[personal profile] maayacolabackup


“You’re here,” Taku says, and Ryu looks up from his grading to see Taku standing in the doorway.

“Yes,” Ryu says. “I am.”

“I mean, I knew you’d come before, because the nurse asked me if I knew you, last week, but… Seeing you here is weird.”

“Good weird or bad weird?” Ryu asks, and Taku shrugs.

“Good weird. Hayato was probably bitching inside his head about how you never come to visit.”

“Probably,” Ryu says, because the fantasy that inside, Hayato is awake, is one he won’t spoil for Taku. Ryu wishes he, himself, could believe something like that.

He can’t, but it’s nice, so nice, that Taku can.

“Take says,” Taku starts, after a moment of silence that seems longer than it is. “Take says that Shinazaki guy is getting out.”

“Yes,” Ryu replies. And Taku clenches his fists. “He is.”

“He smiled. When they were sentencing him, he smiled. He’d stolen someone’s life because they didn’t want to play by his rules anymore, and he smiled.”

Ryu wants to wrap his arms around Taku, to hold him until he stops shaking, but Ryu’s grown too rigid for that, and Taku’s grown too proud. “Yes,” Ryu says, rage curling like a viper in his stomach, poisonous and slick and dangerous. “He did.”

“How can they let him out?” Taku asks. “What’s to stop him from doing this to someone else?”

“Maybe he’s really reformed,” Ryu says, recalling the newspaper article about Shinazaki’s release that he’d found online. He wonders if Taku can hear the disbelief in his voice.

“Yeah right,” Taku replies, and Ryu watches as he fills a cup with water at the sink. Then he sets the cup down and goes over to his backpack and pulls out a small case. A shaving kit. He unzips it and pulls out a container of cheap shaving foam with a smile. “Hayato would have a fit if he woke up with a beard.”

Taku takes a washcloth and wets the beginnings of a beard growing on Hayato’s face, and lathers it up with foam using his left hand. He reaches into the case and pulls out a razor—it’s Hayato’s razor, Ryu sees, the same one he’s had for as long as Ryu can remember. The blades look new, but the handle is just as worn down.

“Let me,” Ryu says, and he can recall, as he slides the blade along the grain, the one other time he’s done this for Hayato.

”My wrist is sprained,” Hayato complained. “That guy was so buff he actually sprained my wrist.”

“My delicate flower,” Ryu had said back, and Hayato had kicked at him vaguely. Ryu sidestepped it and laughed, and Hayato had glowered at him before taking his left hand and feeling along the stubble.

“I needed to shave, too,” Hayato whined, and Ryu smiled.

“I’ll help,” Ryu said, and Hayato’s face had turned curiously. “Let’s go, before I have to go home.”

He’d pressed Hayato back against the sink, and Hayato’s hands found purchase on his hips as Ryu had slowly pulled the razor down his cheek, careful not to nick Hayato’s sensitive skin. “Thanks,” Hayato had breathed, and he was so close Ryu struggled to find air.

“What are friends for?” Ryu had asked, and somehow managed to keep his hands from shaking as badly as his insides.

“Are you okay?” Taku says, and it rouses Ryu from his reverie.

“Yes,” Ryu says, and he looks down, and all that’s left is the space between Hayato’s upper lip and nose.

”Maybe I should grow a mustache,” Hayato joked, as Ryu frowned and debated how to approach the tricky area.

“Maybe you should stop talking before I miss and cut off your tongue,” Ryu replied, and Hayato had beamed.

“It’d probably tickle when I kissed someone,” Hayato mused, and Ryu’s palms grew sweaty.

“Who are you going to kiss, anyway,” Ryu had teased weakly, and Hayato had flushed a dark red.

“I’ve got people I want to kiss,” Hayato defended, but then he’d pressed his mouth flat to make it easy for Ryu to shave.

“All done,” Ryu says, and there’s shaving foam on his hands and a burning in his eyes that’s got nothing to do with anything.

“You do a better job than I do,” Taku says, as he wipes away the foam with the wet washcloth. “More neat.”

“Experience,” Ryu says. The truth is, no one knows Hayato’s face better than Ryu.


Night-dreams trace on Memory’s wall
Shadows of the thoughts of day,
And thy fortunes, as they fall,
The bias of the will betray.

--Ralph Waldo Emerson, Memory


Hayato’s always had a more expressive face than Ryu. Ryu recalls, clearly, the way Hayato’s face could flicker through hundreds of emotions in a matter of seconds.

It’s always made Hayato easier for Ryu to read, because Hayato is like shattered glass, the light reflecting off all the pieces in patterns that should make Ryu dizzy but only make him marvel at the colors.

He memorizes each refraction and wonders if there are even words to express the variance.

There have only been two times Hayato’s face has gone still; unreadable and blank to Ryu’s practiced eye.

Both times, Ryu’s felt a tiny death in his chest at the loss.


“What’s wrong?” Ryu asks, and Take is looking fragile standing in front of him, head low. “Why did you need to speak to me alone?”

“Ryu… I have a problem.” Take sounds terrified, and that makes Ryu pay closer attention.

“Tell me,” he says, because Take… Take is not Hayato, but he’s important too, soft in ways Ryu almost admires, because Take feels so many things without remorse.

“We’re all going to be expelled,” Take says miserably. “I thought it wouldn’t matter to me this much, but it does. My mother…”

Ryu studies his nails. They’re cut as short as he could make them, below the bed of the nail to avoid self-injury. His fingers are swollen at the knuckles from yesterday’s fight. “What about her?” Ryu asks. “Is she upset with you?”

“No,” Take says miserably. “She’s proud of me. Because I might graduate.”

