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When Nagisa didn’t show up for class that day, Karma at first didn’t know how to feel. Nagisa rarely missed class—all the times Karma skipped, Nagisa was usually there to tell him what he missed, whether he even asked or not. So, for Karma to actually come to class on one of the only days when Nagisa wasn’t there... He could say he even felt a little betrayed by it.

Not like it can be helped... He must just be sick, or something. Not bothering to pay attention to the lesson, Karma texted Nagisa just to check, but received no reply. He even asked Kayano if she knew why Nagisa was absent, but she apologetically smiled and told him she didn’t have a clue. Hours passed, and he grew more and more agitated as the lessons went on—not that he was worried or anything. It was just a pain to have that octopus of a teacher constantly yelling at him to pay attention when he couldn’t care less.

That’s why, when lunchtime rolled around, he promptly left his seat and grabbed his schoolbag to leave. Class was extremely boring without Nagisa there, he’d realized, and it only seemed like a waste of time.

“When the octopus gets back, tell him I had better things to do than sit around here,” he said as he made his way to the door.

Some of the class looked up to see him leave, Maehara giving an amused grin. “Heh—who comes to class only to act bored the entire time and then leave halfway through?”

Isogai, on the other hand, simply smiled in exasperation—no use fighting it. “Well, we’ll see you later, Karma-kun.”

Karma raised his hand in acknowledgement without looking back and left quickly—truthfully, he had no idea what to do for the rest of the day, but anything would be better than wasting away in class. He walked down the path with his eyes pointed forward; naturally, there weren’t many people around in the area between his house and the school, so the only sounds he could hear were of his own footsteps and chirping birds. The silence was almost maddening.

He subconsciously headed home—once realizing where his feet were taking him, he figured there wouldn’t be anything else fun to do outside anyway, with the weather just starting to get colder. Approaching his house, he stopped in his tracks when he saw a familiar form slumped against the wall just outside his front door.

“...Nagisa-kun?” he mumbled confusedly, quickly running to the sitting boy once his mind fully registered the sight. Nagisa, looking down with his arms around his knees, tilted his head up slightly once he heard the footsteps draw closer. Karma noticed his hair was down, and a pang of alarm shot through him.

Nagisa said nothing, and it was silent as Karma kneeled down to see him. His face and the skin around his eyes was red, from what he could see beneath the boy’s hair—there was no doubt in Karma’s mind he’d been crying. His mind automatically turning into a protective mode, he held his friend’s arms to urge him to stand up.

“How long have you been waiting out here?” He tried to keep the anger out of his voice—anger at what could’ve caused this—but Nagisa still looked away apprehensively.

“Since morning...” His voice was cracked, betraying how much he’d been crying, and Karma’s eyes darkened at the vague response.

“Come inside.”

As he’d assumed, neither of his parents were home, and likely wouldn’t be home for a long while. Maybe not even for the rest of the day. Either way, it didn’t matter. The house was completely silent as Karma dropped his bag on the kitchen table, steering Nagisa by his shoulders to go up the stairs. However, the morose boy stopped.

“...Um, what about school? You should be there, right? Don’t skip in the middle of class, Karma...”

“When have I ever listened to that?” His reply held a flicker of amusement, but Nagisa’s reprimand seemed to lack the spirit it usually had, so his own response sounded stifled as well. He cleared his throat, continuing to push Nagisa up the stairs. “Do you want to go to my room?”

He already knew the answer, but his nerves quieted anyway when he saw the slight nod.

Karma’s room was messy as ever, but both boys were used to it at this point and didn’t mind. Instinctively, Nagisa sat on the bed, and Karma joined him—it was then that he fully noticed Nagisa’s attire. All the boy wore was shorts and a plain t-shirt, which wouldn’t have seemed strange if it weren’t for the fact that it was getting colder and colder outside. If he’d been waiting by the door all this time... Karma wrapped his hand around his shoulders and drew his closer; he was cold. Nagisa relaxed against his form.

“Your mom, right?” He didn’t try to hold back the spite in his voice this time, and Nagisa nodded.

As they’d gotten to become closer and closer friends, Karma couldn’t turn a blind eye to how Nagisa’s mother acted. During the past year, Nagisa had finally confided in him about it, and since then had come to him whenever his mother went through a particularly horrible episode... By now, it’d happened enough that Karma knew how to make his friend feel better, but the anger and resentment he felt towards Nagisa’s mom for treating her son this way still hadn’t lessened in the slightest.

