Building Bridges

 

Confession

 

There was a split second between the moment when Saruhiko tugged him in and the instant their lips met, and in that split second, Yata was pretty sure he didn't believe it was really going to happen.

It was still kind of sinking in that Mikoto was probably going out with Munakata - seriously, that guy, for real? - and here they were, on the beach in the fucking moonlight, with Saruhiko leaning in towards him like this was the big romance scene in an action movie or something, and in that fleeting second before it actually happened, all he could think was, There's no way this is what I think it is.

And then Saruhiko's lips were on his, clumsy and soft, pressing in with an edge of desperation, and Yata's brain kind of stalled out into auto-pilot.

He's kissing me. Saruhiko is...

Saruhiko is kissing me...

It was nothing like the first time - that brief bump of what technically qualified as a kiss. It wasn't like the others, either - hungrily mashing their mouths together in some drunken rush of heat and weird urges. There was no overpowering smell of alcohol, no cheap couch, no haze fogging over his brain. This was Saruhiko, completely sober, putting his lips on Yata on a beach under the moonlight, firm and fervent and determined. His eyes were closed, and his breathing was ragged; the rapid beat of his pulse throbbed against the fingers Yata still had wrapped around his wrist.

He's serious...

The shock that had frozen Yata solid was fading; he felt his stomach flutter, a twinge of something unmistakably pleasant forming at the base of it. Saruhiko was kissing him - seriously kissing him - and that thought excited him at least as much as the enticingly warm sensation of a mouth pressed against his own.

I think... I've wanted to...

His eyes slid shut; he was just starting to press back into the kiss, egged on by the pounding of his own heart and the fierce rush of emotion he couldn't quite sort out, fingers squeezing Saruhiko's wrist reflexively... And then, just as suddenly as he'd started, Saruhiko broke away and pulled back, his motions jerky.

Yata opened his eyes and stared dumbly at him, not really sure what to say or where to start. That just... That just happened, right now... Saruhiko was looking right back at him with a kind of bewilderment, as if he couldn't believe he'd just done that, and somehow or another, he seemed... lost.

Why? It's not like - I mean, it's okay. All at once, he wanted to say that out loud - to offer reassurance, and chase that expression away. Yata swallowed, trying to ignore the flush he knew was spread across his face. "Saruhiko - "

"Oi! Yata-san!"

The sound of Kamamoto's voice had him jerking his hand back from Saruhiko's wrist, head whipping around wildly to catch sight of his friend jogging down the path towards them. "Hah..." The breath escaped him in a rush; he could feel his shoulders slump, and couldn't bring himself to look back at Saruhiko. "Seriously...?"

At a time like this... What the hell?

Saruhiko was completely still and quiet; he didn't even make one of those tongue-clicking noises.

There wasn't much time to wonder about that, though. Yata scowled at Kamamoto, shoving his hands into the pockets of his hoodie and willing his heart to slow down. It didn't help that the thought, I was just kissed, kept echoing through his head like some kind of ridiculous mantra that just wouldn't shut up. His skin was still prickled up from the excitement; it felt like he could float away.

Fucking confusing, all of it. "What?" he demanded crossly, as his older friend came up to them.

He... He didn't see any of that, right?

If he had, he wasn't showing any sign of it. "Totsuka-san brought sparklers, and it sounds like everyone wants to try them out." Kamamoto shrugged, offering a lopsided smile. "I figured you'd want to know about it."

Ordinarily, he would have. Now... Yata resisted the urge to scream in frustration. "Okay, yeah, I got it, so just go back and - "

"I'm going ahead," Saruhiko announced, sudden and sharp, brushing past the both of them with unexpected haste.

"Wait - Saruhiko!" Yata stared after his roommate, feeling totally confused. The sudden uncertainty kept him rooted to the ground for a moment too long; by the time he went to chase after, cursing under his breath, Saruhiko was already a good distance ahead. Why are you leaving now?

"Ah - Yata-san, wait up!"

He'd just reached the bottom of the path when a familiar figure stepped out from the shadow around the change rooms, flicking away a cigarette in casual defiance of the no-smoking rule at the beach. "What are you two doing?" Mikoto asked, eyeing them with mild interest.

Despite everything, the sight of his instructor still had Yata slowing to a halt instinctively. He mentally swore, shooting a fleeting glance at Saruhiko's rapidly retreating back, and did his best to swallow his frustration. "N-Nothing really..."

"Oh, Mikoto-san!" Kamamoto's greeting was far more enthusiastic. "Totsuka-san and Anna wanted to break out the sparklers, so I came down to find you two."

