Early afternoon light filters through the tall school windows, casting the hallway in front of their classroom into cheery brightness. Students mill about, talking amongst themselves before the lunch period ends. Yuki sticks close to the wall, Kyo doing the same to his right, while the girls talk in front of them.
Uotani always refuses to go inside the classroom until it’s absolutely necessary. Even Tohru is outside with them, though she’s poring over a notebook, visibly stressed about the upcoming class. Yuki had offered to help her during lunch but she’d refused, telling him to enjoy his lunch period. He doesn’t mind—besides, she’s worrying for no reason. He knows she knows the material because they studied it together.
“I’m telling you they’re dating,” Uotani says, leaning in so only they can hear her.
“And I’m telling you that I don’t believe you,” Kyo retorts. “She’s out of his league.”
One surprising thing Yuki has learned about Kyo in the year or so of forced bonding time is that he’s an awful gossip, and combined with Uotani’s big mouth and Hanajima’s eerie penchant for insider knowledge, Yuki feels like he knows way too much about his classmate’s personal lives.
“Their waves have changed,” Hanajima says.
“Oh, yeah?” Kyo crosses his arms. “And what are their waves telling you right now?”
“Hm, I’m sensing sexual tension from both of them, and Hikari is nervous,” she says, flicking a hand towards the couple in question, the pair chatting amicably a few meters away. “Also that the vice president is coming this way.”
Right on cue Kakeru turns the corner, spots Yuki in the hall, and bellows, “Yun-Yun! Oh, I’m so glad I found you!”
“Your lover’s calling,” Kyo grumbles. Yuki jabs him in the side; Kyo winces.
“Again with the nickname?” Yuki asks as Kakeru approaches.
“I thought you liked it!” Kakeru grabs Yuki around the waist and pulls him in so Yuki’s front is pressed against Kakeru’s side, halfway-hugging. Yuki rests a hand against the side of Kakeru’s neck, instinctively keeping him away, though if Kakeru were a girl Yuki would be toast by now anyway.
“What gave you that impression?”
“The way you blush every time I say it,” Kakeru grins.
Yuki rolls his eyes. “I do not.”
“Keep telling yourself that, princess.”
“Did you need something?”
“Oh, right.” Kakeru grabs Yuki’s hand from his neck and tangles their fingers together. “I have devastating news.”
Yuki raises an eyebrow. “Care to share?”
“Nao’s absent today.”
“How can you be so calm about this?” Kakeru cries.
“Is he dead or something?” Uotani asks.
“Unfortunately, no,” Kakeru answers. “But it does mean that Kimi has to take minutes today.”
“And that’s a problem why?” Yuki asks.
Kakeru huffs dramatically, his arms dropping away from Yuki. He lolls his head on Yuki’s shoulder and Yuki rests a hand on his hair, knowing he’ll whine if he doesn’t comply. He’s come to learn that Kakeru is like a cat, demanding affection at inopportune times and annoying Yuki into submission if he tries to refuse. Yuki normally hates cats, but it’s weirdly endearing when Kakeru does it.
“She never pays attention,” Kakeru whines.
“So Machi can help her.”
“Have you seen Machi’s handwriting?”
“Fine.” Yuki shoves Kakeru’s face off his shoulder. “You can help her, then.”
“Why can’t you do it?”
“Because I’m in charge, that’s why.”
“Oh, look who’s a big man now!” Kakeru grabs both of Yuki’s cheeks and Yuki’s hands fly up to his wrists, stopping him from shaking him too vigorously. “Compensating for something?”
“Now you’re starting to sound a little insecure,” Yuki quips. Kyo scoffs, and Yuki jumps a little—he’d honestly forgotten he was still there.
The warning bell rings and Kakeru slumps forward, his hands resting on Yuki’s shoulders.
“I don’t wanna go to class,” he whines.
“Too bad,” Yuki says, patting Kakeru on the cheek.
“You have no sympathy for me, Yun-Yun.”
“Smartest thing you’ve said all day.”
“I guess I’ll see you then,” Kakeru huffs, pulling himself off Yuki and flashing a peace sign to the group. “Later.”
Yuki watches Kakeru disappear around the corner. When he turns back around, he’s met with three pairs of eyes glued on him, the fourth still absorbed in her notebook.
“What?” Yuki asks.
“What do you mean what, Prince?” Uotani scoffs.
“Why are you all looking at me like that?”
“Because you two are, like, all over each other,” she says, incredulous.
“More like he’s all over me.” Yuki tries to smile, but he’s fighting not to blush. Were they really that touchy? Is it weird? He hadn’t given it much thought before now.
“No, it was mutual,” Hanajima says. “Plus, your waves are…how do I put it? Entangled.”
“That only makes sense to you, Hana,” Uotani grins.
“You do take after your brother,” Kyo grumbles under his breath.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Yuki snaps.
“Let’s not fight,” Tohru interrupts, popping the balloon of anxiety that had been inflating in Yuki’s chest. “Class is about to start.”
“Yeah, okay.” Kyo gives in immediately, pushing himself off the wall and following her into the classroom.
“Hey, I’m not a guy. What do I know?” Uotani slaps Yuki between the shoulder blades, smiling. “Maybe hanging off each other and talking about your dicks is normal!”
“That could be possible,” Hanajima agrees.
Yuki knows his face is bright red, and he slides away from Uotani towards the door of the classroom. “Bell’s about to ring.”
“Ugh, calc,” Uotani groans. She heads into the classroom, Hanajima following closely behind her.
Yuki’s desk is further to the front than the others, and for once he’s incredibly thankful for that. Uotani’s comment is making him feel fidgety and embarrassed. He can’t put a finger on why, and that’s making it even worse. He spends the rest of class picking at the eraser of his pencil and jiggling his leg.
He’s anxious. That he can recognize. It’s a familiar feeling, but not one that he’s associated with the girls in a long time.
He decides not to think about it. He knows he shouldn’t. He’d told himself he wasn’t going to do that, that he was going to open the lid, but this doesn’t count, right? This is nothing. It was an off-handed remark that rubbed him the wrong way. It’s not a big deal, he tells himself. It’s fine.
He can’t stop thinking about it.
Or, he can’t stop thinking about not thinking about it.
He doesn’t know why he’s so uncomfortable all of a sudden. This…thing with Kakeru, it’s always seemed natural. He supposes he even kind of liked it, but now the thought of it makes him squirm. He’d mostly stayed away from Kakeru during that afternoon’s council meeting, and then Kakeru had rushed out right after. Yuki hadn’t really had the chance to figure out if it was all that noticeable, or if it was abnormal, or why he was even still thinking about this in the first place.
Yuki blinks, jarred from his thoughts. Shigure is waving at him from across the table, a hint of amusement on his face.
“What?” Yuki asks.
“I said, can you pass the soy sauce?” Shigure points at the bottle next to Yuki’s elbow.
“Oh.” Yuki blinks again and hands it to him.
“Just a little tired,” Yuki says.
“I’m pretty tired, too,” Tohru chirps. “We had a calc exam today.”
“We did,” Yuki smiles. “How do you think you did, Miss Honda?”
Tohru’s face flushes pink and she waves her hands in front of herself, nearly impaling Yuki with her chopsticks. “Oh, you know, it was really long, it was so much material, and I’m not very good at math, so I don’t really know!”
“I’m sure you did fine,” Yuki assures her. “You knew what you were doing when we were studying it, right?”
“Right, of course! Because you helped me!” Tohru grins at Yuki, her eyes squishing closed with the force of it.
“You’re both too cute!” Shigure coos.
“Don’t inflate his ego even more than it already is,” Kyo grumbles.
“What was that?” Yuki snaps.
“I said you’re full of yourself, rat boy!”
“Now, now,” Shigure interrupts. “No fighting at the dinner table.”
“Whatever.” Kyo goes back to shoveling rice into his mouth, steadfastly avoiding eye contact.
Yuki focuses on Tohru for the rest of the evening, letting her carry the conversation as they do the dishes together. He almost doesn’t want to go back to his room—her cheeriness is an instant mood lifter, and she’s distracting him in the best way possible. Eventually, though, Shigure closes his bedroom door and Kyo shuts off the TV and heads to his room, so Yuki and Tohru follow suit.
Yuki goes to sleep before he has any time to be alone with his thoughts.
Things are awkward.
Yuki knows it’s his own fault. Every time Kakeru throws an arm around his shoulders in the hall or puts his hand on his back in the council room, Yuki stiffens up. For once he’s glad Kakeru is so oblivious, because it doesn’t seem like he’s really noticed.
“So you’ll follow up with the drama club for their proposed budget,” Yuki says. He’s standing at the head of the conference table in the council room, pencil resting lightly on his itinerary. Kimi nods, tucking her hair behind her ears before jotting something in her agenda book. “And, Kakeru, you’ll remind the first year class reps that their cultural festival plans are due soon.”
“You got it.” Kakeru grins and winks at Yuki. Yuki ignores it.
