Sequel to Ephemeral

by Hikari

Everyday was the same. It was hard to keep track of time. It wasn't like he really had a dream or anything to live for. His students changed every year, the only continuity in their discontinuity. Everything was ephemeral… was there really a point to life like this? Just going with the flow, letting time move on, but not really moving in any way himself?

It was odd that he was teaching at Seishun Gakuen, really. But they had needed a history teacher, and Hyoutei hadn't. It wasn't like he was coaching tennis or anything anyway, though he did often pass by the courts and stop to take a look at that year's Seigaku regulars. He'd never seen another team like the one that defeated him his third year of junior high, even in the high school division, but then again, that year, the junior high tennis players around Japan had all been amazing; it was said that there would probably never be another year quite like it.

Today though, something interesting caught his ear as he watched two third years play against each other. A group of girls, most likely fans of the regulars, were squealing annoyingly next to him, reminding him of when he had played and the girls of Hyoutei had done the same thing. But this time, they actually said something useful.

"Really? Coming back from France? Oh how romantic! I wonder if he speaks French…" the first voice sighed.

"You idiot, he's been in France for the past seven years! Of course he speaks French!" a more grating voice like his own this time, but annoying nonetheless.

"And he's originally from Tokyo, too! They say he went to Hyoutei before going to France to study music," squealed a third, definitely with the highest and most annoying voice of all. But regardless of how annoying her voice was, her words were the ones that truly caught Shishido's attention.

"I wonder if he's married," the second voice spoke again.

"I heard he's still single."

By this time, Shishido couldn't really tell the ridiculously high adolescent female voices apart anymore. But he did know that they were definitely talking about his musician from France. Foregoing all common sense, he blurted out, "Excuse me, girls." They turned to look at him. "May I ask whom you're speaking of?"

"Oh, Shishido-sensei!" one of them spoke up. Doing a double take at her knowing his name, he took a closer look, and realized she looked mildly familiar. Possibly one of his students. "I'm sorry, I didn't notice you were standing there. We're talking about Ootori Choutarou."

"Sensei, you went to Hyoutei Gakuen, didn't you? Did you know him?"

Surprised that the girl knew which school he had attended, his head whipped around to stare at the second speaker. Huh… she looked familiar too… "How did you know I went to Hyoutei?"

The three girls giggled. "You told us on the first day of class, sensei!" she responded.

Girls, he decided, would always be weird. No matter the generation, the time, age, they'd always be weird. How did they remember stuff like that? "No, I didn't know him," he finally responded. Turning around, he walked away, head spinning. Choutarou was… was coming back? For what? Did that mean that he was in France this whole time? Even after finishing the academy, did he stay in France? And coming back… for what? Why now, after so long? Slowly, his mind processed the last words the girls had said before he'd interrupted them. I heard he's still single.

Still single…

OK he was officially the world's biggest dunce. Why hadn't he asked the girls what Choutarou was doing back in Japan? It'd be strange turning back to ask that now. He'd just have to do a little info gathering on his own. Returning to his cubicle in the teacher's lounge, he packed his stuff hurriedly and practically raced to the train station. Like a little child, he fervently wished he had psychic powers to make the train go faster. Once home, he immediately turned on his computer and logged online. Looking up "Ootori Choutarou" returned more results than he could've sifted through in a week. Even narrowing the search to include "Japan" in the keywords didn't do much good. Wait… there was an official Ootori Choutarou website? Since when had his former partner gotten so popular?

Clicking on the link impatiently, Shishido was shocked to find an upper body shot of a gorgeous man with refusing-to-be-tamed wavy hair, eyes closed as fingers of one hand delicately held the wooden bow of a violin, and the other the violin itself. The gentle curve of those graceful hands were just like what he'd remembered them to be, from all those times they'd brushed fingers when handing the other a towel or a water bottle or something. He was in a tuxedo – presumably the picture was from a concert – and while Shishido admitted it did look good on his still-muscular frame, it didn't suit him quite as well as a polo shirt, shorts and a tennis racket.

It looked like this site did have some interesting information, Shishido decided. He found a page dedicated to pictures of the silver-haired professional violinist that had taken the world's classical enthusiasts by storm, and basked in the sheer beauty of the one he loved. There were some with his eyes closed, many with them open, and Shishido knew that the computer did not do justice to the mournful innocence in those chocolaty-caramel brown eyes. But that wasn't what he'd set out to find. He could stare at the pictures later; right now he was trying to figure out why and when Choutarou was returning to Japan.

