Kyoutani Kentarou grew up with a firm belief that there are no such things as absolute truths. Throughout his high school career, though, he has been confronted with a few exceptions and they have occurred to him as follows.
Exception #1: Yahaba Shigeru absolutely does not love him. Honestly, Kentarou has a theory that Yahaba is incapable of loving anyone or anything. That’s all it is, though, just a theory. It has no place on the list of absolute truths. Not yet, anyway.
Exception #2: Despite not loving him, Yahaba plays a really good game of pretend.
Exception #3: Kentarou is the most gullible bastard this world has ever known.
He can’t be blamed for the last exception. It’s so easy to be gullible when the boy of everyone’s dreams is sat between your legs, wearing your favorite jacket, and shouting out guesses for an unbearably old episode of Family Feud. It’s easy when said boy huffs after giving another wrong answer, cheeks puffed in frustration, and falls back into your chest while wearing a dramatic pout.
It’s so easy, so god damn easy, that sometimes he forgets that they’re only playing pretend.
“We’ve watched this four times now,” Kentarou throws his head back and stares at the ceiling in mock disdain.
Yahaba wriggles, unfairly and intentionally, in Kentarou’s lap and presses back further. “Have we? I don’t remember this one.”
Yahaba snorts. It’s meant to come across as annoyed, but fails horrifically and falls heavily on the high end of the cute spectrum. “Why on earth would I lie about 30 year old game shows?”
“Just to get on my nerves,” Kentarou says, and it’s the honest to God truth.
Yahaba doesn’t even attempt to deny it. Rather, he twists around and takes Kentarou’s face in his hands, squeezing until Kentarou feels his lips puckering. It’s hard to keep a glower when put in a position like this, but that doesn’t stop him from trying. Yahaba, always a fan of pushing his limits, takes his hands away from Kentarou’s cheeks but grips his chin between two fingers and moves his head from side to side.
Yahaba studies him like he’s found a diamond in a coal mine. Like he’s discovered a masterpiece. Like he’s the world’s greatest view. Almost like he’s in love. Kentarou feels his heart steadily slow as it prepares to kick into overdrive, and then Yahaba releases his grip and sighs. “Maybe that’s when you’re at you’re hottest,” Yahaba shrugs and Kentarou feels his eyes trying to roll right out of his skull. “Ever think of that?”
No, he didn’t. “No,” he voices; it’s gruff and bordering on agitated. “Because that’s stupid.”
“Is it?” Yahaba rolls his head back onto Kentarou’s shoulder and studies his face through luxurious eyelashes. “I think you’re proving my point now, actually.”
Kentarou says nothing; flexing his jaw is the best he can manage at this point. When Yahaba runs a soft fingertip along his jawline, he almost bites his own tongue off. “You’re definitely proving my point,” his comments have turned into whispers, and a familiar tension is in the air gripping at Kentarou’s throat, twisting his stomach into knots, and reaching somewhere below the belt.
Feigning deafness and continuing his quiet spell, Kentarou twists his fingers into the back of Yahaba’s hair before issuing a sharp yank. It elicits a wide eyed gasp closely flanked by a breathless moan.
Knowing full well what he’s doing, Yahaba pushes his hips back and smirks at the small grunt his efforts earn him. Kentarou edges an anxious hand under the hem of his sweatshirt and Yahaba gives a weak laugh.
“Bad dog,” he mumbles beneath his breath.
Kentarou leans forward, nipping at Yahaba’s ear. “Woof.”
Giggling, Yahaba fumbles to turn around in Kentarou’s lap. He displays none of his usual grace or aloofness as he fights to keep the hoodie sleeves up his slender arms whilst attempting to straddle Kentarou’s lap. At the height of frustration, Yahaba finally gives up the fight, drops his hands to his sides, sighs heavily, and cocks his head to the side. “Think you can pretend like that was alluring and not pitiful?”
“You’ll have to try harder than that, Princess.”
The light comes on in Yahaba’s eyes and it’s more fire than anything else. “Is that a challenge?”