"Hmm?" Mikoto glanced at him, then turned his gaze to Yata. "You were here, too?"

A sudden, unwanted mental image of what he'd observed earlier flashed through his head. Yata jerked guiltily, turning his gaze aside as his face grew hot again. "R-Right, we - we came down here to find you." His voice sounded kind of high and unnatural, but he managed to force a grin and scratched nervously at the back of his neck, hoping it wouldn't be too obvious. "G-Guess we went too far, right? Hah..."

Is that guy still around? A quick glance at the change rooms didn't reveal anything out of the ordinary - no movement, either.

Maybe Munakata had gone on ahead.

"That so?" Mikoto didn't seem to have noticed his anxiety - that, or he didn't care. "All right." He turned to move up the path. "Let's go."

The pace he set was somehow agonizingly slow. Yata wouldn't have minded normally, but right then he was so impatient he felt about ready to burst. He couldn't get his earlier moment with Saruhiko out of his head - his thoughts just wouldn't shut up. Why did he go on ahead like that? Why didn't he wait? Why didn't he say anything?

... Why did he kiss me?

The answer to that one was painfully obvious. He... He likes me then, right? Just thinking about it made that fluttery feeling in his stomach flare up again; his cheeks burned. That's gotta be it. Why else would he kiss me?

It... wasn't really a bad thought...

"Are you feeling okay, Yata-san?" When he looked up again, startled, Kamamoto was eyeing him with some concern. "You're looking kind of weird."

Yata jerked a little, but managed a scowl. "H-Hah? The hell are you talking about? I'm obviously fine, dumbass - don't say shit like that!"

"Oh..." Kamamoto blinked, obviously a little confused by the reaction, but shrugged. "Right. If you say so..."

"Damn right I do," Yata muttered, shoving his hands back into his pockets again with an agitated huff of breath. He definitely wasn't ready to tell anyone else about this - hell, he probably needed to talk with Saruhiko first, right? And then -

And then what?

Shit... That thought had him worrying at his lower lip, suddenly anxious. What do I say? Saruhiko hadn't confessed to him or anything. And he hadn't thought about it at all. Do I - y'know - like him? Like that? Now that he thought about it... the answer had to be 'yes'. Yata shut his eyes, balling his hands into fists as he thought back to all those moments he'd tried to brush aside. All the touching and the closeness and the weird feelings... And then the kiss.

He couldn't really deny that he'd liked it. A lot. His heart rate picked up again just thinking about it - Saruhiko had kissed him! It was unreal.

It was... amazing.

There was warmth spreading through his whole body; Yata felt the smile finally building, and didn't bother to hold it back. Saruhiko had kissed him - Saruhiko liked him - Saruhiko was going to be his - his boyfriend, or something, probably, once they talked about it. And now that all the shock and the confusion was starting to pass, he was so happy - so fucking excited - it felt like he'd explode.

This is really happening. It was the weirdest thing, but whatever; if it felt this good, he couldn't complain.

All that was left was to find Saruhiko and get all of that stuff sorted out. I'll just - I'll confess to him. Yata anxiously looked around the crowd at the fire pit as they drew up to it, trying to catch a glimpse of his roommate. He was the one who kissed me, so it's only fair, right?

Even if he had no idea what he was going to say... Whatever, the important thing is the feeling behind it!

He... wasn't seeing Saruhiko, though. Yata frowned, stopping near the bonfire to scan over the place again. Where the hell did that guy go, after all that?

"Yata-san?" Kamamoto was studying him with some confusion. "Totsuka-san and the others are over by the trees, so - "

"Oi," Yata interrupted him impatiently, still raising his head to look through the scattered clusters of people, "d'you see Saruhiko anywhere?"

There was a brief, awkward pause. "Uh - "

"Fushimi-kun left just a few minutes ago," a familiar even-toned voice said from his left. Yata jerked his head around to meet Munakata's patient gaze. "He was apparently feeling ill, and chose to return to his room."

He... left? "Why?" Yata muttered, more to himself than anything. He could feel his brow furrowing up, confusion sinking in through the earlier haze of happiness, and turned his gaze forward again, frowning to himself. It was hard to think why Saruhiko might kiss him and then just leave like that.

Maybe he's worried about my reaction? It kind of made sense. The kiss had totally come out of nowhere, so obviously it wasn't planned or anything. And it had to be pretty rough, doing that kind of thing without knowing what reaction you'd get.

So then, all I have to do is confess to him, right? That should solve everything.

It was a relief to have that figured out, anyway. "All right, thanks," he responded shortly to Munakata, not looking at him - seriously, he wasn't sure if he could straight-up look that guy in the face after what he'd seen earlier - and turned abruptly to walk away. "I'm leaving."

