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Take A Chance

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“You should come and eat with us.” “Us?”

 

“My friends.” Chiaki felt bad for him. She always felt bad for him, but normally she at least tries to hide it. Now, her pity is abundantly clear and will only become clearer when she pulls up to her Ultimate friends with “talent-less" Hajime under her arm. He bristles at the thought.

 

“No.”

 

“Hajime.” Chiaki says his name with that intense look, that speaks volumes more than she would actually say. He needs friends. His glare crumbles away easily, like it always does under even minute opposition from Chiaki. Fine. He’ll humor her.

 

“Alright, I’ll go. But don’t force anything, okay? If they don’t like me, they don’t like me.” He snaps, putting emphasis on his words. He doesn’t need her to force his relationships, he’s fine doing that on his own.

 

“Okay. Let’s go.” Chiaki states, simply, spinning her keys around her finger. Hajime balks at this. Oh. He actually has to go through with this. Chiaki turns on her heels and walk out of his room, her shoes clicking against the hardwood floor as she heads for the garage door. Shit.

 

“W-wait up!”

 

His feet skid against the floor, racing after her when his brain finally processed what he signed himself up for. He probably left a scuff mark on the floor, but he doesn’t worry about it; he’ll have plenty of time to clean it before his parents get home. If they even notice it when they get home.

 

Chiaki has already made her way into the garage, Hajime right behind her, as the two walk over to her tiny box-like car - which Chiaki lovingly named “Usami”. She slides into the drivers sit easily, while Hajime awkwardly fiddles with the seat. He pushes it all the way back, and painstakingly shimmies into it. The car wasn’t made for people with long legs, as Hajime always has to fold his legs in such weird ways just to get them inside comfortably, but he’s used to that by now. She cranks up the car, and the two head to the fast food place where Chiaki’s Ultimate friends are said to be.

 

He’s used to driving with Chiaki, after all she usually drives him home after school since he hates riding the bus. So, everything about this is pretty familiar to him.  Though, usually there’s not a small neon box hanging from the mirror by a pink cord. Hajime reaches out and pokes the mystery object, and it begins spinning, the cord tangling up.

 

“It’s a Tamagotchi.” Chiaki answers, the two so familiar with one another that Hajime doesn’t even need to voice his questions anymore. His actions speak loud enough.

 

“Tamagotchi? Weren’t those digital pets you had to take care of and stuff?” Chiaki hums in agreement.

 

“Souda gave it to me.” “Souda?”

 

“You’ll meet him. He’ll probably be here, since Sonia’s here.” Chiaki speaks, but only half the words make sense to Hajime. Sonia? Souda? Hajime knew that Chiaki had a lot more friends than just him, but he’s never had it so blatantly spelled out for him. Hajime flicks the box again, it bounces around sporadically.

 

“Does it work?” He asks, hoping to change this painful subject to something that doesn’t involve talking about how much better Chiaki is than him.

 

“No.” “He gave you a broken toy?” Some friends.

“...Souda didn’t know it was broken, he gave it to me right after he found it.” Hajime snorts at the thought of this guy running up to Chiaki, bright eyed and excitable, handing her the only old gaming-adjacent thing he could find and then being met with Chiaki’s usual blank stare as it doesn’t work. This Souda guy must be a real character to not even look to see if the Tamagotchi works before giving it to Chiaki.

 

“They’re probably embarrassed that they gave you something that doesn’t even work, I can’t imagine they’d mind if you threw it away.” Chiaki shakes her head furiously.

 

“No. He offered to fix it, but I like it as decoration.” She shrugs. “...I probably wouldn’t play it if he did fix it anyway.”

 

Hajime stares at the Tamagotchi dangling helplessly from the mirror with a sort of strange endearment. He frowns. He wouldn’t mind playing it. Maybe he could ask this Souda guy to dig up a Tamagotchi for him. Hajime shakes those thoughts out of his mind. What is he thinking? He’s not friends with these people, Chiaki is.

 

Usami daintily slots into the parking spot outside the brightly lit taco joint. Hajime’s legs feel 100 times heavier as he glances through the restaurants front windows to see a big table full of colorful teenagers laughing amongst themselves. He can’t do this. Chiaki shuts off Usami, and turns towards him. She’s smiling. That same patient smile she gave him whenever he had a panic attack before the final last year.

 

“Hey. It’ll be alright. I believe in you, you can do this.” She says, and he believes her. Hajime knows this shouldn’t be that big of a deal, it’s just hanging out with some strangers! Nothing to it, right? But Chiaki just keeps smiling at him, not a hint of condescension on her face. She doesn’t expect him to handle this, or think that he’s being over dramatic, she just believes in him. Believes he can do this. So he will try.

 

    Hajime sighs, running a shaky hand over his face and undoes his seatbelt. The two shimmy their way out of the car, Chiaki clearly being more successful at it than Hajime - who almost collided with the cement trying to get his leg free. The walk to the front of the restaurant feels daunting, and Hajime’s legs practically work on autopilot as his brain turns to a static mess of anxiety. The happy teenagers from the window become clearer and clearer, and Usami becomes more distant. Chiaki pushes open the door, the noise from inside the restaurant pouring outside as she waves Hajime in. He goes, and Chiaki follows behind him.

 

“Chiaki!” A voice screams, and Hajime’s eyes snap over in its direction to find that it belongs to someone from the table full of the happy teens from before. The teens who are now staring at Chiaki and him with wide eyes. He knew they were Chiaki’s friends, they were just too interesting not to be.

 

“Sonia.” Chiaki responds, though not nearly as enthusiastic. Sonia pushes herself up, her chair skidding behind her, and glides over to Chiaki. She looks almost ephemeral, with the way her bleach blonde hair and pasty pale skin almost seem to blend into one another - Hajime reckons her to a ghost, before immediately badgering himself for even thinking something like that about another person.

 

Sonia’s acknowledgement sets off a chain reaction, as the other teens start clambering in excitement at Chiaki’s arrival. Sonia pulls up a chair for Chiaki and waves at it dramatically, like calling a nobleman to his throne. She nudges a pink-haired boy aside - who moves, almost too eagerly - and Sonia presents another chair to Hajime as well. Chiaki takes it easily, mumbling greetings to each of the individuals at the table. He falters for a moment, before taking the seat as well - unable to say no to such an exaggerated offer.

 

“We were beginning to worry you weren’t going to show, Chiaki!” Sonia chirps, eyes practically sparkling as she takes her seat next to Chiaki.

 

“Don’t tell me, was this barf bag keeping you busy?” A tiny girl pipes up, taking an overly loud sip of her milkshake. The redhead next to her scoffs.


    “Hey, you don’t know if he made her late or not.” She says, swatting at the small child’s arm - who only giggled uproariously at the chiding. “But, did you?”

 

“I...I-I” Hajime splutters. His words getting tied up in his throat.

 

“You did didn’t you? Oh, you should know better than to distract someone whenever they’re busy. What kind of person does that?” This red-haired girl spits, her words shooting daggers into Hajime who goes silent in response.

 

    “Uhm...Everyone, this is my friend, Hajime. We’ve known each other for a long time, and I wanted you all to meet him.” And become friends. Hajime can practically feel the words on the tip of Chiaki’s tongue, but they never come out. She’s keeping her end of this strange deal after all, and not trying to force this.

 

“Oh! Greeting, Hajime, my name is Sonia Nevermind!” Sonia says, leaning against the darkly dressed man beside her as she speaks.

 

“And I am Gundham Tanaka, a name which I hasten you to remember because soon it will be the name that you all hail!” The man beside Sonia screams, his voice resounding off the walls of the tiny taco joint. No one seems phased by this outburst, as Hajime stares with wide eyes at the ostentatious man in front of him. I guess this is normal.

 

The table goes quiet. Everyone staring down the boy sitting next to Gundham, who is picking at his food absentmindedly. Sonia clears her throat. He does nothing.

 

“Fuyuhiko. It’s your turn.” She states. The boy jumps up at his name being called.

 

“Turn? What turn?” He spits, words like venom as his eyes pierce through Sonia; who doesn’t even flinch.

 

“Young master, I think it’s your turn to introduce yourself since we’re going around the table.” The girl beside Fuyuhiko pipes in, her tone completely even.

 

Young master? What in the world is going on. Fuyuhiko groans, his fork clattering loudly against the plate. Those piercing eyes move over to Hajime, who practically stands at attention.

 

“The names Fuyuhiko Kuzuryuu.” He says, eyes trained on Hajime. For someone who speaks with so much anger, Hajime thinks he looks almost... cute? He swallows that thought almost immediately, burying it in the back of his mind.

 

“Don’t fucking mess with me, and we won’t have any problems. Alright?” Hajime nods, and Fuyuhiko smiles. It’s cute.

 

The others continue to introduce themselves. Next to Fuyuhiko is Peko Pekoyama, his bodyguard. Then it’s a punk-rocker named Ibuki Mioda, who introduced herself with an over exaggerated hello. Beside her is that red head, apparently named Mahiru Koizumi. And her mean tiny-child of a partner, Hiyoko Saionji. Then it was Akane Owari, who Chiaki had to introduce because Akane was too busy shoveling food into her mouth. And finally, beside Hajime, was the Kazuichi Souda - who looked extremely annoyed to be sitting where he was, despite moving happily when told.

 

“It’s...It’s nice to meet you all.” Hajime croaked out. His words being swallowed up by noisy table discussions, everyone taking Hajime’s words to mean that they could once again talk amongst themselves. Barely seconds ago it was like he was under a spotlight, with everyone’s eyes firmly planted on him. It was an intense heat, and now it’s gone.

 

Now things are exactly how Hajime had expected them to be, with everyone resuming their usual activity and leaving him adrift - like an unwelcome bystander, eavesdropping in. Of course he doesn’t want that intense attention again, but being ostracized like this only makes it so much clearer how unwanted he is.

 

All of the Ultimates talk loudly to one another. All except for Fuyuhiko, the baby-faced boy from before, who sits quietly - sipping his soda through a straw. Hajime stares at him, finding solace in the fact that it’s not just him whose mouth is shut. Though, he does wonder why that is. Fuyuhiko knows these people, Hajime doesn’t. You would think that someone would be talking to him, even if it was just his bodyguard. Yet, Peko seems to be calmly conversing with an extremely loud Ibuki, and Fuyuhiko doesn’t seem annoyed by that or fighting for her attention in the slightest.

 

Maybe he just doesn’t want to talk to anyone? He seems like a quiet guy, if his introduction says anything. So it might just be that he prefers silence, Hajime thinks. Though, if that’s true, what does that say about Hajime. He likes talking, so he has no excuse not to start up a conversation with someone. The thought makes his heart speed up and shoulders tense. Shit. Has anyone noticed his silence? If Fuyuhiko really does have an excuse than Hajime must look socially awkward; which he is, but he doesn’t want other people to think that. His eyes dart around the table, rolling around like dice, looking for any wandering eyes.

 

He finds some. His gaze meeting a pair of golden eyes, belonging to Fuyuhiko himself. The boys eyes practically burn into Hajime’s, a blank expression on his face. Did he catch me staring? He wonders, fear creeping up into his heart. Hajime freezes up, expecting hell itself to open up and swallow him whole for daring to even look at Fuyuhiko. It doesn’t, instead Fuyuhiko cracks a smile, breaking the eye contact to stare down at the table. It’s small, but it’s definitely a smile. Hajime sucks in a breath through gritted teeth. Today must be his lucky day, as Fuyuhiko definitely doesn’t seem the type to smile like that at anyone.

       

“Everyone ready to go?” Mahiru asks, earning a chorus of yes’s from the rest of the table. The table soon begins dispersing from the restaurant, with Chiaki disappearing out the door long before Hajime even got to it. The group breaks into a weird little line of twos and threes, all of them walking from the taco joint and towards the parking lot. In this line, Hajime is dead last, watching the others loudly conversing with one another from a respectable distance. There was no use trying to keep up, he’d only be intruding on their conversations and Hajime would rather not have to be a third-wheel right now. He stuffs his hands in his pockets, shuffling in the direction of Usami.

“Hey.” A hand pulls at Hajime’s arm, and he turns sharply to face the owner: Fuyuhiko. His ears are pink from the cold, and he’s staring up at Hajime with that familiar intense expression. “You never said what your talent was?”

 

Hajime’s mind blanks and he stops dead in his tracks to process the words Fuyuhiko said.

 

“Neither did you?” He counters. Fuyuhiko scoffs.

 

“Well, no one else did. So. I didn’t think about doing it.” “So why should I?”

 

“Because I don’t know yours.” Fuyuhiko spits, glaring at Hajime as if he’s being rude for not sharing his ‘talent’. He looks past Fuyuhiko, eyes locked onto some point ahead of him, as he gathers up the courage to say what he knows he can’t avoid.

 

“I...I don’t have a talent. I’m in the reserve department.” Hajime mumbles out. The silence that follows is poison to Hajime’s ever descending ego, as he continues to look at anything that isn’t Fuyuhiko’s face.

 

“Oh.” “Oh?” Hajime’s eyes snap over to him.

“Yeah, oh. What? Did you expect me to start bad-mouthing you or somethin’. I’m not that kind of guy.” Fuyuhiko says, arms crossed. Hajime smiles.

 

“Of course.” He says, a weird sort of fondness creeping into his voice as he stares down at the cute freckled-face of Fuyuhiko. Who squirms under his gaze.

 

“Uh. I’ll just...be going then. See you around, Hinata.” He calls, turning on his heels and jogging towards the Peko shaped blur across the parking lot. Hajime lifts his hand to wave goodbye, but Fuyuhiko is too far gone. He drops it, a choked kind of laugh forcing its way out his throat as he watches the other move farther and farther away from him.

 

Strangely, Hajime doesn’t really hate the idea of hanging out with Chiaki’s friends anymore.   

 

Chapter Text

Five days pass before Hajime is invited to spend time with Chiaki’s friends again. He didn’t tell her about his little talk with Fuyuhiko, afterall she would probably tease him and he’d rather not deal with that. Instead, he’s just been doing his usual: studying, looking for jobs, and staying alive. So, when Chiaki mentions on the drive home that he should come eat lunch with them, he immediately accepts. Normally during lunch he’d be sitting in an empty classroom to work. He does need to work on a homework assignment, but Hajime decides to just take the loss on that one and heads to the lunchroom.

 

Chiaki’s group is sitting outside, they’ve somehow mangled two of the heavy tables next to each other and are talking loudly amongst themselves. Hajime notices a few familiar faces, and several new ones. His feet slow, that crushing reminder of how much of an outsider he is presses down on his windpipe. Talent-less Hajime. Sonia and him make eye contact. She stands up abruptly, beaming at him.  

 

“Oh, Hajime! Welcome!” She cheers. The others in the group turning to look at him as well. One of the teens - Akane - pats the empty spot beside her, smiling warmly at him.

 

“Hey, bud! Come on, sit down, we’re waiting for ya!” Akane calls, waving around a turkey leg as she spoke, and Hajime takes the seat easily.

 

“You actually showed up.” Chiaki socks him in the arm. To some she may seem emotionless, but Hajime has know her long enough to read the proud look on her face. Huh.

 

“Did you think I wouldn’t?” Hajime jokes, though the words come out as more of a squeak as he grips his wounded arm in pain.

 

“So. What’s your talent, Hajime?” A voice calls, the owner being a teen boy sitting on the other side of Chiaki. His hair is white and wispy, it looks almost like a cloud. He’s smiling at Hajime, enamoured, he’s never had someone look at him with so much awe before. Chiaki lets out an audible gasp, her eyes taking on a fiery look as she glares at this mystery man.  

 

“Nagito.” Chiaki says, her words defensive.

 

“It’s fine, Chiaki. I’m actually, uh, from the reserve department.” The words hold a bitter taste still, but Hajime is used to that by now. He doesn’t feel so ashamed saying it after hearing Fuyuhiko’s reaction to it, if the Ultimates don’t mind that he’s in the reserve department - why should he?  

 

Nagito’s lips pucker, like he just sucked on a particularly nasty lemon. That look of awe rotting away to one of pure unadulterated disgust. That bitter taste rises in Hajime’s throat. Chiaki’s glare intensifies, she looks as if she’s about to punch Nagito’s teeth out.

 

“Nagito.” She snarls, her voice growing even quieter.

 

“Do you even care that you’re eating lunch with people far superior to you?” Nagito spat, his chin held high as he looks down on Hajime. Disgust. “People with actual talent?”

 

“Stop.” She repeats.

 

“Talentless students don’t even deserve to walk the same halls as the Ultimates. They don’t deserve to breathe the same air as the Ultimates. They don’t deserve to live.” The world seems to disappear for Hajime, everything but Nagito and Chiaki fizzling out like a dream.

 

“You don’t deserve to be here.” He speaks the words slowly, enunciating every syllable to further dig the dagger into his chest. Nagito’s eyes are on him, their icy gaze threatening to rip a whole through him. To destroy him, and rid the world of his lack-of-talent. Hajime feels like he’s drowning in this poignant disgust.

 

“Just shut up already.” Fuyuhiko screams, slamming his hands on the table and standing up. Both Nagito and Hajime’s eyes snap up to him, each reeling from just being broken out of their haze. In a flash, Fuyuhiko chucks his drink at Nagito - the cup colliding against his face and sending soda everyone. Those in the drinks blast radius let out a scream, including Hajime himself, several jumping to the side to avoid the raining soda. The rest of the table’s attention is now firmly planted on Fuyuhiko, everyones conversations put on hold to process the insanity happening in front of them.  

 

A eerie bought of silence falls over the table, the only sound being the quiet dripps of the soda from Nagito’s hair and Fuyuhiko’s erratic breathing. Then, Nagito starts to laugh. It sounds almost pained, like the noise is coming from the depths of his very soul. It’s disturbing, Hajime reckons it to being the sound you hear moments before someone murders you. Gleeful and absolutely twisted. Nagito’s laughter only seems to make Fuyuhiko more angry, as the boy’s face turns a violent shade of red.

 

“I said. Shut the fuck up!” Fuyuhiko spits, puffing his chest out. Nagito only laughs harder.

 

“Nagito.” Chiaki says, taking on her serious voice that Hajime so rarely hears. He doesn’t respond.

 

“Nagito.” She repeats, reaching her hand up to touch Nagito’s arm. Nothing but that wicked laughter, which is growing more and more desperate as time passes.

 

She slaps him. Mahiru lets out a loud gasp, so loud that it covers up Hajime’s own. He stops laughing.

 

“You...you should leave.” Chiaki mutters. Nagito’s eyes are wide, his hand hovering over his now red cheek weakly. He stands up suddenly, turns around and trots off back towards the school. Hajime watches him walk away, breathless. Chiaki closes her eyes, clears her throat, and turns back towards the rest of the group. “All good.”

 

Everyone resumes their conversations awkwardly, forcing their minds off of what just happened. Chiaki picks at her food happily, continuing like nothing happened despite the soda clearly staining the arm of her jacket. Life does it’s best to continue on, leaving Hajime adrift once again trying to gather his bearings. His mind feels like static right now, this whole situation unravelling too fast for his mind to catch up. Nagito’s words echo softly in the back of his mind, a bitter aftertaste on his tongue. His eyes dart over to Fuyuhiko, who solemnly sits down, the conversation moving on without him as well.

 

The two make eye contact, and Hajime can practically feel the heat, anger, and resentment in his gaze. He looks almost apologetic, his mouth opening and closing several times before he resolves himself to stare down at the table. Fuyuhiko has proven to be great at leaving Hajime stunned, his cheeks flush and mind absolutely confused. This moment is no exception. Hajime smiles.

 

“So, Hajime.” Akane calls, snapping his attention away from the baby-faced teen and to the sheet of paper being thrust into his face. “How good are you at calculus?”

 

Hajime tried to tell Akane that he’s not exactly the brightest bulb, especially when it came to calculus, but she insisted that he probably understood it better than her. So, he spent the rest of lunch helping Akane with her homework, every once and a while stealing a glance at Fuyuhiko. He tells himself it’s because the boy is just so interesting, but really he just likes seeing his face. Though, it does help that Fuyuhiko is such an interesting character. He’s a little ball of anger and fury, but Hajime doesn’t feel at all as scared by him as he did yesterday. Fuyuhiko is harmless, Hajime realizes, grinning to himself as he scribbles out the equation to one of Akane’s math problems.

As lunch comes to a close, the group begins to get up from the table and head back. Akane pockets the worksheet, thanking Hajime profusely for his help and dumping the mountain of wrappers on her tray into the trash. Hajime mumbles out a reply, pushing himself up and trailing behind Chiaki’s friends. He tries not to think about Nagito’s words, shoves his hands into his pockets, and focuses on anything else. Ibuki’s laugh rings out up ahead, his throat tightens. He can hear his feet scrap against the concrete walkway and- wait. That’s not his feet.

 

Hajime’s eyes snap over to the figure beside him, only to come face to face with Fuyuhiko. Fuyuhiko who seems to be avoiding his gaze, the tips of his ears burning red - is he embarrassed?

 

“Why aren’t you walking with everyone else?” “Why aren’t you?” Fuyuhiko snaps. Definitely embarrassed. Hajime starts to form a rebuttal, but decides against it. If Fuyuhiko wants to walk with him, he’s definitely not going to try and deter him. Plus, Hajime could use another voice to listen to beside his own right now. He turns his gaze forward, once again resuming his quiet appreciation of the sounds around him. Though, without saying a word, Hajime slows down to match Fuyuhiko’s pace.

 

“What Nagito said was completely unfucking called for.” “-It’s fine. I’m okay.”

 

“Doesn’t mean it’s not shitty.” Fuyuhiko grumbles, cocking an eyebrow up at him. Hajime snorts out a laugh.

 

“Yeah. It really was.” He says, his words trailing off. “But, i’ll be fine. I’m used to shitty stuff like this.”

