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Zero Perk Relationship

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Kenji had known Terushima long enough to know, he has a bad hand this time. The little signs were right there: the nervous shifting of his eyes and the way his fingernails kept sliding on the edge of his thumb. He was an easy read and Kenji wasn't too bad at reading people to begin with. It hadn't been too hard to figure out his tell.

Yahaba's tell however remained a mystery and not for a lack of observation. He knew how to mask his feelings, when he needed to, a true con man at heart: Careful not to show any feeling, when he didn't want to. He was being an exceptionally hard read today.

That however didn't really matter right now, since he was straddling Kenji's lap, giving his eyes perfect access to his cards. It also meant, that Kenji was not participating this round, but he was content to watch Ennoshita wreck them for the nth time, while stroking Yahaba's legs.
It was Yahaba's turn now and he seemed to hesitate.

“You should play that card”, Kenji supplied unhelpfully, pointing to a random card in Yahaba's hand.

“Stop distracting me.”, Yahaba said, while tossing two of his cards into the middle.

Ennoshita's lips curled into the slightest of smiles. “I win”, he declared, no doubt having somehow cheated again.

Terushima whined. “Chikara, I'm not playing against you any longer. Which is to say I am now playing with you. Let's play something with teams, I nominate Kemps”

Ennoshita considered. “Okay.”

“If we play Kemps, I'm getting Akaashi first”, Yahaba said, “I am not playing with Futakuchi.”

“Why not?”, Futakuchi stopped stroking to rest his hand on top of Yahaba's leg.

“Because you're really bad at card games? You never pay attention to the game.”

Well, that much was true. He lost track of the game most of the time and ended up just playing whatever card qualified as a legal play. In favour of watching the players. He often ended up knowing, which one of his friends had a bad hand, but not if his own was any good. He didn't really like card games. They bored him.
That didn't mean he would just accept being excluded, though.

“Akaashi's bad at games too”, he pointed out.

“Yeah, but because he's an overthinker. Besides he knows he's bad and just follows my lead, whenever we play together. Now hush and go back to doing this”, Yahaba guided his hand up and down his upper leg, imitating the stroking movement from before. As soon as he let go of Kenji's hand, Kenji spitefully stopped the movement.

Terushima cleared his throat. “So you know how yesterday a bunch of new guys came? I was the one who got to show them around and some of them seem nice enough. Maybe we could invite them to play?” Sweet Terushima, always eager to make new friends, even in prison. Kenji wasn't one to judge, though, since he was exactly the same.

“Sure”, he said. Terushima wasted no time, promptly getting up and strutting across the room, immediately chatting up a guy with a mohawk and a kid with uneven bangs.

Kenji watched them for a second, before trying to stretch the stiffness out of his legs. Yahaba yelped as his seat moved underneath him.

“Get off me”, Kenji said to Yahaba, “I can't feel my legs.”

“Wuss”, Yahaba replied, but got off nonetheless.

Kenji narrowed his eyes. Well, if Yahaba wouldn't always take so damn long loosing his games, maybe he could stand this sitting arrangement for longer than one round.

Terushima returned, only Mohawk in tow. The group inspected the newcomer. He wasn't all that tall, but he was bulky, broad shoulders to go with muscular arms. He seemed kind of tame though, following Terushima's lead to their table, nervously chewing on his lower lip. Uneven Bangs stayed behind, wearing a small scowl. Mohawk came to a stop a few feet away from their table, Terushima making way for him to introduce himself.

“Hello, I'm Yamamoto Taketora”, he said, shyly lifting his hand.

“Hello, Yamamoto Taketora”, Ennoshita and Kenji replied in unison, mockingly but not unkindly. Yahaba had to hide a snort.

That did nothing to soothe Yamamoto's nervousness, so Terushima gave an encouraging nudge. “You can sit down, Tora.”

Yahaba leaned into the table from his new place to snatch the cards from Ennoshita, then leaned back and began shuffling. Someone needed to tell him he did not look cool, while doing that, at all.
Yahaba looked over to Yamamoto. “So what are you in for?”

Yamamoto's face went red as he struggled to answer.

“I thought, you were not supposed to ask that?”, Terushima instantly cut in.

Kenji scoffed. “That doesn't stop you from asking me five times a week.”

Terushima sent him a look that said Yeah, dude, cause I really wanna know!
Kenji sent a blank stare back. He wasn't going to tell that story again, anytime soon, never failed to ruin his week with bad memories. Besides Terushima knew him for only four months now. He could wait a little longer.

Meanwhile Ennoshita had taken to calming Yamamoto, telling him to ignore the jerks and explained the rules of Kemps. Kenji watched them through half lidded eyes.

“He seems timid now, but he was definitely ready to fight yesterday, was acting all boisterous and aggressive.” Terushima told him in a low voice.

“And based on that impression your first instinct was to invite him to a card game?”

“What can I tell ya”, Tersuhima shrugged, “I liked his hair. I don't know what happened to him over night. Maybe the morning showers have him all traumatized.” He sent a thoughtful look over to some inmates, who did have quite the habit of traumatizing newbies in the morning shower. Kenji's eyes caught on Uneven Bangs again, as he followed Terushima's gaze.

“What about the other kid? Didn't want our company?”, Kenji spared no effort in discretely pointing at the kid in question. He still stood alone watching them through narrowed eyes.

“Nah”, Terushima clucked his tongue, “And I was so sure I charmed him yesterday.”

“Oh, I'm sure you did.”

They ended up playing more rounds than one, though Kenji mostly watched. New kid had some very obvious tells, would be a shame not to use that against him sometime. Too bad Kenji didn't like card games.

 

Turned out that wasn't the last they'd see of Uneven Bangs either. Of course it wasn't. Prison was small.

“Akaashi's got a new cellmate”, Kenji said to Ennoshita, leaning against the entrance of his own cell.

“Oh?”, Ennoshita looked up from his book, craning his neck to get a glimpse.

“It's that other new kid, not Yamamoto but the guy with the … “, he gestured to his forehead, “... haircut.”

“You mean Shirabu?”

“How do you know his name”, Kenji asked, furrowing his eyebrows.

“Yamamoto told us.”

Oh, right. He might have mentioned him a few times. Kenji wasn't very good with names, and Shirabu's wasn't important enough to remember yet. Maybe he would be, as Akaashi's new cellmate.

He sat down on his bed, sorting through his stuff, to check if anything was missing, before Ennoshita's book caught his attention.

“Is that the third book?”, he asked.

Ennoshita lifted the cover to reveal the title Fifty Shades Freed. “Yeah.”

“I'm almost through with the first one. Tell me, did she, by now, borrow some money from Christian to buy herself a personality?”

Ennoshita smiled. “No spoilers.”

So Kenji had to pick up his own book. Upon opening, a note fell into his lap.

Tomorrow 6:30 am. Meet me in the laundry room. Wear something nice XX

He read the note again, tracing the familiar handwriting with his fingertips. Yahaba had been through his stuff without him noticing again. He found it hard to care today.

No way, am I missing shower time for sex, he told himself. It didn't matter. He knew he'd show up anyway.

 

He showed up on time. Almost. Only fifteen minutes late, in his nicest regular grey prison shirt, that was a little too tight, so it showed off his arms. That had to be pretty enough.

Yahaba wasted no time pulling it over his head. “You're late. Now I have to rush this”, he complained, barely understandable, his lips pressed thightly on Kenjis mouth.

“How the fuck was I supposed to show up on time.” Wake-Up was only at 6:30 and he wasn't that desperate for sex.

“Stop talking and loose the pants.”

Kenji hummed noncommitally. “I'm still pretty tired and you seem kinda keen on doing all of the work today.”

“I really don't know why I keep bothering with you.” But Yahaba was already tugging at the waistband.

Later they lay together for another what must have been twenty minutes and Yahaba kept looking at him all the time with those big doe eyes, his head resting on Kenji's chest. He was sure that bastard could hear his heart speeding up.

Kenji watched the rising sun through the small, dusty window above them. Watched the sunbeams reflecting on Yahaba's sweaty forehead, where his hair was glued to the flushed skin. This feels right, he thought and then Fuck.

He wasn't made for this kind of sap, was nowhere near ready to deal with it. Yahaba certainly was, under his facade made of salt he was just one excitable little boy, dreaming of true love and snow in the winter and whatever else little boys dreamt of.
This is just nice, he thought, no need to get ahead of ourselves and call it big words.

Nice was easier than right. Right was impossible. Right was him sitting on the beach in a nice chair, no sand in his eyes, Tequila Sunrise in his right hand. Put Yahaba on his chest there, maybe then they could call it right.

And Yahaba – that fucker – started tracing the lines of his face with his fingers. As if he hadn't done enough already. His finger came to a halt on his lips.
“Everything alright?”, he asked, voice drooping. When Kenji didn't respond immediately, he added: “Your heart's racing. This wasn't to much for you, was it? I know you're getting old ...”

“I strongly dislike you”, Kenji said speaking from the bottom of his heart.

“Thanks, Kenji. Love you too.”

Someone needed to stop that man.

 

While Ennoshita did his best at teaching Yamamoto the ancient art of making hooch, Kenji fought with the last pages of Fifty Shades of Grey, sitting cross-legged on the grass. He wasn't sure, he was going to be able to endure this for another two books. He was sure, however, that he wouldn't loose to Ennoshita. So he kept reading.

Ennoshita let Yamamoto work by himself for a minute to come check on Kenji's reading process. “I'm already done with the third one”, he informed him, completely unprompted.

“How?”, Kenji hissed, though he knew that Ennoshita was a scarily fast reader.

“I don't know, I kind of got into it during the third one. Really wanted to know the ending.” He smiled fondly at the memory.

“How's your student doing?”

“Ah, he's a fast learner. But I'm afraid he already butchered his first try. I'll let him see it through to the end though” Ennoshita turned to watch his student work by himself. It felt peaceful, for a second. They were out of view here, it generally was a blind spot, they just had to make sure no guards came any nearer. Ennoshita pointed at his book. ”Do you have a new one yet?”

