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Both of Discontent

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χαλεπὰ τὰ καλά

Beautiful things [are] difficult [to attain]

 

Boring. New school, new semester, new students. Rei chewed on grass and kicked a yahoo’s back and decided that high school will be just as boring as middle school.

“Oi, Rei!”

Rei rose a hand. “Oi. Kida, what’s up?”

Kida clasped his back, and together they walked to the stairs. “Aren’t you excited? The girls are much prettier here than in middle school.”

Rei looked around. It seemed to be true. Boring. “Puberty, Kida.”

Kida laughed, and nudged him with his elbow. “I say that most of them will fall for you in three days, top. Give some that you don’t want to me, alright? Friends share with each other.”

Rei swung an arm over his shoulder and grinned. “Oh, you bet.”

Kida made an obscene gesture; Rei barked a laugh, and they went in class with a surer step than any first years. Some people were already staring at him, most of them girls. Confidence seemed to be the trick, (it’s the pretty face, Kida retorted), though Rei himself never learnt it. Rei had always sat down like this. He had always fought like this. He had lived like this ever since he was able to walk. There was nothing to learn.

Kida leant to his ear, said, “Hey, that guy. He’s looking.”

Rei smirked, his eyes still on the window outside, the sky and whatnot. He avoided the balcony. “Looking for a fight, is he.”

“That guy? He looks like he can’t fight off a dog!”

Rei set his chin in his hand, boredom settling in like lead. “Then why is he looking? Looking to getting pulped up the first day of school?”

“Got some guts, that guy. He’s walking straight towards you-”

“Kashino-kun.”

Rei snapped his head back to the classroom.

“Uh,” Rei said.

“I didn’t not know that Kashino-kun also goes to this school.”

“You,” Rei said, though he did not feel the words in his mouth. “You, too.”

“Kashino-kun hasn’t changed a bit,” the boy said.

What was that supposed to mean? “Rei is fine,” he found himself saying. He saw the boy smile, and take the place behind his.

Kida looked between them suspiciously, and with a groan of frustration when none of them spoke again, he hissed out, “Who’s that guy? I don’t remember him from our school.”

A soft, fleeting voice behind him said, “Kirishima Makio, nice to meet you, Tatsuya-kun.”

Kida frowned, probably unsure by the politeness. No one bothered to be polite to Tatsuya Kida. “Oh, yeah. Uh. Sure.”

“Yes,” was Kirishima’s answer along the bell. The teacher started the class with the most perfect monotone, and Rei, forgetting the initial shock, had blissfully pushed Kirishima out of sight, out of mind, and with it, the memory of the balcony. Some long forgotten things, Rei thought, and pretended to make notes in his book instead of doodles.

 

Kirishima Makio was not a social being, Rei remembered in passing. He didn’t remember much about him. In fact, if he hadn’t appeared in front of him during the first day of school, Rei would have forgotten that there was such a person in his middle school, and surprisingly, in this school as well.

Aside from the first day, he never saw Kirishima outside of class, nor had they spoken in the days that followed. Kirishima seemed to disappear in lunch-time, his desk clean and empty as soon as the bell rang. Girls liked to surround Rei’s desk for an annoying long time, and by the time they moved to what Rei supposed what another target, Kirishima would be nowhere to be seen.

The only time he heard Kirishima speak was during class. The English teacher was apparently fond of the guy, or especially liked to torture him, who knew. The teacher had a creepy smile, Rei thought. One that Rei wouldn’t mind cutting open if the opportunity presented itself.

“Kirishima-kun,” the teacher said. “Please read this passage.”

Rei stared at the passage on the board. Whispers erupted.

“Oh, what is that…”

“First week of school… how cruel…”

“Kirishima-kun,” the teacher said, louder, and drowned the whispers anew.

Rei turned slightly, his eyes resting on Kirishima’s black sleeve. It covered half of his hand.

“Oi,” Rei grumbled to that hand, “just say you don’t know…”

There is no fear in love.”

Rei turned completely. It was no matter, because everyone in the class did. Kirishima stood, his gaze straight to the board, his fringe covering his eyes. His hands were trembling. They weren’t before. Why?

There is no fear in love,” Kirishima said, his English perfectly clear, accent clouding the words, but nevertheless clean. “But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us.

“Where,” the teacher said, because he seemed to have wanted a different reaction. Bully teacher, Rei supplied, sharpening a knife in his mind. “Where have you learnt that?”

But the class got going. The class broke into whispers, and Kirishima sat down in a flourish, his smile unwavering as their gaze met.

“Rei doesn’t need to worry about me,” Kirishima said softly. There didn’t seem to be a time Kirishima ever yelled. “My English isn’t as good as his, but I can manage.”

“What?”

“Sei told me,” Kirishima said. “You two lived in LA for awhile.”

“Your hands,” Rei blurted out, taking advantage of the chaos of the room to hiss back, “they are shaking.”

Kirishima startled. He pulled his hands back to his lap. “I guess I’m nervous.”

Liar. “They weren’t shaking before.”

Kirishima smiled. Even his smile seemed to be shaking, filled with a joy that Rei hadn’t caught on nor understood.

“I’m okay, now,” he said.

Rei blinked, then turned back to the board. Something about that speech felt wrong; they hardly knew each other.

When Rei peered over again, making sure that Kirishima wouldn’t notice, his hands were still on his desk, as though they had never trembled.

 

“Ah…”

Rei wasn’t eavesdropping.

“Would you go out with me?”

Rei was walking to the cafeteria. That girl simply had the guts to confess in the middle of the hall. Rei can see back of Kirishima’s head, and the girl’s flushed face, staring intently at Kirishima, looking only someone in love or constipated would look like.

“Would you?” she pressed. “You said that you are not with anyone…”

“Oh.” Rei listened to Kirishima whisper. “I’m sorry.”

“There’s someone you like?” Rei couldn’t hear him, but by the looks of her, he can guess the answer. “Well then, ” she pressed. ”Who is she?”

Kirishima shook his head; some stray hair on the back of his neck had stood up against the pullover. “It hardly matters,” Kirishima voiced softly, tilting his head to the side. “Do you want to get lunch together?”

Rei was glad she didn’t scream. Her eyes gleamed instead. “Really?”

Kirishima would have smiled, Rei can see it in his mind. A slight tug of things, and joy. So much joy. “Let’s go, then.”

Rei watched them walk away. Feeling a distinct loss of something in the back of his mind, Rei turned to the opposite direction, mounted the stairs to find the brouhaha of the cafeteria. He squinted at the figure waving at him until he realised that it was his girlfriend.

