A/N: godddd this has gotten out of control what is happening. I never wrote this much fluffy shit in all my life. Also here is a tragic story of how this chapter was birthed

Me: this whole story will be about 10k words

Also Me: writes Chapter 2 out of 3 to be 10k words.

I had to break it here because the direction changes for chapter 3 (the final chapter!) and it would have been weird to split them any other way ahhhhhh

Anyway this is where things start to get *spicy* so if you want a little extra sizzle, go hit up the cross-posted version on ao3 (under the same username and title)- that version is more of the *original* and I guess we could say this is a censored copy haha?

✧・゚: *✧・゚:*

It was hard for Tadase to pretend nothing had changed, that he hadn't felt a soul-shaking, life-changing moment, that the self he had been was almost like an entirely different person than who he was now.

But he fielded the prying questions from Keiichi and the others, brushing off their assumptions that something drastic had happened (and truly they were right, something drastic did happen, it just was drastic in a way that got Tadase's pulse skyrocketing, not in a way that left him fearing for safety). Tadase simply insisted that they hadn't talked at all, and went to bed without incident. Shuu and Takashi seemed almost relieved after Tadase insisted for the upteenth time that he was perfectly fine, but Keiichi would randomly turn and leer at him as if he were hiding some sort of horrific secret.

Eventually the questions stopped and the only indication that something had changed within Tadase was that every once in a while, when Nikaidou was teaching, the man would turn his head to look at him and shoot him a small, sly grin.

Soon, the only thing that was particularly hard for Tadase was pretending to be indifferent to Nadeshiko. He couldn't let his gaze wander over to her silhouette by the light of the window, he couldn't let himself smile at her when their eyes met. The hardest part was stopping himself from stepping in when the harassment started. The urge to intervene, to speak up and stop the verbal abuse inflicted upon her, was overwhelming.

But he forced himself to remember Tokyo, remember the humiliation and pain he had faced there every day, and he would bite his tongue and begrudgingly look the other way. He had already made up his mind, after all; he had been gifted a fresh start and why should he ruin that now? Nobody would stop harassing Nadeshiko if he defended her, he would simply be an addition to the torment. In fact, perhaps even the knowledge that Tadase and Nadeshiko were amicable towards each other would cause all new forms of provocation to arise. Really, standing up for her would solve nothing….

Or so he told himself.

But yes, he was free from the harassment, free from the whispers of "fag" as he walked past, free from the shame of his uncle. Finally, he was happy.

Yes, Tadase though, clenching his fists as Sakiko ripped Nadeshiko's math assignment to shreds, he was happy.

✧・゚: *✧・゚:*

The day Tadase found himself at Nadeshiko's house really was kind of a fluke. Regardless of how she may be perceived by the general population of Bifuka, Nadeshiko's mom still had a place in the community. And, somehow, without Tadase's knowledge of it, his mom and her mom had become acquaintances.

Not friends (no, Tadase's mother never could stoop so low as to call another human being her friend), but acquaintances through work or shopping or some other sort of high-strung middle-aged menopausal activity.

Tadase probably would have never been made aware of the close acquantainship (regardless of what Tadase made of her, he could not deny the wide scope of his mother's social circle, and Nadeshiko's mother was simply one of many), but it turned out that Mrs. Fujisaki was just as scatterbrained as Amu had been. Tadase was barely in the front door when his mother groaned, picking a long ornate wallet up from the counter, a wallet his mother would surely never be caught dead with.

And thus, Tadase had become the delivery boy.

Normally, Tadase would begrudge his mother for making him do her errands, but he was actually incredibly thankful for her inability to do her own chores (perhaps for the first time in his life). He had missed Nadeshiko. It didn't make much sense; for starters, he saw and texted her everyday. Also, he'd only spent one evening with her face-to-face around three weeks ago. Yet Tadase had spent those weeks struggling, trying to figure out a way that he could go over to Nadeshiko's house yet have a good excuse in case someone saw him on the way there.

Yet it had been his wonderful mother that had presented him with the perfect opportunity. His now (since "the incident") wildly homophobic mother who would probably have a stroke if she knew what her errand would contribute to.

Tadase was unsure how long he stood outside Nadeshiko's front door frozen, unsure of how exactly he should proceed. But he supposed it wasn't too long because the longer he stood there the more likely it was that someone would walk by and see him. So he finally managed to pluck up the courage and knocked on the door.

It took maybe thirty seconds that seemed to last an eternity, but the door finally opened to reveal a woman, a tall, thin woman with dark brown hair pulled back into a tight bun. There was a strong yet natural beauty about her, with large brown eyes and rosy cheeks. Although, he would have to say she looked much younger than his own mother (but, to be fair, who didn't? At times his grandmother seemed younger than his mom), he could tell she was a bit older by the way she held herself.

"I'm Hotori Tadase, Mizue's son," he managed to squeak out. He held out the wallet, "You left this at our house today."

'Oh!" Mrs. Fujisaki broke into a wide smile, reaching out to take her wallet back from him. "Thank you so much! Come in, I'll make you some tea!"

Tadase would normally brush off any of his mother's acquaintances without much thought, but his anticipation for seeing Nadeshiko was too much and he found himself nodding and falling her into the house without a word of objection.

Nadeshiko's house was rather large compared to what he had expected, especially seeing as she and her mom were the only people who lived there. He supposed having come from family that lived there for generations helped in that.

Mrs. Fujisaki lead Tadase to the kitchen and gestured for him to take a seat before she busied herself with making the tea. She started talking, probably anxious to fill the silence, "I hope you like matcha. I know it's traditional and all, but sometimes I find that people are just so opposed to it now. I guess as times go on, tea is becoming less popular? Or at least with the youngsters."

To be honest, Tadase didn't really care much for tea, he was more of a coffee drinker, but he had no desire to say that aloud. "It's fine."

