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Late Night Run

Chapter Text

“Requesting back up. There’s been a disturbance call—”

Heisuke could hear the policemen who had broken up the street brawl he’d been balls deep in, the sound of his labored breathing and heavy footfalls hardly enough to mask the sound of his panicked, beating heart as he barely stumbled out of getting tackled by the neighborhood watch.

“—these damn kids—”

He had very nearly gotten caught, one of the men swearing as he managed to snag another stray punk that tried to flee the scene. It wasn’t until that moment Heisuke was grateful for his smaller frame and height that allowed him to dodge being captured and cuffed.

The night air was muggy and suffocating to his overworked lungs while he blindly ran through the dark in an attempt to navigate through his town’s narrow alleyways toward the way home. He knew that taking the main road that led to his neighborhood would make him a more obvious target to the patrol units that were no doubt on their way to the area, but it was too risky to cut through the back neighborhood in case he ended up getting injured worse or snagged on a chain link in the night.

Just as he rounded the corner and out of the alley, Heisuke’s shoes scuffed against the gravel and picked up speed, he didn’t make it far before his face hit something hard and the force knocked him backwards onto the road as he clutched his nose on instinct from the pain.

“Shit, that hurt!”

Whatever he’d hit had followed him down, Heisuke wincing at the aching throb that came from the collision before scrambling to pick himself up. It was just his luck running into someone on his way out, the grunt the stranger made indicating that it was no soft fall for them either. However, he didn’t have the luxury of staying there to apologize, knowing that the cops could be just paces behind him.

He prepared to make another run for it when something had wrapped itself around his ankle and pulled him back down to the ground. Heisuke had caught himself that time, using his hands to ease the fall and brace himself from hitting his face against the surface. What the hell

“You’ve got some nerve.” The deep voice behind him could have only belonged to the hand that had drug the boy down. The unnerving rumble that came from the stranger as he spoke sounded so achingly familiar but he couldn’t recall where he had heard that voice before.

Heisuke knew that he was in for trouble now. If the cops wouldn’t get to him first, he was sure to lose to the vice grip around his leg that held him there. He couldn’t see, but he tried his best to shake himself off and pry away from his hold before it was too late.

Shit. Shiiiit.

His other leg was free to kick at the one anchoring him there until another cold hand had latched onto his thigh and pinned him to the gravel that was slowly digging into his skin the more he fought. “Let… go of me!” Heisuke could feel the weight and strength shift from where he was held captive, knowing that his assailant was moving in close. If it weren’t for the position he was stuck in he would have already flipped the guy over and high tailed it out of danger by now.

“I saw a kid go in that direction, he couldn’t have gotten far!” One of the police shouted before a flurry of footsteps followed, quickly closing the distance that Heisuke fought to keep.

“What the hell kind of trouble are you in that has you in such a rush, Toudou?” The stranger had leaned in, his words biting with accusation.

Heisuke had shifted his body to try and pull his way free until he had heard his name, his mind finally connecting a face with the voice. Even without the aid of his sight, there was only one person he knew with a voice that nerve grating and haughty.

 “Please,” Heisuke tried, knowing that the other heard them approaching too, “you know as much as I do that if they find us both here we’re going to get caught.” Not only would they catch Heisuke, but the police would assume that anyone near Heisuke’s age was a part of the riot that had taken place at the abandoned lot in the alley. “You know it’s past curfew for students, Kazama.”

The one above him had seemed to pause in consideration, Kazama giving an irritated sigh before the grip on his legs was released and Heisuke hadn’t wasted the opportunity to get to his feet. Before he could take off, however, Kazama had him by the collar of his shirt.

“You’re better off not going that way. There’s one on patrol near the stop sign up ahead. It’s too open for you to escape.” Time wasn’t on their side, but he was not about to let the other run into the trouble he was trying to avoid.

“So what do I—” Heisuke was immediately cut off by Kazama who had yanked his collar back, effectively strangling his words in the process. He was being pulled in the opposite direction and across the street to what seemed to be a myriad of shrubs from a neighbor’s unkempt lawn. Heisuke had caught on quickly, knowing that hiding there would throw the police off their tail long enough for them to escape safely.

They used the camouflage to avoid being seen just as the men in uniform came around the corner they had met, Heisuke ducking around the only tree close enough to shield him while Kazama remained crouched in a tangle of azalea bushes.

The two watched from their hiding places for the next few minutes, eying the cops that had split up in nearly all directions to scope out any young strays that had ran from them earlier. None of them had wandered in their direction close enough to have found them. The two held their breathes, remaining quiet and holding their positions to keep wandering eyes away.

Eventually, after what seemed to be the longest twenty minutes of Heisuke’s life, the police had finally regrouped and headed back towards the alley he’d escaped from. No doubt they were returning to their vehicles and taking in the kids they caught for questioning.

Kazama endured the cramped posture he’d been forced to hold until minutes after the coast was clear, signaling Heisuke’s reveal by maneuvering out of the bushes once he was certain they weren’t going to be seen. They quietly returned towards the road and Heisuke, in a moment of uncertainty, had awkwardly shifted his gaze from Kazama to the street as if debating on whether to leave him now that they were safe.

He knew Heisuke wasn’t dumb, at least not dumb enough to ignore his warning from before. There were only a few excuses the boy had that kept him from hightailing it back home to safety, but his feet seemed to be glued in place. “What?”

His reply wasn’t immediate, Heisuke seemingly looking out into the now-silent evening towards the sole streetlamp several blocks away, illuminating an outline to the patrol car parked by a vacant stop sign up ahead. Kazama hadn’t lied to him earlier, apparently. “Um,” Heisuke looked like he was debating on what to say first, “I think I can get by on my own from here now. Sorry for getting you caught up in that and… stuff.”

The two of them had never got along well, especially when they were alone together, Kazama’s overbearing attitude and narcissism had always struck a nerve with Heisuke, and in turn Heisuke had never bothered giving him the luxury of his kindness because of it. Now with Chizuru attending classes at their school, Kazama had become a regular nuisance between the two of them, and his teases were relentless as Heisuke was often the target of them.

It wasn’t that Heisuke wasn’t grateful, not at all. What had him confused was that Kazama helped him avoid the cops, though he merely believed it was for his own sake. Had the older boy been found with him, both of them surely would have been turned into the station like the rest of those caught. All Kazama really needed to do was hold him down and turn him in himself once the police had gotten there, if Kazama wanted to save his own skin. He was wealthy, and his family held some level of influence; the cops would have overlooked him breaking curfew, he was sure.

Heisuke wasn’t sure how to properly thank him now.

“Isn’t your home in that direction?” Even in the dark Heisuke could see Kazama motioning his head towards the cop car, which had been parked just a block before his house. The arrogance in his voice laid proof that he knew he was correct.

The car was parked at a four-way stop on the vacant street surrounded by stone walls fenced around neighboring houses. It would be a challenge to climb over them, let alone to not be seen doing it, before he could even reach his home. He briefly thought about sneaking through Chizuru’s yard, except her house was next to his on the opposite side he needed to hide on. Unless he could manage to successfully remain undetected, he didn’t have much hope that he would make it without the police spotting him.

 Kazama had quietly watched Heisuke mentally fight with the odds, the older boy observing the way his face scrunched as he worked to solve his dilemma. He knew he probably didn’t have many options outside of trespassing at that point, but the idea of Heisuke being forced to break even more rules in order to escape didn’t settle well with him. If his friend, dear little Yukimura, ever discovered that he was out late running from the law, he was sure it would break her heart.

Why make it worse when there were alternatives?

The third year reached into his pocket and fished out his phone, dimming the screen low enough so he could text without squinting. “Hey.” Kazama’s voice snapped Heisuke out of his own thoughts. Within seconds he had finished typing, keeping his words brief to save them some time. “I don’t normally offer help to people—”

“—That’s hard to believe—”

Kazama’s words faltered at Heisuke’s sarcasm to keep himself from retorting something unsavory back, “… However. I’m willing to negotiate a deal with you.”

Heisuke knew that any kind of bargain made by Kazama was certain to be unfair on his end alone, the older student known for his ridiculously higher expectations and an outlook revolved around personal gain. Still, knowing that, there wasn’t much else he could do besides hear him out. “What is it?”

After earning his reluctant agreement, Kazama revealed a crooked smirk. “I’ll help you get out of here without a chance of getting arrested.” He held a hand up to stop Heisuke from cutting him off too soon. “In exchange, you keep this whole thing a secret. From everyone. I imagine even you can manage to keep your mouth shut about something like this, right?” He knew Heisuke well enough to prepare having his offer rejected, but not without serious consideration.

Kazama’s offer had been sketchy to say the least. He’d been expecting something more outlandish required for his cooperation alone, something that could possibly humiliate Heisuke in the process or compromise his situation even further. What did Kazama have to gain by privacy? “What’s the catch? That seriously can’t be it.”

The other’s smirk had dropped into a small grimace, the student obviously growing impatient by Heisuke’s expected suspicion. “There isn’t one, it’s just a simple agreement: you do as I say and no one has to know what happened here tonight.”

“Why keep quiet?”

“Because—” Kazama tried to keep his voice in check, “—you wouldn’t want Yukimura to discover what you had been doing earlier, would you?” He placed a hand against his chest to mock her hurt expression, which Heisuke hadn’t found too amusing. “You’re not stupid. If you take a second to actually think, it wouldn’t be difficult to realize why I need you to keep this under wraps.”

