Finished. Sorry how long that took, but I've got my interest in writing back finally.
Finished. Sorry how long that took, but I've got my interest in writing back finally.
A stunned silence followed that last, shrewd observation. Most people had never thought Naruse had it in him to be subtle about the one he liked. He had always been so upfront about it, or so they thought. Had it all been a front, to disguise a long-term crush? That would explain the apparent fickleness of his attractions, having been through most of the people in the school by now.
Naruse shifted uneasily in his chair, suddenly embarrassed by the continued staring of his friends as they tried to work out who the lucky guy could be. Koji felt a little sorry for him; he knew certain people were never going to let it rest until they knew. He was wondering how best to provide a distraction when Shunsuke produced one of his own, through going very pale, clapping his hand over his mouth and rushing from the room in search of a bathroom.
Koji stood up immediately, rolling his eyes. He knew he shouldn't have let him have the last round. And now, here were the consequences. However, Naruse was already making his way to the door, evidently glad of the change of focus, yet also very concerned. He turned and caught Koji's eye, then gave him a small smile and a shake of the head, as if to say 'don't worry, I'll deal with this'. Koji sat down, relieved. Vomit was not something he could easily deal with, especially other people's. He had a newfound sense of respect for Naruse now; there was an air of maturity shining through that he hadn't really seen before. And, well, well, it seemed that Shunsuke was the one that had brought it out in him. He wondered how this relationship would play out; for it must be him that Naruse was enamoured with, although why, he'd never know. All the signs pointed that way, he realised now. The unreadable looks and the shared bentos and the death-defying rides on Shunsuke's bike.
"We seem to have lost another of our number," commented Nakajima casually, passing out an increasingly small number of glasses. He was evidently keen to get on now that the drama was over for the time being, for he was not one inclined to stir trouble when the subjects weren't even in the room. Where would the fun in that be?
The contestants took up their glasses once more. Most people seemed to be getting into their stride now, the alcohol in their bloodstream catching up with them, making them forget how much they had already had and the fact they should probably be stopping. Under Nakajima's watchful care, the glasses had scarcely been emptied before they were full again. Koji had given up – the students he had been keeping an eye on were out of the game, leaving the people who he would not be responsible for to finish it up. He toyed with the idea of going to bed, but decided he actually wanted to see what happened now that it had got this far.
It had got serious. There was much less banter, although this may be because nobody wanted to give themselves away with the slightest slur in their speech. The five remaining drinkers were so focused on what they were doing, it was actually getting kind of boring. Koji would almost welcome a drunken disturbance of some sort at this point in time.
Takuto seemed to be thinking along the same lines as he gazed wide-eyed from face to face, as if to see who would be next to spill his secrets. Then he nudged Koji with a smile.
"Look." He pointed across the table. Koji followed his finger, and grinned as well at the scene. Keita, who was now on his own seat again, but only just, had fallen asleep on Endo's shoulder. Endo rested his cheek on the messy red hair, suddenly looking quite sleepy himself.
"I suppose we'd better get ourselves to bed," he yawned.
Nakajima raised an eyebrow at him, and Niwa was smirking openly. Saionji hid a grin behind his hand.
"Uh…I mean…" Endo stuttered, blushing at the implications.
He gave up trying to explain himself, and withdrew his arm from around Keita to gather his jacket from the back of the chair. Keita shivered at the sudden withdrawal of heat and cuddled closer to Endo with a sigh. Endo gave him a gentle shake and whispered in his ear. Keita's eyes fluttered open and, taking in who was still in the room, he looked mortified.
Jumping to his feet, he apologised profusely. "It's not because I find you boring!" he hastened to explain.
Endo escorted him from the room amidst ripples of fond laughter.
As everyone was preparing for round – what was it now? Koji had lost count – the door re-opened and Naruse slipped into the room, taking Endo's vacated chair.
Takuto looked him over and, seeing his expression, asked quietly, "How is he?"
Naruse sighed. "He's ok. Well, he's stopped throwing up, at least. And he won't remember a thing in the morning. I knew this would happen; that's why I stopped taking part myself."
"So… if he won't remember anything, does that mean you'll have to confess to him again?" Niwa wondered out loud, "Because it practically was a confession, wasn't it? You do like him, right?"
He earned himself an elbow in the side from Saionji for his lack of tact, although it was perhaps not as hard as it would have been normally. Maybe the alcohol was getting to him, too.
It seemed as though most people had jumped to the same conclusion Koji and Niwa had, because they turned to Naruse with pitying expressions.
"Maybe…" he shrugged. Then he grinned. "But I've got plenty of time. You know, I quite enjoy playing the field. And as long as I haven't got any competitors, I think I'm ok!"
A few of the others looked sceptical.
"But seriously," he continued, his voice lowering in tone, "I just don't want any awkwardness between us. The time has got to be right."
"Well, that's fair enough, really." People's eyes turned to Koji. It seemed that a lot had forgotten he was there, again. He really should speak more, or something. "Shall we get on with the game?"
