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Mayuzumi likes the library just after they open for the morning.

When he opens the windows, and the air inside is cool and clean with a fresh whiff of the mint and basil plants growing in the pots, lined up on the window ledge for some botany class.

He and his coworkers give the counters and shelves one last look over.

They check if the dates on the stamps are today’s and that the books on the shelves are straight, that the computers are online and hooked to the printer.

Mayuzumi likes to hide in the back of the library as he always does, flipping through newspapers before he deposits them on the rack. They are lined with today’s headlines of the mundane and breaking; magazines update every week and are filed carefully in protective laminated covers.

Sometimes, he and his coworkers are swarmed with carts of new books to process.

They scan the barcode, match call numbers, and enter it into the system.

For the most part, however, Mayuzumi keeps to himself, shelving away books.

Mayuzumi brushes his hand over the cover of a thin book, fingers tracing the lightly beveled title. It’s matte but paperback. It’ll need a cover to prevent tears.

A cliche romance story.

The first book of the morning in a quiet library—wonderful.

 

 

7:36 am on a Tuesday morning, a student bursts through the library doors, and then stops.

Because his bag just decided to empty a week’s worth of crumpled handouts and slim textbooks onto the floor.

Mayuzumi wish he hadn’t seen it, but the blond student furiously (and inefficiently) swept his papers together, looking as if he was about to cry and laugh at any given moment.

God in heaven.

Mayuzumi glances around, unfortunately he’s the only staff here, and it’s too early in the morning to watch someone break down at his front entrance.

“Please zip up your bag properly next time,” Mayuzumi says, after collecting and handing back his strewn papers.

“Yeah, I just—forget sometimes,” the blond says with a nervous chuckle. Striking green eyes dart up to look at Mayuzumi in between every fistful of paper into his bag.

He pops up straight to his feet, brushing a hand through his disheveled hair. Looking shy and flustered, the shame has his face colored red.

“Ahh, you really saved me! Thanks for your help, I owe you lots. Uhm, I—...I gotta grab some books, so thanks!”

And— he bows, furiously, in one straight and abrupt movement.

Mayuzumi watches, in blank-eyed horror, as the bag vomits an avalanche of school paper and books over the blond’s head and onto the floor again.

 

 

Mayuzumi names him Bolt, like how he calls his coworkers Pigtails and Spikey.

It took him three months to bother learning their names, because on their first day on the job, Hanada had her hair bundled with hot pink rubber bands and Takuma had a sharp fray of spikes above his forehead.

So,

His name is Bolt because his shock of dirty blond hair is too hard to miss, his fang tooth too prominent, and his backpack is this weird shade of highlighter yellow.

In fact, he’s always wearing yellow.

Some horrendous shade that’s too neon or too pale, and nothing works with his sky blue shoes. (But hey, Mayuzumi can’t really say anything about fashion since he’s always one for dark jeans and a dark shirt, dark gray, dark everything.)

And one more thing: after the incident, Mayuzumi never sees him come through the entrance.

Yet, he always finds that wild spike of hair rummaging around the children’s section in the early minutes of the morning.

Zipping in and out without notice.

Bolt seems like a fitting name for a guy like him.  

“You again,” Mayuzumi says, for the umpteenth time (which probably has to be the fifth day of the second week since that strange Tuesday morning.)

“It’s me again,” he’d reply, baring his snaggle tooth, and whispering in probably the loudest whisper that Mayuzumi’s ever heard.  

Today, he’s reading Gongitsune, except it’s a watered down tale where no one dies, and the fox isn’t shot.

“It’s a happier story,” Bolt says, fingers grazing rather tenderly over the illustrated pages. He probably caught Mayuzumi staring at the book. “I think I like this better than the original.”

Mayuzumi deigns not to answer.

He just parks his book cart nearby and begins shelving philosophy reference books back in their place.

“But you know, some kids are reallllly curious, so when I read a story like this to them, one was like— My mom said that the hero stabbed the demon in the head with his katana! —”

And Bolt babbles on and on, even when Mayuzumi grabs the cart and pushes it away.

 

 

A few hours later, Mayuzumi does his routine library patrol and frowns at the mess of unshelved books littering the floor.

He knows patrons are instructed to not put books back on the shelf, but can they be any less haphazard than this?

Like a crime scene, Bolt left his fingerprints all over the children’s section, in the scattered books, in the pulled out kid-sized chairs, in the strewn plush toys (why are there TOYS?) on the floor near the shelves.

Mayuzumi had always wondered why the university library would have a section dedicated to children.

No one even comes here at all, but picking up after Bolt is like picking up after a toddler.

This continues for weeks.

 

 

Mayuzumi has come to dislike the library in the mornings.

Autumn air filters in through the windows, lacking the mint and basil, since they were long moved to the university’s greenhouse.

The ambience of his peaceful book-scented morning is disturbed with the thudding of indiscreet footsteps.

Mayuzumi used to like hiding in the back of the library, shuffling through thin newsprint, listening to the soft murmur of the morning, sleepy crowd.

But now, there’s a different whisper, a much louder one, belonging to someone perched on a tiny chair, at a short table in the children’s section.

Chirping at him, louder than the birds outside the window.

“Y’know, you never struck me as a morning kind of person,” he says, straddling the ten sizes too small chair, and leaning against it heavily.

“You kind of seem really tired all the time. Do you sleep properly?”

“I am tired. And yes, I do,” Mayuzumi huffs, eyes trained on the books he has to shelve. Now shut up and let me work.

Mayuzumi has learned that silence does not come naturally to this person. But after minutes of slipping books in between books, it occurs to him that it’s become quiet.

Eerily quiet.

Curiously and cautiously, Mayuzumi glances behind him.

And is met with a pair of intense, emerald eyes.

He’d be embarrassed if annoyance didn’t strike his nerve first. “What?”

