The Problem with Perfection Chapter 10 spoilers!
Hey all! So, a couple people asked for this, so I figured I’d post it. It’s chapter 8 of the companion to TPWP, The Problem with Mondo, which corresponds with chapter 10 of TPWP. Yes, this confuses me a lot too, the fact that the chapters don’t align. -.-
Anyway! Don’t read this if you’ve not read TPWP chapter 10, since it will definitely spoil that chapter, ha. Warning for an overabundance of foul language and some sexualized thinking, as well as an absent thought of suicide, same as in TPWP. This chapter is super long, about 20,000 words, and I’m posting all of it because... why not, am I right? Ha.
I did cut a few sentences from this chapter because they might spoil things for later chapters of TPWP, but they don’t really contain anything major.
The chapter is below the cut! Hope y’all like. :-)
Mondo is angry. Blindingly angry. So angry he doesn’t know why he’s angry, but honestly, what else is new? He just knows that he’s angry and the reason he is angry is that goddamn motherfucking kid and his goddamn motherfucking glasses-
“They! Are!! Glasses!!! Just!!! Wear them!!!” the boy grits out, thrusting his goddamn his hand out towards Mondo, looking like he is about five fucking seconds from bashing his head against the goddamn wall. Mondo almost wishes he fucking would, to save him the fucking trouble! Unable to help himself, he scowls and crosses his arms, shaking his head firmly, so fucking pissed it ain’t even funny.
“No! I ain’t no fuckin’ nerd!” Mondo yells back, glaring like he was born to do it. Unfortunately, it seems so was Ishimaru, as the kid is glaring like his life depends on it, as fiery and beautiful passionate as ever. That goddamn motherfucking...
“Just! Wear them! The doctor says you need them! You don’t have to wear them all the time! Just when you’re reading! Stop! Being an idiot!”
“Me?! I ain’t no fuckin’ idiot, you’re a fuckin’ idiot! If ya think I’m gonna wear that shit, yer outta yer goddamn mind! Now get that shit outta my face, ya fuckwad, or I’m gonna bash yer head in!”
“Like heck you will! You’re all bark and no bite, Owada! Now just! Wear! The! Glasses! You said you were okay with them when you bought them! I will force you to wear them, don’t think I won’t!”
“Oh, you motherfuckin’-!”
Mondo and Ishimaru turn, as one, to glare at the intruder on their private fucking conversation. Okay, so maybe they’re in the middle of the hallway outside their dorm rooms, but fuck! That don’t mean shit! Eavesdropping is a nasty fucking habit and if this goddamn motherfucker doesn’t butt the fuck out right the fuck now-
“Shut up!” the pair shouts in unison, before turning to glare at each other again.
Mondo doesn’t know why he’s so angry. He doesn’t know why he’s doing this, or why he has been doing this for the past week and a half. From hot, to cold, to hot, to cold, again and again and again, never fucking ceasing. One minute he’s fine, relaxed as shit and not at all angry, maybe even feeling kinda good, and then the next...
And he doesn’t know why. Why he’s doing this. Why he’s fucking ruining this shit, like he fucking ruins every fucking thing. He... h-he just...
Things had been okay, you know? Between him and Ishimaru. At first. Sure, they weren’t really friends, evidenced by how they are still referring to one another by last name, but they’d been friendly enough. Mondo had taken care to keep his anger in check, and— to his surprise— it... it hadn’t actually been that hard. It seems that Ishimaru can be pretty fucking cool when they’re not at odds.
He’s also a great fucking tutor. He somehow manages to not sound sanctimonious and pretentious when explaining shit, instead looking so fucking earnest and like he genuinely wants to just... help.
Because of that, they’d gotten along pretty well those first few days. Ishimaru had been determined to get him brought up to speed before they started the fucking novel, so he’d taken care to spend a couple hours a day hanging around Mondo, at various times. The pair usually spent an hour or so in the library after class ended, but more than that, they just... they would walk together between classes, Ishimaru rambling on and on about what they’d just learned about in class. Mondo doesn’t know why he’d allowed it, usually not caring about shit like that, but somehow... somehow, it had been nice. Hearing Ishimaru talk about the shit they’d learned, the kid better able to impart knowledge in the ten fucking minutes they had between classes than the teachers were able to in the hour plus they had. It’s not at all the sorta shit Mondo would have expected himself to enjoy, let alone look forward to, but shit. There they were.
But then... Mondo got stupid. He overstepped his bounds and got fucking scared, fuck.
They’d been in Ishimaru’s room. Mondo doesn’t know why he’d made the offer to go to the kid’s room rather than the library, like they usually did, like was safe, but he... he had. And the kid had fucking accepted, and so there they were, sitting on the hall monitor’s fucking couch, sitting too fucking close. The kid was reading the short story Teach had assigned to the class, the pair realizing it was just... easier, while Mondo waited for the nurse to contact the eye doctor for him, since it turned out that yeah, his eyes were kinda fucked up, shit.
He had felt so fucking weird inside, the first time the kid had read to him, since they’d been in the library and he’d been nervous someone would see them and think Mondo was an idiot who needed to be fucking read to, but... shit. This time it had just been... different. Without the fear of being judged (since Ishimaru never fucking judged him, not ever, god fucking damn), he... he’d been able to listen to the kid reading without any fucking reservations. And he’d had to admit that- that he... he liked it. A lot. Like... fucking a lot.
So fucking much that it had made him feel relaxed for the first time... shit. Prolly ever. Ishimaru just had a nice sounding voice, ya know? It was strangely deep, at times, when he got lost in the story, his words not too fast but not too slow. He actually emoted when he spoke, too, the sound not a dull and dry monotone like so many fucking other people he’s heard read before. It just... made him feel so fucking calm inside, like the monster inside of him had been fucking purring.
And... and then...
Mondo had let his head drop down onto Ishimaru’s shoulder, eyes closing in contentment, the kid faltering for one split second, breath hitched, before he’d smoothly continued, like it had never happened. And with his eyes closed and his head resting on a warm, comfortable shoulder, hearing that wonderful cadence from that wonderful, beautiful mouth... he hadn’t been able to stop the thought. And the thought he had was...
God, his voice is so fucking nice, isn’t it...? Wonder what it would sound like screaming your name as you pound the fuck outta him. He’d prolly be loud as shit, so fucking passionate, clawing you to all hell, but damn if you’d mind. Shit... wouldn’t that be fucking nice...
He had been, to put it mildly, freaked the fuck out.
His eyes had shot open the second the thought had crossed his mind, heart fucking pounding as he wondered where the goddamn fuck that shit came from. Ishimaru had been startled, looking at him with his wide fucking eyes, lips opened softly in shock, voice faltering for the first time and Mondo... Mondo couldn’t fucking handle it, holy fucking shit.
He’d immediately stood and stammered out some bullshit about needing to check on his hog, before fucking bailing, eyes wide and heart an absolute mess. He had, indeed, gone out to his hog and rode around for a bit, not wanting to think, but he’d been unable to help it. To stop it. And it... it made him feel...
He’s not gay. Okay? He’s fucking not. There’d be no fucking problem if he were, but he just ain’t. He likes chicks, something he knows better than anything else, something he’s known since he was a fucking kid, goddamn. He’d even made sure to look at his porno mags that night, reassured when he felt his dick harden so fucking hard as he saw the tits and pussy that always made him so fucking hard to see.
So, he wasn’t gay. He fucking couldn’t be gay, and it’s not possible for him to like both, so he figured that the thought had meant... meant Mondo wanted to fucking pound Ishimaru’s head in, not- n-not any other meaning of the word that it could have meant. He guessed that he didn’t like being around Ishimaru as much as he had assumed and that he actually hated him, after all.
As freaked out as he’d been, he took hold of that idea and fucking ran with it. He told himself that he hated the kid, of course he hated him, his voice was fucking annoying as shit, not nice, not nice at all!
And so, the next day, he’d been cold to the kid. So fucking cold. And when the kid had tried to approach him after home room ended, looking open and earnest and so fucking cute-
Mondo hadn’t been able to handle it. His stomach had clenched, and his heart had fucking lurched, and he told himself it was hatred he felt, it had to be fucking hatred. And so, he’d snarled at the kid, telling him to ‘get the fuck away from me, freak!’ before he’d run off, heart aching so fucking stupidly.
He had considered skipping class, getting on his hog and fucking booking it, but he needed to give his girl a break, and he still kinda wanted to try the whole ‘giving school a chance’ thing, so he’d eventually decided to storm into class, even if he’d been five minutes late. He’d refused to look at Ishimaru, though, thinking that seeing his stupid fucking pathetic face would fucking destroy him infuriate the shit out of him, and as soon as class ended, he’d shot out, not needing to pack anything up since he’d not fucking brought anything, shit.
That had kept happening the rest of the day. Every class they had together (which was pretty much every fucking class, god fucking damn this school) Mondo would carefully keep his eyes off the kid, ignoring the feel of sad, hurt, bright red eyes as they bored into him. After the second class, the kid had tried to chase after him, tried to talk to him, but Mondo would fucking turn and head the opposite fucking direction of their next class, and he knew the kid wouldn’t dare risk being late, so he’d give up pretty quick. He’d constantly be looking in class, though, lips pulled down in a frown, eyebrows furrowed in concern. Not that Mondo was fucking looking! Shit!
It wasn’t until Ishimaru had cornered him outside his dorm room that night, looking so fucking hurt and upset and not a little bit annoyed that they’d managed to resolve things.
In that Ishimaru had been so fucking annoying that Mondo had immediately started yelling, causing Ishimaru to yell back, his words bleeding hurt, making Mondo feel like absolute scum. They had been loud enough to garner the attention of most of their classmates, even fucking Togami gracing them with his condescending presence, which had made Mondo even more pissed, honestly, wanting nothing more than to be anywhere fucking else.
It was when the kid looked about ready to fucking cry that Mondo had had enough. His insides were squirming, and he felt so fucking scared, for reasons he still doesn’t understand, but he... h-he hadn’t wanted to make Ishimaru cry again. After spending several days interacting with Ishimaru, having a lot of fucking conversations that hadn’t actually ended in the kid’s tears, he... he hadn’t wanted to go back to that.
And so, with all the confused fucking emotions swirling inside him, he’d yelled ‘fuckin’ fine, ya goddamn bastard! I’ll fuckin’ meet you and do that goddamn fuckin’ assignment tomorrow! Now leave me the fuck alone!’ before storming into his room and slamming the door shut so loud it made even his ears ring.
He’d then promptly stormed into the shower, turning the water on as hot as it could go, the water fucking hurting, but he’d wanted it to. He just... he’d felt so... so...
He’d never felt this way for anyone before. So angry and scared and confused and yet also so fucking happy, so bizarrely, stupidly happy. Ishimaru fucking... he made him happy. And he didn’t know how to handle that, because clearly, he still hated the kid... right? Right? What other option was there? Why did he want to hit Ishimaru (and he had to want to hit him, it was the only fucking option that made any fucking sense) if he didn’t hate him?
But he’d agreed— stupidly— to meet with the kid for another fucking tutoring session after class the next day. And while the thought had made his insides squirm, he... fuck. He hadn’t wanted to make the kid cry again. God, did he not want that. Even if he did hate him— which he must, he must— he... fuck.
He couldn’t make him cry.
He wasn’t his goddamn old man.
And so, when he got out of the shower, he’d resolved to contain his anger the next day. He’d push it down, keep it locked up tight tight tight, and he wouldn’t let it hurt Ishimaru. He’d gotten into bed (still hated it, but he was slowly getting use to the ridiculously plush material) and fallen into a fitful sleep, dreams full of wide, hurt red eyes, a sad voice begging him to explain why he was hurting him so. He’d woken an hour early with a start, heart pounding, and had spent the remaining time until he usually got up doing push-ups again and again and again, until he didn’t remember the dream anymore.
And then, when he went into class, carrying his supplies for once... he’d given the kid a small, sheepish smile, stomach roiling with all the emotions within it. He’d then spent the rest of home room doodling absently on the notebook Ishimaru had helped him pick out from the school store, doing his best to not think of everything and psych himself out. He’d even managed to feel almost calm as he let himself draw, something he rarely allows himself to do, but always has kinda enjoyed, even if he’s shit at it.
Once home room ended, he’d waited for Ishimaru at the door, telling him as casually as he could that the nurse had contacted him the day before, saying she’d scheduled an eye doctor (he still can’t remember the official name Ishimaru called the dude, shit) appointment for 3:00 the next day, hesitantly asking the kid if he had wanted to come along. He could tell that the kid was taken aback, clearly not having expected such a thing, but he’d still stammered out an acceptance, looking so flustered it wasn’t funny when Mondo turned to look at him with a small, soft smile. He’d not meant to look at the kid like that, but he’d just... been unable to help it.
The rest of the day had gone well, the tutoring session going nicely like it had before that stupid fucking bullshit two days prior. It had happened in the library again, which Mondo figured would be safer. He’d almost started to hope that things would stay that way, stay as calm and easy and nice, but then-
Mondo got angry. Again.
He doesn’t even know why, he never fucking does, but the kid had just... he’d been so fucking patient, helping Mondo pick out a pair of ‘reading glasses,’ since the doc had said he had pretty bad close-up vision and would be benefited from having prescription reading glasses, not just the over-the-counter stuff you find at drug stores. Mondo had felt so fucking lost, no idea what any of the bullshit meant, but Ishimaru had... he’d been so fucking helpful, explaining the complicated terminology and shit, helping him find a pair that didn’t make him look too much like a fucking nerd. And the pair he settled on was honestly kinda nice. It was a rectangular silver metal frame that had deep purple plastic on the sides, and it actually make him look kinda cool... if a bit nerdy. He’d given the salesperson his school insurance card and was pleasantly surprised to find he’d not have to pay a penny for the frames, since the school covers shit like that.
It was then, as he and Ishimaru exited the shop and the kid absently commented that the glasses made him look very smart that Mondo just... fucking lost it.
And he doesn’t even know why.
It just... it made him feel weird inside. Being around the kid. Being soft with him. And he was. Soft. Soft and kind and fucking gentle. And the kid was the exact same back. The entire time they’d been in the shop, Mondo had been thinking how nice it had felt. How domestic. The panic and fear had been slowly rising in him the entire time they’d been in the store, and he’d done all he could to push it the fuck down, but he... he hadn’t...
He’d left the kid standing there, looking so fucking confused, as he hopped on his hog and drove away. He’d not cared how the kid would get back to the school, he had refused to ride with Mondo since it made him ‘nervous’ anyway, so it wasn’t his fucking problem.
And that pattern just... kept repeating. Mondo would get angry, say something toxic to the kid, and storm away. The kid would wait a couple of hours, maybe try and talk with him after class or something, only to eventually corner him and force him to talk to him, looking so fucking fed up, but also so fucking upset and sad and confused. Like he didn’t know why Mondo was doing this to him. Like he didn’t know why Mondo was being so fucking difficult. Like he... he didn’t...
Didn’t know why he fucking bothered...
And… honestly? Mondo didn’t know why either. Why he kept trying. Why he was so stubborn, always chasing after Mondo even after Mondo fucking shoved him away, sometimes literally. Even when Mondo would get so fucking nasty, making tears build up in the kid’s eyes, frustration clear in his every movement.
For almost two weeks this occurred, again and again and again, and Mondo... Mondo doesn’t know why the kid doesn’t just leave him already. Why he doesn’t just say ‘the hell with it,’ realize Mondo isn’t fucking worth it, and leave his ass. Like every other person on the face of this goddamn planet...
It’s only a matter of time until he does, though. Leave him. It’s what always was going to happen, since Mondo couldn’t ever hope to hold onto someone so very, very good. So very, very nice. Mondo is poison. He’s gas. He only knows how to destroy and break and hurt.
He’s not allowed something nice.
He’s not allowed someone nice.
Not worthy of it.
Case in fucking point...
“Look. Owada-kun,” Ishimaru spits, hands clenched around the stupid glasses case that he for some reason has (Mondo doesn’t even know how he’d gotten a hold of them, shit), looking like he wants to crush them, shit. “I don’t understand why you’re being so stubborn about this! You picked them out! You said they were fine! Why! Why have you changed your mind!”