“Everything is with you.”
A devilish smirk is the last thing Kentarou sees before being kissed breathless.
A week passes with no word from Yahaba, and Kentarou does his best to avoid the couch and the TV and every piece of clothing Yahaba touched because it just leaves him feeling raw. They’ve had plenty of chances to speak, but Yahaba hasn’t jumped at a single one.
Once, they bump into one another while scrambling to opposite sides of campus and Yahaba can’t spare a single ‘excuse me’ or ‘go to Hell’. Instead, all Kentarou gets is brief eye contact and the sight of fleeing. Practice is hard during these ‘in-between’ times and it’s like everyone around them is swimming in the same thick air. Being on the same volleyball team is near impossible when the two most prominent members refuse to look in one another’s direction.
Incredibly, they make it work, but it takes a toll on everyone forced to share space with them for too long. By the time five days have passed, there’s a visible barrier between them that looks a lot like a net. Yahaba chooses one side of the court to practice on and Kentarou happily takes the other, spiking balls at walls, air, and nothing at all. Sometimes he believes pent up frustration might eat him alive, and the only thing keeping him grounded is the satisfaction of reddened palms and a sweaty brow.
Kentarou is blind when he throws a new ball high into the air, not nearly as accurate as a set from Yahaba but it works, and slaps it, open palm and full force, into the floor. He waits for the loud crack of leather meeting wooden floors, but it never comes. Instead, the ball comes hurdling towards him and when he shakes himself back into his own head, he sees Yahaba on his knees with arms outstretched. The ball whizzes past his head by inches and bounces pathetically across the court.
The gym is empty aside from the the two of them and the sea of volleyballs Kentarou has created.
“I think I could’ve made a damn good libero,” Yahaba says like they’re friends. He speaks like he hasn’t been avoiding Kentarou for the past week. A week passes like a minute’s time in Yahaba’s world Kentarou assumes. “Don’t you?”
“Your form is shit,” Kentarou says. It’s the kindest thing that comes to mind.
“Cut me some slack.” Yahaba pushes himself onto his feet, long limbs unwinding with intentional grace and allure. “I haven’t been on my knees in a while.”
Kentarou rolls his eyes and makes a hasty escape to the opposite end of the court. He collects stray balls while Yahaba’s gaze drills into him.
“What are you fuckin’ staring at?” Kentarou whips upright and everything he holds falls to the floor.
Yahaba winces and Kentarou can’t tell if it’s the result of his tone or the unexpected noise.
“You,” Yahaba says. He’s unashamed of his answer but his voice is weak. Kentarou glares.
“Because I said to,” Kentarou bites, taking a challenging step forward.
Yahaba meets him with a courageous step of his own. “Maybe I like staring at you.”
Kentarou hates feeling blood rush to color his cheeks and neck. “Just leave me alone. Why do you insist on being so god damn annoying all the time?”
Tapping his finger on his chin and gazing pensively somewhere high above Kentarou’s head, Yahaba shrugs. “I’m god damn good at it?”
He waits for a response. Kentarou doesn’t have one.
“You’re sweet for not fighting me on this one, Kyou. Really. I feel tingly all over knowing I have your support.”
Kentarou goes back to collecting his mess and adamantly avoiding Yahaba’s presence.
“I’m going home,” he announces, dropping the last of the balls in the collection bag before stomping towards the door.
“Why don’t we go somewhere and study instead?” Yahaba says quick to follow with the excuse of needing to lock up.
“I’m going home,” Kentarou adds the necessary emphasis while keeping his eyes set steadfastly on the ground. He can’t be prone to Yahaba’s charm if he doesn’t have to look into those stupid, big doe eyes.
Yahaba shoves his hands into his pockets and easily walks to the pace Kentarou sets. Kentarou feels Yahaba’s elbow every time it swishes because it always manages to graze him. He’s hyper aware of Yahaba’s soft footsteps and humming and the stretch of his neck when he locks his gaze on the rolling clouds.
