A Stained Glass Variation of the Truth @cynamonowo
Chapter 1

The apartment they bought still smells of drywall and fresh paint the day Goro walks into Yusuke's new studio and sees an old katana hung on the wall. He stops in his tracks, vaguely interested, and considers it for a moment, head tilted. It's fake — that much is clear to him as soon as he gently slides his fingertips over the hard plastic blade — but well maintained: polished and free of dust. To think so much effort would be put in such a cheap little thing is strange, but, in this situation, not exactly surprising.

"There you are," Yusuke says as he joins Goro in the room, making him startle out of his thoughts. "I made coffee. By the way, have you seen my book on— What's wrong?" He pauses as he's by Goro's side and sees his gaze. "Hm. I presume you recognize this particular keepsake."

"This is the weapon you received after the awakening," Goro murmurs, sees Yusuke nod with his expression clouded. "Hm. It must've been around — twenty-five years now, more or less."

"Twenty-six in May," Yusuke confirms, voice just as gentle. His fingers, cold and smooth, slide in-between Goro's.

"Quite some time, huh," Goro muses. "I— hah, I'm afraid I think my very first weapons had gotten discarded very quickly."

Either that or he simply destroyed them himself when they were no longer needed, but he doesn't admit that. It's a bitter memory, one he'll probably end up bringing up to his newest therapist. So he simply turns to face Yusuke and leans forward to kiss him on the cheek. To Goro's quiet delight, it makes Yusuke laugh softly, one hand going to the small of Goro's back.

Even after so many years, the gentlest of touches is still enough to make Yusuke— so giddy, so surprised with the affection. So starved in his longing for tenderness, drinking it in, lips parched and sand-dry.

Still painfully in love with Akira Kurusu, over twenty-five years after his death.

For a moment, too short for Goro's liking, Yusuke looks away, so beautiful in his angel-perfect goddamn grief, and takes a step back. He brushes his hair — out of the usual braid this early in the morning — out of his eyes, smiling as if he's alright. It doesn't fool Goro. He does see, without even trying or wanting to, how Yusuke starts blinking rapidly, willing away the tears. If questioned, he'd make a self-deprecating joke about his failing vision or flat out refuse to elaborate. They've been in this push-and-pull before many times, each time disgusting enough that Goro politely averts his eyes and lets Yusuke pull himself together.

Over twenty-five years.

This apartment is the second one they chose together. When seeing it for the first time during the search, Yusuke was quick to point out great lighting in one of the rooms. Goro wasn't yet sure, but changed his mind after having an idea about setting up a little shrine in the hallway; now they can place the framed photographs and light overpriced incense in its own designated spot. The outdated tradition does — bring some strange comfort. Each time he needs to, Goro can go see faces of the dead, frozen in time. Unaware of what's to come. Shielded from their own fate by a piece of paper.

Their mothers are there, of course. Madarame. Kurusu. Wakaba Isshiki, because the anniversary of her death was last week.

Shido, despite all the odds.

Goro's fingers curl into fists. He swallows, then shakes his head and smiles, almost without having to try. "Yusuke," he says. "Yes, it does look alright here. If you want to leave it as it is, I'm not saying a word, okay?"

"Hm. Well. Okay." Yusuke nods with a tiny smile; even when his expression smoothes out, the spiderweb-thin wrinkles around his eyes remain. There's gray in his hair, like storm clouds in the night sky. But his hands are still covered in paint stains, Goro thinks fondly as he reaches to intertwine their fingers again, because Yusuke would rather break his brush than remember to wash up after playing with acrylics. Today, it's mostly blue, bright and already dry enough to flake off, but also — a few splotches of yellow, radiant like sunflower petals. Maybe it's symbolic. Well, most likely it's not, and it's bullshit. But Goro shakes those thoughts away.

The past cannot be bargained with. But the present is his to claim, so he better be happy. Goro smiles back and pulls Yusuke's palm up to his mouth, places a kiss on the knuckles. Watches that reluctant grin bloom.

They made it through so much shit, they better survive the mundane now. If something happened — if Yusuke was hurt, Kurusu's ghost would probably show up and kick Goro's ass. Understandable, but dealing with ghosts seems like too much effort, for Christ's sake.

They drink Yusuke's terrible coffee in their new kitchen. They eat granola and arugula-couscous-peach salad left over from yesterday. Goro reads the news on his phone and grouses about them, Yusuke calls a fellow lecturer from TUA to talk about the oncoming midterms. They smile, they stack the empty plates, they float on time's surface as it streams steadily. Why does it matter we had to sacrifice so much, Goro thinks out of nowhere, but doesn't focus on it quickly enough. Across the table, Yusuke is saying his goodbyes, sets his phone down with a sigh.

"Could you imagine? Another student has quoted Damien Hirst as their inspiration! A part of me wishes to have them repeat the semester."

Goro shakes his head, holding back a smirk. "That's reasonable," he says.

They talk some more as they wash the dishes. After that, they lapse into silence, but: here it is. Yusuke's legs draped over Goro's as he reads. Goro's hand on Yusuke's thigh. He hasn't been wearing gloves inside for — so long now, he didn't have to anymore. But he still thinks about it as evidence, categorized and counted down but no longer relevant.

Check-mate.

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