My Better Half

By CarnalCoast

Romance / Drama

Part I

It was a Tuesday. Nagisa’s morning hadn’t treated him very kindly; he’d woken up a half-hour after his alarm clock and had to rush to get ready for school. The air outside had been frosty and unmerciful, so he was extremely relieved that he’d remembered to bring a heavier jacket. Now, though, sunlight shone through the window next to Akari’s desk, and he appreciated the feeling of the warmth scattering across his skin. Koro-sensei’s presence managed to cheer Nagisa’s mood as well; the teacher’s passionate ranting about acid-base reaction theories was nothing but amusing to most of the teens in the classroom.

Fully enraptured in the octopus’s lesson, Nagisa was pulled out of his trance and gasped when a small, balled-up piece of paper bounced off the back of his head and onto the floor. He turned around with a glare, assuming one of his classmates was aiming to tease him, but softened his expression when he spied Karma staring at him with a cheeky grin. They didn’t pass notes to each other often, but the practice was still common. It was a school, after all.

Making sure Koro-sensei wasn’t about to come closer—if the teacher had noticed the flying object, he hadn’t shown any reaction—Nagisa carefully bent down to retrieve the note. He sent Karma another curious glance as he unrumpled it. It almost made him feel like they were in elementary school again—a silly, but warm feeling.

Wanna go out to eat with me after school?

...Although, this part wasn’t reminiscent of elementary school at all. He looked back to Karma and nodded, trying to act subtle, with a light pink dusting his cheeks. Karma inclined his head slightly in response and turned his attention away, leaving Nagisa to return his sights to the crumpled paper still in his hands. It wasn’t as if this was a big deal anyway—he battled with himself, silently willing the heat to fade from his cheeks. The way he was acting, like some infatuated schoolgirl—it was so stupid...

“And that’s why we’ll be focusing on the Arrhenius and Brønsted–Lowry theories, rather than the Lewis theory...”

Suddenly, the paper—which he’d been drilling his eyes into—disappeared. Blinking, Nagisa watched as Koro-sensei walked past, and noticed his beady eyes looking down at the note in his tentacle-hand. Stealthily reading it while continuing to talk, he then naturally dropped the message into the trash bin as he passed it. It was so casual and swift that no one was likely to notice. Though Nagisa felt his heart beat erratically with embarrassment, he silently thanked the teacher for not making a big deal out of it. Truthfully, he’d expected Koro-sensei to read the note aloud to the entire class—that was something the cheeky octopus would do, after all.

Of course, Koro-sensei still did throw a devious look Nagisa’s way once he made his way to the front of the class again, but Nagisa knew it could’ve been much worse, and simply released a sigh.

No one said anything as Karma waited for Nagisa to gather his things, and no one said anything as they walked out together down the long, dirt path. Not even Karma said anything, though he was looking at him an awful lot, making Nagisa feel self-conscious.

Is there something on my face?

When they entered the more crowded area of town—Nagisa still had no idea where they were going to eat in the first place—Karma loosely grabbed his hand to steer him in the right direction, through the clumps of busy people. Nagisa felt his face fill with heat. Their hands didn’t grip very strongly, but it was enough for him to notice that Karma’s palm was very warm. Nagisa wondered if his own hands felt cold and clammy to the other boy, and wanted to pull away, but also wanted to hold on tighter. It was a confusing feeling—one only teenagers could understand, he supposed. He found himself wanting to be more mature about it and simply hold Karma’s hand normally, but that was easier said than done. By the time the confused student made up his mind to try and grip tighter, they were already at their destination, and a feeling of defeat nestled in Nagisa’s chest. They let go.

“This is... the place everyone always goes to. Won’t some of the others be here today?” Nagisa recognized the small diner immediately. Specializing in ice cream and pizza, the establishment naturally attracted the younger crowd and had become a regular hang-out for schoolkids. They themselves had been here many times before, and Nagisa’s heart sunk at the ordinariness of the situation, though he instantly chastised himself for that feeling. After all, what was he expecting? Karma had asked him to go out and eat—and this was ‘going out to eat,’ wasn’t it? They’d done it plenty of times, so why was he expecting this time to be any different?

Karma’s voice brought him out of his internal scolding. The red-head was looking at him with that superior expression he often wore, as if he knew everything Nagisa was currently thinking. “Yeah, maybe, but why? Do they matter? Would you not want them to be there?”

For once, the words weren’t teasing, but merely inquisitive. Nagisa quickly shook his blushing head, mumbling that it didn’t matter before practically pulling Karma into the diner. And of course, he’d been right—he already saw Maehara, Kataoka, and Hayami, all sitting down at the ice cream bar. Fortunately, they didn’t look the duo’s way... yet.

“Let’s get a booth,” Karma quietly muttered into his ear, and Nagisa nodded, internally relieved. He’d feigned indifference at the idea of their classmates seeing them here, but he was glad that Karma could see through him anyway and would make some allowances for him. Whether it was true or not, Nagisa held on to the thought that Karma wouldn’t pay such close attention to just anyone—he was special.

Once they’d sat down, in a booth away from the bar and on the other side of the establishment, Karma threw a teasing smile in Nagisa’s direction, inducing another blush from the boy.


Throughout his years of being friends with Karma, Nagisa had grown well-accustomed to the other boy’s mocking; however, since Nagisa had started feeling differently about their relationship, he couldn’t help but become embarrassed from the instances where he wouldn’t have given much thought otherwise. Because, though nothing seemed to have changed, at the same time everything had changed.

Before, Karma teasing him was simply Karma being Karma—it was just how his friend acted, and Nagisa understood that. Now, though, he suddenly found himself blushing and stuttering—frankly, it scared him.

Sometimes, he yearned to actually talk about it with his friend; they hadn’t exchanged so much as a single word on the subject. But, what if it really was all in Nagisa’s head, and Karma hadn’t been feeling or noticing anything different? Then, he would truly make a fool of himself.