“We can study at your home,” Yahaba suggests just when Kentarou thought the subject was dead. He shows no signs of veering off in the direction of his own house.
Kentarou stops and, despite watching the sky, Yahaba stops with him, perfectly in tune. He lowers his eyes and meets Kentarou’s. Kentarou can see no bad intentions there, but then again he never can. He’s hidden so far behind a mask of sincerity that Kentarou wonders if he’s suffocating under it all.
Glaring seems like the best response, and it earns a laugh out of Yahaba.
“Normally your silence means ‘yes, but I don’t want to admit it.’ Is it safe to translate it that way now?” Yahaba drops his hands from out of his jacket pockets, and his knuckles graze Kentarou’s. To anyone on the outside looking in, it would easily pass as a mistake. The result of close proximity. Kentarou knows better.
He also knows to pull away. But, he doesn’t.
In another life, Yahaba would be a rip tide. Beautiful and deadly.
Kentarou loves the ocean, but he never learned to swim.
G-Rated studying happens in the kitchen, and Kentarou tries his damnedest to keep it that way. They sit on opposite ends of the table. Kentarou busies himself with keeping his nose dug deep in a Chemistry book, but he can’t read a single word of it. Yahaba is in the forefront of his mind, and every passing thought revolves around him. With far more violence than necessary, Kentarou flips the page and barely avoids ripping it out.
Curiously, Yahaba spares a glance his way. He’s got a pencil eraser caught between his lips and a tweezed eyebrow arched to his hairline. Kentarou feels small which is an odd feeling in itself. When it’s mixed with a swirling nervousness in his stomach and a wringing feeling in his chest, it’s just downright foreign.
Kentarou hates that he likes it so much.
Yahaba picks up on it instantly. Damn his quick perception.
“See something you like?” He asks past a teasing grin.
“No. Eat shit.”
“Some people like that, you know,” Yahaba informs him, eyes falling down to glance at his forgotten poetry assignment. He closes the notebook and turns his full attention on Kentarou.
Kentarou wishes he wouldn’t.
“You’re fucking disgusting,” he says, refusing to breathe or look up again.
“Not me personally.” Kentarou hears a chair scrape across the tile floor. “Just some people.”
“I still think you’re fucking disgusting,” Kentarou says with nothing to support that claim. Yahaba doesn’t ask him to support it, he only hums and leans until his chin is propped on Kentarou’s shoulder. Kentarou tenses; neither of them say anything.
“You’re in advanced classes,” Yahaba says, “you never told me.”
“Your book. It’s advanced Chemistry.”
Yahaba makes a show of lacing his arms around Kentarou’s shoulders, knotting his fingers over his chest. Kentarou desperately hopes he can’t feel how erratically his heart is beating. “So, I’m impressed.”
Kentarou grumbles something incoherent, just a mash up of vowels and constants, and stares a hole straight through the table, the floor, and the first layer of the Earth’s crust. Receiving compliments is a monster in itself, but it’s a million times more stressful when they’re coming from Yahaba. Good things always follow but the cold distance is never far behind.
“It’s whatever,” Kentarou manages to say when it becomes clear that Yahaba isn’t itching to fill the silence.
His fingers splay out against Kentarou’s chest and he presses his cheek delicately along the curve of Kentarou’s neck. He’s making a show out of his interest. It should be annoying. Perhaps a year previous it would have been, but now Kentarou feels his insides catching fire. His brain sizzles and short wires with the contact.
“I’m tired of studying,” Yahaba says. He’s made that point abundantly clear by now.
“You’re the one who wanted to do this,” Kentarou replies, gruff and to the point.
Yahaba is unfazed by his lack of tact. “Can I offer a new idea?”
Silence. More glaring.
“What if we watch movies?”
Yahaba hums and it sounds warm and fond so close to Kentarou’s ear. “What if you cook us something?”
“Why the fuck would I want to cook you something?”
“Because you like me, obviously.” He’s so sure of himself it’s infuriating. Of course, Kentarou can’t exactly argue it either, so he swallows his frustration.
