Rating: Totally G
Dated: Sometime relatively soon after Kouji moved back to SeiRu
Summary: Keipi goes a-visiting with a basket of goodies. Kouji is not the big bad wolf. This summary does not work.
The first time Keisuke visited St Rudolph, it had been as part of covert ops - a rescue mission full of daring, excitement and vaguely suspicious religious figures. The second time that Keisuke visited St Rudolph, things went much smoother.
Except for a few seconds of worry when the lady at reception had given him a suspicious look - "No, ma'am, my brother couldn't come to visit my cousin today, but I'm saying hi for him!" - Keisuke had managed to pass through unchallenged and even unsupervised, since he already knew the way.
Mostly knew it, anyway. It was with a bit of trial and error that Keisuke finally knocked on Kouji's door. "Koujiiiiiiiiiii," he called, as he rapped again. "Is this your room? Are you there?"
It was in fact Kouji's room, and the young boy in question soon answered the door. He'd known it was Keisuke from the sound of his voice, but he really was kind of surprised to see him - he hadn't heard that anyone was coming by to visit, and had thought that any of his Hyotei friends would at least give fair warning before they dropped by. Not that he was complaining at all. "Hey," he greeted casually. "What're you doing here?"
"I came to visit!" Keisuke said brightly. He brandished the plastic bag that he had looped around his wrist, grinning proudly. "I even brought you food and stuff and I would've brought you Shozo and senpai, but they were busy." He peered curiously into the room, trying to look past Kouji without being too obvious about it. "Are you busy? Is this a bad time? Will someone eat me?"
"Nah, it's cool," Kouji replied. He looked over his shoulder, to see what Keisuke might be looking at, but confirmed what he might be checking for. "My roommate's not around," he explained. "Think he's at the library or something. What'd you bring?"
"Men's Pocky, some Choco pies, some other junk food and mum gave me a bento for you, just in case you missed the rice and the fish and the more rice." Beaming, Keisuke seemed to almost vibrate in place with excitement. He gestured with the arm with the bag again, the plastic ties of the bag twisting almost painfully tight around his wrist. "Can I come in?"
"Sure," Kouji said, and stepped aside to let Keisuke in, then took a seat on the edge of his bed. The room had been neatly divided down the centre, with each side almost a mirror image of the other, save for the slight mess on Kouji's side and the window near Terada's bed. There wasn't a lot of room overall, but it was enough for two people to live in comfortably - which was more than Kouji could say for Keisuke's room.
Keisuke bounced in, peering at everything that he'd missed in his first visit - rescuing someone didn't leave too many opportunities for sightseeing - not taking a seat in favour of hovering around the room. He finally stopped, standing almost still except for his fingers twisting the handles of the plastic bag, untangling it from his wrist. "So," he said abruptly, voice fakely bright. "How's... everything?"
If Kouji heard the catch in Keisuke's voice, he didn't indicate it. "It's all right," he replied, even though it still wasn't, really. "I mean, it's kind of crappy, still, but they've quit serving babies, at least." He was almost sorry that he'd even started that rumour in the first place - particularly because Keisuke seemed to take it to heart. Even if he couldn't convince his friend human flesh never had been on the menu, he could at least tell him that the cannibalism had ceased.
"I think we're the only school that doesn't have tennis regulars yet, though." And that in and of itself was a major problem, but not one that anyone could actually do anything about. "How're you?"
A shrug, almost nonchalant. Keisuke kept on fiddling with the bag around his wrist, tangling it again, not even responding to the comment about cannibalism. "It's, you know. The same." Except, obviously, Kouji wasn't there. "Like... you know. Except you don't, since you're not there and. And." He stopped for a second, looking down before looking up and smiling brightly again. "Lucky you, you missed Mister Creeps escaping."
Kouji's expression softened and fell. Keisuke was right - he wasn't there. And it wasn't the same. And it didn't even matter that he wanted no part of any day where a giant spider was on the loose - because, he had to admit, he kind of did want part of that. It was crap like that that he missed the most, stuff that brought the team and his friends closer together. "You found him, though, right?"
