"Don't," Umeda warned, turning away. Akiha persisted, lunging forwards over the bed to drape himself on Umeda's bare back. he was not deterred by the usual non-response, instead enjoying the warmth of Umeda's back against his own skin. Ignoring him and the camera Akiha held in his hand, Umeda disaffectedly took his lighter and cigarettes from the night stand.

"I wish you wouldn't," Aki chastised, though his voice held no disapproval, instead retaining its usual cheerful candor. His eyes lingered over Umeda's hands as deft fingers flicked the turn on the lighter and ignited the tip in a well practiced motion.

"Have a death wish or something?" he asked absently, his own fingers lingering over the shutter button of the camera. How angry would he get?

Umeda answered the question with a deliberately slow exhale. Aki felt his smile falter for a moment; so cold. If it weren't one of Umeda's most intriguing mannerisms, he didn't know if could stand it. He hadn't yet caught it on film, though there was much of Umeda's disposition and reposes that he hadn't. Possessively, Akiha burrowed into the space between Umeda's jaw and ear and shut his eyes.

"Why are you clinging?" Umeda asked, trying to shrug him off.

"Because; when you're done that cigarette, you'll make an excuse to leave."


Umeda's hand suddenly covered the view, covering, and in all likelihood, smudging the lens of the camera.

"I don't want to see that damn thing," he told him, pushing the camera down from Aki's face onto his chest while simultaneously looking away at an extreme angle. His lips were down turned, enhancing their curve. Damn.

"C'mon, Umeda-sensei, just one!" Aki grinned, watching the curve twitch in annoyance.

"No. And get out of here, I have work to do."

Aki glanced disapprovingly at the paperwork.

"It's boring," he declared. Umeda nodded curtly in agreement and Aki took it as invitation. Setting down his camera overtop the work he closed his body overtop Umeda's, straddling him over the chair.

"I'm much more interesting," he insisted.


The water dripped over the curves of his body, winding over him till they crashed into the floor. The cold from the open window steamed the room as it collided with the hot air from the water. Before he could manage a photo however, the door was slammed in his face brusquely. In defeat, Aki spun on his heel and leaned on his back against the door heavily.

"You're cruel, sensei," Aki laughed ruefully.

"And yet you persist," Umeda's muffled voice quipped through the door.

Aki listened; the tinkle of glass on porcelain, rustling clothes and running water. He hit the door lightly with his knuckles from a closed fist,

"Can't argue there."


"Why do you want a picture so badly?" Umeda grumbled, his arm lifted to cover his face.

"Because it would be terrible to forget."

"You think you'd forget me?" He lowered his arm warily as he spoke, making sure that the camera wasn't on him.


"Nanba-chan," Nanba's eyes flashed at the suffix, "please, relax. Do you need anything?"

"It'd be easier if I didn't know I was just a proxy."

Akiha straightened his back from the camera's tripod, eyeing Nanba blankly. How succinct. Nanba didn't falter, didn't look away. Aki snapped the shutter button out of habit. Nanba's scowl filtered into a scoff as he looked away. It didn't seem that he'd meant to say anything on the matter. Akiha pressed the shutter button again. He wasn't surprised of Nanba's suspicions; his hair had been coloured, costume had given him wire-framed glasses. It would have been easy to mistake him for Umeda.

"Even if you were a proxy, you need to do your job," Aki reprimanded cheerfully. Another flash. He didn't deny that the hadn't thought of the similarity, but it'd be in truth to say that he had no hand in the matter.

"Fine," Nanba agreed, "But you need to do something. It's starting to get getting pathetic."

Akiha laughed, but the comment still stung.


"Aah!"

The flash went off, filling the dimly lit hallway like lightening. He knew that he hadn't gotten his shot. Damn.

"Good morning, Umeda-sensei," he said, waiving aside the defeat. It was a routine now, nothing to be discouraged by.

Umeda scowled as he brushed past him, his startle turning to recognition and irritation. Akiha followed as Umeda strode brusquely down the hall, keeping to the pace as best he could.