 

“You’re kidding me? You don’t deserve that.” Fuyuhiko sounds shocked, which takes Hajime back. He doesn’t really consider that to be shocking information.

 

“You just met me?” “Yeah, so? I just met you and I already know you don’t deserve that, which only makes those assholes cases worse. They probably know less about you than I do!”  

 

Fuyuhiko spits, his words venomous as he judges Hajime’s past bullies. Bullies he doesn’t even know. Hajime resists the urge to laugh, feeling that Fuyuhiko will probably take it the wrong way. It’s not what Fuyuhiko said that’s funny, it’s just that seeing him get so worked up over people treating Hajime poorly - like it’s an insane concept, and not a normal occurance - is hilarious.

 

“Thanks, Fuyuhiko. You seem like a good guy.” Hajime says, his tone full of an unspoken appreciation for all that Fuyuhiko did for him today. A tone that his words definitely did not match, but is still felt nonetheless. Fuyuhiko’s cheeks flush, and he glares down at the cement walkway. “Oh. Uh. Thanks.”

 

The two part ways at the entrance to the school, each exchanging mumbled goodbyes before disappearing to their separate sections. Divided. A symbolic representation of the different planes they are on right now. Hajime swallows this thought, focusing instead on counting every step he takes up the winding stair case. 1...2...3...10...15….

 

20...15…10...3...Hajime races down the stairs, clutching his backpack straps so tight his knuckles turn white. He had a little free time at the end of class again, and started studying. And again he studied for too long, leaving Chiaki waiting on him in the schools parking lot. She had texted him several times, asking if he had gotten too into studying again, and of course he didn’t see them until now. He shoves the door open, and races across the school grounds, the parking lot growing closer and closer. Apologies beat in his mind to the tune of his heart, all of him racing to Chiaki’s car; Usami.

 

He stops next to Usami, doubled over in pain as he struggles to breathe. His legs ache, mind buzzing as he prepares to swarm Chiaki with a billion ‘i’m sorry’s. He lifts his head up, only to see Chiaki - the girl he just ran a good mile for - passed out in her car. I'm not even surprised . He shuffles his sore feet over to her window, and taps on it. She continues to snore peacefully, of course it wouldn’t be that easy. Hajime sighs and pulls out his phone and calls her. Chiaki’s phone jumps to life on her console, crying out for its owner. Hajime already knows her ringtone is blaring right now, the noise rousing her from her sleep. Her eyes loll open, Hajime taps on the window again gaining her attention.

 

She fumbles around lazily for her keys, and unlocks the door. He hangs up, and walks over to the passengers seat. Hajime awkwardly shuffles into the seat, his legs falling into that strange default position whenever he’s in her car. Chiaki rubs her eyes, yawning loudly.

 

“Sorry, Chiaki. I was-” “Studying?” “-yeah…” He answers, sheepishly.

 

“ ‘Sfine. I don’t mind, ‘got a good nap in.” She mumbles, wiping the drool from her chin with her thumb. He knows she means it, but a part of him will always feel guilty about doing stuff like that. That’s a good thing, he thinks.

 

“Hey, uh...Chiaki, thanks for inviting me to lunch today.” “Huh? Oh, ah. That reminds me…”

 

“So, ugh-” Chiaki stretches her arms out in front of her, before letting them fall back to her sides. She yawns loudly once more, and fishes her phone off the console. “-here let me just show it to you.”

 

Chiaki scrolls through her phone for a moment, before tossing it into Hajime’s lap. He fumbles with it for a moment, before finally getting a clear look of what she wanted to show him; text messages. Specifically text messages from: “Fuyuhiko (ง'̀-'́)ง”

 

F: hey

C: yea? :0

F: yknow ur friend that came today

C: hajime ??

F: yeah

F: whens he coming back

 

Hajime reads the words over and over again, hoping that if he reads them enough times that maybe it’ll fully sink in. His mouth is hanging wide open - though, really it always is, Hajime is a bit of a mouth breather.

 

“I told you they’d like you.” Chiaki says, knowingly. Like me? Hajime thinks, his face flushing at the very thought of Fuyuhiko liking him. He knows that's not what Chiaki meant, but the thought is...enticing. Oh my god, Hajime tries to bury those thoughts but it’s too late. Chiaki sees them, and she lets out an dramatic gasp.

 

“You have a crush on Fuyuhiko.” Chiaki whispers, as if he’ll hear if she says it too loud. She’s totally messing with me, Hajime thinks, but he can’t stop himself from reacting. His face burns, and he jumps in his seat like he just touched a hot flame.

 

“I-I-I-” “You do, don’t you!” Chaiki reiterates, giving Hajime a steely gaze. Trying to pry a confession from him. He presses himself against the car door, mouth opening and closing like a faulty garage door.

 

“What? I-I-I just met the guy!” Hajime splutters, placing Chiaki’s phone back on the console. She hums in agreement.

 

“You’re right. You get crushes way too easily, Hajime.” Chiaki states, confidently. Hajime lets out a groan, and slams his forehead against the dashboard.

 

“This is why I don't tell you about my love life.” “No, you don’t tell me about your love life because you don’t have one.” Chiaki responds. Her words knocking another annoyed groan out of Hajime.

 

“Okay, ouch.” He snaps, but Chiaki ignores him. She starts up the car, and pulls out of the schools parking lot.

 

“Ooh. I could be your wingman.” Chiaki’s eyes are full of excitement, which makes Hajime wonder how long she’s been waiting to be his wingman.

 

“Absolutely not.” Her shoulders droop, and he feels a pang of guilt for taking away her moment of joy.

 

“Do you at least want information on him, or something? He is my friend after all.” “No.”

 

Hajime responds, quickly, before her words truly hit him. The two go quiet, with Hajime beginning to truly mull over her offering. He does kind of want to know more about Fuyuhiko. After all, he doesn't even know what the boys talent is! The idea of knowing just a little bit more is too good of an offer to refuse.

 

“...Fine.” He mutters, just loud enough for Chiaki to hear. Chiaki smiles, and Hajime starts to wonder if she knew he’d say yes all along. She knows him too damn well, it’s scary.

 

“Fuyuhiko is our age, and his official title is the ‘Ultimate Yakuza.’” “Wait, what? Really?” Chiaki nods.

 

“I’m surprised you didn’t get that by hearing his full name?” “I-I don’t know...I just thought it’s a different Kuzuryuu family or something.”

 

“How many Kuzuryuu’s do you know?” Chiaki states, giggling to herself. “W-we’re getting off topic!”

 

“He’s supposed to be heir to the Kuzuryuu clan, but he says he gave up on that. He wouldn’t tell me any specifics, but, apparently he decided to join Hope’s Peak instead. And Peko went with him, since she’s been assigned to watch over him till he dies and all.” She relays, the words floating around in Hajime’s head.

 

“Wow. So, him and Peko must be really close then?” “Oh yeah... You should have seen whenever they first got here, it took forever for Peko to start seeing herself as an actual human being and not just the Kuzuryuu clans property. Fuyuhiko kept telling her to drop it, but... she didn’t listen.” Chiaki frowns as she tells this story, Hajime can’t even imagine having to deal with something like that.

 

“But about a year ago or so, Peko started to hang out with us and then three months later Fuyuhiko finally agreed to eat lunch with us. It’s been history ever since...or something. He’s still kind of standoffish, but that’s okay. He’s a nice guy, I think you two would be great together.” She beams over at him, before returning her eyes to the road.

 

“...I should have known you’d like him, you have a thing for bad boys.” “Oh my god, Chiaki! Why would you even-”

 

“What? You always choose the gruff dudes whenever we play fighting games, I just sort of assumed-” “Okay! I don’t know why I even asked! Just- Is that it? Are we done?”

 

Chiaki goes quiet, her expression unreadable. Hajime can practically see the gears in her head turning.

 

“He’s gay if that’s what you’re asking-” “ Okay , Chiaki, I’m turning on some music. I do not need to hear anymore from you.”

 

Chiaki cracks a smile, and Hajime knows its at his expense. The rest of the drive is spent with Hajime plugging in the aux cord and flipping through songs on his phone. Specifically, songs from his playlist labeled “songs we both like.” They’re about six songs in before Chiaki pulls into his driveway. He unplugs his phone, and peels himself out of Chiaki’s car.

 

“Hey, Hajime.” He ducks his head down to meet her eye level from outside the car. “You should eat lunch with us tomorrow.”

 

“...Are you going to let me say no?” “Absolutely not.”    

 

Chapter Text

Hajime continued to eat lunch with Chiaki’s friends, claiming that he was only doing it because he had nothing else to do with his time - though in truth that was not the only reason. Everyone was decently nice to him, or at the very least they didn’t care enough to say anything, but he still felt that curdling bought of sickening sadness in his stomach whenever he was around them. Usually it came about whenever one of the Ultimates would talk about their talents, with such certainty. It was an awful feeling, and Hajime was ashamed of it. So he buried it deep inside, and pushed forward.

 

    He knew all of Chiaki’s friends by name now, but he wasn’t close to any of them in particular. Their lunch table was a noisy one, with everyone engaging in their own separate conversations with the people close to them. Usually the seating is pretty standard, but the rooster of people there changes depending on what day it is. However, the spot next to Hajime had an ever rotating owner no matter what day it was. Hajime liked to try and predict who would be sitting next to him on his walk over, it was a fun little game that he usually lost.   

   

    Today, Hajime was guessing that it would probably be Souda. Souda is usually a pretty sporadic guy, so it’s impossible to tell when he’ll actually remember to come to lunch. Though, today just feels like a Souda kind of day, he thinks. It’s been one of those quieter days, where everything feels a little more bland and a tad softer. The kind of day where nothing really happens, which leaves Hajime staring out the window and counting the seconds that pass. Something bombastic needs to happen, so it’s definitely a Souda-kind-of-day.

 

    As that familiar mangled set up comes into view, Hajime hones in on his spot. Oh. There’s no one beside him today, just a big empty seat. Today really is a boring day.

   

    “Hey, Hajime!” Ibuki calls out to him, prolonging the ‘hey’ just a little too long. She’s taken Gundham’s usual spot at the table, since he’s busy taking care of a sick hamster today. Hajime flashes a smile at her, and takes a seat.

   

    Chiaki slurs out something that Hajime deciphers as meaning ‘hi’ from behind her DS. The screen is barely two inches from her face, and she’s franticly pressing the buttons with life-or-death like urgency. Hajime doesn’t even question it, he used to get upset whenever she would call him over just to ignore him completely in favor of her pixelated friends, but that’s just Chiaki. This is how she socializes.

 

“Ooo, I bet Hajime will do karaoke with you, Ibuki.” Hiyoko calls, smiling just a little too wide for him to feel anywhere close to at ease.

 

“Oh! Hajime are you going to help Ibuki rule the night?” Ibuki yells, eyes sparkling as Hajime looks on in horror.

 

“Wait what? We’re doing karaoke?” “Uh, yeah? Of course we are. Any good party has karaoke.”

 

“Party?” Hajime croaks out. He’s used to being confused, ninety percent of the studying he does it just reviewing the notes and trying to understand what the hell they’re even saying, but this is still pushing it.

 

“ ‘Sonia.” Chiaki mumbles. The girl in question jumps to attention whenever Chiaki calls her name.

 

“Did someone send for me?” Sonia pipes up, hands clasped on the table. She is definitely the Ultimate Princess. Chiaki nudges him, then nods her head to Sonia; almost saying, ‘there, now ask.’

 

“Uh…” Words crash and collide together in Hajime’s head, before he finally manages to utter- “There’s a party?”

 

“Oh! Hajime, I completely forgot! My sincerest apologies, I gave out all my invitations already, but If you would still like to attend I would love to see you there.” Sonia barks out, the words floating in one ear and out the other as he stares blankly at her.

 

“What’s going on?” “She’s holding a party, shit for brains!” Hiyoko snaps.

 

“Where?” “At my royal estate, of course! I had hoped to hold it at ‘Tommy’s Funtime Mini Golf’ but all that I spoke to about it said that they’d rather have it there.”

 

Hajime silently thanks, whoever those people were, for talking Sonia out of that line of thinking.

   

“Uh. Thanks, but...” I don’t like parties. The thought of the others outcries in disbelief cause the words to die on his lips. Hajime has never been much of a party person - hell, he cried at his own birthday party once. So, add his own anxieties surrounding parties, with the fact that this is a party full of talented Ultimate students, and Hajime knew he absolutely could not go.   

 

“What’s wrong, Hajime?” Mahiru pipes up.

 

“Trust me, I know a good party, Sonia’s parties are legit!” Nekomaru yells, his voice like a booming megaphone.

 

“I-it’s not that I don’t think her parties will be fun…” Hajime’s words peeter out. Most of the tables eyes are on him now, radiating a heat that burns him alive.  

 

“It’s okay, Hajime.” Peko’s voice calls out to him, stable and calm. She looks genuinely concerned for him, which only further deepens the pit in his stomach. “This will be my first time attending one of Sonia’s parties, as well.”

 

Her words echo in Hajime’s mind for a moment, before an epiphany rises to the surface: If Peko’s going, so is Fuyuhiko. Wait, Fuyuhiko? Hajime’s eyes shift over to the loud-boys usual seat beside Peko, only to find that he too is absent. That strikes him as odd, especially because Fuyuhiko usually eats lunch with them on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays and today’s a Friday so oh my god why do I know this-

 

“I’ll be there.” He says, speaking in absolutes despite the uncertainty he feels. The others pour out their support for Hajime being there, practically breaking his eardrums with their uproarious cheers. Peko doesn’t say anything though, she just smiles at him. The kind of smile that says more than Hajime can pick up on.

 

“Young Master.” Peko calls out, shuffling her bamboo sword off her shoulder and places it in the empty seat beside her. He follows her eyes to see Fuyuhiko walking up to the lunch table. “You came at a great time, Hajime is coming to Sonia’s party.”

 

A look of surprise passes over Fuyuhiko’s face, before fading into a pointed glare aimed directly at Peko Pekoyama; who smiles back. The two stare at each other for a moment, before his glare too fades away.  

 

“Cool.” Fuyuhiko mutters, walking up to the table and taking the empty seat next to Hajime. Hajime’s eyes practically bug out of his head, staring at the smaller boy like he broke some unspoken rule. Well, he kind of did. Fuyuhiko always sat next to Peko, he never deviated from that spot since Hajime’s sat here. So, this seems absolutely out of character for him.

 

    Everyone resumes their individual conversations, leaving both Hajime and Fuyuhiko adrift - per usual - except now they’re adrift together. That point sticks out in Hajime’s brain, giving him a sense of hope that he knows will absolutely not last long.  

 

    “Can you stop staring at me like that, ‘s freaking me out.” Fuyuhiko grumbles, crossing his arms and glaring up at Hajime. Cheeks red, another tidbit of information that sticks out to him.

 

    “Sorry, it’s just...I’m not used to you sitting with other people besides Peko.” Hajime states and Fuyuhiko grits his teeth. Fuck, guess I shouldn’t have said that.

 

    “What the fuck do you know? What friends do you have besides Chiaki?” Fuyuhiko spits, and Hajime knows that it’s supposed to hurt, to sting, but it doesn’t.

 

“Are we not friends?” He responds, cooly, eyes trained on the smaller boy. The two go quiet, Fuyuhiko scanning Hajime’s face for any sign that this is a joke. It isn’t.

 

“Uh, what? No!” “Why not?”

 

    “Well...I don’t know, I mean I don’t even have your phone number.” Fuyuhiko states, gaze locked on Hajime. Waiting for his response, as if there’s a designated answer that he is supposed to say.

    “Yeah that’s true.” Hajime responds, Fuyuhiko frowns. Whatever response he wanted, Hajime absolutely did not deliver.

 

    Yeah .” Fuyuhiko repeats, raising his eyebrows at Hajime, trying to coax the right words out of the others boys mouth.

 

    “Yeah…? I don’t have your phone number.” Hajime states, flatly. Wrong answer.

 

“Jesus fucking christ, ask me for my number already!” Fuyuhiko snaps, hands gesturing wildly. Hajime just stares at him, his request taking a minute to fully process.

 

“Oh. Oh. Uh, can I...have your number?” “God damn, that took way too long.”

 

Fuyuhiko digs his phone out of his pocket, and hands it to Hajime. He types in his information, and almost hands it back before he realizes something vitally important. Fuyuhiko’s hand is out half-way to grab the phone, but Hajime doesn’t return it - instead he continues to click around on the phone.

 

“What the fuck are you doing?” “Wait, wait. I have to take a contact photo, right? I don’t want to have a blank profile picture.”

 

Hajime pulls the phone back away from him, holding it up in the air. He holds up a peace sign against his face, using one of the fingers to pull down his eyelid, and closes his eyes. Perfect shot. He opens his eyes, and grins at the newfound photo: it’s ugly, but on purpose which is what really matters.

 

“Seriously? That’s the picture you want me to see everytime I text you?” Hajime shrugs.

 

“It’s memorable.” He quips, handing the phone back to Fuyuhiko - who huffs out a laugh.

 

“You sure fucking are.” Fuyuhiko mumbles, scrolling through his phone, his ears beat red. Hajime blinks, questioning for a second if he actually heard Fuyuhiko correctly. He thinks I’m memorable. Hajime smiles.  

 

    It took Fuyuhiko three days to text Hajime, not that he would ever admit to keeping track of that. In truth, he was beginning to wonder if he put the wrong number in that day. Thankfully, Hajime didn’t have to wonder any longer whenever the other finally texted him - in the most nonchalant way possible:

 

F: hey

H: ?

H: who is this?

F: guess

H: uh?

H: im hoping its fuyuhiko?

F: bingo

H: wow,

H: took you long enough.

 

It was very anticlimactic, as he had essentially been waiting by the phone for this boys reply only to be awarded a lukewarm “hey”. Though, even if it wasn’t a good start, the two actually began to text each other fairly often in the three days since that fateful text. Really their conversations weren’t exactly riveting dialogue, it was just stuff that either Fuyuhiko found shitty or some picture that Hajime found funny.

 

It was kind of odd for Hajime to actually have someone to text. Chiaki and him rarely texted each other, unless it was something important like a new video game release. So, he hasn’t had an ongoing conversation with someone over text in a fair amount of time. Fuyuhiko didn’t make it any easier on Hajime either, as he often would reply with simply one to two word quips and leave Hajime with nothing to continue their conversation on. Thankfully, Hajime definitely had something to text him today since it was the day before Sonia’s “renowned” party and a serious question still lingered in his mind.

 

H: hey fuyuhiko?

H: you up?

F: its 8

H: some people go to bed at 8!

F: no they dont

H: yes they totally do,

F: name 1 person

H: Chiaki

F: fuck

F: i walked into that

 

Hajime snorts out a laugh, he can practically see Fuyuhiko’s annoyed expression in his mind. Cute.

 

H: anyway,

H: you know how sonias partys tomorrow?

F: yeah

H: are you going?

 

Hajime watches with baited breath as those three little dots sway in and out of his view.

F: do u want me to

 

He stares at the message in confusion, is there some double meaning to this? It seems way too easy of a question. Isn’t it already clear that Hajime wants him to go? He is asking if he’s going, after all?

 

H: course?

H: why wouldnt i?

 

Those dots dance in front of his eyes once more, taunting him. They disappear and reappear at random, leaving Hajime even more confused.

 

F: yeah ill go

H: were you not going to?

F: uh

F: probably not

H: but isnt peko going?

F: peko can go to a party without me

 

Shit. Hajime’s conversation with Chiaki bubbles up in his mind, and he immediately feels bad wording that the way he did.

 

H: yeah but,

H: idk…

H: i thought it peko was invited you would be too?

F: i was

H: but you werent going to go?

F: i am now

 

Hajime’s face flushes, the fact that Fuyuhiko is going to Sonia’s party because he asked making his heart beat the tiniest bit faster. It’s stupid to get hopeful about something so small, but he can’t stop himself.

 

F: hajime

F: say somethin pls this is awkward

H: youre going to the party for me?

F: i change my mind shut up

H: whats the answer baby faced gangster?

F:  oh my god

F: do not call me that

H: thats not an answer?

F: YES oaky

H: oaky

F: i hate u so much

 

      Hajime is sure he looks like a mad man, grinning down at his phone like this, but he’s pretty damn happy. And that’s what matters right now.

 

Chapter Text

Sonia lived in a literal palace. Hajime expected to be in the face of some form of intense luxury - she is the Ultimate princess after all - but Sonia had claimed her house was not that nice. It wasn’t her actual home, just a summer home that Sonia lives in while she’s in this country. So, Hajime certainly wasn’t expecting to see the opulent mansion awaiting them behind an enormous steel gate. The whole place looks as if it’s made of ivory, shining like an eternal beacon guiding the rich and famous to their door.

 

“Holy fucking shit.” He whispers, shock punching the words out of him. Chiaki hums.

 

“Yeah. It’s a lot.” Chiaki states, flatly. Almost bored. Hajime can’t even imagine growing bored of this.

 

The beat-up truck in front of us is breaking the illusion for him, though. Thankfully, the guards open the metal gates for the truck, allowing it to move; successfully freeing up Hajime’s view of the castle, and letting Usami continue it’s path towards the guards.

 

Chiaki rolls the window down as she stops in front of the now opened gate. A guard looms outside the window, before seemingly recognizing Chiaki and approaching it, smiling wide.

 

“Miss Nanami, correct?” “Correct.” The guard reaches into the car and fist bumps Chiaki. What in the hell is going on right now?

 

“Enjoy the party, you two.” The guard exclaims, gesturing them forward and Usami followed through.

 

Chiaki and Hajime sat in silence as the castle grew closer and closer. His mind is absolutely drowning in new information, gasping for air and clinging to the only truth he can hold onto; that just happened.  

