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15 September 2014 @ 07:25 pm
If a Picture Paints a Thousand Words (2/4) (for nightbaron079)  
Title: If a Picture Paints a Thousand Words
Rating: Teens and Up
Genre: Romance, slice of life
Word Count: 30, 941
Recipient: nightbaron079
Summary: University AU.
Author’s note:
The request was basically University AU, slow build, and Yuto in the photography club. This was subtitled “Horikoshi clusterfuck fic of doom” when me and my beta looked through it. It’s that bad. I hope recipient-sama likes it anyway? My brain interpreted “slow-build” as “long ass fic”, and interpreted “Horikoshi students could appear too” as “everyone should be here”. The title is from the song If.


Continued from Part 1

---

Yamada’s TTh schedule was harsher than his other one. Tuesdays and Thursdays were hell in comparison to the easy MWF schedule. And that was because his class starts at 8 am. Who goes to class at 8 am? Freshmen or nerds who can’t get enough of school, that’s who! Yamada was neither. He was not even a morning person. He hated waking up early.

Choosing an 8 am class out of desperation and need for an English elective was the worst idea he’s had in years.

“Ryosuke! Yamada!”

There was a loud pounding on his door. A loud, annoying pounding that was giving him a headache. He moaned in protest, smothering his face on the pillow.

“I swear to god if you don’t open up right now!”

Ah. There was that tone. Yamada felt a strong shiver run down his spine as flashbacks of his little sister dumping water on him or his mom pulling his blanket away under him ran through his mind. “I’m waking up!” He said hurriedly, sitting up without any grace and almost falling off his bed. “I’m waking up!”

“You left your phone on the living room table!” Shida sounded extremely annoyed. Her Thursday classes starts at noon, so she almost always slept in. Yamada felt her anger through his door, like a black aura ready to choke him if he doesn’t do something. “It’s 7:40 already!”

“WHAT?!”

Instincts and years of practice took over as he changed his clothes (showers are for non-stressed people) and took his things into his bag haphazardly (cleanliness and order are for people who does not have 8 am classes). He barrelled into the door, saying a quick “I’ll be off!” to Shida before running down the hall.

His English professor was a terror. An actual, legit terror professor. The one whose name would send fear down the spines of future generations. The type to call on students and send them away when they answer incorrectly. The type you could imagine cackling at night as she graded papers and marked them with a huge fat ‘FAIL’. Oomasa-sensei was evil incarnate for all her students. She was tall and the most beautiful teacher in the English department, but everything is just there to lure students into hell.

Yamada tried to change classes after his first day, but to no avail. Life is just unfair.



Life was extremely unfair, really.

Yamada arrived in his class with a few minutes to spare, opening the door and feeling like he just ran a marathon through the desert. His bedhead was obvious and his clothes were crumpled and he wasn’t fresh at all.

On the other hand, Yuto, who he had seen only two days prior, was sitting beside his usual chair- 3 rows up, in the middle of the long table, away from the aisle- with a bright smile, perfect hair and ironed clothes. What the actual hell?

“You-” Yamada rushed over to him, suddenly feeling conscious of how untidy he looks. Would Yuto change his mind now that he knew how Yamada looked like at 8 in the morning? “Why are you here?” He asked with a frown.

Yuto continued smiling, looking fresh as a daisy. “Visiting! I’m going to sit-in.”

Yamada blinked. “Sit-in?” He groaned, putting his bag down on the side. “You’re too bright for a class like this. Get away from me.” He sat on his usual chair and dropped his head on the table.

Yuto peeked at him, leaning his head sideways on the table and staring at Yamada. “But I brought you coffee?”

Sitting up with wide eyes, Yamada glanced at the tabletop in front of Yuto. There was a frappucino with [Yuto] written on it and a styrofoam cup with [Yama-chan] written on the side. “Hot coffee?” He asked breathlessly, looking hopeful.

“With a shot of hazelnut.” Yuto added, grinning proudly.

Yamada made grabby hands at it, eyeing it with hunger. “You’re an angel. Stay forever.” He said as Yuto slid it in front of him. “Be my coffee dealer.”

“So sweet.” Yuto chuckled. “You got me. I want to be your coffee dealer forever.”

“Yes.” Yamada just nodded, inhaling the sweet and bitter scent. The warmth in his hands was really nice and made him want to coo at the cup. Such a lifesaver. Why did he ever think Yuto was a stalker? He was obviously the angel sent to give Yamada life. “Ah,” Before he could wax poetry about how great Yuto was, a thought registered in his mind. “But Oomasa-sensei.” He groaned. Oh sweet, perfect hazelnut coffee, I don’t want to part with you.

“Hm?” Yuto tilted his head to the right. “What’s wrong with Aya-sensei?”

Yamada stared at him in disbelief. “Did you just-” But the door opened before he could ask anything. And in came the terror professor.

Oomasa-sensei looked around, probably thinking of how to scare the students best or who she would like to bully today. After a brief perusal of the classroom from the back row to the front, her eyes zoomed in on Yuto. And by extension, Yamada too.

“Oh god.” Yamada muttered, wondering if this was the day he would be sent home. Was Yuto the devil instead of the angel? His hands shook from where they were clutching the coffee cup on top of the table.

“Aya-sensei!” Yuto was undeterred by Oomasa-sensei’s unblinking stare. “I came to visit you! I brought you coffee!” He was all smiles and cheerful tones, and everyone in the classroom was obviously trying not to gasp or groan or react at all. Everyone waited with baited breath.

A smile appeared on Oomasa-sensei’s face. A smile. “You’re a good kid.” She said, laughing softly. Laughing softly.

Yamada’s entire world view was disintegrating in front of his eyes. Yuto enthusiastically pointed towards the table where a cup was sitting with a post-it on the lid. [For Ayachan-sensei] it said. Is it this easy to break down the terror professor’s shield?

“Ah, class.” Her voice turned to its normal stern tone as she looked at everyone else. “This is Nakajima-kun. He aced all his papers in this class. You should be more like him... Such a good kid.”

Oh. That was the point, huh? Oomasa-sensei liked smart students.

Well, Yamada would rather not look the gift horse in the mouth. If this would mean Oomasa-sensei would mellow down for the day, he’d take it.



