When I was eleven, I watched Yuki dance the accepting role in the New Year's Celebration. This was my Yuki, who had forgiven my hatred of him and released me from much of my anger. He was pale, and dressed in the robes of the year of the Rat, and everything he did flowed so beautifully that tears came to my eyes.
I had liked him, before, for what he had done for me when we were younger. At that moment, standing and watching my graceful Yuki dancing in the New Year opposite Kagura, I fell in love for the first time.
I had to have him.
One month later, I approached Yuki before school. He was in sixth grade, and I was in fifth, and we both went to the same place because Akito deemed it safe. So, wearing the incredibly humiliating sailor outfit, I asked him, "Can we walk to school together, Yuki-kun?"
He blinked at me. The same sailor suit that looked so bad on me made him gorgeous. He smiled, and nodded. "You can come with me any day, Hatsuharu-chan."
I pouted. "You always leave early!" Something wheedled its way into my mind, and I added, "And don't call me 'chan'!"
He slipped into his brown loafers and waited for me to do the same. As we walked out the door, he said, "I leave early because I don't want to be late. Anything could happen to delay you on the way."
I looked down. "Yeah, I know."
"I seem to hear that you've been arriving at school late, in fact," he continued innocently.
"Like you said, things happen," I mumbled.
"You've been getting lost on the way to school, haven't you?" Yuki said bluntly.
I composed my most natural face. "I was always curious about the fishing tradition in Nihon prefecture…"
"Isn't that far removed from the ocean?" he asked with surprise.
"That is why their fishing skills are so advanced. They need to be very proficient." I nodded with certainty.
He blinked at me, and then he smiled. "I suppose they must."
And that was the first time I saw Yuki's smile. I was encouraged.
The next month, April, it rained for a solid five days. It was the springtime break from school, and I was on one foot, trying to see how many hops I could stay in the puddles without going out.
Yuki, holding a dark green umbrella, passed me when going between buildings within the Main Complex. He stopped and watched me for a moment before he said, "Hatsuharu-chan, what are you doing?"
"I'm connecting the dots," I said, taking another large hop and barely making it two feet into a deep puddle. I was soaked to the bone, but I didn't care. I was having fun. "And don't call me 'chan'."
He stood, still looking at me. He was all dressed up in a fancy yukata, and he looked very tired.
I tried to make it to another puddle and slipped. I ended up skinning my knee. I sat there in the water, and he came closer to examine it. I was bleeding, but it didn't really hurt. Instead, I took advantage of his close proximity to ask, "So, what? D'you just come from seeing Akito?"
He pressed his lips together and nodded. I knew what Akito had done to Yuki, growing up. Me and Rin always went to visit him when he was cooped up in his room.
I shrugged. "You wanna hop in the puddles with me?"
He was obviously blindsided by that, as though he didn't expect anyone to ever invite him to play. He looked in every direction, and then whispered, "I guess so."
He had to take off the formal wooden sandals, because we both agreed that hopping on one foot while wearing those was just asking for a sprained ankle. We tried the hopping game for a while, and the silk of the yukata got soaked for five inches up from the hem. Eventually, the hopping devolved into pure splash wars.
After half an hour, he was just as soaked as me, and he said, "I think you have the advantage."
"That's because sneakers can get better purchase on the water than bare feet."
"Really?" he said, impressed at my knowledge.
"Yes. The manufacturer is planning to sponsor me when puddle-splashing becomes an Olympic sport."
He smiled for me again. "You shouldn't lie so much."
We went inside, still talking. We both fell silent when Yuki's mom was standing in the hall, disgusted with Yuki's ruined yukata.
I didn't see him for a while, until Rin and I snuck back into his rooms. He had bruises everywhere.
I wanted to protect him. And I had failed in that.
In May, there was a big deal about the elementary school spelling bee. I got out in the third round of my class, on 'ensinuait' or 'insinuate' or whatever. I didn't really care. I had expected to do badly, because I was the stupid Ox.
Yuki won his class-wide thing, and went on to the school-wide competition. I watched him, since we had an assembly for the contest. I saw what his face looked liked when he won.
It was completely empty, a neutral, inherently kind expression that he wore especially for school. This was the expression that I hated to see.
Walking out of the auditorium, a boy in one of the classes ahead of me passed by. I don't even remember if he pushed me or anything. I'm pretty sure it was just convenient.
Whatever he did to me, I broke his nose and a rib and I stopped going to that school.
I went to Yuki's prefecture-wide bee. He got third, and would not be moving on.
This face was different, though: unadulterated terror.
Walking out of that auditorium, the police opened a serious file for me.
In June, I found Yuki in Shihan's dojo, training. It was rare for me to run into him there, since I went after school to relieve the day's tension and he tended to focus more on homework then.
I stayed at the door and watched him. Seeing him perform his kata was almost as good as the New Year's Dance. He was two belts ahead of me; I didn't know some of the forms he was dropping into effortlessly.
I removed my shoes and bowed at the edge of the tatami mat. "Yuki-kun, where's Shihan?"
