Xiana: Haha. A bunch of people have to take a bunch of tests right now, huh? PSAT, ACT, SAT... even the dreaded PLAN test (which I didn't have to take, lucky!!) It might be a little cynical... but I guess that's just Suzuki-sensei for ya :P

The Joys of Standardized Testing

Adults and children alike agree that standardized testing is bad news. Parents resent that their unique, precious children are being unfairly lumped in with and judged against every other little brat out there, and often rail against the system that demoralizes their darling Tarous and Hanakos. (Even now, Sakaki Suzuno-san of Chiba Prefecture harbors a deep resentment for one particular "college aptitude test" that she feels is the only reason her son is a junior high school music teacher instead of the Japanese prime minister.) Students find the tests unfathomably boring and completely without practical application to anything. And standardized testing is the bane of every teacher's life, as it takes valuable time away from the scintillating movies and enthralling lectures of normal class time, and it takes at least a week for most pupils' brains to recuperate enough to get back into a regular routine.

By far, the most frustrating part of such exams is the inevitable hour or so that is left after completing them. Those overachievers that feel the need to octuple-check their work may not understand what all the fuss is over, but for every normal student, after they endure Test Hell, they are stuck in a Purgatory that tests the very limits of their patience and sanity. They're forced to sit still, forbidden to write, sometimes denied a book to read, left with only their thoughts and two or three number 2 pencils to keep them company. In this as in all things, teachers get the short end of the stick. They are unable to spend half an hour taking the test, and so cannot ponder whether they had the answer to question seven right or if it was c after all. They (hopefully) cannot drift deeply in thought about that cutie across the room, and many of them do not spend the time making up stories about alternate universes in which school is really a ninja training camp and "tests" consist of bloody battles to the death, after which, of course, there is no need to wait for all the other students to finish. No. Their mission was to "watch the children," presumably so they didn't cheat, but more often to prevent them from committing suicide in an attempt to liven things up.

At least, that was what Suzuki Motoko, Hyoutei Gakuen professor of history, thought about the whole situation. She had had far too much time to think this through, as the school was currently offering American AP tests to students for the express purpose of proving just how superior their own system was in comparison. Despite no Japanese history or even world history tests being available, Suzuki was still stuck proctoring for useless subjects like Physics instead of enjoying a day off work with all the other teachers and students.

It wasn't fair, dammit! She was a good, hard-working teacher! She was the head of the department, and one of the most popular and knowledgeable teachers at the school. And yet, she was being forced to waste her valuable time here staring blankly at the table in front of her! They should have brought in some of those slacking student teachers and had them do the job. That would be some good "real-life experience" for them.

However, she had quickly realized that bemoaning her situation would only serve to depress her further, so she spent her time primarily looking at the students and observing what they did when they thought nobody was watching, or couldn't care less if they were. At her first session, the AP Psychology exam two days ago, Akuta-something-kun from her second class of the day had finished bullshitting his way through his essay on the practical applications of hypnosis and had promptly fallen asleep, head landing on the still-open essay booklet with a loud thud. This startling noise had caused one overworked girl to scream and run out of the room, presumably to her therapist. Suzuki found this reasonably ironic. At the same test, another girl had nonchalantly taken out a ball of yarn and a pair of knitting needles and proceeded to complete two scarves and most of a hat before time was finally called. (This was probably against the rules, but as nothing specific was said about this in the rulebook all proctors were forced to memorize and recite at the beginning of each test, she and the other teachers decided it was fine.)

