ticed, and was honestly surprised.
Dick always had a sharp eye, no matter how much he made it seem like he didn’t care about others.

After Micky left, Yuto fell back onto his bed.
His fever seemed to spike from the relief of finally lying down.

Dick sat on the edge of the bed and placed his hand on Yuto’s forehead.

“Feels pretty hot.
Open your mouth – looks like your tonsils aren’t swollen.” Dick went on to ask a few questions, including his health during solitary and whether he had any diarrhea or nausea.
Once he was finished, he placed a wet towel on Yuto’s head.

“Doesn’t seem like an infection of any sort.
It’s probably exhaustion and stress.”

“It’ll get better soon,” Yuto mumbled.

“Let’s hope so,” Dick nodded.
He remained sitting beside Yuto, opening up a book to read.
Occasionally an inmate would come by to give a shout to Yuto, but Dick barred all visitors, telling them Yuto was sick.

“…Dick,” Yuto called softly.
Dick threw a glance at him in answer.
“Thanks for the letter.
It made me really happy.”

Yuto felt a weight lift in his heart from finally being able to say it.
He felt like whatever that was lodged in his chest was finally gone.

“When you said you were looking forward to having me back… it lifted my spirits a lot.
I wanted to thank you as soon as I got back, but I couldn’t find the right time.”

Normally Yuto would be reluctant to be this honest with his feelings, but perhaps the fever was lowering his inhibitions.
But Dick said nothing.
Yuto wondered if he was taken aback at Yuto’s exaggerated gratitude toward a casual gesture.

Suddenly feeling embarrassed, Yuto dropped his gaze as if to avoid Dick’s.

“Solitary wasn’t half bad for you, though, was it? You had Libera, after all,” Dick said coldly.
Yuto was disconcerted at Dick’s thorny attitude.
It almost felt like Dick was accusing him.

“What are you talking about? Of course it was terrible.
Sure, talking with Neto was a good distraction, but I couldn’t wait to get out of there.
The whole time I was thinking about coming back here.”

What about you? Weren’t you looking forward to having me back? Was that letter just full of polite pleasantries?

Yuto wished he could ask, but there was no way he could.
They sounded like something an insecure man would say to his aloof lover.

Yuto mentally made up excuses for himself.
He wasn’t in his right mind; after all, he’d just gotten back, and he was having a fever.
And this cramped cell that he used to be so sick of was heaven compared to that soul-sucking solitary cell.
He was unravelling from the relief of coming back, that was why―

“Yuto,” Dick murmured.

Yuto’s drooping eyes snapped back open.

Dick had never called him by his first name before.
Although Micky and Nathan had called him Yuto from the start, Dick, for some reason, had stubbornly continued to call him Lennix.

“I’m happy you’re back, too,” said Dick.
“Welcome home, Yuto.”

His words were short, but his gaze was tender.
Dick’s eyes had always seemed so cold before, but now they held a kind of warmth that he found almost hard to believe.
Trapped in the gaze of Dick’s vivid blue eyes, Yuto felt like his whole being was enveloped in his warm embrace.
His heart stirred painfully.

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Why was Dick the only one to cause such a flurry of emotions? What was it about the man that continued to draw Yuto uncontrollably? No amount of thinking gave him an answer.

“Get some rest,” Dick said.
“I’ll keep watch right here so no one can bother you.”

He felt happy when Dick was gentle to him, happier than with anyone else.
He didn’t know why, but he knew this much was certain.

Despite having a fever, Yuto found himself feeling surprisingly peaceful as he closed his eyes.
Tonight was the first time since coming to Schelger Prison that he had ever felt so tranquil as he dropped off to sleep.

Yuto woke up to the feeling of someone changing the towel on his forehead.
Lights-out had come and gone while he was asleep – it was pitch dark around him, and Block A was settled and silent.

As his eyes got used to the darkness, he could make out Dick’s face in the dim moonlight.
Dick was still sitting on the edge of Yuto’s bed, in the exact same position as before.

“What about the last roll call?” Yuto asked.
Usually inmates were absolutely required to stand behind the bars during roll call.

“I asked them to give you a break because you have a fever,” Dick said.
“It was Gasly, so he let it slide.”

Yuto’s fever showed no signs of coming down.
His whole body felt like it was burning up, and even his breath felt like fire when he exhaled.
Dick pressed his hand on Yuto’s cheek to check his temperature.

“If only we had some fever meds.
You should at least get some hydration.”

Dick stood up to pour a glass of water at the sink.

“Can you get up?”

Yuto nodded, but his head weighed him down.

“Don’t force yourself if it’s too hard.
I’ll give you the water instead.”

He thought Dick was going to support his head to lift him up, but the man instead swigged a mouthful of water and brought his face closer.
Yuto wondered in surprise if Dick was doing what he thought he was doing.
The man’s face came closer and closer.

“Di―”

Yuto’s voice was drowned out as their lips overlapped.
Cool water came streaming into his mouth from where their lips were joined.
Yuto reflexively swallowed the water as it filled his mouth.
His throat made a gulping sound that was jarringly loud to his ears.

As he remained frozen in astonishment, Dick repeated the motion without hesitation.
Yuto’s mind was overwhelmed as he wondered why Dick was doing this, and also at the soft sensation of Dick’s lips.

“Want another drink?”

He almost felt like Dick was asking him if he wanted to be kissed again.
Confused, Yuto looked up at Dick’s face.
Their eyes locked in the darkness.

Yuto wanted to say he’d had enough, but his body thought otherwise as he found himself nodding.
Dick crouched over Yuto again and fed him water mouth-to-mouth.

