CHAPTER 1 - North?

[[ From the very beginning, he was Aiichirou. No one could ever, would ever, convince him otherwise. Not the bullies at school. Not frustrated teachers. Not sweet old ladies at the grocery store. Not his parents' frazzled slaps, cutting words, locked doors, nothing could change what was true.

And as a child, he believed this was just how the world worked. He resigned himself to a life of being hated for how he was born. He invited abuse. It was the only attention he would ever have, and in a sad broken way, he was okay with that.

His uncle showed up one day, his parents had been awfully quiet. He took little Aiichirou's hand with a gentleness the boy had never known. He left that house, those people, too enthralled with his uncle's kindness.

And he never asked why, never thought to go back. Thinking about it much later in life, he knew it was because he'd finally been given true family. He had no reason to miss parents that had never once acted as parents.

He remembered the horror of starting his period. The pain was awful, but bearable. It was going to the bathroom that he couldn't stand. Wiping up the blood, it made him sick. He threw up the first time, his uncle rubbing his back soothingly. He began holding his pee to avoid having to deal with blood. Once he even wet his pants because of it. He wanted it to stop, he wanted it so badly, he'd never wanted something to just stop so much.

He couldn't swim on those days either. He absolutely refused to use tampons. He would rather stick a serrated knife up there. He would not use a tampon. The girls on his team would sneer about little Ai who was too much of a baby to use a tampon. Aiichirou hated it, but under the water, sound was distorted and he could make believe that it didn't hurt.

He remembered when the boys' voices began dropping. Aiichirou felt as though his voice was only getting higher, hips wider, chest bigger. He wore shirts and shorts far too big for his size, desperately trying to hide what his body was yelling to the world. With big tears in his eyes, he told his uncle he wouldn't go to school ever again, wouldn't let anyone see him, he was a monster.

He remembered when his uncle helped him put on his first binder. Other people might have whined about it being uncomfortable, but Aiichirou felt like he could breathe for the first time since he was born. He could not be more comfortable. He hugged his uncle long and hard. Maybe he could do this.

And he remembered when he took his first shot of testosterone. It was scary, he might have cried. He remembered when his voice cracked and dropped and he almost didn't believe it. He remembered his first teacher to call him by male pronouns, how it was never even a question. How suddenly the names and the insults and the punches and the yelling and the periods and everything just stopped.

His uncle was unsatisfied with his school however. He wanted Aiichirou to be with people who would only ever know him by male pronouns. He had quite the network of friends, and remembered a couple with a son attending Samezuka Academy. It was a stretch financially, but they made it work.

Mikoshiba, the captain of the swim team, let him join the team. He was the first person Aiichirou's age to whole heartedly support him. Aiichirou made it clear he would only join if Mikoshiba promised not to tell anyone. Mikoshiba promptly broke that promise when he told a new transfer student, and Aiichirou was so glad he did.

Matsuoka Rin was to room with him. Aiichirou remembered this boy, and what a man he'd grown into. Mikoshiba explained Rin had been on a team in Australia with another FTM. Aiichirou could share a room with another boy. He could be normal. He could be safe. ]]

He'd done this before. Needle in one hand, thigh muscle pinched in the other. He'd done it before, and he'd done it all by himself! Aiichirou's hand shook as he moved the needle towards his thigh.

"You've done this before!" he whispered, pressing his lips together in concentration. He moved the needle closer.

"You can do it, Aiichirou!" he said, needle just barely touching his skin.

A tremor ran through his hand. He whined, leaned back, let go of his thigh. He could see frustrated tears blurring his vision, which only made him angrier. He'd been through nearly an entire grade on his own, so darnit why did this have to be so hard!?

Aiichirou took a deep breath, scrubbing at his eyes. If he didn't hurry up, Rin would surely get suspicious. He pinched his thigh muscle once again, forcing himself to take a slow breath. The air seemed to stick in his throat, and soon enough he was coughing and choking and the angry tears were back, but his hot tears froze when a heavy hand banged on the door.

"Nitori?" Rin's muffled voice asked. "What's wrong?"

"N-N-Nothing!" he yelled. "I-I'll be out in a minute, I'm sorry!" he said. A few moments of silence passed and Aiichirou started to believe Rin had left. To his horror, the door knob turned and Rin walked in.

"Yeah, no, sorry I'm pretty sure I heard you crying. What-" Rin stilled as he noticed the needle in Aiichirou's hand. His face went from blank to positively furious like the flip of a switch. Aiichirou flinched, drawing his arms up to cover his face as Rin swung his fist, snatching the needle right out of his hand. It took Aiichirou a moment to realize his medication had been swiped. He looked around frantically, finding it in his senpai's hand.