Yuto was an angel. The verdict was out on that one. Oomasa-sensei definitely acted kinder, spoke calmer and didn’t make anyone cry at all today. The whole class was dismissed five minutes before their class time ended. It was amazing. Almost everyone crowded around their table when their professor dismissed the class, clapping Yuto on the back and thanking him for a job well done.

“Man,” Yamada walked beside him out of the class, dumping the empty coffee cup into the garbage can outside. “You should do that all the time.”

Yuto laughed loud and clear before grinning at him mischievously. “I would.” He said slowly, elongating the word. “If you buy me coffee next time.” The sentence was accompanied by a wink and a toothy grin.

Out of its own accord, Yamada’s cheeks turned red and he felt all warm. That is definitely flirting.

Or so he thought, until Yuto saw Chinen, a student council member Yamada vaguely remembered from seeing him around campus, and rushed over to the guy. He immediately placed an arm around the smaller boy’s shoulder, smiling sweetly and asking “Did you miss me?”

“Yuto, star of my life, how long have we not seen each other?” Chinen replied dramatically, slipping an arm behind Yuto’s waist.

“Too long, Chii, too long.”

Yamada just rolled his eyes and moved on, slipping into the crowd on the way to their next classes. Some people just flirted as a way of dealing with friends, he thought.



After a day filled with insufferable subjects- Math 27 was a class Yamada likes to pretend doesn’t actually exist- Yamada went down to the field with a mind tired of everything and a body thrumming for action. He just wanted to run and run and run. Until his whole body was as tired as his brain. That would put some stability in his day, he reckoned.

When he arrived though, everyone was just sluggishly kicking the balls towards the field. The goalkeeper was lazily picking them up.

Ryutaro, who was arranging the soccer balls on the container at the side, eyed the whole team with active disdain. “Why am I picking up balls when all of you suck?” He mumbled sulkily.

Yamada would be amused by that, but then he really wanted a good practice today. “What’s happening?” He asked, walking over to Ryutaro’s side. Shuhei, the goalkeeper, glanced at them once before going back to doing his thing. He looked so lethargic. “Where’s Suzu?”

That’s the problem.” Ryutaro said, scrunching up his nose in disgust. “Suzuka-senpai asked Mirai-senpai to watch over everyone since she’ll be off somewhere doing some paperworks. Mirai-senpai would arrive in a few minutes.” He motioned towards the entirety of their team. “Everyone’s unmotivated.”

“Micchan isn’t that bad.” Yamada tried to reason weakly.

His statement was met by the blank stares of his whole team. And a soccer ball to the back of his head. "Ouch!" He exclaimed, turning around to see who it was.

“You’re such a good friend.” Shida flatly said as she walked towards them. She took one look at the whole field and rolled her eyes, snickering to herself. “Suzu would be so disappointed of you when she sees you like this.” She cooed condescendingly. “I’ll report everything to her, you know, and I’ve got such a great memory.”

There was a collective groan from the whole team as they sprung into action. Yamada just rubbed the back of his head and scowled at her direction. “What was that for?”

“You woke me up earlier.” Shida said, sticking out her tongue. “Payback’s a bitch.”

He wanted to retort back to that, really he did, but she had a point. Waking up early on a day when you’re supposed to sleep in sucks. He would know that better than anyone else, being the non-morning person that he is. “Yeah, sorry about that.” He said instead.

“Were you late for class?”

He shook his head no. “Barely got there in time.” He shrugged. “Was saved by Yuto though, so…”

She raised an eyebrow at that, lips twitching into a half-smile. “Yuto?”

“The, uh, not-stalker.” He said as way of explanation. “He brought me coffee in my English class.”

“Oooh.” She practically bounced on her heels, shifting closer to grin at him. “Flirting?” She waggled her eyebrows teasingly.

He rolled his eyes. “No.” He said, quite sure now after thinking about it for half the day. “I think it’s just how he is. He flirts with everyone?” He laughed then, remembering the smile on Oomasa-sensei’s face. “He brought coffee for my professor too.”

“Oomasa-sensei?” She asked, eyes wide. “He’s got courage, I give you that.”

“She melted.” He shared, still not quite over it. “Like butter.”

She laughed as well, expression disbelieving. “This Yuto of yours sounds interesting. You should bring him home some time.”

He smiled wryly and muttered, “Bring him home, she says…” He just let that go, already gearing up to play soccer after all that stress from today. She waved him off and sat on the bench so he ran over to the line of kickers in front of the goal. He spent the whole time running laps with everyone, doing jump drills and trying to score goals off a pissed off Shuhei.

---

Yuto liked the photography club room. It smelled like newly developed film most of the time, and the darkroom is always available for use. The clutter of pictures and equipments around the room gave it a homey feeling, like instead of being in the university, he’s just in his hobby room at home.

He loved the people in it too, despite the fact that he did not go here all the time like most members.

Daiki Arioka, a graduating senior and the president of the club, sat on one of the chairs in the middle, eyes trained on his laptop as he scrolled through whatever he was looking at. Yuto sat across from him, elbows deep into his homework. “Hey,” Daiki looked up with a huge grin, seemingly excited about something. “Look at this.”

Yuto blinked a few times before nodding, leaning closer as Daiki turned his laptop screen towards Yuto.

The site was a blog of a certain old man with graying hair, based on his blog banner on top. He was clutching on an Olympus SP-100 camera as he looked on to the sights below him. Yuto wanted to drool at the beautiful camera. He wanted something like that; though he had no use for superzoom cameras at the moment.

“So?”

Yuto brought his attention back to the eager Daiki. “What am I supposed to look at?” He asked. “That camera the mister has is beautiful, though.”

Daiki rolled his eyes and scrolled down to an entry. “Here. He posted pictures from his apprentice.” He explained. “It’s really nice. I mean, amateur for sure, but there’s just… like, warmth in it? Not to mention, the two models are really cute together.”

“Wha-” Yuto continued to stare at the pictures without moving, because this was Yamada and Mirai sitting on a couch, their sides pressed together as they laughed while watching something behind the camera. There were four pictures, like a story, with them increasingly happy with each one.