"What, are you paparazzi now? Fired? Can't find a job?" Umeda interrogated morosely. His tone was injected with a false pitch of excitement.

"No. I brought us breakfast," Aki said, making a last bound to match with Umeda. He held up the paper bag, still warm from the bakery.

"What if I've already eaten?"

"You haven't. You stay out late and wake up too late to eat before work."

Umeda didn't stop him as Aki allowed himself into the car. He assumed that they'd go directly to the school, but Umeda pulled over at a garden en route. For a moment Aki thought Umeda would be saying something in a moment directing him to get out. But as Umeda stepped out, he reasoned that if that were the case, he would have done it when he first got in the vehicle.

They got some cans of tea from the machine and took a bench, quietly eating and watching the leaves in the wind.


Akiha wondered what Umeda would say if he promised not to take any pictures of him. He probably wouldn't say much, just tell him that it was good or about time. Aki knew he'd make the promise if it would resolve anything; but it wouldn't. People who didn't like photographs of themselves were always the most perplexed by why you wanted to photograph them. They didn't want you to stop, a conclusion he'd slowly learned. Aki wondered how Umeda had become so sensitive about his photograph being taken.

Unless he was only sensitive about his photograph being taken by him.

He slipped the sheet into the envelope and dropped it off at the school for the secretary to put in Umeda's mailbox.

Aki didn't answer Umeda's question. The black album sat between them, the kanji written on a white piece of tape, The Hundred Times I Tried To Catch Hokuto, seemed to glare brightly from the table.

"What is this supposed to mean?" Umeda repeated, shutting his eyes and tipping back in the chair gently. Aki figured that he hoped that when he opened them, he wouldn't be there. No such luck for him.

"Mean?"

"Why are you showing this to me?"

"I felt like you should see it."

Aki didn't know what he'd hoped for, but felt indignation swell in his heart. He'd tried to come without any hope at all. It'd been to difficult he guessed, trying to push down the feeling, but felt it making it's mark on his face. It wasn't often that he couldn't have it leave, but the most painful thing to do would have been to smile; he couldn't grin and bear it.

"I don't want to be one of your art projects," Umeda said coldly, taking the album and standing to hand it to Aki. Aki felt himself being studied and wanted to leave. He kept the contact with a steadier resolve than he felt, the smile that usually came so easily vacated completely. His fingers numbly closed around the album, a fringe of dog-eared tape underneath his thumb.


Aki couldn't bring himself to see Umeda for a while; a while that he'd only meant to be a few days, but that had quickly turned into months. But he had one more thing. He didn't like to look at it, and he didn't think that Umeda would either, but he couldn't get what Nanba had said out of his head; it's starting to get pathetic.

Politely, Aki knocked on the door to the office, signaling his arrival before stepping in. Umeda turned around, a glimmer of surprise passing over his face. It didn't occur to Akiha to say anything as he handed the envelope to Umeda. It was much thinner than the last had been.

"What is this?"

Akiha shrugged.

"Open it."

Umeda didn't look up again at Akiha as he opened the envelope, undoing the string that closed it. Akiha wasn't sure if it seemed that he was going slowly or going quickly as it seemed to fluxate in his sight. He never felt too old for the feeling of exhilaration that came when you found something beautiful in a person, but he always felt that he could never enjoy it.

Umeda slid out the photograph, his face impassive. He narrowed his eyes through his glasses as he recognized and placed faces and location. Akiha didn't make any motion to the camera at his side.

"This is from the yearbook," Umeda stated. Akiha nodded.

"It's the picture we both remember the most."

Umeda looked at Akiha, his usual glower softened.

"Why are you showing this to me?"

"I want to be able to capture you in a photo like that. I want to be in a photo with you like that."

Umeda didn't answer, looking back at the photograph. Aki drew his own eyes to the photograph, the usual jealousy working its way though his sight to his heart at the grins of Hokuto and Ryouichi.