"Huh? Yata-san?" Kamamoto quickly caught up to him. His voice sounded baffled. "You're not staying for the sparklers?"

Ugh. He did kind of want to, but... "Go ahead without me."

There was a brief, awkward pause. "You sure?"

Yata glanced at him, catching the edge of concern and feeling a bit guilty over it. "Sorry," he responded, summoning a half-smile. "I'm fine - it's not a big deal." He scratched at the back of his neck, not quite feeling comfortable enough to explain yet. "Just... I've got something I really need to do right now. Tell everyone I'll catch up tomorrow, okay?"

Kamamoto's face seemed to clear up at that - he smiled back, relaxing somewhat. "Sure thing! I'll tell them." He started to turn, then looked back once, adding, "Good luck with that important thing you're doing! Tell me how it goes, all right?"

Well, it was something he was probably going to tell everyone, sooner or later. "Yeah" - Yata grinned back, raising a fist to show his determination - "for sure!"

As he left the area, the idea of what he was about to do was already starting to sink in; Yata felt his resolve falter a little as he considered it. So, he'd get back to the dorm and go up to Fushimi, and... what?

The feeling was important, but... seriously, what was he going to say?

"I thought about it, and I realized I like you. Please go out with me." Something like that? It was kind of the standard - at least, he thought it was. It wasn't like he had a lot of experience with it or anything. Yata frowned to himself, feeling a little bit anxious. How would Saruhiko react?

He kissed me, so he should be happy no matter how I say it, right? But he didn't want to get made fun of, either - and besides, this was important. A confession should come from the heart! It was going to be the start of their dating life, right? So... "I realized I've liked you for a long time"? "I can't hold back any more"?

He wasn't sure if that was an improvement at all.

Yata's frown deepened to a scowl. I don't know how to do this crap... Why should it be so complicated, anyway? Maybe he could just yank Saruhiko into a kiss or something. If he pulled it off, it could be really cool... They'd kiss, and then he'd lean back and look into Saruhiko's eyes and say, "Now we're even. So... go out with me?"

That would actually be totally cool. I'll bet that's how Mikoto-san did it! He would totally confess in an awesome way!

But with Saruhiko... Yata grimaced, considering it. Somehow, he got the feeling he'd get a raised eyebrow and a clicked tongue. Seriously, that guy had no appreciation for fancy moves or anything. And, if he was being honest, he wasn't even sure if he could do it. The idea of grabbing Saruhiko and kissing him like that - out of nowhere, all of a sudden - made his cheeks burn and his palms start to sweat. It was nerve-wracking, doing this kind of stuff!

It - it's probably better to stick with the basics anyway, right?

By the time he made it to the dorms, his stomach was in knots and his head was swimming, but he thought - hoped - he had some idea of how he was going to do this. Yata hesitated in front of the door to their room, drawing up his courage, and then took a deep breath and unlocked the door, swinging it open.

... to a dark room, and a formless, blanket-covered lump representing his roommate on the top bunk.

For a moment, all he could do was stand there, too stunned to even react.

Seriously?

After all that... Yata slumped, letting out a frustrated huff, and shut the door behind him, resisting the urge to slam it. He'd summoned up all his nerve and planned out his confession and everything, and that uncooperative bastard had the nerve to just go ahead and go to sleep? It was seriously unfair.

Maybe he's really not feeling well? That could explain the weird behavior...

Well, either way, he wasn't going to climb up there and wake his roommate up just to make a confession. There was a timing to these kinds of things, right? Yata sighed again, scratching the back of his head with a certain amount of agitation. All right - I'll get up early tomorrow, and make us breakfast. Home-cooked food would be a good start, he was pretty sure.

Just... hopefully his nerves would quiet down enough to let him actually sleep.


Fushimi's night was restless.

He'd expected it, for the most part, but it was still irritating. The lingering remains of his bad decisions chased him all the way from the beach to the fire pit, and from the fire pit to the dorms, and from there right into bed, shaping into a formless derision that took on a life and laughed at him from the shadowy recesses of his thoughts.

Normally, that voice in his head was cynical, but right then, it seemed to giggle at him with a malicious glee, hauntingly familiar. It was like it was taunting him - 'Oho, so it's that kind of feeling, huh? What a laugh! Be careful you don't get hurt, huh?'

'Be careful you don't break it like you always do... right, Saruhiko?'

Shut up.

