Nagisa pulls his coat tight around him as he trudges up the stairs to his apartment. The October air bites deep, and he presses his face down into the folds of his scarf. It's already dark out, and the light above his apartment door flickers to life as he steps onto the landing. He slumps against the door with a sigh, fishing in his pocket for a key. Twisting, he accidentally presses against the handle. The door slides open without resistance. In the entryway, a pair of fashionable boots lay skewed where they'd been abandoned.

He tenses, his stance lowering like a cat about to pounce. He slips his shoes off without a sound and slides silently on his socks toward the kitchen. His heart begins to race. The students at Paradise High always try to "kill" him when he lets his guard down, but they barely get his pulse above sixty-five. It'll be years since they make Shiota Nagisa draw on all of his skills.

The light in the kitchen is on, and Nagisa holds his breath as he slips through the hall into the room proper. Sitting at the dining room table, back to him, a girl flips through a stack of books, oblivious to him. Her long blond hair and slender figure is all but obscured by the thick blanket she has wrapped around the chair.

She's wide open.

He approaches, crouching low, extending a hand to grab her by the shoulder. Her chair kicks back before he can grab her. The blanket flies up to obscure his vision and he bats it away just in time to see the flash of silver coming for his face. "Koro-sensei!" comes the shout.

Nagisa slips back, barely avoiding the kitchen knife as it streaks past his throat. Nakamura drops her stance, readying the knife for a second strike, then stops. "N-Nagisa?"

"Who else would it be?" he asks. "You really could have hurt someone."

"You didn't feel like you right there." Nakamura leans against the table as her breathing slows. "You felt like him."

"It's your imagination."

"Nope. I know what your presence feels like Nagisa. I practically lived with it for a year. That was something else."

She looks concerned, and reaches out a hand for his shoulder. Nagisa lets her. No one can touch him unless he wants them to these days, except for maybe Karma-kun, or Karasuma-san if they ever cross paths again. He's no Mach 20 octopus, but his instincts haven't dulled a bit. No, maybe they're even better now. Maybe being a teacher wasn't the only legacy Koro-sensei left for him.

Nakamura sets the knife down on the kitchen table and sits next to it, kicking her feet lazily. She's made herself at home, sure enough. It's been a week since Isogai's wedding, but she doesn't show any signs of leaving. If anything, she's more comfortable now than before. She's not a slob by any means. She's as stylish as ever, but there's a certain casual air to her now, as though cohabiting with a boy is nothing special at all. In truth, Nagisa is surprised with how comfortable he is with it. It might have been different with another girl, someone like Kanzaki or Hazama, someone he barely knows. But Nakamura is Nakamura. Only she could barge in on someone and demand to stay with them and expect a "yes" in response.

Nagisa glances past her, to the stack of maps, guidebooks, and personal itineraries she has scattered across the kitchen table. "You know you don't need a knife for that stuff, right?"

"It just doesn't feel right otherwise." Nakamura flashes him one of her sly grins. "Don't tell me you don't know what I mean."

He does. There are knives all over his house, so many that Karasuma-san pointed them out during his check-up of the place a year before. The framed one on the bedroom wall is a keepsake. That one stays no matter what. Of all the knives they drew on Koro-Sensei, it was the first and last to bite flesh. Then there are the six in the kitchen for cooking, and the two that aren't, along with the one taped to the back of his couch, next to the gun filled with anti-sensei pellets. It's still oiled, safety off, just in case. As if Nagisa could bear to kill him again. "So, who are you visiting next?"

"I thought I'd stick around for awhile," Nakamura says. "We already saw everyone at the wedding, except for Kayano-chan of course. I might hang out with one or two of them, but my stuff is already here, and my next job doesn't start for another month and a half." She looks up, suddenly fidgeting as though self-conscious. "That's alright with you right?"

She doesn't try to guilt him or cajole him, or even bribe him. In the end, that's what he likes about Nakamura. Loud, forceful, shamelessly Nakamura. "Of course it is."

"Good, wouldn't want to impose. I know you must have hot dates lining up around the block, but they'll have to wait until I start work again."

Nagisa decidedly ignores the comment about the hot dates. "Where are you off to this time?"

