Chapter 1: FIRST MONDAY
Junichiro slept in the infirmary during his first day in high school.
He promised Naomi he'd make friends and get along with everyone and his stomach ruined his first impression. He groaned.
He was feeling better after Yosano gave him a strange medicine, but he had spent almost the entire day waiting for it to work.
There was no point in showing up for the last period.
The door opened up. Someone with a terrible coughing fit entered.
He considered opening the curtains, but he settled it was best to leave them be. Judging by the form they moved around, and the sound of the cabinet's lock opening, they knew what they were doing.
Or it was someone who stole the key. Junichiro decided to believe it was Yosano or someone she sent.
He'd wait until they were gone to go home.
The curtain next to him opened and closed. He heard the sound of an exhausted person falling on the mattress.
His arm reached on its own. He moved the fabric enough to see a guy with black hair and pale skin passed out. The faint snores served as proof he was alive.
He let go of the curtain, but it remained drawn, leaving him with a first-class view of the sleeping beauty.
It was time to leave.
The door opened.
He'd have to wait a little more.
He sat up so the new guest wouldn't see him.
"Idiot," the stranger said. He had a nice voice, husky and throaty. "If you were feeling sick you should've come here sooner."
Junichiro's curiosity got the better of him, and he tilted to the gap he left between the wall and the curtain. It was a short redhead who wore a black choker and broke the hair regulations of the school. Due to the red pin on his collar, he knew he was on his fifth semester.
The redhead moved a chair to the bed's side and took the sleeping beauty's hand in his. He planted a kiss on it. "You could lean on me a little more."
Junichiro looked away and shifted away from the gap. He didn't want to interfere with the couple.
He ended up waiting three hours for them to leave. After witnessing that he couldn't reveal he was there the whole time. He could've lied and said he had taken a nap, but he felt the redhead would see through him in a split second.
Atsushi and Lucy spammed their groupchat asking him how his first day was, wondering if he felt lonely without them and if he met anyone interesting.
Naomi left a note for him before going to school. She waited for him to get home so they could see each other at least once during the day.
Honestly, why did everyone he knew went to the afternoon shift?
He changed and ran to the gymnasium. He was late for practice.
Chapter 2: FIRST WEDNESDAY
Junichiro meets Higuchi and her girlfiend, and Atushi comes in.
That day, they didn't have any free periods. It was torture to live through the seven classes; the last of them felt eternal.
He didn't have anything against math, but Margaret didn't explain, and she mocked you if you didn't know how to solve an equation. Junichiro's middle school knowledge could only get him so far.
At precisely twelve fifty, Higuchi raised her hand, and announced class time was over. God bless her; she was the only one that dared confront Margaret. He'd count Gin as well, but they didn't care enough to pay attention to their teacher.
Everyone hurried to the exit. Junichiro stayed behind and waited for everyone to be out. It made things easier.
A window opened.
"Hey, Tanizaki," Higuchi called out. "We're going to the gym today too!"
Gin appeared next to her. "Let's go together."
He smiled. He hadn't gone on the bus with anyone since his last day of middle school, and he missed it.
His phone vibrated in his back pocket. He took it out and saw a message notification from Atsushi.
Guess who has two free periods but is already at school :'D
Junichiro felt like he shouldn’t at Atsushi’s distress.
Im going to the gym with some friends
The response was immediate.
"Hey, is it okay if a friend joins us? He has nothing to do for two hours."
"Of course," Higuchi said. Gin pushed her by the shoulder, inciting her to say something else. "As long as you're okay with Senpai coming too."
"My brother," Gin clarified.
He sent a message to Atushi telling him to meet them at the entrance.
They walked down together.
When they made it to the archway, Junichiro stopped and looked behind him, expecting Atushi to come from the cafeteria, but he wasn't anywhere in sight.
"This isn't a meeting spot," scolded the prefect. Odasaku sat on a bench with the universal history teacher. Sakaguchi was rumored to be strict, and most first years dreaded his classes even though they still had to make it to the third semester to have him teach them. "Move along."
"Sorry," Junichiro mumbled and started to move.
Atsushi was on the front yard, waiting for them under the shade of a flame tree. Junichiro joined him along with Higuchi. He introduced them, and Higuchi explained Gin went for their brother.
A few minutes later, Gin appeared with the sleeping beauty he saw in the infirmary. He had black pools for eyes and was dreadfully thin. Atsushi, a kid who lived the life of a beggar, looked healthy compared to him.
"I'm Akutagawa Ryunosuke," he stated. He turned to Junichiro. "Thank you for keeping an eye on my troublemaker of a sibling."
"It's no problem, really," he just made sure Gin was feeling comfortable, and he would start to pay more attention to them since it ran in the family to be sick. "I'm Tanizaki Junichiro, and this is my friend Nakajima Atsushi."
"Sorry for crashing in," Atsushi gave them a shy smile.
Gin took Higuchi's hand and started to walk. "Now that introductions are over, let's go, we can't make Junichiro late."
Since he entered middle school, Junichiro joined a volleyball team that trained in a public gym five days a week. The gym was thirty minutes away from the school if you went walking, but by bus, it took no more than eight. It depended on the driver.
"Why are you going to the gym?" Atsushi asked.
"Michizou's brother coaches there, he'll take us to practice when training ends," Higuchi explained. "Since Michizou is on a date, we'll wait there."
"They have a limited edition drink in their vending machines," Akutagawa added.
"The boxing matches get intense sometimes," Gin continued.
Junichiro didn't go often to see the matches. The gym was a suffocating place, and the space they dedicated to boxing was on a closed-off area that felt like Hell.
