April 30th, 2017
Everything had finally come together. Everything was finally at its peak. But when things reach their peak, that means that soon everything will come crashing down.
Takemichi walked out from the back room at the sound of the bell ringing. He was excited by the sight of Kokonoi and Inui, two of some of his most regular customers.
"Koko-kun! Inui-kun! How are you today?" He greeted with a wide smile, dusting off flour from his apron.
"I’m great Takemichi, how about you?” Inui replied first.
“Really good actually! I finalised the last payment on the bakery last week so it’s officially mine,” Takemichi said with great excitement. He’d been working really hard for months and months and finally he was the owner of this dainty little bakery.
Kokonoi and Inui smiled at his face, Takemichi’s smile really could make anyone’s day better.
“That’s amazing, Hanagaki, all your hard work paid off,” Kokonoi praised. He had offered to help Takemichi with the payments because he had plenty of money to spare, but Takemichi only wanted to get the bakery on his own money. He really was a stubborn determined little fucker, but everyone loved that about him.
“I wouldn’t have been able to do it without you two and the others. Since you all come in so often and buy shit it keeps me in business.” Takemichi said sheepishly.
“Well you do make rather delicious treats, so how could we possibly deny them?” Inui's complement brings a slight blush to Takemichi’s pale cheeks. Pale. They were very pale.
“Are you feeling unwell, Hanagaki? You look a little under the weather,” Kokonoi asked, gently pressing his hand against the other’s forehead.
“I’m fine, really!” Hanagaki Takemichi certainly was not fine. “I was up late last night trying out a new recipe.” Hanagaki Takemichi was, however, an excellent liar when times called for it.
“Okay, well make sure to go to bed early tonight, can’t have you sick.”
“Definitely. Ah, before I forget Inui-kun, Draken-kun wants to meet up later,” Takemichi said.
Kokonoi eyed his friend, “Since when are you so close with Draken?”
“Since you ditched me for months because you didn’t want to be friends anymore.”
“Well I’m back now.”
“Guys,” Takemichi interrupted, “can you please not fight in my store?”
“Sorry Hanagaki,” Kokonoi apologised, reaching to ruffle Takemichi’s hair but the raven avoided it.
“I um, haven’t washed it in a couple of days,” he said, offering a convincing smile.
“Oh okay. Well, catch up again?”
“Bye Takemichi,” Inui waved.
He kept his smile until they left before letting out a shaky sigh. God he was so fucking tired.
Takemichi was blown away by the sight in front of him, “Hina...you look incredible. Mitsuya-kun you did an amazing job.”
“Hmm, thank you Takemitchy.” Mitsuya murmured, doing the final touch up on another dress.
“Takemichi-kun do you mean it? Does it actually look good?” Hina asked, doing a little twirl in the dress.
“I do mean it. Emma-chan’s jaw is going to drop when she sees you.”
“I’m sure it’ll be me doing that for her,” Hina said bashfully.
“Alright, Alright, Mitsuya-san has to finish Emma’s dress so let’s give him space,” Naoto said.
“Yuzuha, I’m ready to take the dress off!”
“I’ll be there in a minute Hina-chan!”
Takemichi and Naoto walked out of Mitsuya’s studio and sat out the front.
“Hina and Emma-chan are going to look so ethereal,” Takemichi breathed out.
“Have you told them?” Naoto asked suddenly.
“Well I told Hina she looked good, I haven’t seen Em-”
“I’m not talking about them, Takemichi. You’re friends, family, anyone, about what’s going on?” Naoto stared at him.
“I don’t wanna dim the mood. Hina and Emma-chan’s wedding is in two weeks, everything is supposed to be about them.”
“You said you would tell everyone by the wedding.”
“And I will-”
“Yuzuha and Senju’s wedding, which was three months ago. You said you would tell everyone by their wedding and you didn’t.”
“Again I didn’t-”
“Takemichi!” Naoto snapped and Takemichi flinched.
“You need to tell them. I’m giving you a month, otherwise my sister and I will tell everyone ourselves.”
“Ok, I promise. I still think it’s kinda pointless though.”
“Because I’m not getting better Naoto. Why make my friends sad if they know I’m going to die?” Takemichi asked, smiling. How could he still smile in such a situation? Naoto could never figure that out.
“Don’t say such things! You’re not going to die. And do you think it's better to what? Have me and my sister go around telling everyone you died out of nowhere? You think I want to do that?!” Naoto choked up as his volume increased.
Takemichi patted his back, “I’ll tell them. I promise...just not right now.”
“I won't break my promise Naoto,” he smiled wider before adding, “I promise!”
Takemichi smiled often, he smiled to his customers, to his friends, to strangers on the street, anyone. He wanted the world to think he was okay, he was living a great life. And he was, aside from the fact he was dying. Takemichi had had many long talks about this with Hina, she may not have liked his approach, but she couldn’t deny that he was right.