“Oh, ah— no,” Bolt starts, looking somewhat surprised and flustered, but he doesn’t shift his gaze. “I was just thinking that you… really handle books carefully, that’s all.”

Mayuzumi gives him a stare, and then sighs, returning back to his duties, of reading the title and then its call number.

“It’s my job.”

The first face of the morning in a not so quiet library— annoying.

 

 

On rare days, very rare days, when Mayuzumi updates the magazine racks with their newer issues, he catches Bolt sitting cross legged on the carpet in the children’s section, unmoving and immersed, with a book flattened in front of him.

When he’s not yelling, smiling, or screaming, Bolt looks like any studious college student. Calm and collected.

But his hair is wild, he wears polka dotted shorts, and those unsightly skyblue shoes are still on his feet, cuffed and worn. His snaggle tooth peeks out from his curved lips when he laughs at a story, and his bright green eyes glow as he flips the pages.

The illusion breaks when Bolt looks up, catches sight of him, and beams that million-watt smile, along with a, “Good morning!!!!” that Mayuzumi has gotten too used to shushing.

 

 

Here’s some (not all) of the unsolicited information that Bolt leaves with Mayuzumi.

  1. He loves kappamaki
    1. Even though it’s just cucumber and sushi rice. His mom makes batches for him every time he comes home during the holidays, and he’d eat his fill before sauntering back to his dorm.
    2. “Hey, you know what, come home with me in the winter! My city’s only three hours away!” “Yeah, no thanks.” “My room’s big, so you can sleep over. My family would love it too!” “Did you hear me the first time?”
  2. Skateboarding is not the same as snowboarding.
    1. He tried it once on a snowy, icy day, and crashed face first into a tree. He has a scar on his head.
    2. “Have you gone snowboarding before?” “Not interested.” “You should try! There’s a snowy hill near my house that’s super fun to slide on in the winter!”
  3. He has two older sisters, who pester him to quickly find a girlfriend to bring home.
    1. Yeah, why doesn’t he just bring home a girl???
    2. “Eh, but I already like this other person.” Why don’t you invite them instead, Jesus Christ.

Useless.

Unneeded information.

The next ones, are to be banished and burned from his memory, never to be thought upon again.

[4. “Your fingers are really delicate,” he said once, holding Mayuzumi’s hand by the wrist. Mayuzumi was too dumbfounded to react, and Bolt took the chance to inspect his hand. Curious, inquiring. His palms were calloused and rough, but his touch was careful.

  1. When he’s sitting quietly in the morning and the sunlight filters on him like flecks of rain, Bolt looks handsome, like the hero straight out of his light novels.
  2. “You’re really, really, really pretty for a guy.” “Are you trying to flatter me?” “Er, but it’s true?” ]  

 

 

“Good morning,” Pigtails says to him as he walks in, yawning. “How are you, Mayuzumi-kun?”

“Tired,” he answers, and tosses his bag into the compartment under the circulation desk.

“You’re always tired.”

“I am,” he agrees, blandly, slipping into the familiar routine of booting up the desk computer and gathering patron requests.

Routine silence follows.

Mayuzumi is not here for friends, he’s here to work. It had already been established long ago that coworkers do not engage Mayuzumi Chihiro in small talk.

And yet today, she says: “You know, that guy with the blond hair, he’s already here if you’re looking for him.”

Mayuzumi stirs from his morning daze.

“I...am not looking for him?” He asks, confused, but his voice comes out low and rough, like he just ate a mouthful of concrete and woke upon the wrong side of the bed.

She drifts back a little, a nervous smile creeping over her lips. “Oh, you kept looking at the front door, so I thought—”

The frown that he already had on, but was not actually a frown, becomes an actual frown.

“I’m going upstairs to Serials to pick up newspapers,” Mayuzumi says at length, dropping the stack of new books.

He’s not here for friends or gossip, he’s definitely not here for Bolt.

“Manage the front.”

 

 

“Mayuzumi-san~”

He does not yelp, or scream.

But Mayuzumi does trip backward onto his cart, swiping off some books in the wake of his fall.

On the other side of the bookshelf, green eyes widen.

As Mayuzumi hisses at the smart sting in his hip, he hears loud footsteps and feels a hand bracing his arm, pulling him up from the ground. “Oh my god, I’m sorry, Mayuzumi-san! I thought you saw me—”

“Why the hell would you think that?” he grouses, and then shrugs away Bolt’s death grasp.

It’s a cream yellow hoodie today, with a pale blue Sky Walker printed in bold on his chest. Candy colors. Softer on the eyes, but Bolt’s face was still a sore sight. “You were staring straight at me!”

“Doesn’t mean I’d see you,” Mayuzumi says, and grabs the scattered books from the floor. His heart still pounds in his chest.

Mayuzumi takes an even breath, remembering that this was one of the reasons why he refuses to watch scary movies. Then, he realizes—which adds another unwanted thud in his chest—Bolt actually knows his name.

“Stop being a creep.”

Bolt makes a face, a cross between offense and horror. “I wasn’t trying to be creepy, Mayuzumi-san. I didn’t see you this morning near the kid’s section so I thought something happened—”

Blankly, Mayuzumi looks at him, and then turns away.

“I have things to do—”

Bolt steps right in front him and rummages in his ugly yellow bag. “Wait, take this!”

“Milk tea,” Mayuzumi states simply, unimpressed.

Bolt shoves it into his hands; Mayuzumi stares at the aluminum can with a heat packet taped around it.

“I wanted to give this to you when it was still warm, but don’t worry, I kept it hot.”

Mayuzumi slowly blinks at it, and looks up at Bolt in disbelief. This is beyond ridiculously… considerate of him?  

“You know, I could kick you out for bringing drinks into the library.”

Bolt claps his hands together, and ducks his head apologetically. “Let me off this time, okay?”

Mayuzumi lets out a small laugh, as he sets the can on the bottom of his book cart. It’s so stupid but amusing. “...Thanks for this I guess?”

