Each time the bell chimed at the small cafe's entrance door it was a signal that new customers had arrived. Usually it was school-girls grabbing a bite to eat and chat after class, or a young couple on a date, or the occasional lone student coming in to study someplace that was free from the distractions of home. But the place was not crowded, despite its small size, and the low lighting gave it a cozy atmosphere. That was why so many people were drawn to it. That, and its convenient location someplace between Kanagawa and Tokyo, was why Yanagi Renji chose this place to meet someone important.

He did not look up each time the bell rang; he would know when Tachibana Kippei arrived by the sound of his walk. And when he did get there, Yanagi looked up, and then stood altogether to greet his friend as he approached. "I'm glad you could come."

"Sorry if I'm late. Have you been waiting long?"

"Iya, you're not late at all. I simply came a bit early in order to secure a table."

A prompt waitress approached as they sat, and both ordered simple tea and snack cakes, then waited until she was gone before speaking. "It's been a while," Tachibana began.

"Ah...I've been a bit...busy."

"I see," he nodded. "And here I was afraid you'd been avoiding me."


"I used to see you every other day, then all of a sudden I'm lucky if I see you every other week." Straight to the point. Tachibana realized he was scowling, and softened his look. His voice softened. "Yanagi-san...what happened?"

"I've been having-" The other stopped as the waitress approached again and delivered their small order, but the interruption gave him the chance to re-think and re-word what he wanted to say. When she left, he started anew. "I wanted to apologize for...that time. For that kiss."

"You don't need to apologize for that," Tachibana assured him. "It was...nothing. Just a little...thing."

Yanagi's face was carefully held to not betray the feelings he was about to reveal. It was easier that way, not letting anyone read him, only giving away that which he chose to. "That's the problem... It wasn't nothing to me. I'd wanted to kiss you for... I don't even know how long."


"I've been watching you for a while now. At first just for data collection, but the more I learned, the more I've come to appreciate every facet of who you are. You're so strong and beautiful." He reached out then, touching and gently caressing the other teen's hand that rested on the table between them. "I've stayed away because... I want to kiss you...even more. I want to make you mine."

Tachibana flew up from his seat, so fast he jarred the table, causing a bit of coffee to slosh from his cup. This was...it was.... He didn't want to say "wrong," he'd told his friend it was okay when he'd revealed his sexual preference, but...not for himself. Right?

But what about...?

No. It was too much. Too much to think about right then. Because actually he'd been thinking about it too much already, ever since that kiss, but it was so hard to admit and he'd hoped if he ignored it it'd go away. Written off as a passing, teenage-hormone induced silly idea. But now he was being faced with it directly. Forced to confront it.

He couldn't.

He had to think some more.

"I... I'm sorry," he said as he began backing away. "I just... I can't." Then he turned and left Yanagi sitting alone.



Yanagi said nothing as he watched Tachibana leave him. He'd predicted as much would happen. Really, there was an 86% chance of that reaction. (though the other 14% was much worse)

He reached out and poked his finger into the small puddle of coffee that had spilled from the departed teen's cup, then brought it to his mouth. It was bitter.

'If only...'