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Best-Laid Plans

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Touma formulates Plan A in middle school, after he realizes his feelings for Taichi aren't going away anytime soon. Plan A is to move somewhere far away and hope that distance cures the feelings that time can't.

Plan A lasts for about five years. Then, Plan A encounters Taichi and an emotionally fraught conversation on a beach.

"When I envision my happiness, you're there too," Taichi says.

And, "My feelings aren't the same as yours, but they're still there."

And, "In the end, I like being with you."

Touma caves like a piece of wet cardboard.

Plan B is to use the existence of Taichi's girlfriend as a deterrent for himself. Taichi's love for Futaba could be spotted from outer space. It should be easier for Touma's feelings to fade now that there is hard evidence that Taichi has never been attracted to him and never will be.

Theoretically, Plan B should be well-within his capabilities, considering that his unrequited love has lasted eight undeterred years already. In practice, staying friends with someone who rejected you is more difficult than Touma predicted.

There's some awkwardness when they discuss their plans after graduation. Futuba is going to her dream school in Hokkaido while Taichi is matriculating to a national university in Tokyo. Touma plans on taking a gap year working as a carpenter in Tokyo.

Touma has an urge to blurt out, I swear I'm not stalking you to Tokyo to Taichi and I swear I'm not exploiting the opportunity to steal your boyfriend while you're 500 miles away to Futaba. He chokes the words down successfully. Taichi and Futaba seem more occupied worrying about the impending difficulties of a long distance relationship anyway. 

In Tokyo, Touma and Taichi are lucky if they manage to coordinate a meet-up once a month. Their schedules rarely line up: Taichi is busy making friends with his new classmates, and Touma is adjusting to the unfamiliar schedule of a full-time job. Moreover, hanging out together feels unsettling. The comforting buffer of Futaba and Masumi is gone, and they both still remember Touma's confession.

Their third meet-up is a horror movie, which Touma admittedly has ulterior motives for picking. One, they wouldn't have to talk - ergo, no awkwardness. Two, Taichi tends to cling to Touma like a spooked cat during jump scenes, and it is freaking adorable.

Unfortunately, they picked a bad time to return from the theater, since it seems like everyone in Tokyo is heading home too. Taichi is crushed against Touma in the crowded train.

Stop enjoying this, Touma tells himself sternly. He's got a girlfriend. The reminder has never managed to curb his feelings before, but maybe today will be the day.

Taichi is so small and warm and cute. He fits perfectly against Touma's broader chest, and he's still trembling slightly from the horror movie they just saw.

Girlfriend, girlfriend, girlfriend, Touma attempts to hypnotize himself, as a sudden turn of the train forces him to shift his thigh between Taichi's legs to maintain balance.

What's different this time is that Taichi notes, "Your heart's beating pretty fast."

Touma coughs sheepishly. "Mm. Yeah."

"Never noticed that before," Taichi says. "Guess I'm kind of dense, huh?"

They both smile ruefully at each other, and somehow, things are better after that mutual acknowledgement.

Their first year after high school is relatively calm. The second year is not.

"Futaba and I broke up," Taichi says, and Touma tries to not feel like a horrible friend for the sigh of relieved joy he has to suppress.

Taichi corrects, "I guess if we're being specific, I broke up with Futaba."

"I thought things were going well between the two of you," Touma says cautiously.

"Long distance relationships suck. And I don't know - I guess we just grew apart."

"Sorry," Touma offers. And he's even being sincere - Futaba made Taichi happy, and Touma's always wanted Taichi to be happy.

"I think we've known for a while that it was over. Futaba's just too nice to be the first one to bring it up." Taichi takes another swig of beer. "Ugh, let's stop talking about this. I've bitched enough to Yorkie."

Taichi is understandably gloomy afterwards, but he eventually recovers as time goes by. Months pass as Touma waits in vain for Plan B to be revived.

"Is Taichi still hung up on his ex-girlfriend?" their classmate questions. "He never wants to go to any goukons! I know that you're gay and celibate, but what's his excuse?"

Is Taichi pining for Futaba?

Touma is unsure. He patiently bides his time until his hopes are crushed a second time (hopefully more permanently) by a new girlfriend, but Taichi stays single all the way until they're about to graduate.

Halfway into his sophomore year, Taichi switched into a combined master's program, so they'll be graduating at the same time despite Touma's late start. Taichi already has a job offer with an up and coming video game company as a software engineer, and Touma will be staying on with the college baseball team as a sports medicine specialist. They'll both be in Tokyo, and they'll both still be single for the foreseeable future.

