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Stains On Me

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When they first move in, Yuki gets leftover furniture from Ayame. Kyo gets leftover furniture from Kazuma. It’s already rough going when they both show up with a dining table.

It should be made clear that the place is… cozy. That’s what Ayame says when he sees it for the first time, a smile strained on his face.

The front door opens right into a living room connected to the kitchen. The countertops are much smaller than the ones in Shigure’s room, and the tiny drawers struggle to open and close. Their rooms are across from each other, on separate sides of the apartment, and it’s clear early on that they can hear the activity of almost all their neighbors.

So, it’s inevitable that when both Yuki and Kyo are too stubborn to throw out their own tables, that the first three weeks are filled with nothing but stubbed toes and bumped shins in the already small space. Getting water or food early in the morning or late at night turns into a hazard.

A few mild shouting matches happen because of this, and it takes about a week for their neighbors to hate them.

It’s finally settled when Haru comes by and flips a coin to see whose table stays. It’s Kyo’s, and Yuki has never seen him more smug in his entire life. It makes him want to punch him all the more. Some… loud arguments might have come from that, too.

Already, this is a disaster.

Nevertheless, their routine ends up being something like this:

During the week, the two keep to their university schedule. Their schedules keep them out of the house most days until the afternoon or early evening. They interact mostly on Tuesdays and Thursdays, when Yuki has his only early classes of the week. Yuki tends to sleep through his alarm that makes an irritating chirping noise that can be heard through his door and throughout the apartment.

As a “courtesy” Kyo will wake Yuki up on those days, if only to get the beeping to fucking stop.

During the weekend, Kyo wakes up at 7 AM, Yuki wakes up at 2 PM. Kyo runs, showers, makes breakfast, does homework, calls Kazuma, makes lunch, and reads part of a book before Yuki even hobbles outside his room, disoriented.

Kyo complains that Yuki is too loud at night, and Yuki complains Kyo is too loud in the morning.

After that exchange they don’t talk for the rest of the day with rare exceptions.

Yuki walks to the convenience store, grabs something quick to eat and goes on a walk. Sometimes he’ll meet up with Haru, sometimes Tohru, sometimes Machi. He brings his schoolwork with him to study at local cafes once he’s said goodbye to whatever company he’s meeting. When it gets dark, he grabs something to eat from wherever he is, and then heads home.

Sometimes Yuki gets back so late, that Kyo is already in bed. Usually by 9 or 10. Sometimes, Kyo goes on another night time run, and sometimes he comes back from visiting or working at the dojo. Yuki sits in the living room and texts back and forth with Kakeru while watching TV.

Then, he’ll go to the small balcony (a thin piece of railing that is as wide as the sliding door way, and as long as Yuki’s feet if he were to place one in front of the other) and water the plants there. Sometimes he’ll stay there for a minute with the door open and listen to music.

He goes to bed at 2 AM, sometimes 3 AM. Rinse, repeat.

“I think this was a terrible idea,” Yuki says to Machi one day over tea. His morning (read: late afternoon) was spent fighting with Kyo about how he kept him up again with the TV the previous night. “We either don’t talk, or argue until the neighbor hits the ceiling with a broom.”

“Maybe you just need to give him a chance,” Machi says, as reasonable as ever. “You’ve changed a lot since I met you. He probably has, too.”

It’s a nice sentiment, Yuki mulls over on the way home, but where would he even start? It didn’t even seem worth it to try and… “befriend” Kyo. Whatever that means.

They both think, in their own annoyed kind of way, that this will stay fine if they keep up this minimal level of interaction with each other. Yuki in his world, and Kyo in his own.

And never the two shall meet.

—————

Things don’t really change until later in the summer.

Yuki never really celebrated his birthday before, so when Kakeru suggests—nay—demands that Yuki’s 18th birthday be heralded as the party of the century, Yuki rolls his eyes through the phone and hangs up on him. Obviously, Kakeru is joking.

Kakeru shows up to his apartment that night. Uninvited, Yuki should add.

It takes a lot of convincing, yelling, punching, kicking, and snatching Yuki’s phone away from Kakeru before they reach a reasonable compromise. Maybe not a party, but a dinner. But not something home cooked. Going out to a cool restaurant — that’s what people did for their 18th!

“But I don’t want it on my actual birthday,” Yuki says, firmly. “Maybe the day before.”

“What? You don’t want to show off your mark to everyone?” Kakeru says, giving a faux stretch to show off his own in front of Yuki.
Yuki rolls his eyes but can’t help but smile, “Yes, you and Maki are made for each other. We are all very aware.” Kakeru beams at that.

That was another thing about Yuki’s 18th that he was hesitant to share with the world. At 18, you got your soulmate mark. The writing on your wrist that reflects the first words ever spoken to you by your soulmate. For most of the world, it was a beautiful, public thing that brought about big celebrations. Mark-reveal parties were fairly common. As were showing it off to all your friends and family as soon as possible.

Kakeru is a prime example. Maki’s first words are written neatly on his wrist, something Yuki got to witness, himself, at Kakeru’s birthday party a couple months earlier. The look on Maki’s face when Kakeru revealed her words is still one of the most beautiful things Yuki’s ever seen.

But growing up with the Sohmas, and in the zodiac, it was a different story. And even with the curse broken, Yuki still can’t seem to adjust to the idea of advertising something like that.

“The day before, or not at all,” Yuki reiterates.

“Fine, fine,” Kakeru concedes. “But none of that ‘just your closest friends’ crap,” Kakeru adamantly adds as the final clause of the agreement. “Give me a guest list.”

“Why? Are you afraid you wouldn’t be invited otherwise?” Yuki says with a smile.

“Sticks and stones, Yun.” Kakeru sticks his tongue out. As Kyo comes out of his room to head to the kitchen. “Ah, speaking of not-close-friends! You comin’, carrot-man?”

Yuki immediately kicks Kakeru under the table and gives him a glare.

“Hey!” Kakeru pouts.

“To what?” Kyo asks with a raised eyebrow.

“My birthday party,” Yuki says. “Apparently.”

“Pass,” Kyo says, immediately.

“C’mon, it’ll be fun! Be there as the prince transforms into a king,” Kakeru says, wistfully.

Kyo snorts.

“No thanks. Wouldn’t want to ruin King Yuki’s big night,” Kyo says passively.

Yuki feels the smallest bit of guilt course through him. It’s then, very inconveniently, that Yuki is reminded of his conversation with Machi. Sure, he doesn’t want Kyo at his birthday party. Especially not his 18th birthday party.

But… it would be strange and oddly immature to invite most of their family and Tohru to something Kyo isn’t allowed to come to.

Ugh, this is starting to sound too zodiac, Yuki thinks.

And, so, he makes the first of many mistakes to come.

“You’re… welcome to, if you want. Tohru will be there.” Kyo turns to look at Yuki, “She might cry if you don’t come.”

“Hell, I’ll cry,” Kakeru tacks on.

“I’ll give you five dollars right now if you can tell me my name,” Kyo says back.

Kakeru gives an offended gasp, “How can you think so little of me?”

“Don’t worry, he’s just covering up for the fact that he doesn’t know your name,” Yuki says passively, looking at a text on his phone from a friend.

“Isn’t it Man-baby or something?” Kyo says in an equally flat tone of voice. Yuki can’t help but swallow a laugh at that.

“The amount of abuse I endure under this roof is too extreme, Kyon,” Kakeru wails. “And here I thought we were becoming best friends.”

Kyo doesn’t even respond, but Kakeru is already busying himself texting a friend to ask about a restaurant they had all gone out to earlier that year. When Yuki finds Kakeru distracted enough, he lifts himself up to join Kyo in the connected kitchen.

“That guy is way too loud,” Kyo says, before Yuki prompts anything out of him. Kakeru is on the phone, talking at full volume to a friend about a venue. Yuki snorts, eyeing Kyo chopping up vegetables for whatever food he’s making.

“Now you know what high school with you was like,” Yuki says. Kyo looks up, offended, but before Kyo can respond, Yuki says, “I do mean it. You can come if you want.”

“To your birthday party?” Kyo has disbelief written all over him.

Yuki shrugs, “Why not. It’s not like we’re kids anymore.”

“We’re not kids, but we ain’t friends,” Kyo says, easily.

“Definitely not,” Yuki responds. “But… Still. I’ll be… happy to have you there.”

Kyo stops what he’s doing and looks at Yuki, still visibly perplexed, but shrugs after a moment. “Whatever.”

Yuki smiles, satisfied with that. It feels good being mature, Yuki thinks. Maybe he’ll think about doing it more often.

—————

All things considered, the party isn’t that bad.

The group terrorizes a half-decent restaurant in Shinjuku to start. A good portion of the former zodiacs are there, including Ayame, who picks up the entire tab at the end of the meal, despite Yuki’s protests. The former student council, along with some high school classmates stop by, as well. And some of Yuki’s new friends from university.

It’s a flurry of attention that Yuki isn’t used to. His university friends treat him normally, and find his family amusing. They elbow him in his side and joke with him when they comment on how this must be why Yuki’s such an oddball.

From there, a smaller group head to a bowling alley. Uo and Kakeru screech at the top of their lungs a plucky “WHAT?” when Yuki reveals he’s never bowled in his life.

Kyo’s ears perk up, and immediately challenges Yuki to a face-off, seeing as he’s bowled a whole three times before.

Hana and Tohru give Yuki a short tutorial on how to throw the ball, and when Yuki summons all his beginner’s luck to roll in a strike on the first try, Kyo’s mouth goes agape.

“This is bullshit,” Kyo says, poking the side of Yuki’s head. “That rat must still be in there.”

“I promise, it’s just because I’m better than you,” Yuki teases right back. Kyo, surprisingly, doesn’t raise his voice, doesn’t scream, doesn’t throw things, and doesn’t storm away. He, instead, gives a devious smirk back.

“I’m not phased just ‘cause you got lucky, pretty boy.”

In the end, that’s exactly what it was. And Yuki loses to Kyo by twelve points. Yuki smiles as he walks back to his friends overflowing from the circular couches. Even as they laugh and make fun of him.

“Not too bad for beginner’s luck,” Machi says.

“But not good enough!” Kyo cries out.

“I think the loser should be the one to get more chicken wings,” Kakeru chirps out.

“I think that’s the most useful thing this guy’s ever said,” Kyo says, crossing his arms.

“No, no, I can get it! It’s Yuki’s birthday!”

“A loss is a loss, Tohru,” Yuki smiles. “Unlike some people, I take my defeats gracefully.”

“How about you talk when you come back with some food!” Kyo spits back as Yuki walks away. Yuki looks over his shoulder to laugh, but keeps going.

It’s the best time he’s had in awhile. It hasn’t ever really occurred to him to celebrate his birthday before, especially not while he was cursed — not while there was something inside him that made it seem silly to celebrate a birthday when he wasn’t the only one born on that day. It was sort of like having a nagging, attention-seeking twin. So Yuki celebrated spiteful victories and never indulged.

Yuki is a bit lost in thought, small smile permanently etched on his face, standing in line at the food counter when someone taps him on the shoulder.

When he turns around, it’s a girl he doesn’t know. Long hair, well-styled waves framing her face, immaculate make-up, and a pretty chiffon romper. Her eyes are blown wide by colored contacts, and Yuki thinks she looks like a lot of the girls on campus.

“You’re pretty cute when you smile,” she says, off the bat.

Yuki blinks, “Excuse me?”

The girl giggles, “Sorry, I see you around campus a lot, but you always seem so serious.”

“Oh,” Yuki says, so he did recognize her. “Sorry, I’m not sure…”

“Yuki,” she says, extending her hand.

“How did you know my name?” Yuki asks.

She gives him a confused look, before she starts to laugh, “No, my name is Yuki.”

“Oh sorry,” Yuki gives an embarrassed smile and shakes her hand. “I guess that takes care of my introduction.”

“It’s a nice name, if I do say so myself,” she says, smoothly. She even leans in a bit at the tail end of her sentence, and all of the sudden they’re standing even closer. “I see you’re here with a party.”

“My friends dragged me out for my birthday,” Yuki says. “I’ve never actually been bowling before.”

“You’re kidding!” She laughs, “you should play against my friends. We’re terrible! It’ll make your first time feel a lot better.”

“It might be nice after all the abuse my friends have been giving me,” Yuki smiles.

“That’s no way to treat someone on their birthday,” she tosses a lock of her hair behind her shoulder, and tilts her head just slightly. Yuki can feel something of an alarm going off inside his gut. “How old are you?”

“I’m turning 18,” Yuki says, immediately becoming aware that he’s wearing short sleeves. Her hands trail down to his wrist. He quickly tacks on, “Tomorrow.”

“So you don’t have your mark yet,” she flutters her eyelids. “Me neither, I get mine in another month. You must be excited.”

“I… am,” Yuki says carefully.

“I can’t wait to get mine. With my birthday coming up, I’m trying to remember every first word someone says to me,” she laughs again, soft, sweet, and controlled. He smiles back, eyeing his table and willing for his food to finally be ready.

No one’s paying attention to him. They’re all laughing and yelling and Momiji is sending the ball backwards through his legs.

“I guess it’s hard not to think about that,” Yuki says.

“So… do you remember the first words I said to you?” She asks, voice going a little lower.

“Um.”

Girl Yuki is smiling as she digs through her purse and pulls out a pen. Without a moment of hesitation, she gently grabs Yuki’s left wrist and brings it to her.

In pen, right above her phone number, she writes “You’re pretty cute when you smile.”

Yuki looks at it when she snaps the lid on the pen and puts it back in her purse.
“Just in case, you know?” She kisses her index finger and playfully uses it to peck Yuki on the cheek. And then she walks away, but not before tossing a look over her shoulder and giving a little wave.

Yuki’s a bit flustered, and all his brain can think to do is wave back. He hears a gaggle of giggles from a group of girls that she walks back to, and all of them eye him unsubtly. Yuki feels himself flush hot with embarrassment.

His food couldn’t come any sooner, and when it does he rushes back to his own party.

“You must have gotten your mark early,” comments Hana as he sets down the tray of fried chicken on the table. Yuki flushes again.

“What?!” Kakeru and Uo spew out.

“Wait, really? Did you get it?” Momiji asks, bouncing up next to him to peer at his wrist.

“It’s not… no, a girl wrote on my arm,” Yuki says, toeing the line between being embarrassed and annoyed. “It’s nothing.”

“Ooooo, now that’s a line!” Kimi chirps, yanking Yuki’s arm to read the words. “I should’ve tried that on you ages ago.”

“Isn’t that embarrassing if it’s not the same words, though?” One of Yuki’s university friends calls out, and suddenly everyone is laughing again.

Kyo’s voice cuts through, “Yuki! Rematch!”

And just like that, the party continues on as normal.

 

—————————

 

Yuki waves goodbye to everyone as they all go their separate ways. He has two bags filled with presents from everyone, and feels a bit awkward having to carry them all the way home. Kyo says bye to Tohru and Haru, but starts walking without Yuki as a signal that he’s taking too long.

Kyo is quiet most of the way home—nothing too unusual. Tonight they’ve spoken more than they have in their two months of living together. But on the subway, Yuki does catch Kyo looking at the pen ink on his wrist.

“What?” He says, and Kyo’s eyes snap up to his.

“What?” Kyo aggressively replies.

“Don’t ‘what’ at me, you’re the one staring,” Yuki says, voice low and controlled on the subway. Kyo crosses his arm and doesn’t answer. And Yuki thinks that’s that.

That’s why it surprises Yuki when Kyo gives an annoyed puff as they climb up the stairs to their apartment.

“You could just spit it out,” Yuki sighs as he puts his key in the lock and presses the door open.

“It’s just so trashy,” Kyo bemoans, pushing past Yuki to enter the apartment first.

Yuki cocks an eyebrow, setting the bags of presents down at the entryway, “What is?”

“That dumb scribble on your arm,” Kyo motions. He didn’t even realize Kyo was paying attention to him when it happened. But, then again, it doesn’t surprise Yuki that Kyo has an opinion on everything.

“Who writes on a guy’s hand as a line? Hell, who lets someone write on their hand for a line.”

“She didn’t give me much of a choice,” Yuki sighs. He makes a beeline for their kitchen sink, tasking Kyo with turning on the lights of their dim apartment.

“You’re too damn soft,” Kyo huffs. “You could learn to say no once in awhile.”

“Who knows, maybe she was my soulmate,” Yuki deadpans, immediately washing off the pen ink with soap and water. Kyo gives a snort.

“Ain’t that just a testament of faith.” Kyo leans up against the counter by Yuki, who flicks his hands dry in the sink and once at Kyo for good measure.

“I think you could stand to be a little more romantic, god knows all other aspects of your personality are shot to hell. You should have something to fall back on.”

“Hey, don’t worry about me,” Kyo jams his thumb into his chest. “I’m romantic plenty,”—Yuki’s turn to snort—“I just know that my soulmate isn’t gonna be some giggling girl who treats me like a human doodle.”

“Oh yeah? Then who is your soulmate going to be? I think anyone who could even marginally tolerate you would be a viable candidate.”

Kyo clenches his fist, but represses the urge to charge—something that still lingers after the curse broke and after their hesitant and reluctant truce with each other. A true testament to how infuriating Yuki is.

“Obviously they’d have to tolerate me, fuckface. Unless the universe is just out to bone me completely,” Kyo says through gritted teeth.

“Nice to see you’re such an optimist, especially since the universe has such a kind track record.”

“You have a real shitty attitude for someone who’s getting their mark in a couple hours.”

“Do I?” Yuki asks lightly, crossing his arms. Kyo rolls his eyes, stretching to Indicate his weary bones.

“Don’t worry about it, you always have a shitty attitude.” Yuki smiles at that, especially with how little venom Kyo’s tone held. “I’m going to bed.”

“Goodnight,” Yuki calls after his already retreating form. Kyo doesn’t respond except with the clicking of the door as it closed.

————

In all honesty Yuki is excited about his mark, despite how he’s coming across to Kyo, apparently. Maybe he’s just nervous. He hasn’t been this nervous in awhile. And not in such a genuine way. The last time he could remember flutters in his heart was seeing Tohru emerge in that pastel, yellow dress that made her look so feminine, so beautiful.

Then again, those nerves were born from expectations rather than true romance.

The idea of being in love is baffling to Yuki. He’s barely had a crush before, and now his ultimate perfect person is being delivered to him on his wrist.

How would he know who they are? How would he find them? Despite not taking an interest in the girl at the bowling alley, he now couldn’t help thinking about all the first words that had been said to him. She was right, it was hard not to think about it.

It feels exciting and special, and Yuki is grateful that he could actually feel that way, now that the curse was broken. When the rat spirit was still in him, Yuki remembers trying not to think about it at all. It just felt like something that could be taken away. Akito also made it clear that no soulmate bond would ever be allowed to penetrate that of the zodiac’s.

Hence, the incident with Hatori and Kana…

His mind is getting pulled down into places he didn’t want to be anymore. So he shakes his head, and continues getting ready for bed. He focuses on the warm, bubbling feeling, instead. Of what his mark would promise. A soulmate who he loves, and who loves him.

It’s 10:34, and the words wouldn’t start to form until midnight. Apparently it being a long process, taking nearly 3 to 4 hours until the mark is fully legible. Yuki takes a deep breath as he fastens up the buttons of his pajamas. They’re long sleeved, deliberately, though it’s sweltering hot in his room.

He isn’t going to look. He’s emotionally exhausted and just wants to sleep. He would let the excitement surge through him, creating a relaxing pulse of energy in his body for him to sleep to. Like watching the clouds form overhead on a winter night, knowing when you woke up snow would coat the ground.

He lays his head on his pillow and rests his left wrist by his head, tenderly. Whatever words appeared on his wrist tomorrow, he would treat them gently. Beautifully. Something he feels he’s capable of now, even if it’s shaky.

Tomorrow, Yuki would wake up and the first words of his soulmate would be looking back at him. All he knew, is that he would cherish it with all his growing heart.

————————

Just fucking kidding.

Yuki stares down at his mark the next day, the joints in his elbows, underarms, and knees sweating from sleeping overnight in his winter pajamas. His body feels clammy and his stomach was dropping 90 miles a minute only to click click click back up his spinal chord and drop again.

His blunt nails dig into the skin that dons a fresh new mark, and all Yuki could think is he needs a knife.

He’s going to cut off his damn arm.

A sharp bang on the door causes Yuki to jump three feet in the air, “Can you wake the hell up already?!” Kyo’s voice rings through his room as if there isn’t even a door there at all, and Yuki feels every vein in his body, until he realizes that his panic has an accompanying soundtrack of his beeping alarm. He tries too quickly to turn it off, accidentally flicking it off his bedside table.

“I’m up! I’m up!” Yuki reigns in the shaky catch of his voice, grabbing the clock from the floor and hitting the snooze button.

After a second, Yuki hears a mumbled, “jeez whatever” before Kyo is stomping away from his room and towards the entrance. Thank god. Yuki feels some of the tension in his shoulders release.

This is just a bad dream, really. He closes his eyes tight before looking back down at his wrist as if that might erase the words altogether. No such luck. And in a neat cursive, as flowing and gentle as the waves of the sea, the words stare right back:

You’re the rat spirit, right?

Kyo Sohma’s first words to him. A memory so engrained in his skull that he can still feel each touch of snowflakes on his skin. He can remember the color of Kyo’s scarf, that it was red and brown, and even that it had a tattered string at the end — though he doesn’t know why he can remember that.

Kyo was wearing shorts in the snow, looking angry and orange and as if he had already spent his entire lifetime fighting the entire world.

And now the punchline of young Kyo’s manifesto is permanently inked onto Yuki’s wrist.

He can’t deal with this right now. Right now he needs something to cover up this hellish blight on his skin. Holding his wrist close to his body, he cracks open his door and peers out into the hall. When he confirms Kyo is truly gone, he runs to the shared bathroom and rips open the cabinets to retrieve the bandages there.

He’s never been one for patching up injuries, but this is the tightest job he’d ever done.

 

—————————

 

He can unwrap the bandage if he wants to, he realizes. Even if they go to the same university, no one in his department even knows Kyo. But, no, Kyo can’t even allow him that.

The words you’re the rat spirit require some kind of explanation that Yuki cannot give. He can already hear the words rolling off his classmates tongue if they prod his wrist and hold it up to their eyes.

What’s THAT supposed to mean? They’d say, and Yuki flinches at even the thought of it. After seventeen years of being cursed, he’s only allowed a few months before it’s right back to being etched onto his body again. A constant reminder of what he might always be.

How again is Kyo supposed to be his soulmate? If anything, the mark serves as a reminder for why they hate each other. Why Kyo hates him. Why they can never be together. The curse could break, their spirits could dissipate, and their hair colors could fade from their vibrant colors to murky browns and blacks. But Kyo will always be his fated enemy.

The worst part is that Yuki is actually getting along fairly well with his peers. They treat him normally. Say good morning, tease him when he spaces out, ask him to karaoke nights and lunches in the university cafeteria. That air of mystery that kept him secluded in high school is popped, and instead he’s regarded as a quiet, normal—if slightly odd—university student. It feels nice.

And all it takes is a bandage around his wrist on his 18th birthday to send that flying out the window.

As soon as he walks into his classes, he’s dodging questions about the bandage around his wrist. People’s curiosities are piqued and now. There’s a need to know the mystery behind Yuki’s covered wrist. Every question about his mark just reminds him of how he’d keep himself tense and alert in the halls of his high school to avoid bumping or running into girls.

He smooths out his panicking edges with a seamless charm when he talks around questions about his mark. He gives those elusive smiles that he did when girls would greet him in the hallways in groups of three. He creates a mystery around himself that he never wanted to, and it catches around his class like wildfire.

Yuki with the soulmate mark that no one knew about. There has to be a story there. There has to be a cinderella waiting on the other side of the bandage that he can’t open his heart up to yet. It’s as if people can predict and gauge his vulnerability when they look at his wrist, and Yuki feels more on display than ever before.

He hasn’t felt it in so long, hasn’t let himself hate Kyo in ages, but right now — he does. He hates Kyo and he hates the stain he left behind on his skin.

Indignantly, and somewhat childishly, Yuki grumbles to himself how that’s all Kyo will ever be to him, anyway. A stain he can’t get rid of.

 

————————

 

The bottom line is that Yuki has to tell Kyo. He knows this. Logically, he knows this. There’s no way Yuki can hide this forever. After two weeks he’s already gone through 3 boxes of bandages, and the skin around his mark is starting to itch because of it.

However, unsurprisingly, Yuki is having a tough time approaching the topic. Remind him again how he’s supposed to go up to his fated enemy turned tentative acquaintance turned roommate and say, “hey, according to the universe we’re the perfect couple.”

It would be funny if it didn’t make Yuki so damn nauseas.

There’s a good few days of denial leading up to this point. When Yuki is alone in the apartment, sometimes he’ll unwrap the bandage just to make absolutely sure that it says what he thinks it does. And sometimes he hopes it’ll just be gone altogether.

Yuki stares at his wrist as he walks home from school one day, glaring at it just a little.

This is supposed to be an exciting thing. This is supposed to be something beautiful and life-changing. Yuki is supposed to find a person outside of this Sohma-dented world and build a new life with someone who wants the same things. It is supposed to be a final farewell to everything the curse has weighed down on him, and a look to a new future.

Now, all Yuki can think is that if they reject each other, at least the mark will disappear.

In the back of his head, Yuki can hear his mother taunting him.

He remembers his mother talking about the soulmate mark as if it was some sort of defect, as if it was a mark of stupidity.

People who pursue their soulmates are foolish, and nothing would beat the logical connection of someone you could benefit from.

The problem is that Yuki had hopes of being that fool in love. It sounded nice. In theory, at least. Maybe he’ll still get that somehow. Down the line. There are plenty of stories of people ending up with non-soulmates. Or rejected people who find each other after their marks fade.

He bitterly comforts himself with this.

It is promptly interrupted by Yuki tripping over the raised metal of the open gate outside his apartment complex. He barely catches himself and hears the sound of a laugh barking behind him.

“You were walking with your stupid head at your knees for like a block, I was waitin’ to see if you tripped on something,” Kyo announces from behind him.

Yuki glares at him. A fresh wave of anger billows through him. Soulmate ruiner, he thinks.

“Jealous that a piece of metal could beat me when you never could?” Yuki snarls back.

“I’m just happy to see anything beat you,” Kyo says, a considerable amount of the humor taken from his voice as he brushes past Yuki. When they’re at the top of the stairs, close to their apartment, Yuki finally builds the courage.

“Kyo, I,” he clears his throat. Kyo looks at him, unimpressed, as he unlocks the door. “I need to talk to you about something.”

“Then talk,” Kyo says. Yuki follows him inside and closes the door behind him. When Yuki opens his mouth, however, the phone by the entry table starts to ring.

Yuki answers it with a sigh, “Hello?”

“This is Kunimitsu Tomoda,” the voice says. “Is Kyo Sohma there?”

“Kunimitsu? This is Yuki Sohma, hello,” Yuki says.

“Oh, hello, Yuki,” Kunimitsu says, confused. “Do I have the wrong number?”

“No, Kyo’s right here. Just a second.”

Yuki hands the phone over to Kyo, who has been hovering since Kunimitsu announced himself on the other line.

“Yeah, what?” Kyo says, pinching the phone between ear and shoulder.

Yuki tries to catch his breath, thinking of what to say. Should he just show Kyo his mark? Would Kyo even remember that conversation? Should he tell him first? Maybe lead with the rejection before Kyo could—

“Shishou’s what?!”

Yuki’s thoughts stop sharp. Yuki locks eyes with Kyo, and it’s the first time he’s ever seen him look terrified.

————————

Kyo bursts into the hospital room with Yuki following close behind. Kazuma is sitting on a hospital bed, smiling and chatting with a nurse as if there are no bandages on his head at all. Kyo has been a shade of sheet white since they left the apartment, and Yuki feels something tug at him. He keeps looking at Kyo out of the corner of his eye every other minute or so.

“SHISHOU!” Kyo says, startling the nurse.

“Kyo! Yuki!” Kazuma says, eyes wide, surprised.

“What the hell happened?” He says to Kazuma, then immediately to the nurse, “What happened to him?”

“Is everything okay?” Yuki asks, Kyo’s panic rubbing off on him.

“I’m fine, you didn’t have to come down here,” Kazuma says.

“He’s alright,” confirms the nurse. “He has a concussion, and a pretty nasty bump on his head, but he should be fine in a week or two.”

“It was my fault for not watching where I was going on the mountain path,” Kazuma sighs.

Kyo is oddly silent in response, and the nurse looks between the three of them. “If you need anything…”

Yuki smiles politely, “I think we’re okay for now. Thank you very much.”

She nods, taking her cue to leave. Yuki suddenly feels very awkward in the hospital room, as if he’s intruding on a private moment. Never has he seen Kyo look this frail and vulnerable.

“How did you know to come here?” Kazuma asks after a moment, mostly to Yuki.

“Kunimitsu called us. He said you slipped during a hike and hit your head pretty hard,” Yuki offers.

“Mm, he shouldn’t have worried you two,” Kazuma says.

“You should’ve called me,” Kyo finally says. “I don’t wanna hear shit like that from Kunimitsu.”

“Now, Kyo—”

“He’s right, Shi-han,” Yuki adds, gently.

Kazuma gives a gentle smile, looking towards Kyo, “I promise I’m alright. I’m sorry I didn’t call you.”

He reaches out for Kyo’s clenched fist. Yuki watches the scene with his back pressed against the wall. Kyo looks held together by bursting seams. He recognizes that look. It reminds him of keeping that tight lid on everything through his childhood, through middle school, through most of high school.

Yuki deliberately looks away. He hated being watched like that when he was younger, the least he could do was afford Kyo the same courtesy.

——————

The doctor tells Kazuma to avoid any physical or mental activity that could agitate his concussion. He stresses that he needs plenty of rest, and to take it easy.

Kyo scoffs a, “like he’s gonna listen to that.”

And so, at Kyo’s insistence, Kazuma stays in their apartment for the next week. Kyo sleeps out in the living room on a spare futon, while Kazuma stays in Kyo’s room. Kazuma is an early riser, just like Kyo, and Yuki is woken up more than once from Kyo screaming at Kazuma in his booming voice.

On the first day, Yuki’s head is groggy and irritated, but he doesn’t say anything when he shuffles out of his room, disoriented and fuzzy.

“I told you not to touch anything! Go back to sleep!” Kyo calls after Kazuma, chasing him out of the kitchen with a spatula. “If you want breakfast, I’ll get it for you! Right now the last thing you need is your shitty cooking! And with your concussion, you’ll burn the building down!”

“I can’t tell if I’m being taken care of, or abused,” Kazuma says in a light, humorous tone. He sits at the table, patiently, nonetheless. “Good morning, Yuki.”

“Mmm, ‘morning,” Yuki slurs.

“Don’t bother talkin’ to him, Shishou. He’ll be useless for the next few hours.”

“‘m not useless,” Yuki yawns.

“Oh yeah? Then get in here and help me make breakfast. Just do as you’re told and maybe we’ll end up with something edible,” Kyo steams and he storms back into the kitchen.

Yuki groans, “he’s like an alarm clock with no snooze button.”

“He’s always been energetic,” Kazuma smiles. “He was just like this as a kid.”

“Abuse and all?” Yuki asks.

“YUKI!” Kyo calls from the kitchen. Kazuma laughs and Yuki rolls his eyes and reports to where he’s been summoned.

“All that yelling can’t be good for Shi-han’s head,” Yuki says, stretching as he walks up to Kyo.

“Just make some tea or something,” Kyo mumbles. Yuki does as he’s told. The two work in silence for a little. Yuki fills the kettle with water, and grabs the cheaper tea bags they buy from the store to fill three different mugs with water.

His mind is spaced out and still waking up when Kyo gives a quiet, “Hey.”

“Hm?” Yuki asks, staring at nothing as the water heats up.

“Sorry to wake you, or whatever,” Kyo says finally. Yuki turns to look at him.

“It’s fine,” Yuki says, truthfully. It wakes Yuki up more than he wants to admit.

After that, Yuki, Kyo, and Kazuma fall into a strange little routine. Yuki doesn’t advertise it, but he does try and stay home as much as possible to help give Kyo peace of mind while he’s at his own classes. Kyo practically runs home every day, and immediately coddles Kazuma into laying down, or resting.

Yuki is also quick to realize that Kyo is more like Kazuma than he first thought. When Yuki used to attend karate practices, Kazuma always appeared to be this peaceful, quiet, friendly giant with an infinite well of wisdom. Sure, he’s still a lot of those things, but with the same twitchy hyper active energy as Kyo.

Kazuma wakes up early, and complains when Kyo stops him from doing his morning exercises. He doesn’t seem the type to be able to sit still for long, unless he’s purposely meditating. He clogs up the phone line trying to talk to Kunimitsu about affairs at the dojo (which Kyo also cuts off). And he asks to go on walks around the neighborhood nearly every two hours (Kyo always says no).

Yuki watches the two interact with a growing fondness. Laughing when Kyo and Kazuma banter back and forth. He enjoys watching Kyo grow frustrated at how complimentary Kazuma is to his son, even when Kyo is trying to pick a fight.

And it’s a strange, and not unwelcome side of Kyo that cares for his guardian with such intensity. Kyo cooks every meal for Kazuma. He buys him special pillows, despite his frugality. He calls the dojo and makes sure that things are running smoothly so Kazuma doesn’t have to. He calls the hospital at every question he isn’t sure of (“Of course he can take a couple of pain killers!” “I just want to be sure!”).

They talk everyday that Kazuma is in the house, and get along more or less easily. Though, it is simple when they have the common goal of looking after Shi-han, Yuki thinks. Their arguments are relatively put on hold, as well.

That is, until the end of the week comes around.

Yuki is home from his classes early, and sitting with Kazuma in the living room. Yuki is working on homework, and Kazuma is reading a book he’s already read before, when he looks up at Yuki.

“One stroll around the neighborhood won’t kill me,” he says.

“I think Kyo would disagree.”

“I’m being held captive by my own son,” Kazuma chuckles. “Our little secret, Yuki. Just a quick walk, if you don’t mind. I think I might start going stir-crazy.”

Yuki sighs, and closes his textbook, “Fine. But I’m coming with you.”

Kazuma smiles.

——

The neighborhood where they live is a nice part of town, but not nearly as residential as the area Shigure’s house was in.

A few blocks away is a fairly busy shopping center, and in the other direction an elementary school that’s filled with screaming kids running around mornings and afternoons.

Yuki walks side by side with Kazuma on the sidewalk as cars and people bustle past. The sun is only just starting to set in the later summer hour, and Yuki feels refreshed after staring at his text books all afternoon.

“I’m happy to see you and Kyo getting along,” Kazuma says nearly three blocks into their walk.

“We don’t really have a choice,” Yuki brushes off.

“You have a choice in everything you do,” Kazuma says, simply. “It’s important you remember that.”

Yuki doesn’t respond, instead he lets his eyes wander to Kazuma’s wrist. His mark peeks out now and again as his arms jostle with the walk.

Yuki clears his throat, gaining Kazuma’s attention, “Can I ask what your mark says, Shi-han?”

As easily as breathing, Kazuma lifts his wrist and pulls the sleeve back, smiling as he says, “Are you finished already?” He lets his arm drop.

“I wonder what it means,” Yuki says, quietly.

“I’ve wondered that, too,” Kazuma replies. “When I was a university student, I used to think it would be about one of the exams. In fact, there was a young woman in my literature class that I liked very much, and so I always tried to fly through my tests. Needless to say, I didn’t do very well that semester.”

Kazuma chuckles, and Yuki rubs the back of his neck, “It’s hard to picture you like that.”

“No one gets to skip young foolishness in life,” Kazuma laughs.

“Maybe not” Yuki mumbles.

Kazuma smiles and gestures to Yuki’s covered wrist, “and you, Yuki?”

Yuki hides his arm behind his back again, feeling his stomach plummet as he looks away, “Um—”

“I’m just kidding,” Kazuma says. “You don’t need to show anyone if you’re not ready.”

“Thank you,” Yuki nods, letting his bandaged wrist come back to his side. A comfortable silence passes before Yuki asks, “Have you found them yet?”

Kazuma shakes his head, “When the time is right, I’m sure they’ll come into my life.”

Yuki feels his heart sink at that. Of all the wonderful people in the world, who deserved to find their loved one, it was Kazuma. A man with the biggest heart, and the kindest disposition he’s ever known. It really is no wonder Kyo dotes on him as much as he does, Yuki thinks.

“I think I would go crazy, waiting so long,” Yuki says, offhandedly.

“Are you calling me old?” Kazuma teases. Yuki laughs apologetically as they round the block, the apartment complex in sight after the short walk when—

“HEY!”

Yuki and Kazuma turn to see Kyo behind them, eyes angry and stance stiff and tense.

“Oh, great,” Yuki says as Kyo storms up to them.

“What the hell do you think you two are doing?” Kyo snaps. “I told you not to leave the apartment!”

“We just went for a short walk,” Yuki reasons back.

“That’s not fucking staying in the apartment, is it?!”

“Why don’t we continue this conversation upstairs,” Kazuma calmly suggests, noting the looks they’re all getting on the street.

The three walk to the apartment in a tense silence, Kyo opening the door a bit too aggressively when they get there. Kazuma and Yuki shuffle in behind after him when Kyo slams the door.

“Don’t get so angry, Kyo,” Kazuma warns.

“I don’t wanna hear it! I told you to stay in the apartment! You can’t damn take care of yourself, clearly, so the least you could do is listen!”

“Kyo, it was just a walk,” Yuki says again, irritated. “It won’t hurt him.”

“Oh, sorry. Are you a fucking doctor, Yuki?! I must have missed that!”

“I don’t think the doctor ordered for you to keep him imprisoned in here, either! It’s not like we live in a palace, you might as well put him in a box!”

“Don’t spout some bullshit at me just ‘cause you don’t know how fucking consequences work! You’re used to shit just working out for you! That’s not how it is for everybody else!”

“Kyo, calm down,” Kazuma says.

“Don’t take this out on me when you’re the one being absurdly controlling! You could let the man breathe!”

