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[Prequel Side Stories] Where My Home Is

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“Juri,” Jesse dragged Juri to the end of the gym away from where all their classmates were with Shintaro a few steps behind them making sure no one was following them. “Why did you choose to buddy up with the transferee? You’ve seen how bad he is at sports.”


“You even picked him for the group project before us. And it hurts.” Shintaro dramatically placed his hand on his chest. “What if someone else were to choose us?”


“That won’t happen as everyone pretty much knows they shouldn’t mess with our group dynamics.” Juri drank some of his water. “I was pretty sure no one would pick the new kid anyway so might as well spare him the despair of not getting picked.”


“But, Juri…” Jesse was struggling to organize his thoughts in a way that won’t sound offensive.


“He’ll bring us down and you know it.” Shintaro bluntly said. “Why’d you pick him anyway? Is it because he’s cute?”


“Shut up. He’s coming.” Jesse warned as he saw the blond boy approach them.


“Ah, excuse me.” The boy politely approached them. “I thought you might want some…” He was about to give Juri a bottle of water but noticed he already had one in his hand. “Oh, you already have one.”


“You’d be surprised how much Juri could drink.” Jesse chuckled.


“Don’t take what these two says to heart. Kyomoto Taiga, right?” Juri took the bottle of water still as he thought it would be rude not to.


Taiga nodded. “Thank you for choosing me. I really thought I’d be left out. Being a transferee and I suck at sports.”


“So you know that?” Shintaro remarked.


“Stop it.” Juri nudged his shoulder. “This is Jesse,” gesturing to the taller male. “And this frank one’s Shintaro. They might be a little rowdy sometimes but they’re nice. You can call me Juri.”


Their gym teacher blew on his whistle to call everyone’s attention that their class was over. The four boys went to the locker room to change their clothes. Their next class was their music class. The teacher asked them to pair up for their practical exams that would be scheduled a month from now. Not knowing anyone in class Taiga stayed in his seat, he decided to wait for someone to come talk to him or worse case scenario had their teacher assign him with someone. To his surprise, Juri moved to the seat beside him and Jesse with Shintaro occupied the ones behind the two of them.


“Do you play any instruments in particular?” Juri asked as he wrote their names on the list before giving it behind him to Jesse.


Taiga nodded while staring down on his desk. He didn’t know how to react to Juri’s kindness, he must have noticed that he couldn’t find his own partner and took him in again just like in gym class. “I can play the guitar.”


“I usually just join the chorus or rap. Are you okay with that?”


Taiga nodded.


Juri chuckled and Taiga swears the sound of his laugh was like music to his ears he flushed just hearing it.


“Are you just going to nod at anything I say?”


Taiga shook his head no.


“Am I making you uncomfortable?”


“No!” Taiga said a little too loud that everyone else in the room turned their attention to them. “I’m sorry.” He bowed his head and raised it up when everyone was back to discussing what they were going to do for the exam with their partners.


Juri laughed at him. “It’s just that,” Juri scratched his nose. “I already dragged you at gym class and here I am now not even asking you first but going ahead and deciding on my own. Just tell me if I’m being a bit too much.”


Taiga shook his head and turned to face Juri. “I really appreciate it. No one would choose to be paired up with the new kid anyway.” He looked down and turned to face the front again, he felt flushed when Juri’s eyes met his and it made him feel a bit embarrassed. He hoped Juri didn’t notice it.


“You’re as gloomy as the weather outside.” Juri pointed at the windows.


“Do you have an umbrella?”


“I use a raincoat. It’s pretty hard to use an umbrella while riding a bike.”


The two of them discussed what they’d do for the exam. Taiga suggested doing an original song and Juri agreed as long as the notes are not too high and the lyrics wouldn’t be too difficult to memorize. They were going to write it together during music class but Taiga looked excited when talking about lyric writing. He thinks Taiga would probably end up  writing pretty much the whole song. They settled for a theme first and threw in words they wanted to be included and start working from there but their thoughts were interrupted by the continuous chuckling of the two boys behind them.


“Both of you do understand that this is an exam, righ?” Juri knocked on their desk. “That you have to take seriously.”


“We are taking this seriously.” Jesse snickered.


