Quick Summary: Basically I'm like 99% convinced Hitori was already kinda nuts even before all of that horrible stuff happened to him, so this is literally just a fic where Hitori snaps and eventually ends up killing everyone in the Heartful House to """protect""" Nageki. That's it. That's the whole story

(I also switched the roles of the birds and the humans around for the sake of gijinkas, because if I'd kept them as birds I can guarantee you I'd have forgotten halfway through and started using human terms anyway...!)

Warnings: If you read the summary you should definitely know what this fic is going to entail but there's no gore or particularly graphic murder if you're squeamish about that.

With as many uncertainties as there are to Hitori's life, there are some solid things he has to turn to in the world in order to find his comfort.

Formulas, equations and sums and deductions, are one of those things. Regardless of execution, there is only ever one right answer, only ever one hard fact, and when he finds himself wondering why it is so Hitori can always retrace his steps. He can follow the sequence back to the beginning, point his finger and proudly say, there. That's the reason for this outcome. That's where the answer is. Even if it's difficult to uncover the solution, it's never impossible — and in the end, the result is always simple. Hard facts are the basis to his security, and even if it doesn't seem like there are many there are always more than what he first thinks of.

His job, for example, is one of those facts. He works as a teaching assistant, and a tutor at the nearby schools. Where he lives is another, in the Heartful House with Nageki; those things don't change. He takes care of him. He buys their food. He cleans the bathrooms on Sundays. His favourite colour is red (and orange, he adds as an amendment). Miki-chan had a scar across her left cheek. Doi-kun was a very good artist. Regardless of outside opinion, his life in many ways can be organized into empirical, observable knowledge, and sometimes that makes it easier. His level of assurance can vary between the different parts, but ultimately, no fact is more soothing to Hitori than knowing that no one is better for Nageki than he is.

It's not as though he doesn't have his faults when it comes to him — to say that would be absurd, and with how often Hitori feels guilt or shame about it, contradictory as well. But it doesn't change that Hitori understands him the way nobody else can. When Nageki is missing, Hitori can always figure out which quiet spot in the house he's snuck off to even when the others couldn't find him. He knows all of his favourite books from over the years, and how that's changed and been added onto as he's grown up (The Little Prince, age seven; The Secret Garden, age twelve, To Kill A Mockingbird (ha ha), age fourteen), and most of all Hitori knows how to tell what he's feeling even when he won't say anything. There are times when he needs help, or, when he was younger, someone to hold onto for safety. Hitori can understand. It's not exactly the same way he gets his own, but there's surely nothing better than realizing Nageki finds his own security in him.

It's only reasonable that Hitori needs to maintain that. With how little Nageki has, far less than he, how horrible would it be for him to lose faith in what he depends on the most? In that way it's understandable that Hitori needs to stay strong, and continue being his watchful protector — so as to look out for him as much as possible, so as to keep him away from the things that can hurt him or make him sad. It's all very simple, and all another one of Hitori's indisputable facets of reality. That's all it really is. That's just the way things are supposed to be.

Hitori's not sure when it truly began, but maybe what first brought the dangers of the world outside crashing down upon his head was the day he opened the front door to a small unit of officers standing on their doorstep, their police cars lined up along the side of the street. There had been reason to suspect a group of outlander extremist birds had been planning an attack on the House, they'd told him. They'd all been taken into custody, with their habitation grounds inspected, of course — and they'd had weapons, guns, a plan of entry. If they hadn't been caught, the rebels would have taken them hostage, the police had said. People would have died. They were very lucky, the police had said.

Hitori had used to think luck was something like finding a coin on the ground. Maybe even catching a bus just as it reached your stop, or running into a friend on the street you hadn't seen in a long time. It was a horrifying shock to realize that what luck really meant was getting to live another day when there were others who wanted you dead for no discernible reason. It was much harder to find the same comfort in facts after that day, when Hitori just couldn't stop thinking about the variables anymore. What if the police hadn't noticed the extremists's suspicious activity, and their plans had slipped by undetected? What if they had been too late to stop them? What if Nageki had been hurt, or worse? Hitori wouldn't have been able to do anything. He'd have been clueless and helpless, and he couldn't afford that when he had someone to look after.

