"Don’t mention it," the man says, slotting his arm around Masaki's shoulders, "but you still owe me hot chocolate!"
On the scale of ridiculous that is his entire life, Masaki thinks, waking up in the middle of the night to a suspicious middle-aged man in his room claiming to be himself from the future is probably the new 10. The only reason he hasn't thrown the guy straight out the window is just— to be honest, Masaki still isn't sure. Maybe he's desperate for entertainment.
Of course, now that the strange man has installed himself on Masaki's bed and shows no sign of stopping his charade, Masaki is beginning to regret his impulsive life choices. "If you were really me," he says, playing along because it seems like the thing to do, "you'd be asking for coffee. I don't have target panic anyway, so your weird journal doesn't count as a favour."
"I'm a man of varied tastes. And don't call my sincere feelings weird." The man— Masaki has no idea what to call him— slips his arm off Masaki's shoulders and flops backwards to lie on the bed. He doesn't look at all like what Masaki imagines himself to look like in middle age. His hair is cut short, for one thing, and he's wearing the ugliest, scratchiest-looking sweater Masaki has ever seen. No girl could possibly let her boyfriend go around in that sort of thing, which can only mean 'future him' is single.
"Stop judging my clothes," says not-Masaki, unsettlingly like he's read actual-Masaki's mind.
"I wasn't," Masaki lies. The man huffs.
"I'm you, you know? I remember being sixteen and thinking good looks were all you needed to rope in the beauties."
Masaki does think so, because evidence has proven him right all the time. He decides to ignore this tangent in favour of looking pointedly at the journal lying in the man's lap. "You haven't told me what the journal is for."
"Like I said, it's for you in two years, so don't read it yet. Definitely don't show it to Grandfather."
"Are you trying to tell me I'll get target panic in two years?" Masaki can't help the tone of disbelief, even though he's been trying to play along. If the man thinks he knows about Grandfather, he should know what's impossible.
The man pushes himself up on his elbows. He has a look on his face that Masaki isn't sure how to interpret. "Back then I thought I was invincible, too." He reaches out to tuck Masaki's fringe behind his ear. "You aren't."
Masaki swallows. "I don't think that," he starts to say, but the man's eyes go all soft and pitying and he can't finish his sentence. He looks down, inexplicably annoyed.
"Well. I've already changed things beyond repair." The man's hand is still cupped around the side of his face, not quite touching. "Maybe now you'll take it better than I did and then you really won't need my silly journal."
"Why did you come back?" Masaki asks, and then, just to be contrary, adds, "not that I believe you."
"All I can say about that is I made a mistake." The man puts his hand on Masaki's cheek to make him look up, and it scorches. Masaki meets his eyes, the pained sound he wants to make sticking in his throat like a bone. "But you should believe me anyway."
And Masaki, in the back of his mind, has believed the man since he saw the way the man's mouth had twisted when he said 'Grandfather', just the same way Masaki's does. He just doesn't want to imagine a future where this is what he becomes— this hollowed-out person with exhaustion written in all the tight lines of his body, his hands soft and smooth and weak.
"Your mistake was giving up the bow," whispers Masaki. What else could it be?
The man smiles, and it's a sad, awful thing.
"I was always too smart for my own good," says his future self.
Outside, an owl hoots. In the time it takes for Masaki to blink in surprise, the skin on his face is no longer burning, and on the bed before him is only a well-worn journal. The man himself is gone, like he was never there to begin with.
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