Makoto barely sleeps.
There's no way he, or anyone could, with the screaming downstairs, which is near constant and lasts throughout the night.
“It's your fault!”
Makoto buries his head in his pillow and tries to drown out the noise. The effort's in vain, as he finds himself suffocating and has to come up for air within a minute.
“You're the one who did it!”
The pillow doesn't help anyway.
The fights aren't exactly every night, but they're becoming pretty close. They're over stupid things, and important things, but they all end the same way: At 3 AM with one parent slamming the door to the bedroom, and the other yelling at it.
“You're just an asshole, that's what!”
It wasn't always this bad. Mr. and Mrs. Tachibana used to be happy. They were in high school, and got married early, even though they weren't soulmates.
They thought they could make it work.
“You're a bitch!”
They used to be in love.
They bickered, sure, but it was never... Malicious.
“I wish we never met!”
On nights like this, all Makoto can think about is how it went wrong, when it went wrong, why it went wrong.
He's pretty sure it started with him.
“I hate you!”
Makoto thinks it's because he can't do. There's nothing he can do about his parents, except try and be a better son.
Ultimately, he always fails, because there's nothing that he could succeed at enough to unite them.
Makoto feels powerless. Helpless. Like he's drowning.
“Fuck you too!”
When Makoto does sleep, it's filled with restless dreams he can never remember. They leave him gasping for air in the middle of the night, and adrenaline pumping through his veins.
When he can't sleep then, its not because of his parent's noise, but his own mind's.
Makoto knows he's not in the best shape, but he doesn't care. Ran and Ren are more important than himself, and they need their big brother.
He doesn't protest when they creep in his room, whispering “Nii-chan?” He just shifts his sleeping position in his bed to make room for them.
When they ask why their mother and father are arguing, he doesn't answer. He just holds them tighter and prays they won't remember anything in the morning.
- - - - -
School is hell.
Makoto struggles to pay attention, or just to stay alert.
It's an uphill battle, and one he loses more often than not.
When he's awake, but can't possibly bring himself to care about the finer points of the Russo-Japanese war, he idly wonders what the world is like in color.
He imagines it would probably be easier not to fall asleep.
Honestly, he doesn't care about the color so much as he does the soulmate. As long as he always has someone there, someone who won't leave him, who doesn't hate him, he couldn't care less about the novelty that comes along with it.
He envies his best friend, Haru. Haru's got Rin Matsuoka, and anyone could tell that they are perfect together.
They don't always get along, sure, but their bond is unbreakable, and they make up for each other's weaknesses with their own strengths. Even now, in class, Haru is looking at Rin through the corner of his eyes. Rin pretends not to notice, but Makoto can tell from his viewpoint that Rin is desperately trying not do anything strange.
He would laugh, but god is he tired. He doesn't have the energy to spare.
Makoto spends the rest of the lesson gently dozing off until the end of school bell wakes him up.
Shit, Makoto thinks. He needs to copy Rin's notes again.
Makoto tosses his stuff in his bag. Haru's walking home with Rin (again), so there's no need to wait up for him.
He's halfway out of the school when he hears a voice.
Makoto turns. Is it... Yes, it's Sousuke Yamazaki, and he's-
“Yamazaki-kun!” Makoto blurts out with a smile,
Makoto hasn't been acquainted with him since elementary school, when Sousuke met Rin, and they've been in separate classes ever since. Haru's been Makoto's best and only friend for a long time, so much that Makoto's barely noticed time passing
He's certainly gotten bigger over the years.
Makoto will settle with bigger, because saying hotter, while very true, is a bit... Hasty.
Being bigger suits Sousuke. Always a little lean in elementary school, his added muscle makes him look intimidating, and somehow more balanced than before.
He's anything but intimidating now though, trying to say hi in a way that isn't incredibly awkward.
In the end, Makoto just laughs and says that it's nice to see him again.
Sousuke's fumbling attempts at conversation, whatever the motivations, are somewhat endearing, and Makoto tries to make the best small talk he can, about school, their hobbies, the weather.
It's fun to talk to him, Makoto discovers.
After Sousuke says goodbye, and goes to his own house, Makoto realizes he's looking forward to meeting again.
- - - - -
The first thing Makoto finds is that school is far better with something (someone) to look at.
The second is that Sousuke is absolutely striking.
He sits by the window, and the white light coming through illuminates his features, almost silhouetting them.