Oh, Ryu thinks, and he studies Take a little more carefully. Take’s shoulders are hunched in defeat, and fear, and resignation, and Ryu hurts to see him like this. “I’ll take care of it.”

“Ryu?” Take asks, and his eyes go wide. “What are you going to do, Ryu?”

“None of your business,” Ryu says, and his gut is churning, because it comes to him, then, what he should do.

“But Hayato…” Take starts, and Ryu can feel his own eyes narrowing, and Take stops, swallowing harshly. “Thanks.”

Ryu nods, and tries not to think about the fact that Hayato, who is made up of pride and passion and impulse, might never forgive him.

It’s better, he thinks, that he help them all, in his own way. It’s better that he doesn’t think about how Hayato’s face will look betrayed and disbelieving, and instead focus on the fact that Hayato and Take and Hyuuga and Tsucchi will all be okay. Will all be safe.

It’s only Ryu who will suffer, like this. It’s only Ryu who faces a dark tunnel.

Later that night, Ryu thinks about the way his heart skips beats when Hayato smiles, and the way the world slows down when they lie on the grass and breathe together. He thinks about the way that Hayato moves, and Ryu moves with him, like they’re both branches on the same tree, blown in a careless wind. He thinks about the way that no matter how cold the winter is, next to Hayato he is warm. He thinks about these things, and wonders why he’s so afraid.


“You’re always touching it,” Take says. “That necklace.”

“It’s Hayato’s,” Ryu says. “It reminds me of him.”

Take is staring at him. Ryu can feel it, even if he refuses to turn away from his ramen to acknowledge it. He’s used to much harsher staring, anyway. This is nothing.

“Ryu…” Ryu ignores him, taking bite of beef and closing his eyes at the rich taste. It warms him from the inside. His left hand seeks the necklace, pulling it out from under his shirt and letting it hang in front of him, thumb rubbing along the pendant. “Why does it look so familiar?”

“Hmm?” Ryu asks, finally looking at Take, whose eyes are trained on Ryu’s necklace.

“The pendant I mean,” Take says. “It looks so familiar.”

“Does it?” Ryu asks, vaguely, setting his chopsticks on the table. “Maybe because it’s Hayato’s.”

“No,” Take says. “That’s not it.” He taps his finger on his chin thoughtfully. “I wonder.”

“Don’t think about it too hard,” Ryu jokes. “It’s not that important.”

”I’ll hold on to this,” Hayato had said. “Until you come back.”

“You’re so hard to read, usually,” Take says. “But I can see things, now.”

“It’s too hard,” Ryu says, stirring the remaining noodles in his bowl. “To pretend these days.”

“I’m sorry,” Take says, and he stirs his ramen broth with anxious chopsticks.

“Me too,” Ryu says, and he wishes he could bow down now, to someone, anyone, and they’d all be all right.


They laugh at him, when he bows down. “I’m sorry,” he says, and the five guys from Ara just laugh and laugh and laugh.

Ryu wishes they wouldn’t, because even if what he’s doing is shameful, worse is what Hayato will do to him later. Say to him later.

In comparison, this is nothing, but the laughter sounds a little like the laughter Ryu can hear inside his own head.

On the outside, Ryu keeps his face impassive.


Sometimes, Ryu dreams of pressing Hayato into the wall, hard enough to hurt. He dreams of Hayato whining as he bites down into his shoulder then soothes the mark with his tongue. He dreams of the sound of rain falling outside as he falls over and over again, sweat along his back, sweat along his thighs.

He dreams of Hayato, eyes clenched shut, mouth parted, bangs stuck to his forehead, and he whispers don’t go like those are magic words that will keep both of them here, in this space between fiction and reality, where it doesn’t hurt to breathe.


“How could you?” Hayato hisses, voice rumbling in his lower register, eyes like ice. “How could you just… Don’t you have any pride?”

“Of course I do,” Ryu replies quietly, eyes on the ground, thumbs hooked on his belt to keep his hands from trembling. His mouth hurts, and there’s blood in it, and on it, from where he and Hayato have worked things out the old-fashioned way. “Of course I do.”

“Then how can you bow down to them?” Hayato says. “How can you bear it? Making us all look like cowards?”

“You don’t look like a coward,” Ryu says. “I look like a coward.”

“Same difference,” Hayato says. “It’s the same goddamn thing. You’re me, you know that. Everyone knows that. You’re me, and I’m you, and…”

“I’m sorry,” Ryu says. “I am a coward.” Ryu can feel the bile in his throat, can feel the sinking in his stomach as Hayato stares at him like he’s never really known him. Maybe he hasn’t, Ryu thinks, because Ryu is the biggest coward in the whole wide world. “We already hashed this out in the classroom.”

Ryu’s not a coward because he doesn’t want to fight—he doesn’t care one way or the other about this fight, even if only he and Take will ever know why he’s done this. Ryu’s not a coward about fist-fights. Ryu isn’t a coward about much of anything, anymore, because Hayato has broken him down and remade him reckless.

Ryu is a coward because Hayato is looking at him, looking into him, and Ryu is closing himself off, because he’s scared that Hayato might see the things he’s kept buried in his heart. Hayato might see the things he’s tried so hard to wish away, because Hayato is his best friend, or was his best friend.

Ryu is more afraid of losing Hayato over those feelings than he is of losing Hayato over this, and that makes him a coward.

“I won’t forgive you for this,” Hayato says, and he’s staring out at the street. He doesn’t look at Ryu as he speaks, just tightens his lips into a thin line. “This was a matter of honor. I thought we were a team.”

“I know,” Ryu says, and he closes his eyes and thinks about Take’s face, eyes wet as he peers up through blond bangs. “I knew that before I did it.”