"S-Senpai, I need that!" he yelled, jumping onto his feet on the cold tile, and reaching for the needle.

"No way." Rin growled, holding it out of Aiichirou's reach.

Aiichirou had his hand pressed against Rin's chest. He was jumping and yelling, absolutely panicked.

"P-P-Please senpai! That is very important! I need it to stay here!" Aiichirou nearly screamed, his voice cracking. Rin seemed to consider this. He lowered the hand that held the needle, not letting Aiichirou take it, but indicating he was listening. Aiichirou was breathing hard, small tremors running through him. He pressed his hands to his chest and fell back onto the toilet seat.

"It's testosterone." He said, holding his hand out. Rin scrunched his brows.

"Testosterone?" he said, giving the barrel a funny look before placing it carefully in his roommate's open hand. Rin searched Aiichirou's eyes for answers, which he apparently found. "Oh! Oh fuck, Nitori, sorry." He said, shaking his head slowly, running a hand through his long hair. "I'd actually forgotten you're trans." He let out a breath of laughter, slid down the wall opposite Aiichirou, bringing his knees up and letting them fall outward. Aiichirou breathed a sigh of relief. "You hide it too well."

"I prefer it that way." He said, letting the needle rest in his two open hands.

"So why were you crying?" Rin asked nonchalantly. Aiichirou blushed.

"T-To be honest I was frustrated." He said, hesitantly looking up from the needle to his senpai. Rin nodded his head, encouraging him to continue. "I've…done this plenty of times before. But today…"

"Do you need help?" Rin asked.

"No! Nonono! No I can do it, its okay!" Aiichirou answered quickly, shaking his head from side to side animatedly. Rin frowned.

"Okay, so do it then." He gestured to the needle. Aiichirou looked down at the needle in his hands and felt his heart stutter back to nervous life. Why in the world was he so anxious today?

Aiichirou got in the position, just as he had earlier. And, just as he had earlier, couldn't bring himself to push the needle in. Rin sighed.

"Come on." Rin made a motion for Aiichirou to part his legs. Aiichirou couldn't help the horror that crept into his eyes or the shaking of his head, pressing his knees closer together. Rin was obviously suprised, but nodded, moved to the side and put his hand on Aiichirou's thigh. "So show me how to do it."

Aiichirou was a bit dizzy because senpai is touching me oh god his hand is on my bare thigh OH GOD- He took a deep breath, grabbed a new cotton ball and soaked it in rubbing alcohol. He took his sweet time disinfecting his skin again, teetering on the edge of he's touching me IT'S A DREAM COME TRUE and if he doesn't move his hand I'M GOING TO START CRYING AGAIN. His hand was shaking again by the time he'd thrown the cotton ball away, nearly missing the trash can. He shared a moment of eye contact with Rin, then, pinched his thigh like so many other times that morning.

"I already have the testosterone drawn. A-All I have to do is…pinch here. And-and stick it-" Aiichirou squeaked as Rin layered his hand over the hand that held the needle. "S-Senpai?"

"Yeah?" he asked, looking distracted.

"W-What are you doing!" Aiichirou squeaked.

"Helping you take your shot." He shrugged.

"Yes but you're-b-b-but you're-!"

"Done." Rin smiled, pulling out the needle that he'd stuck in his roommate's leg while he was babbling. He looked quite proud of himself.


"Where does this go?" Rin asked with a quirked eyebrow. Aiichirou pointed to the medical waste bin he kept tucked away in the corner of the bathroom, his mouth just slightly agape. He had to blink several times before he remembered to snap his mouth closed and grab a cotton ball to wipe up the tiny bead of blood over the injection site.

Aiichirou just barely caught Rin's sleeve before he left the room. Rin met his eyes, offered him a kind smile. Aiichirou could feel the blush burning through his cheeks, but he returned the smile.

"Thank you, Rin-senpai."

"Anytime you need help, just ask. It's no problem." Rin shrugged Aiichirou's hand away and shut the bathroom door, leaving the boy alone with his thoughts.

Aiichirou is the only one on the swim team to wear a top in the pool. No one's ever bothered to ask why, and the only two people who know why don't care to tell them. Aiichirou was always grateful for Mikoshiba's support. If anyone else were captain, Aiichirou didn't think he would have been allowed on the team.

"First years, line up!" Mikoshiba's enthusiastic voice boomed through the room. Aiichirou jumped. Rin hadn't quite finished his last lap and Mikoshiba was giving him a look, but seemed to be waiting for the boys to finish up. Aiichirou handed Rin a towel, ripped off his track jacket, and jumped onto the nearest platform. Mikoshiba might have been rolling his eyes, but no one was looking, so who could really say.