What a weird guy, Rei thought, half-heartedly greeting her with a nod. He didn’t even know what was weird about him.

 

“Don’t get me wrong,” Rei said, “but we’re better off apart. It’s been boring. Surely you understand.”

In the cafeteria, his friends laughed for a good solid five minutes.

“Shut up,” Rei snapped, rubbing his cheek. Ouch.

Kida laughed harder. “Sorry, sorry,” he said, not looking sorry at all. “This one’s feisty, huh. Usually they run away crying.”

“Mah,” Rei said, poking his food. “Good riddance. She has a violent streak, that one.”

“Takes one to know one.”

“Piss off.”

“So,” Kida said very seriously, his lips twitching. “Who’s next? Yui from the other class’s pretty cute, not to mention that she’s into you.”

“They’re all into him,” another quipped.

“Girls have poor taste,” Kida grumbled. “They only care for looks.”

"As if you don't."

"I can't about their body!"

A boy tisked. “Eh, is Kirishima in Rei’s class? Girls in mine either talk about Rei or Kirishima, it’s crazy! You’d think that they are the only guys that exist in this school!”

“Yeah,” Kida whined, banging his juice on the table, spilling all over. “I mean, I guess he’s got the looks, but isn’t he the quiet type?”

“Girls like shy ones— saw him helping everyone that asked him questions for English homework. Is that what they are into? A pretty boy with good grades?”

“Man here doesn't,” Kida jabbed a thumb at Rei. ”I mean, he’s good in physics and English, but that’s because he lived in America when he was a baby. Lucky man.” He scrutinized Rei, a hand on his chin, before concluding, “I guess it’s really the looks, huh.”

Rei shrugged. “Anyway,” he said. “I have to go to work tonight. You all go to karaoke without me.”

Kida whined. “Eh? Really?”

“Yup.”

“It’s the third time this week, man. If you need money that much, we can help, y’know,” another shot up. “My dad’s pretty loaded…”

Rei made a face, elbowed him playfully on the stomach. “Oh, keep your money, rich boy. Unlike you, I got work to do.”

 

It wasn’t an unusual thing to meet those that want to beat you up. It was especially not rare when Rei was on his way back home in the dead of the night, sweat drenching his shirt, his uniform in a bag. It also wasn’t unusual that he wanted to beat up them, too.

“Kashino, running back home again?”

What was unusual was that they were so many.

Rei shrugged off his bag, going into position lazily. “Sorry, don’t know your name. You guys all look the same to me.”

The guy’s eyebrow twitched, his mouth stretching impossibly wide. “You don’t need to know the name of the man who will kill you. It ruins the surprise.”

Oh, Rei thought, feeling the familiar burn of his blood, the twitch of his skin. Oh, he was on.

It wasn’t that hard to fight them, in his defense. But they were about fifty, and Rei was one person. Each of them had a metal rod in hand, and when one of them went straight to his stomach, there was a momentary surprise.  

He was going to kill them or get killed, or so the saying goes. Rei would prefer not to murder people; he doesn't really have a jail wish. 

The rod was on his head, now. The man was still grinning, the smell of tobacco especially apparent in the silent of the night. “Any last words?”

Rei grimaced. “Thar’s pretty cliché.”

“I told you that you will pay for it, Kashino.”

That was also pretty cliché. Rei snorted. “My skull’s pretty hard,” he said, and swung a fist towards him. The man staggered backwards, and struggled to get into stance. “You, on the other hand,” Rei said, “have a baby’s head.”

The man glowered. Rei shared the same grin. “If you manage to hit me,” Rei said, “I’ll cut your face and tear off your head.”

And, boringly enough, they tried to hit him.

The clinking of rods were worrying, though. He managed to beat up twenty, but how many were they left? He wiped sweat off his brows, and laughed.

“C’mon, c’mon,” Rei said, feeling the burn in his blood seeping in his bones, almost manic. “C’mon, are you trash? Even garbage bags hit better.”

“You won’t laughing for long, Kashino…”

Okay, right. The rods— those did hurt a bit.

“No one will be here to save you, Kashino! You will pay for last time!”

“Last time? Sorry, I told you I don't remember.”

Rei swallowed the blood round his lips and crackled as he watched the man fume. Next thing he knew, Rei thought darkly, someone was going to jump in and save him.

“Rei?”

Just kidding, who is going to-

“Rei, is that you?”

Ah.

The world stopped and spinned on just as quickly. The man looked frightened as he snapped his head towards the voice, then sneered. “If you bring a friend, could’ve brought a sturdier one, eh? That one looks like he belongs in a bookshop.”

“Rei?”

“Yeh. That’s him,” the man confirmed, his eyes gleaming in the dark. “C’mere, boy.”

Rei blinked away the blood in his eyes, but he recognized it. Rei knew to whom that voice belonged to.

Rei struck again; crowded with people of all sizes, Rei gritted his teeth and cried out, “Are you stupid? I can handle this on my own! Don’t come here!”

“Your friend is worried,” the man cooed, swinging the rod from hand to hand. “Are you going to save him? Or yourself?”

Rei bit his lips, branding his fist for another round. Troublesome guy, he thought, annoyed. Now he had to mind him as well. Who did Kirishima thought he was?

“Rei,” that voice said. When Rei finished wiping out the last bit of blood from the corner of his mouth, Kirishima Makio stood in front of him. The crowd made a disgusting whistle.

“Didn’t know you were into men, Kashino." The man hit the rod dangerously to the ground. “Although I admit it, he’s pretty enough to be taken as a woman.”

“Rei,” Kirishima said. He said his name as though they were in a classroom, sharing a word about homework, not in company of twenty standing men, waiting to kill them in a moment’s notice. “Do you work up to this late everyday?”

Rei coughed. He hoped there was no blood. “What?”

Kirishima turned his head to him, his eyes smiling as much as his lips. His entire face seemed to brighten when their eyes met. “I didn’t know that about Rei. That he works in a nearby construction site.”

“What are you even talking about—”

“Oi,” the man yelled. “Is this one stupid? Don’t you get the situation, boy? We’re gonna kill you good!”

Kirishima frowned. The spark in him had dimmed, and somehow that was when he seemed to realise there was a gang of people ready to murder him whenever they feel like it. Kirishima went back to meet the man, his voice soft as though he was answering a difficult question in that English class.

Kirishima said, “Sorry?”

There was some chuckle. A boy, not much older than him, stood out by resting his rod on Kishirama’s heart. “Is this guy fucking retarded? Yer gonna to get beat, man. Yer gonna bleed out in the streets with yer chum.”