Coach Tachihara often spoke of his little brother, and how he used to be a cute kid until he started to hang out with the Akutagawas. He dyed his hair and pierced his ears. He often lamented he refused to enter his team and joined a band instead.
Due to his problems with his brother's change, Tachihara judged Junichiro's piercings and asked if his hair was natural during a whole year like he got paid to do so.
In the end, it was just teasing, and Tachihara only mentioned it when they weren't training. He later got over it and started to disparage the snakes that tried to take advantage of his precious little brother's talent.
They got down at the stop and, seeing the time, Junichiro ran to the gym. He felt sorry for leaving Atsushi alone, but he trusted his friend could get along with them.
Ichiyou served as a mediator for Gin and Akutagawa-senpai. As usual.
It was simpler now that there was an extra vote with them. Gin and Akutagawa-senpai never agreed on what they should do, and Akutagawa-senpai refused to take Ichiyou's vote in mind since she was biased.
She insisted that the fact she started to date Gin didn't mean she lost her ability to remain impartial, but he didn't believe her.
Atsushi wasn't in the mood for seeing blood, and he said he couldn't sweat too much since he still had the school day ahead of him. Gin agreed; regardless, they grumbled about it for a couple of minutes.
Akutagawa-senpai grinned at Atsushi for taking his side, and his eyes lit up. It was difficult not to gaze at them; even Akutagawa-senpai appeared charmed by them.
"I can't hear you! Again!"
The team started to count from one to ten. Tachihara liked to keep them busy and got upset when they didn't show spirit.
She looked at Junichiro warming up. A lively guy chatted him up. He wore a crop top, and a headband to hold his auburn hair away from his face.
She believed she had seen him walking around the hallways. He was a second year that hung out with a shy third year and talked with the teachers as if they were comrades.
Gin tapped her on the shoulder and pointed at the vending machines.
"Bring me dark blue," Akutagawa-senpai requested.
"You mean blueberry?"
"I mean dark blue, what are you? A cop?"
Higuchi grabbed Gin's hand and pulled to the vending machines.
Gin giggled. "Bold of him to assume we're going back."
Ichiyou loved that sound more than anything. "Then why are we going to--"
The realization of what Gin had planned hit her. She liked it when Gin was like that.
They ran downstairs to see the boxing matches, leaving Atsushi and Akutagawa-senpai alone.
Chapter 3: FIRST FRIDAY
It's the day of the event, and Junichiro falls in love.
Junichiro ended up wearing the same thing he wore every time he went out. The only difference was that, when it was too hot, he took off his long-sleeved shirt and kept the tank top he wore underneath. He missed his sleeves hanging beyond his hands, but the heat spared nobody.
The training was harsher than usual, and he had to make it home to take a shower and change his clothes. Plus, he had to wait for the bus for a long time.
So he made it later than expected.
It didn't matter since the band they went to see was of the last ones, but Junichiro wanted to listen to the others as well.
The park had two basketball courts, one of them fenced, two playground areas, and exercise machines. He went down the gravel steps to get closer to the band playing.
Two stages had been set up, and there was a small stall vending refreshments and snacks.
A guy offered them weed, but Junichiro politely declined.
His phone vibrated. Atsushi's name lit up on the screen. It was too loud to listen, so he shouted a 'wait' to the phone, and went back to the first court. "Where are you?"
Atsushi shouted his answer. Junichiro got some keywords like monkey bar and second . He looked at the second playground and saw Atsushi chilling on top of the tallest monkey bar with a red cup in his hand.
He rushed to the playground and climbed to Atsushi's side.
He leaned closer to Atsushi's ear. "What are you drinking?"
Junichiro took a long breath but didn't pick up the smell he was looking for. It was truly juice.
For the first time since he arrived, Junichiro let himself listen to the music. When he was looking for Atsushi, he just heard a cheerful rhythm.
On stage, there was a young man playing a large string instrument. To his left, a young man with messy hair played the piano with; to his right, a tall, pristine man played the drums.
He had no idea who they got it all that upstage.
"Kanzen Hanzai," Atsushi explained. "I think it's jazz."
He had no idea what he was listening, but Junichiro liked it.
It was over faster than Junichiro would've wanted.
Everyone clapped, and Junichiro frowned when he saw them leaving the stage. "Just one song?"
"You were almost an hour late, Ryouken and Tennin Gosui already played," he pointed at the large stage. "And they've been playing for twenty minutes."
The pamphlet did say it was a small event to get to know the upcoming bands. They were all high schoolers with the occasional university student.
"Good night, everyone," said a voice he knew. He looked to the smaller stage directly in front of them, an entire basketball court away, and saw the redhead from the infirmary. "We are Soukoku."
That was it. The song started, and it sent shivers down Junichiro's spine.
The brunette with the guitar had bandaged hands.
He wondered if it was because of the harsh way he played.
Junichiro didn't know much about music, he let the world present him everything it had, and he'd stick to the songs he liked. A good song was a good song; genre didn't matter. Maybe it was time to change that because what Soukoku played, the raw sounds that made his heart pound and the overflowing energy from both of them, that was what he wanted to hear.
Every note and sound, he tried to grasp them, but it was too much for him. When the first song was over, he needed a second to catch his breath.
Then the guitar's sound enveloped him, and he let the redhead's voice shake his heart.
"I’m Chuuya and that bastard is Dazai,” he paused to breathe. “We are Soukoku, don't forget it!"
He would never forget something like that. The crowd exploded, as excited as Junichiro felt. He was so astonished he couldn't move. He wanted to clap with the rest and scream to let them know how much their music reached him. He didn't know music could do that.
