He hates answering the phone.

Maybe it's the awkward silence, when the allotted time has been filled or the news has been given, and he's laughing or shaking or all around confused as he hangs up. And he's probably aching to end the call and Mizue is hesitating on the line, swallowing a vital "I love you." Perhaps it's the receiver on his ear, the plastic cradled in the space between his head and neck, a crick shaping in his shoulder that'll remind him of this uncomfortable experience in the morning.

Or, it's the forced small talk, over and over and over, that he's not even particularly partial to in person, and the feeling is multiplied through the electrical wires.

Late, late, and the phone is ringing, harshly reverberating in the dark, and doesn't it know that he's sleeping? His head's on the pillow and his limbs are lying deadly beneath the sheets, and one would think this would signify sleep. But in reality, his eyes have been open for hours, plus the time when he wasn't pretending the sleep, and it's seriously hurting his head. Ring, ring, ring. He's moving like a zombie with cement appendages.

"Hello," he's speaking, more of a statement than a question, yes, because he's not thinking and punctuation in speech is wasted.

"Tsuchiura-kun?" an unsure voice, a girl voice asks.

"He's not here right now, but maybe if you called at an hour when anyone besides a nocturnal animal is awake, he might be." Severe, but that's just him—and it can't be anyone of importance. Because she is his, and he is broken, and it's early in some parts of the world and telemarketers just don't quit but he is broken and it all just doesn't make fucking sense.

"Oh, I—I, sorry—"

"Wait—Hino?" His mind suddenly clicks. No, he's still puzzled after all, her stuttering lingering in his ear. Shouldn't his name be Tsukimori Len and shouldn't he be eagerly responding into the speaker? This is a night when he thinks he's ingesting the acidic liquids—throat burning, brain fogging alcohol.

"Y-Yes. I shouldn't have called—I don't know what I was thinking."

He smiles, just a little—like the small, almost indistinct smile Tsukimori reserved only for her. Just a warped, pretentious smile, because he knows she's lying through those curious lips and refusing small, inevitable sighs.

"I'm hanging up now."

"Wait." He's not one to repeat himself—a broken, broken record. Immediately he regrets this request to her, and he's cracking his knuckles as an anxious habit, and perhaps he should hang up. It's almost certainly a dream, anyways, and tomorrow is going to be hell when he thinks this might have actually happened.

"Tsuchiura-kun, actually, I…" she pauses, probably to carefully choose her words, and he refuses the urge to slam the phone down the table. He closes his eyes and waits for her to deliver. "I…called to say…thank you."

His eyes flings open in surprise.

"Huh?"

"For everything."

"…"

"If it wasn't for you, Tsuchiura-kun…Len and I wouldn't be together now. I know this is long overdue, but…Tsuchiura-kun—really. Thank you."

He slowly closes his eyes again, and memories of the past years flashes in blurry, almost unrecognizable shapes—the first time he accompanied her—those times he'd helped her with the selections—time he'd spent with her after the bloody violinist left—time spent at the conservatory—every fucking moment he'd hoped that she'd feel the same way. He shakes his head. Dammit, he wasn't supposed to cry.

"…"

"Tsuchiura-kun?" she asks again—they've both got an odd practice of reiterating. He's breathing quite surreptitiously, fishing for clean air around his smoke-infested clothes. So he sees how she could think he's finally replaced the phone in its face down position the counter. But he doesn't see how she could throw nine years away just for one fucking Tsukimori Len. And now she's telling him that she's thankful. For everything. Just what kind of a goddamned joke is this?

"I'm here." Confirmed. He can't say anything more than that though he's bursting with words that she'd probably like if he happened to string them together in any sort of presentable manner. He's always wanted to make her feel alright. You don't have to thank me—you're meant for each other, anyway. That's too much to ask, as far as he's concerned.

"I—I have to go," Hino stammers, thick-lipped. Inhale. The dial tone stings his ear. Exhale but slowly, and he's stumbling back into his bed, again with the stone legs and weighty arms.

It's because they're twenty-six and he's waited for her and she's waited for him and he has to wonder why. And yes, he hates answering the phone.

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written for the livejournal fanfiction writing competition. standard disclaimers applied. updates for hitoshii kawase and something to believe in should be posted soon. ^-^ *eh, thanks for everyone who voted and cheered me up during the october contest. this is for you guys. ^-^*