“Oooh, defending him?”

“Not him. Myself,” she lifted the tea to her lips. “Anyway, you’re completely wrong. He was hot.”

“No way! Koushi has more game than both of us combined!” Anna laughed.

“Shut up!”

“C’mon. Details. Hair and eye color. Oh, or better yet,” she lifted a napkin and set it down in front of Risa. She reached into her purse and pulled out an eyebrow pencil. “Draw him, little miss art student.”

Risa rolled her eyes, “Why are you so desperate to see him?” she took the pencil from her.

“I just want to know how hot he is! It’d be embarrassing if he was even hotter than my boyfriend.”

What boyfriend?” Risa snorted, putting the pencil to the napkin. “You’re as single as I am.”

“I mean future boyfriend!”

She laughed, “But you won’t even remember this twenty years from now when you actually get one!”

“Bitch!” Anna extended a middle finger at her.

Risa stuck her tongue out and turned to her sloppy drawing. “Well anyway, I only saw him the one time so it’s not like it’s going to be that accurate. He was hot but not really my type.”

“Oh, so not a pretty boy? A hot muscle man then?”

“He was thick,” Risa agreed. “He had a good jawline. Dark hair and eyes… Good fashion sense. Looked like he was well off, money wise.”

“Ohhh, is Koushi a trophy boyfriend?”

Risa glared at her.

She laughed, “What? That’s why you dated him, right? He’s pretty!”

“That’s not why…” Risa muttered.

“Hm?”

“Here,” Risa thrust the napkin towards her. “Something like that.”

Anna stared down at the drawing for a long second.

“Oh, you’re right. He’s not your type.”

“Fuck off.”

“But he is hot. Kind of scary…” she dwindled off.

Risa rolled the eyebrow pencil across the table and sipped her tea.

“You know… he looks kind of familiar.”

She cocked an eyebrow, “Familiar? What, you think you’ve seen him at school or something? I think he goes to university. He was helping Koushi study when I went over there. Unless he’s already graduated…” she hummed, tapping a finger on the table. “A hot, older man that looks like he can bench press three of me? Never knew Koushi was into that.”

“I can’t really put my finger on it,” Anna said. “But I’ve definitely seen this guy somewhere.” She tucked the napkin into her purse, “I’ll ask around.”

“What for? I don’t care who he is.”

Anna winked, “Why else? So Rei and the others can out him!”

Risa’s lips turned down. She glanced at the watch on her wrist.

“I’ve gotta go,” she said, downing the rest of her tea and standing. She pulled her purse onto her shoulder, “See you later, Dumb Slut.”

“Such a dick, Bitch.”

Risa extended both of her middle fingers and walked backwards away from the table, “Maybe I will, Whore Nuts.”

“Ah, look out—”

Risa’s back connected with something solid and she pitched to the ground.

“Fuck!” she braced her hands against the floor, grimacing at the sting in her knees. She gritted her teeth and whirled, “Hey! Watch where you’re—”

“I’m so sorry! I wasn’t paying attention to where I was going,” a man knelt at her side, offering his hands. His brows furrowed over warm brown eyes, “Are you hurt?”

Risa’s mouth went dry as she stared.

Porcelain skin.

Perfectly tousled hair.

Handsome features.

Oh fuck he’s totally my type.

“Ahh…” she laughed sheepishly. “I’m… I’m sorry. It was my fault. I was facing the wrong way and uhm…” she gulped.

The man smiled, the rest of his charming face accommodating the warm movement, “No, I’m totally at fault. I can’t believe I didn’t notice such a stunning woman.”

Risa’s cheeks flamed, “H-huh? Oh… no uhm… I should’ve noticed s-such a—”

“Here,” he offered his hands. “Let me make it up to you. Can I buy you a coffee or something?”

He helped Risa to her feet and oh wow he’s so tall…

“Uhm… Uh… sure! I’ve… I’ve got time…” she glanced over her shoulder at Anna, who stared with an amused smile.

“Perfect,” he released her hands and offered an arm, smiling. “Shall we then?”

She took his arm, “Yes… we shall.”


 

“Koushi’s not coming in today either?”

Ennoshita glanced up from the magazine he was reading at the counter. Ukai stood across from him, lighting the cigarette pinched between his lips.

Ennoshita smirked, “Yo Boss, don’t you know you’re not supposed to smoke in the store?”

“Shut up,” he slipped the lighter into his pocket and inhaled deeply. He blew out a cloud of smoke and pulled the cigarette out. “It’s my fuckin’ store. I’ll smoke if I want.”

Ennoshita hummed and flipped a page of the magazine, “Different story when Kou is around…”

“Well since he’s not around to give me a lecture, I’ll do whatever the fuck I want.”

He chuckled and lifted the cigarette he had hidden under the counter at the boss’s sudden arrival. He inhaled deeply off of it and then blew it out, “Amen to that.”

Ukai gazed around the store silently.

“So… Koushi never misses work.”

Ennoshita stared down at the magazine.

“Should I be worried?”

He let out a deep sigh, “Decide on which level of involvement you want to be and ask again.”

Ukai sucked on the cigarette slowly.

“Is... moderate involvement a thing?”

“Shit I hope so, that’s the level I’m banking on.”

“Lay it on me, then.”

Ennoshita let out a long, drawn-out sigh.

“Kou’s been getting targeted by some dirt bag bullies because he is currently in a romantic relationship with a man.”

Fuck,” Ukai pressed a hand to his eyes and held it there.

“They vandalized his home, broke his finger, and- as I’ve been told by a certain Baldy- assaulted him in a boardwalk bathroom.”

Ukai scrubbed at his face for a long second before dropping the hand. He sucked on his cigarette and looked away.

“Oh, and they’ve come to the store a few times to wait for him.”

Ukai strode up to the counter, ground his cigarette out in the ashtray next to the register, and tossed his name tag down.

“Well fuck me,” he growled. “I’ve just leveled up to full involvement.”

“Congratulations on your promotion.”

“Fuck off, Chikara.”

Ennoshita grinned as his boss turned on his heel and stomped across the store, grumbling the whole way. He paused at the door and turned back to Ennoshita.

“Next time those pricks show their faces around here, call the fuckin’ cops.”

“Yes Sir.”


 

Takeda had just rounded the corner to the second landing of his apartment building when he spotted him.

Gangster!

Takeda immediately looked left and right for an escape route, though the best bet would probably be to turn and bolt down the stairs. But the position of the man on the balcony gave him pause.

Because he was standing directly outside of Sugawara’s apartment, wasn’t he?

Takeda gulped. He really was quite frightening looking. He had a series of earrings in his ear including two silver hoops at the lobe. His long hair was bleached and held back by a black leather headband. He wore sloppy clothing, an orange hoodie and ripped jeans.

Gangster

Takeda wanted to flee. But he was standing outside of Sugawara’s home.

He could very well be one of the thugs that had been vandalizing his door the past week.

He could very well be there to do it again.

Or maybe something even worse.

So Takeda didn’t flee.

Instead, he strode across the balcony towards the gangster and called out,

“You there!”

The man visibly jumped and then turned towards him.

And he had a mean looking face too. His piercing eyes widened and then narrowed.

“Who the fuck are you?” he growled.

Takeda crossed his arms over his chest, “Who are you?

Who are you?

“What are you doing here?”

“What are you doing here?”

Takeda glanced at Sugawara’s apartment, “Do you have business with this door?”

“Well? Do you have business with this door?”

“Instead of evading the question, how about you—”

“Maybe I do have business with this door. Is my business with this door any business of yours?”

Ooo, lovely rhyme.

Takeda shook his head.

No, Ittetsu, now’s not the time to be impressed!

“Maybe I also have business with this door,” Takeda countered.

“Well then you should wait your fuckin’ turn.”

“I was here first!”

The man gaped at him, “No you fuckin’ weren’t! I’ve been here for ten minutes!”

“W-Well…” Takeda floundered. “Uh… my business is more important!”

“Says who?” the man’s eyes darted down to the bag slung over Takeda’s shoulder. His thick eyebrows lowered, “Whatcha got in that bag?”

Takeda gripped the strap, “I don’t believe that is any concern of yours.”

“What’s in the bag?” he repeated, taking a step forward.

Takeda skirted around him, “Nothing that you should worry about. Now please stay away from me.”

“Give it to me,” he demanded, reaching out.

Takeda slapped his hand away and moved closer to the apartment, “Keep your hands away from me, thank you very much.”

“Just let me see what’s in the bag and I’ll—” he lunged forward and Takeda squeaked and dodged his groping arms.

“Stay back!” he rushed to the door of his apartment. “I am a green belt, I’ll have you know!”

Ehh? Is that a threat?”

“It’s a warning! I- I can—”

Takeda yelped as the man managed to wrap his hands around the lapels of his jacket and yank him to the side.

“Let me go!” he beat at him with his fists and kicked with his legs.

“Let me see what’s in your bag!” he shoved him up against the wall of the apartment, wincing at Takeda’s haywire blows.

“I’ll scream!”

Haah?”

“Rape! RAPE!”

WHAT? Why are you yelling that? Stop it!

Rapist! I NEED HELP!” Takeda yanked on his bleached hair.

“Bastard, I’m not rapin’ you. Jesus, stop shouting—”

Ahem.

They froze. Takeda loosened his hold on the man’s hair as they both looked towards the stairwell at the new arrival.

A man with broad shoulders stood a short distance away. In his hand was a plastic grocery bag. He eyed them quietly for a long moment and then bowed.

“Good evening,” he said calmly. “My name is Sawamura Daichi.”

Takeda slowly released the man and he did the same, taking a step backwards.

“Ah…” Takeda cleared his throat and returned the bow, continuing to stare at the young man. “Takeda Ittetsu.”

Daichi glanced at the man with the bleached hair and Takeda did the same.

He scowled, “Ukai… Keishin.”

Daichi inhaled deeply and let it out before giving them a smile. He glanced at Sugawara’s door, “Is he not answering?”

Takeda blinked in surprise.

“Sawamura,” Ukai repeated under his breath. “Sawamura…” he clasped his chin and stared at the balcony beneath his feet.

Ah… now that I think about it… Takeda turned back to Daichi as he walked up to the door and knocked. Sawamura. That name sounds familiar.

“Takeda-san,” Daichi said, drawing his attention. “You’re Suga’s neighbor, right?”

Ehh?” Ukai glanced down at him.

“That’s right,” he ignored the shocked stare.

Daichi smiled, “Thank you.”

He lifted his eyebrows, “Thank you?”

He hummed and knocked on the door again, “For looking out for him. Cooking for him.”

“O-oh!” Takeda flushed. “W-well… it’s my pleasure, actually. Sugawara-kun is a very kind boy and has helped me plenty in the past…”

Daichi chuckled, staring straight ahead, “I don’t suppose you own a boat?”

“A boat?”

He shook his head, “No. Nothing. And Ukai-san, you’re here because…”

Ukai folded his arms over his chest, “I’m Koushi’s boss. This is the second night he’s called in. I’m checkin’ up on him.”

“Eh?” Takeda stared up at him. “His boss? Not a gangster?”

Ukai glared down at him, “A gangster? What kind of guy do I look like?”

“Not the kind that has a job, if I’m being honest.”

“Now listen here—”

Daichi laughed and they looked to him once more as he knocked another time.

“What about you, Sawamura-kun?” Takeda adjusted his glasses on his nose. “Are you a friend of Sugawara-kun’s?”

“Ah,” Daichi reached into his pocket and produced a small black key. “Sort of…” he slid the key into the lock and turned it. He replaced it in his pocket and turned the door handle. It opened easily. He smiled at them one last time before saying, “I’m his boyfriend.”

Takeda’s and Ukai’s jaws dropped.

“It was nice meeting you,” Daichi bowed. “I’ll let Suga know you are both thinking about him.” He gave a final nod and then disappeared into the apartment, pulling the door closed behind him.


 

Not much had changed since Daichi had last been in the apartment. The lights were still off. The TV still on. Sugawara was still on the couch, this time stretched on his side and asleep. His blanket was bunched around the upper half of his body but Daichi could see that he was still wearing the hoodie that he had given him.

Has he even moved since last night?

Daichi frowned and walked across the living room. He set his grocery bag of food down on the coffee table and crouched down in front of the couch.

For a moment, Daichi merely observed him.

Sugawara’s lips were slightly parted, his hair a wild mess atop his head. He used his left arm as a pillow, hugging a portion of the blanket with his other arm.

The bruise on his chin seemed even darker than the night before, the dark marks on his neck, thicker. Just the sight of the wounds made Daichi’s stomach boil.

Because how could anyone do this to Sugawara?

He still couldn’t wrap his mind around it. Even after hearing the excuse Yousuke sold him about Rei being in love with Sugawara’s ex-girlfriend, he just didn’t understand how it was possible for a human being to be so cruel to another human being. No matter the reason.

How?

How?

Daichi inhaled slowly.

As he reached out to shake him awake, his eyes fell on Sugawara’s bare legs bent on the couch. More specifically, he stared at the dark black bruises on each of his knees, Daichi swallowed the lump that formed in his throat.

I’ll kill them.

Every last one of them.

Sugawara’s ringtone blared from the arm rest of the couch, scaring a small jump out of Daichi. He glanced at Sugawara, but he didn’t stir at the sudden noise. He reached out and took the phone. A picture of a man hanging upside down from a tree, shirt ripped and covering his face as his arms flailed, leaves falling around him, lit up the screen. The name above the picture read, PattySueIsAWhore followed by three eggplant emojis.

Daichi blinked at it for a second, glanced at Sugawara, and then silenced the call. He set the phone on the coffee table and then reached for Sugawara’s shoulder. He gently shook him.

“Suga,” he said softly.

Sugawara inhaled deeply and then tensed. His muscles relaxed and he turned his head slightly towards Daichi.

Five more minutes,” he mumbled.

Daichi smiled, “Nope. Time to wake up and eat.”

Ugh. Suck a dick, Eita.

Daichi’s smile stretched into a grin, “Sorry Suga. It’s not Eita.”

Whoever that is.

Sugawara was silent for a moment and Daichi wondered if he had fallen back to sleep. But then he stirred and slowly blinked his bloodshot eyes open. He groaned and pushed up into a sitting position, rubbing his eyes sleepily.

“You’re really taking advantage of that key I gave you,” he said with a yawn.

Daichi chuckled and stood.

“It’d be a waste if I didn’t use it, right?”

Sugawara hummed, placing his feet on the floor. Daichi eyed the bruises on his knees one more time before sitting next to him and opening the grocery bag.

“I bought Mexican food this time,” he said, pulling out a Styrofoam container. “You like spicy stuff right?”

“Love it.”

“Good, I asked for the secret sauce on yours.”

Sugawara smiled as he took the container from him, “Thanks…”

Daichi watched him for a moment before asking gently, “How are you feeling?”

Sugawara was silent as he opened the container and lifted the plastic fork inside.

“Hmm… I’m feeling better,” he finally said. “I think I’ll go to school tomorrow. And work.”

“That’s good.”

Sugawara stared down at his food for a long second before flicking his eyes up at Daichi and then away.

“Uhm… thanks. For uh… taking care of me. It kinda...” he let out a laugh, “It kinda feels like I’m back home.”

Daichi smiled, “It’s my pleasure.”

Sugawara scooped rice into his mouth happily.

Daichi turned to his own container and popped it up. He was just reaching for his fork when Sugawara’s phone went off again. Daichi glanced at the screen. It was the same picture and name from before. Sugawara leaned forward and lifted it from the table. He let out a loud sigh.

“Sorry, can I answer it? If I don’t he’s just going to keep calling.”

“Go ahead.”

Sugawara pressed the phone to his ear, “I was sleeping, Jackass.”

KouKou I heard you broke up with Risa!” Daichi could hear a voice exclaim from the other side of the line.

Sugawara winced, “Don’t yell!”

Does this mean you’re going to come back home and let me love you like the gods intended?

“Ew, no.”

I’ll get that ass someday, KouKou.

Sugawara snorted.

Daichi pressed his lips together in annoyance.

How’s the single life treating you?”

“Ah… uhm… well… I wouldn’t know…”

WHAT? You’re already dating someone new? Not fair! You said you’d let me fuck you if you ever broke up with Risa!

“I did not!”

You did! At my birthday two years ago!

Sugawara groaned, “A promise made when I’m drunk doesn’t count.”

The person on the other line laughed, “Except that promise we made at graduation, apparently…

“Sh-shut up! Anyway, I told you to stop yelling. You’re giving me a headache. Why did you call? I’m busy.”

The voice lowered and Daichi could no longer hear him from where he sat. He ate quietly, watching the drama playing across the TV screen.

“Listen,” Sugawara finally said. “Eita is a big boy. He can take care of himself.” He paused, “Why are you telling me? Tell Kiyoko then! Look, the best part of moving away from home is that I don’t have to get dragged into your bullshit anymore. My life has been so peace— uh… it’s been… less…” he sighed. “Anyway.” He was silent for a moment and Daichi glanced over his shoulder at him. His expression had turned somber as he stared down into his food.

“Nah…” he said quietly. “I’m fine. Just a little overwhelmed by finals.”

Daichi gulped.

“I know. I’ll come visit soon. I promise,” Sugawara turned his face away. He let out a snort, “No. I don’t miss you at all. Shut up.”

Daichi faced forward once more at the sound of his sniffle.

“No. Not right now. I’ll call them. Yes, I promise. Okay. I’ll talk to you later,” he chuckled. “Yeah, I love you too, SuSu.”

Sugawara ended the call and Daichi glanced at him as he set the phone on the armrest, rubbing his eyes with his other hand.

He cleared his throat and stared down at his food, “Sorry… Uhm… it was one of my friends. He uh… for some reason thought I wanted to know about the latest trouble my brother has been causing.”

Daichi hummed, “SuSu and KouKou. Those are some awfully adorable nicknames…”

Sugawara’s face blazed bright red, “Y-you heard that?”

He chuckled, “Well, he was yelling.”

Sugawara’s hands covered his cheeks momentarily, “Oh my God.

“KouKou…”

“No!” Sugawara wailed. “Pretend you never heard that! It’s just that I grew up with these guys in the same neighborhood and when we were little we used to call each other by these stupid nicknames and so they sometimes still use it and so… augh, how embarrassing!”

Daichi laughed, “It’s not embarrassing. A few of my friends from school call me Dai-chan. Oh, and one calls me Sawa-chan.”

“That’s not as bad as KouKou,” he muttered, stuffing a bite of enchilada into his mouth.

“It’s cute.”

“It’s embarrassing,” he grumbled. “They even got our volleyball coach to call me that.”

“Sounds like you’re very close.”

“Hmm… well we’ve been together since we were in diapers. So I suppose we are.”

“When was the last time you saw them?”

Sugawara was silent for a moment before answering, “I went home for Christmas.” He let out a sigh, “But I don’t like going back.”

“You don’t?”

“I love seeing them. I miss everyone a lot. But… they make it really difficult to leave again,” he scrunched up his nose. “Last time I got tied up and locked in the bathroom.”

“That’s certainly extreme.”

“They even called Risa up and told her I had drowned in the river and she’d never see me again.”

“Oh wow.”

“That was a mess. It took me an hour just to get her to stop crying,” he brought his knees to his chest, balancing the food container atop them. “That’s why I don’t like going back home.”

Daichi didn’t speak for a moment, turning his eyes back to the TV. He finished off his meal and then carried the container to the kitchen. He threw it away and poured two glasses of water. He brought them into the living room, handing one to Sugawara. He mumbled a thank you and took it. Daichi sat once more and glanced at him.

“Suga… how long have you been getting bullied?”

Sugawara paused. He didn’t lift his eyes from his food as he slowly scooped rice onto his fork.

“It’s not a big deal,” he whispered.

“You don’t have to hide it anymore.”

“I’m not hiding anything,” he finished up the rice and then closed the container. He set it on the coffee table and leaned back. “Really. It’s not a big deal. You don’t need to worry about me, honest.”

Daichi stared at him in disbelief, “I was there. I saw what they were doing. I know that—”

“I can take care of myself.”

Daichi clamped his mouth shut.

“I’m not a kid. I can take care of myself. And if I say I’m alright, then I’m alright.”

Daichi’s chest ached, “Suga… Aren’t I your boyfriend? You can trust me. We’re in this together.”

Sugawara didn’t reply for a moment. He stared down into his water quietly before finally whispering, “You’re my boyfriend, right? Then shouldn’t you just do as I say without asking questions?”

Daichi gulped.

Sugawara closed his eyes and pressed his glass of water to his forehead.

“Sorry,” he said softly. “Sorry.”

“No need to apologize,” Daichi turned forward.

It’s true, after all.

Because that was what Daichi did. He always did exactly what his partner wanted and never asked why.

Because Daichi was the perfect boyfriend.

And if his partner told him to look the other direction…

Daichi cleared his throat and stood. He took Sugawara’s container and carried it into the kitchen. He tossed it in the trash and then sucked in a deep breath and collected himself. He turned and stood in the entrance to the living room.

Sugawara hugged his legs to his chest, face hidden against his bruised knees.

“I’m going to head home,” Daichi said gently.

Sugawara nodded, not lifting his face.

He didn’t want to leave it this way, with Sugawara so obviously upset.

But Daichi didn’t know what to say.

He didn’t know what to do to make things better.

Sugawara was closing up and Daichi couldn’t force his way inside his walls. Hadn't he had enough of people coming in uninvited?

He swallowed the lump in his throat.

“I’ll see you tomorrow…”

Sugawara nodded again.

Daichi left without another word.


 

“Can you walk him to his afternoon class?” Daichi leaned against the vending machine as Asahi slid coins into it.

“That should be fine,” he answered. “It’s at three, right?”

“Yeah, in Maple.”

Asahi nodded slowly and pressed the button for a bottle of tea.

“Thank you.”

Asahi glanced up at him when he stooped to collect his drink.

“Are you okay?” he asked, straightening again.

Daichi cleared his throat and didn’t meet his eyes, “I’m fine. Just tired. I was up all night.”

Asahi frowned and clutched the tea in both of his hands. “You couldn’t sleep?”

He scratched the back of his head, “Ah… I was… doing research.”

Asahi stared at him for a long moment, “Daichi…”

“It’s alright. Not much. If we want to get back at these guys, I need to know a little more about them,” he pushed away from the vending machine and headed down the hallway.

“Yeah… but won’t your brother—”

“Don’t worry about it,” he interrupted. “I’ll handle it.”

“Are you sure? You’re not getting… too deep into this, are you?”

“What am I supposed to do, Asahi? Just pretend like nothing is happening?”

“No! But… I just don’t want you to get into trouble… the last time—”

“I’ll be fine. I’ll be more careful this time.”

Asahi fell silent.

“Anyway,” Daichi checked the time on his watch. “Thanks in advance for walking with him later. I’ve gotta go pick him up from government.” He waved and turned the corner before Asahi could argue further.

This time he would be careful. Last time was a drastic reaction during a moment of weakness. Now he had a clear head. He would go about dealing with the situation the right way. Slow and calculated. He would calmly think each of his actions through.

He wouldn’t overreact.

He wouldn’t screw up.

Daichi waited outside of the classroom, leaning up against the wall opposite the door. Eventually students began to pour out into the hallway, chattering and laughing loudly. Daichi dragged his eyes from face to face. Near the end he spotted a familiar one.

Hashimoto Jirou.

Daichi memorized his features, his pointed nose, dark, short hair, winged eyebrows, wide mouth, and lean stature. He stared intently at the way he cackled and elbowed another man as they exited the classroom.

Hashimoto Jirou. Birthday: September 29th, 1995. Sophomore. Business major. Only child. Average grades, no extracurricular activities, spent six months in a juvenile detention hall for assaulting a fellow student with a baseball bat in his third year of junior high.

Daichi watched him walk down the hall and disappear around the corner.

No job, all of his classes are finished before four every day. He lives in a duplex on the south side of town, one roommate. Takes the eight o’clock bus to school on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The ten o’clock bus on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

Daichi turned back to the door of the classroom, arms crossed over his chest. Eventually, the flow of students ceased and the hallway emptied. He scowled.

Had he missed Sugawara? He pushed away from the wall and moved into the doorway of the classroom.

Sugawara was still at his table halfway up the classroom, face hidden in his folded arms in front of him.

Daichi gulped.

Hashimoto Jirou.

He’s first.

Daichi inhaled deeply and walked up the aisle to Sugawara’s row. He moved quietly to his seat and leaned back on the table, staring down at the top of his messy hair.

“Sleeping?” he asked gently.

Sugawara sniffled, “Can you blame me? Government is so boring…” he slowly lifted his head, rubbing at his eyes with his sleeve. He didn’t look up at Daichi as he added in a quiet voice, “Bored me to tears…”

Daichi’s gaze dipped from his flushed face to the tan messenger bag resting in his lap. He spotted the harsh slash of a black marker across the front flap before Sugawara hugged it to his chest and stood.

“Suga,” he said carefully. “What happened to your bag?”

“Nothing,” he slid the strap over his neck, resting the front of the bag against his hip. He headed down the aisle. “Should we go to lunch? I think I’ll buy something from the canteen today. I didn’t wake up early enough to make myself anything this morning. Maybe I’ll get one of those chicken wraps. Last time I got one it was really good.”

Daichi followed him, eyes on the bag, attempting to read the words scrawled in black marker as it bounced lightly against his hip.

—self.

Self?

He furrowed his eyebrows.

Sugawara’s hip bumped the bag and it moved far enough for him to read the entirety of the second word.

Yourself.

Daichi clenched his jaw.

“Suga. Let me see your bag,” he reached out and grabbed the strap.

“Ah!” Sugawara whirled towards him. “No, it’s—”

Daichi lifted the bag and stared down at the flap.

Kill Yourself.

Daichi’s blood ran cold.

Sugawara ripped it out of his grip and hid the words against his hip once more. He avoided Daichi’s stare, gaze averted to the floor.

“It’s no big deal,” he mumbled, adjusting the strap across his chest. “Some people take jokes too far. That’s all.”

“Tell me who did it.”

“Daichi it’s—”

“Was it Hashimoto Jirou?”

“What? How do you even know that name?” Sugawara shook his head. “I told you not to worry about it,” he turned and continued across the room.

“Suga just—”

Drop it,” Sugawara’s voice hardened.

Daichi gritted his teeth and followed.

“If you’d just let me help you,” he said quietly. “All of this would stop.”

“No offense, Daichi, but you don’t know what you’re talking about.”

They walked into the hallway and Sugawara turned towards the canteen.

Daichi was finding it more and more difficult to get close to him.

To connect.

It was as if he was avoiding him. He was drawing himself away, maintaining a cold distance between them that he had once seemed so eager to close.

Daichi stared down at Sugawara’s swinging arms for a long second. If only he could find a way to connect. To erase the space between them, even for just a moment.

He reached forward and wrapped his fingers around his hand.

Sugawara pulled away and turned towards him, eyes wide.

“Don’t touch me in public.”

Daichi blinked in surprise.

Sugawara gulped, glancing up and down the empty hallway, “You… you shouldn’t touch me where other people might see.”

Daichi dropped his arm to his side, “You... don’t like it.”

Sugawara lowered his eyes and pressed his lips in a tight line.

“It’s not that… I just…” he sucked in a deep breath and let it out. “If other people find out that you and I are together, then they’ll… to you…” his brows furrowed.

“They’ll what?”

He shook his head and turned away, “Sorry. C’mon, let’s go to lunch.”

Daichi watched his back for a moment as he walked down the hallway.

He’s drawing away from me.

A sudden flush of urgency filled his chest, spurring his heart into a painful rush.

Don’t do that.

Don’t.

He strode after him and in a sudden bout of desperation, grabbed his arm and pulled him back.

“D-Daichi—” Sugawara stumbled as Daichi dragged him back and then pressed him up against the wall. “What—”

Daichi wrapped his arms around his waist, leaned forward, and closed his mouth over Sugawara’s, swallowing his shock.

Ahh… so this is what a boyfriend tastes like…

He pressed his lips harder to his, heart thudding frantically in his chest. Sugawara’s entire body trembled with a shuddering inhalation and his hands knotted in the front of Daichi’s shirt. His lips were soft and warm and Daichi was entranced by the sensation of their connection to his.

Sugawara pulled back and sucked in a gasping breath. Daichi followed him, pressing their lips together once more. He unraveled one arm from around his waist and cupped his jaw, fingers buried in the hair behind his ear.

Daichi’s chest grew tight and hot, his mind fuzzy. He had had some kind of coherent thought a moment ago, but it was blown away with the feeling of Sugawara’s body pressed close to his.

And Daichi had never felt this way before. In all the times that he had kissed, and held, and stroked, he had never experienced such a frustrated, desperate need. He had never had the breath knocked quite literally from his lungs. The longing in his stomach was so insistent that for a moment he didn’t even notice that Sugawara’s hands were no longer gripping at his shirt but pushing at his chest.

For a moment he didn’t even realize that the trembling sound in his ears was a whimper vibrating up through Sugawara’s throat.

For a moment, Daichi had no clue that he had just royally fucked up.

Sugawara shuddered, body twisting against him, hands pushing harder. Daichi’s eyes opened wide and he pulled back hurriedly. He took in the sight of Sugawara’s stricken, teary-eyed expression and released him.

Fuck,” he breathed. “Suga I’m sorry—”

“Don’t.”

The whisper hit like a scream.

“Don’t,” he said again, chin trembling. “Don’t. Don’t. Don’t.”

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”

Sugawara cowered back against the wall and squeezed the strap of his bag until his knuckles turned white, chest rising and falling quickly as he sucked frantic breaths into his lungs. He lowered his gaze to the floor.

“D-don’t,” he said one more time before sliding against the wall away from Daichi. He turned down the hallway, shoulders hunched up next to his ears.

Daichi allowed the distance to grow between them before slowly following, knees weak.

Fuck.

Fuck.

He followed him to the canteen and then paused in the doorway. He watched Sugawara cross the room in the direction of the table at which Tanaka and Asahi sat. He waited until Sugawara was sliding into the chair across from Tanaka before he turned and walked back down the hallway. He dragged his fingers through his hair and then covered his eyes.

Fuck.

Daichi had really fucked up this time.


 

“Where’s Daichi? Didn’t he come with you?” Tanaka asked.

Sugawara stared down at the table, hugging his bag to his chest, “Ah. Uhm… I think maybe he went to the bathroom.”

Tanaka and Asahi exchanged a look.

“Where’s your lunch?” Asahi asked gently.

“Not hungry.”

“Are you sure? I could—”

“I guess I still feel a little sick,” his voice softened.

Tanaka’s eyes narrowed. He stared at the flushed skin of his cheeks, the glossy sheen over his eyes. He clenched his jaw and then slammed his hand down on the table, scaring a jump out of both of the others.

“Cut the shit,” he said through gritted teeth.

Sugawara stared at him with wide eyes.

Tanaka!” Asahi grabbed his arm.

He shook him off, “No. Fuck this. Daichi can walk on eggshells around him all he wants. But that’s not how I do shit.” He glared fiercely at Sugawara, “You’re sick? Bullshit. You’re depressed. You’re scared. Quit lying to our faces and just tell it how it is.”

Sugawara’s chin lifted, “What the fuck do you know—”

“A lot more than you think! I’m not as dumb as I look! Why do you keep lying to our fucking faces? Just let us help you already!”

“I’m fine!” Sugawara tore the bag up over his head and threw it to the ground. “Leave me alone! I can take care of myself. I’m not a kid!” he shoved his chair back from the table and stood. “I’ll fuckin’ eat, if it bugs you that much. Fuck.” He turned and stomped across the canteen towards the small restaurant on the south end.

Tanaka glared at his back as he went.

“Stubborn brat,” he snarled.

“Tanaka… look,” Asahi pointed down at the floor.

Tanaka followed the path of his point to Sugawara’s bag.

Kill Yourself.

Tanaka’s gut wrenched, “Ah god damn it.” He scrubbed at his shaved head and then stood.

“Stay here,” he muttered. He shoved his hands into the pockets of his jeans and crossed the canteen to the restaurant. He joined Sugawara in line and stood at his side silently.

Sugawara folded his arms over his chest and didn’t look at him as he snapped, “What the fuck do you want now?”

“French fries,” he replied, eyeing the menu above the counter.

Sugawara huffed and turned his face away.

Tanaka let the silence grow between them for a prolonged moment before muttering,

“I get it.”

“What?”

“I get that you don’t want to cause trouble for anybody. I get that you are more worried about Daichi than you are about yourself. I get it. And I don’t blame you. It’s difficult to watch the people you care about experience any kind of pain, especially if you feel that you’re somehow responsible for causing it.”

Sugawara didn’t reply.

“But we’re the same, you know,” Tanaka went on. “We are sitting here, forced to watch as you suffer and it’s a goddamn shitty feeling, you know? Daichi, man… it really tore him up to realize he’d been in the dark this whole time.”

Sugawara lowered his eyes to the floor.

“He takes his role as a boyfriend seriously, you know? When you don’t open up to him, when you continue to lie to him and refuse his help, he feels like a failure. And it’s such a fuckin’ waste, too,” he stared at him in the corner of his eyes. “You have no idea how much he could help you.”

Sugawara loosened his arms from his chest and crossed them in front of his stomach, “You don’t get it. All my life I’ve had to be helped by other people. I'm sick of it,” he gulped. “And maybe you’re right. Maybe Daichi could help me. But I don’t want him to have to. I’m a weak, good-for-nothing that constantly drags the people I love into trouble and Daichi deserves so much better than that.”

Tanaka stared down at him.

“I don’t want Daichi to lift a finger,” Sugawara whispered. “I want to be a source of solace for him. Not the other way around.”

“I don’t see why it can’t go both ways.”

Sugawara didn’t answer. Two women stood in line behind them, chattering loudly.

“I know! I swear. It’s so not fair. Oh! And did you see Risa’s new boyfriend?”

“Holy shit, yes! He’s so hot I can’t believe it!”

“Do you think he’s some kind of model from the city or something?”

“He’s gotta be. There’s no way recruiters could pass up a specimen like that.”

“Tell me about it. Risa is so lucky.”

Tanaka glanced at the women and then down at Sugawara once more. He stared straight ahead for a long second before murmuring,

“Everyone’s life is better when I’m not in it.”

Tanaka’s breath caught, “Suga—”

“Just forget it,” he stepped forward as the line moved. “I don’t want to talk about this anymore.”

Tanaka reluctantly did as he said, staring quietly at the back of his head as he ordered his meal.

He dropped it, but the uncomfortable feeling in his gut remained.


 

Sugawara was well aware that he was being led by the hand.

It was obvious that the others didn’t trust him to be alone. At the end of every class, one of them was waiting in the hallway to walk him to his next location. He knew they were doing it out of concern for him. It was to protect him from Rei and the others.

He knew that.

And he was grateful.

Being caught alone had been a constant fear for Sugawara. It was when he was alone that they were the most terrifying. Among others, their bullying was barely more than petty teasing done to illicit laughter from others. Sugawara could easily handle that level of harassment.

It was when he was alone that their threats turned physical.

Don’t touch me.

Stay away from me.

Sugawara was grateful that there was no chance that he could be caught alone anymore.

And yet…

“He actually had the nerve to tell me that he didn’t want to go drinking with me!” Tanaka complained loudly. “Even though I offered to pay! Here I am just trying to be nice and he’s acting like I’m a leper!”

Sugawara gulped and peeked around Asahi to where Daichi stood on the other side, staring straight ahead as they all headed down the sidewalk towards Sugawara’s work.

He hadn’t spoken a word to him since… earlier.

Sugawara bit his bottom lip and lowered his eyes to the sidewalk moving beneath his sneakers.

He had screwed up.

Daichi probably hated him now.

He hadn’t meant to overreact. He really hadn’t. It wasn’t that he had disliked the kiss. The opposite, actually. But…

It wasn’t the right time.

It wasn’t the right place.

Anyone could have turned the corner and seen them at any second. Anyone could have figured out that Daichi was dating Sugawara in a single moment and then all of Sugawara’s efforts at keeping him safe would have been for nothing.

It wasn’t that he had disliked the kiss.

The opposite, actually.

Sugawara reached up and rubbed at his chest when it turned hot and itchy. He had no idea a man’s lips could feel so soft. And his hands had been so gentle where he touched him. And even though he was so big, even bigger than Rei, Sugawara felt… protected.

But Sugawara had ruined it. He had pushed him away and Daichi had apologized with that horrified expression on his face as if he had committed a crime. Sugawara should have said something else. He should have tried to explain it to him.

Somewhere else.

Another time.

When we’re truly alone.

Kiss me again.

But it was too late now.

Sugawara had made a fool of himself.

He had shoved him away in absolute terror. And he had been terrified, but not of Daichi. Of what would happen to Daichi if anyone found out.

I’ll protect him, he gulped. I won’t let anyone touch him.

“What’s the deal, Suga?” Tanaka drew his attention. “Does Snickers hate me or something?”

“Hm? Oh…” he lowered his eyes again. “Probably not. I think maybe he finds you funny.”

“Then why’d he refuse my offer?” he scowled. “Is he trying to make me look like an idiot?”

“Probably.”

“I’ll kick his ass!”

Sugawara let out a laugh, “He’s just playing hard to get!”

“It’s not like I’m trying to get into his pants,” Tanaka furrowed his brows.

“Could have fooled us,” Asahi muttered.

“Hey!”

Sugawara laughed again, “Look, I’ll ask and see why—”

A honk interrupted him. Everyone turned towards the street as a sleek, silver Cadillac drove up next to them and stopped. Sugawara’s heart leapt and he moved instinctively closer to Tanaka.

Daichi turned towards the car, hands at his sides.

The window of the driver’s side cracked slightly and a low voice commanded,

Get in.

Daichi’s hands clenched into fists and he stepped off of the sidewalk.

Sugawara’s eyes widened and he took a step forward but Asahi grabbed his arm. He gave a firm shake of his head when Sugawara looked questioningly up into his face.

Daichi moved around the front of the car and then ripped the passenger door open. He didn’t spare a single glance to the group as he slid into the vehicle and slammed the door behind him. The window of the driver’s side rolled up on the sound of Daichi’s angry yells.

I haven’t done anything wrong yet—”

The car pulled away from the curb and drove down the street before disappearing around the corner. Sugawara stared after it for a long second and then turned to the others for answers.

“Who was that? What’s going on?”

Tanaka sighed and started down the sidewalk once more.

“Don’t worry about it,” he grumbled.

Sugawara chased after him, “How can I not worry about it? Daichi just got taken away by some mysterious stranger!”

“He’s not a stranger,” Tanaka said, shoving his hands in the pockets of his jeans.

“Then who—”

“It’s his brother.”

Sugawara glanced at Asahi over his shoulder as he followed. He averted his eyes to the ground, “His older brother.”

Sugawara gulped, “His older brother that he doesn’t get along with.”

Silence spread among the three.

Tanaka let out a deep sigh, “Let’s leave family matters to the people actually in the family. Now c’mon! I’m gonna harass Snickers until he goes drinking with me one of these nights!”


 

Daichi slammed the door behind him and paced the room angrily.

Seriously? Seriously?

Holding me hostage?

I haven’t even done anything wrong yet!

Daichi kicked over a rolling desk chair. It clattered against the hard wood floor and slammed into the desk. It wasn’t enough that he had had to sit for the longest lecture of his adult life. Now they were refusing to let him leave? He wasn’t a kid anymore. They couldn’t send him to his room whenever they wanted.

He was an adult.

And yet…

Here he was.

Daichi gritted his teeth and marched over to the bed. He dropped onto it and stared up at the white ceiling.

I haven’t done anything wrong yet.

Yet.

He closed his eyes and draped an arm over them.

That wasn’t true, was it?

His sleuthing hadn’t crossed over into the illegal stage…

Yet.

But the intent was there.

Not that that was what he was feeling most guilty about at the moment.

He bit his bottom lip.

He had scared Sugawara. For the entirety of the day, Daichi couldn’t get the image of Sugawara’s terrified expression from his mind.

He had to be some kind of idiot. After everything… everything that Sugawara had been through, Daichi had to be an idiot if he thought it was okay for him to… to…

He let out a groan and rolled onto his side.

Just what the fuck had he been thinking?

Nothing.

He couldn’t have been thinking. He had acted completely on instinct. His body was screaming at him to grab him.

Kiss him.

Don’t let him leave.

Don’t let him pull away from you anymore.

Daichi was an idiot.

He had been so desperate to keep Sugawara there with him that he had gone and chased him away.

He was scared of me.

Daichi opened his eyes and stared at the palm of his hand.

Did he think of me as Rei?

Am I just as bad as…

“Fuck,” he pressed his hand to his face.

Since when had Daichi become so pitiful? He was an idiot. He had scared Sugawara. He had ruined their first kiss. He had acted like some kind of wild animal and had shoved him up against the wall. He had forcibly stolen his lips not once, but twice, even though he was pushing him away. Even though he had been shaking and whimpering and…

Fuck…

Just what the fuck was he supposed to do? He was so ashamed of himself that he hadn’t been able to look him in the eyes the entire rest of the day.

Daichi had screwed up so horribly that he could wrack his mind all night and still not come up with a way to fix this.

So just what the hell was he supposed to do now?

His cell phone buzzed in his pocket. He pulled it out and held it before his face. His lip twitched at the sight of the name blinking on the screen. He answered the call and pressed it to his ear.

“Are you calling to apologize for selling me out?”

“Rude brat! I didn’t sell you out. I was being very careful, you know? But when my master asks for answers, I have to give them.”

Daichi rolled onto his back and glared at the ceiling. “They’re holding me here like a fucking hostage. I thought you were good at this shit. How did you get caught?”

“Well so I was listening to Beyonce, right? And I had my big headphones on so when he snuck up behind me I couldn’t close out of the page fast enough.”

“So you basically got caught by being a fucking idiot.”

“That about sums it up.”

“I swear to god…”

“Anyway, don’t get your panties in a bunch. I finished up and sent all the info to you.”

Daichi sighed, “Well… thanks, I guess.”

“That didn’t sound very grateful.”

“Maybe if I wasn’t locked up in this hell hole, I would be able to express a little more gratitude.”

“It’ll do. Hey, anyway, you’ve got your hands full with this, you know? I would be a little more careful. Like, I’m not going to ask you why you wanted these guys’ info, because you know… I don’t really care. But seriously… you should be careful.”

“What are you talking about?” Daichi narrowed his eyes.

“Well, one of them has a pretty big name. The son of the Police Commissioner, in fact. Which kind of explains why he hasn’t done any time even though I dredged up four different counts of aggravated assault and two fraud claims. Oh, and even a rape accusation that just kind of got swept under the rug…” he let out a laugh. “Someone is a daddy’s boy, looks like.”

Daichi gulped, “What’s the name?”

“Hm? Honestly I’m surprised you didn’t recognize it. Aren’t you supposed to be up to date with this type of stuff?”

“Just give me the fucking name.”

“Sheesh, fine. Don’t need to get nasty. It’s Rei.”

Daichi closed his eyes slowly.

“Akaashi Rei.”


 

Akaashi Keiji lowered his bag from his shoulder and kicked his shoes off in the entrance of the house.

“I’m back,” he called.

Down the hallway, he could hear the loud, booming voice of his older brother.

His lips ticked involuntarily down. Rei had been especially cheerful the past couple of weeks, a sign that Keiji had learned to consider a very- very- bad omen.

What is he planning?

Keiji unzipped his jacket and hung it on the hook to the left of the entrance before lifting his bag to his shoulder once more and heading down the hallway. He stopped in the kitchen, where Rei was raising a fuss, cell phone pressed to his ear as he gripped the neck of a beer bottle in his other hand.

“Are you fucking kidding me?” he bellowed, turning towards the kitchen island as Keiji moved around it to the refrigerator. “She has another boyfriend? What the fuck? So I’ve just been wasting my goddamn time?”

Of course it’s about a girl, Keiji made a face as he opened the refrigerator and grabbed a bottle of water.

“I’ve been working my ass off for this bitch and she goes out and gets another boyfriend? Well, who the fuck is it? What do you mean you don’t know?

Keiji set the water on the island and then opened a cupboard. He dragged his eyes over the contents until he spotted the bag of pretzels he had hidden there. He pulled it down and then checked to be sure it hadn’t been tampered with.

“Another fuckin’ pretty boy,” Rei snarled and Keiji flinched.

Rei fell silent for a moment and Keiji closed the cupboards once more.

“Fuck it. Now I’m pissed off. I’m goin' to that place. You comin’?”

Keiji went back to the kitchen island to fetch his water.

“Well then fuck you. I’ll go by myself,” Rei ended the call.

Keiji glanced in his direction warily.

Where is that place? Don’t tell me he’s causing problems again…

Rei chugged the rest of his beer and then threw the bottle angrily into the trash can. He noticed Keiji’s stare and his brows furrowed.

“What the fuck are you looking at?” he reached out and shoved Keiji’s shoulder roughly.

His socked feet slipped on the floor and he slammed down on his tailbone, wincing at the connection and sharp bolt of pain that jumped up his spine.

Rei snorted, “Fuckin’ weak.”

Jackass.

“I’m goin’ out,” Rei stepped over Keiji’s legs and opened the refrigerator. He grabbed another beer, popped the lid off with his bare hand, and gulped it down.

Keiji climbed to his feet, picking up his bag of pretzels where they landed a short distance away. His eyes fell on two more empty beer bottles on the counter next to the sink.

“Where are you going?” he asked dully, patting the seat of his pants.

Rei finished off the new beer and tossed the empty bottle at Keiji, who just barely caught it, dropping his pretzels yet again.

“How about you mind your own fuckin’ business, Faggot?”

Keiji gritted his teeth.

“Tell Dad I went out with friends,” he turned and headed across the kitchen. “You know. Friends. Heard of them?”

“More like cronies,” Keiji muttered under his breath.

Rei paused and turned back to him, “What the fuck did you say?”

Keiji leveled him with a flat stare.

Tell him off.

Just do it.

He clicked his tongue and looked away, “Nothing.

Rei snorted, “That’s what I thought.” He disappeared down the hallway and Keiji clenched his jaw and listened to the sounds of him slipping into his shoes and pulling on a jacket. When the door opened and slammed shut on his exit, Keiji turned and chucked the bottle into the trash.

“Fuck off,” he grumbled, leaning down to snatch up the pretzels one last time. He grabbed his water and left the kitchen. He climbed the stairs to the second floor, and then kicked open the door of his bedroom. Inside, he dropped his bag and snacks on the desk before rolling into bed. He stared at the wall for a long moment before closing his eyes, hugging his pillow to his chest.

Jackass.

Don’t come home.


 

“Azumane-san, do you have a moment?”

Asahi glanced down at his watch. “Ah… actually, sensei… I’m late—”

“It’s concerning your last project. I have some questions on your analysis. They’re important.”

Crap.

Crap.

Asahi looked at his watch again, “O-okay. Uhm, if you don’t mind, can I make a call first?”

“Of course. I’ll wait.”

Asahi stepped out of the classroom and yanked his cell phone from his pocket.

Crap.

Crap.

Not only did his make-up exam take much longer than he had anticipated, now he was really not going to make it to Sugawara’s work by the end of his shift, which just so happened to be in ten minutes.

He dialed a number and pressed the phone to his ear.

“What’s up?”

“Tanaka,” Asahi gulped. “Listen, I can’t pick Suga up. Sensei is keeping me here to talk about my project.”

“Fuck, are you serious?”

“Can you please go pick him up for me?”

“Dude, I can’t. I’m with Nee-chan and she’s super smashed! There’s no way she’ll let me leave. And anyway, I’m all the way across town. It’d take me half an hour to get there if I could slip away.”

Asahi’s throat tightened and he knotted his fingers in his shirt, “Wh-what do we do? I can’t leave. This project is worth half my grade. This class has been hell. Utter hell. I can’t retake it.”

Tanaka sighed, “Leave it to me. I’ll call Snickers and tell him to stay with him after closing.”

Asahi swallowed, “O-okay…”

“Don’t worry about it. Just focus on gettin’ that score. I won’t tell anyone if you have to suck the sensei’s dick.”

“T-Tanaka!”

Tanaka cackled, “Sorry, sorry. I couldn’t resist. I’ll keep you posted.”

“Th-thank you. Sorry. I really thought I’d be able to make it there in time…”

“Don’t worry about it.”

They exchanged their goodbyes and ended the call.

Asahi stared down at his phone for a long moment, gut churning anxiously.

He had a bad feeling about this.


 

Daichi was just reading through his emails when Tanaka’s photo popped up on the screen. He scowled and answered the call.

“What is it?”

“We’ve got a problem.”

Daichi sat up hurriedly on his bed, heart thudding painfully, “What happened? Where’s Suga?”

“Here’s the thing. Asahi was going to pick him up, but he got held up at school. He called me to see if I could go but Nee-san isn’t letting me leave so I’m stuck here.”

Daichi pressed his hand to his chest, “Tanaka—”

“So I called Snickers. Here’s where the problem is. He left his shift early because his dad got taken to the hospital.”

Daichi shoved to his feet and strode across the bedroom. He grabbed the handle of the door and twisted it but the lock held fast.

“So Suga is working the rest of his shift alone,” Tanaka went on and Daichi’s mouth went dry. “And none of us can pick him up. I figure it's a long shot, but you wouldn’t be able to escape whatever cage they tossed you in, would you?”

Daichi punched the door, gritting his teeth. He turned and rushed across the room to the window. He dragged the curtains to the side and stared at the cast iron bars just outside the glass.

“Well that’s fuckin’ perfect,” he growled. He backed up until the bed connected with the backs of his knees and he collapsed onto it. “I’m stuck,” he lay back and draped an arm over his eyes. “They added bars to the windows since I was last here. A nice addition. Wow I feel a little flattered, actually.”

“Dude.”

“Can you think of anyone else who…” Daichi froze. “Hold up,” he lifted his arm. “I have somebody.”

“You do? Oh fuck, thank god.”

“I think. I’ll call you back if it doesn’t work out.”

“Hurry up, his shift ends in like five minutes.”

“Bye,” Daichi ended the call and sat up hurriedly. He scrolled through his phone contacts until he found the name he was searching for. He tapped it and leaned the phone against his ear once more.

“Yo.”

“Are you at my apartment?”

“Yeah, and we find your lack of snacks distressing.”

“I need you to drop everything—”

The sound of shattering glass echoed through the receiver and Daichi closed his eyes.

“Oh, did you mean figuratively?”

He inhaled slowly and let it out, struggling to keep his panic and anger under control. “I’m going to send an address to your phone. You need to get there as fast as you possibly can. Do you understand me?”

“Okay but what’s my motivation?”

“You said you wanted to meet Suga, right?”

There was a tick of silence before the voice spoke again, “I thought you said we weren’t allowed to meet him.”

“Can we please talk about this later? I need you to go to him right now. He’s alone and those bastards might be waiting for him and there’s no one else that I can send—”

“Dai-chan, you sold me with the reward of meeting your boyfriend. Send the address and we’ll hop over there in a jiffy.”

He breathed out a deep sigh of relief, “Thank you.”

“Uh huh. Thank me by stocking your kitchen with snacks.”


 

Sugawara checked the time once more. He should be closing soon.

But…

He glanced towards the front door of the convenience store. Wasn’t Asahi or Tanaka supposed to pick him up? Were they waiting outside? Or just running late?

He stared down at his watch. If only Ennoshita hadn’t had to leave earlier. Sugawara had wanted to ask him to stay. But when he received the phone call from his mother about his father being taken to the hospital in an ambulance, there was no way Sugawara could beg him to stay with such an expression of worry on his face.

The past hour had passed slower than the entirety of the rest of his shift. He worked with the constant fear that at any moment, the door would open and Rei would be standing in the entrance.

He wouldn’t.

Sugawara wiped down the counter.

He wouldn’t attack me here.

Rei only attacked when he was alone.

And there was no way for him to know that Sugawara was working alone tonight. Not to mention Sugawara had been tightly monitored the entire day by Daichi and the others. Other than in class, one of them was always by his side. Rei should have noticed that in the very least. He should be wary.

There was no reason for him to believe that Sugawara was alone at the moment.

Even though he was.

I’ll close the store.

He tidied up around the cash register.

I’ll call Tanaka and wait in the back for someone to show up.

It’ll be fine.

I’ll just—

Sugawara rounded the counter and then froze at the sound of the bell over the door jingling. He lifted his eyes slowly to the body that entered the store.

And really, it was like a joke that had been told too many times.

It just wasn’t funny anymore.

Not that it ever had been for Sugawara.

“Fancy seeing you here,” Rei called, hands in the pockets of his jacket. The hood of the black sweatshirt under the jacket was pulled up and over his head, shading his face.

“Fancy seeing me here,” Sugawara repeated. “At this store. The one I work at. Yeah. Fancy that.

Rei’s left eyelid twitched.

“So,” he said, voice raising as he moved further into the store. “I heard something today.”

Sugawara took a step backwards and wracked his mind.

What did they sell in the store that he could use as a weapon? There was a small selection of miniature pocket knives several aisles down, but he doubted the blades on them would even be long enough to cause any real damage to Rei’s bulky body.

I could stab his eyes out.

“Risa’s already found a new boyfriend,” Rei drew his attention once more. “Didn’t take her long. Guess she didn’t really care about you, did she?”

Sugawara clenched his teeth, fury spreading under his skin.

And he was just so sick of it all.

“Well I suppose that was obvious,” Rei went on with a shrug. “Considering she fucked anything with a dick even while you were dating.”

Sugawara let out a barking laugh, “It’s funny you say that.” He lifted his chin and smirked, “Because aren’t you the only one she wouldn’t fuck, no matter how many times you begged? Does that mean you’re dickless?”

Rei’s eyes widened.

“Yeah,” Sugawara dragged a hand through his hair. “I didn’t know it was you at first, but since all this stuff has been happening…” he shrugged. “The pieces kind of fell into place. You’re Akaashi-san.” He pointed at him mockingly, “The- and I’m quoting Risa on this- the ugly fuck with his head so far up his ass that he can’t see that I’m out of his league. That Akaashi-san.”

Sugawara laughed loudly, pressing his hands to his stomach.

“I can’t believe it,” he snickered. “All this time I thought you were harassing me because you were a real honest-to-god bigot. But you’re just jealous? That’s even better!” He covered his mouth with one hand, “It just makes you that much more pathetic.”

Rei’s face twisted, “Shut the fuck up.”

But Sugawara couldn't stop anymore.

And he didn't want to.

All of the anger and frustration of the past few weeks had finally caught up to him and he couldn't hold back the flood of taunts from flowing from his mouth.

“Tell me, Rei,” Sugawara smirked. “How does it feel to know that while you were struggling to get a date, this little faggot had fucked Risa dozens- ah or is it hundreds?- of times?”

Rei's eyes flashed and he removed his hands from his pockets.

“Want me to just tell you how good it was?” Sugawara leaned forward slightly, resting a hand on the shelf to his left. "Since you've got no shot in hell of ever having sex with her?"

"You fucking..."

He laughed again, “C’mon, don’t be shy. Tell me! What’s it like knowing that not only can I get more girls than you, but I can also get more guys too?” He giggled, “Doesn’t it just burn you up that while I’m over here, jump-roping the line of sexuality and scoring left and right,” Sugawara bounced from foot to foot mockingly, “you’re still beatin’ your cock to whatever cummy porn mag you’ve managed to keep hidden from your mommy and daddy since junior high?” He cocked his head to the side, grinning wide, “Doesn’t it just drive you mad?”

I said shut the fuck up!” Rei charged forward.

Sugawara leapt backwards but the sudden attack caught him off guard and he didn’t get far before Rei managed to wrap one of his hands tight around his throat. He grabbed the front of his shirt with his free hand and hauled him forward.

Sugawara gasped and scrabbled at his wrist as his fingers squeezed and cut off his oxygen. He fought against him, writhing his body and kicking his legs, fingernails digging deep into the skin of his arm. Rei lifted him up and shoved backwards. Sugawara closed his eyes as he carried him back and then slammed him down on the counter. His hand loosened around his throat just long enough for him to suck in a gasp before his air was cut off again.

You think it’s funny?” Rei panted, wide eyes crazed. “Are you an idiot? Don’t you have any idea what I could do to you?

Sugawara reached for his face, fingers groping for his eyes.

Rei pushed down harder on his throat, leaning away from his hands. Sugawara kicked viciously but spots were filling his vision. His chest strained and ached, starving for air.

Daichi.

Daichi.

Daichi…

“Let’s see…” Rei wheezed and Sugawara could smell the heavy stench of beer on his breath. “Let’s see how much you’ll be laughing when I’m done with you,” he released his throat and Sugawara sucked air into his lungs gratefully.

Rei yanked him up by the front of his shirt and then shoved him around. He let go of his shirt and then gripped the back of his hair. He slammed his forehead down on the counter, bending him over it roughly.

Sugawara coughed and gasped into the wood, bracing his hands against it. Rei kept his face pressed tightly to the counter as he reached around and fumbled with the buckle on his belt. Sugawara gritted his teeth and swung an arm back.

His elbow connected with Rei’s temple and he let out a loud curse. He grabbed his arm and forced it down to the counter, pushing his face harder into the wood.

“Quit struggling,” he snarled. “You like this stuff, don’t you? You should be grateful to me.”

Sugawara panted into the counter. He turned his face just enough to glare up at him.

“Grateful?” he spat. “There’s not a thing in this whole world that would be grateful for your dick. After you’re dead, not even the maggots will touch it.”

Rei yanked his hair, dragging him up and back. He pressed his lips close to his ear and hissed,

I didn’t plan on anyone dying tonight, but keep talking like that and I can have something arranged…”

His hand found the front of Sugawara’s pants again and fumbled at the belt. He jerked his head to the side by his hair and leaned down. Sugawara winced as his teeth sunk into the side of his neck.

Sugawara struggled against him, grabbing at his wrists with both hands.

Rei managed to get the belt undone and then shoved him up against the counter with his hips. He pulled his teeth away and then forced him over, pressing his cheek roughly to the wood, fingers still knotted in his hair.

Sugawara panted heavily, muscles going weak. His legs quivered, back aching from his desperate attempts at straightening against Rei’s powerful hold.

“Just stop struggling,” Rei said through gritted teeth, slamming his arm down again when Sugawara flailed it towards his face. “You’re not getting away. So just enjoy it.”

Rei unbuttoned his pants and Sugawara turned his face against the counter until he had him in his vision.

Ugh,” he spat. “Gross. What are you, a faggot?

Rei’s eyes widened and he hauled Sugawara up just to slam his face back down into the counter.

Shut the fuck up!

Sugawara’s vision went blurry and his legs shook and then gave out. He gripped at the counter, struggling frantically to stay awake. The fight fled his body and he squeezed his eyes shut when the spinning room threatened to make him sick.

Fuck.

I’m so pathetic.

I should’ve just accepted his help…

He bit his bottom lip and gulped, eyes stinging with frustrated tears. Rei fumbled with his pants, cursing low under his breath.

Sorry Daichi…

Sorry.

“Yep, this is the place.”

“How do you know?”

Sugawara’s eyes popped open at the sound of the two new voices. He twisted his face under Rei’s hold until he spotted three men standing across the store.

“Lucky guess,” one of them, the one with short, light pinkish hair, said, eyes locked on Sugawara.

Who the fuck are you?” Rei shouted, releasing Sugawara and whirling in their direction.

“So I’m guessing I’m allowed to kill that one?” another man, the shortest- and broadest- of the three snarled, cracking his knuckles.

“Leave a piece for Dai-chan,” the third and tallest of the three said dully around the stick of a lollipop, hands in the pockets of his jeans.

“God damn it,” Rei stepped away from Sugawara. The thick man matched his movement, piercing gaze following his every motion under low brows.

Sugawara’s grip on the counter slipped and he collapsed to the floor, bracing himself against shelves of candy just to his left. His entire body ached, lungs burning, and he just wanted to curl into a ball right there and sob until he lost consciousness.

There was a loud, crashing sound from somewhere behind him but it was difficult enough to stay in an upright position, let alone follow whatever path Rei was making in attempts to flee.

“Don’t fuck the store up too much,” the pinkette said. “Dai-chan will be pissed if he has to pay for repairs.”

You want him dead or not?” came the answering bellow, followed by yet another crash.

Dai-chan…

Sugawara lifted his head and watched as the tall one and the pinkette walked in his direction. He shuddered and pressed back against the counter, bringing his knees up to his chest.

Don’t touch me.

Stay away.

They crouched down in front of him and Sugawara cowered under their matching dull stares.

Finally, the tall one pulled his lollipop from his mouth and hummed.

“This might be a dumb question,” he said. “But are you Sugawara Koushi?”

He gulped and gave a short nod.

They exchanged a look and then turned back to him.

"Mind if we take some snacks back with us?" the other jerked a thumb over his shoulder.

"Wh-what?"

"We'll share, of course," the tall one added.

Sugawara's head swam and spots filled his vision.

"It's okay," the pinkette said. "We'll only take the ones that Iwaizumi accidentally destroys."

The tall one straightened and called across the store, "Yo, Iwa-chan! Toss around some of those cream puffs over there!"

"Shut the fuck up, I'm busy!" another crash sounded.

The two turned their attention back to Sugawara, staring quietly for a moment as he blinked lethargically, head bobbing.

"I think he's about to pass out," the pinkette mused.

"Who's going to carry him?"

"Should we play janken to find out?"

"How about we just make Iwaizumi do it?"

"Deal."

"Deal."

Sugawara's eyes rolled back and he slumped to the side in a dead faint.

Chapter Text

Keiji woke to the sound of a crash from the first floor. He sat up hurriedly, leaning over to flick on the lamp beside his bed. He rubbed his eyes sleepily and listened intently. Another crash came, followed by low cursing.

Keiji would be alarmed, if that gruff voice didn’t sound so familiar.

He contemplated lying back down and pretending that he hadn’t heard, but the way his brother was spitting out expletives and stumbling across the floor downstairs begged for his attention.

After all, he wasn’t interested in sharing the blame for whatever mess the bastard was making.

Keiji slid to the side of the bed and grabbed a t-shirt from the floor. He pulled it on as he padded softly across the room and pulled the door open. He glanced first down the hallway towards his father’s bedroom. The door was cracked open, room dark and quiet. He let out a soft sigh of relief and then turned towards the stairs.

Fuck, god damn it,” Rei’s voice grumbled, followed by the slam of a cupboard.

Keiji traveled down to the first floor of the house and crept silently to the kitchen, the only room illuminated in the dark house. He peered around the wall in the direction of the noise.

Rei leaned heavily against the kitchen island, a first aid kit spread out in front of him.

Keiji’s eyes went wide at the sight of the blood. His face was a horrific mess, his clothes disheveled and torn. His left eye was swollen nearly completely shut and the split in his lip was still steadily dripping blood.

“Fuck…” he growled, tossing a bottle of aspirin across the kitchen.

Someone… beat up Rei.

Keiji gulped.

Someone actually…

His heart pounded excitedly in his chest and he finally crossed into the kitchen. Rei glanced in his direction and then back to the first aid kit.

“What happened?” Keiji asked.

“Mind your own fuckin’ business,” Rei spat.

“You were fighting—”

“Shut up.”

“Dad—”

Shut up. Unless you want to match,” Rei gave him a fierce glare.

Keiji slowly closed his mouth.

Someone beat up Rei.

He moved around the kitchen island and grabbed a wad of paper towels. He wet them under warm water and then turned to his brother.

“Here,” he thrust them towards him.

Rei glared at the offering but snatched them away anyway. He pressed the towels to his lips, catching the blood.

“Shit,” he muttered. “I’ll kill that bastard.”

Keiji gulped, “Who?”

“Fuck if I know,” Rei pulled the towels away and stared down at the vibrant red stains. He folded and pressed them to his lips again, grumbling absently, “Some friend of that faggot Sugawara.”

Sugawara…

The name was somehow familiar to Keiji. Did he share a class with him?

“Sugawara who?” Keiji asked timidly.

Rei glared at him, “Why the fuck do you care?” he turned back to the first aid kit and grabbed a tube of ointment. “Do you fags stick together or somethin’? Want to scope him out for a date?”

Keiji gritted his teeth and counted to five.

“I’m just curious,” he finally said. “The name sounds familiar.”

Rei tossed the bloody towels down on the counter and squeezed ointment onto his finger. He rubbed it sloppily into a cut in his eyebrow and Keiji watched, stomach twisting uneasily.

“Whatever,” he said. “Sugawara Koushi.”

“What does he look like?”

“You are scopin’ him out for a date, aren’t you?” Rei sneered. “Gross.”

Keiji’s left eyebrow twitched and he had enough.

“Fine,” he muttered and turned on his heel. “Clean up your mess before Dad sees it.”

“Suck my ass.”

Keiji clenched his jaw and stomped back to the second floor. He went to his room and closed the door behind.

Jackass.

He went to his bed and dropped onto it, spreading out on his back. He grabbed the cell phone from where it sat on the night table and dialed a number.

He pressed the phone to his ear and listened to the dial tone. After long seconds, Keiji was beginning to think the call wouldn’t go through when a tired voice picked up.

“Hullo?”

“Do you know someone named Sugawara Koushi?”

There was a tick of silence followed by a deep sigh.

“Keiji… how many times do I have to tell you not to drag me into your shit?”

“C’mon, Kenma. It’s important.”

Kenma groaned and sighed again.

Ugh… fine. I think there’s a guy the professor calls Suga-kun in my health class.”

Keiji stared up at the ceiling.

“Okay. Why?” Kenma asked after a moment’s hesitation. “Why are you looking for him?”

“Rei showed up a few minutes ago.”

“Well he lives there so…”

“Someone kicked his ass.”

The line went silent.

“I was just thinking…” Keiji hummed softly. “I’d really like to shake the hand of the guy that did it.”


 

Sugawara woke to a steady pounding in his head and something warm and solid beneath him. For a moment he struggled to peel his eyes open as he wracked his mind for the identity of the pressure against his chest.

What…

He finally managed to pry his eyelids up and then straightened slightly from the slumped position he was in. He stared down at the back of the head of the man whose back Sugawara was draped over.

His eyes widened and he let out a cry and struck out with his fist, punching the head viciously.

“Ow!” the hands that had been grasping his thighs released and Sugawara crashed to the floor, a loud thump echoing through the enclosed space of…

Elevator?

Where?

Who?

“Whoa, he’s awake. Finally.”

Sugawara jerked his head up and met the eyes of a man with light pink hair.

“Good morning, Sunshine,” he said, crouching down in front of him as the other man stepped away and turned.

“Stay back!” Sugawara punched at him and he leaned out of his reach. “Stay away from me!” he scampered back until he hit the wall of the elevator.

Where am I?

Where are they taking me?

“Relax,” another voice drew his eyes to the left, where a tall man with black hair leaned against the wall, hand inside an open bag of potato chips. He cocked a thick eyebrow as he peered down the length of his nose at him.

“Wh-who are you?” Sugawara’s voice trembled and he hugged his knees to his chest. “I… I… I don’t taste good, I swear…”

The one with the pink hair snorted into his hand and turned away.

The fierce looking one that had been carrying Sugawara scowled, “Taste good? You think we’re cannibals or something?”

“Oh?” the tall one pushed away from the wall and then bent over, leaning towards Sugawara. “Were you speaking literally? Or were you maybe thinking we’d try to take a different kind of taste?” his brows lowered and he smirked, gaze traveling lazily over his face.

Sugawara’s blood ran cold.

“Touch me and I’ll light you on fire.”

The one with light hair sputtered again.

The fierce one punched the tall one on the back of the head.

“Knock it off!” he snapped. “He’s never going to trust us if you keep teasing him like that.” He crouched down in front of Sugawara and leveled him with a firm gaze, “Ignore them. My name is Iwaizumi Hajime. Are you alright?”

Sugawara gulped and cowered back against the wall.

“Now look who’s scarin’ him,” the tall one mumbled.