Mondo scowls at the words, heart racing and swirling and hurting, hurting, hurting, and he doesn’t wanna be doing this, wants to stop, but he can’t, he can’t, he fucking can’t! He doesn’t know how to stop this, doesn’t know how to make this go away, all he knows how to do is break and hurt and destroy, destroy, destroy-
“I ain’t changed shit! I never fuckin’ agreed ta wear fuckin’ glasses, now get the fuck outta my face!”
It’s a lie. They both know it’s a lie, he can see the anger rising on Ishimaru’s face as he processes the abject lie. Mondo had, in fact, agreed on the glasses, had even kinda liked them, but he can’t concede that, can’t say he does, if he does then- then that means he’s okay with this, this weird thing he has going on with Ishimaru, and he doesn’t know if he can handle that, handle the proof that Ishimaru is so fucking amazing, the proof that Mondo doesn’t fucking deserve him, proof that... t-that he...
Mondo can’t take it. He can’t fucking take it! He tries to leave, to get away, to fucking end this shit already, but then Ishimaru is grabbing hold of him, holding so fucking tight, and Mondo tries to break free, tries to get away, but the kid just doesn’t fucking let go, and Mondo is so fucking freaked out, he just wants to leave, please god, let him just leave, don’t let him break this fucking kid again, god, please-
“You-! You are the most infuriating, pig-headed, arrogant... jerk I have ever had the misfortune to meet! If I never saw your face again, it wouldn’t be long enough!”
“Oh, I’m so wounded, please don’t call me anymore fuckin’ names like that, how the fuck am I ever gonna recover?!” Mondo snarls, sarcasm so thick he’s sure even Ishimaru will be able to pick up on it, wanting to stop but not being able to. “Grow the fuck up, ya cock suckin’ assfucker! Learn some better fuckin’ insults or don’t even bother tryin’ ta play!”
“Just because I am too sophisticated to resort to such foul language does not mean anything! You may be a lowly, classless heathen, but I, for one, refuse-”
“Oh, so now ya think yer fuckin’ better than me?! I told ya already, y’ain’t goddamn shit, Ishimaru! Ain’t no shit at all!”
“I am one hundred times the man you will ever hope to be! And if I’m not... feces, then you’re not even worth anything at all! Y-you’re... you’re an amoeba, so tiny and insignificant that it’s a miracle you think you’re relevant at all!”
“What the fuck did ya call me, ya son ofa bitch?!”
Mondo sees the kid open his mouth— likely to fire something back, barely any space between them— holding onto Mondo’s arm so fucking tight, like his life depends on it or something, looking so fucking pissed and angry and hurt and fucking beautiful, so fucking beautiful, god fucking damnit-
But before the kid can say anything, another voice pipes up, the same voice as earlier, making Mondo’s rage reach a paramount, oh god-
“Aw, come on! I thought you guys resolved things already, do you really have to do this?! Please!”
Mondo turns to the fucking eavesdropper, snarling at the beyond fucking average boy. Naegi turns super fucking pale at the look, but he doesn’t cower away for once. Mondo doesn’t care. He’s far passed the point of caring.
“I told ya ta stay the fuck outta this!”
Naegi frowns, but Mondo doesn’t give him a chance to say any other stupid ass thing before he’s turning back to Ishimaru, eyes practically spitting fire as he stares so deep into Ishimaru’s that it feels almost like a physical embrace. It makes Mondo’s breath hitch for some stupid fucking reason, his stomach swirling as he looks deep into the most gorgeous fucking eyes he’s ever fucking seen-
But he can’t feel things like that, so he pushes it firmly away.
He can hear their eavesdropper fucking sigh, soft and almost disappointed, and that should make Mondo even angrier, but something in Mondo is feeling so fucking weird now. G-god... he doesn’t even know how to begin to describe it, other than it feels like he’s on fire, but not even in a bad way. Ishimaru is staring at him, eyes wide, anger in them, but also something else, something Mondo can’t understand, no matter how much he fucking wants to.
He can’t let this end here. He wants to let it end, but he fucking can’t. He... h-he needs to figure out how to settle this, how to make this stop, how to not be as fucking pathetic as he knows he is. He... he needs to prove that he’s not as worthless as they both know he is, as weak, as nothing, so fucking nothing. Everyone knows it, knows he doesn’t belong here, knows that Ishimaru is so much better than him it’s not funny, but he- he needs to prove that he has something going for him, that he... he can do something, even if he’s worthless in every other regard, every other aspect, even if Ishimaru is better than him everywhere else he just needs to prove he can beat him at fucking something, god-
He’s issuing the challenge before he can stop himself.
And god, is he so fucking afraid.
“You think yer so perfect, don’t ya, Ishimaru? Think yer better than me? Well... well, yer not, an’ I can fuckin’ prove it. I bet I can beat you, hands down, any day of the fuckin’ week. Y’ain’t better than me, ya shit fuck. Y’ain’t nothin’,” Mondo hisses, lying through his fucking teeth. Ishimaru is better than him. He knows it. He’s always known it. He hates it, though. Not being good enough. Not being worthy. He... he wants to be. Good enough. For... f-for...
Ishimaru’s eyes are shiny again, even despite his glare.
“What?! Y-you guys aren’t going to- to fight, are you? Guys-!”
Mondo breaks his stare down with Ishimaru to shoot that goddamn fucking bastard a single, solitary sneer, before turning back to Ishimaru, chest heaving with all the emotions he carries within him.
“Nah. Ground floor, there’s a sauna. Ya know it?”
Ishimaru blinks slowly, sluggish, before nodding slightly, looking very fucking confused. His eyebrows are furrowed, and his lips are pulled down, and he looks so fucking cute stupid, god. After a moment, though, it seems he understands what Mondo is getting at, the challenge he is suggesting, as his face lights up, eyes bright and passionate once more, an honest to god grin on his face.
Holy fucking shit...
“Aha! A simple endurance challenge! If that is your gauntlet, then I happily accept! I will wipe the floor with you!”
Despite the anger that is still flowing through him, Mondo can’t help the small smile that passes on his lips, something about the enthusiasm so fucking... not cute, not cute, not cute at all, but maybe, a little, teeny tiny bit... endearing? He pushes it away, though. It’s not helpful, here.
“Yer fuckin’ on. And you,” Mondo points blindly to Naegi— who ‘eeps’ at the gesture, fucking coward he is— not able to look away from Ishimaru for a single fucking second, “will be our witness. Got it?!”
As intently as Mondo is staring at Ishimaru, he doesn’t see the other kid’s response, but he can hear how Naegi splutters, the kid clearly not as enthusiastic about the idea as Ishimaru and himself are. Bastard.
“W-what?! Now?! B-but it’s so late... g-guys, are you sure this is a- a good idea-?!”
“Yes, ya fuckin’ moron, it’s a fuckin’ great idea!” Mondo snarls, at the exact same time Ishimaru— eyes bright and feverish— exclaims, “yes! It is an excellent idea!”
Uncomfortable at their agreement, Mondo finally tears his eyes away, ignoring the churning feeling in his chest as he storms down the hall to where the bathhouse is, mere meters away. Ishimaru stares after him for a stunned second, but quickly spurs himself into motion, using his long-ish legs to catch up quick, head held high as they march determinedly on. God... he’s so fucking...
When they reach the bathhouse a few moments later, Mondo firmly pushes aside the rational voice inside him that is screaming at him not to do this. He knows his limits when it comes to endurance. While he’s not the best at running, he has great endurance for other things, especially pain and discomfort. (This sentence was removed due to ~~spoilers~~)
But Ishimaru... fuck. He’s so fucking passionate, so fucking determined, but who knows what his endurance is like? If he’ll be able to keep up? And it shouldn’t matter, shouldn’t give Mondo pause, but he... he can’t help the stab of concern that fills him as they enter the room, Mondo grabbing a ‘closed for repairs’ sign and putting it in front of the entrance, not wanting anyone to interrupt.
He hates the feeling and pushes it away as he turns to glare at Ishimaru, pointing a finger, not wanting to deal with such weakness, but he... he can’t quite manage to force it fully away...
“Alright, here’s the fuckin’ terms. First ta tap out is a fuckin’ bitch ass loser who ain’t worth shit. The one who lasts the longest is the official winner. We ain’t allowed ta touch the other or do anythin’ ta them directly, this is strictly an endurance challenge. Oh, an’ we’re gonna do this fully clothed. What do ya say?!”
Mondo sees Ishimaru’s eyes widen when he gets to the last term, the kid fucking shaking his head sharply in denial. Fuck. Fuck. Shit. He’d added that last clause in last minute, realizing as he detailed the rules that they were gonna be fucking half fucking naked in there, and his mind had shorted the fuck out. He’s been in saunas fully clothed before, he knows he can handle it, but he isn’t fucking sure he can handle sitting nearly nude beside Ishi-fucking-maru...
But of course, the kid wouldn’t fucking agree. Of fucking course...
“I do not agree to that last term, but I agree to the rest!”
Glad his angry flush fully disguises the fucking embarrassed flush he can feel rising on his face, Mondo just nods tensely, sneering, as he storms over to the water cooler in the corner.
“Alright, whatever, fucker. Ya got five minutes ta prepare. Then, we’re fuckin’ doin’ this shit.”
With that, Mondo grabs a paper cup and downs some water, feeling so impossibly tense. He can feel Ishimaru staring at him, mouth partially open, but he gets spurned into action when Naegi shifts awkwardly beside him, chasing the kid away to one of the lockers, where he... he fucking...
Starts taking off his fucking clothes...
Holy. Fucking. Shit.
Mondo is staring. Mondo knows he shouldn’t be staring, knows it’s wrong to be staring, but he can’t fucking help it. His eyes are like magnets, drawn to the kid, watching as he takes off all of his fucking layers, folding each one so neatly and carefully as he sticks them in the small fucking locker. The kid hesitates a little when he gets to his fucking tighty-whities (of course the kid wears that shit, of fucking course), but ultimately, he doesn’t take them off. Instead, he bites his lip and grabs a white towel, wrapping it firmly around his waist before putting the rest of his stuff away. Mondo firmly pushes down the stupid as shit rush of disappointment and tells himself to stop staring, to look away, but god, he fucking can’t. Ishimaru, he...
He’s so fucking gorgeous, so fucking hot, so fucking sexy-
Mondo feels himself heat the fuck up when Ishimaru turns abruptly and looks him straight in the eyes, looking fucking startled at something. Feeling strangely caught, Mondo looks away as quick as he can, pushing away the stupid as shit thoughts, marching over to a locker stiffly. Shit... he’s gotta fucking get laid one of these days. The tension is doing fucked up shit to his brain...
He takes his time putting some of his more fragile shit away, like his crappy cellphone and his key card. He does, honestly, consider taking off his uniform, or at least taking off his duster, but he just... shit. Can’t. Not with how strange he feels inside, his mind’s eye still stupidly forcing him to think of Ishimaru, his stupidly muscular back flexing with every move he made. It means nothing, fucking nothing, but he... shit. It prolly would be better to remain fully clothed, duster included, even if it does put him at a disadvantage. But ya know what, whatever. Doesn’t matter. He knows his limits and knows that he can last longer in the sauna than Ishimaru, even when fully clothed. Shit...
When the five minutes he gave them are up, he meets up with Ishimaru outside the entrance to the sauna, fully intending to slide it open and step inside, when-
“Owada-kun, you cannot seriously be considering entering the sauna fully clothed! It’s suicide!” Ishimaru exclaims, sounding fucking concerned as shit. His eyes are wide, and his brows are furrowed, and he’s biting his fucking lip, god fucking damn, and it’s messing with Mondo’s head so fucking much. Why... why the fuck would he care?! Huh?! They’re not fucking friends! Why would he care if Mondo did try and kill himself, huh?! World would fucking be better off for it, shit!
Deciding to definitely not say that, Mondo just sneers at the kid, crossing his arms stubbornly.
“Just ‘cuz yer a fuckin’ pansy ass bitch don’t mean I am! Now, ya ready ta do this, or are ya a fuckin’ chicken?!”
His face flushed, Ishimaru doesn’t even bother to answer, instead just yanking open the door and entering the sauna with a stubborn tilt to his jaw.
Staring after the kid for a split second (pushing down the disappointment that he didn’t press the issue harder, proving to Mondo how fucking right he is), Mondo enters on Ishimaru’s heels, the heat not even bothering him one bit.
It’s nothing compared to the fire that constantly burns within him.
Sliding the door shut behind him, leaving Naegi outside to do whatever the fuck he wants while the contest takes place, Mondo marches over to where Ishimaru is sitting, taking a seat an arm’s length away. He can feel bright red eyes on him, but he determinedly pushes the feeling away, trading a few snide comments with the kid, not even feeling the heat really.
About ten minutes in, Mondo will admit the heat is getting to him a little, a thin sheen of sweat making its way onto his skin, which is more uncomfortable than anything. Ishimaru looks a little woozy, so Mondo taunts that the kid should just give up now. Ishimaru just laughs, saying how he never gives up, ever. Fucking pretentious bastard.
After half an hour, he can admit he is feeling kinda uncomfortable, the heat becoming somewhat unpleasant, but he’s still feeling pretty good, all things considered. Ishimaru looks flushed as all hell, though, his cheeks bright red and sweat clinging to his muscles. The kid tells him— unprompted— that he’s doing fine, and Mondo’s brain feels too stupid to allow him to do much else than glare, shit...
After around fifty minutes, the kid... he looks fucking awful. Mondo isn’t doing too hot, the uncomfortable feeling spreading to be extremely uncomfortable, but he knows he can handle it. The kid, though... he looks like he’s starting to lose it. Ishimaru mentions absently that he’s starting to feel cold, which honestly concerns Mondo, since he knows that shit is a bad sign, but his head is too stupid to remember why, so he just says it’s prolly not good. The kid doesn’t call it quits, though.
Instead, he actually... talks... huh.
“Y-you can take off your uniform... if you w-want... I- I won’t judge...” the boy mumbles, sounding super fucking exhausted. Mondo tries to snort, but it’s a lot harder than it should be, shit.
“N-nah... I’m... I’m... I’m good,” Mondo finds himself muttering back, looking at the kid intensely, wondering why he isn’t giving up when he so clearly feels sick. Mondo finds himself muttering about how red Ishimaru’s is, likening him to a hot spring monkey, of all things. The kid mumbles back about being born with a red face, which makes no fucking sense, but ya know what? He’s too tired to waste energy on this shit. He’s got a challenge to win.
After what he figures is an hour and five minutes, the warning bell rings, telling them they have five minutes until curfew. Mondo figures the hall monitor will end this now, since he wouldn’t dare stay out past curfew and risk breaking one of his ‘precious rules,’ but the kid doesn’t seem to even notice the bell had rung. S-shit... that... that’s not good, is it...?
Mondo gets distracted from his stupid as shit concern when a new voice pipes up, shocking Mondo. Huh... he hadn’t realized the kid was still out there. Shit.
“U-uh guys? It’s almost curfew, shouldn’t you... stop? I know you both want to prove how big of badasses you are but... don’t you think you’ve done enough?”
Mondo scowls at the meaning of the words, knowing that he sure as shit ain’t gonna back down first. He’s already so worthless. He’s gotta prove that he can at least do this, of all fucking things.
“Shut up!” he barks, at the same time Ishimaru does, making him feel fucking wigged out at how they’re both on the same page again.
Naegi replies back to them, saying something about it being nighttime, and a tie... it honestly offends Mondo, but before he can reply, the kid is... talking... saying something about how in a true competition, there are no ties. That you either win or you lose, and that... that’s the only thing that matters. It honestly kinda pisses Mondo off, even if he agrees fully, so he fires back how he will push the kid right up to the gates of hell, meaning it fully.
He tells Naegi to leave then, knowing that this might drag on a lot longer than he had anticipated. Shit. He knew Ishimaru was fucking stubborn as shit, willing to do absolutely anything to reach his goals, but this... this is just madness. Utter madness. As Naegi leaves, Mondo cannot help how he stares at the hall monitor, who looks so fucking sick right now. He does his best to ignore it, to wait the kid out, but when roughly fifteen more minutes pass and the kid isn’t tapping out, despite looking half dead, he... he can’t help the worry that he feels. And then, when the kid closes his eyes, barely breathing, Mondo... s-shit...
“Hey... man... are you... are you okay...? Ya don’t... don’t look so good...”