So, their pseudo-date ended without any serious conversation, and the two boys exited the diner after their classmates had already been long gone. Nagisa eyed the setting sun with trepidation, just now realizing how much time they’d spent hanging out. He’d spent the time, it seemed, stuck in a dream, trying not to pay any attention to his surroundings and only keeping his eyes on Karma. Because then, he wouldn’t have to chance making eye contact with anyone else he knew. He was completely unaware of when his other classmates had left the establishment, but he only hoped that the three of them hadn’t noticed him and Karma.

At the thought, Nagisa’s anxiety spiked to the point where he forced himself to hesitantly ask Karma, “...So, did you think Maehara-kun and them might’ve noticed us?”

Karma looked at him again with a playful grin, though Nagisa could easily perceive the disguised concern in it. “Well, all three of them saw us. Maehara in particular was staring for a while—I think he was keeping an extra eye on us the whole time, until he left.”

Nagisa was usually thankful for Karma’s propensity to tell the truth so bluntly and directly, but this time it only made his heart beat faster in nervousness. Seeing his friend’s obvious distress, Karma stopped grinning.

“Don’t worry so much, Nagisa-kun. There’s nothing wrong with us just hanging out, okay? They don’t care.”

Jumping at the hand that suddenly landed on his shoulder, Nagisa took a few seconds to collect himself before looking back at Karma with a small, grateful smile. “Yeah... I know. I don’t know what came over me. Sorry.”

Saying nothing in response, Karma stayed with his hand on Nagisa’s shoulder for a few more seconds—during that time their eyes met, and Nagisa’s smile faded. Karma’s eyes were pensive, not mischievous or content as they once were. Suddenly, his hand dropped and he turned his back on his friend.

“I’ll walk you home, Nagisa-kun. Unless you want to go separate ways now?”

Truthfully, Nagisa wanted to stay with Karma as long as possible, but he’d heard the unspoken message in Karma’s words.

“...You don’t have to take me home. It’s alright. It’s getting too late for that, anyway; you just get home too, Karma-kun.”

“Alright. Thanks—I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Without turning around to meet his eyes again, Karma began walking, and Nagisa kept staring until he could no longer see his friend’s back. When he became aware of how alone he now was, he shook himself out of his state and turned in the opposite direction, beginning his trek home.

During his walk, though, he couldn’t stop his thoughts from racing. His nervousness had upset Karma—that much he was certain of. But why? Was it because Karma knew now, about how he really feels?

He probably is embarrassed by me. Or thinks that I’m gross.

Nagisa immediately shuddered for even thinking that thought—yes, he was insecure at the moment, but he knew for sure that Karma wouldn’t think he was gross. Maybe he’d be embarrassed, but not creeped out. He wouldn’t be so cruel to Nagisa. That wouldn’t be like him...

The real reason for Karma wanting to be alone suddenly, Nagisa wasn’t sure of. All he really knew was that he didn’t like it when Karma didn’t smile.

It was a Friday, and for that, Nagisa was happy. It was beginning to get a bit warmer, and the last vestiges of winter were just diminishing, making it much easier to get to class without any puddles of melted snow on the path. During lunch, Nagisa stayed in the classroom, sitting with Isogai, Kanzaki, Sugino, and Kurahashi. Karma had left a short while ago. Since he’d disappeared without a word, Nagisa couldn’t help the bud of worry beginning to bloom in his chest. Luckily, before it progressed too much, Karma reappeared with two drinks in his hands.

Nagisa greeted him with a smile as he retook his seat, right next to the blue-haired boy.

“Here, I got you a different flavor this time,” Karma said teasingly, giving Nagisa one of the drinks and—before the other boy had any time to react or process the situation—leaned closer to kiss the corner of his mouth.

It happened in an instant, but Nagisa could clearly see the reactions of his friends, as they were sitting so closely around each other. Isogai was the only one who looked to the side, mindful of their privacy—either that, or he was embarrassed. The girls squeaked and giggled softly to themselves, seeming to find it more funny and cute than anything else. Maybe they didn’t take it too seriously? Sugino turned bright red—redder than Nagisa, who was sure his face looked like a tomato—but didn’t say anything.

And then—Nagisa knew he should’ve seen it coming—Nakamura, from the opposite end of the class, whistled long and giggled mockingly afterwards. Turning around to face the amused blonde, Karma grinned back at her and stuck his tongue out. Meanwhile, Nagisa buried his burning face into his hands—it was only a small peck, he thought, so why was everyone making such a big deal out of it?

“K-Karma-kun...!” Nagisa shouted at him indignantly, smacking him lightly on the side of his arm. Karma took one look at his embarrassed face and simply laughed, reaching out to ruffle his bangs playfully.

“What’s wrong, Nagisa-kun? You’re so shy recently!”

Nagisa didn’t think of any response, and after he quickly fixed his bangs, a few more seconds of silence lingered in their small group before conversation resumed as normal. He thought it was weird. No one mentioned anything more about the incident, though Nagisa found himself acting rather awkward during the rest of lunch. Did no one else really care about it? A calming wave of relief spread throughout him, but his embarrassment didn’t completely fade until the end of the day.

It was true that he and Karma had kissed before, but not in front of other people. The abruptness of the new development had shocked him, though he supposed it had been a long time coming. He and Karma hadn’t really been acting like ‘normal’ friends anymore, so he wouldn’t be surprised if some of his classmates had already known, even without any public displays of affection.

Nagisa’s relief grew when, the following Monday, no one mentioned it or asked any questions. Most simply seemed to accept the new development of Karma and Nagisa’s relationship as fact, and Nagisa was glad he didn’t have to explain himself to anyone... That is, until Wednesday.

Akari, Sugino, and Nagisa were sitting together outside in the grass—flowers were just beginning to bloom, and Karasuma had allowed them a short break during their training. Since first learning of Akari’s sister and her past, all of the students had become more interested in learning about her life as an actress, what her sister was really like... everything and anything more about their friend’s true identity. Akari told Nagisa and Sugino another story of her sister’s hilarious escapades at home, and when it ended, all three of them became silent in a discreet but respectful mourning period. It lasted for only a few seconds before Akari looked up with a smile, and the other two boys returned it.

