I'd like to thank everybody who took the time to read this story
and provide feedback (whether much-loved reviews or simply adding the
story to your favorite/alert lists). This is the last chapter, and I
don't plan on a sequel; I feel everything's pretty much cleared
I've put in references to Tsuda Mikiyo's manga The Day of Revolution. I recommend it, as well as Family Complex to Princess fans who had not yet read them. If something seems totally out of whack to you, it's probably canon :-).
xPart Six: Those Who Wait
"I missed something," Toohru said with the kind of moral certainty that came with life in Fujimori.
Mikoto was trying to escape a gaggle of first-years who surrounded him and demanded his attention like chicks around mother hen. The boy himself was spouting off on a non-related matter… in fact, on a variety of non-related matters, hardly ever stringing a coherent sentence together. Amidst all the babble from the smaller admirers, he seemed to be striving to move in some direction… though it wasn't exactly clear which direction.
"Megumi-san is coming to pick up Mikoto," Yuujirou explained. "I already phoned Akira; anybody would hate to miss this."
"She would travel all this way…?" Toohru asked, briefly amazed by the lengths people in love (because there was no other explanation) would go to, before he remembered that he had gone to similar lengths before he had realised he was in love.
"She has gotten her driving licence, apparently," Yuujirou elucidated. "What a luxury, to be going out with an older woman!"
Toohru kept on smiling, though on the inside he didn't feel nearly as cheerful. Like, he supposed, anyone infatuated, he wanted Yuujirou to be happy, and if that meant that Yuujirou would find an older woman, he would be there waving banners… if not exactly happy about it.
An outdated and somewhat scratched-up Toyota turned off from the main road and awkwardly, on the third attempt, managed to park in a free spot. The door burst open and a pony-tailed young… woman, Toohru guessed, jumped out of the driver's seat. She was wearing baggy pants and a boy's shirt, but there was the hint of a definition of a female figure underneath the non-flattering clothes.
"Megumi-san!" Mikoto yelled at the top of his voice and charged forth, freeing himself from the grabby hands of his devoted underclassmen.
"His mind's got one track," Yuujirou remarked, "and it's not the one you'd expect."
Toohru would have been kind of bitter about it, probably, but Mikoto had taken his girlfriend by the hand and was leading her over to them… most likely to finally properly introduce her. Toohru had been somewhat surprised when Mikoto hadn't simply cut ties with the other two former Princesses; he instead involved himself with the Student Council and as Akira's left hand (the right one was still Mitaka) had became virtually omnipresent within the school. With the amount of fans that remained faithful to him – according to the few graduates they had asked that was a first in the history of the Princess tradition – he was also generally successful in his endeavours… And somehow he had swayed the new first-years, too, as evidenced by his following that had congregated around the entrance to the dormitory and was watching from afar.
"Megumi-san," Mikoto said, still using the honorific (Toohru had in the beginning thought it to be kind of pathetic, but he could see that the dynamic between Mikoto and Megumi was different from what the usual high-school relationship would be), "you remember Toohru and Yuujirou, right?"
Megumi nodded, surveying both of them with suspicious eyes. Whatever she might have seen didn't put her at ease in the least.
"Hello, Megumi-san," Yuujirou said with a blithe Princess smile.
"It's Yoshimura-san to you, Shihoudani-kun," the woman replied coolly.
Toohru practically saw Mikoto sweat-drop, and tried to intervene. "Is there a problem?" he asked quietly.
The woman looked at him and paused. She leant closer, scrutinising his face, then smiled as if nothing had happened and nervously scratched at the front of her pants. "N-nothing, Kuono-kun. I'm sorry for being short with you, Shihoudani-kun, but-"
"Megumi-san's mum is cross with her," Mikoto said. He sounded weary, and there were lines on his forehead like Toohru had never seen before, not even when Mikoto had been screaming his head off about not wanting to wear girl's dresses.