Mondo listens, getting really kinda freaked, when Ishimaru lets out a soft puff of air, almost like he’s trying to laugh but can’t find the energy. He lolls his head over to Mondo, the first movement he’s done in minutes, but his eyes are still closed, which looks so fucking freaky. It takes him far longer than it should to open his eyes, and when he does, they... shit. They look glazed, like the kid isn’t fucking in there, like he... he’s...
It really does look like that, though. Eyes glazed, mouth partially open, chest so scarily still... o-oh, shit. Shit, what if he... what if he is dead...?! Y-yeah, he just moved, but he- he looks so still, it... Mondo...
But then the kid is speaking, and he sounds so very out of it, but at least he’s alive, thank god...
“I- I’m... I’m fine, I...”
Oh, shit... no, he... he’s not fine, is he...? Shit... s-shit...
“Shit... man... no, y’ain’t. I know my... my limits. I’ve got some time... left in me... but you... shit. Just give up, dude. Just... just give... up...”
It makes something in Mondo clench when he sees the kid’s face screw up, like he wants to cry but just has no tears left within him. And then he... he’s speaking...
“No... n-no, I can’t... I- I can’t... give up... I have to... have to...”
The kid stops, then, and Mondo feels so fucking confused, his head all stupid because of the heat, making it hard to think. What? He has to... what?
“Hafta... what? What... is so important... ta ya?”
The kid blinks, like he hadn’t expected to be spoken to, before opening his mouth and muttering words. It... it’s like the kid doesn’t even know he’s speaking, the words sounding so fucking slurred and soft. Mondo has to strain to hear them, even though the silence is oppressive between them.
“I can’t... give up... must... restore... honor... family... f-family name...”
Mondo furrows his eyebrows, his lips turned down in a frown, not... not understanding...
“Yer family... name? What… what about it?”
Ishimaru blinks, like he can barely understand what Mondo is saying, and fuck is that scary...
“I must... fix his mistakes. I must... I must bring honor t-to... to our name... my grandfather...”
Okay, that... that doesn’t make any fucking sense... his grandfather? The fuck? Shit... Ishimaru needs to stop this, he... he’s not making any sense...
“What? The fuck... the fuck ya talkin’ ‘bout, man? Shit... Ishimaru, yer ‘bout ta... ta fuckin’ pass out... why can’t ya just... just give up, man?”
Ishimaru isn’t looking at him anymore and is instead staring blankly at the steam that is billowing around them, looking like he’s not aware where the fuck he is. It makes Mondo’s stomach clench, the concern rising. He... he doesn’t wanna give up, needs to prove himself, but he... Ishimaru... f-fuck...
And then... Ishimaru starts talking again...
“It... it’s all up to me to fix it... t-to make it better... m-make it- it right-! I... I can’t... give up, I... I’m not... not allowed to... give up... giving up is- is wrong... and immoral, and- and I am not wrong! I... I’m not- not immoral... I... I’m better... better than my grandfather... better than myself... better... than...”
Okay. Okay. Okay, it’s official. Mondo is fucking freaked the fuck out. What... what does any of that even mean? He... Ishimaru...
“Fuck, dude, yer- yer scarin’ me... what the hell does… does any a’ that even… even mean? Yer the fuckin’... Ultimate Moral Compass... ‘course yer not- not... immoral...”
Ishimaru is shaking now, eyes still glazed, staring at the steam as if it holds the answer to life itself. And fuck... it’s so fucking creepy...
“But I am, I am... I’m worthless, I’m nothing... my grandfather... he’d done so many terrible things, had hurt s-so many people... he’d ruined... ruined Japan... e-everyone hated him... hated me... I have to do better... to be better... to fix... my grandfather’s... mistakes...”
His grandfather? Who the fuck is his grandfather? And why... why does he even matter? Even if he was so fucking terrible, Ishimaru... he ain’t... he...
“Dude... y’ain’t... ain’t yer grandfather... yer yer own person... an’ frankly... I kinda... kinda like... s-shit. Just... stop this, man. Just admit it. Admit it’s... too much...”
The kid shakes his head, and Mondo doesn’t know how he’s able to even hear him, as far fucking gone as he looks, but fuck, he’s clearly responding, ain’t he...?
“Nnnn- n-no! I- I... I can’t... can’t admit... weakness... god I’m so... so weak... pathetic... the children, they’re right about me, they’re all so... so right... I’ll never... amount to- to anything... I’m worthless... pathetic... scum...”
H-holy shit... Ishimaru he... he can’t fucking believe that... can he? No... n-no, he... he ain’t none of that shit, Mondo is, Mondo is, but not- not Ishimaru! He... he’s fucking... he...
“Ishimaru... Ishimaru, stop... s-stop! Y’ain’t... none a’ that is... is true... yer the best... goddamn person I ever... ever met, ya... ya never gave up on me... no matter how horrible I treated ya... ya just... wouldn’t leave... I tried ta make ya leave, why... why wouldn’t ya leave...”
He hadn’t meant to ask the question, voice so fucking soft, but he couldn’t help it. It’s been plaguing him for weeks now, wondering why... why Ishimaru bothered staying... why he didn’t just leave his ass... why he didn’t just... give up on him... like everyone always does...
“Me... leave? Why? Where would I... go...? I’ve n-never... had a friend... if this is... is friendship... then what else can I... do? I don’t... w-wanna... be...... alone.........”
Oh... oh, shit... suddenly, so many things make so much fucking sense. Why the kid always seems so fucking nervous and awkward around people, though he tries his damndest to hide it. Why he is always alone, never seen really talking to anyone, not without a reason. Why he always... always does his best to extend olive branches to people, offering to tutor or help or do whatever is needed to... to get them to talk to him... g-god... he never would have thought the kid would have no friends, even though it’s so fucking obvious when Mondo thinks about it. He’s just... he’s just so fucking bright and full of sunshine... Mondo can’t imagine people seeing that and not... not wanting to...
It’s right then, in that moment, brain stupid from heat, halfway gone but not fully gone yet, that Mondo... Mondo makes a decision.
If they survive this stupid fucking challenge... he... he will be Ishimaru— no, Kiyotaka, his name is- is Kiyotaka... he will be Kiyotaka’s friend... and he will be a fucking good one, the friend that the kid... that he fucking deserves...
If the kid even wants to be friends with him...
“Fuckin’... shit, man. Yer not... alone... I’m here. Ishimaru... Kiyotaka... I’m right... right here...”
The kid shakes his head, breath still shallow, but now it’s wavering, shaking... trembling... g-god... fuck...
“No... no... I’m alone, I’m alone. Everyone... always leaves... my mother... my grandfather... even my father would leave... if he could... he’s never... never understood me. No one... understands me... I don’t... even... understand...... myself..........”
Oh. Oh. Oh. This... this poor fucking boy... he... s-shit. Shit... this... they gotta fucking stop this... they...
“I... I understand ya. Yer... yer like me... ain’t ya? Shit. We gotta... gotta stop this, man... what are ya... tryin’... ta prove?”
Kiyotaka is shaking again, looking like he wants to cry but just... can’t. God... god... fucking... god.
“Everything. Everything. Every… everything… I have to prove them... wrong. I have to prove... that I can do this. If I... if I give up... i-if I let myself give up... then I fail. I fail, I fail, I fail, I fail, I fail. I c-can’t... fail, I can’t... g-give up... or else... what is... the point... of me...?”
Point? The point? Why... why does he have to have a point? Shit... he’s so fucking amazing, he... he doesn’t have to have a point... no more than just... just being...
“Ain’t gotta... have a point man... ya can just... be. Be... Kiyotaka. What’s so wrong... with that?”
The blank look on the kid’s face grows, his voice soft, weak. Trembling, like he doesn’t mean to say it, like he doesn’t even know what he’s saying. Mondo has never heard someone sound so... so... dead before... h-holy shit...
“Everything. Everything. Everything. E-everything... is wrong with... me... I- I’m too... too much. T-too passionate... too vibrant... I- I hurt... hurt my own eyes... I hate... l-looking at myself... hate... b-being myself... if I could... be someone else... I- I would... gladly...”
No. No. No, fucking... no! Ish- Kiyo... Kiyotaka can’t fucking believe that... yeah, he’s so fucking passionate, so fucking bright, but that... that’s not a bad thing... he... he’s so fucking good... so fucking... amazing... and he... Mondo wouldn’t...
“I wouldn’t. Want that. Yer... fuck. Yer somethin’... somethin’ special... I thought I... I hated that ‘bout you, but... man you... you shine... I don’t deserve... someone as... as wonderful... as you...”
Kiyotaka is shaking his head again, barely breathing, looking so dead, so very, very... dead...
“I- I’m not... wonderful. I’m not... anything. T-the children... they hated me... t-they all... hated me. My f-father... hates me. My mother... if she could s-see me... now... s-she’d hate me... too. Why... w-why do I bother... trying...? W-why... why don’t I just... g-give up...”
N-no... no, no, god, please... no... Mondo feels pressure behind his eyes, and he doesn’t think he has ever felt such pain. Because that... that sounds so goddamn familiar... he always has seen Kiyotaka as so different to him, so much better, so much brighter. But if the kid is to be believed... he... he thinks of himself like... like Mondo thinks of himself, and he... he can’t... can’t fucking stand that thought, oh god...
“Kiyo... Kiyota- Taka. Kiyo... Taka. Just... ya don’t hafta... give up... but yer... yer gonna kill yerself if ya... keep this up... s-shit...”
Mondo feels himself go cold when Kiyotaka responds, sounding half dead, looking so... so nothing...
“Kill... myself? No... I’m not- not that weak... not anymore... not... n-not again... but maybe... maybe... m-maybe it would be better. If I weren’t... weren’t...” a pause. “Alive...”
What?! No... no, no.... nonononononononononono-!!! He... he can’t... he can’t-
“What?! Dude... no... god... fuckin’... dammit! Ya can’t be... serious... Kiyo... Taka, ya can’t...”
“I am. I am. I- I am. If I wasn’t... so weak. If I wasn’t... s-so afraid. I know... k-know how to fix it... a-all of it. How to... t-to make it better. My father... would be happier. The children... w-would be happier. And I... I... I’d be... I’d be...”
A pause. Inhalation of breath. And then... softly, so fucking softly...
No. No. No, fucking-! No. This... this is so fucking stupid, why is Mondo doing this, he... he has to stop this. This kid ain’t gonna stop, he can’t fucking stop, he won’t stop until he is fucking dead, and Mondo... Mondo can’t... he fucking can’t-
He can’t lose someone else... not during another fucking challenge that he fucking issued... he just... can’t.
“Okay. That’s it. This ain’t... fuckin’ worth it. If y’ain’t... gonna quit... then I! I fuckin’... I fuckin’ will. Ya... ya win... Kiyo... Taka... ya... ya win. Now, c’mon, man. Let’s… let’s get outta here.”
With all the strength he has left, Mondo stands and hobbles over to where Kiyotaka is sitting, looking like a puppet with its strings cut. He’s not moving, barely breathing, and his eyes are so glazed over Mondo doesn’t think he can even see right now. Mondo has never seen someone look so still before, and it scares the ever-loving shit out of him. Especially now that he... he knows that... that the kid has tried... or at least wanted...
But he doesn’t have time to hate himself for issuing this stupid ass challenge. He doesn’t have time to waste. Gathering all his strength, he bends down, and he wraps an arm around Kiyotaka, heart stopping when he feels how boneless he is, not moving at all. But then, as he starts moving towards the door, he feels the kid start to struggle. It’s weak and doesn’t sway Mondo even a second, but fuck does it relieve him. The kid is even able to walk a little, barely. It... it’s good.
The second he manages to get the door open, however, the cool air almost torture on his overheated skin, he feels Kiyotaka gasp, all the fragile strength he had gone as his knees buckle, making him deadweight. But Mondo hasn’t spent the majority of his life lifting weights for nothing, so he just adjusts his grip, taking on more of the kid’s weight. He doesn’t lift him, doesn’t have time for that, but he drags him bodily over to the bench, accidentally throwing him on it since he’s not really at a hundred percent himself. He sees the kid start to topple, then, and he immediately moves forward to steady the kid, the skin under his hands far, far too warm. Oh... shit, that’s not... not good, oh fuck...
“Goddamn shit. Ya look... fuck man. Why didn’t ya just... dammit. Ya need water... I’ll be right back.”
Mondo stand abruptly then, feeling clumsy and wrong. His chest feels so fucking painful, like it’s being sat on by an elephant, and he doesn’t think he’s ever felt more concerned for anyone. Well... other than one person... but shit, he can’t think of him, not now. Not now. Not when Kiyotaka needs him. He takes off his duster as he strides forward, tossing it carelessly on a bench, too fucking hot to deal with that shit. He needs to go quick, needs to... to get back to Kiyotaka... and he needs to drink some water himself, fuck, he’s so fucking dehydrated... fuck.
However... once he’s at the water cooler, filling up one of the paper cups for himself to drink, he hears the kid muttering again, the words making no goddamn sense, but damn if it doesn’t make his heart clench...
“...they won’t, they won’t, they won’t... I’m alone, again... all alone... everyone has left... everyone leaves me in the end... why would I expect anything different... why would I expect-“
Shit. Shit. Shit. Mondo quickly finishes filling the cup and downs it, filling the second one as quickly as possible while the kid rambles on about being alone again. As soon as the cup is full Mondo practically teleports back to the kid’s side, an odd sense in him that he never, ever wants to be anywhere else...
“Shit, Kiyotaka, I’m here. I just... had ta drink myself, shit. Now c’mon. Drink this. Please, man. Fer me. I can’t... ya can’t fuckin’ die on me, man... f-fuck...”
He carefully places his hand on the back of Kiyotaka’s neck, lifting it gently up, so he can get the kid to drink some water. He knows that the boy is prolly dehydrated as fuck, and he seriously hopes that’s the only thing wrong with him, because if it isn’t... s-shit. He can feel Kiyotaka struggle as he moves him, his lips moving, muttering those fucking words again...
“W-why am I so weak, I need to... to be stronger... to be... better...”
God, is everything this kid says gonna make his heart break? God... he’s not equipped for this, he doesn’t know how to be kind, to be gentle, but after all the shit he has done, all the pain and misery he has needlessly made this wondrous, incredible, sad fucking boy go through... he owes it to him to not only try, but to succeed.
Even if it fucking kills him...
“Shh... hey, it’s okay. Y’ain’t fuckin’ weak, man, yer goddamn incredible. Now c’mon. Stop fightin’ me. Let me take care a’ you. You... you’ve been so strong fer so long. Let me... let me help you...”
With that, he slowly presses the cup against the kid’s lips, and he feels as he struggles, whimpering softly, scared. Shit, he... he prolly has no idea what the fuck is going on, is so fucking disoriented...
He begins whispering to the kid then, not knowing what to say, but just... knowing he has to say something, something soothing. He hums softly as he decides to just... let the soft words that he’s been gathering for weeks now out of his heart, telling Kiyotaka that he is there, that he will always be there, promising that he’s not alone, that he’ll never be alone again, that Mondo will take care of him, he promises... he promises...
And then he... he says...
“Open up, Kiyotaka, shit. P-please... I’m beggin’ ya man... just... drink some water...”
The kid... Kiyotaka stops struggling then, and finally, finally opens his lips. It’s just a little, a small amount, but it’s enough for a small trickle of water to get passed his dry and cracked lips, which is so fucking relieving. But then... then the kid startles again, a soft sound of distress getting released as he panics, taking too much water too quick. Oh, shit...
So fucking scared, not knowing what to do but knowing he has to do something, Mondo lowers the hand holding the cup but doesn’t put it down, moving his other hand to rub soothing circles on the kid’s back, shushing him softly.
“Aw, shit. Slowly, man, slowly. That’s it, nice an’ easy... I’m gonna try that again, okay? Go slow this time. Idiot.”
With that, Mondo moves his hand back to Kiyotaka’s neck and brings the cup back up to his lips, praying that he will drink this time. He’s so fucking dehydrated and if he won’t drink, Mondo is gonna have to call an ambulance or some shit, because he needs liquid, and fast.
Luckily, this time when he asks the kid to open up, he does so immediately. And then, when he tips a little of the liquid into his mouth, the kid doesn’t panic and just... sips it. Slowly. Mondo can see his throat working, moving slowly, swallowing the water, and fuck... he’s never felt so relieved in his life, watching the kid drink some fucking water, god...
