date: friday, 05.13; after practice
summary: Kouji shows Ayato where the bookstore is; they grab some food and wow, Kouji actually talks. About something serious, even.
warnings: Uh, well, it ends kind of abruptly. That's about it.
Ayato looked around the courts once the practice had been officially called to an end, searching for his roommate. He desperately needed more books, and seeing as Takayama-kun *had* promised to show him where the bookstore was, today seemed like a decent day to go, being a weekend and all. Maybe he'd even get the free lunch he'd been promised out of the deal as well. Terada Ayato was definitely not one to turn down free food. Ever.
He spotted his kohai in the next court and approached him, slinging his racket over his shoulder. "Hey, Takayama-kun…" he began, once he was within earshot. "D'you… maybe have time to show me where the bookstore is this afternoon?"
Kouji looked over his shoulder and down at Terada – it was still hard to believe that the shorter boy was his senior, sometimes. "Yeah, I guess." He was pretty sure he knew where the store was, he just had to remember …
He took his time putting away his equipment, racking his brain for the directions – books weren't something he usually spent his extra money on, but if he wasn't mistaken, it wasn't that far from the school. He at least knew which direction it was in. "You wanna get going now?" he asked.
Ayato put his own equipment away while Takayama-kun did the same, wiping his forehead with the back of his arm. He figured that since it wasn't *that* warm yet, they could go directly from practice.
"Sure, sounds fine to me. I've got money in my bag." He always kept some of his spending money in his tennis bag - usually for tennis supplies, but that could be swapped out with the book fund in his room later. He shouldered his bag and looked up at his kohai. "Let's go, then?"
"Sure." Kouji shrugged, and left the court, not bothering to check in with Kaneda-sempai, who'd been running practices in Fuji-buchou's absence. Practice was pretty much over, anyway; letting them know they were leaving just a little early wasn't really going to be any consequence – some of the other guys had already taken off for the showers anyway.
Kouji himself wasn't concerned anymore with the security (or apparent lack thereof) at St Rudolph's gate. He'd left campus enough times – usually illegally – to know that one could get by without much difficulty. Oddly, getting back in was often what proved the greater problem, but as it was a weekend, he didn't think they'd run into as much issue as when he tried to sneak back on campus during the week.
He didn't offer much in the way of conversation, just headed in the right direction, hoping he wouldn't run into anyone who'd recognize his St Rudolph uniform and give him any grief about it. And if they did, well, he'd formulate some excuse. He always did. And it always worked.
Ayato followed his roommate off campus and off down the street, mentally memorizing the way so that he could find it himself later on - because he'd certainly need to in a week or two when he ran out of books again. The library was only so helpful; he liked to buy his books so that he could reread them (as he often did) at leisure.
He watched Takayama as they walked; not only were Ayato's strides shorter than his kohai's, but he also didn't quite know where they were going and stayed a few steps behind the other boy. Takayama's hair trailed behind him as he walked, and Ayato couldn't help but laugh a little - quietly - at his roommate's almost effeminate appearance. Well, that wasn't quite right - Takayama *didn't* look like a girl, but his long hair and delicate features definitely made him into something that any girl his age would likely term "pretty." Ayato wondered if he was even aware of it, but decided he probably wasn't - or didn't care.
"So… it's not far, right?" he finally asked after a decent stretch of silence. Living with Takayama-kun had taught him that he'd have to initiate and supply most of any conversation they'd likely have, and though it wasn't normally in his nature, it seemed easier with Takayama-kun than most. Perhaps that was because he tended to get worked up about things, or just plain make things up sometimes. It was kind of fun, Ayato thought with a wan smile.
"Not too far. Couple blocks." He hoped. He also hoped Terada wouldn't hold him up – although the older boy wasn't really *bad* company, it certainly wasn't the same as hanging out with his friends from Hyotei. Kouji almost felt like he had to be more reserved around him, if only because Terada himself seemed so contained.
