Those we choose to call friends can have a great impact on us, for good or ill. I’m reminded of what my old master told me when I was a youth. “Friends are like food,” he said. I didn’t understand so I asked, “What do you mean?” He smiled and replied, “With food, you are what you eat. If you eat good food, you will be healthy. Right?” I nodded. “It’s the same with friends,” he continued. “You will become like them. Good friends will make you healthy, whereas bad friends will make you sick.” Still wanting to know more, I asked of him, “How can I tell the difference?” He patted me on the back and said, “Good friends will love you, whereas bad friends will only love themselves.”
—Words of Wisdom from Old Master Zhang Bai, Tang Dynasty
After entering the bathroom, Takahashi stopped and pulled his hand free of Kato’s grip. Kato was glad there was no one else currently in the bathroom. He spun around and glared at Takahashi.
Takahashi glared back. “What?”
“I’m fucking sorry I got you into that mess. But it wasn’t my fault.”
“Another lie? You sure don’t sound ‘fucking sorry,’” replied Takahashi.
“Fuck off,” Kato bit back.
“Hey!” Takahashi shouted. A glint of pure anger shown across his eyes. “Don’t talk to your seme like that,” he warned.
“Oh yeah, why not?”
“Because he did not talk to you that way.”
Kato was still quite upset and irritated. He really just didn’t understand why he couldn’t get through a day without all hell breaking lose. Taking a ragged breath, he said, “I am sorry though. You could have gotten hurt.”
Takahashi spoke slowly in a deep growl, emphasizing each word, “I—will—protect—my—uke.”
Kato became hot again, “Well, who the fuck asked you to anyway?”
Takahashi reached over and slapped Kato on the face, completely stunning him. Kato took a step back in horror. He realized he had been stupidly poking a wolf with a sharp stick. Then he became mad again and, full of acid, commented, “I thought you would never hurt your precious, goddamned uke.”
Takahashi glared for a moment and replied, “If I wanted to hurt you, I would have punched you, not slapped you. That slap was for insulting your seme.”
Kato was getting quite tired of this whole seme/uke bullshit. And it pissed him off more that Takahashi kept referring to themselves as that instead of using their names. “It still hurt, asshole.”
Takahashi stopped for a minute. He simply stared at Kato for a minute. Kato felt the silence was burdensome. “What?” he asked.
Takahashi, with some sadness, quietly replied, “I’m just trying to be a good seme. But it seems I can’t do anything right by you. Maybe this was a bad idea.”
Kato cooled off like he was hit by a bucket of cold water. “No! Don’t say that. It’s a good idea. But I don’t want to see you get hurt because of some dumbass seme/uke shit.”
Takahashi turned hot again, “What the fuck do you know about it? You only got here the day before yesterday!”
Kato got mad again, “And?”
Takahashi replied, “Handa-san would have eaten you alive by now if I hadn’t rescued your ass.”
Kato complained, “Yeah. And now he’s taking it out on Murata-kun! Fucking, thanks a lot.”
Takahashi was turning redder. Kato really didn’t know why they were arguing like this, but he was not ready to back down yet to this asshole. He had quite enough of his shit for the past two days.
“That’s not my fucking problem.” Takahashi heartlessly replied.
“So?” Kato continuing to argue. “Why the fuck not? Why don’t you help him too? Why just me?”
All those questions, Takahashi only answered the last one by yelling, “Because you’re my godddamn uke!”
“What the fuck does that have to do with anything, Takahashi-san!” Kato yelled back.
Takahashi growled back, “No.”
Kato complained, “But he’s my friend! Handa-san beat him up again!”
Takahashi repeated, “No.”
Kato threw his arms up in the air and exclaimed, “You can’t, or won’t? Which is it?”
Takahashi answered, “Won’t.” [see endnote]
This really upset Kato. He screamed, “What! You willingly just let Handa-san beat him up, but you fly in like Superman to rescue me? What the fuck is that about?”
Takahashi argued, “I’ll say it once more. You are my goddamned uke.”
Kato stopped for a second, he was so upset but there was something he was missing, something he was not understanding. “So, what? That means you won’t help out Murata-kun?”
Takahashi, who looked weary, simply replied, “Correct.”
Kato was losing his will to fight. “Why not?”
Takahashi replied, “If I defended Murata-san, I would be declaring to the entire damned school that I was taking him on as my uke. I already have one. You.”
Kato stopped. That made sense. He remembered the rule: one seme to one uke. He supposed that if Takahashi had to fight Kato’s battles and then had to fight Murata’s battles, he would probably get himself killed. He looked down at his feet, tired from all of the emotional energy he just burned.
Takahashi quietly replied, “Please look at me.”
Kato looked up into Takahashi’s eyes.
“That day, I figured Handa-san was going to try to make either you or Murata-san his uke, by force. It’s his way. I simply tried to choose the first one of you I could find, and that coincidently happened to be you because you sat in my chair. After that, I couldn’t help Murata-san, even if I wanted to.”
Kato still felt guilty about that turn of events. He was happy he didn’t get assaulted by Handa, but sad that it was hurting Murata, his friend.
Takahashi moved close and grabbed Kato’s hand and looked into his eyes. “I can only defend one uke. I chose you. You are my special property.”
Kato held onto Takahashi’s hand. “Isn’t there anything we can do?” Kato asked, somewhat plaintively. “Murata-kun is a great guy! He’s very smart, great sense of humor, and my friend.”
“Not much, no. He needs a seme, and there are a few available, but for some reason they have not stepped forward.”
Kato, thinking aloud, “I wonder why.”
“It’s a big responsibility to take on a uke, and some choose not to,” Takahashi spoke. “If I had to guess, I think that they don’t want to take on Handa-san. They know he’s gunning for Murata-san.”
Kato suddenly asked, “Then why did you take me on? Weren’t you afraid Handa-san would come after you?”
“Yes, well I wasn’t exactly afraid, but I wasn’t exactly interested in directly confronting the asshole.” Kato noticed that he only answered the second question, not the first one he asked.
Kato sighed. He looked down and realized that they were holding hands again. He still wasn’t sure why, but it felt reassuring, even if a bit embarrassing, holding hands with another boy.
“I will say this. I do not look forward to the day I will have to finally battle it out with Handa-san. I’m not naive enough to believe it won’t happen. I don’t know if, or when, a seme will chose Murata-kun.” Takahashi stopped there for a brief moment, then sighed. “If you keep Murata-san close and Handa-san attempts something that might hurt you in the process, I am obligated to protect you, which, by extension, might possibly help your friend. This may be a way to help Murata-san long enough that a seme will step forward without me being seen as having declared him as a second uke before God and Country. I just hope I don’t get killed in the process.”
Kato felt extremely touched. He suddenly remembered that he was holding Takahashi’s warm hand. Again, he could feel Takahashi’s heartbeat, which oddly made his heart skip precisely one beat. Never would he admit to any more than just the one.
Takahashi let go, and then Kato did. He was about to speak when Takahashi interrupted him with, “Nothing more needs to be said now. Let’s get to class. It’s a fun one. I love music theory.”
Kato ears itched a little as he was actually pleased to learn this tiny tidbit of information about Takahashi’s likes. “Agreed,” Kato replied as they left the bathroom.
[“You can’t, or won’t?” This is an expression used in English to ascertain someone’s will. “Can’t” means that they have no choice in the matter. “Won’t” means that they are making a conscious, willful decision to refuse. Kato was trying to determine if Takahashi really had no choice or was simply choosing not to help Murata.]