“I’m not meaning to!”

“Iwa-chan so scary,” the other one snickered.

“Shut up!”

Sugawara’s eyes darted to the doors beyond Iwaizumi’s shoulder, and then the control panel to the right of them. The button for the seventh floor was illuminated.

Where are they taking me?

He inhaled slowly and ran his mind through his options.

Run.

Run.

Escape…

“Sawamura is going to be pissed if you keep tormenting his boyfriend.”

Sugawara’s gaze flicked to Iwaizumi once more.

Daichi?

“Meh,” the light haired one flapped a hand. “He loves us too much to punish us seriously.”

“He loves Oikawa the most though,” the tall one smirked at Iwaizumi. “Does that make you jealous, Iwa-chan?”

Iwaizumi’s cheeks flushed, “Wh-what? Why would it? Don’t… don’t be a fuckin’ jackass. I…”

“That sure is a lot of denial, Iwa-chan,” the light haired one grinned. “You’ve sure been awfully desperate to convince us these past few days, haven’t you?”

“Shut up.”

Sugawara swallowed.

“D-Daichi?”

The three turned back to him at the same moment the elevator slowed to a stop and the doors slid open.

“Ah, we’re here,” the light haired one stood and shoved his hands into his pockets.

“Don’t get punched again, Iwaizumi,” the tall one followed the other out of the elevator.

Sugawara met Iwaizumi’s stare and his heart raced.

He let out a sigh and offered a hand, “I can explain everything inside, if you’d like.”

Sugawara’s eyes darted to his hand and then back to his face.

“I’m not going to hurt you. Or… eat you. Sawamura asked us to go pick you up. We’re not scary guys, I promise.”

Sugawara glanced over his shoulder to where the tall one was leaning against the doorway, holding the doors open. He offered the other one the chips and he reached in and grabbed a handful.

“If they try to pick on you, I’ll kick their asses,” Iwaizumi said.

Sugawara took a deep breath. He eyed Iwaizumi’s extended hand one more time before turning and pulling himself to his feet, groping at the wall for balance. His legs shook and his head pounded. He pressed a hand to his temple momentarily, closing his eyes when the elevator spun.

“Do you need help?”

Sugawara opened his eyes and moved around Iwaizumi, ignoring the offer.

They knew Daichi, so he was going to go along with them. But he wasn’t going to trust them. Not yet.

Outside of the elevator was a brightly lit hallway and Sugawara narrowed his eyes against the stinging light. He followed the tall man to a door and stood nervously behind him as he keyed in a code to the right.

“Dai-chan is so fuckin’ predictable,” the light haired one said from Sugawara’s side. “He still uses the same pin that he used on his school log-in.”

“Classic Dai-chan,” the tall one muttered and pushed the door open. “We’re home!” He passed through the doorway and the light haired one followed. Sugawara hesitated, peering through to the other side. A light flicked on and Sugawara could make out a short hallway and then a large open space beyond.

“You’ve never been here before?” Iwaizumi asked at his side, scaring a jump out of him.

Sugawara stared up at him wide-eyed, “Wh-why should I have been?”

He cocked an eyebrow, “Well… it’s your boyfriend’s apartment…” he passed him and followed the others. “I just figured you’d have seen it at least once.”

Daichi’s… apartment?

Did that mean that Daichi was waiting inside? His heart fluttered in his chest and he quickly checked his appearance. He was still wearing his work uniform and it was wrinkled and messy. His face ached, and he predicted he had at least one fresh bruise from all of the beating Rei had done with his forehead on the counter.

He didn’t want Daichi to see him in such a condition. He would only worry. He would only get angry.

But…

Sugawara wanted to see him.

And on top of that, he wanted to know why he had sent these three strangers to pick him up instead of coming himself.

Had he grown tired of Sugawara?

He was a burden… he knew that.

But…

“Hurry up!” a voice called from inside.

Sugawara swallowed and straightened his shoulders. He stepped into the apartment and closed the door behind him.

“Alright, he’s inside. Time to start eating,” the light haired one approached from down the short hallway, wiggling his fingers suggestively.

Sugawara’s breath hitched and he flinched.

Iwaizumi punched the man on the shoulder and he dropped his creepy stance in favor of cradling the shoulder with a wince.

“Knock it off!” Iwaizumi barked. “Can’t you tell he’s fuckin’ terrified? He’s dealt with enough bullshit for one night!”

“Iwa-chan is like a mom,” the tall one called dully from the open space at the end of the short hallway.

“Shuddup!” Iwaizumi turned back to Sugawara, “C’mon, it’s alright. Come inside. Do you want anything to eat or drink?”

“Ohhh, good idea. Let’s get drunk,” the light haired one turned and joined the tall one. They high fived and walked further into the apartment.

“Uhm…” Sugawara glanced around unsurely. “Is… Is Daichi here?”

Iwaizumi scratched the back of his head, “Ah. Well… no. Though I’m not really clear on why… Matsukawa said he had a family thing?”

“Matsukawa?”

Iwaizumi jerked his thumb over his shoulder. “The tall fucker. Matsukawa Issei. And the other one is Hanamaki Takahiro.”

Sugawara blinked slowly.

“Come on, let’s sit down,” Iwaizumi turned and moved down the hallway.

Sugawara took a deep breath, rubbed his temples momentarily, and then followed. Iwaizumi led him to a large living space and Sugawara stared around in awe. The apartment was sleek, luxurious… not something that a college student that didn’t work could afford.

Iwaizumi sat on a long leather couch and Sugawara timidly joined him. Iwaizumi let out a deep sigh and dragged his hand through his hair.

“Honestly,” he grumbled. “I didn’t sign up for all of this.”

Sugawara lowered his eyes to a black coffee table in front of them.

“Not that I’m blaming you,” he added. “Nah… I’m blaming that Oikawa bastard for dragging me along to a place like this.”

“Don’t be such a baby, Iwa-chan,” the two others walked into the living room. The tall one, Matsukawa, stood in front of Sugawara and offered him a glass with dark golden liquid inside. Sugawara took it tentatively. “It’s not like Oikawa begged you or anything,” he said, walking up to Iwaizumi and offering him another identical glass before he and the other one, Hanamaki, sat in a love seat adjacent to their couch.

“Yeah, it was surprisingly easy to get you to tag-along,” Hanamaki smirked, passing one of his glasses over to Matsukawa. “Almost like you were eager to spend some extra time with the guy…”

Shuddup.”

Sugawara stared down into his glass and then lifted it to his lips. He could smell the intensity of the alcohol before it even touched his tongue. The harshness burned his throat and drew shivers to the surface of his skin but he ignored the unpleasant taste and sensation and downed the entire glass in one gulp.

Matsukawa whistled, “We are in the presence of a real man.”

Sugawara made a face and lowered the glass to his lap. The alcohol hit his stomach like a firecracker, warming it almost instantly. He knew it was probably a mistake to drink on an empty stomach, and especially after the traumatic events of earlier still fresh in his mind, but Sugawara really could not find a single fuck in his body to give.

I earned it, he stared down at the empty glass quietly. If I can’t have Daichi here to comfort me, then liquor will be his substitute.

“So kid,” Matsukawa drew his eyes. “You get attacked pretty often?”

Sugawara stared at him for a long second before letting out a humorless laugh and slumping back against the couch.

“You know what?” he muttered. “I do.” His lips twisted down, “I really do.”

The room fell silent for a short time before Hanamaki asked, “I don’t get it.”

Everyone turned towards him and he cocked an eyebrow, “Why?”

“Because I’m gay, apparently.”

“No, I mean… you’re dating Dai-chan, right? So why are you getting attacked? Are they stupid or just suicidal?”

Sugawara furrowed his brows, “I don’t understand what you’re talking about…”

Hanamaki and Matsukawa exchanged a glance.

“Oh…” Hanamaki lifted his glass to his lips. “Right. Never mind. I forgot you don’t know about that yet.”

“Know about what?”

“Don’t worry about it. I don’t think I’m supposed to tell.”

Sugawara scowled and opened his mouth to ask again, but Matsukawa interrupted,

“Me and Makki went to high school with Dai-chan. Us and Oikawa.”

Hanamaki pointed to Iwaizumi, “We met Iwa-chan at university. He plays on the same team as Oikawa.”

Sugawara looked to Iwaizumi, “So you…”

“I just met Sawamura for the first time this week,” he grunted, lifting his glass and taking a slow gulp. “Just met the guy and I’m already saving his boyfriend from rapists.”

“Good guy Iwa-chan,” Matsukawa smirked.

“What a stud,” Hanamaki nodded. “That’ll earn you some points with Oikawa.”

“I thought I told you to shut up.”

“Can I have more of this?” Sugawara lifted his empty glass.

Hanamaki and Matsukawa exchanged a look.

“I’m not sure you should even be drinking in the first place,” Iwaizumi said slowly. “I don’t know the rules on head trauma but…”

Sugawara stood, “I’ll find it myself.” He moved across the living room and found the kitchen. The alcohol was left out on the counter and he went to it.

Daichi’s apartment.

But no Daichi.

What was the fucking point?

He poured the liquor- whiskey apparently- into the glass and lifted it to his lips once more.

His head was pounding and his eyes stung. His entire body felt tired and weak and he was exhausted.

He was so exhausted.

He downed the whiskey and poured again. His vision blurred as he set the bottle aside. He reached up and rubbed at his eyes but it was already too late. The tears slipped down his cheeks and dripped off of his jaw. He sniffled and sipped the alcohol.

He was exhausted.

And angry.

And he missed home.

He missed his siblings and his friends.

He missed his old bed and his old room and all of the places he used to hang out.

He missed who he used to be before he was controlled by fear and hateful emotions.

And he was just so… exhausted.

“Hey.”

Sugawara turned. Iwaizumi stood just inside the kitchen, arms crossed over his wide chest. The two others peeked around the corner, sipping their whiskey quietly.

Iwaizumi’s eyes widened slightly at the sight of Sugawara’s tears.

Sugawara dragged his forearm over his eyes, sniffling.

Iwaizumi sighed, “Look. I don’t really know all that’s going on here… but have you ever thought about… going to the police?”

Sugawara lowered his arm and stared into his glass.

“Or just ask for help from the others? Sawamura said that you won’t accept their—”

“So I ask them. And then the next time something like this happens I’ll ask them again,” Sugawara interrupted. “And again. And again. And I’ll never get stronger. And I’ll never learn how to take care of myself. To stand up for myself.” He downed the whiskey and set the glass down on the counter. He turned his back to them and stared at the bottle, half empty now. “I won’t ever be the main character that Daichi likes. And he will get sick of me. And then he’ll leave. And then what will I do?”

“Why would Sawamura leave? You’re boyfriends, right?”

“But Daichi doesn’t like me the way I like him!”

The kitchen fell silent on that admission. Sugawara squeezed his eyes shut and covered them with a hand. His chest shuddered and he bit his bottom lip to keep the sound of his sob inside. After several seconds, Iwaizumi said,

“But you two are dating…”

Sugawara let out a humorless laugh, “Yeah. For what it’s worth.”

“What do you mean?”

He sighed and rubbed at his eyes, “He doesn’t know me. He… does all of these things because that’s what a boyfriend does.”

“So what’s wrong with—”

“I confessed because I hoped that he could grow to care for me,” Sugawara’s voice lowered. “I haven’t even had the chance to… to convince him. At this rate, he’s going to find me tedious and weak and… pitiful. A pitiful loser that can’t even stand up for himself.”

A long minute passed and Sugawara sniffled and wiped the tears from his cheeks.

“Just do what you can.”

Iwaizumi's voice lowered, the only sound echoing in the silent kitchen.

“No amount of wishing you can do things is going to make you magically capable of doing them. There’s no shame in just doing what you can. The resources you have… they were given to you for a reason."

Sugawara stared at the counter wordlessly.

"You’ve earned them," Iwaizumi's voice hardened. "So use them.”

Sugawara lifted his head and glanced over his shoulder. Iwaizumi crossed his arms over his chest and leveled him with a stern gaze.

“Just do what you can.”


 

It was well into the night when the picture came. Daichi was lying in bed, putting time between his last thirteen texts and the one he was planning on sending again after Hanamaki’s initial message of, Got him, earlier that evening.

The sound of his phone beeping made his stomach leap to his throat and he sat up hurriedly, snatching the device up from the pillow beside his head. He opened the new message, holding his breath.

 

From: Takahiro

careful dai-chan

your boyfriend got attached to iwa-chan

maybe he’ll try to steal him away

 

Daichi tapped the image attached to the text and it enlarged. Sugawara was curled into Iwaizumi’s side on the couch, head resting on his shoulder, eyes closed. They both appeared to be asleep, Iwaizumi’s head leaning on the back of the couch, the arm that Sugawara wasn’t clinging to limp in his lap.

A sharp pang of jealousy spread through Daichi’s stomach but he ignored it in favor of closely examining Sugawara’s appearance. He was wearing Daichi’s clothes, a pair of grey sweatpants and a black t-shirt. His hair was damp and flat, curling slightly at his neck. There was fresh bruising starting in the center of his forehead and trailing around his left eyebrow and down to his cheekbone.

Daichi gritted his teeth and called Hanamaki, pressing the phone to his ear.

“Yo,” he answered. “Did you get my picture? Cute, huh?”

“Why didn’t you text me earlier?” Daichi snapped.

“We were busy drinking.”

“You gave him alcohol?”

“I think your boyfriend is an alcoholic, Dai-chan. He out drank Iwaizumi.”

Daichi sighed and rubbed his eyes, “So what happened? He has new bruises.”

“Hmmm, yeah. There was a dude there by the time we showed up.”

Daichi gulped, stomach twisting uneasily, “Rei?”

“We didn’t exchange names.”

“Tell me what happened.”

“Ahhh… well. When you said he was getting bullied, I didn’t expect it to be so rapey.”

Daichi’s bones chilled.

“Let’s see… we got there and the dude had him like up against the counter. He hit his head down hard, Dude. But he tried to run away real quick when he saw us. Pussy. Iwaizumi got a few good hits on him but he escaped.”

Daichi covered his face with a hand.

Shit.

“Your boyfriend is a scrappy kid. He passed out and Iwaizumi had to carry him and when he woke up in the elevator he punched him in the back of the head. He’s got a huge lump now.”

Daichi chewed on the inside of his cheek.

“Anyway, I sent that picture to Oikawa and he flipped. It was funny. He told me to tell you to keep your boyfriend in check.”

Daichi sighed, “Alright. I’ll be there in a little bit.”

“Hm? I thought you were being held prisoner.”

“I’ll figure it out.”

Hanamaki chuckled, “Good luck.”

Daichi ended the call and found a new name in his contacts. The phone rang for a few moments before a sleepy voice answered,

“Shit. Do you know what time it is?”

Come unlock my door this fucking instant,” Daichi snarled.

“Are you trying to get me in trouble?”

“It’s important. Just do it. I’ll take the blame.”

There was a sigh on the other line, “I’m going to get fired.”

“You’ve done worse and are still around. Now shut up and come unlock my door.”

“Kaaayy… I’ll be there in a jiffy.”

“Hurry up.”

“Yeah, yeah.”

Daichi ended the call and climbed out of the bed. He hovered by the door impatiently for several minutes until he heard a click. He grabbed the handle and wrenched it open.

“Good morning, Sunshine!”

Daichi stepped into the hallway and delivered a swift punch to the man’s nose. He stumbled and fell backwards, slamming down onto his back on the hallway floor.

“Ah shit,” he held his nose in his hand as blood, as vibrant red as his hair, dripped down his cheek. “That was uncalled for, Daichi.”

Beyonce?” Daichi glared down at him. “You were listening to Beyonce? I have never met someone so unprofessional in my life. Jesus, Satori!”

“Hey, you were the one that asked me to do illegal stuff! You’re not free of the blame here!” Tendou struggled back to his feet, using the sleeve of his shirt to wipe the blood from his skin.

“Fine. We’re even now.”

“Like hell,” he grumbled. “I got a scolding too, you know? I really thought I was going to get fired this time.”

“Well you didn’t, did you?”

“I might now that I’ve freed the beast,” Tendou twirled a keychain around his finger.

“Shut up and give me a ride home,” Daichi passed him into the hall.

“Isn’t this home?” Tendou smirked.

Fuck no,” Daichi’s eyebrows lowered and he started down the stairwell at the end of the hallway. “I’ll never call this hell home.”

“Aw, what’s a little kidnapping among family?”

“Still illegal.”

“I suppose.”

They made their way to the garage and Daichi sat, quietly stewing, in the passenger seat of a black Bentley as Tendou hummed cheerfully and drove them out onto the street. After a few minutes, he asked,

“So, this important reason you need to get home, does it have something to do with that illegal sleuthing you had me do?”

“It might.”

“And the reason you’re not telling me much information on it… is because it’s involving a new girl.”

Daichi hummed and didn’t reply.

Tendou chuckled, “You never learn, do you?”

“This time is different,” he muttered.

“Oooo… sounds promising. Well, don’t tell me nothin’ about her then. Or else I’ll have to tattle.”

“Then quit asking.”

“I like to know when I’m supposed to look the other way.”

“Just assume it’s always.”

He snickered, “So your new girl has gotten into some business with the commissioner’s shitty son, huh? Sounds like you’ve found a troublesome one this time.”

Daichi stared through the window at the dark streets passing by. His voice lowered and he whispered, “I’ll fucking kill him.”

“Please stop telling me things that could make me an accomplice.”

“Then stop asking.

“But I like to be involved in your life.”

Daichi let out a heavy sigh, “Just drive and shut up.”

“So mean. I’m only thinking about your welfare,” Tendou fell silent for a few moments and then said in a low voice, “This is different from your usual shit. I’m a little concerned.”

Daichi hesitated, glancing across the car to the other man. He stared straight ahead, expression serious.

“Don’t worry about me,” he finally said. “I’ll handle it.”

“You’re not the one I’m worried about. Your actions don’t only affect you, ya know?”

He gulped, “I’m well aware of that.”

“And you’re still determined to do whatever it is you’re planning?”

“Yeah. Sorry.”

Tendou’s eyes flicked in his direction and then away. He let out a loud sigh, “Well… so long as you’re sure. I won’t get in your way.”

“Thanks.”

“Besides… it’s kind of refreshing to see you get passionate about something for once. And a girlfriend no less. Wowzas, it’s like I don’t even know who you are!” he let out a cackling laugh. “If this ever blows over, I wanna meet her!”

He pulled the car up to the curb outside of Daichi’s apartment building and slowed to a stop. Daichi cracked the door open and then turned back to him.

“Thanks for the rescue,” he said. “And don’t tell anyone about this.”

“Not even your precious onii-chan?”

Especially not my precious onii-chan.”

Tendou snickered and gave a wave, “Alright. My lips are sealed. Enough.”

Daichi rolled his eyes and climbed out of the car, “Do what you gotta do.”

“Bye-bye!”

Daichi slammed the door and jogged across the sidewalk and into the building. He nodded at the doorman and rushed to the elevator. The ride up was slow and Daichi’s heart raced in his chest.

Was he prepared to see him? To see the damage with his own two eyes, up close and in person? He closed his eyes and leaned his head back on the wall of the elevator. He was at a loss. Just what the hell was he supposed to do? He had sounded confident to Tendou, but really… what the fuck was he going to do?

Obviously he couldn’t actually kill the bastards attacking Sugawara.

Not unless he wanted to do a sentence in prison and fuck his family over for real this time.

He needed to ruin their lives somehow though. So what should he do? Find some way to get them kicked out of school? Was that punishment enough? He couldn’t go to the police, apparently. Rei’s father would only sweep it under the rug like he had done with all of his other crimes.

Really the only thing he could think to do was beat them half to death.

But he needed leverage. Something he could hold over their heads so that whatever violent punishment he doled out wouldn’t get reported to the police. He needed a threat to keep their mouths shut.

Could he scare them into submission? Was Daichi terrifying enough to keep a monster like Rei from running to his father?

He wasn’t so sure.

The door of the elevator opened on his floor and he went to his apartment and keyed in the code, heart in his throat.

Was he ready to see it with his own eyes?

Ready or not, he was there. The door was open. And so he went inside.

He could hear low snickering as he kicked off his shoes. He walked down the hallway slowly and entered the living room. Hanamaki and Matsukawa were huddled together on the loveseat across the room, stooped over Matsukawa’s cell phone. They glanced up at his appearance and quickly waved him over.

Daichi glanced towards the couch where Iwaizumi and Sugawara slept. Sugawara had snuggled closer, one arm wrapped around Iwaizumi’s stomach. Iwaizumi’s head had fallen sideways, nose buried in Sugawara’s hair.

Daichi clenched his jaw and swallowed his jealousy. He turned away from them and went to the others. Matsukawa lifted his phone and showed it to Daichi.

“Oikawa’s throwing a fit,” he said in a low voice and they giggled childishly.

Daichi ran his eyes over the numerous chat messages.

 

Princess Bitchface: WHY ARE THEY SLEEPING TOGETHER?

Princess Bitchface: MATTSUN I’M NOT KIDDING.

Princess Bitchface: WHERE IS SAWA-CHAN?

Princess Bitchface: SEPARATE THEM!

Princess Bitchface: NOT FAIR! NOT FAIR! NOT FAIR!

Princess Bitchface: MATTSUN STOP IGNORING ME.

Princess Bitchface: WAKE THEM UP THIS FUCKING INSTANT.

Princess Bitchface: WHY IS HIS ARM AROUND HIM?

Princess Bitchface: IWA-CHAN IS MINE GODDAMNIT!

Princess Bitchface: ALSO, HOW DO I CHANGE MY NICKNAME FROM PRINCESS BITCHFACE?

Princess Bitchface: I HATE YOU GUYSSSSSSSS!

 

Daichi rolled his eyes and Matsukawa lowered the phone. Hanamaki grinned at him.

“Better separate them before Princess Bitchface runs over here and busts through a window.”

Daichi turned to the couch with a sigh.

“Don’t wake the bear,” Hanamaki whispered as he moved in front of the two slumbering men quietly.

“Which one is the bear?” Matsukawa murmured.

“I can’t tell anymore.”

Daichi leaned over and gently grasped Sugawara's arm wrapped around Iwaizumi’s stomach. He pulled it away slowly, careful not to bump the splinted fingers as he lifted it up and draped it over his own shoulder. He took his other arm and did the same over his other shoulder and then carefully slid one hand under his back and hooked his other under his left thigh.

“It’s like watching surgery,” Matsukawa said.

“Except gayer,” Hanamaki added.

“Less,” Matsukawa argued. “There’s no penetration.”

“Good point.”

Daichi gritted his teeth and resisted the urge to bark at them to shut the fuck up. He pulled Sugawara against his chest and locked his arms under him as he straightened away from the couch. Sugawara’s face rolled into his neck and for a moment Daichi hesitated, absorbing the feeling of the man’s weight and warmth against him.

So that was what a boyfriend felt like…

“Dai-chan,” Hanamaki drew his attention and he turned in their direction.

Matsukawa snapped a picture and then lowered his phone, “To calm the Princess,” he said by way of explanation.

Daichi scowled and walked across the living room to the far hallway.

Now who’s going to keep Iwa-chan warm tonight?” Hanamaki asked.

“We can snuggle him from both sides.”

“And send another picture to Oikawa?”

“Of course.”

Daichi moved down the dark hallway and their voices faded into distant murmurs in the other room. Away from the duo’s prying eyes, he allowed himself to let out the exhausted sigh he had been holding in since he had arrived. He held Sugawara closer to his chest, turning his face and inhaling the scent of shampoo clinging to his hair.

His heart thudded and raced in his chest and he was relieved.

He was so relieved.

It had been a relief to receive Hanamaki’s message confirming that they had picked him up. It was a relief to see the picture of him sleeping soundly next to Iwaizumi.

But it didn’t compare to the relief of actually having Sugawara in his arms.

He was safe. No one could hurt him when Daichi had him. He wouldn’t let them.

At the end of the hall, Daichi toed open the door to his bedroom and carried Sugawara inside. He went to the king-sized bed on the far wall and gently lay him down on the mattress. He was pulling back when Sugawara’s arms tightened around his neck and held him in place.

Daichi hesitated, holding his breath.

For a long moment, neither of them spoke and Daichi wondered if maybe he had unconsciously pulled him closer in his sleep. He reached up to unlatch Sugawara’s arms from around his neck.

“Sorry.”

Daichi froze.

“Sorry,” Sugawara mumbled again.

Daichi gulped and placed his arms around Sugawara’s waist.

“Who are you apologizing to?” he asked quietly.

“Sorry,” Sugawara’s arms tightened. “I want to kiss you.”

Daichi’s eyes widened.

“I didn’t push you away because I didn’t like it. I… I l-liked it.”

Heat spread slow, like a fog, under Daichi’s skin and he tightened his hold.

“I’m sorry. I liked it. And I want to kiss you. But… not in public.”

Daichi slowly rubbed his back and said softly, “Because you don’t want anyone to know we’re dating.”

“It’s just—” Sugawara’s fingers twisted in his shirt at his shoulders. “It’s just that… if they know… then all of the things that have been happening to me… will start happening to you.”

“That’s alright—”

“It’s not alright!” Sugawara pressed his face into his shoulder. “It’s not alright! I won’t let them touch you! You’re not the only boyfriend in this relationship, you know? I also want to… want to protect…” he squeezed him tighter.

Daichi inhaled deeply and closed his eyes, rubbing slow circles on Sugawara’s back.

“I know I’m being selfish,” Sugawara whispered. “I know you don’t like the things I’m doing and might think I’m tedious and pitiful—”

“I don’t think any of that.”

Sugawara fell silent.

“Suga.”

He didn’t answer.

Daichi trailed a hand up his back to the nape of his neck.

“Suga… we’re not in public now.”

Sugawara stiffened and Daichi wondered momentarily if he was going to reject him. But then slowly, his grip on his shoulders loosened and he pulled back. His cheeks were bright red and his eyes flickered meekly into his gaze and then away.

“W-we aren’t…” he agreed in a quiet voice.

Daichi trailed his eyes slowly over his face, lingering on the new bruising surrounding his left eye. Fresh anger spread through his chest and he wanted to kill Rei.

His gaze slid down his flushed cheeks to his lips, which parted and then pressed together, tongue anxiously wetting them before they rubbed until the friction turned them pink.

The anger in his chest faded, replaced by urgent longing. He gulped and lifted a hand. He gently brushed his fingers along his jaw and then buried them in his hair behind his ear. As he leaned slowly in, he held Sugawara’s stare, giving him time to pull back, to reject him.

But instead of leaning away, Sugawara’s eyes slid shut and his hands shakily pulled Daichi’s shoulders.

It was all the confirmation Daichi needed. He closed the space between their lips, hand cupping the back of his head and tilting it backwards to give him better access.

And it was somehow better than the first time. Now, without the painful insistence urging him forward, riding on the fear of Sugawara’s withdrawal from his side, the kiss was sweeter. He could concentrate fully on the warmth and soft pressure of his lips and the timid way the tips of their noses just barely brushed. He could fully grasp that ahh, he was kissing Sugawara and it felt good.

It felt right.

And how strange was that? That Daichi’s heart could flutter giddily in its ribcage from a kiss with a man… it was such a strange thing, wasn’t it?

Kissing women was nice.

But kissing Sugawara was exciting.

It felt as if there was more on the line. This wasn’t the motion Daichi had practiced in order to keep his past girlfriends happy.

This was something new and thrilling.

Everything that Daichi knew about kissing and affection and intimacy was blown out of his mind and his breath hitched. He slid one of his hands down the side of Sugawara’s neck, fingers stroking the soft skin reverently. He broke the connection between their lips in order to suck in a deep, shuddering breath, and Sugawara did the same.

But then Daichi dragged Sugawara’s mouth back to his, lips slightly parted this time. Their breath mingled and Sugawara’s lips were soft and pliable beneath his touch.

And could he push it just a little bit further?

Would Sugawara mind?

Daichi shifted closer to him on the bed, cupping his jaw with both hands. Sugawara’s fingers gripped his shirt and pulled weakly. Daichi carefully slipped his tongue past his lips, testing, tasting. Sugawara shuddered and his fingers tightened in Daichi’s shirt, but rather than pushing him away, his tongue pressed shyly to his. He tasted like Daichi’s whiskey, harsh and yet sweet at the same time. He put pressure on his jaw, opening his mouth wider, and deepened the kiss, thumb stroking gently over the bruise on his left cheek.

And ahh… so this is what a boyfriend tastes like.

He trailed his fingers through the hair at the back of Sugawara’s head.

Maybe Daichi was just exhausted. Maybe the stress of the day had finally gotten to him. Because surely… surely it wasn’t Sugawara that was making his stomach flip and his heart race painfully in his chest. Surely it couldn’t be this man, as beautiful and soft as he was, that drew the shivers to the surface of Daichi’s skin and made every muscle in his body feel weak.

Because Daichi had never felt this way before and that couldn’t be right, could it?

He threaded his fingers in his hair, prolonging the kiss for as long as he could, until Sugawara pulled back with a wince, face twisted in a grimace.

Daichi blinked at him in surprise as he reached up and pulled Daichi’s hand away from the back of his head.

“S-sorry,” Sugawara whispered, eyes darting away. “That… uhm… it’s sore right there so…”

And just like that, the weak, frustrated longing in Daichi’s abdomen faded away, replaced by renewed anger. He lowered both of his hands and Sugawara released his shirt, leaning away with red cheeks.

“Suga…” Daichi treaded carefully. “Tonight… Was it Rei that attacked you?”

Sugawara shifted uneasily, avoiding his gaze.

“It’s my fault,” he finally whispered and Daichi’s heart clenched. “He was probably just going to tease me a little bit about—” he paused, lowering his eyes to his lap. “But well… I taunted him. I pissed him off. And so it’s my fault—”

“It’s not your fault.”

Sugawara pressed his lips together tightly.

“Suga, you haven’t done anything wrong. You don’t deserve any of this. Do you understand that?”

He was silent for a moment before rubbing at his eyes with the back of his hand. When he lowered the hand again, he gave Daichi a weak smile and then looked away again.

“Ah… I’m pretty tired. And I have a final to take tomorrow so… I should probably go to sleep…”

Daichi’s chest ached. But arguing would only shut him off even more. He gulped and nodded, “Yeah… alright.”

Sugawara peered down at the bed, “Uhm… you don’t… you don’t have to give me your bed… I can sleep on the floor…”

Daichi stood and grabbed the navy blue sheet. He pulled it over Sugawara’s lower body and said, “Lie down.”

He did as he was told, “But you… you can sleep here too. We can share—”

“I’m not going to sleep yet,” Daichi said. “Don’t worry about me.”

Sugawara stared up at him for a long second before draping his arm over his eyes.

“Okay,” he whispered.

And Daichi’s eyes finally focused on the skin of Sugawara’s neck. On the dark bruising circling it. On the teeth shaped mark on the right side.

And Daichi couldn’t get out of the room fast enough. He closed the door behind and strode halfway down the hallway before he had to catch his breath, eyes closed as he struggled to keep himself from putting a hole through the wall.

Bastard.

Fucking bastard.

Daichi opened his eyes and leaned both hands against the hallway wall, staring down at the floor.

How could he make Akaashi Rei’s life miserable?

He had to be careful.

He had to think about it rationally.

How could Sawamura Daichi ruin Akaashi Rei’s life?

He inhaled deeply and straightened. He turned and continued down the hallway, sparing only a glance towards the couch where Hanamaki was lifting Iwaizumi’s shirt up over his stomach, displaying his six pack, while Matsukawa snapped a photo.

When they spotted him, they quietly abandoned the sleeping man and followed him to the kitchen.

“We’re just sending our apologies to Princess,” Hanamaki explained.

“I didn’t ask,” Daichi muttered as he moved around the kitchen island.

“So? What’s your plan, Dai-chan?” Matsukawa leaned against the counter as Daichi started opening cupboards.

He sighed when he found his bottle of whiskey, nearly empty.

“I don’t know,” he muttered, untwisting the lid. “You guys want to spend some time in prison with me?”

“Sounds nice,” Hanamaki said.

“I’ve been meaning to take a vacation,” Matsukawa shrugged.

Daichi leaned back against the counter and faced them, lifting the bottle to his lips. He hesitated, remembering the taste of Sugawara’s tongue. His heartbeat sped and he looked away as he took a long gulp from what little remained of the alcohol.

“Let’s just kill him,” Hanamaki suggested, leaning his elbows on the kitchen island. “I’ll bet you his family wouldn’t care.”

“If he has any family,” Matsukawa said.

“Well, he has a dad,” Daichi muttered, pulling his cell phone from his pocket. He opened the email Tendou had sent him and read through the information. “And a younger brother, apparently.”

“If they complain, we just kill them too,” Hanamaki finger gunned at them.

“And if your brother finds out, we can just add his to the pile of bodies,” Matsukawa nodded.

“Nah, that dude will never die.”

“So we will frame him for the murders.”

“Ah, that could work.”

“And we might as well kill the old hag too.”

“Ooo, dibs.”

“Not fair.”

“Okay, we can play janken.”

“Fine.”

Daichi stared down at his phone for long seconds as the two started playing, throwing out the same gesture with every turn. After a few minutes, he locked his phone and slid it back into his pocket.

“I’ll figure it out,” he said with conviction. He downed the rest of the whiskey and tossed the bottle into the trash.

“By this time next week, blood will have been shed.”

Hanamaki and Matsukawa exchanged a glance and Matsukawa hummed, crossing his arms over his chest.

“The question is…” he mused. “Whose blood?”


 

“Go on. Open it.

Risa smiled and shook the box next to her ear, “What is it? It’s so small. Better not be an engagement ring.”

“Ew. As if you could ever get me to marry you.”

Risa stuck her tongue out at Sugawara and he returned the motion, corners of his eyes crinkling happily.

“Hmm… okay,” she gave the box another shake. “Question.”

“Answer.”

“Is it alive?”

“Well considering I didn’t put any air holes, probably not anymore.”

“Koushi, if this is another dead lizard—”

“It was a salamander! And Jesus, Risa, when you gonna let me forget that? We were like six.”

Risa grinned, “Never. It’s one of my favorite memories of you. You looked so proud.”

Sugawara leaned back against the wall of his bedroom and pouted, “It was alive. When I caught it.”

She giggled and pulled at the red ribbon encasing the box, “Okay, question.”

“Answer.”

“Is it a car?”

“Does it look like a car?”

She shook the box one more time, “It could be the keys of a Ferrari and then you take me outside and there it is waiting out on the street!”

“You just walked over here. Did you see a Ferrari out on the street?”

“Maybe it’s invisible.”

“It’s definitely invisible.”

Risa laughed and finally ripped the box open. She reached inside and felt around the white tissue paper until her fingers touched something small and firm.

“Hm?” she pulled out a silver key. She didn’t speak for a moment as she stared at it, turning it over in her hands. She lifted her eyes to Sugawara, who stared at her expectantly. “I suppose it doesn’t go to a Ferrari,” she said.

Sugawara shook his head.

“Or a safe filled with diamonds?”

He shook his head again.

She stared down at the key once more, and this time it looked familiar. Her eyes widened and she looked at him, grinning now. “Is this a key to…” she glanced around the room. “Here?”

Sugawara nodded vigorously.

Risa let out a squeal and threw the box over her shoulder, key clutched in her hand as she leapt into Sugawara’s lap.

“Really?” she wrapped her arms around his neck. “Really really?”

“Really,” he kissed her softly on the lips.

Risa’s entire body tingled warmly and she kissed him back. His hands gently trailed down her back, smoothing over his shirt that she had stolen for the night. Every touch from Sugawara was gentle. He always handled her as if she was made from glass, delicate, precious.

He turned to the side and lay Risa back on the mattress, bracing himself on his elbows atop her.

“Merry Christmas,” he murmured, kissing her tenderly on the jaw.

“I can come over whenever I want?” Risa asked, staring at the key over his shoulder.

“Yes.”

“Question.”

“Answer.”

“Do you love me, Koushi?”

“Hm… I must. I’m trusting you not to steal my TV after all.”

She giggled and hugged him tightly. “You’ll love me no matter what?”

Sugawara fell silent, lips lingering at her chin for a long moment. Slowly, he buried his face in her neck and inhaled deeply.

And Risa never did receive her answer.


 

“Risa-chan, are you ready?”

Risa lifted her eyes from the t-shirt in her hands. Her new boyfriend waited in the door frame of her bedroom, head cocked to the side.

“Oh…” she set the t-shirt aside and stood. “Yeah. Sorry.”

“You were staring at that shirt pretty intensely. Were you thinking about changing?”

“No…” she glanced down at it momentarily and then walked across the room. “It’s just… it doesn’t belong to me. I was… wondering if maybe I should return it or…”

He eyed her silently for long seconds before smiling and offering his hand, “Shall we go?”

“… sure,” she took his hand and he led her across her apartment to the front door.

Her new boyfriend was dreamy. He was handsome and polite and everyone that they passed by on the streets bristled with envy at the sight of them hand in hand. He took her out and bought her gifts of flowers and sparkling jewelry. He showered her with compliments and exuded confidence.

He was almost perfect, really.

But…

“I thought we could go to that one café near the school that serves that chocolate cake you like.”

“Oh… hm… yeah that sounds like a good idea.”

They left her apartment and walked along the sidewalk slowly. Risa lifted her eyes to the overcast sky just as distant thunder rumbled.

“Good thing I brought an umbrella.”

Risa pursed her lips as the green umbrella lifted above her head, blocking the view of the sky.

“Koushi, did you bring an umbrella?”

“Ehh? Is it supposed to rain?”

“It already is!” Risa held her purse over her head. “Aw man it took me an hour to curl my hair!”

Sugawara quickly yanked his jacket off of his arms and threw it onto her head, “I’ll save you!”

“Koushi!” she shrieked as he scooped her up into his arms and bounded down the sidewalk. “Put me down!” she struggled.

“Just protect your pretty hair and I’ll get us to the restaurant in no time!”

Risa lifted the hem of the jacket and peered through the now pouring rain. Sugawara wore a bright grin, hair dripping as it fell over his forehead. Risa’s heart swelled and she dragged the jacket half over his head. He looked at her in surprise and she leaned forward and kissed his lips tenderly.

“You’re such an idiot,” she whispered when she pulled back.

“Want me to drop you in a puddle, Bitch?”

“Try it, Jackass.”

He turned and carried her towards the street and she squealed and kicked, wrapping her arms around his neck.

“No! Koushi I’m sorry! Please don’t!”

“Say goodbye to that hour you wasted on your hair, Fuckface.”

“Noooo!

“Risa-chan?”

Risa blinked in shock, eyes coming back into focus. She lowered her eyes from the umbrella.

“Ah… sorry. I kinda drifted off there for a moment…”

“It’s alright,” he laced their fingers together. “As I was saying, we should plan something fun this weekend. You can invite your friends. Maybe we can go to the boardwalk or something.”

“That sounds fun.”

“Do you like going to the boardwalk, Risa-chan?”

Why is he saying it like that?

Risa hummed, “I’ve actually never been. But back in my hometown they had a carnival every summer and I used to go with—” she paused. “Uhm… I used to go with my friends. And it was a lot of fun.”

“Oh?”

Risa looked away uncomfortably, “Yeah…”

They changed the subject and talked casually until they reached the café. They stood under the awning and he lowered the umbrella, shaking the rain from it. He folded it and reached for the door of the café but suddenly it opened and out walked Sugawara and the man who had been in his apartment those weeks ago.

The second he saw her, Sugawara’s eyes widened.

Risa’s mouth went dry.

The entire left half of Sugawara’s face was covered in dark bruising. His eyes were bloodshot and tired, hair flat and lifeless.

She dragged her gaze down his face to his neck, where the shape of hands was still visible on his skin. Sugawara reached up and adjusted the strap of the bag draped across his chest and her eyes fell on the splint taping his fingers together.

Apparently there are some guys that are giving him what he deserves.

Risa’s chest ached and she swallowed the lump that formed in her throat.

“R-Risa…” Sugawara said weakly, shifting closer to the man’s side, left hand shakily reaching for the hem of his jacket.

“Koushi,” Risa answered, eyes stinging.

Sugawara’s eyes flicked to her companion and she cleared her throat.

“Ah… uhm… Koushi, this… this is Tooru. He… uhm… he’s my—”

“Boyfriend,” he finished, smiling wide. “Nice to meet you.”

Sugawara gulped, “N-nice to m-meet you.” He lowered his eyes to the sidewalk, fingers tugging at the man’s jacket.

“Sorry,” the man said, smiling tightly. “We’re in a hurry. Nice to see you,” his dark brown eyes bored into Risa for a long second and a chill ran down her spine. He took Sugawara’s hand and led him across the sidewalk to the street. Neither of them paid the rain any heed as they crossed to the opposite side and headed in the direction of Sugawara’s apartment.

How dare he give her that look?

Like he was mad at her?

She should be the one glaring at him!

How could he let those bastards do that to Sugawara?

Weren’t they boyfriends? Shouldn’t he be protecting him?

Risa’s stomach twisted painfully and her eyes filled with tears. If she was still dating him, she would protect him. No one would dare touch Sugawara if he was still by her side.

She lifted a hand and pressed it to her eyes.

Fuck.

“Risa-chan?”

Tears slipped down her cheeks and she lowered the hand, “I’m sorry.” She took a step backwards. “I’m sorry. I can’t do this.”

“What do you mean?”

Risa stared up at Tooru. His brows furrowed in confusion.

“I’m sorry. You’re really wonderful. But… but I can’t do this. We need to break up.”

His eyes widened.

“Sorry,” she turned on her heel and fled down the sidewalk, ignoring the rain. She waited until she was at the street corner before ripping the cell phone from her pocket. She clenched her jaw as she dialed a number and held the phone to her ear. After a few rings, the call picked up.

“Ew, what do you want?”

“Listen,” she snapped. “I know you and the others hate me.”

“No… why would we hate you?”

“Shut up. I know you think I stole Koushi away—”

“Which you did. And then cheated on him. Numerous times. What’s your fucking point?”

Risa slowed and inhaled deeply.

“I know you hate me. But I’m going to ask you to set that hatred aside for the time being and hear me out.”

The other line was silent for a moment before the voice said,

“Alright. I’m listening.”

“I know I have no right to ask you for a favor…”

“Just tell me what you want.”

Risa’s brows lowered and she clenched her jaw.

“I need you to kill someone for me.”


 

“Hey Boyfriend.”

Daichi pursed his lips and stared down at Ennoshita, who didn’t bother looking up from his magazine as he flipped through the pages slowly.

“It’s Daichi,” he said.

“Where’s Baldy?”

“I’m alone.”

“No Kou?”

“I’m alone.”

Ennoshita’s eyes lifted momentarily and then turned back to the magazine, “It’s alright, Boss isn’t mad about the mess.”

“The mess?”

“Oh so it wasn’t you that made it?” he leaned back and then pointed across the convenience store. “Huge mess over there this morning. Looked like someone got in a fight. So I just assumed…”

Daichi followed his point and then faced him again, “Ah… that wasn’t me. But it was a friend of mine. I can pay for the damages.”

Ennoshita slipped a cigarette into the corner of his mouth and lit it. He inhaled slowly and then blew it out, “It’s all good. So long as Kou is okay.”

Daichi shoved his hands into his pockets.

“He is okay, right?”

“More or less.”

Ennoshita let out a sigh, tapping the counter with a finger. He sucked on the cigarette again and muttered, “I knew I shouldn’t have left last night.”

“Is your boss here right now?” Daichi asked. “I’d like to talk with him…”

“He’s in back,” Ennoshita jerked a thumb at the door behind the counter.

“Can I—”

“Go ahead.”

Daichi thanked him and moved around the counter. He pushed into the back room and glanced left and right until he found the man in question on the far left side of the room, sitting behind a desk, staring at a computer monitor with a cigarette in his mouth. His eyes lifted as Daichi walked in his direction. He leaned back in his seat and stacked his hands behind his head.

“Hey Boyfriend.”

“I hope that’s not my permanent nickname,” Daichi muttered.

Ukai lifted a narrow plastic square and shook it.

“I’m assuming you’re here for this?”

Daichi eyed the DVD case for a long second.

“I edited it to right before the fucker shows up to when your friends leave,” Ukai leaned forward and held it out.

Daichi hesitantly took it from his hand.

Ukai ground his cigarette out in an ash tray and leveled him with a serious stare.

“I was going to turn it into the police,” he said. “But then I thought maybe I’d prefer whatever justice you decided was more appropriate for the bastard.”

Daichi stared at the case quietly.

“Promise me you’ll make them pay,” Ukai said in a low voice.

Daichi shoved the disc into his bag.

“I promise.”


 

“Sawa-chan!”

Daichi was being bombarded the instant he walked through the door to his apartment.

Oikawa slammed into his chest, arms tight around his neck. Daichi grunted at the impact and wrapped his arms around the taller man’s waist.

“Hey, Tooru,” he said.

Oikawa locked his legs around Daichi’s hips as he kicked off his shoes.

“It was so hard not hugging you right then when I saw you at the café!” he squeezed him tightly, rubbing his cheek against his temple lovingly.

“Yeah, yeah,” Daichi carried him down the hallway to the living room, where the others waited, joined by Tanaka and Asahi.

“Did I do good? Am I great actor?” he asked.

“You are a very good actor. I was impressed.”

“It’s not fair that the others have gotten to stay here with you while I had to be out seducing that stupid woman!”

“I know. I’m sorry,” Daichi reached around Oikawa’s thigh and opened his bag. He grabbed the disc and tossed it to Asahi, who stood from his spot on the couch and went to the TV.

“It was a waste of time anyway,” Oikawa continued. “She dumped me right after seeing you two earlier. I didn’t even get to publicly humiliate her.”

Daichi froze, “She dumped you?”

Hanamaki let out a laugh, “Some heart throb you are!”

“I don’t blame her,” Matsukawa turned sideways on the loveseat and rested his head on Hanamaki’s lap, draping his legs over the armrest. “I wouldn’t want to date him either.”

“Shut up!” Oikawa leaned back and glared at them over his shoulder. “I’m better at seducing men than women anyway.”

Speaking of which… Daichi glanced to the couch where Iwaizumi sat next to Tanaka. He leaned one elbow on the armrest and propped his cheek against his fist, very pointedly avoiding looking at Oikawa wrapped around Daichi. His lips were set in a firm line and his brows were pulled low over his eyes as he stared straight ahead.

Daichi let out a sigh and tugged on the back of Oikawa’s shirt.

“Are you going to get off me anytime soon?”

“No!” Oikawa hugged him tighter. “It’s been five months since I last saw you!”

“C’mon, Princess,” Hanamaki crossed his ankles, absently trailing his fingers through Matsukawa’s hair in his lap. “The man has a boyfriend. Give him some air.”

“Yeah and I’m still mad about that!” Oikawa glared down at Daichi. “Since when are you gay? I would’ve asked you out years ago if I knew you were gay!”

"And join his looney family?" Tanaka snorted and leaned back on the couch, stacking his hands behind his head, “No fuckin’ way. You fight with his brother more than Daichi does. That would be a fuckin’ disaster.”

“It’s not my fault,” Oikawa muttered.

Iwaizumi was getting more annoyed by the second. He was now checking his phone, right foot tapping the floor in irritation. Daichi tugged Oikawa again.

“We would make a bad couple,” he decided. “I’m too soft on you. You need someone with an iron fist.”

Oikawa met his gaze and he flicked his eyes pointedly in Iwaizumi’s direction. Oikawa’s cheeks flushed and he hurriedly dropped his legs from around his waist and cleared his throat, fluffing his hair.

“As if, Sawa-chan,” Oikawa cocked his hip to the side. “There doesn’t exist a man in the world that can tame me.”

“Uh huh, well keep looking,” Daichi pulled his bag over his head and set it down on the floor next to the couch. “So explain it to me. Why did Risa dump you?”

Oikawa clicked his tongue and fell onto the cushion beside Tanaka, “Don’t ask me. She was kind of distant. It never felt like she really opened up to me. But I thought maybe I had earned her trust enough so I was about to plot my evil scheme,” he crossed one leg over the other. “I was going to take her on a date to the boardwalk with a bunch of her friends and then admit in front of them that after dating her I realized I was gay,” he examined his fingernails. “It was going to be gorgeously cruel. But after running into you two, she said I can’t do this, and ran away.”

Daichi lowered his eyes to the floor.

She can’t do what?

Why would a shallow woman like Nagachika Risa dump a catch like Oikawa Tooru?

He inhaled deeply and let it out, “Well… I’ll deal with that later. Thanks anyway, Tooru.”

Oikawa hummed and leaned into Tanaka’s side, “My pride is hurt. I’ve never been dumped before…”

“You’re never dated before,” Matsukawa said dully.

Shut up Mattsun!” Oikawa sat up again and threw a couch pillow at him. “I’ve… I’ve dated plenty of times! Shut up!” He hid behind Tanaka’s shoulder, cheeks flaming.

Daichi glanced at Iwaizumi, who stared in Oikawa’s direction with wide eyes.

“Ahem,” Asahi drew their attention. He stood in front of the TV, remote control in hand.

Daichi gulped and dragged the coffee table to the side. He sat down on it and wiped his palms on the coarse fabric of his jeans.

“So…” Asahi glanced down at the remote and then back up at Daichi. “Are you sure?”

He took a deep breath and nodded.

Asahi hesitated another second and then moved to Daichi’s side. He held the remote control out and pressed play. A black and white image of the inside of the convenience store popped up on the screen. The camera was situated high on the ceiling behind the counter, giving a wide view of the entire store.

Sugawara was standing behind the counter, checking his wrist watch. He turned and started tidying up around the cash register, eyes flicking towards the front door every few seconds. When everything was in order, he walked around the counter and headed towards the front door. But before he could even make it a quarter of the way across the store, Rei was standing just inside.

Daichi knew it was him, even though his face was mostly shrouded inside the hood of his sweatshirt.

They exchanged words, Rei moving slowly into the store and Sugawara taking hasty steps backwards.

Daichi wished he could hear what they were saying, but Ukai’s security cameras were an old model. The video quality alone showed that. It was fuzzy and jumped occasionally, though it was clear enough that Daichi could pick up on Sugawara’s subtle body language. His shoulders had straightened at something that Rei had said, and suddenly he leaned his head back in what looked like laughter.

Rei froze as Sugawara took over the conversation, body loosening, growing confident. He dragged a hand through his hair and shrugged before pointing at Rei and then laughing again, hands to his stomach as he bent over slightly. His shoulders shook as he continued to laugh, pressing one hand over his mouth.

Daichi hated to admit how relieved he was that Sugawara was seemingly taunting the man rather than rolling over and allowing him to control the situation like he did in the boardwalk bathroom.

Fight.

Fight him.

Don’t let him do what he wants.

Sugawara went on, at one point hopping from one foot to the other playfully before making a harsh jerking motion near the front of his pants with a hand.

Whatever that last taunt was, it was the final straw for Rei, who suddenly charged forward.

Daichi held his breath as he watched the bastard catch Sugawara around the neck with a hand, the other ripping at his shirt, and dragged him forward. He lifted him up off of the floor, Sugawara struggling viciously against him. He carried him backwards and slammed his back down on the counter.

Daichi leaned his elbows on his knees and held the lower half of his face in his hands as he watched.

“What a fucking prick,” Oikawa snapped from behind him.

“That’s an understatement,” Tanaka growled.

Asahi slowly lowered onto the table next to Daichi, clasping his hands in his lap around the remote control.

Sugawara fought wildly against Rei and Daichi was somewhat relieved.

Fight him.

Don’t make it easy.

Hurt him.

Long seconds passed before Rei finally released his throat. He dragged Sugawara up and then spun him around. He grabbed a fistful of his hair and smashed his face down on the counter. Rei’s other hand reached around his body to the front of his pants and Daichi gritted his teeth.

What a fucking prick!” Oikawa shouted.

Daichi straightened and looked over his shoulder. Asahi fumbled with the remote and paused the video as everyone faced Oikawa.

Sawa-chan!” he leapt to his feet, breathing heavily, chest rising and falling quickly. “You need to kill him! You have to get rid of him! Kill him! He’s… he’s…” Oikawa’s eyes were crazed and he gripped at his hair. “You have to…” his Adam’s apple bobbed and he turned and hurriedly fled down the hallway towards Daichi’s room.

The room fell silent for a long moment. Iwaizumi stared around at the others with wide eyes. When no one offered an explanation, he stood, moved around the coffee table and then followed Oikawa’s path of retreat.

Daichi sighed and turned forward again. He nodded at Asahi and he started the video again. They watched silently as Sugawara fought against Rei, swinging his elbow up towards his face, making contact with his temple. He caught the arm and slammed it down onto the counter but then Sugawara said something and Rei hauled him up against his chest, leaning his face close to his ear.

Daichi clenched his hands into tight fists until his fingernails were digging into the skin of his palms.

“Fuckin’ sick bastard,” Tanaka muttered when Rei bit the side of Sugawara’s neck, groping at the front of his pants for his belt.

He bent him over the counter again but Sugawara managed to get one more taunt out, earning a vicious slam of his forehead that made everyone in the room hiss and wince. Daichi could see the strength leave Sugawara’s body as he slumped against the counter, fingers gripping shakily at the edge.

And once again, Daichi wished he had the impossible ability to reach into the TV and put an end to the torture. If only he could get his hands around Rei’s throat.

If only…

“Ah, there we are,” Hanamaki drew Daichi’s attention across the convenience store as he and the others walked inside.

“To the rescue,” Matsukawa whistled. “I look good on video.”

“Bro, you do.”

Daichi inhaled deeply and straightened. Rei released Sugawara finally and he slid to the floor on the other side of the counter, disappearing from the camera’s view.

“Oh, and there goes Iwa-chan,” Matsukawa chuckled.

Tanaka whistled, “That was a nice hit!”

Daichi lowered his eyes to the hardwood floor beneath his feet.

Iwaizumi, a man he had only just met, had gotten a hit on Rei before Daichi had. Frustration twisted in his stomach and he gritted his teeth until they creaked. Tanaka had protected Sugawara all this time and managed to hit a few of them too.

All Daichi had done was extort Yousuke for names and forced Tendou to gather him information.

Daichi had done nothing.

He hadn’t helped Sugawara at all.

Just what kind of boyfriend was he?

Daichi closed his eyes for a long moment, inhaling slowly.

What was he waiting around for? Was he waiting for Rei to do something really horrible before he took action? Was he biding his time until he actually succeeded in his plans and scarred Sugawara for life before he actually took the lead out of his ass and moved?

Just what the hell was Daichi doing?

Fuck it.

Daichi stood and moved around Asahi.

“Ah, Daichi, where are you going?”

Out.

Tanaka chased him to the entrance of the apartment.

“Are you going after Rei?” he asked. “Take me with you.”

“No.”

“Daichi—”

Daichi slammed his foot into his shoe, “I need to do this on my own right now!”

Tanaka froze.

“Just let me do it alone,” he murmured, pulling the other shoe on.

“What the fuck is that going to prove?”

Daichi didn’t look at him as he zipped up his jacket, “I don’t care what it proves. It’ll make me feel better. So I’m going to do it.”

“Daichi…”

He grabbed the handle of the door and ripped it open. He took one step into the hallway and delivered one last warning over his shoulder.

“Don’t get in my way.”

He slammed the door behind, cutting off any argument that might’ve come next.

In the elevator, he pulled out his cell phone and dialed a number. It rang a few times before a voice picked up,

“H-hello?”

“Find out where Rei is at this very second,” he barked.

“Wh-where?” Yousuke repeated shakily. “B-but why?”

“Just do it. Send me the address. Don’t keep me waiting.”

“Y-yes! Right away, Sawamura-san. Leave it to me.”

Daichi ended the call and clutched the phone in his hand tightly. The text message came as he was halfway across lobby of the apartment building.

 

From: Amari Yousuke

He’s at Jirou’s apartment.

 

He sent the address in another text message and Daichi memorized it before shoving the phone into his pocket and stepping out into the chilled evening air.

Just his luck.

Daichi was going to get to kill both Akaashi Rei and Hashimoto Jirou in the same night.


 

It shouldn’t have bothered Sugawara so much to see Risa with her new boyfriend.

He had fallen out of love with her months ago, after all.

But… he was stunningly handsome. Way better looking than Sugawara. By a long shot. Sugawara was shockingly plain, after all. But Risa had still fallen for him despite that. Despite all of Sugawara’s shortcomings, Nagachika Risa had chosen Sugawara out of all of her male admirers.

Even though she cheated on him, only Sugawara had ever had the privilege of calling her his girlfriend. Though she had shared many other men’s beds, Risa had only ever spent the entire night in Sugawara’s.

And yet, just a few weeks after Sugawara had ended their relationship, she had a new boyfriend that blew Sugawara completely out of the water.

And it bothered him a lot.

Because deep down, Sugawara had hoped that Risa would somehow regret the way she had treated him. He had wished she would understand that she had been wrong. That Sugawara had given her everything he had to offer and she had taken advantage.

He wished she would regret hurting him.

He wished she would miss him.

But she had already moved on.

And it hurt.

Daichi had noticed too. He hadn’t spoken a word the entire walk home from the café and then had immediately said that he had something important to do and left.

He’s upset with me.

Sugawara curled up on his couch, face pressed into the pillow hugged close to his chest. Daichi probably thought that Sugawara still had feelings for Risa.

I don’t.

I don’t.

But how could Daichi know that? Sugawara should explain. He should stop letting misunderstandings happen between them. He should tell him everything that he was feeling and thinking.

He should tell him that he no longer loved Risa.

He should tell him that Daichi was the only one in his mind.

That he was the only one that he wanted to touch and kiss.

That his kisses made him feel so flustered and warm that he never wanted to stop. But he was scared. Because Sugawara had never felt this way for a man before. And loving a man was so dangerous, apparently. People didn’t understand.

And being on the receiving end of violent hatred was terrifying.

And he never wanted Daichi to feel the way that Sugawara felt, wearing that target in the center of his forehead.

So he would do everything he could to keep him safe.

He wouldn’t let Rei or anyone else touch him.

And he would explain everything that he was feeling so that nothing would be misunderstood anymore.

Sugawara leaned over the side of the couch and grabbed his phone from the coffee table. He pulled up Daichi’s name and sent a text.

 

To: Daichi

Can u come over?

 

Sugawara stretched out on his back and closed his eyes. Several minutes passed before a reply came and when he opened it, his stomach clenched.

 

From: Daichi

can’t tonight

 

Sugawara gulped. His eyes stung and he sent another message.

 

To: Daichi

I have something I want 2 tell u

 

Another several minutes passed.

 

From: Daichi

can u say it over the phone?

 

Sugawara sucked in a shuddering breath. It felt as if Daichi was avoiding him.

Why?

Because of what happened earlier?

Sugawara squeezed his eyes shut. He didn’t love Risa anymore. He didn’t want to get back together with her. How could he make Daichi see that? It didn’t feel right to say it over the phone. He wanted to see him. He wanted to tell him face to face how much he liked him and how he wanted to stay together. He could even kiss him to show that he was serious.

Sugawara wanted to take things into his own hands for once in his life.

 

To: Daichi

I need 2 tell u in person

If u can’t come over, can I come 2 u?

 

Another two minutes ticked by and the message buzzed in his hand.

 

From: Daichi

I’ll be there in a little bit

 

Sugawara inhaled deeply and sat up. He felt slightly guilty for basically extorting Daichi into giving him what he wanted, but it was important.

He wanted to be honest with himself and his feelings.

He wanted to let Daichi know how he really felt.

He wanted to take control.


 

Daichi spat blood into the sink of the gas station bathroom.

Fuck,” he cradled his jaw and closed his eyes.

The cheap bastards.

It was just Daichi’s luck that when he finally mustered the nerve to take things into his own hands, all seven of the fuckers would be hanging out in the same place.

The first three had gone down easily, as cowardly and weak as Yousuke had been. On top of their cowardice, they were fairly drunk and sloppy with their punches. It had been easy enough for Daichi to dodge their haywire strikes and take them down.

It was the remaining four that had posed the larger threat. Not only were they more sober than the first three, they were bigger, stronger, and smarter. Rather than come at him one at a time like the first ones, they attacked all at once. They had gotten him against a wall and laughed as Rei took his revenge out on his body.

Fuck,” Daichi opened his eyes and stared into the mirror above the sink. His right eye was already swelling, the skin around it bruised and blackened. He grabbed a paper towel and wet it under the faucet, eyeing the cut in his left cheek, which dripped blood all the way down to his jaw.

His face was a mess, but it was the rest of him that really ached. He didn’t know how many punches to his abdomen he had taken before he had finally been able to rip one of his arms from the grip of Rei’s lackey and punch the other one to the floor.

Daichi really had been lucky, he supposed. Because even though there had been seven of them, he had managed to work some of his frustration out on Rei’s face before Jirou’s neighbors had called the police and they were forced to cut their fight short.

I could’ve taken them.

Daichi crouched and leaned his forehead on the edge of the sink.

He could’ve kept going. He could have finished them all off. He had them in his hands. He had adrenaline and cold fury fueling his strength and he could have finished it all in a single night.

God damn it…

He was so close.

He was right there.

Rei was in his hands.

He was under his fists.

He had him struggling and crying out under the force of his knuckles and it still wasn’t enough.

It wasn’t enough.

Because he still hadn’t suffered as much as Sugawara had. The damage that Iwaizumi and Daichi had done combined wasn’t nearly enough to equal the physical and psychological torture that Sugawara had been through.

Daichi stood once more, glaring at his image in the mirror.

He wouldn’t stop.

Not until Rei and the others had gotten what they deserved.

He tossed the paper towels and wet new ones. He cleaned up his appearance as much as he could, zipping his jacket up to the neck in order to hide the blood stains covering the ripped the fabric of his light grey t-shirt. There was blood on his jeans too, where he had driven his knee into Jirou’s nose, but even after scrubbing at it with the wet paper towel, it refused to come out.

He washed his hands, wincing at the pain in his bruised and torn knuckles. He slicked his hair back away from his face and then stared at his appearance one more time in the mirror.

He let out a deep sigh. There was just no hiding that black eye, cut cheek, and fat lip.

He had hoped to give himself time to heal before he had to show himself before Sugawara, knowing that he would only worry if he saw his condition, but he couldn’t find it in him to ignore Sugawara’s pleading text.

He has something to tell me.

Something important.

Daichi’s gut churned at all the possibilities.

Was he going to tell him about something else Rei had done to him without his or the others’ knowledge? Was he going to command him not to make a move against the bastards torturing him?

Daichi didn’t want to find out.

He checked his cell phone as he left the bathroom. It had been half an hour since he had told Sugawara he was on his way over to his apartment.

What are the chances that he fell asleep?

He stuffed the phone back into his pocket despondently.

It was the first time Sugawara had asked him to come over but the uneasy feeling in his stomach wouldn’t let him feel happy about that fact.

Daichi walked swiftly across the gas station, ignoring the stare he got from the man behind the counter. Out on the sidewalk, he shoved his hands into the pockets of his jacket and turned left in the direction of Sugawara’s apartment. He wasn’t far, only a block or two away. And he prayed that Sugawara was asleep by the time he reached his door. He tried to drag his feet, but ended up at the stairwell only ten minutes later.

He moved slowly up the stairs to the second landing, running through last minute options to hide his pitiful appearance from Sugawara.

He was just deciding that the majority of the damage could well be hidden under heavy make-up when he finally stood outside the apartment.

Fuck.

Too late.

He inhaled deeply, steeling himself for whatever it was that Sugawara needed to tell him. He lifted his bruised right fist and knocked softly on the door, willing it to be too quiet to be heard through the apartment.

But to his dismay, the door was answered mere seconds after he lowered his arm to his side once more.

Sugawara stood in the doorway and gazed brightly up into Daichi’s face.

“Dai—” he froze, eyes widening as they fell on his cut cheek.

“Ah…” Daichi gulped and scratched the back of his head sheepishly. “Uhm… this is…”

Daichi had thought he would be ready for anything that Sugawara had decided to tell him. But nothing could have prepared him for the next words that left his mouth.

“Let’s break up.”

Chapter Text

Iwaizumi hesitated outside the door to Daichi’s bedroom for all of three seconds before pushing inside. He closed the door behind him, spotting Oikawa immediately where he was curled up on Daichi’s bed.

“Oikawa—”

“Leave me alone,” Oikawa grabbed the sheet and dragged it over his head.

Iwaizumi frowned.

What had come over him? Yeah, the video was horrible. The entire situation was disgusting and deplorable. But Oikawa’s reaction was… over the top, wasn’t it? He had exploded out of nowhere and had demanded… death? Wasn’t that going too far? Sure, the guy that had attacked Sugawara probably didn’t deserve to live. But to actually take that action into their own hands… wasn’t that a bit too extreme?

Iwaizumi walked across the room to the bed and sat.

“Hey,” he placed a hand on the lump that was Oikawa.

Oikawa flinched and Iwaizumi blinked in surprise before slowly removing his hand.

“Go away, Iwa-chan.”

He clasped his hands in his lap and stared at where Oikawa’s head should be. He inhaled deeply and let it out through his nose.

“As my captain, I have to listen to what you say on the court. But off the court, I’m a free man.”

Oikawa was silent for a moment before letting out a snort.

“You’re so stupid.”

Iwaizumi furrowed his brows. Just what was he supposed to say?

“Iwa-chan…”

He stiffened, staring at the lump of sheet. “Yeah?”

Oikawa didn’t reply for several long seconds. Finally, his soft voice murmured,

“Being gay is gross, isn’t it?”

Iwaizumi’s eyes widened.

“I’m really gross, aren’t I? Me and Sugawara-chan both.”

Iwaizumi shifted farther up the bed and grabbed the sheet. He ripped it down and Oikawa rolled onto his stomach, pressing his face into the pillow.

“Hey,” Iwaizumi growled, grabbing his shoulder. “Look at me.”

“No.”

“Oikawa, I’m going to get mad.”

“Go ahead.”

Iwaizumi’s grip on his shoulder faltered. Normally he would give Oikawa a solid punch for saying such cynical things about himself. He often used an iron fist to pull him out of a volleyball or school related slump. But this… this was more important. This was a sensitive area.

His touch softened.

“Where is this coming from?” he asked gently. “What happened to that narcissistic guy that liked to make girls fall in love with him and then smugly say, I’m gay! when they asked him out?”

“Don’t make me sound like a villain!”

“Then stop doing villainous things.”

Oikawa groaned.

Iwaizumi slowly smoothed his hand over his back, trying not to get distracted by the shocking amount of warm muscles under his palm.

“Iwa-chan, you think I’m gross, don’t you?”

Iwaizumi pinched Oikawa’s side and he flinched.

“Shut the fuck up,” he snapped. “I didn’t think you were gross the first time we met and you told me you were gay as an ice breaker like some kind of socially inept weirdo. Why would I think you’re gross now?”

“You did think I was gross! I could see it on your face.”

“I was surprised.”

“At how gross I was?”

At how lucky I was.

“I was surprised because I had just seen you flirting with girls outside of the gym,” Iwaizumi answered, rubbing the back of his neck with his free hand. “I thought maybe you were one of those playboys. Although… I suppose you kind of are.”

“No I’m not! There’s only one person that I like!”

Iwaizumi’s gut twisted and he looked away as he muttered gruffly, “Yeah. It’s a shame that Sawamura’s already taken, huh?”

Oikawa didn’t reply for a tick and then grumbled something into the pillow.

“What was that?”

Nothing.

Iwaizumi pinched him again. Oikawa squirmed but kept his face pressed firmly into the pillow. Iwaizumi tugged on his shoulders but he refused to budge.

He let out a deep sigh and rested a hand on the center of his back, pretending that it was an offer of comfort and not for his own selfish desire to take advantage of this rare opportunity to touch the man in any other way that didn’t involve pre-practice stretches or smacks of annoyance.