Bolt’s toothy smile is almost as warm as the tea that was in his hands. Almost.

 

 

“Mayuzumi-san, you know the guy with the blond hair? He was asking for you earlier,” Spikey says just as Mayuzumi returns back to the circulation desk.

“I know,” he answers, as he discreetly moves the can into his backpack. He’ll drink this later.

Even if sweet milk tea isn’t really his… cup of tea.

“I told him you liked coffee better though.”

Mayuzumi drops the can in his hand. It makes a thunk in his bag.

Great. Now, even his co-workers know.

 

 

Then, one day, Mayuzumi pays a visit to the convenience store after his afternoon class ended.

He would rather skim bookstores instead, but he needed coffee after a stupid all nighter poring over his latest novel.

With a coffee in his basket, he passes by the magazine rack. Home improvement, fashion, crocheting, and manga magazines stare back at him.

Then something catches his eye and he blanches.

Boruto: Naruto Next Generation.

Mayuzumi saunters out of the convenience store with a can of coffee and quiet shame that he just named a random guy after a manga character.

As he drifts back to his dorm, he racks his mind for more ideas.

(He really does not bother learning his name.)

 

 

“The kanji for Chihiro is really pretty,” he says aloud during a Friday morning, leaning over the counter, full-body, with a huge pile of slim children books in front of him.

Mayuzumi looks up from his novel, closes it, sets it down and grabs at the first book of Loud Whispering Guy’s stack.

Mayuzumi hates how the library staff has to wear a name tag.

He also hates how Obnoxious Yellow Backpack has eyes.

And how he can read. God dammit.   

“It sounds really elegant,” he continues, beaming with a toothy smile.

Milktea Heat Packet taps his student ID card on the desk, Mayuzumi catches a similar face on his plastic card. “You’re the first person I’ve met with a name like Chihiro. It’s really pretty. Chihiro-san—”

“May I have your ID please,” Mayuzumi snaps, business and terse.

He really doesn’t need to hear Overgrown Child say his name three times in a row.

“Oh yeah, here,” he says easily, sliding it across the counter. Mayuzumi beeps his number in.

He refuses to read his name.

“Do you know Ghibli movies? Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi ? I think your name has the same kanji as Chihiro. It’s a really, really pretty story. Art’s nice too—”

Mayuzumi sits through this blabbering hell until all the books were scanned in.

“Ah, but you don’t seem like the type to watch movies. At least not cartoon ones? Maybe historical—?”

Mayuzumi pushes the neat stack across the counter, along with his ID square in the middle of the topbook.

“You have until the 22nd; if you’d like to renew your books, you can log in to your student account and request for an extension or bring it back here. One of our staff will help you.”

Business, pure business.

“Thanks, Mayuzumi-san,” Loud Mouth chirps, and floomps his bag atop the counter to slip his books inside.

Hand-sewn messily on the front of his backpack pocket was a cloth patch of a smiling cartoon sun.

Carefully and deliberately, he zips up his backpack.

“Thank you! I’ll see you later, Mayuzumi-san!” He nods at him before turning toward the entrance.

Mayuzumi stares as Sunshine leaves.

And backtracks, when realized he called him that.

 

 

Okay, there’s nothing— nothing wrong with calling him Sunshine.

He’s yellow, he’s annoyingly bright, he’s everything Mayuzumi hates about the sun, transmuted into the shape of a human idiot.

He also has a motor mouth that goes 60km an hour, so there’s that too.

Annoying. Sunshine is annoying.

It’s not a pet name.

 

 

Mayuzumi begins coming in the morning to find a hot can of coffee sitting on top of the circulation desk, waiting for him.

At first, he looks at Pigtails. “Did you—”

She gives him a stiff smile and shrugs, before drifting away, leaving his question unanswered.

The mystery doesn’t last long because once he pushed a cart to the back, blending into the shelves as usual, Sunshine jumped out from somewhere and asked if the coffee helped.

After a scare and falling over the cart again, Mayuzumi murmurs. “You don’t have to feed me coffee, you know. I can buy my own.”

“But do you?” Sunshine asks, unnaturally close to him, hand still cradling Mayuzumi’s elbow.

He meets his stare for a while, before dropping it. There’s no merit in lying. “I… don’t.”

Sunshine leans close and then sniffs.

“Yeah, I thought so!”

 

 

Then there were times small torn folder paper appeared underneath the can.

Have a good day, Mayuzumi-san scrawled in kanji and bubbly hiragana.

The colored ink would change, blue, black, and then metallic sharpie, which bled onto the countertop itself. (He’s going to lecture Sunshine’s ear off later.)

Those notes, though, were rare and sparse. Appearing only when Sunshine, himself, isn’t there to jump from the bookshelves.

“He said he won’t be in today,” Pigtails says one day as Mayuzumi crumples the note and throws it and the can into his bag.

She then says, “He looked so sad, it was kind of cute.”

Mayuzumi, in his fogged up mind of the morning haze, somehow bothered to answer. “Like a dog.”

She laughs, and it’s probably the first time he’s seen her laugh around him. “Now that you mention it, yeah, he’s like a cute puppy!”

An annoying one, if that’s what.

 

 

“Please help me,” Sunshine says, face gaunt and dark bags under his eyes. He does try to smile, but Mayuzumi swears he sees the remnants of his soul escape past his clenched teeth.

Sunshine is the opposite of his name today.

Mayuzumi glances at Pigtails and Spikey, who are stationed at the circulation desk, most likely watching crocheting videos and FPS Let’s Plays respectively and not working.

“I need to write a paper for my cross cultural class and I have no idea where to start—”

“I’m working, go ask someone else,” Mayuzumi grumbles, feeling rather conscious of Sunshine’s hands gripping his shoulders.

Since when did this guy get the big idea that he could touch him?