However, then the kid is letting out a sound of desperation, seeming to realize that he is so fucking thirsty or something. He sees the kid’s hands try to come up, wavering so fucking much as they try and force the water down faster, but Mondo stops him, knowing he needs to go slow.
“Aw, shit man, stop! Ya gotta go slow. Yer dehydrated, ya can’t drink it too fast... trust me, man. I got you. I won’t let you down. Not again. I… I promise.”
And he means it. He fucking means it. He has failed this kid so many fucking times, but he won’t this time, and he never will again. Because now he... he knows that this kid fucking matters. He’s always known that, from the minute the kid had run into him and knocked his world on its side, but- but he... he’s always been so afraid of it. Of the feeling. Of what it means.
But he’s not afraid of it. Not now. Not... not anymore. He doesn’t know why he feels this way, why this boy matters so fucking much to him, but it just doesn’t matter now, and he refuses to let his goddamn fucking nonsense ruin this shit anymore. This kid has faced some truly horrible fucking things, things that Mondo has barely scratched the surface of but can tell have damaged the kid so fucking much. He has scars all over his chest and back, which Mondo has noticed before, of course he’s noticed them, but now he’s really starting to realize what exactly they mean, and it just... it’s fucking him up inside, and all he wants is to bundle this kid up and never let him get hurt again, keep him safe from all harm, and Mondo has always felt like that, always wanted that, but now, for once...
He’s not afraid of it.
And he won’t back down.
Not unless Kiyotaka wants him to...
(But even then. Even then, Mondo will do everything he can to keep him safe. He won’t stalk the kid, but he will make sure that no one dares to lay a finger on him. He’s firmly under Mondo’s protection now. Nothing will change that. Absolutely nothing.)
Knowing that Kiyotaka needs to drink more, so he’s not so weak (physically. He’s so fucking strong emotionally, so fucking strong) anymore, he presses the cup back to the boy’s lips, his heart lurching softly when the kid immediately opens up and drinks, slowly, not even needing Mondo to remind him to go slow and steady. Mondo is so fucking proud of the kid, like a fucking mother hen, but he doesn’t care. This kid deserves all the softness in the world. If there’s one thing Mondo is sure of, it’s that.
It doesn’t take long for the cup to run empty, but the kid needs more, so Mondo gets up to refill the cup. But then he’s fucking crying, sad and pitiful, and Mondo immediately returns, holding him close, saying to him, “aw, shit, I’m just getting more water, alright? I’ll be right back, I promise.”
And when Mondo is forced to leave again— though god does he not want to— he keeps talking. Promising that he’ll be right back, that he’s not leaving, that he will never leave again... promises that he will never break, and not just because he doesn’t break promises, but because he fucking means the shit out of them. More than any promise he’s ever made before.
He’s back soon after, bringing two cups with him this time, helping Kiyotaka drink, and drink, and drink. Mondo doesn’t know much about severe dehydration, just knows that it’s important for the person to be given fluids, preferably sports drinks, but since he doesn’t have that shit, water will have to do. If Kiyotaka doesn’t get better after the third cup, Mondo’s gonna try and see if he can take him to the nurse if the lady is still there. If not... shit. He’ll prolly have to call an ambulance, since he doesn’t think Kiyotaka could handle riding on his hog to the hospital, which is at least a ten-minute ride away. He’s hoping he won’t have to do that, though. Hopes that drinking the water will be enough to help him. He also hopes that it’s just dehydration that’s the problem... fuck.
The good thing is that Kiyotaka is drinking willingly. And the more he drinks, the more lucid he appears. He still seems very out of it, but about halfway through the third cup, he starts blinking rapidly, like waking himself from a dream. His eyebrows furrow, and he starts looking around a bit. He takes in the bathhouse and even looks down at his chest, like he’s just then noticing that he’s half naked. Mondo allows him to do this, but always makes sure the kid is still drinking, wanting to make sure he gets at least three cups in, since he had to have lost a lot of water while sweating. Mondo himself isn’t feeling too hot and knows he needs to drink more, too, but he’ll be damned if he doesn’t ensure that Kiyotaka is okay before doing anything else for himself.
Mondo knows the exact second that things slot into place for the kid, since one second he’s loose and pliant in his arms, allowing him to hold his neck and give him the water, and the next he’s sitting ramrod straight, eyes wide. It startles Mondo a bit and he straightens up from the hunch he’d found himself in, so fucking relieved to see some lucidity in those bright red eyes. Fuck, but was that glazed look terrifying...
“Oh, shit. Are ya back? Ya really fuckin’ scared me there, dude, the fuck...? I was ‘bout ta take yer ass ta the nurse, consequences be damned. Shit, should I still do that...? Kiyotaka?”
The kid is just staring at him, his skin far too pale, his eyes moving back and forth over Mondo’s face as he seems to try to be figuring something out. They then widen somehow further and then-
“Aw, shit! Fuck, man, what the hell!”
Mondo stares wide eyed at the kid as he abruptly stands, his body shaking horribly, looking like he just saw a ghost, shit... Mondo is afraid the kid is about to collapse so he stands quickly, hands hovering to ensure he doesn’t fall, but the kid doesn’t seem to notice him. Oh... shit... he’s not better, is he? God fucking dammit...
“W-w-w-what... w-what... h-h-happened?! I... I didn’t... oh god...”
Mondo sees Kiyotaka sway then, looking like he’s about to faint, scaring the absolute shit out of Mondo. Rushing forward, he grabs the kid by his shoulders, holding him upright. Part of him wants to pull him close, to wrap him up and never let him go, but he can tell the kid is super fucking freaked out, and he doesn’t want to make him panic, shit.
“What the fuck... aw, shit, y’ain’t better. Okay, that’s it. I’m takin’ ya ta the fuckin’ nurse. Goddamnit...”
Mondo tries to move Kiyotaka, then, carefully guiding him over to the door so they can make the stupidly long walk to the nurse’s office, mind racing a mile a minute as he tries to determine if it wouldn’t just be better to call the ambulance now. On one hand, he doubts the nurse is still there, since it’s well after curfew, but on the other... calling for an ambulance means he might have to explain this shit, and he just... shit. But he needs to do right by Kiyotaka, and if that includes getting himself in trouble, he’ll fucking do it. He doesn’t care what happens to him, just as long as this wonderful, incredible boy is safe. Huh...
As distracted as Mondo is, he doesn’t expect any resistance to his movement, expecting Kiyotaka to be as pliant as he previously had been. As such, when the kid fucking pulls away from him, weak as it is, Mondo isn’t expecting it and thus is unable to keep his grip. And he watches, heart stopping, as the kid slams into the row of lockers, collapsing immediately to the ground with a soft noise of pain.
“Shit! Kiyotaka, are you fuckin’ alright?! What the hell, man?! Stop bein’ an idiot and let me take ya ta the nurse, fuck!”
He doesn’t mean to sound angry or anything, he’s just so fucking scared, needing the kid to cooperate so he can just get better already and not make Mondo worry he’s gonna fucking die or something... but given the way that Kiyotaka glares at him (or tries to glare, Mondo can tell he’s still a little out of it and can’t quite put the usual amount of passion into it), he can tell the kid intends to be difficult, looking at him like he doesn’t want Mondo to come any closer or something. Mondo immediately says, ‘fuck that,’ though, and rushes to the kid’s side, kneeling down, his eyes bleeding with his concern. He watches the kid blink, some more lucidity rising within the red, as he opens his mouth to speak.
“W-wait! I don’t... dang it. I don’t need to go to the- t-the nurse! I’m just... confused. Give me... give me a moment to... collect myself!” Kiyotaka says, his chest heaving with the effort of speaking. Mondo looks at him firmly, ensuring the kid means it and that he’s not just saying random, nonsense bullshit again.
Once he’s satisfied that the kid is, in fact, lucid enough to make that decision, he nods stiffly, still feeling so very, very concerned.
“Alright... shit, fine. If ya say so. But ya gotta drink some more water, alright?! Slowly. I should drink more too, fuck...”
Mondo stands, then, and walks over to the water cooler again, hands tingling unpleasantly as he leaves Kiyotaka’s side. He quickly fills up two fresh cups of water and hurries back, handing the kid one of the cups as soon as he is by his side.
As soon as the kid takes it, Mondo flops down to sit beside him, so close they touch, and begins to drink his water, finding comfort in being able to feel the kid warm against his side. He is honestly thirsty as fuck, wanting to gulp it down again, but he forces himself to go slow, not wanting to be a hypocrite. He notices after a second that Kiyotaka isn’t drinking and is just staring at him blankly, eyes glazing over again, which scares him more than he is willing to say, fuck.
“Dude. Drink. Or I’m draggin’ ya ta the nurse, kickin’ an’ screamin’. Don’t think I won’t,” Mondo rumbles, startling the kid out of whatever fugue he’d entered into. The kid glares at him lightly, not nearly as strong as Mondo knows it could be, but at least he doesn’t try and counter him. He just brings the cup to his lips and drinks the cool water slowly, his eyes darting back and forth as he thinks hard about something. They don’t glaze over again, though, so Mondo lets him be and just drinks his water, every cell in his body so fucking aware of the kid sitting directly beside him. It honestly would scare him, how much he cares about this kid, if he’d not already decided to not care about that shit anymore. He cares about the kid. He doesn’t know why, he just does. End of fucking story.
Mondo doesn’t know how long they sit there drinking their water, and he doesn’t really care. He usually hates sitting still for so long, his skin crawling to get up and do something already, but strangely... he doesn’t really mind it too much. Sitting here, beside Kiyotaka. It... despite the worry he still feels, there’s also a strange calmness inside him now. Like... like something inside him that had been out of place and broken for years is just... gone, allowing him to breathe easy for the first time. It’s so strange but also... so very, very nice...
Eventually their cups run empty, and Mondo is about to offer to get them both some more water again when the kid speaks. His voice is low and shaky, but it sounds a lot better and more lucid than it had before, which relieves the shit out of him. But then he comprehends the words, and he...
“O-Owada... back in... in the, uh, sauna... I didn’t, um. Say anything strange. Did I?” Kiyotaka asks softly, looking very nervous. It concerns Mondo a lot that the kid apparently doesn’t remember what happened in the sauna, but he supposes it makes sense. He had been super fucking outta it...
He still takes his time to think about it. He usually just blurts out his words, no thought put into them at all, but this... shit. This matters. And he has to be so fucking careful if he doesn’t want to hurt the kid again. And god, does he not wanna do that...
Finally, he figures he’ll go the safe route and figure out what, exactly, the kid does and doesn’t remember. If he remembers nothing, then maybe... maybe it would be better to keep it that way, shit...
Ignoring the way his heart clenches at the thought, he sets his face into a carefully neutral expression, revealing nothing as he speaks, voice a low rumble.
“That depends. What do ya remember?”
Mondo watches, heart clenched strangely again, as Kiyotaka bites his lip gently, eyes unfocused as he thinks. They’re not glazed, though, so Mondo thinks he’s just concentrating, not zoning out. After a few moments, the kid glances up at him, expression open and searching. It makes Mondo want to gasp, everything in him swirling, and when the kid speaks, still looking at him, he... h-he...
“I’m… I’m not sure. It’s all... fuzzy. I can’t quite tell... what is real or not. I have no idea what I said during that last part, though... just fragments of old memories and thoughts.” Kiyotaka pauses, his hands shaking lightly. He looks away then, down at the ground, and Mondo feels so strangely bereaved... “But I... I remember you... you said... things. About- a-about me. Y-you... you called me... wonderful. Special. H-heh! H-how r-ridiculous! I must... must have been- been hallucinating! Aha!”
The kid sounds nervous, frantic, like he’s afraid Mondo will hurt him, like he’s afraid Mondo will laugh at him, will tell him that he... he’s wrong, that Mondo hadn’t said that, that he... he doesn’t believe that...
Which is bullshit. Because he did say that. And he’d meant it. Means it. Fully and completely.
Mondo consciously forces his shoulders to lose the tension that had entered them unbidden at Kiyotaka’s frantic words, sighing softly, a wry smile rising on his lips as he looks at the kid. The kid looks so fucking scared, so desperate, like he doesn’t believe that Mondo had said that shit, but that he wants to believe it.
And, shit... even if he hadn’t said it, he sure as shit would say it now. Because Kiyotaka truly is wonderful and special, ain’t he...?
“Nah. That, uh. That happened. You really don’t remember what you said?” he asks as casually as he can, his head tilted in question, hoping he’s hiding the way his heart is racing well enough, but honestly not really caring if he’s not. He... he doesn’t want to keep shit from this kid. Not... not anymore... he watches as Kiyotaka shakes his head weakly, moving his eyes to stare at his hands again. It makes Mondo’s smile widen, eyes soft as silk. Heh. So... so fucking cute...
“Heh. Makes sense. Ya weren’t exactly all there, ya know. Kept mumblin’ bits a’ nonsense. Could barely make sense a’ ya myself, tell the truth. Somethin’... somethin’ ‘bout yer grandfather. ‘Bout needin’ ta right his wrongs. An’ then there was somethin’ ‘bout other kids? An’ hatred? Ya mentioned how yer da don’t understand ya, how he hates ya, or somethin’. An’ ‘bout how... how ya... ya hate yerself. Which I think is fuckin’ bullshit, ya shouldn’t fuckin’ hate yerself, yer incredible, but whatever. There was a lot a’ other stuff too. ‘Bout not givin’ up, ‘bout havin’ ta prove people wrong. Some other shit, too, but I don’t really ‘member it all, sorry. But... shit man. Is that... is that real? Did ya... did ya really mean alla’ that?”
Mondo doesn’t really mean to ask the question, knowing the kid needs to be allowed to rest and relax, not be asked stupid fucking questions, but he can’t help it. He’s not lying when he says he doesn’t quite remember everything. It’s all starting to blur in his head, and while he’s fairly certain he remembers the most of it, some details are starting to slip away, and he just... did the kid really say all that shit, or had he imagined it, too? Shit...
But then... then, after a moment, Kiyotaka, he... h-he...
“Aw, shit,” he mutters under his breath, which seems to just make the kid cry harder. It breaks Mondo’s heart so much, hating seeing his tears. God... this kid just always fucking cries around him, doesn’t he...? Shit... shit! H-he didn’t want to make the kid cry! G-god, he... he wants so badly to hold the kid, to keep him safe from the sorrow within him, but would the kid even want that? After everything he’s done, all he’s taken from him, would he actually want to be held in his arms? It’s his fault he’s crying, his fault he’s in this situation, and he doesn’t know if Kiyotaka would want to be anywhere near him, let alone in his arms! But he... he wants so, so badly to... t-to...
“Please, man, don’t cry, shit, I’m sorry! I... aw, fuck it. Come here.”
Mind made up, Mondo darts forward and— carefully as he possibly can— wraps an arm around the kid, pulling him gently to his chest, firm and tight. He can feel the kid struggle against him, and it kills him inside to feel it, especially when the kid starts frantically apologizing, like he thinks Mondo is going to hurt him or something. He thinks it might be best to let him go, to apologize and never touch him again, but he... h-he thinks the problem isn’t that Mondo is hugging him, but that the kid thinks Mondo is upset. So maybe... if he can reassure the kid that it’s okay, that he wants this, maybe... m-maybe he’ll stop struggling so hard... and maybe... m-maybe...
“Shhh. Shh, c’mon. It’s okay, Kiyotaka. I’m here. Y’ain’t alone. I got you. Ain’t got nothin’ ta ‘pologize fer, ya got it? Yer okay. We’re both okay.”
He keeps his arms steady on Kiyotaka, praying to any god that will listen that he’s doing the right thing, that he’s not hurting the kid more, that this is okay, and then... after a minute... after a minute...
The kid stops. Stops struggling, stops apologizing. His chest is heaving, and his eyes are still leaking tears, but he doesn’t seem distressed at Mondo holding him anymore. At least... Mondo hopes he isn’t. And then... t-then...
Kiyotaka buries his head in his chest, firm and present, hiding his face. His arms come up too, fists curling into Mondo’s tank top, clutching it like his life depends on it. And then he... he just...