Yahaba removes himself from Kentarou’s back and falls languidly in a new chair beside him. He’s sure to prop his feet up in Kentarou’s lap before continuing speaking. Kentarou doesn’t move them, but he does snort. Yahaba offers a small smile in return.
People don’t usually flirt like this, Kentarou knows, but he loves it.
“I’m not cooking,” he says with finality. He tries to go back to reading, but Yahaba and his unmasked staring make it a chore.
“I’m not hungry anyway,” Yahaba relents.
Kentarou rolls his eyes.
“I kind of just want to go to the park.” Yahaba leans back in his seat, and it creaks.
Kentarou says nothing, but recently Yahaba has become a pro at translating his silence.
“Is that a yes?” Yahaba leans forward now, arms pressed against the table top. He sounds far more excited than he has any right to, and Kentarou has a really hard time saying no.
So, he doesn’t.
“You’re really annoying when you’re like this,” Kentarou lies through his teeth as he watches Yahaba skip ahead, arms swinging and hair whipping wildly in the wind.
When he spins on his heels, Yahaba gives Kentarou a questioning look. “When I’m happy?” He seems undeterred judging by the natural smile he’s wearing. “You should try it some time.”
“I am happy,” Kentarou says, earning a raised eyebrow as a silent response. “I am!” He sighs, exasperated. “This is why you’re annoying.”
“You think I’m annoying no matter what,” Yahaba says helpfully. “Maybe look up some other pick up lines when you get home, yeah?”
“They’re not- It’s not-” Kentarou finds himself glaring, but he doesn’t know why. “Not a pick up line.”
Yahaba hums. “Your blushing says otherwise.”
Yahaba falls back and they walk in step. Leaves fall from tree tops and are taken away violently by an especially pushy gust of wind. For a moment, Kentarou thinks Yahaba might fly away with them as a means of escape. They’re never together in public for long. Life isn’t that fair.
To his surprise, though, Yahaba stays grounded and very much by his side. He rambles a lot when no one is around. Kentarou noticed that immediately about him, but it’s nice. He doesn’t have all that many things worth saying anyway.
He mentions college, an art project his brother is working on, the most recent spat between his parents, and being dragged out for three hours to shop for new coffee tables last Saturday. Suddenly, though, his words run dry, and Kentarou doesn’t have to wonder why for very long.
Yahaba has a best friend, as most people do, and he’s just across the way, barely visible in a sea of their other teammates. Watari notices their presence just a split second after Yahaba pin points him. In the second, Yahaba takes a massive step forward and a slight shuffle to the right. Their hands can’t brush like this. Kentarou can’t feel warmth radiating off Yahaba anymore.
There’s barely a foot between them, but Kentarou sees it for what it really is. It’s a canyon.
Suddenly, the best place to be is locked inside his own head. There are no words worth saying when Watari jogs up to them, permanent smile in place. Sometimes Kentarou wonders if he’s had it tattooed on.
“What are you guys doing here?” Watari asks, jovial as always. Apparently, he’s forgotten its a public park.
“Just talking about new plays we’re trying. We didn’t get the chance to talk at practice, so y’know.” Yahaba shrugs. It’s loose and one shouldered and looks wrong on him. It looks a lot like something Kentarou would do.
Watari seems to notice it too because his eyes bounce between them with unspoken questions before they fall back on Yahaba.
Kentarou likes Watari more than he likes most people, and there are numerous reasons for that. But, the biggest reason is that he knows what boundaries are. He knows when his questions aren’t wanted, so he acts like they don’t exist.
“Oh, cool,” he finally says rocking onto the balls of his feet until he’s nearly eye level with Kentarou. “If you guys wanna hang out you can.”
Kentarou knows Yahaba’s answer before he says anything at all.
“Sure,” he says, and Kentarou feels his insides shift unpleasantly. He hadn’t even wanted to hang out, he reminds himself. He doesn’t care if Yahaba leaves. He doesn’t care if Yahaba doesn’t want to be around him anymore.