"New York. It's a two-year contract, but by that point I might have something full-time locked down."

"You've really made it, haven't you?" Nagisa smiles. They all have. Everyone in Class-E is on the fast-track to accomplishing their dreams. To think that ten years before, they were all hopeless.

"You're just as amazing. Nakamura Rio doesn't hang out with losers, you know?"

Nakamura comes and goes, visiting family and high-school friends during their off-time, always back to crash at Nagisa's place in the evening. Sometimes she goes out to meet a Class-E for lunch. Those times she drags Nagisa along as well, as though he's some recluse that needs socializing. Thankfully Karma is out of town. Nagisa isn't sure if he can handle both of them together again. Their short meeting at the wedding was enough for the rest of his life.

"How about a movie tonight?" Nakamura asks. She's already curled up on his couch, leaving barely enough space for him to sit even if he did decide to join her. Unfortunately, work comes first. There's a stack of mock exams begging to be graded. But before he can refuse she grabs his hand. "Come on, Nagisa. Don't make me beg. One movie!"

She's a guest, he remembers. He can't be rude. "What'll it be then?"

"Anything but one of Kayano-chan's!" He agrees on the spot. It's no offense to Kayano. She is a great actress, but after her drama series ended the producers have been pushing her physicality as a selling point. She can handle the stunts no problem, but the choreography is so bad they can practically see her groans.

Nakamura falls asleep halfway through, her legs kicked up across Nagisa's lap. He finishes the movie hoping she might wake up, but the credits roll without a sign of her stirring. With a sigh, he shifts her legs, then lifts her up to put her in bed. She's taller than him by ten centimeters, and at least as heavy as he is. But he's carried heavier burdens before. As he lightly kicks open his bedroom door, she shifts in his grip, head pressed against his shoulder. He sighs. It's just like Nakamura to steal someone's bed, and just like him to give it up without a fight.

He lays her down on the rumpled sheets. As he pulls away to grab the comforter, he feels her stir awake. Hands tug on his collar, pulling him back down to look into her half-lidded eyes. "Nagisa, where are you going?" she whispers. He pulls away, gently but firmly prying back her hands. He catches one last look at her in the light of the hall as he retreats. Her eyes, so blue and imperious, look almost disappointed with him.

"I crushed on you hard in middle school, you know?" She says it suddenly the next morning during breakfast, as if in explanation.

"You what?" He's taken aback. "I didn't have any idea."

"But you do now."

"Because you told me."

"Because I finally worked up the courage." She laughs a hollow, bitter laugh. "To think after all we went through, confessing a crush is the hardest thing I've ever done. What a joke."

"It's not a joke." He knows how tough it can be to stand up for yourself.

Joke or not, she tries to laugh it off. "Well I've said it. Held it in for what, ten years? And here I go spilling it during breakfast. How's that for dramatic?"

Nagisa smiles and turns his attention to his plate. In spite of everything, he can't help it. He's never been confessed to before. "I don't know what to say."

"I guess that makes it a 'no', huh?" Nakamura rests her chin on laced fingers. She grins at him, just a hint of red plaguing her cheeks. "Just be sure not to write this one off as a prank, eh? I actually mean it. Kayano-chan made me promise to tell you. Can you believe that girl?"

He gives a sheepish shrug, and the conversations ends. But he knows it isn't over.

"Nakamura's staying with you?" Terasaka swallows the hunk of cheeseburger in his mouth, washes it down with a gulp of cola, then fixes his eyes on Nagisa.

"It was just for Isogai and Kataoka's wedding, at least at first."

"I thought I told you that girl was trouble, Nagisa."

"You're not really one to talk, Terasaka-san." It's hard for Nagisa to believe that of all the Class-E members that could have gone to the same university as him, it would be Terasaka Ryouma that worked the most to keep in touch. In between his internships with local politicians and activist work, Terasaka did his best to arrange get-togethers between whichever former Class-E students he could find. During his middle school years, Nagisa never could have imagined joining Terasaka and his band of delinquents for lunch, much less being personally invited. Maybe even Terasaka gets lonely sometimes, Nagisa thought.