Kirishima tilted his head, and replied, innocently enough, “By someone like you?”

That rod slammed right into Kirishima’s chest, sending him to the ground.

Rei was busy staring. Kirishima’s body spammed oddly on the ground, coiling pitifully like a snake’s. He ought to do something. He ought to do something. But nobody was moving because laughter had broken out of Kirishima, soft and terrifying. Everybody stared.

On the ground, Kirishima was staring back at them, a smile firm on his face. It's not the same one he gave him when they first met. It's something else.

Rei shivered.

“You’re going to kill me?” Kirishima croaked out, his voice contained, seeping laughter. “People like you can’t kill a thing.” He bit his lips, as though trying to stop himself from laughing. “Trash,” he said. “People like you are better off dead.”

He stood up wobbling. Rei forgot to even lend a hand, and the group had forgotten to beat him down. For a second, at least. In the next, men surged from all over, their expressions wild. But Rei heard it, in that slight gasp of silence in-between, the cold whisper of Kirishima, the colder eyes, the word Trash.

And Rei remembered: years ago, on his way back home, a boy of his age was bleeding out in the streets, a pretty face marred with blood, and a group of men spitting on his face. That boy said the same thing, and looked at Rei the same, too.  

 

“You were there from the beginning, weren’t you?” Rei rubbed his stomach and winced as the nurse gave him an odd smelling medicine. “I don’t think the police would have come so quickly.”

Kirishima sat next to him, blood and clots clung to his clothes. “I had to diverge their attention or Rei was going to get into trouble.”

“Why were you there in the first place? It’s two in the morning.”

Kirishima thanked the nurse for the drink, although he made no motion of drinking it. “I like to walk alone at night,” he said, His hands were trembling again.

“The police…”

“They won’t ask questions,” Kirishima said. “I only called them to intimidate the men. They will leave soon. I said that they were disturbing the neighborhood, and all is fine now.”

“We can be brought in for questioning.”

“No,” Kirishima said, “we won’t.”

Rei ducked his head, unwilling to think about what kind of connection Kirishima had, or how much money. “You shouldn’t have called an ambulance; I could’ve managed it on my own.

“I will pay for it.”

When Rei looked up, it was Kirishima that averted his gaze. “I’m sorry,” Kirishima said quickly. “I don't want to make you uncomfortable.”

It was the motion of looking down that made Rei notice Kirishima’s ears, usually hidden by his hair; that by the glow of the ambulance car he can see the colour. It spread further, from ears to neck, the longer that Rei was staring, so Rei closed his eyes, and swallowed whatever content that was in his cup.

“It’s disgusting,” Rei said. Kirishima smiled politely, his cup still full. “Aren’t you going to drink it?”

“No,” Kirishima said, looking a little surprised that he noticed. “I’m not that hurt, actually.”

“Were you."

Kirishima kept his smile. "I have a high tolerance for pain.”

“Makio,” Rei began, and almost backtracked when Kirishima visibly brightened, his countenance twisting in a joy that shocked him every time it happened. “Uh,” he said, and remembered the standard procedure. “Thanks for saving me, I guess.”

Kirishima blinked, and for the first time he had met him, seemed confused. “I didn’t save you,” Kirishima said. “I just stopped you from killing the man.”

“How is that not saving me?”

“Because you would have gotten into trouble,” Kirishima said simply, as though it was self-evident. “That is not a good bargain.”

Rei scrutinized his face. The colour returned. “When I saved you from those bullies,” Rei said carefully, “a year ago…”

“Two years, Rei,” Kirishima corrected softly.

Rei shrugged; it hardly mattered. “I wasn’t saving you out of the good will of my heart, Makio. I was mad at—”

“Sei,” Kirishima said.

“Don’t,” Rei snapped back, “say his name.”

“Sorry.”

His heart hammered anew. “I’m asking you not to confuse me for some hero, Makio. You don’t need to risk your life for me.”

Kirishima just smiled. He settled the cup on the back of the ambulance car, and scratched the back of his head. “I know exactly who you are, Rei,” Kirishima said.

Rei was annoyed. “What is that supposed to mean?”

Kirishima shook his head. He set the cup aside, gave him a tilt of his head. “Shall we go?”

The nurse asked them to step in the car, and together they rode to the hospital without another word.

 

Rei didn’t like the hospital. Kirishima didn’t seem to particularly like anything. The gaze he gave to the place was serene, peaceful, like any other place.

Rei wondered if Kirishima was at Sei’s side when he was sent to the hospital, but then when he returned to the thought— slowly walked on the white tiles and smelled the antiseptic—he had found it empty and meaningless.

“I don’t have much injury on me,” Kirishima said to the nurse on their way in. “Please do check Rei’s wounds.”

The nurse nodded, moving his balled pen on the pad sheet. “Are you two friends? How did you find him this way?”

“We are classmates,” Kirishima said. “I was simply passing by. It was an unfortunate situation that I found him in.”

“I can see that,” the nurse replied neutrally, then eyed Kirishima. “Just for caution, I will still have to do a scan with you.”

“Oh,” Kirishima said, “there’s really no need…”

“Go ahead,” Rei said, gesturing another nurse waiting for him with an impassive stare. “I will meet you here, alright?”

It was starting to be annoying, Rei thought, the almost awed look that Kirishima give him every time he spoke to him. “Yes,” Kirishima said, pressing his hands on his jacket in a compulsive, nervous gesture. “Yes, I will meet you here, Rei.”

Rei nodded, dazedly walked on, and had forgotten all about why he hated the hospital for more reasons than that it smelled horrible.

 

“You cannot go to school tomorrow,” was the doctor’s verdict. “There is no punctured organs, but I find it surprising that you have no problem walking. Your leg is fractured.”

Rei shrugged. “Alright,” he said, and got handed over the crutches. “Am I free to go, doc?”

“We will need to give you a cast.”

“And after that?”

The doctor sighed, and handed him a paper with noted prescription. “Normally I would recommend you to stay the night, but, yes, if you so insist, then I wouldn’t press.”

“Thanks,” Rei grumbled, and with some difficulty, stood up with an embarrassing slow pace.

The doctor stopped him by the door. “Have I seen you somewhere? I remember your brother…”

Thanks,” Rei insisted, and pushed the door open.

Kirishima was waiting for him outside, his hands on his lap, looking so serene that Rei had the impression that all that happened tonight was a dream. “Rei,” Kirishima said, looking up with the same smile. “Ready to go?”

“Ah,” Rei said, gesturing his crutches. “Yeah, but I might be slow. You can go ahead, if you want.”