The little mocking voice grew silent - it was just in his head, after all - but that didn't really fix anything. Fushimi kept his eyes closed, arms crossed over his stomach as if he could still the sick feeling churning around in its core. He could still feel the warmth and the softness of Misaki's lips under his, and the feelings that seemed to rush over his body in response to the memory were overwhelming. It wasn't like he could deny what that meant, not now.

He'd kissed Misaki. Not out of drunken curiousity, but in answer to a real desire.

I want him... Fushimi curled up further, the nausea rising up as the thought sunk in, stark and undeniable. Misaki's smiles and Misaki's cooking and Misaki's fierce expressions... Misaki, blinding and brilliant in the sunlight... Misaki, drenched and laughing in the water... Misaki, dull but glowing in the moonlight... Misaki. Misaki.

Misaki...

Misaki, surrounded by his friends and his hero... Misaki, who gave out his affection so cheaply, whose moods changed so quickly...

It was dangerous and maddening, a virus eating away at his soul. How had this happened? How had he let it happen? Misaki wasn't special, no matter what it seemed like now. He could leave at any time. If Fushimi wasn't in his life, it wouldn't change substantially. There was nothing tying them together.

That was the truth about bonds - they were only good as long as they were convenient.

Even if Misaki reciprocated, this wasn't a path to happiness. This wouldn't lead to anything but more of what he was already used to. And hadn't he promised himself from the start that he'd never leave an opening for that sort of thing?

Stupid. The inner voice was cynical and harsh again. It was comforting, in a way. Fushimi breathed in, uncomfortably aware of Misaki in the bunk below him, though he'd stopped shifting a while back. There's no way anything good will come from this.

It was a mistake, plain and simple.

Sleep was a long time coming with those thoughts still worming their way back to the forefront of his conscious mind. Fushimi didn't sleep well under ordinary circumstances. In this case, it was more accurate to say that he'd dozed off several times for unspecified periods and finally stirred into full wakefulness when there was light streaming in through the window.

The room was still and silent.

Is he sleeping? Fushimi reached for his glasses reflectively. It was just past eight, according to the display on his cell phone, so the odds were fairly good. He risked leaning over the side of the bed, peering into the bottom bunk.

Empty.

That was a little unusual, considering classes weren't in... Somehow, the suspicious deviation was making him feel uneasy; Fushimi pushed aside the covers, unplugging his phone and bringing it down the ladder with him. If he avoided the dorms as much as possible, he wouldn't have to deal with Misaki at all, so it was better to get dressed, pack up his laptop, and leave right now.

He'd grabbed a fresh set of clothing and was heading for the door when it swung open and Misaki stepped into the room, a bowl of food in one hand and another tucked between that and his chest. He stopped short when he caught sight of Fushimi, eyes widening. "Sa-Saruhiko! You're awake?"

You had to come back now? Fushimi clicked his tongue, looking away quickly. "Obviously," he muttered, sourly.

The atmosphere already felt stifled between them, and they hadn't even properly spoken. A sharp ache started to build at Fushimi's temples. Annoying...

Misaki was annoying, just like everyone else... That was the truth, in the end.

"R-Right, yeah." He wasn't even getting mad; Fushimi could catch his motions as he shifted the bowl against his chest to his newly freed hand, letting the door shut behind him. "Anyway, this is good timing - I made breakfast. Here."

Fushimi shifted his gaze to the bowl being held out to him, but made no move to take it. "I'm going out to eat."

I don't need you to give me anything anymore.

Misaki seemed taken aback by that; he froze for a moment, then slowly pulled back the bowl. "O-Oh. Okay, then..."

The disappointment that was clear in his tone felt like it cut into Fushimi's chest, somehow. He clicked his tongue again, frustrated with himself. "Get out of the way."

"R-Right, but - " Misaki hastily set the bowls down on the floor, reaching up to grab his arm as he tried to move past. "Wait, Saruhiko!"

Fushimi was startled enough by the outburst to look over; Misaki's eyes were burning with a kind of halfway-embarrassed determination, and his cheeks were flushed. "I-I need to talk to you about something," he went on, voice low and serious. "It - It'll just take a minute."

No good. That sick feeling was rising again in his stomach, along with an edge of panic scrambling at the back of his head. That look already had his heart racing - there was no way this could be anything good. "I need to go," he mumbled, turning away from that face and attempting to twist his arm free.

Misaki held on stubbornly. "Look, this is important, okay? Just one minute, seriously!"

It felt like there was bile rising at the back of his throat; Fushimi narrowed his eyes and kept his gaze fixed away from Misaki's face, allowing his lips to turn down in a scowl. "Don't bother," he muttered.

