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In A Week

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A tall, slim man was sneaking in between trees, searching for animals to prey on. A shotgun was hanging on his back, the rays of spring sun were making it glisten. In the dark woods the little sparkling points on the metal of the weapon could almost be mistaken for stars on the night sky. The silhouette continued to diving in the darkness, staying as quiet as he could, not to startle the animals. He kept his breathing stable. The steps he took were very careful and balanced. Not a single branch he could allow to break under his feet.

After few steps and turns, to the hunter’s eyes appeared a grown-up deer in between two big oak trees. Its body was enormous. Muscular but skinny legs held the hairy body on themselves. On top of its head was a pair of antlers, wide and arborescent. Right beneath them was a pair of ears. One of them was lacking a part of the earlobe. The deer probably lost it in a brave fight over a beautiful doe. From both of the deer’s nostrils were steadily coming clouds of steam, accompanied by loud snorts. Everything added together was creating a certain ominosity around the animal.

It was impossible not to notice the wise eyes. They were full of certain cockiness. After all it was the deer who lived in the woods. Not the man before him that was just disturbing the quietness and harmony of the forest, acting as if it was right. The animal seemed not to be bothered that the hunter was aiming the shotgun right at its head. Soon the trigger was pulled and roar of the gun powder dispersing in the air was echoing through the forest.

The deer was quicker. It avoided the bullet and was gracefully skipping between the pines and oaks, making the leaves rattle quietly. With every jump few branches broke under the heavy body or moss made a wet sound under the hooves.

The hunter was infuriated. Such a great prey. The antlers were stunning on that deer. He could have made a lot of money from them. Moreover there was no way all of the other animals didn’t run away on the sound of the gunshot. He would have to wait at least another hour in complete silence for the prays to calm down. So he headed himself to the small clearing he knew about.

It didn’t take him long to get there. Soon he was opening the lid of his bento box while sitting on a log. When he reached for the third portion of rice, he noticed an unusually big fly sitting on top of the white pile. Suddenly another one appeared. Then another. And another. Annoyed man stood up and shook off all of the insects. Finally he realized something was wrong on the field. The buzzing of flies was remarkably louder and more persistent that it should be at the end of June. The hunter took a deep breath and noticed a slight hint of bitter fetor in it.

Could this be the life was giving him what he lost and there was a dead animal body that he could potentially get something from? The man started taking big, hopeful steps towards the awful smell. The shotgun was in his hands, just in case of any danger. With every second the odour grew on intensity. Along with the annoying buzzing. A sound of some kind of small animal running away reached the hunter’s ears. He followed the noise and after few more steps a horrifying image was presented to his eyes.

There were two pairs of clothes lying on top of each other. Two pairs of light jeans and two flannel shirts - one red and one blue. A terrible smell was coming from them. After a closer investigation the hunter realized it was not just clothes. It was two corpses. Larvas were crawling inside the visible parts of skin, devouring the meat. The smaller corpse’s pants were lacking one of the legs, exposing a bony limb, shredded of its meat, probably by a small predator. Travelling his eyes higher the man spotted that the hands of the two bodies remained entangled together. Moreover the smaller body was lying on top of the bigger one in a way that remainded more lovers sleeping together on a comfortable bed than corpses rotting in the middle of the field.

 

***

 

It has all started on the day Reita’s mom shouted him to quickly come downstairs. He wasn’t very fond of that because it probably meant he would have had to do the dishes or take out the trash. The high school student picked up a quicker pace since his mother repeated herself. He didn’t recall getting in trouble so what was the fuss all about.

‘Mom I have a maths test tomorrow’ whined Reita seeing his mother brought him to the kitchen for no reason, since the woman was wiping a plate and the sink was empty. ‘I’m not taking out trash right now. You know I totally suck at…’

‘No, no. Look’ she said and pointed at the window.

On the road before his house was standing a huge track and few middle-aged men were taking out boxes of various sizes. And the light was emanating from all of the windows. That was unusual for the last two month because their previous neighbour moved out. Together with Reita’s best friend. Who he wouldn’t be able to see more often that twice a year from now on. It was hard to let go of a friend who he had spent most of the time for the last sixteen years of his life but he couldn’t hold back Uruha from chasing his dreams.

‘They have a boy around your age’ Reita’s mother said and peeked through the window once again. She pointed at a short guy walking through the door. ‘Oh look there he is.’

The boy was definitely half a foot shorter than him. It was the first thing he noticed. At the top of his head was a blond bun, secured with hairband with little daisy attached to it. Kind of weird of a guy to wear flowers in his head but Reita didn’t really care. He had to admit the plastic flower went well together with the gentle face of the boy. His new neighbour’s eyes were hazy but sparkly. The clothes the boy was wearing definitely caught Reita’s eyes. A long, baggy, white t-shirt that probably hid behind a flat torso. Reita thought so because of the skinny legs in black well-fitting jeans. The pants were nicely paired with fancy gold pair of sneakers. When the guy reached for box from an older man, that Reita assumed was his father, Reita also niced that his nails were painted black. Definitely an interesting persona, Reita thought.

‘Maybe you could go and ask if our new neighbours need some help with the boxes or something’ Reita’s mom elbowed his son and grinned at him.

‘Mom’ Reita looked at his mother and cocked an eyebrow. ‘What do you want me to seem like a stalker. Come on. They hired people for that anyway.’

‘The boy doesn’t seem to have the posture of a goalkeeper, though’ the woman said, a hint of worry present in her voice.

‘Mom!’ whined Reita. ‘You know no one is going to ever replace Uruha. He was the best.’

The next day at school Reita didn’t spot his neighbour in the classroom. It could only mean that the boy was either younger or older than him. Reita actually spent half the class of biology thinking about the new guy. He wasn’t certainly sure why but something about that dude was intriguing him. Even though he didn’t knew him. Reita wondered if the boy would get in trouble for having his hair bleached or painting his nails. After all it wasn’t really a common thing in his high school. Even girls didn’t do so.

Before the lunch break Reita decided on leaving the book in his locker. Maybe this way he could find the boy in the corridor somewhere and confirm that he even attended high school. Reita didn’t have to wander around with his eyes for long to spot a messy blond shag among the students. The short guy was cutting some tape and sticking it to the doors of the locker. While passing him Reita discreetly sent a glance to guy’s locker and learnt that the blond was sticking some dried up leaves to the metal. Weird.

After few minutes he was sitting at a table with a plate full of mashed potatoes, pieces of chicken and some kind of salad. His friend Aoi was now loudly bragging about his girlfriend, starting to getting on his nerves a little bit.

‘You know what? I just don’t get what she is on about’ Aoi sighed and stirred his potatoes with a fork. ‘Every time there is a match day, she will throw her tantrums and completely ruin it for me. Like okay, I get that she is jealous of the other girls asking me to sign their shirt or about the crowd yelling my name. But this is what you have to cope with while dating such a handsome superstar like me. Dude. Are you even listening?’

Reita shook from his daze quickly tried to force his mind to remember what Aoi was talking about. ‘Ah yeah yeah. Your girlfriend of course. Dating a superstar like you, right?’

‘He was totally not listening’ Kai laughed and poked Reita in the side with his elbow. ‘He was looking for someone in the canteen! Are you waiting for someone? Someone, we, your friends don’t know about?’

‘Oh okay. After all you haven’t been dating since Uruha left the town. Jerking off started boring you?’ Aoi leaned in Reita’s direction and looked him in the eyes with his frivolous smirk. ‘Who is she?’

‘Can your dumb brain crave somewhere inside it that not everyone is a sex hungry machine?’ asked Reita getting even more annoyed when his reply wasn’t enough to erase that smirk off Aoi’s face. He shifted nervously. ‘I have a new neighbour.’

‘So the short weird guy took Uruha’s house?’ Kai asked with his mouth full of brussels.

‘Huh? How do you know him?’ Reita looked suspiciously at Kai.

‘He is in my class, dumbass’ laughed Kai and leaned back in his sit comfortably, patting his full stomach. ‘And I don’t really know much about him at all. His name is Ruki. My age. Bleached hair. Looks weak. Kind of intelligent, though. Knew the answer to some difficult math equations. Definitely a weirdo.’

‘You don’t know him don’t talk like that’ Aoi reprimanded the younger.

‘Dude. In the break we spotted he was asleep on his desk. So we decided to pull a little prank to welcome him in the group, you know. My guys quietly approached him with an open bottle of water. And when Shou was about to extend his arm above the dude’s head… He opened his eyes and just looked at us for a few seconds in complete silence!’ Kai turned himself so he could look straight into Reita’s face and make some impersonation of Ruki. ‘Then he just straightened up, stretched a little bit and said “Very funny, wasting a bottle of water on me.” And next he completely ignored us, took a pen in his hand and started writing something.’

‘Well…’ Aoi pretended to have a wave of shiver run through his back. ‘That’s creepy.’

‘He seems to find some people to get along with, though’ Kai pointed at the table on the right from the one the three friends were sitting at.

Reita quickly turned his attention towards the table Kai pointed at and saw his new neighbour. Ruki. Yeah, Ruki. Sitting with some people Reita never have seen in his life. He couldn’t lie, he was the popular one, playing in the soccer team, so he never really bothered himself with meeting new people. Especially the ones who preferred books over sports. And Ruki seemed to fall into that category.

At the moment the blond was eating some vegetables from his own bento box. The hair were styled differently than it was yesterday, Reita noticed. There was no daisy sitting in it. It was let loose, the strands hanging on both of the boy’s face. Ruki’s face was expressionless and he looked like he wasn’t really participating in the conversation people around him had. He seemed more like a listener, only replying when asked and only with short sentences. That intrigued Reita even more.

The surprising behaviours of the new guys seemed to not have an end because when Reita was waiting for a bus on a bus stop he saw his new neighbour exiting through the main gate and rushing towards the bus stop. But shockingly, the blond just passed Reita and other people waiting for the vehicle, picking a correct pathway to home. That made Reita raise an eyebrow because their houses were a good half an hour of average speed walking to. When by bus you could get there in less than ten minutes. But maybe the guy had to buy something at some kind of shop, after all he just moved into a new house. That’s how Reita explained the unusual behaviour.

The next few days went the same for Reita. He woke up everyday thirty minutes before his bus, clothed himself, making sure the uniform was neaty fitting in all places, brushed his hair and made himself breakfast. Then he would go and wait on the nearest bus stop, sending a glance from time to time to his watch. After three days or so he got used to the sight of his little neighbour jumping out of his house, rushing towards the bus that was about to close its door. Ruki’s blond hair was messily waving in the delicate spring wind, the marine was carelessly thrown over his shoulder and half-finished sandwich always in his mouth. That view would always make Reita chuckle under his nose.

During classes Reita would try to push away the thoughts about  his neighbour, trying to focus on the words of the teacher, not wanting himself to get in trouble for falling behind with the material. His mom wouldn’t approve that. Most of the time he would manage to take understandable notes. But sometimes… The wonderings would take over his mind, rehearsing every possible introduction he could say to the blond. Should he act cool and funny? Or should he be more of a cold and unapproachable. He would always end up annoyed at himself. Why would he be so stressed about some nerd. A year younger nerd. It was usually the other side that was intimidated by Reita, the best shooter of the school’s soccer team. Why he was so intimidated by Ruki. Why he wanted his neighbour to like him so much. Wouldn’t being himself be enough.

Over every lunch break Reita would still sit with his two best friends and sometimes other boys from the team or few fangirls. He would try to keep up with the conversation and regularly stuff his mouth with a spoonful of food, not to catch anyone’s attention. But out of the corner of his eye he was always discreetly watching the blond. He would always check if he was eating properly and how the relationship with his friends was going. The shortie seemed not to have any problems with getting along with people, even though most of the time he would stay silent. It was a rare occasion for the corners of Ruki’s mouth to lift in a gentle smile. His eyes would get even more gentle and his cheeks would seem fuller. Reita thought he looked beautiful like that. There seemed to be few topics that Ruki would get angry at. Few times Reita saw the younger speaking more than usual. His eyebrows would get closer to each other and nostrils a little bit wider.

To Reita’s surprise his neighbour was always going to his home by foot. No matter what the weather was. Rainy, sunny, foggy. Ruki would always repeat his little ritual of coming back home. Reita noticed how after the classes the blond wouldn’t be in a rush at all, slowly walking through the main high school gate. Next he would take a deep breath and look in the sky. On the last Tuesday when the clouds were clogging the sky, Reita smiled widely when he saw Ruki walking out of school and holding his head up. Few drops of rain fell on the student’s face making him grin. Then he opened a see-through umbrella and started walking towards home, his eyes hazy and absent. He didn’t even pay attention to where he put his feet on, splashing water everywhere when walking into various puddles.

On weekend Reita didn’t get to see Ruki’s face. His schedule was packed tight. The soccer training then hanging out with his friends and on Sunday, visiting his grandmother’s house. It really got on his nerves how some part of him was longing to see the short guy. Reita didn’t even know him. He couldn’t forgive himself even a phone call from his friend Uruha wasn’t enough to get Ruki off his mind. Even though he missed his friend. He really did.

It might have been another week of Reita quietly observing Ruki during the school days but something unexpected happened on Wednesday. During one of the breaks Reita was putting some of the books he didn’t need anymore in his locker. He also decided to clean up a little in it, since some old banana peels were starting to stink and few crumpled balls of paper fell out of it every time he opened the metal door. Reita wasn’t in rush because his next lesson was chemistry. The chemistry teacher was very into soccer so he would definitely forgive Reita few minutes of being late.

When Reita was finally done with cleaning up the locker he shut the doors close. A loud empty noise of metal resounded through the corridor but soon was followed by another similar one. Then Reita heard a single one curse and quick steps of someone who probably started sprinting through the corridor. The student was fast enough to see the familiar blond shag. He was pleasantly surprised at how low and manly Ruki’s voice sounded. It was the first time for Reita to hear Ruki speak so close to him. And he was not disappointed.

In the middle of the corridor was lying a forgotten notebook. The cover was brown, a leaf of some kind of plant was drawn on it. Gaps between pages, even though the notebook was lying closed, immediately gave away the secret that the notebook was used frequently. Reita picked up the diary and opened the first page. There was nothing more than a carelessly written name on it. Rookie. But instead of the dot above the letter ‘i’ there was an x. Deep inside Reita knew he should have gone to Ruki’s class and return back the notebook. He knew he shouldn’t have put it in his backpack. And he knew he shouldn’t have been looking through it at home.

But he was. Reita was turning the notebook page after page and reading short poems and out-of context sentences written on them. Almost on every page there was taped a dried leaf or flower. The student chuckled when he found a little rock secured with bloodied band-aid. He continued the forbidden journey through Ruki’s thoughts. Reita was never particularly into classic literature, he prefered mystery novels but knowing it was written by the blond, it seemed very interesting. The student didn’t understand much from the words but one of the poems seemed especially simple and caught his attention.

 

You disappear without me noticing, and I’m still a single flower blooming in vain
There is no water for flowers that are just withering
There is no light for flowers that are just rotting
Scared in my last hour, I desperately turn about in darkness
Now, as I search for the light, I desperately turn about in darkness

If someone would sympathise with me, it would make me bloom such beautiful flowers
I want to be loved by anyone

There is no water for withering and unsightly flowers
Flowers that are just rotting are devoid even of buds
My view is blocked by darkness as it crushes my struggling form
If it’s you, if it was you
I thought you would’ve rescued me from this place

 

After finishing the last sentence Reita quickly shut the notebook close and put it on his desk. A wave of guilt washed through his body. He definitely wasn’t supposed to read that. Immediately he started changing into some more acceptable clothes than boxers and dirty t-shirt. He had to return the notebook.

It didn’t take him long before he was standing outside the doors to Ruki’s house. Reita new the building in front of him by heart. After all he spent almost half of his childhood in it. Even though he still hesitated for a few seconds, realizing that he didn’t rehearse what to say and how to behave. It was a really impulsive decision to come here like that. What he was expecting anyway. Wouldn’t Ruki notice that he was looking through his stuff. Reita shook all of the thoughts off his mind and pressed the doorbell. His heart was beating very fast. He almost had a heartattack when in the door appeared a middle-aged man.

‘Yes? What’s the problem?’ the man said kindly.

‘I… um... ‘ said Reita uncertainly. ‘Is Ruki home? Can I talk to him for a minute?’

‘Of course, wait a second I will call him’ the man left the door open and went deeper into the corridor to shout Ruki. ‘Son! There is someone at the door and wants to talk to you!’

Few seconds later Reita heard almost unnoticeable steps on the staircase. And soon a skinny boy dressed in a black tracksuit appeared to his eyes. As always his face was expressionless. The blond leaned on the doorframe and checked Reita out from head to toes, probably trying to recall who he was. There might have been a hint of surprise on his face.

‘Hey Ruki, I’m Reita’ said Reita, proud of himself that he didn’t stutter. He noticed Ruki’s eyes narrowed when he introduced himself and Reita could swear his hands were sweating like crazy. Why was he like that. It was just a random dude. He reached out his hand with the diary in his hand. ‘Today when you left the high school a notebook fell out of your backpack and I picked it up. I couldn’t give it back to you because I would be late for my bus. I recognize you from my neighbourhood so I thought I would just return it personally.’

‘You took it and looked through it’

‘What? No!’ Reita’s heart was ticking like crazy. It was more stated than asked by Ruki. How his neighbour knew it. Was he some kind of psychic.

‘You know my name.’

‘Your dad shouted your name’ Reita tried to somehow get himself out of this situation.

‘He said “son”.’

‘I mean I opened the first page to see who it belongs to.’ Reita started, scratching the back of his head with his free head. Now he was in even bigger pile of crap. How on Earth he was able to screw his only chance to meet the boy intrigued him so much. What an idiot. Moreover Ruki seemed to wait for the rest of the story, looking at him with his hazy eyes. ‘The rest is art and I’m not really into that. I don’t understand such things. So I really didn’t look through it or read anything.’

Ruki took the notebook from Reita. ‘You probably did, though. I don’t care if you did. Thanks for taking care of it.’

‘Wait, so you are not mad at me?’ Reita asked a little bit threw off. Most of the people would be madly angry about someone looking through their stuff without their permission.

‘No I’m not’ Ruki shrugged his arms. ‘Curiosity is human nature. I can’t blame you for being homo sapiens. You had as much choice to be one as me.’

‘Oh okay.’ that was definitely not an answer Reita expected from Ruki. Maybe his first impression wasn’t damned yet. But the next sentence that came from Ruki’s mouth left Reita in even bigger shock.

 

‘Do you want to come in?’




Chapter Text

Ruki set the kettle on a cooker and returned to the small dining table that Reita was sitting at. He sat on the chair on the opposite side to Reita and watched the older in silence. The student’s eyes were measuring the soccer player in a way a wild animal would look at a human being for the first time. Without any trust but definitely with a hint of curiosity. Suddenly he put his elbows on the table and perched his chin on them. His eyes were no longer focused on anything in particular, just spacing out.

Something about the quietness was disturbing Reita a little bit. He wasn’t sure how to react. He was not really used to starting conversations since he was usually the popular one and everyone simply craved to keep the talk going on and on. So he just shifted awkwardly and grunted loudly. Didn’t help. There was still only quiet murmurs of TV playing in the living room. Ruki was still dreaming and in his own world. Reita sighed, he finally gave up and started looking around the kitchen. It seemed like a brand new house, not the one Reita used to spend hours in, watching Disney movies and playing games only two months ago. The dark wooden cupboards were replaced by white, plastic ones. No more dark wooden counter with that one burnt off stain from when Uruha tried to make toasts for him. There was a marble black countertop instead. Basically the whole room was styled more in a modern way. Reita wondered if the whole house changed like that. It kind of upset him that some of precious parts of his memories were modificated like that.

Both Ruki’s and his thoughts were scattered with a loud noise of the kettle whistling. Reita saw Ruki rush towards the cooker as if the high-pitched sound was heavily bothering him. The way the younger was methodically pouring the water into mugs with his skinny hand was stunning. Reita immediately noticed how gracious he looked. When the blonde placed a mug before him Reita saw that there already were bits of tea leaves floating inside the water, dyeing it light brown. He wasn’t even offered to make a choice. It was not that he was going to complain or anything, he was raised by a wonderful mother who taught him better than that. Maybe Ruki’s family only had one kind of tea on them. The aroma coming with a hot steam was highly appealing to his nostrils so Reita sipped on some of the liquid. Not until then he realized that Ruki was once again eyeing him.

‘How is it?’ Ruki asked, taking a sip from his own mug.

‘It’s bitter at first,’ Reita started, squinting his eyes to give more of a space for his tastebuds to feel. ‘But there is an aftertaste. I would say… flowery?’

‘Correct.’ the younger showed a hint of a smile on his face. A hardly noticeable lift of corners of Ruki’s lips and two faint smile lines under his eyes. Reita sent the blond a confused stare so Ruki elaborated. ‘Most of the people would go for an overall experience. You were specific. I like that.’

Reita’s heart started beating faster. Was that some kind of test? And did that reply meant he passed it? Reita couldn’t know for sure but it made him delighted. He mentally slapped himself for being so eager and behaving like a middle school girl. After all he was the older one in here. He had to remain calm and have some class. ‘Do you like the town? Is everyone treating you well at school?’

‘It’s okay’ Ruki shrugged his arms and sipped on some more tea. ‘I like the forest and the lake.’

When Ruki placed his mug on the table Reita noticed there were little stars appearing on the porcelain surface. It must have been one of those thermoactive mugs that changed pattern when you put hot water in them. Perhaps it was a chance for Reita to play one of the mind games that Ruki was playing. So he cockily raised one eyebrow and put a wide smile on his face. ‘And the night sky?’

‘Mhm’ the blond purred, his expression not changing at all.

Another minutes of silence passed by. However with every second Reita was becoming more and more comfortable with it. When at first it seemed odd and unnatural to sit next to someone without any exchange of words, now it was possibly one of the most pleasant experiences. Adding the warm feeling of hot tea in his stomach. Reita felt truly pacified. As if everything evil disappeared from Earth. He didn’t know what that little dude before him had in himself but it was affecting him in the best and worst way. Because it confused Reita a whole lot that he was feeling like that in presence of another man. Even Uruha wasn’t able to make all of the problem cease like that.

‘You’ve been to this house before’ Ruki said. The tone of his voice wasn’t really giving away much, making it almost impossible to tell if he meant it to be a question or a statement.

Reita decided to answer anyway ‘I have, why?’

‘You knew exactly where the kitchen was, didn’t need my lead’ pointed out Ruki, a spark of curiosity in his eyes.

‘I spent half of my life here probably’ Reita laughed and awkwardly scratched the back of his head. He was waiting for some sign of confirmation that Ruki wanted to know the reason behind it. But it never came in verbal form, only in Ruki’s eyes that were focused on Reita, not hazy as usual, meaning the younger was listening. ‘My best friend used to live here. These walls hold a lot of my laughter and probably a bunch of holes we made in them together with Uruha. We somehow always ended up together, our mothers laughing that we were like twins. We still are. He moved out two months ago to Tokyo to train the soccer professionally. That bastard got into a high school that we both wanted to attend as kids, dreaming of being famous football stars. Well it doesn’t surprise me he finally got recognized during one of our matches since there is not a single ball Uruha would let pass through him.’

‘You’re a good friend’ Ruki said quietly, interrupting Reita’s story.

‘Well I would say I’m more of trying to be one, you know’ Reita laughed, intimidated with the words that just came from Ruki’s mouth. He sipped on some more of the tea to clear his throat and carried on. The words just kept flowing from his mouth, he wasn’t aware how much he would open up about the whole situation. ‘I am constantly afraid he is going to forget about me, even though deep inside I know he wouldn’t do such a thing. And every time I cheer for him and tell to do his best, a wave of guilt and regret washes through my mind that if I worked a little bit harder, gave a little bit more of myself I would be in Tokyo with him.’

‘You’re aware of those things so you are a good friend’ Ruki stated, offering Reita three hardly noticeable nods as assurement.

After those words, Reita was the one who didn’t say anything for a while. Digesting Ruki’s words slowly, trying to convince himself they were true. He sighed deeply, avoiding meeting the younger’s eyes. Accidentally he saw how late it was on his watch and immediately snapped back to reality. The dishes weren’t done at home and his mother would be home in less than half an hour. ‘I have to get going. It’s getting late.’

‘Oh you’re right. I’ll let you out’ Ruki got up from his chair and went to the corridor, Reita following him in silence.

‘It was nice to meet you’ Reita said. He was nervously waiting for Ruki’s reply. The old planking of the porch he was standing on was squeaking under his weight. The student realized he made a really bad mistake and quickly redeemed himself. ‘Also thank you for the tea.’

‘Mhm. It was nice to meet you as well.’

Reita was about to turn around and head home but suddenly a question he was craving to ask the blond for the last week fried out of his mouth. ‘Can I ask you about something?’

‘Sure.’

‘Every morning you take a bus to school but not matter what the weather is, you walk back home. Why?’

‘Oh’ Reita could swear to his life there was a little hint of pink appearing on Ruki’s cheeks. ‘I just enjoy long walks. Seeing some blooming flowers in front of people’s houses. Pet some lost dogs and cats when there is a chance.’

‘There are a lot of those around.’

‘There are’ said Ruki and shut the doors close.

Reita chuckled under his nose because when the younger was closing the door in rush there was definitely a wide smile growing on his face. And Reita had to admit to himself it made him extremely happy that he asked that question. Finally it was a proper one. He walked the short distance to home grinning like an idiot and trying to register every detail about Ruki’s smile. It wasn’t an easy task since he literally was blessed with it for only for few seconds. But the way the blond’s nose widened, his cheeks growing a little fuller and the small teeth that peeked through the full lips. Reita really liked that view.

He was thinking about it through the rest of the day. When he was finally lying in his bed, relaxed a little bit after a hot shower Reita realized that whenever his mind wandered to the memory of talking with Ruki, his stomach would become a little bit hotter inside. He felt like a middle school girl having a crush. Wait. Did he really just admitted to himself? That he fell for a person he didn’t know at all. A person younger than him. A boy. He didn’t even know he liked guys in that way. He wasn’t even sure he could get Ruki to like him in that way. He couldn’t even hold a proper conversation with him yet. ‘What the hell I’ve gotten myself into’ he sighed and forced himself to fall asleep. Maybe a good few hours of sleep would help his mind to come back to being reasonable.

The next morning nothing was out of order. Reita woke up, made himself breakfast and walked to the bus stop. And as usual, Ruki was hopping inside the bus just before the doors closed and taking the first free sit. Reita’s neighbour spent the whole ride napping. That made Reita guilty a little bit because maybe the yesterday’s visit forced Ruki to stay late at night, doing his homework. He noted in his mind to ask about that next time. If there ever would be a next time. Reita turned gloomy at the thought of that. The student turned his head and looked out of the window but the weather wasn’t making it any better for him. The clouds were efficiently blocking the spring rays of sunshine. It was definitely going to rain in the afternoon.

‘Excited about the match on the next friday?’ Aoi’s girlfriend asked leaning her head and placing it on Aoi’s muscular shoulder.

‘Of course!’ Kai shouted packing another spoonful of carrots in his mouth and chewing them loudly. ‘After all it’s the first one we are going to play outdoors in this season. Against a really strong opponent. So we really should get out head in the game. We definitely need our striker to be in the best form. But apparently he decided to leave his head somewhere else.’

A pair of fingers snapped right before Reita’s face taking him from his pondering by surprise. ‘Eh? Huh? What was the question?’ he smiled sheepishly.

‘The question was where the hell you left you head, man? I think I’m going to call Uruha and tell him to talk some common sense into you. You are acting really weirdly lately’ Aoi said, clearly disappointed.

‘Um.. I don’t know what you are talking about!’ Reita backfired, annoyed at his friend that he even dared to question Reita’s form. The title of the top scorer in his prefecture was definitely his this season. No one was going to snatch it away from him.

‘We. Need. You. Focused. On. The. Game’ Kai articulated the words and with every single one of them landed his open palm on Reita’s back.

‘Yeah, yeah’ he was hearing the words and feeling the pats, but his eyes were already running around the table Ruki usually sat at. He unconsciously started pulling with his teeth on the dry fleak on his lower lip when he spotted Ruki wasn’t present in the usual place he sat on. Fortunately a few seats further he found the blond. Ruki was as always listening in silence to the conversation happening before him.

The weather outside was horrible. Thick drops of rain were falling down on the pathway with such a force that it would disperse into many little droplets and one could get tricked into believing it was actually raining from the ground. The only one positive thing was that there was no wind. Reita was standing on the bus station under a little shed, protecting himself from the rain. Suddenly he spotted the blond running towards the bus stop with his backpack over his head. When Ruki was temporarily safe from the rain he opened his backpack and started madly looking through it.

‘Of course I forgot it’ said Ruki in an angry manner. He run his hand through his already damp hair. The student looked up and inspected the cloudy sky. There was no way it was going to end in near future. A disgruntled grimace appeared on his face. But soon he was closing his eyes, taking a deep breath and making a first step into the rain. His eyes snapped open when there was not a single drop falling on him, yet his right shoe was almost ankle deep in the water. He looked up to see a black material.

‘You will catch a cold if you walk home in a downpour like this one.’

‘Oh’ Ruki’s sight was now turned on the taller guy next to him. He was holding a big umbrella above both of them. ‘Reita.’

Reita’s heart fluttered when Ruki said his name out loud. The blond had quite low voice for such a shortie, Reita noticed for the first time. ‘I can walk you home if you want. There is plenty of space for both of us under the umbrella. You won’t be able to see the sky under mine, though. Sorry about that.’

Ruki’s mouth fell open and Reita couldn’t tell if the younger was in such shock or just weighting words he was about to say. Ruki’s eyes were open so widely Reita got himself a chance to appreciate how dark Ruki’s eyes were. He almost couldn’t tell if there was even an iris in them. Finally after a grunt came a reply from Ruki. ‘You have a bus soon.’

‘I do. It’s going to be horrendously late during such a weather so it’s actually the same in the meaning of time for me’ Reita said. He spotted that the blond was still hesitating. So he just started walking towards home. Without turning his head Reita asked ‘Are you coming or not?’

As the answer came two or three splashes caused by Ruki jumping vigorously and soon joining Reita under the umbrella. The blond got rid of all of the shock from his face and the usual expressionless Ruki was back. Both of them were making their way through the river that was formed on the sidewalk. It was mostly the older student who was talking, trying to entertain Ruki with his words. He was afraid he would bore the younger but it looked like Ruki genuinely didn’t mind listening to Reita. The blond even snorted two or three times and Reita started to learn it was how the younger showed that he was amused. The older student’s heart skipped a beat every time Ruki did that.

Reita was in the middle of telling some kind of funny story about the literature teacher when he felt a light thug on the sleeve of his uniform and suddenly stopped walking. He sent Ruki a confused gaze but soon it came through to him that the younger was pointing his finger at something. That something was a plastic bag lying in the middle of someone’s driveway. Well. It wasn’t really lying still, more of a dashing around. There was clearly an animal trapped inside it. Judging from the size, probably a small bird.

Before Reita realized what was happening Ruki was already walking in the direction of the moving plastic bag. ‘Wait! You are going to get wet!’ Reita shouted after him and jogged to the younger.

‘I’m going to get wet?’ Ruki said and turned his head toward Reita. He looked upset. ‘It’s going to die if we won’t help it. And you worry about getting wet?’

‘That was not what I meant’ Reita started but Ruki quickly shut him down.

‘Whatever’ the coldness in Ruki’s voice saddened Reita. ‘Help me free it.’

Reita closed the umbrella and started running after the plastic bag together with Ruki. The bird must have sensed the presence of humans because now it was jumping up, trying hard to fly away. The bag was efficiently not letting him do so. After few minutes of running around, the boys were completely soaked in water so their movements were getting slower and slower. But it looked like the bird was also losing on the strength. Finally Reita managed to catch the plastic bag and keep it in his hands.

‘On the grass’ Ruki instructed. ‘It will be confused on the sidewalk.’

The older student did as he was told and walked onto the grass. He opened the bag carefully and started rolling it down to give the bird better access to the exit. Soon a frightened swallow appeared to their eyes. The bird let out a loud creak and opened its wings. It quickly took off and flew away, fighting the powerful drops of water, gracefully sustaining a proper flight path. Reita was so emerged into the sight that he hardly noticed that Ruki snached the plastic bag from his hands and shoved it into his backpack.

‘Fucking humans’ Ruki spit the words from between his closed teeth. He picked a quick pace towards home.

Reita was soon going after the blond. After few seconds the both of them were once again walking under the same umbrella. The difference was that Ruki looked infuriated and his pace was much more quicker than before and Reita was afraid to speak, thinking it would only make things worse. When they finally reached their destination Ruki in silence went to his home. No goodbye, no thank you, nothing.

Shortly Reita was at his own house, stripping from the completely soaked in water clothes. He even got yelled at by his mother for coming back in such miserable state. But he didn’t really care. Because he had probably the one and only chance to somehow get Ruki’s attention to his person. And he totally screwed it up.

The next day after the school Reita was once again standing at the bus stop, waiting for his bus. The weather was beautiful and it was getting on his nerves. It could have been like that yesterday so he would never make a complete joke out of himself. The whole day he did everything to avoid Ruki, scared that he would meet him and the boy would send him the same disappointed stare as yesterday. Why he was such an idiot.

A thug on the sleeve of Reita’s marine awaked him and made him abandon all of the thoughts. He was being dragged. Dragged where? Reita made few uncertain steps because otherwise he would pathetically fall down flat on the sidewalk. His eyes focused on the person that was holding the material of his uniform. It was Ruki.

‘Come with me’ Ruki invited and continued to thug on Reita’s sleeve until the older realized what was happening and started steadily walking next to Ruki by himself. The blond didn’t say anything more, didn’t explain himself, didn’t talk about yesterday’s incident.

They walked together all the way to their houses. Most of the time there was silence in between them. But somehow with every additional minute of the quietness, Reita was getting used to it. It was no more awkward. Rather… Calming. From time to time Ruki would make both of them stop for a while and talk a little bit about some kind of flower or just to look at the sky. And Reita had to admit. He hasn’t looked into the sky like that since he was a little kid. It was weird how he forgot how joyful it was to pay attention to the nature for a bit.

Most of the time Reita was paying attention to Ruki, though. He was remembering every detail about the younger. How the sparkles lit up in his eyes whenever he found a flower growing in the gardens before houses they passed by. What kind of things from what Reita said made him release the sweet little snorts of his. Even how blissful Ruki looked when he watched the sky. Though Reita didn’t want to really get it though to his mind, he was definitely falling for that guy.