“Then how could you—” Hayato starts, and Take’s words ring in Ryu’s ears. She was proud of me, Ryu, and Ryu swallows, and his throat feels too small, and he can barely breathe, and his body is flashing hot and cold and he’s nothing but dust. “Never mind. I guess it doesn’t matter.”

“Hayato,” Ryu says. “I have my reasons.”

“What are they, then?!” Hayato snaps. “Explain it to me, Ryu.” A thread of pleading weaves in with the anger and confusion. Ryu’s never heard that in Hayato’s voice before. It aches and burns and makes Ryu feel like there’s a piece of him that’s withering.

“I can’t,” Ryu says, and he wonders if the hopelessness in his voice is as clear to Hayato as it is to him.

“Fine,” Hayato says, and he turns away. “It’s your choice.”

“No,” Ryu whispers. “I’d never choose this,” but Hayato is already gone.


In some versions of Sleeping Beauty, when the princess falls asleep, all fall into slumber with her: the king, the queen, the servants, the dogs. The villagers, the nobles, the visitors and natives alike. The entire kingdom goes to sleep.

Ryu finds this much less cruel, but also much less believable.


“I might like to work at a cake shop,” Kamiyama says to Ryu, during their employment meeting. “I like cake.”

“Making cake is not the same as eating cake,” Ryu says, even as he scawls it down in his notebook.

“When I was a kid,” Kamiyama says, “I used to help my mother make cakes. It was fun. It has… Those are good memories. Not like the others.” He flushes, like he’s said too much.

Ryu can empathize. He doesn’t press. “All you need to do is graduate, Kamiyama. It’ll make you look more responsible to employers.”

“I’m trying,” Kamiyama says. “I’ve got… other things to worry about.”

“I know,” Ryu says, and Kamiyama leans back in his chair and puts his arms behind his head.

“Are we done?” he asks, and Ryu fights a small grin. “I’ve got things to do.”

“Yes,” Ryu says. “A cake shop… wouldn’t be a bad choice.”

“I want only the good memories,” Kamiyama admits. “I’m more likely to find them there.”

“If only we could choose which memories we held the closest,” Ryu murmurs, and Kamiyama nods, before disappearing out the door, making way for Ryu’s next appointment.


Sometimes, when Ryu closes his eyes, it’s Hayato’s smiling face he sees behind his lids. It’s Hayato, leaning in too close, touching too much, making Ryu uncomfortable and pleased in the same breath.

Those dreams are the hardest ones to wake up from, because the real Hayato doesn’t smile now. Ryu would rather cling to memories of a time he’ll never forget.


Ryu is sitting on his couch when the doorbell rings. He feels like a crotchety old man when he looks through the peep hole to see who it is, relaxing when it’s just Take. He opens the door to Take’s beaming smile and a bag of what appears to be convenience store dinners. “Thank goodness you were quick! It’s raining cats and dogs outside!”

“What are you doing here?” Ryu asks dryly, and Take crosses his arms over his chest, bag swinging to hit Ryu harmlessly in the stomach. It’s wet, like Take, from the downpour.

“Taking initiative,” Take says, and Ryu frowns.

“You could have called,” Ryu says, and Take smiles in a way that makes his eyes disappear into crescent moons.

“Not giving you time to make up excuses or reasons you’re too busy,” Take explains. “Guerilla friendship tactics.”

Ryu is startled into a laugh, and Take looks around. “I don’t think I’ve ever been inside of here.”

“It’s not much,” Ryu says, not making any effort to stop Take’s exploration. Take drops the bag on Ryu’s tiny, cluttered coffee table and wanders around while Ryu goes into the kitchen to put on the kettle for tea. He licks his lips and contemplates the red tea he favors for days like today, when the rain is heavy and he’s feeling melancholy.

“You still have your school uniform?” Take asks, and Ryu pauses, setting two mugs on the counter and wandering back into the main area of the flat. Take is standing there, staring at his uniform jacket.

“I couldn’t throw it away,” Ryu says. Take looks a bit nostalgic as he runs his finger up the material of the sleeves, and then he’s pulling the hanger out of the closet.

“Your jacket,” Take says slowly, as he stares. “Where’s the second button?”

Ryu looks at the jacket, eyes immediately going to where Take’s hand lingers. I’ll hold on to this, Hayato had said.

Take’s head tilts to the side, his brow creasing in thought. “Did you give it away?”

“Yes,” Ryu says, and Take’s eyes go round. “Did you have a girlfriend in high school, Ryu? Did I miss this—“ Then he stops, and his mouth curls downward. “Or…”

He lays the jacket on the bed, and walks toward where Ryu has leaned back against the wall, hands pressed flat against it. Ryu watches Take curiously.

Take steps into his personal space.

“What are you doing?” Ryu asks, and Take reaches for his neck. Ryu doesn’t flinch, because he trusts Take, but his eyes are wary.

“This is Hayato’s necklace, right?” Takes asks, as his fingers wrap gently around the chain, pulling it from under Ryu’s sweatshirt carefully and dropping it back against his chest.

“Yes,” Ryu says, and under the dim light of his apartment, there’s not a lot of shine on the pendant. Still, it’s bright enough that there’s no mistaking the pattern.

“I knew this looked familiar,” Take says. “Funny thing is, I touched buttons just like this one every morning for three years and I still didn’t recognize it.” Take steps back.

“Take,” Ryu whispers and Take is staring at him. Ryu feels bare.

“You and Hayato…” Take starts, and then there’s a pause, and Take’s eyes look so sympathetic, and it hurts. It burns, like Ryu is on fire. Ryu doesn’t know how to make it stop.

“Don’t look at me like that,” Ryu says. “Don’t look at me like everything is different now.”

“I didn’t know,” Take says. “None of us knew that…”

“You knew enough,” Ryu says, and he hasn’t felt this adrift in awhile. This cast out to sea. “Hayato is everything.”

