I decided this one should come before Hotaru's interrogation.

So.

Yeah?

Yeah.

Standard disclaimers apply n' sht.

Summary: Tsubasa and Natsume are trapped. Wait until you find out where. (Can anyone say 'hackneyed?')


"I suppose this is one of those situations where I'm supposed to give you some friendly advice, and then later we bond and you realize I'm not so very terrible, after all. And I come to the conclusion that really, at heart, you're a good guy." The silence was not so much uncomfortable as it was vaguely frightening, largely because at the close of Tsubasa's speech, Natsume had produced a ball of fire warningly in one palm, and being the only light in a broom closet full of dark, it threw his angular features into sharp relief and made a dishearteningly demonic cast of the younger boy's face. "Uh…but maybe not."

"I'm going to kill that child." Natsume growled, his raised hand closing in a tight fist that snuffed out his flaming palm.

"Oh, come now, Natsume-kun, little Sana-chan doesn't know any better. She's still growing into her power, and hasn't quite gotten a handle on controlling just yet. Why, I remember when I was still learning to control my alice; I used to walk across another person's shadow without realizing it and I'd end up tripping them up or running them into walls or—"

"Shut. Up." Natsume prdered tersely, and there were sparks in the darkness that had Tsubasa obeying immediately, nary without a thought.

For a time, silence pervaded the enclosed space, and while one boy crossed his arms and stewed mutely, the other attempted to explore the contents of the closet, as unobtrusively and quietly as possible.

In the few years the other boy had had to grow (nearly a full head above him, he thought grudgingly) –both mentally and physically—Natsume had apparently not developed a fondness for perfectly amiable loquacity. It was vexing, really, Tsubasa mused; he'd had the opportunity to view Natsume in good humour once or twice, and he'd discovered that the younger boy certainly had the capacity to be quite endearing –charming, even. But his disposition was such that –even after loosing Persona's hold on him (thanks in large part to the efforts of a Certain Someone Natsume even now refused to acknowledge properly)—he was perpetually struggling to assimilate.

Tsubasa contemplated Natsume's plight as his fingers brushed the dry, grimy tip of something he hoped was mop fringe and not Something Else Entirely, and he wondered if there weren't something, perhaps, that he could do to help the younger boy along. Something small, maybe just a tiny nudge in the right direction…

Several moments later, Tsubasa brightened as something occurred to him. He started chuckling softly, but his mirth eventually became too much to contain, and it gradually bubbled over into full-blown laughter.

Natsume scowled into the dark space and considered the possibility that the older boy (these days plying him to call him Tsubasa-sensei to echo earlier supplications for the fire weilder to address him as senpai, as he'd been doing assistant-teacher-type work for Nodachi more recently and thought that that entitled him –at long last—to some respect…but that was something Natsume was just not willing to offer) was claustrophobic, or particularly afraid of the dark, and had lost his –likely only fleeting, tenuous—grip on sanity, and was now decidedly losing his mind in the tiny space.

His luck was really just unbelievable. So far today he'd been ambushed by a bubbly, vacuous, spiral-pantied, smiling moron three times (despite his best efforts to avoid her –really, his very best efforts), been threatened cryptically by Imai Hotaru (something about abduction and chains), and been assigned clean-up duty for his class --something he had eagerly attempted to escape, which had turned out, ultimately, to be a most unfortunate decision and, incidentally, the very beginning of what was to end in tragedy.

He had managed to cover quite a lot of ground in the three or four minutes he'd used to escape classroom duties and was halfway to the dormitories; he could glimpse the courtyard separating the academy from the living area from the window in the hall. And then, unexpectedly, he had run across a two-foot-tall, cherry-bobbed, child-gone-horribly-horribly-wrong at approximately the same time the Shadow Freak happened to be whistling his way down the hall, obliviously cheerful until a misstep sent him lurching forward in the direction of the now-screaming child, who held her hands out instinctively as Natsume used the same instant to rush toward her, almost automatically, to try and get her out of the way, and then there was a flash of light—

--and apparently, according to Andou's surprisingly pedantic information, the little child had, as a response to her surprise and fright, ripped a hole in the fabric of the space the three of them had occupied previously, because now he and Tsubasa were trapped in a broom closet that had not existed a moment prior, in the middle of the hallway, no less, where the door could be observed by outside passers-by, but not the area behind it, where Natsume and the other boy were making the acquaintance of musty-lemony odours and old brooms and mops.

