Taichi stared at the script in front of him. His eyes wandered to meet Omi’s body which laid peacefully in his bed. They had just gotten their second script today and Taichi was supposed to read it over, but he had barely even touched the papers in front of him. He was still stuck on Zero.
He was supposed to play... her.
So far, none of the troupes full of boys had been expected to play the part of a girl, he was going to be the first, if Tsuzuru aimed to write any more female parts. Taichi would expect it to be okay, for him to assume the rule like he did Benjamin, but this was so much more different in ways that everyone else in the troupe couldn’t really comprehend, well not that he knew of anyway.
The role of a girl was so appealing to him. Ever since Taichi was young, he was fascinated by the more feminine things of life, like makeup and dolls and hair styles and hair colors and dresses. He found that he wanted to use and experiment with every one of those things; he wanted to be referred to with she/her pronouns; he wanted to be a girl.
Taichi took another glance at Omi in his bed, and then at the script, and then she let herself cry silently. She would finally get to see what it would be like to be a girl to others, not just herself. She made a mental note to hug Tsuzuru and thank him whenever she saw the playwright next. Taichi laid in her bed and began to read the script to herself, smiling every time she saw herself on the multiple papers in her hands.
The next day was a Saturday, thank the heavens, so Taichi called a full company meeting. She bounced her right leg nervously as everyone slowly poured into the living room. Omi was the first to hear of this meeting, as he was Taichi’s roommate, and he sat next to her, reaching a hand over to massage her shoulder as an attempt to soothe her.
The last ones to arrive were Masumi and Tsuzuru, as the former didn’t do well in the mornings and the latter was still exhausted from his week of script writing. Taichi let quite a few yawns ring out before speaking.
“Um, I’m sure y-you’re all wondering why I’ve called a meeting...” Some are confused by Taichi’s uncharacteristic stuttering and some are just rolling their eyes at her. “I don’t know if everyone knows but I’m supposed to be playing a girl for our next show...” she trails off at that, letting everyone catch up with her words.
“To help me get into character, could everyone refer to me as a girl and use she/her pronouns for me? This is the only time I’ll ever admit that I don’t know a lot about girls,” Izumi, Yuki, and everyone else in the Autumn Troupe hold back a snort, but they don’t know that they’re truly being deceived.
“We got another girl in the dorms besides the Director! That’s lit!” Kazunari’s usual enthusiasm is expected, but the words are what make Taichi tear up. She takes a deep breath, swallowing down her excitement and taking a deep breath, “call me Zero too! It’s my character’s name!”
The girl jumps as she feels a hand on her shoulder, “okay, Zero, what do you want for breakfast?” Omi’s smile makes the tears come back to her eyes, but Zero smiles and answers before her roommate can notice.
It’s been a hell of a few months of practicing with her troupe members, and Zero doesn’t want to leave the stage on their final performance. But she has to. The minute she steps off, the floodgates burst open. She begins grossly and loudly sobbing; Yuki would be disgusted by the snot messing with her makeup, wig, and dress.
Speak of the devil: Yuki, accompanied by Izumi and the rest of the Autumn Troupe, suddenly appear by the closeted girl’s side. Yuki hits the girl on the shoulder, “stop your whining, dog! Your makeup is gonna be ruined and you still have a curtain call!” Omi nudges the cross dresser with a frown on his face, clearly worrying about his close friend.
Zero just nods, pushing past her friends and trying to block out the thundering applause from the audience. She appreciates the love and concern everyone has for her, but she can’t help but feel overstimulated. Her time as Zero is over, she’ll be back to Taichi, a boy, before she knows it.
When the Troupe bows together and the audience cheers for them again, Zero runs behind stage again, pushing past the multitude of people who call for her to come back. She finds herself in the yard nearby the dorms, sobbing and shaking as she sits under a tree.
Zero tries the best to stifle her cries and wipe her tears, but she’s upset so she’s loud and the tears never seem to stop. She lays against the tree and chokes on her tears as the sobs wracking her body slowly cease. The girl takes a few deep breaths and curls into her body, pushing her knees up to her chest. Before she knows it, she’s sound asleep.
The sun is bright. That’s the first thing Zero thinks when she opens her eyes. The next thing she thinks about is the pain that suddenly erupts from her shoulder. She sits up and turns to see Yuki, who looks a little pissed.
“Stupid dog,” the usual insult flows easy from Yuki’s mouth, “you made everyone worry over you. And you’ve ruined my dress. Guess you’ll never change, huh?” The joke in reference to the Autumn Troupe’s first show stops Zero’s heart slightly and she feels the tears come back from the night before.
Unusually, Yuki’s face softens and he wraps his arms around the girl. “It’s okay, Zero. Mom and the director are worried about you, let’s get to them, okay?” Zero nods, sniffling and allowing Yuki to help her up.
A few minutes later, the entirety of the company is together in the living room. The huge crowd is the only ever large amount of people that Zero truly feels comfortable in front of. The girl allows herself to be hugged by a bunch of the worrying boys and Izumi.
Banri hits the smaller girl on the head, Juza ruffles her hair (the wig and dress has been discarded, much to Zero’s dismay), Sakyo rolls his eyes but places a comforting hand on her shoulder and Omi tightly hugs her. This is her family; she can trust them.
“I-I-I’m sorry,” she stutters our after a few minutes of silence, “it’s okay, Taichi. Just tell us what happened, please.” Omi’s soft tone is comforting yet the noun used makes the girl so uncomfortable.
“It’s that... Taichi.” The name that was hers. But not anymore. She’s Zero, she isn’t Taichi anymore. But everyone in the room doesn’t know that. Yuki looks a bit smug as always, but perhaps he’s always known, and it looks like a few gears are starting to turn in Omi’s head.
But Izumi breaks the awkward silence after that statement, “what do you mean? That’s your name?” She tries to be comforting; she’s always felt like a mother to the young high schooler, especially with this play.
“I’m not Taichi, a-a boy, anymore. I’m Zero and I have been her for years.” Yuki and Omi smile at her, both of them having figured it out before.
Tenma speaks immediately after, “so, you’re a girl?” Zero nods.
Azuma offers a comforting smile, “just she/her? No other pronouns?” Zero nods again, beginning to smile.
“And we still call you Zero?” Sakuya cocks his head, and the other puppy nods yet again, breaking out into a full, beautiful smile.
Sakyo nods, pushing his glasses up onto his face, “that’ll be easy; we’ve been doing that recently so there will be no change.”
Zero starts to cry again, desperately trying to wipe the tears away as soon as she notices. Omi frowns and hugs her again, “it’s okay! I’m just happy, Omi. Thank you guys so much, this means the world to me.”
“A puppy isn’t a puppy if they’re not wagging their tail with happiness,” Yuki tries to hide a slight smile at his friend’s newfound happiness, but Zero notices it, offering one to him instead.
“Okay, Zero, what do you want for breakfast?” Zero breaks out in tears again, slightly overwhelmed with her own happiness. The rest of the company laughs and a giant group hug suddenly occurs in the living room.