“Oh,” Take says, and Ryu retreats behind the counter, pouring the hot water into mugs. He picks them up. “Aren’t those too hot to hold like that?”

“It’s better than feeling nothing,” Ryu says, as he hands Take his mug of tea. “Anything is better than feeling nothing.”

They both know he means ‘everything’. Anything is better than feeling ‘everything’.


The first time they kiss, Ryu isn’t expecting it at all.

He’s waiting outside the classroom, leaning against the wall, waiting for Hayato to get his stuff so they can walk home together. The hallway is empty, and no one but Ryu’s stuck around today to wait for Hayato.

Hayato looks surprised to see him, and Ryu snorts. “What’s with that face?”

“You waited?” Hayato asks, and the words sound a little softer than Ryu is used to. Things are still a little strange between them, even though Ryu has apologized for lying and Hayato’s apologized for everything that came after that.

It’s almost like they’re walking on eggshells, and Hayato sometimes looks at Ryu like he’s afraid Ryu will disappear. Ryu’s not going anywhere, but he understands how Hayato feels. Lately it’s been harder to keep from reaching out and touching—just a slip of fabric from Hayato’s uniform jacket or a soft bit of skin at his wrist to remind Ryu that Hayato is here, by his side, all over again. That this isn’t a brief reprieve from the crushing solitary days that proceeded now, Ryu turning to his left and seeing no one where Hayato should be.

So Ryu understands the way Hayato sometimes unsurely looks at him through thick eyelashes, like he’s a ghost and Hayato’s gaze straight-on will evaporate him like mist, because it’s the same way Ryu feels when Hayato leans into his space; warmth spreading all the way through him and his stomach sinking at the thought that this could go away again, someday.

Ryu clenches his hands into fists, and vows it won’t. “Of course I waited,” Ryu replies, and Hayato smiles, tiny but sure. His eyes are strange, carrying something in them that Ryu’s never seen before but makes his pulse run quick, and his skin tingle with some kind of anticipation. A part of Ryu thinks it’s familiar, like maybe he’s seen it in the mirror, when he thinks about Hayato.

“Ne, Ryu?” Hayato says, and then he suddenly turns, pressing one hand to the wall and trapping Ryu against the closed classroom door with his body, “do you ever…”

“Ever what?” Ryu asks, and his breath is coming shallow because Hayato is so close, closer than Ryu is used to and maybe closer than he can handle. Ryu feels trapped and nervous and hot, so hot, and Hayato’s breath is warm on his face. It smells like red-bean and powdered sugar, and it tickles Ryu’s nose, and blows at his bangs.

“I just…” Hayato says, and then he groans, frustrated, and catches Ryu’s eyes with his own, pinning Ryu in place. “Don’t you know?” Hayato’s cheeks are flushed red, and Ryu is sure his own are too, and his hands, still clenched, shake. He feels weak, like his knees are going to give out, and Hayato is moving closer, and maybe Ryu does know, after all.

“Yes,” Ryu says, and then Hayato is kissing him, their chests pressed flush against each other, and Hayato’s hand, the one not against the wall, slides up Ryu’s arm to his shoulder and across his neck, stopping to rest along the line of his clavicle, fingers splayed wide like he’s holding Ryu back, or holding Ryu up.

Hayato’s lips are soft and sticky against his own, and oh so warm, and Ryu is terrified out of his mind, but at the same time, he feels like a dam has burst inside of him. He reaches on fist up and grabs a handful of Hayato’s shirt, a tiny plastic button digging painfully into his palm because he’s holding on too hard. Hayato’s mouth presses in hard, and Ryu is helpless to the assault, letting his mouth part slightly as Hayato sighs. The rush of air fills Ryu’s lungs, and Ryu is melting, or exploding, or something like that, and he doesn’t have any idea what to do, but somehow, somehow, he starts kissing back.

Hayato releases a tiny groan of surprise when Ryu leans forward and tilts his head to the side to seal their mouths more firmly, and the tiny noise spreads through him like wildfire, setting him ablaze with all sorts of things he’s only felt hints of over the past few months, or years, or forever. Hayato’s melting too, Ryu thinks, and then Hayato’s mouth is parting, and his tongue is swiping experimentally at Ryu’s lips, and that’s new, Ryu thinks, but he doesn’t hate it, and when he attempts to return the favor, Hayato takes advantage, slipping his tongue into Ryu’s mouth and stealing any remaining coherency Ryu may have been trying to muster.

As their tongues slide together, Ryu leans heavier against the door, and Hayato takes another step forward, until Ryu’s hand is trapped between them, and Hayato’s left thigh has slipped between his own. Hayato’s hand moves its way up his neck, leaving a trail of electricity in it’s wake, and weaves into Ryu’s hair, pulling too hard and making Ryu groan because he likes it.

Then Hayato becomes impatient, lips devouring him, teeth biting at Ryu’s lips until Ryu can taste blood, and Ryu likes that too. He’s hard against Hayato’s thigh, and it’s too much, and maybe Hayato can read his mind, because he tears himself away, dropping his face to Ryu’s right, brow and nose burrowing into the space in the hollow of Ryu’s shoulder.

Ryu’s breath comes hard and fast, and one hand still clutches at Hayato’s shirt, and he’s pretty sure he’s torn off one of the buttons. He aches with arousal, and his head feels fuzzy, with confusion and fear and something else, too, that he doesn’t recognize. Whatever it is, it makes him reach his other hand up and tug impatiently at Hayato’s hair, and Hayato yelps, and bites his neck in revenge, and it goes straight to Ryu’s cock, making him throb, and that’s new too.

“What the fuck?” Ryu says, when he finds words. “What the actual fuck.”

