Smeared Ink

by Domashita Romero (地下ロメロ)


The last few minutes of a class period before the chime rang always seemed twice as long as all of the rest of the minutes of the class put together, and that day, Mizuhara Takuya was certain it seemed to be taking even longer than usual. The three minutes left until the lunch period were stretching into at least an hour, but for once in his life, Takuya he was unsure if this time-distortion phenomenon was a bad thing. He watched the slim black minute hand do its faint shimmy of edging towards the next tick on the clock and reasoned with himself that it’d be no great crime if he just forgot the whole thing; in fact, it’d be better for everyone involved.

The minute hand solidly settled on two minutes left until the end of class; books were shuffled, seats were adjusted, sighs were let out in anticipation, and Takuya decided that today would be the day–he had used up all of his acts of cowardice, and it was high time to at least get it all over with.

He hadn’t written a love letter or note or anything classic like that. It wasn’t that he hadn’t thought of it, or composed at least seven in his head while watching Nagase smile and kindly give tours to first-year girls. He just had this problem where he could see that possibility out to its worst end. Nagase wasn’t the type to use something like that to humiliate him (or at least Takuya hoped he wasn’t the type), but putting something like that to paper was just too dangerous. One of the more unsavory third-years from Nagase’s baseball team would have to find it, and then Takuya would see his feelings photocopied and spread around the school, and he would, without a doubt, have to change his name and start a new life somewhere else. In a worst-case scenario, of course.

One minute left of class, and Takuya went through the speech he’d rehearsed a dozen times in his head once more for good luck. It would start with an explanation of how much he admired Nagase and how he amazed him by excelling at everything he tried at, would then wander into a few sections about how Takuya found him inspiring as a human being, and after a brief detour into preemptive apologies, would make a surprising finish in telling Nagase just how much he loved him, how’d he’d loved him from the first day they met, and how he would give anything in the world if he could just kiss him one time.

In a fit of nervousness, Takuya had scrawled out the key points of this presentation onto his palm with a ball-point pen. When he broke his staring match with the clock and looked down to check his wording one last time, he was hardly surprised to see that the sweat of his palms had rendered it all one blue-black smudge of illegibility. He had enough time before the end of class, Takuya decided, since it was apparently going to last until the end of the universe, so he pulled out his pen to set to revising his notes.

While he was pondering a revision of his wording, he noticed that there was more unrest than usual among his classmates. Sakaguchi, two rows up from him, timidly raised a hand, interrupting Kato-sensei in his tangent about his great-grandmother’s apple orchards that had begun life somewhere as a lecture about the first year of the Sino-Japanese war. He looked extremely dismayed to be faced with the reality of having students, and frowned before clearing his throat. “Ah, yes, what is it, Sakaguchi-san?”

She wilted a little in her seat, and asked in a soft voice, “Ah, sensei, is your clock running fast?” She pointed up to the clock, which apparently got very quick when Takuya wasn’t watching it. “Shouldn’t lunch have started five minutes ago?”

Kato-sensei gazed up at the clock for a while, verifying that it did truly seem to be five minutes after when class was supposed to end. He checked his pocketwatch, and pouted a little before breaking into a smile. “Well, I suppose that is so, but I don’t think having a few extra minutes with me will be so terrible, do you?”

The rest of the class grumbled at this, but Takuya just barely kept himself from clasping his hands together in a thankful prayer–that would smudge the still-wet ink on his hands. The more time he had before this, the better, and Kato-sensei’s mumbling made a fine background for him to focus his thoughts.

The worst case scenarios were obvious and he’d spent many nights awake considering just how bad it would be to spend a night naked and tied upside-down to a goal on the soccer field. The vaguely realistic possibilities were almost harder to imagine; it was simpler to spiral off into panic or fantasy. He’d known Nagase since his first year, since the day his first week in school when he’d grabbed the arm of the tall boy passing him in the hall, hoping that he would be an upperclassman who could help him stop being so desperately lost all the time. Nagase had smiled at him, put a hand on his shoulder, and guided him to the music room while chatting aimiably about how he’d spent his childhood being terrible at the clarinet until his parents had let him quit, and Takuya had been entirely lost from that point on. They had never become friends, not quite, but to be close acquaintances was almost enough, to be a satellite in orbit. He knew Nagase just well enough to know that he wouldn’t really be cruel when he rejected him; he’d probably smile again in that way that made Takuya’s chest feel tight, and put a hand on his shoulder, and be gentle when he told Takuya that he just didn’t like him that way, that he didn’t like guys, and that he would rather kiss a dead fish than him. But there was always that slimmest, smallest of possibilities that he might say yes, and…

Sakaguchi’s hand was up again, and this time she didn’t wait to be called upon. “Sensei, don’t you think that, ah, that maybe something is wrong? Maybe you should go check.” She pointed at the clock, which told them all that they’d been stuck in history class for nearly twenty minutes later than anyone with a heart would ever reasonably make them stay. Kato-sensei was already frowning and shaking his head when a knock came at the classroom door, followed by Vice-Principal Miura sticking her head inside and hissing through her teeth. She jerked her head at Kato-sensei, indicating he should join her out in the hall. He left the room, and the class dissolved into a low hum of speculative murmuring.