So it was after that, Hitori imagines, when he really started to pay close attention to Nageki's surroundings. Because Nageki so very rarely left the house (only if he was there, Hitori insisted), that naturally left his focus on the other orphans they interacted with. Nageki wasn't particularly close with any of them. A few years ago, that had worried Hitori — but now, when he thought about it, things were definitely better this way. Hitori knew the other children well enough to tell they could never understand Nageki the same way as him. Miki-chan, for example, was too inconsiderate, too eccentric for someone as soft-spoken as Nageki, and Yuki-kun didn't even like to read. Perhaps the worst was Hiro-kun, who was always getting into trouble at school. He'd even had a few fights with the other children, and that kind of behaviour just wouldn't do around someone Hitori sometimes fears might break by having something as basic as a fall.

No, they were all much too volatile for him. Even just living under the same roof as them caused Nageki unneeded stress, Hitori was sure. His role was to prevent that as much as possible, and if being friends with the other children was going to upset him, then it was better to keep Nageki away from their influence, especially when they themselves were such variables in the equation. How could Hitori be sure that one of them wouldn't pick on him while Hitori wasn't around to see it, or maybe even worse — what if one of them were to get him sick? His health had already started to decline after the extremist scare, and Hitori couldn't afford something like that happening. Nageki's fragile state couldn't afford it any more than Hitori aside could, either.

Somehow, the other orphans's presence had become a threat. That seemed the wrong way of looking at it, though — maybe they had always been that way, and Hitori just hadn't been looking carefully enough to have noticed until now. But they weren't safe, and they certainly couldn't be trusted to look after Nageki the way he needed.

It was October 21st, two days after Nageki's fourteenth birthday, when Yuki-kun came home early from school with a cold. Some of the other older children had taken care of him themselves in making his bed and taking his temperature, but Hitori had been thoughtful enough to make him some hot lemon tea for his throat and had brought it into his bedroom to hand over with a smile. Regardless of generosities, it was a good excuse for being able to chat with him alone for a moment.

The boy was definitely very sick. Not terribly so, however; Hitori had seen much worse with Nageki, so he didn't feel that bad for him. He was quite fortunate, really, when put into perspective. "How's the tea, Yuki-kun?" he asked him.

The boy could only nod, giving him an exhausted smile, and Hitori felt his stomach turn over uneasily. He couldn't even speak? Was the sickness really so bad already? That being the case, it was even more important to have this conversation than Hitori had first imagined. Running a hand through his hair a little nervously, he kept his smile in place and continued his train of thought. "It seems you've caught quite the cold," he said, his fingers dropping to tighten in the fabric of his scarf. "You'll have to rest in bed. It would be terrible if you made anybody else in the House sick, you know."

After a long sip of tea, Yuki-kun turned his head back and nodded again, his dull grey eyes fixed on Hitori. Like this, they seemed even dimmer, and after a moment of looking at him Hitori felt an abrupt wave of irritation. There was no recognition on his face at all of the significance of what Hitori had just said. Did he not understand how important it was for him to keep himself separated from the others, from the rest of the house full of all the things he could contaminate with his illness? If Hitori could, he would send him somewhere else just to be certain — he was sure it was his fault this had happened to him, to begin with. He had been careless. Just because Yuki-kun had gone and gotten himself sick didn't mean Nageki had to suffer too—

"Stay away from Nageki," he said sharply, his tone so suddenly severe that Yuki-kun stopped midway in raising his cup to his lips and stared, eyes now a little wide. Hitori's irritation had accumulated into something closer to anger. This boy was nothing but trouble, honestly, nothing but potential worries and fears Nageki should never have to deal with, and if he were to ever pass on his germs to him Hitori would never forgive him.