The second test, Chemistry, seemed to involve drawing a diagram, from the way many of the students' pens seemed to move across the page, but when Suzuki took one of her regularly scheduled walks around the room and just so happened to look down at some of the papers, she realized that her assumption was completely incorrect. Apparently, the chemistry teacher had completely neglected to teach the unit that one of the free responses was about, and many of the students decided that since they weren't going to receive any points for it anyway, they might as well fill the blank box with something. For many, this took the form of a drawing. One or two aspiring manga-ka drew in little four-panel comics relating to life, death, and how it was unfair that they weren't allowed to have food during the test because dammit, they were hungry. Apparently, art students had recently had a unit on still-lifes, because a lot of people seemed to be sketching the podium at the front of the room or the table with spare pencils and everyone's confiscated phones on it. Others opted for landscapes or portraits, and some of the less-talented settled for drawing rainbows, hearts, and stars instead. One boy drew an octopus shaking the Chem teacher, Iwase-sensei. Another girl, channeling the same negativity, drew Iwase as an adorable chibi… voodoo doll. When Suzuki paused, slightly confused, in front of her, the girl looked up and graciously turned the paper so that she could see it better. After Suzuki smiled nervously and moved on, the girl turned back to her drawing, working to perfect the shading on the knife sticking out of his chest. Other, non-artistically-inclined students either attempted to answer the question or decided to pursue literature. Among the many rants about how stupid the problem was and friendly letters to the graders, Suzuki encountered quite a bit of poetry, and was pleasantly surprised to discover that many of the most romantic love poems were written by boys. The compositions of one boy, Oshitari-kun from her third class, were simply so filled with emotion that she found it necessary to collect all of the scrap paper that students had been given (Oshitari-kun, of course, was a genius, and finished the problem –probably correctly- before working on his poems) and, in a highly illegal move, folded his paper up and stuffed it down her shirt. Fortunately, no one seemed to notice. During this same test, she also had to deal with the girl who refused to stop humming catchy pop tunes so loudly that the whole room could hear and the boy who spent approximately half of his time staring longingly at a photograph of his cat.

In spite of, or perhaps because of these oddities, the previous two tests were proving to be infinitely more interesting than the Physics test. The subject, while easy enough for the students, seemed to have left them without the will to live, as most everyone that had finished was staring blankly at the wall, aside from Akuta-something-kun, who was sleeping, and another boy that seemed to be… entertaining himself in a rather loud and inappropriate way.

After walking over to him and delivering a very stern lecture ("But Suzuki-sensei, I was only moaning because the test was so hard!"), however, Suzuki's sensitive ears picked up a faint tapping sound. Wondering if it could possibly be what she suspected it was, she sat down in the empty seat next to her unruly student ("And keep your hands where I can see them!") and turned her head so as to better hear. If she was hearing things correctly, there might be a bit of entertainment for her after all.

The tapping was coming from the table in the far back corner, where the famous Atobe Keigo was sitting next to a student from another school. Some schools did not have the nearly endless funds that Hyoutei had, and weren't wealthy enough to provide testing for the express purpose of showing off, so they sent a representative or two in an attempt to prove that they were just as good as Hyoutei. Some other students from the same school, called Rokkaki or Rikkaku or something very similar, had been present at the previous tests: a boy with perpetually closed eyes and an awful haircut at the Chemistry test and a pretty, extremely-feminine boy at the Psychology exam. But this boy was more interesting than the other two had been.

His hair was obviously dyed, as it was a blinding shade of white, and stuck up in spikes. The very back of it was tied back with a string in a short ponytail. He had loosened his striped school tie and was leaning back in his chair, tapping a pencil against his closed booklet. It was a simple message in Morse code: b-o-r-i-n-g.

As she watched them out of the corner of her eye, Atobe closed his eyes in exasperation and slammed his test shut. He picked up a pencil and drummed a quick message. "Be quiet and leave me alone." He put the pencil down and laid his head on the table.

The other boy's eyes widened and he stopped his repetitive tapping. "You understand?" he sent back. "I didn't think anyone knew Morse these days."

Suzuki smiled to herself. Apparently, such knowledge was more common than he knew. So as not to neglect her duties, she scanned the room quickly before settling into her uncomfortable plastic chair, continuing to listen.

