Being attracted to Natsume was like being attracted to the wind itself. One moment he was there and the next moment he felt like he might slip right through Tanuma's fingers. Every moment was as infinitely precious as it was heart-wrenchingly painful. Tanuma was beginning to fear however, that he might spill his soul sometime soon. Just...let everything leave his lips, say everything he's been holding back everytime he's anywhere close to Natsume.
He only cries when he's alone in his room, only lets the feeling of pain, of loneliness take him over when he's laying under his covers staring at the ceiling. The tears fall hot and sting at his eyes long after they're over and he knows he's in love, even if he doesn't say it outloud.
Whenever he had imagined falling in love, it had always been simple. Tanuma was a simple boy, the type that most never would take a second look at. He had expected he would find someone equally as ordinary, but special at the same time, and he would spend the rest of his life with her.
He had never expected THIS.
He has been up all night after waking from a nightmare about Natsume. He walks to school with a haunted look in his eyes and forces it away the moment he sees Natsume at the school gate. He can't bring himself to call out to Natsume, not right now, however. He feels fragile in a way he hasn't in a long time, his heart on the edge, his mind on the verge of breaking down into Natsume's arms--
And he can't do that. Not right now, not ever.
They meet up with Taki for lunch and Tanuma doesn't even have to force the smile he's wearing, despite the ache in his heart. Being with Natsume was equal parts wonderful and painful. Every look, every smile, every laugh—it was beautiful to him and he held every bit of it dear.
But at the same time, he knows that Natsume is so far out of his reach that any effort he makes to get close will burn him up. It helps, sometimes, that it seems to be true for most people, but Taki—he notices—seems closer than most and that burns in a way he doesn't like. Tanuma—he decides—cannot handle jealousy. He does not like that feeling in his gut whenever they give each other a secretive look when they think he's not looking. He knows that Taki is closer to Natsume's world than he is. Despite his ability to FEEL things, he is mostly blind to them. Taki has more power at her fingertips, the ability to see youkai when she needs to, while Tanuma is...
Useless. And it stings, to be the one left behind. He has always known this was coming, has since the moment he felt these feelings begin to bubble beneath the surface in his heart, but that does not make it any less painful for it to be reality.
Tanuma blinks out of his musings and the smile that crosses his lips is as reassuring as it is fake. He hopes that neither of them catch on. “Sorry.”
“You haven't touched your lunch.” Taki worries aloud and Tanuma internally winces. With the way his stomach is churning, he doesn't think he can manage food. So he shoves it away.
“--I'm...not feeling that great,” he admits quietly. “I don't want to eat. I just want to go home and sleep.”
“Should we take you to the nurse? Can your Dad pick you up?” Natsume asks, worry flashing in his caramel colored eyes, and Tanuma feels like the lowest being on Earth who is admitting his weakness in front of a God.
But he hasn't—not yet. Not completely. He can still smile. He can still pretend everything is okay. The world will keep spinning even if Natsume leaves him behind.
Even if it doesn't feel like it right now, Tanuma holds onto that thought. He needs something to ground himself when it gets hard.
“I'll go to the nurse and then head home,” he says with a quiet tilt of his lips upward and stands. “Sorry guys, I'll see you tomorrow.”
He goes home and cries himself to sleep.
He knows when he wakes the next morning that something is different. He stares at his hands for several moments, looks at the ceiling between his fingers. Everything feels different, like he's been seeing through a fog up until now.
And it's when he's getting ready, shirt half-buttoned, that he walks over to the sliding door and slips it open to stare into the yard—and comes face to face with a pond he's only ever seen in his dreams. The red fish swim around each other, forming a figure eight in the pond, and there's a black fish too, mingling in between them.
Tanuma drops to his knees and feels tears emerge in his eyes. He isn't sure why they fall down his cheeks, whether it be because of the beauty of the pond or just...this profound moment and the intensity of the feelings welling up inside him.
Tanuma is late to school that day, walking half-hunched over and knuckles white as he holds onto his bag for dear life. The youkai are everywhere. He nearly trips over the little ones walking across the bridge and scares them off with his pronounced gasp. There are big ones too, some hanging out of trees and others walking amongst crowds unnoticed.
Because most cannot see them.
But now Tanuma--
He spends the morning trying to get used to it, doing everything he can to just...let it sink in. His heart races at seemingly random intervals, his mind anywhere but his studies. He can't bring himself to concentrate no matter how much he tries.
This is almost too much to handle and for a small, brittle moment, he wonders if maybe Natsume is right about him, that he can't handle it, that it's better off that they're distant--
And then he forces the thought down. No, this is...this is wonderful. No matter the danger it puts him in, no matter how useless he is, he can at least SEE now. He wonders why, wonders if maybe being around Natsume, being close, is giving him power, wonders if maybe he is just coming into his eyes late due to his weakness...maybe he was always supposed to have them.
So many possibilities fly through his head and when he meets Tanuma and Taki for lunch he...promptly bursts into tears.
“Oh my gosh, are you okay?” Taki fishes around in her pocket for a handkerchief, which she promptly hands Tanuma. He wipes at his eyes with a muffled laugh and the expression he's wearing is the happiest, most delighted one he's worn in years.
“Tanuma...?” Natsume is quiet, uncertain, and it takes everything in Tanuma's will not to reach out and take his hands, squeeze them with all the affection he's holding back.
Even still, he feels like one burden has been freed from his shoulders and it's with tears still in his eyes that he turns to Natsume and says, “There's a black fish in the pond too.”
And Natsume stares at him with wide eyes that he doesn't know how to meet, so he lets his gaze drift away to Taki, who is smiling at him with glee. “Oh, Tanuma, I'm so happy—what happened?”
“I don't know, I just...I went to look out into the garden and...it was just...there...like it had always been.” Like it HAS always been. He'd just been too blind to see it.
“Tanuma,” Natsume leans forward. “We can...we can fix this...we can--”
Tanuma shakes his head before Natsume can continue. “No. I don't want to be 'fixed', Natsume.”
And he isn't sure whether Natsume looks horrified or frightened, or maybe a mix of both. Even still, the comforting smile never leaves his face.
“...I can see them now, Natsume. The youkai.”
He feels light enough to be carried away by the wind. And for the rest of lunch, he spends his time telling Natsume and Taki about all the youkai he'd seen on his way to school.
He pretends not to see the way Natsume clenches his fists.