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To Dabble in being Human

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The school bell rings, loud and sharp, signaling the end of another class.

        “Okay everyone, make sure you do the presentations and have them ready for class on Monday. Any questions??" Mr. Kagami began wrapping up his class, eyeing the room as a few students bolted towards the doorway, laughing.  He hadn’t even told them that they could leave yet, and the thought of doing so seemed beyond the point—that didn’t stop him, however.  "You can all go, see you on Monday morning."

Old habits die hard.

Theo made sure he had written down what his topic for the presentation was before packing his books and notes into his bag, slinging the satchel over his shoulder and heading towards the doorway, listening to students around him making idle chatter as they walked outside.

 He ignored the eyes on him.  It was funny how, out of all the science classes he'd been in, this one was by far the most stereotypical one, filled with smart yet average looking people who all just wanted to see what was under his pants.  He was the only one to stand out—a  real pain when dealing with a lot of the guys who kept misgendering him on purpose—if only so that they could justify the lustful stares and vulgar remarks they’d make during each class.

His phone beeped, bringing him back to reality.  Looking around the crowded corridor, he searched for a spot out of the way, a clearing for him to stand and check and see just what was needed of him.  He found a clearing near a water dispenser, weaving his way around the other students, grabbing his phone from his pocket before unlocking it and seeing a message from Reiji.

          R: hey, thinking about going out tonight for a few drinks. You interested in taking a break from your serious lifestyle and joining us??

Theo sighed, he should stay at home and work on his project.  He also had two students who he would meet up with for English tutoring that he’d scheduled to meet with that very day.  There was also something kicking off or happening with the group going out, even if it was fun to watch—Theo thought, why not.

          T: sure, I have two students, one at 5pm and one at 7pm. Shall I meet you at the usual place?? 

 

Theo hit send. Ten seconds later his phone beeped with the response.

 

          R: yeah that works. We'll meet at 10pm to give you time to get sorted.

 

Theo smiled as he typed out a response. 

 

           T: Thanks. I'll see you soon then.

 

Glancing at the time on his phone he saw it read 3:39pm.  I can meet the first student at the cafe round the corner of the college, it has internet so I can work on my presentation until then. He thought, before he started walking down the now empty hall.

 

 

~10pm, somewhere in Shinjuku~

 

Theo walked out of the train station and down the busy streets of Shinjuku filled with people dressed up for going out, and staff at night entertainment establishments trying to hand out flyers and get people to go in. 

He saw the usual drinking spot for him and his friends, the Mitsubi night bar, a small family run place that was quite cozy and chill with mahogany wood features and deep red carpets and upholstery.  Yellow lights were kept low to give the establishment a warm atmosphere.  Walking inside, he noticed Reiji sitting with Kyouichi, Arata, Izumi, and Kohaku at an out of the way table.  He smiled in their direction before walking to the main bar area, ordering a beer then making his way over to the group.  He noted that, despite being in an on and off relationship with Kohaku, Arata had his arm around Izumi. Theo rolled his eyes at this as he set his drink down.

             "... My teacher told her she needs to put more effort in and to use me as an example to follow. I think she's going to transfer, I saw her crying in the restroom." Izumi was saying with a smirk.

             "You look so happy about that, but if she leaves, who will do your homework??" Arata asked as Theo sat down.

             "Probably some other poor sod to be taken advantage of." Kohaku muttered under his breath.

Theo looked at Kohaku with amusement, then looked over to Reiji.  "Hi, how's class going??"

             "Same old, I only need to pass. I have my future lined up for me. My parents want me to marry my girl after my masters classes, have kids and take over the family ryokan. No need for me to try so hard." Reiji responded with a small smile.

              "You don't sound happy. Did you not want to take over the ryokan??" Theo questioned, keeping his gaze focused on the blonde.

Reiji took a swig of beer. "It's not that, I just wish there wasn't so much pressure to follow my parents’ plans for me. I'm not ready to do any of that. I want to travel with friends first, maybe go on a lad’s holiday before committing to someone."

Theo gulped down half his beer. The table had gone quiet, listening to their conversation.

               "Sounds like you just don't want to marry Hitomi.  Have you found someone else you prefer who your parents won’t accept? You're not secretly questioning your sexuality are you? That'd probably be Theo's fault, he has that effect on guys because he looks like a girl."  Arata laughed, acting obnoxious, aiming to embarrass Reiji in front of everyone in the bar. The whole time he snuggled an equally obnoxious Izumi, covering for the fact that he, too, was in an on off relationship with a guy.

               "No, that's you questioning your sexuality Arata."  Theo responded before Reiji could process what'd been said. He downed the rest of his drink, "Reiji, want another drink??" 

               "Oh, um sure... Thank you Theo." Reiji stuttered, still in his stunned state. 

               "Be right back."  Walking to the bar, Theo let a bit of the anger through. It wasn't his fault he had a slender and short body, and a feminine face, or that he couldn't grow a beard.  Reaching the bar, he sighed, there was no point thinking about it and accidentally snapping at the staff.  A barmaid came over so he ordered two beers and headed back over to the group. 

                "What is your new project on Kohaku??" Kyouichi pleasantly asked the freshman, trying his hardest to engage with the awkward art student.

                 "We're doing mythical creatures, so I want to do a piece on an angel with broken wings. But I need a model."  Came the shy reply.  Kohaku, despite everything, kept stealing longing glances at Arata.

                  "Izumi could do it, she's pretty and graceful." Arata responded, smiling at the young woman beside him.

Izumi scoffed, holding her hand up to her lips.  "Sure I guess I could do that for you," she said in a superior tone, as if Kohaku should be grateful that she was honoring him by being his model.

                   "I said Angel, not Satan's daughter. I can't draw someone who makes others fall behind to do her homework and then brags about it, as a heavenly being." Kohaku bit back. 

                   "What's happened?? It seems tenser than when I left." Theo asked as he took his seat, eyeing the three that appeared to be locked in a heated debate.

Kyouichi eyed Theo with hidden remorse, shrugging as if even he didn't quite follow what was going on.  "How about Theo helps you, he looks pretty and his eyes are naturally blue so bonus points." He suggested, trying above all to get Arata and Izumi to quiet down. 

                    "What are you signing me up for you prick??" Theo asked, eyebrows raising and mouth quirking in his best pissed off expression he could manage.

                     "I need a model for my art project, and I’d prefer you over Izumi. You don't love yourself or manipulate those in your class." Kohaku had a lost puppy look on his face while he spoke, never making eye contact with Theo but rather keeping his focus on Arata and the young woman.

Theo worked out that, between all the long glances and sighs, Kohaku had wanted Arata to be his model but had been snubbed. "Fine I'll do it, let me write my number down and we can arrange it later." He pulled a pen and paper out of his pocket and proceeded to jot down his number. 

                     "By the way Theo, when you were at the bar a guy came round asking if we wanted to do karaoke, and we put your name down." Arata stated, sly tone taking over every word.  Izumi giggled beside him. 

                     "I thought you signed yourselves up for it," Reiji blurted out.

                     "I signed Theo up, and Izumi signed herself up. Got to have a laugh before she goes up so she shines more." Arata smirked, happy to have put Theo on the spot as coincidental payback for stealing Izumi's modelling chance.

Theo looked around the bar, trying to find the karaoke man, but just as he found him the guy started talking into the microphone. "Good evening, tonight's our weekly karaoke night." He paused to let people cheer, "our first volunteer is Himezuka Theo singing Dance Magic Dance by David Bowie. Everyone give him a hand!"

Theo sat there, red faced.  "Arata...."

                     "Yes??"

                     "Go fuck yourself."

Chapter Text

Theo could vaguely hear his alarm going off, a constant whirring noise that had him groggily waking up, squinting at the time before grabbing his phone and quickly turning off the obnoxious sound.  Two hours and he’d have another tutoring student to look after, he’d need to get up at some point.  Glancing at the flashing screen of his phone, he saw loads of messages, one of which was from Kohaku—though they’d barely spoken the night before, Theo could clearly hear the younger man’s concerned voice through the screen.

K. Hey this is kohaku. Just wanted to check I got your number correct in my phone.

Smiling, Theo wrote a quick response to say that he'd entered it correctly—he barely knew the art major, but he made a mental note to be a bit more interested in his life the next time they met up, especially if he was going to be the younger man's model.

Reiji had also sent a text, virtual voice borderline concern for Theo’s well being after the previous night’s outing.

R. Did you get home safe?? You seemed angry last night, but your singing was actually really good. Don’t worry about arata, he’s going to realize one day that he should treat people with respect.

There was one from Arata, as well, though Theo cringed upon reading the text.

A. Your face was priceless last night!! Didn’t think you’d actually do it though ;P

Reluctantly, Theo responded to both before looking at the random number displaying three messages, the first of which gradually set off a few alarm bells within the pixie-haired man’s mind.

RN. Hey. I saw you last night at the mitsubi and was lucky enough to see your friend put your number in the trash. I figured you wouldn’t have minded if I took it out and used it for myself. Yours, Dragon. Xoxo

            “What the . . .?” Upon reading the message, Theo felt his stomach plummet, though he couldn’t quite tell if his sudden urge to heave was from the liquor the night before or from the implications behind the words.  Surely one of his friends was messing with him . . .  Surely someone in class had wanted to get the best of him. 

RN. I forgot to say you are extremely attractive. Wow, there’s no one who could compare to you.

Theo’s hands shook, phone jostling against his palms, fingers hovering over the flashing screen.  “What the hell?”  How far were his friends willing to go for a scare?

RN. I’m impressed, you can sing too?? Is there anything you can’t do?? Your English is really good too. Is it your native tongue?? I’d take private lessons from you any day. Yours, Xoxo

Surely his friends wanted him to freak out after the previous night’s outing—after Arata made him go up on stage to sing, after he’d thrown caution to the wind just to see the look of sheer horror flashing across the idiot’s face.  Theo felt acid rising in his throat, fingers still twitching against his phone screen, though he could hardly see the texts anymore.  On instinct, he ran to the bathroom, heaving.  Tears played in his eyes.

