Notes: Taki's been invading my brain, damnit. O__o;

by Tokki-tsu

They almost pass each other in the streets, in the bustling crowds filled with the harried mothers and excited children and lovestruck couples that seem to accompany every Christmas season. They almost pass, but Taki turns in recognition last minute and calls out before he can stop himself. He doesn't expect a reply, is about to continue walking again when Hiyoshi weaves through the crowd and suddenly they are face to face.

Neither have changed much, superficially anyway. Taki at least has grown more serious over the past years - has it been eight years already? - and Hiyoshi has loosened slightly, and both have greater responsibilities now than tennis and grades. But there is still a comfortable familiarity between them, one borne of shared memories. Taki extends an invitation to Hiyoshi - half because it is polite and half because it really is good to see the other boy again - and Hiyoshi accepts.

The silence in the apartment is uncomfortable at first. He sits across from Hiyoshi, sipping at hot tea awkwardly, noticing now the little details - how Hiyoshi's hair falls into his eyes, how Hiyoshi's posture is still straight but somehow weary as well. He wonders what he looks like to the other boy, and the images he conjures in his mind make him laugh softly.

Hiyoshi looks at him quizzically, and though the boy doesn't ask, Taki replies with a "Happy Birthday" that is much better than what is actually running through his mind. He's surprised he still remembers, but he doesn't show it, and suddenly the tension in the air dissipates.

"Thank you."

It's enough to break the ice, and the conversation drifts then from tennis - "Do you still play?" - to life and to old friends.

"Have you heard from Atobe lately?"
"He's still flashy. Even if he is a decent business manager."
"Better than you?"
"What, no 'gekokujou' now?"

A scowl at the teasing jibe, but Taki laughs and Hiyoshi relaxes and smiles too - a small one, but a smile nonetheless.

Taki remembers treasured snatches of smiles that weren't for him, remembers being realistic and telling himself that junior high and even high school crushes didn't last. 'Maybe they do,' his mind is telling him now, but he knows his own fantasies well enough that he recognizes what he feels is just a ghost of the past.

The hour grows late, and Hiyoshi excuses himself. Taki shows him the door, watches from his window as Hiyoshi walks down the sidewalk.

They pass each other on the street, but this time, Taki doesn't call out and Hiyoshi doesn't notice.

The End

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