“I called a taxi,” Kirishima said. “Judging by the way you walked, it was certain that your left leg was fractured in some way. I’m glad there is no need for stitches.”

Rei laughed. “You are sure observant.”

Kirishima ducked his head to the entrance. “Let’s go.”

Rei waved a hand. “Go ahead, I’ll follow you. Wait for me at the parking lot, would you? I need some time to get used to this thing.” He meant that he wanted to be alone, but couldn’t quite bring himself to. Kirishima seemed to get it.

“Of course, Rei."

Rei found it frighteningly easy to order Kirishima around. Just as he was trying to wobble his way out in peace, a nurse touched his arm.

“Sorry,” the nurse blurted out. He had a dossier in his hand, frowning. “You are Kirishima Makio’s friend, are you?”

Classmates, Kirishima had said. Bitter for god knew why, Rei refused to answer.

The nurse sighed. He handed him the dossier. “I know it’s very unprofessional of me to say this,” he began, looking around quickly before returning to him, “but Kirishima-kun absolutely needs to take some time off. A week at least, I’d say. Give him this, would you? I thought if a friend insisted upon it he will take it. These are the prescribed medications, and some recommended ones. I don’t understand how he can even survive without painkillers…”

The nurse flushed, and took a step back. “Sorry, I’m new at this, that was unprofessional of me. I really think he needs take his medications, though, so if you would convince him—”

“Wait,” Rei said. “Did he got hurt that bad? He was fine the entire trip we got here!”

The nurse frowned, then flushed again. “Ah,” he said. “He’s got some pretty nasty wounds. I don’t think they are from today, but I’d think they aren’t very old.” He ducked his head. “I really ought to keep my mouth shut, sorry, confidentiality and all. But if you are his friend, do give the list to him, would you? Normally I wouldn’t do this—”

“Alright, alright,” Rei said. “I’ll have to go, now, if you don’t mind.”

The man looked embarrassed enough for Rei to want to punch him. “Yes, of course. Have a good night, Kashino-kun.”

 

“So,” Rei said, after they got out of the taxi, because he had some manners left. "What's wrong with you?”

Kirishima, who hadn’t looked at him once when they got inside the car, had eyes that sought his immediately when called. A puppy, Rei thought, and was disgusted by his own drugged-induced mind. Too many painkillers, surely. He indulged in the illusion that Kirishima almost looked afraid.  

“What do you mean by that?”

Rei pushed the brown envelope to Kirishima rudely. “That nurse was worried that you might die,” Rei said.

Kirishima hadn’t even glanced at it, but he put it in his bag quite obediently. “He was exaggerating,” Kirishima said. “I don’t feel pain at all.”

Rei laughed at the blank expression Kirishima’s was wearing. “You talk as though you’re a inhuman, Makio, cut the crap. You saved me today, so I might as well make sure that you take your meds properly.”

A tinge of annoyance crossed Kirishima, but disappeared just as quickly. “I didn’t save Rei’s life,” he repeated, and when he looked at Rei, it was somehow a little bit frightening in its intensity, “but I am happy that he cares.”

Rei spluttered, moving one of his crutches like a cane. “Oi, oi, don’t be disgusting.”

Kirishima resumed to his smiling. “Sorry.”

“We’re friends now, hard not to be when we almost died,” Rei said, looking at the lights flickering down his apartment, the box below howling in what seemed like a karaoke night. “So stop being so polite.”

“Sorry.”

“I told you to stop.”

Kirishima chuckled, and shoved his hands in jacket. The pockets shook. “I will see you tomorrow, Rei?”

It wasn’t meant to be a question, but it sounded like it. “Doc said I should rest at home.”

“Oh,” Kirishima said. “That’s too bad.”

Rei shrugged the best way he can with those damn crutches. “You should take some time off, too, you know. How did you get so injured in the first place? The nurse told me that you got them not long ago. You don’t look like someone that gets into fights.”

“What do I look like?”

“Ma,” Rei said, “I don’t know. The artsy type?”

Kirishima nodded. “Can I bring you lunch tomorrow?”

Rei almost fell down. He held his crutches tight. “What?”

“You won’t be able to walk down to the convenience store like that,” Kirishima said. “I don’t live far from here. I can bring you lunch, if Rei is okay with it.”

“I have food at home.”

Kirishima tilted his head, blinking. “Really?”

They stared at each other. Rei deflated. “No, you’re right,” he said. “I have some eggs, some expired milk, and that’s it. If you want to bring me food, it would help a lot.”

Kirishima’s smile was starting to feel comforting, the warmth behind no longer startling. “It’s really no problem, Rei. I’ll be happy to do it.”

“Yeah,” Rei said, “uh. You’re going to take your meds, right?”

“If you want me to,” Kirishima said.

They stood there in the cold for ten minutes already. Maybe that was why Rei suddenly felt like he had enough. “You do whatever you want, Makio. I’m not here to baby you.”

Kirishima shrunk in his jacket, his hands suddenly very still. “Of course, Rei,” he said. He seemed to be ready to say “sorry” again before changing his mind. “I will see you tomorrow, then.”

“Yes,” Rei said, because he was stubborn and desperately wanted to sleep. “See you.”

By the time Rei had managed to get in his room to look over the window, Kirishima had already disappeared from view, as though he had never been there in the first place.

 

Rei woke up to the constant ringing of his phone. He groaned, moving his hand to the nightstand.

“Shit,” he cursed when the phone fell on the ground. “What?” he grumbled to the phone after fishing it out of the floor. “It’s—”

“Rei!” was the deafening answer. “Where are you, man? Did you got hit in the head after work? We were supposed to study chemistry together, do you remember?”

“Kida,” Rei said, his stomach coiling in both annoyance and hunger. “I did got hurt in the head. Well, in the legs, to be exact.”

“What, you got laid?”

“Well,” Rei said. “I got mugged.”

“And you didn’t murder them on the spot?”

“They were about fifty.”

“… no one died?”

“Almost,” Rei said.

There seemed to be more than one voice muttering over Kida’s phone. Kida’s voice felt far, a string of mumbles, “yes, yes, I’m sure he’s alright, Kashino-kun is going to be fine” before going back to him in a small voice, “You better be fine, or the girls are going to slaughter me, Rei. Are you coming tomorrow?”

“Yeah,” Rei said, sitting up. “Listen, I will call you back, I’m a bit busy right now.”

“What—”

“Kirishima is knocking on my door,” Rei said.

What?”

Rei hung up, threw the phone to the bed, and managed his best to stand up.

