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"Fuck you, get off me!" Kamui snapped, wrenching his arm out of whoever's grip.

"Keep your fucking hands to yourself then!" They snapped back. Kamui replied with a rude hand gesture over his shoulder and stormed away from the mosh pit, weaving in and out of people standing about with drinks in their hands and vague, disinterested looks on their faces. On stage, Dreaming Princess announced their final song and a groan rose from whoever was still paying attention.

Kamui just rolled his eyes. He didn't like this band; he was only there for Sorata, who was only sort of there for them anyway, making this entire situation a total waste. He stopped next to the small, grimy bar and leaned against the wall as a guitar riff blared suddenly from on stage. The crowd cheered, and the band began to play their last song. Kamui rolled his eyes again. The drummer was slightly off, but no one seemed to notice. He made a contemptuous noise and glared at the stage for a moment before carefully feeling the side of his face. Nothing was tender or painful, but this only annoyed him more. He liked getting into scraps like these at shows, venting his feelings with inflammatory words or against someone's jaw, but how the fuck did that guy try to get in his face with such a pathetic right hook?!

Kamui sighed forcefully, trying to calm down enough so he wouldn't get in trouble with actual venue security. However, his heart was still pounding against his ribs, pumping adrenaline and agitation through his body. He wanted more than anything to find Sorata and leave, but he was probably still in the crowd, absorbed in this incredibly lame show.

"Hey, are you okay?" Kamui started and looked around, then felt his racing heart stop abruptly as though someone had slammed on the breaks.

"Um," he began, though he had no idea what to say; his brain seemed to have stopped too. The young man who had spoken was tall, with a lean build, fine features and a soft smile.

"Are you okay? That looked pretty bad just now!" He spoke loudly over the music and applause, and Kamui flushed as he watched his lips move around the words.

"Y-yeah, I'm cool!" He replied, when he'd found his voice. "Shit was nothing!" The young man laughed and took a sip of his beer, and the bright red light coming off the stage illuminated a tattoo on his inner forearm. "I like your tattoo!" Kamui blurted out, then bit down on the inside of his lip at how awkward he sounded. At least the venue lighting was shitty enough to hide his blush. Fortunately, the young man's smile just widened.

"Thank you!" He said, placing his beer on the bar behind him and rotating his arm invitingly. Kamui's heart restarted and throbbed painfully in his chest, but he gathered his courage and moved closer. "It's-"

"There you are!" They turned and saw a young woman hurrying towards them, out of breath but looking blissful. Kamui hadn't even realized the set had ended. "They're getting the car now," she said, looking curiously at Kamui for a moment before returning her gaze to her… Friend? Boyfriend?

"Good." He smiled at Kamui, his lips parting slightly. "She always drags me to see them, so maybe I'll see you again?" She stuck her tongue out at him, and he gave her a sarcastic grin back before they both looked at Kamui with genuine smiles on their faces.

"Yeah," he replied, trying and failing to return the gesture. As they turned to go, she placed her hand on his lower back, and Kamui's stomach clenched painfully. Once they were swallowed up by the crowd and ugly red light, he sighed heavily and dug in his pocket for his cellphone, only to find he had no service. He snapped it closed impatiently and walked back towards the stage, feeling empty and inadequate and-

"Kamui!" He started, but spotted Sorata at once, apparently lurking a short distance away. He hurried over once he had Kamui's attention, looking windswept but knowing.

"Can we please get the fuck out of here?" Kamui asked at once. Sorata grinned.

"Yeah, let's go." Sticking close together, they fought their way through the crowd and back outside. Kamui gasped softly; the sharp autumn chill was rather jarring after the sweaty heat inside the venue. Young men and women stood about in groups, talking and laughing and smoking under the glow of the surrounding streetlights. Kamui zipped up his hoodie and shoved his hands in his pockets, looking around surreptitiously as they headed down the street. However, he saw no sign of the guy with the tattoo. As though reading his mind, Sorata asked, "Who was that you were talking to?" Kamui shrugged, his hands clenching.

"Someone else who got dragged to this show against their will," he replied, grumpily. Sorata laughed.

"Cool, you already have something in common!"

"Shut up," Kamui snapped.

"The girl he was with was cute," Sorata continued, thoughtfully.

"Shut up," Kamui snapped again, blushing, though there was no real reason for him to be embarrassed or anything. They fell silent as they continued the long and arduous walk back to the car. Sorata had left it far away from the venue because, "Fuck paying for parking!" Kamui felt his focus slipping. His mind was still full of the guy with the tattoo, but he was feeling emptier and more inadequate by the second. "Dude, pay attention!" Sorata called before Kamui could walk right passed the car.

"Huh? Oh shit, sorry," he muttered. He tried and failed to open the door, and Sorata snorted with laughter as he unlocked it. Kamui gave him a nasty look, got into the car and slammed the door behind him. Sorata slid into the driver's seat and started the engine, causing the music they'd listened to on the drive over to come blaring, muffled and scratchy, out of the speakers. Kamui ejected the CD at once, and Sorata waited for him to play something else before putting the car in gear.

"Put on your seatbelt," he added, adjusting the rearview mirror and backing them out of the parking space.

"Yeah yeah." Kamui did so, then reclined against the seat. Immediately, he felt the tight knot of bitter feelings inside him ease very slightly, soothed by the motion and the music. He stared out the window, the streets dark and deserted even though this was still technically downtown. Of course, in Sagacity, like all other tiny, irrelevant Northeastern cities, downtown just meant where all the municipal buildings, as well as those belonging to the three colleges, were clustered. There were also concert venues, nightclubs, theatres and restaurants, though they only came alive after dark. They turned onto Memorial Boulevard, the major thoroughfare of the area, and proceeded along it. "You see your girl?" Kamui asked, quietly, when they got stuck at the third red light in a row. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Sorata's face fall slightly.

"No," he replied, and Kamui groaned sympathetically. They turned right, drove up Kamui's gently sloping street, lined with small stores and restaurants, and pulled up outside an old, converted row house on the corner.

"Thanks," said Kamui, unbuckling his seatbelt.

"Ah it's no problem. Tell Tohru I say hi!" Kamui rolled his eyes, though he did appreciate it.

"See you Monday." They brofisted each other and Kamui got out of the car, digging in his pocket for his keys. He opened the front door, climbed the three very creaky flights of stairs and entered the apartment he shared with his mother. It was dark, except for the light from her bedroom spilling out into the hallway. Kamui kicked off his shoes and slouched across the living room, feeling suddenly tense again. "Mom?" He called, cautiously as he approached her open door.

"Come in!" Kamui came to stand on the threshold and found his mother propped up in bed, reading, her long hair tied in a messy ponytail over her shoulder.

"Hi," Kamui said, and she smiled and closed her book.

"How was your show?" She asked. Kamui shrugged. "You're back early, is everything okay?" Again, Kamui shrugged. She sighed, and though she was still smiling, Kamui could see something else in her expression that made his insides squirm guiltily. However, all she said was, "Don't be up too late."

"I won't." She tilted her head to the side.

"I'm covering for someone tomorrow afternoon, so I may not be here when you wake up."

"Okay." Kamui was about to go, but then, "Sorata says hi." His mother laughed and he finally smiled. She returned to her book and Kamui backed out of the room and shut the door. He sighed heavily and walked down the hall to his own bedroom. He made sure his door was shut tightly, then fell into bed, fully dressed. As if on cue, his feelings of inadequacy, of emptiness and dissatisfaction swelled inside him, consuming him, and he buried his face in his pillows. He hated this. He had no reason to feel this way, to get sent into a tailspin because of some hot guy at a show giving him attention.

'That's basically all it took last time, though,' he reminded himself, coldly. Feeling disgusting, he rolled onto his side and pulled his laptop towards him. He opened it and squinted at the screen, the bright, artificial light harsh on his eyes. He wanted music on. That'd help him calm down, or else languish in his bitter feelings until he fell asleep. However, before he could decide which was a better option, an instant message popped up.

DxOxE :: hey

Kamui gasped and stared at the screen, the bitter feelings inside him intensifying even as his heart ached in longing.

DxOxE :: you're up late

Kamui let out the softest of anguished moans. These messages always made him furious, disgusted, and he knew he should just ignore them, but… He remembered suddenly the guy from the show, being led away by the girl, and he began to type almost defiantly, his hands shaking.

k4mui :: yea

k4mui :: what's up?

DxOxE :: me :)

Kamui closed his eyes and rolled onto his back, heart throbbing and throat burning. It was always like this. This was the only kind of contact they had these days. He heard more messages and rolled over again to read them.

DxOxE :: it's been a while

DxOxE :: i miss you

Anger flared suddenly inside Kamui, burning away his bitterness, his longing.

"Fuck you," he muttered, closing the message and opening iTunes. However, as he was debating a playlist, another message popped up.

DxOxE :: don't ignore me i'm being serious

He flushed deeply at the message. He knew that wasn't true, it couldn't be true, but the small shoot of hope it planted in his heart was enough to make his anger dissipate. Almost mechanically, as though the desperation inside him had hijacked his brain, he replied.

k4mui :: what the fuck do you want?

DxOxE :: ideally? your dick in my mouth

Kamui bit his lip to stifle his moan, a shiver running through him. It was exactly what he'd expected, but still…

DxOxE :: but i'll take whatever right now

DxOxE :: can't sleep

DxOxE :: you get me?

k4mui :: yea

Kamui swallowed, the heat travelling from his face down his neck, his chest, between his legs. He supposed they were in the same position, really.

DxOxE :: i still get so fucking hard for you Kamui

Kamui undid his pants and brought out his rapidly forming erection.

k4mui :: yea?

DxOxE :: fuck yes

DxOxE :: i'd suck you so good right now

DxOxE :: do you taste as good as i remember?

Kamui bit back a moan as he began to please himself in quick, deliberate strokes. His heart continued to pound, and emotion and pleasure radiated out through his entire body.

k4mui :: fuck yea

DxOxE :: goddamn

Kamui moaned softly again as he remembered one of the only times that had happened, how good everything had felt even though-

Littlebirdxo :: what are you doing up? :P

Kamui stopped abruptly and stared at the new message. Why the fuck was tonight like this?! He blushed furiously and closed the message, but fortunately there was another notification before he could think about it too much.

DxOxE :: you jerking off?

Kamui refocused at once and heat rushed out through his body as he clumsily typed one handed.

k4mui :: yea

He stroked himself faster, pressure building teasingly.

DxOxE :: same

Kamui let out a soft, throaty cry, experiencing almost a head rush as he thought about it.

DxOxE :: i wanna fuck your mouth so bad

DxOxE :: i want you to swallow me

DxOxE :: then i wanna do u

Kamui shuddered violently, his erection throbbing in his hand.

k4mui :: i need it!

DxOxE :: me too

DxOxE :: FUCK

k4mui :: i love blowing you

His blush deepened as he typed it and he looked away, a weird mix of arousal and ill usage churning his mind and guts. He screwed up his eyes and his mouth fell open in another soft cry.

DxOxE :: you close?

Kamui's thighs shook as he reached for the keyboard.

k4mui :: yes

DxOxE :: come for me Kamui

The message seemed to shock every nerve of his body and he came suddenly all over his hand with a soft cry, the pressure inside him rushing outwards in soft, satisfying pulses. He closed his eyes and rolled over onto his back, his mind blanking, waiting for the feelings to settle. After a few seconds he swallowed and reached for a tissue from the box on his nightstand to clean up. He zipped up and rolled over onto his side to see more messages.

DxOxE :: did you come?

k4mui :: yea

DxOxE :: good

DxOxE :: me too

Kamui smiled in vague satisfaction.

DxOxE :: did you come a lot?

Kamui felt an unpleasant shiver run through his body and pulled his legs up closer to his chest. He looked away, watching his hands on the keyboard out of the corner of his eye.

k4mui :: nah

k4mui :: i'm by myself so it's pretty sad

DxOxE :: aww :(

DxOxE :: next time i see you…

Kamui's eyes flew open and his heart hammered against his ribs. Was he serious? Was he coming back? He was about to reply, but,

DxOxE :: fuck g2g roommate's back

DxOxE :: sweet dreams Kamui 3

He signed off. Kamui just stared at the message for a moment. He shouldn't be surprised: it was always like this, but emptiness and ill usage and other bitter feelings still threatened to rise up inside him again. However, before they could take root, and to assuage some of his guilt about what he'd just done, he opened the other instant message.

Littlebirdxo :: what are you doing up? :P

k4mui :: i was at a show

k4mui :: going to sleep now though

k4mui :: ttyl

He signed off, turned up his music and got undressed. At least the conversation had made him sleepy. He got under the covers, curled up into a ball and fell asleep almost at once.

Chapter Text

Kamui woke up the next day with no idea what time it was, though he knew instinctively he'd slept too late. Groaning, he rolled over onto his other side and reached for his cellphone. It was almost 1:30. He flopped onto his back again, both arms above his head. As he stared up at the ceiling, last night came floating up from the depths of his hazy mind. The show, the guy with the tattoo, IMing and jerking off.

Kamui forced himself to sit up as if trying to get away from his thoughts, though his eyes strayed irresistibly to his laptop. He shook his head impatiently, heaved himself out of bed and shuffled off down the hall. When he entered the kitchen, he found his mother had left him a pot full of coffee and a note, which he picked up, smiling appreciatively.

"Left for work at noon, back at 10 assuming nothing catastrophic happens. Dinner's in the fridge, do your homework! Mom xoxo"

Kamui's smile widened in spite of himself as he placed the note back on the counter and poured himself coffee. He added milk and sugar, took a sip and immediately felt more awake. He reflected that he probably wouldn't be feeling so groggy if he'd just gone straight to sleep last night, but,

DxOxE :: it's been a while

DxOxE :: i miss you

Kamui sipped more coffee through pursed lips, that sense of ill-usage back in full force. He shouldn't have responded to the messages. Doing so always made him feel used, he always made him feel used, even if in the moment he was satisfied.

Kamui's stomach clenched and he hurriedly drank more coffee. It was just to help him sleep, and it was convenient, and it was faster than lying there feeling awful until he passed out. Besides, wasn't it also less pathetic than thinking about that guy from the show?

He blushed and his stomach muscles pulled sharply in and up as memories flooded his mind. He could picture him perfectly: his face illuminated by the stage lights, the broad curves of his shoulders, his tattoo, but what was the point? He was older, maybe dating that girl he was with and they'd probably never see each other again anyway. And yet, as they'd said goodbye,

"She always drags me to see them, so maybe I'll see you again?"

Kamui's stomach pulled in tight again. Had that been an invitation? A prompt? I'll be here, come find me? However, just as the idea was trying to take root in his mind, Kamui accidentally took too big a sip of coffee and burned his tongue. He coughed and swore and the idea floated away again just as quickly. They'd only talked for five minutes, that wasn't nearly enough time to know anything, though he reflected that it had also been weirdly instantaneous the other two times. Of course, neither situation had ended well, so who knew?

Kamui sighed and glared across the room, blowing on his coffee before taking another sip. He didn't want to think about the summer, about everything that had happened. It was pointless, just like suspecting that this situation could possibly be any different.

"She always drags me to see them, so maybe I'll see you again?"

Still, Kamui couldn't help but hope that it might be. He could go on Dreaming Princess's Myspace, see when they were playing next and… However, in an unusual moment of self-control, Kamui opened his eyes and forced his mind away. "Fucking do your homework," he told himself, sternly. He placed his mug on the kitchen table and returned to his bedroom to retrieve his schoolbag from where he'd dropped it carelessly Friday afternoon. On the threshold, his eyes strayed irresistibly to his computer again, but he turned around and slammed his door. No. He wasn't doing this.

Once he was back in the kitchen, he dropped his bag on the table with a dull thud, then retrieved his iPod to hook it up to the dock on the counter. He could work now: he had music, he had coffee and his cellphone was out of reach. He sat down and pulled out his textbooks, notebooks and pencils and began to work. Sine over hypotenuse-

If he did go look at Dreaming Princess's Myspace for concert dates, maybe he could actually find that guy's page-

No. Θ = 45°, so-

He wouldn't add him or anything, just maybe look through his pictures. That couldn't hurt, right? He gripped his pencil so hard his knuckles were white and stared unseeingly at his homework. "He's a cute guy from a show, what more is there to know?" He swallowed. Maybe there wasn't more to know. It was probably for the best if there wasn't. sin Θ-

A song by Dreaming Princess began to play and Kamui fell back against the kitchen chair and stared up at the ceiling. He didn't even like them. He only had them in his iPod because he'd accidentally synced it with Sorata's computer, just like he'd only gone to see them because Sorata had asked him to.

"She always drags me to see them, so maybe I'll see you again?"

Kamui ran his fingers through his hair exasperatedly.

"Fuck this." He got up, shut off his music and returned to his bedroom, all self-control depleted. He threw himself back into bed, pulled his laptop towards him and logged onto the Myspace account he barely used. Ignoring all the new picture comments and bulletins, he found Dreaming Princess, who thankfully had already uploaded pictures from last night's show.

He clicked the album and began to scroll, though he had no energy to spare for the photos themselves. He focused instead on the comments, narrowing his eyes at every profile picture, looking for anyone who could be that guy or the girl he was with. His heart skipped every time he saw someone possible, but then sank when he was mistaken or the profile was private. The more he scrolled, the more discouraged he became, and he was just about to give up, when a comment on the very last photo caught his eye.

"Best song ♥"

He stared at her photo hard, and she seemed to look more and more familiar the longer he did. His heart began to race. Had he actually found her?! He went to her profile and knew a moment of devout gratitude that it wasn't set to private. He clicked on her picture. It was definitely her; she was smiling the same smile, even wearing the same shirt!

Kamui scanned her Top 8, a triumphant smile on his face. He didn't see her cute friend, though there was a girl who looked rather like him with a private page. He bit down on the inside of his lip and began to scroll through the rest of her friends instead, beginning again the process of excitement, then disappointment and mounting discouragement. He made his way through her entire friends list without finding who he was looking for, and collapsed backwards and flung one arm over his eyes. Bitter disappointment rolled over him, followed by crushing self-disgust: he had no right to feel this way. What was he going to do with this guy's Myspace anyway?! He wasn't going to friend him or try to connect, all he'd really wanted was to see some pictures.

Kamui sat bolt upright and seized his laptop again. Maybe his friend had pictures of him? He scanned through her albums, his heart beating eagerly in his throat. "Art," "Beach Adventures!" "don't worry about it," "Halloween '06." Kamui wasn't sure where to begin, so he picked the Halloween album because it was most recent. The first few pictures weren't important: random people, alcohol, jack-o-lanterns, but then Kamui clapped his hand to his mouth to muffle his excited gasp. He was there. He was really there!

Kamui's eyes widened and he leaned in closer to the computer. It was a photo of both of them together, her arm around him, with solo cups in their hands and smiles on their faces. And what was more, his costume, whatever the fuck it was supposed to be, consisted of nothing but tight black pants and fake blood all over his bare chest. Kamui went very red as he stared at the photo, taking in his smile, his smooth, pale skin, his broad shoulders, narrow waist… He let out a soft moan of longing and stared, transfixed at the image, unable to look away. To keep scrolling seemed almost traitorous, but when he closed his eyes, he could still see it as if it were burned onto his eyelids. His hand shook slightly as he clicked for the next picture and opened his eyes again.

This time he saw him sitting on someone's front step with an ironically surprised expression on his face, holding his drink in one hand and flashing a peace sign with the other. Kamui let out another longing moan. "He's so cute…" He thought, continuing to stare at the photo. However, this one wasn't quite as enthralling as the first one, and his eyes travelled downwards, over his tattoo, his long slender legs, his bare feet, at last arriving at the caption.

"Subaru you asshole ♥"

Kamui shivered in excitement again.

"Subaru," he said, quietly. "Su-ba-ru…" He swallowed and kept scrolling, finding more pictures of him by himself, with friends, smiling, drinking, until he reached the end of the album. He flopped back against his pillows with a heavy sigh, his heart racing and breath shallow. He closed his eyes and moaned softly in frustration. This wasn't a good idea, he knew it wasn't, it was going to totally suck, he could already see it.

However, he sat up on his knees and clicked back through the album to his favorite picture. He shivered, and the erection he'd been trying to ignore twitched insistently. Subaru was standing in someone's doorway, his hips swayed to one side, the long lines and curves of his waist illuminated softly from behind by a just-distinguishable string of Christmas lights. He was smiling quietly, but his eyes were intense, knowing, as if he were staring through the screen, right at Kamui. His blush deepened and he dropped his gaze to Subaru's hips, where some of the fake blood had dripped into the creases made by his hipbones and clung to the waistband of his pants.

"Fuck it," Kamui whispered, reaching down and bringing out his erection, feeling it pulse gratefully in his hand. He moaned softly and began to stroke himself. He tried to look at Subaru's face, but found it was much easier to just rove his eyes over his shoulders, chest and hips. He moaned softly again and moved his hand faster. He was already so close, though he had no idea how it had happened, and his body was tensing, expectant and excited, as pleasure radiated, hot and needy, out from between his legs. He shut his eyes tightly, as with one last soft cry, he came all over his sheets. He kept pleasing himself, forcing out as much as he could, shuddering and gasping until he was completely spent. His eyes fell closed as he leaned back on his clean had, breathing shallowly through his open mouth.

However, he came back to Earth fairly quickly, just as he always did by himself. His stomach began to squirm uncomfortably as he opened his eyes and stared at his messy hand. Determinedly not looking at the computer screen, he reached for tissues and cleaned up. His mind seemed to settle as he did so, allowing him to think more clearly.

At least he knew who this person was now; he wouldn't just slide into the corners of his memory and fade away. Even though Kamui wasn't planning on seeking him out, he could if he wanted to, and it was nice to know, pathetic as that sounded. Unfortunately, as quickly as the relief came, it condensed into the same frustration and sense of ill-usage he'd been unable to shake since last night. He sat up straight again and immediately his attention was caught by Subaru's picture.

Instantly, heat and restless energy began to stir inside him again. He bit down on the inside of his lip and looked between his legs, where he was still half hard and exposed, then back up at the computer screen. He let out a soft, anguished moan and was touching himself again before he even realized what he was doing.

He winced as he coaxed his erection back to life; the friction was more uncomfortable than pleasurable now. He reached for lotion on his bedside table, then remembered, very suddenly, the bottle of lube in the drawer, still half-full, beside the box of condoms. His stomach lurched unpleasantly, but he ignored it, squeezing lotion onto his hand and taking hold of his erection again.

He was completely hard now, and he stared at Subaru's face this time, almost defiantly, as he pleased himself. He imagined how it would feel to have him doing this, shirtless and covered in fake blood in the corner of a party, or else curled up in bed with him under the covers, or even in the back of a car, somewhere secluded…

Kamui came shortly after, recovered and went back for more the second he was able, over and over again. He got less and less out of it each time, but he didn't care. He wanted to drain himself dry, have nothing left, feel completely and totally spent.

Hours later, the sun had set outside the windows, leaving Kamui in nothing but the glow of his computer screen, messy and disheveled and gasping for breath. He felt completely empty, in his mind, in his chest and between his legs, but there was a deep sense of relief in the emptiness.


"Dude, you look like shit." Kamui gave Sorata the finger and sat down beside him. It was their first period calculus class on a Monday morning and he didn't feel like speaking to anyone. However, Sorata rolled his eyes and kept going anyway. "Did you finish all the homework for this class? My brain was fucking fried by the end of it." Kamui said nothing and began to unpack his bag.

"Your brain's always fried, though!" They both looked up to find their friend, Yuzuriha, grinning at them from the doorway.

"It's not my fault!" Sorata replied in a hurt voice as she crossed the room and took the seat on his other side. "I was at a show on Saturday night, I had nothing left for homework!"

"Ooh, that's right!" She said, balancing her bag on her lap and extracting her textbook. "How was it?" Sorata glanced at Kamui, who went slightly pink, but replied.

"It was cool." He swallowed and actually turned to face Yuzuriha. "I had some issues with someone in the pit, but…" She and Sorata burst out laughing.

"Did you-" Yuzuriha started to ask, but was interrupted by their teacher entering the room with her arms full of folders. Sorata whipped around immediately.

"Good morning, Ms. K!" He said, graciously, and Kamui and Yuzuriha rolled their eyes at each other. Ms. Kasumi set her folders on her desk and smiled.

"Good morning, Sorata," she replied, extracting a stack of papers from the top folder and handing it to him. For a moment, he looked gratified, but his expression seemed to deflate as he realized what she'd given him.

"A quiz?!" He asked her in a deeply wounded voice, and the entire class groaned.

"Nothing to worry about," Ms. Kasumi told them in a pacifying voice. "If you finished all your homework, anyway." Yuzuriha giggled as she accepted the stack of papers from Sorata and took one. Kamui's stomach clenched. He had mostly finished his homework, though he'd probably have done a better job if he hadn't started it so late.

"She hurts me so," Sorata whispered to Kamui, bringing him back to the present.

"And not even the way you want."

"Dude, exactly."

"Ew," Yuzuriha said, though she was grinning. Kamui accepted the last quiz with a heavy sigh.

"You have twenty minutes, go for it," Ms. Kasumi told them, ignoring all the irritated muttering still going on. Kamui turned his paper over and began. It wasn't hard, but his mind felt dry and unresponsive, just like his body. He'd been up way too late the night before, finishing the homework he'd neglected while jerking off all over himself to Subaru's pictures. Fortunately, his mother had arrived home only after he'd cleaned up and was back in the kitchen working. She'd unlocked the door and stepped over the threshold, still in uniform, her name and paramedic's Star of Life embroidered upon her chest.

"Hey," she said, sounding exhausted but pleased to see him all the same.

"Hi," Kamui replied, staring down at the book he was supposedly reading and notes he was half-heartedly taking. His mother crossed the room and kissed him on the top of the head. He made an irritated noise and she ruffled his hair.

"How much more work do you have to do?" She asked. Relieved that she hadn't demanded to know how late he'd slept or why he still wasn't finished, Kamui replied at once.

"I just have to finish this chapter."

"Of that book you hate?" His mother opened the refrigerator to retrieve a container of leftovers. Kamui smiled in spite of himself and actually looked up to watch her tip them onto a plate and put it in the microwave.

"Yeah. Everyone hates it though, not just me."

"At least you have the solidarity."

"Seriously! Mr. Aoki hates it too, he tells us all the time!" His mother laughed, and he returned his gaze to his book.

"I appreciate his honesty," she said, removing the plate from the microwave. "Did you eat dinner?" She asked next, her tone suddenly serious.

"Yeah."

"Kamui."

"Yes! Did you not see what I took?" He could tell she was rolling her eyes, though she drew her hand along his shoulders as she walked behind him.

"Don't be up too late." Kamui grunted, and his mother walked down the hall to her bedroom.

Sorata accidentally bumped Kamui with his elbow, forcing him back to the present. He shook his head and reached for his calculator, praying he hadn't lost too much time. Fortunately, he was able to keep his focus and finish all of the problems, though his mind became dry and unresponsive again the second his quiz had been collected. It had been a long time since he'd just given in and gone for hours like that. It didn't bother him necessarily, he could do what he wanted, but it still felt pretty pathetic. Of course, it wasn't like he had options besides his hand, and at least it was simpler.

"Dude, get up." Kamui started and realized that class had already ended and people were gathering their things.

"Sorry." He stood up and shoved all his stuff back into his bag.

"Are you okay?" Yuzuriha asked as the three of them left the room to join the tide of students making their way down to the auditorium. Every Monday morning, the entire student body would gather for what their school called Assembly. Supposedly it was an open forum for students and teachers to make announcements and share news. However, their high school was on the smaller side and no one ever had anything interesting to say, so most people just slept or texted discreetly or scrambled to finish homework.

"Yeah," Kamui replied. "Just tired."

"I was up late too," she said, nodding in solidarity.

"Reading fanfiction?" Sorata asked, and Kamui snorted.

"No," Yuzuriha replied, with dignity. "If I were I'd have sent it to you, you know that."

"Yeah, don't remind me!" Sorata cried, tragically, as they opened a scratched metal door to walk down scratched metal stairs, their footsteps echoing loudly. Yuzuriha grinned.

"Aw come one, it wasn't that bad!" She said, but before Sorata could respond two boys in the year below them began chasing each other down the stairs, distracting them completely.

"You little piece of shit! I will crush you like a bug!" One of them screamed as his friend dove through the doors at the bottom of the stairs.

"Fuck him up!" Sorata yelled after them.

"Why…?" Yuzuriha began, but shook her head and seemed to think better of it. They followed their schoolmates through the doors and turned a corner to enter the auditorium. "Anyway, why were you up so late?" She continued, addressing Kamui and speaking loudly over the din of the entire school talking at once. He shrugged, but went slightly pink again.

"Nothing, just, homework and stuff." They filed into the third to last row and sat down.

"Oh, so not stalking the guy you met at the show?" Sorata asked, shoving his bag under his seat.

"Who?" Yuzuriha asked, raising her eyebrows.

"No one," Kamui snapped, holding his bag to his chest.

"Yeah that's why you were on Myspace all day yesterday?" Sorata persisted.

"Just like you?" Yuzuriha cut in, before Kamui could answer back.

"Dude, I was-" But at that moment their vice principal stepped up to the podium on the stage and called for their attention.

"Good morning!" She said into the microphone, and the school quieted eventually. "So I don't have much to say this morning, but congratulations to-"

"So who is this guy you met?" Yuzuriha asked Kamui in an excited whisper.

"It wasn't like that!" Kamui hissed, but Yuzuriha gave him a look.

"So what was it, then?" Kamui sighed and debated how to answer her.

"Nothing," he said, truthfully. "We talked for literally five minutes at a show, that's all."

"Okay, okay, jeez! I was just curious because of-"

"Yeah, well, that's why it was just talking," Kamui interrupted, holding his bag more closely to him. His stomach was still squirming. He felt guilty for calling it "nothing" and then awful for how true that was. He leaned back against his seat, not wanting to say anything else.

"Fair enough," Yuzuriha replied, shrugging before digging in her bag for her cellphone. "Kotori still hasn't texted me today," she said in mock outrage. Kamui's heart leapt up into his throat.

Littlebirdxo :: what are you doing up? :P

k4mui :: i was at a show

k4mui :: going to sleep now though

k4mui :: ttyl

He hadn't talked to her at all. He'd completely forgotten, distracted by someone else again.

"Dude, she's three hours behind us, relax," Sorata said.

"I know, but still!"

"Yuzuriha, phone away!" Came a voice from behind them. All three of them jumped and looked around to find their science teacher, Mr. Shiyu, leaning forward to address her. Yuzuriha went very red and shoved her phone back in her bag immediately.

"Sorry," she whispered, facing front again. Kamui and Sorata exchanged a knowing look, but didn't comment. Up on the stage, their vice principal had apparently finished all she'd had to say.

"Does anyone have any announcements to make? If so the floor is yours!" A moment's silence passed as the students realized she was done talking, then a few hands went up. "Yes," she said, pointing at someone, and Kamui instantly tuned out, paying discreet attention to his best friends instead. Yuzuriha was still blushing, her hands twisting in her lap, and Sorata was staring hard at a girl a few rows in front of them. Arashi, the girl he'd hoped to run into at the Dreaming Princess show. Her long, black hair hung over the back of her seat and caught the light whenever she moved. Kamui was about to wonder aloud to Sorata what had kept her away from the show on Saturday, when the boy sitting next to her stood up to make an announcement.

"So I have a bunch of hamster cages if anyone needs one…"

"The fuck?!" Kamui asked, loudly, and everyone burst out laughing.

"Language, Kamui," Mr. Shiyu called, and Yuzuriha and Sorata snorted. Kamui was about to voice his indignation when their vice principal called for quiet, only to dismiss them immediately. Kamui, Sorata and Yuzuriha all stood up and gathered their things, debating the possible uses for hamster cages. Once they were back outside the auditorium and safely away from teachers' stares, Kamui pulled out his phone and texted Kotori.

"hey sorry for not texting you yesterday. I suck. I hope your day is going good"


"Don't you have class right now?"

"Nope! It was cancelled, I'm just going to the grocery store." Subaru nodded, squinting at his sketchbook. "That looks really good," his roommate said, coming to stand behind him. "Ink was a better call."

"Thank you."

"I'm not sure about mixing cigarette ash with the watercolor, though," she added, thoughtfully.

"I can just tell them it's social commentary," he replied, and she laughed, though he could tell she was rolling her eyes. She leaned forward, her hands on the back of the couch.

"There's a show I want to go to on Saturday, if you're down." Subaru put down his brush and looked up at her.

"Who?"

"Dreaming Princess again."

"Really?" He asked, incredulously, and she replied with a nasty look.

"Come on, it wasn't that bad! Besides, you might see that cute guy again." Subaru rolled his eyes and returned to his work. How was she still bringing this up weeks later? "I'm just saying, when was the last time you brought someone home?" Subaru went slightly pink, but didn't answer. "If you have to think about it it's been too long…" Subaru let out a contemptuous laugh.

"Are you speaking from experience, or…?" She laughed too.

"Of course, so you'd do well to pay attention." He just shook his head in reply. "Anyway, do you need anything from the grocery store?"

"No no, thank you, though." She withdrew, and Subaru could feel her eyes on the back of his neck as she made her way out of their apartment, shutting the door quietly behind her. He sighed heavily and lit another cigarette. He supposed she had a point; it had been a while, but that was only because one-night stands were so tiring. He exhaled smoke through his nose.

At least they were easier than the alternative.

Chapter Text

"Oh fuck!" Kamui cried, suddenly, making Sorata jump.

"What happened?" Kamui said nothing but continued to stare at the computer screen, eyes wide and heart pounding. "What happened?" Sorata asked again, closing his history textbook and crawling across the bed to sit beside him. "Why the fuck are you on Myspace?" He asked, grinning. Kamui hesitated a moment, then turned his laptop to show him, heat rushing up his neck. He was on Subaru's friend's page, having checked it out of habit the second he'd opened his laptop. "Who is this?" Sorata asked, staring at her profile picture. "She's cute," he added, nudging Kamui.

"Yeah I guess," he muttered, rather impatiently. "She was at the Dreaming Princess show in November, remember?" Sorata thought for a moment and Kamui's heart beat uncomfortably in his throat.

"Oh!" Sorata cried as the realization hit him. "Hold on, that guy you were talking to, this is his friend?" Kamui swallowed and nodded, and Sorata snorted. "What, was going on his page too scary?"

"No, Subaru-"

"What?"

"The guy I was talking to!" Kamui snapped, his voice rising in his agitation. Sorata sighed resignedly.

"Okay, okay, sorry! Tell me what's up." Kamui shifted uncomfortably, looking away.

"I'm gonna! Just, you have to promise not to be a dick." Sorata pulled a sarcastically apprehensive face.

"I mean I can try," he said, and Kamui smiled in spite of himself before taking a deep breath in.

"I went on here looking for Subaru the day after the show," he began, awkwardly. "I don't know, I just wanted pictures or something." Sorata nodded understandingly but said nothing. "I couldn't find him, but I found her, so I've been…" He shrugged, but again Sorata nodded.

"So what, did she post something?" Kamui showed him the bulletin. "I'm seeing Dreaming Princess on Saturday at The Strand and I'm bringing Subaru, come find us," he read aloud. "Oh shit!" He exchanged a meaningful look with Kamui, whose heart was beating in his throat again. "Are you gonna go?"

"I mean, it's at an all ages venue, so," Kamui said. His stomach squirmed and Sorata nodded thoughtfully.

"It kinda sounds like you made your choice, so I'm not gonna tell you what I think, but-"

"Fuck you," Kamui interrupted, dispiritedly.

"-but I'll support you whatever," Sorata finished, as though there had been no interruption. Kamui looked up at him, his throat tight.

"Even if…"

"Even if it ends up being a catastrophic failure." Kamui scoffed, though he did appreciate it. "I gotta ask, though, why? Do you even know anything about this guy?" Kamui said nothing; his throat felt too tight. Truthfully, he hadn't been able to glean much from all his Myspace stalking, but what he had seen and the five minutes they'd spent talking were enough for him to be interested. That had to mean something, right?

"I dunno, dude, it's just," he paused, knowing how tragic he was about to sound. "It's just a feeling, you know?" He blushed, and Sorata nodded.

"Yeah. I get that." Kamui wondered if he was thinking about Arashi, but knew better than to comment. "You want me to go with you?" He continued.

"Nah," he replied at once, though he appreciated the solidarity.

"You want a ride at least? The Strand is really far." Kamui smiled gratefully.

"Thanks," he said, then gathered himself, worried about how Sorata would take this next part. "Could you also tell my mom I'm with you? If she asks?" Sorata sighed heavily, but nodded.

"Yeah, I can do that."

"Thanks." Sorata clapped Kamui on the shoulder.

"Just remember you owe me." Kamui snorted.

"Yeah, for whenever the fuck you actually get a girlfriend." Sorata used the hand still on Kamui's shoulder to shove him face first off his bed. "Ow! What the fuck?!"

"Don't talk shit," Sorata told him, simply. Kamui muttered a few threats and swear words as he climbed back into bed. Sorata was still squinting at the computer screen. "You sure this feeling isn't just you needing to get laid?" He asked.

"So what if it is?!" Kamui shot back, blushing. Sorata was now clicking through all of Subaru's friend's pictures of him, apparently debating the point.

"Okay, sure, but," he shrugged. "Damn, how many pictures of him does she have?!" Kamui didn't reply and looked determinedly away from the computer. "I guess it works good for you though," he continued. "Lots for the spank bank."

"Fuck you!" Kamui snapped, again sounding very dispirited.

"No seriously, you could lose a day to this, holy shit…" Kamui made an indistinct noise in his throat. "I'm not judging," Sorata went on, reassuringly. "Masturbation is like time travel." Kamui burst out laughing.

"What the fuck are you talking about?!"

"Dude, you know," Sorata replied, reasonably. "You start jerking off and it's like, okay cool, just once, but then it's suddenly twelve hours later and your dick hurts." Kamui kept laughing, doing his utmost not to think about the day after the show. "At least you've got a decent way to kill time until Saturday!" Sorata continued, cajolingly. Kamui was about to reply, but at that moment there was a knock on the door. He slammed his laptop shut and scrambled away from Sorata.

"Come in!" He called. His mother opened the door.

"How goes it?" She asked, looking knowingly between the laptop and closed textbooks.

"Fine," Kamui replied, shrugging. She raised her eyebrows, but didn't press the issue.

"Sorata, do you want to stay for dinner?"

"That'd be great, if it's not too much trouble," he replied, and she smiled warmly.

"Stop it, you know you're always welcome."

"Let me at least set the table or something, then," he replied, graciously, getting to his feet. She laughed and Sorata followed her back to the kitchen. Kamui rolled his eyes and got to his feet as well. He gave his laptop one last look as he crossed the room and closed the door behind him.

The rest of the week passed much faster than Kamui expected, melting away into a blur of schoolwork and pictures of Subaru. Saturday night found him in his room, dressed in just slim fitting jeans and mismatched socks, debating between two t-shirts. They bore similar images but were from two very different bands, and the distinction was important. Kamui stared between them for another minute before sighing impatiently, throwing them both onto his bed and picking out a completely different one.

He looked at himself in the mirror and immediately felt self-conscious. He supposed he looked good, but was it good enough to get Subaru's attention without getting into a fight first? Subaru, who was so cute yet sexy and sophisticated and far beyond him and might not even be at the show in the first place…

Fortunately, Kamui's phone went off at that moment, distracting him before he could spiral too badly. He opened it to a message from Sorata.

"hey I'm outside!"

Kamui took a deep breath in, shoved his phone in his pocket and put on his hoodie. He made sure he had his keys, wallet and ticket, then opened his bedroom door. However, he paused, his hand still on the knob, staring apprehensively down the hall. He'd told his mother that he'd be with Sorata for the night, and though she'd had no real reason to question or pry, he couldn't help but feel nervous.

"Just be honest with me, Kamui!"

He shuddered as he remembered the snap in her voice. She'd said that like it was something easy to do, like telling her who he was going to see didn't make him feel sick with shame, like she wasn't furious with him over it. Not that it mattered anymore, when all they were doing was random AIM conversations in the middle of the night, but still. Kamui didn't like lying to his mother, and he had to fight to ignore the guilt churning his stomach at this new deception. He gathered his courage and walked down the hall to the living room. His mother was on the couch, the phone pressed to her ear and a smile on her face.

"Well then, I guess it could be worse!" She said, then laughed until she caught sight of Kamui. "Saya can you hold on one second?" She took the phone away from her ear. "What's up, Kamui?" He bit down on the inside of his lip and his hands clenched in his pockets.

"Sorata's here," he told her, holding her gaze. At least that part was true.

"Okay," she replied. "Will you be back late?" Kamui blinked and his heart sped up suddenly, both because he had no idea what to tell her and because of the implication. How late would he be with Subaru, if they managed to reconnect? "Because I'm going to work at 10:30," she explained. Kamui exhaled the breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding.

"Oh yeah, I forgot, I'm sorry." His mother smiled.

"So will I see you before I leave?" He shrugged.

"Depends, but, probably not." She sighed.

"Will you try to be home by midnight if you aren't staying over?" Kamui swallowed and nodded.

"Yeah. I'll um, I'll text you when I know what's up."

"Thank you." His heart was beating painfully fast now and his fingernails were digging into his palm. He hesitated for a moment, then strode across the room and kissed his mother on the cheek.

"Be careful," he told her, quietly. She smiled and ruffled his hair.

"I will. Give Sorata and his grandfather my love."

"Yeah. Love you, bye," Kamui muttered very fast before turning away and striding across the room. He pulled on his shoes, opened the door and was gone.

Tohru sighed heavily, watching the door shut behind him, then put the phone back to her ear.

"Saya?"

"I'm still here." Tohru smiled and pushed her hair out of her face.

"Sorry, Kamui was just leaving."

"Yes, I gathered." Tohru's eyes strayed across the room to their bookshelf where an old photo of him was displayed. He was about five, wearing one of Kotori's sun hats and smiling at the camera, very pleased with himself.

"I'm not sure I believe him."

"Why's that?"

"He actually kissed me goodbye, so I'm instantly suspicious." Saya laughed.

"Yes, I gathered that too." She paused. "Are you worried?" Tohru's expression softened and she shifted on the couch, tucking her legs up underneath her.

"Well, I know he'll come to me if he's really in trouble, but…" She shrugged, her eyes still on the photograph. "Hopefully he really is just going to Sorata's." Saya made a soft, sympathetic noise of agreement.

"He can take care of himself, Tohru, you know that better than anyone."

"I thought that was true, but, last summer was-"

"-awful," Saya finished the sentence for her. Tohru laughed, then Saya continued, more seriously, "It kind of took your feet out from under you, I know."

"That's one way of putting it."

"They came out of it all right though," Saya reminded her.

"I know, I know," Tohru replied, her eyes still fixed upon the photograph, on the smile Kamui still had. "I just," she shook her head. "I just wish I could save him the pain."

Kamui exhaled in relief as he hurried down the steps and out of his building. He spotted Sorata's car and sprinted towards it, shivering in the December chill. "Hey," he said, climbing gratefully inside.

"What's up?" They brofisted each other and Kamui put on his seatbelt. Sorata put the car in gear and they sped off, heading back down the sloping street, past the coffee shops and small businesses, all closed up for the night. "You excited?" Sorata asked, stopping at a red light. Kamui didn't answer immediately. He supposed he was excited in the same way skydivers must be before leaping from planes. However, at that moment he was mostly thinking about saying goodbye to his mother, about the look she had given him. It wasn't suspicious, but it was penetrating, knowing and strange. She'd been partial to that look recently, and it always discomposed him.

"What?!" He'd demanded, when she'd done it one too many times over the summer.

"I'm just looking at you, Kamui, for heaven's sake," she'd replied, shaking her head, and Kamui returned his gaze to his cellphone, clutched in his hand under the dining table.

"can i see you tomorrow?"

"yea"

Kamui sent the reply at once, chewing on the inside of his lip. Fortunately, his mother didn't ask who he was texting, another annoying habit she'd developed. What did she expect though?! His girlfriend had moved across the country, of course they'd be texting back and forth! Not that he'd been texting Kotori, but still.

"Kamui?"

"What? Yeah, sorry, I guess I am." Sorata just nodded and they turned left onto Memorial Boulevard. Kamui stared straight ahead. If he did manage to connect with Subaru, if they actually started to go somewhere, he'd tell his mother. Eventually.

"You sure you don't want me to go with you?" Sorata asked, heading out of downtown and turning right onto the older, narrower streets of the West Side. Sagacity College of Art had taken over most of this part of the city years ago, and it showed: its logo and abstract street art were everywhere, and young people were out in droves.

"I'm sure," Kamui replied, for what felt like the hundredth time. He knew Sorata was just trying to help, but he still found it intrusive. It had been the same over the summer: Sorata and Yuzuriha had constantly been in his face, but Kamui always turned them away. Of course, that was because he hadn't felt he deserved their support. Now he just knew this was something he had to do on his own. "I'm cool," he added, trying to reassure him in as few words as possible. Sorata smiled and nodded.

"Cool." They fell into silence as they continued deeper into the West Side, passing row houses long since converted into offices, studios and student housing. They turned onto Meeting Street, the main drag of this part of town, though it was just as narrow and crowded as anywhere else. It was lined with bars, restaurants and coffee shops, all of which displayed posters for plays and concerts and paintings by local artists that sold for hundreds of dollars. People in their twenties and thirties walked up and down the street or stood in groups outside restaurants, talking, laughing and smoking. It gave Kamui rather a sick, empty feeling. Imagine being stuck here after high school, then being content spending your Saturday nights at overpriced restaurants capitalizing on a neighborhood's supposed trendiness that was all manufactured by an art school.

Kamui shook his head and reaffirmed to himself that this would not be his fate. He'd be graduating next year, and then he'd be gone. He wasn't sure where specifically, but it would be some actual city that actually mattered. Fortunately, they reached the end of Meeting Street and everything became darker and less polished.

"Thanks for the ride," Kamui said, and he meant it: this walk would have been awful.

"No problem," Sorata replied, pulling up at a corner and putting his hazards on. The venue was right across the street, in between a vacant lot and a run down apartment building. A small crowd of people was clustered around the door, but they were too far away to see clearly. "You want me to wait just in case, or…?"

"No," Kamui said, at once. "No, if anything I'll call you, but," he broke off, shrugging. He stared at the venue, rather like it was some monster to be conquered, and though he tried to say something confident to Sorata, all his insecurity and fear welled up inside him. This was a terrible idea, wasn't it? What was he thinking?! He closed his eyes for a moment, trying to calm down, and immediately saw Subaru at the last show.

"She always drags me to see them, so maybe I'll see you again?"

Subaru had reached out first, and he was so cute, and Kamui had definitely felt something. He gathered his resolve, opened his eyes and faced Sorata.

"Thanks," he said, very seriously. Sorata just nodded. They brofisted each other and Kamui got out of the car, a cold breeze skinning his face. He hurried across the street and joined the cue outside the door. He showed the bouncer his ticket, then his ID, and he drew an X on the back of his hand in black sharpie before allowing him inside. Kamui gave Sorata one last wave before entering the venue.

It was a smaller, darker place, lit only by blue and purple light pouring off the empty stage. Music was playing from somewhere, but it was low and scratchy and not important. Kamui scanned the room, examining every discernible face. No one looked familiar, but he reminded himself that he still had time before he could feel too disappointed. More for something to do than anything, he checked his cellphone and found a text from Kotori.

"ooo who are you going to see?" He'd told her he was going to a show, but that was it. He bit down on the inside of his lip and replied.

"dreaming princess again, hoping they don't suck as bad LOL" He hoped the message would send, service in these places was never good, and snapped his phone closed and shoved it back in his pocket. He scanned the room once again, and did a double take.

Arashi was there, standing by herself against the wall. Kamui stared, stunned for a moment, before his brain caught up with him. Sorata had only dragged him to the last show in the first place because he'd found out she liked Dreaming Princess. He felt suddenly guilty for telling Sorata not to come with him; he could have finally talked to her after secretly pining for her since she'd transferred to their school in September. Kamui continued to watch her, staring about with her hands folded in front of her. Should he approach her? Would that be weird? Would Sorata want that? However, before Kamui could make up his mind, Arashi turned and spotted him, and her eyes widened in instant recognition. Kamui stared back at her rather awkwardly for a moment, then, knowing he had no choice now, approached her, still keeping an eye out for Subaru.

"Hey, I, I know you from school," he tried, bravely. Arashi swallowed and nodded.

"Yes," she replied, shyly. Kamui immediately felt a painful silence encroaching.

"Who are you here to see?" He asked, to stave it off, and Arashi's face softened in relief.

"Dreaming Princess."

"Cool, me too!" Kamui felt heat rush up his neck, but Arashi smiled, and he forged ahead. "I saw them last month too."

"Oh, at Lupo's?"

"Yeah!" Kamui knew how much he was forcing the conversation and hated it, but also knew it was better than being rude.

"I wanted to go to that show," Arashi said. "But I'd gotten behind on homework, so," her voice trailed away, but Kamui nodded in solidarity. "Are you here alone?" She asked, after a moment.

"Um," he replied, not sure of the implication. Arashi's eyes widened.

"No no, I just thought Sorata might be with you, you guys are always together in school," she explained.

"Oh!" Kamui shook his head, feeling like an idiot, though making a mental note to tell Sorata she knew his name and who he hung out with. "Nah, he couldn't come," he said, feeling guiltier than ever he hadn't let him. She nodded. "I'm supposedly meeting someone here," he added, as though he could draw Subaru to him with his words.

"I'm sure they'll be here soon," Arashi said.

"Thanks." They smiled at each other, and Kamui appreciated her support, even if it was just empty words. He wanted to keep the conversation going, and looked around as if for another topic. However, before he found one, Subaru and his friend walked through the door. Kamui felt his guts disappear and gasped softly, his eyes huge. He watched them a second longer before turning back to Arashi. "And he just got here, so…" She nodded. "I'll see you at school!" She looked rather taken aback, but nodded again. They exchanged one last smile before Kamui turned and hurried away, his eyes fixed upon Subaru. 'Holy shit oh my god he's actually here, be cool!' He told himself, over and over again, feeling like he'd left his stomach back with Arashi.

He ducked into a corner, trying to decide what to do. He couldn't not talk to him, not when weeks of fantasizing and scheming had actually paid off, but how should he do it? He couldn't just approach him, could he? Wouldn't that be awkward after only speaking for five minutes? Kamui sighed heavily, but forced himself to stay focused and positive. He could make it look like they just ran into each other, like they just happened to be at the same show. There was nothing suspicious about that. It'd be fine, even if it took him a moment to work up the courage.

He leaned against the wall of his shadowy corner, watching Subaru and his friend talking. Shortly after, they were joined by another young man, who said something that made them laugh. Kamui wrapped his arms around himself, his heart beating in his throat. Subaru's smile was so perfect. He looked away in an attempt to gather himself, but continued to watch out of the corner of his eye. He wished Subaru's friends would leave; it'd be way easier to talk to him on his own. Keeping well out of sight, he moved a little closer, his palms sweating and heart pounding.

A guitar riff sounded suddenly from the stage and Subaru's friends looked at each other eagerly before bidding him goodbye and hurrying into the cheering crowd. Subaru crossed his arms as he watched them go, a gentle smile on his face. Another guitar riff, and Subaru turned, gazing about. Seizing his chance, Kamui stepped out of the shadows, right in front of him, trying to look as innocent as possible.

"Hey!" Kamui turned and immediately went very red as he and Subaru made eye contact.

"Hey!" He replied, smiling broadly and feeling his heart swell alarmingly. Subaru had recognized him! "I, uh, I saw you last time!" Kamui's chest constricted, as if trying to squish his heart flat again. Did he really sound that awkward? However, to his enormous relief, Subaru smiled encouragingly.

"I remember!" Kamui's insides swelled at the words. He couldn't believe it, had he really stuck in Subaru's mind that way? "I think you'd just come out of a fight." Kamui's overfull insides deflated as though someone had punctured them. Fortunately, he managed to keep eye contact.

"Yeah," he replied, trying to sound confident as opposed to mortified. "If you could even call that a fight." Subaru laughed appreciatively. Up on the stage, the lights flashed from blue to red as the crowd cheered. Subaru rolled his eyes and stepped closer to Kamui.

"I didn't get your name though," he told him, over the noise. Kamui gasped softly as the space between them closed suddenly.

"Yeah, I'm Kamui." Subaru smiled and extended his hand.

"Nice to meet you, I'm Subaru."

'I know,' Kamui thought, rather uncomfortably, shaking his hand and feeling the touch all the way up his arm. He looked down at their clasped hands and caught sight of Subaru's tattoo. "Flowers," he burst out, then let go of his hand at once, blushing. However, Subaru didn't seem bothered and tilted his arm left and right so it caught the light. Kamui watched eagerly, but then more applause and cheering distracted them. Dreaming Princess had appeared, waving and picking up their instruments. The lead singer stood behind the microphone and asked how everyone was doing five or six times. Kamui rolled his eyes. "Did your friend drag you here this time too?" He asked.

"Sorry?!" Subaru asked, loudly, over the band's first song. He leaned forward, and Kamui swallowed a rush of nerves and moved closer to speak directly into his ear. He inhaled cigarette smoke and shampoo and closed his eyes for a moment before repeating the question. Subaru laughed appreciatively.

"Drag is kind of a strong word," he replied, speaking right into Kamui's ear now, and he felt the words all down his spine. "But she's persistent, for sure."

"Makes sense," Kamui replied. "I was only at the last show because of my friend." Subaru laughed again and Kamui's heart soared.

"And tonight?" Kamui hesitated, his heart pounding.

"I was bored on a Saturday night?" He offered, praying that was an okay thing to say. Subaru withdrew very slightly. He was smiling, but there was something else just underneath it, something that made Kamui's heart ache with longing.

"So you're here alone?" Kamui's breath caught in his chest and he nodded at once. Subaru's eyes darted up and down Kamui's body before fixing upon his face, making him shiver in excitement. "Cool," he said, slowly. "I'd rather talk to you than listen to them anyway." Kamui stared back at him with wide eyes.

"Really?" He asked, just to make sure he hadn't misheard. Subaru's expression softened still further and heat seemed to rise up between them.

"Definitely. Do you want a drink?" Kamui bit down on the inside of his lip and held up his hand regretfully. "Ah," Subaru replied, sadly understanding as he saw the X drawn there. "How old are you?"

"Twenty," Kamui replied, praying he sounded convincing.

"Well, my friends and I were planning on going for drinks after this," Subaru said, smiling. "If you want to come we'll go someplace that doesn't card." Kamui's heart swelled so rapidly it was enough to make him lightheaded.

"Yeah sure!"

"Excellent." Kamui's overfull heart was beating nervously; he wasn't sure what was coming or exactly what Subaru's intentions were. However, he was too excited to care much at the moment. Had he actually pulled this off?

"So, are you in school?" Subaru asked.

"Uh…" Kamui had hoped he'd just have to lie about his age, but he supposed that was way too easy. On stage, Dreaming Princess was playing off key again, but weirdly it helped Kamui focus. He debated for a moment before deciding on the state school.

"Sag U."

"Cool," Subaru replied. "What's your major?"

"English," Kamui answered, saying the first thing that came to mind, but Subaru looked interested.

"Very cool," he said, and Kamui shrugged, wanting very much to get off the subject.

"What about you?"

"I'm in my last year at SCA." Kamui's eyes widened.

"You're an artist? That's awesome!" He burst out in genuine excitement.

"You could say that," he replied, shrugging.

"What kind?" Kamui persisted, eager to actually learn about Subaru.

"I'm an illustration major," he said, smiling a little confusedly at Kamui's interest. "I'm not sure what to do with it, but…"

"Still though!" Kamui insisted. "I can't draw for shit, so I think that's cool as hell." Subaru burst out laughing.

"You're sweet," he said, and Kamui flushed, but felt very pleased all the same. Suddenly, applause erupted from in front of the stage, and Subaru and Kamui turned to watch the lead singer apologize for the set being short and announce their last song. "Good," Subaru said, applauding politely, and Kamui snorted in laughter.

"So, what kind of music do you like, if not this?" He asked, once they began to play again.

"Anything," Subaru replied. "I'll play you something later, if you want." The "later" echoed teasingly between them and they exchanged a smile.

"That'd be cool," Kamui replied, blushing.

"What do you like?" Subaru asked. Kamui didn't answer at once. He'd always been rather proud of the music he listened to. That is, until last summer.

"This band? Really?"

Kamui flushed.

"Same, as long as it's good," he replied, a little defiantly, and Subaru nodded appreciatively. He opened his mouth to say something else, but was immediately interrupted by his two friends emerging from the crowd, looking windswept and blissful.

"Happy?" Subaru asked the girl Kamui recognized, smiling as they approached.

"Shut up," she replied, lazily, though she was smiling too. "So what's the," she started to ask, but stopped at the sight of Kamui. "Oh shit, hi," she said, her smile widening.

"Uh, hey," he replied, taken aback by her enthusiasm.

"This is my roommate," Subaru said, and she waved. "And our friend from school." He waved too, then asked,

"So you guys wanna get out of here?"

"Yeah, lets get hammered," Subaru's roommate said emphatically, and their friend punched the air.

"Awesome!" All three of them looked at Kamui.

"Did you drive here?" Subaru asked, and Kamui shook his head.

"Cool, you can ride with us then," Subaru's friend said, and Kamui just nodded. They headed back out of the venue, and Subaru's friends immediately drew him into playful banter. Kamui just watched, shivering slightly and letting the conversation swirl around him. This all still didn't feel real, but it was happening: he and Subaru had met up at the show, and now he was going with him and his friends to a bar, and after that the possibilities were endless.

"This way," Subaru said, and as they looked at each other Kamui felt a sudden powerful wave of longing in his entire body. Whatever these feelings for Subaru were, even if it was just needing to get laid as Sorata had suggested, he'd follow them. They turned a corner, crying out as a spiteful winter wind blew up around them, and stopped halfway down a block lined with even smaller apartment buildings.

"Get in," Subaru's friend said loudly, unlocking the doors to an old and battered car with all four hubcaps missing. Kamui climbed into the backseat beside Subaru and put on his seatbelt. "Where are we going?" His friend asked, starting the engine.

"Anywhere," Subaru's roommate replied, slamming the passenger door shut and turning up the heat. Subaru looked at Kamui for a moment, his face lit at a strange angle from the streetlight right beside the car.

"That place on Flora," Subaru said. "Kamui's not twenty one." Subaru's friends groaned sympathetically and Kamui immediately busied himself with his phone to hide his flush, texting Sorata,

"saw your girl! met up with Subaru we're gonna go chill ttyl"

"Cool," Subaru's friend said, turning up the music and reversing out of the parking space. Kamui sent another text message, this one to his mother.

"staying at Sorata's love you" He snapped his phone closed and shoved it back in his pocket before he could think about it too much.

"What do you think?" Subaru asked, watching him.

"What?" Kamui looked around, confused, but Subaru smiled.

"Of the music."

"Oh!"

"These speakers are shitty," his friend called apologetically from the front seat.

"It's cool," Kamui replied at once. "As long as you're not elitist about music but have no problem with terrible sound quality." Everyone laughed, even though the words came out much more bitterly than Kamui had intended.

"Screw those people!" Subaru's roommate agreed. Kamui caught Subaru's eye again and leaned against the seat, actually listening now. It was all synthesizers, skip edits and passionate male vocals.

"I like this," he told him, quietly, and he looked very pleased. They said nothing else to each other for the rest of the drive, just listened to the music and conversation, occasionally exchanging a look.

"Don't try to parallel park, you'll take your mirror off again," Subaru's roommate said suddenly as they pulled up outside a grubby bar between an art supplies store and a thrift shop.

"It wasn't my mirror, it was the other car's!" His friend snapped back, putting his hazard lights on. "Seriously, though, get out and I'll go park." They did so, then entered the bar as he sped off around the corner. It was dark, but not nearly as grimy as it looked from the outside. It was crowded with people and the walls were covered in posters, stickers and graffiti. Music was playing from somewhere, but it was low and scratchy and barely audible. Kamui looked around with great interest, feeling simultaneously out of place and at home.

"I've got this round, you two go find a table," Subaru said, over the noise. "What do you want?" He asked Kamui, whose breath caught in his chest. He had no idea how to answer: he and his friends drank to be drunk, therefore they'd take whatever they could get.

"I don't care, surprise me," he told him, more bravely than he felt. Subaru rolled his eyes, but laughed.

"That's not helpful, but all right." He turned and walked towards the bar. Kamui watched him go, then looked uncertainly at his roommate, who smiled encouragingly.

"There's a table there," she said, pointing, and they made their way over, weaving in and out of other tables and people standing in the way. They took their seats across from each other, and fortunately she spoke before they could slip into an awkward silence. "Where are you from, Kamui?"

"Uh, here, why?" It felt weird saying it, even though it was true.

"Everyone here says that," she replied, thoughtfully.

"That's because everyone from other places knows better than to stay," Kamui said, and she laughed. "People born here never leave, or they go away for school, then come back."

"Come back from where?" Subaru asked, reappearing with their other friend, both carrying drinks. He handed one to Kamui, his fingers brushing against his hand, and they exchanged a smile as he took the seat beside him.

"From here," his roommate said, accepting a drink from their friend as he sat down next to her. "So what about you?" She asked Kamui. "Are you gonna stay here too?"

"Oh hell no," Kamui replied at once, horrified at the very idea, then took a hasty sip of his drink, though everyone laughed. "After I graduate I'm gone," he continued, taking another sip. He wasn't sure what Subaru had brought him, but it was good.

"I understand completely," Subaru's roommate said emphatically, swigging her own drink. "SCA is great, but Sagacity? Not so much."

"Aww come on, it's not so bad," their friend said.

"That's because you're from the middle of nowhere," she reminded him.

"I grew up an hour away from here, excuse you!" He replied, with dignity.

"Stop drinking your water so fast," Subaru advised him. "You're saying crazy things already." His friend laughed and felt his face anxiously.

"Oh shit do I already have the flush?" He asked. "I don't drink," he added to Kamui, who nodded and returned his smile. The alcohol and conversation seemed to relax him, and he kept sipping his drink and watching Subaru, his expressions, his movements, his everything. After a few minutes, Subaru's friends got drawn into an argument about something, and Kamui seized his chance to engage him in their own conversation.

"So, where are you from, if not here?" Subaru drank deeply from his glass and moved closer.

"I'm from New York," he replied, and Kamui's eyes widened.

"Really?!" Subaru laughed and nodded. "What the fuck are you doing up here?" Kamui demanded, unable to stop himself, and Subaru laughed harder. He stared at Kamui for a moment, apparently debating his answer.

"Exploring," he said, finally, and Kamui's heart swelled.

"Did… Did you discover anything?" He asked, softly eager, staring at him intently. Subaru swirled his drink around and gazed into it thoughtfully for a moment.

"Some things," he replied, and as he faced Kamui his eyes caught the light.

"Your eyes," Kamui gasped softly. "They're green!" He was either too drunk or too absorbed in Subaru to be self-conscious anymore. Subaru's lips parted seductively in yet another smile.

"Yes, and yours are," he moved even closer to Kamui. "Purple?" Their thighs touched under the table and Kamui gasped softly, feeling the sensation in his entire body. However, when he spoke, his voice was steady.

"Yeah."

"They're beautiful."

"Thanks." They held each other's gaze a moment longer, then Subaru turned away, blushing, though whether it was from the conversation or just the alcohol, Kamui didn't know or care. He liked Subaru a lot, and it seemed he was feeling the same way, and it was both thrilling and terrifying. He gripped his drink tightly in both hands and spread his legs under the table, pressing his thigh more insistently against Subaru's, making him gasp softly through smiling, parted lips.

"What even was that costume, though?" Subaru's roommate's voice rang out, jerking them sharply back into the conversation.

"What?" Subaru asked, bemusedly.

"At our Halloween party," she said, and Kamui hastily swallowed the last of his drink. "What the fuck was your costume?" Subaru laughed and finished his own drink.

"Remember? The idea was something pretentious like 'fallen angel' but my wings kept breaking." His roommate let out a snort of laughter and Kamui did his utmost to keep his expression neutral.

"Oh, I thought it was some like, Hot Topic bondage fairy," she said, and everyone laughed, even Kamui, though rather guiltily, thinking of tight pants and fake blood.

"Why does everyone think I'm into all that?" Subaru asked, despairingly.

"A bunch of art students couldn't make a decent set of fake wings?" Kamui interjected, wanting to distract himself and steer clear of that conversation. All three of them burst out laughing.

"Owned," Subaru's friend said, toasting Kamui with his water.

"And on that note," Subaru said, pressing his hands into the table. "I'm gonna go smoke." His roommate rolled her eyes, but he ignored her, exchanging a meaningful look with Kamui as he stood up. Kamui got to his feet as well and immediately felt the effects of his drink intensify as he followed Subaru through the bar then back outside. It was freezing, but he didn't care, not now they were alone again. Subaru leaned against the wall of the bar and extracted a pack of cigarettes and a lighter from his pocket. "Do you want one?" He asked as Kamui came to stand in front of him.

"Nah, I don't smoke," he replied, wrapping his arms around himself. Subaru lit up, took a heavy drag and exhaled over his shoulder.

"Good, don't start." Kamui smiled incredulously. He was definitely drunk now, and though he felt braver, everything he'd told Subaru that wasn't true had started tugging periodically at his brain. However, as he watched his lips kissing the smoke, eyes shining in the ugly streetlights, he found he didn't care. He'd come this far, he could pretend a little longer.

"Subaru?"

"Hm?" Kamui took a step towards him.

"I like you." He had no idea if it was the right thing to say, but it seemed the simplest way to convey all he was feeling. Subaru looked taken aback for a moment, but then his face relaxed into a soft, though lustful, smile. He took another drag from his cigarette and exhaled over his shoulder again.

"You do?" Kamui nodded, keeping his lips pressed tightly together. Subaru threw the butt of his cigarette onto the ground and stomped it out. "Do you want to kiss me?" He asked. The words shocked every nerve of Kamui's body like an electric charge and his breath caught in his chest. His eyes widened, though his vision seemed to tunnel in on Subaru's face, his smooth skin, bright green eyes, softly parted lips.

Kamui stepped forward and kissed him. It was barely a second, but that second was everything, and he remained close after he pulled away. Through half closed eyes, he saw Subaru smile, and he smiled back, both of them breathing faster in the excited, intimate space. Almost at once, they moved in for another kiss, staying longer this time. Subaru gasped softly when they broke apart and Kamui's stomach twisted in arousal and excitement. The softest of moans escaped his throat and he was back for more, kissing Subaru deeply again. His head was spinning; it had been so long since he'd kissed anyone, he'd forgotten just how good it all felt.

Subaru wrapped his arms around Kamui's waist to pull him closer, then pressed his tongue into his mouth when his lips parted in another quiet moan. Kamui's entire body lit up and he threw his arms around Subaru's neck, tasting him, his drink and his cigarette. Subaru dug his fingers into Kamui's hips, and groaned, actually groaned at the contact. The noise shocked Kamui's nerves and he pulled away with yet another moan.

"Are you okay?" Subaru asked, his voice low and excited. Kamui blushed furiously, shivering and staring back at him with an almost pained expression on his face.

"Yeah, just… Fuck," he replied, weakly, trying to convey how much he liked Subaru and how much he liked kissing him and how hard he was in his jeans. Subaru laughed softly, blushing under the streetlights.

"Yeah," he agreed, resting his forehead against Kamui's. "Do you want to come home with me?" He breathed. Kamui cried out softly and his entire body shuddered in arousal. Did he mean, was he, would they…?

'You're seventeen,' a voice said sharply in his head, cutting through his haze of excitement and drunkenness. He shut his eyes tight, trying to stay focused. 'Exactly, no one would get in trouble for that!' He argued with himself. 'Subaru doesn't know that. You lied to him.' Kamui swallowed the sudden tightness in his throat, opened his eyes and stared Subaru hard in the face.

"Yes," he said, the word coming out somewhere between a moan and a plea. Subaru exhaled gratefully, almost like he'd been anxious about his response, and kissed him hard on the lips. Kamui cried out and hugged Subaru more closely to him, kissing him with an entirely new enthusiasm. He was so turned on, so excited, so desperate for more, but then Subaru pulled away, leaving him moaning in frustration.

"We should go back inside," he said, very quietly. Kamui sighed impatiently and pressed his hips into Subaru's. He closed his eyes and took a sharp breath in.

"Soon," he promised Kamui, who bit his lip, but nodded, pulled away and wrapped his arms around himself again. Subaru took a moment to refocus, then extended his hand. Kamui smiled and took it, still hugging himself with his other arm.

"I like you," he said, much quieter this time, giving Subaru's hand a squeeze. He didn't reply, just pulled him back inside the bar. It had filled up since they'd been outside, and with the crowds came more heat, more noise and more energy. However, Kamui barely even noticed as he and Subaru weaved their way back to their table.

"There you are!" Subaru's roommate cried as they took their seats again.

"Sorry!" Subaru replied, squeezing Kamui's hand under the table. "You guys want to go soon?" His friends exchanged looks and Kamui's face burned.

"I guess," his roommate replied. "I have a ton of homework to finish tomorrow anyway." Kamui picked up his glass, which was only full of melted ice at this point, and drained it. Fortunately, he could still taste just enough residual alcohol to drown out his brain telling him all the more insistently that this was not a good idea.

