Enma’s heart was beating wildly in his chest: ba-thump, ba-thump, ba-thumb. In the silence surrounding him, it seemed abnormally loud. He lifted a trembling hand to his chest and pressed it into his rib cage.
“Why are you doing this?” he mumbled. His heart, of course, gave no answer. Or maybe it did. Maybe its attempts to tear itself free from his insides were its way of telling him how downright crazy this entire plan was. Whatever the reason, Enma really wished it would stop. This whole thing was hard enough without adrenaline rushing through his veins.
Trying to calm down was a vain effort. Enma knew that. He’d been trying ever since school got out. How many girls had passed by, giggling because of how weird he looked standing at the gate? How many bullies had come by to exact their “standing” tax?
Maybe that was why his heart was still going crazy. Maybe he was finally running out of blood and this was its last, desperate attempt to get what was left to the rest of the body before it gave out. Enma supposed that wouldn’t be too bad, really. At least if he was dead he wouldn’t be picked on anymore. He wouldn’t fail any more tests, either. And, for the love of god, he would not have to do what he was planning to do next.
The bag at his side buzzed. His head turned toward it. He blinked and then slowly plucked his cell phone from the pocket. Who would be calling him now? It was nearly dark and the Vongola had no reason to contact him.
“Enma. Are you all right? It’s late.”
Oh. It was Adelheid, then. He probably should have known, but Aoba had stolen his phone and changed all the contacts to “imagay” and it was throwing him off.
“She hasn’t been by.” He stared down the street again. Still no shadows appeared to be growing against the bright red sky. “Maybe she’s not coming…”
“It’s nearly dark. I would say she’s not.”
“She could be working overtime."
“Enma, just come home. We’ll order more and you can talk to her then.”
“I don’t want to say it front of Julie.”
"He’s not going to say anything. If he does, I’ll hit him.”
“Just a little longer.”
“Okay.” This time, her voice sounded a little warmer. “Call me when you’re on your way home.”
He ended the conversation with a simple push of a button. Why hadn’t he taken the out Adelheid offered him? This was her idea to begin with and Enma was seriously beginning to doubt her understanding of the matter. Her relationship wasn’t really comparable to his. All Julie had to do was grope her.
Oh, god, was he going to have to grab your breasts? Did you even have those? It had been so long that he didn’t remember. And Adelheid usually still slapped Julie when he did this. Enma didn’t really feel like being slapped. Was this what hyperventilating felt like? He had never done it before so he didn’t know.
A familiar tapping filled the vacant street. Enma looked up. Running down the shadowed walk was a figure, moving at a fairly quick pace. He stood up. Was this you? It had to be. His hands had started to sweat again. This did not make him feel any less like an idiot. He wiped them on his pants. That only made it worse; now he had wet patches on his legs.
Whoever it was continued to draw nearer. The golden pool of light surrounding him was soon close enough that their features were placed in high relief. [Color] hair, [color] eyes, waitress uniform. Yes, that was definitely you. It didn’t take the painful lurch in his heart to tell him that much.
The moment of recognition must have been shared because you froze mid-step, one leg stuck awkwardly in the air. Enma reached up to ruffle the back of his head. Now he was completely lost. What was he supposed to do? You were just staring at him like that…
All of sudden, your face hardened. The normally warm eyes he was used to became much more brittle as you smacked your heel back down against the pavement. For a split second, he thought you were going to say something. Instead, you started moving again, your movements now choppy and stiff.
“[Name]…” he said as you passed. You didn’t even spare him a second glance. “[Name]!” You did not even so much as twitch in his direction. Enma sighed. Now what was he supposed to do? Adelheid hadn’t explained the plan past finally making contact with you. Still, he was not the same boy you had known a year ago. Steeling himself, he moved off the wall and then into step beside you. It was only be the grace of God that he didn’t fall flat on his face doing so.
”What?” He had never heard you speak with that much venom in your voice before, at least not directed at him. He gulped. Maybe this was a dumb idea.
”I need to talk to you.”
“I’m in the middle of delivery.”
“I know. That’s for me…”
Thankfully, this got your attention. Once again, you stopped completely, though at least this time you remembered to put you foot down. Your mouth fell open in an “o.” Then you narrowed her eyes.
“What do you mean, it’s for you?”
“I ordered it…Can I have it, please?”
“No! I’m not giving you anything!”
“I’m going to pay…”
You continued to watch him for a few more seconds, then tossed the container at his head. Enma flailed. It knocked straight into his temple, then fell open on the ground. “Fine, then! Eat it! See if I care!”
“Thank you,” Enma murmured. He bent down to retrieve the contents of whatever food he had asked for. He was so nervous that he didn’t remember, nor did he think he’d actually be able to stomach it if he tried. If he remembered correctly, most girls didn’t think it was cool when you threw up their food. Once he had it all gathered, he rummaged in his pocket until he found the wad of cash he had stuffed in it this morning—more than enough for both his food and a decent tip for you. “Your money…”
You said nothing as you snatched it out of his hand. Apparently you were intending to watch him eat the food. Groaning inwardly, Enma picked up the chopsticks and began without looking. It was probably good, but he didn’t get to taste much before he started to choke. Seemingly satisfied with this development, you hopped on the wall and crossed your legs, the better to see him.
“Why’d you order from there anyway? Thought I didn’t work there anymore?”
“N-No,” Enma stammered. He was still coughing up bits of rice. “I needed to talk to you.”
“So you ordered food from my workplace?”
“It was the only way I could talk to you. You were avoiding me.”
“Because I didn’t want to talk to you.”
“…Right…” Enma gazed forlornly at his eating utensils. Why had he done this? Of course you didn’t want to talk to him. After what he did…The look of betrayal on your face as you stood there with the rest of your family, the way your eyes seemed to grow dim as you watched him mutilate your friends…His gut clenched every time he thought of it. Who was he kidding with this? You weren't going to want to hear him out. You didn’t even want to be his friend anymore.
