So since I decided to move it into its own thread, the chapters are likely to become more substantial.
Well, in this case it certainly was, mostly because PLOT DEVELOPMENT.
I'm trying to keep it at the right pacing, really. Not too slow, and just fast enough to be believable. I sure hope it works!
June. A time of heat, a time of preparing for midterms. And finally, the time to change from winter uniforms to summer ones. Wearing that blazer and long sleeved white shirt to school in the heat had been pure torture. It was a relief to finally switch to the short-sleeved buttoned shirt made of much lighter material. It didn't make it any cooler, but at least Reo wouldn't drown in his own sweat anymore.
Never mind that those sweaty photos of him at practice probably fetched more than the regular ones, but he
didn't know that. It was just a relief to be dressed more practically at last. Whose bright idea was it to fix the date for the changing of uniforms at the middle of June? It got hot way before that! Well, granted, maybe 10 years ago it would have still been tolerable, but global warming didn't help at all. Reo grumbled under his breath, then sniffled loudly.
Ah, with summer came the good old flu bug. Haru had gotten it first, as always, and then promptly spread it to Reo, who now felt justified in wanting to nap in class (not that he ever needed an excuse to do so). His head felt unbearably heavy, and his throat tickled in irritation. Glugging down water earlier had helped a wee bit, but he still felt dazed by the heat and his own pounding head. His head lowered slowly...
A sharp kick to his chair leg almost made him fall to the ground. He shook his head blearily, too groggy to actually be angry at the perpetrator. And there was only one person who would do something like that anyway.
"Oi Reo, are you ok?" Ayumi's concerned voice wafted over to him. Reo blinked slowly, trying to keep up appearances. He was fine, damnit. He wasn't going to keel over because of some damn summer cold.
"You're really pale, you know..." Ayumi snuck a peek at the teacher, who was still droning on about quadratic equations. She stealthily put the back of her hand to Reo's clammy forehead, biting back a startled exclamation at the temperature.
"You're burning up! Why are you even in school?" The girl hissed at him, but Reo was barely paying attention. He took another swig from his bottle, rubbing stubbornly at his eyes to clear the spots forming in his vision.
"I'm fine." He all but growled back at her, proving his point by picking up his pencil to make more notes. The material the teacher was covering was mostly for revision, so he was passing familiar with them already. He doodled along the margins idly, determined not to let a little illness get him down. He'd just get some juice later to help boost his immune system later. Reo disliked taking pills or medicine of any kind. He was naturally quite sturdy, quite unlike Haru, who was sickly as a child and was still prone to catching whatever bug in season. Reo didn't get sick often, but when he did he got over them fairly quickly, and he hated having to bother anyone while he was unwell.
It felt a little nice to have Ayumi shoot worrying little glances at him every few seconds, though Reo would never admit it. Most times no one even really noticed when he was sick. Haru might have, but then his little brother usually was too busy being sick at the same time to actually show any kind of concern. Speaking of which, he had to buy some food back for him. Haru was holed up at home sick, and while he was getting better, Reo had forbidden him from doing anything strenuous until the doctor said that the worst was over.
It was just the two of them at home now, given that Father (Reo always referred to the man formally, since they weren't actually blood-related, but he showed respect towards the man who raised him) was busy running company business in another prefecture, having expanded operations there recently. Their mother was off on her yearly vacation, which meant that they wouldn't see her for the next couple of months at least. Her last postcard had come from Sweden, along with a box of chocolates. Reo shrugged imperceptibly to himself. He was fairly independent and Father trusted him to be sensible with the household allowance he wired over monthly for all their expenses.
With Haru sick as well, Reo felt that he couldn't afford to fall seriously ill until the younger boy was back on his feet. He had responsibilities. The boy shook his head furiously, setting his jaw against the drill-like sensation the headache was giving him. He would just take more water, maybe nap during break. That should do it.
The bell rang after what felt like an age, and Reo took the opportunity to flop face first into the desk, resting his forehead against the edge of the table. Ayumi was by his side almost at the same moment, placing a tentative hand on his shoulder.
"You don't look so good. Come on, I'll take you to the infirmary."
At the word 'infirmary', Reo jerked upright in an instant, his eyes wide and wild like a cornered animal.
"N-no thanks. I'll be fine!" Reo pulled out of Ayumi's grasp, looking vaguely terrified by the idea of going to the infirmary. Ayumi frowned, putting her hands on her hips.
"Don't be stubborn! You look awful and you're burning up! You need rest and some medicine! Come on!" Small as she was, she tried really hard to drag Reo out of his seat, but to no avail. The boy dug his heels in and looked more energetic than he had a few minutes ago.
