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One of his least favourite things to do is the school sweep.

It's not even his turn, strictly speaking: Eichi should be doing it, but despite the fact that Keito knows Eichi's far more capable than he gives his childhood acquaintance credit for, he still finds himself offering to do things for Eichi more often than not.

He shouldn't, but he sees the soft smile Eichi gives him every time he does and he hates that he's so weak to it.

Well, after over a decade, it's probably not going to change, so he'll just have to live with his own feelings of disappointment every time it happens.

He peers into the last room on his route - the room he always leaves for last, if he's being honest - and his eyes fall on the closed coffin located there.

The days are getting shorter as autumn marches on, the sun starting to set earlier now, and he'd half-hoped it would be low enough by the time he made it here that the sole potential occupant of the room would already be awake and gone.

That's not that case, it seems, and now he has to actually check the coffin since knowingly leaving somebody inside the school after-hours would mean he wasn't doing his job properly.

And he always does his job properly.

There's no guarantee he's even in there, he tells himself.

He could have gone home after practice, or somebody could have woken up him already and gotten him out of there, but even as Keito tries to assure himself of this he knows it's a lie.

He can feel it, somehow, the dark presence that fills part of the room with shadows he knows aren't caused by the sinking sun.

It's foolish to be afraid, since he's fairly sure Rei won't hurt him, but...

But he can't be completely sure, and that makes him hesitate.

"Stop being a coward," he says it out loud, the sound of his voice echoing harshly around the room, and almost as if on cue he sees the coffin lid slide back.

He can leave now. Obviously Rei's awake so he'll leave on his own. There's no reason for him to be here. He can leave.

Or rather, he would leave, if his feet would actually move, but it's as if he's paralyzed and when Rei's blood-coloured eyes fall on him he knows it's too late to run.

"Oh," Rei sounds completely unsurprised, leaning casually over the edge of the coffin. "Hello there, bozu."

Keito bristles, because he's never been quite sure if Rei's making fun of his family or just of him when he calls him that, but he doesn't like it.

"I'd appreciate it if you called me by my name, Sakuma," he replies tersely, earning a shrug and a yawn in return.

"Ah, but you're just a pup, Hasumi-kun," Rei lets out a low chuckle. "Especially compared to me."

And there's the vampire thing again, though lately it seems impossible to have so much as a simple conversation with Rei without it being brought up.

"It's almost nightfall. You need to be off the school grounds," Keito says bluntly, turning around and preparing to leave. "I won't be responsible if you get in trouble."


It's spoken in such a soft tone that Keito almost isn't sure he's heard correctly, but he turns regardless. "Yes?"

"We were friends, once," Rei starts, reaching to brush a few long strands of hair behind one ear. "Can we not speak to each other as such?"

"I'm not entirely sure why you'd want to, considering what I did to you," Keito mutters, and that might be the real reason he's avoiding Rei.

He's not afraid of Rei doing anything to him: he's just ashamed of facing his own failure when it comes to how badly he'd let his one-time friend down.

Because of Eichi, of course, and it's always because of Eichi, just like the reason he's here at all today is because of Eichi, but damn him if he keeps making the same mistakes over and over instead of learning from them.

"You did nothing," Rei smiles kindly at him and Keito feels himself getting angry over how much Rei is obviously not.

Because he should be angry. He should be livid.  He should blame Keito for destroying his youth and leaving him a mere shell of the man he'd been only a year ago: someone who could barely make it through the day without needing to rest when before he was racing all over the world at a moment's notice.

But Rei seems to truly not blame him for it, even though he was the one who'd enabled Eichi...who'd thought his idea was good...who was unable to hold him back when things went too far and was helpless to do anything but watch the eventual, inevitable outcome.

"You can't believe that," he says through gritted teeth, trying to hold his own emotions down. "If it wasn't for me, you wouldn't be..."

"A vampire? Of course I would, I always have been," he scoffs, waving a hand idly. "I've been a lot of different things in my life, so I can adapt."

"You shouldn't have to," Keito replies, his voice cold. "And I didn't do enough to..."

"Because you're weak to Tenshouin-kun," Rei smirks, and Keito honestly hates him in that moment. "He's got you under his spell, as strong as any black magic I've seen. You can't refuse him, and perhaps that does make you weak, but at the same time I still have to admire how loyal you are. I could never have expected you to choose me over him."

"It was never about choosing, Sakuma," Keito sniffs, almost insulted that Rei would look at it that way. "I agreed with Eichi's ultimate goal, but not with how far he went to achieve it. I should have done more to prevent people like you from getting hurt."

"Perhaps your emperor is right," Rei's lips pull back enough to show his fangs. "Perhaps my kindness is a curse, and instead of believing you to be blameless I should be holding an eternal grudge and never wanting to speak to you again. But where would that get me in the end?"

