Daisuke gave a quick look around, then scuttled back behind the bleachers. The exit was getting closer with each passing second, but the nearer he moved to the door, the more teachers there seemed to be, making escape difficult.

Finally, he made it to the edge of the bleachers. Luck was with him. A students screamed loudly halfway across the gym, distracting the teachers and giving Daisuke a clear shot out of the gym.

He dodged into the hallway, grabbed the doorframe to shift his weight to the left, and then took off in that direction down the hall until he came to another corner, which he rounded quickly before stopping. At the end of the hallway, in front of the door that led outside, was the principal.

The old, bent man was walking with a student and talking as they approached Daisuke. Neither had noticed him yet and he looked around quickly for a new route of escape. None stood out directly, and he backpedaled back to the hall that lead to the gymnasium. Halfway down was a nook, a possible hiding place if he was lucky and the principal was half-blind and the student was nice enough to keep his mouth shut.

Daisuke took his chance and was just melding into the shadowed niche when the principal and student rounded the corner. He shut his eyes and held his breath as they walked past, murmuring in low voices.

After a few seconds of silence, he opened his eyes and glanced around. He breathed a sigh of relief when all he saw was an empty hallway. With a grin and a two-fingered victory sign waved in the direction of the gym, he started back down the hallway, this time walking slower and feeling superior to all the teachers who didn't know he'd managed to sneak past them.

It was a shock when a strong hand gripped the back of his T-shirt and hefted him off the ground. "And where do you think -you're- going, Mr. Motomiya?"

"Mr. Ishida," Dai said tightly, scrunching his eyes shut as he recognized the voice and face of his music teacher. To be caught by any of the faculty would have been bad, but to have to be caught by the teacher that seemed to hate him the most...

"What was he up to this time?" asked a feminine voice. Daisuke opened his eyes enough to peek hopefully at his history teacher, Sora Ishida. If anyone could keep the band teacher happy, it was his wife.

"Trying to avoide the auction," Mr. Yagami said needlessly, walking up to the small group in the hallway. "Maybe you should put him down, Matt," he suggested to the blond teacher.

Mr. Ishida put Daisuke down, but didn't relinquish his hold on the back of the boy's shirt. Daisuke grinned. With Mrs. Ishida -and- Coach Yagami around, he was safe. He turned his smile up to Mr. Ishida and instantly wondered if he was entirely accurate in that, as pale blue eyes seemed to stare into him.

"Where did you think you were going, Daisuke?" Coach Yagami asked, drawing Daisuke out of the staring contest he was having with Mr. Ishida.

"Um," he stammered, eyes turning up and left as he tried to come up with a suitable lie to cover his actions.

"Time's up!" Mrs. Ishida said. "Yamato, let go of the boy. Taichi, escort him to the Disciplinary room. I will go inform the principal that he escaped again."

"This place is a prison!" Daisuke exclaimed suddenly, throwing his arms out to his side. "Even -you- say I'm escaping, but I shouldn't have to -escape- from a place that's only supposed to be for my good!"

"Motomiya-kun, I do not believe Ishida-chan meant it in that way." Dai turned to the latest person to join their growing hall-party. Koushiro Izumi, computer genius and teacher, stared back at him. There was neither like nor dislike in Mr. Izumi's gaze. He seemd indifferent to all the students, no matter how well or badly behaved they were. The only person who ever earned a reaction out of him was Coach Yagami.

"Kou-chan!" the coach happily glomped his 'significant other', making the Ishidas smile dotingly. Dai rolled his eyes and turned away. He wouldn't admit it to anyone, but he thought the idea of his coach and computer teacher together was cute.

While the all-male couple was busy creating and taking part in a scene, respectively, Mr. Ishida was turning back to the topic at hand, the results much to Daisuke's surprise and pleasure.

"I don't think the principal needs to be told. Daisuke will only get another detention, which will only serve to bring his sister breathing down my neck," he was telling his wife, who was nodding in agreement. Blue eyes turned to Daisuke and pinned him with an intense look. "And as long as he promises to finish out the rest of the assembly today, I think it will be okay if we all pretend he never left in the first place."

"Yes, sir!" Dai was quick to agree. He smiled happily up at his teacher, sudden admiration shining in his eyes.

So the group returned to the gym, but wasn't long before Daisuke remembered why he had left in the first place.

The center of the gym floor had been turned into a stage area, complete with a raised platform. The home-ec teacher was busy calling off bids for the merchandise on-stage. The current 'object' up for sale was the captain of the basketball team, TK Takaishi.

Daisuke, already slumped on the bleachers, sunk even further when the girl he liked, one of the cheerleaders, bid on the basketball player. He had never understood why Kari liked the blond over him, but he suspected it had something to do with the fact that their older brothers were best friends.

Someone tapped him on the shoulder, and he turned to look into the eyes of his principal. "Not having fun, Daisuke?" Principal Gennai asked, smiling at the boy kindly. "I see that your teachers made sure you returned safely."

Daisuke's eyes widened and his cheeks turned pink. He'd been caught, had probably been caught from the moment he had turned the corner earlier and seen the principal and student.