“Takemichi-kun, I love this! The pastry is so buttery and crumbly and just perfect!” Hina exclaimed as she gobbled down the sweet croissant Takemichi had made.
Takemichi smiled and offered her another, which she happily took, “Thanks.”
“Takemichi-kun you’re gonna make me fall in love with you again,” Hina murmured through the food in her mouth.
“I don’t think Emma-chan would like to hear such things from you,” Takemichi teased and Hina turned red.
“You’re a cruel man,” Hina finally said after licking the literal crumbs off the plate.
Takemichi raised an eyebrow and loosened the apron around his waist, “How so?”
“You only made two of these pieces of heaven and thought it would satisfy me,” she replied, crossing her arms.
Takemichi chuckled and shook his head before getting up and walking back into the kitchen.
“You are cruel! You’re leaving me to starve!” Hina whined, tearfully. She buried her face into her arms, having a baker as your best friend was a blessing, but also a curse when he didn’t have enough delicious food for you.
“Hina?” Takemichi called.
“Don’t talk to me Takemichi-kun, you’ve upset me,” she mumbled, not lifting her head.
“Oh well, I guess you don’t want the fresh ones I’ve just pulled out of the ovennnnn~”
Hina’s head snapped up and she was met with a tray of six more croissants, her mouth started watering. She looked up at Takemichi with puppy dog eyes,
“Forgive me Takemichi-kun? You are the best baker in the world, no one compares to you, I’ll give you my life insura-”
“Okay that’s enough, you can have them,” Takemichi cuts her off, giggling.
At this point, Takemichi is used to Hina’s mood changing, because now she looked like a starving animal that hadn’t eaten in weeks as she scoffed down the pastry treats. He waited until she was done (this wasn’t long), before asking her why she had come by at the end of the day. Usually she’d come mid morning on the weekends, arms linked with Emma. And if she came during the week, it’d be on her lunch break since the elementary school she taught at was only a block away.
“I wanted to ask you a favour. I’m not asking because you're a friend and I think you’ll give me a discount
even though that would really help, weddings are expensive, I’m asking because I know you will do it best.”
“And what is that?”
“Will you make the cake for my wedding?” Hina asked.
To say Takemichi was honoured was an understatement, making a wedding cake, especially for the people who cared about, was something he always wanted to do, coming from a baker’s perspective, this was one of the most special things.
His face split into a big smile and he reached over the small table, suddenly pulling her into a hug, “I’d love to Hina! Only the best for you and Emma-chan!”
“Thank you Takemichi-kun. I’m so glad you agreed, tell me when you’re available and Emma and I will come by to talk about designs.”
“I’ll be available anytime for you two.”
“Oh you’re too sweet, no wonder your treats taste amazing.”
The two chuckled at the corny comment but it was cut short when Takemichi’s phone rang.
“Ah sorry, it’s the hospital,” Takemichi murmured before picking up.
Hina grimaced, why did such a nice moment have to be ruined. She liked making Takemichi smile, he smiled all the time but she wanted to see the genuine one, the one that changed others for the better, the one that made others fall in love with him in a heartbeat. She saw that smile less and less over the past few months and it was difficult to watch her best friend (and past lover) slowly lose himself to a horrible disease.
She drowned out Takemichi’s side of the phone conversation, she didn’t want to hear. Was she avoiding the unavoidable? Yes, most definitely. But the more she ignored it, the less real it felt. And that’s what she wanted. For it to not be real.
The conversation wasn’t long, only a few minutes before Takemichi hung up and looked at her apologetically before smiling. She hated that smile. The smile he’d give her after check ups, appointments, phone calls, the smile that would convince people ‘I’m okay. I’m gonna be okay’ but it didn’t work on Hina, it stopped working a while ago, but she didn’t have the heart to tell Takemichi.
Instead she smiled back, “Everything okay?”
“Yeah, they just want me to come in tomorrow.”
“I’ll come with you, and I can call Naot-”
“It’s fine,” he smiled wider, but his eyes are dim and his forehead is creased, “You have your wedding to worry about, not me. And Naoto has a busy job.”
“It’s okay Takemichi-kun, Emma is going shopping with Senju and Yuzuha anyway. I’m free.”
Takemichi laughed dryly, “I’m sorry for being such a bother. It’s really no biggie.”
“No biggie?! You have brain cancer, Takemichi-kun!” Hina exclaimed, frustrated that her friend is taking it so lightly.
“That’s because I’ve accepted that I’m going to die. So it doesn’t seem that scary.”
Hina’s lips trembled as she tried to stop herself from crying. Takemichi was supposed to be the crybaby, not her. But he was all smiles and laughs ever since he got his diagnosis.
“It is scary! I’m scared, you should be too!”