“Great,” he says, closing his own agenda book. “That’s everything for today.”
“Finally.” Kakeru stretches out in his chair, pushing backwards so the front two legs are off the floor.
“If it’s so boring then why are you here?” Naohito snaps, standing up.
“The people want what the people want,” Kakeru says. “And the people wanted me as VP.”
“The people are sheep,” Naohito spits.
“Je-e-e-esus man, you’ve got a bigger stick up your ass than the Prez.” Kakeru lets his chair clatter back onto the linoleum, his arms landing heavily on the table.
“Are we talking about Yuki’s ass?” Kimi grins, leaning forward on the table to grasp Kakeru’s hands.
“Right in front of him?” Kakeru smirks back at her, side-eyeing Yuki as he laces his fingers through Kimi’s.
“Stop it,” Yuki huffs.
“You should take it as a compliment,” Kimi says, pouting.
“What she said.” Kakeru smiles up at him, clearly enjoying Yuki’s discomfort. “It’s so…pert. Almost like a girl’s!”
Yuki smacks Kakeru in the head with his agenda book, probably a little too hard based on Kakeru’s wince.
“You’re mean!” He cries, rocketing out his chair, palms flat on the table.
“And you’re a child.” Yuki turns away from them, busying himself with putting his stuff back into his schoolbag. He’s used to Kimi and Kakeru’s teasing, but after the other day, it feels almost too familiar. It’s making him itchy.
“The Prince turns his nose down on us lowly commoners once again,” Kakeru says with a flourish, stepping around the corner of the table. “Oh, to be royalty, forced to mix among—”
Kakeru snakes an arm around Yuki’s waist from behind. Yuki can’t help it—he lurches away, grabbing Kakeru’s wrist and spinning around to face him, twisting Kakeru’s arm in the process.
“Oh, God,” Yuki says, dropping Kakeru’s wrist. “I’m so sorry.”
“What was that for?” Kakeru pouts, rubbing at his wrist. “That hurt.”
“It was an accident.” Heat prickles at the back of Yuki’s neck, burns the tips of his ears. He’s acting like Kyo did when he first transferred in, jumpy and paranoid. It’s embarrassing, to say the least. “I’m sorry.”
“Are you okay?” Kakeru asks. He’s giving Yuki a look that he doesn’t like, like he’s sizing him up or trying to read him or something.
“Fine,” Yuki says, averting his eyes. “Just wasn’t expecting it.”
“Maybe you should ask people before you touch them, asshole!” Naohito interjects, arms crossed across his chest.
“Consent is key!” Kimi nods along enthusiastically.
“That’s rich, coming from you,” Kakeru says, rolling his eyes.
“What are you accusing me of?” Kimi presses a hand to her chest, mouth agape.
“You were all over Hinata today.” Kakeru moves back to his chair, grabbing his bag and stuffing his notebook into it.
“He likes me, so it’s fine,” Kimi says, batting her eyes at Kakeru.
Yuki sighs, relieved the subject has changed. He packs the rest of his things and escapes the council room with Naohito and Machi before Kakeru can focus on him again, the former looking as antsy as Yuki feels and the latter characteristically stoic. They part ways at the front of the school. Yuki is alone.
If Kakeru were a girl, his reaction would have been justified. He wouldn’t have to be thinking about it right now. But he’s not, and that’s sort of the problem, isn’t it?
Yuki knows he cares too much about what other people think of him. And he’s trying, really, to stop. He’s been letting his carefully curated persona slip little by little, first in front of Tohru, then her friends, and now the council. And that was fine. It was…good, actually. There are whole chunks of his day where he actually feels normal. He likes it.
Yuki is suddenly annoyed at himself that one comment got under his skin like this. Boys roughhouse. Kyo and Haru touch at school sometimes.
He thinks about that. Kyo sometimes puts Haru in a headlock, and Haru sometimes kicks the back of Kyo’s knees so that they buckle. He’s seen both of them shove the other into walls hard enough to knock the wind out of each other multiple times.
Kakeru doesn’t do that. Kakeru presses his palms to Yuki’s face, or wraps his arms around his waist, or rests his head on Yuki’s shoulder. Yuki puts his hand on the small of Kakeru’s back sometimes, or threads his fingers through Kakeru’s coarse hair.
Yuki takes a deep breath in, out, before ascending up the stone stairs to the house. Okay. So. Maybe it’s not quite the same.
The smell of Tohru’s cooking envelops Yuki’s senses like a warm hug as he steps inside. He steps out of his shoes and calls out, “I’m home.” Tohru’s voice rings back from the kitchen in welcome, sweet and comforting.
“Do you need help with dinner, Miss Honda?” Yuki asks, peeking through the doorway to the kitchen.
“No, I’m almost done!” She says, smiling. She’s a little sweaty, her hair frizzing out of her braids a bit, apron stained with broth on the bottom edge.
One time, Yuki had sat in Haru’s kitchen while his mother prepared dinner, but she had been perfunctory and business-like about it. He remembers it was all boil-in-the-bag, which he had never had. It was a little exciting at the time, mostly because he’d never seen anyone cook before. He much prefers this, warm and inviting and homey.
“Smells good,” Yuki adds.
“I hope it tastes good, too!”
“It always does,” Yuki smiles. “I’m going to get changed.”
Tohru hums and turns back to the counter, and Yuki heads up the stairs to his bedroom, closing the door softly behind him.
He should just forget about it. It’s fine. Everything is fine. He has friends, he has a home he likes living in, he’s making progress. He doesn’t want this thing to make him start slipping backwards for no reason. He knows he overthinks things, and this is one of them.
He changes absentmindedly, remembering to drape his uniform shirt over the back of his floor chair so it doesn’t wrinkle, and heads back downstairs to Tohru.
“Dude.” Fingers snap in front of Yuki’s face. “Yuki.”
“Hm?” Yuki looks up at Kakeru. They’re alone in the council room, the early morning sun glaring in through the window. Yuki blinks up at Kakeru’s disgruntled face, then back down at his notes. He’d stopped writing in the middle of a character, leaving the word mangled and unreadable on the page.
This has been happening more often, especially here. He gets stuck in a loop that goes like this: Yuki’s fingers brush Kakeru’s on the table, or Kakeru places a hand in between his shoulder blades, or he grabs Yuki’s wrist in the middle of telling a story, and Yuki’s mind starts racing. He tells himself not to think about it, it’s casual, it’s fine. And then he starts to think about the feeling of Kakeru’s eyes on him as he walks through the council room door or his laugh too close to his ear or what it feels like to be hugged without panicking, and by the time he wrangles control of his thoughts, he’s dazed and distracted and anxious.
It’s becoming a problem.
The bigger problem is that he thinks Kakeru has started to notice.
It’s been a few weeks since Yuki freaked out in front of everyone, and to Kakeru’s credit, he’s given Yuki some space. Well, as much space as someone like Kakeru is willing to give—he doesn’t come up to Yuki from behind anymore, and he doesn’t act surprised when Yuki stiffens under his touch. He puts his hands on Yuki’s shoulders instead of hooking his chin over one of them, and he hasn’t hugged Yuki in…he doesn’t know how long, actually.
The embarrassing part is that Yuki actually misses it.
But it’s not just the touching. Some of their ease around each other has dissipated along with it. Yuki is finding it harder and harder to hold a conversation with Kakeru, and he can barely meet his eyes when he does. Kakeru is a good conversationalist and carries it to an extent, but lately he’s been getting frustrated with Yuki’s lack of response, scowling and dropping the conversation in the face of Yuki’s stilted words. It’s not that Yuki’s not trying, it’s that he’s not sure what to say to him. He’s too self-conscious to get the words out, and Kakeru reacting badly isn’t helping.
It’s awkward. It’s worse than when they first met.
And Yuki feels guilty about it. About everything.
Not thinking about this isn’t working.
“You going through it right now?” Kakeru asks. He’s put his pen down, the budget approval papers in front of them apparently forgotten. He’s giving Yuki that same look he’s been giving him for weeks, a mix of concern and vague annoyance, his dark eyebrows furrowed low over his eyes.
“What?” Yuki asks.
“Are you going through it?” He repeats.
“I don’t know what that means,” Yuki says. He looks down at his paper and erases the character he was writing. Better to start over.
“You seem distracted,” he says, tilting his head. Yuki bristles at that—it’s still a little unsettling that Kakeru can read him so easily.
“I’m fine,” Yuki answers, keeping his voice calm and detached the way he does when he talks to his classmates. The way he used to talk to Tohru.
Kakeru grunts in frustration, running a hand through his hair. “Why are you being so weird?”
“You are!” Kakeru exclaims. “Did I do something wrong? You won’t even touch me.”
“Why do I need to let you touch me?” Yuki snaps. The back of his neck burns. He has noticed.
“You don’t, but you never had a problem with it before!”
“I don’t have a problem with it.”