"I'd rather you were angry. At least I could understand that," Keito replies, avoiding Rei's question in favour of getting to what's really bothering him.

"Ah. Do you not think this was planned on my part?" Rei tilts his head to the side, a sly grin on his lips now. "I know you, you realize, so perhaps I figured out that the way to irritate you the most was by not reacting in the way you anticipated me to. Have you thought about it often, Hasumi-kun? Has it plagued you and kept you awake at night, wondering why I'm not angry? What if I'm doing this all on purpose because I know it's what will cause you the most pain and confusion?"

Rei looks directly at him, crimson eyes boring into Keito's own, but he doesn't flinch this time.

"You're not," he says, utterly sure he's right. "You don't have it in you to be that cruel."

"See? We do know each other still," Rei disappears beneath the lip of the coffin and Keito sighs. He should have known Rei would be difficult about even a simple thing like leaving the school on time.

"Come on, Sakuma, I've wasted enough time playing your games..."

He moves closer, letting out a surprised yelp that he'll deny eternally when Rei's hand shoots out of the coffin to clamp around his wrist in a grip much too powerful to belong to any normal human.

Rei's fingers are as cold as the grave and maybe it's the creative side of his mind shining through once more, but he can't help but liken his situation to some sort of horror film where a skeletal hand bursts from the ground to drag its hapless victim down into the depths.

'The depths' in this case happens to be a rather roomy coffin, but Keito figures that the comparison still stands.

"Sakuma, please!" he hisses, trying to sit up when Rei yanks the lid of the coffin closed and he finds himself unable to move it aside.

There's apparently ventilation, judging by the meagre light still seeping inside, but even if he's not in any danger of suffocating the situation is still uncomfortable.

Being near Rei is about as pleasant as lying beside a block of ice would be, given that he's freezing cold and nothing but sharp angles and joints digging into Keito's body since the coffin isn't big enough for two unless they're okay with being really, really close.

And, needless to say, he's not okay with it.

"What's wrong?" Rei's fingers find his face as if he can see perfectly in the darkness, sliding his glasses off. "You trust me, don't you? Old friend?"

"You're being incorrigible," Keito replies, his patience wearing thin. "Give those back."

"You can't see in the dark anyway, so why should I?" Rei sounds so smug that Keito is stating to seriously wonder if the older man is trying to anger him intentionally now. "Relax, bozu," he murmurs, and Keito finds himself listening despite his increasing annoyance. "We never get to talk anymore."

"Yes, and I've explained why I believe you shouldn't want to have any contact with me," he hisses, batting Rei's hands away when one comes to rest on his shoulder.

"You and Tsukinaga-kun are still friends, yes? So why should I be any different?" he asks, prompting Keito to sigh.

"Tsukinaga challenged Eichi on his own without any involvement from me, so I feel no guilt over that," he replies honestly, thinking that even if Leo had decided to distance himself from Keito simply because of how close Keito is to Eichi, he wouldn't have thought less of him for it.

"I see," Rei hardly sounds convinced, his breath coming out in a soft sigh. "Well, I suppose you can't fault me for trying, but if you're truly that insistent on severing ties with me completely, I'm in no position to stop you."

"No, you aren't," Keito decides that this is as good as any an excuse to leave, but for some reason he's not attempting to get out. Rei's hands are on him again but this time Keito doesn't feel any need to remove them, and he can't begin to rationalize why.

Maybe the closeness of the coffin and the lack of fresh air is muddling his brain, since those ventilation slits can't be letting in that much, right?

"See? It's not so bad," Rei's voice is hypnotic in the way it curls around him, the older man deftly aware of how he can use his slinky tones to captivate unwitting prey.

Keito's neither of those, by the way, but he can appreciate how good Sakuma is at this sort of game.

"We're not children anymore," Rei sounds weary now, the words trailing off into a resigned sigh. "Perhaps we wasted our youth."

"If it's wasted or not, there's no way to change it, so there's no use in dwelling on it," Keito brushes Rei's hands off of him again. "And I have a job to do, so I'd appreciate it if you stopped trying to prevent me from that."

"Of course. Forgive me," Rei doesn't sound sorry at all.

"Give me my glasses back," Keito repeats, although instead of complying Rei's hands comes up to cup his face. "Sakuma, honestly, I'm not in the mood for this."

"I know," Rei leans closer, close enough that Keito can feel his breath washing over his lips in a soft sigh.

They're not children anymore, he thinks idly. Not like the first time they'd done this, awkward and fumbling and unsure.

No, they're men now, lingering on the cusp of adulthood, and this would mean so much more than it did back then.

Back then, it was fuelled by simple curiosity between friends who hadn't experienced it with anybody else. It was innocent, and meant nothing in the end, but they couldn't make those excuses if this happened now and Keito isn't even sure why Rei would want to.


