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He remembers that it had happened when the reception had just begun, adults in pressed suits and bright dresses pouring champagne into tall glasses and clinking them like the wedding bells overhead. He’d scooted off of the pew once Izumi’s mother had told the two of them that they could get up, holding Izumi’s small hand in his own when they found themselves immediately swept into a sea of trousers and skirts. Izumi didn’t seem to care much for crowds like Makoto did; his initial reaction wasn’t to flinch or try and make himself smaller in hopes that they’d all pass him by. He had the tendency to stack his spine to make himself taller instead, and he would tighten his hold on Makoto’s hand and pull him along, chest puffed—her little prince, Makoto had always heard his mother chortle to him. Makoto had always been grateful for that, putting his feet down in the prints that Izumi seared into the floor like a cleared pathway through the snow. It was harder to be afraid of the crowds when Izumi was with him. 

The tables were tall and long, with great white tablecloths that swept over the sides and hung like curtains that just barely brushed the floor below. There was a floral-like pattern garnishing the ends of the tablecloths, stitched on in an elegant red color. They were perfect for sneaking underneath when the adults were too busy laughing amongst themselves to notice their absence. They’d done it a couple of times before at the boring, fancy dinner parties that their mothers brought them to when some big occasion happened within the agency; they were experts now at ducking out of sight and vanishing into thin air. Izumi held up the cloth until the last trace of them—Makoto’s black dress shoes—disappeared beneath the white, and the adults felt distant now with the barrier protecting them, a little secret place of their own. 

Izumi was fixing up the cloth the way his mother would fix up the curtains when they had company, and Makoto slid further into the hideaway, tucking his knees up to his chest and picking uncomfortably at the bowtie his mother insisted that he wear. It was darker here, but the light created the ghost of a halo in the little space between the tablecloth’s hem and the cold floor, enough so that they could see each other well if they sat close together—and, of course, they always sat close together. Izumi scooched over once he’d decided that they’d successfully fooled the unsuspecting adults, sliding himself closer until his legs were pressed up against Makoto’s, his palms resting on his kneecaps. Their black suits had little specks of dust spattered along the trousers that they’d be scolded for later.

“What’d they do?” Makoto had whispered, his brows all scrunched up in confusion. “I don’t get it.” 

“They got married,” Izumi answered slowly, pointedly, as if it were the simplest thing in the world. “Weren’t you listening, Yuu~kun?” 

He hadn’t been. Makoto had been staring off into space; counting the flowers on the dress of the pretty woman at the altar; picking at the shiny buttons on his blazer that made him feel hot and stiff. The adults had prattled on for what felt like hours before the priest closed his big book and the man and the woman on the altar kissed each other and everyone in the room erupted into applause. He’d glanced over to make sure Izumi was clapping as well before mimicking it himself, even though he’d thought that the priest’s story was boring and he didn’t understand why everyone had liked it so much. 

“Uh-huh,” he had lied, knowing that Izumi could tell. 

“They like each other so much that they wanna be together all the time,” Izumi explained, and Makoto tilted his head forwards to show Izumi that he was listening. “They eat at the same table, and they watch the same movies, and they sleep in the same bed, and they always hold hands. So they got married, ‘cause people who get married get to be together all the time.”

“What if they don’t have the same teacher?” Makoto asked, curious eyes twinkling in the dim light. “What’d they do then?” 

Izumi had evidently needed to think about the question for a few moments, staring hard at his hands that rested upon his knees before looking up confidently. 

“They always get to be in the same class, ‘cause you can’t put people in different classes when they’re married. They get to be together all the time. Don’t you get it, Yuu~kun?” 

Makoto nodded, now understanding perfectly the weight of marriage and all of its benefits. It was always easier to understand things when Izumi explained them; that was why Makoto hated being in a different class than Izumi, and why he always got upset when the photographers made them do separate photoshoots instead of one that they could do together. He’d begun to realize how lucky that man and that woman were, even if they had to stand up there for so long while the priest read that boring story to them. 

“Can we get married?” he’d asked quietly, timidly, enticed by the promise of Izumi’s company but knowing well that they lived in a different world than the adults that had kissed on the altar. They were still small, their voices pitched much higher than the priest who’d read from the book and their ties done up in bows rather than pinned to their dress shirts. Izumi had explained marriage pretty clearly to him, but he’d never said whether or not it was something reserved only for the all-knowing grown-ups that dominated their day-to-day life. All good things seemed to be reserved for them, after all.