Takuya idly watched the two of them through the class windows. Vice Principal Miura went through a series of tense hand gestures as she explained whatever the situation was, and Kato-sensei just furrowed his brow deeper and deeper into his favorite expression of consternation. Why did there have to be some schoolwide crisis on today of all days? He’d finally worked up enough courage, and here he was going to miss his chance. If he had to miss lunch, he could probably still catch Nagase before baseball practice, or maybe after…

Kato-sensei came back into the class, looking faintly pale and brushing a hand over his thinning hair. “Ah, it seems that,” he began, then cleared his throat, losing his voice in a way that he never had the decency do during lectures. “It seems that due to a … situation, everyone must stay in their classrooms for the time being. Please read your books quietly, and, er, if you brought your lunch, please feel free to… ah… if you haven’t, I apologize, but… er, I’d like to remind you all that your essays are due next Thursday, and… ah… yes, just please sit tight for now, students.”

Kato-sensei was far from an expert at inspiring confidence. A few of the more overdramatic girls were already clinging to each other and quivvering (probably at the possibility of having to miss lunch, Takuya thought to himself), and the class rep, Nakemura, stood up. “What do you mean, ‘a situation’, sensei?” he asked, voice raising over the murmur of the rest of the classroom. “If it’s something like an earthquake or a typhoon, don’t you think we should go home instead of staying here?”

Takuya stretched in his seat to look out the window while Kato-sensei stammered and mumbled. The sky was grey, but only in that cold way that a late autumn sky should look, lightly spotted through with wispy clouds. Everything seemed entirely fine outside; Takuya could see people walking along the street and through the fields, and if he squinted enough, he could almost make out activity along the beach not far away–not usual for this time of year, but he couldn’t blame anyone.

“I’m sorry!” Kato-sensei called out, raising his voice for the first time ever that Takuya could remember. “I, I apologize, everyone, but I can’t share any more information about… the situation, because I don’t have much myself, but the principal has asked that we stay here, so that is what we will do.” He tugged at his suit jacket to put it into place. “I ask that you have lunch, or talk quietly, or perhaps even work on your essays, due next Thursday. Thank you.” With a faint authoritative sniff, he sat behind his desk, and lifted his newspaper with hands that Takuya noted were shaking faintly.

The pen-scratchings on Takuya’s palm were already starting to smudge into a blue blur again, and he leaned back in his chair to let out a sigh as his stomach gurgled. He’d skipped breakfast out of nervousness, and had just figured he wouldn’t have time to eat lunch, considering his plans. Food probably wouldn’t agree well with the ulcer he was developing, anyway. He rubbed his uninked hand over his eyes and thought of how Nagase was just a few classrooms away, probably having to fight off all the different girls more than happy to share their lunches with him. To say he was popular with the girls would be putting it far too mildly. Takuya couldn’t exactly blame them, since he obviously suffered from similar weaknesses. Nagase didn’t exactly have a girlfriend, at least not one that Takuya knew about, but there were always more than enough young ladies eagerly waiting to walk him home after school, and he had an enthusiastic cheering section at his baseball games, made up of girls who probably didn’t even know first base from home plate (something which Takuya knew perfectly well, as he had signed up to manage the team at the start of second year, because of his… deep appreciation for the sport.) Takuya rubbed a hand over his complaining stomach and wondered how much more ridiculous this plan would be if next time he tried it, he made a lunch for Nagase first.

After another thirty minutes of classroom confinement, jackets were shed, ties were loosened, students were sprawled in groups sitting on the floor, and Takuya’s palm had once again become a smudge of ink with only a few words left legible. Kato-sensei stayed quiet behind his desk, occasionally dabbing at the sweat that kept beading on his cheeks and forehead with the bottom of his tie. Perhaps it was time to just give up, Takuya decided. He hadn’t even started on that essay due next Thursday.

He had just cracked open his textbook when he heard the crash and the tinkling of falling glass. There was choking silence in the classroom for just a second before it exploded into noise, nervous titters and excited murmurs, and the scrape of chairs as people moved to the window to see what caused the sound.

Takuya found himself pressed up to the window before he could really think about it, victim of both his own curiosity and the pushing swarm of his fellow students. He couldn’t see what had broken or where the noise had come from, but that didn’t particularly seem important after he noticed that there was a crowd forming around the school. People were filing into the parking lot, walking slowly and with an odd rhythm to their movements that Takuya couldn’t help but find familiar in some way he couldn’t place.