Mrs. Fujisaki smiled over her shoulder at him as the water boiled, "Oh good!"

Their eyes met for a brief moment, and Tadase felt oddly exposed, as if her soft eyes and gentle smile could see into the recesses of his heart and read the hidden feelings brewing there. He looked down, wishing he had something to busy his hands with. He wrung them helplessly, trying to come up with some way to break the silence.

"Tadase?"

He froze, before slowly turning his head to look at the doorway to the kitchen, his stomach tumbling over itself in anticipation.

There stood Nadeshiko, hair pulled back in a loose ponytail, a gray, baggy sweater draped over her shoulders, and tight jeans covering her long legs. It was the first time he had ever seen her in pants, and he had vaguely wondered if seeing her in more gender neutral clothing would give anything away, yet she still looked so beautiful and feminine that he would never second guess her for a second.

Nadeshiko looked confused at first, but as Tadase stared at her in shock (which he really had no right to do, it was her house after all) she slowly raised an eyebrow, a smirk tugging at her lips.

Tadase suddenly felt incredibly transparent. He could feel the heat fill his cheeks, despite his best efforts to calm his pounding heart. He felt the incredible urge to explain himself.

"I guess our moms are friends or something? And your mom left something at our house, so my mom sent me over to deliver it. And now she's making me tea!" He pointed over to the teapot, as if she would need his guidance to find the proof that he wasn't up to anything suspicious.

"Ah, is that so? What a coincidence."

Tadase wasn't sure why he was so nervous; he hadn't lied, it was all the truth. But he felt incredibly vulnerable in that moment. Nadeshiko, on the other hand, simply seemed amused, smirking at him in a way that made him feel incredibly exposed.

Silence filled the room; Tadase had no idea what to say. Luckily for him Mrs. Fujisaki was still there.

"Why don't you go to Nadeshiko's room and I'll bring the tea and some snacks when it's ready?"

"That would be fine with me," Nadeshiko didn't seem nervous, so why was Tadase's heart about to burst into a million pieces.

"O-oh, okay," Tadase stuttered, clambering to his fit in a remarkably ungraceful way. "That sounds nice."

Nadeshiko grinned, but this time it didn't look sarcastic at all, but rather as if she had been given a gift. "I'll show you to it then."

As Tadase followed Nadeshiko from the kitchen, he swore he heard her mother giggle, but he couldn't be sure.

They were quiet as they walked down the hall. Although they'd been so talkative before, and they'd shared so many long conversations through texts and late night phone calls the past few weeks, he felt too nervous to say anything.

"Well, here it is," Nadeshiko said as she came to a stop in front of a door, before opening it and gesturing for Tadase to head in.

He wasn't sure what he had been expecting, but the room felt so Nadeshiko that he was instantly comfortable. There was a low table in the middle of the room with textbooks and notes and purple pens strewn across it, open, as if she had been studying before encountering Tadase in the kitchen. The bed was covered in a pink comforter, and a dainty vanity sat in the corner, various bottles and containers that mystified Tadase covering the surface. A lone stuffed bear sat perched upon her dresser, and a poster of the enka singer Masashi Kagawa hung next to a calendar that displayed the Okinawan sea. It wasn't nearly as feminine as Amu's had been (a room that was such an explosion of pink and cuteness that it gave him a migraine just thinking about it) but it definitely was nothing like his room. It seemed more mature, almost elegant.

"Your room is nice," Tadase said, as he entered, looking around. "Kagawa, huh?"

"Yeah, I've always had a soft spot for him," Nadeshiko chuckled, scratching her cheek as she closed the door behind her. "He is the prince of Enka after all."

Tadase didn't know enough about enka music to dispute that statement, so he had to trust her on that one. Although, he supposed the singer's handsome face had to play some sort of role in her decision to hang him on her otherwise standard walls.

She walked across the room in that way that all girls did, with her hips moving in a way that seemed effortless, yet Tadase was sure he would never be able to do it. She sat down on the bed before patting the mattress as she smiled up at him. "Sit down."

Tadase sunk down on the bed next to here. He wasn't sure what to say, but Nadeshiko didn't make a move to speak either. Her eyebrows were creased though, and she didn't quite meet his eyes. Was she nervous? Tadase sure was.

Nadeshiko was pretty tall for a girl, but it was mostly in her legs, so when they sat down beside one another Tadase was taller by a couple of inches. His shoulders were broader too, his waist a bit wider. But her eyelashes were longer, her lips pinker. She wrung her hands together.

Tadase couldn't take it. He reached out and cupped her cheek, pulling her gaze back to him. Her eyes widened a little bit, and she opened her mouth, perhaps to comment on what he was doing, but Tadase leaned over and pressed his lips to hers.

Nadeshiko was soft and smooth, and she made Tadase's heart flutter just as much as it had the first time the kissed, maybe even more. The fingertips of her left hand caught the hand that cupped her face. For a second she hesitated, before kissing him back.

Tadase had kissed before, many times in fact, but it never had felt quiet this good. Their mouths moving together, warm and comfortable, in a way that sent heat throughout his stomach. He wanted to be closer, so much closer, so that they could become one. His hand was tangled in her hair, pulling her further into him. Their bodies were aligned, her flat chest pressing against his.

Oh yeah, she didn't really have, anything there. Tadase broke away from her, having to take a momentary pause to process the situation. Nadeshiko looked confused, his hand was still in her hair after all, they were still so close, but Tadase was just trying to wrap his head around the whole thing. Nadeshiko's face fell.

"Tadase, I'm-"

Just at that moment, like a scene in a movie, the door burst wide open and there was Mrs. Fujisaki with the tea. Tadase and Nadeshiko froze, like two deer in the headlights, and the woman stared back at the two of them, sitting so close together that their noses could touch, with an equally shocked expression.

