It’s spring when Kazunari first sees the invisible boy. He walks like he’s floating, steps just the slightest bit above the ground. People walk right through him, as if he’s not even there. Unseen and untouchable. That can change from one moment to the next. One blink, and suddenly there will be people bumping into him, talking to him, seeing him.
Kazunari finds it fascinating. School has started to bore him already – this is just the thing he needs to stay interested. Even so, he doesn’t work up the nerve to talk to the invisible boy until spring is changing into summer, pleasantly warm days replaced by sweltering heat that leaves clothes sticking to sweat-slicked skin.
“So,” Kazunari asks the invisible boy, sliding right up next to him one day after school. “How come nobody can see you?”
The boy turns sky blue eyes on him. Kazunari could get lost in those eyes, if he isn’t careful. “Sometimes I stop existing,” the boy says, so bluntly Kazunari has to laugh. “I’m surprised you can see me.”
“So am I,” Kazunari admits. He grins, then, and bumps their shoulders together. It’s only a little bit surprising when he doesn’t just pass right through. “Maybe I’m just special.”
“Yes,” the boy agrees. “Maybe you are.”
Kazunari laughs delightedly. He’s going to have fun with this one. “I like you,” he says. To anyone else, it must seem like he’s talking to thin air. People are starting to stare, but Kazunari can’t be bothered to care. “I’m Takao, by the way. What’s your name?”
The boy eyes him suspiciously for a moment, before sighing. The wind picks up just as he does, carrying with it some flower petals that get caught in the boy’s hair. “Kuroko Tetsuya,” he introduces himself. “And it seems like I exist again. Excuse me.”
Just like that, he slips away into the throng of students leaving for home. Even in a large crowd, Kazunari’s eyes are drawn to him, and he watches Kuroko until he turns a corner and disappears from sight.
The next day, he finds Kuroko sitting in the shade of a tree during lunch. “When you say you stop existing,” Kazunari says, sitting down next to Kuroko. “Do you mean you just become invisible and intangible, or is it more than that?”
“Hello to you, too, Takao-kun.” Kuroko slowly sets down the book he was reading. “I’m wonderful, thank you for asking. The weather is nice and the book I was reading before I was interrupted is just—”
“Alright, alright, I get it,” Kazunari laughs. “Can you really blame me for being curious, though?”
Kuroko pushes a strand of hair out of his face. “I suppose not.” He chews on his lower lip while he thinks. Kazunari tries – and fails – to pretend he isn’t fascinated by the motion. “When I disappear, I don’t just become invisible. It’s more like the world forgets about me for a while. It’s like I never existed in the first place. People don’t just become incapable of seeing me; they forget about me completely.”
An odd sense of pride makes Kazunari’s chest swell up. “Not me,” he says. “I don’t forget about you.”
“No,” Kuroko looks down at his lap, a barely perceptible smile playing around his lips. “No, you don’t.” He picks his book back up, finding the page he left at with practiced ease.
“Are you gone right now?” Kazunari asks. He pretends not to notice the glare Kuroko shoots him, before he puts his book down again with a sigh.
“I can’t always tell,” he admits. “But I think so.”
Kazunari leans forward with barely disguised interest. “Then how were you just holding that book?”
“Oh.” Kuroko looks at the book as if he only just now realized he was holding it. “I can touch things if I focus. Otherwise they just phase right through me.”
“So,” Kazunari says, trying to suppress the laughter in his voice, “if you weren’t focusing right now, would you be naked?”
Even though Kuroko’s face remains impassive, a slight blush stains his cheeks. He pointedly avoids looking at Kazunari while he stands up and smoothes the crinkles out of his clothes. “Goodbye, Takao-kun.”
"I'll take that as a yes, then," Kazunari calls after him. He doesn't even care that people think he's crazy for shouting at thin air.
He doesn't see Kuroko at lunch again for a while, and doesn't find out why until he spots him on the roof one day, sipping from a milk shake and reading another book.
“So this is where you’ve been hiding out.”
Kuroko looks up, shielding his eyes from the bright sun with his hand. The top button of his uniform is undone, Kazunari notices, and a bead of sweat has gathered in the hollow of his throat. “I haven’t been hiding.”
“Then why were you all the way up on the roof?” Kazunari tries to pretend he isn’t hurt that Kuroko has been avoiding him, with limited success. “It’s way too hot to sit in the sun like this.”
“I enjoy the quiet,” Kuroko explains.
“So did I,” a new voice interjects, “Then you two had to go and ruin it.”