He just doesn’t fucking care.
The offer for him to join doesn’t leave Yahaba’s lips, but Watari does make the offer.
“I have shit to do,” Kentarou says, and blindly begins the long, cold trek back to his own house. He hears Watari call out to see if he’s sure, and if he focuses hard enough, he thinks he can feel Yahaba’s eyes on his back.
He really, really does not care.
It’s three AM, it’s dark, and Kentarou can see his breath forming little puffy clouds under a flickering street light; he hypothesized that if he froze himself to death then maybe he would stop thinking about Yahaba being an absolute dickhole all the time. That theory was proven wrong with relative quickness.
Now, his balls are frozen to the curb, and he’s sure he’ll never regain feeling in his fingers again, but Kentarou is still in the same rut.
Hitting Yahaba feels like a good solution to his problem, but there are a few immediate issues. One, it wouldn’t solve much of anything at all. The aftermath would involve Kentarou still helplessly falling for the same Yahaba, now featuring a black eye or bloody nose. Two, he was absolutely sure he couldn’t follow through with it anyway.
Even thinking about it makes him uneasy.
He sighs. It’s hard to think when he can feel his eyeballs freezing.
Kentarou hunches over and rubs the heels of his hands into his eyes. There’s a heavy weight lodged in the center of his chest, and it makes breathing normally a chore.
Night time fog rolls across the street and swirls under street lamps, and the sidewalks glisten with a newly frozen sheet of dew. It’s almost peaceful until Kentarou’s phone blares and scares away every small rodent within a five mile radius. Even Kentarou has to keep himself from pissing.
Yahaba’s the source of the noise. It’s a phone call. Before he can get too stupid, Kentarou declines the call, powers his phone down, and slams the door on his way back inside to add extra finality.
He doesn’t sleep, but he does brood.
When he walks into morning practice, the bad mood radiates off him. It touches everyone who looks his way. Kentarou didn’t sleep a wink, yet Yahaba has the audacity to look tired. He’s withdrawn and completely outside of himself for the entirety of practice. Generally, this would prove to be a good thing: Yahaba leaves him alone; therefore, Kentarou feels like he can breathe correctly. Unfortunately, despite his silence, Yahaba still manages to crawl beneath Kentarou’s skin by watching his every move. Everything he does feels supervised.
Yahaba is climbing his nerves with haste this morning and he doesn’t even need to say a word. It’s like a god damn superpower.
Lunch sees them on opposite sides of the courtyard. Yahaba, as per usual, is surrounded by people who are surrounded by even more people. Kentarou stays to himself and watches. Yahaba is unfairly beautiful especially when he’s unaware of spectators.
Rays of sun turn ashy locks gold and his face literally glows when he smiles. When Yahaba looks up from his meal, he locks eyes with Kentarou without searching the crowd to find him. Suddenly, Kentarou feels his heart beating in his throat, but he masks it with a glare and immediately studies the ground like he’s found the next geological mega-find.
When it feels safe to steal a glance in Yahaba’s direction again, he goes for it. Yahaba, in all his good graces, did decide it was best to look away and mind his own business, but Kentarou can’t help but notice how his shoulders sag slightly and his smile falls at the edges.
Kentarou wants to feel triumphant, but he doesn’t.
He can’t. He blames it on exhaustion, and removes himself from the courtyard to finish sulking alone.
The team reconvenes in the afternoon, and the tension from before hasn’t dissipated at all. If anything, the air has solidified until it’s impossible to breath.
Yahaba saunters in completely unfazed while Kentarou chokes. Nothing affects Yahaba the way it does everyone else. He is untouchable. Kentarou rolls his hands into fists and marches a safe distance away.
They’re almost laughably predictable as they station themselves on opposite ends of the court, backs to one another and trying desperately to talk loudest just to be a nuisance. Under normal circumstances, it’s easy to overlook their lack of communication, but today is just all around different.
Yahaba goes out of his way to be annoying, which isn’t especially surprising but is especially aggravating.
