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Thinking about it for a while

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Chihiro nods, but focuses primarily on his salad, because he miscalculated with the dressing this time and it seems to be making more of a mess than he originally thought it would. He’s wary of letting it get on his jacket, especially because he hasn’t changed out of his uniform yet, so he has to pay extra attention. Still, though, he glances momentarily over at Mondo to let the biker gang leader know he’s paying attention.

 

“Thanks, man,” Mondo releases what is clearly a breath he’s been holding for quite some time, and Chihiro sympathises. Up until a few minutes ago, he’s been sitting alone in the dining hall and eating his salad in silence. Then Mondo came in, sat down next to him, and asked if he could rant about something that’s been frustrating him. Of course, Chihiro isn’t exactly an authority on all things emotional- he can barely handle his own problems in the best of times; he had to come out to his class as cis, for goodness’ sake- but he’s feeling okay right now, and he thinks he’s levelheaded enough to have a conversation about whatever’s on his friend’s mind. Besides, Mondo’s been there for him so much in the past, he figures he ought to return the favour. “It’s just been bugging me for so long…”

 

“Mm.” Chihiro nods again, to show he relates, but says nothing else, for fear of making Mondo feel like he’s not listening, or not going to let him speak. To shut himself up, the programmer spears several pieces of kale on the end of his fork and shoves them all into his mouth. It works pretty well, because Chihiro would certainly never talk with his mouth full, but a little bit of dressing splashes as a result and he flinches away, hoping none of it got on his jacket. He supposes he’ll figure out if it did in due time.

 

“I’m just pissed off with the way that that Nidai guy keeps brawling against Owari,” Mondo starts, and Chihiro glances over again, expecting his friend to elaborate. “He’s a man, y’know, and a good one! But men shouldn’t hit women, no matter what. It’s the action of a bullshit coward to pick on somebody weaker than you, man, I’m so over it.”

 

“Oh… well, doesn’t Owari usually ask to fight to begin with?” Chihiro inquires, and he doesn’t mean to invalidate Mondo’s feelings, obviously, they’re really close friends (albeit not as close as Mondo and Kiytoaka) and he would never dream of saying something that would make the biker gang leader feel bad, but even so. It’s a little judgemental, isn’t it, considering that Akane is usually roaring for a fight? And from Chihiro’s understanding of it, Nekomaru only humours her for the sake of helping her improve, not for some weird affirmation of his masculinity.

 

“Yeah, but if a girl asked me to fight, I’d say no. You just shouldn’t hit women. It’s fucked up.” Mondo shrugs. “And Owari keeps losing. He should know better than to be fighting someone that explicitly weaker than he is constantly.”

 

Well, okay. Chihiro sighs and pushes his salad away. There’s a time and a place for advice, he’s aware of it, and he would never cross that boundary and try to advise somebody when they’re not feeling up to it. Plus, there are plenty of perfectly understandable reasons to be upset about Akane and Nekomaru’s more than questionable work-out routines. But still, as Mondo’s friend… Chihiro swallows and rolls his shoulders back, maintaining good posture in the way that Kiyotaka advises so that he doesn’t come across as afraid when he says what he’s about to say, because that’ll just make Mondo feel crappy.

 

“Uhm…” he rubs the back of his neck. “Oowada, you… I’m sure you don’t mean it in that way, but the way you’re talking it kinda seems like you think women are weaker than men.”

 

“Huh? Well, I mean,” Mondo flounders. “I wouldn’t say that, but-”

 

“I know,” Chihiro interrupts smoothly, and immediately feels bad about it, but he doesn’t want Mondo to feel backed into a corner, or like he has to start making excuses. Because that would imply Chihiro is attacking him, and he’s not, he really isn’t. “But that’s just… how it sounds, you know, a-and sometimes it can come off that way when you talk about how true men don’t hurt girls and stuff.”

