Before Eichi opened his eyes he already knew exactly where he was. The smell of the hospital bed linens used the same detergent for years - it was one of the reasons why Eichi had always been particular on the brand of laundry detergent he used. The sound of his heart monitor was also the first thing he heard when he woke up, making Eichi sigh a bit before he finally did open his eyes.
Staring at the ceiling, Eichi took a moment to explore the last few moments of clarity he had before waking up, a practiced method he had always done for himself when he did wake up in the hospital. Only when he finally remembered did Eichi really groan in annoyance, sitting up before wincing as his head pulsated with pain.
“You’re already sickly yet this time you’re here because of a careless slip. If you were to die because of something like this I think I wouldn’t be able to perform an eulogy without laughing over the irony. Do better.”
The voice was just as familiar as his surroundings. Eichi turned to look at Keito who sat in his chair (emphasis on his chair) with a laptop sitting on one leg propped on top of the other. He was clearly deep in work which brought that ounce of guilt Eichi had, but they both knew Keito had chosen to do this out of his volition.
“I assure you, I wasn’t planning on slipping on the stairs as some means to get myself back to this room I detest more than anything else, Keito~” Eichi moved to rub his head, feeling the small bandage that was on the side of his temple. “Anyway, how long have I been out? What day is it?” He asked, shifting to get ready to leave the bed.
“Only a day. August 31st. It wasn’t a terrible head injury, the doctor said, but how’s your memory?” Keito asked, lowering his laptop screen to properly look at Eichi.
Of course the first thing the blond wanted to say was something to annoy the other, but if he stopped to taunt Keito then the time staying in the hospital would be prolonged. For Eichi to be here in this bleach-white room that smelled of chemicals and a subtle hint of vomit for something not related to his deteriorating health was flabbergasting and annoying.
“Yesterday before I fell, Shiratori-kun had offered me some sweets he got at a store. I had offered to bring up some tea which is why I had headed down. The elevator was occupied and I didn’t want to keep the child waiting so I had taken the stairs.” Eichi sighed, thinking of how much his young roommate might’ve panicked. He was sure that word had gotten out that he had to be taken to the hospital which meant there were plenty of people to fret over him.
“Well, I remember that I have a conference call today before noon about some possible venues that want to affiliate with us. A second meeting in person with some of the workers in the advertisement department. They wanted my approval over some things regarding fine .” Eichi crossed his arms, fingers to his chin as he smiled at Keito. It probably was enough to convince Keito that he was alright but Eichi couldn’t help but talk off Keito’s ear to the point of irritation.
“After that meeting I was going to purchase flowers and head over to see Tsumugi, though I don’t know if I’ll stay long-”
“What?” Keito asked, brows furrowed a bit curiously. “Why are you bringing him flowers?”
Eichi blinked, moving to take his phone that was on the desk. Turning on the screen he made note that it was indeed August 31st.
“It’s August 31st, Keito. I at least try to pay my respects on his birthday and the day of his passing.” He explained, Eichi’s brows also furrowed. He had brought flowers the previous year alongside other students, was he not allowed to all of a sudden?
Keito was quiet, eyebrows twitching a bit as he tried to comprehend the new information that seemingly came from out of the blue.
“Aoba and I had a meeting this morning to discuss a joint-live with Switch and Akatsuki. That was the meeting I attended while you were asleep. What do you mean by his passing ?”
Eichi’s face dropped. What was Keito talking about? What was going on right now?
The sound of Eichi’s heart monitor began to pick up, his breathing becoming erratic as he tried to piece the information he learned from Keito. Eichi pulled himself out of the bed - nearly stumbling - as he grabbed ahold of Keito’s arm, eyes wide with desperation.
“Are you telling me that Tsumugi Aoba is alive?”
Keito’s mouth opened, eyes wide at Eichi. He wanted to tell the blond that joking around like that was in poor taste, but what Keito saw in Eichi’s eyes was pure distress.
“Is he not supposed to be?”
Eichi’s elbows were propped against his knees, hands folded together over his mouth as he diligently watched the Switch lives that Keito had pulled up on his laptop. Keito was standing to the side, watching Eichi’s expressions instead as he found himself growing more irritated by the second, unsure how to make sense of all of this.
Tsumugi Aoba had - in Eichi’s words - died during their second year of Yumenosaki. After the original fine had dissolved and the rise of a new Yumenosaki era begun, all seemed well until August 31st when Tsumugi committed suicide by jumping off the school’s rooftop.
He was not the only casualty during the War, but for Tsumugi, who was the leader of the original fine, it had shook the whole school to the bone. Both Eichi and Keito’s understanding of the past was very similar except for that one important event.
Eichi knew Switch as a unit that consisted of Natsume and Sora, not with Tsumugi as the Tsumugi he knew had not been alive when Switch was formed.