“You, like, flinch away from me now!” Kakeru says, his voice raising with every word. “You have been for weeks! If I did something wrong, just tell me.”
“It has nothing to do with you,” Yuki insists.
Kakeru drags his hands down his face. “Oh my God, will you just tell me what’s wrong?”
“I don’t have to tell you anything!” Yuki’s voice is rising, too. He’s mad. He’s mad. Kakeru is pushing too hard again, putting Yuki on the spot and asking him questions he can’t answer.
“You can’t just, like, suddenly pull away for no reason and then refuse to tell me anything,” Kakeru says. His eyes are boring into Yuki’s and Yuki looks away, the scrutiny making him squirm in his chair. “I have feelings too, y’know.”
“You’re not entitled to what I’m feeling just because we’re friends now,” Yuki hisses, crossing his arms over his chest.
“I am when it involves me!”
“It does!” Kakeru cries. “You’re acting normal around everyone but me.”
“It’s none of your business.” Yuki stands, pushing his palms flat on the table. His face is burning, and his stomach is a mess of anxiety. He has to get out of here. “I’m going to homeroom.”
“Real mature, asshole,” Kakeru spits.
Yuki grabs his things and leaves the council room without saying anything. He can feel Kakeru’s eyes on his back the whole time.
He scurries to the closest bathroom he can find, locking the stall door behind him. It’s still pretty early, so it’s blessedly empty. Regardless, he can’t freak out at school. He just can’t.
He hadn’t considered that he was hurting Kakeru’s feelings. He doesn’t want Kakeru to feel bad because of him, and knowing he does is making Yuki feel like garbage.
He still doesn’t even know why he’s so uncomfortable. He wishes he could go back to what it was like before he was being a self-conscious, avoidant coward, but—well, he always was that, actually.
Not freaking out at school isn’t going well. All of his insecurities are bubbling to the surface, and his chest is constricting uncomfortably. There’s an inhaler buried deep in his bag somewhere, maybe, hopefully, but he’d prefer not to use it. He takes deep breaths, concentrating on the pattern of the floor tiles. Eventually, his breathing evens out and the air around him returns to a normal temperature. He’s still a little shaky, so he splashes some cold water on his face at the sink, avoiding his reflection in the mirror.
He doesn’t want to think about this. He doesn’t.
He goes to homeroom.
Student council is painfully awkward.
The others notice. Well, Naohito doesn’t, but Naohito doesn’t notice anything. Kimi’s eyes dart between Yuki and Kakeru the whole time, the tension between them palpable. Yuki manages to push through, getting through their agenda efficiently. Kakeru grumbles something about driver’s ed and runs out, and Yuki is finally able to relax a little.
Machi’s soft voice startles him. Kimi and Naohito are shouting at each other in the doorway, Kimi teasing him, like usual, and Naohito taking the bait, like usual. It’s background noise to Yuki at this point, and he still feels like he’s sunk in his own head, the outside world just a distraction. He hadn’t noticed Machi come up next to him.
“Yes?” Yuki smiles at her. She looks back at him, impassive as ever.
“Did something happen?” She asks.
“Of course not,” he says smoothly, keeping his smile reassuring.
Machi looks at him quietly for a moment. He can tell she’s thinking, but she’s hard to read. She always has been. Finally, she says, “Alright. I’ll see you later, then.”
She walks out without another word, squeezing between Kimi and the doorframe. Kimi hollers at her and Naohito takes the opportunity to leave as well, one last insult at Kimi thrown over his shoulder as he does. Kimi fake-gasps, looking back at Yuki with shocked eyes, and runs out after him.
Yuki wishes he had headphones or something.
Instead, he walks home alone with his thoughts.
It’s nearly midnight when Yuki’s phone buzzes.
He thinks he’d done a decent job at hiding his bad mood from Kyo and Shigure, but he could feel Tohru’s concerned eyes on him for all of dinner. She didn’t push, but she did give him the last piece of mackerel, much to Kyo’s consternation. He idly wonders why he doesn’t mind Tohru affectionately doting over him but is having a crisis over Kakeru acting similarly.
Yuki flips his phone over absentmindedly. Probably Haru. He texts Yuki late sometimes, usually memes that Yuki can barely understand.
Manabe Kakeru 🤪😎😘🤡 flashes up at him from the screen. The emojis were Kakeru’s doing, a compromise from when he changed his contact name to king nabe black vp. He had kind of forgotten about them, his eyes glancing over them more with every text. It feels wrong now.
Yuki sighs and slides his screen open.
im sorry i yelled
Yuki blinks. He guesses he shouldn’t be surprised; Kakeru had been quick to apologize after their other big fight.
Yuki takes a deep breath, fingers resting on the screen. Kakeru took the first step. Yuki should meet him halfway.
I know I’ve been acting weird.
u know u can talk to me right
I don’t really want to talk about it.
its going to keep bothering u until u do tho
what about honda
What about her?
u guys are like bffs right
im ur number one bff obvs but
maybe talk to her about it cuz ur driving me crazy tbh
A little late.
are we ok?
This is just what I’m like, I guess.
i know what ur like
yuki i think u might be depressed
wasnt a joke
i know a guy
i’ll get u some xan hmu
ok but fr
im here for u bro
love u man
whaaaat don’t leave me hangin
lets not fight again
and if i do something wrong just tell me
u know im an idiot
You’re not an idiot.
And you didn’t do anything wrong.
this chem lab isnt gonna do itself
wanna do lunch tomorrow
I told Haru I would, sorry.
see u at stuco then
Something loosens in Yuki’s chest as he puts his phone back down. He feels better. He hadn’t realized how much he didn’t want Kakeru to be mad at him.
He should talk to him.
He’s talked to Tohru about…things. Sort of. Well, he’s talked around things to her, and it was a relief, afterwards. And he’s getting better at it. At talking. It’s not like Kakeru’s hard to talk to—the opposite, really. He tries to understand Yuki, and that makes him feel safe.
He’s never had a friend like Kakeru before. Haru’s the closest he can think of, but Haru is intertwined with the curse and knows every horrible thing that’s ever happened to Yuki. It’s not the same. As much as he appreciates Haru’s friendship, they were forced together through the bond. Even with Tohru, it took a long time for him to let himself just be around her.
But Kakeru is different. He genuinely likes spending time with him, and he felt comfortable around him faster than he has with anyone else. He doesn’t feel like he’s clawing desperately for approval when he’s with Kakeru, and Kakeru seems to enjoy his company, too. He doesn’t want to ruin that.
It’s not like he has to tell Kakeru everything. But squirreling his feelings away never works, and it’s hurting Kakeru.
He’ll talk to him, Yuki decides. Tomorrow. And then things will be better.
After the council meeting, Yuki rests his hand on Kakeru’s wrist, pressing the pads of his fingers to the knobby bone underneath his sleeve. Kakeru’s eyes flick to Yuki’s, eyebrows slightly raised.
“Stay after with me?” Yuki asks.
“Sure,” Kakeru says easily.
They wait for the other members to leave. Yuki’s leg won’t stop bouncing, but Kakeru seems unaffected, breezily waving goodbye to the others as they file out. It’s not like there’s anything that suspicious about the president and vice president staying after together, but Yuki feels exposed anyway.
“What’s up?” Kakeru asks once the door is closed, resting his cheek in his hand. Yuki doesn’t know how he can possibly be so relaxed right now.
“Thank you for texting me last night,” Yuki says.
“Yeah,” Kakeru sighs. “We shouldn’t have left things the way we did. I couldn’t stop thinking about it.”
“Me neither.” Yuki doesn’t want to admit how relieved hearing that makes him. “I’m bad at this.”
Kakeru raises an eyebrow. “What’s this?”
“Having friends,” Yuki shrugs. “Talking.”
“Oh,” Kakeru says. “Well, you’re doing pretty good right now.”
Yuki flushes a little. “Okay.”
“Was that all you wanted to talk about?” Kakeru asks.
He’s backing off, Yuki realizes. He had told him that he didn’t want to talk about it, and so he’s not asking. Warmth rushes through his chest at that realization, jittery relief making his heart pound. He shakes his head.
“I wanted to tell you why I was being an asshole,” Yuki says.
In truth, Yuki still isn’t sure what it is exactly that’s gotten under his skin so bad, but it’s probably just the curse. It has to be. No one touches him. Even within the zodiac, they’re so used to avoiding physical contact that they barely touch each other, save for a handful. Plus Akito, who is constantly draping himself over everyone. But that proves Yuki’s point even more. He’s just touch-averse. That’s all.
“I guess I just noticed that we’re very.” Yuki pauses. “Physical with each other.”
“Yeah,” Kakeru says, drawing out the word a bit.
“And I’m not…used to being touched. Ever.”
Kakeru snorts. “What, your parents didn’t hug you as a kid or something?”
Yuki’s shoulders bunch up to his ears, face burning. Telling Kakeru about the curse is not an option, but he can’t help but react. His words are like a jab to the ribs, like a thumb pressing down too hard on a bruise. He looks away.