"Mikoto!" Megumi protested, but the boy in question put a hand on her shoulder to placate her. The gesture seemed to surprise her, and Toohru guessed it was the first time this had happened. Somehow, Mikoto had grown up a lot during the past few months, and his girlfriend hadn't yet had a chance to see it.
"Toohru and Yuujirou can solve any problem, really," Mikoto said imploringly. "Honestly – if they can't give you good advice, no one can. They're goofy and sometimes ridiculous, but…"
Toohru realised he had been gaping and shut his mouth. Yuujirou was still in an apparent daze, though he did have the class to make even that look… not completely dumb. At least so Toohru thought.
"Talk to them," Mikoto said all of sudden, and disappeared.
Megumi, Yuujirou and Toohru remained standing in a tense silence, until they became aware of the incessant blabber of Mikoto's goslings.
"Ice cream?" Toohru asked. In his experience, ice cream helped solve pretty much everything. Targeted by an un-cute glare, he shrugged and added: "I'm paying…"
Megumi contemplated the suggestion and probably figured that she could at least get a treat out of it, if Mikoto had really left her alone. She shrugged and let Yuujirou (who went along with Toohru most likely just in case they could get some dirt on Mikoto) steer her in the direction of the park.
"I'm interested," Yuujirou speculated once the trees had hidden the dormitory from sight, "what worries Mikoto so much that he would risk leaving his lady friend alone with us."
Toohru glanced at him askance, but the boy was staring ahead.
"I can take care of myself," Megumi growled. Since she was Mikoto's big sister's friend, no one doubted her.
Toohru lifted his hands in the universal gesture of peace, to prevent any potential violence. "Yuujirou didn't mean anything untoward, Yoshimura-san. It's just that Mikoto rarely decides to trust us this much."
"Because you keep teasing him!" Megumi shot back, angry on behalf of someone who certainly didn't need it. Toohru was convinced that the next person within Fujimori High to be called "-sama" was Mikoto.
"He just makes it so easy…"Yuujirou said.
Toohru sighed. There was the brutal honesty Yuujirou used to spread mild aggravation around himself – a surefire way of making Megumi even more unwilling to talk to them.
"I won't hesitate to sock you one if you'll continue," Megumi warned. "And I punch like a boy."
Toohru swiftly shouldered into the narrow space between them to separate the warring sides. "Nonetheless, Yoshimura-san, we are Mikoto's friends, and when he has problems, he knows he can count on us." As proof, there was Megumi's impromptu trip with them.
The young woman accepted that and Toohru congratulated himself on his smooth-talking skills. He shot an accusing look at Yuujirou, got back one that could possibly be interpreted as vaguely apologetic, and folded.
"My mother disapproves of Mikoto," Megumi said, and suddenly there was a torrent of words: "Four of my friends from the time when I was a boy keep following me and asking me to marry them – well, it's actually only Touba and Tachimachi now – and they'd charmed my mother years ago, so she insists I choose between them and she doesn't believe that Mikoto and I will last 'cause he's three years younger than I am and we started going out when he was thirteen."
Toohru's brain screeched to a halt. He stared at the beautiful (thought admittedly androgynous) young woman next to him and the words 'the time when I was a boy' repeated over and over in his inner gramophone.
"R-riiight…" he breathed eventually and risked a glance sideways.
Yuujirou was biting his lower lip, seemingly in deep thought, but Toohru knew he was on the verge of bursting into a cackling fit. This was better blackmail than they could have dreamed of.
"Right," Toohru reiterated. The corners of his mouth twitched, but he resolutely fought them down. "Yoshimura-san, you love Mikoto, don't you?"
Yuujirou's shoulders shook. Certainly, the question did sound absurd coming from Toohru's mouth, but it worked.
"There's no doubt that Mikoto loves you," Yuujirou pointed out in an oddly high-pitched voice, garnering looks from others waiting in the line in front of the ice cream stall.