“Please, everyone, please move away from the windows,” Kato-sensei said, from where he was nearly pressed against the glass trying to look out himself. “I don’t think it’s safe, please return to your seats.” The classmates pressing behind Takuya buzzed into conversation.

“Do you think it’s some kind of protest or something?”

“Why would anyone be protesting here?”

“Maybe they heard about Ikeda-sensei’s tests.”

“Everyone please return to your seats!” Kato-sensei’s voice was growing frantic as he tried to actually physically remove students from the windows, to little effect. If Takuya stood on his toes, he could see down over the hedges surrounding the building to get a sharper look at the people approaching the school. It was really a strange mix of people; a lot of them seemed to be dressed very nicely, in suits or dresses or kimono, but others still just seemed to be… filthy. Takuya could see one man who seemed to be covered from head to toe in dirt, and another, further off, seemed to be caked white with ash. Maybe it was some sort of protest, or some sort of ridiculous statement or attempt at art, but a high school in a tiny town like this seemed a poor place to attempt such a thing.

Takuya turned to Kato-sensei, whose eyes had gone wide and faintly bloodshot. “Sensei?” he asked, voice quiet but pointed underneath the chatter of the rest of the students. “What’s going on?”

“All, all I know is…” Everyone stopped talking and tuned in, and new beads of sweat formed on Kato-sensei’s brow. “There was some sort of… it was an accident, something with some kind of che–” Another crash of glass cut him off midword, and this time it was closer, almost directly below them.

Takuya’s face was pressed to the glass as he was pushed so everyone could get a look out the window. “They’re breaking in!” shrieked one girl, stating the incredibly obvious. Takuya couldn’t see very well, but it sounded like the windows in 1-C, directly below them, were being smashed. The shrill sounds of screams filtered up through the floor and through the newly opened windows to spread panic into Takuya’s class. The cluster of girls who had already spent the past hour in histrionics broke into more genuine tears and fell to the floor in a huddle. Nakemura had Kato-sensei by the shoulders and was demanding to know what they were going to do about this situation. Takuya could see the intruders’ faces more clearly now, as they staggered through the hedges and stepped through broken glass with bare feet. Their skin was gray and mottled at best, but more likely to be in a far more gruesome state, decayed to leave yellow-black teeth grinning through a hole in the cheek or hanging in strips from the edges of a jaw in a mockery of a beard. Clouded gray-white eyes rolled up and met Takuya’s, and in the same perfect mad instant, he knew that he was going to die, but also that, if nothing else, Nagase’s classroom was on the other side of the school, and he might make it out alive.

Nakemura had enlisted some of the more athletic boys into helping him push Kato-sensei’s desk up against one of the doors to the classroom. Others were struggling to move a bookshelf, but were mostly only succeeding in dropping out of date English textbooks onto the floor or onto their heads. The screams from downstairs had choked off into a far-worse silence. Takuya closed his eyes and pressed his hands flat to the cool glass of the window behind him, leaving a blue-black smudge of ink cut through with the lines of his palm.

“Attention, attention!” Girls gasped and whimpered as the PA system snapped on with a hiss of feedback. “Teachers and students, please, move as quickly as possible to the library, I repeat, move as quickly as–” The principal’s voice cut off in a clatter and more breaking glass, and then wet screams choked by static. Nakemura tore at the PA system’s box with shaking hands, yanking at it until he disconnected the wires from the wall and the only sound in the room was the soft background of quiet sobbing.

The library would be a safe bet, it was true. It was a large enough room to hold a considerable amount of students, the windows were too small and high up for anyone to reasonably fit through, and there was only one door in and out of the place. It would be a perfect place to seek shelter, were it not just a stairway up from the principal’s office, which had clearly been… compromised. “We need to stay here,” Takuya said, not caring or knowing if anyone could hear him. “We’re not safe here, but it’s safer than moving.” His empty and already aching stomach turned at the knowledge that if anyone did follow the instructions to move to the library, they would at least serve as a … distraction. Takuya envisioned a world where he might be brave, and where he would lead his class the opposite way, out through the gym, and into… god knows how many more of those monsters were still outside. He put his hand on his face, oblivious to any ink he might smudge across his nose, and bit back the tears. There was so much left that he’d wanted to do, and now it was going to end like this

The clock shuddered slowly through the minutes again as sounds of breaking glass, falling furniture, and screams seemed to come closer. One pair of students had decided to take advantage of their impending doom to find a few last moments of life, and had tucked into a corner behind a few desks to kiss and touch as much as they still had time for. Kato-sensei kept himself hidden behind a filing cabinet, sitting on the floor with his head in his hands, mumbling words that Takuya could not, and did not want to hear. When a soft knock came at the front classroom door, though, he looked up, scrambling to put his glasses back on.

