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Before Nightfall

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It was difficult to make friends, and even more difficult to fit in. Whether you belonged to a niche or conformed with majority, one would think there was a place for everyone in society. Still, there were the in and out-groups, the people that shunned others whether it be for petty reasons or legitimate concerns, and the people that welcomed others into their groups if they passed the test. The difference did not matter. All that mattered to the collective group was to have someone to side with, and someone to freeze out.

Bullies were the first thing that clued Daichi in on the injustice that came with a mob mentality. The kids that picked on Hibiki never picked on him alone. Rather, they backed him into a corner and forced him to his knees with humiliation. There was nothing more Hibiki could do than cover his head and let them swing. Seeing Hibiki give in to the pressure made Daichi want to protect him.

“There’s… enough room here for the two of us.” Ever since they were eight, he put in the time and effort needed to make sure Hibiki was happy with him.

“No thanks.” Though, sometimes, those things never made him especially happy with himself.

“Why not?” Daichi patted the mattress and urged Hibiki to leave his futon so they could share a bed. Each and every word sounded more pathetic than the previous one. Hibiki looked at him as if it should have been obvious.

“You kick in your sleep.” At least in and out groups had the benefit of dealing with their frustrations together. Distancing himself from others to put all his trust and support into Hibiki sounded like a good idea in theory, but it was not healthy.

No, it was downright sick to put all his faith into a single person; for his whole mind and soul to belong to someone else. To think about only one person at daybreak, and only one person at nightfall. To be that special to someone felt almost like fiction, yet, it was so easy to see that other people’s relationships could be just as corny as the redundant rom coms shown on cable television, a medium that had long met its expiration date. Still, he wanted to belong with someone in that sense. Someone who would think of him first thing in the morning, and last thing before they went to sleep. It sounded so stupid. The thought counted, but it was impossible to know whether or not anyone had ever thought of him like that. He felt selfish with every night he spent talking to Hibiki until he fell asleep, because in that moment, Daichi could be sure he was the only thing on Hibiki’s mind before he closed his eyes.

“Kiss me goodnight?” He desperately wanted that closeness only romantic partners could have; for that longing to finally cease and leave him satisfied. Despite never showing any romantic interest, Hibiki did as he was asked, and got up from his comfortable resting place to lean down and place a kiss against Daichi’s lips, murmuring a simple ‘goodnight’ to show him that they’ll be going back to sleep. Two seconds saying their goodbyes became two minutes of heat that Daichi wished Hibiki was a little more enthusiastic about.

“It’s 2 AM… I’m tired.”

“That’s never stopped you before.” Daichi pulled Hibiki down by the hem of his shirt, and kissed him again. If it had to lead to sex, then it might as well, but for once; he wanted to do something to confirm they were a couple. Hold hands, sleep in the same bed, kiss each other without it having to lead to something lewd.

“What about this friends-with-benefits thing don’t you understand? The friends, or the benefits?” Suddenly, the will to kiss Hibiki and convince him they could take their relationship in a different direction dwindled. All the confidence and drive that came with his kisses was now lost, and a familiar stutter returned to his voice.

“S-Sorry…”

Their relationship was one out of convenience. They agreed to that a long time ago. Since neither had the knowledge or the time to invest in a relationship, they decided to relieve each other’s pent up frustrations with no attachment. Even knowing it going in, Daichi wanted to believe that Hibiki asked him this because he was too embarrassed to actually come out and say he wanted a relationship, but with every day that passed, he could not fail to see that Hibiki never expressed an interest.

Now that he gave it more thought, he figured that Hibiki more than likely picked him because no one would believe him if he told the truth. Best friends sleeping together? It sounded like a shady rumor by the premise alone. They’d either figure it was a prank, or that he wanted to ruin Hibiki’s chances of ever getting a girl by spreading misinformation. Realistically, it was neither. If he ever had the urge to tell anyone about it, he wanted to do it for bragging rights.

“I’m not cuddling.” Hibiki always said it as if he could read the look on Daichi’s face. As if he had no interest to meet his expectations.

“Geez, fine, fine. You don’t have to do anything. I’ll do all the cuddling myself. Deal?” The way Hibiki sighed said a lot about how apathetic he was about it, but he gave in and pulled his legs up regardless. It made Daichi feel guilty for begging, but the comfort that followed after his request outweighed any guilt that tried to take over his thoughts. Hibiki huddled close to Daichi’s chest, and pulled the blanket over himself to keep warm.

