Still Life, In Motion
by Esrafil


The first time he saw Hiyoshi smile is engraved in Ohtori's memory.

It was after school, the last day of their first year. They had clean-up duty together, their classmates hurrying out in streams, with the occasional call of goodbye or teasing word of lament for the extra time to be spent in the classroom. Most of these were directed to Ohtori, which he responded to with polite smiles and light banter, even as he began to straighten chairs and desks left askew; Hiyoshi warranted only a few passing glances, which were returned with narrowed eyes and pressed lips. Soon they were alone, working in silent efficiency as echoed laughter and hurried footsteps faded into the distance.

His thoughts drifted as he went through the mechanical motions of tidying up. Their presence was not entirely necessary -- Matsumoto-sensei had told them that morning they didn't have to stay since it was the end of the term, but Hiyoshi shook his head and accepted the assigned task, though he did add in an undertone he would be fine on his own if Ohtori chose to depart. Under their teacher's inquisitive look he gave a polite bow and said that it was no problem to stay and do his part, since that was only fair. Hiyoshi looked at him a long moment before shrugging as they were dismissed to their seats so class could begin.

As with every morning, Ohtori took notes in perfect rows of kanji, brown strands and stiff shoulders a constant that hovered in his peripheral vision. At the break for lunch, Hiyoshi stood and slipped out even as Ohtori's friends dragged desks over to join him as he pulled out his obento. His gaze might have followed the progress of the other across the room, but no one noticed. He spent lunch as he did every day, food stolen and exchanged as he chatted about weekend plans and which girl was the cutest, orchestra tryouts for next year and tennis club. With the former he had little personal interest, though he paid them equal attention as the latter. There was no reason to be impolite, though a quiet, cynical voice in the back of his head wondered how day in and day out there were always trivial topics to fill the half hour with.

Five minutes before class resumed, Hiyoshi returned and Ohtori put away his empty lunch box. His friends departed with waves back to the other side of the room and out of mind as Ohtori pulled out his books for the second half of the day. When Hiyoshi was about to take his seat, Ohtori asked if he discovered the latest mystery yet. Most days he received a curt reply, often monosyllabic, unless. "Yes. It was the girl who had her hands chopped off in the news printer."

The afternoon passed without remark, though lessons were slack enough for passed notes and whispered background filler. When he rose to answer one of the mathematic problems, he caught sight of the book Hiyoshi had wedged between notebook and textbook. He caught the other's defiant gaze with one of mild amusement as he regained his seat. Twenty minutes later, he slipped a folded piece of paper - a sketch of the other's back done on ripped notebook paper - into Hiyoshi's schoolbag.

"Ohtori."

"Hm?" His thoughts caught up and slid back to the present as he picked up a stray textbook left on the floor. Ohtori checked the name -- Kazuhiro Takase, he'd return it sometime next week. With that thought pushed to the back of his mind, he turned his full attention to Hiyoshi to find the other boy standing there with arms folded over his chest, broom propped against his elbow. "What is it?"

"You can go." The words were flat, though he could detect trace annoyance and discomfort. He could feel the other's gaze before he met Hiyoshi's eyes. It struck Ohtori that he should look away, and a smile quirked his lips. With a little more practice Hiyoshi would have the expression down to perfection and instinct would take over thought for the desired result.

"I know," he said simply, moving toward the blackboard to clean the erasers. There wasn't all that much to take care of, though he felt like lingering. "You can too."

"I meant," Hiyoshi started, brows creased in a frown, "that you didn't have to be here in the first place."

"Neither did you." Ohtori moved to the open window, leaning out to keep the white dust from settling on the side of the school building, despite the already present marks from countless days past. They would disappear with the first hard rain. He coughed as a breeze blew some of the chalk back in his face.

When he poked his head back into the classroom, he placed the erasers back in their place and found Hiyoshi staring at him. He waited. After a moment, the other resumed sweeping and finished shortly. As Hiyoshi returned to his desk to gather his schoolbag, Ohtori was about to do the same, make a stop-off at the washroom, too, when Hiyoshi spoke, "You shouldn't be a mime."

That caused Ohtori to stop short, blink twice, and wonder if he had heard correctly. "Pardon?"

"You heard me." Hiyoshi zipped his bag and slung it over one shoulder, heading toward the door without a second glance back. "You'll look half-dead," he added.

Ohtori managed to process the words as Hiyoshi slipped open the door. An unreserved laugh fell from his lips, free from polite constraint, rising light and free to spill forth in quiet tones that filled the room. The abrupt, unassuming way the other spoke often drew Ohtori in and struck chords few others could. This time, Hiyoshi had found amusement, though the brunette was now regarding him as though he were half out of his mind. "I can't say my future plans are crushed."

"Good." Hiyoshi half-turned, as if undecided whether he would rather leave or have Ohtori at his back. Ohtori managed to quickly pack his own bag, about to join Hiyoshi at the door when he heard the other speak again, "Though, if you wanted to be one. A mime. That'd be okay, I guess." You'd at least quit interrupting my reading. The last went unsaid save for the fact it came through clear from Hiyoshi's tone.

It brought Ohtori to a halt again, another rueful chuckle as he shook his head. When he crossed the room to join Hiyoshi at the door, he smiled, one that started from somewhere deep inside and reached his eyes. "Thanks? I don't think many other people would tolerate that."

There was a faint twist to Hiyoshi's lips, wry, the corners quirked upward. It froze before full formation and fled quicker than it came. Ohtori would have thought he imagined it, if it wasn't for the fact that it was not an expression he could conceive on Hiyoshi with any success unless there was concrete evidence to back it. Hiyoshi turned on his heel and shoved the door the rest of the way open, the tips of his ears tinged pink. Half-way down the hallway when Ohtori caught up with him, Hiyoshi muttered, "You're welcome."




The End

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