When he doesn’t feel like sleeping, Tezuka sometimes goes for walks in the middle of the night. His parents know, but they say nothing. As long as he doesn’t disturb them with the quiet click of the outer door opening, they won’t disturb him, either.
Tonight he walks by Ryoma’s house, even though he knows he shouldn’t. He stops in the street to study the windows, though he knows he shouldn’t do that either. He knows that the window there, on the second floor, belongs to Ryoma.
He doesn’t expect Ryoma to come to the window to look out at him.
“Hi.” Ryoma is in his pajamas by his bedroom window. He doesn’t look sleepy at all, and he doesn’t sound sleepy either. He speaks just loud enough for Tezuka to hear him, and not loud enough to wake the neighbors. Still, Ryoma’s parents must sleep more heavily than Tezuka’s, because no one wakes up.
Tezuka nods as though he always makes social calls this late at night. “Echizen.”
Some unspoken code dictates that he can’t just knock on Ryoma’s door when it’s past midnight. This code also dictates that he shouldn’t be walking past Ryoma’s house at this time in the first place. Tezuka has already ignored the one rule. He’s not willing to ignore the other.
Ryoma has no such qualms. “Buchou,” he says, leaning on his arms, which are resting on the windowsill. “You should come in.”
“It’s past midnight,” says Tezuka, only stating the obvious because Ryoma seems to be ignoring it.
“I don’t want to disturb your family,” Tezuka replies.
“I don’t care,” says Ryoma. “You can wake them up if you want to.”
“I don’t want to.”
“You could climb up here, then,” says Ryoma. “The drainpipe and the tree are right there. It’d be easy.”
“No. Go back to bed, Echizen.”
“Are you leaving?” Ryoma asks.
“Yes,” says Tezuka. “Go to bed.”
Ryoma leaves the window, but when Tezuka walks down the street and turns back to look, Ryoma is there again, watching him.
Ryoma calls him on his cell phone the next day. “Buchou. Are you going to come over again tonight?”
Tezuka pauses. It’s one thing to walk by Ryoma’s house in a way that could be coincidental (though it hadn’t been). It’s another to arrange a visit during the hours when the rest of the household is asleep. “No.”
“Can I come over to your house instead?” He can hear Ryoma’s grin through the phone. “I’d climb in your window.”
“No, Echizen.” His parents can ignore late-night walks, but he doubts that even they could ignore a twelve-year-old member of his team climbing the drainpipe.
He walks by Ryoma’s house that night anyway. Ryoma is already waiting by the window. “I knew you’d be here,” Ryoma says with a smirk, leaning his chin on his hand. “Do you want some Ponta?” He holds up a can, too far away for Tezuka to read the label. Tezuka has no doubt that it really is grape Ponta, though. “I could toss it down.”
“No,” says Tezuka. “If you have tea, you can toss that down.”
Ryoma makes a face. “I don’t have tea in a can.”
“Then don’t throw anything,” says Tezuka.
“You’ll be thirsty,” says Ryoma.
“I had something to drink before I came,” Tezuka replies.
“Do you want anything else?”
“No,” says Tezuka. “Not if you have to throw it out the window.”
“I could bring it down,” Ryoma says.
“Not without disturbing the household,” says Tezuka firmly. “So no.”
“Are you going to leave again?” asks Ryoma.
“Not yet,” Tezuka says.
Ryoma nods, satisfied. “Good.”
The next day, Tezuka knocks on Ryoma’s door. He does it after school instead of at midnight, which seems to solve all of his problems without breaking any rules, spoken or otherwise.
“Buchou!” Ryoma looks surprised, and peers around Tezuka as though he thinks Karupin had escaped again and Tezuka is returning him.
Tezuka allows himself a small smile that only Ryoma sees. He doesn’t have to defy the rules to defy expectations. “May I come in?”
Ryoma raises an eyebrow. “Of course. But hurry.” He takes Tezuka’s arm and pulls him up the stairs. “Otherwise my idiot father will want to talk to you,” he explains. “You wouldn’t like it.”
“I’m sure it wouldn’t be that bad.”
“It would,” says Ryoma, grimacing.
Karupin runs up the stairs ahead of them, pausing at the moments when they’re most likely to trip over him. Ryoma has to tighten his grip on Tezuka’s arm to steady himself once or twice. Tezuka doesn’t mind. As long as he’s preventing Ryoma from falling down the stairs, this doesn’t violate any rules, spoken or unspoken.
Ryoma’s room is nearly as neat as Tezuka’s. There are more pictures and books and papers on the headboard above the bed, and there is a cat toy on the floor. Otherwise the room is in perfect order.
Tezuka sits on the edge of the bed so that Ryoma will have the chair. Ryoma pays no attention to this gesture and sits on the bed too. He sits closer than he should, and not as close as Tezuka wants him.
As though he’s aware of this, Ryoma moves closer, looking up at Tezuka to see if Tezuka will tolerate this. He fits at Tezuka’s side as though he belongs there. Tezuka thinks that this is also breaking a rule, especially when Ryoma picks up his hand to play with his fingers and to trace the lines on his palm. Ryoma links his own hand with Tezuka’s then, and lets the pair of hands rest on Tezuka’s thigh.
This is definitely a breach of the code of conduct. As usual, Ryoma doesn’t seem to care or even notice.
Then Ryoma looks up at Tezuka, his expression considering. “Buchou.” His thumb strokes the back of Tezuka’s hand in a way that could be unconscious or could be calculated. Even Tezuka doesn’t know. “Kiss me.”
Tezuka promises himself this is the last time he’ll break the rules, but he knows it’s a lie.