"Um, the tea is ready…?"

"MOM!" Nadeshiko shrieked, her face a mix of embarrassment and fury that even made Tadase want to run away in fear.

"I'm going to the store and won't be back for an hour or so. Bye."

The door shut just as quickly as it had opened, leaving the two of them to ruminate their own embarrassment. Tadase pulled back, his thoughts all jumbled, and definitely not in the mood to keep going after that interruption.

But he had paused before that though. He had forgotten the nature of Nadeshiko's body. Kissing her didn't make a difference after all, lips were lips, but touching her in any other way surely would be a new experience. He hadn't fully comprehended that until now.

They were quite for a long moment, neither one sure just how to proceed, but Nadeshiko spoke first. "You don't have to feel obligated because you feel guilty, or if you were just confused that time or anything. If you think it's gross now you don't have to push yourself."

She wasn't looking at him, but rather a far off wall, her jaw set as she stared intensely at nothing in particular.

Tadase blinked. Had he been grossed out? Confused, yeah. But the heat that had settled low in his stomach definitely wasn't the feeling of being grossed out.

"I'm really not grossed out or anything, it just seems weird," Tadase scratched his nose, not quite sure how to convey his current feelings, "Like a discrepancy between you and your body."

Nadeshiko snorted as she turned back to him. "You're telling me that."

Tadase felt incredibly stupid; of course she understood that. "Sorry I-"

Nadeshiko turned away from him once more. "No no, its okay I get it. You can leave and pretend nothing happened; I won't hold it against you."

"Now hold on just a second!" Tadase exclaimed; why was she getting so ahead of herself? "I didn't say that I wasn't okay with it! I was just surprised!"

Nadeshiko didn't look to convinced, although Tadase didn't think he could blame her. He sighed, running a hand through his hair. "I really like you okay? It doesn't matter to me what your body is like, I like you for you."

She didn't respond, so Tadase reached out and took her hand. He stared into her brown eyes, trying to get it across to her. "Really, I do."

"Oh, well…" Nadeshiko seemed unsure of herself, but her fingers tightened around Tadase's hand in return, "well I like you to."

Tadase could feel his heart thundering in his chest.

Nadeshiko was looking at him, her lips were red from when they had been kissing. He nearly groaned.

Tadase jumped to his feet. "Let's go drink your mom's tea."

✧・゚: *✧・゚:*

Nadeshiko's mother started leaving things at Tadase's house very frequently from that point onward. His mom would always shake her head and scoff at the other woman's foolishness, surely thinking her quite the idiot. But while Mrs. Fujisaki kept up the act of the ditzy woman, Tadase thought her quite cunning. At last, Tadase had an excuse to visit Nadeshiko. If anyone saw him entering or exiting her house all he had to do was tell truth of the matter, that he was doing an errand for his mother, and as thanks Mrs. Fujisaki had invited him in for tea. Tadase was such a polite boy, nobody would argue with his explanation of events, and perhaps would even feel bad for him and offer him an apology (although the thought of this happening was so insulting, as if visiting Nadeshiko could ever be any sort of inconvenience for him at all). But nobody had mentioned anything to him about his trips to Nadeshiko's household, and everyone was still treating him well, and he hadn't heard any whispers of his name in the halls, so he had to assume that his brilliant excuse was still unnecessary.

The only person who had noticed anything by this point (besides Mrs. Fujisaki, of course) was Nikaidou sensei. Obviously he alone had seen the truth head on, yet he did nothing about it, neither at the time nor now. Well, Tadase might say nothing was a bit of an understatement. He did find himself placed in the general vicinity of Nadeshiko a bit more often than normal when Nikaidou was in charge, and every once in a while Tadase would look up and meet the teacher's eye and receive a knowing smirk in response.

Tadase had asked Nadeshiko about the older man once, as the two of them sat in her room, eating delicious snacks and drinking green tea as he struggled to explain the history lesson to her, but Nadeshiko shrugged. "He's always liked me for some reason."

She paused, the end of her pencil pressed to her pink lips. "Maybe liked isn't the right word. I guess I would say he sympathizes with me, at the least. He's the only one who will punish the people who mess with me."

Now that she mentioned it, the harassment was always sparse when Nikaidou was in the room.

Even though Mrs. Fujisaki and Nikaidou had figured out what was going on, Tadase's mother remained woefully ignorant. To be honest, he was scared at the prospect of what would happen if she found out. Before "the incident," she had been fairly open-minded on matters of sexuality (at least compared to the other issues that plagued her mind), but ever since the public shaming enacted upon their family she had been incredibly vicious and adamant against every instance of "queerness" that crossed her path. And while Tadase himself didn't think of their relationship as anything more than a boy and a girl, he knew his mom would most definitely think otherwise.

It didn't help much to hypothesize about what his mother may or may not do if she discovered the truth of his and Nadeshiko's relationship (rather, it simply gave him a strong sense of dread that could swallow him whole and a case of indigestion to match), so he simply issued a warning to Mrs. Fujisaki not to reveal anything about Nadeshiko whatsoever and pushed the issues from him mind.

She would never find out anyway, right?

✧・゚: *✧・゚:*

It was a normal day when Tadase had almost been exposed. It was during lunch, and Keiichi and the others had pushed their desks together and were talking as they ate. Nadeshiko was across the room, alone as always, but he tried not to look at her. He had texted her before lunch began, asking if he could come over for help studying on the upcoming English test, but had forgotten all about it and left his phone on the desk after showing Shuu a photo of his old dog.

His phone suddenly chirped from where it sat face up on the table, and a message lit up the screen.

From: Darling 3

Sounds good

"Wait, WHAT THE SHIT TADASE!"

