There's a tall boy sitting on the floor, leaning against the wall of his dark bedroom. Though his face is, as ever, unreadable, there is a strange glint in his black eyes, and a stiffness to his usual calm and collected stance.
If you were to become one with the boy, just for a moment, and try to make out an image through the thick haze inside his mind, you would get a glimpse of a blond boy, with wide light brown eyes and lean, delicate shoulders. A smile would gradually spread on the blond boy's face, and a bittersweet hopelessness would fill your heart, clutching at it sharply. And once again you would take an oath to give everything – everything – to him.
Mori and Honey had just graduated high school. It was the first day of their spring vacation, and Mori had spent most of it sitting by the same spot under his bedroom window, afflicted by a terrible numbness of both limbs and mind.
He was awakened from his deep slumber by the sound of his cellphone ringing, and he picked it up from the floor.
"Takashi!" Honey's voice rang cheerfully on the other side. His voice sounded indecently intimate, so close to his ear. Mori cleared his throat, then spoke.
"I decided to call, since we are not seeing each other today."
"I have cake night scheduled. But I'll see you tomorrow, right?"
A grunt. Even after months of knowing about it, the fact that nothing could stand between Honey and cake night still hurt a little. It did not wound his pride, but someplace more delicate, making him feel strangely vulnerable and lost.
"Hm... am I a freak to you, too, then?" There was an edge to Honey's voice, as if he was on the verge of disappointment.
"No... never." Mori wondered if he had been quick enough, or if he had managed to upset Honey. "It just surprised me, after all these years." And he had prided himself in being the person who knew Honey best in the world.
"Well, there's one thing you should know about me, Takashi, and that is that cake is not the only thing I like!"
The line went dead, and suddenly all Mori could hear was his own heart pounding in his chest, bothering him, suffocating him.
The following night Mori found himself over at the twins' with Honey. Kaoru and Hikaru both sat on the floor in front of a huge flat-screen TV, their knees overlapping; they were playing some video game. The blueish light coming from the screen was the only illumination in their room, and some eurodance song was blasting loudly out of the B&W 800 Series speakers. Sitting on a pouffe in a corner was Mori, his ever-watchful eyes never letting a certain target out of his sight: a short boy with a mop of blond hair that fell with lush grace around his lovely face. Looking at Honey, you would guess him to be no older than fourteen, when in fact he had just come of age. Mori knew that Honey liked to use his looks to his advantage and act childish, but he was in truth the most insightful person he knew, and it gave Mori a burning satisfaction to be one of the few people privy to that hidden side of his cousin, to be given the precious gift of being able to behold Honey's full beauty.
In Mori's opinion, Honey had had a few too many drinks, but sometimes he knew when to stop pestering his friend, and had decided to let him be. It wasn't as if the beer hanging loosely from his own grip was his first. He would carry Honey home, crawling, if he had to.
It made Mori smile inside, the way Honey was stomping on the floor and waving his arms about to the beat. His movements seemed erratic, but Mori could see the pattern and preciseness to them, a geometric quality born of his martial arts training. Honey mouthed the lyrics Come back and tell me I love you while drawing a heart in the air with his fingers; Mori felt the corner of his mouth lift slightly.
Once in a while Honey would approach Mori to tease him. To grab at his hair and move his head to the beat. To scream something in his ear and laugh infectiously. To graze his lips lightly against Mori's neck, to breathe on his face, to straddle his lap briefly. And every single time Mori came closer to losing control. He could feel something building up inside him, something that made him more aware of the coldness in the air, making the hairs on his arms and back of the neck stand on end. The last time their cheeks had touched, Honey had brushed his sweat on Mori, leaving a mark like a scorch.
Honey was coming closer again, and Mori reacted like a cornered animal; his shoulders stiffened, his eyes widened. He could only stare at the exuberant little creature who stood in front of him, biting at his rosy lip and looking at him with drunken eyes.
Honey threw his arms around his neck, and Mori lost all power to think. Honey's breath tickled his ear, but he couldn't understand what he'd said. Dizziness overtook him when Honey's knee forced itself between his to close the distance between them, his thin chest nestled against Mori's.
Mori's fingers accidentally found skin, his thumb feeling the length of Honey's hipbone, and his sight blackened for a second. By the time Honey drew himself away, instinct had taken over, and Mori grabbed Honey's wrist harshly, pulling the small boy back towards himself as if he were a sack of flour.