“It looks like the kind of thing you only see when a couple is newly married and moves together, right? Those smiles, you can’t fake that. And that chemistry too! The angle and lighting utilizes it and-”

“I know this guy.” Yuto uttered, cutting him off. “Oh. Yama-chan probably lives together with his girlfriend.” He said, nodding to himself. “I knew it. He does look really cute in pictures, doesn’t he? His eyes just shine! He's so photogenic.” Yuto was glad to see another evidence that Yamada was the perfect choice.

Daiki gaped at him. “You know this model?” He leaned closer, wide-eyes showing clear enthusiasm. “Do you think he could introduce me to this apprentice and then maybe I could-”

Yuto moved away from his upperclassman, plastering his back on the chair. “Dai-chan!”

“But I’m your senpai and I’m graduating and I need a job, Yuto.” Daiki was doing that puppy eyes, pouting thing that shouldn’t be possible because he’s older than Yuto and also practically an adult.

There was no helping it. “I could ask him about the photographer when we meet some time.”

“Really?!” Daiki’s whole face brightened. “Introduce him to me, okay? That would be so cool. I’ve been following this blog for years and his apprentice sounds really good too.”

Yuto smiled, getting influenced by Daiki’s high tension. “Leave it to me.”



After that, they settled into silence again, Daiki stalking blogs after blogs while Yuto went back to writing his outline for a paper due next week. When he was done, Yuto excused himself and packed his things immediately. He needed fresh air and a walk after thinking about that paper too much.

He decided to walk the longest way from the photography club room to the Tsubasa office. That way, he could clear his head before dropping in and asking for the next match lineups he had to cover.

When he rounded the corner to the next hallway though, he caught sight of a familiar back walking out of the administrations office. Suzuka was carrying her bag and was looking through a bunch of papers as she walked away.

“Suzu!” He called out, jogging up to her. “Hey!”

She looked up in surprise, hastily shoving the papers into her bag. “Hey…” She greeted back, forcing a smile.

Quirking an eyebrow up, he asked, “Another secret?”

“Uh,” She looked away guiltily. “Yeah, sorry.” She shrugged. “Official scholarship, boring things.”

Yuto nodded, knowing how problematic those documents could be. No one really wanted to talk about those with him, since he could not relate anyway and it was just a sore topic for everyone who has to undergo that process. “Good luck with that then.”

She looked back at him and smiled. “Yeah, thanks.” She looked down at her watch, frowning a bit. “I should hurry. Mirai-chan’s with the soccer team.”

He blinked, unsure of what that meant. “Um… Okay?”

She hurried off, leaving him staring at her retreating form. A whole minute later, he shrugged that off and walked towards his destination once again. Suzuka would tell him what it is in time. He would just have to wait until she was ready. It was not any good to dwell on things like that.

Walking forward like that, he reached the Tsubasa office in no time. Knocking two times, he slowly opened the door and was greeted by the usual occupants sitting across from each other on the side of the room, both with open sketchbooks in front of them. Hikaru was drawing Inoo’s face in a realistic style, while Inoo was making what looks like a general outline of this building.

“Awww,” Yuto strode in, stopping by Hikaru’s side. “That looks good.”

Hikaru grinned. “I try.” He shrugged. “It’s filled with love!”

Yuto laughed, glancing over to Inoo who was just rolling his eyes. “And that looks great too.” He pointed at Inoo’s sketch. “You have it committed to memory?”

“I’ve practically lived in this building for five years, Yuto. Of course I do.” Inoo said sassily. He then smiled, weakening the effect of his tone to a teasing one instead. “And, are you here to ask the advice of the great 5th years or…?”

Yuto smiled. “I was just going to ask about the matches I had to take pictures of.” He said. “There’s a new list for after the midterms, right?”

Hikaru looked at him with a raised eyebrow. “You know, I can never tell if you’re a diligent child or you’re just overly excitable.” He mused out loud. “You are very confusing."

Yuto pouted. "I'm diligent!"

"And overly excitable," Inoo added with a smile. "Yuto's diligent when he's excited about something."

Somehow, it felt like they were dissing him good-naturedly, but he couldn't get where it was coming from. "I'm always diligent."

"Okay." Inoo conceded, indulging him. "Have you planned your photoshoot yet?"

"I have a model and a shoot location!" He said, sounding childishly argumentative. "I've got it."

"We're proud of you." Hikaru said, actually patting him on the arm and giving him his patented senpai-smile. "Is Suzuka going to be your model?" He asked, turning a bit serious.

"No." Yuto shook his head. "Ryosuke Yamada."

"Oh!" Hikaru smiled brightly, seemingly excited about the news. "He's cute! Good job!"

Yuto laughed. "Yeah, he is."

The conversation devolved to everyday things then, like Inoo's architecture thesis he finished last semester, and Hikaru's part-time as a mangaka assistant, and Yuto's never ending lists of activities for the weekend. It was fun, just being able to talk like that.

---

Friday morning, Yamada wakes up unexpectedly early at 8:20 am; plenty of time to groan about not wanting to wake up, and still make it out of the room with time to spare. He blearily looked around the empty living room, wondering where he placed his laptop yesterday. It was on top of the kitchen counter today, beside an empty bag of chips.

He might as well check his e-mail to get that out of the way. He had slept as soon as he came home after practice so he couldn’t look at it yesterday. His Math 27 professor said he would have an announcement soon.

[Class,

The midterm exams are scheduled on June 16 and 17. TTh classes on 16 and MWF on 17. Please be sure to bring a pen and a calculator. Excused absences are only accepted when approved by the Dean’s Office.]

The midterm exams are almost just a week from now. The Tuesday after next week’s.

Yamada stared at the screen for a long time, wondering to himself why the hell he even opened it this early. It was the worst start to a day. Just thinking of that exam sent shivers down his spine. Why is math hard even with calculators, anyway? Isn’t the calculator supposed to make things easier?

He sighed and scrolled down the messages, marking almost half of it as spam.

Then, he got to a message from [Yuto Nakajima] with the subject [Hey, Yama-chan…]. He opened it immediately, curiosity winning over cautiousness.

[I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, but my friends and I are going to study together tomorrow to help each other out, and I’ve heard you have problems in some of your subjects. I thought I could offer some help? You’re my precious model, after all. I wouldn’t want you to have wrinkles.]