“Oh,” Kakeru balks.
“We’re not very affectionate at Sohma house,” he says quietly.
“Oh, shit. Yuki, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean—”
“You didn’t know. It’s fine.”
“Okay. I…” Kakeru trails off, looking uncharacteristically at a loss. “Do you want me to stop?”
“No!” Yuki blurts. “No. It’s fine. For you.”
“Okay,” Kakeru nods. “Okay. Thanks for telling me that.”
“Don’t make it weird,” Yuki mutters.
“I’m not!” Kakeru cries. “What else am I supposed to say after you tell me something fucked up like that?”
“It’s not—” Yuki splutters, then sighs. “I guess it is pretty messed up.”
Kakeru scoots his chair so he’s next to Yuki, thigh pressing against his own, and throws his arms around Yuki’s shoulders. Yuki’s hands wrap around his back and he presses his face into Kakeru’s collar. He smells like store-brand soap, clean and familiar.
“I’ll hug you every day, Yun-Yun,” Kakeru says. “To make up for your shitty childhood.”
“You don’t have to go that far,” Yuki mutters, words muffled by Kakeru’s shirt.
“It’s my duty as your best friend and second-in-command,” he says, his warm breath ghosting over the top of Yuki’s ear. Yuki clenches his fists in Kakeru’s shirt and squeezes his eyes shut.
“Thanks.” It comes out as barely a whisper. Yuki is feeling—a lot. He’s overwhelmed, and his chest feels full to bursting, but not in an I’m-about-to-have-an-asthma-attack way. It feels kind of good, actually. It’s not something he’s ever felt before.
“Anything for you.”
Yuki snorts and pulls away. “We should…”
“Clean up?” Kakeru asks, eyeing the mess the others had left on the table. “Would it kill them to be a little more organized?”
“Knowing them, it’s possible,” Yuki says.
“Wanna get crepes after?” Kakeru stands, stretching his arms over his head. “I’m starving.”
“Sure,” Yuki says.
Kakeru flashes a one-dimpled smile at him. Yuki smiles back.
Yuki is overwhelmed with heat. His vision is blurry, tinged red like sunlight through closed eyelids. Something black and spikey tickles his cheek. There’s pressure on top of him, pressing up against this side. He’s breathing, breathing, it’s hot, and he—
Yuki wakes up.
He’s sweating against his bedsheets, a little out of breath, the dream fading by the second. His alarm blares and he rolls over, fumbling with his phone to turn it off. His eyes are gummy with sleep and his mouth is dry.
He’s also hard.
He grunts with annoyance. He doesn’t have time for this. He kicks the sheets off and adjusts himself, holding his towel in front of himself for the short trip between his bedroom and the bathroom, just in case.
Yuki gets ready in his usual morning daze. Tohru chirps, “Good morning!” as he descends the stairs, and he smiles in return. Kyo is already at the table, scribbling words onto what Yuki recognizes as one of their homework assignments, his free hand buried in his orange hair.
“You shouldn’t procrastinate so much,” Yuki says coolly as he pours himself tea.
“I don’t need to hear this from you,” Kyo snaps.
“No discipline,” Yuki continues.
“Shut up!” Kyo growls. “Like you know jack about discipline.”
Tohru enters with breakfast and Kyo’s hackles are down instantly, taking a few bowls from her full hands and setting them down on the table. She kneels at her usual place next to Yuki and starts filling their bowls with rice.
“No student council this morning, Yuki?” Tohru asks.
“Not today,” Yuki confirms. “Kakeru’s going to be absent today, and we’re pretty ahead on our work, so we’re taking the day off.”
“Oh no!” Tohru gasps. “Is Manabe okay?”
“He’s fine,” he assures her. “He’s taking his driving test today.”
“Oh, wow!” Tohru smiles as she hands Kyo a bowl of miso soup. “Does he have a car?”
Yuki shakes his head. “His mom has one.”
“What’s he getting a license for?” Kyo grumbles.
“College, I think,” Yuki says.
Kyo hums and turns his attention back to his assignment.
“Would you ever get a license, Yuki?” Tohru asks. She settles on her knees next to him, breakfast doled out, and picks up her own chopsticks.
“I’ve never really thought about it,” Yuki admits. “Would you?”
Tohru shakes her head. “I like walking! What about you, Kyo?”
“Same as Tohru,” he mutters.
“He’s too stupid to be trusted with a vehicle,” Yuki says.
“Why are you always up my ass, you damn rat?” Kyo yells.
“Calm down.” Yuki rolls his eyes at him. “Shigure’s probably sleeping.”
“Like I give a damn,” Kyo hisses. “Maybe he should keep normal hours like a normal person.”
“Implying Shigure’s a normal person.”
“Do you need help with that, Kyo?” Tohru asks, gesturing to his assignment.
Kyo shakes his head. “I’m almost done.”
“You might want to proofread it, Miss Honda,” Yuki says, leaning over like he’s telling her a secret.
Kyo’s face goes red and he slams his pen down on the table. “Don’t turn her against me too, asshole!”
“No, no, I would never—” Tohru protests, trailing off into babbling as she waves her hands in front of her face.
With a jolt, Yuki realizes this is the most normal he’s felt in weeks. Even his fights with Kyo had been feeling empty, reflexive, but now he’s actually enjoying himself. He likes having breakfast with Tohru (and Kyo, a little bit, maybe. Not that he would ever admit that outloud), and his normal routine feels…well, normal again. His anxiety had been weighing him down like wet clothing. He’s glad he’d cleared the air with Kakeru.
Kyo helps Tohru clean up quickly, and they head to school together. Yuki feels light, smiling easily at Tohru’s innocuous comments, brushing off Kyo’s insults with ease. Something niggles at the back of his mind, a tiny, almost imperceivable itch, but he ignores it. He’s going to have a good day today. And maybe tomorrow, even.
Kakeru shoves his license in Yuki’s face the moment he walks in for their next council meeting.
“Congratulations,” Yuki says, analyzing it. It’s not a great photo of Kakeru, his hair messy and eyes halfway closed, but his grin is endearingly wide and he at least looks happy.
“Ooh, lemme see,” Kimi says as she walks in behind Yuki, peering at it over his shoulder. “You are not 180 centimeters.”
“Prove it,” Kakeru retorts, snatching the license out of Yuki’s hands. “Enough dilly-dallying, we’re here for business.”
“Weren’t you the one waving it around?” Yuki asks as he sets his bag down. Naohito nods emphatically in agreement.
Kakeru ignores him, clapping twice instead, and says, “Meeting adjourned! Machi, pay attention.”
Machi, sitting at the table with her agenda book already in front of her, glances at him wordlessly.
“We have to start the meeting before we can adjourn it, idiot,” Naohito hisses.
“That’s what I said,” Kakeru says.
“It is not—”
“Kakeru, shut up,” Yuki interrupts. “Let’s just start.”
“Yun-Yun ,” Kakeru whines. Yuki shoves Kakeru down into his seat by the shoulders. Naohito grumbles to himself and Kimi kicks Kakeru’s feet under the table, but they eventually settle.
The meeting is uneventful, as usual. They really are ahead, even after taking a day off, so it’s short, too.
Kakeru is obviously itching to go, because the second Yuki ends the meeting he blurts, “Who wants to go for a drive?”
“Count me out,” Naohito grunts.
“Aw, why not, chibi-chan?” Kakeru pouts.
“Because you’re an idiot!” Naohito shouts. “And don’t call me that!”
“Kimi can’t,” Kimi smiles, pointing at herself. “I have a date.”
Kakeru gasps. “With who?”
Kimi picks up her bag and flips her hair over her shoulder. “Nobody you know.”
“Scandal,” Kakeru mutters. Kimi blows Kakeru a kiss, then Yuki, then pulls the bottom of her eye down in Naohito’s direction before walking out. Naohito harrumphs and leaves without a word, striding off in the opposite direction.
“Leader?” Kakeru smiles at Yuki, doing that head-tilt thing he does, like he’s a human puppy.
“Where are you driving to?” Yuki asks carefully.
“I dunno. My place?”
Yuki shrugs. “Sure.”
“Nice!” Kakeru pumps his fist. “Machi?”
Machi’s eyes dart between the two of them. She shakes her head.
“If you say so,” Kakeru says flippantly, standing to pack his things. “See ya.”
Kakeru’s car is parked in the small parking lot in the rear of the school. Almost no one drives to school, but there are a small amount of spaces allotted for the few students who do.
“Are you sure this is a good idea?” Yuki asks, hesitating outside the small Toyota.
“Why wouldn’t it be?”
“Well, you did get your license yesterday.”
Kakeru flips a hand. “It’s fine.”
“If you kill me, the Sohmas will raise hell,” Yuki points out as he tosses his bag in the backseat.
“I can handle them!” Kakeru throws himself into the driver’s seat, so Yuki follows suit, settling into the passenger’s.