Heisuke never did like lying, not to anyone and not even to himself. Yes, he did run from the scene, he didn’t want to be caught up in anything that severe in the first place, but was staying quiet really any better? He could rely on Chizuru to that extent, as a confidant, but even Kazama didn’t want her to know.

Kazama came from a prestigious background and his family was well-known for their tea houses and strict tradition. While his money could keep others silent about him breaking curfew, if his family found out it would no doubt be difficult for him to earn back his trust.

“It would be too much trouble for you.” Heisuke had come to that conclusion, at least. Chizuru’s peace of mind for Heisuke, and Kazama’s pride would be tarnished.

Heisuke was dwelling on his options again, weighing out the worth of Kazama’s offer before a thought struck him. He looked up at the other, who had been staring off into the distance, presumably at the lone police car ahead, when he spoke. “Why were you out past curfew, anyways?”

Kazama hadn’t even flinched at the question, probably expecting it, and he simply shrugged.

Just in that moment, the sound of a car pulling up and the blare of headlights shining down on them had nearly startled Heisuke into bolting from the street. It was only Kazama’s hands that had stopped him completely, holding him in place while his strange sense of calm alerted the shorter boy that something was amiss.

Expecting the cop from down the street to have appeared before them, a different figure emerged from the driver’s side of the vehicle, Heisuke barely recognizing him until he spoke.

“Get in.”

Those two words were all Heisuke needed to identify him as Amagiri, one of Kazama’s… friends? Heisuke wasn’t sure what their relationship was to begin with, but he always saw him and the other one—

“Hurry it up, would you? If you get caught standing around here we’ll all get busted.” The second voice came from the front passenger’s window of the car, which Heisuke realized was Shiranui. It seemed as though the two of them were the ones Kazama had texted earlier about their dilemma. How they somehow found them so quickly in the matter of minutes was something Heisuke did not want to dwell on for long.

Even in the dark he was certain the windows were tinted to hide their faces, and vehicles running this late at night didn’t stand out as much as two teenagers did out in the open. So he took a deep breath, and as he felt Kazama’s hand guide him to the back seat of the car, he hoped his decision won’t come back to bite him in the ass.

Chapter Text

Arriving at the Kazama manor in such a fashion reminded Heisuke of the cheesy yakuza movies he used to watch when he was younger. He knew that his upperclassman was wealthy enough to put Heisuke’s measly allowance to shame, but there weren’t many people that lived in such an outdated household that just screamed “old money” anymore. There didn’t seem to be much western influence from what Heisuke could see in the darkness; almost like the home had been frozen in time since the early 1900’s.

It was quite impressive to witness this glimpse in Kazama’s life as they snuck around the back of his house with the help of the trees’ shadows concealing them. It wasn’t really the situation that he enjoyed, rather it was realizing that even someone like Kazama wasn’t entirely the perfect, straight-A student council president his image chalked him up to be at school. Almost as if this kind of sneaking wasn’t some new experience to him, from the way he led them so confidently through the dark.

Heisuke followed directly behind Kazama at his orders to do so, the four of them all quietly walking on the wooden engawa that bordered the home. Kazama had explained they were doing it to avoid being seen or heard in the main rooms so as not to be caught by any servants, or worse—his parents.

The two students behind him remained with Kazama even after they dropped them off at his house which gave Heisuke the assumption that they were either staying the night there or they weren’t leaving until everything was sorted out. He wasn’t sure how much time would be needed for the latter, although he hoped they could discuss the details some time tomorrow so he could get some sleep.

After what seemed to be an insufferable amount of minutes watching Kazama’s back as his only source of direction, Heisuke finally heard him stop in front as he opened one of the outer sliding doors leading near a back room to the house. The panels were thin enough that Heisuke could see the lights were on in the room and he silently walked inside after Kazama, letting his eyes adjust to the change. His family had enough sense to update the house with electrical lighting at least.

Without a proper entrance hall for Heisuke to dump his shoes, he simply slipped them off and moved them into the corner of the room to prevent the old tatami mats from getting dirtied. Like hell he’d accidentally end up dragging dirt into Kazama’s house and deal with the consequences. The bastard would probably have him hand clean it from top to bottom if that ever happened, no doubt about it.

“This side of the house is pretty vacant,” Shiranui mentioned, “so odds are that no one is going to see you for now.”

Heisuke hadn’t doubted his words; he had seen just how large the house really was. The boy eyed Kazama and Amagiri discussing something near the entrance of the room, their backs turned to the two of them as they talked. Kazama seemed irritated, from the way he had folded his arms close to his chest, and the other looked to be negotiating with him somehow. He knew it was about him but he would think they’d have enough tact to let him in on the conversation, too. It wasn’t his idea to freeload at Kazama’s place anyways.

However, in those few moments he could examine the room while they decided his fate. The room itself wasn’t incredibly large and lacked furniture almost entirely, the only décor being a fake houseplant and a sealed closet door. It was obvious that this was either one of the (assumingly) many unused guest rooms or the Kazama family really lacked in interior design taste. The second guess wasn’t that strange to believe.

Granted, no, Heisuke didn’t know Kazama’s family. In fact, he was sure almost no one had ever seen his family during school events or even parent conferences from what he attended. Not that it was any of his business, but his private life seemed awfully separated from his school work compared to any other teenager.

“Whoa.”

Heisuke heard Shiranui let out an impressed whistle before feeling his hand slowly touch his cheek, a sharp ache flaring up under the skin near his jaw on contact. “Ack—” He smacked the hand away on reflex, pawing at the place he touched and trying to sooth the throbbing burn. It wasn’t until his upperclassman had applied pressure did Heisuke notice how much his face fucking hurt.

“Sorry man, I didn’t see the shiner you got earlier. You got your ass handed to you, what the hell happened?”

Kazama’s head whipped around immediately after the question, meeting eyes with Heisuke before he was scanning his face. Kazama also hadn’t noticed his injuries until then, it seemed, because he was breaking off his words like Heisuke’s wounds were suddenly of more interest.

Judging from the pain alone he had a suspicious feeling that there was one hell of a bruise on his face from where he had been struck earlier that night but he was never given the chance to estimate the damage when he was running from the cops. It was probably the reason why running into Kazama had his head whirling so bad, too.

By the time Kazama had actually gotten within reach of him, Heisuke had defensively covered his cheek with his hand so as to stop him from irritating the spot even more. It wouldn’t be out of character for him to purposely poke at his bruises just to see him grimace in pain before mocking how stupid he was to get himself this injured in the first place.

Heisuke watched as the other had prepared to say something, the sneer on his face evident as he observed the marks, but instead of the insult he was expecting Kazama had opted for an unusual and averse silence.

“What?” He didn’t appreciate the look he was given, Heisuke furrowing his brows and scowling in turn to match Kazama’s expression. If this was some kind of pity silence, he’d take an insult any day.

Stewing in his thoughts a moment longer, Kazama finally spoke. “You thought to arrive home in this kind of state?” Imagining that Heisuke would show up to school the next morning with such horrendous dark blotches would send Chizuru and his teachers into a panic, and a dead giveaway to tonight’s run-in with the law.

“You think I know what I look like right now? The hell, man.” Heisuke pointed to the pain on his cheek for emphasis. He really hoped it didn’t look as bad as it felt, otherwise—

“You can forget about class tomorrow.”

“Oh, no way—”

“Excuse me,” Amagiri stepped in-between the two of them like a human wall, towering over them both as he took over the conversation, “I believe Kazama’s suggestion is the better choice at the moment. You would draw too much attention if you were to attend school with such injuries present.” His voice was gentle but left no room for the argument Heisuke wanted. Amagiri had followed through with Kazama’s demand to get them home safely under the radar, yet their underclassman did not yet understand the severity of the situation by his desire to return to school the following morning.

What they were proposing made sense, if Heisuke really did look as bad as he felt. Of course he didn’t want to scare anyone or have the school call his parents out of concern either. Besides, he had a feeling the police would be paying a visit on campus to get any information they could on the teenagers that got away. He knew Kazama and Amagiri weren’t purposely trying to deny him for fun, they just didn’t want him to cause even more problems in a situation they were dragged into.

“Okay,” Heisuke relented, “I won’t go tomorrow, but what am I supposed to do in the meantime?”

The three older students looked at one another as if deciding on a plan until the final word was placed on Kazama. It was odd, but Heisuke was starting to understand how they functioned as a group. Kazama went on to explain that having him stay in his home for the remainder of the night and the following day would be best, as no one would suspect Heisuke hiding there during school hours. Afterwards they could discuss what to do with him once the swelling on his face went down.

“We could have him call his parents and tell him he’s staying over at a friend’s?” Shiranui leaned against the wall and put his hands on his hips, opting to stay out of it for the most part. Apparently Shiranui didn’t want any more involvement in the situation than he already had apart from being their getaway car.

“Do your parents even know you snuck out tonight?” Kazama asked him, but his voice wasn’t accusing.

Heisuke hesitated in answering. “.. Not really. My parents work overseas and they aren’t home most of the time. If I gave them a call out of the blue it’d probably seem suspicious unless the school decides to call them first over an absence.”