"Ready?" Subaru asked.

"Yeah." They got up, still holding hands, and their table was immediately swarmed by people. Subaru led Kamui back out of the bar for a second time, and he forced his gaze forward, trying to stay focused. He was going back to Subaru's apartment, and they would, but what would they do? How far would they take it? He hadn't thought… He wasn't prepared at all! Would it be just like the summer?

"I really wanna fuck you."

"Now?"

"Nah, you gotta get ready first."

They exited the bar and the sudden rush of cold air wrenched Kamui away from such thoughts. He swallowed and his eyes fixed upon Subaru as they walked towards his friend's car.

"How far away did you park?!"

"Not far!"

"Okay I'll ask you again, how-" Subaru shook his head, then turned to look at Kamui.

"Hey, are you okay?" He asked.

"Yeah!" He replied at once. "Yeah, just…" He squeezed Subaru's hand, and he smiled and bit his lip, his beautiful eyes lighting up.

"Yeah," he agreed, and heat surged between them.

"See? I told you it wasn't far!"

"You know what…" Subaru's friend unlocked the car and everyone climbed back in. Kamui put on his seatbelt, but then moved as close as he could to Subaru, who placed his hand on his thigh and squeezed it. Thankfully, Kamui's gasp was hidden under the sound of the car starting.

"Where am I going?" Subaru's friend asked, turning around in his seat. Subaru gave Kamui a fleeting smile and squeezed his thigh again.

"Just back to ours," he said. "Thank you for driving."

"Anytime!" They backed out of the parking space and sped off down the dark street, passing groups of young people all chatting, smoking or hurrying into bars, restaurants or venues. Kamui leaned his head against Subaru's shoulder, looking for support, reassurance, contact, and Subaru rubbed the side of his face in his hair. Kamui closed his eyes at the gesture. This definitely wasn't just needing to get laid, or some other lustful, stupid urge. He liked Subaru a lot, and he had already lied to him to get closer, to get what he wanted, but did he even know what he wanted? Kamui sighed heavily and shut his eyes tighter. No one spoke until they pulled up outside an apartment building on a narrow, though well lit, street. Kamui took a deep breath in, gathering his courage as he unbuckled his seatbelt.

"Thanks!" Subaru's roommate said, leaning across the gearshift to hug their friend.

"Not a problem," he replied, graciously. She let go of him and got out of the car, and he turned in his seat to clap hands with Subaru.

"Get home safely."

"I will do my best!" Subaru shook his head as he unbuckled his seatbelt.

"Um, it was nice meeting you," Kamui said, feeling extremely awkward as he extended his hand too. Subaru's friend took it, grinning.

"You too, have a good rest of your night!" Kamui flushed, but nodded and got out of the car, then slammed the door shut. Subaru's friend gave them one last wave before speeding away and turning the nearest corner. Subaru and his roommate watched him go, then turned to each other.

"I have keys," she said, holding them up, and they followed her up the front steps, across the porch and into the building.

"We're on the second floor," Subaru said, taking Kamui's hand and leading him up the stairs. His roommate unlocked the door, and they stepped over the threshold and out of their shoes. No one bothered to turn on the light, but a streetlight right outside the window illuminated a tiny living room with beat up mismatched furniture, overstuffed bookshelves and pictures all over the walls. Kamui's heart began to pound. He knew this room; he'd seen it in pictures! However, before he could think about it, Subaru's roommate distracted him by yawning ostentatiously.

"Right, I have to be up early, so…" Her voice trailed away and Subaru rolled his eyes.

"Good night," he told her, sarcastically. She rolled her eyes too and sauntered down the hall. The second her door slammed, Subaru turned to Kamui, still holding tight to his hand. "Sorry," he said. Kamui just shrugged: his friends would probably pull the same shit. "My room's here," Subaru continued, leading him across the living room and opening a scratched door. Kamui's chest constricted painfully around his pounding heart and his eyes widened. He knew this room too. He'd seen Subaru posing against this very doorframe, wearing nothing but tight pants and fake blood. He shook himself and stepped resolutely over the threshold, pulling Subaru with him. The door fell closed behind them, and a shiver ran through both of them.

"Your room is cool," Kamui said, looking around. It was dark except for a string of Christmas lights on the exposed brick wall in front of them and a streetlight right outside the window above the bed. In the opposite corner was a desk, upon which sat a computer and haphazard piles of sketchbooks and textbooks. Subaru just smiled and kissed Kamui on the lips, and he sighed and kissed him back at once, pressing his tongue into his mouth. It was still slow like before, but he was already hard again, already breathing heavily, already aching for Subaru to touch him.

"Do you want to lie down?" Subaru asked, between kisses, his grip on Kamui's hand almost painfully tight. Kamui groaned as the words sent a fresh surge of arousal through his body, and nodded. Subaru let go of his hand with a soft sigh and got into bed. Kamui's stomach began to twist uncomfortably, but he ignored it as he took off his hoodie and joined him.

They lay on their sides, facing each other in the gilded semi-darkness. Subaru reached out, cupped the side of Kamui's face and pulled him into a kiss. Kamui groaned, his erection throbbing in excitement, and kissed Subaru back. However, even as hot arousal surged and coursed inside him, Kamui's mind began to spin again. How far would they take it? He should tell Subaru he was only seventeen… How far could they take it? He liked Subaru, if he kept up this lie they couldn't keep seeing each other, but if he told the truth they'd stop… Was he even ready to go all the way again?

Kamui let out a frustrated moan and kissed Subaru harder, thrusting his tongue into his mouth and climbing on top of him. He didn't want to think, make decisions, take consequences. It was all so weird and confusing and Subaru felt so good! Subaru groaned and spread his legs, and Kamui settled between them. He cried out softly and thrust his hips up, looking for more pressure, more friction.

"Oh god," Subaru moaned, very quietly, dragging his hands down Kamui's back to grip his ass. Kamui gasped, the touch radiating out through his body, and thrust his hips up again, much harder than he meant to, then blushed furiously. However, Subaru groaned appreciatively and pulled him closer, grinding hard against him. Kamui was about to kiss Subaru again, but paused, staring down at him. He looked amazing: his eyes were half lidded, his lips were parted and he was breathing so heavily. It was one of the most exciting things he'd ever seen. He thrust his hips upwards yet again, and Subaru closed his eyes and threw his head back with a soft moan.

"You're so hard," Kamui groaned, before he could stop himself. Subaru opened his eyes and smiled up at him, digging his fingers into his ass.

"I know," he groaned back. Kamui's entire body shuddered in a fresh surge of arousal and his heart and erection both throbbed. He kissed him again, deep and heavy, and Subaru wrapped his arms around him, then rolled him onto his back and lay on top of him. Kamui cried out excitedly and threw his arms around Subaru's neck, gripping his upper back and thinking longingly of the skin just below the millimeter of soft t-shirt fabric.

Subaru pulled out of their kiss and moved his lips to Kamui's neck, kissing and sucking on the hot, flushed skin. Kamui let out a hard, needy cry as Subaru bit down just below his ear and placed his hand ever so delicately on his breastbone. He wondered if Subaru could feel his heartbeat, but then he dragged his hand down his chest, his belly-

"Wait!" Kamui cried out, his heart pounding and suddenly shivering uncontrollably. Subaru took his hand away at once and looked Kamui hard in the face.

"What's wrong, are you okay?" He looked terrified, and Kamui felt disgusting. He closed his eyes and pressed the heels of his hands into them. "Kamui?!"

"Yeah! Yeah I'm okay, just," but he broke off. He hadn't meant to say anything, but Subaru's hand just above his waistband had made him react automatically. Now he could either try to reassure him that everything was fine, or fess up. His entire body ached with indecision for a moment longer before he took his hands away and stared imploringly at Subaru. As much as he wanted to, he knew this wasn't right. "I need to tell you something." Subaru's expression tautened and he nodded.

"What is it?" Kamui closed his eyes again, savoring the last few seconds before the blow fell, then took a deep breath in.

"I'm not twenty, I'm seventeen, and I'm still in high school." Subaru's eyes widened and his jaw and throat clenched as though he had gagged.

"I see," he said, slowly. Kamui shuddered in guilt and fear.

"I'm sorry! I-" Subaru slid off of him and moved away to sit on the edge of the bed, his hand over his mouth. Kamui's throat burned and he scrambled up to sit beside him. "Hey…" He placed his hand on Subaru's shoulder, but he shrugged it away. Kamui felt the gesture like a stab in the heart and curled his fingers into his palm.

"It's too late for you to go home by yourself," Subaru said, standing up with his back to Kamui, one hand in his hair, the other on his hip. "You can sleep in my bed, I'll take the couch."

"Wait!" But Subaru snatched one of the blankets off the bed and left the room, slamming the door behind him. The noise echoed horribly, and Kamui hugged his knees up to his chest and rested his forehead upon them, the burning in his throat now in his eyes. "Fuck," he whispered. He'd gone about this all wrong, he'd completely screwed this up!

He fell sideways onto the bed, still holding his legs. His heart was beating furiously, pumping more guilt and shame through his body, and he curled up even tighter as if trying to keep it all inside. He took a deep, shuddering breath, screwed up his eyes and buried his face in the pillow, the pillow that smelled like Subaru.

"Fuck!" Kamui cried out, sitting up. He didn't want to stay here. He wanted to go back home. He reached into his pocket for his phone, but it was after midnight, he wasn't exactly sure where he was and there was no way Sorata could come get him without them both getting in trouble anyway. He ran his fingers through his hair, trying to think what to do, then remembered his and his mother's agreement: "If you're ever out somewhere you don't want to be, call me and I'll come get you, no questions asked." He swallowed, thinking of the one and only time he'd taken her up on that and felt his insides shrivel. However, before he could really consider the option, he remembered she'd be at work until 7 AM anyway.

"Fuck!" Kamui cried out again, falling back into the bed. He was stuck. Stuck here in this mess he'd made, in this room so full of Subaru with whom he'd completely ruined his chances, if they'd ever been there at all. Kamui curled up into a ball again and pulled the remaining blanket up to his chin. He supposed the only thing to do was to go to sleep, force time to pass as quickly as possible. However, he lay awake for a long time, staring straight ahead at the brick wall and the Christmas lights.

Chapter Text

Kamui waited as long as he could stand it before calling Sorata the next morning. He’d spent the night waking up like clockwork every hour before finally giving up on sleep at sunrise. He’d watched the wintery light creep across Subaru’s ceiling for a little while longer, then reached for his phone. He felt sick and exhausted and guilty about how early it was, but at least they wouldn’t get in trouble.

“Hello…?” Came Sorata’s bleary voice through the phone. Kamui sat up, feeling slightly dizzy.

“Hey, sorry to call you so early, um,” a lump rose in his throat, but he swallowed it, listening to Sorata roll over in bed.

“What’s up?” He asked, groggily.

“Can you do me a huge favor?”

“Kamui, what the fuck do you want?” Kamui sighed heavily, his stomach twisting. 

“Can you come get me from Subaru’s apartment?” He asked, in a very small voice. “Everything got really fucked up and I need to get home and,” his throat burned suddenly and he couldn’t continue.

“Yeah,” Sorata said at once, immediately sounding awake. “Yeah I’ll be right there. Where are you?”

“Um, I’m not exactly sure, somewhere on the West Side.”

“Could you walk to Meeting Street or something?” Kamui thought for a moment.

“I think so.”

“Okay cool, I can be there in like, a half hour.” Relief swelled in Kamui’s chest.

“Thanks.” Sorata ended the call and Kamui snapped his phone closed. He heaved himself out of bed, but immediately felt dizzy again. He covered his eyes and took a few deep breaths, waiting for the world to stop spinning, then began to gather his things. He tried not to look at anything in particular, as if Subaru’s things might scream at him for still being here.

He put on his hoodie and proceeded to the door, but paused. Subaru was in the other room. Should he say something, or just sneak out like nothing happened? He bit down on the inside of his lip. He hated to think of just leaving, but what could he possibly say? He’d said it all last night and it had been a disaster. He covered his eyes again and breathed deeply through his nose, doing his utmost to gather himself. Even though it’d be hard, he knew he’d hate himself if he didn’t say something. He sighed heavily and took hold of the doorknob. He’d tell Subaru he was sorry and that he was leaving. He could at least do that.

Very slowly, Kamui opened the door. The living room was dark, but the soft, grey light filtering in through the drawn curtains illuminated Subaru asleep on the couch. He was lying on his side under a blanket with his arms folded across his chest, his brow furrowed as if troubled in his dreams. Kamui approached him cautiously, the weathered floorboards creaking under his feet, regret tearing at the inside of his chest. He was still beautiful, and Kamui wanted more than anything to lie down beside him, hold him and be held, but it was too late for that now. He’d fucked it up. He sighed and placed his hand on Subaru’s shoulder, shivering slightly as he shook him gently awake.

“Subaru,” he whispered. Subaru stirred at once, grimacing as Kamui roused him.

“Hm?” He unfolded his arms and stretched, then opened his eyes as he sat up. The moment they looked at each other, his face fell, and Kamui felt his heart break.

“I’m uh, I’m gonna go,” he said, relieved that his voice was steady. Subaru nodded, still not looking at him, and his chest constricted suddenly and painfully. “Could, I mean, could we… I meant what I said last night!” He cried, almost frantically, and Subaru finally looked up at him.

“Which part?” He asked, coldly. Kamui clenched his fists.

“When I said I like you!” He flushed, but stood his ground. “I understand if we can’t be,” he swallowed. “If we can’t do all that,” he gestured towards Subaru’s bedroom. “But I mean, can we be friends at least?!” Subaru sighed and held his face in his hands. Kamui waited, his fingernails digging into his palms.

“No,” Subaru said, quietly.

“But-”

“No,” Subaru said again, his hands falling into his lap. He looked up at Kamui, his expression pained.

“I’m sorry!” Kamui cried, getting desperate.

“Yeah, me too,” Subaru replied, and Kamui shuddered and turned away, his eyes shut tight. He hated this, but he knew Subaru’s mind was made up. He had nowhere to go. He had to admit defeat.

“Fine,” he said. “Sorry to bother you.” He strode across the room and pulled on his shoes.

“Get home safely.” Kamui’s stomach contracted and an angry flush rushed up his neck and face. He wrenched the door open 

“Fuck you,” he muttered. Without looking back, he stepped over the threshold and slammed the door behind him. The sound echoed horribly and Subaru lay back against the couch, his face in his hands again.

“Fuck!” He cried, self-disgust churning his guts. He’d done the right thing, he knew that, but… Kamui had looked so hurt, and Subaru understood completely what that was like, but he had to say no. He had to be responsible.


 

Kamui stormed out of Subaru’s apartment and down the stairs, his heart pounding in his burning throat. He was furious, at Subaru, at himself, at everything, but mostly at Subaru.

“Yeah, me too." 

Fuck you,’ Kamui thought, bitterly, opening the door and stepping out onto the front porch. A spiteful wind blew hard and he wrapped his arms around himself, shivering violently. Had it been this cold last night? Or had he just not noticed? He shook his head in a vain attempt to clear it before walking to the sidewalk and looking around, trying to orient himself. Everything looked so different now the sun was up, but he remembered they’d turned left onto this street, so he headed in that direction, gripping his arms more tightly.

He turned the corner, his body shivering and his mind reeling. He never should have tried to take this farther. He should have just let it all be, but Subaru had seemed genuinely interested back, had been so into it when they were… They also weren’t so far apart in age, were they? Was Subaru’s reaction really warranted? However, he remembered, suddenly, his mother’s voice, then Kotori’s.

“Just be honest with me, Kamui.”

“Are you telling the truth?”

Maybe it was the dishonesty. It made Kamui himself feel disgusting, after all.

He turned another corner and suddenly found himself back on Meeting Street, deserted and covered in detritus from the night before. Relief flooded his body; he hadn’t realized he’d been so close, and getting lost in this cold would have been awful. He squinted about for a moment, then spotted a coffee shop open and hurried towards it. He experienced a deeply pleasurable rush of judgment as he slipped inside and the warm steamy air wrapped itself comfortingly around him. It was the type of place that attracted affluent families with small children who pushed expensive strollers and wore t-shirts with slogans like “Buy Local” and “Keep Sagacity Weird!”

He joined the cue and ordered coffee from a young woman with tattoos up and down both arms, and she gave it to him in a cup that proudly proclaimed it was made of 100% recycled materials. He carried it across the room to add milk and sugar, then sat down in a corner, careful not to look at anyone. He took a sip, and the warmth and sweetness and caffeine made him feel better almost in spite of himself. He sighed and took another sip before texting Sorata to let him know where exactly he was. He also noticed a text from his mother from the night before.

Have fun! See you tomorrow

Kamui’s stomach squirmed. Until last summer, he’d always been able to talk to her, but now he knew there were some things that were just better kept secret. His eyes burned suddenly and he blinked furiously. He still hated lying to her, especially when it was for nothing. He thought of her coming home to their empty apartment, assuming he was still at Sorata’s and going to sleep. He wondered how much time he’d have to kill before he could go home without it being suspicious. He was desperate to be back in his own bed, away from last night and these people and the shitty indie music playing. Fortunately, Sorata called him not long after.

“Hello?”

“Hey I’m outside and illegally parked, get the fuck out here.”

“Okay.” Kamui snapped his phone closed, jumped up and hurried back out into the cold. He spotted Sorata’s car and sprinted towards it, clutching his coffee.

“Get in,” Sorata said, when Kamui opened the door. He clambered inside and Sorata sped away. Kamui cried out, thrown back against the seat by the force. “Sorry,” Sorata said, with a bite of impatience. “I’m tired.”

“I know,” Kamui mumbled, putting on his seatbelt. Sorata shook his head and slowed as they continued down Meeting Street, then stopped at a red light.

“I just realized I have no idea where we’re going.” Kamui drank more coffee before answering.

“I mean, my house eventually, but…” 

“Yeah,” Sorata agreed, immediately understanding, and Kamui’s heart swelled gratefully. “You hungry?” Kamui shook his head, still feeling too awful to think of eating. Sorata eyed him thoughtfully for a moment. “You got gas money?” Kamui raised his eyebrows.

“Yeah, always, why?” Sorata made an abrupt right turn. “Where the fuck-”

“You’ll see. You wanna put on music?” Perplexed, Kamui stuck his coffee in the cup holder and reached for the case of CDs on the floor. He flipped through it, made his choice and put it on as Sorata steered them onto the highway. Kamui tried to catch his eye, but when he didn’t seem about to explain anything, he picked up his coffee again and sank back in his seat, staring morosely out the windshield. There was very little traffic this early on a Sunday, but everyone was driving too slowly. “So what happened?” Sorata asked, after a few minutes of non-descript, tree-lined highway. Kamui took a fortifying sip of coffee.

“Nothing,” he said, half ashamed and half resentful.

“Huh…”

“Well, like,” and Kamui told Sorata as much as he could: the show, the bar, the confession, and he just listened and drove them further and further south, eventually exiting onto a state road. Kamui swallowed the last of his coffee and crushed the cup in his fist. “Did I totally fuck that up?” He asked, looking anxiously at Sorata, who sighed thoughtfully as he stopped at a red light.

“I dunno,” he replied, honestly, and Kamui scoffed and leaned back in his seat, staring out the window at the deserted roads and skimpy, bare trees. He knew where they were going now. “Sorry,” Sorata continued. “It was kind of a no-win situation.”

“Dude the entirety of my dating life is a no-win situation,” Kamui reminded him, and they both laughed in spite of themselves.

“Yeah, starting to date your friend after she tells you she’s moving to California, then breaking up with her for a guy who turns out to be a colossal asshole? Not great.”

“Thanks,” Kamui snapped, blushing and throwing his crushed coffee cup onto the floor. Sorata turned right and drove them down the main street of a small, sequestered town, lined with seafood restaurants and expensive boutique clothing stores.

“Dude, it was what it was,” Sorata replied, gently. “At least you and Kotori are still cool.” Kamui said nothing; he felt her friendship was way more than he deserved. They drove out of the town and onto a barren stretch of road with a saltmarsh on one side and the ocean on the other, then pulled into the nearest parking lot beside the beach. Kamui could see a few people in wet suits surfing and a family walking their dogs. “Get out,” Sorata said, unbuckling his seatbelt. 

“No way, I’ll freeze!” Kamui protested, outraged. 

“Just for a second!” Kamui stared into Sorata’s determined face.

“Fine,” he muttered, grudgingly. He unbuckled his seatbelt and followed Sorata out of the car, slamming the door behind him. Immediately he felt the wind in his face, smelled the salt and heard the waves. He closed his eyes and breathed deeply through his nose, and the knot of tension and pain inside him tightened sharply. However, as he exhaled, it eased again, as if he were siphoning off the bitter feelings into the air and sand and sea. He wrapped his arms around himself, took another deep breath in and sighing it out, allowing more pain to leave him. He felt, rather than heard, Sorata come to stand beside him and opened his eyes again. “Thanks for doing all this,” he said, very quietly. Sorata clapped him on the shoulder and he stumbled.

“You’re welcome!” Kamui swore and stood up straight again, but then looked meaningfully at Sorata.

“I saw Arashi,” he said, quietly.

“Yeah, I wanted to-”

“She asked about you,” Kamui told him, eagerly, wanting at least some good to come out of last night.

“What?!” Sorata demanded, looking stunned. Kamui smiled.

“Yeah! She asked if you were at the show with me!” His heart ached at the simultaneously elated and terrified look on Sorata’s face. “You should go for it,” he continued, very seriously. They stared hard at each other a moment longer, then Sorata hooked his elbow around Kamui’s neck and yanked him into a headlock. Kamui cried out, but struggled only half-heartedly. 

“Things will work out,” Sorata said. “With Subaru. If it’s meant to be, it’ll happen.” Kamui rolled his eyes and tried to dissuade him, but the words just wouldn’t come, somehow. Sorata let go of him and they stood side by side in silence, staring out over the grey and blue ocean.


 

Subaru had crawled back into bed after Kamui left to try and get more sleep. Unfortunately, everything was still painful enough to keep him wide awake, so after an hour or so he gave up and went into his kitchen. He lit a cigarette and started to make coffee, his mind weirdly blank except for those flashes of the night before, or were they from longer ago?

"I'm not twenty, I'm seventeen, and I'm still in high school."

"Will you wait for me until the semester is over?"

Self-disgust rose up sickeningly in Subaru's throat and he sucked so sharply on his cigarette he coughed. He put it out in the ashtray on the counter.

"Subaru? Are you okay?" He jumped and whirled around to find his roommate in the doorway, watching him anxiously.

"I'm fine," he replied, turning away to retrieve a mug from the cabinet. He poured himself coffee and took a long, grateful sip, gathering strength from the heat and the bitterness. He stepped away, inviting her to partake, and she approached the counter. "Kamui left," he said, rather bravely, answering her unasked question. He opened the refrigerator, picked up the milk carton and handed it to her.

"Thank you," she said, taking it with a soft smile. Subaru watched her, his throat still tight. "Why so early?" She asked. Subaru appreciated the ambiguity of the question and let out a heavy sigh, but said nothing. She put the milk back in the refrigerator and faced him, holding her mug in both hands. "Can I ask what happened?" Subaru took another fortifying sip of coffee.

"Turns out he's underage." His roommate's eyes widened.

"Uh oh."

"Nothing happened!" Subaru assured her, though he was blushing. "He stopped me before, and," he shook his head, hating himself.

"Fuck," she replied, her expression deeply concerned. "How underage are we talking?"

"He's seventeen."

"Over the age of consent then, that's something," she said, and Subaru appreciated the attempt at reassurance, but all the same…

"I let him stay because it was way too late, but I slept on the couch," he continued, and she nodded. A moment's silence passed. "I did the right thing, didn't I?"

"You know I can't answer that," she replied, gently. "I mean, I don't blame you for freaking out, though." Subaru smiled a tight smile. "But, you know," she seemed to choose her words carefully. "Subaru, you aren't-"

"It's not like that!" He interrupted, far more defensively than he'd intended. "I'm, I said no!" He filled up his mug. "I'm going to go do homework." He returned to his bedroom and slammed the door behind him. His roommate sighed impatiently, but her eyes softened as she stared at the closed door.

"Even if you'd gone through with it, you aren't Seishiro," she reminded the empty room.


Tohru was in the kitchen, making lunch and half-heartedly putting together a grocery list. The house had been empty when she'd come home from work that morning, and was still empty when she'd woken up from her nap half an hour ago. It hadn't surprised her; Kamui was probably still at Sorata's. Probably.

She stirred the pot of stew she was simmering on the stove and turned up her music with a heavy sigh. She and Kamui had always been close, always open with each other. However, everyone she knew with children had warned her that this would stop as he got older.

"Once his feet get bigger than yours, it's over," her coworker with four sons had told her. However, nothing could have prepared her for the constant grieving that came with Kamui growing up. Not that it was always painful. She loved him, and she was proud of who he was becoming, but…

The rice cooker chimed loudly, startling her. She spooned some into a bowl and ladled stew on top of it. This was Saya's recipe. Saya: her best friend and only other consistent person in her life, and she had moved across the country.

Tohru sat down at the kitchen table and began to eat. It was warm and savory and satisfying, and though it calmed her slightly, her heart still ached, for Saya, for Kotori, for Kamui. She knew their move had been incredibly hard on him, but everything afterwards, once he'd met that boy, Fuuma, had only made it harder. She sighed heavily, trying to keep the anger that had risen up inside her at bay, when suddenly, the locks on the door clicked and it creaked open, revealing Kamui, looking disheveled and exhausted. He stopped dead and stared at her with wide eyes, and she knew a moment of utter terror.

"Hello," she said, doing her utmost to keep her voice calm. Kamui said nothing. "Did you have fun last night?" He shut the door, crossed the room and threw his arms around her. Tohru's eyes widened and her panic spiked, though she couldn't help but feel gratified as she hugged him back.

"'Sokay," he whispered to her, and Tohru caught a whiff of salt and cigarettes.

'What on Earth…?' Kamui pulled away and stared at her, his expression unreadable. "Are you hungry?" She asked, rather lamely. Kamui shook his head.

"I'm gonna shower and do homework." Without waiting for her reply, he turned and shuffled off to the bathroom. Tohru watched him go, wanting more than anything to ask what was wrong, even though she knew it was pointless.

Chapter Text

"California rest in peace!" Sorata cried, scrambling to his feet to hug Kotori. She threw her arms around his neck and squealed excitedly as he lifted her off her feet and spun her around.

"Sorata, be careful!" Yuzuriha scolded, though she pulled Kotori into a hug the moment he let go of her, exclaiming, "I missed your face!"

Kamui just watched with a deeply affectionate smile on his face, his heart swelling too large for his chest. Saya and Kotori had arrived in Sagacity the day before, after Kamui and his mother had spent two weeks in a frenzy of preparing, as well as celebrating Christmas and New Years. Even though his mother had been on his ass and holidays were bullshit anyway, he'd been grateful for the distraction. However, the closer he got to their arrival, the less potent the distraction became, so by the time he and his mother were on their way to the airport, he was uptight and irritable.

"Are you nervous?" His mother asked, speeding them down the highway.

"No, why?" Kamui snapped. She gave him a look and he skipped the song they were listening to.

"It'll be fine," she said, quietly, as something softer began to play. Kamui said nothing and turned to stare out of the window, but the condensation was too thick. He pulled his sleeve over his hand and rubbed a patch clean, revealing the cold overcast day and the sleet falling bleakly upon the city. He sighed heavily, then drew a star in a foggy corner with his index finger. He'd be lying if he said he wasn't at least a little anxious. He and Kotori had supposedly repaired and maintained their friendship online and over the phone, but in person was an entirely different thing, especially considering what had happened the night they'd said goodbye. Would all those old feelings come back? Or would all the bitterness and resentment she'd denied for months finally surface?

His mother exited the highway and followed the "Arrivals" signs to the terminal. She smiled broadly as she spotted Saya and Kotori, waving energetically, and pulled up right beside them. Kamui's nerves rose in a crescendo inside his chest, but he jumped out of the car anyway. He avoided looking at Kotori, though he could feel her eyes on him, but fortunately Saya stepped forward before he could feel too awkward.

"Kamui!" She cried, pulling him into a hug and kissing him all over his face before holding him at arm's length to see him properly. "Did you get even taller? For goodness sake…" Kamui smiled at her and shrugged, embarrassed but pleased all the same. She kissed him once more on each cheek then dove into the front seat to hug his mother across the gearshift. Kamui watched them for a moment, still smiling, then gathered his courage and turned to Kotori. She stood with her hands clasped in front of her, a hesitant, though beautiful, smile on her face.

"Hey," he said, his own smile faltering. However, to his utter amazement, Kotori giggled and threw her arms around his neck. Kamui gasped, but then closed his eyes in relief and hugged her closer.

"Hi," she whispered in his ear, then pulled away to give him a radiant smile that made his heart pound in his throat. He knew they'd have to talk later, but for now at least, he felt okay. "Can we please get in the car? It's freezing!"

"Oh yeah, sorry!" Kamui opened the backseat for her. "Mom, can you pop the trunk?" She looked at him over her shoulder, and even though she was smiling, there was something sad and searching just beneath. However, he heard a lock click and withdrew at once to heave Saya and Kotori's suitcases into the trunk. He slammed it shut and got into the backseat. His mother put the car in gear and sped them back towards the highway.

"Are you guys hungry? Or will you be okay until dinner?" She asked straight away.

"Tohru, you're worse than me!" Saya laughed.

"Well what choice do I have when you're across the country?" She shot back, also laughing. Kamui and Kotori exchanged a look across the backseat, then shook their heads.

"Just my face?" Kotori asked, grinning, and Yuzuriha stuck out her tongue.

"I understand completely," Sorata interjected, then, addressing Yuzuriha, "Only having you and Kamui to look at got depressing really fast."

"You could remedy that by actually talking to Arashi, dude," Yuzuriha replied, coldly.

"Listen…" Kamui just watched, feeling happier than he had done in a long time: his three best friends were all back together for the rest of winter break, he'd ignored Fuuma every time he'd tried to make contact and he'd stopped- "How did you guys get here?" Sorata asked, looking between Kotori and Kamui.

"I drove!" Kotori said, and Sorata looked perplexed. "Remember? I got my driver's license in July."

"Oh yeah! I'm an idiot," Sorata replied, kneading his forehead with the heel of his hand. "I just thought for a second someone let Kamui get behind the wheel of a car and feared for my life-"

"Shut the fuck up!" Kamui snapped, and Kotori and Yuzuriha giggled.

"I've missed snark!" Kotori cried, her face shining.

"Did you miss them beating the shit out of each other too?" Yuzuriha asked, resignedly. "Because that's where this is going."

"Fuck you!" Sorata and Kamui said together, then turned and eyed each other threateningly. Kotori giggled, her fingers pressed to her lips.

"Don't laugh at me, but… Yes? I just missed you guys!" Yuzuriha patted her on the back.

"We've missed you too," Kamui told her, very seriously, and they exchanged a deeply affectionate smile. He'd already told her this yesterday: in the car, when they'd gotten back to the apartment, at dinner, when she'd snuck into his room after their mothers had gone to sleep.

She'd knocked on the door, and Kamui had sprung out of bed to let her in.

"Hey…"

"Hi!" She entered the room and perched herself on the edge of his bed, looking up at him expectantly. Kamui shut the door and faced her, feeling suddenly nervous.

"I," he began, very awkwardly, trying not to assume anything even as memories of the last time this had happened surfaced in his mind and his body.

"Can we talk?" She asked, patting the space on the bed beside her. Kamui nodded and sat down. They looked at each other for a moment, their faces ghostly in the light from his laptop screen, and the silence seemed to tauten.

"I," they both said at the same time, then smiled rather embarrassedly at each other.

"You first," Kamui said, and Kotori nodded.

"I, I've missed you, Kamui."

"I've missed you too!"

"No no," she said, firmly, and he fell silent at once. "I mean, yes, I've missed you because we went from spending practically every day together to being on opposite coasts," she conceded, and Kamui nodded, his throat tight and eyes wide. "But, it's more than that." His stomach twisted, but he said nothing. Kotori took a deep breath in. "I miss you from before. I understand that things are different now, but…" She looked away, blushing. Still, Kamui said nothing, listening with rapt attention. "I'd like to, to go back as best we can, or, no that's not what I mean, I guess-"

"Kotori?" He had to speak, because he couldn't stand to see her getting upset. She stopped, collecting herself, and managed a small smile that made his heart ache. "If you, if you want to start over and pretend last year didn't happen, I have no problem forgetting."

"No!" She cried, looking suddenly horrified. "No that's not what I meant at all! I'd never want to forget any of it!" Kamui closed his eyes, but nodded, her words touching him in some deep, inaccessible place. "I'm glad we tried it," she continued, earnestly, and Kamui opened his eyes again. "But, I'm also glad we can just be best friends, does that make sense?"

"I'm not sure," he replied, quietly. He couldn't believe she wasn't crying, because that was all he felt like doing.

"It's… It's like now I know for sure that's all I want, and I'd like to keep going now I know."

"As friends?"

"Yes." Kamui sighed in relief, and Kotori hugged him. He shut his eyes as tight as he could and held her close. She was so smart, so good, so much more than he ever deserved.

"I'm so sorry," he whispered, when they broke apart. Kotori nodded, her eyes wide and receptive. "I'm sorry for everything, for," his throat burned suddenly and he looked away. "I was so fucking stupid," he told his knees. "And I'm sorry." Kotori rubbed his back tenderly, which only made the burning in his throat worse, the ache in his heart more painful.

"It's all right," she said, quietly, and he finally began to cry.

"We've missed you a lot," Kamui said yet again, because he figured it couldn't hurt.

"It's true, look how much nicer Kamui is when you're here!" Sorata cried, shattering the moment in bursts of laughter. Kamui gave him an extremely nasty look, though he had to admit he had a point. "Anyway, what do you guys wanna do?"

"What game is that?" Kotori asked, looking over at the TV. "It's been on pause this whole time, isn't that bad?"

"Nah," Sorata replied, brushing the words aside. "Me and Yuzuriha started Jet Set Radio Future while we were waiting for you guys."

"Oh shit!" Kamui exclaimed, only just now noticing it. He dove onto the couch and seized the controller. The other three exchanged looks, then shrugged and joined him. Kamui pressed start and his character was immediately swarmed by enemy police officers. "Fuck! Sorata why are you so bad at this?!" Kamui demanded, mashing buttons.

"Shut up," Sorata replied, his eyes fixing upon the screen. Kotori and Yuzuriha rolled their eyes and immediately began discussing something else. Kamui relaxed against the couch, the conversation and fantastic soundtrack playing around him. They used to spend almost all their time together this way: hanging out at one of their houses, doing their own things but still remaining aware of each other. Of course, after Kotori moved, it hadn't been the same, and Kamui always found himself discontent and longing for something else. Tonight though, he felt really present, in the moment, for the first time in a long time.

"Kamui, what the hell are you doing?" Yuzuriha asked, suddenly.

"I'm trying to use the shortcut to get the Graffiti Soul!" Kamui tried the jump for the third time, but the character fell and died yet again. "Fuck!"

"You can do it!" Sorata said, grinning, but Yuzuriha made a contemptuous noise and reached across him to press pause on the controller.

"Hey!"

"And you actually believed Sorata when he told you that would work?" She demanded, and Kotori shoved her knuckles in her mouth to stop from laughing. "You just said Sorata's bad at this game, why would you do that?" She continued, snickering. Kamui closed his eyes for a moment, then placed the controller down on the floor between his feet and turned slowly to face Sorata, who immediately tried to look innocent.

"You dick!"

"What?! I just said that was a shortcut, it's not my fault you tried it for a half hour even though you kept dying, I never said to do that." Kamui elbowed Sorata in the ribs and he responded at once, scrambling to his feet and jumping backwards on top of Kamui, squishing him into the couch. Yuzuriha burst out laughing and Kotori clapped her hands over her mouth. Kamui struggled and swore, but Sorata crossed his arms and legs and gave the girls a smug smile.

"Sorata, please be careful!" Kotori cried.

"He's fine," Sorata replied, dismissively, picking up the controller.

"Are you serious?!" Kamui demanded, his voice muffled.

"Yup!" He struggled more fiercely, but Sorata just stared at the screen, guiding the character the correct way and finally collecting the Graffiti Soul.

"But yeah did that fic ever get updated?" Yuzuriha asked Kotori, continuing their conversation from before.

"Um, no, I think the author moved on to a new fandom," Kotori replied, distractedly, still watching the other two. "Sorata, come on…"

"Well, if I get off him he's gonna try shit," Sorata explained.

"Fuck you!" Came Kamui's muffled cry. Yuzuriha pressed the first two fingers of both hands into her temples.

"Sorata," she began, laughing exasperatedly, "I don't know how to tell you this but that's your fault and no one else's." Sorata sighed resignedly.

"Yeah I guess you have a point." Kotori sighed and Yuzuriha laughed as he stood up, revealing Kamui, squished and contorted into the cushions. Kotori immediately extended her hand to help him sit up.

"Thanks."

"Of course."

The next few hours passed in much of the same way, until Yuzuriha's grandmother called her to say she'd be there to pick her up in ten minutes.

"We're hanging out tomorrow though, right?" Yuzuriha asked, eagerly, hugging Kotori goodbye.

"Yes!" She replied.

"I'm still mad," Kamui informed Sorata when he tried to hug him goodbye. He replied with an outraged look and hugged Kotori instead. "But seriously, you'll come pick us up, like, two?"

"Yeah yeah," Sorata said, letting go of Kotori and rolling his eyes.

"And Princess Kamui doesn't tolerate lateness!" Yuzuriha reminded Sorata, very seriously, and he and Kotori let out snorts of laughter.

"Fuck all of you," Kamui said, though with no real conviction.

"Let's go," Kotori said, quietly, before anything could escalate. Sorata walked them back through the house and they said goodbye to his grandfather before exchanging one last round of hugs at the door. Kamui then followed Kotori to his mother's car and Yuzuriha hurried to her grandmother's, waving at them over her shoulder. They got in and music came blasting out of the speakers the moment Kotori started the engine. Kamui narrowed his eyes, ejected the CD and replaced it with another. Kotori watched Sorata go back inside the house before pulling away from the curb, following Yuzuriha's grandmother down the street until she turned right, and they left.

"You okay?" Kamui asked, settling back in his seat and looking at Kotori. She smiled widely, but her eyes remained soft. They paused at a stop sign, and a nearby streetlight lit up the inside of the car. Kamui's heart swelled in his chest as he watched her, the same way it had when they'd been coming back from dinner last night, only they'd been in the backseat with his mother driving, just like the night before she'd left.

"Yes," she replied, very firmly, driving them through the intersection and around a corner. "I'm so glad to be back," she continued, her voice lowering. "When I moved it was like I'd died and left you guys behind or something." She pulled up to another stop sign, and Kamui saw her blush. "I'm sorry, that sounds so dramatic!"

"No," Kamui said, quietly. "It makes sense." Kotori turned and gave him a deeply affectionate smile before turning right again. They fell into an easy silence, the music filling the space, until Kamui felt his phone go off. He rolled his eyes as he retrieved it, thinking it was one of their mothers demanding to know where they were, but,

"come online" Kamui shut his eyes and snapped his phone closed. He managed not to throw it, but it was a close thing.

"Kamui?" He sighed. He didn't need to go through all that again, not after getting a chance to make things right.

"Sorry, spam text." He turned up the music and they were home shortly after that. Kotori backed them into a parking space right in front of Kamui's building, and he marveled at her parallel parking skills for a moment before they headed back upstairs. He unlocked the door to his apartment and they found their mothers side by side on the couch, two empty wine glasses in front of them on the coffee table.

"Hello," Saya said, pleasantly. "Did you guys have fun?"

"Yes!" Kotori replied at once, hurrying to her side. Kamui's mother gave him a searching look, but he smiled reassuringly, walked forward and kissed her on the cheek. She smiled back and ruffled his hair. The four of them stayed up a while longer, talking quietly and relaxing. Although it was pretty much perfect, Kamui kept getting distracted by his phone going off. He was positive the onslaught of texts were from Fuuma, so he ignored them until he was safely back in his room after his mother insisted they all go to bed.

"Kamuiiiiii i miss you" "come online!" "i don't have unlimited texting why do you do this to me?" Kamui made a disgusted noise and threw his phone onto his bed. Fuuma was a bad idea. He knew he was a bad idea, even as some tiny string in his heart began to tug, reminding him of Fuuma staring at him from across a fire bit, beside him on a couch, on top of him in a bed.

Kamui swallowed, picked up his phone again and shut it off, actually shut it off, and plugged it in to charge on his bedside table. He eyed his laptop for a moment, but didn't touch it just in case, the tiny string in his heart still pulling. He changed into his pajamas, shut off the light and got into bed. He sighed, trying to settle but still feeling wide awake. He usually slept with music or some other background noise, but now he was just alone with his thoughts under the covers. He rolled over onto his side, staring out of his window at the starless night sky.

In spite of himself, he wished Kotori would come into his room again, but just to talk: he knew their feelings had changed. However, he couldn't help but remember the night before she'd moved away, staring out this same window, naked under the covers listening to the whir of his fan with her curled up beside him, resting her head on his chest. He'd had no idea if it was the right thing to do or if it was just in movies, but it had felt right. Everything had felt right, had come so naturally, had been so good…

Kamui shivered, feeling heat rush between his legs at the memories, though his stomach squirmed guiltily. He rolled over onto his other side. Now his feelings had definitely changed, or maybe they'd just reverted back to how they were supposed to be. It had only occurred to him to want more than friendship from Kotori after he found out she was moving to California anyway. Maybe if she'd stayed nothing ever would have happened, and maybe everything would have worked out with Fuuma, or at least sucked less.

Kamui rolled over again to stare out of his window, the questions he'd been asking himself for months continuing to churn his brain. He pulled his knees up to his chest.

'It's pointless to think about all that shit anyway, stop it,' he told himself, rather sharply. He sighed and looked down at his laptop on the floor next to his bed, feeling restless and guilty and needy. The tiny tugging string in his heart told him that talking to Fuuma would assuage all of that, at least in the short term, but he knew everywhere else what a terrible idea that was and hated himself for it. He forced his gaze up and out of the window again, his body still trying to be turned on despite the bitter feelings.

At least he'd been able to keep himself away from Subaru. Not that he had any real means of contacting him, but he'd erased his roommate's MySpace from his internet history and was doing his best not to think about him. However, at night, lying awake like this, he could still remember being in Subaru's bed, kissing and touching under the Christmas lights, and it wasn't bad, it was just speculation, and it wasn't Fuuma…

Kamui moaned in frustration, hating how quick he was to surrender but powerless to resist, rolled onto his back and threw his blankets off of him. He reached into his pajama pants and took hold of his erection. His whole body shuddered gratefully and, as if on cue, his mind showed him his and Subaru's night together and one of the many ways he'd imagined it progressing had he not stopped him.

Subaru would undo his pants, would slip his hand inside, would grip his erection and please him, slowly at first.

"I like you too," he'd moan, softly in his hear.

Kamui bit his lip to stifle his cry and stroked himself faster, imagining Subaru smiling lustfully down at him before kissing him hard on the lips. They'd kiss that way the whole time, slow and deep, while Subaru's touch sped up, becoming fast and deliberate and exactly how he liked it.

"Mm!" Kamui threw his head back, the pressure inside him building, thighs trembling and erection stiffening in his hand.

"If I make you come, will you be able to go again soon?" Subaru would ask against his lips, and Kamui would nod, too far gone to speak, and Subaru would moan and kiss him and please him more, faster, never stopping.

Kamui yanked his t-shirt up out of the way and came all over himself a moment later. He gasped, his chest heaving as pleasure rushed out through his body in softly satisfying waves. He kept his eyes closed as he recovered, breathing hard through his open mouth, before eventually letting go of his erection and reaching for tissues.

He cleaned up, feeling pleasantly disengaged and sleepy, though his heart was still aching. He threw the tissues away, readjusted his clothes and got back under the covers. Even though it was just one night, just a feeling, what could have been still hurt, what had been still hurt. It all hurt. It always hurt. Why did people even bother?


"Do you wanna stay over?" Subaru sighed heavily and extricated himself from his… Acquaintance's? Fuck buddy's? Embrace. "No? Aww…"

"Sorry," Subaru replied, sitting up and reaching for his cellphone.

"Next time?" Subaru made a non-committal noise in his throat, stood up and got dressed again. He'd had his fill of being held and loved on, he was ready to leave now. He gathered his things, gave his acquaintance a goodbye kiss and headed back out into the raw, January night. It was pitch dark, and most of his fellow students were still on break, so the streets were sad and empty. At first, Subaru felt impervious to it, wrapped up in the last few hours. However, as he turned a corner, his heart ached with a sudden loneliness. It had been a long time since he'd actually spent the night with someone else, not just fucked and gone home or sent them away. He supposed the closest he'd gotten had been Kamui, but-

Subaru stopped dead in his tracks to light a cigarette. Unfortunately, his mind, as it was so prone to doing lately, showed him Kamui, lying in his bed, stretched out beneath him, his beautiful, eager face softly illuminated by the Christmas lights. Subaru took a fierce drag from his cigarette, his heart hurting him even though he'd had no choice but to turn Kamui away.

"I like you," he had told him, so earnestly. Subaru shook his head. How could he know that?!

'The same way you did,' his mind answered him, coldly. Subaru just shook his head, took another defiant pull from his cigarette and continued on his way.

Chapter Text

"Why'd you have to park so far away?" Kamui asked, grumpily.

"Did you see any spots up here?" Sorata countered, jumping over a massive icy puddle in the middle of the sidewalk. Kamui, Sorata, Yuzuriha and Kotori were headed towards a big bookstore downtown, because Sagacity was the type of city where that counted as an excursion. It had snowed half-heartedly that morning, and the concrete and traffic lights were all covered in greying slush to match the overcast sky. Fortunately, they entered the warm, bright store before Kamui could find it too depressing. "Café or manga?" Sorata asked, looking between the three of them. They used to just bring manga into the café with them, but the staff had unfortunately started cracking down on that.

"Café," Yuzuriha said at once. "I literally woke up five minutes before you called me to tell me you were outside my house." Kotori giggled.

"Fanfiction?" Kamui asked as they headed over to the coffee shop tucked into a far corner. Yuzuriha grinned at him over her shoulder.

"Yup! That fic we were talking about yesterday actually got updated!"

"Oh shit!" Kamui replied, excited for her as they joined the cue.

"Yeah, I texted you about it," she continued, addressing Kotori, "but I think you were asleep."

"Most likely, but that's okay," Kotori assured her, smiling. "How was it?" Yuzuriha closed her eyes and placed her hand over her heart.

"There are no words," she said, her tone exultant, and Kotori pressed her fingers to her lips, her eyes wide and excited. "The lemon was long, like, nothing was rushed and everyone was still in character."

"Wow…"

"Right?!"

"Kamui, can I borrow your laptop when we get home?" Kotori asked him, eagerly, her face shining.

"Uh, yeah sure," he replied, blushing slightly.

"Could I have a small coffee, please?" Came Sorata's voice, suddenly, breaking up the conversation, and the other three laughed.

"Sorry, Sorata," Yuzuriha giggled, patting his arm.

"It's okay!" He assured them, stepping out of line so that Kamui could order next. "I just have nothing to contribute." Once everyone had drinks, they wandered through the maze of shelves towards the manga section. Thankfully, this store hadn't started wrapping everything in plastic, an unfortunate habit of other large bookstores. Kamui and Sorata picked up the newest volumes of titles they liked while Kotori and Yuzuriha took more time.

"This is such a rip off," Yuzuriha said, disparagingly, pointing out a series where all the characters had square chins and exaggerated bottom lips.

"Oh I know," agreed Kotori, shaking her head, sadly. "As if Gravitation didn't trademark the cold romance novelist thing."

"Right? At least that was original, even if it was," she broke off, shrugging, and Kotori nodded. Kamui and Sorata exchanged smiles of both affection and solidarity as they sipped their drinks and listened to the back and forth.

"Have you seen the anime of this?" Kotori asked next, running her finger down the spine of another series.

"Yes, it's terrible," Yuzuriha snorted.

"At least it has an ending!"

"Not worth it." Yuzuriha eyed the series beside it for a moment, then picked up the first volume curiously. They fell silent once they all had something to read, pausing occasionally to speak to each other, and an hour slipped away before they could think about it. Kamui finished his manga volume and sighed as he placed it back on the shelf, thinking of the three months he'd have to wait for the next one.

"I'm gonna go throw this out," he told the other three, holding up his empty coffee cup.

"Have fun," Sorata said, his nose still in a volume of manga, and Kamui headed back through the shelves, looking about with a vague interest. He turned to walk down some aisle in the fiction section, but,

"Oh fuck!" He cried out without meaning to, stopping dead in his tracks and going furiously red. At the other end of the aisle, Subaru started and looked up from the book he'd been reading. He locked eyes with Kamui, and his mouth fell open in a soft gasp. Kamui's heart ached as all the feelings he'd been fighting rushed up inside him. He wanted to turn around and run, but it was way too late to pretend they hadn't seen each other, and Subaru was holding his ground, looking at him very intensely. Knowing there was nothing else for it, Kamui swallowed and stepped forward. "Hey," he said, clutching his empty cup and forcing himself to maintain eye contact. 'God this sucks,' he thought. Subaru's expression tightened and he held his book to his chest.

"Hi," he said, quietly. "Ah, how are you?" Kamui bit down on the inside of his lip and shrugged, his mouth rather dry.

"I'm cool," he replied, more bravely than he felt. "I'm here with friends, we're all still on winter break, so…" 'Oh god this sucks.' Subaru nodded, his expression still tight.

"Me too, until Monday." Kamui could feel an awkward silence encroaching and tried to continue the conversation despite a sneaking suspicion it might be pointless.

"Did you um, did you go back to New York at all?" Subaru tilted his head to the side, something flickering in his eyes, and for a moment Kamui was worried he'd crossed some unknown line, but,

"Just for a week to see my grandmother." Kamui nodded, and a moment's silence passed painfully. However, before it could go on too long, Subaru sighed heavily, his expression slackening as though he were giving up. He held his book more tightly to his chest, still staring at Kamui. "I'm sorry, this is just," he made an impatient noise in his throat. "I just didn't think I'd ever see you again, and," he stopped speaking and shook his head.

"Yeah," Kamui agreed, looking away for a moment, then forcing his gaze back to Subaru's face. "Listen, I'm really sorry for how that all happened," he said in a rush, before he missed his only chance to explain himself. Subaru said nothing, his lips pressed tightly together. "I fucked up and I know that, but-"

"I'm sorry too," Subaru interrupted, and Kamui gasped, stunned.

"You are?" Subaru closed his eyes for a moment, appearing to collect himself, then looked rather sadly at Kamui.

"I should have," he began, but then shrugged, still holding tight to his book. "Never mind, I, yeah I'm sorry." A little shiver seemed to run through both of them, and Kamui's heart banged against his ribs.

"Subaru?" He asked, though the second he did he realized he had no idea what to say and his mind was blanking unhelpfully.

"Yes?" Subaru prompted, lowering his book to hold it between his hips instead.

"I," Kamui began, trying to force his brain and mouth to cooperate. "I fucked up, but, I wasn't lying when I said I liked you." He could feel himself going red, but pressed on. "Like I said, I understand if you don't feel the same way, but," he was uncomfortably aware that the last time he'd asked this next question, he'd been totally shot down. However, he knew he wouldn't be able to live with himself if he didn't at least try. "Could we maybe try to be friends?" They stared at each other for what felt like a very long time, then,

"I guess I could do that," Subaru said, and all the tension between them drained away so suddenly it took them both by surprise.

"Really?!" Kamui cried, his stomach immediately shriveling at how childishly eager he sounded. However, Subaru smiled hesitantly and nodded.

"Really." Kamui couldn't believe this was actually happening, but he was thrilled.

"Sweet! Um, do you want my phone number? Screenname?" Subaru laughed.

"Phone numbers work better for me, I only use my computer for school."

"That's good of you," Kamui said, before he could stop himself, but again it made Subaru laugh. He grinned, retrieved his cellphone from his pocket and opened it, not even bothering to be annoyed at a text from Fuuma. He created a new contact, and Subaru recited his number. "Awesome," Kamui said, softly, saving it. "I'll text you so you have mine."

"Sounds good." Warmth rushed up between them, like it had done the last time they'd seen each other, and they both looked away rather embarrassedly for a moment. "I guess I should go pay for this," Subaru said, awkwardly, holding up his book.

"Yeah, my friends probably think I got lost or something," Kamui said, rolling his eyes.

"Oh no!"

"Yeah they have no faith in me," Kamui said, regretfully.

"It's okay, my friends are the same way," Subaru replied, just as regretfully. Kamui was more than ready to dispute this, but Subaru's phone rang before he could say anything. "You see?" He said, answering it. "Hello?" He rolled his eyes at Kamui, who grinned. "Okay, I'll be right there." He snapped his phone closed and shoved it back into his coat pocket. "I have to go."

"I figured," Kamui said, and they smiled at each other. "I'll text you though."

"Cool," Subaru replied, giving him one last smile before turning and walking away through the bookshelves. Kamui watched him go, then practically fell against the nearest one. All the uncertainty and anxiety he hadn't even realized had been gripping his body came rushing out of him to be replaced by glorious relief and joy. Had that really just happened?! Of course it had; he had Subaru's phone number as proof, but what were the chances?! He closed his eyes, basking in his euphoria for a moment before texting him.

"hey :)" He smiled at the message, then sprinted the rest of the way to the café and slammed his empty coffee cup into a trashcan. Wasn't that the original reason he'd come over here a million years ago? Still clutching his phone tightly, Kamui hurried to rejoin his friends.

"There you are, what happened?" Yuzuriha demanded, clutching two volumes of the manga she'd been reading, and Kamui replied with a grin and a rude hand gesture. He'd explain later. For now, he just wanted to savor his victory, enjoy all the happy feelings before the consequences began.


The rest of winter vacation passed far too quickly, rushing past in a blur of wet snow, sleep and time with friends. The first day of the spring semester dawned cold and grey as ever, but it somehow looked way worse this early in the morning. Kamui climbed into Sorata's car, barely mustering the energy to return his "Good morning." He leaned against the window, staring through the foggy glass dispiritedly. Saya and Kotori had left on Saturday morning, which also made everything look way worse. He closed his eyes, remembering how she'd snuck into his room again Friday night.

"What's up?" He asked her, sitting up in bed and placing his cellphone on his nightstand. Kotori eyed it knowingly, and he blushed.

"Subaru?" She asked. He nodded and she sat down on the edge of his bed.

"I'm sorry, is that weird to hear about?" Kotori shook her head.

"No no, I'm just glad it all worked out."

"So far, anyway." They exchanged a smile.

"Can I ask you something, though?" Kamui nodded, sitting up a little straighter. "When you," Kotori began, her expression tightening. "When," she paused again and looked away for a moment, and Kamui waited, eyes wide and receptive. "Would it have happened with anyone? Or was it just Fuuma?" Kamui shuddered when she said his name and guilt flooded his insides. He wrapped his arms protectively around himself, but managed to keep her gaze.

"I was really happy with you, you know I was!" He said, imploringly, digging his fingers into his arms, and Kotori nodded in stiff agreement. "I, I mean I fucked up," he continued. "But, I don't think I would have fucked up with anyone else, so maybe it was just Fuuma, I have no fucking clue." He sighed, feeling like he was doing more harm than good, and stopped for a moment to collect himself, to think about the right thing to say. "You didn't do anything wrong," he said, very seriously. "I fucked up."

"It's okay," Kotori said, quietly.

"No it's not!"

"Kamui," she interrupted, firmly, and he bit his lip. "I just wanted to know, is all," she continued, reaching for his arm and giving it a squeeze. "Like I said, I'm glad we tried it, but I think it's better this way." Kamui swallowed the lump in his throat and nodded. Kotori stood up, hesitated for a moment, then kissed him on the forehead. He let out a soft gasp, but she pulled away almost at once. "Good night."

"Good night."

Kamui felt his phone vibrate suddenly in his pocket, jerking him back to the present. He opened it, hoping for a text from Subaru, but,

"picking up an extra shift this morning should be home before dinner xoxo" Kamui sighed.

"You okay?" Asked Sorata.

"Yeah just my mom texting me," Kamui replied.

"okay sweet" He sighed and put his phone away, remembering that she'd also done this the last time Saya and Kotori had left.

On the morning of their official move the previous June, Kamui and his mother had woken up early to say goodbye. The four of them stood in front of Saya's car, piled full of suitcases and whatever they hadn't loaded onto the big truck movers had started driving out west the day before. Kamui was shivering in the dewy early morning as he hugged Saya goodbye before turning to Kotori. He hugged her as tightly as he could, then pulled away to look at her. He wanted to fix every glorious detail of her face into his mind to match the imprint she'd left in his body. He'd expected her to cry, but she just smiled, kissed him one last time on the lips and got into the car.

Saya started the engine and Kamui saw his mother turn away to hide her tears. He took her hand, and she squeezed his back almost painfully hard as they watched Saya and Kotori drive away. Eventually, long after the car had turned a corner and the noise of the engine had died away, his mother led him back up to their empty, grief stricken apartment.

The force of it seared Kamui's throat and he let go of his mother's hand, stormed back to his room and fell into bed. He wrapped himself in his blankets, feeling like his heart was ripping his chest open with every excruciating beat. He could still smell Kotori all over his sheets, and he ached for her as he'd never done for anyone else. He began to cry and buried his face in his pillows as he'd buried it in her hair, her chest and her thighs the night before.

"Kamui?" His mother's voice sounded from the doorway, but he just curled tighter into himself in response. She sighed and came to sit on the edge of his bed.

"Mom, don't," he protested, his stomach squirming. She sighed again, but stayed put.

"I'm supposed to go to work this afternoon, but I'll call out if you need me." Kamui made an impatient noise, his heart speeding up alarmingly. His mother sighed yet again, and Kamui sat up to face her, still wrapped in his blankets.

"I'm fine!" He snapped, his heart hammering. "Go to work, I don't care!" His mother just stared at him for a moment, and he wondered if she knew. He flushed deeply and looked away. He didn't want to see her now. He didn't want her near. He wanted his room and his bed to himself, to lie here undisturbed until Kotori came back in January.

"All right, Kamui," his mother said, eventually. She stood up again, and he immediately felt guilty for pushing her away. "I'm going to get a few more hours' sleep, then I'm off, okay?" He nodded, his throat too tight to speak. "I love you," she reminded him, walking back across the room. He swallowed, hating everything.

"Love you too," he muttered, under his breath.

They pulled into the parking lot behind their school, and the bump startled Kamui.

"Sorry," Sorata said, weaving in and out of snow banks and fellow students before parking in the first space available. Kamui shrugged, heaved himself out of the car and followed Sorata towards school, shivering in the cold and checking his phone again. Although there were no new messages, he reflected that at least he had texting Subaru to distract him from Saya and Kotori leaving this time. After dropping them off at the airport on Saturday, he'd still curled up in bed, but it wasn't nearly as painful, or maybe the pain was just different. Either way, he'd started texting Subaru the second his mother left for work, and it had made him feel better almost instantly, even though the messages were infrequent and superficial. Kamui was never sure how much was too much, what to say or how to say it, but Subaru always responded eventually, which was encouraging.

He shoved his phone back in his pocket and followed Sorata into school. It was loud and chaotic as ever, though not as much as it might have been; everyone was still too tired. Music was playing somewhere off in the distance and couples who'd been separated for weeks were kissing passionately against lockers. Kamui looked away pointedly as he and Sorata headed up the stairs, then down the hall towards their lockers. Yuzuriha was there waiting for them, smiling, though looking exhausted.

"What's up?" Sorata asked her, opening his locker.

"I'm tired," she sighed, "and I miss Kotori."

"Yup," Sorata agreed, gathering his books and slamming his locker shut. Kamui made a non-committal noise and did the same.

"Whatever, calculus time," she continued in a sarcastically cheerful tone. They opened the door to another staircase and headed down to the first floor. Two boys, freshman by the look of them, came rushing past them, then slipped on the landing floor, wet from snow and slush people had tracked inside. One of them seized the door handle to stop himself from falling, and the other one grabbed onto him. They both swore loudly, but managed to stay upright.

"Smooth!" Sorata called, and Kamui and Yuzuriha snorted with laughter as the two boys scrambled through the door and down the hallway. Their moods lifting almost in spite of themselves, Kamui, Sorata and Yuzuriha carefully stepped over the wet floor and made it to calculus without further incident. The classroom was especially dark and depressing, both from the weather and the fact that no one had bothered to turn on the lights. They took their seats at the corner of the table and fell into sleepy silence until Ms. Kasumi appeared on the threshold.

"Why are you all sitting in the dark?" She asked, flipping on the lights. There was instant uproar, but she just rolled her eyes and walked over to her desk. "You're back in school, sorry to tell you," she said, wearily.

"I'm still happy to see you, though, Ms. K," Sorata said, and Yuzuriha and Kamui rolled their eyes. Ms. Kasumi just sighed, took a sip of her coffee and began her lesson. The class watched her from its glum stupor until she assigned them homework and let them go.

"We shouldn't have complained about the lights," Yuzuriha grumbled, shoving her books back into her bag.

"It's not so bad," Sorata said, fairly.

"Not so bad? This is only our first class and we already have so much work!" She replied, sounding put upon. They headed down the hall, then entered the stairwell to find someone had placed a "Wet Floor" sign in the middle of the landing, but hadn't actually mopped anything up. Kamui checked his phone again, but there were no new messages. He knew Subaru was probably just sleeping, but he still hated text limbo.

They continued on their dreary way to the auditorium, which was full of the same dismal energy as the rest of the school, though no quieter for it. They took their seats and stared about with a vague disinterest until their deputy head got up on the stage and called everyone to attention.

"How was your break?" She asked, and the school replied with a glum mumble. "I'm sure," she said, dryly, and a few people laughed. "Okay, so announcements. Juniors! There's a college fair here in the spring-"

"Kill me where I stand," Kamui muttered, and Sorata and Yuzuriha laughed.

"-so your advisors will send you letters home about it." A lot of irritated muttering followed this, but she ignored it. "Happier news now, though! Prom is also coming up-"

"It's in May, that's far," Kamui corrected her under his breath, but Yuzuriha just sighed and Sorata was looking around, probably searching for Arashi.

"-so we need to get a committee together! Anyone interested can talk to Ms. Kasumi, the faculty advisor." An excited chatter rose up from the crowd and the mood seemed to lighten considerably. "I'm glad I saved that one. Anyway, does anyone else have any announcements before I let you go?" A moment's silence passed, then someone raised his hand. "Yes?" He stood up.

"So I still have those hamster cages if-" The entire auditorium burst out laughing.

"Nobody wants your hamster cages!" Kamui yelled, impatiently.

"Kamui, please," their English teacher, Mr. Aoki called, wearily, and Kamui rolled his eyes. Eventually, calm was restored, a few more announcements were made and everyone was free to go.

"I need to get some stuff out of my locker," Sorata said as they joined the swell of people leaving the auditorium.

"Okay," Kamui said, looking to Yuzuriha, expecting to go with her to chemistry.

"I'll meet you there," she said, and Kamui shrugged and headed down another gloomy hallway into the science lab, which was so bright and surgically clean it was harsh on the eyes. He blinked, and found the room empty except for Arashi, who was sitting at his, Yuzuriha and Sorata's usual lab table. She looked up at him, and her eyes widened in recognition. Since the show he'd tried to talk to her, or at least say hi, whenever he passed her between classes, but his opportunities had been few and far between; she was rather reclusive. He smiled at her, crossed the room and took the seat beside her, and she smiled back rather shyly, watching him heave his bag onto the table.

"Hi," she said, quietly.

"Hey," Kamui replied. "You weren't in this class last semester, were you?" Arashi shook her head. Kamui thought that'd be it, but,

"No, credits from my old school got screwed up so I had to switch."

"That sucks," Kamui replied, sympathetically, but Arashi just shrugged and tucked her hair behind her ear. "Where did you transfer from?" He asked, wanting to keep the conversation going as more students began filing in. However, Sorata and Yuzuriha entered the room before she could answer. They paused, staring at Arashi and Kamui, and he smirked at the moment of panic that played across Sorata's face. Fortunately, Yuzuriha stepped around him and approached, smiling graciously.

"Hi! I've seen you around but I don't think we've ever actually spoken, I'm sorry!" Arashi looked rather taken aback, but nodded. "I'm Yuzuriha," she continued, taking the seat on Arashi's other side.

"I know," Arashi replied, smiling back. "And you're Sorata," she added. Kamui gave him an "I told you so!" look as he sat down beside Yuzuriha.

"Yeah!" He replied, stunned but gratified. However, before they could say anything else, Mr. Shiyu entered the room, carrying a mug that said "Tree Hugger" on it.

"Nice mug!" Yuzuriha called, grinning at him through her faint blush. He returned her smile and toasted her before taking a sip from it. "I got him that for Christmas," Yuzuriha whispered to Arashi, who let out the softest of nervous laughs and nodded. Kamui could practically feel Sorata's heartbeat speed up as he took his notebook out of his bag.


Just after noon, Subaru finally began to stir. He groaned sleepily, already resenting his return to consciousness, but sat up anyway, his blankets sliding off of him in the grey, wintery sunlight. He rubbed his eyes, trying to get his wits about him, then got out of bed. He picked up his phone, but didn't check it, and entered the living room. His roommate was on the couch, squinting hard at her laptop screen. Subaru smiled rather groggily but didn't disturb her as he shuffled to the kitchen, immediately grateful to find their coffee pot still full. He poured himself a mug and took a deep, fortifying sip, watching his roommate sigh despairingly and shut her laptop. He picked up the coffee pot, carried it over and filled up the mug on the table it seemed she'd forgotten about. She started as if she'd only just realized he was there, but then smiled.

"Oh my god you're the best," she said, seizing the mug gratefully.

"How's it going?" He asked her, returning the coffee pot to its cradle before coming back to sit beside her. She sighed despairingly again and drank more coffee.

"I need to just, not think about it for five minutes." Subaru nodded, understanding completely. "How late were you up last night?" She asked.

"Too late, but, I think it's done. I hope it's done."

"Fuck these intersessions," she muttered, and Subaru laughed. He sipped more coffee and finally opened his phone, smiling at Kamui's name and replying at once.

"sorry! I was passed out, up super late last night"

"Who's that, Hokuto?" His roommate asked, hopefully. Subaru eyed her warily for a moment before responding.

"No, um, I'm texting Kamui." She raised her eyebrows. "Just as friends," he added, taking a defiant sip of coffee.

"Okay," she said, slowly, "but, why?" Subaru looked away, even though she sounded confused rather than judgmental.

"I, we ran into each other at the bookstore, and," he shrugged, watching for her reaction out of the corner of his eye. She peered at him over the rim of her mug but said nothing. Truthfully, he didn't really have an answer for her, except that he'd been thinking about Kamui almost constantly since that one night they'd spent together, despite trying to suppress the feelings and regret. "I guess I felt bad about how everything happened," he said, finally. "I should have at least explained or something." Still, his roommate said nothing. "Okay?" He asked, defiantly, finally looking her in the face.

"It's not the end of the world if you like him, Subaru," she told him, not unkindly, but Subaru's blush deepened.

"I don't!"

"That's why I said 'if,'" she reminded him, patiently. Subaru replied by reaching for the carton of cigarettes he'd left on the coffee table and lighting one. A moment's silence passed.

"Do you think this is a mistake?" He asked, very quietly. His roommate shifted in her seat, tucking her legs up under her.

"You know I can't answer that," she replied, just as quietly. "But I learned very early on in our friendship that I can't stop you once you've got your heart set on someone, so…" She was smiling, and Subaru smiled back.

"Sorry," he replied.

"No you aren't, but thank you anyway." He laughed rather sadly and felt his phone go off. He opened it and read Kamui's message.

"oh shit how come? a project?" His heart swelled; it had been a long time since anyone had showed him this much attention.

"yes for this intersession class I have no interest in" He snapped his phone closed and his roommate stood up and stretched.

"Like I said, it's not the end of the world."

Chapter Text

"coming upstairs with groceries can you open the door?" Kamui snapped his phone closed on his mother's text, crossed the room and pulled the front door open before flopping back onto the couch, his legs splayed out at weird angles. A minute or so later his mother pushed the door open with her shoulder, her arms full of groceries.

"Hey," she called, wearily, heaving them onto the dining table.

"Hi," Kamui called back, checking his phone for the text from Subaru he'd been hoping for when he'd felt his phone go off. They'd spent the last few weeks texting back and forth, and though they weren't quite being open with each other, the messages were more frequent, which was both reassuring and exciting. Unfortunately, there was nothing new, and Kamui closed his phone and dropped it onto his chest.

"Who are you texting?" His mother asked, distractedly, shutting the door behind her. Kamui hesitated.

"Uh, Sorata." Despite everything seemingly going well with Subaru, Kamui still hadn't told his mother about him. It would mean he'd have to explain everything else that had happened, admit all the lies he'd told her, and he just couldn't face it. He watched her begin to unpack the groceries, still in her work uniform and looking exhausted. Feeling suddenly guilty, Kamui shoved his phone back into his pocket and heaved himself off the couch to help. "I'd have gone out after school if you'd asked me," he told her, reproachfully. His mother just smiled, still distracted, and Kamui rolled his eyes and started to put things into the refrigerator. "Mom?" He asked, after a moment.