“You’re right,” he finally said. “I think you’re gross.”

Oikawa stiffened.

“It’s gross how you will do anything to manipulate your opponents on the court. It’s gross how you push yourself to the verge of injury. It’s gross how you can eat more than me, Hanamaki, and Matsukawa combined. It’s gross that you put ketchup on bologna sandwiches—”

Oikawa rolled and sat up hurriedly, “Plenty of people do that! You’re the weird one!

Iwaizumi reached out and grabbed Oikawa’s chin, holding his face firmly in place.

Oikawa’s eyes went wide.

“There are plenty of reasons why I think you’re gross,” he said in a low voice, eyebrows furrowing. “But who you want to have sex with is not one of them. And it pisses me off that you are trying to put me on the same level as the bastard in that video.”

“I’m not—”

“You are! So just knock it off! Don’t act like you know how I think… how I feel,” Iwaizumi clenched his jaw. His voice softened and he released Oikawa’s chin, “Because you have no idea.”

Oikawa stared at him with wide eyes for long seconds before lowering his gaze to his lap, “Sorry, Iwa-chan. You’re right.”

He grunted, “Damn straight I am.”

A hush fell over the room as neither of them spoke. Iwaizumi leaned on the heels of his hands, staring through the massive window on the far wall that overlooked the neighborhood. Just when the silence started to get awkward, Oikawa said,

“Iwa-chan—”

“So, Sawamura,” Iwaizumi interrupted. “I never would have guessed that he was your type.”

Oikawa didn’t answer.

Iwaizumi glanced at him, “What you said earlier… was that true? If you knew Sawamura was gay, you would date him—”

“In a heartbeat!” Oikawa exclaimed. “Of course! Sawa-chan is…” he paused, color draining from his cheeks. He pulled his legs to his chest and wrapped his arms around them. He rested his chin on his knees and looked away. His voice was soft when he finally murmured, “Sawa-chan is my knight in shining armor.”

Iwaizumi turned his eyes to his feet.

Ah… fuck.

He swallowed the lump in his throat. Man… that kind of hurt.

“But he’s right,” Oikawa said, drawing Iwaizumi’s attention once more. He straightened, eyes flicking towards him and then away as he lifted his chin. “We wouldn’t make a good couple. Sawa-chan is too indulgent. And I’m a selfish brat. I would only take advantage of him. I need someone with an iron fist that will keep me in line.”

Iwaizumi inhaled deeply and let out a low hum. He stood and shoved his hands into his pockets. He gave Oikawa a look in the corner of his eyes, “It’s what you need.” He turned and headed across the room, “Now if only it were what you wanted.”

“Maybe it will be!” Oikawa scampered out of the bed and gave chase. “If… if I were to meet someone with an iron fist that maybe wanted to… uhm… seduce me… maybe I’d learn to want that!”

The corner of Iwaizumi’s mouth ticked up, “Hm… well, maybe you’d have better luck trying to convince Sawamura to date you.”

“As if! I may be a gross, selfish prick, but I’m not a homewrecker.

Iwaizumi pulled the door open, “Ah is that so?”

“It is!” Oikawa passed him into the hallway.

Iwaizumi watched his back momentarily, smiling softly. His spine was straight, head held high as he swaggered in that infuriatingly confident way that earned him the envy of all that laid eyes on him. Halfway down the hall, he turned and flashed Iwaizumi that bright smile that never failed to steal his breath away.

“Sawa-chan finally has a partner that he’s working hard to keep! There’s no way I’ll be the one to ruin it!” His grin shifted into a sly smirk, “Guess I’ll just stick close to you instead, Iwa-chan.”

“Uh huh… and if Sawamura was to become single in the near future?”

“Oh, you know I’d be all over that.”

“You’re so gross.”

“Iwa-chan!”


 

“What?”

Daichi stared at Sugawara with wide eyes, hands lowering slowly to his sides.

Sugawara refused to meet his gaze as he said again, “Let’s break up.”

“But—”

“I’ve been thinking about it for a little while now,” he said. “I don’t think… I don’t think we should be boyfriends anymore.”

Daichi gulped, “But why? Is it—”

Sugawara’s brows furrowed and he looked off to the side, pressing a hand to the door frame. “I guess… It’s impossible. With a guy. I think I’ll stick with girls after all.”

Daichi inhaled slowly. A throbbing ache that he didn’t think had anything to do with all of the blows of fists he had received earlier that night spread slowly across his chest.

“Is it something I did…” Daichi narrowed his eyes uneasily. “Was I not enough—”

“It’s not you,” Sugawara’s gaze flashed down the walkway and he shakily pushed a lock of hair out of his eyes. “Uhm… I’m sorry. It’s just not going to work out. Sorry I… wasted your time. But… I think it’s best if we just split ways. We can go back to being strangers—”

“I don’t want that!” Daichi took a step forward and Sugawara stepped hastily back into his apartment. “Suga, wait—”

Sugawara grabbed the door and started to swing it closed, “Sorry. L-Let’s just end it here…”

“Wait! Don’t…” Daichi slapped a hand against the door, holding it open. “Wait. Explain it to me. Why—”

“I was wrong!” Sugawara shouted, fingers gripping the door until they turned white. He squeezed his eyes shut, “I don’t like you anymore!”

Daichi froze.

“Sorry,” Sugawara’s voice cracked. “Sorry. Th-thank you for everything up ‘til now. Let’s… let’s just end it,” his eyes opened again and he stared tearfully up at Daichi for a moment before slamming the door and disappearing from view.

For a long moment, Daichi just stared at the door, listening to the sound of the lock clicking into place on the other side.

He doesn’t… like me anymore?

That wasn’t true, was it?

That couldn’t be true.

Sugawara had been head over heels for Daichi.

He had just told him that he wanted to kiss him. That he liked kissing him. Was that a lie?

No… it couldn’t have been.

Daichi swallowed hard and knocked on the door, pressing his other palm to it softly.

“Suga,” he called. “Suga. Open the door. Let’s… let’s talk about this.”

No reply came.

He knocked again, “Suga… c’mon… if there’s a problem then tell me… I can…”

The key…

His heart fluttered unpleasantly in his ribcage and he quickly patted his pockets. He pulled his keychain out and fumbled through the keys clumsily. But the one to Sugawara’s apartment wasn’t there. He hadn’t planned on coming to Sugawara’s place that night so he had left it on the hallway table.

He rapped his knuckles against the wood once more, “Suga! Just open the door and we can figure it out. If I did something wrong then just tell me so I can fix it…” His breath turned shallow as uncomfortable adrenaline pulsed through his veins. “Is it because I didn’t listen? I… I will from now on. If you don’t want me to do anything about Rei and the others then…”

But he wouldn’t.

He couldn’t.

And nothing he said was going to convince Sugawara to open that door again. He sucked in a deep, shuddering breath and leaned his forehead against the wood.

“Please don’t break up with me,” he said quietly.

When a full minute passed with no answer, Daichi slowly straightened away from the door.

Why?

Why?

Sudden realization struck Daichi and he blinked in shock.

Duh.

Daichi gritted his teeth and turned. He hurried to the stairs at the side of the building and took them two at a time to the sidewalk below.

That bastard.

That absolute bastard.

He sprinted all the way to his apartment building but didn’t enter. Instead, he slipped down the alleyway that led around it to the personal parking garage behind the building. He keyed in his password and went inside. There, he found his Ducati and mounted the bike hurriedly. He started it up, flicked the light on, and smashed the black helmet onto his head. He drove out onto the street and then headed across the city. He took back roads to avoid traffic and stoplights, speeding straight through several stop signs on dark, vacant streets.

When he finally reached his destination, he slowed to a screeching halt in front of the house and cut the engine. He hopped off of the bike and strode quickly across the sidewalk, ripping the helmet off of his head as he went. He shoved through the front gate and marched up the sidewalk to the door of the house. He ignored the doorman that offered a bow of his head, and entered the building.

Where is he?” he shouted as he stomped across the foyer. “Get out here you son of a bitch!” he stopped at the bottom of the stairwell on the opposite end of the large front hall and stared up it. “Come out!

Tendou appeared at the top of the stairs and quickly clattered down them, holding up his hands.

“Hey, hey, hey,” he said soothingly. “What’s going on? What’s the yelling about?”

“Where is he?” Daichi snapped, throwing his helmet aside. It bounced and rolled across the floor loudly.

“Not here. Why? What’s wrong?”

“That fucking bastard,” Daichi dragged a hand through his hair. “He… he… it’s his fault that—”

La-la-la!” Tendou pressed his hands to his ears, eyes wide.

Daichi clamped his mouth shut and glared at him.

Tendou lowered his arms once more and let out an exaggerated breath, “Whew! You almost spilled the beans there!”

“It doesn’t matter if you know now,” Daichi growled. “He already found out! That’s why—”

Tendou made a loud buzzer sound and formed an X out of his forearms. “Wrong-o, Buddy.”

Daichi’s brows furrowed and he huffed, “What?

“You’re still in the clear,” Tendou cocked an eyebrow. “I don’t know what’s got you in a tizzy all of a sudden, but whatever it is, it’s not your nii-chan’s fault.” He hesitated and then tacked on, “For once,” as an afterthought.

Daichi paused, some of his anger subsiding.

“He didn’t… find out?”

“Nope. In fact, he’s getting a little annoyed about not being able to figure this one out,” Tendou scratched his cheek, eyes wandering off. “You’ve gotten better at keeping secrets, apparently.”

Daichi took a step back, lowering his gaze to the floor, “Then why…”

“Hm?” Tendou bent over and peeked up into his face, lips smirking. “What’s this? Did Daichi-chan get dumped?”

Daichi gulped.

I got dumped.

“What happened to your face, anyway? Did she give you a good beating before kicking you to the curb too?”

Daichi turned and staggered over to where his helmet had come to rest. He picked it up and stared down at it for long seconds.

I got dumped.

Suga dumped me.

Why?

Why?

“Daichi?”

He swallowed thickly and turned for the front door, “Sorry for making a fuss. Thanks.”

“Ehh? That’s it?”

“Sorry,” Daichi pushed outside once more, lifting the helmet and sliding it onto his head.

Suga dumped me.

What did I do wrong?

He climbed onto the Ducati and started the engine, wracking his mind for the answer to the question that played on repeat in his mind.

Why?

Why?

He continued to stress about it the entire drive back to his apartment and as he parked in the garage.

He doesn’t like me anymore?

He’s going to stick with women…

But…

Daichi chewed his bottom lip as he rode the elevator up to the seventh floor.

Is it because I didn’t listen?

I didn’t do what he told me to do.

He pressed a hand over his eyes.

He had failed.

Daichi was the perfect boyfriend. He always did exactly what his partner wanted him to do. Whether it was to deliver sweet compliments or look the other way as they were harassed and beaten.

Daichi was supposed to be the perfect boyfriend.

And he had failed.

Again.

The elevator slowed to a stop and the doors slid open. Daichi gulped and moved out into the hallway, dragging his feet. He keyed in the code to his apartment and shoved the door open.

“Not fair! Why does Makki get two pillows?”

“Because my precious brain is more important than yours.”

“You’re not even using one on your head!”

“I don’t like when my knees touch while I’m sleeping.”

“So put Mattsun between them!”

“Bro, would you?”

“Sure Bro.”

“No! Never mind! Keep the pillow you perverts!”

“We’ll just spoon and turn it sideways so it can be between both of our knees.”

“Good idea, Bro.”

“No! Stop!”

Daichi kicked his shoes off in the entrance of the apartment and dragged the jacket off of his arms. He walked slowly down the hallway to the living room. Oikawa was stretched across the floor on a nest of blankets and pillows, reaching for Hanamaki, who held a pillow high above his head. Matsukawa lay on the other side of Hanamaki, watching the fight with an amused expression, and Iwaizumi was spread out over the couch, piercing gaze following Oikawa’s every move.

When they noticed Daichi’s presence, Oikawa sat up.

“Ah! Sawa-chan! Your beautiful face!”

Daichi pressed a hand absently to his cheek, “It’s fine… doesn’t hurt.”

“How did it go?” Matsukawa asked, stacking his hands under his head and cocking a thick eyebrow. “Did you get your revenge?”

Daichi hummed and rubbed his eyes tiredly, “A little bit. Had to cut it short. Cops showed up.”

“Better luck next time.”

“… yeah…” Daichi lowered the hand.

The others were silent for a moment before Oikawa sat on his heels and frowned.

“What’s wrong?”

He hesitated, eyeing him wearily, “Ahh…” he rubbed the back of his neck. “No… well,” he pressed his lips together and furrowed his brow. “Suga…” he looked away. “Suga broke up with me.”

A hush fell over the room. Iwaizumi sat up, eyes flicking in Oikawa’s direction. Hanamaki lay back and stared up at the ceiling. Matsukawa closed his eyes and let out a sigh.

What?” Oikawa climbed to his feet. “What do you mean? Why? I thought you just went to beat up that guy!”

Daichi didn’t answer for a moment. Then he turned and headed towards the hallway, “Well… that’s how it turned out.”

“Sawa-chan!” Oikawa chased after him. “Wait!”

Daichi paused and gave him a smile over his shoulder.

“I’m fine. Don’t worry about me. I’m just going to get some sleep, okay?”

Oikawa stopped and stared at him with a concerned expression, “But…”

“I’m okay. I’m gonna sleep on it. I’ll let you know what I come up with in the morning,” he walked down the hall and went into his bedroom, closing the door behind.

For the first minute, he stood just inside the bedroom, unsure of how to proceed. Daichi had been dumped numerous times in the past. Every one of his relationships had ended with his girlfriend calling an end to it. So then now why… why was he so shocked? Why was he so…

Upset.

Daichi dragged a hand through his hair with a sigh.

He was upset.

He was shocked.

Why would Sugawara break up with him all of a sudden? He glanced towards his bed, eyes landing on the spot where Sugawara had sat when Daichi had kissed him.

He forced the memory out of his head and slowly undressed, kicking his clothes into a corner of the room. He pulled on a pair of sweatpants and then climbed into the bed. He shut off the light and lay on his back, staring up at the ceiling as his eyes adjusted to the darkness.

His body ached and his stomach twisted uncomfortably in his gut. He reached up and rubbed at his chest, which burned and itched unpleasantly.

It didn’t take long for the shock to fade, replaced with the painful realization. Daichi draped an arm over his eyes and breathed deeply.

I don’t want to break up.

Daichi didn’t want to break up with Sugawara.

And that realization stunned him to his core. He had never felt that way about any of his past girlfriends. It had been so easy to accept when they had broken things off with them. But this was different. Daichi didn’t want to break up with Sugawara. He had fun with him. Sugawara was… bright and kind and funny. He was feisty and positive and strong.

He was so strong.

And Daichi had more than just a little admiration for the man. On top of that, it had been so easy to kiss him. He had tasted better than he had ever imagined. He was both soft and firm at the same time and Daichi wanted to kiss him more. He wanted to pull him closer, to hold him longer.

Dating him had been fun, and Daichi didn’t want it to end. He hadn’t even had the chance to truly appreciate what it meant to be Sugawara Koushi’s boyfriend. Just what had he done for him? He had been an oblivious fool that hadn’t even noticed when he was suffering. And even after finally discovering the truth, what had he done?

Nothing.

He had been completely useless.

Daichi was supposed to be the perfect boyfriend but he had failed royally.

No wonder Sugawara dumped him.

Daichi slowly removed his arm from over his eyes and blinked.

No.

That wasn’t right.

Sugawara liked Daichi.

He liked him a lot.

He had liked him enough to suffer silently through all of the torture Rei and the others had subjected him to. He had done everything he could to keep it a secret from Daichi just so that he wouldn’t worry. He had commanded him not to make a move against the bastards because he hadn’t wanted Daichi to…

His eyes widened.

He didn’t want Daichi to get hurt.

He didn’t want Rei and the others to start targeting him and do the things that they had been doing to Sugawara all this time.

So that meant… Sugawara broke up with him for his safety?

He broke up with him to protect him?

Daichi rolled onto his side and squeezed his eyes shut.

Stupid,” he muttered. “Idiot.

Daichi truly was the worst boyfriend. Sugawara had been trying so hard to protect him all this time and Daichi had done absolutely nothing for him in return. But not anymore.

If Sugawara really no longer liked him, Daichi might be able to accept that. But the fact that he had broken up with Daichi in order to protect him just didn’t sit right with him.

No.

I refuse.

Daichi didn’t want to break up with Sugawara.

And Sugawara didn’t want to break up with him either, that he was positive of.

So he would fight for him.

Sawamura Daichi was going to win Sugawara Koushi back.

And no one was going to get in his way.

Not his brother.

Not Rei.

And definitely not Sugawara.


 

“Hey Anna!”

Anna looked up from her lunch, chewing sloppily. Eri walked up and sat down across from her at the canteen table. She grinned as mustard dripped down her chin.

“So not cute,” she snickered.

Anna wiped her face with a napkin, “Fuck off. What do you want, Bitch?”

“I heard you’re being a weirdo,” Eri leaned her chin in the palm of her hand. “Walking around with a dude’s face drawn on a napkin asking if anyone knows who he is.”

“Huh… it does sound weird when you put it like that.”

“Looking for your Prince Charming?” Eri scrunched her nose playfully.

“As if! Prince Charming has to find me!” she leaned back in her chair and set her sandwich down. “I ain’t doing the work!”

“Oh c’mon. No wonder you’re single.”

“I’m single because I want to be!”

“Uh huh,” Eri rolled her eyes. “So? Let me see the napkin man. Maybe I’ll know him and you can go seduce him.”

“It’s not for me!” Anna whined as she leaned over and reached into her bag. “Seriously. I’m looking for him for a friend.”

For a friend,” Eri snorted. “That’s what people say when they don’t want to admit they’re talking about themselves.”

“Oh my god,” Anna muttered. She found the napkin Risa had drawn on, now slightly wrinkled and smudged. She shook it out and then offered it to Eri. “It’s not for me! I’m not lying.”

Hmhm,” Eri giggled and took the napkin from her. She stared down at it for long seconds.

Anna lifted her sandwich again and took another bite, more carefully now in attempts to not give Eri anything else to make fun of her for.

“You know…” Eri cocked her head to the side. “He looks a lot like Sawamura Daichi.”

Anna chewed and swallowed, “Sawamura Daichi?”

“Yeah. You know. Sawamura Daichi,” Eri narrowed her eyes. “I heard he went to our school but have never actually seen him around.”

“Sawamura Daichi…” Anna set her sandwich down and leaned over the table, staring down at the drawing. “That name sounds familiar…” she dragged her gaze over the square jaw and short hair. The straight eyebrows and firm set of his lips…

Anna’s eyes slowly widened.

A chill shot down her spine and she sat back, staring gape-mouthed at Eri, who lowered the napkin and gave her a questioning look.

“Sawamura Daichi,” Anna breathed, voice trembling.

Panic turned her bones cold and her appetite disappeared completely.

Oh fuck.


 

Sugawara didn’t answer the first three times Daichi knocked on his door. He didn’t answer any of his calls or texts either. Daichi hadn’t heard from him in four days. He hadn’t shown up to school. He hadn’t shown up to work.

Daichi lifted the black key in his hand to the lock and slid it inside. He twisted it slowly, listening for the click. When the door was unlocked, he turned the handle and pushed it open the small space the chain inside allowed it to go.

Daichi sighed and rested his forehead against the wood.

It was the same every day.

Daichi was on the verge of kicking the door off of its hinges and forcing his way inside.

“Suga,” he called through the crack. “What’s the point of giving me a key if you’re just going to keep the chain on anyway?”

The apartment was silent.

Daichi inhaled deeply and knelt down on the walkway.

“Alright,” he said, flattening the grocery bag he held in his other hand and sliding it through the narrow opening. “Make sure you eat this. I’ll try again later.”

He hesitated for a moment longer, listening for any kind of movement from within the apartment. When he was met with nothing but silence, he let out another sigh, stood, and closed the door. He moved to the railing of the walkway and leaned against it, crossing his arms over his chest. He waited for three long minutes before he heard the sound of the lock clicking back into place.

Still alive.

Daichi resisted the urge to bang on the door another time and turned to the stairs.

He was at a loss.

Just how was he supposed to convince Sugawara to take him back if he never even met with him? He didn’t know if Sugawara was even listening to him when he talked through the door. He didn’t know for sure if he had heard his apologies or his request for them to stay together, to work it out. He didn’t know if he was even reading his texts, or listening to his voicemails.

How was he supposed to get through to him? He had to get him alone. He had to get him in person. Then Daichi could tell him that he didn’t want to break up. He could tell him that Sugawara didn’t need to protect him. Daichi could protect himself.

But Sugawara wouldn’t believe him. He would see the fading bruises on his face and blame himself.

It wasn’t his fault though. If Daichi had listened to him, he never would have gone searching for trouble. He never would have gotten hurt. But Daichi couldn’t just stand around uselessly anymore.

How could he convince Sugawara to take him back?

Daichi headed down the street towards school, mulling over his options. He could gather information on Sugawara. He could have Tendou figure out where his parents lived, so in case Sugawara decided to skip town, he could find him again.

Daichi shook his head vigorously.

No. That was going too far. Daichi had made it a point to never pry into the lives of people he cared about. It was a cheap cop-out. He wanted that type of information to be granted to him over time by the person themselves.

He has to come out eventually.

If I stop bringing him food, he will have to leave to get his own.

No… then he will think I’ve given up.

Daichi dragged his fingers through his hair. What about school? Was Sugawara giving up on this semester? Was he just going to let all the work he had put into his classes go to waste?

No…

He had to have more finals coming up.

He would come to school for those.

Sugawara would never waste his own money and time like that. He would come to school eventually. But when?

Daichi reached into his pocket and produced his cell phone. He found Yousuke’s number and called, pressing the phone to his ear.

“Hello?”

“When is the government final?” Daichi asked.

“Huh? Mine?”

“Not yours. Hashimoto Jirou’s.”


 

Sugawara didn’t know a body could cry that much.

Really, it was a shock.

And he was so pathetic.

He sniffled and pressed his face into the couch cushion upon which he was stretched out.

“So pathetic,” he whispered.

He and Daichi hadn’t been dating for that long. They weren’t soul mates. They didn’t even know that much about each other. So why was he hiding away in his apartment, crying every hour just because they had broken up?

Crybaby.

Stupid crybaby.

Sugawara had always been the crybaby of the group. Everyone else had always been so strong. His brother and sister were practically emotionless, facing each hardship as if it were only a difficult math problem on an exam. His friends too, rarely cried. Even though they took more physical damage than Sugawara in the fights they found themselves in, they always came out the other side laughing, patting Sugawara’s head as if he were a toddler in need of comfort.

It’s okay, KouKou! It’s alright! We told you we’d take care of them, didn’t we? Don’t worry anymore.”

“Stupid patronizing bastards,” Sugawara sniffled and rubbed his nose.

Stupid bastards.

I’m strong.

I can take care of myself.

But… he couldn’t. Could he?

At least, not in a situation like this. Not when he was outnumbered. Not when he was outmatched. He was helpless in a pathetic situation like this. He was too scared to go anywhere alone. He was too ashamed to accept help from Daichi and the others.

Pathetic.

But all of that was fine. It was fine when it was only Sugawara that was suffering. He could deal with that. Eventually Rei and the others would get bored and leave him alone.

It was fine when they only attacked Sugawara.

But they had touched Daichi.

He had shown up to his apartment with his face covered in bruises.

They had hurt Daichi.

Bastards.

Sugawara pressed his face harder into the couch cushion.

I’ll kill them.

I’ll kill them.

But how?

He lifted his head and stared at his cell phone where it sat on the cushion next to him.

I could call them…

It could be over in a single day if he could just swallow his pride and call them. They would take care of everything without ever breaking a sweat. But…

Sugawara didn’t want to be the crybaby of the group anymore. He didn’t want to be the guy that always needed to be bailed out of shitty situations. He didn’t want to be the one always on the receiving end of those patronizing pats.

It’s okay. We’ll protect you.”

Sugawara didn’t want to be protected.

Loud banging sounded from the front door of the apartment and Sugawara jumped in fear. That was louder than Daichi’s usual knocks. Daichi had already stopped by for the second time that day anyway, sliding a grocery bag of food through the gap in his door like he had done for every day that week, promising to come back again.

So then…

Who?

Who would come to see him?

His phone buzzed and he lifted it warily.

A new text message filled his screen.

 

From: ChikaRaRa

let me in

 

Sugawara stared at the text message for a long second. Why would Ennoshita be there? Did he find out about Daichi? Did Daichi ask him to come? Was this Daichi’s plan to get him to open the door? Was Daichi out there waiting to barge in and demand that Sugawara take him back?

Why does he care anyway?

Sugawara rubbed his eyes tiredly. Daichi didn’t like him the way that Sugawara did. He didn’t even know anything about him. He should be happy that Sugawara broke up with him. This way, he could find a new girlfriend and not worry about disgusting people like Rei ever again. He wouldn’t have to worry about being beaten up or attacked in the streets.

He’s better off without me.

Just like Risa.

His phone buzzed in his hand and he glanced down at the new message.

 

From: ChikaRaRa

boyfriend isnt with me

dont worry

now let me in

 

Sugawara inhaled deeply and climbed to his feet. He went to the front door and slowly removed the chain and turned the lock. He timidly pulled the door open. His eyes went wide.

Ennoshita pushed into the apartment, followed by Tanaka and Asahi.

“Wh-why are you here?” Sugawara stepped away from the two.

“Got any beer?” Ennoshita moved immediately into the kitchen, Tanaka hot on his heels.

“S-sorry, Suga,” Asahi said softly, eyebrows furrowed worriedly. “We… were concerned about you so we asked if Ennoshita could get you to open the door…”

Sugawara closed the door hurriedly before anyone else could barge in. He replaced the chain and twisted the lock, heart fluttering in his chest.

So long as it’s not Daichi.

“How are you?” Asahi asked gently when he turned back to him. “Are you eating?”

Sugawara lowered his eyes, “I’m fine.”

He wasn’t in the mood for company. Especially not company that liked to stick its nose into his business like a certain shaved head that was now carrying an open beer into his living room and sliding onto his couch.

But they were there now. And Sugawara doubted that he could get rid of them.

He let out a tremendous sigh and followed Asahi further into the apartment.


 

Tanaka did not sign up for this shit. That being said, it wasn’t like he was being forced into it either. He didn’t really know why he cared so much. Sugawara was a good guy that definitely didn’t deserve the way he was being treated. But now that he had broken up with Daichi, it was really none of Tanaka’s business what happened to the guy.

Sure, they had become friends over the past several weeks.

Sure.

But… Tanaka really shouldn’t care, right?

Sugawara had never been his problem to deal with. Tanaka had only ever acted for Daichi’s sake. So now, why did he care so damn much when Ennoshita called him up and told him that he hadn’t come into work for five days?

Why did he care that Daichi wore a troubled expression every day, scrolling absently through his emails, and making random calls to someone Tanaka didn’t know?

It was really none of his business.

Even if Ennoshita had made it seem like it was when he had dully asked,

“So, what are you going to do about this, Baldy?”

Why should I do anything?

I’m just an outsider in this whole ordeal.

Sugawara didn’t want his help and Daichi hadn’t asked for it either. They were his friends. But he was not their relationship counselor. If Sugawara wanted to dump Daichi, then let him dump him. If Sugawara wanted to ignore his problems and continuously get attacked by those disgusting pigs then…

Well…

It was really none of Tanaka’s business. And he didn’t sign up for any of this shit.

And yet there he was, in Sugawara’s apartment, sipping beer and wondering just what the fuck he was supposed to do in order to solve this problem.

“So what do you guys want?” Sugawara sat on the floor on the other side of the coffee table, eyeing Tanaka warily.

“You should come back to work,” Ennoshita stretched out onto the couch, his knee just barely brushing Tanaka’s. “Boss bought a shotgun. I’ll shoot anyone that comes in to harass you. So come back to work.”

Sugawara paled, “He bought a gun?”

“Hm, he was pretty excited about it. Wouldn’t stop talking about it. Named it the Bastard Blaster.”

“Your boss sounds badass,” Tanaka admitted.

Sugawara pressed a hand over his eyes.

“Uhm…” Asahi said softly. “Suga… do you plan on coming back to school? There are only a few weeks left in the semester…”

“I only have three more finals to take,” Sugawara shifted uneasily, looking away. “And one of them is online. I’ll go in for the others when I need to…”

Tanaka gritted his teeth.

“Yeah but…” Asahi clasped his hands in front of him.

“I emailed my professors. They said I don’t have to worry about my attendance. My grades are good enough that it won’t count against me.”

“Why did you break up with Daichi?” Tanaka snapped.

Sugawara clamped his mouth shut. He didn’t meet Tanaka’s gaze as he reached up and scratched the back of his head.

“Ah… well… I’ve been thinking about it. And… I guess I just don’t like him like I thought I did.”

“Oh bullshit.”

Sugawara flinched. Tanaka leaned forward and slammed his can of beer down on the coffee table, glaring fiercely at him.

“Do you think we’re stupid? You’re crazy about that mother fucker! We can all see it! You’re not fooling anyone with that bullshit.”

Sugawara stared down at the table.

“So how about you quit lyin’ and tell us the truth?” Tanaka’s brows lowered. “Why did you break up with Daichi?”

For a long minute, no one spoke. Asahi shifted from foot to foot uncomfortably. Ennoshita slurped loudly on the mouth of his beer and Tanaka struggled not to snap at him to shut the fuck up, eyelid twitching out of control.

Finally, Sugawara answered.

“He got hurt because of me.”

“He didn’t get hurt because of you,” Tanaka countered. “He went out looking for that fight—”

Because of me!” Sugawara interrupted.

Tanaka clenched his jaw.

“None of this would have ever happened if he had never dated me! It’s my fault and you can’t convince me otherwise. So just stop trying.” He pulled his knees to his chest and wrapped his arms around them, “I’ve already made my decision. I’m not going to take it back.”

“You’re gonna give him up, just like that?” Tanaka asked tersely. “Even though you like him. Even though Daichi doesn’t want to break up—”

It’s because I like him!

Tanaka blinked in shock at the sudden shout. Sugawara glared at him fiercely.

Obviously I’m doing this all because I like him!” Sugawara looked away. “I like him a lot! Even more than before. But you said it yourself, didn’t you? It’s painful seeing the people you care about get hurt.”

“But,” Asahi cut in. “Daichi—”

“Can you guys just stop?” Sugawara buried his face in his knees. “Just stop. It’s already hard enough without you lecturing me too.” He hesitated before saying in a voice barely over a whisper, “I never should have confessed. I never should have forced him to date me in the first place.” He sniffled and pressed his face harder into his knees, “I think I’ll leave.”

Tanaka’s eyes widened.

“I’ll finish out this semester and then… and then I’ll go back to my hometown. I’ll get my credits transferred and go to school there. I’ll move back in with my parents for a while until I figure out what I want to do…” his shoulders shuddered and his voice cracked. “Yeah. I’ll go home. Then Rei will forget about me. And Daichi will forget about me. And everything will go back to how it was.”

Asahi rushed forward and slid to the floor. He tugged on Sugawara’s hands until he released his knees and went willingly into his arms, hiding his face in his chest. He gripped at the back of his shirt with quivering hands as his body shook in rhythm with his stifled sobs.

Asahi hugged him tightly, stroking his hair and rubbing his back, squeezing his eyes shut when they turned glossy and his chin trembled.

Tanaka scrubbed a hand over his shaved head and then glanced towards Ennoshita, who was already staring at him. He didn’t even need to open his mouth for Tanaka to know what he wanted to say. He could see it in his eyes, in that cocked eyebrow, and that firm set of his lips.

Well, Baldy? What're you going to do to fix this?

And really… the answer should be nothing.

It wasn’t Tanaka’s responsibility to fix anything.

He didn’t sign up for this shit.

Nor was he being forced into it.

And yet… he couldn’t help but start wracking his mind for how the fuck he was going to fix everything.

Half an hour later, Tanaka and Ennoshita took their leave. Asahi stayed behind, still working hard to comfort the inconsolable Sugawara.

They were halfway down the street before Ennoshita spoke.

“So? What’s your plan?”

“Why do I have to have a plan?” Tanaka grumbled. “You’ve known him longer than I have. Shouldn’t you be the one thinking of a plan?”

Ennoshita hummed and shoved his hands into the pockets of his jeans, “Yeah… but… somehow, I feel like any plan you came up with would somehow work.”

Tanaka blinked at him in astonishment.

“Huh?”

“Yeah. Even though you look like that, you somehow make me think that you’re a really reliable guy.”

“What’s wrong with how I look?”

“You’re kidding, right?”

Tanaka scowled and turned forward again, “Reliable, huh?”

They didn’t speak for a minute.

“Even if that’s true, I have no idea what to do.”

Ennoshita glanced at him and then away, “Well… keep thinking. Figure something good out and I’ll reward your efforts.”

“Ehh?” Tanaka grinned. “What’s this, Snickers? After refusing my offers to buy you a drink, you suddenly want to reward me?”

“Only if you think of something good.”

“What counts as good?”

Ennoshita hummed and lifted his chin, “Make a plan that gets Kou back together with Boyfriend.”

“So basically you want me to be a matchmaker?”

“You got it.”

“Huh,” Tanaka scratched the back of his neck. “Sounds difficult. But… I’m curious about your reward. So… I’ll take you up on that offer.”

Ennoshita smirked, “Glad to hear it.”

Tanaka inhaled deeply and then let it out in a loud breath.

“So… I guess I better get to work then.”


 

“Knock.”

“Ehhh? Why do I have to knock?” Kenma glared dully up at Keiji. “You’re the one that wants to meet the guy.”

Keiji shifted from foot to foot, staring straight ahead at the door to Sugawara Koushi’s apartment.

“Maybe he’s not home.”

“So knock and find out.”

But still, Keiji wavered. Kenma shoved his hands into the pocket of his hoodie and sighed.

“Is this going to take much longer? I have a final to study for.”

“I’m just nervous,” Keiji murmured and smoothed his hands over the front of his cardigan.

“I thought you were excited,” Kenma sighed tiredly. “Isn’t this the guy that beat your brother up?”

“No… but he’s somehow connected to the one that did.”

Kenma let out a low groan, “So he’s just a middle man? How many more doors do we have to knock on until you find your Prince Charming?”

Keiji’s cheeks warmed, “That’s not what this is about.”

“Sure it isn’t.”

Keiji didn’t speak for a moment. He stared at the painted wood of the door quietly, as if the courage would somehow seep from its grain and urge him into taking the initiative to actually knock.

It was after Kenma had sighed another two times before he finally spoke, voice soft.

“Rei called him a faggot.”

Kenma’s head turned his direction, the dual toned sheets of his chin length hair swishing at the movement. He inhaled lightly and muttered,

“He calls everyone a faggot.”

Not everyone. Rei reserved that slur for a very specific group of people. People like Keiji and Kenma. People that Nagachika Risa fell for at first sight. People that stole the woman’s attention away from Akaashi Rei and his pathetic attempts at scoring. People that inadvertently made the man feel inadequate.

Keiji sucked in a deep breath and squared his shoulders.

“Alright. I’m knocking.”

“Finally,” Kenma sighed.

Keiji lifted a fist and then hesitated. Several more seconds ticked by and Kenma let out a low groan. He stepped forward and started knocking vigorously with both fists.

“K-Kenma,” Keiji reached for his shoulder. “That’s too much. Sto—”

A thump sounded from their left and both boys froze and turned towards the stairwell. A young man with messy grey hair stood two meters away, staring at them with wide eyes. Keiji’s gaze fell on the faded bruising on the left side of his face and he gulped.

“Wh-who are you?” the man took a wary step backwards, turning his body slightly towards the stairs in a way that Keiji could only guess was meant to keep a path open in case he needed to flee.

Kenma lowered his hands from the door and shoved them back into his hoodie pocket. Keiji swallowed and gave a small bow.

“Are you Sugawara Koushi?”

He seemed reluctant to reply, eyes darting to the stairs and then back. Keiji noted that his clothes were wrinkled and hung loosely off of his body. His eyes were bloodshot and surrounded by red, puckered skin.

He had to be Sugawara Koushi. He looked exactly like a victim of Rei’s special brand of torture.

Keiji would know.

Sugawara continued to eye them suspiciously, gaze wandering over Kenma’s curtained face and then back to Keiji.

Keiji attempted to look as unthreatening as he could, adopting a sincere, relaxed expression.

“My name is Ak—” He froze, realizing that introducing himself with the name he shared with the man that was most likely responsible for that fearful look in Sugawara’s eye may not be the smartest decision. “My name is Keiji. And this is Kenma.”

Sugawara’s tense stance relaxed infinitesimally. “Do you… have business with me?”

Keiji faltered.

Ah… how do I progress from here?

Akaashi Keiji was usually an incredibly level-headed man. He was rarely caught in a situation where he had not plotted out a strategy to ensure him the highest level of comfort and control.

He hated to admit that he was flying blind at the moment.

Just how was he supposed to proceed? Sugawara’s body language resembled that of a rabbit caught by a fox, jittery and ready to fly at the first scent of danger. Force was not the path to take. He needed to ease his way into the conversation of Rei’s punisher. But just how was he supposed to do that?

“Who kicked Rei’s ass?” Kenma suddenly asked, voice flat and matter-of-fact.

Keiji jerked his eyes in his direction. That was not how he wanted to ask that question. He turned back to Sugawara and his suspicions about the man’s mental state were confirmed.

His spine stiffened at the mention of Keiji’s brother. His eyes flashed between the two and then to the stairwell.

Keiji lifted his hands in an attempt to placate the man, “We’re not here for revenge. We are just curious as to who it was because I'd like to meet him and—”

“Please move out of my way,” Sugawara took two strides in their direction.

Keiji’s mouth went dry. Because rather than a rabbit caught by a fox, Sugawara was suddenly a proud alley cat facing down a stray dog. The fear had disappeared from his fiery expression as he approached them, exuding an unexpected threatening aura that paid no heed to the fact that he was outnumbered.

Keiji and Kenma stood frozen as he approached. He paused in front of Keiji and glared fiercely up into his face. Keiji held his breath, sweat beading at his temples.

“Move,” Sugawara said in a low voice.

A shudder passed through Keiji and Kenma hurriedly dragged him to the side. Sugawara gave them another firm stare and turned to the door, pulling a key from his pocket.

Keiji swallowed the dry lump that formed in his throat.

“S-Sugawara-san, if you could just please give me his name… I… you see, I’m Rei’s younger brother and—”

“Don’t ever come here again,” Sugawara commanded in a slow but forceful tone. He turned the handle and pushed the door open, “If you think I’m going to rat out my friends—”

“That’s not—”

Sugawara stepped into his apartment and turned, giving the two one last dirty look.

“Don’t ever come here again,” he repeated. “I won’t speak to you. Tell your brother that the next time I see him, I'm slitting his fucking throat,” Sugawara grabbed the door and slammed it roughly.

Kenma and Keiji stood in silence for a long minute. Keiji closed his eyes, willing his pulse to slow and his breath to even.

Finally, Kenma muttered, “Maybe he was the one that kicked his ass.”

Keiji couldn’t help but hum his agreement.

At first sight, Sugawara Koushi had seemed like a beaten and broken man.

Keiji had never felt more wrong in his life.


 

On the day of Sugawara’s government final, Daichi resisted the urge to stand outside of his apartment and meet him as he left. The instant Sugawara saw him, he would attempt to flee. That was why Daichi decided to wait for him at the school itself. He would wait in a hallway leading to his classroom and catch him the instant he spotted him. Sugawara wouldn’t run after making it so close to his destination. He would be forced to hear Daichi out.

He just needed to talk to him.

He needed to tell him how he felt. He was confident that Sugawara would change his mind if only he could speak to him face to face.

As he waited in the hallway, leaning against the wall impatiently, Daichi found himself suddenly on edge. His nerves tingled and his skin felt itchy under his clothes.

It had been two full weeks since Daichi had last seen Sugawara. His bruises were nearly completely gone. The evidence that Rei and the others had ever touched him were almost entirely erased from his body. There was nothing about his appearance that could give Sugawara that pained, ashamed expression he had worn when breaking up with him.

I’m fine.

It didn’t even hurt.

Take me back.

Daichi glanced up and down the hallway. It was virtually empty other than a pair of girls chatting near the corner, one whining loudly about how she had bombed the final she had just taken while the other patted her shoulder in sympathy.

Daichi prayed that the hallway would stay empty when Sugawara did finally show up. It would be difficult talking to him if there were others around to eavesdrop. Sugawara didn’t want anybody to know about their relationship, so Daichi swore that this time he would do his best to keep it a secret.

If it was easier on Sugawara, then Daichi would take it to his grave.

Ten minutes passed and Daichi was worrying that more classes would let out, resulting in the hallway becoming busy, but Daichi’s suspicions that Sugawara would head to his final early were confirmed when he saw the man finally round the corner, eyes cast to the floor as he walked swiftly, bag slung over his shoulder.

Daichi sucked in a deep breath and pushed away from the wall. He was blown away at the sheer amount of relief and anxiety that competed for control over his body at the sight of his ex-boyfriend.

His bruises were finally gone, and he looked clean and organized, wearing a simple pair of faded jeans and a navy t-shirt. Daichi noticed that the splint he had worn for the past month was gone and he clutched the strap of his bag freely with his liberated fingers.

Thank God, Daichi released a breath of relief.

Sugawara’s eyes remained downcast as he traveled down the hallway in the direction of his government class. So when Daichi intercepted him, calling his name softly, he startled, jerking his head up with wide eyes. The instant his gaze met Daichi’s, he took a hasty step backwards and then whirled.

Daichi jumped after him and grabbed his wrist before he could take more than two steps in the opposite direction.

“Your class is this way,” Daichi said gently.

Sugawara froze, facing away from him. He quivered in Daichi’s grasp and a wave of guilt spread through his chest. Slowly, Sugawara turned back to him, eyes lowered to the floor once more.

“Ah… you’re right,” he whispered.

Daichi gulped, grip on his wrist loosening. He wanted to continue touching him, but the pair of girls from earlier were still laughing down the hall. And Sugawara wanted their relationship to be a secret.

So he released him, reluctantly, and dropped his hand to his side.

Sugawara adjusted the strap of his bag, eyes looking anywhere but at Daichi’s face.

“Suga…” Daichi squeezed his hands into fists. “I’m sorry I didn’t listen to you. I’m sorry I went looking for a fight even though you told me not to do anything—”

“I have to get to my class,” Sugawara murmured.

“You still like me. I know you do.”

Sugawara pressed his lips together in a firm line.

“I don’t want to break up,” Daichi said softly. “If you’d just give me a second chance—”

“I’m sorry. I can’t date you. Like I said, I’m not interested in men. I… was wrong for asking you out in the first place,” Sugawara’s eyes darted to the side. “Sorry that I let you think that I… that I could…” his Adam’s apple bobbed in his throat.

“You don’t have to lie to me,” Daichi said. “You broke up with me because you were worried about me. But I won’t pick fights anymore so you don’t—”

A group of students passed by them, talking loudly about a party taking place that weekend. Daichi clamped his mouth shut and he and Sugawara both watched as they walked down the hall and disappeared around the corner, trailing boisterous voices behind.

Daichi inhaled slowly and turned back to Sugawara.

“Suga—”

“Sawamura-kun!”

Daichi froze and glanced to the left, where a girl in a pair of floral shorts and a cream blouse walked up. Her cheeks were flushed bright red, her dyed hair pulled up in a ponytail atop her head.

“Uhm…” she clasped her hands in front of her and bounced anxiously on the balls of her feet. “Wow… I didn’t think I’d actually run into you. Uhm… so I h-heard that you weren’t dating anybody at the moment so…”

Sugawara stiffened and Daichi winced.

What perfect timing.

“I was wondering if we could catch a movie sometime?” the girl finished, pressing her hands to her cheeks expectantly.

Daichi was single at the moment. Typically, when Daichi was single, he accepted any confession given to him. He had even gone so far as to accept the confession of a man he had never spoken a word to one early Monday morning.

But for the first time in his life, Daichi wasn’t going to do what he typically did.

Sugawara headed for his class once more, moving around Daichi’s other side. Daichi reached out and grabbed his arm, pulling him back as he smiled at the girl.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “It’s true that I’m not dating at the moment. But I’m afraid I do have my eyes on someone special.”

The girl’s eyes widened, “O-oh! I see… so you like someone…”

Daichi faltered.

Like?

Did Daichi… like Sugawara?

He liked dating him. He had fun with him. And kissing him felt good.

But did that mean that Daichi liked him? Like was almost… love, wasn’t it? Daichi had never thought deeply about those kinds of intense emotions before. He was sure he had never experienced them in his short life.

“I understand,” the girl said, drawing his attention once more. “Thanks anyway. I wish you luck in winning the lucky girl’s heart!” She gave him a wave and then rushed down the hallway before disappearing around the corner.

Daichi swallowed and glanced at Sugawara. He faced away, arm hanging limp in Daichi’s grip.

“Suga, I know you still like me. So—”

“You’re wrong,” Sugawara said weakly. “With a guy… it’s impossible. Now if you’d please let me go… I need to get to my class.”

Daichi tightened his grip when he feebly attempted to pull away.

Talking wasn’t working.

Daichi needed to remind Sugawara how much he wanted him.

He turned and dragged Sugawara down the hallway. He stumbled after him, letting out the complaint,

“Daichi… I need to take my final—”

Daichi stopped outside of a classroom and peeked in through the window on the door. It was empty, the lights off. He pushed the door open and pulled Sugawara in after him.

“Daichi—”

He didn’t even bother flicking the lights on before turning and pressing Sugawara up against the wall.

Daichi—

Daichi leaned one arm against the wall next to Sugawara’s head and wrapped his other around his waist, holding his body to his.

“Just one kiss,” he said in a low, gruff voice.

Sugawara stared up at him with wide eyes.

“That’s all I need,” Daichi leaned forward until their noses were touching. His heart thundered violently in his chest and his pulse raged in his throat. “If you can still tell me that you don’t like me after one kiss, then I’ll leave you alone.”

Sugawara’s hands curled against his chest. Daichi could see from the light of the hallway through the door’s window that his cheeks were flushed, lips parted slightly, chest rising and falling quickly. Whether it was desire or fear clouding his eyes as they traveled down Daichi’s face… he couldn’t tell.

But it was easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.

So he put the indecision out of his mind and let his body take control.

Daichi captured Sugawara’s mouth in a desperate kiss. For a moment, he savored the softness of the trembling lips beneath his. They were warm and pliable, molding perfectly to the shape of Daichi’s own lips as he pressed harder into them. Daichi tightened his hold around Sugawara’s waist and took his chin in his other hand. He tilted his head back, leaning it against the wall, and then gently pried his mouth open.

Sugawara let out a soft gasp as Daichi swept his tongue inside, sliding his hand to the back of his neck and holding him in place as he deepened the kiss, hungrily tasting Sugawara’s sweet flavor.

Sugawara quivered and then his hands grabbed at his shirt, pulling him tighter against him. He leaned into him, sliding his tongue against Daichi’s urgently. Their breath hitched as they sunk deeper into the kiss, pressing against one another as if the slightest disconnection between their lips would drag the air from their lungs.

Sugawara’s hands slid up his chest to his neck, and then around to the back of his head, fingers burying themselves in his hair. Daichi placed his other arm around Sugawara’s waist, digging his fingernails into the muscles of his back.

Daichi’s heart was pounding painfully in his chest now, beating against his ribcage so hard that he thought for sure his bones would crack from the pressure. His stomach flooded with frustrated warmth, tightening uncomfortably the harder he pressed his body into Sugawara’s. Sugawara shifted against him, one thigh slipping between his as the other hitched erratically up towards his hip and then down. Daichi’s lower body pulsed and ached and any more movement from Sugawara was going to ensure disaster, but he couldn’t bring himself to break off the kiss in order to tell him to stay still.

They kissed for a long minute, Daichi continuously tugging him closer, desperate to close all space between them until they melded into one. He slid their tongues together until all lingering taste of the coffee Daichi drank that morning was replaced with the spearmint flavor clinging to the inside of Sugawara’s mouth.

Daichi was intoxicated.

By the taste and touch of Sugawara’s body. By the breathless moan that vibrated up the back of his throat. By the insistent way he continued to rub against him, shaking at his every stroke and kiss.

Eventually they did break the connection between their lips, simultaneously sucking in deep gulps of air. Daichi leaned back in to take possession of his mouth once more, but Sugawara turned his face away, still panting. Daichi pressed his lips to the skin below his ear and then traveled slowly across his jaw.

“Y-you said just one kiss.”

Daichi froze.

Sugawara’s hands slid back down to his chest, curling against his shirt. He straightened against the wall, pulling back away from Daichi’s hungry body, putting any space that he could between them.

Daichi inhaled, shuddering. He pulled his face away from Sugawara and then leaned his forehead against the wall to the side of his ear. He knew what he was going to say before the words even left his mouth.

“I’m sorry,” Sugawara whispered, hands lowering to his sides. “It’s impossible after all.”

Liar.

Daichi wavered for a long second before finally relenting. He pulled away and took a step back, hands falling off of Sugawara’s hips. He stared into his face, at his flushed cheeks and swollen, rosy lips.

Sugawara didn’t return his stare, eyes pointed off to the side as he adjusted the strap of his bag on his shoulder.

“Sorry,” he said again, voice weak.

And maybe he was sorry. Though not for the reason that he tried to make Daichi believe. He was probably sorry that even now, he was lying directly to Daichi’s face.

Sugawara was an open book.

And it was painful to watch as he forcibly closed his pages, hiding himself from Daichi’s eyes.

He slid along the wall to the door and then opened it. He didn’t hesitate, nor did he cast a backwards glance as he left the classroom and disappeared completely from view.

And Daichi was left in the darkness, utterly defeated.


 

Risa wasn’t much of a strategist.

She had floated through life pretty much entertaining every whim that crossed her mind. It was easy with a boyfriend like Sugawara, who was always more than eager to humor his spoiled girlfriend. It probably genuinely brought him joy to indulge her, and he was always there to pick up where she left off, completing her half-assed plans in a much more cohesive way than she could have ever dreamed.

Risa was sorry to have ever taken advantage of that in the past.

Because now here she was, halfway into one of her half-assed plans, and she had no idea where the fuck to go next.

I called them.

They’re coming.

But then what?

Risa regretted ever taking advantage of Sugawara’s quick thinking.

She leaned her head on the wall next to where she sat in the library, trying- and failing- to study for her last final of the semester.

How could she focus on art history when she was one third of the way into planning a murder?

Maybe she needed more coffee. Or an energy drink. Even though they made her jittery and Sugawara had forbidden her to drink them one year ago when she had drank too many and ended up on the floor of his bathroom, crying about the worst heartburn she had ever experienced in her life.

Even though he had thoroughly lectured her, he had still taken care of her for the rest of the night. And he had lain in bed with her, stroking her hair for hours as he fought to stay awake, eyelids fluttering shut every thirty seconds.

And Risa regretted ever taking advantage of that side of Sugawara too.

“Fuck,” Risa slumped over the table as her chest ached.

This time it wasn’t heartburn that twisted painfully inside though.

Though it did have to do with the heart.

“Risa!” the sudden exclamation made her jump, straightening in her chair once more.

Anna hurried across the library in her direction, bowing hastily to the librarian that hushed her with a scowl. She dropped into the chair beside Risa’s and then hesitated to catch her breath. Her face was bright red, her hair a mess.

“Finally found you,” she panted, fanning her cheeks.

“You could have called,” Risa cocked an eyebrow.

“I did, you Dumbass! Answer your phone!”

Risa checked her phone absently, “Ah, so you did.”

“Anyway,” Anna excused her lack of repentance with a wave of her hand. “So the reason I was looking for you was because you know Koushi’s boyfriend? The one you drew for me?”

Risa sighed. There was no escape from Sugawara. No matter where she looked, he haunted her.

Anna went on, seemingly not requiring an answer to her question.

“I’ve been showing it around to people, right? And most people didn’t recognize him. But then I talked to Eri.”

“Let me guess, she recognized him?” Risa leaned her chin in the palm of her hand. “Learn how to tell stories, Anna.”

Anyway!” Anna slapped a hand down on the table. “I know who he is!”

“Okay, why do I care?”

Anna leaned forward, eyes wide.

“He’s Sawamura Daichi!

For a long second, the name didn’t register in Risa’s mind. And then, slowly, the cogs locked together and started to turn. She straightened away from the table.

“Sawamura Daichi…” she blinked in astonishment. “Sawamura Daichi. Are you fucking serious?”

Anna nodded vigorously.

Risa stared down at the textbook opened in front of her.

Sawamura Daichi.

A slow smile stretched across her lips and she grabbed her cell phone.

I can use this.


 

Hanamaki was so bored.

Iwaizumi and Oikawa were having some kind of fight, sitting on opposite ends of the apartment and refusing to look at one another for longer than a second before turning away in some kind of uneasy huff. Tanaka, Asahi, and a new guy, Ennoshita, had showed up an hour earlier, but none of them were any fun. Tanaka was silent- unbelievably so- as he sat in deep thought on the couch, occasionally rubbing his chin comically.

Asahi was studying diligently in front of the coffee table, a thick purple headband holding back his long chocolate hair. The new guy looked just as bored as Hanamaki did, eyes sleepy as he slowly examined the room, occasionally turning to stare at Tanaka’s expression of extreme concentration.

Matsukawa- Hanamaki’s one reprieve from the boring life of being cooped up in Daichi’s lame-ass apartment- was napping on the loveseat, drooling on the arm curled under his head.

I suppose I could take pictures of that, Hanamaki thought as he stood across the living room, sipping from the mouth of a bottle of rum.

Or I could poke Iwa-chan and Oiks into having an argument.

If he was feeling helpful, he supposed he could quiz Asahi on his study materials.

But Hanamaki rarely felt helpful.

Helpful was boring.

Chaos was fun.

Hanamaki could really go for some chaos right about now.

As if the gods had heard his plea from the heavens, a loud knocking sounded through the apartment, startling Matsukawa awake and drawing everyone’s attention to the front door.

“I’ll get it!” Hanamaki sang blissfully. He skipped giddily, stopping halfway there to pirouette, hugging the rum to his chest, before bounding the rest of the way to the door.

He yanked the door open without checking through the peephole.

Which ended up being a really entertaining decision.

Because standing out in the hallway were the best kind of riff raff.

Four men dressed in rugged clothing that just oozed trouble eyed him silently for a long second. Hanamaki was absolutely dizzy with excitement as he dragged his gaze from the pair with identical faces and modern undercuts, to the tall one with wild black hair in the dusty leather jacket and the ripped jeans, finally ending on the most interesting of the four, a thuggish looking fellow with tall white and black hair, broad shoulders, and metal baseball bat slung across them, both of his thick arms hanging casually over each end.

Hanamaki could just squeal with delight.

One of the identical undercuts- the one with lighter hair- lifted his chin and regarded Hanamaki snidely.

“We’re here for Sawamura Daichi,” he sneered.

Hanamaki glanced back into the boring apartment and then turned forward once more. He lifted the rum to his lips and took a long sip before lowering the bottle, stepping to the side of the doorway and saying, voice laced with amusement,

“Come on in.”

Chapter Text

Amari Yousuke was a follower. He had always been a follower. Ever since he was a kid, he had tagged along with whatever group would allow him into their ranks.

It wasn’t that he didn’t have a personality of his own.

Rather… he wasn’t confident enough in that personality to ever show it to anybody else. His was the type of character that was an easy target for people like Akaashi Rei and Hashimoto Jirou.

It was easier to hide his true self and follow along with the strong than risk being brutally tortured like Rei’s other victims.

It’s not like he particularly enjoyed joining in with the bullying. But it was easy to get caught up in the moment. When the others were cheering him on, Yousuke usually lost sight of the fact that the person he was tormenting was a… person. At that point… Yousuke figured he wasn’t much of a person either, but at least it wasn’t him.

At least it wasn’t him.

That was no longer something he could say to comfort himself, however.

After years of being the yes man, the follower, the one willing to do any nasty deed his current “master” demanded, Yousuke wanted to be a person again.

And it started with Sugawara Koushi.

Sugawara Koushi had done nothing wrong. From what Yousuke could see, he was a kind hearted, cheerful man who worked hard in school and was totally infatuated with one Sawamura Daichi.

And when Yousuke thought about it rationally… there was nothing wrong with that. It was… different, admittedly. Yousuke had never met a guy that was into other guys before. It was weird to him and he didn’t quite understand it… but maybe there wasn’t anything wrong with that.

Maybe Yousuke didn’t need to understand it.

Maybe it was enough that he just accepted it.

And… apologized.

That should come first.

After all, Yousuke had participated in Rei’s bullying. He had even hurt Sugawara with his own hands.

He was filled with regret and he needed to atone for his sins before he would ever be able to move on. It wasn’t just because of the threat Sawamura Daichi posed, either. Yousuke had started to regret his actions long before Daichi had ever caught him.

Blindly following a terrible person like Akaashi Rei was no longer fun nor fulfilling.

It wasn’t enough.

And Yousuke wanted to feel like a person again.

The problem was gaining the courage to actually approach Sugawara. He had been scoping his apartment out for the past week with no luck. Every time Sugawara had shown himself, Yousuke had hidden from his place across the street, too terrified to make a sound.

Even when Sugawara made an appearance at the university to take his final, Yousuke’s attempt at approaching him was thwarted when Daichi had shown up and taken him away to an empty classroom.

Time was running out. Soon the semester was going to end, and Yousuke didn’t know how many more chances he would have to talk to Sugawara. He needed to buckle down and just do it.

He stood on the sidewalk in front of Sugawara’s apartment, staring up at the door he had, on several occasions, vandalized with disgusting graffiti. Today was the day. He was finally going to apologize. And then he would let Sugawara do with him whatever he wanted. If he wanted to kick his ass, then he would let him kick his ass. If he wanted to turn him in to the police, then so be it. Yousuke was prepared to take his punishment.

He inhaled deeply and climbed the stairs to the balcony. He stood outside of the apartment and hesitated once more. It seemed like only yesterday that he had held a can of spray paint in his hand and had written the words Die fag across this very door.

Yousuke lifted his fist and prepared to knock.

Before he could manage it, the door opened and Sugawara stood directly in front of him. Yousuke’s mouth went dry.

Sugawara’s eyes widened and he let out a shout and snapped his fist forward, clocking Yousuke in the lips. He stumbled backwards and Sugawara chased.

“Bastard!” he growled and grabbed him by the front of the shirt. He pulled him into his fist again and again, then shoved him up against the railing of the balcony and delivered a swift kick between his legs. Yousuke crumpled to the floor, groaning as pain exploded through his lower body.

Sugawara stood over him and pulled his leg back, “I’ll kill you!”

“Wait!” Yousuke held up a hand, his other holding his groin. “Please wait! I’m not here to—”

“Shut up!” Sugawara leaned down and grabbed the front of his shirt with both hands. “Fucking bastard…” he breathed heavily. “Because of you… because of you…” his eyes flashed and filled with moisture. “You fucking piece of shit. Because of you… Daichi…”

“I’m sorry,” Yousuke hurriedly blurted out. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I’m sorry for bullying you and for hurting you and for stepping on your hand and for helping Rei... I regret everything!”

Sugawara paused.

Yousuke peeked up at him in terror, “I’m sorry. I’m really sorry. I… I’m not helping them anymore. I don’t even want anything to do with them. They’re sick and twisted and… and I am too for ever going along with them in the first place.” He lowered his gaze and sniffled, eyes pinching. “I’m sorry. You don’t have to forgive me. I just… I just didn’t feel right, leaving it the way it was. I wanted to apologize. And… you can punish me in any way that you think is right. I’ll take it all.”

Sugawara’s grip loosened on his shirt.

He gulped, “If you want to hit me some more… kick me… beat the shit out of me… go ahead. I won’t fight back. If you want me to turn myself in to the cops… I will. Just tell me what I should do to make you feel better.”

Sugawara didn’t speak. He pulled his hands away from Yousuke’s shirt and straightened. Yousuke closed his eyes and prepared for the beating he was positive would come next. But several seconds ticked by and not a single punch came. Slowly, he peeled his eyes open and glanced up at Sugawara.

He stared down at him silently, brows furrowed, but not a hint of malice in his gaze.

Yousuke’s mouth went dry.

“A-aren’t you…”

“I don’t want to hit you anymore,” Sugawara said in a soft voice.

Yousuke’s eyes widened.

Sugawara hugged his stomach and looked away, “Thank you for apologizing to me. It must’ve been difficult.”

Yousuke climbed to his knees, “I… I don’t understand. Why don’t you want to hit me? After everything I’ve done… I hurt you. And I helped Rei… and—”

“People make mistakes,” Sugawara slowly closed his eyes. “It’s not my place to punish someone seeking redemption.” He opened his eyes once more and stared down at him. He dragged his gaze over him slowly and then sighed, “I get no satisfaction from punishing someone who has already punished himself.”

Yousuke lowered his eyes to his arm. He quickly pulled his sleeve down over the series of bandages taped over his left wrist.

Great.

He squeezed his eyes shut tightly.

He didn’t deserve such kindness.

Sugawara crouched in front of him and Yousuke lifted his eyes in surprise.

Sugawara hugged his knees to his chest with one arm and offered his other hand.

“Let’s start over,” he suggested softly. “Hello. Nice to meet you. My name is Sugawara Koushi.”

Yousuke hesitated, eyes filling with moisture. Eventually, he managed to take Sugawara’s offered hand and they shook.

“My name is Amari Yousuke,” he said quietly. “N-nice to meet you…”

Sugawara smiled and stood, pulling Yousuke to his feet. “C’mon, Amari Yousuke,” he turned and pulled him towards his apartment. “Let’s get to work.”

“On wh-what?” he stumbled after him.

“Becoming friends.”


 

Ennoshita was glad he had accepted Tanaka’s invitation to collaborate with the others at Daichi’s apartment. At first, it had been an incredibly boring get together. Everyone there was either silently fighting, studying, sleeping, or prowling around the apartment drinking liquor with a sour expression. No one was much good for conversation, so Ennoshita busied himself with staring at Tanaka’s hilarious expression of intense concentration.

But then the sour prowler answered the door.

And let some more than interesting riff raff into the apartment.

Now it’s a party, Ennoshita thought the instant his eyes fell on the beefy fellow with the metal baseball bat slung across his shoulders.

Tanaka shifted to the edge of the couch and turned, angling his back in front of Ennoshita.

“Who the hell are you guys?” he asked, voice loud and laced with warning.

Ooooh, strangers? Even more fun, Ennoshita peered over Tanaka’s shoulder at the set of twins gazing around the apartment, the one with darker hair looking disinterested while the other ooohed and aaahed.

“This is a fancy apartment!” he exclaimed.

“Bro,” the one with the baseball bat nudged the one with sloppy black hair. “Look at that TV! Shit’s huge!”

“So this is how the other half lives,” he mused. “Do you think he’ll miss that laptop?”

“Hanamaki, what the fuck?” Tanaka looked to the- now much happier- prowler.

“They said they’re here for Dai-chan,” he said, hurrying giddily to where the sleeping one was rousing from his nap, rubbing his eyes tiredly.

“Here… for him?” Tanaka’s voice lowered. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Yo, share some of that with me,” the baseball bat slipped up to Asahi and sat next to him on the floor, reaching for the open bottle of whiskey nearby.

Asahi cowered away, eyes wide.

“You don’t know these guys?” one of the others, the stocky one that seemed to be in the middle of a fight with the pretty one, sat up and looked to Hanamaki.

“I just let them in,” Hanamaki said proudly.

“Nice one,” the sleepy one yawned and he and Hanamaki high fived.

“Makki you dumbass,” the pretty one muttered under his breath.

“Which one of you is Sawamura Daichi?” the bedhead asked, joining his friend around the coffee table. He snatched the whiskey from his hands and gulped from it.

“None of them,” the disinterested twin answered, crossing his arms over his chest. “Is this even the right place?”

“Riis said this address,” the lively twin said. “Unless she fucked up, which isn’t unlikely, her being the useless slut she is, then we’re in the right place.”

“Hey,” the baseball bat turned to Asahi. “Is this Sawamura Daichi’s apartment?”

“Uh… uh…” Asahi’s eyes flashed. “Uhm…”

“It sure is,” Hanamaki said, handing his rum over to his partner. “Just what can we help you fine boys with tonight?”

“Makki! Don’t make friends with them!” the pretty one jumped to his feet. He glared at the new group, “What do you want with Sawa-chan? I swear if you’re here to make trouble—”

“We don’t make trouble, Sweetie,” the lively twin said with a smirk. “We are trouble.”

The room fell silent for long seconds before the disinterested twin let out a long, deep sigh.

“That was fuckin’ lame.”

“Shut it! It sounded cooler in my head!”

“Yo,” bedhead groaned. “Here we roll in here, four deep, lookin’ badass as hell… then you have to ruin it with a lame line like that…”

“Shut up! You guys are the lame ones! Man… fuck you,” he clicked his tongue. “I miss KouKou. How about you guys meet up with this fuckin’ nerd while I go see him? Yeah?”

“No way!” the beefy one pointed his baseball bat at him. “Risa said we’re not allowed to go see him! And besides, I’m not letting you see him before me.”

“I believe I already called dibs on first hug,” the bedhead held up a finger.

“Fuck you, cheater.”

“I didn’t cheat!”

“Enough!” Tanaka stood. “Who the fuck are you guys and what the fuck do you want with Daichi?”

They eyed him silently for a moment before the reserved twin sighed, “We were told to come here. We weren’t given any details as to why.”

“But it involves KouKou,” the other twin crossed his arms over his chest. “So bitch all you want, but we ain’t leavin’ ‘til we know what’s goin’ on.”

“KouKou,” Ennoshita drew everyone’s attention. He cocked an eyebrow, “You mean Sugawara Koushi?”

Tanaka turned to the others, “You guys know Suga?”

Know him?” the one with the baseball bat exclaimed. “We’ve seen him naked!”

The other three nodded.

“Multiple times,” the bedhead leaned his chin in the palm of his hand.

“I’ve got a few pictures,” the lively twin boasted.

“Not anymore,” his brother said dully. “Kiyo deleted them last weekend.”

Ehhhh?” he ripped his cell phone from his pocket and turned away as he unlocked the screen.

“So you guys are Suga’s friends?” Asahi asked nervously.

“We’ve been KouKou’s best pals since we were all in diapers!” the one with the baseball bat exclaimed, slapping a hand down on the coffee table.

Tsk,” Hanamaki clicked his tongue. “Boring.

“So you’re not here to challenge Sawa-chan?” the pretty man asked suspiciously.

“We might be,” the bedhead shrugged. “Like we said. We don’t know why we’re here. Risa did say she wanted someone dead though.”

“Maybe it’s this Sawamura guy,” the reserved twin gazed around the room casually.

“You won’t touch a hair on his body,” the pretty one growled.

“Oh ho?” bedhead cocked an eyebrow in amusement. “You sound pretty confident about that.”

His shoulders straightened and his chin lifted, “If you want Sawa-chan, you’re going to have to go through me first.”

He sure was adamant about protecting Daichi. Ennoshita watched him silently, hunting for the reasoning for his hostility in the ragged language of his body.

Tanaka sat down once more and leaned back on the couch in Ennoshita’s direction. In a low voice, he murmured, “Remember that story I told you? About the kid that was attacked in the school locker room?”

Ennoshita blinked at him, “The one that Sawamura saved?”

He nodded, eyes on the pretty one, “That was Oikawa.”

The stocky man sitting on the other side of Ennoshita stiffened and then stood. They watched him as he moved around the coffee table and put himself in between Oikawa and the man with the baseball bat, who had climbed to his feet and stepped closer to him, wearing a sly smirk.