(And how did Mayuzumi let him? )

Pleaseeee, it has to be you. They said to ask Mayuzumi-san,” he says, and Mayuzumi gives up before Sunshine decides to pull him into a bone crushing hug, and wipe snot all over his shirt.

He manages to fight him off and stands an arm’s length away. “Fine, fine, when’s it due?”

“The first draft is due tomorrow,” he answers, lower lip quibbling, and Jesus Christ. Mayuzumi frowns. How old is he.

“All right. Different question,” Mayuzumi scratches his head. “What’s your topic.”

“Umm, food, maybe—”

“Okay…that’s a start.” Mayuzumi pushes past him and walks down the aisle. “There’s a section on recipes and culinary arts. I remember processing a book about Americanized cultural foods.”

Behind him, Sunshine clops on his clunky skyblue shoes noisily. “I love youu, Mayuzumi-sama~”

He ignores the way his stomach flips at that.

 

 

“Your… paper is all over the place,” Mayuzumi says, leaning back in his chair and crossing his arms.

It’s late in the afternoon.

He’s done with work, he’s done with classes, he could be home right now.

How the hell did he go from finding books to tutoring Sunshine on his essay structure.

At least they were working in the cafeteria. If they were in the library, he’d surely receive suspicious glances from Pigtails and Spikey, but still, Mayuzumi could be relaxing on his bed with a good novel and a can of coffee.

Instead, he’s stuck here.

With an overgrown man child.

“Try to focus on an overarching theme. You can’t talk about how they screw up sushi and then switch over to their lack of candy flavors. You sound like a tacky foodie blog at this point.”

Hnnn, I spent all morning writing this. How am I supposed to write three pages by tomorrow,” Sunshine whines, planting his face on the table.

Mayuzumi taps through Sunshine’s word document, frowning at the grammar, the lack of academic language. There are a million things he wants to fix, but Mayuzumi bites back his criticism.

Badgering Sunshine about it isn’t going to help him finish his assignment.

“Here, let’s focus on this point,” Mayuzumi says, highlighting a sentence. “You can expand on this and make it into a thesis statement.”

“Eh? Really?” Sunshine leans directly into his space, peering over his shoulders and Mayuzumi freezes.

Doesn’t breathe.

“Oh, that—! The fact that Americans like to innovate and experiment on their food?”

At some point Mayuzumi has to take in oxygen.

“Yeah, that,” he says, almost choking a little.

Sunshine smells sweet, a bit musky, but light, citrus. He’s warm, shoulder pressing into Mayuzumu’s chest, too warm even though he’s wearing short sleeves in autumn.

“Mayuzumi-san—”

“Work on this, I’m going to get something to drink,” he says abruptly, sliding the macbook over at him.

 

 

Mayuzumi stands in front of the vending machine, fitting in 500 yen into the coin slot.

Habit has him pressing for his favorite can of black coffee, and he listens to the familiar beep and thud.

Come to think of it, it’s been a while since he’s bought coffee for himself.

Without another thought, Mayuzumi looks for the milk tea brand that Sunshine brought to him that day.

As he waits for his change and for the extra can to dispense, Mayuzumi catches himself in the reflection of the vending machine.

It startles him, before he glares at himself, because what. What was with that stupid soft lilt in the corner of his mouth just now.

I’m only returning a favor, he hisses to particularly no one.

Mayuzumi does not make friends.

And yet now, he’s meeting him outside of the library, of a work space, and Sunshine is wiggling under his skin and getting at him.

He’s annoying, like a beam of sun that escaped through a crack in the drawn blinds.

That’s all.

(Yet this is playing out like a cliche love story that has no right to exist outside of a light novel.

He wants to laugh, but Mayuzumi feels his stomach twist at the thought instead.)

 

 

When Mayuzumi returns to the cafeteria table, Sunshine doesn’t notice him.

Bottom lip pressed under his teeth, he tap-tapped away (agonizingly slow) at his keyboard.

Mayuzumi resigns to watching him work, studying how Sunshine’s eyebrows furrow and then how a strange constipated look flashes over his face right before he backspaces.

His even, slow breathing, and how he tilts his head, left and then right, as if looking at the screen differently would help him magically see the error in his sentence.

Also he talks to himself.

The American food cultural society likes to bastardize— wait, does bastardize mean that? Google, google… what does bastardize mean…

Weird quirks, Mayuzumi thinks. Endearing, he almost thinks until he figured he’s had enough of these thoughts and slides the milk tea across the table.

The can hits Sunshine’s laptop with a clack.

“WOAH, WHO THE FUCK—” Sunshine startles before slapping his hands over his mouth, staring at Mayuzumi with wide and betrayed eyes.

Mayuzumi blinks at him slowly, waiting for him to gather his bearings. Okay, he’ll admit that was funny. (and kind of cute.)

“M-Mayuzumi-san, I didn’t see you there—” he sputters, clutching his chest.

“Yeah, I get that a lot,” Mayuzumi says and then pulls out one of his light novels. He ignores the way Sunshine picks up the milktea, cradling it like a soft poof of cotton in his hand.

“You got this for me,” he says, dumbfoundedly.

“I did,” Mayuzumi says, opening his book and sliding his bookmark onto the table. “Now get back to work.”

Sunshine opens the can with a pop and takes an appreciative (loud) sip. “Yes, sir! Thank you, sir!”

Mayuzumi huffs and lets his eyes trail to the page he’s last read.

 

 

For the next hour and half, Mayuzumi does not read past a single sentence in his novel.

Instead he keeps finding that his attention wanders back to Sunshine, like a moth to a flame. To the perpetual curve of his lips, to the dip in his brow,  pout of his lips, and the exasperated sigh. And his amusing mumbles that Mayuzumi almost laughs at.

(A few split seconds later, when Sunshine looks up, eyes green and sleepy, Mayuzumi blinks, quickly lowering his eyes to realize in horror.

why was he staring?)

