Chapter Fifteen

Every now and then I get a little bit lonely and you're never coming round
Every now and then I get a little bit tired of listening to the sound of my tears
Every now and then I get a little bit nervous that the best of all the years have gone by
Every now and then I get a little bit terrified and then I see the look in your eyes

Rukawa stopped just in front of the recreation club, his breath coming in harsh, ragged gasps as he keeled over, his hands dropping to his knees as he tried to support himself.

Every now and then I get a little bit restless and I dream of something wild
Every now and then I get a little bit helpless and I'm lying like a child in your arms
Every now and then I get a little bit angry and I know I've got to get out and cry
Every now and then I get a little bit terrified but then I see the look in your eyes

Where did he go from here? Even if no one else knew, could he go on living a double life like this? Hanamichi enjoyed dancing; that much was obvious. Would the redhead go back to the studio? Look for Ruiya Setsuko?

Or would Hanamichi expose him? Mrs. Takuhiro knew…but Rukawa was certain that other members of the dance community, at least, those who had seen him as Ruiya, would balk at his deception. It would be over for him there if that happened. He would have to go somewhere else to start all over again, away from the environment he had grown to know.

I could just stop dancing for good.

The rain cooled his hot skin, clearing his head slightly as he dragged himself up to the steps of the club, giving up and falling to the stairs, his arms curving around himself in an attempt to keep himself warm. He didn't know how long he stayed there, rocking to and fro; his eyes squeezed tightly shut, hearing only the rain and the soft music coming from within the building.

And his shoulder still hurt from banging down the door. What had possessed him to go up against seven feet of half-rusted, solid steel?

You just couldn't leave him in the lurch, could you?! he accused himself sharply. Nooo, you had to poke your head in where it didn't belong and jump in to save the world. Had to be a Good Samaritan. There goes your reputation as a heartless creep, Rukawa Kaede.

Oblivious to everything outside his circle of thought, he didn't see the dark shadow as it detached itself from the bleakness of the night.

Hanamichi stood silently at the gate, his clothes soaked through, and took in the rare sight of Rukawa Kaede curled in upon himself, his head buried in his arms.

Yohei's question came back to him.

"Does it change how you feel?"

Deep down, Hanamichi already knew the answer. It hadn't been Ruiya's legs (amazing though they were), her dress or even her dancing that had attracted him to her. It was just…her.

And in that split second when Yohei had asked him if anything had changed, everything had become ridiculously clear. In this case, nothing was different, because it was just –him–. Just Rukawa.

That knowledge, of course, did not completely bury the trepidation he felt.

Every now and then I know you'll never be the boy you always wanted to be
But every now and then I know you'll always be the only boy who wanted me the way that I am
Every now and then I know there's no one in the universe as magical and wondrous as you
Every now and then I know there's nothing any better, there's nothing that I just wouldn't do

Resolutely, he pushed open the gate. It didn't even creak as per normal, its joints rain-slicked and wet. His eyes, fixed on Rukawa, noted exactly when the slim shoulders tensed imperceptibly and the dark-haired boy stilled.

Rukawa sensed someone, and immediately stiffened. No one was supposed to be outside like him. And no one had any reason to be there, in the rain, either.

No one except…him.

He gulped, bracing himself to look but not quite succeeding, when a warm hand fixed itself under his chin and tilted his face up.

And I need you now tonight, and I need you more than ever
And if you'll only hold me tight, we'll be holding on forever
And we'll only be making it right, 'cause we'll never be wrong together

"What are you doing here?" was all Rukawa could croak.

In the moonlight, the serious gaze was offset by amusement that sparkled in mahogany eyes. "You dropped something. The genius, in return for a kind deed, absolutely had to return it to you in person."

Rukawa blinked, not catching on, and Hanamichi took the chance to drop to his knees and lean forward slightly, catching hold of the other boy's right hand and turning it up gently. Then he placed something in the open palm, and curled Rukawa's fingers around the cold metal.

My earring. I dropped my earring.

"Don't look so shocked," Hanamichi teased softly. "Did you think –I– was going to keep it?"

Rukawa exhaled slowly.

It's kind of funny
How life can change
Can flip 180 in a matter of days

"What are you doing here?" he repeated, clearer and more forcefully than he really felt as he willed himself to look at the redhead directly. His throat felt drier than he cared to admit. "You should be at the prom—"

"How did this happen anyway?" Hanamichi cut in blithely, shifting about so that he was seated on the wet stones at Rukawa's feet. He turned his gaze to the sky, closing his eyes as the droplets of now-lighter rain traced gently over his face. After a few moments of silence, he turned inquiringly to Rukawa.