"Anywhere but the infirmary! Please Ayumin!" Reo all but begged, giving his best puppy eyes. The serious class president might have a good resistance against those, but even she was not completely immune to that look. She sighed.
"One day you will tell me why you have such a big reaction whenever I mention the infirmary..."
As if on cue, Reo shuddered. He still had nightmares about that time when that nurse...no! Reo rubbed at his face convulsively. Never again. He would never voluntarily step foot in that accursed place ever again. Reo didn't think of himself as a prude, but it was still kind of shocking to have someone that much older come on to him. Even if she was
hot. He shivered again despite the heat. He would never look at latex gloves the same way ever again.
"Stay put. I'll go and get some medicine for you." Ayumi quizzed him on a few of his symptoms before marching out of the classroom like a woman on a mission. Reo let out a sigh of relief, slumping onto his desk. A couple of girls in the class whispered to each other, wondering if they should go up to him and offer some kind of help, but they spent so much time arguing over what to actually do that Ayumi actually had time to come back from the infirmary with some pills and a cup of hot tea.
"Come on Reo, chin up. There you go, open your mouth..." Ayumi coaxed gently. Reo was at least obedient, if a bit slow to react. He gave her a sleepy half-smile as he sipped at the tea she got for him.
"Thanks...hope it wasn't too much trouble..."
Ayumi rolled her eyes. "You're welcome. Get some rest, I'll wake you when break is over, and you better NOT be grumpy when I do." She mock threatened, and Reo chuckled softly, a soft "no promises" emerging from his lips as he pillowed his head on his folded arms.
Ayumi smiled as Reo dozed off almost immediately. The boy was kind of cute when he wasn't busy being annoying. She could almost see why he was so popular. Speaking of which...she turned around and glared right back at all the venomous glances she had been getting from the other girls in the class. Despite her denials regarding the relationship between her and Reo, none of the fangirls seemed very convinced. Ayumi sighed. Couldn't a girl be friends with a boy without being mistaken for being in a romantic relationship? She liked Reo, yes, but not in that
way. He annoyed her too much on a regular basis to be anything more than a friendly rival.
The girl sighed again as she pulled out her chair and sat down. She was right next to Reo, who had the window seat. It made kicking him awake a lot more convenient that way. Ayumi had discovered the hard way that waking a deeply asleep Reo was a hazardous activity, but preventing him from dozing off was less of consequence. It was for his own good anyway! Never mind that she might have a better chance at beating him if he paid less attention in classes, but Ayumi had a fair streak in her that was a mile wide. She would beat him fair and square, not because he was slacking off. There was no point in winning that way!
With that in mind, she cracked open her notebook even as she tucked into her bento. She had time yet before break was over. No reason not to get a little more studying in...
Oblivious, Reo snored on, snuffling like a little animal in his sleep. Not that anyone was close enough to hear.
Reo stretched as the last bell rang. He felt much better after the short nap and the medicine earlier, and even though lessons were sort of a blur in between, he managed to sort of process what was going on anyway. He made a mental note to make a call to the nice old lady at the family restaurant near their place so he could just pick up the food on his way back without the waiting time. Checking the time, Reo roughly shoved a couple of things into his bag, leaving most of his textbooks at school since he could never remember which ones to bring on any given day. It exasperated Ayumi to no end, but Reo was unrepentant. He had his notebook and his stationery, that was really all he needed to bring home.
He would need to come back for tennis practice later on. He had begged time off earlier to tend to his little brother, but he knew he needed to keep his form up if he intended to compete later in the season. Reo licked parched lips as he waved goodbye hastily to Ayumi. No way was he going to take it easy even if he wasn't exactly 100% today.
Haru seemed fine when he swung by home. A little groggy from sleeping the whole morning away, but starving and bored to death apparently. Other than a blotchy complexion and a runny nose, his little brother seemed well on the way to recovery. After extracting a stern promise from Haru to stay put and take his medicine on time, Reo changed quickly and started jogging back to campus. It was a good mile away, but he could use the exercise. Reo was of the belief that if he worked hard and sweated it out, his illness would burn away with the activity.
He was huffing a little when he approached the school gates, and his nose was dripping. Stopping by at the taps, he washed his face vigorously and scrubbed it with the towel around his neck. He felt much better, even if he still felt a little slow in the head. Undoing his ponytail, he smoothed back his hair and tied it back neatly again. The heat made it sticky and uncomfortable, but Reo liked his hair too much to cut it short. He trimmed the ends every now and then, but he was generally proud of its silky texture. It was the envy of many girls. He
was the envy of many girls, but as usual, he was oblivious to it all.
"Oh~ Sayamaru~ You made it~" His coach, the advisor to the tennis club, one Suzuki Airi, waved at him as he made his way onto the courts. The rest of the club was already paired up practicing.