Yuto Nakajima was weird, Yamada had realized that already. So this message just reinforced the idea some more. He was, certainly, an angel though. There’s always that. It has been proven and tested. And Yuto did ace Oomasa-sensei’s English class, so accepting this offer sounded like the perfect solution to Yamada’s grade problems. He could handle Yuto’s unique flirting-filled friendship if it’s for the greater good!

Sending out a quick [I would love to join you. Send me the details?], he smiled and went on to prepare for the day. His mood was definitely not in the dumps anymore.



He was early for his Art History class too, so he was one of the first people to arrive in the classroom. Sitting on his right side was a Biology major named Shougo. The guy was pretty much the only one Yamada knew, since he wasn’t exactly known for being good with strangers. (Shida and Kamiki were in charge of that.) Shougo had introduced himself on the first day, saying “can I get your number? I’m scared I’ll pass out somehow in the middle of the semester and end up absent in all my classes”. Yamada took pity on the guy and decided to help him out. University life was hard, and students should band together to get through it all.

Today though, Shougo looked extremely chipper, smile wide and fingers tapping an upbeat tune on his armchair. “Good morning!” He greeted enthusiastically as soon as Yamada sat down beside him.

“Good morning.” Yamada simply nodded. Even if he was fine enough, mornings are still not his favorite part of the day.

Shougo snickered disapprovingly as his behavior, scooting back a bit to reach down his bag for something. Suddenly, a rain of shiny confetti fell down on Yamada’s head and Shougo’s grin widened more. “You should cheer up!” He said.

“That-” Yamada gaped at the other guy in disbelief. “That’s littering.” He said, unable to process just what happened.

Rolling his eyes, Shougo took a mini sweeper from his bag and cleaned the confetti on the floor. “That was supposed to cheer you up.” He said childishly. “You’re so gloomy in the morning.”

“That’s because waking up for classes is hard.”

“It was still supposed to cheer you up.”

“The thought is appreciated.” Yamada deadpanned, picking stray pieces of confetti from his hair. “Why do you even have confetti and a sweeper in your bag? What does the biology people do?”

Shougo laughed at his incredulous tone, enjoying Yamada’s confusion. “It’s for my org. Pre-med honor society would have a party this weekend.” His eyes brightened. “You should come!”

Yamada did not like parties. He was the stay-at-home type, manga-reading variant. But saying that to someone always seemed to end with ‘you should go out more!’ so instead, he said, “I have plans, sorry. Study session.” Which, actually, was not a lie. Thank you, Yuto-kun.

“Oh.” Shougo nodded, sighing. “We’re just having a party because that’s the last day of freedom before midterms come.” He shared.

“Ugh, midterms.”

Yeah.”

And with that, they both went silent as they thought about how much exams sucked. Minutes later, their Art History professor came in and told them their exam would be on June 19, the Friday after the next. Exams sucked so much.

---

Yuto had obsessively checked his e-mail since yesterday, and when he received a reply this morning, he had jumped in joy and told Chinen that Phase One of ‘Make my Precious Model Happy and Free of Stress’ plan was a-go.

Too excited about the said development, he decided to visit soccer practice and confirm the place and date with the person himself.

He came a bit early though. The team was still doing running drills, the boys looking tired but energetically going through each line to do footwork properly. He decided to just stay on the side, snapping pictures every now and then to capture the moment. He could send it to Suzuka later, probably.

Speaking of Suzuka, she was sitting on her usual bench, filling up some forms quietly.

“Suzu!” He strode over to her, smiling as she looked up. “How much time left until practice ends?”

Her lips curved into an amused smile. “Are you going to bother Yama-chan again?”

“I’m not bothering him!” He responded, eyes wide and innocent. “I just wanted to tell him about the study-” He stopped, an idea forming in his mind. “Me and Chii are going to help him out in the subjects he’s having a hard time with. Do you want to join us?” Having someone he knew would probably help Yamada become more at ease. “You’re worried about him, aren’t you?”

She blinked, probably surprised by the idea. “That is very sweet of you.” She said, slowly. “I’ve been really worried about his grades, so… If you would have me.” She bowed her head a bit.

“Okay!” He nodded happily, already thinking of how awesome tomorrow would be. “Ah, then, tell Yama-chan we’d meet in the main library genref stacks at 12 am? I have to tell Chii.”

“Yeah, I will.”



Yuto whistled as he walked to the student council room, his body buzzing with energy. It felt really good when friends came together to help other friends. Thinking of Yamada as his friend now was really nice too. It has only been five days since they formally met, but Yuto has always been good at making friends so this was no wonder.

“You look really happy.” Chinen groaned as soon as Yuto opened the door. “You’re so happy and here I am,” he motioned to his whole being. “Still perfect but very tired.”

Yuto just laughed at that, taking the seat next to him and placing his hands on his shoulders, massaging lightly. “I have good news.” He announced. “Yama-chan agreed to join us, and Suzu said she’ll help us too.”

Chinen sighed deeply. “I could already see it.” He said. “You’re gonna owe me a whole DVD box set of Maou and I would be more tired.”

“Haven’t you bought that already?” Yuto asked, eyebrows furrowing. He might as well focus on the easiest part of that statement.

“Mine is signed by Ohno-kun.” Chinen shrugged. “I don’t want to open it.”

Yuto laughed again and continued rubbing Chinen’s shoulder. “I’ll buy you anything you want.” He promised. “We just have to help Yama-chan and then we could marathon Maou as much as we want.”

Chinen relaxed more and more as seconds passed. “Yeah,” he said, after a while. “You really have to do that.”



After giving Chinen the details for their meet-up the next day and making sure he was well-rested enough, Yuto proceeded to his next destination. Shougo had sent him a message, asking him to meet up at the Museum Cafe. He had something important to say, he said.

When he arrived there, Shougo was already lounging in front of the counter. “Shou!” He greeted as soon as he came in. “What’s up?”

Shougo grinned mischievously, reaching down his pocket and then throwing a handful of confetti unto Yuto’s head. “Yuto!”

Yuto couldn’t help the laugh that escaped him. “Eh?!”

