drought (noun)

2. (figurative) a prolonged absence of something specified : a prolonged dearth or shortage.

He says, "It's going to be hot this summer," stretched out on the tar roof, slacks, not jeans, shirt with a collar, crooked and unbuttoned with the hem riding up his stomach. Elbows and knees bent, palms laced behind his head, hair sticking up at the ends, and Akihiko looks at him and thinks for the first time in eight years I wish he could be alive to see this.

Amada looks the same, just taller, really, same boyish face, roundish, long eyelashes and small nose. He's old enough to hate it now, or at least be justified in hating it. People still sometimes think, he reports with grave wryness, that he's just entering 10th grade. But he's almost nineteen, splayed out on on the hot tar roof surrounded by laundry, limbs crocked, hair curling up on the ends as always, talking about the weather.

Akihiko nods and hangs another sheet up to dry and hopes Amada will take the hint. It will be hot this summer, because it's hot this spring, this May, Golden Week in Iwatodai eight years after the Golden Week Akihiko spent with broken ribs, napping in the lounge of the building they're on the roof of. Mitsuru hadn't been able to bear converting it back into a regular dorm, in the end. And it was convenient, when they parted ways, moved out of Iwatodai, to have somewhere cheap—free—to stay on visits. Looking at the past is okay sometimes.

"You could give me a hand with this, you know." Akihiko picks up a damp towel from the basket and throws it at Amada's face. His toes curl in in annoyance as he sits up. An red shirt with a collar, slacks, not jeans, messy brown hair—Takeba has accused Amada of copying Akihiko's sense of fashion (No, I don't, I don't own a single sweatervest, he had retorted with unusual humor), but Akihiko thinks he looks more like—almost—well. Something in the eyes. He'd never outgrown that cynical cast, that wary expectation, and it pains Akihiko, a little, that that's the part that's familiar.

Amada sits up, though, pulling the towel off his head, balling it in his lap, staring up at Akihiko. "Yeah, you're right."

"That's not a 'yes, I will.'"

The kid's mouth twitches up, his eyes don't match it, but they never do. He climbs to his feet and obediently hangs the towel to dry. Akihiko pins up the last sheet. Barefoot, Amada is shorter. In shoes, they're the same height. "Hot, huh?"

"Yeah," like the minutes between the weather forecast and now never happened. "And lower humidity than usual. That'll be nice, at least, but there's saying there's a change of drought, for the farmers."

The weather is a safe topic. When thinking, when restless, Akihiko's fingers move to his wrists, to pull on gloves he no longer wears with regularity, and he catches Amada staring at the gesture when he makes it. "Drought, huh."

"That's how you write my name." It's so casual that Akihiko wonders how much of this conversation was a setup to this point. "'Ken.' You write it with the character for 'drought.' I asked Mom about it once, and she said she meant it like warmth, but really, who names their kid drought?"

Shining boy—that's how Akihiko's name is written, and it isn't as though he hasn't endured jokes about it, shining star of Gekkoukan, back in the day. True next son, that's how his name had been written, and they used to pretend they were brothers, twins, that the kanji was the proof.

"Geez, Sanada-san, get with it," Amada says. "You're really out of it today. Akihiko-san." It's an awkward addition, both to say and to hear. They aren't on first name basis. They should be, but old habits die hard.

"And you aren't?" Ken, he thinks.

"Sure, okay." He hangs another towel. Flowered and pink. It is hot, and the roof makes it hotter, but there's a sluggish breeze. Amada's hair is lighter, shorter definitely, but—they both reach for the laundry basket at the same time, almost hit one another trying, and:

"You look like him." Akihiko doesn't mean to say it. Because you look angled, because you look wary, because you never smile like you mean it, even when you do. Dammit. It's been eight goddamn years.

Amada's eyes go small. "No. His face was longer, and he was taller."

"Yeah, well." He feels embarrassed, very, and fidgets, rings his fingers around his left wrist. Amada hangs the last of the laundry, dressed like a prep, hair mussed and in his eyes and eyes darting over to him. "Guess you're right."

Amada tries to smooth out his hair. "It's really nostalgic, being here again."

"I'll say." He smiles back.