Their faces were so close that their noses were touching. Honey's eyes were twice their normal size, and his breath became shallow. Mori felt incredibly confused; he had no idea what he was supposed to do, but he knew he had crossed a line. This longing... it was wrong, he knew. He needed to get away.
Honey's hand reached up tentatively to squeeze Mori's shoulder, a question mark hanging between them. Mori felt so panicked that his knees shook for a couple of seconds.
"I'll see you later, please don't follow me," he said, disentangling himself from Honey and leaving the room in a rush.
After a while it became clear to Honey that Mori had actually left, and wasn't coming back. The alcohol was clouding his thoughts; try as he might, he couldn't make sense of what had just happened. It wasn't like Mori to simply leave without explanation, and the strangeness of it was making him uneasy. As he fumbled for his phone, his fingers working against him - uncoordinated and clumsy for the first time in his life – Honey became uncomfortably aware of the twins' huge eyes and surprised expressions focusing on him. Mori's phone was turned off.
Both Hikaru and Kaoru each tried calling Mori in turn, and when that yielded no results, ordered their servants to make a thorough search in and outside the mansion. It was established that there was no sign of Mori, and the twins started speaking in turn frantically.
"This sure is messed up, Honey-senpai."
"What happened, did you have a fight?"
"Was Mori-senpai trying to make you punish him again?"
"Don't worry, we'll drive you home."
"We are sure he'll show up, Honey-senpai." This time they spoke together, the pity in their faces evident.
Honey allowed them to take him home, his shaky hands reaching for Usa first thing when he got to his bedroom.
It was three in the morning, and Honey had hit the redial button on his phone for the hundredth time that night. It seemed clear that Mori had no intention of picking up, and that something was very wrong. Rejection was not a feeling Honey was used to, and it was infuriating. Had Mori decided to abandon him without saying a word? To forsake a friendship that had lasted their entire lifetimes? Honey could not get his brain around that thought. It was ridiculous, completely ridiculous.
It was too late to go to Mori's house and kick his idiotic butt, so Honey was forced to gnaw at Usa's ear all night long, waiting for the sun to rise.
Light finally crept into the criminally pink bedroom that normally fit Honey's personality like glove on a hand, but that now contrasted bizarrely with the boy sprawled on his bed sporting sore, puffy eyes and a pale face.
Honey reached for his phone and dialed the number to Mori's house. After a few rings, the wrong voice answered.
"...Mitsukuni? A bit early for you, isn't it? Is my son with you?"
"Hm... no, he isn't." Honey could feel a tantrum coming up."If that...pig shows up," he burst out, "tell him I hate his guts!"
"What was that, Mitsukuni? ...Mitsukuni?"
"I... I'm sorry, uncle."
Honey hung up.
What followed was the most horrible day of Honey's life. Until then, misery had never claimed him like this. It was as if his reality had just been challenged, all his certainties turned to dust in a second. All ties and connections became slowly undone in his brain, and he was left in the middle of a black hole, without direction, because his emptiness simply could not be measured. Only one word reverberated inside the void: Why? He just couldn't understand. He didn't even want to try, afraid of what it might mean. Where was Takashi?
Throughout his entire life, Honey's strength had never been cast in doubt. He'd felt as if there was nothing that could make him yield from his spot in this world, like he'd always known everything would turn out all right. But now that there was nobody towering behind him, and no strong back to climb onto, he was starting to feel as frail as he looked. With a sharp stab through his heart came the sudden realization that he simply couldn't saunter through life alone. He needed Takashi.
Not one single person who crossed Honey's path that day managed to escape unscathed. All of his friends' attempts to make him feel better only made him burn with uncontrollable rage. Tamaki had begged Honey to let him carry him on his back and had ended up covered in commoner spicy noodles. Kyouya got told to shove his entire private police he knew where, and the twins had run away as fast as they had approached, mortally afraid of the beastlike look Honey had given them. Honey knew his friends must be plotting some crazy plan to help him behind his back, but he didn't care, as long as they left him alone.
The only exception had been Haruhi. She had looked straight into Honey's eyes and told him that she knew, with complete certainty, that Mori loved him. Right at that moment, Honey didn't believe her, but still, he felt grateful.
Perhaps the strangest symptom he experienced that day was that he could not look at a cake without feeling his insides boil. Honey wanted to stab viciously at anything sweet that crossed his path, and Chika got pinned to his chair with shurikens for saying he was proud of his brother.
Nighttime came, and Honey found himself lying on his bed again, Usa held tightly in his grip. He had taken a really long bubble bath, and his hair smelled strongly of patchouli. The scent was relaxing, and the rich cotton of his pajamas gently caressed his moist skin. His tired eyes started to blink slower, and eventually stayed closed.