Takemichi took her hand and gently rubbed his thumb over her palm, “It’s normal to feel scared Hina, because everyone dies, just be happy that the life you lived was long. Everyone dies, so they should be happy in their life, even if it ends before it should. I’m going to die soon, but I want you and Emma-chan to be old and have grey hair and still be together. I want the same for Senju and Yuzuha, for Mikey, Draken, Chifuyu, Baji, Mitsuya, everyone! It’s fine to be scared, but I don’t want you to be scared for me, because I’m not. I have a good life, I have lots of friends and I’m happy now, because now is really all the time I have left.”
Hina shook in her seat as sobs tore through her body, fat ugly tears falling down. It’s not fair! Why was Takemichi such a good person? It wasn’t fair that his end is destined to be sooner than everyone else's. She doesn’t want to be old and grey with Emma, with anyone, if it means that Takemichi had to die while his hair was still black and young, not a speck of grey.
With a gentle sigh he flipped the ‘OPEN’ sign to ‘CLOSE’ and turned off the front lights. He couldn’t really describe the feeling he got when he did that every night. Or was there even a feeling at all? Perhaps it was nothing.
He didn’t live far from the bakery, but since it took several hours to clean up after closing, it was quite late when he’d walk home. He’d like to say he wasn’t scared anymore, but in reality, this is Tokyo, there are many gangs and dangerous people.
He tightened his grip on his keys and continued walking forward. He knew he couldn’t really fight off anyone, not only was he shitty at fighting, but his condition has considerably weakened his body, as much as he doesn’t want to admit it.
It was safe to say that Takemichi nearly shit his pants when someone suddenly wrapped their arms around him, covering his mouth with one of their own. He nearly shrieked but when he glanced down at the hand covering his mouth, the tattoo proclaiming ‘punishment’, he realised who it was. He stilled and jabbed the person in the stomach, he may be weak, but those things hurt like a bitch.
The person pulled away, groaning at the hit. “Hanagakiiiiii~ you wound me.”
Takemichi turned and faced the person with his hands on his hips, “Hanma-kun, you really need to work on how you approach people. You scared the living daylights out of me!”
“Haha ♥. I noticed~” Hanma teased.
“Well, since you’ve put me on nerve, walk me home?”
Oh, an offer Hanma could never refuse, “Of course~” He put his arm over Takemichi’s shoulders and held him by his side as they walked. Takemichi didn’t mind as the nights were growing colder or
perhaps because he was getting thinner.
“So why’d ya jump me? I know you get a thrill off scaring people but I thought we were past that point in our friendship,” Takemichi asked as they neared his apartment.
“We haven’t hung out in a while. It’s been months since we’ve smoked together~”
Hanma and Takemichi had formed an unlikely friendship around a year ago. They knew each other previously from conflicts when they were teenagers but other than that, they hadn’t really spoken before that. Mostly, Takemichi avoided Hanma as much as possible because of Hanma’s friend Kisaki, whom he very much disliked.
But about a year ago, Takemichi was in a really dark place after getting his diagnosis. No one knew of course, not even Hina or Naoto. He had been all smiles for everyone else, but on the inside, he felt this relentless black whole consuming him from the inside out. He thought things such as ‘Well if I’m going to die, I might as well do things to speed up the process’. And that’s where Hanma comes in. Hanma had recently started to visit Takemichi’s bakery (which at the time wasn’t his, he was just an employee). Takemichi knew Hanma smoked so he asked him about it. Asked if Hanma would buy cigarettes for him, he’d give Hanma the money of course. Hanma was intrigued as to why someone like Takemichi would suddenly want to smoke out of the blue but agreed anyway.
And so, Takemichi started smoking. It wasn’t often, usually after difficult visits to the hospital. He didn’t want to do it regularly enough that his doctors would notice. Takemichi doesn’t remember how he ended up spending his smoking time with Hanma, it just sorta happened. They’d talk about things, all things, nothing particular. Takemichi found that he enjoyed talking with Hanma, it was easy. He knew Hanma was curious as to why he wanted to smoke but didn’t bother him with questions, he was grateful for this.
But in fear of Hina and Naoto finding out after they made comments that they could smell cigarettes on him (which he brushed off saying it was a customer he’d often have long chats with, was a smoker), he stopped. There were many times where he had craved it, but was too cowardly to send Hanma a text. He felt bad. Hanma was a friend, a strange one, who was also friends with Kisaki, but a friend, a friend who listened.
Takemichi offered an apologetic closed eye smile to Hanma, “I’m sorry Hanma-kun. I’ve just been really busy with taking ownership of the bakery recently.”
“Nah don’t worry about it ♥. Don’t overwork yourself, you've been eating well?”
“I own a bakery called Hanma-kun, of course I eat a lot!” This was a lie, he’d often lose his appetite and would just offer whatever delicious snack he’d make for himself to a customer or friend.
“Mhm. Well, we’re here. Text me Hanagaki, I’m always free.”
“I will, I’m glad I ran into you tonight, even if you nearly gave me a heart attack.”
Once Takemichi is in his apartment and flicking the lights on, he’s once again filled with that feeling he can’t describe.