Apparently, Tsubasa had explained, the little girl –"Sana-chan," he'd called her—had been thrown in with Andou's lot due both to the ridiculousness of her alice (which Natsume still didn't entirely understand) and because they really just didn't know where else to put her.

And now there was –quite definitively—no way out, as Natsume had discovered when he'd tried to blow the door down –twice, and to Tsubasa's ardent protests; something about futility—and ended up only scorching it slightly. In the midst of all this, Natsume had resolved firmly that he would never attempt altruism again, however infinitesimal the task involved happened to be. Because, frankly, he had no earnest desire to be confined in such close quarters with this moron ever again.

Meanwhile, Tsubasa seemed to be riding out the last wave of his hysterics (the young boy silently heaved a sigh of relief), and Natsume figured that now, in the gap between the insanity, he might be able to deduce whether or not his company had perhaps stumbled upon a spot of brilliance and uncovered the key to their freedom.

"I hope your idiotic giggling means you've figured out how we're getting out of here." He groused. Tsubasa's grin gleamed maliciously, even in the dark.

"Oh, but have I." He shared, and then was silent.

After several moments more of seething in quiet, Natsume barked,

"Well?" The grin widened.

"Are you sure you're up for it?" Natsume's rejoinder ignited in the palm of his hand. "I see." Tsubasa's confidence wavered. He cleared his throat and reasserted it. "Well, Natsume-kun. I'm fairly certain that we have to have...a conversation."

"A conversation." Natsume repeated, deadpan.

"Yep. As in, you, me, talking, with words that don't involve threats of burning violence."

There was a very long pause, indeed, following this assertion.

"I think you should explain what the hell this is all about." Tsubasa winked, glad for the light provided, at least, from the flame still flickering menacingly in Natsume's hand.

"Well. Sana-chan's alice is unique because, while she controls the set-up, locale, and persons involved, she has no influence over when the scenario ends. We get to determine that." He paused, thinking over his next words carefully. "Older students have taken to calling her…exceptional…power the 'convenient plot device' alice, because those who fall victim to it typically need to reach some significant sort of understanding. Part of it's a subconscious conclusion we must reach within ourselves, but part of it is also a matter of comprehending what issues need resolution between the two parties involved. There's not always something needing to be resolved, however, and in cases involving, say, two people who've never met before or have only spoken casually, all it may take is a simple introduction before they're released. Or, if there're two people caught up in her alice who are the best of friends, or are dating, or are simply on very amicable, pleasant terms, they may be released immediately.

"Clearly, you and I have some unresolved issues. Or one of us does, at the very least." The latter part of this statement was attached to a very peculiar tone of voice that had Natsume furrowing his brows gravely at the other boy. "That doesn't mean we have to learn to like each other or anything, though that might work, also…" He lifted a finger to his chin thoughtfully and considered the ceiling for a few seconds. "The main idea is that something significant has to happen, Natsume-kun. And I figure the best way to go about said something significant is to talk about some things. One or both of us –I'm not entirely sure—has to reach a profound conclusion. Or, if not that, at least an acknowledge something we've been trying to push away or suppress for a very long time…"

Something foreign was roiling about in Natsume's stomach. He ignored it and focused instead on directing the safer, more familiar vehement rage at Tsubasa.

"So." Natsume said, finally. "A conversation."

"Yes, sir."

"That's it."

"...essentially, yes. That's it. Unless…" Natsume's eyes flickered with interest at the prospect of an alternative.

"Yes? Unless?" Natsume prompted, impatient.

"Well, unless you'd rather just make-out. I figure that'd be pretty significant."


Part II coming SOON!!

(maybe)

(hopefully)

(this was actually kind of...disappointing...this ficlet leaves a bad taste in my mouth.)

(there are tense issues and misplaced monikers and too many commas and awkwardly-placed hypens and parentheses and plot holes and oh, by the jeebus, i need a beta.)

(and...you know, better story ideas.)

(yarg.)

(also. "Sana-chan" is a frighteningly hyper-active, freak amalgamation of Kurata Sana from Kodocha --kickin' it old school-- and that adorable little death-machine, Yachiru, from Bleach. Squeeze them together --with many a repulsive squishing-type noise, and perhaps some particle-squelching-- and you have some notion of the horror I have imagined for the rabid child who catalyzed the broom closet. Don't ask about the alice. I couldn't think of anything better.)