His hair is dark, short, and messy (Makoto wants to touch it, run his fingers through it), his face is angular and handsome, (he wants to look at it forever), his eyes a little drooping, sort of like Makoto's (he's heard rumors that eyes are pretty colors, Makoto wonders if that's true for Sousuke's).
He sees Sousuke tilt his head slightly out of the corner of his eye, and Makoto quickly looks down at his paper (still blank). The close encounters are getting closer every time, and Makoto mentally berates himself for being careless. No. He can't be careless, or he will lose his remaining piece of sanity.
Makoto distracts himself with thoughts of his soulmate. His birthday's coming in a few months and then he'll be able to see his soulmate, be able to finally fall in love with someone. He's just got to hold out a few months more.
His thoughts drift back to Rin and Haru, and their relationship. They knew each other beforehand, were friends even, and Makoto thinks that's probably ideal.
He sneaks a look at Sousuke.
He's turned back to the window, apparently Makoto's looks have gone unnoticed.
He sighs in relief.
The rest of the lesson is definitely not spent doodling in the corner of his paper while staring at Sousuke.
Because that would be just hopeless.
- - - - -
Makoto doesn't remember why he asks Sousuke to walk home with him.
He vaguely remembers making up a story about having no sense of direction, and Haru walking home with Rin (the last part isn't a lie, which makes it better, right?).
He clearly remembers Sousuke accepting, with a look Makoto's never seen before in his eye.
He doesn't remember when it became a regular thing.
He remembers Haru and Rin joining them.
He vividly remembers feeling Sousuke's eyes on him when he tends to a stray cat.
He remembers thinking it was nice to have someone watch him, not demanding anything.
- - - - -
Home is worse.
The arguments are louder.
They last longer.
Ran and Ren cry at night.
Which makes Makoto cry.
Nothing is right.
He doesn't understand why they don't just split up already. Why bother arguing all the time when they can avoid each other?
Are they scared?
Makoto doesn't know.
He wants it to stop.
He wants everything to stop.
Makoto thinks of Sousuke, imagines strong arms wrapping around him and comforting him, replacing screams with gentle whispering.
Why not that, instead of this hell?
- - - - -
Over the weeks, Makoto gets to know Sousuke better.
For one thing, he learns that Sousuke has a terrible short-term memory and organization skills.
Sousuke leaves stuff everywhere, a fact that would have gotten on Makoto's nerves if it weren't for the fact that Sousuke is absolutely adorable when apologizing (and in general) and Makoto can't help but forgive him.
When they kiss, Makoto feels dread.
It's not the actual kiss. No, that's quite pleasant. When Sousuke presses against him, Makoto's mind goes numb and he kisses madly back, instinct taking over. Tongues weave together and they're close, so close, Makoto feels Sousuke's warmth through his clothes.
It's amazing, until Makoto's mind returns to earth and realizes it's bad.
It's terrible, and it's terrible because he's in love.
He doesn't know how he didn't realize it earlier. Perhaps it was denial.
Fear rushes through him, and he is paralyzed momentarily.
He breaks away.
“I'm sorry.” Makoto whispers. He makes a point of avoiding Sousuke's eyes.
He doesn't want to see how badly he's hurt him.
“Why?” Sousuke replies tightly. Makoto thinks he hears his voice crack, but he can't be sure.
“I- It was a mistake to fall in love with you.”
It's a mistake because I 'm weak and you're so much stronger.
“I can’t afford to fall in love with someone who isn’t my soulmate, not when my birthday is in just a few months. I don’t think-” Makoto feels hot tears cluster at the corners of his eyes.
Why is he doing this? Why is he breaking Sousuke's heart? Why can't he take a chance for once, and trust that Sousuke is his soulmate?
Hell, why does he even need Sousuke to be his soulmate? They can be in love and not soulmates and make it work.
Internally, Makoto knows the answers. Which is why he continues.
“I don’t think I could take it. “
Makoto sees Sousuke's hand out of the corner of his eye, ready to brush away Makoto's tears.
No. He can't possible bear it, bear the pain. He'll explode if he so much as looks at Sousuke.
Sousuke must have sensed this, because he his hand away.
“But- But what if we are soulmates?”
Makoto hears Sousuke sobbing a little, and it's painful, so much so that Makoto is speechless for a minute.
Sousuke is angry.