From somewhere behind him, Kentarou hears Yahaba announce that there will be three on three practice matches in which he will be courteous enough to divvy up the teams.
Kentarou’s name is glossed over as the first teams are named, and then again as the second set of teams take their places on the court. When the third rotation of players is announced and Kentarou is still ignored, he feels his blood pressure rise and an artery in his neck pulses. Players are repeated, and Kentarou swears there are moments when Yahaba’s fully amused gaze falls on him.
It’s insane to believe that he can recognize when a specific person is looking at him without confirming the identity with his own two eyes, but it’s Yahaba, and the boy has always had a way of getting under his skin, making himself known regardless of circumstance.
If he could go back to the way they stood a year ago, barely knowing each others’ names, he would. He would threaten to knock Yahaba’s teeth out when he asked to study together for the first time. He would make himself disappear the first time Yahaba kissed him. He would blow up the world from its core the moment his feelings for Yahaba cemented themselves.
But, seeing as he can’t do that, he just takes the neglect with teeth bared and fists wound into white-knuckled fists.
Yahaba waits for him at the end of practice, though he’s sure to make it look casual. He spends ages picking up stray balls and sweeping the court floors three times over until Kentarou is the last person out of the changing room.
“Shut the fuck up,” Kentarou has no interest in playing this game anymore. He’s throwing in the towel, and keeping his name out of Yahaba’s mouth feels like a good place to start. “Stop.”
Yahaba’s posture goes slack and his eyes turn to glass, but he recovers in an instant. “Excuse me?”
“You heard me.”
“But do I ever listen to you?” It was intended to be playful, but they both know he’s treading thin ice.
When Kentarou glares, Yahaba takes a step back. Yahaba, made solely of determination and fight, bows his head and for the first time Kentarou can recall, looks genuinely ashamed.
“I’m sorry, if that helps.”
Yahaba seems smaller. To avoid the pang of guilt that’s sure to come, Kentarou keeps his focus on center court.
“If it’s about practice, I-“
“It’s not fucking about practice,” Kentarou bites. That’s a partial lie, but in the grand scheme of things being ignored during practice is minuscule and can be over looked.
“We can talk about it,” Yahaba offers.
“I don’t want to talk. I want to be left alone, can’t you just give me that much?”
“I want to talk.”
Kentarou snorts. “But only when we’re alone.”
When his head falls to the side, Yahaba’s hair masks his face. “Well, yeah. This is private.”
“No matter what we’re talking about or where we are, you only want to be with me when we’re alone. End of discussion. Move.”
“A discussion has two sides,” Yahaba counters.
“I have no interest in hearing yours. I won’t say it again,” Kentarou makes a move to brush past, but in an instant, Yahaba grows ten feet and his attitude returns full force.
He stands taller with shoulders squared and mouth set in a hard line. “No, fuck you. You won’t go anywhere until I’ve said my piece.”
“Because you always get the last word in.”
A hostile noise tears through Yahaba. “Would you listen?”
He hadn’t intended to scream. Regret is written all over his face and in the way he throws his hands out prepared to defend himself.
“I’m sorry,” Yahaba says, voice wan. “I’m sorry. Just hear me out.”
There is nothing Kentarou wants to do less, and he makes it known. “No thanks. I’m good.”
Kentarou has a foot out the door when Yahaba finds his voice. “I called you. Why did you ignore my call?”
Frozen in place, Kentarou tenses and irritation floods his every rational thought. “Why do you ignore my existence? Constantly. All the time. When your stupid friends are around, I don’t exist. Stop acting like one phone call compares to that.”
“You heard me. If you’re ashamed just say so, alright?” Words were coming and he couldn’t stop them. He wasn’t even sure if they made sense; they just kept spilling out. Yahaba looks just as shocked as he feels about the word vomit. “I know I make you look bad, it’s not breaking news, but it’s just shitty to pretend to care about someone only when it’s convenient for you.”
A pregnant pause follows the accusation.