"Hey now, I'm an upstanding member of society." That elicits a rare groan from the two others seated at their table. Terasaka flashes a frown at the until-now silent pair of Chiba and Hayami. "What did I say?"

"You're as loud as ever, Terasaka," Hayami says. Her eyes are as cold as they've always been. She wears her hair longer now, with fewer people around to compare her to Bitch-Sensei. Other than the recently married Isogai and Kataoka, and the lapsed relationship between Nagisa and Kayano, they were the only other pair to form from the old Class-E. That is, until Maehara and Okano finally work out their differences, but that's years off at the current rate of progress.

"Anyone's loud compared to you two, even Nagisa. I'm surprised you even made it out of the apartment for lunch." He grins at Nagisa. "Screwing like rabbits, these two."

"You have no evidence of that at all!" Hayami's rebuttal is seriously undermined by her reddening cheeks and Chiba's wayward glance.

"Good thing we're not here to gossip about you two, then," says Terasaka. "Out with it, Nagisa. Nakamura is staying with you for how long?"

"A few weeks maybe? She hasn't exactly said." It's a lie, but he doesn't want to admit he agreed for her to stay a month and a half.

Chiba speaks up for the first time, his eye-obscuring fringe of hair shifting in Nagisa's direction. "Weren't you dating some other girl? Kanade or something?"

Nagisa scratches the back of his head. "Ah well," he looks down at his lap. "We broke up awhile back."

"Still pining over Kayano." Hayami nods to herself.

"You're the one gossiping now, Hayami-san. I haven't seen Kayano-san in years. Sure we dated in high-school, but that doesn't mean much these days." But it does. He had always thought they would end up together, as naive as that sounded. It doesn't feel right to turn away from that dream for something that could only last a few weeks.

Terasaka finished his burger in two bites, then crumpled up the wrapping paper on the tray before him. "Alright, so what do you think about Nakamura, Nagisa? She ain't staying with you for no reason. Not like there aren't other places she could crash."

"If I knew what to think, I wouldn't have asked you guys in the first place."

"Well don't look at me!" Terasaka shakes his head. "I already told you my thoughts. She's up to something. Always is."

Hayami says. "She's just like Karma in that regard, but I don't think she has any bad intentions."

Terasaka raises his hands in defense. "I didn't say she was up to anything bad! Everybody saw how much she teased you, Nagisa."

"Well she did say she had a crush on me in middle school."

Silence, then pandemonium. Terasaka lunges over the table, grabbing Nagisa by the collar. "Oi, you should have led with that one, you asshole!"

"You don't think that's a bit relevant?" asks Chiba.

"Well, I mean-"

"It explains basically everything. Goddammit Nagisa you're as dense as Karasuma."

"So what do I do?"

"Whatever the fuck you want. Make some goddamn memories, Nagisa. Don't you think he would have wanted us to make the best of things?"

Hayami frowns. "As much as I don't want to agree with Terasaka-san, I do. No one from our class would do anything to hurt one another."

"But Kayano..."

"Never had a problem with you seeing other girls before," says Terasaka. "If anything wouldn't another Class E make her happier than some rando?"

"I too am forced to agree with Terasaka," says Chiba.

"Goddammit am I still the black sheep here? I'm right, of course you should agree with me!"

Nagisa smiles. Even this bickering is normal for them, and Terasaka's irritable response is exactly what he needed. "Thanks everyone. I appreciate the advice."

"You'll have to tell us how it goes," says Chiba. "Though knowing Nakamura, we'll all hear about it from her first."

"You're later than usual. Must be getting close to exams." Nakamura is waiting for him when he comes home. It's already dark out, and the lights in his apartment make him rub his eyes as he slips off his shoes.

"It never ends." Even after graduating and finding a true teaching job, the classes still struggle to take him seriously. Every now and then there's an "incident", as he calls it: a flash of that smile, a sudden touch on the shoulder, a sidestep that's just a bit too quick, enough for his students to know that even a 160 cm shrimp like him isn't worth messing with. It will be nice when they take the lessons seriously too, though that's the harder struggle, if anything.

"I think he'd be proud." Nagisa can't meet her misty eyes. There's more than just admiration there, and he's not sure if he can face that yet. "I made you dinner, by the way. It's probably cold now though."