Tadase's heart dropped at Takeshi's exclamation, and he scrambled to grab the phone before the other boys could get their hands on it. From the corner of his eye he could see Nadeshiko freeze, as if realizing what she had done, before furiously pressing on the power button as if it could take back the action.

"Nothing! That's nothing!" Tadase exclaimed in a high pitched voice, holding his phone to his chest as if it were his lifeline, and firmly cementing the fact that the text was, in fact, something.

"Dude, you never said you had a girlfriend!" Shuu was practically jumping up and down in his seat, "You're so fucking lucky!"

"You should have said something earlier!" Takeshi chimed in, whacking his arm in a playful way.

"I didn't think it was important," Tadase muttered, making the decision in that moment to never set his phone down again.

"Is she from back in Tokyo?" Keiichi prodded, curious, but lacking the enthusiasm of the other two boys,

Tadase hesitated. "Yeah... she is."

"Ah nice! A city girl!" Shuu hummed, grinning, "Are you serious about her?"

Tadase didn't look at Nadeshiko. "Um… yeah, I am. I really like her a lot."

"Is she hot? You gotta show us a pic!"

As if by some heavenly force of nature, it was just at that moment the bell rang signaling the end of lunch. Tadase had never sighed so deeply in his life; he was not sure how he would have been able to get out of that one. He, rather guiltily, supposed he would have had to have shown them a pic of him and Amu, but doing so would have just seemed wrong.

Tadase found himself unable to look Nadeshiko's way for the rest of class, and the events of that lunch were never brought up between them. But if he had looked over, he would have seen smile she struggled to hide behind her hand for the rest of class.

✧・゚: *✧・゚:*

There was one particular day where Nadeshiko been out when Tadase arrived at her house. Mrs. Fujisaki had sent her to pick up a package from the post office (what was it with mothers making their children their own personal errand runners?), but by this point the woman claimed he was "basically part of the family" and let him in to wait for Nadeshiko to return.

"It won't be longer than 10 minutes," she insisted, "You can wait in her room."

Well, she may have said that, but Tadase felt weird waiting around in a girl's room without her permission, so he instead found himself mulling around the living room. Usually he kept to either Nadeshiko's room or the kitchen when he visited, so he'd never really gotten the opportunity to look around properly.

There were several photographs in the room, both recent and older. The recent photos showed Nadeshiko in a dress leaning against a cherry-blossom tree, with her hair tied up as she hugged her mother, or even in a school uniform by the doorway, as if it was taken on the first day of school. And while those were nice, and definitely brought a smile to his face, Tadase was a bit more intrigued by the ones that dated a little further back. Childhood photos, baby pictures, they all presented a Nadeshiko that he didn't know. They also conveyed the truth of who she was, that there had been an error in conception, and that she was originally raised as a boy.

Although he was intrigued by such photos, he felt almost filthy for looking at them without Nadeshiko's knowledge, like he was spying on some part of her he had no right to see. But there was some sort of curiosity deep within him that couldn't be silenced. And it wasn't as though Nadeshiko's past was any sort of secret, it was just something that he knew nothing about. Who was that past Nadeshiko, the one that had to live a lie?

Well, it turned out past Nadeshiko was a whole lot like the current one. It seemed as though she'd had her long hair since a young age (he smiled, imagining a young Nadeshiko adamantly protesting as her mother tried to cut her hair) and while she didn't exactly wear female clothes in her youth, she did have an androgynous style to her.

Part of Tadase had maybe expected to feel some dissonance upon seeing a male presenting Nadeshiko, as if it would spring some part of him he kept inside to life, as if he would suddenly feel as though he were dating a man instead of a woman, but he felt none of that. Rather, he felt all warm and fuzzy; it was nice to see a piece of Nadeshiko he hadn't known before.

Toddler Nadeshiko playing with toys shaped like farm animals, Nadeshiko proudly showing off her uniform on the first day of Kindergarten, Seven year old Nadeshiko blowing out the candle on her birthday cake. Tadase moved throughout the room, happily taking in the photos of her youth, when something stopped him.

It was a photo of Nadeshiko and three boys, probably around the age of twelve, standing in the backyard of the Fujisaki house, a soccer ball in one of their hands.

The scene itself wasn't too unusual to Tadase; it seemed quite normal that Nadeshiko would play sports with friends. What was unusual, was who said friends were.

Tadase felt a pit in his stomach. The three boys in the photo were no other than Keiichi, Shuu, and Takeshi.

Now this couldn't be right. Of course, living in such a small town, it would make sense that they had known each other before. But it was simply incomprehensible for Tadase to visualize a world in which they were ever friends. He turned back to the picture of her birthday party, and stared at the kids sitting around the table with her. He could see three of them and, sure enough, they were no other than the same boys that Tadase had found himself friends with.

He frowned, trying to make sense of what he was seeing. He moved to the next photo; it was the four of them in the uniforms of the local middle school.

It didn't make sense; not only were they friends, but friends for this long? Tadase hoped to see some other sort of clue on the wall, but in any photos that showed an older Nadeshiko, she was alone or with her mother, and she looked the way she did now.

"Oh."

Tadase jumped before spinning around to see Nadeshiko standing in the doorway. He couldn't quite get a read on her current emotion, but he felt like a child caught with his hand in the cookie jar.

They were silent for a long moment.

"You were a really cute kid."

Nadeshiko scoffed, "thanks."

Tadase rubbed the back of his neck, unsure of just how he should proceed from here. Nadeshiko didn't seem to know either.

Finally, he managed to ask the question that was nagging at his mind. "You were friends with them?"

Nadeshiko sighed, crossing her arms across her chest as she looked the other way. "Why don't we go to my room?"

Tadase nodded, and followed Nadeshiko to her room. They were quiet the way there, and quiet as they sat down on the floor of her room, across the table from each other.

