From the first line challenge up at encrypted_minds. There's a path in the park twists and turns its way down to the river, blinking in and out of sight, almost like an invitation to disappear with it. Cross-posted there as well as tenipuri_yaoi and my fic comm, dabbleindrabble. Written especially for Sharon, because she asked for Ohtori/Eiji. Hope you like it, Sharon!

Prelude in A Minor
by Alexis

There's a path in the park twists and turns its way down to the river, blinking in and out of sight, almost like an invitation to disappear with it. This was Eiji's favorite place to be least at those times when he didn't want to be found. It was far away from everything else in the park, the noise of couples and families and children playing fading away until all that could be heard were the flow of the water and the occasional songbird up in the trees that lined the way. It's where Eiji is comfortable enough to be himself, to abandon his quick, bouncy movements for a slow, leisurely stroll. It's where he's free to just be, and not have to explain himself to anyone.

Something was different about his haven this time, though. As he approached the water's edge, where the path curved sharply to follow the river, the faintest strains of music met his ears. Frowning slightly, the redhead wasn't able to put aside his natural curiosity, and he followed the sound along the path, going a few hundred feet, spying a small copse of trees in which a familiar figure stood, violin in hand, eyes closed, focused on nothing but the music he was playing. Creeping closer on silent feet, Eiji peeked around a tree, watching, a small smile curving his lips, momentarily forgetting the reason why he had wanted to be alone in the first place.

The music finally stopped and the other boy lowered his bow, opening his eyes to spot Eiji standing there, a slight flush on his cheeks at being caught observing such a private moment. "Un~nya, I'm sorry, Ohtori-kun! I didn't mean to intrude or anything, I just heard you playing and it was so pretty! What was it?"

Ohtori, who was sporting a fine blush himself, finally gathered enough wits to do something more than just gape in surprise at Eiji. "Ki--Kikumaru-san! What are you doing here? I didn't know anyone else came down here."

Eiji's expression fell as he remembered just why he had come here on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon, when he'd normally be playing tennis over at the street courts with Oishi, or maybe even Momo and Ryoma. Fixing a bight, plastic smile to his face, Eiji shrugged nonchalantly. "No reason, nya. I like coming this way sometimes. It's really pretty and you can be..."

"...alone," Ohtori spoke in unison with Eiji, an understanding smile on his face. Bending down to put his violin in its case, Ohtori straightened and beckoned to the older boy. "If you'd like, we can be alone together?" Realizing how that sounded, Ohtori flushed again, hand dropping to his side. "Er, that is, not like that—I mean, know what I mean."

A small, genuine smile replaced the bigger, faker one Eiji wore until a moment before and he nodded. "Hoi hoi, sometimes it's nice to be alone with someone else there." Walking into the middle of the small glen, Eiji sprawled out in the sweet summer grass, looking up at the tall junior. "Ohtori-kun, do you think you would mind playing the violin again? That was really pretty, nya."

Sitting down cross-legged a little bit away from Eiji, Ohtori drew his violin case up on his lap, tapping the outside a bit nervously. "Well, I don't know...I was just playing around with a tune I had in my head. It isn't very good, and I didn't bring any sheet music with me..."

Scrambling to his knees in front of Ohtori, Eiji pouted slightly, giving him that same wide-eyed earnest look that had made the younger boy's heart skip a beat at the junior invitational training camp, though he tried to shove the reaction to the back of his mind. It all came rushing back now, though. The way that Eiji supported him, encouraged him, believed in him...that special sparkle in deep blue eyes, the bell-like ring of his laughter on the warm afternoon breeze, the minty smell of toothpaste on his breath as he leaned close...

...and now he was too close for Ohtori's peace of mind, so he nodded and took out his violin, scooting back a bit to have enough room to play. The first few notes were soft and faltering, slightly off-beat, but the melody grew stronger and steadier with the encouraging look in Eiji's eyes as he leaned back on his hands to listen.