“The school isn’t going to do that over a single day.”

“Probably.” Heisuke didn’t want to think of what Chizuru’s reaction would be after he won’t show up to walk with her tomorrow morning. He had to text her at least, to let her know. He didn’t have many friends outside of his kendo club, would she really buy into the same excuse? He didn’t like the idea of lying to her, either. “What about Chizuru?” He made an agreement not to let her in on his late-night scuffle under the circumstance that it would upset her—yet to keep her in the dark about his well-being felt equally wrong.

“Yukimura may discover his absence immediately since they’re close.” Amagiri had a point.

Kazama was already thinking over the consequences of Heisuke’s silence just as Shiranui sighed and pushed himself from the wall he was leaning against. “I’m sure you guys can figure this shit out later.” He motioned to the time displayed on his phone before he slipped it back into his pocket. “I don’t know about you, but I’m heading home. We’ve got school in six hours and I’m not planning to lose any more sleep over this.” Without even waiting for anyone to argue against him he went on ahead and took his leave through the back door leading into the estate’s yard.

No one else tried to force him from leaving, he noticed, both Amagiri and Kazama remaining unfazed by his decision. Maybe they were both used to his attitude, and the way he acted looked as though he preferred to mind his own business and deal with his own problems rather than someone else’s. Granted, he had no real reason to stay and help, and it was really only up to him and Kazama to decide what they were going to do now that they had gotten this far.

“We can discuss his situation in the morning, I agree. There is not anything we can do so late in the night now that we’re forcing him to hide here.” Amagiri made his way towards the same exit. “Tomorrow I will reassure Yukimura of your safety but I will not disclose the situation.”

Watching him leave, Heisuke thought about having such an intimidating guy like Amagiri approach Chizuru out of the blue at school and it didn’t seem like the best idea, considering they hardly interacted at all; but imagining Kazama being alone with Chizuru instead left a sour taste in his mouth. He wondered what she was going to think of his sudden disappearance, and if he was going to be forced to skip school for longer considering his injuries. Like hell he was going to be forced here for even longer than he wanted.

They had been standing there in the dim guest room for some time and Kazama could feel the minutes tick away from his sleep the longer he stayed. “There’s a spare futon in the closet so you can use this room for tonight. Most everyone is already asleep at this hour and the staff doesn’t bother prepping guest rooms, you’re hidden for now. Come morning I’ll be back here so try to wake up at an acceptable time.”

Heisuke wasn’t sure what the point of him returning to the room would do since he was supposedly forced under house arrest. It wasn’t like he was going to run away when his only safe space at the moment was Kazama’s vacant room. “Anything else?”


 

“Stop tensing unless you want me to get your eye.”

Heisuke had found himself sitting in seiza on the matted floor in front of Kazama as the latter tended to his wounds with a first aid kit he had taken from a nearby bathroom. He wasn’t going to complain that the stuff Kazama was using to treat his wounds was too cold for his liking, but he couldn’t help the chill it left as it worked into his skin. “Why are you using this crap anyways? Just give me some peroxide for the cuts and leave the bruises alone.” He could simply use ice if this was going to be such a pain.

Kazama stared down at him quietly as he held his chin carefully in one hand, eying the swelling marks on his face and applying aloe vera to a bump near his left eye. “Because this is more effective in stopping the inflammation.” He pressed his thumb into the wound he was treating to emphasis his point.

The other hissed in pain and winced, unable to reflexively pull away due to the grip he was in. Instead he tried his best to ignore the cold gel being slathered over his wounds and focused on the silence between the two of them. He noted it strange that Kazama was actually doing something relatively humane in helping with his injuries, albeit a little roughly. Then again, there wasn’t a mirror Heisuke could use in the room to do it himself to save them the trouble. Seriously, all he needed was a bag of ice to put over the spots that hurt, he never heard of using aloe vera to treat bruises before.

Kazama had been intensely focused on what was left, using the rest of the gel on his fingers to touch up any places he had missed in the meantime. Luckily there weren’t any lacerations he could see so the discoloration would heal quickly enough compared to a cut.

Something about his injuries bothered him. “I haven’t known the police to handle minors this roughly before.” He released Heisuke’s chin and reached for a packet of tissues in the first aid box to wipe the gel off from his hand.

“Hm? No, I didn’t get these from them.” He did manage to slip away from them the moment they arrived anyway. “The police were actually trying to break up the fight.”

Kazama’s brow raised at that. “A fight?” A sound of disbelief passed his lips. “I didn’t think you stupid enough—”

“Fuck off,” Heisuke hadn’t said the insult with any real bite, “I didn’t start it, okay?”

“Then what exactly were you doing?”

The question made him hesitate. “… I just… overheard some kids in my year bullying a classmate in the hall yesterday and I didn’t want to cause any trouble at school with everyone around.” Heisuke could feel Kazama’s gaze on him, waiting for him to continue. “The kid’s really quiet, you know? He doesn’t talk a lot and he keeps to himself, so I think he was just an easy target for something like that.” Heisuke had tried to get along with all of his classmates at the beginning of the year, taking note of everyone’s names and keeping his ears open for them because that’s just the kind of guy he is.

He still wasn’t close to anyone besides Saito, Okita, and Chizuru, but he wanted everyone to know he could be the one to listen or help if someone needed it.

 “Anyways, I overheard them talking about blackmailing him into going with them behind the building in my neighborhood. They were going to jump him there since that place is kinda infamous for being hidden from the main street and I couldn’t let it happen.”

“… So you followed them there?”

Thinking about it now with the words out in the open made Heisuke feel dumb for doing it. There was only one of him and four of them, jumping into some fight completely outnumbered was reckless to say the least, but he never doubted his choice in doing so. They beat the hell out of him in the dark after his classmate managed to get away, and Heisuke had only used self-defense to lessen the blows before the cops had showed up to throw all of them into some juvenile center, probably. “I only did it to defend him.”

Kazama gave an irritated sigh and rose from his seated position on the floor. “To think you wanted to show up to school tomorrow after something like that.”

Heisuke rolled his eyes in return. “It was dark, they probably didn’t even see what I looked like.” He reached for the kit and packed everything away, standing up and passing the kit back to Kazama. “Call me a dumbass all you want but I know what I did was better than doing nothing.” He didn’t need him to pour more salt in the wound after what he went through.

Kazama had already been aware that Yukimura’s friend was occasionally a reckless hothead, only from what he had witnessed firsthand from his own reaction to Kazama’s relentless taunting. He was also aware that his underclassman had an unusual habit of sticking his nose into other people’s business, especially when it involved someone’s well-being. He was like an annoying, overprotective dog that barked at things three times his size just to prove himself.

“You are an idiot.” Kazama didn’t need to look at Heisuke to know that his response was expected. People that were bullied were those that couldn’t stand up for themselves, and it should be them alone standing against the harassment instead of relying on the help of others.  No one in their right frame of mind would go out to fight a group of students over a person they barely knew, yet there was something unusually admirable in Heisuke’s actions that had Kazama drawing a blank.

Chapter Text

Kazama wasn’t surprised to find a police car parked on the curb of his school as he pulled up to the front gate that morning. His driver had tossed a concerned look towards him in the rearview mirror, but otherwise said nothing about the unusual presence as he watched him exit the vehicle for class.

The front courtyard was absent of students considering that the sun had barely risen above the horizon and class wasn’t starting for another hour and a half, but the school gate remained open for any teachers that needed to arrive before the mandatory time to plan their day ahead.

It was his responsibility as student council president to arrive as early as he could to ensure that his work could be done as efficiently as possible. Regarding school activities, he needed to be up-to-date with any changes the staff made the day before, and extra time made him able to visit the teachers’ room to collect any and all files necessary so that the students can be better aware of the upcoming events posted along the walls of the school.

He never slacked in his duty and made certain that he was someone people could rely on in terms of his abilities. The personal affairs of the students didn’t matter much to him, however. Rather, he preferred the praise of his teachers compared to his classmates. He was someone that could get the job done, he was the one that could meet all expectations.

Kazama’s reputation made others respect him in a different way than those connected with his family’s business did. His position, popularity, they were things that he himself had earned the right to have all on his own. Countless sleepless nights studying to remain top of the class, long hours staying after school to plan events in the council room. Balancing his education with strict lessons from his parents was an everyday thing, and Kazama never knew any different from his life.

Had he been caught last night by the police, or if Heisuke revealed it, everyone would find out that he had been there past curfew too. That kid didn’t have a volume button, one word with Yukimura and his whole damn class could hear everything. The image he had worked so hard to maintain would be smeared with rumors of sneaking out at night, of being some delinquent he clearly wasn’t.

He hated to admit it, but Heisuke was the one that ultimately had control over him. In a way, Kazama had been lucky it hadn’t been another student that could have made the ordeal turn in their favor. If it had been anyone else that caught him that night they would have used that information to blackmail him most likely. And while Heisuke probably hadn’t even considered using that material with ill intent, he didn’t want to risk the chance of someone finding out by eavesdropping.

Which was exactly why he needed Heisuke to keep quiet about everything.


 

He never made it a habit to skip school. Days when he was feeling too under the weather, and Chizuru more or less forced him, he took a sick day just to keep her from worrying. During those times he’d simply sleep the hours away in his bed until he had the energy to make himself some food before promptly falling back asleep.