He took a deep breath and looked up toward you. It looked like he was still Loser Enma after all. What he realized, however, was that you were no longer looking away. Instead you had the full force of your glare on him. He flinched.
"Why didn’t you tell me?”
There could be a million things he hadn’t told you that you were asking about, each a worse secret than the one before. But Enma thought he had a pretty good idea what you were talking about. “I didn’t want you to get hurt.”
“And why would I get hurt?”
He licked his lips. “My family…what we were doing…”
“Yeah, it was pretty stupid,” you snarled. “And thank you so much for showing such faith in me.”
"I didn’t want you to tell Tsuna. It was important. What if you said something and they found out?
You snapped straight up. This time, Enma stumbled backward, managing to stay on his feet but spill what was rest of his meal. You did not stop. Instead, you jumped off the wall, landed easily on your feet, and marched straight up to him. For a moment, all you did was stare. Then you launched yourself forward and started trying to smack every bit of him you could reach.
“Are you kidding me? I thought you trusted me! I thought I was your friend!”
“Ouch, [Name]…Stop…” Your punches, if anything, merely increased in number. Enma groaned. What would Aoba and Julie say if they saw him now? Probably something along the lines of “You’re totally whipped!” Without thinking, he grabbed your wrists. Your eyes widened. He supposed he had surprised you. The him of a year ago wouldn’t have tried to defend himself at all. One split second later, however, and you were back on the offense.
“You.” You tugged. “Are.” You tugged harder still. “Such a jerk, Kozato Enma!” You arched backward as far as you could. Still he did not let you go.
“I know. I’m sorry.”
“Sorry isn’t good enough! I don’t care what you have to say to me. Just go away!”
Enma took a deep breath. Now was good as ever. He didn’t think you were going to let him stick around much longer anyway. “I think…I love you.”
The anger drained slowly from your face. Feeling that it might be safe to let you go, Enma released your wrists at last. He stuffed his now free hands into his pockets and stared at his feet. The silence stretched on for several more minutes and then there was a sudden whoosh and the sound of flesh meeting flesh.
Enma’s eyes widened. The sound of the slap echoed in the empty road.
“That’s for avoiding me for a year!” you snapped. When he looked up, you were rubbing at your wrist and scowling. “Did you think I was going to yell at you?”
“Well, you’re doing a good job of it now,” he said as he pressed his palm against his stinging cheek.
“Because, Enma, you are an idiot.” You scowled at him again, then whirled on your heel and marched over to your delivery box. Without looking at him, you continued, but he noticed your voice was quavering a bit when you spoke. “If you’re just going to say empty words, then you can just leave me alone. For good this time.”
"They weren't empty…” he mumbled at the ground. Enma thought that maybe he heard you pause before going on your way. “I won’t bother you anymore.”
Before you could answer—if you were going to answer, which he didn’t believe could be true at all—he started shuffling away. He didn’t get far before he managed to trip and crash face first into the sidewalk. A sickening crunch sounding from his nose told Enma that he had just seriously screwed up. Perhaps it would be best if he just stayed there in the dirt until you left. He didn’t want the last thing you saw of him to be the blood spilling profusely from his face.
“Enma? Are you okay?” Oh, crud, you were standing right above him. He craned his neck so he could see, trying to make sure you couldn’t get a look at the newest disfigurement on his face. You kneeled down next to him and then dragged him to his feet.
“Yeah…Don’t worry about it.”
You frowned. “No, I will worry about it. Sit down.” You pushed down on his shoulder and Enma obeyed without thinking. What were you doing? Why were you still talking to him? Hadn’t you already left, glad to have him out of your life? While he was pondering all of this, you were digging around in your own bag. A few moments later and you pulled out a first aid kit. Enma leaned back.
“You don’t have t—”
“Yes, I do.” Enma fell silent as you began to work on him. It almost felt like old times, except for the part where the girl he was in love with hated him. He could probably do without that. Well, that and the broken nose.
“Hold still. I’m going to set it. It’ll hurt.” Enma braced himself. Sure enough, you pressed you fingers onto both side of his nose and pushed. There was a loud pop and pain streamed into Enma’s face. He lifted his hand to feel his nose.
“Why did you…?”
"Did you mean it when you said you loved me?”
“Y-yes…” Did you find him terribly stupid? Were you going to laugh at him? You turned, face hidden as you placed your kit back in your bag.
“Then why didn’t you talk to me for so long?”
“I was afraid you hated me. I didn’t want that.”
“I didn’t. I just wanted to hear from you. When I called and you didn’t answer…” You trailed off. He could see your eyes again. They were filling with tears. “I thought we were friends.”
“You’re my best friend, [Nickname].”
“It doesn’t feel like it.”
Enma stared at you. You looked away and dabbed at your eyes with your sleeve. “I’m sorry.” You didn’t answer. Enma’s red eyes darted about the street. What he was about to do was risky, but…maybe it would work out? Maybe this time he could actually do it. Maybe this time he wouldn’t be a loser. “[Name].”
You looked back. He shifted his bag so it was behind him, then opened his arms. You gawked at him and he lifted them slightly. For a few more seconds, you did not move. Another flurry of anxiety rushed through him. Was he being dumb? Should he put his arms down? Were you just going to hit him again?
You blinked back another set of tears. Then you leaped forward and threw yourself into his arms. Enma closed them around you, shut his eyes, and buried his face into your soft hair.
“I love you, [Name]. Can I try again?”
“Only if you promise,” you sniffed, “to never lie to me again.”
Enma smiled. “I promise.”
In return, you wrapped your arms around him. “I love you, too, Enma.”