Bon has never really been any good at friendship. Not when he was small and took private pre-school lessons from a tutor in his parents' two-floor Tokyo penthouse and never interacted with anyone else, not even his parents, not to mention kids his age, and not once he finally did start first grade at a private elementary school with kids who even despite being from the upper crust weren't as rich as he was and with whom he wouldn't have known how to interact even if they had had anything in common. It wasn't that he hadn't tried, per se; he'd seen the other children talking to one another and tried to join in, tried to participate in their games and their conversations, but somehow, it seemed that he never quite knew how. Perhaps it was because he'd never had friends when he was younger, or perhaps it was because he simply couldn't relate to kids who told stories about their parents at home (parents actually spent time at home with their kids?) or about doing chores and allowances (Bon had never experienced manual labour or an upper limit on his funding), didn't know the rules to sports like baseball and soccer and dodgeball and wasn't ever any good at them when he tried (what did they mean, they played games that weren't on their computers?). And so over the course of elementary school, he essentially gave up, fading to the back of his classes and resigning himself to days of solitude. It wasn't so bad, really. Who needed other kids when he had all the games, toys, pets he could ever want at his disposal?
And so he didn't let it bother him, didn't think too much about it, really, through fourth, fifth, sixth grade. He spent his recesses sitting in the shade with a game console or a book and ate his lunch in silence as the kids around him chattered away, never once giving any indication that they were aware of his existence. But it didn't really matter to him, not when he'd never really had any sense of companionship for as long as he could remember, anyway, and so he graduated elementary school without much celebration (without friends to celebrate with or parents who cared beyond the fact that he'd managed good grades) and faced junior high with the same attitude.
But everything changed at the junior high, because at junior high there was Satoshi. They'd been assigned seats next to one another in homeroom from the beginning of the year, and despite Bon's indifference to his classmates, despite his complete lack of desire to connect with any of the other kids after his failure to do so earlier in life, Satoshi had turned to him and looked right at him and smiled and said, "You're Bon, right?" And somehow, despite being stunned and utterly confused that another student had bothered to learn his name and was now talking to him, he managed to nod and reply, "Yeah--" and it was only upward from there.
Despite the awkward beginnings, despite the fact that Satoshi was from a regular middle class family with working parents who'd never even held a ten thousand yen bill not to mention kept five or six in his wallet the way Bon did on any given day, despite the way sometimes neither of them really knew what to say, how to continue a conversation, they fit together, just right, somehow. They both liked video games, both had no real interest in sports, and both struggled to make other friends-- but it didn't matter. Now that they had one another, it seemed, nothing else really mattered, not the fact that they didn't wear their uniforms the cool way their classmates did, not the fact that they didn't talk about girls or look at porn magazines like all the other boys, not the fact that no one ever wanted to be on their team for any games nor in their group for any projects. For the first time, Bon felt really and truly happy in a way that he didn't even realize he was missing before, looked forward to each coming day as a chance to spend time with his best friend in the whole world rather than facing life with the complacency of someone walking in his sleep.
And so they did everything together. They decided against joining a club in favor of going to arcades and movies after school together, studied for tests together, spent weekends lazing around Bon's spacious bedroom or else taking the subway to Akihabara together, and when the time came, they chose, tested for, and got into the same high school together. The future seemed bright for the two of them, Bon thought from time to time as they lay together in his large bed during their increasingly frequent "sleepovers," and as they closed out junior high school together, he didn't see any reason not to look forward to what the next year held so long as he had the most important person in his whole world by his side.
But high school had brought about another change, and this time for the worse. While in junior high, their classmates had always paid no attention to the less cool kids in their midst, their high school classmates were far less forgiving. Within the first month of school, the safety of their own little world had been shattered when their larger, popular, thuggish classmates decided that Bon, shy, slight, effeminate, was the perfect punching bag who wouldn't hit back. And they were right-- there was no way Bon could have hit them back even if he'd wanted to, and for the first time, he found himself afraid to go to school. Because it seemed like there was no solution; Satoshi wasn't exactly an athlete, either, and there was no way even between the two of them that they'd be able to stop the pack of seven or eight who always came after Bon en masse. If April had been bad, May was essentially intolerable, and finally, by the middle of his second month of high school, Bon was at his limit. He had shut himself in his room and refused to come out, not for anything, because the helplessness was too much to bear, being kicked around the room like the ball in some sort of deranged sport with no one to help him-- or, in fact, anyone who seemed like they cared at all.
But then there had been Satoshi. Satoshi outside his door, pleading Bon to let him in, Satoshi who, once finally through Bon's defenses, had pulled Bon close and held onto him tight and said that no matter what happened, he wouldn't let them hurt Bon anymore. Bon had cried, whether out of fear of what Satoshi was asking him to do or having been moved by Satoshi's determination, he wasn't sure, but the next day, he'd found himself at school to face more abuse once again. Almost immediately, he questioned why he was there, why he had come back just to be insulted and degraded and humiliated, just to be pummeled and kicked and mocked while he bruised and bled. No matter what Satoshi had said, there was no way that he, just as small and unassuming and unathletic as Bon, could do anything, and that was simply how it was-- which meant that Bon was doomed to suffer, just as he had been before.