"What? Yes, sorry."

"Maybe, like, take a break from working doubles?" She laughed, took her hair out of its long ponytail and redid it before replying.

"This is my last one for a while."

"Really?" He asked, skeptically. He closed the refrigerator and faced her, almost defiantly.

"I think so," she replied, meeting his gaze unflinchingly. They stared each other down a moment longer, but then the tension seemed to break and they both laughed and shook their heads. Kamui sat down at the kitchen table and his mother hooked up her iPod to the speakers on the counter. A quiet, though rather ominous guitar riff started to play, and Kamui shuddered. "What's that for?" She demanded, pulling the rice cooker towards her.

"You always play AC/DC when you're doing chores," Kamui said. "Hearing this song usually means I have to get up and clean the house or something." His mother burst out laughing, and Kamui grinned as he took his phone out of his pocket again. "Seriously, I have a complex now."

"Consider it another thing you can blame me for," his mother replied, graciously, pouring rice into a colander and placing it in the sink to wash it. Kamui snorted as he opened his phone and his heart leapt at a text from Subaru.

"I'm in class and very bored"

"that sucks!"

"I had the same issue with all my mother's music, now I think about it," she continued, pouring the rice into the cooker. She switched it on and looked at him over her shoulder. "I'm taking the day off work for your college fair, by the way, so we can go together." Kamui groaned.

"Mom, come on…"

"I'm not fighting with you about this, Kamui," she told him, and he glowered at her. "You know I don't care if you go straight to college, but I'd like you to start thinking." Kamui rolled his eyes.

"School is all bullshit anyway, who cares?" He grumbled, though his stomach twisted uncomfortably as it always did when he was forced to think about the future. He had no idea where he wanted to go to school, let alone what he wanted to study, and in any case, it was hard to think that far ahead when he was so consumed with the present. What did he care about college, or even the rest of high school, when Kotori was leaving him? When Fuuma was trying to get back in the picture? When he'd reconnected with Subaru? His friends had always felt way more like his future than his grades did. Kamui's phone vibrated suddenly in his hand, making him jump.

"I have to go to SMA to see an exhibit for this class" Kamui assumed he meant Sagacity Museum of Art, and he looked curiously at the message. It was truthfully the most forthcoming Subaru had been so far, and Kamui wasn't exactly sure what to say. He was also trying to ignore the small shoot of hope taking root in his chest. If Subaru really wanted to hang out he'd have just asked, right? Though he supposed things were different now. He refocused and replied.

"is that a good or a bad thing?"

"Kamui?"

"What? Sorry?" His mother sighed and stirred whatever she was frying on the stove.

"You always talk about wanting to get out of Sagacity. School's a pretty good way to do that." Kamui said nothing. "Don't you think so?" He just shrugged and returned to his phone.

"neither, it's just a thing" Kamui stared at this message too. He wanted it to be a means of getting Subaru to meet up in person again so badly, but knew on every other level he was being too hopeful.

"makes sense I haven't been there in forever"

"How's Sorata?" His mother asked, and he appreciated the subject change even though it meant he had to come up with an answer on the spot when he was already distracted.

"He's good. The girl he's in love with hangs out with us now."

"Oh? Who's that?"

"This girl Arashi. She transferred here last semester and Sorata's been obsessed with her since."

"Ah, so it was love at first sight?" His mother asked.

"I mean, if that were a thing that existed, yeah," Kamui replied, and she laughed affectionately. He opened his phone again, as though he could force Subaru to reply by if he was impatient enough. His heart sped up sharply as he stared at the last message he'd sent, wanting more than anything to do the thing he was sure would accomplish nothing. He bit down on the inside of his lip, hesitated a moment longer, then,

"I'll go with you if you want" He typed the message recklessly, sent it, then snapped his phone closed and held it tightly under the table, his palms sweating. Whether or not Subaru had intended it that way or not, that was how Kamui was choosing to take it. Fortunately, the reply came much faster than he'd expected.

"really? I mean sure but it won't be much fun" Kamui's breath caught in his chest.

"dude that's cool I'm fucking down if you are" His heart was now beating so fast he could practically feel it in his hands as he typed the message. "Holy shit holy shit holy shit!"

"Dinner's ready," his mother said, from far away. Kamui stood up and tucked his phone into his pocket, feeling hyperaware of it, ready and waiting for the moment Subaru texted him back. He filled a glass with water from the sink, took the plate and fork his mother handed him and sat back down at the table. He tried to eat, but his stomach seemed to have vanished in his nervousness. He pushed his food around, listening to his mother moving about the kitchen. The seconds dragged by, but then finally Kamui felt the reply against his thigh.

"could you meet me there tomorrow? like 4?" He bit down on his lip to stifle his ecstatic cry.

"hell yeah! see you then!" He leaned against the back of his chair, joy and relief swelling and crashing inside him like ocean waves. He closed his eyes for a moment, relishing it, until his mother sat down at the table and he had to come back. He smiled at her, feeling like he was floating, and she smiled back, pleased but clearly confused. Kamui seized his fork and began to eat, suddenly ravenous. "Arashi's cool though," he said.

"Is she?" She asked, giving him that sad, searching look all of a sudden. However, it didn't bother him so much at the moment.

"Yeah. She seemed like the type to like, hiss at anyone who tried to talk to her, but I was completely wrong." His mother laughed rather despairingly, but they talked pleasantly all through dinner. Kamui did the dishes, then scurried back to his room to get online and tell his friends he'd made plans with Subaru. He shut his bedroom door tightly, flung himself into bed and pulled his laptop towards him. He signed onto AIM and immediately sent messages to Kotori, Yuzuriha and Sorata.

DxOxE :: why do you still have that dumb ass song on your myspace?

Kamui's stomach lurched and he clenched his fists.

"What the fuck…" He said, under his breath, though he was used to Fuuma trying antagonism when being nice didn't work. Fortunately, it didn't make Kamui feel anywhere near as bad as it might have done, not when he was hanging out with Subaru, who was hot and not a fucking asshole, tomorrow after school, even if it was just as friends.

k4mui :: what the fuck are you on my myspace for?

DxOxE :: looking for fap material

Kamui let out an indignant sputter and his face burned. He put up an away message with as much dignity as he could muster, but it did nothing to deter Fuuma.

DxOxE :: don't be mad!

DxOxE :: i could literally go fuck my neighbor right now

but i'd rather think about you

Kamui glared furiously at the computer screen. Fuuma used to say things like that all the time.

"I could have anyone, but I want you."

Kamui bit down on the inside of his lip. It might have sounded like delusional ego stroking nonsense, but it was true of Fuuma. It had been so from the night they'd met, at that party all those months ago.

Sorata and Yuzuriha had dragged Kamui there in an attempt to get him away from his computer, insisting IMing Kotori all day every day wasn't healthy. It was a hot night in July, and the air hung, heavy and wet and sticky, over everything. They pulled up outside someone's house a little ways out of town and walked around into the back yard to find a party in full, though relatively quiet, swing. Music issued scratchily from a pair of battery operated iPod speakers and people stood about with drinks in their hands or else sat around a fire pit. Why anyone wanted a fire in the middle of summer was a mystery to Kamui and he already wanted to leave. However, someone he vaguely recognized as a schoolmate looked around from his place by the fire, spotted Sorata and got up.

"What's up?" He demanded, grasping Sorata's hand.

"Not much, dude. How are you doing, good?"

"Yeah, yeah." They broke apart, and Sorata introduced Yuzuriha and Kamui. "Cool, thanks for coming," he said, shaking their hands and smiling particularly at Yuzuriha, who raised her eyebrows but smiled back. "There's drinks, weed should be arriving soon, so yeah! Make yourselves comfortable." He immediately engaged Yuzuriha in conversation, and Sorata and Kamui headed over to the drinks table.

"See? Not so bad," Sorata said, snatching two beers out of a cooler and handing one to Kamui.

"I guess," he replied, and he had to admit Sorata had a point. No one was too fucked up or behaving too stupidly; the majority of the noise came from people playing beer pong on another table a few feet away, and he supposed it did feel good to get out of the house.

"Kamui! Sorata!" Yuzuriha's voice floated over, as if carried there by a soft night breeze. They looked over and found her sitting on the host's lap by the fire, chatting to the people around him. "Could you bring me a beer, please?" Sorata rolled his eyes, grabbed one and tossed it over to her. "You asshole!" She cried, but caught it anyway. Sorata grinned and toasted her, and he and Kamui came to sit beside her. Sorata joined in the conversation enthusiastically while Kamui stayed quiet, drinking and staring into the fire.

"I like your shirt." Kamui started and looked around. The speaker was a young man sitting a little ways away, surrounded by a group of girls. Kamui tugged at the hem of his shirt, nonplussed.

"You like them?" He called, referring to the band whose logo was splashed across his chest.

"They're all right," he replied. Kamui rolled his eyes, but said nothing. "Yeah, they're all right. If you disagree, come here and we can discuss it." Kamui stared back defiantly, caught between this guy's disrespect, challenge and very charismatic smile. However, after a few seconds, Kamui took a deep swig of his beer, got up and walked over. "What's up? I'm Fuuma."

"Kamui." He became uncomfortably aware of all the girls, who had been watching their back and forth as though it were a tennis match, suddenly looking him up and down.

"Very nice to meet you," Fuuma said in mock graciousness, his smile more enigmatic than ever.

k4mui :: that's your choice

Kamui sent the reply with another eye roll. It was fucking true: what Fuuma did with his dick and whatever else was his call, though he always managed to make Kamui feel responsible.

"Yeah, you too," Kamui replied, over the crackling of the flames, matching his tone. They talked about the band for a few minutes before Fuuma stood up, allowing Kamui to see him properly. He was tall, with broad shoulders and big, powerful hands.

"Where are you going?" One of the girls asked, a soft whine in her voice.

"Inside for more drinks," Fuuma replied, without looking at her. "Let's go," he continued, addressing Kamui, who was taken aback, but followed him into the house anyway. They entered the dimly lit, messy kitchen, with empty pizza boxes and beer cans all over the counters. No one else was there, but through a door Kamui could see a few people in the living room, watching something on TV, making out or passing a bowl back and forth. "Here," Fuuma said, and Kamui watched him dig in a cabinet and pull out a half empty bottle of some strong, expensive liquor. He opened it, took a swig and held it out to him. "Have some."

"That's nasty," Kamui said. Fuuma laughed, but continued to offer the bottle, once again catching Kamui between challenge and disrespect and his smile. "Nah, I'm cool," he said. Fuuma laughed softly again, took another swig and set the bottle back on the counter before returning his gaze to Kamui.

"You mind staying in here for a while? There's way too many people outside and I'd rather talk to you anyway." Kamui's eyes widened and he felt like he was under a very bright, exciting and terrifying spotlight. However, he held Fuuma's gaze.

"I guess that's cool," he replied. He wanted to say something funny or interesting, but his mind was blanking unhelpfully. He forced himself to focus and said the first thing that came into his head. "You don't go to school with us, right?" 'What the fuck did you say that for?!' His face burned, but Fuuma just smiled and took a step closer.

"Nah, I'm from out of state, just here at Sag U taking summer classes."

"You're in college?" Kamui asked, immediately curious.

"Yeah, I just got done with my freshman year." Kamui nodded, feeling all the more confused but weirdly pleased by Fuuma's attention. He wanted to say something else, but then Fuuma reached for the liquor bottle and took another sip. Kamui watched his lips wrap around it and his throat contract as he swallowed. "It's cool though, there's tons of venues here for some reason, so I've been going to shows." Kamui nodded.

"Yeah, it's about the only thing Sagacity's good for." Fuuma smiled, and Kamui smiled back.

DxOxE :: why are you so cold Kamui?

Kamui made a disgusted noise and signed off. His friends could text him when they eventually saw his messages. He lay back against his pillows, thinking Fuuma had some nerve calling him cold.

They had spent the rest of the party talking quietly together, and Kamui never felt like he was out of the spotlight. He couldn't remember exactly what they'd talked about, except that when he responded with things Fuuma apparently approved of, it gave him an unexpected but totally addictive rush.

"Is your screenname or phone number a better way to contact you?" Fuuma asked, once Sorata was okay to drive again a few hours later.

"Uh, screenname I guess," Kamui replied, still stunned by Fuuma's interest. They exchanged contact information, and Kamui left with Sorata and Yuzuriha shortly afterwards. They piled into Sorata's car and drove home in silence, too absorbed in the people they'd been hanging out with at the party to have energy to spare for each other.

A sudden knock on the door jerked Kamui back to the present.

"Come in," he called, sitting up straight. His mother pushed the door open and peered inside.

"I'm working during the day tomorrow, but I'll be home for dinner." Kamui nodded. "Will you?" He hesitated. He wasn't sure how long he'd be hanging out with Subaru.

"I'm not sure," he told her. At least that part was true. His mother raised her eyebrows. "I have a lab to finish for chemistry," he continued, which was also technically true. "So I think me, Sorata and Yuzuriha are gonna stay at school and finish it." His mother nodded.

"Just text me and let me know the plan, please." Kamui nodded.

"I will." She smiled.

"I love you."

"Yeah love you too," he mumbled, condensing the entire sentence into one word. His mother rolled her eyes but backed out of the room and shut the door behind her. Kamui sighed heavily and fell back against his pillows, staring up at his ceiling for a moment. "It's not Fuuma, she can't be that mad."


"You sure you don't need a ride home?" Sorata asked. Kamui shut his locker and slung his schoolbag over his shoulder.

"Nah, I told you I'm going out with Subaru today." He hadn't meant to say it quite like that, and he blushed.

"Aw, are you excited?" Yuzuriha asked, grinning, but Kamui said nothing. "He's excited," she told Arashi in a stage whisper, making her smile. Kamui replied with a rude hand gesture and they started off down the hall.

"You sure you wanna walk there?" Sorata asked. "My car can go places besides your house." Kamui shrugged.

"It's not far, I'm cool." They headed back downstairs, carefully avoiding a fight threatening to break out on the landing, then out the front door.

"You're walking home, right Arashi?" Yuzuriha asked, buttoning up her coat.

"Yes," she replied.

"Do you want a ride?" Sorata asked, very suddenly, and she looked up at him in surprise.

"Oh no, that's okay, I'm literally three blocks away," she replied, bemusedly. Sorata debated for a moment.

"Okay, if you're sure." Arashi smiled, still looking confused, but nodded. She, Sorata and Kamui all said goodbye to Yuzuriha, who would be waiting in front of school for her grandmother to come get her, and headed off in different directions. Kamui dug in his bag for his iPod and headphones as he walked towards downtown.

It was yet another overcast wintery day, and the sidewalks that weren't covered in snow banks were wet and icy. Thankfully, it wasn't cold enough to make him regret refusing Sorata's offer of a ride. Truthfully, he wasn't sure why he'd said no, but he did know he felt weirdly secretive about Subaru, which was stupid, considering all of his friends knew. He reflected that he'd been like that with Fuuma and Kotori too, at least at first.

With Fuuma, the entire thing had been weird from the start, and he always felt like he was justifying or making excuses when he talked about it. With Kotori, he'd just needed time to work out what he was feeling, peel apart separate emotions from the tidal wave that had risen and crashed inside him after his mother had broken the news about their move. He didn't understand half of them and it had never occurred to him to feel the other half before. It had all been so overwhelming and, not embarrassing, but, he was worried about potential consequences for his group of friends if he talked about it with any of them. Unfortunately, this meant he'd spent weeks agonizing over it all, spiraling mentally in his bed in the middle of the night, before finally figuring out how to explain it. It had taken him another week or so to work up the nerve to tell Kotori, but he managed it.

He'd gone over to her house after school, using some excuse about a project, though once they were up in her room schoolwork was their last priority. They listened to music and talked about other things, anything besides the move. She never cried when it was brought up, but the pain was always present and obvious. Kamui waited for the conversation to give him room, for it to go somewhere where expressing his feelings would make sense. However, it never did, and he got impatient.

"Was that when you jumped on the hood of Sorata's car so he slammed on the breaks and-"

"Kotori, I think I'm in love with you," he blurted out, his heart hammering against his ribs. Kotori jumped as though startled by the words and stared at Kamui with wide, stunned eyes. Neither of them said anything for a full, aching, terrifying minute, then,

"Really?" She asked, very softly.

"I, I think so," Kamui replied, rather lamely, and the words seemed to hang between them. "It's okay if you-" But before he could finish his sentence, Kotori leaned in and kissed him on the lips. Kamui's entire body lit up and his heart swelled so quickly it seemed to compress his lungs, making him dizzy, lightheaded and winded, until she pulled away and they stared at each other, terrified but so excited.

"I think so too!" She whispered, and he let out a low, longing moan and pulled her into a hug. She threw her arms around him, and they both realized how different it felt now and let out soft, surprised gasps. However, before they could say anything else, there was a knock on the door, and Kamui and Kotori broke apart. "Come in!" She called, looking rather flustered and hastily fixing her hair. Saya entered the room, smiling affectionately at them.

"Tohru's here," she told Kamui, and he nodded and got to his feet, thinking regretfully of the whole afternoon they could have had together had he not been so hesitant. They followed Saya downstairs into the living room where his mother was waiting for him, still in her work uniform.

"Ready?" She asked. Kamui nodded and hugged Saya goodbye, then embraced Kotori, feeling more regretful than ever.

"Let's not tell them yet," he whispered to her.

"Okay," she whispered back, holding him closer for a moment before pulling away. He felt hot all over where she'd touched him and stared at her hard in the face, trying to communicate it without words but with no idea how to do it. However, Kotori just smiled, and he smiled back and followed his mother back to the car.

They spent the rest of the night on AIM, expressing feelings and making plans. They agreed on titles and exclusivity, but that they wouldn't tell anyone else yet. He liked the secret, keeping it safe between him and Kotori, away from prying eyes, scavenging hands and judging voices, both at school and at home.

Kamui stopped at an intersection at the top of a hill. It was the exact point where his high school's neighborhood started to become downtown. All the telephone poles were suddenly covered in posters, or the colorful staples that had once held posters. The light changed and he headed down the hill, taking care not to slip on the icy sidewalk. He reflected that keeping everything a secret with Kotori had been fun and exciting and so, so intimate, though of course everyone had found out eventually. With Fuuma, however, it had felt like a chore. An incredibly thrilling chore, but a chore nonetheless.

Kamui spent the entire day after the party on AIM with Fuuma, splayed out on his bed under a fan wearing just a t-shirt and underwear. They'd discussed school, music and who knew what else, but all of it was enthralling. Fuuma was so different, so new and exciting and unlike anyone Kamui'd ever met before, and he still felt that weird need to impress him, even though it seemed to become harder and harder the more they talked.

DxOxE :: lol that song? really?

DxOxE :: nah come over and i'll play you some real shit

Kamui flushed, feeling hurt somewhere, but ignoring it.

k4mui :: you've been saying that all day

k4mui :: is that actually gonna happen?

He gave the computer screen a satisfied smile. He did like the challenge. He liked it a lot.

DxOxE :: tomorrow?

DxOxE :: i don't have class

DxOxE :: come chill at my dorm

Kamui's eyes widened and his heart swelled excitedly.

k4mui :: can you pick me up?

DxOxE :: sure

Kamui's smile widened. He still didn't quite understand why Fuuma was so interested in him, but he wasn't going to complain. An IM from Kotori popped up, and he thought for a moment of telling her his plans, as he'd already mentioned Fuuma to her in passing, but then decided against it. Not that there was anything suspicious about him hanging out with a new friend, but…

Kamui paused at the bottom of the hill, where the street intersected with Memorial Boulevard. In retrospect, it was obvious that not telling Kotori had been a red flag, but at the time he'd still been so in love with her that having feelings for anyone else seemed impossible. He sighed and continued on his way, trying to keep the bitter, guilty feelings at bay.

Ten minutes later, Kamui arrived outside the museum, a small red brick building with glass doors and an ugly, abstract statue erected outside it. He stood in front of it and stared about, but before he could start to feel properly nervous, he saw Subaru approaching, smoking and carrying his schoolbag.

"Hey!" He called, smiling.

"You're early!" Kamui called back, hurriedly tucking his headphones into his bag and unable to stop himself from looking Subaru up and down.

"Class got out early," he explained, putting out his cigarette on an artfully decorated metal trashcan and throwing the butt away.

"What class did you have today?" Kamui asked, relieved to find he wasn't nearly as nervous as last time.

"It was just my senior thesis class," Subaru replied, rolling his eyes rather tragically. Kamui nodded, pretty sure he understood. "It doesn't matter. Should we go inside?"

"Yeah!" Kamui opened one of the glass doors for Subaru and they entered the museum's gift shop, full of coffee table books and colorful bags and silk scarves for sale. Kamui wondered who actually bought this stuff and followed Subaru up to the reception desk.

"Hey!" The girl working behind it smiled at Subaru.

"How are you?" He asked her, and she gave him the same exasperated eye roll he'd given Kamui.

"Thesis," she replied, simply, and Subaru nodded in solidarity. "Anyway, you here for class?" Her gaze then fell curiously to Kamui and he could tell she was trying to place him.

"Of course," Subaru sighed. She nodded and printed two tickets. Subaru took one and handed the other to Kamui, whose eyes widened.

"What? No, I," he protested, but the girl behind the counter waved his words aside.

"Just don't say where you got it." Kamui laughed, but held the ticket tightly in his hand and followed Subaru down a hallway towards the galleries. It was still and quiet: all the school groups were long gone and the adults on dates hadn't shown up yet.

"So what exactly are we going to see?" He asked, taking off his coat and tucking it under his arm.

"This exhibition of pen and ink illustration, like I haven't seen enough of it after four years," Subaru replied, doing the same. Kamui snorted, but wasn't sure he understood.

"You mean, like, with a regular pen?" Subaru laughed, and for a moment, Kamui was terrified he'd said something stupid.

"No no, you'll see," he said, sounding encouraging rather than condescending.

"Sorry," Kamui mumbled anyway. "I'm not an artist."

"Please, don't worry about it," Subaru said, still encouraging. "Here, let me show you." Kamui nodded gratefully and followed him down another hallway, peering about with cautious interest.

"Do you have to come here a lot for school?" He asked, keen to keep the conversation going.

"Yes," Subaru replied. "I don't mind though, it's peaceful." Kamui nodded thoughtfully.

"I've only come here on field trips, so it was always insanely loud." Subaru laughed appreciatively.

"Did they make you draw pictures of all the art too?"

"Yeah," Kamui replied, then added, resentfully, "With shitty golf pencils that didn't have erasers." Again, Subaru laughed appreciatively, and a grin spread across Kamui's face.

"I hated doing that as a kid," Subaru replied. "It took me a while to realize I wanted to go to art school," he explained, when Kamui raised his eyebrows. They entered a small room tucked away at the end of the hall. It was even quieter here, and the pictures that hung on the walls were relatively small. "Come see," Subaru said, nodding at the nearest one. Kamui hurried to his side and stood as close to the picture as he could without setting off alarms. It was all lines, but they were clustered and moving in the same direction to form intricate, waving patterns. Kamui tilted his head to the side, trying to look for discernable shapes or images, but whenever he'd find one, ten more would appear.

"I think I get it," he said, rather uncertainly, still staring transfixed at the picture. "Someone did this all by hand?" He asked, the thought only just occurring to him.

"Mmhmm," came Subaru's voice, right beside him. Kamui turned to him, and wondered if he was standing that close on purpose.

"That's," he stared to say, then returned his gaze to the drawing. "That's amazing," he finished, much more quietly than he'd intended.

"You think so?" Subaru asked. Kamui shivered.

"Fuck yeah," he said, his voice still quiet. Subaru laughed softly in his ear and pulled away.

"I think so too." Kamui exhaled shakily, almost like he'd been holding his breath. Subaru moved on to the next picture, and Kamui hurried to stand beside him.

"Can you draw stuff like that?" He asked, slightly awed.

"I can, just not very well," Subaru replied, staring appraisingly at the picture. Kamui rolled his eyes.

"Not well," he said, very sarcastically. "I bet it's still awesome." Subaru made a soft, disbelieving noise, but smiled all the same.

"You give me too much credit," he said, turning to look him in the face. Kamui rolled his eyes again.

"Well no shit, I've never seen your work."

"Fuck, that is true," Subaru replied, shaking his head theatrically.

"Sorry to fuck up your self-deprecation with facts," Kamui said, hanging his head in mock apology. Subaru burst out laughing, then hastily pressed his fingers to his lips, and a broad grin spread across Kamui's face.

"You're so," he began, but then stopped abruptly. Kamui took a sharp breath in, watching him with rapt attention. However, Subaru just returned to the picture. Kamui took a moment so his breath to slow. He was desperate to know what Subaru had been about to say with such an excited smile on his face, but of course he knew better than to ask. He gave himself one last mental shake, then looked at the picture too. "Do you like this one?" Subaru asked. Kamui shrugged. He liked it, but it was simpler, or maybe there just wasn't as much to see.

"It's okay."

"I agree," Subaru said, moving to the next one, and Kamui followed, feeling rather pleased with himself. They went around to each picture, then sat down side by side on the bench in the center of the room. "Do you mind if I sketch for a while?" Subaru asked. "You don't have to stay, I-"

"No, that's cool!" Kamui interrupted, earnestly.

"Are you sure?" Subaru asked, surprised.

"Totally!" Kamui assured him. Still looking rather taken aback, Subaru nodded and took out a small sketchbook and pencil.

"At least my pencil has an eraser," Subaru said, dryly, and Kamui laughed.

"Do you have to like, draw something based on these?" He asked, praying it wasn't a stupid question.

"Sort of," Subaru replied, sketching. Kamui nodded and fell silent, watching the image appear under Subaru's hand with a quiet awe. He'd seen people draw before, obviously, but seeing Subaru do it so effortlessly, lightly but with the utmost care and attention, was mesmerizing. Kamui wasn't sure exactly what the image was, but neither apparently was Subaru, because after just a few minutes, he snapped the sketchbook closed and shoved it and the pencil back in his bag. "Cool," he said, decisively, before turning to smile at Kamui.

"That's it?" He asked, surprised but curious.

"For now," Subaru replied, thoughtfully. "I'll work on it more when I get home." He stood up and stretched, before putting on his coat. Kamui eyed the deep curve in his lower back for a moment before following suit. He put his coat back on and slung his bag over his shoulder, waiting for Subaru, who began fussing with his own bag, adjusting the straps and making sure it was closed. After doing that for what seemed like quite a long time, he sighed and asked, "Do you have to be anywhere this afternoon?"

"Huh?" Kamui asked, his heart speeding up suddenly. Subaru hesitated a moment, then turned to look him in the face.

"Do you have to be anywhere later? Or," again he hesitated, his expression tight. "Or do you have time to hang out?" Kamui's heart expanded so rapidly in his chest he felt he might float away.

"Sure!" He replied, smiling eagerly. Subaru's face relaxed a little.

"I mean, just," he started to say, but then ran his fingers through his hair exasperatedly. "Sorry, never mind. Do you want to get coffee or something?"

"That'd be awesome," Kamui replied at once, his overfull heart throbbing, sending waves of excitement out through his body.

"Cool," he said, his expression completely relaxing. "I know this place right by here, if that's all right."

"Dude, I'm good with wherever." Subaru smiled, and Kamui caught something new in his expression, or maybe it was just something he hadn't seen since the night of the show all those months ago. Subaru and Kamui headed back down the hall, avoiding each other's eye until the emerged in the gift shop. They waved goodbye to the girl working the desk, then left through the glass doors.

It wasn't completely dark yet: the sky was still a light, cold blue and the hazy, setting sun was just visible through the tall buildings. Kamui took his cellphone out of his bag, suddenly uncomfortably aware that he'd already agreed to hang out more with no idea what time it was. Fortunately, it was still plenty early. He shoved his phone back in his pocket and watched Subaru light a cigarette, take a drag and exhale smoke over his shoulder.

"This way," he said, and they turned and headed down Memorial Boulevard, side by side. There was no one else out walking, and the only sounds came from the cars speeding up and down Memorial Boulevard. Kamui wanted to say something before an awkward silence could set in, and looked about for inspiration.

"Subaru?"

"Hm?"

"How come you came here for school? Aren't there way better places in New York?" Kamui flushed, hoping he hadn't asked too much. However, Subaru looked thoughtful and took a deep pull on his cigarette.

"I could have, absolutely," he said, fairly, exhaling smoke. "But my twin sister was going to Parsons and we sort of needed time apart." Kamui nodded, excited by this new information. "I also just wanted something different, and SCA's one of the best schools in the country." Again, Kamui nodded. "But you understand, don't you?" Subaru continued, smiling sideways at him. "Don't you also want to leave after," he broke off, but Kamui remembered the conversation too.

"After graduation, yeah," he said, quietly. "I mean, that's still true!" He said, earnestly. "Just, high school graduation." He blushed, hoping they could get off the subject, and Subaru nodded and finished his cigarette.

"Here," he said, indicating a small café just ahead of them. They walked inside and were enveloped by warm, coffee scented air and good music. Liking this place already, Kamui followed Subaru to order drinks from a young woman in an anime t-shirt, then sat down at the table in the far corner. "So, do you know what you'd like to do?" Subaru asked, after a moment. "You said you aren't an artist, but," his voice trailed away and he took a sip of his coffee. Kamui shrugged and gripped his mug more tightly.

"I have no fucking clue," he replied, and his stomach twisted. He took a fortifying gulp of coffee. "I have two goals, though," he continued, wanting to tell Subaru something. "Leave Sagacity and work."

"Worthy goals," Subaru replied, and again Kamui noted the encouragement rather than condescension.

"My mom wants me to go to college, but like," he shrugged and drank more coffee. "I have no idea what I'd even study." Subaru nodded, listening. "I guess it'd be a good way to like, get somewhere I'd actually like to be, but," he shrugged. "Sorry, is this…?"

"It's fine, please," Subaru said, waving his apology aside, and Kamui caught sight of his tattoo as his sleeve fell away. "We're just having a conversation." Kamui smiled gratefully, his eyes still on Subaru's tattoo.

"Are you moving back to New York after you graduate?" Subaru nodded.

"Mm, this summer." Kamui's stomach clenched suddenly, but he ignored it. "Hopefully I'll be able to work, but if not the starving artist life always looked glamorous in movies."

"In shitty movies," Kamui corrected him, and as they both burst into laughter, he had a vivid, though fleeting vision of himself getting into NYU or Eugene Lang, hanging out with Subaru in New York… He drank more coffee, forcing himself back to the present before his mind could take it further. However, he still blushed as they looked at each other. "What are you going to draw? For this assignment?" Subaru shrugged helplessly and Kamui smiled.

"I'm not sure yet," he said. "Honestly I'm just taking this class to make up credits, I'm not really bothered." He went slightly pink, but Kamui ignored it and leaned forward.

"Can I see it when it's done?" He asked, hesitantly. Subaru's eyes widened.

"Really?"

"Yeah! I'd like to see your work," Kamui said, earnestly, and Subaru's blush deepened at his eagerness.

"I mean, yeah, sure," he replied, still looking perplexed. "If it comes out decently."

"So definitely," Kamui countered, grinning. Subaru rolled his eyes, but looked gratified all the same.

"I suppose so." Kamui's heart was full to bursting again.

"Awesome." Their conversation continued, light and easy and cheerful, for another few minutes, before Kamui checked the time on his phone. "Shit, I should go," he said, regretfully. He didn't want to say goodbye to Subaru, not at all, but he still had a long walk ahead of him and he couldn't risk coming home after his mother. He'd given her an excuse, sure, but there was only so long you could stay at school to work on a lab project.

"Yes, me too," Subaru said, and Kamui was positive he wasn't imagining the regret in his tone. They stood up, put on their coats and gathered their things.

"I, uh, thanks for hanging out with me," Kamui said, awkwardly, as they walked back outside. It was completely dark now, and much colder for it.

"Thank you for coming," Subaru said, also sounding awkward all of a sudden. They looked at each other, and Kamui had another fleeting vision, this time of kissing Subaru goodbye.

'We're just hanging out as friends, chill out,' he reminded himself impatiently. "I, um, I really like hanging out with you," he said out loud. He tried hard to stay focused, but staring at Subaru's face was doing nothing to distract him from thoughts of kissing him. "And I was serious about seeing your project when it's finished!" Subaru said nothing, and his expression seemed to tighten again, however,

"I was too," he said, and Kamui smiled in relief. "I'll, text you when it's done?" Kamui nodded eagerly, and they exchanged a smile.

"Cool."

"Yes." They both laughed softly and looked away from each other for a moment. "Well, I'm going this way," Subaru said, nodding in the direction of his apartment.

"I'm going back that way," Kamui replied, gesturing vaguely in the opposite direction. The tension between them tautened suddenly. Kamui said, "I'll see you soon," right as Subaru said,

"I'll text you." They both laughed rather despairingly.

"Bye, Subaru," Kamui said, decisively, knowing he'd be pushing his luck if he stayed any longer.

"Bye, Kamui," Subaru replied, quietly. Kamui grinned and turned away, waving over his shoulder before he was swallowed by the cold, winter night.

Subaru sighed heavily and lit yet another cigarette before beginning his walk home. His heart was beating rather fast, but he felt almost uplifted in the cold winter air, even as a sudden icy wind whipped him across the face and threatened to put out his cigarette. Kamui was so… Subaru couldn't even think of the word, but he found him so exciting, so sincere. He reflected once again that their hour and a half together this afternoon had been more exciting than the time he'd spent with anyone else recently.

"It's not the end of the world if you like him, Subaru."

His roommate's words were encouraging, but doubt still crept into his mind and chest and belly, making his insides shrivel. This was just like what had happened with Seishiro, wasn't it? Except that Subaru was in the opposite role this time.

He took a fierce drag from his cigarette and forced his mind away from such thoughts. He was older, it was true, but Kamui wasn't his student, and he also wasn't- Well, that was just speculation. He didn't seem inexperienced, anyway, but it wasn't like Subaru was planning on taking their relationship farther, except that Kamui was so cute and even though all they'd done was kiss it had been the most turned on he'd been since, well, pretty much his last time with Seishiro.

Subaru suddenly found himself back at his apartment with no memory of having gotten there. He shook his head, finished his cigarette and went back upstairs. His apartment was empty, for which he was grateful. He kicked off his shoes and headed straight to his room without bothering to turn on any lights.

"I really like hanging out with you."

Kamui's words seemed to snuggle into Subaru's chest, caress his heart. Regardless of his misgivings, he knew he wouldn't be able to resist seeing Kamui again. He sighed impatiently, took off his coat and dropped his bag onto the floor. He picked up his larger sketchbook and pencil from his desk, then sat down on his bed. He drew his knees up to his chest, rested his sketchbook on his thighs and began to work.

Chapter Text

Kamui was bored in English class. Mr. Aoki had been engaged in a back and forth with one of his classmates for the last fifteen minutes, and it had stopped being funny after the first five.

"I'm just saying! It makes sense!"

"Yes, and like I said I don't agree with you, but if you can prove it in your essay on this chapter that's fine!"

"Okay, but-"

"Do you think our teachers like, get together and talk about all the dumb shit people say in class?" Sorata whispered to Kamui.

"Dude totally. I bet they like, hot box the staff room and trade stories." Sorata snorted in laughter.

"Did you have something you'd like to contribute?" Mr. Aoki asked, almost gratefully, turning abruptly to Sorata and Kamui.

"No, just listening," Kamui replied, innocently. Mr. Aoki raised his eyebrows, and Kamui sighed before elaborating. "Well like, this author is so far up his own ass with metaphor and style, if he'd meant for the girl to only exist in the boy's head, I'm pretty sure we'd know." The whole class laughed, and Mr. Aoki sighed resignedly.

"Find a less crude way to express that and you've got this week's essay, I think," he replied, and Kamui couldn't help but feel pleased with himself. Class ended shortly after that, and Sorata and Kamui filed out into the hallway, listening to the chatter around them and music playing off in the distance. Back at their lockers, they found Yuzuriha and Arashi, who had been in a history class, waiting for them.

"Hello!" Yuzuriha called, waving. "Get your stuff and let's go, I'm starving!"

"You're so demanding," Sorata sighed. Arashi let out a soft laugh, her fingertips pressed to her lips, and Sorata smiled warmly at her. "She's just excited because we have chemistry this afternoon," he continued.

"Shut up," Yuzuriha replied, coolly, once they'd gathered their things and started to make their way towards the cafeteria. "I just want to see if our experiment worked."

"That's the wrong kind of chemistry, but…"

"Oh shit!" Kamui, who hadn't been listening to a word of the conversation, stopped dead in his tracks, and Sorata, Yuzuriha and Arashi turned to find him staring hard at his cellphone.

"finished the project!"

"can I see?"

"What did Subaru say?" Asked Yuzuriha, grinning, but Kamui just snapped his phone closed ostentatiously, marched ahead of his friends and led them downstairs.

The cafeteria was crowded and noisy: the music they'd heard before was apparently coming from an old and battered boom box on a table in the corner. They sat down as far away from it as possible, and Kamui opened his cellphone again.

"certainly" He paused for a moment to relish the word, then read the rest of the message. "come over today if you have time, it's due the day after tomorrow" Kamui gasped softly.

"sure! where do you want to meet?" He shut his phone and held it tightly in both hands under the table, his entire body waiting for it to go off again.

"Valentine's Day's coming up," Yuzuriha said, delicately, opening her lunchbox and pulling her sandwich apart, her eyes darting between Sorata and Kamui.

"What, you want me to get you something?" Sorata asked, and Yuzuriha made a contemptuous noise.

"Please, I'm not that desperate," she replied. "I'm celebrating by reading my new favorite manga that's ruining my life, you know this." Arashi laughed softly. "I just wondered if you guys had actual plans," she continued, her tone still light. Kamui, who was becoming more and more anxious the longer Subaru took to reply, gave her a very nasty look.

"Dude, Valentine's Day sucks and it's a fucking drain. You know how much energy we'd save if it was in the summer? So we wouldn't have to use all that artificial light and heat to grow flowers that just die after four days anyway?"

"Yeah, we were all in Mr. Shiyu's class the day he told us that," Sorata said, impatiently. "That's why Yuzuriha only gives him chocolates," he added, grinning, and Kamui brofisted him across the table.

"Shut up," Yuzuriha said again.

"That's kind of fitting though, don't you think?" Arashi interjected, suddenly, and they all turned to her. She looked rather alarmed at having all the eyes upon her, but continued. "Fake light, fake warmth, fake sentiment, right?"

"Holy shit," Sorata said, his eyes wide.

"But also," Arashi continued, appearing to choose her words carefully and looking furtively at Sorata. "Even though it's all made up, it can still mean a lot to people." No one spoke for a moment. Sorata went slightly pink, but he met Arashi's gaze unflinchingly.

"I get that," he replied, very quietly, and she smiled. A loud crash echoed suddenly from the other side of the room, making all four of them jump. Someone had knocked over the boom box, apparently having taken issue with the music. "What the fuck?" Sorata asked, despairingly, as a few teachers converged on the situation before it could escalate. Kamui just sighed contemptuously and checked his phone under the table.

"just come over" His eyes widened and an excited shiver ran through his body.

'Come over? Like, to his apartment?' Kamui bit his lip, staring hard at his phone. His body and heart were praying it was just a ploy, like "come over and watch anime" or "come over and listen to music." However, his mind was trying to dissuade him just as quickly. 'It's not like that, things are different now, what's wrong with you?' He swallowed and texted Subaru,

"I could be there like 4?" Another shiver ran through his body and his stomach began to twist uncomfortably, but fortunately Subaru texted back almost at once.

"that works! do you remember how to get here?" Kamui remembered trying to find his way back to Meeting Street in the early hours of a Sunday morning and blushed.

"not really…" Again, Subaru was quick to reply. Kamui read over the directions from Meeting Street, a huge smile on his face, then put his phone away to finally start his lunch.

"What did Subaru say?" Yuzuriha asked again, smiling at him sideways.

"We're hanging out this afternoon," he replied, and his heart throbbed as he said it.

"That's exciting," Arashi said encouragingly, still rather pink in the face.

"Yeah," he agreed, smiling back at her and going pink himself. "So I won't need a ride home today," he added to Sorata.

"Are you gonna tell Tohru yet?" He asked, and Kamui could hear the hint of judgment in his voice.

"Dude shut up," he snapped, defiant through is blush.

The rest of the school day passed almost painfully slowly. Classes were even more boring and tedious than usual, and Sorata's words kept coming back to Kamui, making him feel guilty and unfocused. His mother was working tonight, so he didn't have to worry about not being home when he was supposed to, but still.

"Just be honest with me, Kamui!"

She'd said that, but didn't she understand how hard that was? He wasn't scared of her anger, necessarily, but… He sighed irritably, fidgeting with his pencil in whatever class he was in. He'd eventually told her about Kotori and Fuuma, he'd tell her about Subaru too. Once they figured out what they were doing, because what was the point in telling her if they really were just friends?

'Because that worked so well with Fuuma,' he reminded himself, coldly, though he supposed it wasn't quite the same: he'd mentioned Fuuma to his mother, he just hadn't told her they were actually hanging out. He shifted uncomfortably in his seat, remembering the first time it had happened. Fuuma had picked Kamui up the afternoon after they'd made plans on AIM, and he'd shown up exactly when he said he would in a car that was way nicer than anything Kamui had seen people his age drive.

"What's up? How've you been?" He asked, smiling, as Kamui climbed into the passenger's seat.

"Good, bored," he replied, immediately feeling like he was under that very bright spotlight. Their conversation went back and forth like a tennis match as they'd driven downtown, and Kamui had felt under constant pressure to keep up, though he'd be lying if he said he didn't love it. They turned right on Memorial Boulevard, heading to the East Side, which was ritzy rather than artsy, though pretentious all the same. "This is where your dorm is?" Kamui asked, raising his eyebrows. Fuuma laughed and pulled into the first parking space they found.

"Right?" Kamui smiled, pretty sure he'd won himself a point, and followed Fuuma out of the car to his dorm. They signed him in at the security desk, then headed upstairs. It was much quieter than he'd expected, though everyone was probably just in class. However, when they entered Fuuma's room it was to find a young man sitting cross legged on one of the beds and rolling a joint. "The fuck are you still doing here?" Fuuma asked, crossing to his desk.

"Hey," he replied, as though that were a normal way to greet someone, before running the tip of his tongue along his rolling paper.

"This is my roommate, Yuuto," Fuuma added to Kamui, who was still standing awkwardly by the door. Yuuto inclined his head, his tongue still stuck on the rolling paper, then clasped hands with Fuuma.

"I thought you might wanna smoke, but I guess I shouldn't bother next time," he said, sarcastically. He finished rolling the blunt and placed it tenderly beside the stack on his desk.

"Hold on, I didn't say that," Fuuma countered, throwing himself into his desk chair and leaning it back on two legs. "Why are you so far away?" He asked, turning to Kamui. "Come here." Kamui stepped forward at once, uncomfortably aware of Yuuto watching him. "You smoke?" Fuuma asked.

"Yeah," Kamui replied.

"You want in on this?" Fuuma asked Yuuto, who snorted with laughter.

"I'm cool, I smoked all my leftovers." He stood up and stretched. "Anyway. I've got class now." Fuuma's lip curled and he held out his hands, cupped as though begging, and Yuuto delicately placed one of his joints into them.

"God bless you," Fuuma said, bowing his head.

"Yeah yeah, use protection." Kamui's breath caught in his chest and he looked back and forth between Fuuma and Yuuto as he grabbed his bag off his desk chair and left the room.

"Sit down, don't be shy," Fuuma said, once the door slammed shut. Kamui watched him dig in his desk drawer for a lighter, but didn't move.

"Fuuma, you know I have a girlfriend," he said, his heart hammering. Fuuma paused and looked up at him with raised eyebrows.

"Yeah, you keep telling me. What's your point?" Kamui's eyes darted to the door, and Fuuma let out a sharp, contemptuous laugh. "Oh come on, he's just being a dick, relax." He lit up, and Kamui watched his lips wrap around the joint, watched his chest expand as he filled his lungs, watched him smile and exhale the smoke through his nose. "Relax," he said again, offering the blunt. "I'm gonna play you D.O.E. and it's gonna change your life." Kamui hesitated a moment longer, then took it and inhaled. Fuuma smiled a satisfied smile and turned to his laptop to put on music. Kamui exhaled and immediately felt more at ease, as though the drug had ironed out the creases in his mind. He and his friends made comments like that to each other all the time, he was being crazy. He took another hit, then sat down on Fuuma's bed as he exhaled.

"Isn't it like, a bad idea to smoke in here?" He asked, as though he'd only just realized what they were doing. Fuuma let out another contemptuous laugh and came to sit beside him on the bed, taking the joint from him and inhaling deeply.

"Listen," he said, exhaling. "You need to hear this song." He leaned against the wall, his legs stretched out in front of him. Kamui watched him over his shoulder for a moment before inching backwards to join him. Fuuma smiled his charismatic smile, but they said nothing else as they finished the blunt, music and sweet smoke swirling around them. "You like it?" Fuuma asked, when the song finished.

"It's okay," Kamui replied, thinking he'd probably like it better if Fuuma had decent speakers.

"Okay," Fuuma repeated, sarcastically, rolling his eyes. Kamui felt himself blush, but his brain was working too slowly to muster up words to defend himself. Another song began to play, and they fell into silence, listening. "What's she like?" Fuuma asked, after a while. "Your girlfriend." Kamui smiled, staring vaguely across the room.

"Perfect," he said, quietly.

"Aww." More silence. "How long have you guys been together?" Kamui had to think for a moment.

"Since, um, February." Fuuma nodded, pulled his knee up to his chest and rested his arm on it, staring at Kamui. "What?" He asked, laughing softly, blushing under Fuuma's gaze. Fuuma laughed too, and this time there was no contempt or sarcasm. It made Kamui's heart pound in his chest, or maybe that was just the pot.

"Nothing, just, she's lucky," Fuuma said. "You're really cute." Kamui's blush deepened and he looked away, but said nothing. "Is she the one?" Fuuma asked next, moving closer. "Like, is she it for you?" Kamui's face was burning now. It wasn't like he hadn't thought about it, but… He replied with a non-committal noise and Fuuma smirked. "No judgment, just," he shrugged, then moved away to turn up the volume, and Kamui suddenly realized their thighs had been touching.

"All right, you guys are free to go," came Kamui's teacher's voice from somewhere, jerking him sharply back to the present. He gathered his things and hurried out of the classroom, his mind still on Fuuma. Looking back, he'd spent so much of their time together planting seeds like that. It hadn't occurred to Kamui, at least not consciously, that he might be missing something by getting together with Kotori so young and staying together forever. However, once Fuuma said it, the thought began to take root, and the more time they spent together, the farther away she seemed.

Kamui rushed back to his locker, said quick goodbyes to Sorata, Arashi and Yuzuriha, then rushed out of school, headphones on and music blaring. The solid mass of grey cloud that had obscured the sky for weeks had finally broken, allowing hopeful shafts of sunlight to shine through. It was beautiful, but Kamui barely noticed as he made his way down to Memorial Boulevard, then crossed into the narrow, winding streets of the West Side. He finally paused on a corner to catch his breath and reread Subaru's directions. People he was pretty sure were SCA students and professors were walking past in twos and threes, carrying portfolios, smoking and chatting, and he couldn't help but feel curious about them. What did they study? What was their art like? Were they as good as Subaru?

It was his first time not immediately hating this area, and it was confusing but weirdly nice. However, as he turned onto Meeting Street and got stuck behind a group of people walking way too slowly, his solidarity evaporated. He sighed impatiently and swerved around them, then turned a few corners and found himself on Subaru's block. He eyed his building warily from across the street for a moment before gathering his courage and heading over. He leapt up the stairs onto the porch, his stomach twisting nervously, then pushed open the front door Subaru had told him would be open. He climbed the stairs, suddenly aware of how sweaty he was from the walk and praying his hair still looked okay. He knocked on Subaru's door, carefully taking off his headphones and stowing them in his bag with his iPod. Almost at once, the door opened, revealing Subaru dressed all in black. He looked tired, but pleased, and Kamui's heart skipped.

"Hey," he said. "Come in." He stepped to the side and Kamui entered his apartment. It looked much messier now than the last time he'd been here. A laptop was open on the coffee table next to a poster board covered in what looked like a storyboard. Discarded papers littered the floor and reference books were stacked in piles on the couch. "My roommate's thesis project," Subaru said, when he saw where Kamui was looking. "Our official proposals aren't due until next week but she's decided it has to be done a week early."

"Why?" Kamui asked, stepping out of his shoes and unbuttoning his coat.

"She says she has more integrity for her own deadlines than someone else's," Subaru replied, shrugging. Kamui nodded thoughtfully, thinking that wasn't so weird. "Here," Subaru said, looking suddenly apprehensive. "You can put all your stuff in my room." Kamui's eyes widened, but he nodded and followed Subaru into his bedroom. He tried not to think about the last time he was there, in the bed he was doing his utmost not to look at. He dropped his bag onto the floor, then took off his coat and threw it on top. Out of the corner of his eye, he watched Subaru rifling through the stack of papers on his desk. Kamui bit down on the inside of his lip. From here, it almost looked like he was blushing, or was that just the glow of the Christmas lights? "Here," Subaru said again, turning around and showing Kamui his drawing.

"Whoa," Kamui said, his eyes widening. He knew his opinion wouldn't count for much, but, "This is amazing," he continued, his eyes traveling up and down and back and forth. It was similar to what they'd seen at the museum, but the lines were simpler, softer, and the space between them seemed to echo.

"You think so?" Subaru asked, looking at it critically.

"Hell yeah!" Kamui replied, emphatically. Subaru just shrugged, and Kamui rolled his eyes. "It is amazing, shut the fuck up." Subaru laughed appreciatively and took the drawing back.

"I hope my professor agrees," he said, placing it carefully on his desk.

"I'm sure they will," Kamui said, firmly, then, "Is all your work this good?" Subaru just sighed and ran his fingers through his hair. "I'm serious!" Kamui stared him hard in the face, and he stared back, looking almost perplexed by his interest. "Can I see more?" He pressed on, undeterred.

"I," Subaru began, but then shook his head. "Yeah sure," he said, recovering. "One second." He turned back to his desk and bent over to dig for something underneath it. Kamui looked away at once, then, after hesitating a moment, sat down on the edge of the bed. He ran his palm back and forth over the blankets, only looking up when he heard Subaru straighten up again. Subaru also hesitated when he caught sight of Kamui on his bed, clutching his overfull sketchbook more tightly, but then came to sit beside him. He opened the sketchbook an inch or so and began to thumb through the pages. "This is all I've done for my senior thesis," he explained, opening the sketchbook on his knees. Kamui leaned forward eagerly.

"So this is like, the final project to end all final projects?"

"I've never heard it phrased that way, but yes, exactly," Subaru laughed, shifting the sketchbook so Kamui could see properly. "You can just flip through." Kamui nodded and stared intently at the first drawing. It had the same soft lines and echoing space, though Kamui wasn't sure exactly what he was looking at. He moved closer to Subaru and their thighs touched under the sketchbook.

"What's the project?" He asked, turning the page and hoping that wasn't a stupid question.

"I'm still not sure," he replied, despairingly. "But my idea was something to do with the occult. Different traditions, different practices, all of that." He looked thoughtfully down at his work.

"Like what?" Kamui asked, his voice suddenly quiet. Subaru turned to look at him, his eyes catching the light filtering in through the window.

"Well, I've been weirdly obsessed with onmyo magic since I was really little," he said, almost as if he were apologizing.

"That's so cool," Kamui said, quietly eager. Subaru went slightly pink, but smiled.

"I sort of want to focus on that because I know the most about it and I guess it would be closest to my tradition, but learning more about Wicca and Santería would be," but he broke off, shrugging. "My thesis advisor is furious with me because I keep changing my mind," he continued, hanging his head. Kamui raised his eyebrows.

"That's their problem," he said, and Subaru laughed.

"Well, it's my problem too. It's my thesis and I'm making it as difficult for myself as possible," he said, wearily. Kamui nodded, but said nothing else as he continued to look through the pages.

"Do you ever draw on the computer? Or just by hand?"

"It depends on the assignment." Kamui nodded, then paused after turning the next page. The drawing on it seemed out of place; it was a sketch of a pretty young woman with shoulder length hair and a bright, mischievous smile that Kamui couldn't help but return.

"You drew this too?" Subaru leaned in closer and also smiled at the picture.

"Mm, that was over the summer. That's my twin sister, Hokuto." Kamui stared at her a moment longer, then realized he'd seen her on Subaru's roommate's Top 8. He flushed, slightly, but forged bravely on.

"She went to Parsons, right?"

"Yes, and now she's in Paris studying abroad." Kamui's eyes widened and he turned to look Subaru in the face, intending to tell him how cool he thought that was, but the words seemed to get lost as they looked at each other. He swallowed, and his brain scrambled to throw words together, give him something to say, but he hadn't realized how close they were and their thighs were still touching.

"You… You're really fucking talented," he said, finally, his voice slightly constricted. Subaru's lips parted in a soft gasp, then twitched into a smile.

"Thank you," he replied, quietly. Kamui's mouth went dry, but he placed his hand on the bed behind Subaru so he could lean closer to him. He didn't pull away, but his eyes darted rapidly back and forth between Kamui's lips and eyes. He took a small inhale as if preparing to say something, but at that moment there was a scraping and clicking of locks as his roommate entered the apartment. "Hey!" He called, looking flustered and hastily gathering his sketchbook into his arms.

Kamui leaned back on his hands but stared hard at his knees and tried valiantly to slow his breath as Subaru put his sketchbook away. His roommate appeared on the threshold and started when she spotted Kamui.

"Oh shit, hi," she said, smiling at him.

"Hey," he replied, watching her out of the corner of his eye. Subaru faced her, his expression rather tight.

"How was class?" He asked. She rolled her eyes.

"It was class, who cares?" Kamui laughed and Subaru's expression relaxed very slightly. "I have a fuck ton of work to do but I'm gonna order pizza in a little bit if you guys want in." Subaru looked at Kamui uncertainly, but all he could say was,

"Um…" His mind was still reeling from how close they'd been just a moment ago, and he couldn't help but imagine the possibilities if he stayed longer. However, he reminded himself just as quickly that that was all wishful thinking, and that he still had his very long walk home ahead of him. He knew he had to say no, and though some part of him was relieved, it still sucked. "I wish I could," he said, looking regretfully between Subaru and his roommate. "I should probably head home though," he continued, locking eyes with Subaru, who folded his arms in front of his chest, his expression a weird mix of relieved and disappointed.

"Next time," his roommate said, encouragingly. A flush crept up Kamui's neck, but he nodded.

"Yeah!"

"You'll be at Subaru's birthday, right?" She asked.

"Uh," Kamui said, totally taken aback. He looked uncertainly at Subaru, whose expression had tightened again.

"We're just having some people over on the 19th, it's nothing really special, but," the intensity of his gaze was almost overwhelming. "You can come, if you'd like." Kamui took a sharp breath in and his heart swelled almost scarily fast.

"I, yeah! Sure!" He replied at once, the flush in his neck intensifying.

"Cool," Subaru said, finally smiling, and Kamui smiled back.

"I should probably head out though, in all seriousness," he said, looking away.

"Right." Kamui put on his coat and picked up his bag, then followed Subaru back into the living room. His roommate leaned against the doorframe, watching with her arms folded. "I'll walk you out," Subaru said, when Kamui had stepped into his shoes.

"Okay," he replied, smiling, then called to his roommate. "See you soon!"

"Yup!" Subaru and Kamui walked out of the apartment and down the stairs, shivering slightly in the chill.

"I'm sorry about that," Subaru said, exasperated, once they'd reached the front door. "If you don't want to come you totally don't-"

"No, it's cool," Kamui interrupted, looking earnestly up at Subaru. "I mean, I wanted to hang out more anyway, if that's…" His voice trailed away rather lamely, but Subaru nodded, his expression tight again.

"I," he began, but then sighed and shook his head. "Yes, come."

"You sure that's cool?" Subaru actually smiled.

"I'm sure that's cool." Kamui smiled back, his heart wonderfully full. He wanted to hug Subaru goodbye, and he was pretty sure it wouldn't go badly, but Subaru spoke before he could do anything. "Text me when you get home, okay?"

"I will," Kamui assured him. "See you soon!"

"Mm." Kamui put his headphones on, turned and headed out the door. Subaru watched it swing shut behind him, then trudged back upstairs. He opened the door to his apartment and found his roommate staring at him, looking mortified. "What?" He asked, matching her anxiety.

"I'm so sorry, I just assumed-"

"It's okay," he assured her, darting into the kitchen to pick up his cigarettes from the counter. "I," but he had no idea what to say, so he just lit one and took a deep inhale. "It's okay," he said again, just to be sure. She nodded, and Subaru felt it best to get off the subject. "How's it coming?" He asked, nodding at her thesis project all over the coffee table. He could tell she appreciated it, even though she sighed impatiently.

"It is what it is. I'm deep in a self-hating phase right now." Subaru replied with a sympathetic noise, understanding completely. "How about you? Are you going to try and get into the student showcase again?" Subaru took a deep pull on his cigarette.

"If I actually have a final project to put in, you mean," he said, exhaling smoke. In spite of himself, Kamui's words, his smile, his encouragement, came back to him. "I still have no idea what to do, but, I guess I should try, right?" He asked, running his fingers through his hair. "My advisor wants me to, anyway." His roommate opened her mouth to say something, but he forestalled her. "Did you still want to order pizza?"

"Sure," she replied, quietly. "Let me get my phone." She walked over to the couch to dig her phone out of her bag while Subaru finished his cigarette, his mind and heart still full of Kamui.


Kamui's walk home was much colder and darker, but it didn't bother him in the slightest. Subaru was so amazing and smart and talented and just…

Kamui stopped at an intersection and closed his eyes. He immediately remembered Subaru's thigh up against his, how close they'd been, how Subaru had stared so intently at his lips. He shivered, knowing it was stupid to hope for more, but also that he still liked Subaru, and the possibility he felt the same was just way too nice. He opened his eyes and crossed the street, then got stuck at the next intersection. He sighed impatiently, his usual bitterness towards this part of town rising up inside him at once.

However, he supposed he'd have to get used to the West Side if he and Subaru kept hanging out like this. His heart gave a nervous skip as he thought about the next time they'd see each other. He'd been to parties before, obviously, but he had no idea what to expect. Would it be like those parties he'd gone to with Fuuma, or just friends hanging out as he'd done for countless hours with Yuzuriha, Sorata and Kotori? Subaru was so different from both of them, and though in Fuuma's case that was definitely a positive, he'd always look back fondly on his and Kotori's time together. Of course, most of it was just messing around together in one of their beds after school, but still.

Kamui turned right onto Memorial Boulevard, and though he tried to stay focused, his mind, and now his body, were remembering Kotori, everything they'd gotten up to last year. He'd expected them to move slowly, to barely get beyond kissing the first few times. However, once they got started, the need for more, for deeper exploration, was powerful.

Their first afternoon together, after deciding to be more than just friends, Kamui had set up his laptop on the end of his bed to play some anime that was uploaded into three separate YouTube videos. He and Kotori lay down to watch, cuddled up tightly, which truthfully had felt incredible, until they'd looked at each other and started kissing.

Kamui shuddered as hot, eager excitement flooded his body. He tenderly cupped the back of Kotori's head to pull her closer and run his fingers through her soft hair. He'd kissed other people before, but touching this way was new and intimate and he loved it. However, he pulled away rather quickly, blushing furiously as he looked at her.

"I, um," he tried. Kotori smiled encouragingly, which only made it worse. "I, if it gets too much, stop me, okay?" Kotori nodded very seriously, though she was still smiling.

"You too," she said, and Kamui had to think for a moment before he realized what she meant.

"Oh, yeah," he replied, finally. It hadn't really occurred to him that would be an issue, but still, he did appreciate it. Kotori kissed him again and climbed on top of him, and he gasped softly at her warm weight, her hair falling all around him, her legs spreading across his hips and breasts pressing into his chest. He was already almost painfully hard as he ran his hands up and down her back a few times before gripping her ass. "Is that okay?" He asked her, between kisses.

"Mmhmm," she groaned, moving her lips to his neck. Kamui gasped softly as she explored, first with her lips, then tongue, then teeth.

"Ah!" He cried out, thrusting his hips up against her without meaning to. "Sorry!" He gasped, blushing furiously, arousal still coursing through him.

"It's okay," Kotori whispered, also blushing. Kamui nodded, trying to collect himself, but then his eyes fixed upon her breasts under her shirt, and his mind blanked completely. The YouTube video stopped playing abruptly, and they both looked around.

"Fuck!" Kamui hissed, and Kotori giggled and rolled off of him. He straightened up and crawled to the end of the bed to start the next part. It was so annoying to have to do this, but his mother was in the other room, because he wasn't allowed to have anyone over if he was home alone, and playing music to cover whatever noise they made seemed way too obvious. He turned around, and he blushed even deeper as he saw her staring at his obvious erection. He bit down on the inside of his lip, feeling exposed under the sudden scrutiny. However, Kotori exhaled slowly through parted lips and met his gaze, her eyes huge and blush matching his.

"Turned on?" She asked him, in a very small voice. He swallowed and nodded. Kotori crawled over and kissed him on the lips.

"You okay to keep going?" He whispered.

"Mmhmm." They'd continued in that way for, Kamui was pretty sure it was hours, but it might have been days or even weeks. Kotori ended up back on top of him and pressed his t-shirt up to his neck. He could still remember the look on her face as she'd surveyed him, and it always made him shiver. She moved her lips down his neck, now covered in hickies, to his collarbones, then over his chest. He watched her with rapt attention, so hard in his jeans, as she took one of his nipples into her mouth. His breath caught in his chest, but it didn't really feel like much. He shifted underneath her, but she just moved to his other side, sucking with a seemingly random enthusiasm.

"Um, Kotori?" He said, rather awkwardly, reaching out and cupping the side of her face. She looked up at him, her eyes wide.

"I'm sorry, are you okay?" She asked at once, fearfully.

"I'm fine!" He said, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. "I'm totally fine, don't worry, just," he broke off, feeling more awkward by the second. He looked down at his chest, then back up at her face, and she went very red.

"Does that," she bit her lip. "Does that not feel good?" She looked so embarrassed and Kamui felt awful.

"It does!" He assured her, his heart pounding up in his throat. "Just, here feels better," he said, rubbing his neck. Kotori nodded, but looked away, her face still burning. "Kotori?" He asked, suddenly fearful, sitting up underneath her. "Kotori, what's wrong?"

"What? Oh! No, I'm sorry, I just…" She shook her head, trying to collect herself, her hair bouncing around her. "In fanfiction, that's-" but she broke off and covered her face in her hands, shaking her head vigorously. "Never mind!" She cried through her fingers. Kamui couldn't help but smile.

"Hey…" She just responded with a groan. "It's okay." She groaned again, and Kamui wrapped his arms around her and kissed her on the top of the head. "Is it cool if we stop for now?" He breathed, and she nodded.

Kamui suddenly found himself at the bottom of the hill that led up to his house, though he had no idea how he'd gotten there. He was hot from his walk, and he undid the first few buttons of his coat before beginning his climb. His mind was still on Kotori, remembering walking her out to Saya's car when she'd come to get her hours later. He'd wanted to kiss her goodbye, but they settled for a hug, at least this time. She'd gotten into the car beside her mother, and he'd watched them drive away before going back upstairs. His mother was on the couch, eyeing him intently from across the room.

"What?!" He demanded, blushing, praying the collar of the button down he'd thrown on over his t-shirt was enough to hide his hickies.

"I'm just looking at you, Kamui, for goodness sake," she replied, running her fingers through her hair. Kamui made an indistinct noise in his throat and returned to his bedroom, aware of her eyes on the back of his neck.

Once he was back outside his building, Kamui dug into his bag for his keys and let himself into his empty apartment. He turned on the kitchen light and heaved his bag onto the dining table, knowing if his mother returned after eleven to find him still up doing homework it would look very suspicious. However, before he unpacked his bag, before he even took off his coat, he texted Subaru to let him know he was home safe, smiling softly to himself.

Chapter Text

Kamui spent the next week in a state of intense excitement and nerves, texting Subaru and thinking about his party constantly. He barely noticed Valentine's Day, except for a text from Kotori, which he answered, and a text from Fuuma, which he ignored. However, in the days that followed, it seemed Sorata and Arashi were smiling at each other more often and Yuzuriha was acting louder and more exuberant than usual. Kamui could tell something was wrong, but whenever he'd ask if she was all right she'd just blow him off.

"Nothing, just this manga I'm reading," she said, dismissively, lunchtime on the Friday before Subaru's birthday party.

"Is it really that bad?" Kamui asked her, trying to sound simultaneously concerned and teasing so it'd be up to her how she took it.

"Yes," she replied, gesturing dramatically with her drink. "And I love it." Kamui didn't reply, but watched her eyes dart to Sorata and Arashi, who were absorbed in their own conversation, then to a poster across the room urging people to join prom committee. "Kamui, do you want to go to prom together?" She asked, rather boldly. "If neither of us can get dates, I mean."

"So what, we're each other's in case of emergency person?" He asked, grinning, and she grinned back.

"Is that cool?"

"Sure," he replied, shrugging. "You want matching corsages too?"

"Of course!" She replied, shoving him gently with her elbow. "Are you getting Subaru something for his birthday?" She asked next, a tease in her voice.

"Shut up," Kamui snapped.

"Oh we all know he's getting something!" Sorata interjected, and Yuzuriha burst out laughing.

"I love how the only thing that brings Sorata back to the conversation is an opportunity to make a dick comment to Kamui!" She giggled, appreciatively.

"Interesting way to phrase that," Arashi said, dryly, and everyone laughed, even Kamui.

"I hate you," he said to whoever was paying attention, before changing the subject to homework.


The next evening, Kamui was in his room, chatting on AIM with Kotori and waiting for his mother to leave. She was working another overnight, and though Sorata had already agreed to cover for him, his plan was still to leave after her and be back before she came home.

k4mui :: people out there still sound so fucking weird

littlebirdxo :: they're no weirder than people back home

littlebirdxo :: it's just a different kind of weird

k4mui :: LOL fair enough

k4mui :: i'm sure i'll see it when i come visit

There was a knock on Kamui's door.

"Come in." It creaked open, revealing his mother on the threshold.

"I'm off," she said, and Kamui nodded.

"Be careful." She smiled, crossed the room and kissed him on the top of the head. "Ah, stop," he protested, very half-heartedly. She ruffled his hair.

"I will. I love you."

"Love you too." And she was out the door. Kamui's heart sped up sharply, and he waited a few minutes just in case she came back, then,

k4mui :: mom just left!

k4mui :: g2g!

littlebirdxo :: good luck! have fun!

Kamui closed his laptop, heaved himself out of bed and texted Subaru to let him know he was on his way. He changed into clean clothes, spent ten minutes worrying that he might be over or under dressed, then gathered his things and headed out.

It was very dark outside, not to mention bitterly cold. A wet, spiteful wind blew hard into Kamui's face, but he put on his headphones and kept walking, the happy anticipation inside him making him warm and impervious. He got stuck at a red light when he hit Memorial Boulevard and reached into his pocket for his cellphone.

"see you soon!" From Subaru. Kamui's heart swelled, bringing an excited flush to his skin. He wanted to reply, but couldn't think of anything to say, so just shoved his phone back in his pocket. He knew on some level it was crazy to be this excited over only a confirmation text, but he couldn't help it.

'You just want his attention,' he thought, suddenly and unkindly. He shook his head and turned left, heading towards Meeting Street, though his stomach twisted uncomfortably. It was true he liked Subaru's attention, but that wasn't new. 'Just like with Fuuma,' his mind continued, coldly. "What the fuck," Kamui said out loud, speeding up to get around people walking too slowly. It wasn't his fault: Fuuma had been so blatant about everything, and it only got worse the more time they spent together.

"You sure you have a girlfriend?"

"She's across the country…"

"Aren't you sick of your hand?"

"You're so fucking clingy, stop it," Kamui would always reply, and Fuuma would laugh appreciatively. However, there was undeniably a part of Kamui that was getting off on all the attention. No one had ever been so blunt or obvious like this before, and denying Fuuma what he so obviously wanted made Kamui feel powerful as nothing else ever had. He had an amazing girlfriend and a hot guy who wanted him; you couldn't ask for a better upper hand!

The only problem was that it was getting harder and harder for Kamui to keep saying no. Fuuma was so gorgeous, so enigmatic, so different from anyone else he'd ever met and so representative of everything Kamui was giving up at sixteen to be with the woman he loved.

Kamui sighed heavily, making sure his way was clear before crossing the street. He reflected that Fuuma's intentions had at least been clear, where as he was still unsure of Subaru's. However, he couldn't tell if that made it worse or not. It wasn't like knowing what Fuuma was after had made what had happened any less awful. Kamui heaved another heavy sigh, remembering the night everything had gotten completely fucked up. Fuuma had picked him up to take him to a party, car windows down and D.O.E. blasting.

"Whose house are we going to?" Kamui asked.

"This girl Satsuki who's riding Yuuto's dick insanely hard," Fuuma replied, and Kamui scoffed. "She's cool though," he added, giving credit where credit was due. "We hooked up once too. It was okay." Kamui had no idea what to say to that so he just stared out of the window. It had been beautiful out all day, though the air was wet and heavy, and clouds seemed to be rolling in.