But Izumi’s eyes had lit up instead, glimmering with an excitement that made Makoto feel a little less silly about his question. Izumi had taken Makoto’s hands into his own, leaning closer to him with a delighted expression. 

“We could,” he whispered, the same way he’d whispered to him a week earlier about what he was hoping that Santa Claus would bring him for the holidays. “Yuu~kun, you want to be with me all the time?” 

It was an obvious answer, Makoto had thought. Izumi was the hand that he had always held, the one he had always ran to when he got hurt, and the one that he had always begged his mother to let him stay with for the night. If he was with Izumi all the time, then Makoto would never have to be embarrassed in class when he lost his place in the reading, and he’d never have to eat lunch all by himself during the breaks that never lined up with Izumi’s, and he’d never have to wake up from a nightmare to a cold and empty room. It seemed to him that only a crazy person wouldn’t want to get married to Izumi, when life with him felt almost too good to be true. 

He remembered how that man and that woman had smiled and laughed as if it were the happiest day of their lives as they’d stepped down from the altar, and Makoto had thought that he’d really like to be happy, too. And, of course, Izumi’s smile was the world’s greatest comfort, and it just didn’t make sense to not want to see him so happy like the woman who wore the pretty white veil. 

“Uh-huh,” he nodded quietly, squeezing Izumi’s little hands in his own, thinking about how great it would be to eat lunch with Izumi in the same classroom and get to sleep together on Izumi’s nice bed, which always smelled so fresh and clean and was much more comfortable than his own. He felt excited to march into the studio tomorrow and declare that he couldn’t do the photoshoot unless the director let Izumi do it, too, because they would be married, and even the director who his mother told him to always listen to couldn’t separate people if they were married.

“I want to be with Yuu~kun all the time, too,” Izumi nodded along, and his smile was so lovely that Makoto wondered why people didn’t get married more often, with how easy the decision was. “Let’s get married, Yuu~kun.” 

“Okay,” Makoto agreed, and waited for a few moments, but Izumi didn’t speak again. He then realized that there was no priest to read from his big boring storybook, and they were both wearing black, and they weren’t standing in front of a big room with lots of people. He found that he didn’t know exactly how to get married, in actuality—was it so as soon as they both agreed? Did they have to arrange a special fancy party like the adults had done? Makoto’s mother was awfully busy, and he wasn’t sure if she’d be able to help him get married if it involved so many people. And why did it involve so many people, if it was just two people getting married? 

“Um,” he began, and felt his cheeks grow hot because he knew that he was making Izumi explain everything to him. “How do we get married?” 

Izumi had puffed out his lip the way he always did when he was thinking of a way to answer Makoto’s questions. He looked down at their hands and was quiet for some time, his thumb brushing up against the back of Makoto’s hand and his fingers, and then seemed to perk up with a sudden epiphany. 

“We need a ring,” he stated matter-of-factly. “When you get married, you give the other person a ring, and they get to show it to everyone to prove that they’re married.” 

Makoto frowned, feeling anxiety pool in his stomach; he didn’t own any rings, and certainly didn’t carry any around with him. Izumi seemed to be in the same situation, and Makoto had momentarily thought about tearing one of the round buttons off of his blazer, but abandoned the idea when he realized that Izumi wouldn’t be able to wear it on any of his fingers. Izumi frowned, too, having realized that he wasn’t sure how to remedy the issue. They sat in silence for another short while, the gears in their minds grinding through nonsensical ideas of how to procure a ring from the empty space beneath the table. Makoto’s gaze fell past Izumi, attracted to the halo of light surrounding them, tracing the pattern along the hem of the tablecloth, his attention drawn to the thin thread that hung from one of the corners and dragged along the floor… 

“A ring,” he murmured to himself in a trance, crawling past the puzzled Izumi and scooching towards the corner, wrapping his fingers around the thread and holding the cloth in place and tugging until it grew longer and longer and finally snapped, falling loosely in his grasp. He beamed at his own genius prevailing after Izumi had been forced to do so much of the work on his own thus far. 