Only, it went differently this time, because regardless of being small, regardless of being unassuming, regardless of being unathletic, there was Satoshi, throwing himself in the line of fire. For Bon. It felt almost like the world was moving in slow motion when suddenly, there he was, and then the bullies were turning away from Bon and towards Satoshi, and at once it was what Bon had been praying for for months and the worst feeling of fear in the pit of his stomach. Because if Satoshi was now being beat up before of him… what did that say? What did that mean?
It was impossible for him to wrap his mind around, somehow, because this was something that happened in movies and dramas and manga, not in real life. This was something that showed up in the papers, maybe, or in a 40-second news clip, but not that happened to someone he cared about, someone he loved. And so he lay there on the floor, paralyzed as he was completely forgotten for a new target, unable to return the favor, unable to even comprehend the favor in the first place. Because what kind of person did it make him that he'd come back upon Satoshi's assurances and then let Satoshi take the bullying instead of him? What sort of coward did that make him?
It felt like being eaten away inside, but for whatever the reason, he couldn't look Satoshi in the eye for the rest of the day. He couldn't look Satoshi in the eye after school, or the next morning, when he tried to get Bon's attention at the school gates. He couldn't look Satoshi in the eye when, before class had even started, the class thugs passed Bon by with only a glance before hemming in on Satoshi, and he certainly couldn't look Satoshi in the eye as he hovered at the edge of the crowd before turning away. Satoshi had promised to keep Bon safe, yes, but Bon couldn't stomach knowing what he was doing… and yet he couldn't bring himself to be brave, either.
He was a coward. He'd never realized it before, not when he'd been too shy to try to befriend other kids, not when he'd let himself burrow further and further into friendship with the one person who made him feel safe and loved, not when he'd been too scared to defend himself despite suffering insults and physical injury. But now he knew-- he was a coward who couldn't do anything, and now Satoshi was the one suffering for it. He tried to say something more than once, tried to build up the courage to talk to Satoshi, to tell him not to take the fall for him, to offer himself up instead. It felt as if each time he tried, he came closer to managing to take the final step--
--but then Satoshi took it first, off the roof of the school.
And that was the end. Or at least, that was the end of Bon, somehow, it felt like. With Satoshi's brush with death, a little bit of Bon died, too, and despite the fact that Satoshi survived, came out of his coma relatively quickly, was going to be released from the hospital soon, was going to be perfectly fine besides one of his feet, Bon felt as if nothing could ever be the same. It was his fault that Satoshi had almost died, it was his cowardice that had brought this about. And so, reborn, Bon turned his back on Satoshi and on everything that had happened and found strength and courage in the only thing he knew: money.
It was disgustingly easy, really, to bribe his way to power. He could have anything he wanted with money, he discovered all too quickly, "friends" to stroke his ego and bodyguards to protect him from bullies and even a coveted position amongst the strongest of all the thugs in their school, the M4. Not that any of it came from real human emotion, of course, but Bon knew, more and more with each passing day, that that was the point. He had been stupid to think that friendship and love were the way to happiness when really, those things meant nothing at all, when friends turned against friends out of greed or fear or cowardice, and so he did everything he could to close himself off-- because that was the only way to be strong. To be emotionless.
And so he went on with the rest of his first year and the beginning of his second trying not to show any fear towards the other members of M4 and building himself up in the eyes of the rest of the school. He hung around and watched kids hit one another the way the others did, watched Koutarou and his thugs beat up on one another, watched Kinzo and Shishimaru spar with other kids in their grade or else beat up on the punching bag in their dingy little locker room hideout, but it all blended together at the end of the day, blended into less and less faith for the human race with each fight he watched. The others liked to taunt him for his lack of enthusiasm for fighting himself, to which he responded that he didn't have to fight; he could just pay people to fight for him, and when they prodded him to prove it, he did. Unsurprisingly, twenty thousand yen was a pretty good motivator to use whatever means necessary to win.
The thought didn't have much intrigue at first, but slowly, he got into the hang of using his money to his advantage. Watching other boys hit one another was boring, but watching other boys hit people they'd previously cared about… now that was morbidly fascinating, and when Bon began to realize that the right sum could make someone hit anyone, even his best friend… well, he took sick pleasure in watching it, enough to make it happen more. Somehow, despite the fact that he still had never hit anyone, this seemed to earn him credit with the rest of M4, as well, and so he kept it up-- it was addicting, really, the power, the thrill the came with exposing to others what had been so painfully exposed to him, that friendship meant nothing, that love meant nothing.
And so he offered larger and larger sums for larger and larger-scale events, watched gleefully as friends landed one another in the school infirmary or the hospital. If he couldn't be happy then no one should be, he decided, and so he laughed at his classmates foolish enough to think that friendship meant anything and tore them apart with everything he had. He called it fun, but it wasn't, exactly, even if watching friends beat the crap out of one another did always bring a twisted smile to his face. But whatever it was, it was the best way to survive, and so he went on this way, breaking friendships for amusement and to prove some way, somehow, that he wasn't a coward anymore.