"It looks like it's gonna rain."

"It's fine," Fuuma said, dismissively, and Kamui had no idea what to say to that either.

A sudden cry of laughter startled Kamui and he looked around wildly, but it was only a group of drunk people hurrying into a nearby bar. When had he reached Meeting Street?! Kamui shook his head, forcing himself to pay attention as he walked brusquely the rest of the way to Subaru's building. He smiled excitedly when it came into view, and he sprinted across the street and up onto the porch. He pulled the door open, and could already hear music and laughter coming from the second floor. He took off his headphones and shoved them into his bag before climbing the stairs, and his heart pounded excitedly as he knocked on the door.

"No no, let me get it," came Subaru's voice from inside. A broad grin spread across Kamui's face as the door opened, revealing Subaru, dressed in black and looking exhausted, though flushed and excited. "Hey!"

"Hi," Kamui replied, cautiously elated. Subaru stepped out of the way and Kamui crossed the threshold to find his roommate on the couch and their friend from the show beside her with a videogame controller in his hand.

"Oh shit!"

"Hi!" Kamui returned their smiles, his stomach giving a nervous leap.

"I'll put your stuff in my room," Subaru said, and Kamui nodded and handed him his coat and his bag.

"We're fucking assholes and are already drunk," Subaru's roommate explained, watching him carry Kamui's things to his bedroom.

"Yup, always going hard," his friend added, raising his glass of water. Kamui just shrugged and stepped out of his shoes.

"I knew the first part was true, but I didn't want to assume anything else," he replied, and they laughed.

"Do you want a drink?" Subaru asked, reemerging from his bedroom. Kamui could see how warm he was in the face, and his blush matched his as they smiled at each other.

"Yes please." As they walked into the kitchen, there was another knock on the door, followed by a rush of excited voices as more people entered the apartment. "Happy birthday, by the way," Kamui told Subaru, under the cover of the noise.

"Thank you," he replied, opening the refrigerator. "All we have right now is beer, is that cool?" Kamui narrowed his eyes suspiciously.

"You guys didn't get this fucked up just from beer," he said.

"Shh," Subaru replied, pressing his finger to his lips, and they both laughed. "We had liquor, but we drank it all this afternoon." Kamui rolled his eyes. It occurred to him suddenly how weird it was that Subaru was so okay with giving him alcohol when he'd freaked out about him being seventeen before. However, he handed him a beer before he could think about it too much.

"Cheers," he said, and they toasted each other and drank. Kamui smiled in satisfaction and immediately felt confidence rise up in his chest. "What have you been up to?" He asked, and Subaru gave him an exasperated look.

"Nothing new. Pretending like I know what I'm doing for thesis, mostly. How have you been?" Kamui just shrugged.

"Nothing. Homework and like, sleep."

"I miss sleep," Subaru said, thoughtfully, and Kamui laughed.

"Yo, where the fuck is Subaru?!" Came an unfamiliar voice loudly from the other room. Subaru sighed resignedly and gestured for Kamui to follow him. Even more people had joined the party, but one couple in particular exclaimed when they saw him.

"Hey!" He said, smiling and hugging both of them.

"Happy birthday!"

"We brought cake!"

"And rum!"

"Oh my god, you didn't have to do that, thank you!" Kamui just smiled and sipped his beer. He was more than happy to just watch Subaru talk to his friends, watch his beautiful eyes widen in excitement, watch him throw his head back as he laughed.

"Kamui!" He whirled around and found Subaru's roommate on the couch. "Come sit down," she said, patting the spot beside her. Kamui did so, and could finally see what game they were playing.

".hack?" He asked, eagerly.

"Fuck yeah," her friend said, making the character chase a small, giggling creature. "Reminisce is out in May so I figured I'd replay this. The first four were so much better though."

"No shit," Kamui agreed.

"At least they don't take their sweet time coming out," Subaru's roommate said, fairly.

"Yeah, not like-" but he was interrupted by yet another knock on the door. They both looked around, but then immediately got back into their videogame debate when they saw Subaru answer it. Kamui joined in periodically, though he was more interested in watching the other guests. Even though there were more and more people and they were getting more and more intoxicated, the energy was still good and relaxed. Kamui couldn't help but remember the party Fuuma had taken him to, where everyone had instantly been judgmental and condescending, and it had only gotten worse the more fucked up they got.

"Kamui!"

"Huh?" He turned sharply to see Subaru smiling at him from across the room.

"Come here a second?" Kamui heaved himself off the couch, downed the rest of his beer and hurried to Subaru's side.

"What's up?" He asked, feeling suddenly shy under the glow of his smile.

"We're going to cut this cake, I think," he said.

"Sweet!" Subaru laughed and pressed his fingertips to his mouth, his eyes shining.

"I'm glad you came," he said through his fingers, almost like it were a secret. Kamui's heart throbbed suddenly and he moved closer.

"Me too," he replied, quietly but earnestly. Subaru took his fingers away from his mouth, and Kamui's eyes immediately fixed upon his lips, gently parted and so inviting.

"You guys want shots?!" Someone called, and Subaru and Kamui turned, blushing. Everyone had apparently gathered in the tiny kitchen, and were all holding plastic cups or mismatched shot glasses and looking expectantly at Subaru.

"Sorry!" He cried, hurrying over. Kamui followed, looking down to avoid the stares.

"Here," Subaru's roommate said, pressing shot glasses into both of their hands before raising her own. "Happy birthday, Subaru!" She called, and everyone raised their glasses in agreement. Subaru laughed rather embarrassedly. "And to Hokuto too, of course, killing it across the pond!" Everyone cheered and downed their shots. Kamui shuddered, but immediately felt a pleasurable heat rush up his neck and face. "Cool, you guys wanna cut this cake?"

"Sure!"

"Do we have candles?"

"Yeah I brought some, hang on…"

"And we know we'll definitely find a lighter!"

"Here, let me," Subaru started to say, blushing from the drink and the attention. However, his friends all gave him extremely nasty looks.

"You sit the fuck down," his roommate said, gesturing with the rather large kitchen knife she was apparently planning to use on the cake. Subaru held up his arms as though surrendering.

"All right, all right! Sorry, for fuck's sake…" He walked back to sit down on the couch, leaving his shot glass on the counter. Kamui followed at once and took the seat beside him. Their thighs were already touching.

"Your friends are so cool," Kamui said. Subaru laughed and ran his fingers through his hair, then rested his arm on his thigh. Kamui stared hard at Subaru's hand, and for the briefest moment his rapidly clouding brain told him to take it. He shuddered and averted his eyes, and they found Subaru's tattoo instead. Feeling this would be safer, Kamui placed his fingertips on Subaru's inner forearm, and with a surge of excitement saw goose bumps rise up on his skin. He bit his lip and traced Subaru's tattoo with his fingers, over all the lines and curves. "When did you get this?" He asked, and Subaru leaned closer.

"The winter of my sophomore year," he replied, rotating his arm to show Kamui more, give him more skin to touch.

"I really like it."

"It was my sister's final for a textile design class."

"That's fucking cool!" Subaru smiled affectionately and slid his arm up, allowing Kamui's fingers to touch his palm instead. It was warm and smooth, and goose bumps erupted on Kamui's own skin. He looked up at Subaru, whose lips were parted, and took hold of his hand before he could think about it. A shiver seemed to run through both of them and Subaru took a sharp breath in.

"I," he began, but at that moment, a chorus of Happy Birthday swelled from the kitchen as all the party guests paraded into the living room, carrying the cake and more drinks. Subaru let go of Kamui's hand and covered his eyes despairingly. Kamui joined in singing and wrapped his arm around Subaru's shoulders instead, grinning despite being interrupted. Subaru's roommate placed the cake in the center of the coffee table as they finished the song, and he took his hand away from his face.

"Make a wish!" Someone cried. Subaru made an impatient noise, but brought his hands together as though praying. He closed his eyes for a moment, then blew. Everyone cheered, even though he only managed to extinguish half the candles.

"Cut back to one pack a day you'll get your wish next year!" His friend cried, encouragingly. Everyone burst out laughing, even Subaru. "Holy shit that would be an amazing anti-smoking ad," he continued, thoughtfully.

"What, smoke and you can't blow out all your birthday candles?" Someone else cried, giggling, and there was another chorus of laughter.

"Yeah!" He replied, enthusiastically. "Put posters like that up in high schools we'll be good." Subaru's roommate snorted with laughter and began serving slices of cake.

"Would that work, Kamui?" She asked, grinning, and Subaru let out a choked cry. Kamui, however, thought for a moment.

"It'd probably work better than all the pictures of cancer, honestly," he said, dryly, and again everyone laughed. Subaru accepted the first slice of cake from his roommate with a sigh, then tried to hand it to Kamui, who gave him an incredulous look. "No way, that's yours," he said, squeezing his shoulders.

"You're sweet," Subaru replied, taking a bite with a satisfied smile.

The party continued in the same chill, easy way, everyone eating cake, smoking and drinking, laughing and talking or taking turns at whichever videogame was on. Kamui remained beside Subaru on the couch the whole time, his arm around him or just leaning against his shoulder. Periodically, people would approach them and start a conversation, and they were always polite to Kamui, even though he wouldn't contribute much. Everyone kept talking about thesis or the upcoming student showcase. Although they sounded exhausted, they always seemed supportive rather than competitive: all of Subaru's friends told him some variant of,

"I can't wait to see your work!" to which he'd always reply,

"Yes, me too!" Eventually, after more drinks and more cake and more conversations, they were on their own again. Subaru relaxed against the couch, looking drunk and sleepy. "I'm not neglecting you, am I?" He asked.

"Nah," Kamui replied, smiling and leaning back against the couch too. He turned to face Subaru, and the volume of the party seemed to lower as they looked at each other. Kamui swallowed, taking in his flushed cheeks, bright eyes and parted lips. He breathed in deeply and exhaled shakily. "Subaru?" He asked, softly, on a sudden swell of bravery.

"Hm?" Of course, Kamui's mind instantly deserted him. He swallowed, shifting ever so slightly closer, his eyes darting once more to Subaru's lips. He wanted to kiss him so badly, but he wasn't sure if he was allowed. They'd waited until they'd been alone last time, and that had always been Fuuma's rule too. He groaned softly and stared Subaru hard in the face.

"I like you," he whispered, shivering as he said it. Subaru gasped and bit his lip, looking almost like he was in pain.

"I," he began, and Kamui could practically feel the conflict. It made his stomach twist guiltily even as his body and heart were begging him to give in.

"It's okay," he said, softly.

"Is it?" Subaru asked.

"Yeah!" Kamui whispered back, though he wasn't exactly sure what they were talking about anymore.

"Are you… Are you allowed to be out this late? Is that…?" He blushed, and Kamui's stomach twisted again.

"It's fine, don't worry," he assured him. Then, on another swell of bravery, "I could stay over, if-"

"Would you want to?" Subaru asked, almost sharply. Kamui's heart was beating so hard against his ribs it practically made him dizzy.

"I mean, if that's cool, yeah!" He replied, blushing deeply at how eager he sounded, even though it was completely sincere. 'You need to be home before-' his mind tried to remind him, but Kamui ignored it, waiting with rapt attention. Subaru's expression tightened for a moment before shifting into a hesitant, longing smile.

"Stay," he said, even more quietly, and Kamui's head spun as fresh excitement surged inside him. He nodded and returned Subaru's smile. "I, I'm not," Subaru started to say, but then shook his head. "We can kiss, that's it," he said, in barely more than a whisper.

"That's okay!" Kamui assured him, his heart swelling shockingly in his chest, pumping the excitement through his body. Subaru sighed and took Kamui's hand, and he returned the gesture with a squeeze. They said nothing else to each other, just watched the party wind down around them. Kamui hoped it wouldn't take too long; he was already getting impatient. Fortunately, once one guest insisted she had to get home, it was like a chain reaction. Everyone approached Subaru in twos and threes to say goodbye and wish him happy birthday one last time. Finally, it was just Kamui, Subaru, his roommate, and some guy with whom she was holding hands left in the apartment. She smiled as the door slammed behind their last leaving guests.

"Did you have fun?" She asked.

"I did," Subaru replied, smiling back at her. She crossed the room, pulling the guy with her.

"Happy birthday," she said, quietly, her expression soft.

"Thank you."

"Good night," she continued, playfully, and they headed off down the hall. Subaru watched her go and waited for the door to slam before addressing Kamui.

"You're sure you're okay to stay over?" Kamui nodded vigorously, and Subaru got to his feet, pulling him up too. As they walked towards Subaru's bedroom, Kamui's vision seemed to tunnel in on the just-open door, on the back of Subaru's neck, on the curve of his shoulder. Subaru pushed the door open, and Kamui squeezed his hand as they stopped on the threshold. It was dark except for the string of Christmas lights and the streetlight filtering in through the window. Subaru turned, hesitated a moment, then pressed his forehead to Kamui's. "Go lie down, I'll be there in a minute." Kamui let out a soft groan and tried to kiss Subaru, but he pulled away too quickly. He swallowed, hot anticipation already rushing between his legs as he lay down in Subaru's bed and stared at the slice of light coming in through the door he'd left ajar. The silence seemed to tauten and time seemed to stretch with every beat of his heart, until finally, the living room light shut off, plunging the room into almost total darkness.

Kamui gasped softly, feeling suddenly intensely aware of his body: his breath expanding and contacting his ribs, his mouth dry from alcohol and nerves, his erection half hard in his pants. Subaru reentered the room, pausing at the end of his bed to look Kamui up and down before shutting the door tightly and crossing the room to his computer.

"What are you doing?" Kamui asked, blinking in the sudden, blinding light from the monitor. In answer, music began to play from the speakers under the desk: a soft, spacey introduction, then soothing, open notes and a hip hop beat. Subaru shut off the monitor and came to lie on his back beside Kamui, who rolled over onto his side to face him. His eyes roved over Subaru, the shape of his body under his clothes, the way the lights caught everything so softly and beautifully. He felt himself get completely hard and moaned quietly. Subaru turned his head to look him in the face, exposing his neck, and Kamui inched closer and took his hand, getting a squeeze in return. They looked at each other in the soft golden light, the music playing quietly and the space between them begging, until Kamui couldn't take it anymore and kissed Subaru full on the lips. It was a chaste kiss, but his entire body lit up excitedly. He exhaled shakily through his nose, then pulled away. "Is that…?" He whispered, but Subaru just groaned and cupped the side of his face to pull him into another kiss.

Kamui shut his eyes tight, the touch and the kiss sending an intense wave of pleasure through his body. He moved his lips gently, though insistently, against Subaru's, trying to kiss him deeper. Subaru rolled over onto his side, his lips parting, and Kamui gasped and pressed his tongue inside. Subaru shivered and began to kiss back, still slowly and softly, and Kamui wrapped his arms around him, gripping his upper back before dragging his hands down. Subaru arched into the touch with a needy groan that made Kamui's erection pulse excitedly. He wanted to touch Subaru everywhere, kiss him and please him, make him arch and moan and gasp even more.

He pulled out of the kiss for a moment, but looking at Subaru was suddenly almost too much. He was flushed, his chest was rising and falling shallowly and his eyes were half-lidded and lustful. Kamui bit his lip, his entire body shuddering as fresh heat surged between his legs.

"Fuck," he moaned, softly, before burying his face in Subaru's neck.

"Are you okay?" He whispered, suddenly concerned. "I-" but his words dissolved into a moan as Kamui began to kiss his neck, moving up towards his ear.

"I'm fine," he breathed, and Subaru shivered. "Just…" Kamui's erection throbbed more insistently and he pressed his hips forward. Subaru just pulled him closer.

"Mm…" Kamui groaned and began to kiss Subaru's neck again, harder now. He took a deep breath in through his nose, smelling his hair, his cigarettes, his skin, and his body pulsed with need. He nosed gently against Subaru's ear, then bit down ever so softly. Subaru cried out and grabbed onto Kamui more tightly. He smiled against his ear, feeling a rush of excitement, then moved back to his neck. He bit down lightly on the hot, flushed skin and sucked tenderly. Subaru moaned, dug his fingers into Kamui's shoulders and thrust his hips forward. The noise, the response, everything, all shocked Kamui's nerves and he bit down harder, exhaling sharply through his nose, venting his desire.

Subaru cried out again, but Kamui pulled away this time, knowing another rush of excitement when he saw the bruise he'd left. He gazed, dark and lustful, into Subaru's face, and he shivered, his expression aroused and wanting. Kamui hesitated a moment, then rolled Subaru onto his back and climbed on top of him. Subaru gasped and spread his legs, allowing Kamui to settle between them.

Encouraged and more excited then ever, Kamui kissed Subaru hard on the lips and ran his hands up and down his chest, imaging he could feel his skin through the fabric of his shirt. Subaru groaned into his mouth, wrapped his arms around him and dragged his hands up and down his shoulders, his spine, his ass and the backs of his thighs. Kamui cried out softly and thrust his hips up against him, arousal radiating out through his body from all points of contact. He pulled out of their kiss for a moment, gasping, and Subaru caught his bottom lip between his teeth and sucked it. Kamui's erection throbbed and he thrust his hips up again, desperate for more sensation. Subaru gasped too and Kamui pulled away, propping himself up on his hands. They stared at each other, breathing hard, their expressions clouded with intense arousal.

"You're so hard," Subaru said in a constricted voice. Heat rushed up Kamui's chest, neck and face and he nodded, biting his lip. He began to rock his hips gently back and forth, grinding against Subaru, who let out a soft, needy cry.

"So are you," Kamui whispered, his voice also constricted.

"Fuck!" Subaru moaned, shutting his eyes tight and throwing his head back, looking almost pained again.

"Subaru?" Kamui asked, raising his voice slightly. "Are you okay?" Subaru swallowed and opened his eyes, his expression softening.

"I'm all right," he said. "I'm just," he continued, echoing Kamui. "We can only kiss," he said, as if reminding them both. Kamui nodded, his heart and erection throbbing simultaneously.

"I know." Subaru managed a small smile, which Kamui returned, then looked away, apparently thinking. He sighed heavily, and Kamui's eyes widened. "Do you want to stop?" He asked, his heart throbbing again. Subaru's expression tightened for a second, but then he nodded, looking relieved.

"This is enough." Kamui bit down on the inside of his lip. He was disappointed, but he obviously wouldn't push it. He climbed off of Subaru and lay on his back with his eyes closed. He breathed slowly and deeply, trying to force his body to calm down, though his erection was still twitching hopefully. He suddenly felt Subaru's hand in his and gave it a squeeze. They stayed like that another moment before Kamui opened his eyes and turned to Subaru. He was staring up at the ceiling and breathing deeply through parted lips, his profile glowing as it was backlit by the Christmas lights. The music Kamui hadn't noticed while they'd been kissing was still playing, soft and sensual male vocals and a deep, intense beat. He rolled over onto his side and brought their clasped hands up to his chest.

"Subaru?" He turned his head, the bite mark on his neck showing darkly against his pale skin, and smiled at their clasped hands.

"Sorry for stopping you," he said, and Kamui's eyes widened.

"It's fine!" He assured him, squeezing his hand. "Seriously, don't worry."

"I just, I don't want you to feel like you have to do anything before you're ready," Subaru explained. The words seemed to hit Kamui in two very different places. It was relieving, even though he wished he'd heard them from Fuuma rather than Subaru, but he wasn't inexperienced, and he liked Subaru so much, they could at least jerk each other off or something. Pulled in different directions, Kamui just squeezed Subaru's hand even tighter. "Kamui?"

"Yeah, sorry." He swallowed, hating to see Subaru looking so worried all of a sudden. He took a deep breath in, collecting his thoughts. "I really like you," he told Subaru firmly. "I'm totally okay just kissing." Subaru's face relaxed into a smile. "But, I have done all this before, so…" His voice trailed away and Subaru flushed deeply, but moved closer.

"You like me?" He asked, softly.

"I keep telling you," Kamui replied, a little impatiently.

"Sorry," Subaru said at once. "I just, I haven't," but he broke off and looked away. Kamui's chest constricted suddenly and painfully.

"Have things been fucked up for you too?" He asked, tentatively, and Subaru laughed humorlessly.

"You could say that." Kamui's heart throbbed in his tightened chest and he rubbed their clasped hands against his cheek. Subaru watched, his eyes wide as though taken aback by the tenderness.

"Me too," Kamui replied, quietly, looking at Subaru very seriously. "But, I'm okay to try again, you don't have to," he paused, trying to think of the best way to say this. "I like you, and I'm here," he said, finally. Yes, that felt right. He blushed, but stared determinedly back at Subaru, who stared back, his eyes huge in the soft semi-darkness. He seemed about to say something, but then just moaned and kissed him on the lips. Kamui took a sharp breath in through his nose, but Subaru pulled away almost at once. He let go of Kamui's hand, sat up and yanked his blankets up to cover both of them. Kamui watched, confused, but then Subaru opened his arms wide, inviting him into an embrace. Kamui's heart skipped and he smiled broadly and crawled forward to curl up beside him. Subaru rolled onto his back, pulling Kamui to lie across his chest.

"Is this okay?" He asked, and Kamui threw his arm and leg across him, snuggling deeper into his neck.

"Yeah!" It had been a long time since he'd cuddled this way, and he'd forgotten just how good it felt. Subaru kissed him tenderly on the top of the head.

"Are you comfortable?"

"Mmhmm." Kamui closed his eyes and relaxed deeper against Subaru. "This feels good."

"It does." Kamui smiled softly.

"Good night," he whispered.

"Good night."

Chapter Text

It took Kamui a while to wake up the next morning. He spent a long time in a glorious half sleep, eyes closed, mind in and out and body warm and curled up tight around Subaru. When he eventually opened his eyes, a smile broke across his face as he took in Subaru's bedroom, full of pearlescent morning light, and then Subaru himself, fast asleep in his arms. His face was completely relaxed and his neck was stretched long, and the bruise Kamui had left there the night before stood out, dark and primal, against his pale skin. The erection the morning had given Kamui twitched hopefully, but he ignored it, snuggling closer to Subaru and hoping to go back to sleep. Unfortunately, the moment Kamui shifted, Subaru began to stir. He stretched, then opened his eyes with a yawn, looking momentarily surprised to see Kamui, but then his face relaxed into a bleary smile.

"Hey," he said, sleepily.

"Good morning," Kamui replied, smiling back. Subaru tucked a strand of Kamui's hair behind his ear, and he gasped, caught off guard but gratified. He buried his face in Subaru's neck, and he wrapped his arms around him and kissed him on the top of the head. Kamui shut his eyes tight and shifted against Subaru, wanting to be closer, get as much contact as possible. They stayed that way a while longer, curled up under the blankets, but then,

"I'm not trying to throw you out, I promise, but, I do need to get work done today," Subaru said, very regretfully. Kamui groaned in protest and squeezed him tighter. "I'm sorry!" He cried, helplessly.

"'Sokay," Kamui replied. He kissed Subaru just behind his ear, then straightened up. "I should probably get home anyway." His heart sped up in a sudden panic as he realized he had no idea what time it was. 'Oh shit,' he thought, climbing out of bed to retrieve his phone from his bag. He was already positive that he'd missed his opportunity to sneak back home before his mother returned from work, and, sure enough, when he opened his phone he found way too many missed calls and texts from her. He sighed heavily, his stomach twisting and heaving, but snapped his phone closed and shoved it back in his bag. He'd deal with that once he left.

"Are you okay?" Subaru asked, sitting up on the edge of his bed and running his fingers through his hair.

"Yeah!" Kamui replied at once. "People just trying to bug me." Subaru laughed in solidarity and got to his feet, watching Kamui stand up, put on his coat and heave his bag over his shoulder. They headed through the living room and paused at the door so Kamui could step into his shoes.

"Thanks for coming over," Subaru said, wrapping his arms around himself.

"Anytime," Kamui replied. He faced Subaru, feeling suddenly nervous. "I um, when's the next time we can hang out?" He asked, rather boldly. Subaru's eyes widened.

"When do you want to see me?" He countered, and Kamui rolled his eyes.

"Literally any time." Subaru laughed and hugged himself more tightly.

"Well," he said, slowly. "I get out of class early on Wednesdays, if you want to come over," he paused. "If you want to come over in the afternoon." Kamui's entire body lit up at the words.

"Yeah! That'd be cool!" Subaru unwrapped one of his arms to take Kamui's hand.

"I'll see you Wednesday, then." Kamui's heart swelled so suddenly he thought his chest might burst. He squeezed Subaru's hand, then stepped forward to kiss him briefly on the lips.

"Yeah," he replied, rubbing the back of Subaru's hand with his thumb. He gave him one last kiss and pulled away, letting out a soft, longing sigh as he looked him up and down. Then he turned, smiling over his shoulder, and left.

The door fell closed with a soft crash that echoed through the silence. Subaru wrapped both arms around himself again, staring at the closed door, though only seeing Kamui's smile. He could still feel him all over him, on his lips, in his arms, between his legs. He shuddered and closed his eyes for a moment, trying to collect himself, but all it did was show him the night before, him giving in.

He forced his eyes open and ran his fingers through his hair before walking down the hall to the bathroom, figuring a shower would help. Then he could clean up the apartment and finish his schoolwork, assuming he wasn't distracted texting Kamui the whole time. He stepped into his bathroom and shut the door, shivering at how cold the cracked tiles were under his feet.

He turned on the shower and began to get undressed, goose bumps rising up on his skin as it was exposed. He folded his clothes neatly and turned to check the water temperature, but was distracted by his reflection. His eyes widened and he let out a choked cry, staring at the dark, lustful bruise on his neck. He leaned forward over the sink to examine it, blushing deeply. He hadn't had a hickey, an actual hickey, in years. He covered the bruise with his hand and turned away, immediately remembering Kamui giving it to him, how eagerly he'd kissed his neck, the needy, desirous noises he'd made…

The erection he'd tried to ignore, or at least placate by grinding shamelessly against Kamui, returned in full, hopeful force, but Subaru continued to ignore it. He turned away from the mirror, stepped into the shower and let out a shaky sigh as the water slid down his body. However, his mind was still on Kamui.

"I like you."

He'd said it so eagerly and so sincerely and so many times.

"I like you, and I'm here."

Subaru let out another shaky sigh and closed his eyes. He liked Kamui too. He liked him a lot, but…

'Seventeen and twenty-one, or no, twenty-two, is that really so bad?' He couldn't help but feel guilty, though it was definitely better than nineteen and thirty-five. Subaru shivered under the hot water and wrapped his arms around himself. He didn't like thinking about Seishiro, about that summer they'd spent together after two semesters of hinting and games and awkwardness. He also didn't like comparing Kamui to Seishiro, but it was hard not to when they were the only two people he'd ever felt this way about, even if they were so different. Rather resentfully, he remembered Seishiro, more than happy to leave bite marks and hickeys and whatever else all over his body, but,

"No marks, Subaru." Subaru reached for the soap and began to scrub himself clean with a sudden sense of ill-usage. Seishiro's excuse had been, "I can't have these visible while I'm teaching." As though the bruises on Subaru's neck were somehow less visible. As though people in his summer classes, summer classes he'd only signed up for to stay in Sagacity with Seishiro, didn't notice.

Subaru sighed heavily, rinsed off and shut off the water. He figured Kamui probably wouldn't mind if he left marks like that all over his neck, his chest, his shoulders. Next time he'd have to try. He shivered. Yes, next time. The words echoed excitedly in his chest, even as all the what-ifs and potential consequences clawed at the edges of his mind. He forced them away and stepped out of the shower. If Kamui was really okay with just kissing, this could work. Aside from that he wasn't sure, but, for now at least, things seemed all right.


Kamui had walked about halfway home before he felt brave enough to listen to the voicemails his mother had left him.

"Kamui, I tried texting you and you haven't gotten back to me. I'm worried, please call me when you get this. I love you, bye."

There were five more messages like that, and each one sounded more and more worried, and therefore more and more angry. He shoved his phone back in his pocket and put his headphones back on. Sorata had promised to be his cover story, but maybe she hadn't been able to get in touch with him? Whatever the reason, Kamui found it incredibly irksome. She'd started doing this over the summer, and he still had no idea what exactly she was expecting to find.

He shivered slightly as the same spiteful wind from the night before blew up around him. It wasn't as cold, but the air felt wetter, heavier. He hoped he'd make it home before it started to snow or rain, because he was positive it would.

"It's fine." Fuuma's voice came back to him, sudden and sharp and dismissive in his mind. Kamui rolled his eyes, but remembered with a deep satisfaction how by the time they'd arrived at that party, a full-on thunderstorm was taking place. Kamui had given Fuuma an "I told you so" look, but he'd just smirked and ruffled his hair.

"Ah, stop!" Kamui cried, going very red.

"You're cute," Fuuma replied, taking his hand away and turning off the engine.

Kamui got stuck at a red light on Memorial Boulevard, waiting for a break in the traffic so he could cross the street and begin climbing the hill up to his house. It was still deeply satisfying to be right about the rain, even though it was shallow and stupid. It had been the last scrap of the upper hand he'd managed to hold onto with Fuuma, at least until now, with Subaru so gloriously in the picture.

He bit down on the inside of his lip, wishing more than anything he were back in Subaru's apartment, in his bed, in his arms, or truthfully, even just on the couch with his friends. He'd liked Subaru's friends. They'd been so nice, even though they'd had nothing in common. It was the exact opposite of Fuuma's party, where he'd instantly hated everyone in the room. Of course, Fuuma hated them too, he'd told him so, but it didn't matter. The whole night had gone to hell anyway.

The light changed, momentarily distracting Kamui, and he crossed the street. He kept his eyes averted as he began to climb the hill to his house, watching one foot move in front of the other rather than the happy people out for lunch and shopping, which only made him long for Subaru more.

He paused outside his building to catch his breath and caught sight of his mother's car parked across the street. The nerves he hadn't noticed on his walk home came rushing up inside him, but he swallowed them. He'd been at Sorata's: it was fine. Gathering his courage, he took off his headphones, unlocked his front door and made his way up the creaky stairs to his apartment.

"Welcome home." Kamui froze. His mother was sitting at the kitchen table with her arms and legs folded, apparently waiting for him. His mouth went dry and he pulled his key out of the lock. The door slammed shut and the crash echoed horribly. "Where were you last night, Kamui?" She asked. Kamui winced at the quiet fury in her voice, but stood his ground.

"Sorata's," he replied, without looking at her.

"Really?"

"Yes!" Kamui snapped, though he still couldn't meet her gaze and heat was creeping up his neck.

"Really?" His mother asked again, and Kamui knew in some part of his brain that he was being given one last chance to be honest. He finally looked her in the face, determined to maintain eye contact even as his own started to water.

"Yes!" His mother pressed her lips tightly together and Kamui clenched his fists, sweating in the winter coat he was still wearing. She sighed, and when she spoke, her voice was deathly quiet and corrosive.

"I called Sorata last night when you didn't answer your phone," she informed him, and Kamui felt his stomach disappear. "And he told me no, you weren't at his house. In fact, you were at a party with some college student you've apparently been seeing for months and couldn't be bothered to tell me about." Kamui was clenching his fists so tightly his fingernails dug into his palms. How could Sorata betray him this way?! "He assured me it's not Fuuma," his mother continued, and again Kamui winced. "Though clearly you learned nothing from that experience." The words seemed to reach Kamui in some deep, raw place, and he flushed angrily, his heart pounding and throat burning.

"Are you serious?!" He demanded, anger surging, hot and painful, in his chest. He stepped forward, his clenched fists shaking. "You think I haven't been feeling fucking disgusting about that this whole time?! I have!"

"That's not what I meant, Kamui, stop it!"

"I-"

"No, it wasn't!" She continued, rather impatiently. "All I asked was that you be honest with me and tell me what's going on, is that really so hard?!"

"YES!" Kamui yelled in utter frustration. His mother got to her feet, a hand at her chest.

"Why?!" She cried, betraying her own frustration. "Have I ever been that angry with you? Refused to help you?!" Kamui stared back, wracking his spinning mind, sure he'd find an example, but nothing whatsoever occurred to him.

"You hated Fuuma anyway!" He yelled, because it was all he could think of to say.

"Yes, I did," his mother replied, completely unabashed. "But did I tell you that when you were seeing each other?"

"No, but!" Kamui tried to marshal a counter-argument, but his mother spoke first, saving him the trouble.

"Do you not understand why this all scares me now? After everything that happened?" Kamui's stomach shriveled, but he summoned a defense at once.

"You just don't trust me!"

"Not right this second, no!" She snapped.

"See?! So it wouldn't matter if I did tell you!" He shouted, throwing his arms up helplessly.

"Kamui!" However, he just pushed past her, stormed into his room and slammed the door. He stood still for a moment, seething, then tore off his winter coat and threw it onto the floor. He wanted to rage and vent and scream, and dug his cellphone out of his pocket to take it out on the first person he thought of.

"Yes?" Came Sorata's resigned voice, as though he'd been expecting the call.

"What the fuck!" Kamui demanded, and Sorata just sighed.

"Dude, don't yell at me, I don't wanna hear it."

"You promised you'd have my back!" Kamui cried, his anger suddenly righteous and validating. This was a far easier fight: he'd been wronged and had justifiable cause to be furious.

"I didn't promise you nothing," Sorata shot back. "I said I'd cover for you the first few times, that's it. Your mom called me thinking you were dead or something, what the fuck was I supposed to do?!" Kamui gripped his phone and bit down on the inside of his lip. "You fucked up, I'm done," Sorata continued, and Kamui's throat burned.

"Fuck you!" He snapped his phone closed and threw it onto his bed, then clapped his hand to his mouth and closed his eyes, breathing hard through his nose. His head was spinning and his heart was pounding but it was all way too much to pick apart separate feelings, separate thoughts. All he knew was that it hurt, that he wanted it to stop, that he wanted everyone to leave him alone and never speak to him again. Why did everything keep fucking up?! What kept going wrong?!

Kamui looked down and realized he was still wearing his shoes. He kicked them off at once, the backs scraping against his heels in his agitation, and they hit the wall and fell to the ground with dull thuds. He threw himself into bed and yanked his covers up around him, cocooning himself in the warmth and softness. Immediately his breath began to slow, but his throat was still burning and his head was still spinning and his heart was still hammering. He hated this. He absolutely hated this. All the happiness and excitement from his time with Subaru was gone, leaving him empty and hopeless. He could only remember feeling this terrible one other time, after Fuuma's party, when…

His stomach lurched horribly at the aversive memories. However, it was weirdly easier to remember fucking up in the past than to pay attention to his current fucked up circumstances. His mother had some nerve saying he hadn't learned.

The party had dragged for hours under the incredibly loud thunderstorm. Everyone was clustered in the living room, drinking and smoking but absorbed in their own activities. Normally, this was one of Kamui's favorite ways to pass time, but with Fuuma's friends it was miserable. Everyone in the room seemed to hate each other, the music was bad and any conversation was judgmental, critical or intoxicated to the point of incoherence. Kamui stayed as close as he could to Fuuma and drank steadily to assuage his anxiety, boredom and guilt at blowing off a night on the phone with Kotori for this. Of course, they hadn't had much to talk about recently; there were only so many times you could say "I miss you," "I love you" and "I wish you were here."

"You wanna go for a walk?" Fuuma asked Kamui, right in his ear, startling him back into focus.

"What?" Fuuma smirked.

"You wanna go for a walk? Maybe smoke a little?"

"Yeah," Kamui replied at once, desperate to get away. Fuuma stood up and extended his hand to pull Kamui to his feet. The moment he stood up, all the drinks he'd had caught up with him and he swayed, gripping Fuuma's hand even tighter.

"You okay?" He asked, quietly, and Kamui blushed, but nodded, allowing Fuuma to lead him by the hand out the back door onto a screened in porch. A light clicked on automatically, illuminating weatherproof furniture and other random clutter. Beyond the screen, rain continued to fall softly upon the grass and thunder clapped in the distance. Fuuma sat down on the couch, pulling Kamui with him, and finally let go of his hand to retrieve a blunt from his pocket. He lit up and took a deep pull on it, watching Kamui out of the corner of his eye. "What's up?" He asked, exhaling smoke.

"Huh? Nothing, just," Kamui gestured vaguely. "I'm fucked up." Fuuma smiled.

"Yeah, me too." Kamui smiled back. "You want some?" Kamui eyed the joint and nodded. He held out his hand, but Fuuma only smiled wider. "Do a shotgun hit with me." Kamui just stared blankly.

"What?"

"Damn, you are fucked up."

"Shut up," Kamui snapped, very half-heartedly. "I just don't know what that means," he continued, brave in his intoxication. Something changed in Fuuma's smile. It was suddenly tender and affectionate rather than condescending and superior.

"I'll show you," he said, quietly, and Kamui nodded, unsure what was coming but too absorbed in this new smile to care. Fuuma took a deep pull on the joint and held the smoke in his lungs before taking Kamui's chin between his thumb and index finger, lifting his gaze. Kamui's lips parted in a soft gasp of surprise and Fuuma, ever so delicately, placed his mouth on his and exhaled. Kamui's entire body seized up and he inhaled sharply, pulling the smoke into his lungs. He coughed, and Fuuma let him go, smirking. A moment's silence passed and Kamui felt his brain cloud and his body slow. However, his heart began to beat harder, fighting against the sudden heaviness in his chest. He touched his lips with his fingertips.

"What the fuck," he said, quietly, after another moment's silence.

"You okay?" Fuuma asked, and again he was tender rather than critical. Kamui looked up, his heart pounding as if in slow motion.

"I," he said, through his fingers, though he had no idea where he was going with that sentence. Fuuma put out the joint on the floor and shoved it back in his pocket.

"Come here," he said, and the softness of his voice reached Kamui deep in his haze, making his chest constrict around his throbbing heart. He moved closer, and Fuuma wrapped his arm around him to pull him flush up against him. Kamui stiffened, the tightness in his chest suddenly painful despite how warm and grounding the embrace was.

"Was that a kiss?" He asked, as though it had only just occurred to him. Fuuma squeezed his shoulders and brought his other hand to his chin again, lifting his gaze. Their eyes met, and Kamui gasped softly: Fuuma's expression was enigmatic, his eyes dark and lustful but still soft, still open.

"Only if you want it to be," he said, very seriously. Kamui's throat burned and he looked up at Fuuma with wide eyes.

"I," he started to say, but he broke off, and the sound of the pattering rain filled the space. "I-"

"I want you, Kamui," Fuuma interrupted, quietly. Kamui let out the tiniest of pained moans, and they were kissing before he even knew what was happening.

They stayed out on the porch for a long time, kissing and listening to the rain. Kamui expected, maybe even hoped, that Fuuma would take it farther somehow. However, after who knows how long, he just pulled away and held Kamui to his chest.

"Fuck," he moaned, softly in his ear. Kamui could feel himself beginning to sober up and the ensuing gnawing in his chest. He shifted uncomfortably against Fuuma. "You okay?" He asked, softly, and his quiet concern made the gnawing worse. He covered his mouth with his hand and closed his eyes, and everything that had just happened seemed to fall in upon him. Emotion swelled shockingly in his chest, choking him from the inside out, but he wouldn't cry, he wouldn't freak out, not in front of Fuuma. "It's okay," he whispered, holding him closer. Kamui shuddered. He both wanted to snuggle as close as he could to Fuuma and pull away and never be touched again. He tried to speak, but it was impossible, and he remained, stuck and stiff in Fuuma's embrace until he finally spoke. "You want me to take you home?" A lump rose in Kamui's throat, but he swallowed it and nodded.

They stood up. Fuuma took his hand and led him back through the party and out the front door without speaking to anyone. Kamui held on as tight as he could, as though Fuuma were a lifeline keeping him from slipping into the abyss forming at the edges of his mind. They got into the car and held hands the entire drive back, though they didn't say anything to each other. Kamui just leaned his head against the window, watching the other cars and listening to the rain slowly but surely letting up.

"Kamui."

"Huh?" He looked up, startled, and Fuuma smiled at him from the driver's seat. The streetlight filtering in through the rain washed windows illuminated his dark eyes, his warm, soft lips.

"Text me tomorrow, okay?" Kamui swallowed, but nodded. Fuuma leaned over and kissed him again, softly, almost chastely, but Kamui's body still lit up in excitement. "Good night." Again, Kamui just nodded. He forced himself to let go of Fuuma's hand and get out of the car. He slammed the door and sprinted back up to his apartment, finding it dark and empty. He stepped out of his shoes and walked slowly down the hall to his bedroom, numb to the dark and the silence, aware of nothing except the residual feelings of Fuuma's hands and lips. He entered his bedroom, and, rather like he were sleepwalking, took his phone out of his pocket and plugged it in to charge. The screen lit up, revealing a text he hadn't noticed.

"I love you" from Kotori.

Kamui swayed on the spot as the full realization of what he'd just done rose up inside him, making him feel like he was about to throw up. He clapped his hand to his mouth and sank onto his bed, his phone still clutched in his other hand. He breathed heavily through his nose, trying to calm down, but the abyss at the edges of his mind was growing, consuming him, dragging him down into its depths. He'd kissed someone else. He'd kissed someone else. He'd kissed someone else. Tears spilled from his eyes and he cried out, guilt and self-disgust tearing at his insides so painfully he thought he might die from it. He felt utterly lost and had no idea what to do except cry, sit in the pain he'd brought upon himself.

Kamui moaned in anguish and rolled over onto his other side, pulling the blankets more tightly around him. He liked to think it was all Fuuma's fault, that he'd been too fucked up to really understand, that it had all felt good and he'd just gotten swept up in the moment, but was that really true? It didn't matter, as far as he was concerned. He'd still done it. He began to cry, shuddering under the blankets.

He had forced himself to tell Kotori what had happened the very next day after his mother left for work, even though he wanted more than anything to take the information with him to the grave.

"You what?" Kotori had asked. She hadn't raised her voice, but she sounded so stunned and hurt it made Kamui feel beyond worthless.

"I kissed someone else," he said, very softly, curled up in a ball in his bed. Kotori said nothing, and he waited with his hand pressed over his eyes, each second dragging painfully until he could stand it no longer. "I'm so sorry, Kotori!"

"Right," she replied in the same stunned, hurt voice, and Kamui dug his fingernails into the sides of his face. Another few painful seconds passed, and Kotori hung up, leaving Kamui clutching his phone to his ear and crying silently.

They played phone tag for the next few hours, calling each other, speaking for a minute or so and hanging up again. Kamui lay on his bed the whole time, feeling lethargic and disgusting and ignoring texts from Yuzuriha, Sorata and Fuuma. Eventually, they managed to stay on the phone long enough for him to tell her the whole story.

"I'm so, so sorry," he told her, over and over.

"Why?!" She asked, just as many times. Kamui was never really able to give her an answer. He was fucked up? He was a bad boyfriend? Fuuma had seduced him? Everything felt like bullshit excuses.

"I don't know," he told her, for what felt like the thousandth time at around midnight. He could hear her crying, though she was trying to hide it. "I guess this is it?" He asked, hopelessly.

"I don't," she began, but her voice trailed away and Kamui hated himself. "You want to break up?" She asked in a brittle voice when she'd collected herself.

"Yes," he whispered, the words corrosive in his mouth and throat. Another moment passed.

"Right," Kotori said, and hung up again.

Kamui had closed his phone and burst into wracking, painful sobs, just as he was doing now. He cried for himself, for Kotori and Fuuma and Subaru and even things he couldn't name or understand, things too painful and complicated.


Tohru remained in the kitchen, listening to Kamui's door slam, his argument with Sorata and then silence. She breathed deeply, trying to calm down; she didn't like being that angry with anyone, especially Kamui, because she knew it would only push him away.

'But how else am I supposed to feel?!' She thought, furiously. She had never been one to worry, she'd never needed to, or at least, she'd never thought she did. Was that all just wishful thinking? Helplessness and inadequacy seemed to fall in upon her and she crossed to the living room and sank onto the couch. She couldn't stand it. She had to be strong, in control, know what to do, but at this moment she felt utterly lost. She covered her face with her hands and leaned forward, her elbows on her knees.

'Saya,' she thought, but before she could reach for the phone she heard Kamui begin to cry, and she was back on her feet at once. She strode down the hallway and knocked on his closed door. "Kamui?" A pause in the crying, but no response. "Kamui? Can I come in?"

"No!" She closed her eyes, suddenly and viscerally aware of his suffering.

"Kamui, please?" She asked, her tone softening. He didn't reply at once, and she rested her forehead on the door, waiting, hoping.

"Fine." Tohru pushed open the door and found him curled up in a ball under his blankets, the way he'd slept his whole life. She came to sit on the edge of his bed.

"I'm sorry I lost my temper with you," she told him, and she meant it. Kamui said nothing, staring as hard as he could in the opposite direction. "Things aren't good with us now, are they?" She asked, quietly, hating to say it. Kamui pressed his lips tightly together and shook his head. "It hurts me, Kamui," she continued. "I want us to get better." He made an indistinct noise and shifted under the blankets. "But I can't do it by myself," she continued, and her throat constricted suddenly. She swallowed. "We have to start talking," she said, very seriously. At last, he looked up at her, his face glazed with tears. She reached out and brushed his hair off his face, and he sniffed. "Why didn't you just tell me you were seeing someone?" She asked, desperately, wiping his tears away with the backs of her fingers.

"I don't know!" He burst out, sounding both terrified and furious.

"Shh," she said, soft and soothing, though frustration rose up inside her in spite of herself. All she'd asked was that he be honest with her, and their relationship had always been open- 'You assumed too much,' she told herself, suddenly and bluntly. Her breath caught in her throat and she tried to deny and argue with herself, but as she looked into Kamui's face, tear streaked and anguished, it occurred to her that maybe she had taken that for granted. She felt suddenly ashamed and more helpless than ever, but she shook herself mentally and tried a different tact. "Do you want to tell me about him?" She asked, stroking his hair. "Subaru, right?" Kamui nodded stiffly. Tohru's expression softened. "Can you at least tell me if you're dating, or just," she stopped speaking, unsure how to phrase it, but he got the implication and blushed. "It's all right if you are, I'd just like to know." Kamui sighed heavily, apparently gathering his resolve.

"We've gone out a few times," he told her, and she nodded, listening with rapt attention. "Last night was his birthday, so I was at his place."

"How old is he?" Kamui swallowed.

"Twenty two."

"Okay," Tohru replied, slowly. It could be worse.

"He goes to SCA," Kamui explained, as if trying to justify himself.

"Are you going to keep seeing him?" Tohru asked, and Kamui gave a half-hearted shrug.

"So yes," she said, and Kamui looked away. She sighed. "I'm okay with you seeing him," she said, slowly, and Kamui turned sharply to face her again.

"You are?!" He asked, looking utterly disbelieving.

"Yes," she said, simply. "But I want to meet him first." Kamui looked terrified.

"What?!"

"You heard me," she said. "And I don't want you staying overnight there anymore." Kamui sighed, but recognized defeat much faster than usual, for which she was grateful. "No more sneaking around, all right? I'm not having this." Kamui nodded, and she smiled. "Invite him over for dinner or something, we'll make a day of it." Kamui rolled his eyes, but again didn't argue. She leaned forward and kissed him on the forehead.

"Will you actually be home?" He asked.

"What?"

"If I bring him here or whatever, you won't be at work?" Tohru's chest constricted as the words hit her someplace deep, old but still raw. It wasn't like she had a choice about working as much as she did and leaving him, but still, the guilt made her stomach lurch and throat burn. She closed her eyes and ran her fingers through her hair. "Mom?" She heard Kamui scramble up to sit. "Mom, I," he sounded terrified, and she opened her eyes and forestalled him with a look.

"I'll be home, I promise." He nodded, though he still looked worried he'd upset her. She just heaved another sigh and hitched a brave smile back onto her face. "Would you like me to make you something to eat?" She asked. Kamui swallowed, but nodded.

"Just let me shower first." Tohru smiled and kissed him on the forehead.

"I love you."

"Love you too." Tohru got up and returned to the kitchen, listening to Kamui go into the bathroom, the door shut, the water turn on. She sighed heavily again, but felt unblocked somehow.

It was definitely a start.

Chapter Text

"You want to come with us?" Arashi asked.

"What?" Kamui asked, finishing his text and looking up distractedly.

"To go read manga?" Yuzuriha continued, slamming her locker shut. "I need the next volume of my new favorite series, even though it'll probably kill me."

"Yeah, fanfiction's not cutting it anymore, apparently," Sorata said, sadly, exchanging a look with Kamui, who couldn't help but smile. They'd patched things up while driving to school Monday morning, but still, it was heartening. Yuzuriha, however, looked suddenly annoyed.

"No, this fandom is," but she broke off, her expression tightening. Arashi tilted her head to the side, looking concerned, but Yuzuriha recovered herself. "So yeah, I need the canon!" All three of them just nodded, unsure what to say. "Do you want to come with us?" She continued, addressing Kamui, and he went slightly pink.

"I can't, I'm hanging out with Subaru today." Everyone raised their eyebrows.

"Already?" Yuzuriha asked, and Kamui smiled back at her defiantly.

"Already," he replied, sarcastically, before turning to Sorata. "My mom knows."

"Good," he replied, grudgingly, though he was smiling. "You want a ride?" Kamui hesitated, but it had been cold and windy and sleeting all day.

"That'd be awesome," he replied, rather more quietly than he'd intended. "Thanks."

"No problem!"

"Aww!" Yuzuriha said to Arashi in a stage whisper, but they ignored her. Kamui texted Subaru his updated arrival time and replied to a text from Kotori, his heart light as they headed back downstairs. Unfortunately, people were putting off going outside for as long as possible, forming a scrum at the door. Impatiently, they pushed through and sprinted across the parking lot, heads bowed against the wind and sleet.

"Shotgun!" Yuzuriha cried, making a dive for the front seat the moment Sorata unlocked the car, and they all climbed in gratefully after her, slamming the doors shut tight. As they caught their breath, Sorata started the engine, and the heat immediately fogged up the windshield.

"Damn it," he muttered, turning on the defroster.

"What do you guys wanna hear?" Yuzuriha asked, picking the case of CDs up off the floor and thumbing through it. Kamui and Arashi looked at each other and shrugged, so Yuzuriha made the choice herself. A catchy beat boomed out from the speakers, and Kamui felt his phone go off as he relaxed against the seat.

"perfect! see you soon!" He smiled broadly and they backed out of the parking space.

"So how exactly is this manga ruining your life?" Sorata asked, squinting at the rearview mirror. Yuzuriha's expression tightened again for a moment.

"The main character and I just understand each other," she replied, composedly.

"What's it about, exactly? You haven't told us," he persisted.

"A high school student and her dick best friends," she replied, grinning, and everyone snorted with laughter.

"Gotcha," Sorata replied, and left it at that. They pulled out of the parking lot, made their way to Memorial Boulevard and turned left.

"Subaru lives over here?" Yuzuriha asked, looking around with great interest as they turned right onto Meeting Street.

"Yeah, Kamui you gotta direct me, dude, I don't know where to go from here," Sorata said, and Kamui sat up straight again and rubbed a patch clean on the window with his sleeve. Meeting Street was full of people despite the weather. He guessed they were mostly SCA students, but it was hard to tell, and everything looked rather different from inside a car. It was also weird to have all his friends with him, to bring these two worlds together. He knew he didn't really have a choice, especially with his mother wanting to meet Subaru, but it still felt invasive, and he couldn't help but feel exposed.

"Make a right here," he said, his stomach twisting nervously. Sorata waited for a group of people carrying portfolios and smoking to get out of the crosswalk, then turned. Nervous as Kamui felt, he supposed he should be grateful his mother was okay with him seeing Subaru this afternoon, even it was on condition that he invited him over to meet her. The very idea made him feel sick with dread, but weirdly, being honest did save him a lot of trouble. Not that he'd tell his mother that, obviously. "Up here is fine," he said, as they approached Subaru's corner.

"Should I park, like, fifty feet away so he won't see you with us?" Sorata asked, grinning at Kamui in the rearview mirror. Yuzuriha and Arashi giggled.

"Shut up," Kamui snapped as the car came to a stop, then, "Thanks." He brofisted Sorata.

"Yeah yeah," he replied, grinning. Kamui clasped hands with Yuzuriha and Arashi, both of whom wished him luck, then got out of the car. He sprinted across the street, head bowed, then wrenched Subaru's front door open and ducked inside, gasping for breath. He took a moment to collect himself and shake the ice and rain out of his hair before climbing the stairs and knocking on the apartment door. Immediately, he heard hurried footsteps followed by locks scraping.

"Hey," Subaru said, opening the door, his warm smile faltering slightly as he looked Kamui up and down. "You look frozen!" He exclaimed, stepping to the side to let him in.

"Nah, it's okay," Kamui replied, his heart skipping as he took in Subaru in his black pants and high-necked shirt.

"Still, I'm glad you got a ride," Subaru continued, watching Kamui take off his coat and step out of his shoes.

"Yeah, me too," he said, looking around the apartment. It was quiet, except for music playing in Subaru's bedroom, so Kamui assumed they were alone. He supposed this would be helpful, though he had no real plan of attack for asking Subaru to come over. He was worried if he brought it up too soon it'd kill the mood, but he didn't trust himself to actually do it if he put it off too long. Fortunately, Subaru broke the silence.

"Um, how was school?" He asked, crossing his arms in front of his chest. Kamui went slightly pink, but was grateful for a conversation he could continue in hopes of either a chance to ask Subaru to come over or just kiss him.

"It was whatever," he replied. "This guy in my English class keeps getting into fights with our teacher."

"Like, actual fights?" Subaru asked, laughing, and Kamui grinned.

"Nah, just like, he says dumb shit about the book we have to read and my teacher's about ready to snap."

"Oh no…"

"I hope he does, it'd be hilarious!" Subaru shook his head, still laughing. "Did you have class today?" Kamui continued.

"Just thesis," Subaru replied, running his fingers through his hair. Kamui groaned sympathetically. "No, it's all right, I think I actually know what I'm going to do." Kamui's eyes widened eagerly.

"Really? What is it?" Subaru smiled, looking uncharacteristically pleased with himself, and Kamui's heart skipped excitedly.

"I'll show you, come here." They walked into Subaru's bedroom. Kamui dropped his bag and coat onto the floor and looked curiously at his bed, where a new, larger sketchbook was open, surrounded by textbooks, pens and pencils. Subaru carefully gathered everything into a pile at the end of the bed, then sat down and rested his sketchbook on his thighs. "Remember all the occult stuff I was telling you about?"

"Of course," Kamui replied, taking the seat beside him.

"I decided I did want to focus on onmyo magic, so my idea was how a modern onmyoji would work. Like, the types of services they'd provide, their clientele, stuff like that."

"That's so cool!" Kamui exclaimed. "Like, an onmyoji for hire?"

"Something like that," Subaru laughed. He opened his sketchbook and began to thumb through it. "I think I'll draw vignettes about specific incidents, but I want to focus more on the people than the supernatural stuff." Kamui's eyes narrowed curiously.

"How do you mean?"

"Well like, presumably something bad happened to the person if they need an onmyoji, but," he broke off, shrugging and turning pages. "I guess I'm more interested in the circumstances and emotions and all that." Kamui nodded thoughtfully.

"So like… How people say good horror movies are actually about grief or whatever?" Subaru raised his eyebrows, and Kamui flushed, self-conscious all of a sudden, but,

"That's… Yeah, similar, for sure." Kamui exhaled in relief and pressed on bravely.

"I like stuff about people being awful," he said, and Subaru burst out laughing.

"You know it's never my intention to draw things like that," he said, regretfully. "But it always fucking comes out that way."

"Shit happens," Kamui replied, inching closer.

"It does," Subaru agreed, finally settling on a page. He showed Kamui a drawing of a young woman in a suit, her eyes rolled back in her head and her body contorted grotesquely.

"Whoa," Kamui said, feeling the energy of the picture like a punch to the gut. "This is amazing!"

"Thank you," Subaru said, blushing slightly. "It's nowhere near done, but-"

"I like it," Kamui said, decisively, and Subaru closed his sketchbook, looking rather pleased. "Are you gonna display it?" He tried to remember what Subaru's friends had called it. "At the student showcase?" Subaru placed the sketchbook on the floor and turned to face Kamui properly.

"Probably, if I get in."

"You'll get in," Kamui said, with the utmost confidence. Subaru just smiled.

"We'll see." They fell into a brief silence as they looked at each other.

"Can I come and see?" Kamui asked. Subaru's eyes widened.

"I mean, if you want to, certainly."

"Of course I want to!" Kamui said, impatiently. "I want to support you and shit." Subaru burst out laughing, though he still looked pleased.

"Thank you." Kamui just answered with a smile. They stared at each other for a moment, then, at the same time, moved in for a kiss. They broke apart almost at once, but remained close together, the space between them suddenly warm. "Is this okay?" Subaru asked, quietly, and Kamui let out a soft, longing moan and kissed him again. Subaru inhaled deeply through his nose and kissed him back for a glorious moment, then pulled away and rested his forehead against his. "I should close my door," he whispered.

"Yeah," Kamui moaned softly, grinning. They exchanged one more kiss, and Kamui lay down against the pillows, watching Subaru get up to close the door and change the music. He turned, and his expression softened longingly as his eyes roved up and down Kamui's body. Kamui shivered and shifted his hips back and forth, blushing at how obviously hard he was getting. Subaru exhaled slowly through parted lips and lay down beside him. Immediately Kamui pulled him into another kiss, this one already deep and heavy. Subaru gasped softly and Kamui pressed his tongue into his mouth, groaning as he tasted him and feeling fresh, hot arousal rising inside him. He kept one hand on the side of Subaru's face and ran the other up and down his back, feeling all of his curves and his angles.

Subaru shuddered at the touches and gripped Kamui's shoulders, then dragged his hands, slowly and teasingly, down his back. Kamui moaned and his erection throbbed excitedly. Even though this all felt amazing, even though he could kiss Subaru this way forever, he couldn't help but imagine that sensation as he was jerking him off, or blowing him, or even…

"Is this okay?" Subaru asked, pressing his thigh between Kamui's legs.

"Yes!" He moaned, rocking his hips back and forth, grinding against the new pressure and shivering in excitement. Subaru let out a soft, shuddering groan, a deep blush rushing up his neck and face. "You okay?" Kamui asked, his voice slightly constricted.

"Yes," Subaru replied at once. He brought his hand down to hold Kamui's hip bone in a soft, encouraging grip, and he moved his hips faster, creating a deeply pleasurable, though incredibly teasing, friction against his thigh. Arousal spread out through his body in hot, needy waves and he kissed Subaru deeply again, thrusting his tongue into his mouth, making him moan, kiss him deeper, grip his hip harder.

Kamui kept moving, spurred on and lost in the blissful rhythm and friction. He pulled out of their kiss to move to Subaru's neck, but was immediately distracted by the look on his face: he was flushed, his lips were softly parted but his eyes were dark and lustful. He moaned softly too, then leaned forward and bit down on Kamui's lower lip. He pulled back, sucking gently, and it seared Kamui's nerves and he groaned and thrust his hips forward. Subaru let go at once to throw his head back, his breath shallow and chest heaving. Kamui could see his nipples, hard under the fabric of his shirt, and the skin above the waistband of his pants, pale and beautiful and begging to be touched. Before it became too tempting, Kamui rolled Subaru onto his back and climbed on top of him.

"Is this okay?" He asked, and Subaru just nodded and wrapped his arms around him. Kamui gave him one more slow, deep kiss on the lips before moving to his cheek, his jaw, his ear. He hooked his fingers into the high neck of his shirt and pulled it away to kiss the soft, flushed skin. Subaru moaned and thrust his hips up, and Kamui cried out at how hard he was. He moved his kisses lower down Subaru's neck, then paused, smiling softly. "I like the hickeys," he whispered. Subaru closed his eyes and his blush glowed more brightly.

"I'm glad," he replied, half sarcastic, half longing, and Kamui laughed softly in his ear as a shiver of excitement ran through his body. He pressed his lips against Subaru's neck again and took a deep breath in through his nose.

"You smell good," he said on his exhale, and Subaru groaned softly again. Kamui kissed him on the lips and began to rub his thigh teasingly between his legs. Subaru let out a strangled cry and seized the sides of Kamui's face to kiss him deeper, thrusting his tongue into his mouth. Kamui's erection throbbed in need and he dragged his hand down the side of Subaru's waist, feeling him shiver as he pressed his thumb into the soft skin just inside of his hipbone. Kamui knew a deep shudder of arousal through his whole body, and before he could think about it, he pressed his hand up under Subaru's shirt, finally feeling the smooth, hot skin of his belly, his chest. Subaru cried out and arched up into the touch, his expression surprised and ecstatic, and Kamui kissed him hard on the lips. However, Subaru pulled away just as quickly, gasping. "Are you okay?" Kamui asked, taking his hand away at once.

"I'm fine," Subaru assured him, closing his eyes and taking deep breaths. Kamui just watched, his breath also shallow, and hand still hot from Subaru's skin, waiting. When Subaru opened his eyes, his gaze travelled longingly over Kamui's body for a moment, but then he swallowed and looked away.

"Do you wanna stop?" Kamui asked, quietly. Subaru shut his eyes tight again, looking almost pained.

"Yes," he sighed, opening them again. Kamui made to get off of Subaru, but he gently grabbed his upper arm. "Wait," he said, and a soft blush rose up in his face as Kamui looked at him curiously. "Can we cuddle? Is that…?" Kamui smiled and felt his heart swell in his chest.

"You wanna cuddle?"

"Is that cool?" Subaru asked, smiling back.

"Mmhmm." Kamui shifted over and lay down with his head on Subaru's chest, then threw his arm and leg over him. Subaru kissed him on the top of the head and ran his hand up and down his back.

"You sure this is okay?" Subaru asked

"Yeah," Kamui replied at once. "I'm just," but he broke off with a sigh. His erection was twitching hopefully, and he could see how hard Subaru still was. He shifted slightly in his arms. At least it didn't hurt.

"Sorry," Subaru said, quietly. "I just didn't want it to be too much." As they had done the night of his birthday, the words hit Kamui in two very different places. However, this time he felt more frustrated than grateful, and he replied with a rather impatient noise in his throat. "What?" Subaru asked, also with a bite of impatience that took Kamui by surprise.

"Nothing," He replied at once. "Just…" He pulled away to look Subaru in the face. "You know I've like, had sex before, right?" Subaru blushed.

"I know, but still…" Kamui bit down on the inside of his lip, feeling suddenly guilty. The last thing he wanted to do was pressure Subaru. He cuddled close to him again and nosed tenderly against his neck.

"Sorry," he said, quietly, and Subaru sighed, relaxing underneath him.

"It's okay." They fell into a sleepy silence, wrapped around each other, Subaru's music still playing in the background.

"This song is nice," Kamui said, quietly.

"Thank you, I'm glad you like it."

"I always like your music," Kamui continued.

"Really?" Subaru asked, surprised. "People usually tell me it's depressing."

"That's stupid," Kamui scoffed, and Subaru burst out laughing. Warmth rose up in Kamui's chest and he ran his first two fingers up and down Subaru's breastbone.

"What do you like to listen to?" Subaru asked, after a moment. Kamui hesitated, feeling suddenly self-conscious.

"I'll listen to anything," he replied, rather awkwardly.

"That's a good M.O.," Subaru said, thoughtfully.

"You think so?" Kamui asked, sounding far more hopeful than he'd intended.

"Of course, being elitist about music is such a waste of time."

"Oh my god, thank you!" Kamui exclaimed, feeling deeply validated.

"Well it is!" Subaru continued, laughing rather bemusedly. Kamui climbed back on top of him, stacked his hands one on top of the other on his chest and rested his chin upon them. Subaru smiled softy and brushed Kamui's bangs off his face.

"My," he paused. "My ex hated all my music," he said, shuddering as he spilled the secret into the warm, loving space between them. It felt weird to say it, least of all because "ex" wasn't even really the right word for Fuuma.

"That sucks," Subaru said, sympathetically, stroking Kamui's hair.

"Yeah," he agreed, looking away rather sadly. Subaru took a deep breath in, and Kamui felt his chest expand against his.

"Mine was the same way," he said, so quietly Kamui almost missed it. He snapped his gaze back to Subaru's, and saw him looking anxious at his own words. A righteous anger rose up inside Kamui and he kissed Subaru hard on the lips.

"Make me a mix CD," he said, firmly, when they broke apart.

"Are you serious?" Subaru asked, blushing.

"Hell yeah!" Kamui said, eagerly. "I'll make you one too, we can trade next time we see each other." Subaru laughed softy and his blush deepened, but his eyes shone suddenly, the color and emotion making Kamui's heart skip.

"I'd like that," he replied, his tone full of meaning, and Kamui just grinned and kissed him again. Subaru laughed quietly against his lips and kissed him back, and though Kamui wanted to keep going, a nagging began in the back of his mind. He knew he'd already put off asking for too long, and he supposed this was a good a segue as he could hope for.

"Subaru?" He asked, breaking their kiss.

"Mm?" Kamui swallowed, climbed off of Subaru and sat up straight so he could look at him properly.

"So, about next time," he began, his face already burning. "Do you, do you mind coming over?" Subaru looked taken aback.

"You mean, to your house?" Kamui bit down on the inside of his lip, his stomach twisting nervously even though Subaru's expression was still receptive.

"It's just," he began, but then swallowed and continued, gazing imploringly at Subaru. "My mom is being weird about not meeting you," he continued, his face burning. "She's just being crazy and I know it's fucking annoying and I swear I-"

"Kamui," Subaru interrupted, and he fell silent at once, watching with terrified eyes. "It's all right, I understand," he said, smiling a rather tight smile, and Kamui glared at him skeptically. "My sister's like that, I get it," he continued.

"I'm sorry," Kamui said, quietly. Subaru just sighed a resigned sigh, sat up, and ran his fingers through his hair before kissing Kamui softly on the lips.

"When should I come over?" Kamui's heart swelled shockingly. Subaru was so understanding, so willing, so tolerant.

"I'm not sure," he replied, apologetically. "My mom's work schedule is always fucked up."

"She's a paramedic, right?"

"Yeah."

"So I guess just text me when you know for sure? You know I don't do anything besides schoolwork." Kamui rolled his eyes, but nodded gratefully. Then, as if on cue, his phone began to ring. He heaved himself off Subaru's bed to retrieve it.

"Hello?"

"I'm outside," came his mother's voice, and he cast Subaru a regretful look.

"I'll be right there." He snapped his phone closed. "Speak of your mom bugging you and she'll appear," he said, wearily, and Subaru laughed, but then,

"She came to get you?"

"Yeah," Kamui replied. "Is that…?" His mother had come to pick him up from spending time with Kotori too, but of course it was different with Subaru, and he felt desperately awkward all of a sudden. However, Subaru smiled, and even though it was a tight smile, Kamui's stomach stopped squirming.

"I'm glad you don't have to walk home in this," he said, quietly.

"Me too," Kamui sighed. "I gotta go."

"I know," Subaru replied. "Text me the plan." Kamui nodded and kissed him gently on the lips.

"I will." He gathered his things and Subaru walked him to the door. They hesitated a moment, then embraced, holding each other close one last time. Kamui took one more deep breath in through his nose, then withdrew and kissed Subaru on the lips. "I'll text you."

"Mmhmm." Kamui gently withdrew and left, smiling at Subaru over his shoulder as the door swung shut behind him.

Subaru stared at the closed door for a moment, then returned to his room, sat down on his bed and lit a cigarette from the pack on his bedside table. He took a deep pull on it and exhaled the smoke in a long sigh.

He liked Kamui. He liked his attitude and his energy and his very obvious feelings for him. He shivered, remembering Kamui on top of him, grinding against him hard and kissing him even harder. He really liked hooking up with him too, especially when they had strict rules in place.

"You know I've like, had sex before, right?"

Subaru blushed and exhaled smoke. He'd certainly been right in thinking Kamui had much more experience than he'd had at seventeen, and bizarrely the guilty knot in his stomach seemed to ease slightly. It wasn't like he'd take it farther anyway, not when he would be graduating and all they were doing was hanging out. Then again, wasn't going to meet Kamui's mother a big step if that really was all they were doing? Exactly how seriously did Kamui take all of this?

'That's why we won't take it farther,' Subaru reminded himself, before he could start spinning. He took another drag from his cigarette. 'And meeting his mom is just out of necessity,' he thought, exhaling. He still lived at home, she was being protective, it was totally understandable. Hokuto had been the same way with Seishiro, after all.

A fresh tidal wave of guilt rose up and crashed in Subaru's stomach, but he just took a defiant pull on his cigarette. He'd go meet Kamui's mother. He'd do the right thing, unlike Seishiro, who had laughed when he'd even dared to suggest he meet his sister. Subaru sighed and ran his fingers through his hair, gazing rather hopelessly around at his thesis project, all pushed down to the end of his bed. He should get more work done. He was way behind as it was, and, if anything, it'd distract him until Kamui texted him with plans.


Hours later, Kamui sat cross-legged in bed, staring hard at his laptop. He and his mother had decided Subaru would come over the following Saturday, so he'd wanted to get started on his mix CD right away. However, he'd gotten self-conscious the moment he'd opened his iTunes library and had signed onto AIM to ask his friends for help. Unfortunately, Sorata wasn't online, and Yuzuriha had an away message up.

yuzusauce :: "so I hear you and I try to understand, but I still don't know what to say…"

Kamui assumed it was a line from the manga she was reading, but didn't send her another message. Fortunately, Kotori replied to him with a suggestion, and he smiled and added it to the playlist at once, bringing the song count up to three.

k4mui :: good call!

k4mui :: thank you!

