A/N: This chapter discusses some heavy themes. There are homophobic slurs in here. Also, there is mention of a r/pe (sexual assault). For those of you interested in reading the AO3 version, be warned the scene in there is more detailed, though not graphic.

Smiling, Spinning round and round

Holding hands

The whole world a blur

But you are standing

And I get a nosebleed

But I always stand up

-Hoppípolla (Sigur Rós)

Was this what you called the "Honeymoon phase?" Tadase was on cloud nine. His former worries seemed so inconsequential now. He was finding fewer and fewer reasons to validate hiding his relationship with Nadeshiko. The whole thing honestly seemed more stupid the more he thought about it.

So what if Keiichi didn't like it? Screw him! Tadase had Nadeshiko, and he also had Amu and Kukai, and he only had three more months left in this hell hole of a homophobic country-bumpkin circle jerk, who cared if he pissed off some bigots?

Tadase was restless for March to come and go. Throughout their time in Tokyo he had finally gotten excited for the future. Kukai had revealed that a great distaste for staying at the dorms had cemented his decision to rent an apartment off campus, and that he would need people to room with.

"See? I figure this would be perfect!" He had exclaimed between bites of the hamburger he was shoving down his throat, "There's three rooms in the place I was looking at, so I thought it would be perfect! We could even split the rent four ways!"

Nadeshiko had been confused, pausing as she sipped on her milkshake. "Hmm, if it's three rooms, why would the rent be split four ways?"

Kukai rolled his eyes. "Just cause you and Tadase will share a room doesn't mean that you can get out of paying your fair share of the rent!"

Tadase hadn't mentioned to Kukai that Nadeshiko certainly hadn't been expected to be included at that time, but he didn't think that detail was all that important anyway. Besides, the soft pink that lined her cheeks as she smiled down at the table had really tugged at his heart.

He had a future, a future with Nadeshiko. Suddenly he thought of how long term this was going to be. If they roomed together, that must be pretty serious. But the butterflies that flittered around his stomach weren't accompanied by any sort of nausea; instead, he felt like giggling. Had he ever been that excited for the future before?

January, February, March. How could it take three months so long to go by? And after spending so much time with Nadeshiko in Tokyo, he hated to be apart from her. Every day was more and more tortuous. The torment she was facing made him angrier by the day, a hot rage bubbling in his stomach and threatening to leak out of his shaking fists.

It reminded him of how he felt back when he went to school in Tokyo, so useless to stop the onslaught of vile slurs and physical harassment. He kept thinking of how he felt back then, of how he just wanted it to stop, and he desperately wished he could save Nadeshiko from her fate. But just like then there was nothing he could do; he couldn't stop the entire school, the entire town from treating her this way.

Why was he so useless?

Why…

Couldn't he do anything to save her?

✧・゚: *✧・゚:*

School hadn't even been back in session for a week before it became completely unbearable. Tadase was tired of Keiichi and Shuu, he was tired of childlike bullying and hatred, he was tired of calculus and his mom's nagging.

He was so tired.

It had been a long day. For some reason the girls had been especially vicious towards Nadeshiko, and it took all his power to bite his cheek and stay seated. He couldn't wait to go over to her house after school, to just hold her and forget all of the problems that he was trying his best to swallow down.

She hadn't texted him back yet, which was a little weird, as she was usually so prompt about it, but he tried not to pay it too much mind as he rounded the hall as he headed into the entryway of the school. He could hear the faint rumblings of a commotion brewing outside and sighed; Keiichi and Haruto were probably fighting again. He wasn't sure why those two always ended up having it out after school, but it was probably because they both had egos the size of Honshu.

Oh well, probably better not to worry about it; if he rushed to watch every one of Keiichi's fights he would never be able to have a moment's rest. And the thought of seeing the other boy pissed Tadase off enough for him to decide on sneaking out the back way. He slipped off his shoes and traded them out for the faded brown loafers he'd had since Tokyo. He wondered what Nadeshiko's mom would be making for dinner. She was a terribly good cook.

But before he could get lost in his thoughts of rich curry or grilled salmon he paused.

"Yo Tadase my man, what's going on outside?"

Tadase blinked. Shuu had just rounded the corner, grinning as he called out to the other boy, Takashi and Keiichi trailing behind him. But if Keiichi was inside, who was-

He suddenly felt sick to his stomach. Was it really a fight he was hearing? Or a crowd surrounded around a one-sided altercation, a scenario he had gotten somewhat used to back in Tokyo. No, no it couldn't be. He was just jumping to the worst conclusion. A fight or a crowd didn't mean it was her. It wasn't-

A voice, louder than the rest broke out from the crowd, "That's what you get you fucking fag!"