The water was like a sweet nectar; it softly caressed his tongue as it nourished every inch of his parched body.
It quenched him down to each and every cell.
But he was still thirsty.

He wanted more.
He wanted to be given more, from those lips.

In his thirst for those sweet droplets, Yuto found himself unwittingly running the tip of his tongue along Dick’s wet lips.
Dick stiffened for a moment, but promptly answered Yuto’s plea and gave him a fresh draught of water.
Yuto drank it in ecstatically.

Eventually Dick broke contact and pulled away.  Yuto found himself feeling lonely.
He knew it was strange of him, but he couldn’t help it.

Dick wiped Yuto’s lips with his finger and let out a deep sigh.

“Look, I know you have a fever, but you shouldn’t leave yourself wide open like that.”

“…What do you mean?” Yuto asked hazily.
Dick sighed again.

“So you don’t get it.
That’s fine.
Forget it.”

Dick sounded irritated.
Yuto wondered what had soured Dick’s mood.

“Dick, I’m fine now.
You can go to sleep.”

“Don’t worry about it.
One night of lost sleep won’t do me any harm.”

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Yuto chuckled softly.

“What?” Dick said, furrowing his brow.

“People can really change, huh,” Yuto said.
“I remember what you said to me before.
‘You’re on your own.
I’d rather not have to wipe your ass for you.’ Remember that?”

Those were Dick’s cutting words, said to him on Yuto’s first night after he had been beaten black and blue by BB’s goons.

“You don’t forget anything, do you?” Dick said in an exasperated tone.

“I remember more than you’d expect,” Yuto said, his mouth relaxing in a smile.
“That’s why I’m still hung up about why you gave me the cold shoulder when I first came in.”

He knew he ought to let it go already, but it had remained stubbornly lodged on his mind.
He had misunderstood Dick at first, but now he knew that Dick wasn’t a cold person at heart, no matter how aloof he may seem on the outside.
That fact made Yuto want to know even more about the reason behind Dick’s attitude.

“Did something about me bother you, Dick? Did I do something to make you angry that time?”

“It’s not your fault,” Dick explained.
“It’s my stubbornness.
It’s just how I am.
I can’t let my guard down around people until I get to know who they are.
I’ll apologize if it’s bothered you.
I’m sorry.”

Dick’s voice was quiet, and he didn’t seem to be lying.
But Yuto’s apprehension remained.
He still remembered the hint of animosity he saw in Dick’s hostile gaze when they had first met.
It was more than him simply being on guard; it felt like Dick was keeping a distance for some other discrete reason.

“―Dick, before I came here I was working for the Department of Justice under the DEA.”

It was a secret he was supposed to have guarded at all costs in prison.
But Yuto suddenly had the urge to come clean to Dick.
In no way was he trying to copy Neto’s straightforwardness in the way he told Yuto about his real relationship with Tonya, but he knew that sharing a secret was proof that you held someone in special regard.
Somewhere in his heart, Yuto felt a desire to let Dick know that he felt this way.
He also held in his heart a sense of anticipation.

“Wow.
Good for you.”

“I’m not joking, it’s true.
Over the years I arrested dozens of drug dealers and threw them in prison.”

“…So you’re saying you were a DEA agent, then?”

Dick was calm and didn’t seem particularly surprised, though it was impossible to know how he truly felt.

“Yeah.
I mostly did decoy and undercover operations.
It was a dangerous job, but I had a trustworthy partner named Paul.
He was the best partner I could ask for.
But he was killed.
I’m absolutely sure he was murdered by the friends of a drug dealer that we caught.
But the police arrested me solely with circumstantial evidence.
I was framed.”

“So that’s why you said you were falsely accused.”

“Yeah.
Paul was a great guy.
I trusted him and respected more than anyone.
To say… to say I killed him―”

―Hey, Yuto, man, you need to relax.
You might look cool and calm on the outside, but you tend to let the blood get to your head quickly.
Keep that act up, and you’re gonna die young.

Paul’s words suddenly echoed in his mind.
He often made fun of Yuto for losing his cool in desperate situations.
Being the more emotionally mature one, he had always led Yuto with a firm guiding hand.

“I couldn’t even attend his funeral.
I couldn’t even say goodbye.”

Yuto’s voice shook, and his chest felt tight.
He had been told of Paul’s death shortly after being arrested, and now he was realizing he hadn’t had the time to properly grieve.
After his arrest, his life was turned upside down.
He was put through days upon days of grueling interrogations, followed by the trial, then a guilty verdict.
He’d been approached by the FBI.
Fraught with anxiety, panic, and despair, he had been completely occupied just keeping his head above water.

Only now did he feel the full weight of Paul’s death.
It was finally sinking in that he had lost someone he could never replace.
He would never find Paul again, no matter where in the world he looked.
His heart felt like it was being painfully wrung by the staggering sense of loss.

Yuto tried taking deep breaths to calm himself down, but it only made things worse.
He felt his grief bubbling up and spilling over in the form of tears that streamed down his temple.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered.

“Don’t apologize,” Dick said.
“I know what it feels like to lose a close friend.
There’s nothing to be ashamed about when you’re crying to mourn a loved one.
I bawled my eyes out when I lost my friend, too.”

Dick stroked Yuto’s head as if he were comforting a child.
His hand ran over Yuto’s hair over and over.

“You think you can sleep?”

His eyes, his hands, and his voice were gentle.

Yuto nodded and closed his eyes.
As he slipped back into his slumber, he felt a strong wish take shape in his heart.
Someday, he hoped he would come to know about Dick’s grief, and be the one to comfort him this time.
It was a sincere, most heartfelt wish.

If only he could be the one to wipe away Dick’s tears.

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