It was another moment of silence before Hitori remembered to smile again, but it was no less easy to do than before. Certainly he and Yuki-kun understood each other now, after all. Standing back up, he brushed off invisible dust from his shirt, his cheerful lilt back to replace the previous sound of his voice. Yuki-kun's wide eyes still hadn't left him. "Make sure you get lots of sleep, Yuki-kun!" Hitori advised him, before he turned to head back out the door with his tea tray under his arm. He definitely didn't miss how he could feel the boy's stare on him even then, just until the door closed behind him with a soft click.

Three days had passed, a time just long enough for Yuki-kun to be getting better, before Nageki fell ill. Hitori woke him for breakfast that morning and found him curled up in the blankets, shaking, his cheeks flushed with a fever and his eyes cloudy the way they sometimes were when he was too sick to think properly. Before anything else Hitori felt fear, slinking up into his chest cavity out of his stomach to clamp around his heart and squeeze it. This wasn't supposed to happen, after all, Nageki was supposed to have gotten out of this mess just fine. What if this was the cold that ruined his delicate health forever? It could happen any time, and Hitori would be a fool to tell himself otherwise. Something like this could jeopardize everything.

Hitori could barely make his hands stop trembling long enough to retrieve the cold medicine from the bathroom, shaking out the proper dosage (that he'd determined himself, not trusting the label. Nageki needed exactly one fourth more of a tablet than what it indicated, calculated by his height and average weight) onto his palm for Nageki to take. He couldn't make himself feel much relief either that Nageki was well enough to take the glass of water and pills without help, and it wasn't long before his fear simmered down into rage as he left the sleeping teen to head out to work.

He'd have liked to stay home to be sure, but he couldn't call in on such short notice when he was already late. He would just have to be home as soon as possible. If anything, it gave Hitori plenty of time to think, and even more time for his emotions to turn over and over inside of him until the tight feeling in his heart had spread to his entire chest instead, sucking the air from his lungs and leaving him helpless again the way he wasn't allowed to be. If anything, there was no doubt this had happened because of Yuki-kun. This was his fault. He must have gone against what Hitori told him, and contaminated Nageki — and maybe, he thought abruptly, it was even intentional. Hitori wouldn't put it past him and try to defy Hitori's wishes when he so clearly couldn't have cared less about how it would affect Nageki. Yuki-kun was always the type to be joking, too; parhaps he thought it would be funny if he managed to infect anyone else with his virus.

Hitori was nauseated just thinking about it. Funny, that that Nageki would have to be bed-ridden for at least a week, that Hitori would have to sit by his side and watch him shiver with an unbearable chill, knowing there was nothing he could do to make it better? The very idea of it disgusted him. Out of all the orphans, Yuki-kun would have been one of the last that Hitori would expect to do something so horrible, and it disturbed whatever amount of faith Hitori had thought he could still have in them. What was he supposed to do now, when he clearly couldn't trust any of them? How was he supposed to protect Nageki?

But there was something he could do, Hitori realized. He may not have been capable of making Nageki get well, but he could make sure, absolutely sure this time, that Yuki-kun would never get him sick again. He owed that much to Nageki anyway, didn't he? They all did, really. After letting this happen, it was Hitori's duty to ascertain that Nageki would have no need anymore to worry so much, especially when he should never have to in the first place, not ever. This was what Hitori owed him.

Hitori had told himself he was only going to have a stern talk with Yuki-kun, late that night after everyone else had already gone to bed in preparation of the next day. He really hadn't wanted anyone bothering them. Even Yuki-kun had been confused to wake up and find Hitori leaning over his bed with a hand shaking his shoulder, because he gave him a groggy stare and said nothing. Hitori was the one who had to speak first, his voice soft and low.

"You've really made a mistake, Yuki-kun." The boy didn't seem to understand what he was talking about. His mouth formed the word "what" wordless before he tried to speak, but Hitori was already continuing. In his mind's eye, he saw the exhausted look on Nageki's pale face when Hitori had come into his room with a bowl of soup earlier that evening.