Tadase lost his vision for a second, and when he regained it he realized that he had already turned around and was running towards the mob of people at the front of the school.

"Wait, Tadase-"

His mind was a blur. He raced forward, shoving past the heckling teens that were barricading him from the most important person in his life. They were jeering and rumbling, like a crazy force, a tsunami building from below the quiet and meek Japanese population. A population that hated difference, hated queerness.

When he got to the front of the crowd he froze. He thought he was asleep, dreaming a horrible nightmare that refused to let him go.

Haruto and his gang were standing in the middle of the ellipse of people, laughing over a broken and defeated girl.

Nadeshiko was sitting on her calves, a pool of blood forming where her knees touched the gray cement. Her jacket had been lost somewhere. Her shirt was ripped, hanging off her shoulders, and Tadase's gutt lurched at the sight of her pale pink bra. Her head was ducked down, covered by a cascade of black hair that had fallen from its normal ponytail atop her head. And he couldn't see her face, but he could see the way her back shook, could see the clear droplets splashing onto her own blood, and Tadase thought he would throw up.

"Does it fucking turn you on to wear women's underwear or something?" Haruto jeered, taking a step forward.

Tadase's hands were shaking.

"Maybe we should take it off of him before he pops a boner," one of the lackeys sneered.

Nadeshiko didn't move, just kept staring down at the pavement. Haruto laughed.

"That doesn't sound like a bad idea!"

Nadeshiko quickly raised her arms to wrap around her torso, but Tadase was sure she knew it was useless.

It was useless….

Tadase saw himself, transposed over her quaking form. Surrounded by a sea of people who heckled him relentlessly. A never ending sea.

It never stopped. It had happened to him, and now it happened to her. The second they hated you it was over. A swarm of vultures would dive in and pick you apart. And nobody cared enough to break the chain.

Nobody cared.

Nadeshiko looked up as Haruto approached her, slowly, as if he was just teasing her for what was to come. Her eyes scanned the crowd ogling them, desperately seeking someone who would stand up for her, a pitiful student or even a resentful teacher, anyone.

Her eyes briefly met Tadase's. Tears were pouring down her face. He never wanted to see her like this, she didn't deserve this. She closed her eyes in a long blink, before opening them once more. Her lips turned up, ever so slightly, as she stared at Tadase. She mouthed, the movement so minute that if Tadase hadn't been looking carefully he would've just thought she was quivering in fear, "I understand."

No. This wasn't right. He couldn't just sit back and watch this happen to her.

He had been wrong. His wish in Tokyo hadn't been for the bullying to stop. No, that was much too great a goal. His wish, that whole time, with all the bystanders turning their heads and former friends casting him aside….

His wish had been that just one person would have stood up for him.

Haruto reached out his hand toward Nadeshiko's chest.

Tadase remembered the time months ago he stood outside of the room he was sharing with Nadeshiko, uncertain of what he should do, if he should go in and introduce himself, or run away from the person whose entire being went against all that his parents, his town, his society stood for. But when he opened that door that night he decided.

He couldn't believe it had taken him this long to figure it out.

Tadase's feet were moving before he realized it.

"Get your hands off of her!"

The world around them went silent for a brief moment as Tadase charged across the courtyard. Haruto straightened up, confused.

He started to speak, his eyebrows furrowed, "What's the deal, Hoto-"

That was all he managed to get out before Tadase's fist collided with his face.

Shouts broke out around them as Haruto was knocked back, completely shocked by the blow.

Haruto's friends were equally shocked. "What the fuck dude?!"

Tadase ignored the yells, ignored the yells of the students crowded around for their sick version of a show, and turned his focus back onto Nadeshiko. He shrugged off his jacket before kneeling down besides Nadeshiko, so close that they were practically touching. He wrapped his jacket around her shoulders and one of her hands feebly moved up to grasp it to her. Her face was uncertain, wet eyes darting between him and the stunned boys behind him.

"Tadase…" Nadeshiko's lip was split, and a harsh bruise was blackening her eye. She didn't move, just sat there staring at him. Her voice was quiet, almost silent as she whispered, "You don't need to do this."

Tadase felt like sobbing.

"Like hell I don't," Tadase hissed instead, pulling Nadeshiko to her feet. She wobbled a bit, her bloody knees shaking under the pressure.

There was pure chaos around them, yells and hoots and screams. People were even more excited than before. A mob that felt so removed from the lives of their classmates that they didn't even realize that this was happening to someone so close to them. Tadase wasn't sure if he would ever stop feeling so nauseous.

The only thing he was thankful for was that this hadn't turned into a brawl, and it didn't seem like anyone was going to come after them. In fact, Haruto and his friends seemed too shocked to do much of anything. They were probably so certain that nobody would ever stand up for Nadeshiko, that nobody cared about her at all.