Surely this was Arata just trying to get back at him for actually knowing how to sing.

After sitting on the bathroom floor far longer than he’d hoped with his back against the toilet, Theo walked the hall back to his room, picked up his phone and messaged the tutoring student—he would cancel their lesson, today.  He would stay in bed until the sick feeling disappeared.


Theo woke to his phone ringing—checking the clock, three hours had passed.  It was Reiji.

 
             “Hello??”

             “Theo have you finished tutoring yet?? Wanna get breakfast??”  Reiji’s voice sounded from the other end, overly bubbly and enthusiastic for a man such as himself.

              “I cancelled, I’m not feeling well.” Theo paused before adding, hesitantly, “I’ll pass on breakfast, I’m sorry.”

              “Hungover?? Food will help with that.”  Theo could almost hear Reiji's smirk playing through the phone, though the blonde was right.

              “I really want to just stay in bed.” Theo grumpily hung up—now that he was more awake, now that he could collect his thoughts, he felt like the texts were, by far, a stupid prank. 

 

And he’d hoped to milk his hangover for the entire day, too, if it hadn't have been for Reiji finding it amusing to bang on his door an hour later.

            “What do you want, Reiji? I said I don’t feel well!” Theo whined, voice raising an octave as he made his way towards the door, hands upon his hips, eyes narrowing.

             “You’re going outside even if I have to drag you kicking and screaming, myself.  Besides, you’re the one always saying that you have to eat when you’re hung over, Theo.”  Reiji crossed his arms, raising an eyebrow into a perfect arch, “you know I will strip you myself and throw you into the shower, right?”  And this is how Theo found his friend upon opening the door.

              “Fine, you win okay?”  Theo sighed, stepping aside to allow Reiji inside before shutting the door behind him.  He knew when to admit defeat, especially where the blonde was concerned.   “I’ll go shower.”  Theo walked off to his room, grumbling to himself as he got his stuff together. He would never admit it, but the second he got into the shower he realized the hot water was exactly what he needed.  By the time he’d gotten dressed, he’d already forgotten all about the weird messages.

               “Ready??” Reiji asked, concern evident in his tone and gaze.

               “Yeah, let’s go.” If you were so concerned why didn’t you let me stay inside...


 

An hour later they were sat in a Starbucks having food and coffee.  Theo felt a lot better after being outside, after spending time alongside Reiji.

                “Do you have plans this afternoon?” Reiji took a sip of coffee before continuing, “if not, did you want to hang out a bit longer?”

                “Can do for a bit, but I will have to go home early to get my presentation done before Monday. I’d prefer to use Sunday as a day to review.” Theo remarked, picking up the tray with dirty plates and cups before taking it to the counter. “What’d you have in mind??”

                “We can go shopping for school supplies, and it’s Hitomi’s birthday soon, was kind of hoping to get her some art stuff. I thought you might want to help?”  Reiji cast a sideways glance in Theo's direction, shrugging as he spoke.

Theo nodded, a small smile coming to his lips.  “Sure.”

They left Starbucks and walked to the station, aiming for the train to Akihabara. They sat in silence to avoid disturbing other passengers, Theo looking outside the window, anxiety suddenly filling the pit of his stomach with dread and a feeling that something was seriously wrong.

The train pulled up to the station, jolting Theo more than it should have.  He stood and immediately rushed to the door, overcome by the need to get off the train.  He didn’t notice or care about the dirty looks he was getting, or the sudden comment coming from the guy who called him a stupid foreigner.

                 “Theo, hey, are you okay?”  Reiji caught up to him and grabbed his wrist, watching intently for signs of unease.  “You’re not feeling sick again, are you?”

 Theo looked up at Reiji before taking a steadying breath, “I just suddenly felt claustrophobic, but I’m fine now, I swear.”

                  “You sure?” Reiji held a hand to Theo’s forehead, voice laden with concern, “ you looked really pale just then, still do, honestly.” He moved his hand to Theo’s cheek, eyes searching his friend’s face for signs of discomfort, “you don’t have a fever so that’s good, maybe we should head back, though.”

                   “I feel fine, I promise.”  Theo whispered, though even he didn’t quite believe the words coming from his mouth.  “We came all this way, might as well do what we came out to do.”

Reiji, knowing better than to argue, gave up and led Theo out of the station, walking towards the nearest 100¥ store to get the needed school supplies.  They spent two hours adventuring around Akihabara, though most of their time was spent at a sweet shop—Theo rewarding the blonde with a smile that could melt the stone heart of a tyrant—before getting a train home. 

 

Admittedly, Reiji realized just how much that smile had meant to him upon walking Theo back home to his flat, waving goodbye to the pixie-haired man before heading home as well. 

Admittedly, he would do anything for Theo if only to see that smile, again.

Theo shut the door and started unpacking his things.  All his past stresses and anxieties were, gladly, forgotten after taking comfort in Reiji’s presence.  His phone beeped and, thinking nothing of it, he picked up the device to read the text expecting Reiji to have forgotten something.

RN. Hope you enjoyed your little date, love. Next time you want to go somewhere how about you try a real man instead of that boy. Yours, Xoxo

Another beep.  And Theo was greeted with a picture link. 

Hands shaking, he clicked on the highlighted line, immediately dropping his phone in shock.  His phone, as if mocking him, landed with the screen facing up.

A picture of himself and Reiji at Starbucks gazed right back up into his widened eyes.

This was more than a mere prank from his friends . . . .

 

Chapter Text

Theo had lost track of time, of the number of days that had passed since having received the first of many texts—of how long it had been since he’d blocked the number.  He’d called off from class Monday and Tuesday, noting that, aside from a few texts that he’d reluctantly responded to from his friends, nothing else had come through.  He only hoped that he sounded like his usual self when hitting send. 

 

Standing in front of the bathroom mirror, he tilted his head from side to side, frowning ever so slightly upon seeing his usually pale skin appearing even more so under the light, the harshest of dark shadows blossoming beneath his eyes.  Maybe, if he forgot to think about his appearance, he would act as if everything was all right.  Maybe, he wouldn’t have to admit that he wanted so desperately to be alone. Sighing, he brought his hands up to his cheeks, gently patting his skin until the softest hints of peach shown through.  One last look in the mirror, one final attempt to calm himself, before he walked out of the bathroom, grabbing his bag from the counter before slowly inching into his shoes.

 

 

The train ride, though fairly short, was nerve wrecking.  Having found a seat in the back, furthest away from prying eyes, he rested his head against the window, attempting to block out the surrounding sounds—attempting to ease the overbearing thrumming of his heart and the ever present need to curl in on himself.  Every jostle, every opening and closing of the doors, each footstep that happened to pause for a second too long, forced Theo out of what little form of peace he’d begun to find.  The same urge to run, dread coursing through his veins, hands balling to fists against his thighs, threatened to overtake him the second the train pulled up to the station.  He wanted to run, to drag himself back home and lock the door, however he found himself showing far more restraint than he had the week prior upon gathering his breath and taking the much needed steps onto the platform.

        It will be okay, everything will be fine, you just have to concentrate . . .


Theo kept his head down while he walked, hands tucked inside his pockets, only stopping briefly at a 7eleven before making his way towards the campus grounds, eyes darting every which way the minute his feet hit university soil.  He pretended to not see his friends, fear ebbing its way into his mind, the notion that any one of them could see right through his façade becoming more apparent the closer his path took him to their sides.  They appeared to be goofing off, laughter making its way to Theo’s ears, the lot of them acting as if they had barely a care in the world, and—if Theo was being honest—they truly didn’t.  He barely made his way past, opting to go sit in his classroom before the lecture began rather than chancing his luck amongst his friends.

Luck, unfortunately, wasn’t on his side.  Opening the door to his classroom, Theo hesitantly made his way inside, breath catching upon seeing his teacher was already in the room.

        “Theo, how are you feeling?”  Mr. Kagami questioned, keeping his distance though clearly concerned.  He ruffled through a few papers, pen tapping against his desk, pregnant pause forming upon his lips.  His eyes never once faltered from Theo’s position in the doorway.

         “I’m still feeling a bit unwell, sir.”  Theo stammered, barely making his way to his desk.  He cringed upon sitting down, dropping his duffel bag to the floor before rummaging through to find his books.

The tapping of Mr. Kagami’s pen stopped.

         “What a pity, I was hoping you would do your presentation for us today.”  The older man took a moment to stand.  His tone sounded harsher than he’d hoped, and he made quick to cover his displeasure with a smile. 

         “Would it be possible to do next week? I promise I’ll be able to by then, though I can turn it in now if you’d like.”  Theo’s voice quivered, hands shaking at the thought of having to be on the spot, of knowing that everyone would be looking at him.

A sigh escaped Mr. Kagami’s lips, the man once more going back to ruffling through papers though he appeared to merely glance over them without truly seeing what was written on each page.  “Theo, I think you should at least try, and you’ll probably feel better about it if you get it out of the way,” he paused, glancing up.  “Besides, we have quite a few potential contributors viewing our session today and I’d love for our class to leave a good impression.”  Mr. Kagami proclaimed, beaming smile forming upon his face.  “I want to show them what my star pupil has learned.”


          “If you insist, but I don’t want to disappoint everyone because I’m not feeling well.” Theo replied, nerves kicking in.

          “You’ll be fine.”

 

Silence overtook the classroom as Theo walked to the back, mentally preparing himself for the speech to come.  His peers filed in slowly, unknown individuals following after to sit along the sidelines, occasionally asking students questions on the curriculum and how they decided on their major.  Despite feeling uncomfortable—surely the room hadn’t always been so hot—Theo managed to stutter out his presentation, noting halfway through how his classmates had zoned in on him, listening intently as he spoke.  A few wolf whistles were aimed his way as he walked back to his desk, face flushed.  The second he took his seat his phone beeped.  Sneaking the device from his bag, his stomach plummeted.