Within minutes, he’s white-knuckling the door handle, heels braced against the floor. Kakeru stops short (again) behind a nondescript Nissan and Yuki has to stop himself from lurching forward.
“Shit, sorry,” Kakeru breathes. Yuki can tell he’s nervous, his hands gripped at 10 and 2 on the steering wheel, spine ramrod straight and not touching the seatback.
“Why did you even drive?” Yuki asks through gritted teeth. “Don’t you usually take the train?”
“I wanted practice,” he says.
“Well, maybe Tokyo isn’t the best place to do that.”
“Where do you think I learned to drive?” Kakeru cries. “Just chill out, you’re making me nervous.”
“I’m making you nervous?” Yuki asks, incredulous.
“It’s, like, five more minutes, okay?”
They finally, finally, pull into the parking lot behind Kakeru’s apartment building. Yuki melts in his seat as Kakeru puts the car in park, exhaling a huge sigh of relief.
“Remind me to never let you drive me anywhere ever again,” he breathes.
“I’m usually better than that, I swear!” Kakeru insists. “There was so much traffic.”
“Kakeru.” Yuki lolls his head to look at him. “We live in Tokyo. There’s always traffic. That’s why everyone takes the train.”
“Pretty judgemental for someone who can’t drive,” Kakeru huffs, pulling himself out of the car.
“Oh, and you can?” Yuki follows him out and up the stairs.
“According to the Japanese government!”
They let themselves into the apartment, Kakeru muttering that his mom won’t be home until late as they do. Yuki’s been here before, but only a couple of times. It’s a small two-bedroom with a messy, lived-in looking living room and a narrow kitchen attached. Yuki leaves his shoes in the foyer and pads in after Kakeru.
“Fuckin’ starving,” Kakeru says, flopping backwards over the armrest of the couch. “I’m gonna make something.”
Yuki raises an eyebrow. “You can cook?”
“Just frozen pizza,” Kakeru answers. “If that’s up to the standards of Princess Yuki.”
Yuki grabs Kakeru’s socked foot, pressing his fingernails into the bottom of it in revenge. Kakeru kicks out and screams, rolling off the couch onto the floor to get away.
“You are such a little bitch,” Kakeru laughs, scrambling up off the floor. He throws an arm around Yuki’s shoulders and drags him to the kitchen, letting go only to turn the oven on. He digs around his freezer for a second before pulling out a boxed pizza and tossing it on the counter. He sets a timer on his phone and leaves that on the counter, too.
“I’m gonna piss and change,” he says. “Can you figure out the directions?”
“Isn’t the host supposed to do the work?”
“Mom always said I had bad manners,” Kakeru says, already walking out.
Yuki picks up the box, inspecting it. Preheat oven at 175° Celsius for 10 minutes. Place pizza on the top rack and cook for 10-15 minutes. Enjoy!
Okay. Simple enough. Yuki doesn’t know where the trays are, though, and he’s honestly not sure he trusts himself with even this. He busies himself with ripping the box open instead, taking the pizza out of its extraneous plastic wrapping and setting it down.
Kakeru pads back into the kitchen in joggers and a t-shirt, squeezing behind Yuki in the narrow kitchen. He places his hands on Yuki’s hips and hooks a chin over his shoulder, reading the packaging from behind him.
“That’s so long,” he complains.
“What is?” Yuki asks.
“Fifteen minutes.” He takes a hand off Yuki’s hip to tap the box.
“Maybe you’re just impatient.”
He brings his arm back and wraps it around Yuki’s waist, splaying a hand over his stomach. His other arm comes up and around, too, one hand resting lightly above the other. Yuki feels Kakeru’s nose press against the side of his neck.
“Is this okay?” Kakeru mutters.
“Yeah,” Yuki says breathlessly. He leans into the embrace so his back presses against Kakeru’s front and rests a hand on Kakeru’s forearm.
Late afternoon light streams in through the living room window, dyeing the kitchen red and orange. The only sounds are cars rushing by on the street, the occasional tick from the heating oven, and Kakeru’s soft breathing near Yuki’s ear. The room is comfortably warm, Kakeru’s body even warmer against his own.
Yuki feels. He feels.
That same feeling he’d felt the other day when Kakeru had held him in the council room. His chest is full and hot, but despite that, he’s relaxed. Content. Like he wants Kakeru to keep holding onto him, maybe forever. Kakeru squeezes him tighter. Yuki sighs.
Kakeru’s timer goes off.
They both jump, Kakeru grunting a quiet, “Shit,” under his breath. He moves around Yuki quickly and all but jams the pizza in the oven. His face is red. Yuki stares.
“Let’s watch TV while it does its thing,” Kakeru says, pasting a smile over his face. It’s too wide, forced, and his cheeks are still flushed. His eyebrows quirk. “Yuki?”
“Huh? Oh,” Yuki says, snapping back to reality. “Sure.”
The feeling in his chest turns jittery as Kakeru brushes past him. Yuki follows him, sitting on the opposite end of the couch. Kakeru flicks through the channels absentmindedly, not looking at Yuki as he does.
Every thought from before their talk comes rushing back. Is this okay? Is this how friends act? Kakeru seems just as embarrassed as Yuki feels. Is this not how friends act?
Yuki feels like he’s floundering. He’s confused. He’d liked what was happening in the kitchen—like, he’d really liked it. It felt nice to be touched, to know that Kakeru wants to touch him, to be close to him. He wants to do it again, to feel Kakeru’s arms wrapped around his waist. He wants to turn around in Kakeru’s arms and throw his own arms around his neck, to press their lips together until they—
Yuki stands up. Kakeru stares.
“Bathroom,” he mutters, rushing off before Kakeru can say anything.
Yuki shuts the door behind him as calmly as he can before burying his face in his hands and sinking to the floor.
He wants to kiss Kakeru. He wants to kiss him until they’re both breathless, pressed up against each other and panting. He wonders what his lips would feel like against his own, what it would be like to crumple Kakeru’s shirt collar in his fingers. He wonders if Kakeru would put his hands on his waist, or in his hair, or hook his fingers through the belt loops of his uniform pants.
All of his thoughts from the past few weeks realign themselves in Yuki’s mind. Why Uotani’s comment bothered him so much, why he was getting so skittish around Kakeru after. Why he didn’t want to think about it, chalking it up to curse-related touch-aversion. That feeling in his chest.
He’s panicking. He can’t do this here. Kakeru will notice, and then he’ll have to explain, and he can’t. He just can’t.
Yuki takes a deep breath. This is so stupid. He can’t believe he’s having this revelation in Kakeru’s bathroom.
He takes another breath and drags himself up off the floor. He takes the opportunity to actually use the bathroom and washes his hands slowly, letting the warm water run over them until his fingers are numb to it.
It’s okay. Yuki has a lifetime of hiding his emotions under his belt. He can do it for a little longer.
He dries his hands and opens the door, heading back out to have a normal, totally straight evening with Kakeru.
Yuki can’t believe he thought he was distracted before.
It’s been two weeks. Two weeks of repetitive, uncontrollable thoughts. He’s having a full-blown crisis. The same things keep running through his head over and over again— Does Kakeru suspect anything? What if Akito finds out? Can I even tell anyone? As if the curse wasn’t bad enough, I’ll never have a normal life, I— until he shakes his head, clearing them out. They inevitably come again, when he spaces out in class, walking home from school, sitting alone in his bedroom. He’s hyper-aware of Kakeru’s eyes on him as they pass each other in the hall or during meetings. He keeps catching himself staring at Kakeru’s hands, his hair, his lips, and has to tear his eyes away before he can start fantasizing. Because he fantasizes about Kakeru now—or maybe he always did without realizing. He can’t even bring himself to flinch away from Kakeru’s touch anymore. He craves it, leaning into Kakeru’s casual touches like a smitten schoolgirl. He supposes that’s what he kind of is now.
He doesn’t dare think the word gay . It’s too much. It feels huge, life-changing. Isolating. It’s like the curse but mundane, which somehow makes it even worse. At the very least, if he told someone he turns into a rat sometimes they probably wouldn’t believe him, but this is realistically plausible.
He feels stuck. Overwhelmed. Trapped in too many situations he doesn’t have any control over. He doesn’t know what to do.
Yuki blinks. Tohru is looking at him with big, concerned eyes from across the table. They’re in her bedroom studying like they always do, but Yuki’s pencil is completely abandoned on the table. He realizes he’d been staring into space.
“Sorry,” he mutters, picking up his pencil. The words on the page are blurry. He doesn’t have the concentration to do this.
“Yuki, is there something the matter?” Tohru asks.
Yuki tries to smile, but it’s weak, and Tohru’s expression falters even more. He’s getting worse at hiding his emotions from her. He supposes that’s a good thing in the long-run, but right now he wishes he had his mask back. He wishes he could repress this like he’d repressed the memories of life on the estate. He knew opening the lid would be painful, but he hadn’t expected this to happen.