The Switch that Keito knew; however - the one Eichi was currently watching on Keito’s laptop - was a trio unit that had a magical harmony that Eichi had never seen or heard before. The way they performed carried an enchanted charm that could easily spellbound the audience with their synergy. Despite Eichi having only seen this Switch for the first time, he had decided that this is the Switch that should be in existence. A Switch with Tsumugi Aoba.
Keito gave a heavy sigh, lifting his glasses with his index finger so he could rub at the bridge of his nose with his middle finger. Everything was seemingly fine with Eichi up until this point, but with the way Eichi’s expression changed to something so dire and desperate, Keito knew that the blond wasn’t making anything up.
The way Eichi watched the live with watery eyes that threatened to spill tears was not a part of Eichi’s dramatical skill sets (even if he had been insufferable to do something like fake his own death before.)
“You have to understand how…” Keito wanted to find a word to put it lightly. “Bizarre this is.” Letting out another sigh, Keito crossed his arms as a foot began to tap irritably.
“You and I weren’t in the same class as Aoba, but I have very vivid memories with him. You understand that hearing you don’t recall any memories and instead know him to be,” Keito hesitated, almost as if saying the very word would bring it into fruition. “Dead… It’s absurd.”
Eichi bit down on his bottom lip, a hand moving to play the next Switch live in the playlist. Even if the recording was from awhile back, seeing Tsumugi smiling and dancing while singing from his heart made Eichi’s heart ache. He didn’t understand why this wasn’t his reality.
“I’m not thrilled about this either, Keito.” Eichi had mixed feelings about this all - he knew what memories he had and even going through his own phone’s photo gallery hadn’t retrieved any escaped fragments there might’ve been.
Looking at the photo of himself and Tsumugi standing next to each other at the gates of Yumenosaki with their graduation certificates smiling had felt bittersweet. It squeezed at his heart in a different way than what he was used to, but it also made Eichi feel jealous in some way that there was a version of him that was able to stand next to Tsumugi as classmates - as friends.
“If this is the case where there are multiple… universes I suppose… and I live in one where Tsumugi had died, do you think that the me of this universe is back in my own-” Eichi tried to reason, only for Keito to glare at him.
“What does that have to do with anything?” Keito frowned. “Firstly I don’t want to delve into the idea of string theory or whatever it is. Secondly I don’t want to have to think there’s multiple Eichis out there that are probably running multiple Keitos’ patience thin.” He sighed again before rubbing at his own temple.
“You’re still you, as far as I know.” Keito reassured, looking at Eichi who stared back, shoulders relaxing a bit.
What bothered Eichi was that if he did switch places with the Eichi that was meant for this universe… then to wake up and discover that a friend of yours had been dead all along would be a far more intense awakening than what he was experiencing right now.
It was a terrible thought to think about, but considering he had endured the guilt for years Eichi believed that he as Eichi Tenshouin would be alright. Maybe this was a sort of trial, some redemption, or maybe a blessing to give Eichi time to talk to-
“I need to see him.” Eichi closed the laptop, getting up. Keito opened his mouth to say something but only clicked his tongue in frustration.
“And say what? That you’re happy to see that he’s not dead?” Keito reprimanded, taking his laptop back and moving in front of the door to stop Eichi from doing anything too hastily.
“No! I won’t speak of it. I just,” Eichi moved to grab his belongings, growing more antsy by the second. “For the last two years the only time I see him is when I’m looking at his grave. How is it wrong of me to want to see him? What if… What if I only have today? What if the next time I sleep I’m back in my world where I have to live with the fact that I drove him to kill himself?”
Keito paused, thinking about all of the regrets they both harbored and how he himself had wondered what they could’ve done to prevent more deaths. In the end there had been many, but for it to be Tsumugi Aoba meant there must’ve been feelings Eichi had for him that Keito never understood.
If Keito was in his position, and it was Eichi who had died… then of course he’d want to see Eichi if Keito discovered him to be alive.
“If you truly only have today then don’t do something that would only cause trouble for the rest of us. At least wear something else other than that.” Keito pointed out.
Eichi swallowed but nodded, taking the rest of his belongings and following Keito out of the hospital room.
Eichi needed to properly thank Keito later, though he knew if he tried to shower Keito in some grand gift of gratitude then the man was sure to be annoyed. Keito had gone ahead to help Eichi reschedule his meetings and speak to the rest of fine. Of course with Eichi out of the hospital it meant that others wanted to know how he fared but Eichi had no capacity in his brain to deal with any of that at the moment.
He snuck back into his dorm, grateful that it was still early so Aira would still be attending classes. Daytime also meant that Rei would likely be asleep, though his assumption would be proven wrong as he walked into the room.
“Ah, so Humpty Dumpty had gotten up from his fall. I heard of your tumble, glad to see that you didn’t crack.” Rei cooed, sitting up in his bed. On the covers were various keychain trinkets, little figure dolls that were made out of yarn.