"Okay," Ayato said, and the conversation died once more for the moment. It almost seemed as though Takayama… didn't want to really talk to him. Ayato wasn't sure which one of them it was - whether Takayama didn't talk, or whether he didn't trust Ayato enough to talk. They didn't often hold long conversations when they were in their room together - the longest they'd talked was when he younger boy had snuck back in after curfew almost two weeks ago. And since Ayato had told him then that he didn't mind covering for Takayama, so long as he'd been given due notice and maybe even a reason, it *shouldn't* be that his kohai didn't trust him…
So when all else had failed, he resorted to talking about tennis, because Ayato was one of those people that felt that when he was in the company of others, they should at least talk to each other. He spent enough time alone in silence - time with others was meant to be filled with words, even if Ayato ended up doing most of the talking.
"You think Kaneda-san's going to decide the lineup on his own? I have no idea what I'll be playing - I always used to play singles, but I think maybe they're gonna make me play doubles here."
Kouji shrugged. "Maybe. He seemed to think he was gonna, anyway." He wasn't sure if the vice-captain really had the authority to do that, but at this point he didn't care – he just wanted a lineup, regardless of who made it, and he wanted to be on it. "There's probably an extra spot open for singles since Fuji-buchou's out."
"Hm, true." Ayato considered this. He still didn't really think he was good enough to get a singles spot, though he *had* been training extra hard. Then again, he was a decent doubles player, and he knew those were often in high demand. Few people were willing to give up their individual styles of play to compromise with a partner; Ayato knew he was one of the minority of players willing to do just that.
"By the way, you *do* know that he's injured, and not sick?" Ayato cast a sideways glance up at Takayama-kun now. His roommate had been… spreading some rather out-of-proportion rumors about their absent captain as of late.
"Are you sure about that?" Kouji knew what he had heard, and while there really hadn't been any mention of actual illness as it related to their captain, the truth just wasn't as interesting. Besides, Terada had no proof besides Kaneda-san's word. Nobody really knew what Fuji-buchou was in for, anyway.
"Yes," Ayato assured him. "I read up on what Yukimura-san has, and it's *not* contagious. At all." And he had, too - he'd gone to the library and looked up every medical text they'd had (which hadn't been many, being as St. Rudolph was a Christian junior high and not even a high school). "It sounds like Fuji-buchou just worked himself too hard doing something he shouldn't have. But hopefully he'll be better soon - I really want to get some real matches in, and maybe with our captain back we'll get some."
"But anyway, you can stop going on about how Fuji-buchou is going to die, because he's not. You say the craziest stuff, you know? Is there a reason for that?" He eyed the taller boy, wondering what the reason was - and whether or not he'd get it.
"For what?" Kouji asked. Maybe he could evade the question with more questions. He didn't like feeling like he was under such scrutiny, and being called on his fabrications certainly made him feel like he was.
He knew nobody believed him most of the time – nobody except Keipi, and even then it was fun to play off of his wide-eyed acceptance of anything Kouji said. It was more like a game, sometimes – he'd never meant to hurt anyone with anything he'd said. But "why" wasn't really a question he could answer, not accurately, and certainly not in any way that Terada would understand.
"For making crap up all the time." Ayato was not going to be put off by Takayama's avoidance of the question. "I mean, I guess I just wondered if it was a game, or if you actually *believed* yourself, or what." He stopped, realizing how close this was coming to insulting the other boy. "I mean, I guess I don't mean to sound… insulting or anything, but it is a little strange. It took a while to get used to, is all. Like I said before, I don't know all that much about you."
"There's not much to tell." And he knew full well that that was another lie. While his life had been mostly average, he'd had his fair share of adventures – most of them last year. He just didn't want to volunteer any information. It didn't matter, in the long run, and Terada didn't really care about what Kouji was like, because strangers never did, and if they said that they did, they didn't mean it. That was just the way things were. "Don't exactly see you offering info about yourself, either, y'know."