“He can breathe when he’s better!”

“Don’t be so stubborn! You’re acting like a child!”

“Boys—”

“You know what?! FINE,” Kyo yells, grabbing his keys again off the counter. “You think I’m controlling? You think I need to calm down? Sorry for being an asshole and taking fucking care of my—!” Kyo cuts himself off, with a huff. “Next time, I’ll just be a shitty kid and let you sit in the goddamn hospital!”

Kyo leaves the apartment, slamming the door behind him. Kazuma sighs, shaking his head.

“I didn’t know it would upset him this much,” Kazuma says. Yuki thinks back to Kyo standing in the hospital room in front of Kazuma. His fist clenched, his face white, his eyes brimming with every violent emotion inside him. Yuki goes for his keys, next to where Kyo’s would be.

“I think I’ll go after him, Shi-han,” Yuki says.

“I think that’s a good idea.” Kazuma says. “Would you tell him I’m sorry if you get the chance?”

Yuki nods, and closes the door behind him with a click.

——

It doesn’t take long for Yuki to find Kyo. A few blocks away from their apartment is a park where a lot of the elementary school kids play. It’s dark now, the sky mostly night apart from the orange outlined horizon.

Yuki doesn’t know much about Kyo, but he will admit that he’s had more than his fair share of experience with Kyo’s rage. And if there’s one thing Yuki knows, it’s that when Kyo is mad, he needs to move.

Yuki ventures into the park, nearing a small patch of trees. The only break in the city life that anyone could encounter in this part of Tokyo. Sure enough, Kyo is there. He’s diligently punching the air with perfect form punctuated by a too aggressive follow through. His kicks are just the same, and Yuki thinks that Kyo looks as if his arm and leg might fly off his body just from the force of it.

Yuki watches him for a second more before deciding to approach him. Kyo throws a look his way, but goes back to his false punches without missing a beat.

“Are you alright?” Yuki asks, a bit too gently.

“I’m fine. Fuck off.” Kyo kicks the air with one leg and then the other in quick succession.

“I’m sorry,” Yuki says after a beat, swallowing more than a little of his pride. “Shi-han is too.”

“Whatever,” Kyo says. Yuki’s mind stutters with what to say next, lingering by Kyo. The sun is fully set and the summer cicadas chirp at a deafening decibel. “Is that it? ‘Cause you can fucking leave now.”

“I don’t…” Yuki rolls his eyes, struggling with each word, “Want you to be upset.”

“I’m not upset.”

“I think you are.”

“I’m not.”

“You are.”

“I’m not.”

“You are.”

“I’M FUCKING NOT UPSET!” Kyo yells, finally stopping to look at Yuki. Yuki gives him a knowing smile, and Kyo lets out a frustrated noise. “Alright fine! I’m upset! Happy? Can you leave me alone?”

“Kyo—”

“No! I’m not doing this with you right now! I’m not in the mood to get all fucking riled up by you! If you want to piss someone off, go call Akito or something! I’m not here to get shit on by you!”

“I’m not here to shit on you,” Yuki says, exasperated. “I’m here to apologize.”

“Here’s an idea! Don’t do things that you need to apologize for! What part of Shishou has a concussion do you not understand? If ANYTHING—” Kyo’s voice cracks, and he immediately makes an angered noise, as if frustrated by his own bursting emotion.

Yuki blinks at him, something inside him cracking with Kyo’s voice.

“If anything happens to him,” Kyo tries again, this time quieter and brutally controlled.

“Nothing’s going to happen to him,” Yuki reassures after a moment. “It was a little accident. He’s okay.”

“I know that,” Kyo says through his teeth, his fists clenching again. Yuki eyes them again, and without thinking, sets his feet in a fight stance, bringing his fists up. Kyo quirks an eyebrow at him.

“What are you doing?”

“It’ll help,” Yuki says. “I’m at least a better opponent than air.”

“I wouldn’t give you that much credit,” Kyo mumbles, but soon after he gets into his own stance. “I’m not gonna go easy.”

“I never expect you to.”

Kyo lunges at Yuki, fist following fist following dodge following kick. It’s different from their other fights. Kyo doesn’t punch to hurt Yuki, he doesn’t kick to try and make him fall. Kyo loses himself in technique, stretches his arms and legs to consume the space around him and lets out kiai after kiai in an effort to release his voice.

Yuki does him a courtesy by yelling his own, as well. Setting a stage that allows wild movement and loud exclamations. When he punches at Kyo, he does so with a force and passion that matches Kyo’s, as if trying to keep up with him in a tango.

In the fight, Yuki starts to realize how fascinating it is to watch Kyo in his element. He swings with a precision that Yuki never acknowledged before, and with an intensity that’s dangerous. It sparks through Yuki’s spine, being able to match him like this. And Yuki, for the first time, can feel sweat break onto his forehead in a fight with Kyo.

Kyo swings and punches and kicks and yells and Yuki dodges and blocks and twists and shouts right back at him. It’s towards the end that Yuki can see Kyo start to unravel. He’s frustrated by Yuki’s defensive tactics, and starts trying to hack at his blocks. He swings and swings and swings and swings, and his shouts become more unstable each time. Yuki steps back with each hit, becoming overwhelmed by Kyo’s frustration, but never losing his head or presence.

When Kyo swings again, Yuki takes the opportunity to land a blow to his stomach. Kyo gives an audible oof at the impact, and trips forward, fist still extended. Yuki dodges by taking a step back, not noticing the wiry, child’s jungle gym behind him. Yuki grabs the first thing he can—Kyo—and the two fall down hard.

Both suck in breath after breath, overexerted from the fight, and sweaty from the exercise and still warm summer air. Kyo is sprawled out over Yuki, his head just below Yuki’s arm as he lays face down in the grass half-on, half-off Yuki.

It’s weird having another person’s weight on him, Yuki thinks. It feels like a heavy blanket, and for the barest of seconds, Yuki feels an odd kind of comfort take over him.

Kyo, however is quick to roll off him and onto his back, so the two are laying side by side, still breathing heavily.

“That was cheap,” Kyo says, but his voice doesn’t sound as angered or as overwhelmed as it did when Yuki first found him.

“All’s fair,” Yuki says, brushing it off.

“You don’t get to call this a win just ‘cause you’re clumsy,” Kyo huffs. Yuki turns his head to the side to look at Kyo, surprised to see he’s already staring back.

“Draw?”

“Draw,” Kyo breathes, hoisting himself up so that he’s sitting, but doesn’t make another move past that. Yuki lifts himself up, too. Letting his arms support his upper body. The two sit in the summer air for a second, letting their breaths calm down. A few people still walk by, but the park remains fairly empty still. It’s a nice getaway from the bustle of trains and buses and crowded sidewalks and packed campuses.

“Hey,” Kyo says, bringing Yuki’s attention to him. “I didn’t mean to get so pissed at you.”

Yuki blinks, “Are you apologizing?”

“Don’t be a douche about it.”

“I’m not,” Yuki says immediately. “I mean, it’s okay. You don’t have to.”

Kyo turns back to look at Yuki over his shoulder, before looking back ahead. “I just thought that when the fucking curse broke—“ Kyo cuts himself off with a frustrated noise. Yuki suddenly understands exactly what he means.

“…That things might be different?” Yuki offers.

“I don’t get why I’m still so mad,” Kyo says through his teeth. “I should be over it.”

Yuki tilts his neck back and stares up. There’s too much light pollution to be able to see more than a couple stars, but Yuki finds them in the inky black nonetheless. “If it helps, I’m not quite ‘over it’, either… I think we just need time. No one is expecting you to change overnight. So you shouldn’t, either.”

For the second time that evening, when Yuki goes to look at Kyo, he’s already staring back. But this time, they lock eyes for longer than either intended. Of all things, Yuki’s left wrist feels warm under his bandage.

“We’ll go back when you’re ready,” Yuki says. “Unless you still want me to leave.”

Yuki says it as a genuine offer, but Kyo flops back down on his back, a tired look being allowed to fill his face. It takes a long few moments of Kyo breathing in and out, chest rising and falling.

Finally, he says, “Nah. You can stay.”

——

Kazuma leaves a few days later, and Yuki and Kyo both see him off at the train station. He thanks them both for looking after him, and invites them to come to the dojo sometime soon.

“I’m always at the damn dojo,” Kyo says.

“With Yuki, I mean,” Kazuma says.

The two share an apprehensive side glance, and Kazuma gives a hearty laugh at that. And, with another wave, he leaves.

Yuki and Kyo walk side to side back to the apartment. Halfway home, Kyo turns to look at Yuki.

“Oh yeah, what was that thing you wanted to tell me when Kunimitsu called?”

Yuki almost trips on nothing, and does everything not to instinctively look at his wrist. Now would be a good time. Kyo outright asked, after-all. Finally, this issue can be dealt with and he can stop sweating under the itchy bandages.

So Yuki turns to Kyo and says, “Oh, it was nothing.”

Like the idiot he is.

Chapter Text

Yuki opens the door to the apartment after an exhausting day of classes. He kicks off his shoes, and plops his backpack in the entryway, making a beeline to the kitchen. He needs grease or salt or something decidedly unhealthy as a congratulations to himself for finishing this week off.

It’s less than a few seconds later that Yuki is ripping into a bag of chips from the pantry, grabbing a cold bottle of tea from the fridge and ready to veg out in the living room, when Kyo’s door slides open with a snap.

Yuki stops, mid chip-to-mouth, to stare at a bristling Kyo with flared nostrils for an extra effect. His arms are still wide, holding the door open, and Yuki gives him a puzzled look, deciding to finish the chip’s journey to his mouth now that his initial startling has passed.

Kyo exhales a heavy “Nope.” And then he closes the door.

Yuki looks around the living room, trying to see if he missed something, but upon seeing nothing out of order he sits.

It’s only a few seconds later that Kyo snaps the door open again. The same agitated look on his face, and his fingers tap against his open doorframe.

“Yes?” Yuki prompts, considerably less taken aback this time.

Kyo looks like he’s chewing on the words like he would a bad steak.

“Do you…” Kyo exhales again. He looks around the room and spots Yuki’s bag flung out over the entryway. “Do you have to leave your bag layin’ out like that?”

Yuki looks to the entryway, and then back to Kyo. “Yes. The doctor’s say it’s a serious side effect of a fatal condition.”

“What condition? Dumbass-itis?”

“Walked right into that one,” Yuki deadpans as he pops another chip in his mouth.

Kyo closes the door again. Yuki rolls his eyes, takes a swig of his drink, and taps on the table, waiting for the door to snap open again.

Sure enough—

“You have a phone,” Kyo says immediately.

“Is this a statement or a question?”

Kyo disappears into his room for a moment and remerges, sitting heavily at the table across from Yuki. With little poise and grace, he slides a brand new cell phone across the table to Yuki, who snatches it easily.

It’s a nice phone. Nothing too expensive—Yuki can tell by the somewhat clunky design. But it’s definitely not a brick from the ‘90s, either. The lightbulb goes off in Yuki’s head.

“Are you asking me for help?”

“Just shut up and make it work,” Kyo says, eyes narrowing easily. Yuki gives a condescending snort and flips the phone open.

It’s stuck on the registration page, a blank box sitting on the screen with a flashing text cursor.

“What’s your e-mail?” Yuki says.

“I don’t have that,” Kyo grumbles.

“You don’t have an e-mail?”

“No.”

“…But you know what one is, right?”

“Of course I know what an e-mail is, Christ!” Kyo snaps back.

“Just had to check,” Yuki says, smiling to himself. “You’ll have to make one for your phone. What do you want it to be?”

“I don’t know, my name?”

“Not very creative,” Yuki hums.

“Not lookin’ to be creative,” Kyo says through his teeth.

“And not very original, either,” Yuki adds.

“So?”

“In our high school alone there were two other people with the surname Sohma with no relation to us. ‘Kyo Sohma’ isn’t exactly going to be available as an e-mail address.” To prove the point, Yuki taps in the name and turns the phone around to show Kyo the big red (X) UNAVAILABLE that appears on the screen.

“Well how am I supposed to know that? I don’t even want a stupid e-mail address!”

“Don’t throw a fit, just add a number or something at the end.”

“I’m not throwing—” Kyo collects himself, looking back at Yuki with a very tight-lipped expression. “You could at least pretend you’re not teasing me.”

“What’s the fun in that?” Yuki smiles.

“I hate you,” Kyo groans. He looks around the apartment for a second and then says, with some finality, “213.”

“213?”

“You said pick a number, that’s my number,” Kyo gestures to the phone.

“The apartment number?”

“What? Now you’re telling me there’s a thousand KyoSohma213’s out there?”

“No, no,” Yuki smiles. “Just seems sentimental.”

“Yeah, something to remember this shit-hole by when I finally get out of here.”

Yuki gives a small laugh at that as he goes about typing in the e-mail. A green (O) AVAILABLE flashes up on the screen, and Yuki continues on to complete setting up the phone.

“So what made you decide to join the modern world?” Yuki asks, still flipping through set-up screens.

“I dunno,” Kyo mumbles. “Don’t want anyone to have an excuse not to call me if something happens again.”

“By anyone do you mean Kunimitsu?”

“Maybe,” Kyo rolls his eyes. “Plus Tohru got one. If she can figure it out, I sure as hell can.”

Yuki smiles, thinking of the excited texts he’s received from Tohru starting a month ago. “Get ready for a lot of notifications, she’s a liberal texter.”

Kyo gives a poised pfft. A few moments pass and Kyo starts to fidget impatiently.

“Are you done yet?”

“Hang on, I’m just making sure the self-destruct feature is turned on,” Yuki deadpans.

Kyo rolls his eyes, slumping into a more relaxed position at the table while he waits for Yuki to finish up with his phone. A silence passes between them, Yuki pointedly ignoring Kyo’s exaggerated sighs when he officially deems the process to be taking too long.

Yuki maybe opens up some apps and needlessly clicks around at that. What he doesn’t notice, however, is that Kyo’s eyes start to wander down to his wrist. And after another moment ticks by, Kyo opens his mouth.

“Are they dead?”

Yuki’s fingers stop for a second, eyes meeting Kyo’s before going back to his phone. He’s more than happy to pretend he doesn’t know what Kyo means.

“Is who dead?” Yuki snaps the phone shut and hands it back to Kyo.

Kyo takes it and uses it to gesture to the bandage around Yuki’s wrist—still there a month after his birthday. He has a feeling that Kyo’s not been the first in their immediate friends and family to wonder the same.

When your soulmate passed, the mark on your wrist would turn to nothing but scar — a ghost of the words that used to be there. Though even then most people wore their marks proudly.

“Why do you ask?”

“Why else would you wrap it up like that?” Kyo asks.

“Maybe I’m just a private person.” Yuki ends the sentence with a tone of finality.

“Do you unwrap it when you go to bed?”

“What kind of question is that?” Yuki responds, a harshness grating his voice. “Why are you so interested in my mark?”

“I just think it’d be a shitty thing to do to cover your mark all the time,” Kyo crosses his arms and hunches over the table. “What’re you so embarrassed about unless they’re dead.”

“You’re the king of tact.”

“So they’re dead,” Kyo presses.

“No. They’re not.”

“So you’re just a bastard.”

“Yeah. I’m a bastard. Are you satisfied?” Yuki could feel a defensive rage bubbling up.

“Hey, hey, no need to get so bitchy! I was just askin’!”

“Well, don’t then! Just because we live together doesn’t mean you have to stop minding your own business!”

Yuki regrets it the moment it comes out of his mouth. A thick, heavy blanket of silence falls between them.

“Fine.” Kyo spits, but not in a yell. Yuki closes his eyes to silently berate himself when he hears Kyo get up and slam the door to his room.

“Dammit.”

Maybe he is getting bitchy. It’s not like Kyo would handle this any better if he were in Yuki’s situation, though. He thumbs at the bandage on his wrist like its dead skin. He guesses he’ll find out soon enough when Kyo gets his mark in a few months time.

Yuki presses down the sick in his stomach at the inevitable.

What was the first thing Yuki said to him? Was it memorable? Would Kyo know with the same immediacy as Yuki did? What would Kyo do?

Reject him?

Yuki felt his chest contract — angry at himself that this was the first time he was asking himself these questions. This mark wasn’t a one way street, and he would be exposed all in due time.

I should tell him.

Kyo would undoubtedly reject him, anyway. Yuki could at least beat him to the punch, but perhaps informing him would be a courtesy, if nothing else.

He takes a big, uneasy swallow at his pride when he stands up to knock on the door of Kyo’s bedroom. It opens almost immediately, and Yuki feels like he’s watching a bull pawing at the ground before he’s released.

“Yeah, what?”

“I’m,” Yuki starts, but the end of the sentence falters on his lips.

“You’re?” Kyo presses.

What’s the answer to that? Your soulmate? The love of your life, apparently? No way.

“Sorry,” Yuki decides. “I’m sorry.”

Kyo looks taken aback, and Yuki probably does too. Yuki thinks in the back of his mind that before college, he never apologized to Kyo once. And now, it was getting to be too much of a habit. Maybe living together was more troublesome than Yuki ever predicted it would be.

“Okay,” Kyo says. Confused. Not sure where to put the anger he’s stored. “You’re still a bastard, you know.”

“Would I still be a bastard if I offered to pay for dinner?” Yuki tries, his smile slowly crawling back onto his face.
“Ain’t nothin’ gonna change that,” Kyo says but he walks past him towards the entrance to put his shoes on. “But can’t hurt to try.”

Yuki rolls his eyes, but follows.

—————————

The whole thing was Tohru’s fault, really. Had it been up to them, neither of them probably would have even realized they were going to the same university.

Not content with his victory of getting to go to a non-prestigious, co-ed, public school, Yuki doubles down by going to even bigger, non-prestigious, public university. His mother passive-aggressively comments on it every time they meet for lunch, and Yuki laughs every time she does, much to her chagrin.

Kyo, on the other hand, lost with his new-found freedom, decides to follow the one thing that has never done him wrong — Shishou. Before Kazuma started his dojo, he was a young, confused, pushed-around Sohma just like the rest of them. And in his search for a direction, went to the same university and took any classes that interested him. It was in this university’s karate club that Kazuma realized his ability for passing on his techniques to others.

So, Kyo gives it a shot. Even if he hates how big the lecture classes are, and still flinches when girls brush his shoulder in the over-crowded hallways.

Tohru has lunch with both of them one day, after Shigure has sold the house. Tohru living with Hana in a new apartment, Yuki living with his brother, and Kyo living with Kazuma. It’s then that she brings up how wonderful it is that they’re both going to the same university.

Yuki doesn’t really appreciate Tohru’s laugh when they both give each other horrified looks.

And Yuki especially doesn’t appreciate when Tohru brings up that they’re both living so far away from the campus, and that they both mentioned wanting to move somewhere closer.

They both have trust money that’s customary for zodiacs to receive, but Yuki is saving up to travel—maybe the US, or France, or Argentina. And Kyo is frugal by nature, also hoping to save his money for when he starts his own dojo far the fuck away from Tokyo.

But no way would they live together. Commuting was fine. Their situations were totally fine.

Even if Yuki was on the brink of killing Ayame (and if he barged into Yuki’s room one more time…).

And even if Kyo hated the busy commute to school, pushed up against other commuters like a sardine for an hour and a half every day.

Kyo is an early riser, too, but even he can’t bring himself to wake up at 3 AM everyday just to go on a run.

Yuki is the one who breaks and calls Kyo, and as soon as the phone is passed to him, Kyo immediately says, “we’re gonna need ground rules.”

And that’s how the nightmare began.

Well, almost.

Alright, despite popular belief, Yuki doesn’t hate living with Kyo. No, he’ll never say it out loud, and yes if anyone asks, Kyo is still his last choice for a roommate. He’s loud, he’s rude, he stomps around at the break of dawn everyday like some kind of maniac, and he eats them out of a kitchen with the appetite of a starving bear.

But… he’s clean. He keeps the place spotless, and he forces Yuki to better himself in that regard (otherwise the whining gets to be unbearable). He’s a good cook, too. A lot of times the apartment would smell like home cooked food (not anything like Tohru’s — nothing ever could).

And sometimes, when Yuki would come home with pre-made bentos that had been stewing under the fluorescent lights of a convenience store all day, Kyo would even give him a proper meal to eat.

Maybe that was even becoming more common.

Yuki is hesitant to admit it, but things changed since Kazuma left the apartment. They avoid each other a little less. The living room isn’t a war zone of tension and silence. Often now, they’ll even eat together at the table — even if they barely look at each other the whole meal (Yuki has a bad habit of studying while he eats, and Kyo is pretty bad about eating his food too fast for him to stick around that long).

They fought still, bickered and bantered back and forth. But Yuki supposed Kyo was being true to his word and learning to work on managing his anger (and volume, thank god). And Yuki was learning (slowly) to be less of a slob around the house, and even did the dishes regularly now.

(“The least you can do,” Kyo says on more than one occasion.)

Since their fight in the park, they just didn’t feel the need to avoid each other quite as much. And lucky, too. It’s not exactly like there was much room to avoid each other in the small space.

It was… a nice talk. Maybe Yuki was happy to admit that he wasn’t too sure of himself after the curse’s breaking, too. Maybe Kyo said a lot of what he had been thinking and harboring silently.

And maybe Yuki had been more than a little jealous at how Kyo could be so self aware, and do his best to work on himself like a point by point list.

Yuki sometimes felt like he was so much of a mess he didn’t really know where to start.

Regardless, things felt more honest after that. Even if they bickered just the same.

And Kyo still did wake up at ungodly hours of the morning everyday and storm around the kitchen before he went on his runs (Yuki decided anyone who runs that early in the morning isn’t human).

But Yuki knows he has some unbearable traits about himself, as well. Yuki knows that’s probably why this arrangement came to fruition in the first place. Both he and Kyo agree that the reason they didn’t find other roommates was because they didn’t want to deal with anyone who might be a complete psychopath.

Shigure laughs and says it’s because no one would ever want to room with two such difficult personalities.

At least Yuki and Kyo knew how to handle each other.

Yuki scowled at Shigure at the time, much like how he’s doing now, across the table from him at Shigure’s new home in the main house.

Shigure blows out a puff of smoke from his cigarette, eyeing Yuki’s bandaged wrist. They haven’t seen each other since Yuki’s birthday party, and blistering summer has now faded into a crisp autumn. It’s halloween, and somehow it’s fitting that he’s decided to visit Shigure now of all days.

“Don’t be so touchy, Yuki, I was only asking,” Shigure says.

“Everyone’s been ‘only asking’ for two months now.” Yuki hides his bandaged wrist under the table and takes a sip of the glass of beer Shigure poured for him (Hatori would kill them both if he found out).

“Did they reject you?” Shigure asks, resting his head on his hand. When he does his sleeve falls down a little bit. Shigure’s mark is visible, but only because Yuki knows where to look. The mark is smudged as if someone swiped their wet thumb over charcoal. But beyond that, it stands almost completely faded.

A sign of rejection.

The only other one he knew of in the family was on Hatori’s wrist, splotchy and irritated the moment Kana’s memories were wiped away.

Hatori wasn’t one to wear short sleeves since, but Shigure wears his as if he doesn’t even notice it’s there. Yuki’s had questions about it since he was a 1st year and it was just the two of them living in that house.

One day Shigure came home, and a mark that was previously written so neatly on his skin turned into what Yuki is looking at now. He was too afraid to ask at the time.

“No,” Yuki says softly. “I’m not answering anymore questions about it.”

“It’s those sorts of responses that just make people more curious, you know,” Shigure laughs, knocking down the rest of his beer. He stands to get another from the kitchen and Yuki steels himself.

“Is that what happened to you?” Yuki calls, so he doesn’t have to look Shigure in the eye when he asks. “Did you get rejected?”

Shigure returns completely unfazed with a beer in hand, pouring a little into Yuki’s glass as he sits down. The liquid expands into more foam than drink, but Yuki’s cheek are already starting to flush, so he doesn’t say anything.

“I rejected them,” Shigure says, easily.

“You what?” Yuki’s mouth goes slack.

“I wasn’t interested,” he shrugs, as if it were that easy.

“Who were they?” Yuki presses, and he’s becoming unnerved by the fact that Shigure’s light conversational tone doesn’t falter.

“I’m not sure,” Shigure says. “She was a woman at one of my book signings.”

“What was she like? Anyone who’s supposed to be matched with you for the rest of their lives can’t be boring.”

“You think?” Shigure gives a bright smile like he’s receiving a compliment, and Yuki clicks his tongue at being teased. “To be honest, I didn’t say more than a few words to her. We met, we realized, I rejected her.”

Yuki rolls the liquid around in his glass.

“We were still cursed,” Shigure says, but his tone is anything but grave (anything but how Yuki and Kyo sound when they talk about the curse). “Well, even if we weren’t I wouldn’t have any interest.”

“You’re horrible,” Yuki says, feeling a buzz in his pocket from his cellphone as he took another sip of his drink.

“Says the person hiding behind a bandage.”

Yuki didn’t dignify that with an answer, flipping his phone up to read his recent text.

Kyo [22:34]: kill me
Yuki [22:34]: Gladly.
Kyo [22:35]: i locked myself out of the apt
Kyo [22:35]: when are u back?

Yuki rolls his eyes, continuing to type even as Shigure eyes him.

Yuki [22:36]: Last bus isn’t until midnight.
Kyo [22:36]: come home now
Yuki [22:37]: Absolutely not.

“Idiot,” Yuki mumbles and snaps the phone shut.

“Trouble in paradise?”

“You have a very strange idea of what paradise is,” Yuki says. The two continue their conversation, but Yuki can’t help but opening up the phone again when it buzzes against the table in quick successions moments later.

Kyo [22:39]: skjfhaksdj
Kyo [22:39]: please ok
Yuki [22:40]: Who is this? Am I speaking to a kidnapper? If so, I’m not paying any ransom.
Kyo [22:41]: hardy fckn hah
Kyo [22:41] chicks at the halloween party forced me into a costume and I'm stuck out here lookin like an asshole so just come the fuck home

Yuki snorts, a smile crawls onto his face as he continues to text. Shigure makes an inquiring hum, and Yuki is very aware that he’s being watched.

Yuki [22:42]: I will spend the night here if you don’t send me a picture of this immediately.
Kyo [22:42]: im gonna FUCKING murder u
Yuki [22:43]: I’d swallow the key before you did.
Yuki [22:43]: Picture. Now.

Yuki snaps the phone closed and is immediately met with Shigure’s dark, teasing eyes.

“What?” Yuki asks, nonchalantly.

“Just reminiscing on how much times have changed over the years,” Shigure shrugs. “You wouldn’t happen to know who your soulmate is, would you?”

Yuki’s shoulders tense, but his phone buzzes again. He pops it open in lieu of answering Shigure’s question.

And what a sight it is.

Kyo [22:46]: —PHOTO ATTACHMENT—

Kyo is the picture of disgruntled in a costume of a carton of milk that completely swallows him. His arms don’t look like they can bend easily, and Yuki can tell that even with Kyo’s arms stretched out as far as possible for the selfie, the costume goes beyond the frame for ages.

Yuki has to hide his hysterics behind the back of his hand.

Yuki [22:48]: This is the best day of my life.
Kyo [22:49]: R U FUCKING COMING HOME OR WHAT?????
Yuki [22:50]: A deal is a deal, Milky-chan.
Milky-Chan [22:50]: im gonna kill u and then im gonna kill myself
Yuki [22:52]: I wouldn’t be so lucky. Be there in 20.

Yuki looks up from his phone and Shigure is still giving him that stare, “Remember me?”

“I have to go,” Yuki says. “Kyo locked himself out of the apartment.”

“Aren’t you a generous soul,” Shigure laughs, waving him off. “Don’t let me stop you.”

“Sorry to leave so suddenly,” Yuki says, standing and wrapping his scarf around his neck. “I’ll try to visit again soon.”

“I’ll be eagerly awaiting any updates,” Shigure smiles and Yuki eyes him cautiously before putting on his shoes and leaving the main house for home.

When he sees Kyo sitting against their apartment door in the full milk carton costume, he loses it completely.

“DON’T FUCKIN’ LAUGH!”

Yuki doubles over and laughs harder, and the image of Kyo storming up to him and trying to attack him in a giant milk carton only makes Yuki’s stomach stitch.

“Have some goddamn pity! They stole my clothes!! I HAD TO WALK HOME IN THIS!” Kyo’s wrists are trapped in Yuki’s hands who is keeping Kyo at bay, laughing until he can feel his eyes start to water. Kyo screams at him until one of the neighbors pokes their head out to yell at them.

When he finally opens the door to let them both inside, he realizes it’s the first time he’s ever let Kyo see him laugh.

 

——————————

 

“You’re gonna burn your eyes out looking at the TV like that,” Kyo says idly.

“Mmm,” Yuki replies.

“You could read a book or somethin’,” Kyo says again, still not looking up from his reading.

“Mmm.”

“Your brain is turning to mush. I can hear it slopping around like brain matter smoothie.”

“Mmm,” Yuki hums, as if it sounds delicious.

Yuki’s chin is resting against his hand, he’s idly staring at the TV, while Kyo rests his back against the opposite wall with a book. It’s a Friday, and Yuki’s energy has been sapped completely by the previous week of classes. And he’s proven as much by camping out in the living room and decidedly not moving until he’s completely recharged.

Kyo comes into the living room with a book, and Yuki turns the TV down on reflex to allow him into the space. The two sit there for an hour or so until Kyo feels the need to voice his opinion on the Yuki-shaped statue that’s infiltrated their apartment.

“Do you know what they call degenerates like you in this country?”

Kyo’s voice fades in the background as the television host asks the contestants a question.

“Crystal Kay,” Yuki replies, his voice still and monotone.

“Huh?”

The television dings in response and Yuki smirks, head still rested on his arms.

“Who the hell is that?”

“It amazes me how much of a rock you live under,” Yuki says. “She’s a singer.”

“So?”

“So, I got the question right,” Yuki says, lazily turning back to the TV.

“I’ll call the mayor, maybe he’ll give you a medal,” Kyo says, turning back to his book, and Yuki snorts.

“Have you never watched Quiz Attack?”

“Oh,” Kyo starts. “My mom used to watch that.” A moment of silence as another dinging sound came up through the TV. “She had a crush on the host.”

“So did my grandmother,” Yuki says, softly.

“But Shishou didn’t allow TV in the house,” Kyo says, turning the page. Yuki turns to him and smiles. “I don’t need that gunk in my brain, anyway.”

“You really are his child.” Kyo sits straighter, prouder, at that.

“Damn straight,” Kyo says.

“My parents didn’t care what I did as long as I wasn’t in the way,” Yuki says. “It led to a lot of ‘gunk’.”

“And it shows,” Kyo says, smirking.

“You’re just mad because you don’t know anything about pop culture. You see that man there,” Yuki points to a particularly lanky, acne smeared contestant on the TV. “He could kick your butt.”

Kyo restrains a laugh, snapping his book shut. “I know plenty about pop culture. Turn it up.”

Yuki does as he’s told, scooting over so Kyo can sit next to him around the table, “this should be good.”

“Don’t doubt me, I know plenty” Kyo says, triumphantly.

“You thought Jason Voorhees was a bear,” Yuki laughs.

“He is!” Kyo snaps with so much confidence Yuki can’t help the laughter that escapes him. “I mean, I’m not an idiot! I know he’s a TV bear! Like Godzilla, right?”

Yuki laughs harder, “Now I’m starting to think that this guy could definitely kick your butt.”

“I’ll wait for him out in the parking lot, just to prove you wrong!”

“Don’t do that, he might soil himself,” Yuki says, still laughing as Kyo pouts next to him. Between that and the sound of the TV’s volume, they just barely catch a soft knocking against the door.

“I’ll get it, I’ll get it,” Yuki says, laughter still echoing in the back of his throat.

“Yeah, yeah, this isn’t over,” Kyo calls from the living room as Yuki goes to answer the door.

When he opens it Yuki thinks he’s looking back at a stranger. He’s tempted to tell the solemn lump of deflated flesh that he definitely has the wrong address, until familiarity strikes Yuki hard.

It’s a version of Kakeru he’s never seen. His shoulders are slumped, his face is marred by lack of sleep, his eyes are red and dim. And, most concerning of all, there’s an overnight bag slung over his shoulder.

Immediately, Yuki’s expression turns sober as he sizes up his friend.

“Kakeru?” Yuki asks, almost surprised.

“Hey man,” Kakeru’s voice breaks even on those two words.

“What’s going on?” Yuki asks.

“I think… I think Maki and I… I think we’re done,” Kakeru says with a mirthless laugh. The statement sends a stab through Yuki’s chest.

“What? Hang on, come inside.” Yuki ushers him in immediately, and even the way Kakeru kicks off his shoes is robbed completely of energy.

Kakeru shuffles inside the apartment, giving Kyo a small wave.

“What’s with the bag? Your girl kick you out?”

Yuki immediately makes a slicing motion with his hand across his neck.

“Always a pleasure, Kyon,” Kakeru drawls, still sounding like he’s about to cry.

“Just head into my room, Kakeru. I’ll bring you some tea,” Yuki says, opening the door for him and closing it again once he’s inside. Then, to Kyo, “You’re the worst.”

“What? How was I supposed to know?”

Yuki rolls his eyes and heads to the kitchen before Kyo stands to stop him.

“Hang on, you head in and deal with Annoying Guy. The last thing he needs is your weak-ass tea right now.”

Yuki tilts his head, “Really?”

“Do I look like I’m joking?”

Silence follows the sentence for a beat before Yuki smiles, “Thank you.”

And with that Yuki heads inside his room.

——

It’s the first time he ever sees Kakeru cry. It’s heartbreaking how quiet it is, for someone as decidedly loud as Kakeru. Yuki slings an arm over his shoulders and listens to his voice crack as he tells Yuki that he thinks he and Maki are breaking up. That maybe this was the final straw. That maybe they weren’t meant to be together, anyway. That maybe sometimes things just don’t work, no matter how hard you try.

Kakeru rubs at his soulmate mark the whole time, the first words Maki ever spoke to him still bold and clear on his wrist. He wonders if Maki’s wrist looks the same.

“I’ve been with her since we were thirteen,” Kakeru says. “I don’t even know how to be with anyone else.”

Yuki rubs his back and Kakeru sniffles, “Maybe you don’t want to be with anyone else.”

“But what if she does, man? What if she’s over there in our apartment right now, having the best time of her life cause my dumb, stupid face isn’t around?”

“Your face isn’t dumb or stupid,” Yuki comforts.

“I must be really messed up if you’re saying that,” Kakeru mumbles half humorously, half woefully.

Kakeru’s cellphone rings in that moment, and he tries to gather himself when he sees the contact ID.

“It’s her.” Kakeru slaps Yuki’s knee in quick succession, as if Yuki’s attention had been anywhere else in the past two hours.

“What are you going to do?” Yuki asks, grabbing Kakeru’s wrist to stop the needless slapping.

“I don’t know, what do you think I should do? Should I answer it? I want to answer it.”

“Then answer it,” Yuki encourages.

“What if she doesn’t want me to answer it?”

Yuki narrows his eyes, “Then she wouldn’t have called you.”

“But—”

Yuki snatches the phone out of Kakeru’s hand and flips it open before pressing it to Kakeru’s ear.

“Hey—!” Kakeru is cut off by Maki’s muffled voice on the other line. “No, sorry—just, Yuki’s bullying me.”

Kakeru takes the phone from Yuki, who gives him a pat on his shoulder.

“Maybe I deserve to be bullied…” Muffled tones come from the phone again. “Well that’s not very nice.” Kakeru gives a heavy chuckle, still laced with a tear-heavy voice.

Yuki takes his cue, and leaves his own room, camping out at the living room table. Kyo has long since gone to bed, and Yuki is left to watch whatever late night programing is on by himself.

Yuki peers down at his bandaged wrist, and sighs. He thumbs at it uselessly until lights flicker on around him.

“Do you have any idea what time it is?” Kyo asks. Yuki startles awake, not realizing he had dozed off. He can still hear Kakeru’s muffled voice through the wall—clearly still on the phone, even with the TV playing softly in the background.

“My room was sort of commandeered,” Yuki says, yawning, but looks at his watch to see it reflecting back 2:54 AM. “Did I wake you?”

“Shut up,” Kyo says, sitting next to Yuki at the table, just as they were earlier in the night. It’s late, and the programs running are extra terrible, even to their sleep-deprived brains. It’s 3:13 when Yuki gives a sigh that had been building up in his chest since Kakeru showed up at his door.

“It’s not your business, you know,” Kyo responds.

“I know,” Yuki says. Then, after a moment, “They’re soulmates, though.”

“So why’re you worrying? They’ll be fine,” Kyo says with a shrug.

“Maybe. Or maybe not even soulmates are definite.”

“You’re gettin’ real depressed over one couple that hasn’t even broken up yet,” Kyo says.

“How do you know they haven’t broken up?”

“He’s on the phone with her right now?” Yuki nods. “Then it’s not over yet.”

Yuki smiles, sitting up to stretch his back out, “I guess that’s a simplistic way of putting it.”

“Don’t insult me when I’m trying to cheer you up,” Kyo deadpans.

“I’m not, I’m not,” Yuki laughs. And the stillness of the early morning is still keeping the volume of their conversation low and strangely intimate. “I just keep thinking about my mother. She thought anyone who pursued their soulmate mark was a fool. She said trying to live out a fantasy meant inconveniencing your own life, and that it was better to find people who you could benefit from.”

“What a pill,” Kyo offers. Yuki laughs.

“A pill who’s still married,” Yuki offers.

“You want that kind of marriage for yourself?”

“No, definitely not,” Yuki sighs. “I just think about how she’s still married, when most of the other zodiac parents ended up divorced when we were growing up. Soulmates deciding not to be together because of their children turning into monsters.”

The sound of Kakeru speaking through the wall fills the space between them for a moment.

“My parents weren’t soulmates either, you know,” Kyo says. “I think my mom would’ve been better off if she’d just found whoever was on her wrist. Maybe your parents wouldn’t have been so shitty, either.”

Yuki laughs at that, and Kyo smiles. They both glance down at his wrist, and Yuki feels himself seize up.

