The Lord blessed us with the ability to enjoy our daily sustenance and we feel it is our serious obligation to provide nutritious, filling, and palatable meals for our students. We do our utmost to conform our menu according to common best practices for dispensing healthy foods and beverages. While we understand that ethnic foods may sometimes be preferred over international fare, it is an enhancement to one’s palate to provide an abundance of both national and international variety to our students. The applicant we are seeking is expected, firstly, to be duly devoted to the Lord and his work; secondly, be duly devoted to the health and well-being of our tender flocks; and thirdly, be aptly qualified in the areas of adolescent nutritional health.
— Excerpt of a St. Catherine’s job posting seeking a qualified Dietetics and Nutrition Coordinator.
Kato woke up to the sound of Tachibana leaving the room. He looked at the alarm clock and saw that he had only slept for 20 minutes. But he actually felt quite rested. He stared at the ceiling and thought of Takahashi. In his mind, he replayed the conversation of last night. It’s my job to protect you. Not abuse you. I may be an ass, a jerk, whatever you think of me, but I won’t hurt you. He clearly remembered those words. But I won’t hurt you… But I won’t hurt you… But I won’t hurt you… Somehow, those words were a tiny bit reassuring. Kato couldn’t admit to himself that they may, in fact, be more than a tiny bit reassuring.
Kato jumped out of bed, putting his shoes and jacket back on and headed to class with 30 minutes to spare before the next class. By damn, he thought, today I’m gonna be the one to beat all those motherfuckers there. His heart betrayed him, though, with the actual reason for being early—to see Takahashi.
He stopped just outside the classroom to peek in and assess the situation. Sister Mary was apparently gone, and so was Handa. There were two other students on the right side of the room with their heads down on their desks, and Takahashi was in his seat doing the same.
Kato entered the room and walked over to Takahashi. He pulled out the package that contained the hamburger and the apple and placed it on the desk next to Takahashi’s face. Takahashi opened his eyes, seeing what was placed in front of him and quickly looked up at Kato.
Kato spoke softly, “It wasn’t me. There were boys in the stalls.” He then looked at his feet.
Takahashi reached out and grabbed Kato’s hand, “I was hoping against all hope that you didn’t betray your seme.”
Kato held onto Takahashi’s hand in return. “I was scared.”
Takahashi said, “Look at me.”
Kato looked up and met Takahashi’s eyes. He thought he saw a bit of sorrow in Takahashi’s eyes.
“I swore to protect you. You are my special property. I will never hurt you even if it means my life.”
Kato’s eyes felt moist. He was hoping that he would not start crying again—not here, not now.
“Besides, I think Handa-san was all talk. I chased him off. Though I think you need to be careful and stick closer to me. I don’t think the scavenger has given up on you, yet.”
Kato looked into Takahashi’s eyes. Suddenly it occurred to him to say, “Handa was scary, and you were scary too being as mad as you were, but I think I was most afraid of you getting hurt.” Kato couldn’t believe he just said that. But, for some reason, it felt like the honest truth. Maybe, at the time, he couldn’t distinguish that jumbled mess of emotions while everything went crazy, but now, looking back, he could separate all the thoughts and feelings out and understand each one.
Takahashi reassuringly squeezed Kato’s hand, “Say no more.”
Kato sighed, “That’s just it, though. It seems I can never say enough. Except, maybe, thank you?”
Takahashi smiled, “No worries. I should be the one to thank you. I am starving here.” Takahashi looked down at the food for a moment but did not let go of Kato’s hand. Kato didn’t let go either.
Both Takahashi and Kato together looked at their clasped hands, each with their own thoughts about it. Kato could feel Takahashi’s warmth and, curiously, his heartbeat. Takahashi let go first.
Kato let go and said, “Enjoy your food. We can talk later.”
Takahashi simply replied, “Thank you” and began eating while Kato went back to his desk and prepared himself for the next class.