Well, Ayato thought bemusedly, there was a rather good reason for that. But still, it didn't seem as though he couldn't afford to offer *any* information at all…
"Well then, what do you want to know? I mean, you know I'm from Osaka, and I like books, and stuff like that. I hardly think you want an abbreviated life story - that would just bore you. Or make you realize how crazy my family is." Ayato sighed - his parents hadn't yet called, but that only meant that the likelihood of their doing so only increased each day. He talked sometimes with his sister, who was staying with his uncle and cousins in Tokyo; he was fairly good friends with his cousin Hikari, who was the same age and went to Seigaku. But his parents, and his uncle… oh, they left something to be desired in the "normalcy" department.
Not that he was any different, he supposed, stifling a bit of a snicker at the thought.
"Don't want anything like that," Kouji replied, "Just sayin' that it's the same with you as it is with me."
And fortunately the bookstore was coming into view, so he could at least put off explaining himself for a while – at least an hour, if Terada's claims held any truth. He pushed open the glass door and entered cautiously, watching his roommate's expression light up once they were inside. He didn't need anything himself, so he lingered among the magazines as Terada went off to collect probably a billion and a half new volumes of reading material.
The bookstore was of typical size - not too big and not too small. Ayato took a quick survey of the sections as they entered the door, glancing over at Takayama to see him stop just inside the doorway beside the magazines. Shrugging, and figuring that book shopping with him wasn't something Takayama-kun really wanted to do, Ayato set off into the stacks in search of all the books he could fit into his meager budget.
"Have that, have that, read that, need volume two first…" he muttered to himself, running one finger lovingly across the spine of each book as he considered the title. "Ah-hah!" He stopped, pulling a few down from the shelf and paging through them, considering each one before selecting two and putting three back. Then he moved on to the next shelf, repeating the process until he was seated on the floor, a stack of ten books beside him, his tennis bag open so he could count how much money he had to spend.
He lost all track of time in the middle of so many books, simply scanning title after title and considering each for purchase until he'd finally run out of funds - still long before he'd run out of bookshelves. He made his way to the front of the store and paid for his purchases, finally turning back to the door, now laden with bags, looking for his roommate and hoping he hadn't completely bored his kohai to death.
Kouji was just about to give up and go look for Terada to make sure he hadn't gotten lost when he finally appeared behind him, carrying at least a couple bags in each hand. "Geez, there you are. Took ya long enough. You ready to go?"
Ayato felt a bit of an embarrassed flush cross his cheeks at his kohai's admonishment; he certainly knew how he tended to lose track of time in bookstores. "Yeah, sorry. I'm ready to go. Do you wanna get lunch… or just head back?" Either was fine with him - he wasn't sure if Takayama was really up to the free lunch he'd promised a while back, but Ayato certainly wouldn't *mind* food…
"Lunch is cool," Kouji replied with a shrug. "If you don't mind lugging those around town." Not, he decided, that they'd be going very far – even if he wasn't as familiar with this side of town as he was with Hyotei's, he didn't want any of his old friends to catch him with one of the goody-goodies. Terada wasn't bad, but … it was all about image, really, and he still did have one to maintain. Really, he did. "Anything in particular you want?"
"Hmmm…" Ayato thought, gazing upwards and hefting his bags so their weight settled a little better for extended carrying. "I dunno… ramen, or something? I don't really know my way around town," he confessed, though he was sure Takayama already knew this, having had to lead his sempai to the bookstore in the first place. "Something cheap is fine with me if you're paying."
He gave the other boy a small smile, hoping that maybe this time, their conversation might yield something a little… well, deeper than everyday pleasantries. Or unpleasantries, as far as Takayama-kun was concerned. Ayato hadn't ever really gotten the chance to *talk* to the other boy. Maybe today would be different. Maybe.
Well, if it didn't matter, then it didn't matter. They'd just have to eat at the first place that Kouji decided didn't look too bad – which happened to be a random sandwich shop that he'd honestly never been to or even seen before. The menu looked alright, and at least decently priced, so Kouji figured he lucked out with that. Hopefully Terada would hold to his own promise not to eat too much….
Ayato followed his roommate until he ducked into a sandwich shop not too far from the bookstore. He followed Takayama in, scanning the menu for something that looked like a decent amount of food while not being overly expensive. He was pretty hungry, but he'd also promised not to eat to full capacity with the other boy paying…
He finally settled on something that looked good, and glanced at the other boy before placing his order and glancing around for somewhere to sit. There were a bunch of small tables near the door; any of them would do, so he went and put his bags down at one of them while Takayama ordered his own food.