Atsushi shook him and brought him back to reality. "It's Aku!"
Oh? Since when did Akutagawa become Aku ?
Wait, Akutagawa had a boyfriend. A fiery boyfriend with a voice that could bring the world to its knees.
He told himself to calm down. A nickname didn't mean anything.
"Good evening, Black Lizard, and we're here with only one song."
The public started to shout questions, but Akutagawa started to play, and they all shut up at the sound of the first string.
It wasn't what he expected from the Akutagawa siblings. He was ready for a darker, louder beat. But Black Lizard's song was a warm tune that calmed his heart after the rollercoaster Soukoku put it through. It was breathtaking in a different way.
More than all that, he couldn't take his eyes off the vocalist. How happy he looked on the stage, how his voice quieted everything else and demanded to be heard. He wished he was closer so he could see the way his lips moved, and how his fingers played the guitar.
His night was unforgettable for more than one reason.
Chapter 4: SECOND MONDAY
Higuchi asks Junichiro to help her find the perfect gift for Gin.
"Please go with me downtown," Higuchi begged.
Junichiro didn't have practice that day; Tachihara got himself a cold when he went to support his little brother. "Sure."
When he helped her hop down the bus, he asked her why didn't she ask Gin.
Pink spread across her cheeks. "Well, it'll be their birthday in a couple of weeks, and I need to find the perfect gift."
"I'm sure they'll like anything you give them," he reassured.
She looked too nervous over the matter. Junichiro didn't know much about relationships, but he knew a thing or two about birthday presents. What mattered was the intention. If someone loved you enough to think of a gift and get it for you, that was enough.
Higuchi squeezed his arm. "Oh, you're so naive, Junichiro," she urged. "You don't know the Akutagawa siblings as I do, they're the type that holds grudges."
Junichiro picked her hand up and removed it from his arm. He started to walk; they'd be on the way if they stayed in front of the bus stop. "What do they like?"
"Knives, sweet things, music, me, and rainy days."
He hummed. "What do they need?"
"A new washing machine."
He couldn't establish a relation between the two. When Naomi needed something, it happened to coincide with the things she wanted. And Atsushi was a simple boy who asked him to invite him twenty bowls of chazuke every year.
"A mixtape," he blurted out. "It combines you and music."
If Higuchi settled for that, it meant they wasted one of their free bus passes. But he had the felt like Higuchi thought of that years ago.
"Last year's valentine's."
"All you can eat dessert buffet."
"Second anniversary," she covered her face. "I just need the perfect gift for my soon-to-be fifteen-year-old girlfriend!"
"Wait," Higuchi dumped against his extended arm. "They're turning fifteen ?"
A menacing aura radiated from Higuchi. "Got a problem?"
He looked around for inspiration. Sometimes the best gift just came out of nowhere.
He saw a mannequin across the street. "Hey, how about—"
Higuchi hit him on the stomach. It didn't hurt, but it surprised him. "That's it!"
She was looking at the same leather jacket he was about to suggest. The blonde looked at both sides of the street before running to the shop.
She was almost run over by a car.
Before Junichiro could cross, Higuchi came out of the shop with a defeated look on her face and made it to his side. There was only one possible reason: money.
"We'll find something better," he tried to encourage.
Higuchi's eyes lit up. He was glad his words were of some use because he didn't believe them.
She extended her arms.
He wasn't much of a hugger, but Higuchi needed one. He stepped closer to hold her, but she walked past him and pressed her forehead against the window of a shop.
Junichiro cleared his throat and walked to see what she found.
It wasn't what was in the shop, but the poster on the window.
Junichiro didn't suggest them because that was the first thing you'd think to give to a guitarist. Well, a bassist.
"Is that it?"
Higuchi was trembling of joy. "Yes! We just decided on a logo, and this along with something homemade will do it."
"Is it enough for Gin?"
She took out her phone. "If I get her five, maybe!"
He was glad it didn't take long. He relished spending time with Higuchi, but if she stayed stressed up like that he'd end up disliking them.
"Look!" She shoved the smartphone's screen on his face. "It's near here!"
"What are you waiting for?"
She smiled and walked away. Junichiro followed.
The shop was small and dark. Junichiro stayed admiring the sheer amount of picks on the walls while Higuchi asked her heart out, making sure the exact things she had in mind was possible.
When she was satisfied, she asked for five picks. Junichiro admired that she came up with that in the short time she had the idea in her head.
"We'll call you when they're ready," said the clerk. She was a nice lady that had the power of patience on her side.
Higuchi shook her hand with more strength than necessary. "Thank you so much!"
They stepped outside. "There's another reason you make an extra effort in Gin's gifts, isn't there?"
Higuchi stared at him, looking for something. She looked away, embarrassed. "They didn't get presents when they were kids, not until that couple adopted them."
Junichiro smiled. He'd come back another day and buy something for Gin too. They deserved more.
They turned around, ready to leave when Junichiro recognized two people on the restaurant in front of them.
Akutagawa bounced his head to a rhythm.
Atsushi played with his fingers over the table, waiting for Akutagawa remove the earphones.
Junichiro had seen that expression once before: when Atsushi showed him the music he composed.
Unlike, Junichiro, Atsushi had a fine ear for melodies. He wrote songs when he felt too much, and trapped all the bad things in a music sheet.
It took him years to feel comfortable enough with Junichiro to show him, but he had known Akutagawa for less than a week, and he was already sharing them with him.