Startled, Kazunari looks at the other person on the roof. He sits a little ways away from them, leaning against the gate that surrounds the roof, looking up from his own book to glare at them. Kazunari had been so focused on Kuroko that he hadn’t even noticed him.
The thought that Kuroko might have been avoiding him to spend time with this guy makes Kazunari grit his teeth. “Why don’t you go sit somewhere else, if you don’t like it?”
“Show some respect for your senpai, brat.” The guy narrows his eyes even more. If Kuroko’s eyes are like the summer sky, these are a sky filled with thunderclouds.
“Mayuzumi-senpai, please,” Kuroko says, before the argument can escalate any further. “Takao-kun is my friend. He’s just here to talk.”
Mayuzumi sighs explosively. “Fine. Do what you want, I don’t care.”
Kazunari takes this as permission to sit down. Kuroko has gone back to his book, but looks up again when Kazunari bumps their shoulders together. “We’re friends, huh?”
“Don’t let it go to your head.” Kuroko rolls his eyes, but that same blush from before has made an appearance again. Kazunari feels his lips quirk into a smile.
“Wouldn’t dream of it,” he says. “Tet-chan.”
Kuroko stares at him for a moment before he buries his face in his hands.
The library is swelteringly hot and nearly empty of people. So far Kazunari has spotted only one other person, aside from the librarian. He doesn’t understand why anyone would want to be in here right now. Any sane person would be at the beach, or getting ice cream, or something else – anything else – to survive this heat.
With a dramatic sigh, Kazunari drapes himself over the shelves next to Kuroko. “Tet-chan,” he whines, “Are you almost done?”
“No,” Kuroko says bluntly. He takes another book from the shelf and places it on top of the growing pile in his arms, balancing it against his chest to make sure it doesn’t fall. “If you’re bored, you could always leave.”
“But I wanted to hang out together,” Kazunari pouts. Next time he spends the afternoon with Kuroko, he’ll just have to drag him along to someplace that’s actually fun, instead of a stuffy library.
Kuroko pauses in browsing the bookshelves to look at him and wipes the sweat that has gathered beneath his bangs away. The stack of books teeters. It’s in danger of falling, but Kuroko stabilizes it at the last moment. Kazunari quirks an eyebrow in amusement. “Do you want me to take some of those?”
“That’d be very helpful, thank you,” Kuroko says.
Kazunari’s hands brush against the bare skin of Kuroko’s arms when he takes the top few books from him, sending tingles running up and down his arms. The books are unexpectedly heavy, and he has to adjust his grip to adjust for it. “Wow,” he says. “I didn’t know you could hold something this heavy.”
“It’s not that surprising, is it? I mean,” the tiniest smile appears on Kuroko’s face, “have you seen these muscles?”
Kazunari lets out a laugh that’s as much surprise as it is humor. “I think that’s the first time I’ve heard you make a joke.”
“It wasn’t a joke. I don’t have a sense of humor,” Kuroko says, but he’s still smiling. It’s infectious – Kazunari finds himself smiling as well, even though he has to spend his entire afternoon in a library. It’s not so bad, anyway, since Kuroko is there with him.
Kazunari doesn’t understand why Kuroko spends time around Mayuzumi until he sees him try to pick up his school bag, only to have his fingers pass right through it.
“Oh, my god,” he says excitedly, “You’re just like Tet-chan.”
“I am nothing like him,” Mayuzumi snaps.
Kazunari rolls his eyes. “Right. There’s nothing similar about the two of you at all.”
“Mayuzumi-senpai doesn’t really stop existing,” Kuroko says, like a beacon of calm sitting between them. “He just becomes invisible. People don’t forget about him. Also,” he adds, watching Mayuzumi get more and more frustrated as he struggles to grab hold of his bag. “He can’t always touch things by focusing.”
“Really?” Kazunari makes no attempt to hide his interest. “So, he’s kind of like a discount version of you?”
“I suppose,” Kuroko says.
Mayuzumi stops what he’s doing to glare at the both of them. He clenches and unclenches his hand several times. Kazunari is certain that if he was capable of it right now, he would have already punched him. Still, he can’t resist riling him up just a little more.
“I guess we should just be glad he managed to keep his clothes on.”
“Once I can touch you again,” Mayuzumi says through gritted teeth, “I’ll kill you.”
Kazunari figures he shouldn’t mention that, since he can touch Kuroko when he’s not supposed to exist, he can probably touch Mayuzumi as well. It’s probably better for his health if he just stays quiet.