Kouji followed, checking to make sure nobody he knew was around – thankfully, all the faces were unfamiliar, so he wasn't as on-edge when he finally did slump into the seat across from Terada. "This okay?" he asked.
"Eh?" Ayato blinked, then shrugged. "Yeah, it's fine. Thanks for the food." He glanced at the other boy, wondering how on Earth to get him talking about… well, anything really. An entire lunch in silence was going to be rather uncomfortable.
"So… where is Hyoutei, in relation to this?" he finally settled on - something he didn't think Takayama would mind talking about was his old school, seeing as he seemed to spend plenty of time there. "Or… wait, you had to take the bus there, right? So it's pretty far..."
"Other side of town." It wasn't completely across town, but it was far enough that that answer would suffice. Far enough, too, that when he took the bus over to hang out with the old team, he didn't get there until they'd already been out of practice for a while.
"Mm, I see. So… what do you do over there, anyway? Seeing as you're over there all the time…" Ayato figured that sooner or later, he'd be able to bring the conversation around to what he really wanted to know - why Takayama-kun was at St. Rudolph now, when he so obviously wanted to be back at Hyoutei.
"Just hang out, I guess." Kouji wasn't sure why Terada really cared all that much what he did – after all, he wrote notes for his roommate when he left, and he really tried to come back before curfew – even if it meant missing out on some of the most interesting escapades.
"Sounds… exciting," Ayato observed, if a little flatly. It wasn't really his business what the other boy did with his friends, so long as he was back by curfew - and he had been, lately. But still, he was curious. "So you really liked it over there, I'm assuming. How come your parents transferred you?" The question seemed innocent enough… hopefully Takayama wouldn't take offense.
Kouji hesitated. 'Because they hate me,' was his standard response, but he had a feeling that it wasn't going to hold much water with Terada. A couple other excuses came to mind – all of them ridiculous – and, with a sigh, he finally settled on the truth. "I guess it was to try and teach me a lesson or something. But, uh."
But there was more. And Kouji was still debating whether or not he wanted to go into it just yet.
Ayato waited patiently, trying to steel his face to look impassive. He was insanely curious - and it seemed as though Takayama might actually go into the rest of his story, but only *if* Ayato didn't do or say the wrong thing. He hoped waiting politely would get him the answer he wanted to hear… If not, he supposed he'd have plenty of other chances, but now, with Takayama hovering on the edge of the rest of the explanation, he certainly didn't want to think about having to wait months to actually hear it.
He *wanted* Takayama to… well, trust was a strong word, but he did want to be friends with the other boy. Ayato had a hard time making friends - he actually didn't really like talking to people most of the time, which was part of the reason he became so easily absorbed in books. But Takayama seemed… well, he really seemed like a good person underneath all the rumors and short remarks, and Ayato wanted to know if that was really true. But at the same time he didn't want to push too hard, because he definitely didn't want to make an enemy out of the person he lived with on a daily basis.
"I was … kinda asked to leave," Kouji admitted quietly, staring at his half-eaten sandwich without really looking at it – it'd be better than seeing Terada's reaction. "S'not like I was expelled or anything, though. There was … a thing." He knew that he couldn't be more vague, but he wasn't used to telling people about what had happened … he wasn't even sure if his Hyoutei friends even knew the details of the incident.
"Oh," Ayato said, seeing his kohai look down to avoid whatever he thought Ayato's reaction would be. Which was, surprisingly, one of sympathy. He could tell Takayama was telling the truth - and that he wasn't really proud of what had happened. Even if, as he'd just said, he hadn't been expelled. It wasn't like Ayato's situation, where he'd transferred to St. Rudolph voluntarily. No… Takayama's situation must be much stickier, and suddenly Ayato didn't envy him it at all.
"Well… that sucks," Ayato said after a moment. "I'm sorry. You seem to… really have liked it there."