After that, though, no one could think of anything more to say. The awkward silence perpetuated for a few more seconds before, suddenly looking extremely nervous, Sugino set his eyes on Nagisa. As his friend opened his mouth to speak, Nagisa’s eyebrows raised worriedly.

“Um... So, Nagisa... You and Karma are dating, is that right?”

At first, Nagisa was certain his entire world crashed around him, into a million pieces, but he quickly picked it all back up and put it together. Don’t be so overdramatic; he just asked a question...

He should’ve expected it—even so, Nagisa, in all his time worrying about a moment exactly like this one, still hadn’t come up with anything to say during such an event. Sugino continued to look at him nervously, and Akari stared at him as well, though with a neutral expression.

Time passed in silence. With only Nagisa’s shocked countenance as an answer to his question, Sugino soon raised his hands anxiously.

“Ah, s-sorry! I didn’t mean to ask something so personal—I was just, um, curious, yanno? Feel free to ignore me, haha...” Laughing nervously, Sugino ran a hand through his hair, but Nagisa quickly raised his hands as well.

“N-No, you don’t need to apologize, Sugino-kun!” He was sure his face was bright red again, and he felt the desperate urge to go inside and splash some water on it. But he knew he couldn’t run away this time—he wouldn’t let himself. “I mean... Y-Yeah. We are... together. It doesn’t... bother you, right?”

There, he did it. He felt extreme relief already, as if a thousand tons had been lifted off his shoulders.

“Ah, no! It doesn’t bother me at all!” Nagisa’s response only seemed to have made Sugino more nervous, as the boy was now looking at him with wide eyes. “It really doesn’t! I’m happy for you guys! I was just... caught by surprise, that’s all. How did it happen?”

Well, he wasn’t expecting that question.

“...How? Um...” Not wanting to pause for too long, Nagisa quickly searched for an answer amid his scrambled, embarrassed brain. “Well... I don’t... really know? How it happened... Let’s see... Haha, well... It just—I guess it just happened? Yeah, it just, sort of, happened... Naturally, you know?”

He was ashamed at such a lame answer, but Sugino quickly nodded in understanding.

“It’s okay, you don’t need to tell me anything. I’m being nosy—sorry for butting in so much, Nagisa.” Sugino again laughed nervously, and Nagisa shook his head.

“N-No, it’s okay...” Sugino had seemed to misinterpret his answer, which only made the budding assassin even more embarrassed.

Akari, however, seemed to understand, and smiled at him warmly. “I think that’s great, Nagisa-kun. Congratulations, for both of you.”

“A-Ah, thanks...” Eager to leave this line of conversation, Nagisa sighed in relief when they suddenly heard Karasuma’s booming voice, shouting to resume their training.

That wasn’t so bad... Sugino doesn’t mean any harm, anyway. And no one is being mean about it....

As he tried to assure himself, Nagisa still couldn’t shake the unease that lingered throughout the day since their conversation. It wasn’t that Sugino had bothered him by being curious—his friend seemed to be very accepting, after all. Rather, it was his second line of questioning that made Nagisa cringe. ‘How’...

Because he and Karma still hadn’t exchanged a word about the nature of their relationship. In fact, this had even been true during their regular friendship, as well. There was no “Do you wanna be friends?”—no conversation about whether they were best friends, or less, or more... They talked to others about their relationship with each other—that was clear from his conversation with Sugino today, and even from yesterday, when Nagisa overheard Karma talking to Terasaka in the hallway: “Yeah, he’s my boyfriend...”

Blood had rushed to Nagisa’s face when he’d heard it. Granted, it didn’t surprise him. Because it was true, he supposed...

Sugino had got him thinking, though. He and Karma hadn’t talked at all about the progression of their relationship. It really had ‘just happened.’ Wasn’t that weird? Nagisa didn’t even know who had started feeling these feelings first, or when Karma had first noticed Nagisa’s feelings... All Nagisa knew was that, one day, Karma thought it was okay to kiss him and hold his hand, and Nagisa was glad that he did.

Was it love, even? Did Karma even love him, or was this situation just convenient for him? How could he know? Nagisa suddenly felt smothered by all of these anxious thoughts surrounding him, and was shaken to the core. He desperately wanted to talk to Karma, to have an answer to these questions.

The next time they met, Nagisa’s anxiety disappeared, as it so easily did when he was with Karma. Nagisa said nothing about his worries. They didn’t talk about it, and they wouldn’t for a very long time.

It was a Saturday when they made their final decision. The apartment was nice—two bedrooms, so one could be made into a study or spare room, which Karma thought they needed for whatever reason. It had a relatively nice view of the city, being a significant amount of stories up, and the living room/kitchen area was very spacious. They both approved of the modern design and affordable price, so the choice hadn’t been too difficult.

Because of their respective careers, they hadn’t wanted to settle down and get a place together for quite a while. At least, not until they were secure in their positions and Nagisa had proved himself enough to his bosses so he could be able to request leave every now and then, or take jobs at his own pace. Now, both twenty-two years old, the time had come.

Nagisa had left Karma to do most of the talking with the contractor, and instead admired the view outside the window across from the living area, which spanned the entire wall. It was breathtaking; Nagisa imagined coming home to this after a tough job and smiled at the thought of such relaxation. He turned his head when he sensed Karma walk up to his left, and found his lover smiling back at him.

They spent a few moments in silence, bracing themselves for the life they were about to begin together—finally—until Karma broke it quietly and carefully.

“...So, want to own it under just my name, or both of ours?”

Considering Karma could, at any time now, find himself becoming a better-known public and political figure, Nagisa knew they should play it safe and own it all under Karma’s name. However, something about the charming glint in Karma’s eyes was making him second-guess himself.

He was silent for a while longer as he mulled it over meticulously, eventually nodding in assent to himself. This was an exception, he thought. Or, maybe it was just an exceptional moment.


Karma smiled again, and Nagisa swore he was going to kiss him right then—the atmosphere around them was positively saccharine, and he wouldn’t be surprised if the air tasted like honey. So he raised eyebrows slightly when Karma simply walked back to the contractor, opting to wrap up their final paperwork.