"I think Mikoto might surprise your mum," Toohru offered. "He grew up an awful lot, got all responsible working for the Student Council-"
"People are looking up to him," Yuujirou added.
As a matter of fact, even the two official Princesses (who were growing nicely, professionally as well as personally, though neither of them warmed up to either Toohru or Yuujirou) seemed to have struck up two individual and highly competitive friendships with Mikoto.
"Chocolate okay with you?" Toohru asked.
Megumi, slightly disconcerted by the barrage of compliments for her beau, merely nodded again.
Toohru bought double for each of them, having learnt from Akira's example.
He got briefly sidetracked watching his friend lick it, but soon enough recalled that he was supposed to be tackling someone else's love-life right now.
"Maybe you should let Mikoto do it," he suggested. "He can handle himself. He might not be a very good actor, but he's a good guy, so your mum should come to like him really quickly."
Megumi wasn't convinced. "He's just so young-"
"You can't keep protecting him forever," Yuujirou pointed out with spot-on insight.
Toohru caught on immediately: "He wants to protect you, too. In this case, you should let him."
Megumi mumbled something ambiguous and got lost in her thoughts. The boys let her walk back to the car park in silence. They spotted Mikoto, who had meanwhile loaded his luggage into Megumi's car, and it was obvious from a fair distance that the boy was livid (apparently Yuujirou and Toohru weren't supposed to take the young lady elsewhere), and the unanimous decision was that Megumi would be the only one to approach him in that state.
She was still pensive as she bade them farewell, but her spirits seemed to have been lifted, and she must have warmed up to them a little, because she mustered a small smile for their sakes.
"We're really great at solving people's problems, aren't we?" Yuujirou asked as they watched Megumi's car sluggishly turn and speed away.
Toohru absently mumbled something that could have been construed as agreement, selfishly feeling a little sad, because they were great at solving everyone's problems except their own.
"Pity Akira missed this!" Yuujirou snickered. "Just think, they're actually a pair of bishounens looking like a pair of bishoujos!"
Summer break, incidentally, meant that Toohru had weeks to work and save up money for the next term. He got a bartending job that kept him busy long into the night, but it was incomparably less demanding than the work he had done during spring break. For example, he had the energy to go to town once in a while and enjoy the weather.
Damn late working hours, though; he had been unable to drag himself out of his bed earlier, so he was left to try and navigate the centre by himself and meet Yuujirou in a designated fast-food.
"Going out, Toohru-chan… eh…kun?" Kazuki asked. He used to be Toohru's fan and still had a little trouble with the honorifics, but otherwise he was harmless, so Toohru didn't bother to bring it up.
"Yes," he said, pausing to check out. "Was there something you needed from me?"
Kazuki shook his head. "Just, if you see Shihoudani-kun, tell him he had a phone-call, would you?"
"Who was it?" Toohru asked with trepidation and crossed his fingers. Not Sayaka…
"His mum, I think…" Kazuki shrugged and let Toohru go. It was a good thing, too, because Toohru just managed to catch the bus, and that was because he had run all the way. He relaxed in the seat in the very back and hoped that he would find the place where they were supposed to meet.
Toohru double-checked the name of the fast-food, but it was correct. Yuujirou was late, and thus he had unknowingly left Toohru to the 'mercy' of a group of girls that spread around him after he had, foolishly, said that he didn't mind sharing his table.
When the doorbell sounded, Toohru reflexively looked up for the umpteenth time and, finally, there was Yuujirou talking to the waitress. Toohru waved – unnecessarily, of course, since his hair colour was a bit like a signal light.
"You're popular," Yuujirou grumbled, standing by Toohru's shoulder and surveying his company.
"Wasn't enough free space, so I agreed to share," Toohru explained indifferently.
"I'm sure." Yuujirou got kind of narrow-eyed and rigid, as if he was really hacked off. "Can we-"
"Oh my god!" one of the females squeaked.