An ugly feeling formed inside Junichiro. He didn't like and wanted to get rid of it, but the more he looked at the scene in front of him, the more the sensation grew and festered. But more than anything, it hurt.
Higuchi held his arm. "Junichiro, let's go."
If he felt this when Atsushi was his friend, he couldn't imagine what Chuuya would suffer if he saw them.
Chapter 5: SECOND FRIDAY
Fridays were one of his two free days. He liked to spend them at home, prepping the week's meals and sleeping.
Naomi linked their arms together and demanded a date. They hardly saw each other, and when they were both at home one or the other was occupied with school work or their own training.
A movie Naomi was waiting for came out, and she asked him to take her. She said there was no joy in watching a romantic movie alone and all her friends were busy. He couldn't say no.
Naomi had their tickets in hand, and he had the caramelized popcorn.
A large group of people emerged from one of the doors. Junichiro gave the tickets and checked the poster next to the door. They watched a popular comedy Junichiro was excited for; he didn't know it was already in theaters.
Naomi guided to the third door on the right. Before the door closed, he saw Soukoku and Black Lizard's vocalists leaving hand in hand.
hey Atsu is Akutagawa dating anyone?
His phone chimed. He looked down to see the notification.
Chapter 6: THIRD TUESDAY
Michizou makes an unexpected appearance in Junichiro's life.
Tachihara announced with excitement a practice match with a prestigious school.
Junichiro gave everything he had, but it didn't matter.
"Don't mind it guys," Tachihara clapped his hands to get their attention. Everyone gathered around him; Junichiro needed help from Mark to get there. "I was expecting your loss because I asked my good friends from college to pretend to be high schoolers and beat your asses."
Everyone started to protest and complain. Mark pointed out he did mention they looked a bit too old to be teenagers. Junichiro was too tired to care.
"This is the team you so proud of?"
They all turned to see a pair of amber eyes looking down on them.
While everyone started to ask who he thought he was to judge them, Junichiro's heart skipped a beat. If he knew Michizou would watch he would've tried harder.
He scolded himself; Michizou had a boyfriend.
A boyfriend who likes someone else.
He ordered his thoughts to shut up. He didn't have proof Chuuya liked Akutagawa; as far as he was concerned, they were just friends.
He looked at Junichiro. "Not bad."
That shut them up.
Junichiro must've hallucinated. Michizou was talking about the team; he just happened to focus his sight on him when he said that.
His attempt at thinking straight failed, his faced heated up and he leaned on Mark.
"Hey, Junichiro, you okay?"
Tachihara lent him a shoulder. "Sorry, Junichiro, I wanted to show you off to my little brother and didn't give you a break."
He let them drag him to the bench.
Michizou offered him a bottle of water, and he managed to not drop it. "You were pretty amazing out there. It almost made me want to go back to the court."
Junichiro figured Michizou must've been a prodigy for Tachihara to be so upset about his little brother rejecting him, but he didn't know for sure.
"I think the stage fits you better than the court."
There was nothing wrong with what he said. It was something a fan of his band would say. There was no reason to feel as flustered as he did or to blush the way he was at that moment. He pressed the bottle on his face to cool himself down.
He couldn't see Michizou's face when he said that, but his voice was a soft murmur that got him to thank he didn't have a look at his expression or he'd be on the ground.
"Alright, everyone, stretch before you go home! Even you, Junichiro, move those legs!"
Taking the escape he needed, Junichiro stood up to walk away, but his leg failed him and fell on top of Mark.
He wished Michizou wasn't there.
Chapter 7: THIRD WEDNESDAY
Junichiro makes a fool of himself again
When he thought his legs ached after running for two hours, he had been wrong.
Now, his legs truly hurt. Every movement hurt, and if he stood or sat for too long, they started to shake.
He hadn't felt that way since he started to train.
It was their first holiday, one single day when he didn't have to go to school, and he was going to spend it stuck in bed.
After Naomi witnessed his pitiful state, she ordered him to stay in bed.
But, if he skipped practice, Tachihara would make the next time he saw him the last.
He couldn't let that happen.
He drowned down every whimper and changed. He forced himself to make it to the bus stop and considered letting it do the whole route just so he wouldn't have to cross the street.
Slow but steady.
He repeated the words like a mantra as he entered the gymnasium. When he thought of the stairs he had to cross to make it down to the court, he felt tears pooling in his eyes.
Life wasn't easy on him even when he hadn't done anything wrong ever.
Then he remembered there was a sort of tunnel that went from the outside of the building to the court. It passed the boxing room. He always wondered why that was there. Possibly for vehicles to get in when they held big events that required things to be brought down.
He didn't care; it was his way in now.
He took a deep breath and kept walking.
He checked his phone; he made it on time.
The court was empty save Tachihara and Michizou playing.
He let his bag drop.
The ball fell to the ground on Tachihara's side. A point for Michizou.
Tachihara picked it up. "Didn't I tell Steinbeck to tell you I set you free today?"
He felt like he was about to cry; all his effort for nothing. He felt worse than when they lost the day before. "I don't know he didn't tell me."
"If you're so eager to play, then you can join Michizou's team," Tachihara offered. "Maybe then he'll have a chance, he's so rusty even Mark could win against him."
He wanted to play with Michizou, but he couldn't move.
He lay on the floor. He'd worry about getting up later.
"Hey, Junichiro, I can take you home later."
Maybe Tachihara was a nice guy after all.
"Thank you," he whispered.
Chapter 8: THIRD SATURDAY
Atsushi and the Black Lizard have a surprise for Junichiro.