“Vice Principal Miura!” he exclaimed and was up on his feet and heading to the door before anyone could shout out for him to stop, for him to look and see the faded color of her eyes, the mats in her hair, and the reddish brown smudges across her throat and onto her blouse. Kato-sensei opened the door and got out an “Oh, thank go–” before she lunged, hands pinning into his shoulders and knocking him to the floor as she sunk her teeth into his ear.

Takuya dove away from the window to try to conceal himself behind one of the desks that had not been pressed up against the doors and walls. He could see into the hallway now, and it seemed that Vice Principal Miura had been so kind to bring her friends along to visit the class, as well. He could smell them now, the gagging scent of waterlogged earth and rotting meat, and he could see the fresh, bright blood smeared on what had once been Vice Principal Miura’s mouth through the legs of the desk he clung to.

They filled the room in what seemed like hours and no time at all, all at once. That group of shuddering girls held hands as they tried to run, shrieking and wailing, but they made it no further than a few steps before a woman who was blue and swollen from the ocean, seaweed clinging to her hair, grabbed hold of the lead girl’s arm and brought her against the window. Takuya watched as the splatter of her blood trailed down the glass to mingle with his own inky palm-print.

Takuya didn’t want to watch it all, but he couldn’t look away, couldn’t even blink as he saw these monsters, these walking dead devour his classmates, people he’d known as friends. It was becuase he couldn’t tear his eyes away that he failed to notice before it was too late. The one that loomed over him was smudged with dirt, grass still clinging to his legs and the tips of his fingers worn raw enough to show bone. Takuya cried out as it staggered downward to grope for a hold on him, and closed his eyes tightly as he felt cold hands grasp his arms. He heard the corpse-man’s jaw creak open and felt the chill as its body grow close, and gave his last thought to the hope that it would be over quickly.

And it was, but not the way that he expected. He heard a grunt from above him, and a loud thud, and then the cold weight was off of him and an entirely warm and human hand was on his shoulder. He opened his eyes to see Nagase, bloodstained baseball bat clenched tightly in his other hand.

“Mizuhara? Mizuhara, are you okay?” He was pulling him to his feet before he could answer, which was fine, since Takuya wasn’t sure if he could make his throat work. “Come on, everyone left, follow me, quickly!” His hand slid from Takuya’s shoulder down to grasp his wrist tightly, his fingers curling not far from a smudge of ink that still contained a scribble of his name.

Nagase pulled him out of the classroom and into the hall, taking cracks with his bat at the creatures when they grew too close. A few others managed to follow them out of the classroom, including the amorous couple from earlier. The hallway was infested, too, but many of the monsters were more than occupied, feasting on, as Takuya had predicted, those who had made a move to escape to the library. Nagase let go of Takuya’s wrist and took his bat up in both hands, ready to face down whatever might come. “I’ve gotten everyone out of the classrooms behind you, now hurry up and get up to the roof!” The half-dozen survivors of class 2-B followed this order with no hesitation, breaking towards the stairs to the third floor at a run. Takuya, though, stayed.

Nagase glanced over his shoulder as his knuckles were turning white around his bat. “Mizuhara? What are you doing? You have to get out of here!”

Takuya focused on Nagase, on the brightness still gleaming in his eyes despite the blood smudged on his face, at the set of his jaw, on his chest as it heaved with each heavy breath, and found his bravery. He put a hand on Nagase’s arm and said, “I can’t let you stay here alone,” he said, and pulled him hard away from the sounds of screams and tearing flesh. Nagase resisted for only a moment before he let loose the grip on his bat and brought his hand back around Takuya’s wrist again, warm fingers tight as he set in a run around the corner to the stairs.

It was too late, though; they’d come around from the other side, and were beginning to shamble and limp their way up to the third floor. The door onto the roof was thick metal and bolted heavily, and Takuya could only hope it would be enough, because most of the rest of his energy was spent on trying to figure out how they would find someplace safe. Nagase swore under his breath and tightened his fingers against Takuya’s pulse before yanking him off towards the other stairs, the ones going down.

“Are you crazy?” Takuya yelped even as he was taking the steps to the first floor two at a time to keep up with Nagase’s long strides. “Aren’t they already down there?”

“Yes, but not on this end,” Nagase said, holding out his bat warily as he looked around the corner to the bottom of the stairs. “If they were, they’d be coming up this set. Come on, I think we can get to the basement if we hurry.”

They weren’t at that set of stairs on the first floor yet, but they were close. A man naked to the waist and missing one eye staggered towards Nagase with reaching hands, but he swatted at him with his bat, sending him flat on his back to struggle like an overturned turtle against his stiffened joints. The door to the basement was right there, but it was locked, just as it would always be during the day, to keep kids from going down there to sneak smokes. Nagase took a breath and let go of Takuya’s wrist, but met his eyes.

“Keep watch for me,” he breathed, and pounded at the knob of the door with his bat. Wood splintered from both door and sporting equipment, and the sound drew the attention of a dozen of the monsters who had been unaware of their presence just moments ago.