Toohru and Yuujirou, both worried about what they might see, turned. The girl was staring at Yuujirou like she had just seen god.
"You're Ed!" she exclaimed.
"Yeah, he totally is!" her neighbour agreed and leaned forward to display her cleavage.
Their friend was tossing her hair, trying to attract attention.
"No," Yuujirou snapped, "I damn well am not-"
"You look totally like Edward Elric!" the girls insisted.
Yuujirou's patience was rapidly running out. His hands were clenched into fists, and it already looked like he was going to start a fight – with girls – so Toohru took hold of his arm and pulled him down onto the bench.
They were once again in that uncomfortably comfortable proximity, and past the extent of physical contact Toohru was just able to notice that with his hair in an economical braid and dressed in monochromatic black, Yuujirou actually did look like he had stepped out of a manga.
"You'd just need the watch," the first girl obstinately insisted. "They sell them in the shop by the station – I can show you where, if you'd like-"
"I don't have a clue what you're prattling on about," Yuujirou shot her down coldly, "and I don't want one."
Toohru had spent enough time in the giggly company to know that such a statement wouldn't discourage them in the least. Yuujirou must have noticed, too – especially after another wave of protest rose.
Toohru felt the palm touching the back of his neck, but he was too busy being annoyed on his friend's behalf (where did these idiots get off pushing their fantasies on a complete stranger?!) to pay it mind-
And that was why he'd been thunderstruck when Yuujirou leant over and pressed his mouth against Toohru's.
Time might as well have stopped, because Toohru certainly wasn't aware of it anymore. He thought he might have been drowning. It wasn't like the glossed-lips-touching-glossed-lips kiss between the acting Princesses to dissuade an obsessive girl from further pursuing one of the protagonists. Without the make-up, Yuujirou's mouth was soft and warm and fit against Toohru's slightly parted lips. There was no unnatural slickness, and they found purchase and deepened the kiss – Toohru wasn't sure which one of them was responsible for that, but Yuujirou didn't protest, so he decided to take shameless advantage of the situation and enjoy it for as long as it lasted.
They parted, out of breath and with a brief taste of each other – Toohru was certain those few past seconds had been the best he had ever felt in his life.
He tried to back away so that he could communicate with his friend – if nothing else at least see his eyes and estimate whether he should prepare for a catastrophe or if a bit of awkwardness would solve it – but Yuujirou wouldn't let go of him and leaned in again, into a shorter and more confident kiss.
The squealing got so loud that ignoring it became impossible.
"Let's get out of here," Yuujirou muttered, giving the swooning girls a death glare. "I'm not that hungry."
Toohru, who was currently feeling like someone had thumped him over the head with a huge club, wordlessly let himself be pulled out of his seat and dragged out of the establishment, before power of speech and coherent thought was returned to him and he became cognizant of the grip Yuujirou maintained on his arm.
It was a habit.
"I'll treat you to an ice cream, if you'd like?" Toohru suggested, mind still reeling. Who knew someone could be literally struck dumb? And by a kiss, no less? Damn, though, it had felt much better than he had dared imagine-
"I want coffee," Yuujirou said authoritatively.
They found a coffee shop, sat down and got coffee. Yuujirou was sitting on the same side of the table as Toohru, whether by design or by coincidence, and devoted his entire attention to his cup.
Mixed signals, again.
Think, Toohru chastised himself. You know him, don't you? Right. Yuujirou kissed him, and then kissed him a second time, which meant it was intentional and not free for interpretation. Explanation wasn't forthcoming, however… Yuujirou was shy – he had been embarrassed when Toohru had pressured him into admitting he didn't want Toohru to leave… he had pretended to be drunk just to tell Toohru that he might have a chance… Then again, it Yuujirou could have kissed him to shut up the girls – it hadn't worked, but the reasoning was plausible…?
Added together, and finished with a gratuitous dollop of hope, Toohru believed it to mean that Yuujirou wanted him to take initiative, but he was far from certain and the last thing he wanted to do was overstep his boundaries.