Plan A is out. Plan B is gone too. What is he supposed to do now?

Touma steps out of the building for a breath of fresh air. His unwanted popularity has followed him from high school to college, so he's been forced to entertain classmate after classmate at their graduation party without being able to see the person he wants to meet the most.

Which is why he is pleasantly surprised to spot Taichi outside, leaning against the corner street lamp.

"Tai-chan!"

Taichi lifts the corners of his lips. "Finally managed to sneak away?"

"I probably shouldn't drink any more, considering Seiya and Aki are arriving tomorrow."

"Ah, my parents won't be getting in until the weekend."

They stand in the cool night air in companionable silence.

Touma breaks it by asking, "Hey. Are you still not over Futaba?"

He regrets speaking almost immediately. It's possible he's had one too many drinks tonight. It's possible he's been pondering too much about their future and their past.

Without missing a beat, Taichi counters, "Are you still not over me?"

The question injects enough adrenaline into Touma that he instantly sobers up. They haven't discussed Touma's confession in years.

"I'm not still waiting for Futaba, if that's what you're asking," Taichi eventually answers. His eyes are exceptionally clear in the light of the streetlamp.

Touma looks away. Despite his best efforts, he's never been able to feel the way he feels about Taichi towards anyone else. Touma is beginning to think he'll spend the rest of his life like this.

"What about you? Are you still waiting for me?" Taichi asks. Touma would call him cruel if his voice weren't so gentle.

"Hah." Touma scrubs his face with his palms roughly. Twenty-three years on this planet, and more than half of those years were spent futilely pining after his best friend. He's pathetic. "I'm sorry."

"Don't apologize!" Taichi says. "Not for that."

Touma almost says sorry again before he catches himself.

Abruptly, Taichi says, "Let's live together after graduation. My company is pretty close to the school."

"Do you know what you're saying?" Touma says. The cold shame in his chest is solidifying into scorching anger.

Taichi continues to gaze at him calmly.

Touma has never been this furious with Taichi before. Looming over him, he repeats in a low growl, "Do you know what you're saying?"

He watches in sick satisfaction as Taichi's composure finally breaks and steps in even closer. Taichi tries to shove him away, but their builds are different enough that Touma won't be moved if he doesn't want to be.

And he doesn't want to be, so he stays right where he is - close enough to see the pink bloom in Taichi's cheeks. 

"T-too close!" Taichi stammers. He's...blushing?

Touma steps back in confusion.

"I don't think I phrased things in the right way." Taichi is the one avoiding his eyes now. "What I meant was - do you remember when I said to you that day? That my feelings weren't the same as yours?"

There's a burgeoning hope rising in his chest that Touma thought he got rid of a long time ago.

"Well, now I think maybe they aren't so different after all," Taichi confesses quickly.

Touma is blank. He thinks he understands the meaning of those words separately, but when put together... what? Is this really happening? Maybe he drank too much and he's just having a particularly realistic fever dream right now.

Taichi meets his eyes. "I can't promise everything will work out. And, and - it might not be fair of me to say this after so many years. But if you're willing to try with me..."

It finally hits him. And then the tears start falling.

"Touma?" Taichi says, alarmed.

He covers his wet eyes with the back of his hand. "Are you serious? Is this for real?"

"Who do you think I am? I wouldn't joke about something like this!"

"I'm. I'm really happy, Tai-chan." Touma tries to muffle his sobs.

"Then don't cry, idiot!" Taichi says, but his annoyed tone is belied by the gentle way he's wiping away Touma's face with his sleeves.

"Can I kiss you?" Touma asks, and Taichi freezes.

He quickly backpedals. "My bad, I'm getting ahead of myself. I don't want to push you."

"I told you stop apologizing, didn't I? I'll tell you if I'm uncomfortable." Taichi looks like he's thinking hard, before steeling himself. "Close your eyes. And lean down! You're too tall!"

Touma lets his eyes flutter shut, and waits in terrified anticipation. He feels a soft brush against his left cheekbone, like a butterfly's kiss.

"That's a deposit, okay? Be satisfied with that for now. Er - the rest is for the future."  If Taichi was flushed before, he's now bright-red all the way down to his neck.

(Taichi keeps his promise. Touma eventually gets his kiss on the lips and more. But that's for later.)

Touma doesn't think he'll be needing any more plans. All that awaits them is the day after the next, leading into their future - together.