“See! That’s the right reaction!” Shougo exclaimed, looking extremely satisfied. Yabu just rolled his eyes behind the counter, and Yuya grumbled at the side about cleaning up trash. “You’re such a good guy!”

Narrowing his eyes, Yuto asked, “Did you ask me to go here just to throw confetti at me?”

Shougo chuckled, shaking his head. “Nah,” He pulled another thing from his pocket, this time a rectangular piece of paper about the size of a ⅛ index card. “Pre-med honor society’s hosting a let’s get drunk before midterms kill us party. I got you a ticket.”

“Oh.” Yuto took the ticket and examined the date and time. “I don’t think I can make it.” He frowned. “Study session.”

He blinked, jaw falling open. “Why are everyone studying a week before the midterms week? What kind of life are you living?!” He gasped.

“You were the one complaining about being zombies by day.” Yabu chimed up, shaking his head and handing the frappucino to the boy.

“Zombies have more life than these guys.” Shougo complained. “We’re zombies who party.” He took the drink and pouted to himself. “I used to like you, Yuto. I used to like you.”

“Say that again after midterms, I dare you.” Yuya challenged as he swept the floor beside Yuto.

Yuto just sighed, letting the two bet and bypassing Shougo to go to Yabu instead. “My usual, please.” He was not going to party, but he was pretty sure he would have a better time anyway.

---

Yamada knew this was a good idea, at least fundamentally. Yuto specifically said it was to help each other with the subjects they were bad at. It was a group tutor session. A give-and-take for everyone.

But right now, being left alone with a sleepy Yuri “student council little demon” Chinen, he was not sure this was really as good as he originally thought. They were introduced briefly when everyone was gathered, a simple hello-nice-to-meet-you exchange. And then Yuto and Suzuka decided to go to the nearest starbucks to buy coffee for their session.

Yamada was really bad at handling new people.

Chinen sighed and looked around the table, eyes zooming in on Suzuka’s notebooks visibly. A slow smirk appeared on his face as he reached over and snatched it, opening to the last page with written notes and doodling immediately on the corner.

“H-hey…” Yamada called out weakly. “What are you-”

“Oh, don’t worry.” Chinen smiled at him, much more sincerely than Yamada imagined he would. “I’m just trying to cheer her up.” He said, angling the notebook so it would show the tiny deformed bunnies jumping on the top right corner. “She’s so stubborn.”

Yamada knew there was something deeper there, and it felt like the right time, so he asked, “Cheering her up because of Yuto-kun?”

“Hm?” Chinen looked intently at him.

“Well, I just thought,” He shrugged. “Suzu and Yuto-kun seems really close. She said they’ve known each other for a long time, so I guess… If you’re cheering her up because she’s with him, then…”

“Yes?”

“She’s in love with him?” He asked awkwardly, rubbing the back of his neck and looking down at the table.

“Nope.” Chinen said immediately, going back to drawing. “More than that.”

“More…?” He blinked in confusion. “What would be…”

“Ex-girl friend.” Chinen said, frowning in concentration as he drew more. “Yuto’s first girl friend in this university.” He said it as if it was not the biggest surprise of the day, as if that statement didn’t just change pretty much every meaning in Suzuka’s actions in Yamada’s eyes. “They broke up when we were just wee freshies, so you didn’t get to see. Just six months, you know. Young love and all.” He shrugged. “They’re friends now.”

“But you’re trying to cheer her up so…” His eyebrows furrowed. “Is she still…?”

Chinen looked up then, a painfully honest sad smile on his lips. “Watch her closely and you’ll figure it out.” He said, though that was as good as yes in this context.

Yamada fell silent. “That sucks.” And then, “Can’t Yuto-kun figure that out? If it’s so obvious to you, then…”

“Have you met Yuto?” Chinen laughed, and there was actual bitterness in it, but also a dash of fondness like when you’re talking about your misbehaving child. “Besides, it’s not like Suzu-hime wants him to know. She’s fine just being friends. She’s… well, you know? It’s more painful being forgotten or something. I wouldn’t know.” He sighed. “It’s a complicated feeling, isn’t it?”

“That’s not right.” Yamada protested. “She should- she should-” He groaned. “I don’t know how relationships like that work. How can she even be his friend and act like she’s not hurt?”

Chinen shrugged. “Again, have you met Yuto?” He repeated, as if that was answer enough.

Which, in a way, it was. Yuto was a ball of energy who flirted with his friends and showed no malice. If anyone could be friends again with their ex, that would definitely be Yuto.

“I want to do something, though.” Yamada said quietly. Suzuka was their princess, their inspiration in the team. She was important to each of them and he would rather not have her get hurt. “Isn’t there anything?”

A calculating smile slowly appeared on Chinen’s face, his eyes having that glint that meant Yamada was right where Chinen wanted him. “I like you.” He said. “We’re gonna be good partners.”

Yamada blinked. “Eh?”

“You know what would be a sure-fire way to protect Suzu-hime?” Chinen continued. “She can’t say no to Yuto, but we can do this another way. Yuto loses focus easily, you see. He obsesses over one thing and then forgets other things completely. I can name one thing he’s really obsessed about right now.”

It felt like something bad was going to happen and Yamada had no idea how to stop it. He waited for the bomb to drop.

“If you ask Yuto to help you alone, without mine or Suzu’s help, he would agree without any question.” Chinen finished. “Since you’re his precious model, after all.”

“That sounds like a stupid plan.” Yamada said honestly.

“That’s just because you haven’t seen how well my plans work yet.” Chinen said confidently.

Yuto and Suzuka came back just a few minutes after Yamada and Chinen’s revelation-laden talk. Chinen had just smiled innocently as he gave Suzuka’s notebook back, and she took one glance at it and returned the smile easily. Yuto distributed the coffee with an irritatingly innocent and carefree look.

Yamada was so distressed about the situation and he was not even technically a part of it. Maybe that was Chinen’s plan too.



Yamada was aiming for complete vigilance, to watch over Suzuka with hawk-like eyes in behalf of the whole soccer team. But then, this was a study session and he was the one in danger of failing. His attention drifted away bit by bit until he was only focused on the Art History notes in front of him and the print outs he got from the three.