Kyo reaches forward, and grabs it, and Yuki can feel fear surge up and down his arm at Kyo’s touch. But, instead of Kyo making to unwrap the bandage, all he does is hold it up in front of Yuki’s eyes, comically flapping his hand back and forth.

“Don’t be an ass, Yuki,” Kyo says, and Yuki can’t help but laugh as Kyo punctuates each word by bouncing Yuki’s arm up and down. “Don’t overthink your bullshit.”

A different kind of warmth spreads from Yuki’s wrist into his chest as Yuki smiles and laughs along. Now would be the time to tell Kyo, if there ever was a time.

Right now, in the quiet, intimate umbrella of terrible Japanese variety shows, in their apartment, with the sun long gone in both directions. Yuki could tell him.

But the words die on his tongue.

Somehow, the idea of being rejected right now, vulnerable and open, felt like it might kill him.

Being rejected, with Kyo looking as soft as he was, as quiet and considerate as he was being, as close as he was, would tear Yuki apart.

It’s too late to discuss the matter, Yuki thinks. And maybe, he just wants to keep this moment to himself.

And then, Yuki would tell him tomorrow. When he’s snapped out of this strange daze.

——————————

Kyo’s birthday is two days after Christmas, and Yuki still hasn’t told him.

Unlike Yuki, Kyo stands his ground when people push and prod at him to have a big party. Instead, he manages to keep it small, just them, Tohru, Momiji, Haru, and Rin. No one from Kyo’s university because Kyo refuses to “subject them to this shitty-ass family.”

They decide to celebrate the day after Christmas. Partially because it’s a Sunday, and partially, Yuki thinks, because Kyo doesn’t want to parade his fresh soulmate mark first thing at a party he doesn’t even want to have. Still, they manage to drag Kyo out into the town while he grumbles along.

Yuki trails behind the group as they make conversation on their way to karaoke, his legs heavy, and his stomach completely tied up in knots. December has been a nightmare on his nerves, everyday a ticking time bomb leading up to Kyo’s birthday.

And everyday Yuki lies to himself that he’s going to tell Kyo.

It wasn’t his fault, Yuki settles on. Every time he tries to say something the image of Shigure’s marred wrist comes to mind. The simple statement of we were still cursed rattling around his brain.

You’re the rat spirit, right?

Yuki wonders how Kyo sees him now. If he will never be anything more than the rat spirit to him. Regardless of whether they were “soulmates” or not, Yuki’s still upset by it. Yuki, for one, doesn’t see Kyo as the cat anymore. Just as Kyo’s hair color was fading, so was that cat-like elegance that Kyo used to carry so easily.

He’s clumsier now, which is sort of funny. He trips sometimes on the entryway to their apartment — especially after a long, hard run where Kyo’s body resists the urge to pick his feet up high enough to clear the step.

He also makes noise when he moves now. His feet are no longer padded like paws, and are now completely in in sync to a man with a heavy stride.

The way Kyo moves no longer carries a delicate air, either. The cat inside him would move fluidly, languidly. Now, every movement Kyo makes is pronounced, drastic, devastating. It makes him all the more fascinating to watch, Yuki thinks idly, and it paints an example of just how much Kyo was being held back by the cat.

Yuki also wonders how much his own demeanor changed after the rat spirit dissolved away.

He also wonders if he’s going to be sick.

He remembers the day he met Kyo so clearly, but for the life of him he can’t remember his own words from when he was a boy. Along the way, Yuki concludes he must have responded to the question with his own name, and he thinks how horrifying it’s going to be when Kyo looks at his wrist and sees yes, I’m Yuki splayed across his skin like a sick joke.

God, he should say something. He still has time. Tonight when they go home, maybe. Yuki’s left wrist pulses as if mocking him, and he doesn’t even notice Kyo slowing down to match his speed until his shoulder nudges harshly against Yuki.

“Hey,” Kyo says, low enough so the rest of the group can continue their conversations ahead of them. “You look like you’re about to puke.”

“Something I ate,” Yuki croaks out.

“Just head back if you’re feeling like shit,” Kyo says, and Yuki’s stomach jumbles even more.

“I’m fine,” he says. “Do you want me to go?”

“I didn’t say that,” Kyo says defensively, but he’s firm. He keeps looking straight ahead. “Take care of yourself.”

Somehow the idea of leaving hadn’t even entered Yuki’s mind. Yuki wonders what he might have done three years ago if he were invited to Kyo’s birthday party, and part of him wants to laugh. Without thinking, he nudges Kyo’s shoulder back, amused by the little grunt Kyo gave in return.

“I want to stay,” Yuki says, because it’s the truth. And then, because he isn’t sure he’ll be able to say it tomorrow, “Happy birthday.”

Yuki thinks he sees Kyo’s face turn red when he mumbles out a thank you, but it could have just as easily been the cold.

————————————

Yuki and Kyo sit next to each other at karaoke and no one says a word about it. They don’t speak to each other much, but sometimes Kyo’s fidgety legs bump into his, and their thighs press together. It’s brief, but it happens more frequently the later it gets, and the more people squish over each other as they sing.

Yuki expects Kyo to be cranky the whole night. To sulk and groan when people ask him to sing, and for him to be generally unpleasant—if group nights in high school were telling him anything. If Yuki knows anything about Kyo, he knows he hates unnecessary attention, and hates being poked and prodded for other people’s amusement.

But Kyo is… surprisingly easy to be around the whole night. To a point where Yuki is somewhat captivated by Kyo’s newly budding attitude around their friends. He sings a duet with Uo when she challenges him, and even sings random notes during her part to try and mess up her score. Uo punches his arm, but he gives a devious smirk back at her when his tactics work, and sings his own verses relatively on key.

He chats with Haru while the girls try and decide what to add to the list, and even passes a few words between Rin. The conversation seems easy and light, with Haru talking about his upcoming entrance exams and Kyo rehashing the abuse their teachers gave him for his improper study techniques (jokes on them, he still passed).

Yuki listens to Kyo’s even voice, listens to the rich, gravely texture of it, and thinks he doesn’t mind the sound of it too much.

It’s a lot less annoying than when they were growing up and Kyo was constantly yelling, Yuki quickly adds on to the thought.

Yuki locks eyes with him when Kyo feels himself being stared at and turns to look at him. Yuki is quick to look away and join Tohru in helping them add songs to the queue.

That’s right, he and Kyo aren’t avoiding each other anymore, which Yuki feels is all the more amplified tonight for some reason. Kyo doesn’t pretend Yuki isn’t in the room anymore, he doesn’t turn his head and check out when Yuki brings something to the conversation, he doesn’t prickle when Yuki comes near him, and his temper is clearly not on edge.

So what was it that was making Yuki feel so tense?

At one point Momiji jokingly serenades Kyo, and Kyo leans back in total disgust — Kyo’s side completely resting on Yuki.

Yuki tries to laugh along with everyone else, but his breaths are coming shorter with Kyo’s imposing form against him. He figures Kyo must be crushing one of his lungs, but decides not to say anything since’s it’s his birthday and all.

Eventually the microphone gets passed to Yuki, and he sings while rolling his eyes when the others whoop and whistle at his simple ballad.

Tohru plays the tambourine for him and Yuki does his best to hit the notes with his semi-tone deaf voice. It’s nothing new as far as karaoke nights go, but what he finds strange is how much effort he has to put into not looking at Kyo as he sings.

Mostly because he can feel Kyo staring, as if burrowing himself into the side of Yuki’s face. When he finishes his song, Kyo yells over the last few lingering notes, “hey maybe do us a favor and skip your next turn, huh?”

“Tohru, add three more songs for me,” Yuki says into the microphone and Kyo groans while the rest of the group laughs.

“My poor ears,” Kyo laments.

Yuki sits down next to him, mic still in hand, leans right up to his ear and goes, “what was that?”

Kyo flinches from the loud volume, and everyone laughs even more.

“Christ, I’m gonna go deaf ‘cause of you!” Kyo reaches for the microphone but Yuki keeps it out of reach, but eventually Kyo reaches far enough over Yuki that his hand wraps around his over the microphone.

His hand is warm, and somewhat rough, and feels so much bigger than Yuki would’ve thought. And maybe he doesn’t realize that his grip loosens a bit too easily so Kyo can snatch it out of his hand.

Kyo gives a victory laugh, Yuki rolls his eyes with his heart pounding, and just like that, the night moves on. No extra punches, no biting banter. Haru simply takes the microphone and talk-sings through a metal song that has Rin trying to contain her laughter behind her hand (it must be an inside joke).

It’s a few songs after that that Yuki feels the room getting too stuffy. There’s a lull in the chosen songs, and as Momiji is looking through the list, Uo loudly proclaims, “I wonder what kind of chick carrot-top ends up with.”

“Someone patient, I’m sure,” Hana says without missing a beat.

“What’s that supposed to mean,” Kyo asks, annoyed.

“Or maybe someone like Tohru, all sweet and innocent so Kyo feels bad yelling!” Momiji laughs.

“I yell at Tohru plenty,” Kyo says, reaching over to ruffle up Tohru’s hair, who gives a good natured laugh at the gesture. Yuki feels his heart sink.

“What do you think she’ll be like, Kyo?” Tohru asks, straightening out her hair, and suddenly everyone is looking at Kyo, and finally he squirms and tenses like Yuki excepted him to do from minute one of this party.

“If I wanted you all to get in my business, I would’ve had my party tomorrow,” Kyo hisses out.

“I bet she’s a total weirdo,” Rin supplies, ignoring Kyo.

“But she’ll definitely be sweet, maybe really energetic like you!” Tohru adds on. And then, on a gasp, “Do you think you’ve met already? Do you think we know her?”

“I doubt you remember one person from high school that isn’t in this room,” Yuki says, embarrassed that his voice has a sharper edge than intended. It doesn’t help, however, that Yuki’s nerves are tangled in his throat.

“And why would I?” Kyo responds, easily.

“Do you remember that little fan club that used to follow Kyo around?” Uo cackles. “Maybe it’s one of them!”

“I’m sure they’d be thrilled,” Tohru says, happily.

“They wouldn’t know what they’re in for,” Haru adds.

Kyo’s face goes sour, “Aren’t one of you gonna sing or something?”

The conversation fades around Yuki, who is sure he must be looking a little green.

Though he told Kyo he wanted to stay his nerves are flaring again at full force, and are even more frayed and tattered than at the beginning of the night. He waits until the song is finally up, and excuses himself for a moment for some air.

Yuki stands outside the karaoke room in the hallway with his head leaned back, and steadying breaths being sucked in.

Why was he so nervous about this? What did it matter? Yuki already decided long ago that he would reject Kyo if Kyo didn’t (which was unlikely enough on its own). But still his stomach jumps into his throat painfully at the reasoning.

Yuki hears a swell of noise in the hallway as the door to their room opens, and how it fades again just as quickly when it’s shut. Yuki’s eyes are still closed, arms crossed off, head leaning back. He feels a light kick at his foot jolt him upright.

“You look like shit,” Kyo says, leaning across from him in the narrow hallway, and Yuki narrows his eyes through the violent fluttering in his chest.

“I told you, I’m fine,” Yuki sighs, but jokes, “Did you come out here to check on me?”

“Yeah, I did. And to no fuckin’ surprise you look like shit,” Kyo states firmly, and it throws Yuki off guard that Kyo’s answer is so honest.

“I just needed some air.” He stares at Kyo. His hands are in his pockets, shoulders slack, eyes curious and stern. His guard is down. Then again, Yuki thinks at the slump in his posture, so was Yuki’s. “Give me a minute?”

Kyo nods, but doesn’t go back inside the room. The two stand outside in the air of pulsing music, and off-key voices blown-out and distorted by cheap microphone echo. A waitress passes by them with a polite “excuse me” at one point, and Yuki and Kyo press themselves against the opposite walls to let her pass.

Yuki looks up and Kyo’s staring at him.

A fresh surge of something goes through Yuki, and he tries to offset it by saying, “You don’t have to wait for me.”

“Maybe I need a breather, too. If Momiji makes me sing one more song, his head is going through the TV.”

Yuki laughs, and another bought of silence floats between them. And then, because Yuki’s a masochist, probably, he asks:

“What do you hope they’re like?”

Kyo rolls his eyes to look at him, surely hoping he had escaped the topic from just moments ago, “Not you, too.”

Yuki urges, “Humor me.”

“I don’t know, does it matter?” Kyo shrugs. “You get who you get.”

Yuki’s lips quirk in amusement, “You’ve never even thought about? Mr. I’m Romantic Plenty?”

“Hey, I am!” Kyo huffs, indignantly, but mulls the question over in his mind. “I dunno, someone who can keep up, I guess.”

“Someone who knows how to handle you, you mean,” Yuki teases.

“Well, what about you? What the hell kind of person do you want? It doesn’t even look like you would care!”

“I do care,” Yuki bites immediately. “Don’t talk about things you don’t know.”

“Alright, then you answer the question!” Kyo says, voice rising slightly. He looks embarrassed by his change in tone immediately, and it warms Yuki heart enough to have him smiling again through his defenses.

Yuki does him the courtesy of at least thinking about it. Something he hasn’t allowed himself to do in the past months where he’s resigned himself to the fact that he’ll most likely end up with no soulmate at all.

Ending up alone. Hah. Yuki’s MO apparently. And he so badly wanted to blame that on Kyo, too.

“Someone kind, with a good heart,” Yuki says softly, absently. He furrows his eyebrows, thinking harder. “Someone understanding of this strange life we’ve lead up until now. Someone I don’t have to keep myself a secret from.”

Yuki swallows, his gut burning and his eyes come up to meet Kyo’s, “And someone passionate.”

Kyo stares back at him, and Yuki can feel his own gut dropping at what he just said.

Didn’t that describe Kyo?

Yuki winces to hide both the fresh wave of nausea and to keep his eyes from going wide, and Kyo must have read it as Yuki falling sick, because he is by his side in a second, holding him up even though Yuki didn’t need to be held up. Though his legs did feel weak.

“Woah, okay, go the fuck home,” Kyo says, and his close proximity is doing nothing to calm anything down inside his body.

“I’m fine,” Yuki laughs because he isn’t sure what else he can do, but he rests his weary head on Kyo’s shoulder — just to take a breather. Just to steady himself for a moment. Kyo tenses but doesn’t tell him to move, and Yuki takes a deep inhale of Kyo’s scent.

He should tell him, he thinks one last feeble time. But just as always, his tongue comes up empty and dry. He doesn’t want to be rejected like this, now. With his head on Kyo’s shoulder. Just as he didn’t want to be rejected around their living room table, late at night, with soft noises from the TV warming the space between them.

All of the sudden, Yuki realizes, that being rejected by Kyo at all, would wound him in ways he never even thought.

Because maybe, just maybe, he wants to keep watching terrible TV with Kyo. Maybe he wants to keep texting Kyo. Maybe he wants to walk to school with him, and maybe he wants to keep eating his cooking when Kyo can’t even stomach to look at Yuki’s convenience store meals.

Maybe, just maybe, Yuki has a crush.

Fuck.

This was not the time to be realizing this.

Yuki’s heart clenches.

I don’t want a different soulmate.

“Hey,” Kyo says, gruffly when a moment passes. “Don’t be so greedy about it. All you need is someone who can kick your ass.”

Yuki smiles against his shoulder, “I could say the same for you.”

Tomorrow, Kyo would wake up and reject him. Tomorrow this whole game would be over. But for now, Yuki is content to rest his head against the man he’s supposed to love.

He could love Kyo, Yuki thinks, and it’s terrifying.

———————————

Yuki isn’t too surprised when he wakes up to a sudden “WHAT THE FUCK?” the next morning. It doesn’t take too much to jostle Yuki awake, he’s slept horribly. His hands are still clammy from the night before, and his stomach has been knotted with his tongue since they got home. But here it is, the moment of truth. Yuki’s almost just glad for this to be over already.

He can hear Kyo jolt out of of bed, grunting as he stumbles around, slamming his door open and closed, footsteps coming closer to Yuki, and…

Nothing.

Yuki blinks at his own bedroom door still tightly shut. Shouldn’t Kyo be barging in here? He expected to have to deal with Kyo dragging him out of bed by his ankles first thing in the morning and demanding an explanation. Instead, he hears distant curses from the kitchen.

Curiosity seizes Yuki as he tosses his covers off the bed and exposes himself to the stale winter air of the apartment. Kyo is pacing around, fuming where he stands, and Yuki can’t help but think of a bull charging up again.

“What’s your problem?” Yuki tries and Kyo whips around.

“Soulmates are bullshit!” Kyo snaps without pause.

Soulmates ARE bullshit, Yuki agrees silently, but doesn’t get a chance to say anything when Kyo is storming up to him and shoving his left arm right into Yuki’s face to read.

His shoulders tense as he takes in the word, his eyes widening as he reads it over and over.

Oh my God, Yuki sputters internally, my first words to Kyo were—

“HI?!” Kyo finishes the thought with an angry throw of his hands in the air. “What the fuck kind of clue is hi?!

Yuki puts his head in his hands, he wants to scream. Yuki has been agonizing for months over hi?!

He can feel a headache start to form. Somewhere in the back of his mind, Kyo is still ranting and stomping around the kitchen like a herd of elephants, but Yuki can barely hear him. Yuki could tell him. Yuki should tell him. If the mark isn’t going to expose him, Yuki needs to do it himself. He could unravel the bandage right here and now and shove his arm into Kyo’s face back and—

“HEY! Are you listening?! Don’t look like you’re about to throw up! I’m the one who wants to fucking throw up!”

“I’m listening! You’re just being over-dramatic!” Yuki snaps back, clawing back his hysterics.

“I’M over-dramatic?! This coming from the guy who acts like his arm’s been amputated!”

“At least I don’t scream about it before 6 AM!”

“Man, why am I even talking to you?! You don’t fuckin’ get it!” Kyo storms to the fridge and wrenches it open only to slam it back closed immediately. “THERE’S NO FUCKING MILK.”

“GOOD, SCREAM ABOUT THAT, TOO,” Yuki yells back.

“I THINK I FUCKING WILL!”

There was a tell-tale sign of banging from the floor, which means they’ve pissed off their downstairs neighbor. Again. Kyo immediately stomps in place, “I GET IT, CHILL OUT.”

“Don’t take it out on the neighbors,” Yuki groans.

With a grunt, Kyo goes back to making a milk-less breakfast, muttering to himself as he does. Yuki is vibrating with something — Adrenaline? Relief? Anger?

Tell him now!

“Sorry, future fucking soulmate,” Kyo grumbles to himself, slamming a bowl on the counter. “Guess I’ve been decreed as a fucking slut by the goddamn universe, guess you’re just gonna have to wait in goddamn line. Grah! Fucking hi.”

Then again, the timing may be a little off for that kind of news today.

Chapter Text

The rest of the winter term goes like this:

Kyo tenses and jumps every time someone says “hi”, says something completely ridiculous and strange, and then contorts himself to see the wrist of the other person. It’s ridiculous and it’s embarrassing and Yuki hates every single second of it.

It happens on the street when they’re walking to the train station to their universities, it happens in the coffee shop where they sometimes go after classes, it happens at the convenience store, at restaurants, at the book store, Yuki means everywhere.

They’re getting groceries together when the check-out lady cheeps a cheery “hi!” And Kyo immediately responds with “Japan has a population of 3,000 bears.”

Yuki stares at him in horror as Kyo slumps over the register and puts his head too close to the girl’s wrist, who flinches and looks at Yuki as if to say minimum wage isn’t enough today.

You have beautiful eyes,” Kyo reads as if he’s choking. “Cheesy bullshit.”

“Hey!” The girl says defensively and holds her arm to herself to protect the words Kyo just mocked.

Yuki’s suffering is racking up casualties thanks to Kyo’s complete lack of tact. He quickly pays for the groceries and drags Kyo out of the store. A gust of wind greets them — a chilly side effect of spring trying to overtake winter.

“Do you have to do this every time?” Yuki pinches the bridge of his nose.

“Do you have any better ideas?”

“Yes. Stop telling random strangers bear facts would be step one,” Yuki chastises.

Another gust of wind, and a few small, loose leaves sputter around the ground. A small twig lands in Kyo’s hair and Yuki can’t stop looking at it.

“Look, if you’re so fucking bothered by it, stop hanging around me so much,” Kyo says. He grabs an apple from one of their grocery bags and begins munching on it.

“If I didn’t you’d end up on the news,” Yuki mumbles.

Kyo takes an aggressive bite of his apple in response.

Alright, so… maybe Yuki is spending more time around Kyo. Maybe he doesn’t need to go the convenience store, or the book store, or the grocery store. And maybe Yuki hates waking up before 9 AM, but does it anyway because he likes the company on the way to the train station in the mornings.

Likes Kyo’s company.

Sue him.

Maybe—and Yuki scowls at the thought—he has a little crush on his soulmate. And maybe Yuki hates Kyo’s never-ending quest for who says hi because Kyo keeps searching for someone who is right there next to him.

Yuki’s right here. And he knows it’s his fault for still keeping that bandage tied tightly around his wrist, as if its some kind of scar, but he sometimes wishes Kyo would stop being so obtuse and realize that spending time with each other isn’t… horrible.

Yuki’s an idiot, and every time he falls down this line of thought, he immediately reminds himself of how terrible it would be if Kyo found out. Especially now that so much time has passed and Kyo’s mark is quite clearly not rejected. Telling Kyo would mean telling him how he feels. Disgusting.

No. This is fine. Really, it’s just a small crush. A product of some stupid words on his stupid wrist. It’s messing with his head, and he’s happy to keep his wrist wrapped until this all blows over.

“Say you were to find your soulmate through these horrendous methods of yours,” Yuki says, after a moment. “You’ll be lucky if you don’t scare them off first.”

“Any soulmate of mine ain’t gonna scare that easy,” Kyo huffs around a mouthful of apple. “What am I even talking to you for? I don’t have to prove anything to you.”

“You can’t prove what you don’t have,” Yuki trails off, condescending tone digging under Kyo’s skin.

“What the hell is that supposed to mean, asshole?”

“Let’s just say I doubt your capacity for basic human thought, much less romantic encounters.”

Kyo gapes at him, stopping in his tracks, “Are you saying I can’t flirt?”

“Kyo,” Yuki stops, turning to look at him, now a few paces ahead. “That’s exactly what I’m saying.”

“Hey, hey, woah! You can’t say that! You’ve never even seen me flirt—”

“—Thank god—”

“Like you’re one to talk, you pretentious dick! Anyone you flirt with probably thinks they’re talking to a dead fish!”

Yuki’s capacity for thought shuts down. In one swift motion, he sets his bag of groceries on the ground and approaches Kyo in strong, confident strides, invading Kyo’s space. Hacking the air between them to a mere sliver. Kyo watches him, eyes wide, not sure if Yuki’s about to strike or not, when Yuki raises a hand.

With gentle fingers, Yuki dips them into the pool of Kyo’s hair, feeling the softness of it, letting it comb through as if parting a creek with an up-stream finger. Yuki stares at Kyo through his eyelashes, a ghostly, mysterious smile tugging at his lips.

He retracts his fingers, and brings the twig that was stuck to Kyo’s hair up for display between them and then, because Yuki really wants to stress to himself how much of an idiot he is, he says,

“Hi.”

Kyo stares at him, a piece of apple on his parted lips, eyes wide—Yuki would say frightened if they didn’t look so dark. And the smallest, barest tint of red stains his cheeks.

Yuki smirks, tossing the twig away, and victoriously walking back to his groceries to pick them up and continue on the journey home.

Kyo catches up after a few lagging seconds, “THAT’S NOT FAIR!”

“What’s not fair? Being embarrassed by a dead fish?”

“Anyone can fucking do that! That doesn’t prove anything!”

“Don’t be jealous just because you can’t flirt.”

“I can fucking flirt!” Kyo growls as Yuki snorts. “WATCH ME!”

Kyo all but flings himself so that he’s in front of Yuki, and with no warning Kyo walks towards him, forcing Yuki to walk backwards until his back hits the exterior boundary of a house. Kyo places his hands on either side of Yuki’s head, and he stares down at him with eyes that are burning.

Yuki thinks he could die if he let himself be consumed by that piercing stare, and he also thinks he might not care if he does.

It all happens so fast, and Kyo is so close to him, and Yuki isn’t given any chance to react. The two just stand there, Yuki’s heart caught so far up on his throat its probably making friends with his tonsils. Kyo is staring at him. Not saying anything. Looking right through him. God, he’ll find out if he keeps doing this. He’ll see inside Yuki as if he were peeling him apart piece by piece, and Yuki feels his chest heaving slightly because who cares if he finds out, Kyo’s lips are pressed together and are a perfectly blended shade of tan and pink—

He would expose himself right now if it meant Yuki could kiss him.

The worst possible thing happens — Yuki blushes.

And what’s worse — so does Kyo.

“Any—Anyone you do this to would call the police!” Yuki cracks out through his hysterics.

“I KNOW!” Kyo spits, sharp and defensive and anguished.

“They’d probably pass out!” Yuki continues, and Kyo buries his face in his hands and bends at the knees in a squat releasing an embarrassed, angry wail.

“I COULDN’T THINK OF WHAT TO FUCKING SAY!”

Yuki rests his head against the wall, drops his groceries, and mirrors Kyo by covering his own face with his hands. Both beet red.

“I hate you,” Yuki whines.

“Shut up.”

Maybe, Yuki thinks with a deep-seated panic bubbling up through his throat, this is more of a problem than he thought.

 

——————————

 

Luckily, Yuki is the master of denial—and he is determined to maintain that title probably until the day he dies. Though it’s very very difficult to get the image of Kyo being so close out of his head, he… manages.

Well, manages not to keep lingering on the thought during hours of the day when he’s meant to be a productive member of society. If he’s watching TV and it hits a commercial, and his brain just so happens to wander to what it would be like to kiss those tan, chapped lips, it’s not like he’s hurting anyone.

No one has to know.

And so, their routine ends up being something like this:

During the week they keep to their university schedule. Tuesdays and Thursdays are Yuki’s only days with early classes. By the time Kyo comes back from his run, Yuki’s hobbled outside in his pajamas with the sole motivation of making coffee.

By the time Kyo is showered and dressed, the two head to university together, with Yuki looking livelier after his second cup of coffee. They part ways once at campus, but sometimes they’ll see each other in the cafeteria and join the other if their other uni friends are otherwise occupied.

Most days Yuki gets home in the evening, while Kyo is already home by early afternoon. They eat dinner together now a lot more frequently in exchange for Yuki paying a little extra for groceries, and Yuki doing the dishes after Kyo’s finished cooking.

It doesn’t take long for Yuki to start feeling guilty over Kyo constantly sharing his home-cooked food, however. So Kyo is especially surprised when Yuki wakes up a little earlier every day to make coffee (for himself), tea (for Kyo), and the only thing he can manage in the kitchen—instant miso soup.

It’s not much, and Kyo definitely teases him, but he accepts it every morning now—since even Kyo tends to rush through breakfast before his early morning classes.

In the evenings, they study in the living room area in silence, and sometimes Kyo can be coaxed to watch trashy TV with Yuki until he goes to bed. Yuki, now rising earlier, doesn’t find himself falling asleep in the twilight hours past midnight, making it only slightly easier to wake up in the mornings. Slightly.

Weekends have changed, too. Yuki still goes to his favorite coffee shop to study, and Kyo still goes to Kazuma’s every Sunday morning. But one day when Yuki gets home, Tohru is there having pleasant conversation with Kyo. Without a second thought, Yuki is brought into the conversation, and the three talk like they did in high school.

Or maybe not exactly like high school. They don’t use Tohru as a buffer now, they don’t speak through her and ignore each other’s comments unless it’s to rile the other up. In high school when Tohru would leave the table for a moment to go to the kitchen or bathroom, Yuki and Kyo would sit in silence. Yuki would check his phone for texts, and Kyo would tap his fingers on the table impatiently.

Tohru gets up to get some tea and Yuki and Kyo keep talking like they don’t even notice.

It’s that night too that Haru texts Yuki asking if he wants to hang out, and Yuki ends up inviting him over.

Somewhere in the process, their apartment starts hosting their overlapping friend groups on a semi-regular basis during the weekends. Yuki and Kyo even found that they had some mutual university friends after Yuki hosted some over one particular weekend.

It makes it easier to invite Kyo along when Yuki’s invited out, and even though Yuki expects Kyo to reject him every time, that never seems to be the case. So much so that one of their university friends comments on how they seem to be a set—if you invite one, you’re inviting the other.

Kyo makes a grousing comment that neither confirms or denies this, but Yuki feels something in his chest tighten at the thought.

It’s nothing to dwell on, Yuki thinks. The extra time with Kyo doesn’t mean anything. These silly comments from their friends mean nothing, either. This silly crush will pass, and Yuki will be left with… a surprising new friend.

That’s nice, Yuki thinks. That’s fine. It’s great. A strange and unexpected outcome to this bizarre scenario.

Yuki lifts his bandaged arm up above his head as he lays down trying to sleep and sighs.

This’ll fade, Yuki convinces himself as he does almost every night. I’ll get over it in no time.

And with memories of a day filled with Kyo, and a chest somewhat hollow with dissatisfaction he would fall asleep, like he does every night.

 

————

 

This method of denial works just fine until a couple months pass.

Yuki reads over his notes for an exam while sipping his coffee at the table. It’s a rare morning where Yuki is actually somewhat coherent before Kyo returns from his run, and decides to kill the time in the morning by fitting some studying before getting ready for the day. His brain is still lagging behind, but at least he can somewhat comprehend his text book.

Yuki can already hear Kyo coming down the hall, feet heavy on the concrete walkway to their door, and keys jangling in the lock before Kyo bursts open.

It has been months since Yuki realized and acknowledged his little crush on Kyo, and Yuki likes to think that he handles it fairly well.

That is, until Kyo walks into their apartment, chest heaving, skin covered by a thin layer of sweat, and face bright and flushed from a successful morning of exercise. Yuki’s heart pounds so hard in reverberates all the way to his knees, and suddenly breathing becomes slightly harder.

Because Kyo is really being unfair. His pretty orange hair is darkened with sweat, his tan skin gleams, and even his smell is rough and masculine. He doesn’t realize he’s staring until Kyo rolls his eyes at him and claps his hands together as if to wake Yuki up.

“What, not even coffee’s wakin’ you up today? Get it together, man,” Kyo says, and very rudely storms right in Yuki’s eye line as he goes into the kitchen to grab a tall glass of milk. He watches as Kyo gulps it down, panting and thirsty and it’s only when Kyo’s finished the glass that he processes what Kyo even said.

Yuki startles, and tears his eyes away. What the hell, what the hell? He’s seen Kyo do his runs, he’s seen Kyo come back from heavy days of exercise, right? Had he seriously been too tired to even process what Kyo must have looked like every time he came home? Every morning?

Yuki isn’t sure if he needs to be mortified, or needs to become a morning person right now.

“What’re you reading?” Kyo asks, curiously, apparently really taking his time to hit the shower. Oh god, Yuki feels his brain stall, what did Kyo look like coming right out of the shower? Did Yuki miss that too because he was doing something as unnecessary as sleeping?

Yuki looks dumbly up at Kyo whose eyebrow is raised in a question, muscled arms crossed over his chest.

What did Kyo ask? What was he saying?

“Book,” Yuki spurts out, before his brain and mouth can agree on how normal people say things.

Stop looking at his arms.

“Someone’s got idiot brain today,” Kyo says, clearly unimpressed. “You better be awake by the time I’m outta the shower.”

Oh, I’m awake.

Kyo closes the bathroom door behind him and Yuki immediately packs his school bag and bolts out of the apartment. Walking to school with Kyo did not even remotely seem like a possibility today.

 

 

Milky-chan [7:56]: the hell? whered u go?
Yuki [8:03]: Forgot I had a meeting this morning. Sorry.

 

 

Yuki [8:04]: Do you have morning classes today?
Kakeru [8:05]: nah
Yuki [8:05]: I’m coming over.
Kakeru [8:07]: ?????

 

——————————

 

Yuki bangs on an apartment door relentlessly until it pops open and Kakeru appears before him.

“It’s Kyo,” Yuki says before Kakeru can greet him. He rolls up his sleeve and unravels his bandage when Kakeru looks confused. He holds up his mark and says again, “It’s Kyo.”

 

——————————

 

“Stop laughing!”

Kakeru will not stop laughing. Despite a very bitter and pouting Yuki sitting across from him at his kitchen counter. At least he has the decency to hide his snickers behind his hand once he’s able to get himself under control.

“I’m sorry, it’s just too good,” Kakeru finally says through a voice strained with laughter. He wipes away a tear. “How romantic.”

“I came to you because I have a problem, you know!”

“Right, right, right,” Kakeru says, waving a hand back and forth. He grabs Yuki’s arm before he can protest and twists it so he can read the words.

You’re the rat spirit, right,” Kakeru reads slowly and deliberately. “What does that mean?”

“It’s a long story,” Yuki sighs, snatching his wrist back and pushing down the cold spike of anxiety. Thankfully, Kakeru just shrugs.

“Are you sure it’s Kyon?” Kakeru slides him a cup of tea over the kitchen counter. Yuki stares at it with contempt.

“Yes. I’m sure. There’s no one else on this planet that it could be.” Yuki hangs his head, “This whole thing is a nightmare.”

“There, there, Yun,” Kakeru slaps a hand on his back. “There are worse looking guys in the world.”

“It’s not that,” Yuki laments. “I… I like him.”

Kakeru snorts, completely brushing off Yuki’s somber tone, “And how is this a problem? You do understand what soulmate means, right?”

“He doesn’t like me. He hates me. He has for years. And he thinks I hate him, too.”

Yuki takes a mournful sip of his tea, but Kakeru doesn’t say a word. When Yuki looks up at him, he’s resting his head on his hands, a dopey smile on his face that Yuki knows is meant to be condescending.

“What?” Yuki hisses.

“Nothing,” Kakeru practically sings. “It’s just nice to know that even the president can be an idiot sometimes. It’s refreshing!” Yuki goes to take a swipe at him but Kakeru dodges. “It makes you cuter!”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“So what do you want my help with, huh? Love advice? Bedroom tips?” Kakeru waggles his eyebrows.

Yuki closes his eyes in frustration, even as his cheeks redden slightly, “My heart pains for Maki.”

“I am an excellent boyfriend, I’ll have you know. And at least I was man enough to tell my soulmate we were actually soulmates.”

“That’s not fair, you two have been dating since middle school,” Yuki grouses. “Do you know what Kyo and I were doing in middle school? Because it definitely involved stitches.”

“Kinky,” Kakeru says flatly. Yuki rolls his eyes. “Alright, alright, then what do you want?”

“I… I don’t know,” Yuki sighs. “Help? What do I do? He’s just going to keep looking for his soulmate, and I… I…”

Kakeru sighs, face finally softening at his friend’s predicament, though his smile still stained his lips. “Have you maybe thought you’re making this a little too complicated? Why not just start with something small?”

“Like what?”

“I dunno,” Kakeru shrugs. “A date?”

Yuki’s eyebrows furrow. “You think I should ask Kyo on a date?”

“Why is that so ridiculous? Don’t you want to?”

“Of course I want to…”

“Then just give it a try! If it goes well you can tell him about the whole being destined to be together forever thing.”

Yuki feels his nerves clinch at the thought. Though, easing into it might definitely be a better strategy… even if it was almost impossible to picture Kyo in a lovey-dovey setting. What would they even do? God, that was if Kyo even said yes…

Yuki’s thoughts are very rudely interrupted by a flick to the forehead.

“Hey!”

“You were making your overthinking face,” Kakeru says, all too cheerfully. “If you keep panicking like that, you’re gonna give yourself wrinkles.”

“You just make it sound so easy,” Yuki pouts, rubbing his forehead.

“Isn’t it?”

Yuki’s jaw tightens as he bites out, “What if it doesn’t go well?”

“Then you tell him anyway,” Kakeru says, with a snort. “What’s the worst that could happen?” Yuki feels his face fall, something that has Kakeru leaning on his elbows on the counter towards Yuki. “Oh. You really like him.”

“That’s what soulmates mean, right?” Yuki mumbles. Suddenly, he feels a hand clap on his shoulder.

“Sorry, my man. But it’s time for you to whip out that freaky prince-charm. If he says no, at least you’ll have said something, right?”

Yuki takes another long gulp of his tea.

He hates it when Kakeru’s right.

 

———————————————————

 

Kyo leans back to give himself a good stretch at the end of his last class of the day. When he feels his back crack, he immediately goes to pack up, only to have a girl from his class, and a very tentative friend, drop her book bag over Kyo’s almost crushing his hand.

“Don’t go flinging that thing around,” Kyo glares. “It weighs more than you.”

“Brute force is the most effective method to stop you from running off,” the girl, Mei Kibe, says. Her hair is long, straight, and dyed to be a lighter brown, though her black roots are starting to grow through. Her tall, skinny frame towers over Kyo as she goes to pinch her hair up into a ponytail, deliberately flicking the end of her hair in Kyo’s face and causing him to sputter.

“I’m not running off, I’m going home,” Kyo says, sliding his bag out from under hers.

“You’re not going anywhere! We have our group project meeting today,” Mei juts her hip out and pouts at Kyo who gives a frustrated groan.

“That’s today?”

“I knew you’d forget,” she humphs, but there’s still an air of humor around her. “Aren’t you lucky I’m around to remind you.”

“I hate group shit,” Kyo says, ignoring her. “Just tell me my part and I’ll turn it in.”

“No way, I don’t trust you!” She snaps. Kyo clicks his tongue. “We’re all meeting outside the gates in an hour, you better be there—got it?”

“Dammit, it’s Friday, just let me go home, you tyrant,” Kyo argues.

“Well someone was being a pain about meeting up earlier in the week. So we’re left with no other choice. You’ll just have to tell your little boyfriend that you’ll be late today.”

Kyo’s nose scrunches up at that, “What boyfriend?”

As if on cue Kyo’s phone dings with a text on the table. Before Kyo can grab it, Mei snatches it up and flips the phone open to read the text.

“Aw, cute! He’s asking if you’re free tonight,” Mei smirks at Kyo, and Kyo feels his face flush and his stomach flutter as he reaches for the phone. Mei quickly dodges in the emptying classroom and starts typing back.