A new number had messaged him.

???. hey, my last few messages didn’t seem to go through, so I’ve gotten a new number. I hope you’ve been taking vitamins, love, your beautiful skin looks pale and your face looks tired. Your presentation was really good, I can tell you worked hard on it.  Yours, Dragon Xoxo

Ice shot through Theo’s stomach, searing pain into his veins.  That name. . . .

Theo grabbed his duffel bag and bolted, not caring about the eyes that followed his every move or the few classmates that called after him.  That damned name . . .

Running down the hall, Theo barreled into the first bathroom he came across, slamming a stall door shut before falling against the wall, sliding down hard to the tiled floor.  Head cradled between his hands, he allowed for his tears to fall despite all the effort it took to try hold them off.  He wiped at his tear streaked face, anger and humiliation building. 

15 minutes, 15 long minutes, until Theo could gather the strength to make his escape before classes would end. 

           Deep breaths, Theo, everything is okay.  You’re imagining things . . .

 

Theo quickly made his way to the main campus, eyes downcast, barely registering his surroundings until he bumped into another student, tepid blue eyes focusing on soft green hair and the tallest of shadows poised before him.  And Theo all but froze in place.

           “You really should watch where you’re going, you might hit someone.”  The newcomer stated, tone emotionless though oddly soft.  He fidgeted in place, headphones bobbing against his neck, the smallest of horns upon his hoodie sagging as he turned around to focus on Theo, steady hands falling upon the man’s shoulders, maneuvering him around until they were face to face.  Crimson eyes narrowed upon taking in Theo’s disheveled appearance, eyes red and puffy, skin paling, entire body trembling.  “Hey, now, why the tears?”  And maybe, just maybe, the newcomer’s tone hinted at concern.

            “I’m fine, I’ve just not been feeling well.”  Having used the excuse so often, Theo was starting to believe it himself.  And yet, his tears refused to stop, heated and sticky against his cheeks.  He noted the way in which the other quirked an eyebrow, obviously not convinced.  “I really am fine, honest.”

            “Humor me, but I was just going to meet my friend for lunch, and,” the green haired man paused, head cocking to the side in thought, “seeing as you did bump into me, and seeing as I can’t just leave you here, the least you could do is join us.”  If looks could kill, surely the smirk that plastered itself upon his face, would. 

             “I’m really not very hungry, I just want to go home.”  Theo desperately protested.

             “You can go home after we eat.”  Crimson eyes lit up, almost laughing in Theo’s direction, “besides, Azazel is paying and I have a feeling that I’d like to get to know you a bit more.”  His face remained deadpan, voice a mere whisper. 

Theo gave up trying to protest.  The name “Azazel” rang a bell, Theo having given the religion major his phone number for a few projects they’d shared throughout the years.  He vaguely remembered the man as being mildly stuck up, and the time they’d spent working together had not been fun.  Surely the man leading him towards the cafeteria didn’t mean that Azazel.

No such luck.

The second they reached the table, a man with the unruliest of black hair and darkened eyes looked up and attempted a smile, though what some would call a look of contempt formed upon his face upon seeing Theo, instead.

Theo shivered under his gaze.  Same Azazel.

             “You can sit right here.”  The green haired man pointed towards the seat nearest his friend, noting the way in which Azazel visibly stiffened.  The faintest of breaths escaped thin lips, “I trust you two can play nice?”  He shot a pleading look in his friend’s direction before quickly making his way over to the food stalls, pausing once to turn around and wave.  “Don’t let him leave before we can all talk.” 

With the other gone, and Azazel having taken to twitching in his seat, Theo slowly began to move away in hopes of trying to go home.

             “Where do you think you’re going, Himezuka?  Pretty sure Bel just told you to sit and stay put.” Such a harsh tone laced the words coming from the black haired man’s mouth.

Theo let out a shocked squeak, before slowly turning to face him.  “I just need to use the restroom, I’ll be back in a bit .” Please believe me, please believe me . . . .  Theo thought desperately, feeling panic rise up.

              “You can go if you leave your wallet and phone here.” Azazel’s eyes narrowed in suspicion.  Definitely the same Azazel that Theo remembered from all those years ago.

              Think, Theo . . . what do I do?  If I keep my things here I’ll have to come back . . .   Theo’s mind raced, desperately trying to figure out a way around handing over his belongings.  What if I get another message, will these guys keep quiet about it . . . should I let them know?  He stumbled back a bit, vision blurring.

              “Himezuka, hey, what’s wrong?”  Azazel grabbed Theo’s arm, pulling him back towards the table, forcing him to sit before he happened to fall over.  “Shit, you look like you’re going to vomit. . .” He gave the younger man a once over, eyebrows raising slightly at the once pristine looking student he’d met years before.  “You really should take better care of yourself, hell, maybe have your girlfriend or whatever treat you to a home cooked meal.” 

              “I was gone for five minutes and now the poor boy looks scared.”  Whisper soft voice laced with hints of ice, the green haired man came to stand behind Azazel, arms latching around the black haired man’s neck, head coming to rest upon his friend’s shoulder, “I told you to play nice with him, Azazel.”  And though he made sure to speak loud enough for Theo to hear, he managed to still press his lips close enough to his friend’s ear, voice hushed just enough so that only the two of them could understand whatever he happened to say afterwards.  They shared a look, Azazel reaching for the paper bag held loose within the other’s grasp.

             “Belphegor says you should eat, you’ll feel better.”  Azazel scoffed, chucking the paper bag in Theo’s direction only to wince when a sleeve covered hand smacked him on the back.  “I told him to eat like you said, what the fuck, Bel.”  Another wince, heavily drawn out and exaggerated, darkened eyes widening in mock fear.  And yet, despite his grand display, Azazel’s lips curled with the makings of a smile.

Theo watched the entire conversation, mentally going over how and when he could potentially break away from their little discussion and go home.  “I’m not...” Theo started, voice soft, trailing off only upon finding that a sandwich and fries had fallen out of the bag.

              “You’ll feel better if you talk about whatever’s bothering you, too.”  Belphegor said softly, nudging the bag forward even more. “Now, if you can’t tell your friends then maybe two people who have no emotional connection could be an option.”

               “I’m fine, really.” Theo whispered just as softly. “I’ve just not been feeling well, is all.”

 
              “Then why’d you look so panicked about leaving your phone,” Azazel piped in. “ The second I mentioned the word you had this funny look on your face.  Girlfriend got you whipped that bad, Himezuka?”

              “It’s nothing, honest.” Theo managed to force out, no longer paying attention to the bag in front of him but rather the two men intently watching him as if judging his every action with bated breath. Those two working together were too intuitive, only having to ask the right questions before likely figuring his entire situation out.  The distinct sound of his phone beeping made him stiffen, though he remained sitting, unwilling to glance down at the device.

It beeped again. And a third time.  Message after unread message appearing on screen.

Belphegor looked at Theo expectandly, intentionally reaching for the phone ever so slowly, gaze never leaving the younger man’s face.  “You want to get that?”

              “I’m sure it’s not important, maybe my friend Reiji wants to use my home country for his homework again.” Theo looked away in shame, voice low.

              “Really? They seem pretty eager for you to respond.”  Crimson eyes burned deep into Theo’s person, searching once more for answers that he wasn’t willing to admit.  “What’s stopping you?”

Azazel quietly watched the two speak, eyes narrowed as if he daring Theo to let his guard down so that he could grab the phone and read the texts, himself.

               “I think I should go, but thank you for letting me sit here.” Theo trailed off after mistakenly looking at Azazel, freezing upon seeing the glare aimed in his direction.  He’d messed up, and he’d messed up, big.

               “You’ll stay until you’ve read the texts and eaten.”  Belphegor’s face was deadpan though his tone carried an air of impatience.

Slowly Theo reached for his phone, hands shaking, face scrunching.  The lunch room was packed so it would be harder to try and get away should the two try and stop him physically, and he didn’t put it past either of them to try.  He reluctantly reached for his phone, his stomach trembling.  He opened the first text.

RN. so you ditch class to hang out with friends, love?? I’m going to have to keep an eye out on your friends though. I don’t want anyone getting in my way. XxXo

Theo felt tears pricking his eyes.  The slightest hints of obsessive possession oozed from the text, like the person was threatening to cut him off from his friends.  Though it was kind of working as Theo had never felt so withdrawn and unable to talk about his worries with anyone.  Much to his horror, the second text wasn’t much better.

RN. how long do those two plan on keeping you?? You really need to be getting to your next class, you can eat something better than that anyway so don’t eat what they give you. XxO

Theo felt his companion’s silent yet questioning gazes, but couldn’t bring himself to look up.  Instead, he opted to read the last message despite really not wanting to.

RN. by the way, love, you left before mr kagami could hand out homework. Maybe you could use that as an excuse to get away from those two trouble makers. Try to stay away from them in the future. Xxx

 

               “Theo, you’ve been reading for a while, is everything all right?” Belphegor asked, making his way around the table to stand behind the other man, head cocking to the side the moment he leaned against Theo’s chair to get a better look at whatever he’d been staring at.  “May I?”

                “It’s fine, just someone playing a prank before telling me our teacher wanted me to pick up my homework so I don’t fall behind.” Theo quickly shut off his phone, eyeing Belphegor before standing up. “I’m going to get that out of the way, then.  I’ll see you around, thanks for lunch.”

This time they didn’t stop him, but the look Belphegor shot his way said he didn’t believe the excuse.

Theo made his way through the crowded lunch room and headed to the back of the campus grounds. There was a hole in the hedge that students used to sneak out and skip class, and it led to a track that dog walkers would use during the day.  He ducked through, making sure nobody had followed him, before heading around to the train station.

 


The second he walked into the entrance-way, he shut the door, locked it and collapsed against the frame. He hugged his knees to his chest, crying softly, desperately wishing he’d never gone out on the weekend.  He stayed huddled by the door for what seemed like hours, having no willpower to move, nor any idea how to nip his current mindset in the bud.  He’d not responded to the texts once, and if it’d been a prank then that surely would have bored them by now.  Instead, this person had been in his class and had seen him in the café.