"Huh? What's that mean?" Misaki didn't even wait for him to respond, already trying to push out whatever words were on his mind as quickly as possible. "If it's about that... k-kiss, then you don't need to worry! I'm not going to say anything bad!" His voice softened up again, picking up just a touch of nervousness. "A-Actually, the truth is - "

"Shut up," Fushimi cut him off, low and sharp. He hadn't consciously thought to say it, but the conversation was already headed in a dangerous direction, and every instinct was screaming at him to do something - anything - to stop it. "Shut up, Misaki."

There was a sharp intake of breath. "H-Hah?" Then an audible swallow. "I told you, it's nothing bad! The truth is - "

"Stop it." His chest felt like it was going to burst, his heart was pounding so hard.

"The truth is, I like you!" Misaki blurted, almost desperately, his fingers tightening against Fushimi's forearm. They felt impossibly hot, like iron clamped against his skin. "I-I like you, okay?" he repeated, softer but just as fervent. "S-So..."

Shut up. Shut up! SHUT UP! It was difficult to breathe. Misaki's confession seemed to have sucked all of the oxygen from the room; no matter how much he struggled to pull some in, he couldn't seem to get much.

"C-Can you just... you know... just look at me for a second?" There was an undertone of self-conscious anxiety in that gruff mutter. "Sa-Saruhiko, I - "

"What do you want me to say?" Somehow, despite the fact that the words were torn out of his chest in desperation, his tone managed to be properly drawn-out and condescending. Fushimi felt a burst of confidence - something inside of him froze, and he was abruptly in control. He raised his gaze slowly, taking in Misaki's startled expression - eyes widened and cheeks still red from the awkward admission. "Should I be happy? Were you hoping I was going to react positively to your clumsy little confession, Misaki?"

Something twisted in his chest as he watched Misaki flinch back, the grip on his arm loosening with the sudden uncertainty he'd inflicted. He wasn't sure if it was painful or satisfying - or a mix of the two. "Huh? I..."

"What? You thought because we spent some time together, suddenly we should date?" It was easier to let the scornful words slide off his tongue; he didn't feel small, uncertain, or scared. Nothing had the power to crush him with unfamiliar feelings or helpless dependency if he was watching the hope die in Misaki's eyes. Even the corresponding hurt in his own chest felt right - self-inflicted, within his own control. "Are you that desperate to lose your virginity? Or did you actually go and fall for me, like the idiot you are?"

Misaki's expression contorted; he visibly recoiled, as if struck. "B-But..." His throat bobbed noticeably as he swallowed. "You - You kissed - "

"Ah~h, that?" There was adrenaline coursing through his veins; Fushimi wasn't sure if he could've stopped the smirk that snaked its way onto his face, wild and triumphant. "I thought I'd try it again, to see if it was as disgusting as the last time." He let out an almost breathless little giggle. "Don't tell me you thought it was serious..."

At that close distance it was possible to see Misaki's eyes start to waver; his eyebrows came down in a glare, gaze so full of fury and hurt and helpless betrayal that it nearly took Fushimi's breath away. Blinding, the way Misaki always was - like it had been at the beginning. It was stunning, painful and beautiful and wild, like nothing else. "Saru," he growled, and even with the anger in his tone the hint of a choke was there at the edges. "You bastard..."

The reaction had him laughing again, with an edge of hysteria that he couldn't even bring himself to care about. "What, surprised? I thought you'd know me better by now, Misaki? Didn't you say you liked me?" He leaned in closer, basking in that fiery stare. "Don't you want to know what I thought of that kiss you were so excited about?"

"Shut up," Misaki growled again, and his eyes really were shining now, angry tears blurring his furious glare. His fingers tightened again on Fushimi's arm, to the point of pain.

It was deeply gratifying, getting back a piece of the hurt he'd managed to inflict. "It was just like the last time, you know," he drawled, ignoring the response. "Disgusting." The smirk on his face widened as he watched Misaki's expression contort again, torn between hurt and anger. "Just like you, Misaki."

"Fuck you," Misaki responded, low and fervent at first, and then he jerked his hand back from Fushimi's arm and reached up to grab the collar of his shirt again, yanking his head down to stare at him with anguished, helpless fury. "Fuck you, Saru! How could you - how - ?"

Something inside Fushimi seemed to break just as Misaki's voice did, firmly and painfully. He ignored it. "'How'? Are you really that stupid? Don't tell me you thought we were friends or something, too..."

Abruptly, Misaki shoved him back, turning his face away and down, so that his expression was shadowed. "I fucking hate you!" he snarled, and swung around to snatch up his skateboard beside the door. "Drop dead, you fucking asshole!"