“Hey, give that back! Don’t type anything weird!”

“I’m not! I’m totally making it sound like you. Fuck fuck fuck fuck,” Mei says in a lowered, mocking voice as Kyo chases her down and finally grabs the phone out of her hands.

“Jesus, you’re like a little kid, you know that?” He looks at the texts to assess the damage, with Mei laughing.

Yuki [16:02]: Are you free this evening?
Kyo [16:03]: Sorry sweetie, I have a date with another woman :(((((((((
Yuki [16:03]: …Is this Kibe-san?

“Hah! He totally knew it was you,” Kyo says triumphantly, but somehow that just makes her expression all the more infuriating.

“You’re cute, Kyo. One hour. Got it?”

“Yeah, yeah,” Kyo waves off. He waits for her to clear out of the classroom before turning back to his texts.

Kyo [16:06]: yeh srry
Kyo [16:06]: shes extra nuts today
Yuki [16:07]: I could tell from the fact that she actually used punctuation.
Kyo [16:08]: I could type like an asshole if I wanted, Asshole.
Yuki [16:08]: so cld i lol
Kyo [16:10]: ive never used lol in my damn life and u kno it
Yuki [16:11]: Haha.

Kyo laughs a little to himself, before snapping the phone shut and rushing out of the classroom—not even realizing that he’s the last one left. He walks languidly around the campus, heading lazily towards the front gates to sit at the picnic benches there.

He has an itch that causes him to open up Yuki’s texts again, fiddling with what he might want to say next just to keep the conversation going. Just because he’s bored, he thinks. But his wish is silently answered when another text from Yuki pops up.

Yuki [16:33]: Will you be back late?
Kyo [16:34]: nah just doin some dumb group thing for class
Kyo [16:34]: y?

It takes awhile for Yuki to reply. So much so that Kyo has time to open up one of his text books and skim through a couple chapters. He checks his phone in lazy intervals, wondering if Yuki maybe forgot to respond altogether when another text pops up as he’s writing something in the margin of his book.

Yuki [16:51]: Just wondering.

Kyo drops his school work to reply.

Kyo [16:51]: is this about dinner u leech
Yuki [16:52]: I promise I can fend for myself.
Kyo [16:52]: bs
Yuki [16:53]: For tonight, at least.
Kyo [16:53]: still bs
Yuki [16:56]: I just wanted to ask you something. It’s not a big deal.

Kyo’s face twists at the screen.

Kyo [16:57]: then ask
Yuki [16:58]: I’ll wait until you get home. Have a good study session. Try not to yell at Kibe-san too much.

Kyo wants to text back, even starts drumming up a reply on his phone when locks of brown hair pulled up into a ponytail distract him from his phone. Kyo grunts when Mei walks right past the table he’s sitting at towards the gate. Kyo gathers his books in a rush and jogs towards her.

“Mei!” He calls, trailing after her. But when she doesn’t hear him, he lets out a sharp “Hey!” just as he catches up enough to clasp a hand on her shoulder.

The girl turns, a girl who is not Mei looks up at him with confused brown eyes, something of an awed smile on her lips. Kyo is about to apologize, about to explain that he has the wrong person but before she can the girl gives a soft, confused—

“Hi.”

 

————————————

 

Yuki stares down at the tickets in his hands, examining them again for the 800th time since he purchased them in the first place. He’s almost to the apartment and the knots in his stomach that have been tangled there all day are tightening at the thought of getting home.

Kakeru has a point. Yuki knows that. But somehow asking Kyo on a date is turning into a much more nerve-wracking affair than just telling him about this whole soulmate issue. Maybe it’s because he couldn’t control the mark on his wrist—but if he looks like an idiot asking Kyo out on a date that all falls on him.

Yuki exhales heavily, trying not to clutch the tickets so much that they’ll bend or break.

It’s not a very extravagant idea, Yuki laments to himself. The karate club on campus was selling tickets to a martial arts showcase that night. The immediate thought of Kyo might like that was enough to drive a flush up his cheeks and have him purchase two tickets without even thinking.

And now, here they were, weighing heavily in his hands, like some kind of bomb about to explode. He would have to say something now, he thinks, if only not to let the money go to waste.

Yuki lets his mind wander to what it might be like if Kyo says yes. If he might be excited about the show, or griping about their poor form the whole time. If he might let Yuki hold his hand on the way back to the apartment. If he might let Yuki ask him out on another date at the end of the night.

He shakes his head, feeling somewhat giddy at just the idea of any of those scenarios following through. When he steps up to his apartment door he feels his resolve strengthen, he feels his courage finally stitch up to his tongue, instead of laying flat and defeated in the pit of his stomach. Clearing his throat and standing up straight, he steps into the apartment.

“Kyo?” He calls as he opens the door, but is surprised to find a stranger sitting at the dining room table, instead. For a moment, Yuki thinks he has the wrong apartment, and gives a confused glance to the number on the door.

“Oh, Kyo’s just grabbing something from his room,” the girl says with an easy smile. “Are you his roommate?”

“Um, yes,” Yuki says, forcing himself out of his stupor and giving the girl default, detached smile. Finally, he toes off his shoes and enters the apartment, closing the door behind him. “Sorry, I should introduce myself. I’m Yuki Sohma.”

“Sohma?” She asks, with a tilt to her head.

“We’re cousins,” he supplies, and the girl nods, content.

“It’s nice to meet you, Yuki. I’m Kaori Yonamine,” her tone is pleasant, and her voice has a firm richness to it. Her face is bare of make-up, unlike many of the girls Yuki encountered on campus, but her smile is sincere and pretty. Her tall, skinny form boasts toned arms, and her casual dress make her look clean and neat, but not overtly feminine.

Yuki approaches the table, sitting down adjacent to her to ask, “Are you from Kyo’s class, Yonamine-san?”

“Oh, well…”

“She’s my soulmate.” Kyo’s voice rips through the strange air of the apartment, and Yuki looks up at Kyo trying not to look as confused as he felt. A cold sweat breaks down Yuki’s back as he looks up to see Kyo lingering by his bedroom door. His expression is serious and firm, and maybe even somewhat embarrassed. Kaori seems to be in the same boat because her cheeks tint red.

“Excuse me?” Yuki asks, before his throat crumbles completely.

“We’re soulmates,” Kaori says, bashfully through a small smile. And Yuki thinks that it makes even less sense the second time. She lifts her arm to reveal the word “hey” written neatly on her wrist as if Yuki would know what that means.

“I… see.” He doesn’t. In a rough voice he goes on, “How… did this happen?”

“He called out to me while I was leaving campus today,” she says, and her eyes go up to Kyo who hasn’t moved from his bedroom doorway.

“I think I scared the hell out of her. I thought she was Mei,” Kyo says, scratching at the back of his head.

“You did scare me a bit,” she says, expression fond. “ But I was so surprised when I heard someone shouting that at me. It’s such a normal thing to say, I was sure I wouldn’t find my soulmate for years.”

“Me too,” Kyo says, still looking somewhat stiff.

“I guess we just got lucky,” Kaori laughs.

A silence falls into the room, awkward and tense, and Yuki realizes that he still has the tickets in his hands. Only now they’re bent for sure. When he looks up he realizes that the silence is only a horrible weight on him. Kaori and Kyo are looking at each other, sharing a shy expression, even if it is a bit awkward, and the clunky nature of it is disgustingly endearing.

“Well… I should… probably go,” Kaori says. “I’m glad we got to know each other a little, Kyo.”

“You sure you gotta go? Stick around and I can make you dinner or something,” Kyo says, quickly. He lightly kicks at Yuki’s side. “This guy can tell you I’m not half bad at cooking.”

“He’s alright,” Yuki says in a stiff voice, and Kyo shoots him a strange look.

“Thanks, but I have practice early tomorrow morning, and my mom is expecting me back.”

“Kaori’s on the campus softball team,” Kyo says, bringing Yuki back into a conversation he very much didn’t want to be in.

“I see,” Yuki strains. “That’s very…. committed.”

Kaori takes Yuki’s awkward comments in stride, “We try to be. We’re going for the national championship this year!”

“Maybe we can go to a game or somethin’,” Kyo offers. “Once the weather stops being shitty.”

Kaori smiles, “I’d like that a lot. Until then… Monday?”

“Yeah, sure. Monday,” Kyo confirms with a nod.

She stands on long legs and Kyo finally moves to walk her out. Yuki watches them as they linger by the doorway—Kaori pulling on her clean, stylish sneakers. When they stand next to each other they look nice. Almost what you’d expect childhood sweethearts from the countryside to look like, natural and complimentary. From here, Yuki thinks Kyo looks less like a Sohma and more like a normal man with a normal history to match.

He swallows a lump in his throat, looking away when Kaori leans up to give Kyo a peck on the cheek before waving goodbye.

“Bye, Yuki! Nice to meet you,” she calls.

“Ah, nice to meet you, too,” he unenthusiastically says over his shoulder. He thinks he’s going to be sick. He hears the door close and Kyo coming back to the kitchen on his heavy stride.

“What’s your problem?” Kyo says immediately.

“What do you mean?” Yuki asks sharply, none to innocently.

“Usually anytime there’s a girl around you’ve got that bullshit charm thing going. Why were you being so weird?”

“I think I was being perfectly polite,” Yuki says, standing to head to his own room. To his horror, Kyo follows behind.

“You’re still being weird!” Kyo calls after him. “What? You don’t like Kaori or something?”

“Do you?” Yuki turns to ask him honestly. He catches himself, forcing his expression into something far more composed. “You just met her, after all.”

Kyo grunts, “Like I said, you get who you get. She seems cool, at least.”

Yuki feels a bitter taste on his tongue and it comes out in words before he can stop it, “What a romantic beginning you two have.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“She seems “cool”? Hey and hi?” Yuki gives a small, condescending snort. Kyo’s face immediately regains an old defensive edge to it that Yuki realizes he hasn’t seen in months.

“I don’t want to hear shit from you, band-aid boy. Unless you’re sayin’ chopping off your damn arm would be more fucking romantic.”

“Very sorry,” Yuki mockingly laments. “I’ll be sure to keep my mouth shut on all future romantic affairs of yours.”

“Jesus, what the fuck has gotten into you? You’re acting like a brat.”

“What does it matter how I’m acting?” Yuki asks with a glare. He turns to head towards his bed, book bag sliding off his shoulder.

“How about, cause I don’t want Kaori to think you’re a total psychopath?”

Yuki stops. Back turned to Kyo, as he slowly sets his book bag on his unmade bed. Something sharp drives through Yuki’s chest. This time when he asks, his tone retracts their spikes, “Does it matter what she thinks of me?”

He can hear Kyo shuffle behind him, “Yeah. It does.”

Yuki turns to look at Kyo. His arms are crossed, and his chest is puffed slightly to compensate for his embarrassment. But he keeps his eyes on Yuki, who now probably looks more than a little like he’s kicking himself.

“Whatever’s going on, get over it,” Kyo says. “And get along with her.”

Yuki blinks.

It’s the closest to a verbal confession of their friendship that Yuki’s ever going to get, and he feels both elated and heartbroken at the same time.

He can fix this. He can tell him, Yuki thinks. He has the proof on his wrist. Kyo and Kaori meeting is a crossing of wires that the universe just caused in order to fuck with Yuki, he’s sure.

But Yuki isn’t ready for that. It took all day just to get himself in order to ask Kyo on a date. Something that couldn’t be more futile now.

Kyo, now, will only go on a date with his soulmate.

And Yuki isn’t ready to stop being that, just yet.

“We’re friends,” Yuki says, softly, because Kyo won’t.

“If you get that, then stop being a dick,” Kyo rolls his eyes.

Yuki swallows, but nods to Kyo. It’s the most he can do, because he’s sure it would be impossible to force an apology from his lips.

This day is officially horrible, and Yuki thinks he just wants to lay down and sleep for the rest of the weekend. Maybe the rest of the month. Yuki wonders if this somehow counts as a rejection, and he dreads pulling back his bandages once the door closes behind Kyo.

Kyo, who is still in his room. Looking at him like he was waiting for something.

“Do you need something?” Yuki asks, feeling himself grow snippy and tired.

“You were the one who said you wanted to ask me something,” Kyo accuses. “Do it before you piss me off even more.”

Yuki looks down at the crumpled tickets in his hands, he takes a deep inhale, but before he can do anything else he might regret tonight, he brushes off the offending items as trash and saunters over to throw them away in his waste basket.

“I…” Yuki trails off. “I might spend the night at Kakeru’s tomorrow. Can you…” Yuki closes his eyes, already annoyed with himself. “Water my plants?”

Kyo’s eyebrow shoots up in a more than irritated confusion. “That’s it?”

Yuki nods, “Yeah. That’s it.”

 

————————————————

 

Monday night Yuki gets a text.

Milky-chan [17:13]: wont b bck for dinner

Yuki eats take-out from the convenience store.

 

—————————————————

 

Here’s the problem with Kaori:

She is absolutely, completely, and objectively pleasant.

Yuki is not a petty man. The day he met her he was simply caught off guard. And you would think meeting her again and again would result in interactions just as forced and prickly. But Yuki’s had plenty of practice hiding his emotions behind charming, disconnected words and smiles.

After the second or third time they get along great. It’s a fantastic situation to be in, Yuki thinks wryly.

Despite the constant rock that’s sunk deep into Yuki’s stomach, it’s hard not to like her. She’s grounded and down to earth. She doesn’t pitch her voice higher and airier when she talks to Kyo—something the girls in high school used to do. She dresses for convenience, always with her hair pulled out of the way in a ponytail or bun, and she doesn’t poke and prod at Kyo like so many of the people he attracts in his life.

If anything, she seems alarmed by the constant jabs he and Kyo throw back and forth to each other. When he and Kyo start to argue one day when Yuki forgets to buy the right kind of meat for dinner that night, Kyo points to Kaori and goes:

“Even Kaori thinks you’re a piece of shit.” It’s harmless, Kyo’s eyes are gleaming with amusement. And before Yuki can bite something back, Kaori shakes her head with a strained laugh.

“Oh. No, I don’t,” she says.

A lot of their arguments are dampened this way. And Yuki does his best not to feel as though she’s invading on something.

Kyo doesn’t like to be teased, anyway. If his headaches whenever they meet up with their family are any indication—with Momiji and Haru and Shigure and Ayame constantly winding him up like a toy. And when Kyo comes home from nights out with his university friends, he’s always quick to complain about Mei and a few of his other overly-obnoxious friends.

Maybe Yuki should stop, too, he thinks. He sighs at the thought. With every good trait that’s highlighted in Kaori, it feels like a thousand bad ones are being revealed in himself.

Despite this, Kaori isn’t humorless. She has a light, calming attitude that reminds Yuki of the girls who were captains of their sports clubs in high school. That mature air about her that makes her a good listener, and eager to ask questions and learn more.

“My mom used to travel a lot, and sometimes I would get to go with her. There’s something incredible about learning about new people,” she says one day, the three of them sitting down to eat Kyo’s cooking.

She spends a full meal asking Kyo about karate, asking how long he’s been learning, what belt ceremonies were like, how often he trained, if he would ever want to compete, on and on. Yuki would consider it incessant if not for the fact that Kyo was becoming more and more engaged with each question. Answering honestly and directly, proud to put his beloved interest on display for a willing listener.

Yuki finds himself succumbing to the same trap. Kaori asks if the plants in the apartment were Yuki’s. She somehow gets out of him that he used to garden when he had the land and the time to do so. She asks him for tips on how to help her mother’s tomato plant that seems to be wilting, and asks if he ever considers taking it up again. Yuki answers question after question.

At the end of the night, he feels like he’s been Tohru-ed. It’s a specific skill of making people feel heard and special, and this girl has it down pat.

But she’s not quite Tohru, either.

Her speech is as casual as Kyo’s, apart from the fact that she doesn’t curse. Kaori has a knack for making herself comfortable no matter where she is, too. She slouches and sprawls whenever her legs become uncomfortable. When Yuki finishes his water, she stands without any preamble and gets him more, raiding their fridge for a soda for herself. Yuki thinks about how it took nearly two months for Tohru to relax in Shigure’s house to the extent Kaori does in their apartment in just a few visits. He does his best not to let it irritate him.

In that sense, Yuki is like Tohru. Always hyper-aware of his surroundings, about whether or not he belongs or is taking up space. Something else he’s always admired about Kyo, his unwitting ease in new places.

Just like Kaori.

It hurts when Kyo isn’t home as much. It hurts when he sees Kyo less and less as the weeks go by, knowing he’s opted to spend time with Kaori and her cluster of university friends. It hurts to come home to an empty apartment and eat his convenience store meals with no one to scold him otherwise.

But somehow, it hurts even more when she’s in the apartment. Sitting at the table as if that’s where she’s meant to be, talking to them both, and engaging in Kyo’s life with Kyo’s friends (read: Yuki), like a good soulmate should. Not that Yuki would know anything about being a good soulmate.

But Yuki can tell that Kyo is comfortable around her. Yuki can tell that Kyo likes having her around. Yuki can tell that Kyo feels relaxed whenever she’s in the room.

Yuki can tell that Kyo likes her.

He excuses himself to his room, and Kyo and Kaori keep talking.

As Yuki slides his door shut, Kyo smiles at her.

Yuki’s lost his chance.

He waited too long to unwrap his bandage, and now it weighs like a prison on his arm.

At some point down the line, Yuki wonders if he got this whole thing wrong. If maybe Kaori really is Kyo’s soulmate. They get along so well. They speak to each other so easily. They have so much in common.

They even start running together in the mornings.

That one really stings.

Yuki comes to the crushing realization that Kaori is Kyo’s type. In all his panic to try and figure out how to tell Kyo about this stain on his wrist, that was never something he considered. And Yuki feels silly, because he couldn’t be further from Kyo’s type.

It seems so obvious thinking about it now.

Yuki’s just an idiot who somehow caught feelings, despite knowing all of this.

Well, Yuki thinks bitterly, maybe Kyo is my type.

What a stupid type to have.

Yuki decides the best course of action would be to go back to his original plan when he first saw the words appear on his wrist. To just let Kyo reject him. To just tell Kyo and put this whole nightmare behind them. Let Kyo be with Kaori, let their romance grow and blossom as it clearly wants to, and let Yuki be alone.

Fine.

That’s fine.

As soon as this stupid crush fades, I’ll tell him.

Then this whole thing could just be over with.

 

————————————————-

 

“I wanna introduce her to Tohru,” Kyo says suddenly one day.

They’re walking to class together, just the two of them, and Yuki finds his pleasant walk to be rudely interrupted by Kyo’s declaration. Yuki’s expression doesn’t even change—he’s gotten too good at this.

“They haven’t met yet?” Yuki asks honestly.

Kyo shakes his head, “I wanted to be sure, y’know?”

Yuki feels his already cracked heart start to break even deeper.

“And you’re sure about her now?” Yuki asks, because he’s definitely some kind of masochist at this point.

Kyo’s hands are shoved deep in his pockets, his head tilting upwards towards the bright, burning sun. The sunlight bounces off Kyo’s skin in a way Yuki is sure he’ll always admire—crush or not. Kyo’s hand comes up to scratch at his head.

“I dunno, but it feels weird not to introduce them after this long. I think if I hold off any longer Tohru’ll cry.”

Kyo looks nervous, unsure. Unwittingly vulnerable and open. Yuki thinks, if nothing else, at least he has moments like these. Moments of being Kyo’s confidant. Moments of being the person that will silently understand the world they came from, and a world with Tohru in it, too.

“Tohru will love her,” Yuki says with a smile. “You know she will.”

“They’re gonna yap each others’ ears off,” Kyo rolls his eyes. Yuki laughs at that.

“They both can definitely be enthusiastic.” Yuki can already picture the scene between the two girls, talking back and forth with such an eagerness and urgency that they’d run out of breath.

Kyo snorts, “I was thinking sometime next week for dinner. You in?”

Something warm fills Yuki’s chest at the simple invitation, “You want me there, too?”

“You think I can handle those two on my own?” Kyo jokes. “You’re gonna keep me sane while they interrogate each other.”

This is enough, Yuki repeats to himself as he gives Kyo a smile. “Sure, I’m in.”

 

——

 

Yuki is late getting to the restaurant. He would like a better excuse other than it took him nearly twenty minutes just to leave the apartment. It’s a simple family-style restaurant that Yuki, Kyo, and Tohru go to meet up at every other Sunday. Yuki likes its greasy food, and familiar servers. But he has to hold his tongue when Kyo chooses here to introduce Kaori to Tohru.

The restaurant feels like a special, sacred place for the three of them. Having the constant reminder that Kyo will never return Yuki’s feelings enter that space makes Yuki want to fall back into snappish, bitter ways.

He wants to be better than that, though. Yuki knows Kyo is nervous introducing Kaori to Tohru—Tohru is too important of a person to Kyo not to be nervous about what Tohru thinks. Even with her open, and relentlessly kind spirit, Yuki knows it means a lot that the dinner goes well. And Kyo has brought Yuki along to help that process.

So maybe it takes an extra few minutes to pack up the sharp sting Yuki feels in his chest and tongue to finally head towards the restaurant.

When he gets there, the three of them are already sitting at their usual wrap-around booth. Tohru is at the end, with Kaori in the middle besides Kyo. Kaori is the first one to notice Yuki, too, and waves him over cheerfully, alerting Kyo and Tohru to his presence. It’s a rare occasion where her hair is down out of her ponytail, and Yuki realizes just how long it is.

“Sorry I’m late,” Yuki says, apologetically. He leans down to give Tohru a quick hug before sitting down next to Kyo, who makes room for him immediately.

“No problem! We were just talking about you!” Tohru chirps.

“Sounds ominous,” Yuki laughs. “Nothing bad I hope.”

“Who’s got anything good to say about you?” Kyo jokes.

“Kyo was saying what a good roommate you are!” Tohru chirps.

“I said he was fine, you snitch,” Kyo says, bringing a finger up to poke Tohru in the forehead, who just giggles. Yuki smiles at the scene.

“I’m definitely a better roommate than you are,” Yuki says, easily.

“Oh, like hell,” Kyo shoots back. “You’re lucky I can keep your ass in line or we’d be living in a toxic dump.”

“Remind me who talked down the neighbors from reporting you when you couldn’t stop storming around the apartment,” Yuki smirks, crossing his arms.

“You were the one pissing me off in the first place! You wouldn’t wake up, I was tryin’ to get you out the door, you lazy bastard.”

“Thank goodness I’ve cancelled out your screaming, otherwise I don’t know how I’d sleep at all in that place,” Yuki gives a heavy sigh, but the smile is still on his lips.

“Maybe I’ll wake you up with a kick to the stomach next time! You ain’t the r—” Kyo quickly cuts himself off, remembering the company on his right side. Yuki eyes her curious and concerned eyes, before Kyo composes himself. This time, much less fiery and a bit more bashful at having lost himself in the conversation, “I’m just sayin’ I bet I could take you now.”

Kaori gives a nervous laugh, “Now? Yuki, did you also take karate?”

Yuki slips from his easy, teasing smirk to a polite, careful smile, “I did.”

“The two of them used to fight all the time,” Tohru says, smiling at them both with considerate eyes. “Sometimes it would get really bad.”

“Really? Like actual fighting? Not just sparring?” Kaori asks, somehow in disbelief. Kyo shifts next to her, giving a shrug.

“I don’t know if you can really call it a fight if one of us never landed a hit…” Yuki trails off, overly polite smile on his face.

“Sounds like a challenge to me,” Kyo shoots back, immediately falling back into Yuki’s orbit. Yuki feels more than a little pride at that.

“I’m not fighting you here. We’ll get kicked out and I like the hamburger steaks too much,” Yuki says, but gives an oof when Kyo playfully elbows his side.

“Alright, fine, we’ll save it for later.” Kyo gives a triumphant smile, only for Yuki to elbow him right back.

“They’re kidding,” Tohru says, happily. Already for the second time that night, Yuki’s forgotten about Kaori at all, but is brought back to the setting when Kyo shifts closer to her. Yuki doesn’t even realize Kyo had gotten so close until he moves away. “You two don’t fight anymore, do you?”

Yuki and Kyo are bowled over by the sheer brightness of Tohru’s smile, and if it were anybody else, they’d only be able to read it as a threat. Sheepishly, but with laughter still fresh on their chests, they give a soft:

“No, Tohru.”

“Of course not,” Kyo snorts.

“It’s so hard to picture you two like that,” Kaori says, though her voice isn’t as caught up with the humor in the other three. “You both seem like such good friends.”

Tohru gives a tiny laugh when Yuki and Kyo shared a somewhat startled look, “they’ve known each other a long time.”

“Tohru’s full of shit. She was living with us when we were at each other’s throats 24/7.” Kyo rolls his eyes but gives an affectionate smile to Tohru.

“But I always knew you two would work it out!” Tohru adds triumphantly.

Yuki eyes Kaori, noticing that she doesn’t seem to be responding to their harsh, bantering tones, not even with Tohru’s optimistic responses.

“We must be scaring you, Yonamine-san,” Yuki says. The girl gives a strained chuckle.

“Maybe I would understand better if I had a big family,” Kaori says. “It’s just been me and my mom since I was a kid. I don’t even have any cousins.”

“Oh, I understand. I’m not very close with my extended family, either,” Tohru says. “But how wonderful that you’re so close with your mom.”

Kaori brightens, “I don’t know what I’d do without her.”

“She played softball too, right?” Kyo asks, gruffly bringing his attention back to a calmer, milder conversation.

“She did! My mom could’ve been pro if she wanted,” Kaori says, cheerfully. Her posture straightens with pride. Yuki thinks she looks a little like Kyo when he talks about Kazuma.

“That’s amazing!” Tohru gasps. “Does she still play?”

“Nah, not in her old league. She stopped when she got married to my dad,” Kaori says, almost in a huff, but her polite tone is still maintained. “She plays for fun with some of her old friends sometimes. Little exhibition games, yknow?”

“We should go! I’ve never even been to a baseball game, I would love to see!” Tohru’s eyes are bright and insistent and Kaori laughs.

“Mom loves an audience,” Kaori says.

“What about your dad, Yonamine-san? Does he play any spor—ow!” Yuki feels a sharp pain when Kyo’s heel drives into the top of Yuki’s foot. He gives him an irritated glance, but all Kyo gives him a serious look.

Yuki only understands why when he looks to Kaori, whose smile has turned somewhat sad, “I wouldn’t know. He left when I was a kid.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” Tohru says sympathetically. Yuki can feel a crushing guilt on his chest. Wasn’t he supposed to be helping this whole situation? God only knew why.

An awkward silence falls over the table, and Yuki feels an unpleasant pulse in his stomach.

“I didn’t mean to bring up anything troubling,” Yuki finally says. But he can tell that Kyo is still pointedly looking away from him.

“Oh, it’s fine,” Kaori waves, looking somewhat tense for having brought on the gloomy atmosphere. “That was a long time ago. Don’t worry about it.”

“You don’t need ‘im,” Kyo says, firmly. “Screw that guy.”

Kaori smiles at Kyo, and Kyo gives an awkward expression back. Yuki feels like he’s watching something from afar. He feels like he’s spotted a couple trying to sneak a kiss to each other in an empty park. It feels like something private, yet proudly on display, and Yuki doesn’t want to look.

It’s made worse when Tohru giggles, “Kyo’s quite charming, isn’t he?”

Kaori and Kyo both blush up to their ears. Yuki does his best not to let his own cheeks warm, as well.

“Gimme a break, Tohru,” Kyo groans, but Tohru just laughs.

“He can be,” Kaori says, softly, full of affection.

Tohru gives a smile towards Kaori, who easily returns the expression. It’s then that Yuki knows Tohru’s been won over.

What’s the point of him being here again?

It’s a question that never gets answered through the rest of dinner, as Yuki forces pleasant conversation out of himself word by word. The night drags on for what feels like years, and by the end Yuki feels like he’s been hefted cement blocks down a miles long path.

 

——

 

At the end of the night the four shuffle out of the restaurant. Kyo and Yuki, being the chivalrous boys they are, have already decided they would walk Tohru and Kaori to their train, despite being walking distance from their own place.

Kaori has looped her arm with Tohru’s as the walk together, continuing their conversation cheerfully. It’s easier for Yuki to smile outside the restaurant, knowing that they’re going home now. And despite everything, he enjoys watching people fall into Tohru’s friendly, beautiful world.

“And you were worried,” Yuki says to Kyo, as they trail behind.

Kyo huffs, an amused roll of his eyes. But after a second his eyes turn sober, and a little annoyed. “I told you about her dad, y’know.”

Yuki blinks, his memory drawing a complete blank. “You did?”

Kyo looks to him to give him a harshly unimpressed stare. “How about you pay fuckin’ attention when I tell you shit.”

That unpleasant wave is back in a tidal under Yuki’s skin. It’s not that Yuki doesn’t pay attention to Kyo. He does. More so than he would ever want to admit. It’s just that hearing Kyo talk about Kaori is still difficult. Yuki’s sure he’s getting better. Everyday he convinces himself as much. But then her name crosses Kyo’s lips and Yuki finds himself disconnecting from the conversation until he can find a way to change its course.

He sighs, knowing he’ll never be able to express any of that.

“I must have forgotten,” Yuki says, earnestly. The two of them watch Tohru and Kaori continue their conversation paces ahead, Kaori easily standing inches above Tohru.

“Get your head screwed on right. You’ve been weird lately,” Kyo says, almost passively. Yuki thinks maybe he should get angry, but he’s too tired for that tonight. Instead, he shakes his head.

“I must be acting strange if you’re noticing,” comes Yuki’s soft reply.

“I notice plenty about you,” Kyo bites back.

“Oh?”

“What? Don’t give me that smug face, you prick. I do!”

Yuki laughs, “If that’s the case, what am I thinking now?” He shoots Kyo a playful smirk, arms crossed, forcing his posture up straight. But Kyo assesses him as they walk. With his hands shoved deep in his jacket pockets, his eyes narrow attentively onto Yuki, who fears he might start to flush under so much direct attention.

“You’re thinking…” Kyo starts, and his gaze is still so intense Yuki really thinks Kyo might be able to see right through him.

Yuki was thinking about how he just wanted to go home. But now, with Kyo looking him straight on, it’s hard to think about anything but Kyo—specifically an attraction that Yuki has been smothering for weeks leaks through into Yuki’s blood.

His eyes flick down to Kyo’s lips.

As fleeting as the moment is, it feels as though it has the weight of an anchor. And when Yuki drags his eyes back up to Kyo’s, he wonders if he really is that easy to read.

Yuki falters, being the first to look away from their little game, bringing a hand up to run through his hair, hopefully blocking Kyo’s view of his now warming face. Yuki’s heart is stuttering in his chest, and he swallows down breaths that are trying to come up too quickly.

“Never mind,” Yuki says, voice a little too rushed. “Maybe it’s best we don’t read each other too well.”

He means it as a joke, but his voice hasn't reigned itself together enough. And when he looks at Kyo, his expression is somewhat bewildered, mouth shut tight, and ears turning a slight shade of pink.

Yuki’s eyes are just playing tricks on him.

“Uh, yeah,” Kyo says, bringing his arm up to cough into his sleeve as he looks away. “Probably nothin’ in your dumb brain, anyway.”

“Same for you, I’m sure,” Yuki shoots back, but he’s looking away from Kyo as he wills his face back to its normal pallor.

They walk the girls to the station and back to their apartment in silence. Kyo barely gives a muffled “good night” before they both retreat to their rooms.

Yuki’s wrist feels warm as he lays in bed that night. He restlessly brings his hands up to cover his face, a pained groan falling from him.

This whole “getting over Kyo” thing is going to be a lot more difficult than he thought.

Especially if Kyo looks at him like that.

Chapter Text

Yuki learns what Kyo sulking looks like.

“I’m not sulking.

“Well whatever you’re doing, don’t take it out on my plants,” Yuki sighs. Kyo immediately stops watering the little houseplant, already swimming in liquid it couldn’t absorb. Kyo grunts to himself, moving on to the next one.

Yuki watches him, still somewhat amused, “It’s only a month, you know. He’ll be back.”

“I know,” Kyo snaps, very much pouting.

“There’s no need to get so upset,” Yuki continues, smirking softly.

“I’m not upset!”

Two weeks ago Kazuma had called Kyo to inform him he would be going on another retreat. Five weeks of solitude, meditations, and not being in Tokyo. Leaving Kyo in a very ornery, very grumpy mood. Especially today, when Kyo walked in from seeing Kazuma off and was determined to advertise his prickly attitude by storming around the apartment—opening cabinets a little too loudly, and mumbling and grunting just a little more than usual.

Despite it all, Yuki couldn’t help but feel anything but fond.

“I don’t think I would even notice if my dad left for a year,” Yuki says, idly, keeping an eye on Kyo so as to make sure his plants didn’t suffer any more distracted drownings.

Kyo rolls his eyes, “Shitty kid.”

Yuki laughs, “Do you think? Maybe I’ll send him a postcard one of these days.”

Kyo snorts, moving on to another plant. It’s true, though. Yuki’s sure he hasn’t felt feelings of missing his parents since he was a kid. He sees his mom every once in awhile when she sends him curt voicemails about meeting for dinner. The last time he saw his father must have been high school graduation.

“What if he falls again or something,” Kyo groans. “He keeps taking these dumb journeys by himself. What he needs is a damn babysitter.”

Finishing his task, Kyo sits heavily at the table across from Yuki, folding his arms in a huff. Yuki takes the water bottle that Kyo used to water the plants and downs the rest of the water inside.

“If I’m a shitty kid, you’re an idiot one.”

“Hey!”

Yuki puts his arms up in defense, “Don’t worry, it’s rather cute.”

Kyo tenses and makes a face at him before Yuki processes what he let slip. It takes every ounce of Yuki’s energy not to groan at himself.

No, no, the real idiot is me.

“Cute?”

“In that way that little kids are when they follow their parents around like ducks,” Yuki easily recovers.

“Fuck off,” Kyo scoffs half-heartedly and Yuki lets out a quiet sigh of relief.

“Don’t worry, I’m sure the month will pass faster than you know it.”

——

The month does pass quickly, more or less. A couple weeks in, however, and Kyo still seems to have a morose cloud over him. It’s not too obvious, Kyo doesn’t seem the kind to advertise feeling down. But Yuki thinks he’s spent enough time around him now to notice that his energy was just slightly dampened, and his actions and words just the tiniest bit drained.

“I think Kyo’s still a little upset,” Yuki says at dinner with Tohru, Haru, and Momiji one day with absolutely no prompting.

Haru and Momiji shoot him strange looks, but Tohru takes the comment in stride, “About Kazuma?”

“Yes,” Yuki sighs. “He’s been rather moody since Shi-han left.”

“Kyo’s always moody,” Haru supplies easily, stuffing a bite of fish and rice into his mouth.

“He did tend to get upset when Kazuma would leave in high school…” Tohru trails off, pensively.

“He did?” Yuki asks.

“You probably didn’t notice since you two didn’t get along very well back then,” Tohru says smiling. “It’s nice to see you two becoming such better friends.”

Yuki flushes at that.

“The world must be ending,” supplies Haru. Momiji laughs at that.

“Oh, I have an idea to cheer Kyo up! Summer vacation is soon, isn’t it? Let’s all go to the beach house together! Tohru, you too!”

“That would be fun! If I ask in enough time ahead to get off work…” Tohru thinks to herself.

“I have no idea how this is supposed to cheer up Kyo,” Yuki sighs. “I don’t think being around people is going to help his mood.”

“I’m feeling oddly insulted,” Haru says passively.

“You know what I mean.”

Tohru hums for a second, before her face brightens turning to Momiji, “Could Kyo bring Kaori?”

Yuki stiffens and Momiji tilts his head at Tohru, “Kaori?”

“Kyo’s soulmate,” Tohru says, brightly.

“I heard about that,” Haru says. “I am curious what kind of person is destined for Kyo.”

“Why? Cause she’s probably a total weirdo?” Momiji adds, laughing.

“She’s really nice! I think everyone is going to like her a lot. Don’t you think, Yuki?” Tohru asks, and Yuki tries not to show how weighted down he feels all of the sudden.

“Yes, there’s nothing not to like,” Yuki says, forcing his voice neutral.

“I’ll call the main house and make sure we can get the house for those days! Tohru! You call Kyo! He won’t go if you don’t ask him,” Momiji commands, taking out his cellphone.

Tohru giggles, “Yes, sir!”

The two retreat in their frenzy leaving just Haru and Yuki at the table. Yuki sighs, reflexively letting himself relax around his cousin.

“I guess that’s what we’re doing, then,” Haru says, idly.

“Right… Well,” Yuki looks away. “I’m not sure if I can go. I have projects and things to take care of for school, and such.”

Haru hums.

“I thought you wanted to cheer Kyo up,” Haru says.

“I think it’d cheer him up more if I wasn’t around.” Yuki waves a passive hand.

“As weird as it is, I don’t think that’s true,” Haru offers. “You should come have fun with all of us.”

Fun. The last thing this would be was fun. But it’s not like he could exactly say why, so instead he just shrugs.

“I’ll think about it.”

 

——

 

The next couple weeks pass by without much incident. Kyo is harassed and harangued by Tohru and their cousins to accept the invitations up the beach house, which he relents to quicker than he might have a couple years ago.

Yuki doesn’t have much of an option but to resign himself to the fact that he’s going, too. Tohru is overly excited about the trip, texting Yuki and Kyo how forward she’s looking to it. How’s Yuki supposed to respond to that? It’s just a few days, he thinks. He sees Kyo and Kaori hang out everyday, at least at the beach Tohru and Haru would be there.

So Yuki keeps his focus on school in the last dwindling days of Spring, both dreading summer vacation, but also looking very much forward to mornings without any obligation where he can follow his body’s natural sleep schedule.

It’s the first day of vacation when Yuki equates heaven with not having to set his alarm. Screw Kyo and Kaori—he’d just sleep through summer. The perfect solution to anything, he thinks.

Of course even that has to get ruined for him.