The stocky one squared up to him, shoulders straight, green eyes cold as they stared steadily into the other one’s inhumanly golden ones. They sized each other up for long seconds before the other one shrugged and sat down once more. The stocky man then turned to Oikawa and gave him a glare.

“You’re not going to fight one of Sugawara’s childhood friends,” he said tersely. “You’ll only piss off Sawamura.”

Oikawa pouted and looked away.

“Boo,” Hanamaki muttered. “Let them fight.”

“No one is fighting,” he snapped. “We’re all going to sit the fuck down, shut the fuck up, and wait for Sawamura to get here and clear this bullshit up. Got it?” He stared around the room with a fierce scowl.

“Yes, Iwaizumi-sama,” the sleepy one said, leaning back in his seat and stacking his hands behind his head. “The children will behave while Daddy is away.”

Iwaizumi glared at him and then returned to his seat, crossing his arms over his chest. The room was silent for a long minute before the lively twin looked to the others and asked,

“So… you guys want to get drunk?”


 

Daichi was at a loss.

Just what the hell was he supposed to do now? Sugawara had made it clear that he didn’t intend to take him back. And why? Because he was afraid for Daichi’s safety?

Daichi couldn’t accept a reason like that.

If he broke up with him because he genuinely didn’t like him… if he broke up with him because he was afraid for his own safety…

If he did it for himself...

Daichi could accept it.

But this? This self-sacrifice for the sake of the one you love… Daichi couldn’t accept it.

He wouldn’t accept it.

But how was he supposed to convince him to take him back when he continually thwarted all of his attempts to reason with him?

Daichi was at a loss.

Maybe he was attacking from the wrong angle. Instead of trying to convince Sugawara, maybe he should be getting rid of Akaashi Rei. If there was no one to threaten Daichi, then there was no need for Sugawara to try to protect him.

So… Daichi just needed to eliminate the enemy.

Just as he was thinking it, he came face to face with yet another person worthy of such a title.

Daichi and Risa stared at each other from across the empty elevator. Neither of them spoke, nor did they break eye contact the entire ride from the first to the seventh floor. And when the doors slid open, they walked side by side into the hallway and stood outside Daichi’s apartment door as he keyed in his code.

When the door opened, they were met with yelling and laughter. Daichi clenched his jaw at the sound of a few unfamiliar voices mixed with the ones he expected to be waiting for him. He and Risa entered the apartment and he closed the door behind. They walked into the living room and Daichi glared at the four strangers sitting around the coffee table across from Hanamaki, Matsukawa, Tanaka, and Ennoshita, playing poker. Three empty liquor bottles littered the floor beside the table. Asahi, Oikawa, and Iwaizumi sat on the couches, watching as the rowdy group played and shouted across the table at one another.

“You’re fucking cheating!” one of the strangers with white and grey hair sat up on his knees and pointed accusingly at another with black bedhead, who smirked behind his hand of cards.

“What’s going on in here?” Daichi barked, drawing everyone’s attention.

“Dai-chan! Meet our new friends!” Hanamaki exclaimed, hiccupping. “They’re here to kill you! I let them in immediately!”

Daichi glared at him.

“Ahh… Riis,” a man with a dyed undercut called. “Is this the dick we gotta kill? He doesn’t look like much. Couldn’t ya do that on ya own?”

“Oh my god,” Risa stood at Daichi’s side and folded her arms over her chest. “You guys are fucking drunk.”

“Don’t matter,” the one with bedhead slurred. “Bo’s got his bat. We’ll just sit on him and beat him ‘til he stop movin’.”

“Like hell,” Tanaka snapped. “I’ll rip your balls straight off your body and make you eat them before you touch Daichi.”

Ennoshita leaned into his side, wearing a heady grin. “Baldy, are you a master ball handler?”

“I was known for my powerful ball handling back in high school.”

“I’ll bet you were.”

Just what the hell was going on? Daichi looked to Risa for an explanation. Her gaze slid to where Oikawa sat on the couch. Her eyes widened momentarily as the man flapped his mouth and looked to Iwaizumi for guidance. The other man pointedly ignored him, checking his phone with disinterest.

Risa stared for a few seconds before letting out a soft snort and looking up at Daichi.

She smirked, though the amusement didn’t reach her eyes as she said in a low voice, “You had it all figured out, didn’t you?”

“Not all of it,” he admitted, looking away.

Risa chuckled and stepped forward. She clapped her hands, “Alright, pay attention, you fuckin’ shitbags.”

“Cheatin’ whore!” the dyed undercut exclaimed, pointing at her accusingly.

“Leg spreading bitch!” the bedhead threw his cards down and leaned back on the heels of his hands.

“Traitorous tramp!” the one with white and grey hair slapped his palms down on the table.

The three looked to the fourth. He blinked slowly at them for a second before facing Risa and adding,

“Jezebel.”

“Good one,” the white haired one whispered.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah! I get it!” Risa huffed. “I’m a stupid cunt that cheated on her wonderful and perfect boyfriend and I don’t deserve to live.”

“Your words,” the bedhead said. “Your insanely accurate words.”

Perfectly accurate, Daichi eyed her coldly.

“This isn’t about me,” Risa lifted her chin. “I called you here for another reason.”

“Oh…” the lighter haired twin’s eyes widened. “I get it… the person ya wanted us to kill… is it you?”

“That makes sense!” the white haired one’s jaw dropped. “The guilt she feels for cheating on KouKou is so great that she’s going to ask us to put her out of her misery!”

“I say let her suffer with the guilt forever,” the calm twin said, examining his hand of cards with a dull expression.

“Let’s lock her up in a glass cage with thirty-six tarantulas,” the bedhead said.

“Nooo!” she whined, stomping her feet. “I’m sorry! Don’t put me with spiders ya bastards!”

“You deserve it.”

“Just shut up and let me talk!” she strode up and smacked the bedhead one on the back of the head.

“Then talk,” Daichi commanded, drawing everyone’s attention.

Risa glanced at him over her shoulder. She let out a deep sigh and crossed her arms over her chest again. “These guys are Koushi’s childhood friends,” she explained. She pointed at the twins, “Osamu and Atsumu.” She gestured at the bedhead, “Kuroo. And the owl lookin' mother fucker is Bokuto.” The white and grey haired one waved exuberantly.

Suga’s friends… Daichi stared intently at the four, and they returned the look, examining him curiously.

“So… is this the one we are killing then or what?” Atsumu asked, cocking an eyebrow.

“No,” Risa said. She then hesitated and added, “At least not until we’re done using him.”

Daichi’s eyebrows lowered.

“Using him for what?” Kuroo cocked his head to the side.

“He’s going to keep you guys out of prison after you kill the police commissioner’s son,” Risa said, holding Daichi’s gaze with her own.

“Ehh, he can do that?” Bokuto cried out. “Where was he three weeks ago when I got caught with all those fireworks?”

“You can do it, right?” Risa pressed. “You’re that Sawamura Daichi, aren’t you? The—”

“What makes you think I’d do that for you?” Daichi interrupted. “After everything you’ve done… you’re the reason behind all of this—”

“I never asked for any of this!”

The room fell silent on Risa’s cry. She glared fiercely at Daichi, top lip curled in disgust. “You’re an idiot. If you think for a second that I wished for this to happen…” she clicked her tongue and looked away. “I never told Rei to do a thing. I told one friend about this… and I realize now that was a mistake. I regret ever opening my stupid mouth.” She hesitated and added, “And my stupid legs.”

“Nice,” Matsukawa muttered.

No one spoke for long seconds and then Osamu said in a low voice, “What happened to Koushi?”

Risa’s eyes met Daichi’s but neither of them offered an answer to the question.

“Wait…” Atsumu looked between them. “Is KouKou okay? I haven’t… I haven’t talked to him for a while… is he…”

The ringing of a cell phone cut him short and he quickly pulled the device from his pocket and stared down at the screen. He let out a deep sigh of relief and looked to the others, “Speak of the angel… Should I answer it?”

“Oohhh!” Bokuto sat up excitedly. “Answer it! Tell him we’re in the city!”

“Don’t tell him that!” Risa commanded hurriedly. “Don’t let him know that you’re here! And don’t tell him you’ve met Sawamura!”

Daichi glanced at her warily.

“I’m answering it!” Atsumu lifted the phone. “Everyone shut up!”

Hanamaki and Matsukawa leaned their elbows on the coffee table and stared at him eagerly as he tapped the screen of the phone and held it out.

“Hey KouKou!” he sang.

SuSuuuuuu,” Sugawara’s voice sounded from the speaker. “I gotta very important question fo' ya…”

His words slurred together, raspy and slow. Daichi walked up to the table and sat down beside Tanaka.

“Ehh,” Atsumu grinned. “Are you drunk? Without me?”

Sugawara giggled, “I’m drunk. On BoBo’s favorite liquor. Remember that time he got really smashed on vodka and got into the wrong car in the parking lot and got beat up by that old lady?”

Bokuto let out a low whine, “Stop bringing that up!”

Ahhhh BoBo is there too! Not fair…”

“And me!” Kuroo leaned against the table eagerly.

KuKuKuKuKuuuu…

“I am also here,” Osamu said, lips lifted in a slight smile.

Even MuMu. Man I wish I was there too…

Bokuto opened his mouth wide and Risa slapped a hand over it.

It’s okay, I guess. I’m not alone,” Sugawara continued.

“Ohh, are you with your new girlfriend?” Atsumu asked. “Is that who you’re drinking with?”

Sugawara was silent for a long moment and Daichi’s heart clenched.

Actually… we, uh. Well we broke up.”

Daichi could feel several sets of eyes turn in his direction, including Risa’s, but he ignored them and stared at the phone silently.

“Already?” Atsumu scowled. “But it’s only been like a month or two, right? What happened?”

Another voice, muffled slightly, came through the speaker.

Wait, you guys broke up? But—”

Daichi’s eyes narrowed. That voice sounded familiar.

It’s fine. It’s fine,” Sugawara insisted. “It’s a matter of… uh… uh… well… th-they’re better off without me!”

“Ehh…” Kuroo’s eyebrows furrowed. “No one is better off without you.”

Sugawara laughed, “Trust me. Trust me. They are. I’m… I’m a bad boyfriend.” He hummed softly. “Maybe that’s why Risa cheated on me…”

Daichi lifted his gaze to Risa. Her head was ducked, hair falling over her eyes.

Atsumu leaned over and pinched her hard on the arm.

She jerked up, eyes glossy, and slapped him across the face.

“You’re not a bad boyfriend, Koushi,” Osamu said into the phone. “Risa will be sorry that she ever let you go. Trust me.”

Risa’s chin quivered and she looked away, sniffling quietly.

Sugawara laughed, “Ahhhh MuMu you’re my favorite. Maybe I’ll just date you instead next time.”

“Gladly.”

“Not fair!” Atsumu erupted. “You still promised me that I would get to fu—”

There’s only one person I’d ever allow inside me, and it’s not you.”

“Is it me?” Osamu asked.

No.

“Me?” Kuroo said.

No.

“Me!” Bokuto chimed in.

No!” Sugawara snorted. “Stop guessing. You’re not gonna get it. He’s way cooler than you guys. You couldn’t even compete, honest. Not that it matters. It’s never going to happen so…”

Risa turned a glare in Daichi’s direction and he ignored her, glancing instead towards his friends, who all also held him in their stares.

Way to be obvious, Jackasses.

Anyway,” Sugawara went on. “That’s not why I called. So let’s drop it.”

“Then why’d you call?” Kuroo asked. “Do you miss us that much?”

Sugawara laughed. His voice lowered as he answered, “I do. You have no idea… I really do.”

Bokuto folded his arms on the table and stared at them dejectedly.

Atsumu looked to his brother silently.

Anyway,” Sugawara cleared his throat. “Say… Kiyo and Eita aren’t nearby, are they?”

“Nah,” Atsumu said. “They’re not around at the moment.”

Good. So. I was wondering if you guys got any good advice on how to kill a man.”

Daichi’s eyes widened. Hanamaki caught a snort in his hand and turned away. Matsukawa patted his back with a smirk. Oikawa and Asahi leaned heavily on each other on the couch, sighing simultaneously. Iwaizumi leaned forward, bracing his elbows on his knees. Ennoshita didn't seem surprised in the least but Tanaka slapped a hand over his forehead.

“Why do you want to kill someone?” Kuroo asked. “Is something going on that you want to tell us about?”

“… No! You don’t gotta worry or nothin’. Uhm… I just wanna kill this guy. And I figured you guys could suggest me a good way to do it. See I was thinkin’ maybe I’d borrow SuSu’s gun—”

“Definitely not,” Osamu interrupted.

But—”

“Kiyo would murder us if we let you play with a loaded handgun again.”

“Yeah, don’t you remember the last time?” Atsumu asked.

It healed—”

“The answer is no,” Osamu said firmly.

Osamu is like a shitty dad.”

“Thank you.”

Fine. Then a knife, maybe? Or should I strangle him or drown him in a bath tub and then melt his body in acid—”

“Oh my god,” the other voice murmured through the line and Daichi scowled once more.

He knew that voice.

“Why do you want to kill someone, Koushi?” Osamu’s eyebrows lowered. “You’ve never wanted to kill someone before. Is something going on that you’re not telling us about?”

The line went silent for a long minute before Sugawara chuckled awkwardly.

It’s nothing!” he lied. “Nothing. He just… uhm… this guy…” he sighed. “He m-maybe hurt someone that I really care about.

Daichi gulped, a tight fist squeezing his heart.

Sugawara’s voice weakened and he laughed softly, “It’s not a big deal. You don’t need to worry about me or nothin’. You know I’m just all talk. I’m… not like you guys…” he hesitated. “I’m not like you guys.”

No one spoke.

Sugawara cleared his throat, “Ha ha… sorry. I’m a little drunk. I’m just rambling. Anyway… don’t worry about it! Forget I said anything. Uhm… well I’ll let you guys get back to whatever you were doing before I interrupted.”

Atsumu took the phone off of speaker and pressed it to his ear.

“We’re gonna see you real soon,” he said gently. “Take it easy and just concentrate on finishing up the semester, alright?” He listened to the other line and smiled, “Yeah. I know. We are. We’ve been good, I swear. We’re not doing anything dangerous, I promise.”

Kuroo clicked his tongue, “I can’t believe you’re lying to our angel.”

Atsumu extended his middle finger at the other man and said, “Uh huh. Will do. Keep us posted on what’s goin’ on with you, will ya? Okay. I love you too.”

He ended the call and slipped the phone back into his pocket. For a long minute, the apartment was silent. And then Atsumu reached behind himself and produced a black handgun from the back of his pants.

“So what's the name of the guy we're killin'?”

Asahi squeaked and hid his face in Oikawa’s shoulder. Iwaizumi shifted forward on the couch, leaning to the right, placing his body slightly in the path between Atsumu and Oikawa.

Osamu reached over and snatched the gun from his brother’s hands.

“No killing,” he snapped. He tucked the gun into his pants, “Kiyo made me promise to keep you guys out of prison.”

“Boo,” Bokuto pouted. “I thought that’s what that guy was for!” he pointed to Daichi.

“Riis, fill us in, would ya?” Kuroo looked to Risa.

She glanced to Daichi and then cleared her throat and tucked her legs beneath her.

“Well…” she stared down at the cards spread out over the table. “We broke up a little while ago, as you know. And…” her eyes darted to Daichi and then away. “And a guy that has been after me decided to start bullying him, thinking I’d appreciate it, or something.”

“So it’s your fault.”

“It’s not—” she hesitated and then let out a huff. “It’s partially my fault. I never should have complained to Anna. It’s my fault.”

The others looked to Daichi.

“And who are you?” Atsumu asked. “And these other guys?” he gestured to the rest of the group. “Who are you people to KouKou?”

They stared at Daichi expectantly.

Should I tell them the truth?

His eyes shifted to Risa. She leaned back, out of the others’ line of sight and quickly waved a hand in front of her throat, shaking her head.

She doesn’t want me to tell them.

Why?

They were Sugawara’s close friends, weren’t they? There was no way they’d think any less of Sugawara because he had dated a man, right?

He contemplated ignoring her warning and telling them exactly who he was and what his relationship with Sugawara had been up until recently, but decided against it.

He would trust Risa for the time being.

“We’re friends,” Daichi said softly. “Just friends.”

And the words felt wrong in his mouth.


 

“You and Sawamura-san broke up?”

Sugawara hummed, propping his ankles up on the arm rest of the couch on which he was stretched.

“I dumped him,” he said, lifting his bottle of vodka to his lips. “For his protection. Aren’t I a great guy?”

Yousuke hesitated before repeating, “For his protection? Is that really necessary? You do know who he is… right?”

“The handsome and smart and sweet and amazing Sawamura Daichi!” Sugawara thrust the vodka into the air. “Too good for me Sawamura Daichi!”

“So… you do know?”

Sugawara rolled onto his side and blinked lethargically at him, “C’mon, Yousuke. Think. How can I kill Akaashi Rei?”

Yousuke leaned his elbow on the coffee table and scratched the side of his neck, “I dunno… he’s got Daddy armor. For as long as I’ve known the guy, he’s never gotten in trouble for the fucked up shit that he’s done.”

“I can make it look like an accident,” Sugawara set the vodka down on the floor and then slithered off of the couch. “I’ll rent a car under an alias, then wait for him outside his house and then BAM! I’ll run him over! Then back up. And run over him again. And again,” he slumped his chest over the table. “I’m sure I’ll have to do it several times, since he’s like a big fucking gorilla and probably won’t die that easily.”

“Uhh… yeah maybe…”

“Or!” Sugawara reached across the table and poked him in the forehead. “I’ll join the military, okay? Then, I’ll call in a fake terrorist attack and leave hints that my name is Akaashi Rei, then they’ll send me in a super cool fighter jet to bomb his stupid fucking face with one of those big ass missiles!” He pushed up on his hands, face brightening, “Or maybe I’ll volunteer at the hospital and wait for the day that he comes in to get his flu shot, then I’ll replace the vaccine with anthrax!”

“These plans sound like they’ll take a long time.”

Sugawara lowered to the table again, resting his cheek on the wood. He hummed, “You’re right. Maybe I’ll just buy a gun and shoot him. I’ll go to prison… but at least he’ll be gone. And Daichi will be safe. Ah… maybe I should shoot Hashimoto Jirou too. And the others.”

“Why don’t you just ask Sawamura-san to help?” Yousuke wondered. “With his connections, he could—”

“I won’t ask for help,” Sugawara said firmly. “I’m going to solve this problem on my own.”

Yousuke frowned, “What about those friends you just called? You don’t even want to ask them?”

“Especially not them!” Sugawara straightened and leaned back against the couch. “Those guys go overboard!”

Yousuke’s red eyebrows furrowed and his eyes narrowed, “More overboard than… shooting him with a missile?”

“Way more,” he nodded seriously. “You don’t know those guys. They’re crazy. Did you hear about the shopping mall incident of 2014?”

Yousuke’s eyes widened, “The one with the mannequins and the tequila?”

“That was all them. Don’t tell anyone though. They managed to avoid getting caught for that one,” Sugawara lifted the vodka and stared at the clear liquid sloshing around the bottom of the bottle.

Yousuke was silent for a long minute before saying, “Okay. So we won’t ask them then.”

Sugawara smiled. The use of we wasn’t lost on him.

“So the main thing is finding a way to get revenge on Rei without getting thrown into prison, right?” he went on, drumming his fingers on the table.

“Not getting thrown in prison is optional,” Sugawara said, taking another sip from the bottle.

“No I don’t think it is,” Yousuke leaned back on the heels of his hands. “Okay, so… let’s think. What’s the one thing that you have over Rei?”

“I fucked Risa.”

“You fucked Risa…”

“And he’s totally hot for Risa but she won’t fuck him,” Sugawara went on. “He’s just a jealous prick. Big baby. Piece of shit.”

“So…” Yousuke cocked an eyebrow, “What are the chances that you could maybe get back together with Risa then?”

Sugawara stared down into the bottle.

“Get back… with Risa?”

“Not forever, obviously,” Yousuke leaned forward. “But what if you got back together with her for just a little while, to rub dirt in Rei’s wounds?”

“Dirt…” Sugawara lowered the bottle to the floor once more. “No… more like salt. I’ll fuck Risa right in front of him.”

“Err… well… I mean… that’s a little—”

“Perfect,” Sugawara’s lips pulled tight in a sly smirk. “It’s perfect.”


 

“So Koushi’s been getting bullied,” Kuroo said, folding his arms in front of him on the table. “What are we talking here? Like… stealing his lunch money and giving him wet willies in the hallway?”

“What kind of juvenile bullying have you witnessed in your life?” Oikawa scowled.

“Well that’s the kind of shit people did back in high school,” Atsumu shrugged. “Though now that I think about it, maybe they were too afraid of us to do anything worse…”

“This is worse than high school,” Risa said firmly. “You guys didn’t see him a few weeks ago. He had a broken hand, and bruises all over his face… and around his neck…”

What?” Bokuto snapped. “You mean this guy is fuckin’ beating on him? Why didn’t you tell us that sooner? Where does he live? Let’s take care of this right now!”

“You can’t just barge in, guns blazing,” Risa insisted. “This guy is the son of the police commissioner! I’ll bet you all the money in the world that you guys will get tossed in prison while he walks free of all charges.”

“He won’t be walking anywhere if he’s dead,” Kuroo said in a low voice.

Daichi liked the way he thought.

“Just shut up and listen,” Risa commanded. She sat up on her heels and glared around the table. “I’ve already done enough to Koushi to make him hate me. I’m not going to get you jackasses thrown in prison too. Besides, Kiyoko and Eita would slaughter me.”

“You deserve it,” Atsumu muttered.

Daichi liked the way he thought too.

Risa glared at him, “Regardless of whether I deserve it or not… I’m not letting you guys go to prison.”

“How generous,” Osamu murmured, leaning his chin in the palm of his hand.

“If you’re going to go in and take this guy out, you need the police commissioner out of commission. So,” Risa turned to Daichi. “That’s where you come in.”

Everyone faced him and he inhaled deeply. Without a word, he climbed to his feet, stretched his arms over his head, and left the room. He walked into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator, grabbing a can of beer from the door.

That’s where I come in.

As if I haven’t been here the entire time, watching helplessly as Suga has been tormented.

Daichi cracked the beer open and took a long gulp from it, leaning against the sink.

As if I’m only partially involved in this entire situation.

He rubbed his eyes tiredly.

That’s where I come in.

As if it’s really that simple.

As if I have the power she thinks I have.

“Sawa-chan?”

Daichi lifted his gaze to Oikawa where he stood in the entrance of the kitchen. He glanced over his shoulder into the living room and then walked up to him. For a long second, neither of them spoke.

“She’s overestimating me,” Daichi finally said in a low voice.

“That’s impossible.”

“I can’t take out the police commissioner.”

“Of course you can’t. You’re not your father.”

Daichi lifted the can to his lips quietly.

“Do you even want to participate in… this?” Oikawa asked, brows furrowing.

“In this?” Daichi lowered the beer. “Tooru, what else am I supposed to do? Suga—”

“He broke up with you. You don’t owe him anything.”

“Don’t say that. Don’t talk like that.”

“Isn’t it true?”

“No,” Daichi turned towards the counter and stared down into the sink. “It’s not true. This is different from the others. I can’t accept this.”

“How is it different?” Oikawa crossed his arms over his chest and leaned his hip against the counter next to him. “Because he’s a man? Or because he dumped you for your own protection?” He hesitated, “Is that it? Is this a pride thing?”

Daichi scowled, “It’s not.”

Neither of them spoke for a long minute. Eventually, Oikawa murmured,

“Do you want him back?”

Daichi reached up and rubbed his eyes roughly.

“Fuck yeah,” he whispered.

Silence spread through the kitchen as Daichi lifted the beer to his lips and finished it off. He tossed the can into the trash and leaned back against the sink once more with a sigh.

“I don’t know what’s wrong with me,” he admitted in a low voice. “He keeps turning me away. Every time I try to talk to him, he rejects me. But I can’t stop. I don’t want to stop.”

Oikawa hummed and let out a soft laugh, “Sounds like you have a crush.”

“Shut up.”

“No, I’m serious,” Oikawa shifted closer to him, bumping him with his hip playfully. “You can’t stop thinking about him… even though he’s rejected you, you still try to get him to take you back… you definitely have a crush.”

Daichi glared at him warily.

“It’s nothing to be embarrassed about,” Oikawa fluffed his hair. “It happens to the best of us.”

Daichi stared down at the kitchen island across from him.

“It’s nice, actually,” Oikawa mused. “I never thought I’d see the day that Sawa-chan actually fell in love.”

Daichi’s cheeks blazed, “I’m not in love…”

“You love him,” Oikawa teased, smirking. “Sawa-chan and Suga-chan, sitting in a tree…”

“Stop,” he rolled his eyes.

“It’s cute!” Oikawa wrapped his arms around Daichi’s waist and nuzzled the side of his neck. “Look at you! You’re blushing! You like him. You liiiiike him.”

“I’m going to punch you.”

“You’d never raise your hand to me and you know it.”

Daichi pursed his lips, refusing to admit that he was right.

He placed an arm around Oikawa’s back and gently covered the arm circling his stomach with his other hand. Oikawa rested his head on his shoulder and they stood like that for a long quiet moment.

“I’ll help you in any way that I can,” Oikawa finally mumbled. “To help you guys get back together… to make you happy. Just ask, and I’ll do it.”

Daichi smiled, “I didn’t realize you were so soft.”

“Just for you,” Oikawa squeezed him. “Only for you.”

“Hmhm… not Iwaizumi?”

“Soft for you. Hard for Iwa-chan.”

“Jesus Christ, Tooru.”

“You asked.”

“Daichi?”

Oikawa and Daichi both glanced towards the entrance of the kitchen. Tanaka stood there, one hand against the wall. Oikawa straightened away from Daichi.

“What is it, Tanaka?”

“Uhm… well…” he hesitated, brows furrowing. “I think I have an idea.”

Oikawa and Daichi exchanged a look and then followed him back into the living room. Iwaizumi glanced at them and then away. Daichi took his seat on the floor once more and Oikawa sat beside him.

“Okay,” Tanaka stayed on his feet, drawing everyone’s attention. “So… here’s what we’re going to do…”

Ringing filled the room and everyone turned to Asahi on the couch. He fumbled in his pocket and pulled out his cell phone. He stared down at the screen for a long second before lifting his eyes to meet Daichi’s stare.

“It’s Suga.”


 

“Aaaaaand… sent!” Sugawara leaned back from his laptop, wearing a triumphant smile.

“Dude,” Yousuke slumped down on his stomach on the floor next to where Sugawara was stretched out, braced up on his elbows. “I can’t believe you actually have a sex tape of you and Risa.”

“It was her idea,” Sugawara said defensively. “She said she wanted to spice things up in the bedroom.”

“Still. I never woulda guessed you’d be the type to…” he shook his head in disbelief. “Fuckin’ wild, man.”

“Wanna watch it?” Sugawara pulled the video up on the laptop. “It’s pretty hot. I bet I could sell it for some good money.”

“No, I don’t want—” Yousuke’s voice dwindled away as Sugawara clicked play. They watched silently for long seconds before he murmured, “Her tits are smaller than I thought.”

“The power of the push-up bra,” Sugawara leaned his cheek against his fist.

“Your form is really impressive.”

“Thank you.”

“Very gentle.”

“Yes.”

Sugawara drank from the bottle of vodka and then passed it over. Yousuke took it and finished the rest of the liquor off, belching and rolling the bottle away.

“Rei is gonna be pissed when he finds this in his inbox,” Yousuke said, tapping a finger on the floor.

“Good. Fuck him.”

They fell silent once more as the moaning grew louder through the speakers.

“Oh, she liked that,” Yousuke pointed out.

“My special move.”

“On your ass… is that—”

“Don’t worry 'bout it.”

Risa started panting Sugawara’s name over and over again, gaining in volume.

“Fuck. Rei is going to hate this,” Yousuke shook his head in disbelief.

Sugawara smirked, “That’s the plan.”

“He’s going to try to kill you.”

“Bring it on. I’ll put 'im in the mother fuckin' ground.”

“How?”

“Err… fighter jet—”

“You don’t have one of those.”

Sugawara didn’t reply. Yousuke scratched his cheek and hummed under his breath.

Realization pierced through the alcohol fogging Sugawara’s mind and he suddenly bolted to his knees and gripped at his hair.

AAAAHHHHHH!” he let out the sudden shout.

Yousuke rolled to his side and stared up at him. “What?”

AAAAHHHHHH!” Sugawara repeated, eyes wide. He stared down at Yousuke in shock. “I JUST SENT A SEX TAPE TO REI.

“Yeah. I was here. I told you not to do it.”

HE’S GOING TO FUCKING KILL ME!

“I told you that.”

OH MY GOD. OH FUCK. OH FUCKIN' FUCK…” Sugawara stumbled to his feet and paced clumsily across the room. “Oh shit… no… no… Dude. Why’d ya let me do that?”

“I told you not to but you told me to suck a dick, Nerd. And then just did it anyway,” Yousuke stretched out on his back and let out a massive yawn.

“Yousuke. Yousuke,” Sugawara fell to his knees next to him and grabbed his arms. “I just sent a video of me fucking the brains out of Risa to Rei.”

“You did.”

Sugawara fell back onto his butt and leaned against the couch. He dragged his fingers through his hair and held them there.

What the fuck have I done?

Sugawara had just fucked up.

Royally.

He had just made the intergalactic fuck-up of the century.

And he was totally going to get killed.

Fuck.

He straightened and crossed his legs underneath him, “Okay. No. It’s fine. There’s gotta be a way to get it back before he opens it.”

“Is that possible?” Yousuke cocked an eyebrow doubtfully.

“It’s gotta be! We just gotta… find someone who knows 'bout electronics and stuff. Let’s see… uhm…” he snapped his fingers. “Of course! Asahi! He takes classes about… uh… about media? Or somethin'…” he shook his head and grabbed his cell phone from the coffee table. “He knows more about the internet than I do. Let’s try.”

“Let’s try,” Yousuke sat up and leaned against the couch next to him, hiccupping softly.

Sugawara quickly dialed Asahi’s number and then put it on speaker phone, holding it out between him and Yousuke. Several rings later, the line clicked and Asahi answered,

Hello?

“Asahi, I fucked up, real bad,” Sugawara covered his eyes with his free hand.

For a moment, Asahi didn’t reply. Then he spoke, voice frantic.

What did you do? What happened? Are you alright?

Sugawara whimpered and leaned into Yousuke’s side, “I’m gonna get fuckin’ killed, Asahi, man. Oh man. I fucked up. I fucked up.”

Suga! Calm down. Just tell me what happened! Where are you?

“Want me to tell him?” Yousuke asked.

Sugawara nodded vigorously.

“How much should I tell him?”

“Leave out the sex thing.”

“But that’s like… most of the story.”

“Fuck, you’re right.”

S-Suga?” Asahi squeaked.

“Okay, so,” Yousuke said. “We just finished off a full bottle of vodka and are really drunk—”

“That’s not important to the story,” Sugawara pinched him in the side.

Yousuke winced, “It’s important to let him know why you thought it was a good idea to send a sex tape of you and your ex-girlfriend to the guy that’s been harassing you.”

WHAT?” Asahi exclaimed. A loud clamoring crash sounded through the phone, followed by a series of muffled thumps.

Sugawara groaned and slumped back against the couch, “I’m so fucked. I’m fucked. I’m dead. RIP, me.”

Suga… Suga… how could you do such a thing?” Asahi’s voice cracked. “What were you thinking? How… how could…”

“It was Yousuke’s idea!”

“It wasn’t!” he countered. “I told you not to do it but you told me to suck a dick, Nerd.

Sugawara pinched him again, “You were the one that told me that if I wanted to get back at Rei, then I should get back together with Risa and rub it in his face!”

“Where in that sentence did I ever say that you should send a sex tape to the bastard?”

Sugawara growled and tackled him to the floor. The cell phone clattered across the room and came to rest under the coffee table. Sugawara and Yousuke wrestled drunkenly, grabbing at each other’s arms and pulling hair, legs kicking uselessly.

Suga? Suga?” Asahi’s voice called from under the table.

“You never should have brought Risa into it,” Sugawara whined, tugging on Yousuke’s ear.

“I was just trying to help!” he grabbed Sugawara’s right hand and yanked it to the side.

“Ow! My hand!” Sugawara wailed.

Yousuke quickly released him, “Sorry!”

“Sike,” Sugawara karate chopped him in the neck and Yousuke coughed and hacked into the floor.

“Cheater,” he rasped.

Suga!

Sugawara finally rolled off of Yousuke and fetched the phone. He placed it on the ground in front of him as he stretched out on his stomach and braced himself up on his elbows. Yousuke groaned and coughed next to him.

“Asahi, you’re a tech guy, right? How can I pull an email back?”

Pull an email— Suga that’s physically impossible.

“C’mon, Asahi. Don’t let me down. Rei is going to kill me.”

I’m sorry Suga. It’s seriously not possible. Once something is sent, you can’t just bring it back.”

Sugawara moaned and pounded his forehead into the floor, “Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck…”

“I told you not to do it,” Yousuke muttered.

“Suck a dick, Nerd.”

When did you send it?” Asahi asked. “Recently?

“Like five minutes ago or somethin’ like that,” he mumbled. “He’s probably already seen it. I’ll bet he’s jackin’ off to my sweet movements as we speak.”

“That’s not an image I wanted in my head, but thanks anyway I guess,” Yousuke growled and rolled onto his back.

"I didn't hear you complaining when you were watching the tape, Jackass."

"Guess I liked your sweet movements too."

Sugawara grinned, "Of course you did."

Yousuke rolled his eyes, “And you’re wrong. Rei is out drinking with Jirou tonight. I don't think he has his email synced to his cell phone so he probably won’t see it until tomorrow.”

Sugawara lifted his head, “So there’s still time then.”

“Eh?”

Eh?” Asahi repeated.

“It’s simple,” Sugawara sat up. “I’ll just sneak over to Rei’s house, break in, find his laptop, and erase the email!”

No,” Asahi said immediately, voice breathless. “No. Suga. Don’t do that. That’s a terrible idea.”

“It’s genius,” Sugawara said. “He’ll never see it. I’ll erase it.”

Suga! Don’t do that!” Asahi commanded.

“Yeah, it doesn’t sound like that good of an idea,” Yousuke agreed slowly. “It’s late. Rei might already be on his way home by now.”

“Well what else am I supposed to do?” Sugawara scowled. “I’m doing it and there’s nothing you can say to me to change my—”

I’ll tell Daichi.

Sugawara fell silent.

I will call Daichi up this instant and tell him everything. About the sex tape… about you being drunk… about you going over to Rei’s house—”

“Not fair,” Sugawara interrupted, lips twisting in distaste. “Asahi, no fair. You play dirty.”

I’ll do it.

“Me and Daichi have nothing to do with one another anymore,” Sugawara said in a low voice. “Leave him out of it.”

No one spoke for a long, tense moment and Sugawara rubbed his eyes as they pinched with moisture. Yousuke reached out and patted his shoulder.

Finally Asahi said softly, “You know that’s not true. That’ll never be true.”

Sugawara pressed his lips together in a firm line to keep his chin from quivering.

And I’m sorry. But if you don’t promise me that you won’t go over to Rei’s house tonight, then I will call him.”

Sugawara moaned and pounded on the floor, kicking his legs back and forth.

“I’ll watch him,” Yousuke promised. “I won’t let him leave.”

“Traitor,” Sugawara muttered.

Err… thank you. Whoever you are…

Yousuke reached out and ended the phone call. Sugawara glared at him.

“Traitor. I thought we were friends.”

“We are,” Yousuke lifted his phone and started typing in a number. “Which is why I’m keeping you away from Rei.”

“He’s going to kill me.”

“Not if I have anything to do with it.”

Sugawara’s eyes narrowed, “You have a plan?”

Yousuke pressed call on the phone and gave Sugawara a pointed stare as it rang.

Hello?” a soft, low voice finally answered and Sugawara leaned his cheek on the floor, wracking his mind for the memory of from whom he had heard it before.

“Keiji,” Yousuke said. “I need a favor.”


 

“It’s Suga.”

“Again?” Oikawa scowled. “Does he have nothing better to do than get drunk and call all his friends?”

“Says the guy that does literally the exact same thing every weekend,” Hanamaki said, giving him a pointed stare.

“I like to be involved in your lives,” he pouted and turned away.

Asahi looked to Daichi for guidance, “Should I answer it?”

He gulped and gave a nod, “It might be important.”

“Everyone shut up,” Matsukawa ordered as he and Hanamaki turned excitedly to Asahi.

Asahi still looked uncertain but answered the call anyway.

“Hello?”

Asahi, I fucked up. Real bad,” Sugawara’s voice came, low and breathless.

Daichi’s heart fluttered anxiously in his chest. He sat forward and stared at the cell phone intently. Asahi gave him a terrified stare and then spoke,

“What did you do? What happened? Are you alright?”

A soft whimper sounded through the speaker and Daichi clenched his hands into fists, fingernails digging into the skin of his palms.

I’m gonna get fuckin’ killed. Asahi, man. Oh man. I fucked up. I fucked up.

Atsumu gestured at Osamu, pointing to the back of his pants but his brother ignored his plea for the gun.

Asahi sat forward, holding the phone out in his hand, “Suga! Calm down. Just tell me what happened! Where are you?” he reached up and clutched at his heart. His chest rose and fell quickly and Daichi knew he was panicking, but he couldn’t offer him a word of comfort.

Want me to tell him?” that other voice spoke and Daichi’s nails cut deeper into his palms.

How much should I tell him?” Yousuke asked again.

Leave out the sex thing.

Daichi’s eyes widened.

Sex thing?

What?

What the fuck is going on?

What are he and Yousuke doing?

But that’s like… most of the story,” Yousuke argued.

Fuck, you’re right.

“S-Suga?” Asahi squeaked, eyes flitting towards Daichi.

Daichi inhaled deeply, swearing he’d kill Yousuke the next time he saw him— no. Swearing he’d leave his apartment this instant to go kill him if he admitted to touching Sugawara in any- any- way.

Okay so,” Yousuke began. “We just finished off a full bottle of vodka and are really drunk—”

Sugawara interrupted, “That’s not important to the story.”

Daichi agreed. It didn’t matter how drunk they were. If Yousuke touched Sugawara—

It’s important to let him know why you thought it was a good idea to send a sex tape of you and your ex-girlfriend to the guy that’s been harassing you.

WHAT?” Asahi shouted.

Daichi jerked his eyes to Risa, who let out a cry that was barely muffled by Kuroo’s hand around her mouth. She kicked her legs wildly, connecting with the table as she grabbed at Kuroo’s wrist.

Yes,” Atsumu hissed under his breath, leaning over and hiding his face in his knees as his shoulders shook. “Yes, KouKou.

Osamu didn’t react outwardly but he pressed his lips together tightly, eyes turning glossy as he attempted to hold back his amusement.

Hanamaki and Matsukawa laughed quietly, leaning heavily into each other.

“Good lord,” Oikawa muttered and pressed a hand to his forehead. Ennoshita snorted and covered his face with a hand.

And Daichi couldn’t help but feel relieved.

Sugawara’s groan filled the room and everyone fell silent, Risa calming in Kuroo’s grip. Bokuto patted her hair soothingly.

I’m so fucked. I’m fucked. I’m dead. RIP, me.”

“Suga,” Asahi rubbed his temple. “Suga. How could you do such a thing? What were you thinking? How… how could…”

It was Yousuke’s idea!

It wasn’t!” Yousuke argued. “I told you not to do it but you told me to suck a dick, Nerd.”

Daichi scowled.

Since when were they so damn close?

You were the one that told me that if I wanted to get back at Rei, then I should get back together with Risa and rub it in his face!

Daichi and Risa exchanged a look.

You can’t have him back, Daichi’s brows lowered.

Risa returned the glare.

Where in that sentence did I ever say that you should send a sex tape to the bastard?” Yousuke asked.

A loud clattering noise erupted from the phone speaker, followed by thumps and growls and soft smacking.

Asahi’s eyebrows furrowed, “Suga? Suga?”

Sugawara’s voice, slightly muffled, snarled, “You never should have brought Risa into it.

I was just trying to help!” Yousuke answered.

Ow! My hand!

Daichi was halfway to his feet when Yousuke rushed out an apology and Sugawara said,

Sike.

Coughing, followed by a raspy, “Cheater,” sounded through the phone and Asahi raised his voice.

“Suga!”

The sounds of struggle faded out and then Sugawara spoke, somewhat breathlessly, “Asahi, you’re a tech guy, right? How can I pull an email back?

“Pull an email…” Asahi rubbed his eyes. “Suga, that’s physically impossible.”

C’mon, Asahi. Don’t let me down. Rei is going to kill me.”

Asahi looked to Daichi as he replied, “I’m sorry Suga. It’s seriously not possible. Once something is sent, you can’t just bring it back.”

Sugawara moaned, “Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck…

And he really was drunk. Daichi had never heard Sugawara’s mouth so loose.

I told you not to do it,” Yousuke said.

Suck a dick, Nerd.

Bokuto snorted and he and Kuroo high fived in front of Risa’s face. She swiped at both of them.

Asahi took a deep breath and straightened, “When did you send it? Recently?”

Like five minutes ago or somethin’ like that. He’s probably already seen it. I’ll bet he’s jackin’ off to my sweet movements as we speak.”

Atsumu turned to Risa and poked her in the arm, whispering, “Are they sweet? How sweet are they?”

She pressed a finger to her lips, cheeks red. Atsumu grinned and turned to his brother, who rolled his eyes.

That’s not an image I wanted in my head, but thanks anyway, I guess.”

“I didn’t hear you complaining when you were watching the tape, Jackass.”

“Guess I liked your sweet movements too.”

“Of course you did.”

Daichi was definitely going to kill Yousuke the instant he saw him.

And you’re wrong,” Yousuke went on. “Rei is out drinking with Jirou tonight. I don’t think he has his email synced to his cell phone so he probably won’t see it until tomorrow.”

So there’s time, Daichi thought, wetting his lips.

So there’s still time then,” Sugawara said.

Daichi’s cheeks warmed and he tried to stifle the childish giddiness that rose at the realization that he and Sugawara’s thoughts had been in sync for that tiny moment.

Eh?”

“Eh?” Asahi squeaked.

It’s simple. I’ll just sneak over to Rei’s house, break in, find his laptop, and erase the email!”

Daichi was on his feet in an instant. He moved quickly across the apartment to his jacket and pulled it on while Asahi stammered in the background.

“No. No. Suga. Don’t do that. That’s a terrible idea.”

It’s genius. He’ll never see it. I’ll erase it.”

Daichi strode back across the apartment to where he had dropped his keys on the coffee table.

“Suga! Don’t do that!” Asahi pleaded.

Yeah, it doesn’t sound like that good of an idea,” Yousuke said. “It’s late. Rei might already be on his way home by now.”

Well, what else am I supposed to do?”

Daichi grabbed his keys and turned for the door once more.

I’m doing it and there’s nothing you can say to me to change my—”

“I’ll tell Daichi.”

Daichi paused at the mention of his name.

“I will call Daichi up this instant and tell him everything. About the sex tape… about you being drunk… about you going over to Rei’s house—”

Not fair. Asahi, no fair. You play dirty.

“I’ll do it.”

There was a moment of hesitation and then Sugawara said in a soft voice, “Me and Daichi have nothing to do with one another anymore. Leave him out of it.

Daichi stared down at the keys in his hand. He ran his thumb gently over the black key to Sugawara’s apartment, chest aching.

Finally, Asahi answered, “You know that’s not true. That’ll never be true. And… I’m sorry. But if you don’t promise me that you won’t go over to Rei’s house tonight, then I will call him.”

Sugawara let out a moan.

I’ll watch him. I won’t let him leave,” Yousuke said.

Traitor.

“Err… thank you. Whoever you are…”

The room fell silent and Daichi slowly turned back to the others. He walked up to the table, ignoring their stares, and tossed the keys down once more. He pulled his jacket off of his arms and dropped it to the ground as he sat beside Oikawa.

For long seconds, no one spoke, until finally Kuroo broke the silence.

“Alright…” he began. “So… who the fuck are you?” he leaned his elbows on the table, dark eyes regarding Daichi warily. “And why is Koushi afraid of you?”

“He’s not afraid of him,” Oikawa snapped. “Idiot. Suga-chan lo—”

“He knows I would stop him,” Daichi interrupted before Oikawa could give away the true nature of their relationship. “I would stop him. I would probably scold him. And then I would probably lock him up and stand guard outside of his room. And he doesn’t want that.”

“He said you two have nothing to do with each other,” Osamu drew his attention. His eyebrows were pulled low, gaze dull but laced with warning as it bored into Daichi. “What does that mean? I thought you were friends.”

“If Kou doesn’t want anything to do with him,” Bokuto said softly. “Then neither do I.”

“Dumbasses!” Risa snapped. “He’s your free ride out of prison. Don’t start—”

“I won’t work with someone that KouKou is against,” Atsumu cut in, lifting his chin. “We don’t need him. Let’s—”

“Then leave,” Daichi stood once more and glared down at them. “I don’t give a fuck what you people do. I don’t even know who you are or what you plan to do to help Suga. You show up out of nowhere and act like you have the right to pretend like you understand everything that’s been going on?” he slammed his palm against his chest. “I’ve been here this entire time, watching helplessly as Suga has been tortured—”

“Then why the fuck didn’t you do anything?” Atsumu climbed to his feet and moved around the table to stand in front of him. He was slightly taller than Daichi and used the extra height against him, moving close and glaring down at him with dark eyes. “You’ve been here the entire time, right? So then why haven’t you stopped this guy already? Why did Riis even need to call for us in the fuckin’ first place?”

Daichi’s fingertips tingled and he gritted his teeth.

It infuriated him that he was right.

He was right.

Daichi had been by Sugawara’s side the entire time and he hadn’t been able to do a single thing to help him. He had senselessly followed his commands, hanging back and merely watching as Rei did as he pleased.

Daichi was just as much to blame as the rest of the bastards.

His lips twisted and he leaned towards Atsumu, “Do whatever the fuck you want,” he hissed. “Take your little…” his eyes darted to Risa and then back. “Friend with you, and do whatever the fuck you want. I’m sure Suga will be oh so grateful when you wind up in fucking prison for the rest of your pathetic lives.”

Atsumu’s fingers wrapped around the front of Daichi’s shirt.

“Get off your fuckin’ high horse,” he sneered. “Who the fuck do you think you are? You knew about this longer… so what? You think you’re better than us? If we had been here, we would’ve—”

“You would’ve been completely ignorant, like I was, as he hid everything from you,” Daichi said in a low voice. “You would’ve been in the dark, with me, as he made excuse after excuse and brushed off every bruise.” Daichi reached up and grabbed Atsumu’s wrist, “You’d be feeling just as worthless and pathetic as I do right now.”

The room fell silent as the two held the other’s stare, neither backing down.

Finally, Tanaka stepped forward.

“Stop,” he said. “Stop. Daichi. You’re not to blame. And neither are these guys. If anything… it’s my fault. I knew about it the entire time but I let him convince me to keep it a secret from—”

“It’s not your fault,” Daichi interrupted, not taking his eyes from Atsumu. “You helped him when I—”

Oh knock it off!” Oikawa leapt to his feet and grabbed Atsumu’s and Daichi’s shoulders, shoving them apart. “Every last one of you is to blame!” Daichi and Atsumu stumbled backwards. Oikawa turned to Atsumu, “You! You’re to blame because you are wasting time and arguing with Sawa-chan right now while your so-called precious KouKou is in danger!” He turned to Daichi, “Sawa-chan, you’re to blame because you believed Suga-chan’s lies! Ryuu-chan, you should have told Sawa-chan the instant you found out what was happening! Asa-chan!” he turned to Asahi. “How did you not notice? Are you and Sawa-chan blind?”

He faced Risa, “And you.

Risa gulped, face white as a sheet.

“You never should have spoken a word,” Oikawa said in a low voice, eyebrows furrowing over his fierce brown eyes. His lips twitched, “It wasn’t your right to say a thing. You betrayed him. You should be ashamed of yourself and I hope you regret this for the rest of your life.”

Risa ducked her head and wiped at her eyes.

“You’re all disgusting,” Oikawa took a step back and dragged his eyes across the room. “Makki and Mattsun… you’re enjoying this, making other people’s misery your entertainment.”

Matsukawa and Hanamaki exchanged a glance and then looked away, shifting uncomfortably on the floor.

“You,” Oikawa turned to Ennoshita. “You’re no better than the rest of them. You claim that you’re Suga-chan’s friend, and yet you act like getting involved with him and his struggle is nothing but a pain in your ass.”

Ennoshita pursed his lips and leaned back against the couch.

Oikawa’s lecture wasn’t over. He faced the other three sitting across the coffee table.

“You three are the same as this one,” he gestured at Atsumu. “You’re sitting here, drinking, playing cards, and slinging accusations at Sawa-chan instead of concentrating on what’s really important.” He lifted his chin and crossed his arms over his chest, “The only person in this room that is completely blameless is Iwa-chan.”

Iwaizumi straightened in surprise at being brought into the conversation.

“While you’ve all been sitting around with your thumbs up your asses,” Oikawa said. “Iwa-chan has been the only one to actually help at all. He drew first blood on that Rei bastard before he had ever even met Suga-chan! When he saw Suga-chan being attacked, he didn’t ask a single question! He didn’t point any fingers at anyone other than who he saw doing it with his own eyes!” Oikawa lowered his arms to his sides, hands squeezed into fists. “Iwa-chan has the least amount of connection to this entire situation and he’s done more than every single one of you sons of bitches! You should be ashamed!” He stomped his foot, “Shame on all of you!”

For a long minute, not a single person spoke. Daichi felt rightfully put into his place. He lifted a hand and rubbed his eyes tiredly, embarrassment and shame spreading slowly through his chest.

Oikawa was right.

It wasn’t about any of them.

It was about Sugawara.

Oikawa grabbed his arm and shoved him forward.

“Sit the fuck down!” he demanded and both Daichi and Atsumu quickly followed the order. “No one is leaving this fucking apartment until you’ve figured out what you’re going to do to help Suga-chan!” He turned to Tanaka, “Now, Ryuu-chan said he had a plan, so everyone shut the fuck up and listen to it or else I’m going to have Iwa-chan whip your asses!”

He stomped over to the couch and fell onto it besides Iwaizumi, who stared at him with wide eyes. After a moment, he reached out and gently patted Oikawa’s hair until his terse expression smoothed away.

Tanaka cleared his throat and everyone turned to him.

“Oh-okay,” he stuttered, rubbing the back of his neck. “F-first of all… Daichi,” he glanced to him. “Sorry again. I should’ve told you the instant I found out.”

Daichi nodded, swallowing the lump that formed in his throat.

“And so… I thought of a plan. I don’t know if it’ll work… but it’s something.”

The tense atmosphere of the room slowly faded away as started to speak.

For the next hour, they listened to Tanaka’s plans, tweaking it here and there until no one had a single complaint.

“Does everyone agree with the plan?” Tanaka asked, crossing his arms over his chest.

“Works for me,” Bokuto said and the three others nodded.

Risa looked away, resting her chin in the palm of her hand.

“Sure,” Hanamaki said. “Whatever you say, boss.”

“I think it’ll work,” Asahi said anxiously. “Hopefully… it’ll work.”

“It’s the best thing anyone’s come up with,” Oikawa shrugged. “So I guess it’ll have to do.”

“It’s a good plan, Baldy,” Ennoshita said, giving Tanaka a sincere smile.

“Whatever,” Iwaizumi stacked his hands behind his head. “Sounds fine to me.”

Tanaka turned to Daichi.

“Daichi?”

He was silent for a long moment, the urge to argue roiling in his gut. He wanted to disagree. He wanted to demand they think of something else. It didn’t feel right.

It didn’t feel right.

But everyone had finally come together to make a decision.

And Daichi couldn’t bring himself to ruin it because of his own childish desire for revenge.

“Alright,” he muttered. “Let’s do it.”


 

Keiji’s heart thundered painfully in his chest the entire taxi ride home.

Please make it in time.

Please make it in time.

When he had seen the familiar number pop up on the screen of his cell phone earlier, he had been tempted to reject the call. Amari Yousuke wasn’t as bad as Rei’s other friends. He only taunted Keiji at the prompting of Rei and the others and had always looked somewhat remorseful afterwards. They had even shared a few sincere conversations in the past when his brother wasn’t around.

Even so… Keiji wouldn’t say that he necessarily trusted the man. If given the opportunity, he would forget all about him and the rest of Rei’s terrible friends. He would never willingly associate with a single one of them.

But his curiosity had gotten the best of him.

Yousuke hadn’t been hanging around with Rei like he used to. When they gathered at the house, the lanky redhead was nowhere to be found and no one seemed to speak about his absence.

And Keiji was curious as to why.

He never would have thought it was because of Sugawara Koushi.

Small world, Keiji had thought when Yousuke had opened with the plea of, “Sugawara and I need your help.

So there he was, rushing home from Kenma’s house to delete an email containing a video that could very well send Akaashi Rei spiraling into a fit of fury from which nothing could drag him.

Who would have thought that Sugawara Koushi had the balls to send a sex tape to his biggest oppressor and admirer of the woman with whom he was making love?

Sugawara Koushi was much braver than Keiji ever imagined.

Braver than me, he admitted.

By a long shot.

Because even though it was his house that the taxi was pulling up to, he was afraid to enter.

What if Rei was already inside?

What if he had already seen the video and was on his way to Sugawara’s house to kill him? He had gone out drinking with Jirou that night, which meant there was a good chance that he was drunk.

Which meant killing Sugawara wasn’t completely out of the question.

Please make it in time.

Keiji paid the taxi driver and climbed out onto the sidewalk. He rushed to the front door before his nerves could get the better of him and went inside. He kicked his shoes off at the entrance and bolted down the hallway to the stairs. He took them two at a time to the second floor and froze.

He stared, wide-eyed at the door at the end of the hall.

It had been closed when he had left earlier.

It was open now.

Keiji didn’t move. He held his breath as the dark shadow of his older brother appeared in the doorway.

Rei strode down the hallway in his direction. He didn’t slow as he neared Keiji, reaching out with one large hand and grabbing him by the shoulder before roughly shoving him to the side and into the wall.

Keiji crashed to the floor and pressed back against the wall, watching in terror as Rei passed him down the stairs, eventually disappearing from view. Keiji gulped and leaned forward, peeking down the hall towards Rei’s bedroom. Inside he could see the glow of his laptop, the shaky movement of a video playing across the screen.

A loud WHAM echoed through the house as Rei slammed the front door.

Keiji clutched at his jumping heart and gulped for breath.

Too late.

He was too late.

Chapter Text

“I’m dead. I’m dead. I’m so totally dead.”

Yousuke watched Sugawara pace his living room, hands gripping his head with white knuckles.

I’m dead. I’m dead,” he whispered, pausing by the window. “He’s on his way over here. I’m dead.”

Yousuke gulped and climbed to his feet.

“No you’re not,” he said firmly. “C’mon. Get a bag, pack it with clothes and anything you need… your books and wallet and phone charger…” he walked over to the couch and pulled the phone charger out of the wall next to it. “Quick, we don’t have any time to waste.”

“What?” Sugawara turned towards him. “Where…”

“You’re going to stay with me,” Yousuke decided, rolling up the charger and thrusting it into his pocket. He went to the coffee table and started collecting Sugawara’s textbooks. He shoved them into his messenger bag, followed by notebooks.

“With you?”

“You got a better idea?” Yousuke closed the bag and slung it over his shoulder. “Rei is coming here. You need to leave. Now.” When Sugawara hesitated again, Yousuke barked, “What are you waiting around for? Move!

Sugawara jumped and whirled. He bolted down the hallway and disappeared into a room at the end of it. Yousuke inhaled deeply and dragged a hand through his hair, pushing it out of his face.

So he had a temporary solution. Let Sugawara crash at his place for the next few days. But then what? This wasn’t something that would blow over in a week. Rei wouldn’t stop until he got his revenge. Which meant that it didn’t matter where Sugawara was sleeping. He would stalk him like an animal until he sunk his teeth into his throat.

But Yousuke wasn’t going to let that happen.

From this point on he was on full Save Sugawara duty. He was taking it upon himself to protect him.

At all costs.

Even if it meant throwing himself between Sugawara and Rei when things turned violent.

Yousuke gulped.

He would do it. He owed that much to Sugawara. After everything he had done… he would even die if it meant protecting the man from the monster that was Yousuke’s former "master."

Maybe that was being dramatic. But it didn’t matter.

Over the past several hours, Sugawara had shown him kindness… instantly bringing him close to his heart, accepting him and trusting him…

And laughing with him.

Yousuke had laughed more in the past few hours than he had in years.

And it felt like it had always been this way. It felt like Yousuke and Sugawara had always been friends. It was as if Yousuke knew him... understood him. And Sugawara knew and understood him too. And how was that possible? How was it possible that even after everything that had happened between them, Sugawara could brush it all aside and treat him as if none of it had ever transpired? How could he open up to him so effortlessly?

Sugawara had forgiven him without ever giving it a second thought.

And if Sugawara could forgive Yousuke... then maybe he, too, could forgive himself.

But only if he was able to protect him.

Yousuke wandered around the living room and kitchen, searching for anything that Sugawara might also want to take with him when they left. A minute later, Sugawara appeared once more, panting, dragging a bag along the floor behind him.

“I think that’s enough,” he huffed, dropping the bag and pulling a hoodie over his head. Yousuke walked over to him and grabbed his bag, slinging it over his other shoulder.

“Ah,” Sugawara reached for it. “I can—”

“C’mon,” Yousuke turned and strode to the door. “We gotta leave now.”

Sugawara chased after him and they both shoved their feet into their shoes.

“I can carry my bags,” Sugawara offered but Yousuke ignored him again, reaching for the door handle.

“Wait,” he murmured. “I’ll check if the coast is clear first.”

Sugawara held back as Yousuke cracked the door open and peered out onto the balcony, illuminated by the orange hue of the streetlamp. The night was silent and still…

And unnerving.

Yousuke inhaled deeply and opened the door further, poking his entire head out and checking the other direction. The balcony was empty and the street beyond was dark and quiet.

“Okay,” he whispered, “Let’s go,” he stepped outside and Sugawara followed close behind. Yousuke waited impatiently as he locked the door and then they both slunk as quietly as their still mildly intoxicated minds allowed their feet to carry them. Yousuke led the way down to the sidewalk and then paused.

“Rei’s house is that direction,” he pointed to the left. “So that’s the direction he’d be coming from.”

“So then we’ll be going this direction?” Sugawara pointed to the right.

Yousuke hesitated, “No… it’ll be faster if we go straight.”

Sugawara was silent and Yousuke glanced at him over his shoulder. He stared straight ahead at the dark street.

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

Sugawara’s gaze wavered to the sidewalk, “Do we have to go straight?”

Yousuke blinked, “It’s faster. And he definitely wouldn’t be coming from that way. But he might be coming from either of these, depending on traffic or…”

“Okay,” Sugawara pulled his hood up over his head. “Okay. Let’s go, quick. Before he shows up.”

“Alright,” Yousuke looked both ways and then stepped off of the curb. Sugawara followed right on his heels and the two of them jogged across the street to the sidewalk once more, turning down the new street. Warmth pressed in on his back and he glanced at Sugawara once more.

He pulled the hood low over his forehead, wary brown eyes locked straight ahead.

“It’s going to be okay,” he said firmly. “It’ll be fine. He won’t find you. You’ll be safe. I promise. He would never suspect that I was helping you.”

Sugawara’s hand circled Yousuke’s elbow and squeezed.

“It’ll be okay,” Yousuke repeated, softer. “I won’t let anything happen to you.”

He gulped and wiped a sheen of sweat from his forehead.

“I promise.”


 

Keiji sighed and rubbed his eyes. He hadn’t managed to get even a full hour of sleep the night before. After Rei had left the house, he had been in too much of a panic to settle down. Even after Yousuke had sent him the text letting him know that he had gotten Sugawara somewhere safe in time, he had laid in bed staring at the ceiling with a painful ache in his stomach until his brother had returned home several hours later, stomping across the first floor of the house and slamming drawers.

Keiji had curled up under his covers and tried to tune the sounds out to no avail. He flinched at every loud slam and thump beneath his floor. And when the stomping moved to the stairs, and then the hallway, Keiji had held his breath, urging those footsteps to continue all the way to the end of the hall. When they slowed and then paused outside of his door, he had squeezed his eyes shut and prayed with every fiber of his being that they would not enter.

His prayers had been answered, with Rei passing the door and clomping to the end of the hall where he slammed the door of his bedroom and rustled around his room before eventually quieting.

Even with the relief that Rei had not decided to take his anger out on him, Keiji had been unable to sleep, ears straining to hear every stir from the room at the end of the hall.

Keiji yawned and slouched down the sidewalk in the direction of his home. He had gone to the library in hopes that he could find some peace and quiet in which he could study for his final exam, but the place had been brimming with students all thinking the same thing and he had been forced to surrender and retreat.

He had wasted enough time. Rei shouldn’t be at the house at the moment.

At least… he hoped.

As he neared his home, his eyes drifted off to the side where a man sat on the sidewalk across the street from the house, leaning on the heels of his hands, legs stretched out in front of him. There was a metal bat resting next to his left knee and he was staring steadily at Keiji’s house, the low sound of his humming floating on the soft breeze.

Keiji slowed, glancing at his house and then back to the mysterious man. He was a stranger, as far as Keiji could tell. He had broad shoulders and thick arms with white and grey hair spiked on his head. His large golden eyes ran slowly over the house under thick arched eyebrows.

Keiji watched him for a long minute, slowing to a stop. He didn’t look like the type that would be friends with Rei. His tight, white t-shirt was missing the right sleeve, the edges frayed and jagged. His right, muscular arm was covered in the black and grey swooping lines of a tattoo that trailed all the way down to the back of his hand, disappearing momentarily under a thick, black leather watch. His faded jeans were ripped at the knees and bunched around the tops of black combat boots.

Rei was a thug. But he and his friends didn’t dress like thugs. They were the type of posh troublemakers fueled by their daddies’ allowance that would rather blend in with society as closet bullies, easily escaping blame when fingers were pointed in their direction.

This man… he looked like the last thing he wanted to do was blend in. Everything about him screamed for attention.

He probably wasn’t a friend of Rei’s. But he was sitting across the street, staring at Keiji’s house.

So he probably had business with him, at the very least.

All of Keiji’s instincts were shouting at him to turn around and walk away. He could find a quiet coffee shop in which to study and avoid whatever danger the man represented.

But something deep in his gut was urging his feet forward, forcing him to step off of the curb and cross the street.

The man didn’t seem to notice his approach, distracted by a yellow butterfly fluttering around his face. His lips curled softly and his nose scrunched as it dipped close.

Keiji slowed, watching as the butterfly lifted and then eventually flew away, the opposite direction down the sidewalk before lighting on a sunflower towering over the fence of one of his neighbor’s yards. The man stared after it for a long moment before turning forward once more, smiling gently. His eyes flicked in Keiji’s direction and he let out a yelp and jumped to his feet, grabbing his bat along the way. He lifted and pointed it at Keiji, arched grey eyebrows lowering over his suddenly suspicious, narrow eyes.

“Akaashi Rei?” he asked.

Keiji gulped. So he was right. He had business with his brother after all.

“No,” he answered carefully.

The man regarded him slowly for a long second before letting out a hum and lowering the bat. He scratched the back of his head and then sat once more, “Move along then.”

Keiji hesitated and then gripped the strap of his bag tightly in one hand, “May I ask why you are sitting out here?”

“Doin’ recon.”

Keiji cocked his head, “Recon?”

“Uh huh. Stakin’ out Rei’s house so we can keep tabs on where he is at all times.” He paused and then gasped. He looked up at Keiji, eyes wide, “I’m not supposed to be seen. Shit. I need a better hidin' spot.”

Keiji glanced at his house and then back, “Did you think this was a hiding spot?”

He hummed and looked forward once more, “Nah. I didn’t really think about it. They told me to hide but I don’t really feel like it. I just wanna kick this Rei guy’s ass and get it over with. But we have to follow the plan,” he rolled his eyes and set his bat down on the sidewalk, leaning on the heels of his hands again.

Kick his ass.

Keiji’s eyes widened and he walked up and sat beside the man, “Were you the one that kicked his ass last time?”

He glanced at him in surprise, “Last time? Nah. I’ve never seen him before. I just came into town yesterday.”

“Oh…” Keiji lowered his eyes.

“I heard Daichi’s friend kicked his ass though,” he added. “Ah… and then supposedly Daichi fought him too but I hear it didn’t go too well because he was outnumbered or somethin’. Which is a pretty lame excuse, if you ask me. I could take on seven dudes by myself, easy.”

“Daichi?” Keiji hugged his knees to his chest.

“I only just met him,” the man shrugged. “We stayed at his apartment last night. He’s rich. Kinda scary though. So serious!”

Keiji rested his chin on his knees and collected the information.

“Does this mean you know Sugawara-san?”

The man perked and turned towards him, “Do you know KouKou?”

Keiji lifted his head, “KouKou?”

“Yeah! Sugawara Koushi! He’s one of my best friends!” he grinned wide, entire face brightening. “We grew up together! In fact we even…” he paused. “Oh wait, I’m not supposed to tell anyone about that.”

“So you came to town to get revenge on Rei then?” Keiji asked.

“Yeah! Riis is the one that called us,” he scowled and turned forward. “She said we needed to come kill a guy. So here we are. We didn’t know that KouKou was involved until last night though. Now I’m really pissed.”

“And now you’re going to kick Rei’s ass.”

“Well,” he shrugged again. “Yeah. Eventually. One of the other guys there last night came up with this big long plan… I stopped listenin' halfway through. All I know is that I’m supposed to keep an eye on his house and let the others know when he comes and goes. But I've got a feelin' they just gave me this job so that I'd stay out of their way.”

Keiji stared across the street.

This man was his ally.

“Can…” Keiji started, drawing his attention. “Can I help you?”

The man cocked an eyebrow and then smiled ruefully, “Help me kick Rei’s ass? No offense, kid, but you look like you’d get slaughtered in a fight.”

Keiji flushed, “I don’t need to fight. But… I want to help.”

“Why?”

He pursed his lips.

“What’s your name, by the way?” the man turned towards him, draping an arm over his knee.

“Ah…” he gulped. “A-Akaashi… Keiji.”

The man blinked in surprise, “Akaashi? Are you related to Rei?”

He lowered his eyes, “He’s my brother.”

“Ehh…”

“And I hate him,” Keiji’s eyebrows furrowed.

“Your own brother?”

“Yes.”

The man frowned, “But he’s your family. Aren’t you supposed to love your family?”

“It’s not that easy,” he muttered. “Rei is a monster. Ever since we were kids he’s been a monster. And he will always be a monster.”

“But… he’s your family,” the man’s expression twisted in confusion.

Keiji rested his chin on his knees once more, “Doesn’t matter. My dad… my brother… I hate them both. Rei is cruel. And my dad lets him be cruel. He cleans up after him when he gets in trouble so that his name isn’t tarnished.”

The man let out a contemplative sound.

“Being family means nothing,” Keiji said softly, staring at the front door of his house. “If given the chance, I would leave and never look back.”

“Why don’t you?”

Keiji glanced at him, “What?”

He cocked his head to the side, “Why don’t you leave? How old are you?”

“Twenty-one…”

“What’s keeping you from leaving?”

Keiji lowered his eyes slowly, “I… well…” he sighed. “I want to finish university. While I’m staying here, my dad pays for it and I don’t have to worry about balancing a job and studying. It’s… easier. I guess.”

“But you’re unhappy, right?”