Rin pulled his towel around his shoulders, catching his breath as he watched Aiichirou dive in.

Rin couldn't help noticing how forced Aiichirou's strokes were. Purposeful and strong, but forced. His brow furrowed, the tips of his teeth peeking out from under his open lips. Hspotted it as Aiichirou made his turn. Rin turned his head as he noticed Mikoshiba approaching, sighed, looked back towards the pool.

"His binder." Rin said. Mikoshiba hummed.

"Doesn't look too comfortable, huh?" Mikoshiba said, holding his whistle carefully.

"But he's not much slower than any of the other first years." Rin said, crossing his arms. Mikoshiba hummed again, blew his whistle, shouted for four more laps.

"Does it hurt him?" Rin asked, turning to look at Mikoshiba. "Do you know?"

"He says it doesn't, but I don't entirely believe him." Mikoshiba said. "Maybe you should ask him about it sometime."

Mikoshiba returned to standing at the head of the center lane, shouting encouragement to the struggling first years. Rin could see, though Aiichirou was not the fastest, he was by no means the most worn out, and his pace had remained steady. Whatever restriction his binder put on him was made up through pure force of will.

The upperclassmen had been released from practice, but Rin couldn't take his eyes away from Aiichirou. Without a word, he made a decision. He quickly picked up his and Aiichirou's jackets and went to stand in front of Aiichirou's lane. He pulled his jacket on slowly, draping Aiichirou's over his arm. When Aiichirou hit the end of his last lap, for the very first time, Rin was there waiting for him.

"Good work, Ai." He said, holding his hand out. Aiichirou was breathing hard and flustered and hesitated to take Rin's hand. Rin rolled his eyes and grabbed the boy's hand roughly, helping to pull him out of the pool.

"Th-Thank you, Rin." He said, a tooth ache of a smile lighting up his tired face. Rin furrowed his brow, bit down on his tongue, shoved his hands in his jacket pockets.

"Let's go." He said, taking long strides towards the locker room. Aiichirou quickly followed, matching Rin's pace.

Aiichirou was always slow to undress when they didn't stay after practice. The locker room would be full of boys, men in his eyes. It makes him feel small and scared. His heart quivered as he pressed his towel into his hair. Sometimes Rin waited with him, sometimes he didn't. Neither situation was very fun. He didn't have the luxury of undressing in public, no matter how confident he was of himself (which is to say, not very confident at all). He simply would never risk it.

Half of the boys had already left. Aiichirou was a bit worried when Rin didn't start yelling at him to hurry up. He glanced around just as Rin came out of a bathroom stall, quirking an eyebrow at his friend.

"Take your time or whatever." Rin shrugged, settling on the bench next to his friend. He almost looked shy. Aiichirou was terribly confused, but nodded.

"O-Okay." He said, taking a seat on the bench. "Sorry." He said, eyes on his hands resting in his lap. Rin shook his head.

"You shouldn't let me rush you." He said, a soft glare in his eyes. "Of course you have to wait."

Aiichirou's heart was drumming against his chest. He hopped up to check the stalls, if only to hide his blushing cheeks, happy to see one was finally open. He turned on his heel, grabbing his clean clothes and telling Rin to wait just a moment. He locked himself in the stall and started wrestling with his binder, the water making it stick and pull at him. He ripped it off with a warm sigh and let it fall to the floor. Making quick work of undressing, drying, and redressing was a practiced skill and nothing less.

First, a thorough pat down with the towel to ensure he was as dry as possible. Second, underwear. Third, binder. Fourth, compression shorts. Third, shorts. Fifth, secure belt. Sixth, shirt. He went through the motions on auto pilot, going as fast as he could manage. Dressing, he thought, should be a sport all on it's own. Just that had him breathing hard even as he left the stall. When he opened the door, Rin was the only one left, still sitting on the bench.

Aiichirou approached slowly, eyes low and skittering around nervously. "I'm ready." He said.

"You wanna get some coffee?" Rin asked, eyes snapping up to Aiichirou's. He was a bit intimidating when trying to be kind, but Aiichirou had begun to recognize the kindness Rin was fond of hiding.

"I'd love to!" he said. Rin would have sworn Aiichirou's smiles could rot someone's teeth right out of their head, they were just that sweet.

"Then let's go." He said, pushing himself up onto his feet.

They walked, weaving through the bustling city under a setting sun. Aiichirou glanced at Rin. His senpai looked quite pensive. Aiichirou found himself making up all sorts of scenarios that could be bothering Rin, but none of them seemed right. It couldn't be his fault could it?

