Leaving high school to enter adulthood is odd, isn't it? Especially at twenty-two, when you should have done that a while ago. That's the kind of thing which isn't found at Oya, where people come and go depending on their inspirations. Ah, three years mean nothing, when you pay your way into whatever one you wish. Part-time and full-time students—what does it even mean? The freedom in being allowed to quit when you desire, often when you achieve what you were seeking, a sense of accomplishment washing over you, that's not a bad feeling at all.
To some, it brews fear though. Doubt of when and where to announce their departure. And after that? Few who have studied at the school of demons and violence find the path expected by society. The workforce is always hiring, low salary, shady boss looming over your shoulders. University is expensive, complicated to get in without a stable financial situation. Some opt to join local gangs, abandoning their school uniform in favor of something similar, the same appartenance to a group, with rules you are supposed to have integrated before joining.
Todoroki is far from the oldest graduate—nobody ever mention Murayama's age, as if it were a beloved secret trusted into the hands of those who inhabit the school—although he wonders if his departure will be as important as he thought.
Hanaoka Fujio is the one who rules these days—a tad clumsy, tendency to attract trouble, but then these seem to be positive traits around there—whereas Todoroki is merely the shadow leader.
Hence how he keeps his expectations—his raging pride he has learned to tame over the years—to a minimum. Tsuji and Shiba have dragged him to a restaurant the evening before, sharing drinks and admitting they wouldn't stay long now that he's leaving.
Words such as 'you are a part of us, now' are kept sealed.
Affection is offered in different ways, such as his glass getting refiled before he can say anything, or Shiba putting the best pieces of meat onto his plate with a knowing smile. He used to believe—a bit of cruelty, of games snatched off his hands, nails leaving deep trails against small palms—that no one would share his pride. That people existed merely to snatch bits of it away until nothing would have been left.
He was wrong.
There are cheers, on the day where he steps outside of Oya for the last time—uniform having grown alongside his body as years went by—turning around to raise his fist into the air. That was a journey. One he doesn't regret in the slightest. The new generation—Hanaoka, the YasuKiyo duo and the others, they will do great.
"Don't destroy the school," he shouts, slipping his hands back into his pockets, "you heathens."
Hanaoka' smile is so bright it must hurt, as he leans againt the window ledge.
"Well, don't get yourself killed either! Make us proud."
Torodoki smirks at that, intending on studying to be accepted into a decent university in a couple of months. He isn't anybody's hope, and has no intention to be. Whatever he achieves, he'll do it for himself first.
The first couple of steps are a breeze. Then, anguish starts to slip into his brain, slowly making its way down until it has spread through his whole body. That's the brutal turn, the realization that being brave is nothing in comparison to bonds nurtured and then gently pushed away for the time being.
A bench welcomes him, Line opened and scrolled through, couple of chats from months ago he hasn't replied to.
The most recent ones are from Murayama— congratulating him, promising a beer when he's free, and perhaps a brawl, as long as it's on a day off—and that guy from Housen. Fine, said guy has a name that Todoroki is well-acquainted with by now. He has been invited a couple of times, to various outings, mostly for food, crepes and ice-cream. Why? Apparently for the sole reason that rivalry doesn't mean avoiding each other and behaving as enemies.
Odajima isn't as carefree as he seems. Nonetheless, Todoroki believes in his sincerity about that matter. They walked into each other on accident at first—the other babbling about his usual convenience store not having whatever he wanted to dye his hair one night (it was 1am, Todoroki still has questions about his poor life choices). Then realizing they enjoy the same bookstore, old couple selling used treasures perfect to study or simply to fill his evenings. He recalls, a bit disgruntled, how Odajima used him to grab a couple of novels on the highest shelves with that innocent 'you're tall, at least make it useful', which got him a hit on the head from the heaviest book.
The other laughed, accepting the punishment before stepping back to pay. He did kick him in the shins on his way out though.