"Do you know why we're having this talk?" Wordlessly, the boy shook his head, rubbing at one eye and peering at Hitori with the other. His willful ignorance only made Hitori smile more, the revulsion under his skin pushing it wider across his face. "It's because it doesn't seem you understood what I told you in our last conversation after all, Yuki-kun. It's made me very disappointed in you."

A small beat, and Yuki-kun slowly lowered his hand. He seemed to be catching on now. "I just hadn't expected," Hitori added, "that a nice person like you would go and make Nageki sick, even though I'd—"

"I didn't go anywhere near him," Yuki-kun interrupted, and though his voice was a little raspy with sleep he was certainly rather adamant for someone who was such a filthy liar. The boy tried to brush Hitori's hand from his shoulder, but Hitori realized it wouldn't move. His fingers curled tighter in the boy's shirt in what was very nearly a fist.

"I know you know that lying is wrong, Yuki-kun," Hitori replied. "Didn't we go over this years ago?"

"I'm not lying!" he insisted. His voice was loud, too loud, and a flash of what felt like panic gripped Hitori at the thought that he was bound to wake someone if he kept at it. He felt nearly immobilized. Yuki-kun was pulling at his arm now, trying to force him to let go of him, and Hitori still couldn't. His grip grew tighter still. "Let go of me, Hitori!"

Shut up, Hitori thought. Shut up. He really didn't want to be arguing when he was already so upset about Nageki's illness at the moment. Why couldn't Yuki-kun just understand that? He was already trying to play innocent about contaminating Nageki, and now he was trying to make Hitori look bad, too. He was the one in the wrong, and — and he needed to stop yelling before Hitori got any angrier than he already was. It wasn't until he heard a wheezing gasp from the boy that Hitori came back from his thoughts to find that his hand had since moved to wrap itself around Yuki-kun's neck.

The boy's eyes were much wider now than they had been during their last talk, and Hitori was almost relieved by it in a way. Did that mean he understood, now? Is this what Hitori had to do? It was quite a shame that it was far too late for Yuki-kun, though that logic came to him dizzily — and Hitori didn't feel very sad either way, if he were to be truthful. It was difficult to pay attention to what was going on, or why he now had both hands around Yuki-kun's throat that pushed harder and harder the more the boy's smaller ones scratched desperately at his fingers. All Hitori knew was that he couldn't let go until he was sure the boy wasn't going to shout anymore.

Eventually his strangled noises stopped, but Hitori still didn't feel quite safe. He kept pushing, even after he stopped kicking the sheets into a tangled mess, even after his hands fluttered and went limp. Yuki-kun's pulse still screamed under Hitori's fingertips, the tortured sound muffled by his palms, until even that faded away to silence. The only thing Hitori could hear now was his own laboured breathing.

His hands were a little sore from squeezing so much, was his first dim thought. He really hoped they wouldnt hurt tomorrow if it was going to make it more difficult to care for Nageki. He stood up to his full height again and stared for a moment, watching Yuki-kun's blank face, very nearly expecting his chest to start moving as he gasped in a phantom breath. The moment passed into what Hitori imagined must have been at least five minutes, just to be certain, and only then did satisfaction finally flood him; Yuki-kun, at least, was taken care of now. Nageki would never have to worry about this again.

But what would he do with him now? Hitori liked to think he was smart, and if anything he was perfectly aware that he couldn't just leave Yuki-kun like this for the others to find in the morning. It hadn't been wise to act without planning in the first place, and if Hitori hoped not to be caught he would definitely have to do better next time. That thought nearly startled him, but only briefly — of course Hitori couldn't stop here when he'd already started, right? This had been the proper way to handle things all along, the permanent way to solve all of these dangerous variables. It was the solution to the problem that had plagued both he and Nageki for so long. Hitori could end it here, he could end it all right now, he could take matters into his own hands and ensure Nageki would never suffer because of these people anymore—

No. No, he had to do it right this time. For Nageki's sake, he had to be thorough. How lucky was he to have gotten away with this unnoticed? The idea of how easily someone could have awoken in the time it took for Hitori to finish with Yuki-kun made him start to shake a little, his knees going weak. If he were to get rid of the rest now, there would be no way for him to do it properly, and the last thing Hitori wanted was to disappoint Nageki. He deserved much better than for Hitori to act in a fit of passion. But the body, first; what was Hitori supposed to do with it?