"You're that tennis player, aren't you? From Rikkai?" Atobe was asking. ("I was close," Suzuki muttered to herself.)

"Niou Masaharu at your service. Call me Niou. Call me Haru. Call me whatever you like, honey."

"You may call me Atobe-sama, or Atobe-san, if you feel the need to lower me to the level of the common folk. I cannot say it's a pleasure to make your acquaintance."

Niou frowned. "That's not very nice. I, for one, am very pleased to meet you."

"Well, that would make you the only one," Atobe responded, somehow managing to convey a haughty tone through the clicking of the pencil against the wooden desk.

Niou was silent for a moment, but remained undeterred. "So, what'd you think of the test?"

"The simplicity of it all deeply offended Ore-sama. It's hard to imagine that students older than us have trouble with this level of questioning."

"Well, there was a bit that was challenging, that section about harmonics. But on the whole, it was a joke. I liked that bit about the third-class levers, didn't you?"

"It was enjoyable, yes. But we're not allowed to discuss the test, especially not while people are still taking it."

"All that 'you may never discuss the multiple choice questions ever ever ever' nonsense? It's fine. Who's going to know?"

"Suzuki-sensei, for one. She's been listening in for quite some time now."

Suzuki pretended not to notice, but then decided she didn't care anymore. She seized a pencil from her unfortunate seatmate and rapped out a quick response. "Don't cheat and I won't say anything."

"Why?" Niou immediately asked.

"Because I am bored as hell," she replied honestly, and was rewarded with a stifled snicker.

"It must be very difficult for you, sensei. What can we do to make you feel better?" Atobe asked politely.

"Just keep talking, I'll keep listening, and maybe we can all get out of here alive," she tapped back, and set the pencil down.

After a short pause, Atobe said hesitantly, "Entertainment, huh? What kind of entertainment exactly? I wonder…"

"Maybe she wants us to put on some sort of comedy program, or tell stories about our life."

"Doubtful. Suzuki-sensei enjoys complaining about how useless talk shows are, and I don't believe that she has ever once laughed in class." That was, of course, quite untrue. During a particularly riveting lecture about the Second World War, one drowsy student had fallen asleep –and out of his seat. He had landed on the floor headfirst, and the entire class had laughed, including both Suzuki-sensei and that kid who always slept through class, Akuta-something-kun.

"In that case… I have an idea of what we can do to help entertain the lovely Suzuki-sensei," Niou said. There was a long silence, and eventually Suzuki turned around to see what was going on. Niou had grabbed Atobe by the tie and was… kissing him. Atobe didn't seem to be protesting.

Suzuki watched in horrified fascination until one of her colleagues noticed what was going on and started yelling. "Hey, you in the back, stop that at once!"

Everyone immediately turned to look at the two, who were either ignoring Izumi-sensei or didn't hear him. Regardless, even with the entire room staring at them, they didn't stop.

Suzuki just closed her eyes and turned forward. "Izumi-kun, technically, there's nothing against it in the rules. Just leave them alone. They've found a way to entertain themselves, so don't blame them because you haven't." When Izumi showed signs of arguing with her, she stood up. "Izumi, do you want to be fired? I said it's fine. Who's the department head? Oh, that's right, it's me. Now, sit down. Sit!"

Izumi sat. Suzuki smiled to herself.

Ah, the joys of standardized testing…

Xiana: I've been meaning to write this ever since AP tests last year, but I'm... a slow writer. Maybe tests are hard for some people... But I always end up with too much time left over. So that's when I come up with... stories like this. And slash my number two pencils together. (The tall, silver one was Choutarou. The short, boring one was Shishido.) Secretly, I like standardized tests. There were actually several things that I took from actual people, such as the octopus and voodoo doll bit. :D

I think AtobexNiou is a great pair. It's fun! It might already have a name, but regardless... we can call it Charm Point Pair. Because they both have little moles on their faces :D

Review, please!