When he came to about an hour later, he looked up to see two empty seats. “Wha-”

Yuto chuckled quietly, thumbing through his own notes. “Chii kidnapped Suzu, saying Shougo would be sad if he was alone in a party.” He paused. “Shougo’s my bandmate who’s a-”

“-Biology major.” Yamada finished, blinking slowly. “Huh…”

“You know him?” Yuto snickered. “Are you stalking me?”

Yamada raised an eyebrow at that. “How long have you been waiting to use that?”

Pouting, Yuto crossed his arms. “It was a moment of brilliance. I didn’t plan it.”

“Sure…” Yamada drawled. “Anyway,” he placed his pen down, stretching his arms forward. “Small world, huh?” It was a pretty big university, so coincidences like this was rare for him, especially since he did not normally mingle with students from other courses.

“Yeah.” Yuto nodded. “And you got Aya-sensei too.”

“How can you stomach calling her that?” Yamada grimaced. “She’s evil.”

Yuto gawked at him for a whole ten seconds before sputtering, “She’s not!”

“Oh god, do you have a crush on her?” Yamada groaned.

“She’s nice! She grades papers objectively and she researches beyond any other English professor! And she’s really, really beautiful!”

“So you do have a crush on her.” Yamada concluded, sighing. “You have-” He remembered the earlier conversation he had with Chinen. “You’re weird.” He said, instead of you have weird taste in women.

“She’s just misunderstood.” Yuto mumbled stubbornly, poking his book with the cap of his pen.

Yamada rolled his eyes. “So you’re that type. The shoujo manga protagonist-type.”

“Shoujo- what?”

“The oblivious, cheerful type who empathizes with misunderstood characters of all kinds and befriends everyone.” Yamada explained. “You’re exactly that type.”

Yuto wrinkled his nose. “Isn’t shoujo manga for girls?”

“Not the point.”

“But you read shoujo manga?” He persisted.

“You are completely missing my point.” Yamada repeated.

“But you read shoujo manga?”

Yamada sighed. “You are insufferable.”

Yuto grinned, looking like he just accomplished something. “Do you want to continue reading for Art History or do you want to start your English paper?” He asked, changing the subject completely. “I could help you with that. I know exactly how Aya-sensei grades.”

Aya-sensei…” Yamada muttered, still not quite getting how Yuto ever came to like the woman. “Yeah, I should write an outline, at least.”

They spent the next few hours talking about what Yamada should choose as a topic for his paper. Yuto was extremely helpful with the Do’s and Don’ts, saying that Aya-sensei liked unique topics and especially gave higher grades when their topic was well entwined with their own course. They talked about how Yuto wrote a paper on Olympian Heroes in literature and correlated it to how superheroes in modern western comics were made with their image in mind. There was something refreshing about listening to Yuto explain his paper, about just watching him rant about classic art influencing modern art and how even perceptions of photos and videos have been shaped by how people regarded old paintings.

In turn, Yamada shared his thoughts on how sports in mangas has been written as over-the-top and out-of-this world, but also still had traces of what was truly important: hard work and team solidarity. And even though it felt a bit off to talk about this after Yuto’s passion-filled rant on high art, Yuto still listened with a large smile, nodding and sharing his thoughts enthusiastically.

It was only when Yamada’s phone vibrated on the table that they realized how late it was already. [Tell your cute stalker to drop by our house sometimes] was Shida’s message. He sighed. “Micchan…” He groaned under his breath. “I need more coffee,” he said.

“Oh.” Yuto’s expression brightened. “You want to relocate somewhere else?”

Yamada shrugged. “Lead the way.”

---

Yabu and Yuya’s expression was a thing to behold when Yuto came in the Museum Cafe. They were both openly gaping, not even saying a standard ‘welcome!’. Yuto snickered and waved a hand. “Customer-sama arrives!” He announced grandly.

Yuya cracked a smile at that. “Welcome.” He greeted. “This is new.”

Yuto chuckled. “I felt like it.” He said vaguely, and then motioned towards Yamada to introduce the three to each other. The two older guys smiled in understanding when Yuto explained that Yamada was his model, and Yamada seemed to take everything in stride, probably already used to Yuto’s words by now.

They settled down into Yuto’s usual window seat, resuming their talk that was now revolving around Art History and the secret to figuring out how to easily guess the artist of each painting. Yamada listened on, determinedly taking on notes every now and then.

A warm feeling settled on Yuto’s chest, just thinking of the fact that he was in his favorite cafe with his new friend. There was just something wonderful about clicking so well with someone that you end up listening to them talk for hours, about being able to comfortably stare at them as they ranted about things you did not usually think about, about being able to share a secret place without a second thought.

Yamada did not know the significance of this to Yuto, but from the way Yuya was grinning, he knew how important it was.

Yuto was letting Yamada into the little world he only shared with select people.

---

“We should do this again.” Yamada said as they walked towards Yuto’s car in the nearby parking lot. “It was fun.” Funny thing was, it wasn’t even a lie. He had thought of saying this before, to make Yuto focus on him completely and start Chinen’s plan. Yamada just never expected to actually enjoy talking about Art History, of all things, to someone. He never thought he would want to be alone with Yuto again.

Yuto’s smile was full of excitement and anticipation when he nodded.

“Well then,” Yamada waved his hand to the road vaguely. “Take care? I’ll walk-”

“I’ll drive you home!” Yuto cut him off immediately. “Isn’t your Mirai already waiting for you?”

Yamada laughed upon hearing that. “My Mirai… She’ll punch me if she heard that. No one can own a Mirai.” He said, mostly to himself. And then added in a normal volume, “Well, she is waiting, but I don’t want to impose.”

“You’re not imposing!” He insisted, vigorously shaking his head. “It’s in the way.”

“Well, if you insist.”

---

Sunday mornings were reserved for Raiya, as far as Yuto was concerned. They would both wake up early, watch something together while eating breakfast, and then play some games in their Kinect. It was the time they could catch up better about each other’s lives, so Yuto would still be able to do his brotherly duties in peace.

Except, just as he was narrating the epic friendship he’s forming with Yamada, Yuto’s phone rang.

They both ignored it in favor of choosing a song to dance to, but the annoying ringing refused to stop.

Sighing, Yuto picked the phone up and answered with a curt, “Yes? Yuto speaking.”