“Hurry,” Takuya whispered through a dry mouth. “Please, hurry, Nagase…” A loud crack came from behind him, and Takuya hoped it wasn’t the bat. Nagase’s fingers clasped around his hand, and as he stumbled down the basement stairs, he looked behind him to see the jagged hole in the wood where the doorknob had once been.

The basement was dark, but Nagase kept Takuya pulled close enough to him that he didn’t stumble into anything. He found doorknobs with the wild groping of a hand still holding his bat, and swore each time one revealed to be locked. Takuya had never heard him use words like that before, and in some disconnected part of his mind that came easily to the forefront, more than happy to distract him from the putrid smell that was still clinging to his clothes and dying in his nostrils, he found the thought of Nagase being crude thrilling, and wanted to hear it again to get that shiver up his back.

The next door that Nagase tried was unlocked though, and that relief was better than any mumbled swear. He let go of Takuya’s wrist after pulling him inside and fumbled through the darkness until he found the pull-chain for the single hanging lightbulb, which cast the room (which seemed to be a fairly disused storage closet, home to a few dust-covered paint cans, an empty toolbox, and a broom running low on bristles) in a pale yellow light. Nagase set his bat down on one of the empty shelves and turned his attention back to the door. “Oh, please, let this lock,” he mumbled, and when he found and turned the bolt, leaned his head back with a look of nearly rapturous relief on his face. He turned back to Takuya and gave him that same smile he’d fallen in love with, now worn tired around the eyes. “We should be safe in here… for now, at least.” He rapped two knuckles on the door, making for a solid sound. “It’s metal. I think most of the basement was designed to double as a bomb shelter.”

Now that they were still, that the running had stopped, now Takuya could feel his heart rate racing upwards, and the muscles in his legs turning into water. “Not really a bomb, but, it… ah…” He leaned back against the wall behind him and bent at the waist, putting his hands to his knees to keep himself upright as his stomach lurched and tears clouded his eyes. Not in front of Nagase, he thought desperately, and clenched his eyes shut as he took in a shaking breath.

Nagase was there before his lungs could even fill, though, hands warm and steady on his shoulders. “Are you okay?” he asked, the faintest note of panic in his voice. “Did one of them hurt you?” Takuya let himself lean into Nagase’s grasp, let him be an anchor to bring him back to something resembling solid ground. He swiped the back of his hand across his eyes quickly and looked up, and seeing Nagase looking so deeply concerned about him made him steadier than anything.

“No, I’m…” Takuya laughed a little, a choked sound, and let out a jumpy breath. “I’m not fine, but I’m not hurt.” He could see Nagase relax at that, but a little line of worry still furrowed his brows. “You… you saved me, it’s okay,” he whispered, and then had to step away, to break from Nagase’s touch before he got dizzy again. “What about you? You–” He reached out towards Nagase’s cheek, where a smear of blood was half-dried.

“It’s–” Nagase lifted the back of his sleeve to scrub at the blood until there was only the faintest pinkish-brown smudge left. “–not mine. I’m okay.” He winced a little, but that turned quickly into a rueful smile. “Well, my hands have seen better days, but I think it was worth it.” He held his palms up for Takuya to see, showing skin that was red and cracked from his violence with the bat. Takuya hissed at the one large splinter he could see sticking in the meat of Nagase’s palm; he probably had countless more tiny ones hurting him, but that one was the worst.

“Let, let me…” His hands were so much smaller than Nagase’s that he felt ridiculous wrapping his fingers around his wrist to keep him steady, but small fingers would be what made this bit of first aid possible. He could feel Nagase’s pulse in his wrist, steady but quick, and he held his breath as he got the tip of the splinter in between his nails. “Sorry,” he whispered, and pulled it out in one try. Nagase winced, but only a little, and brought his hand to his mouth to suck a little at the wound.

“Thanks,” he said, half muffled by his palm, but as his hand dropped, that line came back between his brows. “What, what happened to your hand, Mizuhara?” He reached for his wrist again to pull up the hand that was blackened with ink and inspect his palm, and oh god, no.

Takuya began to stutter some excuses about how he kept reminders about his homework and things by writing them on his hand, but then he could see it, perfectly clear even in the faint light, Nagase’s name crisp and unsmudged written just near the thin skin between his thumb and forefinger. Of course that hadn’t faded; he’d written it too many times. He’d perfected each stroke and line like calligraphy, layered over and over again on his skin until it was nearly a tattoo. Nagase was still frowning, still wearing that worry over his eyes, as he brushed his thumb across the center of Takuya’s palm just beneath the lines of his name in a way that made Takuya whimper.

“I, I can, I…” Takuya swallowed in a way that hurt his dry throat, and tried to wriggle his hand out of Nagase’s grasp. “It’s not… I can really explain, it’s not that…” He freed his hand and brought both to cover his face, to hide his flushing cheeks and suddenly stinging eyes. “This isn’t how I wanted to do this, this is entirely not the time for me to–” Takuya stopped himself dead.