“I don’t know,” Hayato says. “I just want to be closer.” Hayato, Ryu notices, is shaking, now, or maybe it’s Ryu who is shaking, but either way, silence passes between them, and it’s enough to make his heart tremble in his chest.

“Closer,” Ryu says, and Hayato moves, his tongue flicking out to find the vein in Ryu’s neck. His tongue presses flat against it, and then he bites, and Ryu hisses, but not because it hurts.

“Yes,” Hayato says. “I want to be so close you can’t disappear.” Hayato pulls back now, and Ryu lets his arms fall to his sides. It’s suddenly too cold with Hayato standing so far away, and Ryu resists the urge to drag Hayato closer and take his mouth the same way Hayato had taken his. Ryu’s lip stings, and the metallic taste of blood lingers, and his shoulders are tight from the tension of everything.

Ryu closes his eyes, but he can still see Hayato’s face in front of him, lips slick and swollen, cheeks red and hair mussed, eyes heavy lidded from a combination of arousal and apprehension. He can still see Hayato’s face in front of him, and that tells him things, maybe. “I want that, too,” Ryu murmurs back, and for a moment, he wonders if Hayato has even heard him, but when he opens his eyes, Hayato is staring at him, and there’s that small smile again, tentative and strangely warm.

Ryu swallows, and his mouth is dry. He can taste Hayato on his teeth and tongue and along his cheeks, and it’s… he doesn’t mind it. He doesn’t hate it. He might even like it.

And when he stops, for the briefest moment, to consider things, that feeling that’s been slithering around in his gut like he’d swallowed snakes is still there, but it’s no longer making him nauseous. Oh, Ryu thinks. So this is what that was.

Hayato pushes his hands into his pockets, and turns away, looking out toward the door, where the open expanse of schoolyard awaits them. His eyelashes are so long. “Okay?” Hayato asks, and there are so many other questions buried in the single word that Ryu feels all of his anxiety seep out of him with his next exhale.

“Yes,” Ryu says, and he pushes off the wall, ignoring his fading erection and the way his shoulders feel a little scraped and the way he’s certain his hair must look, so he can stand next to Hayato. Hayato’s taller height is comforting. Ryu lets his arm press, lightly, against Hayato’s, just enough to make a point. “Of course we are.”

Hayato’s eyes are bright; Ryu can see that even though Hayato is only glancing out of the corner of his eye.

“Of course,” Hayato mimics, in a voice that sounds nothing like Ryu and seems a bit relieved. “How can you be so sure?” The question isn’t sarcastic.

Ryu shrugs. “I’m always sure about you,” he admits, and it’s embarrassing, more embarrassing than the bruise he can feel forming on his neck where Hayato has left a mark, and more embarrassing than the way he fell apart to Hayato’s tongue in his mouth. “We should get home.”

Hayato bumps him, and Ryu knows it’s on purpose. “I’m glad we’re friends again,” Hayato says, and Ryu’s chest constricts, because despite the words, they both know that what’s between them is more than that. It’s been more than that for a long time.

“Me too,” Ryu says, and his heart uncurls.


The less there is of eloquence, the more there is of love.

-- Charles Perrault, The Sleeping Beauty in the Woods


“Do you think you’ll stay on at Kurogin next year?” Shiratori asks, as they eat their lunch. Ryu nods.

“Yes,” he says, and Shiratori drowns.

“I think I’m leaving,” she says. “Usually they don’t let teachers stay at one school for longer than six years. I’ll probably get rotated.”

“You seem sad,” Ryu remarks, actually turning to pay attention to Shiratori.

“I like it here,” she says. “I’ve gotten used to the way things work, and the people. It’s not too far from my home.”

“I see,” Ryu says. “So it’s familiar…”

“It’s not just that,” Shiratori says. “It’s… I’m comfortable. It’s easy, isn’t it, to stay where one is comfortable? This is where I’ve been since I became a teacher.”

“Your first school, eh?”

“So I suppose it’s time for me to move on,” she says wistfully, and Ryu watches her poke sadly at her packed lunch. “We all have to move on sometime, right?”

“Why?” Ryu asks, and and he clenches his fists. “What’s wrong with staying where you’re happy?”

Uchiyama, who has been staying out of the conversation, suddenly leans on his elbows and turns toward Ryu. “Because that’s not how life works,” Uchiyama says. “We can’t just stop time from moving forward because we like how it is now.”

Ryu just wants to stop with Hayato. He wants to be exactly where Hayato left him if… when Hayato wakes up.


Hayato is not a princess. He’s a grown-up who still acts like a schoolboy, who spits and swears and picks fights with anyone who looks at him funny. He brushes his hair with a hundred strokes because he’s vain, not because he’s singing to birds he treats as people, and he likes his sheets made out of rough cotton because cotton is easier to tear if he needs to make bandages. He’s got no evil stepsiblings or jealous queens chasing him; just thugs who want revenge for a beat-down Hayato delivered four years ago, or gangsters who want Hayato to join their team.

Hayato is not a princess, and life is not a fairytale, and Ryu’s Sleeping Beauty might never wake up, even if he waits and waits and waits as the world passes them both by.


Winter is dying out. Ryu’s mother has her gaze trained out the window, eyes surveying her thawing garden. She looks pensive, but so is Ryu.

“You’re staying at Kurogin next year, then,” she says, and Ryu hums his confirmation, and she sighs. “Have you no ambition?”

“Not a bit,” Ryu says. “Besides, I’m useful where I am.”

“Your father…”

“Has nothing to do with the decisions of a grown man?” Ryu finishes, and his mother exhales, and Ryu knows he’s won.

Not that his mother puts up much of a battle these days. Perhaps she’s grown used to Ryu’s rebellion, after six years. Perhaps she just never had much fight to begin with.