Kenji had indeed picked one up on the way outside. He held up the book so Ennoshita could read the title on the orange cover.
An ant abused his distractedness to crawl up his leg and he quickly squashed it. Nature was ugly.

“High Fantasy?”, Ennoshita asked, curiously.

“Oh, I know that one!”, Yamamoto chimed in.

“Really?”

“Yeah, it's good! Lot's of dragons and swordfights! Was really fun to read.”

“Oh”, Kenji said, looking down at the back of the book, “That's too bad. The synopsis seemed so shitty though.”

Yamamoto tilted his head, eyebrows furrowed. “Why are you doing this anyway?” He gestured vaguely at them. “Daring each other to read bad books. You're in prison, isn't that punishment enough?” He looked seriously confused.

“Nah, we're just masochists. This is fun to us. Same reason why I'm prison dating Yahaba's narcissistic ass”, Kenji replied, then held the book back up to Ennoshita, “Read it anyway. Might still be bad, maybe Yamamoto has just really shitty taste in books.”

“Maybe he could join our club then.”

“Maybe! What are you reading at the moment?”, Yamamoto asked, intrigued.

Kenji grinned, patting the cover of his other book. “So ... there's this chic and she's a virgin. But then one day, she has to do an interview for a friend, where she meets this really hot -”

“Oi Futakuchi, are you gushing over Christian again?” Yahaba's shadow fell over them, blocking the sun and allowing him to stop squinting his eyes.

Kenji sent his prison boyfriend a smile. “Stay right there and don't move”, he said, delighted at the prospect of more shade.

“Oh no, I'm stepping aside”, Yahaba declared, reading Kenji easily, “I'm so happy, you finally stepped outside into the sun. Your face is so pale, you where starting to look like a ghost.”

“That's just, because I'm horrified, everytime I see your face.”

“What are you? Thirteen?”, Ennoshita mumbled, while dragging Yamamoto aside to play mentor again.

The two ignored him, ready to keep teasing each other, when they spotted Akaashi and Terushima … with a third person, Kenji recognized. He turned to watch them. They looked comfortable, chatting with each other, Shirabu still wearing his little scowl, but seemingly making easy conversation regardless.

“Is that Shirabu? Are they friends now?” Yahaba had gotten a little tense.

Kenji looked back at him. “Relax. They're cellmates, remember? Walking together is probably just a matter of convenience. And Terushima's friendly with everyone.” Yahaba's gaze kept following them all the way to the bench they sat down on. Kenji kept his eyes on Yahaba, noticed how his eye twitched ever so slightly. Was that a tell?
He always seemed a little on edge, when new people joined their inner circle, had been slower than Kenji to warm up to Ennoshita and Terushima too. Kenji softly took his hand in his and pulled him to the ground.
“Come on, let's watch Yamamoto fuck up his first hooch.”

Yahaba's attention snapped back to the person in front of him. “Sounds fun”, he said, settling in between his legs and leaning against him.
He seemed to relax at watching their two friends, his skin glowing in the surprisingly strong April sunlight, the wind gently tousling his hair.
Nature is ugly. But it looks good on him, Kenji thought.
I wonder what freedom looks like on him.

 

He couldn't take his eyes off of the shiny little thing in his hand. The black screen reflected his face showing him his own wide eyes and the boundless fascination it displayed.

“Everything allright with you?”, Ennoshita said.

“Chikara, look." He tilted his hands.

Ennoshita took a deep breath. “Where did you get that?” Then: “You should be more careful with that.”

“I know.” He quickly let the tiny smartphone disappear between his hands again.

Ennoshita swallowed. “Did you try it already?”

“No, not here. I'm still thinking about, where to safely store it.”

“What's going on in here”, Yahaba cut in. Both of them jumped.

It took some moments for Kenji to calm his heart enough to speak. “Jesus Christ, Shigeru, can't you knock?!”

“There is no door”, Yahaba pointed out, “So what's going on?”

They looked at each other.

“Futakuchi got a phone”, Ennoshita explained in a low voice.

Yahaba raised a brow, excitement visible. Oh, really? His face seemed to say. Whose dick did you have to suck to get that?

“I traded goods, not service's, you ass.” Kenji shot back, though the amused glint in Yahaba's eyes didn't fade.

Yahaba flopped down on his bed next to him, leaning into his space, gaze searching for the phone. “So are there any games on it?”

Kenji moved his hands to spare him a glance at the small device. “I don't know, you nerd. I was planning on using it to contact my friends outside. You know, like a cool person.”

“Let's go to the library to test it out”, Ennoshita said, clearly still completely out of it at the sight of technology.

Kenji shook his head. “It's too late for that, now. We'll do it tomorrow.” He could feel his friends disappointment, but he wanted some time to savour the experience. He quickly shoved the phone between his matress, making sure Yahaba was distracted by Ennoshita and couldn't see the movement.

“I'm using your cooker.” Yahaba got up. “My cellmate keeps hogging ours to brew that smelly soup of his and I have not yet found the strength to murder him. Just need to get my stuff first.”

Unsurprising since Yahaba was, to everyone's knowledge, not a murderer. Though Kenji wouldn't be nice just for the sake of it. “Well, what do we get out of letting you?”

“I'm not paying you. You're rich enough, as it is.”

“No payment, no cooker”, Kenji stated.

Yahaba tilted his head as if in thought for a moment. “Fine, here.” He leaned down and gave Kenji a kiss.

“Ugh, gross, that's not what I meant. Give me chocolate, you scoundrel.”

Yahaba just smiled, then left through the celldoor. Kenji watched him as he disappeared between the cells.

“You can't keep letting him get away with stuff like that. It's bad business”, Ennoshita said fixing him with his eyes. Kenji just shrugged and found another place to hide his new phone, just in case.

Terushima, Yamamoto and Shirabu were the next people to walk into their cell. It immediately started to feel crowded. Terushima for whatever reason still left a respectful few feet of space between Shirabu and himself.

Ennoshita's eyebrows furrowed at the sudden general proximity. “You do know that this is a very small cell, right?”

Terushima pointed to his companions. “They need ramen. Commissary's all out.”

“Ah, I see”, Kenji said, “This is of course a three man mission.” He started to dig in his stash, showing of the illegal ramen flavours he had to offer. Both picked, Yamamoto with great passion and seriousness, Shirabu, just grabbing whichever pack was nearest.

“You can pay up later. I know it takes some time, until your money's coming in. And hey, if you keep buying from me, you might benefit from the exclusive friends-and-family discount.”

“You have family in prison?”, Yamamoto blurted out.

Kenji most certainly did not, but it was fun to screw with Yamamoto, so he grabbed Ennoshita's arm and gestured to their faces. “Can't you see the resemblance?”

“What?”

Before Yamamoto could react further, Terushima pulled him down on Kenji's bed, obviously not intending to leave, now that business was done. Shirabu to his surprise didn't leave just yet either, but instead turned to Ennoshita. “I heard, you have a good book collection.”

“Yeah, but it's mostly bad books”, Ennoshita said humbly.

“They're not bad”, Terushima crowed, “You and Futakuchi are just snobs, when it comes to books.”

“But”, Ennoshita ignored him, “I do have some good ones too. You can take a look if you want to. The nice ones are on the left side.”

Things got really crowded, when Yahaba returned, small pack of flavoured ramen in hand.
Ennoshita groaned, so Kenji decided to squish himself between Terushima and Yamamoto, to make more room. He closed his eyes and listened to his friends talk. Though it was generally nice to be in their company, today he just wanted them to leave so he could get on with his stuff. Maybe he should go to Akaashi's cell and send his text message from there. But lights would be out soon, and they wouldn't stay much longer anyway.

When they finally left, his heart automatically began to speed up. He could feel his hands getting clammy.

Before he exited, Yahaba turned around to press something plastic covered but squishy in his hands. “Payment. It's not chocolate, but I figured you like them better anyway.”
When he looked at what lay in his palm he recognized the green wrapping of the commissary's sour gummies.
Now he could feel his face heat up for an entirely different reason. Unbelievable, he really was blushing. He should have outgrown that shit, when he was fifteen.

Kenji reminded himself to check his belongings for anything missing, only crawling into his bed afterwards. Then he waited until Ennoshita went to sleep, before he started groping for his phone again, pulling the blanket over his hands. Good, no visible light through the fabric. The small vibration, when it turned on send a shiver of excitement down his spine. Then he started typing.

Hello, this is Kenji. I'm sorry for everything that went down, but I feel like we should talk this out. You can visit me on Friday, please Mom, I want us to sort this out. I

He stopped, his heart beating loud in his ears. The whole excitement of getting a phone must have gone to his head, this wasn't really how he wanted to do this. He wasn't going to beg for this. After taking a deep breath and deleting the draft, he typed in another number.

I got a phone now ;)

Aone would know what to make of that.

He kept the phone on silent and more than one layer of metal bed between them, but it took him hours to fall asleep, the ghost of it's vibrations keeping him awake.

 

He knew having a phone would be difficult. Charging it unseen, ignoring his friends pleas to use it all the time, keeping it hidden. He'd expected it and was ready to deal with that. What he however didn't expect was the sudden home-sickness.

Koganegawa
Aone gave me your number, this is so awesome! I'm sorry I couldn't visit you much the last few months, but I was very busy. Sakunami and I are moving in together now and I had lots of assignments too. We found a really nice apartment, it's very close to the gym and Aone-senpai and Nametsu-senpai both live nearby too.


The message kept replaying in his head. No big deal, no big deal, it was just two of his friends moving in together. Sakunami and Koganegawa generally worked out fine too. He was probably not even missing out on that much drama. Nothing to get all of the empty feelings in his stomach for.

He barely registered his tray hitting the table as he slid in next to Akaashi on the bench.