Honey woke up to the sound of distant thunder. He rubbed at his sleepy eyes and sat up on his bed; it was still dark. His window suddenly lit up with lightning, and Honey became completely alert. He was sure he had seen a familiar tall human outline standing in front of the brightly lit glass only a second before.
With an elegant, sweeping movement, Honey slid out of his bed and opened the window. He quickly surveyed the patch of woods in front of him, but there was nothing. Still, he knew what he'd seen, and now, in the open air, the very well-known, intoxicating white lotus fragrance that invaded his senses confirmed his suspicions.
Honey took the plunge from the second floor, landing gracefully on the soft grass, together with the first drops of rain. Letting his intuition guide him, Honey ran through the trees, his path a zig-zag, his feet playing an elaborate game of hide-and-seek.
The rain was now falling in earnest, thick and cold. Honey knew this was a game he couldn't win, not against him, so he stopped in the middle of a small clearing, and screamed.
It was an order.
A few seconds passed, and Mori came out from behind a tree, his eyes meeting Honey's.
A rush of different emotions ran through Honey; anger, confusion, hurt. Mori's gaze was so deep that it resonated through his entire body, making him hot and flushed.
"What is the meaning of this, Takashi?" Honey asked darkly. "How long have you been here?"
Mori, his drenched clothes stuck to his skin, remained as still as a statue, and just as mute. Honey felt disconcerted by Mori's penetrating look, angered by his stubborn silence.
"Not good, Takashi," he said, pushing a strand of wet hair back from his cheek. "I'm expecting you to say something, - do so!"
"Mitsukuni..." Mori took a step forward. "It's raining. You'll get sick."
Honey couldn't believe his ears.
"I've had enough nonsense from you!" Honey pointed his finger at Mori with brash impetus. "Aren't you my friend? Didn't you swear an oath to me? Then obey me! Tell me why!" Mori's lack of reaction was driving him crazy. "Are you going to leave me again?" he asked, a sudden panic joining the other emotions ricocheting inside his chest. "I won't let you... I won't!"
Honey ran forward and grabbed the front of Mori's shirt with unnecessary strength, forcing him to bend down to eye level.
"Aren't you my friend?" Honey asked, looking into Mori's eyes. "Aren't you?"
Mori lowered his eyes, and Honey thought he saw his friend's adam's apple move. Their eyes met again.
"Give me your hand," Honey said, and Mori obeyed, but he also straightened his back, forcing Honey to look up into his face.
"Mitsukuni..." His long fingers wrapped around Honey's small hand. "I hope you know that I would never hate you. But I can't tell you anything else. You'll have to trust me in this."
"But if you don't hate me, then we are still friends, right?"
Honey felt Mori's hand twitch around his.
"It is not that simple."
A horrible anxiety spread through Honey, something like actual fear. He did the only thing he could, everything he could to protect his world.
"How could it not be?" Honey used Mori's knee as a step and climbed him, clutching at his neck with all his strength, grabbing at his hair and making him look up at him, Mori's chin sitting on his chest. "If we are friends, then everything will be all right between us. We'll forgive each other." He could feel Mori's big hands slowly envelop his waist, dragging wet cloth across his skin, and goosebumps shot up his back. "If we are friends, then take me inside. Protect me from the rain."
Why did Mori's eyes look so tortured?
"Mitsukuni..." Honey felt Mori's hands at his hips, trying to push him away.
"No!" Honey maneuvered himself until he was hanging against Mori's back, arms around his neck and legs flanking his torso. "Take me home. You aren't leaving me tonight, Takashi. Take me inside. Only you can keep me safe."
Honey felt Mori hook his arms under his knees, and held onto him tighter.
It felt as if he was floating, completely weightless - such was the immensity of Honey's relief. Mori carried him all the way up to his bedroom, and when they reached the door, Honey said that he thought he was going to be sick. Mori was so desperate to get him to the bathroom that he smashed right through a sliding room divider and broke a porcelain vase, which made Honey happy, because Mori only became that clumsy when he was really worried for him.
Honey knelt in front of the toilet for a while, occasionally getting a glimpse of Mori's shadow on the wall, crossing the room back and forth. He was feeling a bit queasy, but it didn't seem like he was going to throw up.
"I'll be okay," he said, smiling up sweetly at Mori.