He had to be very quiet carrying Yuki-kun down the stairs and to the front hall, an idea slowly forming in his mind as he went. First he needed to get Yuki-kun away from here. Where was a good place to get rid of a body? He drove for over ten minutes, Yuki-kun laying in the backseat of the car he shared with the older orphans, before Hitori's mind gradually drifted to the conservation area across town that Hitori had taken Nageki to nearly three years ago. Nageki had been especially healthy that month. They had gone out a lot more, and much farther than just to the nearby parks; he still remembered perfectly how pretty the sound of the bubbling river had been, how brilliantly orange Nageki's eyes were even in comparison to the brightness of the leaves scattered all over the crisp grass. He remembered the old abandoned house they'd come across not too far from the quiet path, and how he'd peered curiously down the well next to it to find nothing but a dark black hole even in the brightness of the afternoon. Hitori's heart leap into his throat as the memory flashed through his vision.

It felt fitting, he might have explained, to say goodbye to Yuki-kun there. It was a special place he'd shared with Nageki, after all, and this was a momentous occasion. This was going to be the start of their new life together, their happier one, and Hitori would very much like to be able christen it by returning to someplace that brought back good feelings. It was 12:45 when Hitori reached the conservation area, and 1:15 when Hitori finally found the abandoned house. It was 1:17 when Hitori slid Yuki-kun's body off his shoulder and dropped him into the well. It was 2.3 seconds later when his body hit the water, an echoing splash resonating upwards. It was nearly 2:30, however, by the time Hitori could make it home again — he'd stopped halfway there on the side of the road, overcome by a sudden wave of happy tears. At first he had even thought it was raining before he'd realized the blurriness was in his own eyes. The urgency to act quickly to finish what he'd started, however, didn't allow for too long before he was back on the road again.

With all of that alotted time to think even further, Hitori didn't need much more than another half hour to finish his job. Making his way silently back up to Yuki-kun's bedroom, he rolled the window across from his bed open, carefully removing the screen and propping it against the wall next to it. It gave the desired effect that someone had intentionally left through the window, so Hitori satisfied himself with taking a full pair of clothing out of the boy's dresser, socks and shoes included. He would have to burn them later — in fact, it would have been cleverer to have brought them with him when he'd left, but he coudln't change that now. He hadn't thought of that until he was too late to fix it, and that was yet another reason why Hitori would have to go about this very considerately from now on.

That night, he had both wonderful and horrible dreams; they most certainly involved Nageki, but Hitori found that when he was awoken he could no longer accurately remember them. Sakura-chan was leaning over his bed, her long blonde hair tickling his face. He might had laughed just then, but before he could her panicked expression registered along with the frantic sound of her voice.

"Yuki-kun is gone!" she cried. Somewhere beyond the doorway Hitori could hear a lot of noise, and it faintly agitated him. If his alarm hadn't gone off yet it was still quite early, and Nageki really needed his rest right now. They'd better not have woken him up for this. "He ran away, last night!"

"Did he?" Hitori sat up as Sakura-chan pulled away, rubbing at the back of his head where he could feel some of his hair sticking out at a bizarre angle. There was definitely far too much noise going on for this hour. "Do you know what happened?"

"No, but—" she swallowed hard, twisting her hair in her fingers, and her now shaking voice rose another octave. "He opened his window. He must have crawled out of it! None of us can find him anywhere!"

It was very, very hard not to smile. Usually Hitori was trying to do just the opposite, but he couldn't imagine Sakura-chan reacting well to that now, so instead he stopped trying to fix his hair and swung his legs out of the bed in preparation of getting up. His drowsy but concerned tone came to him surprisingly easily, easily enough that Hitori had to admit he was just a little happy with himself for being so good at this so quickly, and he was definitely only going to get better from here. "Alright," he said. "Let's go take a look, Sakura-chan."