Yuki sleeps through the first time his phone buzzes on his bedside table. But on the second time around, Yuki stirs—choosing to ignore it. It rings again. And again and again. Distantly, Yuki can hear a pounding on his door, and Yuki groans loud and long into his pillow.

Yuki feels like he might know it feels like to want to murder someone now.

He picks up the phone and presses it to his ear without even opening his eyes or getting up.

“What?!”

“YUKI!!” An all too familiar voice booms, on the other line. “YUKI OPEN THE DOOR, I HAVE EXCITING NEWS.”

“Yuki’s not here,” Yuki says venomously, but still also falling back asleep. “Yuki’s moved. Yuki’s dead.”

“WHAT A MACABRE SENSE OF HUMOR MY BROTHER HAS DEVELOPED,” Ayame bemoans, and Yuki can still hear pounding on the door.

“C’mon, Yun! Open the door!” Kakeru’s voice joins in on the other line. The distinct sound of four knuckles connecting against his apartment door comes through clear as day, and Yuki has to wonder how loud they’re actually being if he can hear it this clearly in his bedroom with the door closed shut.

“Oh god, it’s both of them,” Yuki whines, stretching his arm up and rubbing at his eye with his palm. It’s too early for this. 

“We can do this all day, you know!” Kakeru says through the line, laughing loudly, and Yuki have growls half sighs into his phone before violently flipping it shut. He gets out of bed, very unwillingly, and trudges to the door, eyes dark and aura filled to the brim with dark ominous energy.

When he wrenches the door open, Kakeru nearly jumps.

“Jeez, president, what a scary face you’re making,” Kakeru says on a nervous laugh.

“What are you doing here—no, what are you doing here together?”

“We’re texting buddies!” Ayame and Kakeru respond in unison. Yuki thinks he might have an aneurysm.

“Good morning, Yuki!” Mine calls out. Yuki didn’t even realize she was there, too—far too polite to attack at his door so early in the morning.

Yuki nods to her a little embarrassed, “Good morning, Kuramae-san.” It’s then that Yuki spots the thick garment bags that all three of them are holding and his eyebrows crease. “What’s going on?”

“Oh, a terrible predicament!” Ayame exclaims, pushing past Yuki to let himself inside after toeing off his shoes in a swift motion. Kakeru and Mine follow him inside before Yuki can say anything else.

“Today is the day of a very important design exposition that Mine and I have been preparing for months! But at the last minute our greeters have abandoned us and our efforts! I am in desperate need to fill those roles for today!”

“It’s too early for this,” Yuki grunts, trying to process the words.

“We’re gonna be booth babes!” Kakeru supplies.

“Oh no. Absolutely not. I’m not wearing anything from that shop,” Yuki says, crossly.

“Don’t wound me, Yuki, I’m having a hard enough day as it is!” Ayame puts a hand on his forehead, wistfully closing his eyes and looking as if he might need a fainting couch.

“You won’t be wearing a dress, if that’s what you’re worried about,” Mine says, almost as if she’s pouting. Yuki does not appreciate her tone.

“Yes, yes, tasteful suits that will look lovely on you both!” Ayame unzipped one of the garment bags, holding up an array of colorful options for Yuki to see.

“No!” Yuki snaps immediately.

“Yuki, don’t be so difficult,” Ayame grouses. “Your brother is asking for your help in his time of need. After all that grueling work you put me through dragging me around apartment to apartment when you were searching for a place to live apart from me—”

“—You were the one who insisted on coming!—”

“—Or the furniture I provided you free of charge that you callously threw away! Must every attempt to soften your heart be so brutally dismissed? I come to you for such genuine help, I count on my dearest family in the world, and I’m not even given a chance to speak! Oh, once Hari hears of this—”

“Fine! Fine. Just. Stop talking. Please.” Yuki snatches the outfits out of Ayame’s hand as Kakeru laughs, quite unhelpfully, from his place at the living room table. “It’s just one day, right?”

“Oh, YukI! I knew I could count on you!” Ayame pulls Yuki in for a tight hug which leaves Yuki rolling his eyes, arms limp beside him as regret already began to course through his system. Just as quick as he’s pulled in, Ayame shoves him back. “Now try on these three, I’m torn for what would best match your delicate complexion! Mr. Flying Pot — into the dressing room you go!”

“Aye, aye, commander!” Kakeru calls opening up Yuki’s room and striding inside.

“Hey! Don’t just invite yourself anywhere!”

“It’s fine, it’s fine,” Kakeru says, already closing the door. “Don’t be so chaste with your garbage dump of a room.”

Yuki can already feel his fists clenching in frustration as Ayame presses suits to his back, chattering at miles per minute with Mine about which would suit him best. The whole process takes about an hour, but Yuki is sure years have been taken off his life.

Yuki realizes he was wrong to assume that Ayame was at his most irritating in the times that they’d spent together. It turns out, when it comes to work, Ayame is even more insufferable and demanding. Yuki tries on three different suits multiple times, getting snapped at by his brother to stand taller when his tired and vexed posture crinkles his vest. Mine isn’t helping by nodding along and matching Ayame’s crazed mutterings in stride.

He starts to feel more like a science experiment than a fill-in model. Especially when Mine pulls at his hair to style it back with an overly generous amount of gel and hairspray. Kakeru just laughs when the same happens to him, taking a selfie of himself to send to Maki.

“Then that’s settled!” Ayame finally chirps, happily. Yuki’s fingers are pinching his nose, hair tugging on his scalp, suit pants on, with a shirt and tie slung over his shoulder. It’s summer and it’s hot and all this changing into heavy fabrics is already starting to become uncomfortable.

“Are you sure?” Yuki gripes, stressing the word and tired of his brother’s booming aura.

“Yes, yes, don’t be so indecisive, brother,” Ayame says passively as he gathers the clothes he brought and zips them back into his garment bag. “Change into the teal one! I’ll see you at the venue — I’ve texted you both the address!”

“Got it!”

“Delete his number!” Yuki calls after Ayame, sighing and heading into his room to change again.

“C’mon, Yun, this’ll be fun! You gotta flaunt that pretty face of yours once in awhile!” Kakeru calls out, but Yuki only groans through his bedroom door.

“Bye, brother! Oh—” Ayame cuts himself off when he opens the apartment door to reveal Kyo and Kaori standing on the other side. Kyo immediately tenses.

“Oh, hello—”

“Kaori, don’t even look at him!” Kyo snaps, pushing her to stand behind him.

“Kyonkichi I have no time for your little antics today, I must be going!”

“Good!”

“Who’s your friend? She’s so cute!” Mine says with wide, bright eyes. Kaori tilts her head to the side and Kyo grimaces.

“Later, Mine, later! We’re late!”

“Oh, right!” Mine calls, following behind. And just like that Ayame and Mine are gone. Kyo slumps from the exhaustion of just that encounter.

“Who was that? He looked just like Yuki,” Kaori notes.

“Yuki’s brother,” Kyo says, closing the door behind them both and stepping inside with her. “Worst guy on the planet.”

“Hey, Kyon!”

“Other than him,” Kyo says passively, jutting his thumb towards Kakeru.

“I haven’t even done anything yet!” Kakeru bemoans with a smile.

“Doesn’t matter—he’s right,” Yuki calls from his room, finally opening the door.

Yuki doesn’t know why he’s stuck doing something like this on one of his vacation days, but he emerges nonetheless in the suit Ayame picked out for him. He dons a deep rich teal, almost blue, suit pants and jacket. A satin vest with gold, black, and teal patterning layer over a white button up with a black tie that completes the look along with his slicked back hair.

All things considered, he figures it fits pretty well, nothing seems to bunch awkwardly or squeeze on him too tightly. Though he could do without all the layers in this heat.

“Yuki, you look so handsome!” Kaori exclaims, with a thumbs up. Kakeru whistles in agreement.

“Thank you, Yonamine-san,” Yuki sighs. “Just another whim of my brother’s—be glad you didn’t have to interact with him too much.”

Yuki lifts his head to look at Kyo for affirmation, but what he meets instead are wide red eyes that immediately flit away when Yuki looks towards him. Kyo coughs into his fist harsh enough for Kaori to turn to him.

“Are you okay?” Kaori asks.

“Fine,” Kyo wheezes out between coughs.

“Hairball?” Yuki teases lightly with a smile, even though no one else in the room will understand but Kyo. He pounds a fist on his chest, still not meeting Yuki’s eye, his face red from coughing.

“No!”

“Well then pull yourself together. I’d rather get your mockery over with,” Yuki says with a dismissive wave.

“I’m—! I’m not gonna—Who care if you’re wearing—I don’t care what you’re wearing! You look—! You always look stupid!” Kyo manages, and Yuki gives him a strange look, wondering if Kyo’s throat is still caught up with coughs. But Kyo still won’t look at him.

Kakeru snorts and Yuki looks at him curiously.

“Hey, I don’t think we’ve met—I’m Kakeru, by the way,” Kakeru says, giving a cheerful wave over to Kaori. And Yuki realizes he did that thing again where he only notices Kyo in the room. “Yuki’s best friend forever.”

Kaori giggles, “Kaori Yonamine, I’m—”

“My soulmate!” Kyo says a bit too loudly, though he doesn’t sound mad. Yuki’s not sure what he sounds like.

Not that he has time to assess further, since Kakeru’s pinching the back of Yuki’s neck in a swift motion that jolts Yuki before an overly-large smile plays on Kakeru’s lips.

“Oh! So you’re Kyon’s soulmate. What a pleasure to meet you. I had no idea that he’d end up with someone so cute. I would’ve thought he’d end up someone with a personality as bad as his, but don’t you seem lovely!”

Kaori is laughing somewhat nervously, “Thank you?”

“Could you fucking shut up for three seconds?!” Kyo snaps at Kakeru.

“Just expressing joy for the happy couple,” Kakeru chirps. But when Kyo and Kaori look towards each other, Kakeru whips a very unimpressed and exhausted gaze towards Yuki, who flinches back at the expression.

“Please ignore him, Yonamine-san,” Yuki says, fighting a flush. “He has a chronic case of stupidity.”

“Hey!”

“You seem to be having a lively start to summer vacation,” Kaori smiles. “It makes me wish I could come with you all to the beach.”

Yuki stops, “You’re not coming?”

“No, my mom is coming back to town that weekend and I wanted to spend some time with her,” she says, sounding somewhat disappointed. “Oh, but Shishou should be back by the time you get back to the city, right?”

“Should be,” Kyo offers, tightly. Yuki’s heart falls again. Something about Kaori sharing the moniker of Shishou with Kyo—it felt like a privilege that Yuki would never be able to touch.

“We should all go out! My mom keeps asking to meet you, you know,” Kaori says.

“Oh, yeah, that—that would be cool,” Kyo agrees, seeming less tense now that his focus is on the bright, beaming girl. Yuki feels that wave of nausea he had when Kyo told Yuki he wanted to introduce Kaori to Tohru. More allowances Kyo was making in his life for her. Yuki feels himself sweat even more in this stupid suit.

“I feel bad for you, Yonamine-san—having to deal with Kyo’s bad mood since Shi-han’s been gone,” Yuki says, with a strained smile.

“Bad mood?” Kaori asks curious, but Yuki’s phone starts to ring before he can respond.

Not that he wanted to, anyway. Of course Kyo wouldn’t be in a bad mood around her.

Yuki fishes his phone out of his pocket and rolls his eyes, “Hello?—No, Ayame, I’m not changing again!” Yuki says into the phone, excusing himself apologetically to Kaori before heading into his room and closing the door behind him.

“You both look great,” Kaori says to Kakeru. “I don’t know much about fashion, but they seem like nice suits.”

Kakeru strikes a pose, putting his hands on his waist, wearing a suit much like Yuki’s but black and with purple trim on his vest instead of teal. “You think? Hey Kyon, do you agree? I’m wearing a suit too, y’know. It’s not fair if you only notice Yuki’s.”

Kyo points a flushed glare at Kakeru. In a much more composed voice he says, “You look like an idiot.”

“Ah, that’s what I thought,” Kakeru smirks at Kyo who looks away.

“Where are you guys going? Somewhere fancy?” Kaori asks, not picking up on the tension from Kyo at all.

Kakeru presses a finger to his chin as if to think about it, until he finally says, cheerfully, “A date! My soulmate and I are introducing Yuki to somebody. We think they’ll really hit it off.”

“Wow, fancy date,” Kaori laughs, light-heartedly. “I never feel comfortable in super nice dresses.”

“We gotta pull out all the stops since Yuki’s such a hard guy to be around—his looks are all he’s got! But he cleans up nice, huh? I’m sure she’ll fall for him immediately.” Kakeru eyes Kyo, who is looking more and more put-off and soured by Kakeru’s words. “Don’t you think?”

“How would I know?” Kyo snaps back immediately. “Just—fuck off! C’mon, Kaori. Let’s get out of here.”

“Huh?” Kaori asks, confusion clear on her face which is already starting to bend with concern. “Where are we going?”

“Who cares! Just away from here!”

Kaori looks to Kakeru before swallowing whatever she was going to say with a sigh, “Alright. Bye, Kakeru. It was nice to meet you.”

“Same to you,” Kakeru sings back. Kyo slams the door behind him and Kaori only moments before Yuki resurges from his room.

“Changing again?” Kakeru laughs.

“I talked him out of it—where’d Kyo go?”

Kakeru shrugs dramatically, “Who knows where he likes to stomp off to. Wanna head out?”

“Let’s just get this over with, I suppose,” Yuki says grabbing his keys and heading to the entryway.

“That’s the spirit!”

 

——————

 

It’s a long day. It’s a very long day. When Ayame set sights for Yuki’s place like a tornado with Kakeru in tow, he failed to mention that the event would last until late into the evening. Yuki and Kakeru stand at Ayame’s booth in the expo, greeting people and handing out business cards for hours.

Too many times do they get swarmed by people, some to comment on his looks, but most to ask intricate and prodding questions about the suits that Yuki and Kakeru definitely do not know the answers to.

It’s crowded, which makes Yuki’s shoulders pinch, and it’s hot, which makes the experience all the worse. He decides that whatever favors he owed Ayame are now completely and thoroughly returned in full, and he considers putting a ban on Ayame coming to his place for at least three months. But, he decides against it. By the end of it all, he’s too tired to even lift a glare at his brother, who pulls him into a tight hug and gives a quick thank you before dismissing the two of them with a wave.

“I’m taking an ice bath when I get home,” Kakeru moans as they walk to the train station together. Both, loosening their ties and shucking their suit jackets.

“That sounds like a great idea,” Yuki sighs. And with that, the two say their slurred and tired goodbyes when they split for their separate train lines home.

It’s nearly midnight by the time Yuki makes it back to his place, and he very purposely tries to stay as quiet as possible as he turns the key into the apartment. Kyo is definitely sleeping by now, and the last thing he needs is to wake him and deal with his foul mood—Yuki’s far too exhausted for that.

So that’s why it’s such a surprise when Yuki enters the living room and sees the lights and TV on, with Kyo slumped over and sleeping on the kitchen table.

Yuki is a little taken aback by the scene. As he is whenever he finds Kyo asleep in strange areas of the apartment. But he indulges himself in watching Kyo sleep for a moment, his eyes and body relaxed. A peacefulness that Kyo seems to be taking less effort to hide away, lately.

His heart warms and he can’t really stop the smile that cracks onto him. It’s only with the realization that he could watch the scene for hours that Yuki irritably snaps himself out of his haze. Still, he kneels by Kyo and far more gently than he should intend, he jostles him awake with a hand on his shoulder.

“Kyo? You’re going to hurt your back sleeping like that.”

Kyo stirs, eyes pinching shut before slowly inching open. A passive leftover grumble from sleep escapes him as he looks up to Yuki. He doesn’t seem to be fully awake, not processing his surroundings, but when their eyes stay locked a moment longer, Kyo suddenly snaps awake, righting himself immediately.

“What time is it?” Kyo asks, running a hand through his hair.

“Almost midnight. What’re you doing out here?”

“Couldn’t sleep,” Kyo says, without looking up at Yuki.

“You seemed to be sleeping just fine.”

Yuki half sits half crashes on the floor next to Kyo, looking towards the TV, a labored moan pouring out of him as he cracks his neck. His hands stretch out behind him to prop him up, and Yuki thinks he must look like he was chewed up and spit out by some kind of three story monster.

His tie is undone, the first few buttons of his shirt unbuttoned, sleeves haphazardly rolled up revealing his sweaty bandage, while his vest is unbuttoned completely and his suit jacket laying strewn out beside him. He’s sure his hair is a mess, not even gel could salvage that much perspiration, or the bad habit Yuki has of carding his fingers through it when nervous—which he’s been a lot today.

But finally, he relaxes, letting the peaceful aura of Kyo’s quiet nature along with the TV lull him into a pleasant calm.

Yuki finally looks over to him, and Kyo does the same thing he did this morning—immediately look away. Yuki gives another confused look to the back of Kyo’s sunburnt neck.

“Are you mad at me or something?” Yuki asks, earnestly.

Kyo tenses, “No.”

Yuki isn’t all that convinced but Kyo keeps talking before Yuki can say anything else.

“How was the date?”

Yuki blinks, “what date?”

Kyo looks back at Yuki, glare overtaking his features, “Your date. The one you got all dressed up for.”

Kyo motions at Yuki’s clothes with his hand. Yuki’s brow creases further.

“I didn’t go on a date. Who told you that? I was helping Ayame with something for his work.”

Kyo’s face flushes a bright red, features pinching together, “What?!”

“You thought I would wear something like this on a date?—I left the apartment at nine in the morning, what kind of date was this supposed to be?” Yuki laughs, and Kyo flushes further with embarrassment.

“Shut up! I don’t know—you’re weird, you—that annoying guy said—! Oh, I’ll kill him,” Kyo mutters darkly to himself, which only causes Yuki to laugh harder.

“I feel bad for Yonamine-san, what sorts of dates are you taking her on?” Yuki chuckles.

“Normal ones!” Kyo snaps back before visibly deflating. “Jeez, it’s not my fault you’re such a weird guy.”

“I’m starting to worry what I seem like through your eyes,” Yuki says, voice still peppered with fading laughter, and his exhaustion seemingly taking a back seat now that he felt as though he could relax.

“Coming back this late, I just thought you were easy,” Kyo teases back, seeming to relax now too.

“Oh? Is that why you’re still up? To scold me for breaking curfew?”

“Tch, no.” Kyo looks back to the TV. “Like I said, couldn’t sleep.”

Yuki can’t help the smile that breaks onto his face, and the warmth that settles into his stomach. It’s a nice thought, Kyo worrying about him, Kyo wanting to know his business, Kyo staying up because Yuki had a date of all things. Even if Yuki twists the interpretation to mean more, it’s nice to have in this little moment—even if it’ll sting all the more in the morning.

Yuki catches Kyo eyeing him again, and Yuki hoists himself so he’s sitting up straighter, leaning on the table so that he’s a little closer to Kyo and smiles.

“I guess I should be flattered that you think of me as such a romantic,” Yuki says. “Meanwhile, I can’t imagine what you would be like on a date at all.”

Kyo bristles, facing Yuki, “You really seem caught up on making me sound like some kind of clueless douchebag.”

“Are you romantic with her?” Yuki asks suddenly. Because he wants to know, even if it hurts. He still can’t picture Kyo in a romantic setting, still can’t see him turning his eyes towards Yuki, still can’t fathom a world where Kyo could even possibly be romantic with him.

And he needs to know if it’s because Kyo is inherently unintelligent with all things romance, or if… if it’s because Yuki is impossible to be seen as deserving of those gestures by his soulmate. By Kyo.

One is definitely worse than the other.

“I dunno, that’s not—we don’t,” Kyo sighs. “We’re not there yet.”

Yuki blinks, “What does that mean?”

“It means what it means,” Kyo says, tersely. His face is red again. “I dunno, we’re taking it slow.”

“How slow?” Yuki’s eyes narrow, assessing Kyo. “Have you…” He trails off, not really being able to form the words, though Kyo is quick to catch the meaning.

“Wh—No! Don’t ask that, you creep!”

“I’m just clarifying,” Yuki says, eyes clenched shut with embarrassment, mirroring Kyo’s flush. “Have you… Have you kissed?”

“You know what, I’m done with this conversation. I’m going to bed!” Kyo makes to get up, but Yuki’s eyes widen.

“You haven’t kissed yet?”

“Back off!”

“Oh, come on! I thought we were,”—Yuki struggles with the word—“friends or something. Friends talk about these sorts of things.”

It’s a lie. Yuki hasn’t had a normal friend in his life—he knows that. Kakeru is a weird anomaly that he doesn’t think any sort of normalcy should be based on, and that goes double for Haru. Tohru, of course, is one of his dearest friends in the world, but the intensity of his feelings for her seem to place her in a category all her own.

But curiosity flares up in his gut when Kyo grimaces, crossing his arms and petulantly sitting back down.

“I don’t need you makin’ fun of me,” Kyo spits.

“I’m not,” Yuki lets the moment settle, hoping he doesn’t sound too eager for information. “Why haven’t you?”

Kyo rubs the back of his neck, giving a rough sigh, “Is it weird?”

Yuki considers the question, before shaking his head, “I… wouldn’t know. I’ve never dated anybody.”

“Really?” Kyo’s eyebrow quirks up, and suddenly all the anger is seeped out of his expression, replaced with disbelief.

“Is that hard to believe?” Yuki tries to tease, but it comes out more embarrassed. He didn’t need to be reminded that he was this unlucky in love.

“I dunno, kinda,” he clicks his tongue. “Sort of thought you were so weird about your mark ‘cause you were already with somebody.”

“Oh,” Yuki looks down at his mark, absently, still covered with a bandage, now cooled from drying sweat from the day. “I don’t know if I could date anyone knowing they weren’t my soulmate…”

There’s silence for a long time between them, so much so that Yuki wonders if he said the last part in his head. He hopes so. It sounds so desperate and pining and weak.

“You seemed like someone who could,” Kyo says, quietly. Oddly so. And Yuki looks up at him to see his eyes alarmingly focused. Yuki’s throat goes dry, and he hopes he isn’t giving Kyo some sort of mopey, kicked-puppy sort of look. Because he still is so hung up on someone he can’t have.

“I’m not,” Yuki says, looking away. “But I think maybe I should learn to be.”

The living room is silent again and buzzing with tension that Yuki didn’t intend. Why does it always feel this way when he tries to get closer to Kyo? Why does it seem so difficult, or that he’s always stepping onto some sort of emotional landmine?

If the only thing he was allowed to be was Kyo’s friend, he didn’t want to turn that to shit, too.

“I don’t think it’s weird. I think it’s sweet,” Yuki tries. “You’re waiting for the right moment. That’s… It’s romantic.”

“I guess,” Kyo trails off.

“You do want to kiss her, right?” Yuki asks passively.

Kyo’s lips tighten together, head bowing like he’s ashamed. “She’s my soulmate. So I should, or whatever. But it still feels weird.” Kyo lets out an anguished grunt, running his hands over his face and hair. “God, I feel like such a fucking prick.”

Actually, that’s Yuki’s line.

Yuki knows, deep in his gut why it feels weird. Why it doesn’t feel “right”, why Kyo is struggling. Because Kaori isn’t Kyo’s soulmate. A brief little detail that Yuki swept under the rug and continues to let collect dust.

It’s almost exhausting when the thought of you should tell him pops up into his head again. Because it never happens. Those words seem locked up tight in Yuki, because he’s never ready when the thought occurs.

But guilt weighs down on him heavily. He just sort of assumed that anyone other than Yuki would be a better match for Kyo. And Kaori is so textbook perfect for him, so similar, so in synch with him, Yuki makes it easy to convince himself that Kyo is just a fumbling mess when it comes to romance.

“You’re not a prick for needing time,” Yuki says, half to himself and half to Kyo. “You’re… You’re a good person. You wouldn’t be as worried about this if you weren’t.”

Kyo stares at him for a long time, as if trying to figure out where Yuki hid the insult or from what vantage point Yuki is looking down on him. Which he should. Yuki is the opposite of a good person. Yuki is the opposite of Kyo. And it makes sense that Kyo would scrutinize any attempt Yuki made to be otherwise.

“Never though I’d hear that from you,” his voice is soft and careful.

“Even I am capable of change,” Yuki brushes off, with a small, strained smile.

“I know,” Kyo says as he gets up, and Yuki instinctively looks up at him, surprise brushing over him. “I’m goin’ to bed,” he announces, firmly. It’s clear he’s ready to escape the conversation. “Don’t even think about goin’ to bed without taking a bath. You smell like shit.”

Yuki chuckles to himself, “Yes, mother.”

Kyo flips him off, but Yuki is still smiling.

“Goodnight.”

Kyo doesn't say it back, but that’s okay.

 

——

 

Yuki gets one blissful day of sleep before the trip to the summer house. As a reward to himself he stays in bed all day, only exiting to get some snacks, before retreating back to bed. This is the ideal vacation. And he feels perfectly rested and does not at all sleep in late the next day when they need to leave in the morning for the bus.

“We’re late, you know,” Kyo says, leaning against the banister as he watches Yuki scramble around the apartment, two duffle bags hanging off both of Kyo’s shoulders.

“Who’s coming to water the plants?” Yuki asks, hopping on one foot to slip on his socks.

“That dude from next door,” Kyo replies, amused, still watching Yuki bounce around. “The old one. Not the weird one.”

“You could use his name, you know,” Yuki sighs, holding on to Kyo’s shoulder for balance while he slipped on one of his shoes.

“Don’t remember it,” Kyo shrugged. Yuki gave him a look and Kyo narrowed his eyes defensively, “He mumbles when he talks! Do you know his name?”

“You know, we’re very late,” Yuki says, finally tying on his last shoe.

“Whose fault is that?” Kyo admonishes, languidly, before unceremoniously throwing Yuki his beat up duffle.

Kyo locks the door behind them, and Yuki’s eyes are glazed upwards, trying to recount everything for the trip.

“Did you pack everything?”

“Yes,” Kyo hisses.

“Are you sure?”

“I swear, I’m gonna punch you if you keep asking,” Kyo says storming ahead.

“Even the presents for Tohru?”

Kyo stops.

He turns on his heel, reopening the door and stomping inside. When he returns, duffle bag slightly lumpier, he shoots Yuki the bird. “Can we go now?”

“Waiting on you,” Yuki smirks. Kyo is quick to try and swipe Yuki with the back of his hand, and they start the morning off in a run.

 

——

 


“I can’t believe you lied to me,” Yuki groans again, head in his hands. “I could have slept in.”

“No you couldn’t! I told you we had to be here an hour earlier than we did and we were still ten minutes late.”

“It’s pretty ingenious,” Haru says, chin resting on the head of the bus seat, turned around to look at Yuki and Kyo sitting side by side. “I should have thought of this method sooner.”

“Yuki, you were always on time in high school,” Tohru giggles from behind them. “I guess university really does let people relax.”

“This guy’s a mess without you, Tohru,” Kyo jabs his thumb over at Yuki. “I gotta drag his ass outta bed most mornings.”

“At least I don’t fall asleep in weird places,” Yuki crosses his arms. “You’d end up sleeping on the kitchen floor if I didn’t wake you up to go to bed every night.”

“Hey, it’s not every night!”

“You’re right, I’m forgetting the nights you go to bed at 8 pm like a maniac,” Yuki snorts. “You have the sleeping patterns of a 65 year old man.”

“It’s because I wake up early! That’s not something you would understand, sleeping beauty” Kyo mocks.

“I wake up when you wake up, believe me. Do you know that our downstairs neighbors keep a broom by their bedside so they can bang on the—” Yuki stops when he notices Haru, Rin, Tohru, and Hiro turning to stare at him with varying levels of disguised scrutiny. Kyo seems to notice the same because his defenses are suddenly up.

“What?” Yuki and Kyo say in unison.

Rin snorts before straightening herself back in her seat.

“You two seem to be getting along,” Tohru says with a smile. Yuki twists his head back to look at her, giving her a weak smile in return.

“You’re like a married couple, is what she means,” Hiro pipes up.

“Excuse me?!” Kyo says, his voice dripping with venom. “Who’d want to be married to this guy? He’s a wreck!”

Yuki tries not to let the words sting, but he has a sneaking suspicion that he wasn’t successful when Haru’s languid gaze settles on him.

“Pot. Kettle.” Hiro offers, lamely.

“You brat, I don’t need to take this from you!”

“Kyo, where are you going?” Tohru cries when Kyo stands up from his seat on the bus.

“I’m takin’ up another row, and I’m sleeping the whole way there! Maybe then I can get some peace!”

Yuki watches Kyo storm away and sighs, absentmindedly fingering the bandage still tied around his wrist. Tohru goes back to talking with Kisa, and Hiro goes back to listening to music through his player. Haru, however, doesn’t look away from him.

“What, Haru?” Yuki asks, already exasperated.

“Nothing,” he says in an even tone. “Something just tells me you’re being an idiot.”

Yuki glares at him, but it’s more tired than biting.

“Just a hunch, though.”

Haru straightens back down in his seat next to Rin, and Yuki sits alone in his row the rest of the way to the beach.

 

——

 

The air is pleasantly hot when they arrive at the beach house, and they get there with enough time to settle into their rooms, unpack, and change into their swimwear. Rin and Haru share a room, and so do Tohru and Kisa, and Momiji and Hiro. Yuki feels a nervous twist in his gut when they start pairing off, but Momiji elbows him before he can ask.

“Don’t worry, we knew you’d kill each other if we put you in the same room,” Momiji laughs, motioning to the two adjacent rooms on the main floor. “But if Shigure or Aya and Mine come, you might have to share a room with each other.”

“What?” Kyo whines, like he’s a child.

“Unless you want to share a room with Gure,” Momiji sticks out his tongue.

“No way, give me a rat over a dog any day,” Kyo huffs, then elbows Yuki in the back. “C’mon, I wanna sit out in the sun.”

Yuki follows, not wanting to say anything about the fact that Kyo could always go without him. They walk down the hall to their rooms, and Kyo pulls out his phone looking at it distractedly.

“I’m gonna give Kaori a call, I’ll be out in a second,” Kyo says before going into his room.

Yuki goes into his own, trying to fight off the sour feeling by reminded himself that Kaori isn’t coming up at all—he won’t have to watch them be lovey-dovey in the sun and sand. He waits for Kyo even though it irks him, standing out in the hall in his swim trunks and a light, short sleeved button-down.

It doesn’t really occur to him that he could always go without Kyo.

Yuki and Kyo are second on the beach after Momiji and Hiro. Momiji’s already wading around in the waves while Hiro sits cooly on a beach towel with sunglasses on.

“You’ve grown a lot since I last saw you,” Yuki comments when they sit next to him. Kyo is already sprawled out under the sun and starting to fall asleep. He looks ridiculous.

“My doctor says I’ll probably end up being over 170 centimeters, so I’ll be taller than you,” Hiro says smugly, shrugging his shoulder. Yuki isn’t fazed.

“I’m sure Kisa is going to find you very handsome,” Yuki says easily. Hiro blushes. “Until then, though…”

“Love advice?” Hiro says, biting back an angry retort in exchange for a condescending one instead. He motions to Yuki’s bandage. “From you?”

“You’ll be more attractive when you learn not to lash out at people,” Yuki sighs.

“Apparently not,” Hiro says, and that smug facade is back. Yuki meets his eyes to see Hiro’s smirk before he flits his eyes over to Kyo — as if signaling to him. Yuki tenses. Kids were getting more and more perceptive these days.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Yuki crosses his arms and stares out at the waves where Momiji is waving to them. Yuki gives a small wave back.

“Yeah, sure,” Hiro rolls his eyes.

Yuki tries his best to subtly look at Kyo beside him. He’s asleep already. The sun would do that to Kyo, maybe in that way he was still just like a cat. He looks peaceful when his eyes aren’t tense and furrowed. His lean, runner’s body relaxed under the sun, as if uncoiling.

His skin is so tan, too. Yuki looks at his own arms and winces at how they reflect the sun so easily, yet still look so cold. Yuki bets if he were to rest his head on Kyo’s stomach, it would be pleasantly warm. Warm enough to sleep.

Yuki realizes he’s staring at Kyo when he specifically was trying to prevent that. He thinks Hiro might be looking at him, but maybe he’s just paranoid now. Kyo’s stupid peaceful face was pissing him off, and the vacation had barely even started.

“Do you have a pen?” Yuki asks, glaring (pouting) at Kyo’s sleeping form. Hiro pushes up an eyebrow.

 

——

 

Yuki bites his tongue to hold back his laughter when he snaps the picture with his phone. Hiro is repressing his chuckles, and Haru leans down so Rin can snap a picture of his peace sign and deadpan expression in front of a still-sleeping Kyo. Momiji is triumphantly holding his blue, plastic sand shovel and nodding to himself, very pleased.

Tohru and Kisa finally come barreling down to where everyone is sitting, shouting their greetings, before Momiji, Hiro, Rin, and Yuki all shush them in unison.

Tohru and Kisa approach curiously before spotting Kyo still sprawled out under the sun. Now with a filled in cat nose, whiskers, and freckles boldly adorned on Kyo’s tan cheeks in pen ink. The look was complete with 3D carefully crafted cat ears in the sand above Kyo’s head, and a tail that winds its way from Kyo’s swim trunks up to curl near his face.

Kisa pales, “He’s going to be really mad…”

Tohru nods, “Really, really mad.”

Yuki snaps another picture, “probably.”

Kyo finally starts to stir, probably from being surrounded and having the sun be blotted out by so many bystanders. He blinks his eyes open, groggy and confused when he looks around at all the people crowding him.

“What the fuck?” He rasps. “What the hell are you girls giggling at?”

Rin is quick to provide Kyo with a compact mirror. It takes him a full two seconds to process the ink on his face before he’s bolting upright. Yuki incriminates himself by laughing as he walks backwards slowly.

“Don’t be so mad, Kyo. It was a good look on you. I was just trying to recreate it.”

“YUKI!”

Momiji whines when Kyo destroys the tail and ears in his break-neck run right at Yuki, who is running away right towards the ocean.

“Kyo,” Yuki says between laughs and pants, “be reasonable!”

Yuki is worried for the briefest second that Kyo is honestly mad at him. That he’s got the same fury in his eyes as when he first burst through the roof of Shigure’s house to challenge him. That the fire in Kyo’s eyes has maintained its blinding flame.

But Kyo chases Yuki with the faintest curve to his lips. He extends his arms out as if to trap Yuki, who is still running away until the waves splash up against their ankles.

“What are you doin’ running away, you stinking rat? Can’t you take me?” He flinches to one side and another as Yuki tries to find his opening. He backs up slowly further into the water until the water is up to his knees.

The rest of the party is now more or less distant figures on the sand, all chatting amongst themselves, long ago having lost interest in whatever rivalry they had.

“I would advise against intimidation tactics when you still have whiskers drawn on your cheeks,” Yuki smirks back, and tries to make a run for it back to shore.

“Whose damn fault is that?!” Kyo’s too quick, and tackles Yuki into the water. It’s shallow, and the sand below isn’t too littered with seashells or rocks. Yuki falls on a soft bed of water and sand, the tide washing them up to their necks, but the water splashes against Yuki’s shoulder and hits Kyo right in the mouth.

Kyo sputters and Yuki crawls away, swimming to where the waves are calmer, but the water is waist-deep.

“You’re not getting away that easy!” Kyo calls after him, splashing beads of water in the air in his clumsy attempts to stand.

“I always have before,” Yuki crosses his arms, baiting him. He stands in the water and waits for Kyo to catch up. Kyo growls and splashes a violent wave of water towards Yuki, and Yuki lifts his arms instinctively to block the salty liquid from getting in his eyes.

Kyo is on him in a heartbeat, grabbing his wrists, thumbs digging into flesh on one wrist and bandage on the other. Yuki blocks, play-fighting back by resisting whatever direction Kyo tries to force Yuki’s wrists into.

“You’ve gotten weaker,” Kyo grits.

“Funny,” Yuki says, angling his feet so he can ground himself better. “I was just going to say the same thing to you.”

Kyo digs into his wrists harder and Yuki is intent on standing his ground until it happens.

Kyo goes to rearrange his grip on Yuki, and Yuki can feel the bandage begin to fall. Yuki’s eyes widen — even with all the practice he’s had in the past months, he still wasn’t an expert at tying bandages, and between the water and Kyo’s grip, it’s definitely coming undone.

Kyo notices Yuki’s sudden change and realizes that the bandage is beginning to droop. His eyes blaze with curiosity and that same playful fire. As if the game has just been extended, but Yuki feels his entire stomach in his knees and earnestly tries to pull himself away.

“Kyo. Stop it. Let me go.”

“What? What’s the big deal?” Kyo says, looking like the cat who got the canary. “Maybe you need to learn not to be so damn over-dramatic about everything.”

“Kyo, I’m not kidding. Let me fucking go,” Yuki’s tone is grave, but Kyo ignores him, swiping his thumb up and down on Yuki’s wrist, flicking the tip of his fingers underneath the bandage to loosen it further. It completely unravels and Yuki pales.

Yuki thinks fast, kicking Kyo in the stomach, and Kyo releases him with a hearty oof which gives Yuki enough time to cover his wrist with his own hand. Kyo recovers in a second and is tackling Yuki again.

“Don’t be such a baby!” Kyo says.

“Leave me alone!”

“Let me see!”

“No!”

They splash around in the water, and Kyo grabs at Yuki’s thigh, leaning on him heavily so that Yuki’s support would be dislodged from under him. He instinctively lets go of his wrist to catch himself, even though the water and Kyo’s grip causes him to float easily.

Kyo takes the opportunity to grab Yuki’s left wrist, crying out triumphantly even as Yuki tries to slap at his face with his other hand.

Yuki is going to hyperventilate, he’s going to combust right here in the water. Even still he tries to wrench his arm away completely but —

“You’re the rat spiri—”

Kyo cuts himself off. His eyes now as wide as Yuki’s. The two have stopped struggling against each other, and are being gently coaxed back and forth by the waves. Yuki is leaned back, as if the water is a rocking bed of sorts, and Kyo is standing tall, with Yuki’s outstretched arm parallel to him in his grip. Kyo looks at Yuki, and Yuki is sure he gives him a terrified look back.