“Yahaba,” Kentarou says past grit teeth. “Just answer the god damn question.”
Instead of speaking up, Yahaba sits and gingerly pats the seat beside him.
“I’ll stay here, thanks.”
Proximity muddles his thoughts, and that’s the last thing he needs at a time like this. Kentarou watches as Yahaba rocks in his seat; it physically hurts to not attempt being comforting.
“People aren’t nice when they learn you’re gay,” Yahaba says like it’s a perfectly reasonable explanation.
“People aren’t nice no matter what they think you are.”
Yahaba laughs but it’s not right. It hangs awkwardly in the air and feels heavy. “I’m amazed that you’re searching for nice people but got caught up with me.”
“So am I.”
Yahaba sighs. “Yeah.” He twiddles his thumbs as if it’ll make his thoughts flow more freely. “Anyway, when I first came out, people were ruthless. They carved slurs into my locker. They pointed and laughed and started reputation slaughtering rumors. I almost changed schools because sometimes things got physical.”
“You know your way around a fight,” Kentarou says.
Yahaba nods. “That’s why I’m still here.” Despite himself, he looks proud. “For the longest time, anyone who got too close was given the same treatment. They were gay by association.”
“I think that’s what happened to me,” Kentarou finally caves and sits in the spot Yahaba assigned him.
Yahaba wears a smile that’s raw. “Sorry about that.”
A shrug is the only suitable answer.
“I wouldn’t wish that year of my life on anyone,” Yahaba says with fiery finality. “Least of all you.”
Kentarou barks a laugh. “Do you really think I care what other people think?”
“Everyone cares,” Yahaba says.
Kentarou shakes his head, slow and sure. “I’m amazed you live with the belief that everyone cares about social status but got caught up with me.”
Yahaba almost smiles. “So am I.”
“So that’s it?” Kentarou asks. “You don’t want people to think I’m gay?”
“I’m old news,” Yahaba says as he picks at his nails. “High schoolers are animals. Always looking for new prey. I don’t want that prey to be you.”
“Look at me,” Kentarou commands, and Yahaba does. “Would you pick a fight with me?”
There’s a brief moment where Yahaba considers his answer. “Yes.”
Kentarou hates himself for cracking a smile. Yahaba has no right to be so damn endearing even when he’s sniffling and puffy eyed.
“If you were any other punk in this school, would you?”
Yahaba sighs. “No. But I would write mean things about you in the bathroom stalls.”
“Oh God,” Kentarou crosses his heart with a dramatically shaking hand, “you’re right. I can’t handle that.”
Yahaba bumps Kentarou with his shoulder and huffs a breathy laugh. “Whatever.”
“Seriously though, that’s it, right? You don’t secretly hate me? Wish I was dead? Hate being seen with my ugly mug?”
“If any of those things were true, it wouldn’t be a secret.” Yahaba is confident in his answer, and Kentarou believes him.
“You’re kind of a bitch, you know.”
“Well aware.” Yahaba rests his elbows on his knees and hunches forward. “I’m sorry, Ken.”
Kentarou, who is not a man to cry, nods. The lump in his throat is a traitor. “‘Preciate it,” he finally mutters.
“We should leave,” Yahaba says, groaning as if he’s 16 going on 60 as he tests his weight on his feet, “it smells like sweat and testosterone in here.”
“That’s a problem?”
Yahaba looks disgusted with his nose wrinkled and lips pulled back. “Well, yeah it’s a problem. What are you? An animal?”
Rolling his eyes, Yahaba pushes himself onto his feet and holds a hand out for Kentarou to grab onto. “You make me question my tastes every day, you know.”
“I know the feeling,” Kentarou accepts the offer for a boost up, and he fully expects Yahaba to drop his hand and shuffle away the minute he can stand on his own.
Except he doesn’t.
Their fingers twine, nervousness etches itself into the lines on Yahaba’s face when he eyes the door, and he takes a steadying breath.
“Watari is going to flip his shit,” Yahaba finally says.
“I imagine he’s not the only one.”