Thus started his improbable correspondance with Odajima Yuken, Line contact accepted without enough thinking on his part. Dozen of little messages, blurry cat pictures or 'What did you have for dinner, Doroki?'. Notifications quickly turned off, because he dislikes being forced to interact.
The constant 'good morning!' and 'did you have a nice day?' grew on him though. In a way, that's cute. A disastrous way to flirt—or to build friendship. He replies a bit more often these days, asking questions back as long as he feels like doing so.
What's the point of pretending to care? Todoroki would rather be honest, albeit distant, with his feelings. So, on evenings where no book catches his attention, he texts Odajima. Sometimes he is available, replying right away. Others, he stares at the screen until it turns itself off, wondering 'hey what are you doing?'
Isn't it wrong, to become so attached? To find his stern expression melting at some silly sticker. Years before, nobody cared, and now he has an army willing to defend his heart from harm, even if he'll never ask them, pride in the way.
'Should we fight one last time?' the last message reads. As if he'll give up on this existence because he is welcoming adulthood. When will you join me, he finds himself thinking, disappointed by the answer he's already aware of.
On the day where Ueda Sachio is defeated, stepping back from the throne, Odajima will follow, interest in these games long gone. 'Don't feel like it.'
Immediatly, a myriad of angry stickers invades the conversation, cats and frogs, and anything that Odajima liked enough to blow money on. Typical.
"That's mean, I was looking forward to finally defeat you."
The devil himself, loose clothes wrapped around his frame, sunglasses and blond hair, stands on the other side of the street. Was he looking for him? Oh yes, he has told him about graduation, although he did not expect for Odajima to actually bother coming.
Without awaiting for an invitation, his self-proclaimed friend finds a place on the bench, lips stretched into a playful smile.
"You always lose."
"Oh, I'm distracted by how pretty you are, can you blame me~"
Don't laugh at me, don't start creating volcanoes inside my heart to watch them explore one after another. That's flirting; yet he's always a bit uncertain. Years of being teased by his peers until truth and lies turned into the same old melody. 'Hey, X likes you, didn't you know?' followed by uncomfortable giggles against his ears. He doesn't need that kind of playfulness.
It must show, crease between his eyebrows. He lifts his chin, wishing to impress, to outgrow this childish doubt, building a forest from the bones of his enemies so he could be safe from newcomers.
That's the kind of thought, a bit brutal, shattered childhood, which is forced to remain inside a safe, key long swallowed and lost.
Dangling his legs into the air, having leaned as far as possible against the bench to do so, Odajima takes his silence as rejection. It's cruel, how litte he is able to mind.
As he watches, clouds reflected against sunglasses, he realizes that the smile isn't completely gone. It's smaller, harder to spot, yet Odajima hasn't left, nor he covered his words with meaningless excuses.
"I'd ask 'is it over'—hey Doroki, have things started at all for you? Are we even friends?"
Words get stuck at the back of his throat. The phone is heavy against his palm, a bit warm too, from not having closed Line yet. Countless abandoned conversations he didn't bother to participate in; missed opportunities perhaps.
Bonds sever themselves, without enough care. After a while, Todoroki notices that people give up, except for a few who bother talking even if it sounds one-sided. He doesn't mean to create such distance. Isn't it humiliating though, to admit he only got a Line account when he joined Oya, and Shiba insisted? Before that, nobody would have texted him anyway.
He treats people wrongly, still, wary of kindness, of invitations and parties. Safety does exist, deeper inside his heart. He steps aside when Murayama goes for a hug, or an arm wrapped around his shoulder, although he knows he can do so. That won't lead to a tragedy. Their fights, in spite of his inability to beat the other, have this fairness into them. Murayama is such an earnest person with his fists, the kind of provocative strength you cannot refuse.
Odajima—has the same freedom into his moves, tongue sharp in spite of his blows lacking in terms of brute strength. During their meetings, nevertheless, couple of battles, Todoroki had seen him growing more and more at ease with his move sets.
That day where Odajima ran at the wall behind Todoroki as fast as possible, using it as leverage for a kick straight into his head—he almost won.