 

“Chiaki.” “-What?” Her tone was incredulous, as if it was insane for him to even question what just happened. So he didn’t, there were bigger fish to fry. Those bigger fish being the fact that he was pulling up to a party at a fancy mansion, full of extremely talented people. Hajime hoped for many things in that moment, as all of his late-night-fearful-scenarios crashed into his mind when Usami parked in front of the homes crystal staircase.

 

The front windows cast a warm glow on the car, shining a spotlight on Hajime and Chiaki from behind the windshield. Music was blasting inside, and the loud humm of voices and bass-boosted hits made it clear that this was indeed the place. He tugged at the hem of his collared shirt, the fear of being underdressed becoming hard to refute when faced with this lavish set-up. Chiaki wasn’t really wearing anything fancy either, but she showed up to school dances in sweatpants so that meant nothing.

 

“Breathe.” Hajime does, taking in several slow deep breaths. Chiaki’s watching him, that gentle look on her face that always made him feel like a sick puppy. He doesn’t say anything about it, though, because right now he’s starting to think he is a sick puppy. Hajime’s hand shake involuntarily against his neck, fingers fidgeting with his collars buttons. He tries to gather his thoughts. Then, his phone buzzed.

 

He lets go of his collar and shuffles his phone out of his pocket. It’s Fuyuhiko, his eyes light up.

 

F: u here yet

F: hey where r u

F: god u better fucking get here soon

 

“You’re smiling.” Chiaki points out, face swooping forward to snag a glimpse of his phone. He jerks it away quickly, almost uppercutting her in the process.

 

“What are you doing?” “I wanna know who it is.”  She cocks her head slightly, like a confused puppy dog. Despite her innocent look, he knows that telling her will only lead to a night of constant teasing. No.

 

“Does it matter?” He squeaks, clutching his phone to his chest. Chiaki blinks, her expression blank as her mind processes some unreadable code.

 

“Probably not.” She relents, turning back in her seat. Hajime lets out a sigh in relief, as she unclips her seatbelt. The pair shimmy their way out of the car, the cool air feeling absolutely refreshing compared to the compact heat inside the car. Hajime writes a quick response-

 

H: im here!

-and pockets his phone. One step at a time, Hajime . He stuffs his hands in his pockets, and forces his feet onward. One, two, one, two. He falls into lockstep beside Chiaki, eyes locked on the ground as the ever looming anxiety-fest grows closer and closer. The muffled voices of people become ever louder, the sounds sending vibrations through the floorboards and up Hajime’s spine.

 

He thought about running, about sprinting away from this. Away from the music, away from the school. That thought was quickly shot down, though, by the logical part of his brain that knew he couldn't run that far. So, Hajime stood still on Sonia Nevermind’s front porch, focusing on literally anything else beside the party awaiting him.

 

Chiaki rang the doorbell, which emitted a loud chime, and soon was greeted by a similarly dressed guard to the ones at the gate. They moved aside, pulling the door completely open and hustling the pair in. It’s crowded, dark, and loud. Hajime does not want to be here. The music beats in his ears, as he steps tentatively into the threshold of Sonia’s house. Lights are flashing on and off throughout the house, but it’s still not enough to properly light the room. There are a lot of people here, practically the entire school must have been invited. Chiaki pats his shoulder.

 

“I believe in you.” She yells over the roaring music. The words give Hajime little comfort.

 

Hajime was pushed and shoved through the darkened mass of bodies. He mumbled out unheard apologies, every few seconds he would collide with another party-goer. I hate this. A mantra of “I’m sorry” and “excuse me’s” spill out of his mouth, and get immediately overtaken by all of the noise. It’s hard to breathe in here. It’s hard to see in here. Everything is too much. Fuck this. Fuck this party-

 

    Hajime slams the front door closed behind him. The cold air feels almost refreshing, the uncomfortable tension from before lifting. His hands twitch, mind like television static, a loud ringing in his ears. He can still feel the residual pain of being elbowed in the stomach and kicked in the shins, as he ping-ponged around the room. Hajime takes tentative steps down the marble stairs, sitting at the bottom step. He prys his phone out of his pocket, hoping to focus on anything else beside the anxiety-inducing party beyond that door. Five messages from Fuyuhiko. Great.

 

F: cool where r u

F: hajime

F: im by the bar btw

F: if u want to dance or smth

F: sorry if i was too clingy before

F: r u coming up though

 

One can practically see Fuyuhiko’s fears mounting and mounting the longer Hajime doesn’t respond. It’s certainly sweet that Fuyuhiko wants to dance with him. Though, that is all undercut by Hajime’s own anxieties regarding what just happened. Fuyuhiko is waiting for him, and Hajime won’t be there. He can’t go back there, not without having a full blown panic attack on the dance floor.

H: im sorry fuyuhiko i cant...

 

Fuyuhiko starts typing almost immediately, making Hajime wonder if he’s been waiting for his reply this whole time.

 

    F: what

    F: why not

 

Hajime gnaws at the dry skin on his lip, mind chasing after any possible way to explain this. Sorry, I can’t breathe so I can’t dance with you right now. He lets out a quiet pitiful laugh, wiping his sweaty palms on his jeans. Even though it’s not hot out here, Hajime still feels like he’s burning up.

 

H: it was just too much..

H: Too loud,

H: Too crowded,

H: i couldn’t handle it.

F: where r u

 

Hajime steels up, alarm bells going off in his head. He doesn't know what to do. He certainly doesn’t want Fuyuhiko to see him like this - a sweaty nervous wreck - but damn he doesn’t want to not see him. Fine. He resigns to the fact that Fuyuhiko would have to see nervous wreck Hajime some time soon anyway.   

H: i’m outside on the front porch,

F: cool ill be there

 

What? Hajime stares down at the message, unsure of how to respond. He decides he’ll just wait for Fuyuhiko, and while he’s waiting he’ll wrack his brain for things to say to him. His thoughts immediately become flooded with apologies, defaulting to extremely polite in the face of generosity.

 

The front door opens soon after, jolting Hajime upright as he turns back to see Fuyuhiko. He’s wearing a navy blue t-shirt and jeans, which is the most startling thing tonight. It’s really strange to see Fuyuhiko in normal clothes, as Hajime has gotten used to seeing him in a suit - he even wore a suit to the taco joint. Fuyuhiko looks just as startled to see him, though it isn't because of Hajime’s get up.

 

“You okay?” Fuyuhiko’s words are slurred, examining Hajime as if he is a ticking time bomb.

 

“Probably.” He whispers, voice small and vulnerable. Fuyuhiko snorts.

 

“You sound like Chiaki.” Fuyuhiko walks down the steps, dropping down beside Hajime. Hajime becomes keenly aware of the space between them. It has to be a few inches, at least, but it feels so much more and much less. It’s a vast ocean and also just a little too close for him right now.

 

“Can’t help it. We hang out too much.” He retorts, taking in Fuyuhiko appearance. He looks...normal. Well, as normal as the Ultimate Yakuza could be. Sitting next to him, Hajime is taken aback by how real Fuyuhiko is.

 

All of the Ultimate students feel absolutely unattainable to Hajime, like some kind of expensive car he knows he couldn’t even afford to touch. Chiaki has been the only exception to that rule for Hajime, mostly because Chiaki only did what she was comfortable with - which was eating cheetos in her sweatpants. Fuyuhiko should be one of the most unattainable, but the boy has only seemed more and more human to him. Here is the Ultimate Yakuza Fuyuhiko Kuzuryuu in a regular old t-shirt and jeans looking tired and exasperatedly gesturing to no one as he speaks. Wait. Shit I wasn’t listening.

 

“-Y’know what I mean?” Fuyuhiko asks, looking at Hajime for support that he will not receive. Hajime stares back at him blankly.

 

“What?” He states, earning an annoyed look from Fuyuhiko. Definitely real and really about to kick my ass.

 

“Jesus, it really fucked you up didn’t it?” Fuyuhiko sighs, leaning back against another marble step.

“It?” “-Yeah, it. The party.” Everything slots into place in Hajime’s mind, and a wave of embarrassment comes rolling in.

 

“Oh. Right, the party.” Hajime mumbles, Fuyuhiko’s eyes bore into his own; looking for something. He just can’t pick out what.

 

“ ‘You wanna tell me what happened, or do I have to ask?” Silence. Hajime’s hands drum on his knees, thinking way too hard on how to word this.

 

“I have really bad anxiety in social situations.” He states, simple and easy.

 

“Damn. Why’d you come then? This has to be hell for you!” The words feel so vindictive, and yet Fuyuhiko’s expression burns with an intense concern for Hajime’s well being. It’s oddly disjointed.

 

“Honestly, I can’t say no.” “Wow. That’s a god awful combination.” He hums in agreement. The two fall into a comfortable silence, the buzzing of cicadas providing some strangely calming background noise.

 

Fuyuhiko stretches his arms out on the step behind them, one of which ends up behind Hajime. It means nothing, and Hajime knows this, but the rational part of his brain is immediately overpowered. He becomes keenly aware of this arm, of the space between them, all of this information circling around his head constantly. Chiaki’s words lodge there way into the forefront of his mind; “he’s gay if that’s what you’re asking.”

 

“Just because I’m not going, doesn’t mean you can’t.” Hajime says, hoping to distract himself from his tangled thoughts. Fuyuhiko side eyes him.

 

“I’m good.” Fuyuhiko states, firmly. “Besides, I don’t want to mess up Peko’s night anymore.”

 

“Why would you mess it up?” Hajime questions, leaning against the palm of his hand to look at Fuyuhiko. The smaller teens expression is absolutely serious, his eyebrows scrunched together as he stares down. If Hajime didn’t know any better he’d think that Fuyuhiko looked...sad? Suddenly, Fuyuhiko’s eyes snap up to look at Hajime - still completely serious.

 

“Do you honestly want to know?” He growls, Hajime nods. “Of course.”

 

Fuyuhiko stares at him, intently, as if he’s waiting for Hajime to break and confess that he really doesn’t want to know. Yet, he never will break because he actually does want to know. Hajime quirks an eyebrow up in confusion.

 

“I won’t tell anyone.” “I know you won’t, because if you do I’ll kill you.” Fuyuhiko looks forward once again, and Hajime waits for him to laugh or make any indication that what he just said was a joke. He doesn’t. He’s serious.

 

 “I...I just feel like such a fucking burden. Peko asked to go to this months ago, and here I am. I haven’t asked, I straight up sneak out and hijack Peko’s thing!  And she accepts it? Saying she’ll take the blame if they find out. She doesn’t deserve that!” Fuyuhiko rants, hands gestating wildly as he speaks. There’s anger there, yes, but it’s definitely not towards Peko.

 

“But she agreed to it?” “That’s the problem!” Fuyuhiko yells.

 

“My parents keep telling her all the goddamn time that she’s supposed to just do whatever I want, no matter what, that she’s ‘a tool’ for me to use. I kept telling her she wasn’t, that she needs to be a normal high school student - she is a normal high school student - and now…” Fuyuhiko trails off, Hajime moves a tiny bit closer to him.

 

“And now?” Hajime repeats, looking at the way Fuyuhiko’s expression changes. Seemingly wrestling with how he feels, what he wants to say, and how to say it.

 

“Now she is. She’s got friends, close friends, they text her and they ask her to hang out. They know her, as a friend…” “And do you?” Fuyuhiko flinches.

 

“No. No I don’t. She’s like a sister to me, and for awhile she is and then it all comes crashing down. And she’s got to take the fall for me again.” Fuyuhiko spits venom with his tone, glaring up at the sky. It should make sense, but to Hajime something is missing.

 

“And that’s why you’re ruining her night?” He questions, trying to get Fuyuhiko to meet his eyes. To see something that the other can’t say, but Fuyuhiko keeps his eyes on the ground.

 

“Partially…” His voice is hushed. “I think she’s outgrown me.”

 

“Fuyuhiko.” Hajime calls, the others eyes snapping over to greet his own. “That doesn’t make any sense.”

 

The smaller teen lets out a breathy laugh, and Hajime cracks a smile.

 

“Yeah, yeah, I guess it doesn’t.” Fuyuhiko relaxes, once again, against the step. “It’s just. I spent so much time telling her to stop worrying about me, and now that she actually has. She’s surpassed me, y’know? Peko’s got lots of friends, and all I have is Peko.”

 

Fuyuhiko’s words give Hajime a sickening dejavu, his mind immediately drawing parallels between their two lives.

 

“Do you want to know my opinion?” “Uh, sure. Hit me.” Fuyuhiko looks over at him, those golden eyes shining at him. Waiting.

 

“Peko still cares about you, she may have all of these friends but you’re still her friend and…” Hajime pauses, unsure if he’s really talking about Peko anymore. “-Maybe you can have others in your life too.”

 

Fuyuhiko goes quiet, his expression unreadable as he stares down at the ground.

 

“That was cheesy as fuck.” He says, smiling. Once again, his words and meaning seem to be disjointed. His words are dismissive, but staring into Fuyuhiko’s eyes he sees nothing but unobstructed appreciation. Hajime laughs.

 

“Can’t help it, I’m a hopeless romantic.” Hajime jokes, all of that tense energy dissapaiting.

 

“Really? I didn’t peg you as the romantic type.” Fuyuhiko questions, side-eyeing him. The words come as a punch to the stomach for Hajime.

 

“Not many people do.” Does my appearance just scream “lonely virgin” or something? Fuyuhiko lets out a quiet laugh at Hajime’s misery, a new intense look crossing his features. Hajime squirms under his gaze.

 

“I’m guessing you haven’t had that many girlfriends then.”

 

“Boyfriends.” Hajime corrects. He’s way past the point of being embarrassed about his sexuality.

 

“...Boyfriends.” Fuyuhiko repeats, eyes shining. Hajime feels a little bit of hope worm its way into his heart, despite how much his mind is screaming that Fuyuhiko is just happy to meet someone like him. He clings to that fleeting emotion.

 

“To answer your question, no. I haven’t had any. I kissed some dude under the bleachers freshman year but that’s about it.”

 

Fuyuhiko laughs, light and airy and completely unsuitable for his line of work.

 

“What about you?” Hajime questions.

 

“No, not really. Hard to date boys when everyone’s afraid of you.” Fuyuhiko shrugs, a sadness in his voice. Hajime doesn’t feel sad at all hearing that, though. Instead, he feels absolutely ecstatic! Still, the little voice in the back of his head sounds off and he just has to put it to rest once and for all.

 

“What about girls?” “Not interested.” Holy Shit. Fuyuhiko looks over at him, his golden eyes anchoring Hajime to the reality of what he just said. Chiaki was right. He didn’t think she’d lie to him, but still hearing the other say it truly puts it all in perspective for him. That fleeting bit of hope, grows just a bit larger.

 

“Guess we’re both lonely virgins, huh?” Hajime croaks out, earning a chuckle from the boy beside him.

 

“You say that with other people around and I’ll bury you, Hinata.” Fuyuhiko threatens, with a smile on his face. Hajime smiles back.

 

The two go quiet, the humm of cicadas seeming to grow louder now that they’ve quieted down. Hajime’s mind is nothing but a humm of hopeful thoughts, itself. His logical side being blanketed under a thick layer of “maybe I have a chance”. He relives his conversation with Chiaki in his mind, mentally checking off all of the things she got right about Fuyuhiko.

 

“What's your type?” Hajime spouts, his body working on autopilot upon relieving the memory of Chiaki claiming he likes bad boys. He shuts his mouth tight. Inwardly swearing at - whatever god is out there -  for letting him make such a gigantic blunder. Fuyuhiko just stares at him in mild surprise.

 

“Wow. You find out a dudes gay and immediately ask what his type is? What’s next, you wanna know if I’m a top or a bottom?” Fuyuhiko barks, causing a heat to rise in Hajimes cheeks. Crap.

 

“T-that’s not what I meant! Honest!” Honestly, what did I mean?

 

Fuyuhiko stares Hajime down for a moment, before scoffing quietly to himself.

 

“Fuck it, i’ll tell you.” He throws up his hands in defeat.

 

“You don’t have to if you don't want to, Fuyuhiko.” “-Nah, it’s fine. I already told you some personal info today, a little more can’t hurt.”

 

Pride bubbles up in Hajime's throat at the thought that the other trusts him, before immediately subsiding whenever he remembers that he can’t spread it without being pursued by the Kuzuryuu clan. Still, it has to mean something, right?

 

“I don’t really have a type. Maybe buff dudes. Or tall dudes.” Fuyuhiko mumbled, deep in thought.

 

“So, tall buff dudes?” Hajime questions, Fuyuhiko hums in agreement. “-Yeah, probably.”

 

Hajime does a mental assessment of himself judged by Fuyuhiko’s metric. I mean, I’m more of a stick body wise than buff. And how buff is he talking? Like Nekomaru buff? Because I don’t think i could ever live up to that. I’m tall, but isn’t anyone tall compared to him?

 

“Yo, Hajime?” Fuyuhiko snaps his fingers beside the others head, successfully snapping him out of his assessment.

 

“Huh, what? Sorry, I zoned out.” “Yeah. I noticed.” Fuyuhiko snorts.

 

“I asked you what your type was.” Hajime balks at this, thinking way too hard for such a silly question.

 

“I don’t really know either, I guess I never really thought about it that much before. I just like what I like, there’s not really a pattern.” He shrugs, and adds. “-but Chiaki says I like bad boys.”

 

“Really?” Fuyuhiko spits, eyes wide. “But do you though?”

 

Hajime reels back, surprised by his intense reaction. Why is he so interested in this?

 

“No clue. She says it's because I usually pick the gruff characters when we play fighting games, which we don’t even play that often so I don’t know how she even picked that out.” Hajime babbles, all the while Fuyuhiko seems to be hanging on every word.

 

“Wow, she saw right through you.” Fuyuhiko stifles a laugh - poorly.

 

“Honestly, Chiaki understands me better than I do.” Hajime huffs out a laugh in defeat. Fuyuhiko side-eyes him, a mischievous grin spilling over his features.

 

“So you do like bad boys, then?”


Hajime scoffs, shoving Fuyuhiko to the sound of the others uproarious laughter; still light and airy, despite it all. Cute. He watches Fuyuhiko laugh, taking in the way his features twist and change. How his eyes crinkle, and the dimples in his cheeks. And in that moment, Hajime finally understands what his type is: Fuyuhiko Kuzuryuu. 


The front door creaks open, flooding their ears with the brunt force of the musics booming bassline. Both boys heads swivel over to this new noise, and are faced with the unfriendly visage of Nagito Komaeda; whose eyes light up upon seeing them.



"Oh, Hajime! Just the person I wanted to see!" Nagito cheers, gently shutting the door behind him. Hajime freezes up in response, like a deer caught in the headlights.



"Came to apologize, Komaeda?" Fuyuhiko snaps, shoulders tense like a taught bow about to snap. Nagito just holds that cheery expression - as though the other boys feelings mean nothing to him.



"Yes, actually." Nagito counters, sending an icy stare Fuyuhikos way. "So, do you mind? I'd like to talk to Hajime, alone."



Fuyuhiko's glare is intense, an unbridled anger building up behind his eyes, as the two stay locked in heated staring contest for what felt like years. Fuyuhiko breaks the contact, glancing over at Hajime. Sending him a look that says “Do you want me to tell this motherfucker off? Because I will, gladly.”



"It's fine, Fuyuhiko." Hajime puts his hand on the others shoulders, successfully bridging the gap between them without thinking. He screams internally. "I can handle it."



Fuyuhiko’ cheeks flush a warm pink, mirroring Hajime's own. He nods, relenting far easier than Hajime thought he would.



"Call me if you need me." Fuyuhiko mumbles, scrambling to his feet and out of Hajimes grasp. He opens the door, sends one last heated glare Nagito's way, and disappears inside once more - closing it behind him.



Fuyuhiko takes all of Hajime's comfort with him, leaving him tense and anxious. Nagito's presence certainly doesn't help his anxiety any, as the boy practically exudes a worrisome energy.



"Wow, you're already close friends with the Ultimates. I'm impressed." Nagito walks down the steps, sitting in Fuyuhikos place.



"Is that a problem?" Hajime counters, eyeing Nagito warily. He begins to wonder if he's about to be murdered in front of Sonia's house, after just finding out his crush is gay. I'd be a good time to go , he thinks.



"It was." Nagito pauses and Hajime starts to think that that's the end of his tirade before he jumps back to life. "-but, I was recently shown the error of my ways."



"Uh huh...?" He doesn't believe a word of this.



"Yes. You see, I realized that I have no right to control who the Ultimates hang out with. If they choose to hang out with an untalented reserve course student, that's their choice." Ouch. Even his compliments are insults.



"So, I'm truly sorry, Hajime. You can't control it if the Ultimates like you." Nagito states, grinning like he just said the nicest thing.



"Did you really come all the way out here to find me, just to say that you're sorry that people like me?" Hajime questions, speechless. Nagito laughs.



"That's exactly what a reserve course student would say!" He throws his head back in laughter, tossing an unwanted arm across Hajimes shoulder.



"Y'know, Hajime, you and I have a lot in common!" Nagito's voice is closer to his ear now - too close.



"And what is that?" Hajime keeps his voice impartial, refusing to give Nagito the benefit of knowing he's making him mad.



"Well, for one neither of us should be here. You see, I'm the Ultimate Lucky Student. Which, is a sorry excuse for a talent - if it even is one - when compared to the likes of the Ultimate Princess or Ultimate Yakuza" Nagito stresses the last point, making Hajime grind his teeth together. Calm down, Hinata, he's trying to push your buttons.



"...And?" "- And, we're both Chiaki's charity cases. Her fix-er uppers. Turning a pair of sad lonely kids into sociable, popular, and likable people." Nagito's eyes bore into Hajimes, dead and lifeless as he utters out his hateful words. "On top of that, we're the real problem cases. The ones not even god himself can fix!"