"I didn't find him," Keisuke said, looking remotely horrified. Sincerely, even, the fake smile from before giving way. "But I think one of the Rikkai kids that likes to hang out around us allll the time picked it up. Thus, Rikkai is also creepy. It's not just Shozo, but I'm afraid they'll bond and then we'll all die."
Rikkai kids? Weren't they in Kanagawa or ... somewhere? "Where did the Rikkai kids come from?" Rikkai kids shouldn't be anywhere near Hyotei. It'd be bad for everyone, Kouji was sure of it. Even if Keisuke was blowing things out of proportion, which he most likely was, it wasn't a good idea for the teams to ... bond.
"They come to Tokyo," Keisuke intoned in tones of pure doom. Doooooom. He even left off the plastic bag, making an expressive - if meaningless - hand gesture instead. "And make friends and they are scary. I got invited to one of their parties, though."
"Are you gonna go?" Kouji hoped he wouldn't; he was afraid for what might happen if Keisuke ever actually turned up at anything like an actual party. The whole idea really didn't sound that good to him, either. You didn't make friends with your rivals; they were supposed to be your rivals. Especially ones that were that far away.
"Already been!" Apparently, Keisuke didn't see anything wrong with that at all. "They had pizza." Nod. Because, see, this having pizza explained everything; which, on part, it actually did. "There was a boy in a skirt."
"You - what?" Kouji blinked in disbelief - certainly Keisuke couldn't have gone to a party alone and survived. There was no way. Something must have happened to him. "Who'd you go with?"
"Myself?" Keisuke tilted his head.
"You went all the way there by yourself and nothing happened to you." He still couldn't really believe it.
"I even took the train out by myself at night and only got a little lost." Keisuke was proud of this achievement, especially with the instructions he'd had to work with.
Kouji wasn't sure why he felt a little hurt by this news. He should be glad that Keisuke came back alive and in one piece, not fretting over the fact that he'd gone somewhere unfamiliar alone ... "Well, I guess you had fun..."
"It wasn't bad, but their buchou is a ninja and mean, and their team is really weird and R2 is scary," Keisuke babbled, not quite having picked up on the subtleties of human interaction. He peered anxiously over at Kouji. "I slept over, too, so I didn't catch the train really, really late at night, if you were worried."
"You gonna go back again?" Kouji asked. His eyes travelled briefly to the plastic bag of food, but refocussed on Keisuke. He hoped he wouldn't.
"I think I'm going to go and visit R2 for a tennis match? You've met R2 in the journal thingies. He's the annoying one." Keisuke nodded seriously. "His name's Matsuda-Reeves Akeno."
"Lemme come with you." The words had left Kouji's mouth before he'd even really had a chance to think about what he was saying. He recognised the name well enough from the journals - and while he had no desire to meet Matsuda on any friendly terms, he had even less to let Keisuke go.
Huh? "Huh?" Keisuke blinked. "You want to come play tennis too? We should get him to bring another person, and then we can play doubles! Except I don't play doubles. But I like playing with you. But would you be allowed, ever? Though I guess we could sneak you out again. Except you might get caught, even though you didn't get caught before and how did you not get caught, anyway? It's amazing..." He pondered this for several seconds. "But, if you want to, you should come."
Somewhere in Keisuke's rambling there was an invitation and a concern, and Kouji knew he should be focusing more on the invitation than the concern. And maybe a little admiration. That was kind of cool. "When're you going?"
"I have no idea!" Almost infinitely cheerful, Keisuke just beamed and bounced randomly to another point in the room - this time, Kouji's desk. He grabbed the chair and spun it around to straddle it, plastic bag knocking his arm and reminding him of its existence. "Oh! And take this, s'for you." It took him another few moments to untangle it again, but then he proffered it with a smile.
Kouji took the bag and peered inside, although he'd already been informed of its contents. Seeing that they were just as described, he set the bag down near the foot of the bed. "Thanks," he said. "And lemme know when you decide to go, okay? I ..." don't want to see you taken advantage of or hurt or anything "... want to give him a piece of my mind, too." Not entirely a lie. Not really. Just mostly.