The kid is crying so fucking hard, chest heaving, sobs loud and noisy, and fuck, does it hurt. Mondo feels so fucking helpless as he holds the kid, doing all he can to rub soothing circles on his back, whisper soft words in his ear, doing all he can to remember the shit Daiya would say when he was little and he still allowed himself to cry, not yet realizing it was wrong of him to do such a thing. He feels like it’s not enough, never enough, but he doesn’t know what else to do. He’s never seen the kid cry so hard before. Before he- he would always stifle it, keep it in.
Mondo hadn’t realized it at the time, but seeing the kid truly let go now, he can see just how hard he would fight to keep his tears and true sorrow contained, and he feels so much for the boy that he can’t even begin to describe it. It’s like... a sad kind of pride. Like he’s proud the kid was able to keep going despite the sorrow and despair he clearly feels, but also so, so fucking sad that the kid had to do it. That he had to keep this all in, unable to have anyone to share his burden with, to shoulder the pain and anguish he so clearly feels inside. Mondo... M-Mondo knows what that is like, what it’s like to have to always keep everything in, never let it out, and he... he hates that Kiyotaka knows it, too. The pain. The loneliness.
Maybe they really aren’t so different... are they?
Fuck... and who knows? Maybe that’s why he’s always cared so much about this kid. He... he just reminds him of him so goddamn much. Of... of the kid he used to be, before he built up walls so high around that child that he’d never see the light of day again. Of the scared little boy that he was, wondering why his parents hated him, why he was never good enough, why he didn’t fucking matter. He’d always been so scared and sad back then, so small and weak. Kinda like Kiyotaka is now, even with how fucking strong he knows this kid to usually be.
But he had Daiya, didn’t he? Even when the whole world was against him, (This sentence was removed due to ~~spoilers~~) he... he always had Daiya. Daiya, who loved him. Daiya, who cared for him. Daiya who raised him, Daiya who taught him, Daiya who sacrificed fucking everything for him. (This sentence was removed due to ~~spoilers~~). It didn’t matter that he was scared, or that he was weak. Daiya loved him regardless, and he always, always kept him safe.
Kiyotaka... Kiyotaka never had that... did he? He can’t say for sure, but the kid has never mentioned a sibling, either older or younger, which makes him think he’s an only, no sibs, bro or sis. Which means that he... he didn’t have anyone always on his side. Someone who would protect him no matter what. Or someone that he could protect, no matter what. His da is clearly not that great, if Kiyotaka’s words about him hating him were to go by, and his ma is gone, who knows for how long and his ma is gone, who knows for how long, or what his relationship was to her when she was around. He... he didn’t have someone to protect him... to keep him safe, from all harm... to... t-to love him...
Eventually the kid stops crying so hard, the desperate sobs petering out into soft, quiet ones, his breath hitching only slightly every few seconds. And then, a little while later he... he stops sobbing entirely. The tears have run dry, his body has stopped shaking, but he... he doesn’t move away. He just stays there, in Mondo’s arms.
Like he belongs there...
“Ya feelin’ better?”
The words are said softly. Gently. He doesn’t wanna spook the kid, knowing how fragile he prolly feels right about now. Mondo gets it. He hasn’t let himself cry fully in years, not even... h-heh. Well. Point is, while he’s not truly cried in years, he remembers how fragile it leaves you feeling afterward. How shaky.
And when he sees Kiyotaka’s eyes dart up, looking scared and afraid, Mondo doesn’t tense up. Doesn’t try and hide the openness on his face. He lets the kid see it. The softness. The care. The... the affection, because god, does he feel affection. He lets the kid see it, and he feels the kid settle against him, the fear vanishing, though the lingering sorrow remains. God... how Mondo wishes he could take that away...
“Yes. I... yes. M-Mondo... t-thank you. I... I’m sorry...”
Mondo can’t help the way he reaches out at that, hand gently grasping a warm, wet cheek. He realizes absently that that’s the first time the kid has said his name, and god is it making his insides squirm. And he can see the kid look at him with wide, watery eyes, lips open on a soft gasp, looking almost... dazed... shit...
“Don’t. Thank me. Apologize. Ain’t nothin’, got it? I... I didn’t mind. At all. So, don’t... don’t apologize. It’s alright. You’re... you’re alright.”
And he means it. God... does he mean it. It... it had felt nice. So very, very nice. Holding Kiyotaka. Comforting him as he cried, somehow not fucking it up as badly as he’d been fearing. He’s always been so fucking shit at comforting people, feeling like he has to be tough all the time, unable to comfort since tough people aren’t soft and sympathetic. But here, with Kiyotaka... h-he’d been able to be soft. Kind. Gentle. All the things he’s secretly yearned to be for so fucking long, but never was able to, since he doesn’t lead a life that is suited for such things. He always has to be so tough, so strong, but... but with Kiyotaka... with this wondrous, amazing, incredible, beautiful boy...
He can be soft.
And he will never be able to thank Kiyotaka enough for giving him that ability.
And when Kiyotaka smiles at him, wide, bright, unrestrained...? Mondo can’t help how he smiles back, wider than he’s ever felt it go before, heart beating so softly and yet meaningfully, feeling so very much for this precious boy. He... he’ll never be able to repay him for this... will he? For what he has given him this day... even if they are never this close again, even if Kiyotaka doesn’t want anything to do with him after this, he’ll never forget what this felt like. What it feels like to be soft. And gentle. And... and kind.
But... shit. Shit.
Now that they have this... now that he’s tasted this... what happens now? He... he doesn’t wanna...
“Shit, man. The fuck we do now? I... I don’t wanna go back ta how it was. I... shit. I was a goddamn monster ta ya these last few weeks... since we met, shit… I... goddamn it,” Mondo mutters, feeling his smile fade as pain fills him, remembering all the shit he has done to this poor, amazing kid. The shit he’s said. The way he’s acted. Kiyotaka gave him so much today, but he hadn’t earned any of it, had he...? He can see the kid shaking his head, looking frantic, like he doesn’t agree, and Mondo can’t help how he glares. Lightly, but it still makes the kid flinch back, proving how much he’s hurt him, and how much he can still, potentially, hurt him. God... he doesn’t wanna ever hurt him... not again… “No, don’t deny it. I was a fuckin’ moron. I just... I ain’t ever... I don’t get you, Kiyotaka. What I feel... when you- you look at me...”
And it’s true. He still doesn’t quite get it. What he feels. Why he feels it. It... he thinks he might kinda get it, might kinda realize what this feeling is, why he wants to protect this kid so badly, but it... it doesn’t quite feel like it fits. And he just... he just doesn’t know... but... if not this then... what else? H-heh...
Sighing softly, feeling so confused but strangely not angry about it, Mondo allows a wry smile to rise on his lips as he presses closer to the kid, as close as he’s always secretly longed to be, since that first day when he held him but not ever close enough. One of his hands is curled loosely around Kiyotaka’s waist, while his other is still gently cupping his cheek and has been for a little while now. He notices dimly how they are almost bare, Kiyotaka wearing only his underwear while Mondo is in his thin tank top and loose black pants, and he can feel the kid’s heat as it presses against him, oddly intoxicating. Mondo’s hair is down from its pomp, having been knocked loose sometime in the sauna, and it’s been years since someone outside his gang saw him without it up, it makes him feel so naked to have it down, but he... he doesn’t really care. Not when it’s only Kiyotaka who sees it.
He... he wants Kiyotaka to see all of him... every last part.
Because he... he views the kid like... like a...
“It’s like yer my brother or somethin’. Like... my nerdy, dorky little brother. Someone I gotta take care of. Protect. Keep safe, from all harm. I never... shit. I had my brother, but he... he’s gone now. I can’t... I couldn’t protect him, fuck. An’ I… f-fuck. I can’t protect you, either, can I...? No, I… I can’t... I can’t... a-and why the fuck would you want a fuck-up like me, anyway? You... god, you could do so much better... why would you want someone like me as your brother, s-shit...”
The thought stabs Mondo through the heart, the realization that as much as he may want to have this with Kiyotaka, to have a brotherhood with him, they... they likely never will. Because Mondo has messed up too much. Because Mondo ruined their chance before it ever even had the opportunity to live. Because Mondo is so fucking broken and damaged that no one in their right mind would ever want him as a brother. Daiya was forced to have him, and he was so fucking amazing that he chose to love him anyway, but Kiyotaka... he doesn’t have to be stuck with him. He doesn’t owe Mondo anything, anything at all. In fact, Mondo is the one who owes Kiyotaka. So much. So very, very much. Kiyotaka wouldn’t want him. He just... he wouldn’t.
And as he feels the kid freeze against him, breath stuttering and harsh, he... he knows he’s right, isn’t he? S-shit... he shouldn’t have said that, shouldn’t have thought himself good enough to deserve such a gift. Kiyotaka, wanting him like that... wanting him at all... while he may have been soft and pliant in his arms a moment ago, seeming like he was at ease, that doesn’t mean it was because of Mondo or anything that Mondo did. He’d been through an emotional time and he’d needed comfort, and Mondo had just been the nearest warm body. Doesn’t mean he trusts Mondo or that he wants anything from him at all. He’d have to be the world’s biggest fool to think Kiyotaka could ever want him, want him at all.
And Mondo... he may be a fool, but he ain’t that big of a fool.
Heart aching painfully in his chest, Mondo can’t help how he pulls away, not wanting to force Kiyotaka to be near him when he doesn’t deserve it, doesn’t deserve it at all.
“Shit, I was right, goddamn it, aw shit! J-just forget I said anything, I- fuck!”
Mondo hands come up to clutch at his hair, then, the grip tight and painful but he doesn’t care. He wants it to hurt. To ache. It’s what he deserves for fucking this whole thing up, for being so woefully unworthy of being close to such a bright and beautiful boy. Maybe, had he been better— a better person, a good person— he could have been worthy of it. Had he never let his insecurities get in the way, had he just accepted what he felt as true the minute he felt it, not pushed it away in fear, maybe... maybe then, he could have had this. Kiyotaka, as his friend. Kiyotaka, as his brother.
But no. No, no. He had pushed it away. Had been afraid of it, so very afraid. Had let his fear turn to anger, like he was so wont to do, and ruined everything before it even began.
He deserves all the misery he feels for how stupid he’d been...
Mondo gets jolted out of his thoughts when he feels a soft, tentative hand touch him, his eyes wide and manic as he looks at Kiyotaka, who looks so fucking afraid, god. H-he scares the kid so goddamn much, like he scares everyone, because he’s a monster, a senseless beast that only ever hurts people. Breaks people. He’s not allowed nice things, not allowed good things. Not allowed to be gentle, or soft, or kind. He... he’s just not...
To his utter shock, he can see Kiyotaka smile at him. It’s soft, and hesitant, and... and beautiful... but it can’t be real. It... the kid is trying to be kind, trying to hide his fear to make Mondo feel better, because he’s so goddamn nice, so fucking good, shit-
“N-no! Don’t worry! I was just- not expecting that! But I- I feel- the same. I feel- the same! I would be honored, Mondo Owada, to be considered your brother! I’ve never had a brother, never even had a friend, but I couldn’t imagine a better one than you! Y-you... you’re incredible...”
He... he... does he really mean that...? Does he truly... truly wanna be Mondo’s... Mondo’s brother? The kid is so bad at lying, and it hadn’t sounded like he was lying, but... but it... shit. It can’t be true, it can’t... after all the shit Mondo has done, how could the kid ever see him positively, even a little? Mondo isn’t a good brother, he’d always been so shit to Daiya, taking and taking and taking and never giving. He’d taken everything from Daiya, never satisfied with what Daiya gave freely, so he stole the most important thing in the end.
H-he’d just steal everything from Kiyotaka too.
It’s what he does...
“Ya can’t mean that, Kiyotaka... I’m a goddamn mess... and you... you are... shit. You’re goddamn perfect and I’m hot dog shit, ya can’t... y-you can’t...”
And it’s true. Mondo has more to say, more to confess, but his throat is so thick, and he doesn’t know how to say it. To confess all his crimes to Kiyotaka, to let him know how unworthy he is. He- he hears Kiyotaka take a deep breath, and he doesn’t wanna hear what the kid has to say, doesn’t wanna hear him agree, but then he’s speaking, and his words... t-they...
“Mondo... I- I’m not perfect. I... I’m not. B-but that’s okay! I do my best, but so do you! I can see how hard you try and sometimes that’s all that matters! You’re not... dog feces! You... you’re so much more, Mondo...”
No... n-no, the kid, he... he doesn’t understand, he just- he doesn’t understand! Mondo, he has to... has to tell him. N-not all of it, he’s not strong enough to confess it all, he’s always been so goddamn weak, but he- he has to... a little. Enough so the kid knows. So he stops feeling pity for him and realizes that he...
He’s just not worth it...
“No. N-no, I ain’t shit, goddamnit, I...” Mondo has to stop, feeling so fucking conflicted. On one hand he wants to confess, on the other hand he wants to be selfish, and he just... h-he just...
But he can’t. Be selfish. Not... not about this.
Not with Kiyotaka.
With a soft sigh, he feels the tension inside him melt away, his body relaxing with the decision he’s made. All of his emotions— both good and bad— fade away until all he feels inside is... is...
“I hate myself. Always fuckin’ have. Heh. There, I... I fuckin’ said it. I love the gang, don’t get me wrong. I love bein’ with ‘em, bein’ a part a’ somethin’ bigger than myself. I love leadin’ ‘em, ridin’ my hog, wind in my hair... I fuckin’ love it. Even bein’ here, unable ta lead directly, I still like callin’ the shots from behind the scenes while my second in command implements it an’ shit. Means somethin’, ‘least. But... I dunno. Sometimes I’ll be in the middle ofa fight and I’ll just... wanna stop. Quit. Do somethin’... do somethin’ else fer a change. But I… heh. I can’t. I promised my bro... Daiya, I... I promised him I’d keep the gang together. He built it from scratch an’ I... I can’t leave that. I made a promise, a man’s promise, ta keep us together. So, I... I gotta keep doin’ that. Can’t stop. Ever. Not ‘til the gang is dead an’ shit, all the members movin’ on ta do better shit with their lives. An’ me… heh. Not much use fer me after that, is there?”
Mondo pauses, and then looks down at his hands, a small, sad smile on his face.
“But you? Yer gonna go places, man. Shootin’ fer the moon. Prime fuckin’ Minister, shit, man. Never met anyone with such high goals, really. Never met anyone who wanted ta do that sorta shit, change things from the inside. Heard ya in class, talkin’ ‘bout yer plans an’ shit. Wantin’ ta make the world a better place, havin’ such hope for this garbage planet. Ya... ya’ve got drive. Determination. An’ I know yer gonna do it, ya know. Succeed. More than any a’ the other chucklefucks we go ta school with, ‘least. Yer just so... determined. Got such passion. I... I admire that ‘bout ya, always did.”
Mondo pauses again, and he… he laughs. It’s sad, and pathetic, and it... he... h-heh...
“But that… heh. That ain’t me, Kiyo. Ain’t me. I ain’t got plans, ain’t got any fuckin’ clue a’ what I’m gonna do after school ends. They got me takin’ fuckin’ leadership classes an’ shit, but the fuck am I gonna do with that bullshit? I can lead a gang, yeah, but that… heh. That’s ‘bout it, Christ. An’ ya… yer gonna see that one day. And yer gonna leave me. And I’ll be happy fer ya, ‘course I will, but... sh-shit. God... goddamnit...”
Mondo doesn’t know where he’s going with this. He doesn’t know what he’s saying or why he’s saying it. His head is so jumbled, so scrambled, and part of him wants to tell Kiyotaka everything. About his parents. About his brother. About what he did, what he stole. He wants to confess so, so badly, to see the hatred and anger and rage on that kid’s face when he realizes how big a piece of shit Mondo really is, horrified that he’d ever felt pity for such a pitiless creature.
He can’t. Can’t do that. He... he can’t burden Kiyotaka with his bullshit. And knowing the kid... he’d still try. To feel pity. To feel sorrow. He- he’s such a good person, so bright and shining. He’s the kind of person who would see a merciless and dangerous monster like him and think there’s something worthwhile in it. It wouldn’t be until his neck is snapped under Mondo’s uncaring hand that he’d realize he was wrong. And maybe... maybe not even then. He’d die, thinking Mondo was better than he was, even if it were Mondo who killed him.