Naruse gave him a grateful smile, while Nakajima looked taken aback.
"Well, it seems that our dear straight-laced dorm manager is actually getting into this contest now. Can we take this as official endorsement, I wonder?"
"What? No, I-" Now it was his turn to stutter, and realise the futility of actually defending himself to the quick tongue and wits of Nakajima. He rolled his eyes and subsided into silence.
The contest continued. Koji could tell that Nakajima was getting frustrated at Shichijo's calm attitude – even with goodness-knows-how-much alcohol in him there was very little to suggest that it was having an effect. He was as polite and indifferent as ever, seeming to view the contest as, at most a somewhat amusing game, although Koji noticed that he was as quick as Nakajima to knock back the next shot. On the other hand, Niwa and Saionji were getting less and less interested. On a couple of occasions, they had to be reminded to put their glasses back into the middle for a refill.
They had been engrossed for sometime in an earnest discussion about… something, Koji couldn't quite catch what. Whatever it was, it was getting fairly heated. Surprise, surprise, they were arguing again. What is it with the Student Council and the Treasury that even when they were together at a social, they couldn't keep school politics out of it?
Then, to the room-at-large's general amazement, Saionji grabbed Niwa by his tie and pulled him forward, pressing their lips together. Niwa responded almost at once, with great enthusiasm, wrapping his arms around the other boy and further reducing the gap between their bodies. It was with morbid fascination that everyone watched Saionji snake his hand up to the back of Niwa's head, where he tangled his fingers in the short hair there; no one could tear their eyes away. Koji didn't think he'd ever seen Shichijo look so bemused.
They deepened the kiss, greedy for more contact. There must have been a lot of sexual frustration on both sides, not just the obvious one. Funny how it just needed alcohol to let it out. Koji wondered whether the relationship would last beyond that night. They appeared, even then, to still be fighting. Each was trying to dominate the kiss. However slight and drunk Saionji was, he still wasn't taking any nonsense from Niwa.
It was starting to get a bit awkward. Eventually, Koji cleared his throat loudly, and the King and Queen of the school reluctantly broke apart. Niwa kept his arm tight around Saionji, who looked a little flushed and breathless. Niwa just looked incredibly pleased with himself.
He exchanged a look with Nakajima, whose expression shifted slightly, from the unreadable to the incredibly unreadable. Nakajima then poured out only two shots, and handed one to Shichijo with a challenging smile.
Shichijo, still looking very nonplussed, took up his shot and downed it almost on autopilot.
As soon as he had done so, another shot was winging its way to him.
The attention of the room was definitely focused on them now. Even Niwa and Saionji, the latter leaning on the formers shoulder, had ceased their canoodling to observe. The atmosphere felt as if there was a storm brewing, heavy and brooding. Koji hoped there wouldn't be a fight for him to break up; that would be well beyond the call of duty, in his opinion.
The contestants drank.
Nakajima's hand shook slightly as he poured the next round. Shichijo seemed to be slowing down.
And another shot. How could they be keeping going?
Both of them eyed the couple of shots, shimmering in the middle of the table. Each reached out a hand, grabbed and gulped. A semblance of mutual agreement flashed briefly across their faces as their eyes met.
Nakajima then proffered a begrudging hand for his opponent to shake.
"It would appear, much as I hate to admit it, that we are equals in this respect."
Shichijo nodded, a mark of respect as much as an acknowledgement of the statement.
"I'm frankly quite surprised you were able to keep up with me, Nakajima. Perhaps I shouldn't be so dismissive of the tales I hear of your exploits at the jazz bar," he added, a wicked twinkle in his eye.
Nakajima ignored the heavy insinuation, rounding the focus back to Shichijo. "But tell me this," he purred, "how is it that you have developed this 'talent' for drinking? Do you perhaps add a little something to that 'tea' you and Saionji are always drinking? I always wondered about the appeal."
Shichijo, too, ignored this barbed attack. He chose instead to answer the first question. "I'm part-French, so naturally, it's in my blood. Although we do not normally 'binge-drink', due to our culture we build up a certain tolerance to alcohol at a very young age. I'm surprised that you didn't pick up on that part of my heritage when you hacked my file looking for my so-called secrets."
The vice-president of the student council had the grace to look a little abashed. But just a little. That he was determined to win this war of words, as he couldn't win the contest, was clear.
However, Shichijo hadn't finished. "I, on the other hand, haven't the need to hack your personal files. You are easier to read than you believe yourself to be. I know your weakness."
"Well?" Nakajima was scornful.
"Niwa, Nakajima, although you might not realise it. For this contest was not only to one-up me, now, was it? You are less cold than you would like to appear."
Shichijo stood up, and walked to the door, ready to leave. He paused on the threshold, and tossed a comment over his shoulder.
"Don't worry, it suits you."
For once, Nakajima was speechless.
Thanks to everyone who stuck with this story. If you wouldn't mind reviewing to let me know how I got on with my first foray into GH fanfic, that would be much appreciated.