"No problem! For either. You can tell him that there should be no leashes, cages, or anything or else I'll bite his hand off," Keisuke said helpfully, as he kicked off the floor and spun the chair around. "I really do bite, too."
Kouji didn't really doubt that, but he almost wanted to provoke Keisuke - just to see if he would. Almost. But not really. "I'll take your word for it," he said instead. Better that way.
He sat forward, trying not to get too dizzy as he watched Keisuke spin in the desk chair - probably should have known that he'd have too much fun with that. It moved, after all. "Hey, Kei.. suke?"
Slightly breathless and sounding distinctly lightheaded, Keisuke drawled out "Ye-es?" between one spin and the next.
Three different thoughts almost came out -- Would you mind not spinning; was there anything else you wanted to do; hey, thanks again for the food - but the words that he did say were a little more serious, and he dropped his eyes, not really wanting to look at Keisuke as he said them. "I'm ... sorry for just leaving like that. Without really saying anything."
Slowly, the chair spun to a halt, Keisuke facing Kouji but looking determinedly away. "It's..." Fine. No, it wasn't really. "I..." Understood? No, not that, too. "You did what you..." Had to? Wanted to? He didn't quite know. "... Had to. And it's good that you... like... your school better now. And stuff. Because." Because Keisuke didn't have a clue, really, and he was trying to sound sincere. It just came out sounding much more subdued than usual.
Kouji was silent for a long time, trying to think of how to respond to that. He hadn't meant to turn the conversation so serious so quickly. Not really. "I still hate it here," he mumbled. "I hate not being a part of you guys anymore." He had his reasons for coming back to St Rudolph, but they all sounded so damn hollow in his head, and he was sure they'd sound even worse if he said them out loud, so he didn't.
"We're..." Keisuke made a helpless gesture, though it looked slightly silly, draped against the back of the chair as he was. "We're still us. We haven't changed, you know." He looked up briefly, as unaccusingly as he could, but couldn't hide the slightly beseeching look in his eyes. "But it's-" You're "- different, now. And it's strange."
"I haven't changed, either," Kouji stated, a little desperately. He wasn't sure exactly who he was trying to convince. Maybe he was being brainwashed. But he'd left Keisuke's out of feeling inconvenient, not out of any desire to return to St Rudolph, so maybe he wasn't ...
Keisuke nodded unconvincingly. "But it's not all... all bad?" He looked up again, flashing a wavering little smile. "Everyone tells me I have to grow up. And this is it, right?" Even though he didn't want to grow up, if it meant things changing. It should've been all of them together in the Hyoutei tennis club, Shozo being Shozo, senpai being senpai, and Kouji being there.
Kouji didn't want to believe it, either. Didn't want things to change. Didn't want to grow up so damn fast. And he didn't want to see Keipi growing up so damn fast, either; he of all people shouldn't have to, because if he grew up, well, that would be like the world coming to a crashing halt or something. "This is stupid, is what it is," Kouji said, frustration finally breaking to the surface. "I don't want to be here, you don't want me to be here, hell, I don't think the other zombies want me to be here - and no, they're not really zombies, but they might as well be for all they can think for themselves. Dammit anyway! You'd think I'd try to look at the bright side of things, you'd think I'd try to just listen for once to something someone else was telling me - my room mate, you know? He's not so bad, I think, but I just don't need any of this. I really don't. And I don't see why we've got to -" To what? It didn't matter. "Whatever." He sighed, slumping back against the wall. "Can't change it now."
There was a moment of dead silence but for the faint squeak of the chair, as Keisuke couldn't contain his nervous fidgeting. He snuck a glance up at Kouji before staring down at the floor again, unsure of what to say. "It'll..." he trailed off lamely, no idea what he was trying to say. "Get... better?" His shoulders moved in a quick, defensive shrug. "If... if running away once didn't work and you like your roommate and you still hate everyone else but that's okay because sometimes I hate everyone around, too, but you can't go elsewhere because this is where you are and your parents paid good money and everything and you have responsibilities and." He cut off abruptly, absently noting that his hands were curled into almost painfully tight fists.
"But I still want you around." Keisuke's voice was a defiant whisper and he looked up again, fleetingly.
