Tachibana seemed to always associate Yanagi Renji with the color blue. He wasn't sure why - perhaps because he assimilated the other teen with the ocean, calm on the surface, but, as they say, "still waters run deep" - but every time he thought of his strangely acquired friend it was always with a blue background.

Or maybe he was more like a waterfall, finding the best course to take and then crashing down, unable to help but be powerful and beautiful in the process.


He took a moment to watch the brown-haired teen, who was sitting in the sand, not caring if his clothes got dirty as he gazed into the waves rolling up and down the shore. The colors of the setting sun streaked the sky orange and purple, but cast a golden glow to Yanagi's skin as the dying light kissed his face. It occurred to Tachibana that he had never seen his eyes, they were always kept closed just enough to stay hidden from the world, but he bet they were involuntarily memorizing every crease of the water.

He pictured those eyes blue.


Wordlessly, he approached and sat beside the other. He wanted to give Yanagi room to speak, should he have anything to say, even if it were to be "go away; I don't want to see you." But he didn't say anything, and Tachibana thought perhaps that was worse. After licking his lips to moisten them, he began with "I'm sorry."

"You needn't be," was the quiet reply. "You cannot help the feelings you have - or don't have, for that matter - any more than I can."

"It's not that. I do care about you, Yanagi-san..." He trailed off a moment, then added "very much." He watched as a seagull swooped down and stole a piece of bread that another bird had been nibbling at. It took off, not noticing that a large chunk of the bread broke off and fell to the ground as it flew away. Ironically, the piece that broke off was bigger than the piece it got away with, and the second gull hopped over to resume its meal. "To be truthful," he continued, "I've never thought I'd be in this position. I've never thought about anyone...courting me. Much less..."

"...Much less a guy," Yanagi finished for him.

"Yeah.." Tachibana ran a hand through his short hair, then turned his head to look at the other youth. "Can I tell you something?" With Yanagi's nod of affirmation, he put a finger to his lips, considering how to word what he wanted to say. "There was a time, not long ago at all, really, that I had feelings for someone. And I thought maybe it was wrong of me, but this person stood out so much beyond all else that I could not help be drawn to him."


"Ah. That person was Tezuka Kunimitsu."

That was all he needed to say. The rest of the story became very obvious to Yanagi. Tezuka was eye-catching, in all his quiet and powerful glory, but one Atobe Keigo of Hyoutei Gakuen made damn sure everyone knew exactly to whom the Seigaku captain belonged. Which must have left a rather...brokenhearted Tachibana, who was not so eager to look to another relationship.

"I guess it's my fault," Tachibana went on, "for thinking I could compete with someone...like..."

"Iya!" Yanagi cut in. "There is no comparison. You are different. You are you."

A sad smile crossed the Fudomine captain's lips, and he turned his eyes back to the churning ocean. "I'm telling you this because... I just want you to know that something like gender doesn't matter to me. I mean.. Perhaps it once did - I never pictured myself...like this - but I know a good thing when I see it. That time... I wasn't rejecting you. I'm just being cautious. Perhaps overly so." He slowly reached out, placing a hand on the other's arm. "I would like to be with you. If you don't mind being discreet, I would like to give 'us' a chance."

To his utter surprise, Yanagi's eyes, those ever-closed, beautiful eyes, slowly opened, and turned to meet his gaze. They were not blue, as Tachibana had imagined they would be, but a lovely shade of light...almost red. Amber. It was oddly fitting, as the Rikkai Dai player was always more than expected. A quiet smile lit upon his lips as he responded, "I can be discreet." And then he chuckled, remembering the before-referenced Diva. "Unlike some people."

The mood broke; light, pleasant, full of promise as they laughed together.


Perhaps Tachibana's previous association was wrong. This person he'd come to know was more like red. Full of warm blood, with a heart that beat true. When he thought of him, he pictured him surrounded by the color of affection. Of love.

He associated Yanagi Renji with red.