The song was slow and melancholy, and Eiji found his thoughts turning to just an hour earlier. He had been at the tennis store, checking out the new sneakers, since he had been trying to talk his parents into buying him these newer ones that were supposed to be better for him, considering all the jumping he did for his acrobatics. A flicker on the other side of the window caught his eyes and that's when he saw it. It being the worst thing he could possibly see. Oishi - his Oishi - and some girl...KISSING. Okay, so he wasn't exactly his, but Eiji thought of him that way. That's the way he wanted it to be, at least, but there was glaring proof in front of his face that it was never going to be that way. When the two of them passed, Eiji darted out of the store, running in the opposite direction, leaving his heart in little pieces on the floor of the tennis shop.

Ohtori noticed the change in Eiji's expression; the very vitality that was so a part of him dimming until it seemed like even the flips of his hair drooped forlornly. At a loss as for what to do, he slowly changed the tone of the music, making it something sweeter, almost hopeful-sounding. He smiled when he could see the visible difference in Eiji's demeanor. He seemed to brighten, the light returning to his eyes, though it wasn't quite as bright as it was when they played together. But that was alright, so long as he could help even in this small way.

Glad that tears were no longer threatening to embarrass him in front of Ohtori, Eiji smiled and scooted a bit closer to him, surprised at how different he looked when not in either a tennis or school uniform. "Thank you, nya. You knew something was bothering me, and that's why you changed the music, right?"

Having stopped playing when Eiji started talking, Ohtori lowered his bow and violin and nodded. "It just see you so upset." Pausing a moment, Ohtori looked away, putting away the violin and closing the case before continuing. "I'm sure you wouldn't want to, but if you need to talk to someone, I wouldn't mind listening."

Eiji was torn. He didn't want to talk about it, because he didn't want to think about it, and because Ohtori was being so nice and Eiji liked just spending time with him without bringing up unpleasant things. But the look in those brown eyes was just so sincere that Eiji couldn't resist. Soon enough he was sitting side by side with Ohtori, leaning his head against his shoulder – which was just as comfortable as Oishi's, if not even more so – and pouring his heart out. "I just thought everything would happen the way it should have and everything would be perfect and wonderful and it's not and it's not fair! I just...don't know what to do, un~nya."

Unsure of what to do at suddenly finding himself in very close proximity with a visibly distressed Eiji, Ohtori let one arm circle the older boy's waist, rubbing at his back in what he hoped was a soothing manner and trying to keep his heart from beating out of his chest. "Well...I don't really know what there is to do. I mean, other than either hope that what you saw was wrong or that things will change...or try to move forward. Maybe something else that could be just as good is lurking around the next corner?"

Taking a deep breath, Eiji remained silent while he processed Ohtori's words, thinking hard on them. Could he hinge everything on hope that his eyes – his oh-so-sharp and observant eyes – were somehow deceiving him? Maybe there really was something else, something more, something better somewhere out there just waiting for him to trip over it, if he only looked. "Hoooooooooi~ maybe you're right, Ohtori-kun. Maybe I just need to open up my eyes and look around. Thank you, Ohtori-kun! You're so nice for having listened to me!"

Ohtori froze, cheeks turning bright red as Eiji pressed soft lips to his cheek in a chaste kiss. He could turn his head just a bit and they'd be well and truly kissing...but he didn't. It wasn't what Eiji wanted or needed right now. He could only be a friend, but that was enough. "You're welcome, Kikumaru-san. Anytime."

Shaking his head, Eiji grinned and tapped the tip of Ohtori's nose. "We're friends now, so you should call me Eiji, nya."

Normally Ohtori wouldn't presume to call Eiji by his first name. But 'normally' didn't apply to things that involved Kikumaru Eiji, so it wasn't really a surprise to him when he found the name falling from his lips. "Okay...Eiji." Smiling, Ohtori knew that this was enough, being here with Eiji, being his friend, getting to call him by his first name. This was enough...for now, at least.

The End

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