Not the time? If he focused and listened carefully, he could hear the shuffling and groans of the monsters upstairs, and the last few echoing screams of whoever remained alive. He was locked in a closet with Nagase Yukio, who he’d been in love with for more than a year now, who had filled every dream and every shivery moment with his hands on his own body for so long, and he would probably never make it out of this room alive. Takuya brought his hands away from his face and looked up at Nagase. It actually seemed like the perfect time. He took a deep breath.

“I like you.” He frowned and took another, deeper breath. “No, actually, I love you. I’m, I’m in love with you, I have been for such a long time, and I’ve wanted to tell you so you could… so I don’t know what you could do, but now I think we’re both going to die soon, and no one’s ever kissed–I’ve never kissed anyone, and all I want to do now before those things get me is to kiss you, just once, just… so please, I…” He ran out of breath, then, and it was nothing like the speech he’d practiced and made notes for so many times, but Nagase was looking at him, lips barely parted, and that seemed like invitation enough. Takuya grabbed at his jacket with both hands, lifted up onto his toes, and used up the last of the bravery he would ever have in what would be his very short life to kiss Nagase.

illustrated by dr_schreaber

illustrated by dr_schreaber

To his surprise, Nagase did not hesitate at all in kissing him back. His mouth was dry and hot, and tasted just slightly of cigarette smoke. Takuya had never known that he smoked, but he couldn’t focus long on that concept once Nagase’s roughened, injured hands were cupping at his cheeks. Nagase’s fingertips slid through the ends of his hair to bring him up closer, to kiss him deeper as he backed Takuya against the wall, crowding him in with the heat of his body. Dying suddenly didn’t seem like it would be so bad.

Takuya had thought of this so much that when suddenly faced with the real thing, he couldn’t decide what he wanted to do. His hands skittered nervously across Nagase’s neck, around the curve of his ear, and through the sweat at the back of his neck before hooking around his shoulders to keep himself both upright and pressed flush to Nagase’s body. He put his trust in Nagase, Nagase who kept tasting the inside of his mouth with stabs of his tongue, to know what to do.

Nagase’s first decision in this position of control was to pull his hands from Takuya’s hair and reach down to grab his rear with both hands, hard enough to make Takuya break from this kiss with an undignified gasping squeak. Nagase didn’t laugh, though–he was too busy lifting Takuya. If he had enough strength in his arms to break off doorknobs and perform acts of heroics, he certainly had no trouble placing a scrawny second-year sitting on a low shelf where he could reach him without having to stoop.

Once he was settled, Nagase took his mouth again, and the wet sound of their mouths meeting made Takuya’s skin prickle. The kiss was brief, though, as Nagase nudged Takuya’s head back to kiss along Takuya’s throat, down to the edge of his collar and back up to close his mouth wetly around Takuya’s ear in a way that made him cry out and shudder closer, tangling his dangling legs between Nagase’s.

“Shh,” Nagase breathed against his ear, and that (along with the fantastic chill of his breath against wet skin) only made Takuya shiver more and whimper again. How could he stay quiet when Nagase’s hands kept moving on him, when he kept kissing him? Somewhere in the distance outside, he could hear movement in the basement, the thud and shuffle of stiff bodies making their way down stairs, but he couldn’t find a way to care, not when Nagase was pushing his jacket off of his shoulders and loosening his tie. Not yet, was the silent plea he made as Nagase tugged his shirt loose from his belt.

Nagase’s hand were broad enough (or he was skinny enough) to span almost the whole way across Takuya’s waist when he spread out his fingers. That had to hurt–Takuya could feel the rough patches as his palm slid up from his belly to his chest, drawing goosebumps in its wake as he pushed his shirt up to bunch underneath his underarms. Nagase leaned in close enough that Takuya could feel the unevenness of his breath against his cheek, and curled his other hand into the mess of Takuya’s hair as he brushed a thumb over one taut nipple.

Takuya bit into his lip to keep from making noise and curled his leg around one of Nagase’s, sending him off balance to lean hard against him. “Nagase!” Takuya gasped, because he could feel it, Nagase hard and hot pressed against his thigh, as hard as he was. That gave his hands the purpose they’d lacked earlier, and he pulled at his tie, yanking him closer so he could grind into his thigh. It was entirely possible, he thought as he rested his forehead against Nagase’s chest, feeling the thud of his heartbeat, that he would die from this, and that was the best possible thing that could happen to him.

Nagase’s hand left Takuya’s hair to wrap around his wrist and pull his hand away from his tie, and he pulled his body cruelly away. “Shh,” he murmured again when Takuya whimpered, and moved that ink-smudged hand to cover Takuya’s own mouth. “Shh.” Takuya’s breath shivered over his own fingers, and he looked to Nagase’s face to see that smile just seconds before Nagase’s hands were opening his belt and the muffle of his hand became entirely necessary.