Kyo drops his arm and the dead weight makes a small splash.

Yuki is back to covering his mark with his hand, clutching it as if the wrist has actually been injured. He tries to straighten himself, but it’s hard with the combination of unstable sand and unstable legs.

“Kyo…”

“Don’t.”

Yuki sucks in whatever words he could have said. Kyo fishes out the bandages in the water and throws them in Yuki’s face.

“I don’t wanna talk to you right now,” Kyo says, and Yuki feels like he’s been shot. Kyo turns away from him to head back towards the house.

“Kyo!”

“I don’t want to hear it!” He barks back over his shoulder, and Yuki winces. He doesn’t follow Kyo, instead just watches him until he’s completely out of view up the hill to the house.

Yuki takes another second before he wraps himself up in the soggy, water-clogged bandages. It stings as if putting salt on a cut and Yuki hangs his head.

On the bright side, Yuki bitterly consoles, at least their first encounter was just as memorable to Kyo as it was to him.

 

———————————

 

Dinner is quiet.

Well, at least quieter than Yuki wants. Kyo’s absence is immense, and it feels like a sinkhole at the table where he should be, laughing and being laughed at by the rest of their cousins. Instead, Yuki sits picking at his fish, feeling sick and angry and depressed and anxious all in one with each stuttering heartbeat that hasn’t calmed down since Kyo stormed off.

That was a few hours ago. He still hasn’t come out of his room, and Yuki wonders if he might just stay there for the rest of his life.

Barricaded. Hating Yuki, probably.

Yuki looks down at this bandage. He was sure to tie it extra tight, and now when he rolled his fingers into a fist his knuckles turned white from the strain. What did it matter if he exposes it now? Kyo already knew. Maybe it was habit.

Or maybe, Yuki thinks with a lurch in his stomach, he doesn’t want to see his mark faded and scarred, which it probably was now.

Yuki presses his fish further off to the side of his plate with his chopsticks and sits back, resigned to listen to his cousins chatter for the rest of the evening.

“Yuki, are you not hungry?”

“No,” Yuki says, slapping a poorly constructed smile on himself. “I don’t seem to have an appetite tonight.”

“Maybe a little too much sun,” Tohru wonders. “Stay hydrated, okay?”

Yuki nods, taking a big gulp from his water in hopes that it would end the conversation. His eyes flicker up to Haru who makes no effort to hide that he’s been staring at Yuki. Yuki rolls his eyes, agitated by Haru’s obvious worried glances.

When everyone is finished with their meals, most of them straggle outside to play with the sparklers Momiji brought, enough to fill the entirety of a backpack, and enough to distract everyone for a little while. Tohru and Kisa look as excited as grade schoolers, but everyone else just seems content to enjoy the summer nighttime breeze.

Yuki watches them from the table for a moment, the entire back wall of the house completely comprised of windows that peered out over the sea, and Yuki liked how open it made the house feel, despite how dark and secluded it felt at night. With the sparklers dancing on the edge of the milky black darkness, it seemed almost endless how far the sky went.

“Are you coming, Yuki?” Momiji pokes his head in from the sliding glass door, burnt out sparkler in one hand. Tohru is watching him through the glass, but the rest seem to be heading towards the beach.

“In a second,” Yuki says. “I promise.”

Momiji nods content, and he and Tohru follow the rest of the crowd down the hill and out of sight. Their voices trailing along after them until it’s almost completely silent.

Yuki breathes in the quiet air, the yellow light in the house, the way his chair creaks against the hardwood floor. He turns his head down the hall where a spill of light is coming from one of the doors and braces himself.

When Yuki’s walking down the hall to Kyo’s room, he realizes one thing he’s desperately missed about being cursed (possibly the only thing), and that’s his former rat-like stealth that could pass by any surface undetected. Every footstep feels so loud now, and Yuki winces when he steps in front of Kyo’s door and the creak of wood under his feet sounds like a thunder clap.

He raises his arm to knock, but when he spots the bandage he puts it down, and raises his right arm instead.

“Kyo?” Yuki taps on the door. There’s nothing after a moment, so he knocks on the door again. “Kyo, open the door. I know you can hear me.”

There’s a grunt on the other side, and Yuki can hear the floor groaning under Kyo’s feet. Yuki’s heart beats loud and fast in his chest only to drop like a roller coaster when Kyo opens the door.

“What?” Kyo asks, sharp and curt.

“I want to speak to you.”

“So?” Kyo crosses his arms. “What if I don’t even wanna look at you?”

“We need to—we need to talk about this,” Yuki is aware that he isn’t looking Kyo in the eye, and each word feels like a gag. “We live together, it’s not like we can just avoid it.”

“You’re telling me not to fucking avoid it? Huh?” Kyo’s voice raises, but Yuki’s eyes are transfixed on Kyo’s arms and how his fingers dig into his skin. “Would you have even told me if I didn’t find out on my own?”

“I would have,” Yuki says firmly, eyes snapping up. And then less so, “Eventually.”

Kyo’s knuckles go white, “too fucking late.”

Kyo slams the door in Yuki’s face and Yuki’s jaw drops. Oh, now he’s getting mad. Yuki knocks on the door again, hard. But Kyo won’t even respond. He gives a mirthless laugh before yanking the door open anyway.

“Hey!” Kyo yells as Yuki invites himself in.

“What is your problem?! I’m trying to have a conversation with you!”

“I told you I don’t want to fucking talk to you!” Kyo says, storming up to him, voice raising, trying to intimidate Yuki out the door. Fat chance.

“Could you stop acting like such a child?!”

“Why the hell are you acting high and mighty here, huh?! You’re the one who kept it a secret! Sorry I was too big of a fuckin’ embarrassment to be your soulmate! Just wrap your mark up, keep pretending I don’t exist, and leave me alone!”

Yuki sputters, hot flashes of offense and anger burn in his stomach, “That’s not what this is about! Don’t put words in my mouth!”

“Someone’s got to since you don’t fucking talk!”

“I’m talking now!”

“I don’t want to listen now! Just get out of my room!” Kyo lunges towards Yuki, trying to push him out of the room forcefully, but Yuki grabs his wrists and holds his arms away, just like he did in the water. Only this time it feels much less playful — and Yuki can’t fathom turning around and leaving things as they are now.

“If you won’t talk I will!”

“I told you, I don’t want to hear it!” Kyo draws his hands back out of Yuki’s grasp, brushing past him with a hard shove to Yuki’s shoulder, intending to leave the room altogether.

Yuki draws out a frustrated noise before grabbing Kyo by the arm and digging his fingers into Kyo’s skin.

“Let me go.”

“Do you know what it’s been like for me? Knowing this all along? I would’ve told you but I needed time! And then you met her!” Yuki says anyway, Kyo tries to wrench his arm out of Yuki’s grip unsuccessfully.

“Don’t fucking blame Kaori for you being a goddamn coward!”

“Would you have handled this any differently?! If you saw this on your wrist, you’re telling me the first thing you would’ve done is told me?!” Yuki holds his bandaged arm up to Kyo.

“Leave me the fuck alone!”

“No!”

“Get out!”

“Why should I?!” Yuki snaps. “Why can’t you just talk to me?!”

Because I’m mad!” Kyo shouts, louder than he has in months, and it’s enough to stop Yuki in his tracks. He’s giving Kyo a confused glare, and Kyo looks frustrated up to his ears. Yuki reads the air and finally lets him go. It’s nothing short of a miracle when Kyo doesn’t run away.

Kyo grits his teeth and clenches his jaw, “I’m trying—I’m trying to be better. I’m trying not to talk to people when I’m this fucking angry anymore, okay?! Something my fucking soulmate should at least understand.”

Yuki blinks at him, chest tightened in a body that feels very small all of the sudden. Yuki brings his arms over his stomach, one hand grabbing at his opposite elbow.

“You always have to,” Kyo grunts, kicking at the nearby dresser. “You always have to rile me up like this.”

A heavy silence fills the room, and the two spend a moment looking anywhere but each other. Yuki feels like absolute dog shit. He feels like throwing up. God, he knows he wanted to talk to Kyo because his guilt was ballooning in his chest, and he also knows that he has no idea when or if he would have ever told Kyo about his mark. Everyday it became harder, everyday Yuki wanted Kyo more.

But that isn’t really an excuse, is it?

Yuki swallows a lump in his throat, feeling it drag down his esophagus and land heavily in his gut.

“You’re right,” Yuki’s voice was soft, and sounded especially so after Kyo’s shouts. “You’re right. I’m sorry. I don’t mean to do that to you. We’re not in high school anymore.”

Kyo peers up through his bangs and for the first time their eyes really, truly meet. Yuki’s chest creaks like the hardwood.

“I don’t want to be the person who does that to you. I want to make… my soulmate better because they’ve known me. I… I want to be better because of them. I know you want that, too,” Yuki takes another step back as if to allow Kyo the space, but Kyo’s brows furrow. “But even besides all that, even if you reject me, I don’t want to be the person who riles you up anymore. I mean that.”

“Reject you?” Kyo uncurls from his stance, standing straighter, eyes confused, but not devoid of their anger.

Yuki rolls his eyes, “don’t play dumb.”

“Well what about you?” Kyo accuses, and now he’s the one stepping forward. “Don’t you hate my guts?”

“Your mark is fine, isn’t it?” Yuki says, abruptly.

Kyo looks down at his mark, as if just realizing now that it was completely unmarred. Kyo narrows his eyes, as if trying to interrogate the piece of skin.

“You’ve known this for almost a year,” Kyo says, more to his wrist than to Yuki.

Yuki feels himself flush, “don’t humiliate me.”

Kyo takes another step forward, “You can be a real idiot sometimes.” Yuki thumbs at his bandage without thinking, and Kyo’s eyes are sharp and challenging.

Without taking his eyes off Kyo he undoes the small metal clasp and begins to unwrap it, circulation coming back to his wrist with every unfurling loop until it falls to the floor completely. Kyo’s close enough to grab Yuki’s wrist and hold it up. His soulmate mark untouched, unscarred, unrejected.

“You don’t have to look so fucking surprised,” Kyo says, rolling his eyes.

“Yes I do,” Yuki bites back, and Kyo clicks his tongue.

“You’re infuriating,” Kyo snarls, stepping closer.

“You’re… unpredictable,” Yuki defends, feeling how Kyo’s grip tightens on his wrist, fire blooming from the touch.

“And you don’t know a fuckin’ thing about me.”

Kyo stares at him through his bangs. He looks so sure and unshaken, but his cheeks are a bright red, and the hand not grabbing his wrist is curled tightly into a nervous fist.

“No, I don’t,” Yuki says, quietly. “But maybe I want to.”

Kyo uses his grip on Yuki’s wrist to yank him forward, his other arm going to wrap around Yuki’s waist, and before Yuki can say anything, Kyo’s lips are on his. Yuki closes his eyes and tilts his head immediately, one hand going into that gorgeous hair, using it as a grip to get closer to Kyo’s mouth.

Yuki is arching into Kyo, and Kyo is doing the same. Kyo’s teeth graze against Yuki’s lip before biting down, and Yuki responds by opening his mouth and sucking on Kyo’s upper lip. It’s enough of an entrance to allow Kyo’s tongue to slip past, sliding against Yuki’s own, and making him feel light-headed.

Yuki lets out a noise from the back of his throat, something shocked and off-guard and shameless. Kyo finally lets go of Yuki’s wrist to wrap around his back, now using both arms to tug Yuki closer, and Yuki’s left arm is now going to Kyo’s neck, manipulating the angle, allowing Kyo to sink his tongue in deeper, for their mouths to mesh completely, frantically.

Kyo lets out a sharp exhale from his mouth, and suddenly it was another game of tug-o-war. Yuki is angling Kyo’s head and pulling at his hair and sliding his tongue against Kyo’s, while Kyo is yanking at Yuki’s body, forcing their bodies to zip together, and walking them up against the dresser that gives a creaky bang when Yuki’s back is forced against it.

They part with a gasp, but only for a second, their mouths back on each other in an instant, and Yuki wastes no time biting Kyo on his bottom lip, eliciting a growl from the other man. Yuki does it again, and this time sucks on it, and Kyo lets go of another sound from the back of his throat — retaliating by pressing his thigh between Yuki’s legs. Yuki releases Kyo’s mouth with an airy laugh.

“You don’t like to be riled up, huh?” Yuki asks, breathless and drenched in want, and Kyo digs his fingertips into his hips roughly.

“Don’t get me started,” Kyo growls against Yuki’s earlobe before he’s biting down, sucking at it not too gently. Yuki presses his lips together to suppress an embarrassing noise, but pulls Kyo in closer by grabbing at the back of his shirt.

Yuki has imagined how he would tell Kyo a lot of times, and he won’t lie — Kyo’s leg between his own, and his back being pinched by the dresser as Kyo tongued at his neck — was not an image Yuki altogether rejected when his imagination ran away with the scenario. He just always imagined having a little more… control when it came down to it.

Yuki should also point out that in the steamiest scenarios he imagined with Kyo, they never once got caught.

“Ahem,” the voice and a knock on the door force the two apart like snapped rubber bands. Both red down to their necks and trembling against their own ragged breaths. Yuki is completely dazed when he stares at Haru who gives him a once over.

“D-Dammit, Haru! Can’t you fucking knock?!” Kyo shouts, fist covering his forehead perhaps to hide how red his face is getting.

“I did. It was already open,” Haru says cooly. “I was just checking to make sure you two weren’t killing each other. Looks like I got here right in time.”

“Haru,” Yuki pleads, hand covering his wince.

“Glad everything worked out. I’ll go tell the others you’ll be awhile,” Haru concedes, turning to go.

“Hey, hey! Don’t fucking tell them anything!” Kyo shouts after him, but Haru is already gone. He deflates on an exasperated sigh, and Yuki is still too shaken and too kissed-silly to do much in response.

“You kissed me,” Yuki says, instead. He peers up at Kyo to see his flush not faded.

“And you kissed me back, asshole,” Kyo responds. “Get how that works?”

Yuki nods, laughing a little to himself, “Are you still mad at me?”

“Yes,” Kyo says, alongside a deep exhale. “But I won’t be forever, so just relax.”

Yuki finally catches his eye and smiles, offering him a small nod.

“Okay,” he says. “I’ll… I can join the others.”

Yuki lingers for a moment, wondering if Kyo might stop him. When he reaches the door, Kyo does finally speak.

“Hey,” Kyo says. “You owe Kaori an apology.”

Yuki looks back, eyes weighted with shame “I know.”

Kyo grunts, fists clenched, running a rough hand through his hair, “Fuck, we shouldn’t—that was—”

“A mistake?” Yuki cuts off, sounding grave. All the insecurities and hopelessness from the past few months start to envelop him again.

Kyo gives a rough sigh, “Yeah, it was.”

Yuki feels his face fall, and he’s ready to turn around and leave before—

“I mean! Jesus, don’t look so fucking—beat up, I just… Let me figure out my shit with Kaori first. Until then let’s just… We shouldn’t do that again.”

“Oh,” Yuki says, shaking off the sinking feeling. Despite his… issues with Kaori—all unfounded and petty, he’s aware—he does feel guilt coil in his stomach at the thought of being some sort of home-wrecker. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t—Don’t be,” Kyo says, pointedly. Yuki looks up to see him looking away. “It was fine. The… kiss, I mean.”

Yuki smiles, “Just fine, huh?”

“Don’t push it,” Kyo bites, face flaming up again.

“I promise, best behavior,” Yuki says, some humor coming back to his voice. “I’ll speak with her when we get back.”

“If she cries I’m gonna kick your ass.” Kyo glares, and Yuki stops himself from wincing.

“Understood,” Yuki sighs.

Yuki wonders if he might say something else, but Kyo doesn’t do anything but nod back at him, face still firm and somewhat intimidating.

He leaves the room and closes the door behind him. His heart is still pounding and his mouth still tastes like Kyo.

How long were they going to be up here again?

Chapter Text

The worst case scenario happens. Of course the worst case scenario would happen.

The worst case scenario being Shigure showing up. Shigure existing is never a pleasant thing in itself, but now it’s doubly atrocious.

“I guess you two will have to share a room. But you live together so it’s fine, right?” Momiji asks the next morning when Shigure shows up with that stupid, cheeky smile on his face. Momiji gives him an all too glimmering smile.

Kyo turns his head, but Haru is staring at him just as relentlessly.

“Oh no, you and Yuki will have to share a room?” Shigure asks with mock concern. “Won’t that be just too big a burden on you both?”

Shigure bats his eyes.

It’s nice to know how fast information travels in this nightmare of a family.

Doesn’t help that Yuki is staring at him, too. Waiting for him to respond. It’s like the whole world is waiting for him to explode, and damn if that doesn’t make him want to explode.

Kyo purses his lips together.

10-9-8-7-

“I already told you it was fine,” Kyo huffs and walks away towards the kitchen. He can hear Shigure and Momiji chatting in the background. Kyo busies himself in the kitchen, putting together some fruit on a plate for himself for breakfast with a glass of milk, enjoying being able to cut something with a knife.

Thwack goes that little strawberry.

“Are you sure you’re okay with this?” Is suddenly whispered into his ear and motherfu—

“DON’T sneak up on me when I have a knife!” Kyo snaps at Yuki whose eyes go from concerned to annoyed at mach 10 speed.

“Don’t space out when you have a knife,” Yuki crosses his arms. “If you’re this tense about all this—”

“Hey, woah, hey, I’m not tense. I’m fucking as relaxed as can be I’m—” Kyo snaps the knife into the cutting board so hard it gets stuck. He wedges it out while Yuki snorts. “Shut up.”

Yuki looks over his shoulder at the rest of the house as if to see who else might be listening, which just means Yuki’s gonna say things and they’re probably gonna be embarrassing things, and they might even be about that stupid, stupid kiss that Kyo couldn’t stop thinking about all night. Kyo bets five dollars Yuki brings this up first thing in the morning in the kitchen where everybody is wandering around while Kyo is holding a knife. Awesome. Great. What’s a guy got to be tense about around here, anyway?

“About last night…” Yuki says, quietly, apparently deeming the rest of the house far enough out of earshot. That five dollars from himself feels like blood money and Kyo thinks he should buy a lottery scratcher with the riches.

“You think now is the time to talk about that?” Kyo hisses, and Yuki smiles.

“You’re the one who kissed me with the door open,” Yuki shrugs, taking a piece of fruit from the cutting board and popping it in his mouth.

“You wouldn’t leave!”

“If that’s how you got everyone to leave you alone, I think I’d have a lot more competition.”

“What, now I’m a prize?”

“Sure. Think of yourself as a show cat. The kind that can do tricks and backflips.” Kyo snaps the knife back down aggressively, and Yuki laughs as he steals another strawberry.

“We are not talking about this right now. Especially not after you called me a show cat.”

“My apologies. Former show cat,” Yuki smiles.

“Fuck off.” Kyo doesn’t smile. He just really likes fruit. “What does that make you? Just a shitter version of a hamster?”

Former shittier version of a hamster,” Yuki deals right back, and Kyo can't help a snort.

“Once a rodent, always a rodent,” Kyo says, before going back to his task of just trying to get through breakfast, when something catches his eye. Nothing strange or out of the ordinary, really. Maybe that’s the problem—how normal it is now.

Kyo’s eyes fall on Yuki’s bandage, still wrapped tightly around his wrist. Yuki follows his eye line down to look at the same, and Yuki crosses his arms as if to hide it.

“I just wanted to say I can take the couch if you want.”

Kyo’s eyes snap back up to Yuki’s. “Huh?”

“Tonight. So we don’t have to share a room. I can sleep on the couch, it’s alright.”

The air between them is back to feeling tense and irritated, and Kyo refocuses himself back onto the cutting board. “Do whatever you want.”

Yuki stands there for a moment, and Kyo does his best to keep his eyes trained away.

“Okay,” Yuki finally says. “Then I won’t.”

Kyo’s glare meets Yuki’s soft smile, and Kyo feels himself falter—heart rate picking up in a combination of confusion, panic, and excitement. Kyo scowls at the rough mixture colliding in his stomach.

“I told you, we’re not doin’ anyth—”

“I know,” Yuki cuts him off, hands coming up in defense. “I know very well I have to earn the next kiss I get from you.”

Kyo feels himself go red, hates how his cheeks warm as his face scrunches at Yuki, “You’re damn right you do.”

Yuki smiles at that, and Kyo realizes that he’s actually probably allowed to look at it this time—unlike the past few months where it became almost habit to look away, pushing down strange, unwelcome feelings.

This is his soulmate.

Kyo, the dumbass that he is, was so focused thinking about that kiss last night, that he realizes that he forgot to consider that part. His chest tightens at the thought, a clamoring weight falling into his ribcage like a pile of bricks—an intensity that Kyo had been expecting for months to feel with Kaori. And now here Yuki is doing it with just a fucking smile.

Kyo grunts, practically throwing down his knife on the cutting board before he starts pushing at Yuki out of the kitchen.

“What are you doing?” Yuki asks, annoyed, but still only slightly resisting as Kyo pushes him out.

“You’re confusing and annoying! Get out!”

“Alright, alright.” Yuki laughs but he keeps his weight stiff and limp, forcing Kyo to hold him up as he pushes him out.

It’s then, of course, that Shigure reenters the house, and wasting no time in giving him one of the smuggest expressions Kyo’s ever seen—and what he wouldn’t give to slap it right off Shigure’s stupid face.

But Kyo also realizes he’s giving him more than enough fodder.

They look like goofy, lovesick high schoolers—and Kyo’s flushed face is accompanying his pounding heart that can probably be heard all the way in Croatia. He’s supposed to be mad at Yuki, he’s supposed to be getting himself together—but he forgets how easily Yuki can play him like a tightly tuned violin.

“Aren’t you two sweet,” Shigure says with a sickening smile. Yuki immediately straightens himself and the two jump apart, both looking a little embarrassed. “The beach can be a rather romantic getaway!”

“Romantic nothing, Yuki was just leaving.” Kyo snips back at Shigure in an attempt to get him to just go away. He can feel Yuki look towards him, but Kyo pointedly does not look back.

Shigure just laughs at that. “No need to be so embarrassed by a little flirting.”

“We’re not flirting!” Kyo calls out, immediately.

“As Kyo mentioned, I was just leaving,” Yuki adds, composed and cold.

“Kyo, that’s no good—you’ll chase him away at this rate.”

“You must have ample experience in that area,” Yuki deadpans at Shigure. “I’m going outside.”

“Don’t be so glum, Yuki, it’s a beautiful day outside!” Shigure chirps after him. Yuki responds by slamming the glass door closed.

Shigure is quick to swipe his eyes back to Kyo, and Kyo feels as though he’s been shocked by a shitty electrical outlet whenever Shigure gives him that smug expression.

“What? Back off! Go home!”

“And miss precious time with my family? I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

Already Kyo can tell today is going to be a disaster.

 

——————

 

Their little group, except for Shigure who doesn’t like the heat (so why did he even come), all head out to the neighboring woods to try and catch some beetles. It felt ridiculous in high school, but feels even more absurd now that he’s a university student. He guesses acting like grade-school kids is just the theme of this awful family.

Kyo goes along, glaring at Yuki’s back as Yuki walks beside Haru and Rin further down the line. Everyone keeps throwing small glances at the two of them throughout their walk in the woods, and Kyo feels the veins in his forehead start to bulge.

What he doesn’t expect is the worst offender of the let’s-stare-at-Kyo-until-he-snaps-game to be Tohru, who walks beside him flittering her eyes from him to the ground as if they were a merry-go-round.

Their pace begins to slow, creating more of a gap between them and the rest of the group, when finally Kyo looks back at her.

“Stop. Stop it,” Kyo finally whisper-snarls out the side of his mouth to Tohru.

“Stop it?” Tohru squeaks back.

“Just stop!”

“Stop what?!”

“Stop looking at me like that!”

“I’m not looking at you!” Tohru makes a point of this by tracking her nervous smile into the dirt, looking at the ground so intently Kyo think her eyes might go bloodshot.

It causes Tohru to trip, but she manages to catch herself just in time before Kyo has to catch her. He gives an annoyed grunt.

“Jeez—Alright!” Kyo pulls her by the arm and pulls her off the path and into the forest. Tohru gives a small yelp, but doesn’t do much to resist.

“Hey! Where are you two going?” Momiji calls after them.

“We’re checking over here! Back off!” Kyo calls back, and pulls Tohru until he deems the rest of the family out of earshot, though Kyo can still see the backs of the wandering, motley crew through the gaps in the trees.

“A—Are we looking for beetles?” Tohru asks nervously, still unable to meet his eye.

“Don’t play dumb, just spit it out!”

Tohru gives a little whine behind her tightly shut lips, shoulders tensing up to her ears in restraint. Kyo rolls his eyes, digging a rough hand into his hair.

“I’m gonna kill Haru.”

“Haru didn’t say anything!” Tohru finally looks up at him, hands going up defensively. The expression deflates, however, and Tohru is back to having her cheeks tint a slight red. “But… Momiji… Might have…”

Kyo gives out a pained belly moan, and sinks to his knees in a squat. “I fuckin knew it.”

He looks up at Tohru who is giving him a concerned glance, and Kyo sighs before jutting his head—a signal to have Tohru join him.

She does, tucking the back of her summer dress under her knees, and crouching much more daintily in front of Kyo, leaning in to signal that she’s listening.

Kyo falters for a moment, before he finally has the courage to stare his friend back in the face.

“It’s… It’s not what you think, okay?”

“Oh, I figured—”

“I mean, I’m not a total asshole, alright? At least I’m not trying to be, I just—” Kyo grunts.

“It’s okay, I was almost sure it was a silly story, not that I think Momiji is a—a liar or anything, but I—”

“Look, I’m just sayin’ I never would’ve done anything if he wasn’t my soulmate, alri—?!”

Tohru’s face devolves into nothing but shock, her mouth falling open, eyes wide at Kyo.

Instantly, she shoots up, “YOUR SOU—MMPH!”

Kyo lurches up, covering her mouth with both of his hands, frantically shushing her through his teeth with a panicked glare. Kyo looks through the trees to see Rin staring back at him with an arched eyebrow. He glares at her and juts his head to signal her to move the fuck on.

She rolls her eyes but does so, falling back into conversation with Haru who just seems to shrug.

Kyo feels himself grimace, but when he looks back down at Tohru she’s practically vibrating with excitement.

“When I move my hands. You better not yell. Anything. Else.”

Tohru nods enthusiastically, and Kyo gives a deep inhale through his nose before slowly moving his hands away from her face.

“This is so exciting!” Tohru whisper-yells.

“How is any part of this exciting?!”

“Well, you two just seem to like each other so much! I’m so glad!”

“Are you saying you knew about this?!”

“Well, no.” Tohru gives a small laugh. “I don’t think anyone could have. But thinking about it now, it makes so much sense. You’re so affectionate towards him.”

“I’m what?”

Tohru gives him a smile that’s all-knowing, which is infuriating because Kyo would love to know what the fuck is going on for once in his life.

“He’s very affectionate towards you, too,” Tohru says, as if he needs reassuring or something equally as asinine. Kyo responds only by flushing slightly, and looking away.

“Yeah, it’s real affectionate to play around with a guy like this,” Kyo gruffs. “And it’s real fucking tender to lie to my face for months.”

Tohru’s face crests with an uneasy understanding. “You mean… about Kaori?”

Kyo deflates with a rough sigh.

“She still thinks she’s your soulmate….”

“Yeah, she does! So did I! That’s the problem!”

And it’s a big problem. A huge problem. Because Kyo spent fucking months trying to figure out what the hell was wrong with him that he couldn’t love his soulmate back.

Kaori is the best, too. She’s fun to talk to, she’s easy to hang out with, and she’s just a good person—something that isn’t exactly easy to come by. It’s astonishing to even him how quickly he found he could connect with her. Their conversations were so natural and easy almost from the first week of meeting. Even when getting to know Tohru it took some time until Kyo could hang around her naturally.

And here Kyo was trying to figure out why after every half-baked date, every lazy hangout, Kyo still had this itch to go back home. Where Yuki was.

It’s frustrating, and disgustingly ironic, that the more time Kyo hung around Kaori, the more he missed Yuki. Which he couldn’t wrap his head around, because Yuki sucks—obviously.

“That’s a bit… complicated,” Tohru tries.

“Complicated? There’s nothing complicated about it! Yuki let us think we were soulmates and didn’t say a damn word the whole time! Alright, fine, if he wants to treat me like some… some joke, that’s my shitty luck for landing some kind of nightmare destiny jackpot with the guy. But he could give Kaori a break! It’s not like she ever did anything to him!” Kyo’s nose flares as he crosses his arms.

That’s right—Yuki doesn’t give a shit about him. And he hasn’t since day the day they were born. It’s damn easy to believe, even if saying it out loud does unsettle Kyo’s uneasy stomach.

“I don’t think Yuki sees you as a joke,” Tohru says softly, once the air around Kyo calms. “He cares about you.”

“Clearly,” Kyo snarls.

“Do you know why he didn’t say anything?” She asks.

“He thought I would reject him, apparently,” Kyo grumbles.

Tohru’s eyes drift away with a tilt of her head, nervous smile accompanying the avoidant expression as Tohru gives a half-hearted hum of acknowledgement.

“Hey! What’s that look for?!” Kyo puts his hands on her cheeks, stretching them out. “Don’t go taking his side!”

“I’m noooooooot!” She whines. Kyo releases her with a grunt, and she rubs at her cheeks, still managing to give him a sympathetic smile. “But I understand why he didn’t say anything.”

“Cause he doesn’t want to be stuck with some embarrassment for the rest of eternity?”

Tohru pins him with a serious look. “Because he was probably scared.”

“I’m not fuckin’ scary,” Kyo half mumbles through a pout.

“No, you’re not,” Tohru says brightly. “You’re warm and loving and considerate with a very beautiful heart. After all the complicated history you two have… I wonder if Yuki didn’t want to risk losing all that.”

Kyo finally looks down at Tohru.

“Did you know my parents weren’t soulmates?” Tohru continues, gentle smile still painting her face. Kyo’s eyebrow crooks.

“They weren’t?”

Tohru shakes her head. “She said it made things a little scarier when she fell in love. She didn’t know if my dad’s soulmate would show up at any moment and take him away. Or if she would find her soulmate and feel obligated to them instead. My mom and dad got married in a courthouse and she said when she went to the bathroom before the ceremony, she almost ran away. She was scared that things would fall apart since they weren’t destined for each other. She didn’t tell him how she was feeling for nearly a year into their marriage.”

Kyo’s arms uncross as he listens to his friend, head tilting.

“When my dad finally found out how my mom felt, he said he didn’t mind needing to prove it to her. At every moment he could, he said ‘I love you.’ That’s what my mom told me, at least. She used to do the same with me—because she said that everyone is afraid of not being loved. And when we do find people in our lives who are important to us, we need to tell them every chance we get. Just in case.”

Kyo looks to the ground, kicking at a pebble. “What’s that got to do with me, Tohru?”

“You and Yuki are soulmates, so you already have a good place to start. But for a long time, you two only knew how to say hurtful things to each other. I’m so glad that’s changing! That’s what I really wished for when we all lived together. But sometimes we need more. My dad loved my mom a lot, but she still spent the first year of their marriage frightened that that wasn’t true. I think that’s the same kind of fear Yuki might have felt.”

Kyo’s chest warms at the thought—at the idea that Yuki really might just be nervous, that he might not be yanking Kyo around, that he didn’t want to say anything because he wanted Kyo to like him back. Yuki had accused him of having done the same if the roles were reversed, and Kyo hates that he can’t say if that would be true or not. Maybe because he needs that reassurance from Yuki, too.

“Still doesn’t make what he did okay,” Kyo says, grasping at straws to keep his anger fueled. Even though Tohru was always an expert in dousing that flame.

“No, it doesn’t,” Tohru agrees with a smile. “But I also don’t think Yuki would kiss you if he didn’t mean it.”

Kyo gives an embarrassed groan, pushing the heal of his hand into his eye. “He didn’t. I… did.”

That obnoxiously bright smile is back on Tohru, “You kissed him?”

“Does it matter?”

“So you do like him!”

“Of course I do!” Kyo retorts, before snapping his mouth closed. Tohru looks all too pleased with herself.

“Yuki has a lot of good traits, doesn’t he? I think sometimes he has a hard time seeing that,” she says. “So that will probably make Yuki really happy to hear.”

Kyo feels his cheeks warm at the thought. Cause, fine. Maybe Yuki does have a lot of good traits. Maybe Kyo likes how loyal and committed Yuki seems to be to his friends (as annoying as they are). Maybe he likes that Yuki always seems to think before he speaks, always seems to know the right thing to say.

Maybe he likes the way Yuki smiles at him now when Yuki teases him—humored and gentle as opposed to high school that was biting and sharp. Maybe he likes how easily Yuki can show his gratitude for people, and maybe something warm fills Kyo when Yuki always compliments and thanks him for the meals he makes for the two of them.

Maybe there’s just something about Yuki that draws him in—that makes him want to know more, that makes him want to talk more. Maybe he’s never felt so comfortable around someone in silence, in idle moments, or surrounded by their university friends or swapping banter over shared dinners and walks home.

Maybe.

And he thinks how fucking weird that is, because getting to know Yuki was the last thing he intended when they decided on this weird living arrangement. But bit by bit Yuki had revealed himself to Kyo, exposed softer, gentler sides. Vulnerable sides. Funny sides. Relaxed sides.

It’s almost as if Yuki has so much inside him—every day Kyo feels as though he’s caught off guard by something he sees in Yuki. It’s thrilling. He wants to know more. He wants to learn more about him. Wants to know how he can know so little about someone, and yet also feel as though he knows so much—because after their fight in the park when Kazuma was staying with them, it became all too clear that Yuki absorbed the breaking of this curse in all too similar ways.

For as confusing of a person as Yuki is to Kyo, Kyo understands Yuki—understands that base, unspeakable, insurmountable pile of emotional chaos that’s been trying to drain away. Because Yuki made it clear that he understands Kyo.

You’re the rat spirit, right? Reads back in his head, and he sighs, thinking about how shitty it is to have to have those words be the first—because it’s like he doesn’t even know how to speak that language anymore—that anger he was fluent in as a child.

“Do you think he knows you see those traits?” Kyo tenses. “Do you know that Yuki sees a lot of wonderful traits in you?

“Alright, enough. I get it. I know you’re having a field day with this, but no need to lay it on so thick.”

Tohru just giggles, “I did always want you two to get along better!”

“Yeah, yeah.” He ruffles her hair as he begins to walk back towards the group. “You wished for it too hard. Now I’m stuck with him for good.”

“Wishes are powerful! Mom used to say that every New Year!” She pumps her fist up victoriously, stepping in stride with him. Her eyes widen, hands clasping together, as she leans into Kyo with a smile that is way too bright. “Oh my gosh, I just realized this means you two will probably get married! I bet it’ll be so beautiful!”

Kyo stops dead in his tracks.

“WOAH, hang on! Too far! Reel it about 100 miles—100 years back!”

“Do you think you’ll want a summer wedding?!” Kyo starts to storm away, with Tohru trailing behind—just barely containing her giggles. “Boys must think about this too!”

“SHUT UP! Go piss off the bugs instead!”

Tohru laughs as the two rejoin the group. The rest of the group is still staring at Kyo, but at least now Tohru is doing her best to engage with them, rather than set the side of his face on fire with the intensity of her curious stares.

Kyo still trails behind as much as he can, feeling restless all of the sudden. Feeling like he just wants to talk to Yuki already. He feels Tohru’s words wanting to manifest so badly in his own mouth. Instead he and Yuki stay at opposite ends of the group for the rest of the hike.

Yuki turns and catches Kyo’s eye. All things considered, he probably shouldn’t stare for as along as he does.

 

————————

 

It’s really high school when Kyo starts to spend more time with his cousins. Whether she knows it or not, Tohru brings a new dynamic into the zodiacs that feels familial. Kyo goes along with it at the time because for awhile Tohru was the only comfortable space he knew of in the whole damn world, but that didn’t mean he necessarily enjoyed the extroverted shift that he was forced into. Sohma trips, Sohma dinners, Sohma parties—it’s all a little much in Kyo’s opinion, especially when he was more than fine with zodiac interactions being limited to walks to school and in the dojo.

Kyo has been dragged along to every social function ever conceived since 1st year of high school, because Tohru—somehow—liked these lunatics that seemed to specialize in driving Kyo up the wall. Not that Kyo hasn’t developed a… reluctant fondness for his cousins in the passing years. They’re just exhausting people to be around.

It’s weird to realize that the only other person who seems to share this sentiment is Yuki.

It’s been more than a year since Yuki and Kyo became roommates, and about half a year since they became friends (Kyo still has no idea how that happened). In these past months, other than hell freezing over and the growing air traffic dominated by pigs, Yuki and Kyo have spent most of these “Sohma-Days-out”… together.

It doesn’t happen on purpose. None of this fucking happens on purpose. But without the walls of resentment and hatred that were already beginning to crack in high school, it’s easy to be drawn to the one other person in the room who seems just as exhausted as Kyo. It’s easy to make small talk with someone who seems to fumble just as awkwardly through loud, obnoxious group conversations. And it’s nice to have someone to hang around when Tohru gets monopolized by former zodiacs who make no effort to hide how much they adore her.

It makes Kyo feel less like the brooding idiot in the crowd, at least. He has a feeling Yuki feels the same way, now that he thinks about how quiet Yuki could get when they were shoved from one social getaway to the next.

That’s where he and Kaori really differ, he thinks. She talks to people so easily, and really finds a way to make people feel comfortable in conversation. When Kyo first agreed to come on this trip, it was only because Yuki was going along, too. Kaori would doubtlessly be monopolized by his cousins and would beam in the center of the room just like Tohru. But at least Yuki would be there, just outside the clustering circle—ready to make easy, effortless conversation with Kyo when everyone just became a little too much.

Kyo doesn’t really become aware of this gravitational pull Yuki has on him until a little later in that day.

The rest of the hike is spent separately, with Kyo spending most of his time chatting with Tohru, and Yuki spending his time with Haru (and by extension, Rin). Kyo has a love for Tohru that’s deeper than almost anything he’s felt, but the conversation she attracts from nearly everyone in the room is exhausting for Kyo to constantly participate in.