For the smallest moment, Daichi could wrap his arms around Hibiki, close his eyes, and say that they belonged together. It felt second nature to pull his hand down Hibiki’s back and press their bodies closer, to tentatively rub the fabric between his fingers until skin brushed skin. He’d lean his chin on Hibiki’s scalp, and count the soft breaths that caressed his neck, pretending Hibiki was doing it on purpose to make him flush with heat. No matter how hard he closed his eyes, he couldn’t pretend Hibiki was actually holding him as tightly, couldn’t pretend to feel his smile against his skin as he kissed him. There was only so much his imagination could fill, and the rest was left an empty void.

The words ‘I love you’ were said numerous times before they became friends with benefits, but he rarely found himself saying them anymore. Those various ‘I love you’s’ had to be replaced with ‘Best friend’ to mask his feelings. Hibiki was not his partner, but he was definitely his best friend. So, he called Hibiki his best friend as often as he could, as loudly as he could, because it was now the only way he could validate his feelings. No one had to know the two phrases were synonymous. Not even the person he would risk life and limb for if it ever came down to it.

He moved his hand to cup Hibiki’s cheek softly when he felt his so-called best friend place a searing kiss against his neck. The sharp feeling it sent from his chest to his stomach was so instantaneous he couldn’t stop himself from gasping. A hot kiss was soon followed up by another, and yet another, until Hibiki was pushing him down against the mattress and tainting his pale skin with love bites. It was not supposed to turn out this way, but he did not have the heart to reject Hibiki’s advancements.

He did not know what Hibiki saw when he looked down at him with that confident grin, but he knew exactly what Hibiki wanted.

Control.

As long as he allowed Hibiki to do anything to him, he felt like he could keep Hibiki to himself for just a day longer.

“A-Aren’t you tired? I thought you weren’t in the mood?” A question finally slipped past his lips between airy breaths. Hibiki looked at him as if he should have known. In truth, he really should have. This was a familiar pattern by now; a pattern Daichi tried to close his eyes to in order to have some hope it would all work out in the end.

“When am I not in the mood?” Others talked over him at times. Silenced him. At least when Hibiki did it so, he did it with tongue and heat as opposed to insults and punches. It wasn’t alright. It wasn’t fair. But it was worth it.

It made him happy to know Hibiki wanted to put his hands on him. Though, it made him just as sad to know it was Hibiki that kept him at arm’s length. Despite kissing him so freely, despite putting his lips on him as if he was the most important person in the world, Hibiki stressed they were never going to be more than friends with a few perks. Daichi genuinely tried to understand him. He adored the fact Hibiki could read him like an open book, but the self doubt kicked in when he realized he might not know his best friend at all. If this was what he really wanted, why was it so hard to see growing up?

“Ah, Hibiki, but-” This was supposed to be a night where he could approach Hibiki with no perversion clouding his mind, with no worries or interest in sex. Yet, Hibiki seemed so quick to bring the subject there, so quick to dismiss the idea of a romantic relationship that it made him wonder if Hibiki would find him disgusting for asking.

“Do you want to…” he had to lean close and whisper, because the more time he spent with Hibiki, the more he wanted to show him he could do absolutely anything he asked for. There was no hint of shame in his words, not when he wanted to be loved by someone so badly he was willing to give up all control for them. Even that did not seem to be enough. Offering himself had no impact on Hibiki’s replies whatsoever.

“...No. We’ll do it the way we usually do it.” Hibiki never wanted to actually take the first step to do anything more than handjobs and simple grinding. Daichi couldn’t blame Hibiki for it. Hibiki did not seem interested in having a sexual relationship with the same gender. It might not have been the fact they were both guys, but Daichi did not want to tell himself that Hibiki did not feel comfortable enough with him to do anything more intimate. It was easier to tell himself it was the fact he was a guy that made things awkward. A ten year long friendship shouldn’t feel so hollow.

Growing up, they had such little opportunity to make friends. The way Hibiki pulled his hands down his body gave him shivers. It wasn’t the feeling, or the motion, but the knowledge that Hibiki never would have touched him had he not been a convenient form of stress relief. There was logic behind every action. It was easier to use someone handy for relief than risk it. Convenience. That was all it was.

Seeing Hibiki give in to pressure was the worst part about their childhood, but finding himself bending to Hibiki’s every whim was not as satisfying as it once used to be. Still, he refused to give up the freedom to kiss Hibiki, even if it meant being discarded in the long run once someone better came along; someone that fit his description of an ideal partner more. An equal.

How the tables have turned.