Littlebirdxo :: of course!

He smiled fondly at the computer screen, wondering suddenly if it was weird for her to hear about Subaru. Even though she was usually the one to ask, he still felt slightly awkward. As he sent her a reply, his eyes strayed to Fuuma's screen name in the offline section of his buddylist. He hadn't heard from him since that gross Valentine's Day text, and though he was not sorry about this, there was still a part of him that would love to rub Subaru in his face. Of course, he knew exactly what Fuuma's response would be.

"He's not fucking you though, what's the point?"

That had been all Fuuma had cared about, and though it had started off funny and exciting, it hadn't remained so.

Fuuma had started texting Kamui almost constantly after Satsuki's party, though he'd ignored them all, feeling too guilty and disgusting to be worthy of human contact. He also knew responding to Fuuma would mean thinking about what to do next, and he just couldn't face it. However, two days after he'd confessed to Kotori, he'd finally given in.

"you're freaking me out where the fuck are you?"

Kamui lay splayed out on his front in bed, all the shades drawn and fan on, consumed by heat and his own misery. He stared blearily at his phone, open in his hand, and texted back.

"we broke up"

"fuck that SUCKS"

"yea" He swallowed and rolled over onto his back, his t-shirt sticking to him unpleasantly.

"lemme take you out later" His eyes widened and his heart sped up suddenly.

"are you serious?"

"fuck yes be there in 2 hours"

Kamui stared, stunned, at his phone for a while, unsure what to do. His mother had gone to work a little while ago and wouldn't be back until late, but he still felt anxious sneaking out. He also hadn't seen anyone in person since the party. Sorata and Yuzuriha had been sympathetic and tried to get him to hang out, but he couldn't face them, not when he was sure they were secretly furious with him over what he did. However, he reasoned that at least he and Fuuma were in this sort of together, and he did feel bad about ignoring him for days. Eventually, he heaved himself out of bed to shower and change, and Fuuma arrived exactly when he said he would. Kamui rushed outside at once and climbed into the mercifully air conditioned car.

"Hey," Fuuma said, his voice soft and even. Kamui's face burned, and he couldn't look at him.

"Hi," he replied, putting on his seatbelt. He expected Fuuma to pull the car away, but they remained stationary and quiet, D.O.E. playing quietly to fill the space. Kamui balled his hands into fists in his lap, painfully aware of Fuuma looking at him. "What?" He asked, but in answer Fuuma just took his hand and squeezed it. Kamui felt the touch all the way up his arm and finally looked up, his heart leaping into his throat.

"I'm sorry," Fuuma said, very quietly. Kamui's lip trembled, but he held his gaze. It didn't even occur to him to point out that their breakup was Fuuma's fault, not when he was still there, still willing, still thought him desirable after doing something so awful. He tried to say thank you, but his throat was too tight, so he just nodded and squeezed Fuuma's hand. "I need to put the car in gear."

"Oh yeah," Kamui managed to say, and he even tried to smile as he let go. Fuuma sped off, and Kamui leaned against the passenger's seat, staring out the window at a truly beautiful summer evening. Sunlight fell through the leafy canopy of trees onto the sidewalks, covered in mossy cracks and chalk drawings. People were out in hordes, talking and laughing, eating and drinking. It all felt rather surreal to Kamui, sequestered away in Fuuma's car and wrapped up in his own unhappiness.

Fuuma turned left on Memorial Boulevard and then onto the highway. Kamui chanced a glance at him, but he just smiled and drove them further and further towards the setting sun. It was only after the buildings on either side of the highway gave way to thick trees that Kamui finally asked where they were going. Fuuma exited the highway and guided them down one smaller state road, then another.

"Somewhere quiet," he replied, evasively. Again, Kamui just leaned back in his seat, staring out of the window as the sunset became softly blue and diffuse. After another few minutes they pulled onto a gravel road and crunched up to a very old, rusted gate through which a lawn, then woods, were visible. Kamui suddenly realized where they were: one of the state parks by the beach.

They drove through the gate, and those few people still picnicking or barbecuing were packing up their things and heading in for the night. Fuuma guided them slowly down the winding, gravel road deeper into the woods, until they arrived at a camp ground on the edge of a small lake. It was deserted, and Kamui looked around, at last feeling genuinely curious. Fuuma turned the car around and backed up to the shore, then turned off the engine but left the music on.

"Get out," he said, though his tone was still soft, and Kamui obeyed at once. It was much cooler here. He closed his eyes for a moment, breathing in the smell of the trees and the lake water, and a gentle breeze played across his face. Kamui heard Fuuma open his trunk, and he turned.

"What are you doing?" He asked, still curious. Fuuma just grinned.

"Come here and help me put the seats down."

"What?" Fuuma's grin widened and he climbed up into the car to push one of the backseats forward as far as it could go. Kamui's heart squeezed, but he ignored it and climbed up to help. The seats wouldn't quite lie flat, but Fuuma seemed satisfied. He threw a blanket over them and made sure they were completely covered before lying down on his back, his arms folded under his head and legs spread out in front of him. His eyes darted to the space beside him, then to Kamui's face.

"Come here," he said, but Kamui didn't move. "The view is nice," he continued. Another soft breeze blew up around them, temporarily muffling the music and insects and lake lapping against the shore. Kamui looked back over his shoulder for a moment, then lay down beside Fuuma. For the first time that evening, he actually wondered what his intention was. Surely it couldn't just be to distract him or make him feel better, unless that meant- "Hey," Fuuma said, softly, bringing Kamui back to Earth. "You okay?" Kamui turned his head and looked at Fuuma, really looked at him, and also for the first time that evening, remembered everything they'd done at the party, how he'd kissed him so greedily and held him so tightly.

Kamui nodded, and Fuuma took his hand and gave it a squeeze. Kamui closed his eyes, his heart throbbing and throat burning suddenly. Although he felt wracked with guilt about betraying Kotori, there was that tiny shoot of relief in the depths of his mind and heart. It was over; he had his time to explore back, though he'd given it up so willingly, it…

He forced his eyes open, trying not to think, and looked at Fuuma, his reasoning for questioning his and Kotori's situation in the first place. He opened his mouth, but Fuuma just smiled and brought their clasped hands to his lips and kissed them.

Kamui shivered, feeling the kiss radiate out through his body. His stared, wide eyed, his throat now too tight to speak. Fuuma made a soft, sympathetic noise and kissed him on the lips. He cried out in surprise, but as Fuuma held him close, kissed him slowly and reverently, Kamui felt the tension inside him snap. He melted into the embrace with a deep, needy groan, and Fuuma dug his fingers into his back and pressed his thigh between his legs, making him cry out and blush deeply, suddenly and viscerally aware of how hard he was.

"Fuck," Fuuma moaned, between kisses, rubbing his thigh harder against Kamui and sliding his hand up under his t-shirt. Kamui's stomach muscles pulled in and up while his erection twitched excitedly and his heart throbbed painfully: another person's hand on his bare skin, after so long, after he'd done something so awful.

"Ah!" he cried out, shuddering as Fuuma dragged his hand down his chest and belly, undid his pants and took hold of his erection. He swallowed Kamui's surprised cry in another kiss and moved his hand up and down, pleasing him hard and fast. Kamui moaned harder, his face burning, feeling overwhelmed, swept away by the sensation and emotion, until Fuuma grabbed his other hand and placed it over his own erection. Kamui let out another cry and stiffened in his arms. He'd never done this to someone else before and he could barely think straight for his own pleasure. However, Fuuma thrust his hips forward against his hand, and he was so hard, hard because of him.

Kamui moaned softly and, shaking slightly, undid Fuuma's pants and slipped his hand inside. Fuuma made a low noise of satisfaction and Kamui shivered violently as he took hold of his erection. He knew a rush of excitement and began to move his hand, slowly at first, then faster, receiving another groan of satisfaction and feeling so gloriously lost in their shared pleasure. Fuuma then pulled out of their kiss and moved his lips to Kamui's neck, finding all of his sensitive spots with his lips, then tongue, then teeth. Kamui cried out, the pressure inside him spiking and his erection stiffening in Fuuma's hand.

"O-oh fuck, I-" But Fuuma just bit down on his neck and sucked hard, stroking him even faster. Kamui let go of Fuuma's erection and yanked his shirt up out of the way just in time, moaning softly as he came all over his belly. He fell back against the blanket, his eyes shut tight, breathing hard through his open mouth.

Fuuma just kept pleasing him, making sure he was completely spent before letting go. Kamui was only vaguely aware of the sensation stopping, of Fuuma kissing him softly on the lips and pulling away. However, when he recovered enough to open his eyes, it was to find Fuuma up on his knees, pants open and hand on his erection. Kamui blushed and watched, transfixed, as Fuuma pleased himself, breathing heavily and smiling lustfully.

"I'm close," he said, his voice slightly constricted, and Kamui took a sharp breath in and nodded, his entire body tensing in anticipation. Fuuma got on his hands and knees over Kamui, and before he even realized what was happening, made himself come all over his belly and chest. Kamui shut his eyes tight and cried out softly, his face burning and body shuddering. After a few seconds he heard Fuuma groan in satisfaction, then felt him come to lie beside him.

The D.O.E. CD stopped abruptly, and for a while only the lake and the insects and their breathing could be heard. Eventually, Fuuma reached for Kamui's hand and squeezed it. He shuddered, but opened his eyes, and as he faced him he knew a weird rush of embarrassment. He opened his mouth, but Fuuma swallowed whatever he'd been about to say in a kiss, this one tender and loving rather than needy and lustful, and it made his heart ache. He shifted uncomfortably, wanting to clean up and be closer, but Fuuma placed his hand on his hip to hold him steady.

"Hold on," he said, and pulled away. Kamui swallowed and looked down at the mess on his chest and belly, and knew another weird rush of embarrassment. Fuuma reached across him for a corner of the blanket and used it to clean him up.

"That's nasty, what the fuck," Kamui said, his throat tight and face burning as he did up his pants and pulled down his shirt.

"Sorry," Fuuma said, giving him another kiss on the lips before lying back down. He stared out over the lake for a moment, not bothering to do up his pants, then looked at Kamui. "Come here," he said, as though it were obvious. Kamui hesitated for a moment, then crawled into Fuuma's arms and rested his head on his chest. Fuuma held him close, rubbing up and down his back and kissing him on the top of the head. Kamui's heart was still aching and he held tight to Fuuma like a lifeline, just like at the party. It had to be this way, didn't it? Weren't they in this together? However, as he listened to Fuuma's breath, his heartbeat, doubt began to claw at the corners of his mind. This all seemed way too easy. Had Fuuma really planned all of this just for him? Or was it just a set of plans he'd bring out when trying to impress someone new?

"Fuuma?"

"What's up?" His expression was receptive, but still Kamui felt like he was under a spotlight.

"I," he tried, but his throat constricted suddenly, choking his words. Fuuma kissed him tenderly on the lips.

"What's going on?" Kamui moaned softly, but the kiss seemed to unlock him somehow.

"We, we're really doing this, right?" Fuuma raised his eyebrows.

"Doing what, this?" He asked, kissing Kamui once more on the lips, making him shiver.

"Yeah, like, you mean it, right?" He felt weird just asking like that, but he had to: if he'd gotten into this mess with Fuuma, he wanted it to at least be real. Be worth something. Fuuma looked at him thoughtfully for a moment.

"I could have whoever I wanted," he said. "But the only person I want is you." Kamui's stomach twisted uncomfortably at the words even as the promise they held was overpowering. He kissed Fuuma and climbed on top of him, wanting to lose himself to it all once again.

Littlebirdxo :: i still have every mix you made me

The IM made Kamui jump and forced him back to the present. He shook his head, trying to clear it before reading the message. He smiled widely, though his heart was hurting him.

k4mui :: likewise!

His eyes strayed once again to Fuuma's screen name, but he was still safely offline. For a split second, he wondered where he was, what he was up to, but of course it didn't matter, and it was probably something nefarious anyway.

"But the only person I want is you."

Kamui rolled his eyes. However, as much as he hated it now, it had been what he'd needed to hear that night at the lake, even though it had all happened so fast and been so intense.

They'd kissed and jerked each other off again, then cuddled for a while before Fuuma had driven him back home. The second time was better: Fuuma had let Kamui make him come, and it'd hadn't been all over him. He still felt conflicted about it, even hours later when he was back in bed, watching the sunrise outside his window through half-lidded eyes. It wasn't like he'd disliked it, necessarily, but it had taken him by surprise. He shut his eyes tight and buried his face in his pillows. He couldn't help but remember all he'd done with Kotori, how much more careful they'd been, how they'd always asked, the quiet awe with which they treated each other's bodies.

'And you fucked that up completely,' he reminded himself. As if on cue, his phone vibrated on his nightstand. He opened it to a text from Fuuma.

"miss you" Kamui let out a soft, needy moan.

"miss you too" As he sent it, he realized just how true that was. He placed his phone on his nightstand and closed his eyes against the pale blue sunlight.

Kamui sighed heavily and added another song to his playlist. Despite getting rather impatient with Subaru that afternoon, after Fuuma, he couldn't help but be grateful they were taking it slow. He bit down on the inside of his lip, deleted the song he'd just added, then put it back. He wondered what Subaru would be into once they took it farther. Would he continue to be soft and sensual or would he turn suddenly aggressive and passionate? Or maybe, would it be something else entirely?

Kamui felt an excited shiver run through his body and heat start to pool between his legs, but he ignored it, determined to finish the mix CD. He added a few more songs, looked over the playlist one last time, then slid a blank CD into his laptop to burn. He relaxed against his pillows, his heart beating in soft excitement as he picked up his phone to text Subaru.

"finished your mix!"

Chapter Text

"Kamui, relax," his mother said, smiling as she chopped vegetables. Kamui made an irritated noise in his throat, threw himself back onto the couch and glared across the room. She had some nerve telling him to relax when this was all her idea. He hadn't asked for this. He checked his phone for the twelfth time in a minute and bit down on the inside of his lip. His friends had all texted him good luck, but Subaru's last text had been ten minutes ago to say he was on his way. He sighed heavily and glared at his mother cooking, annoyed to find her still smiling.

"Just be cool to him, okay? He's," but he broke off, unable to think of a word. Her smile softened a little.

"I'll behave myself." Kamui rolled his eyes, but managed to smile back anyway. His mother returned to her cooking, and he stared about as if hoping for something to distract him. His eyes fell upon an old photo of himself on a bookshelf across the room, and he scrambled up at once to slide it out of sight. Fortunately, before his mother could say anything about it, their buzzer went off. Kamui tore across the room to let Subaru upstairs, then wrenched the door open and stood sentinel, listening with all his might. His heart pounded as Subaru's footsteps grew louder, but then a broad grin spread across his face as he came into view, looking tired and carrying a schoolbag and a small cardboard box.

"Hey," Kamui said, still smiling even as he felt almost faint with anxiety.

"Hi," Subaru replied, smiling as he approached the doorway. Kamui hesitated a moment, then hugged him hello, though he pulled away extremely quickly.

"Come in," he said, stepping aside to let him in. Subaru looked around their apartment interestedly as he toed off his shoes, but then his eyes fixed upon Kamui's mother in the kitchen, wiping her hands hurriedly on a dishcloth. He looked suddenly terrified, but she smiled and walked over. Kamui watched them, biting his lip, his nerves tautening.

"Hi, Subaru, I'm Tohru," she said, kindly, extending her hand.

"Very nice to meet you," he said, rather formally, shaking it.

"You too," she replied, her smile widening. "You can put your stuff on the couch, dinner will be ready in just a second."

"Thank you," Subaru said, again rather formally. "I brought dessert," he added, holding up the box he was carrying. Kamui felt his tautened nerves ease very slightly as his mother looked surprised, but gratified.

"That's very kind of you, thank you," she said, taking it from him and opening it to reveal a cake.

"I would have made something myself, but I'm hopeless, even with a decent recipe," he said, regretfully, dropping his bag rather awkwardly onto the couch.

"Please, this is perfect," she said, smiling warmly at him. "Kamui, put this in the fridge for me, please?" Kamui hurried forward and took the box from her at once. "Be careful not to squish it," she added as he opened the refrigerator.

"I'm not!" Kamui snapped, going slightly pink at his own tone as he moved things around to make space. "See?" He said, trying to sound less tense and more polite. He moved out of the way to show her.

"Don't be hostile," his mother countered, turning off the stove and taking plates and glasses out of the cabinet. Kamui swore under his breath and shoved the refrigerator door shut.

"Are you hostile?" Subaru asked, sitting down at the table.

"Is that a serious question?" Kamui's mother asked, loading their plates with food.

"What's that supposed to mean?!" Kamui demanded, and again Subaru laughed.

"I guess he's nicer to you," his mother told him, and he smiled gratefully at Kamui, who blushed and hurried to get drinks ready.

"This looks great," Subaru said, as Kamui's mother served dinner.

"You can take some home if you want. I remember eating very few meals someone else cooked for me when I was in school."

"Oh no, that's-"

"Don't fight with her, like, trust me," Kamui interrupted, setting drinks at each place and taking the seat beside Subaru.

"Don't be hostile," he replied. Kamui's eyes widened in stunned betrayal while his mother burst into appreciative laughter.

"You see?" She asked, resignedly, sitting down at the table. They began to eat, the conversation about the food and how good it was. Kamui was relieved to see Subaru and his mother easy and receptive and respectful, though he could still feel his nerves. His mother was gazing at Subaru appraisingly, but she seemed more curious than anything, for which Kamui was grateful.

However, for the first time, he thought of how weird a position this must be for her. It hadn't occurred to him with Kotori because they'd been in each other's lives so long, and with Fuuma he'd been too absorbed in his own feelings to think about anyone else's. His mother hadn't acted any differently with Kotori after they'd started dating, but she'd taken an instant dislike to Fuuma, though she'd always acted civil to his face. Kamui figured it was just because of how Fuuma had come into his life, because she was angry with both of them for hurting Kotori, though she'd denied it endlessly.

"So you're an illustrator?" She asked, and Subaru nodded, swallowing.

"Well, I should be, after I graduate," he corrected her with a hesitant smile, and she laughed.

"What kind?"

"Um, I'm sort of in between concentrations," he replied, rather awkwardly, but his mother cut in.

"That's fine. You have time, especially if you're talented."

"He is!" Kamui interjected. "No seriously, tell her about what you're doing for thesis," he continued, when Subaru looked ready to protest. He looked back and forth between Kamui and his mother, who was watching him with keen interest, and sighed in defeat. He began to explain, about onmyo magic and about the vignettes he was drawing of cases for a modern onmyoji to solve and the underlying social commentary. Kamui's mother listened eagerly, occasionally making comments, and Subaru became all the more expansive. Kamui loved watching him this way, so animated and expressive.

"I'd love to see it," his mother said. Subaru just smiled rather humbly and they finished dinner shortly after that. "I'm going to clean up a bit, then do you guys want coffee and dessert?" She asked, getting to her feet. Subaru looked at Kamui.

"Yes please," he said at once, and they exchanged a smile.

"Do you need help?" Subaru asked, and she shook her head.

"You relax," she said, firmly. Kamui looked at her, expecting to be recruited, but, "I got it." Kamui raised his eyebrows. "Yes, go away," she said, picking up the plates. Kamui rolled his eyes at Subaru, who smiled furtively.

"Come with me," he said, softly. "I have something for you." They got up from the table, and Kamui led Subaru down the hall to his bedroom. He turned on the overhead light and immediately felt self-conscious about how childish his room seemed compared to Subaru's. However, he just swallowed his nerves and picked up the CD he'd wrapped tenderly in paper off of his bedside table. He held it out to Subaru in both hands, and his expression lit up as he took it.

"Thank you," he said, very seriously, caressing it with his thumb. Kamui's heart was pounding anxiously, but he managed to smile back.

"I hope you like it, I," but Subaru held it to his chest and Kamui broke off, blushing deeply.

"I'm sure I will," he said. "I made you one too, it's in my bag." He looked over his shoulder, and Kamui sprinted back down the hall to go get it, determinedly not looking at his mother as he did so. He returned to his bedroom with Subaru's bag, and he laughed rather bemusedly as he took it. He carefully tucked Kamui's CD inside it, then retrieved his own. "This is for you," he said, handing it over cautiously. Kamui's heart swelled shockingly and he took it with a broad grin on his face.

"Awesome," he said, smiling fondly down at it a moment longer before placing it carefully on his bedside table. "I'll listen to it tonight," he promised.

"Cool." They looked at each other a moment longer, then Kamui stepped forward and kissed him on the lips.

"Thanks for coming over," he said, quietly. "I know it's not-"

"It's fine," Subaru assured him, just as quietly.

"Still," Kamui said, reaching out and taking Subaru's hand. He gave it a squeeze back, but before he could say anything else, Kamui's mother was calling them back to the kitchen for dessert. She served them cake and coffee, and the three of them sat down in the living room. Almost at once, the conversation resumed, light and easy.

"You're from New York originally?" Kamui's mother asked Subaru, and he nodded, sipping coffee. "Will you go back after you graduate? I can't imagine you'd want to stay here."

"At least for the summer," he replied, and Kamui's stomach contracted just as it always did when Subaru talked about leaving. He knew he couldn't stop him, and they could do distance he supposed, but would it just be Kotori all over again? No. He wouldn't let that happen. Besides, he was graduating in a year, and then he could join Subaru in New York. He imagined again himself as an NYU or Eugene Lang student, going to meet up with Subaru when they were both out of class and work, and happiness and hope swelled in his chest. "After that I'm not sure, though," Subaru continued, and Kamui's gaze snapped to him, the warm feelings inside him freezing. "My roommate's going to move down there and she wants us to get another place together, but my sister is going to be in Paris so I might go stay with her." Kamui took a bite of cake, but his mouth was suddenly so dry he could barely chew.

"Why's she going to Paris?" His mother asked, her eyes lighting up.

"She's been there all year, actually," Subaru said, smiling a proud smile, and Kamui was able to swallow the cake, though his chest still felt icy. He drank coffee, watching Subaru become more and more animated as he spoke. "She was studying abroad, but then she got an internship with a designer, so now she's there until she comes back to New York for Fashion Week."

"That's amazing!"

"It is," Subaru agreed. "She loves it there, so I think she's planning on working there next year, but we'll see what happens."

"Right, I see. So what-" Kamui fell quiet, watching the conversation continue around him as they finished their cake. He didn't need to freak out yet. He still had Subaru here with him for a few months, anyway.

"You okay?" Subaru asked, suddenly, making Kamui jump.

"What? Yeah, sorry," he said, taking a hasty sip of coffee. Subaru hesitated a moment, then placed his hand on his arm. Kamui smiled down at it, then met Subaru's gaze, hating to see him look worried. "I'm cool," he assured him.

"Cool." At the same time, they both looked around at his mother, as though they'd forgotten that she was in the room. She smiled, deeply affectionate.

"This is the quietest he's been his whole life," she said, and Kamui gave her an extremely nasty look.

"Okay seriously?"

"Don't be hostile," Subaru warned him, and they all laughed, even Kamui, though very resentfully. His mother sighed heavily and stood up to collect their empty plates and mugs. "I should probably head home soon," Subaru said, checking the time on his phone regretfully.

"Do you need a ride home?" Kamui's mother asked.

"Oh no, my friend is coming to get me, thank you though," he said, sending a text. Kamui bit down on the inside of his lip, his heart already aching. "Are you sure you don't need help with the dishes?"

"No, you relax," she said, packing leftovers. Again, the conversation continued, light and easy, and this time Kamui felt okay to join in. After about fifteen minutes, Subaru got a text from his friend to let him know he was outside. Kamui hurried to retrieve Subaru's bag from his room while his mother pressed a container of leftovers on him.

"It was nice finally meeting you," she said.

"Yes, you too," Subaru replied, smiling gratefully at her. "Thank you so much for having me!"

"Of course! I'm sure Kamui will bring you around more often, now," she added, and Kamui flushed.

"Yeah yeah," he muttered, though he received a smile when he cast a furtive look at Subaru.

"I'll see you soon, then," she said. Subaru nodded, and they shook hands.

"I'll walk you out," Kamui said, quietly, and they headed back downstairs together, pausing by the front door. "Sorry about all that," he said, but Subaru took his hand and squeezed it.

"I keep telling you it's all right," he said, smiling. "I understand completely." He sighed. "Family's important." Kamui nodded.

"At least she likes you, that," he paused, unsure what to say, if it'd cross a line, but again Subaru squeezed his hand.

"It saves you trouble, that's for sure," he said. Kamui looked up at Subaru curiously, and though he wanted desperately to ask more, this didn't seem the moment, so he just kissed him softly on the lips.

"Do you wanna hang out soon?"

"Mmhmm," Subaru breathed, against his lips. "I'll text you."

"Awesome," Kamui replied, giving him one more kiss before pulling away regretfully.

"See you soon." Subaru pulled the door open and spotted his friend's old and battered car parked across the street. He hurried over and climbed into the backseat.

"Hey!" His friend and roommate called excitedly from the front as he slammed the door.

"Hi," he replied, watching Kamui leaning against the door frame with his arms folded. All three of them smiled and waved, and though he waved back with a surprised smile, Subaru's heart ached as they sped away.

"How'd it go?" His roommate asked, the second they'd turned a corner. Subaru rolled his eyes, but smiled at the container of leftovers he was holding in his lap.

"Well, I think," he replied.

"That's good!" His friend said, encouragingly. Subaru nodded. It had gone well, and Kamui's mother had been so kind to him. He couldn't help but find it encouraging.

"Holy shit are those leftovers?" His roommate demanded suddenly, turning around in her seat to face him.

"Yeah, and they're delicious, get your own," he replied, clutching them to his chest.

"Fuck you!"

"I will turn this car around if you two don't stop!" Their friend said, dire warning in his voice, and they both laughed, then lapsed into silence. Subaru could tell they both wanted to probe, but was grateful when they didn't. It wasn't like he had much to tell them anyway. This had all been far simpler than he'd expected, especially compared to last time.

"He's what?!"

"He's a professor here, but we like each other, and we've liked each other all year!"

"Subaru, that's ridiculous!"

He shuddered slightly, but forced his mind away from Hokuto and that fight they'd had. She'd been right, of course, and he'd told her so, but still. This was different. At least, he hoped it was, because he liked Kamui a lot, and he liked hanging out and kissing in the afternoons. He really didn't want to stop.

'Besides,' he thought, as they pulled up outside the apartment a few minutes later. 'This can only last until summer anyway, right?' It both made it easier and broke his heart at the same time, however that was possible.


Kamui sighed heavily and went back upstairs to his apartment to find his mother doing dishes. He shut the door behind him, then hesitantly came to stand beside her.

"So?" He asked, trying to keep his tone curious rather than accusatory. "What do you think?" She shut off the water and turned to face him, her expression unreadable.

"I like him," she said, and relief flooded his body.

"Really?!"

"Mm. He's very smart, he's sweet, he obviously likes you a lot." A grin spread across Kamui's face; he couldn't help but feel pleased with himself.

"So it's cool if I keep seeing him?" His mother smiled.

"It's cool, just," but she paused. "Never mind. It's definitely cool." Kamui narrowed his eyes, but he liked them being on good terms too much to argue.

"Cool." He hesitated a moment, then hugged her. "Love you," he told her quietly.

"I love you too," she replied, rubbing up and down his back. He pulled away, and she smiled affectionately at him before returning to the dishes. "Don't be up too late, all right?"

"I won't." Kamui returned to his room, pausing to replace the baby photo of himself he'd hidden before Subaru's arrival. He shut his door tightly behind him and flopped onto his bed, smiling up at the ceiling and feeling almost shaky with relief.

It had all gone so much better than he'd thought it would! His mother had been nice to Subaru, and they'd gotten along well… Had he actually pulled this off?! He sat up and reached for his laptop, but didn't sign on anywhere. He was in too good a mood.

He picked up the CD Subaru had given him, noticing that the paper it was wrapped in had a playlist written on it. He scanned it eagerly, and though he recognized Subaru's favorite artist, as well as a few others, but didn't know the specific songs. He unwrapped the CD and slid it into the disc drive before relaxing against his pillows. The first song began to play, and he listened quietly until he heard his phone go off.

"back home, thanks for having me over, it was really nice" Kamui's heart ached, but he smiled at the message.

"yea it was :)' He held his phone to his chest, and felt the reply almost at once.

'do you want to come over wednesday afternoon again?' His smile widened.

'yes!' He closed his phone and held it to his chest again, feeling simply blissful. They hadn't discussed titles or anything, but it was like they really were going out. For the briefest moment, he thought of Fuuma, of how much better Subaru was in literally every respect, but then forced his mind away. He didn't need to be thinking about all that right now, not when everything was going so well. His phone went off again.

'great!' Kamui stared at the message, wanting to text Subaru something else, something that would convey at least a fraction of how good he was feeling, but he had no idea how, so he replied with,

'only heard a few songs on your mix but i love it already' He closed his eyes, his heart aching more painfully. He wished they'd gotten more time together, more alone time together, even if all they did was cuddle. He'd get it soon though, just a few more days and they'd be back together, and they could kiss and cuddle and maybe, just maybe, take it farther. An excited shiver ran through his body, but he ignored it, answering a text from Subaru instead.

'likewise :) going to try and get work done now, good night if you don't hear from me!'

'good luck!' Kamui sighed and placed his phone on his nightstand before relaxing once more against his pillows, smiling up at the ceiling and listening to Subaru's music.


Tohru watched Kamui go and waited until his door was closed before calling Saya.

"Hey! How'd it go?" Tohru couldn't help but smile.

"Well," she said, sitting down on the couch and curling her legs up under her.

"Oh good!" Saya replied, enthusiastically, and Tohru ran her fingers through her hair.

"Yes, he seems like a good guy. He's very smart, and very talented according to Kamui." Saya laughed, but Tohru felt beyond relieved. Fuuma had been smart too, but he had also been self-serving and aggressive. Of course, Saya knew all of that already, and Tohru still felt guilty about how much she'd relied on her over the summer, vented and screamed and pretended she wasn't crying to her, when she already had Kotori to take care of. However, it wasn't like Tohru had anyone else, and her coworkers were only good for so much.

"They bounce back quick at that age," her coworker with four sons had assured her.

"Kamui really likes him, huh?" Saya said, quietly, and Tohru sighed.

"He does, and the feeling is mutual. You can feel it, even when I'm there getting between them." Saya laughed rather sadly, and Tohru simply ached for her.

"So it doesn't bother you that Subaru's older?" She asked.

"Oh no," Tohru said. "Well, it did at first, obviously," she amended, remembering how she'd ranted to Saya about it so recently. "But no, it doesn't bother me. I'm more worried about Subaru's fear of their situation getting to him," Tohru continued, transferring her phone to her other ear.

"What do you mean?" Saya asked. Tohru paused, looking across the room at the photo of Kamui he'd been so desperate to hide, of himself in Kotori's sunhat. She wondered, fleetingly, what Subaru had been like at that age. She imagined him as a sensitive boy, quiet but intense, and her heart ached as she finally gave Saya her answer.

"I'm just worried a lot of their time together will be getting him to open up," she said, gazing sadly at Kamui's picture. "And I'm not sure how well equipped either of them are for that."

Chapter Text

"Time's up, I'll take your tests now!" Mr. Shiyu began walking around to collect them, and Kamui hurriedly scribbled his last answer before handing in his paper. "Thank you very much," he said, graciously, adding it to the stack in his arms. "All right, you guys are free to go," he said, and there was a great scraping of chairs and shuffling of bags and books as the class got to its feet. Kamui shoved his pencil and calculator back into his bag and looked to Sorata, Yuzuriha and Arashi, but, "Yuzuriha, could you stay a second?" Mr. Shiyu asked.

"Sure!" She replied, going slightly pink. Arashi gave Sorata and Kamui warning looks.

"We're screwed," Kamui whispered to Sorata, who looked simultaneously impressed and terrified.

"You want us to wait?" He asked Yuzuriha, swinging his bag over his shoulder.

"This will only take a second," Mr. Shiyu assured them, and Yuzuriha nodded.

"Yeah, I'll be right out," she replied. Kamui, Sorata and Arashi filed out of the lab and stood a little ways from the door. Sorata immediately engaged Arashi in conversation, and Kamui checked his phone, smiling at texts from Kotori and Subaru.

'I'll show you when you come visit in the summer!'

'what time can I expect you this afternoon?'

His heart swelled in his chest as he replied to both messages. The last six weeks or so had flown by in a glorious blur or early spring sunlight, schoolwork, making plans with Kotori and hanging out with Subaru. He'd been in such a good mood recently other people had noticed, which was weird, but he didn't let it bother him. He was happily impervious, so wrapped up in it all. He also hadn't heard anything from Fuuma, which was always a bonus. Maybe he'd finally gotten the message that he wasn't interested? Either way, it saved him trouble.

"Sorry!" Yuzuriha exclaimed, hurrying out of the science lab to rejoin them.

"What was that about?" Kamui asked, and Arashi and Sorata looked away from each other, smiling rather sheepishly.

"Nothing, just, Mr. Shiyu wanted to talk to me about a summer internship," she said, evasively. Kamui gave her a knowing smile, to which she replied with a very nasty look. "It'll count as credit and it looks good on college applications, okay? Can you not?" Kamui looked back at her, surprised at her sharp tone.

"Sorry," he said at once. "I-"

"No, it's fine," she interrupted. "Just… No, never mind." She ran her fingers impatiently through her hair. "Do you guys wanna eat outside today?" She asked, her voice suddenly back to its usual bright cheeriness.

"Sure," Sorata replied, and though he sounded concerned, they said no more about it as they collected their lunches from their lockers and headed back downstairs. They opened the side door onto the first really fine day of the year and walked over to the small cluster of picnic tables just outside it, choosing the one furthest away from the group of burnouts passing around eye drops.

As they unpacked their lunches, Sorata and Arashi immediately resumed their conversation and Yuzuriha kept her eyes averted. Kamui watched her discreetly, his brow furrowed. They'd always treated her feelings for Mr. Shiyu as kind of a joke, and until a few months ago she'd joined in laughing. Kamui wasn't sure what had changed, but he hated to see her upset. He wondered if he could help, he was seeing someone older, after all, or if it'd be better to just leave it to Kotori, who was always better at this sort of thing.

"Kamui?"

"What's up?" He asked, meeting Yuzuriha's gaze.

"Do you want to come over after school today and work on that lab report?" Kamui bit down on the inside of his lip, feeling suddenly guilty.

"I'm hanging out with Subaru today, but, tomorrow?" She looked rather hurt for a moment, but then hitched a smile back onto her face before Kamui could feel too badly.

"Yeah, that'll work!"

"Cool." They had partnered up the moment Mr. Shiyu had given them the assignment with the unspoken understanding of giving Sorata and Arashi more time together. They looked at them for a moment, still talking quietly, then back at each other. However, they said nothing else, and lunch was over quickly after that.

Kamui found it extremely hard to concentrate the rest of the day; he was too excited to see Subaru and worried about Yuzuriha. He wondered if the summer internship with Mr. Shiyu was really the best idea. He was positive it'd ultimately just suck more, but he also understood wanting something and being okay with scraps. He shuddered and forced his mind back to the present, to the essay he was being assigned, to saying goodbye to Arashi and Yuzuriha, to getting into Sorata's car.

"How's things?" He asked, starting the engine.

"Things are good," Kamui replied, knowing he was talking about Subaru.

"Yeah?" Kamui smiled softly to himself. It was pretty much true. They'd hung out every week, occasionally twice, depending on how behind on thesis Subaru was. Sometimes his roommate and his friend would be there, and the four of them would hang out together in the living room, making art and playing videogames. Usually, though, it was just Subaru and Kamui alone, tangled up with each other in bed, kissing passionately for hours. True to Subaru's wishes, they hadn't taken it farther, but Kamui had grown used to holding in his frustration until he was back at home, safe in his own bed to jerk off.

"Yeah," he replied. Sorata backed them out of the parking space, honking at some meandering freshman to get them out of the way. "What about you?" Kamui asked, looking at him sideways. "Did you like, officially ask Arashi out yet?" Sorata sighed, but there was a determined smile on his face as he steered them towards Memorial Boulevard.

"Not yet," he said. "I'm gonna ask her to prom, but the timing's gotta be right."

"Awesome!" Kamui replied, genuinely happy for his friend.

"Here's hoping." Kamui thought vaguely of asking about Yuzuriha, but resisted, and they talked about other things the rest of the way to Subaru's apartment.

"Thanks for driving me here."

"No problem no problem." They smiled at each other. Kamui wanted to say something else, but couldn't decide what, so he brofisted him instead. "You sure you don't want a ride home?"

"Nah, my mom's gonna pick me up." Sorata smirked.

"Sweet."

"Yeah, bye!" Kamui got out of the car, slammed the door shut and hurried across the street and upstairs to Subaru's apartment. He knocked, and Subaru opened the door at once, looking tired but excited.

"Hey!" He said, stepping aside to let him in and shutting the door.

"What's up?" Kamui asked, grinning as they hugged each other hello. Subaru pulled away, smiling rather dazedly.

"I got into the student showcase!" He exclaimed, as though he couldn't quite believe it but was thrilled all the same.

"Holy shit, congratulations!" Kamui cried.

"My thesis advisor just e-mailed me," he replied, running his fingers through his hair. "I didn't think I'd have enough done, but they liked what I had to show, so," he shook his head, and Kamui's heart swelled joyously.

"I knew you could do it," he said, as though it were obvious. Subaru burst out laughing, but looked quite pleased.

"See you say that, but now I actually have to finish it on time," he reminded him. Kamui responded with a contemptuous noise and wrapped his arms around Subaru's neck.

"Sorry," he said, sarcastically, before kissing him on the lips. Subaru brought his hands to his hips and exhaled gently through his nose. Kamui pulled away, already hard, the space between them even more hot and intimate than usual. "I can still come see, right?" He asked, his voice low.

"If you still want to," Subaru said, and Kamui rolled his eyes and kissed him on the lips again.

"Of course I do, when is it?" Subaru smiled.

"May 14th."

'The same night as prom,' Kamui thought, but, "I'll be there," he assured him, shifting against him. Subaru laughed softly and kissed him again. They stayed there a while, arms wrapped around each other, kissing softly but passionately, until Subaru pulled away.

"Do you want to go to my room?" He whispered, and Kamui's erection twitched insistently against the fabric of his underwear. He moaned pleadingly and nodded. They let go of each other and hurried into Subaru's room. Kamui threw his bag and hoodie onto the floor and jumped into bed. He lay on his back and spread his legs, watching Subaru lock his door, put on music and turn to face him. His eyes roved hungrily up and down Kamui's body just as they always did, pausing at his erection before fixing upon his face. Kamui moaned softly and shifted his hips back and forth, fresh heat rushing up his neck and face.

Subaru let out the softest of longing moans, climbed into bed and crawled forward on his hands and knees to sink between Kamui's legs, his weight warm and grounding even as it made him shudder in excitement. Subaru closed his eyes for a moment, then leaned forward for a kiss. Kamui moaned into his mouth and wrapped his arms around him, dragging his hands down his back with another surge of arousal. Subaru groaned, arched into the touch and thrust his hips upwards.

"Oh god!" Kamui cried out, between kisses.

"Is that-"

"Yes!" Subaru moaned softly and kissed Kamui even harder, shoving his tongue into his mouth and, after a moment's hesitation, pressing his hands up under his shirt. The touch radiated out through Kamui's body like an electric charge and he cried out in excitement. Subaru pulled out of their kiss with another needy moan and moved his lips to Kamui's neck, his hands all over his chest, his waist, his belly. Kamui's head was spinning and his heart was pounding and his erection was throbbing. He felt hot all over, more turned on than he had been in a very long time, the pressure inside him already so gloriously intense. He dragged his hands down Subaru's back to grip his ass, making him gasp against his neck. Kamui flushed even deeper. "Is that okay?"

"Y-yes," Subaru groaned, kissing his way up Kamui's neck to his ear and biting down. Kamui's entire body seized up in arousal and his erection throbbed hard again. He dug his fingers into Subaru's ass and began to move his hips back and forth. "Oh god," Subaru gasped, kissing him hard on the lips again. Kamui shifted his hips slightly and found a better angle, and Subaru began to move faster at once. Kamui's toes curled and they moaned gratefully into each other's mouths, synchronizing deliciously to create the perfect pace, friction and pressure.

Kamui felt swept away, lost in the overwhelming pleasure of it all, even as the heat between his legs was already at the boiling point. He could feel how turned on Subaru was too, and wondered, hoped, that maybe after weeks of teasing and exploring, they might finally take it farther, because he knew he was going to need something.

Subaru pulled out of their kiss and they stared at each other through a kind of haze, still rocking their hips together. Kamui breathed hard through his open mouth, very hot in the face, shivering all over.

"God," Subaru panted, his expression almost pained in its intensity. He pulled his hand out from under Kamui's shirt and he moaned as it dragged along his hot, oversensitive skin. Subaru gently cupped the side of his face, and he had to close his eyes to collect himself, though he could barely focus for the arousal fogging his brain and searing his nerves. It was a simple, loving touch, but it made his erection throb. He groaned softly again and rubbed his face against Subaru's hand, and he gasped as his fingertips ghosted over his parted lips.

Kamui opened his eyes blearily, locked his gaze with Subaru's and pressed his tongue against the pads of his fingers. Subaru let out a hard cry, his face twisting in pleasure, and Kamui took his fingers into his mouth, still maintaining eye contact.

"O-oh god!" Subaru moaned as Kamui closed his eyes ecstatically and sucked his fingers. His erection gave another needy throb and a fresh wave of arousal rose and crashed inside him. It felt so good, even if it didn't seem like much, but it was somehow so lustful, and it allowed Kamui to siphon off some of the pressure inside him. He moaned and sucked harder, but then Subaru pulled his fingers away. Kamui cried out in surprise as Subaru rolled off of him and lay beside him on the bed, his entire body tense and a hand over his eyes. Kamui stifled a frustrated cry, shaking all over in his own desperation.

"Are, are you okay?" He managed to ask. Subaru pressed his lips tightly together and nodded, his hand still over his eyes.

"Just, too much," he replied in a desperate, constricted voice. Kamui managed to stifle another cry, but his frustration seemed to radiate out through his body instead, making him shudder violently. He closed his eyes and kept breathing, trying valiantly to regain control of himself, his spinning mind and his overheated body. However, he could already feel the sharp ache developing between his legs and knew it was no good. He opened his eyes and found Subaru watching him, concerned even through his obvious lust. "Kamui? Are you okay?" Kamui moaned and covered his face with both hands, shuddering in a weird mix of guilt and arousal. "Hey…" Subaru rolled over onto his side and Kamui dragged his hands away from his face to reveal his pained expression. "Are you all right? What happened?" Kamui sat up and inched towards the edge of the bed, every movement costing him.

"I, uh," he blushed furiously, looking away from Subaru as the pain between his legs spiked. "I need to," but he broke off. "It hurts," he said, very quietly. At the edge of his vision, he saw Subaru blush deeply too.

"Oh," he said, also very quietly. Kamui gathered his courage.

"I'm gonna," but he just nodded at the closed door, unable to say it.

"Oh," Subaru said again, biting his lip. Kamui got to his feet, every sensation magnified in his need. He pulled his shirt down to hide his erection, even though he knew they were alone, before taking a step towards the door. "Wait!" Subaru called, suddenly. Kamui turned and they stared hard at each other for a few excruciating seconds. "Stay," Subaru said, in just above a whisper.

"What?" Subaru took a deep breath in.

"Stay," he repeated, louder this time. "I'm not going to touch you, but you can…" He trailed off and they both shivered as the unspoken words hung tantalizingly between them.

"Are you serious?" Kamui asked in a low, desperate voice. Subaru took another breath in.

"Yes," he replied, softly. Kamui's entire body shuddered excitedly and he let go of his shirt. Subaru's eyes darted to his erection, then back up to his face.

"Are you sure?" Kamui asked.

"I'm sure," Subaru replied. Although he sounded nervous, he was staring back at him determinedly. A moment's taut silence passed.

"Okay," Kamui replied, shakily. He bit down on the inside of his lip and got back into bed, feeling self-conscious all of a sudden. He'd never done this in front of someone else, and it was Subaru, but his body was begging him for it, and he was too far gone to deny himself.

Kamui undid his pants with shaking hands and slid them down an inch or so, then, his face burning, brought out his erection. He couldn't look at Subaru, but he heard him let out a soft, needy moan that echoed through his whole body in an overwhelming combination of pleasure and pain.

"Are you okay?" Subaru whispered, and Kamui turned just enough to see him staring fixedly at his erection, his gaze longing and burning and lustful.

"I'm okay," he replied, knowing another excited rush. "Can I…?"

"Mmhmm." Kamui nodded, gathered his resolve and began to please himself. He moaned softly, closed his eyes and let his head fall back, his body melting under his hand as pleasure coursed out from between his legs in hot, grateful waves. He already knew he wouldn't last long, but he didn't care, it all felt way too good. His thighs began to shake and he shut his eyes tighter, mouth falling open in another soft moan. He blushed in his chest, neck and face as he moved faster, and his erection twitched and stiffened in his hand. He opened his eyes halfway and turned slowly to look at Subaru. His expression was nearly enough to push him over the edge: he was flushed, breathing heavily and his eyes were dark, lustful and so, so desperate.

"I'm close," he said in a choked whisper, and Subaru closed his eyes and cried out softly.

"Good," he whispered, reopening them to stare Kamui hard in the face. Kamui moaned again, wanting more than anything to kiss Subaru, though he was positive it'd be too much. He stroked himself even faster and his toes curled hard. He kept his eyes locked on Subaru's for as long as he could, but then he heard him moan excitedly and it was all way too much.

"I'm gonna come!" He pulled his shirt up out of the way, shut his eyes and threw his head back in an ecstatic groan as he came, harder than he had done in a long time, all over his belly and chest. All of the pressure, pain and heat built up inside rushed out of him in intense, pleasurable spasms to be replaced by warm, satisfied space. He felt almost like he were floating, like the rest of the world had melted, except for his hand as he continued to please himself, drain every last drop. It was only after Subaru spoke softly in his ear that the external world started to become real again.

"Kamui?"

"Huh?" He opened his eyes and turned to face Subaru, his mind gooey and body slow, though his heart was still racing. Subaru took a deep breath in and sighed it out, then carefully cupped the side of his face.

"Is this okay?" He asked, and Kamui nodded against his hand. Subaru took another breath in and kissed Kamui tenderly and reverently on the lips. He moaned into the kiss and felt another shudder of residual arousal. He wanted to grab onto Subaru, hold him close and kiss him deeper, but his body was too heavy. Subaru let go of their kiss but stayed close, breathing against his lips. "Better?" He asked. Kamui shuddered again, discharging the last of his arousal.

"Mmhmm." Subaru gave him another kiss.

"Do you want to clean up?" Kamui couldn't help but smile.

"That'd be good." Subaru kissed him one more time, then got up, crossed the room and picked up a box of tissues from his desk. He sat down on the edge of the bed, shifting his hips with a slight grimace. Kamui eyed his still obvious erection as he cleaned himself up. He threw the tissues away, did up his pants and came to sit beside him. "Are you okay?" He asked, quietly, placing his hand on Subaru's lower back. Subaru arched gently into the touch, his eyes falling closed for a moment.

"I-I'm fine, just," he sighed heavily and ran his fingers through his hair. "Trying to calm down." Kamui's eyes darted to his erection and he rubbed his face against his shoulder. Subaru put his arm around him to pull him closer almost subconsciously, and Kamui began to kiss his neck, feeling brave in his satisfaction.

"You can…" He whispered, and Subaru gasped softly, his hand gripping tighter around his waist. "I'm not gonna touch," he continued, echoing him. "But…" Subaru shivered and turned, pressing their foreheads together.

"Are you sure?" He asked in a constricted moan. Kamui smiled and kissed him tenderly.

"Positive." Subaru shivered again, breathing shallowly through parted lips, then swallowed and nodded. He withdrew and lay back down onto the bed, looking up at Kamui. His heart began to pound as he lay down beside him, shivering in their shared excitement. Maintaining eye contact, Subaru undid his pants and brought out his erection. He blushed and looked down, and Kamui followed his gaze as if he'd been given permission. He moaned softly as heat flooded his neck and face, a deep, primal need surging up inside him.

He watched, transfixed, as Subaru began to please himself in quick, deliberate strokes. Immediately his erection twitched, a bead of precum oozed from the tip, and it was all Kamui could do not to lean forward and take him into his mouth. Subaru bit down on his lip to stifle his moan as he kept going, his toes curling and thighs trembling.

"Subaru?" Kamui whispered, eyes drinking in the absolutely glorious sight before him. Subaru met his gaze, his face contorted with pleasure.

"Y-yeah?" He gasped, still pleasing himself. Kamui bit his lip. He didn't really have anything to say, he'd just needed to say something. He stared back at him, entire body pulsing with longing.

"Are you close?" He whispered, because it was the only thing he could think of. Subaru gasped and his blush deepened, but he nodded. Kamui moaned and arched his chest forward, wanting more than anything to touch, kiss, taste. He opened his mouth, though again had nothing to say, but then,

"I'm right there!" Subaru moaned, his voice tight with arousal.

"Good!" Kamui moaned back. Subaru let out a soft cry and his erection stiffened visibly in his hand.

"Kamui?" He felt a rush of intense excitement and emotion when Subaru said his name that way.

"Yeah?"

"Kiss me?" It was a request, but Kamui felt the words in his entire body and obeyed at once, kissing him hard on the lips. Subaru cried out into his mouth, pulled up his shirt and came a split second later. Kamui felt him shudder, heard him moan, and again his mind seemed to melt as he felt his pleasure in his own body. Subaru kept stroking himself and thrust his tongue into Kamui's mouth, moaning harder still.

They kissed that way for a few more glorious seconds before Subaru pulled away and collapsed against his pillows, eyes closed and lips parted. Kamui's chest heaved as he took in Subaru before him, spent and satisfied, and then the mess on his belly and chest. He moaned softly in longing and, before he knew what he was doing, dragged his first two fingers through it. Subaru's stomach muscles pulled in and up and his eyes flew open in surprise, then fixed upon Kamui's fingers. He cried out softly as Kamui took his fingers into his mouth and sucked them clean, closing his eyes and curling his tongue lovingly around them with a soft moan.

"Oh god…" Subaru breathed, sounding almost awed. Kamui opened his eyes and took his fingers away, feeling suddenly self-conscious again, especially with Subaru's taste coating the inside of his mouth. He swallowed and met his gaze anxiously. His eyes were huge and his lips were pressed tightly together, almost like he was in pain. "Kamui," he breathed, and Kamui felt another rush of arousal and emotion at hearing Subaru say his name that way.

"Was that okay?" He asked, his heart leaping into his throat. He hadn't asked first, had it been too much? Subaru bit his lip, but thankfully nodded. He grabbed a fistful of tissues, cleaned himself up and did up his pants again before reaching for Kamui, who fell into his arms at once, nuzzling against his neck and throwing his leg across his hips. They stayed that way for a long time, holding each other close, breathing and feeling and listening. Kamui had forgotten how intense it was to go farther, but he was so aware of it now, in his body and his heart, and he could tell Subaru was too. He should say something, he and Kotori had always talked in these situations, but nothing really seemed to fit. Eventually, though, he whispered, "That was nice." Subaru shifted underneath him.

"It wasn't too much?" Kamui shook his head.

"No way, it was," but he couldn't think of the word.

"You're sure?" Kamui sighed and pulled away to look Subaru in the face.

"Yes," he told him, very firmly, before kissing him on the lips. Subaru brought his hand to the back of Kamui's head to pull him deeper, and they kissed that way a moment longer before pulling away to look at each other. "I really like you," he whispered, his heart swelling as he said it. Subaru took a deep breath in before replying.

"I like you too." A smile spread across Kamui's face and he kissed Subaru again. "You," he said, when they broke apart, but then fell silent.

"What?" Kamui asked at once.

"Nothing, never mind." Kamui sighed and continued to watch Subaru curiously, but he said nothing else, and, as much as he wished he would just say what was on his mind, he knew not to push it, not now. They passed the rest of the afternoon cuddling and kissing softly, listening to music and the cold spring wind rattling the trees outside, until Kamui's mother came to pick him up. As Subaru walked him to the door, Kamui felt a gnawing inside his chest, which only got worse as they hugged each other goodbye. He moaned softly and gripped the back of Subaru's shirt, as if he could slow down time the tighter he held him. "What's wrong?" Subaru asked, gently. Kamui's throat burned, but he swallowed it.

"Nothing, just, I'm gonna miss you." The gnawing in his chest was painful. Subaru kissed him on the top of the head.

"You'll see me soon," he said, but Kamui moaned in protest. Subaru sighed and kissed him again. "Kamui." He looked up at him.

"I will?" He asked, hopefully, though his expression was anguished.

"You will."

"Text me?"

"I will, don't worry." Kamui sighed, gave Subaru one last kiss on the lips and was out the door, looking at him regretfully over his shoulder as it slammed shut behind him.

Subaru pressed the heel of his hand between his eyes, his stomach twisting and heart throbbing painfully. He tried to refocus, but his mind and body and heart were still so full of Kamui, his face, his voice, his pain as they'd said goodbye. Immediately, all the satisfaction and happiness of the afternoon completely drained away, as though someone had pulled a plug in Subaru's chest. He let out a frustrated cry and screwed up his eyes. This was exactly why he hadn't wanted to take it farther! He knew Kamui would get too attached, would want more than he could give him!

Subaru shook his head in a vain attempt to clear it, strode across the room and sank onto the couch. He reached for his cigarettes and lit one, praying it would assuage some of his guilt. He took fierce inhale after fierce inhale, but no such luck, his stomach was still twisting and his heart was still pounding in the swirling smoke. He was so stupid. He'd known all along exactly how this would go. He'd been the same way with Seishiro.

"Will you wait for me until the semester is over?"

Subaru inhaled deeply from his cigarette and exhaled forcefully through his nose. He supposed he couldn't be angry with Seishiro over that; he'd definitely kept his promise.

"I've never done this before…"

"Oh?"

Subaru shuddered. That first night all they did was jerk each other off, and though it was still new and scary, Subaru would be lying if he said he didn't want it. They'd done everything else too, of course, after he had come back to Sagacity for his summer classes. He shuddered again as he snubbed out his cigarette and immediately lit another. For the first time in a long time, he remembered Seishiro on top of him, pressing up between his spread legs.

"You have to relax for me, Subaru."

"I'm trying! I just-"

"I know, I know."

Subaru closed his eyes and sucked hard on his cigarette. Had Seishiro already been planning to end it once summer was over? Did it matter, now Subaru was leaving Sagacity for good and was pretty much over it anyway? He exhaled smoke in a fine stream, watching it with his eyes out of focus. He reflected that in the intervening years he really hadn't thought about Seishiro much, except when they'd randomly run into each other, or when Seishiro would call him "to catch up." It was only after he'd gotten involved with Kamui that it had all come up again. Not that their circumstances were the same but, it wasn't like they were completely different either.

The front door opened, making Subaru jump. His roommate entered the apartment, carrying her portfolio and looking exhausted and irritable.

"Hey," he said at once, grateful for the distraction.

"Hey," she replied, placing her portfolio on the coffee table and stretching.

"How was class?"

"Class was class." Subaru nodded, finished his cigarette and lit a third one. She furrowed her brow. "How are you?" She asked, sounding both concerned and suspicious. Subaru replied with a guilty look and exhaled smoke. "Kamui already left?"

"Yeah," he replied. She continued to watch him, and it reminded him painfully of freshman year.

"Did something happen?" She asked, cautiously.

"What?"

"Is everything okay? With you and Kamui?" Subaru opened his mouth, but no reply came. She sat down beside him, her eyes suddenly wide. "Hey…" He inhaled deeply from his cigarette, feeling badly for how concerned she was, though he supposed he couldn't blame her: she'd seen everything with Seishiro first hand.

"Everything's fine, don't worry," he said, though he could tell she didn't believe him.

"Did you guys…?" She asked, hesitantly.

"No!" Subaru snapped back, defensively.

"All right, all right, I'm sorry," she said at once. Subaru took another calming drag from his cigarette.

"No, it's okay," he assured her. He turned to look at her, desperate for her words but having no idea what to ask. She just watched him, waiting so patiently, and the pressure inside him seemed to give a little. "Isn't it fucked up for me to keep doing this when I'm leaving after graduation?" He asked in a rush. It was the only thing that made sense to ask, that even sort of conveyed the swirling worry and self-disgust in his stomach. His roommate bit her lip and looked back at him rather sadly.

"You know I can't answer that," she said. Subaru made an impatient noise in his throat and finished his cigarette. She closed her eyes for a moment and took a deep breath in. When she next spoke, her tone was no longer quiet and sympathetic, but blunt and impatient. "You know what, Subaru?" She asked, getting to her feet. "You absolutely kill me with this shit and I have too much work to do to give a fuck right now." Subaru's eyes widened and he stared back at her, stunned.

"What?!"

"From what I've seen? Kamui's trying, you're the one with one fucking foot out the door, and I'm sick of hearing you whine about it! Just commit or break up!" Subaru flushed angrily.

"It's not like that!" He retorted, his voice lowering. "Kamui's seventeen, he doesn't-"

"Yeah, convenient, isn't it?" His roommate interrupted, seizing her portfolio and shoving it under her arm. "I know you got hurt before, I was there, it was awful, but this is different! You aren't Seishiro!" The words hit Subaru in a deep, raw place and he looked away, his face burning, trying to stay calm. He didn't want to be angry with her, she was just tired and worked up, and she was wrong! She was wrong! "Whatever, I have homework to do," she said, and with that she stormed into her room and slammed the door behind her, the crash echoing horribly.

Subaru sank back against the couch, his face in his hands, trying desperately to stay calm, though his heart was pounding painfully fast.

"Yeah, convenient, isn't it?"

"Nothing, just, I'm gonna miss you."

"I know, I know."

Subaru fell forward, his elbows on his knees and face still in his hands. He felt totally stuck, totally lost, totally awful, and had no idea what to do about it. It was still early enough to try calling Hokuto, or another friend. However, really, in his heart, all he wanted was Kamui, and he had no idea how to feel about that.


Kamui spent the rest of the afternoon reliving his time with Subaru, thinking about nothing else as he'd driven home with his mother, as he he'd tried and failed to do homework, as he'd jerked off again in the shower before going to sleep. He'd texted him, but hadn't received much in return, though he wasn't entirely sorry about this. Talking would have made him miss him more, would have made being apart all the more painful, and he didn't want that, not when he was feeling so excited and optimistic.

He finally came back to Earth the following afternoon as he was getting into Yuzuriha's grandmother's car to go to her house to work on their lab report. The three of them chatted away the entire drive, though Kamui was still rather worried about Yuzuriha.

"Are you guys hungry?" Her grandmother asked, pulling into the driveway and shutting off the engine. Yuzuriha turned in her seat to look at Kamui, who smiled and shrugged.

"We're okay, thanks though," she told her grandmother, and the three of them got out of the car.

"If you're sure," she replied, skeptically. She unlocked the door, revealing their dog, Inuki, waiting for them, tail wagging and tongue hanging out. Kamui immediately sank to his knees to fuss over him, crying out as he licked his face.

"Yeah, I missed you too!" he assured him, scratching his ears.

"Outside, Inuki, go on," Yuzuriha's grandmother said, coaxingly, leading him towards the back door at the other end of the hall. "I'll be in my office," she added to Kamui and Yuzuriha. "Let me know if you need anything, all right?"

"We will, thank you," Kamui replied, and he and Yuzuriha went upstairs to her bedroom. As she closed the door behind them, he caught sight of a stack of manga on her bedside table. "Can You See Him? Is this the series that's ruining your life?" He asked, dropping his bag onto the floor and picking up the first volume. The cover showed a girl in a school uniform looking over her shoulder.

"Yup," Yuzuriha replied, watching him flip through the pages with her arms folded across her chest. Kamui paused on a page showing the girl and what looked like one of her teachers smiling at each other across two pages. Kamui furrowed his brow and looked inquiringly up at Yuzuriha. For a moment she looked rather worried about his opinion, but then forced her face into a smile. Kamui closed the book and held it out to her.

"Um, this hitting a little close to home?" He asked, trying to sound both playful and concerned, leaving it up to her how she took it. Yuzuriha opened her mouth, but no words came out. She took the book back from Kamui and held it to her chest.

"A little," she replied, though her sarcasm had no edge to it.

"Do they at least get together?" Kamui asked hopefully. She shook her head, her lips pressed tightly together.

"No," she replied, very quietly. "They actually portray all this shit accurately." Kamui couldn't tell if this was a good or bad thing. "Not that the rest of the fandom understands that," she continued, and the bitterness in her voice seemed to take both of them by surprise. "Sorry!" She exclaimed, going slightly pink and hurriedly placing the manga back on her bedside table. "Sorry, let's get to work." She managed a smile and sat down on the bed, but Kamui didn't move.

"Yuzuriha," he said, though he had no idea what he actually wanted to say. He'd seen Kotori and Sorata upset this way before, but Yuzuriha was something new. He hated to think he'd taken her ever present optimism and steadfastness for granted, but since Kotori's visit it had definitely started to slip. His stomach squirmed uncomfortably. He wanted more than anything to help but had no idea how.

"What?" She asked, a little apprehensively. Kamui wracked his brain for something to say, and remembered chemistry the day before.

"Are you sure it's a good idea to do that internship with Mr. Shiyu?" He asked in a rush. Yuzuriha looked stunned for a second and Kamui prayed he hadn't crossed a line.

"Kamui, what the hell are you talking about?" She demanded, going rather red.

"Nothing! Never mind," Kamui replied at once, backtracking. "Sorry!"

"No no, it's fine," she muttered, looking away, still red in the face.

"Sorry," he said again, just in case. She shook her head, but then actually smiled.

"Can we just do our homework? You know, the thing you actually came here for?"

"Yeah!" Kamui picked up his bag again and sat down on her bed to unpack it. Yuzuriha extracted an overfull notebook from her own bag and allowed it to fall open on her knees.

"So I think we can just show this in a graph," she said, pointing at a massive block of result notes.

"Yeah, definitely," Kamui agreed, relieved to hear her sounding like herself again. "Fuck writing all that out."

"Exactly!" They kept going, organizing notes and typing up their final copy on Yuzuriha's computer. Kamui kept a close eye on her, watching for any signs of distress. After an hour or so, they decided to take a break and went downstairs to the kitchen. Yuzuriha's grandmother had left them snacks and Inuki sat by the counter, wagging his tail and looking expectantly between them and the food.

"No," Yuzuriha told him, grinning and scratching his ears. "You're so greedy!"

"Dude you spoil him, that's why he's greedy," Kamui said, helping himself to food.

"Shut up," snapped Yuzuriha, though she was still smiling as she reached for a bag of dog treats on the counter. "Sit," she said, though Inuki was already sitting. "Good boy!" Kamui smiled affectionately as she tossed him the treat and he caught it and chomped on it loudly. "Do you think Sorata and Arashi are getting any work done?" Yuzuriha asked, delicately, setting the bag back on the counter. Kamui raised his eyebrows.

"Or what?" He asked, carefully. "You mean or are they just hooking up?" Yuzuriha looked back at him incredulously, as though it were obvious. Kamui wasn't sure how to take this, and though he continued as though they were joking around like normal, he was treading delicately. "If by hooking up you mean staring intensely into each other's eyes, then yeah." Yuzuriha laughed rather bitterly. "He says he's gonna ask her to prom though, so I guess we'll see."

"Mm," Yuzuriha replied, skeptically, also her helping herself to food. Then, as though it had only just occurred to her, "I told you I joined prom committee, right?"

"What?" Kamui asked, taken completely by surprise. "I thought-"

"Well I just figured you'd want to bring Subaru, so-"

"No way," Kamui said at once. He'd assumed that was obvious, but Yuzuriha looked at him skeptically. He continued, his voice lowering, "Dude how the fuck am I going to bring him? He's twenty two, that'd be so weird."

"Twenty two isn't that bad," Yuzuriha replied, testily. Kamui's stomach lurched and he looked away, feeling guilty for what he'd said and not telling her about his change of plans sooner.

"Whatever, his art show is the same night, so I was gonna go to that anyway," he replied, very quietly.

"So I guess it works out for both of us," Yuzuriha said, in a brave attempt at optimism that just made her sound sarcastic. A moment's silence passed.

"Do you wanna get back to work?" Kamui asked, still not looking at her.

"Sure," she replied, wearily. They headed back upstairs with Inuki behind him. Yuzuriha sat down on her bed, seized the nearest textbook and buried her nose in it. Inuki jumped onto her bed and curled up at the foot, watching her. Kamui shut the door, but didn't approach her, and she looked up at the noise. "What?" She asked, almost challengingly.

"I'm sorry," he said.

"What for?" She asked, going slightly pink.

"I," but he paused, because he really wasn't sure what he was apologizing for, just that her situation sucked and he felt helpless. "I should have told you about prom sooner," he decided, finally, hating how vague he sounded. Yuzuriha pressed her lips tightly together and exhaled through her nose. "I fucked up, I'm sorry."

"No, it's all right," she sighed, running her fingers through her hair. "Like I said, I made other plans too." Kamui nodded and sat down beside her on the bed. "I figure this way I'll still get to be there but I won't be the awkward person by myself." Kamui nodded, his heart hurting him. He thought of suggesting she take someone else, guys at school all really liked her, but that seemed incredibly insensitive.

"It's a good call," Kamui told her, wanting more than anything to be supportive.

"Thanks," she replied, flatly. Kamui hesitated a moment.

"It's hard," he continued. "Liking someone older, or, someone unavailable." Yuzuriha's expression tightened, but she said nothing. "I, like I get it," Kamui added, trying valiantly for solidarity. "I get-"

"Kamui, please shut up," Yuzuriha interrupted, color flooding her face.

"What?" Kamui cried, feeling rather hurt. "I just-"

"No," she snapped, staring him hard in the face. "You don't understand at all," she continued, her voice rising. "I'm in love with someone who will never love me back, and even if he did, he'd have to sacrifice everything for us to be together and I'm not worth that and it sucks." Kamui just stared, stunned and almost frightened. "Circumstances matter, but even if they didn't, Kusanagi and I aren't you and Subaru, so shut up talking like you get it, please!" Her eyes filled with tears and Kamui's chest constricted painfully around his throbbing heart.

"You're right," he said, softly, because it was all he could think to say. "I'm sorry!" Yuzuriha blinked, and the tears slid down her face. She wiped them away impatiently before continuing.

"It sucks," she said again. "And I don't want to talk to anyone about it because it hurts too much and no one takes me seriously anyway!" Kamui bit down on the inside of his lip, guilt flooding his chest and twisting his guts. "But then I finally find someone else who understands my situation," she cried, gesturing at the stack of manga on her bedside table. "Even if she's a fictional character, like, she gets it! And her manga portrays all this shit how it actually is, and the entire fandom just misses the fucking point!" She ranted, sounding almost hysterical. Kamui didn't try to dissuade her or talk her down; he could tell she'd needed to say all this for way too long. "And then I read all this fanfiction where everything's magically okay, where it all works out because they're soul mates so they live happily ever after! Like they have any idea what-" Her voice broke and she began to cry in earnest. Kamui pulled her into a hug. She stiffened in his arms, and he felt a sudden wave of her emotion in his own body.

"I'm sorry," he whispered, meaning it in his very soul. He hated to see her this upset, to think of her keeping all this inside. "I'm so so sorry!" She shuddered and melted against him, gripping the back of his shirt and crying without restraint.

"It sucks!" She moaned. Kamui just stayed with her, trying to remain calm and strong even though he felt like he might burst into tears himself. "It sucks!" They stayed there until she'd cried herself out, their schoolbooks lying forgotten on the bed.


Hours later, Yuzuriha and Inuki walked Kamui downstairs to say goodbye. After she'd calmed down, they'd spent the rest of the afternoon in her bed with Inuki between them, watching random anime on YouTube. They didn't talk much, and if they did it was about other, lighter things, until Kamui's mother came to pick him up.

"You'll have to stay for dinner next time," Yuzuriha's grandmother told Kamui, hugging him goodbye.

"I know, I will," he replied, apologetically. They broke apart, and he turned to Yuzuriha. Her eyes were still rather puffy and her cheeks still flushed, but she smiled and hugged him goodbye.

"Don't tell Sorata and Arashi, okay?" She whispered to him.

"I won't," he assured her. They broke apart, still smiling. Kamui scratched Inuki's ears, then hurried towards his mother's car. She'd driven him home, then gone straight to work, leaving him with his dinner, his worry and the rest of his lab report to finish.

Kamui ate alone at his kitchen table, checking his phone almost every minute. There was still nothing from Subaru, and it was finally starting to worry him. He wanted to text him, but didn't want to seem clingy, so he just finished his dinner, carried his empty plate to the sink and headed into his room. He sat down on his bed and opened his laptop, which signed on to AIM immediately. However, he kept it open, in case Yuzuriha needed him, either for their project or everything they'd talked about.

"It sucks."

'That's the best way to describe it,' he thought, sadly. Kotori suddenly signed on and Kamui clicked on her screenname at once, wanting to ask for her help. However, another message popped up before he could.

sky_eliminate :: dude guess what

Kamui rolled his eyes affectionately at Sorata's message, pretty sure he knew what was coming.

k4mui :: what?

sky_eliminate :: i asked arashi to prom!

sky_eliminate :: SHE SAID YES!