 

 

A few days later, Sunshine comes bumbling through the door, flying a piece of paper in his hand like a kite. “Mayuzu—” He starts shouting before he glares at him.

“—mi-san,” Sunshine whispers, just equally loud but raspier. “Guess what I got on my draft!”

Mayuzumi pretends to not see the way Pigtails and Spikey glance at them, or him rather, as Sunshine makes a beeline to the circulation desk. “Good scores?”

“More than perfect!” He says in a hushed, uncontained giggle. He grins as he slams the paper down, turned over, score hidden.

Mayuzumi stares.

“Why are you covering the grade?”

Sunshine’s bright smile falters just a little. “It...uh...see, I just realized...just now that you’re like… a straight A student kind of guy, so, maybe you might think—”

Mayuzumi tries to swipe the paper, Sunshine yanks it away, and shoves it back into his backpack hastily.

What is he, a five year old?

“You can’t just barge in here, talk about your grade, and not show it.”

He whines. “But Mayuzumi-san, you’re gonna think I’m an idiot—”

“That’s not new,” Mayuzumi says, but Sunshine is already running out the door.

Outside, he shouts, “I’ll show you everything after I turn in the final draft!!!”

 

 

After making such a bold statement, Sunshine does not come in the next day, or the next.

Or the next.

Or the next.

Silence.

Peace.

Relief.

All things Mayuzumi’s library should have been and used to be, are now unsettling.

Pigtails have stopped greeting Mayuzumi beyond a simple Good Morning, because after the fourth day, Mayuzumi gave her a dead eye stare that scared her to the back of the library.

He doesn’t blame her.

He wouldn’t know what to do if she mentioned anything about coffee cans and folder paper notes, because there aren’t any.

 

 

Mayuzumi has come to hate a lot of things for the next few weeks.

He walks into the morning with a frown, opens the library windows with a frown, basks in the cold autumn air with a frown.

He glares at the tree outside and frowns. Curses the birds with a shut up, you’re too loud.

He frowns at the books he has to shelve near the children’s section, frowns at the lack of strewn books on the carpet floor.

Maybe once or twice, Mayuzumi threw a stuffed dog and rubber ball onto the floor, only to pick them up a few moments later because he realized how dumb he felt and looked.

Some weeks and a half ago, Sunshine used to leave traces of himself everywhere.

His absence is, also, now everywhere. Its lifespan dragging on for the weeks the blond stopped coming.

Mayuzumi’s once cherished silence is as loud and irritating as Sunshine’s “tamed” library voice. His peace and quiet is as abrasive as the “Good morning!”s and “Mayuzumi-san!”s.

One day, Mayuzumi buys a can of milk tea before his shift, takes a drink of it and grimaces.

It’s sickeningly sweet.

He slams it into the trash shortly afterwards.

 

 

Between fourth and fifth period, as Mayuzumi navigates behind his novel and to his next class, he hears him.

Loud, boisterous, over a chorus of many voices.

“Ahh, I swear sensei’s out to kill me, I worked my ass off for this! Even Ei-chan got a better grade than me!”

“Kou-chan… you didn’t procrastinate did you…“

“I didn’t! I worked on it all week, Jeez—”  

He’s in a group, babbling and bouncing with them naturally. Speaking with that snaggle-toothed smile.

And it was something Mayuzumi never wanted— never even thought of wanting to see.

This cold-splash revelation that it’s natural for someone like him to be surrounded with friends.

Mayuzumi is not friends with Sunshine, he never even bothered learning his name.

Sunshine, a once disdained moniker, now proved to draw a distinction.

This is not the library.  

This is not the routine mornings of picking up strewn books Sunshine flips through in the quiet moments of the morning.

Mayuzumi is a loner by nature.

With his eyes lowered on his light novel, he always had made his way through the hallways unnoticed.

He really should have kept it that way.

 

 

Mayuzumi doesn’t have time to dwell on things.

Rather, he should be upset about the fact that he bought three new novels a few weeks back but hadn’t touched them since their purchase.

What has he been doing.

Pining after some social butterfly like a lovestruck heroine, that’s what.

After cracking open a can of coffee and taking a sip, Mayuzumi throws himself back onto his dorm bed and props his head up with a pillow.

He has a lot to catch up on.

 

 

Sunshine.

Mayuzumi hates the sunshine.

He tosses in his bed just as his phone alarm goes off. There’s always that one ray, one beam of light that nudges through his drawn blinds and sears a streak of heat into his skin.

After throwing himself into ten different positions on his bed, Mayuzumi gives up.

He squints at the clock on his wall.

He squints at his phone, and then at the window.

Back into the same routine, before all of this nonsense.

Out of spite, Mayuzumi laughs, and then coughs.

He sounds like a old man hollowly breathing in day old dust.

 

 

Mayuzumi spends the entire morning backdating books because Spikey accidentally forgot to discharge them yesterday.

Which led to a very angry professor storming through their doors that morning, grousing about overdue book fines.

Conjuring a semblance of an apologetic expression, Mayuzumi apologizes, and works on fixing the problem.

Pigtails and Spikey are late today, but that’s fine, he’s worked long enough at the library to open it in the morning and finish administrative tasks on his own.

Even his supervisors have deemed him capable after his second month.

This is work after all; and honestly, he can only trust himself to do it the best.

The mundane beeps fill the air.

People walk through the entrance, some people file out.

A thud nearly steals his attention from the computer.

“You look terribleee, late night again? Lucky I brought coffee!”

Mayuzumi doesn’t look up.

He grabs another book and recites, “Drinks are not allowed in the library. You can either drink it outside before coming in or put it in your bag.”

He can feel Sunshine’s intense stare drilling holes into his head. “It’s... for you, Mayuzumi-san.”

He sounds a touch confused.

“Huh, if that’s the case, I’ve already had my coffee this morning.” He coolly lifts his eyes to give Sunshine—no, blond guy, a passing glance.