He had to get her out of there now, before anyone decided that they wanted to escalate the situation anymore.

Tadase spotted Nadeshiko's bag lying a few feet away and picked it up, slipping it over his shoulder so that it sat along his own.

"Why are you standing up for the fucking tranny?" Haruto spat.

Tadase ignored them, turning back to Nadeshiko and taking her hand in his. It was scraped up and a little bloody, but Tadase didn't care if he ended up soaked in her blood. He deserved it, at the very least. He looked her in the eyes. "Can you run?"

Nadeshiko nodded.

Tadase smiled softly and ran his thumb over the back of her hand, before he pulled her forward and took off towards the gate, ignoring the steadily increasing pandemonium behind them.

"Wait- wait just a second-"

That was Takashi, not Haruto.

But Tadase didn't even pause, didn't stop or look over his shoulder, he just kept running, pulling Nadeshiko along behind him.

Keiichi's voice rang out, a violent shrill above the crowd. "What the hell are you doing?"

Tadase did not turn back, he just kept running forward.

They were free.

✧・゚: *✧・゚:*

Tadase left early the next morning and met up with Nadeshiko outside of her house in the chilly January air. She was wearing a different coat, a long gray one that fell to her knees, and had a thick scarf wrapped around her mouth. Her hands, fiddling with the strap of her bag, were covered in bandaids.

Tadase's stomach felt cold. He just wanted to take her back inside and wrap her up in a blanket. They shouldn't go back to school, not now, right? But she had refused the idea point blank the night before.

"I can't give them what they want, Tadase."

It was the same reason she just sat there and silently took the abuse day after day. If she fought back, they won. She couldn't take a group of men in a fight, she would surely be pummeled. And even if she did take a swing at them, that would only finally give the teachers the excuse they'd craved all this time to expel her.

Tadase admired her resolve, but the thought of her walking back into that school and surrounding herself with the group of people who had accosted her and the others who sat back and cheered sickened him.

Nadeshiko smiled at him, raising a hand bandaged hand in greeting, and Tadase's heart throbbed. But if Nadeshiko could suck it up, could suffer everything and still move forward, who was Tadase to cower in fear?

Tadase grinned as he reached Nadeshiko's side, cupping her cheek in his hand as he leaned in to kiss her. She let out a small gasp, before leaning into him. He gently pressed his lips to hers, making sure not to put too much pressure on the cut slicing through her lip.

After pulling away he paused for a moment, taking in her swollen purple eye and bruised complexion. He slipped his hand away from her face and took her hand in his instead.

"Alright, let's go."

Tadase wasn't quite sure what kind of pandemonium would greet them when they reached the school. While people were frequently antagonistic to Nadeshiko, they weren't often violent, so he really wasn't expecting any sort of scene like yesterday. But at the same time, he had punched Haruto right in the face. Surely he wouldn't just let him get away with that.

Tadase really admired Nadeshiko, especially at times like these. She was walking so confidently, while all he wanted to do was go home and hide, never to step foot in this school again. Everything she had gone through, and all alone at that. How had she done it?

Walking into the school gate it was like Nadeshiko was his lifeline. Sure, in the adrenaline rush of emotion yesterday he had acted without fear and stood up for her, but now he was unbelievably nervous. It wasn't as though he regretted anything as he walked towards the building, fingers intertwined with Nadeshiko's as a gaggle of students froze and gaped at them. He knew he had made the right decision, a decision he should've made much earlier, and he wouldn't have changed his actions even if he had the opportunity to. But he was pretty sure he was gonna puke, if he was being honest.

As they entered the building there was a rumble of hushed voices, whispers a little too loud to be sneaky. One of the girls huddled around the lockers started laughing, covering her mouth as she chortled into her manicured nails. Her friends gave the pair a sideways gaze and smirked, some of them giggling as well. Tadase froze for a second, suddenly very conscious of Nadeshiko's hand in his, but she just tugged him forward to the shoe lockers before he could get lost in himself.

"Just ignore them," Nadeshiko said, her voice calm and low. He knew she was right, but it didn't make the mocking laughs ringing through his ears any quieter. Her hand slipped out of his as the two turned to change their shoes.

"Faggot."

Tadase didn't turn to look at the boy who muttered the slur at him as he walked behind him. Did it matter anyway, who said it? Everyone was thinking it anyway.

But in the end they were wrong, weren't they? Tadase wasn't gay, he just loved Nadeshiko. Nadeshiko with the poise and grace of a prima ballerina, with the eyes of a supermodel and flowing hair that put even Kukai's celebrity crush Hoshina Utau to shame, who even Amu was desperate to steal clothes from. Nadeshiko was a woman, even if he himself had seen parts of her that would suggest otherwise.