Nagisa looks down at the convenience store bento in his hand then back up at Nakamura. "You didn't have to."

"Ah but I wanted to. We're both troublesome in our own ways, aren't we?"

"I'll eat it, then. Thanks, Nakamura-san."

He tosses his bento onto the counter to be forgotten, and sits before the plate she had covered for him. The pork cutlet is cold and overcooked, but he eats it anyway. "I hope you don't eat convenience store meals every night, Nagisa. You won't grow a bit."

Nagisa gives her a thin smile. "Unfortunately I think that ship has sailed. Now I can eat cheap food to my heart's content."

"Not while I'm here you won't. I'm not near the cook you are, so I'll just have to treat you to dinner out now and then."

"Your idea of a date?"

"If you want to call it that, I wouldn't mind." It seems like a weight has lifted from Nakamura's shoulders. She leans across the table, playing with the cuffs of her long-sleeved sweater.

"Just so you know, I've never been very good at dates."

"Yeah that's what Kayano-chan told me. I might have to dress you up in drag to even have a chance at a good time."

"Anything but that, I beg you." His words are solemn, but they're both grinning.

"It's no fun with your short hair anyway. I'll have to be satisfied with the normal you. I haven't been on a lot of dates recently though, so don't get mad if I'm rusty."

"Well we'll have something in common at least." There's something he needs to ask first, something that'll bother him until he gets it off his chest. "You talked to Kayano-san, right?"

"Yeah. Asked her permission and everything, even before I called you, even though it's only for a few weeks. I didn't want to get between you two."

"There was nothing to get between. She and I were-" he pauses, trying to find the right words. "Going different ways in life. We figured it was better to break things off amicably than ruin it."

Nakamura purses her lips. "I'm sorry. I know you liked her."

Nagisa takes a slow breath, remembering the words Koro-Sensei said to them on that last night. "That's life, right? I'm glad you're here, Nakamura. I'm sure Kayano would be happier to know I'm hanging out with someone from Class E than some outsider."

"She can be a real demon too. I think she's finally getting her revenge for all the teasing Karma and I put her through."

"With added interest on my behalf too, probably."

"Yep, you're lucky in your choice of exes at least."

Nagisa nods. He has so much to be thankful for, exes included. "Can I call you Rio, then?" The question is practically a whisper. He's never referred to anyone without an honorific before, not his best friend, not his old girlfriends. Somehow, with Nakamura, it just feels right though.

"Call me whatever you like, Nagisa."

"Did Karma-kun know? About your crush, I mean." It takes him almost a week to ask this. Rio smiles, wistful eyes staring past his, through him.

"You think I'd tell him, of all people?" Rio nearly falls off her chair laughing. "Not a chance, we teased other people. I'd never give him a chance to turn it back on me."

"It's not healthy to hold things in."

"Don't let Okajima hear you say that."

"Are we having a talk, or a boke-tsukkomi routine here?"

"A talk! Don't ruin this for me." Who was the one ruining what? He'd brought it up again, and wasn't sure if he should regret it yet. They'd been on two dates, as Rio would call them, though to Nagisa they were indistinguishable from dinners with friends.

Rio flops down on his couch, her arm dangled across her face. "He might have suspected? Who knows with him. I'm sure I gave out enough hints. I know I gave you enough. You're as dense as Karasuma-sensei, you know?"

"You're not the first to say that to me. Even he figured it out eventually," said Nagisa.

"Yeah, what does that say about you?"

She pats the couch next to her, and against every instinct, every voice of reason, he sits. "I was only ever good at a few things. Flirting was never one of them."

"Terrible flirter, great kisser. What a combo," Rio says absentmindedly. "Not that I'd know. Bitch-sensei never paired us up. Thank god for that, I guess."

"Might have been your only chance."

"It's no fun if it's not real." She looks up at him through strands of strawberry blond hair. "I'd rather imagine it forever than have it ruined by something so cold and sterile. Kayano-chan was your first right?"

"Bitch-Sensei was. You know that."

"Your first real one."

Nagisa isn't sure if that one counted. There was more bloodlust in the air than love at that time, and he'd had no time to reflect on it after the fact. "I guess."

