"You feeling all right?"

"I'm fine. I just need some nicotine in me."


"Thanks. Can I screw your monkey?"

"Go for it."

Motomiya Daisuke held his bummed cigarette against the burning end of Ishida Yamato's, ashed it once, and then took a long drag. "I'm such an addict," he mumbled before exhaling a breath of smoke.

"Nicotine does that to you," the blonde balanced his cancer stick in his mouth and idly plucked a few chords on his guitar. "What's up with you lately?"

Glancing over at Yamato, then turning back out to study the horizon carefully, Daisuke shrugged, taking another drag. The two were near the edge of the river, seated on the concrete wall that divided the slope down to the water from the paved street on the other side. The sun was nearly set, casting a slight orange glow on the horizon and giving a gentle tint to the water. Daisuke had been sitting outside for about two hours, thinking in silence. Yamato had joined him ten minutes ago, and they'd sat in silence for a few minutes before it was broken by the question. 'You feeling all right?' So much more was implied in that than was actually said, and Daisuke felt the weight of it all.

It was nice to have someone actually giving a damn.

Blowing out the smoke on a slight laugh, the boy shook his head a bit and ran his free hand through his reddish-brown hair. "You know, it's hard. You work so hard to get somewhere... and then it's over, just like that. Just like that. I was so close. I was almost on top. And now I might never get even on the bottom again."

Dancing his fingers down the strings, Yamato paused the music for a second to take a couple of drags off of the burning cigarette in his mouth. "Your ankle will be fine."

"No," Daisuke shook his head a bit. "I mean... maybe it will and maybe it won't. And what if it isn't? Everything I've worked for... just gone. Like that," he viciously snapped his fingers, ashed the cigarette once, then took another drag. "Play something again?"

Yamato went back to strumming away on the guitar. "You know, there's no point in worrying about things that might never be."

"I know that," the younger boy answered. "I'm trying not to worry. I'm trying to think about it instead. What would I do if I couldn't use it in the same way anymore? Soccer is out. Track is out. I couldn't even kick Takeru's ass in basketball. I couldn't even skate anymore. This is all... my life! I'll be completely out of commission."

"So you'll find a new way to live."

Giving a short laugh of disbelief, Daisuke looked over at Yamato bemusedly. "Like what?" he asked flatly, tapping off the burned end of the cigarette again.

"I don't know," Yamato shrugged, stamping out his own cigarette. "You can do lots of things." He went back to playing the guitar quietly.

Daisuke sat there, staring out at the horizon. The sun was gone now, leaving darkness. His mind was turning over the words, trying to find what the hidden meaning might be. He came up with nothing. It seemed that Yamato didn't have any more of an answer than he had. "Like what," he mumbled again, half-heartedly. Yamato knew he didn't want an answer to the question that time, so he didn't answer, and kept playing. The other boy glanced at him, watching his fingers dance lightly over the strings. "What are you playing?" he finally asked.

"Just a song." The blonde looked up and smiled a bit. "Want to learn?"

"Learn what? Ow!" Daisuke hissed, flinging the cigarette from his hand as it burned down through the filter and started burning his skin. "Dammit."

Yamato watched the burning cigarette filter fall to the ground and roll down the slope to the river. "Learn to play."

"Learn to play guitar?" Daisuke asked around his burned finger, which was stuck up to his mouth.

"Yes. I'll teach you." Yamato struggled to his feet and handed over the guitar, grabbed Daisuke's hands, and placed them on the guitar. "Hold it like this. There. This hand plays the chords, and this one holds down the strings. There you go."

Daisuke glanced up. "What do you care?" he asked simply.

"Because. I don't need a reason."

"You pity me?"

"No." The older boy sat back down on the cement ledge. "I've gotten attached, you could say. You've been my brothers' best friend for several years now. You've sort of... become a second little brother to me."

Daisuke looked up and locked gazes with Yamato. They started blankly at one another for a moment. There was a time that Yamato had wanted to beat some sense into Daisuke. Now he wanted to get some sense into him another way. The hidden meanings in previous statements suddenly clicked into place, and everything was suddenly clear.

Yamato smiled.

"You want to teach me," the boy stated in something between amazement and curiosity. It had been there all along, and he hadn't seen it. Now it made sense.

Shoving back to his feet, the blonde put Daisuke's hands back on the guitar. "I'll teach you your first chord. Here, put your fingers like this. There."