Kamui couldn't help but grin.

k4mui :: CONGRATS!

sky_eliminate :: THANK YOOOOOOOUUUUUUUUUU

Sorata began to type another message, but Kamui sent one to Kotori instead.

k4mui :: hey can i ask you something?

Littlebirdxo :: sure!

k4mui :: i'm worried about Yuzuriha

He didn't want to bring up the conversation explicitly. Yuzuriha hadn't told him not to talk to Kotori about it, but still.

Littlebirdxo :: yes me too…

Littlebirdxo :: she was just texting me

Littlebirdxo :: apparently she had a breakdown this afternoon while you were at her house?

A small, worried bubble in Kamui's chest popped.

k4mui :: yea

k4mui :: it was awful

Littlebirdxo :: it must have been!

Littlebirdxo :: so what's up?

Kamui bit down on the inside of his lip. He typed a message, deleted it, then typed it out again. He could see Sorata's IM flashing, but ignored it.

k4mui :: i dunno

k4mui :: i just feel like i didn't handle it well or

something

Littlebirdxo :: don't worry

Littlebirdxo :: you just stuck with her and let her talk, right?

Littlebirdxo :: that was the best thing to do :)

Kamui's heart swelled in grateful relief and he smiled at the computer. He wished more than anything he could speak to her in person.

k4mui :: thanks :)

He leaned back against his pillows. It seemed way too simple, but then again, hadn't that been what Yuzuriha and Sorata had done for him over the summer? Yes, they had stuck by him, even though he didn't deserve it and they'd have done better to take care of Kotori.

yuzusauce :: do you wanna come to the beach with me and sorata tomorrow?

k4mui :: nah i can't i'm seeing fuuma tomorrow

yuzusauce :: awww okay

yuzusauce :: next time then!

He knew now that he'd have done much better to go with them, but at the time their kindness felt way too good for him. He'd made his bed. He could lie in it. With Fuuma.

The next day, two weeks or so after their trip to the lake, Kamui lay on his back with his laptop on his chest despite how uncomfortably hot it felt. Fuuma had texted him to let him know he was on his way, so he was just killing time. There was a knock on the door.

"Come in." His mother opened it and stood on the threshold, giving him and his very messy room a searching look. "What?" He asked her, rather aggressively, but she ignored his tone.

"Is Fuuma coming to get you?" Kamui shuddered, but nodded. She'd met Fuuma the week before, when he'd come to pick him up to whisk him away to his dorm room for an afternoon. She'd been polite, and so had he, but the animosity between them was immediately obvious. Not that Kamui cared; Fuuma was (were they dating?) him, not his mother. He hadn't told her exactly what had happened between them when he'd confessed to her that he and Kotori had split up. However, he was pretty sure she knew. Maybe Kotori or Saya had told her. Not that it bothered him: it saved him the trouble of having to say it out loud again.

"Yeah," he replied.

"I want you back before I leave for work." Kamui nodded and returned his gaze to the computer screen. "Okay?"

"Yes!" He snapped, wishing more than anything she'd leave him be.

"Watch your tone," his mother snapped back, but then she sighed and ran her fingers through her hair. "I leave at 10:30."

"Okay." She hesitated, but then backed out of the room and shut the door behind her. Kamui sighed in relief and made to close his laptop, but before he could, an IM popped up.

Littlebirdxo :: hey

Kamui shuddered violently and jerked his head away as though the message had slapped him across the face. He slammed his laptop closed and sprang out of bed to get dressed, and Fuuma arrived shortly after that.

Kamui opened his door and walked down the hall to the living room, where he found his mother sitting on the couch with a book. However, the phone was right beside her, and he was positive she'd be calling Saya to bitch the second he left. He didn't look at her as he crossed the room, though he could feel her eyes on the back of her neck.

"Call me if you need me." Kamui paused, his hand on the doorknob and looked back over his shoulder.

"Yeah, love you, bye." He tried to shake off the encounter and the accompanying sickening guilt as he trudged downstairs. Fortunately, once outside, he immediately spotted Fuuma's car and sprinted towards it.

"Hey," Fuuma said as he climbed into the passenger's seat.

"Hey." Kamui watched Fuuma across the gearshift, hoping for a hello kiss but knowing he was unlikely to get one. Sure enough, the moment he'd closed the door, Fuuma put the car in gear and sped them down the hill. They didn't talk much on the drive, but Kamui was also used to that now. Fuuma parked the car, signed Kamui into his dorm and then led him back upstairs almost mechanically.

"Lie down," Fuuma said, shutting his door behind them and crossing the room to play music. Kamui obeyed, still feeling nervous despite how routine this was becoming. The pitchy vocals of D.O.E.'s lead singer came blaring from Fuuma's computer speakers and he lay down beside Kamui and immediately pulled him into a kiss. He cried out, taken by surprise, and Fuuma pulled away, looking confused. "What's up? You okay?" Kamui flushed. Even though hooking up was an inevitability, they usually spent at least a little time hanging out first. "Kamui?"

"Huh? Yeah, sorry, I'm cool." He managed to look Fuuma in the face, and shivered at how hot his gaze was. Fuuma still wanted him, if they kept this up it would make everything worth it, or at least less awful. Kamui kissed him again, wanting to cover the moment and, thankfully, he kept going, thrusting his tongue into his mouth and shoving his hand up his shirt. Kamui moaned softly, chasing Fuuma and oblivion.

"Take this off," Fuuma groaned, between kisses. Kamui shuddered but did so, blushing as he pulled his shirt up over his head and tossed it onto the floor. Fuuma took off his own shirt and Kamui let out a soft, shuddering moan as he stared at Fuuma's strong chest, his hipbones, his arm muscles. Fuuma just smirked and kissed him again, pressing him back into the bed and climbing on top of him.

Kamui groaned into Fuuma's mouth and spread his legs, allowing him to settle between them. Immediately, Fuuma thrust his hips up against him and he cried out and dug his fingers into his upper back. The hot friction of their chests together, the pressure between his legs, it all felt so good, though still slightly overwhelming. Fuuma withdrew and placed his lips against Kamui's collarbone, sucking a bruise there before moving up towards his ear, leaving hot, heavy kisses in his wake.

"God, Kamui," Fuuma said in a lustful growl that made his erection throb. "I wanna fuck you so bad," he continued, thrusting his hips upwards again to illustrate the point. Kamui cried out and his eyes flew open.

"F-fuck me?" He asked, suddenly aware of how fast his heart was beating.

"Yeah," Fuuma replied, his tone lowering seriously. Kamui swallowed.

"I, you mean…?" Fuuma bit down on his neck and sucked a bruise into bloom on his hot, sweaty skin. Kamui cried out again, but he wasn't to be distracted. "Fuuma, wait!" Fuuma made an impatient noise and pulled away to look him in the face.

"What?" Kamui's eyes widened fearfully at his tone, but then Fuuma's expression softened and he kissed him on the lips. "What's up?" He asked, sounding much more relaxed. Kamui blushed deeply, still worried he'd done something wrong.

"You, you want to…?" His face burned and he couldn't continue. Fuuma just smiled.

"I wanna fuck you, yeah." Kamui wanted to ask what exactly he meant by that. He knew what it had meant when he and Kotori had talked about it, but here he wasn't sure.

"Now?" He asked, because it was the only thing he could think of that wouldn't make him sound stupid. Fuuma laughed and kissed him again.

"Nah, you gotta get ready first." Kamui shivered, but nodded, pretty sure he understood now. He also couldn't help but feel relieved. He'd probably have done if Fuuma had asked, but, he wasn't sure he was really ready yet. However, before he could think about it too much, Fuuma was kissing his neck again, more insistently this time, back up to his ear. "Soon, though." He bit down on Kamui's earlobe and he let out a soft cry, both from the sensation and the words. "So get ready."

"I, ah!" Kamui cried out as Fuuma shoved his hand into his pants and took hold of his erection.

"Mmhmm…"

An IM notification brought Kamui sharply back to the present. He shook himself, and finally read and replied to Sorata's dissertation on his plans for prom and Arashi. However, his mind was still very much on Fuuma.

"Get ready."

Kamui blushed furiously. He'd most definitely gotten ready; he still had the bottle of lube in his bedside table drawer. He remembered buying it from the drugstore the day after Fuuma had said what he wanted, though he'd had no idea what he was doing and could barely look the cashier in the face. It was like buying condoms for him and Kotori all over again, but he didn't want to think about that. He still hadn't responded to her IM, but he couldn't bring himself to close it, so it remained, open and waiting, whenever he signed on.

Once he was back in his room, Kamui put on music and lay down in bed, turning the bottle of lube over and over in his hands and examining it. He supposed he knew how to do this in theory. It wasn't like he hadn't seen it in porn before.

He took off his pants and underwear, blushing softly as he stared down at himself. He squeezed some of the lube onto his fingers, his blush deepening and heart pounding. He closed his eyes, gathered his courage and pressed his slick fingers up against his entrance. A shiver ran through his entire body and he twitched against his fingers, but it wasn't as weird as he'd expected, not that he'd really known what to expect. He tried pressing one finger inside and his whole body shivered again, but it wasn't bad. He waited a few seconds, then moved his finger in and out experimentally.

"Mm!" He blushed at the noise, feeling immeasurably grateful no one was around to see or hear as he kept going, moving and exploring. He was pretty sure it would feel different with Fuuma, though not entirely sure how.

"Soon."

Kamui pressed a second finger inside, still slow, and kept them as deep as he could. It still felt more weird than pleasurable, though supposedly if he moved his fingers a certain way it would feel amazing. He kept experimenting, but maybe his fingers weren't the right size? Maybe he was just different? Maybe-

"AH!" Kamui cried out as an almost sharp sensation radiated out through his body and he tightened hard around his own fingers. He closed his eyes and breathed deeply, letting the sensation drain away, but then tried again, searching and pressing. "Oh!" He shuddered, but kept his fingers there this time. He moaned softly and heat rushed to the surface of his skin. He'd never felt anything like it before, and he wasn't sure if he liked it, but he kept going, closing his eyes and spreading his fingers. He felt himself get hard and stared down between his legs, hot all over from embarrassment and arousal. He moaned, shut his eyes tight again and took hold of his erection. He imagined it was Fuuma's hands, imagined they were kissing, imagined his voice.

"Yeah, I want you."

Kamui's phone began to ring, loud and jarring, from his bedside table, startling him away from his memories. He shook himself and reached for it, confused through his blush. The only people who actually called him were his mother, Saya and Kotori, so he was even more perplexed when he saw Subaru's name. His first instinct was that something bad must have happened, and he answered at once.

"Hello?"

"Hey." Kamui couldn't help but smile. He'd missed Subaru's voice.

"What's up?"

"Not much, um…" He paused. "How are you?" Kamui was about to say he was fine, but it just didn't feel right.

"I'm happy to hear from you," he replied, rather more quietly than he'd intended. He heard Subaru take a breath in before responding.

"Sorry I haven't been," but Kamui interrupted.

"It's cool, I know you have all this thesis shit to do."

"Yeah," Subaru replied. Another pause. "Um, did you have a good day today?" Kamui smiled softly and his heart swelled in his chest.

"Uh," his eyes strayed to his computer, and he thought of Yuzuriha, of prom, of Sorata and Arashi. "Today was weird."

"Weird?" Kamui was both surprised and heartened by Subaru's almost grateful curiosity.

"Yeah. One of my friends finally asked out the girl he's in love with and my other friend had a full on breakdown over the guy she's in love with."

"Oh my god, is she okay?" Kamui got out of bed and began to pace back and forth across his room, hugging himself with his other arm.

"I'm not sure," he replied, truthfully. "I think so? But the whole situation is really fucked, and like," he broke off, shaking his head. "She never showed it, so I had no idea how bad it was and I just feel like a shitty friend."

"That's not your fault," Subaru told him, bracingly.

"I know, but still, it shouldn't have taken her losing it for me to find out, you know?"

"I get it," Subaru replied. Kamui bit down on the inside of his lip, remembering saying the same thing to Yuzuriha that very afternoon. She'd been right, he hadn't understood at all, and he felt awful. However, he was inclined to believe that Subaru did get what he was talking about. "Sometimes I wish we could just read other people's minds," Subaru continued. "Then we could really understand how they were feeling." He sounded rather bitter all of a sudden, and Kamui raised his eyebrows.

"That could go pretty fucking badly though, don't you think?" He asked.

"Of course! But still…" Kamui smiled and switched the phone to his other ear.

"Yeah. But um, what's up? You called me." His heart sped up and he heard Subaru swallow.

"Nothing really, just, sorry for neglecting you."

"It's okay!" Kamui assured him, rolling his eyes affectionately. "Don't worry." A moment's silence passed. "Do you wanna hang out soon?"

"Yes," Subaru replied, his voice quiet and tired, and Kamui gripped his phone tighter. "But um," he continued, sounding stronger now. "Let's go out, like, get dinner or something." Kamui's chest swelled and a broad grin spread across his face.

"Really?" He didn't even care how eager he sounded.

"Yeah," Subaru replied. "I have to get back to work, but I'll text you about plans." Kamui hugged himself tighter.

"Awesome, talk to you soon."

"Yeah, bye, Kamui."

Subaru snapped his phone closed and pressed the heel of his hand between his eyes, his intention behind calling Kamui buried under a landslide of feelings he just couldn't talk himself out of. Kamui was so sweet, so giving, so much more than he ever deserved, and wanted so much more than he could give him. He lit a cigarette. He knew it was selfish and wrong, but he'd let himself hang on a little longer.

Chapter Text

It was lucky that Kamui had his date with Subaru to look forward to, because school suddenly became way more demanding and stressful over the following weeks. He made it through getting all his final assignments and the constant hype for prom by planning where he'd take Subaru, what they'd do. He hadn't gone on many actual dates before, and it was fun to think about, though he couldn't help but feel nervous.

On the last Saturday in April, Kamui was in his room, getting ready for Subaru to pick him up after a rather long and arduous day. His mother had dragged him to a college fair at school that morning, and it had put Kamui on the defensive for the rest of the afternoon. As he toweled his hair dry, he eyed the information packets he'd taken from NYU, Eugene Lang and Pace almost suspiciously, like they were accusing him of something.

"You don't want to look at any other part of the country?" His mother had asked.

"No way," Kamui replied, perplexed by the very idea. She gave him a knowing look, and he blushed but held her gaze.

"So there's no other Northeastern city you'd be interested in?"

"No," Kamui snapped. His mother raised her eyebrows. "It's not because of Subaru," he continued, rather defensively, his blush deepening.

"I didn't say it was," she replied, wearily. "I just want you to keep your options open."

Kamui rolled his eyes and dug in one of his drawers for the shirt he wanted. It wasn't because of Subaru that he was only looking at schools in New York City, that would just be stupid, but he couldn't deny it was a huge bonus. The now familiar vision came back to him, more clearly than ever, of himself as a college student, meeting Subaru for dinner at some cool, dark place below 14th Street.

However, before he could get too deep in, the doorbell rang. Kamui hurriedly checked his reflection in the mirror before sprinting to answer it, only to find his mother had gotten there first. She opened the door to Subaru, who looked absolutely exhausted.

"Hi," he said, as she stepped aside to let him in. "How are you?"

"Good, thank you." Kamui hurried forward and they both looked around at the same time. Subaru smiled as he locked eyes with Kamui, making his heart swell. "Where are you guys going?" His mother asked, quietly, after a moment. Subaru's expression turned expectant, and Kamui swallowed.

"The place down the street," he replied. "Where we went with Saya and Kotori."

"Good choice," his mother said, appreciatively. "When are you coming back?"

"Not late," Subaru assured her, and she smiled and nodded.

"All right, well have fun. I might be at work when you get back."

"I know. Love you, bye," Kamui muttered, seizing Subaru's hand and leading him back out of the apartment. He paused at the bottom of the stairs, gave Subaru's hand a squeeze, then kissed him. "Hi," he breathed.

"Hello." Kamui gave his hand another squeeze.

"I missed you," he said. Subaru's expression tightened.

"Did you?"

"Mmhmm." Kamui gave him another kiss, breathing in deeply through his nose, but only stayed there a moment before pulling away. Rather pink in the face, he opened the door, held it open for Subaru and followed him outside. "This way," he said, leading him down the sloping street.

"This area is so cute," Subaru said, looking around with interest.

"You think so?" Kamui asked, surprised.

"Yeah, I didn't really notice last time." Kamui just nodded, unsure what to say. Even though he'd lived here all his life, it felt weird leading someone else around like he knew where he was going, like he actually wanted to represent this place. However, as he followed Subaru's gaze, he could sort of see what he meant. It was a warm and beautiful spring evening, draped in a shimmering golden sunset. A gentle breeze blew up around them, making the fresh green leaves in all the trees shiver. He reflected that, now he was cementing his plans to finally leave Sagacity, he'd probably start to appreciate this neighborhood, notice all the small and pretty things he'd miss once he was gone.

"Here," Kamui said, stopping halfway down the street. He opened the door for Subaru and followed him into a sweet, cozy café. The walls were hung with plants and artwork, and the entire front wall was all windows with chipped paint between the panes of glass. Couples on dates and a few young families sat around mismatched tables, talking and laughing quietly. "Is this okay?" Kamui asked, looking anxiously at Subaru.

"It's great," he replied. A young woman approached them and told them to sit wherever they liked, so they chose a table in the front corner. She fetched them menus and glasses of water, then disappeared again. Subaru's eyes, and the dark shadows beneath them, caught the light filtering in through the windows. Kamui looked at him in some concern, but then he spoke first. "So how have you been?" Kamui raised his eyebrows.

"Fine, I guess," he replied. "Just school stuff." Now Subaru raised his eyebrows. "I missed you," Kamui added, and Subaru's expression tightened and he looked away.

"Mm." Kamui bit down on the inside of his lip. Subaru's expression was strange, tense and stressed. Was this all just thesis stuff, or was there something he wasn't telling him? Again, he spoke before he could ask. "That's all you did?" He was still facing away, but his eyes were up towards Kamui, catching the light even more beautifully.

"Um," Kamui replied, still wary of his expression. However, Subaru just heaved a heavy sigh and sat up straight again.

"Sorry," he said, running his fingers through his hair as if trying to collect himself.

"It's okay!" Kamui assured him, his eyes wide.

"I've just been so deep in thesis it's like," he broke off, shaking his head despairingly. "Anyway, what's up, seriously? I need to hear about something else." His tone seemed more normal, but Kamui still hesitated. "What about your friend? The one who you said had a breakdown, is she okay?" Kamui bit down on the inside of his lip, but knew Subaru wasn't to be dissuaded or distracted. He took a sip of water.

"She's better," he said, appreciating the question in spite of himself. "I think talking about it helped, but," he shrugged.

"Talking supposedly helps," said Subaru.

"Yeah, but it still sucks for her, especially now Sorata and Arashi are going to prom together." Subaru nodded. "I feel bad, you know? But like, what the fuck can I even say?" Subaru sighed heavily.

"Nothing."

"Exactly." Kamui sighed and took another sip of water.

"Wait, are you going to prom?" Subaru asked, as though it had only just occurred to him.

"I can't, it's the same night as your show." Subaru's eyes widened.

"What?!" Now Kamui's eyes widened. "You can't skip your prom for me!" Subaru continued, trying and failing to keep his voice down.

"What the fuck?" Kamui shot back, feeling bewildered and rather hurt. "I don't care about prom! Besides, it's not like I could take you, so who cares?" Subaru opened his mouth to argue back, but before he could their server appeared to take their order. Distracted, they both hurriedly picked up their menus and ordered what they wanted. Their server took them and disappeared again. Kamui watched her go, then returned his gaze to Subaru, feeling a weird mix of apprehension and challenge. Subaru, however, just sighed and looked away, making Kamui's heart speed up sharply. "What?" He asked, doing his utmost to sound concerned rather than impatient. Subaru winced, and Kamui's stomach clenched. "Sorry, I, what is it?"

"Nothing, just, I feel bad."

"It's okay!" Kamui cried. "It, I mean… Did you want to go?"

"No!" Subaru burst out, then immediately flushed guiltily. "That's not what I meant, I'm sorry." He ran his fingers through his hair and took a sip of water while Kamui wiped his sweaty palms on his thighs. "I just… You're right. It's not like you could take me." Kamui nodded in agreement. However, for the first time, he actually imagined bringing Subaru, of dancing with him, but then forced his mind away just as quickly. He didn't need that. He was going to his art show, besides,

"There's always next year," he said, though immediately he remembered Subaru would be back in New York. The same thought seemed to strike Subaru, because his expression suddenly tightened again. They looked at each other for another taut, painful second, before Kamui took Subaru's hand under the table. He looked surprised, but squeezed it in return. "I um, I went to a college fair at school today," Kamui said, wanting to change the subject.

"Did you?" Subaru asked, gratefully, squeezing his hand tighter.

"Yeah! It was weird though." Subaru actually laughed, and Kamui's heart swelled in his chest.

"Weird how?" Kamui shrugged.

"It all just felt artificial, like a fucked up version of a dealer's room at a con." Again, Subaru laughed, and Kamui grinned across the table. "Seriously though! It was creepy, and everyone was stressed out."

"That sucks!" Subaru cried, though he was still laughing.

"Right?"

"Do you-" But at that moment their server appeared again with their dinner. They thanked her as she set down their plates, and for a moment their conversation shifted to how good everything was. "So, do you know where you want to go to school?" Subaru asked, after a while. Kamui swallowed his mouthful.

"Um, not really," he replied, rather awkwardly. "But I was thinking of NYU or Eugene Lang. Pace if I get desperate." Subaru laughed.

"That's everyone's plan who wants to come to New York," he said, playfully, but then his expression stiffened and he stared Kamui hard in the face. Kamui felt his stomach disappear and he shook his head violently.

"It's not- I mean I just want to leave Sagacity and I've always loved New York, so," he broke off, trying to banish the happy vision of them together to the back of his mind.

"I," Subaru began, looking terribly anxious all of a sudden.

"Don't worry about it, okay?" Kamui interrupted. "It's my choice. Plus I still have a year to go, so…" Subaru just looked away with a sigh and pulled his hand out of Kamui's grip to run his fingers through his hair. Kamui felt the action like a punch to the gut and clasped his hands together in his lap. He wanted to reach out, grasp and cling, ask for more, but he was sure that'd just make it worse. However, he couldn't take the anxiety and the uncertainty. He gathered his courage. "Subaru?"

"Can we just talk about something else, please?" He asked.

"Yeah." Kamui pushed his food around with his fork, though continued to watch Subaru. He looked even more drained and exhausted than ever, Kamui had no idea what to do and it was absolutely killing him. He cast around for another topic, something that wasn't about them, but it was impossible when he felt so consumed with their immediate circumstances, not to mention their future.

"This is good," Subaru said, finally, and Kamui seized on the words gratefully even though they'd already talked about it. The rest of dinner passed in tense conversation that made Kamui practically faint with anxiety. However, he persevered, and at last they paid and were back outside. Subaru lit a cigarette as they started to walk back to Kamui's apartment, and his face was tense and he kept sighing.

"Subaru?" Kamui asked, again trying to sound concerned rather than impatient, even as his worry was driving him insane.

"What? Sorry." Kamui hesitated, then took his hand.

"Did I do something wrong?" Subaru stopped walking so abruptly he made Kamui do an awkward swaying about face. His heart sped up sharply as he looked at Subaru with wide, frightened eyes. Subaru held his gaze for a moment, his expression almost disgusted, then finished his cigarette, threw the butt onto the ground and stepped on it.

"No," he said in a weak, constricted voice. "No of course not, it's-" He ran his fingers through his hair. Kamui looked around surreptitiously, spotted a niche in between two buildings halfway down the block and pulled Subaru into it.

"Hey," he said, squeezing his upper arms. "What happened?" Subaru said nothing, and Kamui could practically feel it all, whatever it all was, rising up inside him. He shuddered, aware of it in his own body as though they were in tune, feeling overwhelmed but also terrifyingly curious. However, Subaru just closed his eyes and heaved a heavy sigh.

"Nothing, I'm sorry," he said, his voice still weak. "You didn't do anything, I'm just," but he broke off. Kamui made a soft, pained noise in his throat and pulled Subaru into an embrace, holding him as tightly as he could.

"It's okay," he said, and Subaru stiffened in his arms, then shuddered and sagged against him, suddenly so much heavier. Kamui let out another soft, pained noise and held him closer, feeling a rush of tangled, hurtful emotions in his own chest.

"I'm so sorry," Subaru groaned.

"Why? You didn't do anything!" Subaru shook his head and pulled away, holding Kamui at arm's length. They stared hard at each other. Subaru looked ready to scream, or cry, or throw up, and Kamui had no idea what to do, so they just continued staring at each other. The seconds dragged, slowly and painfully, until Subaru's expression seemed to deflate as if he'd given up. He let go of Kamui and wrapped his arms around himself, staring at the dirty ground between them.

"Do you still want to come to the student showcase?"

"What?" Kamui spluttered, utterly confused. "Where the fuck did that come from?!"

"You still want to come?"

"Yeah of course, but-"

"Okay," Subaru replied, looking him in the face again and smiling a very tight smile. "Okay." Kamui stared back at him incredulously, silently demanding an explanation he wasn't sure he was allowed to ask for. "You don't need to dress up or anything, it's really not that big a deal."

"Okay," Kamui said, slowly.

"And you can buy prints of people's work if you like it!"

"Right," Kamui said, becoming more alarmed by the second.

"And-"

"Subaru, chill!" Kamui interrupted. "I'm coming to your show and I don't care about missing prom and it's gonna be fine, okay?" Subaru said nothing. "Okay?" Subaru shuddered as if jolted back to the present, to the conversation, to Kamui's fear and uncertainty. An unpleasant flush crept up his neck.

"Sorry," he said, very quietly. "I'm just stressed, I don't know."

"Yeah," Kamui replied. "Yeah no shit." Subaru's mouth twitched as though he were about to smile, and Kamui took his hand again. "It's okay, just two more weeks and you're done," he continued, bracingly, though his heart ached as he said it and a pained spasm crossed Subaru's face, but he nodded.

"True." They were quiet for a moment, and though things seemed to have calmed, Kamui was still worried, and he wasn't sure if the anxiety was Subaru's or his own or just in the air. Either way, he didn't like it. He pulled Subaru into another embrace, and again he seemed to sag against him, his face in his neck. "I'm sorry," he whispered.

"'Sokay," Kamui whispered back. Subaru pulled away and looked him in the face.

"Let's get you home." Kamui didn't like the idea of leaving Subaru by himself until he was satisfied he was all right. However, he knew better than to argue. He took Subaru's hand and led him slowly back up the hill. Subaru took out his phone to text someone, probably his ride home, and Kamui already felt him slipping away. He wanted to hold him tighter, pull him close again, but he was reminded forcibly of the morning after the Dreaming Princess show a million years ago. Subaru had pulled in and become completely unreachable then, too. Kamui's heart ached. He wished he could slow down time, make the walk home take forever, because at least then they were together physically. However, all too soon they were back outside Kamui's building, and his aching heart leapt up into his throat. They faced each other, still holding hands.

"I guess I'll see you on the 14th?" Kamui asked, swallowing. Subaru nodded. Kamui gave his hand one last squeeze, then kissed him goodbye. "Text me when you get home?"

"I will." Kamui stayed close as long as he dared, then finally let go.

"Bye."

"Bye." Kamui's throat burned, but he turned and headed back inside, watching Subaru over his shoulder as he shut the door. He walked slowly up to his apartment, his footsteps echoing in the dusty silence, or was that just his heartbeat? Fear and hurt churned his guts and his mind was spinning faster now Subaru was gone. Gone physically and mentally too. As much as he'd tried to reassure Kamui it was just stress from the show, he didn't believe him, and that was more painful than he could ever have imagined. Why couldn't Subaru just tell him what was wrong? He was there to listen, to help!

He unlocked his apartment door and pushed it open, finding his living room dark and empty. His mother must have already left for work. Kamui sighed and texted her to let her know he was home, then kicked off his shoes and strode back to his room.

He threw himself into bed and placed his phone on his bedside table before pulling his laptop towards him and opening it. AIM opened automatically and he immediately tried to close it, not wanting to talk to anyone, but then the computer froze. Kamui cried out in frustration, moved his fingers back and forth across the mouse pad and smashed the button. Fortunately, the computer got over it and unfroze, though the fan was whirring ominously. Kamui rolled his eyes and received IMs from Sorata, Yuzuriha and Kotori, all asking how his night with Subaru went. Kamui's nerves tautened and he closed all three, only to have another pop up.

DxOxE :: Kamui

DxOxE :: don't ignore me i seriously wanna talk to you

Kamui stared at the message for a full ten seconds, then felt his bitter feelings flash heat and erupt inside him, flushing his skin and searing his nerves. He seized his phone and called Fuuma, his hands shaking with rage rather than fear for the first time ever. The call went to voicemail. Kamui tried again, breathing hard through his nose. The call also went to voicemail, but an IM went off.

DxOxE :: why the fuck are you calling me?

"Are you serious?!" Kamui yelled at the computer screen, mashing the keys as he replied.

k4mui :: YOU SAID YOU WANNA TALK TO ME

k4mui :: FUCKING TALK TO ME

He tried calling Fuuma a third time.

"You're so dramatic, what the fuck?" Kamui felt a head rush and swayed where he sat, clutching at his headboard. It had been so long since he'd heard Fuuma's voice, and even though he was obviously furious- "Hello?" Kamui swallowed a sudden unexpected rush of emotion and blinked the burning feeling out of his eyes.

"What do you want?!" He demanded, reaching for his anger and holding onto it like a lifeline.

"Why the fuck are you screaming at me? I just want to talk." Kamui jumped out of bed and began to pace back and forth across his room.

"You always say that!"

"And you always reply, what's your point?"

"Yeah, well I'm done!" Kamui cried, heat rushing up his neck and face. "I'm dating someone else, and-"

"Yeah, because that stopped you last time," Fuuma reminded him, and Kamui knew just from his tone that he was smirking.

"It's stopping me this time!" He snapped, the anger inside him suddenly corrosive, painful. "I'm done! I don't ever wanna speak to you again! FUCK YOU!" He gasped, his chest heaving so powerfully it was making him dizzy. He closed his eyes, listening to the silence on the other end of the line.

"I was just gonna tell you I'll be in Sagacity on the 14th for a show," Fuuma said, and Kamui shuddered violently. "But I guess you don't wanna meet up." Kamui covered his eyes with his other hand, his face contorted with pain and fury.

"Fuck you, Fuuma," he said, snapping his phone closed. He threw it as hard as he could onto his bed and fell forward after it, seizing a pillow and curling up tightly around it. He felt disgusting, furious and ashamed of himself. Even after months of thinking he was over it, hearing Fuuma's voice was still enough to bring back all those emotions, to make him real again, rather than just someone to get off with online in moments of weakness. For that five minute phone call, Fuuma turned back into the guy Kamui had met across a fire pit, the guy who had led him away from the first person he'd ever loved, broad strong shoulders, intoxicating kisses and new pleasure.

DxOxE :: are you ready?

k4mui :: i think so

Kamui blushed as he typed the message, but felt it was actually sort of true. They'd tried the last few times they'd seen each other, but it wouldn't work for one reason or another. Kamui would just blow Fuuma instead, and Fuuma would jerk him off. However, Kamui had been practicing, he was prepared, and Fuuma was leaving in two weeks for his fall semester.

DxOxE :: cool be there in 20

Kamui swallowed. He was nervous, and it was different from how he'd felt with Kotori. She and Kamui had talked about it as something to bring them closer together, as another way of making each other feel good. It had felt so natural, so right. Now, it was something Fuuma had told him he wanted, something he'd been hyping up constantly since he'd first floated the idea, and Kamui had no idea what to expect. An IM notification sounded, startling him back to Earth.

Littlebirdxo :: Kamui?

Kamui stared, stunned at the message for a second, then slammed his laptop shut and looked away, his face burning. He really didn't want to think about Kotori right now, though it seemed his body did. He remembered, deep and visceral, her beneath him, her legs around his waist, the look on her face, her moans and gasps and kisses. Afterwards she'd curled up around him, her head on his chest, and he'd held her close and stroked her hair. Then they'd gone a second time, with her on top, which they'd both agreed was better. He wondered how he and Fuuma would do it, how many times, if they'd cuddle afterwards too.

He shook his head and began to get dressed, waiting for the feelings to drain away before gathering his things and opening his bedroom door. He proceeded down the hall, past his mother's room.

"Kamui?" He stopped and sighed irritably.

"What?"

"Where are you going?"

"Out," he replied, more bravely than he felt. His mother raised her eyebrows.

"Excuse me?" Kamui shuddered, but stood his ground.

"Out," he repeated. "With Fuuma, he's picking me up." He could tell she wasn't happy.

"Where are you going?"

"A show."

"When will you be home?"

"I dunno! Maybe never!" His mother closed her book with a snap.

"I'll ask you again," she said, her voice lowering dangerously. "When will you be home?" Kamui blushed. He had no idea how to answer her. How long would it all take? "Ten," his mother answered for him. "At the latest."

"That's way too early!" Kamui cried, outraged.

"Stop it," his mother snapped. "Be home by ten or you'll be sorry, do you understand?" Kamui shuddered. Once some variant of "or you'll be sorry," came out he knew she wasn't playing.

"Fine," he said, very resentfully. He turned and stomped through the living room and out of the apartment, slamming the door behind him.

Kamui moaned into his pillow and got under the covers. His heart was beating in his throat and his guts were burning with guilt and shame. He obviously hadn't made it home in time, and it was nowhere near worth it.

The moment Kamui had gotten into Fuuma's car, he'd pressed his hand between his legs and sped them away.

"I missed you," he said, quietly, and Kamui just moaned in response, his eyes closed. They arrived in Fuuma's dorm to find it full of people: Yuuto and Satsuki were hanging out with what looked like the rest of the floor, passing around several joints and a plastic liquor bottle. Kamui looked to Fuuma anxiously, still half hard in his jeans. "The fuck is this?" Fuuma asked, taking one of the joints from Yuuto and inhaling. He passed it to Kamui, who took a hit because he couldn't think of what else to do, while Yuuto and Satsuki just exchanged rather stupid grins. "Whatever, Fuuma said, taking the joint back from Kamui and inhaling from it again. He sat down on his bed and pulled Kamui into his lap.

Kamui leaned against him and kept his eyes averted. He'd always hated these people to some degree, but this was the first time he actually really didn't want to be around them, even with Fuuma as his buffer and bodyguard. He wanted more than anything to leave, but he couldn't: not when he'd promised Fuuma, not when he was ready, not when they both wanted it.

The minutes dragged by. Kamui thought of texting Sorata or Yuzuriha, but had no idea what he'd say, so he just sat on Fuuma's lap, his eyes closed, listening vaguely to the conversation and contributing only when it was absolutely necessary. Fuuma would try at regular intervals to make everyone leave, becoming more and more cold and explicit each time. However, it was only after he'd said "all of you get the fuck out" three times that they finally did, talking vaguely of going to get food. Relieved, Kamui checked the time, and his heart sank. It was nearly ten already. He watched everyone go, his mouth dry, but then Fuuma made a contemptuous noise and kissed him hard on the mouth and shoved his hand into his pants.

Kamui seized another pillow and held it over his head, trying to block out the memories. However, he could still feel Fuuma's hands and mouth all over him, his fingers inside, and then,

"Relax, it'll feel better in a second." Kamui tried, but it didn't feel anywhere near as good as his fingers. His eyes watered and he shut them, his arms and legs tight around Fuuma.

"Ah!" He cried out and his eyes flew open as, for the briefest second, Fuuma found a good angle, but then just as quickly lost it again. Kamui stared up at the ceiling, his insides burning, listening to Fuuma breathing hard in his ear. At least he was enjoying himself.

"Oh fuck!" Kamui shuddered as Fuuma came, then winced as he pulled out. He made Kamui come with his hand, and they'd cuddled together for a few minutes. Kamui lay across Fuuma's chest, a weird feeling inside him and an ache in his heart. Then Fuuma reached for his cellphone, suddenly businesslike. "Shit, I should probably get you home, huh?"

"I-" But Fuuma just got up and began to get dressed. Kamui blushed and sat up with another wince, the ache in his heart intensifying. He felt weirdly in his body as he began to get dressed. It had been the same after his night with Kotori, but… He shuddered and his eyes burned suddenly. He didn't want to think about her right now.

"Hey, let's go." They didn't speak the entire time Fuuma was signing him out of his dorm, or on the whole drive back. It didn't bother Kamui necessarily, but as they turned up his street, he realized Fuuma hadn't touched him at all since he'd gotten out of bed.

"Fuuma?" He asked, very hesitantly.

"What's up?" Fuuma's eyes were fixed on the road.

"Do you wanna hang out soon?" He hated the fear in his voice. He shouldn't be worried, not after what had just happened. Everything was worth it now, wasn't it? Fuuma just smirked, his eyes still on the road.

"There's a party next weekend I might go to." Kamui nodded, not sure what exactly he meant but choosing to hear "let's go together."

"Okay." They pulled up outside Kamui's building, and he unbuckled his seatbelt, his eyes still on Fuuma, who looked back at him curiously. Kamui leaned forward and kissed him.

"Bye," he said, smirking, and Kamui stayed close as long as he dared before getting out of the car. He heard Fuuma pull away the moment his back was turned, and it felt like he was taking half of his guts with him. A hot, sticking night breeze swirled around Kamui and he reached for his phone. His mother had called him way too many times, but there was also a text from Kotori. His eyes burned as a wave of emotion began to build inside him, but he fought it as hard as he could and headed resolutely back upstairs.

The ensuing fight had been the worst Kamui had ever had with his mother. He couldn't remember specifics, it was all a blur of heated emotions and raised voices, until she told him he wasn't allowed out at night for the rest of the summer.

"You just don't like Fuuma and you're still mad at me because of Kotori!" His mother rolled her eyes.

"It has nothing to do with that!" Kamui screamed in frustration.

"NO-"

"Just be honest with me, Kamui!"

Kamui shuddered. The worst part was they hadn't reconciled, not until the following Saturday, not until…

He sat up, his pillow and blankets sliding off of him and onto the floor. He managed to force his mind away, though not before he'd started to cry.


Subaru ended up walking about half of the way home before his friend came to pick him up. He pulled up in front of a fire hydrant on Memorial Boulevard, and Subaru slumped into his passenger's seat.

"How'd it go?" His friend asked, rolling down the window preemptively. Subaru said nothing and lit the last cigarette in his pack, even though his mouth was tingling from all of those he'd already smoked. "All right, all right, I get it." Subaru shifted guiltily and exhaled smoke out of the window.

He felt mortified at how he'd lost control like that, at how Kamui had had to take care of him. He wasn't even sure what had freaked him out so much, and the last thing he felt like doing was exploring and trying to figure it out. He remembered Hokuto telling him to keep talking after he and Seishiro had split up, as if that were an easy thing to do, as if it were something he wanted to do. He took another drag from his cigarette, closed his eyes and exhaled smoke through his nose. He knew she was just trying to help, just as Kamui had tried to help earlier, and he absolutely hated it. His friend pulled up outside Subaru's building with a soft screech.

"Thank you," he said, unbuckling his seatbelt. "I'll buy you a drink after the showcase." His friend snorted, and Subaru could see the concern just under his smile. However, before he could say anything about it,

"Take care, all right?" He said, quietly. Subaru couldn't think of a reply, so he just said goodbye, got out of the car and stomped out his cigarette before going back up to his apartment. His roommate was on the couch, working, her face pale and exhausted. They'd mostly reconciled since their argument, but things were still strained and awkward. He began to make his way to his bedroom, but paused when she spoke.

"You still haven't ended it, have you?" Subaru felt the shame creep down the back of his neck and spread throughout his body. He stayed put, but didn't turn around, listening to her shuffling papers. "I still say you could make it work if you tried." Subaru closed his eyes, feeling like his chest was collapsing in on itself. "Either way, though," she continued, slowly. "I support you." Subaru just trudged to his bedroom and slammed the door.

Chapter Text

"I'm kind of sad you won't be there tonight," Yuzuriha said, quietly.

"There's always next year," Kamui reminded her, though he was rather touched and felt a small stab of regret. "Besides, does it even count as prom if we have one every year and the whole school can come?" A scream echoed suddenly from the end of the first floor hallway, followed by a tidal wave of giggling.

"Bless them," Yuzuriha said fondly, watching the gaggle of freshman girls hurry into the nearest bathroom. "You won't even get to see my decorations," she said, pouting her lips. Kamui hung his head in shame.

"I know, after you found a use for that guy's hamster cages and everything!" Yuzuriha giggled.

"Hey, you guys ready?" Sorata asked, appearing suddenly with Arashi and clapping Kamui so hard on the shoulder he fell sideways.

"Yeah and holy shit," he snapped, steadying himself.

"Sorry," Sorata replied, grinning.

"Come on," Arashi said, smiling wearily, before anything could escalate. "Let's get out of here." The four of them headed down the hallway, passing empty classrooms and groups of chattering students. However, as they approached the staff room, they caught Ms. Kasumi's voice through the just open door.

"-just prom, then two weeks of classes," she said, bracingly. The four of them immediately slowed down to eavesdrop.

"I know, but still, I make no promises," they heard Mr. Aoki reply in a weary sigh. "At least I don't have to chaperone."

"Aww, it's not so bad," came Mr. Shiyu's voice. "I'd rather do that than grade lab reports," he said, fairly. Sorata hastily covered his snort of laughter with a cough and Kamui, Yuzuriha and Arashi shoved him into the stairwell, where they all began to laugh.

"Holy shit," Sorata cried. "Do you think there's some kind of fucked up lottery that decides who has to chaperone dances and stuff?"

"What, like the short story?" Kamui asked, grinning as he pushed open the door to the parking lot.

"That's awful," Arashi said, though she was also laughing. They made their way to Sorata's car, weaving through the chattering crowds.

"Probably though, right?" Yuzuriha said, thoughtfully. "I don't think I'd mind though, if I were a teacher." She sighed. "You sure you're okay getting there so early?" She asked Arashi.

"Of course," she replied, shaking her head, her long hair swaying.

"I'll pick you guys up at five?" Sorata asked.

"To drive us the three blocks back to school?" Arashi countered, her smile simultaneously incredulous and affectionate.

"Yes," he replied, completely unabashed. "It's not a limo, but…" Yuzuriha caught Kamui's eye and they exchanged exasperated looks as they arrived at Sorata's car.

"Whatever, that's three blocks I don't have to walk in heels," Yuzuriha said, shrugging. "Anyway," she continued, addressing Kamui. "Enjoy your wine and cheese, we'll text you later!" Sorata and Arashi snorted with laughter and Kamui gave all three of them the finger, then hugs. Yuzuriha turned to walk with Arashi back to her house, and they waved over their shoulders as they turned a corner.

"How are you feeling, good?" Sorata asked, the moment he lost sight of the girls. Kamui's stomach gave a nervous flutter, but he nodded and they got into the car.

"Yeah." Subaru had been as communicative as could be hoped for since their date, and Kamui had followed his lead in not mentioning his freak out. He couldn't pretend he wasn't worried, but he knew there was nothing he could do, so he just tried to stay strong and not think about it too much. "How about you?" He asked, changing the music as Sorata began to steer them home.

"Good!" He replied, with such genuine sincerity that Kamui couldn't even think of teasing.

"Awesome." They drove the rest of the way home in silence, too absorbed in their own plans for the evening. Sorata pulled up outside Kamui's building, and they brofisted each other across the gearshift. "Let me know how everything goes, all right?" He said.

"Yeah, dude, you too!" They stared at each other a moment longer, and Kamui felt another small stab of regret. He might not care about prom, but he did feel guilty for not supporting his friends, even if all he could do was be there. However, he reminded himself that Subaru needed his support too, especially with all the stress he'd been under.

"I'll text you," he promised Sorata, and got out of the car. He hurried across the street and upstairs, opening the door to his apartment to find his mother dozing on the couch, a book open on her chest. Kamui stopped abruptly, worried about how much noise he'd been making. She'd been at work all the night before, but had driven him to school that morning anyway. Fortunately, though she stirred slightly, she remained asleep. Kamui tilted his head to the side and carefully shut the door behind him with a soft click. He kept his eyes on her face, her face that everyone said so resembled his own, and even in her sleep he could picture that sad, knowing smile she'd been giving him since last summer.

He hadn't told anyone about anything going on with Subaru, both because he didn't want to worry anyone and he didn't want to be wrong. However, as he watched his mother sleeping, he wondered if she knew anyway, as she'd known with Fuuma long before things had ended.

After the catastrophic fight they'd had over his breaking curfew, Kamui spent the week in his room in varying states of ill usage and squalor. He and his mother barely spoke, and when they did it was a fight. Kamui would be up all night and sleep all day, ignoring messages from his friends and Kotori and trying to get Fuuma's attention. Unfortunately, he was being suddenly cold and evasive, and though Kamui was feeling increasingly anxious about it, he'd only had the nerve to actually ask for an explanation once.

DxOxE :: school's fucking me up right now

It hadn't occurred to Kamui to point out that Fuuma's Myspace was still full of pictures of him partying.

k4mui :: are you still going to that thing saturday?

DxOxE :: yeah probably

Kamui waited for the iteration of "I'll pick you up at this time," but none came, and it felt like a knife between his ribs.

k4mui :: can you pick me up?

He waited almost an hour for the response.

DxOxE :: yeah

Kamui exhaled in relief, even as a sudden and bizarre desire to cry rose up inside him. He stared out of his window, the sky the deepest black that preceded dawn but too cloudy for stars. Fuuma was just busy with school. They were still in this together. It was all still real.

The day of the party, Kamui texted Fuuma periodically to confirm their plans. However, he didn't hear anything back until the afternoon.

"be there at 7" It was a relief, though Kamui still felt incredibly anxious as the day wore on. Once his mother left for work, he washed and dressed, then lay on his couch with his phone on his chest. He felt hyperaware of it, waiting desperately for Fuuma's text to let him know he was there.

However, 7 PM came and went while Kamui's texts went unanswered. He was becoming more and more aware of how much he didn't even want to go to this party, how he'd so much rather just bring Fuuma upstairs and hook up. Any excitement he might have had had long since evaporated, leaving him with uncertainty and that strange desire to cry. However, he forced his mind away. Fuuma had always been on time before. Maybe there was traffic? Maybe something had come up?

It wasn't until after nine that Fuuma finally arrived. Kamui let out a cry of relief and irritation, gathered his things and sprinted out of his apartment and into the sweltering August heat. He spotted Fuuma's car and hurried towards it, and was stunned to find it full of people. He recognized Yuuto in the passenger's seat, but the girls in the back were unfamiliar. Fuuma rolled down the driver's side window, smiling, and Kamui felt all the mixed and confusing feelings skid to a halt in his chest as though someone had slammed on the brakes. He bit down on the inside of his lip and went very red, any possibility of confronting Fuuma about his late arrival long gone.

"Get in the back," Fuuma said, tilting his head to the side. Kamui's eyes widened. He felt the words sharp in his chest, but he just nodded without saying anything. He opened the back door and awkwardly climbed over one of the girl's legs into the middle seat. Without waiting for him to put on his seatbelt, Fuuma pulled the car away and continued a conversation he'd apparently been having with Yuuto. Kamui watched Fuuma's reflection in the rearview mirror. Their conversation, some ugly noise rock and the intoxicated banter of the two girls swirled around Kamui in a repellent whirlpool. He didn't want to listen. He didn't want to go to this party. He sighed, wrapped his arms around himself and looked sadly at his knees, his stomach twisting. Maybe he and Fuuma would get time together once they got to the party. Fuuma always made time, after all, even if it took a while.

"Hey, you okay?" One of the girls asked, her gaze unfocused.

"What? Yeah." She smiled and leaned against Kamui with a giggle, and he shuddered, staring imploringly at Fuuma's reflection. However, Fuuma didn't meet his gaze until they were parked outside Satsuki's house.

"Get out," he said, imperiously, and everyone obeyed and immediately went inside. Kamui, however, remained by the car.

"Fuuma?" He turned.

"What's up?"

"Um," Kamui began, very awkwardly. He wanted to kiss him hello, or even just hold his hand, have some kind of contact, but he wasn't sure it was allowed.

"Let's go," Fuuma said, before Kamui could even try to marshal his words. He turned and headed into the house, catching one of the girls around the waist as he did so. Kamui remained where he was, stunned, the action also sharp in his chest. He felt completely wrong-footed and had no idea what to do and yet again wanted to cry. He wrapped his arms back around himself, his heartbeat painful in his rapidly constricting chest. However, as Fuuma led the girl up to the front door, he turned. "Kamui, what the fuck are you doing?" He was smiling. Kamui went even redder and hurried to his side at once.

The moment they were inside the party, someone offered them drinks. Kamui accepted his gladly even though he had no idea what it was. He took a sip, hoping it would help him feel less awful, but then grimaced: it tasted like paint thinner. Someone called out to Fuuma and he walked over, swigging his drink and depositing the girl on the couch. Kamui hesitated, then followed him. He didn't want to get stuck alone at a party like this, not when he could already feel the scrutiny.

He spent the next few hours shadowing Fuuma, who was making no effort whatsoever to talk to him, instead engaging in inane banter and judgment and criticism that only got worse the more he drank. Very occasionally, they'd catch each other's eye, but somehow it only made Kamui feel worse. He drank steadily, hoping to assuage his fear and guilt and loneliness. However, all he could think of was how much he wanted his friends, how much he wanted Kotori, how much he wanted to be in Fuuma's arms and not think.

He started checking his phone constantly, watching the minutes tick by and hoping someone would text him, because he couldn't bring himself to initiate. He still felt unworthy of contact with everyone except Fuuma, who was now ignoring him, leaving him to drown in the mess he'd made.

Eventually, Fuuma disentangled himself from the girl clinging to him and got to his feet. Kamui sprang up at once to follow and immediately realized just how much he'd had to drink. He swayed and closed his eyes, waiting for the floor to stop moving, then hurried after Fuuma into the hallway.

"Hey!" He called, loudly. At least the alcohol made him brave. Fuuma turned.

"Hey," he replied. "What's up?" Kamui swayed again and had to steady himself against the wall. Fuuma raised his eyebrows.

"What happened?" Kamui demanded, his face flushed and eyes burning. Fuuma just smiled a weird mixture of sad and contemptuous.

"What?"

"Are you mad at me or something?" Kamui asked. Fuuma laughed confusedly.

"No, why would you think that?" Kamui's eyes widened.

"Because ever since- I just feel like," he tried to swallow, but his mouth was too dry. "Did we break up or something and I didn't-"

"We were never together, what the fuck are you talking about?" Fuuma asked, still looking confused.

"I," Kamui began, but Fuuma forestalled him.

"Look," he said, and Kamui stared him hard in the face, desperate for a line, for anything reassuring, but Fuuma's cold confusion made him unrecognizable and unreachable. "It was fun," he said, bluntly, "but I'm not looking for anything serious right now." The words hung in the air for a moment.

"What?" Kamui asked in a small voice, sure he'd misheard.

"I'm going back to school soon anyway, come on, you know that'd suck," Fuuma continued, as though it were obvious. Kamui's stomach lurched and he stared blankly at Fuuma, his mind emptying of everything except stunned disbelief.

"I…" Fuuma looked suddenly impatient.

"Kamui, come on…" The words, the tone, seemed to reach Kamui in the depths of his numbness, flipping a switch in his mind. Anger began to simmer inside him.

"Are you serious?" He asked. Fuuma's lip curled and he looked on the verge of rolling his eyes. "I left my girlfriend for you are you fucking serious?!" He demanded.

"Hold on," Fuuma said, his eyes narrowing. "I didn't promise you anything-"

"Yes you did!" Kamui cried, furiously, the anger inside him boiling, hot and corrosive. "You said we were really doing this!"

"Okay you need to calm down," Fuuma snapped, finally sounding like he felt something. "All I said was I wanted you, it's not my fault you got attached or whatever." The contempt in his voice incensed Kamui.

"Me?! You started this whole thing! You said you wanted all of that, I never asked for any of this!" His throat burned suddenly, from the words and the emotion: he hated to hear and say these things. Fuuma, however, just raised his eyebrows.

"Really?" He asked, and Kamui felt a spasm of fear. Although he held his ground, he had no idea what to say, what was coming. They stared at each other a moment longer, and Fuuma made a noise of disgust. "Find your own way home," he said, turning away. Kamui felt his stomach disappear.

"Wait!" He cried, terrified. "Wait, I'm sorry!" But Fuuma just strode into the bathroom and slammed the door shut behind him. Kamui stood rooted to the spot, the noise echoing in his ears, his head and his chest. Had that really been it? Had that been what he'd sacrificed everything for? "Wait…" Kamui whimpered, a tidal wave of horror and panic rising up inside him. He wanted to cry out for Fuuma, chase him and beg him to change his mind, or else run away and hide never to interact with another person again. He clapped his hand over his mouth, just like when they'd first kissed a million years ago. He looked around desperately, for a direction, a way out, but he felt utterly lost.

The knob on the bathroom door began to turn and Kamui knew a moment of utter terror. He sprinted away, back through the party and out onto the screened in porch where everything had gone to hell. There were people gathered there, but no one paid him any attention, and why should they? He hardly knew anyone there and even fewer liked him.

Kamui's chest constricted so suddenly and sharply it felt like he was suffocating. He closed his eyes and tried to breathe, to calm down, but he felt more alone than he'd ever felt in his life. Fuuma had been his lifeline in this cruel, alien world, but he'd abandoned him, and he should have known better because he'd never promised him anything. Kamui forced his eyes open and strode across to the drinks table. If Fuuma would let him drown, he'd drown.

Kamui wrapped his arms around himself as if trying to contain the sudden swell of emotion inside him. His mother sighed in her sleep, but again didn't wake, and Kamui bit down on the inside of his lip. He couldn't remember much else of the party, except that he'd spent a half hour swigging something strong in a corner before drunk dialing Kotori.

"I'm so sorry!" He cried, knuckles white around his drink and his phone.

"I know," she replied, simply and kindly.

"I still want you around! I don't want to lose you, please!" He heard her sigh, and he gritted his teeth.

"Are you telling the truth?" She asked.

"Yes!" Kamui exclaimed, shutting his eyes tight.

"I know," she whispered, after a pause that seemed an eternity, though it was probably barely five seconds. Kamui gasped in relief and opened his eyes. His vision was blurry, and he wasn't sure if he was crying or dizzy.

"Oh god…"

Kamui took a deep breath in and sighed it out, trying to discharge the emotion. He tiptoed across the living room and carefully took the book out of his mother's hands. She didn't stir, but her brow furrowed slightly. Could she feel his regret and his pain in her dreams?

"Do you not understand why this all scares me now? After everything that happened?"

Hot shame suddenly burned down Kamui's spine to fill his guts. He hoped it wasn't still as real and visceral for her as it was for him. He tenderly marked her page, held her book to his chest and closed his eyes, the next few memories coming back to him jerky, blurry and disjointed from the emotion and alcohol.

After hanging up with Kotori, he'd slumped against the wall of whichever bedroom he'd ended up in, his head between his knees. He'd never been this drunk before, and he wasn't sure if he'd passed out or blacked out or what, but the next thing he knew he was trying to stand up, though the floor beneath him was swaying as though he were on a boat in a storm. He took a step forward and groped for a dresser to steady himself. He knew immediately that he couldn't do this, that he needed to get out of here, and he was too drunk to care about consequences. He mustered all his focus, found his phone and called his mother.

"Kamui?" Her voice, sounding concerned rather than angry, was about the most comforting thing he could imagine, and his eyes filled with tears.

"Mom?" He said, his voice dry and croaky. "Can you please come get me? I," he broke off, swaying again. He tried closing his eyes, but couldn't tell if that made the spinning worse or not.

"Where are you?" She asked, in a kind, but take charge voice.

"Satsuki's house," he mumbled.

"Stay with me, I need an address." Kamui pressed his lips tightly together, focusing on her words like a guiding light.

"Hold on…" He began to stagger back out of the room, keeping his phone clutched in his hand like a talisman that protected him from the looks he was sure he was getting, from the judgment, from Fuuma.

"Stay with me," his mother told him, over and over, and eventually Kamui made his way back outside. He found the house number and street name, doing his utmost not to throw up every time he opened his mouth.

"I'll be there in ten minutes," she promised, and more tears poured down Kamui's face. "I'll be right there, I promise."

"Mmhmm…" He didn't want to hang up, and even after his mother ended the call, he kept his phone pressed to his ear. He slumped down on the front step, but thankfully no one else was outside. He covered his eyes with his free hand, willing himself not to pass out. He stayed there for, it could have been seconds or years for all he knew, until he heard the familiar sound of his mother's car. He gathered his strength, looked up, and began to cry in relief. He wanted to get up, but before he could even put the thought into his body, his mother came sprinting over to meet him.

"Oh god," she said, still concerned rather than angry, but Kamui said nothing. "Come here." She seized one of his arms and threw it over her shoulder. With her help, Kamui managed to get to his feet, but the spinning was worse than ever. "How much have you had to drink?" His mother asked, half carrying him down the path. Again, Kamui couldn't answer. "Too much," she supplied, leaning him against the car. She opened the passenger door and seized a half empty water bottle from the cup holder. "Here," she said, unscrewing the cap. "Drink this as fast as you can." Kamui reached out blindly and took it from her, barely registering what she was saying. He swallowed a mouthful and immediately felt it come back up again. He gagged and clapped his hand to his mouth, but it was no good. "I know," his mother said, soothingly, rubbing his back as he threw up all over the sidewalk. "I know." He straightened up again, gasping and shuddering. "Better?" She asked, her hand still on his back. Kamui grimaced, took another sip of water and spat it out. Although he still felt sick and shaky, the world seemed to have stop spinning.

"Yeah," he replied, taking another sip of water and spitting it out.

"Good, let's get you home."

Kamui opened his eyes again and swallowed a fresh surge of guilt. All of that, and he still fell right back into talking to Fuuma when he'd started texting him again in September. Shame and self-disgust rose up sickeningly inside him, and now no anger or other validating emotion came to his defense. He held his mother's book tighter to his chest, intensely aware of how awful all of that had been for her, for Kotori, for his friends.

"It's all right," Kotori had said, back in January.

"I want us to get better," his mother had said, after their last big fight. "But I can't do it by myself."

'I'm sorry,' he thought, and he meant it. Suddenly, out of the raw, naked shame, Kamui felt something new begin to form. He didn't quite understand, and though it was painful, it was also warm and strengthening in a way that anger just wasn't. He took a deep breath in and sighed it out, and the feeling grew a little warmer, glowed a little brighter. He reflected, for the first time ever, that even though that night and the ensuing conversations had been humiliating, at least it had gotten him speaking to Kotori and trying to get back on the same page with his mother.

He took another deep, shuddering breath, and the feeling seemed to solidify, to drive and to motivate. He still didn't quite understand and wasn't sure what it was for, but he did understand that a resolve to do better was always a good thing.

He placed his mother's book on the coffee table, then walked into her room and took one of the blankets off her bed. He returned to the living room and draped it over her, still being careful not to wake her.

He backed slowly away and walked down the hall to his room, shutting his door behind him. However, before he started to get ready for Subaru's show, he took out his phone and, the new resolve inside him shining, deleted Fuuma's number.


Tohru woke up very suddenly, no idea when she'd fallen asleep or what time it was or why there was a blanket covering her. She sat up with a groan and blinked confusedly before checking her watch. Still plenty of time before Subaru's show, and Kamui must be home. Kamui must have…

A wide smile spread across her face as she looked down at the blanket and her heart swelled with affection. She shook her head almost disbelievingly, but was touched all the same. She folded it carefully and set in on the couch beside her, then stood up, stretched and walked down the hall to knock on Kamui's door.

"Hold on!" She heard him scrambling about for a moment and knew another rush of affection as he opened the door. "Good morning," he said, and she laughed. He was dressed in his cleanest pair of jeans and a button down.

"You look nice," she said, and he shrugged.

"Yeah yeah," he replied, though she could tell he was pleased.

"I'm going to quickly make dinner and then we'll head over, okay?" She told him.

"Thanks," he replied, and his sincerity was both unnerving and gratifying. She stepped forward and pulled him into a hug. "Ah! Get off!" He cried, though his indignation was much more subdued than usual.


An hour or so later they were in the car, driving over to one of SCA's buildings on the West Side. Kamui's heart beat excitedly and he kept fidgeting nervously with his phone. He'd texted Subaru to say he was on his way, and had received,

"cool see you soon" in return. He stared out of the window and thought of Sorata, Yuzuriha and Arashi, back in their school's gym for prom. The first few guests would probably be arriving now.

"When should I come back?" His mother asked.

"Uh, like nine? That's when Subaru says he'll probably be done talking to everyone." She nodded and turned a corner. She'd insisted on seeing Subaru's work, but agreed Kamui could go on his own first. Both of these facts touched him as much as they embarrassed him.

"Are you nervous?" She asked.

"Nah," he replied at once, though truthfully he had no idea what to expect and found it all slightly intimidating. However, he figured once he was with Subaru he'd feel better, as long as Subaru was also feeling better. His mother pulled up to an old brick building with its doors open and crowds of people milling about. Kamui unbuckled his seatbelt, turned to his mother and found her smiling.

"I'll see you later." Kamui smiled back and kissed her on the cheek.

"Love you."

"I love you too." Kamui got out of the car, gathered his courage and walked up the steps. He'd never actually been inside an SCA building before, and it was nothing like his high school: clean and sleek and modern, with art all over the walls and muted colors. Kamui followed an elderly couple down a hallway at the end of which he could hear music and chatter. He emerged into a handsome, well-lit gallery of paintings, sculptures, video and textiles. He stopped dead in his tracks, taking it all in with wide eyes, though there was so much he had no idea where to look. After a moment, he took out his phone to text Subaru, but realized he was probably too busy to answer. He began walking the perimeter of the room, thinking bizarrely of that night he'd gone to find him at the Dreaming Princess show.

"Nice night for it!" He started and turned to see Subaru's roommate waving at him. She was standing beside a computer that was projecting what looked like a short film onto the wall behind her. Kamui smiled and hurried over. "You clean up all right," she said, grinning and looking him up and down.

"Uh, thanks," he replied, going slightly pink. Behind her, a pretty young woman transitioned smoothly into an animated character and back again. "That's cool!" He exclaimed.

"I sort of still hate it, but thank you!" She laughed. Kamui rolled his eyes. "I know, I know, I'm sorry," she said, hanging her head. "Subaru's over there," she added, and something tightened in her expression. Kamui eyed her curiously, but she just smiled. "It's really good of you to come." Kamui wasn't sure what to say, so he just nodded, bid her goodbye and headed over to the corner she had indicated. He spotted Subaru at once, dressed all in black and surrounded by people he assumed were professors.

He was no longer drained and exhausted, but smiling, talking away, looking more confident than Kamui had ever seen him. He felt his new resolve from that afternoon flicker into life again, and he wanted more than anything to hug Subaru tight and tell him congratulations. Subaru reached out and shook hands with everyone, and they departed. He sighed and looked about for a moment before spotting Kamui.

"Hey!"

"Hi," Kamui replied, rushing over. Subaru smiled and looked him up and down. "How's it going?" Kamui asked, smiling back and feeling rather pleased with himself. He needn't have worried. Subaru was okay now, it really was just stress. Subaru shrugged.

"Not bad so far," he said, fairly. He looked over his shoulder at his project, his expression almost affectionate. "People seem to like it, so," he shrugged again.

"Can I see?" Kamui asked, eagerly but quietly. Subaru nodded and he moved closer. "Whoa…" His eyes widened as he stared at all six of the drawings, lined up in sequence. They showed exorcisms, interactions with clients and people who had fallen victim to something supernatural. They were all beautifully drawn, full of strong lines, echoing space and powerful emotion. Kamui looked at each one for a long time, feeling transported and transfixed. Eventually, he turned to Subaru and gave him a radiant smile. "Congratulations," he said, his belly, chest and throat full of warmth, respect and admiration. Subaru flushed, and though he held Kamui's gaze, there was something beneath his smile. However, when he spoke, his voice was steady.

"Thank you."

"Give me a hug," Kamui said, impatiently, reaching for him. Subaru laughed almost in spite of himself and Kamui pulled him as close as he could and kissed him tenderly on the neck. "Seriously, this is amazing," he whispered, right in his ear.

"Thank you," Subaru said again, giving Kamui a squeeze before pulling away.

"And now you're done!" Kamui cried excitedly.

"Yeah, now it's just the real world to deal with, no problem!" Subaru replied, laughing rather bleakly. Kamui grinned and squeezed Subaru's arm.

"I believe," he said.

"Thank god, someone has to!" Kamui rolled his eyes, and though they exchanged another smile, the fact that this would mean Subaru was leaving permeated the space between them. However, before Kamui could think about it too much, he reached out and took Subaru's hand.

"Can we look around? Or do you have to stay here all night?" Subaru squeezed his hand.

"No, let's go," he said, leading him away from his project. They spent an hour or so walking around, talking to all of Subaru's friends, their families, professors and random members of the public. Kamui was blown away by how good everything was, but even more so by how kind and supportive everyone was of each other's work. He stood faithfully by Subaru's side, watching and smiling and commenting occasionally, until they eventually made their way back over to his piece.

A man in a suit was standing in front of it, apparently admiring it. Subaru stopped dead in his tracks, his hand suddenly slippery in Kamui's. Kamui looked up at Subaru, confused, but then the man turned, and his lip curled into a smile.

"Subaru," he said, and though his voice was soft, his tone made Kamui shudder. His eyes travelled over Kamui and, for the briefest second, fixed upon their clasped hands.

"Professor Sakurazuka," Subaru replied, coldly, his jaw clenching. A moment's silence passed.

"It's a beautiful piece." Again his tone made Kamui shudder.

"I work better when I don't have anything distracting me," Subaru replied, pain suddenly discernable beneath his cold tone.

"Oh?" Professor Sakurazuka countered, his eyes once more traveling over Kamui, who stared determinedly back at him. "Maybe our tastes aren't so similar, then." Kamui knew a powerful rush of revulsion and felt Subaru's grip on his hand tighten painfully. "Anyway, congratulations," he finished, taking care to pass as close as he could to Subaru on his way to the next piece. "Beautiful work." And he was gone. Subaru stood stock still, his hand still clenched around Kamui's, staring straight ahead, his lips pressed tightly together.

"Subaru?" Kamui asked, uncertainly. Subaru closed his eyes and took a deep breath in through his nose. "Subaru?" Kamui asked again, his eyes widening fearfully. Subaru let go of his hand, turned and headed straight for the nearest exit. Bewildered and terrified, Kamui tore after him, weaving in and out of people and pieces. "Wait!" He cried, catching up with Subaru as he turned into a hallway. It was much quieter out here, and only half the lights were on, casting a weird, cold light over the far walls and floor. Subaru stood silhouetted in the middle of the hallway, one hand on his hip, the other over his mouth. "Subaru!" Kamui cried, sprinting up to him and placing his hand on his shoulder. Subaru shrugged it away, and though Kamui felt the gesture painfully in his chest, he wasn't to be deterred. "Subaru," Kamui said, very firmly, stepping in front of him to look him in the face. "Don't run away from me, what the fuck!"

"I'm not!" Subaru snapped. "I- Just leave me alone, Kamui, please!"

"No!" Kamui snapped back, fiercely. "You're upset and I want to help!"

"No one can help!" Subaru cried, gripping his hair. "There's nothing you can do, I fucked up, please, I," but his voice broke and he covered his eyes and began to cry. Without pausing to think, Kamui seized Subaru and pulled him into a hug. Subaru stiffened in his arms and gasped sharply, but then sagged against him, crying without restraint. Kamui felt his pain in his own chest and fought back his own tears. He wanted to say something comforting, but had no idea what, so he just stayed with Subaru, holding him and supporting him until he regained control of himself. "Sorry," he gasped, pulling away to wipe his eyes.

"It's okay," Kamui said at once, trying to sound kind but take charge. "Don't worry about it, just-"

"Why did he show up here?!" Subaru burst out, more tears splashing down his face. "This has nothing to do with him, he just-" Subaru covered his face with his hands, walked over to the nearest wall and leaned against it. Kamui was at his side at once, a little frightened of his anger but so, so aware of his pain and wanting desperately to fix it. He placed his hand between Subaru's lower back and the wall, carefully guiding him down to sit on the floor. Subaru took a few shuddering breaths and allowed his hands to fall limply into his lap. His face was contorted with pain and glazed with tears in the cold, surgical light. "He did that on purpose," Subaru moaned. "He knew I, oh god…" He broke off with another sob, but shook his head and stared straight ahead, his jaw clenched. Kamui waited for him to continue, but when he didn't and he could stand it no longer,

"Subaru?"

"Yes?" He asked, looking and sounding utterly defeated. Kamui felt like his heart was breaking.

"Who…? Is that…? Who was that?" Subaru took a while to reply, as if he didn't want to say, or maybe saying it aloud just hurt too much. He kept taking deep breaths, and even that seemed to cause him terrible pain.

"One of the medical illustration professors here," he said, finally, very slowly and seriously. "My advisor from my freshman year, and," his eyes filled with tears again and he looked up at the ceiling. "And someone I fell in love with." He grimaced, as though the words tasted bitter, and Kamui's mouth fell open in a soft gasp.