Eichi wanted to shut down Rei’s taunting so he could change out of his two-day old clothes and head to the New Dimension office as soon as he could, but the urgency might make Rei suspicious.
“Luckily I didn’t, if I did I’m certain all the King’s men wouldn’t have been able to fix me back up. I’m rather resistant, it seems.” Eichi smirked back, moving towards his side of the room to get some clothes from his drawer.
Rei chuckled deeply, playing a bit with one of the doll keychains, bringing it up to stare at.
“Well I’m glad it was only a night. Any more and Shiratori-kun would be sick with worry. The poor child was crying all night.” Rei explained.
Eichi nodded his head. “I’ll remember to reassure him then. I apologize for the scare.” He added, changing into new clothes before walking back to the separator between his and Rei’s bed, eyeing the dolls.
“It certainly was a surprise.” Rei moved to get off his bed, handing Eichi a doll that had blond hair and blue beads for eyes. “The Mystery Researchers circle went out yesterday to an exhibit that had these little ones. They’re not embedded with any sort of curse if you’re worried about that.”
Eichi took the doll, staring at it before soft scoff escaped his lips.
“A present from you, were you worried about me that much?” Eichi teased, only for Rei to let out a drawn-out laugh.
“No, it’s from Tsumugi actually. I was the one holding the bag when we came back and heard the news of your fall. You were already in the hospital by the time we got back so Tsumugi went ahead to check on you first the moment we arrived back at the dorms.” Rei explained.
Eichi blinked, looking at the doll as he felt his heart churn. They were close enough that Tsumugi would go out of his way to bring him back a souvenir but also go to the hospital to check on his well-being?
He didn’t even know Tsumugi was a part of this circle - Eichi had no idea this was the type of thing Tsumugi liked and in his universe he would’ve never known. Because Tsumugi was dead.
Swallowing thickly, Eichi nodded his head, offering a gentle yet somewhat forced smile to Rei. His heart was beating fast, fingers curling over the little doll as he held it in his hand.
“Then… I better go properly thank him. For the souvenir and for checking up on me.” Eichi cleared his throat. “I’m assuming he’d be at the office then? Or in his dorm?” He asked Rei.
The vampire’s brow raised, arms crossed as he looked at Eichi, eyeing him suspiciously though it was hard to tell what Rei was actually thinking.
“Mm. Well I’m certain that Switch has a live coming up, so more than likely they’ll be practicing in New Dimenson’s rehearsal rooms.” Rei pointed out as he moved to take another doll keychain from his bed, holding it in front of Eichi.
Eichi took a moment to stare at the doll, blue, frizzy yarn hair that wore a green and yellow shirt. It clearly resembled Tsumugi though it would’ve been perfect if it wore glasses.
“Since you’re going to see him, can you deliver this as well?” Rei asked.
Before Eichi could reply, Rei let go of the keychain, letting the doll drop. The blond’s eyes widened, heart racing as he scrambled to catch the doll before it fell to the ground.
It was such a sudden reaction - a desperate grab for an inanimate object.
Rei only stared as Eichi took the doll, holding both keychains to his chest as he sent an irritated scowl to his roommate. A silence fell upon them both externally and internally. Eichi wasn’t sure what Rei was thinking, but he didn’t like it one bit.
“Thank you. I’ll be sure to hand it to him.” Eichi finally spoke up, choosing his words carefully before turning on his heels. At least now he had an additional excuse to see Tsumugi.
He took one look at Rei before heading out the door.
Eichi had been to the New Dimension agency before, though only sparsely. With members of Knights and Double Face, there had been times that units of StarPro had interacted with those units for collaborative projects but if fine was involved in something Eichi normally went with his unit in order to avoid Natsume.
His relationship with Switch in his world was not a good one if not nonexistent in the first place. For Natsume who had watched his eccentric niisans all have their lives altered by Eichi and his fine it only worsened when he discovered that his childhood friend had committed suicide. Even if Tsumugi was a part of the fine that destroyed the Eccentrics, Tsumugi was still an important person to Natsume.
And to add salt to the wound, it was reported that Natsume was on the rooftop when Tsumugi jumped.
People had speculated that Tsumugi took his own life due to the guilt of realizing he had destroyed others’ lives and that he had only been used as a pawn by Eichi rather than an actual friend to him. There were other rumors that Tsumugi had been pushed off the rooftop by Natsume in retaliation for fine destroying his precious niisans’ lives. Even if it was Natsume who had called out for help and went down to try to resuscitate Tsumugi, it never stopped rumors from circulating.
