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Tongue-Tied

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Sometimes Touya wondered how much his father knew.
He was never distant, but he was a quiet man (Touya suspected that was where he’d gotten it from) and beneath his unfailingly kind demeanor he could be mystifyingly hard to read.
He had always been fond of Yuki. Of course, everyone was fond of Yuki, Yuki was amazing. And Kinomoto Fujitaka was always welcoming to his children’s friends. But Touya couldn’t help but notice that he was always asking after Yukito, suggesting that they invite him over for dinner, even inviting him on family vacations with them.
He could just be happy that Touya had such a close friend; Touya, who was a little on the shy, quiet side, had always been a little distant from his classmates and he knew his father sometimes worried about him. It could also be Fujitaka’s paternal instincts making him want to watch out for the young boy living, given his grandparents’ near-constant absence, more or less all by himself.
But there was something (“Take care of him, won’t you, Yukito?”) that made Touya wonder.

Sometimes, of course, he wondered the opposite.
Touya was not, by any means, sheltered. He knew that there were people out there who wouldn’t approve of him and Yukito. What he had no clue about was whether his father might be one of them.
It seemed ridiculous to imagine the sweet, dorky man who would stay up late pouring over books only to get up in the morning and make pancakes for his kids in his frilly pink apron possibly getting angry over something like that. But Touya knew that his father had another side, the side that could keep him feuding with Touya’s mother’s family for decades, and he wondered how well he really knew his father. When he had been a child he had believed, as Sakura did now, that his parents’ marriage had been the most romantic thing in the world; now that he was almost an adult (now that he had some perspective on his disastrous relationship with Mizuki) he was a little less sure, a little less willing to take Fujitaka’s side so unquestioningly.
These thoughts were the thing that kept him from going to his father for advice when he lay on his bed in the evenings running through his every interaction with Yukito from that day, wondering what he should do about these feelings. He felt awful enough already; like a bad friend for wanting something more than he already had, like a failure for being so unsure of himself that he was unable say anything about it, even, though he knew it was ridiculous, like a bad older brother, since he knew how infatuated Sakura was with his friend.
He had enough to worry about already. It wasn’t fair that he had to worry about his father too.

He wanted to talk to his mother about it, but he couldn’t. He knew she wouldn’t judge him; a spirit’s feelings were more transparent than a human’s, and he knew without question that there was no capacity for spite in her, not now (he sometimes wondered how authentically his mother’s ghost reflected the reality of her living self, wondered whether he even really knew her at all) but he didn’t want to trouble her, and he knew that she would never understand his doubts about his father.

Touya was an adolescent, and there were some things that were only natural at his age. And if there was someone he saw every day, maybe someone he happened to like, a lot, (felt out of breath every time he saw him because he was so sweet and kind and why did he even bother to spend his time with a loser like Touya?) then it made sense that that person would pop up from time to time, in dreams…or fantasies…
And even though Touya knew it was perfectly natural, he felt wracked with guilt every time, because he felt like he was violating Yukito’s privacy, somehow, using his image and form in a way that he hadn’t agreed to.
And every time it happened he told himself that he would tell Yukito how he felt in the morning, and every morning he lost his resolve and said nothing.
One day, he always swore, it would happen.

Touya would have been saving up money for college anyway. He loved his father, and he didn’t want to put any financial stress on his family. But there was also a small, scared part of him that thought that maybe it was good that he had some money of his own set aside. Just in case he needed it.

Sakura thought she was good at keeping things hidden (she wasn’t), and somehow, Yukito was involved. Touya wasn’t surprised to learn that his best friend wasn’t human, and that in itself was surprising. Now that he could see it, it was so obvious he was really just surprised he hadn’t noticed before; Yukito looked different, in his ghost-sighted eyes, than any other human he knew, and he couldn’t attribute everything extraordinary about Yukito to the subjectivity of his own feelings.
Was that, he wondered, the only reason that he liked him? Was he drawn to his power somehow? No, he could dismiss that idea out of hand. He had loved Yukito, as a friend and otherwise, before he had known what he was, and now that he did, he found to his relief that nothing had changed. Whatever he was, human or not, Yuki was still Yuki.
But why hadn’t Yukito told him? And what was wrong with him? Because his eating was now starting to look less like a healthy young man’s appetite and more like a starving dog afraid its only meal in days would be stolen from it, and he looked so sick, and so tired, and Touya had seen him passing out at school on more than one occasion, and he was terrified for his friend.
So he watched, and he tried to pay careful attention to the subtle, there-then-gone swirling of magical energy that ebbed and flowed around Yukito’s head, and then he saw. He knew what was wrong, and he could fix it so, so simply.
And yet he couldn’t , because nobody would talk to him, and every time he tried to bring it up himself someone would interrupt him, be it that irritating girl who had taken out of nowhere to following him around like a parasite or even his own sister who still honestly seemed to believe that he was still being kept completely in the dark (instead of only mostly) and he wanted to scream and cry and punch something until his knuckles bled because couldn’t anyone see that Yukito was dying?