It had been so easy, Nagisa thought, once they were finally alone—in their home. The apartment, which they owned themselves. He could hardly believe it, and it seemed Karma couldn’t either, as both of them spent a few minutes only staring at each other with overjoyed eyes. Nagisa eventually couldn’t take it, and closed the gap to take his lover’s hands in his own. Their appendages dangled in between them like a red thread, linking them together.

Karma closed the gap further, connecting their lips gently. When they parted—slow, as if it pained them—he whispered against Nagisa’s lips.

“We did it.”

Nagisa both hated and loved when Karma did this—whispered intimately and meaningfully against him—because it elicited such strong emotion. He knew what Karma was truly saying: You’ve succeeded. You’re an assassin. Your mother can’t control you. We live together. We don’t need to depend on anyone. We made it.

I love you.

“I love you.”

Blue eyes opened wide, shocked, barely comprehensive, and air involuntarily entered Nagisa’s lungs so quickly that he nearly kneeled over.

It had never been said out loud before; simply hearing it, to Nagisa’s ears, felt like a shot to the head. Hesitantly, he looked up into Karma’s eyes. In them he saw the love and devotion that Karma rarely displayed, even to Nagisa—which was why Nagisa had been doubtful at times, he supposed. No one was perfect, and Karma was an unpredictable person. Nagisa had felt Karma’s love throughout the years—when they were talking on the phone, miles away; when they were surrounded by their friends, yet they still sought out each other’s hands; when they were intimate, and Nagisa could barely tell where his own skin ended and Karma’s began. However, a miniscule shred of doubt had always accompanied those feelings.

The shred of doubt was gone. Nagisa felt that, by this moment, they’d taken an extraordinary leap, and it took his breath away.

“...Me too.”

It was an inappropriately short reply. Nagisa had so much to say, his thoughts racing so fast that he couldn’t even attempt to put them into words. Karma smiled knowingly and pressed his forehead against Nagisa’s. In return, Nagisa could only close his eyes and try to keep his face from turning too red, keep his tears from welling over.

I’m an assassin, and a grown man. I shouldn’t be so affected by this!

Nagisa’s attempts at concealing himself failed, and Karma’s soft, loving laughter resonated throughout the empty apartment. Self-conscious, Nagisa choked out between shaky inhales, “S-Stop! It’s not funny! I’m just... This is big, you know...”

Karma continued grinning, brushing his lips near the corner of Nagisa’s mouth. “I know, I know,” he muttered dismissively. They were standing so close that Nagisa could feel the intense warmth radiating from his body, and he swallowed dryly.

“I... After all this time, you... Were we just...?” Nagisa continued, trying make his jumbled thoughts become coherent sentences. He gave the task up rather quickly, and after a few seconds with only Nagisa’s loud breathing to permeate the silence, Karma forced their eyes to meet again.

“I know,” he repeated delicately, urging Nagisa to quiet his own breaths. “I’m sorry for taking such a long time to come to terms with things when we were kids. And putting on that face—acting like a jerk, even though I didn’t realize I was—I’ve been really stupid, huh? I always have to make you wait, don’t I, Nagisa?”

Nagisa brushed away a stray tear and punched Karma’s chest lightly, now glaring up at him. “You... idiot! That’s not... I could see through you anyway, bastard, so... I knew all along that you felt the same way.” He knew it was nothing but a bluff at this point. At Karma’s words, he’d felt a strong sense of relief, and Karma could no doubt see that by his tears. Nevertheless, he tried to calm himself and took a deep breath. “...Well, you’re doing it again, right now. Idiot.”

Despite Nagisa’s weary tone, Karma threw him another playful smile—some things never changed. “I apologize.” As he spoke, he rested his hand on the small of his lover’s back and brought them closer together again. “I’ll work on being more honest with you, and myself. I’m a big boy now—you can trust me more, Nagisa.”

“I’ve... always trusted you...” The irritation gradually left Nagisa’s voice, and he leaned his head on Karma’s shoulder, sighing against his neck. “...I accept your apology.”

Their arms around each other, the young couple stayed still for a few minutes, basking in their love. Karma had his lips pressed against the top of Nagisa’s head, and Nagisa swore he could fall asleep standing up at that moment. Eventually they detached themselves just enough so they could look into each other’s eyes again.

Lightly tracing the red area under Nagisa’s eyes—remnants of his tears—Karma whispered in a sultry tone, “So, want to break in our new home like a couple of newlyweds?”

Blush spread across Nagisa’s cheeks like a gentle fire, and he knew he couldn’t keep his happiness from showing. “Karma, we don’t even have the bed moved in.”


Sighing, exasperated—though still unable to keep the smile off his face, no matter how hard he tried—Nagisa stepped away and took Karma’s hands. “Didn’t you want to go out and celebrate?”

“Fine...” Karma’s smile turned mischievous, and Nagisa willed himself to not roll his eyes. “But after dinner, you’re all mine. We’ll go to a fancy hotel for the night.”

“Whatever you say. Remember, we have to meet Akari-chan tomorrow.”

“You think saying that will make me go easier on you?” Karma teased as he dragged them to the door. “You’re so cute, Nagisa.”

Nagisa acted irritated, but the relief and joy he felt didn’t disappear for the whole night—and even the next day. It showed itself in everything he did, every movement he made, every kiss and every amorous touch; he felt the weight of years of worry be lifted off of his shoulders. Nothing could ruin this incredible, overwhelming, new chapter of his life.

It was a Sunday, and Karma exhaled loudly as he took once last glance at his phone—11:36 PM. He’d only just gotten home from his friendly meeting with Sugino, which had followed his not-friendly business meeting with various political and corporate bigwigs, none of which he could stand to be around for more than five hours. The day had left him exhausted. He’d even been tempted to cancel his outing with Sugino, but he knew his friend hadn’t seen neither him nor Nagisa for a long while and was looking forward to their dinner. Well, their late dinner.