Tsumugi’s death had brought Natsume to the fiery gates of Hell, forcing him to walk on hot coal and be burned alongside his brothers regardless of how much they attempted to shield him. Though it was because of these trials and tribulations that Natsume continued on and formed Switch the next year in order to bring magic back to Yumenosaki. (Eichi also knew Switch’s performances to always feature a magical blue bird that flew near the end of their songs, but the Switch in this world did no such thing.)
Despite all that, Natsume found the sole perpetrator of everything that had ever gone wrong to be Eichi. Rightfully so as Eichi also knew he was most, if not all, of the reason why Tsumugi had committed suicide.
And Eichi agreed.
Others might have told him that no one would ever know why Tsumugi had jumped but Eichi knew that they were all trying to comfort Eichi despite the blood on his hands.
To walk into the New Dimension agency by himself and not be stared at with looks of surprise was an astonishing experience. Having someone ask if he was there to see Tsumugi was also a remarkable encounter - it meant that he came to see Tsumugi often enough to be a routine.
Eichi wondered about this world’s Eichi and his relationship with Tsumugi. Clearly they were on terms now that they were called friends, but what else had happened between them in these last two years?
Did they know each other’s least favorite foods? Were there embarrassing memories they knew of one another where they promised not to tell anyone? Did they have soft-spoken secrets whispered to one another to be kept within their hearts?
The more Eichi thought about it the more his heart ached and craved to know more.
When he got up to the practice room floors Eichi made his way to the designated number, taking a deep breath before knocking. Eichi could feel the rhythm of the song through the floors which stopped a few seconds after he knocked.
When the door opened Eichi had held his breath. Natsume had been the one to open the door but Eichi quickly peered over the boy’s head to look for Tsumugi. All he could see was Sora who ecstatically waved at the man.
“AhEM.” The leader of Switch - Natsume Sakasaki - was looking at Eichi with an annoyed expression, arms crossed. “What do I owe the pleasure of a visit from the Tenshouin EicHI?” He asked, wanting to get right to the point so they could continue practicing.
Eichi finally looked down, disappointed but made the internal note to not get Natsume more upset than he likely already was.
“Excuse me for interrupting your rehearsal. I was wondering if Tsumugi was here?” Eichi asked, also wanting to get to the point so he could finally see the one person he wanted to see the most.
Natsume clicked his tongue, a brow raising.
“He’s not heRE. He had a meeting to attend this eveniNG.” Natsume informed the other who waved his hand dismissively.
“I see. Do you happen to know when his meeting is finished?” Eichi asked, only receiving an irritated look from Natsume.
“Who do you think I AM? His keepER? His secretaRY? I wouldn’t knOW.” Natsume hissed, glaring down Eichi.
To anyone else it might’ve made them confrontational to be spoken to with such disdain and annoyance like that, but Eichi found it relieving to be able to properly have a conversation with Natsume, even if it was harsh.
There was a lot more venom to Natsume’s tongue back in his world - almost all his sentences ended with Natsume calling Eichi a murderer. When it got close to August 31st; however, Natsume would lash out physically at Eichi, growing hysterical and vicious. It was hard enough to be reminded of a suicide he witnessed personally, but harder to come into contact with the person who allegedly drove Tsumugi to said-suicide.
“Fufu… I only asked since when I think of Tsumugi’s closest companions, it would be you. Are you two not that close then?” Eichi taunted, feeling himself relax a bit as he watched Natsume’s expression change.
The boy’s face heated up followed by a gawking look of disbelief as Natsume struggled to find words.
“W-What kind of question is thAT?! What are you trying to sAY?! WhatevER! It’s supposed to be a quick meeting anywaYS. I told that workaholic bastard to not come to rehearsal afterwards so you’ll have better luck finding him at the dorMS.” Natsume scoffed, turning around with his arms folded.
Seeing Natsume so flustered made Eichi laugh, unable to stop himself as Natsume quickly turned back with a distressed expression.
“S̶͖͇̺̐T̸͔̀̋̏O̶̡̞̐̚P̸̧̓͝ ̸̘͍͔̙̳͝L̷̜͇̏͜A̸̧̬̪̰͖̐̓̃͋͝Ṳ̸̳͛ͅG̶̛̗͔̟̉͜Ḫ̸͍̔͂Ĭ̸̢̿N̶̢̛͇̝̤̍̓͛G̸̥̟͐͐̅͜ͅ!̸̦̳̥̒̇͑̾͠ !” Natsume cried out, seething as he raised a hand to the door to slam it, only for Sora to bounce over and hug Natsume from behind.
“Shisho~! Sora sees your colors flying eveeerywhere~! Huhu~!” Sora laughed as well, only making Natsume more flustered. At least with Sora holding onto him it made Natsume calm down a bit, though still with an embarrassed blush across his face.
“I don’t need my Sora teasing me tOO.” Natsume huffed.
“But Shisho, your colors are always really pretty when you talk about Senpai~” Sora pointed out, grinning widely. It only made Natsume more frantic however, staring at him and then Eichi then back to Sora as he started to bad mouth Tsumugi as fast as he could in his moment of weakness.