He sighs shakily. He can trust Tohru. He transformed right in front of her and she accepted it quickly. He remembers how much better he felt after he confided in her at the beach, how accepting she is of his ugly emotions. If anyone can help him feel better, it’s her.
“…sort of,” he says.
Tohru sets her pencil down, attention fully on him. “Do you want to talk about it?”
Yuki braces himself and nods once. Tohru smiles at him reassuringly. His stomach clenches painfully, his chest constricting with anxiety. He takes a deep breath.
“I…think I like someone.”
Tohru clasps her hands together in front of her, her face breaking out into a huge smile. “Oh my gosh! What’s her name?”
Yuki feels like he’s going to be sick. Tohru’s smile fades.
“Yuki? What’s wrong?”
Yuki swallows. “Please don’t tell anyone.”
“Your secret is safe with me,” Tohru insists, face serious, and bows a little. A smile tugs at the corner of Yuki’s lips, but it’s gone as soon as it came.
“It’s.” Yuki swallows again. Taps his fingernails on the table. Shifts his legs. “Kakeru.”
Tohru blinks, then blinks again. “Oh.”
Yuki is frozen. He wishes he could transform at will so he could scuttle away and hide and never come out. He could live his life out in a rat colony where all he would have to worry about is stealing bits of food from Shigure’s pantry. He wouldn’t have to sit here and look at Tohru’s shocked face, terrified of what she’s going to say next.
“Sorry, I’m just,” Tohru says, tucking her hair behind her ears, eyes darting back and forth in thought. “Surprised, is all.”
“Okay,” is the only word Yuki can manage to get out.
“Not in a bad way!” She cries, lifting up off her knees a little with the force of it. “I just never thought you were…were…are you?”
Yuki shrugs. “I don’t know.”
“That’s okay!” Tohru says, her smile returning to her face. “Mom always said it’s okay to not know everything about yourself. You’ll figure it out!”
Yuki horrifyingly, humiliatingly, thinks he’s going to cry. He looks away from her, frantically holding in tears, jaw clenched. He hears Tohru shift, and suddenly, she’s next to him, thigh pressed against his. She reaches around to rest a hand on the side of Yuki’s head, pulling him so his cheek is pressed against her shoulder, her fingers resting softly in his hair.
She smells like artificial strawberry and that evening’s dinner. Yuki inhales it deeply as he composes himself, but a few tears spill out unbidden. He’s embarrassed, but he’s also relieved. He feels full. Tohru cards her fingers through his hair softly, almost petting him. He wishes he could hug her.
“Is this why you’ve been sad lately?” She asks softly.
“I guess so,” he says, voice still shaky. He wipes his face with the heel of his hand, sniffling a little.
“Thank you for telling me,” she says. “That must have been scary.”
“No scarier than you finding out about the curse,” Yuki says.
Tohru giggles. “In retrospect, that was a little funny.”
“…yeah, I guess it kind of was,” he says, smiling a little. “Except for when that stupid cat hurt you.”
“Yeah, but he apologized!” Yuki blinks. He didn’t know that. “Do you…do you think Kakeru likes you back?”
Yuki sighs and pulls his head off her shoulder. “I don’t know. I don’t even know if he’s…”
“Oh.” Tohru nods. “He seems like he makes you really happy, so I hope so.”
Yuki flushes. Is he really that obvious? “Yeah.”
Tohru gives him another dazzling smile and turns so they’re fully facing each other, grabbing both of his hands and squeezing them in hers.
“Well, if he does, I’ll support you guys!” She chirps. “And Uo-chan and Hana-chan will protect you from the fanclub.”
“Oh, God,” Yuki groans. “The fanclub.”
Tohru giggles again. Yuki’s expression softens and he lifts her hands, bringing them up to press her fingers lightly against his lips. “Thank you, Miss Honda.”
Her face immediately flushes pink all the way to her hairline, just as he’d hoped.
“Oh, I, I didn’t really do anything, you don’t have to thank me, I’m just—” She stammers. Yuki puts her hands back in her lap and smiles at her. She stops babbling and smiles back.
“We should probably get back to this, huh?” Yuki says, gesturing at their schoolwork. “I have a feeling I’ll be able to concentrate now.”
“Of course!” She pumps her fists. “Gotta put our noses to the grindstone!”
They return to studying. Yuki does feel better. He can’t shake off the anxiety that’s been clinging to him for weeks, but he feels lighter. And loved.
Yeah. And loved.
Things are back to normal with Kakeru.
They haven't talked about what happened in the kitchen. Maybe there’s nothing to say, though. Maybe Yuki is overthinking it. Kakeru seems totally unaffected, but Yuki can’t shake the way his arms felt as they squeezed around him, his red face after they jumped away from each other. Maybe it was the heat from the oven. Either way, they went right back to how they were before, hanging out alone in the council room and grabbing snacks after the way they always do. No big deal.
Which is why Yuki feels like an idiot that he didn’t realize there was something going on with him until it became obvious.
Kakeru hadn’t said much when he’d come into the council room that day, but Yuki wasn’t really paying attention, absorbed in explaining his classroom organizational system to Machi in the back of the room. The drawers are kept up mostly by himself and Kimi, who is surprisingly organized, color-coding everything and adding stickers to the tops of all the files for easy access. It’s overly-girly and a little embarrassing, but it’s also simple and user-friendly, so Yuki doesn’t mind the aesthetic so much anymore. It doesn’t really seem like Machi was paying much attention, and Yuki probably wouldn’t task this to her anyway, but he tries to keep everyone in the loop.
Kakeru is uncharacteristically quiet during the meeting, which Yuki does notice, at least. He’s spaced out the few times Yuki speaks to him, asking Yuki to repeat himself each time. He cracks a few jokes, but they sound half-hearted, his smile slightly forced. Yuki sends Kimi an inquisitive look at one point but she doesn’t seem to get the message, winking at him flirtily instead.
“Can you help me with the festival supply requests?” Yuki asks Kakeru after the meeting.
“Course, Prez,” Kakeru says, flashing him a smile that doesn’t meet his eyes.
Yuki grabs the files from the cabinet while the others noisily file out. Kakeru is staring out the window when he returns, ripping his cuticles off with his teeth.
“Here,” Yuki says, sliding Kakeru a file and sitting down. “You do the third years, I’ll do the second.”
“Didn’t we do this already?” Kakeru whines as he flips open the file.
“Some classes added items last minute.”
Kakeru groans and slides down in his chair. “This is so annoying.”
“You can just go home if you don’t want to help,” Yuki says coolly.
“Nah.” Kakeru flaps a hand. “It’s my job, I’ll do it.”
“Kakeru.” Yuki looks at him. He looks more tired than usual, his eyes a little bloodshot and his hair uncombed. Yuki wants to fix it, to run his fingers through the thick, black mess and smooth it down. He keeps his hands to himself instead. “Are you feeling okay?”
Kakeru sighs. “Could be better.”
“Do you want to, like. Talk about it?”
“Oh, how the tables have turned,” Kakeru smirks, but it slides off his face after a moment. He sighs. “It’s Komaki.”
Yuki blinks. “Komaki?”
Kakeru stares at him. “My girlfriend?”
Yuki had totally, completely, utterly forgotten that Kakeru had a girlfriend. He’d mentioned her once or twice, but only in passing. Few enough times that Yuki had somehow forgotten that she existed.
“You never told me her name,” Yuki points out, because he hadn’t.
“Huh,” Kakeru says. “Well, it doesn’t really matter because she broke up with me.”
“Oh, Kakeru.” Yuki has moved onto self-hatred before he can process anything else. He’s glad. He shouldn’t be. It’s selfish and cruel and he doesn’t want Kakeru to feel bad, and it’s not like Yuki has a chance with him anyway, but he is. He can’t help it. He shoves it down, berating himself. “I’m sorry.”
Kakeru just shrugs.
“Hm.” Kakeru rests his chin in his hand. “We were already sort of having. Issues, I guess. She said I wasn’t paying enough attention to her and that I seemed too distracted.”
Yuki’s eyebrows furrow. “Not because of student council, right?”
Kakeru’s eyes slide away from Yuki’s. “No. Not because of that.”
“Oh,” Yuki says. “Okay.”
“It’s kind of weird,” Kakeru continues, meeting Yuki’s eyes again and leaning back in his chair. “It’s almost, like. Kind of a relief?”
“Hard to explain.” Kakeru drums his fingers on the table. “I mean, we haven’t had sex in forever. And we used to have sex, like, every day.”
“O-oh,” Yuki stutters, fighting down a blush.
Kakeru snickers. “Prude.”
“Don’t make this about me,” Yuki snaps.
“Yeah, whatever,” Kakeru grins. “I dunno. I guess I have been distant lately. I’ve just been preoccupied.”
“With what?” Yuki asks.
Kakeru shrugs. “Stuff. I don’t really know.”
“It’s going to keep bothering you until you talk about it,” Yuki says.