It gets exhausting quickly, and it’s then that Kyo realizes that Yuki is a lifeline during these events that he never even really considered. Yuki is withdrawn, keeping his distance from the bigger group conversations, and doing his best to give Kyo his allotted space to be angry. It’s heartwarming and irritating and kind of lonely, if Kyo’s honest.

Unreasonably, he starts to resent how Yuki’s avoiding him. He throws annoyed glares at Yuki’s back throughout the rest of the hike, as if Yuki would know to just turn around and at least talk to Kyo. But maybe this is what Tohru was saying — how is Yuki supposed to know he’s this welcome in Kyo’s life if he doesn’t say anything at all?

Lunch is sandwiches on the beach house’s balcony table, and by the time they finish eating Kyo decides he’s had enough of being angry. Yuki helps to clear the table, while the rest of their cousins head inside to help Tohru with the dishes or get changed for the beach.

“Hey,” Kyo says, giving Yuki a small placating nod.

“Hey,” Yuki says back, giving his own smile back.

“Uh, need help?” Kyo gestures to the already almost empty table.

“No, I think I’ve got it.”

Kyo shifts as he watches Yuki finish up. He’s not really used to feeling awkward around Yuki. He’s felt almost every other emotion under the sun with him, but it never really came to mind to ever be awkward around him.

“You don’t have to stay out here with me,” Yuki offers after a moment. “You should join the others. They’re talking about unleashing our new friends into Shigure’s bed tonight.”

Kyo snorts. “Shouldn’t you be in there trying to scold them?”

“Absolutely not. I suggested we spend the rest of the afternoon trying to find even more beetles.” Yuki sounds annoyed, but Kyo easily recognizes it as a tone reserved for being annoyed at Shigure and not at him, so Kyo finds himself relaxing a little.

“You’re really not as uptight as you were in high school.”

“What makes you say that?” Yuki asks with a quirk of his eyebrow. He abandons his task of piling up the few remaining dishes on the table to shoot his storm-gray eyes to Kyo.

“In 3rd year I remember you got pissed at me for waving that spider around.”

Yuki stops to think for a moment before his face lights up in recognition. “When you chased Shigure around the house?”

“I didn’t have to chase him at all, he kept freaking out for no reason!” Kyo defends, but his lips bend into a smirk.

It was towards the end of summer in their 2nd year, and a spider half the size of Kyo’s palm ran loose around the living room. Kyo remembers Tohru chasing it with a glass around the table, spilling reassurances that she was just going to take it outside, while Shigure pressed his back to the wall as if he were be held up at gunpoint.

Kyo snatched the spider with his own hands after getting a headache from watching Tohru miss about eighty times in a row. In Kyo’s defense, he wouldn’t have chased Shigure around at all if he would have stopped yelling to throw the thing outside over and over again.

“I didn’t know Shigure’s voice could get that high.” Yuki chuckles.

“You looked at me like I was some kind of 8 year old kid!”

“No, I didn’t!” Yuki exasperates. “I thought that was hilarious.”

Kyo scrunches up his face to mock Yuki’s expression. from the time, eyebrows pitched down in clear anger. Kyo points at himself. “This is you thinkin’ something’s funny?”

Yuki snorts ungracefully, pressing his palm into his eye, body starting to shake. “Apparently, that’s the face I make when I’m trying not to laugh.”

Kyo only exaggerates the expression. “I think your face is broken.”

“Stop, stop,” Yuki says, trying to stop himself breaking out into laughter completely.

“You’re making it now!”

“I’m not!”

“I can just take the dishes in myself if you want to keep flirting out here,” Momiji says suddenly from behind Kyo. Kyo’s shoulders tense immediately, the humored smile on his face is wiped immediately when he turns back to glare at Momiji.

“I’m going,” Yuki says with a roll of his eyes, gathering the dishes with a sudden composure. Momiji just gives them both a smug, knowing smile as he follows them inside the house.

“We were just talking!”

“I’m proud of you both for gaining that level of intelligence. I know it’s been a difficult struggle to get there,” Hiro chimes in from where he’s lounging on the couch.

“Hey, when are you gonna grow out of being a total brat?” Kyo grumbles, mindlessly walking beside Yuki and grabbing the top half of his pile of dirty dishes. He doesn’t notice the small smile Yuki gives him at the gesture.

“Probably when you grow out of being a loud-mouth brute,” Hiro counters.

“It’ll definitely take you longer than that, Hiro,” Yuki says. Kyo has to quell his automatic comeback at Yuki before he realizes he’s defending Kyo.

“Aw, this isn’t gonna be any fun if you guys are on the same side now,” Momiji whines after them as they both head into the kitchen where Tohru is washing the rest of the dishes. Kyo feels his chest warm up, but shoots a glare at Momiji despite the comforting thump of his heart.

“We’re helping you with the rest,” Kyo announces to Tohru when they both walk up to the sink. She beams at them immediately, and gives Kyo an especially giddy smile.

“I would love that!”

Yuki smiles at Kyo, and Kyo gives another little nod—feeling that slight awkwardness come back. They stand on either side of Tohru in silence. Yuki washing, Tohru rinsing, Kyo drying. After a moment, Kyo eyes Yuki (again).

“What if we put the beetles in Shigure’s shoes, too?” Kyo says out of nowhere.

Tohru squeaks a “What?!

Yuki gives a sudden, ungraceful snort, body shaking with unshed laughter again, and Kyo smiles.

 

————————

 

Kyo seriously underestimates how annoying his family can be. That’s quite a feat, since the bar of tolerance he expects them to reach is probably at the level of subway tracks. Still, they manage to astound him once again with their total insufferability.

When Yuki and Kyo and Tohru join everyone else on the beach later, Hiro loudly comments to Kisa on how the newlyweds have arrived.

When the two of them make banal conversation over the book Yuki brought, Momiji reaches between the two of them to grab the sunscreen with the preface, “Sorry to interrupt the date.”

When Shigure comes out a couple hours later with a container of freshly cut watermelon (store-bought, Kyo assumes—like Shigure would ever do anything so wholesome), Shigure says under his breath to Kyo:

“This may be a private beach, but we’re still around so try to keep your hands to yourselves.”

Basically, Kyo can barely even look at Yuki without Momiji or Hiro or Haru or Shigure throwing in some kind of completely irritating comment or gesture. Even the girls haven’t toned down their not-so-subtle glances at the two of them (Kisa and Rin keep looking back at them as if they need to see something to believe it). He doesn’t know what any of them expect — it’s not like he and Yuki are gonna jump each other’s bones in the middle of the beach! Who would be in the damn mood anyway with all these human-gnats flying around!

Kyo envies how gracefully Yuki takes each comment—either with a roll of his eyes, a dismissive wave, or a small click in his tongue and a deadpan remark back. Meanwhile, Kyo feels as though he’s counted backwards from 10,000 for most of the day.

(Despite all this, Kyo finds it far preferable to hang around Yuki for the rest of the day, even if the taunting seems endless. Yuki smiles at him a lot. It’s nice or something.)

By the time the sun is setting, however, Kyo feels charged up with murderous intent, and is ready to sleep the rest of the night off.

“It’s getting dark,” Haru comments. “We should probably head inside.”

Thank fucking Christ, Kyo thinks.

“Already?? It’s our last night here, we should do something special!” Momiji calls out. Kyo is already packing up everything around him, even snatching the towel from under Yuki, who gives him an amused glance.

“Do you have any sparklers left?” Tohru asks.

“No,” Momiji says on a big sigh. “I don’t know how I ran out so fast.”

“You lit ten at a time and held them like claws between your fingers,” Rin helpfully supplies. To which Momiji just groans again.

“You know, there’s a bonfire pit a little further down the beach,” Shigure says from his lawn chair, as he waves a fan at himself. “I think we should still have some firewood in the shed by the house.”

“Oh, that sounds fun!” Tohru exclaims.

“Yeah, let’s do a bonfire!”

Kyo groans, “Can’t we be done for the day?”

“Are you that eager to sleep with Yuki, Kyo?” Shigure teases. Hiro and Momiji chuckle at that.

“That’s not it!”

“A bonfire sounds nice,” Yuki says, decidedly, very clearly steering the conversation away from exploding into another migraine for Kyo. “Kyo and I will grab the firewood, if the rest of you want to pack up.”

Kyo feels Yuki’s grip on his bicep pulling him quickly away from the group, and Kyo feels he’s ears start to burn at the eyes that are all inevitably on them.

“Don’t do anything naughty in the shed, you two!” Shigure calls after them.

Kyo reminds himself to kill Shigure first.

Once they’re out of earshot, Kyo lets out a frustrated belly-moan.

“You looked like you needed a quick escape,” Yuki says.

Summer sunsets on the beach are long and lingering, and this one in particular seems to be taking its time to wash Yuki in a soft-orange glow. The sun catches Yuki’s eyes when he looks at Kyo, and he’s all of the sudden very glad not to be near everyone when he takes a little too long admiring the silver sheen of them. Especially when Yuki seems to be doing the same to him.

“Yeah, but now they’re just gonna say more shit,” Kyo grunts, sheepishly. forcing himself to look away.

“You shouldn’t let them get to you so much. They’re only doing this because you’re easy to tease. I know that first-hand.”

“Don’t you start, too,” Kyo says, eyes narrowing at Yuki’s exhaling laughs.

“I’m just saying, if you ignore them, they’ll go away. Like wasps.”

Kyo can’t help but smirk at that, “Is that why you’re not getting bothered? ‘Cause you’re picturing those guys as giant insects?”

The two approach the shed by the house. Yuki pulls open the rickety, wooden door and gestures for Kyo to go first.

“That sounds terrifying,” Yuki jokes. “But it’s not that.”

“Oh yeah?” Kyo kneels down in the dark shed, picking up some logs and doing his best not to get splinters in his arms. Yuki holds the door open for him, letting in the light so Kyo can see what he’s doing. Kyo feels like he’s being watched. He can feel Yuki’s eyes boring into his bare back as he piles wood into his arms, and he hopes it’s not too obvious when he straightens his back under the attention.

“Yeah,” Yuki hums. “I think it’s because I’m having a nice time with you.”

Kyo stands, eyes dragging onto Yuki as he steps closer to him with arms full of firewood. Kyo is standing in the now-crowded doorway of the shed, and Yuki is suddenly really close.

“It’s easier not to take them so seriously when I’m enjoying myself,” Yuki says, mirroring Kyo’s helpfulness in the kitchen that afternoon, and stacking some of Kyo’s pile onto his own arms.

“Yeah, well, just cause I’m having a good time doesn’t mean those guys aren’t pricks!” Kyo swallows the heat that’s sliding up his spine back down, but it’s hard when Yuki smiles at him again.

“You’re having a good time? Glad. to hear it.” Yuki walks away from him, with the wood in his hands and starts to head back towards the beach. Kyo mindlessly follows, heart thumping faster.

“If you’re gonna start teasing me like the rest of those guys, I really will have to kick your ass.”

“Am I teasing you?” Yuki asks, smile gentle and tone light.

“Don’t act all innocent.” Kyo wants to sound intimidating, he does, but that gravitational pull that Yuki has on him is back, and he can feel himself smiling, too.

They’re on the beach now, cooling sand beneath their toes as they head towards the flurry of activity at the end of the beach—filled with the distant chattering voices on their cousins.

“I’m not trying to make fun of you,” Yuki defends, playfully pushing his shoulder against Kyo’s. “At least not now. Maybe later when you look less like you’re going to commit a murder.”

It’s really not fair that Yuki can flirt with him so easily, that he can be so charming so easily. Kyo’s really going to have to do the same if he wants Yuki as tongue-tied and flustered as Kyo feels around him, because this is getting ridiculous.

“Is, uh, is… that a promise?” Kyo tries. Manufactured charm crumbles under his stutter. Kyo feels his face flame immediately, when Yuki turns to him looking way more startlingly bemused than Kyo needs.

“Will I promise to make fun of you later?” Yuki sounds almost giddy with amusement. Kyo feels his face go even redder.

“Nevermind, it didn’t come out right, just shut up!” Kyo says, speeding up towards the group.

“No, wait, I want to guarantee that I will make fun of you later,” Yuki calls out as he tries to keep stride with him.

“Yeah, I fuckin’ know you will!” Kyo’s face is burning, but Yuki’s laugh quells him in a way he doesn’t know is possible.

“Kyo!” Tohru calls out, waving her hand up at them as they approach. “Your phone is ringing!”

“This isn’t over,” Kyo says under his breath to Yuki as he jogs the short distance left to the fire pit.

“Is that a promise?” Yuki calls after him.

“Shut up!” Kyo shouts back, beating back his own laughter. Kyo kneels down hurriedly to roll the logs off his arms. While he does, he asks Tohru, “Who is it?”

“Um,” she starts a bit unsure, looking at Kyo’s caller ID. “Kaori.”

Kyo tenses. He feels the attention of his cousins fall on him—as if they didn’t have enough fodder to work with. Kyo snatches the phone out of Tohru’s hand and jogs out of earshot before anyone has a chance to say anything.

“Hello?” Kyo asks into the phone, a little out of breath.

“Hi Kyo! I hope I’m not interrupting!”

Kyo pales when he hears Kaori’s voice through the other line.

“Uh. Hey. No. You’re not.”

“I promise I won’t take up too much of your time, I’m sure you’re having a blast,” Kaori says, and Kyo turns red as he eyes Yuki mingling with their cousins.

“It’s. I mean. There’s only so much fun a guy can have around these assholes.”

Kaori gives a small, polite laugh at that. “I bet they’re not so bad.”

“They are,” Kyo says stiffly. The lack of humor in his voice creates an awkward pause between them, and Kyo grunts into the phone. “So what’s up?”

“Well, I… I was thinking about you,” Kaori says, almost uncertainly. “And I wanted to make sure we’re still on for breakfast when you get back. My mom is really excited to meet you.”

Guilt coils tight Kyo’s gut, coming in sinking waves like the heavy tide of the ocean at his feet. Kyo hates how fucking carried away he gets with Yuki—flirting with him, laughing with him, spending the day with him as if Kaori doesn’t even exist. But he knows he can’t unload this shit onto Kaori over the phone. Yuki’s the one who needs to explain himself in the first place. But Kyo is the world’s worst liar, and there’s no way meeting the parents can happen now.

Kyo feels himself spiraling and it’s making him sick.

“Yeah,” Kyo strains. “Cool.”

“Is everything okay?” Kaori asks. “You sound kind of weird.”

“Fine. Yeah. I wanna meet your mom.” Because that part is true, she sounds cool and Kyo was looking forward to the group meal despite it all. But now that’s probably never gonna happen. God, Kaori might never even want to see him again—and something about that really breaks Kyo’s heart.

“Okay,” Kaori says, completely unconvinced. “Let’s just talk when you’re back, I guess. See you later?”

Fuck, will he?

“Yeah. See you later.” Kyo hangs up the phone before he makes the situation any worse. He stares down at his phone. His good mood is shattered to pieces—a good mood he doesn’t even deserve because Kaori still doesn’t know anything.

A fresh prick of irritation hits him like an arrow through the chest. Why did Yuki let this happen again? It’s starting to feel a little unjustified again, if only for Kaori’s sake.

Kyo walks back to the bonfire in a daze, the flames are struggling to catch onto the logs from the few sticks gathered underneath. Shigure is poking at the wood with a long stick to spread the fire more definitely. The rest of the group looks back at him.

“How’d she take it, Kyo?” Shigure smirks.

“Never though Kyo would turn out to be a heartbreaker,” Hiro fucking needlessly adds.

This time, counting backwards from ten does not work.

“Would you shut the fuck up? Huh? All of you? Can’t you fucking back off?” Kyo snaps. Kyo can’t even look at Yuki, even though he feels his eyes directed right at him.

“Don’t get so pissy, we’re not saying anything you don’t already know,” Hiro continues with a snort.

“Yeah, lots of people choose to reject their soulmates!” Momiji adds, with faux-understanding. “Yuki’s pretty hot, too. So I’m sure most people will get it.”

“Yuki’s probably caused a lot of soulmate break-ups,” Haru nods, almost completely serious.

“He’s about to cause another,” Rin deadpans.

“I think that’s enough commentary on this situation,” Yuki says, glaring at the group.

“And it’s not—!” Tohru tries to defend, but clams up and looks to Kyo. Kyo wouldn’t give a shit about telling everyone that Yuki is his soulmate, and maybe they should fuck the up. But Tohru can’t say anything, because Kyo hasn’t said anything, because Yuki still hasn’t said anything. Kyo eyes Yuki’s bandage again, and he feels his head steam.

“My life ain’t anyone’s business! Got that?! So fucking drop it!”

The struggling fire dies out in the center of the group, leaving everyone to stare at it in the coming evening darkness in an uncomfortable silence.

“I think we need some lighter fluid,” Shigure says, poking at nothing.

“I’ll get it,” Kyo growls out, because if he spends one more second here, he thinks he might really blow up. He storms away, hearing conversation pick up tentatively around them when he’s a fair distance off. But his irritation flares again when he hears footsteps in the sand following after him.

“Kyo,” Yuki calls out to him, but Kyo keeps walking forcing Yuki to catch up.

“What?” Kyo gives curtly.

“I just wanted to make sure you were okay,” Yuki says. “What did Kaori say?”

“You know, when I told everyone to back off, that included you.” Kyo doesn’t stop walking.

“I know you’re upset, but I’m just trying to help,” Yuki argues back.

“Where exactly are you trying to help, huh? By flirting with me since this fucking morning?”

“I haven’t been flirting with you! I’ve just been talking to you!” Yuki defends, and Kyo can tell Yuki is starting to get annoyed now, too.

“Then maybe you’re helping by letting those guys think I’m some kind of cheating bastard—which I guess I am now!”

“If that’s what this is about I can go back there and tell everyone we’re soulmates.” Yuki walks fast beside Kyo, almost walking sideways in an attempt to get Kyo to look back at him.

“It’s not their business!”

“Then what do you want from me?!”

“For you to just leave me alone!”

“I was! I was leaving you alone all morning! You started talking to me! And on that note, you were the one who kissed me!

Kyo finally stops in his tracks to face Yuki head-on. “Because you’re the dumbest shit in the world!”

Kyo really isn’t sure how else he’s supposed to spell it out for Yuki. He really isn’t sure how much more obvious he’s supposed to be. Tohru said to just talk to Yuki, but that’s all Kyo’s done for the past year! He spends almost all his free time with Yuki, he makes Yuki dinner almost every night, he walks back home with him during the week, even though he goes to the dojo in the opposite direction every other night.

It’s embarrassing for Kyo to feel as though he can’t keep himself from lying about his feelings for Yuki—feelings that have been on display for months now! Feelings that he was trying to shove back because of Kaori, because he believes in soulmates, and because why would Yuki ever feel the same way towards him? It’s not as if Yuki’s friendly shift in behavior was as drastic as Kyo’s. It’s not as if Yuki is obvious. It’s not as if Yuki said anything to him.

So why does it all fall back onto Kyo again? Why does he have to wrestle his own soulmate into understanding him? Maybe Yuki wasn’t flirting all day, but Kyo is humiliated at the fact that he can’t even enter a conversation with Yuki without it feeling charged and potent. Especially with Kaori waiting for him to be the perfect soulmate to her. At least that’s how it damn feels.

Yuki’s nose wrinkles as he glares back at Kyo. “If all you’re just going to be unreasonable, then I have no idea what I can do.”

“I told you. Just leave me alone.”

Kyo storms off and Yuki doesn’t follow.

When Kyo returns with the lighter fluid, and the flames dance back into the fire pit, the conversation moves around them as if neither he nor Yuki aren’t even there. They sit across from each other and only speak when spoken to, looking sullen the rest of the night.

If the rest of the group notices, they make the collective smart decision by not saying a damn word about it.

 

————————

 

The two stare down at the bed that night. Bed. Singular.

Positioned right across from the dresser they may or may not have made out against 24 hours earlier.

They don’t speak to each other at all during the bonfire, and that continues to now. Where they stare at the bed together from opposite sides.

Kyo feels his chest tense, and he has to stop himself from being startled when Yuki gives a rough sigh.

“I’m tired,” he says, clearly irritated, and slips under the covers, scooting to the edge and pinching his eyes closed. Kyo scowls down at Yuki, but finally does the same, slipping in on his side, petulantly facing his back to Yuki—just as Yuki does to him.

Kyo wraps the covers around him, pushing through the resisting tug from where Yuki has anchored his portion of sheets.

Yuki makes an annoyed grunt, and Kyo feels the covers wrenched away. Yuki wraps himself firmly in the covers, and Kyo shoots a deathly glare over his shoulder. He takes both hands and grabs at the blankets again and jerks them back to his side. Only now Yuki hangs on to his edges, forcing the two in a tug of war on the bed.

Yuki gives a particularly tough yank, and the awkward angle from where Kyo has tangled himself in the sheets pulls loose, causing him to fall to the floor off the bed with a thump.

Kyo doesn’t even want to give Yuki a second to shoot him that smug victorious smirk. Immediately Kyo is standing, all spikes and aggravation, snatching a pillow from the bed roughly and shoving it underneath his arm as he speaks.

“Okay. You know what? I get it. I’ll sleep on the damn couch.” Kyo turns to leave and Yuki sits up immediately.

“Wait, Kyo!” Yuki calls out, aggravating graveling his voice. “Just wait a second. Please.”

Kyo eyes Yuki apprehensively, glare still fogging his expression, but finally he sits back down on the edge of the bed. Back facing Yuki. He feels a bit childish, but he’s also starting to feel like he doesn’t care.

“Just take the covers, it’s too hot anyway,” Yuki says.

“I don’t want them,” Kyo grumbles.

“Then what do you want?” Yuki prods.

“Nothing. Everything is fucking fine and dandy.”

“You’re certainly not acting like it is,” Yuki deadpans.

“What do you fucking want? We’re not gonna cuddle!

“I didn’t ask to cuddle!” Yuki spits out, venomously. “I just want to know what’s wrong!”

“Does it matter?” Kyo says, quite petulantly.

Yuki huffs. “Eventually I would like to start fixing problems, rather than causing them.”

Kyo peers up at him through his bangs, still somewhat incredulous. It’s hard to let go of the gut instinct to defend himself against Yuki. It’s what he spent his entire life doing. But Kyo forces himself to really look at Yuki—Tohru’s words pinging around his head.

Yuki looks sincere. He’s leaned closer to Kyo from where he sits on the other side of the bed, as if he’s hanging on every unspoken word. He looks aggravated and worried and like he cares. Which, Kyo would fucking hope he would, it’s his soulmate after all—but the history they have still leaves that tug of doubt.

Kyo wants to roll his eyes at the naive thoughts that a soulmate’s love is supposed to be a quick and easy thing. And he wants to pull his hair out completely at the realization that even though this is far from quick and easy, it does nothing to change how Kyo feels. Even now, teemed with anger and confusion, Kyo feels nervous butterflies flutter at the fact that they’re alone and sharing a bed.

Late nights with Yuki have become so habitual now, lingering in their living room, or walking back together from a night out. And Kyo realizes for the first time he doesn’t have to feel guilty over the lurches in his stomach, and the frantic beat of his heart when they get too close, and talk too softly in the late, intimate hour.

And it just… it bothers Kyo so much that he didn’t get to know that this was okay sooner. He tries to hiss out his anger in a sigh, so that when he speaks his voice is even. “Am I really that shitty of a person to talk to?”

Yuki’s eyes soften, surprised, embarrassed. “What does that mean?”

“It means—did you really think I would be such an asshole if you told me the truth?”

Yuki brings his legs up onto the bed, finally turning around completely so that he’s sitting facing him. He watches how Yuki eyes Kyo’s hand, as if he wants to hold it. Or maybe Kyo is just projecting. “No, I never said that.”

“Okay, then what?” Kyo gruffs.

Yuki gives a harsh exhale. “I was preparing myself for your rejection. I never felt quite ready for it.”

“If you thought I’d turn you down without thinkin’, it still sounds like you thought I’d be an asshole.” Kyo crosses his arms stubbornly, and Yuki just rolls his eyes at him.

“How was I supposed to believe you would react otherwise? How was I ever supposed to believe that?” Yuki spits. “If I recall, you threatened to kill me the first time we met.”

“We were kids!”

“It doesn’t matter! It doesn’t change the fact that I’m still not what you would consider your ideal partner!”

“Hey, idiot, HELLOOOO,” Kyo waves his marked wrist in Yuki’s face.

“Things don’t work out between soulmates all the time,” Yuki gruffs, pushing Kyo’s wrist away. “If we were any younger you would tear off your arm—do not try and convince me otherwise.”

Kyo can’t really argue with that. But, still, it irks him. Yuki’s growth since high school has felt so obvious to Kyo. Has Kyo not changed at all from when he was younger? Is he still the angry, blindsided teenager that wore his glare like a suit of armor? Kyo knows he isn’t.

“I get I was a piece of shit when we were kids, but if we’re gonna do this you have to tell me what’s going on. I’m not a mind reader. Hell, I’m still trying to figure my own head out.” Kyo looks Yuki right in the eye. “But I’m getting better. And my soulmate better learn that quick.”

Yuki swallows hard, eyes wide with surprise and awe. Yuki nods, looking away from Kyo as if the pressure of Kyo’s gaze was too heavy a weight on Yuki’s bursting chest.

“I know that,” Yuki says, sounding annoyed with himself. “Of course I know that, I’ve liked you for—”

Kyo quirks an eyebrow, “For?”

“The truth is,” Yuki quickly says over Kyo’s question. “I didn’t expect to like you this much. It’s intimidating.” Kyo can see the tips of Yuki’s ears shading red. “It seemed… It didn’t seem possible that all of—” He gestures vaguely to his chest, “—this could be reciprocated.”

Kyo flushes at the admission. It’s still strange to hear Yuki Sohma of all people be so direct with his feelings towards Kyo. But it settles warm in Kyo’s body, and he can’t find he dislikes it.

Quite the opposite.

And, god, Kyo wishes he could reach up right now and kiss the self-doubt off Yuki’s face.

He’s not great with words, he’s never been. He’s learned to trust his instincts when they flare up—and he hopes those actions speak louder. But he can’t do that right now. It wouldn’t be fair to Kaori, he knows that. And that just leaves him with a jumbled-up throat.

“Okay. Well. It is,” Kyo says, looking away. “Reciprocated. Or whatever.”

Yuki smiles, “Lucky for me.”

Kyo feels another burst of warmth beneath his chest, the weight of the conversation still heavy on his shoulders. Unceremoniously, he flops down onto the bed, laying on his back on top of the messed up cover. He feels Yuki lay on his back next to him much more gracefully. Kyo’s heart won’t stop thumping against his ribs and he lets out a groan.

“You suck,” Kyo huffs. Yuki just lets out a small laugh.

“Kyo?” Yuki asks after a minute. Kyo hums an acknowledgement. “Can I hold your hand, or is that against the rules?”

Kyo snorts. “Never expected you to be so sappy.”

“You said you’re not a mind-reader. How else were you supposed to know that I wanted to?”

Jeez, how does this guy say shit like this so easily. This is gonna suck if Yuki makes it a habit of tripping him up like this. Regardless, Kyo opens his fingers up for Yuki to take. Yuki does, surprised at how rough the action is—not as if it’s intentional, but as if the gentle nature of Yuki’s expressions and movements haven’t quite reached his hands. It would explain why he’s such a shit cook, maybe.

Kyo’s distracted from the thought when a rough material brushes against his arm. Kyo brings their interlocked hands up to see he’s holding the hand with Yuki’s bandage still tied tightly around his arm.

“Why did you stop me from saying anything this evening?” Yuki says, voice low and intimate as they both stare up at his bandage. “About us being soulmates?”

Kyo shrugs against the mattress, watching as Yuki starts sliding his thumb back and forth over the back of Kyo’s hand. “Didn’t want you to say anything if it was just to save my ass.”

“Am I only allowed to say anything if it’s a dramatic declaration of love?” Yuki teases. Kyo clicks his tongue.

“Hell no. Those guys are insufferable as it is.”

“Then I can keep it on,” Yuki says with a contemplating hum.

“Do whatever you want,” Kyo grumbles, unable to keep the bitter twist in his voice.

Silence settles uncomfortably for a moment at that. Kyo turns his head to look at Yuki, only to find him facing Kyo with a smile.

“Would you like me to take it off?” Yuki asks, but not really, because those blazing silver eyes already know. Kyo’s face goes aflame.

“I’m tired, I’m going to sleep!” Kyo unlocks his hand with Yuki’s a turns completely on the bed, so his back his facing Yuki.

“Oh no you don’t,” Yuki lifts himself over Kyo, hovering above him with his arms caging either side of Kyo’s face. “Kyo, do you want me to take my bandage off?”

“Fuck off,” Kyo says into the pillow. Yuki doesn’t move and Kyo can feel Yuki hovering above him—he can feel Yuki’s smug smile burning into the side of his face. Kyo scrunches his face even more, clenching his eyes closed like he’s sleeping. Finally, he acquiesces. “Maybe.”

“You must really like me, if that’s what you want.”

“As you love to point out, I kissed you, moron,” Kyo snarls.

“So you can kiss me, but you can’t admit to liking me?” Yuki laughs.

“I can admit it!” Kyo says, eyes finally snapping open, only to see how close Yuki really is. His breath catches, and Yuki’s seems to do the same. “You know, you’re acting real high and mighty for someone who couldn’t admit liking me for a damn year.”

“I didn’t like you that long,” Yuki mutters.

“Oh yeah? Then when?”

Yuki stares down at him, gazes meeting in the dimly-lit room like a chemical reaction. “I’ll tell you, if you tell me you like me. You still haven’t yet, technically.”

Kyo rolls his eyes, but feels his tongue heavy in his mouth, his heart beating quickly.

“I like you,” Kyo says, eyes narrowing and with more confidence than he truly has. Yuki stares down at him like he still can’t quite believe it, so Kyo fills his chest with the thinning oxygen in the room. “Don’t wear that stupid bandage anymore.”

Yuki huffs a soft laugh through his nose, “Who could say no to that kind of confession.”

Kyo’s about to say something, but Yuki sits back, straddling him. He brings his left arm up and unfurls the bandage right before Kyo’s eyes, and Kyo watches with rapt attention. When he’s done, and Yuki’s bare arm is free, Yuki brings his left hand up to kiss his pointer and middle finger. He gently places those fingers on Kyo’s lips with a smile.

“Christmas.”

Yuki rolls back to his side of the bed, leaving Kyo’s heart pounding, and making the air feel far too cold above his face. His lips tingle slightly, but he turns towards the wall—back facing back in the bed. Yuki reaches for the lamp on the table, turning it off and letting the room go dark.

The sound of the waves overtake the space between them.

“’S still a long time,” Kyo mumbles. “Loser.”

“Goodnight, Kyo,” smile staining Yuki’s voice.

Kyo falls asleep feeling warm and content.

 

——

 

Kyo wakes up to Yuki’s sleeping features. They’ve moved closer in the night, and now one of the longer locks of Yuki’s hair threatens to tickle the tip of Kyo’s nose. Kyo is laying on his stomach, and his arm is splayed over Yuki’s chest seeping in the warmth of the other boy. Kyo also realizes that his ankle is also somehow tangled with Yuki’s.

He doesn’t get up right away, letting himself ride the pleasant feeling of the small, casual touches, and of Yuki’s peaceful expression.

It does not count as cuddling, though.

 

———————————

 

The bus takes them back to Tokyo that afternoon, and Shigure sets a new record of “how many seconds it takes for Kyo to punch him in the morning” when he stumbles out of his room for breakfast.

“I sure hope you went easy on him, Kyo,” is the offending comment that sets the new olympic time record.

Yuki walks out of the room with bleary eyes when the noise becomes too much outside. Shigure is whining loudly at Kyo, Momiji is laughing, Tohru is talking over the noise to Rin, and Hiro is yelling at everyone to shut up.

“Too loud,” Yuki mutters. Kyo looks towards him, rage still fresh from Shigure just existing, but it stops short when Yuki brings a hand to rub at his eyes.

His left hand. No bandage in sight. Kyo feels his heart race.

He’s sure the others notice, but no one seems to comment on it at first after last night. It doesn’t stop the table from sending the two of them shocked and careful glances throughout breakfast. All except Tohru, who just seems to beam like the summer sun. Yuki finds it endearing, if a little embarrassing. Kyo is sure that’s just her way of being smug beyond belief.

Surprising no one, Hiro is the first one who disturbs this peace, tilting his head to read Yuki’s mark out loud when Yuki holds a cup of tea to his lips in the morning, drinking it down.

You’re the rat spirit, right?—Hah, that’s as obvious as it gets. No wonder,” he snorts. Kyo flips him the bird when most of the table laughs at that.

They all pile into the bus a few hours later, and Kyo couldn’t be more grateful to be going home. He’s tired of his business being paraded in front of the whole damn family. He’s tired of being pushed and prodded.

And maybe he also misses home. His home. With Yuki.

But even that gets dashed away when Yuki turns to him on the bus halfway through the journey.

“Do you have Kaori’s number?”

“Uh, sure,” Kyo hands Yuki is phone. And Yuki scrolls through the contacts until he enters it in his own, texting a quick message.

“What are you saying?”

“I’m seeing when she might be free to meet.”

Yuki’s phone vibrates back only a minute or so after he sends the message, and Kyo watches him curiously as Yuki responds back—a few minutes of trading vibrations of keyboard clicks until Yuki finally snaps his phone shut.

“Do you mind taking my bag back?” Yuki asks. “I think I’ll be going from the bus stop to her apartment.”

“Seriously? You’re meeting her now?”

“I know you want this resolved,” Yuki states matter-of-fact.

“I guess…”

“I’m sorry for not saying anything for so long. I’ll do my best to make things right. I know you want to keep her as a friend.”

Kyo’s face hardens. “Yeah. I do. So you better charm the shit out of her.”

Yuki only smiles. “I’ll do my best.”

 

———————————

 

Yuki knocks on the door of the modest, two story house, and takes a deep, nervous inhale when he hears footsteps approaching from the other side of the door.

Yuki directs his anxious energy at observing the house. The neighborhood is quiet. Kaori’s house is one stacked in many on a line of clean streets with overflowing power and telephone wires far above head.

Modest, cozy. There’s no front lawn, but potted plants line the porch and spill down the front steps of the house. A small wind chime clinks together when a summer breeze kisses through right as Kaori opens the door with a smile.

“Yuki, hi!” She greets. Her hair is down, long and close to reaching her mid-back, but the hot weather has her in a tank top and blue athletic shorts.

“Hi, Yonamine-san,” he gives back, hoping his nerves haven’t dampened his polite smile too much. She moves to gesture him inside, and he toes off his shoes quickly before following her lead to the kitchen.

“This is kind of a surprise,” Kaori says. “I don’t think I’ve ever hung out with you without Kyo around.”

“Right…” Yuki sighs. “Sorry for the sudden intrusion. I’m sure my message must have sounded strange to you.”

Kaori hums, grabbing a couple of glasses from the cabinets and filling them with ice water from a pitcher in the fridge. Yuki sits himself down at the kitchen island as she does.

“You’re so formal over text. When you said you wanted to talk about something, it almost felt like I was a kid being called into the teacher’s office,” she laughs, handing him his glass. “But I’ve always hoped we could get to know each other better—so the more the merrier.”

Yuki feels guilt eat at the edges of his ribs, contracting the space in his chest to nothing. He’s sure he gives a troubled stare to his water, because Kaori is suddenly waving a dismissive hand between them.

“Maybe that sounds kinda presumptuous,” she gives a nervous laugh.

“No!” Yuki is quick to reassure. “No, I—Well. To be honest, I’m just not sure you’ll want to spend much time with me after we talk…”

Kaori gives him a questioning look, and Yuki sighs again.

God, he really hopes she doesn’t cry.

Yuki tells her, thumbing at his wrist nervously the entire time. He does his best to maintain eye contact as he speaks, even though his eyes naturally flitted away. Shame and guilt flush in his chest when he explains how he’d known—known from the start that Kyo was his soulmate, but just couldn’t seem to find anyway to bring that into words.

His throat feels raw by the time he admits he kept quiet even as Kaori and Kyo found each other. He admits that it felt near impossible to say anything, because… Because—

“You seemed so much better matched for him,” Yuki finally wrenches out of himself. “I wasn’t—I didn’t know what to do, so I didn’t do anything at all. It was cowardly. And it wasn’t fair to Kyo or you.”

Yuki watches her face as he speaks. She’s been quiet the whole time, taking in his words without interruptions, absorbing Yuki’s fumbling apology patiently, watching him carefully with focused, caramel brown eyes.

“I came here because I need to apologize. I’ve done something really horrible to you, and that isn’t right. You’re… You’re a good person, and you don’t deserve that.”

Yuki punctuates the statement with an apologetic bow, feeling the hefty weight of silence fall between them

Is she mad? She must be mad. Yuki would be mad. Kyo is mad, or he was. He’s still not sure where that stands. And Yuki can’t blame him at all. He really wouldn’t blame Kaori for wanting to slap him across the face right now.

A small, amiable laugh lifts both the silence and Yuki’s thoughts, and he looks up at her immediately.

To his surprise, she’s smiling. Softly, carefully. She doesn’t look sad, but maybe the small flush and the serious weight of her eyes make her seem a little embarrassed? She certainly doesn’t look like she’s about to slap him, and he gives her a confused look that has her shaking her head with a light, genial sigh.

“I knew you didn’t like me,” she says, sounding almost relieved. “Gosh, I thought I was going crazy.”

“What?” Yuki’s eyebrows crease. “I don’t—Did I really act that way?”

Kaori hums, finger dragging along the rim of her cup idly, pondering for a moment. “No, not really. I just always had this feeling, you know? I was so nervous around you all the time—you’re supposed to get along with your soulmate’s best friend, but you seemed so put off by me.”

“I’m so sorry,” Yuki says, shaking his head. He’s absolutely mortified. Since when has his control over his own emotions and appearance become so slippery? Or maybe this girl really was way too perceptive for her own good. Yuki groans, “I feel like I could apologize for hours and it still wouldn’t be enough.”

