What is Family? by Hoshiko and silvershadeus

Disclaimer:We do not own Here is Greenwood, we're just borrowing the characters for a bit.

Chapter 9

As things turned out, I didn't need to have that talk with Suka after all – Mitsuru-sempai got to him first. I'm still not exactly sure what it was he did to Suka, but whatever it was seemed to have gotten through to him given that he looked a whole lot calmer when we met up in our room for the interview. I do have the suspicion that part of what went on between the two of them must have involved Mitsuru-sempai's rolled up magazine and Suka's head because the first thing he did when he saw me was to ask if we had any aspirin. The second was to mutter about Mitsuru-sempai and taking things a little too literally when it came to phrases about beating sense into people.

Suka doesn't like going to the infirmary unless he really has to, considering the fact that his brother works there, so we tend to keep little things like aspirin, stomachache and band-aids around. It's not that Suka's trying to avoid his brother because of family problems or misunderstandings on either of their parts, it's more that Suka's avoiding him because Hasukawa-sensei likes to tease him.

Things have gotten a little better between Suka and Hasukawa-sensei, since that first winter break, but…it's better for Suka's blood pressure if he can manage to stay away from Hasukawa-sensei when he can.

I got the aspirin bottle out of my desk drawer and handed Suka two pills and put the bottle away again while he went in search of water. I spent the rest of the time waiting for him to get back by settling my self comfortably at my desk and taking out my notebook and pen. I had just turned to a blank page and was writing Suka's name and the date down when I looked up to see Suka watching me. I smiled at the expression on his face as he sat on the edge of my bunk, paper cup filled with water cradled in his hands.

"Did you take your aspirin?"

Suka says he hates it when we mother him, but I think he really likes that we do it deep down - otherwise he'd make more of a fuss when we do. We wouldn't 'pester' him so much as he puts it, if there weren't times that he makes it impossible not to worry about him. It's really his fault for making every little thing more complicated than they need to be, now that I think about it.

Don't get me wrong – we really do care about Suka – we just tend to show it in different ways.

Suka nodded, taking a sip of his water and watching me with this look that was part nervousness and part suspicion, which is…actually pretty close to normal for him when he has to deal with situations he's not completely sure he wants any part of.

"All right, Suka," I said brightly, "are you ready?"

He grumbled something under his breath and nodded, still wary.

"Okay…there's really only one question I need to ask you, so there's nothing to worry about."

I tried my best to set him at ease, but I think having Hasukawa-sensei…shadowing him around the last few days added to who knows what kind of conspiracy theories he'd been cooking up in his head had given him the wrong idea about my journalism assignment. He looked more like he expected to be executed than interviewed, and that…that just wasn't the best kind of attitude for the question I was going to ask him. I told him that I only needed to ask him one question, which was the truth – but I'd discovered over the week and several interviews that the question itself wasn't really that simple. It tended to branch outwards offering new questions and insights along the way that I hadn't expected.

"What does family mean to you?" I asked, watching his face carefully for his reaction to my question.


I repeated the question and waited patiently for his answer, hoping that he would at least try be honest with himself about his answer. I don't think Suka's brother would be able to get to him half as much as he seems to if Suka didn't care a great deal for him, and then there was the matter of Sumire, his parents…

"A hassle." Suka said after a moment, looking tired and frustrated and a little bit angry. "That's what family means to me, Shun. Just one big endless hassle."

I tried not to, I really did, but I laughed. I know it was hardly professional of me to do that, but the look on his face and the way he'd said it…

"Do you really mean that?" I asked him after I'd managed to get my laughter in check.

Suka glared at me and took another sip of his water, which made me think that the only reason he'd brought it with him was for some sort of…shield, maybe. Or maybe something more like a security blanket, something to hide behind and make it look like he wasn't as uncomfortable about the whole thing as I knew he was.

I gave him a few moments to get his thoughts in order, making notes and trying to figure out a way to word my next question so it wouldn't set him off or make him close down. In the end though, there was only one-way to do it…it's true what they say, you know. Sometimes the simplest, most obvious methods are the best way to do things.

"Really, Suka?"

The trick to doing an interview, I'd learned, was not to talk but to listen. Giving the interviewee a prod once in a while was okay, but the way to get a good interview out of someone was just to let them talk. That way they would end up telling you more than they had expected to while without even realizing it.

"Well…there was a time when things weren't so bad between Kazuhiro and me, I guess." Suka admitted reluctantly. "He took care of me after our parents died and I really looked up to him for that."

"What happened?"

Suka sighed and rubbed his face. "Sumire."

Ah. I probably should have expected that, knowing the things that I do about Suka and his family life.

"So she was the problem?"

"Yes…no…I don't know anymore." Suka said, looking at me. "I'm not angry at her or Kazuhiro or anything, it's just…everything changed after she married my brother. Things…weren't the same."

"How so?"

"She…I…she married my brother, but I was in love with her," Suka said slowly as though he was just beginning to work it all out for the first time, "so it was uncomfortable for me to be around them when they were acting like…like…"

"Like newlyweds?" I offered with a slight smile when he couldn't find the right word.

"Yeah. Like newlyweds." He said with a little frown. "It was hard watching them being so happy when I wasn't."

So he decided he wanted to leave and wound up here at Greenwood. Where his brother worked as a school nurse and Mitsuru-sempai took him under his wing with Shinobu-sempai and I became his roommate.

Probably nothing at all how he expected things to go, though I really do hope he doesn't regret the way things have turned out. After all, life here at Greenwood became a lot more interesting after Suka arrived, and considering how things were before, that's saying quite a bit.

"How do you feel about them now?" I asked after a long moment, thinking about what things must have been like for Suka since he'd come to Greenwood.

"I really don't know. It's a little better now, but Kazuhiro…it's like he enjoys making me miserable sometimes. He goes out of his way to pick on me, and…it's frustrating."

"That sounds like the way Mitsuru-sempai treats you." I said, not really thinking about what I was saying. "Shinobu-sempai too."

"That's…that's why it's a hassle." Suka groaned, rubbing his eyes. "It's like I have two more big brothers since I came here."

I really don't think Suka realized what he was saying when he told me that either, otherwise I don't think he would have slept so well that night. It's like a habit of his worry things to death in his head, trying to analyze things until he's nothing more than a bundle of very frayed, very ragged nerves ready to go off at the slightest thing. If he'd actually been listening to the things he said…

I on the other hand, heard what he was saying perfectly well, and it got me thinking about things. About my assignment, about the interviews I'd done that week and the answers I'd gotten, about my personal views on what made a family and how they'd changed over the course of the week.

One thing is certain about Suka, he has this…way about him that can make you want to take a better look at your life and the way you do things without even meaning to. It's part of his charm and part of the reason we can be so hard on him at times because he doesn't do the same thing for himself.

He second-guesses himself instead, worrying away at his self-esteem and insecurities until you either want to smack him or hug him or both, just to get the message through his thick skull.

I was about to ask him what he meant by that, but the alarm clock I'd set to remind us when afternoon classes started went off and I had to end the interview there. I didn't mind that much because I'd gotten the information I needed and a little more besides.

"Come on, Suka! We're going to be late for class if you don't hurry!" I called, grabbing his arm and dragging him towards the door and out of the building.

He grumbled a bit and had to stop to throw his water away in the trash, but he followed readily enough. I was relieved to see that he was acting more like his usual self, and I knew things would wind up working out for him one way or another. If Suka couldn't come to terms with his family issues on his own, then Mitsuru-sempai, Shinobu-sempai and I would do what we could to help him. It's just the way things are at Greenwood.

To be continued...