Ryu might’ve been like that. If things hadn’t worked out the way they did. If there’d been no Hayato.

He wonders how his mother might have been, if she’d had Ryu’s luck.

“Do you ever… have regrets?” Ryu asks her, and she sets her tea down on the table slowly and calmly. She’s studying the lacquer of her nail polish, with its perfectly done French tips, and she sighs.

“Sometimes,” she says, slowly. “But what’s done is done.” She looks up at Ryu then, and maybe, Ryu thinks, how he turned out is one of them.

“I don’t,” Ryu says, and her eyes widen. “Have any regrets, I mean.” He closes his eyes to her expression, and instead imagines the way Hayato’s hands had felt between his own, back when they were thirteen and Ryu was lost. He remembers the way Hayato had said the word family, and the way the word had buried itself inside him and grown into a tree so strong, anchored in his heart. “I can’t say I would change anything at all.”

“Are you happy like this, Ryu?” she asks, and she’s never asked anything like that before. Her voice sounds like she might care, a little, about his answer.

“No,” Ryu says. “But I was. I was happy enough to make up for now.”

“Then maybe we have things in common after all, Ryu,” she says, and they drink the rest of their tea in silence.

Later, he’s relating the conversation to a persistent Take, who badgers him into dinner at a curry restaurant, and Take leans forward.

“I think she must be wondering if you’re ever going to move on,” Take asks. “Let the past go.”

“I can’t,” Ryu says. “And I don’t want to.”

“You can’t live in your memories, Ryu. You’ve got other things to live for, right? Students and the wide-open future. Your life isn’t over.” Take scratches anxiously at the back of his neck. “Maybe you should get a girlfriend, or take up a new hobby, or…”

“You don’t understand,” Ryu says, and his throat is so dry it hurts to speak. “Moving on is…” He thinks about Hayato’s laugh, the way it echoes between his ribs, the sound filling him up until he might burst. He thinks about the way Hayato’s hands are so rough, the skin calloused and scarred and perfect along Ryu’s skin. He thinks about how Hayato’s eyes light up over the silliest things, and the way they fill with shadows at the oddest moments. He thinks of sitting by the riverside, the sound of cars overhead and water rushing below, fading rays of the sun filling the space they don’t need to fill with conversation.

He thinks of a snowy day, where they share Hayato’s coat, and Hayato tells him it’s okay to feel.

Ryu, if he knows anything, knows that nothing can ever compare to that.

“Ryu,” Take says, and for a moment, Ryu thinks he’s going to place a gloved hand on Ryu’s shoulder. He doesn’t though. Ryu wouldn’t have responded to it well, anyway.

“You don’t understand at all,” Ryu repeats. “I can’t.”


the world doesn't stop just because one person is asleep


Ryu likes that Hayato’s mouth doesn’t let up. He likes that Hayato’s kisses are unpracticed and rough and demanding. He likes it because it means that Hayato doesn’t think Ryu will break.

It means that Hayato trusts Ryu not to break.

And Ryu won’t disappoint him, because Ryu can give as good as he gets, and he kisses Hayato back with everything he has, which, Ryu realizes, as his hands sink into Hayato’s hair, stiff with spray, is quite a lot.

Hayato tastes like blood and sweat and fear, and also like soy sauce and ramen broth, and it’s intoxication. Ryu feels hot, like he’s melting, at the slide of Hayato’s lips along his own, and it stings, because his mouth is bruised from the punch he’d taken earlier, but god, he can’t care about it at all because Hayato is kissing him, and it’s like coming home.

Hayato is more like home than anything Ryu’s ever felt before. Like he’s been sailing for so long and he’s finally dropped anchor here in Hayato’s punishing grip and desperate, sloppy kisses that feel so good they hurt.


February vacation sneaks up on Ryu.

The days pass in the same fog that Ryu’s become accustomed to, like he’s reaching and reaching for something that makes him full, but at the end of the day, he’s still empty and waiting.

Glass coffins aren’t just for Briar Rose, in the end. He watches the world outside moving so fast, and he’s frozen.

“What are you going to do with your vacation?” Uchiyama asks. “Shrine visits? Tour Kamakura? What?”

“Sleep,” Ryu says, and he traces aimless patterns along his desk.

“Have you heard about the crime wave?” Uchiyama says, changing the topic. “Lots of people getting mugged and beat up down by the docks. Pretty sketchy.”

“I’ll warn my students to stay away from there,” Ryu says. “Last thing they need is to get caught up in that. The police wouldn’t ask questions.”

“True,” Uchiyama says. “I don’t envy you your class. I don’t even have to tell my students to avoid places like that. They do it out of fear.”

“There are scarier things than violence,” Ryu says, and Uchiyama nods. “You and I know that.”

Uchiyama stretches, and sighs. “I hope you don’t sleep your whole vacation away,” Uchiyama says. “Go and see your friends or something. The ones who get you drunk.”

“I’d rather be alone,” Ryu says honestly. At least then I don’t have to pretend to be whole.

“All right,” Uchiyama says. “Suit yourself.”

Loneliness has never been a distant stranger to Ryu. Loneliness, instead, was Ryu’s companion during his childhood, pressing in close and curling around him, and almost suffocating him with how tightly it held on, wrapping its arms around his torso and making it hard for him to breathe.

Hayato made loneliness abate with every consecutive exhale.

Now, the shadows in Ryu’s life creep ever closer, and Ryu just keeps his eyes on the light.

Ryu wonders if this is how he’ll spend the rest of his life.



Your heart’s a mess
You won’t admit to it
It makes no sense
But I’m desperate to connect
And you, you can’t live like this

Gotye, Hearts a Mess


“Nothing’s perfect,” Hayato says, grass and hair mingling as he lies there, eyes on the sky. “But for me, nothing has ever been this close.”