It became their thing. Everyday Ruki would drag Reita from the bus stop and ask the older to come with him. And they would walk together shoulder to shoulder, Reita would talk about his soccer trainings, Ruki would explain some flower taxonomy and the sky would always get their attention for a while. When reaching the destination they would say goodbye to each other and part ways. It was like that for the last three days. Until Friday came and Ruki didn’t reply back to Reita’s ‘goodbye’.

‘Something is wrong?’ asked Reita, a little bit scared he did something wrong. After these three days he felt so much closer to finally getting through to the blond it would be a shame if he messed up.

‘Do you want to come in?’ there was an uncertainty in Ruki’s voice.

‘Well I have dinner ready at home and my stomach is feeling pretty empty.’

‘I will cook for you.’

‘Um… I don’t want to bother you.’

‘I won’t be bothered.’

‘So I guess I have no choice’ Reita laughed awkwardly, surprised to the core with the sudden invitation.

Not longer than half an hour later both of them were sitting in the middle of the floor of Ruki’s room and shoving a vegetable stew inside their mouths. It was actually delicious. Reita couldn’t handle spicy food but the meal was just perfect. They of course ate in silence. Reita took the time to look around Ruki’s room. To the blond belonged the biggest room in the house. Previously it was Uruha’s sister who lived in it. Now the walls were painted white and various green leaves were glued to them, making impression as if they grew from the floor. Speaking of floor. It was decked with light brown planks. All of the pieces of furniture were white. The bed, the desk, a commode. The weirdest thing about the room was the ceiling. It was painted black but also covered in little white dots of various sizes. Reita suspected it was supposed to imitate the night sky.

‘It was delicious, thank you’ said Reita and placed the empty bowl on top of Ruki’s desk. When Ruki reached out his hand with his own bowl Reita took it and put it next to his. Then the blond changed his position and sat on the floor, perching his back upon the bed’s leg. Following him Reita did the same, taking the other leg of a bed. They were sitting like that for a while, few feets apart and in complete silence.

‘Do you sometimes regret behaving in a certain way?’ asked Ruki out of nowhere.

‘Of course I do’ Reita admitted. ‘It’s not even the “what ifs” that I have problem with. I would rather have the ability to recall exactly what I did wrong and never make the same mistake again.’

‘So you would like to be able to look into the past.’

‘I guess. Yeah. I guess so.’

‘I can show you how. Come’ Ruki stood up and walked to the balcony he had the entrance to in his room. He leaned on the rail. Reita made two first steps on the cold marble floor and when he was right behind Ruki, a surprising string of words came from Ruki’s mouth. ‘You can… Embrace me… If you want to.’

Reita’s heart skipped a beat. Was Ruki serious? Or was that another test Reita was supposed to pass. It was the first time Reita would touch Ruki. He was dying to do that.  Hesitant in his movements, Reita stood really close behind Ruki, slid both of his hands on Ruki’s belly and threaded his fingers on top of it. The blond’s breaths were steady, Reita could feel the diaphragm moving up and down. On the other side, Reita’s heart was at any means close to being fine. It was ticking like crazy. And he was sure Ruki could very well feel it on his back. But the younger didn’t say a thing. It felt good to hold Ruki in his arms like that. The fragile and small body before him fitting well into his own, more bigger and muscular. Reita felt Ruki relax into the embrace.

‘Now look in the sky’ Ruki instructed.

‘I’m looking’ Reita said that really close to Ruki’s ear and physically felt the set of shivers run through Ruki’s body. And he thought he has never been so intimate with another person. Yes, he did have girlfriends, he did kiss them, he had sex with them. But he has never treated anyone’s body like that. Reita has never been so longing to see the reaction to his touch. Never been so excited about just a simple embrace.

‘That’s it. We’re looking into the past.’

‘Huh?’

‘All the stars we are looking at. They’re dead. The light they created with their death just haven’t reached us yet. So whatever you see in the sky. It’s in the past.’

‘You smell like fresh orange peels and wood.’

‘Wrong’ snorted Ruki.

‘You do!’

‘My shampoo…’

‘I’m not talking about the hair. Your skin smells like that’ not thinking much Reita delicately pressed his lips to Ruki’s nape. He felt the muscles underneath his mouth tense. The older immediately pulled away. ‘I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have done that.’

‘No. It’s nice. I just… I’m not used to that. You’re not interested in looking into the past anymore?’

‘I have a present that I really like right before me’ he confessed. Reita didn’t expect a reply on that. Whatever was going in the blond’s mind, Reita knew he wouldn’t be allowed to know it soon. But he wanted Ruki to know that he intrigued him and he wanted to know more and more about him. Bit by bit.

‘I’m the past. I’m actually just a walking stardust. So are you. We all are. Everything is. Just the stardust’ Ruki leaned back into the heat beside him and knowing Reita couldn’t see his face in the darkness he let a smile make an appearance on his face.

Chapter Text

‘My feet are cold, let’s come back inside’ Ruki said after few minutes and shifted in Reita’s arms.

Reita loosened on the embrace and let Ruki wriggle out of it. The sudden wave of shivers running down his spine when Ruki’s warm body wasn’t pressed next to his own one made him realize how chilly it’s gotten outside. Reita sighed deeply, watching how his breath turned into a little fog and followed Ruki inside the room. He already missed the slim silhouette snuggling into his chest. And the feeling of the younger’s hair tickling his neck. Reita was still confused why Ruki asked him to embrace him but he couldn’t deny he liked it a lot. It took him by surprise what time it was when he entered Ruki’s room and sent a glance to a wooden clock hanging on one of the walls. ‘It’s gotten late I probably should get going.’

‘You don’t have to’ Ruki replied and put on socks. They were as adorable as the short guy. On each foot there was a brown and yellow material with big black and white eyes on the level of the ankle. Moreover at the end the socks were cut in such a way they reminded Reita of owl’s ears. Ah, that’s what they supposed to be.

‘My mom will worry about me, sorry’ Reita said, genuinely sad he had to leave.

‘Oh yeah, that’s understandable. You have things to do, of course. I’ve bothered you enough today anyway’ Ruki’s words fired out one by one, as if he was scared that without explaining himself Reita would get angry at him. The older immediately spotted the difference in Ruki’s behaviour. His breaths got quicker and more shallow, his gaze travelling messily everywhere but on Reita. ‘I will walk you to the door.’

‘You didn’t bother me’ Reita laughed while taking steps downstairs, following Ruki. ‘I wish I could stay a little longer, really. It was a nice evening.’

The younger didn’t give Reita any reply on that, just waited with his hand on the doorknob. So Reita put on his shoes and grabbed his backpack, ready to walk out. He sent Ruki a reassuring smile. Of course he didn’t expect one back but he felt like Ruki wanted some kind of sign that Reita really enjoyed himself. Reita wondered why the younger thought so lowly of himself. Why wouldn’t the older be delighted by spending the time with Ruki. After today’s evening he was sure he wanted to spend even more by Ruki’s side. ‘Are you free on Sunday?’

‘Not really. A classmate is coming, we have to do a biology project together. Why?’ Ruki asked, a bit of suspicion was found in the tone of his voice.

‘I was just thinking…’ Reita started, unsure what he was really thinking in the first place. He took a dramatic pause that only caused for Ruki to open the front door. The older quickly redeemed himself. ‘I was just thinking we could maybe meet or something, just a stupid thought. A shame you’re busy. Anyway, thank you for the meal and a good time. See you around.’

Ruki was observing in silence Reita that was walking through the door, a certain concern on his face. It looked like he was thinking about something deeply, weighing the pros and cons of the words that seemed to be stuck inside his throat. The older grew tired of waiting for the reply, thinking Ruki didn’t have anything to say to him so he picked up on a quick pace to his house. When he was about to take first step on the wooden steps, a quiet uncertain voice stopped him.

‘I’m going for a walk in the woods tomorrow. You can join if you want.’

‘Of course I want!’ Reita’s answer came out as a little bit too eager. He scratched the back of his head, embarrassed. But when he saw the shock on Ruki’s face slowly turn into a faint smile, one of the corners uncontrollably moving up and down, as if forced to stay in place, Reita couldn’t do anything but grin like an idiot. ‘What time tomorrow? Should I bring something?’

‘Um… 3 PM? No, I’ll prepare everything’ Ruki said and started closing the door.

‘Okay. See you tomorrow!’ Reita turned around and jumped, leaving behind himself all of the three steps to the porch. He skipped happily to the nearest crosswalk and realized how dumb he was acting. The student stopped in the middle of the pathway and covered his face with his hands. Only then it came to his mind how huge the smile on his face was. Where did all of his class go? Grinning like an idiot about something simple like Ruki giving him permission to hug him and then inviting him for a walk. Was it a date? Perhaps? Maybe? Reita laughed at himself and walked back home, hoping Ruki wasn’t looking through the window and watching the older behaving like a crazy person.

A loud sound of whistle scattered Reita’s thoughts. A part of his mind was already walking in the woods with Ruki so he didn’t even notice when the ball was snatched away from him in the most pathetic way. He was standing in the middle of the playing field, dumbfounded. Reita saw the coach waving at him. The smile quickly faded from his face and he jogged towards the old man. He looked infuriated. Reita’s stomach shrunk at the thought of getting yelled at. Why he wasn’t able to focus on the game goddamnit. As he thought that there was a thought of Ruki’s hand tugging at the sleeve of his marine passing through his mind. Reita shook it off quickly.

‘Reita!’ shouted the couch at the student. ‘What the hell is wrong with you? Are you not feeling well? It is definitely not like you to perform so badly!’

‘I’m fine, I’m fine’ Reita kept on jogging in place, not to lose the warmth in his muscles. It seemed not to convince the couch, though. ‘I really am. Just excited about the game and stuff.’

‘And stuff?’ the old man cocked an eyebrow. ‘Still bitter about Uruha leaving the town? Need to talk about it maybe? You know you can always come and share your problems.’

‘Of course not’ he said. In his mind were lingering Ruki’s voice about him being a good friend. He smiled widely and nodded few times to himself. Finally he grew to admit it in full honesty. ‘I’m happy for him. He is chasing his dreams.’

‘Okay then start acting like that or we are going to completely screw the next Saturday’s game and I’ve got to tell you, the booing of the crowd will sweep us away all the way to the middle of the galaxy’ the couch reprimanded the student.

‘We are all stardust anyway’ Reita laughed, his eyes turning hazy once again. Right in front of his teacher.

‘Lately you are acting very weirdly Reita. I will tell the boys to take you to a party or something to loosen up a bit’ the couch eyed him from head to toe, as if trying to find where the problem was at. ‘Now get back on the pitch or we are going to stay here for the next twenty years. I’m thinking about extending the practice for another two hours anyway.’

‘Do whatever you want’ Reita smirked. ‘I’m out of here at 2 PM. I already have plans.’

‘What do you mean plans?’ the coach barked, angrily. ‘What is more important a week before a really, really important match?! That could possibly be our gate to the prefecture cup?’

‘Who’ Reita corrected the older man and immediately started running back on the field, expertly avoiding a plastic folder that the coach was about to hit his head with.

‘Excuse me? You mutt, all of that for a chick?!’ the trainer yelled. ‘You are out of your mind!’

‘Oh let me live a little’ Reita screamed back at the old man, even though he was aware that yes, he was definitely out of his mind. He expertly trapped the ball and passed Kai’s defense, nearing himself to the goal.

It was already five minutes past the 3 PM and Reita was waiting sitting on the stairs to Ruki’s porch. He sighed deeply, too afraid to knock on the door in case Ruki made up his mind and decided to ditch on Reita. The student looked at his best Converse trainers he slipped on and his favourite ripped jeans he thought the footwear went with perfectly. And the t-shirt that he made sure was clean and ironed. He was making such a fool out of himself. Reita wondered if Ruki was currently looking at his pathetic self and laughing his bits off. The student put his head between his palms and mewled loudly, accepting his fate. Great. But the other half of his brain was telling him that Ruki was as usually lost inside his own world and he totally forgot what the time was.

The smarter and more rational part of his brain won the battle when the front door flew open and Ruki appeared in them. Reita immediately stood up and greeted the younger. He didn’t fail to notice how gorgeous Ruki looked. The blond shag of hair was messily tied up in a bun at the top of Ruki’s head. He was wearing long-sleeved shirt in grayish blue with various sizes of pink magnolia flowers thrown on the material. The shirt was disturbed with two long plain denim strips of baggy dungarees. On his foot there were two dark blue Converse trainers. Moreover Reita could swear there was a hint of nude pink matte lipstick on top of the younger’s lips. When Ruki turned around to lock the door, a stuffed backpack in the shape of a panda appeared to Reita’s eyes. And Reita stood there astonished with the lovely figure just few feet before him. He wanted to compliment the younger but he couldn’t find the right words. It filled him with joy to see the blond.

‘Sorry about being late’ Ruki showed Reita a sheepish look and seemed to be genuinely worried he made the older upset. ‘I got lost in thought while cooking. I don’t have good sense of time.’

‘More like you have none at all’ Reita teased with a big smile on his face. He saw Ruki’s eyes narrow and his lips pouted. That expression Reita haven’t seen yet on Ruki’s face until just before now and he was certain he would be doing anything to see more of it.

‘Very wrong’ Ruki huffed, irritated. He started walking off the stairs and casually passed Reita, the indifference back on his face.

‘I see you jumping inside the bus in the last moment before the door closes’ Reita chuckled and turned in Ruki’s direction. He wanted to catch up with the younger but the sight of the back of Ruki’s body got Reita off track a bit. The older couldn’t believe it was the same back he was lucky to be pressing against his chest just yesterday. Moreover he couldn’t take his eyes off from Ruki’s ass that looked simply delicious inside those jeans. Reita slapped himself mentally for thinking so but he honestly couldn’t help himself. Until he saw Ruki turn his head around and dart him with his eyes.

‘You’re coming or not?’

Shortly both of them were walking along a sandy pathway in the middle of the forest. Reita realized he might have made a mistake by wearing a t-shirt. The shadows caused by densely packed branches with numerous leaves caused the air inside the woods to be more chilly and the path along with the undergrowth to be covered in darkness. Except few places where the green canopy had holes in it and allowed thick rays of sunshine to fall on the mossy ground, making the drops of dew glisten. Through all of the years Retia has lived there he hasn’t really spent a lot of time in the nearest forests. When he was smaller he wasn’t allowed to do so and in his early teenage years he was too busy with running around the town with Uruha and rest of his friends, training soccer and chasing girls. Just today he realized how much beauty he has missed through all of these years that he focused only on himself.

When the pathway took another turn, the boys entered a new area filled mostly with conifers. It got Reita’s attention how most of them had some kind weirs signs scratched on them. You could say it looked like someone pulled the bark apart by force and then hollowed some curvy lines. ‘Hey Ruki, do you know what’s all of those marks on the trees?’

‘Oh’ Ruki let out a surprised noise. At least it meant Reita got his attention. The younger hopped on one of the mound and caressed his hand along one of the wavy line on the core. ‘This is how people get the resin from trees. You know the yellow sticky liquid people use to glue things with. The conifers produce it when they need to heal. So the only way is to hurt them and collect the gooey liquid.’

‘So it’s like a human scar?’ Reita asked.

‘Yeah. I guess you can put it like that’ Ruki laughed. It was the first time Reita heard a sweet giggle come from between Ruki’s lips. And he loved it. ‘Actually when you think about it it’s exactly like that. People also hurt other people to fix themselves, right? Leave scars. Except the trees can’t really hide their stamps behind clothes or repress them in their memory. And definitely no one cares about them so much to give them plastic surgery.’

‘Maybe they are one step ahead of us and they are not ashamed of the scars but embracing them as a part of them?’ Reita wondered out loud.

‘Maybe’ Ruki said and started walking deeper into the forest, following the path. The usual silence was back between the two of them. Both of them weren’t bothered by it anymore, though.

Few minutes passed before they were standing on the edge of a small torrent. Reita had no idea there was something like that in the forest. He even felt kind of ashamed that it was Ruki who was showing him the little wonders of the area of their town, not the other way since Reita spent his whole life there. The older noticed that Ruki took off his trainers then socks and now was rolling the material, stuffing it inside the footwear. The blond was soon barefoot and ready to cross the little river. Reita was so abashed because he definitely saw a path made out of stones he could easily cross without wetting his shoes. ‘Are you going barefoot?’

‘Mhm’ Ruki murmured and nodded few times. ‘You don’t have to. I enjoy the freezing water running on my feet. And there is a nice lea on the other side. That’s our destination.’

‘And you are going to just leave the shoes right here?’ asked Reita and when a nod came as an answer he was completely taken by surprise. ‘Aren’t you afraid someone is going to steal them?’

‘Of course not’ snorted Ruki and took the first uncertain step into the water, testing its temperature. ‘Ever seen a hare skipping around in Converse? Or a deer? No one else is going to walk around here. And the animals usually share, not steal. Well my shoes aren’t edible anyway so I don’t think they are going to even pay more attention to them than just a little sniff.’

Ruki was halfway through the river, holding the loose legs of his dungarees up and carefully taking steps inside the water, paying attention to all of the sharp stones that could possibly hurt the sole of his feet. The older couldn’t fall behind so soon Reita was awkwardly jumping from stone to stone, trying hard not to slip. He couldn’t forgive himself falling on his buttocks into the cold water. Everything went well, though and soon both Ruki and Reita were standing on the other side of the torrent, enjoying the sunny afternoon. The field was, unlike the woods completely warmed up by the spring sun. It was nice to walk through the high grass bathed in the spring hotness. Ruki lead Reita few meters away from the river and suddenly stopped at some point. The blond took off his backpack and threw it on the ground, crouching and taking out if it a big fluffy purple blanket. Ruki laid it on the ground and sat on it, brushing off the dirt from his feet first. Then he beckoned Reita and told him to make himself comfortable next to him.

Reita took off his shoes not to dirty the blanket with the remaining mud on his trainers. Shortly he was sitting on the piece of material, he relaxed and closed his eyes, breathing deeply the fresh air. His lungs haven’t experienced such a dose of clear oxygen in a long while. Just like his ears haven’t heard the noise as calming as the flowing water of the torrent he’s just passed. Reita was enjoying himself until a certain pleasant smell came to his nostrils and his stomach rumbled loudly. It didn’t came through him how hungry he was until then. He immediately opened his eyes and saw Ruki offering him a bento box with two chopsticks on top of it. The older sent a surprised look to the blond.

‘I made us a dinner’ Ruki said, opening the lid of his box after Reita took the other one from his hand. He stirred the meal with the chopsticks. Then he reached out the hand with a box towards Reita. ‘Oh no, we have to swap with each other.’

‘Why, you poisoned mine or something?’ Reita asked, jokingly and brought the container to Ruki.

‘No’ Ruki rolled his eyes. Something about the way the younger was acting told Reita Ruki was much more comfortable in the forest than he normally was. He seemed to talk a little bit more freely, his eyes making an impression of not being on guard anymore. ‘I don’t eat meat. I made yours with pork.’

‘Ruki, you really shouldn’t have bothered yourself’ Reita felt absolutely taken aback by Ruki’s consideration. He saw the blond shrug his shoulders. Since Ruki was in such a good mood, Reita decided on dragging the conversation on for a little bit longer. ‘But you don’t eat meat like at all?’

‘Yep’ the blond nodded and stuffed another piece of some kind of vegetable in his mouth. ‘In my opinion it’s not okay for the superior race to slaughter the weaker ones just for food. I mean in the manufactured way we produce meat nowadays. One day I decided I don’t want to be a part of it. As simple as that.’

‘Woah, I totally respect that’ Reita awed. He couldn’t imagine himself not eating meat. Something about the unique texture and taste was too appealing for him to give up on it completely. But again when he ate the meal Ruki prepared for him yesterday he had no problems with it. Which made him confused. No. Not confused. He learnt that he wasn’t confused with the shorter anymore. More of a curious. When there was a storm going through Reita’s mind, Ruki continued on taking bites of the stew in silence, looking unbothered

After finishing the meal Reita praised how delicious it was and thanked Ruki for preparing one for him. The older closed the lid of the bento box and lied back on the blanket to relax a little bit after the meal. He felt so full and cozy that he was about to doze off when he felt a thug on the blanket and deducted it must have been Ruki standing up. He opened his eyes and was about to whine that he didn’t want to come back yet, when he saw Ruki crouching few feet away from the blanket. The blond was collecting something. Flowers? It seemed like that.

Reita observed Ruki making a bigger and bigger bunch of daisies in his hand. On the younger’s face there was a hint of smile. The sunlight was making his hair reveal the secret of having few ginger strands in the blond bush. Not that Reita was bothered by it. He actually liked how the loose from the bun strands enhanced Ruki’s dark eyes and the pink lips. The younger soon came back with a bundle of daisies and placed them gently on the blanket. Shortly the blond was sitting and gracefully threading the stalks of the flowers together. Reita was mesmerized by the way Ruki’s fingers moved quickly making some complicated moves and constructing something that he supposed was a flower crown.

‘Can you show me?’ Reita asked out of nowhere, taking Ruki of his deep thoughts. The younger looked like he had no idea what Reita was asking him about. ‘I want to be able to do magic like that as well.’

‘It’s not magic’ Ruki snorted and took another flower in his right hand. ‘Look you just have to wrap the stalk around the…’

‘Maybe you could get a little closer and teach me’ Reita asked. He knew Ruki hated when he was cut in the middle of the sentence but Reita was thinking through all the day about Ruki’s body pressed to his so he wanted to try when he had a chance. The older spread his legs widely and patted the space between them. His cheeks flushed a little. ‘There is plenty of room here and I could get a better view. If you want to, of course.’

Ruki’s jaw fell down. He went completely silent for the next few seconds and Reita started worrying he crossed the line. Just when he was about to open his mouth and apologize for making such a stupid request Ruki begun on crawling to Reita. He soon was sitting in between Reita’s legs, his back once again pressed to Reita’s chest. At first the older could feel Ruki was a little bit uneasy about the whole situation but it didn’t take long for the blond to get relaxed into to gentle touch of Reita’s body. He continued to explain how to make certain knots on the crown.

Reita closed his eyes for a second or two and breathed in the scent of the younger. He could swear to his life that something about the smell of Ruki’s skin was making all of his senses drunk. The older soon focused on Ruki’s words and deeds. He decided on resting his chin on the younger’s shoulder. And he couldn’t get over the fact how perfectly his chin fitted in the hollow of Ruki’s scapula. The sudden weight on Ruki’s shoulder made him tense but when he saw out of the corner of his eye that it was just Reita, he eased himself into the touch, continuing the lesson.

‘And now you have to make sure the end is properly secured’ Ruki was obviously nearing to an end of his tutorial. Reita huffed under his nose, not wanting the embrace to end. The blond pulled on the last piece of stalk, tightening the knot. When the flower crown was finished Ruki turned around, Reita’s hands still on his knees and placed the piece of nature on top of Reita’s head. The older didn’t complain at all. In fact, he was overjoyed Ruki wanted him to have such a beautiful thing on his head. Unfortunately the loop was a little bit too big for Reita’s head and ended up sliding from his black hair, now decorating the older’s neck not head. Ruki’s face turned gloomy. ‘Oh no I made it too big.’

‘I really like it. It’s a necklace now but I really like it’ Reita smiled widely at Ruki. Not thinking much he grabbed one of Ruki’s hands by the wrist and brought to his lips. He kissed every knuckle then massaged the back of Ruki’s hand with his thumb. ‘Thank you.’

‘It’s nothing’ Ruki’s head turned away, the evidence of a blush clear to Reita’s sight.

‘Can I make one for you? You will have to guide me, though’ Reita asked eagerly.

‘Sure’ Ruki whispered and took both of Reita’s big palms by the thumbs and placed them on his lap where was lying the rest of the flowers. The blond made first few knots and then allowed the older to take over. Reita’s hands definitely weren’t as graceful as Ruki’s ones, his movements a little bit more edgy and rough. Few times Reita’s fingers slipped, breaking the stalks but Ruki didn’t get angry or anything like that. He kept on cheering for Reita and telling him exactly what to do over and over again. Until the finished flower crown was lying on Ruki’s lap.

Reita took the liberty of placing it on top of Ruki’s head. But before he had done that he undid the bun, letting the hairband slip gently off Ruki’s hair, carefully, trying not to hurt the younger. Now that Ruki’s was facing Reita and looking him straight into the eyes, Reita was in such an awe he wasn’t even able to choke out a single word of praise. He could only look at the beauty before him and try to remember every single detail about that image. Reita wanted to scream, to yell, to tell everyone and everything how pretty Ruki looked but the words got stuck inside his throat. He came back a little bit on Earth when he saw Ruki’s eyes narrowing, demanding an answer. ‘I’m sorry mine is so crooked and ugly.’

‘It’s fine, it’s your first one. I like it’ Ruki was touching gently the flower crown, trying to feel all of the details about it. He then looked at his watch, an inkling of sorrow showing up on his face. ‘It’s gotten late we should get going.’

About thirty minutes later both of them were standing in the middle of the sidewalk right before Ruki’s house. They were still wearing their adorable crowns made out of daisies. Reita looked at Ruki and smiled widely. The afternoon he just spent with Ruki was probably one of the most enjoyable and unique ones. And yes, he was really disconcerted about the new version of him that was coming through every time he was with Ruki but at the same time, he didn’t care at all as long as that pretty and wise person would be willing to spend time by his side.

‘Thank you very much for this evening. It was wonderful. I hope you enjoyed yourself and we could perhaps do this again some…’

Reita felt something being pressed to his left cheek and before his brain analyzed what happened, his eyes saw Ruki vigorously jogging towards the front door of his house, keeping the flower crown in place with his hands. The panda backpack was jumping up and down with every springy step Ruki took. Soon the blond entered his home and shut the door close with a loud slam noise. Reita was standing in the middle of the sidewalk pressing his palm to his cheek. As if trying to keep in place the outline of Ruki’s lips, even though it was obviously gone by now. Did Ruki just… Kissed him on a cheek? When it finally got through to him he smiled widely and rushed to his own house. He could swear he wasn’t actually walking, more of a floating few feets over the ground.

When Reita finally blindly walked into his room he stood right next to the shelf where he kept all of his trophies on. Without a second thought Reita moved away all of the cups and made some room on the wooden surface. Then he reached for the flower crown that was still around his neck and took it off. He delicately laid it down on the shelf.

Reita took two steps back and admired the white flowers, already turning a little limp, lying on the dark surface of the furniture. The student brought his palm to his cheek once again and caressed it few times. Then he sent the last glance on the flower crown and smiled to himself like an idiot. Yes. It was definitely the biggest trophy he won so far.

 

Chapter Text

‘Reita you were amazing!’ Kazuki said in awe, his eyes shining bright when speaking to the player he admired the most in his high school team.

‘Thanks, you were not so bad yourself. Have been doing some training, haven’t you?’ Reita answered and saw Kazuki move his eyes down. ‘Of course you did’ Reita laughed happily and ruffled the damp hair of the younger student. He took off his sweaty t-shirt and wiped his head with it along the way. Hell yeah he was especially good that day. His kicks precise, the ball submitting to his movements and passing the goalkeeper many times. How he could be anything less than that when so much positive energy was thrown right into his face yesterday. Literally. Just on the thought of Ruki’s full lips pressing against his cheek the day before Reita was grinning like an idiot. A slap on his ass took Reita from his thoughts.

‘Hey man finally!’ Aoi smirked, opening the locker next to the one that belonged to Reita. When he saw Reita’s eyes narrowing at him because of the hit he chuckled and waved him off. ‘That’s the man I love to see on the pitch. Smoot, quick, efficient. Whoever got you in that mood I hope will be able to do the same before next Saturday. Or whoever.’

‘Shut up’ Reita huffed and slammed his locker close. Aoi could be the pain in the arse sometimes, putting his nose in other people’s business too much. The boy was very loyal and kind person overall but he was living off drama, always looking around for new rumours. He was the one in the team who was well-known to be a stereotypical heartbreaker. And the last thing Reita really wanted was to talk about how confused he was about all of the things that happened through the past week.

‘Oi I touched the weak point’ Aoi wasn’t showing any kind of will to stop teasing Reita. When he didn’t hear any reply on that, he just kept on pushing Reita even further, firing out few theories one by one. ‘So who is she? She is from our high school, right? I hope she is not from middle school Reita and that makes you not speak about her I mean come on man. We shared secrets worse than that right?’

‘I don’t date any girl at the moment Aoi’ Reita’s voice was cold and indifferent. He was so annoyed with his friend’s behaviour. It almost made him feel the headache coming from all of the unnecessary nagging. ‘Get off my back, okay’ Reita barked angrily and saw Aoi’s face go through a wave of expression. Shock, concern and finally that damned smirk of him.

‘Ohhhh’ Aoi narrowed his eyes and if that was possible the left corner of his lips lifted up even higher. ‘Sorry about the slap on the ass then’ the student said and when he saw how confused and dumbfounded Reita looked, he carried on. ‘I said sorry for the slap. We’re liking boys now, huh?’

‘I said shut up’ Reita spitted out viciously through his teeth. He threw a towel on his shoulder and headed to the showers, completely ignoring Aoi’s claims that it was just a joke. Reita was surprised with his behaviour himself. Usually he would go along with it and laugh about it. But at that moment in his life it wasn’t even a bit funny. So he acted impulsively. And only gave Aoi more reasons to suspect things. Great. He opened one of the empty shower cabins and walked in it.

Soon the cold water was running down his heated muscles and that was one of his favourite feeling on the whole Earth, just letting the drops wash off everything. And by everything he meant not only the sweat and leftover dirt from the grassy pitch but also all of the thoughts clogging his mind. The thoughts about yesterday’s walk in the woods. About Aoi’s words. The cease was there especially when he soaped his hands and started massaging his head. He couldn’t wait to walk back home and lay in bed while reading a new novel. Reita was sure that would calm him down even more.

Wait. All of his movements stopped, eyes snapped open when he realized he just out of nowhere assumed he would go home by foot. That made no sense since there would be no Ruki dragging him into the walk. Could it be he actually started enjoying the quietness and slowness of the daily life. Not longer than two weeks ago he wouldn’t even think about having a walk by himself. After all he enjoyed the attention, loved the loud music and crowded parties. Or maybe was pressured to like them. He closed his eyes back before first hit of shampoo foam got into them and relaxed back into the stream of water, shaking off all of the nagging thoughts.

After parting with friends at the main gate of the high school Reita rushed to the nearest bus stop. It was very unusual to stand there waiting for a bus instead of Ruki’s hand on his sleeve. Moreover he couldn’t deny he wanted to go on that walk himself. He enjoyed them. The fresh air, the colourful buildings and various plants on many porches. It still shocked him that after all he was longing for that feeling himself. So maybe he didn’t fall for Ruki himself but for the lifestyle of the younger.

When finally the bus parked on the bus stop, Reita’s head was still buzzing with contrary thoughts. Walk. Or ride. Walk. Or ride. He took few steps towards the open doors of the bus but rapidly stopped when one last stride separated him from entering the vehicle. The student was more and more unsure of that decision. A loud noise reached Reita’s ears as the wings of the door slammed close before Reita’s face. It was soon followed by a hiss from the breaks being released and the movement of the bus. The driver had to be on a certain schedule so he couldn’t wait forever for one teenager to make up his mind So now Reita was choiceless. He breathed in deeply before turning around on his heel and picking up a vigorous pace to home.

There was a hint of weirdness lingering inside Reita’s mind while walking alone like that. No Ruki by his side, no one to entertain, no one showing him what he was supposed to pay attention to. There was just Reita and the neighbourhood. His eyes fell on many things. The pack of little laughing kids that were running around and pretending the sicks they were holding were swords. On many extraordinary flowers that were blooming around the lawn. But mostly he enjoyed the spring sun heating his black hair and the delicate breeze running through the shag together with the sun rays. For the first time he found pleasure in… just being present.

It surprised Reita how quick the time passed on that walk. He was standing next to his home, so proud of himself for making the right choice. The student sent a glance towards Ruki’s house. His stomach was immediately filled with little butterflies bumping on its walls. Unconsciously Reita made few steps towards the building because he craved to tell Ruki about everything he saw, everything he experienced. About the light wind in his hair, the playgrounds full of oblivious kids, the birds singing. When he was about to enter the crosswalk suddenly it came through to him how stupid he acted. Have some goddamn integrity Reita, he thought to himself. Firstly, Ruki was busy making the biology project. Secondly, Reita wasn’t even sure the blond would like to hear him blabbering about such trivial things. After all there was nothing that fascinating about birds singing. That was something they were born to do. So why he was so ramped up about the idea of talking about it with Ruki, he asked himself, as he opened the door to his home.

Reita was rolling around the bed, trying to find a comfortable position to read his new novel. The first few chapters were definitely promising and he felt absorbed in the plot already but somehow he kept distracting himself. There were just too many unresolved mysteries flying around his brain. Reita took in a deep breath and put the book on the bedside table. He wondered who he could talk about his issues freely. Of course there was his mother on the ground floor watching TV or preparing dinner, he could always count on her but Reita wasn’t really sure he was ready to drop something like that on his mother’s shoulders. They never talked about Reita’s sexuality because honestly there was no need to, Reita never brought any girls home, never hinted on a serious relationship to his mom. There was a serious sex education conversation about using condoms and respecting girls when he turned fifteen but nothing more than that. Obviously it was really awkward topic for both of them.

When Reita was at it, he wondered why he hasn’t brought any girls home with him. He dated about five or six through the years in high school but never felt the urge to introduce them to his mother. Maybe because all of the relationship he had in the past were just to fill the need not to fall behind his friends. But he enjoyed spending time with his past girlfriends and was definitely sexually attracted to their bodies, he just never really felt all bubbly and fizzy inside with feelings every time he saw them. He was so puzzled about himself. Never really Reita imagined he could even feel that way. Until the moment  when he pressed his body to Ruki’s warm delicate skin and all of the positive emotions exploded inside him.

Another deep sigh escaped Reita’s mouth before he fished out his phone from under the pillow and pressed a button that indicated the number to his best friend. Uruha would surely try to understand him, right. He waited few seconds, the high pitches echoing in his head before a familiar warm deep voice greeted him.

Usually you call in the late Sunday evenings so I assume something has happened ’ not really a greeting Reita expected from Uruha.

‘Am I bothering you?’

What? Of course not! ’ a familiar laugh came from the other side and Reita could swear he saw imaginary Uruha’s smile right before his eyes. ‘ I’ve been doing some homework but I could use a break. What’s up?

‘Okay if you say so’ Reita said still uncertain, already half regretting making that call. It would be difficult to bring the topic that nagged him so much. And even though he wanted to just fire out all of his feelings he knew it probably wasn’t a good idea. So he tired to carry a conversation just like the usual ones he had with his best friend but he was obviously failing miserably. ‘I um… I did very good at today’s training, you know. I think I’m ready to kick some asses on next Saturday.’

Mhm. Okay ’ Uruha answered, clearly amused at Reita’s behaviour. ‘ So you called me in the middle of the Sunday just to tell me that. Interesting .’