Especially now—Nagisa had never skipped school or waited at his house for so long, until now. His mother must’ve gone too far this time, and it made Karma’s blood boil.

“...Are you hurt anywhere?” The seething question almost made Nagisa flinch as the reality of the situation pierced into his mind, but he still managed to slowly rest his upturned arm on Karma’s lap.

“There, she...” Karma’s vision almost turned red when he saw the angry bruises. “She just grabbed me, and...” His voice choked, and Karma held the hand of his injured arm tightly.

“...Are you hurt anywhere else?”

“No. She grabbed my hair, but... It doesn’t hurt anymore...” Nagisa’s face was in the crook of his neck—he couldn’t look into his friend’s eyes, not right now. Karma’s thumb rubbed the side of hand, and he felt himself relax.

“Why aren’t you wearing shoes?”

He didn’t exactly want to recall what’d led to this point, but Nagisa knew it would harm his friend more to not tell him and let him worry himself to death. “...I didn’t put any on—I just left out my window... This morning... It happened last n-night, but I was afraid she would still be... It would happen again this morning, or that I would have to go to school in a d-dress, so... I left, and ran... here...”

Something inside Karma was pained at the thought of Nagisa running all the way to his house in the early morning, with no shoes, probably crying... He closed his eyes to will it away, whatever it was. “Do you need anything in particular?”

“...Um, no...”

“...Can we lay down, then? I’m pretty tired.”

Nagisa knew his friend was lying about being tired—he probably wanted to run to his house and punch his mother in the face at this very moment—but nodded against his shoulder anyway. Karma slowly lowered them down, and Nagisa moved so he still had his head nestled into his neck with Karma’s arm around him. He felt a contented warmth spreading through his body at how close they were pressed against each other, and he knew it wasn’t normal to feel that way for a friend, but he didn’t care. Karma didn’t seem to care either, anyway.

Their intertwined hands rested on Karma’s chest—the way he still held him, with his other hand reaching up to stroke his hair, was already making his anxiety fade away. As he’d been waiting there, outside his friend’s house, he’d felt completely hopeless, thinking that his friend maybe wouldn’t even come back to his house at all that day, and he’d have to go back home to his mother. Then, he’d have to come to school the next day as if nothing happened, feigning that he’d been sick—or worse, he’d have to come to school the next day in a dress his mother would force him to wear when he returned home.

It wasn’t as if he had anything against girls’ clothes in the first place—that wasn’t it at all. It was his mother, controlling him, that was the issue—that was what made his skin crawl with trepidation. As the years went on, he hoped it would get better, but it only seemed to be getting worse.

The only thing that kept him from losing it at this point was his class, Koro-sensei... and Karma. He still remembered Karma’s reaction when he first came to him for help—he’d texted him, asking for them to meet at the park. When Karma arrived, Nagisa had already been crying. As he’d been held by his friend, he still remembered what he’d said.

“Parents who live through their kids vicariously... They’re the worst. I hate your mom, Nagisa.”

Nagisa had no doubt in his mind that, given the perfect opportunity, Karma wouldn’t hesitate to kill his mother. His friend was capricious in that way; even so, he’d still had Karma over once in a while, knowing he could be close to his mother. Karma and his mother had even talked on a few occasions, and they didn’t seem to like each other. Maybe his mother could sense the killing intent in Karma’s eyes whenever he looked at her...

Why had he let Karma get in close proximity to his mother, so many times? At first he was even confused with himself for allowing it, but then he realized... He believed Karma would listen to him, no matter what. He was the only one who could control the volatile middle-schooler; even everyone in their class knew that.

Nagisa had never been able to control much in his life before, so it was enticing to finally have a friend like Karma. So much so, he couldn’t help but test the waters every once in a while.

“...Are you mad?” Nagisa’s voice was small and hesitant, his mouth still pressed against the nape of his friend’s neck. Karma’s eyes tilted towards him, and his hand stilled against Nagisa’s shoulders.

“What do you think...? Of course I am. I’m so fucking angry right now, I could probably kill Koro-sensei just by staring at him...” The fury in his voice was intensive, but there was also a careless tint to his words that made Nagisa smile amusedly.