"You… Oh god," he said, his eyes widening. Subaru nodded, his expression still contorted with pain and shame. "It's okay," he said, imploringly, hating to see Subaru this upset.

"It's not!" He cried, sounding slightly hysterical. "I am so done with this happening! I," he broke off and clapped his hand to his mouth. "He was my first everything, and he promised me so much and in the end he didn't give a fuck and just threw me away!" He began to cry again and Kamui rubbed circles on his back. Subaru shuddered, and Kamui felt a sudden rush of pain and anger all the way up his arm into his own chest.

"It's okay," he whispered, blinking back his own tears.

"He kept telling me, wait for the semester to end, just wait for the semester to end, so I did!" Kamui nodded, terrified of what he was about to find out but staying present and focused and supportive as Subaru began to tell the story.

They'd first met at one of Subaru's freshman orientations, when everyone was making appointments to register for classes with their new advisors.

"Professor Sakurazuka? I'm Subaru Sumeragi."

"Seishiro is fine," he replied, smiling.

"Oh, sorry," Subaru said hastily, blushing as they shook hands. All of the teachers and students at SCA were on a first name basis. He should have remembered.

"Don't apologize."

"Right…"

In retrospect, their instant attraction to each other had been obvious. Subaru was enamored of Seishiro's talent, looks and attitude but had insisted it was just respect and admiration, both to himself and his friends who teased him.

"You've had quite the semester," Seishiro said, looking back and forth between his computer screen and Subaru's portfolio. It was the end of the fall semester, their last meeting before Subaru would leave for Christmas break. "You have a gift," Seishiro continued, and Subaru's heart skipped at the praise. "And the rest of your professors think so too," he added, with satisfaction. Subaru had no idea what to say to that, so he just shrugged. "You disagree?" Seishiro asked, raising his eyebrows.

"No! I mean, yes, I'm sorry," Subaru replied, going very red and feeling like his stomach was curling in on itself. Seishiro, however, just smiled at him thoughtfully for a moment.

"Do you know what type of illustration you want to do?" He asked.

"Um, not really," Subaru confessed. Seishiro tilted his head to the side. "I don't really feel like I'm good at anything specific."

"Not yet," Seishiro corrected him. Subaru blushed and looked away, and Seishiro shut off his monitor and turned to face Subaru straight on. "Do you have a sketchbook or anything with you?"

"What?" Subaru asked, still feeling embarrassed. Seishiro repeated the question. Feeling slightly terrified, Subaru nodded and retrieved his sketchbook from his schoolbag. Seishiro reached up to help him lay it open on his desk, and his fingers brushed the backs of his hands. Subaru's eyes widened, but Seishiro was still smiling. "I…" Seishiro took Subaru's hand and, cradling it softly over his open sketchbook, turned it over so his palm was facing up.

"You have spiritual hands," he said, thoughtfully, tracing his fingers along the lines of his palms for a moment before letting go. Subaru exhaled the breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding and withdrew his hand at once, curling his fingers up into his burning palm.

He couldn't remember the rest of their meeting, the drawings he'd shown him or what they'd discussed, and didn't tell anyone about it. No one had ever made him feel this way, and he had no idea how to handle it except,

"Yes," he said, without pausing to think. It was the first day of the spring semester, and Seishiro asked him to come to his office to he could sketch his hands.

"Thank you."

The following evening, Subaru knocked on Seishiro's office door, feeling slightly terrified.

"Come in." Seishiro sat behind his desk, smiling, a sketchbook and pencil out. "Sit down." Subaru did so, shutting the door behind him. He couldn't quite meet Seishiro's gaze, but looking at the sketchbook was embarrassing too. "Relax," Seishiro said, imperiously, and Subaru nodded, trying to take deep breaths. "Put your hands on my desk." Subaru obeyed. "Palms up." Subaru turned his hands over, his fingers curling almost protectively into his palms. Seishiro picked up his pencil and began to sketch. Subaru watched the image form, mesmerized by Seishiro's skill and proficiency. Neither of them spoke until Seishiro finished drawing. "Thank you," he said, very quietly.

"It's nothing," Subaru replied, just as quietly. He made to take his hands off the table, but Seishiro caught his right hand in both his own and held it. Subaru gasped, and Seishiro's lip curled in a smile. His grip wasn't strong; Subaru could easily have pulled away. However, as Seishiro rubbed his thumb along Subaru's knuckles, tracing every curve, he felt paralyzed.

"So beautiful," he said in a low voice. Subaru flushed deeply. "You feel it too, don't you?" Seishiro asked, his voice lowering still further.

"W-what?" Subaru asked in a small voice, but at that moment Seishiro gently guided his hand up to his lips and kissed him ever so delicately on the knuckles. Subaru hastily stifled his cry as he felt the kiss all the way up his arm. He was suddenly hot all over, lightheaded, overwhelmed.

"Well?" Came Seishiro's voice, in barely more than a whisper. "Do you feel it too?"

"What do you mean?" Subaru asked, though he knew there was no playing innocent when his voice was that needy and his palm was sweating in Seishiro's grip. Seishiro just laughed softly and ran his thumb over his knuckles.

"I'll take that as a yes," he said, and Subaru stifled another cry and screwed up his eyes, squeezing Seishiro's hand tightly. "It's all right," he continued, still in barely more than a whisper.

"Is it?!" Subaru asked, quietly desperate. Seishiro reached forward and cupped the side of Subaru's face. His eyes flew open and a shiver of excitement ran down his spine.

"Will you wait for me until the semester is over?"

"And I did!" Subaru moaned, helplessly. "I don't, I was so stupid," he continued, his face in his hands. Kamui just listened and rubbed his back, his heart aching for him. "The next day I signed up for summer classes so I could stay here with Seishiro, but I fucking failed all of them and fucked up my GPA like what the fuck?!" His hands fell into his lap and he leaned back against the wall, shaking his head hopelessly. "Sorry," he moaned to Kamui. "I shouldn't be telling you this, you don't want to hear, and I," he broke off, but then began speaking again before Kamui could say anything. "The night before I moved out of my dorm we…" Kamui shuddered, hating to think about it.

Subaru had finished packing and gone to Seishiro's house, excited but terribly nervous. He wasn't sure how far they would take it, if he was ready, if it'd be okay if he wasn't. Fortunately, Seishiro just made them dinner, and they'd kissed for what felt like a long time and jerked each other off. It had been the first time anyone else had made Subaru come, and he told Seishiro so as they lay side by side, cuddled together and half dressed.

"Oh?" Seishiro asked, curiously, smoking.

"Mmhmm." Subaru watched Seishiro finish his cigarette, suddenly worried he'd said too much. However, Seishiro just kissed him softly on the lips, then along his jaw, over his neck and up to his ear.

"I want to keep making you come," he breathed, and Subaru shivered and let out a soft cry. No one had ever spoken to him that way before either. "I'm going to fuck you and drain you dry, Subaru…"

"You…?"

"You're hard again…"

"I, ah!"

"I had to go back to New York the next morning," Subaru said, miserably. "It hurt, like I'd never felt that way before and I had no idea what to do and," his voice broke and he closed his eyes, fresh tears sliding down his cheeks. Kamui sighed heavily, remembering how Kotori had left.

"That's such a shitty feeling," he said, consolingly.

"Those two weeks I was away were just," he sighed. "I was just miserable." Kamui nodded.

"But, then you came back?" Subaru looked straight ahead, his expression mournful, eyes wet and unfocused.

"It was the best time of my life," he said. Kamui shuddered, again hating to think about it, but did his utmost not to show it on his face. "We just…"

However, Subaru couldn't even place specifics. It was all just a glorious, painful and pleasurable blur. He was only in his new dorm room maybe two nights out of the week; the rest of the time he was at Seishiro's house, tangled up in his arms and legs and bed sheets. Subaru barely thought of anything else, he was so consumed with it all, how good he was feeling inside and out.

"I just assumed he felt the same way I did," Subaru said, self-disgust in his voice.

"Well yeah," Kamui interjected, the emotions he'd been carefully keeping inside bubbling up into his throat. "He fucking told you he did, didn't he?" Subaru turned sharply to Kamui, his eyes huge and horrified. "I'm sorry!" Kamui cried, alarmed. "I just-"

"He did say that!" Subaru cried, staring at Kamui. "And I believed him! Even though he'd only act like we were together when he was fucking me!" Kamui shuddered, and Subaru sighed a heavy, defeated sigh and pressed the heel of his hand between his eyes. Kamui put his arm around his shoulders, holding him tighter. "I'm sorry," Subaru said, shaking his head. "I'm sorry, you don't want to hear all of this, I know, I just-"

"It's okay," Kamui interrupted, quietly. "Honestly." Subaru's jaw and throat clenched suddenly as though he had gagged, but then he swallowed and kept going, and Kamui watched and listened with rapt attention.

"I was so stupid," he said, yet again. "I should have seen it coming like what the fuck is wrong with me?!"

Towards the end of the summer session, Subaru had gone to see his new advisor (he'd switched at Seishiro's insistence) to discuss his grades.

"What happened?" She asked, kindly. Subaru just looked back at her, unable to answer for obvious reasons, but also because he'd totally forgotten he was in school, that he hadn't just stayed in Sagacity to remain close to Seishiro. "If you were having some issue or extenuating circumstance we might be able to work something out," she continued. Subaru just nodded, barely listening. "But next time, if you can, please come see us sooner, okay? We have people here to help." Subaru wasn't sure what she was implying and couldn't tell if he was being condescended to or not.

"Right," he said, desperate to be out of there, back in Seishiro's arms where he belonged.

"You're still okay to start in the fall?"

"What? Oh yes, definitely," he assured her. "I'll do better next semester."

"I just wanted her off my back," Subaru explained, and Kamui nodded, understanding completely. "I went to go see Seishiro right after and just, oh god…" He shut his eyes tight and shook his head. Kamui waited, terrified of what he was about to find out.

Subaru walked back to Seishiro's house in a kind of anxious daze, unaware of where he was going or what he was doing until he found himself on his front step. He forced himself to pay attention and rang the bell. Seishiro opened the door.

"Hello," he said, leading Subaru back into his kitchen. "How was class?" Subaru tugged at Seishiro's sleeve, his stomach twisting nervously. "What's wrong?" He asked, raising his eyebrows. Subaru swallowed and his stomach twisted painfully.

"I," he started to say, but then changed his mind. "I'm just thinking about leaving next week." Seishiro cupped his face and rubbed his thumb under his eye.

"I've been thinking about that too," he said, quietly. Subaru stared back at him with wide eyes, his stomach still twisting and heart pounding.

"You have?"

"I have." Seishiro took his hand away and inched backwards, staring appraisingly at Subaru. "I'll miss this." Subaru's throat burned and he nodded vigorously.

"It's just for two weeks though," he reminded him, trying to assure himself as much as Seishiro. Seishiro's brow furrowed and he tilted his head to the side.

"Two weeks?"

"Yes," Subaru said, a little confusedly. "I'll be back when the fall semester starts." Seishiro gave him a long, searching look, then smiled softly.

"Subaru, you know we can't keep doing this." Subaru just stared at him, nonplussed.

"What?" Seishiro heaved a heavy sigh, the soft smile still playing around his mouth.

"We can't keep this up once the school year starts, you know that," he said, as though it were obvious. Subaru felt the words like an ice cold fist closing around his stomach, heart and lungs.

"You mean you're breaking up with me?" Subaru asked, feeling completely blindsided. Seishiro's expression remained curious.

"I suppose you could say that," he said, casually, as though it were simply another way of looking at the situation. The total indifference in his tone hurt Subaru far more than the words themselves.

"You, but I!" Subaru cried, his heart pounding frantically against its icy clutches. "We can't! You promised!" Seishiro tilted his head to the side, his face still full of that maddening curiosity.

"What did I promise you?" He asked, and though Subaru wracked his memories, he couldn't think of anything to say, and his heartbeat was sharp as it pumped fresh fear and hurt through his body. "I just asked you to wait until the summer and you said you would. Did I miss something?" Subaru burst into tears.

"You can't do this, please! I-"

"Yes I can," Seishiro contradicted him, firmly. "With all due respect, you're not worth losing my job over." Subaru shuddered, feeling sick and humiliated, and looked down at his feet, his eyes clouded by tears. A moment's silence passed. "Don't cry," Seishiro said, resignedly, but it only made Subaru cry harder. Seishiro hesitated a moment, then took him into his arms.

"No," Subaru whimpered in revulsion and desperation.

"Don't cry," Seishiro said, holding him tighter, rubbing his back and kissing his neck.

"Seishiro, please!"

"Don't cry," he breathed, right in his ear.

"He wanted to fuck me," Subaru moaned to Kamui, who felt his shame and humiliation in his own chest. "And I let him!"

"It's okay," Kamui whispered. As far as he was concerned, Subaru had nothing to be ashamed of. As much as he hated to think about it, he'd probably have done the same thing with either Kotori or Fuuma.

"But it didn't make a fucking difference," Subaru said, furiously. "That was all he cared about anyway. That and keeping tabs on me because god forbid my life starts going too well." Kamui shuddered at the bitterness in his voice. He remembered how Seishiro had looked at him, how he'd eyed their clasped hands almost menacingly. He felt a rush of anger towards him, at everything he'd done to Subaru. "I'm sorry," Subaru said again. "I'm sorry, I'll stop, I," he swallowed and ran his fingers through his hair, looking suddenly exhausted.

"It's okay," Kamui said again, though of course it did nothing to reassure Subaru. Kamui waited for him to continue speaking, but when he didn't, "So what, he just comes out of the void periodically to fuck your shit up?" Subaru laughed humorlessly.

"Basically." Kamui heaved a heavy, disgusted sigh.

"My ex was like that too." Subaru's gaze snapped to his face.

"What?" Kamui blushed, but his new resolve began to burn brightly again, brighter than any shame or anger. He nodded very seriously, wanting Subaru to know that he, at least to some degree, understood. However, he was wary of hijacking the conversation or being insensitive as he had done with Yuzuriha.

"He ended it too, after," he broke off, blushing, and Subaru's eyes shown with sympathy. "And then he disappeared, like, I have no idea where the fuck he went, but then he randomly started texting me and IMing me like nothing happened." Kamui swallowed, and though he was still blushing, it was the first time he'd talked about this and sounded matter of fact rather than bitter, which was both surprising and gratifying. "He texted me like, two weeks ago," he continued, hoping this wasn't crossing a line. "To tell me he'd be in Sagacity tonight." He swallowed. "But I told him to fuck off, so." Subaru laughed, and this time there was some amusement, and Kamui smiled encouragingly. "Can I ask you something, though?" Subaru nodded. "You totally don't have to answer this, but, why did you come back to SCA after all that shit?" Subaru took a deep breath in.

"I didn't right away," he said, after a moment. "I went back home and deferred for the fall semester." Kamui nodded. "My grandmother was furious with me for fucking up my grades and everything, but," he paused, and Kamui resisted rolling his eyes with difficulty. "My sister was really great though. She kept me up and busy, but like, also let me be sad when I needed to, if that makes sense." Kamui nodded solemnly, both hating to think of Subaru being that miserable and wishing he himself had been more receptive to his friend's help over the summer. "She even reached out to all my friends from here, and they all came and stayed with us for a weekend," he said, smiling at the memories. "They all came to see me, and," he paused, looking slightly awed by it all. "My roommate, well, that was before she was my roommate, she said something like, 'don't let him take anything else away from you,' and it just…

"I guess that weekend was what made me want to try again." Kamui nodded. "In Sagacity I had a life, my own life, with people who I cared about. In New York at the time there wasn't much for me." Kamui nodded, pretty sure he understood. "I mean, it's different now, obviously, but," he sighed. "I'll still have a lot of people to say goodbye to." His eyes filled with tears and Kamui wrapped his arms around him, pulling him close and rubbing his face in his hair. He knew he had to be strong and supportive, but now, after hearing all this, the thought of Subaru leaving was more painful and terrifying than ever. He held him as tight as he could, pulling away only when his tears had subsided. "I feel terrible about starting all of this when I knew I'd be leaving," he said in a rush. Kamui just smiled rather sadly.

"I started everything with my first ex after I found out she was moving to California, like, don't worry about it," Kamui said, kindly, but Subaru still looked anguished. "Besides, I, I don't care about distance, and New York isn't that far." Subaru pressed his lips tightly together, his eyes huge and terrified, and Kamui pressed on. "I really, really like you, Subaru, and I get why this would freak you out after everything from before, but," he flushed suddenly, but his resolve was still warm and bright inside him. "I like you, and I'm here." Subaru closed his eyes and covered his mouth with his hand, fresh tears sliding down his face. Kamui could feel his fear and his conflict, but had no idea what he was thinking, what he'd say; it was as though they were in limbo. After what felt like centuries, Subaru lowered his hand.

"You can't do that for me, Kamui," he whispered. Kamui stared at him for a moment, and despite his efforts to stay calm and supportive, the words sparked inside him, eclipsing his resolve with something else too intense and confusing to name.

"It's not like that!" He burst out. "I can do what I want, this is my choice! I want to be with you!"

"You're seventeen, how the fuck do you know?!" Subaru shot back.

"The same way you did when you were nineteen!"

"Yeah, and you see how well it worked out for me?!" Subaru demanded, heat rushing up his neck and face.

"IT'S DIFFERENT!" Kamui yelled, his voice echoing off the walls. Alarmed at his own tone, he took several deep breaths, doing his utmost to calm down. Subaru just looked away, tears pouring silently down his face again. "I'm sorry!" Kamui moaned, shame creeping down the back of his neck. "Just, we're different! Our situation is different, and it fucking sucks that you act like it's not!" Subaru stifled a small sob, and Kamui hated himself and everything. The silence stretched horribly.

"You're right," Subaru said, eventually. "You're right. I'm sorry." Kamui's heart pounded, but he didn't dare feel relieved. "I'm so, so sorry." He wiped his eyes and stared Kamui hard in the face. "I, I know that you're, that you're okay doing distance or whatever else, I just," his voice dropped to an anguished whisper. "I can't let you."

"I-" However, at that exact moment, Kamui's phone began to ring, jerking them both out of their conversation, back to the fact that they were down some hallway at Subaru's student showcase hiding from his ex. Kamui swore angrily, but his phone went quiet. He shook his head impatiently, but then it started to ring again. "What the fuck?!" He demanded, furiously, answering it without bothering to check who was calling. "Hello?!"

"Kamui? What's wrong?" His mother asked, and he shrank away from the phone, feeling utterly disgusting.

"Nothing, sorry, what's up?" His eyes darted to Subaru, who was just watching him miserably.

"I couldn't find you guys in the gallery, where are you?" Kamui closed his eyes with a shudder.

"Don't worry about it, I'll just come outside and meet you."

"Are you sure?" His mother asked, and Kamui fought hard not to raise his voice.

"Yes, I'll be there in a second!" He snapped his phone closed and covered his face with his hand.

"Who was that?" Subaru asked.

"My mom," Kamui replied. "I have to go." His throat and eyes burned, but he stared imploringly at Subaru. "Please don't do this, I," he swallowed. "Please can we try?! I, I really," he broke off, blinking back tears. Subaru let out a soft, anguished moan and pulled Kamui into a tight hug. Kamui gripped the back of his shirt so hard his knuckles were white. "Please!" He hated begging, but he'd already fought for Subaru so much already, he wasn't about to stop now, not when it was most important.

"Can you come over tomorrow?" Subaru whispered, after a few more aching seconds.

"What?" Kamui gasped, hastily wiping his eyes on Subaru's shoulder. Subaru sighed and held him at arm's length.

"Come over tomorrow and we'll talk about it, okay?" Kamui was so desperate for an answer he didn't think he could stand more time waiting, but he could tell Subaru's mind was made up. He nodded and bit down on the inside of his lip, knowing he had to leave but having no desire to do it. Eventually, he heaved himself off the floor, then reached out to pull Subaru to his feet.

"I'll text you," he said, miserably, and Subaru nodded. Kamui let go of his hands and began to back away, wishing more than anything that Subaru would try to stop him. However, all he did was lean against the wall, his arms wrapped around himself, until Kamui turned the corner.

Subaru shuddered violently and hugged himself more tightly, feeling exposed and shell-shocked in the half lit, echoing hallway. He hadn't told anyone the entire story like that before. He hated even thinking about it, and most of his friends had been there for it anyway. They'd been there with him, and he was leaving them, just like he was leaving Kamui.

More tears welled up in Subaru's eyes, but he took deep breaths, forcing himself to stay calm. He'd been in here way too long, neglecting himself and what was actually important because of Seishiro yet again. He walked back down the hallway and slid into the nearest bathroom, which was thankfully empty, to make himself presentable.

He turned on the sink, soaked a paper towel in cold water and pressed it to his eyes. However, he knew that even if he managed to get rid of the redness and swelling, he still wore his sadness all over his face. People, usually people interested in him, often told him he wore his heart on his sleeve, only to accuse him of being difficult to read a moment later, as if he owed them his feelings. He reflected that the only people who hadn't been that way were Seishiro and Kamui. Seishiro just hadn't cared, but Kamui, Kamui had taken whatever Subaru had given him, had been receptive and excited and would reciprocate. Was that how he'd gotten into his mind, his heart and his body?

Subaru threw the wet paper towel away and splashed cold water on his face, trying to stay present. Thinking about Kamui now would only make everything harder. However, every time he closed his eyes, even just for a second, he'd feel him holding him or see his face or hear him begging him not to let him go. Subaru shut off the water, seized dry paper towels and dried his eyes and face. He threw them away and left the bathroom, keeping his eyes averted so he didn't have to look at his reflection.

He returned to the gallery and found it still crowded, full of noise and activity. Fortunately, he managed to get back to his piece without attracting anyone's attention. However, he found his roommate there waiting for him, looking terribly anxious with her phone pressed to her ear. When she caught sight of him her entire body seemed to sigh with relief and she snapped her phone closed almost angrily.

"Oh thank god, I had no idea where you were!" She cried.

"Sorry," he told her, his voice congested as though he had a bad cold. Her eyes widened in concern.

"What happened, are you okay?" She demanded.

"I'm fine," he assured her, but her jaw clenched and she looked suddenly furious.

"I saw Professor Sakurazuka," she said, her voice dripping with contempt as she said his name. "And I was worried-"

"I'm fine," Subaru repeated. "Kamui-" but he looked away, unable to continue. His roommate reached forward and gently gripped his upper arm.

"Hey," she said, kindly. Subaru said nothing, and she seemed to think of her next words for a long moment. "You wanna get out of here pretty soon?" Subaru nodded in relief.

"Thanks."

"Sure." She shook her head rather despairingly, still holding his arm, staying with him. "You see someone bought your piece?" She asked, after a moment.

"What?" Subaru asked, bewildered.

"Yeah, go see," she said. He hurried over and, lo and behold, there was tiny red sticker on the title card.

"What the fuck…"

"It wasn't your scumbag ex," his roommate said, just in case. "It was this really nice lady. It's going to a good home." Subaru's throat burned again as gratitude rose up inside him. He turned to face her, smiling a watery smile, and put his arm around her.

"Thank you," he said, very seriously. She looked momentarily stunned, but then slipped her own arm around his waist.

"Always." She sounded rather confused, but it was all right: Subaru wasn't sure what exactly they were talking about either.

Chapter Text

Kamui texted Subaru the moment he woke up the next morning. He'd expected to wait a few hours for a reply, it was still quite early, but,

"come over whenever, just let me know when you're on your way"

"okay"Kamui sighed and snapped his phone closed, feeling thoroughly miserable. Last night had been such a roller coaster: he'd gone from feeling completely confident, thinking he and Subaru had even had a breakthrough, to having it all fall apart a split second later. 'Just like it always does.' Kamui heaved himself out of bed, washed and dressed, then shuffled into the kitchen to find his mother drinking coffee at the table.

"Hey," she said, smiling rather sadly.

"Hey," he replied, sinking into a chair and hunching over the table on his forearms. His mother rubbed circles on his back, and he just let her do it, even though it made his heart ache. He knew she was tired too; she'd stayed up with him for hours after picking him up from the show.

"What happened?" She'd asked, as Kamui got into the car and slammed the door. However, he'd just burst into tears, and couldn't control his crying long enough to talk until they'd gotten home. She'd guided him back upstairs and sat beside him on the couch, listening as he told the story in painful, embarrassing pieces.

"I don't want this to end!" He moaned, when he'd finished.

"Of course you don't," his mother said, soothingly. Kamui rubbed his eyes with his hands balled into fists.

"Why doesn't this ever work?!" He demanded, furiously. "What's wrong with me?! Why do I-"

"Shh, that's enough," she interrupted, firmly but kindly. "That's enough." Kamui made an impatient noise and his mother put her arm around him. "You've had a hard year," she said, simply. The words struck Kamui right in his raw, throbbing heart, and more tears poured down his face.

"Yeah!" He said, as though it had only just occurred to him. "Yeah I have!" It felt weirdly good to say it, or maybe just to say it without resentment or judgment. "It fucking sucks!"

"It does suck," his mother agreed. "But you'll come out of it, you'll get better." Kamui wanted this to be true so badly, but,

"How do you know?! You said that last time too!" His mother sighed.

"I don't know," she amended, honestly. "I'm just hoping." Kamui bit down on the inside of his lip, no idea how to feel except angry. "Kamui, look at me?" He sighed impatiently and wrapped his arms tight around himself before looking up. However, as he met his mother's gaze, she looked back at him completely presently for what felt like the first time in months. No searching eyes, no sad smile, and Kamui felt his attention sharpen in spite of himself. "You guys are at shitty times in your life," she said, bluntly. "You just are."

"Yeah, no kidding," Kamui muttered.

"It won't always be that way though," she continued. Then, before Kamui could complain that this wasn't immediately helpful, "All people you care about will disappoint you," she said, quietly. "But people worth keeping around will admit when they've fucked up." Kamui said nothing, wanting more than anything to believe her but feeling totally unprepared to take her word for it. She gave his shoulders an encouraging squeeze. "Look at you and Kotori," she said, and Kamui began to cry again.

"Would you like me to make you something to eat?" His mother asked from far away. Kamui shook his head, feeling rather sick. He rested his chin on his forearms and stared straight ahead, vaguely aware of his mother getting to her feet and moving about the kitchen, of Sorata, Yuzuriha and Kotori trying to text him, but he was to wrapped up in his own thoughts to pay much attention. He knew what he wanted from Subaru, but he was too scared to be either hopeful or discouraged, because he couldn't stand the thought of being wrong again. There was a soft clink of china on wood as his mother set down a plate of toast and a mug of coffee in front of him. "In case you change your mind." Kamui's eyes filled with tears as she took the seat beside him. "When do you want to go see Subaru?" She asked, sipping her own coffee. Kamui sniffed, but wiped his eyes determinedly and picked up his mug.

"I texted him earlier, he said anytime."

"Okay." Kamui took a sip of coffee. She'd made it just like he liked it, and his eyes swam with tears again. "It'll be all right," his mother told him, bracingly. Kamui just nodded and kept drinking, the hot sweetness forcing its way through the constriction in his throat.

"Can we go?" He asked, when he'd finished, and his mother nodded. They stood up, and she suddenly seized him and pulled him into a painfully tight hug.

"Anyone you love is lucky," she told him, almost fiercely. "Even if it's just for a second." Kamui had no idea what to say to that and was rather relieved when she let go of him. She turned away and ran her fingers through her hair, then gathered her wallet and keys. Kamui watched her apprehensively, biting down on the inside of his lip. "Ready?" She asked, facing him again. He nodded and followed her out the door, pausing only to grab a piece of toast.

They didn't talk much as they drove over to Subaru's apartment, but his mother played music to fill the space. Kamui leaned against the window, staring out a truly glorious spring day: leafy green and blooming with warm sunlight pouring down on them from a cloudless sky. However, it all seemed to miss Kamui, cocooned in his pain. He tried not to think about what would happen once he got to Subaru's, how it'd all feel, what they'd say. All the possible scenarios chased each other through his mind, and it made him panicky and dizzy as they got closer. His nerves built to a crescendo inside him as they turned onto Subaru's street, but he kept breathing, doing his utmost to stay focused.

"It'll be okay," his mother said, stopping the car across from Subaru's apartment. Kamui wanted to dispute this, but his throat was far too tight. "Whatever happens, it'll be okay." Kamui just nodded, his heart pounding, and unbuckled his seatbelt with shaking hands. "I'll see you soon," she said, and again Kamui nodded and got out of the car.

He crossed the street and stepped up onto Subaru's porch, his heart in his throat. He didn't look back at his mother's car, but he knew she was watching him. Would she stay outside and wait the whole time, or drive away once she was satisfied he was inside? He took a deep breath in and sighed it out before opening the door and climbing the stairs. Every creak seemed to echo in the dusty morning air, and Kamui experienced a bizarre kind of tunnel vision as he approached Subaru's apartment door. However, he forced himself to stay present, to be brave, to fight. He wiped his sweaty palms on his jeans and knocked. Almost at once, as though he'd been waiting, Subaru answered the door, looking pale and exhausted.

"Hey," he said, avoiding Kamui's eye.

"Hi." A pause.

"Come in." Kamui stepped over the threshold with a soft shudder. Subaru's apartment, once so full of promise and excitement, now looked bleak and forbidding, static and cold. Subaru shut the door, and a sad, lonely silence fell. The nerves that had risen so painfully inside Kamui on the car ride over now sat heavy in his stomach, making it turn and twist sickeningly. "Do you want to sit down?" Subaru asked, finally. Kamui's eyes darted to Subaru's bedroom automatically, to his unmade bed and Christmas lights, but he shook his head and sat down on the couch instead. Subaru bit his lip, a weird mix of regret and relief playing out on his face as he sat down and wrapped his arms around himself. "So," he began, meeting Kamui's gaze with pained eyes.

"So," Kamui echoed. Subaru swallowed.

"What do you want to do?" He asked. Kamui took a deep breath in through his nose, the twisting feeling in his stomach heating up angrily. However, when he spoke, he managed not to raise his voice, or maybe he was just too tired. Either way, he wanted to speak plainly, be honest, and get a straight answer in return. He was done playing games and guessing and misunderstanding.

"This isn't about that," he told Subaru, bluntly. He immediately tried to protest, but Kamui forestalled him. "No, seriously. I told you last night: I really like you and I'll always do what it takes to make this work." His voice shook slightly, but he kept going, holding Subaru's gaze the whole time. "So yeah, it's on you at this point." He swallowed the lump in his throat. 'Just like it has been this whole time,' he thought, on a sudden and unexpected wave of bitterness. He looked at Subaru almost challengingly, and he shuddered slightly.

"I," but his voice was already thick with emotion and he looked up at the ceiling as he had done the night before, waiting for his tears to drain away. "You're right, I'm sorry." Kamui's heart throbbed painfully, and he suddenly wanted more than anything to take Subaru's hand, or hug him, comfort him in some way, but he knew that would just make all of this worse.

"So, what do you want to do?" Kamui asked, his tone softening slightly. Subaru closed his eyes and heaved a deep, shuddering sigh.

"You, you deserve so much better than me, Kamui," he said. Kamui bit down on the inside of his lip. "I'm so…" He broke off, his jaw clenching. "I'm so wrong for you, and it was fucked up and selfish of me to let it get this far." Kamui's nerves, anger and bitterness continued to churn his stomach. "And I'm sorry." He covered his mouth with his hand and shook his head. Kamui said nothing, feeling too torn between his desire to comfort Subaru and scream at him. Subaru took another deep breath in and sighed it out, his hand falling limply into his lap. "I want you to do what's best, and, I know you'll find someone better." The words brought Kamui's anger to a sudden, corrosive boil.

"Will you just say it?!" He snapped, and Subaru's eyes widened and his mouth fell open. "Stop putting all this on me! This whole fucking time you've done shit supposedly," he paused to enjoy how the sarcasm made Subaru shudder. "For me, but it's not! It's all about you and it always has been! If you wanna break up, do it for you, because it's what you want, because it sure as fuck isn't what I want!" Kamui knew another rush of satisfaction as tears slid down Subaru's face. He wiped them away impatiently, then balled his hands into fists.

"Fine!" He cried, flushed and furious. "Fine! You want me to say it? Here! I'm done! It's over, Kamui!" The anger and satisfaction in Kamui's chest immediately froze. He hadn't expected him to actually do it and scrambled to backtrack.

"Wait, I-"

"I'm done!" Subaru cut him off, his tone anguished. "I don't want to keep doing this!" He was crying in earnest now. "I'm sorry!" He added, furiously, his eyes blazing as he stared at Kamui. "I should have done this weeks ago, and I'm sorry!" Kamui's eyes widened.

"Weeks?" He asked, hurt rather than angry, the words knife sharp in his chest.

"Yes!" Subaru said in an anguished moan. "And I'm sorry!" The words hung in the air between them, settling over the argument and their heated emotions like falling snow. Kamui looked down at his hands, any and all fight draining away, buried under the icy force of Subaru's words. The silence stretched horribly until eventually Kamui took a deep shuddering breath and looked up at Subaru one last time. His face was streaked with tears and his gaze was almost imploring. For the briefest second, Kamui thought of reaching for him, of embracing him, but knew it was pointless. There was nothing he could do and nowhere he could go. He'd asked, and Subaru had given his answer.

"Fine," he said, after who knew how long, and got to his feet. "I guess… Bye?" Subaru winced, tears pouring silently down his face.

"Goodbye, Kamui," he said, sounding almost broken. Kamui stared at him a moment longer, then finally turned and left his apartment for the last time, feeling like his heart was being torn out. He slammed the door behind him and clapped his hand to his mouth, trying to hold back the tidal wave of emotion rising inside him. He moaned, closed his eyes and shook his head, then hurried downstairs.

He burst out onto the front porch and vented his feelings in one long, scream of misery. He swayed on the spot and his vision blurred as he began to cry without restraint, so consumed by it all.

A car horn blared suddenly and he looked up, blinking tears out of his eyes. His mother was still there, waiting for him in the exact same place. With another cry, Kamui sprinted across the street.


Subaru crawled back into bed the moment Kamui left and cried himself to sleep, curled up in a tight ball under his blankets. He woke up periodically from strange, disjointed dreams, feeling sick and disoriented, only to roll over and go back to sleep. However, after a few hours, it was voices in his living room rather than his mind that brought him back to consciousness. He screwed up his eyes and pulled his blankets tighter around him, trying to go back to sleep. Unfortunately, just as he was praying no one would bother him, there was a knock at his door.

"Subaru? Can I come in?" His roommate. He ignored her, hoping she'd go away, but she knocked again. "Subaru, I know you're there, can I please come in?" Subaru shuddered, remembering her worry from the night before, her anger on his behalf, her support. Any energy he might have summoned to deny her drained away.

"Yeah," he called, miserably, sitting up. His roommate entered the room, her expression soft.

"Thank you," she said, quietly, shutting the door behind her. Subaru said nothing, watching her through swollen eyes and wondering what she'd say. He hoped she wouldn't try to console him; other people's sympathy always made him feel selfish or ashamed or condescended to. "Can I sit down?" She asked. Subaru sighed, but nodded, and she sat down on the edge of his bed. "You wanna come be sad in the living room?"

"What?" He asked, taken aback. She smiled.

"You don't have to talk, just come sit with us. All our friends are here and they'd love to see you." Subaru hugged his knees into his chest.

"I'd just bring everyone down," he said, dismissively.

"Like that's never happened before," she countered with a wry smile, and Subaru had to admit she had a point. "We'll all cry with you. It'll be one big sad party, it'll be awesome," she continued, playful and encouraging rather than judgmental and sarcastic. "We've got food, we can bother Hokuto later…"

"That's too much," Subaru told her, though his heart swelled, breaking through the icy pain in his chest.

"Sorry," she replied, shrugging. They stared at each other a moment longer. "Remember last year when your scumbag ex called you so we all went out and got shitfaced?" She asked, grinning, and Subaru rolled his eyes.

"And you guys took my phone away because you didn't trust me not to call him?"

"Yup," she replied unashamedly. "And you got mad at me because I kept threatening to key his car."

"For fuck's sake," Subaru sighed.

"Right? But then we got pancakes at three in the morning, like, come on. It was a good night." The corners of Subaru's mouth twitched. "We throw some good sad parties," she persisted. A moment's silence passed.

"Give me a few minutes?" He asked, wearily, and she smiled.

"Sure." She left the room, shutting the door carefully behind her. Subaru covered his face with his hands, breathing deeply through his nose. He still felt devastated and guilty, and the fact that he'd now have to explain to everybody what happened only made it worse. He remembered, suddenly, all of his friends coming to see him in New York after everything had happened with Seishiro. He dug his fingers into the sides of his face for a second, but then let go, forcing himself to open his eyes and stay present. However, as his room came back into focus, he felt a sudden rush of sadness unrelated to everything that had happened with Kamui.

He looked around his room, the room he'd put so many memories into over the last two and a half years, and the room he would soon be leaving to start the next phase of his life. The sadness inside him seemed to condense, weighing more heavily on his heart. This room, this apartment, indeed all of Sagacity, was like a weird time capsule of an incredibly chaotic point in his life. He thought of everything he'd be leaving, of all the people he'd say goodbye to, and reflected that at least with Kamui he'd gotten some kind of closure. It had felt so final. Didn't that make it better?

Subaru shuddered and heaved himself out of bed, unable to stand thinking about Kamui anymore. Fortunately, at that moment, someone in the living room began to laugh, and it made him smile even as he was fighting the intense desire to cry. It was a weirdly nostalgic feeling, even though he was technically still in the place he was nostalgic for; mentally he was already in the future, onto the next chapter of his life, far away from Seishiro and Kamui and everything else.

Another burst of laughter sounded from the living room, and Subaru closed his eyes, tears pouring silently down his face. It was just one more night, even if it was just one sad party, with these people in this city. He could do it. He had to do it.


Kamui spent the rest of the afternoon curled up in bed, in and out of sleep and in between anger and longing. He felt utterly lost and devastated as he never had before, terrified to think of the summer, of next year, now he had nothing to guide him. He hadn't just lost Subaru. He'd lost the entire future they could have had together, because Subaru didn't want it.

Hot anger licked Kamui's insides like flames, but everything was already so scorched, so charred, so exhausted, it couldn't catch fire. He just rolled over and stared out of his window. The setting sun cast a burned, bloody light across his bed and he curled up tighter around himself. He couldn't even cry anymore, his eyes were hurting too badly.

He suddenly heard noise in his living room, doors opening and footsteps, though he figured it was just his mother. She'd come into his room periodically throughout the afternoon to check on him, bring him water he'd refuse to drink, ask if she should call out of work the following day, but had eventually left him alone. The noises in his living room grew louder, and Kamui caught a voice besides his mother's. He looked curiously over his shoulder and raised his eyebrows as unfamiliar footsteps came down the hall, followed by a knock on the door.

"Kamui? It's Yuzuriha."

"What?" He called, his voice hoarse.

"Please can I come in?"

"Uh, yeah," Kamui called, utterly perplexed, sitting up and turning on his bedside table light. Yuzuriha opened the door and stood on the threshold, smiling kindly down at him. He immediately blushed and looked away, but she came to sit on the edge of his bed, allowing the door to fall closed behind her.

"You look awful," she said, matter of fact but also deeply sympathetic.

"Thanks," Kamui replied, flatly.

"I'm so sorry about what happened," she said, her eyes shining.

"Thanks," Kamui said again, his tone still flat. However, as he said it, he looked up at her curiously. "Wait, how did you know?" He hadn't told any of his friends, he couldn't face it.

"Don't be mad," Yuzuriha said, preemptively, though her tone was still soft and sympathetic. "Your mom called us and told us what happened and asked if we'd come get you."

"What the fuck," Kamui said, flushing uncomfortably and looking away.

"She said something about you not shutting everyone out," Yuzuriha added. Kamui shuddered, but she continued before he could say anything. "And really? She's got a point. Didn't we both kind of learn that the hard way?" Kamui swallowed and looked up to find her blushing too, even as she stared back at him determinedly. "Sorata and Arashi are downstairs, at least come so I'm not the third wheel." Kamui's mouth twitched as though he were about to smile. "Please?"

"Where?" He asked, rather warily, and Yuzuriha smiled.

"You'll see. Get up and let's go!" Kamui stared into her determined face and knew better than to argue.

"Fine, just let me change."

Five minutes later, Kamui was back out in his living room in clean clothes, hastily combing his fingers through his hair. Yuzuriha and his mother were talking by the door, and he approached them rather cautiously. However, they both just smiled warmly.

"Ready?" Yuzuriha asked. Kamui nodded, then looked at his mother, who again bore no searching look, no sad smile. He hesitated a moment, then kissed her goodbye.

"Thanks," he told her, quietly, and she ruffled his hair.

"Have fun," she told him. "Call me if you need anything."

"Thanks, Tohru," Yuzuriha said.

"Um, what time should I be home?" Kamui asked, rather furtively, and his mother's smile widened.

"Midnight." Kamui could tell how much she appreciated it, and it made him feel better in spite of himself. He nodded, and followed Yuzuriha back outside to Sorata's car. All four windows were down and music was blasting.

"Get in," Sorata called, grinning at them from the driver's seat. Kamui tried and failed to return the smile as he and Yuzuriha got into the back. As soon as they shut the doors, Sorata sped towards Memorial Boulevard and the setting sun. Kamui put on his seatbelt and leaned against the window, staring rather wistfully at all the happy people out enjoying themselves. However, it was slightly less painful now he was safely in a car with his friends, though he was positive they'd want details any second.

"Where are we going?" He asked, his voice still rather hoarse as they entered the highway, hoping to put off the interrogation for as long as possible.

"Don't worry about it," Sorata replied. Kamui sighed rather irritably and stared out of the window again. The sun was even lower in the sky now, casting all the cars, buildings and trees into silhouette. They passed exit after exit, listened to song after song, and still no one asked, though they were talking about other irrelevant things. Once they were out of Sagacity and the highway became tree lined, Kamui heaved an impatient sigh.

"How much did my mom tell you?" He asked, the aggression in his voice tempered by his exhaustion. Yuzuriha exchanged a look with Sorata and Arashi in the rearview mirror and squeezed Kamui's arm.

"Just that you guys broke up," she said, kindly. "That's all." Kamui bit down on the inside of his lip, staring between his three friends.

"We can leave it at that, that's totally cool," Sorata told him, reassuringly. "But if we need to go key someone's car or something, you gotta tell us the details." Kamui tried and failed to smile again. Arashi turned around in her seat to face him properly, looking embarrassed but determined.

"Not to sound dramatic," she began, rather awkwardly, "but you reached out to me when no one else here did, and," she smiled at Yuzuriha, then Sorata. "I'm here too," she finished, returning her gaze to Kamui, whose throat burned. Sorata put on his turn signal and exited the highway, and Kamui realized suddenly where they were going. Somehow, it seemed to unblock him, and he cleared his throat before speaking.

He told his friends everything. How it had all seemed okay until Subaru began to pull away, how Kamui hadn't understood why or what had happened until last night, when Subaru's ex had shown up and he'd been forced to come clean. They all just listened, and though they encouraged him with sympathy and swear words, they didn't interrupt, for which he was grateful.

By the time they were driving down the main street of the small, beachy town, Kamui felt spent and exhausted, but somehow so much better. He hadn't been keeping his friends in the dark, necessarily, but now they were all on the same page. It was as if they were helping him carry the pain, and it was more comforting than he'd ever have thought possible.

They continued to the road with a salt marsh on one side and the ocean on the other. Sorata pulled into the nearest empty parking lot, and everyone got out of the car. Kamui immediately felt the sharp sea breeze in his face, but the chill and the salt and the moonlight brought him back out of his devastation as even talking hadn't. He closed his eyes, breathing and feeling and listening, until Sorata called out to him.

"Come on, let's go!" He was standing beside his open trunk where everyone had thrown their socks and shoes. They all looked at Kamui expectantly, and he was finally able to smile. He took off his own and threw them into the trunk. Sorata slammed it shut and bounded up the path between two towering sand dunes. Yuzuriha and Arashi seized Kamui by the upper arms and pulled him onwards.

The four of them sprinted through the dunes and down to the water, their progress made awkward by the squeaky dry sand. The waves were quiet, and the moon hung above them, white and shining and reflected in the blue black ocean. Sorata and Yuzuriha immediately splashed into the shallows and screamed at how cold it was.

"Be careful!" Arashi cried, standing at the edge of the water. A wave crashed over her feet and she let out a shocked squeak, then laughed rather embarrassedly. Sorata was by her side at once and enveloped her in his arms. Kamui watched them, and again was able to smile. Their situation had changed completely since the last time Sorata had brought him here.

He caught sight of Yuzuriha, up to her ankles in the ocean, also watching them, but then she turned and flashed Kamui a smile. He charged into the water, and his feet and ankles seized up from the cold. He swore loudly, but again felt something inside him unblock. He kicked out, splashing water, and the droplets shimmered as they caught the light.

"Ah! Watch it!" Yuzuriha giggled.

"Knock him over!" Sorata called, hurrying forward, Arashi laughing and clinging to his arm.

"Fuck you!" Kamui cried, and felt the determined light that had gone out so sadly the night before return to blaze in his chest. He smiled at his friends, feeling a rush of something warm but totally unnamable, and they beamed back. As if on cue, they all turned to stare out over the horizon, shoulder to shoulder in silence.

Kamui had had a hard year, but at that moment, it really did seem things would get better. His friends had always felt more like his future than any significant other or career ever would, and they were here with him. When he thought about it that way, he couldn't help but find it all less awful, less scary, even if it still hurt in the moment.

Chapter Text

"Watch where the fuck you're going!" Kamui snapped, loud enough to hear over his headphones. The man who'd smashed into him trying to get by ignored him, too absorbed in his cellphone, only to walk straight into a metal trashcan on the corner. Kamui let out a loud, contemptuous laugh and exchanged an eye roll of solidarity with a young woman walking close to him. If his friends were here, they would start making fun of him immediately, demanding to know how anyone who taught high school students could still have such a short fuse, to which he'd always reply,

"I use all my compassion at work. Once I'm off the clock fucking forget it."

Of course, in New York City it was normal to have words with people on the street, and weirdly it made Kamui quieter. Or maybe that was just him getting old.

He crossed 46th Street, carefully weaving in and out of the crowds as he made his way down Sixth Avenue. It was a hot, sticky evening in August, and the sun had hung heavy in the sky all day, pouring heat onto the metal and concrete, so he'd spent the afternoon in Central Park rereading one of the books he'd be teaching in September. He'd hated it when he'd read it in high school, and his feelings hadn't changed much. He smiled to himself as he remembered Mr. Aoki arguing with one of his classmates about whether or not a character existed, and made a mental note to e-mail him with all the craziness his own students came up with.

He got stuck at a red light at the corner of 42nd Street. A cop stood in the center of the intersection, looking sweaty and miserable as he directed traffic and yelled at people jaywalking. To Kamui's left, Bryant Park stood, leafy and green and crowded, and to his right, the neon lights of Times Square were dulled by a dirty heat haze that hung between the tall buildings.

The light changed, and Kamui crossed the street, hurrying two blocks south to a large bookstore. He pulled open the heavy glass door and sighed in relief as a glorious blast of air conditioning swept him across the face. He stood there a moment, relishing the feeling, as a young man passed him as to enter the store. Kamui eyed him curiously for a moment before following him to the fiction section.

He needed something new to read now he'd finished the book he was supposed to teach, though he had no idea what he was looking for. He walked down an aisle, but saw nothing that caught his eye, and thought for a moment of going to the much larger manga section upstairs. The last time he'd been here he'd found Can You See Him, Yuzuriha's favorite manga from high school, being released in omnibuses after being out of print for years. He'd texted her a photo, to which she'd responded,

"OMG! Noooooo that shit can stay in 2007 where it belongs!" He might have pointed out that reading it grown up when you were no longer in love with your teacher would be a completely different experience, but,

"word I feel you" After all, he understood completely. There was still music in his iTunes library from that time that he couldn't listen to, but couldn't bring himself to delete either.

Kamui sighed and turned into the next aisle, noticing the guy he'd followed into the store halfway down it. He reached for a book, and Kamui caught sight of a tattoo on his inner right forearm. His eyes widened, but no. It couldn't possibly look that familiar. He looked away and spotted an author's name he recognized and smiled affectionately as he ran his fingers tenderly down the spines of her books. She'd been hinting at a new project on her Twitter and Instagram for months now, though remained secretive when anyone asked for details.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the guy beside him turn to walk towards the stairs. Again, Kamui caught sight of his tattoo, of the pale back of his neck between his collar and hairline. He hesitated a moment, then followed him at a distance, even as he could hear his friends calling him thirsty.

'Assholes,' he thought, rolling his eyes. His friends all had it easy, with fiancés and boyfriends or people they could call. He hadn't had such a luxury in a long time.

Once upstairs, the young man paused by a large display of manga all by the same artist, and Kamui finally saw a sliver of his face. He stopped abruptly and looked away at once, his heart suddenly pounding. He took deep breaths, reminding himself that this had been happening since he'd moved here, and his tattoo wasn't that familiar. He sighed heavily. However, just as he was done talking himself down, they both turned at the same time and faced each other.

"Subaru?!" Kamui burst out.

"Oh my god, Kamui?!" He cried, his hands over his mouth.

"Yeah!" Kamui swayed slightly, his hand at his chest to steady himself as his mind and body were flooded with disjointed memories and feelings. It was as if Subaru how he remembered him were being projected over the person in front of him, only to flicker and fade, then reform. He looked familiar, and he felt familiar, but there was something so strikingly different. Kamui took a deep breath in and sighed it out before hurriedly shutting off his music and tucking his headphones behind his ears. Subaru just watched, his eyes shining, bright green in the fluorescent light. "How are you?" Kamui asked, rather weakly.

"I'm great," Subaru replied, sounding absolutely stunned. He wrapped his arm around himself in a deeply familiar gesture, but his expression was more open and receptive than Kamui could ever remember seeing it. "Wow it's been, what…"

"Ten years?" They said together, and the space between them echoed with their laughter. Kamui's heart was still pounding and he cast wildly about for something to say.

"Seriously though, you've been good?" He asked, and immediately felt himself blush. 'Still? Really?'

"I have," Subaru replied. "Working a lot," he added, and Kamui caught a trace of the exasperation he so associated with his senior thesis.

"That's great! All illustration?" Subaru smiled, and Kamui's pounding heart swelled almost too large for his chest.

"Yeah, I can't complain," he replied. "But what about you?" He continued, much more eagerly. "What are you doing in New York?" Kamui laughed rather embarrassedly, but didn't look away.

"I, I actually came here to go to school in 2011 and stuck around." Subaru's eyes widened.

"Really? What did-" However, his phone began to ring suddenly in his back pocket, a song Kamui recognized from his favorite artist and which brought back all kinds of memories. "For fuck's sake, hold on," he said, impatiently. "Hello? Yeah I'm around the corner." He rolled his eyes, though a smile played around his lips. "I'm aware. Okay, see you in a second, bye." He sighed, ended the call and put his phone away. "Sorry," he said. "I'd love to like, get coffee and actually catch up," he continued, regretfully, eyeing the café on the other side of the room. "But I was just in here killing time before I had to go meet people."

"It's okay, don't worry," Kamui assured him.

"I'm serious though," Subaru persisted, his tone lowering. "I'd like to see you again." Kamui was so disarmed by this it took him a moment to reply.

"Really? I mean, cool, me too!" He felt almost lightheaded. "You can totally Facebook me, if-"

"No," Subaru interrupted, firmly. "I don't want to do that 'oh Facebook me, we'll hang out!' thing. Let's make actual plans." A faint blush flooded his cheeks, but he looked determined all the same. "Is that cool?"

"Fuck yes, are you kidding?" Kamui asked, incredulously, and Subaru smiled a grateful smile. "I'm off work until the 20th, so pick a day and time." Subaru's eyes shown, bright and excited, and he hesitated for a moment then,

"Does Saturday work for you?"

"Yes," Kamui replied, emphatically.

"Great!" They made plans to meet downtown and exchanged numbers. "I should go," Subaru said, putting his phone away and staring Kamui hard in the face. "But I'll see you soon!"

"You will," Kamui said, suddenly quiet. They smiled at each other for just another moment before Subaru turned and headed back downstairs. Kamui watched him go, watched him smile and wave over his shoulder, watched his tattoo catch the light. He waited until he was completely out of sight before placing one hand on his chest and steadying himself with the other against the shelf of manga. "Holy fuck," he whispered, closing his eyes.

He'd often fantasized about running into Subaru, of picking a fight with him, rejecting him, or else sneaking off somewhere to finally consummate their relationship. He shut his eyes tighter and covered his mouth with his hand, his face burning.

He hadn't been hung up on Subaru, necessarily, especially not as the years wore on and he'd moved away, dated other people, seen new things. However, he always stuck with him, even if it was just a random blip of memory or a soft nostalgic pain at a song on shuffle play. Had Subaru felt the same way? Or had he just forgotten him until ten minutes ago?

Kamui sighed heavily and straightened up again, reminding himself it was pointless to agonize, though of course it was a hard habit to break. He sighed heavily again, a soft smile on his face. He could ask him Saturday night, if they got around to it. Kamui wasn't sure what he wanted, what he was hoping for, but for now he felt optimistic.

He headed back downstairs to the fiction section, the reason he'd come into the store in the first place, and selected a book at random. As he joined the check out line, he retrieved his phone, and smiled in surprised delight at a text from Subaru already.

"remember my roommate from SCA? She and my sister say hi :)" Kamui laughed rather embarrassedly and ran his fingers through his hair, his face still burning.

"tell them I say hi back!"

"I can help the next customer in line!" Kamui hurried forward, feeling Saturday night couldn't come fast enough.

Chapter Text

Kamui spent the next few days in a state of advanced nervousness and excitement. His mother, Sorata and Arashi were texting him constantly while Yuzuriha and Kotori fussed continually, and it all soothed and heightened his nerves simultaneously. On Saturday evening, Kamui was in his living room, washed and dressed and doing his utmost to keep all his nerves and feelings in check.

"Do you want us to be elsewhere tonight?" Yuzuriha asked, sitting cross-legged on their couch beside Kotori. Although she was grinning evilly, her tone was matter of fact rather than teasing.

"I have no idea," he replied, truthfully, and she and Kotori exchanged looks. "No, seriously, for all I know we'll just lapse into an awkward silence, make excuses to leave early and then never see each other again." Yuzuriha rolled her eyes, but it was Kotori who said,

"Oh yes, because reconnecting with the one that got away happens for no good reason."

"Yeah if 'the one that got away' were, you know, a valid concept," he said, but then changed tact when Kotori replied with an impatient noise. "Yeah yeah, fate and destiny and it's all pointless anyway," he said, though he was smiling.

"Shut up you nihilist fuck," Yuzuriha snapped, wearily, and Kotori burst out laughing. "I wish Sorata was here, he could squish you into the couch or something."

"Right?" Kotori giggled. "How dare he and his fiancé move in together and leave us to stew in Kamui's existential dread?" Yuzuriha snorted with laughter.

"And on that note," Kamui said. "I'm out. I'll text you guys if anything."

"Cool," Yuzuriha said.

"Have fun!" Kotori called. They exchanged another look as Kamui gathered his things and put on his headphones, and he gave them the finger as he left their apartment.

He emerged onto a hot and humid 9th Street. It had rained half-heartedly that morning, and rather than cool things down, it made the entire city steamier. However, it was still a beautiful evening; sunlight filtered through the leafy trees and gilding the buildings and sidewalks. Kamui walked through Tompkins Square Park, past affluent young families with small children, groups of friends his age heading out for the night and elderly people sitting on benches. The basketball court was also full of people, screaming, cheering each other on and sweating in the heat.

Kamui turned up his music as he crossed Avenue A, then First Avenue, passing small stores and restaurants in the basements of old and beautiful townhouses before stopping halfway down the block outside a small, dark wine bar. He took off his headphones and stowed them in his bag, then hesitated, unsure if he should just go inside or not. He checked his phone, but there were no new messages.

"Hey!" Kamui looked up, and a grin spread across his face as he spotted Subaru hurrying towards him, also taking off headphones. He was dressed all in black, almost in the grown up version of what he wore in college, his tattoo extra vivid in the flattering natural light. Kamui felt a rush of affection and nerves, but kept them in check as he waved him over.

"Hi," he called back.

"Were you waiting long?" Subaru asked, smiling warmly at him.

"Nah I just got here." They stood a foot apart, almost as if sizing each other up. Fortunately, Subaru spoke before Kamui could wonder if they should hug each other hello.

"I've never been here before," he said, looking curiously at the sign above the door.

"It's really nice," Kamui assured him. "My friend Yuzuriha found it right after we all moved over here, we come here all the time." Subaru's eyes widened.

"You live in this neighborhood?"

"Yup, 9th between B and C."

"Very nice," Subaru replied, impressed. "You live with roommates, or?"

"Oh hell yeah, I couldn't do this by myself," he replied, laughing ruefully.

"I feel that," Subaru said.

"Where do you live again?" Kamui asked, curiously.

"Midtown, on the East Side." Kamui raised his eyebrows. "My grandmother's townhouse she bought, you know, fifty years ago." Kamui burst out laughing, but nodded understandingly.

"That's dope, though! With her and your sister?"

"Yeah, come over and see it sometime," Subaru replied, nodding and smiling rather furtively. Kamui's breath caught in his chest, but he just smiled back, doing his utmost to stay focused.

"Sure," he replied, swallowing. "Anyway, you wanna go inside before it gets like, mad busy?" Subaru laughed and nodded eagerly.

"Yes! Sorry I got distracted." Kamui rolled his eyes affectionately and led Subaru inside. It was a small, cozy place, with candles on every table and an unlit fireplace in the corner. Three of the walls were painted a dark purple and the other was exposed brick and hung with Christmas lights. The young woman behind the bar smiled.

"Two of you?" She asked, picking up menus.

"Yes please," Kamui replied, returning her smile. She led them to a corner table and they sat down at adjacent edges. She handed them the menus, and they debated for a few moments before ordering glasses of wine.

"Cool, I'll be right back," she said, and disappeared. Subaru smiled at Kamui out of the corner of his eye, looking curious and excited. His face was lit up by the candle on their table and the sunlight still filtering in through the windows at the front of the bar, and again Kamui was amazed by how different he could look while still being so familiar. Neither of them spoke until the bartender came back.

"Thank you," Subaru and Kamui said together as she set down two wineglasses in front of them.

"Enjoy, guys," she replied with yet another smile before heading back behind the bar.

"Cheers," Kamui said, quietly, picking up his glass and clinking it together with Subaru's.

"Cheers," Subaru echoed. He took a sip, then stared intently at his glass. "This is amazing," he said, and Kamui smiled widely.

"Told you, this place is dope." Subaru laughed, took another sip and placed his glass on the table.

"So," he said, smiling sideways at Kamui. "I guess it's time to play catch up now?" Kamui snorted with laughter and sipped more wine.

"I guess we already took care of the awkward New York small talk outside, right?" Subaru laughed.

"We did! I didn't ask how much your rent was though." Kamui rolled his eyes, though he couldn't help but feel relieved at how easy all of this felt so far.

"Yeah I'm down to move on if you are."

"Cool." They laughed softly and drank more wine.

"So you wanna start or should I?" Kamui asked, tilting his head to the side.

"You start," Subaru replied, quietly, leaning in closer, his expression open and receptive. As Kamui looked into his eyes, he felt his nerves beginning to stir, but swallowed them with more wine.

"Uh, well I'm an English teacher now," he started, trying to sound confident. Subaru's eyes widened interestedly.

"Really?"

"Yeah, at Flushing High School," Kamui replied, pleased at Subaru's interest.

"Flushing, that's so far!" Subaru exclaimed, but Kamui just shrugged.

"I mean, it is, but my commute is when I do all my grading," he replied with a sarcastically clever smile that made Subaru laugh.

"Fair enough! High school though, you must have the patience of a saint."

"Nah, that's middle school teachers," Kamui corrected him, and he snorted into his wineglass. "Or anyone who has to teach college freshman in their 'oh my god I'm suddenly enlightened!' phase," he added, thoughtfully.

"Oh god, bad times," Subaru laughed, shaking his head despairingly.

"Right?" Kamui said, grinning. "I mean, I was there when I was like, twelve, so…"

"At least you were self-possessed," Subaru countered, and Kamui flushed at the compliment.

"Either way, I've got way more respect for my teachers now," he said, shaking his head and drinking more wine.

"I'm sure!" Subaru agreed, drinking more too. He set his glass down and gave Kamui another sideways look. "I never would have pictured you teaching," he said, quietly, and Kamui's stomach twisted. He'd wondered if the past would come up, how much they'd talk about, but he shook himself. It was still early, and he wanted to keep the conversation going.

"It took me a while to realize that's what I wanted to do, and I don't think I'll do it forever, but," he broke off, shrugging.

"I understand," Subaru said, and they both drank more wine.

"So what about you?" Kamui asked, after a moment, and the past seemed to vanish like a mirage.

"Nothing too different," Subaru replied, and now they were both blushing. "I mostly freelance, but I've got a few standing gigs with publishing companies illustrating books and designing covers."

"Cool!" Kamui exclaimed. That deeply nostalgic feeling of being pretty sure he understood what Subaru meant rushed up inside him, and he couldn't help but smile.

"I can't complain," Subaru said, smiling softly into his glass. "Work is always good."

"True," Kamui agreed. "Do you also work on your own stuff?"

"I do, but actually getting something together to try and publish it is fucking hard," he said, laughing sadly.

"No it is though," Kamui agreed, earnestly. "I totally feel you." Subaru's eyes widened curiously.

"Do you also write or anything?" Kamui bit down on the inside of his lip and meant to take another sip of wine, only to find his glass nearly empty. Had he really drank it that fast? He finished the last of it, and warmth spread throughout his body.

'Yeah you definitely drank that fast,' he thought, but, "I do, but not very well," he told Subaru, setting his glass back on the table and shifting in his seat. Subaru, however, looked intrigued. "I mean, I'm not trying to publish anything necessarily, but…"

"Well you don't need to, right? Write for yourself," Subaru said, then laughed sadly again. "I say that like I actually make an effort to draw for myself."

"Shit happens, what are you gonna do?" Kamui asked, shrugging.

"Right?"

"It's hard too, because while I'm teaching I have no space in my brain for anything else, so I'll start a project one summer when I'm off, then try and go back to it the next summer and I just can't, you know?"

"Some stories are just temporal like that," Subaru said, bracingly. "There's pieces of comics or whatever that I started years ago that I didn't finish at the time and now it's never going to happen." He sighed and finished his own glass of wine. "I feel like if the story's worth telling, you'll tell it," he continued, much more optimistically. "Even if it's not the same cast or scenario."

"You think so?" Kamui asked, feeling a rush of affection.

"Definitely, there's just some stories you need to wait for," Subaru continued, and something tautened in his face. He smiled sideways at Kamui, whose stomach twisted again.

"Yeah, that's definitely true," he replied. They looked away for a moment, and Kamui watched Subaru playing with the stem of his empty wine glass, his heart beating rather fast all of a sudden. He knew they'd been talking about work, but again the past seemed to shimmer before them, and he wasn't sure how much he wanted to talk about it, or if that was even where Subaru was going at all. He didn't want to assume anything, but-

"Do you guys want a second round?" Their bartender asked, appearing out of nowhere. Subaru and Kamui looked up at her, bemused in the broken tension.

"Oh, um," Subaru turned to Kamui, who just nodded.

"Yeah, that'd be great!"

"Cool," she replied. "Same thing?"

"Yes please," Kamui and Subaru said together, and she smiled and walked away. A moment's silence passed, and Kamui wanted to keep the conversation going but wasn't exactly sure what to say. Fortunately, Subaru spoke before it could get awkward.

"So how did you become an English teacher?" He asked.

"It's kind of a long story," Kamui replied, blushing.

"Like we have anything but time," Subaru reminded him with a soft smile.

"True," Kamui agreed, then, "Thank you," he added to the bartender as she set two more glasses of wine down in front of them. Subaru picked his up and clinked it against Kamui's.

"Seriously, though," he persisted, and Kamui couldn't help but appreciate his interest.

"Uh," he began, taking a fortifying sip of wine. "I graduated high school in 2008 and had no idea what the fuck to do." Subaru burst out laughing, but nodded understandingly. "I'd gotten into schools already, but I deferred for a year to like," he paused. "I guess get my energy back." Again, Subaru nodded understandingly. "So I worked a lot, and honestly? It was great." He drank more wine, remembering feeling competent and capable and valued for the first time in his life, even though the jobs were menial. "My friends all went away for school, though, that sucked," he amended.

"I'm sure," Subaru said, sympathetically.

"It's okay," Kamui replied, waving the words aside, though he did appreciate them. "They all came back during breaks, so it wasn't too bad. Well, except my friend Kotori, she was still stuck in California."

"Right, I remember," Subaru said with another sympathetic laugh. They both drank more wine.

"But in fall of 2009 I went to school out there with her, so we were finally in the same place again."

"I'm waiting for the but," Subaru said, knowingly, and Kamui laughed.

"I just didn't fit in," he said, rather sadly. "I mean at first it was okay, but," he shook his head and took another sip of wine. "It's just not for me, and that's no one's fault. It is what it is, you feel me?"

"The culture shock is real, believe me, I understand," Subaru assured him, swigging wine, and Kamui laughed appreciatively.

"It was also what I was studying though," he continued. "I sort of picked English arbitrarily, but then realized I hated it pretty much out the gate."

"It happens," Subaru said, resignedly.

"I started doing really badly and wanted to quit, but I felt pathetic, like I was giving up or something," Kamui said, feeling expansive under the alcohol even as he was recounting a less than happy part of his life.

"You shouldn't," Subaru interrupted, firmly, and Kamui's eyes widened curiously. At that moment, the bartender lowered the lights and turned on the string of Christmas lights, illuminating the bricks, the soothing wall color and their own, eager faces. "Seriously, being able to throw your hands up and say 'this isn't working!' is a skill just like anything else." Kamui laughed, but his heart swelled at the words.

"It absolutely fucking is," he agreed, and they both took drank deeply from their glasses.

"So then what?" Subaru asked, leaning forward on the table. Kamui sighed heavily.

"I was in this shitty place," he said, also leaning forward. "But I thought, I already have all these English credits, I don't want to write and I sure as fuck don't want to be an academic, so-"

"-you teach," Subaru finished the sentence for him, and he nodded.

"Kotori's mom was gonna move back to the East Coast, so we figured, fuck it, let's transfer somewhere there, maybe I'll hate this less when I'm around people who don't piss me off." Subaru laughed and swirled his glass around.

"True… By the East Coast, you mean Sagacity?" He asked, his eyes shining in the soft light. "Or somewhere else?" Heat flooded Kamui's cheeks, but he kept his gaze, the past again appearing before them, simultaneously tantalizing and terrifying.

"For Kotori's mom it was Sagacity," Kamui said, quietly. "But for us it was here." Subaru's lips parted, but Kamui kept going. "Our friends Yuzuriha and Arashi were already at NYU and Sorata was at Cooper Union, so they'd been begging us to transfer the whole time."

"Wow," Subaru said, impressed.

"Yeah my friends are smart as fuck, it's awesome," Kamui replied, grinning proudly. A large party entered the bar and was being loud and exuberant up at the front, so Kamui and Subaru moved closer to continue their conversation.

"So where did you and Kotori end up?"

"Kotori went to Columbia because she's fucking amazing," Kamui said. "And I went to Eugene Lang, or, I guess by then it was the New School." He made a contemptuous noise and downed half of his wine in one gulp.

"Not a good choice?" Subaru asked, laughing.

"I fucking hated it," Kamui replied, ruefully.

"All of Hokuto's Lang friends say that!" Subaru exclaimed, still laughing.

"Yeah, well, there's a fucking reason," Kamui said, grumpily, though he was smiling, his heart swelling in his chest from the alcohol and Subaru's laughter. "It wasn't all bad though."

"No?"

"Nah. My professors were pretty cool and I was around people I actually liked again."

"That does make a difference," Subaru agreed.

"Yeah, plus living here is," Kamui paused and swirled his wineglass around, gathering his thoughts. "Like honestly? I don't really think I'll ever feel completely at home anywhere, but New York is the closest I get." He flushed as he looked back at Subaru, who nodded, his expression suddenly serious.

"I remember," he began, his voice lowering so that Kamui had to inch even closer to listen. "You weren't happy in Sagacity." Kamui laughed softly, still playing with his wineglass.

"No," he agreed. "But I'm pretty sure most of that was just me being seventeen." His flushed deepened and Subaru's lips parted as the past came into sharper focus around them, but Kamui kept going, his heart speeding up. "Besides, for me it's always about the people I'm around, and," he hesitated, then, "From what I remember, you get that." Subaru took a sharp inhale, and for a moment it was as if they were down a half lit hallway in an SCA building.

"I do," Subaru said, and his eyes suddenly shone with meaning. "I," Kamui's heart shot into his throat, but then Subaru just turned away and finished the rest of his wine. Kamui swallowed and felt his heart slip back into his chest where it belonged, though it was still beating rather fast. He drank more wine too, watching Subaru out of the corner of his eye. "I'll be right back," he said, setting his glass on the table. Kamui nodded and he got up, pausing to ask the passing bartender something. She pointed to a door on the opposite wall before approaching their table to collect their glasses.

"Can I get you guys anything else?" She asked. Kamui hesitated, but then drained his own glass.