Beyond that—their tastes in books are the opposite, one craving history and mystery, the other diving straight into fantasy and openly admitting having a strong preferences for books filled with pictures and passionate stories. In terms of food, they also struggle to eat the same thing when they hang together.
He doesn't understand why Odajima, whose sunglasses seemed to be a fashion statement when they met, would pick something so flashy when they have a medical reason to stand on his face all the time. In return, he gets mocked for wearing the school uniform that most of Oya has given up on, or for going to bed at eleven every day, and rarely after that.
(The sole time where he's outside in the middle of the night is when he encounters Odajima at the convenience store, that's nonsensical.)
"Your silence is annoying," he gets told, the other craning his neck to stare at the menacing sky above them.
Can't you let me find the real answer, rather than pushing for whatever you want? Both selfish, not so great people. Ah, standards are low around there anyway.
For him who basks in sharp words and precise hits, the conversation is alien, uncomfortable. Why is Odajima such an invasive creature, attracted to him without a valid reason. For an eternity, he wonders if he will get left behind, the other abandoning the bench to wander elsewhere. Wouldn't be the first time, friends lurking around for money, no different from bullies except from the name they gave themselves.
He loathes his childhood weakness, unable to go past it on gloomy days like those. That's the first day of adulthood, officially, why is he stuck where he was ten years ago?
Lowering his gaze, he catches a glimpse of another option. If he cannot open his heart properly, why not use another route to show his emotions—Odajima hasn't left, awaiting for the rain to pour over both of them with petulant indifference.
"Give me your hand."
"Odajima, just do it."
Bless this guy, with his colorful glasses and naive heart, who opens his palm eagerly, bad at pretending he isn't curious, extending his arm towards him.
Is there complete trust between then though? He would say no, that each step they take can set them back into the beginning if they aren't careful. Even so, he rips the button off his uniform, depositing it inside Odajima's palm.
Second button, the one to be offered to the person you love. Once a symbol of war, of leaving without a return date. It rolls inside Odajima's palm, who takes a moment to register what the offering is.
"That's the kind of confession which proves my feelings. I'm aware the third button symbolizes friendship, although I'm only offering one to you."
Aren't you seeking something like that? Our walks outside, odd discussion at weird hours and coffees drank together—your 'good morning' and 'do you miss me?', for how long have you tried to say 'I love you', Yuken?
Behind sunglasses, he catches a second of doubt, the kind which mirrors his own. Todoroki gets it, more or less.
"I'm not leaving my flat, nor the town."
After a while, fist clenched around the offering, Odajima offers one of his lazy smiles, head tilted on the side.
"If you run away, take me with you, okay?"
"Don't be so blunt, Yuken."
"Why not, Yosuke?~"
He has dozen of replies available now.
So has the rain, who drips on them in giant drops so they have to run. He doesn't flinch, when Odajima grabs his hand, saying 'let's go to your place!'.
The button is squeezed between their palms, as an old treasure linking them together. Neither is ready to say 'I love you', he doesn't mind though.
At the flat, while thunder is roaring outside, they take showers one after another—they arrived soaked to the bone, shivers running through their bodies. He warms some soup in the microwave, watching it spin until footsteps echo behind him.
"None of your pants fit," Odajima claims, "I'll have to do without them."
Great, now Todoroki isn't certain he can turn around without his heart protesting. He takes a deep breath, immediately caught up in the sign of Odajima in his boxers and a shirt which definitely doesn't fit his frame, one shoulder uncovered.
"You're going to catch a cold."
Stepping forward he grabs the glasses, lowering them around Odajima's neck. Rather than using this opportunity for a kiss though, as could be expected from new lovers, he tugs down the towel the other had thrown on his head, covering half of his face before roughly rubbing wet hair.
"Stop putting water everywhere."
"You're messing my hair up!"
"I don't care."
After a short-lived fight, he steps back, watching Odajima tugging the towel off his face, a faint pink on his cheeks. Immediately, he sticks his tongue out, running fingers through dyed hair.
"You better brush me."
"Did I bring a stray cat home?"