"Good," Fushimi responded slowly, but the sound of it was lost in the slamming of the door after his roommate, harsh and loud and somehow final-sounding. He shut his eyes, breathing deeply in the aftermath of the explosion. The scent of the abandoned breakfast still lingered, rising up from the forgotten bowls on the floor, but the air didn't seem so thick now. "That's good... Hate me, Misaki..."

The rush of bitterness that sank into his bones as he turned to lean back against the wall was incredibly nostalgic. Fushimi laughed, low and hysterical, and pressed his fingers over the spot where Misaki had grabbed his arm, uncertain if the emotions flooding his body were hurtful or happy.

It wasn't like it mattered, either way.


The trip through the dorm to the outside was mostly an angry blur, but the moment when Yata threw his skateboard onto the ground and hopped on, already moving before he started to propel himself forward with his other foot, stuck out as being perfectly clear. He picked up speed rapidly, no clear destination in mind, other than away.

His vision was blurring up suspiciously, even after he swabbed one arm furiously across his eyes, and there was a painful lump lodged in his throat. His chest hurt, his heart pounding relentlessly against it, and he wanted to scream.

"What the fuck!?" he yelled instead, ignoring the stares of whoever he happened to pass and just focussing on keeping up his motions. Moving helped. The hurt and the rage inside him didn't ease, but it stilled his restlessness some when he felt the air whipping around him and his muscles being worked. Why, why, why - fucking SERIOUSLY, just WHY?

He didn't understand. The Saruhiko who had stood there and smiled at him with crazed eyes and a deliberately cruel voice felt so outside of the reality he was used to that it was like a dream. A nightmare. Something really fucked up. What the fuck? What's his problem? He didn't have to... to...

"Disgusting."

"Shut up!" It didn't matter if he was being loud - hell, it was hard to care about anything, right then. Yata maneuvered his board along the path that circled around behind the buildings in the main university grounds, clenching his teeth against another wave of helpless fury and grief.

I don't get it. I really don't get it at all! Saruhiko had spent all those hours with him, talked with him, pointlessly hung out - and then fucking kissed him, making Yata realize his own feelings... and now this. What the fuck even was this? It didn't make any sense! You're lying, right? It's a lie! We were definitely close, there's no way... no way...

His head was hurting now, too, trying to sort it out. Yata swabbed at his eyes again, furious with himself. You fucking bastard! Asshole! Goddamnit... "I hate you," he muttered, almost inaudible even to his own ears with the rush of the wind in them, and knew it was a lie even as he did. Which only made his throat clench more, and his eyes water, and his heart burn with rage and pain.

"Fuck you, Saru!"


He wasn't sure how long it was before he rolled up to the entrance of the Homra bar, but the sun was high in the sky, he was sweaty and gross, and his legs were aching. His eyes were dry by then, though, and with all the aches in his muscles, any lingering inner pain felt like a dull, distant throb.

I'm not wasting any more fucking time on that asshole. Yata grit his teeth against another wave of emotion at the reminder, and reached for the door. "Yo," he called out in half-hearted greeting, barely registering the familiar rush of hot air that hit him as he stepped inside.

"Yo, Yata-san!" Kamamoto responded, half-turning in his seat at the bar. "How did it go last night?"

He really didn't want to think about that now. Yata let out an aggravated breath and crossed the room to sit down next to his friend, leaning his skateboard against the bar counter and slouching forward in his seat. "Can I get some water or something?"

Kusanagi raised his eyebrows, but obligingly reached for a glass. "You look like you've been pushing yourself," he commented, starting up the tap. "Everything okay?"

"Yeah, fine." He reached for the glass as it was slid across the bar towards him, leaning back in his seat to take a huge gulp. The cool water felt nice against his parched throat; by the time he set the glass back down, half of it was gone. "Thanks."

"Yata-san..." Kamamoto was eyeing him with some concern now. "You don't seem like yourself today. What happened?"

He squeezed his fingers around the glass, keeping his gaze turned down as he muttered, "Nothing happened."

There was a moment of awkward silence.

"'Nothing', he says..." Bandou was obviously making an attempt to speak quietly but his voice carried. "Yeah, right..."

"Shh!" Akagi tossed an anxious look in Yata's direction.

"Let him sulk," Eric mumbled, and met Yata's gaze challengingly when he looked up. "Chihuahua."

He bristled, halfway turning with his free hand already clenching into a fist, but was interrupted by a light tug on his shirt. Anna was gazing at him with large, almost sad eyes. "Misaki," she said, voice small, "why are you hurting?"