                They’re really watching me . . .

Eventually he dragged himself up and walked into his living room, dumping his bag into the lounge, then grabbing his towel and toiletries.  He ran a bath, turning on the shower and closing his eyes as he stood under the harsh jets, letting the hot water singe away the fear and stress.  His skin burned pink from the temperature, and after a few minutes he started to scrub his whole body until his skin prickled. Satisfied, he got into the bath and relaxed.

An hour later and he was lounging in his pajamas, looking through a medicine development article from one of his case study texts.

His doorbell rang.

                That’s odd.... I’m not expecting anything.

He got up and walked over, looking at the video cam that came installed with his doorbell.  It was a pizza delivery guy.  Hesitantly, Theo opened the door.

                 “I’m sorry but I didn’t order that, you might want to check if they gave you the right address.”

                 “Someone else ordered it, buddy.  We have a message for you, hell if I know why, though.”  The man replied, shoving a piece of paper in Theo’s direction.

RN. you looked like you have had a lot of stress lately, so I thought you could do with comfort food. Yours, Dragon xxx

The pizza man shrugged, not really caring one bit about what the letter said or how Theo would react.  “Pizza’s prepaid, take it or leave it, buddy.”  He hurried the pizza box over into Theo’s hands, briskly walking off down the hall, completely oblivious to Theo’s protests. 

Stunned, Theo closed the door, walking to his kitchen to set the pizza down on his table.  Without realizing it, he’d begun to shake in both anger and fear.  Whoever this guy was, he had the nerve to find out where Theo lived and send him food when he was the reason he was feeling stressed.

He chucked the pizza in the trash bin.  He refused to let this guy get to him anymore.  He’d get a new number tomorrow after class.

He studied for two more hours, then decided to eat a sandwich and have an early night.

But his dreams remained unpleasant.

Chapter Text

Around one in the afternoon, Theo found himself sitting at a lone bench, hidden out of sight and around the corner of the main building—the same spot where couples went to split up.  Remnants of the night’s rain stained the bench an off shade of brown, fattened water droplets refusing to dry, though Theo hardly had the time to notice despite the chill seeping into his pants.

           So much for not letting this freak intimidate you anymore, you’re still hiding and doing what he wants by not hanging out with your friends.  Theo worried his bottom lip, frustration taking over as he violently shook his head, darkened hair swishing back and forth, masking his vision.   He’d been naïve to believe that everything would blow over—even more so to think that his friends had been the cause.  Surely, by now they weren’t, surely by now they would have given up, laughing it all off so that he could feel safe, again.  Sighing, he took a delicate bite of his sandwich, looking through the homework he’d picked up after his morning class.  Mr. Kagami had given him a few over the top worried looks, inquiring if he was still unwell, though Theo had done his best to smile and laugh it off.  Of course he felt better, nobody had to know he was lying.  He’d stayed in class despite his nerves running high, despite every painful urge to run, intentionally leaving his phone on his bedside table.

           “So this is where you’ve been.”

Theo jumped, nervously turning his head, eyes widening before falling on his friend’s shadow.  “Reiji? How’d you find me?”  His words tasted thick, voice choking back against the lump forming deep within his throat.  Every ounce of his being flared with pins and needles.   

Reiji’s expression flashed concern, darkened shadows curving against the softened lines of his face, mingling alongside his usually pleasant aura.  He’d waited till the right moment, silently watching his friend as he found himself leaning against the wall, biding his time and making Theo wonder just how long he’d been there.  Upon hearing Theo’s response, he picked himself up, heavily pushing off the brick  to make his way closer, approaching as if cornering an injured deer.

            “I saw you walk around here from my classroom window,”  a pregnant pause, Reiji having taken to standing in front of Theo, watching his every movement or lack thereof.  “I’ve sent you a few texts and tried to call you even.  You’ve been distant lately, Theo, has someone in the group upset you?”  His tone was weary, borderline a harsh whisper, lacking confidence as if he was worried it was him who’d upset his friend.  He refused to let someone important to him go—refused to see the one person he cherished, suffering.  And, if Reiji truly thought about it, maybe Theo was more important than he wanted to ever admit.

            “I just want to be alone, Reiji.”  Wall upon wall clicked into place, “I’ve not been feeling well and being around people has been . . . draining.”  Theo glanced up at his friend, expression blank, mouth working around the tightness that continued to build within his throat.  “Please just give me a few more days, Reiji.”  Throughout their years of knowing each other, Theo had never not been able to talk to the other about his worries, and yet the pain that threatened to eat its way out of him was beyond words.  Every attempt at pushing his companion away only built upon the growing tension inside of him.

            “You’ve been saying that for a while, Theo.  If you’re truly not feeling well, then go to the doctors tomorrow.”  Reiji knew, even as the words left his mouth, that his friend was likely hiding something—that he wouldn’t listen to him even if he pleaded.  Theo had always been a horrible liar, and the hollowness that shown through his usually vibrant gaze had the man wondering just how long the other had been hiding from him, how deep the wounds had cut.  “I’m worried about you, we’re all worried about you, though Arata thinks you’re too embarrassed to show your face after last week.”  Reiji, despite better judgment, had to chuckle at that.  Seeing Arata putting up a stink about their past get together was truly a marvelous thing to behold, even if the man’s antics sometimes went overboard.

Footsteps carried through the newfound silence, the softest rattling of headphones jostling against plush fabric, an air of unease kicking up with the newcomer’s arrival.  They came to stand on the outskirts of the little gathering, hands crossed against their chest, head cocked to the side, stray strands of green masking the look of indifference upon their face.  Belphegor’s eyes narrowed a fraction, crimson slitting into the most unruly shade of black, static laced with venom rolling off his shoulders as he directed his gaze towards Reiji, and Reiji alone.

             “How wonderful, you must be Theo’s friend,” voice bordering a harshness that could freeze hell over, Belphegor took a step forward, eyeing Reiji from head to toe before continuing.  “Though, you really must be blind, or just not close enough, to see that your friend is suffering.”  He cast a quick glance in Theo’s direction, eyes softening a fraction, “even a stranger can tell that he’s hurting, and that shouldn’t be the case.”  And though they’d only just met, he felt a lingering connection to the pixie-haired man, one that warranted protection.

Reiji spun around, momentarily stunned by the declaration, eyes narrowing at the accusation hidden not so subtly within the other’s words.  “And I suppose you know all about what’s bothering him?”  He bit back with just the same amount of venom, if not more.  “Just who do you think you are, anyway, and why do you even need to get involved?”  The notion that Theo had opened up to someone other than himself made the brunette’s stomach sink. 

Belphegor scoffed, bristling, boots kicking hard into the dirt.  He’d witnessed his fair share of unpleasant events to last a lifetime, and he wasn’t about to back down when one was staring him right in the face.  “It doesn’t matter who I am, nor should I have to explain myself to you.  What matters is your friend.”  He shrugged, casting his attention back to Theo.  “Theo I’ll come find you later, okay?”  Throwing a last crimson hued glare in Reiji’s direction, he made to walk off, pausing only to mutter under his breath, “Senda, that is your name, right?  If you can’t help him, we will.”

Reiji watched as he left, curses lingering, burning hot against his tongue, though he’d hardly had the guts to shout them out.  Turning to face Theo, he muttered under his breath, tone deathly cold, “who, and what the hell was that oddball going on about?”  The briefest inkling of defeat flashed across his face, stomach churning.  “Theo, please... what can you tell him but not me?”

               “I just . . .” Theo stammered, words escaping him, voice faltering. “I . . . I’m sorry Reiji, but I have to go.”  He quickly got up and grabbed his stuff, running away before Reiji could stop him.


 

An hour later and Theo was back at home, curled up on the bathroom floor, shaking.  In hindsight, running right after eating on a delicate stomach hadn’t been the best idea, but he’d needed to get away.  And he’d already become far too acquainted with hugging his toilet, let alone the feeling of constantly being nauseous, to find his current position worrisome. 

               Get yourself together, Theo . . .  another heave, another wave of needles, before he gathered the strength to stand, making his way slowly towards his bedroom.  His eyes fell on his phone, still poised on the bedside table.  And though he knew he shouldn’t look, he felt compelled to.

Picking up the device, he was glad to only see three new messages from Reiji, but his happiness was short lived as he looked further and saw thirty eight missed calls.  Only two were from Reiji, the rest, however, were from that damned number.  He ignored the texts, opting to listen to the voicemails instead, the first one being from Reiji:

Hey, Theo. I’ve seen you around but you’ve not been acting like yourself.  I’m worried about you, Theo.  If there’s something bothering you, you know you can talk to me.  You can always talk to me.  . .

Pent up pain was evident in his friend’s tone, and Theo could picture just how the other’s expression would have shifted with each word, eyes downcast, feet most likely shuffling.  He couldn’t help but feel guilty, the look Reiji had on his face when he ran, the notion that he’d seemingly crushed the other’s trust, weighing heavily on his mind.  He squeezed his eyes shut, quickly deleting the message before clicking on the next one:

Hey, love, a deep gravelly voice, one that resembled a wooden plank being dragged across a mixture of glass and stone, bit into Theo’s ears as he continued to listen:

You’ve been unresponsive this whole time so I assume you’re just being shy.  I’m worried about who you hang around with, though, so please be careful around those two and tell them to leave us alone.  Preferably before I have to get involved, and believe me . . . I will. Talk to you later.

Heated tears tore at his eyes, and he all but wrenched a gasp from between his lips, daring the hardened lump in his throat to break apart.  This person, if he could even call them that, wasn’t someone he wanted to meet, let alone speak with and yet they’d managed to coil their way into his life.  Theo sank to his knees, a softened rug breaking his fall, saving him from any more physical pain.