Turning back, he crawled back to Izumi’s side and knelt in front of him, reaching out for his hand. Izumi obliged despite his confusion, holding his hand out and watching curiously as Makoto began to carefully and slowly tie the red thread around his little finger. Makoto had made sure to knot it nice and tight so that it wouldn’t fall off, his tongue just barely protruding past his lips as he focused. 

“My mom taught me how to tie shoelaces last week,” he’d explained once he finished, admiring his handiwork with pride. 

“Wow,” Izumi’s lips parted in awe, thoroughly impressed by the display of talent. He splayed out his fingers in front of himself, watching the excess thread sway with the movement, so long that it hung and pooled on the floor below. 

“Is it…is it a ring?” Makoto asked anxiously, trying to search for approval in Izumi’s expression. It wasn’t perfect, but it felt like it could qualify as a ring to Makoto, if you ignored the thread hanging off of the loop around his little finger. 

“Uh-huh,” Izumi nodded, beginning to smile, and Makoto breathed out his relief and smiled as well. 

“Can we get married now?” Makoto asked, hopeful, his fingers twitching with anticipation. He tried to imagine which words he would use to tell his teacher tomorrow that he needed to switch classes because of his new marriage. 

Izumi’s lip puffed out in thought again. He stared at the thread tied about his finger, examining it closely, his eyes searching for an answer in the deep red color. 

“Well,” he said slowly, and his eyes flickered down to the floor, uncharacteristically bashful. “Mama and I saw people get married a few months ago, too, and they kissed, like they did this time.” 

Makoto nodded in agreement. He’d forgotten much of what the priest had read, but he definitely remembered that part, and he figured that meant that it was pretty important to getting married. But it was easy, he figured. His mother gave him plenty of kisses, so even though he’d never given Izumi a kiss before, he was glad that he at least knew how. It would’ve been really embarrassing, he’d thought, if Izumi had to show him how to do something as simple as that. 

“Okay,” he replied, pushing himself onto his knees and planting his palms on the floor so that he could lean over and give Izumi’s cheek a quick little kiss, like his mother had done after she’d helped him get dressed up in his suit for the wedding. 

Makoto leaned back and found Izumi staring at him with wide eyes, eerily quiet in a way that made him anxious that he’d done it wrong. But after a few moments of silence, just as he was about to apologize and ask for Izumi to show him how to do it right, Izumi leaned forwards and pressed his lips to Makoto’s cheek, too, and Makoto told himself not to wipe it away like he always instinctively did to his mother’s red lipstick. 

With this, it felt official enough to consider themselves married, Makoto had thought. 

“That’s it,” Izumi had murmured once he’d settled back onto his knees, looking down quietly at the thread tied to his finger. Makoto followed his gaze, feeling a couple of butterflies fluttering in his stomach at Izumi’s words, as if they had set the decision in firm stone. 

“I’m gonna ask sensei to switch to your class tomorrow,” Makoto said softly, and Izumi nodded, smiling so happily that Makoto wished he’d gotten the idea to get married sooner. 

He had wondered if things would be like this all the time from now on, with the two of them always this close together, always smiling at each other and daydreaming about all the great things that they could do when they were with each other. Vaguely, he figured that he would have to tell his mother about his marriage at some point, but he was pretty sure that he could just tell her at dinner tonight, and that she’d be very happy with it since she loved Izumi so much. 

“Do…you think that he’ll believe me?” Makoto asked after some thought, looking at Izumi with brows furrowed in worry. “What if he won’t let me?” 

“He has to let you,” Izumi insisted, lips puffed into a pout. “Yuu~kun and I are married, so we have to be together all the time.” 

“I don’t have a ring, though,” Makoto protested quietly, looking at his empty hand and mourning the lack of proof of the vow he’d just taken. “He might not believe me.” 

Izumi was troubled by this, and considered the issue with a serious expression. He held up his hand, examining the thread-ring, features scrunched up in an attempt to come up with a quick solution to their newfound obstacle. His eyes followed the excess string that hung down, swaying back and forth with the movement of his hand, descending down like a little rope—and then the light twinkled in his irises as he found the answer that he’d been searching for. 

He had taken Makoto’s hand, guiding it out in front of him and gathering up the excess of the string in his own hands. Izumi began to wrap the other end around Makoto’s little finger, opposite to his own, tying it into a small knot just tight enough to be snug. Makoto watched him work behind the lenses of his glasses, eyes shining in wonder as Izumi connected the distance, the two children now separated only by the remaining length of the thread between them. Izumi smiled when he was finished, holding his hand up next to Makoto’s to marvel at the mirror image he’d created. 