It’s not often that Mayuzumi doesn’t join them for lunch on the roof, but when it happens, Kazunari always takes full advantage of it. Today is one of the rare times he gets to be alone with Kuroko and he has fun blowing dandelion seeds at him, and watching as Kuroko gets more and more frustrated trying to pick them from his hair.
When Kuroko’s pout has morphed into genuine annoyance, Kazunari finally decides to have mercy. He brings his hands up and runs them through Kuroko’s hair, trying to help him get the seeds out. Just then, the door swings open and a loud voice calls, “What’s that? Is the seed of love finally blossoming?”
Kazunari can hear Mayuzumi groan in annoyance behind him. For once, he completely agrees with his sentiment.
“Please never say that again, Izuki-senpai,” Kuroko deadpans.
“You guys never appreciate my puns,” the voice complains. Kazunari finally takes his hands out of Kuroko’s hair and turns around to see a fairly nondescript guy with two bags slung over his shoulder walk towards them.
“That’s because they suck,” Mayuzumi mutters, trailing a few feet behind.
Izuki shoots a look over his shoulder. “Wow. Way to be grateful that I carried your bag all the way up here.”
Mayuzumi rolls his eyes. “It’s not like I could’ve carried it myself.”
It’s only then that Kazunari starts to understand. “Wait. Are you invisible right now?” Mayuzumi just glares at him, which is enough of an answer. Kazunari points at Izuki, who has made himself comfortable on the ground next to Kuroko. “Then how come you can see him?”
“I’d imagine it’s for the same reason you can.” Izuki says. “Except that you’ve got some benefits I don’t, right? Chihiro told me about what you can do,” he adds the last part with a soft look in Mayuzumi’s direction. “About how you can still remember Kuroko even when he’s disappeared.”
“You can’t?” Kazunari once again feels a burst of pride at the thought that only he can remember Kuroko.
“No,” Izuki says, sounding disappointed. Mayuzumi rests a hand on his shoulder, and Izuki takes hold of it and uses it to pull the other down next to him. He doesn’t let go after that, but instead tangles their fingers together. “I can see him, but I always forget who he is until he comes back.”
Kazunari blinks. “So, you’re discount me?”
Mayuzumi starts forward at his words, probably to try and strangle him, but Izuki pulls him back in time. “Calm down,” he says, pressing a kiss to Mayuzumi’s temple.
“Wait,” Kazunari blurts. “Is discount me dating discount Tet-chan?”
While Mayuzumi looks even more murderous than before, Izuki just seems amused. “That’s an odd way of putting it, but yes.”
“Don’t let it go to your head,” Kuroko says, but he’s smiling, and Kazunari can’t help smiling back.
“Wouldn’t dream of it.”
When Kazunari finally works up the nerve to make a move, summer is already dying down. Since the worst of the heat has passed already, Kazunari had decided he needed to take Kuroko out to do something fun without immediately being soaked in sweat.
Of course, Kuroko had to choose that exact day to disappear right after school, leaving Kazunari with no way to find him. After finding no one in Kuroko’s classroom, he’d decided to look in the place Kuroko was most likely to be.
Even though the temperature has dropped a little, the library is still as unpleasantly hot as ever. Kazunari tugs at the collar of his shirt while he tries to find Kuroko, hoping for some relief from the heat.
Luckily, he finds Kuroko quickly, sitting at a table and staring hazily at the book in front of him. He doesn’t seem like he’s really awake and, as Kazunari watches, his eyes start to droop and his head falls forward just the tiniest bit.
Kazunari approaches slowly. When Kuroko doesn’t look at him, he kneels beside his chair and pokes his arm. “Tet-chan? You okay?”
Kuroko finally turns his head to look at him. “I’m fine,” he mumbles, “just tired.” He rubs his eyes and, when he opens them, they seem even bluer than usually. Kazunari realizes he’s long past trying to be careful; he drowned in Kuroko’s eyes a long time ago.
“Tet-chan,” Kazunari says. Before Kuroko has a chance to respond, Kazunari kisses him. The warm summer air is nothing compared to the heat of Kuroko’s lips, Kazunari thinks.
When he pulls away, Kuroko just blinks at him. “Did you just kiss me?”
Kazunari quirks his lips. “Don’t let it go to your head.”
“Wouldn’t dream of it.” And there is that smile again, the one that makes Kazunari want to smile as well.
He kisses him again then, because he wants to and because he can. Nobody is going to catch them here; surrounded by bookcases like this, Kuroko isn’t the only one who gets to be invisible.