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The Next Five Years

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Taichi steps off the train, and lets the crowd move him towards the exit. Has it really been five years? He's never been to where they'll be eating, but won't have any trouble finding it - it's not far from Touma's, after all. Why did he let Touma talk him into this? Touma was right, of course. Well, he hadn't said it in so many words, but it's clear he thinks it will help Taichi move on. Put the ghost of his relationship with Futaba to bed. Whatever you want to call it.

Futaba. Has she moved on? It's been five years, after all. He hopes she has. He'd been the one to break it off, but she hadn't been surprised. It had been coming for a while. She'd said they should stay friends, and he'd agreed. Meant it, even. But.

And now it's five years later (five years!), and Touma has finally got the four of them to meet again. Even Masumi. Not that Masumi would let Futaba go to this alone. Meeting your ex after five years. It...

Taichi's thoughts are pulled up short by the sight of the restaurant. And Touma, easy to spot as ever above the people passing by. Talking to... Futaba. She never did grow her hair out, then. And Masumi, of course, hovering protectively by Futaba's shoulder.

Masumi's the first to notice him, being less invested in the conversation, but it isn't until Touma sees him that he gets a smile and a welcome. Greeting Futaba goes about as well as he'd expected, really, all stammered hellos and awkward silences. Masumi is the one to break the ice with some comment that he won't recall later, except that it manages to be both biting and fond. It's still awkward, but at least it feels like the awkwardness is something shared, a common ground to start from.

Over dinner, Touma leads the conversation, which means there are no awkward pauses, but also allows Taichi to get away with barely contributing.  He's grateful for Touma's presence, and feeling the solid warmth of that arm pressed against his shoulder is comforting, but he does wonder if it might not be better if he and Futaba were forced to actually talk to each other.

In the end, that opportunity comes afterwards at a nearby park in the form of Touma (as subtle as ever) taking Masumi off to get shaved ice from a vendor they saw nearby. Taichi and Futaba find a bench and sit down, in silence at first. But then, "Do you remember that day, back at the end of high school, when we decided to go and find Touma?"

Futaba isn't looking at him as she says this, but there's a small smile on her face as she stares into the middle distance. "I... yeah", he manages to get out, suave as ever.

"And do you remember how we talked about choosing the future?" She turns to him, that familiar earnest expression on her face and, without waiting for answer to her previous question, asks, "I wonder, what future do you want to choose now?"

Taichi starts at that, taken off guard. After a pause that he doesn't fill, thinking seriously about the question instead, Futuba turns to face forward again, and continues,

"I've been thinking a lot about it, ever since Touma suggested we all meet up. I'm choosing a future where I'm always getting better than I was. I want a future where I'm running my own shop. I think I want a husband, and kids." She glances at him, possibly wary of his reaction to this, but he's honestly OK with it. Probably more so than he expected. "And I want Touma and Masumi there to support me. And you. As my friend."

She's facing him again for the last part of this, and then settles back slightly, apparently content to wait for him. There's silence again while he's processing, but it's comfortable this time. When he's ready, he sits up straighter.

"I want a future with you in it as well. As friends. And Masumi as well. I want to see you confident in your happiness. I want to lead a major project at - hey, did Touma tell you I work at an engineering firm now? Anyway, I want to run an important project there. And Touma..."

He swallows, suddenly nervous, looking at the ground. He glances up at Futaba, and sees her smiling encouragingly. That lets him find his voice again. "I want Touma smiling that big goofy smile by my side. And I..." She takes his hand, squeezing it gently in encouragement. "I want to be the one to put it there." He huffs out a laugh. "Wow, I don't think I'd realised I felt that way until now." He looks up at her, suddenly worried. "Sorry, this is a weird conversation to be having with your ex."

She smiles back. "But not a weird conversation to have with a friend. Do you want to know a secret?" She leans in conspiratorially, and he nods. "I've been going out with this guy at work. It's pretty new - I haven't even told Masumi yet - but he's really sweet."

He can see from her smile that she's really happy about it, and finds that he feels the same way. He thought he might find a bit of jealousy lurking inside, but he's just happy for her, and tells her so. The others come back to find them waving their arms around in figures of eight and laughing. Touma, his hands too full to join in, just yells "pew, pew!", startling a passerby. Masumi is mostly confused, but refuses to listen to an explanation, preferring to live in ignorance of anything that causes "such ridiculous flailing". Taichi knows her well enough to tell she's holding in laughter, though.

All in all, it's an excellent day. He doubts he'll see Futaba and Masumi as often as he sees Touma, given where they all live (and he hopes he'll see a lot more of Touma in the future, if all goes well), but he's sure it will be a lot less than five years before the next time.