 

“Awh,” Mondo frowns, looking away. “I don’t mean it in that way, I just mean to say that- you know- it’s crappy to pick on people who are physically weaker than you.” There’s a pause, during which Mondo presumably gathers his thoughts, and Chihiro backs off to allow him that space to do so. “I mean, it’s not about gender, you know! I’d be seriously pissed if somebody was picking on anybody who was weaker than them, no matter what parts they have!” And Chihiro knows it’s the truth, because any time Mondo has heard of somebody making him upset, the gang leader has immediately stood up in his defense.


Still, though, he can’t just leave it at that. “Right, but you still say women, not people who aren’t as strong.” Chihiro points out, messing with the hem of his sleeve. “So…” but then he doesn’t know what to say, and he just halts for a minute, trying to figure out what exactly it is he wants to convey to Mondo. As though in the name of doing for Chihiro what Chihiro just did for him, Mondo remains silent until the programmer can figure out how to say what he needs to. “Do you think women are weaker than men, Mondo?”

 

“No.” Mondo’s response is immediate. “No, I think women are super fucking strong, man, I mean, Ogami is the strongest person in the world, how could I think women are weak?” Fair point, but Chihiro is still unsatisfied. “I- I mean, when I say it, I don’t say it because I think women are weak, you know? I say that shit because-” and then he really does stop, averts is gaze, and realisation dawns on Chihiro a second too late.

 

“Oh- it- because of your-”

 

“Because of Daiya, yeah,” though Mondo shrugs when he says this, acts flippant about it, Chihiro knows that it’s a sensitive topic. Something they barely talk about, have not spoken about since Mondo initially told their class about it, because the biker gang leader doesn’t like being vulnerable. And Chihiro understands, he really actually truly does, because he doesn’t like being vulnerable either. He wants to feel strong. But he’s starting to learn that being vulnerable doesn’t mean being weak.


Still, though, there’s a time and a place for asking for vulnerability, and it’s not a kind thing to try and force others to do. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean for-”

 

“Forget about it, Fujisaki,” Mondo brushes it off, and Chihiro frowns, about to say that it’s not alright and he does need to communicate that he didn’t mean to insult Mondo’s brother even indirectly, but the other boy is talking again already. “You’re right, man, and you should call me out. It’s a misogynistic mindset. I hold it so close to my chest because my brother said it and then he died, but that doesn’t mean I get to keep acting like women are any weaker than men with no repercussions. It’s fucked up, and I don’t even believe in it, anyway.”

 

“I…” even so, he… “Well, the fact is, I know you don’t, that’s why I was able to say something about it.” Chihiro finally concedes, messing with his hair. “I mean, I trust you to listen to me, and to hear what I have to say without getting upset about it. We’ve come that far, haven’t we?” And they have, they have. There was a time when Mondo would’ve viewed this kind of conversation as an insult to his masculinity, a challenge, and he would’ve responded with violence. But they’re past that now. They know how to communicate. “I mean, I don’t want to ask you to denounce the things your brother taught you, I know how much he meant to you, and I do believe he was a good guy.” He means it.

 

And then Mondo is nodding, and he’s smiling, and it’s kind of an awkward smile, but it’s still a smile. “I get you, man. I do. There are things I should take away from what my brother taught me and things I still need to establish for myself, on my own terms. I shouldn’t say shit about women being weaker.”

 

“Thank you for hearing me.” Chihiro smiles too. “I-I mean, I knew you would, but… and, I’m, sorry for interrupting you when you were ranting, I should’ve asked before giving advice or talking to you about this kind of thing, it’s important for me to know you’re in the headspace for it before I-”

 

“Don’t stress!” Mondo nudges his shoulder. “I’m a man, after all, I can take it!”

 

“Oowada-”

 

“I’m just fucking around with you, I mean to say that I’m not, y’know, upset.” And Chihiro laughs, because it’s so weird hearing Mondo be genuine like this, but it’s nice. He’s glad they’ve come this far.