               This guy is going to tell everyone ... he’s going to keep me away from my friends even more. Why can’t he get the hint . . . . His thoughts were interrupted by a third voicemail, that sickening voice playing through the phone once more:

I’m glad to see you tried to stay away from your friends. But they don’t seem to get the message. You need to make them think you hate them. Or you could tell them the truth that you’re not single. Remember to keep eating and taking your vitamins, love.

               Why is this happening to me?  He thinks we’re together . . .? This is starting to get out of hand, but I don’t . . .  Somehow he’s expected to act normal but push away his friends at the same time, somehow he’s expected to believe that this entire situation is warranted—and somehow, he was beginning to.  One more voicemail, and Theo winced as the tone scratched at his ears:

You’ve been looking stressed lately. How about I take you on a date? The place we first met sounds good. Let’s say eight tomorrow. I advise against standing me up.

Theo uncontrollably trembled, holding his phone to his ear as it went through the options of listening to or deleting the messages.  He slowly peeled the device away from his ear and hung up, frightened tears streaking his already heated cheeks.

He threw his phone across the room, crumpling onto the floor, curling in on himself, letting the fear take hold fully, wave after wave of violently shaking sobs coursing through his body.  Eventually he fell asleep, exhausted from everything.  His breath was soft, heated tears still clinging to his face.

 

 

Five hours later and Theo woke up in the same position as he was in when he’d collapsed into a crying mess.  And though the sun had been shining when he fell asleep, it was gradually getting dark outside, greys and blues warping what little light remained, making him feel more alone and vulnerable within his own home.

His stomach rumbled, though he doubted anything would stay down.  He didn’t want to study, sleep or watch television.  Anything he thought of doing led to the same depressed conclusion, I don’t have the energy for this.

His phone remained across the room, but he couldn’t muster up the courage to pick it up and look at it. No doubt there’d be loads of messages from everyone, including Reiji.

The dirty feeling of being constantly watched blanketed the air, thick and heated, and yet Theo felt an odd sense of calm at the thought of not being fully alone.  This unknown presence, despite everything, had started to slowly blend into the background the more things escalated.  At the moment it was just messages and calls, no real contact had been made, and maybe watching him was good enough—maybe they’d eventually back off and finally get the hint.  One thing was for sure,  Theo wouldn’t go tomorrow, though whether they’d understand and leave him alone was another story in and of itself.

Deciding to get up and ready for bed was ultimately his best option, but his dreams were filled with nightmares on what would happen when he didn’t show up for the meeting.

 

 


He awoke the next day at noon to the sound of banging on his door.  Feeling fearful, he checked the camera to see who it was only to see two of the most unlikely faces staring back: Reiji and Belphegor. He went to walk away, finding his bed far more pleasing than their presence, but paused upon hearing Reiji yelling through the door.

 

               “Don’t you dare walk away, Theo. I know you’re in there and we need to talk.  Now, open this door before I break it down!!”

Replacing his door wasn’t exactly how he wanted to spend his afternoon, so—after careful consideration— Theo reluctantly opened it.  He couldn’t look at them, instead choosing to walk to his lounge and slump on his sofa, staring blankly at a text book on his coffee table while they both walked in, shutting the door behind themselves.

The three of them sat in a heavy silence, no one wanting to be the one to break the tension, though desperately needing to vent.

                “Theo,” Reiji started, looking uneasy. “I bumped into this guy today, he insisted I bring him here. He told me he thinks...” he trailed off, shuddering.

                 “I don’t think anything, I know he’s being stalked.”  Belphegor snapped, pointing towards Theo before continuing.  “You need to stop denying it and get help already.”


Theo visibly paled, that book on the coffee table suddenly appearing far more interesting than it should have. “I’m not, I told you someone was pranking me before telling me about homework.”

                “Bullshit.”  And it was, bullshit.  Toying with his sleeve, Belphegor fidgeted in place, eyes darting from Theo to Reiji before falling to the book placed neatly upon the table.  “I’m sorry, you can convince others, but I can see through you,” he lowered his voice, tugging a stray strand of hair between his fingers.   “I barely know you, and I can tell something is wrong.  You need to admit it, though.  If it was genuinely a prank then you’ll have no issues with showing us your phone.”  He acted like he spoke from experience, and the thought struck Theo, hard.

Theo looked up in shock, bottom lip trembling, holding back tears.  “Please don’t make me do that.” He croaked, his voice going hoarse.

Reiji glanced at him, realization setting in as he began to piece together everything as suddenly, horribly, being true.  Sweet, delicate, Theo was being stalked, and he felt unable to tell any of his friends that he desperately needed their help—their confidence and trust.  “How long??” He asked, not really wanting the answer, though trying to pinpoint the start of Theo’s distant behavior.  The image of their last night out together with the group briefly flashed before his eyes.  He held back the makings of a sob, “our night out last week.”

The tears in Theo’s eyes confirmed Reiji’s fears.  If he hadn’t of insisted on Theo going out and having fun for once he’d have been safe.

                 “Theo please don’t push me out, I want to help you through this. You need to go to the authorities.”  Reiji’s tone lilted, pleading desperately with his friend, waiting for the man to agree, to open up like he always had when troubled.  To let him in.

                  “I don’t want to do that, it’s just a few missed calls and messages.  I feel embarrassed about it, really, and I honestly did think it was a prank at first.”  Theo quietly murmured.

Belphegor, having silently watched their entire display, narrowed his eyes as if he didn’t fully believe Theo’s confession.  He pondered for a bit, mulling over exactly what to say and how to say it.  “Right, first what you’re going to do is get your phone and a notepad, and pack an overnight bag for a few days.”  He glanced towards Reiji, noting the way the man visibly stilled upon hearing his voice.

                  “Since this person knows your friends, and your habits, it might be safer for you to throw them off and stay with someone they don’t know just yet.  Azazel and I are impartial to this whole situation, and if anything, we can assess the situation and if it seems bad we’ll give the written down information to the police and start an investigation.”  From the way he saw Reiji’s mouth open and close, he knew he’d hit a sore spot.

Panic rooted deep within Theo’s tearful eyes, tepid blue turning an off shade of grey.  “I can stay here, it’s really not that bad. Besides I don’t want to cause any more trouble.”  He couldn’t destroy their lives anymore than he already had—and they barely knew him to begin with.  They didn’t deserve to take on his pain, let alone his burdens.

                   “It’s a matter of you being safe.”  That same concerned tone laced Belphegor’s voice, crimson softening ever so slightly.  “I’d imagine Senda would agree at this point, too, so unless you need help I’d start packing.”

Sighing, Theo grabbed his bag from where he’d dumped it and dragged his ass to his room.  He reluctantly pulled things from his wardrobe and drawers, slowly gathering together his toiletries before shoving everything into his bag along with his textbooks and homework.  He made quick to put his laptop in its case before walking over to his phone, carefully picking it up to examine the crack that had started to took root from when he’d thrown it against the drawers.  Sighing, he put it in his pocket, grabbed everything and walked to the lounge.

Reiji and Belphegor sat in silence, Reiji’s brows knit tight together, eyes smoldering with unspoken hate, Belphegor finding interest in the smallest of tears upon his hoodie.  Theo questioned silently about what had been said while he was gone, though he dared not ask either of them.

                   “Are you ready to go, Theo? Senda will be going home, so it’ll be just be the two of us for now.  I live further from the college so we’ll be getting a different train.”  Belphegor stated as if they were friends meeting up for a bit, and maybe they were.

Theo noted the scowl on Reiji’s face as it deepened, clearly not trusting the other and his reasoning.

                   “Are you sure about this? I can always stay with my family.”  Theo shyly suggested, looking at the floor, voice breaking.  Admittedly he knew, deep down, that what the green haired man had said was true—he needed an escape from his normal routine, something to throw whoever had been leaving him messages and texts, off.  He needed an out that didn’t involve his friends or his family—something that wouldn’t put the one’s he held close in danger. 

They were his out—his one chance.

And, just like that, Reiji left them at the station and they took the train back to Shinjuku.

 

 

 

When they left the station Belphegor led Theo down some side streets until they came to a vastly modern designed building.  They entered, taking the lift to the 3rd floor, walking down the corridor until coming to stand outside of “Flat 306”.  Belphegor unlocked the door, ushering Theo inside, before going about his routine, taking off his shoes, draping his hoodie against the coatrack, lighting the candles and incense placed in various spots around the main room.

Theo took in everything that was the dark interior.  The apartment was decorated in darkened blacks, deep violets and mercury blues, giving it a mystical gothic wonderland feel, something akin to a place hell’s creatures could comfortably dwell within.

                  “Feel free to sit, I don’t bite.”  Belphegor teased, half dragging Theo into the main living space, watching intently as the pixie-haired man took in everything yet said nothing.  “Have you eaten?  I’m pretty sure Azazel left some pizza somewhere.”  He pulled away, slowly inching towards the kitchen, gaze lingering in the other’s direction.

                   “I ate an hour or so ago before you and Reiji came over.”  Theo lied, the thought of eating making him feel sick, uneasy.  “Belphegor, why did it have to be here? I don’t think Azazel likes me much.”  He studied the room around him, noting that mostly everything resembled the same darkened colors straight down to the glossy black glass that covered their table.

Belphegor poked his head out from the kitchen, teetering back and forth on the balls of his feet, what appeared to be a box of take out held tight within his grasp.  “You can call me Bel, and I spoke to Azazel before all of this.”  He shrugged, going back to whatever he’d been doing before Theo had spoken up.  “We might butt heads over things, but we did agree that this would be safer for you.”  The sound of the oven pinging over his voice could be heard ever so faintly.

“You eat pizza, right?”

 Before Theo could respond, the front door opened and shut, making him visibly stiffen up.

                 “Well, I guess that means you found him, then.”  The whirlwind of a force known as Azazel made his way into the living room, kicking off his shoes and tossing his coat onto the floor—much to Belphegor’s displeasure—before slowly making his way towards the couch where Theo sat, dumbfounded.  “This guy didn’t give you a hard time, did he?  Bel can be a bit . . . pushy when he wants something.”  He pointed towards the kitchen, a devilish smirk forming upon his face when he heard a grunt of protest from the other room, footsteps echoing soon after. 