"She misses you."

"She doesn't need me, not right now."

"Typical Shiota Nagisa, only cares about whether or not he's useful. Ever thought that some people might want to see you, you damned recluse?"

She takes his arm and pulls him down. He lets her, resigning himself to be the little spoon. That's one thing that's not going to change anytime soon. Nagisa is intimately aware of her chest (which is bigger than it looks) pressing into his back, and the warm tickle of her breath on the back of his neck. "You could stand to give a girl a call now and then, right?"

"Kayano-san, or you?"

"Take your pick." Rio lets out a long breath. "You should have kept your hair long, Nagisa. I always liked how you tied it up."

He wriggles just enough to give her a sidelong glance. "As if I need to look more like a girl. I haven't grown a centimeter, and I'm still skinny as a rail."

"Stop it. You're more of a man than anyone I know. After what we went through, after what you did, how could anyone call you less? If I wanted a stereotype, I'd love Terasaka or Sugino instead of you."

"I'm not sure a middle school crush is worthy of being called love."

"You don't have to be in love with someone to love them."

"I could say that about anyone in E class though."

"Yeah but that would make this weird, and I'm really hoping to sneak a kiss from you before that happens."

Nagisa rolls onto his side. She's taller than him, though that's nothing new. He has to crane his neck to look into her eyes. "You won't regret it?"

"Haven't regretted anything in twenty-five years and I don't plan to start now." She pulls him closer, adjusting her position so she doesn't smother him like Bitch-Sensei nearly did. "And of all the things I could regret, this one is low on the list. Shoulda done this like ten years ago."

"Quit squirming, you're warm." Rio pulls the sheets around them, curling her body around Nagisa's as if to soak up all his body heat. She rests her head on his collar, and he reflexively pulls her close. Rio isn't like Kayano, who's so slender even Nagisa could hold her with one arm. Rio is soft and full, an almost suffocating presence. Still panting from their exertions, he runs his hand through her silky hair, peeling it back from her sweat-streaked face. "Ah, you look like you had as much fun as I did."

He'll never admit that to her, not directly at least. He averts his gaze, staring up at the ceiling even as she grins that smug grin of hers. "I want to enjoy the rest of the time we have together."

"You really aren't any good at flirting." She turns his head down, and he sees a flash of blue eyes before their lips touch. It's an 8-count kiss, simple by their metrics, but they part with flushed cheeks all the same. "Of course we'll enjoy it. Now that I charmed you into my bed-"

"My bed."

"-Back into your bed, I won't let you regret it." She pauses, a furtive look passing across her face. "You won't regret it, right? I never asked you."

"I won't. There was no reason for me to push you away. Whether this lasts for another week, a year, or forever. I won't regret it."

"Mmn, saying it like that makes me wish I could take you with me."

"And I wish I could make you stay."

"Yeah, but we've all got places to be." She knows he won't leave his students, and if she really loves him, she wouldn't try to tear him away. It's the same with him. Nagisa couldn't bear to keep her from traveling. So he'll kill that desire within himself, for her sake. That's what he was taught to do in times like this. That's what he did for Koro-Sensei, for Kayano, and now for Rio. It doesn't matter whether she's here with him or half the world away.

"Just like two shooting stars in the same night sky. Beautiful for a moment, then gone."

"You make that sound a lot more romantic than a girl trying to pump and dump a guy, you know?" Rio lets out a content sigh. "You're right though. You could say the same about our year in class-E, just a moment in the grand scheme of things, but I'll never forget any of it. Sometimes I think that I'd appreciate it less if it lasted forever. Ruin the memory, you know?"

Nagisa isn't sure, and by the time he's close to an answer, Rio is already asleep.

The next morning, Rio has her phone out, already embarking on what she calls the "Got-Laid Parade". "It's a virtual victory lap," she explains. "And no, I won't tell Karma."

"I guess I'll have to then."

He springs back as Rio dives for his phone. "You better not Nagisa! He'll never let us hear the end of it!"