Eichi never really got to see this side of Natsume and Sora, the latter being someone who was heavily guarded by the former. Back in Eichi’s world the Sora in Switch never knew Tsumugi, so hearing how the two went back and forth about Tsumugi made Eichi’s heart swell.
“Well, I’ll leave you two to your rehearsal. I hope to be able to see your live if time permits it.” Eichi explained, though he wondered if he would even last another day here. His heart was swaying over the desire to truly experience Switch’s live - to see the idol Tsumugi Aoba was supposed to become.
Sora seemed to have picked up on Eichi’s feelings (or colors in the boy’s case) as his expression turned puzzled.
“Ei-chan-senpai~! Your colors aren’t the same as usual. Are you sad?” Sora asked, startling both Natsume and Eichi.
Eichi wasn’t prepared for something like that, likely because he didn’t have any experience with Sora and his synthesia. It was true though, his feelings were swirling and morphing with every interaction he had, all mixed with anxiety as he had yet to see Tsumugi. It was starting to feel tortuous, almost as if fate was dangling a string in front of Eichi and pulling it away once he swiped for it. Perhaps this was part of his punishment if this truly was a ploy for retribution.
“I suppose I’m still feeling unwell after hitting my head. I’m meant to head back to the dorms soon but I wanted to at least thank Tsumugi for seeing me while I was at the hospital. I also have something to give him, so I might be feeling a bit disappointed that he isn’t here.” Eichi did his best to offer some truths in his statement, but there was far more beneath the surface of Eichi’s heart that was making his emotions struggle to keep still.
His answer seemed to only cause more suspicion as Natsume was staring down Eichi while Sora tilted his head in confusion.
Eichi coughed into his hand, moving to turn away before the others could ask any questions. “Well, I’ll be off now, it’s been nice seeing you both.” He stopped for a moment, turning back to look at the two who peeked out of the door.
“Thank you both… for taking care of Tsumugi.” Eichi offered a smile before swiftly heading down the hall, going towards the staircase in a hurry as he began climbing upwards, holding onto the rail.
He felt panic set into his chest as he thought about what he said and how cryptic he could’ve seemed. It was something deep within his heart that spurred Eichi to say that, to properly thank the members of Switch who had made a unit with Tsumugi and allowed him to continue being an idol that could spread his magic.
Eichi only followed where his legs took him, more than likely going upstairs towards the roof to give himself some air and maybe make a phone call to Keito or something. Ah, his phone, that's right… It was constantly vibrating before Eichi had turned it on silent mode. If Tsumugi was still in a meeting then he could wait for him there at the agency until he came back. Being on the rooftop gave him a vantage point, making it easier to see Tsumugi when he were to return. He could also work on answering those worried texts and calls to put everyone’s minds at ease, though Eichi himself still felt like he was in turmoil over not seeing Tsumugi yet.
When he arrived at the rooftop the first thing Eichi noticed was that the sky was orange-yellow, the evening ready to leave and become the night. The sun was descending behind the horizon, Eichi watching it as he thought about whether or not he would be able to wake up the next day in the world where Tsumugi Aoba was still alive.
There weren't any reasons that solidified this idea that Eichi could go to sleep and wake up back in his world, but the entire situation was so far-fetched that he truly didn’t want to risk it. Eichi could be a rather impatient person after all - with the fear of any day being his last due to his health, it was ingrained in Eichi’s personality to want to get important tasks done as soon as he could.
But also considering he thought Tsumugi had been dead for two years, Eichi might’ve had a right to be restless.
Fate would really be tugging on Eichi as he was not alone on the rooftop. On the opposite end was that familiar mop of blue hair that had been plaguing Eichi’s mind the entire day. He was in his slacks and blue button-up with his hair tied in the back.
Eichi couldn’t see his face with Tsumugi being at the edge of the roof leaning against the rail as the wind began to pick up. All Eichi could do was slowly walk over, unsure of what he was even going to say now that he was here in front of him.
Do I say hello and act as if everything is normal? How can I act normal in a situation like this? Eichi asked himself, holding his breath as he stopped in place. Tsumugi hadn’t noticed anything yet, maybe it would be best to turn away and leave.
He’s seen Tsumugi now so that’s all he could ask for right? To see the man alive and well and knowing that he was happy in Switch and working to make the idols of New Dimension flourish was a wonderful thing.
Maybe Eichi didn’t deserve to be a part of this world, he shouldn’t be given a chance like this when he was the cause of Tsumugi’s death in the first place.
Eichi began to walk backwards slowly, thinking to turn around and leave the man to his vices. He watched Tsumugi’s hair and how the blue strands flew in the wind. It was much longer than Eichi remembered, but perhaps this suited him best.