Nagito laugh rings in Hajimes ears, but he only stares back blankly. The laugh peters out.



"Let me ask you this, Hajime. How long have you and Chiaki known each other?" "...Since freshman year."



"Mhmm. That's when she met me too. See, and neither of us have lived up to her glorious hopes, have we?" Nagito lets out a breathy dire laugh, that makes Hajimes skin crawl. "I mean, at least you have made friends with one other person, that's more than I can say for myself."



Nagito stops laughing abruptly, smiling at Hajime like a magician about to con him out of twenty bucks.



"Or...Are you clinging to the fantasy of it being something deeper ?" Hajime sucks in a quiet breathe out of shock, fighting back his anger, his outrage, his expressions.



"What are you trying to say, Nagito?" Hajime spits, brushing the others hand off his shoulder like it's dirt.



"What I'm trying to say is; Maybe you should consider that people want to hang out with you for what you could be, not for what you are."



Hajimes phone buzzes in his pocket. He glances down at it, then back up at Nagito.



"Excuse me." He pulls it out of his pocket, the tense energy from their conversation looming over him like a dark cloud as he answers his phone.



"You ready to go?" Chiaki's voice calls out to him, muffled by the loud sounds around her.



"Yeah!" Hajime answers quickly, not subtle at all. "I'm on the front steps already, so I'll just be waiting for you.”



He can vaguely hear Chiaki say something in agreement, before she hangs up. Leaving him to be engulfed in that awkward atmosphere from before.



"I'm leaving." Hajime states. Nagito blinks in surprise.



"Oh." He smiles that same plastic smile. "That's a shame."



"...Mhmm." Nagito stands up and dusts off his pants.



"See you soon, Hajime!" "Yeah...You too."



The front door momentarily opens, and then closes again. Even his goodbyes are creepy.



Hajime pushes his hand against his chest, trying to be his own anchor. Trying to push his heart rate down, even though he knows that's not how anything works. Now that Nagito's gone, Hajime can finally breathe again. The air felt so thick during their conversation, that he was practically choking on it. He falls back into a steady breathing pattern, slowly becoming unwound.



H: hey, I guess I'm leaving...


H: sorry you never got that dance...


H: I've got 2 right feet so it probably wouldn't have gone that great anyway...


Hajime places a hand to his forehead, feeling a pounding headache burgeoning forth in his mind. He thinks maybe he can push Nagito's words from his thoughts, but he knows better. Those words will never leave.

F: was it something he said


F: was he an asshole

He snorts at Fuyuhikos response of immediately rushing to Hajimes defense. He's too good. I don't deserve him.

H: no no! It wasn't him, Chiaki is just ready to leave!!


F: u didn't answer the question.


H: he was Nagito,


H: does that answer it?

That familiar music comes spilling out once more, but this time Hajime is greeted with the far more pleasant sight of Chiaki - rather than Nagito.



"Hey." He says, drained, as he stumbles to his feet. She eyes him up and down for a moment in concern.



"What happened?" Chiaki questions, only having to take a brief glance at him to know that something went down.

F: yep
F: he was an asshole.

Chapter Text

That familiar tomagotchi bobbs side to side in time, like a weird neon metronome, in his view. It’s a comfortable constant to him now, the cute design of it distracting his brain from the past and the uncomfortable present. The ride there couldn’t have possibly been this long.

 

“He didn’t mean anything by it.” “I know. He was just speaking his mind.”

 

Chiaki drumms her fingers against the steering wheel. Everything about her right now is giving off apologetic vibes, which Hajime doesn’t understand. She shouldn’t feel sorry, it’s not her fault. That’s the way Nagito is, and he can’t change. She shouldn’t try to change him.

 

“Do you wish you hadn’t come?” Chiaki asks, her voice flat.

 

“To the party?” He answers, easily. Her fingers still.

 

“To meet my friends, that day.” She keeps her voice steady, but Hajime can see the way her shoulders tense - bracing for impact. His thoughts come to a crashing halt. Does he?

 

“No.” The tamagotchi swings violently to the left, breaking its rhythmic cycle.

 

“Hajime.” Concern. She’s scared for him. He doesn’t want it.

 

“I mean it. It’s fine, really. Nagito didn’t say anything that got to me, or whatever. ” He didn’t need anyone to tell him to question his friends motives, he did that well enough on his own. “-I didn’t have a totally bad time.”

 

“You just sat outside the whole time?” “Yeah, but...Fuyuhiko came and-”

 

Chiaki smiled, effectively breaking the uncomfortable tension and also shattering Hajime’s confidence.

 

“-I see that smile, Nanami! Nothing happened, alright! So don’t even ask!” He splutters, finally tearing his eyes away from the swinging tamagotchi. Shit, why’d he have to bring up Fuyuhiko around his self-proclaimed wingwoman.

 

“How would you know? You’re not an expert on subtlety, Hajime.” “And you are?!”

 

“You need a second opinion.” Chiaki states, as if this is all just common sense, but Hajime knows better. Any information he gives her will only be used as ammo for later teasing. He doesn’t need that right now.

 

“No, I absolutely do not.” Hajime countered, snatching up Chiaki’s aux cord - effectively ending the conversation. He blasted the most upbeat songs he could find, hoping the happy tone washes away the tension from before.

 

Hajime doesn’t want Chiaki to worry about him, or say his name with that deep level of concern again. He just wants to be fine, is that too much to ask for? To be popular and fulfilled for just a second in his life. To not have people do things for him, or force them down to his level. To not make anyone worry. I want to be fine.

 

Usami stops underneath a streetlamp, the light casting a warm halo against the tiny neon tamagotchi. He stops the music; he’s home. Chiaki parks the car and shuffles in her seat to face him.

 

“Text me if you need anything.” “Yeah.”

 

He unbuckles his seatbelt and shimmies his way out of the car with about as much grace as usual. Hajime shuts the door with a slam, and Chiaki wastes no time starting up Usami and heading back onto the mainroad. She’s always quick to leave, right?

 

Hajime turns on his heels and starts back up the empty driveway. Still no one home. At this point, he’s beginning to wonder if his parents are even alive. His phone buzzes excitedly in his grip, causing Hajime to jump. He’s going to have to get used to getting actual texts.  

 

F: thanks hajime

H: for what?

F: for pretending to care when i complained to u

H: i wasn’t pretending,

H: and you don’t need to thank me.

 

The porches floorboards creak under Hajime’s weight - a drastic difference from Sonia’s pristine marble steps. He searches through his jeans absentmindedly, more focused on his phone.

 

F: maybe u r an ultimate hajime

F: the ultimate counselor

H: oh my god absolutely not

H: that sounds awful

 

Hajime smiles to himself as Fuyuhiko’s messages slow. Did I make him laugh?

 

F: it fits!

F: seriously though

F: thanks

H: stop it i should be thanking you

F: no u really shouldnt

F: all i did was sit and yell

H: but it was entertaining!

F: wow

F: great to know my struggles r funny

H: see, this is why I couldn’t be a counselor

 

Shit, where are my keys? Hajime searched through his pockets fervently, upturning the inside of the front two. He doesn’t have his keys. And if he doesn’t have his keys that means that-

 

“Fuck.” Hajime growls, under his breath. “Fuck!”

 

He doesn’t need this right now. He really doesn’t need this right now! Hajime lets out a whimper, dragging his blunt nails down his cheeks. Fingertips swipe across his phone, finding the last contact he wanted to bother again tonight and clicking the call button.

 

“What happened?” Chiaki’s voice calls out from his speakers, and that slight fear in her voice makes Hajime want to bury into himself.

 

“I...I left my keys in your car.” The words fall like rocks from his mouth, sinking through the floor and bringing his stomach down with it. He can hear Chiaki let out a breathy laugh on the other end of the call.

 

“I’m coming.” “...Thanks. Sorry for this.”

 

“It’s okay.” Chiaki’s words are hardly reassuring as she ends the call. Now he’s back to feeling like a fucking burden. Hajime let out a groan, sinking to the ground. Might as well get comfortable, it’ll probably be awhile. He scootched himself forward, swinging his legs out so he could properly sit on the top step and wait for Chiaki to save him. Like always.

 

F: hey hajime

F: i heard that u helped akane w her math work

H: do you need some help??

F: yeah but

F: dont u need to sleep or somethin

H: I doubt im going to get any sleep tonight

F: oh? U sure?

H: yeah, i’ll help you

 

His fingernails dig into the skin of his arm, body winding in on itself for warmth. The chilly night air only makes the pit in Hajime’s stomach grow deeper. His eyes are locked on his phone, but his vision is fuzzy. There’s that poignant taste of disgust on his tongue, burning in the back of his throat.   I want to be fine.

 

F: well shit

F: i dont want to just send u the problems thats a dick move

F: uh, can i call u or something

 

Hajime lets out a dry laugh to himself. Fuyuhiko always has great timing with this stuff. What should he even say? I mean, he should say no - after all he’s stuck outside this is no time for answering math problems.

 

Yet, Fuyuhiko has been a warm comfort to Hajime thus far. He really wants to hear the others voice, if even for a second. God, that’s so needy of him. Fuyuhiko just wants me to help him with his homework and here I am expecting him to keep me from crying. Despite the swarm of guilt surrounding his head, Hajime texts back the last thing he wanted to say.

 

H: yeah you can call me!

 

Hajime shouldn’t have sent that. He doesn’t regret it. Fuyuhiko’s contact flashes on the screen - I guess I never gave him a contact photo - and Hajime answers it without hesitation.

 

“Yo.” Fuyuhiko’s voice sounds even higher over the phone. It’s so cute, he can’t help but smile.

 

“Hey, I’m guessing you got home alright?” “Uh, yeah. I don’t live that far from Sonia, and uh, Peko had a specific time to get back.”

 

“ ‘She get in trouble?” He rests his head against the palm of his hand.

 

“No.” Fuyuhiko pauses, tone unsure. “Doesn’t mean I stopped feelin’ shitty about it though.”

 

“I didn't expect you to.” Hajime lets out a breathy laugh, he definitely doesn’t regret asking Fuyuhiko to call him.

 

“How about you? You okay?” Fuyuhiko’s words don’t hold that same sickening concern as Chiaki’s, he sounds almost teasing - trying to pull the information out of Hajime, without being too forceful about it. That doesn’t seem like Fuyuhiko’s style, but maybe it’s what he needs right now. Even if it's not exactly what he wants.

 

“Uh…” Hajime sighs - how honest does he want to be with this?

 

“Did Nagito say something to you? Because I swear to god if he said some shit-” “No, no. It’s not him.”

 

The silence that follows is deafening. If Hajme could see Fuyuhiko’s face, he bet he’d see confusion in those pretty golden eyes.

 

“Don’t kill Nagito, alright? He wasn’t that bad.” Why does everyone think I’m upset because of Nagito? Why even am I upset?

 

“Fine, I won’t. He’d probably like it, the masochist.” Hajime laughs and it hurts, but he needs it. Fuyuhiko lets out a quiet little chuckle of his own over the line. “But, uh, Hajme. If you’re going through something, you can call me or whatever. I owe you one.”

 

Hajime smiles, even though he knows the other can’t see it - it’s just for him.

 

“I’ll keep that in mind.” Admiration pours into his words, and Hajime doesn’t even try to stop it this time. He shifts to lean against the porches railing. "Wasn't I supposed to help you with your homework?”

 

“Oh, shit, right-” The sound of heavy footsteps covers up whatever Fuyuhiko was trying to say, the other clearly furiously searching for something. That only makes Hajime’s smile grow. His cheeks are probably going to hurt in a minute. Letting out a breathy content sigh, he lets his eyelids flutter close for just a second. Only a second…

 

“Hajime!” Someone was shaking his shoulders, their voices ringing out in his ears. His eyes shoot open to see that familiar pink-tinted hair; Chiaki, clutching his phone to her ear. “Oh, he’s awake - Hey, sleepyhead.”

 

Hajime blinks once, twice, seemingly trying to communicate through morse code. He opens his mouth to speak but can only yell out a disgruntled; “Huh?”

 

“Wait, he got locked out of his fucking house?” Fuyuhiko’s voice sounds muffled, but Hajime can still hear his aggressive words loud and clear.

 

“Yep.” She pops the ‘p’, her expression blank but Hajime can tell she’s enjoying this.

 

“Oh my god!” Fuyuhiko yells, his tone a mix exasperation and amusement. He’s enjoying this too. Great. An immovable object and an unstoppable force both are gaining up to kick the shit out of Hajime’s ego.

 

“Did I fall asleep?” Hajime mutters, and Chiaki nods; shit. He passed out on the phone with Fuyuhiko - wait, shit I passed out on the phone with Fuyuhiko! “Do you still need help with your homework?”

 

“Dude, really? You just passed out on me!” “...So, no?”

 

“Go to bed, Hajime.” Chiaki removes her hand from his shoulder, and dangles his keys barely inches from his face. He takes them, glaring up at the smug face staring knowingly down at him.

 

“Thanks.” He mumbles, he can’t stay mad at Chiaki for long - especially since she came all the way here to give him his keys back.

 

“It’s okay.” She states, backing away so Hajime can stumble to his feet. “Why don’t you two just work on the homework tomorrow. Just meet up someplace, it’ll probably be easier that way.”

 

Hajime stares at Chiaki in stunned silence; she just did IT. He was in awe of her power, she was never exactly great at reading the room but now he was the one getting the brunt end of it. Fuyuhiko seemed to be equally as shocked, as he went quiet on the other end of the line.

 

“Fuck, why not?” Fuyuhiko said, like this wasn’t a gigantic leap forward for their relationship. They’ve never hung out really, except for what happened tonight but that was more something borne out of happenstance and not an actual scheduled time for them to hang out and oh my god- “That sound good to you, Hajime?”

 

“Sure.” So nonchalant and uncaring, for someone who was silently freaking out.

 

“Good, now go to bed.” Fuyuhiko snaps, earning a nod from Chiaki. “See you tomorrow.”

 

“S-see you.” Hajime stutters, instantly losing any semblance of composure he once had.

 

“Take care of the idiot for me, Chiaki.” “-I’m right here, y’know-” “Bye Fuyuhiko.”

Chiaki hit end call, leaving the two in a new sort of tense silence. She was staring at him with those shining excitable eyes, clearly bursting at the seams to talk about Hajime’s lovelife. At least she’s not worried about me anymore.

 

 Hajime lets out a dramatic sigh, turning on his heels and unlocking the front door. He opens it, and spins around to face what cannot be avoided.

 

“C’mon. Spit it out, i’d rather have to deal with you teasing me now than wait for it later.” He crosses his arms, hoping to come across as intense and composed and failing miserably.

 

“He likes you.” Chiaki states, as if it’s obvious.

 

“You don’t know that!” “I do though, he likes you.”

 

“Stop messing with me.” Hajime covers his face with his hand, both out of annoyance and to hide his ever increasing blush.

 

“I’m not.” Chiaki leans forward, cheeks puffed up like an determined chipmunk. “I’ve known Fuyuhiko for a few months now and he’s never been that quick to hang out with anyone! It used to take us weeks to get him to eat lunch with us.”

 

“Maybe he’s changed.” “ Maybe he likes you.”

 

He can’t deny that Chiaki makes a good case, but Hajime has always aired on the side of caution when it comes to this stuff now. He wasn’t about to ruin this by doing something stupid! This wasn’t kiss-guys-under-the-bleachers Hajime this is forming-a-solid-relationship-through-careful-calculation Hajime. Though, kiss-guys-under-the-bleachers Hajime definitely had more fun.

 

“Goodnight, Chiaki.” Hajime lets out another dramatic sigh. “I’ll text you tomorrow.”

 

Chiaki’s eyes light up; knowing what Hajime really means is ‘I’ll tell you how things go with Fuyuhiko tomorrow.’

 

“Night.” She walks back down his porch steps, sending him a lazy wave over her shoulder. He closes the door softly, leaning his forehead against the cool wood surface.

 

So many things have happened tonight. Some bad, and so many good. Yet, all of these good moments don’t seem to truly reach him. He can’t help but question everyone's motives, whether it be Nagito’s, Chiaki’s, or Fuyuhiko’s. The latter of which has been causing the biggest crop of questions.

 

    Does he actually like to hang out with me? We’ve spent some time together at lunch and stuff, but does he really want to spend time with me for completely innocent reasons? Does he just want me to do his homework? Or is it because I’ll listen to his problems? Am I just a counselor to him? Are we even fucking friends? We’ve been texting for a couple of days now does that mean we’re friends? Does he like me? What if he does like me?  

 

Maybe everything Nagito said was right?

 

Hajime closes his eyes, letting the tension out of his shoulders. His hands come up to grip his arms. Trying to make himself as small as possible; thinking. This is too much, all of it. This whole night has been too much. There’s always tomorrow though, and tomorrow will be better. Maybe.

 

He pushes himself away from the door, legs shaky as he heads towards his room. Heading towards a room in an empty quiet house. While his head is still full of questions, he doesn’t exactly care too much about answering them right now. Now, he has to worry about tomorrow. Where they’ll be more questions to think about. Save it for tomorrow.

 

 

Chapter Text

Hajime doesnt normally get impatient, but then again he doesn’t normally have plans. Fuyuhiko and him are meeting up after school to work, and every second seems to be ticking away in slow motion.

 

The bell rings out for only a few seconds before everyone starts to move, while he stays put. Hajime knows what he can handle; trying to work through the crowd of pushy rich kids is past his limit. Even if he is impatient today. So, he stares down at his notebook absentmindedly while he pretends not to notice the other reserve course students pushing and prodding past him.

 

Once the room finally filters out, Hajime can breathe again. He scrolls through his phone, listening to the sound of lockers smashing and voices congealing with one another in the distance. The noise dwindles out; the coast is clear.

 

He finally shuffles out of his seat, zipping up his bag and heading out of the room. The hallways are pretty much empty, exactly as Hajime likes it. He trails his way down the stairs, his footsteps resounding off the tight corredores, as he comes to the door to the outside. Opening the door, Hajime is immediately blinded by the intense sunlight. Once his eyes adjust, he is immediately confronted with the shocked face of a familiar teen - Fuyuhiko?

 

“Oh.” Hajime blurts out, looking just as shocked. Fuyuhiko was frozen in place, staring at Hajime as if he was expecting to be run over. Finally, he breaks that intense gaze, he downshifts his eyes to the ground, mouthing something as he stutters to life like an shaky old machine. His cheeks are burning. Has he been waiting out here for me?

 

“I- ... What took you so long?” His eyes snap back up at Hajime, a newfound anger spreading across his features. Though, the tips of his ears are still burning a bright red. Oh, he definitely was waiting for me.

 

“Uh, I didn’t want to go through a big crowd.” He rubs the back of his neck, still struggling to find the right words for this. “That’s not my thing, y’know, like at the party.”

 

“Oh. Shit.” Fuyuhiko’s glare subsides into a loud sigh. “Now I feel like an asshole.”

 

Hajime smiles, warmly. There’s something so fitting about seeing Fuyuhiko engulfed in sunlight like this. The other boy is the sun; burning, intense, and hot. Uh, ignore that last part.

 

“You want to walk to lunch with me?” Hajime asks, feigning ignorance of Fuyuhiko’s intentions even though it couldn’t be more obvious. The Ultimate’s branch of the school is only a foot from the lunch room, while the Reserve Course building is practically half a football field length away!

 

“Wait.” Fuyuhiko’s cheeks are burning, that previous look of shock reappearing on his face. “I-I was supposed to ask you that!”

 

“Do you still want to ask?” “Ugh, whatever. It’s too late now, let’s just go.”

 

Fuyuhiko turns away from Hajime, huffing angrily as he walks down the steps. Hajime catches up with him quickly and the two fall into lockstep beside one another. He glances over at the smaller boy for a moment, taking in the way his cheeks burn red even still. The silence isn’t exactly comforting, but Hajime doesn’t want to rush Fuyuhiko into anything. If he wanted to walk with Hajime, he clearly must have something to say, right?

 

“Where’s your lunch?” Fuyuhiko pipes up, eyes still downcast. “You never eat anything at lunch...It’s weird.”

 

“I don’t really have lunch money for the stuff in the cafeteria-” Those golden eyes snap up to him, confused, Hajime only shrugs back. “-plus I didn’t actually go to lunch till Chiaki dragged me to your table.”

 

“What? How’d you get into this school if you can’t afford lunch?” Fuyuhiko questions, clearly restraining himself from saying something too mean about the reserve course.

 

“I’m a charity case, no silver spoons here. Just plastic ones, or whatever metaphor you wanna use, I’m definitely not rich.” He smiles at the other, who only looks more confused. “-Surprised you didn’t read about it.”

Fuyuhiko scoffs.

 

“Our school pulls publicity stunts all the fucking time, I can’t keep track of that.” He snaps, and warmth blossoms in Hajime’s chest at hearing him say ‘our school’. He’s definitely not used to Ultimates - hell, any student - considering him a part of Hope’s Peaks attendance. Usually they’ll add a caveat about being in the ‘Reserve course’, instead of just saying it’s ‘our school’.

 

“So, are you just not going to eat then?” The smallest ounce of concern creeps into Fuyuhiko’s voice. Hajime tries to find it sweet.

 

“I brought snacks for after school if that’s what you’re asking.” Fuyuhiko’s eyes are on him, Hajime doesn’t even have to look to tell his gaze is intense. Wrong answer.

 

“That’s your fucking lunch? Snacks?” Hajime’s shoulders tense under the others intense stare down, knowing that he’s going to give the wrong answer again. The conversation stalls, the tension building throughout his body.

 

“...Maybe.” Despite Hajime’s whisper, Fuyuhiko definitely hears him.