"You know I'm never going to grow a big chest, right?" he asked, aiming for light humour.
He received a withering glower in response. "That's kind of obvious, Toohru."
Toohru waited for the responding 'you know I only said it to way-too-obviously emphasise my unquestionable heterosexuality', but it wasn't coming. It would have been too straightforward, too simple. Yuujirou liked simple things, but he didn't like being simple, because that meant that people could figure him out. All Toohru had were assumptions.
"I guess…" Yuujirou muttered glumly, "I can believe you won't mess with my head. It's not that easy to trust anybody."
Toohru nodded, and poured the contents of the bag of sugar straight into his mouth, by-passing the coffee entirely. "That's kind of not enough, though," he pointed out.
"Stupid!" Yuujirou snapped. "I'm saddling you with the bill for that."
They stayed for as long as it took Yuujirou to drain his coffee and then headed back to the dorms, dragged down by the awkwardness Toohru had predicted as the better option. It wasn't quite clear to him why Yuujirou would have done something like that – usually he would have exploited the attention the girls gave him and tried to pick up one of them (and they did have ample to choose from in the chest department).
The reason that offered itself was that the kiss, after all, was not for the girls but for Toohru: that meant that they had had another case of miscommunication. Toohru wondered if they wouldn't have less of these if they relied solely on their ability to predict one another.
They climbed the stairs up to the second floor. It was getting too dark too early, and Toohru took a detour by the terrace to gather both their clothes before the rain started. He was just in time, too; the first drops hit the windowpane as he entered the bedroom.
Yuujirou took his laundry from Toohru's arms with a nod of thanks and went off to fold it and put it into the wardrobe. Toohru carelessly threw his own pile onto his bed, flopped down next to it, closed his eyes and moped.
"You didn't have to pay," Yuujirou said when the silence got heavier than a ball and chain attached to Toohru's ankle. The wardrobe door squeaked as he shut it.
"Damn it, Yuu…" Toohru growled, content to watch the backs of his eyelids. "I can't buy you candy or – god forbid – flowers. I can't get you jewelry, I can't even take you out to a different place than we go normally anyway. The one thing I can do is buy you a bloody coffee, so that's what I'll bloody do."
"Don't work yourself up," Yuujirou warned, "or I'll get Akira and have him Buddha-smile you into utter tranquility."
This was when Toohru would have looked over, if for nothing else then to show his displeasure with a scowl, but a warm and very solid weight settled astride his thighs, so the plan had to be scrapped. Opening his eyes, he realised Yuujirou's nose was almost touching his.
"You're a bit self-conscious," Yuujirou proclaimed, frowning in concentration.
Toohru couldn't have recalled his birth-date in that moment, held captive by the pair of penetrating gold eyes.
"I guess I didn't care to see it before," Yuujirou said and sighed heavily. "I'll have to break it down for you, then, to make sure you understand. When I kiss somebody, Toohruko-chan, it's because I want to."
He wanted to… he wanted to. That had been the condition, hadn't it? Toohru remembered: Yuujirou had told him to 'make him want it'. And now he did.
He suddenly became aware of fingers tangled in his hair, of the straining fabric of Yuujirou's trousers as he knelt up with his knees wide, of the tip of the blond braid that sneaked underneath Yuujirou's tank-top. Toohru's hands touched the bare shoulders, at first tentative but when he was well-received a tad more forceful-
-and they were kissing again. Once Toohru stopped thinking about it and relaxed, his body knew what to do on its own – an arm sneaked around Yuujirou's waist and pulled him closer, a hand cupped the back of Yuujirou's skull – while they became intimately acquainted with each other's mouth.
It was like a dream, and Toohru wanted to cling to it and never let go. Stupidly, dazed, he mumbled: "I love you…"
"I'm very well aware of that, Toohru," Yuujirou told him, too out of breath to manage the mocking snicker he had been aiming for. "Otherwise I wouldn't have even considered this."