‘I did’ Reita tried to convince, he didn’t know who more - himself or Uruha.

I know how you handle ball very well ’ Uruha carried on, teasing Reita with the amused voice of his. ‘ Something definitely happened and you know I am here to listen. So for your own sake stop biting the dry flakes off your lips and open up .’

‘Okay, okay’ Reita stopped biting his lips. He wasn’t even aware he was doing that. Uruha saw through him, even though he didn’t see him at all. Impressive. Well, seventeen years together might have contributed to that skill. Reita gathered his thoughts and took a deep breath. ‘Okay. So I might have fallen for someone. Hard.’

You might have fallen for someone. Mhm. Okay. Registered ’ the tone of Uruha’s voice wasn’t teasing anymore. He definitely showed interest in what Reita was saying. ‘ What about that?

‘It’s the first time for me when I felt like that next to a person, Uruha. That person is like a riddle I want to solve. Bit by bit, slowly. Put every single thing together and fall in love with the final image’ Reita didn’t think much, just let his heart speak the truth. ‘That person’s skin smells like orange peels and wood. The blond shag of a hair makes me want to snuggle inside it and forget about everything else. When I hold that person close my body explodes with happiness. And the words doesn’t seem necessary when I’m around that person. Uruha I feel like such an idiot.’

Woah, Reita ’ Uruha sounded honestly shocked. ‘ I didn’t know you had that gentle side of you inside. Damn .’

‘I didn’t know about it either’ Reita admitted hiding his face behind his palm, embarrassed.

There is a “but” somewhere in the air ’ obviously it was hard not to talk about the elephant in the room when you suddenly became aware of its presence. Uruha was intelligent and could quickly put the facts together. ‘ Come on, man.

‘That person…’ Reita started and felt his stomach try to tie itself in a knot inside his belly. Even though he knew he should feel completely comfortable with sharing anything with his friend would react to what he was about to say. ‘He is a boy.’

Oh ’ Uruha’s voice lost its teasingness, turning stiff and cold. His mouth released only that one single sound. Other than that Reita’s friend stayed silent for a minute or two, allowing only the background noises of the dorm to reach Reita’s ears.

‘Forget I even mentioned it’ Reita’s voice broke down. He felt a familiar lump forming inside his throat because all of the stress. Why he even though it was a good idea in the first place, letting himself open up about something so controversial. Now he was losing a friend. Great. ‘Uruha please don’t hang up on me.’

What? ’ Uruha seemed to be surprised. ‘ Why would I do that, Rei?

‘You know’ Reita said, still feeling nauseous. ‘I might… perhaps…’ Reita could feel his palms getting sweaty just at the thought of admitting that. ‘Be in love with a boy.’

Mhm. And so what? ’ Uruha asked but before Reita could reply, he was already in the middle of answering that question. ‘ You are my friend Reita. My most loyal, wonderful and only best friend. What a monster would I be to end what we built together in years just because you might, or if you ask me, are too scared to admit that you actually are in love with a boy. What does it change, Reita? Nothing . I’ll be here to support you whatever you decide to do with your life. As long as it will make you happy which in this case. You clearly are happy. I haven’t heard you so bubbly in months.

‘So you’re not like…’ Reita made a pause, still hesitant about his friend’s reaction. ‘Disgusted with me?’

Disgusted? Reita!’ Uruha screamed through the phone. There was a bit of frank anger in Uruha’s voice but with every word it softened. ‘ I wish I could be there and hug the crap out of you, you know. Or you know what? No. I would smack you in the back of your head for saying such stupid things. And then hug you. Could you do that for me?

‘I mean if it’s necessary’ Reita laughed and smacked his forehead with his open palm, making sure Uruha heard the sound of skin slapping against shin. ‘Ouch, you’re cruel.’

Only when you are talking crap ’ Uruha chuckled. ‘ So I have the honour of having that knowledge first?’

‘You do’ Reita admited. Suddenly he felt so accepted all of the freedom while talking to his friend back. There was no sign of the sickness in his stomach left. He was really startled at how quickly Uruha got used to the information he was just given. And Reita appreciated it so much. ‘Don’t tell other guys, okay? I don’t know what their reaction will be like and kind of don’t want to find out yet. It’s not that we and that guy are anything close to being in relationship. I’m just kind of falling for him more and more with every minute.’

Well I wasn’t planning to, you will decide when to do it yourself. I would never jeopardize you, you know ’ Uruha explained and took in a deep breath, making Reita bring the phone further from his ear because of the loud wheeze coming from it. ‘ So. You want to talk more about the little treasure of yours? I don’t have much skills in dating myself especially when it comes to flirting with boys you know, but maybe we could work something out together.

‘Well make yourself some tea because I can talk about him all day’ Reita laughed, glad that there wasn’t much awkwardness in Uruha’s voice.

I don’t have that much time, you know ’ Uruha whined playfully.

‘I’m kidding I’m kidding. Okay so he is the guy who moved in your previous house two weeks ago. He is few centimeters shorter than me what, in my opinion makes him so cute. He stays silent most of the time and almost never smiles but it only makes my heart beat three times faster when he actually does. You know his eyes are especially beautiful when he is looking at flowers, so you can see the petals reflecting in his pupils. And he has such small hands they just silently beg to be hold. Oh and you know what? He actually has been dragging me to join him in walking back home. Can you believe? Me? Walking by foot? Home?’ Reita was flooding his best friend with every detail he remembered by Ruki.

Uruha was listening patiently, commenting on some things, laughing at others until he made it clear to Reita with three loud grunts that it was time for his friend to stop talking. ‘I’m sorry Rei but I really do have homework to do and it’s due tomorrow.

‘Sure thing, ‘Ruha. I am sorry for taking so much of your time anyway’ Reita chuckled nervously. ‘I’m still kind of embarrassed at how I’m acting. So stupid.’

Then don’t ’ Uruha reprimanded his friend. ‘ You know if that boy is so in love with gracious things and nature I think you should invite him to the match on Saturday.

‘Well…’ Reita said, the doubt in his voice clearly audible. ‘I don’t think he is much into sport. Don’t you think that would just distract me or stress me out?’

You will never know if you don’t ask. But even if he isn’t into sports, he might be into you. About the distraction. Knowing you ,’ Uruha laughed. ‘ That will just pump you up. You love to show off.

‘Ah yeah I guess’ Reita sighed once again amazed how well Uruha knew him. ‘I’ll try then.’

My boy! ’ Uruha cheered. ‘ Keep me updated. Stay healthy and out of trouble.

‘I will. Good luck with school, friendo’ Reita said and ended the call, letting his mind float away into many possible scenarios that could happen. So he could rehearse every one of them seeking for the perfect moment to invite Ruki to the match.

Chapter Text

When Monday morning came with a ray of spring sunshine hitting Reita’s face, the student didn’t complain and jumped eagerly out of the bed. Yesterday’s talk with Uruha gave him a strange dose of confidence. And he was looking forward to seeing Ruki. Part of him was curious if something would be different because of the walk on Saturday but the other part was anxious that nothing would change at all. Reita was trying not to give himself much hope because he hasn’t talked about his feelings straightforwardly with Ruki yet. But there must have been something between them, right? You don’t do and ask people you don’t like to hug you. Or kiss them on a cheek. Reita sighed and splashed some cold water and his face, trying to wash off the thoughts, knowing he should focus on his morning routine.

Soon Reita was sitting in his usual place on the bus and watching Ruki run through the crosswalk just to jump in the vehicle and plop on the nearest free seat that unfortunately happened to be far away from Reita’s one. There was a hint of disappointment lingering inside Reita’s mouth that the blond seemed to not even look for the older. The possibility that Ruki might have not even thought about Reita, when on the other side he spent almost all Sunday reflecting on the past week, was scaring the crap out of Reita. That could only mean he was assuming things. After all he didn’t know anything about Ruki. Even the basics like where he moved from or even what was his favourite class. He only knew he wanted to be close to him.

Reita turned around and saw that Ruki pressed his head against the bus window and was… taking a nap. With his mouth open slightly and blond hair covering most of his face. Unconsciously Reita found in himself an urge to walk to the younger and caresses Ruki’s warm cheek with the back of his hand. He would brush off the blond strands from Ruki’s face as gently as he possibly could so he could appreciate the full view of that blissful face. Then he turned his attention for a few seconds to Ruki’s deep and long breaths. Into his mind immediately came an image of that nose snuggling against his chest and letting out the waves of warm air against the skin. Just the image of that made his heart pick up a quick pace.

All of his thoughts were scattered with a loud noise of the bus doors opening. Reita jumped out of the vehicle. He was so mad at himself for taking his imagination that far. Why every time when Ruki was around his mind was just taking off into such unreasonable fields. He walked with furious eyes in the school and changed as quickly as he could, meanwhile trying to shake off the thoughts, knowing he should focus on the schoolwork or else graduating the high school will get crossed out of his bucket list.

In the lunch break he was obviously sitting with his friends, not there yet to make such a bold move and go to Ruki out of nowhere. After all he didn’t exactly know how the younger would react to that. So he was stuck listening to his teammates discussing the tactics for the upcoming match. And Reita tried to listen and focus on that. He really did. But he couldn’t. Because the seat usually taken by Ruki was empty. The friends the blond was always sitting were there laughing and shoving the spoonfuls of food inside their mouths, only Ruki was missing. That made Reita really anxious. What if Ruki was avoiding him on purpose. What if he did something wrong. He prayed to all of the gods known to him Ruki would still be willing to let Reita walk home together with him.

Reita was walking down the school corridor, getting closer to his locker. When suddenly he spotted the familiar blond shag. He gasped, relieved that Ruki was still at school and maybe he just wasn’t hungry or something. Reita made a mental note at the back of his head to remind the younger he should eat properly, though. There was something Ruki was busy with at his locker and Reita narrowed his eyes to get a clearer vision. He seemed to be cutting up a little pieces of tape with scissors. That gave Reita a little flashback to the Monday two weeks ago when he first saw Ruki in the high school. He was still looking at the little boy, waiting for him to stick something on the locker door. A wave of shock followed by pride went through him when he realized Ruki was actually taping to a metal surface a piece of dried up flower crown.

The student was in such an awe and so overjoyed that when Ruki shut the door close, Reita was still eagerly looking at Ruki. Of course the shorter felt an intense stare on him and turned around, searching for the stalker. He looked a bit terrified. Even when he realized it was Reita who was smiling and waving at him, his fear didn’t ease. The blond looked around scared and only when he made sure no one near was paying attention to him, he waved back at Reita. His face came back to the usual expressionless facade. It bothered Reita how frightened Ruki looked at first. The student watched Ruki put on his backpack and rush through the corridor in the opposite direction that Reita was about to head. Well at least now he knew Ruki wasn’t avoiding him.

After the end of all classes Reita was waiting for Ruki to walk out of the main gate. This time he decided there was no point in pretending he planned to ride the bus. His eagerness would be obvious either way. When he saw Ruki walking in his direction his heart fluttered. The younger’s vision was as always hazy and absent. And when Ruki was about three steps away, Reita’s mouth just couldn’t keep close, showing the obnoxious smile of him, baring all of the teeth. But soon Ruki was passing the older without even noticing him. Reita was so shocked and his brain was efficiently blocking all of the other emotions.

Until he felt his arm following Ruki without the command from his brain. When he focused, it came through to him that were bunch of fingers circled around his ring finger, forcing him to follow the smaller figure. Soon the wide smile was back at Reita’s face. It also surprised him that Ruki didn’t let go of Reita’s finger even when he got the gist. The blond didn’t say anything, didn’t even look at Reita, just walked slowly and absentmindedly. Until Reita decided to break the silence and clear up his worries.

‘I didn’t see you in the canteen today’ Reita said, the worry detectable in his voice. Along with those words Ruki’s hand let go of Reita’s finger. The older spotted Ruki’s face turning in a surprised grimace then fading into gloominess.

‘I wasn’t hungry’ he replied quietly.

‘You need to eat properly, okay?’ Reita rebuked the younger, seeing Ruki didn’t really like it, his lips narrowing as if they tried to prevent his throat from spitting some words. It saddened Reita that Ruki still wasn’t comfortable with Reita at all. The older hoped something would change after the weekend but Ruki was clearly still mostly closed in his own world. Or speaking more accurately, in the real world. When the student didn’t get the reply other than faint shrug of the shoulders, he just continued talking. ‘I need to show you something. Next to the house with green decking and orange-ish walls showed up a new bunch of flowers but I’ve never seen anything like that. You must see that.’

‘How you know that?’ Ruki frowned and suddenly stopped in the middle of the sidewalk, confused.

‘Um’ started Reita but hesitated for a while if he wouldn’t make a complete idiot out of himself for admitting that. But he decided Ruki deserved nothing less than truth. ‘I had a soccer practice yesterday and I walked back. It was kind of odd walking without you by my side. But the air was still as refreshing as always. And the sky clear.’ The last three sentences just fired out of Reita’s mouth. They weren’t really supposed to make it outside Reita’s brain.

‘You what?’ Ruki asked, looking before him, his eyes not really pinpointed at anything particular.

‘Just what you heard. You coming?’ Reita laughed and beckoned Ruki with his hand. It took the blond a while to register what was going on but soon he was jogging the four steps that separated the both of them and joining back Reita. And so both of the boys continued walking together, Ruki educating Reita about new fascinating kinds of flowers, Reita telling short anecdotes from his life. Even though Ruki’s face remained as poker-faced as always, Reita could swear every time he looked in Ruki’s eyes there was an unfamiliar light dancing in them, softening the whole coldness of the younger.

It was all back to normal throughout the week. The same routine of watching Ruki jump in the bus, then checking out if he was eating at the lunch break and waiting for the boy at the gates of the high school. The only thing that changed was the way Ruki dragged Reita into the walks. It was no longer the sleeve of his marine but by grabbing the ring finger of Reita’s hand with his small palm. That touch wasn’t usually lasting long, just a first minute or two of the walk. And Reita clearly couldn’t deny he had an urge once or twice to just grab Ruki’s hand and entangle it with his own. He knew it wasn’t appropriate, though. With every walk Reita tried to ask a one simple question about Ruki. Because he gave away so much about himself when Ruki still remained a mystery.

It was Thursday and Reita was richer in such an information like what was Ruki’s favourite subject. It was biology. And that he totally hated strawberries due to childhood trauma related to them. He learnt that the scar on Ruki’s chin was the result of him falling down from a fence he was trying to climb. Every day Reita was trying to subtly butt in a question about sports into their short conversations. But part of him was afraid of the answer to that question. Because sport played a big part in Reita’s life after all.

During yesterday’s walk Ruki slipped something about him really liking calligraphy and old-fashioned way of communication like letters. So for an hour yesterday Reita was sitting at his desk in his room and making various attempts of writing a short invitation for Ruki on paper. He even thought about including some poetry, well aware Ruki was into that because of the forbidden read two weeks ago. Of course he failed, being not intelligent and creative enough to write anything meaningful. So he just stuck with a simple three sentences written on a white piece of paper in a black ink. To make it special he taped one little daisy to the paper with the flower crown Ruki made him.

 

I would be delighted if I saw you at my match on the Saturday. If you’re interested, high school pitch at 10AM. We could celebrate together in the woods afterwards.

 

The letter was still secured in a little envelope inside his backpack. Reita was wondering how should he deliver it. Giving it right to Ruki’s hands seemed a little bit too scary. He also thought about slipping it inside Ruki’s backpack but there were two main problems about that. Firstly, it would have to involve Kai. That would mean a lot of explaining that he wasn’t ready for. Secondly, there was a chance it would just be forgotten. So the best solution was probably to break inside Ruki’s locker and leaving it there. After three years in high school Reita had some skills in that, playing few locker pranks on his friends through the years. Yet later that day when the moment came and there was just Ruki’s locker and Reita, the student ditched on the plan, knowing it was wrong to break in someone’s property.

The both of them once again were walking in silence, following the sidewalk. Ruki seemed not to be in the mood for talking that day, which worried Reita. Well, it wasn’t untypical to the younger, he’s been like that few times already, wanting to appreciate the surroundings more than to participate in a conversation. How the hell Reita was going to work that out. He got lost in the thought so much that he barely felt a hand grabbing him by the wrist, forcing his body to stop.

There was a bunch of, what it seemed like, middle schoolers throwing rocks at something. It took a while for Reita’s ears to register the quiet scowl of pain that followed every throw. That must have been some kind of small animal they were hurting. At the first glance there was about five or six of them, laughing casually as if it was nothing. While Reita stood in the middle of the sidewalk, watching the scene before him dumbfoundedly, Ruki was already halfway through the distance from the group. When Reita saw that he quickly followed the younger.

Ruki grabbed the hand that was about to throw another rock at the little scared chihuahua cornered between the huge dumpster and a wall. The middle schooler looked at Ruki, cocking an eyebrow. Even the fury in Ruki’s eyes wasn’t doing anything for the boy. He attempted to free his arm from Ruki’s grip, what only angered Ruki even more. ‘Do you find it funny? Hurting an innocent animal like that?’ Ruki hissed through his teeth.

‘How that’s your fucking business what I find funny?’ the boy replied. He seemed to be the leader of the group because the rest of his friends were passively watching the scene before them and laughing at Ruki’s reaction. Even when Reita appeared near Ruki the group completely ignored it. ‘It’s just a homeless dog no one gives a shit about so why do you act like you care? It’s a cruel world. Only the strongest will survive’ the middle schooler laughed, followed by a roar of laughter from the rest of his friends.

‘That homeless dog feels pain you know. Just like you’ Ruki twisted the hand he was holding in a certain way, causing a short yell of pain to come from between the boys lips. The friends of the oppressor were about to interfere but they were stopped with a hand sign from the boy. ‘I would say you are a birdbrain but it would be an insult to all the birds since they are very intelligent. With such a way of thinking I don’t think you deserve to be compared to anything more than a mindless rock.’

‘Do it one more time fucker and all of my boys are going to beat the shit out of your little ass’ the boy hissed at Ruki and tried to shake his hand off the grip once again. The blond wasn’t letting go. ‘Let go of me. Otherwise even your boyfriend won’t be able to protect you from getting beaten, little faggot.’

That seemed to turn something inside Ruki and made him even more infuriated. ‘Do you really think i need a boyfriend to protect myself? the blond said with a big dose of viciousness in his voice. He continued to lock his furious gaze with the boy before him. He felt nothing but disgust while looking at the smirking face.

Suddenly Ruki let go of the arm he was holding and before the boy could even register what was going on a loud scream of pain was escaping his mouth. Ruki hooked two fingers of his right hand behind the middle schooler’s collar bone, pressing on a certain point he knew would cause a lot of pain. ‘The world is cruel’ Ruki growled.

One of the folks from the group immediately rushed on a rescue for his leader, raising up his arm and about to punch Ruki in the back of his head. But Reita was quicker than the middle school student. Soon he was holding an arm in his hand, not easing on the grip even though the student was trying to wriggle out of it. Meanwhile Reita’s attention turned to Ruki and the way he was overpowering the middle schooler without any effort at all. Shortly Ruki had the leader kneeling down before him and mewling in pain. At first Reita assumed that Ruki could even be getting some pleasure out of that sadism. Those thoughts were gone as soon as he saw Ruki’s face that was filled with nothing but sadness. Maybe a hint of disgust was present in his eyes. There was no way the blond was enjoying the act.

‘Ruki it’s enough’ Reita said, seeing as the members of the pack were rolling up their sleeves and slowly coming at them with their fists clenched. There was no way he would be able to defeat all of them. Four against one? He would get beaten up, together with Ruki. ‘Ruki stop’ Reita begged and this time his words seemed to get through to Ruki’s mind.

The blond let go of a middle schooler and as an answer got a thick ball of spit fired at his belly. When it hit the uniform with a wet plop and started dripping down, the leader started getting up from his knees but before he could reach Ruki’s level he was yelling in pain and placing his hands on his crotch. Reita’s jaw fell down in disbelief, the grip easing on its strength. As a result he saw two boys, one that he was just holding and one from the pack, picking up the student kneeling on the ground and dragging the boy away, sending furious looks at Reita and Ruki together with the rest of the group. They walked away, sending few hateful slurs.

Ruki didn’t pay attention to the screams, trying to approach the little dog that was barely moving. He felt a stare locked at him from behind. Before Reita could say a word, still in shock, Ruki was hissing at him. ‘Come on. Tell me what you think about what I did.’

It took a good while before the words reached Reita’s ears. The older was glancing at Ruki, not knowing what to say when there was a little creature suffering right before their eyes. He also didn’t know where those words came from since everything he did was for Ruki’s favour. ‘What do you mean?’ Reita said confused.

‘Go ahead and tell me how wrong it is to put animals before people’ Ruki turned away, no longer looking Reita in the eyes, trying to judge how badly was the dog injured. The dog was a long coat black chihuahua. It would have probably looked gorgeous if it had been clean and well-groomed. But at that moment one of its eyes was swollen and red, its fur glued together with mud. One of its legs was clearly broken and there were few open wound that would be hardly noticeable if there weren’t flies sitting on them and little drops of red blood glistening in the sun.  

Reita didn’t have a good answer to that request. He definitely wasn’t thinking it was necessarily wrong what Ruki did. The older couldn’t evaluate that as plain as right or wrong. And that definitely wasn’t the time for that. What was important was the little dog that was shaking in fear, half-conscious. Then an idea struck his mind. ‘Kazuki’s mom is a vet. She lives not that far away from here, maybe ten or twelve minutes walk.’

Ruki reached out his hand and even though he wasn’t touching the dog, it was scowling and trying to get away from it, not really able to because of the leg. The blond finally placed his open palm at the back of little head and very gently stroked it. The touch was tender and delicate yet the chihuahua was still screeching in pain. ‘Shh, little buddy, we are going to help you, okay?’ Ruki said in a soft voice. Then he looked at Reita. ‘We need it to see the vet. But we also need something to wrap around him so the flies won’t be reaching the wounds. And the leg. We need to secure the leg’ said Ruki and slipped off his shoulders the backpack he was carrying. ‘I should have a bunch of handkerchiefs in it. Find them for me.’

The blond kept on cooing the dog, telling it some comforting words, hoping it would understand. That seemed to do the trick because the chihuahua wasn’t trying to escape anymore, only howling at the strokes. It was deeply saddening how such an innocent creature that was supposed to be loyal and loving, could lose all of the trust for humans because of some assholes. When finally Ruki beckoned the dog to keep calm and let him inspect the injured leg a little better, the blond heard a loud rip of material. He turned his head only to notice extended Reita’s hand with a piece of cloth offered to him.

‘I guess it will be enough to wrap around the broken leg’ Reita nodded at the ripped sleeve of his team t-shirt. ‘And this’ he started, while breaking one of the seam on the material, making it bigger. ‘We can wrap it in that material so the flies won’t get to it. I mean until we get to the vet. It’s probably not that sterile.’

‘It’s…’ Ruki started and took the ripped sleeve in his hand. It seemed like there were words stuck in his throat that he didn’t really know how to express. So he just turned away and started to wrap the material around the injured leg of the half-dead dog. ‘It’s enough’ Ruki choked out finally and grabbed the rest of the ruined t-shirt and wrapped the whole scowling chihuahua in it, sushing it and slowly picking it up.

‘You’re fine with carrying it all the way?’ Reita asked, truly concerned. But when he saw Ruki’s eyes light up with a furious way, he knew he used the wrong words.

‘I can carry a dog’ Ruki huffed, clearly annoyed. ‘I’m not weak.’

‘I never said you were’ Reita pointed out, throwing Ruki’s backpack over his shoulder.

‘Okay, whatever’ Ruki barked back, apparently still offended by Reita’s words. ‘Show the way.’

 

They were sitting in the waiting room of the vet clinic Kazuki’s mom was running. When she saw the dog she was petrified. The woman asked few questions like where they found it and how it ended up in that state. Ruki offered to pay for everything as long as the dog would get a proper treatment it deserved but Kazuki’s mother said she would expect money only for the medicines, only if she will be able to save the chihuahua.

‘I hope the dog will be alright’ Reita broke the silence after few minutes of waiting.

‘Your t-shirt’ Ruki handed out a piece of dirty and ripped material, not longer even resembling the team t-shirt it was before. And there was a genuine distress in his voice. ‘It’s completely ruined.’

‘It doesn’t matter, right?’ Reita asked, not really expecting an answer, already knowing it himself. What was a single piece of clothing when there was a life on the line. ‘Not the usual way I rip my t-shirt up in front of people’ the older chuckled and shoved the material back inside his backpack. That was when he was reminded of a little envelope lying at the bottom. Maybe. Perhaps. He could… Reita wondered only for the next few seconds and decided screw that and took it out. ‘Um… there is something I wanted to give you’ Reita offered a little letter to Ruki in his open palm.

When the blond took it with a dose of uncertainty in his movements and surprise on his face, Reita was overtaken with anxiety. Maybe that wasn’t a proper time for such a thing. He observed Ruki’s eyes moving from right to left, putting the letters together in words. At the end the attention of brown irises seemed to turn on the little flower glued at the top of the paper. And Reita could swear to his life there was a hint of smile on Ruki’s lips as well as the little spark in his brown eye.

‘Well I guess I have no choice then’ Ruki said in a casual tone.

That definitely wasn’t the way Reita expected the answer to fire back at him. He didn’t want Ruki to feel obligated to come just because he helped him with the dog. After a he really did that selflessly. So it wasn’t a good time to pull that card at all. He was such an idiot. ‘No, no. I mean I would love to see you there but don’t feel like you own me anything because of today or something. I don’t want to force you.’

‘It’s you who owns me something’ Ruki cocked an eyebrow at Reita, chuckling at how confused he seemed to be. Then he took out his diary from his backpack and put the letter between pages where the current date was.

‘What?’ Reita was so out abashed by Ruki’s words. Could it be he forgot about something. His whole body was tense, waiting for any word from Ruki. Even the vision of Ruki sticking his letter on one of the pages of his diary wasn’t easing the amount of stress Reita was under at that time. He begged with his eyes for Ruki to explain.

‘That other t-shirt rippage’ Ruki said shyly, turning his head away from Reita, distinctly not wanting the older to notice the pink appearing on his cheeks. The next sentence came out almost non audible. ‘You’re kinda hot, you know.’

‘I’m what?’ Reita grinned, trying not to burst into laughing at the blond. He was so cute. Reita felt thrilled at those words. They hinted on that after all Ruki might find Reita worth the attention.

‘Nothing.’

‘Pretty sure I heard you say I’m hot’ Reita pushed a little bit further, testing the waters. When he didn’t hear a confirmation for his previous sentence, he fired out another one. ‘Well, you can always ask for a private show.’

‘Shut up’ Ruki huffed, his face turning as red as a beet. He pouted and crossed his arms on his chest. But even though he seemed to be embarrassed he leaned his head and lied it on Reita’s shoulder, closing his eyes. The blond soon felt a gentle press of crusty lips at the top of his head. He was as surprised as Reita that he wasn’t pulling away from the kiss but simply easing into it. It seemed he got used to Reita’s touch.

The door to the clinic slammed open and a familiar to Reita silhouette appeared in it. He felt Ruki quickly pull away from him and sent him a scared glance. Why would he be afraid of Kazuki. But when Reita saw the shock on the face of his teammate he understood why. ‘Hey Kazuki, what’s up?’ Reita said casually trying to ease the awkward situation.

‘Fine, thanks’ Kazuki said, his expression slowly coming back to normal. ‘Mom said one of my teammates came with a beaten up dog so I came to see what was wrong. Didn’t really expect to see you here.’

‘What? Why?’

‘You don’t have a dog’ Kazuki said.

‘Ah yeah, right’ Reita chuckled and looked at Ruki who still seemed to be uneasy and a little frightened. ‘This’ Reita nodded at Ruki, ‘is my friend Ruki. He is in Kai’s class.’

‘I’m Kazuki, nice to meet you’ the youngest confidently reached out his hand and waited for Ruki to do the same. After the shake, Kazuki’s face came back to the dorky and smiley expression it usually was. ‘Mom said that the dog will be fine with enough care. It has a broken leg and eye infection but it will recover. She said she will give the both of you the dog in a transporter because it’s not safe to carry him after such a strong anesthesia.’

‘I’ll take care of it’ Ruki assured Kazuki.

‘Hey, we did it’ Reita looked at Ruki happy from the bottom of his heart. He wanted to hug the blond but knew it was inappropriate in front of Kazuki. He didn’t want to make Ruki uncomfortable like with the kiss. ‘We saved it.’

‘We did’ Ruki returned the smile at Reita. For the first time ever.

Soon both of them were walking towards home with a little chihuahua sleeping in a yellow transporter. Everything seemed to cool down a little between the two of the boys. Ruki even let Reita carry the transporter without a word of complaint. When it was the time for them to part, Ruki thanked Reita for everything and took the dog inside his house, saying he wish he could make Reita some good tea in return but excused himself with the fact he had to convince his parents to let him keep the dog and help him pay the vet bills. Of course Reita didn’t mind.

 

Reita was sitting at his desk, trying to solve one of the tasks for maths for almost half an hour, making various attempts from different angles when he heard his mother’s yell asking him to come downstairs because she had something to show him and a few questions. Just hearing the tone of her voice Reita knew he was in trouble. So he let the maths notebook become forgotten on the desk and rushed to see his mother.

‘You better have a good explanation for this’ Reita’s mother said holding in her hands the ruined t-shirt of Reita.

‘Oh about that’ Reita started but stuttered when he saw how intense was the disappointment of his mother. ‘When I was walking back home with my friend we found a wounded, homeless dog. And it had a broken leg and was totally alone, almost dead. We had to wrap it in something to prevent the infection. And that something happened to be my t-shirt.’

‘I said it should be a good one Reita’ she said and clenched her fist on the material.

‘It’s the true one’ Reita was taken aback a little bit by his mother’s reaction. ‘It’s just a t-shirt, mom. There was a life on the line.’

‘The life of a homeless dog’ the woman fired back.

‘It was in pain’ Reita continued on explaining himself. ‘It might not have feelings but it feels pain, you know?’

‘And do you know who actually has feelings? Me’ Reita’s mom voice was raising up. ‘I have feelings and I also do feel pain. The pain of working hard alone to keep us the house we lived in since you were a child, to support you and provide you the future you dreamed of. While you are being reckless and playing a hero for stray dogs.’

‘I do everything I can to be a good son’ Reita yelled, annoyed. ‘Did I ever bring you any trouble? Don’t you realize you are screaming at me for helping an innocent creature?’

‘Don’t you get that you are wasting the money I am working hard for?!’ the woman was completely mad at this point. ‘You are trying to live a fairytale life seven years old are believing in. You are going to be an adult by the end of this year Reita!’

‘And what, adults don’t have feelings?!’ Reita screamed back, trying to convince his mom he did what was right.

‘They do but they know when they shouldn’t overtake them’ the woman raised a finger at his son. ‘So completely opposite to your behaviour, Reita. You are becoming more and more childish. And I don’t approve that. You have to  get used to the adult life. It’s not a fictional world you read in books about. The real world is cruel Reita.’

Hearing this words for the second time that day, that time coming from his own mother hurt. It hurt him really badly. ‘It’s not. All of you just make it seem like that’ Reita said through his teeth, the adrenaline rushing through his veins. ‘I did what I thought was the right thing. And I will take responsibility for it as I always do because you raised me that way. I will work a part time job and pay you for the ruined t-shirt. If that’s how the adult world works. It will be damn worth the life of that dog. For me.’

‘Where are you going?’ Reita’s mom asked, still mad and annoyed but a little bit taken aback by Reita’s last sentences.

‘Somewhere’ Reita kicked off his slippers and put on his sneakers. He opened the main door to his house. ‘Where I don’t have to pretend to be a shitty adult.’

He was soon standing before the door to Ruki’s house pressing the doorbell, waiting for someone to answer. Reita wasn’t really sure what just happened. He really didn’t think he deserved all of the scowling for just one ruined t-shirt. Ruined for a good sake. The student waited for a minute or two before the door were opened by the man he met once. Ruki’s father.

‘Hello, what’s the problem?’ the man asked concerned. Could it be Reita looked so devastated.

‘Is Ruki home?’ Reita scratched the back of his head. He had a feeling the man before him didn’t trust him for some reason. ‘I would like to exchange few words with him.’

‘He is’ the old man turned around and screamed for Ruki. ‘I can see that both of you became friends. ’  

Something about the behaviour of Ruki’s father was making Reita feel kind of uneasy. The man seemed to be judging Reita for every word he spoke together with his appearance. ‘Yeah, I like spending time with him very much.’

‘I see’ the man summed up, with a gloomy voice, narrowing his wise eyes at Reita.

‘Is that the delivery form the pet store?’ the words came from the corridor together with the hardly noticeable thud sounds of someone going down the stairs. ‘They said they would be by tomorrow’s afternoon.’

‘No, Ki. It’s your friend’ the father smiled at his son. ‘I’ll leave the both of you to yourselves.’

‘Reita’ Ruki seemed to be surprised. ‘At this hour.’

‘I’m sorry’ the older avoided Ruki’s eyes. ‘I just um… wanted to check how the dog is doing.’

‘No you didn’t’ Ruki saw right through Reita. It wasn’t hard after all when the student was giving Ruki all of the informations away with his odd behaviour. ‘Come in, I will make you some tea.’

‘So you are not curious what happened?’ Reita walked in and kicked off his shoes, following Ruki to the kitchen.

‘Do you want to talk about it?’ Ruki cocked an eyebrow at Reita. He saw Reita shake his head, still avoiding his eyes. ‘Then you have your answer.’

‘Can we drink the tea outside? I could use a little bit of fresh air’ Reita asked Ruki kindly. ‘And by the way how is the dog?’

‘We will have to sit on the stairs, the outside chairs haven’t arrived yet’ Ruki said, placing the kettle on the cooker. ‘I’ll bring the dog so you can see yourself. He can’t walk yet but he’s doing fine. Starts slowly accepting the touches of me.’

‘I would love that’ Reita genuinely admitted. The place to sit wouldn’t matter. He just wanted to be close to Ruki, have him by his side since that always made him at ease.

‘You know the way to the porch in the back, make yourself comfortable and wait for me’ Ruki instructed.

After a minute or two there was Ruki coming to the porch with a pillow on his hands with a chihuahua laying on it. Ruki gently laid it on one of the steps that Reita was sitting on. The dog looked at the older a little bit suspiciously, with no trust at all. Ruki noticed that and cooed at it, assuring it that Reita was a friend and nothing bad would happen to it. Then he left Reita and the chihuahua alone to meet and get comfortable with each other.

Reita immediately noticed that the dog looked much better. The plaster on one of the legs and the swollen eye were still there but overall the wounds didn’t look as serious as when they were all bloodied. The fur of the dog was cut very short and was now shiny. When the chihuahua would recover Reita could bet a lot of money he would look gorgeous. And knowing Ruki and his love for animals, there was no way the dog wouldn’t be getting enough attention and love that it needed the most.

