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Giyuu Tomioka had moved to a new school, Hashira High, halfway through his first year of high school.

 

Normally, this would seem like a daunting task for a young high schooler; to be taken from an environment they knew and put into an entirely new pecking order and expected to find their place, but Giyuu wasn’t worried about that.

 

He wasn’t concerned with making new friends or trying to fit in, though his sister did have such concerns for him, and since Giyuu would do anything to make Tsutako happy after the challenges she’d had to go through to gain custody of him following their parents’ untimely death, he put effort into being a part of his new school.

 

So he joined the kendo club and made a little bit of an effort of befriending the other students there, and, to his surprise he found he liked their company and they liked his.

 

Of course, there were varying levels to this interaction.

 

Kyojuro Rengoku, Mitsuri Kanroji, Gyomei Himejima, and Tengen Uzui were the easiest to get along with.

 

Obanai Iguro was a decent enough fellow as long as one didn’t get too close to the person of his affections: Mitsuri Kanroji.

 

But Sanemi Shinazugawa was always ready for a fight and Shinobu Kocho seemed to take a special kind of pleasure out of attempting to provoke Giyuu, though she was rarely, if ever, successful.

 

The two people that Giyuu felt the closest to, though, were the Urokodaki siblings; Sabito and Makomo.

 

The three of them easily formed a trio within the first two weeks of Giyuu’s arrival, and they were the ones who encouraged Giyuu to join the kendo club that they were already a part of. Their adoptive father, Urokodaki-san, was the supervisor and instructor for the club in addition to his teaching position at the school.

 

But now Giyuu’s been a part of the school and the kendo club for the better part of four months, and kendo club practice is just finishing up.

 

Urokodaki clapped his hands together signaling to end all of the matches that are still going on.

 

“That will be all for today, thank you for your participation. Now get out, and don’t forget to stretch when you get home.” His voice had a rasp to it but still carried easily through the gym and was responded to with shouts of affirmation.

 

Giyuu’s fingers finished knotting the laces on his street shoes when a pair of pink flats entered his field of vision. He looks up to see Makomo smiling down at him.

“Do you mind walking me home? Sabito disappeared before kendo club began and Dad plans on running home.”

 

“Sure, but I have to stop at my locker first.”

 

“That’s no problem, I can go with you,” Makomo replied.

 

The two of them finish putting away their kendo equipment and were walking down the hall together before they speak again, this time with Giyuu breaking the silence.

 

“Why wasn’t Sabito at practice today?” He had noticed his friend’s absence, as did several others if the grumbling of Sanemi who wanted to go a few rounds with him and the quiet displeasure that practically radiated of Urokodaki-san were anything to go by.

 

Makomo let out a little hum as she thought of her answer. “He was looking a little flush when I saw him before he left. Maybe he was feeling under the weather.”

 

“Strange that he didn’t contact either of us, though.” Giyuu pulled out his phone and showed it to Makomo, demonstrating the lack of texts from Sabito.

 

She blinked before pulling out her own phone. “He sent me one about ten minutes ago. ‘Wasn’t feeling too good, going home’.”

 

Despite the explanation she still frowned at the screen in her hand.

 

By that time they were arriving at Giyuu’s locker. After putting in the combo, he pulled open the door to pull out some of the books he knew he would need for his homework later. To his surprise, a little white envelope fluttered out to the ground.

 

“Oh? What’s that?” Makomo’s inquisitive voice came from beside him.

 

“I don’t know,” he said, bending down and picking the envelope up.

 

It didn’t look like much, just a plain white envelope with his name scrawled on the front of it so he knew it was for him and that the sender didn’t just mix up lockers during their delivery.

 

“It looks like a confession letter,” Shinobu’s voice piped up from behind him.

 

It took nearly all of his willpower to not immediately whip around and smack the source of his jump scare, though his arms still jerked in surprise.

 

“What are you doing here?” Giyuu asked, his voice devoid of amusement.

 

“I had to return Makomo’s pen she let me borrow earlier, I nearly forgot after kendo. I’m glad I found you guys to return it,” Shinobu chirped.

 

Giyuu would bet that wasn’t the only reason she was pleased to have caught them.

 

“Shinobu is right, it does look like a confession letter, maybe one of your many fans finally got up the courage to tell you their true feelings,” Makomo teased.

