High school isn't a bed of roses for Sei, Kai is misunderstood, there are too many gardeners and not enough flowers and it all really sucks, damn it.
When Sei made a sound of pain as we stepped into the empty classroom to have lunch together as usual, I grabbed him immediately and lifted him on the table to get him off his feet. Then I wrapped my arms around him and held him close, because he said touch helped when this happened, but it was really as much to reassure myself that he was ok as to comfort him.
What I hated most about high school was that Sei had chosen to go into the arts instead of science, and that seriously cut down on the time we got to spend together. I'd thought he had stopped getting the attacks, but he'd seemed upset and preoccupied of late. It really sucked.
It was just like the way my luck had been going that Nakamura would come in right then and decide he was just the person to ride to the rescue. "You sick bastard! Take your perverted hands off Sei-kun!" Sei made a soft, choked-off sound, and almost before I felt the hand on my shoulder I was turning around and swinging. I got him right in the jaw.
I wish I could say it was the rough grab, the insult, the disgusting insinuation that I could ever do anything to hurt Sei, or even the annoying voice that had been bugging us for months now, and that I was happy for the excuse to hit this pesky, persistent idiot stalker with his stupid crush on Sei, but the truth was, I wasn't thinking much of anything at all, just reacting. Sei was in pain, I was pissed off, I would probably have hit a girl who had walked up behind me to give me cookies. It had been that kind of a day.
In retrospect, I suppose I'd gotten lucky. I would have hated myself if I'd gone and slugged an innocent girl for bringing me cookies, just because I was feeling jumpy. Take that, annoying idiot stalker. Even the fates are against you. Sei's /mine/.
To be fair, I suppose it hadn't been a wildly improbable mistake to make. You don't need the best imagination in the world to take in the scene -- Sei half-lying on the desk curled up and whimpering, and me standing between his legs and all but wrapped around him -- to come up the idea that I was pinning Sei to the table and doing fun and unwholesome things to him against his will.
Like I could ever do anything to hurt Sei, damn Nakamura and his imagination.
I mean, sure, fun and unwholesome things are great -- I'd love to do those with Sei if he ever indicated that he might be interested, but against his will? Like anyone could make Sei do anything he didn't want to. Just ask Saya. Sei's cute; he's nice and polite and all that, and he's got more admirers of both sexes than I care for, but he's not a girl or some kind of delicate flower that needs protecting and he'd give anyone who tried to treat him like one hell.
Seriously, this just wasn't my day. Waking up late, forgetting that the milk had gone off, breaking my shoelace while trying to tie it, tripping over a crack in the road on the way to school, stepping in a puddle of something gross while changing to school slippers, my missing English textbook and other assorted weird little things that felt a lot like someone was trying to make trouble for me and Sei...
The shock to my fist (Nakamura had a pretty hard jaw) had cleared my head, though I must have looked a little crazy still, because Sei grabbed my arm, and Nakamura was scrabbling away backwards to get away from me. "Nakamura," Sei started in his gentle way, and Nakamura looked soothed and ready to forgive his own murder, just like that. "Are you all right?"
I tried not to grind my teeth; why did he have to be so nice to everyone anyway when he had me -- all right, I know this attitude made me a bit of an obsessive idiot stalker too (still better than Nakamura, I comforted myself). Sei turned back to reassure me with, "Kai, I'm fine, it was just a needle --" What? and then he was scowling at me -- Shit, what had I done? What needle? -- and he straightened and shoved me roughly away. "Kai, you idiot, your hand!"
The sting registered at last, and I realized I had nicked my knuckle on one of Nakamura's stupidly even white teeth, which were tragically all in place and apparently undamaged. A drop of blood had welled up and was tremulously considering the fastest route off my hand. Fuck.
It had been two years since that test, since Saya made me a real human in exchange for half of Sei's life and a whole lot of crap she didn't mention when Sei agreed to the trade, like my total lack of immunity to any and all bugs, and the -- the damned pains Sei kept getting in his hands and feet. I'd had time to build up a little resistance so I didn't drop like a fly and wind up in the hospital every time I got one of those little coughs and colds everyone gets all the time, but do you know how many germs there are in a human mouth? I don't either, but suffice it to say, there are LOTS.
"Stop gawking and go wash your hand!" Sei barked, Nakamura forgotten. "Use the damn peroxide!"