And even if she wasn't a woman, he didn't think he would even care anymore. Did it matter, who was what, what was hidden beneath peoples' pants? He loved Nadeshiko.

Nadeshiko who had stood alone for years, and had never even complained. Nadeshiko who had experienced what Tadase had ran from so desperately and still held her head high.

Tadase grinned, and grabbed Nadeshiko's hand again, intertwining his fingers with her's. In the background there was a buzz, a murmur of disagreement and amusement. This wasn't Tokyo, and he wasn't the same person he had been back then. Before everything that happened to him was meaningless and untrue, just jealousy and vindictiveness. But here, it was happening because he stood up for Nadeshiko. He wasn't useless and alone, he hadn't lost his agency to stand up for himself like before.

Even if the rest of the world hadn't melded to fit what he wanted, he had moved to a place he wanted to be. He had become the person that he wanted to be.

"Come on," he said, smiling, as he pulled Nadeshiko towards the classroom. She smiled back at him.

Tadase tuned out the chatter surrounding them as they walked to class. Maybe he was only able to do that because Nadeshiko was beside him, supporting him. But it didn't really matter, all that mattered was the hand he held in his.

But Tadase was pulled back as he approached the classroom door. Nadeshiko was rooted on the spot, holding him back from opening the door. She looked uncharacteristically hesitant, almost nervous. They had already walked through the school building, why was she getting hung up at the door?

"What's up?"

Nadeshiko worried her lip between her teeth, her eyes were staring down at his shoes. "I need to tell you something."

Tadase's expression fell at her downcast eyes. "What is it?"

Her fingers were shaking in his hand. "Keiichi is going to be really mad."

Tadase blinked. Keiichi, probably Shuu and Takashi too. His supposed "friends." The boys who had betrayed Nadeshiko years ago. Well, honestly he had expected this. It wasn't as if he really cared for them that much anyway, if they stopped talking with him, he wouldn't really mind too much.

Tadase laughed, trying to break the nervous air around his girlfriend. "Well, yeah. I kind of figured as much."

But his attempt at reassurance seemed to make her even more anxious. Her fingernails were now clawing into the back of his hand, and how upset she looked was the only thing holding him back from tearing his hand away.

"No, you don't understand," she muttered, her voice low. "He's going to be really, really mad."

Tadase got the nagging feeling that maybe there had been more to their history than Nadeshiko had let on. He expected Keiichi to be upset, sure. But so much so that she was worrying this greatly?

"Did something else happen that I don't know about?"

Nadeshiko didn't reply.

"Nadeshiko, look at me."

Her amber eyes slowly rose to meet his. Tadase tightened his grip on her hand.

There was something, right? Something he didn't know. Something Nadeshiko seemed unable to tell him. He brought his free hand up to cup her face. "Don't worry about Keiichi."

Before he lost his nerve, he turned and proceeded to the classroom, sliding open the door slowly and he pulled Nadeshiko behind him.

But her worries had been unfounded, at least for the time being. Keiichi and the others hadn't arrived yet.

Keiichi didn't end up showing up at all that day, and Shuu and Takashi had slipped in just before class arrived. But they had both shot Tadase piercing stares as they entered, and refused to look his way for the rest of class.

Tadase glanced over to Nadeshiko's chair by the window. She kept her head down throughout class, not looking up even once.

✧・゚: *✧・゚:*

Tadase realized all too late that he'd forgotten something critical: his mother.

He never intended to let her know about Nadeshiko, not the relationship in the first place, much less the truth of who she was. He was going to quietly slip away to Tokyo with her, leaving his mother none the wiser.

Tadase had considered the gossip chain of the high school. What he hadn't accounted for was the possibility of the gossip spreading to his mother.

When he opened the door to the house he could hear the distinctive sound of his mother's shrill screams. He hesitated, before slowly entering the house.

He should have turned around. He should have gone to Nadeshiko's house and begged her mom to let him spend the night.

But instead Tadase walked slowly towards the kitchen, his heart pounding as he approached his mother's explosive voice.

The kitchen was in shambles. Broken plates scattered the floor, large shards of ceramics lying where they fell. One of the chairs was toppled over, another had a leg broken off. Drops of blood dotted the floor.

His mother was screaming incomprehensibly. Across the room was his father, leaning against a cabinet, pressing a hand to a gash in his forehead and wincing slightly.

"You!" his mother shrieked as she saw him enter. Her eyes were wild. The last time she'd been like this had been when his uncle…. No, even then it hadn't been this bad. She'd never been this mad before.

And this time it was directed not at a man in a jail cell, but rather him.

