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It was funny, really, that in the same second you let your guard down, fate would nail you in the face. And Tanaka Hajime thought about that over and over, trying to figured out if he really did regret it or if he really didn’t. 

It hadn’t been a good night. Project partners who weren’t doing their work, exams he still needed to study for, and above all, some dirty nasty trash was courting Mika and as The Big Brother he couldn’t exactly not warn her about it. He wasn’t much of a fighter, so he prayed to the powers that be that things wouldn’t come to that. Hajime was in dire need of something somewhere that could help him unwind. 

He didn’t expect open mic karaoke at his favorite roost. He also didn’t expect he would participate. Or sing a duet. But he was a little buzzed, the song was a good one, and that kid was a helluva tenor…

Cut to the cafe, as he stared back into the kid’s eyes, which were wide with puzzlement. The barista blinked a couple of times. Still waiting on Hajime’s order. 

“A-ah, uhm. A… large. Caramel latte.”

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“Hey!"

Shinta quickly spun to respond to his coworker, but it turned out that Hayato wasn’t addressing him.

Instead, the blond’s focus was on the cat in front of him. In particular, the cat’s claw on his knuckles. Apparently, the stuffed mouse wasn’t as interesting of a toy as a human hand.

But even more interesting was that Hayato told Shinta that he hated cats.

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“Your hair got… short,” Hajime commented.

“Yeah, well… it got a little charred. Might as well keep it short, eh?” Ryuuta shot his childhood friend a smile.

“Ch-charred?!" 

"Yeah, yeah, I’m alright, you can see that, right? But poor Seth here’s developed some sorta nasal allergy. Got him some meds, so, it ain’t so bad now, b–”

“Seth…?” Hajime looked downright bewildered. For once, it was Ryuuta who spoke things that were beyond him, instead of the other way around.

“The Swedish Shortsnout over there. He’s just a tad bit bigger than me, now, but I’m thinkin’ the meds might be killing his appetite… should be growing a bit faster than this at this stage…”

Hajime’s gaze shifted nervously between Ryuuta and the dragon, and as if he knew that he was being talked about, Seth bounded towards Ryuuta, toppling the man over with a succinct roar. And Ryuuta? Ryuuta was laughing. 

“Eager to play, aren’t you?!” he exclaimed from the ground, flat on his back but without qualms, and seemingly, with no fear as he gave the dragon’s snout a healthy patting. 

Hajime couldn’t believe this was the mischievous delinquent from wizarding school. One year his senior, snooping into places where he wasn’t supposed to be, setting others up for embarrassing pranks, with an occasional flare of hot temper…

Hajime had to wonder what would happen if Ryuuta never kept the dragon egg.

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There were days that he saw his reflection, days that his heart broke again, days of silent sobbing.

His hair was growing back in; it was finally getting a little shaggy again, though it remained as black as ash. His natural hair color. Not a trace of red. A fire that had burned out so long ago. Gone were the days of pointed sideburns, distinct eyebrows. He was as plain as the man bunking with him, a tower of a man that reminded him of another man he used to know.

But this man’s eyes were a steel gray. They weren’t as sharp, they weren’t as fierce, they weren’t the obsidian orbs he remembered. He always wondered what 00012 was like before the day music died. He imagined 00012 would have an amazing, deep baritone. But the scars on the man’s throat ensured him that he would never know…

And suddenly, he would become hyper-conscious. He saw the scars on the man, he saw the scars in the mirror too. He had a voice too.

They ripped it out of him. 

His heart broke again. He shook with soundless sobbing. 

And they wouldn’t let him go. They wouldn’t let him talk, they wouldn’t let him live, they wouldn’t let him die. They only left him to work and to exist, to show the world that instead, music must die. Music died. Music was dead.