Nadeshiko didn't move to speak at first, but Tadase was too unsure to prompt her. He simply sat there, his eyes darting between her face and his lap, and the poster of Masashi Kagawa on the wall. Finally, after a long time, Nadeshiko spoke.

"Obviously, in such a small town, the four of us went to elementary school together, and our mothers knew each other. We frequently had playdates and such, you know, normal kid stuff. Shuu and Takeshi were always closest, so Keiichi and I kind of got paired off in the same way. But we were all good friends back then. Sometimes we would sleep over at Shuu's house, others they would come over to play soccer in our backward. We were kind of infamous, throughout the school, for being the best of friends. We were always together.

That didn't change for a long time. Obviously back then I was still in the closet, living as a boy. I always knew something was off, but I never knew how to say it, and even when I did figure it out, I was scared to tell them. We were best friends, of course, yet I had no idea if they would react well or not, and I didn't want to jeopardize our friendship. When I started going through puberty though, it started being worse for me. My body was changing in ways that were just so wrong that I couldn't bare it anymore.

I told my mom first, and of course she was supportive; she said she always suspected I was a girl, but wanted me to decide for myself who I was. She started buying me girl's clothes and stuff like that the last year of middle school. Of course I never wore them out at that time, and I didn't tell the guys what was going on. I figured I could keep it secret for the time being, maybe eventually tell them after testing the waters. But, it didn't work that way.

One day, right at the end of the third year of middle school, Shuu found my clothes and stuff. I thought maybe at that time, it would be okay to come clean. But… it didn't go well. Keiichi was screaming and he started hitting me and… well I guess the rest is history from there on."

Nadeshiko stopped talking, a small frown on her face. Tadase felt like crying. He didn't know what to say. "Nadeshiko…."

Nadeshiko shook her head, before smiling. "Well, I decided I might as well start being my true self after that, as there was nothing to hold me back anymore, so I started my transition right before high school started. So maybe it's a blessing they gave me that last push? I had nothing left to lose, so why not go for it? I mean-"

Tadase cut her off, practically lunging across the table to wrap his arms around her. He held her tight to his chest, weaving his fingers into her hair.

"Tadase?" she asked, unsure.

He didn't reply, he couldn't. Tears were running down his cheeks, his mind was spinning rapidly. He knew it had been hard for her, of course he did, but he hadn't known it had been like this. He hadn't realized just how horrible Keiichi and the others were. He wanted to keep Nadeshiko in his arms and never let her go. It was so much worse than what he had gone through. He had always had Amu and Kukai, always had someone on his side. But who did Nadeshiko have? Through all of it, the people who were supposed to support her the most had stabbed her back the most violently.

He wanted to say he was sorry, but it didn't feel right, nor was it enough to convey the depth of emotion he was feeling in that moment.

Instead, after holding her in his arms for a long time, he said the only thing that felt right in his heart. "I love you."

✧・゚: *✧・゚:*

It was the middle of December when Tadase though he was busted. His father had come into his room as he studied, telling him to come in to the kitchen, that "your mother and I want to speak with you."

This was never a good sign for him. It wasn't as if Tadase had ever really misbehaved, except for the occasional B in English, or when he'd accidentally broken something valuable. But no, the last time his parents had called him in like this, the last time this had happened, it had been to tell him about his uncle.

Oh God, they knew. They most definitely knew.

Tadase straightened up the books he had been working with as slow as humanly possible, and walked downstairs as if he were rivalling a snail. When he reached the kitchen, his parents were sitting together on the same side of the table , an immovable opposition against him. His throat felt dry. His stomach lurched. He was gonna puke. They knew, they had to know.

Tadase sat down across from them, his hands shaking. He didn't want to meet their eye, but worried that looking down would convey the hidden guilt he felt, and that all their suspicions would be confirmed.

"Tadase," his father started slowly, "We know that that is move has been hard on you, and we really appreciate you being so diligent with your studies despite the hardships our family has gone through this past year."

No one ever mentioned his uncle anymore. After the incident had come to pass, it had become an unofficial taboo in the family, a silent agreement to never mention him or the things he had done. But yet it was so painfully obvious every time he was referenced, that Tadase almost wished they would just come outright and say it. Of course though, they never would. And if they knew, he was going to be treated just like him.

Tadase braced himself for the worst as his mother began to speak.

"So, to thank you for your perseverance, we've got you something special for Christmas."

Wait… what? Wasn't he in trouble? Tadase held his breath.

His mother smiled…. She never smiled.

"We booked a trip to Tokyo for you over the break!"

Tadase's jaw dropped. This was definitely not what he had been expecting to transpire.

"We got the train fare and hotel room all paid for! Your father even spoke to Amu and Kukai in secret, so they're planning some fun stuff for you to do! We thought maybe you could look at university campuses while you're there too, because of course-"

His mother kept rambling, but Tadase was nearly frozen in shock. They didn't know, they didn't know! Tadase was so happy he could almost cry. They didn't know about Nadeshiko!

Wait- they didn't know about Nadeshiko. Tadase couldn't help himself; his face split into a wide grin.

This was perfect.

✧・゚: *✧・゚:*

The station was cold. Tadase had wrapped a scarf around his neck, pulling it up to cover his mouth. His ears were red; he should have worn a hat, but it was buried deep in his duffle bag and he was too anxious to take the time to dig it out now. There were plenty of open seats to pass the time in, only an old couple was seated down the terminal, holding hands as they awaited the upcoming train, but Tadase was much too restless to sit still. He tapped his foot restlessly, trying to channel out some of his excess energy. His fingers drummed against his thigh.

The last time he had been in a relationship he'd been 15, and he certainly hadn't spent a week staying in the same room as his girlfriend back them.

Before Tadase's thoughts could start spiraling completely out of control, a voice cut through the frigid air, "Sorry I'm late! Mom wouldn't stop fussing!"