Now he didn’t even have the luxury of sleeping, not when someone could easily walk into the room at any time and find him there. He had been up since five in the morning when Kazama came in and startled him awake by kicking his ribcage none too gently. His upperclassman claimed that he needed to hurry and wake up due to the morning shift maid making her rounds and he didn’t want Heisuke getting them in trouble if he was caught.

He begrudgingly followed directions and folded the futon back into the closet without a complaint so Kazama could be satisfied. If the maid did in fact move anywhere near the guest room Heisuke could hear the footsteps approaching thanks to the thin walls of the house, and it would be easy to sneak into the yard from the back door.

Heisuke had argued why he couldn’t just return to his home by morning to avoid being seen by anyone, and with Chizuru attending school during the day, he could avoid her in the state he was in.

“Because a student out in the streets during school hours isn’t going to draw attention,” Kazama answered sarcastically.

Kazama had a stubborn streak that rivaled his own and it was infuriating trying to reason with him when he always believed himself to be the smartest guy in the room. Convincing him to do anything against his own thoughts was the equivalent of trying to pull teeth and it was far too early for Heisuke to put up a proper fight.

So, he relented.

He remained in the room just as he was told to do for hours, listening intently for any signs of footsteps and keeping himself close to his only exit by sitting in the corner next to his shoes. He discovered earlier that his cell phone battery had died during the night, leaving him without any contact or entertainment to possibly occupy his time as he waited in boredom. He humored actually leaving to his house to grab his phone charger, but Kazama’s words reminded him that it was best to play it safe for now.

“I hope Chizuru isn’t too worried.” Heisuke imagined she must have been if she stopped by his home that morning to walk to school together. She probably tried to call him once she realized he wasn’t going to show up, but with his phone dead, he had no way of reassuring her that he was okay. His only comfort was knowing that Amagiri seemed faithful to his promise and that he would ensure Chizuru be informed eventually.

Maybe if he hadn’t confronted those bullies alone in the dark, or if he protected himself better, he wouldn’t have to hide the bruises and make things complicated. He should have said something to them at school instead, embarrass them in front of everyone for picking on someone at their age, but he didn’t.

If he had, would the kid they were bullying have been okay? He always heard stories about them only making it worse for the victim when they were caught, and Heisuke never wanted the situation to escalate. Kazama had told him he was stupid to challenge them all alone, and he was right, but it wasn’t as if there was anyone else willing to step up against them. The only thing that he could think of was catching them before it got out of hand, even if he was outnumbered.

Heisuke sighed and shook his head. Now wasn’t really the time to be mulling over his decisions, what’s done is done. For now, he just needed to go along with what Kazama wanted from him and once his injuries became manageable he was a free man. While he was sure his identity wouldn’t be exposed he still wondered what his absence was going to do once the school started to realize a number of its students from the same year were in police custody. He hoped he wouldn’t be lumped in with the suspicion of incarceration due to the unlikely “coincidence.”

Sure, the boys involved were probably going to be released by tomorrow at the latest—there are still laws protecting minors after all—but their reputation was going to suffer tremendously and odds were that they were most likely going to be removed from the school altogether depending on their parents’ verdict.

Heisuke thought about his own parents, wondering what they were going to think about everything if they ever found out about his temporary disappearance, and then he remembered that they likely would never find out or bother asking details if they did. Just the “education is the most important” spiel they used every time there was an issue at school.

He sometimes doubted they ever genuinely cared about him at all, just making sure he didn’t completely ruin his future living by himself so they could still have a reason to send him money every month. Anything they could do to keep themselves separated from him, he guessed.

“That’s depressing to think about.” Heisuke mumbled to himself before leaning back against the wall.

His phone was dead and he couldn’t tell the time, but he felt that four hours had easily passed since he awoke this morning. He could feel the sun beaming through the paper-thin walls facing the courtyard and he had an idea it was close to lunchtime from the way his stomach responded. He hadn’t had anything to eat since last night and, unless he wanted to chance being caught trying to search for the kitchen, he was going to have to sit through his hunger pains until Kazama could come back.


 

He was lucky to discover that the presence of the police at the school did little to raise suspicion by the students. At the very least, Kazama hadn’t caught whiff of any rumors yet, and that meant it was being handled well by the staff to avoid any unsavory questions. While announcements were handled by the student council, there were no instructions given by the principal to call anyone into the office for questioning, so everything was currently being kept under wraps. Surely there were people wanting answers to it, but nothing seemed out of the ordinary besides the police car at the front entrance.

Classes were just about over with for the day and Kazama’s study hour was coming to a close, though he mostly used his time to finish up any council work that needed to be done to avoid staying too late after school. He still always found himself coming home late, however, usually caught by a teacher asking him for favors. He personally thought the disciplinary committee was better suited for running meaningless errands, but he supposed the student council seemed more reliable in that aspect. He was the one in charge of it, after all.

Kazama listened as the bell rang and the sound of hurried footsteps rushing through the corridor outside quickly overtook the rhythmic ticking of the wall clock he had grown accustomed to in the last hour. Many students were eager to head home for the day, attend their afternoon clubs, or to an evening cram school due to the exams that were steadily approaching.

What he didn’t expect was the door to slide open a minute later, Kazama looking up from his work to see a certain first year student standing at the entrance. At her presence, he easily gave her his best smile and discretely placed his documents aside. When he noticed her taking a moment to look around the room, he took the opportunity to stand from his seat and greet her. “I’m surprised to see you here, Yukimura. Is there something you’re looking for?”

She snapped from her thoughts as she was addressed, the girl pausing before finding her voice. “I was looking for Amagiri senpai, I thought he would be here but…” she trailed off before finishing. Her expression suggested she was disheartened to not find him where she expected.

Kazama had a feeling he knew why she was looking for him. “He is currently preoccupied. The student council has been busy trying to cover plans of all the festivals and events coming once exams are over.” He suppressed a frown as he watched her already preparing to leave in search of him, but if she was going to him for Heisuke the outcome would remain the same. “If you need him for a personal matter, you may be able to find him in the auditorium.”

Yukimura should have wanted to head there immediately, except the look she gave him indicated there was something more to the situation.

A look of skepticism.

He hadn’t lied to her, Amagiri was indeed in the auditorium helping with preparations for the school events. He hoped she trusted him enough to not give her false information just to toy with her. “What’s wrong? If it isn’t personal, you are more than welcome to come to me for anything.”

Her response was something Kazama couldn’t help but smirk from, seeing her face flush just the barest amount of red from his tone gave him a kind of satisfaction he couldn’t get from teasing other people.

“No, that’s not it!”

“Then what?”

Yukimura nearly stuttered trying to further deny it was anything personal, until she sighed, as if she was debating whether what she was planning to tell him was the right thing to do. “He came to me today at lunch explaining that Heisuke is apparently sick and couldn’t come to school. At first I thought he had morning club practice and that was why I didn’t see him, but when I asked some of his classmates where he was, they said he was absent.” She seemed genuinely concerned, it was her best friend after all. “I figured since he knew he was sick, something must have happened.”

Amagiri.

There wasn’t anything he could do to fix it now. He shouldn’t have let him tell her anything, it was Toudou’s own damn fault for sticking his nose in someone else’s business. Now she was suspecting him, no doubt, probably assuming one of them to be the cause of his absence.

“I believe he was in the infirmary early this morning talking with the nurse.” He stopped to gauge her response. “The student council has other responsibilities, and it is important that we are kept updated before our semester’s sporting events. We just recently had our physicals, after all.” Kazama’s reasoning was complete bullshit. The student council wasn’t so involved in keeping up with personal records of anyone, much less about their own health to the point of checking in with the infirmary. “He must have showed up for club practice, realized he was sick, and was sent to see the nurse.”

Yukimura did not seem to buy it completely, though her eyes had softened after giving it another moment of thought. “… He did seem bothered by something yesterday, maybe he was feeling sick,” she mused aloud.

Kazama didn’t want her thinking about it any longer than she had to. “If that was all you came for, I’m a little disappointed. If you have time to think about other men, you should be spending that time with me.” He couldn’t help riling her up. “If you’re free today you can join me on a date—”

She nearly stumbled over herself at his offer, he cheeks blooming a darker shade before she shook her head wildly. “U-um, I’m sorry but I need to focus on studying today after school… exams are coming up and Harada sensei explained they were going to be tough this year.” Yukimura looked up to meet eyes with him, ready to apologize for turning him down, but it caught in her throat before she suddenly remembered something.


 

After another painful wave of hunger churned his stomach, Heisuke decided it was enough. He had been sitting in the same spot in the room for hours listening around for anyone walking by and he hadn’t heard a single footstep all day. Either Kazama had lied about the cleaning service, or they were totally slacking on the job while he was at school.

He was starving to the point of sickness, and he needed to find something to eat before it could get any worse. Like hell he was going without food the entire day just to obey Kazama’s word.

Giving himself a minute to stand up and prepare, he waited by the door leading into the hallway of the home, staying silent until he was certain no one was around. Then, he slid the door open and peaked his head out far enough to survey the house. The corridor was narrow, yet it seemed to stretch throughout the home like a never-ending path. Countless rooms lining the walls and no indication to where Heisuke needed to be.

