So basically I've had NO EXTRA TIME since August… But I guess there are some good things about a cold – I'm back. :) But anyway, I've gotten more interest in this one than I expected, so it's going to continue! Thanks for the feedback, guys, keep it up :D
The boys settled into the dorm, having skipped supper in favor of a couple of boxes of Pocky that Seto had under his bed left over from an after-school trip to the convenience store a week or so before. They weren't much, but they certainly beat cafeteria fare – and the potential of meeting up with the nasty characters that they had so narrowly escaped earlier.
Mokuba was the first to fall asleep. Seto had told him that he could have the bed and had been sitting with Joey on his orphanage-issue sleeping bag.
The boys had been talking all evening. Turned out that Joey and Seto were both going to turn nine very soon – Seto that October and Joey in January. Joey was born in just outside of Yokohama – at that point, his mom had worked for a software company. That was back before his dad had started gambling and the marriage got bad.
Once they realized that Mokuba had fallen asleep, the boys were silent for a few minutes. Not surprisingly, their thought patterns were fairly similar. They were both wondering why. Why everything was the way that it was. Why they couldn't have mothers that made cookies and dads that made tree-forts.
Finally, the silence became too suppressive to prolong.
"Sometimes I go up to the roof… do you want to go with me?" Seto asked. Joey gave him a strange look.
"Yeah, it's really easy to get up there," Seto whispered. "And it's all quiet and you can see the stars. I like to go up there to think."
"Okay," Joey replied. "Why not?"
With this, Seto got up and beckoned for Joey to follow him. He walked over to the door that went outside, and after looking each way to make sure the coast was clear, he ran to the side of the building beside a large dogwood tree.
"Are you a good tree-climber?" Seto asked Joey, placing a hand on the lowest branch.
"I'm okay," Joey replied, giving Seto a leg up. This seemed to surprised Seto.
"Thanks," he said, giving Joey a rare smile. Joey shrugged, wondering why it was such a big deal.
When Seto had crossed over to the roof, Joey began to climb up too. He was fairly proficient, always remembering to grab the next branch up with his hand before moving his feet. However, when he placed a foot on the storm gutter of the building to jump over, one of his sneakers slipped on a perpetually untied shoelace. Hardly even thinking, Seto extended his hand and helped Joey get his balance back.
"Thanks, man," Joey said, dusting himself off and lying down beside Seto.
Joey took a deep breath and let it out slowly.
"There are a lot of stars up here, aren't there?"
"Yeah. A lot more than in Tokyo, where we lived before we came here."
Joey nodded thoughtfully.
"But I bet you miss Tokyo anyway, don't you?" he asked quietly. Seto turned and gave him a strange look.
"What do you mean?"
"You know, Tokyo. Your old house."
"I guess I do," Seto admitted finally. Without hardly realizing it, he continued to talk. "I miss the overgrown garden… my dad liked to garden, but he never was that good at it. He couldn't stand to kill the weeds that had flowers, and they'd eventually take over. I miss coming home from school and trying to figure out what my mom was going to cook for supper that night. Every Thursday she'd cook my favorite, because one time I told her that I hated Thursdays and she wanted to make me like them…"
Seto's voice had broken and trailed off, and Joey turned to him to notice that tears were running down his face. He sat up in surprise at this expression of emotion. Seto shook his head, attempting to wipe away the tears, but Joey only gave him a sad, understanding smile in return and put an arm around his shoulders.
"I remember my old house, too," Joey said as Seto's silent tears continued. "I would always meet my sister at the flag pole after school and we'd walk home together. We would go outside in the backyard and make mud pies until my mom made us come in and do our homework…"
Before Joey knew it, he too was crying. The boys just sat in silence for probably a half an hour, just crying and hardly even realizing it. The stars were blurry, that's all they noticed was different. It was as though they cried on the inside all the time and somehow, by being together, they could let it come outside too. There wasn't any need to be strong for anybody else. They could just cry.
Finally, Joey separated and wiped his eyes.
"I have a Ramune in my backpack. Do you want to share it?"
"Yeah," Seto replied. "I am really thirsty."
"Okay. Hold on while I open it."
He popped out the glass marble that sealed the drink and took a sip before passing it to Seto who did likewise before putting it down between them.
"You like the bubblegum flavor?" Seto inquired, swallowing the over-sweet liquid rather forcedly. Joey laughed a little, realizing how weird it sounded.
"Not too much. I really like the pineapple, but bubblegum was the only one that they had."
The silence resumed for a few minutes before Joey suddenly turned to Seto.
"What kind of family do you want to adopt you?" he inquired. Seto raised an eyebrow, but realizing that Joey was serious, thought for a moment or two.
"I want a place where I will never have to worry about losing my family or being separated from my brother," Seto said slowly and with increasing sureness. Joey's eyes widened happily.
"We should wait until I go back to whatever parent I go back to," Joey explained with excitement, "and then, I'll get them to adopt you and Mokuba. After that, we'll run away!"
"Run away?" Seto demanded, his eyes widening.
"Yeah! We can live in the woods like people did back in the day! We don't have to eat anything but strawberry Pocky and pineapple Ramune. My sister will come too, and we can all look up and see stars like this every night!"
Seto looked at Joey as though he was crazy, but somehow a part of him needed to believe that this was possible. When words came out, they defied every bit of reason within him.
"Do you think we really could?"
"Sure!" Joey exclaimed. "We will! You just have to be careful not to get adopted between now and then, okay? It's just a week or two from now, and I'll know which parent gets me, and we'll come and pick up you and Mokuba."
"Okay," Seto said, now more than a part of the scheme. "I'll tell Mokuba when he wakes up. For now, let's go back down and get some sleep too."