"I cannot believe you'd do this to me!"

She grabbed one of the wine glasses off of the counter and hurled it straight at his head. Tadase ducked, squeezing his eyes shut as it slammed into the wall behind him and shattered, raining glass on his head.

Tadase needed to run. His mother had never been this angry before, he didn't know what she was capable of. He glanced up just in time to dodge a plate she flung at him like a frisbee.

He needed to run, but his legs weren't working. His knees were quivering.

Was this what Nadeshiko felt like when Haruto was beating her in front of the school, or back when her best friend Keiichi was pummeling her? No, she had to have been feeling much worse than this, much more scared, much more humiliated. Maybe he deserved this, maybe he deserved to know how she felt.

"You ungrateful little piece of shit!"

His mother was staggering towards him, her face red and body trembling. She looked like a madwoman, hair a mess and eyes crazy. Tadase had never seen anyone so far gone before.

"Now, Mizue, please-" Tadase's father started to plead, stepping forward hesitantly, having no idea what he should do.

"Stay the fuck out of this Yui!" His mother screamed, grabbing a cutting board from where it lay on the counter and heaving it at him. His father dodged, but slipped, falling back and banging his head on the cabinet.

Tadase's cheeks were wet. Was that sweat? No- it must be tears.

"First my brother, now you! What, am I just surrounded by fucking faggots?"

"Mom," Tadase pressed himself against the wall, fingers grasping to find some sort of support.

"Don't you dare call me that!" she shrieked.

Tadase felt himself slipping down the wall.

He needed to run, right? But he couldn't control his legs.

His mom's hand was curled into a shaking fist.

Tadase prayed there weren't any knives nearby.

"I'm going to make sure you never embarrass me like this ever again!"

✧・゚: *✧・゚:*

Tadase didn't sleep well that night. His face around his left eye was throbbing. His father had snuck him in some ice after his mom had finally tired out and collapsed in her room, but he was sure he was going to be sporting a shiner the next day. He sighed as he turned onto his side, pressing the melting bag of ice to his eye. It wasn't the first time his mom hit him, and it didn't seem like it was going to be the last.

His phone buzzed, alerting him that he had received a text. For a second he felt nauseous. How could he explain this to Nadeshiko? She would be so upset. He didn't want her to blame herself, but he felt like that's where her mind was going to go.

He picked up his phone, mind buzzing with how he would explain this situation, knowing it would be worse if he just showed up in the morning with a black eye. But it wasn't Nadeshiko who had texted him.

Shuu

We need to talk. Meet me and Takashi behind the gym tomorrow at lunch.

Tadase groaned. How much more was life going to pile on him all at once? He didn't feel like talking to Shuu or Takashi, much less going to school at all. Maybe he could finish all his coursework from home. Or better yet, he and Nadeshiko could just run away to Tokyo now.

Maybe Shuu would give him a black eye on his right side to match the one forming on his left? Tadase barked out a laugh, but it was humorless, simply sad and bitter. Would it even matter if the two boys pummeled him? His mother had already done so anyway.

Tears burned at the corners of his eyes. He wished Nadeshiko was with him right now. Maybe then he wouldn't feel so broken.

His phone buzzed again.

Shuu

Please. It's important.

Well, Shuu didn't seem that mad at least. And what were a few more bruises if the other boy decided to get violent? Maybe then they'd at least be satisfied.

Tadase

Fine.

At this point, he was at least sure that talking with them couldn't make things worse.

✧・゚: *✧・゚:*

Of course Nadeshiko had been furious when she saw his black eye. It looked even worse than he had expected in the morning, the skin around his eye a grotesque dark purple. She hadn't even seen the bruises on the rest of him yet. He wondered how upset she would get then. As it was, she looked ready to go over to his house and unleash all hell upon his mom. And while that would certainly make him feel better to see, he knew it wasn't going to provide him any help at all.

Tadase had already brainstormed what he would tell anyone who asked about his eye. I fell and hit my eye on the corner of a table. He knew nobody would believe it, but it was better than being honest. If he was forced to go to gym and the others saw the bruises on his body while he was changing. Well, I actually fell down the stairs into the table. Nobody would believe that either, but it was better than admitting to anything. And people could say whatever they wanted, it wasn't like his reputation could get any worse at this point. It was better not to bring any scrutiny upon his family now.

When he arrived at class that day Shuu and Takashi had gaped at him with wide eyes. Keiichi didn't even look his way, his lips pulled back into a harsh sneer as he stared straight ahead.

Class went unbelievably slow, and Tadase desperately wanted to ice his throbbing eye. The gossip seemed to be exploding throughout the room. First he and Nadeshiko, now he has a black eye! It was the excitement of the year.