 

Giyuu sighed, there was no getting these two of off something once they got their teeth into it, might as well open it up and see what this was about.

 

He easily tore open the envelope and pulled out the letter inside, half expecting to read the written feelings of one of his peers as Makomo and Shinobu were usually right when they got a feeling about something, but what was actually written there made his brow furrow in confusion.

 

“Well, what is it?” Shinobu demanded. Makomo was quiet beside her but Giyuu knew she was just as curious.

 

“Get out of my fucking school.”

 

“Excuse me?” Shinobu’s disbelief was evident that Giyuu would say such a thing to her.

 

“No, I’m just reading this aloud.” He offered to letter to the two girls and Makomo gently took it, her smile looking tight as though it strained to hide something else. Maybe she was upset by the confusing content of the letter?

 

The two girls peered at the white piece of paper with just six words on it as though it would show them the secrets of the universe.

 

Finally, Shinobu released the half of the paper that she had been grasping in favor of draping a hand over her face in what seemed to be an effort to ward off an incoming headache.

 

“Not even a signature,” Makomo mused.

 

“It is weird, but it doesn’t to seem like something to worry about.”

 

“You don’t have anything to worry about.” Makomo’s affirmation confused him a bit, as did Shinobu’s nod in agreement. “I’m sorry to waste your time, but I think it would be best if I just walk home with Shinobu right now. It’ll be less of a hassle for you, seeing as your home is in the opposite direction.”

 

Giyuu had barely nodded in agreement before the two girls were walking off together with their arms linked. But they had already turned a corner before he realized he was only holding onto the envelope and that the “confession” letter was still in the possession of Makomo.

 

He shrugged to himself. Oh well, it didn’t seem like that big of a deal anyway.

 

 

***

 

 

After that incident Giyuu didn’t receive another letter expressing such weird messages, but he didn’t let it bother him so much.

 

What was weird was that it seemed to affect Shinobu more than it affected him, as she asked him multiple times in the following weeks if he had gotten any more letters in his locker. She always looked disgruntled at his negative replies.

 

And when word got around kendo club as to what had happened, some of the other members questioned him about it. Kanroji in particular was distressed by the lack of follow up. Rengoku and Tengen constantly looked exasperated, particularly whenever Sabito would help Giyuu one-on-one. But when asked about it, Sabito just brushed it off.

 

“Probably just jealous they’re not getting help from the best swordsman in club,” was his usual brusque reply.

 

If Makomo was passing by at that moment she would snort at his statement, wounding Sabito’s pride and resulting in him demanding to duel her. Which could go in either sibling’s favor if Urokodaki-san didn’t put a stop to them absolutely totaling the gymnasium first. And god help them if Sanemi ever heard that comment; even Urokodaki had a hard time pulling the two boys away from each other.

 

Eventually the talk of his alleged “love letter” died down and things went back to normal.

 

And even though Giyuu didn’t receive another letter like the first one, as his looks matured through high school, he received a couple actual confession letters. He politely declined each one, and he would be lying if his heart didn’t lurch when he saw envelopes stuck into his locker, secretly hoping for an explanation to the first one.

 

But he had other reasons to decline the actual confessions of his peers. Like the blooming of his romantic feelings towards Sabito.

 

He wasn’t exactly sure when it had happened, but there was a moment in high school where the realization had just—clicked.

 

Giyuu had just gotten his ass handed to him in a practice duel against Sabito that ended with him on the ground and his friend leaning over him, gloating about his victory. The late afternoon sunlight streamed through the windows, filling the gymnasium with a golden haze that highlighted the light sheen of sweat coating Sabito’s skin and set his peach hair ablaze in a halo around his face.

 

The sight of it took Giyuu’s breath away, the stunning beauty of his friend knocking the wind out of him more than getting beaten down with a bokken.

 

And when he made no move to get up off of the ground, Sabito reached down to offer him a hand.

 

“Didn’t knock too much out of you, did I?” he teased as their fingers brushed.

 

Giyuu did his best to scoff at the accusation. “You wish.” But he couldn’t help but feel if he got too close to the shining warmth of his best friend, he would burst into flames right then and there. So he made the quick excuse of needing a water break before rushing off, leaving Sabito standing on the dueling strip alone.