“I can’t tell where the kitchen even is.” Heisuke had never been in such an outdated home before. He knew if he just followed the hall and searched every room he was sure to find it eventually, but he didn’t have that kind of freedom or time.

He quietly shut the door behind him and shuffled forward, careful to keep his footsteps silent and watching for any dips in the wood that could possibly creak from his weight. Shiranui was right when he said that this side of the house was vacant, the walls were plain and there weren’t any signs that the rooms around him were even being used. Perhaps it really was the guest wing and not some storage room Kazama had thrown him in.

He kept walking until there was a divide in the hall, the path leading either to the left or the right. Heisuke sidled close to the wall and turned to the left after noticing the walkway down there opened up. Bigger space meant bigger rooms, right? “Please let this be the kitchen.”

Nothing gave away any signs that there was food to be found. Heisuke was used to seeing kitchen tile at least. You know, something that showed the transition between the living space and the cooking part of the house. Why was the Kazama family so difficult about everything? If they were this rich to afford all this space, they could bother to install a kitchen in every major part of the house so he didn’t have to sneak around just to eat.

Heisuke was cursing his own luck when a sudden sound alerted him from his thoughts. Just a few steps ahead he could hear someone approaching from around the corner, their footsteps coming in quick along with their voice. There had to have been more than one person, which meant Heisuke was going to be in trouble.

Thinking fast, he rushed to hide himself in one of the rooms, briefly checking to see if it was empty before sliding the door shut. He knew just from looking that he picked a bedroom of all places, but there were plenty of things he could use to hide behind in the case that he was heard in the halls.

The footsteps were coming closer, sounding heavier, so he dived towards the work desk facing an open window. It was hidden away from the entrance and if he was stuck, all he needed to do was escape through the window and run back home before he could be caught.

Trying to stay quiet, he listened as the footsteps stopped in front of the door—the voices behind the wall were too muffled for him to make sense of—and Heisuke once again cursed his luck from his hiding place the moment the door slid open.

He tucked his legs in closer to himself and pressed against the wall as far as he could to keep himself invisible as the person slowly entered the room. He couldn’t see who it was, but it sounded like they weren’t in any rush to check the room top to bottom. Maybe it was just the cleaning service preparing the room, and it was just bad coincidence they chose to clean the very place he chose to hide in.

He slowly began to panic thinking up of ways he could escape before he was discovered. The minute they would step away from the door to leave, he could go out the window like he planned. He could try throwing something on the other side of the room to distract them—no that was stupid. What did he have to throw anyways?

Something blunt dropped to the ground by the door and Heisuke sucked in his breath, careful not to make any noise. It scared him out of his panic, and he realized that there was only one person now. Whoever else he heard out in the hall a minute ago hadn’t entered the room, and the conversation stopped.

Heisuke took a chance and slowly leaned forward until he saw a figure by the entrance whose back was turned, but that was all he needed to see that it was, “Kazama!”

The stack of papers Kazama was holding had slipped and toppled in a heap onto the floor, the older boy hissing a curse before turning to see just who was responsible for his mini heart attack.

To think Heisuke managed to avoid running into the wrong people, maybe his luck wasn’t as bad as he thought. “Sorry,” he stood from his hiding spot, “I was looking for something to eat and I ended up here.” Had he known it was Kazama in the hall he would’ve saved them both the stress of what just happened.

“This was exactly why I told you not to leave.” Heisuke wasn’t supposed to be in his home, telling him to stay hidden was to keep his family from finding him and causing a scene. He didn’t even have the patience to wait until he returned from school before ignoring his warning.

“I wasn’t going to waste away in there! I thought I could grab something from the kitchen before being seen, it’s not my fault your house is a maze.” Heisuke had no intention of purposely getting himself in more trouble. “I haven’t eaten anything all day.”

 Kazama looked ready to bark at him again for being a nuisance until he saw the way Heisuke had clutched at his stomach. He never ate breakfast in the mornings, he always preferred to take vitamin supplements instead. He hadn’t thought to bring him anything to eat when he came to wake him up. If Heisuke had remained in the room up until now, naturally he would be starving.

“The kitchen is in the east wing of the house, you’re on the opposite end, idiot.”

He watched Heisuke sigh with aggravation. “I don’t know this place, it would have been nice to tell me before you went to school.” It would have saved them both the extra bit of trouble.

“I wasn’t expecting you to sneak out.” They could argue back and forth all day if possible, knowing that the boy’s stubbornness clashed with his own, but they didn’t have time to pointlessly blame each other. While he came home, he was greeted by one of the maids at the door before he convinced her to finally let him be. She had followed him all the way to his room, and if she continued he wouldn’t have had the chance to leave for the guest wing without being suspicious.

“Neither was I.” Heisuke looked down at the papers Kazama dropped a moment ago, noticing a thick packet with his name on it in neat handwriting. It looked a lot like Chizuru’s own.

He bent down to pick it up and inspected the front before recognizing the subject. “Is this my homework?”

Kazama hadn’t gotten the chance to answer before the bedroom door was suddenly slid open, and the maid he had shooed away earlier stood. “Kazama, your father wanted to inform you of an upcoming tea—oh my!”

Neither one of them had a moment to blink before she noticed Heisuke.

Chapter Text

“My goodness!” Kazama’s maid placed her hand over her mouth in a display of shock, her concern over Heisuke’s appearance blatantly noticeable from her outburst.

There wasn’t much either of them could do now that Heisuke was discovered, and Kazama only found himself falling deeper into the younger boy’s mess than he originally intended.

Even under the circumstances, the woman never made a move to enter his room, as she was only allowed to do so with permission. Instead she stood from her seated position by the entrance, her message to Kazama now on hold. “What is the meaning of this, Lord Kazama?”

Heisuke became flustered immediately after being caught, his hands clenching the stack of papers harder as he fought to remain level-headed to cover himself. Kazama hoped that he wouldn’t try lying, believing he couldn’t fool even a child to save his own skin. That was when he met eyes with Heisuke, whose expression easily conveyed his fraying nerves. It was clear that even he didn’t trust his ability to lie his way out and was looking towards Kazama for help.

It should have bothered him.

Kazama made a deal with Heisuke, one that was beneficial to them both so long as they worked together to keep everything a secret. Despite it, what Kazama was feeling in that moment was not a sense of obligation; rather Heisuke’s unspoken cry for help, his dependence on Kazama—that was what fueled him.

He briefly wondered if that was what camaraderie was supposed to feel like, or if it was something else.

“I’m sorry,” Kazama suddenly broke the silence as he addressed the maid, “I shouldn’t have kept this a secret.” His expression looked genuinely upset, enough to hopefully convince the woman.

“Toudou-kun,” he gingerly placed a hand atop Heisuke’s shoulder, the other stiffening at the contact and honorific as he continued, “I’m afraid his classmates have been giving him trouble in school.” Kazama had spoken carefully, watching his maid listen intently at his story. “It’s horrible that someone like him is being bullied, after all, he is a wonderful student.”

His maid only nodded in understanding, her gaze shifting from Kazama to Heisuke in concern.

Kazama’s grip on his shoulder tightened momentarily as a cue for Heisuke to pitch in. He swallowed and then followed up. “... It's difficult to talk about."

"That is terrible, surely the school will do something about this." She shook her head in disbelief, clutching her hand to her chest. "You seem to be a sweet boy, too. I know Lord Kazama may come off as rude sometimes, but he is truly dedicated to the well-being of the academy's students. I believe you're in good hands."

"The student council will do what we can. In the meantime, I invited him here to discuss in detail who is involved." Kazama's tone was back to his usual, no longer feeling a need to pull at the maid's heartstrings.

Her eyes widened in confusion. "Are you unable to speak about it during school hours? Wouldn't it be better to have all of the members with him before reporting it to the headmaster?"

Theoretically she was correct, if Heisuke was honestly being targeted they would have to report it, which was what the student in question should have done in the first place to help his classmate rather than jump into the fight himself. From there, the school could pull everyone listed from class and solve the issue before the police could ever get involved.

Instead, like most things in his life, Heisuke had to go and make things even more complicated than they had to be.

"Kazama senpai said he would help me study." Heisuke's eyes shot down to the papers in his hands.

What.

Studying had nothing to do with anything. Kazama developed the perfect cover story for them, and Heisuke was going to blow it with his poor improv.

"I haven't been doing so great in some of my classes," he continued, frantically searching through the stack until he could find an assignment that was riddled with red marks. Finally, he found one under a few of his blanks and slipped it out to show her. "I couldn't find the energy to study lately with... my situation, so—"

"—I offered to help him." Kazama finished.

"That... is quite a lot to take on at once, if I may say so," she mumbled. She lingered on that thought for a moment longer until a heavy grumbling sound caused every head to turn towards Heisuke.

His face flushed in embarrassment. He had nearly forgotten the hunger pains that plagued him throughout that afternoon, and what timing to remind him while Kazama's maid was still present.

Instead of ridiculing Heisuke on his manners, she smiled. "It can be distracting to study while you both are hungry. I can bring you something to eat, if you don't mind me imposing."

"Oh no, that would—that sounds great, actually." Heisuke couldn't refuse the offer even if he wanted to. Kazama wouldn't deny him snacks after having followed his directions all day.