So, he can’t tell the truth. Can’t burden the kid like that. But he... he can’t let him get close. Even if he... he really wants to...
“I’ll just hold ya back. Ya don’t want someone like me, Kiyo. Ya don’t want someone like me at all. So... I ‘ppreciate yer words. But it may be best ta leave this here. Ta... ta forget ‘bout this all and just... move on. I’ll leave ya alone and ya won’t hafta-”
“No!” Mondo hears echo through the room, cutting off his words so thoroughly. It startles the fuck out of him, and he can’t help how he stares, wide-eyed, up at Kiyotaka. It’s weird, looking up to see the kid, but he’s sitting upright, almost standing but not quite, knees firmly planted on the floor. But seeing as how Mondo is crumbled pathetically on the floor, sitting back on his thighs, he has to look up to see Kiyotaka. And he looks... looks so...
Not... not of- of... of Mondo...?
“Mondo, please! I just... look. I- I try to be perfect, but I... I’m not! And I know you aren’t either! But... but maybe that’s okay! Maybe... m-maybe... maybe we can learn to be not perfect... together? I, ah. I don’t know! A-all I know is... I want to be f-friends with you, Mondo Owada. I don’t care about your flaws; I don’t care that you’re in a gang! I just... I want... w-we can be brothers. If you want... we can be brothers. I want... I would want nothing more than to be your brother! Your kyoudai!”
Brothers. Brothers. Kiyotaka wants them to be... brothers...
It’s too good to be true. Too fucking good to be true. Mondo doesn’t get nice things like this. He doesn’t get soft, kind, gentle things. He gets shit. He gets cruelty. He gets anger and hatred and rage. He gets angry fists and cruel words, and a suspicious look on his back at all fucking times. After all the shit he has done, the people he has hurt, the lives he has ruined, he... he doesn’t deserve... he just doesn’t...
But as he sits there, staring up at Kiyotaka with wide eyes and an open mouth, he... he remembers something. Something the kid had said, in the sauna. How he... he never had a friend before. How everyone always hated him. And it could have just been insecurity talking, the kid thinking people hated him when they really didn’t but judging by the scars, he... he would doubt that.
He’s never had a friend. He’s never had a brother. Someone to keep him safe. To protect him from all harm. Someone to hold onto, someone to tell him it is alright. That he is alright. He... he hasn’t had that.
And Mondo is the worst choice for a brother. He knows it, okay? He’s so fucking awful it’s not funny. But... but he... the kid doesn’t seem to get that. And Mondo is too weak to explain why he shouldn’t want it. And, as such, he... Kiyotaka wants to be friends. Brothers. With him.
Mondo is a mess. He messes everything up, ruining everything he touches. He... he doesn’t want to ruin Kiyotaka too. He doesn’t want to hurt him. He... he never...
It’s stupid. God, so fucking stupid. But maybe... if he tries hard, so fucking hard... if he is careful, keeps his anger in check, does all he can, he... maybe he...
He can be Kiyotaka’s brother...
And keep him safe...
It makes him smile. It’s small at first, tentative. Like a stiff wind will blow it away. But as Kiyotaka keeps looking at him steadily, earnestly, he... he feels the smiles strengthen. Feels as it grows wider and wider, until it fills his whole face, his eyes squinting with how wide it is. He’s never felt like this before, so scared and terrified, but also... also...
“Ya... ya really mean that, Kiyo?”
Kiyo. Mondo doesn’t really know why he’s calling the kid that, nicknames aren’t super common in their culture, but somehow, he... he kinda likes it. He doesn’t know if the kid does, he should ask, but before he has the chance to, the kid is nodding. Enthusiastic and bright, a shaky grin on his face. He still seems a little out of it, but god, is he trying... fuck that kid is so amazing...
“Yes! Of course! I always mean everything I say! I would not lie to you, Mondo, I promise you that! We shall be the best kyoudai! You’ll see! Aha! This is fantastic!”
Oh, god... this kid is so fucking cute! God... h-he really shouldn’t be thinking that, should push it away like he always pushes stupid ass thoughts like that away, but he... he’s allowed to see his brother as cute... right? Or, well... his little brother. Though... fuck. Is Kiyotaka younger than him? He seems like it, as naive and endlessly optimistic as he is, but fuck, he doesn’t actually know. Mondo is usually one of the youngest in his class, since his birthday is at the end of the year, but he’s always felt decades older than the chucklefucks he goes to school with. Maybe it’s ‘cuz he was forced to grow up so fucking fast in order to survive, shit.
But you know what? Whatever. It doesn’t matter if Mondo is older or not. He’s the older brother regardless. That shit is felt, not necessarily determined by birth order. Daiya was his older brother in more ways than just because he was physically older, after all.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that... that Kiyotaka wants this. Wants... wants Mondo. And Mondo doesn’t deserve it, had never deserved it, but fuck, is he a selfish bastard. But he won’t take this shit for granted. Now that they are brothers, Mondo will go all fucking out. No fucking reservations. They are brothers, now, and Mondo is the big brother. The ani. It’s his duty and obligation to keep Kiyotaka safe from all harm, including (and especially) from Mondo himself. And he won’t. Hurt him. Not now, not ever. If he ever does, he will stab himself in the gut, commit fucking seppuku, he swears he will. He’d rather die than hurt this precious, amazing, incredible boy ever, ever again.
And so, Mondo grins, and he laughs, and he lets his arms reach forward and wrap around the kid, like he’s been wanting to do since he ripped himself away the last time. Part of him is afraid the kid won’t want it, or he’ll realize how stupid this whole thing is, but Kiyotaka doesn’t even tense at all as he goes willingly into Mondo’s arms, melting like warm putty against him. Like he... he belongs there...
“Okay. O-okay. Kiyotaka, I... I’ll do my best. I can’t promise ya anythin’, know I’m a goddamn fuck-up who ruins everything, but... but for you? I’ll try. That... that’s all I can offer... heh…”
It’s not enough, not nearly enough, but he feels Kiyotaka wrap his arms around him, holding on so very, very tight, and it... it feels...
Like coming home...
“That is all I could ever ask of you, my kyoudai! Y-you’re not a- a screw up! And- and your best is more than enough!”
Shit. Shit. No one... no one has ever told him that before. That the best he offers is more than enough. It’s never been enough, he’s never been enough. He’s a screw up. The unwanted kid. The person who is good for violence and anger and rage, and that’s about it.
But here, being held by this remarkable fucking kid... hearing him say that it’s enough... that he’s enough…
Maybe he’s inclined to believe him.
After a minute Mondo pulls back, knowing they need to talk about stuff, knowing he has to make promises, and it makes his heart sing when he feels the kid resist, arms refusing to let go at first. It makes him laugh softly, especially because he fully understands. But he doesn’t intend to go far. Just... he needs to look the kid in the eyes. He... he needs to see those beautiful as sin eyes...
Pressing his forehead to Kiyotaka’s, soft and gentle and intimate, he can’t help how he smiles, eyes shining with the light he feels inside. And Kiyotaka... he...
He looks at Mondo like he fucking matters...
“I’ll be good. Fer ya... I’ll be good. Promise, Kiyo. And ya can hold me ta that, got it? This is a promise between men. That means I gotta keep it.”
The kid looks stunned, eyes glazed but not in a bad way, breath hitched, and it... it makes Mondo feel...
“Likewise! I- I will do everything I can to be the best brother I can be! I promise! We shall be the best kyoudai in the world! That’s a Kiyotaka Ishimaru guarantee!”
The enthusiastic words make Mondo laugh again, and he pulls away to wrap an arm around the kid’s shoulders, ruffling his hair gently like Daiya would always do to him. He notices that the hair is a bit longer than it once had been, and fuck, does he like it. The sweat from the sauna had made all the gel run out and his hair is now soft as it dries, curling lightly around the kid’s ears and it just...
It’s so beautiful...
But ruffling the kid’s hair makes it fall in his eyes, which makes the kid let out an annoyed sound, adorable again, and Mondo can’t help the way he laughs. God, this kid makes him so goddamn happy... he’s never felt this happy before... never...
“Yer the absolute, goddamn best, kyoudai. Kiyo. Hey, uh... is it okay if I call ya that? Kiyotaka’s just a bit of a mouthful, ‘sall. Ya got any other nicknames I could use?”
He looks at the kid at that, Kiyotaka’s (or should he say Kiyo? Does the kid like it? Shit...) mouth pulled down in a thoughtful frown. A moment passes, and then-
“A-ah! Kiyo is fine! If you’d like! B-but... well... m-my mother. She called me... Taka. Y-you could use that, as well! If you’d like...”
Taka, huh? Taka. Taka. Yeah... yeah, he- he likes it. He likes it a lot! It suits the kid, and while Mondo still does kinda like Kiyo, he might like Taka a bit better. And if the kid wants him to call him that, then shit... who is he to deny him...?
Smiling, soft and gentle in a way he’s never been able to be before, he nods.
“Taka... heh, I like it! Alright, Taka. Mondo ain’t exactly got any good nicknames fer it, but ya can call me that, if ya’d like.”
Mondo watches as Taka blushes lightly, lips still partially open as he breathes in and out slowly. His eyes are kinda glazed still, but he seems present enough. Just... like he’s thinking of something. Mondo wants to reach out, wants to pull the kid into a hug again, wants to always, always be touching him, but he keeps his distance. Just... just for now. But later...
The kid shoots up again, interrupting Mondo’s thoughts, looking so enthusiastic again, eyes bright and smile happy. Holy shit...
“Oh! I can always call you kyoudai!! That way the whole world will know our manly bond!”
It makes Mondo laugh again, harder, and he can’t help how he reaches out to ruffle his hair again, needing to touch him at least a little. Kyoudai, huh? ... yeah. Yeah, he likes that, too. Daiya was always ani to him, the proper name for the big brother, and Daiya usually called him shit like ‘kid’ or whatever, so it’s not like Taka calling him that will bring up any bad memories or shit. It’s just... something for them. Their own, little thing, for them and no one else.
Him and Taka. Taka and him. Two... two kyoudai...
“Alright, Taka. If ya’d like. Now, it’s fuckin’ late. I ain’t even gotta look at a clock ta know that. Come on, kyoudai. Let’s get ya ta bed.”
Mondo stands, then, realizing how fucking late it is. The kid always gets up stupidly early, he remembers Taka saying that once a little while ago, so he knows they should be heading to bed soon. He feels strangely reluctant to do that, never wanting to part from this beautiful boy, but- but he’s the big brother. He has to keep his little brother safe and healthy, and that includes ensuring he gets a good night’s sleep. Even if it means they have to part ways...
As Mondo stretches, he sees Taka stand as well, his body flushing bright red as he looks down at himself and seems to notice his state of undress. Like he’d forgotten or something. Mondo hadn’t. Not... not for a single second. Shit...
He feels his eyes dart down to the kid’s chest, unbidden, and he feels the small smile die on his lips as he sees the long, jagged looking scar that goes from Taka’s collarbone to the bottom of his sternum, right over his heart. How... how the fuck did he get a scar like that...? It doesn’t look like one that would come from surgery or something, since it’s too jagged, and it also doesn’t look accidental. But... but how the fuck...
“How’d ya get that? The... the scar?” Mondo finds himself asking softly before he can stop himself, his hand rising absently to trace the length of it. Fuck, but it feels as jagged as it looks... angry and painful. H-he hopes it doesn’t hurt anymore...
“A-ah... that...” Taka mutters, his body flushing. It jolts Mondo out of the fucking fugue he entered, and he removes his hand quickly, feeling embarrassed. S-shit... he shouldn’t have asked that, it ain’t his fucking business. Yeah, they’re kyoudai, but that... that don’t mean he’s earned the right to hear the kid’s dark history. He still has to earn that shit. He knows that.
“Aw, shit! Taka, ignore me. Y’ain’t gotta talk ‘bout that shit. Uh, shi-shoot, I mean... stuff? Sorry… heh, know ya hate swearin’ an’ sh- stuff. Heh…”
Taka blinks at Mondo’s rambling words, which makes him feel strangely nervous. He doesn’t let it take over him, though. Doesn’t let himself get angry. But strangely... the anger he usually feels when embarrassed or nervous just... never showed up in the first place. Huh...
He watches, then, heart clenching, as Taka smiles at him, soft and gentle as ever. F-fuck...
“I... I don’t mind! It’s not exactly a pleasant story, but I trust you, kyoudai! And... I don’t mind you cursing! Much! It... it’s what makes you, you! Just as long as you don’t do it in class or in the halls!”
He... doesn’t mind him... cursing...???? After all those warnings, all of those detention slips, he truly expects Mondo to believe he doesn’t mind it when Mondo fucking curses?
But... huh. He can’t detect a lie in the kid’s words. He looks as earnest as ever, and it just... god. Mondo can’t begin to describe how he feels right now, just that it feels... soft.
Taka... Taka makes him feel soft. And fuck, is it not bad... not bad at all...
Unsure of what to say, what to do, Mondo just laughs again, since that’s the only thing that even slightly manages to express the softness that he feels inside, and he smiles at the kid gently while nodding. He should feel stupid, ridiculous, but he just... doesn’t.
He watches then as Taka walks over to the locker he’d used earlier, seeming to want to no longer be partially nude. Mondo doesn’t mind it, has never minded being around naked dudes, but he guesses not everyone can be like that. As the kid dresses, he starts to talk. And the story he tells...
“It was one of my middle school bullies. I, er... wasn’t well liked, as a child! They never liked how I would get them in trouble, not to mention... ah. M-my, well. My grandfather,” Taka mutters, voice turning nervous as he talks about his grandfather, glancing at him anxiously.
Mondo still isn’t entirely sure what the kid’s deal with his grandfather is, but he can tell it bothers the kid, shit, so he does his best to not look at all judgmental, even though the fact the kid was fucking bullied makes his blood fucking boil... shit. He’d expected it, honestly, but it still fucking angers the fuck out of him, Christ…
Luckily, it seems his anger at that isn’t too obvious, since the kid continues then, voice less shaky and upset, even though the shit he says...
“One day, one of them was... particularly angry. I’d gotten him suspended, you see, for a week. It was his own fault, he was the one who had scratched profanities into the headmaster’s car, I’d just been the one to report it! Still, he was... angry. So, after school, he had his friends hold me down while he cut this into my chest. A reminder, he said, to mind my own business. I think he was going to do more but was interrupted by something. It was most unpleasant!”
Holy. Fucking. Shit.
Holy shit, holy shit!
What the goddamn shit?!
Some goddamn motherfucker... carved that shit into Taka’s chest...?! And how the fuck can Taka sound so casual about it?! Mondo has never felt so much rage directed towards someone he’s never met, but holy fucking shit, that goddamn bastard had better hope Mondo never meets him, or else he is fucking dead. The thought that anyone could ever hurt this wonderful boy in such a way is just so... insane to Mondo. How people can see him and not want to keep him safe from all harm is just... he doesn’t get it. Even when he told himself he hated the kid, he couldn’t bear the thought of actually hurting him. Not really.
And Taka he... he looks so fucking sad, right now. But also, just... resigned. Like he expects that treatment and, while it sucks, it’s just... life. Which is so much fucking bullshit, holy fucking shit-
Mondo unintentionally lets out a strangled noise, his anger and rage choking him inside. He sees the kid look up at him and sees panic rise in his face when he sees the anger Mondo so clearly feels. Oh, shit... shit, he’s not mad at Taka, he’s not at all, but he can’t make the anger go away, because... because...
“They fuckin’ what?! What the goddamn shit?! Please tell me ya got those fuckers expelled!”
He had to have... right? Taka is so gung-ho about rules and shit, he- he must have told on those fuckers and got all of them expelled... r-right?
“A-ah! N-not exactly! I... I never reported them! I rarely ever did, to tell the truth... it wouldn’t have mattered, see! The teachers didn’t like me much either; they only ever believed me if I had proof, and even then, only half the time! And they never much cared when I got hurt... b-but it was okay! I persisted and never let them break me down! My struggles made me stronger! Aha!”
W... what? He... he... oh, oh god... n-no...
“Y-you... what?” Mondo whispers, his eyebrows furrowed, his hands shaking. He has never felt so horrified before, a terrifying realization overcoming him. Because he... he was right, wasn’t he? This kid... h-he was abused. Horribly so.