 

After that, Giyuu made a conscious effort to suppress his feelings. He may have loved Sabito, but he didn’t want to force something awkward into the relationship they already had. The results seemed to vary, if the looks from Kanroji, Shinobu, and Makomo were anything to go by. But Sabito didn’t appear to notice his inner conflict, so at least Giyuu was successful on that front.

 

But now high school drew to a close and their futures loomed in front of them. Sabito and Giyuu had ended up not going to the same college as each other, as they had discussed, but their schools were close by enough that meeting up would be an easy enough thing to do on a regular basis.

 

The kendo club had decided to have a small get together with only seniors at one of their houses before they left high school.

 

This all led Giyuu Tomioka to where he was at this moment; standing in the doorway between the living room and kitchen, holding a cup of non-alcoholic fruit punch—he still couldn’t hold his liquor at the end of high school—and watching the start of a game of never-have-I-ever.

 

What may seem to be a childish game would become an all-out war of truths and exposure. Especially with everyone in the circle at least a little tipsy and Shinobu’s uncanny ability to know people’s secret doings.

 

Giyuu wasn’t joining in favor of watching to drama unfold from a safe distance; Shinobu had unearthed a little too much the last time he had joined such a game. Besides, at this angle he could watch the warm glow of the living room lamps cast Sabito in a soft light without him knowing about it. Pretending his heart wasn’t doing flips in his chest every time Sabito would throw his head back in laughter or take a swig from the drink in his hand every time he had done something the other person had not.

 

“Okay, okay, my turn,” Kanroji hiccupped and giggled, leaning far into Iguro’s side and creating the blush spreading across his cheeks. “Never have I ever…”

 

She paused and tapped a finger to her chin, her mouth pinched in thought as she searched for something to use against the other participants.

 

While Kanroji hesitated, Shinobu’s eyes flicked to where Giyuu stood in the doorway. That had happened so often over the course of the game Giyuu was surprised that Sabito didn’t turn and look himself. But when her eyes met his, a devilish glint formed and he had a feeling that he was going to be dragged into this game in some way.

 

Shinobu nudged Makomo, who sat between her and Sabito, and narrowed her eyes on where Giyuu stood. An anxiousness began to grow in Giyuu when Makomo’s gaze flicked his way before she gave the other girl a small nod.

 

Kanroji still pondered what to do, her face clouding over as she fought to think through the haze that had probably settled because of the alcohol consumed. But when Shinobu leaned over, cupping her mouth to whisper in Kanroji’s ear, her face immediately lit up and she broke into a fit of giggles.

 

“Hey, you can’t help her like that, she has to think of her own response,” Sanemi growled at their collusion.

 

“Yes, I can, and you won’t have a problem with this,” Shinobu retorted a little too cheerfully for Giyuu’s tastes, but Sanemi still backed down.

 

A quick glance around the circle informed Giyuu that everyone there either didn’t care or wanted to see where this was going.

 

“You ready?” Kanroji giggled as she asked. “Never have I ever sent a confession letter that said, ‘Get out of my fucking school.’”

 

A quiet seemed to settle over the group for a moment, and Giyuu felt confusion crash over him like a wave that plows through everything on its way to shore. Why would she ask that of all things? Shinobu and Makomo knew about the note, and he guessed they would share it with Kanroji because the three of them are a tight knit group being the only female seniors in kendo club, but it’s not like they would know who sent that note.

 

Giyuu pondered, and he was sure that there was no signature on that note. If they wanted to include him why would they say ‘sent’ and not ‘received’?

 

But the hush that fell over the living room is broken by the raucous laughter of Rengoku. “Ahahahahah! It was only a matter of time before you got called out on that,” he crowed.

 

Giyuu snapped back to attention. Who was he talking about? Who sent that letter? He surveyed the group in front of him, but they all seemed to be having fun at the expense of this person. Giyuu looked at Sabito, expecting him to be mercilessly teasing the individual as well, but to his surprise the tips of Sabito’s ears were burning red and the bit of his face that he could see at his angle was just as flushed. Is there a chance that—?

 

“Oh, fuck you guys, I was just an emotionally constipated fifteen-year-old who didn’t know what to do about his stupid crush.”

 

And Giyuu knew Sabito had to have a good amount of alcohol in his system to admit that much.

 

“At least Giyuu isn’t here to witness this,” Sabito grumbled as he took a deep swig of what was left in the bottle clutched in his hand.

 

At his confession that laughter and teasing had died down and now everyone in the room was looking between Sabito and the shell-shocked Giyuu frozen in the doorway.