When the bell rang for lunch Keiichi left without a word or a glance in anyone else's direction. Maybe Nadeshiko had been wrong about him after all. Sure, he seemed genuinely upset, maybe even kind of pissed, but he wasn't reacting violently toward either of them. Maybe she had been worried about nothing.

He was starting to feel a little more relaxed by the time he went to meet Shuu and Takashi. Maybe they would just wish him his best and they'd go their separate ways.

He hadn't been quite sure how the two boys would act when he met them, but as he rounded the corner and approached them he hadn't expected them to look so upset. Takashi was chewing on his thumbnail and staring off into space, while Shuu was leaning against the building wall, slouched over himself. The two straightened up when they saw him approaching.

"What did you want to talk about?" Tadase asked. The other two hesitated, looking at each other for a second. Takashi took a deep breath.

"Um… Nadeshiko hasn't done anything bad to you, right?"

...what?

Tadase almost laughed, but stopped himself by the all too serious looks on the others' faces. But he couldn't help an incredulous grin pulling up the corners of his mouth. "Are you serious? Of course not."

"What about your eye?" Shuu asked, his voice low. "I know you didn't get that from falling down, and when you left school yesterday you were fine."

Tadase froze. "Uhh…."

Well it wasn't as though he could just tell them his mom beat him senseless, and he wasn't sure if there was anyone else left to blame. It was a small town, he couldn't just blame it on a random thug.

"It wasn't Nadeshiko."

"Then who was it?" Takashi asked.

But Tadase couldn't answer.

"We understand." Shuu sighed, running a hand through his hair as he slumped back against the wall. "We didn't want to tell you this, to tell anyone this, but it just feels wrong if we keep it a secret from you now."

Tadase felt like he had suddenly been left ten steps behind the other two boys. "What?"

Takashi crossed his arms. "We know Nadeshiko has a… pattern of behavior. Actually, we used to be friends with him, before something happened."

Shuu shook his head, "We never thought you'd get close to Nadeshiko, and we didn't think it was our place to speak, since it was about Keiichi and all. But now since you're in danger, we can't really keep quiet anymore."

Tadase was completely stunned. Forget ten steps behind, he felt like he was in a whole different universe than the other boys. He knew about them being friends with Nadeshiko, about Keiichi beating her up when he found out her secret, but why did he feel like that wasn't at all where this was going?

"You know how we told you, that time you shared the room with him, that you could tell us if he tried anything with you?"

"Yeah…?" Tadase was really unsure where they were going with this.

"Well, we didn't just say that out of nowhere." Takashi muttered, unable to meet Tadase in the eyes.

His heart was suddenly racing. What was he saying-? Shuu swallowed, and then he spoke, saying something so absurdly ridiculous that Tadase could almost feel himself dissociating from his own body.

"Back in middle school, Nadeshiko raped Keiichi."

✧・゚: *✧・゚:*

Tadase didn't believe them.

And no, it wasn't just that he was in denial or anything like that. He just genuinely knew that Nadeshiko was not a person who could ever do such a heinous thing.

But Nadeshiko had been so nervous about how Keiichi would react to the news of them dating. He did know that she was keeping something big from him, something that undeniably involved Keiichi. But he just couldn't bring himself to believe this story for two seconds. Even though Shuu and Takashi had seemed so sincere, so serious as they told him they just wanted to protect him, it just didn't make any sense to him at all.

And that was why, despite how little he actually wanted to go through with it, he found himself sitting on Nadeshiko's bed after school, having perhaps the worst conversation that ever occurred in the whole history of humankind.

"Today Shuu and Takashi asked to meet me at lunch, to talk about you."

"Uh-huh, and?" Nadeshiko asked, her face serious. Tadase bit his lip, turning his head away. Her stare was too intense to meet at the moment.

"Well, first off I want to say I didn't believe them one bit, and I almost didn't even want to mention it because it was so ridiculous, but-"

"Tadase, what did they say?"

"They said… they said in the past you forced yourself onto Keiichi," Tadase muttered, staring at the stuffed bear on her dresser. It stared back at him blankly providing absolutely no support whatsoever.

Tadase waited for Nadeshiko to respond, but realized after a long moment that she wasn't going to say anything. He turned to her, nervous, worried she was going to be mad at him for even listening to the boys saying the stuff about her, but his heart plummeted when he saw her.

Nadeshiko's face was scrunched up, pained almost, as if she were suddenly sick. Her eyes glistened, tears pooling in the corners, and her chest was heaving as she breathed. She squinted her eyes shut, breathing deeply, as if she were trying to calm herself. Her hands were opening and closing, grasping at nothing, before she clenched them into fists and pounded the bed, letting out a short scream.