“I’m buying you lunch.” “-You don’t have to do that!-” “I’m fucking doing it, Hinata. You’re going to eat today.”

 

His shoulders slump.

 

“There’s no way I can convince you, huh?” “Nope.”

 

Hajime sighs, accepting his food-filled-fate. He does everything he can to suppress his smile at Fuyuhiko’s antics, he doesn’t need to encourage to other to spend more money on him.

 

“Anything interesting happen with you today?” Hajime interjects, desperately wanting to shift the conversation away from him.

 

“Nothing new, math’s still kicking my ass.” Fuyuhiko rolls his eyes, like the disaffected youth he is.

 

“Why doesn’t Peko tutor you?” The question spills out the second Hajime thinks about it. “-Not that I don’t want to help you or anything. I’m just not the smartest person you could ask.”

 

“She’s busy…” Fuyuhiko crosses his arms, a fleeting dower expression passing over him before disappearing in seconds. “Plus, she’s the shittiest teacher on the planet.”

 

“What? How?” Peko seems like the type of person who's good at everything from what little Hajme’s seen of her. The thought of her being bad at anything felt wrong, somehow.

 

“I love Peko to death, but she’s got no social skills whatsoever.” ““And you think I’ve got social skills?”

 

“I mean, no. But, like, she tries to explain shit to me and it’s like we’re on two different playing fields. Things click for her, there’s no way to explain that.” Fuyuhiko gives Hajime a devilish smile. “That’s why you’re here.”

 

“ ‘Cause I’m not as smart as Peko.” “That’s one reason, yeah.”

 

“What’re the other reasons?” He asks, and Fuyuhiko’s cheeks burn that pretty shade of red.

 

“None of your business, Hinata.”

 

The lunch table comes into view and Hajime’s eyes hone in on that ever-changing seat next to his: empty. At first, he feels really lucky, before realizing that Chiaki probably kept it open on purpose. Which she confirms, by calling out for the pair to come sit down as they approach the table.

 

Hajime takes his seat, glaring down at his beaming wingwoman. Fuyuhiko slings off his jacket, and places it on the open seat.

 

“One sec, let me go get our lunches.” “Alright.”

 

The second Fuyuhiko disappears into the side door, Hajime jumps down Chiaki’s throat.  

 

“You planned this, didn’t you?” He growls, wagging his finger in her face.

 

“Planned what?” A voice pipes in, belonging to Nagito - who leans against the table and into Hajime’s view. Seeing him here only stirs up bad memories that he immediately tries to repress. Yet, despite the bad foot the two left off on, Nagito is smiling at him. Maybe that night he really was apologizing, in his own weird way.

 

“Yeah, Hajime. What did I plan?” Chiaki smacks her gum loudly, the smallest smirk playing on her lips.

 

“T-the whole thing!” Hajime stammers, the wind taken out of his sails. Chiaki and Nagito look at one another in comical confusion, before turning their attention to Hajime.

 

“You’re going to have to be more specific?” Nagito questions, Chiaki nodding beside him as she blows a large bubble with her gum. This is so weird, too weird. Even though Nagito was all happy the night of the party, his words were definitely not anywhere near pleasant. Hajime hadn’t expected for the other to actually mean he had gotten over his hatred of Hajime.

 

“Why are you even sitting here, Nagito?” Hajime snaps, without thinking. Sure, his tone is a little harsher then he’d like, but if anyone deserves it its this strange character.

 

“Chiaki invited me!” Nagito cheers, causing Hajime’s stomach to tie up in knots. She invited him to lunch, just like she invited me to lunch.

 

“He begged me.” Chiaki corrected, her bubble bursting. Hajime nods. Unable to sustain his anger now that a new bought of fear has creeped over him.

 

“Yo, Hajime.” Fuyuhiko calls out to him, hoisting two trays over his head, successfully distracting him from his own thoughts.

 

“Thanks-” Hajime reaches out for one of the trays, before Fuyuhiko pulls it away from his grip.

 

“Ah-ah, yours is the other one.” Fuyuhiko corrects, and Hajime obliged - taking the correct tray.

 

“Is there even a difference?” “Uh, yeah. This one’s mine, and that ones yours.”

 

Hajime side-eyes the other boy, but doesn’t question it further. There’s no use trying to get information out of Fuyuhiko here. The boy seems more hostile around a lot of people, especially people he wants to impress.

 

“I’ll pay you back.” Fuyuhiko shakes his head, picking up his coat and sitting down. “Don’t worry about it.”  

 

Too late. Hajime turns his attention back to his food. He’s seen the food trays before, of course, yet he never realized how fancy they were. All of the food looked like it was done by gourmet chefs! Each container of food dressed up like pieces of fine art. Was he even allowed to eat this?

 

“You gonna eat it or just stare at it?” Fuyuhiko’s words break Hajime out of his trance. He smiles sheepishly at the other, picking up his utensils.

 

“I-I’m getting to it.” He stammers, trying to defend himself. His eyes fall down onto Fuyuhiko’s tray - it looks exactly like mine! Wait. Hajime scans over each item on his tray, matching it up with is own, looking for discrepancies. Then, he finds it.

 

It’s all…sugar? From the extra brownie on the side of the tray, to the chocolate cake replacing the steamed broccoli platter, Fuyuhiko’s tray looked like a sugar-filled-coma disguising as a regular Hope’s Peak lunch.

 

This revelation stunned Hajime for a litany of reasons. The first being that it didn’t fit Fuyuhiko at all. Fuyuhiko looks like the type of guy who only eats foods they deem ‘manly’. How could Hajime have so profoundly miscalculated him? 

 

“Uh...Fuyuhiko?” “Eat your food.”

 

Those golden eyes sear right through him, daring Hajime to speak.

 

“Got it.” Alright. Got it. Don’t talk about it.

 

Hajime turned back to his own food, stabbing a fork into the main dish and popping it into his mouth. It was delicious. He could cry, but he stifled it in favor of shoving the rest of the dishes into his mouth.  

 

Lunch actually seemed to blow by pretty quickly, despite the way the first half of the day seemed to tick by. The other Ultimates have already took off in their usual lines, leaving the pair dead last again. By the time it was over, Hajime had licked every bowl clean. Fuyuhiko looked just as proud as Hajime at this feat.

 

“See, it was worth me having to pay for you, right?” “You don’t know how badly I want to tell you no right now.”

 

Fuyuhiko laughed and Hajime smiled without thinking. It seemed rare to actually hear Fuyuhiko laugh, and everytime he did Hajime shut up and listened. It was so cute and soft, all high-pitched and sing-songy. As he was coming to realize, there’s a lot about Fuyuhiko that’s soft.

 

“You need a hand?” Fuyuhiko offers his hand and Hajime takes it, standing up.

 

For a few seconds the two stand there, hand in hand, locked in a weird staring match. Both of them waiting for the other to break contact. Hajime breaks first, eyes trailing down to the ground, as he lets go of Fuyuhiko’s hand.

 

“How do you have so much money?” Hajime questions, earning a scoff from Fuyuhiko.

 

“I’m the Ultimate Yakuza, how do you think?” “...Right.”

 

“Don’t.” Fuyuhiko licks his lips nervously, his posture exuding an air of unease after he mentions his talent. “-Don’t be scared, alright? I wouldn’t kill you.”

 

“Unless I spill your secrets, right?” Hajime jokes, but it falls flat as Fuyuhiko just stares back up at him blankly. “Uh, sorry.”

 

“Whatever.” Fuyuhiko shrugs the topic off his shoulders, starting to walk back towards the school. Hajime stumbles to catch up.

 

He is ruminating in the uncomfortable silence, feeling Fuyuhiko’s agitated vibes ripping through his self conscious with ever step. Wrong answer again. Strike two.

 

“I don’t think less of you cause you’re the Ultimate Yakuza, Fuyuhiko...I mean, sure, it definitely doesn’t give me any comfort knowing you’ve killed people, but uh-” Fuyuhiko’s frown deepens. Shit, I’m losing him. “You’re too good of a guy to do anything to me. I know that.”

 

Golden eyes meet brown, and Hajime does everything he can to pour his admiration into his gaze. Fuyuhiko breaks the eye contact, looking at some point ahead of them.

 

“I didn’t mean to make this weird. I just...I don’t like to fucking talk about my family or what I do. Can you just pretend that I’m not the... Ultimate Yakuza and all that bullshit? Treat me like you’d treat anyone else.” That dower expression from before crosses Fuyuhiko’s features once more, but this time is lingers. The pain in his golden eyes is palpable; he’s been through a lot, too much, and all Hajime wants to do is hug him till it all goes away. But that’d be weird, so he settles for ghosting a hand over Fuyuhiko’s shoulder.

 

“If that’s what you want. I can do that.” Hajime states and he’s never been so sure of anything. If Fuyuhiko doesn’t want to talk about it, he won’t. Whenever the other boy is ready to talk, Hajime will be there. Till then, he’ll keep his mouth shut.

 

“Thanks.” Fuyuhiko smiles up at him, lifting his shoulder suddenly so that Hajime’s hand finally makes contact with it. It’s a simple gesture, but it tells him a lot more than Fuyuhiko would ever say. Hajime smiles back.

 

They walk back in silence, but it feels right, somehow. What more is there to say really? They slow at the door, both struggling to find the right way to say goodbye.

 

“ ‘See you” “Yeah. Yeah! Uh, see you!” Smooth, Hinata.

 

They diverge to their respective sides per usual, a subtle reminder of where they actually are and who they cannot be. Hajime takes the steps two at a time, counting each set on his way up. 2...4...10...18…



...18...10...4...2. Hajime bounded down the steps like an excitable child on christmas. His backpack was only halfway on his shoulder, but he didn’t care, the day was finally over.

 

Thankfully, the rest of the reserve course seemed to agree with him so he didn’t have to wait too long for everyone to clear out. So, he didn’t have to worry about running into anyone as he hurried down the spiral staircase.

 

    He pushed his weight against the side door, slamming it open. It took only seconds for his eyes to readjust, and for him to come face to face with just the person he wanted to see: Fuyuhiko.

 

“Jesus christ, you scared the shit out of me!” Fuyuhiko snapped, his shoulders slumping once he realized that the person slamming the door was Hajime.

 

“You ready?” Hajime asks, letting the door fall closed behind him as he walked down the steps.

 

“Yeah, I’m guessing we’re heading over to the park?” “I mean, unless you’ve got a better place.”

 

“Not one that’s that close.” Fuyuhiko shrugged, speeding up his walking a little till he was beside Hajime.

 

Hope’s Peak was right across from a popular park, a pretty one at that, which proved to be a good marketing strategy as it made the area around the school seem far cleaner than it actually is. Once in the park, the two sit down in the grass. Though, not directly under a tree, as-

 

“Snakes fall out of trees and shit, I’m not messing with that.” Fuyuhiko snapped, backing away from Hajime. “That’s how you end up dying young.”

 

- yeah. Thankfully, Fuyuhiko didn’t mind being under the farthest branches of the trees, since he believed the probability of snakes falling from there seemed low. After they got seated, Fuyuhiko got to work emptying the contents of his bag.

 

“Ah! Found it.” Fuyuhiko hoists up his lime green binder triumphantly, Hajime lets out a breathy laugh at the ludicrous display. “Don’t make fun of me, Hinata!”

 

“I’m not!” Hajime pauses for a moment. “-Okay, maybe a little.”

 

“Just get to teachin’, tutor.” Fuyuhiko snaps, flipping through the contents of the binder before shoving it onto Hajime’s lap. Despite Hajime’s original fears, he does somewhat remember how to do the problems. Somewhat.

 

“I’m getting to it, I’m getting to it.” Hajime coos, reaching his hand into his own bag and pulling out a bag of chips. Fuyuhiko crinkles his nose at it. “What? Do you not like the flavor?”

 

“I thought you’d have better snacks than just... that. ” “First, ouch. Second, I mean, I have other stuff too.”

 

“You can look through it if you want. I don’t have anything to hide.” Hajime pulls his backpack out in front of them, pushing it towards Fuyuhiko. The other boy looks from the bag to Hajime timidly, slowly moving to look inside. As if something inside the bag was going to poison him or something.

 

Hajime tears open his own bag of chips and eats a handful, before turning back to the task at hand. He scribbles out the basic equations for each, turning the jumbled mess of words into actual formulas.

 

“Okay, so, the first thing you need to do is-” “Hajime.” He tears his eyes from Fuyuhiko’s homework, only to see the aforementioned boy holding up a bag of candy with the most excited expression he’d ever seen. Is he asking me if-

 

“You can have ‘em, I don’t have much of a sweet tooth today.” Hajime answers and Fuyuhiko nods absentmindedly, rifling through the bag of treats. “You really like candy, huh?”

 

“I like sweet stuff, yeah. What about it?” He growls, and Hajime smiles.

 

“Nothing. It’s cute, that’s all.” Fuyuhiko’s eyes snap over to him, all wide-eyed, then he looks back down at Hajime’s treat bag fondly

 

“Get back to the lesson, Hinata.” Fuyuhiko grumbles, moving himself so that the twos shoulders were touching. It felt like a strangely large step in their relationship to Hajime, even though it was so small.

 

“U-uh, right. As I was saying-” Hajime chattered on to Fuyuhiko about what he had to do to solve the problem, every once and awhile looking up at the other boy to make sure he got it. Sometimes he didn’t.

 

“Wait, wait, wait. Sorry. Back up. I’m lost.” It was pretty easy to read whenever Fuyuhiko was confused, even when he wasn’t just flat out stating that he didn’t understand what Hajime just said.

 

    Fuyuhiko was a quick learner though, but it’s clear that he needed to be able to ask as many questions as he wanted without fear. The weird thing was, despite all of Fuyuhiko’s angry posturing, he cared a lot about how his actions affected other people. Anytime he’d ask a question that went on a little too long, Fuyuhiko would mumble out a quiet apology to Hajime. Who was more stunned by the constant apologies than by the questions.

 

“You know you don’t have to apologize every time, right?” Hajime joked, a sly smile playing on his lips.

 

“Shut up and take the apology, Hinata.” Fuyuhiko leaned back and rammed his shoulder against Hajime, jostling him to the tune of the boys uproarious laughter.  

 

“Seriously, seriously! Why do you apologize so much?” Hajime jokes, managing to right himself after Fuyuhiko’s stunt.

 

“Why do you think? I feel fucking bad?” “Why?”

 

“ ‘Cause I’m wasting your time, just like you’re wasting my time with all of these questions!”

 

The whole thing felt strangely personal, like the two were in a different world. It was relaxing, just being here, talking to Fuyuhiko. The other didn’t mind if Hajime messed up, and in turn Hajime didn’t mind if Fuyuhiko messed up. He had a weird energy, but definitely a calming effect on Hajime. He was tempted to forget about the homework and just sit there, basking in the sun with Fuyuhiko pressed against him. Hajime wanted to do this again, despite how greedy that thought made him feel.

 

The personal space barriers between the two were dropping a lot as well. Fuyuhiko would grab Hajime’s wrist and move it to write, instead of taking the pencil, because he claimed it was easier than having to fumble for it. Their hands brushed often, and each time Hajime blushed a little harder. It was stupid, but he loved it.

 

“That’s the last one.” Hajime stated, trying to hide the sadness in his voice. Fuyuhiko hummed in response.

 

“Yeah.” Fuyuhiko agreed, yet he made no attempt to move, and neither did Hajime. “That wasn’t so bad.”

 

“Guess I’m just that good of a tutor.” Hajime joked, Fuyuhiko rolled his eyes.

 

“Don’t get cocky now, Hajime.” Fuyuhiko joked, leaning against the other.

 

“Oh, but it’s such a shame! I’m not going to get to use my godly tutoring powers after this! It’s so sad!” He yelled out, being as overdramatic as possible making the other boy let out a quiet laugh.

 

“If you wanted to hang out with me you could have just asked.” Fuyuhiko rested his head against Hajime’s shoulder, effectively shutting the other up. “We can do this tomorrow, or something…”

 

Hajime could have died, right there, in that exact spot and he would have been happy. He smiled, big and bright.

 

“Sure.”

 

Fuyuhiko drove him home that afternoon - or, really, Peko drove them home, as she was in the front seat. Their car was more like a mini limousine really, especially when it came to the inside. Hajime kept meeting Peko’s eyes in the rearview mirror, and he could swear she was smiling at him. It was a little ominous, so he tried not to think about it.

 

“We’re here.” Peko called out, her voices is a type of monotone Hajime isn’t used to. Chiaki’s usually pretty monotone, but she still has some life to her voice. Peko sounded cold, calculated, even though her eyes showed so much life. Weird.

 

“Thank you guys, again, for this.” Hajime shuffled out of his seat, trying his best not to hurt the fancy leather seats, and got out of the car.

 

“You better text me, Hinata!” Fuyuhiko called, before Hajime closed the door.

 

He watched the limousine drive off, feeling that good-kind of tired. Hajime walked up his driveway, hardly even noticing that his parents still weren’t home. Pulling out his phone, Hajime is greeted with several flashing notifications from Chiaki, herself.

 

C: how’d it go?????

C: you two kiss yet????

H: oh my god chiaki,

H: no we didn’t kiss and even if we did its none of your business!

C: howd it go though??????

C: ????????

H: i think it went well?

H: i don’t know but im happy

H: were hanging out again tomorrow

C: DUDE!!!!

C: call me and tell me everything!

 

Hajime smiled to himself. He had to admit, as much as he hated Chiaki meddling in his life, it was nice to have someone to talk to about this. His hands searched through his pockets for his keys and-

 

Shit .

 

 

Chapter Text

“What’d you get?” Chiaki chimes in, as Hajime shimmies into the passenger seat.

 

“ A chocolate bar.” He clicks in his seatbelt and shuffles forward, but Usami isn’t moving. Chiaki’s eyes are on him.

 

“Again?” “What do you mean?”

 

“This is, like, the sixth candy bar you've bought this week.” Chiaki's words hit like a smack across Hajimes face, throwing his rose tinted glasses off to the fact that; yes, he has.

 

Hajime stares down at the rectangle of chocolate in his hands, hoping it'll tell him why the hell he bought it.



"Have you got a sweet tooth now or something?" "No! I don't know why I..."



Milk chocolate. That was the flavor of chocolate Fuyuhiko loved more than any other.   He had mentioned if off handedly, but somehow that information stuck with Hajime who - without thinking - bought that exact flavor of chocolate from the convenience store.



"Oh." "What? Did you figure it out?"



Chiaki's eyes were shining at him, anticipating an answer. Hajime's cheeks burned.



"Nothing." He leans down to his book bag at his feet, forehead almost colliding with the dashboard, and rips open the back zipper.



Sweets, bags and bags of sweets; all kinds that Fuyuhiko liked. Hajime stops dead in his tracks, reality punching him in the gut all at once. Memories of gas stations and convenience stores where Hajime picked up candy for Fuyuhiko without even thinking. Without knowing.



Usami jumps to life, and Hajime jumps with it. Tossing the new chocolate bar in and zipping it  up in a flash.



"So what time do I need to pick you up today?" "Oh, uh. Don't worry about it, Peko can take me home."



Hajime ignores the way Chiaki's eyebrows raise, or the side glances she sends his way, or the way her eyes gleam. No, he's too busy wondering how much of his life is centered around that tiny yakuza.

 

 

Did I really buy all of those sweets for Fuyuhiko?

 

 


He's supposed to be working, but all he can do it stare at his supposed "study partner" beside him in the grass. Fuyuhiko is digging through his backpack like a raccoon in a trash can, completely in his own world.



"You need some help?" Hajime pipes up, deciding that he can't just watch this go on for any longer. Fuyuhiko glances over at him, that adorable blush spreading across his features.



" 'Thought you had some gummy bears in here." He slurs out, a hopeful lit at the end of his words.



"Uh..." Hajime paused, mentally checking his bags snack inventory "-No, I don't think I do."



"Oh." He states, pushing Hajime's bag away weakly, clearly trying not to seem disappointed. "That's fine. What were we doing again?"



Hajime let out a breathy laugh as Fuyuhiko squirmed over to him, peering down at Hajime's notebook.



"You're supposed to be helping me study for my art history class"



"Right, right!" Fuyuhiko waves him off with the back of his hand, taking Hajime's notebook. "So, 'you ready?"



"Mhmm. Are you?" Hajime teases, earning him that small smirk from the other boy.



"I don't need to be, I'm not the one taking the fucking test!" Fuyuhiko spits, clearly proud of his own comeback. Hajime snorts, rolling his eyes.

 

 

I did.

 

 

Hajime realizes as he slots into the passenger seat of Usami the next morning, holding a bag of fucking gummy bears.



"What'd you get this time?-" "He's in my head."



"...Excuse me?" Hajime sighs, staring down at the happy bear mascot on the packaging.



"Sorry, that was a little dramatic." "Yeah, yeah it was."



The two sit in silence, Chiaki waiting for him to speak and Hajime trying to disappear from time and space all together.

 

Hajima felt laid open and bare, a clear sore spot in his defenses, like an fresh cut exposed to air; it stung. There's so little in Hajime life that he can control, and so much of that which annoys him. It's a terrifying thought that maybe, maybe, he can't even control his own feelings anymore.



"I didn't sleep at all last night, my brains not working right, I guess." He places the gummy bears on the top of the pile, in clear view, and zips up his bag.



"I'll never understand that, why wouldn't you go to sleep?" Chiaki cranks Usami, who rumbles to life.



"I'd like to actually pass my classes, Chiaki" Hajime retorts, bucking up his seatbelt in a hurry. "The fact that you don't have to study, doesn't mean I don't either."



"Tragic." She shrugs, pulling off towards their looming high school. Hajime watches the rhythmic swaying of the Tamagotchi, refusing to even pay it mind.

 

 

I did it for Fuyuhiko.

