The thing about making bets with Yuushi, realizes Gakuto somewhere in the middle of lunch, is that the outcomes of all the bets they could possibly make are rigged. Every single damn one.

This isn't because Yuushi is omniscient or anything of the sort, because he doesn'talways know what's going to happen next (like the time Atobe tripped over a sleeping Jirou and dropped his racket, and instead of exploding at Jirou for sleeping in the middle of the clubroom floor or ordering Kabaji to defenestrate him he actually dropped to his knees instead and shouted imperiously – with a hint of panic, really - for ice to put on the bruise already blooming over Jirou's knee, while Jirou sat up and wrinkled his nose bemusedly at the chaos; Yuushi had been as equally as flabbergasted as everyone else) and he certainly doesn't know everything, much as he likes to pretend he does.

But thus far every bet they've made has ended in humiliating defeat for Gakuto, something his pride finds it hard to swallow, time after time. The worst was the one where he bet he could finish his Math homework without losing his temper and throwing something out of frustration: he'd smashed one of the only five remaining cups they had, vindictively making sure it was Yuushi's favourite one, just so he could bear Yuushi's gloating since he had lost the bet anyway.

Only Yuushi didn't gloat like Gakuto thought he would, but instead applied antiseptic on the cut on Gakuto's palm with gentle hands and patiently explained the solution step by step, soothing his frazzled nerves with tender kindness.

Perhaps he simply knows Gakuto too well. It's a rather frightening thought, that someone else has who you are completely decoded, so that to them you are easily predictable, easily read; a known specimen under the microscope.

But the idea that Yuushi might lose interest in him is more frightening still. Which might explain his rashness in challenging Yuushi to see who can last longer without seeking out the company of the other; he needs to prove to himself that he can survive without Yuushi, that they are not a single entity like Shishido-and-Ootori are, but they are two people, separate and distinct and existing independently of each other. Free of the need to breathe the same air, of the mess of having a relationship.

Maybe he wants to see, too, how much he means to Yuushi, if he's merely an available body, something of a novelty. But Yuushi doesn't betray any sense of loss or regret (or anything at all, for that matter), simply pushes up his glasses and murmurs, We'll see, Gakuto, low and quiet. The sound of his voice is a hollow reverberation in Gakuto's ribcage, the tonelessness a wrench at his heart.

Gakuto, for once, chooses flight and not fight; he shoves his hands into his pockets and walks away.

It's been nearly a week, so far. Gakuto is proud of himself for having made it this far, for not having given in. For not losing.

It doesn't matter that there is an empty space in the bed beside him now, cold and accusingly white where before there was the sprawl of human warmth and the spread of dark hair over a pillow; some nights he wakes up and wonders hazily why am I alone before catching himself. He has odd dreams about waiting alone at bus-stops, walking through uniformly grey buildings by himself, watching leaves fall and build up in piles, scattered by the breeze. Mundane things that people can only ever bear when they have company.

He walks slowly along the corridor, listens to his footsteps echoing behind him. Up ahead a girl looks around surreptitiously and slips a letter into someone's locker; altruism isn't an innate part of Gakuto, but he hopes it turns out well, for her.

At least somebody will be happy, he thinks morosely.

Tennis practice is the worst, because nobody knows that he and Yuushi aren't talking but everyone realizes there's something wrong because he's said less than ten words today and they weren't an insult, a complaint or anything vulgar.

Even Shishido is starting to look a little concerned, now.

He can't even play properly: the knowledge that Yuushi is close enough to touch is a leaden weight in his chest and his fingers ache with the effort of not reaching out. A ball sails over his head but he doesn't seem to be able to muster up the effort to reach for it, instead he is concentrating on getting rid of the ache that seems to have finally taken over the entirety of his chest, dull and relentless and choking.

If he could he would've laughed at Atobe's expression of apoplectic displeasure as he drops his racket and runs off the court into the toilet, leaning his head against the cool marble of the cubicle wall; but he feels a bit too much like throwing up to open his mouth even a fraction.

If this is what withdrawal feels like, he thinks wearily, I'll never take drugs.

On the thirteenth day of their bet he has a sudden epiphany. The reason why life sucks quite as much as it does now is not because Yuushi is not in it; merely because he is used to a reassuring presence beside him, constant companionship.

This explains the fact that he has a sleeping Jirou slumped on his shoulder, curls wispily ticklish against the bare skin of his arm. Somehow this wasn't what he was envisioning, because while Jirou is a nice boy he lacks the alertness of most.

Plus Atobe is hovering slightly threateningly in the general vicinity, shooting pointed looks at Gakuto; more threatening still is Kabaji looming behind, an inselberg in the desert, towering a few heads over the crowds. Gakuto is almost too glad to relinquish Jirou to them, and not only because Jirou shows signs of being about to start drooling.

He isn't going to own that he actually misses Yuushi, misses the velvet croon of his voice threaded through with sardonic amusement and the deftness of his fingers as he ties Gakuto's tie for him in the morning, his ridiculously girly notes, penmanship riddled with unnecessary flourishes; the indolent languor with which he lounges in the armchair in the evening, eyes filled with flickering shadows in the dim evening light.

His pencil lead snaps. To his horror he has written Yuushi's name where his own ought to be; he stares morosely down at his Economics worksheet and contemplates accidentally-on-purpose landing on his head a few times after performing the Moon Salute.

Two weeks and one day: Gakuto is kissing somebody whose name he forgot three minutes after he asked it. There is something digging into his hip, it is painful and irksome but at least it means that there is some immediacy to this and he feels a little less disconnected to his body. Tomorrow a bruise will form, surely.

His teeth scrape the other person's bottom lip. It feels vaguely ridiculous to him, this; that he is exchanging saliva with someone else because the loneliness is eating him up from the inside, turning him into a Gakuto-shell, empty and incomplete. Yuushi is nothing like this, he is burnt wine and liquorice and rosewater scent, subtle and unfathomably addictive.

There is nothing for it, then. He shoves the other boy away (stale cigarette smoke and cheap chocolate) and runs to the Chemistry labs.

The light coming in through the lab windows is harsh; it bleaches the blank bench-tops to a skeletal white and Yuushi's face is too angular, cheeks hollow and filled with shadow, the lower rim of his eyes smudged with purplish-black.

Gakuto realizes with a pang that perhaps he isn't the only one who's been suffering: Yuushi never remembers to eat if there isn't anyone to tear him from his stupid theorems, and he would forget to sleep if the need for rest wasn't programmed by default into his body.

Yuushi looks up and catches sight of Gakuto, flushed and untidy in the doorway. Something flashes in his eyes briefly before his expression settles into its usual composed alertness; something that might have been hope, might have been relief. His mouth twists up ironically, wryly, and Gakuto braces himself for the smug I told you so that he probably completely deserves –

- but instead there is suddenly an arm around his shoulders and another around his waist and his face is pressed into Yuushi's shoulder; he breathes in the familiar cologne desperately, like he's dying, and thinks, maybe losing isn't so bad after all.