Nagase pulled clothing aside and drew out Takuya’s cock in one long, slow stroke that made Takuya have to bite into the heel of his palm to keep from coming right then. If he was going to die today, it was not going to be of embarrassment. Nagase’s other hand rubbed his thigh in restless circles as his fingers curled lightly around Takuya’s length.

Takuya drew his hand away from his mouth long enough to whisper, “Your, your hands, you…” He could feel the roughness and cracks in his palm quite well now, and while it was really exactly perfect for him, exactly how he’d long imagined that Nagase’s hands would feel, but it couldn’t feel good for him…

“Don’t worry,” Nagase murmured, and pulled his hand away entirely. Takuya’s murmur of complaint was cut off when he saw Nagase lowering himself to his knees, and then he could only hold his breath and bite hard into his hand until he could taste the ink. Nagase’s hands slide up Takuya’s thighs to his hips, and then his mouth, his mouth that could do so many more wonderful things than just smile, was on him, around him, taking him to the root.

Takuya couldn’t keep his hands against his mouth for long; he couldn’t breathe that way, not with Nagase’s tongue sliding over his cock, finding all the places that made him gasp and shudder. He buried his hands in Nagase’s hair, sun-lightened strands tangling through his fingers, and arched into his mouth. “Nagase,” he gasped as his lips slid along his shaft in a hungry rhythm. “Naga–ah!” He did something with the tip of his tongue at the end of each stroke, and Takuya dared to look down at him. Nagase was watching him, looking up to his face to see every reaction played out on his face, and when Takuya’s eyes locked with his, he was lost.

He didn’t quite realize just how loud he’d been until he was gasping in the aftermath and Nagase was on his feet again, holding his fingers over his mouth and looking sharply at the door. Takuya heard the faint sound of feet shuffling past, but he was more interested in how flushed Nagase’s cheeks were, and how red his lips had become, all because of him. He had a feeling that if someone put that baseball bat in his hands right now, he would have the strength to fight his way out and possibly save the entire world. He had more important things to do first, however.

Takuya parted his lips just enough to let the tips of Nagase’s fingers into his mouth. That drew his attention away from the door–the shuffling had passed, anyway, and they seemed safe enough for the time being. Nagase drew in a long breath through his darkened lips as Takuya brushed his tongue over those two fingers, feeling out the rough spots and catching the sudden, startling coppery taste of blood. Nagase drew his hand back to brush his hand through Takuya’s hair again, drawing the mess away from his eyes, and whispered, “Mizuhara…”

Yes,” Takuya gasped, and set to Nagase’s belt with trembling hands. Nagase kept that hand curled into Takuya’s hair as he steaded himself with a palm spread flat on the wall behind Takuya’s head, and bit into his lip to keep himself quiet as Takuya pulled his cock free with both hands. He was big, like Takuya had always thought he would be, and so hard in his hands. Takuya wanted to get on his knees, too, to do what Nagase had just done, but he couldn’t make himself let himself move, or let go, or put himself anywhere where he couldn’t see Nagase’s face. He wound his fingers together around Nagase’s shaft, and stroked him slow and tight, whimpering at the feel of hot flesh sliding under his fingers.

Nagase’s hand tightened in Takuya’s hair and he leaned in for a rough, distracted kiss, just deep enough that Takuya could taste himself lingering on his tongue. Takuya moaned into Nagase’s mouth and tightened his grip. Nagase hissed breath through his teeth and began to move his hips, taking his own pace into the warmth of Takuya’s hands. He was fucking Takuya’s hands, that was the only word he could think of to describe it, and god, if only he could have that, too, but there couldn’t be enough time left. Nagase breathed in heavy gasps and kept his eyes open just enough that he never looked away from Takuya, never lost the hold on his gaze. “Mizuhara…” he groaned, and with one last forceful thrust that loudly shook the supports of the shelf Takuya was perched on, came into his joined hands.

Nagase’s head rested against Takuya’s shoulder as he caught his breath, and Takuya kept a hold on him until he’d entirely softened in his fingers. He waited for the door to break down, and for tearing hands and hungry teeth to come at them and end it all. He heard only silence beyond the door, and could hear very little coming from the rest of the school. Carefully, hesitantly he drew his hands away and wiped them against his discarded jacket (he wouldn’t be needing it anymore, he figured), and let out a slow breath.

“What…” Takuya stopped and coughed to find his voice again in his dry throat. “What now?”

Nagase let out one last heavy sigh and straightened himself up, tucking himself back into his pants and then doing the same for Takuya. “I guess… we just wait,” he said, that smile back on his lips, but more than a little sad now. He curled a hand around Takuya’s back to help him off the low shelf, and reached to pick up his bat again before taking a seat on the floor facing the door. Takuya shuffled his feet awkwardly for a few moments before Nagase held out an arm, offering him a space against his side to wait for the inevitable.