“...Why do you ask?” As he spoke, Karma turned so he was on his side facing Nagisa, now with both of his arms around him. Nagisa’s face reddened—first his face was pressed against his friend’s neck, and now he was suddenly so close to the other’s face that their lips were centimeters apart. Still, neither pulled away.

“...I just don’t want you to do anything... rash. That’s all.” Nagisa spied the glint in Karma’s eyes after that statement, and reached his own hand up to press against his friend’s chest, planning on pushing him away. However, when it made contact, they stayed unmoving. Nagisa could feel Karma’s heartbeat steady against his hand—it was faster than he’d expected it to be. He was sure his own was quickening, too.

“You know I...” Karma nearly grimaced at what he was about to say—something he wouldn’t say if anyone else were around, that was for sure. “...I wouldn’t do anything you wouldn’t like. You’d just have to say the word, and I’d stop myself.”

He knew what Karma was referring to—killing—but something about the way he said the words made Nagisa feel goosebumps rise on his skin. His hand curled against Karma’s shirt.

“...I know.” It was true, he had already known; he’d just wanted to hear it out loud.

Karma’s lips lifted into a smirk, and he looked especially devious. Without thinking about what he was doing, Nagisa made the leap and closed the gap between them, their lips pressing together. It was so quick that Karma didn’t have time to react—just a spark between them, and then Nagisa had already pulled away, expecting his friend to be surprised at him.

But he wasn’t—Karma smirk turned into a smile, and Nagisa’s face turned red.

“Do you feel better?” It was a whisper, and Nagisa’s eyes welled up in tears.

“Yes, I do... Sorry for... I mean, I’m just a little...” He tried to explain himself, but couldn’t—Karma held him tighter, and was suddenly pressing small kisses on his cheeks and against his eyes to quell his tears.

“You don’t have to try and tell me, I already know... I mean, it’s pretty obvious now, huh?” Karma’s voice heightened with amusement, and Nagisa smiled through his tears, happiness suddenly bursting through him. Nothing his mother could do would take this away from him.

“Y-Yeah... Thank you, Karma. For being there for me, and...” At the genuine words, Karma’s face finally grew pink, betraying his emotions. He pressed his forehead against Nagisa’s, their lips almost touching again.

“...I always will be. After all, you’ve captured me, Nagisa—and you’re the only one that ever will. You’re quite amazing.” It was true; Karma had always thought that his friend was something else, and these unexpected feelings he made him feel were just more fuel to add to that fire, he supposed.

“...D-Don’t say it like that, Karma...” Nagisa buried his head back in Karma’s neck, partially in embarrassment, and Karma laughed softly.

“Sorry, but that’s how it feels to me...”

They stayed in each other’s arms for a while after that, basking in their revelation. After mustering the courage to come back out from Karma’s neck, Nagisa raised his head.

“...Can I stay here a little longer?”

“As long as you want. We can have dinner together, if you want... I can make something.” Karma tried to keep his voice casual, and it would’ve fooled most people, but Nagisa could sense the slight nervousness.

“Yeah, that sounds nice... I can help, too. And maybe, you can tell me what you guys did in class today, so I can catch up...”

At that, Karma snickered. “Nagisa, you know I don’t pay attention to shit in class. I might as well have not gone today.”

Nagisa wanted to scold him as he usually would’ve, but didn’t have enough strength to, and simply smiled exasperatedly. “Well... Why did you leave early, anyway? Usually when you bother coming to school, you at least spend the rest of the day there...”

“It’s too boring when my Nagisa isn’t there, so I left.” Karma grinned wolfishly when he heard Nagisa’s gasp—he’d never said my Nagisa before, but now was a better time than any.

When the boy had nothing else to say to that, Karma chuckled and pecked him on the lips. A blush filled Nagisa’s cheeks, but he stayed silent, a depressed look suddenly appearing in his eyes moments later. Karma gazed at him questioningly.

“...Will you walk me home, after dinner? I don’t want to... go by myself.”

It was quiet before Karma’s hand reached up to grip Nagisa’s again, squeezing it assuredly. “Yeah... Yeah, I’ll be there.”

Nagisa smiled, his eyes closing—someday, he would be able to escape from his mother’s clutches, he was sure of it. But until then, Karma would be with him every step of the way.