It was the anxious look on her face that brought him up short. Looking around the bar, he could see all of his friends watching, without bothering to try and hide it. Even Mikoto-san... It brought a lump to his throat again. Above all else, here were people who cared about him. Yata swallowed, and tried to keep his voice even through the emotion. "I..." It came out shaky; he tried again, dropping his gaze back to the glass again. "I was rejected."

There was a moment of silence following the quiet announcement.

Yata couldn't stand it, honestly. He gripped the glass hard again, and tried a brief 'heh', still studying the outline of it against the table. "Stupid, right?" He hunched his shoulders, not waiting for a response. "I mean, it's not like it was even a good idea to start with; he's kind of an asshole, and also another guy - "

"How?" Chitose interrupted him; when he glanced up, startled, his friend was staring at him incredulously. "It's that guy from the beach, right? With the glasses?" He didn't pause for confirmation. "There's no way someone could look at another person that way and not want to fuck them! Are you kidding me?"

Yata blinked at him, caught off guard. "H-Hah...?"

"Ah, well..." Akagi shrugged, looking a bit awkward about it. "Maybe there's another explanation..."

"Look, I'm telling you, I know these things." Chitose crossed his arms over his chest, looking unusually peeved. "I'm an expert at body language, okay? There's no way I'm wrong about this - that look means 'I want you', I don't care what you say."

"An 'expert', huh?" Dewa shot him a wry look.

"You know what I mean!"

"I noticed it, too," Fujishima commented quietly.

No one seemed to have a counter-argument for that one.

Yata could feel his heart beating hard in his chest again. What the hell? He could still hear Saruhiko's words from earlier ringing around in his head - "Disgusting.", "Are you really that stupid?" - and his own desperate belief: You're a liar, right? It's a lie. But it still didn't make sense. "What kind of asshole tells the person they like that they're disgusting?"

Chitose looked momentarily taken aback - and then his expression shifted into flat disbelief. He slapped a hand to his face, letting it slide down slowly. "Are you fucking serious?"

"Huh? That's - thats... what he said, though..." The reminder was enough to lower his spirits further.

"Grade-schooler," Eric muttered.

Yata scowled at him. "What's that supposed to mean?"

Eric shrugged, not meeting his gaze.

"He's not wrong," Dewa murmured.

"Okay. Yata!" Chitose took the opportunity to stroll across the room, looping an arm around his neck. "Let me do you a favor, here - I've got some contacts in a few different places, you know? Give me an hour, and I could totally score you a blind date for tomorrow." He hesitated for a second, then added, "Probably with a guy, though, huh? You still can't handle girls, can you?"

"Hah?" Yata stared at him incredulously. A blind date? What the fuck? "Why the hell would I want to do that?"

"You want to get over this guy, don't you?" Somehow, the smile that came with that didn't seem trustworthy at all. "Time to expand your horizons! Get back in the game! Live a little. Right?"

He didn't even have to stop and think. Yata shrugged off the arm, scowling. "No way in hell!"

"Oh, well... your choice." Chitose didn't seem bothered; he leaned back, shrugging. "Offer still stands if you change your mind, though."

"I'm not going to change my fucking mind, okay?" He wasn't even sure if he could handle seeing someone else right then, anyway - the cuts from his unexpected scuffle with Saruhiko were still smarting. Yata let out an agitated sigh, trying to push it out of his head. "Anyway, I'm fine - there's no way I'm letting that asshole get to me!"

There was another moment of dubious silence - which was abruptly broken by a loud, protesting noise from his mid-region.

Right... food... Yata covered his stomach with his hand, darting an embarrassed glance around at the others in the bar. Breakfast was probably still sitting on the floor in their dorm.

The breakfast he'd made for the two of them...

Damnit! Just don't think about it!

"Did you have lunch, Yata-chan?" Kusanagi asked, cutting into that thought.

"Ah... actually..." He hunched his shoulders and managed a small, sheepish grin in return. "I haven't eaten today yet..."

Kusanagi blinked, looking surprised at that. Before he could respond, though, a hand clamped down on top of Yata's head. When he tried to turn his eyes to look, his skin prickled up. "M-Mikoto-san...?"

His instructor fixed him with an even stare. "Eat," he said, seriously.

Something about that gaze seemed understanding. Yata was reminded of what he'd accidently witnessed at the beach, and felt his cheeks grow hot. Maybe... something like this happened to him once, too? He'd never really talked with Mikoto on a personal level at all. "Th-Thanks," he managed, after a second or two of hesitation, feeling a little overwhelmed.

That kind of conversation would probably have to wait for later, anyway.

"Yeah." Mikoto's hand slid from his hair; he turned to walk, unhurried, towards the couch.

