Sticks and Stones
He remembers spring wind, sweet grass, voices far off…
It was May. The air felt cool, sweeping upwards through layers of sooty hair and whispering against his scalp, contrasting the warmth of sunlight coating his bare feet. Of what use are shoes if you could not feel the texture of grass, the honeyed caress of sun, he thought quietly to himself. His toes wriggled freely as they hung over the edge of the step he sat upon, knees drawn loosely to his chest. There was a colony of ants hustling and bustling around the small hill of sand on the ground next to the step. They moved like clockwork, with such purpose and pattern (yes, he had discovered their pattern and watched it excitedly; a pattern made of colour and movement and time).
The boy did not move to acknowledge he had heard, although he knew that he was the one they were addressing. He always was.
"Hey! Jeez, what's wrong with you?"
Nothing, he thought, there is nothing wrong with me. I was just watching the ants, you see…
But he did not say it, no. Instead he remained quiet, daring a quick glance upwards; through wisps of hair falling across his eyes he could make out silhouettes, three. His toes quickened their movements.
…hot pavement, the scurrying of little and littler legs, confusion…
He heard their words, but did not quite understand them. Yes, yes, he was different from them, of course. No one is the same; didn't you know that? I was just watching the ants, you see. I think you're scaring them, if you would please…
"Go away! No one wants you here! No one likes you!"
The half-silhouette on the left bent down quickly, rose, stretched its arm back and the boy on the steps felt a shock of pain erupt in his arm. Then two more, this time on his legs. Hot stone, now one on his cheek, and it hurt. One pale-skinned long-fingered hand rose to his face to brush the sore spot, now turned swollen pink.
You're scaring the ants. Why are you…
"Get away from him!"
…rubber soles scratching against gravel, a shock of shadow, a sharp glancing of eyes…
Another silhouette appeared in front of him suddenly, facing away. He studied the back of this new silhouette's tan-skinned knees and the way sunlight shone through his hair like a halo or an aura, the colour of dark honey. He decided he liked this colour and the backs of these knees and continued watching them, only partially aware of the voices of little boys as they argued loudly (but quietly enough they would not drift in the schoolhouse windows and be heard).
"Who are you? Get away from him, the freak needs to be punished!"
"I said don't touch him!"
"Make me, loser!"
The boy on the steps moved his eyes downward quickly and stared at the few ants left darting about in chaos. But still, from the corner of his eye he could see the way the honey-haired nice-kneed boy kicked one silhouette in the stomach and pushed him over, yelling at them all to go away even as they scratched at him, pulled his limbs, threw stones… He bent over a little further but almost all the ants were gone by this time, their pattern broken. The soles of his feet burned from the warmth of the concrete now, almost unbearable. He moved his toes a little, and closed his eyes.
And then there were no more silhouettes; just the honey-haired boy sitting beside him on the steps with a hand on his shoulder, smiling in a concerned way.
"Are you alright?"
He turned his head from the ants, looking this boy that was no longer just a silhouette right in the eye. His eyes were a nice colour and shape, he thought but did not say (though he considered it), even if they were slightly hard and slightly cold in a way. But he liked them, he decided, despite that.
"You didn't have to do that you know."
"I couldn't just let them go on at you-"
"That's not what I meant," he said. "You shouldn't have hurt them."
The other boy raised an eyebrow. "But they were hurting you. Didn't they deserve to be punished for what they did?"
"What they did was wrong, what I did was right…" he mumbled, eyes darkening a little (oh, the muss-haired boy decided, he did not like these kind of eyes, no, not at all…), before he raised his head again and smiled. "It doesn't matter now. My name's Yagami Raito, what's yours?"
The boy smiled a little. "You can call me Ryuuzaki, Raito-kun."
"Why were they throwing stones at you, Ryuuzaki?"
"I don't know," he answered quietly. "I was just watching the ants…"
Raito observed this boy – this odd boy with untidy dark hair and peering dark eyes and thin lips with which he smiled like he knew a very good secret (and Raito loved secrets, loved to keep secrets too) – and decided maybe he liked something about him. Maybe they could share secrets; yes, that would be fun.
He remembers hands and warmth…
"Do you want to be friends, Ryuuzaki?"
The smaller boy looked startled for a second. "Friends?"
…and promises and secrets…
Eagerly, Ryuuzaki nodded. "Alright."
"And if anyone tries to throw more stones at you, I'll stop them." Raito continued. "I promise I will. My Mom says it's wrong to let people get away with that sort of thing."
"Thank you, but I don't want you to hurt them like you did today," said Ryuuzaki tentatively.
"Oh? Why not?"
And he smiled again, and Raito thought maybe he didn't like that secretive smile so much when he didn't know the secret was. He waited a while with a childish lusting-yearn-wanting type of feeling to know, but Ryuuzaki did not answer him, only fidgeting his toes a little and leaning in so their bodies were closer, almost touching. Wind swept through like ice-breath on their skin, playing rampantly with their hair and clothing. Ryuuzaki watched the colours and movements and patterns, and wondered if Raito saw them too. Raito seemed a little odd, he thought happily. Raito seemed a little like him, only different.
"Look…" Raito mumbled into his ear, gesturing to the ground.
Ryuuzaki followed his gaze and discovered (quite happily) that the ants were coming back out of their small hill and resuming their pattern. Like clockwork.
Notes: Yet another fic involving children and animals/insects to some level? Donna Tartt, this is your fault. Oh well, at least they aren't dead this time…
Reviews are greatly appreciated.