Kakeru shoves him, causing his chair to teeter over. Yuki grabs at Kakeru’s uniform sleeve and pulls himself back up, laughing.
“Smartass,” Kakeru grumbles, but he’s smiling for real now. Yuki’s stomach does somersaults. His smile is really cute.
Yuki (belatedly, so, so late) realizes that he’s never had a real crush on anyone before. And that it’s really annoying.
“Are you going to be okay?” Yuki asks, shoving his own feelings aside in mild irritation.
“Yeah. I’ll just be sad for a while, I guess,” he answers, resting his arms on the table and pillowing his face in them. “It’s whatever. I’ll just order some take-out and watch bad anime.”
Yuki snorts. “Isn’t that what you usually do?”
“Uh-uh,” Kakeru protests. “Usually I watch good anime.”
“Good is relative,” Yuki says.
“Oh, right, I forgot that you’re a man of taste.” Kakeru grins and pulls himself up. “I want to do this paperwork even less now.”
Yuki rolls his eyes. “Who knew being in student council meant you had to fulfill council duties.”
“You have no sympathy for me, Yun-Yun!” Kakeru cries. “I’m emotionally volatile!”
“I’ll buy you yakitori after this,” Yuki says. “How’s that?”
“Really?” Kakeru’s face lights up.
Kakeru throws his arms around Yuki’s neck, pressing his cheek against Yuki’s. “You’re such a good friend.”
“And you’re a suck-up,” Yuki grumbles. Kakeru’s stubble rubs against his own smooth face and it sends heat racing down his spine. He pulls away, slapping Kakeru’s arms off him. “Let’s just do this.”
Kakeru salutes him with two fingers and smiles. Yuki’s stomach flips.
wanna go for a drive
The text lights up Yuki’s phone on his bed. It’s late. Late enough that Yuki’s eyes are starting to glaze over the words in the book he’s reading. He slides his phone screen open.
I thought I told you I’m never letting you drive me anywhere again.
awww this is different tho
no traffic at midnight 😈
ill bring takoyaki
Yuki’s stomach growls.
ok ill be there in 20
Yuki pulls a knitted sweater over his head and waits for Kakeru to text him down in the foyer. He’s pretty sure Shigure is working based on the light seeping out from beneath his door and the soft music playing behind it, so he’ll have to be quiet. Not that Shigure would care that Yuki is going out. Probably. Shigure’s never been much of a rule-setter.
His phone buzzes with Kakeru’s arrival on the street and Yuki heads out, closing the door softly behind him. He shivers; it’s colder than he thought it was going to be, his breath puffing out in front of him. The scent of fall surrounds him as he heads down the stairs towards the road, sweet, rotting leaves and acrid city exhaust.
Kakeru’s car is the only one on the road, humming softly. Yuki can hear Kakeru’s music thumping out of it before he even opens the door, something slow and heavy, a high male voice warbling over the deep bass.
“What up,” Kakeru says, smiling tiredly at him from the driver’s seat. He’s wearing a black hoodie with holes worn into the edges of the sleeves and checked pajama pants, his hair sticking up in bedraggled spikes. He looks even messier than usual. Yuki likes it.
“Where to?” Yuki asks as he settles in the passenger seat. The takoyaki sits on the center console, stinking up the whole car.
Kakeru shrugs and starts driving. “Dunno. Out of the city. Drive around Chiba or something.”
They sit quietly as Kakeru makes his way through sleepy residential streets. The atmosphere is different from what Yuki is used to. It’s not an awkward silence, both of them comfortably relaxed in their seats, the roads devoid of other cars and Kakeru’s music surrounding them. Yuki unwraps the food and blows onto a takoyaki before taking a bite.
“Is it really hot?” Kakeru asks.
“Nice.” Kakeru pumps a fist. “Feed me one.”
“No.” Yuki wrinkles his nose.
“Aw, c’mon, I’m driving!”
“Then stop driving.”
“But we’re almost to the highway!” Yuki ignores him. “Yuki. Yuki. Yuki. Yun-Yun. Prince Yuki. Yuki. Sohma-sama. Yun-Yun.”
“Oh my God, fine, ” Yuki snaps, harshly stabbing a takoyaki with the other toothpick.
Kakeru stops at a red light as Yuki brings the takoyaki up to his mouth. Kakeru grasps Yuki’s wrist and looks him dead in the eyes as he grabs it off the toothpick with his teeth. His fingers are gripping Yuki’s wrist, hard, his dark eyes boring into Yuki’s. He chews, then swallows.
They’re all alone, no cars around them, and Kakeru is still touching Yuki and staring at him and their faces are, like, three inches away from each other. The streetlights outside the car throw Kakeru’s cheekbones into sharp relief, dyeing his bangs an unnatural shade of yellow.
There’s mayonnaise on the corner of Kakeru’s mouth. Yuki brings his free hand up to it and wipes it away with his thumb. Kakeru opens his mouth a little and the tip of Yuki’s thumb settles between his lips. His fingernail rests lightly against his tooth, Kakeru’s breath warm and humid against his palm. Kakeru closes his mouth, taking more of it in.
Yuki swallows. His eyes are wide and he’s breathing too fast, too obvious. Something spasms in his throat and he pulls himself away from Kakeru, heart slamming against his ribcage.
“Light’s green,” he says, voice totally breathless.
“Oh,” Kakeru says. “Oh, right.”
Now the silence is awkward.
Kakeru merges onto the highway. He feeds himself the rest of his takoyaki.
Night drives start becoming a thing after that.
They interact like normal at school, roughhousing each other and spitting quick insults back and forth, but at night, it’s different. They’re quiet when they’re alone, letting music and late-night city sounds fill the space between them. Yuki still wonders if this is how friends act, if friends quietly drive around in their pajamas or put their friend’s fingers in their mouths, but he doesn’t want to ask anyone. Tohru might know. But this feels private, like it’s something that’s just his and Kakeru’s.
It’s the first time Yuki has had a secret he likes keeping.
Weirdly enough, the closer the cultural festival gets, the more often the drives happen. He’s thankful Tohru sleeps like a rock every time he has to toe past her room. He’s not sure about Kyo, who he knows has sensitive hearing, but he always goes to bed super early so Yuki doesn’t waste time thinking about him. Shigure hasn’t said anything, not that Yuki was expecting him to.
Yuki sees more of Japan on the drives than he ever has in his life. They meander through suburbs, around wharfs, and even out to the rice paddies, the mountains ever-present and looming black against the night sky.
“I kinda wish I smoked,” Kakeru says one night, parked with the windows open on an overlook of a beach, the car smelling of salt.
“Why?” Yuki asks.
“Just seems appropriate right now,” Kakeru says, giving him a small smile. “It’s romantic, I guess.”
“Hm,” is all Yuki says, turning his face away.
That’s another thing. Sometimes it gets tense like it did that first time. Sometimes Yuki leans his head against Kakeru’s shoulder and Kakeru runs his fingers through Yuki’s hair. Sometimes they climb into the backseat and tangle their legs together in the seatwell, their pinkies overlapping on the middle seat. One time Yuki accidentally fell asleep and when he woke up his head was in Kakeru’s lap. He’d drooled on his sweats and Kakeru didn’t say anything when Yuki peeled himself away.
Sometimes Yuki dreams about him after, waking up sweaty and embarrassed. He’s hyper-aware of Kakeru’s eyes on him those mornings. He can’t possibly know, but Yuki feels seen anyway.
Kyo leans against the doorframe of the living room, leftover fried rice packed into the bowl in his hand. Yuki nods at him and goes back to his paperwork. The festival date is closing in and work is piling up despite the daily meetings, so Yuki has started taking it home instead of staying at school until dark. Kakeru is a genuinely good vice president, but he talks a lot and gets distracted easily, which distracts Yuki in turn. Sometimes it’s just easier to do it in front of the TV.
Kyo plops down at the table. He gestures at the remote. “Are you watching this?”
Yuki shakes his head.
“Will you hit me if I change the channel?”
“Do whatever you want,” Yuki says. He really wasn’t watching, just using it as background noise.
They sit in companionable silence, Yuki scribbling and Kyo eating. It’s still weird that him and Kyo can do this together now. It’s not like they’re friends, but the fact that they can sit in the same room together without fighting is nothing short of a miracle.
“Hey,” Kyo says after a while through a mouthful of rice. “Are you dating Manabe?”
“What?” Yuki’s head whips around to look at Kyo, who is still lounging casually next to him. “No. Of course not. What the hell, Kyo?”
“Whoa, it was just a question,” Kyo grumbles. “No need to get all freaked out.”
“I’m not getting all freaked out ,” Yuki snaps, ignoring the heat prickling at the back of his neck.
“O-kay,” Kyo drawls, eyeing him in a way Yuki really doesn’t like.
“Why would you even think that?” Yuki huffs.
“Um, because you sneak out to see him every night?” Yuki freezes. “What, you think I didn’t notice? You’re not that slick.”