Sakura-chan was definitely a very kind girl, Hitori thought. Very responsible, and hard-working. It was a shame she was no better for Nageki than the rest and that she would have to go as well.

Hitori spent over a month planning. It was very time-consuming work, with everything considered; even aside from having to figure out how to go about getting rid of the other orphans properly, things were definitely very hectic in other ways for a while after Yuki-kun was taken care of. At first there had been some officers to investigate, but after the first week they showed up less and less, and even if Hitori wasn't paying too much attention to how sad the others were he was fairly certain that by the third week things were starting to return to normal. Poor Doi-kun was probably the most upset, but that was understandable; Hitori knew he and Yuki-kun had been very close, so he imagined he probably wouldn't have the time to get over it.

The most important part of his plan was to make sure that Nageki was safely separated for now. Luckily, that wasn't too difficult, because the other orphans weren't talking to him as much as they had before, which relieved Hitori immensely (perhaps then it would be even easier for Nageki to accept they had to go when the time came, wouldn't it?). A peculiar amount of them had been getting more frequently ill lately. Even Hitori had caught some kind of bug for a few days, and that had been awful; he couldn't let himself near Nageki the entire time, and knowing that the others were caring for him in his place made him feel horribly empty — especially when he was feeling worse these days than ever. He was rather glad when the lot of them caught the same bug as him afterwards.

It was a Friday when Hitori came home from work to find Sakura-chan and two of the older orphans sitting on the living room couch together, all watching as he stepped through the doorway. It might have been eerie, but it seemed that they'd been waiting for him, so Hitori wasn't all that concerned; it was a Friday, after all, so maybe they wanted to discuss dinner plans. Hitori pulled off his shoes, shifting the strap of his bag more comfortably over his shoulder and smiling as he padded across the living room with it. "Afternoon, everyone," he greeted them as he set his bag down next to an armchair, dropping himself down into it as well.

"Afternoon, Hitori-kun," Masao-kun returned. He was smiling, but there was something about it that didn't feel right to Hitori. His hands found his scarf and tugged on it slightly, the red garment sliding lazily about his neck. "There's something important we thought we should talk about with you."

"Oh?" Not a very telling "oh". It took a long time to perfect that certain kind of "oh", the type that shows only the appropriate amount of interest and nothing else.

Sakura-chan nodded, glancing at Masao-kun and Usagi-chan before she turned her eyes back to him and spoke. "Nageki-kun has been very sick lately, hasn't he? He hasn't been out of bed much for a few days now."

Hitori had to admit he was rather thrown by that. It really wasn't what he was expecting to hear at all, and Hitori might have been angry that they would even need to ask if he knew that if Sakura-chan's tone didn't suggest she was only prying for something to begin with. So Hitori didn't say anything. That bad feeling was still wriggling uncomfortably in his stomach, keeping him maybe a little too noticeably on edge, because the three of them looked at each other again before Sakura-chan continued.

"We were discussing," she started, "that maybe it would be a good idea to send him to the hospital for better care. We've been saving up for it, so we just thought—" her tone sped up in nearly a rush as soon as her first sentence was out, as if hoping that by saying it quickly enough Hitori would listen better, but it still wasn't enough to keep Hitori from cutting her off.

"What?" His voice hadn't sounded this sharp since the day he'd had that talk with Yuki-kun. This time Hitori could help himself even less, his heart suddenly pounding loud enough to ring in his ears and drown out whatever Sakura-chan was saying next.

They wanted to send Nageki to a hospital? No. No, Nageki's home was here, not in some small antiseptic-filled room surrounded by doctors who couldn't even do anything to cure him (Hitori knew, he'd been trying to years now and had any one of them helped at all? Had any of the orphans helped at all?), where Hitori could only see him when he was "allowed", and nobody had the right to decide that for him. Nobody. Not the doctors, not Sakura-chan, not any of the other orphans — and how dare they claim he'd have "better care" there? Was Hitori's care not good enough? He did everything possible for Nageki, far more than any of them ever had, and they thought they had the authority to tell him what would be giving Nageki better care?