"One more round," he said, rather bravely. They exchanged a smile and she departed. Kamui sighed and ran his fingers through his hair, still feeling the aftereffects of the last ten minutes all through his body. Subaru's look, his words, the feeling between them… Kamui shook his head, but his brain had slowed from the alcohol. He looked around and realized how much louder and darker it had gotten inside the bar. When had that happened? Had they really been here that long? The bartender and Subaru returned to the table at the same time, bringing Kamui out of his thoughts. "I hope this wasn't presumptuous of me," he said, smiling at the two fresh glasses of wine.

"What?" Subaru asked, sitting down beside Kamui and moving in closer to hear. Kamui's stomach pulled in slightly as their thighs brushed under the table, but he swallowed and stayed focused.

"I ordered more drinks, is that cool?"

"Yeah of course, thank you," Subaru replied. They raised their glasses, toasted each other and drank deeply. "Um, is your mom still in Sagacity?" Subaru asked, and Kamui was sure he'd made a point to think of the question while away from the table.

"Nah," he replied, smiling. "She and Kotori's mom moved here too, they're upstate in Tarrytown." Subaru's eyes widened eagerly.

"Oh, it's beautiful up there!"

"Yeah it is. Their apartment is mad nice too, I'm really happy," Kamui continued, his smile widening.

"They moved to be closer to you guys?" Subaru asked.

"Yeah."

"That's good," Subaru said, smiling thoughtfully into his wineglass before taking another sip. "Your mom was so kind to me," he added, his expression softening.

"She liked you," Kamui said, and Subaru looked up at him.

"Really?" He asked, incredulously, and Kamui laughed.

"Of course, why wouldn't she?" Subaru raised his eyebrows, but Kamui forestalled him, grinning. "Are you still self-deprecating all the goddamn time?" Subaru's eyes widened and he looked caught between offended and amused as he opened his mouth, closed it again and seized his wineglass. "Yeah I thought so," Kamui continued, feeling a rush of affection as he sipped his own wine.

"Listen, I just meant," Subaru started to say, but then sighed and drank more. "I just meant I was in such a shitty place, in retrospect I don't know how it didn't put her off." Kamui rolled his eyes, though he understood completely.

"I was in a shitty place too," he said. "But like, she knew that, and," he shrugged. "She was understanding, I guess." Subaru nodded.

"What about you?" He asked, after a moment, looking sideways at Kamui.

"What?"

"Were you- No, you know what? Never mind." Kamui furrowed his brow, taken aback, but Subaru just took another hearty swig of wine, set his glass down and stared Kamui hard in the face. "I am so sorry about what happened." The words hung in the air between them.

"What?" Kamui asked, blankly. Subaru closed his eyes for a moment, and when he opened them his gaze was all the more intense.

"I am so sorry for how I treated you back then, and for how we broke up." Again, the words seemed to hang in the air. Kamui was so stunned and his brain was running slowly but he knew he had to say something, so,

"I'm sorry too." Now it was Subaru's turn to look shocked.

"What?" The word seemed to jumpstart Kamui back to himself, and he smiled encouragingly at Subaru, his heart pounding and stomach twisting but curious none the less.

"You first," he said. Subaru's breath seemed to catch in his chest, but then he smiled too. He sighed, drank more wine, and stared at Kamui determinedly.

"I was so fucked up and stupid," he said, and Kamui could feel his pain and regret in his own chest. "I, I had no idea what to do with my feelings and just," he broke off, but Kamui continued, his own pain and regret rushing up inside him.

"I was way too immature," he said. "I just… I thought my feelings were enough and dove in head first without thinking or…"

"Asking me?" Subaru offered, and Kamui's face burned, but he nodded. "Because that would have worked," Subaru continued, sarcastically. "Self-reflection and emotional honesty were definitely my forte back then." Kamui covered his face with his hands and let out a noise somewhere between a laugh and a moan. "And that's not self-deprecating, that's just factual." Kamui snorted with laughter and looked at Subaru again, his hands falling into his lap.

"It was such shitty timing," he said, helplessly.

"It was!" Subaru agreed, and they both burst into laughter. Kamui felt the regret and pain in his chest drain away to be replaced by light, gratified space, and he laughed harder, falling against Subaru as they dissolved in it. It was a long time before they were able to stop, but eventually they recovered and sat up straight again, sharing a new excitement and happiness. "I'm so sorry," Subaru said again, seizing his glass.

"I'm sorry too!" Kamui replied, his heart pounding against his ribs. Subaru set down his glass and gave Kamui a hard, blazing look.

"I never forgot you, you know." Kamui took a sharp breath in through parted lips, his eyes huge.

"No?" He asked, his voice much quieter than he'd intended.

"No," Subaru replied, shaking his head. "I always remembered… I don't know, you just always stuck with me, Kamui." Kamui shivered, his heart swelling far too large for his chest.

"Likewise!" He cried, earnestly. "Like, full disclosure I got into all the schools here I applied to but I just," he broke off, shaking his head. "It was too soon, and I was still so angry with you." Subaru's expression sagged under the weight of the words, but he nodded.

"You had every right to be." Kamui nodded and pressed on.

"I used to imagine, like, running into you or finding you somehow and," he broke off and drank more wine. "It was so fucking stupid, like what would I even do?"

"I would have ran," Subaru replied, bluntly. They burst into more laughter, and again, it was a long time before they could stop.

"Oh shit," Kamui sighed, wearily, placing his elbow on the table and leaning his head into his hand.

"Right?" Subaru said, despairingly, inching closer to Kamui so their thighs touched under the table. Kamui's lips parted in a soft gasp and Subaru blushed. For a long moment, they just stared at each other. Kamui's heart was pounding painfully hard, pumping waves of emotion through his body, though he had no idea if they were old feelings, new feelings, or something else entirely. "Can I ask you something?" Subaru asked, very quietly.

"Yeah of course," Kamui replied, leaning closer. Subaru took another fortifying sip of wine.

"Are you seeing anyone?" Kamui's breath caught in his chest and he hurriedly drank more wine too.

"No," he replied, watching Subaru caress the stem of his wineglass with his thumb and index finger.

"Me neither." Their eyes met, and the space between them seemed to tauten. Kamui just nodded, feeling the words rise up inside him and knowing he was powerless to stop them, dramatic as they might be.

"I haven't really dated anyone seriously since you," he confessed, his face burning. Subaru raised his eyebrows. "I had boyfriends and girlfriends, but," he shrugged. "It was hard, after everything that happened, and not just with you," he amended. "With my exes too, it was…"

"It was all rather traumatic," Subaru agreed, sadly, and Kamui nodded, the words hitting somewhere deep inside.

"For you too."

"Yeah," Subaru replied, and he moved even closer to Kamui. "I haven't really seen anyone either. Not seriously anyway." The past suddenly rose up around them again, Subaru's bedroom and everything they'd done there, but then it melted away just as quickly, giving way to new feelings, new possibilities. The space between them tautened.

"I," they both said at the same time, then laughed and took hasty sips of wine.

"You first," Kamui said, because he had no idea what he'd wanted to say anyway. Subaru took a deep breath in and sighed it out before staring meaningfully at Kamui.

"This is so," he said, quietly. "I…"

"I know," Kamui agreed, pretty sure he understood. Subaru bit his lip, reached forward and took Kamui's hand under the table. Kamui gasped, the touch rushing up his arm. He squeezed Subaru's hand as heat simmered between them.

"Do you want to kiss me?" Subaru asked, and for a moment they were back outside some dive bar on a winter night in Sagacity. Kamui's hand was suddenly slippery in Subaru's and the heat between them simmered a little faster.

"Yes, he replied, and Subaru let out an excited gasp. "But," Kamui continued, firmly, "I don't wanna go through all that shit again." Subaru laughed and brought their clasped hands up to his chest, his eyes shining with meaning.

"Me neither," he said, softly but almost fiercely. "Whatever happens, it won't be like last time." Kamui's throat burned suddenly, but he nodded, a warm, determined light suddenly blazing inside him.

"I believe you." Kamui leaned in a little closer, and Subaru followed, the space between them boiling and the noise around them deadening completely. They stayed there, eyes half closed and lips millimeters apart for another aching second, until Subaru finally moaned softly and kissed Kamui on the lips. Kamui experienced a head rush and took a sharp breath in through his nose. A tidal wave of sensation and emotion welled up inside him, then crashed outwards through his body, heart and soul. He squeezed Subaru's hand almost painfully hard and they broke apart, gasping. "Holy shit," Kamui breathed against Subaru's lips, before kissing him again. It was a familiar feeling, yet it was somehow nothing like he remembered and different from anything else he'd ever felt before. They broke apart and Subaru pressed his forehead to Kamui's, allowing them to share breath, energy, emotion, and desire. "Do you wanna come home with me?" Kamui asked.

"Are you sure?" Subaru gasped, desperately. Kamui just gave him another kiss in answer.

"Positive." Subaru pulled away slightly, his face alight and flushed.

"Yes!" He whispered, and they exchanged an excited laugh. They gulped down the last of their wine and Kamui retrieved his phone to send a message to the group chat he shared with Kotori and Yuzuriha while Subaru asked for the check.

"Coming home and bringing Subaru!" He shivered slightly as he sent the message, and immediately got a reply.

"we're with Sorata and Arashi for the night, have fun~" From Yuzuriha. Kamui rolled his eyes, though he was still smiling.

"What's up?" Subaru asked.

"My friends are just being dicks," Kamui replied, and Subaru laughed. They paid for their wine, stood up rather unsteadily and headed back out of the bar. It was completely dark and maybe a fraction cooler, but the humidity clung, wet and sticky, to their skin after so long in air conditioning. "This way," Kamui said, taking Subaru's hand and leading him back east. They didn't say anything to each other until they got stuck at a red light at the end of the block, when Kamui realized something was missing. "Did you quit smoking?" He asked.

"Yeah," Subaru replied, smiling. "A long time ago." Kamui squeezed his hand and pulled him across the street. Tompkins Square Park was still just as crowded, though now it was full of college students getting high on the lawns and homeless people asleep on benches. Music was playing from inside restaurants and cars honked and skidded up and down the streets. However, it was all meaningless to Kamui and Subaru in their excited bubble.

"Here," Kamui said, quietly, stopping in front of a building halfway down the block. He let go of Subaru's hand to dig in his bag for his keys, then unlocked the door, revealing the rather grimy hallway. "I live in a walk-up, I'm sorry," he said as they began to climb the stairs.

"That's cool," Subaru replied. "One of the benefits of quitting smoking." Kamui laughed and led him up to the fourth floor.

"Here," he said again, unlocking his door. They stepped over the threshold and toed off their shoes.

"Your place is great," Subaru said, smiling at the inexpensive furniture, the bookshelves full of pictures, manga and old videogame consoles. Kamui blushed and shut the door behind him.

"Thanks," he replied. "I'll tell Yuzuriha and Kotori." Subaru laughed softly and turned to face him.

"Show me your room?" He asked, very quietly.

Chapter Text

Kamui shivered slightly, but nodded, and guided Subaru to his small and cluttered, but thankfully clean, bedroom. He shut the door and switched on his bedside table light, illuminating his unmade bed in the corner, opposite his chest of drawers with books stacked on top. Posters and artwork covered almost all the walls and his desk was buried under his laptop, books and binders. As he dropped his bag onto the floor, he remembered showing Subaru his old room when he'd come over for dinner. He reflected that this room was hardly less childish and blushed. However, Subaru dropped his bag beside Kamui's and pulled him into an embrace.

"I've missed you, Kamui," he whispered, and Kamui shivered and wrapped his arms around him.

"I've missed you too," he whispered back. They stared at each other for a long, heavy moment before Subaru leaned in and kissed him full on the lips. Kamui's body lit up and he moaned, thrust his tongue into Subaru's mouth and dragged his hands down his back. Subaru arched into the touch with a soft groan and kissed Kamui deeper, one hand on his upper back and the other at the back of his head, his fingers entwining with his hair. Kamui shivered again, already hard in their embrace, his heart pounding, pumping arousal and emotion through his entire body. He felt he could stay there forever, tasting Subaru, feeling his breath and his heartbeat in the teasing friction of their chests and t-shirts. After who knows how long, Subaru pulled out of their kiss, and Kamui moved his lips to his neck, sucking and biting the hot, flushed skin, blood surging between his legs.

"Oh god," Subaru moaned, dragging both hands down to grip Kamui's ass, making him gasp softly against his neck. "Is this okay?"

"Yes!" Subaru moaned softly and pressed his thigh between Kamui's legs, then urged his hips back and forth. Kamui took a sharp breath in, feeling the heat and friction all the way up inside.

"You're so hard," Subaru groaned.

"I know," Kamui groaned back, pulling away from Subaru's neck to kiss him on the lips again. Subaru shivered and kissed him back even harder. Kamui dragged his hands down the sides of his waist to grip his hipbones, then felt him shiver again as he pressed his thumbs into the soft skin just inside them. Subaru pulled out of their kiss with a hard, needy moan, and now it was his mouth hot and heavy up Kamui's neck, biting down on his earlobe. Kamui let out a strangled cry as erection twitched against Subaru's thigh.

"Oh god, I," Subaru moaned, catching Kamui's lips in another desperate kiss. "Kamui, can I?" He brought one hand around and hooked his first two fingers into Kamui's waistband. Kamui's muscles pulled in and up in excitement and his erection twitched again. "Can I touch you? Please? Finally?" The words shocked Kamui's nerves and he kissed Subaru hard on the lips, arousal rising and crashing inside him. When he pulled away, it was to find Subaru looking both anxious and desperate, and it was so familiar, so sweet. Kamui smiled.

"Fuck yes!" He moaned, and Subaru cried out in excitement. "But," Kamui flushed as he began to play with the button of Subaru's pants. "Let me do the same?" He asked in a constricted voice. Subaru closed his eyes for a moment before meeting Kamui's gaze again, his expression hard and blazing.

"Yes!" He cried, his voice also constricted, and immediately they were kissing again, tasting each other and breathing hard, so high on their shared passion. Kamui undid Subaru's pants with shaking hands and took hold of his erection. He felt a deep, primal need in his whole body as he pulled out of their kiss to see.

"God you're perfect," he moaned, slowly stroking him up and down. Subaru flushed and closed his eyes in an ecstatic cry, relishing the feeling for a few seconds before undoing Kamui's pants and bringing out his erection with a shaky exhale. Kamui moaned, his face burning as the intimate touch sent arousal rushing out from between his legs. He felt suddenly dizzy with need and emotion, but kept his eyes focused on Subaru's face.

"You," Subaru whispered. They both looked down, then, at the same time, began to please each other.

"Oh fuck," Kamui moaned, his body on fire, pulled between the hot, perfect friction around his erection and Subaru twitching excitedly in his hand. He kissed Subaru hard on the lips and pleased him faster, the pressure inside him already building so gloriously.

"Good?" Subaru asked, between kisses, moving his hand faster too, causing waves of pleasure to rise up inside Kamui and crash out through his body.

"Yes!" Kamui's thighs began to shake and he clung to Subaru to stay upright as he kissed him more, hot and heavy and intense. Subaru moaned and dug his fingers into his back, simultaneously desperate and supportive. They kept going, pleasing each other in quick, deliberate strokes, until Kamui pulled out of their kiss, almost overwhelmed by the intimacy and intensity of it all. "You're gonna make me come if you keep going!" He warned Subaru in a tight gasp.

"You too!" Subaru replied, his face flushed and chest heaving.

"Together!" Kamui moaned, on a thrill of arousal.

"Please, I-" Subaru cried.

"Yes!" Kamui groaned, barely aware or coherent. Subaru's erection stiffened in his hand right as the pressure inside him built to the bursting point. "I'm gonna come!"

"I-!" With a hard, shuddering moan Kamui came all over Subaru's hand, the pressure inside him rushing out in satisfying waves. His mind slowed gloriously, but he managed to stay just present enough to keep pleasing Subaru as he came too, spilling himself all over his hand with a whimpering moan, twitching in his grasp. Kamui immediately felt his knees go weak and clung as tightly as he could to Subaru, who held him just as hard, shivering and gasping in his arms, and they were kissing again just as fast, deep and soulful as they came down. Eventually, they broke apart, but remained close, breathing heavy in the warm, intimate space. "Oh my god," Subaru whispered, smiling softly and tenderly rubbing his nose against Kamui's.

"Fuck," he whispered back, also smiling. His heart swelled so suddenly and so full he felt like it would burst. "We finally did that!"

"We did!" They dissolved into rather delirious laughter, holding each other so tightly, and it was a long time before they could stop. Kamui's heart still felt so full, and though his mind was slow from satisfaction, it was clear. He wasn't sure exactly what this meant, where they'd go, but he didn't care. He looked into Subaru's face, and they exchanged a radiant smile. "Kamui?"

"What's up?"

"Can we cuddle?" Subaru asked, quietly but hopefully, and Kamui's overfull heart throbbed.

"Of course!" He replied, kissing him once on the lips. Kamui looked down at his messy hand and heat flooded his face and neck. He seized a handful of tissues from the box on his desk. "Here," he said, handing some to Subaru, who took them gratefully. They cleaned up and zipped up in contented silence and Kamui fell backwards into bed, looking expectantly up at Subaru. However, he remained where he was, giving Kamui a rather incredulous look. "What?"

"Can I take these off? Is that cool?" Subaru asked, his hands at his waistband. Kamui took a sharp breath in, his eyes widening.

"God, yes!" He cried, hurriedly undoing his own pants and kicking them off. Subaru just smiled softly and slid his own down, then climbed into bed beside Kamui. Their eyes travelled over each other's bodies, still in t-shirts and underwear, then looked each other in the face again. Even though they were still completely covered and had made each other come, the lure of what was just out of reach was simultaneously tantalizing and intimidating. "Hold on," Kamui whispered. He reached behind him for the air conditioner in his window and turned it on. "Better," he said, decisively, and Subaru laughed and reached for him. Kamui wrapped his arms and legs tight around him and buried his face in his neck. They lay there, tangled up in each other in the soft light of the bedside table lamp, the only sound the whir of the air conditioner.

"You feel so good," Subaru breathed, after a while.

"So do you," Kamui breathed back, trailing his fingertips along Subaru's back and shoulders. "Different though, from before," he continued, hoping it wasn't a weird thing to say. However, Subaru nodded earnestly.

"So do you, it's like, I remember what it was like to kiss you." He tenderly cupped Kamui's cheek, gazing at him with such affection. "Kiss you, and…" He laughed rather embarrassedly. "Kiss you and cuddle with you and talk myself out of everything else." Kamui also let out a small, embarrassed laugh and rubbed his cheek against Subaru's hand. Subaru kissed him softly on the lips again. "I'm so sorry," he said, sincerely but sadly.

"What for?" Kamui asked.

"Just… I swear that all made sense at the time." Kamui sighed and stroked Subaru's hair.

"What, getting me drunk and letting my sleep over as long as all we did was make out and dry hump?" Subaru burst out laughing and rolled over onto his back. Kamui climbed on top of him, stacked his hands on his chest and rested his chin upon them.

"I mean, yes?" Subaru cried, covering his eyes with his hand. Kamui grinned.

"It's okay, you were just trying to be responsible. I get that." Subaru sighed and took his hand away.

"I was making excuses," he corrected him, stroking his hair. Kamui bit down on the inside of his lip and watched him with wide eyes. "But, with all due respect I don't think things would have worked out even if we had been sleeping together." A small, worried spasm crossed his face as he said it, but Kamui just nodded reassuringly.

"I don't think so either." Subaru's eyes shone suddenly and he heaved another heavy sigh.

"I just, I had no idea how to handle it. I was still so fucked up." Kamui kissed Subaru tenderly on the lips.

"It's okay," he breathed. "Like I had any idea what the fuck I was doing." Subaru let out a soft, appreciative laugh. "I hate to say 'bad timing,' but…" They exchanged another soft smile, and Subaru pulled Kamui into a kiss. They lingered there a moment, and Kamui shifted against him, exhaling deeply through his nose at the warmth and the friction.

"What about now?" Subaru asked, pulling away slightly, his eyes shining. A shiver ran through Kamui's body and he stared Subaru hard in the face.

"I'm down to find out if you are," he said, blushing slightly. Another shiver ran through his body as Subaru took a sharp inhale, his hands tensing where they held him.

"You mean that?" He asked, his voice suddenly thick with emotion.

"Yes!" Kamui cried, his heart pounding again.

"It won't be like last time," Subaru said.

"No," Kamui agreed, and Subaru pulled him into another kiss, deep and passionate. Kamui moaned into his mouth, his body already lighting up again from desire and emotion. He spread his legs over Subaru's hips, making him groan appreciatively as he dragged his hands down his back to grip his ass. Kamui arched into the touch with a sharp breath in, goose bumps rising up on his skin and heat rushing between his legs. He drew his hand down Subaru's chest and began to rock his hips back and forth. Subaru thrust his hips up against him, pulling out of their kiss with a soft cry.

"You're hard again," he moaned, his tone heavy and excited, digging his fingers into Kamui's ass. Kamui cried out and thrust his hips upwards again, then brought his lips to Subaru's neck.

"So are you," he breathed, right in his ear before biting the sensitive skin just below it and rocking his hips faster to illustrate the point.

"Oh god!" Subaru dug his fingers into Kamui's ass and threw his head back ecstatically, their erections grinding together gloriously through the clothes they still had on. Kamui sat up and took hold of the hem of his shirt.

"Can I…?"

"Please!" Subaru cried, sitting up underneath him. Kamui sighed in relief, took his shirt off at once and threw it over his shoulder, his nipples immediately getting hard from the air conditioning and the exposure. Subaru paused in taking off his own shirt to stare, his eyes widening and lips parting in a soft moan of longing that made Kamui shiver excitedly. He reached forward, pulled Subaru's shirt up over his head and tossed it behind him.

"You're so fucking sexy," he moaned, before he could stop himself. Subaru blushed, but placed his hand on Kamui's chest, and he rocked his hips back and forth in response. Subaru shut his eyes tight and threw his head back in another soft moan of longing, then faced Kamui, his eyes shining.

"I can feel your heartbeat," he said, softly, and Kamui placed his hand on top of Subaru's and pressed it more firmly into his chest. He then cupped Subaru's cheek tenderly with his other hand and pulled him into a deep, heated kiss. Subaru moaned softly and threw both arms around him, and Kamui cried out at the hot, glorious friction of their chests together. He pulled Subaru closer, tangling his hands in his hair and pressing his tongue into his mouth. He rocked his hips harder and knew a rush of arousal at how hard he was, at how desperately he was touching him, how fast he was breathing. His own heart swelled. He wanted to please him, making him feel good, express all the emotions heating his body and fogging his mind.

"Subaru," he gasped, pulling out of their kiss, gently holding the sides of his face, but then stopped, feeling a sudden rush of emotion.

"Yes?" Subaru asked, breathlessly. Kamui bit down on the inside of his lip at a sudden flashback to Subaru's old bedroom, to that first night after a concert, to their last time after school, or one of the countless afternoons in between. His throat burned suddenly and he rubbed his thumbs tenderly under Subaru's eyes, eyes he'd spent so much time admiring when they'd been fearful and unsure, but were now knowing and receptive. "Kamui? Are you okay?" In answer Kamui just kissed him and immediately felt him shudder with the force of the emotion as though they were in tune. They kissed that way a long time, tasting and feeling each other, before Kamui pulled away and placed his hands on Subaru's shoulders.

"I'm okay," he assured him, softly. "It's just intense." Subaru held him tighter.

"Do you want to stop?"

"No," Kamui replied, firmly. He swallowed his nerves and smiled, squeezing Subaru's shoulders. "I um, I wanna take it farther." Subaru's expression lit up.

"What do you want?" Kamui took a deep breath in.

"I wanna go down on you," he sighed, and Subaru shivered excitedly.

"You do?"

"Yes!" Subaru moaned and kissed him on the lips again, breathing hard and thrusting his hips upwards in anticipation. Kamui groaned into their kiss and moved his hips to meet Subaru's, grinding against him in a perfect, teasing friction until he pulled away, gasping but smiling.

"Just let me reciprocate?" Now Kamui shivered in excitement, the words making his erection throb.

"Fuck yes!" He kissed Subaru one last time. "How do you want it?" Subaru blushed softly, considering him, then slowly lay back against the pillows.

"Just like this," he replied, quietly. Kamui nodded eagerly, easing off of him so he could get comfortable before climbing back on top. Subaru spread his legs, allowing Kamui to settle between them. He kissed Subaru on the lips, then cheek, then neck, before slowly working his way down, every kiss heating him up inside. Subaru moaned quietly, arching up into his lips, hands gripping the bed sheets on either side of him. Kamui locked eyes with him as he trailed kisses over his belly and hips, then over his still clothed erection. Subaru cried out softly and Kamui took a sharp breath in through his nose, his own erection twitching, begging him to keep going. He gave him one more kiss there, then finally began to ease his underwear down. Subaru bit his lip, but didn't look away as Kamui took them off and set them aside.

"Fuck," he moaned, softly, his entire body flushing as he took in Subaru, completely naked before him for the first time. "Fuck!" He moaned again, that deep, primal need rising up inside him as his eyes fixed upon his erection, his own twitching excitedly. He shook his head in a vain attempt to clear it, then looked Subaru hard in the face again to find him smiling through a deep blush. "You're so perfect," he groaned. Subaru just laughed and pressed the heel of his hand between his eyes. However, before he could say anything, Kamui leaned forward and began to kiss along his inner thigh.

"Oh god!" Subaru cried, his erection throbbing visibly. Kamui stopped at once and looked up at him with wide eyes. Subaru gasped for breath, but smiled down at him, shifting his hips back and forth. "Sorry, that's, that's just good," he breathed, and Kamui nodded eagerly and was back at it, kissing his inner thigh before biting down softly and sucking. Subaru moaned hard, and Kamui exhaled forcefully against his skin. He kept going, kissing and sucking and biting, feeling Subaru tense and shiver beneath him, listening to him moan. He moved further and further up his inner thigh, then took hold of his erection at last. Subaru's thighs tensed and Kamui pulled away to look him in the face.

"Ready?" He asked, breathing heavily. Subaru's entire body was flushed, every muscle was tensed expectantly and his chest was heaving softly.

"Yes!" He gasped, and Kamui smiled and began to stroke him slowly, up and down. Subaru's eyes fell closed and he moaned softly and gratefully. Kamui placed his other hand on Subaru's hip to hold him steady, then leaned in and kissed the tip of his erection. Subaru cried out, his hands grabbing tight to the bed sheets and thighs shivering. Kamui echoed his moan as he felt a rush of arousal through his body.

"You're okay?" He asked in a heavy, lustful voice. Subaru opened his eyes and stared Kamui hard in the face.

"I want you, Kamui," he said, and Kamui's entire body shuddered and his head spun with the words. He took a moment to collect himself, his heart and erection both throbbing almost painfully hard, then smiled and nodded. He placed another kiss on the tip of Subaru's erection, then swirled his tongue around it, slow and heavy and reverent.

Subaru moaned, his eyes still locked on Kamui's, an almost pained expression on his face. Kamui just smiled and finally took him into his mouth. Subaru bit back a cry, his thighs shivering, and Kamui sucked down as far as he could, slowly and deliciously, then back up again, breathing hard through his nose. It gave him the most intense rush to finally please him this way, to feel him and taste him. Subaru groaned approvingly and Kamui repeated the move, still slowly, sucking back up with hollowed cheeks. Subaru grabbed a fistful of his hair, not hard, but so obviously needing the contact. Kamui sucked up and down a few more times, then took his mouth away.

"Good?" He asked, smiling and stroking.

"So good," Subaru moaned, weakly, his grip still tight in his hair. "Just, harder?" The request seared Kamui's nerves and he let out a desperate, shuddering cry.

"Okay!" He took his erection into his mouth again and sucked his way, down, then back up, with much more pressure this time. Subaru moaned gratefully, holding tight to Kamui's hair and allowing his head to fall back. Kamui sucked down to the base, then gripped Subaru's hips with both hands as he moved back up to concentrate on the tip. He swirled his tongue around in a slow, teasing circle.

"Yes…" Subaru moaned, and Kamui repeated the move, then spread his tongue wide and was back to sucking, fast and greedy. "Oh!" Kamui groaned as he swallowed a spurt of precum and kept going, trying a few angles until- "OH! Like that! Like that!" Subaru cried, his thighs tensing and hands shaking. Kamui obeyed, moving harder and faster but never losing that angle. Subaru kept moaning, gasping, begging him to keep going, but Kamui wouldn't stop for anything, he was so desperate for Subaru's pleasure. "Kamui, I'm close!" He told him in a needy, constricted moan.

"Mm!" Kamui groaned encouragingly, hot excitement surging up inside him as Subaru's erection stiffened against his tongue.

"I'm gonna come!" Kamui looked up just in time to see Subaru close his eyes and moan ecstatically as he came into his mouth. Kamui groaned in satisfaction and swallowed as Subaru spilled more and more of himself over his tongue, down his throat. He kept sucking, pleasing Subaru through it until, "That's, that's enough," he gasped, shuddering and tugging at Kamui's hair. He swallowed one last time, then straightened up. His heart swelled as he surveyed Subaru, flushed and satisfied, his eyes glazed and lips parted in a smile. He reached for Kamui, who fell into his arms at once and kissed him hard. Subaru wrapped his arms around him and held him as close as he could, digging his fingers into his upper back and dragging them down. Kamui cried out into their kiss and thrust his hips upwards, taken aback by how intense the sensation felt on his oversensitive skin. "That was incredible," Subaru breathed, when they finally broke apart, his expression exultant. Kamui smiled.

"Good." Subaru pulled him into another kiss. Kamui groaned softly, open and receptive, and blushed as Subaru pressed his tongue into his mouth, his erection twitching in the underwear he was still wearing for some reason, reminding him how turned on he still was. As if reading his mind, Subaru dragged his hands down Kamui's back, and he moaned softly into his mouth and thrust his hips up again. Subaru gripped his ass as he pulled out of their kiss.

"Why are you still wearing these?" He asked, smiling through his blush as he slipped his hand under his waistband to rub circles on his bare skin. Kamui flushed, but then straightened up, took them off and tossed them over his shoulder. He bit down on the inside of his lip as he felt Subaru's burning gaze all over his body. He shivered, goose bumps rising up all over him and erection twitching visibly. "Fuck," Subaru groaned, his voice heavy with need. He locked eyes with Kamui and sat up, his gaze still burning, and reached for his erection. Kamui cried out, feeling the touch in his entire body like an electric charge. He thrust his hips forward without meaning to, but Subaru just smiled and kissed him. "Can I reciprocate?" He asked against his lips.

"Yes," Kamui breathed, his stomach pulling in and up as he said it. He kissed Subaru one more time, then lay down on the bed and spread his legs. Subaru crawled on top of him and kissed him again, deep and slow and heavy, sinking his hips down. Kamui moaned hard into their kiss and wrapped his arms around him. There was now nothing between them, entwined naked in bed together, and it was a whole new intimacy and connection. He wanted Subaru's mouth, he was desperate to come, but he didn't want to let go. He wrapped his legs around Subaru's waist, pulling him even closer, and he moaned in surprise and excitement. He thrust his hips upwards, allowing Kamui to grind against him, and he let out a grateful cry.

"This feels so fucking good," Subaru whispered. Kamui nodded and held the sides of his face, and they both paused to look at each other. Kamui's throat burned suddenly as emotion swelled in his chest.

"I'm so glad this is happening," he burst out, before he could stop himself, and Subaru smiled widely and kissed him before he could feel embarrassed.

"Me too." Subaru reached between them to take hold of Kamui's erection, and he groaned softly, his body begging for it. "Can I? Please?" Subaru asked, and there was a quiet desperation in his voice that made Kamui throb in his hand.

"Yes!" Subaru nodded gratefully and gave him one more kiss before sliding down his body and settling between his legs. Kamui bit down on the inside of his lip, watching with rapt attention, but then cried out in surprise as Subaru grabbed his thighs and threw them over his shoulders to pull him closer.

"Is that okay?" Subaru asked at once, but Kamui just moaned weakly and nodded, totally caught off guard but loving it. Subaru nodded too and immediately took his erection into his mouth, sucking a slow, wet circle around the tip.

"Oh fuck!" Kamui groaned, his toes curling at the hot, slick pressure. His erection throbbed and he knew instantly he wouldn't last long, but he didn't care. It all felt way too good, he wanted more sensation, more pleasure, more Subaru. "Keep going!" Subaru slowly and torturously sucked his way down, over and over, always pausing at the tip to move his lips in a circle. Kamui moaned fluently and grabbed onto the bed sheets, his thighs shaking over Subaru's shoulders. It was an aching, glorious pleasure, but it was teasing, and the pressure inside Kamui was already at the boiling point. "Subaru," he moaned, his heart pounding and chest heaving. Subaru locked eyes with him again, and heat surged up inside Kamui. "Faster…" Subaru took a deep breath in through his nose and obeyed, sucking him up and down in an intense, wet heat. Kamui collapsed against the bed, white hot pleasure coursing through him, shocking his nerves and clouding his mind, and his entire body seized up as though gripped by it. "Oh fuck! Like that! Don't stop!"

"Mm!" Subaru moaned, digging his fingers into Kamui's thighs as he moved faster still. Kamui surrendered completely, his toes curling and chest heaving as he threw his head back in sheer ecstasy. He couldn't believe how close he was already, especially considering he'd come before, but everything with Subaru felt so much more intense, and he wanted to do everything after being denied for so long. He kept moaning swear words, Subaru's name and cries for more, his mind spinning until-

"Subaru! I'm gonna come!" He moaned, hard and desperate, and Subaru moaned too, moving even faster and sucking him harder. Kamui's body seized up and his erection stiffened in Subaru's mouth, his entire being paralyzed by pleasure. "I'M-" But his words were drowned in a long, hard moan as he came, hard, into Subaru's waiting mouth, all the pressure inside him rushing out of him in intense, deeply pleasurable spasms. His mind was blank and his body was heavy as he came down, though he shuddered as residual waves of pleasure gripped and released him. He couldn't think, he couldn't move, he could only feel and enjoy.

Subaru took his mouth away and slowly lay his legs back onto the bed. Kamui opened his eyes blearily and Subaru climbed up beside him and cupped the side of his face, smiling, half satisfied, half apprehensive, and Kamui's throat burned with a sudden rush of emotion. He kissed Subaru hard, thrusting his tongue into his mouth and taking a deep breath in through his nose, trying to taste himself. Subaru cried out softly and kissed him back, and they stayed there a long time, wrapped up in each other, their satisfaction and emotion. After who knows how long, they broke apart, but remained entwined, sharing breath and energy.

"That was so fucking good," Kamui whispered.

"Good," Subaru whispered back, stroking his hair. Kamui heaved a heavy sigh and closed his eyes lazily at the touch. He felt so satisfied, so quietly euphoric.

"I used to imagine doing that," he said, opening his eyes again.

"You mean last time?" Subaru asked with a soft laugh. Kamui went slightly pink, but nodded.

"Always. I spent most of my junior year of high school jerking off to you." Subaru burst out laughing and covered his eyes with his hand. Kamui, however, just grinned, completely unembarrassed. "You think I'm playing?"

"No I don't, that's why I'm laughing!" Subaru cried, taking his hand away. "I hope it was good at least," he said, and now Kamui burst into laughter.

"It was okay," he said, stretching. "Nowhere near as good as the real thing, though." They smiled at each other softly for a moment, and the space between them seemed to echo.

"It was worth the wait," Subaru agreed, quietly, after a moment. Kamui's heart swelled in his chest and he buried his face in Subaru's neck, kissing him softly, tasting his skin and smelling his hair. Subaru squeezed him tighter, and Kamui felt his heart beat in his own chest. "God, Kamui…"

"I'm so glad this is happening," he said again, his eyes falling closed.

"Me too." Subaru continued to rub his back, slower and slower, and they said nothing else, just lay there with each other, feeling it all, until they fell into a doze. The air conditioner continued to whir and lights of cars and occasional blasts of music passed through the window, but it all went totally unnoticed. Eventually, it was Kamui who stirred first, stretching and rolling onto his back, his eyes slowly opening. Subaru followed, coming to lie across his chest. Warmth spread through Kamui's body as he held Subaru close and kissed him on the top of the head. "Hm?" He groaned, sleepily, his brow furrowing for a moment as though he were troubled in his dreams. However, when he opened his eyes, his face broke into a smile, which Kamui returned, his heart swelling as if soaking up the warmth in his chest.

"Hey," he said, softly.

"Hi," Subaru replied, and Kamui kissed him gently on the lips. He was completely sober now, and he could tell Subaru was too. He bit down on the inside of his lip, not wanting to make anything awkward but knowing he needed to say something. "You still okay?" He asked.

"I'm great," Subaru said, his eyes shining in sincerity.

"Cool, just making sure," Kamui sighed, stretching again. "You want some water? I'm mad thirsty."

"That'd be great," Subaru replied, pulling away and stretching too.

"Cool," Kamui said again. He heaved himself out of bed and smiled at Subaru over his shoulder as he left the room without even bothering to get dressed. The rest of his apartment was hot and sticky, but it didn't bother him that much at the moment. He felt almost like he was floating, like his heart had swelled to fill his whole body, leaving room for nothing but joyous, satisfied space.

He entered his tiny kitchen, but didn't turn on the lights; he could see well enough from the streetlight filtering in through the mesh curtains at the window. He got two glasses out of a cabinet and filled them with water from the sink, the sound strangely magnified in the silence, in the room and in his head. Kamui was so used to his mind being on and moving incredibly fast, but now, for the first time in a long time, it was quiet. He took a deep breath in and sighed it out, feeling so incredibly present, focused and happy. He closed his eyes to relish the moment before shutting off the water and taking the glasses back to his bedroom. Subaru was still in bed, propped up against the pillows, and he smiled broadly as Kamui entered the room and kicked his door shut.

"Thank you," he said, taking one of the glasses and drinking from it gratefully.

"No problem," Kamui replied, getting into bed beside him. Subaru smiled and held his glass in both hands, watching Kamui drain half of his in one gulp. "You wanna stay over, right?" Kamui asked, setting it down on the bedside table.

"Is that cool?" Subaru asked, smiling.

"Fuck yes," Kamui replied at once. "You think I'm gonna just let you leave after that? Fuck outta here." Subaru laughed, drank more water and reached for his hand.

"I wouldn't," he said, quietly. Kamui squeezed his hand, feeling the touch all the way up to his chest, warming it up.

"No?" He asked, also quietly. Subaru sighed, set his glass on the bedside table beside Kamui's and pulled him into a kiss.

"No," he whispered, against his lips. Kamui took a sharp breath in, the heat in his chest building and spreading out through his body.

"Good," he said, rather firmly, before cupping Subaru's cheek and pulling him into another kiss. Subaru exhaled slowly and placed his hand on Kamui's thigh, palming up and down as he wrapped his other arm around his waist. Kamui flushed in excitement and could already feel himself getting hard as Subaru pressed his tongue into his mouth. Without breaking their kiss, Kamui climbed into Subaru's lap, straddled his hips and wrapped his arms and legs tight around him. Subaru cried out softly in delighted surprise and brought his hands down to grip Kamui's ass. Kamui moaned and rocked his hips back and forth, the heat in his body flushing his skin. They were both completely hard now, hard and desirous and so, so connected.

"Kamui?" Subaru gasped, his face hot and eyes burning. "Do you want to go again?" Kamui's entire body shuddered with a fresh wave of arousal and he squeezed his thighs tighter around Subaru's waist.

"Fuck yes!" He groaned, rocking his hips back and forth more insistently. Subaru closed his eyes for a moment and dug his fingers into Kamui's ass.

"What do you want to do?" He asked, his voice low and lustful. Kamui shivered and bit down on the inside of his lip, staring Subaru hard in the face. He had no idea how to answer: everything they'd done so far had felt incredible, he was already so satisfied, but Subaru's hands were still so hot and tight on his ass and back then doing that had felt so out of reach…

"Um," Kamui began, blushing softly but smiling almost mischievously. "I'm down for whatever, but," Subaru's eyes widened eagerly and Kamui kissed him once on the lips. "Do you wanna fuck me?" He asked, quietly. The words lit up the space between them and Subaru gripped his ass even tighter.

"Are you serious?" He asked, though the excitement in his voice was palpable and Kamui knew another surge of arousal.

"Yeah!" He replied, his voice also heavy and excited. Subaru moaned in longing and kissed him hard on the lips. Kamui thrust his tongue into his mouth and shifted his hips so Subaru's erection slid up against his ass, teasing deliciously.

"Oh god!" Subaru cried, spreading Kamui apart and moving him back and forth even faster. Heat rushed up Kamui's neck and face and his erection throbbed in longing, but he could also feel an excited stirring inside. It had been a long time, and now he was craving it, and it was Subaru… "How do you want it?" He asked, breaking him out of his thoughts.

"W-what?"

"How do you want it?" Subaru asked again, nosing against his cheek, jaw, his neck.

"Oh fuck," Kamui replied in a soft moan. "I," but again he had no idea how to answer: everything would feel good. He gently held Subaru's face in both hands and gave him a long, sound kiss before smiling and climbing off of him to lie on his back. He reached his arms above his head and spread his legs, blushing as Subaru's eyes roved up and down his body, fixing on his erection, his chest and his face in turn.

"Like this?" Subaru asked, softly, leaning forward and placing a delicate kiss on his breastbone. Goose bumps rose up all over Kamui's body and he cupped Subaru's face to pull him into a soft, tender kiss.

"Like this," he breathed, and Subaru took a deep breath in and a warm smile spread across his face, so loving and tender even through his lust.

"Okay." Kamui pulled him into another kiss, and they stayed there a while, breathing and feeling, sharing the heat and emotion as though they were in tune.

"There's condoms and lube in my bedside table drawer," Kamui whispered, between kisses.

"Mmhmm…" However, it was a while before they were able to stop kissing long enough for Subaru to retrieve them. Kamui blushed as he watched, his heart pounding, pumping emotion through his body, his body that was absolutely begging for it. He bent his knees and brought the soles of his feet onto the bed. Subaru stared longingly between Kamui's legs as he squirted lube onto his fingers and pressed them up against him. "Is this okay?" He asked, his voice constricted.

"Yes!" Kamui moaned, twitching against his fingers as though trying to pull them inside. Subaru flushed and let out a soft moan of longing as he moved his fingers in a low, teasing circle before pressing one, then two, inside. Kamui cried out and grabbed onto the pillows above his head, shivering excitedly.

"You're still okay?" Subaru asked, but Kamui's insides were already throbbing with want, he was already totally relaxed and receptive.

"Yes!" He groaned, rocking his hips, looking for more friction. Subaru heaved a heavy, shuddering sigh and moved his fingers in and out, teasing and stretching and- "Oh fuck!" Kamui's toes curled and he arched into the touch, white hot pleasure rushing out through his body like an electric charge. He looked up at Subaru to find him smiling.

"You're throbbing," he whispered as he spread his fingers.

"Y-yeah, I- AH!" He curled them upwards again, teasing and stretching, and Kamui let out a long, hard cry, his entire body gripped in pleasure. "Subaru!" He moaned, staring imploringly at him through a kind of lustful haze. "I'm ready," he told him, his voice and expression both softening. Subaru's chest swelled.

"You're sure?" Kamui nodded, his throat tight.

"I'm sure." A slight nervous spasm crossed Subaru's face, but he also nodded and took his fingers away. He sat back on his heels and blushed as his thighs spread apart. Kamui's eyes fixed upon Subaru's erection and his insides gave another longing throb. He groaned as he watched Subaru slide on a condom and lube himself up, hot all over and his heart and erection both aching. Subaru swallowed and got into position between his legs, bracing himself with one hand and taking hold of his erection with the other. Kamui's lips parted in another longing moan and his whole body lit up in anticipation.

"Ready?" Subaru asked, quietly, staring into Kamui's eyes.

"I want you," he replied, reaching forward to squeeze Subaru's arm. "Please…" Subaru closed his eyes for a moment and his lips parted in a soft gasp as he thrust his hips into his own hand. Kamui bit down on the inside of his lip, watching with rapt attention. Subaru opened his eyes again, and the look on his face set Kamui's body on fire.

"Tell me if it's too much," he whispered, pressing his erection up against him.

"I will." Subaru nodded and, maintaining eye contact, slowly began to press inside. Kamui let out a low, primal moan and relaxed, allowing Subaru in.

"Oh god!" Subaru moaned, throwing his head back in ecstasy, stopping there to give Kamui time. However, he was more than ready, he needed it.

"Keep going!" He moaned encouragingly. Subaru nodded, his face burning, and pressed all the way inside. Kamui cried out and experienced a head rush, hot and shivering all over and so, so aroused. He took a second, breathing deeply, then placed his hand on his low belly and smiled a bleary smile up at Subaru, who looked ready to either cry or scream or come. "So good," he breathed, and Subaru let out a choked cry. Kamui reached for him with shaking arms and he fell forward, kissing him hard on the lips. Kamui cried out into his mouth, excitement and emotion rising and crashing inside him. He wrapped his arms and legs tight around Subaru, feeling his hot smooth skin, his breath, his heartbeat. "Fuck me," he moaned, between kisses. "Please…" Subaru withdrew, staring hard into Kamui's eyes as he pulled out, then thrust back in. Kamui threw his head back in a hard cry of ecstasy, pleasure rising inside him and crashing out through his body.

"O-oh fuck!" Subaru moaned, pulling out and thrusting back inside. "Good?" He asked, staring Kamui hard in the face as he kept going, slowly, in and out. Kamui nodded, heat flooding his cheeks.

"Faster," he whispered, and Subaru shuddered excitedly. He gave Kamui one more kiss, then pressed his hands into the bed to lift his chest up. Kamui's eyes widened excitedly as he took Subaru in, his broad shoulders, smooth chest, narrow hips pressed up against him. "You're so fucking sexy," Kamui moaned, and Subaru blushed, but smiled a gratified smile. He traced Kamui's chest with his fingers, his gaze darkening lustfully.

"So are you," he groaned, pulling out and thrusting back in, much harder this time.

"YES!" Kamui cried, digging his heels into Subaru's lower back. Subaru moaned and kept going, faster now, and Kamui moaned back, relishing the hot friction and pressure deep inside him. He kept his eyes on Subaru's face, watching his lips part as he gasped and moaned, his eyes glaze and burn as he watched himself move in and out, then suddenly snap to his face.

"Kamui, can I…?" He lifted Kamui's thigh experimentally.

"Like this?" Kamui asked, rolling onto his side. Subaru's face lit up.

"Yeah!" He lifted Kamui's thigh all the way up over his shoulder and straddled the other. Kamui shivered, anticipatory heat rushing out through his body. "Is this okay?"

"God yes!" Kamui blushed deeply as he said it, his insides pulling in tight around Subaru as he drew his hips away, then thrust, hard, back inside. Kamui's toes curled and he let out a low, primal cry. "OH my god!"

"Is that-"

"YES!" Subaru dug his fingers into Kamui's thigh and kept going, fucking him hard and fast and deep. Kamui's mind swam with pleasure and he moaned and gasped and cried out without restraint. The angle was perfect, hitting him exactly where he needed it with every single thrust. "More!" He begged, the pressure inside him building in a glorious crescendo. "Just like that! Please don't stop!"

"I won't stop," Subaru assured him in a heavy, needy voice. "I won't stop!"

"F-fuck!" Kamui cried out hard, shaking all over, his insides throbbing around Subaru and erection stiffening. Again, he surrendered completely to Subaru, to all the pleasure he was giving him. "Oh god, I'm getting close!" He moaned, looking up at Subaru with glazed eyes. Subaru gave an excited, involuntary shudder and hugged Kamui's thigh even tighter.

"Me too!" He said in a choked cry, locking eyes with Kamui.

"Inside!" Kamui groaned, desperately, reaching for his erection.

"Inside?" Subaru echoed, shuddering again as Kamui began to please himself.

"Yes!" Kamui moaned, moving his hand faster. "Just like this!"

"Oh god!" Subaru sped up his thrusts, fucking so hard into Kamui that he actually screamed. The perfect angle, the almost sharp pleasure, the hot friction inside and out, it was all too much! His entire body seized up, he pulled in tight around Subaru and his erection stiffened in his hand.

"I'm gonna come!"

"Good!" Subaru cried, his expression almost pained in its intensity. "I want you to come! I want-" but his words were drowned in Kamui's ecstatic scream as he came, so hard, pleasure shooting out of him all over his hand and his sheets, his entire body shuddering with the force of it. He kept stroking himself until he was completely spent, until his mind was blank and body hot and heavy and satisfied, then collapsed against the bed, chest heaving with his breath. Subaru stopped moving, allowing him to recover, kissing the inside of his knee and petting his thigh. Eventually, Kamui swallowed and looked up at him, and emotion suddenly seared his throat, burning through his bliss. His eyes watered and he gasped. "Kamui!" Subaru cried at once, about to pull out, but-

"Wait!" Kamui gasped. "Wait, don't pull out, I'm okay!" He swallowed again and reached for him. Still looking unconvinced, Subaru shifted Kamui's thigh and came to lie on top of him, still deep inside. Kamui groaned softly as Subaru moved inside him, but smiled reassuringly, stroking the side of his face. "I'm okay," he said again. "It's just…" He sighed softly, his heart swelling in his chest as he stared into Subaru's face. "It's just intense, you know?" Subaru's face relaxed and he kissed Kamui on each cheek.

"It is," he agreed, softly.

"And it's you," Kamui continued, wrapping his arms and legs around Subaru, who took a sharp breath in at the words.

"It's you," he echoed, quietly. Kamui smiled and rubbed his thumb under Subaru's eye.

"Did you come?" He asked. Subaru blushed and shook his head. "I want you to," Kamui breathed, and Subaru moaned in soft longing.

"Are you sure?"

"Yes," Kamui said, firmly. Subaru nodded and kissed Kamui full on the lips, heavy and passionate. He drew his hips back and thrust inside again, and they moaned hard into each other's mouths.

"Is this okay?" Subaru asked, desperately.

"Go faster!" Kamui urged him, digging his heels into his lower back. Subaru just nodded and sped up, fucking him hard and fast and deliberate. Kamui moaned hard, the drag and the heat incredible on his oversensitive skin.

"I'm close!" Subaru gasped, staring Kamui hard in the face.

"Good!" Kamui moaned, gripping Subaru's upper back. "Come inside, just like this!"

"O-oh god!"

"Please!" Subaru threw his head back in a long, hard moan as he came, his entire body shuddering violently. Kamui let out a soft, whimpering moan, feeling a rush of pleasure in his own body as he watched, his heart so full in his chest. Subaru thrust in a few more times before collapsing on top of Kamui and burying his face in his neck. Another pleasurable shiver ran through Kamui's body and his overfull heart throbbed as he held Subaru to him. They said nothing for a long time, the only sounds their breath and their heartbeats and the distant whir of the air conditioner. Kamui closed his eyes, feeling so connected, warm and safe and happy in Subaru's arms.

"That was amazing," Subaru breathed, after who knew how long.

"Yeah it was, holy fuck," Kamui groaned, an exultant expression on his face. Subaru kissed his neck.

"Can I pull out?"

"Yeah." Subaru straightened up slowly and pulled out even slower. Kamui let out a soft, regretful noise, missing him already. Subaru peeled off the condom, threw it away and lay down on his side beside Kamui, who rolled over to face him. They wrapped their arms and legs around each other, and exchanged a few soft, loving kisses. "I'm so glad this is happening," Kamui said, quietly.

"Me too," Subaru agreed, his eyes shining. "I feel bad, though, I," his eyes darted down, then back up to Kamui's face. "I could have-" But Kamui swallowed his words in a heavy kiss.

"Honestly I didn't even need my hand," he breathed, smiling in satisfaction as he thought about it. "I was just being impatient." Subaru blushed, but looked rather pleased with himself.

"I love that position," he said, and Kamui's stomach pulled in and his insides throbbed in residual arousal.

"God, me too," he replied. Subaru bit his lip, his eyes lighting up playfully.

"I like giving it better than taking it, though," he amended, and Kamui took a sharp breath in, heat already stirring in his belly.

"I guess it fucking works out then!" Subaru burst into appreciative laughter and Kamui kissed him on the lips, still feeling so full and happy. "I still can't believe this," Kamui said, when they broke apart, and they kissed again, staying there a moment longer. "Can I ask you something?"

"Of course."

"How do you like it, if not like that?" He asked, furtively. Subaru's breath caught in his chest and a blush crept up his neck and face.

"You wanna find out?" He asked, an excited smile playing around his mouth.

"Are you serious?" Kamui asked, his heart full to burst.

"Yes," Subaru replied, firmly, before pulling Kamui into another long, soulful kiss.

"Give me a second though," Kamui said, regretfully, when they broke apart. "I'm old now, I can't go twice in a row." Subaru burst out laughing and rolled onto his back, gazing up at the ceiling.

"You're not as old as me, shut up!"

"Yeah, didn't that used to cause like, mad issues?"

"Fuck you, oh my god…" Kamui climbed on top of Subaru and kissed him on the cheek.

"I told you, just give me a few minutes." Subaru laughed, then sighed softly and began to stroke Kamui's hair with one hand and rub up and down his back with the other. "This feels so good," he said, sighing contentedly and melting against Subaru.

"It does…" They fell into silence, just being together, connected and safe in each other's arms.

"Subaru?" Kamui asked, after a long while.

"Mm?"

"Did you like… Plan this?" Subaru shifted underneath him, still petting up and down his back.

"Not at all," he said, his gaze soft and unfocused. "I had no idea what to expect, truthfully, but," he kissed Kamui on the top of the head. "I'd be lying if I said I wasn't hoping." Kamui's heart throbbed, flushing his skin with warmth and he snuggled closer to Subaru.

"Me too." Subaru replied with a soft, contented noise. "Remember running into each other in that bookstore?" Kamui asked, kissing Subaru on the neck. "In Sagacity?"

"Oh god," Subaru replied, sounding rather awed. "Of course I do." Kamui kissed him just under his jaw. "Was I as awkward as I remember?"

"Nah," Kamui replied, affectionately. "If anything, you weren't as awkward as me." He kissed up Subaru's neck and bit down softly on his ear, making him groan and shiver. "Just thirsting after you mad hard and tying to be cool." Subaru laughed slightly breathlessly.

"I was still feeling it," he replied, dragging his hands down Kamui's back to grip his ass. Kamui groaned softly and thrust his hips upwards, finally feeling like he could get hard again. He pulled away from Subaru's neck to kiss him full on the lips, slow and sound and soulful, as he brought his hands to his hipbones and pressed his thumbs into the soft skin just inside them. Subaru moaned, lifting his hips and spreading his legs invitingly. Kamui made to pull out of their kiss, but Subaru caught his bottom lip between his teeth and sucked it. Kamui cried out sharply as blood rushed between his legs again. He thrust his hips hard against Subaru, who arched up into him with a hard moan, letting go of his lip. Kamui dove into another passionate kiss, shoving his tongue into his mouth and breathing hard through his nose. They stayed there a long time, kissing almost fiercely, until Kamui reached between them to take hold of Subaru's erection. Subaru gasped and thrust his hips upwards into the touch. "You're hard again…"

"I know," Subaru groaned, digging his fingers into Kamui's ass. "Are you gonna fuck me?" He breathed, low and seductive but so, so sincere, and the words burned down Kamui's spine, out through his body, fueling his desire. He took a moment to collect himself, his erection throbbing with longing, then stared Subaru hard in the face.

"Yes," Kamui said, his eyes blazing, and the space between them seemed to echo with it. "How do you want it?" He continued, his heart speeding up sharply, overfull and almost painful in his chest. Subaru reached up and cupped the side of his face, his eyes shining with excitement and emotion.

"Just like this," he replied, gently, pressing his hips upwards. A wide smile broke out across Kamui's face and he took hold of Subaru's wrist and kissed his palm. Subaru's breath caught in his chest and his eyes widened imploringly.

"Just like this?" Kamui asked, still smiling as his eyes darkened seductively. Subaru took a slow breath in.

"Yes," he exhaled, flushing. Kamui gave him one more kiss before straightening up and reaching for the lube. Subaru bent his knees and allowed his legs to fall open. Kamui bit down on the inside of his lip and took a sharp breath in through his nose, his eyes fixing between his legs. He squeezed lube onto his fingers and pressed them up against Subaru, his stomach twisting in arousal as he felt him twitch and throb against his fingers.

"Is this okay?" Kamui asked, swallowing, moving his fingers in slow, teasing circles.

"Put them in," Subaru told him in a firm but gentle groan, gripping the bed sheets on either side of him. Kamui closed his eyes, collecting himself for a moment, then obeyed. Subaru moaned and Kamui bit back a cry as his fingers slid inside easily. Subaru felt so good, so hot and tight, and for a moment all he could think of was these sensations around his erection. However, he forced himself to stay focused. He looked at Subaru, flushed and gasping, eyes glazed and lips parted, and his erection throbed with need. "Keep going," Subaru moaned, and Kamui nodded, spreading his fingers and moving them in and out, stretching and pleasing and exploring. "Yes!" Subaru moaned, his eyes falling closed. "More, I- OH god!" Kamui smiled, heat and blood rushing between his legs.

"Like that?"

"Yes!" Kamui kept going, pleasing Subaru inside with one hand and taking hold of his erection with the other. Subaru cried out and rocked his hips against his hands, throbbing and squeezing gloriously. It gave Kamui an incredible rush to please Subaru this way, to make him feel this good, and there was still more to come and it was almost overwhelming… "Kamui!"

"What? Are you okay?" Kamui asked, his eyes snapping to Subaru's face. He swallowed and nodded, his chest heaving with his breath.

"I'm ready, please…" They locked eyes, and a shock of arousal ran through both of them.

"Are you sure?" Kamui asked, his mouth rather dry all of a sudden. Subaru nodded, and a new blush flooded his cheeks.

"I'm sure." Kamui smiled and withdrew his fingers, shivering slightly at the pull. He reached for another condom, slid it on and lubed himself up, his heart beating so hard and fast he could feel it throughout his whole body. Subaru just watched him, his face tense, expression simultaneously apprehensive and needy. Kamui got into position between Subaru's legs and guided his erection into place.

"Ready?" Subaru nodded and spread his legs wider.

"Yes." He took a deep breath in and sighed it out, allowing Kamui inside. He let out a hard, choked cry as the heat and pressure around the tip of his erection made his entire body seize up in pleasure. He opened his eyes to stare hard at Subaru, who just gazed up at him, half bleary, half exultant. "Keep going," he whispered. They took another breath in together and Kamui slid all the way inside on their exhale.

"Oh my god…" Kamui and Subaru just stared at each other for a long, glorious moment, the space between them throbbing with heat and desire and emotion.

"Kamui?" Subaru asked in a constricted voice. Kamui just leaned in closer, not trusting himself to speak. "Kiss me?" With a soft, whimpering moan, Kamui was upon him, kissing him deeply and soulfully. Subaru groaned into his mouth and wrapped his arms and legs tight around him. Kamui could feel him squeezing and throbbing and kissed him deeper, his entire body alive with pleasure. He wanted more than anything to move, to fuck Subaru as good as he'd fucked him, make him scream and writhe and come, but he waited, feeling and listening, until- "Keep going!" Subaru managed to moan, between kisses. Kamui pressed his tongue into Subaru's mouth and dragged his hands down to grip his hips once again. Subaru tensed and gasped softly into their kiss as Kamui tilted his hips slightly, making his lower back arch gracefully. Kamui then drew his hips back and thrust inside. Subaru cried out, his toes curling and thighs squeezing.

"Is that-"

"That's perfect!" The words and tone seared Kamui's nerves. He caught Subaru's lips in another heated, desperate kiss, pulled out and thrust back inside. They both cried out into each other's mouths and Kamui kept going, harder and faster and deeper, though never losing the angle or breaking their kiss. He tried as hard as he could to concentrate, to focus on Subaru, but the hot friction and pressure was so good it was enough to make his head spin. He pulled out of their kiss to move his lips to Subaru's neck, kissing and sucking and biting the hot, flushed skin, tasting his sweat and smelling his hair. Subaru moaned and gasped, digging his fingers into Kamui's shoulders and scratching down his back at an especially satisfying thrust.

"Oh fuck!" Kamui moaned, arching into the sensation, the pleasure and pain and visceral awareness of how good he was making Subaru feel was intoxicating. He pulled out again, thrust back inside and stayed there, rocking his hips back and forth to get right at his sweet spot. Subaru's entire body seized up around him and he cried out harder than he had done all night. "This okay?" Kamui asked in a low, constricted moan.

"That's, oh god that's really good!" Subaru cried, his voice high and desperate. Kamui kept going, fighting his own pleasure as hard as he could, though he was hot all over with it, inside and out. Subaru scratched down his back again, shuddering and moaning almost painfully hard. "Kamui, I," he managed, when he apparently could stand it no longer.

"Are you close?" Kamui asked, still deep inside, still shifting his hips in that perfect, glorious angle. Subaru threw his head back in a half ecstatic and half frustrated cry that made Kamui's stomach twist in arousal.

"Yes!"

"I wanna make you come," Kamui told him in a low, needy groan, his erection throbbing and thighs shivering. "Do you need my hand, or?" He asked, needing to know but barely able to get the words out for fear they'd push him over the edge. Subaru pulled in tight around him and gently cupped the side of his face with a shaking hand. Kamui stopped moving his hips as they looked at each other. Emotion rose up and crashed between them like a tidal wave, and Kamui's heart squeezed and his eyes filled with tears. Subaru moaned and pulled him into an intense, passionate kiss. Kamui felt a head rush, and his pleasure seemed suddenly amplified by all the overwhelming things he was feeling for Subaru. He pulled out of their kiss, and Subaru thumbed away his tears while his own slid silently down the sides of his face into his hair.

"Don't stop," he whispered. "Like before, please…" Kamui nodded, his throat too tight for words, and kissed Subaru hard on the lips again. He reached between them and gripped Subaru's erection, pleasing him in hard, deliberate strokes as he drew his hips back and thrust inside. Subaru cried out and arched up into the sensation, holding tight to Kamui's upper back and stiffening in his hand. Kamui just kept going, his mind spinning and body on fire, his entire being honing in on the friction and pressure around his erection, Subaru's pleasure, everything they were feeling. "I'm gonna come!" The words sent the pressure inside Kamui right up to the bursting point.

"M-me too!" And with a few more desperate thrusts he did, hard, deep inside Subaru. His spinning mind suddenly jerked to a halt so he felt almost dizzy with it. He kept moving, draining himself completely as Subaru came too, spasming hard as he spilled himself all over his chest with a long, loud moan. Kamui watched, feeling one last visceral throb of arousal as he watched and felt Subaru come, then collapsed on top of him, finally feeling completely and glorious drained. He buried his face in his neck and wrapped his arms tight around him with the last of his energy. Subaru held Kamui just as tightly, breathing heavily into his ear.

For a long time, they just held each other. Kamui's heart squeezed and throbbed, causing more tears to leak from his eyes, but he just let it come, feeling completely open and receptive to everything Subaru gave him. He could feel himself going soft, but didn't pull out. He wanted as much contact as possible, to feel everything ebbing and flowing between them. They stayed there for minutes, hours or days, Kamui had no idea, until Subaru finally began to stir. He shifted slightly with a low, sleepy groan, and Kamui pulled away slowly to look at him.

"Hey," he said, quietly, smiling, and Subaru smiled back.

"Hi." They exchanged a soft kiss.

"I'm gonna pull out."

"Mmhmm." Kamui did so, his body giving one last shudder. He sat up and peeled off the condom while Subaru stretched luxuriously in the bed, a deeply satisfied smile on his face. As Kamui threw the condom away, he caught sight of the sky outside his window and his eyes widened.

"Oh shit, the sun's already up," he said, blushing, though he couldn't help but feel pleased with himself.

"Is it really?" Subaru asked, incredulously, though he was also smiling. Kamui shut off his bedside table light, and the room was now lit only by the clear blue dawn filtering in through the window. "Oh my god…" Subaru sat up and pulled Kamui into his lap so his back was up against his chest. Kamui's heart swelled and a wide smile spread across his face as Subaru rested his chin on his shoulder. He turned and kissed him softly on the cheek, then looked back out of the window, the last few stars fading away into the sunrise. Subaru kissed him tenderly on his shoulder, and Kamui knew, suddenly and viscerally, how much this all meant to him. He took a deep breath in, his back expanding against Subaru's chest.

"I'm so glad we're doing this," he said, quietly, and Subaru pulled him closer.

"We're doing this," he replied. "And it's for real."

"And it's for real." Subaru and Kamui turned to each other and exchanged one more, almost chaste kiss, before looking out of the window again. Neither of them said anything else. They'd finally said it all.

They held each other close and greeted the dawn and their second chance with open arms, totally serene and receptive.

Chapter Text


Tohru stood on her tiny balcony, looking out over the Hudson, crowded with construction vessels and cruise charters and kayaks. The Tappan Zee Bridge glittered in the distance, reflecting the late afternoon sun. Even though she and Saya had moved into this apartment nearly two years ago, she didn't think she'd ever get tired of the view. She sighed and took a fortifying sip of coffee, trying to organize herself after waking up from the nap she always took after overnights. Saya would be home soon, she should probably go to the grocery store…

Her phone rang loudly from where she'd left it on the kitchen counter, and she hurried to answer it, smiling at Kamui's name.

"Hello?"

"Hey," he replied, sounding exhausted but almost suspiciously happy, and Tohru's smile widened.

"How'd it go?" She asked, sipping coffee.

"Really, really well," Kamui replied, and Tohru's heart swelled.

"I'm so glad!"

"Yeah, me too!" Kamui yawned. "I, um, I actually can't talk right now, but I just figured you'd want to know." Tohru's chest constricted around her overfull heart.

"I did want to know, thank you for checking in."

"I could probably come up there sometime this week if that's cool, we can talk then," he said, and Tohru closed her eyes.

"That'd be great, just let me know." Kamui heaved a heavy sigh.

"Awesome. I gotta go, though. I love you!"

"Love you too, talk to you later." They ended the call at the same time, and Tohru shoved her phone into her pocket. She held her coffee in both hands and took another long sip, her eyes still closed.

Kamui had texted her about running into Subaru in the city, of them making plans, and had promised to tell her how everything went. She had been very curious, and though things had obviously worked out, she was desperate to know more. She could still picture Subaru so clearly as she'd known him ten years ago, and it was difficult, if not impossible, to imagine him grown up.

Tohru took a sharp breath in, suddenly remembering that package for the first time since she'd moved into this apartment. She hurried into her bedroom, set her coffee on the bedside table and slid open her closet door. She had to rummage for a moment, but then let out a soft, satisfied cry as she found Subaru's senior thesis, still in its original wrapping from when she'd bought it all those years ago. She'd decided to buy it on a complete whim, and to this day wasn't sure why or if she regretted it or not. She picked it up and held it to her chest, and memories came flooding back, just as real as they had been all those years ago.

She'd gone into the SCA building to meet Kamui and Subaru as planned, but couldn't find them anywhere in the gallery. She doubted Kamui could manage to get into trouble at a student art show, but still, worry began to eat at her stomach as it was so prone to doing lately. However, she'd stumbled upon Subaru's piece, and it had distracted her completely.

She stood in front of it, pressing her fingers to her lips as she looked at each picture. He was so gifted, and she felt a rush of pride for him, though the pain in the artwork was obvious. She wondered how much was autobiographical and how much was just what he'd gleaned through his empathy. After several minutes of staring at each picture, she noticed the title card and a price. Her eyes widened, and she turned, catching sight of a young woman standing beside the piece, apparently looking out for someone.

"Excuse me," Tohru said. "Who do I speak to about buying pieces?" The young woman looked taken aback, but pleased, and squinted about for a moment before nodding at a table in a far corner.

"Anyone there can help you out."

"Thank you!" Tohru bought the piece, and watched another SCA student put the tiny red sticker on the title card. She smiled at it for a moment before checking the time, and was alarmed that she still hadn't heard from Kamui.

Of course, when she'd called him, he'd been devastated and had cried their entire drive home. She hated to see Kamui in such distress and was furious with anyone who caused him that much pain. However, she couldn't help but feel terribly sorry for Subaru. He and Kamui had been so sweet and loving with each other, and their feelings were obvious and intense. It really was unfair that they'd met when they so obviously weren't ready for each other.

Tohru shut her closet door and carefully set the package on her bed, but didn't open it. Instead, she picked up her coffee from the bedside table, her eyes straying to the photo of Kamui she kept there. He was about five, wearing one of Kotori's sunhats and smiling at the camera. Her chest constricted again, squeezing her heart that was still so full. Right before Kamui and Subaru had broken up, she'd told him that anyone he loved was lucky, even if it was just for a second, and she still knew that to be true. Saya had once said the same thing about her, though she knew herself to be much less giving with her love than Kamui.

She took another sip of coffee and ran her fingers through her hair, her mind and heart full of Kamui and all the people who loved him. She felt deep in her heart, in her very soul, that there was always something unnamable, but fundamental she knew to be true about Kamui. However, as he'd grown up, it had become a smaller and smaller part of him. She wondered what Saya and Kotori, the people who had known him the longest, saw; what Sorata, Yuzuriha and Arashi, his best friends, saw; what Subaru, someone he had loved and still loved so passionately, saw. It had all shaped him, helped him grow and change, and even though they'd had their hard times, she was still proud of who he'd become.

Tohru smiled at Kamui's photo and lapsed into thoughtful silence.