"Tell me not to," Rei whispers, and Keito means to...he really means to...but he's not and by the time Rei's lips are on his it's too late to go back.

There's still something innocent about it, Keito thinks absently. It's perfectly chaste, and they're hardly touching apart from Rei's hands holding his face steady, but it still means something.

It has to mean something.

Keito just doesn't know what, and that annoys him.

"There. Was that so hard?" Rei sounds amused and Keito bristles, wondering if all of this really is just some sort of elaborate joke.

"You can stop toying with me anytime you want. I don't appreciate being taken for a fool," Keito hisses, and this time the kiss is anything but gentle.

He can feel Rei's too-sharp teeth scraping against his lip, tongue shoving into his mouth when Keito tangles his fingers in Rei's long hair and holds his head in place.

Rei's legs twine with his, as if they're already not close enough, and Keito wonders if this is supposed to give him any sort of enlightenment because at the moment he's just more confused than ever.

"You're a stubborn child," Rei sounds out of breath when they finally part.

"I thought we weren't children?" Keito's rather proud of himself that he can still come up with a retort, but it only causes Rei to chuckle softly.

"You'll always be a child compared to me," he hums, fingers idly stroking Keito's cheek in a way that feels far too intimate.

"I don't understand what you're trying to accomplish," Keito finally admits, hating that he needs to stoop to asking but also wanting to be done with this as quickly as he can.

"Nothing," Rei's hands slide down to his shoulders, resting there casually. "I didn't even expect to see you here today, so how could I have been planning anything?"

He has a point, Keito has to admit, but the implications of that are even more confusing and not something he's entirely ready to consider.

"So you're just playing with me for fun?" Keito frowns, somehow already knowing that's not the reason. Rei likes to tease people, yes, but not like this.

"If you want to think that, you can." The kiss Rei presses to his lips is soft this time. "Maybe it's best if you do."

"Is it?" Keito drapes an arm unthinkingly over Rei's waist, relaxing against the surprisingly plush interior of the coffin. This is closer to the Rei he knows: one who talks incessantly in riddles, maybe, but without any malicious intent. "I still need my glasses back."

"All in good time," Rei chuckles. "You seem to have calmed down, at least."

"Well, I have a feeling you won't be letting me go until you've gotten what you want from me...whatever that there's no point in trying to fight it," his fingers spread out over Rei's lower back, the touch no longer casual, and Rei lets out a low, pleased hum from somewhere deep in his throat.

"I don't want anything from you. Haven't you figured that out yet?" Rei sounds just amused enough that Keito thinks he's probably making fun of him, but there's something else in his voice that tells Keito he's being serious.

"I guess I've convinced myself that you must, after everything," he admits, closing his eyes. It feels safe to let his guard down now, a familiar comfort that he hasn't felt in far too long settling between them once again.

"If I want anything, it's for you to stop avoiding me and presuming that I hate you," Rei finally replies. "That's it."

Keito doesn't say anything in response, but he tightens his hold on Rei a little and pulls him closer. There's a shuffling noise and then Keito starts a little when Rei's cold fingers touch his cheeks, sliding his glasses back into place.

"I need to go," he says, more for the principle of it than anything else because, strangely enough, he doesn't necessarily want to leave now.

"I know. I promise I'll depart right away," Rei kisses him one final time before pulling back and shoving the lid of the coffin off.

Keito blinks as he sits up, even though it's almost fully dark now and the room isn't a whole lot brighter than the inside of the coffin, but at least he can sort of see again and the look Rei's giving him is somewhere between melancholy and serene.

"I'll see you tomorrow, Sakuma," he clears his throat, much less assured now that the real world feels like it's intruding.

"You know," Rei rests a hand on his knee, getting his attention. "I'm here most days. If you're ever doing the school sweep again, you're welcome to check in on me."

"I'm scheduled to do it again in two days," he says before he can stop to think why he shouldn't, and Rei smirks enough to show his fangs.

"Good. I'll be waiting," he doesn't seem inclined to move from the coffin, settling himself comfortably again as Keito stands and steps out onto the floor of the practice room.

He straightens his tie, trying to fix his wrinkled school blazer, and doesn't look back again as he leaves the room.

Two days, he thinks absently, touching his fingers to his lips. It almost doesn't feel real now, away from the closeness and darkness of the coffin, but he knows it happened and he knows that Rei, for whatever reason, has basically invited him to come do it again.

Keito finds himself smiling at the thought, looking forward to this part of his student council duty for perhaps the first time ever, and even though he might still not completely understand where Rei's head is at right now...he knows he won't rest until he finds out.

Not that he's dreading the process, of course. Not at all, really.

Eichi won't think anything of it if he keeps volunteering in the blond's place, after all, and from here on out he won't even feel bad about taking on the extra work.

Because this time, he's not doing it for Eichi: he's just doing it for himself.

And that makes all the difference.