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They don't see each other often anymore. This is someone's fault, though assessing whose fault it is is more complicated than evaluating that it's someone's. Wataru thinks it's his, but out of respect for everyone's differing opinions, he doesn't take that as his official stance. Not everyone is so courteous as he is, though.

"Well, that's Tenshouin's fault," Shu remarks when Rei brings it up, and Natsume nods his agreement emphatically. Wataru envies their ability to see everything in black and white, but only a little.

"Sorry, Wataru," Rei says, watching him out of the corner of his eye. Wataru keeps his back from stiffening.

"Don't apologize on our behalf," Natsume insists with a roll of his eyes. "We can apologize ourselves if we want to. It's just rude to offer apologies for other people."

"Let's discuss a less gloomy topic!" Wataru suggests. Kanata stretches his arms above his head.

"yes," he says, letting his arms drop when he's done and leaning from one side to the other in his customary motion. "let's talk about happy things when we're together for the first time in a while."

Wataru lets his gaze linger a little longer on Kanata than usual and he hopes his friend understands the gesture.

"You're right," Rei agrees. "Let us enjoy ourselves together... after all, we're getting older. Some of us faster than others. Before we know it, we'll be out of time..."

"Can you at least put away your infuriating old man act when you're with us?" Shu huffs, folding his arms. "Who do you believe you're fooling, exactly?"

Rei frowns. "But it's so natural to me now..."

"No it isn't! It doesn't sound the least bit natural!"

Natsume waves his hand. "What shall we do today, since we're together?" he asks. Having to actually put together a plan makes everyone else fall silent.

"We could visit a museum!" Wataru says after a few moments. "There's an exhibition going on right now, and it -"

"I'm afraid I'll have to pass, then," Rei interjects before he can finish. "It's midday, so... walking around at a museum would overexert me, I'm afraid."

"Even though it's indoors?" Natsume asks. "I thought vampires grow exhausted from sunlight, not simple daytime. How do you ever do anything?"

Shu crosses his arms. "That's simple. He doesn't. You know what he does instead?"

"Set up cup phones around the entire school so the two of you can chit chat," Wataru snorts and Shu glares at him.

"I thought I told you to forget about that!"

"I'm afraid that sort of sight is unforgettable," Wataru apologizes.

"Well, you are under no obligation to bring it up at every conceivable opportunity, either!" Shu's face flushes.

"I absolutely am," Wataru retaliates. "In fact, I'm certain it's written in the contract of my life! If I do not mention the absurd and hilarious cup phone scene at every given opportunity, I will simply wither away and die! Surely you don't want that for your good friend, Shu?"

"It's not that hilarious," Rei says defensively. "I don't know how to use a smartphone, so we have no other choice."

"Your other choice would be learning how to use a smartphone," Natsume says and Rei covers his mouth, eyes widened exaggeratedly.

"The thought had never occurred to me!"

"you look so cute like that, rei," Kanata walks - walks? - waddles over to Rei's side. "your eyes are so big. you look like a cystisoma."

Wataru has his phone out and back in his pocket before anyone can notice him google the word.

"That sounds terribly unflattering," Rei frowns. It is unflattering. Kanata shakes his head.

"that's no good, rei, no good at all," he says. "you could hurt its feelings by saying things like that. cystisomas are very cute creatures of the sea."

"It's a compliment coming from Kanata," Wataru offers, and Rei purses his lips for a moment before nodding.

"Are there any theatre shows going on?" Natsume asks, looking to Wataru. He's so cute, the best of the Oddballs at staying on track despite being the youngest among them.

"There are!" Wataru grins. "In fact!"

He pulls five tickets from his sleeve. "I was given free tickets to one of the shows in particular! It's not until later tonight, however. I would love it if you would all like to attend with me!"

Shu adjusts Mademoiselle on his arm. "What show is it?"

"Why, it's Beauty and the Beast, actually!" Wataru rolls forward onto his toes. "I've heard that the transformation sequence in this production is amazing, so I have been very excited to see it!"

"Oh, Beauty and the Beast," Shu nods. "I shall accompany you, then. I'll have to make arrangements for Mika's dinner, though, so I'll be heading home first."

"Can I go with you?" Natsume asks. "I haven't seen you in a long time so I don't really want to separate from you."

A line forms between Shu's eyebrows and, though Wataru knows he won't say no, there's a moment where he seems to seriously be considering it. "Well... I don't see why not. We can go together, then."

Natsume smiles like a cat who's just brought in a mouse to show its owner, and the two of them swivel to walk away together, their feet moving in perfect sync and Wataru unsure which one of them is keeping pace, if either of them is.

"Rei? Kanata?" Wataru asks, turning to the other two and fanning the tickets out again. Honestly, he was saving them for drama club and possibly Anzu and Eichi, but this is just as good a use for them.

Rei smiles. "Honestly..." he starts, and he doesn't really need to say anything else, but Wataru lets him finish his sentence. "Beauty and the Beast in particular always seems to make me terribly sad, so... I'm not sure."

Oh.

"I understand," Wataru reassures him gently. "It makes me quite sad too, in fact."

Rei closes his eyes. "I'd really like to go with all of you, though."

"if you get sad, rei, you can hold my hand," Kanata offers, and Wataru's throat tightens. "you shouldn't feel sad when you're doing something fun. friends will make it better... i think."

"Yes... that should help," Rei says. "Of course... you're my precious friends, after all. I can handle some sadness."

"Wonderful!" Wataru exclaims as they're expecting him to. "A reunion between precious friends at my favourite place in the world!"

Kanata sways happily.

"Allow me to go home and tell my little brother," Rei excuses himself, and from what Wataru knows about Ritsu Sakuma he doesn't think he'll care for the advance notice, but that's Rei's decision to make.

Kanata waves as Rei walks away, then takes a seat on the bench nearby the sidewalk they're standing on. He motions for Wataru to sit down, and without much ceremony Wataru sinks at his side.

"you look tired," Kanata comments. "is everything okay?"

Of course he would notice, and of course he would wait until everyone else was gone to ask.

"I suppose it's the mark of a good friend to notice such things, even when you try to hide it," Wataru replies. Kanata just smiles, then reaches into his pocket.

"Hm?" Wataru startles when Kanata reaches across to touch his hair, and he feels Kanata's fingers press down gently as something clicks into place just beside his bun.

"i put a hair clip on you," Kanata explains, pulling his hand back. "it's shaped like a seahorse."

"Oh," Wataru says, reaching up to touch the bumpy texture. The clip is about an inch long, and Wataru bites against the inside of his lip, hoping Kanata can't see.

"i was saving it for souma," Kanata admits. "but you can have it, since you're my friend too."

"Thank you," Wataru says, wondering if Kanata can tell how sincere he's being. Last year he wouldn't have doubted it.

Kanata closes his eyes with a smile. Traffic moves in front of them, passersby walking at all different paces to all the different places they need to be.

"You know, Kanata?" Wataru says after a moment, and he feels Kanata's shoulder touch his arm.

"yes?"

"That's one thing I like about you," he says. "No matter where you are, or what the circumstances, you're always you."

Kanata shifts off of Wataru, a finger winding into his turquoise hair. "there's no one else for me to be," he says simply.

Wataru laughs, replacing the tickets into the fold of his sleeve. "Kanata, my dear friend," he says, folding his hands atop his knee. "There are so many other people to be."