                 “Not pushy, just careful.”  Belphegor came to stand beside the other, hands on his hips, the slightest smudge of what appeared to be pizza sauce upon his cheek.  “Go wash up and we can all talk or something.  Dinner will be ready soon, and I’m not in the mood to quarrel.”

                 “Oh, before I forget, a guy in class told me about a new nightclub that just opened up. Wanna take Himezuka out tomorrow night for some good old fashioned clubbing?”  Azazel’s smirk grew, noting the look of cheeky consideration that suddenly plastered itself to his companion’s face. 

                 “We can, I have tomorrow off work and he could do with something fun to take his mind off things.”  Though the idea sparked interest, Belphegor still made note of the way Theo sucked in a breath, clearly at odds with their entire conversation.  “Though, staying home sounds nice too.”

Theo sat there, waiting for them to ask him so he could say no.  Last weekend’s consequences having landed him in this position in the first place, he wasn’t sure he wanted to take anymore unwanted chances, let alone with two people he hardly knew. 

He made an excuse about needing the bathroom so Azazel walked him to the correct door.  When he shut the door he grabbed his phone, ignoring all messages and calls before texting the one person he desperately needed.

T.  Reiji, I think they’re trying to get me to go to a club with them . . . help.

Chapter Text

Dark blueish black curtains blocked out what little sunlight tried to escape in hopes of landing upon aged wooden floorboards, Theo having been told to keep the barrier mostly shut, his newfound housemates preferring the ambiance of candles over the harshness of the sun.  And it didn’t come as a surprise to Theo when he finally managed to wake up, entire body hurting, groggy, head fogged and mouth dry, bangs sticking to his forehead from having grown hot during the night, that the lack of light is mildly disheartening. 

And yet, he wanted nothing more than to spend his day amidst silken blue sheets, even if the bed wasn’t his own—even if everything felt out of place and foreign.  Even if he could barely feel the sun upon his skin, let alone see out the window.  His mind wanders, clouding, and he finds himself desperately trying to think of something other than the list he was supposed to be making—every text, every encounter he’d had with the individual known as “Dragon”, all of which he’d reluctantly agreed to jot down in hopes of finding some form of peace. 

          What was I thinking when saying yes to this?  Snuggling further under the sheets, he curls his hands against the mattress, trying his hardest to keep his mind from racing.  To keep what little sanity he’d been clinging to, alive.  He’s just about to doze off again, darkened lashes falling heavy against his cheeks, when the sound of footsteps followed by the bedroom door opening brings him back to reality.

          “Theo, time to wake up,” Belphegor’s voice is whisper soft, concern apparent in the way he lingers beside the wall, hands clutched tight against his side.  “I made breakfast, was hoping you might want to join us.”  He picks his words carefully, watching Theo’s every reaction and lack thereof, before making his way over to sit at the edge of the bed, hands folded against his lap, crimson hues focused hard on the other.  The smallest of smiles catches against his lips, “Think you’re up for some pancakes?”

           “I’m not hungry.” Theo’s response falls short, voice cracking mid-sentence, an ever growing wave of self-loathing coiling its way into his chest, “if you don’t mind, I’d rather eat later.”  Once more he finds pleasure in sinking down beneath the covers, head barely poking out amidst a sea of blue, and for a brief moment he feels small and insignificant in such a well decorated room, like someone such as himself shouldn’t be allowed into such a unique home, let alone be honored to associate with its inhabitants.  He doesn’t belong with them, doesn’t belong in their personal space, and surely doesn’t deserve their concern. 

           “You need to eat, Theo.”  Belphegor places a steady hand against the lump of fabric huddled atop the mattress, let’s a sigh escape from between pursed lips before continuing, “you’ll make yourself sick if you don’t.”  He’s witnessed the signs before, knows damn well how a person can fall and never pick themselves back up—knows firsthand the horrors of feeling shut in, alone, and doesn’t want to see someone else get abandoned.  Doesn’t want to see Theo suffer.

            “I’ll be fine,” Theo mouths from beneath the sheets, hoisting himself up onto his elbows, directing his gaze at the green haired man, eyes narrowed ever so slightly.  “You don’t have to worry about me, you know.  I’ve managed by myself for this long, I can keep doing so without you.”  He lowers his feet down onto plush blue carpet, makes to stand before looking at his phone on the black bedside table.  It looks oddly innocent, silent, but he gets the feeling that the number has likely contacted him again.  He makes to pick the device up, gathers his laptop from the nightstand, and slowly walks out of the room.

Theo made his way into the living area, pausing only upon seeing Azazel waiting patiently on the couch, the older man wearing a blank expression that, if Theo didn’t know any better, would likely strike fear in an unsuspecting person’s heart.

            “Go on, he doesn’t bite either.”  Belphegor teased, brushing past the shorter man, easing his way onto the cushion beside Azazel, lightly patting the spot next to him as if calling Theo over.  “See, he even brought the food to us.”  He makes a show out of pointing towards what could be considered pancakes, drawing close to Azazel’s side until their arms bump and he can rest his head against the other’s shoulder.  “Well, Theo?”

            “Let’s eat and then we can help you make that list.” Azazel’s tone, when he finally speaks, is mildly pleasant despite his overall appearance.


An hour later Theo was sat on the sofa between Azazel and Belphegor, firing up his laptop while the black haired man watched over his shoulder, curious expression forming upon his face.  He hadn’t even considered looking at his phone yet, and couldn’t help but move the device out of Azazel’s reach when he made to snatch it up, hoping to check for any signs of messages.


Slowly letting out breath he hadn’t realized he was holding, Theo picked his phone up, glancing down at the screen before quickly writing in his password, multiple messages and calls popping up immediately after.  Azazel let out a low whistle, falling silent upon catching sight of Belphegor glaring in his direction.

             “Here goes nothing.”  Theo opened the messages, reading each carefully.  The first few weren’t bad, though his heart still beat heavy within his chest upon seeing each passing text:

RN. hey are you running late?? I appreciate the extra effort love but get here soon.

RN. hey love I hope you’re not worried about impressing me. I think you’ll look beautiful in whatever you wear.


They gradually worsened with each sentence until Theo visibly paled, hands shaking:

RN. I do hope you have the decency to show up. I made a lot of effort to give you a fun time tonight.

RN. you’re running very late, I did warn you about standing me up, remember?

RN. you better show up. Or are you too greedy to come out and enjoy my attention??

It was the last message that made Theo’s breath hitch, bile rising in his throat:

RN. I hope you enjoy having your freedom while it lasts. If I can’t get you to meet me willingly then I’ll have to make it so you have nothing to rely on but me. You’ll eventually learn to love me fully.

              “Well, that’s not good. It’s only been a week and it’s progressed this much?”  Belphegor’s tone was stern, crimson narrowing, focusing hard on the text plastered upon Theo’s phone screen.  He leaned over and against the pixie-haired man’s side, reaching for the phone, moving it slightly so he could better read the texts, fingers barely touching Theo’s before easing back into his own space.  “Theo, write up everything that’s happened, it might be time for you to go to the police.  Should we stay home, tonight?”    

      
               “We can still go out.”  Azazel shifted slightly, hands coming to rest against his thighs, toying aimlessly with the fabric of his jeans. “As horrible as the situation may be, Himezuka needs to live his life, and he needs supportive friends more than anything right now.”

                “I don’t want to go out, though.”  Theo spoke out of fear, not wanting to know what would happen if the last message had been written seriously.  “Can’t I just go to the police and wait for everything to stop?”  And, as wonderful as the idea sounded, in the back of his mind, he truly wanted to just let go and enjoy himself.

                “I think a bit of fun would do us all some good, sorry but I have to agree with Azazel on this one.”  Belphegor latched onto the way Theo seemingly deflated upon the couch, the smaller man appearing almost ghost like, hollow.  “We’ll go out tonight and you’ll hold your head up high, Theo,” he paused, placing a hand upon Theo’s wrist in the process, “we have your back on this, I promise.  Now, start that list, and I’ll go make us some coffee.”

Seeing that yet again he had no choice, Theo logged onto his laptop, pulling up a word document, immediately scrolling to the first message that had started this whole mess.


 

A few hours later, after much prodding and many words of encouragement, Theo’s heart was beating faster than the music pulsating through the walls of the “Sky” nightclub.  His eyes darted around the clouded atmosphere, the heavy thudding of unnatural bass making him feel sick to his stomach.  He just wanted to go home to his own apartment and hide in bed, and yet there he was, wearing a pair of faded skinny jeans and some old 80’s band t-shirt that Azazel had found sitting in the back of their shared closet.

The bouncer, a big burly man with “LUST” tattooed across his bicep, waved them in, and no sooner did their feet hit the floor, Theo was half dragged into the dark entrance, Belphegor laughing the entire time.  Azazel followed close behind, the trio walking up the stairs until they saw a door, which upon being opened exposed them to flashing fluorescent lights and even louder thumping music.

                “Hey, Theo, over here!” A familiar voice could be barely heard over the thudding noise.

Theo looked over and let out a sharp breath, immediately relaxing upon seeing his friend. “Reiji, I’m so glad you’re here, I’m so scared being out will make it worse.”  His frantic texting had worked.

                 “I don’t know why you’re here but if that idiot Miyako is with you, then you can take a hike.” Azazel cut in, glaring at Reiji from behind darkened bangs.  He made to scoot closer to Theo, barely brushing against his side, just enough to hopefully send the other packing.

Reiji took a step back only to have Theo quickly latch onto his arm, pulling him forward with a tearful look. 

                 “Don’t leave me!!”  And, above all else, Reiji hated hearing that heartbreaking fear playing heavily within Theo’s trembling voice.

                 “I’m staying, I can’t leave Theo when he’s going through something like this.  I may have missed it at first, but how was I to know that there’d be things he wouldn’t tell me.” Reiji puffed his chest out with false confidence, filled with hope that Theo still needed him.

