Standard disclaimers apply.
It happened on one of our junior high days.
"Oh? Ha-san's not here?" I asked upon opening the door to the school's rooftop. I have expected to see Hatori and Ayame Souma sitting on our usual spot with the latter doing his nonstop routine, endless talking, and the former patiently listening with eyes closed.
"Ah, Gure-san!" Ayame exclaimed with eager eyes while patting the space beside him. "Here. Here. Sit."
"You're not taking my jyuunishi form seriously, are you, Aya?" I smiled as I made my way towards him and sat on the hard concrete. "Good thing the cold's not gotten into you, huh? Or else, the whole class would be disturbed seeing their student council president turning into a snake." I chuckled while taking out my lunch a helper prepared for me. I stole a glance at Ayame with my usual reaction when implying something. Knowing the guy, I was quite sure he understood what I had wanted to say even without looking at me.
'Tori-san, by the way, has work in the student council. And… I won't cause any more trouble to him, if that's what you're worried about."
Just as I thought.
Aya pulled his fur coat tighter as his eyes of a pretty yellow moved up to the clear, azure sky. "Yes. I won't do that anymore. Tori-san is such a great person, don't you think?" he asked, his face turning dead serious, vision never leaving the horizon.
I just sat there and watched him, totally amused. The occasions when I see him like this were rare. So rare, in fact, that I left my mouth hanging open while preparing to take a bite of the still warm onigiri.
"Ne, Gure-san? What do you think?" his eyes slowly shifted to rest on mine. I guess this would be the first serious conversation we shall ever have. Not that I consider the previous ones as nonsense.
It just struck me as strange.
Placing the untouched meal back to its box, I nodded in approval.
"Aren't you gonna eat?" he asked incredulously.
"I changed my mind. I want to hear what's inside you. Surely you won't mind, will you?"
The snake softly laughed. "Why, of course, not! I trust you well enough with my thoughts, Shigure."
There. He called me by my first name. as I would expect, things are bound to get even more serious now. Ayame would never call me by my first name just for the heck of it… Indeed, the three of us do that.
But then again, there was Hatori.
But that was Hatori. Not Shigure… nor Ayame.
"You know me, right?" was his opening inquiry.
"Well enough? I suppose so. But I think there's more to you than what most people have stereotyped you with." I replied while watching him rest his hands above his folded knees.
"Certainly. I will take that as a compliment either way." his lips extended to a good-natured smile. His smooth hair of uncommon white cascaded past his shoulders. "The three of us have constantly been together eversince I can remember… or should I say the two of us have constantly been sticking to Hatori eversince I can remember?"
I smiled at the amendment. "That is true."
"Do you think he hates our presence?"
"Why would you say so?"
"Nothing. I just suddenly thought about it."
The playful breeze toyed with several strands of his silken hair. Taking my eyes off him, my sight wandered around the surroundings. What would Hatori say if he hears this?
Silence reigned for but a brief moment.
"What is your opinion of Hatori?" it was my turn to ask, expecting him to be surprised with my question. Only, he wasn't. It was as if he knew it'd come.
And he was prepared.
"I think I have said that a while ago. He is a great person." He shifted his position, his feet tucked under his legs. "I like him."
"You are confessing to me that you like him? That is weird…" I half-joked. I knew Ayame did not mean it by that. I just cannot possibly resist the temptation to tease him. Unfortunately, he would buy none of it.
"I really admire him. You know what I mean by that, right?"
"Of course, of course. I was just kidding." I laughed. He joined in a little later. There was a momentary silence before I heard him speak again.
"Don't you find him admirable?"
Truth be told, I was surprised. But then, I thought he was not yet thru that I chose not to utter a word until he spoke again.
"Hatori is everything I am not. Yes, he is someone I want to be. I look up to him very much. He has everything that I don't. That is why… I have always tried to be near him. Why… I wanted so much to be his friend. I wanted to be like him― someone who is respected by everyone." His eyes were half-open while staring at the ground. His lips curved to the slightest of a smile but somehow gave the opposite impression to me.
I chose not to dwell on his emotions, though. "How about Akito-san? Don't you find that person admirable and respectable in a sense?" I asked instead though I already had a vague idea of what he will say.
"Akito… I know. It is true that the Souma clan has deep respect for him… but I think that…" he paused to look at me. "Akito is respected due to the mere fact of being the head of the family. Other than that…" Ayame looked away. "… he is still a child. Like most of us are."
"You think you are not respected?" I suddenly asked.
"It's not that… I just wanted to be like him not because of my insecurities. You understand that, do you?"
"I hope I can be like him someday. I know we are total opposites but… opposites as we are, I know some things can be settled in time. That is why though I feel unworthy…" Ayame Souma turned to me with a smile enough to warm the cold weather. "I still want to be his friend."
That I cannot help but smile back… just as Hatori came in view.
"You two, what are you still doing here? Classes are about to start. Let's go." he uttered the usual way.
I looked to Aya's direction only to find out that he had already ran to catch up with the dragon. Stifling a chuckle, I observed at how different Aya looks whenever he was with Hatori. Just shows how much influence that serious guy has with someone like Aya to act like a well-behaved school kid.
Hatori turned to me, keeping me still with just one look. Seems like Aya isn't the only one who gets affected by him…
I followed soon after while they watch me come towards them. On our way back to class, conversation was light, just like it has always been for us. Yes... the three of us.
And right at this moment, I watched happily my two childhood friends as they make their exit after Hatori came to fetch Ayame just when the white-haired guy was causing some ruckus in my house outside the confinements of the Soumas. So like the old days when Hatori would come and pull Ayame from sticky situations he managed to get himself into. Yes… where Ha-san would always clean up the mess for Aya.
My gaze wandered to Aya's younger brother, Yuki, whose face looked so tired and crumpled. But then, his eyes cannot hide the fascination he felt after meeting his older brother.
Sure. They were opposites, too. But like what Aya had once said, some things can be settled in time.
author's notes: thanks to the people who reviewed The Misunderstood! You know who you are… anyway, this is another random fic. I just remembered Shigure telling Yuki and Tohru that Aya had once told him that he admires Hatori. So here! please r & r!