Tadashi is nervous, and Kei can tell. He doesn’t like it. They’re doing homework together, and Tadashi is fiddling with the hem of his shirt, not paying any attention to his homework like he should. Normally, Kei would be annoyed, but all he feels is worry as he eyes the bruises peeking out from under Tadashi’s sleeves as he wrings the bottom of his shirt, gnawing at his lower lip. Kei can see a question forming and reforming on his lips, but he always stops himself before he can ask.
Kei knows he has a perpetual frown on his face, he knows this as he glares down at his math homework, and finally Tadashi opens his mouth.
“Wh- What’s a– a ‘f- fag’?”
Now Kei is definitely concerned. “..Why are you asking?..”
Tadashi can’t be getting bullied again, can he?.. Not when Kei’s doing his best to keep the bullies away, not when he glares down anybody that so much aslooks at Tadashi wrong. Not when–
“B- Because…the boys on the p- playg- p- playground call me that some- some- somet- times, and– and they s- say it li- l- like it’s a bad w- word, but I don- don’t know what it means, a- and Kei is the smar- smartest p- person I know, so I thought to as- ask you…”
“They call you that?..” Kei asks, voice calm, but inside his blood is boiling. “Why do they call you that?”
“Th- They s- say it’s b- bec- because I call you by your g- given name,” Tadashi says, and Kei’s pencil snaps in his hand. “What does it mean?..”
“It’s nothing,” Kei snaps quickly, his voice harsher than intended. “It’s just some stupid word they throw around without knowing what it means. And Inever want you to say it ever again, ok, Tadashi?”
Tadashi looks confused, and Kei knows that to keep Tadashi innocent it’s going to be a long road ahead of them. They’re only ten, and something big will need to change before they’ll be ok. And that isn’t going to happen for a long time.
The next day Tadashi’s bullies have hell to pay, but in return, Kei gets pretty beat up himself. His mother scolds him, and asks him why he would do such a thing, but Kei doesn’t answer her truthfully. She can’t know. She can’t know what the boys are calling Tadashi – calling him , too, now – she can’t . This is Kei’s fight. Not hers. Not even Tadashi’s ; no, Kei needs to protect Tadashi. Tadashi is innocent– kind, soft, warm, and innocent . Kei doesn’t know why anyone would hurt him like this.
“Kei, you’re hurt!”
“I know,” Kei says, trying not to look at Tadashi as he hovers over him, worried. “I just fell.”
He knows he can’t convince Tadashi that the black eye he’d received was from falling, but he can at least pass off the bodily bruises.
“K- Kei, you need to be more careful!”
“I know. I know, I’m sorry.”
Tadashi has a cold.
“Kei, I think I’m dying.”
“It’s just a cold.”
“No, no, I’m dying!” Tadashi groans, coughing, and Kei smiles. “A- And I want you to know, if I- if I die, Kei, I want you to know– I lo–”
Tadashi coughs, his words cut off, and Kei smiles.
“Shut up, Yamaguchi,” Kei chuckles, and the warmth of the conversation in the room stops.
“…Yamaguchi?..” Tadashi whispers, his voice soft. “…Kei, is–”
“I– I mean– You know, th- that’s your name, idiot! And– And I think we should start calling each other by our family names at school. The- The girls, at school, they’re getting jealous and trying to call me ‘Kei’ as well. It’s pathetic.”
“Oh…” Tadashi breathes, his face downcast, and Kei knows he’s fucked up. “O- Ok, Ts- Tsukishi…Tsuk’shi…Tsuki…” Tadashi’s face screws up, and Kei can see the tears building up in his eyes. He’s always had trouble with long words. “I c- ca- can’t say your n- name, K- Kei! It’s too- t- too lo- long!”
“I- I know, Tadashi, but you have to do it, so the girls don’t call me ‘Kei’ too. Ok? A nickname would work, too, but we can’t call each other by our given names at school.” It hurts Kei to say it, but it’s best for both of them. Best forTadashi . Even at ten years old, Kei knows that what he’s doing is good.
“Ts- Tsuk- Tsuki…Tsukki?”
“Tsukki.” Kei nods. “Ok, Tsukki. That’s good.”
It’s not going to be the best solution, but it’ll be good enough for now.
It takes Tadashi a while to adjust; on more than one occasion, he calls Kei by his given name and the next day he comes to school covered in bruises. Kei doesn’t know how the bullies do it, they walk home together, but they do, and Kei is helpless. The whole purpose of the name change was so no one would hurt Tadashi anymore.
It takes Tadashi a while to adjust, but when he does, Kei thinks he’d rather he didn’t. By time they enter junior high, Tadashi is referring to Kei as “Tsukki” more often than not, even in private, and when they enter high school, Kei hasn’t heard his given name from his best friend’s lips in years. Kei doesn’t think he’s missed anything more than he does hearing Tadashi chirp “Kei” at him as they work on homework, or as they bake with Akiteru.
He hadn’t thought about how much it would hurt.
