Part 7

Masaomi hangs back in the narrow space that separates the kitchen from the main room. Mikado presses a mug into his hands, chewing his lower lip uncertainly.

"I'm glad you came back," he says.

"Me too."

They take seats on Mikado's futon, sitting cross-legged, facing each other. Something about this is different from the way it used to be, a little awkward, too many words between them that need to be said but that Masaomi just wants to forget.

"Are you moving back in with your parents?" Mikado asks.

Masaomi opens his mouth, closes it again. "Actually, I… didn't think about that." He laughs weakly. "There's no way my parents will let me stay with them, not after this."

"Well, you… you could stay with me." At Masaomi's blinking, surprised look, Mikado continues quickly, "I know it's really small and not in the best part of town and everything, but—"

"Shut up, Mikado," Masaomi says, laughing. "Why wouldn't I want to stay here? It'll be like having a sleepover every night except we'll probably want to kill each other after a while." He grins, and Mikado breathes a relieved sigh.

"This is way smarter than me getting an apartment," Masaomi says, putting his empting mug aside and leaning back to lay on the futon, arms stretched up to cushion his head. "Halves the costs for both of us."

Mikado nods. "There just… well, there won't be much privacy…"

Masaomi blinks, grins. "Aw, is Mikado worried about me seeing him without clothes on~?"

The implications of this question are ones which Mikado does not want to consider. Nor does he want to think about his answer to it, because no, he's not worried about Masaomi seeing him naked—quite the opposite, really.

"No," he says, flushing and looking away. Even after a year and a half, he's not sure how much he's allowed to talk about it, or if there is a limit. "I just—I just thought you might… be uncomfortable…"

A pause. "Oh." Masaomi shrugs. "Well, that's what the bathroom's for. Besides, if there's anyone I'd be okay with… seeing me… it'd be you."

"Oh." Mikado's stomach has twisted itself into knots. "Really?"

"Yeah. I mean, I trust you more than anybody, I know you wouldn't… freak out or whatever. Not like there's much to see anyway, I don't have boobs at all."

"…You don't?"

"Nah. Started the hormones early enough to avoid that, but I don't think they would've gotten big either way."

"Good."

Masaomi's lips quirk into a half-smile. "Yeah. I got really lucky. No worries, though, I'm not gonna randomly strip down all the time or anything. Unless you want me to."

It is a joke. Everything about it is obviously a joke, from the hint of laughter in Masaomi's voice to the exaggerated wink he gives Mikado as he says it. He does not mean it. He will not actually strip in the apartment if Mikado wants him to, and he probably—definitely—doesn't expect Mikado to want him to anyway.

Even knowing this, though, Mikado can't help himself as he says, mouth dry, "Maybe I do."

Part 8

"Ooh, so Mikado has developed a naughty sense of humor in my absence?" Masaomi grins, taps his nose. "How interesting~ Have you told any dirty jokes to Anri-chan? I bet she would get the cutest blush~!"

"I'm serious." Mikado's hands fidget in his lap, but he looks at Masaomi with determination in his eyes. "Not—not so much about the stripping, necessarily—not that I don't want you to—I'm not doing this right, am I?"

"If you're going for an epic love confession, then I'd say no."

Mikado isn't sure how to take this; Masaomi's expression is unreadable. So he tries again. "Will you go out with me?"

Here, Masaomi bursts into laughter. "You are such a dork! It's totally obvious you've never asked a girl out in your life."

"Sh-shut up!"

Masaomi shakes his head, still grinning. "No wonder you haven't nabbed Anri yet. Clearly you weren't paying attention to all my lessons."

"But I don't want to date Sonohara-san," Mikado says. "I… I want you. I always have."

At this, Masaomi frowns—it's not angry or upset, exactly, just… confused, maybe. "Always, huh?"

Mikado nods, hesitant.

"When we were kids, too?"

"Yes."

Masaomi bites his lip. "Is it because I'm a girl?"

"Wh-what?" Mikado splutters. "What are you talking about?"

"Is that why you're attracted to me? Because I'm a girl?"

"You're not a girl," Mikado says. "Masaomi—"

"I'm female. Lacking a Y chromosome and all. You know that and you knew me before I…"

"That doesn't make sense," Mikado says, putting his hands on Masaomi's shoulders. "Masaomi, I like you now and you don't look the least bit like a girl. I don't care what you look like or what gender you are or used to be or anything—I just want Masaomi. It made me happy when you said you don't have…" Mikado waves a hand in the direction of Masaomi's chest. "Because that meant that you were closer than I thought to having the body you want to have. I just want you to be happy with who you are, and that's as a boy, so that's the Masaomi I want."

Masaomi stares at him for a long moment, a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. "That," he says, "was a proper epic love confession."