Gin texted him on Friday that Kunikida got them a gig in a coffee shop that held live music performances every month. It was owned by some rich teacher that liked to see how the youth desperately tried to do something meaningful of their time.
But, they had to take every opportunity they could.
The restaurant reminded him of a place where a magician would present. He invited Naomi this time since Atsushi was guaranteed to show up. His friend beamed with enthusiasm and told him he had a surprise for him.
Junichiro felt a sting of guilt for not hanging out with Atsushi as often. They didn't see much of the other before, but now that Atushi started dating Lucy, and Junichiro was lowkey avoiding him since he saw him with Akutagawa, they hadn't met face to face in more than a week.
He knew it wasn't much, but they used to be together five days a week.
They still texted, but Junichiro wanted to assimilate the fact that they were bound to grow apart and meet other people, but that didn't mean they'd stop being best friends.
"Thank you for having us today," Michizou's voice snapped him out of his thoughts. "Today, we're happy to share with you the song of our main guitarist's dear friend."
Junichiro already knew that, but Chuuya was on the table next to him, and he wouldn't appreciate hearing those words.
Wait, one of Atsushi's songs?
Gin started to play. The rest followed.
Black Lizard had the singularity that made everyone that heard them shut up and listen.
Atsushi's songs were a combination of music that appealed the heart and lyrics that conveyed tragedy itself. A fifteen-year-old shouldn't have the ability to do that.
The Black Lizard was the perfect envoy of Atsushi's art.
It was a soothing tune, suitable for the restaurant they were in.
Junichiro forgot the food he ordered and closed his eyes.
The song ended, and Junichiro opened his eyes to Akutagawa inviting Atsushi onstage. He was recognized as the compositor and welcomed with a round of applause. Junichiro clapped as well until his eyes landed on Chuuya.
The man held a glass on his trembling hand, and it broke, splattering the drink on the table.
He felt his chest tighten; he didn’t know if it was fear or pity. He looked away. It wasn’t his place to interfere.
A tap on his shoulder made him look up, Atsushi stood with his hands on his back.
He stood up to hug Atsushi and swept him off his feet.
"You always told me I had to put my songs out there," he explained. "And when I was alone with Aku, I let it out along with the fact I wished someone would perform them, and he said that he'd give them a chance. I thought of what you'd tell me to do, and just said yes."
Junichiro felt like an idiot. Atsushi wasn't the same person he was when they met. He wasn't the same scaredy-cat that felt ashamed of what he loved.
He placed Atsushi back on the floor.
He was confident enough to share what he was passionate about, and Junichiro felt happy for him.
The feeling that he kept pushing back disappeared. He didn't know if it'd ever come back, but he was sure Atsushi would dissipate all of his worries and surprise him again if it did.
Chapter 9: THIRD SUNDAY
Junichiro receives an unexpected call.
If his phone rang on a Sunday morning, Junichiro expected someone to be dead, or dying.
An unknown number.
He was tempted to decline the call, but he was curious of who could've gotten his number. He prayed it wasn't debt collectors again.
"Hi! Is this Tanizaki?"
"Depends on who's asking."
"Buzz off it's Sunday."
"The other Ta— It's Michizou."
That woke him up. He let Jesus take the wheel with that conversation, so he wasn't aware of what he said.
"Hi! What's up? How did you get my number?"
"Well, you know Gin's birthday is this Friday? I didn't know what to get them, so I asked Ichiyou. She said you knew the perfect gift."
With everything that happened that day, and the match, and Michizou and the other thing with Michizou, he forgot about Gin's birthday.
There was no way he could afford the jacket, and all of his other ideas were shot down by Higuchi. He had a limited budget. Would a cake be alright?
He started to think. When he saw Gin at school, they were sleeping. When they weren't sleeping, they were with Higuchi. Then, he remembered a day that Higuchi was absent where they were partners during English class. They practiced pronunciation with a simple interview about the future. Gin said that they didn't like to talk about it because they weren't sure, but they always dreamt of being a photographer when they were a little kid.
Wait, he was a high school student with no money.
He had to think harder.
"Yeah, it's a leather jacket, but I don't remember where we saw it," he thought about it for a second. "It's near that place that sells used—"
Yes! A shop that sold not only used things but dirt cheap as well. He once found a gold chain there and bought it for a miserable amount and pawned it for seven times the price he paid.
"Is it okay if I go with you?"
"Sure, my brother refused to take me, and I'm not used to taking the bus anyway."
"Great, where do we meet?"
"My brother abandoned me at the gym, so here?"
"'Kay, see you soon."
He hung up, got up, took a quick shower and stared at his wardrobe.
When he asked himself what should he wear, the weight of his actions settled on him. He was going to go out with Michizou on a Sunday.
He told himself it wasn't any different than the time he went to Higuchi to buy Gin's gift. It was the same situation, except this time he'd go with Michizou.
They'd be alone.
Just the two of them.
And he was the only one thrilled about it. That was a low blow he did to himself. He knew that Michizou was in love with Chuuya, despite his ambiguous feelings towards Akutagawa, he didn't gain anything in getting his hopes up.
But, there was nothing wrong about being excited about spending time with someone he liked, he didn't have any plan to steal him away, or act on his feelings.
He put the same thing he wore to the event. Michizou didn't see him, so it was okay to repeat an outfit.
They had to run to make it to the bus.
The front seats were available, and Junichiro didn't hesitate to take them. If an old person or a pregnant woman got in, they'd move.
"Isn't that what you wore that on the day of the event?"
How Michizou notice completely escaped Junichiro. "I didn't think you'd be able to see from the stage."
Michizou hummed. "I saw you before going onstage."