If coming together hadn't been exactly easy for them, parting turned out to be ridiculously difficult. Sprawled across Toohru's bed, on his laundry that, while horribly crumpled, smelled of citrusy detergent, even the ever-pragmatic Yuujirou lacked the self-discipline to untangle himself, stand and relocate to his own bed.
Toohru, on the other hand, didn't want to let go even for a moment. He believed Yuujirou, and knew that once the boy had decided on something his stubbornness would carry him past the end of the world, but there was something fragile captured in their first embrace and he knew it would flee the instance they were separated.
"I'm getting my ass upstairs and going to sleep," Yuujirou said – amazingly clearly, considering that he had his nose buried in Toohru's throat. It was kind of uncomfortable to breath around, but Toohru was on cloud nine and thus unlikely to even notice discomfort.
"Mhm," Toohru replied, at once believing his friend – boy friend – completely and doubting that either of them was going to move.
"I really am," Yuujirou reassured him, somewhat annoyed that Toohru had dismissed his statement.
"I know," Toohru replied, surprised when the sudden dashing of his hope to stay like this forever didn't come accompanied by disappointment.
It, once again, came down to the fact that Toohru liked being touched, especially being touched with affection, and 'being touched with affection by Yuujirou' was as good as life could get. Toohru was perfectly aware that Yuujirou was not an overly tactile type and the only cuddling that would occur would be behind closed doors when Yuu was particularly tired or lazy, and thus he absolutely hated that one of those occasions was coming to an end.
"I really, really am," Yuujirou said, lifting himself on all four.
A second after their eyes met they were locked in a kiss again. It was like a dam had burst – after so much time spent waiting, so much denial and circling each other and skirting around issues, the freedom to touch and taste and explore made it damn near impossible to not do so. As if they were subconsciously scared that this was the only chance… Hopefully they would calm down with time, because if they went to classes with this much tension between them, they might as well put up huge neon lights.
Toohru smiled, because the theory was sound, and he could use it to wrangle as much touchy-feely together time as they'd be able to fit into their holiday schedule – because while both of them were certain in their commitment, neither was ready to go public just yet.
"We're not sleeping together tonight," Yuujirou declared decisively once he had liberated all the faculties necessary for articulate speech.
"No?" Toohru pouted. "Here I thought you were used to 'sleeping with me' after last year."
Yuujirou, amazingly, blushed. He stuck his nose in the air (which meant, in the position they were currently in, that he craned his neck and gave Toohru a chance to count his nostril-hair) and haughtily replied: "Those were extenuating circumstances. Besides-"
Toohru shut him up with another kiss, since otherwise he would have broken into a fit of giggles and possibly pissed Yuujirou off.
"Besides," Yuujirou repeated, disentangling himself and sitting up, "back then I could be sure that my chastity was safe around you."
He was too damn tempting, ruffled, pink-cheeked, eyes a little glassy, lips a bit bruised and clothes dishevelled past salvation… Toohru would have grabbed onto him and held him captive, but Yuujirou was too quick.
"Uh-uh, Toohruko-chan," the blond mocked, springing off the bed to dodge Toohru's hands. Once he had put a safe distance between them, he put one hand on his hip and raised a finger to exaggeratedly emphasise his point. "Be patient. People say that good things come to those who wait."
Yuujirou turned off the desk-lamp and deftly climbed the ladder up to his bed in the fallen darkness. It occurred to Toohru that he hadn't bothered to change into his pyjamas, but Toohru understood – after all, he also merely lay back down and closed his eyes, clutching the pillow to him in the absence of the live body to cuddle up to. Yuujirou's warmth and smell still lingered all over.
"Oi, Toohru…" a mock-annoyed voice drifted from upstairs. "If you dream of me again, do try to keep the noise down, would you?"
"Why am I here again?" Toohru muttered, staring at the door in front of himself and feeling doom creeping up on him.
