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Futaba had been a lot of his firsts.

She had been the first girl to really befriend him. Sure, it had initially been because she had wanted to know Touma better, but Taichi had never felt like he was being used as some replaceable tool whenever she had asked for advice or his opinion. Despite her skittish nerves and shy smiles during those early days of their friendship, she shone with genuine appreciation. Her kindness towards him not inherent to whether he helped her with her unreciprocated feelings. Maybe their friendship had properly solidified after Touma had gotten involved, but she had approached Taichi first.

Then she had been his first girlfriend. Unconfident as he had felt when competing against his popular, handsome, personable best friend, he had been prepared to never admit that his feelings for her weren’t purely friendly. At the time neither of them had known that Touma would never be able to reciprocate those feelings, and Taichi couldn’t have expected that Futaba had come to a new realisation about her feelings either. His chest had felt like it was exploding just like the fireworks had been. All of a sudden they had a new connection that didn’t exist before; a choice that burned with so much happiness. To be with each other on his birthday; the final summer of his high school career.

As a romantic relationship tends to develop, she was then his first kiss. Her lips had been soft and sweet, her breath warm on his skin. It had been a quick, fleeting thing that at the time had had so much power over him. Second-guessing himself has always been Taichi’s strong suit, but for that moment he had no uncertainty. The exhilarating first brush of contact lighting up every nerve. At that moment it hadn’t been a question of if he loved her, but how much he loved her. Even he couldn’t say. Futaba had smiled so beautifully; her blush infectious and endearing beyond words. Taichi had seen so much possibility and hope for the future in her. Had been reassured that things could, would, work themselves out.

Their first big, serious fight was unavoidable, probably. With both of them being overthinkers and self-doubting, it’s hardly surprising that things would bubble over eventually. Taichi can freely admit that life had sucked for all of them at that point—the whispers, the pity, the attention—keeping him on edge and reactive. Maybe things might have been different if he was as collected and in control as Itachi. Maybe if he had Touma to fall back on as peacemaker and mediator like usual… But things hadn’t been normal, and Taichi couldn’t selfishly rely on others to resolve his problems. It had been a necessary thing, ultimately. They were stronger for it, finding each other amidst the hurt.

Compared to all the other firsts, their first time having sex was probably the easiest—even if it hadn’t felt that way at the time. Together, alone for the first time in his tiny apartment. Nerves tripping his movements as they both fumbled through their feelings; no amount of preparation enough to keep his breath from being stolen by her. She was beautiful, radiant, the universe. Futaba once again showing just how much braver she was than him, closing that final tiny gap between them with a smile and bitten lip. Her touch like sparks that he couldn’t help but reciprocate; burning bright and hot. At some point, they had laughed together at their own self-conscious worries. Occupying their own quiet, intimate world.

Now Futaba has grown into herself, the time making her even more sure of what she wants. She’s no longer the meek, hamster-like girl who had ambushed him with her feelings for Touma. Nor is she the girl who yelled her I love you into the ocean wind, face ablaze and chest heaving. No, now she doesn’t have problems speaking around a crowd of new people. She’s no longer afraid of the immensity of the world around her. More confident in being her own best friend, like she had always wanted. Outwardly she’s not much different—a little taller, fuller in spots, more likely to not avert her eyes—but the biggest changes almost always come from within, Taichi’s learned.

Because he’s not the same as he was either. He doesn’t try to talk himself out of opportunities anymore or assume that he can’t achieve the things others have. Since that day on the beach, or perhaps their graduation ceremony in the spring, Taichi has stopped being afraid of what might be and started looking at what is. Stopped avoiding painful and uncomfortable truths. Methodically working through the parts of himself he never realised until they had been forcefully shoved in his face, and determining how he values each one. Accepting each piece and making the picture of himself in his mind clearer; more vibrant.

All of these moments and everything he’s experienced and done together with Futaba has brought him here; knowing that yet another change, another first, is happening. An unavoidable force that will hurt, will grow, will teach him. Taichi’s not prepared… but he never has been before, either. Looking at what is, he hopes that he can become even stronger in himself after this.

Because Futaba Kuze is also the first to break his heart.