Keiji chewed on his bottom lip.

The man leaned back on the heels of his hands again, turning his face to the sun. He closed eyes and said with a smile, “If you're not happy... then what's the point? Even if it’s hard or scary, you should chase happiness with everything you’ve got!”

He opened his eyes and stared at the clouds rolling slowly by, smile gradually sliding away from his face, “Not struggling doesn’t mean that you’re happy. And struggling doesn’t mean that you’re not.”

They sat quietly for a long minute and Keiji gazed quietly at the strange man.

“What’s your name?” he finally asked, voice soft.

"Bokuto," he grinned, “My name is Bokuto Koutarou!"

“Bokuto-san… Can I help you get revenge on my brother?”


 

Takeda was on the prowl.

He had been on guard ever since Sugawara had called and asked if he would pick up his mail for the next week.

No… ever since that first day, when he had found Sugawara trying desperately to clean up the vandalism on his door, Takeda had been on guard. Being on guard was only a fraction of the battle though. What was the point if he couldn’t actually do anything about the things he was on guard against?

He was an adult.

He kept telling himself that over and over again.

Takeda was an adult and it was his duty to watch over his young neighbor.

It was his duty.

Not that Sugawara wasn’t an adult too.

But as the… adultier adult, Takeda needed to protect him at all costs.

That was his intention, anyway. But how was he supposed to actually follow through with that? Sugawara was staying with a friend and Takeda was left to pick up his mail and stare through his kitchen window at odd hours of the night, trying to lay eyes on the cruel bullies that had chosen sweet, kind Sugawara as their target for God knows what reason.

He was about to do just that when he heard the loud knocking. Takeda bolted into his kitchen and peered through his window. He could just barely make out a broad shoulder of a body standing out front of Sugawara’s apartment.

My chance!

 Takeda inhaled deeply and then went to his door. He thrust it open immediately and stepped out onto the balcony, squaring his shoulders and steeling his nerves.

He instantly regretted his courage when his eyes fell on the massive man banging his large, meaty fist on the door. He heard Takeda’s appearance and turned in his direction, eyebrows pulled low over wide, dark eyes.

Takeda gulped.

“What the fuck do you want?” the man growled.

Takeda lifted his chin, “I could ask the same of you!”

The man lowered his fist to his side and shifted his body towards him, “Mind your own business.”

“Maybe this is my business!” Takeda crossed his arms over his chest. “Is there a reason as to why you are banging on Sugawara-kun’s door so late in the evening?”

The man took a step towards him, “There might be. Do you know where he is?”

Takeda dug his fingers into his biceps, “Wh-why do you want to know?”

“We’re friends,” he said tightly.

Yeah right.

Takeda cleared his throat, “I don’t buy it. You’re one of those bullies that have been vandalizing his door!”

The man strode forward and grabbed Takeda by the front of his shirt. He thrust him back up against the door of his apartment and loomed over him, a shadow casting over his face.

“You better start talking before I get mad,” he said in a low voice. “Tell me where Sugawara is right this fuckin’ instant.”

Takeda gulped, staring up at him in fear. “I… w-won’t. You… you should turn yourself in to the police. It is not kind to treat others the way you ha—”

The man pulled him forward and then slammed him back, jarring his glasses and nearly knocking them from his nose.

I said… tell me where Sugawara is.

Takeda straightened his glasses and clenched his jaw, “I won’t.”

The man’s lips twisted and his fingers tightened in the front of Takeda’s shirt. “If you don’t, then—”

“Ehh… what’s going on here?”

Takeda and the man glanced towards the voice and Takeda’s eyes widened.

Ukai Keishin stood at the end of the balcony, hands in the pockets of his jeans, cigarette balanced in the corner of his mouth. His piercing gaze traveled from Takeda to his captor.

“Am I late for the party?” he asked, cocking an eyebrow.

Takeda let out a quivering breath of relief.

“Mind your own business,” the man barked.

“Maybe this is my business,” Ukai moved slowly in their direction.

Takeda resisted the urge to chuckle at the parallel between their words.

“Can I ask what you’re doing, roughin’ up this poor guy here?” Ukai slowed to a stop at their side and pulled the cigarette from his mouth, blowing out a cloud of smoke into both of their faces.

Takeda blinked rapidly and swished the smoke away and the other man finally released him and turned his large body towards Ukai.

“I’m looking for Sugawara,” he snapped. “So unless you know where he is, I suggest you get the fuck out of my face—”

“I know where he is,” Ukai examined his cigarette nonchalantly.

Takeda’s eyes widened and he pushed his glasses up his nose.

Don’t tell him!

“Where is he?” the man shifted towards him but Ukai didn’t seem concerned.

“His place is getting fumigated,” Ukai said. “He’s staying in a hotel.”

Takeda paused.

Hotel? No… he’s with a friend…

“Which hotel?” the man demanded.

“The one on the corner of Aspen and Pine,” Ukai answered calmly.

The man shoved past him and stomped down the balcony to the stairwell. Ukai watched him go, tucking the cigarette back into his mouth and sucking in a deep drag.

“You lied,” Takeda said when the man disappeared down the sidewalk.

“Hmm…” Ukai turned towards him. “Neat trick, huh? You should learn how to do it. It might save your ass someday.”

“Well… thank you. But,” Takeda cleared his throat and smoothed his hand over the wrinkled fabric of his t-shirt. “I had it under control.”

He cocked an eyebrow, “Didn’t look like it. Did you tell him you were a green belt?”

Takeda flushed and glared up at him, “Don’t tease me.”

Ukai grinned, “Did you shout… rape! Rape! Rapist! I need help!

Takeda huffed and turned towards his door, “If you’re done… I’ll be leaving now.”

“Aren’t you going to invite me in, Sensei?”

Takeda froze and turned back to him, “How did you know I was a sensei?”

Ukai snorted, “Please. You reek of sensei.”

“I’m leaving.”

“So you’re not going to invite me in? Even though I saved yours and Koushi’s ass just now?”

Takeda paused, pursing his lips. He glanced up at him again and Ukai lifted his eyebrows.

“Don’t you think my efforts are at least worth a drink?”

Takeda hesitated for another long second before sighing and opening his door, “Come in then.”

Ukai grinned, grinding his cigarette out on the balcony floor, before following him into the apartment.

“Make yourself at home,” Takeda said, moving into the kitchen.

Ukai kicked his shoes off in the entrance and pulled his jacket from his shoulders, “So, Sensei. What do you teach?”

“Classic literature,” Takeda gathered a bottle of sake from his cupboard and two cups. He met Ukai in the living room and sat on one side of his low coffee table, setting the alcohol and cups down. Ukai took his place on the other side, leaning back against the couch as he gazed around the room.

“Literature, huh?” Ukai hummed. “Math too exciting for you?”

Takeda chuckled and filled the cups with sake, “I enjoy literature, for your information.”

“Well… to each his own, I suppose.”

“What about you, Ukai-kun? You said you’re Sugawara-kun’s boss, but I admit he’s never told me where he works,” Takeda set the bottle aside and handed one of the cups over.

“I own a convenience store,” Ukai lifted the cup to his lips. “It’s not much. Used to belong to my grandma.”

“You own it?” Takeda’s eyebrows rose. “That’s incredible for someone so young.”

Ukai chuckled, “Well.”

They both drank and set their cups down on the table. Ukai stared down at his for a long second before asking, “So… you wouldn’t happen to know where Koushi actually is, would you?”

Takeda sighed, “Unfortunately not. He said he was staying with a friend.” He paused, “Ah… maybe it’s his boyfriend? Sawamura-kun?”

Ukai shook his head, “Not boyfriend. They broke up.”

Takeda’s eyes widened, “What? But why? And now, of all times?”

“Chikara said Koushi dumped him for his safety, or some bullshit.”

“Safety,” Takeda refilled their cups. “Safety… ah…” he set the bottle aside and lifted his cup. “Now that I think about it… the vandalism on Sugawara-kun’s door had some…” he cleared his throat. “Unsavory language that would suggest that the reason he was being targeted in the first place was because he had a boyfriend…”

Ukai grunted and took his cup, “Kids are such bastards these days.”

Takeda smiled sadly, “Like our generation is any better?”

Ukai didn’t reply.

Takeda sipped his sake quietly for a moment, “But to worry about Sawamura-kun’s safety… isn’t that unnecessary? Now that I’ve finally realized who he is, I’m sure he can handle himself—”

“I don’t think he’s worried about his physical safety,” Ukai said. “But if it got out to the public, then…” he scowled. “I can only imagine what would happen.”

Takeda stared at him, “Ah… that does make sense…”

“Anyway,” Ukai sighed and dragged a hand through his bleached hair, “It sucks, but the only thing we can do is sit by and hope everything works out.”

“But why do we have to sit by?” Takeda squeezed his hands into fists. “Let’s just go to the police! Report these bullies and get them thrown in jail!”

Ukai chuckled, “Your bright outlook on life is refreshing, Sensei.”

Takeda pursed his lips and glared down into his cup.

They were silent for a long moment before Ukai sighed, “Well… we won’t have to wait long. Chikara said it’s going to be over soon.”

Takeda lifted his eyes, “It will?”

“Well… if all goes according to plan.”


 

“Hey ‘Kaashi.”

Keiji lifted his eyes from the textbook opened on his thighs. Bokuto sat to his right on the sidewalk, picking at the dirt under his fingernails with a large pocket knife.

“What is it, Bokuto-san?”

He pursed his lips momentarily and then asked carefully, “You… wouldn’t be upset if your dad and brother got… well…”

Keiji closed the book, “Got?”

“Ya know. Thrown in prison.”

Keiji turned his eyes forward, “It’s where they belong. Why would I care?”

“Well, you said they’re your only family, right? Who would you rely on if they were gone?”

He didn’t answer for a long minute. Of course he had thought about this before. He had used the excuse of “What would I do if they were gone?” to justify keeping his mouth shut against the wrongs he witnessed taking place within his own family. But Keiji was an adult. He wasn’t a pitiful kid with no family to turn to if his father and older brother weren’t around.

Not anymore.

He didn’t need them anymore.

And even after all these years, he still didn’t want them.

“I have friends,” he finally said. “Kenma’s family has helped me in the past. If I needed it, I’m sure they would help me in the future.”

“And what if they… died?”

Keiji stared down at the cover of the textbook.

“I… would not cry.”

A white butterfly fluttered between them and Bokuto leaned back on the heels of his hands.

Fwaaahh,” he let out a breath. “That’s some heavy stuff there.”

“Obviously I would prefer if they were only punished for what they’ve done,” Keiji drew his legs up, sandwiching the textbook between his thighs and chest. He wrapped his arms around them, “But maybe… maybe that’s something that they deserve too.”

“Dyin’?”

“You don’t know how many people they’ve hurt.”

“Sure but…” Bokuto cocked his head to the side, left eyebrow lifting. “They could get better.”

Keiji leaned his cheek on his knee and stared at him.

“Maybe…” Bokuto’s golden eyes drifted off to the side. “In a few years, they realize what they’ve done wrong. Maybe they feel bad and regret it. Then maybe they apologize and hope to be forgiven. It won’t erase what they’ve done but…” he shrugged. “They could change.”

“So then their sins should just… be washed away? Just like that? Just so they can feel better about themselves?”

“Obviously not,” Bokuto leaned forward once more. “They should always feel guilty about the pain they’ve caused other people. They don’t deserve to forget that. But…” he nudged a beetle with the toe of his shoe as it lumbered across the pavement in front of him. “Forgiving people feels good.”

Keiji lifted his head.

Bokuto smiled crookedly, “So when we were kids, Koushi got picked on by these guys in school. He was kinda frail so he was a total easy target. They used to push him around and throw his homework into the pond near the school.” He glanced up at him, “When we found out about it, we totally kicked their asses, right? Slaughtered them. Then, a few weeks later, they cornered Koushi again. But not to pick on him. They wanted to apologize.”

Keiji propped his chin in the palm of his hand.

Bokuto’s smile grew, “Man we were ready to kill ‘em again, ya know? But then Koushi actually forgave them. Like it was nothin’. He accepted their apologies and then they immediately became like super close. They started hanging out after school and they got him into volleyball. Then he got the rest of us into it and we played on the team together all through junior high to high school. Now me and the others still play in university and I just think sometime…” he pulled his knees to his chest and hugged them, mirroring Keiji’s position. “If Koushi never forgave them, he never woulda started liking volleyball. Then he never woulda got us into it, and we never woulda played on the same team. We never woulda learned how to work together, how to channel our energy into something productive, and honestly, most of us probably never woulda gone to university.” He grinned, “I’d probably be in jail right now. Me and Atsumu both, probably." He let out a laugh and rubbed the back of his head, dislodging some of his hair from its careful spike. "So… even though we thought he was insane and told him not to forgive them way back then… I’m glad he did.”

Keiji’s mind drifted to Yousuke. He had been Rei’s friend up until recently. He had more than likely participated in Rei’s plans too. And yet…

A loud bang drew their attention across the street and Bokuto quickly threw up his hands and hid his face, peeking through his fingers as Rei emerged from the house and walked down the path to the sidewalk.

Keiji lifted his textbook in front of his face, peeking over the top of it as his brother turned down the sidewalk, not sparing them a glance, and headed in the direction of the university. When he disappeared around the corner at the end of the block, he lowered the book to his lap once more.

“Maybe they can change,” Keiji said softly. “But someone that doesn’t think he’s done anything wrong will never ask for forgiveness. So until he can ask sincerely… he won’t be receiving any from me.”


 

“It’ll be alright,” Yousuke murmured, glancing around the corner.

Sugawara gulped and huddled at his side, eyes darting over his shoulder and forward again.

“It’s your last final, right?” Yousuke asked.

“Yeah…”

“So we get you to and from it safely and then that’ll be the end of it. Easy.”

“Easy,” Sugawara breathed the word out. He clutched onto the back of Yousuke’s shirt, “I dunno. Maybe I should just leave. I can fail one class. I’ll just take it again—”

Yousuke looked down at him, “Do you want to do that?”

Sugawara lowered his eyes, “Well... No… I made it this far,” he sighed. “I can do it.”

Yousuke peeked around the corner again, “Alright. Coast is clear. Let’s go. And put your hood up.”

Sugawara dragged the hood of his sweatshirt up over his head and then followed close behind as Yousuke rounded the corner and walked swiftly down the hallway. His gut churned and his mouth was dry and his head was pounding and he wanted to leave.

He wanted to go back to his hometown.

He wanted to see his friends and his brother and sister and his mom and dad. He wanted to sleep in his old bed and wake up without the dread heavy in his stomach that he might be attacked around every corner that he turned. He wanted to go back to how things used to be before he decided to complicate his life and fall for someone like Sawamura Daichi.

But the thought of erasing all those happy times that he spent with him hurt even more than the fear of Rei.

“Almost there,” Yousuke mumbled. He slowed at the next corner and then paused. He peered around it and quickly leaned back, pressing against the wall. “Oh fuck.”

Sugawara gripped his arm, eyes wide, “What? What is it?”

Yousuke’s face paled and he swiped at the sweat that formed on his forehead, “Rei is waiting outside your classroom.”

Sugawara whimpered and pressed a hand to his eyes, “God damn it. I’m so fuckin’ dumb. Why did I have to send that stupid video… Now I’m fucked.”

Yousuke was silent for a moment before saying, “No. It’ll be okay. You wait here for a little bit while I go distract him.”

Sugawara’s fingers tightened in his arm, “No! He’ll just kick your ass—”

“Nah,” Yousuke peeked around the corner again. “He doesn’t know I jumped sides. I told him I couldn’t hang out with him because I needed to study for finals. He still thinks we’re friends.”

“But…”

“It’ll be fine. I’ll go talk to him and pretend that I saw you at the vending machine at the front of the building. When I lead him away, sneak into the room. I’ll try to keep him away for the entire time you’re in there but…” he dwindled out.

“I’ll take the fastest test of my life,” Sugawara promised. “And I’ll leave early and run all the way back to your apartment and then hide in the closet wishing I had never left it in the first place.” He laughed awkwardly and Yousuke stared down at him. “G-get it? It’s a gay joke…”

“Are you sure you want to do this?” Yousuke asked. “We could call Sawamura and he can protect you—”

Sugawara was already shaking his head before he got the rest of the sentence out.

“I can do it.”

Yousuke hesitated another second and Sugawara released his arm and prodded him.

“I’ll be fine,” he said with a firm nod.

Yousuke sighed, “Alright. I’m going. Wait until we’re gone. And look out for the others.”

Sugawara glanced over his shoulder at the empty hallway behind them and then turned forward. Yousuke took a deep breath and then rounded the corner.

“Hey, what’re you doin’?” he called out.

Sugawara slid to the corner and pressed his back to the wall, listening for the low reply. They spoke for a few moments before Yousuke’s voice said, “Eh? Sugawara? I swear I just saw him by the vending machine at the entrance of the building…”

Their voices receded and Sugawara spared a peek down the hallway. Yousuke led Rei in the opposite direction, casting a quick glance over his shoulder right before they turned and disappeared from view.

Sugawara sucked in a deep breath and bolted down the hallway to the door of his classroom. Once past the entrance, he bent over his knees and panted towards the floor, flooded with conflicting amounts of terror and relief.

“Someone is excited to get to class!”

Sugawara jerked towards the voice. The sensei smiled at him from the desk to the left.

“Ah…” Sugawara laughed awkwardly and scratched the back of his head, nudging the hood off. “Excited to never have to come back, more like! Sensei, your course has been hell!”

The sensei laughed and waved a hand at him, “Oh shush. You know you’ll miss me.”

“Only a little bit,” Sugawara walked up the steps, ignoring the few glances cast in his direction by the five or so other students that waited in their seats.

“Remember to sit two seats apart!” the sensei called, as if Sugawara ever considered sitting next to anybody in the first place.

He found a spot four rows up and sat in the center of the long table, pulling his pencils and calculator from his hoodie pocket. He set them onto the table and then checked his phone to busy his trembling hands.

There were two new texts from Daichi, sent an hour ago, and he opened them with a heavy heart.

 

From: Daichi

You have a final today, right?

What room and time?

 

From: Daichi

Let me walk you there

I won’t try anything

Please.

 

Sugawara gulped and darkened the phone’s screen once more.

It was a mistake to check it.

Because now his whirling mind was filled with the guilt of ignoring Daichi yet again. He should just block and delete his number. Once Sugawara had finished out this semester, he was going to move back home and he would never return to this city. He would never see Rei or Daichi ever again and everyone’s lives would go back to normal.

And everyone would be happier.

Except maybe Sugawara.

That’s okay, he pulled his hood up over his head and slumped over the table, pressing his cheek to the cool wood. That’s okay.

Sugawara stayed like that until the sensei was clapping his hands.

“Alright! I’m going to pass the exam out now. Remember, no notes. Take your time.”

Sugawara sat up, pushing the hood from his head.

The sensei walked down the aisles, passing out paper packets.

“And for the love of god, please put down your name before doing anything else. This is university. If I get a single unnamed test, I’m going to have an aneurism.”

“The perfect murder!” someone called and the classroom erupted in chuckles.

“Ha ha,” the sensei rolled his eyes. “Double check all of your answers. You’re not being timed so seriously… don’t rush. When you’re done, bring it up to my desk and have a good rest of your life. I hope I never see any of you ever again.”

“Harsh, Sensei!”

“Welcome to the real world, Son.”

The sensei dropped a test in front of Sugawara and he inhaled deeply and scrawled his name on it, eyes darting across the front page.

He could do it. He could pass. He had spent the past few days studying until his eyes burned and his head was filled with nothing but numbers and equations and formulas.

Nothing but numbers, equations, formulas, fear… and Daichi.

But those last two didn’t matter at the moment. He would take the quickest test of his life, turn it in, and run all the way back to Yousuke’s apartment.

Back to safety.

The sensei returned to the front of the classroom and sat in his seat behind his desk.

“Good luck!” he sang and the rest of the class grumbled back at him.

Sugawara took a deep breath and put his pencil to the paper.

He could do it.


 

“Hey…”

Daichi didn’t lift his eyes from the file spread out over his coffee table, skimming the fine print absently.

“Hm?”

Atsumu sat across from him, leaning his elbows on the table and crinkling the paper. Daichi gritted his jaw.

“The other night,” he said, finally drawing Daichi’s eyes to his face. “That Baldy. He said something about… evidence. A video.”

Daichi inhaled deeply and let it out in a tired sigh, “Yeah… two videos, actually.”

“They show this guy bullying KouKou?”

“Yeah…”

“Let me see them.”

Something told Daichi that that was a bad idea. Show the disgusting, horrible assault videos to the emotionally unstable guy with the gun tucked into the back of his pants?

It was definitely a bad idea.

“The videos are unimportant,” Daichi turned back to the file, shuffling through the pages. “One is unusable and the other isn’t clear enough to—”

“Show them to me. I want to know what we’re dealing with here.”

Daichi tapped the table with his forefinger, “I don’t think that—”

“Atsumu you dumb fuck! Why’d you send me across the whole fuckin’ city for one stupid energy drink?”

Daichi and Atsumu turned towards the door of the apartment as Risa walked inside, kicking her shoes off, grocery bag and purse in her hands. Daichi’s eyebrows lowered.

“I didn’t tell you to go across the whole fuckin’ city,” Atsumu countered.

“They don’t sell this hick juice anywhere else than that Podunk gas station on Slater!” she stomped into the living room and reached into the bag, pulling out a neon green can. “Why can’t you just drink Monster like the rest of us?” she tossed the can to him and he caught it with one hand.

“Because,” Atsumu cracked the can open and took a sip from the mouth. “I’m a hick. And so are you, Bitch.”

“Suck a dick.”

“Hick dick.”

“Oh my god shut up,” Risa set a can in front of Daichi and he eyed it quietly. She sat next to Atsumu and produced a bottle of tea from the bag she set on the floor next to her hip, “Where’s everyone else?”

“Bo’s on recon duty,” Atsumu set his can down. “Tetsu and ‘Samu went to the grocery store.”

Risa gasped, “If they were goin’ to the store anyway, then why’d you make me get you a drink?”

“I was thirsty.”

Risa punched him in the shoulder and he punched her back.

“Ow! Don’t hit girls!” she punched him again and Atsumu returned it. They started punching and pulling at each other’s hair and finally Daichi spoke.

“How did you get into my apartment?”

Risa paused and glanced at him, “That one guy. The light haired one. He gave me your code.”

Daichi scowled.

Guess it’s time to change that.

He turned back to the file.

“Anyway,” Atsumu said and Daichi sighed. “Show me the videos.”

“What videos?” Risa drank from her tea.

“He’s got videos of KouKou being attacked.”

Risa was silent for a long moment before she said softly, “Show me.”

“You’ll only get angrier, then go out and do something stupid,” Daichi said. “Tanaka put a lot of thought into this plan, and even if I don’t completely agree with it, I’m not going to let you ruin it.”

“We won’t!” Risa insisted, leaning against the coffee table. “C’mon! This is all my fault! I need to see it!”

“We will stick with the plan,” Atsumu said. “But it’s fuckin’ infuriatin’ that we’re in the dark over here!”

Daichi hesitated, lifting his eyes to him. He scowled, eyebrows pulled low.

“We’re his best friends,” he said. “We should see what we’ve been missin’.” He paused and then added, “We’ll, I’m his best friend. Risa is a stupid cunt.”

“Ugh!” she punched his arm. “Shut up! I know! I feel guilty enough already! But none of this would have happened if Koushi never broke up with me!”

“You cheated on him!” Atsumu punched her back.

“I know! And I regret it!” She lifted her chin, bottom lip quivering. “I regret it. So just stop making me feel worse!”

Atsumu glared at her and she looked away.

Daichi watched them silently for a long moment before sighing and pushing to his feet.

“Fine,” he muttered. He moved around the coffee table and went to the TV, where the camcorder and disk Ukai had given him waited. “I’ll show you,” he said. “But only because I know how frustrating it is to be left in the dark.” He hooked up the camcorder and then turned on the TV, walking back over to the table with the remote. He sat in his place and scanned the buttons on the remote control, “Tanaka and Asahi stole this camera off of one of Rei’s friends.”

He pressed play and then turned back to his file.

Risa and Atsumu moved around the coffee table and sat on either side of Daichi, leaning back against the couch. Daichi’s eyebrow twitched.

He pointedly ignored the video as he shuffled through his papers, stacking them neatly in piles, but he couldn’t keep the voices from his ears as they rang clearly across the room.

Risa and Atsumu didn’t react outwardly for the first few scenes, except for Atsumu’s clicking tongue every time Rei or his friends snapped out a disgusted, “fag.

“What’s with fag?” he growled, lifting the can of his energy drink to his lips. “Can’t he think of any other insults?”

Risa pulled her knees to her chest and hugged them.

And then Sugawara’s voice rang out across the apartment and Daichi’s fingers fumbled in the papers.

My friends are here. If you—”

Daichi recognized the shift to the scene at the boardwalk bathroom without ever lifting his eyes.

“What the fuck,” Atsumu leaned forward. “He’s got blood on his face. What the fuck?”

Daichi stared at the paper on the top of the pile in front of him blankly as he listened to the video.

Stay away from me.

“Run,” Atsumu urged. “Just fuckin’ run.”

Sugawara cried out and Atsumu slammed his fist down on the table.

“Fuck!”

If he’s already like this, I’m not looking forward to the next video, Daichi collected his papers and shoved them back into the file. He leaned back against the couch and stared dully at the TV screen.

“Fuck, he’s gotten slow,” Atsumu muttered when Sugawara punched Yousuke and made a run for the door. “Back in the day he would’ve been able to escape no pro—” he faded out when Sugawara was caught at the door by the fifth man. “Fuck.

Sugawara was shoved back into Rei’s chest and his arm locked around his throat. Sugawara struggled wildly against him, yanking on his arm.

Atsumu and Risa were silent for a long moment before Atsumu murmured, “Riis…”

“Yeah…”

“When was his last check-up?”

“… a while.”

“Fuck,” Atsumu rubbed his mouth. “You were supposed to—”

“He’s better here! The air is different!”

“That doesn’t matter! Does he at least still use his…” his voice dwindled as Rei shoved Sugawara across the bathroom and they spoke.

You act like I’m scared of you for some reason.”

“You should be.”

Atsumu let out a barking laugh, “Atta boy! There he is!”

For a moment, Daichi almost got caught up in his energy, nearly cracking a smile. Because yeah.

There he is.

The smile never touched his lips, however, as the next scene played out. Daichi clenched his hands into fists in his lap as Sugawara was grabbed and forced to his knees. And then Rei was in front of him and Atsumu was growling out,

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck…”

Risa pressed her hands to her face, fingers cracked over her eyes, and leaned slightly in Daichi’s direction.

Rei unbuttoned his pants and grabbed Sugawara by the hair, yanking his head back, “I’m not scared of you.

“Fuck!” Atsumu sat up and looked to Risa, “What the fuck kind of people are you hangin’ around?

“I don’t hang around with him!” she yelled back. “He’s gross! I met him one time at a party and he got obsessed with me!”

“The big city sucks! I’m takin’ him home with me after this!” Atsumu sat back.

Daichi’s stomach twisted.

Don’t.

Don’t take him.

“Fuck,” Atsumu muttered one more time before falling silent and paying attention to the screen once more.

The end of the video was nearing. The sound of the bathroom door opening drew everyone’s attention and then Sugawara was whimpering out Daichi’s name before the camera jarred and went black.

And Daichi’s heart broke for what must have been the tenth time since meeting Sugawara Koushi.

Atsumu glanced at Daichi and then away, “Hmph. Well, don’t you have great timing,” he muttered sarcastically.

“Better than yours,” he grumbled.

“Fuck off!”

Risa moaned and slumped back against the couch, wiping her eyes, “I hate him. I hate him. I hate him…”

“Alright,” Atsumu sat forward. “Play the next.”

Daichi didn’t want to. Not after seeing his reaction to this video, which was tame in comparison to the footage from Ukai’s store.

“I’m not sure if you’re emotionally stable enough to watch it,” he admitted.

“Play it!”

“Play it!” Risa chimed in. “We’ve gotten this far! We need to see the rest of it!”

Daichi’s lip twitched and he stood, “Fine. I warned you though.” He set up the next video and then returned to his place between them, grabbing the drink Risa had bought him and cracking it open angrily. He took a long gulp before starting the video up and leaning back against the couch with a scowl.

Risa was sobbing and leaning against his shoulder halfway through the video while Atsumu was shouting at the TV, banging his fists on the table.

Fucking piece of shit!” he barked. “What the fuck is he trying to do? Wh-what is he grabbing at? I’ll kill him!

Risa hugged Daichi’s arm to her chest and wailed into his ear. He flinched away, lifting his can to his lips.

“I thought he wanted you!” Atsumu turned to Risa. “Why is he trying to rape Koushi instead? What the fuck Riis!

“Why are you asking me?” she screamed back. “I told you I have nothing to do with him!”

“This is all your fault!” Atsumu pointed accusingly at her.

Shut up! I fucking know that!” Risa released Daichi and sat up on her knees. “You don’t have to keep reminding me you goddamn prick!”

They started punching at each other across Daichi and he reached up and pushed them away. They fell back and Atsumu was immediately pulling his cell phone from his pocket.

“Where is his nebulizer?” he snapped, scrolling through his phone.

“I don’t know!” Risa grabbed her purse and dragged it over to her, unzipping it roughly. “I haven’t seen him use it in years!”

“You are the worst girlfriend! Take care of him. That was your only job!” Atsumu pressed the phone to his ear.

Risa reached into her purse and pulled out a small silver derringer. Daichi’s eyes widened as she popped the barrel up and checked the two bullets already inside. “Ask Koutarou where Rei is right this second!” she snapped the barrel of the gun back into place.

“What the fuck do you think I’m doing?”

“No,” Daichi ripped the gun from Risa’s hand and the phone from Atsumu’s, ending the call. He stood and moved away from them as they both cried out and reached for him. “You said you wouldn’t ruin the plan,” he reminded them. “You can’t kill him.”

“How can you just sit by and do nothing?” Atsumu yelled. “How can you just—”

You think it’s been easy?” Daichi shouted, silencing him. “Do you really fucking think that I’ve just been sitting back and enjoying this? You think I just don’t care that… that…” his breath turned shallow and he stared down at the gun in his hand. “That even though I thought he trusted me… relied on me… and I felt that for the first time I had an actual connection with someone…” Daichi gritted his teeth and tossed the phone and gun to the couch before turning and leaving the room, finishing with a low, “He didn’t feel the same way.


 

Why was math so fucking hard?

Sugawara sat and watched helplessly as one after one, his classmates stood and turned in their tests.

He considered bullshitting the rest of the problems and turning it in just so that he could get the hell out of there and make it back to Yousuke’s apartment before Rei caught him, but he couldn’t fail. He couldn’t retake the class. Math was his worst subject and it had been utter hell struggling to keep up with the sensei’s pace from chapter to chapter. He was sure he could pass it if he only took his time and concentrated on the problems.

Stop thinking about Rei.

Stop thinking about Rei.

He had all the time in the world so long as he was in that classroom with the sensei. Rei wouldn’t step foot into the room with witnesses around.

Sugawara sucked in a deep breath and let it out, eyes closed.

Stop thinking about Rei.

Yousuke would distract him. He would keep him away. He was out there fighting for him and Sugawara needed to do his best too so that his efforts wouldn’t be a waste.

He opened his eyes and faced his test once again.

You can do it.

And he did.

Slowly.

But surely.

And when another hour had passed, he was the only student in the classroom and the sensei was already quietly packing away his things. Sugawara took another couple of minutes to check over his answers and when he finally decided that it was good enough, he shoved his pencils into the pocket of his hoodie and stood.

“All done?” the sensei asked, glancing up in his direction.

“Sorry it took me forever,” Sugawara walked down the aisle to the sensei’s desk and offered the packet.

“Don’t worry about it,” he took it and slipped it into his bag. “You aced it, right?”

Sugawara smiled crookedly, “Well…”

The sensei grinned and winked, “Fingers crossed.” He draped the strap of his bag over his shoulder, “It’s been a pleasure having you as a student this semester, Sugawara-kun. Have a nice summer vacation, alright? Relax.”

“Yes Sir,” Sugawara slipped his hands in his pocket and followed him to the door.

If I could just walk with him…

He paused, “Ah… I forgot my calculator…” he turned back to the table.

“I’ll see you around, Sugawara-kun!” the sensei left the room and Sugawara’s mouth went dry.

Wait.

Wait.

Let me come with you…

He bolted up the aisle to his row and rushed down it to where his calculator rested on the table.

Wait.

He snatched up the calculator and shoved it into his pocket. He turned and froze.

Rei stood in the doorway, allowing the door to close quietly behind him. His dark eyes lifted and locked onto Sugawara’s face, eyebrows pulled low.

“Caught you.”

Sugawara drew in a ragged breath, sudden jittery adrenaline coursing through his veins and making his knees shake.

“Wh-what, you’re not going to say fancy meeting you here?” he called, voice quivering. “I thought that was your signature bullshit line.” His eyes darted from side to side, searching for the best route of escape, “Ya know… to hide the fact that you’re stalkin’ me like the fuckin’ pervert you are, thirstin’ after my hot ass.”

“I’m going to kill you.”

“Promises, promises,” Sugawara moved a step to the right and Rei matched it, walking slowly in his direction.

“You’re not getting out of it this time,” Rei said harshly. “So just sit still and accept your fate.”

“Don’t believe in fate,” Sugawara admitted, glancing over his shoulder and then back. “So I apologize if I struggle to sit still.”

They stared at each other for a tick and then both exploded into motion. Sugawara bolted left and Rei followed, shoving a table roughly to the side as he jumped up the steps of the aisle. Sugawara’s foot caught on the leg of a chair and he stumbled, nearly pitching to the floor before he caught himself on the corner of the table. He pushed up again but the moment of clumsiness gave Rei the chance to close the gap between them. He grabbed at Sugawara’s shoulder and yanked him back, hard.

Sugawara allowed the momentum to throw him onto the table and then followed through, kicking his legs up and rolling to the other side, immediately leaping towards the door.

Rei cursed and chased, shoving chairs out of the way. He dropped down an aisle and cut off Sugawara’s path, lunging forward and swiping at him over the table that separated them. Sugawara lifted his foot and slammed it into the table, sending it flying into Rei’s hip and knocking him back.

Fuck! I’ll kill you!” he shoved it back and Sugawara leapt onto the table behind him to avoid being hit by it.

He threw a quick glance to the back of the classroom, far up the steps. There was a row of windows about two and a half meters up from the floor. He turned and rushed towards them, jumping from one table to the next. He could hear Rei clambering after him but he concentrated on not slipping and twisting an ankle.

At the very last table, he felt Rei’s fingertips brush his back and he vaulted forward, legs burning at the effort of leaping into the air, arms flashing out. He caught the lip of the window sill and hauled his body up.

“Where do you think you’re going?” Rei snapped. “This is the fourth floor you idiot!”

Who cares?

Sugawara panted as he pulled himself up on the window sill and grabbed for the latch on the window, peering through at the ground far below where students moseyed slowly across the quad.

Anywhere is better than here.

Sugawara yanked on the latch but it didn’t budge. He searched for a lock but found none.

Fuck,” he grunted, giving the latch another hard pull.

“Get down here!” Rei jumped for his ankles, hand swiping. He fell short and let out a stream of expletives. “How did you…” he jumped again.

Sugawara took a deep breath, lungs aching.

He would have to escape through the door. If he could just get around Rei, he could probably make it to the hallway.

He turned carefully on the sill, pressing his back against the glass, hands braced on the wall on either side of the pane. Rei panted below him, glaring up at him with arms hanging loosely at his sides.

Jump, Sugawara urged. Give me a window.

But Rei didn’t jump. He watched closely, waiting for Sugawara to make a move.

Sugawara scanned the room beyond. It was a mess. Several tables and chairs had been knocked over or pushed erratically to the side. The aisle on the far left of the room was clear but Sugawara probably couldn’t win against Rei on equal ground like that. He eyed the wasteland of scattered obstacles.

Sugawara could win against Rei there.

He inhaled deeply and swallowed against the papery dryness of his mouth.

It had been a while. He wasn’t as fit as he used to be and Sugawara wasn’t confident that he could make it down unscathed… but he was going to have to take the risk.

“Gonna have to come down eventually, Faggot,” Rei snapped.

Sugawara looked down at him, “Hey Rei, how did you like my video?”

His eyes flashed.

“I looked pretty good, didn’t I?” Sugawara smirked. “Risa was having a good time, wasn’t she?”

Shut up.

“Did you have your volume up?” he went on. “You can tell when it starts to really feel good when she starts screaming my name. Remember that? Sounded something like, Koushi, Koushi, Koushi,” Sugawara moaned loudly.

I said shut up!” Rei leapt into the air, hand reaching for his ankle.

Sugawara jumped.

He kicked off of the window sill and launched over Rei’s head, hands outstretched as he aimed for the table at his back. He tucked his head and slammed into the table on his shoulder blades, momentum rolling his body forward. His feet came down onto the backrest of a chair in front of the desk and he pushed up and off, diving over the next table and landing in a roll once more, this time underneath the third table down.

Rei let out a curse as Sugawara scampered out from underneath the table, grabbing chairs and hauling his body up. His eyes tracked a course through the mess ahead of him. He darted to the right and grabbed the edge of a table lying on its side. He tucked forward, flipping over it and onto a chair, taking a large stride onto another table.

He jumped towards a clear surface that hadn’t been touched a short distance down the classroom but a flying chair from behind slammed into his shoulder and sent him crashing to the floor, back connecting painfully with the corner of a table before he collapsed onto his side beneath it.

Sugawara coughed and groaned out a low, “Fffffuck…

A loud crash sounded behind him and he hurriedly clawed to his knees and lunged forward, eyes on the door. He was almost to the bottom of the classroom. Just two more rows and then he’d have a clear shot to freedom.

Almost…

He reached for a chair but suddenly the table beside him was toppled, knocking the chair away and leaving him exposed.

Sugawara scrabbled against the floor, shoes slipping, but he was too slow. Rei’s foot slammed down on the small of his back, flattening him to the floor once more.

He cried out as pain exploded up his spine. He clawed at the wood underneath him, but Rei leaned his weight forward, pinning him in place.

Sugawara struggled, muscles straining desperately, but Rei didn’t give a centimeter.

“Now,” he panted in a low voice. “Who’s laughing now?” he lifted his foot and grabbed Sugawara’s shoulder, rolling him roughly onto his back.

Sugawara belted out loud, sarcastic laughter until Rei punched him across the cheek and then wrapped a hand around his throat, cutting off his oxygen.

“I hope you enjoyed that breath you took,” he growled. “’Cause it was your last.”

Sugawara squeezed his eyes shut and clawed at his forearm.

I should have just left the fuckin' calculator.


 

The camera flashed and Daichi turned towards the woman with a bright smile. She shook his hand vigorously.

Thank you! Thank you again, Sawamura-san. Really… you have no idea how much this will help. You’re very generous!”

“It was my pleasure,” he said smoothly.

He charmed his way through the rest of their conversation and then exited the building to the hot summer afternoon. Once out of sight, he let out a deep breath and headed in the direction of the university.

He had just finished up the last of the tasks that Tanaka had given him.

Now what?

What was he supposed to do now? Just wait for the rest of the plan to play out?

He didn’t like it.

It was probably going to work. And it would keep Daichi out of trouble and destroy both Rei and his father.

But…

Daichi didn’t like it.

He didn’t want to sit on the sidelines while everyone else did his job for him. Though… it wasn’t his job anymore, was it?

After all, he and Sugawara were no longer dating. Sugawara didn’t want anything to do with him, as a matter of fact. He ran away when Daichi was near. He ignored his calls. He ignored his texts.

Daichi pulled his phone from his pocket, but Sugawara had never replied to the message he had sent earlier that day.

Maybe he had decided to skip the final.

He probably figured that the risk was too great now that he had done something as reckless as sending a sex tape of him and Risa to Rei.

A small smile ticked up the corners of Daichi’s lips.

Sugawara was crazy.

And Daichi… wanted him back. But maybe that was too much to ask for now.

He had said it was impossible, after all.

“SAWAMURA-SAN!”

Daichi lifted his eyes from the sidewalk.

He knew that voice.

Yousuke sprinted in his direction, “Help!”

Daichi’s blood ran cold and he picked up his pace, “What’s going on? Where’s Suga?”

They met at the corner of the quad and Yousuke turned and led the way towards one of the university’s buildings.

“I- I—” he wheezed. “I walked Suga to his class… then I led Rei away and tried to distract him so he could take his test…” he grabbed the door and wrenched it open.

Daichi pushed past him into the building and then followed him up the hallway.

“But then he got away from me and I tried to go back to the room but I ran into Jirou and he was going to go there too so I had to get him away… but then it took too long and I haven’t gotten a text from Suga and…”

They entered the stairwell and started clattering up the steps.

“And I don’t know for sure if something’s happened but it’s been a while and I haven’t heard from him and I texted him but he hasn’t answered and—”

Daichi’s heart fluttered fearfully in his chest and he grabbed at the railing, pulling himself faster up the stairs.

Suga…

Suga…

“Rei is really pissed because Suga sent him this video when he was drunk and he’s after him and I don’t know what to do. I can’t protect him on my own but he doesn’t want to ask anyone for help and…” Yousuke’s voice grew more and more disjointed as they climbed, breath wracking.

“What room?” Daichi demanded.

“F-four ten—”

Daichi bolted around him and raced up the stairs to the fourth floor. He didn’t pause as he sprinted down the hallway in the direction of the room. He skidded to a halt at the door and immediately shoved inside, chest rising and falling quickly as he panted. The room was in complete disarray, tables and chairs scattered everywhere on their sides or upside down. Two rows up, his eyes fell on Rei, on top of Sugawara, his hands wrapped around his throat as Sugawara writhed and clawed at his face.

Fury and fear jolted through Daichi and he lunged forward. He didn’t slow as he neared and then crashed into Rei, slamming his shoulder into his throat and sending him flying back into a table. They sprawled across the floor in a tangle of limbs and Daichi hurriedly wrapped his fingers of his left hand in Rei’s shirt and thrust his back down to the floor as he sat up and punched him across the face. He hit him again and again before taking a fist in his chin that made his head swim and eyes pinch in pain.

Rei forced him back far enough to get his legs beneath him and Daichi quickly rose as well, lifting his fists in preparation. Rei jumped at him, shoulder ramming into his stomach, throwing his arms around his back. The force of the tackle sent Daichi backwards and onto a table and they both slid across the top of it until their weight tipped the balance and it pitched over, sending them rolling and clattering to the floor, bodies banging into chairs and the table on the row beneath them before they came to rest at the bottom of the classroom, Rei on top of Daichi.

“You just don’t know when to quit, do you?” Rei bellowed and rammed his knee into Daichi’s stomach. He swung at him but Daichi jerked his head to the side and his fist connected with the floor instead. Rei winced and let out a curse. Daichi took the moment of hesitation to suck air into his lungs, eyes darting across the classroom.

Yousuke stood at the doorway, gesturing for Sugawara, who staggered towards him, clutching at his throat as he coughed.

Yes.

Good Yousuke.

Get him out of here.

Rei recovered and punched again, this time connecting with Daichi’s cheek. Daichi grabbed him by the front of the shirt and yanked him down, rising to meet him as he viciously cracked their foreheads together. He rolled to the side, heaving his body off of him. They both climbed to their feet and Daichi swayed, head swimming and light. Rei rushed him and Daichi stumbled back, dodging his blows.

Rei let out a growl and grabbed a chair. He hurled it in Daichi’s direction and he quickly threw up his arms, guarding his face. The chair connected painfully with his forearms and then clattered to the ground. Rei darted in and landed a harsh punch to his chin and Daichi’s teeth clacked. His heel skidded on the leg of the chair and he pitched backwards in between two fallen tables.

Rei attempted to come down on top of him once more but Daichi’s leg flashed out and he kicked him roughly in the chest and thrust up and to the side, sending him clattering into the table. It screeched loudly as it slid across the floor. Daichi pushed up and lunged at him, getting his arms around his chest and wrenching to the side to drag him down to the floor, knee coming up and narrowly missing his mark between his legs and connecting instead with his stomach. He planted a hand roughly against his collar and held him down, leaning his weight into it, and repeatedly punched his face until blood appeared on his knuckles.

And Daichi didn't know who it belonged to.

And Daichi didn't care who it belonged to.

Rei fought back, fists swinging, legs kicking. He grabbed Daichi’s forearm and held it tight with one hand, making a fast swipe at his elbow with his other. Daichi deflected the blow before it could connect and snap his bone in half, and then wrenched his hand from his hold, leaning a knee down in his sternum to keep him in place as he leaned away from his clawing fingers.

Daichi knocked his hands away and then bowed over him, hands wrapping tightly around his throat. He squeezed and Rei’s wide eyes grew wider. He punched wildly at his face, bucking beneath him.

How do you like it?

How the fuck do you like it?

Daichi clenched his teeth and ignored Rei’s haywire blows.

He could end it now.

He could get rid of Rei today and end everything. Sugawara would be safe. The world would be a better place without this scrap of human waste existing in it.

He could end it…

Rei gripped at his shirt and yanked until the fabric ripped at the collar. His face morphed into a disgusting shade of purple, whites of his eyes turning bloodshot, and Daichi’s stomach churned.

He could…

He could…

“D-Daichi!”

Daichi hesitated, grip on Rei’s throat loosening.

“Daichi… st-stop. It’s enough…”

Daichi’s fingers trembled and then he pulled his hands away, panting heavily as sickening adrenaline jolted through his veins and sour bile rose in the back of his throat. Rei coughed and gasped, head falling back to the floor, eyelids sliding shut. His mouth gaped open, sucking in oxygen with a horrible wheezing groan.

Daichi’s body shook and looked in the direction of the voice. Sugawara stood a few meters away, eyebrows furrowed worriedly over his wide brown eyes. He reached a hand timidly towards him.

“It’s enough,” he said gently. “Don’t… don’t do anything more.”

It wasn’t enough.

It wasn’t.

But Daichi had promised not to ruin the plan. No matter how much he wanted to kill Rei with his own hands… he couldn’t. He inhaled deeply and attempted weakly to stand.

Rei’s fist flashed out and struck his cheek, knocking him onto his back. Pain jolted up his spine from his tailbone and he immediately rolled to his side, spitting blood from his bitten tongue onto the floor.

Rei stood and kicked him in the stomach, shoving him onto his back once more.

Fucking…” he kicked him again. “How dare you touch me?

He suddenly stumbled to the side, Sugawara on his back. He wrapped one arm around his throat and locked it in place with his other, teeth bared, face twisted into a mask of rage.

Rei whipped left and right and then reached up and grabbed the back of Sugawara’s hoodie. He yanked it roughly up and bent forward, dragging Sugawara’s body over his shoulders and then slamming him down to the floor.

Suga—” Daichi scrabbled to his feet, stomach and back aching.

Rei lifted his foot above Sugawara’s head and drove it down. Sugawara rolled away from the blow and jumped to his feet, backing up swiftly. Daichi clutched his side and panted as Rei turned towards Yousuke, who stood just inside the classroom, watching with wide eyes.

“Yousuke,” he barked. “What’re you fucking waiting for? Grab him!” he pointed angrily at Sugawara, who glared back, lips curled in a sneer.

Yousuke’s eyes darted between them helplessly for a long moment and Rei’s back straightened.

Yousuke,” he repeated, voice lowered. “I said… grab that fucking faggot right this fucking second.

Yousuke sucked in a ragged breath and then straightened his shoulders, “N-no.”

Rei’s eyes flashed and he took a step towards him, lifting his fist, “You fucking traitor!

Sugawara jumped between them and thrust his arms out wide. Daichi’s breath hitched and he took another hasty step forward.

“What is this…” Rei paused and lowered his fist. “You two are suddenly friends? After everything he’s done to you?”

Sugawara lifted his chin, lips pressed in a hard line.

“What…” Rei let out a snort, “Are you suckin’ each other’s dicks or somethin’?” He sneered, “Huh, Yousuke? Is that what’s goin’ on? Did he let you fuck his ass?”

Yousuke’s nose twitched and his eyebrows furrowed angrily, “Enough already!” his voice echoed through the room. “Just stop! He’s a human being and he deserves to be treated like one!”

“Oh so now you suddenly have a conscience?” Rei let out a barking laugh. “Must have been some good ass.”

Daichi gritted his teeth, hands clenched into tight fists.

Yousuke opened his mouth to argue once more but this time, Sugawara’s voice rang out.

“Careful, Rei. Your envy is showing.”

Rei hesitated and then clicked his tongue, “Disgusting.” He shoved his hands into the pockets of his jeans and turned for the door. “Since some people got in the way this time, I’ll postpone this for another day,” he paused in the doorway and glanced over his shoulder. “Enjoy that ass while it’s still around, fags.”

“Okay,” Sugawara called, cupping his mouth with both hands. “In the meantime, think of some different insults. That one has lost its bite. It’s just kind of sad at this point.”

Rei left the room, slamming the door behind him.

For a long minute, no one spoke. Daichi inhaled deeply and watched the strength leave Sugawara’s shoulders as he seemed to collapse in on himself, face growing weary as his eyes fell to the floor. Yousuke put a slow hand on his back, eyebrows furrowed worriedly.

Daichi reached up and rubbed his eyes. He hurt everywhere. His knuckles were covered in blood and his face ached, tongue throbbing where he had bitten it. He felt sick to his stomach and… tired.

Fucking exhausted.

He turned slowly and limped over to a table lying on its side. He weakly began to straighten the room, erasing the evidence of what had happened there. After a few seconds, Yousuke and Sugawara joined him and Daichi didn’t even have the strength to order them to leave the task to him. When the classroom was back in place, Daichi wiped the blood from his knuckles on the front of his shirt, dreading the stares he was going to receive on his way home.

He reached up and rubbed his eyes again and when he lowered his hand, Sugawara was standing directly in front of him. He gulped.

Sugawara examined his face quietly for a moment and then reached into the pocket of his hoodie. He pulled out two broken pencils and a cracked graphing calculator and set them down on the table to their left. He lifted the hem of his hoodie and pulled it off. He shook it out and then lifted it up and over Daichi’s head.

He allowed him to pull his arms through the sleeves and then straighten it around his torso, resisting the urge to gather him against his chest and hold him until the sick fear finally faded from deep within his gut. Daichi watched him silently as he reached up and fixed the hood behind his neck and then trailed his fingers around the folds of the fabric to his collar. His hands slowly fell away from the clothing and his eyes lowered. He rubbed them with the back of his hand and whispered, chin trembling,

“’M sorry,” before turning and leaving the room.

Yousuke hesitated, glancing at Daichi.

He sighed and waved him off.

“Go,” he said tiredly. “Make sure he doesn’t get attacked again.”

Yousuke nodded and ran after Sugawara.

Daichi leaned against a table and cradled his jaw in one hand, eyes closed.

What a fuckin’ mess.


 

“Ugh…” Sugawara rubbed at his cheeks with both hands, scrubbing away the tears. “Ugh. This fuckin’ sucks. This sucks. Damn it.”

There was a clink in front of him and he opened his eyes as Yousuke set down a bottle of rum and then sat across from him at the coffee table.

“This sucks,” Sugawara said again, grabbing the bottle and twisting the cap. “I hate him! I hate him!”

“Yeah…” Yousuke leaned his elbow on the table. “Me too.”

Sugawara eyed him quietly for a moment, sniffling. He lifted the bottle to his lips and drank slowly. Warmth spread down his throat and hit his stomach like a bomb. He passed the bottle over and Yousuke drank.

“Sorry,” he said softly. “Now Rei will come after you too.”

He shrugged, “Was bound to happen eventually.”

“You could have pretended.”

He set the bottle to the side, “I didn’t want to.”

“Yeah but now you’re not safe—”

Yousuke closed his eyes and leaned his chin in the palm of his hand, “That’s okay. It’s better than the alternative.”

Sugawara rubbed his chest slowly. His lungs ached and burned.

“Sorry,” he said again. “It’s okay with me because I can leave. I can go back home.”

Yousuke’s eyes cracked open.

“But you…” he pursed his lips and then straightened, “That settles it! You can just come with me!”

Yousuke’s eyebrows lifted and he let out a laugh, “Go with you? To your parents’ house?”

“We’ll make something up,” Sugawara flapped his hand. “We’ll tell them… your house burned down and you need somewhere to stay!”

Yousuke rolled his eyes, “Yeah. Sounds like a great plan.”

“It is!” Sugawara smiled brightly.

He laughed again and lifted the bottle of rum. He twirled it gently, staring at the golden liquid inside, “I appreciate the offer. But… I made my bed. Now it’s time to lie in it.”

He took a long gulp from the bottle and Sugawara hummed. He accepted the liquor when it was passed to him and took a drink. Then he set it aside and stood.

“Alright then,” he said, clapping his hands. He turned and walked across the apartment.

“Where are you going?” Yousuke climbed to his feet and followed.

Sugawara went into his bedroom and Yousuke stopped in the doorway. Sugawara walked up to the bed, which was sloppily made, comforter pulled lazily over the sheets. He grabbed the fabric and ripped it up, leaning on his knee as he swatted the pillows to the floor and tugged at the sheets until they popped off of the mattress.

“H-hey. What’re you doing?”

Sugawara turned towards him and propped his hands on his hips. He cocked his head to the side and grinned, “I messed it up!”

Yousuke blinked at him quietly, mouth hanging slightly open.

“Now…” Sugawara lifted an eyebrow. “Make it again.”


 

“Okay,” Hanamaki closed his laptop and leaned back on the couch. “Reservation made. I even requested the fancy futons.”

“Oooo,” Matsukawa pulled his lollipop from his mouth and turned sideways, resting his head in Hanamaki’s lap after he set the laptop aside. “Good one, Bro.”

“Thanks, Bro.”

“Okay so…” Asahi glanced at Tanaka. “Do I make the call?”

Tanaka skimmed over the checklist in his hands. “Yeah…” he mumbled. “Go ahead.”

Asahi lifted his phone and took a deep breath. He gulped and dialed a number, pressing the device to his ear to listen to the humming of the line.

After a few seconds, a voice answered.

Hullo?

“H-hey, Suga!” Asahi straightened in his chair. “H-how was your final?”

Sugawara was silent for a moment before letting out a snort, “Peachy.

Asahi flinched, “O-oh. Well… uhm… so that was your last one, huh? I finished all mine too.”

Hmm…

Tanaka nudged Asahi and he stammered, “S-so! The thing is… me and Tanaka, we planned a little weekend trip. To celebrate finishing the semester. We’re going to an onsen up in the mountains. Supposedly it’s really beautiful and just nestled between all the trees and the onsen itself is really big and old fashioned—”

Daichi will be there.”

It wasn’t a question.

Asahi lowered his eyes, “W-well…”

Asahi… I dunno… I really don’t think I should. It’d probably be better if… if we didn’t really see each other anymore…

“Ennoshita will be there,” Asahi said hurriedly. “And Iwaizumi and Hanamaki and Matsukawa—”

You’re not doing a great job sellin’ this trip, Buddy.”

“What I mean is… we’ve got two rooms reserved. And there will be a lot of us there. And it’s a big place. So… so you can stay in separate rooms and… it’ll be easy to avoid him.”

Sugawara chuckled, “Avoid him…”

“Don’t you…” Asahi bit his bottom lip and then said quickly, “Don’t you want to get out of town for a little bit?”

The line was silent.

“It’s just two nights but… I was thinking that maybe it’d be good for you to get out of town. So things have the chance to calm down. Uhm…” he scratched the back of his neck. “I think it’s a good idea to get you away from Rei for a little while. Until you figure out what you’re going to do.”

Asahi’s eyes flicked to Tanaka and he gave him a thumbs up.

Sugawara’s voice hummed softly, “Well…

Asahi’s heart raced, “It’ll be fun. I promise. And… and I’ll protect you from Daichi! Err… I mean, not protect, obviously. I don’t need to protect you from him. He’s not going to do anything, of course. I mean that like… I’ll make sure you guys don’t accidentally wind up alone together and…”

Sugawara’s sigh cut his stream short.

I… I’ll go,” he said and Asahi gave a bright thumbs up to Tanaka. “On one condition,” Sugawara added and Asahi slowly lowered the thumb.

“A condition?”

He hesitated for a long moment and then said,

I’m bringing a friend.

Chapter Text

“So… the big day is comin’ up,” Kuroo mused as he watched Daichi pack from his bed.

“I want to go to the onsen with KouKou!” Bokuto wailed, rolling over the mattress, kicking his feet. “Not fair!”

“So you don’t want to kick Rei’s ass?” Matsukawa asked, stretched out between the two in the center of the bed.

“I do,” Bokuto turned to his side and faced him. “But I want to go to the onsen too. Why can’t we kick Rei’s ass and then all go to the onsen together?”

“Because,” Matsukawa explained, stacking his hands under his head. “The whole point of going to the onsen in the first place is to get Sugawara away from the danger and Dai-chan out of town when the ass kicking takes place so that it can’t be traced back to him.”

“Remind me again why I care if it gets traced back to him?” Kuroo asked dully, examining his fingernails.

“You don’t,” Matsukawa said. “But… other people do.”

“Issei,” Daichi turned towards him, zipping up his bag. “Are you packed?”

“Yep.”

“And the others?”

“Princess decided he needed new clothes so he took your credit card and went shopping with Iwaizumi.”

Daichi dropped the bag next to the door, “And Takahiro?”

“He never unpacked in the first place. He went with Oikawa and Iwaizumi to make their date awkward.”

“Anyway,” Daichi crossed his arms over his chest and faced Kuroo, “My source is compromised. Did you guys think of someone to take Yousuke’s spot?”

“How can we think of anybody?” Kuroo scowled. “We don’t know anybody here. You don’t have any other connections to Rei?”

“Why would I?”

“Why would we?

“Uhm,” Bokuto drew their attention. “Actually… I might have someone that can help…”

“You do?” Kuroo sat up. “Who?”

“’Kaashi.”

Kuroo and Daichi exchanged a look.

“Akaashi?” Daichi repeated. “Akaashi Rei? The person you’re supposed to—”

“Not Rei!” Bokuto sat up and crossed his legs beneath him. “Keiji!”

Daichi’s eyebrows lifted, “His younger brother?”

“He’s been helpin’ me do recon!” Bokuto smiled brightly.

Kuroo leaned over Matsukawa and slapped Bokuto on the shoulder, “Idiot. You’re not supposed to get caught doin’ recon. The whole point is to be sneaky.”

“Well Rei didn’t catch me so…”

“You think you could get Akaashi Keiji to help us?” Daichi said.

“He’s already offered,” Bokuto shrugged. “Turns out he hates his brother and dad and wants to help take them down.”

“Nice!” Kuroo lifted his hand and they high fived.

“Well, that worked out then,” Daichi turned for the door. “I’ll let you figure the rest out.” He walked down the hallway to the living room, where Osamu, Atsumu, and Risa sat on the couch, browsing through the files Daichi had meticulously organized. His left eyelid twitched.

“If you screw those up—”

“We won’t,” Osamu answered smoothly.

Daichi passed them into the kitchen and grabbed a beer from the refrigerator. He leaned back against the kitchen island and pulled his phone from his pocket. He tapped a number out and then pressed it to his ear. He grabbed a bottle opener from a drawer and popped the cap off of the beer as the dial tone buzzed.

Uh oh,” the line picked up. “What illegal thing do you want me to do this time?

“I’m going out of town tomorrow,” Daichi said.

Hmm... that doesn’t sound illegal…” Tendou murmured.

“It’s not,” Daichi took a drink from the beer.

So then why are you telling me?

“Oh I’m sorry, I was under the impression that I wasn’t allowed to wipe my own ass without informing you people.”

Tendou chuckled, “I won’t deny that. But shouldn’t you be giving this call to your dear ol’ nii-chan? Or the Madam?”

“When have I ever given the illusion that I would rather speak to either of them when just telling our beloved middle man will suffice?”

I… I’m b-beloved?” Tendou sniffled sarcastically.

“Well, you’re definitely useful,” Daichi stared down inside the bottle of beer.

Ouch.

“Anyway. Some friends and I are going to an onsen up in the mountains. I’ll send you a picture when we get there as proof.”

Proof?

“Oh, I’m sorry. I was under the impression that my word wasn’t good enough.”

Tendou sighed, “Make sure you get a good background that shows that you’re actually where you say you are.

“Right.”

And if you could get a few of the others to be in it too…

“Of course.”

Sorry, Daichi-chan.”

Daichi didn’t answer for a long second, taking a slow drink from the beer.

“Well,” he finally said. “That’s all I called for. If you could relay that message…”

Will do.

“Thanks, Satori.”

Any time.

He ended the call and then slowly scrolled through his contacts. His thumb hovered over Sugawara’s name momentarily.

He wouldn’t answer. Whether he called him or texted him… he wouldn’t answer. It would be pointless to even try.

The sound of a voice clearing drew his attention over his shoulder.

Risa stood in the entrance of the kitchen, arms folded in front of her simple teal blouse.

Daichi gulped from his beer and slid the cell phone in his pocket once more.

“Sounds rough,” Risa said, walking further into the room.

“Eavesdropping?” Daichi tossed the empty bottle into the trash and fetched another.

“Yeah.”

Daichi snorted. He had to admire her honesty. He hesitated and then grabbed a second beer. He closed the refrigerator and walked over to the island. He set one of the beers on the side nearest Risa and then popped the lid off of his. Risa approached the island and then timidly lifted the beer, accepting the bottle opener when he offered it.

For a minute they didn’t speak, drinking quietly.

“You know…” she finally said, breaking the silence. “That day, when I showed up at Koushi’s apartment and you were there…” she stared down at the countertop before her. “Koushi told me that he no longer cared about me.”

Daichi watched her wordlessly. Her brows furrowed and she pressed her lips in a tight line.

“It hurt,” she admitted softly. “A lot. Because… because Koushi… he cares about everyone, you know?” She reached up and pressed a hand over her eyes, “He cares about everyone. But he told me that he didn’t care about me. And I believed him,” she lowered the hand again and her eyes were glossy and wet. “It hurt and I was angry and I slapped him and I said horrible things that I didn't actually mean and then I went and complained to Anna and started this whole… bullshit.

She let out an exasperated breath and took a drink from the beer.

“And I was so stupid!” she said. “Because I believed him! I forgot… I forgot how good of a liar Koushi actually is and I really believed him. I felt betrayed and left behind and I really thought I was the victim for a little while.”

She shook her head and let out a humorless snort.

“I seriously, legitimately believed that I was a victim. And that I had done nothing wrong. And that Koushi was an idiot for dumping me. I really thought that.” She dragged a hand through her long brown hair, fingers catching in a knot near the end. She set her hands down on the counter on either side of her beer and stared at it. “But once I got over the denial… I realized that it was all my fault. Duh. Duh it was my fault.”

Daichi didn’t answer for a moment. He didn’t know why Risa was suddenly opening up to him. He hadn’t given her any reason to trust him. He probably still despised her, even though she had put so much work into getting revenge on Rei, even to the point of almost going after him with her own gun.

He probably still despised her.

Because she had made Sugawara feel like he wasn’t enough.

She had made him admit with his own mouth that he wasn’t a good boyfriend.

But he was.

He was enough. He was more than enough. And Daichi had had fun with him. They laughed together. Sugawara had made Daichi feel everything as if it was the first time. He had made his heart leap and pound over something simple like holding hands.

Sugawara was the perfect boyfriend.

“Why did you do it?” Daichi asked.

Risa lifted her eyes to him.

“Cheat on him,” he clarified, voice flat.

Risa’s cheeks flushed with color and she looked away, “Th-that… w-well…” she gulped and tugged on a lock of her hair. “This isn’t something that I want to d-discuss with you but…” she cleared her throat. “It’s just that… Koushi… he’s very gentle.”

Daichi frowned.

“Which isn’t a bad thing!” she rushed. “In fact… it’s a good thing. A very good thing. But…” her eyes darted to him and then away. “He always treated me like I was so precious. So… fragile. Even more so when we… uhm…. When we were together… in bed.”

Daichi really didn’t want to hear about Risa and Sugawara in bed. But he did want to know Risa’s bullshit excuse as to why she ever thought it was okay to cheat on the perfect boyfriend.

She let out a deep sigh and said quickly, “I wanted him to be rougher with me in bed but he didn’t want to be because he never wanted to hurt me and yeah, looking back on it I realize that I should have appreciated that more because he loved me so much that he was constantly worried about hurting me but…” she rubbed her eyes. “I don’t know! There’s something wrong with me! The first time… I was drunk and I slept with another guy that gave me everything I wanted when it came to… that,” she lowered her hand once more. “And I thought that maybe if I was careful… I could have the best of both worlds. I could continue to date Koushi… who was perfect in every other way, who treated me like I was the most precious thing in the world, who took me on fun dates and made me laugh, who I had history with and who knew me better than anyone else in the whole world, knew that I was complete and utter trash and accepted me anyway…” a sheen of tears appeared over her eyes and she blinked them away. “And then… I could step out on him and get the sex that I wanted that he wouldn’t give me. And I thought… that no one would get hurt. And I was wrong. Obviously… I was wrong.”

“You were wrong,” Daichi confirmed quietly.

She sniffled and nodded, “I was wrong. And I regret it. And…” She wrapped a hand around her beer and leveled him with a firm stare.

Daichi met the stare steadily.

“I still love him.”

Daichi gritted his teeth.

“I still love him,” Risa said again. “I never stopped loving him. Not once. And I know I don’t deserve his forgiveness, but I know I will get it so long as I ask for it.” She lifted her chin, “So when all this is done and over with… I’m going to beg him to take me back.”

Daichi’s hands clenched into fists on top of the kitchen island.

“I know it’s not fair,” she went on. “Especially after everything that has happened, he’s probably scared right now of his feelings for you… it’s not fair that I’m going to take advantage of that and try to steal him back. But… I’m going to try anyway.” She picked up her beer and turned. She walked to the entrance of the kitchen and then paused.

“So…” she didn’t look at him as she said softly, “This weekend, when you’re together on this trip… you better try your best to steal him first.”


 

“You can’t leave me alone.”

“I won’t.”

“L-like, no matter what,” Sugawara grabbed onto Yousuke’s arm as they walked down the sidewalk in the direction of the station.

“No matter what,” Yousuke agreed.

“This is a bad idea,” Sugawara moaned. “We shouldn’t go. We should have just gone on our own trip. But… I haven’t been going to work… I’m running out of money.”

“And I’m always broke,” Yousuke mumbled.

“An onsen sounds nice,” Sugawara muttered.

“Free food…”

Free food,” Sugawara leaned his head back and groaned.

Yousuke lifted his bag higher on his shoulder, “Do you really think… that Sawamura will try anything?”

Sugawara stared straight ahead, “What do you mean by try anything?”

“Well… you said he wasn’t happy about you two breaking up, right?”

“Daichi would never—”

“No! I mean like… do you think he will try to get you to take him back?”

Sugawara hesitated before answering, “He… might try to talk me into it. But… probably only if he gets me alone. Which is why you can’t leave me alone!”

“I won’t!” he promised. “But… have you ever thought of maybe… listening to him?”

Sugawara didn’t reply. His fingers tightened around Yousuke’s elbow and they turned the corner. The station was halfway up the new street, bustling with people.

“I just,” Yousuke began. “I just think that you shouldn’t worry so much about Sawamura, you know? Especially now… he knows what’s going on and he still wants to be with you. Isn’t that… isn’t that nice? He uh… he understands the consequences but doesn’t seem that worried about them so—”

“I already decided,” Sugawara interrupted. “It’s better if I just leave. Daichi doesn’t even like me the way I like him anyway so… so it’ll be easy for him to forget about me. And he will find someone else. A girl. A girl that he can marry and start a family with and he’ll be happier.”