When? Where? How? The questions filled Junichiro's head. He wanted to know more about it, but he couldn't sound too interested.
"The red hoodie stands out, huh?"
"That, and the hair, this year I'm getting surrounded by redheads."
Junichiro laughed. "Same here, first, Mark joined the team, then, Chuuya in the infirmary, later Atsushi introduced me to Lucy, and now you."
"Chuuya went to the infirmary? Was he okay?"
The concerned look on his face broke his heart.
It wasn't his place to meddle.
"Yeah," he said. "No, he went to visit Akutagawa."
Michizou relaxed. "Those two are inseparable, Chuuya can't leave him alone since he gets sick all the time."
Somehow, Michizou managed to make the guilt of knowing and not telling anything worse. He knew of some philosopher who said one wasn't only responsible for what they said, but also for what they didn't.
He kept wondering who, but he couldn't remember.
Junichiro turned to the window and saw the streets and buildings he had seen a thousand times, but they were better than continuing that conversation.
When he saw they were approaching their stop, he got up and walked to the back of the bus.
"Tanizaki there's a door here too, what are you doing?"
He pressed the button, a ring echoed inside the bus. Junichiro grabbed on the tube next to the door. "That's for the ones that get in."
Michizou sighed and followed him. When the bus stopped, Michizou lost balance and fell. He caught him before he hit anything, and pulled him up and down the bus. He had no idea of how he managed that.
And neither did Michizou. He looked confused that they weren't inside the bus anymore. "That was cool."
It was during times like this that Junichiro wished he had hair long enough to hide the red tips of his ears.
If he remembered correctly, the shop was two streets ahead and some to the right. He looked around trying to find objects or stores he recognized, but nothing rung any bells.
Michizou cleared his throat to catch Junichiro's attention like he didn't have it all the time. "Not that I dislike being manhandled, but my arm's starting to hurt."
Junichiro let him go immediately. "I'm so sorry."
"It's fine," he stretched his arm. "You look cute when you're lost in thought."
Junichiro felt himself blush. He turned around to hide that undesired reaction. He recognized the street vendor settled on the sidewalk; she once tricked him into buying seven charms to keep away bad vibes. That meant the shop he needed to go to was right ahead. Juukishi was the perfect place to find everything.
"The leather jacket is in," he turned around and then faced Michizou. "Tokeito, the one with the red dress and... the lilac hat. I'll be in here if you need me."
The bell above him rung. "Excuse me, miss," he called the clerk. "I'm looking for a camera; any type will do."
If he didn't find anything functional, he'd say it was a decoration and pray that was enough. A memento to not ignore what they desire.
He'd sound like a hypocrite if he said something like that.
Not that anyone would know.
"I have these three at the moment."
He looked at the counter and saw three cameras. One was a vintage Polaroid, and that was all he could say about them. There was also a cute purple camera, and a digital one.
He knew nothing about cameras; he knew nothing about many things.
Perhaps Michizou knew a thing or two about it.
He whisked that thought away. He had to think on his own about Gin's gift. There was still one thing he could do. "Which one's the most expensive?"
The clerk pointed at the tags on the items.
Now that was dirt cheap.
Polaroid pictures seemed more like Higuchi's style. If he learned anything in the three weeks since he met them, it was that anything that Higuchi would want, Gin wouldn't.
He pointed at the digital camera. "What's the state they left it at?"
She could be lying to get him to buy it. It wasn't uncommon. But she had no reason to. She sold a gold chain for a price Junichiro could afford. He didn't care what kind of dubious deals she was involved in.
When Gin said they once wanted to be photographer, Junichiro saw a fondness in their eyes he only saw when they looked at Higuchi. If he could get Gin a gift as nice as that one with his miserable budget, he would.
"I'll take it."
She wrapped it for him, and he gave her the money. He still felt guilty for paying such a low price. "Keep the change."
He left, and she didn't object, so it was all great.
He crossed the street and entered Tokeito. "Hey Michizou, what's taking you so long?"
"Did you just call me by my name?"
Oh, he was avoiding the topic. "Your brother is Tachihara get used to it."
If he didn't tend to see things, he could've sworn Michizou blushed. A faint, pink rose to his cheeks. But just like during his visit to his practice, it couldn't be.
"I don't know what size to get."
"Try on one."
"It's to get a reference I'm trying to help."
That, and he wanted to see how he'd look in a leather jacket. It would go well with what he had on right now. The causal combo of jeans and a black shirt worked well on Michizou. He wasn't a fan of the v-neck, but he didn't complain either.
Michizou took one jacket at random and tried it on. It fit well.
Junichiro tried to not stare too much. "Whatever size that is, get two smaller."
"How do you know that?"
Naomi. Over the years, he gained the strange ability to know these kinds of things. "Not telling."
"What happened on your side that you're so bold all of a sudden?"
"That's what happens when I'm happy."
Michizou took the jacket off and checked the size. He rummaged through the racks and took another one. "You should be happy more often."
He was happy whenever he was with Michizou, but his nervousness overpowered the happiness. Right now, nothing could make his mood falter, not even how good Michizou looked with a leather jacket.
Only a little.
Michizou paid for the jacket. When he thanked the lady behind the counter, Junichiro opened the door for him. "What a gentleman."
After that, Tachihara came for them and took Junichiro home. He insisted it was because Junichiro actually liked him. Michizou didn't let him comment on that.
Chapter 10: FOURTH FRIDAY
On Thursday, Gin themselves mentioned their birthday party to Junichiro.