 

Sabito’s head moved back and forth to look at everyone in the room, who were now looking in his direction.

 

“What can’t handle a dose of honesty from me once in a while? That hurts, you know,” Sabito teased, though his attempt at controlling the situation was betrayed by the way his ears still burned a bright red. “Well, I’m going to get myself another drink, anyone want anythi—”

 

Sabito’s statement cut off as he turned around and stood up in a fluid movement and came face to face with a motionless Giyuu.

 

Time came to a standstill and a tense quiet settled over the group.

 

“That was you?”

 

Giyuu’s voice sounded thin to his own ears, but it was shocking to himself that he could hear his own voice over the rapid pounding of his heart.

 

Sabito shifted from one foot to another, avoiding eye contact by staring resolutely at Giyuu’s forehead. “Well, yes. But it was so long ago I’m sure it doesn’t matter now,” he explained hurriedly. “It’s not a big deal to me, at least.”

 

Giyuu could feel his face crumble but he still opened his mouth to contradict Sabito’s statement. A blush still painted the tops of Sabito’s cheeks and Giyuu knew it had to be more than alcohol because he never got flushed when he drank. But before he could say anything a smack rang through the otherwise quiet room, breaking the pair’s absolute concentration on each other.

 

Leaning to look around Sabito, Giyuu saw that Tengen had slapped his own forehead hard enough to leave a red mark.

 

“You are both so extremely dense that I needed to flamboyantly put a stop to this painful conversation,” Tengen exclaimed.

 

Heads around the group nodded in agreement. Shinobu clapped her hands together twice to call attention to her.

 

“I think it’s time to put an end to this ridiculous affair, shall we?”

 

Her smile was sweet but far from innocent as she called, “Rengoku, Tengen, would you be so kind?”

 

There wasn’t even time to blink before the two young men had captured Sabito’s arms in a hold from behind and began marching him down one of the adjacent hallways, Kanroji leading them somewhere. Makomo and Shinobu appeared on either side of Giyuu and each took on of his arms.

 

The girls weren’t forceful, but he also wasn’t fighting the way Sabito was attempting to pull away from their two friends that frog marched him down the hall. And though he knew that Shinobu wasn’t really strong enough to do what Rengoku and Tengen were doing to get Sabito to wherever Kanroji was bringing them, he didn’t want to find out what underhanded tactics the smaller girl was willing to use. He didn’t particularly want to fight Makomo either.

 

So while it may not look like he was being forced to go anywhere, he knew damn well that he didn’t have many options in this scenario. He was just choosing the least painful route. Well, what he hoped was the least painful route.

 

And that hope was turned on its head the moment that Kanroji pulled open the door the coat closet in the hallway and Sabito was pushed in, Giyuu shoved inside right behind him.

 

Before either of them could turn back around and try to force their way through their group of friends who would be blocking their exit, the door swung shut and the telltale click of a lock enclosed the two of them in darkness.

 

“You two can come back out once you’ve had a nice long discussion about how you really feel about each other,” Shinobu called through the door.

 

“Good luck,” Kanroji gushed.

 

Then the only thing that could be heard were several sets of footsteps fading as they got further away. Giyuu focused on them in an attempt to avoid the very warm, very close body of his best friend, but that didn’t last long.

 

With rough hands Giyuu was pushed to the side of the closet and Sabito heaved himself up to start pounding on the door.

 

“Get back here and let me out so I can kick your asses!” he yelled through the wood.

 

Giyuu had no doubt that Sabito already knew that they weren’t about to be let out any time soon, but he was too stubborn to face the truth of the moment.

 

Which was that they were trapped, together, in a small, cramped closet. Giyuu’s heart would give out before that door did.

 

So he just sighed and leaned his head against the wall, waiting for Sabito to cool down.

 

Eventually he did, and he plopped down with a huff on the other side of the closet, though their legs still bumped up against the other’s with the limited space they had. Silence filled the air between them.

 

A dense darkness shrouded the inside of the closet and Giyuu’s eyes could only make out the faintest outline of his friend, if he wasn’t just imagining the shape of Sabito casually propped against the opposite side of the closet. There wasn’t even a light turned on in the hallway for light to trickle inside and he had heard Sabito grasping blindly for a light switch or pull and finding none after he had finished pounding on the door. The only true sign that there was even another person inside the closet with him was the heat that radiated from Sabito into Giyuu’s extended leg.