"Nadeshiko?" Tadase asked, reaching out a hand to touch her shoulder. "Are you okay?"

"No, no I'm not okay!" she screamed, tears rolling down her cheeks. She stood up and walked forward a few steps, hugging herself tightly, before turning back and starting to pace the floor of the room. "I can't fucking believe this!"

"Nadeshiko, please calm down, it's okay, I'm here-" Tadase started, totally lost on how to help Nadeshiko in her current situation. He stood up but didn't move forward, standing there as she cried and angrily paced the room.

"You don't get it, Tadase! I never raped Keiichi!" She exclaimed, her fingernails digging into the wool of her sweater.

"No, I know, I know you would never do something like that, that-"

Nadeshiko cut him off, tears pouring down her face at this point, her skin a blotchy shade of red.

"No, it's-" Nadeshiko stopped, staring straight at Tadase with a look so pitiful that he wished he would never see it again. She took a deep breath, trying to steady herself before speaking. Her voice still cracked as she whispered, her voice quiet yet loud enough to resound in Tadase's ears for the rest of his life.

"Keiichi was the one who raped me."

✧・゚: *✧・゚:*

Nadeshiko tries not to think back to that day too often, the day that her life collapsed. Nobody really ever expects to lose everything they care about all at once; nothing can prepare anyone for the sudden shock of having your world completely turned on its head.

Well, even to think about that day, that one particular day that changed Nadeshiko forever, it's probably important to go back a little further. Before Nadeshiko had realized who exactly was, when she was just a curious teenager trying to find herself.

A lot had happened between her and the others. They had always been together growing up. At school, during summer break, on the weekends. The four of them were best friends.

But in every group of four, friends usually split up into pairs. Pairs of best friends, the ones a little closer to each other than the others. Of course, Shuu and Takashi were that inseparable pair of best friends. Which left Nadeshiko and Keiichi.

The truth was, Nadeshiko and Keiichi had been incredibly close.

The truth was….

Well, Nadeshiko was always feminine, and Keiichi had maybe been a bit confused about who he was, about who Nadeshiko was, about how the two of them fit together. He was probably confused that he was attracted to Nadeshiko, the Nadeshiko that still called themselves a boy and still presented themself that way.

Nadeshiko didn't remember the exact point their relationship changed. It was their third year of middle school, she knew. They had been arguing, as they normally did, as all kids normally do, and then Keiichi had kissed her.

It never really escalated past that, and things didn't really change all that much. But sometimes after that when it was just the two of them Keiichi would hold her hand. Sometimes they would kiss when Shuu and Takashi left to get snacks, separating desperately and pretending nothing had happened when they returned.

The truth, that nobody knew except for them, was that they were very close. Nadeshiko wasn't rash enough to call it love or anything like that of course, but butterflies flit around her stomach when she was with Keiichi and she found herself texting him later and later into the night.

When she began to explore her identity as a woman she kept it a secret from Keiichi. She didn't know how he would react, but it was probably just better to avoid it until she had a firm understanding of it herself.

Her plan was ruined when Shuu found her stuff, of course.

At first he and Takashi were simply baffled, holding up the dresses and makeup with confusion etched on their faces. Maybe they had noticed that she had been putting effort into her skin care, or maybe they had questioned the way she held herself. Maybe the pieces were all coming together in their minds. But Takashi had just laughed awkwardly and Shuu had kept his gaze away from the others, his face red. At that moment, Nadeshiko had wondered if maybe they would be okay with it. A little awkward, sure, but maybe understanding. Takashi asked Keiichi if he had known about this, his voice light, not accusatory in the slightest. Keiichi was oh so close to Nadeshiko, after all. He had to know all of her dirty little secrets.

Nadeshiko had worried how Shuu and Takashi would react. She hadn't been as concerned about Keiichi, which was a big mistake.

"What the fuck, no of course not. Nadeshiko, what the fuck is this you fucking fag!"

Nadeshiko hadn't expected that from Keiichi. Keiichi, who had held her hand and kissed her gently, had run his hands through her hair and sent her texts late at night.

She tried to get him to calm down, she tried telling him to just wait a second and she would explain, but before the words would come out of her mouth he punched her right in the face.

She fell back, vision blurred, hurting, but just so, so confused. Shuu and Takashi were gasping, blubbering like idiots, trying to calm down while trying to figure out just what was happening. Nadeshiko was confused, her cheek throbbing where he had hit her.

"You disgusting son of a bitch!"

Nadeshiko can't remember how many times he hit her that day before Shuu and Takashi pulled him off. Maybe it was one, maybe it was twenty. She wasn't really keeping count. She was just trying to stop the nausea that was wracking her stomach.