Sousuke is angry at Makoto.
Makoto remembers his parents arguing, he remembers them shouting eerily similar words.
Makoto uses Sousuke's family name. It's what he'll use from now on. Why bother procrastinating?
“Soulmates rarely meet in high school. Even if we think we’re in love now,” Makoto chokes a little, hopes his words aren't wobbling too much, “It’ll all change in a couple of months if we aren’t soulmates.”
He knows from experience.
They're both quiet for a minute, everything around them follows in suit.
Sousuke breaks the silence.
“I don’t want anyone but you to be my soulmate.”
He doesn't sound angry.
He sounds sad, defeated.
He sounds hurt, and that's so much worse than anything Sousuke could have shouted at him.
Makoto hears footsteps as Sousuke walks, and then runs away.
After Sousuke's gone, Makoto collapses, all the built up walls breaking down, and he sobs like he's 5 again, and his parents aren't there when he scraped himself.
Only this hurts so, so much more.
- - - - -
Time passes slowly.
Makoto feels like a fly trapped in amber, inching and inching its way up, only to look back and realize it's only been a few centimeters.
That's what it feels like not talking to Sousuke.
Makoto sees him from across the classroom. He peers at him when he legitimately cannot stop himself.
The sensible part of his brain reminds him that he needs to stop looking at Sousuke to stop from loving him.
The other part is the part that chooses to ignore the prudent advice, and looks anyway.
It's not like avoiding is helping Makoto anyway. When he isn't looking, he's thinking, absently fantasizing, and sometimes that's worse for him than just seeing.
Makoto's gotten sloppy. Sousuke catches him occasionally now, and Makoto has to pretend that no, of course he wasn't looking at Sousuke's beautiful face, remembering their kiss. No, of course he wasn't thinking about hugging and talking and returning to before everything went wrong with Sousuke.
No, of course he was not fantasizing about love with Sousuke.
Because that would be just hopeless.
It's unfair, really.
The days are going by slowly, so why does it suddenly seem like no time's passed at all on September 13th, 10:50 at night?
Of course, tonight is a rare pleasant night that Makoto should be steadily dreaming through. The house is still, and Makoto's parents have either worked out an arrangement, or have gone to bed without arguing for once.
But he can't sleep.
Not when Sousuke's birthday is so close.
Not when answers are so close.
Makoto shouldn't be holding his breath. There is no way they're soulmates. It's ridiculously improbable, not to mention the fact that they know each other beforehand.
More importantly, Makoto has stopped loving Sousuke.
Ok, that's a lie.
Makoto hasn't stopped in the least.
If anything its only grown, like some sick disease that will only end in misfortune.
The clock ticks away faster than Makoto would like, and soon its 11:59.
Makoto watches the second hand journey around the clock.
Makoto looks at his phone on the bedside table, grabs it, and contemplates it briefly, before firing a text he's wanted to send for weeks now.
Come to my house.
Makoto puts his phone down and wonders what the hell he's doing.
- - - - -
Makoto slips down the stairs quietly, trying not to wake the twins or his parents.
He paces around the door, waiting for Sousuke.
Makoto tries to hammer down his impatience, but he can't help it. He checks the window every minute. When he finally sees Sousuke at the door, he whips open the door and starts his (his admittedly last minute) plan.
Makoto doesn't make eye contact with Sousuke.
He wants to say something first.
“Sousuke... If we aren’t soulmates...” Makoto swallows, and continues after composing himself, “Please... Don’t see me again.”
There's a pause, and Makoto hears Sousuke whisper a quick “Okay.”
Taking a deep breath, Makoto looks up, looks into Sousuke's eyes.
It feels unreal, Sousuke being right there, in front of Makoto, for the first time in weeks, or months, or years, it feels like. It's scary, but he's almost forgotten some of the finer details of his face, the angles of his jawline, how big he is up close.
Makoto studies Sousuke, waiting for a reaction.
He hopes that, against the odds, they're soulmates.
Sousuke whips around, looking at all the surroundings, and then looking back at Makoto.
“Do you see anything?” Makoto asks, nervousness lacing his words.
Sousuke is speechless for a moment, and then, just like before, he presses against Makoto and kisses him.
And this time it's right, so right, Makoto feels like dancing. His cheeks are wet, this time not from pain and sadness, but from relief.
Because they are soulmates, destined to be together.