Only when he saw Tsumugi move and place a foot on the railing did Eichi stop what he was doing and run towards the other in a panic.
“STOP!” Eichi cried out, heart frozen as time seemed to have slowed.
Tsumugi’s head turned, Eichi finally meeting the yellow-gold eyes that were behind thick-rimmed glasses. It took a moment to realize that Tsumugi only put his foot on the rail so he could tie his shoelace, making Eichi immediately flush and stop himself once he got in front of Tsumugi.
“Eichi-kun?” Tsumugi tilted his head. The voice was soft, just like Eichi remembered. Hearing Tsumugi call him like that so fondly made Eichi’s heart ache, the organ inside his chest squeezing desperately.
He didn’t want to scare Tsumugi in any way, so crying was definitely something Eichi was trying to hold back. Instead the blond cleared his throat, pointing at Tsumugi’s foot.
“Putting your foot on the rail, wouldn’t it be dangerous with how windy it is up here? Perhaps you lost your footing and the wind blew you over the rails. How terrible would that be.” Eichi started, trying his best to stay calm and collected.
Tsumugi’s eyes widened, looking at his foot before putting it down with a laugh.
“I suppose you’re right. I wasn’t thinking about that and considering how clumsy I can be I feel it might be a viable concern. Thank you, Eichi-kun.” Tsumugi moved to crouch, tying his shoelaces like that instead before getting back up with a soft smile.
“So, what do I owe the pleasure for this visit? Were you looking for me?” Tsumugi asked, offering a smile.
The first thing Eichi noticed was that Tsumugi’s eyes looked quite tired. He had heard from Keito that Tsumugi was dedicated to working as the vice-president of New Dimension, always working himself to the bone and ending up asleep in the office rather than the dorms. Eichi already knew Tsumugi was the type to be able to sleep anywhere as well as a person that had very strong work ethics. He always assumed that Tsumugi worked in a way out of desperation - to make himself as useful as possible. It seemed as though Tsumugi was still that type of person, even here in this world.
“Yes actually, though I came up to the roof for some air. It’s a good coincidence.” Eichi offered before taking out the two doll keychains from his coat pocket. “I wanted to thank you for visiting me while I was at the hospital. Sakuma-kun also gave me these to give to you, though I heard that one of these is for me?” Eichi held out the two dolls, coyly smiling at the other.
Tsumugi gently took the dolls, offering a chuckle before smiling at Eichi.
“You came all this way to give me these? You could’ve messaged me, you know.” Tsumugi’s cheeks heated up as he looked at the doll, an embarrassed blush spreading across his cheeks despite the soft smile still on his face. Eichi couldn’t help but stare, though the wind began to pick up again and blow the strands across their faces.
“But I’m rather happy that Eichi-kun came looking for me~ I’m glad to see you’re doing better. You had quite the bump on your head when I saw you at the hospital.” Tsumugi pointed out while taking the dolls from the other.
Eichi’s heart began beating faster, racing as he took a step closer to Tsumugi.
“Well, I’m all better now~ I’m quite headstrong, don’t you think?” Eichi gently tapped at his head, making Tsumugi chuckle.
“Yes that is true, isn’t it? Anyway, I’m rather embarrassed that Rei-kun sent you off with these… But yes, when I saw the blond one it looked too much like you that I had to buy it.” Tsumugi laughed, holding out the dolls so Eichi could take his designated one.
Eichi took a moment, looking towards the Tsumugi-like doll before picking it up.
“Do you mind if I take your’s? Even if it doesn’t have glasses, it suits you too well.” Eichi watched as Tsumugi’s expression changed to shock, the man laughing some more.
“Eh? If you want. Though I think I could sow in some felt glasses and add my colored hair streams to the yarn to truly make it me. Why did you want mine though?” Tsumugi asked.
How could Eichi say he wanted to hold onto Tsumugi like this? To have a piece of him - something that represented him - close. It was far too symbolic, there was no way Eichi could say something as honest as that.
“Well, these represent voodoo dolls or something similar, yes? If I kept mine I wouldn’t trust someone like Sakuma-kun or Wataru messing with it. I’m rather superstitious, you know?” Eichi offered, though he really wasn’t.
“You? Superstitious?” Tsumugi raised a brow but nodded nonetheless. “I suppose the idea of voodoo dolls is frightening. I assure you that I haven’t done any magic to them to bind you to your doll. I believe that’s what you would need to do.” Tsumugi explained.
Holding up the Eichi-like doll, Tsumugi offered it a smile.
“But I don’t mind holding onto your doll if you were that set on keeping mine. You wouldn’t be using me as some experiment on voodoo magic though, right? I’m afraid I already have Natsume-kun to be the researcher to my test subject.” He laughed.