Now it was Friday, and Junichiro had to figure out what to wear. The usual was out of the question, Michizou already called him out on repeating outfit once, he wouldn't let it happen again.
For these matters, it was when he would knock on Naomi's door and ask for her help.
In exchange for a homemade dessert, Naomi picked a pair of dark grey pants, a white shirt and she gave him a light pink coat that was too big for her. She said it highlighted his slim waist. He didn't know he owned those shoes.
From his bed, Naomi examined her work.
"Roll up your pants and tuck in your shirt," she directed.
And so, he did.
"If it were colder, I'd make you wear a sweater too," she lamented. Naomi got up and opened the door for him. "Now get out and don't drink alcohol."
"You don't have to tell me that."
Gin offered him a mojito, but he declined.
They hung out with people older than them most of the time, and Akutagawa promised he'd let them try a cocktail when they turned fifteen, but that was it. He didn't want them to end up like Chuuya. Chuuya shouted to complain, but the empty bottle of wine in his hand made his arguments void.
When everyone refused to listen to him, he took Michizou by the collar and dragged him to the kitchen. "Whatever, Michizou, come drink with me!" He shouted for everyone to hear.
One hour later, Akutagawa asked him to accompany to the kitchen, where the couple passed out. Chuuya held the wine bottle, and Michizou slept on a corner.
"They're equally bad at holding their alcohol," Akutagawa picked Chuuya up. Junichiro didn't know Akutagawa had the physical strength to carry a human being. "But they're harmless when they're drunk, so we let them be."
"I thought Chuuya would be the type to look for a fight when drunk."
Akutagawa smiled. "Only when he drinks tequila."
He noted that down.
Michizou was light. He noticed when they went to buy Gin's gifts, but with his full weight on both his arms, he was unbothered by it. "What do I do with him?"
"There's a guest room," Akutagawa replied. "Second door to the left."
Halfway up the stairs, Michizou woke up and demanded to be put down. The struggle would increase the chances of one of them falling and opening their skull, so Junichiro made him sit on the steps and joined him.
"'M fine, I jus wanted to take a nap."
Junichiro didn't know how to deal with drunks. He could make debt collectors turn around confused with their own words, but drunks? His only close encounter with them was when a fisherman lifted Naomi's skirt, and he beat him senseless. He couldn't fight Michizou, and he didn't have enough brain power at the moment to understand if Junichiro tried to confuse him. He was already confused. "Well, how about you continue your nap upstairs?"
"Are you trying to seduce me?"
Goodness, no. That was the last thing Junichiro wanted. "That's enough; I'm taking you to bed."
Michizou raised his arms to aid Junichiro with helping him up. "I like it when you're so forward."
When Junichiro reached over to take his arms, Michizou put them down. "I like you in general, actually."
Junichiro's heart skipped a beat. It burned.
Michizou wasn't thinking straight, he was thinking of Chuuya, and talking nonsense. He sat down next to him and covered his face. It was damn hard to try and pretend he didn't like Michizou.
Michizou shook his shoulder. "Hey, Junichiro, don't you like me?"
Could he say it once? Just once, Michizou might not remember in the morning. It was a reasonable gamble. He looked up and locked his eyes on Michizou's. He was so close Junichiro forgot to breathe.
Michizou closed the gap between them and stole Junichiro's first kiss.
Chapter 11: FIFTH MONDAY
Michizou didn't talk to him.
Chapter 12: FIFTH SUNDAY
Confessions and a well-deserved sleep.
Junichiro didn't feel like doing anything.
How he survived after that Friday was a mystery to everyone. He stayed frozen when Michizou kissed him, and when he didn't feel Junichiro kissing him back, he pulled away. Michizou stood up, articulated an apology, and ran to the guest room Junichiro was going to take him to.
Junichiro wanted to cry and scream, but he was so shocked he did neither. He went into autopilot after that.
They sang for Gin even though they begged them to stop, and they opened all their gifts. They put the leather jacket the second it was out of the bag. When she saw the camera, she was left speechless. They left Higuchi's for later.
They ate cake and laughed. And Junichiro forgot at the kiss at times, but his lips still stung and reminded him of what happened.
He couldn't look at Tachihara in the face out of fear he might see through him and found out what happened, which only made him appear more suspicious.
He didn't get along with Chuuya, so he didn't have to evade him; their paths never crossed naturally.
Before anything, he wanted to talk with Michizou, but he avoided him like the plague.
He didn't know what to do. If the kiss meant nothing, then Michizou wouldn't be acting that way, he would've apologized again and clarified the situation. But he decided to ignore Junichiro and leave to speculate all the possible reasons of why did Michizou act that way.
He was tired; he wanted to rest, but sleep would bring Monday closer. And that would be the beginning of another week he had to go through with a clouded head.
Naomi knocked on the door. "Leave me alone, Naomi."
The door opened.
"I wasn't going to let him in, but he looks worse than you."
Junichiro perked up at that. It didn't feel bad to know he wasn't the most miserable person in the house.
He got up and headed to the living room.
Michizou sat on his couch. Not only that, that was Junichiro's spot.
He was in his life, his mind, and his dreams. And now he was in his home, what else did he want?
What was he doing? He wanted him to know how he felt, what it was like to not know who would his actions hurt and be paralyzed with fear because of it. Wasn't there something else he could say?
Michizou stood up. "I wanted to apologize again, for what I did on Gin's party. I wasn't myself and acted on impulse."
Junichiro didn't know what hurt more. That he was right, and Michizou didn't mean to kiss him, or that he thought that we the problem.
"So you're upset I didn't reciprocate your kiss? Is that it?" Michizou opened his mouth. "How could I? You have a boyfriend!"