Azazel scoffed, falling back upon hearing Belphegor hushing him, the green haired man motioning for them to go to the bar, instead.

                 “Let’s get our drinks first, and by the way Theo, I have friend I want you to meet.”  Belphegor lowered his voice, wrapping his arms about Theo’s shoulders until he could whisper into the other’s ear without Reiji overhearing.  “You might actually have a few things in common with them, and who knows, maybe they’ll help you forget all this shit that’s been going on.”  He ushered Theo towards the bar, blocking out all protests from Reiji who quickly followed after them.


They got their drinks, walking over to a table where a silver haired beauty sat watching the dance floor, not appearing to actually want to go out onto it, but rather taking pleasure in listening to the music.

                  “Theo, this is Sakura.”

Cinnamon colored eyes glanced up upon hearing their name mentioned, only to look back towards the dance floor, the softest of smiles playing across their face.

                   “They’re a music major from Sweden, although, if I remember correctly . . . you’re only here for a year, right?”  Belphegor glanced towards Sakura, smile evident upon his face, watching intently as his friend in question fidgeted in their seat.

Sakura nodded, tapping a finger against the table in tune with the music, stopping only to glance in Theo’s direction, cinnamon hues casting downwards, the makings of a peach tinted blush forming upon their pale skin.  “It’s nice to meet you.” They said, voice sounding like silk despite shouting over the music.

Theo found himself unable to do anything but look into Sakura’s eyes, heat becoming apparent upon his face with each passing second.  And oh, the notion that Sakura was truly beautiful flashed within his mind’s eye at least one hundred times over in the span of a second. 

                  Their singing voice must be amazing, Theo thought, realizing a moment too late that the entire table had stopped to stare in his direction, waiting for his answer. “It’s nice to meet you, too.” He shyly responded.


Throughout the entire exchange, Reiji glowered at the edge of the table, nursing a drink, waiting for Theo to stop staring in Sakura’s direction.


A few drinks later and Theo had begun to feel a bit more calm, the edge from before having slowly ebbed away until he could almost see himself going out and dancing, laughing alongside his friends. He’d talked more with Sakura, enjoying the way they all but zoned in on his stories, an ever present eagerness flashing behind their gaze that seemingly captivated Theo until he couldn’t help but push forward in hopes of getting to know them more.  Sakura, above all else seemed to enjoy his presence, if the way in which they kept laughing against the palm of their hand had meant anything.

Halfway through one of their conversations, the DJ’s changed on stage, ushering in a new wave of music, less intense but still heart stopping.  The atmosphere on the dance floor changes, the crowd evening out to a steady rhythm, swaying to the beat.

                  “Theo let’s go, I like this song.”  Belphegor’s voice is barely a whisper against the backdrop of sound, fingers latching onto Theo’s wrist, tugging him gently until they’re both making their way to the dance floor.  “We didn’t just come here to drink and talk,” and this time he makes sure to lean against his companion’s side, lips dangerously close to the pixie-haired man’s ear, “dance with me.”  He’s wrapping his arms about the smaller man’s waist, drawing him close until they’re flush against each other, swaying in tune to the music.  He catches sight of Reiji, smirk forming upon his face upon seeing the blonde’s eyes narrow, reaches as if to put his hand on the smaller man's hip, easing down until his fingers cupped Theo’s ass.

Theo lets out a small squeak of surprise, and just like that Reiji  is stormed over, grabbing Theo’s hand and shoving the green haired man as far away as possible.

                  “Let’s get another drink.”

Reiji dragged Theo to the bar, ordering two drinks, taking the bartender's offer on shots in the process, ordering five only to down four within seconds, the fifth likely making him sick if he chanced to drink it.

                   “May I have that one??” Theo asked in an attempt to save Reiji from himself.

                   “Sure, it’s not strong enough for me.”

Theo picked the glass up and downed it, instantly regretting everything the moment the liquid burned against his throat.  He makes the mistake of downing his actual drink to get rid of the nasty taste, the alcohol rushing straight to his head.   “Can we go back to the group?”

                   “Sure, but let me get you another drink. Maybe another shot too??”

Despite Theo’s protests Reiji brought another round of shots and another drink. He drunkenly carried it to the table where the others were stood.

                   “Theo, here.” He pushed another shot into Theo’s hands and looked at him expectantly.

Theo sighed, I’m already a bit tipsy so why not. He downed the shot and again drank his drink quickly to get rid of the taste.  Theo felt the room spin and blur, and the feeling of being watched by that familiar presence.  He felt unsafe despite being surrounded by people.  The spinning sensation heightened and a sick feeling had him running out of the club, claustrophobia sinking in and wanting fresh air.

His friends all called to him but he didn’t notice.

 

Once outside, he kept running until reaching a side street, eventually he bumped into someone.

                “Watch where you’re going darlin.” A gruff voice grunted out.

                “Hey she looks cute, dude. Hey sweetie, wanna hang out with us for a bit?” Another voice was heard, nasally in nature.

Theo’s eyes adjusted to see two tall men towering above him. Trembling he took a few steps back, looking around.  He’d carelessly run off to a quiet side street where no one would see if he was attacked.

                “Stay the hell away from him.” A commotion from behind, Belphegor’s voice ringing out against a slew of curses from the men, just as he and Azazel rounded the corner, clearly having run the entire time in hopes of finding where Theo had gone off to.

The guys didn’t want to hang around in case the police were alerted to the raised voices, opting to skulk off with menacing glares, instead.

                 “Why’d you run off?” Belphegor asked coming to a stop in front of Theo.  “What were you even thinking, you could have been hurt!”

                   “I felt unsafe suddenly, like I was being watched.” Tears formed in Theo’s eyes, voice lowering with each word, “I needed to get out, I just needed . . . .” and like that, he broke down, tears overflowing, heat rushing to his cheeks alongside ugly waves of hiccuping noise.

Belphegor pulled him into a gentle hug, tone soft, “it’s okay, let’s go home for now, you did good tonight, Theo.”  He casts a wayward glance in Azazel’s direction, mouthing a few words before helping Theo back towards the night club—back towards the station that would take them home.  Back towards where Reiji awaited their return.

 

 

                “What happened, one second you were inside and the next I just lost you guys.”  Reiji questions, hurrying up to meet the three the moment he sees them coming around the corner.  Concern tugs at the corners of his mouth, in the way his eyebrows scrunch together, face visibly paling upon seeing Theo crying.  “What did you do to him?”  And he’s turning on Belphegor in an instant, malice lacing his tone, fists balling against his sides.

                   “We should be asking you that question.  You’re the reason he can barely walk straight,”  Azazel’s voice is a ground out hiss, eyeing the blonde warily from head to toe, lips pursing.  “He’s wasted, and you just kept buying him drinks.” 

                    “Can we just get him home, please?  Senda should know what his friend can and can’t handle,”  Belphegor comments, keeping a steady hold on Theo, not once breaking contact even when the smaller man begins to sway.  “Hopefully your lapse in judgement won’t happen again, not really sure he can handle another scare like that.” 

Reiji goes rigid, balled up fists clenching tight.  “What do you mean, scare?  You’re not telling me what happened.  How am I supposed to help him if I don’t even know what’s going on?”

Azazel comes to stand beside Reiji, hardened features and devilish glare, wraps a hand around the blonde’s shoulders, pulls him close enough to whisper something into his ear before pulling away.

                     “Let’s go home, it’s been a long day.”

 

They make to leave, not bothering to look back at Reiji who continues to stand, dumbfounded, in the entryway to the club.

                      “Have a good night, Senda.”

And like that, they’re gone, Reiji bottling up whatever he’d hoped to say in his defense in place of kicking the side of the building, heavy curses spewing from between pursed lips.

 

Chapter Text

Theo yawned as he slowly walked down the street to the café he’d agreed to meet Sakura at.  The night prior when they’d met at “Sky”, before Theo had run outside in a panic, they’d exchanged numbers, Sakura taking it upon themselves to check in on Theo afterwards, not wanting the older man to feel trapped in his own skin, but still hoping to keep some distance just in case.  They’d managed to keep him awake till the wee hours of morning, sending jokes and words of encouragement, their little way of wanting Theo to smile—to feel safe.  And, although they’d just met, Theo felt a connection growing between them that he’d never quite experienced before—one that even his friends couldn’t quite ignite within him, one that sent a shiver of excitement down his spine with each new text, each small attempt of discussion.

S:  Let’s meet up tomorrow, okay?

S: I’m sorry if I’m being pushy, I just really want to see you, again, Theo. . . .

S:  P.s. say hi to Azazel and Bel for me, I really missed hanging out with them!

They’d left their discussion at that, Theo having taken the first step in hitting the “call” button, relaxing into plush sheets the moment Sakura picked up—the moment their voice washed over him, warmth enveloping him despite the constant chill that had settled deep within his chest. 

             “Ah, you didn’t have to call . . . I’m sure you’re tired.”  Sakura, despite the clock reading past midnight, had sounded wide awake, voice a mixture of pleasant eagerness and anticipation.  “Theo, the others filled me in a bit about what’s been happening, and I.  . .”  They’d fallen silent, the sound of papers swishing barely audible against the silence, “I want to help you, if you’ll let me.” 

And that small admittance had sent Theo’s world into overdrive.

              “I’d like that,”  Theo had responded without a second thought, smile overtaking his expression, face burying deep into the comforts of his pillowcase, “I’d like that very much, Sakura.”  He could practically feel the excitement, the overpowering surge of emotion coming from Sakura’s end of the call,  before the other had whispered a final goodnight, promptly hanging up and ending their conversation.

              “Good night, then.”  Whispered to no one, Theo had fallen asleep clutching his phone to his chest.