And then finally he had his chance, met Yue and had all the missing pieces of the puzzle slide sharply into place, and he gave the angel his powers to keep his friend alive, because what was the good of having them if he couldn’t use them to help the ones he cared for?

The next time he woke up Yukito was with him looking healthy and strong, and he didn’t even care that his powers were gone.

Adjusting to life without his powers was strange, though; he felt tired all the time, and recovery was slow. But it didn’t matter, because Yukito was looking after him and fussing over him and making impossible for him to complain about anything. And if anyone noticed how much time they were spending together, or the way that Touya looked at Yuki whenever his friend’s back was turned, he was too exhausted and relieved and grateful to care.

Touya had been planning for a week to confess to Yukito when his friend beat him to it, and when they had their first clumsy, fumbling kiss Touya felt like his heart was going to explode right out of his chest, and he had never been happier in his entire life.

And then things settled down, and fell into a rhythm, although not the usual one, never that again, because his sister was a powerful magician, while Touya’s powers were gone, and his best friend housed one of Sakura’s familiars within his body and, more importantly, was no longer just his best friend, but his boyfriend, and despite the time that Yukito now spent as Yue the two of them spent more time together than ever, and now that they knew that Yukito’s grandparents had never really existed there was no real reason for Yuki to spend much time in his house alone, and Touya was half tempted to clear out some closet space for his boyfriend’s things because he more or less lived there anyway.
And suddenly Touya found himself plagued again by the old fears that he had forgotten in all the excitement, but now that he and Yuki were doing much, much more than just mutually crushing on each other during their study sessions the fear seemed much more real.
Touya didn’t want to tell Yukito about it, since he suspected that he would either tease Touya for worrying for start worrying about it himself, and Touya didn’t want either of those things to happen. He knew it was silly, given everything the two of them had been through together, but their relationship was still in its early stages and they were both relatively unexperienced, and Touya was terrified of somehow messing it up.
And if Yukito noticed Touya suddenly putting space between them when he heard his father coming home, or suggesting that they spend time at Yukito’s house under the pretense of privacy (a flimsy one given that they were taking things slow until Yukito was satisfied that Touya had entirely recovered), then he didn’t say anything. Maybe Yukito was taking pity on Touya, or maybe he was afraid of messing up too.

And then one day Touya was helping his father make dinner while Yuki was helping Sakura with her homework in the living room, and his father turned briefly from stirring a pot of sauce and said in a perfectly innocent tone, “So you and Yukito have been spending a lot of time together lately.”
Touya felt his stomach drop. He looked down at the vegetables he’d been chopping and took a deep breath. “Um, yeah. I guess.”
He wanted to see his father’s expression but he was afraid to look up, and turned back to the vegetables with fierce concentration.
Then he heard his father chuckle softly, and he jerked his head around.
Fujitaka’s back was to him, adding some soy sauce to a pan.
Touya turned back around, face reddening.
“Have you talked with him yet about what you’re going to do about college?”
“No, not yet.” Touya had been avoiding the topic. He knew that the time would be coming soon to start applying and taking exams, but it was too overwhelming to think about just yet. He had sort of been hoping that Yukito would bring it up first.
“Because you know, long-distance relationships can be difficult. If you two were planning to stay together into college it would probably be best to think about it while you’re applying, instead of finding out after it’s too late that you’re going to schools on opposite ends of the country.”
Touya had by now stopped chopping entirely, and in fact was having a hard time remembering to breathe.
“How did you-“
Fujitaka laughed again, not unkindly, although that didn’t make Touya any less in danger of dying of embarrassment. “I know you were trying to hide it from me,” he said. “But really, give me some credit.”
Touya suddenly felt as naive and oblivious as Sakura when she’d been trying to hide her magic from him.
“I…I didn’t know…”
His father turned from the stove, came over to him and put a comforting hand on his shoulder.
“Touya,” he said gently, “you know I love you. All I ever wanted was for you and Sakura to be happy. And if Yukito makes you happy then I’m just glad that you found each other.”
And then, even though he was almost an adult, with paying job (jobs) and a motorcycle he had bought with his own money and a boyfriend he was almost ready to go all the way with, and even though he had worried and sacrificed and fought to protect what was his like an adult, or maybe even because of that, he turned around and let his father hug him like he had when he was a child, reassuring him that everything was going to be perfectly alright.
They finished making dinner in comfortable silence, and when Sakura and Yukito came in to eat he sat next to Yuki at the table and leaned his leg on Yuki’s and tried not to notice the quiet, unsubtle excitement with which Sakura glanced at them occasionally or the way that his father carefully failed to notice when Touya put extra food on Yuki’s plate without being asked, or when Yuki reached up to wipe a bit of food off of Touya’s face, making him blush bright red.
And later, after dinner and dessert, when Sakura and their father were doing the dishes, Touya sat down next to Yukito on the couch, arm around his shoulders, feeling strange (in a pleasant way) about the fact that could just sit like this, for once without anything to worry about.
Touya took Yuki’s hand, played with it, and Yuki leaned his head against Touya’s shoulder comfortably.
Yes, for now, they could relax. But Touya’s father was right. Tomorrow he and Yukito had some things they needed to talk about. After all, they had a future to plan.