“Really?” Juri raised his eyebrow as he pointed in the words scribbled on the notebook between them. “Maracas? Backflips? Wind chimes?”


“Hey, don’t copy our ideas.” Shintaro closed the notebook and pulled it over to him. “Even if you are our friend that’s cheating."


Juri was shaking his head and went back to discussing things with Taiga. When their class ended it was still raining. Juri spotted Taiga walking out of the main building and he stopped his bike to observe him a little, he looked like a lost child trying to avoid bumping into people. To which Taiga was unsuccessful as two boys who were goofing around bumped into him making him lose his balance and he landed on a puddle of mud.


Juri went to help him get up. Taiga was covered in mud.


"We better get you washed up. Get on." Juri told him, more of a command than a request.


"But - "


"My place is nearby. Or would you rather take the bus covered in mud?"


But a car will pick me up at the bus stop when I get there. Taiga was embarrassed and did not want to give off a sheltered rich boy impression this early that he just did what Juri said. He got on Juri's bike and he held his umbrella in a way that could cover them both.


"Don't mind me. You might get a cold if you get too soaked by the rain." Juri said as he pedalled his bike.


Taiga brought down the umbrella and tilted it a little so he won't hit Juri's back too much. When they got to Juri's place Taiga was a little hesitant and stopped at the hallway.


"On second thought, I don't want to cause trouble for your family. I should just go." He took a step back but Juri grabbed him by the wrist.


"Let's just go."


The first thing Taiga noticed as they entered the apartment was the shoe rack by the doorway, there were only two other pairs of shoes. Three now that Juri has placed the one he just took off. He gave Taiga a pair of indoor slippers.


"There's a washing machine inside. Use it to wash your clothes." Juri opened the door of the bathroom and led Taiga inside. "This door," he knocked on the door at the left side near the sink. "It leads directly to the bedroom. I'll leave a set of clothes there for you to wear while you wait for your clothes to dry." He got a towel from the small cabinet inside his bathroom. "You can use this."


"Maybe you should shower first. You got a little wet by the rain too."


"Not worse than you." Juri pushed him towards the shower and left the bathroom.


Juri boiled some water to prepare tea when he heard a melody, listening in further it was someone singing. Taiga was singing from his shower. His voice sent a warm feeling over Juri and he can't even hear it that clearly. His heart seemed to have skipped a beat.


Taiga accidentally opened the main door of the bathroom and Juri saw him jump on his feet at his own mistake and he found it adorable. Knowing that Taiga was probably already changing clothes Juri went ahead and took a shower. When he got out, he found Taiga leaning his head on the back of the sofa.


"Would you like some tea?" Juri was drying his hair. 


There was no reply from Taiga and when he looked towards his direction Taiga was asleep. Juri took a blanket from his bedroom and put it over Taiga. It was getting a bit late almost close to dinner time. He prepared food that would be enough for the two of them.


Taiga woke up when he smelled food, he folded the blanket before walking to the kitchen. Juri was setting the table.


"Ah, you're awake. I hope you don't mind but I only had ingredients for tonkatsu right now."


"I've caused you enough trouble already. Aren't anyone else coming home soon?"


Juri shook his head. "I live here alone. It's closer to the university I'm aiming for so I moved here when I started high school. Minami High School for the Arts has lax rules and lets junior and senior students take electives so I thought it was a good choice. I also get to dye my hair whatever color I want to. Come here and take a seat."


There was something in the way Juri talked that Taiga wanted to do everything he said. The two of them talked all through dinner: about their family, their interests, and a bunch of random stuff that they both lost track of time. The rain had also stopped when they finished cleaning up the dining table.


"I'm sorry I kept you too long." But actually, I'm not sorry. "Your parents might get worried about you."


"They're out of town."


"Have you ever even taken the bus this late?"


I can just book a cab to pick me up. "I don't normally take it this late."


"I'll take you home then. Is it far from here?"


"Can I just stay over?" He knows he's being selfish by suddenly asking this but he doesn't care, he wants to spend more time with Juri. Being with Juri felt warm and he wants to stay a little longer around him.


"The other bedroom is empty. I told you I live alone. I can't possibly have a young master sleeping on the sofa, I only have one bed."


"Then let's share it."