“Thank you,” he whispered, and it was okay if Nagase didn’t really know what he was thanking him for. Nagase rested his hand at the back of Takuya’s neck for the length of one brief squeeze, then settled his arm around his waist. Takuya settled his head against Nagase’s chest, listening for the firm beat of his heart, closed his eyes, and waited.

Takuya must have slipped into a doze, because the next thing he was aware of was the sound of a loud pounding at the door and Nagase nearly kneeing him in the head in his scramble to get to his feet. “Wha–” he began as Nagase gripped the bat with both hands, but was cut off by the sound of someone’s voice from outside.

“If anyone is in there, please open the door!” came a strong male voice from outside. “The authorities have the situation under control, and we are moving all survivors to safety. If there is anyone inside, come out immediately!”

Nagase dropped his bat on the floor with a clatter and dove to unlock the door. Several uniformed men (no uniform that Takuya had ever seen before, but he was hardly an expert on the subject) were in front of the door, wearing goggles and holding guns. “Oh, thank god,” Nagase said, and turned to beam at Takuya. “We’re going to be okay.”

The aftermath of it all was a blur. They were shepherded past parts of the school that had already been taped off and were under armed guard and placed into helicopters in groups of five with the (thankfully and surprisingly large) group of students and faculty that had made it to the roof. Takuya was herded into one and before he could object, he was watching the school get smaller below him, Nagase still waiting on the roof to get pushed into the next chopper.

After that it was three days of entirely unnecessary observation in the hospital, where they mostly seemed interested in drawing three or four vials of blood from him a day and never letting him leave his room. He was eventually released into the care of his frantic parents; his mother wouldn’t stop bursting into tears and hugging him for at least the next week. He got no word from Nagase, but then, it wasn’t as though he had his phone number or knew where he lived, and in any case, his father wasn’t particularly interested of letting him get more than a block away from the house without supervision.

The worst thing about it all was that they only got two weeks out of school for the whole ordeal. The papers were buzzing with news about the shocking and bizarre “zombie attack” (Takuya had never heard the word before, but he guessed it was good as any to call those monsters), but it had apparently only affected the area around Takuya’s town and had been easily brought under control with minimal casualties. No one liked a lot of bad news, and people liked depressing stories about tiny northern prefecture fishing towns even less, so it quickly fell out of circulation, and everything fell back into normalcy, no matter how strange that was.

It was like nothing had ever happened, and everyone was eager to forget. The school was in better repair than it had been before the “incident”, and the new history teacher, Nakata-sensei, was just as boring as Kato-sensei had been, if not more. Takuya had seen Nagase in the halls once or twice in the first few days of school, and he’d smiled and said hello, as he always did, like nothing had ever happened. Takuya couldn’t really be surprised. He was just taking advantage of the situation, like Takuya had. It was stupid of him to expect that there’d be anything more from it, but… it had seemed like there’d really been something else there, more than just the fear and desperation. Takuya was good at imagining things though, and he spent each day trying to put it out of his mind. If nothing else, at least he could stop having so much ink smudged on his hand.

At the end of the first week back, Takuya paused outside of school to readjust the load of books in his pack before he headed home. He was going to get scoliosis or something from hauling stuff back and forth every day, he was sure, and he grumbled as he tried to evenly distribute the weight throughout his satchel.

“Hey, Mizuhara, need some help with that?” How had he not noticed Nagase standing there, watching him mutter to himself?

“I, uh. I think I’ve got it, thanks.” Nagase walked over to look down and shake his head as Takuya closed up his satchel.

“They’re really trying to kill us now that we’re back, huh?” He ran one hand through his hair and looked off towards the road. “Because two weeks missed is two weeks missed, no matter the reason, right?”

Takuya lifted his pack onto his shoulder with a faint grunt and managed a little smile. “Yeah, right…” He bit the inside of his lip as he took in the color the low sun painted on Nagase’s cheeks. “How, um… how have you been?”

That brought Nagase looking at him again, smiling a little bashfully. “Oh, I was fine, I’m fine. I think those weird uniform guys kinda wanted to give me a job, but…” He laughed a little and shook his head. “I think I like playing baseball better.”

“Hah, yeah, you’re… really good, Nagase, you…” He noticed that Nagase was looking down at something and still smiling, and that the color on his cheeks was not from the sun at all. Takuya followed his gaze downward.

Nagase’s hand was held out in front of him. His wounds were healed and splinters gone, and only his regular calluses remained. In the center of his palm, in thick black ink with strokes that showed a lot of practice, was written Takuya’s name.

“Do you… think I can walk you home, Mizuhara?”

Takuya put his hand into Nagase’s for a few seconds and squeezed tight, and when he drew it back, he saw the ink hadn’t smudged at all. “I’d… yes, I’d like that.”

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