Kirishima had two bento ready for him at the door, a smile on his face. “Hello,” he greeted, bending slightly, tipping his head. “I hope Rei is not allergic to anything.”

Rei waved a hand, and tried to not feel relief when he sat down on the bed. “Don’t mind me,” he said. “I can eat pretty much everything.”

Kirishima nodded, his black pull still hanging on his frame like a somewhat large bag. Kirishima set the two bento on the table. “Can I sit?”

“That’s a stupid question, Makio.”

Kirishima smiled, and settled on the ground. He moved slow. Excruciatingly slow. “You’re right. So you don’t mind me eating here, too?”

Rei rolled his eyes. “I told you to cut it, Makio. You bought two lunch boxes for a reason.”

“Yes,” Kirishima agreed, his tone light. “But I could have very well eat it on my way back to school.” His hands went to his school bag, pulling out two notebooks. “I also want to bring your chemistry notes.” He smiled, not unkindly. “There’s not much inside, though.”

Rei laughed, unashamed. “I don’t really care for that.”

“It’s okay,” Kirisihima said. He pushed the other notebook to the other end of the table, where it was closer to Rei’s bed. “I brought mine, if you don’t mind.”

Rei pulled the note to him, went through a few pages. “You,” he said, eventually. “So you are those students, huh.”

Kirishima waited for Rei to lower himself on the floor before opening his bento. “Not really,” Kirishima said, “but it’s probably best that you think that way.”

Rei set the book aside, separated the wood chopsticks. “What? Are you bad at math?”

Kirishima chewed silently on his food. He made a quiet noise. “Calculus is quite hard,” Kirishima said.

“Really?” Rei poked his food carelessly. “There was rumors that you would be first of our class by the end of the month.”

“Grades mean nothing,” Kirishima said, peering at the notebook. His hands stilling on the table. “Surely Rei understands.”

Rei ate his food. Shrugs. “I’m not much of an academic.”

“Strong people know what makes them strong,” Kirishima said softly, his eyes softer. “Of course you would know.”

Rei narrowed his eyes. “You think highly of me.”

Kirishima shook his head, and didn’t elaborate. “Thank you for the meal,” he said, and stood up. “I have afternoon classes to catch up to. Rei can finish without—”

“Makio.”

Kirishima’s hand stilled on his bag, still on bending slightly. Strange eyes, he thought. Kirishima was a strange guy.

“Yes?”

Troublesome. “We’re in summer.”

Kirishima nodded, frowning a little. Rei sighed. “Your pullover, Makio.”

Kirishima played with the threads that stood out from his sleeves. “What’s wrong with it?”

Rei beckoned him over; he wasn’t in much position to move. Kirishima dropped his bag lightly on the ground, and came closer. He will listen to him, Rei thought, and was surprised by the certainty before that thought, of the intensity of his own mind. He will listen to him.

“I saw it,” Rei said. He had never been careful with people before; he was not going to start now. “When you bend down. You had trouble walking yesterday.”

Kirishima tugged on his sleeves, shifting. But he was smiling, and the admiration in his eyes seemed to spill out like tears. “I like pullovers, though.”

Rei clicked his teeth, annoyed. “Show it to me.”

“What?”

“Strip, Makio.”

Rei almost laughed at Kirishima’s confusion. When he had a metal pole straight at his chest, Kirishima had looked more composed than this. “Listen, I’m not your babysitter, but you got to prove to me that you can actually go to school, could you? Let me see your wounds.”

“Really?” Kirishima said. "Rei wants to see me?"

That was a weird way of phrasing it. Then again, Kirishima was a weird person. “Friends check over each other,” Rei said, shrugging. Usually Kida liked to hear this sort of speech, maybe it will work on Kirishima, too.

“We are friends?”

Of course it did not work. Rei laughed, his hand urging him to hit something. Troublesome. “I don’t know, Makio, you tell me. I don’t think anyone would not be friends after something like last night happened.”

And the confusion transformed into something that Rei couldn’t quite decipher. Kirishima nodded, and pulled his clothes over his head.

“Shit,” Rei said.

His entire body was covered in bruises.

Kirishima was folding his pullover when Rei grabbed his arm.  

“Sit down,” Rei hissed. “Come here, damnit- how do you even stand like this?”

“They are old,” Kirishima said in a low voice. The bed bounce a little when Rei make him sat down.

“How old?”

“Two months.”

“That’s not long.”

“They don’t hurt.”

Rei groaned, anger getting the better of him. He set his hands on Kirishima’s shoulder blades and squeezed. Kirishima gasped and lowered his head.

“Does that hurt?”

Kirishima was pink all over, his hair falling as he shook.

Oh god. “Are you crying?”

When Kirishima looked up, his eyes crinkled. He was smiling; it was a terrible smile. He looked so happy that it terrified him a little. ”Rei,” he whispered. Even his face was pink. “I have class in ten minutes.”

Rei resisted the urge to hit him. There were bruises down his neck, the front, the back. Blue and purple and an ugly, horrible yellow. Rei wasn’t good at taking care of people. “Why don’t you take your meds?”

“You mean the painkillers?”

Rei blinked. “What else?”

“I told Rei that I don’t feel pain.”

“And you think I’d believe that?”

Kirishima was unfolding his pullover, putting his hands under. “They were about to send me to the hospital,” he said simply, as though recounting the story of a stranger, his eyes dull and fleeting. His hands had stopped trembling. When nothing came after that, Rei pressed on, strangely irritated.

“What about it? Even I had to take some time off when…”

Kirishima’s eyes turned sharp, though he refused to meet Rei’s. “When what?”

“What do you mean, when?”

“When did you have to take time off? For what?”

Rei’s limbs ached when he surged forward, suddenly understanding why those bruises were there. No matter who put them on him, Kirishima Makio deserved it. “You know,” he said, barely holding back. “You know why!”

“Why is Rei angry?”

“You—”

Kirishima looked sad when he said, “Sei is dead, Rei.”

Rei hit him. Redder than the skin when Rei stared, redder than the yellowed, purpled stains. Kirishima started to laugh.

Stop it. Stop that!”

Kirishima put on his clothes, a last glance of a disgusting yellow before they got covered up again. “I really do have class, Rei. It’s impolite to be late.”

“He was your friend,” Rei said, barely spitting it out.

The bed creaked when Kirishima stood.  “And Sei was your brother,” Kirishima said. “it doesn’t have to do with death. Dead people are dead. They don’t do much else.”