His heart almost stopped. It was just a normal scene, it should have been a normal scene. He'd seen plenty of cute girls standing around a train station before (he lived in Tokyo for 17 years, of course he had) but something about the current situation was just so extraordinary. The image of Nadeshiko standing there, half of her curled hair pulled off her hair, cheeks rosy from the cold, a long white coat over a pink skirt and heeled shoes, was almost too much for Tadase to process.

Maybe it was because Tadase had never seen her dressed like that in public before- it had always been her school uniform or casual clothes at her house. Maybe it was because her makeup application had been much more liberal, not confined to the strict regulations of a dress code. Maybe it was because he'd never seen her style her hair like that.

Maybe it was because she was smiling at him, happy to travel with him, wanting to be with him.

Tadase jerked himself back to reality as Nadeshiko approached him. "Oh, no problem. We still have a couple of minutes before the train comes."

"That's good," Nadeshiko stood there, smiling at him. Tadase suddenly felt overly conscious of his hands hanging at his sides and the redness of his ears. Should he hug her as a greeting? Was that normal here?

The two fell into a heavy silence, Tadase's thoughts spiraling through his head. He glanced over at Nadeshiko. She was wringing her hands, biting her lip as she looked off into the distance.

As if with the sole purpose of saving Tadase from his awkward self-awareness, the jingle signalling the approaching train echoed through the station. Nadeshiko jumped, and despite himself Tadase let out a small laugh. She turned to him, and indignant look on her face. "I told you I've only taken the train like twice before!"

"Sorry, sorry. I just didn't expect you to be a scaredy cat," Tadase grinned, nudging her shoulder.

Nadeshiko smacked his arm. "Shut up! I'm just nervous today!"

She was grinning, but paused after she finished talking, her eyes darting away from his. Ah, she probably didn't mean to say that.

Tadase wanted to say something comforting, but as the train sped into the station all he could managed was "me too."

✧・゚: *✧・゚:*

The train ride was fairly typical (although what else would one expect from a train). Since it was the first departure of the day, and it was the season where people were leaving the city not heading in, the car was fairly vacant.

Tadase had put their bags in the overhead carrier. Nadeshiko had of course attempted to take care of her own, and Tadase knew she was certainly capable of doing so, but the whole principle of the thing had him racing to grab it from her hands. Nadeshiko may have sighed and insisted she was capable, but it didn't stop the blush forming on her cheeks.

For some reason the start of the ride was awkward. The two of them had spent so much time together over the past several weeks, talking both in person and online, but the whole situation was just so new to both of them that Tadase was strongly reminded of their first introduction, that day on the class trip.

Although there was a slight sense of unease between them, Tadase didn't particularly feel uncomfortable; his nervousness kept his mind racing and his mouth shut, yet Nadeshiko's presence was so comfortable that he realized as the time passed there was no place he'd rather be.

Tadase glanced over to Nadeshiko seated beside him. She was looking out the window, watching the frosty winter scenery race by. Her face was blank, a mask as always. He had come to know that the girl pushed herself to keep her emotions hidden, instead only letting an air of confidence or even indifference show, no doubt due to the treatment she experienced every day. Surely it was the only way she wouldn't go insane. Yet like an amateur poker player, she had her tells.

Well… perhaps not so amateur.

Tadase was sure that if he hadn't spent quite so much time with her he would never have been able to notice the way the corners of her lips twitched, or the way her slim fingers teased the end of her scarf.

They'd never been together in public before, but they knew nobody on the train , and they were miles from home, so it wasn't particularly brave, but Tadase, struck with the regret that he hadn't done it long ago, reached over and took her hand in his.

He could feel Nadeshiko's eyes on him, but he couldn't bare to meet her gaze, knowing that if he did his soul would be bared. He just kept his gaze straight ahead, the back of his neck growing hot.

God, he must be so red.

As his heart pounded within his chest, Tadase felt a light weight lay itself on his on his shoulder. He turned his head slightly to see that Nadeshiko had laid her head on him. She always seemed so much cooler than him, yet from what he could make out there was a faint pink creeping up her cheeks.

Tadase smiled, and as his nervousness disappeared he rested his head atop hers.

✧・゚: *✧・゚:*

Tadase cursed his mother for routing them through Shinjuku station. Going through the busiest station in the world during the biggest travel days of the year… well, you could imagine the rest.

Nadeshiko looked incredibly overwhelmed, at least for her. And Tadase could hardly blame here; even as a native of Tokyo he found himself a bit surprised, There were more people in this station right now than all of Nadeshiko's hometown out together,

He had to give her credit for maintaining a level head though, and Nadeshiko surely wasn't a child, yet Tadase felt oddly protective of her in that moment, and was nervous at the prospect of her getting swept up in a wave of travelers and whisked across the station. Luckily, he had been in this station more times than he could count, and knew exactly where they were headed.

"Here, follow me."

Tadase took Nadeshiko's hand in his to lead her through the crowd. There was the nagging feeling in his gut that everyone could see them, that he was holding her hand in such a public place, yet he purposely pushed it down as he told himself he didn't care.

Here, at least, they could be just another couple.

Tadase fought to keep his face cool as he lead her throughout the station, yet he was unable to keep the grin from taking over his face.

✧・゚: *✧・゚:*

Checking into the hotel had been extremely nerve-wracking. The receptionist checking them in was of course nothing but professional, yet the young bellhop (what kind of hotel had his mother booked anyway? She really must have felt sorry for him) gave him a sly grin when Nadeshiko's back was turned. After dropping off the bags and turning to leave the room, he even gave Tadase a wink and a thumbs up. Tadase was mortified, yet felt a sense of pride surge through his chest.

They were due to meet Amu and Kukai for dinner so they did not have much time to loiter around the room. Both of them pointedly ignored the single bed in the room (of course it was a single bed, his mother had thought he would be traveling alone after all!) and made no mention of the sleeping arrangements that would be to come.