"Yeah, yeah, sure," I muttered as I ran for the washrooms, privately smug. The look of shocked disillusionment on Nakamura's face at Sei's language... Ha! Find some other fainting flower to protect; Sei's tougher than you could ever dream of being any day.
I came back with my hand cleaned and efficiently bandaged by the school nurse, who had collared me on the way back. (She was unfortunately too well aware of my susceptibility to infection of all stripes and wouldn't hear of letting me go until she had cleaned it twice with three kinds of stinging antiseptics and wrapped it up like I had broken my hand.) Sei was still sitting on the table, putting a plaster on his foot.
Oh. He had meant that there was a needle in his school slippers. And -- why was Mochizuki in here? What was Nakamura doing hanging on to Mochizuki's collar? They all looked up a little guiltily when I came in.
"What?" I asked, feeling a little testy and out of the loop. What was with this sudden cozy atmosphere?
Mochizuki looked up and hiccupped. I felt absurdly protective -- he was one of the smaller boys in my class and always friendly and helpful about getting notes for me when I got stuck in the infirmary, had to stay home, or worse yet, had landed in hospital yet again. "What's going on?"
Sei was silent and embarrassed, Nakamura glanced down at the needle on the table between them, and Mochizuki looked defiant. I put two and two together. However, before I could get together a good head of steam to blow up at him as he deserved, Sei cut in, his manner mollifying and oddly familiar. "Kai, wait."
I thought about how Sei had been reserved and careful all week, and realized that the needle couldn't have been the first incident. "Mochizuki, how could you? I thought you were my friend."
In response, Mochizuki drew himself to his full height, unrepentant. "It would have been all right if he'd just left you alone like I said!"
"Left me alone? What do you mean?"
Mochizuki grabbed my arm, and it struck me again how small and vulnerable he looked. He was a good friend, and he was hurting too. "Toudou-kun, can't you see what he's doing to you? You follow him about all day when you have your own classes and homework, you run about carrying his books and picking things up for him like a servant, and you, you're not well! He shouldn't hang on to you and depend on you so much even if he is your brother! You have your own life!"
Sei looked down involuntarily, and that -- that really hurt. I never wanted to cause him pain, even indirectly, and now... It was too much. "That's none of your business!" I snapped at Mochizuki, angry with myself. "I do things for Sei because he's everything to me, and you, you're nothing! Stop bothering Sei!"
Mochizuki looked about to cry. I felt like scum, and both Sei and Nakamura looked like they thought I was scum too. Then he yelled, "Stupid Kai!" kicked me in the shin and ran away in tears. Nakamura shot a last glare at me and ran after him, and, moments later, there was the sound of a slap and a stream of shockingly colorful language. I guess Mochizuki didn't need a white knight protecting him either.
"You shouldn't have done that," Sei said.
I supposed not. Mochizuki had never been anything but kind and sweet to me, and must have had his reasons for acting as he had. Yet... "I -- I couldn't stand it when he blamed you for everything like that. And he hurt you. I can't forgive that."
"I was dealing with it," Sei said, in a voice filled with disappointment that I had so little faith in him. "I can look after myself."
"I don't want you to look after yourself," I told him, and immediately felt stupid, and then I had to make it worse by trying to clarify myself by saying something even more stupid: "I want to look after you." Can I sound like a bigger idiot than this? Do I want to try, or should I just shut up and give it up as a lost cause?
Sei looked at me with big eyes, not saying anything, which just proves he's the smart one in this relationship. He was probably wondering if there was some way to call Saya and get a refund on the half of his life he'd given for me. Then his look softened, and he pulled me close and pressed his cheek against mine. He let out an amused huff. "We can take care of each other."
With this affectionate demonstration of lack of sense on Sei's part, I tossed aside my qualms and hugged the stuffing out of him, and he squeezed back. Very nice, the full-body contact. Yeah, fine, I'm a pervert; I'm a sixteen-year-old boy -- we're all perverts, ok? No harm, no foul.
Sei's kind of oblivious to things like this, but I can't complain because I'm kind of a coward and I owe him too much to dare think of putting any pressure on him to reciprocate my feelings.
Anyway, that's not something we really need to worry about just yet. We've still got the rest of our lives to get things sorted out. We're going to get through high school somehow, take the entrance exams for university, maybe get a tutoring job or two to help pay the bills. We'll be ok.