"I broke up with him," he confessed. "That night."
Junichiro stared at him. "What?"
Michizou was madly in love with Chuuya. Everyone said so, Gin said so, Akutagawa said so. He once asked Higuchi about them, and she told him Michizou confessed to Chuuya three months into his first semester. Chuuya, who recognized him as the vocalist in Black Lizard, agreed to one date. And then a second one, and a third.
Gin shared that on a game of truth or dare, Michizou told them he had liked Chuuya since his first performance with Dazai as Soukoku.
"I'm not an idiot, Junichiro," he grabbed his shoulder and pushed him down to sit on the couch, and he kneeled in front of him. He appreciated that. "I've known Chuuya had a crush on Akutagawa since I was in middle school. They've been together their entire lives and not one second if them have they spent it not loving the other. But Chuuya convinced himself that Akutagawa didn't reciprocate his feelings and it hurt to see him do that to himself. So, when I entered high school, I confessed to him, and he accepted me. Despite loving Akutagawa, he didn't want to hurt me, a guy he had known for three months. I knew Chuuya was looking for a way to get over Akutagawa, but I was overjoyed he gave me a chance and promised myself I would do anything to earn his love. But no matter how much I tried, Chuuya only had eyes for Akutagawa. I was hopeless. And then you showed up, and the look on your face when you heard his voice was the same I had, but you didn't believe you had fallen in love. When I saw you playing, you took my breath away, and then I got to know you, and I realized I didn't know what it was like to truly like someone until I met you."
Tears flowed down his cheeks. He did it again.
He jumped to conclusions without knowing everything, he convinced himself of what was more convenient. He felt ridiculous, what did he know about love or liking someone? Nothing, but who did? He shut off his brain for one second and acted on what felt right.
He kneeled along Michizou and threw himself in his arms. "I was scared. I didn't know anything, and it wasn't my place to ask. I saw how my friend hurt Chuuya, and I thought you were being treated like a fool, but my words would have no meaning, I was just a stranger. And I was scared of how I might've hurt you if I told you the truth, and I hated myself for not doing anything, but I hated more the idea of causing you any pain. I tried to stay on my lane but then you kissed me and my brain shut down. I didn't know if you meant it or if it was a drunken whim and why are you drinking at this age?"
Michizou grabbed his face and forced Junichiro to meet his gaze. "I thought you hated me."
"I thought you still had a boyfriend."
Why did he say that?
"Fine, I'm sorry I didn't tell you, but to be fair, I was drunk, I couldn't hold a thought for more than a few seconds."
They stayed there. Junichiro didn't have the energy to reply or move. After that week, he deserved to sleep.
"Hey, Junichirou," Michizou shook him. "Does this mean you like me?"
"I'm sleeping now."
He closed his eyes and enjoyed a dream-less sleep.
Chapter 13: SIXTH TUESDAY
What Chuuya did after Michizou broke up with him,
Chuuaku for the soul
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
When Michizou broke up with him, Chuuya was shocked.
He expected him to one day get tired of him and find someone else. What he didn't expect was how he phrased his wish to end their relationship.
"Listen, I think I'm in love with someone else."
At that, Chuuya dropped his red cup.
"But so do you, I know you've been waiting for the moment I get tired of you, but guess what motherfucker, you're my friend, and I love you so the end of this relationship won't free you from me. Now go get your man, he's in love with you, every love song we've performed, he wrote them, and they sure weren't for Atsushi."
Michizou yawned, and he settled on a corner. "Now go get your man."
And Chuuya, with half of his usual capacities, tried to get up and confess to Ryuu. But he failed and fell asleep.
When he woke up in Ryuu's bed, he almost believed he did it, and that it went remarkably well. Then he noticed he was still dressed and that the missing memory of his confession wasn't due to the alcohol, but because it never happened.
It wasn't until Tuesday that Chuuya gathered the courage to tell Ryuu Michizou broke up with him.
When he asked why, Chuuya said he accused him of liking someone else.
In Chuuya's mind, Ryuu would then ask if it was true.
Chuuya found himself forced to keep going on his own. "He was right, I've liked someone for a very long time, and the reason why I'm dancing around the matter is that it's you."
He closed his eyes, waiting for a rejection that never came.
"I always thought someone as marvelous as you couldn't possibly like me."
It wasn't fair. That was what Chuuya thought. The kid who would give anything for his sibling and had to go through so much pain but didn't turn his back on the world, instead he took Gin's hand and marched forward, never turning back, looking for a place where both of them could belong. And by destiny's fancy, that place ended up by Chuuya's side.
Chuuya laughed and passed his fingers through Ryuu's hair. He pulled him closer and pressed his forehead against Ryuu's. "There's no one in the world I love other than you, you idiot."
A week later, Ryuu sat under the shade of a flame tree with Chuuya's head resting on his lap.
Ryuu looked around to make sure no one was paying attention and, when he felt safe no curious eyes were on them, he gave Chuuya a quick peck on the lips.
He couldn't get used to the fluttering feeling in his stomach. He looked away and found himself making eye contact with his ex-boyfriend, who had his current boyfriend next to him.
Michizou smiled more when he was with Tanizaki
Michizou raised his eyebrows at Ryuu. Chuuya hadn't told him yet, so he held Ryuu's hand and planted a kiss on it. He looked at Michizou, who gave him a small nod before walking away.
Chuuya winked at Michizou. He'd invite him to drink someday to celebrate.
Ah! If you made until here I'm surprised! Thank you for reading until the end!!
And, now, I sleep.