He looks lost, biting his lips, eyebrows scrunched. “Mayuzumi-san… erm, are you angry—”

Mayuzumi sighs, feeling a pinch at his chest.

Angry?

Him?

No— He’s being professional.

“My coworkers aren’t here so I have a backlog of things to do. If you have something to say, please wait until after my shift ends.”

“Oh. Okay.”

Mayuzumi doesn’t bother watching him go.

 

 

“You’ll go blind like that,” Spikey says from the other side of the circulation desk. Mayuzumi blinks, and draws back from the computer screen.

He’s getting old if he has to narrow his eyes at the tiny numbers displayed. Mayuzumi pinches the bridge of his nose and sighs. “My eyesight's been blurry for the past few days. Dry eyes, I think.”

“Are you sleeping late again? Reading those novels?” Spikey asks, accusatory but amused. Unlike Pigtails, Spikey has the nerve to talk to him. Ugh.

“No, just slept bad,” Mayuzumi lies, and then shuts up. He hates small talk, why is he chatty now. Frustrated, he rubs his eyes.

“You know, the school store sells eyedrops,” Spikey says. “You should leave early and buy some.”

That sounds like a great idea, better than squinting and almost kissing the computer. Mayuzumi stands from his chair and plucks off his name tag. “If that’s fine with you.”

Spikey waves him off. “Yeah, don’t worry about it.”

 

 

Mayuzumi looks at the eyedrop bottle in his hands.

It’s small, 300 yen, and a deep shade of emerald.

Like the color of Sunshine’s eyes—

Honestly, how much longer is he going to be such a lovestruck loser about this. Light novel romance never happens in real life.

Sighing, he pops open the cap and tips his head back. He’s had these before and they’ll sting like a bunch of stabbing needles in the autumn air.

But they’ll wake him up.

Maybe.

Mayuzumi grimaces after letting a few drops into his eyes. It hurts, as usual.

It’ll pass, he thinks, feeling the oddly lukewarm liquid drip down his cheeks. His cheek sears from the cold.

He ducks his head as he sits on a bench in the courtyard.

There is about twenty minutes before third period ends, yet there are sounds of people wandering around him.

Clanks of food stalls setting up along the sidewalk for the lunch rush. Laughter of a group of people walking past him.

And footsteps.

Loud footsteps.

Coming closer.

“Mayuzumi-san!”

He flinches.

“There you are! I was looking all for you but Takuma-san said you were out here because you weren’t feeling well—”

It’s the last person he wanted to see—can’t even see because his eyes hurt like hell.

“What do you want?” Mayuzumi grumbles. He wipes at his eyes, lifts his head.

Silence.

And then hears the sound of a body sitting next to him. “Ahh, fuck, I knew it,” he says, softly, voice shaking. “I’m the worst, I made you cry—”

“I’m not,” Mayuzumi snaps, indignant, opening his eyes. “I just bought—”

He feels arms. Wrap around him, pulling him close and the first thing Mayuzumi sees is the ugly pale color of his Skywalker hoodie.

It hits Mayuzumi all at once then, his warmth, his smell, his voice in his ear—

“I must’ve made you lonely, ugh, god I wanna kick myself. I’m sorry Mayuzumi-san, I won’t do it again—”

“Wait, you, let go—” Mayuzumi chokes when the grip is unrelenting.

“I should’ve told you, but you only work morning shifts, and I had to go to the elementary schools before seven and—“

“People are staring, you idiot —” Mayuzumi tries pushing but he doesn’t budge.

“—I am so stupid, GOD, I JUST REALIZED I COULD’VE LEFT YOU A NOTE—”

"God damn it, Sun —” Mayuzumi bites down as he gives one last shove. “Kou-chan, shut the hell up and let go—

Mayuzumi finally manages to shove him back, glaring at a his shell-shocked face. His arms still outstretched but now limp.

“Eyedrops. I just used eyedrops. I was not crying, so shut up, you stupid idiot,” Mayuzumi hisses, voice low, squinting at him and holding the green bottle in his face.

He blinks back at him, emerald eyes a shade darker than the bottle.

Mayuzumi sighs, suddenly drained.

Why is he so tired. He hates this.

Mayuzumi gathers his things and stands from the bench. “I’m going home.”

“Wait—” he says abruptly, breaking away from his stupid gaze. He jumps to his feet and grabs Mayuzumi’s wrist. “You… called me Kou-chan—”

Mayuzumi levels a stare at him, puzzling at his expression. Eyebrows drawn, the blond has the same face he had when Mayuzumi saw him that day.

As if he wasn’t sure if he wanted to cry or laugh; his lips tremble a little with a dash of pink on his cheeks.

“Yeah, because I heard your friend calling you that, what’s the big deal. Can I leave now?”

“D-Does…” he says quietly, eyes lowered. Suddenly he’s acting shy. Weird, Mayuzumi thinks. The blond sucks in a deep breath before yelling, “Does that mean I can call you Chihiro-chan—”

Mayuzumi yanks his hand away from his grasp.

He stares at him, feeling a rush of blood and heat shooting up his neck and burning his cheeks.

He hates this.

“I’m leaving—” Mayuzumi says finally, and for the first time probably in a very long time, runs.

 

 

1:54 am.

Mayuzumi drops the light novel on his face and stares up at the ceiling instead.

He can’t concentrate.

His stomach hurts and he doesn’t quite know why that is.

Everything’s burning up in him, rushing to sear at the skin on his cheeks. Mayuzumi covers his face, cold fingers offering relief.

He might be sick; a fever probably. The room is too cold, and hot at the same time.

Mayuzumi wraps himself in his slew of blankets, feeling tucked in, safe— in his embrace, of warmth, smell, the voice in his ear

Annoying

Sunshine is annoying.

Kou-chan is annoying.

The fact that Mayuzumi doesn’t have control, never had control is annoying.

Mayuzumi flings the blankets off, huffing at it as it cascades to the floor.