Eichi couldn’t help but swallow thickly, the blond watching the way Tsumugi’s wrinkles formed when his eyebrows went up as well as the man’s dimple appearing when he grinned. Despite how tired Tsumugi might look, the expression showed genuine happiness on the man’s face.
“No, of course not. I’ll treat you with the utmost care, Tsumugi.” Eichi teased, realizing how natural it was to be talking to the other despite having not spoken to Tsumugi in over two years. It was both a foreign and familiar sensation that continued to pull at Eichi’s heart strings.
“Well, I’m happy you like the souvenir then.” Tsumugi added, putting away the doll into his breast pocket. It looked like the doll was hitching a ride, peaking out with its arms over the fabric.
Eichi smiled at that, then looked at Tsumugi once more. He couldn’t stop himself from staring really, but with each passing second Eichi found his heart becoming fuller. This was the life Tsumugi deserved…
“Thank you again, Tsumugi.” Eichi murmured, the wind picking up once more.
There was a silence between the two of them before Tsumugi leaned back against the rail, hands on the top rail.
“Eichi-kun, did you call out to me because you thought I was going to jump?” Tsumugi asked, stunning Eichi.
The answer was yes, but how was Eichi supposed to respond to a question like that? It seemed like the silence was enough for Tsumugi to get his answer, however, as he chuckled and turned to look towards the horizon, the sun finally falling.
“I suppose I still seem like that type of person, but I want to reassure you I’m much stronger than who I was before. It’ll take a lot more to kill me, especially now when there’s still so much I need to do. For Switch, for Natsume-kun and Sora-kun. For myself.” Tsumugi added, watching the sun fall.
Above them the night sky was falling into place, stars littered about and twinkling. The two of them both tilted their heads to look at the star-filled sky, watching as an airplane flew by as well.
Eichi wondered if those stars had something to do with fate and him being here in this world. Was it the stars that aligned in some way that prompted Eichi to switch places with the Eichi in this universe? Were the stars watching and finding their plight to be humorous?
There were so many stars out tonight and for Eichi who had looked up at the stars many times before, it felt as though they were shining the brightest tonight.
“When was the last time we went out to karaoke together?” Eichi asked, wondering if that was any time soon versus the fact he never had gone out to karaoke with Tsumugi like they had once planned.
Tsumugi hummed, turning back towards Eichi as he thought.
“I believe it was a few months ago, though there were others with us. Were you asking when was the last time it was just you and me?” Tsumugi asked, making Eichi flush a bit.
“I guess it wouldn’t matter. Would you like to go out to karaoke tonight?” Eichi offered. “I heard from Sakasaki-kun that you were supposed to take a break after work, so how about I treat you out as a part of my gratitude to you, Tsumugi.”
The blue-haired man stared for a bit, feeling a bit puzzled but offered a gentle smile nonetheless.
“I don’t see anything I’ve done that’s worth being treated out, but I’ll accept your invitation. Since I haven’t practiced today with Switch, I should still exercise my voice muscles right?” Tsumugi walked away from the rails, standing beside Eichi.
“Do you mind if I grab my coat first? Should we sing songs from each other’s units like last time? Perhaps we choose songs for one another and make it a game of sorts, ehe~” Tsumugi smiled, growing excited at the prospect of adding a fun element to their karaoke night.
And it was that smile that made all of Eichi Tenshouin’s worries melt away.
“Nooo, please Eichi-kun if you let anyone know my voice cracked I’m sure to get scolded by Natsume-kun~” Tsumugi begged, walking with him through the dorm halls. The man sulked, holding onto Eichi’s sleeve with a hand before Eichi chuckled to himself.
“Fufufu~ I promise I won’t tell anyone as long as we can go out to karaoke more.” Eichi pointed out with a wink.
“Eeeh? Are you blackmailing me? Oh Eichi-kun, well I don’t think I would mind doing this more. I had a lot of fun.” Tsumugi chuckled before letting go of the other, standing in front of his dorm.
The man brushed part of his hair behind his ear before placing a hand on the door handle. Eichi wanted to reach out to stop the other from leaving, but made no move to do so as he stood there in the dorm hallway.
Will this be the last time I see Tsumugi? Eichi thought, thinking about what he should do. While he desperately didn’t want the night to end, he couldn’t be so selfish to hang onto Tsumugi like that.
“I had a lot of fun as well. Tsumugi I-” Eichi stopped himself.
I’m sorry that I caused you so much grief. I’m sorry that I led you to kill yourself.
“I look forward to seeing one of Switch’s upcoming lives in person~ If time permits I’d love to come and support.” Eichi decided to end it on that note, knowing that anything else about his feelings would sour the mood and confuse the other.
It made Tsumugi smile, a blush spread across his face as he tilted his head.
“Yes! We’d love for you to come, though actually I can’t speak for Natsume-kun. But still, please do let me know if you can.” Tsumugi opened the door to his dorm, sliding in before looking back. “Goodnight, Eichi-kun.”