I love you, Ryu’s heart says, but Ryu just rolls his eyes and looks down at the water. “Sap.”

“Whatever,” Hayato says. “You think so too.”

“Of course I do,” Ryu says, and he grabs Hayato’s wrist, touch rough. “And as the leader of Kurogin, I-“

“I’m the leader,” Hayato says, and they’re wrestling, arms and legs tangled with dirt and grass, hair sweaty and mussed.

“Okay,” Ryu says, and Hayato laughs, and Ryu wishes that time would stop.

It doesn’t.


Ryu spends February holidays with Hayato.

Hayato doesn’t move. Ryu pretends, for a while, that the world doesn’t move either.


“Where you used to be, there is a hole in the world, which I find myself constantly walking around in the daytime, and falling in at night.”

--Edna St Vincent Millay


Kamiyama’s arm is in a splint when February holidays end. Ryu holds him after class.

“What happened?” Ryu asks, voice tight. “You know I’m going to have to suspend you if you’ve been fighting, and you know I don’t want to do that.” Ryu swallows as he takes in the rest of it. A black eye and a swollen lower lip. Ryu’s sure there are other wounds hidden under the student’s black jacket.

He’s wearing his shirt buttoned all the way up. Ryu knows the tactics. He’s used them all.

“It’s just a sprain,” Kamiyama says. “Just had a little accident down at the docks, is all.”

“The docks?” Ryu asks, crossing his arms and staring at Kamiyama. “Why were you down there?”

“I was…” Kamiyama pauses and looks embarrassed. “I was thinking, you know, over the holiday. About your friend.”

Beep, beep, beep.

“Oh?” Ryu says. “So why were you down at the docks?” Ryu knows his voice is too rough, but Kamiyama seems to respond to that better than his teacher voice. Ryu wonders if it’s because Kamiyama can see, when Ryu is like this, a little more on edge, that Ryu’s not so different from him after all.

“A couple of months ago,” Kamiyama starts, and then he winces, shifting his arm a bit. Ryu thinks it’s more than sprained. “I fell in with a gang down there. Not like our gang,” and he gestures to the empty classroom, where Kamiyama’s friends have probably retreated to the courtyard to terrorize the new gym teacher, “but a real one.”

“A real one?” Ryu asks, his voice cracking. A real gang that meets down by the docks… sounds terribly familiar. Icy hands draw patterns up Ryu’s back and wrap around his throat.

“Yeah,” Kamiyama says, and he turns his head to look out the window. “At first, it seemed cool. They gave me money for odd jobs—nothing hard, or anything. Nothing scary,” he adds quickly, when Ryu’s eyes narrow into slits. “Just running errands and stuff.”

“But?” Ryu says, and it’s not really a question. His eyes check for injuries again, and he notices more—the way Kamiyama shifts back and forth like one of his legs hurts. The way he seems to wince with every exhale like his ribs are bruised.

“But a couple of weeks ago, one of the higher-ups got out of jail,” Kamiyama continues, and he sounds lost, and scared, and Ryu’s heart sinks all the way into his stomach.

“Oh no,” Ryu says. “Not them.” He says it low, like a whisper, and Kamiyama is too lost in his own thoughts to notice Ryu’s barely bitten down panic.

“A couple of days ago, they wanted me to go rough some guy up. But not just me,” Kamiyama says. “Like, me and these five other guys. We find the guy, and he’s just some little guy. A loan-banker or something. He clearly can’t fight, or anything.” Kamiyama shudders. “That’s not cool, you know. I like fair fights. I like turf wars between even players.”

“And?” Ryu urges, even as he struggles not to clench his fist and demand Kamiyama speak faster or else.

“It’s like… that wasn’t a fight,” Kamiyama says. “It was an execution.”

The word execution flashes red behind Ryu’s eyes. Hayato, bleeding, so still, so very still. Hayato, still sleeping. Hayato, who might never wake up.

“I told them I wouldn’t help. That this wasn’t cool,” Kamiyama says. “So they beat me up too. And told me to get my priorities straight or next time it be me for real.”

“I see,” Ryu says, and something in his face must betray his anger because Kamiyama’s eyes widen and he takes a step back.

“Odagiri-sensei?” Kamiyama asks, and Ryu turns away, packing up his basket with trembling hands.

“It’s fine, Kamiyama,” Ryu says. “I’m going to take care of this.”

“What?” Kamiyama looks at him like he’s crazy.

“Shinazaki and I have a score to settle,” Ryu says, and he realizes, belatedly, that Kamiyama hadn’t said a name. “Under no circumstances are you to go near the docks.”

“But sensei,” Kamiyama starts, but then Ryu, basket packed and resolve settling on his shoulders heavy as a mantle, catches his eyes.

“I’m your teacher,” Ryu says. “I’ll take care of it.”

Ryu goes to the teacher’s office and drops his basket on his desk. Shiratori squeaks and backs away, her greeting halting at her lips at the sight of Ryu’s face.

Uchiyama gives a low whistle. “What crawled up your ass and died?” he asks, and Shiratori blushes and excuses herself as Uchiyama sits on the edge of Ryu’s desk. Cold fury is still coursing through him.

“Kamiyama,” Ryu says through gritted teeth. “He’s being… coerced.”

“No one has to coerce that kid to join a gang,” Uchiyama says. “He probably wants to join one.”

“He tried to back out,” Ryu says. “They beat him like that.”

“Pretty bad,” Uchiyama notes. “Saw him this morning and he wasn’t even preening about his war wounds. That’s how I knew it was serious.”

“They did a lot worse to Hayato.”

Uchiyama’s face switches from casual to fierce. “Your friend.”