So, he’d left straight from the meeting to the restaurant, and the couple of old classmates had plenty to talk about for two hours. Sugino had more than enough to say about his recent engagement with Kanzaki. The wedding wouldn’t be for at least a year, yet there they were, already talking about where it would be held and who would be invited. Karma had responded amicably to his friend’s excited ramblings until one unexpected question had escaped his constantly moving mouth.

“So, are you going to propose to Nagisa any time soon?”

Karma almost choked on his drink, but managed to keep everything flowing down the proper pipe and swallowed thickly. A few seconds passed, uncomfortably tense, with Sugino’s excited and large eyes staring at Karma’s tentative visage.

“...Well, we... I mean, I—Ah...” Gritting his teeth, Karma grimaced at not being able to keep up his articulate, eloquent façade. Then again, he’d just spent the better part of his day keeping up that same farce with his bureaucratic peers, so his brain was practically fried at this point.

It wasn’t as if he hadn’t thought about it; gay marriage was now legal in Japan, and had been for a few years. When it had first been legalized, though, Karma and Nagisa hadn’t spoken of it—at the time, they hadn’t yet moved in together. Since then, they still hadn’t discussed it. The only thoughts Karma held about it were his own, and they weren’t very encouraging thoughts.

Finally sensing his friend’s discomfort, Sugino chuckled nervously and waved his hand apologetically. “O-Oh, but I mean, if it’s a tough subject you don’t have to tell me... I get it, it would probably be difficult, with you guys’ parents... But I mean, we, your old classmates and friends, would be all for supporting you, yanno? N-Not that we talk about it behind your backs or anything!”

As Sugino was only continuing to put his foot in his mouth, Karma shook his head to placate his panicky friend. “No, it’s fine. I mean, I don’t give a shit about what our parents would think, or do... They’re not the issue.”

When Karma did nothing more to elaborate, Sugino tilted his head questioningly. “...That’s good. Then, what’s the issue? Why don’t you get hitched? Just not feeling it?—I get that; marriage isn’t for everyone—“

Karma cut him off, sighing tiredly. “It’s not like that...” Pausing for a second, as if bracing himself, Karma leaned further in and looked into his friend’s eyes intensely. Sugino shivered.

“Since you got engaged, don’t you feel like she’s your everything? Even more than before?” He didn’t wait for a nod or a shake of the head, just continued. “Marriage is more than just a relationship. It’s a commitment—two people becoming one, almost. Legal responsibility. Maybe even a family, if you feel up to that. ...Now, just think of Nagisa’s job.”

Sugino’s eyes widened in understanding, and Karma paused again before continuing, quieter.

“...It’s already hard enough—never knowing if he’ll... Well, you know. As a married couple, that would be... I don’t know if I could do that. Or if Nagisa could. Just imagine how he’d feel, too... I wouldn’t want him to even consider giving up his dream, understand?”

“Yeah... I get it.” Sugino leaned back, now looking concerned at his friend, who had just let out so much emotion in a nearly emotionless tone. “...That’s rough. I should’ve thought of that, sorry...”

“It’s fine.” Karma spoke dismissively, taking a drink and hoping they could change the subject. Still, Sugino continued.

“But maybe... What if you waited until he retired? Living out your retired lives together as a married couple would be good enough, wouldn’t it?”

Karma imagined them both—old enough to have wrinkles—at the aisle saying their vows, and cringed for a multitude of reasons. “No. Immediate no. Who knows when I would retire, anyway—probably a long time after he would.” He left the worst case scenario unsaid—if his lover perished before he even got a chance to retire.

“Hm... I guess so. Well, it’s not like everyone needs to get married to be happy. That’s that?”

“Well... Maybe I’ll think about it and come to a decision within the next year. No longer than that, though—if I have to agonize any longer than that, it might as well be a definite no.” Karma frowned conclusively, and Sugino smiled in a playful manner.

“Ever thought of, I don’t know—talking to him, finding out how he feels about it?”

“Did you ‘talk’ to Kanzaki about it before you proposed to her?”

Sugino laughed slightly, giving in. “Alright, point taken. Well, I’m sure that whatever happens, you guys will work out just fine. Everything’s fine for now, right?”

“Yeah...” Karma stared away, eyes glazed in thought. “He’s coming home tonight from another job. Or, should be.”

“Good to know! Make sure he tells me how it went.”

Karma let out another loud sigh, resting his head wearily against the door to their bedroom. Oftentimes he would stay up through the night until his lover returned home from a job, but tonight his head felt like it was filled with lead and he could barely keep his eyes open. In fact, he couldn’t at all. Nagisa had said time and time again that he ought to get more sleep instead of staying awake while waiting for him to come home, so just this once, Karma opted to take his advice.

Entering their bedroom, he didn’t bother to flip the switch; the only light in the room filtered through the blinds of their windows. Karma clumsily took off his pants and tie, taking a minute to unbutton his shirt before growling in frustration and throwing it in a corner. He flopped onto the bed and barely yanked the covers over himself before succumbing to sleep, secretly thankful he was allowing himself an escape from his thoughts.

Because these nights were truly a double-edged sword—both the worst and the best for Karma. The best when Nagisa would return home after days, weeks, or even a month or two, and Karma could hold him in his arms again. Every time, without fail, they would make love insatiably and cling to each other as if they were forbidden lovers meeting for only one night. The relief and adoration Karma felt—coming from both him and Nagisa—would be overwhelming, and the next day both lovers would be positively glowing.

Then, these nights were also the worst. Because the hours, minutes, seconds before Nagisa burst through the front door were always utterly torturous. Karma’s mind raced faster, and with each minute that passed the thought of “What if he doesn’t come home?” became stronger. To this day, Nagisa had never missed a return date, and Karma hoped to death that he never would. That day would be his end, for sure.

That’s why, when Karma awoke early in the morning, with the lights shining through the blinds being enough to illuminate the room in a gentle glow, his heart immediately started pounding. It was Monday morning now—the thought boomed loudly in his mind. He could only stare at the ceiling for a while, until the rest of his senses finally came back to him. He felt a warm weight on his right side, and soft skin against his own.