Yousuke blew air out of his nose, “That’s what you keep saying. But… I’m finding it hard to believe you. I mean… Sawamura doesn’t act like a guy who cares so little that he’ll be able to forget about you just because you skip town.”

They neared the station and Daichi’s group came into view.

“I just…” Yousuke said, softly. “I guess I just don’t understand this whole self-sacrifice thing you’ve got going on.” He glanced down at him, “It’s okay to be selfish sometimes. I think you’ve earned it.”

Sugawara’s gaze locked on Daichi as he stood in between Asahi and Tanaka, a rueful smile on his face as he watched Tanaka wave his arms.

“You don’t get it,” he whispered. “This is me being selfish.”


 

“Ah, there they are!” Asahi called.

Daichi turned in the direction of his point and swallowed hard.

When Asahi had told him that Sugawara was bringing a friend, he knew it had to be Yousuke. After their last encounter with Rei, there was no way Sugawara was ever going to be able to leave him alone. So it wasn’t that he was even surprised to see them together as they joined the rest of the group at the station.

He wasn’t surprised.

But he was slightly… jealous.

Especially when he caught sight of Sugawara’s hand circling the other man’s elbow. And they were standing awfully close, weren’t they? And Yousuke seemed completely used to the proximity, didn’t he?

And how long did it take Daichi and Sugawara to hold hands for the first time?

How long after they started dating did Daichi finally kiss him?

And Sugawara had never ended up relying on Daichi, did he?

He never relied on him like he was currently relying on Yousuke, who was taking care of him in Daichi’s stead.

It burned Daichi up.

But just a little bit.

“Finally!” Tanaka barked. “You almost missed the train, Dumbass!” he placed a hand on Sugawara’s head and ruffled his hair.

And Daichi was jealous.

“It’s not even here yet, Jackass,” Sugawara released Yousuke and punched Tanaka in the arm. He fixed his hair and dragged his eyes along the group, pausing to give Iwaizumi a little wave, which he returned with a crooked smile. And then his gaze fell on Oikawa and Sugawara took a step back, eyes widening.

“Wh-what is he doing here?” he stammered.

Ah. I forgot.

Daichi opened his mouth to explain but Oikawa beat him to it.

“Hello Suga-chan,” he fluttered his fingers. “I guess now would be a good time to introduce myself properly,” he moved to Daichi’s side and wrapped his arms around his shoulders. “My name is Oikawa Tooru. I’m Sawa-chan’s friend from high school and I’m immensely, ragingly gay.”

Sugawara’s eyes flicked to Daichi in confusion and then back to Oikawa.

“H-huh?”

“He’s also terrible at first impressions,” Iwaizumi said and slapped the back of Oikawa’s head.

“Mean, Iwa-chan.”

Hanamaki stepped forward and draped an arm over Sugawara’s shoulders, “Long story short, Dai-chan invited us over so that Oikawa could fake date your ex and then crush her heart under his heel as revenge for outing you.”

Sugawara’s mouth hung open.

“It didn’t work, by the way,” Matsukawa added. “She dumped his ass because apparently he’s the worst boyfriend ever and no one should ever date him ever—”

“Mean, Mattsun!”

“Oh…” the confusion slowly cleared from his face. “You’re the princess Matsukawa and Hanamaki were teasing Iwaizumi about.”

Hanamaki snorted into his fist and looked away. Matsukawa grinned. Iwaizumi’s cheeks flushed and Oikawa stomped his foot, releasing Daichi.

“Why do you guys always call me princess?” he whined. “I’m a man! A strong, handsome, talented, perfect—”

“Pretty princess,” Matsukawa finished.

Oikawa turned to him and battered at him with his fists, “Don’t be a dick!”

“Well, you are what you eat,” Iwaizumi muttered.

“Mean, Iwa-chan,” Matsukawa swatted Oikawa’s hands away.

“Kou.”

Everyone glanced at Ennoshita. His dull eyed stare slid slowly to Yousuke.

“Want to introduce your… friend?”

Hanamaki removed his arm from around Sugawara’s shoulders and he stepped back to Yousuke’s side.

“Ah…” he touched his arm lightly and Daichi was a little bit jealous. “This is Yousuke…”

“Gee, he looks familiar,” Hanamaki said, casually grabbing Sugawara and moving him around him. He stepped closer to Yousuke and crossed his arms over his chest.

“Real familiar,” Matsukawa slid in close to his other side.

“Disgustingly familiar,” Tanaka moved in front of him and lifted his chin, lips twisted in a scowl. “So familiar that I wanna throw up just lookin’ at him.”

Yousuke’s eyes were wide in fear and he clutched at the strap of his bag hanging over his shoulder.

Sugawara darted up and punched Tanaka in the side. He let out a groan and doubled over, placing a hand over the spot.

“Knock it off,” he snapped, pushing Hanamaki away and taking Yousuke’s arm again. “He’s my friend! If anyone touches him, I’ll kick their ass!”

“Scary,” Matsukawa mumbled.

“You’ve forgiven him, after all that shit he pulled?” Tanaka straightened with a frown, rubbing his side.

“Yeah, I have,” Sugawara answered without a moment’s hesitation. “Wanna fuckin’ fight about it?”

Daichi struggled to stifle a smile. Sugawara looked ready to throw down, glaring at Tanaka with a fierce expression.

Cute.

Asahi stepped forward and placed a hand on Tanaka’s shoulder, “Ah, let’s drop it, okay? This trip is meant to be fun so… let’s just enjoy ourselves.” He glanced at the tracks as a rumbling rose behind them. “There, see? The train is here.”

Hanamaki grabbed his bag and slung it across his chest. He bounded up to Matsukawa and sang,

We’re going on a trip, in our favorite rocket ship.

Matsukawa chimed in and they sang together, “Zooming through the sky, Little Einsteins.

They pressed their palms together and swayed from side to side, grins spreading across their faces, “Climb aboard, get ready to explore. There’s so much to find, Little Einsteins.

They held hands and skipped to the platform, still singing, “We’re going on a mission! Start the countdown! Five, four, three, two, one!

“Ah, wait up!” Oikawa grabbed his bag and chased after them. Iwaizumi followed slowly after. Tanaka, Ennoshita, and Asahi collected their bags and Daichi bent to pick his up as well, watching discreetly as Sugawara turned to Yousuke and patted his hand, smiling encouragingly.

And Daichi was jealous.


 

“Uwahhhhh,” Hanamaki spread his arms wide. “It’s so beautiful.”

Matsukawa draped an arm over his shoulders, “Not as beautiful as you, Bro.”

“Bro.”

“You make my heart sing.”

Bro.

Iwaizumi walked up behind them and let out a groan, “Get a room.”

“We did,” Hanamaki wrapped an arm around Matsukawa’s waist. “Me and Mattsun get a room and the rest of you have to share the other.”

Sugawara let out a deep breath and wiped the sweat from his brow. He joined the others in front of the inn and let out a low, “Wow.”

It really was an exquisite structure. The eaves of the thatched, gently curved roof extended far beyond the walls, offering shade to the veranda circling the entirety of the building. Along the front of the inn were large, rectangular windows, displaying the warm, traditional interior. The rock garden in front surrounded a pond with crystal clear water, in which gleaming koi fish lazily swam. A beautiful, vibrant Japanese maple tree stood to the left of a stone path, its bright red leaves fluttering gently in the breeze.

Yousuke stopped next to Sugawara, “I’ve never been to an onsen as nice as this.”

“Neither have I,” Sugawara breathed. “It’s gotta cost a fortune to stay in a place like this…”

“Thanks for treating us, Dai-chan!” Hanamaki and Matsukawa said in unison as the rest of the group joined them in front of the inn.

Sugawara looked at him in surprise.

He hummed and headed up the path towards the front door, “Thanks for stealing my credit card and booking it behind my back.”

“You’re welcome!”

Sugawara grabbed Asahi’s arm as he passed and pulled him back.

“Asahi,” he said, brows furrowed. “Can Daichi even afford this? Maybe I should offer to pay for my share…”

Asahi blinked at him silently for a long moment. Finally, he smiled and said, “Don’t worry about it.”

“But…”

“He can afford it,” Ennoshita said as he moved around them and headed for the path. “Don’t sweat.”

Asahi nodded and followed. Sugawara hesitated another long second, glancing unsurely at the inn.

How could he afford it?

Daichi didn’t have a job, did he? He was just a university student. Where did he get the money to book rooms at an inn this fancy?

“Are you coming?”

Yousuke stared at him from halfway up the path, head cocked to the side.

Sugawara let out a deep breath and adjusted the strap of his bag on his shoulder, “Coming,” he muttered and walked up the path.

Inside, the group spread out, admiring the front hall of the inn. An old woman in a simple tan and navy kimono walked up and bowed. They returned it and she clasped her hands in front of her and smiled.

“My! Look at all these handsome young men!”

“Are you flirting with us, Lady?” Hanamaki asked, earning a slap on the shoulder from Oikawa.

She chuckled and turned to Daichi. She bowed again, “Sawamura-san, it’s really such an honor to have you staying with us this weekend.”

Daichi bowed to her, “Thank you for having me at such short notice. I hope we didn’t cause any troubles?”

“Of course not! It’s a slow weekend,” she straightened. “Your party is the only one here for these two days. Please enjoy all of the facilities freely.”

“Thank you.”

“If you’d like to follow me, I’ll lead you to your rooms,” she swept her arm out and then walked down the hallway.

The group followed, admiring the sleek, traditional interior of the inn with ooh’s and ahh’s. She led them to a sliding door and opened it.

“Here is the first room,” she said and then moved a little further down the hall and slid another door open, “And here is the second. The futons are in the closet, five in each room. Dinner will be served at eight, and the outdoor baths are open all night.” She smiled at Daichi, “Is there anything else I can get you for the time being?”

“No, this is perfect, thank you,” he answered.

They bowed to one another and she left.

“Dibs on this room!” Hanamaki ran into the first of the two rooms, followed by Matsukawa and Iwaizumi.

“Sawa-chan is with us,” Oikawa grabbed Daichi’s arm and pulled him towards the door, smirking at Sugawara. “Any complaints?”

Sugawara flushed and turned away.

“Yeah, well this one is the party room anyway!” Tanaka called, extending his middle finger in their direction as he backed towards the door to the second room. Sugawara and the others followed and Ennoshita immediately tossed his bag to the side and stretched his arms over his head.

“I’m ready for a nap,” he said, padding across the room to the sliding glass door overlooking a large pond outside the inn. He slid the door open and stepped out onto the veranda, peering over the side at the water.

Sugawara set his bag down and joined him.

“Whoa…” he crouched and watched koi fish swim slowly beneath them.

“Cool, huh?” Ennoshita said, crouching beside him.

“Think we can go fishing?” Sugawara grinned.

“Well, I would hope so. Or else I packed my tackle box for nothing.”

“Suga, Snickers!”

They glanced over their shoulders. Tanaka waved at them from inside the room. Daichi and the other four stood in the doorway.

“What’s up?” Ennoshita asked as they reentered the room, sliding the door shut behind them.

“Let’s go explore!” Hanamaki thrust a fist into the air.

“Ehh… are we not going into the bath?” Asahi frowned.

“Are you crazy?” Oikawa propped his fists up on his hips. “It’s too hot for that! You gotta wait for nighttime! Nighttime!”

“I hear there’s a waterfall we can walk to from here,” Daichi said. “It’s supposed to be incredible.”

“Let’s go!” Hanamaki thrust his other fist into the air.

“Sounds fun,” Tanaka said.

The others looked to Sugawara. He glanced at Yousuke and then gulped.

“Alright. Let’s go.”


 

“I have to what?

“It’s easy,” Bokuto insisted. “You just have to steal Rei’s phone and text these people pretending to be him!” he lifted a piece of paper with six names scrawled across it. “Tell them to meet him at this place at this time,” he turned the paper over and displayed more writing. “Risa is gonna bait Rei so we just gotta get the others. Easy!”

Keiji couldn’t even begin to list all the reasons why that was most definitely not easy. In fact, it was near impossible. He shook his head vigorously.

“Bokuto-san… I can’t. I definitely can’t do that.”

Bokuto slowly lowered the paper, “But… you said you wanted to help…”

“I do!” Keiji glanced across the street to his house. “I do want to help. But… don’t you think that’s too dangerous? If I get caught… Rei will kill me.”

“So don’t get caught!”

“It’s not that easy,” Keiji sighed and rubbed his eyes. “First… to steal his phone alone will be impossible. He always has it with him. And then, to message every single one of those people… that will take forever. And then, they will reply and I’ll have to answer them and get to a point in the conversation that they won’t text again when Rei has the phone back. And then I’ll have to delete all of the messages and then sneak it back to him without him noticing.”

“Easy!”

“It’s impossible.”

Bokuto frowned and crossed his legs underneath him, “Then what are we supposed to do? I gotta make sure all these people show up to this place tonight or else the plan will fail!”

Keiji stared at him silently for a long moment and then faced the house once more.

Bokuto sighed, “Oh well… don’t worry about it, ‘Kaashi. I’ll… I’ll figure somethin’ out. Maybe I’ll just leave challenge letters in all their mailboxes. If they’re real men, they’ll have to show up.”

“They’re not,” Keiji said dully.

“Shit.”

Keiji chewed on his bottom lip.

“Maybe…” Bokuto tried again. “Maybe I’ll leave them fake love letters instead! They’ll be so excited about the possibility of scoring that they’ll definitely show up!”

“What if…” Keiji straightened. Bokuto glanced at him curiously. “What if we worked together?”

He cocked an eyebrow, “Worked together how?”

Keiji swallowed, “We will go in there together. You steal Rei’s phone and get the numbers off of it. We’ll give the phone back and then send messages to them from your phone, pretending that Rei’s phone is lost and he’s using another one for the time being.”

Bokuto’s golden eyes widened, “Ohhhh that might work!”

Keiji hesitated, “Well… as long as Rei doesn’t try to call or message them from his phone…”

“It’s worth a shot!” Bokuto leapt to his feet and then turned towards him, hands extended. “Let’s try it! If he catches us, I’ll protect you!”

Keiji eyed his hands for a long second, heart thudding rapidly in his chest. He slowly reached out and Bokuto closed the distance between them, wrapping his warm fingers around him and hauling him up to his feet with a little more strength than necessary.

“I’m so excited!” Bokuto said, still holding fast to Keiji’s hands. “After a week of just lookin’, I can finally penetrate!”

Keiji’s cheeks flamed and his eyes flew wide, “Wh-wh-what?

Bokuto released his hands and pressed his palms together, extending his forefingers into the shape of a gun. He bent at his knees and twisted towards Keiji’s house, “The enemy base!”

Keiji pressed a hand over his fluttering heart, “O-oh… that’s what you… oh.”

Bokuto glanced at him, lifting an eyebrow, “Somethin’ wrong, ‘Kaashi? You’re all red.” He straightened and patted him on the back, “Don’t sweat it! I promise I’ll protect you! If Rei even makes a move towards ya I’ll give him one of these!” he karate chopped the air, kicking out at the same time. “Sh-sha!”

Akaashi watched him for a moment and then covered his mouth, capturing his amused snort.

Bokuto straightened and smiled.

“Alright,” Akaashi dragged a hand through his hair and then dropped his arm to his side. “Let’s get this over with.”


 

“Can we go to the hot springs now?” Asahi spread out on the tatami mats of their room with a groan.

“Not yet!” Oikawa slapped the table, nearly sending his cup of sake rolling across it. “First we gotta go on the test of courage!”

“Ehh?” Ennoshita leaned into Tanaka’s side, blinking lethargically. “Test of courage? What are we, junior high kids?”

“Don’t be a wet blanket, Snickers-chan,” Oikawa grabbed a notepad and marker and started scribbling down names.

“Don’t call me that,” Ennoshita yawned.

“Yeah, that’s my nickname for him!” Tanaka beat his chest with the flat of his palm.

Ennoshita didn’t dispute the claim.

“I’m ready for the hot springs too,” Sugawara said, leaning his elbow on the table. “I’ve had enough excitement in the forest for one day.”

Hanamaki laughed and pounded his fist on the table, “Remember when you saw that spider and screamed and fell over?

“Ugh,” Sugawara glared at him. “Yes. I remember. It was two hours ago. Stop bringing it up.”

Matsukawa grinned, “Remember when you were falling over, you reached out and grabbed Iwaizumi by the dick?”

Iwaizumi covered his eyes with a hand and Sugawara wailed, punching at Matsukawa.

“Stop! I didn’t mean to! It was an accident!” he sat back next to Yousuke and crossed his arms over his chest.

Yousuke chuckled and patted his shoulder.

Matsukawa and Hanamaki cackled, leaning against each other.

“Yeah, let’s stop talking about that, okay?” Oikawa snapped, giving them a fierce glare.

“Aw, Princess doesn’t know how to joke when it comes to Iwa-chan,” Hanamaki pouted his lips.

“Before we do anything,” Daichi drew their attention across the table. He lifted his phone and sighed, “I need a picture.”

There was a tick of silence and then Asahi sat up.

“Proof?”

“Proof,” Daichi grumbled.

“I’ll take it,” Tanaka offered, extending his hand.

“Wait,” Oikawa set his marker aside and climbed to his feet, “Make-up first.”

Sugawara glanced among them quietly before asking, “What?”

“Dai-chan needs to send proof to his nii-chan that he’s really where he says he is,” Matsukawa explained, pulling a lollipop from his pocket and tearing off the wrapper.

Sugawara’s brow furrowed, “But… why?”

Hanamaki and Matsukawa exchanged a look.

“So he has an alibi,” Oikawa said, returning to the table with a small black bag.

Sugawara wanted to press further.

An alibi for what?

Why does Daichi need it?

What is going on with his relationship with his brother?

“Turn this way, Sawa-chan,” Oikawa commanded, kneeling next to him.

Daichi did as he was told, setting his hands in his lap. Oikawa unzipped the bag and pulled out a small bottle of concealer.

“What’s the make-up for?” Ennoshita asked.

“To make him look pretty,” Oikawa said sarcastically. “What the hell do you think? To cover up the bruises!”

“And that’s necessary because…”

“It’s not much of an alibi if it still gets you in trouble,” Hanamaki said dully.

“Stay still,” Oikawa ordered and began smearing the concealer over the bruise on Daichi’s cheekbone.

He winced and closed his eyes.

Oikawa clicked his tongue, “Your poor beautiful face. Sawa-chan, this wouldn’t happen if you’d just stop looking for trouble.”

Daichi hummed and then muttered, “Worth it.

Sugawara hugged his knees to his chest, stomach twisting uneasily.

It’s my fault.

Don’t scold him.

Scold me.

Yell at me.

“I don’t know what half this stuff does, by the way,” Oikawa admitted, glancing into the bag. “I think the lady we bought it from was teasing us. I told her I need a bunch of basic make-up shit and she put this together.”

Hanamaki dug around in the bag, “Oh look, she even threw in some lipstick!” He pulled out a tube of bright red lipstick. “Should we put this on Dai-chan too?”

“I think it’d look better on Iwa-chan,” Matsukawa said, taking the tube from him. He turned in Iwaizumi’s direction, “C’mere, big boy.”

“Fuck off.”

“Fine,” Hanamaki took the tube back and then crawled towards Sugawara. “We’ll just put it on Suga instead.”

“Ehh…” Sugawara dropped his legs to the floor and scooted away. “No… that’s okay…”

“It’s fine, it’s fine,” Matsukawa grabbed him by the shoulders and pulled him forward.

“No… I don’t—”

“Stay still,” Hanamaki sang as Matsukawa dragged him down to the floor and he sat on his stomach, opening the lipstick. Sugawara’s heart fluttered and his throat closed up.

“Knock it off,” Iwaizumi snapped. “He said no.”

“Just a little bit,” Matsukawa said.

“W-wait—” Sugawara held his hands up, defending his face.

“Here we go,” Hanamaki leaned over, holding the lipstick out.

A hand flashed out and gripped Hanamaki’s wrist. All three of them looked to Yousuke. His brows lowered and his eyes flashed.

“I think he’s been held down against his will enough for one week,” he growled.

Hanamaki and Matsukawa exchanged a look and then Hanamaki crawled off of Sugawara’s stomach while Matsukawa released his shoulders.

“Ah… that’s right,” Matsukawa said. “That’s our bad.”

“Sorry,” Hanamaki capped the lipstick. “Took it too far.”

Yousuke took Sugawara’s hand and pulled him into a sitting position once more. Sugawara gulped and murmured, “Thank you…”

Iwaizumi let out a chuckle, drawing their attention. He smiled warmly at Yousuke, leaning his chin in the palm of his hand.

“I think I like this guy.”

Yousuke’s cheeks reddened and he ducked his head.

Sugawara smiled, chest filling with pride. His smile stretched into a grin and he said, “I like him too!”

“Hmm…” Hanamaki leaned around Sugawara, “I like him too. Maybe he’ll like some pretty lipstick?”

Yousuke watched him warily. He sucked in a deep breath and then let it out.

“Well…” he started, leaning over the table. He reached into the black bag and pulled out a palette of eyeshadow. “Only if you do my eyes too.”

Hanamaki and Matsukawa cheered and scampered around Sugawara. They took the make-up and immediately opened it up.

“Put some on Baldy too,” Ennoshita suggested, pulling Tanaka’s arm towards them. “I’ll bet he’d look radiant in red.”

“And Asa-chan!” Oikawa pointed. “Let’s do his hair too!”

“Ehh?” Asahi lifted his hands, “N-no way…”

“Make-up party!” Hanamaki cheered in a mockingly high pitched voice.

Iwaizumi let out a snort, “Is this what grown men do at sleepovers?”

“What would you rather us do?” Tanaka asked, closing his eyes as Ennoshita spread black eyeshadow over one lid. “Watch football and fart?”

“I’m more of a volleyball guy myself,” Iwaizumi grinned and leaned back on the heels of his hands.

Sugawara laughed and crawled up to the table. “Wait! Put mascara on them too!” he reached into the black bag and found a purple tube. His eyes flickered up towards Daichi and caught his warm stare. A small smile lifted the corners of his lips and his eyes were soft as Sugawara’s met them.

“Sawa-chan stop moving!” Oikawa snapped and Daichi looked away, closing his eyes.

“Yeah, yeah, hurry up.”

Sugawara gulped and leaned back. His heart thundered painfully in his chest but he forced it to the side and crawled up to Asahi, who was being held in place by Tanaka's hand around his ankle.

“O-okay but just don’t touch my hair, okay?” Asahi stammered as Sugawara opened the mascara.

“Well,” he said, grinning. “Not making any promises.”

By the time Oikawa was done covering up the bruises on Daichi’s face, Sugawara was on his back, laughing until tears were streaming down his cheeks.

Asahi slumped over the table, defeated. His hair was pulled into sloppy pigtails high on his head, eyelids painted purple, ugly round circles on his cheeks, and red lipstick smeared over his lips.

“I want to go home,” he deadpanned.

“I think you look beautiful,” Tanaka rubbed his back. His make-up had been done much better at the hands of Ennoshita, who for some reason seemed to know what he was doing. He had contoured his cheeks with soft blush, accentuating his high cheekbones. He had filled in his eyebrows, giving them an impressive arch over sleek winged eyeliner and smoky eyes.

“And… done,” Matsukawa sat back from Yousuke. “How does he look, gentlemen?”

Sugawara screamed with laughter and kicked his legs up and down against the floor.

Yousuke let out a deep sigh and smiled ruefully. Matsukawa and Hanamaki had tag teamed him, painting his face in a manner befitting the most flamboyant of drag queens. His multicolored eyeshadow flared out like butterfly wings under the eyebrows Hanamaki had painted high on his forehead. His lips had tripled in size with bright pink lipstick and his cheeks were an entirely different color altogether, flushed and feverish.

Sugawara tried to form an intelligible word but failed miserably, collapsing in another heap of fitful laughter.

“This is your fault, you know?” Yousuke poked him in the stomach.

Sugawara wiped the tears from his face and grinned up at him, giggles still bubbling up his throat, “G-Golly, Yousuke. You’re the prettiest thing I ever did see.”

“Gee willikers, Suga, does that mean ya wanna ask me to the dance next week?” he batted his ridiculously long eyelashes and Sugawara guffawed again, hugging his stomach as it ached.

He struggled into an upright position and wrapped around one of Yousuke’s arms. He turned and cried out, “Daichi! Look at him! Doesn’t he just look gorgeous?”

The room fell silent and Sugawara stilled, realizing that he had just called for Daichi without even thinking. He gulped, laughter dying on his tongue.

Daichi stared at him with wide eyes for a moment before a soft smile spread over his lips.

“Yeah,” he said. “Though I think Tanaka definitely wins this round.”

“Boo yah!” Tanaka and Ennoshita slapped hands.

“Okay, enough of that nonsense,” Oikawa snapped. “Take this picture of Sawa-chan so we can get to the test of courage!”

“Should I be in the picture?” Asahi asked, voice flat.

“No!” Oikawa grabbed Daichi by the elbow and dragged him to his feet. “None of you clowns are allowed in the shot. That will just make things worse.” He turned and pulled Daichi to the sliding glass door, “C’mon, I think a shot on the veranda will do.”

“I wanna be in it,” Hanamaki scampered to his feet and Matsukawa followed.

Sugawara watched them go, scrubbing the remaining tears from his cheeks.

Picture…

He wanted one.

He and Daichi had never taken a picture together. Now when he left, he wouldn’t even have something like that to remember him by.

He let out a soft sigh.

“Hup,” Iwaizumi grabbed Sugawara by the biceps and pulled him to his feet. “C’mon, you don’t have make-up on.”

“Huh?”

Iwaizumi turned him around and pushed him out onto the veranda. Once there, he gave him a shove and Sugawara stumbled directly into Daichi. He caught him, arms circling his waist and holding him close. Sugawara’s eyes widened and he stared at his collarbone where it peeked out from the v-neck of his blue t-shirt.

“Say cheese,” Ennoshita called.

Sugawara jerked his head up and looked over his shoulder at where Ennoshita was standing in the doorway with Daichi’s cell phone raised.

“W-wait,” he said, pushing his hands against Daichi’s chest. “I’m not ready…”

Daichi slid one arm away and he turned Sugawara towards the camera, keeping the other arm firmly around his waist and holding his hip in place. Sugawara’s heart skidded almost to a complete halt and his face blazed. He held his clenched hands in front of him awkwardly and held his breath, trying not to think about the warm, firm body pressing in on his left side.

Trying not to think about how much he wanted to melt into that warmth and allow it to envelope him.

“Kou, I’m not taking the picture until you smile,” Ennoshita said.

Sugawara sucked in a shocked breath, eyes focusing on the camera.

“Ah…” he swallowed the lump in his throat.

Picture…

He could have something… even just this tiny thing, to remember Daichi by. He wanted it. Just one last indulgence before he left and never saw him again.

He leaned slightly into Daichi’s touch, allowing it to spread warmth throughout his chest, thawing his heart and spurring it back into a rapid rhythm.

He couldn’t stay with Daichi.

But he could at least indulge in this one last happy weekend.

Sugawara lowered his hands and smiled.

And he couldn’t tell if it felt like a heart ripping or stitching itself back together.


 

“Surreal.”

Keiji glanced at Bokuto as he peered around the house in awe.

“What is?” he asked.

“Being inside!” Bokuto said reverently. “I feel like I’m witnessin’ somethin’ forbidden. Man, if Kuroo saw me right now he’d be screamin’, what the fuck are you doin’ you dumbass?

Keiji gulped and moved swiftly down the hallway, “Let’s get this over with so we can leave.”

“Sure. So where is your brother?”

“He’s here somewhere,” Keiji said softly. “He’s probably in his room. Which means we either need to wait until he comes out, or we can draw him out…”

“Hey, ‘Kaashi.”

Keiji paused and looked over his shoulder.

Bokuto stood in the doorway of the kitchen, peering inside.

“What is it?”

Bokuto pointed.

Keiji joined him and stared across the room, eyes landing immediately on what had caught Bokuto’s attention.

Rei’s cell phone rested on the countertop next to the refrigerator, next to an empty beer can and a dirty plate.

Keiji sucked in a deep breath, glanced down the hall towards the stairs, and then darted into the kitchen. He snatched up the cell phone and shoved it into his pocket.

“Hey, who the fuck are you?”

The voice rang out through the house, echoing off of the walls. Bokuto turned in its direction and Keiji’s bones chilled.

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

He quickly ripped the refrigerator open and grabbed two beers. He ran to Bokuto’s side and thrust one of the cans into his chest.

Rei strode down the hallway, dark gaze darting to Keiji and then back to Bokuto.

“H-he’s with me,” Keiji stammered, as if it weren’t obvious.

“Hello!” Bokuto called cheerfully, though his usually wide, curious eyes were as focused and fierce as an arrow as they followed Rei’s every movement.

Rei paused in front of him and dragged his gaze up and down, sizing him up with a sneer. His eyes lingered on his right arm and the tattoo inked there.

“What’s that?” Rei pointed to the swooping lines. “An owl?”

“A great horned owl,” Bokuto confirmed, lifting the arm and displaying the tattoo. “With a black rat snake in its talons.”

Rei examined it for another second and then snorted, “Gay.”

Bokuto cocked his head to the side, “Actually, great horned owls are meant to represent a connection with the heavens and the ability to see the truth of the universe.”

Rei blinked at him in surprise.

Bokuto lifted his beer and cracked it open, “If we’re talking gay here, barn owls have been documented as occasionally participating in homosexual relationships. They’re also monogamous. Which basically means that there are gay, happily married barn owls out there in the world right this second. Kinda cool, huh?” He sipped the beer.

Keiji slapped a hand over his mouth to capture his snorting laugh.

Rei’s eyes flashed and he shoved past them, “Whatever.”

Keiji grabbed Bokuto’s arm and dragged him across the hallway and into the living room. He dropped onto the couch and released him.

“Gay, happily married barn owls?” he repeated, grinning wide.

“It’s true!” Bokuto insisted. “There are a lot of gay animals out there! You’d be surprised! Penguins are super gay!”

Keiji let out a laugh behind his hand. Bokuto smiled at him quietly, a pink blush high on his cheeks.

“You’re insane,” Keiji said, lowering the hand. He glanced across the living room to the hallway. Rei was clattering around in the kitchen, slamming cupboards and drawers. “Okay,” he slid the phone out of his pocket. He leaned over and grabbed a pen off of the coffee table and then gestured at Bokuto. “Let me see the list.”

Bokuto pulled the list of names from his pocket. “Want me to read them to you?”

Keiji nodded and pressed the button on the side of the phone. The screen lit up and Keiji stared down at it as it asked for a password.

“Fuck,” he muttered.

“What’s wrong?” Bokuto leaned over and stared at the screen. “Oh boy. Do you got any ideas?”

Keiji chewed on his bottom lip, “Well… he used to have this code back when he was in high school that he used for everything…” he timidly tapped four numbers into the pad and the screen immediately unlocked. He let out a deep breath and pressed a hand over his fluttering heart, “Oh fuck. Thank God he’s a huge idiot.”

“Thank God,” Bokuto repeated.

Keiji glanced towards the kitchen again. The loud sounds were still echoing, joined by the buzzing of the microwave.

“Okay,” he gulped. “What’s the first name?”

“Hashimoto Jirou.”

Keiji opened Rei’s contacts and scrolled through them until he found the name. He softly read off the number and Bokuto scribbled it on the paper.

“Next,” Keiji breathed.

They moved as quickly as they could through the list, anxiously glancing over the back of the couch towards the entrance to the hallway. They were nearly at the end when the sounds in the kitchen stopped.

Keiji hurriedly thrust the phone back into his pocket and Bokuto folded the paper and hid it in his fist as Rei walked into the room.

“Where the fuck is my phone?” he snapped.

Keiji blinked slowly at him, “How am I supposed to know?”

Rei glared at him.

Keiji sighed, “Have you tried calling it?”

“Oh yeah? With what fucking phone?

Keiji pressed his lips in a tight line, “Do you want me to call it?”

“Oh would you?” Rei said sarcastically. He turned and stomped back out of the room. Keiji quickly opened up the contacts again and listed off numbers for Bokuto.

“Are you calling it?” Rei shouted from the other room.

“Yes!”

Ugh.

Rei stomped down the hall and Keiji hid the phone in the couch cushions while he passed. “Call it again!”

“I am,” Keiji pulled the phone out again and they jotted down the final number.

“Done,” Bokuto stuffed the paper back into his pocket. “Now let’s ditch it and—”

“Wait, one more thing…” Keiji quickly went back through the names and blocked every one of them.

“What are you doing?”

“I’m blocking their numbers so they can’t text Rei and ruin our plans,” he said. “Okay. Done.” He climbed to his feet and walked into the hallway, calling towards the stairs, “I found it!”

Rei appeared at the top of the stairs and then stomped down to him, “Where the fuck was it?” he snatched it out of his hand.

“Under the table,” Keiji lied smoothly.

Rei grumbled and passed him into the kitchen again. Keiji rushed into the living room and jumped onto the couch. Bokuto grinned at him and Keiji returned it, holding a hand over his mouth as he laughed quietly.

“I feel so alive,” he whispered, cheeks warming. “I’ve never done something like this before.”

Bokuto’s eyes widened and he leaned slightly towards him, “Sounds like you need to spend some time with me and my friends then.”

Keiji’s chest tightened and he answered breathlessly, “I’d like that a lot.”

They smiled at each other silently for a moment.

And then Rei’s voice boomed through the room.

“Are you two fucking?”

Keiji straightened, eyes dipping to his lap as the giddy excitement of the moment faded.

Bokuto turned towards Rei and cocked an eyebrow, “Fuckin’ what?”

Rei glared at him, “Each other.

Bokuto scowled, “I think you have an unhealthy fixation on homosexuality. Is it a cry for help?”

Keiji sputtered loudly and clapped both of his hands over his mouth. Instant tears filled his eyes as he desperately tried to hold his laughter in. Rei moved slowly into the room and Keiji attempted to take the gravity of the situation seriously- Bokuto was definitely playing with fire at the moment- but he couldn’t pull it off.

“So you’re not then?” Rei asked, voice low. “Why not? Just by lookin’ at you I can tell you’re totally a faggot,” he stood behind the couch and placed a rough hand on top of Keiji’s head.

His laughter faded and he flinched at the touch, lowering his hands and his gaze to his lap.

“And I’ll bet you this little twink would just love to take your dirty dick in his used ass.”

Keiji bit the inside of his cheek.

Bokuto’s arm reached behind him and when he brought it back around, he held a large black Glock. He rested the handle against his knee, barrel pointed lazily in Rei’s direction. Keiji’s breath hitched and his eyes widened.

“Sorry,” Bokuto said brightly, cocking his head to the side like a curious bird. “I didn’t hear that. Could you repeat it?”

Rei stared at the gun for a long, silent second. He slowly removed his hand from Keiji’s head and then straightened.

“Whatever,” he muttered and turned away. Bokuto watched him walk across the room and disappear into the hallway.

They listened to the sound of his receding steps until the door of his bedroom slammed.

Bokuto lifted the gun and poked at it dejectedly.

“Osamu is gonna be pissed at me…”

Keiji sucked in a deep breath and lunged. He slammed into Bokuto’s chest and he fell back on the couch, Glock dropping to the ground beside it. Keiji cupped Bokuto’s jaw in both hands and pressed their lips tightly together, thrusting his tongue instantly inside his mouth. Bokuto made a surprised sound, but after a moment’s hesitation, his arms wrapped tightly around Keiji’s waist, fingers digging into his muscles, and he kissed him hungrily back.

Keiji’s fingers carded through Bokuto’s spiked hair and he shifted his body forward, rubbing their groins together. Bokuto groaned and his hands slid down and over his ass, pulling him closer. Keiji struggled his thighs onto either side of Bokuto’s. His knee slipped off of the side of the cushion and the upset of balance sent them both rolling to the floor, Keiji on his back and Bokuto on top of him.

Keiji winced as something dug into his shoulder blade.

Bokuto ripped his mouth away and panted, eyes half lidded as he stared hazily down at him.

“Hold on a sec,” he whispered and reached under Keiji’s back. Keiji lifted slightly and Bokuto pulled the gun out from under him. He set it aside and then let out a breath.

“Okay,” he whispered before coming down and closing his mouth over Keiji’s again.


 

“This wasn’t how this was supposed to work,” Oikawa snapped, swinging a stick at the foliage beside the path.

“Well you were the one that made the rules so…” Sugawara muttered, gazing out through the dark forest.

“I wanted to go with Iwa-chan,” Oikawa continued to whine. “And you were supposed to get Sawa-chan!”

Sugawara scowled, “I’d appreciate it if you’d stop meddling.”

Oikawa snorted and swatted a mosquito as it landed on his arm, “Fuckin’ make me.”

“Maybe I will!”

Sugawara glared at him and Oikawa glared back.

They turned forward and walked silently down the forest path for a long minute. Sugawara sighed.

Some test of courage. It was more like a test of patience, being paired with Oikawa Tooru. Ragingly Gay Oikawa Tooru who had been draped all over Daichi the entire day, even begging him to give him a piggy back ride over rough terrain near the waterfall earlier.

Ragingly Gay Oikawa Tooru who acted like he had some kind of personal vendetta against Sugawara whilst simultaneously trying to force him and Daichi together.

Sugawara didn’t want anything to do with the vain, obnoxious man, and yet when they had pulled names to see who would be with who on this stupid test of courage, the two had been cruelly paired together.

I want to go home.

“So… Suga-chan,” Oikawa said and Sugawara ground his teeth together. “How many men have you had sex with?”

Sugawara rubbed his eyes, “None.”

“Hm.”

Sugawara glanced at him with disdain, “What about you, Oikawa-chan? How many men have you had sex with?”

Oikawa’s eyebrows lowered and his nose scrunched, “None.

Sugawara blinked in surprise. He wasn’t expecting that answer. Oikawa acted like he was a master of sex appeal and was not afraid of making his intentions known to everyone around.

“Why not?” he asked curiously.

Oikawa clicked his tongue and turned his face away, “What a rude question. Why haven’t you had sex with any?”

“Because,” Sugawara said simply. “Daichi is the first man I ever fell for.”

“Same.”

Sugawara stared straight ahead for a prolonged moment before his steps slowed and he drew to a stop. Oikawa continued on a few more meters and then paused and turned towards him.

“What?” Sugawara said.

“What?” Oikawa repeated, lifting his chin.

“You said… same,” Sugawara gulped. “Same what?”

Oikawa crossed his arms over his chest and cocked his hip, “What do you think? Same. Sawa-chan was the first man I ever fell for too. So what?”

Sugawara’s throat went dry and he wrung his hands together, “You’re in love with Daichi?”

Oikawa hesitated and then walked slowly towards him, “Oh? Does that bother you? Do you see me as your rival? Does it make you want to fight for him?”

Sugawara squeezed his hands into fists.

He loves Daichi.

Oikawa loves Daichi.

Sugawara lowered his eyes to the path, “Then… you… y-you… you can h-have—”

Oikawa slapped him viciously across the face, cutting the statement short. Sugawara stared at him in shock, cheek stinging, painful tears rising in his eyes. Oikawa’s lips curled in a disgusted scowl.

“Don’t you dare finish that sentence,” he growled.

Sugawara swallowed.

“Don’t you dare hand Sawa-chan over to me while wearing an expression like that,” he went on, shaking his fingers out.

“Wh-what expression?” Sugawara asked.

Oikawa glared at him and then looked away, “Like you’d rather die.”

Silence spread over them, broken only by the occasional buzz of a not yet sleeping cicada from the surrounding trees.

Oikawa refused to look at him as he rubbed his palms together and cleared his throat.

“I was just kidding,” he said. “We’re not rivals. Sawa-chan was the first man I fell for but… that was a long time ago. I still love him, but it’s different now.” He inhaled deeply and blew it out in a huff, “I care more about seeing him happy than being with him. And right now he wants nothing more than to get back together with you. And I’d rather die than get in the way of that.” He turned and walked down the path once more, “Hurry up. Let’s just get this over with and go back to the inn so we can finally get in that bath.”

Sugawara gulped and followed.

They walked side by side in silence for a few minutes before Oikawa muttered,

“What’s with that troubled look?”

Sugawara chewed on his bottom lip.

“I’m worried about Yousuke.”


 

Daichi slammed Yousuke up against the trunk of a tree, arm pressed tightly to his throat.

“I-I-I’m sorry S-S-Sawamura-san!” he whimpered, legs twisting frantically. “I’m sorry!”

Daichi glared up at him silently. It was hard to take him seriously when he was still wearing that god awful make-up. Slowly, he loosened his hold and then finally released him, arms falling to his sides. Yousuke panted, hand trembling as he reached up and rubbed at his throat.

Daichi leaned a hand against the trunk on the side of his head and Yousuke stared up at him fearfully.

“You have a problem with following orders, don’t you?” Daichi snarled.

Yousuke gulped.

“What the fuck did I tell you the first time we talked?” Daichi asked. “What the fuck did I tell you, Yousuke?”

His chin quivered, “T-t-to never touch him. To n-never speak to him. To never even l-look in his direction.”

“And what have you done?”

“A-all three.”

“Exactly,” Daichi leaned closer. “You broke our promise, Yousuke. Give me one fucking reason why I shouldn’t end you this very second.”

Yousuke’s eyes turned glossy and he whispered, “He forgave me.”

Daichi hesitated.

“He forgave me,” Yousuke repeated, equally as soft. “He was the only one to ever forgive me. Even though I don’t deserve it and I did horrible things… he forgave me. He made me his friend. He gave me a reason to wake up in the morning.” He sucked in a shuddering breath, “Th-this isn’t me trying to convince you to let me live. This is just my excuse as to why I have done what I’ve done. Why I broke our promise.” His eyes lowered, “He’s my friend. And I care about him. I’ll never deserve him but… he’s my friend and I don’t regret breaking our promise for a second.”

Daichi stared at him silently, dragging his gaze over his ridiculously painted but surprisingly resolute expression. This was a different man from the one Daichi had held, kicking and screaming, over the railing of Sugawara’s balcony those weeks ago.

Daichi’s hand slid off of the trunk and he rubbed his eyes tiredly.

“I’m not going to kill you,” he said in a low voice. “Suga would never forgive me if I did. And…” he looked away. “I owe you. You protected him when I couldn’t. So… thank you.”

Yousuke’s eyes widened.

“Don’t betray him,” Daichi whispered, staring down at his palm. “He’s putting his trust in you. He’s relying on you. Don’t you dare betray him.” He lifted his eyes and leveled him with a stern stare, “Understand?”

Yousuke nodded vigorously.

“If you hurt him in any way,” Daichi slid close again and Yousuke cowered back against the tree. “I will not hesitate to kill you where you stand,” he hissed.

“I won’t betray him,” Yousuke promised. “If I do, I’ll willingly be killed by you.”

Daichi held him in his stare for another moment before turning and heading back down the path in the direction of the inn.

When they caught up with the others at the back entrance of the inn, Daichi’s eyes fell on Sugawara’s bright red cheek. Yousuke walked up to him and asked worriedly,

“What happened to your face?”

Sugawara hesitated, eyes darting in Oikawa’s direction. The other man pointedly ignored him, arms crossed over his chest.

“Nothing,” Sugawara answered and cleared his throat.

Yousuke also caught the look and squared his shoulders.

“Did you hit him?” he questioned Oikawa, voice terse.

“And if I did?” Oikawa lifted his nose at him.

Yousuke’s brows lowered, “You—”

“It’s alright!” Sugawara took Yousuke’s arm and smiled up at him. “I… uh…” he glanced at Daichi and then away. “I deserved it this time.”

Yousuke looked like he wanted to argue further, but reluctantly backed down when Iwaizumi walked up behind Oikawa and slapped him on the back of the head.

“Ow! Iwa-chan!”

“Stop causing drama,” Iwaizumi scolded. “Now. I don’t know about you guys, but I’m ready to get in that fucking hot spring.”

YES PLEASE,” Asahi turned and bolted for the door.

“And I’m ready to get this make-up off,” Tanaka rubbed one of his eyebrows, following after Asahi.

“Noooo,” Hanamaki chased. “Leave it on forever!”

Ennoshita came up behind Sugawara and wrapped his arms around his middle, lifting him up off of the ground. Sugawara let out a laugh and Ennoshita carried him awkwardly to the door. The others followed, leaving Daichi and Yousuke alone once more.

Yousuke looked at him over his shoulder.

“You know…” he said hesitantly. “Suga… I think that he’s waiting for you.”

Daichi raised his brows.

“To like,” Yousuke rubbed the back of his neck. “Ya know. To like… make him stay.” He looked at the door and then back to Daichi, “He wants to. I know he does. He just needs you to make the decision for him.”

Yousuke lingered for another second and then ran off after the others.

Daichi inhaled deeply and stared off into the forest beyond the perimeter of the inn’s back gardens.

Make him stay.

Daichi clenched his hands into fists and strode up the path to the door.

Oh, I intend to.


 

Sugawara tied the small white towel tightly at his hip, checking the length to be sure that it covered what he wanted it to. Laughter floated into the washroom from the springs outside.

“Don’t splash me!” Oikawa’s shrill complaint called out, followed by more laughter.

Sugawara smiled and slicked his hands through his already wet hair. Jittery nerves made him tremble slightly. He sucked in a deep breath and closed his eyes.

It’s fine.

I’m just going to be naked around Daichi.

Around naked Daichi.

Oh fuck.

He pressed a hand to his eyes.

It’s fine.

I’m fine.

Totally not nervous or scared or weak or anything.

Nope.

Not me.

He groaned and leaned his forehead against the wall.

Why did it have to be an onsen trip?

That was so cliché! It was like they were begging for awkward sexual tension! Who planned this stupid trip in the first place?

Be strong, Koushi, he straightened and gave a determined nod.

You can do this.

Just… don’t make eye contact.

He paused.

Actually… it’s probably best just to not look at any part of him at all.

“Suga, are you coming?”

Sugawara let out a yelp and jumped into the air. He whirled towards a naked Yousuke, who cocked his head to the side, eyebrow raised. He had finally washed his face of the drag queen make-up and Sugawara was somewhat sad to see the comedic mask go.

“Ah…” Sugawara fidgeted from foot to foot. “Yeah! Okay. Let’s go. Uhm… okay.”

Yousuke draped a towel over his shoulder, “You okay?”

He chewed on his lip, “I’m nervous.”

Yousuke didn’t seem to understand at first, eyes narrowing in confusion. And then realization crossed his face.

“Ah…” his cheeks flushed and he looked away, “Well… I mean… you guys dated so…”

“Yeah, but I’ve never seen him in the nude before!”

Yousuke’s cheeks reddened even more, “Wait, really?”

“It… it’s not like we dated that long!” Sugawara pressed his hands to his burning cheeks.

Yousuke blinked, “Wait, is this gonna turn into a situation? Like… are you going to pop a b—”

Sugawara leapt up to him and slapped his hands over his mouth before he could finish the question.

“Stop,” he begged. “You’re gonna make it weirder than it already is!”

He pulled his hands away and Yousuke said, “Sorry.”

Sugawara sighed and then nodded, “It’ll be fine. I keep the towel on the whole time.”

“Ah. Especially because of that…” Yousuke gestured at his left butt cheek noncommittally.

Sugawara blushed, “Yeah. That too.” He nodded again, “And I won’t look at him. It’ll be fine.”

Yousuke nodded too, “Yeah… yeah. it’ll be fine. Just uh… just like don’t look at him… and maybe leave after him… Maybe hide your hard-on in a soap basket…”

Sugawara slapped him on the chest and Yousuke let out a barking laugh.

“It’s fine! It’s fine,” he took Sugawara’s wrist and led him towards the door to the springs. “Just… recite mantras or something.”

“Ugh, you’re so not helpful.”

“Sorry I can’t relate to your problem.”

“Just imagine you were in the bath with a super hot chick! That’s what it’s like!”

“I think I’d be too terrified to pop any kind of boner.”

“I’m going to drown you.”

Yousuke laughed again and slid the door open, "It's fine, it's fine. Just don't look at him."

Sugawara’s eyes fell immediately on Daichi, who stood on the opposite side of the beautiful, earthy bath, dragging his fingers through his wet hair, golden skin glistening. The water of the bath just barely reached below his hips, displaying the tight, v-shaped muscle of his abdomen and a neat, black happy trail tracing down beneath his belly button.

Sugawara grabbed onto Yousuke’s arm, knees going weak.

I’ve already failed!” he hissed. “K.O.! T.K.O.! Fatality! Wasted! Game over! Tell my mom I love her and bury me at dawn in a bed of daffodils!

Yousuke sputtered and erupted in laughter, slapping a hand to his forehead.

“Stop!” Sugawara tugged on him, face burning. “Traitor! Stop drawing their attention! Bastard!”

“What are you standing around for?” Oikawa snapped from the shallower part of the bath. “Get in here!”

Yousuke walked forward and Sugawara let out a groan but reluctantly followed.

“Hey Yousuke, nice form,” Matsukawa said and let out a low whistle.

Yousuke’s cheeks flushed and Sugawara snickered.

“Shut up,” he muttered.

Yousuke stepped into the bath and Sugawara did the same, letting out a pleased sigh at the steamy temperature of the water.

And the springs really were gorgeous. It was the biggest bath Sugawara had ever seen, surrounded by a bamboo fence beyond which the trees of the forest loomed. Stone lanterns dotted the interior of the bath and the exposed rock of the walls and fountains created the illusion of an untouched mountain spring.

Yousuke moved to an empty spot on the wall at the shallow end and sat down, sinking into the water up to his collarbone. Sugawara moved to join him but suddenly Oikawa was making a fuss.

“What’s this, Suga-chan,” he gestured at the towel around his waist. “We’re all adults here! Take the towel off!”

Sugawara gripped the knot.

“Uhm… no thank you.”

“Why not? Are you shy? It’s nothing we haven’t seen before!” Oikawa made a swipe at him.

“No, it’s just… uh… I’d prefer to keep it on,” Sugawara dodged him.

“No one cares if you’ve got a weird crooked dick!” Oikawa grabbed him around the waist and dragged him down into the water, leaning him over his naked lap. Sugawara cried out and splashed frantically as Oikawa pulled at the towel.

“Oikawa,” Iwaizumi snapped. “Would you leave him alone? Jesus. He doesn’t want to get sexually harassed by you. Why is that so hard to believe?”

“You gotta rip it off fast, like a Band-Aid!” Oikawa said cheerfully. He grabbed the hem of Sugawara’s towel and lifted it up over his ass. He paused, staring down at his naked behind for a long second as Sugawara’s wails faded away and his struggling died out.

Slowly, Oikawa lowered the towel once more and released Sugawara. He slid off of his lap and sat despondently against the wall to his left, water up to his chin, praying that the steam hid the furious redness of his cheeks.

Oikawa cleared his throat into his fist and then said, “Well… I expect an explanation of that later…”

“Will do,” Sugawara mumbled.

Yousuke sputtered into his hand and Sugawara sent a wave of water into his face.

“No fair,” Hanamaki floated in their direction. “I want to fondle Suga too.”

“Me too,” Ennoshita admitted.

“Me too,” Matsukawa lifted a hand.

“All in favor of taking turns fondling Suga, say Aye,” Hanamaki called.

Aye—” three voices rang out before Daichi waded back into the shallow section of the bath and leveled them all with a mean glare.

Sugawara hurriedly dunked his head underwater to avoid ogling his godly nude form. Even underwater he could hear Yousuke’s cackling beside him. He sat up and splashed him again, promptly starting a splashing war between the two of them and eventually Oikawa, who couldn’t resist joining in.

Sugawara was finally able to relax when Daichi took a seat in between Iwaizumi and Asahi. It helped that every few seconds, Oikawa dragged his attention away from the broad, silky spread of Daichi’s shoulders with an insult or jab to his ribs.

Sugawara didn’t think he’d ever say it but…

Thank god for Ragingly Gay Oikawa Tooru.

“Suga-chan, you have much more muscles than I thought,” Oikawa said at one point, squeezing his pectorals with both hands.

“And you’re much more perverted than I thought,” Sugawara countered, swatting his hands aside.

“From what I felt of it,” Oikawa turned towards him on his knees. “Your ass was pretty tight too…”

“Please don’t ever say that to me ever again.”

“Let me touch it again,” Oikawa wiggled his fingers at him.

“Suck a dick, Oikawa.”

“Yours?”

“God no.”

“C’mon, just a little touch,” Oikawa reached for him and Sugawara pushed his arms away. “I’m just measuring your muscle mass! It’s a volleyball thing!”

“Fuck off, I played volleyball and never got molested,” Sugawara turned away from him.

Oikawa’s hands flashed out and grabbed him by the hips. Sugawara yelped as he dragged him back against him until only the fabric of Sugawara’s towel separated them. One of Oikawa’s arms circled his waist and the other traveled up to his throat, pressing his back flush with his chest.

“It’s alright, Suga-chan,” Oikawa purred, lips just barely caressing the shell of his ear. “I’ll be gentle…”

Sugawara shivered involuntarily and then stammered, “I w-won’t be.”

A sudden hush fell over the hot springs and then Ennoshita said in a matter-of-fact tone,

“This is really erotic.”

Iwaizumi thrust to his feet and stomped, water splashing violently around his bare legs, up to the two. They peered up at him with wide eyes, two deer caught in the headlights.

Iwaizumi propped his fists on his hips, legs spread wide, and regarded them with a dark scowl.

Oikawa dropped Sugawara and he splashed into the water, submerging momentarily before pushing up and coughing, wiping water from his face.

“He was drowning, Iwa-chan,” Oikawa defended. “I was just saving his life. That’s all.”

Iwaizumi reached out and grabbed Oikawa’s wrist, hauling him to his feet. He stumbled forward and they nearly collided, but Iwaizumi sidestepped at the last second, narrowly avoiding the connection of their naked bodies. He turned and dragged Oikawa across the bath to the opposite end.

“Jeez, Iwa-chan, at least take me out for dinner first!” Oikawa said.

Iwaizumi sat and pulled Oikawa down next to him.

“Stay,” he commanded.

Oikawa pouted and stared across the bath to Sugawara. He smirked and winked, blowing him a kiss. Sugawara sneered in response.

The bath fell silent as no one spoke after the debacle.

Sugawara sat next to Yousuke once more, hugging his knees to his chest in embarrassment. He didn’t dare look in Daichi’s direction.

“You know,” Tanaka finally said, drawing everyone’s attention. He grinned, “I’m really glad we came to the onsen.”

How cliché.


 

Sugawara yawned as he dragged his feet down the hallway, lazily jingling the coins in his right hand. It was late into the night and everyone’s energy was finally dying down as they prepared to sleep. He smiled softly as he watched the floor move beneath his slippers. He wore the robe that the inn supplied them after their baths, the fabric warm and soft against his clean skin.

He felt light and carefree. For the first time in months… Sugawara felt genuinely happy and safe.

Even though he knew it couldn’t last forever.

It’s alright, he decided, humming softly. At least I have this weekend. I’ll remember it forever.

His mind drifted towards the image of Daichi in the bath, all rippling, tan muscles, dripping with water…

He shook his head.

He was definitely going to cherish that for as long as he lived.

Sugawara smiled and turned the corner. He made it halfway down the hall before his eyes lifted and fell on the vending machine at the end of it and the two people sitting on the bench beside it. He slowed, heart skipping a beat at the sight of Matsukawa leaning back against the wall, legs stretched out in front of him and Hanamaki curled into his side, head resting on his shoulder.

Oops.

Sugawara paused, glancing over his shoulder. He contemplated tip-toeing away and forgetting his thirst for a late night drink before bed, but when he faced forward once more, he caught Matsukawa’s stare on him and guilt spread through his chest.

He padded meekly in their direction.

“S-sorry,” he said softly. “I uh… I wanted to get a drink…”

Matsukawa smiled sleepily and didn’t reply. Hanamaki’s eyes were still closed, lips slightly parted as he breathed evenly, fast asleep.

Sugawara tried to contain his curiosity as he dropped his coins into the machine, wincing at every loud clack. He picked his drink and then watched it drop. He bent and retrieved it but instead of leaving, he turned towards the other two. Matsukawa continued to watch him quietly.

“S-so,” Sugawara twisted the lid of his drink. “Uhm… if you don’t mind me asking… are you two…”

The corner of his lips ticked up again and he closed his eyes.

“Nah.”

Sugawara’s eyebrows lifted in surprise.

Matsukawa inhaled deeply and let it out, adjusting his arm around Hanamaki’s back.

“I’d like to be, though.”

Sugawara’s heart clenched and he squeezed the bottle tightly.

Matsukawa hummed, “He probably doesn’t feel the same way.”

“Y-you don’t know that,” Sugawara said. “You two are so close… and so alike.”

He chuckled, “If only that were all that it took.”

Sugawara stared down at his drink quietly.

“I’m fine with the way things are,” Matsukawa went on, opening his eyes. He stared down the hallway calmly. “Just this is enough. Being able to talk and laugh and tease… to touch and just… be together,” he nodded infinitesimally. “That’s enough.”

Sugawara lowered the drink in front of him, “What… uh… What is stopping you from…” he rubbed his lips together. “Uhm… progressing your relationship further?”

Matsukawa didn’t answer at first. Then he smiled.

“Who knows?”

Hanamaki mumbled and cuddled closer into Matsukawa’s side, cheek rubbing his shoulder. Sugawara watched silently.

“I…” he started after a short time. “I didn’t use to think about it. But now… after all this stuff has happened… I think that maybe I’m scared.”

Matsukawa eyed him wordlessly.

“I know Rei and his friends are an extreme case,” Sugawara went on. “But they’re not the only ones that think the way that they do. When I think about being with Dai- with another man… I’m scared of how the rest of the world will react. I’m scared of how I’ll be rejected.” He reached up and scratched behind his ear timidly. “Is… is that the reason why you don’t…”

Matsukawa stared down at Hanamaki.

“Nah,” he finally said. “That stuff doesn’t faze me.”

Sugawara dropped his hand in surprise, “It doesn’t?”

A warm expression softened Matsukawa’s already sleepy features. He reached up and stroked a thumb across Hanamaki’s cheek.

“When we’re together, the fear of rejection… the fear of how society will view me… none of that matters.”

Sugawara’s heart raced, “You’re not scared?”

“Everyone’s scared.”

His voice was soft, but carried a weight that pressed down on Sugawara's chest. He leaned forward and pressed his lips tenderly into Hanamaki’s hair.

“Everyone's scared," he repeated, eyes sliding shut. "That’s no reason to be unhappy.”

Sugawara pressed his lips tight together.

His words had sent a shiver down his spine, jumpstarting his erratic heart.

Everyone’s scared.

Sugawara stared down at his palm.

Everyone's scared.

He lowered his hand and looked at the two once more. Matsukawa watched him silently.

“Are you going back to your room?” Sugawara asked.

The corner of his mouth ticked up, “Maybe in a little bit.”

Sugawara nodded and took a step back, “Then… good night.”

“Sleep tight,” Matsukawa winked.

Sugawara turned and rushed down the hallway.

Everyone’s scared.

It was an understatement as far as Sugawara was concerned.

He was absolutely terrified, after all. Terrified of society. Of Rei and people like him. He was terrified of himself and his own feelings. He was terrified of Daichi and the control he had over him.

Everyone’s scared.

But I’m fucking terrified.

He sighed and lifted the bottle to his lips. He took a long drink and then lowered it once more, twisting the cap back on.

Sugawara wasn’t special. His feelings weren’t new. Even people like Matsukawa, who seemed like they didn’t have a worry in the world, were holding themselves back from true happiness. He was together with Hanamaki, sure. But not in the way that he really wanted.

Sugawara wasn’t as strong as he was. He couldn’t be around Daichi so halfheartedly like that. He wanted it all or he wanted nothing. Maybe he really was selfish after all. Choosing to run away instead of settling for something hovering between happiness and rejection.

He really was pathetic.

He passed by the door of the first room. There was low murmuring on the other side, but it was lethargic and slow, sounding as if everyone was finally ready to sleep.

Thank God, Sugawara went to the second door and slid it quietly open. He went inside the already dark room and then closed the door gently behind him. The day had been fun, but he was exhausted and so horrendously worn out. He wanted to sleep for three days.

Not that the others would let him do something like that. They were probably going to wake him up early in the a.m. to go on some stupid morning adventure on which he would no doubt start another fight with Oikawa and get a million more mosquito bites.

But at least it would be fun. And he’d get to experience more of Daichi’s smiles before he left for good.

Sugawara slipped out of his slippers and turned.

And froze.

He stared wide eyed at the center of the room.

Rather than the five futons they had laid out earlier before he went to get a drink, there were now only two. One already contained a body, and Sugawara would know those broad shoulders anywhere.

Sugawara’s mouth went dry.

“Relax.”

He jumped at the rumble of the low voice.

Daichi didn’t roll to face him as he said, “It’s their stupid way of playing a prank on us. Might as well just go along with it for now.”

Sugawara gulped and glanced at the door over his shoulder.

“Relax,” he said again and Sugawara faced him once more. “I’m not going to do anything. So just go to sleep.”

Sugawara continued to hesitate. He wanted to stomp over to the other room and demand that they put the futons back and split off between the two rooms like they originally planned. But if he left now, after Daichi’s promise not to do anything… it would look like he didn’t trust him.

I trust him.

He squeezed his eyes shut.

I trust him.

It’s just too difficult.

In the end, he gave in. He released a tremendous sigh and walked slowly over to his futon, which was inconveniently pressed right up next to Daichi’s. He wanted to drag it across the room. But that would also imply his distrust, wouldn’t it? He stifled a moan and knelt down next to the futon, grabbing the thick comforter and throwing it open.

Just sleep.

Just close your eyes and sleep.

He crawled into the futon and lay on his side, back towards Daichi. He pulled the comforter back up to his shoulders and squeezed his eyes shut tightly.

Just sleep.

You’re so tired, you’ll be out in seconds.

Just… sleep.

Sugawara inhaled slowly and let it out. He flexed and then loosened his muscles, urging his body to relax.

To sleep.

Just when he thought he had captured the seed of slumber, he heard shifting behind him. And then his comforter was thrown off of his body, leaving him vulnerable and exposed. A hand gripped his shoulder and rolled him onto his back.

And then Daichi was looming over him, knees on either side of his hips, hands pressed into the pillow next to his head. Sugawara stared up at him with wide eyes, heart hammering in his chest so hard he was sure he was going to crack a rib. He sucked in a shuddering breath, squeezing his hands into tight fists.

“Sorry,” Daichi murmured, head dipping slowly in his direction.

“I lied.”


 

“Are you guys ready?”

“Are you sure we can’t bring our guns?” Atsumu whined, leaning against Kuroo.

Osamu glared at his brother and then turned away, walking swiftly down the street.

“Don’t give me that look!” Atsumu stomped. “It’s a valid question! What if they prove to be a little difficult to manage? Maybe we’ll need to shoot them!”

“Atsumu,” Risa drew his attention to the side. She reached into her purse and pulled her derringer half out.

Atsumu’s eyes widened and he gave her a thumbs up two seconds before Osamu whirled and snatched the purse from Risa’s shoulder. She cried out and reached for it but he held it away.

“I said no guns,” he growled, reaching into the purse. He found the gun and removed it, shoving it into the back of his pants. “Kiyoko made me promise. I’m not going to face her wrath.”

“Weak, ‘Samu,” Atsumu muttered.

Kuroo glanced over his shoulder at Bokuto as he trailed at the back of the group, a distant look in his eyes.

“What’s up, Bud?” Kuroo fell into step beside him. “You’ve been quiet since earlier.”

“Which is alarming, considering it’s you,” Atsumu turned and walked backwards down the sidewalk, hands stacked behind his head.

Bokuto’s brows furrowed and he twisted his bat against his shoulder, “Well… I think maybe I’m gay.”

The group slowed to a stop, and even Osamu turned towards him, staring with wide eyes.

“Ehh?” Risa’s mouth dropped open. “You too?

“Riis, are you gay?” Atsumu asked.

“No! I mean…” she paused, eyes growing wide. She looked away, “Uhm… someone else.”

Kuroo turned back to Bokuto and placed a hand on his shoulder, “Why do you think you’re gay all of a sudden?”

“Is now really the time to be talking about this?” Risa gazed down the sidewalk and then checked her watch.

“Our boy might be coming out to us!” Atsumu snapped. “We gotta be supportive!”

“I mean, can’t we postpone it for later?”

Osamu ignored her and looked to Bokuto, “Go on.”

“Well,” he cleared his throat and looked away. “So earlier… I might have… uh… made out with a guy…”

“You made out with a guy?” Kuroo’s eyebrows lifted. “That’s quite the jump.”

“How was it?” Atsumu pressed.

Bokuto’s cheeks reddened, “W-well… it was nice. Really nice. Uh, we probably would’ve done more if Rei wasn’t in the other room.”

Risa pressed a hand to her forehead and leaned shakily against a streetlamp.

“I think I need to lie down,” she said in a trembling voice.

Rei?” Atsumu’s mouth hung open.

“Wait, was it Rei’s little brother?” Kuroo asked.

“Yeah…”

“Hold up, how old is he? When you said little brother I thought maybe he was like thirteen.”

“He’s twenty-one!” Bokuto hugged his bat to his chest.

“Whoa,” Kuroo looked to the others. “Surreal. I was totally imagining a pre-teen in my head. Mind blown.”

Osamu shifted and crossed his arms over his chest, “Alright. So tell us exactly how you feel about it.”

“Use your words,” Atsumu whispered.

Bokuto cleared his throat, “Okay so like… I thought before that maybe I just didn’t think about that kind of stuff, you know? Like I wasn’t interested. But… maybe I was just gay all along? Because ‘Kaashi man…” he let out a deep sigh and pressed a hand to his cheek. “He’s really pretty. He has these gorgeous blue eyes and cute messy hair. And his body is good too and oh man his smile makes my heart pound really hard, though he always tries to cover it up, for some reason. And his laugh?” Bokuto groaned, bending at the knees slightly. “It’s so cute! And totally unexpected, because he’s kind of serious. Ugh, oh man. I’m definitely gay.”

The group was silent for a long moment. Risa recovered and straightened away from the streetlamp and fanned her face. Atsumu pursed his lips and Osamu rubbed his chin. Kuroo glanced among them and then broke the silence.

“I would suck a dick.”

Risa groaned and turned, “Please postpone this conversation! We have a mission right now!”

Atsumu patted Bokuto’s shoulder, “Don’t worry about it, Buddy. Gay or straight or whatever, you’re our pal! We’re gonna support you!”

“Except you can never love another man more than you love me,” Kuroo hugged him around the shoulders.

Osamu turned and followed Risa, “Just make sure you tell Kiyoko as soon as we get home. She’ll be pissed if she’s the last to find out.”

Bokuto brightened and they all headed down the sidewalk, “I will! Oh, and you guys are going to meet him soon, too!”

“Ehh, you’re already bringing him home to mom and dad?” Atsumu cried, pressing his hands to his cheeks.

“Well, he said he wanted to be there when we destroy Rei,” Bokuto shrugged. “So he’s meeting us there.”

“Oh man I’m excited,” Atsumu thrust a fist in the air. “Let’s do this thing!”

Kuroo chased after them, “I’m serious you guys. I would suck a dick.”

“Dude, we know,” Atsumu stacked his hands behind his head.

“Ugh,” Risa groaned. “I hope Koushi's having a better time than I am right now...”


 

“Sorry. I lied.”

Sugawara stared up at Daichi with wide eyes.

“D-Daichi, what are you d-doing?”

Daichi pressed a hand to his face gently and stroked his thumb over his cheek, “You’ve been doing a pretty good job avoiding me these past few weeks, haven’t you?”

Sugawara could barely hear his low mumble over the raging pulse buzzing in his ears and the erratic hammering of his heart.