Fifteen minutes later, Shishido's patience was running out on him. It just wasn't there! He'd stumbled across the man's biography, more pictures, fan letters, midis of his playing… everything except when he was returning to Japan! One page had intrigued him – it displayed Choutarou's dedications of thanks to his family, his teachers, and "someone very important to me. I'll wait for you forever." But didn't the girls say he was single? That wasn't the most important issue right now though.

Right before giving up on that site in favor of trying another one, he saw one link that hadn't turned grey in place of the black, indicating it hadn't been visited yet. It said "Concerts". Of course! He would've smacked his head if he hadn't been too busy clicking on the link and waiting for the page to load.. Choutarou must be returning to Japan for a concert! And sure enough, there it was. In a mere two months, Ootori Choutarou would be returning to Japan to guest play at the Tokyo Symphony Hall.

Tokyo Symphony Hall… he knew where that was. Choutaru had taken him there once to listen to some guy from some European country guest play on some instrument. There was a little button that said "buy tickets now!" It sure as heck wasn't cheap listening to Choutarou play, he decided, after he'd submitted the form and received his e-confirmation for a seat on the second balcony. He wouldn't have a good view, but it didn't matter. Choutarou would be there – that was all that mattered.

He managed to find a blue suit dark enough for the symphony hall for that night. If his memory served him correctly, one was supposed to be dressed formally for such concerts. He tugged on the already too tight tie around his throat, in which apparently his heart had decided it would spend the evening. His cap couldn't go with him, so hopefully the blue suit would please Choutarou just as much for their first meeting in… was it eight years? It had definitely been several years since his high school graduation.

Slipping into the dimmed theater proved trouble free for him. But from his seat, the stage appeared about the size of his dinner table. Too bad he forgot his binoculars… why was he always so absent-minded like that? Especially when it came to that one… The lights in the audience dimmed just then, indicating that Shishido had barely made it in time for the beginning of the concert.

The symphony started the first piece on the program. It was pretty fast paced, which wasn't too great for the brown-haired tone-deaf high school history teacher sitting in the fourth row of the upper balcony. His heart was already beating fast enough; he didn't particularly need the music to be fast and blood speeding also. But it didn't matter, because according to the program he'd hastily picked up as he had rushed into the theatre, his Choutarou was to come on for a solo immediately after the introduction piece.

And just like that, the symphony struck their final chord for that piece, and a loud applause began for the tall, muscular youth carrying his violin, bow and a microphone? Hands throughout the room stilled as they realized the one they'd been so expecting wasn't wearing the traditional black tuxedo, or any semblance of formal wear. No… the famed violinist was wearing a white and gray-blue striped polo shirt, with black wind pants?

Shishido gasped as he realized why the rest of the audience was so shocked silent. Squinting, he saw that Choutarou was wearing his Hyoutei Gakuen Tennis Club jersey. The one he'd worn when they'd played together. His Choutarou lifted the microphone to his lips in a fluid gesture befitting of him as a musician when he got to the conductor stand. "Nine years ago today, I took the one who means the most to me in the world here for the special performance in Japan by a Japanese cellist who had studied abroad in Germany. Today, I return to you as a Japanese violinist who has studied abroad in France. Nine years ago today, I told that one that this was my dream, and that person told me I could do whatever I wanted. Today, I wear this jersey as a symbol of the faith that one has always held in me. Shishido-san, wherever you are, this is for you. Thank you."

If Shishido froze in his seat upon hearing Choutarou's voice again, he nearly melted when he heard his Choutarou say "Shishido-san" again, in that sweet, always innocent, always pure voice that even his musically challenged ears could denote as the sweetest melody he'd ever heard. Had it been this exact date? He couldn't remember; he had never thought it was something important enough to remember, but it had definitely been nine years ago this month. As for what Choutarou had told him, and what he'd said in return, well, he knew they'd talked, but he hadn't really been paying any attention to the conversation. Like the bastard he had been, he'd just been thinking about the latest issue of Jump that he'd gotten and had to leave for later when Choutarou had excitedly called him to meet up.