Except that they're not his friends. They're the closest thing he has left to family. And especially Sakunami and Koganegawa? He practically raised them. Well, with some help, but still they were basically his responsibility, he had seen them grow into the people they are now. Had witnessed all of their awkward attempts at friendship or any other type of relationship, that somehow always ended up seeming to work out. And now they were moving in together and finishing college. And he wasn't there to see it.

But this was okay. Because when he got out in fourteen years, maybe Sakunami and Koganegawa would invite him to a nice cup of tea, where he could meet the seven cats, five dogs and four kids they would adopt over the years, who all wouldn't recognize him. Because he hadn't been there.

He was spiralling and he knew it, so he choose a stain on the table and willed himself to stare at it, until all he could think about was it's wonky shape. Akaashi sent him a thoughtful look, but didn't comment on his obviously foul mood.

By the time the next day came around, his thoughts had slightly brightened, thanks to the sheer power of suppression.
He didn't realize his level of denial would be strong enough to make him forget, what kind of thoughts he was trying to avoid in the first place. When he thought to consider calling Mai might trigger the home-sickness again, it was already too late.

“Nametsu Mai here. Kenji is that you?”

“Yes.”

“I see, our psychic connection wasn't severed yet, because I was just hoping you'd call today”, she said, voice giddy and full of excitement.

Kenji smiled. It was nice hearing her voice again. “You got something to tell me?”

“I'm getting married!” The squeal that accompanied the declaration, was not the source of dizziness that had him grasping for the wall. His mouth, luckily, was always ready to supply an appropriate response.

“Wow, congratulations! So when did he ask you?”

He could hear the grin in her words. “Yesterday, after we were at the theater, watching a play. We were walking home, because we kind of forgot our money and he carried me the second half of the way. We were almost home, when he asked me.”

Kenji never wanted to hug a person so badly in his life. Instead he leaned against the wall and asked more questions. Sincere cheer mixing with that empty feeling again. Mai was happy to answer.

Later he tried to drown his feelings in the shower, scrubbing hard at his arms to feel like a real person again, but it only left his skin red. He wanted to be alone, didn't want his friends to see him like this, barely put together and vulnerable, but when he arrived at his cell, Ennoshita's absence left him feeling even more empty.

Kenji picked up his book, hyperfocusing on the printed words, but comprehending none of it. When Yahaba stepped into the cell to sit down next to him, he felt both, annoyed and relieved.

“Hey, mind me joining you?”, Yahaba said.

“No.”

So Yahaba pulled out his book too and started reading. They sat like that for a while, until Kenji felt his vision starting to blur. The rustling of fabric next to him told him, that Yahaba was watching him.

“Kenji, are you crying?”

“No.”

But the tears were already running down his face, leaving greyish spots on the book pages. Yahaba seemed taken aback for a second, before gently taking Kenji in his arms. It was not supposed to go like this, no one was allowed to ever see him cry. Maybe tears of joy, somewhere in a world where there were no bars or pretend miniature society and you didn't need to be careful all the time to not get shanked. But no one was supposed to see him cry in here, least of all Yahaba.

Somehow his hands didn't seem to listen, because they were starting to slowly cling to Yahaba's shirt. He did his best to at least muffle his sobs, no need to get anyone else's attention. Yahaba began stroking his back. He was a surprisingly solid weight around him, grounding and comforting.

“You wanna talk about it?”

Kenji didn't answer.

“You don't have to, though.”

He sniffed. Hesitation kept him from talking, but something pushed him to open his mouth regardless. “They're my-”, he began, “They're my family. And I want them to be happy and live their lifes. But I want to be there to see it. I want to be part of it.”

Kenji didn't know, wether to interpret the following silence as surprise or thoughtfulness or something else entirely. “Yeah, I get that”, Yahaba finally said.

“They are the only thing that really mattered to me. But now I'm not even a presence in their lifes anymore.” His voice seemed to be more steady again now. That didn't really help the feeling in his gut, though.

“I get that”, Yahaba repeated, “it's like you want them to stop going on with their lives and wait for you.” He paused. “But you know life is not going to already be over, when you get out, right?”

He pulled back to look Yahaba in the eyes. “What? In fourteen years? They're all pretty dumb. Half of them aren't even going to live that long.”

Deflecting with jokes didn't seem to work on Yahaba today, because he hugged him tight again.
Kenji let him, just for a minute.
After Yahaba left all he could do to keep himself together was go through his stuff and check all his pockets, but everything was still there, as it always was.

 

“See this guard is a bad idea. If he tells you to do something, you do it, no questions asked. He got some guys thrown into solitary for years just for arguing with him”, Terushima adviced. He sat on the bench, one leg dangling from each side, whole body turned to Shirabu.

Akaashi nodded, when he saw Shirabu's face. “It's true. I've seen it happen.”

They sat outside in the pale morning sun, lecturing Shirabu on the wisdom of survival in prison. Kenji had gone with them to get to know the potential new part of their group, though he still felt raw from yesterday evening. He kept silent most of the time, watching his friends interact with the new kid.

Someone else caught Terushima's attention. “Oh and you see the fat guard, there at the entrance. Don't try him either. Not as bad as the other one, but still very likely to get you into solitary confinement if he finds you starting any kind of shit.”

“You really don't want to go to solitary”, Akaashi added.

Shirabu sent them a look. “Solitary is rough?”, he asked, voice something between curious and nervous. Kenji could distinctly hear his stomach growling, even though breakfast had been only half an hour ago. No wonder, since Kenji remembered him, merely pushing his food around on his tray.

Both Terushima and Akaashi turned to look at Kenji. Shirabu almost insignificantly leaned forward, anticipating. Kenji lifted his hands, as if oblivious to why they were shifting their gazes onto him. “Well, yes.”

“You've been there”, Shirabu observed.

“For two months. Makes you go crazy, hear voices”, he swallowed, before shooting them a small smile, “Wouldn't want to go back there, took some time for me to function again.”

His short answer seemed to satisfy Shirabu, because he leaned back again. “Any inmates I should keep an eye on?”, he'd really gotten into this consultation, eager to learn and be the perfect inmate.

Terushima considered. “Yes, of course.” He got started in explaining all he had learned in his first four months of prison. Terushima was still fairly new himself. Akaashi filled in, where Terushima couldn't answer, Kenji made a comment from time to time. As the sun steadily rose above them, the yard started to fill. He got up, when it was time to go to work, leaving the three of them behind.

 

Somehow Yahaba let him get away with acting like nothing ever happened yesterday evening. He sat on the floor of the library, pulling out books at random, while watching Ennoshita and Kenji sort through their pile of returned books. The library was well stocked, but half of the books were useless, since its inventory was made off of donations.
Kenji liked working at the library. He used to work at the kitchen, which had allowed him to open a small smuggling route, since Pantaloons worked for the firm, that was responsible for the prison's food deliveries. He got in whatever Kenji requested, getting paid in half of the profit. They never smuggled drugs, had tried their luck with cigarette's for some time, until the guards suspicion almost got them more years added to their sentence. But even smaller illegal items could provide quite a bit of influence over other inmates. It kept them safe and gave them authority.

Around the time Ennoshita's sentence began, he got an oportunity to switch jobs, Akaashi had stayed in the kitchen, to keep their route open. Terushima had asked him once, why he never tried working in manufacturing, since he was really good with technology and could probably successfully fix a lot of stuff. To which Kenji replied, that he wasn't here to be useful to the system.

Yahaba had kept quiet for most of his shift. Kenji was halfway done, when he finally spoke up. “It's not like you're completely wasting your life in here.” He sounded like he'd been sitting on that statement for a long time and it took Kenji a second to realize, that this might be a continuation to their conversation yesterday.

“Oh? I'm not?”, he replied.

“No. You've got a new family right? You get to be part of our lifes now.” He didn't know why Yahaba was so keen on having this conversation right here in public, but when he looked around, the library was mostly empty, Ennoshita having disappeared a few rows over.

“Listen, Yahaba. The group is very important to me too, but we're all wasting away in here. None of us are actually living.”

“But”, Yahaba said, insistent, “What we have here is not a waste. This” He gestured between them. “is worth something.”

Kenji shot him an incredulous look. Oh, this had taken a direction, he hadn't anticipated at all. He put down the books in hand, before kneeling in front of Yahaba.
“Don't take this the wrong way, Yahaba. You're a great friend. But as soon as anyone of us gets out, this isn't going to seem real to any of us anymore.”

Yahaba's eyes narrowed, Kenji could already feel the disagreement seeping out of them. “What do you mean?”

“I mean, that...” He exhaled audibly. “Listen. You're a great guy. If you were my boyfriend outside of prison, I'd probably brag about you to everyone constantly. But you're not. Even if we got out at the same time, we wouldn't just start dating for real. Hell, we have no way of knowing, if we'd actually work out in real society. We'd go our seperate ways as soon as other people started to keep our attention. We'd find someone, we'd actually work out with in real society and then think about that time we fucked in the shower once a year at night, when the loneliness hits.”

He hadn't thought this to be a big deal to Yahaba, but his stiffened posture, immediately proved him wrong.

“Dating for real?”, his glare betrayed the calm of his voice, “The hell do you think, we've been doing?”

“I just told you”, Kenji said, unable to back down, “We're prison dating. It's not real and it's going to stop mattering the moment your sentence ends.”

Yahaba backed away a couple of inches, burying his face in his hands. “And you just decided that?”

“No need to decide anything. I can struggle against it all I want, it's still going to happen.”

“What the fuck”, Yahaba still wasn't looking at him, “This is the biggest bullshit I've ever heard.”

Kenji's eyebrow's furrowed. “Hey now, you don't get to judge me for this. You'll get out of prison and the chance to move on way earlier. What am I supposed to do?” Fall deeply in love with you and then spent the next eight years in prison, trying to get over you?

“So this is about me getting out earlier?”

“I already said it isn't!”

“Then why”, Yahaba hissed, “didn't you just fucking tell me you where emotionally unavailable, before I went and fell in love with you.”

