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This cramped space he has called home for almost three years now has never felt so empty – the atmosphere dank and dreary with only ghosts of the vibrant life and energy it once hosted lurking in every corner.

Having taken out the last of the garbage bags, Otoya lingers at the entryway, right at the genkan, just to catch his breath.

There's never been a thing such as spring cleaning for him, but he decides to finally get his apartment back in order. The desperate need for a mindless task has spurred him on.

Laundry's been done, the bed sheet has been changed, plates and mugs have been washed, kitchen sink and counter have been cleared, old newspapers have been thrown out and oh yeah, he's cancelled his subscription at last.

Otoya surveys the room, wondering what else he's missed. There are boxes in the corner that holds all of Tokiya's things. He doesn't have the heart to get rid of them but it pains him to keep them as well. He'll probably ask Syo or Masato to take care of it.

A decrepit box held together with tattered packing tapes sits by the door to his bedroom. It houses a small artificial pine tree – the one Tokiya had bought the first Christmas they had spent at this place. Otoya recalls how amazed he'd been back then because it looked so real. They have planned to get a bigger one, but two Christmases have passed and they haven't had a chance to, always using the small one, filling it with lots of colorful ornaments to compensate for its size.

Tokiya had claimed he hadn't been big on celebrating Christmas until he started living with all members of STARISH. Even after they had moved out of the dorms, Tokiya had made sure they celebrated the holiday because he knew it meant a lot to Otoya, that it reminded Otoya of the happy part of his childhood.

And Christmases with Tokiya had become a blissful part of his adulthood.

Everything they've done together – snuggling on the couch on a winter day with both of them cradling cups of warm tea or hot chocolate; having a movie marathon under the thick blankets on their rare breaks; picking up the groceries whilst arguing whose list to follow, cooking dinner together especially when they're having Masato and Ren over – have all been carved into his soul.


That's all part of the past now. A past he knows he needs to tuck into a treasure chest and bury it, regardless of how it will always have a special place in his heart. This is what his therapist has been suggesting, something he's been struggling with.

Otoya heaves a sigh, picks up the box and sets it on the kitchen table.

The tree now looks as bare and lifeless as this apartment and that thought sends a sharp pang straight through Otoya's heart.

A large part of him – the part that has loved and still loves Tokiya – wants to hold on to the physical representation of the memories he and Tokiya have created throughout the years. But a small, rational part of him knows that he needs to let go.

Just last month, when he has finally come to terms with reality, he has thought – believed even – that he would be fine. He didn't expect moving on could be this painful.

But this is something he needs to do so he can move forward.

With that in mind, Otoya throws on his hoodie then grabs the box with the tree and rushes out of his apartment.

The streets are near empty, quite contrary to how it is during the day or the early hours of the night. Still. It's unusually tranquil, even at three past midnight.

A solitary car cruises down the road in moderate speed and Otoya watches it until it disappears around the bend before crossing.

His vagrant trek leads him a few blocks away where he stops right in front of a demolished building. It's like a complete mockery of his life that had been torn down four months ago, believing that a new one will be built in its place. Eventually. Gradually.

Otoya decides to leave the synthetic tree by the black steel fence embracing the deserted lot. Perhaps someone else may want it, find a better use for it. Then he throws the hood of his jacket over his head and continues his hike, wondering where his feet will lead him.

"I'm trying Tokiya," he says, knowing his words will be carried by the wind and reach his late boyfriend, whom he believes still watches over him. It's been four months now since the accident, four months since Tokiya has left this world. "Just like I promised. But I still feel so empty most of the time. I hope you know that I'm not trying to forget you… Because I never will."

A gust of wind brushes against his face and somehow it feels like a familiar caress, as if it's Tokiya's way of letting him know he understands… understands why Otoya needs to make some changes in his life.

The lease contract for the apartment will expire in a couple of months. He has no plans of renewing it. Syo and Reiji are already helping him find a place to transfer.

Leaving the place he's built a home with Tokiya is one of the hardest decisions he has made. It's not like he's abandoning the vestiges of his late lover's memory, but staying in that apartment only brings an insurmountable ache in his heart that he often ends up brooding in solitude.

And that's one thing he has come to realize. He knows he's not alone. Natsuki keeps reminding him that he has them, he has his friends. And they're all trying, Cecil especially, to help him through this. He owes it to them, owes it to Tokiya . So in return, Otoya will do his best to keep on living.