By literally fucking everyone, holy fucking shit-!
“I mean... that’s just... how it was? I handled it, though! I never gave up! They... they did not break me!”
Oh. Oh. Oh, this... this poor fucking kid... his poor fucking kyoudai, having to go through that nightmare, actually believing that it was just... normal. Just... how it was. But he... he can’t actually... actually believe he deserved it... r-right...?
“Goddamnit... that’s why ya keep tellin’ me ta... ta punish ya, ain’t it? Taka, please tell me ya don’t actu’ly think ya deserved that shit?”
He can’t. He can’t. Please, god, he... he can’t...
Mondo watches, heart breaking so thoroughly inside his chest, as Taka looks down at his uniform jacket, the only piece of his get up he’s not yet wearing. He’s frowning gently, like he actually has to fucking think about it, oh god, no...
“I- I... I suppose so... I mean-! I... I don’t know. They all hated me... s-so... they must have had a good reason... r-right? To... to hate me. I... I must have deserved it... right?”
No. No. No. Mondo... he can’t fucking handle this shit. So many things make so much sense now, and he has never hated himself more. For not seeing it sooner. For not allowing himself to care about this boy all along. For maybe even reenforcing this goddamn bullshit, making the kid think he is right, when he sure as shit ain’t. He...
He can’t help how he moves. Swift and quick. He- he just needs to be near the kid, needs to hold him, reassure him that no, he didn’t. Didn’t at all. He needs to do what he should have done weeks ago, in the laundry room, and reassure that kid that no. He doesn’t deserve to be hurt. Not... not ever...
He stops, though, when he sees Taka look up at him, terror in his eyes, like he... he thinks Mondo is going to fucking hurt him. He wants to go forward, wants to hold the kid so fucking bad, but he doesn’t have that fucking right, so he stays where he is, all the sorrow he feels surely reflected in his eyes. And as the kid looks at him, he... he relaxes. He still looks upset, but he doesn’t look scared. That... that’s something...
“No. Fuckin’ no. Y’ain’t deserved any a’ that shit, goddamn, man… and I promise ya, Taka, I’m gonna make sure ya see that one day, even if it takes the rest a’ my goddamn life. And that’s a man’s promise.”
And he means it, fuck does he mean it. He had never meant anything more. He will spend the rest of his goddamn life ensuring that this wonderful kid knows how special and amazing he is, and that he never, ever deserves to be hurt. It’s his life’s fucking goal now, the one thing that fucking matters. He will take care of Taka for the rest of his goddamn life, even after the kid finally wises up and leaves his ass. He will watch from the shadows, keeping a careful eye on him, there to keep him safe from all harm. This kid will never know pain again if it’s the last fucking thing Mondo does. He swears.
As the kid looks at him, he sees the softest and most beautiful smile he’s ever seen lighting up the boy’s face. His eyes sparkle with it, and he’s looking at Mondo like he’s important again. Like he... like he matters. And Mondo...
He won’t ruin this shit. He just... he won’t.
This matters too goddamn much for him to let it slip away.
“T-thank you... thank you, kyoudai. I... thank you.”
Mondo smiles gently at the kid, moving forward to tentatively wrap an arm around his shoulder, squeezing gently, needing to touch him but not wanting to overwhelm him, god.
“Ain’t gotta thank me, bro. Now, we really should head ta bed. Got school tomorrow an’ I don’t want my bro ta be tired! Come on, kyoudai. Let’s get goin’.”
Taka nods quick and puts his jacket on, buttoning it with practiced fingers. The kid turns back to the locker, frowning gently at whatever he sees inside. Mondo watches as the kid reaches out and grabs it, his breath hitching when he sees the kid is holding the glasses case that started this whole fucking mess. He... he honestly had forgotten about that shit, to tell the truth, with all the drama that just occurred. But as he looks at the kid, who is looking so softly at the glasses case, like they’re precious to him, he... he knows he owes the kid for the shit he put him through earlier, for no fucking reason. He can’t quite find it in him to regret what happened, not when it ended up like this, but he... he has to make it up to the kid. All of it.
So, quick as a wink, Mondo darts his hand out and carefully takes the case from Taka, ignoring the startled sound the kid makes. He can feel the kid watching him with wide eyes, but he doesn’t let it stop him as he opens the case and— without a single moment’s pause— puts the glasses on his face, blinking at the foreign feel. It... it hasn’t changed his vision much, since this shit is only supposed to help with close up shit, but it... huh. He guesses it ain’t so bad...
“Huh... I guess they ain’t that bad... tell me, kyoudai. How do they look?”
He hadn’t really meant to ask the question, but he just... couldn’t help but remember the shit he’d done the last time he’d worn the glasses and Taka had told him what he thought. He... maybe he wants to show that it’s different, now. That he won’t get angry, not this time. To prove that he will never hurt Taka, never again. Not... not ever again.
He watches as the kid flushes bright red, mouth open slightly again, and- and god, is it an attractive look on him... s-shit... and then the kid is smiling shakily, giving a shaky thumbs up, and that’s even... even worse... or better, heh...
“You look amazing, kyoudai! They suit you well!”
A-amazing, huh? Shit... no one’s ever said he looks amazing before... he’s had a couple of people call him hot, or even sexy once or twice, but never... never amazing...
He adores it... adores... Taka...
It makes him smile again. Soft. Happy. So goddamn happy... he will never be able to repay Taka for the happiness he gives him... not even if he dedicates the rest of his life to trying. Which he will. He... he will...
But it’s late. So fucking late. They... they need to get to bed...
Even if Mondo never wants to part from this amazing kid...
“Ah, cool. I guess. Now, c’mon! Bed! Ain’t gonna be the reason ya can’t focus in class tomorrow, ya nerd!”
With that, Mondo turns to grab his duster off the bench he’d tossed it on earlier, shrugging it on carefully, before finally exiting the bathhouse, Taka on his heels.
The Assistant - Ch. 4
Description: Summary - Her sixth year at Hogwarts was supposed to be relatively peaceful but after an incident on the Hogwarts express, Violet Wilkes finds herself the newest target of the Weasley twins. This, combined with a dark family secret, and the Triwizard tournament, makes her first few months back more exciting and stressful than every year before.
pairing: George Weasley x Original Female Character
warnings: pg-13. slow burn, eventual smut hehe
Violet fully opened her eyes and pawed at the silk sheets around her, clawing to drag herself back to reality.
The bed. She was just in bed.
Her family was fine.
It was just a nightmare.
She repeated it over and over again but eventually, it was a loud snore from Sadie across the room that fully brought her back to reality.
She rose out of bed and glanced out of the high glowing window between their beds. The terror from the nightmare practically vanished at the sight of an incredibly bright fall day.
Agitation clawed at the nape of her neck during breakfast and she only made it about ten minutes before the desperation for fresh air became too much.
The brittle fall breeze nipped the exposed skin above her knee and at her wrists. The walk to Herbology was cold enough to be noticeable, but not entirely uncomfortable. Although, it made her a bit more thankful for the thick Hogwarts uniform now. Surely the Beauxbaton girls would freeze come winter. Without the barrier of cities or skyscrapers, frigid weather always came so soon. Without fail, frozen air managed to appear early, and linger well into the spring months.
She followed the familiar stone path to a small clearing on the side of the castle, obstructed only by rows of greenhouses, bursting at the seams with interior vines, and flowers. She'd never been particularly enthralled with herbology or plants, didn't call to her but it was better than divination or astronomy, both of which she had elected not to take this year.
Clad in yellow and black, a sea of cheerful Hufflepuffs welcome her inside, uncaring about her own lonesome green and silver tie, or noticing that she gagged a little on the musty stench of wet dirt and trapped photosynthesis. It was a relief to finally be around peers that weren't as judgmental as her own house. She didn't mean to generalize but the evidence was clear and overwhelming.
Professor Sprout instructed them on how to clip Sneezewort correctly and she absorbed every detail of the small white flower that held the ability to befuddle even the most sound minds but offered little to the discussion, letting her much more invested peers take over. Sneezewort was a key ingredient in the Befuddlement Draught, the first potion they'd learned last year.
She tuned out the lecture to go over the recipe and instructions in her head, just in case Snape wasn't finished testing them and it came up in potions tomorrow. She wouldn't put it past him to make a further example out of her. He was the sort of sadist who enjoyed making students feel underprepared and stupid, not that it had ever applied to her. It was one of the many characteristics that he did not share with any other professors at Hogwarts, but she didn't mind. It was probably some deep-seated ambition or need to be better than the rest but she had enjoyed earning his tolerance, and praise, especially when it was withheld from so many.
Lunch was a rather somber affair without Sadie so she settled at the end of the Slytherin table, content to read.
With their schedules out of synch with one another, she was staring down the barrel of an entire year of lunches alone, not that she minded. She glanced up at the rest of the hall, admiring the lax nature of the other tables and houses, completely fine with sharing tables during more informal meals. She glanced down the length of her table, unsurprised by only a few green ties littering the dark wooden seats. She wouldn't have minded some more house mingling but the trend makers in Slytherin were quite territorial.
She quickly helped herself to some soup and flipped through the book to find where she'd left off. The train ride had only allowed her to get halfway through The Princess Bride and she'd barely had any time for personal reading over the weekend between brushing up on textbooks and unpacking.
Finally, he rested far below her, silent and without motion. "You can die too for all I care," she said, and then she turned away.
Words followed her. Whispered from far, weak and warm and familiar. "As . . . you . . . wish. .."
It was inevitable, tears pricked her eyes and she broke into a big smile, unable to contain it. This part, no matter how many times she read it, always made her emotional.
The complex mixture of devotion, love, and sadness between the two protagonists was so raw and powerful. It was entirely unrealistic, which was the only reason she found it intriguing at all. Not that she'd know anything about love. The last boy she'd liked seriously was someone long since graduated from when she was a fourth-year. But from what she had seen from the other clumsy, short-lived couples at Hogwarts, this kind of romance didn't exist in real life. There had been a few boys in her hometown who'd taken her out on dates over the years but they'd amounted to nothing, not even a kiss. She couldn't talk about the things she likes from the wizarding world with them, and couldn't talk about muggle things with anyone at Hogwarts so it was, in her view, pointless to even try. She doubted that any sort of satisfactory love would come for her at all though because she was an avid fiction reader, so her standard for men was way too high.
She blinked back her tears and sniffled the rest of her emotions back into her head. Thankfully, the Slytherin table was almost empty except for a few lone diners like herself. Most of her lazy oaf housemates opted for afternoon classes so that they could sleep in. Even the head table was practically empty except for Hagrid, who was chatting away at Madam Maxine, who towered over him. She blamed her sudden tenderness on the chapter she'd just finished but they would make a sweet couple.
One other seat at the table was occupied by an unfamiliar, rather large blonde man whose face was mostly obscured by his goblet and furious fork movements. She could just make out a wonky blue eye but…not the rest of him. His tousled blonde hair and rather red complexion seemed out of place. She squinted to make out his features a little more. Was he a professor from one of the international schools? No, he looked quite familiar, she thought. She'd seen his face before.
She looked back down at her own table. "Parkinson, who is that? The blonde one."
Pansy Parkinson followed her gaze and then half-whispered back down to her.
"Professor Moody, new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher."
"Thanks," she responded mindlessly. Moody. Why did that name sound so familiar?
She stared unabashedly at the man, struggling to make out any more details.
He stood briefly, to reach the pumpkin juice and she caught a glimpse of metal where a leg once was.
She'd seen him before.
Her mind whirred.
She scrambled out of her seat, trying not to look as dizzy and sick as she felt.
Moody. Mad-Eye Moody. The auror. That's where she knew him from.
A cold shiver passed over her as his eyes met hers. He lingered for a moment due to her sudden rise and then returned to his meal.
No. It couldn't be him. He must be someone else.
She didn't hide her urgency as she ran through the halls towards the library.
Panic lodged itself into her lungs, making it hard to breathe.
With every step she took, she prayed, wished, and hoped that she was mistaken and that it wasn't him.
He must be someone else. But she had to be sure.
The library doors opened with more of a bang than she'd usually allow, drawing more than one disgruntled look from other students but she didn't care.
The bookshelves on the way to the history section flew by.
A book documenting all the issues of the Daily Prophet from 1981, the end of the first wizarding war, flew to her.
There was no time to reach her alcove, she had to know now.
She leaned on an empty wall in an abandoned corner and ripped through the pages, feeling her heartbeat on the tip of every finger.
Please be someone else, she chanted in her head. Please be someone else.
Please don't be him.
Please don't be him.
Please don't be —
The headline looked the same as it did when she'd first found it during her second year at Hogwarts when she'd simply been curious about the war that her peers sometimes chatted about. Her father hadn't told her any of it. Only that someone had died and the world was a better place because of it.
DEATH EATER KILLED EN ROUTE TO AZKABAN
The photo underneath the black words still moved.
The same Moody she'd seen at lunch stood over a body, his face still bleeding from the altercation.
She slammed the book closed and squeezed her eyes tight.
It was him. He had done it.
The photo flashed behind her eyelids; his lost leg, rolling eye, matted hair - standing over her uncle's dead body, eyes- lifeless, dark mark- still, face- reminiscent of her fathers, and thusly, her own.
Her heart pounded in her ears. Silencing the hustle and bustle around her.
It was him. And he was here.
She felt her legs give out and sunk to the floor in a flustered heap.
No, no, no. Why did he have to come here?
She'd tried so hard, for so long to forget it and now she was forced to reckon with the truth.
Her eyesight narrowed to tunnels.
What if he knew? What if he could tell just by her hair or face?
Her vision became hazy and the bookshelves and carpet blurred into one reddish-brown clump.
Tomorrow. She would see him tomorrow. Not only was he here but he was her professor.
Her stomach churned.
He would read her name on the class roster tomorrow. He would know then, if he didn't already.
What if he stood up in class and said, "I killed Death Eater, Rupert Wilkes and his niece is in this very room."
She tried to calm her breathing but her brain was static.
Then everyone would know. It'd take a few class periods to get around and Malfoy would tell them all the rest of the story until she formally became the evil that she feared so much. Death Eaters taunted her dreams because she couldn't help but see one every time she looked in the mirror.
The room was spinning.
No one could know.
No one could see that when they looked at her. She would make sure of it.
Despite her best efforts to calm down, severe panic and a lack of oxygen blacked out the world around her before she lost consciousness.
A soft voice coaxed her back to reality. She slowly came to, feeling lightheaded and confused. She opened her eyes and panicked when all she saw was black, before realizing that her face was pressed to the floor. The carpet scratched her cheek as she turned to acknowledge the voice.
"Violet, are you ok?" A familiar voice cooed anxiously next to her.
She looked up and found Madam Pince's face looming over her. She concluded from the horrified, concerned expression from the librarian that she must have passed out and fallen over.
"C'mon dear, up you come," Madam Pince said, pulling her to her feet. "We need to get you to the hospital wing."
She found her footing but dropped the book to the floor, rushing to pick it up before the librarian could see what she was reading. The movement nearly made her fall over but the bookish witch's grip on her arm was incredibly tight and dependable, not even allowing her to sway.
"Oh no it's alright," she assured the older witch breathlessly. "Really, I'm fine I just was…erm… lightheaded is all and um sat down. I must have just fallen asleep." She tried to hide the wobbling of her legs and flashed a confident smile to deter her nerves.
Madam Pince regarded her with suspicious eyes but slowly released her arm. "Are you sure?"
"Yes, yes I promise. Thank you, I'll just go straight to my room and lie down, I promise," she rambled, making a break for the front door, her legs still feeling like jello. "Um thank you, sorry."
"Alright," Madam Pince called after her. "Be more careful."
She stuffed the book into her bag and sprinted back to her room. The sunset shining through the windows on her way back to the dungeon signaled that she'd been out for the entire afternoon and some of the evening. She guessed that she'd missed dinner, not that it mattered because her stomach was too tightly wound with nerves to eat anything.
As she moved through the halls, her thoughts raced to remember why she'd passed out in the first place. She rounded a corner and caught sight of the doors to the Great Hall and it all hit her again, in an instant. She fought back panicked tears and considered changing her trajectory to the owlery to message her father about what to do but stopped, remembering that he wasn't aware of just how much she knew and that the revelation might give his sensitive soul a shock.