Kenji didn't know how to react. He just stared at Yahaba, not knowing how to break eye contact either. “What.” He said or at least he meant to, but his lips didn't move. When he finally got his mouth to open his throat was too dry to speak. He didn't know what to say anyway.

Yahaba didn't wait long for an answer before getting up and exiting the library.
Kenji wasn't sure what just happened.

 

“So you and Yahaba are divorced now?”

“I don't fucking know, Terushima, stop asking.”

“But this is just a boyfriend divorce, not a friend divorce, right? Because I'm not going to pick a side here.”

“No one is divorcing anyone, yet.” Kenji really couldn't find it in him to down the prison food today. It was Pork Day, which was prison speak for all the things, that are definitely not pork. But he choked it down anyway. No need to get Terushima even more alarmed than he already was. Besides Yahaba had already left the table, so as long as he stayed in the canteen, the chances of running into him were slim to none. “Can we talk about something else now? … Like who gave Shirabu that haircut, I've been wanting to know that, ever since he got here.” He leaned forward and send Shirabu a fake smile, who also seemed to have trouble getting his food down his throat.

Shirabu shot him a cold look despite his predicament. “Why? You wouldn't be able to pull it off anyway.”

Terushima ignored them both. “This conversation isn't finished. We are talking about this.”

“Why? Why do you feel the need to talk about this.”

“Because, Futakuchi, three days ago you were looking at Yahaba, like you would jump into a lake of burning lava, if he asked. And now, you haven't talked in three days.” Terushima swung his chopsticks around for emphasis.

“I don't look at him like that.”

“You do. That's why I don't get why you're avoiding him now.”

Kenji took a long sip of water, in hopes of Terushima just letting it go, but his expectant stare didn't waver. He caved. “Who said I'm avoiding him, maybe he's avoiding me.”

“Well, aren't you?”

Truth was they were both avoiding each other, Kenji not wanting to deal with Yahaba's words and Yahaba likely not wanting do deal with his. Or maybe Yahaba's avoidance was actually part of dealing with Kenji's words, he wasn't quite sure yet.

“And those three days feel so damn long. Please, just work out your shit, you're tearing this family apart!” Terushima threw his arms around Shirabu, likely trying to appeal to Kenji's better nature. Luckily Kenji wasn't burdened by such things.

Neither was Shirabu apparently, who had given up on gagging on his food. “Get off me! I don't care, if those two break up.”

“Ah look”, Kenji said, “I knew, there was a reason, we kept you around. It's two against one, Terushima. We stop talking about this now.”

Terushima's protest was instant. “Since when is this a democracy?”

“It's not, thank you for reminding me. And since I've been here longer than you have, as your leader, I say we stop talking about this now.”

Terushima did not agree with that at all, but that did however help, launch another topic.

The peace of mind lasted exactly two hours, until Terushima visited him at the library, Yamamoto in tow. Yamamoto immediately dipped into Erotica Lane, studying the covers with great eagerness.
“Ah yes. Be free, my child”, Terushima said, looking after him.

“What can I get you?”, Kenji said, trying to keep the dread out of his face.

“An explanation”, Terushima opened his speech, “on why you won't make up with Yahaba. You know, that Yahaba is secretly a big romantic, right? He won't turn his back on you, if you show him, you care. Probably wants you to run after him and talk this out.”

Terushima wasn't even wrong in assuming that of Yahaba, he probably would cave after some apologies. Still, he wasn't helpful. “Don't you have to work?”

Terushima sighed. “I had too! I was down there in manufacturing, asking myself if I pushed you too hard today. And maybe should just let you work out your problem on your own. But then! A water pipe broke, or maybe that dumb inmate with the fucked up buzzcut stabbed it with a screwdriver, I don't know, and we all were send back early. And I knew it was the god's way of telling me, that 'No Yuuji. Do not under any circumstances let Futakuchi deal with his problems on his own. Because he is full of denial and bad decisions and the inability to express his feelings and he really needs you in these trying times.' So I'm here to support you and to ask you: What are you in denial about today?”
He finished his speech with a smirk, though his eyes showed sincere worry.

Kenji dodged his caring look by turning to the side, but Terushima waited patiently for him to reply. “This is not something to just talk out. This is a difference of opinion. I'm not going to change my mind and Yahaba simply doesn't like that. He either comes to terms with it or I have to come to terms with this thing between us ending.”

Terushima's brows furrowed, confused. “So you're not even going to try fixing this.” When Kenji didn't answer, Terushima continued. “Sometimes it's good to talk about it anyway. I mean, you can tell me. Or Chikara, or Akaashi.”

Kenji pretended to consider for a moment. “Thank you. I'll think about it.”

But later when Terushima was gone, he actually started to consider it. There was no harm in letting his friends in on the conflict, right? Except that it would completely go against every bone in his body, screaming at him to stay unknowable. Somehow there still was a part of him, that wanted his friends to understand him or even tell him he wasn't wrong for staying realistic.
So he caved that evening gently grabbing Terushima by his shirt collar and urging him to stand up from his bed. Yamamoto watched them with mild interest from the other side of the cell.

“You're coming with me”, he said, ignoring the fact that Terushima was beaming at him, putting everything together, fast as always.
Terushima followed him to his cell, where they met Ennoshita reading on the bed. He flopped down next to his friend, who shot him a curious look. “We're talking now.”

“We are?”, Ennoshita asked, “About what?”

“About Yahaba. And why he is wrong.”

“So you picked us to talk about it with?”, Terushima's eyes actually sparkled.

“Yeah, I mean, I already know Akaashi would agree with me, so I left him out today.” More that Kenji was nervous enough to talk to two people about his feelings at once. A third person would very certainly make him balk at this whole ordeal. A one-on-one conversation on the other hand also seemed scary, because intimacy. So Ennoshita and Terushima it was.

“I don't really know how to start this”, so much of this was linked to his own pessimistic view on prison life, that he didn't know how to explain without showing to much of his other problems, “But uhm I basically told him, that all we do in prison doesn't have any impact on anything in life. And he said, well at least our relationship is worth something.” Kenji shrugged, already knowing he'd sound like an asshole, but unable to phrase this differently. “So I told him, I disagreed.”

Terushima visibly needed a second to process. “What the actual fuck, Kenji.”

“Come on, Terushima. You don't think, we're all still going to work out, once we're out of here. Most of us are going to go seperate ways, no matter what intentions.” When he saw the hurt flash over his friends eyes, he quickly tried to explain. “Friends are something different. Friends don't require the same kind of maintenance. I could ring you up in ten years and everything could be the same, but romantic relationships don't work that way.”

“So what? You don't want to be with Yahaba any longer?”

“No! I was content with everything staying as it was. I thought we were friends with benefits, nothing too serious, but still exclusive. Yahaba is the one with the problem.” Because he fell in love with me. “The only problem here is, that Yahaba sees us as something else.”

Terushima was silent for a second. “I don't get you. Why not be serious about this then. Don't you like him?”

“Actually, I kind of get you.” Ennoshita had straightened, rubbing his knee, thoughtfully.

Kenji exhaled. “You do?”

“Yeah. You don't feel like getting invested in a relationship, you don't believe in. Not because you don't believe in yourself and Yahaba, but because you think the circumstances will kill any chance of it working out in the long run.” He paused briefly. “Yahaba openly embraces the heartbreak, because he's either already in too deep or because he doesn't care about the future yet, while you can't banish it from your mind.”He tilted his head. “Huh. I'd always thought you to be more relaxed and laid back about the future. But maybe it's more cynicism preventing you from seeing this as serious than worrying. Either way, I get you.”

Kenji blinked, surprised. “Thank you, Chikara.”

Ennoshita hesitated, before continuing. “That is, however, and you probably already know this, a worryingly cynical worldview from someone who's still facing a lot of years. Which makes me ask you: Are you alright? What even triggered that kind of conversation between Yahaba and you? You can talk about that stuff too, if only to wail in self pity for a bit.” Ennoshita's dark eyes were full of empathy and it made Kenji's hard clench.

“Thank you, Chikara”, he repeated, “I know.”

 

Today was Chicken Day, which meant the canteen served something that vaguely looked like pale meat and rice. Chicken Day was the best day of the week, because it meant that Pork Day was over. It was also the four day anniversary of Yahaba not speaking to him. Kenji had thought their argument would sting less over time, but not talking to Yahaba was scraping at his psyche more and more by the minute. Having him sit at the table still, made him more nervous, than he was able to hide. He risked a look at his friend over the table and to his surprise locked eyes instantly.
Yahaba looked bad for some reason. It wasn't anything visual, his hair looked perfect and there were no bags under his eyes. The thought seemed irrational, the moment it shot through his head. Yahaba didn't look bad. Sometimes he looked stressed or maybe a little tired. Kenji had even seen him close to hysterical during his first week. And well, he got a feeling he'd never really seen him, or any of his friends in prison, at their absolute best, due to circumstances, namely general prison depression. But he had never before gotten that overwhelming feeling of oh no, Yahaba is looking really bad.
There was nothing in his facial expression to give him away either. Apparently Yahaba had decided to be a very hard read today. His gaze was neutral, a polite upturn to the corners of his mouth. His eyes were calm, no emotion whatsoever.
No twitching eye either. So that hadn't been a tell a few days ago, but deliberate.

Kenji had to break eye contact. He fixated on the next best face he could find and landed on Shirabu, staring intently at his tray as if looking for a reason to not touch it.

“You should try it”, Ennoshita said, also looking at Shirabu, “it's much better than the pork.”

The mistrust in Shirabu's face didn't yield, as he went to take a bite. Ennoshita watched him with interest. He was strangely enthusiastic about Chicken Day sometimes. Shirabu's face smoothed out into mild approvement. He swallowed, then looked up and asked. “The visits start at ten, right?”

This was why Chicken Day was also the best of the week. It usually came on a friday, which meant it doubled as visiting day too.

“They do”, Kenji said.