“Yes,” Ryu says, like the word friend is enough to describe everything that Hayato was, is, to him.

“Damn,” Uchiyama says. “What’re you going to do?”

Ryu looks down at his trembling hands and takes a deep breath. “I’d rather not say,” Ryu says, and then he cuts eyes over to Uchiyama. “But I was willing to learn to let go of what he did to Hayato and refocus my energy elsewhere, for both Hayato’s sake and everyone else’s. But I won’t let him start all over with someone else.”

Uchiyama nods. “I respect that.” He cracks his knuckles. “Street laws.”

Ryu hasn’t been a delinquent for so long he’s almost forgotten the rules, but there are some things you never forget. ”A man always makes his own decisions,” Hayato used to say, and Ryu closes his eyes.

“You can never completely let go of your past,” Ryu says wryly, even though humor is the furthest thing from his mind.

“Would you want to?” Uchiyama asks, and Ryu shakes his head in the negative.

“Of course not,” Ryu says. “It made me who I am.” He pulls his coat on hastily. “And who I am won’t stand for the terrorizing of high school kids by a man who’s known for backing up his threats with attempted murder.”

Later, Ryu leaves a message on Take’s phone. “I know I said I wouldn’t go after Shinazaki,” Ryu says, and he laughs a little into his phone. “But maybe Yankumi had a little more influence than we thought. Shinazaki is threatening my ‘precious student’ and I won’t lose someone else to him. Someone else I couldn’t help.”


When Hayato drops to his knees, in front of Ryu’s father, and begs him to let Ryu graduate with the rest of them, head toward the floor and both palms flat in traditional posture… that’s when Ryu knows, for sure, what family is.

It isn’t the man across from him, it’s the men behind and beside him. It’s Hayato, and Tsucchi and Take and Hyuuga… His friends.

In school the next day, Ryu’s hands shake as they touch the wood of the desk, and he can’t believe he’s here. He can’t believe the cheers and banners and Formation H. He can’t believe he’s wanted, this much. By anyone.

And then Hayato leans over and catches Ryu’s sleeve, thumb brushing Ryu’s wrist, and Ryu is reminded there’s one person who wants him just the way he is.

They get milkshakes after school, and Hayato and Tsucchi argue over the phone numbers they didn’t get from the girls at the karaoke place, and Ryu and Take watch in silence as Hyuuga flits back and forth between them. None of them even make motions toward leaving until it’s way past dark, and the guy behind the counter starts casting them dirty looks that have Ryu and Take leading their friends, still playfully bickering, out the door. Tsucchi excuses himself, and Hyuuga lives in the opposite direction, and Take makes it until his own turn off before he goes on his own way, with a jaunty wave behind him as he heads home to a mother who’s unexpectedly proud.

Ryu’s turn off comes too, but he doesn’t take it, instead continuing to walk with Hayato. Hayato doesn’t say anything, just moves a little closer so their hands brush when they walk, and Ryu waits until the streets are clear before he pulls Hayato into a side alley, crushing him to the outside wall of a closed shop.

“Ryu, what…” Hayato says, but Ryu cuts him off, mouth already parted as he slams against Hayato’s full lips. Hayato quickly responds, tongue coming out to curl around Ryu’s, biting on Ryu’s lips and taking as much as Ryu is, hungry and fierce.

“You bowed to my father,” Ryu says. “You don’t bow to anyone, but you bowed to my father.”

“You belong with us,” Hayato says, starts to say, tries to say, but Ryu eats his words, and plunges forward again, trying to taste more, because Hayato is flavored like chocolate milkshakes and forbidden fruit and all the flavors that Ryu loves by themselves but all together are so intoxicating he’ll never be able to get enough. “Fuck,” Hayato finally gasps out, dragging his mouth along the skin of Ryu’s cheek, and catching his ear, tongue finding the shell of it and outlining it in a way that makes Ryu’s knees feel weak.

“I belong with you,” Ryu says, and Ryu’s hands find Hayato’s shoulders, and Hayato leans forward and finds Ryu’s pulse, following the vein of his jugular with tiny nips and nibbles sure to leave behind marks that Ryu will cherish in the morning even as he figures out how to cover them up.

“Yeah,” Hayato says. “And don’t you forget it.”

“I thought you wanted a girlfriend,” Ryu gasps, as Hayato’s hands slide up under his shirt, splaying across bare skin and making goosebumps rise along his spine. He gasps as Hayato pushes back against him, thigh slipping between Ryu’s as Ryu braces his arms against Hayato’s shoulders.

“I want…” Hayato says, and it’s enough. Ryu knows what Hayato wants, because Hayato is Ryu is Hayato, sometimes, and Ryu’s hands slip down to Hayato’s torso, and Ryu’s chin tilts up so Hayato can lean down and devour him, and Ryu thinks that no matter what happens tomorrow, or the next day, Ryu will always have had this.

Ryu will always remember this, Hayato’s thigh pressed against his erection and Hayato’s heart pressed against his own, both of them beating so fast in the still of the night.

It’s unbearably warm, and Ryu has never liked the cold, so that’s fine. Perfect. Better.


“No matter where your dad sends you,” Hayato says, “I’ll be waiting for you to come back.” Hayato’s mouth doesn’t pause as he speaks. He’s too busy leaving kisses and bites along every bit of skin Ryu’s clothing doesn’t cover. “So don’t you dare forget about me.”

“How could I forget about you?” Ryu asks, as his fingers skate along Hayato’s ribs, wringing gasps from Hayato, who pulls him closer, palms exploring the grooves in Ryu’s spine. “How could I ever, possibly, forget about you?”

“Good,” Hayato says, and Ryu licks his way into Hayato’s mouth to shut him up.

Part Five



December 2012

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