 

 

Picking up his pace, Theo saw the outline of the café in the distance, noting the tiny group of students that had taken up residence by the entryway.  “Halo”, a quaint family owned complex that the entirety of campus went to for study breaks and to catch up on daily life, wasn’t a spot that Theo frequented, but upon Sakura having suggested meeting there, he’d quickly agreed without second thought.  He could feel his cheeks flushing at the thought of someone as stunning as Sakura actually wanting to spend time with him—actually wanting to be a part of his messed up life. 

And it was the simple notion that they’d be waiting for him—that they’d willingly taken time out of their day for him—that kept Theo from backtracking home.

Theo paused mid-step, hands clutching the fabric of his coat, the scent of coffee and pastries filling his senses immediately after setting foot inside the café.  His mind clouded, the slightest feeling of unease taking over before he looked around,  gaze latching onto the familiar image of white hair.  Sakura sat peacefully, tucked into a corner couch nearest the coffee machines, a soft expression upon their face as they flipped through the pages of a book.  Theo couldn’t help but smile at the sight, chest tightening, breath catching deep within his throat.

No, surely he didn’t deserve to have met someone as wonderful as the person before him.

The time on the café clock blurred as Theo walked over to where Sakura sat, breath all but stopping the moment they noticed him, glancing up and smiling, eyelashes fluttering ever so slightly against pale skin, cinnamon hues twinkling with recognition.

                “You came,”  Sakura whispered, tone soft yet oddly hesitant as if they assumed Theo wouldn’t show.  “I’m so glad.”

Pulling himself together, noting the way in which Sakura’s expression changed ever so slightly to one of concern, Theo smiled and sat down.  “Hi to you, too.”  Theo teased, the hints of a laugh taking root deep within his throat, eyes crinkling into a look of fondness for the smaller student.  “Did you decide what you’re going to order, yet? I don’t want to keep you waiting.”  He spoke softly, still feeling shy within the other’s presence.

                 “It’s so hard to decide, everything is so different from Swedish food.”  Sakura laughed, tone mirroring a thousand tiny bells, hands coming to rest against their thighs, book all but forgotten on the couch in favor of focusing on Theo.  “No matter how many times I come here, I never know what to get.”

                  “I can understand that, I grew up in Britain, and the only time I ate Japanese food was if my mum cooked a dish she wanted me to try.”  Theo looked down at his hands, heat spreading across his cheeks from the admittance, alone.  He rarely spoke of his upbringing, having mostly grown up alongside those who questioned the origin of his name, not ever really wanting to discuss the topic with people he barely knew—or trusted.

                  “It’s nice that she encouraged you to try new things, though.”

They continued to chat, glancing frequently at the menu while deciding what they were going to order, only pausing to make their way up to the counter, Sakura opting for a latte and a piece of strawberry tart, while Theo bravely ordered an espresso with extra flavor pumps and what appeared to be a cake shaped like a cat. 

                   “I could never eat that, it’s too cute.”  Sakura poked their fork at the cat shaped treat, eyes widening as it jiggled, lips quirking into the smallest of smiles.  “Do you usually order pastries like that?”  Sipping slowly at their drink, they draw their legs up, knees resting under their chin, cinnamon hues drifting slowly to focus on Theo's face.  “I feel like it suits you, though, cute and tiny.”

Theo’s heart all but stopped at the comment, eyes widening, chest constricting, promptly shoving half the cake into his mouth, choking midway through the first bite.

                   “See, you’re cute.”

They continued to talk for what felt like minutes but turned out to be hours, their conversation building upon topics at school, to what they enjoyed doing in their spare time.  Anything and everything was mentioned, what it was like growing up in different countries, why they picked their majors, how culture shock had affected them—and throughout the entire discussion, Theo felt at ease, not once considering checking his phone, not once wondering who might be lurking around a corner.  One topic became another, crystal blue eyes focusing hard upon cinnamon hues with each passing second.

                    “Thank you for this, Theo, it really means a lot to me.”  Sakura mentioned, scooting further into the cushions of the old couch, making sure to brush their arm ever so gently against Theo’s, noting the way in which the older man seemingly jolted at the sudden contact.  “I haven’t made that many friends while living here, and I have to admit, I really like your company.” 

Theo worked around the makings of a response, trying his hardest not to concentrate on the growing patch of warmth tingling where their arms still touched.   


Eventually, though neither wanted to leave, they had to finish their food and walk to campus so they wouldn’t be late for their classes.  The café was only 15 minutes away from the main building and Sakura spent the entirety of their walk talking about their homework that was due, even if they felt that it was oddly incomplete.

                    “I don’t honestly know what the professor is looking for, is that bad?  I mean, how does one even start to solve that equation, it seems impossible.”  They glanced in Theo’s direction, question hanging heavy in the air, lips pursed.  “I doubt I’ll fail, but I’m actually really worried, this time.”  They paused in front of the pixie-haired man, cheeks somewhat flushed from walking too fast, hands fixed at their sides, and merely stared, eyebrows quirked up, waiting.

Theo glanced in his companion’s direction, noting how they’d all but stopped, intense gaze focused on him and him alone.  “Just be careful with the remaining assignments and you’ll be fine, I’m pretty sure one of my friends had that teacher, and they never even thought about flunking him.”  He thought back to how Arata had struggled with the same class, always whining about the teacher or the assignments, but never truly getting a grade below a C.  They’d all spent countless nights helping him, only to find out that he’d passed with flying colors despite all the trouble they’d gone through—all the screaming they’d done during the early hours of morning, all the times Theo had nearly pulled his hair out.

                    “If you say so.”  Sakura shrugged, picking up their pace once more, though making an effort to keep themselves as close to Theo as possible, barely enough for their hands to bump, but just the right amount of distance to see the older man’s face flushing a brilliant shade of peach.    

As they slowly walked past the gates of the main campus, Sakura turned to Theo, holding their hands out, fingers hesitantly tracing the line of fabric around Theo’s wrist.  “I have a question to ask,” they paused, tone far too heavy for someone that radiated so much light.  “You don’t have to say anything until what you’re going through is over, nor do I want you to feel obligated into giving me an answer you don’t genuinely want to give.”  Sakura fidgeted in place, pale skin heating to a shade of delicate crimson, off white bangs swishing against the fluttering of their eyelashes.

                    “Would you ever consider going out with me?”

Theo had never been one for believing that time could stand still, and yet, upon hearing Sakura—upon seeing the way the smaller student teetered back and forth on the balls of their feet, Theo could easily say that his entire world had come to an abrupt, albeit, welcomed halt. “I . . .”

                     “Like I said, you don’t have to answer right away, but,” Sakura leaned forward, cinnamon flashing to a light shade of pink, before placing a fleeting kiss to the older man’s lips.  “Just, consider it once things have settled down, okay?”

The kiss, though short, was far too sweet, too tender, and the lingering taste of latte tickled Theo’s lips long after Sakura pulled away, long after they hurried off with graceful steps.

                      “I’ll see you later!” They called, leaving Theo alone and shell shocked.


Mentally slapping himself, Theo made his way to class, desperately trying to understand what had happened and why.  He could still taste Sakura’s lips upon his own, could still picture the smaller student’s cheeky grin as they ran off.  His heart skipped a beat, happy in its own little way for possibly gaining the attention of someone so unique.

 

Theo made his way through the halls, eyeing a few students as they passed, noting how some kept their arms wrapped about another’s waist, hands clasped tight, whispered words shared between each other.  And for once, he wondered if he’d ever be allowed to have such a tender moment with someone—for once, he wanted what others held so dear.

                      Just let this whole thing die down, first . . .

 

Upon walking into the classroom, Theo caught sight of Mr. Kagami, the older man sitting poised at his desk, grading tests, pencil placed between his lips.  Upon hearing Theo enter, he briefly glanced up, smile evident upon his face, eyes lighting in recognition.

                      “Theo, are you feeling a bit better now?”  He tapped the pencil on his desk, eraser side up, glancing past Theo to the entryway of his classroom before continuing, “I was hoping we could have a talk in regards to your coursework now that you’re back.” 

                       “I’ve been getting some help outside of class, everything should be turned in soon, I promise.” Theo responded with a smile.  For the first time since having received the texts, he felt like everything was going to be fine.

                       “This won’t take long, though, and as your teacher it’s my responsibility to make sure you pass, help outside of class or not.”  The older man’s tone wavered, a sense of urgency making its way into his words and the way he began to stand, hands coming down hard against the desk.  “Come into my office so we can sort out everything that’s past due, and how you’re going to keep up with your studies.  You really have missed too many days.”

                       He’s only trying to help, he means well.  Theo thought, following his teacher into the office, only to find himself wondering why Mr. Kagami took to locking the door behind them. The middle aged man rummaged through his cabinet for something, mumbling a few words to himself as if lost in his own little world.

                      “Theo will you help me for a second, I could have sworn I put my evaluations in here?” Mr. Kagami asked, briefly looking back at Theo before rummaging through the cabinet once more.

                      “Sure, what do the papers look like?”  Theo moved over to where his teacher stood, then froze. The same eerie presence he’d felt at the nightclub eased its way into his veins, making his hair stand on end and his heart thump deep within his chest. 

A blackened aura made its way through the room, suffocating, forcing Theo to take in a ragged breath as he tried to collect himself, tried to keep his mind from racing and his fingers from twitching.  On instinct, he took a few unsteady steps back towards the door only to find himself trapped as the older man’s arm lashed out, hand snaking its way around his wrist in a vice like grip.

                      “What are you . . .?”  Barely able to speak, Theo attempted to wrench his arm away, only to feel calloused fingers digging further into his skin, bruising ever so slightly upon contact.

Pulling a sinister smile, the man that Theo had once looked up to—a harmless teacher for that matter—held a cloth over the pixie-haired man’s mouth, gripping tight so as not to let him get away.

                       “Be a good little boy, and go to sleep.”

Tears filled Theo’s eyes, an overpowering sensation of grogginess taking over, forcing him to sag within his teacher’s grasp.  With one last look towards the window, Theo caught sight of the spot where Sakura had kissed him, wondered if he’d ever see the white haired man, again, before everything faded to a dark empty void.

                       “You’re mine, now.”