“I’ll come with you,” Izumi whispered, nudging Makoto’s little finger with his own until they hooked together. “Yuu~kun and I will a~lways be together. It’s a promise, right? We got married, so you can’t break your promise.”

“I won’t break my promise,” Makoto whispered back, his little finger wrapped around Izumi’s, and the little red thread hanging between them, tying them together, promising that they wouldn’t be separated. 

Always,” Izumi had repeated softly, his eyes wet with joy, and pressed his lips to the thread about his finger. 

… 

Yuu~uu~ku~n.” 

Makoto lifts his head immediately at the tone, guilty like a child with his hand in the cookie jar, nearly dropping the golden band that he’d been holding between his finger and his thumb. He was lucky that he hadn’t jumped up and fallen right off the edge of the bed, too, with how sudden the interruption had been. Izumi stands at the doorway of the bedroom, his arms crossed over his chest in his typical what-do-you-think-you’re-doing pose, a frown upon his lips as he stares at the other. 

“You’re still not finished packing, are you?” 

Makoto laughs softly, a little bit embarrassed, taking the wedding band in his right hand and slipping it back onto his left before his clumsiness could let him drop and lose it. He pulls himself off of the edge of the bed and glances over to the open suitcase that lies at the end of the mattress, half-full, his clothes all picked out already but still waiting to be folded and organized. 

He knows he’d been on task at some point—it was the little red string that had come loose and hung from one of his shirts, he remembers now, that had completely distracted him from finishing. It was still folded beside the suitcase where he’d sat down to reminisce for a moment, but as he looks towards the digital clock on the dresser, he realizes that he’d been lost in his thoughts for…well, quite a lot longer than a moment. 

“Ahh…I’m really sorry, Izumi,” he offers sheepishly, reaching for the shirt and tucking it into the suitcase. “I was just…thinking, you know…” 

“And I was thinking about the fact that our flight leaves at five AM.” 

Izumi gives him a little hmph, marching through the room and past Makoto, where he leans over the bed and starts folding one of the shirts that Makoto had laid out. 

“We need to go to bed early tonight, you know, Yuu~kun. You really start to lose your head when you don’t get enough sleep.” 

“Isn’t that what the plane ride is for?” Makoto retorts, plucking one of the shirts from the pile and folding it alongside Izumi, who is far, far more efficient at it than he is. At this point, he’s surprised Izumi didn’t pack the damn thing for him. 

“I mean, I downloaded a ton of movies, too, but I was thinking about sleeping most of the time, so I’m all ready when we land…” 

“We’ll probably sleep when we land, too,” Izumi reminds him promptly, tucking three folded shirts into Makoto’s suitcase—how did he do that? “We’ll be to~tally jetlagged. Ah, but that means I’ll get to sleep with Yuu~kun in that perfect honeymoon suite…”

“You’re already lost in La La Land, Izumi,” he laughs, putting the rest of his shirts into the folded pile in his suitcase. 

“So?” Izumi puffs up a cheek and steps closer, reaching his arms around Makoto’s shoulders and tilting his chin up until the tips of their noses brushed together. “We just got married, Yuu~kun. I think I can stay in La La Land for as long as I want.” 

“You’re right,” Makoto hums in agreement. “We just got married.” 

And so he lets suitcase slip from his mind a second time as he presses a slow kiss to Izumi’s lips, sweet like honey, closing his eyes and letting his shoulders relax beneath Izumi’s touch. His hand rests gently on the curve of Izumi’s waist and Izumi’s fingers comb lovingly through his hair, the movements so fluid and natural that Makoto knew it was always supposed to be this way—just the two of them, so close together, lost in their own little world. It was so simple, he thinks, like he’d always known someplace inside of himself, even when he was once so sure that somewhere along the way the little thread that tied them together had been severed. 

“Hey,” Izumi murmurs, his lashes fluttering, his breath hot against his lips. “What were you thinking about earlier, Yuu~kun?” 

He was a fool, he knows, for ever doubting it. 

“You,” Makoto whispers, weaving their fingers together. “It’s always been you.”