He turned his head slowly, as if he was scared at what could be there waiting for him, and saw Nagisa, his blue hair peeking out from the covers and his face nestled against Karma’s shoulder. His arms and legs were both loosely wrapped around Karma, like he was a koala, and Karma exhaled shakily in relief. Nagisa came home.

His body had been shaken from his exhausting worry, and Karma suddenly realized how tired he still felt. Already, his eyes were feeling heavy, though he wanted to continue staring at his lover’s sleeping face. He also felt the standard urge to check him for injuries—to wake him up and ask him if anything had gone wrong, if he’d been paid adequately. If he’d missed Karma as much as Karma had missed him. He knew he didn’t have time for all that now, though; his eyelids were falling.

Sluggishly, Karma turned onto his side so he could face Nagisa and hold him in his arms. The warmth that emanated from the position calmed him immensely, and seemed to calm Nagisa as well, who snuggled further into the embrace. Their legs intertwined. Barely managing to press his lips against the top of Nagisa’s head, Karma fell back asleep.

That same Monday morning, Nagisa woke up from the best sleep he’d had in the past week and a half.

He loved his job—that much was true. Assassination was what he did best, and it came so naturally to him that he couldn’t think of any career he’d rather have. However, every career had its downsides. On the night of a kill, everything else was blocked from his mind except what to do and how to do it—no unrelated thoughts. The time that led up to and followed that point, though, was full of thoughts of his home, his friends—his lover. He always worked to get the job done as quickly and efficiently as possible, partly due to his worry about returning to Karma safely.

So, when he’d entered the apartment, exhausted from the flight, only to find that Karma wasn’t waiting for him in the living room, he’d been struck with terror. His body and mind were still rather hyperaware from his work, and he’d immediately scoured the vicinity for any intruders. When he came to the bedroom, he’d exhaled in relief at seeing Karma lazily outstretched across the bed, his red head peeking out from under the covers.

At first, Nagisa had felt glad that Karma had finally listened to his advice; his boyfriend often needed more rest, being run dry by the officials and tycoons he had to deal with on a daily basis. Then, Nagisa had suddenly felt his exhaustion catch up to him. He barely managed to undress before joining his lover under the cool, inviting sheets.

Now drifting back to consciousness, Nagisa smiled when he noticed that Karma had shifted to embrace him at some point during the night. His boyfriend’s face was half hidden by the pillow it was buried into, but Nagisa could still see his peaceful and content expression. His own smile grew, and he carefully pulled one of his arms up from between them in order to caress the side of Karma’s face. Suddenly, he was overwhelmed with the urge to talk to his lover—ask him if he’d been okay while he’d been gone.

Karma stirred slightly when he felt the touch, and as he huddled closer into the embrace Nagisa felt a growing hardness against his thigh. He felt blood rush to his face and neck, but his smile didn’t lessen. It seemed that even subconsciously, Karma’s body knew that Nagisa had returned and was getting anxious to greet him. Sexual contact with his lover had stopped being extremely embarrassing for Nagisa years ago; now, he figured he’d let Karma’s poor body wait long enough. Not to mention Nagisa had also been ready for this as soon as he’d gotten home.

With the skill of an assassin, Nagisa moved fluidly so he was pressed chest-to-chest against Karma, with his hand gently stroking Karma’s hardening member through his underwear. Karma instinctively shifted back so his lover could be allowed more access. Within a few seconds the pleasure became enough to arouse his consciousness as well, and he opened his eyes slightly.

He saw Nagisa—set aglow by the light seeping into their room, his blue eyes loving and undefended—and couldn’t stop himself from smiling. Leaning closer and wrapping his arms tighter around him, Karma pressed their first kiss of the day against Nagisa’s lips.

“Nagisa...” he slurred quietly against the soft lips, and Nagisa smiled back against his own, merely answering with a hum. There was nothing else to be said; they both were eager to indulge in their love after more than a week of being apart.

It took around thirty minutes, though it seemed like a glorious lifetime to both of them. Karma was quick to reach for the lube they kept in the bedside drawer, and he prepared Nagisa effortlessly. His lover’s entrance was pliant, and easily molded to his fingers— by now, Nagisa knew that being mentally ready and eager always had a great effect on his body’s reflexive willingness. Karma pushed into him without resistance, and the couple clung to each other desperately as they rocked in tandem, both coming with each other’s names hanging on their lips.

They took a while to come down, reveling in the afterglow, and Karma spent that time sweeping his hands across Nagisa’s skin, kissing every inch he could find. Somewhere in the back of his mind he remembered he was also checking for injuries, but the action was so instinctual that its reason nearly escaped his mind. Nagisa, his breath slowing down, chuckled soundlessly and ran his fingers through Karma’s hair—he was spending a lot of time at the lower area of Nagisa’s abdomen, where he’d found a few minor cuts. They appeared to be from a short blade, so it was nothing too severe.

Nevertheless, Karma smothered them with his kisses; Nagisa giggled, his slight ticklishness getting the best of him. When he deemed Nagisa’s stomach to be adequately loved, Karma moved back up and caught his boyfriend in another kiss.

After a few more minutes of tender kisses and caresses, Nagisa shifted his legs and felt the cooling residue of their copulation seep out from inside him. Just a tad embarrassed and uncomfortable, he moaned softly and pushed himself up and off the bed, finally detaching from Karma. It was true that he was no longer nervous about sex, but this was the part of it that still managed to fluster him.

“I... should go take a shower.” He stretched as he spoke, though he clenched himself to try and keep the semen from dripping down his thighs. Karma’s smile morphed into a frisky smirk, and he got up behind Nagisa to pull him into another embrace, wrapping his arms around his waist.

“Sounds fun. How about I join you? That just now was barely enough to sate me. I’ll love you to pieces, Nagisa, and afterwards you can tell me all about your mission.” Karma whispered, his voice velvety against Nagisa’s ear.

Nagisa shivered delightedly at his words; they would usually go for a second round when they woke up from the night Nagisa came home, so it only seemed fair to do the same in this new situation. Clean-up afterwards would also be easier in the shower—though Karma would probably want to help. The thought made Nagisa’s entire body flush with arousal.