She nodded and looked back to Kazama. "Before I leave, I came to tell you that your father has business partners arriving in a few days. He wants you to join him on the trip, and have you entertain the guests at the hotel for a tea ceremony."

Kazama made a mental note to complete the work he needed finished at school before then so he could afford that day off. "I'll speak to him more on that matter later tonight, if you can pass on that message."

"Of course." She bowed and moved to shut his door, the shadow of her figure disappearing down the hall.

After he was certain she was far out of earshot, Kazama smacked the back of Heisuke's head hard enough to make him wince. "Idiot. What made you think bringing that up was going to work with her?"

Heisuke immediately reached to return the favor, but settled for hitting Kazama's arm instead because of his height. "I was looking at the papers, it was the only thing that could come to mind. Besides, my grades have been dropping, I thought I could use it to help back you up telling her why I'm here."

Kazama snatched the papers back from him and flipped through them. Most of the sheets were obviously today's homework meant for him to fill out during his absence, and a few were test papers already graded that needed to be delivered. While he meant to bring them to Heisuke in the first place, he never considered snooping through them to see how bad his marks were.

Kazama's nose scrunched while he inspected the red pen littered all over his latest test, circled incorrect answers and the like nearly making his head spin. He had never seen someone's work score this low before, were these really his honest answers? "This is legitimately disturbing."

Heisuke grunted, knowing the extent of the damage. "We're not actually going to be studying together, so stop looking through my stuff." He held out his hand and waited for Kazama to return the assignments.

"Yukimura told me you were supposed to be with her today in the library."

Heisuke's eyes widened momentarily, not expecting Kazama of all people to know about their private plans.

Kazama swapped to another test grade and skimmed through the material. "Although, looking through these, I doubt your study date was going to be mutual." He then frowned before shoving them back into Heisuke's awaiting hand. "How is she meant to improve her own grades if she's busy babysitting you through your work?"

"That's none of your business." Heisuke wanted badly for Kazama to shut his mouth. He had no right to judge him on his grades, and even less to speak on behalf of Chizuru. "I'm not as dumb as you may believe, I just don't always put school first because I have other things going on in my life; unlike certain people."

Chizuru was probably worried over his absence in school, and now he was unintentionally ditching their plans because he couldn't let her know what happened. Kazama was using that against him.

"Was that a poor attempt to say I don't have a social life?" He was always busy with his own work schedule, his responsibilities with the family business. He didn't care much for spending time with friends, he could barely handle Amagiri and Shiranui as it was during school hours. That little punk didn't know how to prioritize his needs, and it sounded like he was using Yukimura as incentive to get his shit together. "How immature."

Heisuke met Kazama's gaze with a glare of his own. "I didn't hear you deny it. What, jealous that I actually have people that care about me?" Why else would Kazama constantly bring up Chizuru and use her to antagonize him. His upperclassman's attraction to his best friend was no secret, everyone in the damn school knew about it, but Heisuke knew just how frequently Kazama would pry into their time together just to get a reaction out of her.

He could make Chizuru happy—make her cheeks red from laughter; all he'd seen Kazama do was embarrass her just for his own amusement. Kazama didn't have friends because no one could be happy around him, no one wanted to be toyed with and belittled so Kazama could feel better about himself.

Kazama went silent. He bit back the desire to retort something worse, but he knew furthering their argument would get them nowhere and they still needed to keep up appearances for when his maid would return. So, instead of sending his question back to him, he merely let him have the last word and moved onto their original issue. "Yukimura believes that you're sick and home in bed, and it was her skepticism that made her come to me after school asking why. As luck would have it, she dropped by with your homework and I volunteered to take it off her hands as a member of the student council."

That certainly answered why Kazama had all of his classwork, but not why he brought it up. He wasn't sure how he managed to convince Chizuru to pass on his work to someone else, especially since she lived right next door and she could just give it to—

"—I'm not home."

"And you're very ill, Toudou-kun." Kazama's compassionate act returned. "You were sent to the nurse over a severe case of the flu that has been passing around the school lately. Who would want Yukimura to catch it visiting you when there were alternatives available?"

Heisuke could guess what she had said after that sort of explanation, and imagining her worry for him only furthered his guilt. For once, he was glad that her father was away for business otherwise she would no doubt have sent the doctor to his home against his wishes. "So, I guess after this I should head back home to keep up the lie?"

"No."

"Wha—then why did you bring it up?"

"So you won't make up a different story if she asks you." Kazama sighed and moved towards his bag that he dropped by the entrance. "The police came to clear up what happened last night, but nothing escaped from the headmaster's office as far as I'm aware. Until they explicitly mention your involvement, I wouldn't try doing anything rash and stay under the radar while the ones that were caught get what they deserve."

"That's just telling me not to show up to school until my face heals up."

"I didn't say you couldn't return home ever, just not tonight. I have a plan to send you home the day the cops aren't snooping around and you can just continue pretending you're sick. I don't want to drive you back so soon in case the police actually suspect you and they see you out and about. Where you said that fight happened is only a block from your house, as if this situation wasn't bad enough."

Heisuke thought Kazama was being way more cautious than what was necessary. It was good to be careful, but this was a fight between teenagers, not a murder. "This seems a little overkill, don't you think? I know you're not doing this just for me not to get busted." He was aware of the deal he made with Kazama, and his end of the bargain was to keep quiet about his upperclassman's involvement. "You're really that desperate to keep your name clean?"

It was mere coincidence that he ran into Kazama yesterday, as he had nothing to do with the brawl, but breaking curfew rules held only minor punishments at best. The worst that could happen would be a fine his parents would have to pay, and whatever disciplinary actions they decided to inflict on their son for sneaking out. His reputation too, he supposed, would be in trouble since he was meant to be the model student.

"I would prefer not to be mentioned at all, after you dragged me into this. What happens to you is none of my business, I just can't have you snitching on me in case you get caught."

"We don't even live in the same neighborhood, no one would believe me even if I told the truth." Heisuke thought back to that moment, and the same question he asked before rang in his mind. Kazama never answered why he was even in his neighborhood to begin with. He had a feeling if he dug for a response, he would probably try and change the subject or lie to him entirely. I'd rather not know.

"Then you'll be sure to continue listening to what I tell you to do until we're in the clear." With that, Kazama seated himself on the floor by the short table in the middle of the room and began taking out the papers in his school bag. "In the meantime, I have assignments that need to be finished just as you do."

Heisuke didn't want to be reminded of that fact, not when the weight of said responsibilities in his hands were heavier than his will. However, he did owe it to Chizuru to at least try on his own since he couldn't accompany her to the library like they promised. Exams were fast approaching and he desperately needed to study what he could before it was too late.

"Wouldn't using your desk be better?" Heisuke thought the image of Kazama seated on the floor was odd to him, and it felt strange seeing him do something... so domestic. The realization that he was even in his bedroom was still rather jarring.

"We're supposed to be studying together, remember? Don't conveniently forget you were the one who said that as our cover story. We can't look like we're working together if there's only one chair to use." He never looked up from the passage he was reading. "Before she gets back I suggest you sit down and start acting like you need help."


 

Somewhere along their facade, the boys had been roped into a genuine study session that carried well into the evening. Kazama's maid had brought them something to eat, Heisuke immediately reaching for the yaki onigiri she had grilled herself with the promise of a large dinner to accommodate for their, supposedly rare, guest.

After she had left, Kazama returned to the question Heisuke originally complained about and took the time breaking apart what he needed to understand before the younger student began to see what had to be solved.

Heisuke mindlessly continued eating from the plate meant for the two of them to share while Kazama watched him pencil in the simple equation and answer it himself. After realizing how easy the problem was, Heisuke grinned while finishing off the last rice ball. "When you put it that way, the question doesn't seem so hard."

"Of course it's not, it's a basic level problem you should have no issue answering by now. I can't imagine what our instructors have to deal with when you're in class." He huffed, taking a brief look at the remainder of his own homework, noting that it was taking much longer to complete with the addition of Heisuke's pestering.

"I don't do anything in class. Well, I mean I do take notes and stuff—sometimes," he tapped his borrowed pencil against his lips as he thought aloud, "I just don't get some of the stuff we go over because I don't ask questions."

"You should." Kazama's eyes followed the repeated tap of his pencil without realizing he was staring. "Class is meant for you to learn the material, not wait until it's over to know you didn't actually grasp what was taught."

Heisuke shrugged. He understood what Kazama was saying, and while it's true he isn't the brightest student in his year, he found it easier to review what was taught on his own time instead of pointlessly asking about the same lesson with the rest of his peers judging him for it.

That, and if he could tone down his habit of late-night gaming, he probably wouldn't be so zoned out during class to focus properly. He wanted to blame it on the stress of the upcoming exams, except his poor choices weren’t any different than what he did every school night.

His Vita was still at home, fully charged and sitting on his bedroom dresser. Even now there was an itch to seek it out and play, though he knew it wouldn’t be possible with him trapped in Kazama’s home. The gaming apps on his phone weren’t any good to him either with the device drained.

No, that kind of thinking is what lead him to becoming distracted in the first place. He really needed to take it seriously if he was going to pass the exams. He could celebrate all he wanted after studying, and finally be home from this mess.

He had his heart set on returning to his paper, skimming over the next problem, and then casually lifted his head to see what had Kazama so quiet. From where he was sitting he couldn't make out any details, but the way Kazama was so focused it was like he could see him working out the problem in his head alone.