“You seem nervous.” Yahaba took him completely off guard. Until he realized, that Yahaba was also talking to Shirabu.

Shirabu cleared his throat. “I'm not.”

Now that Yahaba had mentioned it, Kenji could see it too. The way Shirabu kept blowing his bangs out of his face, and how he clenched his fist around his cup. Kenji wondered, if Shirabu was afraid of no one showing up today or if he just dreaded his friends and family seeing him as a prisoner. Kenji definitely had been. Maybe he was just excited and didn't know how to express positive emotions. Kenji didn't know Shirabu well enough to decide yet, but he also couldn't bring himself to care about that right now. He kind of wanted to look at Yahaba again.

“Anyone visiting you today?”, Ennoshita asked, looking at Kenji. He always took great interest in everyone's visits too. Kenji suspected, because he rarely got any visits himself, since his closest outside friends were, as he had told Kenji in confidence, criminals too.

“Mai will come. Aone, probably”, Kenji replied. Mai had texted him earlier about it and Aone wasn't much of a guess. He'd come almost every weekend in the last two years.
He couldn't really concentrate on Ennoshita right now, as he was steeling himself to look at Yahaba again.

“Two of my friends will come”, Shirabu said a little quietly, as if completely unsure.

“You should tell your friends to bring money. There's a snack box in the visiting room, selling stuff you can't get in commissary”, Kenji told Shirabu, to distract himself from the presence looming in his peripheral vision.

“They'd probably forget, even if I told them. They're really stupid.”

Kenji laughed and went back to his food, but the desire to look didn't stop bugging him. When he finally made up his mind to lift his head, Yahaba was already staring back at him with that same unreadable expression.

 

Yamamoto was already in the visiting room, when Kenji entered, sitting at the table with a petite girl. Her brown, puffy hair bounced as she avidly talked her way through some story. Kenji didn't spare them too much attention, for he spotted Mai and Aone.

Mai hugged him as soon as he stepped into her reach. Pressing him tightly to her chest, she whispered in his ears. “Aone let me have the touching time, today.”

They let go after a few seconds, as was the rule, and sat down across from each other.
“Show me the ring”, Kenji said, wasting no time.
Mai grinned and held out her hand, ignoring the wary looks a guard was sending them. “Pretty”, he commented, impressed. The ring was, indeed, very pretty: a thin, golden band curving around a small diamond.

“I know”, she said still grinning widely, “And get this: Aone got us a venue.”

“How so?” He looked at his tall friend.

Aone slightly shrugged, which roughly translated to No big deal, I just asked in Mai's name.

Mai bumped his shoulder. “Don't be modest. It's in July, so there really shouldn't have been anything free. But the owner, is his landlady too and she cleared a spot for him. She likes him.”

“Oh my, Aone”, Kenji grinned too now, “Did you shamelessly use your charm to rob some poor couple of their venue?”

He knew to interpret Aone's blank stare as a smile, plus maybe a flippant what can you do, and laughed.

“So July, huh. That's pretty soon”, he said to Mai.

“Yes it is, but we got lucky with the venue and I'm not going to waste this opportunity. Besides I got lots of help planning. Everyone seems very excited”, Mai bit her lip, “I've actually wanted to talk to you about this.”

She smiled at him. Kenji waited for her to continue, not knowing at all what she was getting at.

“I've been thinking a lot about this and you're my best friend. I know your possibilities here are limited, but you've got a phone now and- ah I'm rambling.” She blushed, before looking him in the eyes. “I want you to be my maid of honor.”

Kenji's heart skipped a beat. “Are you serious.”

She smiled shyly. “I am.”

“I can't believe this, Mai! Yes! A thousand times yes!” His mouth split into a wide smile.

Mai put her hands on the table. “I wish, I could hug you, you crazy fool!”

“Just do it, you absolute madman!”

The loud voice of a guard cut in. “Keep it down!”

Some had turned to look at them, but Kenji didn't care. Mai was getting married and she made him her maid of honor. “We can high five.” He said, after a couple of seconds of breathless smiling, “Very quickly. With feeling.”

So they did. When they had settled back against their chairs backrests, Aone started talking.

“I'll help”, he said.

“Yes”, Mai agreed, “he agreed to do all the work you can't do, especially organizational stuff. He's a bridesmaid too. But I still expect a speech from you and you know … your sage advice.”

That was probably smart. “Thanks, man”, he smiled at Aone.

Mai began rambling about the wedding, telling him how she planned on shopping for dresses on monday and that she expected him to check his phone for pictures. Kenji felt relief settle into every part of his body. They wouldn't abandon him in prison. They weren't like his parents. Mai and Aone would make an effort. It was nice seeing actual proof for that, instead of just telling it to himself every night.
When their time was almost over, Shirabu walked in sitting down at a table, where a tall redhead and a pretty, smaller man, with dip-dyed hair were already sitting.

“Who's this?”, Mai asked, following his eyes.

“New kid. Shirabu. We kind of adopted him.”

“Skinny”, she commented.

“Bad haircut.”

Mai's eyes narrowed, assessing. “It's not so bad.”

He hummed in disagreement. Shirabu didn't seem to notice their staring, focusing only on his visitors. Kenji noticed his relaxed shoulders and the way his voice seemed a little more brash than usual, as if maybe emotional. His visitors laughed at something, he said and the corners of his mouth twitched, almost smiling. He's relieved they came.

Kenji looked at the clock. “Shit, time's almost up again. Aone, quick. Tell us the story of how you seduced your landlady!”

But Aone just slightly tilted his head, which meant A gentleman never tells.

 

When Kenji lay in bed that night, reflecting on the day, he felt peaceful. Almost. Of course his subconscious had to ruin things.

The dream had just started, but his ears were already ringing from the noise. Music played, deep and tasting like danger. The people around him didn't seem to be bothered by the dark atmosphere, the music should be creating, because they were dancing happily around him. Even watching the movement, exhausted him, so he sat down at the next table.

Ennoshita on the chair next to him immediately turned around to smile at him.
“Want to play a round?” He wore a black tux, looking absolutely dashing.

“Sure”, Kenji said, because in this dream he didn't hate card games.

Terushima materialized at their table to shuffle the cards, giving him seven. As soon as he fanned them out in his hand another voice appeared at his ear.

“Oh no, that doesn't look too good.” It was Yahaba's voice, but Kenji couldn't find his body. There was only a crowd of dancers behind him and some faceless players next to him.

“Why?”, he asked, “What's wrong with my cards?” They didn't seem bad in any way to him. But then again, they were blank. Maybe that meant they were worthless.

“They're not worthless.” Yahaba's voice said again, reading his thoughts. He could obviously read the cards too, even though Kenji couldn't. “Should I tell you, what they mean.”

“Yes”, Kenji breathed.

“This one”, Kenji knew Yahaba meant the one second to the left, despite Yahaba not having a finger to point at it. “This one means you love me. You'll loose, if you play that card.”

Kenji frowned. “I don't believe you. Why should I trust you?”

Yahaba laughed into his ear. “Why, he asks as if he's got a choice! Why you should trust me? You already do.”

“I don't”, he said and laid his cards onto the table. “Full house.”

Koganegawa next to him whined. “Futakuchi-senpai! That's not how the game goes!”

Kamasaki to his other side howled with laughter. “Still got a long way to go, Futakuchi!”, he said, as if it was high school again and Kenji had just missed his serve. Just as he made the decision to stand up and punch his old senpai in the face, his dream faded into greyness and he woke up.

 

Before he knew what he was doing, he was already standing in Yahaba's cell. Yahaba was in the bathroom, he figured, and so was his cellmate. He sat down cross-legged on the lazily made bed, crumpling the blanket, but he knew Yahaba wasn't one to care much for tidiness anyway. Here was what Yahaba did care about:
1. His hair.
2. Not betraying his friends by letting his kleptomania get the better of him.
3. Jennifer Lopez
4. What everyone thought of him, at any given time.
5. Kenji, apparently.

And maybe Kenji didn't want to just throw that away. He was not going to apologize. Although what he was planning on saying, he didn't know yet. He couldn't just turn off logic and say fuck it prison relationships do matter in the long run, it wasn't his fault Yahaba thought differently. His fault Yahaba fell in love with him. Apparently. He could however sit on Yahaba's bed and express his heartfelt condolences to him. For falling in love with Kenji.
This was probably a bad idea.

It had only been five days since he had last talked to Yahaba, but his heart ached at the sight of his room. Cell. He brushed his hand over his bed, lingering on the pillow, he could still feel some leftover warmth from the night. His chest suddenly felt very thight.

Yahaba had no business being this stealthy and able to simply sneak up on him, with his expressive personality and loud talking voice, but maybe he did have business being sneaky, being a convicted thief and all. There he was staring at him for who knows how long from the cell's entrance. He seemed startled at least, to see Kenji on his bed.

Yahaba raised a brow. He hesitated, likely debating wether to just wait Kenji out, before speaking anyway. “What are you doing here?”

Kenji pulled his knees closer to his body and sent him, what he hoped was a friendly look. “I just wanted to see you. That a crime?”

Yahaba made an irritated face. Kenji was so thankful for it, he had to bite his lip to supress the smile creeping onto them. Much better than the neutral stare from yesterday. He watched Yahaba cross the room to put his cosmetics into his drawer, pointedly not looking back at him. Kenji could smell the perfume in his shower gel, as he passed. After he was done, he rightened himself and turned to look at Kenji again.

He knew, that if he just kept waiting Yahaba out, Yahaba would start talking all by himself and he'd just have to react. No need to construct any elaborate attempts at regaining Yahaba's goodwill. The thought, surprisingly, felt bad to him. He felt, like he needed to put in some effort himself.

“Yahaba ...”, he started, spur of the moment. Dumb. He still didn't know what to say, so he just trailed off. Yahaba didn't do him the favour of cutting in. “Can you sit down? Please.”