Thankfully, his mother had done something right and booked a hotel near where Amu lived, so they only had a brief ride on the subway to get to the restaurant. The seats were all taken, so Tadase ended up standing close to Nadeshiko as they rode.

"Don't be nervous."

Nadeshiko looked shocked to be read so openly. "How could you tell?"

"You keep tapping your fingers on the railing."

Nadeshiko's fingers quite deliberately came to a stop.

Tadase almost laughed, but refrained himself for fear of embarrassing her. "Don't worry, Kukai and Amu are way nicer than anyone at school; they're actually my friends."

If someone offered them a million dollars to shoot him, Tadase was certain Amu and Kukai would refuse. Keiichi on the other hand….

Tadase may still be spending his school days hanging out with the group of them, but the more time they spent together the more distant he felt. He had originally hoped that eventually he would grow the nerve to confess his relationship with Nadeshiko, that they would grow close enough that they would no longer see it as a grave sin, but if anything he know felt that this was all the more impossible.

It was ridiculous, the amount of hate they spewed at Nadeshiko. Even when they were talking amongst themselves, Keiichi was straight up abusive. It seemed that as though the group bore some strange personal grudge against her, as if being a woman had been a personal attack against them. Tadase was certainly curious, and he had tried breaching the subject once or twice, it never got him anywhere. Shuu and Takeshi had been dismissive, not really letting anything out other than "fucking tranny," and he didn't dare approach Keiichi about it, knowing already just how volatile the boy was. After the discussion of their past friendship Nadeshiko hadn't ever revealed anything else, and she seemed uncomfortable even mentioning them, so Tadase didn't try to talk about it with her anymore. Although, he wondered if his friendship with the boys was putting a strain on her.

But that didn't matter right now. Keiichi and the others weren't there. It was just Nadeshiko and him. And they were going to meet up with Amu and Kukai, the only people (besides the girl beside him) that he was able to trust, the only people who had stuck with him through everything.

Tadase smiled. "They're going to love you."

✧・゚: *✧・゚:*

And Tadase was right

Although Nadeshiko had been worried, Tadase was simply excited. Not just for the opportunity to see his friends again, but for the sake of Nadeshiko being able to have a normal friendship. There was not a doubt in his mind that Amu would fall in love with her immediately, and surely Kukai would like her too; there were few people that it was even possible for him to dislike.

He heard Amu before he saw her, a loud shriek of "Tadase!" and then a short girl with bright pink hair charging at him from out of the crowd, colliding with him with the force of a truck as she threw her arms around him. Tadase laughed, stumbling backwards as he fought to keep them upright.

"Hinamori! Wait up next time!" Tadase's grin widened as the tall, athletic body of his best friend bounded to them.

Amu pulled back, smiling up at him hugely. "It's so good to see you!"

Before, or at least since their breakup, Tadase would always feel a pang in his heart when he looked into Amu's eyes. But miraculously, this time- nothing. Or, perhaps not so miraculously he thought, as Amu's lit up and turned away, as if she suddenly realized he was not alone.

Amu turned to Nadeshiko, an even bigger grin splitting across her face. "It's so nice to finally meet you Nadeshiko! You can call me Amu!"

Amu pulled Nadeshiko into a hug before the other girl could resist, and Tadase couldn't help but stifle a laugh at the surprised look on his girlfriend's face.

"Oh, it's nice to meet you too," Nadeshiko replied, a bit uncertainly, as Amu pulled back.

By this point Kukai had finally reached the group, but he practically ignored Tadase to focus on the girl standing besides him. "Damn, Tadase, she's even hotter than you said she was!"

Tadase's face heated up. Leave it to Kukai to do something to embarrass him right off the get go. "Kukai-"

"I know right!" Amu interrupted, still gripping Nadeshiko's hands from when she'd pulled away from the hug, "She's gorgeous! And your skin's so clear! You'll have to tell me your regimen! And your hair!"

As Amu gushed, Nadeshiko's uncertain eyes met Tadase's. He grinned, and nodded his head at her.

Kukai still seemed to be in a state of shock. "Man, bro. I can't believe you landed such a babe!"

✧・゚: *✧・゚:*

While everyone had hit it off incredibly well right away and the dinner went smoothly, Tadase wasn't sure if he could say the same about the night in the hotel. He had kept to his side of the bed with all the will he muster, he faced the wall determinedly, and feigned sleep when Nadeshiko emerged from the bathroom before bed. Yet even though he pretended to sleep, he barely caught a wink, too preoccupied with the presence of the girl beside him.

Why was he so nervous? It wasn't like he was a virgin. After all he and Amu had…. He did not want to think about that right now; it felt incredibly gross.

It wasn't as though Nadeshiko was expecting anything. She'd even told him as much, that other time, and that she would understand completely if he was unable to because of, well, just the nature of things.

But as weird as the thought was, Tadase didn't quite think it was the content of Nadeshiko's pants that was making him so nervous. He'd never really worried about gay or straight or whatever before, never found it to be a big deal, so even if Nadeshiko was lacking certain aspects, it didn't seem gross to him. He'd even looked up online the logistics and all that. So it wasn't like he was scared because of Nadeshiko.

Well, strike that. It was because of Nadeshiko. Just not because of her body or her anatomy, but instead because it was Nadeshiko. The whole time they dated, he had been sure he loved Amu, yet this love he had for Nadeshiko seemed like a whole different field. It was like comparing a kindergarten crush to a wife.

But if Nadeshiko knew about the restlessness she had caused Tadase, she didn't show any indication of it. And the next day went by smoothly, just as expected.

Kukai was busy during the morning, so Amu declared that she was going to take Nadeshiko to Harajuku ("and of course Tadase can come along, if he wants") to do some clothes shopping.