“That sounds... nice,” he hummed out in response, leaning into Karma’s form for a few seconds. Then they broke away, and Nagisa silently led his lover into their bathroom, an excited glint in both of their eyes.

It was a Wednesday, and Karma was possibly the most frightened he’d ever been in his entire life. He took precaution to not let this emotion show on his face; however, Nakamura was sitting close enough to notice even the smallest twitch, and couldn’t stop herself from laughing.

“Geez, Karma-kun! This is the most nervous I’ve ever seen you! It’s priceless...!” At her frankly insensitive response, Karma glared scathingly.

“Well, excuse me for being a bit anxious about what could possibly be the most important day of my life thus far. Oh, I forgot—you don’t know how this feels, so I shouldn’t expect any empathy.”

Immediately she stopped laughing, her eyes turning hard and unforgiving. Karma wouldn’t be surprised if she walked out of his apartment right then and there. “You don’t have to be a fucking jerk about it. I’ve just had nothing but shitty guys so far—you know that.”

“Yeah, I know...” He sighed, running his hand through his hair. “Sorry, I’m just sort of riled up.”

“Yeah, I got that.” Nakamura sighed, taking a drink of her beverage to cool herself off before softening her glare. “Well, it’s understandable that you’re nervous. But don’t worry—there’s no way Nagisa-chan would say no. I just know it.”

“...Thanks.” Karma managed to express some gratitude; the blonde could be harsh at times, but she had good intentions. Her personality—and the fact that she knew Nagisa better than most people—was the reason why he invited her over on this day. She would be transparent with him, enough to tell him outright if she thought there would be any problems with what he was planning to do.

“...Well, we’ve talked enough, right? I’d better get going. Got a date with one of those shitty guys, anyway...” Nakamura sighed to herself, standing up and giving Karma a well-meaning glance. “You’ll be fine. The ring is beautiful, by the way. Looks just like his eyes.”

“You already said that as soon as I showed it to you...” Nevertheless, Karma chuckled and stood up to see her out the door.

“Just saying! Remember to at least text me tomorrow; I need to have an accurate and detailed description of Nagisa-chan’s face when it happens!”

“Yeah, yeah...” Karma sighed tiredly once he finally got Nakamura out the door. His hand drifted down to rest on his pocket—or, the small box inside his pocket. His heart was pounding, but he forced himself to relax; he’d been through life-threatening situations before, so he could handle this.

The following hour or so he spent waiting for Nagisa to come home was absolutely unbearable. His mind kept on drifting to all the relentless teasing Nakamura had put him through once he’d told her the news. Especially that one comment...

“You should’ve at least done this sooner, Karma-kun! If you did, you would’ve beaten Maehara and Isogai to the punch! Not so competitive anymore these days?”

He rolled his eyes, and part of himself wondered why he’d told Nakamura of all people—her and Sugino were the only ones who knew about what he was planning to do. Sugino, because he’d gotten Karma thinking seriously about it for the first time, and Karma had to thank him for that. Nakamura, because... Well, he supposed he didn’t want to deal with any gentle or overly-encouraging words at the moment. He didn’t need that; his pride wouldn’t allow it. He needed someone to toughen him up for this, and Akari or Kanzaki wouldn’t have done that. Nakamura was the best option.

“I’m home!”

Finally, at 7:13, Nagisa came through the door holding various shopping bags. He set them on the kitchen counter without looking at Karma.

“Sorry, I sort of got held up on the way home. Dinner will be quick to make, though—do you still want to take me somewhere afterwards? It’s sort of late...” Finally, he looked over to Karma, who did his best to hide his anxiousness.

“Yeah, I do. I’ll help you, to speed things up.”

Without much conversation, the couple quickly got to work on making dinner together. Karma managed to clear his restless mind during the process, though his momentary peace was interrupted when Nagisa sent him a small smile as they put the food on the table.

“Won’t you just tell me where we’re going? I want to know.”

“No—no! It’s a surprise...” Luckily, Karma’s voice stayed steady, and he sat down with a smile to accompany Nagisa’s.

“Are you trying to be romantic?”

Nagisa’s question didn’t come out as teasing or mocking in the slightest, but Karma still felt a slight embarrassed flush grace his face. If Nagisa noticed it, he didn’t say anything and simply started eating.

They finished without any serious discussion, and as soon as the dishes were put away Karma was tugging on Nagisa’s arm insistently.

“Come on, come on. Put on your shoes and we’ll leave straight away!”

Now raising an eyebrow at his lover’s exuberance, Nagisa did what he was told and got in the car without any questioning. As they drove closer and closer to their destination, Karma felt his heart speeding up, and he swore a few drops of sweat were dripping down his neck. By now it was very dark outside, but Nagisa still looked out the window for any signs of where they were going. His eyebrows lowered.

“Karma... Are we going to our old class?”

“Just wait...” Karma mumbled back, his voice barely audible, and Nagisa looked at his tense face a moment longer before staring back out the window. Soon enough, the scenery morphed into bunches of trees which nearly concealed the starry sky, and Nagisa nodded to himself.

“Hm... We’re definitely going there...” His own voice was barely audible as well, as if he was afraid of breaking the silence. When Karma didn’t reply, neither of them spoke for the rest of the drive. Or, not until Karma pulled up at the bottom of a certain grassy hill, around thirty meters away from their old 3-E classroom.

“This is...” Nagisa stared in awe at the hill as Karma took his hand and pulled him out of the car. “We... haven’t been here in a long time.”

“Yeah... Come on.” Karma couldn’t say anything else—who knew what would come out of his mouth. The couple walked up the hill, hand-in-hand and silent until they reached the top, where a single oak tree stood proudly. After admiring it for a few seconds, Karma led Nagisa near its roots and sat himself on the grass. Nagisa sat next to him, leaning against the trunk and looking up at the sky.

“We used to come here all the time... That class... made so many good memories, huh? We’d study here all the time, you and I... You helped me succeed here...” Nagisa mused, shutting his eyes briefly in bliss. The weather was still and perfect—not even slight breezes grazed their cheeks.