Nagisa sidesteps a desperate lunge and skips around to the other side of the breakfast table. "It's ringing, should I put it on speaker?" Rio's face is bright red, her body lowered into a fighting stance as she scans the room for her chance to strike. "Ah, Karma-kun."

The voice on the other end of the phone sounds more confused than anything. "Something up, Nagisa? You don't usually call."

"I just thought I'd call to catch up real quick."

"During breakfast? On a Saturday morning?"

"Well there's someone here who wants to say hello." He tosses the phone to Rio, who snatches it out of the air with ease.

She has every opportunity to shut it off, but she doesn't. She just flips Nagisa the bird and raises the phone to her ear. "Hey Karma, what's going on? Yeah, I thought I told you I was staying with Nagisa. No. Yeah. Well yeah. For awhile now, no need to get heated! Sorry, I didn't see your fucking name written on him anywhere, I'll check again tonight! No I didn't make him dress up like a girl! I'm boring? Say that to my face and we'll see what happens. Yeah, talk to you next week. Normal time right? Yup. See ya."

"Somehow I'm really glad that wasn't on speaker."

"Yeah yeah," Rio says as she hands back the phone. "Look at you, Nagisa. You sleep with one hot chick and your confidence goes through the roof. I'll pay you double for that one tonight."

"You should let me meet your class!"

Nagisa glances up at her, unsure if she's serious. He's resting his head on her lap after a long day of exactly the sort of punishment he'd hoped to avoid when he signed up to teach. After his first day he envied Koro-sensei's speed, and after two weeks he'd envied his regeneration. It's been two years, and he doesn't envy anything about Koro-sensei anymore. Forget being an assassin, being the target was the real trouble. "That's a terrible idea. I tried to meet up with Kayano-san once, and they still haven't let me forget it."

"So? She's a famous movie star. I can just be your mysterious gyaru girlfriend."

"Yeah, that's set to leave in a week."

"All the more mysterious." She grins down at him, blue eyes twinkling, and he's not sure if she's teasing him or not. "If you keep talking about killing and such, they'll start thinking you're an actual assassin with an assassin girlfriend. Oh! We could even get Bitch-Sensei to swing around and really convince them."

"Am I an accomplice now? I'd prefer to minimize the attempts on my life."

"How are they ever going to assassinate you by graduation if I don't give them a bit of a hand?"

"I'm more worried about them passing their finals. Honestly some of them are worse than Class E."

"Now that I'd like to see!"

"I don't even have a bounty on my head, but they're more eager to put me down than we ever were."

"Hey, we turned out alright though."

He cups her cheek. "Yeah, I guess we did." And as she nuzzles into his hand, he says, "Maybe next year I'll have a class actually worth showing off. Then I'll introduce you."

"Like that will ever happen. It's delinquents for life. Nobody from Class E gets it easy."

"Please don't say that, you're seriously gonna curse me."

Nagisa leans on the wall of the entrance hall as Rio fiddles with her boots. Her three suitcases stand in a precarious stack by the door. After half a minute of struggling, she stands with a satisfied grunt, spinning in place to face him. "Want me to walk you down to the cab?" he asks. "You look like you might need help with those."

"Who do you think you're talking to? I lugged these across Europe for more than a year. Besides, I don't like goodbyes at the roadside. I'd hate to have your neighbors see you sob." She giggles. "Ah, you're basically immune to my attacks now. I really gotta go, or I'll never get you to fidget ever again. Next time I swing around, you better be all nervous and shifty again ok? No maturity allowed. Otherwise Karma and I will have to find someone new to make fun of." Rio gives him an expectant look, pursing her lips. "Come over here and kiss me, I'm starting to ramble."

He joins her, and she sinks into his hug. Even with the lip of the threshold she's still a head taller than him. "I can't promise I'll come back, because I don't know when that'll be."

"It's ok."

"And I can't promise I'll text every day, because I'm careless and I'll probably forget."

"So would I."

"And I can't promise that... I can't promise that I'll love you forever, because one day I might not anymore."

"I couldn't blame you for that."

She sniffs back a sob and pulls away, just far enough to look him in the eye. He can feel her tears on his jacket, and his on his cheeks. "But I'll remember. These six weeks were the happiest days of my life. When you lay down to sleep I'll wake up remembering, and when you wake up, I'll be going to bed praying for a dream of you."