Although a day wandering around Harajuku was not exactly Tadase's idea of a fun time (although he could always grab a crepe or something, he supposed), he wasn't going to be left behind on such an excursion, and as such was left to play the role of the dutiful boyfriend carrying the bags.

He had to admit, it was nice to see Nadeshiko having such a good time. Turned out she was really into fashion, and she and Amu were flitting around the stores with enough energy to power all of Tokyo.

At one point, as Tadase was knocked out on a bench, Amu dragged Nadeshiko to the fitting rooms. "Here you need to try this on!"

"Oh," Nadeshiko stuttered, taken aback by the sudden demand, trying to find words as Amu moved to pull her in to the fitting room behind her. "I can go in my own."

Amu laughed. "Don't be dumb. We're both girls we can go in together."

Nadeshiko's face flushed red, did she really not know? "Did, um, did Tadase not tell you…."

Amu huffed, frowning as she let go of Nadeshiko's arm. The taller girl was hesitant, standing there. She didn't really want to reveal everything here, and they were getting along so well was it just going to be ruined again.

"Nadeshiko, I said don't be dumb! Of course he told me. Like I said we're both girls so there's nothing wrong with trying on clothes together."

Nadeshiko felt like crying, but then her makeup would smear and it would cause a huge scene so she just shuffled in after Amu.

As she changed, Amu spoke rapidly. "It's not as though he purposefully outed you or anything, but of course we talk all the time. He kept talking about how there was a gorgeous girl who was bullied and he couldn't figure out why. Well, eventually figured out why so of course he told me, not knowing that I would ever meet you or anything. And then, voila, you ended up dating! To be honest I saw it coming a mile away; he was nuts about you before you even spoke."

It was kind of strange for Nadeshiko to hear about all of this from Tadase's point of view, but she supposed it had to explain why he had taken a liking to her so quickly. Plus, it was kind of nice to know that she passed well enough that Tadase couldn't even notice until he was told.

Amu looked at Nadeshiko and shook her head. "Maybe I should have grabbed red instead? I don't like that blue on you. Let's go try a different one."

✧・゚: *✧・゚:*

Tadase felt like pacing around the hotel room, but thought maybe that would give something away, that Nadeshiko would hear him as she busied herself in the bathroom, so he restless tapped his foot instead.

Kukai had pulled him away during dinner at Amu's house that night as Amu's little sister dragged the girls to her room to look at the new dress she had bought. He nudged Tadase's shoulder, a cheeky grin on his face. "So… you and Fujisaki."

Tadase raised an eyebrow. He had made it pretty clear what the nature of their relationship was months ago. What on earth was he questioning at this point? "Yeah…?"

"How's it like?" Kukai was smirking way too much for such an average question.

Tadase tilted his head. "I told you, our relationship is going well, I guess except at school because-"

"No!" Kukai cut him off, his grin dropping into a scowl, "I mean the sex!"

"What!?" Tadase felt his face heat up; he had not expected this. Kukai hadn't ever asked about Amu, so he was completely off guard.

Kukai shrugged. "Well, I mean, I figure it would be different just 'cause, but I bet she's good in the sack, right? She does have a sort of mischievous look about her sometimes."

"I, uh, what!" Tadase couldn't get the words from his brain to his mouth. "It's not- we haven't-"

Kukai's expression turned even more sour. "You seriously haven't done it yet? Why not? Scared?"

"I'm not scared! Just… nervous," Tadase scratched his nose.

"You want to, right?"

Tadase paused. Did he? He thought of Nadeshiko, laying next to him on the bed, so close yet so far away. He thought of that first time in her room. He thought of the class trip.

Tadase swallowed. "Yeah… I want to."

Kukai's face split into a huge grin. "Well go get it then!"

Well, Kukai might have said it in a way that seemed so easy, but Tadase felt like he was asking something impossible from him. His palms had never seemed so sweaty before, and his heart was beating so fast he was sure he was seconds away from going into cardiac arrest.

The door to the bathroom opened. Nadeshiko was standing there, perhaps surprised that he was still standing up after running away to bed the night before. She entered the room slowly, as if she was unsure if she should be there. She was wearing a short, floral printed nightgown. He had for some reason thought, or perhaps hoped, that she would be wearing a sexy negligee or something of the sort, but still, he couldn't complain. Even with her makeup washed off, and her hair down, in simple pajamas, she was still beautiful.

"What, do I have something on my face?" Nadeshiko asked, smirking at him as if she already knew the answer.

He wasn't going to hesitate anymore.

Tadase walked up to her and cupped her face in his hands. He kissed her, slow and gentle, before pulling away.

"Come to bed."

✧・゚: *✧・゚:*

please lower the lights
when I breathe onto your slender neck
which lacks a single hair
my body trembles
that's how much I like you
you can't get a stain on your pure heart
so please love me
there's only the beginning
the end is far away

-The Black Skirts, Hollywood

A/N: Finally this hell chapter is over! Also yes, they had sex. If you want to see more of that encounter, head over to the AO3 version.

A couple of side notes. After having a very clear vision in my head of how I want this story to end for sooo damn long, I have decided to reconsider it. But I'll let you know all about that next chapter, which will be the final chapter.

This chapter was so hard for me because, if you're not aware, I never write fluff! So when Tadase started getting all mushy I was trying so hard to run away lol. Next chapter should be easier, and much more my speed lol.

Also! The title for this fic comes from the song EVERYTHING by the Black Skirts. Please go listen to it! If I had to pick a theme song for this story that would be it for sure! But they also have such an amazing discography that I recommend checking out their music for sure!

Anyway, next chapter will be up at the latest the end of March, hopefully sooner depending on how things go. If you feel like doing so, please leave a review! I love concrit, and any feedback you've got.