Who does that guy think he is to make assumptions?

Lonely? Him? Mayuzumi wants to scoff. He can’t be lonely if he had always been by himself.

He moves to shut off his bedside lamp.

For the umpteenth time, he persuades himself that this is not a light novel romance, leading into yet another sleepless night.

 

 

Mayuzumi dreams about him, his bright smile, his callused hands on his face.

He dreams about the quiet mornings again, and the scraps of notes, torn folder paper he leaves behind, only for Mayuzumi to lose them in the bottom of his bookbag, intending to throw it out, but never doing so.

He dreams about him tearing him away from his safe and peaceful, breaking him apart, painfully, slowly, lovingly, and then piecing him back together. And maybe, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be together.

Mayuzumi-san, he'd say into his hair, soft and laughing.

He'd look up, take a breath and close his eyes, Haya—

 

 

He wakes up that morning and chucks his novel off his bed.

He’s read too much shit that even his dreams are haunted.

Fuck, I hate this.

 

 

“Good morning, Mayuzumi-kun, he’s—”

He ignores her and throws his bag quickly over the counter and onto the floor behind the circulation desk. He grabs the empty book truck.

“I’m going to Serials. If anyone asks, and I mean him, I’m not here.”

 

 

Mayuzumi has a cart next to him, sliding books into their proper places before he hears shuffling.

Shuffling, hesitant footsteps down the really, narrow book aisle.

He's trapped between the cart and the very person he doesn’t want to see.

But at least, the idiot decided not to jump scare him like all the previous times.

Mayuzumi lifts his eyes. He’s not going to be intimidated. “You’re really persistent, aren’t you.”

“And you’re really stubborn, Mayuzumi-san.”

Despite his crooked simper, the words carry a sting that Mayuzumi flinches at. Stubborn?

Mayuzumi smoothes away the angry dip in his brow. Instead, he picks up a book, running his finger along the spine, checking the call number. “Am I? That’s rich coming from someone who insists on annoying me every day.”

“Ah… so you hated it,” he says emptily after a few moments of silence, frowning. Mayuzumi stares, feeling annoyance pounding at his lungs like a flood.

“You’ve no idea how hard it is for me,” Mayuzumi says, voice terse.

When the blond looks up, looking hurt, lost —what nerve he has to look like that, Mayuzumi snaps.

“When you come here, you’re loud, even your whispers are loud. You make a mess with books, you play with stuffed animals, you don’t even put them back. What are you, twelve ?”

The blond shrinks a little, ducking his head. “I, I’m sorry—”

Mayuzumi huffs, feeling his chest flame up.

He shouldn’t be talking, he doesn’t talk. He doesn’t make small talk, he hell as sure doesn’t share anything, but his list of grievances is long, his grudge to large to let go.

“And you asked me earlier if I was angry, and yeah, I’m pissed, you have a pretty shit explanation for disappearing for three weeks, do you know how worried —”

Mayuzumi catches his breath, clenches his eyes. His head is pounding. What the hell is he doing.

He’s never yelled at anyone before. He’s never “worried” about anyone, dwelling on the what's ifs and maybes haunting his time like a pervasive daydream.

“Mayuzumi-san?

“Shut up, shut up, don’t,” Mayuzumi warns, holding up a hand. At the motion, the blond stops in his tracks, freezing still. “God, talking to you is tiring me out. I need a break.”

Mayuzumi breathes. His lungs are burning, he’s tired, everything is making him tired.

Silence, miraculously, passes between them.

“You…” Mayuzumi finally croaks, remembering the name on his ID. “Hayama Kotarou, right?”

Hayama, still in that awkward pose with his arms raised a little, waiting—blinks at him. Like a stupid, endearing puppy. “Yes?”

Mayuzumi lets out a short breath and takes a step.

Tired, so tired.

One, two, forward, dropping his head right at Hayama’s shoulders. He feels Hayama stiffen at his touch, but Mayuzumi shuts his eyes.

Relief.

He’s actually here and not somewhere, where he can’t reach him.

Hayama is here.

And even though he's the embodiment of chaotic whirlwind, like this it feels like the eye of the storm.

Resting, calm.

Mayuzumi sighs, energy gone.

“You tire me out.”

“I’m sorry?” Hayama says carefully, arms hesitantly enclosing around his back.

His rough palm is warm, flat, and cupping against the back of his head, his touch is light. His jacket smells like citrus and vanilla. Mayuzumi sighs into it.

“You're loud, and childish, obnoxious—”

“I’m sorry about that too.” Hayama squeezes him a little, pulling him close for a moment.

“Everything about you is annoying.”

Hayama withdraws, hand sliding from his back, to his shoulders, to his face.

Mayuzumi doesn't move; it’s warm, unlike his cold fingers. He feels the expanse of Hayama’s hand on his cheek.

He sighs. “At least, have the decency to tell me the score of your draft. Don't just disappear and leave me hanging.”

Mayuzumi opens his eyes, emerald green gazes back.

Lips, surprisingly chaste and trembling, touches his. Mayuzumi feels his breath stop in his throat.

Then he realizes the hand on his face is also shaking.

Seconds pass, and Hayama breathes, eyelashes fluttering before he suddenly snaps away, eyes widening.

“Erm… I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to—you just looked really— uhh, pretty? And I just—without thinking, I—”

Mayuzumi stares at him, mind reeling.

Hayama’s face turn several shades of red.

Aahhhh,” he whines loudly (as loud as his library voice would go). He covers his face. “Fuck, I fucked it up, okay, I’m just—”

“You,” Mayuzumi starts, staring blankly, shocked—maybe. And for once, he’s at a loss of words.

This mismatched pace and raw emotion that Hayama just unearths in him, this annoying guy with his own tempo and dumb, stupid blabbering.

Mayuzumi has always been calm, controlled, and not like this.