“I-I…”

“It’s been hard holding myself back,” Daichi admitted matter-of-factly. “I kept thinking that I’d give you time,” his fingers traced the curve of his jaw and then trailed down his throat, following the course of his Adam’s apple as he gulped. “I figured I’d give you time to decide to come back to me on your own,” he said softly, eyes dipping down to his lips and lingering there.

Sugawara’s skin burned everywhere his fingers touched.

“But you never intended to come back to me, did you?” Daichi’s voice lowered to a whisper. “You’re going to leave, aren’t you?”

Sugawara’s eyes stung and his chin trembled, “It’s for the best. If I leave, then you can go back to—”

“To what?” Daichi’s fingers hooked in the folds of Sugawara’s robe and tugged it to the side, revealing the pale skin of his collar. “There’s nothing before you that I ever want to go back to, Suga.”

“People already know about me but you—”

Daichi leaned down until the tips of their noses touched and the words died in Sugawara’s mouth.

“You don’t need to try to convince me, Suga,” he said softly. “I know your reasoning. I understand what you’re trying to accomplish.”

The sash around Sugawara’s waist loosened and Daichi yanked his robe open.

“I just don’t care.”

Sugawara sucked in a deep breath and pressed his hands to Daichi’s shoulders, pushing weakly.

“D-Daichi. St-stop…”

“Sorry, Suga,” Daichi lowered his face and kissed the side of his neck gently. “Doing what you’ve told me to do has gotten us nowhere in the past so…” he slipped a hand inside his robe and stroked his warm palm down his chest to his stomach. “I’m just going to do as I please from now on.”

He kissed across his throat, drawing shivers to the surface of his skin.

Sugawara squeezed his eyes shut and whimpered, “Daichi… please. Don’t. I- I’m sorry but you can’t… you can’t change my mind. I’m… I’m doing what I know is best. D-don’t try to stop me…”

“I’m not trying to stop you,” Daichi murmured, pulling Sugawara’s robe open wider. He traced the shell of his ear with his lips slowly. “I know that if you want to leave, there’s nothing I can do to keep you here,” he cupped his jaw and held him still as he kissed across his cheek. “But this is what you wanted, right? You were always pushing me to make the decisions when we were dating.” He lifted his face and stared down at him, “You were always urging me to be selfish, weren’t you? To do things for myself instead of whatever my partner wanted of me.”

Sugawara’s eyes widened.

“Well, congratulations, Suga,” Daichi leaned down. “You're going to see just how selfish Sawamura Daichi can be.”

He covered his mouth with his, fingers sliding along his jaw to the back of his neck. Sugawara closed his eyes, fingers digging into Daichi’s shoulders.

No…

He shouldn’t.

He couldn’t give in. Kissing Daichi… accepting this would only make it harder to leave.

A picture. That’s all I need.

He should push him away. He needed to push him away and escape to the other room, demand that they put the futons back the way they were and stay far, far away from Sawamura Daichi.

He could do it. Daichi wasn’t Rei. Even if he was acting forceful now, Sugawara knew that if he tried earnestly to get away from him, he would let him go.

Sugawara could push him away.

But somewhere, deep in the pit of his stomach, fear raveled in a tight knot. If he pushed Daichi away now, then that’d really be the end of it, wouldn’t it? It would be the axe falling, severing the last small thread still holding them together.

Sugawara would leave.

And he would never see Sawamura Daichi ever again.

And that fear, even though leaving was Sugawara’s goal all along, rooted him in place. And when Daichi’s tongue touched his lips, he opened his mouth and allowed him to deepen the kiss that was poking a thousand holes in Sugawara’s noble intentions.

Daichi arched Sugawara’s head back and slanted his mouth over his, kissing him greedily until they were both breathless and Sugawara didn’t think he could run away even if he tried. His entire body trembled and his grip on Daichi’s shoulders weakened and then fell away.

He should run.

He should stop this and cut the ties he had been trying so hard to neatly unravel the past few weeks.

He could stop him if he really tried.

Daichi’s lips slid away from his and traveled down over his chin to his throat. Sugawara panted, eyes closed. Daichi’s hands smoothed over his bare chest and then down to his hips. One of his knees pressed down in between Sugawara’s thighs and Daichi nudged the robe off of his left leg, leaving only a small corner of the fabric still covering his otherwise naked groin.

Daichi leaned down and kissed his lips once more, fingers stroking his skin reverently from his thigh to his chest.

Tears filled Sugawara’s eyes beneath his lids and he couldn’t.

He couldn’t do it.

He pressed his hands to Daichi’s chest and pushed, breaking the connection between their lips.

“Stop,” Sugawara whispered. “You don’t get it.”

Daichi stared down at him quietly.

“You can still have a normal life,” he said, voice cracking. “Things can go back to the way they were so long as I leave and you just forget about me-”

You don’t get it,” Daichi growled, pressing a hand down in the pillow to the left of Sugawara’s head. “I don’t want things to go back to the way they were. I don’t want to forget about you. I can’t. I won’t!”

Tears welled up and blurred Sugawara's vision.

Daichi grabbed his wrists and pressed them down in the pillow above his head. He crossed them and held them in place with one hand, leaning on his elbow over him, their chests touching. He gently stroked his face with his other hand, thumbing away a tear when it slid down his temple.

“Even if I wanted to,” he whispered. “There is no way I could ever forget about you.” He inhaled deeply and leaned their foreheads together, “You’re in my veins, Suga. The only way I could ever get rid of you is to cut myself open and bleed out.” His thumb gently traced his cheekbone, “You act like leaving is going to save me from what others will think and say about me. But I’m not scared of them.”

Sugawara sniffled and said in a soft, trembling voice, “Everyone’s scared.”

Daichi tenderly trailed his fingers through his hair behind his ear, “I’m scared. Scared that I’m going to fail here and that by the end of this trip, you’ll walk out of my life and I’ll never see you again.”

He leaned slightly back to hold his stare with his. His brow furrowed and he gulped.

Don’t.

Tears slipped from the corners of Sugawara’s eyes and he bit his bottom lip to stop it from trembling.

Don’t,” Daichi said again, voice small. “Don’t, don’t, don’t.” He released his wrists and pulled one of Sugawara's hands down to his chest. He pressed his palm over his heart and Sugawara could feel the rapid fluttering of it beating underneath his muscles.

“For once in my life,” he went on, somewhat breathlessly, “I want to be selfish. I want to be happy. I want you.” His fingers tightened around Sugawara’s hand, “I want you.”

Sugawara’s heart clenched.

Daichi hung his head, “I was a terrible boyfriend. I didn’t notice your suffering and then continued to let it happen even after I did. I was a terrible boyfriend and didn’t deserve you.” His hand fell away from Sugawara’s, “If what you said was true and you sincerely don’t like me anymore... if you honestly don’t want to be with me anymore… then okay. I’ll accept it. I’ll let you go.” He gulped, "But... I hope to God that it isn't true," his voice turned rough, "because there's no way in hell that I'm ever getting you out of my veins for as long as I live."

His heart beat like a hummingbird’s wings under Sugawara’s hand.

And he could lie.

He could tell him that he didn’t like him.

And then Sugawara could leave and never see Sawamura Daichi again.

He lifted both of his hands and cupped Daichi’s face, turning it up. Tears streamed down his cheeks as he sucked in a shuddering breath and whispered,

Sawamura Daichi, please be my boyfriend.

Daichi’s eyes widened.

Sugawara let out a sob and wrapped his arms around his neck. He pulled him down and cried, “I like you! I like you! I never stopped liking you. I’m sorry I lied. I’m sorry I broke up with you. I’m sorry I tried to run away…”

Daichi’s hand slid under his head, fingers tangling in his hair.

“I like you a lot!” Sugawara continued. “And I want to kiss you and hold you! I lied when I said it was impossible!”

Daichi sunk down into his chest, burying his face in his throat.

“I like you so much that I don’t know what to do! I want to continue being boyfriends and holding hands and kissing and going on dates… I’m sorry I pushed you away instead of asking for your help!”

Sugawara’s body shuddered with a sob.

Help. Daichi… please help me,” he hugged him tighter. “I’m sick of being scared all of the time!”

Daichi pulled his face back and then pressed their foreheads together, stilling Sugawara’s sobs as he blinked and hiccupped, trying to focus on his eyes.

“You don’t have to be scared anymore,” he said quietly. “Stay with me and you’ll never have anything to be scared of ever again. I promise. I’ll take care of you.”

Sugawara’s hands slid to Daichi’s cheeks and held him tight. He leaned up and kissed him tenderly. It was his first time taking the initiative and kissing Daichi before he could take the lead and even though it was the same result, the action made his stomach twist and flip. After a long second, he pulled back and whispered,

“I’ll take care of you.

Daichi blinked, “I’ll take care o—”

“I’ll take care of you,” Sugawara repeated.

“I’ll take c—”

I’ll take care—

Daichi cut him short with a laugh and kissed him again. When he pulled back, he smiled down at him, thumb wiping the remaining tears from his cheeks.

“We can take care of each other,” he decided.

“Fine but I’m the main caretaker.”

Daichi laughed again and rolled onto his side, dragging Sugawara with him so that they lay facing one another, Daichi’s arm under Sugawara’s head. Sugawara pulled his robe over his bare hip and tucked it down awkwardly, cheeks flaming.

“Sorry,” Daichi murmured. “I was too rough, wasn’t I?”

He hesitated, “No…”

“I’m sorry. I just… didn’t know how to get your attention.”

He snorted and pressed his hands against Daichi’s chest, “Well it worked.”

“Sorry.”

“Who are you apologizing to?” Sugawara smiled ruefully.

Daichi returned the smile and then tenderly stroked his cheek, staring steadily into his eyes.

Sugawara gulped, “You know… you never gave me an answer.”

Daichi’s eyebrows lifted.

“When I said, Sawamura Daichi, please be my boyfriend,” Sugawara said. “You—”

“Sure.”

Sugawara’s fingers curled around the fabric of Daichi’s robe.

He smiled and said again, “Sure. I’ll be your boyfriend.”

Sugawara smiled and tugged on the robe until he leaned forward and pressed their lips together once more.

When he pulled back, Daichi hesitated, holding his stare.

And then he whispered,

“I like you, Sugawara Koushi.”

He wrapped his fingers around one of his hands and held it to his chest.

“I like you so much I don’t know what to do.”

Sugawara's heart fluttered and he blinked away the moisture that rose in his eyes yet again.

"Let's figure it out together."


 

When Keiji caught sight of Bokuto walking down the sidewalk, he quickly emerged from his hiding spot and jogged in his direction.

“Bokuto-san,” he waved a hand in greeting.

Bokuto turned towards him and smiled wide, entire face lighting up. He waved exuberantly.

“’Kaashi!”

Keiji’s heart warmed and he slowed, clasping his hands together anxiously.

“Eh, is this Rei’s brother?” one of Bokuto’s companions asked. Keiji finally turned his eyes to the others, gulping.

“Ah,” Bokuto moved to Keiji’s side and then pointed at the others, naming them. “Risa, Kuroo, Osamu, and Atsumu. Guys, this is Akaashi Keiji. He’s been helpin’ me.”

The only one that Keiji recognized was Nagachika Risa. He quickly bowed low, “It’s nice to meet you all.”

“We hear you really stuck your neck out gettin’ Rei’s phone,” the one named Kuroo said as Keiji straightened. He gave him a thumbs up and a wink, “Nice job.”

Keiji blinked in surprise.

“Alright, let’s get this over with,” the calmer of the twins, Osamu, turned and headed down the sidewalk. The others followed and Bokuto nudged Keiji with his elbow when he hesitated. He smiled down at him and then gestured at the others.

“Ready?”

Keiji inhaled deeply and nodded. He walked at Bokuto’s side as they moved down the dark street towards the building they had gathered Rei and his cronies.

“There’s something I’ve been meaning to ask, Bokuto-san,” Keiji said.

“Hm?”

“Where… this place that you sent them… where is it?”

“Oh, well supposedly it’s just a local hangout place,” Bokuto scratched the back of his head. “It’s got pool tables and a bar and stuff… Daichi rented the entire place out for the weekend.”

“I see…”

“Don’t worry,” Bokuto tapped his bat against his shoulder. “Daichi paid off the owner so that he wouldn’t get mad about whatever mess we make.”

“This Daichi person seems to have a lot of money.”

“I guess so! Though I don’t know how. ‘S not like he has a job. Maybe he’s got rich parents!”

Keiji didn’t reply.

They walked quietly for a moment before Bokuto said, “Say… ‘Kaashi.”

“Yes?”

“Are you sure you’re going to be okay with this?”

Keiji looked up at him. Bokuto stared straight ahead.

“I’m not going to hold back,” he said in a low voice. “So if you’ve got a problem with that then… I want you to tell me now.”

Keiji swallowed and turned forward, “I won’t have a single problem with anything you do to him and the others.”

Bokuto gave a slow nod, “Alright then.”

“Bo, hurry up,” Atsumu called. He and the others stood outside the black door of a brick, windowless building at the corner.

Bokuto quickened his pace and Keiji matched it, stomach twisting in fear.

Was it really going to be okay?

Excluding Keiji and Risa, who he assumed wasn’t going to do any of the… work… there were only four of them. Four against seven weren’t terrible odds, but Keiji knew his brother and his friends. They were no strangers to violence and fighting dirty.

But Bokuto had a gun. Did he bring it with him?

Keiji eyed the bag slung over Kuroo’s shoulders. What was in there? Weapons?

“Alright, let’s do this,” Atsumu hopped up and down and then reached for the door handle. He grinned over his shoulder at the others, “Ready for some fun?”

“Born ready,” Kuroo replied.

“Here we go!” Atsumu ripped the door open and stomped inside the building. The others followed, first Osamu, then Kuroo and Bokuto. Risa and Keiji exchanged a look before also entering, Keiji closing the door behind.

“Oh good, you’re all here!” Atsumu called out cheerfully and headed across the room in the direction of three couches, upon which the seven men sat. Straight across a low table, Rei sat in between two others, feet propped up on the table, a furious expression lining his face.

He glared at them and snapped, “What the fuck is going on?”

“Oops,” Risa walked to the left and climbed onto a stool at the bar. She crossed her legs and leaned an elbow on the counter. “Were you really expecting me to come here on a date with you, Rei?” She snorted, “How naïve.”

Rei’s eyes fell on Keiji and he leaned forward, elbows on his knees, “What is this? What do you people want?”

Kuroo opened his bag and reached inside. He pulled out a black camcorder and tossed it to Osamu, who caught it effortlessly and opened it. He then pulled out a rolled up newspaper, which Atsumu took from him.

Keiji stared in surprise.

So they’re not weapons?

“I asked you a fuckin’ question,” Rei’s voice rose, losing his patience.

“Akaashi Rei,” Osamu said. “You don’t know us. But we’re aware that you are familiar with Sugawara Koushi?”

Rei’s eyes widened and he sneered.

“Did that little faggot send you guys here? To get revenge?”

“Not Koushi,” Kuroo said, reaching into his bag once more and pulling out a large grey file.

“But another guy I’ll bet you know,” Atsumu grinned wide and unrolled his newspaper. He mockingly dusted it off and then tossed it onto the table in front of Rei. “I’m sure he looks familiar?”

Rei hesitated and then reluctantly picked up the newspaper. He held it up, eyes traveling over the front page impatiently. His expression slowly shifted from annoyance to surprise, and then finally to pale disbelief.

Atsumu pressed his hands together and then bowed sarcastically, “Sawamura-sama sends his warmest regards.”

Rei threw the newspaper aside and leaned back on the couch. He rubbed a hand over his face and then regarded them with a glare.

“So what do you want? You want me to leave Sugawara alone then?”

Atsumu glanced at Osamu, “That doesn’t sound like enough for me, does it?”

“I think we need much more than that,” Osamu agreed.

Rei clicked his tongue and thrust to his feet, “I’ve heard enough. You think you fuckers have anything on me? It doesn’t matter who the fuck you bring in here. Get out of my face.”

“R-Rei…” one of the others said, drawing his attention. He gulped and pointed to Osamu, “Th-that. That’s my c-camera…”

Rei turned to Osamu as he stared down at the screen of the camcorder.

“Hmm…” Osamu mused. “This video in here gets a real clean shot of you… especially when you’re about to take your pants off… I’ll bet it will really wrack in the views on the internet.”

“That and the other one from the convenience store,” Atsumu snapped his fingers. “You know, with the blatant assault and attempted rape?”

Keiji gulped.

What has Rei been doing these past few months?

Rei was silent for a moment before letting out a snort.

“You think that’s going to scare me? Those videos are nothing.”

“Maybe,” Kuroo said, stealing the attention as he opened the file in his hands and browsed lazily through the papers within. “Let’s see here… Akaashi Rei… born on the eighteenth of April, 1992. Blood type: AB. Third year student majoring in Architecture...” he made a contemplative sound and then brightened. “Here we go. Looks like you sent a kid to the hospital after beating him unconscious with a blunt object back when you were in junior high school. Huh… the parents pressed charges but despite there being multiple witnesses, you were never punished because of… lack of evidence? Hm… that doesn’t add up,” he flipped to the next page. “Oh, and here, wow. Arson of a government building? Let go because of lack of evidence. Aggravated assault of a disabled man… lack of evidence... Rape accusation… lack of evidence…”

Rei’s chin lifted, smirk curling the corners of his lips, “Guess a lot of people like to try and frame me for their crimes.”

“I guess they do,” Kuroo nodded and flipped a few more pages. “They also like to frame you others too. Man, what has the world got against you obviously well abiding citizens?”

“Guess we’re just unlucky,” another called out and the others snickered.

Rei crossed his arms over his chest and grinned triumphantly, “Are you done?”

“Oooo, this one is pretty interesting,” Kuroo paused. “Oh. But it’s not any of you guys,” he clicked his tongue. “I don’t even know who Akaashi Genjiro is.”

Rei’s eyes widened and Keiji blinked in surprise.

“But apparently he’s been doin’ some dirty dealin’s with some unsavory folk. Huh… is this guy even from our country? Why does he need so many assault rifles?”

Bokuto walked up behind him and peered over his shoulder, “And did I just see the name of that dirty politician who got caught with all of that child porn but never served any time for some unknown, mysterious reason?”

“Yep, and that rich CEO’s kid who killed that hooker and then tried to cover it up but is somehow still out and free to kill as many hookers as he wants.”

“Cut the shit,” Rei barked.

They quieted and looked to him, Kuroo lowering the file.

The others on the couches were shifting uncomfortably, throwing glances towards the door as if searching for an escape route, but Rei merely sneered.

“You guys are just proving my point,” he said, voice rising. He let out a booming laugh, “My dad is the motherfucking police commissioner! You think you’re scaring me with all this blackmail? You’re just proving how invincible we are,” he smirked. “Yeah, I’ve sent more little twinks like that bitch, Sugawara to the hospital than I can even count!” he laughed again. “And I’ve raped hotter sluts than that one too,” he pointed to Risa, whose lips twisted in disgust.

Rei put his foot on the table and shoved it aside. He walked up to Atsumu and peered down the length of his nose at him.

“You think you’re scaring me by dredging up all this old shit? My old man covered it up once. He can cover it up again.”

“Your old man,” Atsumu repeated calmly. “Akaashi Genjiro. The police commissioner.”

“Did I fucking stutter?” Rei barked. “You think you’ve won… but I rode free on all that shit in the past, and I’ll continue to ride free for all the shit I’m going to do in the future.” He grinned, “I’m untouchable.

Atsumu hummed momentarily and then glanced at his brother.

“Did ya get all that?”

Osamu closed the camcorder, “Honestly that was much easier than I expected it to be.”

Rei froze.

Keiji’s eyes widened and Risa giggled.

“I wonder if they’ll be able to call that a lack of evidence when we send it to all the major news channels in the city,” Kuroo said.

“And radio stations,” Bokuto added.

“And then upload it to the internet,” Risa called.

“And I’m sure Sawamura could find a good use for it too,” Osamu smirked.

“Fuck,” one of the others moaned, holding his head in his hands. “Rei you idiot…”

Rei’s eyes flicked to Osamu and he took a step towards him, “Give me that fucking camera.”

“No can do,” he shrugged. “It’s kind of the whole reason why we’re here.”

“Well not the whole reason,” Atsumu cracked his knuckles.

“Not the fun reason,” Kuroo let out a low giggle and dropped his file into his bag before dragging it off of his shoulder and setting it aside.

Bokuto stepped back and gave a few warm-up swings with his bat, whistling cheerfully.

“Okay boys,” Atsumu said. “This is how it’s going down! We’re not allowed to kill anyone,” he glared at his brother. “So don’t worry your pretty little heads about that. We are gonna hurt ya super duper bad though if you could go ahead and stay still—”

“Fuck this!” one of the others shouted and suddenly all six of the men on the couches stood and bolted for the door.

“Hey, hey! I said stay still!” Atsumu tackled one man, slamming him into another and bringing them both down to the floor in a heap.

“Whoops! I don’t think so!” Kuroo sang and threw a punch into the face of another, sending him stumbling backwards.

Bokuto placed his shoe on a chair and kicked it across the room, directly into the path of another, who tripped over it, crashing to his face on the floor.

“Hey kid,” Osamu called and Keiji turned towards him. He tossed the camera and Keiji caught it, holding it to his chest carefully. “Keep an eye on that, would ya?”

He gulped and gave a nod.

Osamu turned grabbed two men by the backs of their shirts, hauling them backwards and to the floor.

Keiji backed up, away from the action, cradling the camera in his arms. It was precious. It was going to make sure that Rei and his father were finally punished for what they’ve done.

It was Keiji’s freedom, and he was going to protect it with his life.

Give me that fucking camera, Keiji.

Rei stomped in his direction, dark eyes flashing.

Keiji sucked in a deep breath and hugged the camera tighter, “No.”

Rei’s face reddened, “Idiot… that’ll fuck you over too! If Dad’s in prison then—”

“Then I won’t have to deal with either of you anymore!” Keiji shouted. “Fuck me over? This camera is my fucking savior you bastard!”

Rei’s eyebrows lowered and he reached out and grabbed Keiji’s wrist, wrenching it towards him roughly.

Give me that fucking camera or else I’ll kill you right—”

The whir of Bokuto’s bat sliced through the air as it connected with Rei’s wrist. A crack echoed through the room and Rei let out a bellow and stumbled back, holding his arm to his chest.

Keiji let out a shuddering gasp.

“You alright, ‘Kaashi?” Bokuto asked him, smiling.

Tears filled Keiji’s eyes and he nodded.

“Don’t worry,” Bokuto’s voice softened. “I said I’d protect ya, didn’t I?”

Keiji’s heart thudded painfully and he whispered, “Yeah…”

Bokuto turned towards Rei, who was still holding his wrist, growling out a low stream of expletives.

“The beating that’s comin’ your way,” Bokuto said, swinging his bat experimentally. “Consider it dedicated to both ‘Kaashi, who’s had to deal with your shit for twenty-one years too many, and KouKou who just so happened to be the last person you ever should have laid your hands on.” He paused and then added, “Eh… it’s also for calling my tattoo gay.

He took one large stride forward, twisting his torso and swinging the bat directly into Rei’s ribs, which he couldn’t defend fast enough.

Rei let out a tremendous shout of pain and fell backwards.

Keiji slipped around them, moving to the other end of the building, which was now a much safer area since the fight had traveled towards the door. He stood next to the couches and watched with both awe and unease as Sugawara Koushi’s four knights savagely beat Rei and his friends.

Risa cheered from the bar, pumping her fist in the air at each vicious attack.

“Oh!” she eventually called. “Wait! BoBo, let me get a few licks in,” she hopped off of the stool and bounded up to where Rei was curled up on the floor, coughing up blood. She promptly kicked him in the face, staining her white sneakers red.

And the sight, something that would typically churn Keiji’s stomach and make him look away, didn’t elicit a single emotion from the man.

He sunk onto the couch and watched for long minutes. Eventually tears filled his eyes and he wiped them away with the sleeve of his shirt.

He was terrified of what this meant. His father and his brother would be taken away and Keiji would be alone to struggle on his own.

He was terrified… and breathtakingly relieved.

The tears continued to flow and he let out a soft laugh, hiding it behind a trembling hand.

Free.

I’m free.

He stared down at the camcorder in his lap. And it felt as if it were made of pure gold.

In the corner of his eye, he caught sight of the newspaper Rei had thrown to the ground. He hesitated and then slowly bent and picked it up. He opened it to the front page.

Immediately, the large colored image of a handsome man with short black hair, smiling softly beside a woman with tears in her eyes, in front of a wall of children’s drawings drew his eyes. The man's face sparked a feeling of familiarity and he read the small caption beneath the photograph.

Once again we find ourselves asking the question, “Just what did we do to deserve Sawamura Daichi?”

Keiji paused and then slowly dragged his eyes to the top of the article where a raving headline boasted:

Childcare Centers Across City Saved by Generous Donation from Son of Prime Minister... Again

Keiji's mouth went dry.

Oh.

Chapter Text

“Just so we’re clear,” Yousuke said, voice trembling. “If it didn’t work and they didn’t get back together, you guys are going to tell Suga that I fought really hard to come save him but you overpowered me and held me down all night… right?”

“Grow some balls, You-chan,” Oikawa snapped, leading the way the short distance to the door of the other room. “Just tell him the truth that you joined forces with us! Besides, I’m positive it worked. They’re definitely back together now.”

Yousuke grumbled, “You don’t know how stubborn he is.”

“And you do?” Tanaka cocked an eyebrow. “How long have you been friends now?”

Yousuke’s cheeks reddened, “W-well, I’ve been living with him for a week. I’ve seen how stubborn he can be. He bit me when I tried to give him my bed and take the couch.”

“Kou’s a scrappy brat,” Ennoshita smirked.

“Shh…” Asahi gripped Oikawa’s arm. “You’re all being too loud…”

Oikawa reached for the door and then paused. He glanced over his shoulder, “Wait, quick. Makki, get out your phone—”

“Way ahead of ya,” Hanamaki yawned and lifted his cell phone.

“I hope they’re naked,” Matsukawa said.

“Wait, we didn’t take bets,” Oikawa hesitated again.

“Okay, who thinks they’re naked?” Matsukawa lifted a hand.

Ennoshita followed suit.

“I think they’re both in their robes,” Hanamaki said sleepily. “But Sugawara’s is opened and they’re sleeping in some sort of affectionate but not overtly intimate position. My guess is Dai-chan as somewhat of a big spoon, one hand on Sugawara’s bare stomach as Sugawara is turned slightly, almost on his back pressed up against Dai-chan’s chest, one leg stretched over Dai-chan’s and the other out. And his head is turned towards Dai-chan and Dai-chan’s nose is in his hair and they’re both still sleeping really peacefully.” He rubbed his eyes and then added, “And Dai-chan’s other arm is curled underneath Sugawara’s neck and up next to his head and his fingers are probably in the hair right above his nose.”

The group fell silent and stared at him.

“Okay, so what are we betting?” he asked.

“I redact my bet,” Ennoshita said.

“Me too,” Matsukawa mumbled.

“Boo,” Hanamaki pouted his lips.

“Just open the fuckin’ door,” Iwaizumi snapped from the back of the group. “I’m hungry.”

Yousuke gulped and twisted his hands together anxiously.

Please be together. Please be together.

“I’m doing it,” Oikawa whispered. He reached out and slid the door open quietly.

Everyone pushed up to the door frame and peered through.

In the center of the room, Daichi and Sugawara lay, still asleep on a single futon in the exact position Hanamaki had described in the hallway.

He lifted his phone and snapped a photo.

“Called it.”

“How the fuck did you do that?” Iwaizumi asked in a hushed voice.

“Human beings are boring and predictable,” he replied dully.

Yousuke let out a deep breath, “W-wait. Does this mean… are they back together?”

“Let’s see,” Oikawa tip-toed into the room, pulling Asahi along behind him. The others slowly followed.

Asahi released Oikawa’s arm as he slunk up to the futon and crouched next to it. He reached out, the belt of his robe in his hand, and tickled Sugawara’s nose lightly.

Sugawara’s eyebrows twitched and his nose scrunched. He let out a soft moan and then rolled towards Daichi, hands reaching and pulling him closer. Daichi’s arm tightened around him and his nose buried deeper in his hair. The flap of Sugawara’s robe slipped off of his hip, revealing his bare left butt cheek.

The group stared for a long moment before Ennoshita sputtered, muffling his face in Tanaka’s shoulder.

“Does Sawamura know about that?” Iwaizumi asked in amusement.

Yes… yes Suga,” Hanamaki hissed as he snapped several photos.

“Oh my god,” Tanaka slapped his forehead and Asahi covered his face with his hands, peeking through his fingers.

“This is the best day of my life,” Matsukawa whispered reverently.

Yousuke’s cheeks blazed and he rushed forward and carefully pulled the robe back over Sugawara’s hip.

“Don’t tell Sawa-chan,” Oikawa warned, barely succeeding in keeping the giggle out of his voice. “It’ll be funnier if he finds out on his own.”

“We should leave them alone,” Yousuke decided softly. “Let them sleep in.” He stood again and turned for the door, “You know… uh… let them enjoy it for a little bit longer. We can go eat breakfast and then—”

Breakfast?” Sugawara’s head popped up, eyes cracking open drowsily.

Oikawa fell back, clutching his stomach as laughter erupted from his mouth.

“Breakfast?” Sugawara repeated, pushing up on his elbow and swiveling his head in the others’ direction. “I want food. Where’s food?”

Ennoshita laughed loudly and Yousuke sighed.

Daichi rolled onto his back and groaned, pressing a hand over his eyes.

“Sugawara is my favorite,” Matsukawa said with a grin.

“Same,” Hanamaki continued to snap photos, moving around the pair on the floor for different angles.

Sugawara yawned and rubbed his bloodshot eyes with his fist. He blinked rapidly and glanced around the room. When the situation finally registered, his eyes grew wide and he let out a gasp, sitting up hurriedly and pulling his robe tightly closed over his bare chest.

“Boo,” Hanamaki said. “C’mon, give us a show.”

“Wh-what are you guys doing in here?” Sugawara’s cheeks flared bright red.

“Good morning,” Tanaka said. “Did you sleep well?”

“W-well…”

Daichi sat up, scratching the back of his head sleepily.

“Alright,” Oikawa said, clearing his throat and wiping the tears from his eyes. “Spill it. Did you two get back together?”

Everyone held their breath in anticipation as Sugawara’s cheeks turned impossibly redder and he avoided looking at any of them.

Daichi eyed him silently for a moment before leaning over and pressing his lips softly to his temple, hand cupping the back of his head.

“I’ll take that as a yes,” Oikawa said.

Yay!” everyone cheered.

Yousuke smiled and joined in with the celebration, clapping.

Sugawara moaned and covered his face with his hands, slumping back on the futon and rolling into Daichi’s side. Yousuke watched closely the gentle way Daichi smiled and stroked his hair. There was exhaustion but warmth in his gaze. The relief on his face was so palpable that Yousuke could feel it in his bones.

Thank god.

He didn’t know when Sugawara’s and Daichi’s relationship had become so important to him, and maybe it was a little strange, but he was happy.

Sugawara cracked an eye open and peeked up at Daichi. He smoothed his bangs away gingerly, thumb caressing his forehead. The corner of Sugawara’s lips curved upwards and he closed his eye again.

And the happiness and relief in Yousuke’s chest was too heavy.

“Ehhh, You-chan, are you crying?” Oikawa drew everyone’s attention to the redhead.

His eyes- glossy with unshed tears- widened and he rapidly blinked the moisture away.

“I’m not!”

“Awww,” Matsukawa slunk up to him and draped an arm over his shoulders. “What’s wrong, You-chan?”

“Are you jealous that they’re back together and now you can’t steal Sugawara away?” Hanamaki asked, turning the phone in his direction and snapping a photo.

Yousuke’s cheeks blazed, “Of course not! I’m just…” he looked away. “I’m just h-happy is all.”

Everyone fell silent for a long second and Yousuke wished he could sink into the tatami mat below his feet and disappear forever.

Then all of a sudden, an eruption of cooing, “awwwwwww” filled the room and Yousuke was being hugged from three different angles.

“You’re such a good boy, You-chan,” Ennoshita rubbed his hair.

“I’m sorry I ever doubted you, You-chan!” Oikawa hugged him around the chest and rubbed his face in his neck.

“Welcome to the family,” Matsukawa planted a kiss on his temple.

Yousuke groaned and writhed in their grasp, “St-stop! So embarrassing…”

So embarrassing.

But…

The tears stung harder and he hurriedly squeezed his eyes shut against them.

Yousuke had never… felt this way before.

The arm around his neck from Matsukawa was light and didn’t force him to lock his knees in order to remain upright. Oikawa’s grip around his waist was warm and tight but non-threatening. Ennoshita’s hand in his hair was gentle and playful and not in the least bit condescending.

Yousuke had never felt this way before.

Warm, welcome, wanted. His presence there wasn’t just a convenience or a pain. The intentions and expectations of the people in this room didn’t weigh heavy on his heart or ignite the anxious panic in his chest. They weren’t expecting him to play the role of the bad guy, the yes man. They weren’t expecting him to play along with some cruel act, pretending to laugh and have a good time even though every fiber of his being screamed at him to stop, stop, stop.

The people in this room didn’t make him want to die.

In fact, their warm hands and teasing coos made him feel like maybe, somehow, he really wanted to live.

And Yousuke had never felt that way before.

He felt a tug on his arm and opened his eyes.

“Quit it,” Sugawara stood behind Oikawa’s shoulders, scowling. “He’s my friend and I never promised to share him with you assholes.”

“Don’t be selfish, Suga-chan,” Oikawa released Yousuke and turned towards him. “You don't monopolize You-chan.”

“Yes I do! And don’t give him lame nicknames without my permission!”

“Ew, Suga-chan. Don’t act like you own him. That’s so gross.”

Sugawara pushed the others away and hugged Yousuke’s arm to his chest. “I just don’t trust your guys’ intentions is all. You’re probably just going to be mean to him later, right?”

“Never!”

“How could you even suggest that?” Ennoshita asked.

“We are perfect angels,” Matsukawa pressed a hand to his heart.

“Liars,” Sugawara glared. “And besides. If he’s going to have a nickname, it’ll be YouYou.

Yousuke blinked at him in surprise.

Oikawa clicked his tongue, “What is with you people? KouKou, SuSu, MuMu, BoBo, KuKu… it’s disgusting!”

Sugawara’s grip on Yousuke’s arm loosened, “Eh? How do you know about that…”

The room fell silent.

“Well,” Hanamaki said, “Cat’s outta the bag.”

Sugawara turned to Daichi. He climbed to his feet and cleared his throat.

“Let’s eat breakfast and I’ll explain everything later.”

Sugawara perked at the mention of food and happily dropped it. He grinned sweetly up at Yousuke, gently squeezing his forearm.

“Don’t think that just because it all worked out in the end that you’re off the hook for leaving me alone with Daichi.”

And his grip wasn’t the same intimidating clench of Akaashi Rei, but the threat held ten times the amount of punch.

But somehow, Yousuke wasn’t afraid.

And truly… he had never felt that way before.


 

“That was easier than I expected it to be,” Kuroo admitted, leaning back on the couch of Daichi’s living room. He sucked on a cigar slowly. “I mean… I was expecting them to actually fight back, not try to run away like pussies.”

“Cowards only fight when they have an assured victory,” Osamu said, browsing the newspaper from his place beside Risa on the love seat.

Bokuto took the cigar from Kuroo’s mouth and puffed on it before handing it back. He breathed out a cloud of smoke and said in awe, “I still can’t believe Daichi is the son of the Prime Minister.”

“Yeah! Who would have thought?” Atsumu leaned his elbows on the low coffee table behind which he sat. He swirled caramel colored liquid around in a low glass.

“Someone who actually watches the news,” Osamu said dully, folding the newspaper.

“Ehh, did you know this whole time?” Kuroo cocked an eyebrow.

“Of course.”

“Then why didn’t you tell us?” Atsumu scowled.

Keiji watched them silently, sitting awkwardly beside Bokuto on the couch, hands clasped in his lap.

“You were going to find out eventually,” Osamu tossed the newspaper onto the table next to his brother.

“I can’t wait to tell Eita and Kiyoko,” Bokuto said.

“No!” Risa snapped. Everyone stared at her. She scowled, “You can’t tell anyone about Sawamura!”

“What? Why not?” Kuroo tapped ashes into an empty cup. “They’re friends, right? Aren’t the others bound to find out eventually anyway, just like we did?”

“Yeah,” Bokuto said. “Unlike us, Kiyo and Eita both keep up with the news.”

“Just hearing his name will be enough for them to figure it out,” Atsumu took a sip of his liquor.

“Then we won’t tell them his name!” Risa said. “They can’t know. If the Sugawaras found out that Koushi was da— friends with the Prime Minister’s son, they would flip!”

Da…

Keiji pursed his lips.

Dating.

Sugawara is dating the Prime Minister’s son.

“They’re friends,” Atsumu said. “It’s not that big of a deal.”

So they don’t know… Keiji glanced at Bokuto, who yawned and rubbed his eyes.

“It doesn’t matter if they’re friends,” Osamu said. “The instant the Sugawaras find out who he is, it'll be hell. They'll forbid Koushi from ever seeing him.”

The room fell silent and Keiji looked among them in surprise.

Why?

He wanted to ask, but the somber mood that fell over the others kept his tongue still.

After a while, Bokuto murmured, “I think it’s good. KouKou should hang out with these types of people.” He glanced slowly around the room, “Daichi is rich. And a good guy that doesn’t get into trouble.”

Kuroo hummed and inhaled on his cigar, “And his friends too. They go to that really prestigious university with the undefeated volleyball team.”

“It is good that he’s hanging around with this type of people,” Osamu agreed. “Which is why, if we want him to continue hanging out with them, we need to keep Sawamura’s identity a secret from the Sugawaras.”

“So all we will say is that KouKou’s got a new friend, Daichi,” Atsumu nodded. “Daichi is a popular name. There were two Daichis in our high school.”

“And that movie star is named Daichi,” Kuroo said. “The one that plays all those dumb as shit characters.”

“I have an uncle Daichi,” Atsumu added. “Well… had. He’s dead now.”

“Uncle Daichi isn’t dead,” Osamu frowned.

“He’s dead to me.”

“So it’s settled!” Bokuto clapped his hands. “KouKou has a friend named Daichi that goes to university with him. Who lives in a normal sized apartment, and is not related to a major politician.”

“It’d be best if Kiyo never met him either,” Risa said. “She would probably recognize him in an instant.”

“What about Eita?” Kuroo ground out his cigar in the cup.

“He keeps up with the news,” Osamu mused. “But I doubt he’d recognize his face.”

“To be safe, we will just keep them both away,” Atsumu said. “Easy peasy. Okay, all settled?”

“Sounds like a plan,” Bokuto stretched his arms up over his head. He glanced at Keiji and then reached over and lifted the camcorder from his lap, “So… what do we do with this, then?”

“I’ve got to edit it,” Kuroo took it from his hand. “Cut it and blur our faces, make sure Koushi’s name isn’t in it… etcetera.”

“And then?” Keiji finally joined the conversation. “Are you really going to send it to all the news channels and radio stations?”

They looked at him.

“Well actually,” Risa scratched her cheek. “Sawamura said he has somewhere he wants to send it first. Then, depending on how that goes, we may or may not even need to send it anywhere else.”

Keiji hesitated, “He’s going to send it to his father?”

“That’s what we’re assuming,” Osamu said. “Which makes sense. In terms of quick retribution, it’s smart to send it to the highest power, right?”

“If we only sent it to news channels and radio stations, it could take weeks or even months for anything to really happen,” Risa said. “They would have to open an investigation and have a trial and such…”

“I don’t see how that’s even necessary,” Atsumu said. “Daichi’s got all this dirt on both Rei and his dad, right? That’s evidence enough to put him away.”

“But he wasn’t supposed to even have that information in the first place,” Kuroo stood and carried the camcorder to a desk against the far wall. He sat on the roller chair in front of it and opened a laptop. “They’d probably figure out how to trace it back to him and then he’d get in trouble with his parents.”

“Why?” Bokuto asked.

“I dunno,” Kuroo shrugged. “Because he wasn’t supposed to have it? Because he used his status to illegally acquire it and then didn’t even go to them first once he had it? The possibilities are endless. Don’t underestimate the red tape surrounding politicians’ kids.”

“It’s gotta be tough,” Atsumu mumbled. “I used to think people like Daichi were all like that Rei bastard. Spoiled rotten privileged little brats. But shit, this dude… he’s wound so tight, it’s like he’s afraid to even wipe his ass the wrong way and call down the wrath of society.”

And yet he’s dating another man.

Keiji stared down at his hands.

If there was one thing that Sawamura Daichi should be afraid of, it was the backlash he would surely feel once it’s revealed that he was in a romantic relationship with someone of the same sex. Is that why Risa was keeping it a secret from the others? Or was it Sugawara that she was trying to protect? Was it his family that would cause the most fuss over realizing something like that?

Keiji furrowed his brows.

It was quite possible that Sugawara Koushi and Sawamura Daichi could be the least compatible couple that he had ever seen.

“Alright, I’m gonna do this, don’t distract me,” Kuroo snapped, tapping the keyboard in a chicken peck fashion that lead Keiji to wonder if he actually knew how to use a computer.

Bokuto turned towards Keiji.

“Is it alright that you’re staying here? You don’t have to go home?”

He gulped, “I’d… prefer not to be there.”

Bokuto eyed him silently for a moment before smiling brightly, “Alright! We can all have a sleepover!”

“Then get your ass down here!” Atsumu said, reaching for a deck of cards. “Let’s drink and play poker!”

Bokuto whooped and jumped to the floor, where he crossed his legs. He glanced at Keiji over his shoulder and grinned. He patted the spot next to him, “C’mon, ‘Kaashi! You too!”

Keiji hesitated but then gave in, sitting beside him.

“Alright,” he said uncertainly. “How do you play?”


 

Daichi went out onto the veranda to answer the phone call.

“Hello?” he glanced back through the glass door at the others as they drank and roughhoused in the room. Sugawara was already drunk, face and neck flushed as he hung off of Yousuke’s shoulders and kicked at Oikawa’s chest, laughing loudly.

“Yo, Rich Boy!” Atsumu sang over the line. “Having a fun time? How’s KouKou? Can I talk to him?”

Daichi sighed, “He’s fine. He’s… drunk.”

Ehhhhh I wish I was there. KouKou is a fun, handsy drunk.”

Daichi watched Sugawara bury his face in Yousuke’s chest and frowned, “Yeah. I can see that.”

“Well anyway. We did the deed. Rei and his merry men were hauled off to the hospital, properly licked.”

Daichi turned towards the back gardens of the inn.

“And the video?”

“Yup. Got it. Real incriminatin’. We even got him to shout I’m untouchable like some gross supervillain. Admitted his Daddy was coverin’ up his crimes too.”

“Good,” Daichi breathed out a breath of relief.

“So what we doin’ with it?”

“I’m going to send you an address,” Daichi said. “I created a new email and have my laptop signed in on it. Send it from there.”

“Want me to write anythin’? A cute little message like, Caught some baddies! Tee hee! Love and kisses, Sawamura…”

“Do not sign my name.”

“Oh that’s right. Okay. Any more instructions?”

“Don’t fuck up my apartment.”

Atsumu made a low hissing sound, “Well you see…”

“Fuck you guys.”

“Love you too. Okay bye!” the line went dead.

Daichi sighed and stared at the screen of his phone. So it was done. Or at least… almost. He quickly sent a text message to Atsumu containing the address to which he wished him to send the video. When it was done, he lowered the phone to his side and stared out across the back garden of the inn.

Was he… finished? Had he done all that he could do? Could he finally sit back and… enjoy being with Sugawara?

Were all of his troubles finally gone?

The sound of the door sliding open drew his attention over his shoulder. Sugawara stumbled out onto the veranda, giggling drunkenly.

“Daichi, I challenged Oikawa to an arm wrestling match, will you cheer me on?” he lunged into his side, wrapping his arms around his waist.

Warmth spread through Daichi’s chest, so heavy that for a moment he forgot to reply.

He placed an arm around his shoulders, “Of course. What are the stakes?”

Sugawara grinned up at him, “If I lose, I’ll have to do twenty naked push-ups!”

Daichi fell silent.

“And if I win, then Oikawa has to do thirty naked squats!”

He pursed his lips, “Why naked?”

“Well it’s more of a bet that way.”

“Yeah but…”

“Nervous?” Sugawara laughed. “Don’t be! I’ll win!”

“Tooru isn’t a pushover—”

“Neither am I!” Sugawara’s grip around his waist loosened and he leaned slightly away. “I might look fragile, but I’m tougher than you think!”

“Hmm…” Daichi frowned.

“Trust me,” Sugawara insisted, pressing a hand over his heart.

A sudden urge throbbed through Daichi and normally he’d ignore it. He’d push it aside, smile, and assure Sugawara that he trusted him before going back into the room with him and cheering him on like he promised, acting as the perfect boyfriend he always tried his hardest to be.

But… Daichi had long since accepted that he wasn’t as perfect of a boyfriend as he once believed.

And he accepted that it was alright to be selfish every once in a while, at least when it came to Sugawara.

So instead of ignoring it, he grasped Sugawara by the hips and dragged him to the side, placing him into the shadow of his body and out of the view of the door to the room.

“Daichi?” Sugawara blinked up at him.

Daichi locked an arm around his waist and pulled him close, other hand cupping the back of his head and threading its fingers through his hair.

“You better win,” he said in a low voice, leaning down until their noses touched and he could smell the sake from his breath hot on his lips. “Because no one other than me is allowed to watch you do naked push-ups.”

Sugawara’s eyes widened and Daichi closed the gap between their lips, claiming his mouth in a hungry kiss.

Sugawara gripped the front of his robe and pulled him closer, pushing up into the kiss.

And Daichi could really get used to being selfish if this was the kind of reward he was given.

Because Sugawara fit perfectly against him, didn’t he? His body was the perfect length and width, folding comfortably against Daichi’s chest. And he was warm… so warm.

And when Daichi had his arms around him like this, his lips pressed to his like this… it was like all of Daichi’s worries disappeared. He was safe. No one could harm him when Daichi had him. And Daichi was happy. Happier than he had felt in longer than he could even recall. Because Sugawara was fun, and warm, and exactly what Daichi wanted and needed.

And Sugawara didn’t know who he was. He wasn’t dating him for some ulterior motive. Sugawara liked Daichi for… Daichi. Even after everything he had gone through, all the torment and pain and fear, Sugawara wanted to be with him.

Because Sugawara liked Daichi for who Daichi was and that was something that Daichi had never experienced before.

Sugawara liked Daichi and Daichi really liked him too.

And he had never felt that way before.

Sugawara pulled his lips away and smiled up at Daichi, nose scrunching.

“Do we get to kiss all the time, now?”

Daichi smiled and smoothed his hand through his hair, “Yeah. Any time you want.”

“And any time you want?”

“Hmm…” Daichi leaned forward and kissed him softly. “Well… we’d never get anything done if we were kissing all the time so… maybe not.”

Sugawara’s cheeks turned an even darker shade of red and Daichi grinned.

Sugawara cleared his throat, smoothed his fingers over Daichi’s robe, and muttered, “Well maybe I wanna kiss all the time too.”

“Then…” Daichi pulled him closer. “I guess we’re screwed.”


 

Takeda groaned as he slumped into his kitchen. He rubbed the back of his neck tiredly and went to the refrigerator. He popped the door open and peered inside at its contents, letting out a sigh at the thought of cooking dinner. He was just considering ordering take-out when there was a knock at his door.

He frowned and checked the clock on the wall. Who would be at his door this late at night?

He closed the refrigerator and leaned over his sink to peer through the window over it, pushing the blinds aside.

If it’s that man tormenting Sugawara-kun, I’m calling the police…

He cocked an eyebrow.

Because it wasn’t the man he had met outside of Sugawara’s door.

Or well… he supposed it was.

A different one, at least.

Takeda went to the door and opened it. Ukai lifted a bag that smelled criminally delicious and a bottle of sake.

“Hungry, Sensei?”

“Ukai-kun, you’re my savior,” Takeda took the bag from him and stepped to the side. “Come in.”

Ukai entered and Takeda closed the door behind him as he shucked off his jacket and shoes.

“What brings you here, Ukai-kun? Other than to bring food and alcohol?” Takeda carried the bag into the living room and Ukai followed.

“Hm, well the guys I usually drink with on the weekends are busy so…”

Takeda chuckled and set the bag down on the coffee table, “I see. So I’m your back-up entertainment for the night?”

“I could take my things and leave if that bugs you—”

“Ukai-kun I’m so hungry that if you dare take this food from me I might bite you.”

Ukai laughed and slumped down to the floor in front of the table. Takeda smiled and went to the kitchen to fetch cups for the sake.

“Long day, Sensei?” Ukai called. “I don’t want to imply that you look like shit, but damn you look like shit.”

“Thank you,” Takeda returned to the living room and set the cups down. He took his place on the other side of the table and watched as Ukai removed the food containers and spread them out. “As a matter of fact, I did have a long day. I’ve been doing extra tutoring after class and it leaves me with little time to rest. I’m exhausted. I’m so glad I finally have a day off tomorrow.”

“So then you don’t have to go to bed early!” Ukai grabbed the bottle of sake and popped it open. “Let’s drink all night.”

Takeda laughed and cracked his chopsticks, “I’m not sure if I could make it that long, if I’m being completely honest.”

“C’mon, you’re not that old, are you?”

“Of course not. In fact, I’ll bet I can outdrink you.”

Ukai’s eyebrows lifted, “Oh? Those are some fightin’ words, Sensei.”

Takeda smirked, “You’re free to interpret them in whatever way you’d like.”

Ukai leaned forward, lips ticking up, “I’ll be sure to do that then.”

Takeda’s cheeks warmed and he quickly looked away. He cleared his throat and opened a food container. He stabbed noodles with his chopsticks and said, “Uhm… so… Sugawara-kun and the others will be coming back to town tomorrow?”

“Well, that’s what Chikara told me,” Ukai poured sake into the two cups. “I couldn’t tell you where Koushi will end up though. Back at his friend’s house… here… I guess it all depends.”

Takeda chewed on the noodles silently.

Ukai lifted his cup to his lips and watched him momentarily. He lowered the cup and asked,

“Say Sensei… why are you so passionate about this whole thing? Isn’t Koushi just your neighbor? You two aren’t all that close, are you?”

Takeda hesitated. He set his food aside and took his cup. He sipped it slowly before replying.

“W-well… I suppose we’re not all that close. But he’s a good boy. He definitely doesn’t deserve the treatment that he’s gotten.”

Ukai’s dark eyes bored into him.

“A-and…” he set the cup down, gaze darting to the side. “When I came out, I didn’t have anyone to fight for me.” He gulped, “I don’t want Sugawara-kun to ever feel alone like I did.”

Silence grew between them. An uncomfortable, burning sensation that Takeda knew all too well spread through his chest and he resisted the urge to hide under the table and escape Ukai’s steady stare. Finally he asked,

“Wh-what about you, Ukai-kun? Why are you so passionate about it? Sugawara-kun is just an employee, right?”

Ukai stared for another long second before looking away.

“It’s like you said,” he said in a low, gruff voice. “He’s a good kid. Doesn’t deserve it.”

“Yeah. Well… they rarely do.”


 

The train was silent on the trip home from the onsen.

For a while.

“My favorite part were those sexy squats Oikawa-chan did—” Sugawara started.

SHUT UP, SUGA-CHAN!” Oikawa screeched from the seat across from him. He jumped up and lunged across the space between them. Sugawara threw his arms up and Oikawa grabbed his forearms. They wrestled momentarily, Sugawara laughing and kicking at him.

“You have such a nice ass, Oikawa-chan!” Sugawara cackled.

“How are you so strong?” Oikawa wailed, turning and sitting on Sugawara’s lap and struggling an arm around his neck. “You’re supposed to be the weak, pitiful one that needs Sawa-chan’s protection. Not some kind of arm wrestling beast.”

Sugawara continued to giggle as Oikawa rubbed his knuckles roughly against the top of his head, making a mess of his hair.

“You couldn’t really tell in the bath,” he said, batting at him. “But the manscaping job on your balls is flawless—

Stoooooooop!” Oikawa slapped a hand over his mouth. “It’s not fair! I wanted to make you do naked push-ups in front of Sawa-chan!”

Sugawara pried his hand away and panted, “Your form is so nice. Where did you learn to go up and down and up and down and up and down and—”

“OPEN THE WINDOW, YOU-CHAN, I’M TOSSING THIS JACKASS OUT OF THIS TRAIN!”

“I would rather die than betray Suga,” Yousuke replied smoothly.

Wow.”

Hanamaki sat up on his seat behind them and wrapped his arms around both their shoulders.

“My favorite part was when Suga fell over and grabbed Iwaizumi’s dick.”

Shut up!” Sugawara and Oikawa exclaimed simultaneously.

Iwaizumi sighed from the seat adjacent theirs, “My favorite part was going on the test of courage with Azumane, AKA my favorite person on this trip.”

Asahi clasped his hands in his lap at his side, “Ah… ah… thank you, Iwaizumi-san…”

Sugawara groaned and jabbed Oikawa in the stomach, “Get off! I can’t breathe!”

“Tooru let it go,” Daichi said from Sugawara’s side. “It’s not like we all haven’t seen you naked before. You weren’t exactly hiding anything in the bath.”

“Still! It’s embarrassing!” he whined.

Sugawara shoved him off of him and he slumped back into his seat across from them. Ennoshita leaned around Tanaka and said,

“My favorite part was when Boyfriend and Kou were sleeping together and Kou’s robe fell off a little bit and we all saw his ass.”

Sugawara paled, “Y-You did?”

“I reckon Dai-chan’s the only one who hasn’t seen it at this point,” Matsukawa said.

“A terrible shame,” Hanamaki clicked his tongue. “It’s so nice.

“Even Rei has seen it,” Yousuke mumbled and Sugawara quickly slapped him.

He whirled to Daichi, who didn’t seem all that surprised at the confession.

“It’s not what it sounds like!” he said hurriedly, lifting his hands. “You see there was just this silly misunderstanding involving a video and ha ha ha…” his eyes darted away and he wiped away the beads of sweat that formed on his forehead.

“We already know about the sex tape,” Matsukawa said.

Eh?” He leaned forward and glared at Asahi, “You tattled?

“N-No!” his eyes widened. “Uhm… not exactly. It’s just… when you called, we were all at Daichi’s house and I… I may have put it on speaker phone.”

Sugawara covered his eyes and groaned. He didn’t look at Daichi as he mumbled, “It… it wasn’t my idea. Risa wanted… uhm…” he cleared his throat.

“Can I see it?” Hanamaki asked.

“Me too,” Ennoshita chimed in.

“N-No!” Sugawara snapped. “I’m burning it when I get home!”

“You-chan, you’ve seen it, right?” Oikawa said. “How was it?”

“Ahhhh!” Sugawara swiped at Oikawa but he dodged.

“It’s pretty good,” Yousuke admitted.

“Yousuke!”

“His sweet, sweet movements just about brought a tear to my eye,” Yousuke went on, clenching a hand into a fist. “So gentle. So pure. So smooth—”

“Stop!” Sugawara wrestled him into a headlock. “I thought you said you’d rather die than betray me!”

“What would you rather me say?” Yousuke allowed himself to be manhandled. “It was terrible? Just awful? How did you keep a girlfriend for so long?”

“Of course not!”

“You’re sending me mixed signals here, Suga. Should I have said, Ah, it wasn’t bad but looked like he preferred to be the one getting—”

“Aaaaaaaahhhhhhhh!” Sugawara slapped a hand over his mouth.

Oikawa leaned forward, “Ohh, Suga-chan, I could give you some good dick if that’s how you feel…”

Sugawara’s cheeks blazed, “A-Are you sure? Judging by those squats you were doing last night, I would’ve guessed you preferred to ride than be ridden—”

“YOU SON OF A BITCH!”

“Tooru, sit down,” Daichi commanded when he leapt to his feet again. He reached out and took Sugawara’s arm, pulling him away from Yousuke. When he settled Sugawara into the seat once more, he said, “When we get back, come over to my place.”

Sugawara’s eyes widened and his mouth went dry. “O-Oh! Well…” he stared down at the floor, mind whirling. “Uhm… it’s… it’s a little sudden, I admit. But, uhm… I suppose that…”

“Keep it in your pants, Suga-chan. We’ll be there too,” Oikawa rolled his eyes.

“Eh?” Sugawara looked at him and then glanced at Daichi, whose cheeks were tinted pink as he avoided making eye contact.

“OH!” Sugawara laughed awkwardly. “Ha… ha… right. I knew that. Totally. Uhm… okay,” he pressed a hand over his eyes and tried to tune out the snickers from all around him.

“So smooth,” Yousuke muttered and Sugawara punched his shoulder.


 

Tendou yawned and carried his coffee mug down the hall to his room. His steps didn’t make a sound inside the overstuffed cushions of his red monster slippers. As he traveled, he sang cheerfully under his breath,

Keep on breaking them! What, you say? Their hearts!

He pushed the door of his room open and lifted his voice and wiggled his hips.

Keep on shattering them! What, you say? Their spirits!

He yawned again and shuffled up to his desk. He pulled out the chair and slumped into it, letting out a deep sigh. He lifted the coffee mug to his lips and sipped as he popped open his laptop and woke it up.

“Heigh-ho,” he mumbled, pulling his legs up and folding them. “Off to work I go.”

He set his mug to the side and hummed, pulling up his emails and scrolling through them.

“So popular today, Satori,” he snickered as he passed by multiple messages of complaints from irritated… coworkers. Most would be moved to the trash bin. Tendou wasn’t getting paid to make people happy, after all. He couldn’t care less that someone had their feelings hurt over something his boss made him do.

“Tell someone who cares,” he said, sipping his coffee again. His scrolling slowed when an unfamiliar email address showed up in the inbox. “Oya? And who do we have here?”

He clicked the email but there wasn’t even a body of text. Merely an unnamed video attached.

“Oh please be a hostage situation,” he leaned forward excitedly. He clicked the video, crossing his fingers in hopes for something interesting to entertain him for the day.

As soon as the video started playing, camera trained on a man that struck a familiar chord, Tendou realized it wasn’t a hostage situation.

Which honestly didn’t make it any less interesting.

He plugged his headphones into his ears and listened intently to the audio, slow grin spreading over his lips.

His phone beeped in the pocket of his pajamas and he pulled it out. A new text message from Daichi blinked on the screen. He opened it on an image of him and several of his friends at the train station.

Tendou shook his head, grinning wide as he stared at Daichi’s somewhat smug expression as he smirked at the camera, arm draped around the shoulders of a grey haired man with a bright smile.

“Daichi-chan, you rapscallion,” he let out a laugh. “Never learn, do ya?”


 

“You four didn’t have to come, you know,” Daichi said in the overstuffed elevator, glaring at Tanaka, Ennoshita, Asahi, and Yousuke.

“Yeah but we did anyway,” Tanaka said cheerfully. “No way I’m missing out on a party.”

“I heard there would be food,” Ennoshita said.

“Like hell there will be.”

Sugawara leaned closer to Daichi’s side and pursed his lips.

Why was Daichi inviting him over all of a sudden? They saw each other all weekend. Did he just not want to say goodbye yet? Or maybe he wasn’t completely convinced that he wouldn’t pack up and run as soon as he got home? He had to go home eventually. He couldn’t be held prisoner in Daichi’s place just to insure that he didn’t leave.

I won’t leave.

Sugawara glanced up in Daichi’s face as he continued to glare at the four uninvited guests.

I won’t leave.

Maybe I should tell him again.

So that he won’t worry.

Sugawara didn’t want to leave anymore. He was scared, ridiculously scared. But he was finally prepared to ask for the help he needed. Daichi and the others seemed confident that they could do something to protect him from Rei and his gang. Sugawara was just going to have to trust that.

And if they were wrong then… well he would just have to call in back-up.

The elevator reached their floor and opened. Oikawa let out a loud groan and pushed out into the hallway. “I thought for sure we had reached the weight limit!”

“Are you calling Dai-chan fat?” Matsukawa asked, following.

“Rude. He looks good with that extra weight,” Hanamaki clicked his tongue.

“Ehh?” Daichi patted his stomach. “What extra weight?”

“Don’t listen to them,” Tanaka slapped his shoulder. “Suga said he loves a guy with meat on him.”

Daichi glared at him and then discreetly pinched his side, “I didn’t gain weight… did I?”

Sugawara giggled and passed him, “More to cuddle with.”

Daichi didn’t respond as they waited for Oikawa to unlock the door and then everyone filed inside. Finally Daichi muttered,

“That’s fine then.”

Sugawara grinned and entered the apartment. He tossed his bag to the side and kicked his shoes off with the others in the entrance.

“We’re home!” Oikawa called into the apartment and he and the others walked further inside.

Sugawara eyed Daichi silently for a long second as he shucked off his jacket and hung it up.

I’ll tell him that I won’t leave. And then I’ll ask for his help getting rid of Rei. Then we can—

KOUKOU!

That voice…

Sugawara turned just in time to take the brunt of a flying body to his chest. Several large, solid arms were suddenly wrapping around him as the momentum of the tackle sent him soaring backwards. He let out a cry as he hit the floor, connection softened by another body wrapped around him from behind.

KOUKOU!” lips smashed into his cheeks and forehead and back of his neck.

“Wh-wh—” Sugawara flailed momentarily until the four faces surrounding him came into focus.

The first was Bokuto, directly in front of him as he peppered his face with excited kisses.

B-B-BoBo!” He looked left to where Osamu was stretched out at his side, smiling softly and ruffling his hair. Atsumu was on his other side, trying to nestle his face into his throat, and Kuroo’s low chuckling sounded in his ear from underneath him.

Moisture stung Sugawara’s eyes and he let out a loud, gleeful laugh, wrapping an arm around Atsumu’s shoulders and cupping Osamu’s face.

“What are you guys doing here?” he shouted, tears forming in the corners of his eyes and dripping down his temples.

KOUKOU I MISSED YOU SO MUCH!” Bokuto wailed, sudden tears bursting from his own wide golden eyes.

“I… I…” Sugawara sniffled. “I missed you too…” He squeezed his eyes shut and hugged them close. “I missed you so much…”

They remained laughing and crying in their pile for long minutes, left there by the others, who spread out across the apartment.

Eventually, Bokuto used Atsumu’s shirt to wipe away his tears and snot, blubbering.

“Ew! Dude!”

“Shuddup,” Bokuto said, voice nasally.

Sugawara laughed and struggled in their unrelenting grip.

“What are you guys even doing here?” he looked to Osamu, who reached out and smoothed his messy hair from his forehead.

“Taking care of some business,” he said softly.

“Business? What kind of business?” Sugawara shifted again and then scowled. He looked over his shoulder at Kuroo. “Do you seriously have a boner right now?”

“I’m just so happy.”

“Hey!” Atsumu barked. “If anyone is going to rub his happy boner on Koushi, it’s gonna be me!”

“No!” Sugawara laughed and struggled. “Let me go you perverts!”

“Ah, wait,” Atsumu shoved Bokuto out of the way and promptly leaned his head on Sugawara’s chest.

The others fell silent and Sugawara stilled.

“What are you…”

“Shh.”

Sugawara hesitated, staring down at his hair. Realization struck him and he struggled again.

“I’m fine! Get off!”

Osamu and Kuroo held his arms down.

“Well?” Osamu asked.

Atsumu lifted his head and scowled down at Sugawara, “Koushi, when was the last time you had a check-up?”

“I’m fine!” Sugawara whined, kicking his legs.

“You’re not fine! Do we have to drag you off to—”

“Daichi! Daichi! Daichi!”

Daichi approached, lips pressed in a firm line as he eyed them warily.

Sugawara yanked against Osamu’s and Kuroo’s grip. “Atsumu is trying to rub his boner on me!”

“Don’t accuse me!”

Daichi waded into their pile, pushing the others out of the way. He pressed a foot down on Atsumu’s chest when he tried to get between them and then leaned down. He slid an arm around Sugawara’s waist, pinching Kuroo’s arms in the process, and then hauled him up and out of the mess of arms and legs. He carried him backwards and then set his feet down once more, giving each of the men an individual glare.

“Ha!” Sugawara brushed himself off and turned to them. “Take that!”

“I’m not done talking about this, Koushi!” Atsumu snapped.

“You are for now,” Sugawara stuck his tongue out and then glanced at Daichi. “And anyway… you never answered me. Why are you guys even here? And at Daichi’s place, no less?”

They all climbed to their feet, straightening their clothes.

“We came to get rid of that Rei guy and his friends,” Kuroo said, running his fingers through his messy bangs.

"Did it the other night," Osamu added. "Sent them all to the hospital."

Sugawara’s eyes widened, “What? Why… how…” he gulped and looked at Daichi. “Did you call them?”

He rubbed the back of his neck, “Well… no…”

“Then who—”

The door of the apartment opened and a shrill, feminine voice called out, “Ugh! Okay! I got your stupid drink, Atsumu! I swear, if you make me go across town one more fuckin’ time, I’m tearin’ out your dick piercing and makin’ you eat it—”

Risa froze when her eyes fell on Sugawara. The plastic bag in her hand fell to the floor, followed by her purse.

“O-oh,” her cheeks reddened.

Risa?

Why is Risa here?

And she knows Daichi’s code?

Why… why…

She was dressed simply in a pair of high waisted jeans and a faded red t-shirt. Her hair was pulled back in a French braid and a pair of grey framed glasses perched on her nose.

And she looked like she used to. Before they had moved to this city and she started putting an extra hour of time into her morning regime. Before she had decided that “I gotta acclimate to the city life, Koushi. Or else I won’t fit in.

She looked like when they would walk along the river and talk for hours. When Sugawara would catch her an all manner of slimy creatures and then chase her around with them while she screamed and laughed and called him every curse word in her repertoire. She looked like when they would lie on the grassy bank and watch the sun set and then make up constellations in the night sky.

See those stars over there?”

“Which ones?”

“The bright ones.”

“Oh my god, Riis they’re all bright.”

“The ones that look like a croissant!”

“… sure.”

“That’s the croissant constellation. Stop laughing! Sailors from France used to gaze at it until the long hours of the night, missing home.”

“Those poor sailors.”

“They only had bagels.”

“Did they die?”

“Of course.”

“Tragic.”

And it wasn't fair.

She looked as she had when Sugawara had stared at her as if she was everything he ever wanted and needed in the world.

How tragic.

His chest ached.

Maybe he needed that check-up after all.

Risa cleared her throat and looked away, “Uhm… sorry. I’ll just…” she turned for the door.

“Wait.”

Sugawara glanced up at Daichi but he stared steadily at Risa.

“Didn’t you want to tell him something?”

Sugawara watched her shoulders slump and she slowly turned around, eyes on the floor.

“I… did…”

Kuroo draped his arm over Bokuto’s shoulders and they glanced between them expectantly.

Sugawara gulped and walked slowly from Daichi’s side. He approached Risa and after a moment’s hesitation, reached out and took her hand. He glanced over his shoulder.

Daichi nodded in the direction of his bedroom. Sugawara looked down at Risa but she didn’t meet his eyes, hiding behind the frames of her glasses. He tugged on her hand, leading her past the others and through the living room. Everyone else had gathered there, sitting on the floor and the couches. Sugawara recognized a face he had only seen once before sitting among them, but when he met his eyes, Akaashi Keiji hurriedly looked away.

Sugawara pulled Risa down the hall to Daichi’s bedroom. He closed the door behind them and finally released her hand. Risa took a few steps back, towards the bed, and then clasped her hands in front of her.

Sugawara rubbed the side of his neck.

Now what?

What was he supposed to say to her now? He was so filled with shame that he didn’t even know where to start.

