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"And, um... when you're nice to me, it makes me remember..."

"Remember what?"

"Um... when you kissed me... and stuff..."

The voices from up ahead were faint, and the last response was even fainter, as Yuki's unmistakable voice dropped in volume due to embarrassment.

The conversation continued, but shock kept it from processing in my brain. "Kissed me?" I couldn't have heard that right.

They would be in full view as soon I rounded the corner of the building: my cousin and Yuki. Yuki promised me he would be right back with the professor, but it was taking a lot longer than expected. And so here I was after a short search, eavesdropping, as they ostensibly discussed a kiss behind the school building. But that couldn't have been right. My cousin would never do something so risky. If anyone else had come to look for Yuki but me....

Well, I couldn't be sure and wouldn't find out just standing there. I took a breath and stepped around the corner.

If I had doubts before, they were certainly put to rest. They sat side by side, turned towards each other and leaning close. Much too close for a teacher and student. And with the way Yuki's face was raised, his eyes half shut, with my cousin leaning down to match, it was obvious there was about to be a repeat performance of a kiss.

I cleared my throat loudly.

The way Yuki jumped away was almost comical although my cousin took it in stride. I was pissed. Here was Professor Sakaki, throwing his career and who knows what else away, kissing not just a student, but BL School's hero, Yuki, out in the open, where anyone might see!

"Am I interrupting?" I managed casually.

Although Yuki stuttered his protest, the professor didn't skip a beat. "Yeah, you're interrupting. What did you come here for?"

Teasing didn't help. It only made Yuki jump to his defense. I'm sure my cousin could see my souring mood behind my acting; he gave in too easily when begged to join the party, or maybe that was just Yuki's influence.

Anyway, once back at the cafeteria, catering would take up all my time. I'd have to watch and make sure Professor Sakaki didn't sneak out before the party was over. He wasn't going to get away without an explanation.

~~~

"Professor Sakaki." I sidled up to him as he said his goodnight to Kasahara. I was lucky, whatever he had been discussing with Kasahara all evening had kept him from escaping early.

He gave me an unreadable glance before turning his back curtly. "Sonoda. I'll walk you to the dorm."

After all, he knew me best. Not even my companions in Durak had noticed a slip in my demeanor, though it had taken everything I had to stifle both my shame at my actions against the school and my disappointment in my cousin. I was tired, so I was glad he at least had made the first move.

Neither of us spoke until we were well away from anyone else going back to the dorm. For some reason, I felt I couldn't look at him and I didn't really know what to say. The professor didn't seem any more inclined to speak than I was. I sighed in annoyance. Why did he have to make everything so hard!

"I didn't just see you. I heard you too."

"I know." The response was flat, neutral, and not unexpected.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw his hand reach into the pocket of his coat, pulling out lighter and cigarettes in one practiced motion. I felt a twinge of remorse. My cousin usually smoked when he was tired or nervous, both of which he'd been in abundance since coming to work at this school. And here I was, adding....

Wait, no. This was his own fault this time!

"What on earth were you thinking!?" I hissed, louder than I'd intended.

"I wasn't." Still that dead tone. I finally turned to look, anger getting the best of me despite noticing a strangely pained look as he took a drag of the cigarette.

"That's it!? That's all you have to say for yourself!?"

My outburst, or maybe the nicotine, finally knocked my cousin out of his composure.

"I don't have to justify myself to you." His tone was calm, but there was a hard edge to his words. That finality was a product of a stubbornness we both had, and for some reason, this time it hit me with the force of a slap, unleashing a dam of emotion.

"Yes, yes you do! What do you think would have happened if anyone else had found you? A teacher even! You've seen it in the papers just like I have! You'd be out on your ass or worse. And I'd never see you again. I'd lose the only family I actually care about!"

My feet had stopped walking at some point, and so had his, but I couldn't really see though the moisture that was stinging my eyes. I didn't really care if he saw me cry, it wouldn't be the first time. And now I understood what about the shock had made me so angry. I didn't want to be abandoned again.

"Sonoda..."

I wiped the tears from my eyes angrily, although I didn't really need to see to know that my cousin understood. That tone of pity expressed it well enough. His voice was resigned but gentle when he spoke again.

"You're right. I'm sorry. You're absolutely right."

All I could do was sniffle as I tried to compose myself.

"Come on, let's go for a walk."

I nodded, meekly, feeling drained. This time, we headed away from the dorm, into the courtyard, a much safer place to talk unobserved. We walked in silence again, but this time the ice had melted and we were just two exhausted men thankful to find a nearby bench to rest on.

"I guess I owe you an explanation."

"Yeah."

"I wish I had one."

I looked at him in surprise as he let out a long smoky breath.

"What does that mean?"

"Just what I said. I wasn't thinking. I'm not any happier about it than you are. It wasn't just my life I could have ruined, but Asahina's too."

He took another deep drag and held it before blowing it up at the sky. I hadn't even thought of that, but he was right. It would be nearly impossible to police all the possible bullying if it got out that Yuki had a relationship with a teacher. To say nothing of the sexuality angle, everyone would assume he was buying grades too.

"And, now that you've reminded me, yours. I shouldn't have let it get so far out in view like that...."

The professor seemed to trail off, embarrassed.

"Then why did you do it? I mean, I don't care that you might like guys or anything, but a student? Although I'm kind of pissed that you didn't tell me the guy thing sooner. Unless, did you have a thing for me too? Because I don't even want to know about that."

Somehow, I felt like myself again, and I was happy to note that my teasing earned a small smile and a chuckle from the professor, who relaxed as he looked toward me.

"Come on, a man has to have some secrets to be attractive."

His smile faded as he ruffled my hair lightly.

"I should have trusted you more. I'm sorry."

I shook off the hand, he knew how much I hated having my hair mussed, it always left my braids messed up.

"You didn't answer me though. Why? Is it really worth risking everything for?"

My cousin only shrugged and this time I knew the answer was genuine. He was probably still trying to come to terms himself. But, that wasn't going to help anything.

"Doesn't that mean you should probably stop? Even if it's just for Yuki's sake."

At that he looked pained and used a long draw of the cigarette as an excuse not to answer. I knew why, even if the professor didn't understand himself. I didn't even have to ask the next question.

"Do you love him?"

"I don't know yet, but I can't stop until I find out."

With that, he bent to grind the stub of the cigarette into the ground and stood up to leave with a sigh.

I couldn't help smiling, and he gave me a doubtful look as he stood, expecting me to come along. I followed suit and we started walking back to the dorm.

In a way, I was happy. I knew I was always teasing him about being alone, but that was only because I hated seeing him so lonely. It was just like seeing my own sad future, and I really did care about my cousin. Of course, I'd been wrong that he'd need a wife.

"Professor, please be more careful in the future."

"Don't worry, I will."

"And if it really does work out between you, Bar Sonoda is always open, as long as you pay. And for a little extra tip, I'll learn how to make myself scarce."

~ end ~