He didn't stop, to my happy surprise. "He went to Kyo's school. That idiot Cat did something else wrong."
I looked around. No one else was there. Yuki covered his fist with an open hand and bowed, taking a deep breath and formally finishing the kata. I said, "Well, will you teach me, then?"
He was surprised again. "I'm not sure how to teach someone, but I can show you some more of whatever form you're learning." He noticed my green belt and nodded, seeming more determined. "Let me see what you know so far."
I was nervous. What if my perfect Yuki finally realized how bad I was? But I bowed and stepped into the first stance and pretended that it was only Shihan watching me. Shihan had always been kind, even when the other students weren't. He would show me how to fix the things I was doing wrong, instead of just telling me that it was wrong in the first place.
The kata was finished before I realized it and I bowed just as Yuki had. I didn't want to look up to find out how much I had alienated him, but after ten seconds I had to. His large, pretty eyes were focused on me, and he was thinking deeply.
"The fourth low block," he said slowly. "Show me the five moves before and after it."
Confused, I quickly ran through the kata in my head until I found what he wanted. I did the moves as well as I could, and then he stood beside me.
"I thought I saw that. Look at my feet," he slid them over the worn mats until his knees were bent in a wide stance. "They're further spaced than yours. When you kick high, step down double shoulder-width apart and then the low block isn't at such an awkward angle."
He had me do it again, and then the full kata, but I forgot to fix it at that time and he had me repeat it separately some more. It reminded me heavily of –
"Yuki and Haru?" Shihan's deep, amused voice entered the dojo. He removed his sandals and bowed as he stepped onto the tatami mats. Yuki and I did the same in answer. He approached us and ruffled my hair. "Yuki, when you asked to be let in, I think I told you not to let any other students come, since I was out."
Yuki looked away and didn't answer. I was horrified that he would be scolded for what I had done.
Shihan touched Yuki's shoulder, briefly. Yuki wasn't accustomed to being touched. His pretty eyes looked up absently and Shihan said, "I'm not angry. As far as I could see, you were being a very good teacher to Haru."
Yuki made that cute surprised face again, and Shihan laughed.
In July, Yuki was getting ready to enter junior high. I sat on his bed, watching as he fidgeted with the high buttoned collar and looked at himself in the mirror. He seemed annoyed with his appearance, for some reason.
"I think you look hot," I offered.
He glanced at me with a frown. "It is not appropriate for a man to think that I'm hot."
I shrugged. "Fine, just wait until all the girls mob you. I mean, you were adorable in that sailor suit, but now you're getting to look like nobility. Especially since you're always so aloof."
He sighed. "I should leave. The entrance ceremony starts in an hour."
"Yup, better get going," I agreed, falling back on the soft mattress.
"After all, the first assembly of the year is very important for a student."
"I know exactly where you're coming from."
I heard him sigh. "You're not going to go to yours, are you, Hatsuharu-chan?"
"Don't call me 'chan'." I sat up again, grinning. "I have an image to maintain, you know."
He set his fist on his hip and shook his head. "Don't break anything in here," he warned, turning to leave. He turned back, feigning coldness. "Or I'm going to tell Rin."
I had a comeback ready.
I waved goodbye and he left, and then I said the obvious. "You could just threaten to lock me in forever. It'd be nicer than certain death."
He wouldn't have thought that it was very funny.
But, satisfied with having gotten the final word in, sort of, I turned on my side and fell asleep.
In August, it was burning hot. Shihan took as many of the juunishi kids out to the pool as would go.
Rin came, even though she was thirteen and so-way-beyond going to pools with kids. She compensated by wearing a murderous wine red bikini. Kagura was fourteen, but she had a cute pink frilly one piece. Hiro and Kisa were eight, and Kisa was slender for her age. Yuki, Kyo, and I just wore trunks. Ritsu, sixteen, was terrified of water or drowning or maybe just the sun.
So we were playing the pool. Hiro was still in the have-Shihan-throw-you-as-far-as-possible stage of his swimming education, and he went sailing by every few minutes. Kisa had attached herself to me like an adorable kitten, and I held her up out of the water as much as I could. Rin was sunbathing, Kagura was begging Kyo to get in the water, and Yuki and I just stood side-by-side in the shallow end.
When Kisa started to nap in my arms, I said conversationally, "So anyway, I love you, Yuki."
He gasped, and snapped his head toward me. "What?"
I shrugged. "You're a neat kid. I love you."
He looked down. "How do you mean that?"
"I mean that I want you to love me back," I said plainly.
He stood silently for five minutes. I knew that I wouldn't get an answer for a while.
Two guys walked up to Rin and started chatting. I handed Kisa to Yuki, climbed out of the pool, and settled on Rin's beach chair next to her. She moved over for me without interrupting her sentence. I put an arm over her smooth stomach, touched my nose to her ear, and glared at the boys who had tried to flirt with her. For some reason that escapes me, they assumed that she was taken and left.