The old man patted him on the shoulder. "It's okay. I was young once, too. After the dinosaurs, but before sliced bread." Daisuke gazed at him for a moment in silence, and then chuckled uneasily. It was bad when old people made age jokes. Such things should be left to the pros, the younger generation.

The principal waved his hand at the stage. "I'm surprised you're not up there, Daisuke. Many of your teammates have already been sold."

Daisuke's cheeks flamed brighter and he ducked his head in an attempt to hide his face as he mumbled out some excuse that sounded lame even to himself. In truth, he had passed up the opportunity to be auctioned off at the sports auction out of fear. He knew he had few friends in the school, and even fewer who would cough up money just to be stuck with him for a week. The profits of the auction were to go to the sports department, something which Daisuke would profit from as a soccer player.

Instead, he had volunteered to help set up and clean up, and had placated his own ego by saying that he wanted a chance to place his bid in the auction. He had been disappointed when Kari said she wasn't going to be auctioned off either, and had been even more dejected when she had announced why.

"Will you be betting?" the principal asked. Daisuke was starting to get annoyed with the questions, but kept his temper to himself.

"I don't have money," he replied stiffly, watching as Kari's last bid outdid everyone's else, and she walked up to the stage to claim her prize. "I didn't bring any, 'cuz there wasn't anyone I wanted to win."

Gennai made a considering sound. "You're a sad young man, Daisuke. Here." He tapped Daisuke with a white envelope. Daisuke looked at the old man and then at the envelope before taking it.

"What is it?"

"It's a gift from me to you. Bid on someone you'd like to spend a week with, Daisuke. Think of someone you can talk to, or someone you want to learn from."

Daisuke gazed at him blankly, and then shook his head. "Nobody's going to want to spend a week with me. Take it back." He pushed the envelope back towards the principal, but the old man shook his head.

"There are many people here who would benefit from getting to know you better, Daisuke, and those you would benefit from in return. Take the chance you passed up on when you refused to be auctioned." With those words, the principal stood up and made his way slowly down the bleachers, leaving Daisuke with the envelope.

A new item was brought up to the stage, this one in the form of one of the cheerleaders. There was a hoot from the crowd, and the auction began. Daisuke sat for several minutes, contemplating his options.

//Someone I can talk to, someone I can learn from. Someone smart enough to know stuff, but dumb or nice enough to talk dumb so that I can understand.// He gazed out over the rest of the group waiting to be auctioned. There were people from his soccer team, from the basketball and football teams, and cheerleaders.

//Someone -I- can feel comfortable with. Someone that maybe likes some of the things I do.// He rubbed at his stomach, hating the heavy feeling there. He didn't know any of those people very well, and he doubted that most of them liked cartoons and video games, and playing pranks on his sister. //Not to mention someone who has to face my family.// The world was looking bleaker by the second.

The cheerleader was sold to one of the football players, and Daisuke watched as the next person was brought out. //Ken Ichijouji, huh? He's smart, plays soccer. He's pretty nice, as long as you're not between him and the ball.// He tilted his head and watched as the boy genius stood proudly on stage as the bidding started.

//I could talk to him. He's sat beside me on the bus and let me talk to games before.// Acting on sudden impulse, Daisuke's arm shot into the air. Mimi Kido, the auctioneer, pointed at him. "How much, Daisuke?"

Feeling stupid, for having bid and for not knowing the amount, Daisuke fumbled with the envelope and quickly counted out the contents. His voice was quiet with shock, and Mrs. Kido had to call to have him repeat it. "Seven hundred dollars," he called back.

A hush fell over the gym, everyone turning to stare at him with looks as shocked as his own face. "Seven hundred dollars, going once, going twice...Sold, to Daisuke Motomiya. Dai, come up and get your player. Next up is-"

He didn't hear the rest as he made his way down the bleachers and to the stage. Ken was waiting for him at the bottom of the stairs, face unreadable as Daisuke approached.

Together, they walked to the table set up at the side of the gym, and Daisuke handed the envelope and money to the treasurer of the Sports Club. "Thanks for the donation," Iori Hida said quietly, placing the envelope into the cashbox.

Daisuke smiled at him wanely and then walked, with Ken in tow, to stand beside the bleachers. Coach Yagami grinned and clapped Daisuke on the back of the shoulder while he thanked the boy for his help in raising the money.

The world seemed distant and surreal to Daisuke, and the only thing he could see clearly was Ken's face. While everyone else was a blur, he could see the other boy's features clearly every time he looked at him, and what he saw made his chest hurt.

There was no disappointment in Ken's face, but there was nothing to indicate that he was pleased with the arrangement either. Ken's features were stiff and set, revealing nothing. When their eyes met, Ken didn't smile at him gently like he sometimes did; there was nothing friendly at all in his gaze, and Daisuke wondered bleakly just what he'd done.

*****

Matt Ishida- music teacher
Tai Yagami- coach and phys ed teacher
Joe Kido- science teacher
Mimi Kido- home ec
Izzy Izumi- computer and math teacher
Sora Ishida- social studies teacher