“I—I’m sorry, I just did it without thinking, because—” He stutters to a stop, and gulps a deep breath. “Please forget I did that, okay? So I’m… uh, gonna go, and—I won’t bother you anymore, okay—”

Mayuzumi thought he’d never thought he’d want this, but god he needs it so much he hates it.

“Don’t,” Mayuzumi growls, not quite thinking, and grabs Hayama by the arm.

This habit Hayama has for just assuming things —Mayuzumi glares and doesn’t quite know why his chest and everything on his face is burning.

“Don’t just decide things on your own, you stupid Sunshine.”

“Mayuzumi-san,” Hayama says, voice in all ways broken, expression pained, and gripping his arm tight, pulling him in, closer. “Mayuzumi-san—”

It happens all too quickly then, Hayama kissing him deeply with his name breathed in between. He kisses him, fierce and desperate.

And Mayuzumi, can’t. Breathe.

He shivers, as both of Hayama’s hands are holding the sides of his face. His heart pounds in his ears, and Mayuzumi absently, breathlessly, wonders if kisses are supposed to be this sloppy, undoing him and his thread of logic, melting his weeks’ worth of frustration, annoyance.

He’s shaking, or both of them are, mouths slightly parted, gasping, wet and warm.

Hayama pushes him against the bookshelves like a starved animal, teeth pressed painfully against his, and then

stops.

Drawing back and looking terrified, green eyes gaze at him through a wall of tears. Despite that, he smiles, trembling and scared.

“I… I’m sorry I—really, really like you. I've liked you for a long time, I didn’t know what to do—”

Mayuzumi stiffens when Hayama covers his face, wiping furiously, sobbing and laughing feebly. “And—I did something you hate, I didn’t mean to! Now you hate me and I’m sorry, I don't want you to hate me—”

“Hayama—”

He bows, arms glued to his side, yelling.

“I WON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO IF YOU HATED ME, BUT I LIKE YOU, I LIKE YOU SO MUCH! PLEASE GO OUT WITH ME, PLEASE I BEG OF—UGYU—”

Mayuzumi slams a book on his head.

Shut up, you’re too loud.”

Hayama rubs his head, looking up.

A tear drops from his eye, and Mayuzumi thinks he looks stupidly adorable like that, eyes red and glossy. (Wait, back track.)

“Can you shut up for one second and hear me out. I said you were annoying, I never said I hated you,” Mayuzumi sighs, feeling the heat of the moment finally showing on his cheeks. “I wouldn’t have let you kissed me if that was the case. So stop making assumptions, and let me get back to work.”

“Wait, does this mean—”

Mayuzumi flicks him in the forehead, frowning at him. “Wipe the snot off your face and buy me coffee. I’m tired of dealing with you, brat.”

Hayama stares at him and then whines, “Mayuzumi-san, I don’t understand what you mean—”

“I’m saying, yes, sure, yeah, I’ll go out with you,” Mayuzumi grumbles, pushing Hayama out of the aisle. “I’m not going to kiss you again to make my point, so just go. Leave. Before I kill myself out of shame.”

Hayama doesn’t budge, Mayuzumi curses his lack of upper body strength and Hayama’s bulky frame. “Can… we eat lunch together after this?”

“Sure.”

His green eyes are sparkling now; Mayuzumi feels any power to refuse just slip away. “Can we have dinner too—?”

“Whatever you want.”

“And you can come to my room afterwards, and watch a movie, you can even sleep over, we dorm on the same floor anyways—you know, I saw you a while back but you were too tired to—”

He plants his palm over Hayama’s eyes. “ Just leave before I change my mind, you creep.

 

 

--

“You said you went to elementary schools?  Were you volunteering there?” Mayuzumi asks, softly and surprising, during one of the following quiet mornings.

Hayama rouses from his book, blinking a few times before he looks up. “Eh?”

Mayuzumi looks at him and then turns away. He’s always been one to give up easily on small, useless talk. “I’m not repeating myself.”

“I heard you, I heard you,” Hayama laughs lightly. After many lectures and scolding, he’s come a long way to controlling his volume in the library. Hayama thought Mayuzumi would feel proud, but he’s staring at him with a deep frown and annoyed dip in his brow.

Ah, that’s cute.

“What.”

“No, I just remembered that you used to ignore me all the time, and now you’re actually curious about me!” he chirps, putting the book onto the floor. For Mayuzumi to be the one to break the silence, it must be—

Hayama laughs. “It means my unrequited love is finally paying off—!”

Mayuzumi opens his mouth—

Hayama beats him to it. “Actually—! It was a part of my education classes! I had to go there in the mornings, come back for classes in the afternoon.”

Mayuzumi looks contemplative, but doesn’t say anything.

As much of a blank canvas the librarian likes to think he is, he’s pretty oblivious to the fact that his emotions can be read elsewhere that isn’t his face.  

Drawn shoulders, lowered eyes, terse lip, professional language— “If you have something to say, please wait until after my shift ends.”

Hayama gives up on reading and leans back on the floor. “Ahhhhh, to think I made you lonely, I should’ve said something earlier—”

He hears a definitive thud of Mayuzumi dropping a book heavily onto the cart. That’s usually a cue for— “I’m leaving.”

Hayama flings himself at him, latching onto his hip, effectively anchoring him. “Wait, wait, don’t leave yet. I wanna ask you something—!”

Mayuzumi tries to fight, but he’s probably realized by now, Hayama’s heavier than him, stronger too. (Much, much stronger.)

Exasperated, he gives in. “And what’s that?”

Hayama looks up at him, studying him. “So, you know, on that day, the one where, uh, I asked you out...”

He can feel his spine tense, Mayuzumi is coolly glancing elsewhere. He’s avoiding the subject. Hiding, protecting, a secret he doesn’t want to share. “And...?”

“Why’d you call me Sunshine— gyu—

He lets go just as Mayuzumi lifts the book from his face.

“I’m going back to work.”