Keiichi had stormed off, leaving the other two boys behind, shell-shocked and confused beyond all belief. Nadeshiko hadn't summoned the courage to look them in the eyes at that time, so to this day she had no idea what their faces looked like, if they were disgusted or angry or even sympathetic, but before long the two of them had run out of the room, calling after their friend.

After a while she stood up and began picking up her things, the secret she had tried to keep hidden that was now scattered across the floor. She wondered what this meant for her and Keiichi. Of course, she would've been upset enough if Keiichi had simply refused to support her in front of the others, but she would have probably understood it- coming out was hard, after all. Why else would so many gay people commit suicide every year? But for him to react like this, so violently…. She was really shocked.

She had wondered if her face was going to bruise, if she'd be able to hide it with the foundation her mother had bought for her, that she had been too nervous to wear outside of the house yet.

She hadn't expected Keiichi to come back.

Her mother was still out, working late or meeting friends. At first, Nadeshiko had been happy she was gone, that she wasn't there to witness her daughter getting pummeled by her best friend. But suddenly all she wanted was her mother back in the house.

Keiichi was hissing at her, all kinds of harsh things that Nadeshiko couldn't bring herself to remember. He was angry, at Nadeshiko for hiding that she had those things, that she was queer (but wasn't he too?), that she had exposed him in front of everyone. Even though it was wrong, the logic was all wrong and Keiichi was spiraling out of control, down lines of thought that she was sure hadn't yet occurred to the other two, Keiichi would not listen.

He was violent, again, demonstrating the side of himself that she'd never seen before that day. He pulled Nadeshiko by her hair, across the room as she yelled at him to let go, her fingernails clawing at his hands. He threw her to the bed.

"You want to be a girl so badly? Well, I'll make you a girl."

✧・゚: *✧・゚:*

Tadase was sick.

Nadeshiko hadn't gone too far into detail with her explanation on what exactly happened, but he had heard enough to be shaken to his core. All this time, he had known it was bad, so bad, but that it could even be worse than that?

Nadeshiko hadn't wanted to burden him with the truth, she claimed. That it already plagued her enough why should she force him to bear it on his shoulders as well? But Tadase wished he had known. She had never complained, but maybe he could've been gentler to her, more sympathetic?

And maybe he could have strangled Keiichi months ago.

Tadase wasn't an especially angry person, and he really tried not to hold grudges. His mother's anger was terrible, he desperately wanted to avoid becoming anything like her. But for the first time in his life, he was absolutely livid.

And as the night went on, he only got angrier. After dodging his mom he holled up in his room, locking the door behind him. The more he thought about everything, the angrier he got. He had been friends with Keiichi, he had hung out with him and texted him all this time, and he had hurt Nadeshiko so severely.

And what about Shuu and Takashi? Witnessing Keiichi's anger firsthand, and then lying about who the perpetrator was. It made him sick, that they could be best friends with someone one day, and then hate them the next. And for what, some dresses and a little makeup?

Tadase swore, he threw things at the wall, he cursed and knocked over his furniture. He was only getting angrier the more he thought about it. What the fuck was wrong with them, what the fuck was wrong with them?

Tadase didn't know how he'd be able to keep a straight face when he saw Keiichi at school the next day. All this time, he was sitting and eating sandwiches with a monster that had assaulted the girl he loved. How did Nadeshiko even sit in the same room as him without screaming? Tadase felt like every expletive he's ever heard was going to come flying out his mouth when he walked into the classroom tomorrow.

But he couldn't make a scene, he couldn't confront Keiichi, because that's not what Nadeshiko wanted. It'd just bring more unwanted attention onto her, just drudge up the things that she had been working so hard to move past.

Tadase didn't sleep much that night. Every time he closed his eyes he thought of Nadeshiko, who had trusted Keiichi just to end up getting violated by him. Nadeshiko crying and screaming for help. Nadeshiko, who he hadn't even met yet, younger and more naive, getting assaulted by someone she has grown up with.

In the morning, Tadase had bags under his eyes to match the bruise festering on his face.

Was there one you saw too clearly?

Did they seem too real to you?

They were kids that I once knew

They were kids that I once knew

-Dead Hearts (Stars)

A/N: Surprise Bitch. I bet you thought you'd seen the last of me.

I have a horrible confession to make... this part has been completed for over a year.

Originally I was only going to have 3 chapters, and this was going to be half of the last one, but I realized its better for me to just get this out there.

Will chapter 4 come? I have every intention of it. Will it be dark? (;¬_¬)

This chapter starts off with Hoppipola as the OST. A hopeful song. Then it ends with Dead Hearts, a song that, when used in this context, is quite sad. Maybe I just like inflicting pain.

If you leave me reviews it will inspire me to write, hint hint.