Archivist's note: This was originally written for a role playing game in Live Journal. The RPG can be found here. This post originally appeared in the character journal for Ohtori, which can be found here.

by Ruebert

He was smiling, of course, and while there was nothing wrong with that, it was the sort of genuine, open, trusting expression that seemed to grate against his companion's nerves when they were together, when they were speaking or assigned to a project, when any sort of minor communication had to take place; he learned not to take offense after the first several weeks, when he realized that it was not his smiles that seemed to annoy the other boy. It was merely the fact that he was encroaching, that he attempted to communicate at all.

Choutarou didn't understand Hiyoshi's standoffishness, didn't understand the other's reluctance to respond to his overtures. They were both in the same classes, both in the same club; both were identified by the other freshmen as players that showed a great deal of promise. Certainly friendship could be a rare and difficult thing in the competitive hierarchy of Hyoutei's tennis club.

Choutarou could hardly avoid the other freshman, however, and so he continued with his overtures, with his smiles and friendly one-sided conversations.

"What are you reading?"

"A book," Hiyoshi had replied, and the fact that he had not given Choutarou a straight answer as to the title or author showed that he was annoyed. So Choutarou wanted to think; Hiyoshi was not as subtle as he wanted to be, not as adept at hiding all the little nuances. He was far better at hiding facial expressions than he was at disguising his body language.

Choutarou blinked slowly, brown eyes quizzical as they focused on the thin face before him. He leaned forward, pillowing his chin on his palms, elbows propped up on the library table as he stared at Hiyoshi. It was funny, he thought, that Hiyoshi went to such lengths to disguise emotion, yet was easily unbalanced at times into losing that control. He'd seen it happen often enough in moments on the court, intense frustration sparking the normally quiet boy's temper. More interesting, perhaps, was the other freshman's face when he read. The conscious attempt to control expression was lost as he reacted to whatever scene or dialogue was presented within the yellowed pages and faded green cover; lips curved into a tiny smile, eyebrows drew together in a frown; sometimes his staid, neutral mask was lost to a nose-wrinkling grimace of distaste that left Choutarou hard-pressed not to laugh when he caught it.

These were not observations that had been made in a day; months of practice together, of being in the same classes, of witnessing defeats as well as victories had let Choutarou see these small glimpses of what Hiyoshi was like. He liked the other freshman; he thought that the way Hiyoshi held himself apart from others was sad, in a way.

"Stop staring at me, Ohtori."

"What are you reading?"

"A book."

"What are you reading?"


"What are you --"

The quick rustle of a turned page, the snap of a book closed, a thud as it met the table. Hiyoshi pushed his chair back with a painful scraping sound, stood up, claimed his book, and turned away, leaving Choutarou to sit at the table and watch his retreating back.

The End

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