Few minutes later Ruki showed up back on the porch with two mugs in his hands. He handed out one to Reita and took a sip from his own one. Then he pointed at the dog with his nose ‘I decided on the name. Koron.’

‘I like it’ Reita said. It was not a common dog’s name but it suited the chihuahua. After all the dog was usually just like the master. And there was nothing ordinary about Ruki. Reita turned his attention to the dog. ‘Well Koron. I am glad you are alive. You are going to recover just fine with help of Ruki.’

‘With our help’ Ruki corrected Reita, taking a seat one step higher than Reita and placing his mug next to him, cautious not to spill a drop. Then he patted on his lap with his hand and waited for Reita to get the gist. The older seemed a little bit hesitant so Ruki send him a warm, concerned look. And that seemed to do the trick, Reita’s head soon resting in Ruki’s lap. ‘You sure you don’t want to talk about it?’

‘No’ Reita answered. On that answer he felt Ruki’s hand run through his black hair gently. And when Reita didn’t complain about that, quite on the contrary, leaned in for the touch, Ruki continued on stroking Reita’s head. Reita suddenly felt calm. The hurt was still there inside his mind but the delicate touch of Ruki and watching the light green leaves sway on the spring evening wind were like medicines.

‘You can cry, you know. If you want to’ Ruki broke the silence. ‘It will make the frustration little easier.’

‘My parents are divorced’ Reita admitted out of nowhere.

‘I didn’t know.’

‘I haven’t seen my father since I was five or six’ Reita continued his story, glad that Ruki’s hands didn’t disappear from his head, now playing with single strands, curling them around the slim fingers. ‘I don’t have much memories of my father. So I don’t really miss him. But I remember one thing that he was very strict about. And it was crying. Whether it was because of physical pain or losing something or whatever, when he saw me crying he would always scold me. He would say that I am supposed to be a man. To protect and make my mother proud. So I wasn’t supposed to cry. I was taught to always suck it up.’

‘You know that’s really bad for you’ Ruki whispered, his voice full of concern. ‘You have feelings. Showing them is not a weakness.’

‘I should know that’ Reita admitted, closing his eyes. ‘But it’s hard to break the only rule your father gave a damn about.’

‘I know’ the blond stopped caressing Reita’s hair just to lean in and whisper the next sentences straight in Reita’s ear. ‘I know.  But it’s a meaningless rule that is bad for you. So I just want you to know it’s okay to cry.’

And even though Reita was sure he lost the ability to shed tears long time ago, soon there was a single tear rolling down his cheek and landing on the material of Ruki’s trousers. Reita was very thankful for the silence both of them were locked in, Ruki letting Reita experience the basic thing for the first time in a while in peace. The blond was making it a little easier with simply being next to Reita when he needed him and placing the gentle strokes on Reita’s troubled head.

Chapter Text

When Reita was opening the door to his home at 9:30 PM he was sure his mother would be waiting for him, even more infuriated than before. To his surprise the woman was nowhere to be found on the ground floor, meaning she was either taking a shower or already asleep. The student sighed, relieved. He didn’t necessarily want his mother to see him in that state. Red, swollen eyes from the crying and messy hair would cause her to worry about him. He definitely didn’t like to make others concerned. Reita already felt a bit guilty for bothering Ruki at such an hour. He was glad the younger didn’t seem to mind.

Reita was especially thankful when he was lying in bed, after checking on his mother and finding her sleeping. The tea Ruki made for him was apparently setting inside his stomach, making him really relaxed and sleepy. The younger could have been some kind of charlatan, curing with leaves. And even though the student still had a mess inside his head to set in order, he just couldn’t be bothered due to the funny feeling spreading through his body. It must have been the tea, right. Not the short fingers running through his hair and all of the whispered comforting words straight to his ear, Reita thought as he dozed off.

The next day after his morning toilet routine, he was walking downstairs, tempted with a sweet smell coming from the kitchen. In full honesty it weirded him out a little bit. It wasn’t typical for his mother to make him breakfast, Reita was used to making one himself on every school day since he was twelve. And something about the scent was making him feel praised and loved. Could it be his mom made her delicious pancakes. It confused Reita because she used to make them long time ago when he was a kid and only if he was a good boy. When he entered the kitchen he saw that, in fact there was a stack of pancakes and cottage cheese mixed with honey in a little bowl. And a piece of paper lying right next to it. He quickly started reading what was scribbled on it.

 

‘I am sorry about yelling at you yesterday. It was just a piece of cloth. I think I had some frustration from work that bubbled up and I took it out on you. I really shouldn’t have. I am so sorry. You did well, my boy.’

 

Reita felt all of the madness and pain from yesterday wash away with every word read from the piece of paper. He couldn’t not forgive his mother when the heartfulness and honesty were gushing out from those sentences. So he just put the piece of paper down and took one of the fluffy pancakes on a plate and poured some of the cheese next to it. It felt like heaven. The airy texture of the pancake submitting to his teeth with ease followed with the dairy taste of cottage cheese with honey. Reita could swear when he closed his eyes he travelled back in time to times when his mother was spoiling him more often with that simple dish.

The student got so overwhelmed by the pleasure he completely lost the sense of time. So he just noticed it was already time to leave when he was stuffing two pancakes in his bento box. He had to rush if he didn’t want to be late for a bus. Reita sprung out of the house, already seeing the vehicle pull at the bus stop. He jumped inside it right before the door slammed close and plopped his body on the nearest free seat. The student wondered if that was how Ruki felt everyday, running to the bus with such an adrenaline in his veins, not really sure if he could make it on time. Because Reita could definitely see the appeal of that.

Suddenly he felt a gaze on him and turned his full attention to spotting where it was coming from. Turned out it was Ruki looking at him with worried face, few rows of seats separating them from each other. When Reita’s eyes finally meet with Ruki’s the older could do nothing but smile widely. He nodded as a greeting but to his surprise was met with Ruki’s face contorting into an infuriated expression. Then came a, as Reita supposed, a quiet huff and the younger turned around, sitting back properly with a loud thud. Reita was absolutely dumbfounded. What that boy was about. Why all of the kindness he received yesterday was gone suddenly. Reita was reflecting on that through the whole ride.

In the middle of his meal during the lunch break Reita felt a similar tingle on his nape, suspecting there was someone watching him intensely. When he turned his head towards where he thought the stare was coming from, he spotted Ruki turning his head around and pretending to stir something inside his bento box. There was a definite hint of pink appearing on the younger’s cheeks. It was usually the older checking on Ruki. Not the other way around. Reita didn’t have much time to look at the blond because soon there was Kai snapping fingers before his face, bringing Reita’s attention back to his friends. But Ruki’s weird behaviour gave Reita a lot to think of during all the remaining classes.

When finally the lessons were over Reita as usual was waiting for Ruki at the main gate. That day’s wait was filled with anxiety. It didn’t help, seeing Ruki pass him impassively with the expressionless face of his. Reita was petrified. His heart stopped for a minute. The older’s head followed Ruki’s movement. The blond was standing at the bus stop as if nothing was out of place. He wasn’t paying attention to shocked Reita standing in the middle of the pathway. That was when Reita decided he had enough of that and rushed towards Ruki, determined to clear out everything he did wrong.

‘What’s going on?’ Reita asked, more worried and desperate than mad.

‘Um…’ Ruki started uncertain, avoiding Reita’s eyes. ‘I’m going by the bus today, so no need dragging you.’

Ruki’s words and the indifference in his tone were not only confusing but also hurting Reita. Could it be all that happened yesterday didn’t matter. Was Reita just a buddy for walks for Ruki. ‘Why by the bus?’

‘Koron is waiting at home’ Ruki shrugged his arms, his face turned away from Reita. It seemed like the blond wanted to hide something. ‘The quicker I will be home the better. He should stay alone as little as possible.’

The bus pulled at the stop and as soon as the door opened Ruki was jumping inside it, clearly avoiding Reita. But the older didn’t fall behind, already taking the free seat next to Ruki, staring at him intently, hoping that would get him the proper answer from the younger. That didn’t do the trick. ‘You are mad at me for some reason. Why?’ Reita asked, the concern in his voice real. As the answer he got Ruki looking at the window in silence so he took a deep breath and continued. ‘Ruki listen if it was inappropriate for me to come at your house yesterday, tell me. I won’t be doing that anymore. I shouldn’t have showed any weaknesses. I’m sorry.’

‘Don’t’ Ruki said in a faint voice, still looking outside the window. Reita leaned in to hear the rest of Ruki’s voice more clearly. ‘Don’t be sorry. It’s me.’

‘I don’t understand’ Reita admitted. Something about seeing Ruki struggling so hard with expressing himself made his heart ache.

‘I… You got me scared in the morning’ Ruki finally opened up. And he met Reita’s gaze, showing him the unknown sadness locked in his eyes. ‘I walked in the bus and you weren’t there. I thought something happened.’

‘I didn’t know’ Reita said the truth. He could not have guessed Ruki looked for him in the bus.

‘I know. I told you it’s me’ the tone of Ruki’s voice was sorrowful. ‘It’s me. I’m sorry. I’m no good.’

‘What are you talking about’ Reita smiled gently at Ruki and placed his palm on the blond’s thigh as reassurement. ‘I’m so thankful for what you did yesterd…’

Before Reita could finish the sentence he saw the horror on Ruki’s face, his eyes growing wide, madly looking around the bus when one of his hands was blindly brushing Reita’s palm off his thigh. That seriously took Reita’s off guard. He was watching the boy before him not sure how to react. Because he didn’t mean any harm.

When Ruki seemed to come back to right mind he just turned around from Reita, locking his absent gaze outside the window, breathing deeply and mumbling few words that barely reached Reita’s ears. ‘No good. I’m sorry.’

Reita was thankful there were only two of three minutes left of the journey because he wouldn’t be able to survive any more time like that. He felt so hopeless. There was Ruki sitting right next him, clearly feeling not good about himself and there was nothing Reita could do. The words didn’t seem to find themselves in Reita’s brain and the touch would only make things worse. So when the bus finally stopped near to their houses he sighed, relieved and went to the door, checking out of the corner of his eyes if Ruki was following.

Soon both of them were standing in the middle of the pathway to Ruki’s house from the bus stop. It was probably the first time when the silence between them was awkward and scary equally on both sides. Ruki was looking down at the ground, strands of the blond hair covering his face and Reita was absolutely clueless how to initiate the conversation that was hanging in the thick air. Even though the weather was excellent that day, the gloominess was radiating from both of the boys. Finally Ruki broke the silence.

‘You’re not like…’ he begun, a bit uncertain. ‘Angered by my behaviour? You’re not shouting.’

‘Why would I be Ruki, come on’ Reita assured the younger. Yes, he had a lot of questions. Yes, he was worried. But he wasn’t at any means angry. ‘I’m more concerned actually. Hey, look at me’ Reita asked the younger and waited until Ruki lazily and rather unwillingly looked up. It frightened Reita how ashamed Ruki seemed to be. ‘We already sorted things out, right?’ when as the answer only came a faint nod, Reita carried on. ‘We put past in the past, it doesn’t matter. I just hope I didn’t scared you so much that you are not going to show up at the pitch tomorrow.’ Reita grinned at Ruki when he saw a little familiar sparkle appearing in Ruki’s eyes.

‘I will be there’ the blond soothed Reita’s doubts.

‘What about the after party in the woods?’ Reita asked. ‘I mean it will be only the two of us so not really a party.’

‘I…’ Ruki shyly looked away from Reita. ‘With pleasure.’

‘Then we’re set. Don’t worry I will prepare everything this time’ Reita bopped Ruki’s nose before the shorter could speak out any complaints, throwing the younger off track. ‘Don’t even think about that. It’s my turn. You just need to get a good rest and just show up. Maybe take the blanket because I don’t think I have such a big one.’

‘Okay. We can go see the lake’ Ruki decided not to disagree apparently. He saw Reita nodding and heard him say a goodbye. But there was still something bugging Ruki. ‘Reita.’

The older was about to walk away when he heard Ruki call his name. He froze. ‘Yes?’

‘Do you think…’ the words were escaping Ruki’s mouth slowly, as if Ruki was weighing them one by one. ‘You could use a hug? For luck.’

‘Of course!’ after what happened in the bus Reita was very surprised when Ruki offered him a hug. But the excitement was definitely overlapping the shock. Even when Ruki’s body was slamming against Reita’s one with such a force the older almost lost his balance. The younger circled his arms around Reita’s torso and soon was pressing his cheek to Reita’s shoulder, whispering ‘Do your best’ against it. Before Reita could even react to that in any way Ruki’s warm body was gone and already walking away. When Reita came back to his senses he shouted after the younger ‘See you tomorrow!’ He turned around and headed towards his home, not waiting for the reply from Ruki since he knew the younger couldn’t be bothered.



The alarm went off with a high-pitched, irritating sound, waking Reita up with ease. He opened his eyes and breathed deeply. Today was the big day. And even though it was quite early, the student was shaking the covers off his body and immediately jumping out of the bed. He rushed to put of his favourite worn out trousers and loose t-shirt. There was nothing better than starting the day of a match with a morning jog. Reita was about to reach for his mp4 player and headphones but his palm was hovering over the device. After a moment of hesitation he decided against taking it. Maybe he could listen to birds tweeting or just enjoy the calmness of the morning.

When Reita opened the front door he knew that the weather wasn’t that perfect for an open air season’s first match. It was sunny and rather hot, even though it was pretty early in the morning. The sweat was already sripping down Reita’s forehead and he was only five or ten minutes into the jog. So he didn’t even want to think how wet he would be after ninety minutes on the pitch. If he wouldn’t be winning the game with the help of his skills he was sure the opponents would drown in his sweat.

The student was on his way back home, his muscles woken up and warmed up nicely when he realized how empty and silent the town was at such hour. He never really paid attention to that since the music was usually roaring inside his ears. Today was different, the quietness surrounding him completely. Reita was really surprised how accustomed to the silence he grew over time spent with Ruki. Part of him was even scared he wouldn’t like the shouting of the wild crowd at the stadion. But Ruki would be screaming for him as well, right. He laughed at his own mind for even thinking about that. Of course Ruki wouldn’t be screaming. He’s not that type of a person.

Reita’s heart fluttered when he saw Ruki’s house on the horizon. It even shocked him how the house was not reminding him of all of the childhood memories with Uruha. He wondered if his friend would be disappointed in that kind of thinking. When suddenly all of his thoughts were dispersed because he spot a dog laying on the pillow in the middle of front porch to Ruki’s home. Someone must have put him there in the morning to have some fresh air. At this hour Reita doubted it was Ruki.

The dog seemed to recognize Reita since it was wagging its tail as the student approached it. Reita wasn’t sure if it was fully adequate to just walk on someone’s porch to pet the dog but since the animal couldn’t approach him itself, there was no other way. After all there was always a chance that no one would show up looking for the dog before Reita was done with greeting it.

Shortly the student was kneeling next to the dog and putting gentle pats on its head. He was startled the chihuahua wasn’t looking as horrifying as two days ago. The eye wasn’t red anymore, only the eyelids remained swollen. Same went for the wounds. They were only visible for a person who knew what to look for. The dog was definitely recovering. ‘Hey Koron you look much better buddy’ Reita said, scratching it under the chin. ‘Will you make sure to wake up Ruki for me? It’s really important. You have my permission to bark as loud as you can.’

All of a sudden the front door opened swiftly. Reita was immediately standing straight ready to apologize for his behaviour to whoever would appear in the door. There was a woman, from what Reita judged, the same height as Ruki looking at him, surprise painted on her face. She was very similar-looking to Ruki. Even the bun at the top of her head with few messy strands poking out of it, the flowery pajamas and cute bunny slippers gave out the same vibe of adorableness as Ruki’s usual wear. There was no doubt it was Ruki’s mother. The only noticeable difference would be that her face was radiating with joy, unlike Ruki’s everyday expressionless facade.

‘I am very sorry I can explain everything’ Reita bowed down, hoping the woman would understand his eagerness to pet the dog. That was probably the worst first impression he could ever make on his crush’s mother.

‘Don’t even mention that. I am glad to see you here actually’ the woman laughed. ‘I was scared I am really getting old and hallucinating about Koron starting to speak. So you got me kind of relieved. You must be Reita, right?’

‘Um… Yeah, I am. My name is Reita I live on the opposite side of the road’ the student was glad Ruki’s mom appeared to be very kind and heart-warmed.

‘Yes I know’ she admitted, clearly amused. ‘I know about you quite a lot since Ruki likes to talk about you at our afternoon tea breaks.’

‘What?’ Reita fired out. Ruki was discoursing about him with his mother. That was interesting.

‘He seems to get along well with you’ the woman shrugged her arms. ‘Anything specific you need? I mean Ruki is asleep but we can have a little chat over the tea if you want something from him.’

‘I would really love to but I have a soccer match today and I should be going soon’ Reita scratched the back of his head sheepishly. ‘I stopped here just to well… pet the dog.’

‘Oh this little sweetie. I can’t necessarily blame you’ the woman giggled and crouched down. She scratched Koron behind his ear. ‘Oh we’re liking that aren’t we’ she asked the dog and as an answer chihuahua turned on its back and exposed its stomach. ‘In the mood for belly rubs are we’ the woman laughed and started scratching gently the dog, carefully enough not to touch the healing wounds. ‘Back in our previous house Ruki always brought wounded birds so I was used to that. But when he showed up with a dog… Even I was surprised. But as always, I just can not say no to my son.’

‘He seems to care about the animals a lot’ Reita summed up.

‘Yes he’s very’ the woman made a small break, apparently trying to find the right word to describe what she had in her mind. ‘Sensitive. Especially for the torment of the innocent.’

Reita detected there was a distinct change on Ruki’s mother face. It was no more obnoxiously showing the smile lines, the expression turned gloomy and distant. There was a certain sorrow in her eyes. So Reita tried to fix the situation somehow. ‘But he is very precious.’

‘Oh yes, he is’ Ruki’s mom smiled and straightened up. ‘Aren’t you going to be late for your match or something. Don’t want the high school team to come searching for me for making you show up last-minute.’

‘You’re right I should really get going’ Reita immediately got the gist. ‘I am sorry for bothering you anyway.’

‘Don’t be, don’t be kid’ the woman smiled. ‘It was nice to meet Ruki’s friend. He doesn’t have many of those.’

‘Could I ask you for a favor?’ Reita asked out of nowhere, running a hand through his hair awkwardly.

‘If I will be able to fulfill your wish, of course’ the woman measured Reita with her eyes, full of suspicion.

‘Could you make sure Ruki wakes up with enough time to be at school at 10 AM?’ Reita requested. ‘He said he would be there but I’m kind of afraid he will sleep through it.’

‘That boy is a sleepyhead isn’t he’ Ruki’s mother stated more than asked. ‘Don’t worry if it’s important for him, he will wake up on time. Good luck today.’

The front door closed, the woman disappearing behind them. The clue of everything was that Reita wasn’t really sure if he was that important in Ruki’s eyes.



Reita was walking through the corridor leading to the exit from the high school, straight on the outside soccer field. All of his teammates were following him in line. The boys were silent, every one of them overwhelmed with the excitement and stress. Reita looked at the sash of captain on his left arm. He was well aware the opponent was very strong but he believed in his boys. When they were near the exit, Reita stopped out of nowhere and told his teammates to gather close to him. It was their tradition. The captain always made a short motivational speech, pumping everyone’s enthusiasm up.

‘Today is the day, my dudes. I’m not going to say do your best because being in this team means you guys already do your best. Instead, all of you’ Reita stuttered here for a minute. He looked around all of the excited faces of his friends, eager and curious for him to continue. ‘I want all of you to respect the opponents and treat them like another human beings. Make the crowd scream and yell from the top of their lungs with a fair, beautiful game. And on the top of that, enjoy yourselves. Play with passion.’

The captain noticed the silence that fell between the teammates after his words. He was pretty surprised by his words himself. But they were genuine ones. And the chuffed faces of his friends gave out that they understood the message. So Reita suggested their next ritual. All of the boys wrapped their arms around the person of their left and right and soon the team created a ring of human beings. Reita started counting down from three and all of the boys were soon yelling a catchphrase of the team.

‘Together to the victory!’

After the scream all of the boys broke the embrace and headed to the exit. Reita was first to run on the pitch. Aoi and Kai were just behind him. The crowd screamed at the three of them waving at the crowd. For a second or two there was a bittersweet nostalgia inside him. Not long time ago there would always be Uruha running shoulder in shoulder with him and patting him on the back. There was no denying he missed his friend. But that was not place and time to think about that, Reita’s thoughts scattered and he focused on finding Ruki in the crowd of people sitting in the stands. Reita knew that the probability of spotting the younger was probably very low but he couldn’t help himself.

Somehow Ruki as always outstand the others. Not that Reita was surprised at that point. There was a silhouette of slim boy with a blond shag of hair sitting at the highest row. The rest of the row was completely abandoned since people prefer to sit as close to the game as they can. That must have been Ruki. Reita waved at that direction and as a reply got few girls squealing. He didn’t necessarily care for that anymore. Yes, it made the adrenalin higher in his veins but it excited him more when he saw Ruki rise his hand and wave back. He was now fully ready to crush the opposing team.

Another ball passed to him. His mind fully in the game. There was crowd yelling the name of their team in the background. There was only ten minutes to the final whistle. And there was a draw. 1:1 Not good. He was about to pass the defender flawlessly. But the dude snached the ball form him. Damn. Few dozens of seconds later another try. The ball under his feet. But his distance too far away from the goal. Pass to Kazuki. The young swings his leg. Mishit. The yell of fans of the opposite team.

One minute later another chance. Probably the last time they would be able to initiate a good game action. That was the last chance. Reita skillfully approached the goal. A defender appeared. Adrenaline went up. He passed him flawlessly. Now only he and the goalkeeper. ‘Remember his weakest point is the left upper corner.’ Uruha’s words echoing inside his head. He prepares the ball. A swift kick from the left leg. And as the ball is passing the halfway point of the distance Reita knows. It’s the one. He turned around and begun on running towards the seat.

A high pitch of a whistle followed with the screams of fans only reassured him of the goal. Reita was standing before the crowd and raised his arms in the sign of victory. Another scream of the crowd. He knew it was the time to do what he promised Ruki. The boy quickly lost his team t-shirt and threw it on the ground. Immediately he was flexing the muscles of his upper body. There were girls creaking at that gesture. But he didn’t care about them. All he wanted was to get reaction from was the skinny boy in the top row. Ruki looked pretty pleased and the thumb up in the air was only proving that. It was the last thing Reita saw before his teammates were jumping on him and shouting his name repeatedly.

‘What you did today. Dude. That was something!’ Kazuki screamed, honestly amazed with Reita. ‘Sorry for ruining so many of your great passes.’

‘What are you talking about, dummy’ Reita laughed Kazuki off. He knew the boy did screw up some of his passes but after all he it was his first season in the team so Reita didn’t want to discourage him. ‘We all have bad passes, just make sure to work hard, okay?’ Reita winked at the younger. He was glad he made sure to text Ruki not to wait for him after the match because they let the guest use the showers first and the queue was not ending. The student couldn’t wait to be home, pack everything up and meet the blond. An open palm landing on his back took Reita out of his dreams.

‘That’s the man I’ve known for last three years’ Aoi smiled at Reita appreciatively. ‘Excellent control of the ball today, the opponent wrecked. As Uruha would say “ Delicious ”.’

‘Thanks. Today was a good day, right’ Reita grinned, delighted to receive so many awes from his teammates.

‘It was your day!’ Kai was coming to the locker next to Reita’s one with Reita’s abandoned  t-shirt in his hand. He threw the piece of cloth at Reita. ‘Damn dude I didn’t know you were so ripped’ Kai slapped Reita’s stomach, making him hunch. ‘Whoever you did that for, I’m looking forward to meeting that person at the party tonight, am I right?’

‘Actually’ Reita started. He totally forgot about the party. Didn’t even prepare an excuse for himself. ‘I’m not going tonight. Maybe I will drop at the end of it to see how it was but nothing crazy.’

‘Excuse me?’ Kai cocked an eyebrow. ‘The captain. Damn. The hero of the day. Won’t be partying with us? Did you wear that sash of yours around your neck or something and your brain went off?’

‘I just made plans for the evening a lot earlier’ Reita shrugged his shoulders. He shoved the dirty t-shirt inside his bag and lost his shorts.

‘Of course’ Aoi smirked and pointed at Reita’s crotch with his nose. ‘Plans to get rid of that?’

Reita looked down, confused. His dick was definitely half-hard between his legs. That happened sometimes when the excitement was almost overwhelming. ‘You know that happens sometimes’ hoping that would brush the topic off. ‘I have a thing for the crowd screaming out my name. What can you do.’

‘I have doubts if it was for the whole crowd or just one specific person. Well you can listen to me’ Aoi laughed and took off his shirt. ‘And my advice. That there is nothing better than a blow a day before an important match. See a boner anywhere on my body?’

‘It would be useful because you can hardly spot you have a dick without it’ Kai laughed out loud. ‘Let me fish out a magnifying glass from my bag. Who would like to have that microscopic thing near his mouth anyway.’

‘Well some people have girlfriends, loser’ Aoi teased. ‘But if you ever want to feel the delight of my cock and you swing that way, we can always have a threesome.’

‘I would rather suck my own, thank you very much. It’s bigger’ Kai fired back, smacking Aoi with a towel. ‘And has a lot of girls who are more than willing to take care of it.’

‘Can you guys stop discussing your dicks in my presence’ Reita sighed and slammed his locker close. He was surrounded by clowns. How much he missed Uruha at that moment.

‘Anyway, have fun getting laid today’ Kai winked at Reita. ‘We are waiting if you… oh wait, you and your let’s call that person a friend, change your minds.’

‘I’m not getting laid today, get off me’ Reita barked out. Was he? Maybe he could. Wait. Of course he wasn’t where that thought even came from. He wasn’t. Could it be the stupidity of his friends was contagious. It’s not that he had a clear history without any one night stands but he wasn’t meeting Ruki expecting anything like that.

‘Sure’ Kai rolled his eyes.

‘Okay suit yourself liar but at least accept my little gift since you might not reach the party’ Aoi took out a bottle of cherry wine from his locker and put it in Reita’s hands. ‘For celebration, right’ Aoi winked. ‘And to loose things up a little bit. Just don’t get your weak ass drunk and embarrass yourself.’

 

After packing everything in his bag Reita was ready to exit his house. It was five minutes past the appointed time so it should be enough for Ruki to prepare. He even slipped that bottle of red wine Aoi gave him. Reita wasn’t sure it was the best idea but such a stunning victory had to be celebrated somehow. Not that just a presence of Ruki wasn’t enough for him. But maybe Ruki liked drinking, how could Reita know.

Shortly Reita was heading towards Ruki’s home with a bag filled with food and drinks. He was so happy to finally meet the blond. The won match wasn’t responsible for the most of his enthusiasm as it used to be in the past. Now there was Ruki that also made Reita overjoyed without doing anything specific at all. The bubbling positive emotions were dimmed a bit when Reita saw Ruki’s father sitting on the front porch. There was something about the man that made Reita feel uneasy.

‘It’s you again’ Ruki’s father greeted Reita.

‘Good afternoon’ Reita bowed elegantly, wanting to make the best impression. ‘I am waiting for Ruki. Is he at home?’

‘I heard you managed to take him to a sport event’ Ruki’s dad said coldly. ‘Never happened to me in all of the past seventeen years I raised him. Ruki never liked them. He even said your team won and it made him happy.’

‘Yes I did’ Reita didn’t know how to reply to that. It felt like an attack on him from Ruki’s dad. How was he supposed to know he and his son had a problem like that. Reita was so baffled. Why the man seemed to dislike him so much.

‘Interesting’ Ruki’s father barked, definitely not interested at all. ‘And tell me now you are talking him for a party because he’s been getting ready for last hour.’

‘He is not’ Ruki appeared in the front door and cut the awkward conversation down. ‘We are going for a walk.’

‘Okay Ki’ the oldest man said but his eyes did not stop judgingly looking at Reita. ‘If you say so. Just be careful.’

‘Sure’ Ruki said to his father and jumped off the stairs to the front porch in one step. ‘Hey Reita.’

‘Hello’ Reita replied and saw the younger already getting ahead of him. ‘Goodbye’ Reita tried to be as nice as he could to Ruki’s father. But he didn’t get a reply on the farewell. So he just jogged after Ruki.

‘Congratulation. You guys won’ Ruki stated.

‘I don’t think your father likes me’ Reita admitted.

‘Oh him’ Ruki’s tone was as indifferent as always. ‘He is just worried, ignore him.’

They were walking between the trees. The inside of the forest was especially nice on such a hot day. Reita was so glad to finally be walking next to Ruki. He felt so treasured when Ruki was by his side. When Reita grew tired of the silence, he tried to initiate a conversation. After all the last time showed him Ruki opened up a little more while being in the woods. ‘So what are your thoughts?’

‘You looked very cool on the pitch but I didn’t understand much from the game’ Ruki admitted. He cleared out his throat. ‘It was fun.’

‘I’m talking about this’ Reita felt extremely cheerful so he decided to tease Ruki a little bit and rolled up his t-shirt halfway through and showed off his evident six-pack. ‘I’m talking about the true reason you came today.’

‘What?’ Ruki’s voice finally change tone to a confused one. He soon saw the piece of skin showed to him. ‘That. Yes. I do like that’ Ruki giggled for the first time in front of Reita. ‘Stop exposing it, you will catch a tick.’

‘I’m not stopping until you giggle so cutely once again for me’ Reita continued on teasing the younger. There was immediately a blush appearing on Ruki’s cheeks. He must have realized what has he done.

‘You will have to work harder for that than showing your abs’ Ruki huffed, turning his head away from the tempting sight. ‘Fine. Go ahead and catch a tick. I warned you.’

Before Ruki could realize what was happening Reita was standing still before him, making him walk straight into the older’s back. Reita laughed. ‘The only thing I’m catching today is you. You want a piggyback ride?’

‘I can walk, you know’ Ruki didn’t understand what was going on.

‘I know you can’ Reita crouched down so Ruki could easily jump on his back. ‘I just have a little bit too much energy left from the match and I have to spend it on something.’

‘Fine’ Ruki threw his arms around Reita’s neck and jumped on the younger’s back.

Soon Reita’s hands were on Ruki’s thighs securing him in the proper position. He was relieved the younger didn’t brush off his hands this time. Soon Ruki was giggling once again when Reita begun on jogging vigorously along the path. Reita’s mind went to a certain place designed for reflection. He thought how weird it was that not much longer than few weeks ago he was spending all of the energy left from the game drinking with his friends and making an idiot out of himself. When now he was grinning like an idiot, carrying Ruki who was running his hand through the higher branches of trees that he usually couldn’t reach and cautiously holding on Reita’s shoulder with the other one.

‘If you put both of us in the cold water, I’m killing you’ Ruki warned when they were standing on the edge of the stream. ‘Maybe let go of me how abo…’ the pleading was cut mid-sentence because Reita was already on one of the rocks in the middle of the water flow. ‘Reita!’

‘After seeing what you did on Thursday to that dude I don’t think I necessarily want to be killed by you. Don’t worry’ Reita prepared himself for another jump and of course, he made it to the other side. He let Ruki slide off his back. ‘You’re safe with me.’

Reita stopped in the place he roughly remember they were sitting on last time and frowned when Ruki kept on walking through the grass on the meadow. But he followed without a word, trusting the younger completely to know the woods better than him. Shortly both of them were laying the fluffy blanket few meters from the shore of a small lake. Reita knew there was a lake near his home but had been there only few times since his mom always said it was gross to swim in lake water. But right at that moment when he was standing near the gently swaying water, smelling the strong scent he couldn’t not love it. Chiefly when there was a calming buzzing of dragonflies reaching his ears.

‘You said you would prepare something to eat for us so I didn’t bring anything for myself. Did you bring something?’ Ruki wondered out loud. ‘I’m getting kind of hungry.’

‘Of course, of course!’ Reita quickly opened his bag and took out two bento boxes and handed one out to Ruki. ‘I’m sorry I got lost in thought’ Reita caught himself on saying the sentence Ruki repeated to him so many times after zoning out. ‘Don’t worry it doesn’t have meat or dairy in it, particularly made for you. Make sure to leave some place for a dessert.’

‘Thank you’ Ruki said quietly, as if trying not to give out that he was relieved Reita tolerated his veganism. He dug into the food.

‘Also I have a bottle of cherry wine. It’s probably a cheap one and already warm. But if you want I can pour us a glass. Well, not a glass. A plastic cup’ Reita offered. Then he realized this might be the first time Ruki was offered alcohol. He was making a huge douchebag out of himself, weren’t he. ‘I mean if you are not opposed to that. Knowing we are underage and all.’

‘I have had alcohol if that’s what you are asking about’ Ruki said, hesitation clear in his voice. ‘I don’t have a high tolerance of it, though.’

‘Don’t worry, me neither’ Reita laughed, having a flashback to all the times he ended up passing out on the couch in his freshman year. ‘But a glass can’t hurt us, right?’

‘I guess’ Ruki confirmed and watched Reita pour the bloody red liquid inside the plastic cups.

When they were finally done eating the dessert, the cups empty Reita offered they should lay down for a bit in the sun. Ruki agreed, a flush of pink evident on his usually pale cheeks, probably from the alcohol. And soon Reita was lying flat on the blanket with Ruki’s head settled on his arm. It was a pity the blond decided to lay on his side because Reita would love to see Ruki’s flushed face and hazy eyes. But he was fine with just holding the younger close to him like that, breathing in the scent that became so similar to his nostrils and feeling Ruki’s hair tickling his skin

Just when he was about to doze off into a nap, Reita felt Ruki’s finger being gently pressed against the skin of his forearm. Reita shivered at the touch, goosebumps appearing all over his body. Then he could feel another one a little bit lower, then another one bit closer to his elbow. Reita’s heart picked up on its peace. It seemed like Ruki was making a small steps with his fingers down Reita’s forearm. When the blond’s hand reached Reita’s wrist he took it off for a while, as if hesitating to make another move. But few seconds later Ruki was sliding his fingers between Reita’s ones. Reita immediately tightened their tangled fingers. His heart was beating so fast it was close to breaking his ribs. He didn’t know what to say so he just leaned in and pressed his lips to the back of Ruki’s head. Reita wouldn’t mind to stay like that forever but soon there was Ruki’s soft voice reaching his ears.

‘Come swim with me’ Ruki stated a request.

‘Hmmm?’ hummed Reita, clearly confused.

‘In the lake’ Ruki explained. ‘There is no one around.’

