Ephemeral
by Hikari


How many years had it been? Since he last really saw the face of the one he saw in his dreams every night. Or more likely – nightmares – nighttime visions torturing him with a time long past, never to come to light again, already lost in the forever flowing threads of time.

Shishdo Ryou, history teacher at Seishun Gakuen High School department, with his short, contrastingly spiky yet silky hair the color of melting milk chocolate on a warm summer day and endearing blue cap, which he always wore backwards, completely disregarding the school's no hats rule, was very popular among his female students. Many had asked him if he had a girlfriend, or even confessed to him, but he'd turned them all down. It wasn't just because of the scandal it would've caused had he dated any of his students. Even his coworkers had often asked him more about his personal life than he cared to share, and one female teacher – was she in the art department? Or maybe science. It wasn't like he cared to remember – had even gone so far as to incessantly invite him over to her house for dinner. Finally fed up, he'd asked her, "What would you say, if every time you saw even a mere color you always related to the person you value more than life itself, you remembered that person, and yet you knew you will never see that person again? Would you start dating someone else, just like that?" He'd left her in stunned silence, and afterwards, no one ever spoke to him about such matters again. He was relatively grateful for that.- at least he had his peace.

He blinked. There it was. That dream-nightmare again. Of the time when he'd last said "see you later" to the one he'd loved with all his heart, and of the bright, beautiful smile that one gave him in return, the smile that was burned into his memory, white hot and painful. It was the same smile he had seen almost everyday for three years, ever since they'd started playing doubles his third year of junior high. But he hadn't seen him again. Ever.

During his first year of university, a call had come from the one he was always thinking about. "Shishido-san!" the voice had said excitedly into the phone. "I got into the French Academy of Fine Arts in Paris!" And that had been that. He hadn't gone back for the Hyoutei graduation ceremony that year; he was "too busy" with his internship. And he didn't go back at all to see that one packing, preparing to leave, preparing to fly out of Japan, and away from him.

Shishido had known his junior was good in violin, but he'd always thought that tennis had been his top priority, and music only an interest. Apparently, he'd gotten in information mixed up. Because he had lost touch with his former partner, who had pursued music in life over tennis, over anything else. And that was when he also gave up on playing tennis, for what was the game without the right partner?

Going home to an empty apartment was always painful. It reminded him of college, when he'd go back to his empty single. He'd never bothered to get a double after being informed that the one who'd promised to room with him when they were both in college broke that promise. Odd – it was the first promise the other had broken to him, although Shishido himself had broken many promises in his time, and yet, it was the one promise that affected his entire life. Every time he opened the door to a dark, cold, lifeless room, he was reminded of the brightness and life that had been in his world. The contrast of his dreams with his reality was too real, too evident, in just that alone.

One time, his sophomore year of college, fresh from the hurt of the other's departure, Hiyoshi had come to find him in his dorm room. The boy without a sense of fashion for his hair had confessed that he was hurting from the future musician's abandonment also. "He was my best friend." That simple statement put the two of them eye to eye, even though they'd never been particularly close before. Hiyoshi had always been bitter that Shishido took back his spot on the Regulars that year and played doubles with the one who was supposed to be his best friend, and Shishido had never quite learned to care for the one who was always aiming for his spot.

But when it came to a certain silver-haired boy with fluid brown eyes the color of coffee when you're still stirring in the milk and a soul too nice for the man eat man world of Hyoutei Gakuen, even these two could find a common ground in the love they both felt for him. Different as the color of their love may have been, in the end it all came down to the one with silver hair. That night, they had cried in each other's arms, for the one that was lost to them.

Hiyoshi had been smarter than him, Shishido thought. He'd actually kept in touch with his best friend, it seemed. He had only been suffering from the loneliness of not having the boy around, physically, to attend class and study with. They still chatted online, sent letters, kept tabs on each other's lives, everything. And they still hung out when the other came back for vacation. Shishido himself had been different. He had been too hurt and proud from the broken promise to have wished the boy luck in his studies, and even to keep in touch. And he refused to ask Hiyoshi anything.

Eventually though, Hiyoshi had been able to move on. That first year of college had been tough on him, but eventually he made new friends and his secondary school best friend was demoted to just a friend, someone to keep in touch with, but not someone to keep on his mind all the time. Shishido hadn't. One can have many best friends in a lifetime – change is inevitable, and you just go with the flow, right? But that's based on how one changes as a person, also. Love… love doesn't change. You meet the one to whom your soul is bound to, and that's the end of the story. There are no changes to the soul; it is not half as capricious as a personality. When your soul finds its match, the story ends. It never wants to be separated again. But that is all in the metaphysical. In the physical, separation is still very real. And Shishido was feeling that separation, the pain filling up his body and spilling over into his soul. Because body and spirit are irrevocably connected, whether one liked it or not.

Damnit. Why had he been so stubborn? If only he'd confessed his feelings… at least he would have had an answer. The definitiveness at least would've given him some closure, right? He wouldn't be hanging in this stagnant state, unable to move on and yet unable to do anything. Or at the very least, if he'd admitted his feelings to himself back then, instead of denying it, he could've kept in touch with the boy, and at least have kept the friendship, if nothing else. But he'd been a bastard, straight up, and denied it all the while. It had taken until he actually tried dating someone else, and found that he simply couldn't even see the woman in front of him or hear her voice talking to him, that he finally admitted to himself that he missed the taller man.

And yet he'd still been stubborn, and hadn't asked Hiyoshi for contact information. He didn't visit anyone during breaks, either. If he'd just gone to one of the reunions Jirou had invited him to, perhaps he would've seen him, but he hadn't. He completely separated himself from those he'd known since elementary school. Fittingly, his connections with them weakened and died as they graduated college and moved into the real world, entering yet another stage of their individual lives.

Looking out his windows at the starless night of the too-brightly lit Tokyo, he wondered if perhaps it was too late to try finding the now grown man. Yes, it must be. After so many years, the other must have a wife and family now. Whether or not he, Shishido, was still remembered was the only question remaining. Because although his psyche called out for its support, there was no guarantee the other felt for him in the same manner. Life just wasn't that fair.

The blue cap still rested on his nightstand, as it had every night since that summer day his third year of junior high, when he'd made history by returning to the Hyoutei Tennis Club Regulars, and his junior had dragged him to get his self-cut hair evened out. His friend and then partner-to-be had all but confessed that it still looked horrible, and had then dragged him shopping for a hat. That enthusiasm for life – that ability to always be cheerful in any circumstance – that was what he missed most in his present life.

Turning over in his bed – away from the Tokyo night scene and that cap – he faced the wall that was as blank as his life now, without the other. The cap. Well, the cap served as a self-punishing reminder of what he'd lost, and, along with a team picture, as the only memento of the one he loved with all of himself. And the lights outside reminded him of the brightness of life ignorant of the tearing pain that made one want to rip out their own heart to stop it from hurting, of life gifted with a happiness as bright as the sun, brighter than the most powerful manmade light bulb, because it was above anything mortal.

He'd known he hadn't deserved the happiness the other boy brought him. He wasn't nearly as nice enough, nearly as gentle enough, as the other deserved. Especially not with his cruel streak – the one that had him forcing the soft-hearted boy, gentle as a puppy, to send ridiculously fast and powerful serves across the court and at himself. Maybe this was the answer to his "why me" questions back then. He had been too lucky in finding the boy. He hadn't deserved him at all. Life was just teasing him, dangling perfection in his face, and then snatching it away. Because didn't it always hurt more to lose what you knew existed, what you only had for the most ephemeral of moments, than to never have seen perfection at all?




The End

On to the sequel, Eternal.

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