“Yeah, I remember... This was also where we made out for the first time, if I remember correctly? Good times...”

Nagisa’s eyes opened wide and he smacked Karma—who was chuckling incessantly—lightly on the arm. “I-Idiot...! Can’t believe you...” He sighed to himself, but smiled.

Yes, he did remember. He’d been so nervous, but he’d felt so loved and accomplished afterwards. This wasn’t the place where they’d shared their very first kiss—that had been in Karma’s room, on a simple Thursday afternoon—but they’d shared many other kisses under this tree. Nagisa also remembered many times when Karma would, in this spot, comfort him and brush his tears away when he felt he could no longer take his mother’s abuse.

And now, after years, they’d come back to the same place. Nagisa leaned his head against Karma’s shoulder affectionately.

“...This is nice. Why did you take me here, though? Today isn’t our anniversary or anything...”

Nagisa didn’t hear anything for a while, but eventually Karma replied, “Well, anywhere else would have too many people. I didn’t think you’d be comfortable if we had spectators.”

“...Huh?” Nagisa let the answer sink in before he pulled his head back up, meeting Karma’s eyes. “What do you mean by that?”

Oh, shit...

Karma hadn’t meant to give things away—it was unlike him to speak so carelessly at such an important moment, and for a second he was too stunned to think. The silence persisted for too long, and Nagisa’s expression grew worried. Just when he was about to interrogate his boyfriend further, Karma became determined and shifted his body to face him completely head-on.

“I... I’d hoped we could relax up here a while longer before I got to saying this, but... Nagisa. I need you to understand how important you are to me. We’ve been through so much, and you’re—you’re my better half, really... I couldn’t imagine my life without you. When we moved in together, planning to spend the rest of our lives as a couple, it made me the happiest man on Earth... I hope you know how much you mean to me.”

Nagisa thought of spouting out the obligatory “You’re scaring me, Karma,” but instead could only murmur, “I know...” His eyes were wide—nervous and amazed, but a shred hopeful.

“So, I...” Karma paused to wet his lips anxiously, reaching out to gently hold Nagisa’s left hand. He silently rejoiced that neither of their hands were very sweaty. “...I’ve thought a lot about this. I want to... solidify this. I want to spend the rest of my life with you at my side. If I didn’t have you, I’d be hopeless—you know that...”

Karma’s other hand carefully pulled the small, black box out of his pocket, and Nagisa’s eyes widened. They stared unblinkingly at the box as it opened to display the ring, which held a small aquamarine diamond. Karma took in a breath.

“I know it’ll be hard, but I think we can do it. So... Would you marry me?”

It didn’t go how he’d planned, Karma thought. But he still felt satisfied when Nagisa slowly looked back into his eyes and gave him that peculiar stare—he’d seen it a multitude of times. No one but him had ever had the privilege of witnessing it. It was an expression which expressed perpetual devotion—Nagisa’s eyebrows slightly turned in, his eyes bright and intense.

“...Of course. I’ll marry you.” Nagisa’s words were soft, and passed through his lips like air before he dipped forwards to wrap his arm tight around Karma, his other hand still being held. Karma kissed the side of his fiancé’s face and kept his lips there as he took the ring out, slowly sliding it onto Nagisa’s fourth finger. Nagisa thought it was the most intimate touch he’d ever experienced.

“I love you...” Karma’s eyes suddenly welled with tears, and he almost cursed for being so vulnerable—but he couldn’t fight it, not now. When Nagisa felt the dampness on his shoulder, where Karma had rested his head, Nagisa felt his own tears finally come. He laughed breathlessly.

“Look at us... I can’t believe this...” He didn’t bother to wipe his wet face and turned Karma’s head to face him, interlocking their lips. They kissed passionately, Nagisa’s left hand still intertwined with Karma’s. When they parted, Karma grinned at him.

“Me either... Are you sure... about this? We can talk it over more, if you want...”

Nagisa tilted his chin down and smiled knowingly. “You sound like you’re the one who isn’t too sure, Karma.”

“No, I’m sure.” He’d thought it over plenty already—he couldn’t go back on this decision, he knew. It wouldn’t be right. “I’m sure.”

“Good. Then, I’m sure too.”

They stayed under the tree for at least an hour longer. Nagisa felt overjoyed, seeing how Karma’s smile never faded even as they were driving home.

It was a Thursday when Nagisa first mentioned it. It was funny, Karma thought, that Nagisa would be the one to bring it up first, considering he himself had been mulling it over for a long time. Or, since Sugino had put the idea into his mind—the man had such a bad habit for doing that, Karma was almost irritated by it. However, it now seemed that Karma hadn’t been the only one thinking about the topic.

“So... Have you thought of kids? Adoption...? I-I mean, after we’re married, of course!”

Nagisa, in the process of preparing a meal, said it without even looking at his lover so he couldn’t gauge his reaction. Karma was shocked at first, though as soon as Nagisa mentioned their impending marriage he was filled with happiness. It was only two months away. Everything seemed to have happened so fast, and the couple still felt as if they were stuck in a dream.

“...That’s... a lot to think about. A lot of factors there, with the kind of lives we have... you know? We’d probably have to change some things around here...” Karma spoke carefully, as if he were walking on glass. Nagisa’s shoulders relaxed when he heard that Karma hadn’t overreacted.

“Yes, I know... ‘I know it’ll be hard, but I think we can do it.’ Isn’t that what you said to me?” Nagisa looked over his shoulder at Karma, a bright smile adorning his face. “We’re a team. I think, within a few years, if we wanted to... We could have a family. I’d love to have that with you, Karma.”

Karma marveled at his fiancé’s unwavering honesty. The pure love in Nagisa’s words still shocked him sometimes—but, that was Nagisa.

“...Yeah. I think I’d like that too.”

He felt that his words didn’t measure up to Nagisa’s, and briefly belittled himself for not being more forthcoming—for not talking to Nagisa as soon as he’d found himself thinking about kids.

Then, he saw Nagisa’s smile widen at his response, and all guilt disappeared.

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