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            "Her name? Ah... Takeda. I don't remember her first name."

            Tadashi sat at the foot of Kei's bed, knees pulled up to his chest. His math notebook balanced in the crease of his lap, and the pencil that had been tapping against the page for the past three minutes—trying to process the assignment—stopped.

            Earlier that day, a girl from another class had caught them at lunch and asked to speak with Kei privately. Tadashi had never seen her before, leaving her reason for approach unclear, but the longer his friend was gone, the more his worry grew. It had bothered him for the rest of the day, yet he couldn't bring himself to ask during their walk to the Tsukishima home. Maybe he feared if he asked, he'd just be left behind.

            Now in the comfort of Kei's familiar bedroom, Tadashi piped up (but the nerves didn't diminish at all). "So you didn't know her either?"

            Kei responded with silence, turning back to the study material on his desk. This was nothing out of the ordinary. Should he be told or asked something he deemed obvious or stupid, Kei typically stared at or ignored the other party until they took the hint.

            "What did she want? You were gone for the rest of lunch..."

            "Just a confession," Kei drawled, without lifting his head from his work.

            "Oh, I see," Tadashi nodded. "—Wait, what are you saying?" Again, it wasn't strange for Tadashi to automatically agree, but it was a habit that left him lost, sometimes.

            "I'm saying, she confessed to me." Kei's hand slid through his hair impatiently.

            Ah, so it's like that.

            Tadashi nodded again, tapering in speed. "That's cool," he replied without much focus. Running through his mind were the many other girls who had confessed to Kei throughout the years he'd known him; though Tsukishima was few of words towards most, his interspersed comments were always cutting, sardonic, sarcastic, cruel. It garnered him attention, respect, admiration, and Tadashi understood it well.

            (He was the first, after all, to see him for what he was.)

            There wasn't any solid reason that Kei kept Tadashi at his side for so long, except that maybe it was just luck. The moment this friendship took shape, Tadashi had spent a lifetime's worth of luck—and all the misfortunes he'd encountered and all he would experience kept his life in balance. That must be it.

            It's the only explanation.

           "So are you gonna date her," he mumbled absently, routinely, without any real expectation. Kei had turned down girl after girl, never engaging himself in what he saw as a waste. A waste of time. A waste of effort. A waste of himself.

           And as if to spite him, Kei bothered to turn his way, draping his arm over the back of the chair, eyes full of intent. He watched Yamaguchi tense under his gaze, and narrowed his eyes. His mouth formed the beginning of a smirk.

           "Do you think I should?"

           It was the first time he'd heard something other than just a 'no.' His breath caught in his throat. Tsukishima didn't often ask for his opinion, but Yamaguchi enjoyed giving it anyway—he loved praising him and agreeing with him. He loved that Kei would hear out his suggestions, though he more often than not discarded them. Most of all, he loved that he could do these things, and Kei accepted it all.

           But this was something he couldn't find the answer to.


           His wide eyes met his friend's, then flicked wildly from one corner to another.

           What was he supposed to say?

           Yes, go for it, make her happy, enjoy it, get to know her, tell her about yourself, tell her about your family and your childhood and your likes and dislikes. Tell her what you respect in others, and ask why she tries so hard. Learn and understand how she feels about you. Tuck her hair behind her ear. Look into her eyes. Listen as she cries, 'I love you.' Kiss her for it.

           Tell her you love her back.

           He absolutely couldn't say a word.

           Tadashi rested his forehead against his knees and bit his lip, hoping it would stop quivering.

           Why wouldn't it stop?


           His eyes stung.

           "Look at me."

           No, no, no, no—but I have to.

           Tadashi couldn't breathe. But he looked up and smiled until his eyes squinted shut, the tears clinging to his eyelashes. He laughed, feeling his stomach twist with what he was about to say.

           "Tsukki, you know I'll support you no matter what," and he hoped he imagined the crack in his voice, just like how he imagined Kei's back towards him, hand entwined with a faceless girl's.

           Leaving him behind.

           Kei looked him over again, then took off his glasses. He ran a hand over his face and pushed it into his hair, squeezing tightly, and let out a frustrated sigh.

           "Yamaguchi," he growled coldly, holding his temples. "Don't fuck with me."

           Tadashi blinked at him, tears rolling out. He cried more out of surprise than anything, since the venom in that voice he knew so well had never been directed at him. The more he tried to scrub his eyes, the more they flowed out, and his breath turned erratic. Kei had witnessed him cry many times before, but Tadashi had never felt so ashamed about it. He wanted to shrink. He wanted to disappear. He wanted to die, and he wanted to have been born a girl.

           His hands were pulled away from his face (wet, blotchy, and freckled) and forced down to his sides; Kei was towering over him, brows furrowed, until he suddenly sank down and straddled Tadashi's lap. Tadashi was humiliated, mortified, he couldn't look Kei in the eye—but he soon didn't have to.

           Kei's eyes shut as he leaned in and their mouths came together, clumsy, unprepared, trembling. It was too much to take in all at once, and Tadashi's uneven breaths broke the kiss between them. The tears had stopped with shock, but he still looked (and felt) on the verge of breaking.

           "Tsukki?" he whispered.

           "You really are an idiot," he replied. Just then Tadashi could take in the flush in his best friend's face, and his quiet, shaking breaths. "Don't ever lie to me like that again."

           'I'll always support you?' That was completely true. "B-But I didn't!"

           Kei's glare intensified. "You sure as hell didn't tell me the truth."

           And that was true, too. Tadashi's eyes swiveled away again to a low corner, guilty as charged. "I'm sorry..." He'd said something terrible with a laugh and smile while his insides churned with defiance. Even if it wasn't Kei, anyone could tell he left something unsaid.

           "Do you think I should date her?"

           Kei drew Tadashi's attention again, but this time he felt the need to make their eyes meet. Even without his glasses, Kei's eyes revealed nothing but focus. And this time that focus was set on him.

           For the first time, he knew Kei had looked at him like that more often that he thought.

           For the first time, he knew he could be selfish and get away with it.

           For the first time, he knew Kei didn't want him to agree.

           He grinned harder than before, his freckles blending with his blush as their hands tangled together lazily.

           "No way."