When the third spitball collides with Midorima's hair, Takao decides that he's had enough. Completely disregarding the rule against talking out of turn, he loudly shoves his chair back and stands up, shouting "Cut it out already!" at the nasty bully currently readying another spitball.

The teacher stops mid-sentence to say "Takao! What is going on?"

"He keeps shooting spitballs at Midorima!" Takao points to the offending boy, who now has his hands folded in front of him and looks to be the picture of innocence (of course.) Takao's nose wrinkles. "It's mean and gross!"

Midorima, who had already begun hunching down in his chair, now puts his head down on his desk and his arms over his head. This is mortifying. As if the spitballs themselves weren't bad enough, now this dummy had to call attention to it and now the teacher is gonna make the bully publically apologize to him and all Midorima wants to do is sink into the floor and disappear—

"Is this true?" the teacher asks the offending boy.

"No!" he shouts instantly. "Takao's lying!"

"I'm not lying! I saw it happen!" Takao fires back immediately.

"Okay, okay, listen, boys," the teacher says, exasperated. "Both of you stay after class. And you too, Midorima."

Midorima nods as best as he can manage with his face pressed to the surface of the desk. At least this interrogation wouldn't happen in front of all of his classmates.

Takao makes a "hmph" sound and sits back down noisily. When Midorima chances a glance up, he finds Takao looking at him worriedly, and it makes his chest feel weird, so he puts his head back down.

No more spitballs fly during the class, and when the bell rings, all the students except Midorima, Takao, and the bully hurriedly leave the classroom.

The teacher gives the bully a harsh warning for his behavior and sends him on his way, which Takao privately thinks is far too lenient a punishment. She holds Takao and Midorima back for a minute longer, though.

"Takao, it was nice of you to want to help one of your classmates, but next time, please raise your hand," the teacher says politely.

Takao looks down at his feet and nods.

"And Midorima," the teacher continues, "if any of your classmates are ever being mean to you, you can always come talk to me, okay?"

Midorima copies Takao, nodding towards the floor.

"Well, I'll see you boys tomorrow," the teacher says, and they leave.

Once outside the classroom and down the mostly-empty hall a bit, Takao stops and grabs Midorima's hand. "You feel scared to talk in class, don't you?" he asks, and it doesn't sound accusatory, just concerned and interested.

Midorima wonders briefly why this boy he hardly knows cares about this, but then he looks at their joined hands and nods.

"I thought so. Well, that's okay," Takao says, smiling brightly, "because I'm going to protect you from now on."

Midorima balks, and then there's that weird feeling in his chest again, almost like it's burning on the inside. Maybe he should ask his mother to take him to the doctor.

But Takao seems nice, and seeing his smile makes Midorima smile too, just a little bit. "Okay," he replies quietly. "Thank you."


A/N: Fast forward 8-10 years and Takao is cornering guys twice his size, whispering "What did you say about Shin-chan?" all menacingly. Hehe, okay, I'm out, thanks for reading!