 

 

Fuyuhiko kept chipping away at Hajimes armor, whether he knew it or not. The other was leaning their head against his side, a comfortable weight reminding Hajime that they were still there. That their words were still there, plummeting through Hajimes mind.



"What?" Hajime croaks out, not even earning a glance from Fuyuhiko - who was too absorbed flicking through his phone.



"We should study at your house." Fuyuhiko repeats, shuffling even closer against Hajime. "You said you had a test on Monday, right? We'll study on Sunday."



"You..." His head spins, unable to process Fuyuhiko's boldness. "You can't just invite yourself to my house."



Fuyuhiko’s hand pauses, pressing his thumb against the screen. Hajime can't see the others face, which is making that anxious bubble burst in his chest. He needs to see his face to get what the hell he really means. Is this a joke?



"Okay, then we won't do that then." Fuyuhiko states, with a confidence that Hajime could only dream of having right now.



"Wait." He grips the collar of his shirt, fidgeting with the seam there. The weight of Fuyuhiko on his side kept Hajime from distressing too far into his own head. "Give me a second."



Fuyuhiko hums in understanding, hunkering down even farther into Hajime's side and continuing his mindless scrolling. Hajime is thankful for how uncaring Fuyuhiko is acting, it lowers the stakes and in turn lowers his tension.



Hajime thinks over this new proposition of Fuyuhiko being in his house. It's a new step in their - whatever this is - and it's equal parts scary and exciting. Though, the scary parts feel so much stronger in his mind.



"You can come over this Sunday." Yet, not strong enough.



Fuyuhiko pauses, then moves his head back as far as he can to look up at Hajime.



"Cool." He's smiling, just slightly.

 

 

Why?

 

 

“You’re screwed.” Chiaki pops her bubblegum at him, a finality to her words that feeds into the growing lump in his throat.

 

“I know. I can’t do this, what if I say some stupid shit and scare him away? We’ve gotten so close and I-” The side door opens and Hajime immediately goes quiet, the rest of his sentence caught on the tip of his tongue. He lets out a sigh of relief whenever Peko slinks out, Fuyuhiko isn’t back yet.

 

“Hey, Peko.” “Yes?”

 

“Know of anything Fuyuhiko likes?” Hajime’s eyes shoot over to her, but Chiaki’s gaze is firmly fixed on Peko: calm and collected.

 

“Hmm…” Peko’s eyes flick over to Hajime, who freezes in place. As if any movement and Peko will be able to read his mind. “Can you be more specific?”

 

“Like, movies?” “Ah, he likes films about Yakuza members.”

 

“What? Really?” He blurts out, breaking his self-imposed silence and drawing attention to himself.

 

“Yes, really. He enjoys tearing them apart for inaccuracies.” Peko smiles, or at least, Hajime thinks it’s a smile. Her eyes are just a little too wide, she’s showing a bit too much teeth, like a space aliens first attempt at smiling.

 

“Oh. Uh, cool?” Hajime turns his head to Chiaki, only to see that she too is smiling at him a bit too wide.

 

“Thanks, Peko.”

 

 

I'm investing too much into this.

 

 

Chiaki was dead set on being Hajime’s wingman, and he couldn’t exactly refuse since she was a master at finding and pirating movies off the internet. So, in exchange for her computer expertise, Hajime did his best to follow her ‘dating advice’ - despite his many protests that they weren’t dating, yet.

 

That yet felt so far away, but Hajime refused to let it be final. It seemed wrong to do so, not whenever there was still that flickering bit of hope in his mind that maybe, just maybe, Fuyuhiko was into him. At least, Chiaki seemed to believe so.

 

“You’ve just gotta make the first move!” She coos, from her place stretched out across his bed. It was early Sunday morning, and Hajime would be surprised by the fact that Chiaki is up past 2 pm - but he knows she probably will pass out the second she gets back home. It’s a small victory, at least, and one that makes Hajime feel the tiniest bit valued.

 

“What move? What’re you talking about?” He pulls his head up from under his desk, dragging out a trash bag with him. Chiaki’s advice never mentioned cleaning, but Hajime wasn’t about to let Fuyuhiko think he lives in a pigsty.

 

“You always say that you don’t know if you’re dating, if he likes you, blah blah-” Chiaki swats her hand at those words, though her eyes never leave the laptop laying on her stomach. “-And you never really considered, what if he is thinking the same thing.”

 

Hajime snorts, setting the bag down by the doorway in disbelief.

 

“Chiaki, you’ve seen me. I’m practically falling over my feet in front of him.” He picks back up the bag, flinging it over his shoulder. “Plus, if he just thinks of me as a friend, I bet he’d be happy thinking I didn’t like him.”

 

Turning to walk out the doorway and into the hallway, headed for the front door, he can only faintly hear the other calling out to him. After putting away the trash, he barely makes it a step into his room before Chiaki resumes their conversation.

 

“Hajime,” Chiaki whines, the one she only gives whenever Hajime’s being distant or not letting her eat her fourth bag of Cheetos. “-Think about it though!”

 

“You’re never going to know how he really feels about you unless you ask!” “Hmm. Alright, I’m thinking about it.”

 

Hajime pulls an overdramatic thoughtful face, one that would rival “The Thinker” statue itself, resting his hand against his chin. Chiaki stares back at him blankly, unamused.

 

“No.” “-C’moooon, Hajime!”

 

Chiaki blurts out her protest barely seconds after Hajime’s answer, clearly knowing what he was going to say. He only shakes his head at her, reaching down to check the time on his phone: 1:30.

 

“What time is it?” Chiaki asks, cutting off her own stream of attempted persuasions with a somber tone. He knows what she’s really asking.

 

“We’ve got thirty minutes till it’s time.” Hajime responds, eyes flicking up to meet equally as intense gray ones.

 

“Alright.” Chiaki shuffles off the bed, patting the sheets in place and closing her laptop. “Let’s put this thing into overdrive.”

 

Overdrive for them could mean a variety of things, but in this case it means the two hurriedly cleaning the house till it was spotless. Neither particularly liked cleaning, but anything was easier to do as a competition. Especially when it involved Chiaki, whose drive to win out won her laziness at every turn.

 

The two stood side-by-side in the foyer of Hajime’s living room, basking in their handywork. Everything was clean, so clean you could practically see yourself in the wood paneling on the floor. Overdrive complete, and with fifteen minutes to spare. Chiaki and him high five, no need for words.

 

“You need to go change.” Chiaki states, glaring at the dark smudges lining Hajime’s teal t-shirt. “Like, right now.”

 

“Yeah, you’re right.” He trails off, mind suddenly jerking forward into the many possibilities set before him and becoming petrified by it all. “Uh. How formal am I dressing for this?”

 

“I mean, all you guys are doing is studying, so, business casual.” “Okay...Business casual is a tie and jeans, right?”

 

“...You’re going to wear a tie while you study?” She questions, eyeing him in disbelief.

 

“Good point.” Hajime states. “So, like, nice fancy casual clothes then?”

 

“Mhmm. You think you can handle it?” Chiaki’s look of disbelief hasn’t faded. The pressure in the back of his brain continues to mount.

 

 

I'm just going to disappoint him.

 

 

Fuyuhiko was right on time, much to Hajime’s detriment. That tension rising in his mind was too much to handle alone, and Chiaki offered to stay and wait with him - reassuring him that Fuyuhiko would probably be late. Afterall, it’s not like anyone would pay such close attention to the time, right?

 

“Guess I was wrong.” She jokes, peering through Hajime’s blinds at Fuyuhiko. “I owe you five dollars.”

 

“It wasn’t a bet, Chiaki.” Hajime shuffles to give Chiaki more space beside him, the pairs eyes locked on the sleek black mini-limo pulled into his driveway. Waiting for signs of life. “I’m glad you’re here, honestly.”

 

He says that last part quietly, barely above a mumble, but he knows Chiaki heard him. She turns towards him, and he can practically feel the heat of her smile radiating beside him.

 

“Dude!” “-He’s getting out of the car.”

 

Chiaki lets out a strangled noise and swoops her head back to stare out through that slit in the blinds. Fuyuhiko has stepped out of the mini-limo, with Peko closing the door behind him. He’s dressed fancy - too fancy - in a black blazer, suit pants, and a black tie over a white t-shirt. It’s almost exactly the outfit Hajime had in mind for what he should have worn. It looks good.

 

“He looks…” “-like he’s going on a date.”

 

Hajime’s breath catches in the back of his throat, along with the rest of his sentence. Chiaki’s right, Fuyuhiko looks like he’s going on a date and the way Peko’s acting mirrors that. She’s giving that trademark smile and dotting over him like an excited mother hen.

 

Peko smooths out his jacket and hair, while Fuyuhiko swatts her hands away. Seeing the flustered look on Fuyuhiko’s face makes Hajime smile. He chews on the dead skin lining his bottom lip, confusion filling up every corner of his mind like a thick fog.

 

“He’s into you.” -And Chiaki wasn’t exactly helping matters.

 

“I’m screwed.” Hajime mutters, hand twisting in knotting in his poorly chosen t-shirt. “I’m so screwed, I’m in way over my fucking head. I didn’t prepare for this!”

 

“Breathe.” Chiaki’s words pull Hajime back to reality, keeping him from floating into his own fears. He does, he forces himself to slow down and breathe. Her eyes are on him, Hajime can feel her concern burning through him.

 

The doorbell rings, and Hajime stands at attention immediately. Thoughts slamming and rushing into one another like a twenty car pile up on a busy highway. His eyes dart to Chiaki, then to the door, as the doorbell rings again. And again. And-

 

Hajime opens the door, only to see a flustered looking Fuyuhiko and a practically glowing Peko on the other side. He shoots Hajime an apologetic look.

 

“Sorry, I thought you weren't going to show.” Fuyuhiko mutters, moving his hand from its place on Hajime’s doorbell.

 

“I wouldn’t do that to you.” Hajime says, and it’s possibly the most honest thing he’s ever said. Fuyuhiko’s eyes flick up to meet his; he looks so vulnerable, as if he’s on the verge of shattering at any moment. Another thing the two have in common.

 

“I know we haven’t exactly gotten to speak to one another much.” Peko chimes in, shining that unnerving grin entirely at Hajime. “-but, I want you to know that I am truly indebted to you for the joy you’ve brought, Hinata. I will protect you with my life.”

 

Hajime’s brain short circuits.

 

“Peko!” Fuyuhiko hisses in embarrassment, shooting over to glare at her. “You can’t just say that shit to people!”

 

“It’s fine.” Hajime squeaks out, past gasps for air disguised as breathy laughs.

 

“Shit, does that mean I have to protect Fuyuhiko now?” Chiaki slides into view beside Hajime, a smile barely becoming visible on her face.

 

“No.” Fuyuhiko snaps, clearly startled by the amount of new information. “Are you studying too?”

 

“Nah,” Chiaki answers, smacking her gum loudly, “Just checking in, that’s all.”

 

Hajime sends Chiaki a look of appreciation, as he knows she’s dying to blurt out her true intentions as a wingman. She moves back into the room, grabbing her things, and reappears back at Hajime’s side.

 

“Well. I’ll, uh, be going then.” Chiaki taps her fingernails against her laptops shiny light pink surface. “Peko, you mind helping me carry this stuff to my car?”

 

“Oh! Absolutely.” Peko answers, a little too quickly. Hajime was in awe of how smooth his usually inarticulate friend could be.

 

“Cool.” Chiaki pops her gum one last time, moving arm in arm with Peko off Hajime’s front porch and down the driveway. Leaving the two awkward teenagers alone, to be awkward teenagers.

 

“So. Do you wanna come in?” “Yeah. Unless you wanna study outside.”

 

It was supposed to come out as a joke, but Fuyuhiko’s uneasy tone ruins it. Hajime moves aside to let the other in, who immediately rushes into his home. Hajime shuts the door, turning around to see Fuyuhiko scanning around with an absolutely intense look.

 

“Yeah. This is definitely your house.” Fuyuhiko nods, walking over and falling onto his couch. Hajime snorts, taking a seat next to him.

 

“What do you mean by that?” He sits down next to Fuyuhiko, being careful to leave some space between them, but not too much. Unless, it is too much?

 

“It’s minimalist and basic.” Fuyuhiko shoots him that toothy little grin, all proud of himself for his diss. It pulls Hajime out of his own endless loop of questions.

 

His words don't sting, but Hajime doesn't think they're supposed too.



"Wow. You Just got here and you're already insulting me." Hajime snorts, relaxing against the couch. Something about Fuyuhiko joking insults meant to Hajime that everything was as it should be.



"Can't help it. You left yourself wide open." Fuyuhiko shuffles closer to Hajime, till their shoulders are touching, then pausing.



Each time Fuyuhiko crossed into his personal space, he'd always pause right after. Testing the waters, putting Hajime's needs before his own. It was small, but it melted Hajime inside and out.



"Mhmm. I'm actually surprised you don't insult me more, I probably leave myself open all the time." Hajime pushes back, just the tiniest bit, sending a message that this is okay.



Fuyuhiko frowns.



"I’m not that much of an asshole." His voice is low, moving and shuffling so he's even closer pressed against Hajime's side. Scrambling for warmth.



"Where are your parents?" Fuyuhiko questions, earning a low laugh from Hajime. "What?"



"Sorry, it's just. I wish I had an answer for you." Hajime tries to smile, but it only comes out as a grimace.



Fuyuhiko's head moves up to look at Hajime, eyes scanning his face in confusion. Communicating questions he doesn't speak.



"They move from job to job, so, uh, it's hard to keep track of them." "They work together?"



"No. But, I think it's better that way." Hajime's eyes trace the curves of his ceiling fan. "This way."



He can feel Fuyuhiko’s eyes on him, but there's no heat to it. Not burning bullets through his skull.



"Guess your life isn't as basic as I thought, Hinata." Fuyuhiko speaks, moving his head back down to nestle in its original position. "Not that that's a good thing."



"It's not." Hajime states, gaze moving back down to Fuyuhiko.



As close as they are, Hajime can see the purple bags lining under his eyes.

 


"You don't have to do this if you don't want to." "What do you mean?"



Fuyuhiko’s eyes flick up to him in confusion, apprehension palpable in his tone. Hajime's confidence plummets.



"You seem really busy, on the weekends. You don't have to spend your free time on me." Hajime fumbles for the words to say that won't be just him straight up commenting that Fuyuhiko looks tired.



"Oh." Fuyuhiko's face scrunched up in thought, clearly confused on how to respond to Hajime's  good intentions. "Don't worry about it."



Hajime lets out a breathy laugh.



"I'm kind of bad at that." He jokes, doing his best to not jostle Fuyuhiko when he laughs.



"Right..." Fuyuhiko mumbles, slowly scooting farther and farther into the couch cushions. As if he's trying to disappear.



He goes quiet; trying to give Fuyuhiko some time to think that the other has offered Hajime on so many occasions. Hajime resists the urge to pull him into a hug.



Fuyuhiko let's out a sigh, telling Hajime that he does indeed have something to say. So, Hajime gives him time.



"I'd rather be here than at my own fucking house, honestly."



"Oh." It's Hajime's turn to be pensive, mind racing to find anyway to comfort the other. "You can come over again, if you want. If things get bad."



Hajime peers down at the top of Fuyuhikos head, seeing only the fluttering off his eyelashes from his place nestled against his side.



"You sure?" Fuyuhiko’s voice is that tiny, vulnerable, tone that tells Hajime that something happened recently. Something he knows he isn't allowed to talk about. So, he'll settle for this.



"Of course." He tries to muster up all of the comfort and warmth he can for those two words. Hajime was never good at this, but god damnit he'll try.



Fuyuhiko goes still beside him, and for a second Hajime worried that he'd said the wrong thing. Then, the shaking started. His body shivered and shook, like a mini tremor running through Fuyuhiko’s body.



Hajime was stunned. He wasn't very good at handling emotional situation, so he began to doubt how well he'd do in a medical emergency. Brain rushing to recall anything he learned in his health class. Then, he hears it.

 

Fuyuhiko is crying.

 

He only got here - what, five minutes ago? Ten? And he’s crying, letting out these small pitiful sobs into the side of Hajime’s plain green t-shirt. Pretty much affirming to Hajime that something absolutely happened today.

 

Rigid as a board, Hajime’s perhaps more ill equipt for this than a medical emergency. He didn’t know what to do. What to say! Every action kept setting off an error message in his head. Comforting someone is a delicate topic, and Hajime was being thrown into the thick of it.

 

All the while Hajime’s brain crackles and fries itself from the inside out, Fuyuhiko is still crying. Which is a startelling thing to Hajime. Of course, the boy wasn’t infallible, but he’s not exactly someone who's emotionally vulnerable in front of anyone. Though, I guess he’s now the exception to that rule.

 

It’s a big responsibility and it was given to Hajime. Bad choice, on Fuyuhiko’s part. Since he choose the person the least able to deal with the others emotions.

 

Still, Hajime tries. Is trying.

 

He wraps his arms around Fuyuhiko, earning a shocked little hiccup. It’s more like a robot trying to imitate a hug than anything, his arms stiff as a board around his frame. Those sad little noises grow soft for a moment and Hajime screams internally.

 

Error. Error-

 

Fuyuhiko digs his head into Hajime’s side, hands coming up to fist in his shirt. An unspoken thank you. His heart thumps loudly in his chest, and Hajime hopes to god the other can’t hear it. He lets his arms relax, pulling Fuyuhiko even tighter into him. He’ll give him as much time as he needs.

 

They stay like this for some time. Hajime isn’t exactly sure how long, but he didn’t really care. Fuyuhiko’s eventually stopped crying, but he didn’t pull back. He kept his tight grip on Hajime’s t-shirt. The only sounds being the occasional sniffle and the air conditionings distant humm.

 

Fuyuhiko unwinds his fingers from Hajime’s shirt; a que that he takes to mean he should let the other go. They move back to look at one another. Those golden eyes boring into Hajime’s own, trying to communicate something that Hajime doesn’t understand. But is still taken away by the emotion of it.

 

Everything feels heightened right now. The amount of new sensory information all colliding and smashing into his head at once is absolutely overwhelming. He can feel Fuyuhiko’s thighs pressed against his own. The residual heat of the hug blooming in his chest, like a weed bursting through cracked pavement. Hajime wants to kiss him.

 

“Sorry.” Fuyuhiko’s croaks out, his voice strained and hoarse.

 

“Don’t be.” Hajime states and he means it. He flashes a smile, the others eyes widen.

 

“Y-you still want to study?”  Fuyuhiko shuffles away from Hajime, and he resists the urge to frown. “Don’t you have that test coming up?”

 

He pauses, having completely forgot the actual reason why the other was there. He probably does need to study, but one look up at the puffy-eyed boy beside him and all thoughts of that go out the window.

 

“I’m actually kind of hungry.” Hajime manages to pull himself from the deep groove he’s made for himself within the couch cushions and stands up. “You want anything?”

 

“Somethin’ sweet would be heaven right now. ” Fuyuhiko hums, standing up to follow him into the kitchen.

 

Hajime smiles.

 

“ ‘Course you could.” That’s the most Fuyuhiko thing he’s ever heard.

 

“Hey, I know what I like!” Fuyuhiko barks, pushing himself up to sit on the countertop. “Plus, you’ve got to have some of that good shit here. You’ve always got the best stuff in your bag.”

 

His shoulders tense up. Hajime’s family weren’t big sweets people - hell, Hajime isn’t a big sweets person. That fear of disappointing the other builds in the back of his throat, as he searches through his cabinets.

 

“Uh.” He pulls his hand back from its place past multiple boxes of boxed foods. Not a sugary treat in sight. It builds. Hajime opens another cabinet. Nothing. Shit.

 

“You okay?” Fuyuhiko calls out, the concern in his voice sending a wave of red hot shame through Hajime.

He tries the next cabinet. Nothing. Next cabinet. Nothing. Next cabinet. Nothing. Next cabinet-

 

“Aha!” Hajime screams, hoisting a bag of chocolate chip cookie mix like a prize.

 

“...That’s it?” Fuyuhiko deadpans, popping Hajime’s excitement like a balloon. “-It’s fine.”

 

He adds quickly, hopping off the counter in one graceful motion.

 

“Let’s make some goddamn cookies, Hinata.” His golden eyes burn with determination - over cookies of all things -  and Hajime melts.

 

“Alright, let’s, uh, get to it then.” He stutters out, placing the cookie mix on the counter. “When we’re done. I have - I found - Well, Chiaki found - Peko said-”

 

“Take your time, I’m not going anywhere.” Fuyuhiko snatches the bag and starts reading the directions on the back. There’s no insistency to his words, it’s the type of tone that lowers the tensions in the room - in Hajime.

 

“Peko told me you liked...yakuza films?” Hajime says, with a questioning lit to his voice.

 

Fuyuhiko’s eyes snap over to him, he groans.

 

“Jesus christ.” He rubs the bridge of his nose with his free hand. “-That’s why she’s been up my ass about you lately!”

 

“So she was just messing with me?” “-No, no, I do like ‘em. She’s just been messing with me , not you.”

 

Hajime hums, moving away from Fuyuhiko to retrieve one of their larger mixing bowls. He sets it down on the table and continues getting the rest of the items they need.

 

“She give you some films or somethin’?” Fuyuhiko pipes up.

 

“No, Peko didn’t actually tell me which ones you’ve seen. I guess cause I didn’t ask.” Hajime shrugs, returning to his side with a measuring cup in hand. “-Chiaki found some.”

 

“Online?” The others eyes are blown wide, as if Hajime just confessed to murder.

 

“...Yeah?”

 

“Dude. What the fuck! That’s illegal!” Fuyuhiko spits, and Hajime doesn’t even know how to begin to unravel his words.

 

“You’re literally a yakuza member.” “..And?”