“Yutooooo~” It was Shougo, sounding sleepy and whiny, clearly sporting a hangover. “You know, you know, my roommate hooked up with someone yesterday and then, and then, he said I should sleep somewhere else but I was so sleepy and I didn’t want to move!” He moaned in pain. “I woke up in a bench in front of my dorm…” There was a definite pout in his voice. “Best friend, Yuto my best friend, please buy me food and give me somewhere to sleep? I think my brain is imploding in itself.”

Sundays was for Raiya, but Yuto has a heart so he can’t possibly leave a hangover friend alone. “I’ll be right there.”

Raiya rolled his eyes and shooed him away as soon as he got off the phone.



The best cure to a hangover, Yuto found out from his fair share of drinking and partying, was eating lots of greasy food and drinking lots of water. So of course, being the good friend that he was, he brought Shougo to the local diner that offered the greasiest burger. He even brought pain-killers, just to be sure.

And since he was also sure it would be better for two heads to take care of a friend than one, he called Chielu in.

“You know, being in a band together doesn’t give me responsibilities to take care of Shougo’s stupid rebellious ass.” Chielu said bluntly, poking their friend with a well-manicured nail. “He deserves that.”

“No one deserves to sleep on a bench outside their dorm!” Yuto objected.

“Well, fair enough.” She shrugged. “Your roommate was an asshole.” She told Shougo.

He simply groaned his agreement, head tucked between his arms on top of the table.

“Good thing you called me though.” Her expression changed from blank apathy to that smile that looked like she was planning to conquer the world. “We’ve got a gig.”

“Woooh~” Shougo moved enough to raise a hand, which was promptly high-fived by Chielu gamely. “Awesome.” He propped his chin on his arm, looking up at her with half-lidded eyes.

“Two weeks from now. Saturday.” Her cat-like eyes gleamed as she added, “Scouts would be there.”

Yuto’s eyes widened, gasping in a breath. “Wow.” Shougo and Chielu did another high-five. “That’s really awesome.”

She nodded. “That means we have to practice harder, right?”

---

[Yuto Nakajima added you as a friend!]

[Yuto send you a message!]

June 08

Yuto Yama-chan?

Ryosuke Yes? Hi

Yuto Did you just finish practice?

Ryosuke …yes? Why?

Yuto Nothing!

Yuto Are you tired?

Ryosuke Not really. I just got home though. What’s up?

Yuto Ah! Chii said you’ll meet up this Saturday.

Ryosuke This is the first time I’ve heard that.

Yuto Ah

Yuto Sorry. Chinen does that.

Yuto Are you free on Saturday?

Ryosuke I guess. No practice starting tomorrow until midterm week ends so lots of free time to study.

Yuto Ah, that’s good. I wanted to ask you to meet up on Friday too.

Ryosuke You’re all very invested in my grades, aren’t you?

Yuto I told you! I don’t want you to have wrinkles.

Yuto And we’re friends! Friends help out each other.

Ryosuke Just so you know, my brain still goes to ‘stalker’ when I hear your name, rather than friend

Yuto Sweet. I’m special.

Ryosuke You’re very optimistic.

Yuto Still special though?

Ryosuke And stubborn.

Yuto Special?

Ryosuke Wow, fine. Special Stalker Yuto Nakajima.

Yuto Are you annoyed at me now :(

Ryosuke

Yuto I’ll be good now

Ryosuke lol

Ryosuke you’re fine

Ryosuke btw thanks for helping me with the outline.

Yuto You’ll pass it tomorrow, right?

Ryosuke Yeah. Would you do the distraction tactics you did again?

Yuto What?

Ryosuke Coffee.

Yuto Oh

Yuto Do you want me to?

Yuto Buy me coffee, I’ll sit-in

Ryosuke you mean flirt

Yuto with you?

Ryosuke stupid

Ryosuke no

Ryosuke flirt with Oomasa-sensei, not sit-in

Yuto You’re asking too much of me, Yama-chan

Yuto I don’t flirt with teachers

Ryosuke cute

Ryosuke Or wow do you actually mean that

Yuto Hey! I don’t flirt with teachers!!!

Ryosuke I’m

Ryosuke I can’t believe you

Ryosuke Oh brb Mirai’s getting cranky

Yuto Ah. Okay. I’ll send you the details next time.

---

Yamada kept track of Suzuka more in their practices. He knew they broke up almost two years ago, but the thought of her suffering while watching Yuto continue on obliviously made Yamada want to do something. Luckily, with his increased contact with the guy, he was now able to figure out where Yuto was and if he ever planned on inviting Suzuka anywhere.

It wasn’t even difficult at all. Yuto practically gave his schedule away. Apparently, Yuto was busy with band practice this week and would only be able to get a break on Friday. The Friday he already reserved for helping Yamada out.

That was actually really nice of him. Everything he has done lately has been really nice: the coffee, the study session, the messages. He seemed just like that type, really. The type you can’t hate. He somehow gave off the children can do no wrong feeling.

With a sigh, Yamada continued on with practice. Come Wednesday, he would have time to immerse himself in studying and worrying about these things. For now, he just wanted to juice his remaining time in the field while he can.



Kamiki and Shida were good friends. They really were the best he could ever ask for as childhood best friends. Today, for example, they sat on either side of him; Shida reading his English paper outline on the open laptop, and Kamiki cutting the printed paintings from his Art History class and labeling them to be made into flashcards.

“You two are the best.” Yamada said, grinning at them as he sat back on the couch more comfortably. His math notes were on his lap, and a pen was in his hand. “I couldn’t do this without you.”

“It looks like you’re doing well, though.” Shida noted, looking up at him with narrowed eyes. “This is a really good outline.”

He would have felt offended if he didn’t think the same way. The outline was so obviously refined in a way he usually was not. “Yeah.” He shrugged, looking down at his notes to avoid Shida’s judging stare. “Yuto-kun helped me, since he knows how to impress Oomasa-sensei.”

Yuto-kun, huh…”

He didn’t even need to look up to see Shida smirking at him. “We’re friends now.”

Friends.

“Yes, friends.” He sighed out. “Don’t give it malice.”