“Tsukki, I- I was fine, y- you should have just– just let it b-”
“They were hurting you. I couldn’t just let it be.”
“I was fine. Just like I was fine when they called me names, Tsukki! I can take care of myself!”
“I– I know…” No, you can’t. “But I just want to–”
“Help. Just like you were helping when you suggested we start calling each other by our last names. Because you didn’t want me to worry, right? I get it,Tsukki.”
“Get what? That I’m worried about you? That I don’t want my best friend hurt?”
“I get that you think I’m weak ! I get you don’t think I can take care of myself!”
“Tadashi, that’s not true– ”
“No. No, after all we’ve been through, you don’t get to call me by my given name. You had your chance.”
“N- No, I– Yamaguchi! I did it for you– for us– ”
“Admit it, Kei! You did it because you were scared that the bullies would come after you, too.”
“I– No! No, I did it for you– ”
“Y- Y’know what, I- I need to– I need to calm down. Goodbye, Tsukishima.”
That night, only a few days ago, plays in Kei’s mind over and over again. Tadashi hasn’t spoken to him since, and the one thing that keeps resonating through Kei’s thoughts is the fact that Tadashi finally said his last name without stuttering. The one thing that keeps coming back through his thoughts of his own cowardice, and how Tadashi is right – he’d made the suggestion because he was scared for himself – and how he needs to fix this, but he doesn’t know how he can . Tadashi himself said he’d had his chance. He doesn’t think he deserves another.
Kei can’t help but think about how things can do a complete one-eighty in the matter of minutes.
He and Tadashi had been happy enough, just hours before their fight. They were even talking about a sleepover – a rarity on a school night – before Tadashi excused himself to the restroom. That was lunch. When Tadashi didn’t come back by time their lunch period was over, Kei went to find him; he found him easily, because he was where he said he was, but he was surrounded by taller, bigger upperclassmen. From Nishinoya’s class, maybe.
So Kei did what he always did; be himself. He left the upperclassmen whimpering and scampering off to whatever class they were skipping, landing a few punches as they ran, and helped Tadashi to class. He didn’t look too happy afterwards, and Kei was almost positive that Tadashi was giving him the cold shoulder. When he asked Tadashi as much, the dam broke, and their fight happened.
Kei groans. He was so stupid . But surely Tadashi should have at least told a teacher if he was getting bullied, right? Kei’s never understood Tadashi; he’s never once stood his ground, said what he wanted. Pathetic.
Kei is about to switch his brain to thoughts of volleyball, homework, anything, but his mind keeps wandering to Tadashi and how hurt he sounded when he said “Tsukishima” and Kei can’t take it.
He stands up, sets his book down nicely, and then promptly runs top speed out of his bedroom.
It doesn’t take too long to reach Tadashi’s house, and when he does, Kei’s out of breath and panting. He knocks on the door as he catches his breath, though he immediately loses it all over again when the front door opens and Tadashi glares up at him in his pajamas.
“Hello, Tsukish- Tsuk- Tsukki…”
Kei can sense Tadashi’s frustration that he still can’t say his last name, and almost laughs. Instead, he falls into Tadashi’s arms, raising his own to hold Tadashi close. This close, he can feel his rapid breath against Tadashi’s ear, feel the way Tadashi’s stops.
“I’m sorry,” He breathes, squeezing Tadashi closer. “I’m so, so sorry. I– I should have let you deal with your problems the way you wanted, I– I don’t doubt you or your strength, I just– I love you too much to see you hurt, Tadashi. Please tell me you’ll forgive me?”
Tadashi doesn’t reply. He just shakes in Kei’s arms, silent, not saying anything, and Kei panics.
“T- Tadashi–?..” Kei pulls away, and looks at Tadashi, starting when he sees tears running down the other’s cheeks. “T- Tadashi–”
“I missed that,” Tadashi whimpers, “I– I m- missed ‘Tadashi’.”
“I know,” Kei says, voice soft, and he pulls Tadashi back into his arms. “I know, I- I’m so, so sorry . You were right, you were absolutely right, I was scared, but– but I was scared for both of us. I was scared that you wouldn’t want to be my friend any more, and so I distanced myself from you, and I’m so, so sorry.”
Kei’s words spark another round of sobs, and Tadashi almost collapses in Kei’s hold.
“I- I was so mean to you, I’m s- sorry–” Tadashi finally hugs Kei back, and holds onto him tightly. “I said so m- many mean things, I was so mean , I- I– I’m sorry!”
“It’s ok, it’s ok, I forgive you, just please tell me you’re happy, that’s all I want to hear.”
Tadashi laughs. “I am. I am! I’m so happy , Kei.”
That’s all Kei needs to hear. Nothing is getting in their way again; he’ll make sure of it.
Kept Halloween Chipp in his natural form, but I did dye the jacket, sewed the QPNMNT 5 duffel bag to be a sling over bag, and custom a rifle for him. Still need to add some accessories, but this works perfect for me.