 

He snorts, rolling his eyes to the uproar of the smaller boy. They stilled watched those movies that night. Well, after dealing with Fuyuhiko’s mini tantrum over Hajime trying to have a glass of milk with his cookies.

 

The television cast a harsh blue glow over the pair in the dark. Empty plates, covered in cookie crumbs resting on the coffee table. The two sitting on Hajime’s couch, with just enough space between them.

 

Too much space. His mind fixated on that distance, everything screaming at him to bridge that gap. Fuyuhiko’s eyes were glued to the screen, every so often commenting on the inaccuracies of this or not, but mainly quiet. Enraptured. Which only made Hajime creepier for staring.

 

He stands up, moving to grab a blanket, and returning to his spot. Not an inch closer, despite how much he wants to. Fuyuhiko’s eyes slide over to him, and Hajime tries to meet him but the other boys gaze is fixed on the blanket.

 

Oh. Hajime mentally kicks himself for not even considering the other sooner. He opens his mouth to offer to grab Fuyuhiko a blanket, before the other shuffles underneath his own. Oh.

 

“ ‘s fine?” Fuyuhiko mumbles, a warm heat pressed against Hajime’s chest. If he didn’t hear Hajime’s heart beat before, he definitely does now.

 

He forgets how words work.

 

“ U-u-fine.” Hajime manages to force out of his frozen mind. Fuyuhiko seems satisfied with this response, settling even further under their shared blanket. Into his space.

 

Chipping away at his defenses.

 

He’s going to break my heart eventually.

 

 

Chapter Text

Hajime wasn’t sure when it happened, but his house soon became the primary location for Fuyuhiko to hang out. The boy has been staying over at Hajime’s house more and more, to the point that Peko would call him to get ahold of the tiny yakuza. Funnily enough, most of the time that’s exactly where he was too. Usually, Chiaki is the only one who visits Hajime on the regular, but now he’s got two teenagers crashing out on his couch.

 

He was worried that the two wouldn’t get along, which seems silly in hindsight considering they knew each other long before Hajime had met Fuyuhiko. Chiaki referred to Fuyuhiko with her usual quiet reverence, and Fuyuhiko paid her little mind in favor of tailing Hajime around the house. Yet, the two bonded over their shared enjoyment of teasing Hajime senselessly.

 

“Why is all the food in your house pasta?” Fuyuhiko spits, from the kitchen, his words travelling to the living room.

 

“I don’t know. It just happened like that.” Hajime shrugs, but he catches Chiaki’s eyes from behind her DS. Oh no.

 

“You’re going to turn into pasta soon.” Chiaki chimes in, earning a snort from Fuyuhiko.

 

“That explains why Hajime doesn’t do sports. His bones have all been replaced by fucking fettuccine alfredo.”

 

Hajime shrinks down in his seat, knowing that there’s no way to stop them once they’re started and just to accept his fate: as the pasta boy, he is. The rest of that night was spent with the unruly pair probing a silent Hajime about what it’s like to live with his pasta body, before Chiaki had to leave.

 

That was another change; Fuyuhiko stayed the night. Chiaki’s parents were lenient, but still wanted their daughter to be home at night. Fuyuhiko’s parents...Well, Hajime couldn’t exactly say anything about his parents, since the boy was mostly tight lipped about his personal life.

 

He knew that Fuyuhiko had a sister, who everyone liked more than him, and had declined taking Fuyuhiko’s place as the next heir to the clan. As for parents, there was only one thing Hajime knew about them, which came from one of the nights the other had stayed over.

 

Fuyuhiko and him were sitting on the floor of Hajime’s bedroom, their backs pressed against his bed. They were originally playing some game, or really Fuyuhiko was playing and Hajime was reading a walkthrough on it, but that god discarded in favor of talking. About nothing really in particular, just enjoying the company and the freedom to say whatever was on your mind. Even if it was sad.        

 

"You remember the first time I came over to your house?" Fuyuhiko asked, bringing his knees up to his chest.

 

Hajime nods, his eyes trained on watching the gentle rotation of his ceiling fan. It has to be late, If he had to make a guess, maybe 2 am? 3? His eyes were struggling to stay open, instead favoring this lazy half-lidded look.

 

“I, uh. I had come back from... some yakuza shit-” Hajime tears his eyes away from the fan to stare at Fuyuhiko in shock. “-Yeah. It doesn’t matter, but I - uh - I fucked it up. And, when I got home, my parents started fighting. Like they always do.”

 

Fuyuhiko scratches at his arm, lifting up his t-shirt just a bit and Hajime can make out those faint markings lining his skin. He’s seen them so many times but now they’ve taken on a new context. Hajime flinches.

 

“I guess it was about me or something. Or whose responsible for raising ‘the fuck-up’ and...I don’t know who did it, but, someone fired and the bullet went right by my face.” Fuyuhiko motions the path of the bullet with his hand. “I could see the engraving on it, it was that close.”

 

“And, the first thing I thought was “shit. I can’t die here. I have to go to Hajime’s house.””

 

Hajime lets out a tiny laugh, more out of the absurdity than any genuine enjoyment.  



"-That's stupid as shit but like. I don't know. I'm so used to just, accepting that I'm going to die. It's been awhile since I've taken a second and been...afraid, of what I’d miss. Really just afraid in general. Even if it was for a dumbass reason."

 

Fuyuhiko looks over at Hajime, his eyes a powerful force of unreadable emotion. Yet, the only that rings loud and clear is that look of fondness. He looks at Hajime as if he’s precious, like the look you give your childhood toy or something.

 

It was nice, but all Hajime could feel was the fear that had settled into his bones at the very thought of Fuyuhiko dying. Still, he tried. He tried to return the gesture, because he was fond of him. Which was the problem, he was too fond of Fuyuhiko.

 

"Thank god they missed.” Hajime croaked out, Fuyuhiko laughs. “Right?! They almost shot my eye out, the bastards.”

 

From that day on Hajime’s only real opinion on Fuyuhiko’s parents were that they sucked. It’s juvenile, yes, but he stood by it. It didn’t take a genius to piece everything together that Fuyuhiko’s home life sucked. If it wasn’t already an indication by the fact that he spent more time over at Hajime’s house than his own.

 

Not that Hajime minded. In fact, he was happy the other was there. It was nice to have another body in the room, even if they weren’t saying anything. Which, they didn’t really need to speak anymore. The two had become so acclimated to this new lifestyle, they hardly had to say anything to impart what they truly mean.

 

Fuyuhiko knew Hajime. He knew when he was going to have a panic attack, or if he’d forgetting something, without needing to ask. Hajime didn’t need to tell Fuyuhiko to get the silverware or to clean the dishes, he’d already have done it. Despite all of this, there was still one thing Hajime knew he couldn’t tell Fuyuhiko without words. Though, as they grew closer, Hajime found it harder and harder to say what he truly means.   

 

Eventually, Peko started hanging around Hajime’s house as well. Similarly to Chiaki, though, she never stayed the night. Peko slotted right into the trio’s weird dynamic, as she tended to keep to herself as well. Hajime was afraid that he’d disappoint her; after all, she seems like someone with high tastes. Then, he saw her laughing at a cat video on her phone, and all worries left his mind.

 

Peko soon became a regular, usually talking with Chiaki or helping Hajime do chores around the house. It was nice to have another set of hands, since Fuyuhiko usually just watched him do the work instead of helping out. Though, he still didn’t feel totally close to Peko, Hajime couldn’t say he hated her being around.

 

He didn’t hate Chiaki being around either, obviously, but Hajime did miss having some alone time with Fuyuhiko. Yeah, there was the walks to lunch and their study sessions, but they weren’t really alone then. The only true alone time they got was at night.

 

At night, everything felt a little more tender more emotional. It was the time where the two would say things that they’d never say in the light of day. A time for them to just be them; not talent-less Hajime, or the Yakuza-clans-heir Fuyuhiko, just them. Two emotional teenagers.

 

“...A brotherhood cup?”

 

The pair sitting, cross legged, in the middle of Hajime’s room. Fuyuhiko claimed that he had a surprise,  had forced Hajime to keep his eyes closed as he left the room, and returned holding the aforementioned cup up with pride.

 

“Wh-what? You don’t want to?” A look of condescension passed over Fuyuhiko’s features.

 

“No! It’s nothing like that.” Hajime answers, a little too quickly at the sight of his sad face. “I-I just never thought anything like this would happen...to me.”

 

Or in general. Hajime bites his tongue. This is supposed to be a sweet moment, a kind gesture, and yet all Hajime feels is the heavyweight of disappointment as he stares down at the ripples of water within his cup.

 

Fuyuhiko snorts. “Obviously.”

 

Hajime frowns at his own reflection staring back at him on the water's surface. A brotherhood cup. It’s presence reaffirming that his crush is absolutely crushingly one sided.

 

“-Hey, don’t think about it too much. We’re not like, real brothers or anything!”

 

Fuyuhiko’s words do nothing to curb the ever descending stone in his gullet, but he tries his best to look happy. Or at least, not frown. It’s not the others fault that his feelings are unrequited. Fuyuhiko means more to Hajime than just a crush.

 

“It’s more of, like, a promise. A promise that we’ll stick together after we get out of this shithole of a school.” Hajime finally looks up, and feels himself melt at the beaming grin from the other. This hurts.

 

That smile falters, Fuyuhiko’s thumb tracing around the edge of the cup nervously as he stares down into the water within.  

 

“It’s a promise that we’ll stay alive.” Those golden eyes flick back up, piercing into Hajime with an unreadable emotion. “That you’ll stay alive.”

 

He chokes on the air in his throat, blinking in surprise at the other. Fuyuhiko smiles at him, bitterly.

 

“You’re worried about me - for me -, aren’t you?”

 

Hajime felt his heart speed up. He felt like Fuyuhiko could see right through him - no, he saw everything within him, and that scared Hajime. It scared him that Fuyuhiko realized how much he cared.

 

“...Yeah. Yeah, I am.” He answers, eyes flickering around the room, unable to hold eye contact right now. With his ears ringing.

 

Fuyuhiko makes no noise, but he can hear the sound of the water within his cup sloshing.

 

“I won’t die. Not now. I can’t leave my sister like that, or Peko, or you. I’ve got too many people to look after now to give that up.”

 

The genuine tone to his voice felt soothing, gently pulling Hajime into Fuyuhiko’s logic. He knew that it meant nothing that Fuyuhiko promised he wouldn’t die, but with the way the other said it with such certainty. Hajime felt a tiny bit at ease. He wanted to believe him.

 

“I’m more worried about you. You seem like you’d die super easy.”

 

“D-don’t say ominous shit like that!” Hajime stutters out, brain turned to mush in the face of all this rapidly shifting emotion. He can’t keep up.

 

“No, dude, hear me out!” Fuyuhiko calls, shifting in his seat. “This is exactly why I want to make this promise. I’m going to give you half of my life.”

 

“I mean, I guess I kind of have already…” He laughs coldly, and Hajime’s eyes are on him. Scanning his face, trying to understand what he means. Fuyuhiko’s expression softens at this, and Hajime wonders what the other boy sees in his eyes.

 

“You...You’re my first friend.” Fuyuhiko states, with such clarity. As if he’s seeing the light for the first time.

 

“I-I mean-” He blinks, bringing himself back to reality, and averts his eyes from Hajime - cheeks glowing that pretty pink. “-Even still, I don’t know what I want to do. If I want to lead the clan, or do somethin’ else, but. I think that’ll change when we get out of here, so…”

 

"-Hajime…”

 

Fuyuhiko smiles.

 

“-You better not die."

There are some moments, where the weight of a situation fully bares down on Hajime's shoulders. He feels himself being pulled down to the earth, flattened in the face of the pure intentions before him and the conflicting emotions within him.



Fuyuhiko's hoists his cup to the sky, that pretty smile playing on his lips and he tries. He tries to lift his cup, but it feels so heavy in his hand. A one thousand pound boulder on his mind, body, thoughts.



He has to do this. He has to. Hajime bites down on his lip; hard. Heart pumping and thumping because he can't. He can’t handle all of this open and honest shit, it all just festers inside of him.

 

Screaming at him that he just needs to get over this. That Fuyuhiko is pouring out his heart to him, and all he's doing is being upset about a crush. It’s a cycle, from awe to a bitter mourning to anger.


The raw emotion of Fuyuhiko’s words, coupled with that anger for mourning a stupid goddamn crush keep bubbling and brewing under his skin as he struggles to speak.



That bright smile falters, confusion so clear and mixing into concern in those golden eyes. No!



"I-I want to give my life to you! I do! I have! I-I-" Fuyuhiko sets his cup down; concern, only concern is visible now.



"Breathe."



Hajime does. Slowly, but surely, he does. The two are silent, and Hajime tries to follow Fuyuhiko's breathing. Everything feels so heavy right now, so complicated. Words all jumble and collide in his mind, sticking and blending like mixed paint.



Fuyuhiko waits, swirling his cup idly. No tension to it, as it always is. Such a relaxed presence, that only adds fuel to Hajime's mind because he doesn't deserve him. He doesn't deserve to tell him. Wouldn't blissful ignorance be easier? Wouldn't he be happier? Would I be happier?



Compounding, colliding, mixing, bubbling, boiling-

 

“I like you.”

 

Fuck. The words slip out of Hajime's lips, his thoughts hitting the open air, and it's too late. The rest comes tumbling out, brain unable to even think up an excuse with all that tension fogging up his thoughts.



"-m-more than you'd want."

 

Fuyuhiko stares at him, wide eyed.



"What?" He says, piercing. Hajime's heart shatters. "Shit! Sorry, I didn't mean it like that-"



"It's fine." Hajime stares down at the floor. He feels like he's drowning in the silence that follows. Struggling to swim though it, all thick and heavy in his throat.



"I'm such a fucking idiot."



Hajime shoots him a look; insulting yourself isn't helping. But there's barely any heat behind it, since there's barely any heat left in him.



"-no, really. I thought. This would be...Look, I've been putting this off for a long time because I wanted to believe that we were - god, this is so fucking lame - a thing . And we weren't really going anywhere, so I just kind of accepted it that that ship has sailed-” Fuyuhiko rambles on, his cheeks dusted pink. Eyes firmly locked on Hajime, and he feels the heat of that gaze.

 

Hajime meets it, and he sees that fondness again. It warms him up, inside and out.



“-I just decided that you didn't like me like that. I didnt even think about asking you." He smiles, and Hajime feels that familiar twist of Deja vu.



He laughs, it's ragged and hoarse, but it's a laugh. Practically doubling over, his cup shakes but not a drop of water hits the floor. He's crying, just a little bit.



"I-I can't tell If this is a good reaction or not." Fuyuhiko mutters out. So quiet.



"It's good." Hajime chokes out.

 

Silence. It doesn’t feel so much like it’s drowning at Hajime, but now as if it’s trying to pry words out of his throat. Fuyuhiko seems to be feeling the same, if the way he’s squirming in place is any indication. Their eyes are locked in this strange staring-contest-esc battle, almost begging the other to say something.

 

“T-the promise still stands.” Fuyuhiko poorly fakes a cough to cover up his stutter, and hoists his cup to the sky once again.

 

Hajime smiles and he means it this time.

 

“Yeah. Let’s do this.” He downs his drink in one gulp, the two pulling their glasses down at the same time.

 

“Hell yeah!” Fuyuhiko yells, their cups slam into each other with a deafening crack, shattering into pieces. Leaving just the handle in their grasps.

 

Fuyuhiko laughs at this and it’s infectious. Hajime laughs too, joining him in this triumphant howling, until their giggling messes on his bedroom floor.

 

As the laughter finally subsides, Hajime can’t seem to peel the grin off his face as they lay out beside each other. Both looking up at the ceiling fan, as it makes it’s gentle rotation.

 

“Isn’t breaking the cups a bad omen?” “-Some people say that, yeah.”

 

Fuyuhiko shrugs, and he’s still got the remnant of a smile on his face as well.

 

“-I like it this way though. I mean, if you break something, that means it can’t be broken again, right?”

 

Fuyuhiko looks over at him, forcing Hajime to the reality that the other actually was talking to him - too busy studying his face to pay attention. Though, Hajime thinks he gets the gist.

 

“Right.” Hajime answers, and Fuyuhiko hums in agreement as he reaches into the gap between the two and laces their fingers together.

 

They sit there, on his floor, beside a puddle of water and random ceramic pieces, holding hands. There’s a lot of uncertainty filling up his brain, a lot of questions he needs to answer, but for right now all he can focus on is the warm weight beside him.

 

It’s around five or six o’clock at night, and Hajime’s in love. And that terrifies him. 

Chapter Text

Questions don’t just disappear overnight, instead they get set out to simmer. Pushed to the back burner as Hajime sits across from Fuyuhiko the next morning. It’s a Sunday; meaning its the day Fuyuhiko has yakuza business to attend to. That business isn’t always only on a Sunday, but there’s a good chance that someone or something requires the others attention on that day. So, Hajime was honestly surprised to see that he was still around.

 

“Shouldn’t you be at...” “-Not today. Thankfully. My sisters really been pulling my weight recently, think she pities me or somethin’.”

 

“Can I ask why?” Hajime asks between his spoonfuls of cereal. “Or is it secret?”

 

“I can tell you a version of it. Not the whole thing.” Fuyuhiko swirls his spoon around. “I’ve been flinching at the trigger recently. I haven’t been putting my all into it, or whatever, and Natsumi has been filling in for me.”

 

“That’s your sister?” Fuyuhiko hums in agreement past his spoon of sugary cereal. Cereal which Hajime bought specifically for him, after the other complained about Hajime’s boring taste.

 

“She seems nice.”  “Uck-”

 

Fuyuhiko chokes, coughing and spluttering out, with his cheeks turning red as he struggles to laugh with cereal halfway down his throat.

 

“No, no. She’s not. She’s awful.”

 

“...Oh?” He averts his eyes back down to his bowl, he understands less about the others family life than before.

 

“I still love her though. She’s too good at this. She’d make a damn good leader.” Fuyuhiko grins, but it falters. Hajime picks up on the shifting emotion behind her eyes.

 

"Do you want to be...?" Hajime doesn't even need to finish that sentence. He sees the other flinch and he knows they get it.

 

"No." Fuyuhiko lets out a pained laugh. "Funny, huh? I bet you've never seen an Ultimate who hates their talent before."



"That's not groundbreaking. I haven't seen a lot of things."

 

Fuyuhiko laughs, but it comes out all winded, staring down into his empty bowl like it’ll have the answers. Hajime wants to reach out to him, but he falters. Are they even close enough to do that yet? What are they?

 

He forces those thoughts onto the backburner.



"Can you leave?" Hajime questions, earning a deep sigh.



"Better question is if I have the guts to leave” Fuyuhiko looks up at him, his voice dripping with self-pity.



"Have you told Peko?"

 

That question seems to strike deep, as a prolonged break forms while he struggles to speak.



"Yeah. Once. She told me to do it, but. Big shocker, Hajime, I'm a fucking coward." Fuyuhiko’s spoon clanks against the dish.



"I..." Hajime fumbles over his word. "I think you can do it."

 

Fuyuhiko meets Hajime’s eyes, and seems taken aback by what he sees. He flushes, looking back down at his sugary cereal.



"...Thanks, I guess."

 

A gap in the conversation falls, with Fuyuhiko twirling his spoon as his cheeks steadily burn brighter and brighter.

 

“This is a stupid question, but…Do you still, y’know, like me?”

 

Hajime flushes as well, eyes snapping down to his bowl. Those questions push themselves to the forefront of his mind. Cackling and burning behind his eyes.

 

“Yeah.”

 

Fuyuhiko beams, grinning from ear to ear, all high and mighty.

 

“Good.” Hajime snorts. “I-I-I mean, I still feel the same way too. It’s just nice to hear it.”

 


"Let’s stick to this." Fuyuhiko gestures between the two. Hajime feels his heart sink, lower and lower, as he meets those golden eyes.



"Oh." "-J-just out there. I don't want to deal with that shit right now."



Hajime nods, and he gets it. He may not feel the same, but he gets it. He can see the way Fuyuhiko’s expression shifts - that he's terrified - and Hajime is sure he should be too, so he gets it. Yet, for some reason, his heart still plummets to the floor. 

 

He tries to stick to “ this ”, but “ this ” is undefined. So, he relies on Fuyuhiko to tell him what's acceptable or not. Watches the way his eyes flash when Hajime moves too close on their walk to lunch, or how he flinches as their fingers brush past when handed his tray. It stings, but its whatever. He can stomach it, because once Fuyuhiko sits beside him, he feels a hand snake under the table to grab his. Safe and concealed.

 

“No one needs to know. It’s none of their fucking business.” Fuyuhiko spits across from Hajime one morning, chowing down on that sugary cereal - which has become a morning time ritual at this point.

 

“Yeah.” He can feel those questions mount, a roaring flame in his brain, as he stands up. Crossing back into the kitchen with is empty bowl in hand, eyes darting to the guest bedroom door. Chiaki still isn’t up yet; good. “Guess you’re right.”

 

“I know I’m right.” Hajime can practically feel the cocky grin aimed at him right now, as he’s joined by the blonde teen who hands him his empty bowl.

 

“You’re not always right.” “You sure about that, Hinata? When am I wrong?”

 

Their hands brush, Fuyuhiko flinched. You’re wrong about this.

 

It made Hajime anxious - how open ended, how confusing, how goddamn vague this all way. That night was a sore spot that continue to sear itself open the longer is went on, never being allowed to heal. He’d hoped that maybe Fuyuhiko would define things in private, but no. They left things unanswered, undefined, un-anything. It made every interaction feel like a challenge; more so than normal.

 

Fuyuhiko didn’t seem to know how to deal with this, he was a jittery mess around Hajime in public. Jumping at every little interact when the sun was out. Not that Hajime wasn't jittery either. The very thought of being near Fuyuhiko in the daylight made Hajime panic, brain hitting the breaks before anything had even happen. Nothing could fall into any sort of normalcy, not with the pair dancing around things in this wordless sense.