The warm air of the Starbucks pulled their chilled bodies in, enveloping them in the smell of coffee and chatter of other customers. They made their orders, took their warm coffee, found a table. Aiichirou could feel the guilt festering deep in his mind, upsetting his stomach and shocking his fingertips. He had to say something!

"R-Rin-senpai, I'm sorry." He said from behind his coffee cup. Rin's eyes shot up, his face looked almost disgusted.


"I-I'm sorry, I'm not sure what I did but I promise I didn't mean to!"

"Aiichirou." He sighed. "No, shut up, you're not the problem." He said, taking a drink of his coffee. They'd both gotten pumpkin spice because, why not, and it was a heavenly touch on Rin's temper and Aiichirou's perpetually frayed nerves.

"What's bothering you then…?" Aiichirou asked, pressing his cold fingers around his cup. Rin pressed his lips together, looked to the side, then back at Aiichirou.

"Does your binder hurt you?" he asked, then quickly retracted. "You don't have to answer that." He took another sip of his coffee. Aiichirou smiled, shaking his head.

"No it doesn't hurt unless I wear it for too long." He said, but his smile dropped a little and his eyebrows fell. "Well, my binder is a bit old. It's kind of hard to move in now, but I don't practice nearly as much as you. So no! It really doesn't hurt!" he said cheerfully. Rin looked a little less than convinced, but he accepted Aiichirou's answer.

"Just. Take care of yourself, alright?" Rin said, making sure to look Aiichirou in the eyes.

"Oh, okay. I'll try." He said, eyes darting from side to side, shy smile.

"No that's not good enough!" Rin growled, making Aiichirou jump a little. Rin took a deep breath. "You have to take care of yourself, okay? Say it with me."

"S-Senpai I'm not-"

"Say it with me goddammit! You have to take care of yourself!"

"I-I have to take care of myself!"

Aiichirou pressed his fingertips to his lips, muffling a small giggle. Sometimes, he felt like Rin didn't care at all. Sometimes he wondered why he let himself feel how he does towards his senpai. Then Rin did something like this, and Aiichirou knew. He knew it was because Rin made him happy and loved and safe.

"Can I tell you something…?" he asked, eyes anywhere but Rin.

"Of course." Rin said, confusion apparent in his voice. Aiichirou felt like he was shrinking. Like his voice was still too high, hands too delicate, chest too large. He slumped in his chair, quickly checking that his chest was hidden, which it was.

"I threw my race." He said.

"You did what?" Rin leaned in, trying to catch Aiichirou's eyes, but couldn't seem to get low enough.

"It was hard enough to get permission to attend Samezuka as a male. The only reason I'm on the swim team is because Captain is a family friend." He shrugged his shoulders, he felt sick. "I was afraid of what the officials would do if I placed in my event. So I made sure I didn't win." He lifted his head, putting on a weak smile. "But it was still really fun!"

Aiichirou was amazed to see Rin looked absolutely hurt. His eyes were wide, eyebrows pinched together, mouth slightly open. He slumped back in his chair, took a sip of his coffee.

"You shouldn't have thrown your race." He said, a slight pout in his bottom lip. "You can't give up like that." He said. Aiichirou took a long sip of coffee, trying to think of what to say.

"It just wasn't worth it. I don't mind really." He said, smile as sweet as ever. Rin still had hurt in his eyes, but he didn't respond.

"We should get back to the dorms." He said, getting up, holding his hand out for Aiichirou's empty coffee cup. Rin threw their cups away and soon they were back in the night air, on their way back to Samezuka.

Rin was quiet that night, but only in his mouth. He wouldn't tell Aiichirou all the things going through his mind, or the sticky as fuck guilt gumming up all his thoughts. Aiichirou had been dealing with this while Rin had been throwing tantrums and only making things harder for him. He wanted to give Aiichirou the confidence he deserved, but that wasn't something anyone could give.

Rin let himself smile however, because confidence was something that could be learned, and he knew just the boy to give those lessons. Rin sat at his desk, glanced up at Aiichirou. He'd fallen asleep not long after they'd gotten back, his back expanding and falling steadily. Rin was worried, but he promised himself he would protect Aiichirou. Everything would be alright.

Author's Notes-

First chapter wooo I felt like there was a lot of stuff to pack in this first chapter, and the chapters to come should be longer and a touch slower. Hope you enjoyed! I have literally the entire fic planned out, and I PLAN to update every week, meaning next Sunday or Monday chapter 2 should be out. Until then, have fun, be safe, and OH-

I am in fact FTM, if anyone out there has any questions or needs resources you are welcome to ask me either here or on tumblr [foxygrampaglasses . tumblr . com].