The older boy maintained the perfect posture from the moment he sat down, never seeming to slouch once, even as he helped Heisuke. He wondered if that was just how Kazama was raised to be. Vaguely recalling the maid mentioning a tea ceremony Kazama was meant to partake in, that was something sophisticated and too stuffy for his tastes.

He could believe if Kazama's parents forced him into something like that, those types of pastimes seemed way too stereotypical from the wealthy. He even dared to ask the question aloud, but the more he let the thought simmer, the less willing he was to speak of it. Even he wasn't fool enough to stir the hornet's nest that was Kazama's irregular temper.

Still.

Kazama's face was unusually symmetrical and he had never once seen him with a single skin blemish. His hair was, supposedly, naturally blonde and he was fairly tall for someone Japanese. If he hadn't known at least a little of his private life, Heisuke would have assumed him to be the son of some famous runway model from Europe, with all the good genes going for him.

His composure only added to his charm. It pissed Heisuke off sometimes but Kazama carried himself high when he walked, the epitome of confidence and refinement. He knew now that the way he sat down in his own home was no different, whether Kazama noticed or not. From everything he noticed, him regularly performing tea ceremonies wouldn't be too out of the question at all.

"Do you need help with something, or are you going to continue staring at me until I'm finished?"

Heisuke blinked slowly, pulling from the trance he'd put himself under the moment he heard Kazama speak. Ah, shit. He was supposed to be doing his own work. "I wanted to take a break."

Kazama filled out the last of his work and set his papers to the side, indicating their completion. "Dinner should be prepared soon, that will be a good enough break for you." At this rate Heisuke would never get his homework done by the end of the night.

His comment put Heisuke back into his musings. "Is it going to be one of those super stiff, formal dinners and I have to meet your parents for this?"

"No." Kazama nearly kicked Heisuke under the table for his stupid comment, then decided against it. "My mother is away and my father does not eat dinner with me."

Heisuke hadn't heard him speak of his family before, but knowing now that Kazama ate his dinners alone—was sort of sad. He wasn't a stranger to an empty household, not with his own parents overseas almost every month of the year. Days where he was feeling particularly lonely, Chizuru would stay over to have a meal together, or he would drop by weekend afternoons for lunch with her and her brother just to get away from the overbearing silence that was his home.

He doubted Amagiri and Shiranui offered much in terms of support in those instances, or if Kazama was ever even distressed over a lack of company to begin with.

Not that he had the courage to ask.

Chapter Text

Convincing Kazama’s maid to have Heisuke officially stay the night was much easier than they thought it would have been. He knew after the sob story they’d made up would sway her response, but she didn’t put up much of a fight considering it was a school night.

Coincidentally Heisuke was made to stay in the same guest room he’d now familiarized himself with, all while playing the role of some grateful underclassman to Kazama while his maid was present to check on them. The farce was beginning to mentally wear him down, but there was relief knowing that she never made a point to stay in their presence for very long, only popping in to offer snacks or pass a message down to Kazama while they were together.

Kazama shared nothing but honeyed words, under a guise of a concerned friend as she did one last check on Heisuke before they settled for bed, the two of them undergoing a repeat of the previous night as Kazama worked another layer of aloe vera onto his bruises.

She let them be, finally, sliding the door shut and allowing them to revert into their usual selves.

It was surprisingly taxing, Heisuke realized.

“This stuff feels gross,” he commented after a few seconds of silence, “how long do I have to use this crap?”

“The swelling has already gone down significantly since last night. I doubt you’ve looked in the mirror today but the marks around your eye are no longer inflamed.” Kazama smeared another glob around his temple to accentuate his point and pressed a finger into the discolored bruise like he had done the first night. “Stop whining. The quicker you heal the quicker you can return to school.”

It was true that Heisuke did feel a little better than yesterday. Bruises usually throbbed for a few days before the pain even began to dull, but the marks hadn’t felt as irritated as he expected, so it was only fair to assume the swelling reduced well enough for it to be tolerable. What should have taken two or three days now happened practically overnight.

Kazama finished up and capped the gel before cleaning his hands. “Since my maid knows you’re here, I won’t be the one waking you up tomorrow morning. Try to keep out of trouble and don’t bother anyone for anything while I’m gone.”

Heisuke rolled his eyes and leaned back with the support of his arms as he watched Kazama stand from his spot on the floor. “I’m not a dog.”


 

It wasn’t until lunch period that Kazama was given any updates on the investigation. The police were still parked outside of the gate like yesterday, but now the other students were beginning to catch wind of the situation after a number of their classmates that were involved returned to explain their absence. Not all managed to avoid being sent to a juvenile center, most were spared in exchange for disciplinary action by their own parents after they, Kazama assumed, signed countless legal papers given by the police before they were relieved.

As Heisuke explained, the students were all from his year, so the details were hard to get ahold of, but Shiranui had been passing through the third floor hall that morning on his own time and managed to pass what he had heard along to Kazama.

“They didn’t sound like they knew that Toudou kid was involved,” he explained, the third-year seated on top of the desk in the student council room. “His homeroom had most of the students that were caught, but two others were from another class and the parents of the bullied kid are thinking of taking legal action against the families and keeping him out of school until the matter’s resolved.”

Kazama made sure the door to the council room was closed to prevent anyone walking past from listening in while they spoke. “This is a lot more information than I expected to get from you.” Usually Shiranui would only help when it benefitted him, unless it was repaying a favor, and even then, it was only the bare minimum.

“I wasn’t going out of my way just for this, you know.” Shiranui had business being in the first-year halls, and taking the stairs up through the third floor and to the roof for his secret smoke breaks weren’t unusual from his schedule. “Harada sensei told me most of it when I caught up with him between one of his classes. Turns out it was his homeroom, so I’m pretty sure what I got was reliable.”

Despite Heisuke’s absence, it was reassuring to know that his name wasn’t mentioned between the students, even more so from his own teacher. If any were suspicious over it, he was certain the kids involved were more preoccupied with their own punishments rather than wondering about the connection between the sudden hero during their midnight brawl and the empty seat next to Yukimura.

“Then the police are probably only here to finish whatever they need with the headmaster and the parents. No need to interview the other students now that they’ve discovered the source and the rest will fall to whether they’ll sue the families, but that’s a problem for the court.” Kazama was somewhat thankful that things hadn’t escalated so drastically within the school, or that the academy itself would be considered at fault for the students’ actions. Kazama didn’t need his school’s record to be tarnished before he went on to pursue university after he graduated.

Shiranui nodded in agreement, hopping off the desk and shoving his hands in his pockets. “The kid will probably be glad to hear about it too; the student he protected being okay, I mean.”

Okay wouldn’t be the word Kazama would use to describe it, especially since there wasn’t anything specifically mentioned about how the victim was doing aside from being kept at home. Regardless, he planned to tell Heisuke about the updates when he returned. He deserved that much after what he did to involve himself.

If the police were just about finished here, then that meant the area around his home was also safe, and Heisuke was free to return home for the time being until his bruises healed.


 

No longer tied down by the threat of being caught around the manor while Kazama was away, Heisuke discovered that the maid was more than happy to keep him company while she wasn’t busy cleaning or cooking for the family.

He was awakened by the smell of breakfast, which she had brought all the way to his room in the morning. It was all freshly made and looked like she had been slaving over the stove for a long time until she finished and delivered it to him.

Heisuke respected that she could wake so early to prepare a meal like this every day, for the Kazama family to boot, and he was quick to make himself as presentable as he could before thanking her for the food.

“I wasn’t sure if you were comfortable with eating here or in the dining area so early, so I assumed you would prefer to have your food sent to the room.”

Heisuke could remember the general direction of the dining room from last night’s dinner, but he was grateful she had bothered to send it to him to avoid the chance of getting lost like last time. That, and he was still feeling groggy from the morning wake up call.

It was nice she considered his feelings, on top of making him food. “Eating here is fine, I wasn’t expecting breakfast at all, actually.” It only took the first bite for him to know that it tasted as great as it smelled, and Heisuke tried his best to eat as politely as he could in her company.

She noticed how tentative he was with his chopsticks as he scooped a bigger serving than last, and she stifled a laugh. “Please don’t hold back on my account, if you’re hungry eat as much as you like.” She was meant to hurry back into the kitchen to clean up after breakfast, but she couldn’t bring herself to leave Heisuke just yet. “It is nice to see someone enjoy my cooking as much as you seem to.”

Heisuke had a sample of what it must have been like for every meal she had to cook for the family, since last night’s dinner was silent and formal even without Kazama’s parents around with them.

“I haven’t had any homecooked meals lately until yesterday.” Heisuke took another large portion and paused to chew. “I try to cook for myself, but I end up relying on store bought food most days.” He didn’t like admitting he sometimes bummed meals off Chizuru when she offered. “I’m really thankful you’re here, I wouldn’t have been able to deal with skipping breakfast.” Again.

The two of them sat together in silence for a while longer as the maid waited for Heisuke to finish so she could clean up. In between the clank of the dishes being set down, she decided to say what was on her mind from the day before.