Yahaba furrowed his brow, considering, then walked over and slowly lowered himself onto his own bed. It was the closest they sat together in five days and although they sat a few feet apart, Kenji could feel their proximity on every inch of his skin. Yahaba's hand was resting on the blanket, the closest part of his body. Kenji wanted to wrap his own hands around it.

“Did you”, Yahaba's eyes trailed from his crossed legs to his face, “want anything?”

Yes, I don't want to think about your confession, but I can't stop replaying the scene over and over in my head. I want everything to be the same as before and I want us both to forget everything that went down in the library five days ago. I also want to tell you about Mai's wedding and I need your opinion on the wedding dresses, she's sending me soon. Can everything please go back to normal, also please get into my arms right now. He felt his hands pressing down on his knees and hoped Yahaba didn't see his knuckles go white.

Kenji opened his mouth, once again feeling his throat go dry. Maybe he needed to drink more water.
“Are we”, he croaked out, locking eyes with Yahaba, “still friends? I still see us as friends. But I want us”, it was probably a bad idea to finish that sentence, “to be on the same page this time.”

Yahaba's face turned sour, his eyes glaring, but he pulled his lips into a twisted grin nonetheless. “Oh don't worry. I won't mistake your feelings again. We're still friends.”

That was not how Kenji wanted to hear this, but he couldn't say he'd expected anything different. “Really? You still want to be friends?” He didn't know why he pushed, since it was obvious Yahaba was still mad at him.

“That's what I fucking said, didn't I? I'll just”, he made a dismissive wave with his hand, “get over you.”

After Kenji left, leaving Yahaba's visibly lingering anger behind and heading off to the showers, his hands felt colder than usual. He made a fist, trying to get his fingers to warm up.
It wasn't that he expected Yahaba to just brush off their argument. God no, he knew that relationship was fucked up, the moment Yahaba started talking about love. Maybe Yahaba would come around in a few months, then they could slowly rebuild their friendship. It wasn't like they lacked time together.
The shower water did nothing to help get his temperature up either. Since he had gotten here late, all of the warm water was already used up.

He missed Yahaba. He really did. Missed the touches and the teasing, missed telling him what went on in his head. Granted that went very wrong the last time he did it.

How did he manage to screw up their friendship so fast? Probably because it didn't really go down fast. He probably shouldn't have slept with him the last four months, but he couldn't bring himself to regret that.
So he already screwed up the closest friendship he'd made since he got here. He figured it was about time to make his first mistake. Two years in prison already, there was bound to be some drama at some point.

Except it wasn't really his first screw-up, as he vividly remembered. There had been that incident nine months ago, when his cigarette smuggling had started drawing too much of the guards attention and Akaashi and Kenji had to close of the main route, barely avoiding getting time added to their sentence. Kenji had had to spend two months in solitary, luckily actually, because they had had nothing to concretely pin on him.
Or that time he'd offended the old laundry crew and they beat him up in the shower, until blood was all he could taste the next three days. If Akaashi hadn't stopped them, he might have been dead now and wouldn't have to deal with this.

Was he spiralling? He felt like he was spiralling and breathing got harder too now. But this wasn't a panic attack. Kenji had had one of those, the week he first got here, and then another one, when he went into solitary for the cigarette smuggling bust.

God, prison really sucked. He should start suppressing those memories again, except it was to late for the moment. They were already sucking the last bit of body heat from him. Prison really sucked, he wasn't made for prison. He didn't even like card games and there wasn't that much else to do.

And then he went and got rid of one of the only people, who had made it slightly more bearable.

There was nothing to that realization, no action to take, now that he knew to what degree he actually needed Yahaba.
Because Yahaba didn't want to be his comfort fuck-buddy. Yahaba loved him.

 

--

(seven months earlier)

After he'd gotten out of solitary, he had been thrown into a room with the newbies and some of the sick, before he would get assigned a new cell. He couldn't stand their presence in the same room as him, their voices giving him headaches, yet craved the company more than anything else. It had been a rough two months for him. He wasn't quite sure, he was actually out of solitary. He was probably hallucinating. Or maybe dreaming, he had a lot of dreams like that at the moment.

Akaashi had come to visit him already, a few hours after he got out, just as the news had caught up to him. He had talked to him, in a low voice, but then Kenji had fallen asleep and now he was gone. Only the sick and new left to keep him company and fill up his head with their voices.

He felt a little clearer now, it was his second day out and he'd gotten some sleep. It was warmer in this room, than it had been in his solitary cell. Maybe this was real after all. He wasn't sure, he was able to imagine warmth like this anymore.

Sitting cross-legged on his bed, the top bunk, watching his roommates through half closed eyes, he tried differentiating between newbies their first time and newbies their second time in prison. He made a game out of it. When he was completely sure of everyone's alignment, he'd allow himself to go back to sleep.

There were three of them in total and he could easily tell, that this wasn't the first rodeo for two of them. The third one however had that look in his eyes, that look of this is going to be horrible, isn't it, opposed to the other one's depression and dreadful realization of I'm never going to get out of this cycle.

He seemed a little slow, to warm up to the other ones too, though always polite. When they adressed him in his question's, his answers were self-centered and lacked ease. He was carefull not to step on anyone's toes, but he was not going to avoid it like that. Kenji looked at his polite smile. He thinks he's better than them, Kenji realized. That was why they were not clicking.

New Guy #3 sat down on his bed, a little on edge. Kenji studied him further, finally finding amusement in an activity, that wasn't talking to the dirty, white walls in his solitary cell. He had to be around Kenji's age, probably in his mid-twenties too. His fair hair, that had looked fluffy and carefully styled yesterday, seemed askew now, after his first morning shower without shampoo. His eyes were big and innocent. There was some sort of emotion bubbling under his skin, but Kenji couldn't determine what emotion exactly.

Pretty, Kenji thought, then cute. Pretty cute. I wonder what he did.

Yahaba, the other newbies called him. He had probably introduced himself to all of them yesterday, but that had been, before Kenji found him interesting, so the name had vanished out of his head the moment it entered. Yahaba hadn't said anything in a while. He was subtly tugging at his orange shirt now, wearing an expression of discontent.

“Don't worry. A few more days and you'll get khakis like the rest of us. Then you can dazzle us all with your looks.” Kenji couldn't remember making the decision to speak. His voice surprisingly clean to his own ears.

Yahaba looked up at him, startled. “I thought your voice, was going to be deeper”, he blurted out.

Kenji raised a brow. Where did that bit of unexpected honesty come from?

“Did you now?”, he said and smiled, the pull in his cheeks feeling unfamiliar. It was his second day with him in this room, but Kenji hadn't said a word until now, he realized. Did he look like he'd have a deep voice? Maybe it was the eye bags. He hadn't taken a look in the mirror yet, but people always came out of solitary with eyebags.

Yahaba held his gaze for a moment, then looked to the ground, his hair stiffly falling onto his forehead.

Kenji stretched out his legs, to get some feeling back into them, then slid down onto the ground. He started sorting through what little of his stuff was with him in the room. Akaashi had held onto the rest of it, when Kenji went to solitary confinement and had offered to continue doing so, until he got a permanent, new cell assigned.

When he found what he was looking for, he turned around to face Yahaba. He had looked smaller than him, from the top bunk. And he was, but only barely. Yahaba was only an inch or so shorter than him almost reaching up to Kenji's level. Their eyes met again now.
The other inmates had stopped their talking and were now watching them, curiously. Kenji grabbed Yahaba's hand and softly forced an item into it. Yahaba brought his hand up to chest-height to inspect it.

“Is that shampoo?”, he asked.

“It is.” Kenji smiled again, but only slightly. His face wasn't ready for more yet. “Your money's not coming in for another week, right?”

Yahaba swallowed. “I have nothing to trade you for this.”

So he had already internalized prison policy. Good, a fast learner. “I know. But I don't want to see you walking around with that hair for the whole week. You can pay me back later.” He held out his hand. “Futakuchi. Welcome to prison.”

 

A few weeks later Yahaba told him, that he had already acquired shampoo at that point by stealing from their fifth roommate, one of the sick people. By that point, Kenji knew him for a long enough time, to not be surprised at the reveal.
That was, when he started checking his pockets, everytime Yahaba left, after visiting him.

 

--

Akaashi was not in his cell, when Kenji came to visit, but Shirabu was, reading what appeared to be a western medical magazine. Kenji settled on the foot end of his bed and bent his neck to get a better look at the cover.

“Ah, yes. Nothing like the wonders of Lethal Heart Diseases to give your mood a lift, huh?”

Shirabu sent him a dark look, before refocusing on whatever article he was reading. “I'm studying. Gotta stay up-to-date, if I want to keep practicing medicine, when I get out.”

Kenji watched him read for a few seconds, then rose to dump two packages right in Shirabu's line of sight. Shirabu flinched a little, surprised. Then he picked the packages off his chest to inspect them. “Ramen? Why?”, he asked, bewildered.

“So you know about human health? Good. That means, you should also be aware that humans need to eat properly to stay healthy.” Kenji narrowed his eyes, his lips sporting a grin. “Stop being picky about your food and start actually eating. I know it's disgusting, but you'll have to get used to it sooner or later. Start now, before someone accidentally crushes your skinny ass.”

Shirabu looked at the ramen packages. Then he met his eyes again, something straining his voice now. “What do you care? Do you even like me?”

Kenji tilted his head. “Not really, no. But you're part of the group now.”

“I can take care of myself”, he insisted.

“Maybe. But I don't want to find out, you're wrong, the hard way.”

Shirabu set the packages aside, then straightened himself. He seemed to ponder that for a moment, before speaking again. “So you decided to take care of me? Because Terushima dragged me into your group?” His gaze was searching. “Why?”, he repeated.

He doesn't trust this yet, Kenji realized. Shirabu needed to know his motive or else, he didn't know how to believe, he helped with good intentions. Kenji wasn't sure, how to explain that looking out for each other was the only thing that kept him sane in prison. That and antagonizing the laundry crew. But he didn't need to gain Shirabu's trust just yet. There was still time for that later.