Kouji lifted his eyes at that last comment, surprised to see Keisuke looking back at him. And something caught inside him, something sharp that stung in his chest for only a second. "I wanna ... be around, too." He kept his eyes trained on Keisuke, speaking as honestly as he could for once in his life. "I ... well, it wouldn't be that hard, would it? As long as I'm back by curfew, it's not that far, and ... I mean, I just have to sleep here, right? Sleep and class, that's all they paid for, and practice..." He wasn't sure exactly how much time that would allow for being with his friends, and it wasn't at all the same, but it was a hell of a lot better than nothing.
"Won't they miss you? Again? Except that they didn't figure out the first time and your roommate must be really, really nice to let you do that or maybe just really oblivious but I don't think even I would not notice someone being gone, especially if it were you." The last few words were said in a semi-unintelligible rush, Keisuke's tongue almost tripping over them in haste. "But it'd be... nice."
Nice, at the very least. "... Yeah, it would." A small chuckle passed his lips. "I don't think they'd miss me. Terada noticed I was gone, but he covered for me - my roommate - anyway, I think if he knew I was coming back at night it'd probably be okay ..." Kouji had to admit he wasn't entirely sure about the rules, but he wasn't going to be pushing his luck any farther than he had already.
And then a grin actually crossed his features as he got a wonderful, spontaneous idea. "You wanna go now?"
"Escape!" Keisuke cheered, instantly. "But I think the receptionist lady thinks that I'm a Bad Egg and out to overthrow the school," he added a second later, sounding slightly doleful. "She asked about Shozo. And how we were related again."
"Well, we don't have to go near the receptionist," Kouji pointed out. "C'mon." And he rolled himself off the bed and stood, then leaned past Keisuke to fish around in the desk drawers for some scrap paper and a pen. He scribbled a quick note to Terada, explaining he'd be back before curfew, promise, and grabbed his room key before heading for the door - pausing to wait for Keisuke.
Keisuke took a second to spin himself around on the chair again - just one quick last time! There wasn't enough space in his room for him to play around like that without causing himself serious injury - and launched himself unsteadily off the chair. He trotted obligingly after Kouji with a pleased grin. "We can go play tennis! Go to the arcade! Find people to mock!"
All of those suggestions sounded like excellent ideas. Kouji found himself genuinely smiling with the prospect of engaging in the type of activity that he was used to - it was better than sitting around doing nothing all day long. "Maybe do all three," he said, locking the door behind them. "Arcade's full of people to mock, right?"
"Only if we don't mind getting beaten up," Keisuke said cheerfully as he darted excitedly around Kouji. "But we should go and win everything and mock everyone anyway."
"Nobody's gonna beat us up," Kouji said. "And if they do, we'll fight back." He shrugged. Although he wasn't about to go looking for a fight, he was at least in good company. Company that probably needed taking care of much more than he realised, but still the best company that he could ask for.
The key to sneaking anywhere successfully was to look as though you knew exactly where you were going and you were supposed to be going there. Kouji kept an eye on Keisuke as they left, hoping that his friend wouldn't act too much like they were on some kind of covert mission. Thankfully, they made it past the school gates easily enough - Kouji credited his recent daily outings after classes. If security wasn't really as tight as they'd made him believe during the first week, this would be a hell of a lot easier on him overall.
Or maybe - maybe they really didn't care at all if students left during the day. It didn't seem all that likely, but he couldn't think of any other reason that he hadn't been caught yet.
Hadn't been caught through pure luck, it seemed, since Kouji had had to foil several of Keisuke's attempts at skulking against the walls and humming the mission impossible scene. The attempt at the forward roll across the corridor junction had only been averted by Kouji's good timing and quick hands.
But they were out and they were free, Keisuke bouncing several steps ahead once they were past the gates. "Where're we going first?"
"Wherever you want," Kouji said. He didn't really care, as long as he wasn't stuck in his dorm. And although he still sounded nonchalant, he couldn't hold back a small smile. It might be a compromise, but for now that would be okay.
After all, if he still got to see his friends ... it wouldn't be so bad as he'd thought.