 

The quiet stretched on for what felt like forever, and there was no way to tell how much time had actually passed. The words that Sabito had rushed to say in the living room still hung heavy on Giyuu’s mind. Though he normally wouldn’t have the confidence to voice such thoughts there weren’t many other things to do stuck in the closet.

 

But between the crushing silence between the two of them and Sabito’s words circling his head, Giyuu did something he never thought he would do, and broke the silence.

 

“Did you mean it?”

 

“Mean what?”

 

Giyuu blinked at the sharp question supplied instead of an answer but plowed forward anyways.

 

“In the living room, when you said that the note wasn’t a big deal to you anymore, did you mean it?”

 

There was no response this time, but Giyuu was on a roll and his thoughts continued to pour out of his mouth.

 

“I don’t think you were telling the truth. You were so embarrassed to be called out like that, and you said yourself that you were glad I wasn’t there to witness you admit to sending that letter. But, Sabito, do you still like—”

 

Before Giyuu could finish a heavy hand pressed against his mouth to stop his words. The darkness had concealed Sabito’s movements and Giyuu had been so wrapped up in voicing his thoughts that he hadn’t noticed Sabito’s shift in position until he was practically in front of him.

 

“Don’t finish that question.”

 

There were so many things that Giyuu could have felt in that moment. But a wave of annoyance washed over him and held him tight. So Giyuu reached up and pulled the offending hand off of his mouth.

 

“Why not?” he bit out. “This was going to happen eventually, you had to have known that. If it wasn’t you, then I—”

 

This time Giyuu cut himself off, biting down on his wagging tongue. The courage that had overcome him had faded when Sabito’s warmth had gotten close enough to melt away his layers of fortitude.

 

“Then you what, Yuu?” Sabito asked quietly.

 

Giyuu swallowed, he needed to finish this. The damage had already been done through the many events of the night. Maybe it was time to finally get this off of his chest.

 

“Then…maybe I would have done something about the feelings I… have for… you.”

 

His voice faded out by the end of his confession; the last words merely breathed into the space between them.

 

Giyuu realized he still held the hand that Sabito had put over his face to stop him from talking and that he had been fiddling with it while he had confessed. Surprisingly, the other boy hadn’t pulled away from his grip, even after Giyuu had told him that he liked the other in ways other than friendship.

 

“How long?” Sabito whispered.

 

“I realized a little while after the note was sent,” Giyuu replied as quietly as the question had been asked.

 

Sabito’s hand finally pulled away from Giyuu only to return and cup his face.

 

“Then may I please—?”

 

Giyuu could feel the proximity of Sabito with the warm brush of air that accompanied the question.

 

His own breath stuttered as he shakily nodded yes, and Sabito finally leaned in to press his lips gently onto Giyuu’s.

 

But Sabito missed a little the first time, not being able to see in the closet, and only caught the corner of Giyuu’s mouth.

 

They both huffed a small laugh at the misstep, but the next press of Sabito’s lips found its way onto Giyuu’s own.

 

Giyuu felt as though he was melting, the pressure of Sabito’s mouth against his consuming him. Though the kiss remained chaste, a simple connection between their lips, when Sabito pulled away Giyuu couldn’t help but feel as though the air had been stolen from his lungs.

 

Sabito leaned back in and rested his head against Giyuu’s shoulder. “I’ve wanted to do that for so long.”

Giyuu hummed in agreement. “Pity it took getting locked in a closet to get there.”

 

“Do you think they’re going to let us out soon?”

 

“Who knows, but I think I can survive like this a little longer.” Giyuu hesitantly wrapped his arms around Sabito’s waist, and Sabito sealed the deal by sitting the rest of the way down in Giyuu’s lap and wrapping his arms around the other as well.

 

“Not the worst place to be, that’s for sure. Though I think we should talk about some things when we get out of here,” Sabito said.

 

“Hm, anything in particular?”

 

Sabito chuckled into Giyuu’s shoulder. “Yeah, like where I should take you on our first date.”

 

A blush burned its way across Giyuu’s face. “I’d like that.”

 

Giyuu could feel Sabito smile from where the other’s face rested on his shoulder as they waited in the dark of a closet, each holding the other closer than they would’ve dared to dream before that night.