‘We don’t have the suits’ Reita mumbled, travelling his mouth to Ruki’s nape and placing few gentle kisses there. Suddenly it got through to him. ‘You mean skinny dipping?’ Reita didn’t get an answer to that. He hesitated only for mere seconds. ‘Sure. Let’s go.’

Reita saw Ruki stood up. There was no other choice than to follow Ruki. But before he started undressing he decided he should make sure to put all of the empty boxes and the unfinished bottle of wine inside his bag in case any wild animal appeared on the meadow. He got rid of his jeans before he turned around and froze in place from amazement.

There was Ruki standing completely naked right before him. And even though Reita was used to seeing nude man, there was something completely different about the blond. His shoulders and hips were much more narrow than most man. On his stomach was no defined muscles, only few scars and moles. The younger was very skinny but not in an unhealthy way. The pale skin was wonderfully contrasting with the vivid grass surrounding it. ‘You’re so small’ those were the only words Reita managed to choke out after being presented with such a soft beauty.

‘It’s flaccid’ Ruki said, shocked and covered his manhood with his hand. ‘You didn’t have to point it out like that.’

Reita’s brain needed a while to register what just happened. He made a step closer to Ruki but Ruki made a step back. ‘Ruki…’

‘You are just like everyone else’ Ruki’s voice was shaky. ‘You are just going to take advantage of me.’

‘Ruki, no’ Reita started but was cut out.

‘You went with me here, has been lovey-dovey with me and got me a little drunk just to use me’ Ruki’s eyes started to get visibly watery. ‘You will do what you want with me and then laugh at how weak and sensitive I am. And naive.Tell me how cruel the world is and how the fragile idiots like me exist only to be used. You will be safe because when I go to anyone, no one will believe me.’

‘No’ Reita tried to make another step towards Ruki but the younger backed out as an answer.

‘Then now that you made me fall for you, you are going to keep me as your closet toy, make me your plaything whenever you want to fool around because that’s what you think I deserve’ Ruki’s voice was starting to break, there were tears streaming down his face. ‘Because you are going to explain yourself that you are curious and want taste everything in life. It’s really comfortable situation for you, right. That I am not very good with words and feelings. Because when you will grow tired you can just throw me away and pretend nothing had happened. I’ve been there before. I saw and felt it all already!’

‘Ruki’ Reita still tried to get through.

‘All of your play to be interested in me.That you didn’t want to overpower me.To treat me like a broken piece of shit I am. That you cared. Congratulation you got me cornered’ Ruki was now openly sobbing right before Reita. ‘No one will come. I’m not even going to scream because no one will answer. I thought I finally found someone. Instead I just plated myself for him to devour me. Violatw me in the only place I could find peace' Ruki’s rambling completely lost on sense. He stopped backing off, as if giving up. The blond seemed completely hopeless. ‘Reita please. Please don’t hurt me. Not you.’

Suddenly Ruki felt a painfully strong grip on his forearm pulling him closer to Reita’s body. Soon followed by another hand on his mouth completely blocking any kind of sounds coming from between the lips.

Tears were still falling down from the corners of his eyes. Ruki’s brain was doing everything it could to turn numb and turn off all of the pain receptors in his body. Because it was familiar to what was coming next.

Chapter Text

Ruki’s fragile body got smashed against Reita’s torso with an empty sound. Reita’s arm was soon wrapped around Ruki’s waits, pressing the younger even closer. The whole body was trembling and shivering in Reita’s embrace. Through the covered mouth were escaping muffled sobs. Tick streams of tears were falling from the corners of Ruki’s eyes straight on Reita’s hand. When Ruki’s breath picked up on peace Reita let go of the mouth and placed his hand on the back of Ruki’s head, gently forcing it to lay on his shoulder.

‘Please don’t’ a hoarse beg slipped from between Ruki’s lips. He felt Reita’s hand travelling along his spine. The blond tensed unbelievably and a set of goosebumps went through his skin. He heard Reita coo at him, felt a hand stroking his hair. But the touch hurt. It hurt unbelievably. Soon the pain was embodied in few big tears falling straight on the material of Reita’s t-shirt. His body was uncontrollably shaking and a wave of nauseous feeling flushed through his brain.

‘Shh, Ruki don’t cry’ Reita stroked Ruki’s head for the last time. Then he gently grabbed him by the shoulders and pushed away from himself. It pained him to see the younger in such state, body trembling, tears flowing from the absent eyes. He saw Ruki wrap his arms around his own stomach as if in defense. ‘Don’t move okay’ Reita said and started taking off his t-shirt. ‘Don’t run away from me.’

At those words Ruki clenched his eyes. His face turned into a desperate grimace of pain. He wanted to make a step back but for some reason his muscles refused to cooperate. Ruki was expecting to be thrown on the grass in a moment, a pair of hands roaming along his body. He clenched his fingers on his hips, the nails digging into the skin. The subtle sound of Reita moving closer to him was enough for his body to start trembling uncontrollably once again. But instead of the violent touches there was a warm material wrapping around Ruki’s naked body. Surprised, he opened his eyes just before his face landed on Reita’s chest. The older was hugging him with such force that breathing became almost impossible.

‘I would never, never take an advantage of your body, Ruki’ Reita said, losing quite a bit on the embrace just to softly run his hand on Ruki’s back. ‘I pains me to even think about that. I hurts even more to think someone did that to you’ Reita once again squeezed Ruki harder when he felt another tear landing on the skin of his chest. ‘I am so, so sorry that you misunderstood me like that’ Reita admitted. But in return he only got another sob. ‘Please stop crying, you’re safe I promise.’

When there was no other reaction from the younger than more tears Reita gently eased from the embrace and carefully grabbed Ruki’s chin, making him look at Reita. The eye contact was short. The blond had his eyes shut. Tears were still streaming down his face. Reita leaned down and pressed his lips to one of the eyelids. It took Ruki off guard but he didn’t pull back from the touch. Reita kept on kissing different parts of Ruki’s face. The tears stopped flowing and sobs lost on frequency. Reita kissed every single inch of Ruki’s cheeks making sure to dry them of every remaining drops of water. Then he backed off and brushed Ruki’s sticky with sweat hair off the blonde's face.

‘I am not sure what’s going on with me’ Reita admitted, glad the younger was no longer avoiding his eyes. ‘Everything's happening so fast but I just can’t help it. Everything is so confusing. I am almost eighteen and I have never taken interest in any other boy in non-platonic way. I don’t know how it works’ Reita no longer weighted the words that were coming from his mouth. He wanted to finally be honest and accept his feelings. ‘I have known you for what, three weeks? But you made me question everything I knew about myself. It feels like you got to the parts of me nobody ever could.’

‘It’s the drunk talk’ Ruki mumbled. His voice was almost inaudible. Ruki looked down at the ground. ‘You’re just drunk.’

‘Yes. I am. I am drunk on you’ Reita got Ruki’s attention back. ‘Everyday. I don’t know what that feeling is. But every morning I wake up and I immediately want to be next to you. You’re my last thought before going to sleep. Every time I get to touch your body my insides explode. Every time we talk I want to know everything about you. Ask all of the question that I can possibly come up with and discuss them with you. I don’t know what’s going on with me Ruki.’

‘I’m sorry’ Ruki looked genuinely guilty, stress was overwhelming him, Reita’s words so familiar to what he felt himself.

‘Why, don’t. I like that feeling. It’s just the first time I experience something like that and I am not sure how to deal with it. And instead of talking about it, I just kept it bubbled inside’ Reita said. He scratched the back of his head sheepishly. ‘I guess both of us suck at expressing feelings. Maybe we could work on that, if you still want to have anything to do with me.’

Instead of replying verbally Ruki walked towards Reita and lied his head on Reita’s torso. Even though his hands were trapped under the t-shirt he was wearing, Ruki managed to free them enough to wrap them around Reita’s waist and pull the older closer to himself. His breathing was still unsteady but his body was no longer shaking, everything seemed to calm down inside him.

‘I am so sorry for making such a stupid comment earlier’ Reita returned the hug. ‘What I meant was I want to hold that small body of yours in my arms, to kiss every inch of it. If you let me, of course. Damn I would even launch myself into the space and scream at the top of my lungs to let the whole world know how much I want you by my side.’

‘No one would hear you’ Ruki said, his voice still hoarse from crying.

Reita froze. ‘What?’ he asked, confused. He felt Ruki’s cheeks muscles twitch, it could only mean the younger was faintly smiling against his chest.

‘There is no air in space. So you can’t scream in there. No one would hear you’ Ruki explained. ‘You would probably die before even getting there.’

‘Of course’ Reita chuckled. ‘Of course  I would.’

‘Let’s go and swim before the sun sets’ Ruki broke the embrace and took off the t-shirt, carelessly throwing it on the pile of clothes.

‘Are you sure?’ Reita asked but Ruki wasted no time for a proper reply, already jogging towards the shore and immediately jumping knees deep into the water.

Both of them were soon swimming around in the lake. The water was relatively warm. Their bodies were leaving rings of waves behind them with every move. Birds were singing somewhere in the background, dragonflies buzzing. Not a single leaf swayed in the upper branches of trees around them. Everything was quiet and beautiful after the unfortunate storm that went between Ruki and Reita just moments ago.

‘Look’ Ruki pointed at the sky.

Reita did as the blond told him. There was a flock of cranes flying across the sky. Reita was mesmerised by the swift and smooth movement of their wings. When the animals disappeared from Reita’s sight he wanted to look at Ruki but there was nothing in the place he last saw the blond. He turned his head around, searching for Ruki. When he realized the surface around him was unbothered and still, he panicked. What has he done. ‘Ruki?’ Reita called. But there was no answer. The adrenaline rushed through his veins.

He was quickly swimming to the shore, wanting to check if Ruki was there waiting for him and having the laugh of his life. When suddenly something appeared before him, making him stop. Before Reita could comprehend anything there was a stream of water landing straight between his eyes. It took him a moment to realize what happened. And when he was splashing the water in the direction of the younger, Ruki was long gone, already making quick steps on the ground.

When Reita finally caught up with Ruki, the younger was already drying off his body with the fluffy blanket. ‘Don’t you ever do that! I was scared to death.’ As a reply he got a damp blanket in the face.

‘Then we are even’ Ruki said and started rummaging through the pile of clothes to find his boxers.

They cleared everything up, packed all the things and were walking back home. After crossing the stream and going on the proper pathway to home Ruki tugged delicately on Reita’s wrist. The older immediately got the gist and entangled his hand with Ruki’s one. A wide smile appeared on Reita’s face. He couldn’t believe it was happening. But it was. And it felt natural. Not even a bit of awkwardness between them.

Reita and Ruki were walking like that, shoulder in shoulder, completely in silence, enjoying the chill the evening brought after such a hot day. Red rays of setting sun were providing the minimum of light necessary not to stumble upon a root on the way. The air became much more humid and a yet dispersed fog was starting to form just above the undergrowth of the forest. There was a certain ominosity around the pair but from Ruki and Reita alone there was radiating only peacefulness and enthusiasm.

Until they almost reached the exit from the woods and Ruki let go of Reita’s hands. The older sent Ruki a startled look and soon was faced with an uncertain answer. ‘We really shouldn’t Reita’ Ruki said. ‘If people start talking about us, nothing good will come out of it. I’ve been here before. It is already pretty suspicious how much time you are spending with me.’

‘Okay’ Reita was so blinded with the happiness that he totally forgot about how the relationship, even though it wasn’t pinpointed yet, would be seen by the people. It saddened him deeply he would have to pretend and keep his senses on guard. ‘I am sorry, I am all new to this and I don’t know how it is.’

‘But that’ Ruki’s voice change to that kind of tone Reita knew he was uneasy. ‘Doesn’t push you away? The fact that if we decide on something, we might be forced to pretend in front of people? You might be judged even by your closest friends.’

‘I don’t care’ Reita was honest. ‘I just want to be close to you, that is all that matters to me. If I you are willing to teach me how to be with a boy, I am here to learn everything.’

‘There is nothing to learn’ Ruki shrugged his shoulders. ‘You are free to do whatever you want.’

‘I am free. Okay then. Would that be too cheesy and crazy if after knowing you for three weeks I’m going to ask if you would mind whether we would stop thinking as you and I and moved on to thinking about us?’ Reita asked out of nowhere and realized how it sounded seconds after Ruki started laughing.

‘Definitely sounds like something from a really cheap romantic movie sold at konbini’ Ruki chuckled.

‘So I’m not even going to get an answer’ Reita huffed, disappointed.

‘I gave you an answer’ Ruki cocked an eyebrow at the older. ‘It is very cheesy.’

‘You are so cheeky sometimes’ Reita sighed really loudly, almost too dramatically.

‘You will have to deal with that if you want me to be your boyfriend’ Ruki was smiling while saying that, an evident sparkles in his eyes. ‘I definitely have feelings for you. A lot of feelings actually’ Ruki whispered, blushing.

‘I take this as a yes’ Reita couldn’t believe what just happened. He had a boyfriend? His calmness only confirmed that his brain definitely didn’t comprehend that yet. When he saw Ruki’s house was getting closer and closer, he decided to ask for one more thing. ‘So are we allowed hugs? Can I hug you?’

‘I was thinking’ Ruki stopped out of nowhere. He was very uneasy about the offer he was about to make. But after the whole rollercoaster of feeling they had been through that day, he wanted to end it on a good note. ‘What do you think about a sleepover? Or is it too soon?’

‘A sleepover?’ Reita was truly shocked. He didn’t know how that was supposed to work but he was up for everything that would bargain him some more time with the blond. ‘Sure. Just let me message my mom so she won’t be worried.’

Soon they were stepping inside Ruki’s room. Ruki took out the damp blanket and threw it over the railing on the balcony. Reita followed the suit and took off his wet trousers and t-shirt, hanging it next to the blanket. When Reita came back inside he saw Ruki changing his boxers to fresh ones. He wasn’t using a bathroom or anything, showing Reita his naked body once again that day. Reita wondered where all of the shyness and shame of the younger went to. And he chuckled under his nose.

‘Damn you are beautiful’ Reita admitted.

‘Stop looking’ Ruki put on a t-shirt as soon as he could. ‘Do you want clean underwear? I can give you a pair of mine. We don’t have to shower today, I think I am all too tired for that. You too probably, seeing you had a match today. I’ll just change the sheets tomorrow.’

‘So you are not setting a futon or something for me to sleep on?’ Reita asked, genuinely curious what Ruki had in mind.

‘I mean if you want to I can’ Ruki shrugged his shoulders full of indifference and threw a pair of pink flashy underwear at Reita. ‘The bed is big enough to fit us both, though.’

‘I… Um… I mean…’ Reita stuttered, clearly weighing all of the pros and cons of admitting that yes, he did want to sleep next to Ruki. Everything was escalating so quickly.

‘It’s really funny’ Ruki snorted and sat on the bed, covering himself with the duvet. ‘To watch you get frustrated like that. Stop overthinking things, your head will explode one day.’

‘Sure’ Reita mumbled, while pulling up the pair of Ruki’s underwear. He headed to the bed and took the free spot on the opposite side to where Ruki was lying. Reita turned his head towards Ruki and tried to get attention of the younger. ‘Ruki?’

‘Yes?’ Ruki turned around to lay on his side.

‘Do you think that what is growing between us might be…’ Reita hesitated before saying the world he was so afraid of out loud. ‘Love?’

‘If you were honest with both me and yourself then yes, it might be, yeah’ Ruki wriggled his body closer to Reita. ‘There is something other than that on your mind.’

‘Does that mean’ Reita avoided Ruki’s piercing eyes. ‘I’m gay? Not that it matters but I’m just kind od thrown off.’

‘Not necessarily, no’ Ruki said in a gentle voice, realizing how confused Reita must have been at that moment. He searched for any kind of comforting words. ‘There are many labels you can fit yourself into other than gay. We can discuss that and find one for you if it bothers you. Just not today, okay?’

‘Thank you’ Reita said, sending a faint smile at Ruki. He saw the blond slowly closing the distance between the both of them and shutting his eyes close. Reita got the gist of what was happening and exploded with anticipation, his heart speeding up. Soon Reita felt a gentle touch of Ruki’s lips on his own. It was just a quick brush but it sent all of his senses to paradise. The older mewled in disappointment when Ruki backed off and lied his head on Reita’s chest, wrapping one of his hands across Reita’s torso.

‘Your heart will jump out of your ribcage, calm down’ Ruki summed up.

‘This is what you do to me’ Reita was grinning like an idiot, feeling Ruki’s calm breaths landing on the bare skin of his chest. He remembered that only few days ago he imagined that happening, never really dreamt of it coming into reality so quickly. ‘Didn’t get you for being a cuddler in bed.’

‘Do you want to know what these fingers can do to you? What you saw on Thursday isn’t enough?’ Ruki threatened while blindly searching for Reita’s collarbone.

Before it could get to it, Reita swiftly grabbed Ruki’s hand with his own, entangled the fingers and laid it in the middle of his own stomach. ‘No, no, no, I would rather have them right here’ Reita laughed, half amused, half scared. ‘My cuddly teddy bear.’

‘Silence’ Ruki huffed but there was a slight evidence of smile on his lips.

Reita grinned and placed a kiss on top of Ruki’s head, securing both of them under the duvet and dozing off, lullabied by Ruki’s steady breaths. Something was telling him he would have no dreams on that night, since everything what happened on that day seemed like a happy dream itself.

Something sticky and warm landed on Reita’s face, disturbing his unconsciousness. ‘There was a match yesterday mom, just fifteen minutes more, please’ without opening his eyes, he frowned and mumbled incoherently. But the wetness just grew on intensivity and was now attacking Reita’s chin. When his nose woke up, it was hit with a characteristic smell of a dog fur. Now that wasn’t a typical thing Reita woke up to. His eyes snapped open just to see a black chihuahua looking at him and tickling his neck with his little pink tongue.

It was when it struck Reita. The memories of everything that happened the day before. He gently pushed the dog away from his face, rubbing its back. Reita realized Ruki was no longer in bed so started madly and messily searching for the younger. After a while his eyes met with a pair of brown pupils peeking from above the collar of a white knitted sweater. The stretched piece of clothing was covering Ruki’s whole body, allowing only the blond shag and feet that were grasping the edge of the chair with its little toas, to peek from underneath the material.

‘Hey’ Reita started awkwardly not quite sure how to address everything that he wanted to cover. Was the yesterday for real, were they really boyfriends now. ‘Sorry for sleeping so long’ Reita kicked off the duvet and begun on sliding off the bed. He watched Koron wagging its tail at him, happily.

‘Oversleeping isn’t half bad, taking in consideration you stole my bed while being drunk last night’ Ruki said coldly, not even sparing a glance at Reita.

That was new. He did what. No, it couldn’t have gone like that. Reita rushed to the curled up on the chair Ruki. ‘What do you mean?’ Reita asked, confused. He saw Ruki just shrug his shoulders. Could it be he really was drunk and had a blackout. But he could swear he remembered everything clearly. The swimming, the walk back home, cuddling with Ruki to sleep. Was it all just a dream. ‘Didn’t we you know… decide on something?’

There was a moment of silence, something distressing in the air. ‘I just wanted to give you a chance’ Ruki was looking at the ground. ‘To back out and laugh everything off. I am still cool with pretending nothing has happened yesterday.’

‘Oh Ruki’ Reita crouched next to the chair and gently placed his palms on top of Ruki’s feet. They were really cold. So he begun on rubbing them gently, creating some friction to warm the skin up. ‘I really meant what I said yesterday, I really did. If you are willing to let me be by your side, I want to know everything about you and appreciate every inch of you.’

‘I will’ Ruki whispered and hid his head inside the sweater. Soon he felt a gentle brush of the lips on one of his feet. ‘What are doing, they are dirty’ Ruki immediately pushed Reita away and stood up, embarrassed.

‘Doesn’t matter’ Reita chuckled at the reaction and pulled himself to Ruki’s level. The smile faded from his face when he noted that the sweater was loose enough to expose one of Ruki’s arms that was marked with three small bruises. Ruki quickly spotted that as well but before he managed to cover himself up, Reita was already holding the arm, inspecting it closer. ‘I am so sorry’ he leaned in and pressed a kiss to the bruised skin.

‘I overreacted’ Ruki admitted, looking sadly at Reita. ‘Sometimes I am just very sensitive.’

‘I promise’ Reita placed another kiss on one of the bruises. ‘Not to bruise you. Ever again.’

‘Not even a hickey?’ Ruki mewled, disappointed. But apparently when he realized what he just said, he turned his head away avoiding Reita’s clearly amused smirk.

‘If you would like that’ Reita was getting his lips closer to Ruki’s arm once again when Ruki’s hand stopped him. He cocked an eyebrow at the younger.

‘Not right now!’ he almost shouted. ‘You’re dirty.’

‘Well this is what I comes in package with me being your boyfriend’ Reita teased. He was surprised how easy it came to say that word for him even though he was so scared of it a week or two ago.

‘I meant your actual body’ Ruki sighed and rolled his eyes. He walked to the nearest drawer and took out a clean towel. He threw it at Reita. ‘You know the way to the guest bathroom downstairs. There are clean toothbrushes in the first drawer under the sink.’

And so Reita did go to take a shower, happily humming some kind of catchy pop melody stuck in his head while taking steps on the stairs. Part of him still wasn’t convinced every event since yesterday was a fact. Just when he was about to open the door to bathroom he heard a raised voice coming from the kitchen. And even though he knew he shouldn’t have, he lend an ear to what was going on.

‘I saw them! Don’t you understand?!’ Ruki’s father was definitely infuriated. ‘I saw Ruki sleeping in his arms. As if it was nothing!’

‘Aren’t you a little bit too ramped up about it?’ Ruki’s mother asked. Reita wasn’t sure if she was amused or frightened. ‘They are teenagers.’

‘You must be kidding me, right? You know this is not the case’ the man sighed deeply before carrying on with his rage. ‘Do you want people to start talking? After all of we have been through already do you want to once again be forced to move out? I don’t. I’ve had enough of constantly worrying about everything.’

Something about the way Ruki’s father was addressing the problem was making Reita more and more angry. Could it be the man didn’t like him because he hated the fact Ruki was gay. Everything was clearing up. He continued on listening to the heated conversation.

‘We move here for a goddamn reason. To take a break from everything’ barked the man. ‘And here we are. We haven’t lived here even for a month and he brings home a new star. Amazing. Just great.’

‘We don’t know anything about this boy’ Ruki’s mom took Reita’s back.

‘Do we really need to, though?’ fired back the man.

‘We should, honey’ the woman was calm and understanding. ‘I think he is a good boy.’

‘He is the school soccer team captain. One of those football players there are movies about, don’t you understand. There are girls and people all around him’ the man huffed. ‘One of those heartbreakers who only care about having fun and being careless. God knows how much time more before Ruki will once again fall into that toxic loop behind our backs.’

Reita’s fists clenched. Why this man was talking about him like that. He didn’t even know Reita nor made an effort to gather some information about him. Yes, maybe he used to be a careless living human being but not even once in his life he disrespected someone. Or used someone’s weakness for his advantage. Reita was getting really pissed. He was about to interfere the conversation and defend himself when he heard Ruki’s mother speak.

‘So you assume he is just like you’ the woman laughed.

‘Very funny’ growled Ruki’s father. ‘I might have been like that but then I met you.’

‘Exactly’ the tone Ruki’s mother was speaking with was definitely filled with sentiment and love. ‘And I gave you a chance. We should allow Ruki to give one for Reita.’

‘I will forever be grateful for that chance’ the voice of Ruki’s father audibly softened and lost on its viciousness. ‘You know I am just worried about the two most precious flowers life gave me, right. I don’t want ever them to get hurt.’

There was a short break in the conversation and Reita deducted it might have been due to the pair behind the wall sharing a hug. Something inside Reita melted. He decided on going to the bathroom, leaving Ruki’s parents to enjoy their moment together. It explained everything. Why Ruki’s father was so cold towards Reita. He was just worried Reita would abuse Ruki and take advantage of him because of his sensitiveness. Reita decided to do everything to prove Ruki’s father he was worthy the chance Ruki was giving him.

When Reita was walking through the corridor already clean, the water dripping from his damp hair, he heard a women’s voice calling him from the kitchen. ‘I’m coming!’

‘Reita!’ the woman seemed to be genuinely overjoyed to see him. ‘Would you mind helping me with the breakfast?’

‘Of course’ Reita happily walked deeply into the kitchen. ‘Just tell me what to do. I hope Ruki won’t think I drowned myself in the shower.’

‘Cut them for me, okay? Peel the skin first, Ruki hates unpeeled apples’ the woman chuckled and handed Reita a cutting board, a knife and a bunch of apples. ‘Don’t worry he won’t even notice. His morning routine is very long and he cares about it a lot.’

‘So that is the secret to his soft and milky skin’ Reita chuckled. Then after few seconds it got through to him what he just said in presence of Ruki’s mother so he widened his eyes and covered his mouth with his palm.

‘Don’t worry kid’ the woman laughed out loud. There was something about her similar to Ruki. When she smiled, she brought a certain warmness to the room. ‘I know what’s going between the both of you. It doesn’t bother me. I used to be young as well. I know it’s hard to believe.’

‘It’s not’ Reita admitted. ‘You still look very young.’

‘Oh Ruki got himself a smooth talker’ the woman chuckled once again and mixed some flour with cornstarch.

‘Got myself a who? What the both of you are doing here behind my back?’ Ruki appeared in the kitchen with Koron in his hands. He placed the happy dog near its bowl and opened one of the cabinets to take out a can of dog food.

‘Nothing!’ both Reita and Ruki’s mom said at the same time and roared out loud laughing. Ruki just rolled his eyes at them and opened the can.

The three of them ate breakfast together, chatting about the school and weather. The apple crampets Ruki’s mother made were really delicious. Through the meal Reita couldn’t not send more or less subtle glances at Ruki. The younger looked so relaxed. And that coconut milk that gathered in the corner of his pouty lips only added to his cuteness.

When Reita and Ruki were back upstairs they discussed some of the things. They mostly covered how they want their relationship to work, what both of them expected from it. It was Ruki who was doing most of the talking, asking Reita about various things, explaining what would be the best for both of them. And after few minutes of the hard discussion they came to a conclusion. They shouldn’t be coming out to people in school, the neighbours. When it came to Reita’s mother Ruki said it depended fully on Reita and the older admitted he didn’t want to do that yet. He wanted to grew to be fully comfortable and accept himself first. Reita was a little bit scared of the future but he knew everything would be fine as long as Ruki would stay by his side.

Reita didn’t forget to call Uruha when he came back home and tell him all about what happened the day before. Uruha didn’t hide his surprise because he expected Reita to call with news like the won match not him having a boyfriend. But Reita’s friend was very supportive and cheerful about the whole situation. Uruha ended the conversation that the news gave him a little bit of inspiration and he will be working on something Reita should be excited about. He promised to inform Reita about what he had in mind as soon as he was sure the plans could become a reality. The curious nature of Reita left him very frustrated with the fact Uruha was acting so mysterious.

Most of Reita’s doubts about how everything is going to work out, were cleared when the new school week started and most of the things stayed as they were. Ruki was still late for bus every morning, Reita was still checking if Ruki was eating properly during lunch and they still were walking back home together. The only difference was the kiss on the cheek he received from Ruki in the bathroom when no one was around and the itch Reita’s hand gave when they were walking together, apparently wanting to grab Ruki’s hand and entangle it with itself. Yet all of the struggle was worth it when he actually got to touch Ruki in an intimate way behind the closed door. When their hands entangled and lips pressed until they were out of breath. 

There was another habit they found that brought both of them even closer. Reading. When Reita found out Ruki was a devoted book lover, he could do nothing but invite him for a reading session. It sounded stupid but when they lied on Reita’s bed for the first time with books in their hands, they felt connected. Not that they were reading the same book. It was enough just to be close to each other, falling into two separate fantasies and trails of thought while lying together in real life.

Just like on the Wednesday when they came back from school, ate a tarte with apples at Ruki’s place, walked the chihuahua and went to Reita’s house to read for few minutes before they would have to part their ways and do homework. Reita was lying on his belly, his chin lying on a pillow and a mystery novel open in his hands. Even though Ruki scolded Reita several times for his reading position, warning hi it could cause his neck to be stiff, resulting in headaches. But the blond certainly wasn’t complaining about the fact he could lay his head in the hollow of Reita’s back. Ruki could feel the diaphragm move up and down at steady peace, which made him even more calm.

Two pairs of eyes were travelling from one line to another, the only sound to be heard in the room was quiet rattle of turned pages. When suddenly Reita gasped loudly and tensed, resulting in Ruki’s head moving frivolously on Reita’s body. The younger sent a confused and curious hum to Reita, encouraging him to speak up what surprised him all of the sudden.

‘Unbelievable’ Reita huffed, a bit annoyed. ‘The person I was sure was the murderer turned out to have a great alibi. Now I will have to rethink everything.’

‘But that’s great’ Ruki chuckled, closed his own book, relaxed and looked up at the ceiling.

‘How is your read?’ Reita looked at his precious blond over his shoulder, genuinely curious what Ruki was reading. The younger seemed to always pick up the foreign literature. And more of a classic items than fantasy.

‘It’s good’ Ruki said with hazy eyes. ‘Opens mind quite a bit.’

‘Really?’ now Reita was really interested. ‘What is it about?’

‘The myth of Sisyphus. It’s an approach of Albert Camus to explain the meaning behind it’ Ruki explained.

‘Ah, some European stuff, right’ Reita’s voice saddened. Sometimes he felt pretty stupid and unambitious next to Ruki. Even though Ruki said there was nothing wrong with that, they just had different interests. ‘I don’t know much about them.’

‘It’s from Greek mythology. It’s like the bible of the ancient European people, I guess you can explain it like that. But there are multiple gods in it and all of them are human-alike, have flaws’ Ruki said, checking quickly if Reita was listening. And when he saw the intrigued face of the older, he immediately carried on. ‘There is a whole book that is a collection of all of the stories about the Greek gods. It has lost all of the meaning when it comes to being sacred and all but it is still a valid source for people to analyze different stories and find a meaning behind them.’

‘So this book is like that?’ Reita wondered. ‘Someone trying to explain one of the stories?’

‘Exactly’ Ruki nodded. ‘Camus analyzes the myth of Sisyphus. Summing it up as briefly as I can, it is about a dude, Sisyphus, who is a king of Corintin, part of Ancient Greece. The gods liked him a lot and invited him for parties with them. But the man had his flaws that were mainly pride and tendency to gossip. One day he told one of the Zeus’s, the most important god’s, secret and infuriated the gods. So Zeus decided to tell the death, called Thanatos in greek mythology to take Sisyphus and chain him in the underworld. But Sisyphus asked him if he could show him how the chains worked and he tied Tanatos, avoiding death as the result. But because there was no Tanatos, people just wouldn’t die.’

‘At all?’ Reita asked, chuckling a little bit under his nose about the passion Ruki told the story with.

‘Yes! Not a single person. Because there was no one to help them go to the underworld. And at some point Zeus realized people weren’t dying. He also remembered that he hasn’t seen Tanatos around. So he went to the underworld and unchained Tanatos. Then he found out Sisyphus was just carelessly partying through his days, drinking wine and dancing. That made Zeus even more mad. Therefore he decided when the Sisyphus dies, he will be forever damned. So they gave him as punishment an impossible task, rolling a huge and heavy rock at the top of the mountain. The trick is the rock would always slip from Sisyphus’ hands when he was almost at the top of it. It meant he would have to start it all over again.’

‘Poor man’ Reita commented. ‘But I guess he deserved it, right.’

‘You fell within a mind trap. The thing is, with Camus’ Ruki started clearly amused at Reita’s confused frowning. ‘He says we should imagine the Sisyphus as a happy man.’

‘Happy?’ Reita made it clear with a gesture he wanted to turn around on his back. He was tired of looking at Ruki over his shoulder. ‘How can a man who is  everyday rolling a huge heavy rock in vein possibly be enthusiastic about it?’

‘Because’ Ruki sat up for few second, letting Reita change the position and laid his head back this time on Reita’s belly. ‘He has a purpose. Note that when the rock slips from his hands, Sisyphus walks down the mountain already knowing what is going to happen tomorrow morning. He is aware he is going to start it all over again. But doesn’t kill himself because he has something to focus on. He decides it is still worth an effort everyday. Even though it’s a meaningless task. It’s an absurd.’

‘How can he kill himself if he is dead?’ Reita lost the track of thought at that moment. He felt stupid. ‘I don’t think I understand.’

‘Well you are right he can’t kill himself but for Camus he is an absurd hero, condemning his whole life to a meaningless task. Because the man grew to accept his fate. And he kind of won anyway, because he hated death and now he is avoiding it by the inappreciable work that has meaning only to his very own person’ Ruki admitted, seeing that Reita was taken aback. ‘It can be applied to anyone at all. Because every person wakes up everyday doing the same things over and over until one dies.’

‘Okay so summing that up you mean that the question is ‘Is living even worth the effort?’, right?’ Reita asked, still uncertain if he got everything right.

‘Exactly!’ Ruki clapped his hands and smiled widely. ‘That’s what Camus wanted to say. Let me read you the first few lines’ Ruki opened the book and cleared his throat dramatically. ‘There is but one truly philosophical problem, and that is suicide. Judging weather life is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy. All the rest – whether or not the world has three dimensions, whether the mind has nine  or twelve categories – comes afterwards.’

‘I think I get it’ Reita smiled.

‘And what do you think?’ Ruki closed the book and once again started looking at the ceiling. ‘Is life worth the effort of living?’

‘I guess it is. Can I ask about something?’ Reita wondered, unsurely. Soon he felt Ruki’s head move up and down on his stomach. ‘Did the author say anything about love?’

‘Um, no’ Ruki said. ‘Not yet. Why?’

‘Because’ Reita begun, his voice getting softer and more dreamy. ‘I think I would be fine with losing the things I focus on, I mean soccer, school, and the life would still be worth living. If I have the people I love around me. My friends, Uruha, my mother’ there was a second of hesitation before Reita placed his palm on Ruki’s face, gently swiping his thumb across the younger’s cheek. ‘You. Without that I would consider my life as meaningless.’

Reita smiled softly when he felt Ruki place his own hand on top of Reita’s and pressing it closer to his face. The blond eased into the touch, closed his eyes and pressed his pouty lips to the palm. For the next few seconds there was nothing else to be heard in the room except for two steady breaths. Reita wished they could stay like that forever.

 

Chapter Text

A loud sound of door being opened took both of them out from the comfortable touch. Ruki was putting Reita’s hand away from his face with a deep sigh. The blonde got up from the bed and grabbed his silver backpack, neatly putting the book inside it. Out of the corner of his eyes it was easy to spot Reita getting up as well, with a concern painted on his face. ‘I should get going, we have homework to do.’