The microwave beeps in annoyance, and he retrieves their dinner.
"Let's eat, and then I'll brush your hair. No complaining that you're cold though."
"Who do you think I am?"
Fifteen minutes later, as they sit on the couch, Todoroki holding a brush, Odajima's first words are:
As expected. He leaves the room to retrieve socks and a blanket, throwing both of them at his guest. What a difficult person.
After wrapping himself comfortably, Odajima sits with his back to Todoroki. The hairbrush slides through wet hair, gently untangling it bit by bit. It must necessitate a lot of care so the hair doesn't get damaged.
"You're not going to get your button back, right?"
"Why would I do that?"
Both of them have been deceived in the past, although they aren't aware of each other circumstances.
He lets the brush glide against Odajima' scalp for a moment, unsure of what else he is supposed to say to bring comfort. On an impulse, he leans forward, pressing his chin on the top of Odajima's head.
"I'm cold too," he admits.
"Let's make a nest out of blankets."
He isn't eager to move back, yet he does. They pick his bedroom, large bed that they cover in enough blankets to die from overheating, slipping underneath them.
Todoroki pretends that the bare legs brushing against his aren't enough to cause trouble. It's late, and he's exhausted.
"I'm proud of you," he hears as he closes his eyes, Odajima half laying on him as if the position made sense. Ah yes, he graduated today. As for tomorrow—sleep sounds more important.
First kisses can wait for a while, he decides, waking up to the sun invading the room, half of the blankets on the floor—Odajima has moved a bit, messy hair surrounding his face as he is curled up in the middle of the bed—Todoroki has been pushed against the wall. Which makes no sense considering all the space they are supposed to have.
"Truly a cat," he remarks to himself, leaving the bed.
Their clothes, after getting washed and dried, are good to go. So will be Odajima once he wakes up—living together sounds like a step he cannot take right now. That night though, that was nice. More than he could have achieved when he joined Oya.
His Line is filled with messages, and he promises himself to read them at least.
"Have a nice day."
Such cliché sentences do not sound as bad as he feared. He watches, amused, Odajima removing his cardigan and wrapping it around Todoroki' shoulders instead.
"Do I look like I'm cold?"
"I thought of it all night long—since my cardigans are so big, they fit you, like even Jinkawa could wear them. This way, you have a part of me with you."
How terrible, to be in love. To find the gesture kind and precious. Slipping his arms through the sleeves, he has to admit it's comfortable. More than anticipated.
"I'll wear it."
He avoids saying that the shirt Odajima is wearing is definitely from his closet. A part of each other, hm—
They do not plan their next meeting, or anything at all. There will be one though, once they are ready for it.
"Where were you yesterday, idiot?"
Ignoring Shida's pressing tone, Odajima goes to sit next to Sachio and the others, who are sharing lunch. He has forgotten about his own meal—which is fine as some bald students rush to offer some of theirs to him.
"That's because I'm cute, isn't it?" he tells his friends later, digging in.
"You're a gremlin."
"Shida, let him have fun!" Even if it's a bit weird to Jinkawa too, for sure.
After a while, fingers slipping inside his pocket, he takes out the button, waving the present into the air, as sun rays dance around it.
"Todoroki gave it to me," he tells them without fear, "then I slept at his place, it was nice."
You see, Odajima enjoys misunderstandings, a bit of mayhem from time to time. There is fun, in the way Sachio chokes on his bento, or how Shida seems ready to get up and slaughter Todoroki for his so-called crime.
"Come on, what's wrong with a bit of love? When I graduate, I hope it's as fun as that."
Even with the sad bits, that was an amazing day. He presses his lips against the button, ignoring the questions thrown his way.
Todoroki Yosuke is kind of his boyfriend. Odajima laughs to himself, suddenly getting up so Shida cannot snatch the button from his fingers. They start chasing each other while the others tell them to stop, Odajima slipping behind Sawamura for protection. For now, he isn't eager to graduate, even if he's almost twenty.
As long as these idiots stay, he'll do the same.