Anna, who'd been standing beside him, immediately moved to follow, plunking herself down primly.

"Well, there you have it." Kusanagi shrugged, an amused sort of smile on his face when Yata turned back to him again. "Now... what'll it be?"


By the time he was stepping off the elevator to his floor on the dorm, it was already dark out. Yata scowled at the wall as the doors slid closed behind him, standing still for a moment with his skateboard under his arm.

Despite all the help he'd gotten from his friends trying to distract him, he'd still picked up an uneasy feeling at the pit of his stomach after he'd left the bar, which had grown as he approached the dorms and was now festering into almost full-blown queasiness. Without the others around, and standing just a few feet from where the incident had happened that morning, now all he could think of was Saruhiko's face, twisted into a cruel smirk while he mocked the confession Yata had put his all into making.

I should never have fallen for someone like that in the first place! Yata grimaced, trying to ignore the resounding hurt that rose up with the thought. Even now, after something like that happened, he couldn't forget Saruhiko's careful smiles... the cautious expectant looks he'd thrown when Yata tried the game... that intense stare that seemed to pierce right through to his core...

The feel of lips on his, and realizing Saruhiko had kissed him...

Stop. The hurt had grown to a full-on ache; it felt like his heart was bruised, as stupid as that sounded. Anyway, he couldn't exactly think of all that now - it was going to be hard enough going back into that room already. Yata didn't have much hope that he'd find his roommate in bed for the second time in a row.

He could've stayed with a friend, but... Fuck it, this is my room, too. There were two more semesters to get through before the year ended and he could apply for a room change without a penalty. He wasn't just going to hide out in someone else's room like a coward.

Still...

Shit... Yata made a soft 'ch', balled his free hand into a fist, and marched towards his room. He hesitated again briefly in front of the door, seeing the light still spilling out from beneath it, but took in a sharp breath and firmly unlocked it, swinging it open.

Saruhiko was at his desk hunched over his laptop; when the door opened he looked up sharply, and for a moment as their eyes met, Yata thought he saw something like panic in that startled gaze. His breath caught in his throat; he stood there dumbly, barely noticing as the door slid shut on its own behind him.

Saru...?

Then Saruhiko seemed to collect himself, shutting his eyes and letting a little smirk form on his lips. "What, you seriously came back? Are you that much of a glutton for punishment, Misaki?"

The moment of hope died. Yata could feel his fingers starting to tremble, and clenched his teeth together. Idiot! Of course nothing's changed! "Don't call me by that name!"

"Oh? You didn't seem to mind it before." Saruhiko opened his eyes slowly, gazing back with a certain smug arrogance. "But then, that was when you thought I might return your precious feelings, wasn't it, Misaki?"

"I said shut up with that name! It's creepy as hell now!" He furious swung his skateboard around to lean it against the wall. "Anyway, why are you even talking to me?" It still felt painful even to think, but he gritted the words out. "You hate me, right? Leave me alone!"

Saruhiko clicked his tongue, expression shifting to something almost like irritation. "You're the one who came back here after that," he muttered, almost under his breath.

"Hah? I fucking live here, you asshole!" Yata crossed his arms over his chest, scowling back stubbornly. "All my shit is here, and my bed is here - you think I'm just going to let you have the whole place to yourself because you're being a dick? Think again!"

"Do what you want." Saruhiko raised his eyebrows, the corners of his mouth turning up again. "It doesn't bother me. You're the one who has to look at the face of the person you confessed to. Every. Single. Day." He pronounced the words clearly and concisely, with pauses in between for emphasis. "I wonder who's the unlucky one in this situation, hm, Misaki?"

That was a painful bullseye. Yata wrenched his gaze away, angry at himself for being affected, and made a sharp 'ch' under his breath. "Whatever. I'm going to bed." He kicked his shoes off and turned to head for the bottom bunk.

"Mm, well then..." He could still feel Saruhiko's sharp eyes on his back as he climbed into the bed and rolled onto his side to face the wall. "Don't let me interrupt your beauty rest. Mi~sa~ki~."

He could feel his shoulders tense, and clenched his teeth again so the bitter response didn't slip out. Fucking bastard...

It was no good if things were going to stay like this - Yata had to admit it. He couldn't deal with this every night, facing Saruhiko's cruel words and mocking stares while still harboring that stupid little spark of hope in his heart that it was all a lie. It was too damn painful, with them being forced this close to each other.

I need to get over him as fast as possible, or this is going to get worse.

Inwardly grimacing, he pulled his phone from his pocket and opened up the contact list to find Chitose.

 

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