Rukawa shrugged. "I've not the slightest clue."

Well, he had certainly broken his personal record of the number of words he could utter in one sentence.

The redhead pursed his lips slightly, then cocked his head and began fiddling with the hem of his black pants. "How come…how come you didn't tell me the truth?"

Ah. Back we go to the eternal question.

"What business was it of yours at that time?" he replied flatly.

I'm definitely talking too much.

Hanamichi frowned, and Rukawa could practically see the gears in the younger boy's head turning.

"It served your purpose to learn dancing, didn't it?" the dark-haired boy continued at last when it became apparent that Hanamichi wasn't going to answer the earlier jibe. "The fact that I'm Rukawa didn't make a difference to your teaching. Which brings me back to my first question. What. Are. You. Doing. Here?"

"Will you stop asking me that?!" Hanamichi burst out.

What is –wrong– with the stupid fox? He's not answering anything properly!

He looked at Rukawa, really looked at him for the first time since the startling conclusion of the entire mess had dawned upon him. Rukawa turned away.

Are those your eyes, is that your smile
I've been looking at you forever
But I never saw you before
And these your hands holding mine
Now I wonder how I could have been so blind

He calmed down, taking a few deep breaths as he thought about what he wanted to say. Was there really anything to say, anyway? Hanamichi had thought he would have had a barrage of questions, not the least of which was "What now?". But face to face with Rukawa, all the accusations seemed to melt away, replaced by indecision and uncertainty.

"I don't have all night, you know."

The moment the words left his mouth, Rukawa wanted to laugh hysterically. Score one for déjà vu.

"You realize this means I can't look at you and scream at you after this," Hanamichi mused, looking thoughtful.

"Why not?" Rukawa snapped before he even realized what he was saying, "You can just go away and pretend this never happened, you know."

The warm mahogany gaze settled on his features again. Discomfited, Rukawa forced himself to glare back.

"I could, I suppose," the redhead said at last, "But I want to know where that will leave us."

Us? There is no us!

There's only you…and me.

"This conversation is insane," he finally mumbled, one hand seeking the strap of his bag as he prepared to stand. "I'm leaving.

For the first time I am looking in your eyes
For the first time I'm seeing who you are
I can't believe how much I see
When you're looking back at me

I guess this means no more twenty questions.

His hand shot out and caught Rukawa's as the latter moved to rise. He yanked the shorter boy down, back onto the stone steps, and took advantage of Rukawa's momentary surprise to heave himself up and settle beside the other. Before Rukawa could say anything, he let go of the dark-haired boy's hand and blurted out the single nagging thought that had been plaguing him the entire way here.

"There's only one thing I want to know, fox. Why?"

Why did you help me? Why did you do what you did back there at the gym? Just tell me that honestly…and then I'll go away if you want me to.

Rukawa heard the silent questions behind the voiced one. Did he dare to answer truthfully? What could possibly come out of it? The queries were getting repetitive, as were the answers, and he felt tired of it. He could just take the easy way out…

"Don't lie to me, fox," Hanamichi said quietly.

What the hell. You asked for it.

With one last shot at bravado, Rukawa dropped his bag to the side, scrambled forward before he could lose his nerve, and kissed Hanamichi lightly on the forehead, nearly toppling the both of them over in the process.

"I think I like you."

"I think I like you."

That voice again, whispering again. Would he ever get used to it?

Come to think of it, there was the matter of that smell as well, that sweet, intoxicating scent that belonged purely to Rukawa Kaede and nobody else. Hanamichi fervently believed he could get used to –that– as well. Though it would take a bit longer to adjust to the nail polish.

He closed his eyes, inhaling deeply, finally noticing that the tremor beneath his hands was not entirely his own.

He's just as scared as I am.

There was still a lingering doubt lurking at the corners of his mind, though. It was an unchangeable fact that both he and Rukawa were male. Despite his heart harboring a tentative openness, his brain refused to process that particular fact. He wondered seriously if he could look past the body, past the face, and into the soul, to find the person within as he had done before.

"I thought she was someone I could love." His own words to Yohei, less than an hour ago.

Well…risks were for taking, and chances were for trying, weren't they?

Ok. Less thinking, more expressing.

"That's good," the words finally tumbled out of his mouth; his own throat was suddenly feeling clogged. "Because I'm pretty sure I like you, too."

The End