But if he really had said that to Choutarou, well then, he had been the one in the wrong for not keeping in touch with Choutarou all those years? Choutarou really hadn't broken a promise to him? Goddamn he was a bastard…

Then the sound of Choutarou's violin flowed into his mind. If this kept up, he really would die of shock before the night was over. Squinting in the dark at his program, he read the title of Choutarou's solo – it had been the piece he'd played at Shishido's eighteenth birthday party. Though he couldn't remember it too well, and the sound seemed to have changed a bit from what little he did remember, it was definitely the piece that Choutarou said he'd written just for him. The melody flowed through his ears and into his body, traveled through every nerve of him like oxygen through blood, and entered his soul, soothing, comforting. It was like Choutarou was sending his soul out to Shishido through the vibrations of his bow across the violin hairs. And just like that, across the large space still separating the two bodies, a message was sent from one soul to another.

Shishido smiled. The audience applauded wildly for the young violinist that had thoroughly disregarded custom in favor of emotion, but wasn't that was music was supposed to be anyway? The echoes of the musician's heart and soul, vibrating throughout eternity…

Shishido slipped out of his seat before the end of the concert. He didn't want to get caught in the mob of people leaving, and he still had to find someway of getting through the security to Choutarou. Making his way to the main lobby, he had a realization. If it was Choutarou, then they should, right? He would. Even if he held no hope that Shishido would think in the same manner, Choutarou would still go. Because he was Choutarou, and Choutarou was like that.

Shishido first went home to change. He got out the folded jersey and shorts that he had worn through arrogance, shame, determination, and pride. Slipping the blue cap firmly onto his head, he reached for the tennis racket that had sat in his closet unused for years. Then he took the train and returned to the familiar grounds on which he had spent several hours everyday for three years of his life, which he hadn't seen in the years since. He flipped the familiar switch to the floodlights, sat down in the middle court, and waited. He'd wait all night if it came down to that. He wouldn't miss even the slightest possibility of Choutarou coming.

But he shouldn't have doubted the other even that little. A sound alerted him to another's presence from the opposite side of the court. Shishido stood up and tightened his grip around his racket handle. Ootori Choutarou had remained very much the boy he had always been, Shishido noted. He was still taller than Shishido by a little over a head, and his jersey still showed hints of well-toned upper arm muscles, the muscles that had once hit serves clocked as the fastest ball of the Kantou tournament. There had clearly been attempts at taming his hair, but the silver gray waves refused to be straightened into the classic gelled look. And the liquid brown eyes… the color was the same, and the surprised widening of them was the same. But something had changed… the harshness of the tennis court floodlights showed that the light of innocence was no longer there. Instead, deep in the recesses of what man called the window to the soul, Shishido could see pain. Pain, loneliness, hurt, betrayal, and something else, all of which he was sure was reflected in his own.

He readied himself, as the other tossed up the ball in his hand. "Choutarou. I heard your little speech today," he said. The still tan skin of Choutarou's face, clearly indicating he was still playing outdoor sports, deepened in an involuntary blush, even though the man didn't make any physical acknowledgement. It didn't detract from the speed and accuracy of the serve in the least.

"You came?"

Shishido returned the serve that had not lost a bit of power from the ones that had once caused him to bleed, and gained him back his position on the Regulars. He only grunted in reply. Silence fell over them, as they rallied back at forth. He gathered his strength as Choutarou prepared to serve again.

"I missed you."

Shishido almost forgot to hit the ball, and would have, but for the reflexes that had become almost innate in him. The sound of their two voices – his a rough admission of one uneasy with such words, and the other's a hopeful, beautifully pained sound – echoed in his ear, completely muffling the smooth bounce of the ball as it hit his racket's sweet spot. Two serves later, he tried again.

"I love you."

Still as in tune as the day they called Seigaku's naming capabilities lame all those years ago, their voices reverberated through Shishido's mind, mingling into one. I love you. I always have. I always will.


Shishido winced at the implied questions behind that simple word. Why didn't you call me back? Why didn't you come to my graduation? Why didn't you come to see me off? Why didn't you come to the reunions… why did you pull away…

There was that sound again… the ball hitting the racket's sweet spot. A sound he hadn't heard in a long time. "Does it matter anymore?"

"I guess not."

And the ball was back in his court, but instead of hitting it, Shishido reached out a hand and caught the fuzzy sphere. They turned off the lights and made sure to firmly pull close the gate behind them as they left the courts. They left Hyoutei again, but this time, their paths didn't part.

The End

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