Hitori was shaking with rage, but the change of voice brought him back to be able to process what was being said. "We don't have all of the medicines and equipment here that a hospital would, Hitori-kun," Masao-kun told him.

"No," Hitori said simply, and even to himself he sounded rather faint. They didn't understand. They didn't understand at all

"A lot of us have been getting sick around him…" Usagi whispered. "It might be best for everyone if he left, just for a little while."

The world stopped spinning and snapped back into focus in one sudden lurch, his stomach dropping out of him and through the floor in one fell swoop. Hitori thought he might quite like to be sick, but for some reason he was smiling instead and couldn't seem to stop. So this is what this was really about? The others wanted Nageki gone. This wasn't about him getting better at all, or some confused attempt to do what was best for him; they were selfishly trying to discard him now that they thought he was too useless to benefit from. So what if some people were getting sick more often? It's only what they deserved, what had really been coming to them for a long time, and now that they had to face their just desserts they were hoping to hide from it, was that it?

Hitori really should have known this would happen. He couldn't trust them, not a single one — but he'd grown careless in remembering that, and now he was unexpectedly betrayed by something he should have seen coming a long time ago. Hitori shook his head one, twice, trying to find his voice before it leapt fearfully back into his throat. "Nageki is staying here," Hitori explained. Another hard fact. Reminding himself of it was slightly calming. "He's not going to the hospital. He's not going anywhere."

"Hitori—" Sakura-chan began, but Masao-kun took hold of her arm before she could keep going. She looked at Hitori worriedly, but didn't say anything more.

"Okay, then." Masao-kun sounded very funny, like a person deliberately talking to calm down someone in a panic, but Hitori wasn't in a panic at all. He knew exactly what he was going to do about this. "We can talk about it another time."

"Alright," Hitori said.

Tonight, Hitori thought. It was going to have to be tonight.

Hitori didn't like the idea of having to do anything intentionally deceitful to Nageki. Fortunately, Hitori was always very good at avoiding that; being deceitful implied doing something sneaky or dishonest for his own gain, but Hitori never did anything for anyone's gain except Nageki's. In that way nothing he ever did could really be called that, so Hitori didn't feel any guilt handing Nageki the glass of water he'd mixed with a crushed sleeping pill a minute prior. He had to make sure Nageki didn't wake up until it was over, to be absolutely sure he wouldn't get hurt. It was only to protect him.

He stayed by Nageki's bed until he could recognize Nageki's familiar expression of sleep. Downstairs, he could hear the sounds of the others in the kitchen, and Sakura-chan's laugh filtering up the staircase. Hitori closed his eyes and listened, trying to pick out each individual voice amongst the commotion, and thought — I won't miss this.

Besides, Nageki never liked the noise.

Hitori was the one to prepare everyone's drinks for the dinner table. With the busy coming-and-going in and out of the kitchen, no one bothered paying any close attention to what he was doing, but Hitori very much doubted it would have mattered anyway. He had excuses prepared regardless, tucked neatly around the formulas in his head as he stirred the glasses almost absentmindedly. Cytochrome c oxidase (or the inhibition of, in this case), amygdalin, sodium nitroprusside, 1.5 milograms per kilogram of body weight at least for each one when concentrated (but in practice it's quite difficult to tell each glass apart, so he'd have decided to put far more than necessary in each one if he were doing it that way). Hitori can't remember a time where he'd been so anxious, but he'd thought that might have been a bad word to describe it — he was excited moreso, perhaps, knowing that as he helped in setting up all of the spots along the dining room table that each second was one more closer to Nageki's newer and happier life Hitori was a single step away from finally actualizing.

With all of the hurry in getting seated, it wasn't until Masao-kun announced "Dig in!" to a small chorus of laughter that anyone noticed Nageki hadn't yet come down for dinner. But by then Hitori's excitement had reached its crescendo, his soft smile fixed on his face as he left his plate untouched and instead watched each person raise their glass to their lips. This was it, then, this was what all of his hard work had been leading to. The deed was practically done — a falsity, actually; it was done. His heart was beating with furious joy. And, Hitori thought, his smile now might just have been the most genuine he'd had in a very long time.