Rei watched him pick up his bag, swing it to his left shoulder. The shoulder that Rei had pressed so hard on. “Rei should be better than that,” he said. “Rei should not confuse the dead with perfection just because they are dead.”

Rei felt breath lacking. “You are crazy,” he said, caught in-between breaths.

He can’t see Kirishima, now; his eyes started to blur. 

“People usually don’t notice this quickly," he hears him say. 

Rei’s chest hurt. Everywhere hurt. It hurt so much that he was willing to kill someone to ease it. He would have killed Kirishima, he would have killed Sei. He remembered. Sei, standing on the ridge of a rooftop. I wish you’d disappear already. Sei’s girlfriend that Rei kissed. Sei, looking over his shoulder. Goodbye.

When Rei fell on his bed, grasping at nothingness, he heard the thud of an object on the floor. It was the bag, he thought, then died and died and died, over and over again.

 



There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

1 John 4:18


Makio didn’t intended to make Rei remember this quickly. He wanted him to remember slow, so slowly, like a poison in ears, as smooth and deadly as possible. It will resurrect him, Makio thought with a pleasant shudder. The truth will call to Rei, like any messenger to god.

But Rei collapsed on his bed, and Makio felt his heart throb. He wondered if this was normal, for the insane. He wondered if he was supposed to feel anything in the first place.

Makio laid his bag on the ground softly. He wanted it to put it down softly, so soft as not to wake him up from all this remembering, but somewhere in his body screamed, and before he realised what he was doing, he was already grasping Rei’s hand.

“Rei, Rei. Are you alright?”

Rei kept twisting. Makio blinked and blinked and blinked, repeating, “Breathe with me, Rei. Come on, Rei…”

Rei kept twisting, and so Makio kept repeating. It was kind of funny; it was kind of intimate. Makio’s heart beat at the twist of his hand in his, and again wondered if it was normal for someone like him. Of course. Of course it wasn’t. Makio just had a way of deriving from normalcy, even from the opposite side of things.

“Sei,” Rei muttered, his hands moving away from his. Makio’s hands stopped trembling. It was a horrible thing, to be trembling in front of greatness. Sei was useless, so Makio got rid of him. Sei was too ordinary, and Rei too great. Makio had to take matters into his own hands.

“Sei,” Rei said. “Sei, Sei, Sei. I killed Sei. I killed him.”

Rei’s hands dig into Makio’s wounds like a snake bite. His entire body was covered in them, so that hardly mattered where Rei put them. School bullies had a way of never hurting the face, only below the neck, with fear of teachers asking their victims where they got them, and the laughable possibility of one of them will be brave enough to tell. There was nothing more disgusting than the weak pretending to be strong. He wouldn't tell anyway; people will know that what he was. He had said too much to the bullies, I can’t feel pain; cut my face, I dare you, cut it cut it cut it, people like you don’t deserve to live. He had said too much. People will put him away in some asylum and he wouldn’t be able to find Rei. Rei wouldn’t have talked to him; in fact, he shouldn’t, Makio made sure to observe him from a distance.

“Makio…?”

It was nine o’clock, already dark outside. Makio really did have class; Rei calmed down after a few minutes. He didn’t know why he stayed. “Rei,” he said.

Rei looked at him. Maybe that was why, Makio thought, feeling like the carved-up gargoyle of a bright, youthful, wrathful god. Maybe that was why he had to observe from a distance, aside from the fact that if Rei knew who he was, and will never speak to him again.

“Makio,” Rei said, his voice wobbling slightly. He was grasping his sheets, and Makio waited for condemnation. Eviction. “Makio, get me some water.”

Makio blinked. He gestured the water he had changed every few hours, the one on the nightstand. Rei scrunched his nose at the glass, but drank anyway.

“Where are you going?”

Makio stopped by the front door. He looked back. “Do you need anything else?”

Rei checked the time on his phone with a tired face. “It’s nine already. Can’t you order some dinner?”

Makio dropped his bag and nodded. He was checking for near restaurants with a delivery option when Rei suddenly laughed.

“Seriously?” Rei said, looking tired, but somewhat amused. “Are you going to just… do what I say?”

Makio shrugged. Now that Rei knew, it was unnecessary to keep put any semblance of kindness. But he wanted to. He wanted to lie, he supposed, though he didn’t understand why. He never wanted to lie to Rei. He didn’t know what he was doing, sometimes. 

He settled on, “I’m happy to help.”

“Then sit down and order some curry, Makio. Stop standing there looking like an idiot.”

Makio almost dropped the phone.

Rei really laughed, this time. A lot of people laughed around Makio, but it wasn’t usually directed at him. If it was, then it was under a very different situation. “What? Come here.”

Makio frowned. He was a little annoyed, to say the truth. Did Rei lose his memory again? “You want me to stay,” Makio said, careful not to phrase it as a question. If Rei was stupid enough as to forget what had just happened earlier, then might as well play along. He can make Rei remember about Sei next time. He can revive his godhood next time, as long he was allowed to stay.

Rei stretched. Makio suddenly couldn’t look at him. “I want free food,” Rei said.

“Why?”

“Who doesn’t want free food?”

“That’s,” Makio paused. “That’s not what I’m asking.”

Rei grinned when he came over. “You’re a weird guy,” he said. “You skipped school to assist an invalid. You bring me chemistry notes. You literally do whatever I say. It’s not a bad deal.”

Rei missed the part where Makio was a monster. That was a mistake on Makio’s part. He should have been more careful. Makio sighed inwardly in relief, and, gathering whatever social cues he got left in his mind, tried, “Are you feeling better?”

“Not really,” Rei said.

Makio pursed his lips. What do people say after that? “I will,” Makio said. “I will call for some curry.”

Rei nodded. “You do that,” he said. “Wake me up when the food come.”

“Okay,” Makio said, hardly hearing anything beside the loud beatings of his heart. If he could, he would have carved the heart out; it was annoying; he didn’t understand it. Makio remembered himself, and added, “Sleep well, Rei.”

But Rei was already asleep. He will do better next time, Makio thought, and surprised himself for believing in a next time to begin with: he wasn’t usually this childish.

 

Makio understood that medicine didn’t do anything. Dad once tried to shove pills down his throat, and all it did was to make him choke. When he willed himself not to feel pain, he managed it. He managed it so well that his parents believed that he wasn’t insane anymore. That girls in his class started to notice something serene rather than demented. That Kashino Rei, beautiful, strong, violent Rei, allowed him to call him by his first name.

All of those people were boring. But Rei was different. Rei had always been different.

“Rei,” Makio called. He didn’t dare to touch him. “The delivery is here.”