When I snuggled closer and started to fall asleep, she said, "You know, as much as I enjoy it when you keep me from getting picked up, I'll castrate you if you ruin my tan."
Thus I entered the pool again. Yuki handed the sleeping Kisa back to me without a word.
In September, I was at the mall with Yuki, Rin, and Kyo when an attractive girl told me that I was hot. She looked like she was a first year high school girl.
Rin's hair was longer, and Yuki's eyes were prettier.
I told her I was taken and walked back to the others, who had been listening in.
In October, Rin dragged me to a junior high Halloween party. Yuki had apparently been invited to everywhere, so he settled on the same place. We took Kyo along, too, since he was our age and Akito didn't let him trick-or-treat.
Someone spiked the punch, since it was a party anyways.
As it turned out, my Yuki was either not drinking anything for four hours or a very controlled drunk, Kyo picked more fights than usual until he passed out, I got hit on (a lot), and Rin wound up making out with some guy from her class in a game of Seven Minutes in Heaven gone horribly wrong.
I dragged us all home. Kyo and Rin went to sleep, but Yuki and I stayed up a bit more.
Yuki was the only one of us very coherent, and he said, "You know, you're a very jealous person, Hatsuharu-chan."
"Hey…for the las' time, don' call me 'chan'," I slurred. "'M not jealous, too."
"Whenever anyone tries to take Rin away, you get overprotective."
"Hwell, if ya ever take a liking to some girl, I'll pro'ly go medieval on her."
"You'll pull a plow in her general direction?" he teased.
I rubbed my head. It was already hard enough to think without him pulling history on me. "Seri'sly, though, ya don' like a girl, do you?"
"No." He led me into my own room and made me get in bed. I wasn't doing too good. As I fell asleep, he added, "Not a girl."
In November, I tied a rope to a tree branch and then hid in the bushes until Yuki came home from school.
He walked under the tree, I tugged hard on the rope, and a cascade of light brown leaves fell down around him. He stopped walking and held his hands out. I snapped a picture, and the flash went off.
He looked at me. I stood up from the bushes and looked at him.
He held out his arms. There were creepy-crawlies all over them. "Ah, the bugs fell out of the tree…"
I examined myself. They were all over me, too. "Ah, the bugs were in the bush…"
He stared at me for a moment longer, put his face in his hands, and just walked away.
Operation Get a Pretty Picture of Yuki was a success.
In December, Kagura hung thousands of bunches of mistletoe up all over the Complex and Shihan's dojo. Kyo's life became a game of hopscotch.
I was dazedly attempting to play Yuki a game of Go. He was winnig by an obscene advantage.
Rin was pacing through the halls, reading a book. As she walked into the living room, directly under a bunch of mistletoe, I yelled loudly to startle her, ran up, kissed her, and sprinted away giggling maniacally.
What can I say? It seemed like a good idea when I came up with it. (About -0.023 seconds before I actually did it).
In January, I formally challenged Yuki to a snowball fight. For three hours, the snow flew back and forth mercilessly. As all of the snow in one courtyard turned to slush, we moved to a different place.
Finally, someone sent Hatori out to tell us to stop, because we were definitely going to set off one of Yuki's respiratory attacks.
It ended in a draw.
When Hatori went back inside, Yuki scampered off to a far corner where no windows could see. I hurried after him.
"Hatsuharu-chan," Yuki panted, out of breath. I stepped closer to feel his cheek, and it was hot.
I cooed, "I told you not to call me 'chan'." I pulled my hat off and tugged it down over his ears, immediately feeling the cold prying at the warm skin.
He said, "Did you mean it when you said you loved me a long time ago?"
I grew very serious. "Yes. I love you."
He leaned close and pressed our lips together in a quick, cute kiss. I blinked at him. His pretty, pretty eyes were filled with tears. "Thank you, Haru. No one's ever told me they loved me…and meant it."
I pulled him close. Oh, my poor, sad little Yuki. I loved him so much.
He set his head on my shoulder. "But you love Rin, too."
I froze. "I…guess I do."
He smiled. "Then go with her. You and I both know that Akito will never allow me to love anyone."
I stared in shock as he started walking back to the kitchens for some hot chocolate.
He turned around and I wrapped my arms around his waist, holding onto him desperately. Into his ear, I whispered, "I really do love you! You're not alone!"
He was crying again, but he stepped away. "I know I'm not. Thank you so much, Haru."
And that was when he stopped calling me 'chan'. I didn't know whether to be happy or sad.
On February 7, 1997, Yuki stood opposite me. The music started, and we both immediately fell into the steps we had learned and practiced all our lives.
1996, Year of the Rat, was ending. 1997, Year of the Ox, was beginning.
It was a time of renewal.
But my pretty Yuki still looked so beautiful…
Some things do not change with the passage of time.
Okay, all the Zodiac stuff and the years - it goes Boar, Rat, Ox, Tiger - is correct. I even looked up the New Year's day in 1997. So, worship me.
I wrote this pretty thing because I looked on a fan's profile and they had declared themselves a HaruYuki fan.
Thus, this. Love you, Adi.