“We’re not—it’s not—” Yuki scowls, trying to collect himself. “It’s not like that. We’re just driving around.”
“Sure.” Kyo doesn’t sound convinced.
“Fine, I believe you.”
“I said I believed you!”
“Whatever.” Yuki stands. “I’m going to pick up Miss Honda from work.”
Kyo just grunts.
Yuki stuffs his shoes onto his feet in a rush. He forgets his jacket. He shivers the whole way.
Are they dating? Are they? Kyo has more friends than Yuki. He always has. Kyo knows how boys act around each other, so do his suspicions have truth behind it? Maybe he was just messing with Yuki—they get along okay now, sure, but they don’t like each other. Maybe he’s just playing mind games, trying to get under Yuki’s skin.
A big part of Yuki isn’t convinced Kyo is smart enough for that, though.
It’s not like he’s that far off. Yuki can’t stop thinking about Kakeru, what his laugh sounds like, the way the corners of his eyes crinkle when he smiles, his big hands around his steering wheel.
But Kakeru doesn’t feel the same. He doesn’t. Like, he stares at Yuki sometimes when he thinks Yuki isn’t looking, and he lets his hand linger on the small of his back during student council, and sometimes his eyes flick quick to Yuki’s lips while he’s talking, but. But.
But people just do that to Yuki sometimes. He doesn’t think about it that much, but he’s aware that he’s good looking. All of the zodiacs are. It’s a weird side effect of the curse and Yuki is desensitized to it. But Kakeru isn’t. So, he stares. Just like everyone else.
Yuki feels like a hypocrite when he accepts Kakeru’s invitation that night. He feels like an even bigger one as he sneaks down the hall, closing his bedroom door as softly as he can so Kyo doesn’t hear. Not that it really matters.
They drive out to a paddy. Yuki likes them, likes how sprawling they are, the even, geometric fields going on for miles. It’s so quiet that Yuki can hear rodents scuttling around the edges. The air is clearer out here than in the city, the stars bright pinpricks behind the mountains.
Kakeru hands Yuki a hot chocolate as they lean on the hood of his car, the still-ticking engine keeping their butts warm. Kakeru presses his arm against Yuki’s and Yuki leans in, glad for it.
“Hey,” Kakeru says. “You okay?”
Yuki blinks. “What? Why?”
Kakeru just shrugs. “Dunno. You seemed tense on the ride over.”
“Oh.” Yuki feels exposed. He is tense, irritated and itchy over what happened in the living room, but he didn’t think he was acting like it. “I’m fine. Kyo was being annoying earlier. Sorry.”
“What’d he say?”
“You know.” Yuki blows on his drink. “The usual.”
“Aw, c’mon,” Kakeru whines, grinning. “He says the funniest shit to you, just tell me.”
“It wasn’t funny.”
“Well now I really wanna know.”
“He, um.” Yuki watches the steam billow off his drink, dissipating into the air above them. “He asked me if we were dating. Stupid, right?”
“I don’t know,” Kakeru says. His smile is gone, his head tilted to the side. “Is it?”
“What?” Yuki’s stomach flips over and over again.
“Why do you think that’s stupid?” Kakeru turns his face away from him, absentmindedly stirring his drink with the plastic stirrer.
“I. I don’t know,” Yuki stammers. “You don’t like boys.”
“How do you know?” Kakeru is frowning now, still staring at his drink.
“Because…you had a girlfriend?”
Yuki’s head is spinning. His throat is dry, but he can’t seem to move his hands to bring his drink to his mouth. “Are you telling me you do?”
“I’m telling you I like both,” Kakeru grumbles. “And that you shouldn’t assume shit about people without asking.”
“Oh.” Yuki feels like the ground is falling out from beneath him, like this conversation is happening to someone else. His stomach is in a knot that he thinks he’ll never be able to untangle. “Sorry.”
Kakeru sighs and turns to him, setting his cup behind them near the windshield.
“Yuki,” he says. “I don’t believe you’re really this stupid.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Yuki spits, suddenly flooded with anger. His face is hot, his hands starting to tremble.
“I—ugh.” Kakeru runs a hand through his hair, then takes Yuki’s cup out of his hand, setting it next to his own. Yuki turns his face to watch him do it but Kakeru’s hand is on his cheek before he really can. “Yuki.”
Yuki just looks at him. His heart is beating so hard he can feel it in his fingertips. Kakeru’s fingers tuck a strand of hair behind Yuki’s ear, then trail down his cheekbone slightly. Yuki grabs onto the sleeve of Kakeru’s jacket. Instinct.
Kakeru leans in and kisses him.
His lips are soft and warm against his own. Yuki inhales sharply and kisses him back, their lips moving slowly against each other’s. His body is alight, his fingers clenched tightly in the crinkly fabric of Kakeru’s windbreaker. Kakeru’s nose is cold when it bumps against Yuki’s as they part.
“Yeah,” Kakeru says under his breath as he pulls away.
“Huh?” Yuki is disoriented, and Kakeru isn’t making sense.
“That’s what I thought.”
Kakeru laughs. “What, did I kiss you stupid or something?”
Yuki huffs and turns away, crossing his arms. “Sorry for not being able to read your mind.”
“Sorry, sorry.” Kakeru is smiling softly at Yuki. “Just. I kind of figured you liked me.”
“Oh.” Heat rushes all the way to the tips of Yuki’s ears and he tightens his arms defensively across his chest. “Well, that’s embarrassing.”
Kakeru cackles. “Oh my God. You’re hilarious.”
“I feel dumb right now, okay?” Yuki snaps.
“Why, you couldn’t tell I liked you back?” Yuki shakes his head. “Wow, you really are dense.”
Yuki punches Kakeru in the side and Kakeru groans dramatically, leaning forward a bit. When he stands back up, he’s smiling at Yuki again. Yuki smiles back.
“Can I.” Yuki scuffs his shoe into the soft dirt. “Can I kiss you again?”
Kakeru doesn’t answer, just brings his face into Yuki’s. Yuki puts his fingers against Kakeru’s jaw and presses their lips together. Kakeru’s hands settle on the sides of Yuki’s waist, sneaking underneath his peacoat. He can feel them, big and warm, through his sweater. Yuki presses closer so their chests are touching, their stomachs, their hips.
It’s more intense this time. Kakeru’s tongue runs along Yuki’s bottom lip and Yuki shivers. He opens his mouth and Kakeru licks into it. Heat flashes down Yuki’s spine.
When they part they’re both panting and Yuki’s fingers are tangled in Kakeru’s hair. He feels molten inside, like he might melt into the ground, but the biting cold in his nose and fingertips harshly remind him of where they are.
“I’m fuckin’ freezing,” Kakeru mutters, echoing his own thoughts. He’s breathless. “Wanna get in the car?”
A thrill runs through Yuki at that. He can’t bring himself to speak, just nods fervently.
They make out in the backseat. Yuki halfway can’t believe it, but the cramp in his leg from the narrow space and his boner pressing uncomfortably against the zipper of his pants assure him that this is real, this is really happening. Kakeru’s face is flushed prettily and his hair stands up crazily where Yuki had run his fingers through it. His pupils are blown when they finally stop, his lips red and messy. Yuki can’t help self-consciously wondering what he looks like right now.
Yuki feels like his chest might explode on the ride home. He clenches a hand in his sweater and takes deep breaths, trying not to let Kakeru see. He feels…warm. Overwhelmed. He can’t stop thinking about Kakeru’s lips against his own, Kakeru’s eyes on him as they pulled apart between kisses, Kakeru’s hot breath near his ear when he’d dipped his head down to suck lightly on Yuki’s neck. His other hand squeezes the seat just thinking about it. No wonder people never shut up about this.
“Yuki?” Kakeru jars Yuki out of his thoughts. “We’re here.”
Yuki looks up through the car window at the stone stairs up to the house. “Oh.”
Kakeru quirks an eyebrow. “You good?”
“Yeah,” Yuki breaths. “Yeah, I’m just. Happy.”
Kakeru smiles. “Me too.”
Yuki undoes his seatbelt. Kakeru grabs his hand.
“What?” Yuki asks. Kakeru leans in and kisses him.
“Just,” Kakeru says, pulling back only enough to talk, his lips brushing against Yuki’s as he speaks. “That.”
“Oh. Okay.” Yuki kisses him again. And again.
“Yuki,” Kakeru says after a few minutes. “If you don’t get out of this car right now you never will.”
Yuki snorts an ungraceful laugh through his nose. “You’re right.”
“Seriously, get out of my car.”
Yuki laughs again and opens the door. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“See ya, Yun-Yun.”
Yuki’s body is still buzzing as he collapses in bed. It’s late. Like, the sun is coming up in a few hours and he’s going to have to get up for school soon kind of late.
Images from the night flash behind his eyes as he tries to fall asleep. He feels full, but also light, like he might float away. He’s never felt like this before. Ever.
He drifts asleep, content and, for what feels like the first time in his life, happy.