“Wait, who?” Kamiki resurfaced from whatever trance he was in. He shook his head, as if trying to wake up. “Who’s your new friend?” He asked eagerly.

“The photographer he thought was a stalker. Mikki, you should listen.” Shida snickered. “It’s the one he was with until dinnertime last Saturday.”

Kamiki smiled then, realization dawning. “The one who flirts!”

Shida laughed as Yamada groaned. Now they won’t let this go, he knew. He would just have to find two new best friends who wouldn’t tease him about his new friends.

---

[Ryosuke sent you a message!]

June 11

Ryosuke Oomasa-sensei is the worst teacher and I don’t understand how you survived unscathed

Yuto Misunderstood

Ryosuke She just said manga was not real literature

Yuto Well…

Ryosuke Ohgod

Ryosuke you’re not my friend anymore

Ryosuke I quit

Yuto you can’t quit being a friend!

Ryosuke Watch me

Yuto Okay, manga is real literature

Yuto But

Yuto not in the level that novels are

Ryosuke elitist jerk

Ryosuke I bet you’re rich and you have paintings on your wall

Yuto I’m not elitist

Ryosuke But you have paintings on your wall?

Yuto I like art, remember?

Ryosuke I like soccer

Ryosuke Doesn’t mean I could have a soccer field in my backyard

Yuto You don’t even have a backyard

Ryosuke You always miss the point, don’t you

Ryosuke Anyway

Ryosuke Oomasa-sensei sucks.

---

[Yuto sent you a message!]

June 12

Yuto Chii is trying to explain to me how I need to leave the band if I want to have a job in the future

Yuto So I’m going to chat with you instead

Ryosuke disrespectful but brave move

Ryosuke listen to him tho

Ryosuke He loves you so he cares. Friends give awesome advice.

Ryosuke …most of the time

Yuto It sounds like that’s coming from experience?

Yuto :D

Ryosuke Chinen reminds me of Mirai a lot

Ryosuke Knows what’s best, and all

Yuto YOU’RE A GOOD GUY BUT PLEASE SCOLD HIM A LOT ABOUT NOT LISTENING TO ME THE NEXT TIME

Yuto -Chinen

Ryosuke yessir

Yuto (still Chinen) Also we’re going to meet on Saturday. I’ll text you the details.

Ryosuke Yuto-kun don’t give my number to strangers please

Yuto he stole my phone

Yuto like how he did just now<

Ryosuke I really hope Chinen and Mirai never meets

Ryosuke they would be too powerful

Yuto yes (-_-);

---

The next time Yamada saw Yuto was on Friday, almost a week from the last time they saw each other. They were pretty much closer though, it showed. When they greeted each other, it was not merely general “how are you’s” but had some specific questions too like “how was Aya-sensei” (to rile Yamada up) and “is Chinen still in control of your life” (to rile Yuto up). When Yamada asked him where they would go, Yuto grinned widely and pointed to the direction of the open fields.

They ended up right beside the soccer field, Suzuka sitting on the bench by the side. Yamada groaned in disbelief.

Yuto looked back at him in alarm, blinking quickly. “What? What’s wrong?”

Why?” He muttered to himself, sighing deeply. He looked over to Suzuka but she was just looking at them with furrowed eyebrows. No trace of sadness or being upset. “Why are we here?”

“You said there were no practices.” Yuto answered. “I thought it would be a good way to study in the field. Like in the movies!”

Suzuka seemed to be done waiting on the side so she stood up and walked over to them instead. She smiled at the two and raised her hand, keys clinking when she held them up. “Soccer balls are in the storage room.” She said. “Please just get one. And bring it back.”

Yuto saluted, smiling brightly. “Yes, ma’am!”

“Is that all?” She asked, eyebrow rising up.

“We’re fine.” Yamada interjected, before Yuto could ask her for another favor or something. “Thanks, Suzu. You’re a lifesaver.”

She smiled warmly at him, nodding. “I’ll go then.”

“Thanks!” Yuto called out to her as she walked off.

Yamada really wanted to know what was up with their relationship.

“So!” Yuto, not noticing any of the confusing debates inside Yamada’s head, just took hold of Yamada’s arm and lead him to the bench, pushing him to sit. “Wait here. I’ll get the ball.”



When he got back, he was holding two soccer balls on either arm. “So, math.” He said, throwing one ball at Yamada. “We’re going to use soccer to study math.”

Yamada grimaced. “Do you realize that only works for geometry? I have algebra. The Xs and those… stuff.”

“Hey,” Yuto crossed his arms, dropping the other ball on the ground. “We could make it work.”

“I don’t think you actually have a plan.” Yamada held on to the ball and stood up. “I think you’re just winging it.”

Yuto pouted. “Well,” He drew out the word. “I do have a plan.” He said, sighing. “But not about studying.”

Yamada raised an eyebrow. “Hm?”

“The thing is,” He bit his lip, looking down shyly. “I wanted to take pictures but you said we were concerned about your grades so I thought it would be bad if I asked you for a photoshoot out of nowhere without giving anything in return and-”

Yamada cut him off by laughing out loud. “You-” He shook his head fondly at him. “Have you forgotten about your expensive lens?”

“What-”

“Wow, wait, did you?” Yamada gaped. “Because you should totally forget about that if you-”

“Oh, my lens.” Yuto blinked slowly in understanding. “You agreed to pay for it by modelling.” He stared at Yamada then, looking thoughtful. “I completely forgot.”

Yamada snickered. “You know, after talking to you, I kind of figured out you were pretty rich, but if you really forgot something like that, then I was underestimating you, huh? Little Master Yuto. Rich brat.” Seeing the horror in Yuto’s expression, he hastily added, “Not that it changes anything. We’re still friends.” He grinned when Yuto sighed. “Now, since we’ve settled that, can we please play soccer now? I’ve been itching to play since yesterday.”

“But I want to take pictures.” Yuto said, pointing to the bag he had slung on his shoulder. “I thought you could kick and do your thing and I’ll be at the side.”

“Really? You’ll just watch me?” Yamada asked, frowning. “You won’t be bored.”

Yuto laughed. “I like taking your pictures. You like soccer. We both win.”

Yamada smiled then, nodding. “Fair enough.”


---

Continued in Part 3