She focused on steadying her breathing and regaining the feeling in her legs, ignoring the countless peers she passed. She swore that she heard someone calling her name, but her heartbeat filled her ears, blocking out most sound, so she couldn't be sure.
It was a lonely feeling, keeping a secret for years on end. The truth of the situation would be more of a prison than the secret itself and so she kept it buried and let it fester into a deep loathing of those around her who were unburdened by the evils of the world.
She spat the common room password with more fervor than she ever had and raced through the dark furniture and scattered students, anxious for the safety of her room.
Her thoughts were interrupted when an inconsolable Sadie greeted her as soon as she opened the door. She hastily wiped a tear away from her cheek and collected herself, not that Sadie would've noticed between her sobs.
"Sadie," she croaked out.
Her sniffling friend looked up at her in surprise. "Where have you been?" The tone and volume of her voice made Violet jump. After hours of begin unconscious on the floor, her head was pounding. Despite the ache, she scurried over to console her friend, thankful for a distraction from her distress.
Apparently, Graham Montague had been caught sneaking a Bauxbaton girl into the boy's dorm earlier in the evening and Sadie had been the one who saw them.
She whispered countless reassurances, and encouragements but most came out half-hearted, not that she'd meant them to. What did Sadie expect from a pureblood git? Of course, she'd never say so and nodded along to her friend's rant, despite her groggy head and sore limbs from a terrible afternoon spent crumpled on the library floor.
"He seriously thinks that I care," she yelled, tossing a pillow at their closed bedroom door. "Please, he can fancy whomever he likes. It's a relief to be rid of him. His constant worshiping at the temple of my twat was getting old anyway."
Sadies high cheekbones glistened from her tears. She'd finally stopped crying but her deep brown eyes reflected her pooling sadness, ready to rerelease at a moment's notice.
"He's a leech and you're entirely too good for him," she said in an attempt to match her friend's anger while scanning the room anxiously for a place to hide the book.
Thankfully, Sadie didn't sense her distraction and ranted for a few moments longer before opting to sob herself to sleep on her bed. Violet rubbed her friend back, trying to focus on Sadie's much simpler problem but she could feel the book burning a hole through her bag, and her own problem searing itself into her subconscious. When Sadies soft snores filled the room, she peeled herself from the bed opposite of hers and finally laid her head on her pillow.
Despite already being lightly sleep-deprived, she tossed and turned all night fighting off worst-case scenarios and sorting through her emotions.
Terrifying, she decided sometime around 3 AM. It was terrifying.
It was terrifying to be in the house that raised almost all of the dark witches and wizards in history.
To be so close to those whose families still had loyalty to a Dark Lord.
To have Death Eater blood running through her veins. It felt like a sick joke, being terribly afraid of something inside of her. It was a cruel game of cat and mouse except she couldn't figure out which one was which. Scared of herself, and even more afraid of those around her who had the same story.
But those feelings of fear were all expected. She'd sorted through them thousands of times and lost more hours of sleep over them than she could count. These were things she'd already resigned herself to, but Moody was a bomb. He was unexpected and quite frankly, entirely unwelcome and she didn't know how to react.
He'd been here a week and she hadn't even known. She kicked herself for leaving the welcome feast early. She could've recognized him sooner and planned ahead but now she only had a few hours to organize her thoughts and come up with a plan of attack that didn't get her outed, or worse.
She turned over and stared at the wall, begging into the dark for sleep to take her. Tomorrow she'd be a tired, useless mess.
Not only would she feel exhausted but she'd have to see him tomorrow and there was no way around it. Defense Against the Dark Arts was a graduation requirement, and further, than that, something she was actually interested in learning, seeing as her fear of the topic occupied her thoughts more and more each passing day.
Her stomach wound itself in a tight knot at the thought of walking into class and facing Moody in front of her peers.
The way she saw it, there were only two options. Ignore him, and hope he didn't recognize her or face it head-on and let him know that she knew. She mulled it over and over hopelessly flipping between worst-case scenarios.
Ignoring him hinged on his inability to recognize her name or face, which she doubted. She knew nothing of the emotional toll that killing someone left a person with but surely it wasn't easily forgotten. On the other hand, if she confronted him after class, maybe they could come to an understanding. Maybe he would be glad to know that not everyone who bore her last name was evil. Maybe he even harbored some guilt, and was just as nervous about her, as she was about him.
It wasn't the worst plan, and exceedingly better than skipping DADA a year, not graduating in time, and having to explain everything to Snape and her parents.
She rolled onto her back and stared at the canopy above her, surprised to feel tears prick the corner of her eyes.
There was a hole in her heart.
She had to see him. She had to learn from him.
There was no way to avoid being in the same room as the man who had caused her father so much grief and pain that he hadn't spoken about his brother in nearly thirteen years.
The pain was what lingered. Behind every smile, every laugh, glint of his eyes, she always saw that pain. Especially when he was looking at her. It was only natural of course. He'd never say it but she could tell he worried about her being so close to where her uncle was corrupted. Two roads certainly diverging and she couldn't blame him for wondering which one she would take.
Despite wanting to, she couldn't blame him. It wasn't Moody who had caused that pain. It was the uncle who'd sought fame and glory by standing next to he-who-must-not-be-named and ended up getting himself killed. He'd chosen instantaneous death over a slow and torturous one in Azkaban and she didn't feel bad for him.
It wasn't just her pain, or her father's pain, or her family; but the entire wizarding world.
There were other articles too, ones right before and right after her uncle's death that she could hardly bring herself to read. She hadn't been able to make it more than a paragraph into the front-page article announcing the boy who lived. Its cadence desperately tried to give respect and solemness to Potter's parents but failed miserably. The one that haunted her the most though cited the torture of Alice and Frank Longbottom, Nevilles parents. She'd never spoken to the boy but knew his tragic story well. If the news of her bloodline ever did get out, he, above anyone else would have a right to despise her.
She squeezed her eyes tight, trying to forget the black and white pictures.
None of it was her fault but she felt the burden regardless.
Countless other families had lost so much more, even some at the hand of her uncle. That was worse than his death.
He had helped the Dark Lord rip families apart, and set the world on fire. Because it was his job.
And just like him, Moody too had done his job. He had sacrificed an eye and a leg to make their whole world safer. It probably meant nothing to kill someone to ensure the safety of those you love, and deep down she knew that true safety and peace had required his death. The thought made him less intimidating but the worry remained the same.
She let a silent tear fall for the resurgence of the dark mark, her father, the confrontation tomorrow, and the uncle she never knew, and finally fell asleep.
Violet didn't wait for her alarm clock to lull her awake on Wednesday morning.
The early rise gave her time to shower and dress slowly. Breakfast tempted her but she opted to head straight to the potions classroom where another annoyance awaited.
She found her seat and ignored the peers trickling into the room around her until Lee sat down a few minutes later, with George in tow. The panic of yesterday had pushed him, and his smug demeanor far out of her mind but unfortunately, hadn't made him any less real.
She kept her eyes on the open textbook in front of her and tried to tune them out, as well as her murderous thoughts. She didn't have the energy to deal with George today. Any fire inside of her needed to be conserved tense conversation she was hellbent on having in just a few hours.
George must have sensed her annoyance because he leaned over the table and set a hand in front of her book.
She glared at him but his smug smile didn't budge.
"Merlin, you look terrible," he leaned forward further, faking concern.
Lovely, she thought. What an absolute gentleman and a delight to deal with this morning. She squinted, trying to hide her anger, and fighting off the blush creeping onto her cheeks. What an intolerable person. If Lee wasn't sitting between them, she might've hexed him right then and there.
"Reckon I'm still better looking than you. It's a wonder why God decided to make your ugly face twice."
He squinted back and chuckled. "God? Didn't take a heathen like yourself to be the religious type."
"Only started recently," she said, scolding herself for giving into his back and forth. "I found myself in urgent need of something to pray to."
She hoped he'd take the bait.
"Don't leave me in suspense Violet, whatever do you pray for?"
Like a mouse with cheese. "Your painful demise."
"And you need God for that? Don't have the courage to hex me yourself," he half cooed, egging her on.
Nothing dark look today. If anything, he looked like he was having fun.
"Don't tempt me. A cell in Azkaban would be much more preferable to seeing your ghastly hair every week."
He smiled and tucked a lock behind his ear.
"Violet, no need to be so cruel. I feel as though we've gotten off to a wrong start. Let's start again shall we?"
She shot him a sarcastic smirk. As if.
"Good morning Violet," he said, with an even toothier grin.
She smiled sweetly. "You look terrible."
Maybe a few more back and forth's and he would've dawned on the more sinister look that she'd grown quite fond of, but Snape's entrance interrupted them, and George scampered off to his seat without another word.
Snape tapped on his podium. "Weasley; scarab beetles, ginger roots, armadillo bile, newt spleens."
Everyone in the class turned to watch George dawn a frantic look on his face before resigning to stare daggers into Snape.
"What…" he said.
Their professor him a few more seconds to answer and then smirked.
"Pity. Five points from Gryffindor. Wilkes?"
She jumped a little at the sound of her name and quickly shifted her gaze to Snape.
"Oh um Wit-Sharpening Potion, sir," she responded dully, ignoring the collective class sigh at her once again outing herself as a teacher's pet.
"Sounds like something you might want to invest in," Snape sneered, turning back to George. "Five points to Slytherin. Davies; spring water, alihosty leaves, billywig wings, snarl quills, puff skein hair, horseradish powder."
He was quizzing them. He'd done it last year before finals but he seemed to be taking a rather cruel approach to weeding out those who didn't have their textbooks preemptively memorized.
"Um… erm…. Dreamless sleep?"
Snape rolled his eyes. "Five points from Ravenclaw. Wilkes?"
Oh Godric, again? She really was the most unlucky person alive today.
She kept her eyes on the desk. "Laughing potion, sir."
"Five points to Slytherin. Warrington, name one potion with porcupine quills."
"Erm…Cure for Boils?"
"Five points to Slytherin. Stimpson; daisy roots, shrivelfig, caterpillars, rat spleen, leech juice, cowbane, wormwood."
"I….I don't know sir."
"Five points from Ravenclaw. Wilkes?"
"Shrinking Solution, sir."
There were only so many students that he could pick on before she was stuck reciting the entire textbook. Hopefully, he wouldn't take the entire class time to make his point, but she wouldn't put it past him.
"Five points to Slytherin. Jordan; moonstone, hellebore, unicorn horn, porcupine quills, valerian root."
She let the quietest gasp escape her lips and whipped her head to look at him. He knew this. They had made it on Monday and he'd been the one to gather the ingredients. He looked a little panicked so she gave him a soft kick under the desk and watched as the lightbulb went off over his head.
"Draught of Peace!"
She bit the side of her cheek to stop a smile from forming on her face. It was an easy question and it meant nothing but regardless, she couldn't help but feel proud that he had remembered.
"Congratulations on paying attention to Miss Wilkes' work. I will deduct no points from Gryffindor, as a reward."
Dissatisfied at the Gryffindors correct answer, Snape finished his quiz and instructed them all to study the first chapter in the textbook for next week when they would begin brewing.
She skimmed over the words and mindlessly flicked through the pages, ignoring her heart thumping and stomach swirling. It was only about thirty minutes now until she'd be in Defense Against the Dark Arts. She blinked back the moving photo from the book and tried to conjure any happy image.
She turned her head to Lee a second time.
"What?" She hissed.
He grinned at her. "Thanks for kicking me in the right direction."
Over his shoulder, she could see George staring at them curiously. She wondered if Gryffindors ever did anything without moving in a pack and moved her eyes back to the book.
"Don't mention it."
Much to her surprise, he didn't. He even pushed George back out the door when the giant redhead waltzed back over, looking like he wanted to pick up where they left off.
She watched them leave and lamented to herself as one nightmare ended, another began.
A few minutes later, she stopped at the entrance to the Defense Against the Dark Arts tower. A couple of her fellow students pushed past her, glaring back as they ascended the stairs but despite their sour expressions, she couldn't move.
The adrenaline from last night was waning and the plans she'd come up with no longer seemed like the right thing to do.
The stairs took forever, and yet not long enough. She scurried to a corner desk in the last row and took a seat next to an inconspicuous looking Durmstrang boy, who might have said something when she sat down but her ears wouldn't stop ringing.
The bell tolled. This was it. There was a 50/50 chance that her reputation was about to be ruined. News like this would take little to no time to get around the school and everyone would know before dinner. She'd be the girl that Professor Moody threw out of his class for being related to a Death Eater. For the rest of the year, she'd have no choice but to sit with Malfoy and all the other children of suspected Death Eaters, but even they might not take her.
Moody's office door banged open and he trudged down the stairs.
Sadie might not hate her forever, but any hopes at remaining cordial with friends from other houses would be thrown out the window, she thought. Hermione wouldn't be able to look at her. She didn't know if she could take it.
"Alastor Moody," he was scribbling at the chalkboard with his back turned to the class. "Ex Auror, your new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher."
He turned to look at them.
She winced. His normal eye floated over their faces, but his other eye, held to his face with leather and metal, moved furiously as he called out names from the roster. Her breathing grew shallow as the eye moved to the back of the class, and towards the end of the alphabet.
"Wilkes," He bellowed.
"Here," she squeaked out, on the verge of passing out.
His eyes grazed over her one second, and then… they were gone.
She blinked, squinting to be sure that he wasn't staring in shock or reaching into his pocket to pull out his wand and hex her but he was continuing with the last few names on the roster as if nothing had happened.
There hadn't been even the slightest bit of recognition. Not a flashback. No acknowledgment. No chill down his spine or look in his eye.
Either he didn't know or simply… didn't care.
She felt her muscles unfurl one by one, and nearly laughed out loud with relief.
"The unforgivable curses," he blurted, starting his lecture.
She stared at him in disbelief for a few moments before tentatively accepting that, at least for now, she was in the clear. It was astonishing and completely unexpected. She suddenly felt silly for panicking so much.
Her relieved mood didn't last long though, as he spoke ominously about the world they would step into upon graduation. Any small doubt in her mind that the Dark Mark in the sky hadn't really meant a second war, vanished.
"The Unforgivable Curses. The use of any one of them on a fellow human being is enough to earn a life sentence in Azkaban. That's what you're up against. That's what I've got to teach you to fight."
His face contorted with passion and his eyes urged them to see the horrible things he'd seen. His pleas were honest but terrifying.
"You need preparing. You need arming. But most of all, you need to practice constant, never-ceasing vigilance," he concluded, before dismissing the class in a huff after an hour and a half of passionate ranting.
She didn't give her original plan another thought, and was the first one out the door, her mind running through the warning he'd just given them.
If she would have stayed for the entire feast, and been vigilant, she would have known that he was going to be here. She cursed herself for letting something like this sneak up on her and affect her so harmfully, especially now that none of her worst fears about him had come true.
She wasn't at the Quidditch World Cup but judging from Moody's ominous lecture, that was just the beginning. There would be more whispers, more threats, maybe even attacks, just how it started last time. Even without the return of he-who-must-not-be-named, his followers were surely tired of waiting in the shadows, biting their tongues, and watching muggle-borns, and half-bloods receive equal treatment. If they were back, her family would be a target.
She had to be vigilant.
The full Slytherin table almost deterred her from sitting down for lunch but she couldn't get Moody's words out of her head. She caught a glance of Malfoy laughing with Crabbe, and Goyle, all with family ties to Death Eaters. She was quite literally in the snake pit.
She boldly took a seat at the middle of the table, a few empty spots away from Malfoy and his crew.
If there was indeed something brewing, maybe they knew about it, and maybe, just maybe, they'd be dumb enough to let something slip.
Moody's face looming over her uncles flashed in her mind once more but she didn't flinch. If her uncle had survived, surely he would have come for his blood-traitor brother and half-blood nieces. How could she have been so stupid to think that Moody would out her, even if he had recognized her name? He was capable of bad things, yes, but clearly, only for a good cause. He'd done what he had to do, not only for his safety but also for her father's safety, her mother's safety, and ultimately, hers.
She cursed the tear she'd shed for such an evil man last night.
Malfoy's cackle tore her from her thoughts. She watched him sneer at a group of Gryffindors with his friends, his white hair unmoving as he tossed his head backward and wondered if anyone else had seen him at the Quidditch World Cup.