Yahaba hums and squeezes the life out of Kentarou’s hand until he begins to wonder if his fingers are still intact.
Never once has Kentarou witnessed Yahaba being a victim of anxiety. Because he lacks the ability to be helpful, Kentarou squeezes back.
Unbelievably, the set of Yahaba’s shoulders melts, if only slightly.
“Are you ready for the nasty things on bathroom stalls?”
“I piss outside anyway.”
“You are literally so gross. Shut up.”
Kentarou shrugs, and Yahaba scoffs at the smile he’s wearing.
Though he still seems unsure and a little unsteady, Yahaba nods, mutters something that sounds like an “okay,” and literally drags Kentarou into the world.
The campus is vacant save for a few stragglers leaving tutoring and others just loitering in general. No one even bats an eye at them in their gay state.
Yahaba becomes braver by the second.
“I’ve got a confession.”
“You actually do hate me?”
“Sometimes,” Yahaba says, “but right now I was just going to make it known that I think I like you as more than a friend.”
“I didn’t know you even liked me as a friend,” Kentarou says, earnest but entirely ruining the moment.
Yahaba sighs and pins him with a dangerous glare.
“I’ve been thinking the same thing,” Kentarou amends.
Kentarou nods and couples it with a grunt. He’s not sure where this is going or how to navigate it there.
“Yeah, so I was thinking you should come over.”
“To your house?”
“Yes. To where I live.”
“To meet my family?”
“You’re scared I’m ashamed of you. I’m proving I’m not.”
Kentarou squints and the confusion is clear on his face.
“Not enough for you?”
“I didn’t say that.”
Yahaba can’t hear him past his desperate need to prove himself and be the center of attention.
“HEY EVERYONE,” Yahaba screams. Kentarou prepares to bolt out of the limelight but Yahaba’s fingers twined between his keep him tethered. All fourteen people remaining on campus turn their attention on them. “KYOUTANI IS MY BOYFRIEND. HE HAS BEEN FOR SIX MONTHS. I’M PRETTY SURE I LOVE HIM BUT I HAVEN’T TOLD HIM THAT YET. THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME.”
Confused murmurs are dispersed between small groups of people that eventually die down to nothing. Within minutes they’re the only two people left.
“You just said-“
“That I think I love you. Yes, I remember.”
“Oh,” Kentarou’s brows knit. “I think I love you too.”
“That’s good. It’d be awkward if the opposite were true.”
This is no time for snide and witty commentary. Kentarou sweeps his free arm around Yahaba’s waist and pulls him into a violent kiss where teeth clank and they both taste blood on their tongues.
Yahaba, rather than scolding him, only laughs. That’s new. “You’d think that’s the first time we did that.”
“We should probably practice sometime,” Kentarou says, swallowing pride thick enough to clog his throat.
Yahaba hums thoughtfully and swings their linked arms as they walk. “I have another confession.”
“How many of these do you have?”
“This is the last one.”
Kentarou is hard pressed to say he isn’t disappointed. “Okay.”
“I have ulterior motives in taking you to my house.”
“So, you don’t want me to meet your parents.” It isn’t a question, and Kentarou has a difficult time hiding the edge in his voice. They’d danced this dance far too many times. Kentarou isn’t prepared to be pulled through it again.
“What? No. They’re there. Just not all night.”
“I’m asking you to stay the night,” Yahaba clarifies, clearly annoyed with Kentarou’s lack of perception.
“Oh,” he says though it passes more as a whisper.
“Is that a yes?” Yahaba dares to sound hopeful.
“It’s closer to a hell yeah, actually.”
Yahaba giggles, it’s an honest to god giggle that makes Kentarou’s head feel light, and he picks up the pace in the direction of his own house.
Kentarou has been wrong before, but being wrong has never felt this rewarding.
There are absolute truths in the world. Miracles happen, Yahaba Shigeru is capable of love, and life continues marching merrily forward. Perhaps next he’ll consider squashing his firm belief that nothing ends happily ever after.