"Why isn't Nageki here?" Miki-chan asked, pointing across the table to the one empty chair in the corner next to Hitori. Her glass was still raised to her mouth.

"Oh, that's right," Hitori said thoughtfully. "He hasn't eaten yet. I'll go wake him up."

He pushed out his chair with finesse, and with a small bounce to his step, passed back through the kitchen towards the staircase. He took each step upwards very slowly, so that when he had just reached the second one from the top he heard clearly the first chair crashing over backwards and the sound of Usagi-chan screaming.

Hitori turned and walked back down the staircase. From the dosage Hitori had given him it wouldn't be too much longer until Nageki woke up, but Hitori was sure Nageki wouldn't fault him in wanting to watch. After all of the effort he had put into this, he thought he at least deserved that much; Hitori had always found it satisfying like nothing else to observe the conclusion of his equations play out before him, and Nageki knew that. Nageki always understood him like no one else could, just the same as Hitori did for him. That's just the way things were.

When Hitori stepped back into the dining room, Miki-chan was on the floor, her eyes rolled back in her head. It would have been quite the sight if she were the only one, but Sakura-chan was slumped over in her chair and Doi-kun's mouth was open in a gasping motion, with no air coming in or out. He had already missed most of the real screaming (Usagi-chan had stopped, Hiro-kun had started), but if anything, the room was certainly a mess now. Nageki really hated this kind of disorderliness, so he'd have to make a point of cleaning it out as soon as possible for him, Hitori noted, and he sat back down in his chair just as Masao-kun looked up and locked eyes with him.

There was a moment where he only stared, and Hitori smiled pleasantly back at him. Apnea, of course. Masao-kun couldn't say a single word. Hitori wondered how it might feel to have your respiratory muscles fail you so completely, and whether or not it would give you just enough time to reflect on how very wrong you'd been to try and take away the thing most precious to the person who knew exactly how to do this to you. From the look on Masao-kun's face, Hitori liked to imagine that it did. You, he mouthed, shaking almost violently, but there was no sound to match.

"Goodbye, Masao-kun," Hitori said kindly.

If Hitori had had to estimate the time, it would have been seven minutes at the most, he thought; another person might have considered it anticlimactic, but Hitori definitely would have disagreed. Seven minutes can seem like a very long time when you're enjoying yourself, he might have said — or, he could also suppose, when you've being poisoned to death.

Even if the dining room was in absolutely disasterous condition, it was there that he decided to wait until Nageki woke up and came to find him. Hitori really couldn't help liking the atmosphere, his hands folded comfortably and his soft smile no less present while he looked around at his work and only barely dared to believe he'd really managed to accomplish so much. He'd never done anything better for Nageki than this, he was sure, he'd never made a better decision on how to protect him, and he'd never done anything to make him happier than this would (Nageki will understand after all, of course he'll understand, and if he's confused Hitori will explain it all very carefully to make sure that he does; he'll explain how much hard work went into this, how very thoughtfully he planned it all out for him). What would Nageki's face be like when he walked into this room, Hitori wondered? He smiles so rarely, Hitori has always to try so hard to get him to, but maybe this would be the trick. In a few years they might even be celebrating the day their new life together started.

With a start, Hitori realized he could hear padded steps going slowly down the stairs. He couldn't speak. He couldn't move. As calm as he was, he was terrified and ecstatic at all once too.

"Hitori?" A still sleeping pill-sleepy sounding Nageki resonated easily through the empty space, and Hitori was helpless to do anything but reply.

"In the dining room, Nageki," he called back, breathlessly. "I've been waiting. You're just in time."

With as many uncertainties as there are to Hitori's life, there are some solid things he has to turn to in the world in order to find his comfort.

But ultimately, no fact is more soothing to Hitori than knowing that no one — no one — is better for Nageki than he is.