Rei yawned when he got up. For a moment Makio was struck by the humanness of it all, and was only a little disgusted by it. “Thanks, Makio.”

Makio managed to smile through the disgust. “I’m happy to help.”

Rei looked at the already-made plates and didn’t ask why Makio made the mistake of saying the same thing in so short a time. Maybe he didn’t notice, maybe he just woke up. Rei muttered a “Thanks for the food” and dig in without a complaint.

For awhile there were only the sound of silent chewing and the slight movements. It was at night that Makio realised how small this room was, and how dim the light appeared to be.

“Why do you look at me like that?”

Makio startled. He looked down at his food that he hadn’t touched, and was so shameful of his mistake that when he apologized, he actually meant it. “I spaced out,” Makio said. “Does Rei need the notes for chemistry? I can leave mine here. You can give it back at school.”

Rei just stared and chewed. Makio was the first one to go back to his food. “Why are you like this, Makio?”

Makio wanted to break his skin. Rei’s teeth were so pretty, he wanted to cut himself on them. “So you remembered,” he said.

Rei scoffed. “What? About you?”

Did he sound ungrateful? What did he sound like? “Yes,” Kirishima said.

Rei chewed; his expression thoughtful. “I remembered Sei.”

Makio breathed; he shook. A quiet elation took hold of him, a tentative hope began to seize his mind, ensnarled him whole. Makio put his chopsticks down, and waited for deliverance.  

A lucid, calm, beautiful, violent god said, “I remember that I killed him.”

Makio could cry. Rei is back, his heart screamed. He is back! Cruel, cold Mars, ordering deaths from above right into the battlefield. Makio was trembling, he was trembling, he was so happy he could die right here. He had never been happier. To meet Kashino Rei was the greatest event of his life. To see him, to observe, to understand him. He wasn’t alone- he wasn’t alone- he wasn’t alone- there was someone that he understood. There was someone that understood him. There was someone

Makio didn’t know how he got out of Kashino Rei’s house. He didn’t know how he walked past the streets to his room, how he mounted the stairs. He wished he could cry. For the first time he wished to be normal enough to show the world how happy he was— how happy, how the blood in his veins would burst out and kill him; if only he was normal—

Makio sat on his bed, wrapping his arms around his knees, and suddenly, like a switch, pain came back to his body. He had never felt like this. He had never felt real quite like this.

“Rei,” he said. Silence answered him. When Makio called out his name out two years ago, Rei was breaking someone’s arm. He was beautiful. He was beautiful still. Makio was there to see it; he was there to understand this. He wasn’t alone.

It felt like coming home.

 

After that, Makio couldn’t quite believe it.

“What the hell is that look?” Rei said.

Makio held his bag tighter. His house wasn’t far from school’s, but it was pretty far from Rei’s. “Rei didn’t need to do that,” he said. It was part of the trick, to be kind, to be considerate and gentle and malleable to bend however people liked. Makio couldn’t quite understand it neither way, why he was speaking. He should have been grateful that Rei came to meet him to go school together. But it was odd, it was out-of-character (beautiful, cruel, violent Rei), and before Makio even realised it, he pursed his lips and complained, “He could have told me. I could have called a car.”

Makio broke out in cold sweat when he heard himself. Mistake. Rei didn’t have time for people that were weaker than him; let alone for those that complained, those that spoke uselessly. It was why he left him alone in that park after he fought off the men that were trying to break his arms and Rei broke theirs instead. A silent spectator was what he was. He was grateful; that was enough. Rei was cruel. Rei was beautiful. Rei was—

“Stop bragging about your money, Makio.”

Makio nodded, and snapped his head back to Rei, who was grinning at him. “Sorry,” Makio said. He supposed he was glad, whatever it was that he was feeling.

Maybe Rei was stupider than he thought, Makio mused, ticking his teeth in what he believed was annoyance.

 

People always liked Rei. Those who didn’t simply lacked taste; here was someone above all, someone beautiful and violent in just the right ways. That was why Makio wasn’t surprised by the rumors. Becoming friends with Kashino Rei was normal. Kashino Rei befriending him wasn’t. The third time Makio refused to eat with Rei and his friends seemed to be one time too much, and rumors spread in high school like a wildfire.

Tatsuya groaned when he dragged him to their table, and snapped his head at Rei. “I didn’t know you were into both, Rei, but I guess it’s fine. Can I take Yui, then?”

Rei was in the middle of eating. Makio frowned, annoyed that Tatsuya was disrupting Rei’s lunch. “Sorry for not accepting the invitation,” Makio explained, because he had a role to play, “it will be odd for me to sit with Rei.”

Rei, who looked fine a second ago, seemed angry. Makio turned in his head the things he said and found nothing wrong; he was kind, he wasn’t taking advantage of anyone. “Odd?” Rei asked.

Makio’s entire body ached when Rei stared. The pain was refreshing. So was the fact that no one had tried to break his fingers ever since he came to this school. Makio remembered that Rei was asking him a question. “Rei don’t care about rumors,” he said, and the awe wasn’t faked. “But there’s so social advantage to be gained from being associated with someone like me.”

Tatsuya grumbled, “You’re popular with girls…” Rei slapped his fingers with the ends of his chopsticks.

Makio sneered inwardly. Tatsuya Kida was the sidekick. He was needed in Rei’s narrative. Sei was dead because he was useless. Girls were embellishments. Makio was there to catalogue; he was there to observe. He should have never talked to Rei anymore than it was necessary. “I’m not really of use,” Makio said truthfully. “Rei has plenty of friends. I don’t see what I differed from them.”

Makio differed. He was different. Of course he knew that. Makio wanted to be with Rei forever. He wanted to look after him. He needed him— Rei didn’t. Rei didn’t need anyone, let alone him.  

Rei looked furious.

“Rei?”

Tatsuya waved a hand to Rei, before he was seized by the wrist and yelling in pain. “Ow, ow.” Tatsuya jumped up. “Okay, I will leave you two alone, jeez… I wonder why the rumors started, now that you two basically go to school together…”

“Kida.”

“Yosh! I’m out!” And with a wave of hand, Tatsuya signed off.

 

Rei explained that he wanted them to be friends. A lot. Makio was happy, he supposed. His hands kept shaking.

“It’s not a big deal or anything,” Rei said. “You were friends with Sei. You’re alone, now, but it’s not like you have always been alone.”

No. He always had Rei. Friends or not, there had always been Rei. “I’m glad we’re friends,” Makio said, then, and thought about all the reasons Rei might even want this from the start.