“Maybe I'm trying to steal your custody. I used to be the one to drag people into this group. Can't have Terushima stealing my job.” Shirabu did not seem satisfied with that answer, but it was all he would get today. “Now eat up”, Kenji added.

Shirabu unfurrowed his brows and nodded reluctantly. Kenji knew, that was all the thanks he would get today too.

 

--

(four months earlier)

Working in the kitchen allowed for less free time than most jobs in prison, since he had to go to work three times a day, but it also meant having free time, when everyone else was working. Kenji had made sure to make good use of that advantage. It meant getting to experience all of the more peacefull and quiet times in the cellblock. And getting to watch other people do their work. He just had to make sure, none of the guards sent him away for distracting any of the workers. Which he undeniably was doing. He sat on the windowsill, his eyes lazily following Yahaba, as he cleaned the floor.

“Feet up.” Yahaba swung the mop around like he hadn't done anything else his first three months in prison. Which was, with not much motivation. Being on the cleaning staff was one of the least desireable jobs, for the simple reason of being one of the most boring ones. Well, that was what Kenji was here for. To keep things interesting.

He smiled at Yahaba, while slowly lifting his feet, for him to sweep underneath them. Yahaba rolled his eyes.

He was almost done, with the floor, so the two of them had gone on to discuss, what to do during leisure time.

“I think we have a good chance of getting the basketball. Usually only takes a little bit of bullying, to get whoever has it to back off. And I'm good at that”, Kenji pondered out loud.

“I'm not playing basketball again and have you two make fun of me”, Yahaba stated.

Kenji laughed. “We're not making fun of you! It's just adorable, how bad you are at the game.”

“I'm not bad at basketball.” Yahaba pulled his cart of cleaning supplies a few steps farther, setting down the mop a little harder than necessary. “You and Akaashi are just stupidly good.”

“I feel inclined to agree with you.”

Kenji followed him down the hall, to lean on the next windowsill. He was undoubtedly destroying some of Yahaba's cleaning progress with his dirty footsteps, but it wasn't like Yahaba was burning up with passion for his work anyway. He propped down on the next windowsill and watched Yahaba clean the last two corners.

“So you're not down for basketball?”, Kenji asked.

Yahaba sighed. “Not today.”

“Well then just let me look through my gigantic catalogue of Other Things to Do in Prison.

Yahaba's eyes narrowed. “No need to get sassy with me.” He finished sweeping the corners and put his mop into the cart. “Come with me to the supply closet?” The invitation was half-hearted at best, but Kenji followed nonetheless.

Some inmates passed them, done with their work too or just heading through. Yahaba had probably taken longer than his coworkers, because most of the other carts were already back in the big supply closet. Yahaba left his cart near the back wall, before starting to exchange cleaning agents, that were empty now, after his shift with the cart. Kenji watched him move, leaning against the closed door. One of Yahaba's movements drew his attention. He watched closely to see if his eyes hadn't betrayed him.
As Yahaba turned around, Kenji confirmed his suspicions. “I saw you take it this time.”

Yahaba startled. “You did?” Then he laughed. “I wasn't trying to be sneaky this time anyway. You're not even an audience. What, like you're going to tell the guards, I stole?”

“I'm not going to.” Kenji assured, because Yahaba seemed weirdly defensive. “And I only noticed, because I was paying close attention. What do you need a box of polish for anyway?”

His friend let his fingers glide into his pants and took out the bottle. He shrugged. “I like the smell. And it's not about what I need it for. It's about taking it.” Then he set the bottle down on the cupboard again.

Kenji smiled. Did he ruin the mood? “So were you any good out there?”, he asked, meaning the outside world. He knew that Yahaba was convicted for theft, but no details so far.

Yahaba scratched his chin. “I was no pickpocket. It was more about the act leading up to it, than the actual theft.” He smiled, obviously delighted at the memory.

“You are a con artist then?”

The corners of Yahaba's mouth twitched, returning Kenji's smile now. “Yes.”

“Hard to believe you fooled people. You wear your emotions on your face.”

“I do with you”, Yahaba explained. “So you know what a real emotion looks like, spending all your time with Akaashi and ... well, yourself.” Yahaba's smile turned into a cocky smirk. “But I do have quite the pokerface too.”

“Show me”, Kenji said, stepping closer to Yahaba

Yahaba wasted no time getting to work. His face fell into a blank mask, noncommitally and polite. It was strange to see on Yahaba's normally so expressive face, but Kenji thought he might have seen a glimpse of it on Yahaba's first days in prison, when he was playing boring with the other newbies. The perfect poker face, no emotion at all. A blank canvas to paint whatever act he needed onto, ready to fool anyone unprepared.

“How come, you never pull that during card games”, he asked, impressed.

“You and Akaashi aren't worthy targets. I can beat you without it.”

Kenji's eyebrows furrowed. “I bet, I still know, what you're thinking.”

“You think?”, Yahaba asked, voice as blank as his face.

“Yes”, he leaned forward, to look Yahaba in the eyes from a smaller distance, tapping his finger against his chin. “You're thinking: How does Futakuchi pull of those khakis so well, while the rest of us can't seem to make it work at all.”

“Oh, really?” Yahaba said, the slightest quiver in his voice letting Kenji in on his amusement.

“Yes.”

“Well, there's one thing, you're certainly not good at, because you're wrong.” Yahaba broke his mask to shoot him a superior grin. Kenji leaned back again. “Do you”, Yahaba continued. It was him, who stepped closer now, “want to know, what I was really thinking?”

Kenji got pulled in by his eyes, big and brown and full of mischief. He nodded.

“I was thinking.” Yahaba cleared his throat. They were so close, Kenji could feel the heat radiating from Yahaba's body. “I was thinking”, he started again, “that we're very alone in a halfway spacious closet and no one is going to bother us for some time. We were thinking about what to do today? Well, I've got an idea ...”

His hand was on Kenji's chest now, fingertips toying with the collar of his shirt. Kenji could see the dare in his eye's but also the tension in his shoulders. Kenji was sure he was blushing by now, but Yahaba had no such problems. His eyes were firmly focused on Kenji's mouth.

Yahaba raised an eyebrow, Kenji felt it was time to speak up.

“Show me what you have in mind.”

So Yahaba gave his shirt collar a yank and closed the distance between them with his mouth. The press of his lips was soft and confident and when Kenji moved against him, they parted invitingly. Kenji could taste the anticipation on them. He brought his hands up to cup Yahaba's face, pulling him closer.
They stumbled a few steps backwards, until Kenji felt the wall supporting him from behind. He felt Yahaba's breath ghost over his thumb.

Their kisses grew more hungry soon, their body's starved for another person's warmth. Kenji drunk in the feeling of skin on skin, his hand slid upward to comb through Yahaba's hair. His other hand wandered down to Yahaba's back, resting on the inward curve of his spine. He used the new position to pull Yahaba closer, closer.
Yahaba let his hand slip underneath Kenji's shirt, gliding across his abdomen, then halting on his waist. Kenji shivered, leaning into the touch. He could feel Yahaba smile through the kiss, feel the hot air on his cheeks as Yahaba gasped for air, without breaking contact. He wanted to feel that warmth on the rest of his body too, pulling him once again tightly to himself, hand pressing into his back. There were too many layers between them.

Yahaba seemed to think so too. His hands had moved to the hem of Kenji's shirt pulling it up over his head. They broke apart, locking eyes for a split second, before their lips smashed together once again, hard enough to hurt. Kenji moved his lips downward almost immediately, sucking on Yahaba's neck and on the soft skin underneath his jaw. Yahaba let his head fall back, granting him better access. When Kenji arrived at the dip of his collarbone, Yahaba let out a low moan.

His hands had hooked into his waistband now and Kenji almost started to feel self-concious about Yahaba's lead in undressing him, when he realized that Yahaba was only pulling him to the opposite wall, where a low hanging cupboard created a very person-sized surface. He brushed a few boxes aside to empty the board on top.

Kenji couldn't suppress his laughter at the convenience of it all. “It's like they want us to fuck in here.”

Yahaba flopped down on the board, pulling him down with him. “Don't disappoint them then.”

 

--

The buzz of Kenji's phone startled him from his thoughts. He didn't have to try being sneaky, getting it out of his pants, since he was, yet again, standing in the guards blind spot. He'd perfected that technique by now. New message from Mai.

(image attached)
not so sure about the sash, but i like the sleeves

The picture showed her wearing a puffy wedding dress. He held up his phone for Ennoshita to see, who sorted out some books a row over. He made an appreciative face. Kenji looked at the picture a few minutes longer, before typing out a reply.

better than the last one. suits you. how's it look from behind?

He hid his phone in his clothes again, getting back to work. There usually wasn't that much to do in the library, hence the small amount of coworkers. It was empty too today, since the April sun had decided to come out with full power and most inmates were outside. That meant no one was going to bother him about his phone.

Ennoshita seemed to notice the rare privacy available to them too, because he decided to use that exact moment to be real with Kenji.

“Listen. I know, you can't just change your entire mindset. But it doesn't really matter all that much, what you think of prison relationships, if you've already fallen in love with Yahaba anyway.”

Kenji's eyes shot up to meet Ennoshita's intent gaze. “What?”

“I'm just saying, that if you're in love with Yahaba, there isn't really any source for conflict left.” Ennoshita cleared his throat. “Well, there probably still is, because it's you two, but at least no reason for this particular conflict to continue.”

Kenji could only stare. “Who said, I'm in love with Yahaba?”

Any answer from Ennoshita was cut off by the siren's sudden blaring above them. They both dove down onto the ground immediately, as was rule. There was nothing near them indicating any reason for alarm, likely a brawl outside, since most of the prison population had gathered outside today anyway.
Kenji turned his head to his side to face Ennoshita, pressing the left half of his face into the scratchy carpet.