And after a year, it seemed, he had essentially succeeded. No one bullied him anymore, no one called him a coward, no one questioned his authority. He was the Moneyman, he was one of the top five kids in the school, and he wasn't afraid of anything-- or so he thought, until that goddamn Kamen Teacher had to bring everything crashing down around him. It was a terrifying spiral, suddenly losing control, first over his underlings and then over himself around the other M4, it was horrifying to suddenly find himself cowering from Koutarou and Shishimaru like the weakling he didn't want to be. But more than the fear of being kicked out of the group, more than the fear of losing his power over the other kids in the school… suddenly, with the threat of Kamen Teacher, Bon's fear of himself, of his own feelings and cowardice began to well up again inside him until suddenly, he was forced to confront his worst fear and everything was falling apart.
But somehow, laying there on the ground with Satoshi, both of them broken down and in tears, touching, physically touching for the first time in a year… somehow, that moment, as scary as it was felt right. More right than Bon had felt in a long, long time.
And so somehow, after a year of trying to pretend he didn't have feelings, after a year of scorning friendship and forcing others to hurt one another, somehow, for the first time in twelve whole months, Bon found himself walking home from school with Satoshi. It was scary, to stand behind him and push his wheelchair when they had always been side by side, hand in hand, it was honestly terrifying, but somehow, now, in the wake of losing everything, Bon had somehow found the strength to pull himself together and face his fears for real.
And scary as it seemed at first, it wasn't so bad. Once they were away from the school, away from the mess that Bon had created of his life, of everything, Satoshi had asked him to pull off to the side, and so Bon had obliged, and so they had sat side-by-side, Bon at the end of a park bench beside Satoshi's chair, and that was when Satoshi had reached out and taken Bon's hand and looked him in the eye and said, "I missed you."
And Bon was again reminded of the fact that Satoshi was the bravest person he'd ever known, the bravest person in the whole world, the kind of person who could look into the eyes of the coward who'd thrown him aside and almost cost him his life and simply forgive and forget and love, and before Bon knew what was happening, he was in tears all over again. But he couldn't be weak, not again, not now, and so he had squeezed Satoshi's hand back and nodded and said he was sorry, so sorry, for everything, for every moment he hadn't been strong enough to do the right thing, and once he started, somehow, it came easier, like things that had been trapped inside him with no outlet for a whole year.
And Satoshi just nodded and listened, and when Bon was done, he smiled. After everything Bon had done to him he smiled, and reached out to wipe away Bon's tears with a steady hand, and replied, "You're already forgiven."
And so that's it. Somehow, overnight, Bon's life was entirely turned around, somehow, overnight, Bon went from hiding behind his money to finding real courage, the kind of courage that came along with having someone worth protecting. Not that Satoshi needs protecting-- even in a wheelchair, he's still stronger than Bon will ever be, the strongest person Bon knows, stronger than all those thugs at school. Satoshi doesn't come back, right away, can't-- there's paperwork to be done and matters to be sorted out, but now, after making everything go so wrong in the first place, Bon can wait. He'll wait forever for Satoshi now, if he has to. It's the least he can do.
And besides, it's not like he really has to wait too much; now that things are fixed, or at least better, Bon sees Satoshi every day after school, just like when they were younger. It takes some adjustment-- Bon has never really considered the wheelchair accessibility of his apartment before, nor does he always know what to say when all of their tangible commonalities have faded out with time, but as always, Satoshi is willing and perseverant and ready to overcome. He guides Bon forward when Bon doesn't know how to himself, and over the weeks, things get easier, over the weeks, it starts feeling normal to lay side by side in Bon's bed again, just like they used to.
And so now here they are, hand in hand again just like nothing had gone wrong at all. Only now, somehow, things feel even stronger, even more right after what they'd overcome, and even laying in silence, it isn't uncomfortable, it's just them. Bon can't help the smile on his face as he gazes at Satoshi beside him in real contentedness, something he'd lost sight of a long time ago, and suddenly, words are forming in his mouth and spilling out his lips before he can stop them, and he's saying "I lo--"
But Satoshi cuts him off with a sudden kiss, and despite jumping a little in surprise, Bon doesn't pull away. It certainly isn't the first kiss they've shared, and, Bon hopes, it certainly won't be the last, either, but something about it is warmer, softer than he's expecting in a way he can't quite put his finger on.
After a moment, Satoshi pulls back with a smile, a hand reaching up to gently cup Bon's cheek for a moment before sliding away, a caress of sorts, and Bon suddenly can't find his voice. But it doesn't matter, because Satoshi is speaking: "You don't have to say it if you're not ready. It's okay."
And Satoshi has always been the strong one, the mature one, the aware one, but this time, Bon knows what to do. He knows how he feels, and now he knows that he's not going to be afraid. And so he reaches out and catches Satoshi's other hand in his own as well and looks into his eyes, the sort of smile he'd forgotten how to make over the past year forming on his lips as he says the words that he'd been too afraid to say, the words that both take and give him the most courage and strength in the world.