Eichi only nodded, offering a smile. “Goodnight, Tsumugi.”
Once the man was inside and the door closed, Eichi found his legs giving out. He nearly fell over, crouching as he hid his face in his hands as he took a shaky breath. Eichi’s heart was pounding so hard in his chest and the tears were finally starting to flow through, staining his cheeks as he quickly got up and headed towards the stairs.
He needed a second to just be alone, to gather himself up before heading back to his own dorm.
The world was so much brighter with Tsumugi and that brilliant smile of his, how could he go back to a universe where Tsumugi didn’t exist?
Leaning back against the wall, Eichi took a moment to breathe and steady himself, taking the Tsumugi doll out of his pocket to look at. Eichi wondered if maybe this was all just a long dream - that he was stuck in a coma and dreaming of the world how he desperately wanted it to be.
There were footsteps coming from above that alerted Eichi, letting the man straighten up and wipe at his face before calmly standing against the wall. Seeing Natsume walk down the steps made him a bit curious though, a brow raised as he shoved his hands into his coat’s pockets with the doll as well.
“Good evening, Sakasaki-kun. I hope you didn’t mind me taking out Tsumugi for some fun.” He smiled, though the way Natsume wasn’t really reacting had made Eichi’s expression drop.
“Save IT. I’ve got some questioNS.” He snapped back, Natsume standing at the middle steps while looking down at Eichi.
“When did Tsumugi-senpai kill himseLF?” Natsume asked, staring down Eichi who only stared back in shock.
“How do you know?” Eichi wasn’t the type to prolong and feign innocence despite how shocked he was.
Natsume rolled his eyes irritably before putting a hand on the railing, glaring down at the blond.
“Word travels quiCK. Especially to people who believe in the beyoND. Hasumi-senpai told Rei-niisan who told ME. Though I wish he told me sooner before you went to karaoKE. I already answered your question, so answer miNE.” Natsume took a few more steps down, growing impatient by the second.
Eichi swallowed thickly, realizing that Rei had been acting deliberately when they were in the dorms together. No doubt Keito didn’t feel comfortable just leaving Eichi to do whatever he wanted to while he was covering for Eichi’s meetings and social circle.
“...Today. August 31st.” Eichi answered. Natsume only grimaced.
“Who… found hIM?” Natsume asked next, though hesitantly.
Eichi hesitated as well, unsure if any of these questions were worth mentioning considering Tsumugi was alive and that’s what mattered…
“You did.” Eichi replied. It made Natsume freeze, brows knitted as his hands curled into fists.
“I sEE. There’s a timeline where I didn't make it in tiME. Or maybe I said the wrong thinGS.” His expression looked frustrated, Natsume closing his eyes. Eichi assumed he was recalling what happened on the rooftop two years ago. It made the blond curious to what the eccentric manage to say to Tsumugi to get him to not jump since it was clear that Natsume hinted at the event in this world. Could one simple word change someone's mind from ending their life? What was it? Eichi wouldn't know, he wasn't going to ask.
Natsume sighed, turning to head back upstairs before stopping.
“The me that you know must hate your guTS.” Natsume sneered. “But I’m sure he also hates himself as weLL.” He murmured before heading upstairs.
Eichi only watched as the other left, leaving him dumbfounded with more questions, but also with more perspective.
He was afraid to sleep - Eichi Tenshouin wouldn’t allow himself to dream. Even after staying up with Aira and reassuring the young boy that he was alright everyone had eventually landed in their beds while Rei left the dorm.
Eichi kept a hold of the small doll keychain, holding it close to his chest as Eichi thought about who Tsumugi was and how he’s grown after two years. He thought about how much Tsumugi had accomplished and the dedication he put into everything he did - how could someone like that kill themselves?
The thoughts swarming his brain were coupled with anxiety, Eichi clutching onto the doll like if he were to ease up he’d lose it - lose the proof that Tsumugi Aoba was alive.
There were no rules when it came to whatever this was, so who’s to say that he’d wake up back in the world where Tsumugi didn’t live? Maybe this was his permanent residence - maybe the other world was the dream all along.
It was all thoughts and scenarios that kept him awake, but the more he thought about it the more it lulled him into a false sense of security.
Eichi was scared of course, no matter what he thought he wouldn’t know for sure until it was the next day. If he was to only have one day in this world then wouldn’t it have been better for him not to know at all? Or maybe this was part of his punishment. Show Eichi the world in which Tsumugi never died and swipe it from under his feet to let him suffer all over again. While it was cruel, Eichi did deserve it after all.
No… shouldn’t he be grateful actually? To know there was a world where Tsumugi had survived and flourished? No matter how badly Eichi wanted to be a part of this world, he should be able to be at peace.
At least that’s what he told himself as he drifted to sleep, clutching onto the little doll close to his heart.