“Toya is ‘special’ to Yukito.”
. . . Well, until he heard it from Yuki directly . . .
Toya didn’t distrust Yue, exactly—if he had, would he have given Yue his power?
Yes. To stop Yuki from disappearing, yes. Yue, it seemed, was part of the deal.
As though on cue, Yuki’s voice rang out, and Toya stopped walking long enough for his friend to catch up. Out of breath but smiling, Yukito halted beside Toya. “You have work today?”
“No,” Toya said. He studied Yuki for a sign that what Yue had told him was true. Was he special to Yukito?
Yuki’s smile faltered under the scrutiny. “Is something wrong?”
“No,” Toya repeated. He started walking again and Yuki kept pace beside him. “You seem more energetic lately.”
The smile returned in full force. “Yes! I was beginning to worry, but I feel much better now, ever since . . .”
Toya found he couldn’t look at Yuki. He stared straight ahead instead. “Since?”
“Toya, I . . .”
Something in Yuki’s tone brought Toya to a halt. He looked into Yukito’s eyes and wondered whether Yue was watching through them.
Yuki’s brow furrowed. He placed a hand on his breastbone as though to clutch—or shield—his heart.
“What is it, Yuki?” Toya asked.
Suddenly Yuki smiled again. “Nothing! I thought I’d forgotten my homework is all.”
Toya eyed him. Everything with Yuki was a negotiation. Toya constantly had to decide when to pursue and when to let go. This time . . .
He reached out and placed a hand on Yuki’s cheek. “Yuki. Whatever is troubling you, you can tell me.”
Yuki’s smile went slack and his eyes shimmered as though he might cry. “Toya . . .”
Toya waited. Why, oh why, did every interaction have to feel like being balanced on a knife blade? It was so exhausting. And yet there was still no one else Toya would rather spend time with.
Toya was about to relent, say something glib and continue walking, when Yuki pushed his cheek further against Toya’s hand. “Toya, I . . . like you.”
The words so startled him, Toya nearly dropped his hand. But that would have sent the wrong message, so Toya quickly overcame the impulse. “I like you, too, Yuki.”
“Really?” The eyes were so wide and searching, so hopeful, it pained Toya, even though the moment was a happy one.
“Really,” Toya confirmed. He felt a tightness release with him, a tension he hadn’t realized he’d been carrying. The hard edges of the world had softened.
Whatever else might happen, everything would be all right.
Toya dropped his hand. “Yuki . . .”
“Did you forget your homework?”
“Come on, then. Maybe Sakura has made something to eat.”