He opened his mouth but she beat him to the punch.

“You got back together with Sawamura.”

It wasn’t a question. Merely a confirmation of what she had already guessed.

Sugawara nodded.

She inhaled deeply and stared across the room, “I knew that was going to happen.”

“I like him.”

She glanced in his direction.

Sugawara’s cheeks burned but he held his ground, “I like him. A lot. He makes me happy and we have fun together. I know that it’s not something that people think of as… normal. But I want to be with him and—”

“Who cares what’s normal or not?” Risa interrupted, eyebrows furrowing. “If you’re happy, then you just go ahead and keep being happy!”

Sugawara stared at her silently.

She reached up and rubbed her nose, “Some people go their whole lives searching for happiness and never find it. Some people throw away what happiness they do find because it ain’t normal. But you know what? It ain’t normal to think you’ve got any right to judge whether someone’s love is right or not.” She lowered her eyes, “It ain’t normal to attack and belittle people. It ain’t normal to be able to hurt someone and not feel bad about it.” A thick sheen of moisture covered her eyes, “It ain’t normal to cheat on your boyfriend over and over again. And it ain’t normal to make him seem like it was his fault, either.”

Tears slipped from her eyes and she rubbed at them with a short sigh.

“Who cares what’s normal?” she mumbled. “It don’t matter. Only thing that matters is how you feel about yourself and the things you do. If Sawamura makes you happy, then you stay with him. You keep him close and you don’t ever let go, no matter what, got it?” Her voice lowered, “That’s advice I wish I woulda told myself a long time ago…”

Silence filled the room and the tightness in Sugawara’s chest grew.

It wasn’t fair. This wasn’t how he wanted things to turn out.

How pathetic.

His eyes burned and he stared at the floor.

“I’m sorry I wasn’t enough.”

You were enough!” Risa exclaimed, the force of her voice pushing him back a step. “You were enough! You are enough! More than enough…” she cried and wiped her eyes. “You’re too much! You’re too good and too sweet and too much! You’re too gentle and you treated me too kindly when I didn’t deserve it!” She shuddered and looked away, face twisted into a painful mask, “You’re too much.

Sugawara gulped, “I’m sorry I was too much.”

She groaned and rubbed her eyes, letting out a low, “Fuck.

A long minute passed in silence.

And Sugawara didn’t know what to say.

There was no remedying their relationship. At least not to what it used to be. And Sugawara was at a complete loss. What was he supposed to do? To say? Should he apologize more? Should he get angry and yell and blame her?

He didn’t want to yell.

And he wasn’t angry.

He didn’t blame her either.

So just what the hell was he supposed to do?

“Question,” Risa’s voice finally whispered and he raised his eyes to her face.

“Answer,” he said, equally soft.

Fast tears slipped down her cheeks and she sniffled, “Do you really not care about me anymore?”

“I care about you,” he answered immediately. “I love you. I’ll always love you. Nothing that happens between us will ever change that.”

Risa nodded, chin quivering, “But not enough to leave Sawamura and take me back, right?” She let out a weak laugh that devolved into a sob.

“Sorry…”

She nodded again and wiped her eyes, “I know. I knew that. Koushi…” She took a deep breath, “I’m so sorry. For everything. I’m sorry that I cheated on you. It was so wrong. I was so wrong. And I’m sorry for making a fuss. I’m sorry for the things I said to you that day.” Her shoulders trembled and she covered her face with her hands, pushing her glasses up her forehead. “I’m sorry I complained to Anna and I’m sorry that I started this whole mess and it’s all my fault and—”

Sugawara bolted forward and threw his arms around her. They fell back onto Daichi’s bed, bouncing on the mattress, and lay on their sides, Sugawara hugging her tightly to his chest.

“It’s not your fault,” he said fervently. “You didn’t ask for any of this to happen.”

“What does that matter?” she wailed. “None of this would have happened if I hadn’t opened my stupid mouth! No… none of this would have happened if I had never cheated on you! Everything is my fault and I hate myself!” She sobbed, entire frame quaking. “I hate myself so much!”

Sugawara squeezed her tighter, “No. Don’t do that. You’re not allowed to do that.”

“But—!”

No,” he repeated. “I’ve never hated you, no matter what happened to me, so you’re not allowed to hate yourself.”

“Koushi I—”

“We’re both at fault, Risa. I knew from the start what you were doing and I never confronted you. If I had, I could have told you how it made me feel and we could have come to an understanding. Either… either you would have stopped or we would have split on better terms and maybe this stuff never would have happened. But… but that isn’t what happened.” He stroked the back of her head. “Instead, I let everything stew until it was too late. You were wrong to cheat on me. And I was wrong to let you.”

She sobbed into his chest for long seconds, fingers gripping at his shirt and pulling him close. He hugged her tighter and closed his eyes against his own tears.

They were pathetic.

But Sugawara was relieved. He was relieved that they were having the opportunity to finally talk, to get all the feelings that had been roiling in their stomachs out in the open.

It was all going to be okay.

For the first time, Sugawara truly thought that everything would finally be okay.

“I think this would have always happened,” Sugawara whispered after several minutes, when Risa’s cries quieted to wet gasps against his collar. He rubbed slow circles on her back, “I’m not sure, obviously… but I think we would've always turned out this way. If not by your cheating… then maybe we would’ve just fallen out of love with each other.”

“I love you,” she argued, voice rough. “I may have cheated but I never stopped loving you.”

“I know. But… in a few years… maybe you would’ve.”

She sniffled.

“Maybe I’d start to bore you. Or we just wouldn’t connect anymore. Maybe… maybe you’d meet someone else that made you happier than I could.” He stared over her head, across the bed, to the spot that he had kissed Daichi. “Maybe I would have still met and fallen for Daichi and we still would have wound up exactly where we are.”

“But maybe we wouldn’t have.”

Sugawara fell silent.

“Maybe we would’ve got married. Maybe we would’ve had kids… and been happy for the rest of our lives together.”

Sugawara stroked his hand down the back of her head to her neck. He tilted her face until he could see her eyes, puffy and red and still glistening with moisture.

“I’m sorry things didn’t turn out that way.”

Her chin trembled and she nodded, “Me too.”

“Thank you for these years we shared, Nagachika Risa.”

She squeezed her eyes shut, “For giving me the happiest years of my life, thank you, Koushi.”

Sugawara leaned forward and pressed his lips to her forehead, eyes sliding closed.

His chest ached, still impossibly tight.

But it felt as if an immense weight had been lifted from his shoulders.

And it was so pathetic that the feeling had to come at such a price.


 

“What do you think they’re saying?” Bokuto asked.

“Should we snoop?” Atsumu perked. He headed towards the hallway but his brother grabbed him by the back of his shirt and hauled him into the living room with the rest of them.

“Leave them alone,” he chided. “Let them talk.”

“He better not forgive her!” Atsumu said loudly. “I’ll never forgive her!”

“You weren’t wronged by her,” Kuroo said, taking a lighter from Matsukawa and lighting the cigarette in his mouth. “You don’t need to forgive her for anything.”

“I feel wronged!” Atsumu slid to the ground beside Tanaka. He glared at Kuroo, “Honestly man what the fuck. Don’t smoke around Koushi.”

“Do you see Koushi anywhere?” Kuroo blew a puff of smoke in his direction.

“I’ll fucking kill you.”

“Try it.”

Daichi ignored the argument and looked to the unfamiliar man sitting next to him on the couch. He wrung his hands anxiously in his lap, glancing in Daichi’s direction and then away, face pale.

“Hello,” Daichi smiled in a way he hoped was comforting. “My name is Sawamura Daichi,” he offered a hand. “Are you… a friend of one of those guys?” he nodded towards Sugawara’s loud quartet as they argued in shouts and taunts across the table, occasionally joined by Tanaka or Matsukawa.

The man coughed hurriedly and then turned towards him, eyes widening.

“H-hello,” he stammered. “My name…” he hesitated, hand reaching halfway towards him. “I’m…”

Daichi’s smile softened, “Akaashi Keiji?”

Keiji’s mouth opened, cheeks reddening.

“Ah… uh… I’m… sorry…”

Daichi cocked an eyebrow, “Sorry for what?”

He averted his eyes, “My brother… the things he did to your boyfr—”

“Oops,” Daichi lifted a finger to his lips and Keiji stared up at him. Daichi winked and glanced towards the rowdy quartet. “Let’s not say that too loud.”

“Oh… right,” Keiji looked nervously towards the others and then back to him. “So that’s… a secret.”

“For the time being,” Daichi leaned back on the couch and watched Atsumu stretch over the table and swipe at Kuroo, who leaned away, sucking viciously on his cigarette, the ash burning up its length to his lips.

They didn’t speak for a moment and then Daichi asked, “Are you okay? With how things turned out?”

Keiji paused, “I am nervous about what it means for me and my future. But I am happy that something is finally going to be done about the horrible things my brother and father have gotten away with all these years.”

“Thank you for helping us.”

Keiji rubbed a thumb over his knuckle, staring down into his lap, “What will happen to them, exactly?”

Daichi hummed, “Depends on what the Madam decides to do with the video we sent her.”

Keiji cocked his head to the side, “Madam?”

Daichi smiled, “We’ll give it a week. If there’s no word about action being taken against them, or if we decide that what is being done isn’t good enough, we will leak the video.”

Keiji didn’t reply, staring down into his lap once more.

Daichi watched him quietly before saying gently, “In the meantime, if you need somewhere to stay… I’ve already got a crowd but there’s always room for one more.”

“Oh. That’s not necessary. I… I can stay with a friend until things get sorted out.”

“Alri—”

Suddenly Bokuto was in front of them. He clutched a beer bottle in both hands and eyed them silently, lips pursed. He gave Daichi a pointed stare and then turned and lowered onto the small space of couch between them, forcing Daichi to scoot closer to Iwaizumi on his other side. Bokuto lifted the beer to his lips and drank from it, staring straight ahead.

Daichi glanced at Keiji. His cheeks were flushed pink and his eyelashes fluttered.

Ah.

Daichi stifled a smile.

“You know, I’ve been thinkin’,” Atsumu’s voice drew his attention as it rose over the low hum of the others’ separate conversation. His gaze was across the room, where Yousuke stood with Asahi. “This guy. He looks familiar, even though I’m sure I’ve never met the mother fucker.”

Uh oh.

Daichi leaned forward at the same time Atsumu pushed to his feet.

“’Tsumu, don’t make a fuss,” Osamu said dully, leaning back on the heels of his hands.

“How’s he familiar?” Kuroo turned and stared at Yousuke, eyes narrowing.

“Looks like a certain bastard from a certain video,” Atsumu rounded the table and strode across the room to stand directly in front of the redhead, who looked almost as panicked as Asahi.

“Wait, is that one of the guys that’s been tormenting Koushi?” Kuroo spun until his entire body faced him. “How’d we let this one slip through our fingers?”

“N-No,” Asahi said. “See… this one is different—”

“I watched that video six times,” Atsumu said, voice hardening. “This guy kneed Koushi in the stomach. He dragged him to the floor. He stepped on his hand. He ground that hand under his heel.

Yousuke winced at every accusation, brows furrowing and eyes lowering to the floor in painful shame.

Daichi thrust to his feet and stepped around Matsukawa.

“Now,” Atsumu reached behind him and produced his Glock. He pointed it at Yousuke’s head. “Tell me how the fuck did we let this rat slip through our fingers?”

Yousuke sucked in a sharp breath, eyes flying wide. Asahi squeaked and flinched away from the weapon.

“Tryin’ to sneak in here and play friend with us, thinkin’ we wouldn’t recognize ya?” Atsumu snapped. “Think we’re that dumb?”

Daichi slid in between them, placing his own forehead under the barrel of the gun as he leveled Atsumu with a calm stare.

“Get the fuck out of my way, Sawamura,” Atsumu hissed.

“No.”

“I swear to god—”

“Yousuke’s off limits.”

“You saw the video! He’s just as bad as those others—”

“I won’t let you touch him.”

“Put the gun away, Susu-chan,” Oikawa demanded.

“Yeah man, seriously. Yousuke’s alright,” Tanaka added.

“H-He’s our friend,” Asahi said.

Atsumu’s lips twisted.

“Ah!”

The sudden exclamation drew their attention to the other side of the room. Sugawara stood there, wide eyes locked on them. Risa stood at his shoulder, eyes red and swollen, rubbing her nose with her wrist.

Atsumu!” Sugawara stomped towards them. “Are you pointing a gun at Daichi right now?”

“No I was pointin’ at—”

As soon as he was within range, Sugawara’s hand flashed out and ripped the gun from his grip. Daichi wanted to take it from him, lest he accidentally set it off, but Sugawara placed his body in front of him, facing Atsumu as he released the magazine. It dropped and he kicked it away. He pulled the slide back and checked the chamber, then pointed the barrel off to the side, pulled the trigger back, then slid the slide towards him slightly. His hands moved over the weapon expertly until the slide was disassembled and scattered across the floor. He thrust what remained of the Glock into Atsumu’s chest and he took it, humbled.

Sit,” Sugawara commanded and Atsumu slid to his knees behind the parts of his gun.

Sugawara crossed his arms over his chest and glared down at him.

“You threatened Daichi.”

“No,” Atsumu argued up at him. “I was threatenin’ the other one and he just got in between us!”

Sugawara hesitated, “Alright so you were threatening Yousuke.”

“He’s one of the guys that—”

“He’s my friend.”

Atsumu fell silent.

“I know what he’s done in the past but I don’t care. He’s my friend. I care about him and I won’t let you touch him.”

For a long second, no one spoke. Silence fell thick and heavy over the room.

“Even after everything…” Atsumu started.

“Yes,” Sugawara interrupted.

“But—”

“No buts. Apologize.”

Atsumu clamped his mouth shut, Adam’s apple bobbing. His face twisted uncomfortably.

“I didn’t even do anything yet…”

“You scared him. You threatened him. You made him feel uncomfortable in a place where he is more than welcome.”

Atsumu sucked in a deep breath and then pushed it out through his nose. He glanced away.

“Fine.”

Sugawara stepped to the side and Daichi did the same so that Atsumu had a clear view of Yousuke, who stiffened at the sudden exposure.

Atsumu glared at him for a moment and then muttered, “Sorry for threatenin’ ya.”

“That didn’t sound genuine,” Sugawara scolded.

“’Cause it ain’t! Just because you forgive him doesn’t mean I gotta—”

“He hasn’t done anything to you that you need to forgive in the first place!”

“I can’t forgive anyone that’s hurt you—”

“Out of everyone in this room, who has hurt me the most?”

There was a moment of hesitation and then his, Osamu’s, Kuroo’s, and Risa’s heads all turned towards Bokuto, who slumped down on the couch, wearing an ashamed expression.

“It was an accident though,” he mumbled.

Atsumu turned forward again and Sugawara said, “You’re still best buddies with Koutarou, right?”

“That’s different—”

“It’s not,” Sugawara stepped around Daichi and took Yousuke’s arm. He pulled him forward and patted his chest. “Yousuke hurt me in the past but he’s also helped me. He’s my friend and I won’t tolerate you treating him like he’s an enemy. If you’re going to, then Daichi will kick you out of his apartment.”

Daichi stifled a smile. After so long watching a timid and beaten Sugawara, it was comforting to see the man so fierce and demanding now.

Ah. There you are.

Atsumu let out a long groan.

“But I don’t waaannnaaaa—”

Sugawara grinned and wrapped his arms around Yousuke, pulling him close. Daichi frowned.

“Just look at him, Susu! He’s so cuuuute. Look at his face!” he reached up and squeezed his chin. “Look! He’s got a cute widdle mole on his cheek, just like me and Kiyoko!”

Ugh.

“Wook at his pwetty puppy eyes,” Sugawara rubbed his hair. “How can you not wuv him?”

“It’s not difficult.”

“My widdle YouYou is so adorable and deserving of your wuv!”

“Ugh!” Atsumu climbed to his feet, scooping up the individual parts of his gun along the way. “Fine! I’m sorry! I won’t do it again! I forgive you for being a piece of shit and if Koushi likes you then… then I’ll try my best to like you too…” he looked away.

Sugawara giggled.

“How cute,” Oikawa mumbled and Hanamaki snickered.

Yousuke cleared his throat and everyone watched him as he scratched the back of his neck.

“I…” he said. “I understand your hatred. And… it’s okay. I don’t blame you.”

Sugawara scowled.

“But I hope you’ll believe me when I say that I’d rather be shot by you than ever betray Suga again.”

Daichi swallowed a laugh at the sober moroseness on the man’s face as he delivered the promise. Kuroo didn’t have any such composure. He cackled loudly and climbed to his feet. He walked up to the group and instantly slung an arm over Yousuke’s shoulders.

“I’m convinced,” he said with a smirk. “YouYou, was it? Anyone willing to die for our little angel is alright by me.” He turned the smirk towards Atsumu, who still pouted, sliding his Glock back together. “Don’t mind Atsumu. He’s a very sensitive boy. Come sit next to me and tell me all about the different ways you’d be willing to die for Koushi.”

Daichi relaxed his shoulders.

Crisis averted.

For now.

Sugawara turned to him. He stared up at him for a long moment before reaching out and taking his hand. He pulled him across the room.

“Where you goin’ Koushi?” Atsumu called after them.

“I… uh… gotta talk to Daichi for a minute. We’ll be right back.”

“Ehh…”

Sugawara dragged him down the hallway and into his bedroom, closing the door behind. He turned towards him and placed his hands on his biceps, cheeks flushing.

“Uhm,” he cleared his throat. “You said… any time I want, right?”

Daichi blinked.

Any time…

Ah.

Daichi slid his arms around his waist, leaned forward, and pressed their lips together gently. Sugawara leaned into the kiss eagerly, hands sliding up to his shoulders.

So Daichi had won after all.

He was slightly embarrassed to admit- even to himself- that he had harbored a slight fear that Sugawara would somehow decide to take Risa back after hearing her apology.

Not that Daichi would have allowed it. He had just gotten Sugawara back, there was no way he would let him leave again without a fight.

Sugawara pulled back.

“Thank you.”

“For what?” Daichi kissed the corner of his mouth.

“For protecting Yousuke.”

Daichi eyed him silently. Sugawara smiled.

“I can tell you still don’t like him much.”

He looked away and hummed.

“But you protected him anyway,” Sugawara pressed a hand to his cheek and turned his face back to him. “So thank you.”

Daichi accepted another tender kiss from him before muttering, “He’s still on probation. But… I owe him for watching over you when I couldn’t… ah, or should I say, when you wouldn’t let me.”

Sugawara’s cheeks colored in embarrassment, “Sorry…”

Daichi smiled ruefully. His hands slowly spread over Sugawara’s back and he momentarily allowed himself to be distracted by the feeling of his body under his touch. He pressed another soft kiss to his lips, one hand sliding up his spine to the back of his head. His fingers laced in his hair and he tipped his head back, putting pressure to his mouth until it opened. He slipped his tongue inside and Sugawara’s fingers tightened at his shoulders.

And ahh…

Daichi really liked how sweet a boyfriend could taste. And how soft and yet firm he could feel pressed against his body. Every sensation of Sugawara completely intoxicated Daichi’s mind, a warm knot of frustration tangling in his stomach.

And he wanted to do more. He wanted to pull him closer, kiss him deeper. He wanted to touch him in more places, explore more of his body, sliding his hands underneath the clothes that separated them. He wanted to spread him out across his bed and lean over him, tasting the skin of his neck… chest… thighs…

He wanted all of Sugawara, intensely.

And he had never felt that way before.

Sugawara pushed lightly at Daichi’s shoulders and broke the connection between their lips. Daichi blinked and stared down at him, heart fluttering, fingers itching to pull him back. Sugawara’s cheeks were flushed bright red now, lips pink and parted.

“Ah…” his eyes darted away. “W-We should probably go back… they’ll probably start to wonder…”

Daichi didn’t want to stop. But he was right. He slid his hands down his back to his hips.

“Uhm,” Sugawara said. “For now… if it’s alright with you… can we keep our relationship a secret?”

Daichi also didn’t want to do that, but he had already resigned himself to keep the true nature of their closeness in the dark from his friends and so having Sugawara ask it of him now wasn’t really a shock.

“Just for a little while!” Sugawara hurriedly added. “You see, the thing is that if Kiyoko isn’t the first person to learn about… us, then there will be hell to pay. Hell, I tell you. You don’t know how evil my sister can be and she’s terrifying when she’s angry,” he paled. “If she finds out that I told anyone else about something as important as this before her…” he shook his head. “Seriously, Daichi. If you value your life, self-esteem, and all of your belongings, specifically your fancy electronics, then you’ll wait to spill the beans until after I tell her.”

Daichi snorted.

“I’m not kidding Daichi. She’s not as partial to setting things on fire like Eita is but I have seen her take a chainsaw to a skateboard over stolen tenmusu before so I think it’s safe to say that you do not want to get on her bad side—”

“Suga,” Daichi cut him off. “It’s fine. I’ve managed to keep it a secret all this time with the bastards living here. I think I can hold out a little longer.”

Sugawara grew even paler, “They’ve been living here? With Oikawa and the others?”

“It’s been hell.”

Sugawara sputtered and let out a laugh, “I’m so sorry you’ve had to deal with that!” He wrapped his arms around his neck and hugged him tightly.

Daichi smiled and squeezed him back.

“Thank you,” Sugawara said quietly.

“For what?”

“Even though I broke up with you… and pushed you away… and pretended like I didn’t like you anymore… you were still doing all of this. You were still caring about me and worrying and helping even when I told you not to…” His arms tightened, “Thank you.”

But I didn’t even do anything.

Daichi stroked his back, “Thank Tanaka. He was the one that came up with the plan. And it was your friends that carried it out. I just sort of… supplied the funds and the housing.”

“I will thank them,” Sugawara buried his face in the side of his neck. “After I’ve finished thanking you.”

“I didn’t—”

“It all begins with you.”

Daichi fell silent.

“You can’t feel like you’ve done nothing just because Risa called the others and Tanaka made the plan and then the other four did whatever it is that they did to Rei. It all begins with you. You didn’t give up on me. You chased me. And… I don’t know much about this plan that Tanaka came up with but…” his hand slid up to the back of his head. “I know Atsumu and the others. And so I know that you’ve really had your hands full trying to keep them out of trouble, right?”

Daichi hesitated and then let out a sigh, hiding his face in Sugawara’s shoulder.

“What the fuck is the deal with the guns?” he mumbled. “Atsumu found an excuse to whip his out every day. And then Nagachika started waving hers around and Bokuto and that fuckin’ bat… I had to tie him to a chair one night when he got drunk and wanted to go kill Rei. And Kuroo… fuck there’s something wrong with that guy. He didn’t really cause any problems but he kind of gives me this creepy vibe. He’s always chuckling sinisterly to himself every time something happens and…”

“He didn’t touch you weirdly, did he?”

“What?”

“No… nothing.”

Sugawara pulled back and Daichi did the same. He cupped his face in both hands and said again, “Thank you. If for nothing more than just not giving up on me... for convincing me to stay, thank you.”

He pressed their lips together once more but pulled away again before Daichi could try to deepen it.

His cheeks were tinted pink as he stepped back and cleared his throat.

“N-Now, we should probably go back out there before they come looking for us,” He glanced into his eyes and then away. “Let’s go.”

Daichi smiled and followed him to the door, rubbing his chest when it turned tight and hot.

He liked Sugawara.

A lot.

So much that he didn’t know what to do with himself.

And he was happy.

But he was starting to wonder if Sugawara’s demand that he be more selfish was a mistake.

Because he was happy, but impatiently so.

And he wanted even more of this man that skipped cheerfully ahead of him and hesitated at the door, throwing him a bright smile over his shoulder.

Sugawara threw the door open and bounded into the hallway, “Alright! Who wants to have an arm wrestling match? Loser has to do naked jumping jacks!”

A series of loud groans echoed through the apartment.

“No! You always win!” Bokuto whined.

Sugawara turned to Daichi and took his hand, walking backwards down the hall towards the living room and letting out a bright laugh, eyes squinting happily.

And Daichi wanted all of him.

Selfishly.

Impatiently.


 

Sugawara hummed cheerfully as he moved around his apartment. It was nice to be home. Finally. Two days had passed since they had returned from the onsen. The morning after reuniting with Bokuto and the others, Osamu had received a phone call from their university volleyball coach demanding they come back in time for their summer training camp and the four had reluctantly returned home, (after a thwarted attempt at kidnapping Sugawara by trying to stuff him into Kuroo’s oversized suitcase and an almost fist fight between Atsumu and Daichi.)

Sugawara was sad that he only had the one day to spend with them before they left, but since he had finished up all of his classes, he could plan a trip home with no worries.

I can take Daichi and introduce him to Kiyo, he thought as he entered the kitchen, stretching his arms above his head. Then I can tell everyone else that we are boyfriends and I won’t have to keep it a secret anymore!

He opened the refrigerator and stared inside at its bare contents.

I wonder how everyone will take it…

He grabbed himself a can of beer- one of the only things actually in the refrigerator that wasn’t expired- and closed the door. He cracked it open and lifted it to his lips, staring at the wall.

Kiyo will probably be happy for me. Eita will be protective. The others… will be fine. Atsumu might be mad that I’m dating Daichi.

He sighed.

Mom and Dad…

He pursed his lips and stared down into the mouth of the beer.

I don’t know how Mom and Dad will take it.

Long seconds ticked by as an uncomfortable knot formed in the pit of his stomach. Eventually, he shook his head and went into the living room.

It was fine! Everything would be fine. It was a little intimidating to drop news that heavy on all of his friends and family, but it would be fine. He knew that the people that loved him would continue to love him no matter what.

There just might be a little bit of… yelling in the process.

And threats, he thought morosely, setting his beer on the coffee table and dropping onto his couch.

Ah, and gunshots.

He flipped the TV on and chewed on his thumbnail.

It was probably okay.

Probably.

No, he was sure that it would be okay. So long as he was with Daichi, everything would work out okay in the end.

That was what he had decided when they had gotten back together, and he was going to stick to that conviction.

Everything is going to be okay.

Rei can’t hurt me anymore.

I’m safe.

I’m s—

Heavy pounding echoed through the apartment from the front door.

Sugawara’s blood ran cold.

Rei can’t hurt me anymore.

I’m safe.

There was a moment of silence and then the pounding came again. Each eruption sent a jolt through his heart, spurring it into a vicious frenzy. His hand shook as he muted the TV. He reached for his phone in his pocket.

Should he call Daichi?

No… it couldn’t be Rei. Osamu had told him that they had injured him to the point that he was hospitalized. He couldn’t be released already, could he? And if he was, he wouldn’t be there, at Sugawara’s apartment, would he?

No. He couldn’t.

Rei can’t hurt me anymore.

He climbed unsteadily to his feet and walked slowly across the apartment.

He was safe. It wasn’t him. Maybe… maybe it was Ukai. Or Takeda. Or Ennoshita.

It could be anyone. Anyone but Rei.

Because Rei couldn’t hurt him anymore.

Sugawara stood in front of the door and inhaled deeply. His heart raged painfully in his chest and his palms had turned clammy. The door shook under another series of knocks and Sugawara squared his shoulders, sucking in a deep breath.

He was safe now.

He wasn’t going to be afraid anymore.

There was no way that he was going to let fear run his life ever again.

He reached out and unlocked the door and before he could change his mind, he forced himself to rip it open.

“About fucking time.”

Sugawara sucked in a deep breath, eyes growing wide.

“I need a place to hide.”


 

“Dai-chan, seriously what the hell,” Hanamaki said, pointing accusingly at Daichi from across the coffee table.

Daichi poured himself another- how many had he had at this point?- shot of whiskey and answered, “Hm? What?”

“Yeah, what the hell, Dai-chan?” Matsukawa leaned back against the couch, examining his hand of cards.

“What?”

“Sawa-chan, what the hell?” Oikawa peeked around at Iwaizumi’s cards and received a slap.

What?” Daichi downed his shot and set the glass aside, glaring at them. “What? Why do you keep saying that? What?”

“How long have you been dating Sugawara?” Hanamaki asked, leveling him with a flat stare.

“Ehh…” Daichi scratched his head and looked down at his cards. The numbers ran together and he momentarily forgot what game they were playing. “Ehh… I don’t know… do you count the time he dumped me?”

“Basically the point we’re trying to hit here,” Matsukawa folded his hands in front of him on the table. “When you guys gonna bone?”

“Yeah!” Oikawa let out a belch and Iwaizumi waved it away with a disgusted expression.

“You’re our gay icon, Dai-chan,” Hanamaki said, leaning forward. “It used to be Oikawa, but since he’s a useless virgin who puts ketchup on his bologna sandwiches, we gotta rely on you for all our juicy gay sex gossip.”

Lots of people put ketchup on their bologna sandwiches!” Oikawa shouted, slamming a hand down on the table. “A-And,” he glanced at Iwaizumi and away, “Wh-who said I’m a virgin? You don’t know that! I’ve… I’ve had more sex than you can even imagine! Loads of it!”

“Your vast collection of dildos don’t count,” Matsukawa said dully.

I don’t have a vast collection of dildos!

“Sorry. Your small collection of dildos.”

Stop! I don’t have a collection of dildos! Stop slandering me!

“Yeah Issei,” Hanamaki scolded, resting a hand on his shoulder. “He’s got one dildo. Who he has affectionately named Tooru Jr. because if there’s one person he wants to get fucked by, it’s himself—”

Oikawa threw his cards to the side and tackled him to the floor, letting out a series of growls as he grabbed his head and smashed it down into the wood.

I’ll fucking kill you, you son of a bitch,” he snarled over Hanamaki’s laughter. They wrestled for a few seconds before Iwaizumi dragged Oikawa off of him and settled him down at his side.

“It’s because you react to them that they keep taunting you, Shittykawa,” he snapped, locking an arm around his waist.

Oikawa’s cheeks reddened and he grumbled, but didn’t fight. He looked away to hide the pleased expression that crossed his face.

Hanamaki sat up and Matsukawa gently straightened his short hair.

“Anyway,” he looked to Daichi again, who was still trying to remember what game they were playing. “So? When are you and Sugawara going to do it?”

“Do what?” he arranged his cards in order, eyebrows furrowing.

“Bone!”

“Bone…”

“Have sex,” Matsukawa said.

Daichi hesitated, holding up a nine of hearts, “Have sex…” He slowly lowered the cards. “Ah… usually we would’ve done it by now, wouldn’t we?”

“Considering your usual girlfriends only ever lasted you a week, you usually boned before that right?” Hanamaki leaned his chin in the palm of his hand.

“Well, if they asked for it, I suppose.”

“Did they?” Iwaizumi cocked an eyebrow.

“Usually.”

“Ayyyy, Dai-chan you pussy destroyer,” Matsukawa lifted a hand and Daichi eyed it warily.

“What game are we playing?” he asked, opting out of the high five.

“Honestly I just passed out all the cards and hoped one of you would make a game out of it,” Oikawa admitted.

“Anyway,” Hanamaki dragged the bottle of whiskey towards him and filled his shot glass. “So? When are you and Sugawara gonna go all the way?”

“Dunno,” he continued rearranging his cards. “We just barely started kissing.”

“Weak, Dai-chan!” Matsukawa slapped his hand down, nearly spilling Hanamaki’s new shot. “How can you be so lax about this?”

“Well, I haven’t had a lot of time to think about those sorts of things on account of the whole Rei bullshit.”

“But now that’s over,” Oikawa said. “So you should go over there and ravage him!”

Daichi placed two cards together and then grinned. “Heh, look,” he turned his hand around and showed it to Matsukawa.

“Heh, sixty-nine.”

Speaking of sixty-nine,” Hanamaki downed his shot and then coughed. “When are you going to sixty-nine Suga?” he finished with a tight voice.

Daichi took the whiskey from him and filled his glass, “Hmm…”

“C’mon, Dai-chan, quit beating around the bush,” Hanamaki went on. “Suga’s probably thinking you just don’t want to do it with him! Poor Suga!”

“Poor Suga,” Matsukawa nodded.

“Poor Suga-chan!” Oikawa scooped up his cards from the floor.

“Don’t listen to them, Sawamura,” Iwaizumi said.

Daichi lifted his glass, staring down into the caramel liquid.

“Take your time. There’s no need to rush. Your relationship is still fairly young and there’s no reason as to why you would have to make love right now. There’s nothing wrong with letting it flow naturally and slowly—”

“I want to.”

The other four stared at Daichi as he drank his shot and set the glass down on the table. His stomach felt warm and tight and his thoughts shifted to the impatient frustration he felt when Sugawara was in his arms, under his lips. Everything that the others were saying were not thoughts that he didn’t already think.

He wanted Sugawara.

Simple as that.

“You…” Oikawa leaned forward. “You want to have sex with Suga-chan?”

He tossed his cards down, “Obviously. I want to. Intensely.”

Hanamaki rolled onto his knees and leaned his hands on the table, “Then do it!”

“Ehh…” Daichi dropped his head back and stared up at the ceiling, “Think I should?”

“Fuck yeah, Dude,” Matsukawa said.

“Right now!” Hanamaki cheered.

“Hmm…”

“I’ll bet Suga-chan wants it too!” Oikawa insisted.

“Think so?”

“Dude totally,” Matsukawa said. “The way he looks at you? Mm. He’s got Dai-chan fever.”

“Dai-chan fever…” Daichi repeated slowly.

“Stop pressuring him,” Iwaizumi demanded. “They don’t need to do it so soon—”

“You don’t agree, Iwa-chan?” Oikawa glanced at him. “You don’t think Suga-chan wants to sleep with Sawa-chan?”

He hesitated and Daichi lowered his eyes to him.

“Well…” he pursed his lips and frowned. “I mean… I’m pretty sure he does. But… that’s besides the point. Just wanting to do it isn’t good enough of a reason to jump the gun and—”

“Do it, do it, do it!” Hanamaki started chanting. Matsukawa joined him and they started pounding their fists on the table.

Do it, do it.

Daichi hummed.

He wanted to. And if Sugawara wanted to as well…

“Alright,” Daichi climbed to his feet and swayed slightly. “I’m going to do it!” he thrust his fists into the air.

Yeaaahhhh!” Oikawa, Hanamaki, and Matsukawa all applauded.

Iwaizumi sighed and rubbed his eyes.

“Right now!” Daichi turned and stumbled towards the door, blinking rapidly when the room whirled.

“Get it, Dai-chan!” Hanamaki hollered.

“Sawamura, don’t—” Iwaizumi started but Oikawa interrupted.

“Rock his world, Sawa-chan!”

“Then come back and tell us all about it,” Matsukawa added.

“I’mma do it,” Daichi mumbled. He struggled his feet into his shoes. “I’mma go and I’mma just grab him and kiss him and I’ll tell him that I want to make love and if he agrees then I’mma do it and it’ll be amazing and Suga is so cute.” He pulled a jacket clumsily off of a hook and thrust his arms into it. “I like Suga a lot. And Suga likes me. It’ll be perfect and incredible and we’ll be so happy and no one will ever be able to ruin it.”

“That’s the spirit!” Oikawa called.

“Oh my god,” Iwaizumi’s voice groaned. “This is such a bad idea…”

“Remember to cuddle afterwards,” Matsukawa advised.

“’kay,” Daichi lifted a hand and counted off on his fingers. “Kiss, confess, coitus, cuddle.”

“You can do it!”

“Good luck, Sawa-chan!”

“Don’t do it.”

“See you tomorrow!”

“’kay,” Daichi inhaled deeply and opened the door. “Bye, later.”

As he traveled down the hall to the elevator, he had a faint sensation in the back of his head that maybe he should turn around and go back. He didn’t usually get as drunk as he was at the moment and he wasn’t confident in his own ability to make rational decisions. He really shouldn’t go inside the elevator and then push the button for the bottom floor.

But he did anyway.

He liked Sugawara, after all.

He thought he was cute and he liked the way he felt under his hands. He liked the way he tasted and he wanted to taste more of him.

And Sugawara liked him too. Daichi could tell by the way he pulled him close when they kissed. He could tell by how red his cheeks got and the embarrassed way he looked away and stammered when Daichi touched him.

They liked each other, so there was no reason to not go that extra step, right?

But Daichi was drunk.

And that niggling thought in the back of his mind was urging him not to cross the lobby of his building, pass the doorman into the night, and head down the sidewalk towards Sugawara’s apartment.

But he did anyway.

Maybe he just wasn’t as good at holding his liquor as he thought he was.

Sawamura Daichi was a fairly rational, intelligent, calm man, after all. He didn’t typically act spontaneously, especially when it came to matters of… sex.

Then again, Sawamura Daichi had never been this interested in sex before. Sure, he had enjoyed it the times that he had participated in physical affection with his past girlfriends. Girls were beautiful and soft. They smelled good and made alluring sounds. Daichi had liked touching and being touched by his exes.

But he had never craved it the way he did now.

Ah.

Daichi hiccupped and stumbled over a crack in the sidewalk.

Maybe I’ve been gay all along.

He chuckled and dragged a hand through his hair.

Man that sure would explain a lot.

A breeze picked up and he shuddered, wrapping his jacket tightly around him.

The rational, sober part of his brain was still gently urging him to cast aside this drunken quest and go back home, but he was already almost there. He could see the building up ahead, and if he squinted, he could see his door.

And since he was already basically there… there wasn’t much use in going back now, was there?

Kiss, confess, coitus, cuddle, he repeated on a loop in his mind, drowning out that rational part.

He reached the building and circled around to the staircase, starting to chant the mantra out loud under his breath. He quieted when he stood outside Sugawara’s door. He took a deep breath and then lifted his fist.

He steeled himself and knocked.

Kiss, confess, coitus, cuddle.

Kiss, confess, coitus, cuddle.

The door opened and Daichi instantly pushed inside. He took Sugawara by the waist, turned, and thrust him up against the wall.

“Sorry, but I just need to get this out of my system,” he whispered the instant before planting a hard kiss to his lips. He didn’t hesitate to slide his tongue inside and claim his mouth hungrily, pressing against him with his hips and sliding his hands up his back.

Sugawara was stiff against him and a few seconds passed before several sirens started ringing in Daichi’s heavily intoxicated mind.

Because Sugawara tasted… different.

And was he slightly… taller than usual?

And wider?

Daichi slowly pulled away, brows furrowing. He blinked rapidly and tried to focus on the face in front of him. Because Sugawara didn’t quite feel like Sugawara at the moment, and that was mildly- or maybe a bit more than mildly- alarming. He leaned back slightly, dragging his eyes over his face.

He looked… mostly… like Sugawara. Except… what happened to his beauty mark? Also, his eyes were more angled, and they were glaring fiercely up at him. His eyebrows were darker too, weren’t they? And now that Daichi stared a little harder, his hair was all wrong too. It was mostly the same color and texture… but the tips were darker than usual. And though it was fluffy, it wasn’t Sugawara’s usual messy mop.

In fact, the longer he stared, the less the face looked like Sugawara after all.

As the fog slowly lifted from his brain and all the pieces fell sloppily into place, Daichi let out a gasp and released the man, who was definitely not Sugawara. He took a large step backwards, nearly tripping over a shoe in the entryway. He fell back against the wall and stared at the man with wide eyes, mouth flapping.

“Who… who… where’s Suga?”

The man's eyebrows pulled down lower over his furious gaze and he growled out, "I've been in town for less than two hours and am already getting molested?" He thrust a hand into his jeans and then pulled out a large, silver pocket knife. He flipped the blade out and pointed it in Daichi's direction. "Maybe this city isn't as safe as we originally thought."

Daichi's heart leapt and sped.

“Ah, where’d you go?” Sugawara’s voice floated from further into the apartment and the man quickly hid the blade behind his back. 

They glanced to the side as Sugawara appeared in the hallway and spotted them. His eyebrows lifted, “Hm? Daichi? What are you doing here?”

“S-Suga…” Daichi gulped and then pointed shakily at the man across from him. “Wh-who…”

Sugawara walked up and laughed, “Daichi, are you drunk? You look so shocked!” He turned to the other man, “What did you do to him?”

The man lifted his chin, “What did I do to him? Shouldn’t it be the other way around?”

“Eh? What are you talking about?” Sugawara cocked his head to the side. He reached out and touched Daichi’s arm, “This is... my friend. Sawamura Daichi.”

The man’s eyes instantly narrowed, brows furrowing further, corner of his nose twitching.

“Daichi,” Sugawara grinned up at him. “This is my brother!”

Daichi’s mouth went dry.

The man straightened away from the wall and walked slowly up to him, dark gaze holding his stare. He reached a hand out and grabbed Daichi's, squeezing it tightly.

"Nice to meet you," he hissed.

Daichi's eyes darted down to his side opposite of Sugawara where the knife was still clutched tightly in his fingers, light of the hallway glinting off of the silver of the blade.

"I'm Sugawara Eita. Let's play nice, okay?"

Chapter Text

Tendou stood to the side, waiting silently as his boss watched the video pulled up on the laptop on the desk behind which she sat. Her hands were clasped in front of her mouth and she hadn’t uttered a single word since he had brought up the email. Her fierce brown eyes never wavered from the screen, thick black brows pulled low.

Tendou shifted from foot to foot uneasily.

There was a storm brewing under the surface. He could see it in the way she ignored the lock of hair that fell forward from behind her ear and hung straight and harsh against her cheek, adding a touch of dishevelment to her usually prim and clean visage. Her stoic expression gave none of her anger away, but after years of working under the woman, Tendou had learned to spot the tiny shifts in her mannerisms that revealed her true feelings.

And at the moment, the Madam was pissed.

Finally, the video ended and she leaned back in her chair, crossing her arms over her chest. Her nose twitched infinitesimally and she let out the low hiss,

“He’s mocking me.”

Tendou gulped, “We don’t know that it was even—”

“Who else would have that information, Satori?” she snapped, sending a glare at him over her shoulder. “The information he asked you to get?”

He coughed and looked away, “Well, I’m not the only sleuth for hire—”

“Oh drop the act,” she leaned forward again and started the video over. “What is this name that’s been removed?”

Tendou stared at the screen as Rei boasted, “You’re just proving how invincible we are. Yeah, I’ve sent more little twinks like that bitch—” the audio cut out, a blur effect covering his mouth before disappearing, audio coming back in with, “to the hospital than I can even count!

“Who is he talking about?” she asked.

“I have no idea.”

“And these people?” she pointed at the men standing opposite Rei in the video. Their faces had been blurred and they wore clothing that covered up any defining features on their bodies.

“I don’t recognize them,” Tendou admitted.

She clicked her tongue loudly and paused the video.

“Where was Daichi this weekend again?”

“At an onsen in the mountains.”

“Are you sure?”

Tendou stepped up to her side and held out his phone, the image Daichi had sent him on the first night already on the screen. She snatched it from his hand and stared at the picture for a long minute.

“He could have taken this a different time and then sent it the other night.”

“I also facetimed with him a bit the next morning. His credit card paid for two rooms for the weekend and when I called the owner of the inn she confirmed that he and nine others had arrived mid-afternoon on Friday and left around noon on Sunday.”

The tendon in her jaw pulsed as she clenched her teeth.

“The video was sent to me Saturday night. I checked in on Akaashi Rei. He and his companions were all checked in to the hospital late Friday night. Akaashi Genjiro has refused to make a comment on the incident at the moment. No police report has been filed.”

“Goddamn idiot,” she muttered and shoved the phone back towards him. He took it. “That idiot.”

Tendou slid the phone into his pocket quietly.

“He’s mocking me,” she said again, voice low. She leaned her elbows on the desk and clasped her hands in front of her mouth. “He acts like he has no interest in politics… he pretends to know nothing. But I know that he knows I was the one who gave Akaashi the highest commendation at the last election. He knows that. And he’s mocking me.”

“I wouldn’t say that—”

“Why else would he send it to you instead of sending it directly to my husband?” she spat, sending a glare his way. “He’s testing me. He’s trying to see if I’ll cover it up rather than admit my own error in front of the entire goddamn country.

Tendou pursed his lips, “What’ll you do, Ma’am?”

“Like I have a fucking choice?” her voice turned shrill. “I’ll take Akaashi down, like he wants.”

Tendou resisted the urge to smile. “I think that’s a very good decision, Ma’am.”

“Oh shut it. Get out of here.”

He turned for the door.

“Oh, and Satori.”

He paused, glancing at her over his shoulder.

Her dark eyes bored into him, “Tell my son that he’s not doing his job.”

Tendou’s jaw clenched, fingers tightening into fists.

“He is to keep a tighter leash on Daichi. No exceptions.”

He turned to the door once more and said in a low voice,

“Yes, Ma’am.


 

Daichi stared wide-eyed at Eita as he roughly shook his hand up and down, fingering the knife in his other hand, out of view of Sugawara, who smiled brightly at their side.

“Come inside!” Sugawara said, turning for the living room.

The knife flashed out and Daichi slid to the side just in time to miss getting cut down his cheek. He yanked his hand out of Eita’s grasp and took a clumsy step towards the door.

“Ah, actually Suga, I think I’ll go home…”

Sugawara whirled around and Eita quickly hid the knife from view.

“No!” he rushed up to him and grabbed his arm. “You just got here!”

“Y-yeah but… uhm… I didn’t know you had company… I’ll just uh… let you two catch up,” he reached for the door handle.

Sugawara dragged him further into the apartment, “Nope. Come inside.”

Eita watched him with eagle eyes as he was pulled past.

“Suga, seriously,” Daichi said. “I should go—”

“It’s not like you’re interrupting or anything,” Sugawara lead him into the living room and then pushed him to the ground next to the coffee table. “And I ordered pizza but we couldn’t agree on what kind to get so I had to get two and we can’t eat it all by ourselves.”

“But—”

Sugawara sat down next to him and Eita walked slowly into the room, no longer brandishing the knife. He sat opposite them at the table, glare still centered on Daichi.

“I wanted to introduce you to my siblings eventually anyway,” Sugawara said. “So stay.”

Daichi wanted to argue further. He felt uneasy under the heat of Eita’s gaze. The shock of the encounter had caused some of the alcohol induced fog wrapped around his mind to fade, and his rational thought was back in action and urging him to get the fuck out of there.

“Anyway,” Sugawara leaned his elbow on the table and turned to his brother. “Why are you here?”

He finally dragged his eyes from Daichi’s face and he let out a soft sigh of relief.

“I told you. I need somewhere to lay low for a few weeks.”

A few weeks.

Daichi’s chest tightened.

A few weeks.

I don’t know if I can survive that long.

“Yeah, but why?” Sugawara pressed. “What did you do?”

Eita looked away, lifting his chin slightly.

Eita.

Tch,” he leaned back against the couch and glared at him. “Don’t try to mother me.”

“Tell me what you did.”

His nose twitched, “I don’t like Kiyo’s boyfriend.”

“Did you kill him?”

Eita didn’t answer.

Eita.

Daichi stared at him in disbelief. It wasn’t a playful accusation.

The question was serious.

“I didn’t kill him,” Eita snapped. “Yet.

Sugawara sighed and rubbed his eyes, “You can’t kill Kiyoko’s boyfriend just because you don’t like him.”

“Easy for you to say. You’ve never met him.”

“He can’t be that bad if Kiyoko is actually dating him.”

He snorted, “Yeah because she’s totally dating him for his winning personality.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Nothing.”

Sugawara scowled, “So? What did you do?”

Eita examined his fingernails casually, “I didn’t touch him.”

“Stop evading the question.”

“I lit his bike on fire.”

Sugawara’s fingers drummed on the table, “Bicycle?”

“Harley.”

Daichi winced, making a mental note to keep Eita away from his Ducati.

Sugawara let out a low groan, “Eita you idiot pyromaniac.”

“He was asking for it.”

How?

Eita hesitated for a long moment before replying, “I don’t like him.”

Sugawara pushed up on his knees and leaned over the table. He wrapped his hands around Eita’s throat and shook him.

You can’t light people’s motorcycles on fire just because you don’t like them!

Yeah, Daichi thought. Please don’t light my bike on fire just because I accidentally mistook you for Suga and kissed you and oh my god I’m going to die.

Eita allowed Sugawara to rough him up, eyes drifting off across the room in boredom.

Eventually, Sugawara calmed and sat back, smoothing his hands over his hair with a frown.

“It’s not a big deal,” Eita said. “Just let me stay here until things blow over.”

“Do you really think things will blow over?”

“Probably.”

“Eita you dumb fuck.”

Eita rolled his eyes.

A knock echoed through the apartment and Sugawara perked at the sound.

“That’s probably the pizza!” he clambered to his feet and rushed from the room.

Eita was over the table and on top of Daichi in an instant, slamming him onto the floor on his back. He felt the prick of his knife against his throat and stilled, eyes flying wide. Eita’s face loomed over him, cast in a shadow. His knee pressed down in Daichi’s stomach painfully and his other hand knotted in his hair, holding his head in place.

“What does the son of the prime minister want with my brother?” he hissed in a low voice.

Daichi’s heart thundered and his blood ran cold.

“I… I…”

“Lie to me and I’ll slit your fucking throat,” Eita growled.

I l-like him!” Daichi rushed out. “I don’t have any ulterior motive. I just… like him.”

Eita narrowed his eyes.

Sugawara’s voice sounded cheerfully from the other side of the apartment as he collected the food.

“You like him,” Eita repeated.

Daichi nodded.

“Unacceptable.”

He pressed the knife harder and Daichi felt his skin break.

“So you thought you’d come over here late at night, reeking of alcohol, and assault him at the door?”

“I—”

“Give up,” he commanded. “If you know what’s good for you, you’ll keep your little… crush a secret and stay the fuck away from him.”

A secret.

Daichi blinked.

Ah. So he thinks I came over here to confess…

Daichi didn’t feel inclined to set him straight on his true intentions.

Actually I came over here to carry him off to bed and make love to him until the sun came up.

Ah.

Yeah.

He’d definitely kill me if I told him that.

“Thank you very much!” Sugawara’s voice rang out, followed by the sound of the door closing.

Eita quickly crawled off of Daichi and took his seat opposite him at the table once more, sliding the knife into his pocket.

Daichi gulped and pulled himself back up into a sitting position, hands trembling slightly.

“Time to eat,” Sugawara entered the room, holding two large boxes. He set them down on the table. “Want something to drink?” he looked between them, smiling brightly, oblivious to the conversation that had just transpired.

“I’ll take a beer,” Eita said, opening the top box and then sneering at the sight of pineapple. He set it aside and opened the second box. “I think your friend has had enough alcohol for the night. Maybe you should get him some water.”

“Okay!” Sugawara went into the kitchen and Eita leveled Daichi with a cold glare as he lifted a slice of pizza covered in gooey cheese and meat and took a bite.

He chewed silently, eyes sliding towards the kitchen and then back.

“Say a thing to him and I’ll slaughter you.”

And Daichi didn’t doubt the threat.

“Here you go!” Sugawara walked into the room once more, hugging two beers and a bottle of water. He set them down on the table and then sat beside Daichi. He opened the first box and grabbed a slice of pizza covered in pineapple. He glanced at Daichi and smiled, “Help yourself!”

Daichi hesitantly took a slice and bit into it.

“Ah, Daichi, what happened to your neck?”

He almost choked on the pizza.

“There’s a little scratch,” Sugawara leaned towards him and Daichi instinctively leaned away. “Did you hurt yourself?”

Daichi set his slice down, “Ah… uh… I m-must have.”

“There’s blood. Here, let me—”

“I’ll go clean it up in the bathroom!” Daichi leapt to his feet, swaying slightly as he remembered that he was still- in fact- very drunk. He took a moment to regain his balance and then stumbled in the direction of the hallway.

“Wait, I’ll get you a bandage,” Sugawara jumped up and followed.

“That’s okay! It’s just a small scratch so—” Daichi avoided Eita’s eagle-eyed glare and hurried down the hall. He pushed into the bathroom and attempted to close the door but Sugawara, who had chased after him, entered before he had the chance.

“Jeez, you don’t need to overreact, Daichi,” he said, shutting the door softly. “Just how drunk are you?”

Drunk enough to come to your apartment expecting to make love to you and then accidentally stick my tongue in your brother’s mouth.

Daichi gulped.

Sugawara smiled up at him quietly.

Shame filled his chest and his heart clenched.

I kissed Suga’s brother.

I’m the worst.

I’m the worst boyfriend.

I should come clean.

And apologize.

And beg for his forgiveness.

Sugawara moved around him and went to the medicine cabinet over the sink.

“Here,” he said. “Let’s put a bandage on it. I have cute ones with kittens on them.”

Tell him.

Confess your sins.

“Here we go,” Sugawara brought down a box and opened it. “Which kitten should we use… ah, this one looks like Kuroo.” He hesitated and dropped it back into the box, “Not that one. It’ll piss me off to see that pervert on you.”

Daichi moved closer to him, “Suga…”

“Here, a cute little grey kitten,” Sugawara turned towards him and held up the bandage. “Kinda looks like me, right?” He smiled sweetly.

Daichi's heart raced.

Cute…

He gently pushed the bandage out of the way, wrapped his arms around Sugawara’s waist, and closed the distance between their lips. Sugawara hesitated for a moment but then leaned into him, sliding his arms around his neck.

This was what Sugawara felt like. He molded into Daichi’s body perfectly, equally soft and firm and so, so warm. Daichi didn’t know how the hell he had ever confused it, drunk or not. This touch belonged specifically to Sugawara and it was beginning to feel as familiar to Daichi as the instant sensation of home that surrounded him the moment he crossed the threshold of his apartment.

How could he ever confuse it?

Sugawara broke the connection between their mouths and smiled up at him, nose scrunching.

“You taste like cheese and liquor.”

Daichi’s cheeks warmed, “S-sorry.”

Sugawara laughed, “I’ve never seen you drunk before… what were you doing tonight?” He pulled his arms away and reached awkwardly around to the sink. He opened a drawer and grabbed a small washcloth, then wet it under the faucet.

“I was drinkin’ with the jackasses,” he mumbled, keeping his arms firmly around his waist as he leaned forward and pressed his nose in the hair over his ear, inhaling his scent. “They peer pressured me.”

“Into drinking?” Sugawara giggled and faced him again. He took Daichi’s chin and lifted it so that he could better see the cut on his throat.

“Into somethin’ else,” Daichi said, eyes drifting away.

“Hmm…” Sugawara gently wiped at the cut with his washcloth, removing the small smear of blood from his skin. “And then you decided to randomly show up at my apartment?”

“Wanted to surprise you.”

“It worked. I got two surprise visitors tonight, I guess.”

Daichi lowered his eyes to him once more, watching quietly as he hummed and patted his throat dry before tossing the washcloth to the side and lifting the bandage.

Confess that you accidentally kissed his brother.

Tell him he’s pissed.

And trying to kill you.

Sugawara gently pressed the bandage over Daichi’s throat and then leaned back, wearing a pleased smile.

“There!”

Confess.

“Oh!” Sugawara’s eyes widened and he glanced towards the door and then back to Daichi. “By the way… don’t forget that we gotta keep this,” he gestured between them. “A secret. Just for now,” he reached up and scratched his cheek. “Uhm… the others… are alright. But Eita… uh… he…” Sugawara avoided his gaze. “Well, he’s always been kind of… overly protective of me when it comes to romance and stuff. He thinks I’m gullible and will get my heart broken. So he usually tries his best to get rid of anyone he thinks is a threat.” He let out an awkward laugh, “When me and Risa started dating, he actually took her—” he paused. “Ah… well. That’s not important.”

Terrifying.

Daichi inhaled deeply and prepared to confess everything.

Sugawara leaned up and kissed him softly on the lips. He lingered for a long moment before pulling back and smiling warmly.

“Don’t worry,” he said, voice tender. “I’ll protect you.”

Daichi’s gut twisted and he slowly let his breath out.

No.

I’ll protect you.


 

“You’re back!”

Daichi slouched into his apartment and kicked his shoes off. Oikawa and the others all rushed into the hallway, Oikawa sliding on the floor in his socked feet and slamming into Hanamaki, causing them both to collapse in a heap.

“How did it go? Why are you here?” Matsukawa stumbled up to Daichi and placed his hands on his shoulders. “You’re dating. You’re supposed to spend the entire night together cuddling after sexy times.”

“What happened to your neck?” Iwaizumi stood beyond Matsukawa’s shoulder.

Hanamaki and Oikawa scampered to their feet once more and crowded around.

“Kitty,” Hanamaki whispered. “Cute.”

“I have a bad feeling about this,” Oikawa reached out and pressed the back of his hand on Daichi’s forehead. “You look pale. What happened? Don’t tell me you got rejected.”

“Don’t tell me he broke up with you,” Matsukawa’s eyes widened slightly.

“Again,” Hanamaki said softly, hugging Matsukawa’s arm to his chest.

“What’s wrong, Sawamura?” Iwaizumi’s brow wrinkled in concern.

Daichi inhaled deeply and let it all out in a stream, “So as soon as I got there, he opened the door and I grabbed him and pushed him up against the wall and kissed him with tongue and everything but then I realized that he felt different so I stopped and when I looked close at him I realized that it wasn’t actually Suga and it was his twin- or triplet?- brother and he’s really scary and he pulled a knife on me and threatened to kill me and Suga doesn’t know that I kissed him and I’m scared to tell him because I don’t want him to be upset and I also don’t want to tell him that his brother made a threat against my life and even cut my throat with his knife because I don’t know what kind of trouble that will cause because apparently he’s a pyromaniac with a personal vendetta against motorcycles and is violently protective of Suga when it comes to romance and he knows that I’m the son of the prime minister and I don’t want him to tell Suga because then he will be upset that I’ve kept it a secret from him all this time and maybe he will be intimidated and not want to date me or maybe think that we can’t be together because of my status and try to leave me again and I don’t want him to leave me again and right now all I can think of is that I need to kidnap him so we can flee the country and never come back and live happily ever after far far away from this place and Suga’s deranged brother and seriously you guys I’m so fuckin’ fucked.”

No one spoke for long seconds.

Iwaizumi pressed a hand over his eyes and sighed.

Oikawa leaned heavily against Hanamaki and Matsukawa clicked his tongue.

Hanamaki blinked at Daichi drowsily for a moment before asking,

“So what you’re saying is… you didn’t have sex?”

“… we didn’t have sex. I thought that was clear. Was that not clear?”

Hanamaki let out a loud moan, “Dai-chan you failure!

“It took all I had just to keep from getting stabbed through the heart!” he argued. “You try to make love to another man for the first time under those conditions!”

“Sounds like a fun game,” Matsukawa released Daichi’s shoulders. “Should we try it?”

“I’ll be the one that tries to stab you through the heart,” Iwaizumi offered.

“Never mind.”

“Anyway,” Daichi moved around them into the apartment. “I’m fucked. I’m totally fucked. Instead of worrying about my sex life, start concerning yourselves with just my life. What do I do?”

“He can’t be crazy enough that he would actually try to kill the son of the prime minister,” Oikawa said as the others followed him into the living room. “And spend his entire life in prison? Or get the death sentence? C’mon.”

“He didn’t seem all that concerned by the repercussions as he literally vaulted over the table and pressed a fucking knife to my throat hard enough to break the skin.

“He sounds fun, to be completely honest,” Hanamaki said, sliding to his knees next to the coffee table. “You should invite him over.”

God no.

“What are you going to do, Sawa-chan?” Oikawa followed him to the couch and sat at his side. “Should we get Iwa-chan to go over there and teach him a lesson?”

“Fuck that,” Iwaizumi sat across from Hanamaki. “I’m done fighting. You’re on your own, Sawamura.”

“Just tell Suga,” Matsukawa dropped into the love seat. “Tell him his crazy brother is trying to kill you and he will put him in his place. You saw how he handled Atsumu. Maybe he’s some kind of animal wrangler.”

“But then Eita might tell him that I kissed him and it’ll hurt Suga and I don’t want to hurt Suga.”

“It was an accident!” Oikawa insisted. “I’m sure he won’t mind!”

“I would mind,” Matsukawa said morosely. “If someone I liked kissed someone else.”

“Ehhh…” Hanamaki leaned his chin in his hand and looked at him. “Really? Even on accident?”

“I think it’d bother me in the least.”

“Hm,” Hanamaki pursed his lips.

"What about you, Makki?" Oikawa asked. "Would you mind if someone you liked kissed someone else?"

“I wouldn’t mind.”

“Not at all?”

“Nah.”

“Even if it wasn’t an accident?”

“Meh.”

“Gee, wish I could be as unfeeling as you,” Oikawa lifted a foot and pushed it roughly into Hanamaki’s back.

“It’s a gift, really.”

Daichi leaned back against the couch and stared up at the ceiling, folding his hands over his stomach.

He inhaled deeply and then let it out.

“It’ll be fine,” he finally murmured. “I’ll lay low while Eita’s in town. Suga will have his hands full with him around so he probably won’t suggest we hang out very much. I’ll just… find a hobby or something and avoid them at all costs.”

“Boo, that’s boring,” Hanamaki whined. “I wanna watch Dai-chan get in a knife fight with Suga’s brother.”

“That does sound kind of interesting,” Iwaizumi admitted. “Since we are still here for some stupid reason, we should at least be entertained.”

“You guys are free to go the fuck home at any second,” Daichi muttered.

“No!” Matsukawa, Hanamaki, and Oikawa shouted simultaneously.

“It’s summer vacation!” Oikawa grabbed his arm and shook it. “We don’t have to go to practice for another couple of weeks so let us stay!”

“Yeah we haven’t tortured you enough,” Matsukawa said.

“Let us torture you!” Hanamaki thrust a fist into the air.

Daichi clicked his tongue, “Fuck you guys.”


 

“Ukai-kun, I’ve been coming home late every night the past week but I think I’ve heard activity in Sugawara-kun’s apartment,” Takeda spoke in a low voice through his cell phone as he leaned his ear against the wall separating his and Sugawara’s homes.

For a moment, no reply came over the phone. And then the telltale sigh of a yawn, followed by Ukai’s sleepy, rough voice,

Sensei, do you know what time it is?

“I know,” Takeda whispered in between hiccups. “But I’m doing recon, Ukai-kun. I have unanswered questions. Did Sugawara-kun and his boyfriend make up? If he’s back home, does that mean his bullies have been taken care of? What if it’s not Sugawara-kun? Maybe someone broke in and has been slowly stealing things!” Takeda let out a gasp and thrust to his feet, the sudden motion causing his head to swim and vision to blur. “I should go confront the thieves!”

Sensei, are you drunk?”

He hesitated, leaning a hand against the wall, “I might have gone drinking with some associates after school today. Might have. I don’t see how that is relevant to the issue at hand though, Ukai-kun.”

You don’t, huh? And what if it is an intruder? You’re going to take them on while drunk?

“I’ll have you know that I am a green belt,” Takeda staggered across his apartment. “I’m perfectly capable of protecting myself—”

Alright, Sensei, do me a favor.”

“Ukai-kun time is of the essence—”

It’s important. Okay I really want to help you catch these thieves so can you sit down on the couch and wait until I get there?

Takeda’s brows furrowed and he scratched his messy black hair, “But what if they escape by then…”

I’ll be there really fast. You won’t even have the time to read your favorite poem before I show up.

“Ha!” Takeda straightened his shoulders. “I’ll take that challenge! I’ll have you know that I am a very fast reader. The fastest reader in my book club, as a matter of fact.”

Alright, so sit down and pull out your favorite poem. We’ll see who wins.

“You’re on, Ukai-kun!”

See you in a bit, Sensei.

Takeda quickly ended the call and shoved the phone into the pocket of his sweatpants. He whirled and staggered across his apartment to where his tall bookshelf leaned against the far wall.

“My favorite poem. My favorite poem,” he chanted as his hands flitted over the spines of books. “Ah. Is it this?” He closed his eyes and recalled the words from memory,

Some say the world will end in fire,

Some say in ice.

From what I’ve tasted of desire

I hold with those who favor fire.

But if it had to perish twice,

I think I know enough of hate

To know that for destruction ice

Is also great

And would suffice.

He slowly opened his eyes, “Is it that?” He stared at the books once more, fingers sliding over the covers. He hummed and lifted his eyes up to another row, mumbling,

There’s a bluebird in my heart that

Wants to get out

But I’m too tough for him.

He paused, reaching for a book and pulling it down.

“Or maybe… There is a Smile of Love

And there is a Smile of Deceit

And there is a Smile of Smiles

In which these two Smiles meet…

Takeda collected several books into his arms and carried them to the coffee table. He set them down, sitting behind them, and cracked the first open.

Wild Nights— Wild Nights!” he smiled, chest warming.

“Were I with thee

Wild Nights should be

Our luxury…”


 

Ukai groaned as he rolled off of the couch upon which he had been sleeping before being startled rudely awake by the blaring of his cell phone.

Takeda Ittetsu could really drink.

Ukai had witnessed that fact well enough on multiple occasions already. The man liked to drink. He also liked to meddle, and get into sticky situations with unsavory people. And even though Ukai could leave him to his own drunken madness, he slouched across his apartment to the front door, pulled a jacket on, and slipped his feet into his shoes anyway.

He pushed out into the night, rubbing his eyes sleepily, and headed in the direction of Takeda’s and Sugawara’s apartment building.

Even though he’d much rather be sleeping.

He could have left Takeda to his own devices, stayed home and fallen back to sleep on the couch with the TV playing some late night sitcom on mute.

He could have.

It really wasn’t his business that Takeda Ittetsu was sloshed and a minute away from kicking Sugawara’s door down and opening a can of green belt whoop-ass on whoever it was that was making the noise that ignited his suspicions.

It wasn’t his business.

It wasn’t his job.

And in all honesty, it was somewhat of a hassle.

But Ukai went anyway.

He reached the apartment a few minutes later and knocked on the door with a yawn. Several seconds ticked by with no answer. He frowned and knocked again to the same result.

He let out a sigh.

Don’t tell me he fell asleep.

He reached for the door handle and twisted it. The door opened easily. He hesitated and then called, “Sensei?”

There was no reply, but he could hear the faint muttering of a voice further inside the apartment.

So he’s not asleep?

Ukai let himself in, closing the door softly behind him. He discarded his shoes and jacket and moved quietly down the hall, the voice coming into focus.

’My nerves are bad to-night. Yes, bad. Stay with me.

Speak to me. Why do you never speak. Speak.

What are you thinking of? What thinking? What?

I never know what you are thinking. Think.’

Takeda was sitting on the floor of the living room, a book in his lap, three more on the table in front of him. He adjusted his glasses and leaned over to read from one at his left.

Such wilt thou be to me, who must,

Like the other foot, obliquely run;

Thy firmness makes my circle just,

And makes me end where I begun.”

Ukai’s lips twitched into a rueful smile and he moved to the other side of the table. He slid to the floor across from him and tapped one of the books.

“What’s this? You haven’t finished reading your favorite poem? But I thought you were the fastest reader in your book club.”

Takeda lifted his eyes to him, lids fluttering.

“Ah, Ukai-kun. I ran into a problem with our challenge.”

“Oh? And what’s that?”

“I can’t choose my favorite poem,” he flipped through the pages of the book in front of him. “What is it? Robert Frost… or Walt Whitman… William Blake or Emily Dickinson? Perhaps T.S. Eliot or Samuel Taylor Coleridge… but W. H. Auden… ah and John Donne… or Alan Seether or Charles Bukowski… Ezra Pound and let’s not forget E.E. Cummings and William Shakespeare of course…”

Ukai chuckled, “So I guess this means I’ve won the challenge then?”

Takeda’s brows furrowed and he reached up and rubbed at his already messy hair.

“Choosing just one is too difficult,” he admitted. “May I have ten? Or thirty?”

“You can have a hundred.”

Takeda hummed and turned the page of the book in his lap, “This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks…” He looked back up at Ukai, “Between dactylic hexameter and iambic pentameter, I admit I probably like the latter more. But between trochaic octameter and anapestic tetrameter, I prefer the former. N