A cold breeze suddenly swept the floor around Honey's legs and he felt a shiver that made his entire body shudder. Not a full second later Mori was kneeling behind him, his strong hands lifting up his shirt, his fingertips pressing and squeezing over the entire length of his sides and arms. Mori dropped the shirt to the floor, where it fell with a wet noise, but it wasn't enough to cover up the soft sigh that escaped Honey's lips.
Honey straightened his back, sitting up stiffly, completely mortified. He stopped thinking for a moment, micro-fireworks going off at different spots in his body, and looked over his shoulder in confusion, to find Mori's mouth an inch away from his own. They both stopped still, and Honey could hear his own heart beating, his eyes fixated on Mori's parted dark-red lips.
To Honey, it felt like the vision in front of his eyes was frozen, as if time had stopped, but in reality his mouth was slowly inching closer, one infinitesimal stretch of distance at a time – imperceptible even to himself.
Mori got to his feet abruptly, walking away too fast for Honey to react, leaving him on the floor with his mouth hanging open. Honey felt very naked all of a sudden, disorientation flooding his mind. What had just happened? He felt breathless trying to think about it, so he stopped.
Mori came back holding Honey's pink chenilla robe.
"Put this on," he said, offering it.
Honey took the robe and the hand Mori extended, accepting the help to stand up.
"You should change as well, Takashi." Honey kept his hold on Mori's hand. "You're drenched."
"I'll use a guest bathroom." Mori looked briefly into Honey's eyes, then at the floor, his hand sliding away, his body turning around. Honey had a special wardrobe full of Mori's things in his bedroom, and there was no need for Mori to go somewhere else to change – yet he walked out.
A numbness filled Honey's brain and his fingers worked automatically, removing the rest of his clothes and putting on the robe. It was clear that Mori was not himself, and Honey really wanted to hope that everything would end up well. He could feel the foundations of his world shake a little, but he held on wildly to the hope that a vision as horrible as Mori slipping away from his arms couldn't, wouldn't ever be true.
Honey sat on the edge of his bed and waited, holding Usa by her little paw. Ten or more minutes passed by, and still Honey waited, not moving a centimeter from where he was.
"It'll be all right, Usa." He smiled reassuringly at his bunny doll.
At last, Mori's tall silhouette appeared in the doorway. He was wearing his black silk chirimen kimono with a little egret embroidered at the back; it was tied loosely, and his right collarbone was visible.
Mori walked in silently, but regardless, his presence was overpowering, bleeding into every corner of Honey's bedroom. He sat on an armchair across from Honey, slouching a little, his back leaning a bit to the left, and still his demeanor couldn't be described as anything less than noble.
They stared at each other for a long, long time, until Honey got up and walked over to Mori, pushing his legs farther apart and turning around to sit on the floor between his knees.
"So... where did you go yesterday?" Honey leaned his forehead against Mori's right knee.
"I don't know. I wandered for a while."
"But you did eventually go somewhere."
"Aah. To Hisamatsu's dojo."
"Oh, you wanted to exercise, then." Honey turned to look up at Mori, his fingers lightly brushing his knee – an inconsequential caress.
"Hm... aah." A conspicuous shade of red spread over Mori's cheeks, and Honey had to turn back around to hide his own burning face.
"And then what? Did you stay there all day?"
"I went home."
"I tried to call you so many times. But it's okay, if you wanted to be alone."
It took a while for Mori to say something.
"I... I know it was sudden."
It was an apology.
"And then you came to check on me?"
Honey already knew the answer to that question, so he didn't wait for one. Instead, he got up, grabbed his Usa tight, spun about, and announced to Mori that he was going to bed.
"Do you want your pajamas?" Mori said, sitting up straight, while Honey tucked in his bunny.
"No, don't bother, it's easier if I sleep naked, right?" Honey laughed, untying his robe and letting it slip down his back to the floor. He heard a bumpy noise, and turned around to see Mori pull a small wooden table back on its feet, the flower vase that had been on top of it rolling back and forth on the floor.
"Takashi, are you okay?"
"Aah," Mori said tensely, his eyes fixed on the ceiling. "Just get in the bed, please."
Mori's reaction made Honey flush with pleasure. He crawled to the middle of his huge bed and got under the covers, pulling Usa into his arms.
"You're sleeping too, right?" The bed was more than big enough for the both of them, and they usually shared it, but Honey didn't know what to expect this time.
"All right," Honey said, his eyes getting heavy. "When you come to bed, don't worry about hurting Usa. I'll lie between you."
Mori's warm half-smile was the last thing Honey saw before he dozed off.