Kaori laughs at that, “it’s okay! It makes sense now. I’m just glad there wasn’t something wrong with me.”

“No, there’s nothing wrong with you,” Yuki says quickly. “I suppose that was the problem.”

Kaori’s expression turns bashful. “I think you’re probably praising me more than you should.”

“I don’t think you understand how rare it is for Kyo to connect with somebody. He’s a good person, and he was actually pretty popular in high school. But he still didn’t have too many people that he was close to. At least from what I saw,” Yuki laughs. “I think that makes you very special.”

“From what I’ve seen, Kyo has quite a few people he’s close with.” Kaori’s eyes turn sympathetic. “I don’t know how you were able to watch your soulmate date someone else. Wasn’t that painful?”

“It wasn’t easy,” Yuki sighs. “Clearly, I handled it wonderfully.”

Kaori smiles. “I guess I’m still confused on why you didn’t say anything. You two must have had a really bad relationship for you to think he doesn’t like you.”

“You have no idea.” Yuki shakes his head. But he deflates, “I’m more concerned about the pain this has caused you. I sincerely hope I haven’t hurt you too badly.”

Kaori straightens, winces a little as she cracks her neck, looking as if she’s lost in thought—as if assessing the damage to herself.

“It’s weird. I like him a lot. And maybe I’m a bit jealous. I think it would have been really nice to have someone like Kyo as my soulmate, you know?”

“I see…”

“Oh, not like that!” Kaori quickly corrects. “I mean, I like him a lot, but I sort of just assumed that I’d learn to like him in a more… soulmate-way. Actually, it’s kind of nice to know that whenever I meet whoever is meant for me, maybe I won’t have to try so hard to fall in love.”

“So… you’re not… in love with him?”

Kaori laughs, shaking her head, “No. And I know for sure he’s not in love with me. I think we both were trying to figure out what was wrong, but didn’t want to say anything.”

“I really did you both a dirty trick.” Yuki sighs. “Yonamine-san—”

“No. Call me Kaori. Every time you call me by my last name I just think you’re mad at me all over again.”

Yuki hesitates, but finally, “Kaori, then. If you don’t mind, there’s something I want to… ask of you.”

Kaori tilts her head. “Okay?”

“I know I don’t have any right to ask this… Especially considering the circumstances…” Yuki squares himself to look at Kaori. “Even if Kyo isn’t your soulmate, he cares about you a lot. I know he wants you in his life. I don’t want anything I did to ruin his relationship with you.”

“That would be okay with you?” Kaori asks, eyes a bit surprised.

“Of course,” Yuki insists. “I’m sure you’ll need some time, and it’s okay if you’re upset with me, or never want to spend time with me again. But I would hate for someone Kyo cares about to be taken away because of me.”

Kaori smiles at Yuki, big and bright and affectionate. “I’d like to stay friends with Kyo very much. And you. Sound good?”

She extends an arm for Yuki to shake, and he smiles as he takes it, gripping lightly as she moves their arms up and down. For someone so kind and seemingly gentle, she has a tough grip. Just another thing that reminds Yuki of Kyo.

“Hey, Yuki,” she says, when she sees him off at the door. “Would it be cool if I read your mark?”

“Oh,” Yuki tenses reflexively, but brings his left arm up obligingly for her to see it, anyway.

She takes his wrist gently in her hand, her eyes moving as she reads the words, mouthing them to herself, before giving him a confused look.

“What does it mean?”

Yuki smiles at her.

“Maybe someday, Kyo can tell you the whole story.”

 

———————————

 

By the time Yuki gets home the sun has gone down. Though it’s late, the air is still humid and pregnant with summer heat. Moths flutter around the outside lights of his and his neighbors’ apartments.

He fits the key in the lock and doesn’t realize how much of a relief it is to finally be home. Something sweet and comfortable fills him, making his bones feel relaxed from a long, tiring day.

The living room light is off, but the kitchen light is on, and it spills a gradient of faint light into the rest of the apartment. Yuki sees Kyo at the sink, washing dishes, and Yuki can’t help but smile.

Quietly, so as not to disturb the still air of the apartment, Yuki approaches him. Soft, pale hands go to Kyo’s elbows, sliding up slightly to his biceps as Yuki rests his forehead on the back of Kyo’s head with a tired hum.

He doesn’t know if this is okay. He can feel Kyo tense from surprise under his fingertips. But Yuki’s spent every single day of the past few months stopping himself from taking Kyo’s hand, from touching his arm, from resting against him, from being pulled into the magnetized force that was Kyo.

And now, finally, he just wants to rest. He just wants to feel even the barest hint of Kyo’s warmth from his tan, muscular form.

Yuki can’t help but smile when Kyo doesn’t push Yuki off—just resumes his task as normal, though he clears his throat a bit. Yuki wonders if Kyo looks embarrassed—that cute, flustered face he could make sometimes when he received a bought of unfamiliar affection.

“How’d she take it?” Kyo finally asks.

“In a very kind and mature way,” Yuki groans. “I feel like an even bigger idiot now.”

“Good. You should.”

Kyo turns off the water, flicking his hands in the sink and wiping them on a nearby hand towel before turning around.

They’re toe to toe. Closer than they’ve let themselves be since they kissed—sudden and passionate and instinctual. But now, everything seems slow, deliberate, expectant. Yuki feels his throat go dry, his hands come back up to Kyo’s arms, rubbing up and down slightly before he peers back to Kyo.

His eyes seem so sharp and bold. He stares at Yuki like a force of nature, which is the only way Yuki thinks he could describe Kyo. And such focused attention on him makes it hard for Yuki to breathe.

He can’t help it. Yuki leans in, wanting to fill the small, dwindling space between them. His eyes close, but instead of Kyo’s lips, his mouth meets Kyo’s hand, held up to stop Yuki in his tracks.

Yuki opens his eyes, half amused half irritated, and he speaks smushed up against Kyo’s fingers. “You’re taking quite the hit to my confidence here.”

Kyo snorts, seemingly snapping himself out of his own trance, before wrapping his hand around Yuki’s mouth and pushing him back, “Eager prick.”

Yuki pushes Kyo’s hand away, shaking his head, “Are you aware of how you were looking at me? Because I think you might need to look up the phrase, ‘mixed signals.’

Kyo clicks his tongue, “I’m not saying I don’t wanna… do that or whatever. Just think we should. Go out or something first.”

“Go out? Like on a date?” Yuki asks, smile creeping onto his lips.

“That’s how this shit is supposed to normally go, right?! It’s not my fault you’ve been ass-backwards about this whole thing.”

“You’re such a maiden,” Yuki laughs. Kyo bristles at that.

“And you’re an asshole!”

“I promise, I can be a chivalrous gentleman, too.” Yuki smiles fondly at him. He steps close to Kyo again, this time bringing a hand up to Kyo’s cheek. Yuki’s smile is smug as he brings his thumb out to trace against Kyo’s bottom lip, watching as the intensity of Kyo’s stare deepens with each passing second. “When do you want to have our date, then?”

Kyo scowls at him, even as Yuki still has his fingers roaming over his face. Before Yuki can throw Kyo a smug laugh, Kyo grabs Yuki’s wrist and hauls him to the front door.

Yuki nearly loses his footing, hopping behind him as Kyo wrenches the door open to drag Yuki out into the late, summer night.

“Kyo?” Yuki startles.

Kyo slams the door behind them, only releasing Yuki’s wrist to lock it closed, before he’s grabbing him again and walking down the outdoor hallway with Yuki in tow.

“We’re going on a date!”

“Right now?” Yuki laughs, somewhat disbelieving.

“Right now!” Kyo snaps. “Got a problem with that?!”

Yuki lets himself be tugged along, feeling a silly, giddy feeling bubble through his chest.

“Lead the way.”

 

———————————

 

They walk a full two blocks when Kyo realizes he has no clue what he’s doing. Yuki walks beside him, giving him an amused side-eye but is staying quiet for once in his life. If that isn’t anything short of a miracle Kyo doesn’t know what is.

It’s late, and even though they live in the city, their neighborhood is mostly residential. The streets are quiet with families already turning in for the night. The few mom-and-pop restaurants that litter the area every so often are closed.

They could catch a train to somewhere more populated, but Kyo doesn’t really know any other areas except the school and the dojo — and he’s not about to drag Yuki on the hour commute it takes to get to either. Even if he did, the last train would be ready to leave maybe forty minutes after they got there at all.

Kyo steals another glance at Yuki, who can’t seem to keep the amused smile off his face, even as he takes in the late-night walk. He doesn’t seem to be under nearly the same amount of stress as Kyo. He guesses that’s probably because Yuki is the date-ee in this instance, and just following along for the ride.

Despite the fact that their competitive natures have quelled significantly in the past couple years, Kyo isn’t about to drop the ball on their first date. It’s gotta be good—no, better than wherever Yuki takes him on their second. Because Yuki better be the one to take him out next time. He’s not gonna be handicapped by his… definite lack of preparation.

Though that’s easier said than done, considering Kyo has no damn idea what he’s doing.

“Have you had dinner tonight?” Yuki asks, suddenly cutting Kyo out of his thoughts.

“Uh,” Kyo offers. Suddenly he becomes aware of the grumble in his stomach. They don’t have any real food in their fridge because of the trip, and Kyo was too anxious for Yuki to come home after talking with Kaori. He guesses he sort of forgot in the anticipation of it all. “Nah, not yet.”

“Me neither. I think I know a great restaurant that’s open around this time of night.”

Kyo wants to pout, because, really, Kyo should be taking the lead here. But it’s not like he has any better ideas, he thinks defeatedly.

“Sure,” Kyo shrugs. “Whatever.”

“Great,” Yuki only smiles at Kyo’s somber tone. “It’s right up here on the left.”

They round the corner and immediately Kyo goes from kicking himself to wanting to kick the shit out of Yuki.

“That’s not a restaurant!” Kyo snaps.

Yuki keeps walking towards the all-too-bright glow of the convenience store. “Don’t be like that, I think it can be quite the romantic setting.” The doors chime when they enter. “See? There’s even mood music.”

“I’m gonna kill you. I’m gonna take the sign off the roof and I’m gonna beat you to death with it.”

“Okay, but pick out what you want to eat first,” Yuki says, idly.

Yuki throws a smile over his shoulder and navigates the aisles in a fashion way too familiar. Kyo just grimaces at the flourescently lit bags of sodium and processed sugar around him and wrinkles his nose.

Great. His first real date with his soulmate and this is what they’re doing? Some fucking romantic date this was gonna be. Kyo huffs as he looks through packaged cakes and breads, wandering over next to Yuki where he was looking at packaged refrigerated meals.

“I could make something way better than this crap,” Kyo mumbles. “Hell, you could probably make something better than this garbage.”

“Don’t insult the Michelin-star chefs. Here, this one might not be too bad if we microwave it.”

Kyo takes the soggy, plastic looking meal from Yuki when he hands it to him and grimaces.

“Oh, fucking delicious.” Kyo rolls his eyes. “I’m not microwaving anything here. That thing has probably seen every kind of bacteria known to man. It’s probably seen environmental crime scenes from other fucking dimensions.”

“Yes, but that’s what the plastic wrap is for.” Yuki takes it out of Kyo’s hands with a laugh and replaces it with another sad excuse for a bento. This time an inari meal with a side of dull looking pickled radishes. Kyo supposes it’s the best he could do here. “You’re so picky.”

“You need to set your standards higher than ‘maybe not toxic waste.’” Yuki picks his own meal and Kyo follows when he heads to the register.

“I’ve got high standards when it counts,” Yuki says. He looks over his shoulder to give Kyo a flirtatious smile that kisses butterfly wings against his ribs, and Kyo feels himself rapidly losing control of this “date.”

Kyo snatches the food from Yuki’s hand and dumps it onto the counter. “I’m paying.”

“In that case, I should pick out some drinks, too,” Yuki chuckles. Kyo rolls his eyes, but juts his head away, signaling Yuki should do exactly that.

Yuki meets him back at the counter, a green tea for himself along with Kyo’s favorite brand of milk tea.

“Hi!” Says the convenience store worker in a cheery tone.

“Good evening,” Yuki says just as cheerfully back. “Did you know that polar bears can jump nearly eight feet out of water? It’s primarily to surprise seals.”

Yuki dodges the swipe Kyo aims for Yuki’s head as the cashier laughs nervously at the scene. Kyo can’t help the smile that crawls onto his face, too.

It’s only when they leave the convenience store, food rustling in a thin plastic bag, that Kyo realizes he’s back to square one.

Kyo’s never been one to be able to hide how he’s feeling. He’s aware he might as well be an open book—and nerves are etched all over him. His distracted, muted speech, his fidgety glances, the way he keeps wiping his sweaty palm against his jeans. They linger for a moment, before Yuki finally turns to Kyo, giving him a fond sigh.

“Despite what you may think, I don’t need anything extravagant,” Yuki says. Kyo finally looks up at him, a little guarded and a little unsure. “But if you really want, I can call Ayame and see if you could get a suit of your own—”

“No fuckin’ thanks—think I’d rather pluck out my own eyeballs with those shitty chopsticks!” Kyo crosses his arms.

Yuki laughs at that, before softening again—looking at Kyo with this dumb, stupid, fucking smile that seems like it’s always been there. “I’m serious. I’m happy just to spend some time with you.”

It takes a second before something occurs to Kyo, his eyes brightening through a fog. A part of him wants to reach out and take Yuki’s hand, but nerves have him only nudging his shoulder into Yuki as he walks, destination clear in his mind now. “Come on.”

Yuki falls in step with Kyo’s quick stroll, “Where are we going?”

“Like I said,” Kyo says, roughly, “We’re goin’ on a date.”

 

———————————

 

They walk for awhile, past their neighborhood, a few blocks more, and down a discrete dirty path that’s aligned with trees and bushes. It’s nearby the local temple, and even though they don’t take the stone-laid stairs up the large hill, the dirt path is still just as steep in parts.

Yuki follows behind Kyo, who leads the way, both grunting and breathing slightly heavier as they hoist themselves up the path. Nearly halfway through Kyo turns to Yuki, “You’re not gonna pass out or anything, are you?”

Yuki’s eyes narrow, “You’re not taking me to do yoga under some waterfall, are you?”

Kyo clicks his tongue, continuing on the journey. “Fine, then you better keep up!”

Yuki does, and it’s not much longer that they reach a small clearing at the head of the path.

No matter how many times Kyo jogs this pathway, he still finds himself taken aback by the view each time.

It’s a lookout point towards the city, and it’s easy to see their district below for miles. But before that there’s a drop of a slight hill, and a landing at the base. There sits a body of water—too big for a pond, but too small for a lake—along with a brief clearing of grass that couldn’t be any bigger than the modest park walking distance from their apartment.

Kyo is usually here when the morning is just breaking through—when a haze of orange-blue light mixes to create a peaceful beginning to the day. But at night, it’s a whole different experience. The morning fog has long been burned off by now, and it leaves a clear view of the blinking lights of the city. The clearing allows the moonlight to reign down, and it dances on the pond. A haze of dim, warm light illuminates the back of the trees from crowded, insistent street lights.

But Kyo can’t seem to care about any of that when he turns to watch Yuki, who marvels at the scene. His chest still heaves subtly with the exertion of the hike, which have also caused his cheeks to break into a natural flush, but he’s staring down at the scene with enraptured, silver eyes, and a smile so completely content that Kyo loses himself in the curves of it.

Kyo rustles through the bag to grab at Yuki’s tea, wet from condensation on a still warm and humid night. “Here,” he says, as he tosses it over.

Yuki catches it easily, cracking it open to down half the drink in one go. Kyo does the same with his own, before he’s sitting down and pulling out the rest of their food. Yuki sits beside him, close enough so that their shoulders are almost touching, and takes his food when Kyo hands it to him.

“This place is beautiful.” Yuki smiles. “How did you find it?”

“I jog the path sometimes.” Kyo shrugs. “When I want a better workout.”

“Oh,” Yuki says, suddenly sullen. He peels the plastic off his bento and breaks his chopsticks open.

Kyo raises an eyebrow. “What?”

Yuki sighs, closing his eyes as if to berate himself. “It’s nothing.”

Kyo feels his lip upturn in a snarl as he cracks his own chopsticks apart, reaching over to Yuki’s food and snatching away a big piece of the rubbery-looking fried chicken.

“Hey!” Yuki says, reaching over to try and grab it back, but Kyo holds it out of reach. “Don’t steal my food, you have your own!”

“I’ll give it back if you tell me why you’re upset!”

“I’m upset because you stole my chicken!” Yuki says, irritated, but still somehow managing not to beat back the amused smile on his lips. He’s leaning over Kyo, trying to reach up with his own chopsticks, but Kyo stretches his arms even further away.

“Wanna see how far I can throw it?” Kyo smirks.

“Don’t waste food over something stupid,” Yuki shakes his head, finally leaning back in defeat with a roll of his eyes. “It’s just… You started jogging with Yon—with Kaori, I didn’t know if—” He cuts himself off with a sigh. “But it doesn’t matter if you have. I’m having a very nice time.”

Kyo stares at him, eyes slightly wide as he blinks at him before uncurling from his reached out position. Though his hand slacks without him realizing, and the piece of chicken tumbles out onto the hill before Kyo can catch it.

“I was going to eat that,” Yuki says, deadpan.

Kyo rolls his eyes, tears back the plastic of his own bento, and grabs a piece of his inari. In a second, he’s gripped Yuki’s chin and shoving the piece into Yuki’s mouth ungratefully. “You’re such a baby.”

Yuki splutters on the food, coughing as he chews, and maybe laughing a bit as he washes it down with his tea. “If you’d tried that in high school, you would’ve ended up in the lake.”

“Lucky for me your reflexes turned so shit,” Kyo boasts, shoving some rice into his mouth.

“Maybe I’ve just gotten too relaxed around you. Something I’m sure I’ll regret,” Yuki hums.

“Kaori hasn’t been here, by the way,” Kyo grumbles around his food. “Thought about it, but it never felt right.”

Yuki turns to look at him, and Kyo does the same. It’s then that Yuki gives him another of those wholly content, wonderfully private smiles that Kyo finds he’s developing an addiction to.

“Thank you for sharing it with me,” Yuki says, hand reaching to land over Kyo’s.

Kyo gulps down the food in his mouth, feeling his heart rate quicken at the simple contact, at how close Yuki seems to be now. But he lowers his head, trying not to let his face heat under the thickening tension in the air. “Not like you deserve it.”

“Probably not,” Yuki chuckles. “But I don’t mind working for your affection.”

Kyo absolutely will not and cannot tell Yuki that they’re far past that point.

“Don’t worry about that so much,” Kyo says instead. “It’s not like I’m mad at you anymore.”

Yuki hums around a mouthful of chicken. “You’ve become so level-headed. It makes me jealous.”

Kyo gives him an expression so confused and caught-off-guard that it makes Yuki laugh again. “I can’t tell if you’re fucking with me or not.”

“I’m not,” Yuki says with a smile. “You’re working hard to improve yourself and it shows. I think that’s admirable. Most times I can’t even tell what direction I’m going.”

Kyo shuffles a bit awkwardly, not used to hearing such direct praise, and especially not from Yuki. He clears his throat trying to brush off the warm clench of his gut. “Direction for what?”

“I don’t know.” Yuki shrugs. “The future? I still feel like I have no idea what happens next. Sometimes it feels like I’ll wake up and I’ll be cursed all over again, with my whole life put under someone else’s control.”

Yuki says it so easily that it takes Kyo aback for a moment. He wants to say that he’s jealous of how direct Yuki’s become. Of how he can voice his anxieties so easily without fearing that they’ll turn real in the next moment. How he makes it look so simple. How he can say things and not have to worry how it sounds—that he can trust that his words will be exactly what he means.

Kyo thinks he used to be direct, too. But he spent so much of his life poisoning his own words with lies and self-loathing and rage that it’s sometimes hard to untangle what he actually means. And when he does know, it’s hard to say it so easily.

He’s jealous of Yuki, too, he thinks. But it’s different this time. It doesn’t make him want to push away. It just makes him stare longer, shift closer, and maybe like him a little more.

“It’s fine that you don’t know what you’re doing right away. Who cares what direction you go in if you figure it out eventually,” Kyo finally says with a shrug. “You don’t need to get all bent out of shape about it.”

“Maybe,” Yuki hums. “It’s a nice sentiment.”

Kyo rolls his eyes. “It’s not sentiment,” Kyo says the word like a curse. “I don’t say shit just to cheer people up.”

“That’s surprisingly comforting.” He turns to give Kyo a smile. “Thank you. I didn’t know you had so much faith in me,” Yuki teases.

Kyo can feel his face warm when he rolls his eyes again.

It’s only then that Kyo realizes that both their food and drinks are long gone by now, and there’s nothing more keeping them tethered to this moment. Yuki seems to realize the same, because he stares mournfully at the empty plastic containers on their laps.

It’s ridiculous. They live together. They’ll walk home together after this. In the morning, they’ll wake up tog—okay maybe not together together, Kyo thinks furiously wishing away his blush.

The fucking point is that it’s really stupid to not want this date to end, because it’s not like one of them is going away to war or something. Their rooms are right across the living room from each other.

But stil…

Kyo shoves the empty containers on his and Yuki’s lap into the plastic bag roughly and stands in one motion.

“Race you to the bottom of the hill?” Kyo gives Yuki a challenging smile. Yuki immediately smiles back, standing.

“Are you sure losing won’t put you in a sour mood?” Yuki smirks.

“Big talk from a fucking gerbil!” Kyo readies himself, and Yuki matches his starting position.

“Former gerbil,” Yuki corrects. And then Kyo gives the signal and the two are off down the steep hill, having to run a bit too fast and half-hop to keep their legs from buckling underneath them when gravity pushes them like a parent pushes their child on a swing.

In Kyo’s defense, he absolutely would have won if it were daytime and the fallen branch hadn’t tripped him up right before the imagined finish line.

And also if Yuki’s laugh wasn’t so distracting.

 

——

 

Yuki’s still laughing a bit when he takes the semi-used napkin and presses it against the scrape on Kyo’s forehead. He wrings it out in the pond-water as he kneels with Kyo on the shore of it. One hand gently pushes Kyo’s bangs out of the way, while the other presses the cool, wet napkin to Kyo’s flustered skin.

“No way that water’s clean,” Kyo gripes, when he feels a droplet run down his cheek.

“I guess we’ll know when you grow a second head tomorrow,” Yuki says. “You lived in the mountains for awhile. I’m sure you’ve had worse scrapes than this.”

“Not more embarrassing ones,” Kyo mumbles.

“I know you’ve had more embarrassing ones.” Yuki smiles. “I’m sure I was there for most of them.”

“No fucking kidding,” Kyo huffs. “I still have a scar from the first day in Shigure’s house.”

“What?” Yuki says, immediately leaning back, taking his hands away. Kyo feels his forehead go cold and tries not to grunt at the loss. “Where?”

Kyo obliging lifts up the sleeve of his right arm, pulling the skin a bit so Yuki can get a look at the scraggly, short but thick scar on the back of his arm right below his shoulder. “The rock in that stupid pond scraped the shit out of me.”

Yuki reaches forward to touch it, brows furrowing as he presses feather-light fingers against the bunched, disoriented skin. “I never realized this was from me.”

Kyo pushes his sleeve down and leans back so Yuki can’t keep looking at it with those strangely remorseful gaze. “Alright, your turn—what’d I leave you with?”

Yuki shakes his head, amused tone coming right back. “Not a one.”

“Figures,” Kyo clicks his tongue. He stands, picking up a rock on the side of the shore, tossing it up once to catch, before launching it into the water. It lands with a satisfying plop there.

It’s only a moment later that another rock is sliding right past Kyo’s distance, skipping on the water with quick fip, fip, fip, fips.

Kyo turns to look at Yuki who is giving him a smug smile and a shrug. “Wait, how the hell’d you do that?”

“What? Skip the rock?” Yuki tilts his head. “Want me to show you?”

“If you don’t I’m just gonna assume that was some kind of witchcraft.”

Yuki only laughs at that, and starts to search the shore of the water for decent rocks. He hands a couple to Kyo, smooth on the surface, a decent weight, but not too bulky. He watches how Yuki flicks his wrist, his arm parallel with the water when he sends the rock flying, and how the rock skips away.

Kyo tries and it lands with a FUMP right in the water. He gets the same result in his next two attempts, giving a frustrated grunt when he sends the last rock in his hand in a frustrated, overhand throw.

“Don’t give up, you’re getting it,” Yuki reassures. He moves to stand behind him, hand landing on his elbow before it snakes up his arm until his hand is enveloping Kyo’s. Yuki reaches around him—and Yuki might as well be hugging him at this point—to deposit another smooth stone in Kyo’s hand, before taking his other arm and resting his left hand on Kyo’s hip.

“Try again,” Yuki says, low and soft, right in Kyo’s ear. Kyo swallows at the close sensation.

Kyo can’t really force any words out of his scratchy throat right now, so he just reels his arm back, feeling how Yuki directs and guides his arm into a position parallel with the water.

He looks over Kyo’s shoulder, breath way too close to Kyo’s ear, and his hand on Kyo’s hip still firm and careful. Yuki guides Kyo’s arm back and forward a couple times, creating the momentum, until they both throw their arms forward in unison, Yuki squeezing Kyo’s hand to signal Kyo to release the stone.

Kyo watches, and just as the stone looks like it might sink, it slides up and jumps twice more on the lake before sinking down.

For a second he just stands there, watching, Yuki’s body grazing against his back, his wrist still in Yuki’s hands, until Kyo jumps away to give a victory pump of his arm, “Hah!”

Yuki chuckles, “what a good pupil.”

“The last thing I’d ever fucking do is call you ‘sensei,’” Kyo shoots back.

“I don’t think I could handle that emotionally,” Yuki hums, teasing.

Yuki’s back close to Kyo, and the summer breeze jostles Yuki’s hair into his face. Without thinking, Kyo brings a hand up and brushes Yuki’s bangs out of the way. Just because he wants to, just because there’s nothing telling him he can’t.

It’s then that Kyo realizes he was just as big of an idiot he is. Kyo spent the past few months lamenting how obvious of an effect Yuki had on him. Meanwhile, Kyo doesn’t even notice until that moment that he must do the same to Yuki.

Yuki’s cheeks are flushed, and he looks at Kyo as if there’s nothing else in the world to look at. All because Kyo brushed away his bangs.

Addicted to how Yuki’s staring at him, Kyo even tucks a lock of Yuki’s hair behind his ear, watching how Yuki’s throat bobs in a swallow. Yuki looks like he wants to be kissed, and Kyo knows he probably looks like he wants to kiss Yuki, too. But that’s not what he has planned in this last minute agenda of his that he’s decided to stay loyal to.

And maybe he’s not totally sure he’ll get a chance to tease Yuki like this again, either.

Kyo pulls back before it becomes impossible to pull himself out of Yuki’s orbit. Yuki’s eyes crease in confusion at Kyo’s sudden distance.

“Come on,” Kyo says with the same knowing smile Yuki loves to give him. “Let’s head back.”

 

——

 

The walk is spent in comfortable silence. They climb back down the path, a much less vigorous route coming down, and are spit back onto the city streets again. It’s even later now than at the beginning of their impromptu date, and the streets are nearly empty. It’s not until Kyo checks his phone that he sees just how late it’s become. He sort of can’t believe time passed so quickly hanging out with Yuki. But, then again, maybe that’s why these past few months have felt so quick and easy, too.

On the sparse streets, warm city-lights bouncing off Yuki, his chest full of giddy flutters, Kyo takes less than a minute to decide he wants to hold Yuki’s hand.

So he does just that. Reaching over, and intertwining their fingers together. Their hands sink together like a snug lock and key, and Kyo wonders if all soulmates’ hands feel this perfectly fitted.

Yuki squeezes his hand back, but he directs his smile away from Kyo—choosing to look at nothing on the passing scenery back to their apartment. Kyo looks away, too. Maybe not in a hurry to show how fucking easy it apparently is to get the same smile floating onto his own lips.

When they turn onto the street of their neighborhood, the air suddenly feels heavier. A tension building between them with every step they take closer and closer to their apartment building. It sinks low and heavy on Kyo’s stomach, like a heavy stride in loose sand, and he hopes Yuki isn’t realizing how much sweatier his hand is beginning to turn.

By the time they’re standing in front of their door, Kyo feels like he might as well be bathing in a thick syrup. When he tries to breathe in, it’s harder. His movements feel constrained and weighed down. His lungs burn with the feeling. But the air like molasses makes the dry-drown before their apartment taste sweet.

Neither make a move to take their key and head inside.

Instead, Yuki turns, still keeping his hand in Kyo’s and gives him a bashful expression—Kyo wonders if Yuki’s even aware he’s making such a face.

“Thank you. For a nice night,” Yuki’s voice is low to match the late hour, but it puts Kyo all the more on edge.

“No problem,” Kyo says, realizing his rough tone is pitched down just the same. “Guess it wasn’t so bad.”

“How promising.” Yuki huffs a laugh, “Maybe one day you’ll even enjoy my company.”

It’s meant as a joke. It’s clearly a joke. Yuki’s voice is light and easy like the comment is nothing—because it is nothing. He couldn’t have meant it in a more passive way.

Even so, it bothers Kyo. The realization snaps up Kyo’s spine, as if just now understanding what he read on Yuki’s wrist, looming over him in the ocean water.

He does enjoy Yuki’s company—maybe too much. Or, more likely, the exact right amount. Because this is his soulmate. Something he didn’t even realize on his date with Yuki, because he was too busy getting consumed by the evening.

“I’m taking you out again,” Kyo’s tone is resolute and sure. “Before the break ends, got it?”

“I don’t really seem to have a choice in the matter,” Yuki says with a laugh.

“Yeah, cause you don’t.” Kyo clenches down on Yuki’s hand even harder. “Don’t pretend like you don’t want to, anyway.”

Yuki gives a small smile. “I do want to.”

“You better mean that. Cause I like you. And I’m telling you fucking again so you can’t go making anymore stupid excuses. Get it? I like you!”

Kyo’s face feels hot, as if the sun never set, and he’s aware that he’s probably clutching Yuki’s hand too hard to offset the pressurized embarrassment of having to be so direct. But something feels nice about releasing the words. Something oh so satisfying about staring back at Yuki who can only blink at him with wide, surprised eyes, and it’s enough to curl Kyo’s mouth into a victorious smirk.

“Well, um,” Yuki finally forces out of himself, voice unstable—and Kyo knows he’s breathing in that same syrupy air, too. “Maybe I’m still having trouble understanding all that.”

As opposed to months ago, Kyo realizes in a much more timely manner—what with the glint in Yuki’s eye and the curve of his smile—that Yuki is flirting with him.

Kyo finally responds to the ocean-bed pressure that’s been pressing against his back. When they’re nothing more than a hair’s width away from each other, he’s sure to give Yuki a glare. Then, standing right in front of the door to their apartment, Kyo kisses him.

The kiss is gentle. It’s not frantic and rushed. It’s not unsure and blindly following incomprehensible instincts. Kyo kisses Yuki softly, and Yuki rolls his lips against Kyo’s in just as tender of a waltz.

Yuki brings his hand up to cup Kyo’s cheek, and it’s only the contrast of Yuki’s naturally cold hands against him that he realizes just how blazing warm his face has become. He doesn’t care. He uses his own free hand to rest on Yuki’s hip, hesitantly sliding it around his lower back. Not to pull him in—they’re already so close to each other, sighing contentedly at the unhurried kiss. But he keeps his hand there just so that there’s no other part of his body is willingly disconnected from him.

The kiss becomes deeper for a moment, with Yuki’s hand sliding against Kyo’s jaw, and guiding him closer. Yuki’s tongue languidly presses against the seam of Kyo’s lips, and he opens his mouth in response. But the sweet, measured pace slows to a stop soon after, and Kyo opens his eyes to a landscape completely filled by Yuki. And his expression is so wholly and beguilingly pleased that Kyo can’t help but smile back.

“How’s that for understanding?” Kyo asks.

“It’s getting there,” Yuki jabs back.

“Guess it’s all gotta compensate for how dumb you are.”

Yuki laughs, “You’re providing staggering evidence to the phrase ‘idiots lead happier lives.’”

Kyo snorts at that, but finally goes to pull away, regretfully pulling his hand out of Yuki’s to tug his keys out of his pocket.

“Is the date over once we’re inside?” Yuki asks, just before Kyo turns the lock.

“No shit,” is the passive comment. It’s been a fun night, but Kyo’s exhausted and the idea of laying down sounds too good.

Yuki rests a hand on Kyo’s over the keys.

“Do you have any extenuating rules for our next kiss,” Yuki asks, looking Kyo right in the eye. “I mean, will they always have to be after a date?”

Kyo nearly laughs at how seriously expectant Yuki looks at that. And maybe Kyo can’t help himself from leaning in one more time.

 

——————————

 

Kyo finds when he wakes up the next morning that the swell in his chest did nothing to deflate overnight. It’s a giddy feeling that makes Kyo feel ridiculous, but it does make it easier to get out of bed and get ready for the day.

Even though they didn’t get home until late, Kyo’s internal clock has him up early as always. He jogs, showers, gets dressed, and starts breakfast all before Yuki is even awake (as usual). But he feels like a dumbass this morning when he finds himself repeatedly staring at Yuki’s shut door, wondering when he’ll finally wake up.

Kyo’s face contorts at himself as he stares down at the pan as he makes a simple omelette. How gross and clingy could he be?

The thought immediately dissipates when Yuki’s bedroom door opens and Kyo is greeted by a sleepy, bed-headed smile when Yuki walks into the kitchen.

“Hey,” Yuki says, voice still raspy with sleep. Kyo swallows and trains his eyes back to his eggs.

“Yeah, hey,” Kyo greets.

Yuki slides next to him to peer down into the pan, their shoulders pressing together with Kyo’s arm rubbing against Yuki’s as Kyo jostles the pan.

“What are you making?”

“You’re tired, not blind,” Kyo mumbles.

“I’m hungry,” Yuki corrects. “Is there some for me?”

“There won’t be if you keep being annoying,” Kyo huffs, still not looking at Yuki.

Kyo feels a hand on his cheek and suddenly his face is being directed right towards Yuki’s, who gives him a warm, lazy kiss. Kyo kisses back immediately only to elbow him away after a moment.

“Gross. Brush your teeth first,” Kyo says, but his lips are tugged upwards.

“That was supposed to be payment,” Yuki laughs before pulling away to walk to the bathroom. “Thank you for breakfast.”

“Don’t think that’s gonna work forever,” Kyo calls back after him. Though by Yuki’s laugh, the prick probably already knows that isn’t true.

It’s surprisingly easy, all of this. It’s easy to make Yuki breakfast, easy to kiss him in the morning, easy to think about how they’ll spend the rest of the summer break together. Kyo feels infatuated and light and excited, and it puts him in a daze that he’s happy to swim in for the time-being.

When Yuki comes back he sits at the table, and their eyes meet when Kyo looks over his shoulder to look at him. Yuki’s smile is crooked and poorly restraining how big it wants to be. And Kyo thinks it feels nice to have the person you like so obviously like you back.

Really, they probably look like a couple of complete idiots. Kyo figures that’s probably fine as long as no one from the family shows up anytime soon.

“Kyo?” Yuki calls, pulling him from his hazy thoughts. “Your phone is going off.”

“Huh?” Kyo looks back to see Yuki holding it up. “It’s probably just Tohru. What’s it say?”

Kyo turns off the stove, dumping the omelette onto a plate resting on the countertop. He hears the click of Yuki opening his phone.

“It’s from Kaori,” Yuki says. Then, after a moment, with a confused tone. “Were you supposed to have breakfast with her this morning?”

Kyo pales.

 

——

 

 

Kaori☆ [10:27]: OH NO
Kaori☆ [10:27]: KYO
Kaori☆ [10:27]: WE FORGOT ABOUT BREAKFAST!
Kyo [10:29]: FUCK!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

——

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The walk up to the cafe is loud. Construction hammers away just across the street with men jackhammering and yelling over the noise under big white and green tarps. It’s loud enough that the woman doesn’t hear the phone ringing in her purse as she lingers outside the many shop fronts trying to find the right restaurant.

By the time she enters, the door closes to allow a little peace from the noise—though by then her phone is silent in her bag.

She’s tall, even taller with the modest heels, and her shoulder-length brown hair is tied behind her neck to show off the sharp features of her face. Chiseled confidence of a woman who’s experienced the world, but softened by the smile lines that come easily.

“Welcome, ma’am!” The seating hostess greets when she approaches the counter. “Thank you for choosing to patronize our shop today. We’re so sorry for the noise—we want to offer you a free pastry as an apology.”

“How lucky.” The woman smiles. “I guess I came on the right day.”

The hostess gives a good-natured laugh. “Table for one?”

“No, I’m meeting a few people. I don’t know if my daughter is here yet, but she said to look for a man with orange hair and one wearing traditional clothes?”

The seating hostess hums. “There’s a man in a yukata waiting for his party right over there.”

“He’s not been here for awhile, has he?”

The hostess shakes her head pleasantly. The woman thanks her and heads towards the table.

From behind she can see a man, tall, broad, short brown hair, and, indeed, wrapped in a yukata. Odd, she thinks. The last time she wore a yukata was for a festival when she was in high school.

She nears just in time for the man to place his own complimentary pastry on a plate, only a nibble taken out of it, before he slides it away. Is he done? What a waste, it looks delicious.

She forgives him, however, when he looks up at her as she approaches the table—mostly because she’s never seen a warmer looking smile in her life. Especially not on a face so handsome.

She smiles in turn, motioning to the pastry. “Are you finished already?”

The man’s eyes widen as he stares up at her, and for a moment she wonders if she has the right table. But the smile is back before she can say anything more, this time even brighter.

“I didn’t want to start without you,” he says back. And the words are like a shock to her system.

Because they’re the words scrawled over her wrist.

“I’m Harue Yonamine,” she says, extending a hand to the man, breathlessly surprised expression overtaking her. He stands and takes it gently in his own.

“Kazuma Sohma,” he says back. “What a pleasure to finally meet you.”