“Lord Kazama does not regularly bring any sort of guests over.” She sat still as Heisuke listened, content now that he had finished eating. “When he explained your situation I couldn’t genuinely understand the method behind it. He does not mention anything from school unless it requires his parents’ involvement and, while he does have a kind heart, he is rather distant to others.”

From the way she was describing Kazama, it sounded like she knew him more than he was probably aware of. His suspicions were true when she continued.

“That’s why when Lord Kazama had put on that act to appease my doubts I understood that there was more to your story than either of you were willing to share. He only behaves that way when his father includes him in business meetings with their shareholders and the like; it is not who he truly is. I believe he thought I would fall for the same trick and it only disappoints me to know he does not trust me to understand what you both must be going through, to stoop to that level.”

The maid gathered the rest of the bowls and placed them neatly on the tray before she picked it up and stood. Despite the serious tone she used, however, she smiled. “This is the first time he has brought someone to his home strictly outside of student council members. Even if it’s something you would rather not reveal, I believe that you are a very special case to Lord Kazama.” With the tray in her hands she still gracefully bowed. “Please continue to take care of him.”

Heisuke wasn’t prepared to have her pass along part of her responsibility over Kazama, and even worse, assume that they were on close terms. The guilt of lying to her only grew with the misunderstanding, and he became flustered trying to accept her good graces.

Kazama had always been a thorn in his side. Their arguments often got out of hand during the rare moments they would butt heads in the halls—Kazama’s attitude only ever adding fuel to the sling of insults they’d hurl under clenched teeth.

However, since being… rescued by Kazama, things have been unusually mild. Heisuke hadn’t felt the desire to slam his fist into the older student’s nose in the whole two days he’s crashed in his house. One would think sharing a space with the person you hated would make you hate them more, but he supposed he hadn’t been in his presence for long considering Kazama was at school most of the day.

Regardless, “We’re actually not that close. A—we know each other, a friend of a friend. He is helping me with something important, but we never meant to lie about it. I’m sorry for trying to deceive you.” It was technically Heisuke’s fault for all of this happening to begin with, but he will never outright admit it, at least not to Kazama. “I do not want to burden you anymore than I already have by staying here.”

The maid smiled again, ushering him to stand from the floor. “Having guests is never a burden. I enjoy your company, and as our guest, you are to be taken care of appropriately.” She seemed sincere with her words. “Now, I know it’s still early, but I’ve already taken the liberty of drawing you a bath. I’m sure a soak is just what you need, you’ve been tense ever since yesterday.”

Heisuke didn’t realize he looked that obviously uncomfortable, but with how she managed to see through their ruse he wouldn’t put it past her to recognize body language when she saw it. He never checked the rest of himself, but it could also have largely been in part of the bruises he’d earned from the fight. If it wasn’t dealing with Kazama, his wounds were enough to make him stiff.

He followed behind her through the halls at the promise of warm water and a chance to relax. The bathroom she was taking him was a lot more confusing to get to compared to Kazama’s room and the kitchen, seemingly hidden by a winding corridor just made it look overly complicated.

The maid left him with a fresh towel and a spare set of clothes—she didn’t explain where she got them—before leaving him alone.

Once inside he shut the door and began to undress before walking towards the bench to rinse off the filth he had accumulated throughout his stay. Eying himself in the mirror, Heisuke sucked in a breath once he finally saw his reflection.

Kazama never gave him an estimation of the damage except the black eye he received. The dark ring around his eye caught his attention first, then to the blotch of purple-yellow spread across the side of his jaw. Below, various other bruises were scattered from his chest to his hips. They were smaller and hadn’t looked nearly as bad as what he’d gotten on his face, but one red mark directly over a rib seemed to be the worst. He wasn’t flexible enough to check out his back, but the subtle ache he felt could have been either from the fight or from sleeping on the floor.

“Doesn’t look like I busted anything.” He mumbled, absently pressing the mark over his rib before wincing. A closer look at his eye showed that it wasn’t as swollen as it should have been, which means what Kazama was using on him was working as he said.

He immediately wondered if the stuff he used would help heal the rest of him, and then the sudden image of Kazama slathering cold globs of aloe over his body popped in his head and, “Wow, that is fucking weird. Okay—” Heisuke pushed himself away from the counter to rid himself of the picture, viciously yanking the shower head from its holder and turning the spray on.

After carefully scrubbing himself down, gently over his injuries, he finally felt clean enough to enjoy the bath that had been tempting him from his seat on the bench. A soak was exactly what he needed, the warm water instant bliss against the marks as he sank deeper with a content sigh.

Not only was he fed a delicious breakfast, but Kazama’s maid had gone through the trouble of drawing a bath and giving him clean clothes to wear. Without her, he was sure he would have simply wasted the morning away and suffered with another empty stomach like before. The change was almost too good, and with another sigh, Heisuke sank deeper into the water and closed his eyes.

Forgetting everything throughout the hectic week was easy after a heavenly fifteen-minute soak, and the boy was reluctant to leave until the water had started to cool and any part of his body that was out of the water began to get goosebumps. Deeming that a sign, he stood out from the tub and drained the water before thoroughly drying off with the fluffiest towel he’d ever used.

The clothes, as they turned out, were almost a perfect fit. Heisuke felt that the shoulders were a bit snug, and the sleeves just a tad longer than he wanted, but the latter issue was easily solved by rolling them up above his wrists until he was satisfied with the result.

Dried and comfortable, Heisuke gathered his dirty clothes and left the bathroom in order to find the maid. There wasn’t a sign of her nearby, so he knew the next best thing was to look for her and hopefully run into her in the hall.

It was true that he had been getting used to finding his way around, but he had never been around this area of the house, and she had taken him nearly all the way across from where his guest room was. It was ridiculous just how large the house really was, and just how much unused space it was taking up. There was no way Kazama’s family could find a use for all of the rooms lined up in every hallway.

Trying to recall the direction the maid had walked him from before, he took a hard guess and made a right. Regardless of how intimidatingly large the place was, there was always an end, and he’d find his way back to either her or his guest room eventually.

Determined, Heisuke quickened his pace along the hall as he searched past every open door to every room in hopes of finding her, when his eyes caught a vague figure inside one of the larger rooms off to the side. Stopping, Heisuke quietly backed up to see who it was, peeking his head around the corner just enough to see, but hide himself, too.

Inside the room was a traditional sitting area, seiza mats and all, with a large table placed in the middle and old pictures lined up all around the walls. Inside the room was an older man dressed in a modern suit, clashing with the rest of the décor, with a cell phone to his ear.

“Proper suitors aren’t easy to come by.” The man talking sounded stressed, and whoever was on the other end of that phone call didn’t seem to help his mood. “Yes, I know… it’s not impossible. It’s hard to turn away that kind of offer.”

Heisuke was sure he wasn’t meant to be listening on the conversation, but just as he was ready to leave, a name caught his attention.

“I think I’ve found the perfect wife for Chikage. She’ll be accompanying her father during our next business meeting and I plan to have them introduced properly.”

Kazama?

By now he was well aware that the man he was spying on had to have been Kazama’s father, but marriage? Kazama was too young to be thinking about marriage.

The conversation played through his head again as he quickly walked past the room and pretended he hadn’t heard a thing.

By the sounds of it, it wasn’t even a mutual one. Arranged relationships in this day and age were just stupid and unfair; even Kazama deserved to have a choice in who he wanted to marry. And though he planned to pretend he never eavesdropped, the longer he thought on that phone call, the more it began to bother him. “It’s none of my business…” Heisuke tried to shake the guilt away, but his voice sounded so unsure even to himself.

He didn’t know much of anything about Kazama, but he clearly didn’t spend much quality time with his father, and now he knew that his own dad was trying to hook him up with a complete stranger.

What a douchebag.

Heisuke hadn’t realized how fast he had been walking, or where he was even going, until he very nearly ran into the maid as he turned the corner, the two of them suddenly stopping as they saw each other.

“Oh, good! I was just about to check up on you. I was worried if I made the water too hot for you and it became too much.” She laughed before giving him a once-over. “And I’m happy to see the clothes fit. I wasn’t sure about the size, but I think I did pretty good, wouldn’t you say?”

He had to mentally pause, giving himself a few seconds to wipe his undirected anger away, before he could even answer. “Hm… yeah.” Be happier. “They fit great actually.” He gave her a budding smile, but that alone seemed to please her. At least, she didn’t ask what was bothering him.

“I’ll take your laundry from you and have them washed, is that okay? No sense in letting them pile up if you’ll be staying longer.”

Heisuke didn’t want to argue with that logic and reluctantly gave her the pile, then went off to find his guest room once again.

In his earlier haze he seemed to have found the right direction, because the hallways looked too familiar and the stream of sunlight between the panels indicated that he was facing out toward the garden outside. Which meant his room was a few doors to the left.

He took that chance to open the back door once he was inside, letting in the warm breeze and sunlight that had naturally heated the room. The garden was much prettier than what he had seen when he first arrived, sneaking around in the dark, and it was a shame he hadn’t indulged himself with a bit of fresh air before.

It was getting close to autumn and this time of year the heat was appreciated for a while longer before Heisuke couldn’t have the luxury of lounging outside in the sun to bask in its warmth. Sure, the leaf piles and snowball fights were fun, but nothing beat a good afternoon nap in this kind of clear weather.

His mind slowly wondered back to Kazama and the phone call.