"How's your brother?" Reo answered all her questions earnestly, earning a smile of approval. Suzuki-sensei was one of his favorite people. Hell, she'd signed up to coach this high school team after finding out where Reo had applied for. "No point letting a talent like you go to waste~" was her nonchalant answer. She was quite determined to groom him to become a professional, just like she was. She used to play competitively until an injury took her off the national circuits, but she still kept herself sharp and devoted to the sport.
In fact, one of the reasons why Reo had been so ashamed of his third place spot in the nationals was at least partially because of how he felt he hadn't been able to live up to his coach's expectations. It was a blow to his pride and he felt like he had let her down somehow. He wanted to make her proud of him, which was why come rain or shine, sickness or health, he would train until he was good enough to take the championship and prove to her that all her effort had not been wasted. She was one of the people who really believed in him and his potential, not just the facade he had come to put on for the world.
To be honest, he still had a minor crush on her, though it was mostly over by now. It was just a mixture of admiration and respect, and he still actively sought her approval. It helped that she was beautiful too, with long dark hair and the brightest eyes he had ever seen. Cute dimples too. Ok, maybe still not quite over it.
Hey he was 16 and entitled to teenage hormones! His eyes closed to mere slits as Suzuki-sensei patted him fondly on the head, a peculiarly cat-like impression as he basked under her attention. Then he had his marching orders, which saw him trotting onto the courts, racquet in hand.
He was not completely focused, he knew. His head felt dull, though his reflexes were excellent as always. He bit the inside of his lip as he attempted to process the instructions on form that Suzuki-sensei called out to him. The rest of the club had packed up an hour ago, but Suzuki-sensei stayed back with him as usual to run drills. She might be kind to him, but she was also a slave driver. Not that Reo minded. It showed that she cared, after all.
She halted practice early, coming up to him and eyeing him closely. Reo rubbed at his temples, cricking his neck as he tried to get the ache out of his stiff muscles. Stupid cold.
"Get some rest, Sayamaru. You don't look so good." She laid a hand on his shoulder, reminding him that rest was part of the athletic routine. He smiled and nodded, waiting for her to leave first as he made to tidy up the rest of the equipment, but the moment she was out of sight, he picked his racquet back up.
He was a little angry with himself, truth be told. He hated being off form, hated having his control being messed up by his rebelling body. Just a few more sets
, he promised himself. He wanted to get the most out of training.Smack.
There was something soothing about those rhythms, the machine shooting balls at him as he ran himself ragged to intercept every shot. His breath came heavily after another 15 minutes, and after he missed another ball he almost threw the racquet down in frustration. Only gritted determination made him slog on through the last few balls, most of which he got flawlessly. It was still not good enough for him, however.
Reo felt a little lightheaded as he went to reload the machine. The sun hung low on the horizon, ready to set soon. He didn't have much time left, but he could manage maybe one more round. With that in mind, his body moved mechanically, having done this over and over for the past few years. In his exhausted state he didn't even notice the strange humming of the machine he was reloading.
He definitely noticed a minute later though, when the bloody thing overheated and practically exploded on him, a heavy metal part clanking right against his head, the force of the impact sending him skidding backwards into the fence. Mercifully, he had blacked out at the moment of impact, but the rest of the pain set in by the time he had finished skidding up against the fence.
Red trickled down from one side of his face, blending into the clay court. Opposite the fence, a dog barked racuously. Reo didn't know anything. He drifted in and out of consciousness, the warm heat of the evening oddly comfortable. He felt sleepy. Sleep sounded like a good idea.
A soft hand brushed against his face. His half-lidded eyes fluttered open briefly. The setting sun silhouetted the kneeling figure in front of him, a human-shaped blob of pink. He blinked vaguely as the hand held something soft against the side of his head. A gentle voice, saying something. His ears buzzed, not quite processing sound properly.
The Voice was concerned. Worried. Feminine and...motherly? Reo's chest tightened at the association, and his hand twitched forward spasmodically to grab at the figure.
"Mama?" He murmured, almost inaudible even to himself. More sound, he wasn't paying attention. The hand he held was so soft...he wanted to cry, almost. "So tired..."
"Shh. Good boy." Did he really hear that? Reo smiled to himself, dropping off between one thought to the next, the touch of soft hands on him....
Tadaaaa~ Drama~ :3
I must take pains to reassure everyone that angst will not be a major component in this story. THERE SHALT BE NO ANGST. Other than the garden variety teenage angst. Cos, you know, high school. But I'll cut that to a minimum, I promise.
Boobipdeedum~ Mystery girl~ Will Reo be alright? What happens next? :3You can stop refreshing now, Kuji