Rei rubbed the back of his head. “I’m not pitying you or anything. People like you a lot in this school, you know. You are pretty likable.”

Because Makio played his role too well, Makio had saved him, Makio had brought him breakfast. Makio was dispensable, an easy friend; he said all he had to say and did all he have to do. Makio choose the last explanation, and didn’t dwell on it.

 

And after that. After that, Makio didn’t understand.

They would stay at each other’s house to study. Makio preferred to go to Rei’s because his room was too bland, too impersonal. There was nothing in that house that he treasured aside from the diary, and Rei was to never see it. Rei was lively. Rei was beautiful. Every day Makio spent with Rei was a miracle, and Makio found himself smiling without prompting his mind to do so, and was confused.

All he wanted from the start was a cruel, violent god. Rei should never look at him. His head should tilt up to the sky and laugh down at his victims. But Rei looked. As time went on, he looked at him more and more.

Rei will look at him, at his wounds. They were healing; they didn’t matter. Rei should be violent. He should burn as the world went up in flames. Makio admired violence, those who knew how to use it. Dad shoved pills down his throat because he was afraid; mom cried because she was pathetic. Sei died because everyone told him to, because he was useless. But this Rei was kind. This Rei was kind and Makio didn’t know how to make sense of it.

“Does it still hurt?” Rei whispered, their notebooks scattered on the floor, pencils everywhere. The chemistry textbook lay in front of them, bent and used. “Do they still hurt, Makio?”

What should he say? I don’t feel pain. I don’t understand why are you like this. What do normal people say at that? Rei asked stupid things, sometimes. “No,” Makio said. “No, I don’t think so.”

Rei hummed. “I didn’t mean it, you know,” Rei said. “When I said that you are crazy. I don’t think you are.”

Makio’s shoulders slumped in relief. He didn’t find out. Rei should never find out. “Thank y—”

“What about the people that did think so? What happened to them?”

They were supposed to be studying chemistry. The air was made out air, and Makio forgot all about its components, forgot how to breathe. “What do you mean?”

“Do you believe them?”

“Believe what?”

“You know what, Makio.”

“Rei—"

“I see it in the way you talk to people,” Rei said. “I’m your only friend.”

Makio bit his lips. That was right, Rei would have found out his disguise. Rei didn’t need disguise, but he can see through those who deceive. Rei wasn’t going to be this careless for so long. Rei was to go back. Cruel, violent, beautiful. He was going to throw him out. Rei found out what he was. Rei was going to throw him away.

“I didn’t want to go to the hospital,” Makio said, thinking about grabbing a kitchen knife and kill it. Kill the god; kill the man. If Rei can’t belong to him, then he got no use of him either. “I would lose Rei. I had to know which school he went. He disappeared after Sei’s death.”

“We could have ended up in the same hospital,” Rei said. “I had to take half a year off.”

Makio thought of the asylum his father wanted him in. “I don’t think so.”

Rei simply nodded. Makio had expected him to be cruel. Maybe it was cruelty, to not care. Makio didn’t know anything anymore. “Kida did some research on you, Makio. You have a pretty messed up history, you know.”

“Yes,” Makio said. There was nothing else to say.

“Rich people are easily searchable. It didn't take long.”

Makio began to imagine it, the knife, the blood. If he killed Rei, the world will bore him anew. Alone again; boring, boring, boring.

“Yes,” Makio said.

“Do you want sushi for tonight?”

“Yes,” Makio said, then looked up to a smiling Rei. Makio blinked; his mouth opened, and closed. Opened again. He managed, “Sushi?”

Rei burst out laughing. “You should have seen your face,” Rei said, both hands against his stomach. “You look like you were about to cry!”

“I—”

“What are you afraid of?”

“I,” Makio said. Maybe Rei was really stupid, after all. How did he mistake murder intent to crying?

“So you were obsessed with me since middle school to the point of refusing treatment and followed me here to kidnap me and make me yours?”

Makio was taken aback. “No. I did not intent to do anything to Rei. I think he is good the way he is. As long as he stays this way, I won’t do anything.”

“What way?”

Makio balled his hands into fists. Rei pressed on. “You were following me, that night. You saved my life.”

“I didn’t,” Makio bit out. “Rei doesn’t need anyone to save him.”

Rei laughed harder. It would sound lovely if Makio weren’t the one being laughed at. “Do you like me, Makio?” Rei pushed the textbook aside, his teeth flashing. So, so pretty. “Do you just like me?”

His palms were bleeding, his fingers digging into half-crescents into his palm. Makio was angry. So Rei didn’t understand. No one understood. If Kashino Rei can’t understand, then no one will. But Rei touched him. Rei saved him; Rei looked at him.

Rei was touching his face.

“Tell me,” Rei said, and Makio wanted him to gnash away his cheek, the skin from the bones. He had no use of this heart, might as well bleed out in this room before Rei disappointed him further. “Tell me,” Rei said, and his voice turned harsh once more. Makio almost smiled. That was what he was used to. That was who Rei was.

“Why you were friends with Sei?”

“To see you.”

“Why are you in this school?”

“Rei is here.”

“Why won’t you look at me, then?”

“Rei doesn’t need to look at me,” Makio said, shaking away Rei’s hands on his face. “I need to look at him.”

Makio heard him laugh. “You’re weird.”

Makio was getting tired of this. “I need Rei,” he said. “When I don’t need Rei anymore, I will kill him,” Makio said, and finally, finally, Rei distanced himself away from him. “I was thinking about it, earlier. When you were going to throw me out.”

“That sounds slightly mad,” Rei just said, not unlike madness himself. “But I’m not going to ‘throw you out’, whatever the hell that means.”

Makio had enough. He couldn’t do this anymore. What did Rei want from him? All he wanted was look at him. All Makio wanted to observe him from afar— to meet him was the greatest event of his life. Kashino Rei was a troubled, problematic man with a penchant for motorcycle and battleground. Kashino Rei was the god of war, Mars unravelling the world with his wrath. Makio didn’t want to leave him; Makio couldn’t leave him, he couldn’t leave him; attached to god was the gargoyle, was the grotesque. He needed to stay with him, Makio thought, and with a missed beat of his heart, wondered if Rei needed him, too.

“Don’t throw me out,” Makio said. “Don’t throw me out, please.”

Rei threw his head back, his eyes to the ceiling. “I said I won’t,” Rei said. “So you better stay.”

Makio pulled the threads of his pullover. Rei was stupid sometimes, but that was alright. Makio can tolerate that, as long as Rei stayed like this, as long as Rei looked at him, as long he understood. He will stay. Of course he will.