Yuujirou shrugged. "Mum insisted."
Toohru sighed. He had seen enough of Mrs Shihoudani's perceptiveness (which Yuujirou inherited) to suspect all sorts of reasons the woman might have had to 'insist'. "I'm going to be interrogated…"
"Probably," Yuujirou said, himself a little nervous. He grabbed Toohru's hand and bravely rang the bell.
"My respect for Mikoto's rising," Toohru remarked. He had it easy; Yuujirou's whole family liked him, so unless there was a problem with him being a boy (which Mrs Shihoudani suggested there wasn't) this was going to be a piece of cake…
…he was terrified out of his mind.
The door opened and Toohru was pulled into a hug – around his knees.
"Too-chan! Too-chan came!"
"Hello, Shin-chan," Toohru said, grimly aware that he had been effectively taken captive for the oncoming investigation. "Hello, Mr and Mrs Shihoudani."
"Let me take your luggage, boys!" Mr Shihoudani exclaimed assertively, grabbed both their backpacks and disappeared into the relative safety of the depths of the house, as scared of the glint in his wife's eyes as Toohru was.
"So?" Mrs Shihoudani urged. "How did it go? Did it work?"
Bemused, Toohru sought some kind of elucidation from his boyfriend, but Yuujirou was blushing and facing the ground.
Then Yuu shook his head and Mrs Shihoudani let out a sound only describable as 'kyaaa'. "It didn't?!"
Yuujirou scowled. "It's not my fault he overanalyses everything and has no self-confidence!"
The woman scowled, too (the relation between them was unmistakable) – at Toohru. "Toohru-kun, when someone kisses you, it means they like you."
Toohru blushed and rounded on his boyfriend. "You asked your mum for advice on how to get together with me?!"
"So you are…?" Mrs Shihoudani demanded, robbing Toohru off a chance to – deservedly – grill Yuujirou a bit longer. "Are you going out?"
Shinnousuke craned his neck and spoke up from around Toohru's knees: "Too-chan will marry big sister?"
"Let go, Shin-chan," his mother said with exasperation. "Toohru-kun, come in and make yourself at home… but first answer my question."
Toohru was curious. If he told her Yuu and himself were just friends, would he be sent straight back to the dorms?
"Well, Toohruko-chan?" Yuujirou, who had in the meantime recuperated, was back at his teasing best. "Tell us how I feel about you?"
Toohru didn't quite think it through, or he would have realised he was being too harsh before he said: "I don't know. You haven't actually told me."
The joking atmosphere – at least what seemed to have been a joking atmosphere – instantly evaporated. Mrs Shihoudani's expression fell; Shinnousuke caught on to the change of mood and scrunched up his face as if he was going to start crying any second.
Yuujirou, stone-faced, pulled onto the hand he still had in his grip (Toohru had actually forgotten it was there – and wasn't that enough of a hint for everyone who saw them?) and leant in to Toohru's ear to whisper. "What are you thinking? That I'm with you for laughs? Out of pity? Because I'm curious?"
Toohru would have shaken his head, but Yuu had a fast grip on him. He suspected it was because the boy was embarrassed and hiding in Toohru's hair, most likely blushing as he was wont to whenever pressured to be straightforward about his emotions.
"I know it's not like that…"
"I love you, stupid," Yuujirou whispered.
Toohru had known that – or at the very least had been convinced of that – before, and he felt like a total idiot because they were standing on the threshold, in front of Yuujirou's mother, and his eyes were welling with tears.
Then Yuujirou pulled on Toohru's hair and stepped away, scowling again. "There. Cleared that up," he grumbled and pushed Toohru inside the house, past his beaming mother and clapping little brother.
Toohru found himself smiling again as he toed off his shoes. What a rollercoaster! Still, he had known it was going to be a fight, because they were both very dominant personalities – himself perhaps more subtly than Yuujirou – and he wanted to battle it out, down to the last proverbial bullet.