Rio pulls him into a deep kiss, and when they part her tears have mostly dried. She releases a long sigh. "I've said everything I needed to, Nagisa. I came here to confess, and I did. I never expected you to reciprocate my feelings. I'm glad to have met you. Even if we never see each other again, I'll always remember this time we had together."

"I don't know what I can do now," Nagisa says. It's all too much. He was never any good at goodbyes. How can he just return to his normal life now, after everything she's given him?

"You were always stronger than me, Nagisa. I'm gonna be blubbering the whole flight, believe me. You'll find your way. I just know it." Rio smiles through her tears. "That's what I love most about you."

"Rio, I won't let you down."

"You never have." She gathers up her bags and turns for the door. "Be sure to call Kayano-chan every now and then ok? She'll get lonely otherwise."

"What about you?"

"That's a given! I'll be mad if you just ignore me, and I'll tell everyone you played with my heart. Not that they'd believe me."

"I'll be sure to call you, Rio. We may be headed in different directions, but I'll always be your friend. In another life, I'd like to think it would have worked between us."

"Hey, no saying stuff like that. It's not nice to make a girl cry. I'll see you around, Nagisa. I love you." The door opens and shuts again, and the apartment grows cold around him, just as it was six weeks before. After a moment he composes himself, stumbles back to the bedroom and curls up on the still-warm sheets. He pulls the pillow to his chest, wishing that it was her.

Nagisa sets the stack of essays aside and leans back in his chair, rubbing his eyelids. These kids were relentless. One would think that a new class would bring new struggles, a new year new faces, new aspirations. But even when winter turned to spring and then winter again, his troubles remained the same. Maybe this is how the world chooses to pay him back for his time under the best teacher who had ever lived. Rio had said, during those six weeks so long ago, that he was Koro-Sensei's final legacy. He hadn't truly accepted that then. Now he has no choice. It's only a small comfort that he's survived a year and a half, but at least it's only the class trying to kill him.

As it stands, half the class won't graduate this year, no matter how many remedial lessons he provides. The essays stacked across his cramped desk are the product of weeks of labor. For the first time this year, every student submitted a paper. Now the trouble comes with grading them. He's taken to doing the work between classes, during his lunch, on the train home, anytime he can spare a moment, because all other times are spent fending off rowdy students or else corralling them back into the dilapidated classroom.

There would be no time for lunch today. His afternoon was packed with supplementary material, and he'd promised four of the boys that he would join them for one of their judo practices. He had to do more than teach. Just like Koro-Sensei, he would do everything he could to be a part of these kids' lives, even if it meant that Kayano-san's bento would be uneaten. After all the work she'd put into it too.

"Shiota-sensei!" The door to the faculty room slides open, and Nagisa swivels on his seat.

"Maeda-san, what can I help you with?"

The lumbering form of Maeda Ryuutaro steps into the faculty room. He inclines his head a fraction before dropping into the chair across from Nagisa's desk, a crumpled sheet of paper held tight in two grizzled hands. "Teach, this linear algebra stuff. I just can't wrap my head around it."

Nagisa takes the paper from Maeda and looks it over. "This is the homework from last week, you're still looking over it?"

"At this rate, I won't pass the next exam. I don't want to get held back."

"You've improved incredibly since the start of the year Maeda-san. We'll get over this hill just like all the others. Let's take a look at this third problem first. You were really close here." Maeda leans closer as Nagisa pulls a pen from his waistcoat. In the middle of analyzing the problem, his phone buzzes, and he ignores it. "How does that look?"

"Makes more sense than it did before," says Maeda, glaring down at the ink-marked page.

"You can use that as a template for the others. Since you're so driven to complete that assignment, I'll give you extra credit for every problem you return correct." He slips the phone out of his pocket and activates it. The name on the message sets his heart racing. Rio.

"You serious, Teach?" Maeda asks.

"Absolutely, I want you all to succeed. Do your best and we'll get those grades back on track!" He tabs open the message, reading the subject line first.

Made me think of you

He scrolls down to an image of the night sky taken from a hotel balcony, and a pair of shooting stars.