Ennoshita propped his head up on his shin. “No one said, you're in love with him. It's a hypothetical.” He raised his voice, for Kenji to hear him better over the noise. “So you told him, your relationship was not comparable to any real ones. But I think, if you told him you loved him anyway, regardless of what that meant for any of your lives in the long run ...” His eyebrow twitched. “I think, he'd be satisfied with that too.”

Kenji took a moment to process.
What Ennoshita said, did make sense so far. He never really did tell Yahaba, wether he returned his feelings. Only problem was, that for his insight to matter, Kenji had to actually be in love with Yahaba. He wasn't really. Maybe he was. There was no way to tell.
He turned his head again, eyes closed, facing the ground. Considering.

Maybe he had begun to trust Yahaba just a little bit, despite everything he knew about him. Hell, if anything, Yahaba's hurt proofed, that Kenji actually meant something to him. Yahaba had been honest with him too, on every occasion he could recall.

The alarm had stopped blaring, but they stayed on the ground.

“I don't know”, Kenji said, “Maybe I am.”

Ennoshita was silent for a minute. Kenji could hear him exhale, before he started to speak again. “If you really are, you should throw it out there. See what a difference it makes.”
The rustling of clothes told him, Ennoshita had gotten up, to get back to work. Kenji opened his eyes to follow him, the work doing nothing to ban Yahaba from his head again.

 

This was Yahaba's story, told at six p.m., two months ago in the dim light of the setting sun. The sky was clear but the air still cold. Kenji had taken Yahaba's hands between his to warm them up, because he was being a baby about the cold.
It was mostly quiet outside, for most of the inmates stayed inside to avoid hypothermia still. Kenji could see Yahaba's breath form small condension clouds, shimmering orange in the low sunlight as he spoke. He'd heard part of the story before, deduced some bits of it himself, but it was nice of Yahaba to lay his past bare in front of him.

When stealing cuttlery at his old work place, a four-star restaurant named Aoba Johsai, had grown boring to him, he'd started to go out at night, dressed in pretty clothes and fake smiles. It usually didn't take long for anyone to chat him up. He gave a fake name, laughed along to all of their jokes, then accepted as they invited him home. That was were he let his hands run wild. Not on whoever wanted to sleep with him, but on their belongings. He took what he could get, then dipped. Sometimes he still fucked them before he left, depending on what he felt like that particular night.
He spent four of his nights like that, before he left his home town, to avoid getting a reputation. He was caught later and sentenced to six years in a medium security prison, but Kenji had figured that much.

Sometimes Yahaba still felt guilty about leaving his old work place. They had always accepted him back, whenever he returned, whatever he stole from their kitchen. Kenji knew Yahaba well enough, to know, that in this case sometimes meant all the time, but he kept quiet about that suspicion.

“Does that make me your victim then?”, he asked instead, looking at their entangled hands.

Yahaba laughed softly. “With me having to put up with you, I think, it's save to say, that I am the victim here.”

“Rude.” He'd said, but his mouth decided to smile back regardless.

 

It was harder to catch Yahaba during work, than it had been just a few months ago. Their shifts overlapped, now that Kenji didn't work in the kitchen anymore. Yahaba probably was almost done by now. He couldn't see him anywhere in the hallways, so he steered in direction of the supply closet.
Kenji stopped in front of the door. The dull clattering, he could hear, told him that someone was indeed inside. Maybe it was Yahaba. Might be someone else. He held his breath, while opening the door.
Yahaba was bent over his cart, as he entered. He looked up, eyes widening in surprise, when he spotted Kenji, then he rightened himself. Both looked at each other for a few moments, before Kenji found it in him, to speak up.

“I didn't give you an answer.”

Yahaba stared at him. Kenji didn't know how to interpret that stare. Puzzled? Anticipating? His face looked as neutral as it did back in the canteen, when they had locked eyes a few days ago. Yet, he could feel the feeling buzzing underneath Yahaba's skin.

Somewhere along the way he had started to understand how to read Yahaba, despite not knowing, what tells he was displaying, the same way he always knew exactly, what Aone was trying to say. It was something in the way he held himself up, some sort of invisible tension in his muscles, that made Kenji read the emotion underneath the surface easily. Yahaba felt hope and he tried to hide it. To not be vulnerable this time.

Kenji knew what that meant. He knew, what kind of responsibility that bestowed upon him and his next words.

“Well, I guess, the question, you asked in the library was rethorical, but I figured, you'd want an answer anyway.” He looked around in that empty supply closet, trying to ground himself in the sterile setting, but Yahaba's presence filled up the whole room. Maybe that was a good thing, made it harder to chicken out, but also made the whole ordeal of saying the words out loud more dreadful.

“What I'm trying to say is”, he took a deep breath, “that no matter how emotionally unavailable you or I thought I was, I fell in love with you anyway.” He met Yahaba's eyes again, big and dazed. “I still don't know, what anything I do in here, means exactly to me later. I just know that I was wrong in saying that this has no value. Because I love you too.”

Yahaba took a few steps in his direction, coming to a halt two feet away from him. His eyebrows twitched in disbelief. “You do?”

Kenji swallowed. “Yes.”

Yahaba closed his eyes, relief visibly making his shoulders sag, holding himself up by his hands resting on Kenji's shoulders. His head bumped into Kenji's collarbone, hard. Kenji could feel the warmth of his forehead through the thick fabric of his shirt. It instantly soothed him and sent his heart rate up at the same time.
He could see Yahaba's shoulders shake, as he pulled his hand into a fist and punched Kenji's shoulder.
“I was so afraid, I scared you off.”

Well, Kenji already did come back to confirm their ongoing friendship, but that probably counted as evasion to Yahaba too.

Yahaba sobbed or maybe he laughed, it was hard to tell. All Kenji could see was the relief pouring out of every single one of his muscles. “I was so scared”, he got out, voice shaking, “I wished, I never said anything, but I didn't want to lie and take it back either.”

Kenji hadn't thought about the possibility of Yahaba regretting coming out with the truth. He'd always thought Yahaba would rather live with an inconvenient truth, but maybe he prefered denial to loneliness too. That didn't really matter right now, though, it had worked out for them.
He brought his arms up and pulled Yahaba closer.

“I'm glad, I did now.” Yahaba had gotten calmer. Kenji desperately wanted him to look up, wanted to see the emotion break through his face. He could feel Yahaba shift, before he drew back. His eyes sliding up to meet Kenji's.

Me too, Kenji wanted to say, but the moment felt too heavy with feelings already, suffocating him. All he could do was to not break eye contact.

Yahaba's eyes were rimmed red, his cheeks full of colour. Some strands of his hair were falling into his face, as he lifted his head a little further, a smile forming on his lips. He stood up straight now, his hands still firmly planted on Kenji's shoulders.
Kenji brought up his own hands to tug the loose strands of hair behind Yahaba's ears, leaving them to rest on Yahaba's cheeks. He really wanted to kiss him.

Just as he made the decision to lean down, the door behind them burst open. A straggler pushed a cart into the supply room, oblivious to what he was interrupting.
Yahaba's gaze didn't waver from Kenji, but Kenji turned his head to glare at the other inmate's back. When the other was done leaving his car in a spot in the corner, then still leaned down to sort through his cleaning agents, Kenji snapped.

“Get the fuck out”, he hissed. The straggler turned to look at him, shrinking underneath his glare, then hurried out. Kenji lead his eyes back to Yahaba's face.

The softness of Yahaba's smile had turned into amusement. A daring gleam entered his eyes. “Are you going to let him ruin our moment or are you still going to kiss me.”

Kenji's eyes narrowed. “Who said I was going to kiss you? I was planning on giving you a firm pat on the back.”

Yahaba rolled his eyes, slid his hands behind Kenji's neck, and gave an insistent tug. “Quit it, you jerk.” Then he pressed their lips together.

This kiss felt less like comfort and more like a dare. He remembered kissing Yahaba in that same supply closet, touch starved and hungry for warmth. It had felt inevitable, just two people being human, taking what their bodys and minds had needed.
Now he made a promise, he knew, and it sent goose bumps down his spine. But he didn't feel the need to duck out of it.

 

When Terushima saw them sit down closely next to each other at breakfast the next day, his eyebrows shot up. They went up farther, as he noticed the two of them pressing the backs of their hands together.

“So, no divorce?”, Terushima asked. They both hadn't bothered showing up to dinner yesterday evening, too busy with each other. No chance for the others to notice their reconcilement any sooner.

“No divorce”, Yahaba agreed. He smiled at his rice, too hungry from skipping dinner to be bothered by the taste today.

Terushima nodded solemnly, as if he had never doubted them. “Thought so.”

Ennoshita sent Kenji a meaningful look from the other end of the table. Kenji narrowed his eyes back at him, no need for Ennoshita to get cocky about his emotional wisdom. He was grateful though. There sure was something in the outside world he could get him as a thank you. Or maybe he'd let him have the phone for a few days, when he was not so busy with Mai's wedding preparations anymore.

Yahaba gently nudged his arm, startling him from his thoughts. He slightly shoved his tray in his direction, offering. “Wanna trade your muffin for some of my carrots?”, he asked in a low voice.

Kenji shot him a blank look. “What the hell makes you think, I would?”

Yahaba shrugged. “I don't know. I thought, maybe there would be some perks to this relationship-upgrade.”

“There are absolutely zero perks to dating me, you should know that by now. No matter what status of relationship we're in, I must treat everyone with equal indifference.”

Yahaba shot him a look, that told him, he didn't really believe him. He kept his lips tightly pressed together, likely hiding an amused smile.

Kenji tore his eyes away from Yahaba to engage in the table's discussion. Or at least he tried. It was harder to look away now. Maybe Yahaba was right, there were some new perks to actually feeling like dating Yahaba for real. It meant, he was content to sit in this canteen, eat his barely edible breakfast and just look at his boyfriend. Even if the feeling lasted just a moment, he wanted to indulge on every good feeling this place could offer him.