‘I am sorry.’ Reita put his hands into the pockets of his jeans, well aware it was because of his mother. ‘That’s not a really feasible time right now, she is very stressed because of her work and I guess I need to prepare mentally. Think of every possible way she can react to the news, you know. Just to be on the safe side.’

‘I am not nagging you to do anything, Reita’ Ruki crossed his arms on his chest. ‘The only thing I can scold you about is your overthinking. You can’t come up with every possible outcome and expect your head not to hurt. I am worried. It is me who rushed everything.’ The younger admitted, maybe a little bit too openly, the words leaving a bitter sting on his tongue.

‘What are you talking about?’ Reita was confused with Ruki’s words. Nothing felt rushed at all. At least for Reita. He was aware getting into a relationship after knowing each other for a month wasn’t very clever and rational. But what was rational and clever since he met Ruki? Nothing.

‘On Saturday,’ Ruki hesitated just for a second, looking at the floor, avoiding Reita’s gaze. ‘I went a little bit overboard with inviting you to stay over. I guess it was my selfishness showing off. I,’ he made a pause, signaling it was hard for him to admit. The rest came out as a whisper. ‘I thought you were drunk and I wanted it to last as long as it could. I used you. I keep on using you.’

Before Reita could deny all of the paranoid thoughts that poured out of Ruki’s mouth, the door to his room opened. His mother was smiling tiredly at the both of them. ‘Hello boys, how are you doing?’ She greeted them kindly. The woman didn’t notice the murderous gaze Reita was giving her. A perfect timing, mom.

‘Fine, thank you.’ Ruki answered with a hint of smile on his face. He picked a pace towards the door. ‘Actually I should get going, already took too much of Reita’s time.’

Reita was well aware the smile was forced and faked. He wanted to say what he thought about the words earlier, but the presence of his mother was efficiently stopping him from doing so. The student felt hopeless so he just stood there and watched his boyfriend walk away throwing a quick ‘Goodbye’. Reita’s mother definitely looked surprised at the sudden rush Ruki was in, the boy noticed. Reita wasn’t really sure why since the woman never really made any kind of effort to get to know Ruki, not caring who Reita was spending his time with. After all she was too busy making sure the both of them had a roof to sleep under.

‘I thought you would stay for the dinner.’ Reita’s mother said, even though her voice was very indifferent and couldn’t be associated with actual sadness that Ruki wasn’t staying. She wouldn’t have to think about Ruki’s food preferences that she made fun on Monday when the blond was eating dinner at Reita’s place for the first time. The woman pointed out that Ruki should eat some read meat because he looks weak and unmanly. ‘Reita where are your manners, walk your friends to the door!’ She scolded her son.

‘I can let myself out.’ Ruki said coldly, almost rudely. ‘Reita has homework to do, I wouldn’t want to take more of his time.’

And before Reita could react in any way, both his mother and he heard loud footsteps of Ruki running down the stairs and opening the door. When it finally got through to Reita was has just happened, he was vigorously jogging towards the window in the corridor. He was able to see Ruki running through the street, not even checking if the road was empty. Reita was horrified. He quickly opened the window to shout at his boyfriend but before he made the handle submit to his shaky grip, Ruki was already gone behind the door to his home.

Reita was left breathing in the fresh spring air. He eyed the neighbourhood covered in pink light of the setting sun. Everything looked so calm and steady, not a single green leaf was moving on the nearest trees. Not a single person was walking on the street, not a single car passing by. On the contrary, there was a hurricane going through Reita’s mind. The suspicious glare of his mother after he’d closed the window didn’t cease it.

Even though he was trying hard to focus on the homework, the answers wouldn’t come to him. His brain was too busy thinking over what Ruki stated just an hour before. The words were still echoing in Reita’s mind. So after a while of the struggle, he abandoned the tasks and decided he would ask Aoi to copy his homework tomorrow. Even after a cold shower and delicious dinner, when he was lying in his bed, there was nothing else on his mind other than Ruki. It has been like that for past few weeks, but it’s never been that overwhelming yet.

Why the younger thought he was using Reita? What happened in the past that got Ruki so broken? These and many more questions were messing around with Reita’s brain. Sure, the whole relationship maybe was a little bit rushed. But why wait when both of them confessed  they had feelings for each other. Wait. Did Reita just caught himself on doing something impulsively and not regretting it? He sighed deeply. What a mess.

Ever since he was a little kid, he had one tendency and it was overthinking. He was thinking behind, he was thinking forward. It was something that was part of him since forever. Uruha scolded him about that billion times already. There was only one place on Earth when he was doing things without a second thought. And it was the pitch. It seemed like he found a familiar comfort zone… in a person. Because when he was with Ruki he felt the freedom he has never felt before. Even when he discovered that Ruki was so mysterious and taken aback for a reason, it didn’t scare him. As he dozed off to sleep, he decided he won’t give up on Ruki whatever will happen. The feeling he was too precious to lose. It might be hard to be with Ruki. But it didn’t mean he should give up on it.

The day after Reita was afraid something would diametrically change, but Ruki as usually was almost late for the morning bus. Then the blonde was putting his books and everything in the locker just like he did on every other day. Their secret meeting at school was at the end of lunch breaks in the men’s bathroom on the third floor. So up until then Reita tried to stay focused on the lessons, because after all he already skipped doing the homework. Unfortunately Aoi was being annoyjng, constantly poking him on the back, as if trying to squeeze the worries out of Reita. The time was passing very slowly on that day for Reita, but when the bell rung announcing the beginning of lunch break, Reita sprung out of the classroom.

Reita was in such a rush that Aoi was barely able to keep up with him. At least Aoi seemed to give up on his tries to keep a coherent conversation, what Reita was really glad about. The first thing that was off that noon was when he passed Ruki’s locker, there was no sign of the younger. That was disturbing. Aoi wanted to stop at the locker but Reita insisted on going to the canteen as fast as they can because he was starving. Obviously, it was a lie. He was stressed. His palms begun on sweating like crazy. When the both of them passed the door, Reita was immediately laying his eyes on the table Ruki usually sat on. Nothing. No sign of his boyfriend. The panic grew inside him.

‘I don’t care about that, you know.’ Kai was stuffing his mouth with mashed potatoes. ‘Just being realistic here, Kazuki. Throwing tantrums over such a simple thing… Come on!’

‘So you really don’t  care what kind of material our t-shirts are made of?’ Kazuki seemed to be very surprised with Kai’s answer. ‘I think the light blue is kind of unmanly.’

‘What?’ the student laughed out loud, clearly amused with Kazuki’s statement. ‘Whatever man, seriously. It’s just a colour. Besides, it’s our school’s colour. Who cares.’

At that moment of conversation Reita overheard, he was placing the plate filled with mashed potatoes and some kind of meaty stew on the table with a loud thudding sound. It angered how reckless Kazuki was acting. What was he thinking, complaining about the t-shirt colour like that. It was a tradition of the school. Reita exhaled deeply and calmed down a bit. Kazuki was a freshman so he probably just wanted to look all cool, get girls.

‘Hey Reita.’ Kazuki smiled at Reita with sparkly eyes. The blink faded very quickly when Reita completely ignored the greet, looking around the canteen instead. Kai’s words that came soon, didn’t help Kazuki feel better as well.

‘Here is our true star.’ Kai giggled. ‘Always looking for something in the canteen. Or should I say - someone?’

‘I have no clue what you are talking about,’ Aoi made some room for his girlfriend to sit next to him and kissed her gently on the cheek. ‘I don’t have to search for anything, I have my everything right here.’

‘Aoi, I was talking about the star.’ Kai cocked an eyebrow at his friend. ‘Not the king of cheesiness.’

‘It gets me laid, so you know.’ Aoi winked and got a punch on the arm from his girlfriend.

‘Kai,’ Reita wasn’t really into the conversation. He grew really worried. It wasn’t typical of Ruki not to show up at the canteen like that. ‘Was Ruki in the classes today?’

His friend looked confused and needed a moment, only to ask. ‘Who?’

‘My,’ Reita begun, but made a short pause. He wasn’t accustomed to the word boyfriend yet, so luckily he didn’t say it out loud. ‘My neighbour. The blonde.’

‘Ah, the blonde.’ It seemed like Kai was trying to remember something, squinting his eyes and focusing. ‘He was there, yeah.’

Reita was almost offended by the way Kai took a moment to recall if Ruki was there in the classes. How could his friend not spend the whole lesson looking at Ruki’s beauty. ‘Thanks.’ Reita nodded towards Kai and stood up, leaving the table. What he should do at the moment, he asked himself. He had no idea where Ruki could be other than the canteen. Because he had no better option, Reita headed to the friends Ruki was usually sitting with at the table, full of hope they would know something.

‘Excuse me?’ Reita leaned in towards a girl he knew Ruki talked with sometimes. When the girl turned her attention towards him, she was immediately red and embarrassed. Reita spotted she was avoiding his gaze and begun on moving the fingers in a awkwardly. ‘Do you know where is Ruki?’

‘R-Ruki?’ She stuttered, overwhelmed by the opportunity to talk to the hot captain of school soccer team that she was sure wouldn’t spent a single glance on. It took her good few seconds to realize what Reita was asking her. ‘I think he is in the library.’

‘In the library?’ Reita wasn’t able to hide the shock in his voice. For the first time since they met, Ruki was staying at the library during the lunch break. Something must have happen. ‘Why?’

‘I think he didn’t score well on the last chemistry test and was upset about it.’ The girl said, the pink on her cheeks getting more and more deep. ‘By the way, my name is Hana.’

‘Thank you Hana.’ Reita smiled at the student and immediately picked up a pace towards the exit of the canteen. Behind him he could hear the girls whispering between each other, probably asking some question about Reita or making up gossips. But Reita didn’t really care about that. He was busy thinking why on Earth would someone be so upset about failing the test. Ruki could always retake it. Reita was breaking through the crowd of student on the corridor, heading to the library.

When Reita finally reached his destination, he recognized Ruki on the spot. His blonde was sitting at a small desk in a corner with open book on it. Ruki’s lips were smashed together so tightly, making his face look desperate and determined. As Reita got closer, he spotted the determination maybe wasn’t the best term for what Ruki felt because of the watery corners of Ruki’s eyes that at any point could drop some thick tears on the book before them. Reita took one chair and sat himself next to the blonde, making him jump. ‘I didn’t see you in the canteen.’

‘Reita.’ Ruki stopped himself from shouting, remembering he was in the library after all. ‘Why are you here?!’

‘I told you.’ the older begun, measuring Ruki with troubled eyes. The younger looked horrible. Like he was on the verge of a mental breakdown. ‘I didn’t see you in the canteen.’ When Reita didn’t get any kind of reaction to his words, he decided to kindly explore what was going on, even though Ruki’s acquaintance implied on it before. ‘What is going on?’

‘I am not hungry.’ The blond huffed, hoping it would brush all of the Reita’s worried away. But his stomach betrayed him, letting out a loud grumble just on the verge thought of food. He turned his face away from Reita in shame. ‘I don’t want to eat.’

‘Ruki what is going on?’ Reita was about to lay his palm on Ruki’s shoulder to comfort the younger, but gave up on the idea. ‘I know something's not right. Is is about yesterday?’ Reita had to make sure.

‘No.’ Ruki whispered. ‘I failed a chemistry test.’

‘Oh Ruki,’ Reita begun, quite amused at the way the blonde was reacting to a flailed test. It was nothing. Reita failed tests all the time. ‘It’s just a test, you can retake it.’ Even though he tried his best to comfort the younger, Ruki still wasn’t even looking at Reita, his hands nervously shaking on the book.

‘You don’t get it, do you.’ Ruki’s voice was breaking. ‘I'm hopeless.’

‘No, you’re not, what are you talking about.’ All the amusement was gone when Reita realized Ruki was completely serious about the topic. And yes, he did not get it. He had to do something about it. ‘You won’t learn efficiently if you don’t eat.’ Another try to persuade the younger. No reply. ‘How about our meeting in bathroom?’ That question seemed to do the trick.

Ruki suddenly stood up and packed the book inside his backpack. ‘Let’s go.’ The blonde whispered uncertainty and begun on walking towards the exit. It looked like the words switched something on. Ruki was walking ahead, not looking back or checking if Reita was following him.

Not much of a choice was left for Reita than to follow the boy throughout the corridor, making sure to keep his distance, not to look suspicious. It pained him to see Ruki in such a state, having a breakdown just because of a chemistry test. Why would Ruki assume he was hopeless just ‘cause of one failure. Reita knew that after all the younger was an excellent student, Acing most of the tests.

When they walked through the door of the man’s bathroom, Reita saw Ruki immediately walking in one of the stalls. The older took a while to make sure if they were alone in the room. The bathroom on the third floor was the least frequented one, plus it was a lunch break after all. But it was always better to be on the safe side. Reita crouched and saw no shoes on the ground. He sighed, relieved and rushed into the stall.

He saw Ruki was sitting on the toilet seat, his backpack carelessly abandoned on the floor. Something about Ruki’s gaze, indifferent and hazy, was horrifying. His head was slightly turned to the side, his mouth open. It looked like his mind was completely detached from the reality. Reita turned around and closed the door to the stall. He was locking the door when he felt a hand reaching for his belt. The older froze, his eyes widened in fear. All of the muscles in his body were paralyzed in shock.

Soon there were two shaky hands trying hard to unbuckle his belt. It took a moment but shortly the belt was undone. Next, button by button, Reita’s fly was being opened. When Reita’s trousers were lying around his ankles and a palm was cupping his manhood, his cock twitched as a reflex. Finally with that touch Reita shook off all of the shock and pushed away Ruki’s hands away from him. He turned around and almost screamed. ‘Ruki, no.’

‘You want it.’ Ruki said, nonchalantly, nothing could be read from the tone of his voice. He was reaching back to Reita’s crotch, his gaze empty. ‘I felt it.’

‘No.’ Reita was panicking. What was that all about. When the palms tried once again to remove his boxers, Reita was grabbing Ruki by the wrists. ‘Not like this, Ruki. Not here. Not now.’

‘I need it.’ Ruki stated, indifferently. He tried to fight the grip on his wrists. But Reita wasn’t letting go. ‘You will abandon me.’

‘What?’ That wasn’t a sentence Reita was expecting to hear from Ruki’s mouth. ‘What are you talking about.’

‘That’s what I am good for.’ Ruki’s voice was breaking, water gathering in the corners of his eyes. He was looking at the ground. ‘You will leave me behind if I don’t prove my interest in you.’

‘This is not how you prove it, Ruki.’ Reita’s chest was burning. It really felt like it was on fire. With rage. He was angered at whoever made Ruki think like that about himself. After few heavy breaths in the silence of the bathroom, Reita was calm enough to place Ruki’s palms on the knees of the younger. ‘Keep them like that.’ He asked in a gentle voice, picking up the trousers still wrapped around his ankles. Reita put them on.

‘I am sorry.’ Ruki whispered and clenched his eyes, turning his head away from Reita. At least he seemed to be out of the disturbing trance. ‘I am a failure. I am broken.’

‘Ruki.’ Reita crouched and placed his hands on top of Ruki’s palms still clinging to the knees. ‘Look at me.’ Ruki was still looking away so Reita dared to trap the chin of the blonde between his fingers and turn his face towards him. He brushed through Ruki’s hair just to gently push on the head of the younger. Soon Ruki’s cheek was pressed to Reita’s chest. And a kiss landed on top of Ruki’s head. ‘You are not a failure. And I don’t need that kind of proof to see you are interested in me.’

‘I’m sorry.’ Ruki said, shaking in Reita’s embrace. His whole body was incredibly tense and stressed. Before he could hear Reita’s reply the bell rang, announcing the end of a lunch break. The blonde was jumping up from the toilet seat, reaching for his backpack and messily throwing it over his shoulder. ‘I need to go.’ Ruki choked out, on the verge of tears.

‘I’m not letting you leave in that state.’ Reita covered the door to the stall with his body. ‘You need to calm down. And eat.’

‘I will be fine.’ Ruki endured Reita and looked at him scared. ‘I tried to… Do things to you. I failed a test. I can’t miss a class. I am such a disaster.’

‘You need to calm down.’ Reita’s heart was breaking at the sight of Ruki shaking before him. He hugged the blond once again, feeling Ruki was finally giving in for the touch. The small body seemed like a fragile glass in his arms. ‘What lesson do you have right now?’

‘Literature.’ Ruki whispered against Reita’s torso.

‘With Mister Ryouki?’ Reita’s voice was full of hope. He felt Ruki nodding against his pecs. ‘Then we’ve got it covered, I will talk with him after the lessons and tell him I needed you to help me with literature. I’m sure he will be fine with that.’

‘Would you really?’ Ruki cleared his throat after that question, obviously trying to put himself together.

‘Of course.’ Reita reassured, squishing the younger a bit against his torso.

‘Just once.’ The blonde’s hands wrapped around Reita’s waist. ‘We can't stay. We will be found here.’

‘I know a place you are going to like.’ That sentence caused Ruki to eye his boyfriend with a questioning gaze. Reita smiled faintly and brushed the annoying strands off Ruki’s face. ‘Follow me.’

It was the first time since they met each other, when it was Reita leading Ruki towards something unknown and mysterious. Reita recognized Ruki still seemed to be more uneasy than curious, his steps not really sturdy on the ground, but there was a faint sight of that sparkle in the eyes Reita loved so much. The silence between the pair was really heavy and uncomfortable. When they reached the end of the corridor, Reita pointed on the ladder leading to a metal hatch. ‘Here.’

‘What?’ Ruki was confused. ‘There is a padlock on it.’

Reita grinned and rummaged through his backpack, only to fish out a bunch of keys. ‘Sometimes you forget you are dating a captain of school soccer team.’

‘And why the captain of the school soccer team has the key to a roof of the school?’

‘You know,’ Reita begun uncertainty. ‘Uruha and I, we used to bring girls here.’

When Reita didn’t receive any kind of reply on that, he climbed on the ladder and unlocked the padlock. He was thinking how ironic the words he just said were. This used to be a place where he and his friend were taking girls to help them get laid. But right at that moment, he was bringing Ruki there for him to calm down, just seconds after he refused to be pleasured by Ruki in the bathroom. A hint of disgust washed through his tongue. He came to realization he must have objectified all of the girls in the past. It was incredible in what way Ruki was changing him as a person. Reita pushed on the hatch and opened it with a loud sound.

He looked down on Ruki, who was waiting, visibly not enduring well the whole situation. Reita hoped the sight from the roof and fresh air would make him a little bit better. Maybe they could explain some of the things to each other there. Ruki’s lost face made him wonder what was so different about him. Reita wanted to believe it was because the blonde was a boy, but part of him was screaming it didn’t matter. That it was simply because Ruki was the one. ‘Do you need some help getting here?’

Ruki didn’t need help with climbing up the metal rods. But he definitely needed help with the negative thoughts buzzing inside his brain.




Chapter Text

The clear spring sky was contrasting wonderfully with the gray concrete buildings of the town. A bunch of colourful cars stuck in the traffic near the school were glistening in the warm rays of sunshine, looking funny in a certain kind of way. Sprouting trees, not yet fully covered in bright green leaves were swaying sensually on the light wind. On the playground nearby there were bunch of kids running around and screaming happily. Bunches on the playground were occupied with women wearing light caftans and huge sunglasses. They were talking with each other, but the screams of their children successfully overlapped them. The spring was in full bloom.

Reita closed the hatch and straightened up, couple of joints popping in his body. He saw Ruki standing in the middle of the roof, enjoying the astounding view. The older couldn’t resist the urge, so he walked to his boyfriend and hugged him from behind. Surprisingly, Ruki didn’t run away from the touch. Quite on the contrary, he leaned into the embrace. Reita rested his chin on top of Ruki’s head. The view wasn’t taking his breath anymore. The way Ruki reacted, though, was enough for Reita to be worth going on the roof. When suddenly an idea appeared inside Reita’s head. He locked Ruki in even more tight hug. ‘Look Simba, everything the light touches, is our kingdom.’

The Lion King? Really? Ruki chuckled, but then he remembered Reita mentioning at some point it was his favourite Disney movie he used to watch with Uruha all the time. Since Ruki was pretty familiar with the movie himself, he decided to play along. ‘And what about the place covered in shadow, out there.’ Ruki pointed at the forest that they visited frequently.

‘Oh that place,’ Reita said in a dreamy voice. ‘I will tell you a secret, this is a place I love the most.’ He leaned in closer to Ruki’s ear. He took a drag of the scent he was so addicted to. Wood. And orange peels. ‘Because I get to hold your hand there.’ Reita whispered in Ruki’s ear. He felt the younger shiver. A moment of hesitation passed through his brain, but it was gone as soon as it showed up. Reita simply leaned in even closer and begun on travelling the tip of his nose along Ruki’s cheek. His heart fluttered when he realized the corners of Ruki’s mouth lifted up in a faint smile. ‘I brought you something to eat.’

‘I am not hungry.’ Ruki broke the embrace, the smile already fading from his face. ‘I told you.’

‘Ruki,’ Reita sighed, gently turning his boyfriend around to look at him. He tried not to guilt Ruki or show how disappointed he was in the younger, because it could scare him and make his mind go to that horrible place once again that day. ‘I know you are hungry and I am not letting you off the roof until you eat even two bites.’ He opened his backpack and fished out a oat bar he bought earlier in vending machine. Reita offered it for Ruki on his open palm. ‘I know this isn’t much or the most healthy but this is the best I could get.’

‘I… It’s more than enough.’ Ruki took the bat from Reita and turned his head away from Reita, embarrassed. ‘Thank you.’

‘No problem.’ Reita grinned widely, hoping it would take the guilt off Ruki’s shoulders.  He nodded towards one of the metal vents on the rooftop. ‘Come have a sit.’

Ruki was chewing on the bar hungrily. It was obvious how hungry he was. Part of Reita was worried because at any kind of scenario he wouldn’t want his boyfriend to deny himself the food just because he failed a test. But the other side was chuckling loudly at the loud mouth noises coming from Ruki. Reita stopped when the blonde sent him a murderous look. Not wanting to disturb Ruki’s meal anymore, Reita leaned his head back and rested it on the vent. He was looking at the clear blue sky, listening to the tweetting of various birds.

Suddenly he felt a hand creeping underneath his own palm rested on his thigh. As soon as Ruki’s fingers slipped in between Reita’s ones, he was tightening the grip. Reita closed his eyes, a wide smile growed on his face. He sat there, holding his boyfriend by the hand, listening to the singing of birds that was interrupted by Ruki’s loud crunchy bites. Reita wondered what was the feeling surrounding him. Happiness? Probably, he decided.

‘Reita?’ Ruki broke the silence between them, getting the black-haired’s attention back to him. ‘Thank you.’

It seemed like there was something else stuck in the younger’s head so Reita send him a concerned gaze. ‘I told you, it is my pleasure to see you eat and take care of you.’

‘Thank you for bearing with me.’ Ruki whispered, looking away. ‘And I am sorry about the whole situation in the toilet. I…’ He made a pause to swallow loudly. ‘It wasn’t me.’

‘I know Ruki, I know.’ Reiat assured the younger and clenched his hand a bit, as if trying to prove it. ‘I saw it in your eyes that it wasn’t you.’

‘I am sorry.’ Ruki repeated himself.

‘It is sorted out. Don’t worry about that anymore.’ The older reached Ruki’s chin and turned his head toward himself. ‘I just, you know,’ He hesitated for a second or two but after all it was his specialty to solve problems with stupid jokes. Apparently he didn’t learn his lesson that unfortunate evening at the lake. ‘Hope you don’t think I find you unattractive or ugly or anything and I don’t want to, you know.’

‘Ugh, you dirty bastard.’ Ruki playfully punched Reita on the arm but his lips curled up in a smile. ‘I know you don’t meant it that way since you tell me how beautiful I am about hundred times a day.’

‘I wish I had time to tell it one hundred times more.’ Reita admitted. It was still surprising to him how he got rid of all the shame in front of Ruki, talking freely about the way he felt, even though he usually didn’t get much feedback from his boyfriend. ‘What am I annoying?’ Reita leaned in and put his forehead against Ruki’s forehead and looked him straight in the eyes.

‘Maybe so.’ Ruki grunted and rolled his eyes, only to feel Reita rub his nose against his own and see him grinn.’Ugh, you.’

‘Hey, don’t you dare go so cold and roll eyes on me.’ Reita pulled back and frowned. ‘I brought you here. You seemed to like the view.’

‘I did like it, yes.’ Ruki was smiling again, sparks lighting up in his eyes.

‘Unfortunately it doesn’t really take my breath away anymore.’ Reita sighed. ‘It used to back in the day but when you see it for the thirtieth time in your life, I don’t know. It loses its magic.’

‘Maybe,’ Ruki begun and stood up, tugging on Reita’s hand to follow him. ‘You should stop looking.’

‘What?’ Reita laughed, completely clueless. He saw Ruki beckoning him to stand before him. Reita’s heart picked up on the pace, knowing Ruki was about to show him something. When he took place Ruki pointed at, he was told to stay where he was and close his eyes. Reita complied, surprised at the command. Soon he felt Ruki’s hands press against his face, successfully blocking the view. Even if he peeked, there was only darkness.

‘What do you feel? What do you smell?’ Ruki asked, his voice calm and steady. His palms were still covering Reita’s eyes, he couldn’t hide how worried he was about the answer. The younger still felt guilty for what he has done back in the toilet stall. It was hard for Ruki to forgive himself something like that, after all of the promises made to himself, that he would leave the past behind. Yet some of the things were imprinted so deep inside his mind, they seemed like a habit, came without a second thought.

‘The sun. I feel the warms rays of sunshine on my skin. The rays of sunshine I am so jealous of.’ Reita answered. He swallowed hard before the rest of the words came out from his mouth. ‘Because it gets to wake you up every morning. It can warm your face up whenever you feel cold. The wind is lightly brushing through my hair, just like I wish I could through your blonde bush whenever I felt like it.’ Reita himself was surprised how tender and gentle he has become. ‘I know you want me to show how beautiful everything around is, Ruki.’ He placed his palms on top of Ruki’s ones, delicately slipping them off his face. Reita turned around and looked into Ruki’s concerned eyes. ‘I appreciate it. But it has no meaning without you.’

‘Reita…’ The blonde begun, but before he could say anything Reita was pressing his crusty lips against his own ones. It was more of a brush of lips, than a kiss, but it made Ruki feel the familiar heat inside anyway. Even though he wasn’t able to openly admit that to Reita. The younger was scared about the big words, a year of hell he has been through efficiently taught him not to open up so easily.

‘I love you.’ Reita finally let those words out. ‘Finally, I know it. I am sure. I don’t care what everyone else thinks. I grew to understand it. I love you.’ When he didn’t get any kind of reply, he allowed his mind to speak freely. ‘I understand if you don’t say you love me. I don’t need it. Just let me be close to you. I will wait. I will give you how much time you will need to fall in love with me.’

‘How many times you said that here? Perfect place, perfect man, perfect everything.’ Ruki fired out. He bit his lips after he realized what he has just said. Even though he didn’t really meant to attack Reita like that, the words flew out of his mouth. ‘Everyone could fall for that.’

‘Many times.’ Reita admitted. ‘I told many girls here that I love them. I handed out that word like a moron. Because I didn’t know what it meant. Now I know. And I only want to hear them back from you. One day.’

‘I am sorry I can’t.’ Ruki choked out. It seemed like a huge ball was stuck inside his throat. Yet he still did his best to explain himself. ‘He. He made me that way. I am sorry.’

‘It doesn’t matter.’ Reita places a reassuring kiss on top of Ruki’s forehead. He wanted to know more about Ruki’s past, he wanted to ask about everything to never repeat the mistakes that asshole made. But it wasn’t really a feasible moment to ask. ‘I will wait. I will do everything not to be like him. To give you what you deserve.’

‘You already did.’ Ruki whispered and leaned in to rest his head on Reita’s torso.

‘What?’ Reita asked, very confused about Ruki’s last statement.

‘You did.’ The blond clenched his fists on the material of Reita’s shirt, trying to bring the older’s body even closer. ‘You said you are sure.’

‘I am.’ Reita hugged the shorter with such a strength he was afraid he could break his bones. Their blissful moment of intimacy was broken by a bell ringing and announcing the end of the lesson. The lesson they ditched anyway. Reita sighed deeply, making the strands of Ruki’s hair before him sway. ‘We should get going.’

‘We should.’ Ruki broke the embrace and immediately picked up a vigorous pace towards the metal hatch and opening it.

Even though Ruki was probably already halfway through the stairs down, Reita was standing there, dumbfounded because he couldn’t figure out if something really changed in Ruki’s behaviour and he seemed a bit more cheerful or was it mind burying him in the illusions.

The answer to all of Reita’s doubts came in few following days. Ruki indeed became a little bit more vocal and smiled more often. Even though nothing changed in their daily routine, the kisses they shared seemed to be more deep, totally taking their breath away. The sky they walked together seemed to be more blue. Koron’s barks whenever Reita showed up at Ruki’s house, seemed to be a lot louder. The whole world seemed to be more vivid in colours, filled with more kind people than it was before.

On Friday, two days after the accident on the school’s rooftop, when they were lazily making out on Reita’s bed, the older dared to bite on one of Ruki’s collarbones a bit to harshly, resulting in few red marks left on the flawless skin. When Ruki didn’t mouth any complaints, Reita was even more daring and straight up marked Ruki’s neck with two juicy hickeys that wouldn’t be gone in a week. Of course Ruki couldn’t allow himself to fall behind so he bruised Reita’s chest.

Those three hickeys on Reita’s pecs rose many questions in the soccer team changing room on Saturday. Even though Kai tried to save the situation and warned Reita to put his t-shirt before Aoi got to see the marks, it was too late. Aoi snached the piece of clothing from Reita and closely inspected the bruises, whistling loudly. Everyone got ramped up about it and begun on asking questions about the sinful lips that get to do that to him. Even though most of his mind was about to scream out loud about how much he loved Ruki, but the other part, the last rational bit was successfully inhibiting the louder one. So he brushed off all of the questions with a silent rise of shoulders and a sheepish look.

Obviously, nothing has stopped them from doing their every week extravaganza that was a long walk in the forest. For the first time ever, when Reita came to the house across the street, Ruki’s father wasn’t looking at him with that piercing look of his. Not that he smiled at Reita but his eyes softened slightly, the way he greeted Reita much less scary than usual. He even gave a pat on Ruki’s back and wished for both of them to have a great time.They did. They did have a great time in their green refuge. Not only they were sheltered from the heat and sun there but also from the unnecessary onlookers. Excluding the birds that came by every now and then when Ruki threw them a bunch of crumbs on the ground.

Of course not everything was as seamless and perfect. First of all, Ruki still had his reflexes whenever Reita made more rapid move or raised the tone of his voice, Ruki would shut himself off. Luckily with every passing day Reita was getting more and more aware of what triggered the dissociation and how it looked like. It might have taken a few ‘I love you’s said by Reita to completely wash away Ruki’s guilt. But the older didn’t mind at all.

Second of all, Reita’s mom. She was getting more and more suspicious about Reita and Ruki’s relationship. The way she judged Ruki every time he happened to visit Reita at his house, was uncomfortable for Ruki and Reita saw that. Yet he couldn’t do anything about it. When they were alone just Reita and his mother, she wasn’t careful with her words, obnoxiously asking since when Reita was friends with such a weird people. Every time Reita was going to Ruki’s house she would ask for the details. Why he wanted to go there? What for? For how long? Usually Reita would reply with a half-truth half-lie. Just like on the Sunday when he said Ruki needed some help with chemistry.

Technically, Ruki did need help with chemistry. With motivating himself to revise to the chemistry test he had. So practically it was Ruki who taught Reita about the topics, the older allegedly was supposed to know by that time. But he was never a hard-working student. Especially science wasn’t familiar subject to him. Yet when the tutor was Ruki, Reita was actually interested in what he was talking about. Even when Reita would ask some kind of really basic question or kindly say he didn’t understand what Ruki was saying, the younger would chuckle cutely but skillfully break it into pieces for Reita. As if tutoring was running in his veins.

When Reita finally understood the whole topic Ruki was supposed to cover for that test, meaning that his boyfriend was fluent in knowledge enough to pass the test, both of them were rewarded with a few blissful minutes of innocent cuddling and sharing lazy kisses. Then they went to eat a delicious dinner with Ruki’s mother. A bitter feeling in Reita’s stomach appeared when he realized the kitchen of Ruki’s house, filled with the laughter of the three of them, the smell of fresh tea and loud, sloppy chews of Koron, felt more like home than his own house.

The following day was about to bring something that both of them didn’t expect it to bring on the Monday morning bus ride, that was just like every other one. During the lunch break when Ruki passed the table Reita was sitting at with the rest of the soccer team, he could do nothing but smirk under his nose. Why? Because he knew that underneath the neatly ironed white shirt and carefully buttoned marine of of the uniform were multiple lovebites. And the way Ruki’s hair was hanging freely from the top of his head? It was obvious to Reita it was just to hide the red mark right underneath the blonde’s ear.

But how he could not make all of those hickeys when throughout the last few days Ruki’s skin was begging for it. All of the wonderful mewls he tore from his boyfriend while making them only gave him more motivation. His sinful thoughts were scattered when Aoi hit him on the head with the back of his hand and reminded he should eat not think about god-only-knows-what.

Ruki’s behaviour during they walk to home left Reita full of suspicions. It was unusual. Weird. The younger was walking more vigorously, smiling a bit wider, not really stopping at the places they often stopped to look at the flowers. It seemed like he was in a rush to get home. Reita wondered what was the reason behind all of that. When they were in the spot near their houses, where they usually part their ways, Ruki surprised Reita once again that day.

‘Can I visit?’ Ruki asked, his eyes sparkling with hope.

‘Yeah?’ Reita’s voice came out as uncertain. But he quickly redeemed himself. ‘I mean of course, of course you can!’

Before Reita finished talking, Ruki was halfway through the pathway to Reita’s house. As soon as Reita opened the door, Ruki was vigorously jumping in and throwing his backpack on the floor, immediately getting rid of his shoes. Reita followed, still confused. On the other hand Ruki was waiting patiently until there were slippers on Reita’s feet and Reita’s backpack lying on the floor next to his own. But there was that disturbing grin on his face, Reita has never seen yet. Soon the younger was dragging Reita by the hand on the stairs.

‘Aren’t you hungry?’ Reita asked out of nowhere.

‘I am.’ Ruki chuckled and rushed towards Reita’s bedroom.

That kind of statement definitely wasn’t helping Reita’s confusion but it all became clear when the door to Reita’s bedroom were shut. Ruki was immediately pulling Reita closer by the marine and raising himself on his toes to reach Reita’s lips. It was the first time ever Ruki was initiating such a desperate kiss. For a short while Reita was so shocked that he froze and forgot to response to the touch. It seemed like his heart stopped for a moment only to try to jump out of his ribcage in next second. He travelled his hand on Ruki’s back only to put his fingers between the strands of Ruki’s hair and deepen the kiss.