 

This dance turned the night from the only time where they could be alone, to the only time where they could be together in some sense. The only time where they pair could be tender, real, and they savored it. Curled up close and safe, there was no respectable distance here and that meant everything to Hajime.

 

The night was when they didn’t have to worry about not being able to word things well. Fuyuhiko’s head shifted to rest the side against his chest, right over his heart. Like he always did.

 

“...Y’know, it’s really hard to read you sometimes, Hinata.”

 

“Where’d this come from?” Hajime lets out a breathy laugh, fingers flexing from their position tangled in Fuyuhiko’s shirt.

 

“Dunno.” Words slurred. “‘s kinda like when I met Chiaki. I thought she fucking hated me, she was so smug - like she knew I couldn’t get a grip on her. You’re not like that, obviously, but I can’t say that I totally have a grip on you either.”

 

Fuyuhiko rambled on, like he always does when he’s sleepy. It isn’t always endearing, but Hajime appreciated being able to have a direct pipeline to the others thoughts at times like this. Where he felt more and more distant from the boy. It was personal, intimate even, and Hajime wanted that. Needed that.

 

“You don’t have to say anything. I don’t think you even could and that’s fine. It’s fine that I can’t read you. I know you care. I just know it.”

 

Hajime opens his mouth to speak, but the words never come. He doesn’t feel embarrassed about it this time. Instead, he tightens his hold on Fuyuhiko; Hajime’s...

 

There was no name for “this” - not yet. Fuyuhiko held no honorific in Hajime’s head, just a big question mark. It’s unnerving. Hajime wants to put a name to it - to put a name to the many hours he spent pining over this boy. He tells himself that he’ll bring this up to Fuyuhiko, then the other boy mutters something against his skin and it all dissipates. So, these brief glimpses into the others mind are all that Hajime has to really cement that Fuyuhiko - at least - likes him.

 

They haven't kissed yet. Hajime thought, flicking his eyes down to Fuyuhikos lips at the lunch table. He's saying something, mumbling about the fact they gave him milk probably, and all Hajime is thinking is: We haven't kissed yet!?



"I'll take it." He pipes up, only breaking his gaze when Fuyuhiko looks at him. Cheeks flushed.



"What?  This?" Fuyuhiko asks, pointing at his carton of milk incredulously. Hajime almost wants to laugh at how well he knows him. Or really, how well he knows what pisses him off.



"Yeah." He reaches for it, but it's snatched out of his grasp so quickly. "- What are you thinking, Hinata? If I'm not going to drink it, why would I want you too."



"You let me put milk in my cereal." Fuyuhikos face scrunches up in disgust.



"Hey! Don't say that fucking name here!" Fuyuhiko fake gags, and Hajime laughs. A little too lovingly, too obviously, eyes falling back on the others lips.



"What're you going to do with it then?" He asks, tone all warm and soft. The same one he gets at night. Fuyuhikos eyes snap up to him, before shifting and rolling anywhere else. Wriggling in his seat. He noticed.



"Throw it away, duh." He grumbles, cheeks red, as Fuyuhiko jumps to his feet. Trudging back into the school building, tiny milk carton in hand.

 

“What’s going on between you and Fuyuhiko?” Chiaki pops her gum beside him, calling attention to herself.

 

“What do you mean what’s going on between us?” Hajime retorts, a little too quickly and little too loudly to sound normal.

 

“Are you guys dating or something?” She’s watching Hajime, and he squirms under he gaze. Afraid that she’ll see right through him pretty soon.

 

“We’re…” He falters; all those questions pushed off the back burner and closer and closer to the forefront of his mind again. Igniting the flame. “We’re not.”

 

“Oh. That sucks.” “Yeah. Yeah it does.”

 

Fuyuhiko is very particular at night. He loves to press close to Hajime, as close as he possibly can be, fingers and hands finding purchase under his shirt. Or maybe in Hajime’s hair, running his hand through the strands, or pulling at Hajime’s back. Either way, Fuyuhiko will be listening to Hajime’s heart.

 

“How’s my heart beat?” Hajime jokes, as Fuyuhiko places his head on the others chest.

 

“Bad. Go see a doctor.” He bites back, earning a quiet little laugh and arms loosely draped across his waist.

 

“Seriously, why do you always do that?” “What? You not like it or somethin’?”

 

“Just curious.” Hajime question, resting his head on top of the others. Fuyuhiko goes quiet, and Hajime thinks he can hear the wheels turning in the others head. Deciding whether or not he should disclose this.

 

“It’s how I can tell you’re still alive.” Hajime tenses up. “And that you still like me.”

 

Oh. The reality of the life Fuyuhiko lived comes crashing into Hajime’s brain for a moment, and he barely has time to fully process it before Fuyuhiko moves onto something else.

 

“I get a little self conscious sometimes and I need to remind myself that yeah, you are into me. Surprisingly.”

 

“It’s not surprising.” Hajime croaks out.

 

“You’re biased.”

 

Hajime watches that familiar Tamagotchi bounce in his view, and he relates to it. Maybe it's because he’s just really tired, but he feels like that Tamagotchi right now. Jolting through life, pulled along by strings. Not functioning. Merely decoration in more important peoples lives.

 

He grimaces at that last thought; because it’s simply not true anymore. Not when he looks over at Chiaki, who is staring at the road ahead, and knows that she accept him for who he is. She wanted Hajime to be happy, to have friends, not to change him. He knows it's not true, when he looks down at his phone to see Fuyuhiko text him - asking if Hajime’s ate lunch. Fuyuhiko is here for Hajime, in whatever form Hajime comes in. Not for what he could be, but what he is.

 

Maybe there was some truth in what Komaeda said, at one point, but that doesn’t mean it's always true. It’s not. They like Hajime for Hajime, and he knows it now. They don’t prefer the Tamagotchi to be broken anymore, they’re just happy to have a Tamagotchi.

 

“You remember at that party, where you asked me what my type was?” Fuyuhiko scootches closer to Hajime with a sigh, body relaxing against him.

 

“Yeah.” Hajime answers, or more-so mumbles, half-way asleep.

 

“...I uh. I think, I used to imagine there’d by this guy, who’d just ride in and take me away from here - make me feel better - when my parents would get in a fight. Kinda like a hot Jesus, or something.”

 

He pauses.

 

“You’re not that guy. You’re Hajime. What I’m trying to say is, fuck that guy.”

 

Peko definitely knew. Hajime wasn’t sure if Fuyuhiko told her, but either way she’d picked up that the two had become something more than friends. A few weeks into this thing between them, she’d brought homemade cookies to Hajime’s house, with that weird smile on her face.

 

“You’re a good influence on him.”

 

“Oh, uh. Thanks.” Hajime coughs out, past a mouthful of cookie. “-He’s been a good influence on me too.”

 

“No, he’s a bad influence on you, but you need that.” Peko speaks, matter of factly.

 

“I do?” He squeaks, in confusion.

 

“Absolutely. You needed someone to convince you to fight. Fuyuhiko needed someone to tell him when the fightings over.” Peko speaks as if Hajime's crazy for not seeing it, like it's painfully obvious to see. Hajime can’t find any reason to refute her on that.

 

Fuyuhiko gets nightmares. Often times about his yakuza duties, and they always wake Hajime up. Not that he minds, when he feels the other boy physically shaking beside him. Tears streaming down his face, as he reaches out for Hajime. Scratching and clawing to pull him closer, find some semblance of comfort in the embrace.

 

Hajime holds him until he stops shaking. Until the other pulls away. Until he’s fine. It helps Fuyuhiko to talk through his nightmares, get it all out and deconstruct it. Find the logical flaw in the dream, and delineate it from his reality. Even if it really hurts Hajime to hear it.

 

“I saw it.” “It?”

 

“The bullet. The one that went right by my fucking face. I saw it, felt it, go into my eye. Right through. All the way.”

 

“Wow.” “Yeah. Yeah. It was brutal.”

 

“Did it hurt?”

 

Fuyuhiko laughs, which reverberates through Hajime.

 

“No, actually. Scared me though.”

 

“Weird.” Hajime mumbles, loosening his grip of Fuyuhiko. He bit his lip, and swallowed his complaints. On the back burner.

 

It usually took awhile for the halls to clear out, so Hajime decided to get comfy. He bunkers down in his seat and starts scrolling through his phone. The sounds of lockers clashing and feet shuffling bounce around the walls before fading into the background entirely. All unintelligible noise that Hajime doesn't want to think about.



Instead, his mind drifts elsewhere. His house is going to be empty when he gets home. Chiaki needs to train for a video game tournament and Hajimes house doesn't have her insane setup. Peko's got a laundry list of chores that he can't even begin to comprehend. And, Fuyuhiko's got yakuza business.



It's going to be strange, without the sound of bickering, keyboard tapping, or cupboards slamming. Though, even without that noise, it's crushing realizing that there won't be another body in the room. Just him, in his empty house, like the old times.



He shakes that thought out of his head, but he can't shake the feeling. Instead, his mind drifts to the topic that it always comes too: Fuyuhiko. Specifically, the memory of Chiaki's question rises to the certain, bringing with it more unhappy and unwelcome emotions.



Replays it over, re-imagines it as what he wants it to be. Maybe, he still doesn't tell Chiaki - they are in public after all - but instead he feels confident because he knows what they are. He knows, without a shadow of a doubt, that they're...



He flushes, brain short circuiting. The very mention of the other having a loving title, burns him inside and out. It's such a powerful idea, it jumpstart his heart to an irate pace. God, get a hold of yourself-



"Hinata!" Hajime screams, or really squeaks. Eyes tearing a red hot path towards the voice. "-Shit, did I scare you?"



It's Fuyuhiko standing in the doorway; genuinely looking remorseful for startling the other. Which stamped out his anger a little.



"You think?" He whines, racking his blunt nails down his cheeks with a sigh.



Fuyuhiko laughs, strolling over to stand in front of Hajimes desk - with a grin. His brain forces itself out of its gridlock, starting back up.



"Wait, didn't you have stuff to do?" "I did."



His grin is so loving; Hajime wants to kiss him.



"Change of plans. You mind if I crash at your house?" "-Course."



"Well. Chiaki is the one driving me, 'should probably ask her if she's cool with it." Hajime adverts his eyes, cheeks burning.



"Oh fuck, right! You think she'll mind?" Fuyuhiko asks, fingers drumming against the desk. Hajime jumps on it; placing his hand on top of his. Fuyuhiko flinches, eyes wide; scared.



Hajime pulls his hand back; he doesn’t want to see the shifting emotions behind his eyes. He can’t seem to keep himself from showing emotions though.



"I'll call her." He breaks the contact, looking back down at his phone. Tone cracking and burning with unresolved passion. He swipes through it then brings it to his ear; hearing that familiar dial-up tone.

"You woke me up." Chiaki whines, on the other end of the line.

 

“You fell asleep? I’m about to come down!” Hajime chimes, he can feel the Fuyuhiko’s eyes on him, but he doesn’t want to see the emotion behind it.

 

“Then wake me when you come down-” “-Wait! I didn’t call just for that!”

 

She goes quiet, a silent message for Hajime to get on with it.

 

“Do you mind - No , is it okay with you if you take Fuyuhiko to my house too?” He asks, stumbling over his words. Heart pounding in his ears, all tense and shit, over a simple phone call. Or really, the unpredictability of what's going to happen after the phone call.

 

“Yeah?” Chiaki questions, like its a given that she’d agree. “Do I gotta pick him up or something?”

 

“No! No.” Hajime pauses. “-He’s already here.”

 

A beat passes, the only real sign that Chiaki’s still on the other line being the sound of breathing.

 

“...Okay? I’ll see you soon, then.” “Yeah. See you.”

 

Click. The call ends, swamping Hajime in that unwelcomed unpredictability. He dains a glance over at Fuyuhiko, whose expression is scrunched up in confusion. Before snapping back to something half-way resembling neutral when their eyes lock.

 

“Everything good?” Hajime nods, and Fuyuhiko mimics the action back to him. Which is a weirdly rare sight, as recently all Hajime’s done is mimic the other boys actions. It’s strangely cathartic to see his actions being paraded back.

 

Hajime packs up his stuff quickly, and goes to sling it over his shoulder before Fuyuhiko reaches for it as well. Grabby hands opening and closing for the bag without even realizing it.

 

“I can carry it.” Those golden eyes are locked on the bag all intense. It’s hard to say no.

 

“Go for it.” Hajime says, dumping the bag unceremoniously into Fuyuhiko’s waiting hands. “You don’t have to do this though, y’know? I’m not that weak.”

 

“I know. I want to.” Fuyuhiko slings the bag over his shoulder, that pretty pink blush spreading across his features. “I owe you one.”

 

Now it’s Hajime’s turn to look confused.

 

“For what?” Fuyuhiko scoffs. The pair making their descent down the hallway now.

 

“-For a lot of things.” A quiet mumble, as if the other boys afraid for the words to reach air. Hajime smiles, just a little bit, a tiny bit of the tension from early washing away. Which, oddly enough, only reminds him of the tense situation before.

 

The conversation lapses into that dreadful quiet place, as Hajime thinks. Every part of his mind working overtime to try and force himself to talk to Fuyuhiko. Say what he wants to say. Memories and fears crash and mix in his mind; all burning and foaming over past the back burner and into the front again. And again. Frothing up and over and tearing up the foundations he thought he had.

 

“Are you okay?” Fuyuhiko asks and something about it feels incredulous. Hajime knows that Fuyuhiko doesn’t realize how he sounds sometimes, but right now it just makes things worse. Just makes Hajime set his jaw tighter, and try to find something to say.

 

“Probably not.” His lukewarm answers doesn’t seem to satiete Fuyuhiko, whose eyes are trained on him like a rubix cube he can’t quite figure out. “Look. I just…”

 

“I need to - Let’s talk - I want to talk-” The words all fall on top of each other on his tongue, falling out his mouth as a string of unfinished sentences, because it needs to be perfect. If he’s going to do this, he’s going to do this right! So he doesn't ruin it.

 

“Take your time.” Fuyuhiko says, and it should be comforting. It normally is comforting, but now all Hajime can think is; No! I can’t take my time! I can’t keep waiting until I’m happy - or forget about it. No no no-

 

“-We need to talk about this. We need to... I want to-” - No no no- “ -Tell you. To tell you...So, I can tell you…talk to you-”

 

You’re ruining it you’re ruining it. You should have just kept things where they were! Why do you need to have everything so laid out and understood? Why’re you so selfish? You’re ruining it.

 

“Fuck, Hajime, breathe!” Fuyuhiko barks at him, and Hajime does. Slowly. The door opens, basking him in that blinding sunlight. “Do you need to take a minute?”

 

“No.” Hajime answers, stepping into that warm light, with Fuyuhiko right behind him. “I just…”

 

Hajme meets Fuyuhiko’s eyes, and the concern is earth shattering. A reminder that the other is there, is willing to listen, and willing to compromise. Maybe. If he could get the words out right.  

 

"I hate this. I hate that I can't even tell you what's going on inside my head." Hajime closed his eyes, body on autopilot as he keeps walking forward.



"Don't force yourself, dude-"

 

"I want to. I want to try." He opens his eyes, gaze sizzling and pouring with intensity usually associated with Fuyuhiko. Who nods, seemingly mesmerized by this burning expression, meeting it with a tenderness that spurs him on.



"Chiaki asked me if we're dating.” “...Oh.”

 

Fuyuhiko winced, and Hajime was tempted to end it there - yet, he managed to push on.

 

“-And I said that I don’t know.” He states, he could almost see the wheels turning in the others head. “I told her, I don’t know because I don’t. I have no idea what the fuck we are! We’re sure as hell not friends! It makes me anxious!”

 

He gestures between the two.

 

“- This , makes me anxious.” It all seems to click to Fuyuhiko. The shock and pain passing over his face makes Hajime immediately back track.

 

“I’m sorry-” “No. You need to say it. ‘S how you feel, you should say it.”

 

Hajime opens his mouth to speak, but closes it. Unable to find the words he needs; like usual. That old bubbling feeling of fear climbing up his throat.

 

“I’m not ready for...y’know.” Conflicting emotions circles in those golden eyes. “-But I don’t want you to be anxious because of that.”

 

“Because of me.” Fuyuhiko adds, quiet.

 

Silence. Dreadful, dreadful, silence. All the while Hajime watches as more of Fuyuhiko’s self confidence swirl down the drain, but he knows he can’t stop it. He needed Fuyuhiko to hear that, but he doesn’t need him to forget everything else.

 

“Hey.” Hajime calls, and the other glances over at him. “I really like you, Fuyuhiko.”

 

The other flushes pink all the way to the tips of his ears; shock melting into genuine unbridled tenderness. All aimed at Hajime, who burns red too.

 

“I do too. A lot.” Fuyuhiko mumbles, a little bit louder than usual, and grins.

 

“Damn. I wish I had recorded that.” Hajime shoves him, the pair now within sight of Usami - and Chiaki within the beat up junker. “What? I do!”

 

The small joyful moment fades soon, as they walk to stand beside Usami.

 

“Thanks, Hajime.” “For what?”

 

“For talkin’ to me...I’ll try to make things a little less vague from now on.” Fuyuhiko stares at Hajime all intense - like he’s trying extra hard to impart his feelings - burning a messy hole in his chest. “We deserve to be confident about one thing in our fucking lives!”

 

“Hell yeah.” Hajime states with a soft grin, which Fuyuhiko mirrors.

 

The drive to Hajime’s house was lively. Chiaki was excitedly - well, her version of “excitedly” - describing the rigorous training she was going through for some game tournament. All the while Fuyuhiko alternated between asking confused half-joking questions and genuinely getting invested in her tale. It was sweet; the way the two managed to somehow get along, despite their wildly different interests. Even though he knew Fuyuhiko had no idea what any of her terms meant, he still got invested anyway.

 

“Thanks, Chiaki.” Hajime said, closing the door behind him. Fuyuhiko was already out of the car, waving to Chiaki from his place walking up Hajime’s driveway.

 

“You better not lose your gaming-thing!” Fuyuhiko yelled to her, waving behind him.

 

“Don’t jinx me!” Chiaki yelled back, before turning to Hajime. “-It’s fine. Good luck.”

 

“Good luck…?” Her eyes darted from Fuyuhiko back to him. “-Oh! Oh. Right.”

 

Chiaki gave him her closed mouth shit-eating grin, and rolled up her window. Driving off soon after. He watched her drive off; the realization still sinking in that he hasn’t told her yet.

 

“-Yo, Hinata! You comin’?” He’ll get to it later.

 

Hajime spent the rest of the day with Fuyuhiko playing random board games and watching god awful yakuza films. The kind where the acting is so cheesy it makes you want to vomit. Those kinds. Snuggled up under a blanket together, with the other pressed so close. Another embarrassing line read had Fuyuhiko letting out a loud groan, his head lolling back against Hajime’s chest, his eyes fluttering shut. Cute

 

“You done?” Hajime questioned, earning a sleepy grumble from the other boy. “Yeah. You’re done.”

 

He poked at Fuyuhiko’s sides lightly, expecting him to stand up and trudge over to the bed, but no. Instead the other just lets out another grumble, and snuggles in closer. It’s cute. The others face is so close, he could count every freckle on his cheeks.

 

I want to kiss him. That thought creeps back into his mind, and he licks his lips. That gnawing fear slithers into his belly, pushing down any potential courage he once had. Instead, Hajime presses a feather light kiss to his forehead without thinking.

 

Fuyuhiko’s eyes shoot open, his pupils blown wide. Hajime freezes.

 

“You can do that again.” Fuyuhiko slurs. “‘s fine with me.”

 

Hajime reminds himself to breathe, all those fears subsiding in his mind into a warm curiosity. Though, that doesn’t mean his courage came back.

 

“N-noted.” He stutters out, a lot less composed then he would have liked. “Now are you going to go to bed or am I going to have to carry you?”

 

Fuyuhiko lets out another high pitched groan, stumbling to his feet. It’s a childish petulance that Hajime is glad to see on Fuyuhiko - the boy whose whole clans motto has been putting others desires over one's own. He follows him into his bedroom, watching as Fuyuhiko fumbles his way under the covers.

 

Hajime smiles to himself. Pulling up the covers, he’s met with Fuyuhiko’s tired grabby hands motioning him under. It made Hajime feel valued, wanted, and that made a warmth blossom in his chest. He met that motion; snuggling up to Fuyuhiko, whose hands now ran up and down Hajime’s sides lovingly. All lazy motions, outlining patterns onto Hajime’s back, his sides, head firmly pressed against the others beating chest. Making it clear that the other still had some fight left in him.

 

“You need to go to sleep.” Hajime chided him, wrapping his arms around Fuyuhiko.

“Can’t.” Fuyuhiko mumbled, but his eyes were closed. “Don’t want nightmares.”

 

“How do you know you’ll get nightmares tonight?” “How do you know I won’t have nightmares?”

 

He still has some of his temper left too. Hajime lets out an annoyed little sigh - the type he knows Fuyuhiko hates - and lets his eyes fall closed.

 

“-What?!  I can’t get nightmares if I don’t sleep!” Fuyuhiko whines.

 

“You’re going to feel like shit in the morning.” He retorts, voice barely above a whisper, feeling the tight grip of sleep pulling him deeper and deeper into the bed.

 

“God. I hate it when you’re right.” Fuyuhiko whines, those grabby hands stilling as he shifts into a more comfortable position. Hajime moves with him, body on autopilot.

 

“You better be alive when I wake up.” Fuyuhiko mumbles against Hajime’s skin, the words sinking into the latters mind. Sinking into his memories, but before he could question the other, his need for sleep finally pulled him under.