"Yeah," Kouji replied. That much was obvious, wasn't it? "It was really different. Not so … personal, I guess, I mean, there were a hell of a lot more people, so you could just kinda do your own thing. Here it's kinda like they're watching you or something." And he knew that there wasn't really a cult, but sometimes he felt as though there might as well have been – his parents said something about smaller class sizes leading to more individualized attention, but in Kouji's mind, it was more like it was just easier for the authorities to keep an eye on each student. And possibly try and mold them into something that they didn't want to be.
"Yeah," Ayato found himself nodding, agreeing. "My old school was bigger, too. I don't really like feeling like I'm being watched, either." No, he didn't - not at all. It made him almost jumpy, really, even though he knew that it was silly at the same time. There certainly was a lot more individual attention given to the students at St. Rudolph than he was used to. "I mean, I like how there are fewer people in each class, but… yeah." He gave Takayama a sympathetic smile. "Don't like people paying much attention to me, either."
He figured as much. Terada didn't really talk all that much, and from what Kouji could tell, seemed to spend most of his time alone in the dorm. "That why you don't get out much?"
Ayato shrugged. "Guess so," he said, looking a bit guilty. "I don't really like to… go out. I mean, like going to the bookstore, and getting food," he indicated his bags and sandwich, "and stuff like that… I don't really know anyone here except you, anyway." He paused. "I'm not… bothering you or anything, am I? I don't mind shutting up - I just figured… well, since we were out and everything, we might as well talk."
"Nah, it's cool." Terada was … different, really, from the Hyoutei kids. He was probably most like Keipi, if he was like any of them, in that he didn't care as much about image or pretense as the others. And that not caring was still a pretty foreign concept to Kouji, who'd been raised with the idea, courtesy of his mom, who came from a wealthy background herself. "Not like there's anyone at St Rudolph who's worth hanging out with, anyway."
Ayato laughed a little. "I guess I don't know any different, but you'll have to forgive me if I don't take your word for it. But… I mean, most of the guys on the tennis team seem okay to me. Which is good, I guess, since we spend so much time there and all. And I really hope we get regulars soon…" Though he was still nervous, regulars would be really nice. "I'd like to be able to tell my parents I actually made the team when they get around to calling."
"Seriously!" Kouji exclaimed. "I don't know what's up with that. It's mid-May already; who've they been sending to tournaments? Or does SeiRu just suck so much that they're not in tournaments this year?" He distinctly remembered tournaments beginning at the end of April last year, certainly at least one must have passed by now …
"Huh. I don't know - our schedule started later than yours, I think." Ayato figured his old tournament schedule wouldn't really be of much use now, trying to figure out when they'd actually start playing against other schools. "But St. Rudolph should be in the tournaments this year - I checked that out before I transferred here. I might've taken my nonexistent chances at Seigaku if St. Rudolph hadn't been slated for any tournaments."
"Well, that's good to know." Kouji shrugged again and considered the rest of his sandwich, eating a few more bites before he decided he'd had enough. He offered the tray to Terada – if his senpai really could eat as much as he said he could, the food at least wouldn't go to waste. "You want the rest of this?"
"Oh! Sure… If you don't want it…" Ayato was definitely still hungry, and when Takayama really did seem to be finished with his meal, he took the proffered sandwich and devoured the last few bites efficiently. "Thanks," he said, licking his fingers to make sure he'd gotten everything off. His mother would have cringed and screamed - Ayato was not well known for his proper use of napkins. "You wanna get going, then?" He doubted Takayama was one to linger in restaurants in favor of small talk.
Kouji looked on in a kind of astonishment – the sandwich was there one moment, and in the next it just wasn't. It was as though Terada had inhaled it – surprising for someone with such a small frame. "Yeah, sure." Without more prompting, he emptied his trash and led the way out of the restaurant.
The walk back to campus was a quiet one, but the silence could only be described as comfortable – Kouji'd done his share of talking for the day, particularly when it came to serious subjects, and he suspected Terada was eager to get back to the dorm and start reading his recent purchases. It was probably too late to head over to the other side of town, but maybe he could waste some time online once getting back …