‘What has gotten into you today?’ Reita smiled happily at the red from the lack of oxygen face of his boyfriend. Before he could get an answer he was tugged by his arm towards the bed. Soon he was sitting at the foot end of his bed and looking suspiciously at the blond. ‘Seriously Ruki. Something happened?’

Ruki climbed on the bed, sat in Reita’s lap and threw his arms around Reita’s neck. ‘I Aced the maths test.’ He grinned. ‘And I think the re-take of that chemistry test will be flawless as well.’

Really? That was is? Reita wondered, but smiled heartfeltly and bopped Ruki’s nose. ‘That’s the boy I love. Good job.’ He leaned in and stole another kiss. Damn, how much he loved the taste of Ruki’s lips. The presence of the younger was like a magic aura around him.

After few seconds Ruki’s hands travelled on Reita’s chest and opened the first two buttons of Reita’s shirt. When the kiss was broken, leaving both of them short on breath, Ruki was immediately leaning in towards the part of Reita’s skin that was bared. He brushed it with his swollen lips and whispered. ‘I want you.’ Ruki felt goosebumps appearing on Reita’s skin after those words and he couldn’t help but smile.

‘Ruki, I,’ Reita hesitated. ‘I want you, but my mother…’

‘Your mother comes back in two hours.’ Ruki reminded. Another button was out of its hole. He delivered a flat tongue lick on Reita’s sternum and looked up at his thrown-off boyfriend. ‘I want you.’ He repeated himself.

‘Ruki,’ Reita was in shock. He imagined this moment, he couldn’t deny he hasn’t fantasized about Ruki’s naked body but something inside him was still making him a little bit uncomfortable. Not necessarily this was the first time he would have sex with a boy, Reita grew to accept that already without any further objections or question. It was the fact he didn’t want to hurt the blonde. ‘Are you sure?’

Instead of replying verbally Ruki straightened himself up in Reita’s lap and took one of Reita’s hands in his own and placed it on his crotch. There was definitely more pressure against the material of his pants than usually. Ruki looked Reita straight into the eyes. With their gazes locked, Ruki travelled Reita’s hand up, slowly allowing it to slide along the skin of his stomach, lifting of the material of his shirt, exposing his torso. He stopped when Reita’s hand was resting right in between Ruki’s faint pectoral muscles. Ruki knew Reita could feel the fast heartbeat through the skin. ‘I want you. I want you. The real me.’

Reita indeed could feel both, the boner of the younger and the heart beating like crazy. And he couldn’t say he was doing any better since his cock definitely took interest in the situation. The way Ruki was so confident made him embarrassed. He felt like a virgin. Additionally he still couldn’t decide if he was ready to have sex with Ruki. So he sat there looking with a storm going through his head when suddenly his body was thrown on the bed. Before he could react in any kind of way, Ruki sat on his stomach, forcefully making him exhale loudly.

‘I thought you leaned not to overthink everything.’ Ruki sighed and lost his shirt, carelessly throwing it on the bedroom floor. He put his feet on Reita’s forearms, successfully preventing Reita from moving. ‘Maybe I should just make you watch.’

Reita saw Ruki lick his lips, slowly and sensually. He noticed Ruki’s gaze was becoming more and more heavy. That definitely wasn’t helping Reita’s dick. It was half-hard and heavy in his pants. Maybe Reita was overthinking but it was because he didn’t want to do anything wrong. So when Reita saw Ruki put his hand on his own crotch, he immediately turned his head away and clenched his eyes.

‘Oh no.’

Those were the only words that reached Reita’s ears before he felt Ruki’s small feet ease on the pressure, then disappear completely. The weight from his stomach was gone soon. He opened his eyes and quickly sat up, only to see Ruki kneeling on the bed next to him, covering his mouth with his hands, looking terrified. ‘Ruki…’

‘I am sorry.’ Ruki’s voice was muffled by the hand. ‘I am so selfish. I am sorry. I did it to make sure I am out of the guilt cycle, that he… I should get going.’

Reita noticed Ruki’s eyes were becoming hazy and absent and he knew what that meant. So before his boyfriend could even think about escaping the bed, Reita grabbed him by the slim waist and pulled back onto his lap. ‘No. Don’t go cold on me. Let me explain.’ Reita pleaded, pressing Ruki’s naked torso closer to him, gently caressing the skin with his rough hands.

‘He,’ Ruki started, to Reita’s surprise. ‘When I did better than him, when I did good, he would…’ The younger paused, swallowing hard, weighing in his head if he should open up. Yes, he should. Reita deserved to know why he was like that. ‘He would drag me to a bathroom and use me. Tell me that I deserve it.’ With every work he spoke, he felt Reita hug him tightly. He appreciated the touch, feeling comfort to a certain extend.

‘I am sorry.’ Those are the only words Reita found suitable to say at that moment. He hoped it was enough. Ruki’s body wasn’t shaking in his arms, fortunately.

‘I wanted to prove myself that I deserve to have sex under my circumstances and I ended up not thinking about you at all.’ Ruki sighed, disappointed at himself. ‘I am so sorry.’

‘You didn’t hurt me or forced me to do anything, hey.’ Reita decided it was time to take Ruki’s mind off the painful topic. Learning about him one step at a time was something that Reita was used to and completely fine with. So he shared the true reason why he reacted like that minutes before. ‘In fact, it was me. I screwed up.’

‘What?’ Ruki looked up, frowning in confusion.

‘I mean you are gorgeous, who wouldn’t want to you know.’ Reita smiled sheepishly at Ruki. He couldn’t believe he was about to admit it. ‘I guess I am… shy?’

‘You are what?’ Ruki’s jaw fell down, mouth opened widely. ‘What?’

‘Well,’ Reita’s smiled turned into a grimace, one of his hands went off Ruki’s back to scratch the back of his head. ‘I haven’t done anything like that with a boy and I think I am a little bit embarrassed.’

‘You? The captain of school soccer team? The hottest dude in the school?’ Ruki’s shock was genuine. ‘Embarrassed? In front of me?’

‘Woah, woah, that’s a lot of questions. Yes. Just a little bit.’ Reita laughed awkwardly at the way Ruki’s face remained confused, the ends of his eyebrows almost touching. ‘I guess the star of the school is so in love with you that he is afraid of not being good enough for you. Or not treating you well.’

‘You are afraid I am not going to be satisfied?’ Ruki chuckled. ‘It is not my selfishness that turned you off?’

‘Hey, you can always dump me if you don’t like the sex.’ Reita shrugged his shoulders. 'And who said I am turned off?’

‘That’s what assholes like you are supposed to do, aren’t they?.’ Ruki smiled and poked Reita’s chest with his finger. ‘Wait.’ It got through to him what Reita has just said. He placed his hand on Reita’s crotch. ‘There is still a boner right here.’

‘Maybe.’ Reita avoided Ruki’s eyes. Hell yeah there was a boner there. Who wouldn’t have a boner when the person you love and care about the most says he wants to have sex with you. ‘I don’t know.’

‘Reita.’ Ruki smiled and leaned in for a kiss. He shifted his position, placing both of his knees on each side of Reita’s thighs. The blonde took Reita’s face in his hands and broke the kiss by smiling against Reita’s lips.

‘Now I feel kind of bad for ruining the mood earlier.’ Reita whispered against Ruki’s lips. He pouted.

‘Who said the mood is ruined.’ Ruki giggled and got rid of Reita’s shirt. ‘Near such a perfect body, who wouldn’t be in a mood.’

‘Ruki you are so vocal today.’ Ruki’s words made him blush. How this little devil was able to reduce him to a blushing mess. He felt like a virgin. Well, to a certain degree he was one, right. ‘You still haven’t told me what to do?’

‘Keep on blushing.’ Ruki chuckled but placed another kiss on Reita’s lips. That one was just a quick feather-like brush.

‘Okay,’ Reita didn’t know what kind of game Ruki was playing with him but it wasn’t easing the embarrassment. It seemed like Ruki enjoyed having Reita in such state. ‘But seriously, I don’t know how to pleasure you, you need to explain.’

‘I thought you wouldn’t need an explanation on how the dick works.’ Ruki just couldn’t stop himself from teasing Reita. Yes, he would drop his game when he would get to it, but it might the only chance to see Reita in that kind of state, so he wanted to savour it. ‘I can show you.’ He leaned in and whispered straight into Reita’s ear. ‘When I will be blowing you.’

‘But Ruki...’ Reita begun but stopped when he felt Ruki unbuckle his belt and remove his pants. With all of that teasing his cock was visibly filly hard in his boxers. That was so embarrassing. ‘Won’t that be unfair?’

‘Relax and enjoy.’ Ruki pushed on Reita’s body, making it fall on the mattress for the second time that afternoon. ‘I will enjoy it more than you think.’ Ruki run his hands along Reita’s things. ‘You have nice legs.’

‘You have a thing for le-ah shit .’ His thoughts lost their coherency when he felt Ruki lean in and suck on one of his thighs. Those sinful lips where marking him skillfully while a pair of hands was lowering his boxers. Soon they were out of the way, joining the mess on the floor.

‘I do have a thing for legs.’ It didn’t have to be said out loud since he was biting the skin of Reita’s thighs hungrily, little mewls escaping his mouth. He didn’t expect an actual reply from his boyfriend since he just curled his hand around Reita’s hard cock. When he moved it up and down, a deep groan reached his ears. He could roll with that kind of reply.

Soon he was done abusing and marking Reita’s thighs so he could focus fully on pleasuring his boyfriend. He shamelessly locked his eyes with Reita’s ones before delivering a flat tongue lick along one of the biggest veins on the older’s cock. A loud gasp escaped Reita’s mouth, his hands clenched on the sheets. If such a simple touch was enough to arouse him so much, Ruki dared to go a little bit further and he circles the tip of his tongue around the crown. The sound Reita made went straight to his own cock so he reached his hand to relieve some of the pain of having his manhood trapped behind the material of his pants. He couldn’t make Reita wait anymore. He has suffered enough.

Reita felt Ruki’s mouth close around the crown of his cock. The unfamiliar wetness and warmth was enveloping his hardness. It was the first time he happened to have his cock sucked so he couldn’t really judge but Ruki’s oral skills felt heavenly. The lazy flicks of the tongue, mid-speed bobs, light sucking and movement of hand on the part he wasn’t reaching with his mouth were successfully nearing Reita to the orgasm. A pair of hazy eyes looking straight at his face wasn’t helping at all. Or was helping a lot.

‘I’m close.’ Reita was embarrassed to admit that, but the fact he was being blown so skillfully really got him really ramped up quicker than he expected. Or maybe it wasn’t the skills but the person. Usually he could last a lot longer. Damn. But when Ruki changed the angles of his strokes and speeded up the movements of his head, Reita was thrusting his hips up unconsciously and coming undone.

Ruki immediately pulled away and stroked Reita through his orgasm. Thick and warm spurts of come landed on Reita’s stomach. Ruki couldn’t help himself but smile at the sight of Reita panting deeply, his body relaxed, his mind in bliss. The urge to taste Reita’s semen was too strong in him, so he leaned down and licked one of the strands off. He used to believe it was something only done in porn but when he tasted it for the first time, he came to a conclusion it wasn’t half-bad.

It took a while for Reita to comprehend what happened when a tongue landed on top of his stomach. Ruki must have swallowed. Reita sat up after few seconds and saw Ruki removing his pants. The boxers were next. Even though it was fourth or fifth time Reita actually saw Ruki fully naked, it still left him speechless. He brought Ruki closer to his body once again that day making him sit in his lap. Reita’s breath wasn’t steady yet, the cold air escaping his lungs, hitting Ruki’s heated skin, making the younger shiver.

Reita looked at Ruki’s mouth. After all it was a mouth that has been on his cock just a minute ago. But the hesitation was gone as soon as he realized it was the mouth that brought him so much pleasure and it deserved to be kissed. One hundred times a day. So he entangled their mouths together. He put his hand in Ruki’s hair and deepened the kiss. It was desperate, their tongues dancing around each other’s mouths. When the older felt Ruki’s hands roam around his back, he thugged on Ruki’s hair and kissed even more vigorously. As an answer he got a bunch of nails digging inside his shoulder blades.

‘Touch me.’ Ruki broke the kiss only to smash their mouths together.

All of the hesitation and embarrassment seemed to float away from Reita when he was blindly searching for Ruki’s hard cock standing proudly between his legs, throbbing and ready. He circled his hand and immediately begun on moving it up and down, hoping he was doing a great job. The mewls that came out from Ruki’s throat convinced him he was.

Moreover, luckily Ruki turned out to be as easy to read for Reita as a mystery book. The older completely focused on what Ruki’s body was telling him to do. Every time Ruki’s hips thrusted up, Reita knew he was moving his hand in correct way. It took few more strokes and Reita knew exactly how to twist, which places to pay attention to.

So soon Reita was expertely stroking Ruki’s cock while abusing his neck, biting on the muscles. The sinful incoherent single vowels that escaped Ruki’s mouth came back as an echo every time, what made them even more hotter. It didn’t take much time before Ruki was on the edge. When Reita put his tongue inside the shell of Ruki’s ear, the younger thrusted his hips for the last time, arching his back, considerately supported by Reita’s arms. Reita felt the semen splatter on his stomach and hand.

Ruki collapsed on Reita’s chest, breathing heavily, coming out of the high. ‘Thank you.’ He whispered against one of the bruises on Reita’s skin he made earlier. Ruki felt Reita’s palm caressing his back and the lips of his boyfriend kissing the top of his head. When Ruki finally came back on Earth, he saw Reita awkwardly looking at one of his hands, as if trying to decide on something.

The hand was covered in his own come. Before Reita could stop him, Ruki was taking one of the fingers inside his mouth, collecting his own spunk from Reita’s fingers. He hoped that would give Reita a clue that Ruki was indeed a dirty person when, but wouldn’t scare him away. Ruki looked Reita in the eyes and poked the tongue with his own come out and said as clearly as he could. ‘It is not bad, rea… nnngh .’

Reita was kissing Ruki, searching with his tongue for the semen of the younger. It was surreal and weird. But those two feelings were everyday life since the moment he met Ruki. Surreal. Weird. And amazing. Okay, maybe not the taste of Ruki’s come on his tongue. His boyfriend was right, it was not that bad.

‘I didn’t know it was sweet.’ Reita grinned, looking at the glistening from sweat shocked face before him. As an answer he was pushed once again on the mattress, Ruki leaning above him, the small hands on each side of his head.

‘It’s because I eat a lot of fruits.’ Ruki looked at Reita with savage in his eyes. ‘Your was bitter.’

Before the younger could say anything more, Reita was pushing him and changing their position so Reita was on top now, his gaze dreamy and hazy. ‘I can’t believe we came from stargazing together to discussing the taste of our semen in just a month.’

Ruki threw his legs over Reita’s hips and pulled the muscular body closer to himself. He kissed Reita lazily. Suddenly he felt Reita’s cock brush against his thigh. ‘Hey don’t get yourself worked up again, your mother is back soon.’

‘Okay,’ Reita smirked. ‘But promise me, you won’t make me wait until you Ace another test.’

‘As if it’s going to take long.’ Ruki fussed and pushed Reita off him playfully.

‘I’m kidding.’ Reita laughed and allowed himself to steal another lazy kiss from Ruki.

Suddenly in the room resounded a melody that was Reita’s phone ring. Reita growled, annoyed. Who on Earth dared to ruin such a wonderful moment. He reached for the phone, sending an apologizing look at Ruki. Before he fished it out from the back pocket of his pants, the call was already over. But as soon as he unlocked it, there was a message popping out.

 

URUHA : Call back ASAP

 

Now that was unusual. He was talking with Uruha on Saturday so definitely something has happened. Uruha rarely called from Monday to Friday because his schedule was tightly packed. ‘It was Uruha.’ Reita stated, a worry clearly noticeable in his voice.

‘Call him back. I got my cuddles.’ Ruki got up from the bed. He was smiling widely, crealy sated. ‘I could use a shower if you don’t mind.’

‘You know the way.’ Reita returned the smile. ‘We keep clean towels in the drawer under the mirror.’

Ruki nodded to that. He was halfway through putting back on his boxers when he felt a piece of clothing land on top of his head, blocking the view completely. Ruki picked it up and examined. It was Reita’s t-shirt.

‘Thought you would look good in it.’ Reita shrugged his shoulders when Ruki’s confused gaze reached him. He saw the younger blush, then roll his eyes. Before the blonde left Reita wanted to say one more thing. ‘Hey, Ruki?’

‘Yes?’

‘I love you.’ Reita said, not really expecting to hear it back. He pressed the green headphone icon next to Uruha’s face.

The blonde quickly walked through the door, slamming it close. He pressed his forehead to the wooden surface in a hopeless manner. ‘I am afraid Reita,’ he whispered to himself. ‘I am in love with you, too.’

Chapter Text

It only took two dial signals for Uruha to pick up the phone. But before he could say anything Reita was already scowling, annoyed. ‘I am telling you right now, you ruined very important moment in my life so whatever happened, I expect it to blow my mind.’ He snickered to himself at the double meaning of these words.

Why are you laughing?’ Uruha’s voice came out concerned. ‘ I am pretty sure you are going to be blown.’

‘Great, that would make it two.’ If his friend decided to call in such an inappropriate moment, Reita couldn’t do anything but tease him a little bit.

Make what two?’ Uruha was sounded so confused. And well, he had all the right to be like that.

‘Two parts of my body that are going to be blown.’ Reita replied, a smug appearing on his face. If only Uruha could see that expression of victory right now.

Blown… What?’ It took a moment for Uruha to realize what was hidden behind that statement. ‘ Wait, oh shit. Did I call in a moment that bad? Dude, I am sorry.’

‘No, no.’ Reita laughed, quite amused at the fact Uruha was definitely getting embarrassed on the other side of the phone. Just the vague image of Uruha being stressed about depriving him of a blow job was worth the call. ‘Ruki is already in the shower, so don’t worry. We’re cool.’

Ruki, ah, yeah.Your boyfriend.’ Uruha laughed awkwardly, not really knowing what was suitable to say in that situation. But since they were best friends, Uruha decided there was nothing wrong with teasing Reita back a bit. ‘ I hope you lasted longer than your usual 14 seconds.’

‘Very funny.’ Reita huffed, faking the anger. Smooth way out of being cornered, Reita had to give Uruha credit for that. ‘But I doubt you called me to know the details how my dick is doing, so start talking.’

Okay…’ Out of a sudden there was uncertainty in Uruha’s voice. ‘ Firstly, have a sit and promise me to tell me the truth about how you feel.’

‘I am sitting.’ Reita was so started with that request. ‘As if I’ve ever lied to you, bro. I am getting impatient.’

Fine, fine.’ The words meant one, but Uruha’s voice clearly wasn’t fine. It was shaking. ‘ So hold on something, because this might knock you off the chair.’

‘Uruha, I swear,’ Reita was seriously getting fed up with the whole mystery in the air. ‘I am going to hang up if you won’t start talking right now.’

I was accepted to practise with Japanese National Soccer Team with a possibility of getting recruited. I start in two months.’

It was like a punch in the stomach. His best friend. Training with national team. Unbelievable. The words of congratulations got stuck inside his throat. There was a hurricane of thoughts running around his mind. Of course he was happy and proud. His own, very best friend. Woah. But at the same time there was a bitterness lingering somewhere on his tongue.

The silence that was lasting at least ten seconds was a clear sign to Uruha that Reita wasn’t taking well the news. ‘ I shouldn’t have told you like that, out of a sudden…’

‘What are you talking about?’ Reita managed to choke out. He cleared his throat, trying to get rid of the imaginary ball that got stuck inside it. ‘I am super happy for you! My brother Uruha in our national team. Damn!’

I know right?’ Uruha giggled. ‘ I still can’t believe it at all! It’s like our dreams are coming true!’

Our dreams, they are no longer our dreams, Reita thought to himself, recognizing that there was certain gloom spreading through his brain. ‘That’s so awesome, congratulations!’ He tried his best not to let Uruha know how bitter he was over the news.

Yeah, thanks. I will do my best not to disappoint you.’ Uruha promised. The teenager was well are that Reita was going to be mad because of the news and he expected an outburst. After all of he has done to Reita - leaving him in the middle of last year in high school, calling only once a week and now fulfilling dreams that both of them were chasing - he was aware his friend had all the right to hold grudges against him. But he was surprisingly supportive what melted Uruha’s anxiety a little bit. ‘ You know, since I owe a lot of my passion to you and without you I wouldn’t be here…’

‘Stop it, stop it’ Reita laughed it off. ‘It is all your hard work, right.’

Let me finish, goddamn.’ Uruha barked. But the next sentences were spoken in a tone that gave away the words were sincere. ‘ I want to invite the both of you over to Tokyo. To a celebratory weekend.’

‘The both of us?’ What Uruha meant by that, Reita wondered. ‘Am I supposed to choose between Kai and Aoi or something?’

No, idiot.’ Uruha sighed deeply. ‘ You and your boyfriend.’

‘Are you serious?’ Suddenly all of the jealousy and anger was pushed in the corner to be replaced with shock. ‘Ruki and I? That would be amazing! Tell me more.’

Of course I am serious! I want to meet that perfect man you talk about all the time.’ Uruha laughed, relieved he manage to cease Reita, even in a slightest bit. ‘ I was thinking not the next weekend, but the following one? I mean of course I will do everything to adjust to whatever you guys find best for you.’

‘But we are not going to be a burden, right?’ He still wasn’t the most confident about the whole people accepting him having a boyfriend. After all Uruha was the only one person he has came out to.

A burden?!’ Uruha sounded genuinely offended. ‘ How my best friend and his boyfriend are supposed to be a burden, you idiot. Just tell me if the date is okay with the both of you and we will work something out. Of course I am paying for everything.’

‘As if I am going to let you pay for me.’ Reita rolled his eyes. He knew Uruha wasn’t able to see him but he was sure it was audible in his voice.

Well, you are going to be surprised when you see the prices here in a big city.’ Uruha said, amused at how precious his friend was being. He was seriously looking forward meeting Reita after such a while. ‘ Reita, one more thing.’

‘Yes?’ Reita leaned back on the chair, not really sure if he could handle any more news. ‘I am listening.’

Or you know what, two more things.’ Uruha admitted. ‘ First of all, thank you for everything, bro.’

‘Ahh, cut the emotional crap, Uruha.’ Reita sighed loudly. ‘I might start crying and my manly image will be destroyed.’

What manly image?’ Uruha teased, but finally got to his point. ‘I haven’t told the other team members yet, so if it is not a problem, stay silent, okay? I want to tell the couch first and ask him to tell everyone.’

‘Of course you are.’ A familiar warmth spread through Reita’s chest. After all Uruha was still the same modest and professional dude he spent the whole childhood with. ‘Our Uruha. The star of national team.’

Hey, hey I am not like officially in yet, okay?’ The student admitted. ‘ Rei-chan, I must get going, we are having an important meeting about laws or something. You wouldn’t believe how much paper work a soccer player is forced to do.’ He laughed. ‘They are telling me to hang up, sorry Rei. Remember to give me feedback on the date. I will call you on the weekend. Bye!’

‘Bye.’ Reita whispered gloomily, even though there was definitely no one listening, since there were only high pitched sounds swirling around in Reita’s ear. He pressed the red button to end the call and carelessly placed the phone on his desk. His eyes started watering, tears forming in the corners so he started blinking and begun on massaging his nose with his fingers. No way he was going to cry because of that.

When the urge just wasn’t going away, he stood up and rushed to the shelf where he kept all of his medals and cups. Additionally there was spectrum of pictures of him and Uruha from childhood, that his mom insisted on framing. In every single one of them there were two kids looking at him and smiling widely. Their heads were filled with such crazy dreams back in the day, Reita thought. And for Uruha they turned into reality when now for Reita they were only delusions.

Suddenly he felt a wave of hate towards the child in the pictures. The child that was wearing the same t-shirt as his friend, the same shoes as his friend, showing his teeth in the same obnoxious way. He was disgusted with himself. Reita’s eyes landed on all of the trophies. They were the same as all of Uruha’s cups. All the titles they always won together. So why only Uruha has got to reach their goals. It was unfair. What was lacking in him. He was working just as hard, dreaming just as bright.

He didn’t even notice how his fists were clenching, nails painfully digging into his skin. And what will happen from now on? Uruha has already left him alone in that small town they grew up in. It took him three months to just get over that. How possibly he can be over something like that. Uruha. In the national team. When everything Reita was left with was a high school team that he can no longer continue with after he graduates. He had no idea what he wanted to do after he graduates either. His life was a mess. A delusional mess.

‘Can I hang the damp towel on your chair?’ Ruki entered the room, clean and fresh.

The question shook Reita off from his hateful thoughts and before he could even think straight he was snapping at Ruki. ‘I don’t give a shit where you hang a stupid towel.’ He barked, not even sparing a look in the direction that Ruki’s voice came from.

‘Reita…’ Ruki started, confused at Reita’s behaviour. He approached his boyfriend slowly and cautiously. ‘Are you fine?’

‘Do I look fine to you?!’ The older shouted and turned towards Ruki, rage in his eyes. It was gone as soon as he saw a simple gesture Ruki made. It was like a slap on the cheek, seeing your boyfriend turning his face away from you and putting his forearm in front of his face in an act of defence. What has he done. ‘Ruki, I am sorry, I didn’t mean it.’ Reita reached his hand towards Ruki, but didn’t dare to touch him.

Ruki slowly and uncertainty lowered the arm and looked at Reita. He didn’t really want to react in that way but it came like a reflex. ‘It’s okay, I can take a lot.’

‘What are you talking about, you are not here to take anything for me. Especially not when I am mad like that.’ Reita opened his arms showed Ruki a gaze begging for forgiveness. ‘Come here.’ Soon he felt Ruk’s slim and freshly smelling body pressed to his own. ‘I shouldn’t have shouted like that at you, you just happened to be the closest person. I am so so sorry.’ He closed his arms around his boyfriend and embraced him more tightly. ‘I promise it won’t happen again.’ After those words Reita felt Ruki shiver in his hug, cringing. ‘Ruki, what’s going on?’

‘Please don’t say a phrase like that ever again.’ Ruki asked, clearly ashamed of himself. ‘It,’ he started, hesitantly. He wrapped his arms around Reita’s torso and tightened the hug even more. ‘It makes me uncomfortable.’

‘Of course.’ It was a weird request but not an impossible one so Reita immediately agreed. Even though the sentence was about to spill from his tongue once again, because it was most suitable one, he realized he what he was about to say and rephrased it. ‘I am going to avoid that sentence.’

‘Thank you.’ Ruki looked up at Reita with a concerned glare. ‘Now that we got it out of the way. What happened? Is Uruha alright? You looked infuriated.’

‘Actually…’ Reita started, weighing if after what he has done, it was feasible to just pour all of his bad emotions and doubts on Ruki. But he deserved a proper explanation. And after all Ruki was his friend as well, right. ‘Let’s sit on the bed.’

‘So what’s in the overthinking mind of yours?’ Ruki asked, comfortably cross sitting on the mattress when Reita was extremely tense right next to him. ‘Is it some bad news?’

‘Quite on the contrary, excellent news.’ Reita sighed. ‘Uruha’s got chosen to begin training with the national soccer team. You know, the national team.’

‘But that’s wonderful news.’ Ruki said, not quite able to read through why Reita was so upset about it. ‘Isn’t it?’

‘I mean, yeah. Of course it’s amazing to see my friend success. I am not jealous or anything. He worked hard for his goals. But,’ The student made a pause here, trying to comprehend why exactly he was so mad. Encouraging and curious look from Ruki helped him open up. ‘It is so hard to accept I am not there with him. That I am hopelessly stuck with nothing, here, when he has a chance of signing the contract with Japanese National Team. It seems so surreal. We were always together.’

‘You are afraid he is going to forget you.’ Ruki stated, more than asked.

‘Well, honestly. I don’t know.’ Ruki touched the nerve. Maybe that was exactly what Reita was afraid of. He hasn’t thought about it in that way yet. ‘I think I am more scared that he is going to be ashamed of me.’

‘Ashamed?’ Ruki didn’t hide the shock in his voice. ‘Why would he feel like that about you? Aren’t you guys best friends?’

‘We are. I cannot explain it but I feel like he will think of me as a loser. That I will never reach the goals of that child standing right next to a future Japan’s soccer star.’ Reita nodded towards the shelf. ‘What if there will be no chance for me to catch up with him. I will graduate with nothing. No future, no goals, no perspectives. I will end up living an ordinary life among ordinary people. Boring, repeatable life.’

‘Why this is a reason to be ashamed of?’ Ruki wondered out loud. ‘You don’t have to live an extraordinary life to be happy. People who wake up every day just to mow the grass in the park for eight hours straight, they can be pretty successful as well. And happy. I think job isn’t your whole life.’

‘But I doubt these people’s dream was to become a grass mower. They just end up there because they weren’t able to reach their goals.’ Reita pointed out. ‘This is what is scaring me. That I will become nobody in his eyes.’

‘Reita,’ Ruki chuckled, clearly amused at his boyfriend’s behaviour. ‘First of all, Reita. You are more for people than your status and your job. Who cares about it. I am sure Uruha values much more about you than your career. Second of all, it is completely fine to admit you are a little bit jealous. Because you are, I know it. Who wouldn’t be jealous. You will grow to accept it, though. You are not a savage person, who will turn his back on a successful friend. And last thing, Rei. Goals are just certain points in your life that are helping you to get things done. But they are short and unimportant moments. Challenges, let’s call them. What really matters for you is the experience you gain in between reaching each goal. Even if you don’t reach them, you collect the knowledge.’

‘You make it sound so easy.’ Reita huffed, realising that he was indeed scared about his future being boring and not related with what he really loved - soccer. ‘Why am I getting lectured on dealing with things by a sophomore, huh. You sound like a fully responsible adult.’ Reita laughed bitterly.

‘I am not lecturing you.’ Ruki said with a judging face. ‘I am reminding you that there is much more people like about you than being a good soccer player.’

‘Thank you.’ Reita smiled and ruffled Ruki’s blond bush with his hand. It was probably the most perfect moment to mention Uruha actually invited the both of them to come over on one of the weekends. But Reita held back from sharing it with his boyfriend yet. He still wasn’t sure how he felt about all of that. ‘I am still not quite sure what to think. I still want to achieve something.’

‘Wait didn’t you mention once or twice that there is hm…’ Ruki wondered, making a pause and crawling on Reita’s lap. ‘That if you are going to make it to the best soccer player in the prefecture, there is a chance for you to show off in front of important people or something?’

‘I do actually, yeah.’ Reita confirmed. ‘But I am quite old so not many people are going to prefer me over younger players.’

‘What about all of the titles you’ve got so far?’ Ruki wondered. ‘Wouldn’t it give you some kind of advantage?’

‘I guess.’ The black-haired student kept doubting himself. ‘But I am lacking at least two medals that Uruha got awarded with.’

‘Okay, but you know what title Uruha will never get?’ Ruki wrapped his arms around Reita’s neck. ‘Ever?’

‘Not really.’ Reita said, curiosity present in the tone of his voice. When a smirk appeared on Ruki’s lips, he couldn't do anything but grinn.

‘The title of my favourite soccer player.’

‘Oh.’ Reita definitely didn’t expect that kind of answer. At first he was shocked, but soon it was replaced with the warm feeling spreading  inside his chest. ‘Am I your favourite soccer player?

‘I guess.’ Ruki smiled faintly and leaned in to brush his lips against Reita’s ones. ‘I only blow my favourite soccer players.’

Reita felt his cheeks getting warmer. He didn’t want to believe he was once again on that day blushing in front of Ruki. He was a mess. The giggle coming out of his boyfriend’s mouth was only make it worse. ‘I am sorry I have ruined the mood twice today.’

‘It’s okay.’ The faint smile remaining on Ruki’s lips was honest. ‘As long as you keep on blushing.’ He leaned closer and rubbed the tip of his nose against Reita’s warm cheek. Both of them enjoyed the intimacy of the touch when suddenly there was a loud rumble coming from Ruki’s stomach. ‘I guess you can redeem yourself by cooking something for me.’

‘Okay.’ Reita nodded, bright sparkles back inside his pupils. His mind still couldn’t comprehend what Ruki had in himself that made him so domestic and comfortable. ‘Let’s go then.’

Just in few minutes the both of them were chopping vegetables and throwing them in the pan, enjoying the calm sound of sizzling in the quiet room. Out of the corner of his eye Reita was checking Ruki out. And part of him was pretty upset that the beautiful body, he has got to please just about hour earlier,  was hiding under his t-shirt that was visibly too big. At some point Ruki’s elbow got stuck inside the sleeve of the piece of clothing. Reita couldn’t not chuckle under his nose.

‘What are you laughing at?’ Ruki huffed, annoyed. He plopped the vegetable stew on top of a bowl full of rice and quickly headed towards the dining table.

Reita was fast to follow the younger, taking the place on the opposite side of the table before explaining himself. ‘ You look quite cute in my t-shirt.’

‘Do you think so?’ Ruki asked, stuffing a big chunk of rice inside his mouth. ‘it is comfy, I am not going to lie. I might be stealing it.’

‘I mean I would prefer you only in my t-shirt.’ Reita smirked. ‘So I can have a glance at your legs whenever I want.’

‘Hey.’ The younger begun with an angry manner in his voice. The word was followed with a kick on Reita’s shin. ‘Just because I let you jerk me off once, doesn’t mean I am going to walk around you naked for the pleasure of your eyes.’

‘But you are going to let me touch you again, someday?’ Reita asked, with puppy eyes, massaging his shin under the table. ‘I hope I wasn’t that horrible.’

Ruki rolled his eyes and stuffed his mouth with a piece of cabbage. At the same time as he opened his mouth to assure Reita that he indeed liked everything, there was a sound of door being opened coming from the corridor.

‘I’m home Reita!’ The women shouted from the corridor. ‘Did you cook dinner already? It smells incredible.’

‘Good evening.’ Ruki bowed in the direction of Reita’s mother in a polite gesture.

‘We’ve cooked it together. With Ruki.’ Reita explained to his mother. ‘Of course we left you some, it is delicious.’

‘Oh so we are now a canteen for the neighbours I see.’ The woman placed her purse on the table, loudly. She measured Ruki with a judging look. ‘And why is he wearing your t-shirt?’

‘Mom.’ Reita said, shocked. Why was she acting like that. He quickly came up with a lie. ‘When we were walking back from school, a car drove past us very quickly, splashing dirty water on us. I offered Ruki a shower. His t-shirt is still wet upstairs.’

‘I see, so we are not only a canteen but also a public toilet now.’ The woman growled. The air thickened, tension now easy to feel in the room. ‘Reita someone is paying for what you think comes free. And that someone is me.’

‘Mom, it was just a shower.’ The student couldn’t believe what was happening right before his eyes. Why his mother would attack Ruki like that. Moreover out of the corner of his eyes Reita noticed Ruki was already getting up from the table.

‘I am sorry for my behaviour,’ Ruki bowed towards Reita’s mother with a half-empty bowl in his hands. ‘And thank you for the meal, I should get going.’ Ruki immediately turned around on his heel and placed the dish inside the sink, without looking Reita in the eyes, as if in shame. Then he was picking up a fast pace upstairs.

Reita sent an infuriated gaze towards his mother. The anger was boiling inside him. He was holding every single bit of his inner strength not to burst out with scream right then and there. It wasn’t helping that his mother was pouring herself a bowl of the stew as if nothing has happened. His pulse was roaring inside his ears. The rage blinded his mind so much he barely spotted Ruki passing next to him, very quickly, frightened. Reita followed him.

‘Ruki, wait.’ He pleaded, but the younger one was already in his shoes, opening the front door.

‘Reita, I really should get going.’ For the first time Ruki looked Reita straight in his eyes. And there was no reproach in them, no anger. Just sadness. ‘Don’t bother yourself with what happened.’

And before Reita could reply in any way, or even reach to grab Ruki, the boy was already closing the door before Reita’s face. It was like a slap on the cheek. His mother’s behavior. Why would she react in that way. She didn’t know Ruki and he were going out, she had no reason to even suspect that. Right? A sparkle of doubt came out in his mind. And that sparkle was enough to light up his mind in flames. He stamped his way back to the kitchen, where his mother was eating the dinner.

‘Why are you doing this?’ Reita asked, through his teeth. His chest was moving up and down, breaths heavy.

‘Doing what?’ The woman put another bite in her mouth. ‘Pointing out your laziness and denial?’

‘What do you mean?’ Confusion overlapped his anger for a second; the fists that he didn’t even realized he was clenching, loosened a bit. ‘I do all of the chores. By the way, if you paid more attention, actually I am doing much better in school right now.’

‘You are spending your days screwing around Reita!’ Reita’s mother raised her voice. It seemed that something inside her loosened and she was about to take all of her frustration out. ‘I get it that you found a new friend that allowed you to forget about Uruha just a little bit but you are going to graduate soon and I don’t think you…’

‘I am not going to forget about Uruha!’ Reita surprised himself with how aggressive that came out. The words were spat with such anger, passion and possessiveness. ‘He is my best friend!’

‘First of all, mister.’ The woman’s voice rose at least two tones higher than usual. ‘Lower your voice when speaking to person who gave birth to you and is working her ass off to raise you in decent environment. Second of all, it is not about Uruha or whatever. It is about your future. What do you plan on doing after you graduate.’

‘I want to become a soccer player.’ The student said confidently. ‘I am doing everything to become one. I am training almost every day after school, on weekends. You go to some of my matches, I really am getting better with time.’ He tried to defend himself.

‘Reita,’ The woman sighed deeply. ‘I know you are doing your best but I think it is finally time to grow up a bit and think of a plan B. You are not a child anymore. I want to believe you are going to be a star of soccer. I have believed in you since you were five and came to sit in my lap.’ Her voice softened at the memory. ‘You know how amazing it was to listen to you dreaming big, to see you succeed so many times. I still carry few pictures of you and Uruha in my wallet and look at them when I think I won’t be able to bare it anymore. I am proud of my son. But it might be time for him to grow up and start thinking realistically.’

‘I still have chance to be chosen this year.’ Reita has tried to win the situation back but on the inside he knew that what his mother was implying was true. It felt like another kick in the stomach that day. ‘Uruha…’

‘Reita, listen,’ His mother interrupted. ‘Uruha has both of his parents with him. His father had a well-paid job. I am alone. I am getting older, I just want to make sure you are aware of that. I still do want you to chase your dreams, you are my son there would be nothing more flattering to see than you becoming a professional soccer player. But please, for my sake, start thinking of plan B. Just in case.’

Reita lowered his gaze, focusing on the fibers of the carpet on the floor. It wasn’t necessarily interesting but he was digesting the words of his mother. There was just no way the universe plotted against him like that and decided to drop everything on his shoulders during three hours or so. He felt so hopeless. It felt like someone stripped him off in the room full of people and suddenly asked him to dance. Suddenly he remembered why the argument has begun in the first place. The anger was back. ‘You worrying doesn’t mean you can be rude towards my friend.’

‘Excuse me?’ The woman was shocked with those words. ‘As far as I am concerned this is my house and I can freely point out things that I don’t out loud.’

‘Mom, you were just mean!’ Reita once again lost control of himself and shouted. But the remorsed face of Ruki when he was at the door just moments ago left him hurt. ‘I don’t want him to be scared to come here because you seem like you don’t like him.’

‘Reita, I am not going to lie.’ The woman’s voice got more piercing and steady. ‘I am not the biggest fan of what he is doing to you. You seem like a different person lately. What is going on with you. It seems like you have changed. Walking back from school on foot with him, going on saturday walks into the woods with him. He, he, he. Always he. He infected your mind. I understand that he might be a good replacement of friendship with Uruha...’

His name is Ruki’ Reita barked through his teeth. ‘And he is not Uruha’s replacement. He is a person that I get along very well and I enjoy spending time with.’ His breathing intensified, the blood madly pumping through his body. ‘One more thing. I haven’t changed at all.’

I just allowed myself to feel and recognize emotions, Reita thought as he turned around on his heel and started walking towards his room. Somewhere behind him he could hear his mother screaming something but he couldn’t be bothered anymore. There was nothing more to say. He understood his mother points when it came to worrying about the future, but there was no way in hell he was going to let his mother insult Ruki just over something so stupid like money. When he reached the top floor, he realized how ruined that day was. Everything was ruined. His first time having sex with Ruki. Ruki’s excitement about the results of the chemistry test. Even his dreams. It was all destroyed.

Reita was standing in the middle of the corridor, his muscles tense, his jaw hurting from clenching. He still couldn’t understand what was going on around him. He has changed? Even if he did, so what? And it wasn’t about the fact he fell in love with a boy. How was it relevant. It wasn’t. It was the fact that this boy got to the parts of him that were deeply hidden. Damn, he showed him the world he completely forgot about while pressuring himself on achieving his dreams. The stars, the animals, the woods. Taking pleasure from things as simple as a walk back from school. That’s why he loved him and wanted to be close to him. Not because he was some kind of Uruha’s replacement.

He stormed to the bathroom, looked through the basket where dirty clothes where kept and fished out his jogging outfit. He undressed himself and looked at the reflection in his mirror. He could still see the resemblance of that bright-dreaming kid in himself. So what that Uruha will get to practise with the Japanese Soccer Team. Good for Uruha. Excellent for Uruha. It doesn’t mean Reita was going to give up on his dreams. If there was still a chance, he was going to try for it with all he had. He threw t-shirt over his head and put on the pants. It didn’t take him more than few seconds to get outside and start the evening jog.

Luckily, the air wasn’t as hot as it was just few hours before, when they were walking back from school with Ruki. Quite on the contrary, the chill of the evening was pleasantly embracing his heated with rage body. Fortunately, with every step he took, bad emotions were slowly fleeting out of him. A quietness of the neighbourhood replaced it. Trees slightly swaying on the light wind calmed him down. He decided not to think about everything that has happened on that day anymore. Just enjoy the moment, like Ruki always told him to.

Soon he was passing Kai’s house. He briefly wondered what the reaction of his teammate is going to be like when he learns about the news. Most likely, Kai is going to be very supportive, smile, bearing those huge teeth of his and yell something like ‘I’m so jealous! What an asshole!’ in an sarcastic manner. Only then he realized how much he owed to Kai. To Kai and Aoi. Both of them were the ones who helped him the most when Uruha left the town. He hasn’t noticed when a huge smile appeared on his face.

Out of a sudden it hit him. That he indeed was so absorbed into getting to know Ruki that in fact his friends were a little bit neglected by him. But they weren’t complaining, right? After a short wondering, an answer formed inside his mind. Embodied in the memory of Aoi whining about Reita not being present on the weekend parties anymore. He did forget about them a little bit, didn’t he. There was a match on upcoming Friday. Which meant there surely would be a party later in the evening. Especially if they won. And Reita wasn’t going to let the victory be snached from him. He made a decision he is going to show up on the party. He pondered if Ruki would like to come with him. Maybe he would have something against Reita going there. Maybe he would get jealous and possessive, Reita laughed internally. Not that he would really go if Ruki wouldn’t want him to. Rather, he would find a way to convince him.

Somehow, his mood was brighteneded a lot by the thought of once again partying with his friends. Perhaps they could throw that party for Uruha and drink to the glory of his friend. Just in time the thought of Uruha appeared inside his brain, he heard a cry of a child coming from somewhere near. His senses were immediately on guard. Reita was looking around, trying to spot the place where the sound  was coming from. It turned out to be a three of four years old boy, trying to convince his mother to stay on the playground for ten minutes longer.

He chuckled under his nose because he saw a reflection of himself in that child. Except Uruha was always there somewhere with him. Reita was observing how the mother was dragging the boy out of the playground. A lump was slowly forming in his throat. It was the same playground he spent most of his time on with Uruha. This was his childhood.

Driven by invisible force, he begun on walking towards the empty playground. After all it was getting late and tomorrow was a school day. Even though five or six years passed since they stopped playing there, not much has changed. The same metal slide was reflecting the setting sun, the same merry-go-round was getting all rusty and dirty, the same red plastic swings. Only one thing has changed, he noticed, when he put his foot on the area of the playground. No more sand. There was some kind of rubber surfacing. He immediately thought about how fun it was to throw handful of sand at each other when fighting. That’s how the problems were solved.

After a while he was sitting on one of the two swings, bathing in nostalgia. A similar warmness was spreading through his body. It seemed like yesterday when he was being spun by Uruha on the near merry-go-round until he was about to puke. He laughed out loud at the memory of Uruha trying push him off the slide, resulting in both of them falling from it and Uruha hitting his head on the ground. He even had to have it sutured in a hospital. Clumsy guy from the day he was born. That’s why Reita was always the forward on the field. Uruha would be tripping most of the time.

It was such an utopian vision, the wooden house above the slide, could be anything they wanted. A pirate ship, a rocket, a shop, a tent. Reita couldn’t count on the fingers of his two hands how many times they had to win those few pathetic pieces of wood nailed together, back from girls who dared to disgrace it with their pink blankets and barbie dolls.

For the first time in forever, he felt nostalgia so strongly. It was such a shame those days were never going to be back. That he was about to become an adult and he had no idea who he wanted to be. But since it was always a place where he could be whoever he wanted to be, he tilted his head back, closed his eyes and silenced all of his thoughts. And for the first time in his life a thought came across his mind that he would love to become non-existent, even for a short while.

Suddenly something relatively hard was being pressed to his knee. A sharp feeling of being scratched went through his brain. Reita quickly shook off shock and looked down at his legs. It was Koron, happily wagging his tail at him and attacking him with his small paws. He immediately smiled at the dog and reached out his hand to scratch it behind one of its ears. ‘What are you doing here, buddy?’ Reita asked and as an answer he got three sneezes in a row. ‘Hey, dude. I hope you did not get sick or something, I am not going to bring you back to Ruki sick.’

‘You know,’ Ruki appeared out of nowhere, taking seat on the swing next to Reita. ‘Dogs don’t sneeze when they are sick.’

‘Don’t they?’ He was going to ask where did Ruki come from but decided against it. ‘What for, then?’

‘To assure people or other dogs that what they are doing is just for fun.’ Ruki turned his head towards Reita, measuring him from head to toe. ‘That even if they attack, they do not intend any harm. It is just a play.’

‘That’s cool.’ The student admitted. ‘Maybe people should start doing the same thing.’

‘I saw you running away from home. You looked angry.’ Ruki did seem troubled.

‘Eh, I had a fight with my mom.’ Reita admitted. ‘By the way, I am so sorry for this day. It was an absolute wreck. What she said, please just ignore it.‘

‘Don’t worry about it.’ Ruki slid off the swing and slowly backed off, the seat now placed just above his hips. ‘I don’t think this day was a wreck at all. I realized some stuff.’

‘You gained the experience?’ Reita mocked Ruki’s words from earlier. ‘Experience of getting into my pants perhaps?’ He just couldn’t resist to not make a stupid joke like that.’

‘No.’ Ruki rolled his eyes at his boyfriend. ‘Something much more serious.’

‘Enlighten me.’ Reita cocked an eyebrow and crossed his hands on his chest.

‘It just made me realize,’ The younger gripped the chains of the swing. ‘That I am glad we’ve got to meet.’ He jumped a bit and sat on the seat in the air, swinging in silence.

Reita looked around him, checking out if no one was near enough to hear what he was about to say. ‘Yeah, me too. I think I really love you.’

Reita followed Ruki and soon both of them were swinging. The only sound present there was a screeth of metal sliding against wood. The playground wasn’t made for teenagers like them after all. But it was nice to feel the air in the hair and watch the sunset slowly turn into a starry night. When it got cold, they walked back home together in complete silence. There were enough words said on that day.

When Reita opened the door to his house, he was expecting his mother sitting at a table, even more infuriated than before. She was probably asleep. So Reita took his shoes off and as quietly as possible slipped inside the bathroom. After taking a quick shower, he was back in his bedroom. He opened the drawer in which he kept his t-shirts on and noticed a small note. It was immediately in his hands, eyes putting the words together.

 

‘I am stealing your t-shirt. I like it. It smells like you.’

 

Bastard, Reita thought and threw a clean t-shirt over his head. Usually after a turbulent day like that one Reita would spend at least an hour thinking and analyzing what happened and what he could do about it. But on that day there was something else he could recall before going to sleep with a smirk on his face. Something very dirty that had happened right on his bed, few hours ago.

 

Chapter Text

A squeaky noise of the door to his room being opened woke up Reita from shallow sleep. It must have been his mother. Due to everything that happened the day before, Reita was thankful that he was laying faced away from the door. Of course he recognized it was childish of him to avoid his mother. But he knew there was no power left in him to deal with that first thing in the morning so he clenched his eyes shut and tried hard to stay still, hoping his mum would leave soon.

It surprised him when a sound of the woman entering his room reached his ears. Plastic flip-flops were silently clicking on the wooden floor, signaling his mother was getting closer and closer to the bed. A feeling of being stared at tingled in the back of Reita’s head. It didn’t stay for long, though. Quiet ruffle of clothes was the only sign for Reita to notice that his mother turned around. Another three clicks on the floor could only mean his mum was standing right next to the set of drawers and Reita immediately assumed she was looking for something in his furniture. She did that a lot.

Even though Reita’s ears focused on the quietest sounds, he couldn’t quite figure out what his mother was doing. No longer than fe seconds after that there was a sigh echoing through the room. It was followed with a clicking sound of something being put down on a wooden surface. And soon his mother was gone out of the room, trying to make as little noise when closing the door as she could, not wanting to bother her son’s sleep. Or maybe not to confront him so early in the morning, Reita thought.

After hearing the sounds of his mother going down the stairs Reita sat on the bed and looked at the set of drawers. Nothing was out of order. At least he thought so, until his eyes landed on one of the framed photos. He could swear it was standing differently the day before. Quite unwillingly he got out of bed and picked up the photo. Thanks to the morning rays of spring sunshine Reita immediately noticed there was a line lacking dust on the glass. It could only mean his mother wiped it off with her finger. He had mixed feelings about it. Hoping a cold shower would help, he took out a t-shirt  from one of the drawer and rushed to the bathroom.

As the cold water was running refreshingly on his still warm from the covers skin, he was thinking about the sigh he heard just few minutes ago. Was it filled with disappointment? Pride? Nostalgia? Reita closed his eyes tightly and let the cold water wash through it, praying it would make make all of the thoughts disappear. It didn’t help much so he opened eyes and look disappointedly at his own reflection in the foggy shower door. You can’t stop overthinking, can you, Reita asked himself.

Suddenly he noticed his reflection looked cracked. He investigated what was wrong with the shower door by running his finger on the glass. A single blond hair stuck to it and Reita couldn’t help himself but smile. It obviously was Ruki’s. His mind immediately went in a direction of imagining Ruki standing in his shower and washing off all of the sweat after the sex they had. Reita wondered for a while if he could really call it sex but then again why would he care about it. He can call it whatever he wants, he came to that conclusion when shampooing his hair.

When his body was relatively dried with the shower he threw t-shirt he has chosen before over his head and grabbed the toothbrush. Reita looked in the mirror and smirked, imaging how Ruki would look like in the t-shirt he was wearing. As always, his mind just couldn’t stop torturing him and he started thinking Ruki would look like if he was there with him in the morning. He pictured his boyfriend wearing the t-shirt he stole from Reita, with a messy bush of hair, toothbrush lazily going back and forth in his mouth when he was trying to unglue his eyelids. Reita shook his head when his mind wandered to imagining him kissing the younger on the nape to make sure he wouldn’t just fall asleep standing.

The whole scene in his head got him into an unbelievably good mood. He forgot completely about the fight with his mum, about his best friend being better than him. Reita just changed quickly into his uniform, grabbed his backpack and went downstairs to eat some cereal. As his teeth bit on the corn flakes he couldn’t stop thinking about Ruki. Ruki in his t-shirt. Ruki running his hand through his hair in the full sun on a green field. Ruki smiling. Ruki. Ruki. Ruki. He spawled himself on the dining table in an act of hopelessness. What was that boy doing to him, he still couldn’t understand.

Reita went to the sink to wash the bowl when on his way he saw a block of sticky notes stuck to the fridge. He dropped the dishes into the sink and pulled out one note. It took him a while to find a pen in one of the drawers but shortly he was back at the table, quickly scribbling on the piece of paper ‘Nice ass ;)’. He chuckled under his nose at his own evil plan.

He left home unusually late. Just when he closed the front door he heard a loud puff of air, meaning the bus was already there. Reita jogged vigorously to the bus stop. He timed everything perfectly so soon he was seeing Ruki’s slender silhouette jumping inside the bus at the last second. The older laughed internally at how sleepy Ruki must have been to not notice Reita at all. Just when the bus door closed with a loud slam, Reita tapped on Ruki’s shoulder before he would head to take a seat.

‘Hey Ruki,’ Reita watched the younger turn around. His eyes widened in fear and confusion. Reita handed out the piece of paper. ‘Something fell out of your marine pocket when you were hopping in the bus.’

‘Thanks.’ Ruki fired out, accepting the note. That early in the morning his voice was still hoarse. There was one more exchange of confused stares then Ruki was rushing to the nearest free seat.

Reita, on the other hand was shortly sitting in his usual seat that no one dared to take. Two seats, to be specific. Since Uruha wasn’t taking the buses anymore with him. Before the memories of his friend could eclipse his mind he turned his attention to Ruki. The younger was sitting few seats away from him, rubbing his fists against his eyes quite vigorously. And Reita couldn’t resist but chuckle at how adorable his boyfriend looked.

Finally, the moment he waited for came. Ruki picked the sticky note, straightened it and squinted eyes to read the words. Reita observed the reaction but to his disappointment Ruki wasn’t giving him much. Just a slight raise in the eyebrows in, what Reita suspected, annoyance with maybe a hint of anger. He knew Ruki would try to catch his eyes and shake his head at him, demonstrating his disappointment. But Reita was quicker and right when he noticed Ruki’s forehead moving up, he turned his head away, pretending there was something very inquisitive outside the window, fully absorbing his attention. He could clearly feel the stare on him. Even though he has tried to remain completely unaffected, Reita had to suck in his lower lip completely and bite on it, not to burst out in a chuckle right there and then. Goddamnit, he swore to himself, knowing Ruki must have already notice that.

Bravely, Reita stood by his decision and kept is eyes glued to the window until he heard the familiar voice announce it was the last stop. He pretended to be so immersed in his thoughts, not to catch any attention from other students until he made sure everyone left the bus. In his expectations, Ruki was among the people that left, because Reita knew the younger didn’t like to be late for class, ever. So he genuinely has got surprised when after getting up he was met with a familiar skinny silhouette blocking the exit door. Reita couldn’t help himself but grinn when he saw the cocky expression and passive-aggressively crossed arms on Ruki’s chest.

‘Something fell out of your pocket,’ Ruki slapped his palm flat against Reita’s chest. His tone turned into a whisper,  one of his eyebrows lifted. ‘ Reita.

It wasn’t that it hurt Reita thanks to the defined muscles, but Ruki definitely packed some impact with his slap. Reita looked down on his chest only to see a sticky note falling down to the bus floor. The glue was too weak to stick to his marine. He crouched to pick it up and when he was back up, Ruki was already walking away towards the main entrance. Reita noticed something unusual, though. His boyfriend’s backpack was swinging remarkably low, its straps elongated. He must have done that on purpose to protect his butt from Reita’s hungry gaze. The student finally hopped off the bus and glanced at the sticky note. On the opposite side there was a sentence scribbled.

 

Nice brainless head, idiot. ;)

 

After surviving four lessons, mostly trying not to think about Ruki and actually focusing on the topic, he was sitting at the table with his friends and chewing on a stew. He looked around on the loud pack of happy faces, discussing tactic for Friday’s match or gossiping. Kai’s sudden giggle warmed his heart up. He couldn’t help himself but put on his face a huge grin. There was nothing better than Kai entertaining the whole group, acting like an idiot. Reita knew very well his friend was doing this because deep down he didn’t want anyone to be upset around him. A true ray of sunshine, Reita thought.

There was that part of him, though, a pretty intrusive one. And it didn’t want to let go of the thought of how much more enjoyable it would be if Uruha was there sitting next to him. Reita recognized it was extremely selfish to think about it like that, especially now, that Uruha’s life was about to peak. But he couldn’t help it. Just like he couldn’t help but feel a certain amount of satisfaction while looking at his pals, that it was him, chosen by Uruha to know the good news first. It is not like he felt superior to them or anything. Okay, maybe the slightest bit.

‘Aye aye captain!’ Aoi shouted as he sat next to Reita on the bench. ‘How’s the mood before tomorrow? Frightened?’

‘Come on Aoi as if Reita would ever be scared of some lowly ranked team’ Kai butted in before Reita could even open his mouth. He tends to do that a lot. ‘We are two for to in wins the past semester, so…’

‘Kai,’ Reita pointed a finger at him. ‘You can never underestimate your opponent.’

‘YoU cAn NeVeR uNdErEsTiMatE yOuR oPpOnEnT’ Kai mocked him and the whole pack roared out laughing. ‘Says the best striker in the history of our team.’ He stirred the stew and packed a huge bite inside his mouth. ‘I really don’t know what we are going to do after you are gone.’ Kai mumbled while chewing.

‘Come on, guys there are some boys that have a lot of potential to replace me.’ Reita nodded towards Kazuki. ‘He can hit it good.’

‘That’s what she said.’ Aoi interrupted, making everyone laugh. Except his girlfriend. And he learnt it the hard way, when mewling in pain after a kick on the shin. ‘Hey! Those are very precious legs of an amazingly talented quarterback! Do you know how much they are worth!’

‘Well,’ Sana crossed her arms on her chest, leaned back and cocked and eyebrow. ‘Definitely more than what is between them.’

Everyone started screaming because Sana did deliver quite a punch with her comeback. Aoi on the other hand, was purposely overreacting his grief after being roasted in front of his friends. Obviously, it was all just for show, he didn’t really care, because he was madly in love with Sana. Even, or maybe especially, when she was winking at him and sending him a kiss.

Looking at the whole bunch of people behaving like monkeys and not really caring too much about anything, made Reita appreciate every single one of his friends. Reita smiled widely. He really was blessed to have them around.

Reita was almost finished with the meal when out of the corner of his eyes he noticed Ruki leaving the cafeteria. He quickly gulped the last bits of the stew, excused himself and rushed to the usual place he was meeting Ruki at everyday during lunch break. The men’s bathroom on the last floor, rarely used because it was far away from every classroom and no sane high school student could be bothered to go so far just to take a piss.

It definitely wasn’t the most romantic place but they agreed on it, just to be on the safe side. Reita was still annoyed at the fact that they had to be like that. But you can never know how everyone reacts to news like that and since he was one of the more popular people in school and Ruki advised it was better that way. Since Ruki had more experience, Reita couldn’t not trust him. Well, he trusted Ruki blindly anyway. With everything. That’s what he has become. A vulnerable mess.

He was shaking his head to himself and darting through the school corridor when a low voice called for him. Oh god, why now, Reita thought, annoyed. But he couldn’t simply ignore his coach. Maybe he had some kind of important news to tell him.

‘Yes?’ Reita tried his best not to sound as annoyed as he was.

‘Hey, Reita.’ The coach greeted him, he seemed unusually joyful. ‘You heard the news, right?’

‘Um, what news?’ Reita was genuinely confused and scared at the same time. He hoped it was all about Uruha, not him. Usually he was called out by his coach only when he messed something up or skipped too many classes in a week.

‘You can stop pretending you don’t know anything, Uruha has just called me’ the coach was grinning widely. ‘National team! Can you believe it?!’ the man threw his hands in the air in an awe.

‘Crazy, I know, but coach I am…’ Reita was cut off by the excited teacher before he could even finish.

‘I think we should move today’s training to right after the school so everyone can hear the wonderful news and get a good rest before tomorrow.’ the man fired out. ‘Do you want to tell the boys about it yourself?’

‘Coach, do we really have to shift the hour of the training?’ Reita whined, because he knew that way he wouldn’t be able to walk home with Ruki.

‘Yes that’s the best, I want everyone to have time to congratulate Uruha and have a good round of sleep. So yes, it is necessary.’ The man explained, quite shocked with the way his best striker reacted to it, he was one of the most ambitious boys in his team. ‘You are acting weird. Are you upset about the fact Uruha got into the national team?’ he scratched the back of his head. ‘You know you can always go and talk to our school psychologist, Miss Tanaka.’

‘What?’ Reita took full offence in the man’s words. ‘Of course not! I am extremely happy for him!’ He looked at the clock hanging on the nearest wall. ‘I just really need to go now. See you on the pitch in few hours.’

‘Is there a fire waiting to be put out somewhere?’ the couch yelled after Reita but got nothing but thumping of footsteps echoing throughout the almost empty corridor. ‘There must be some kind of chick on his mind’ the man crossed his arms on his chest and shook his head few times before heading back to his office.

Reita busted into the bathroom, quickly opening the door to the middle stall, only to find Ruki sitting on the closed toilet and looking pretty lost in his own thoughts. Reita’s eyes lit up with love sparkles. Before Reita managed to open his mouth, Ruki silenced him, bringing his finger to his lips and nodding in the direction of the right wall of the stall. Reita’s got the gist and sighed, turning around to lock the door. Just in case.

As soon as he was back to facing Ruki, there was a slim body clinging to him, wrapping arms around his waist, pressing cheek to his chest. Reita couldn’t help himself but chuckle as quietly as he could. He placed a gentle kiss on top of Ruki’s blonde bush of hair, lingering for a bit too long, taking a drag of the familiar scent. It pleasantly masked the smell of school bathroom. Reita rested his chin on top of Ruki’s head and returned the hug. They stayed like this for a while until they heard the uninvited guest finish his business, wash his hands and leave the bathroom.

‘I thought you wouldn’t come’ Ruki broke the silence and looked up at Reita.

‘What?’ Reita took full offence in those words. ‘I would never ditch on you and miss the opportunity to meet you, are you crazy?’

Ruki shrugged, his expression remaining serious. ‘Did you make up with your mother in the morning?’

‘No... ‘ Reita sighed deeply, avoiding Ruki’s concerned eyes. He still wasn’t quite used and fond of making someone worry about him so much. Obviously he appreciated it. But there was something that made him feel uneasy. ‘I haven’t talked to her yet. And I don’t think her learning about the fact Uruha has just got accepted for national team is going to help us make up.’

‘Ah, I thought everything came back to normal between the two of you.’ Ruki seemed genuinely upset.’Since you were in such a playful mood in the morning.’ He cocked an eyebrow at the older boy.

‘I mean’ Reita was grinning widely just at the memory of Ruki’s confusion in the morning. ‘You alone get me in such a nice mood, no matter what else is going on.’

Ruki rolled his eyes and shook his head few times. ‘You are impossible.’

‘That’s what loving you makes me do.’ He couldn’t help but ruffle Ruki’s hair. ‘I have some bad news, I won’t be able to walk back home with you today. The hour of my soccer practice was moved and I can’t skip since we have an important match tomorrow. Also the news about Uruha and all.’

‘It’s okay, Reita.’ Ruki reassured his boyfriend. ‘I will simply walk alone.’

‘Aren’t you disappointed even a slightest bit?’ Reita asked, full of hope.

‘No, not really’ the younger answered immediately. ‘I like walking by myself.’

‘So you like walking by yourself more than you like walking with me?’ Reita got sulky. Part of him really was worried Ruki would straight up hit him with the confirmation.

‘Rei, it is not that’ the blonde comforted Reita. ‘I am just saying that I don’t mind going my myself. I enjoy being alone. You can come in the evening for some tea, how about that?’

‘You know that I won’t deny on any excuse to come over at your house, so…’ Reita hesitated for a second. ‘If you don’t want me there…’

‘Reita.’ Ruki stopped his boyfriend in the middle of the sentence. ‘I am inviting you, it means I want you there. Period.’

‘Okay’ Reita did feel relieved because Ruki seemed sure of his words. Not that he didn’t trust his boyfriend or anything. ‘So see you in the evening’ he glanced at his watch. ‘We need to get going. Could I maybe, perhaps get a kiss to have power for dealing with the practice?’

Ruki granted Reita that wish and placed a gentle kiss on Reita’s lips. Then he broke the embrace and reached behind Reita to unlock and open the door. ‘Let’s go. I can’t afford being late. Especially after skipping a class lately, because of someone .’

‘Okay, okay.’ Reita admitted his sin and gestured for Ruki to take the lead and leave the bathroom. But Ruki wouldn’t nudge.

Instead he crossed his arms on his chest in annoyed manner. ‘No. You first.’

‘Huh?’ the older was so confused. ‘Why?’

‘I am not letting you check my bottom out’ Ruki explained.

‘Awh!’ Reita mewled in disappointment.

‘That’ Ruki poked Reita’s chest with his finger. ‘Is what you get for teasing me in the very early morning hours, when we all know I am weak.’

There was no other choice for Reita than to accept the revenge and walk out of the stall first.    

 

‘You!’ Reita’s body was slammed against the lockers, Aoi successfully capturing his classmate between his palms. He squinted and got dangerously close to Reita’s face.

‘Hey!’ captain’s shouting resounded through the empty locker room. He was genuinely surprised with this sudden attack. He felt assassinated but since it was, after all, his friend he made an attempt to joke out of this awkward position. ‘If you wanted to pick me up, you could have just ask like a normal person, you know.’

‘You’ Aoi’s tone’s gotten even more serious and threatening this time. ‘I don’t care what stupid excuse you will come up with this time, but I don’t want to hear any of that bullshit.’

‘What do you mean?’ Reita didn’t hide his confusion.

‘We are having a party tomorrow after the match.’ Aoi grunted, still not letting Reita go from between his arms. ‘And you are going to be there.’

‘But…’ Reita started but was immediately cut off with an empty the sound of a palm landing on one of the lockers, next to his left ear. The echo resounding in the metal completely caught him off guard, sweeping away all of the coherent thoughts from his brain.

‘You are going to be there.’ Aoi repeated himself. ‘For the team. For me. And most importantly, for Uruha.’

‘I…’ Reita muttered after a second or two. When the shock was shaken off, he dared to look straight into Aoi’s eyes. They were filled with rage. ‘I will try my best to make it.’

No.’ Aoi barked. ‘You are going to be there, at my house, at 7pm. This is not really a threat, Reita. I simply need you to wake up and realise, this is about your best friend. And that you need to be there.’

‘Yes, I know’ Reita sighed. ‘You’re right. I should be there. I will be there.’

‘Finally!’ the classmate lowered his arms, setting Reita free. ‘We are going to celebrate Uruha’s success. I also planned a group photo to send him with a congratulation card. To let the bastard know how much we miss him.’

‘That’s… Thank you for being so thoughtful, Aoi.’ Out of a sudden, Reita understood everything. He was letting the team down with his lack of interest lately, right? ‘I should have thought about that.’

‘No, no, no, dude.’ Aoi just waved Reita off. ‘That’s what you have me, the superstar, for but I really need you to be there tomorrow for us. As a wonderful.’ Aoi patted Reita’s shoulder and kept of patting with increased force with every upcoming word. ‘Motivating. Amazing. Handsome. Captain.’

‘So I am not a complete disaster and an idiot?’ As an answer he’s got Aoi crossing his arms and shaking his head. Luckily his expression was not longer so serious terrifying. ‘Okay. Do you think I am handsome?’

‘I mean,’ Aoi shrugged his arms. ‘I think I’ve already told you five or hundred times that if you are up for a threesome, I’m here.’

Aoi’s cheeky wink has crossed the line. ‘I would rather not.’ Reita laughed awkwardly and begun on walking away. Maybe a little bit too vigorously.

‘I was joking, dude.’ Aoi assured Reita. ‘Reita!’ he shouted after his friend to get his attention back. ‘You can bring that person that you are so absorbed in for us to meet at a party, you know.’

‘What?’ Reita fired out in fear. ‘What person, what do you mean?’

‘The one that you are spending your time with’ Aoi explained. ‘You know,’ he pointed at his collarbone. ‘Unless you have some kind of magical skill, those,’ Aoi once again placed his finger on the collarbone.’ They couldn’t appear by themselves.’

‘Fuck’ Reita mewled after he looked down at the huge three hickeys on his collarbone. He felt his cheeks getting red so as a reflex he covered his face with his palms. Excellent, he thought. How is he going to tell Ruki about it.

‘Reita!’ Aoi had to shout to get Reita to take his hands off his face. ‘Reita, it’s okay’ he place a reassuring hand on Reita’s shoulder. ‘I won’t tell anyone if this is what you are scared of. That’s why I told you I am waiting to see your girlfriend at the party, right?’

‘Aoi,’ the captain’s fear eased slightly. ‘You can’t tell anyone.’

‘I am not going to, idiot’ the boy tried to playfully punch Reita in the stomach. ‘Whenever you and you girl are ready. Preferably at the party, but no pressure, m’kay? I am just worried for you, you seem different lately’ he made a pause to gather his thoughts. ‘But a better different. More happy. If it makes sense?’

Reita believed Aoi when he said he was concerned. For some reason it was just enough to make him open up. Of course, he didn’t think about the consequences, simply let those few words slip from between his lips. But it felt damn good to hear it said out loud.

‘It’s a boyfriend, Aoi. I love him.’