if the storm ends

That first time, the weather during had been the last thing on Enami's mind. That time, after school. Chasing through the corridors. Megumi ran alongside him, "Okita's on the roof--!" but he told her to stay behind, he closed the door behind him as he heard her reach the final set of stairs leading to the topmost area of the school and even at the time he'd known she'd be angry, but that didn't stop him.

She had been angry afterwards, too. Nothing Enami hadn't expected. Renji, I'm the school's guidance counsellor--! This is my area, and even then--... even then, I think this is too much...

She was right. She was always right. Of course it was too much. It had always been too much but that, too, had never convinced him to stop.

He would think of that time every time it rained. He would walk around his classroom casting the occasional glimpse outside, wondering how long the rain would last and how far it might go. He would hear the students whispering amongst themselves, sometimes; they would be wondering how long the rain would last too, albeit for different reasons. Would it last for as long as breaktime? Lunchtime? Would it still be raining when it was time to go home? Then came the usual student scramble between those who had umbrellas stored away safely in their lockers, and those who never bothered to bring such things. At the end of the school day, Enami would still stand in his classroom and watch those students either walk (under umbrellas) or run (under bags and books and anything else that served the purpose) home. He would stand and watch until long after the last student had left the school gates, until the staff carpark lay mostly empty, until he finally felt that the school buildings were quiet enough for his reverent mood.

It had rained then, too. Thundered. The storm had been right over the city, the first time Enami had seen such a thing in years. It wasn't that it never happened, just that it was very, very infrequent. He'd grown up in the area and idly held the piece of information in his mind that they would sometimes get storms at certain times of the year, but usually echoed in from the direction of the neighbouring prefectures.

He would head into the carpark as it rained and let himself be rained on. Sometimes the water would be stinging-cold, sometimes the weather would remain warm enough to create a cloying sense of humidity. He would get into his car and sit there for a few minutes longer, listening to the clatter of rain against metal. He'd close his eyes. He'd remember.

Tomoya never liked storms. For all that had happened between them, Enami would sometimes wonder to himself exactly why. There had never been any particular reason given and that first time on the roof, there hadn't been any space for such smalltalk. At the time, Tomoya had been like a frightened animal to begin with, and the storm hadn't helped. Sometimes, students had problems. Sometimes, students just got like that. It was, Enami knew, Megumi's area of expertise. However, this had been Tomoya, which acted like an override to any other line of sense; Tomoya had always been a problem student, but Enami had been young(er) and trusting and I just want to help you, Tomoya.

I just want to help.

He had never been more frightened. Teaching wasn't supposed to be such a high-risk occupation, surely...? Fencing had been put up around the perimeter of the roof for precisely that reason (that or accidents), but a flighty or determined student could probably still climb the crossed wire if they really wanted to. If they wanted to, or if they really couldn't see any other option. At that time, Tomoya had been so blinkered. Hadn't been able to see a life or a future for himself. Had chosen a path to follow.

I won't let you, Tomoya.

Enami remembered the rain as he'd taken Tomoya's hand and guided him across the concrete tiles, as he'd brought him back indoors, as he'd led him through the dark and silent school. He'd put his jacket over Tomoya's shoulders but they'd both been soaked through, and it barely helped at all. He took him to his car then, where they sat with the heater on full for a length of time he'd left out of his memory. All he remembered of then was looking over to the fragile pupil sat in his passenger seat, leaning on the steering wheel, then looking back out to the length of the carpark. Thinking about Tomoya. Tomoya's shoulders. Such thin shoulders.

On the roof, Tomoya had shouted whenever Enami had got close but was drowned out, occasionally, by the force of the storm above them. He would flinch at every flash of lightning and throw his hands over his ears for every peal of thunder and that had been a weapon granted to Enami, in the end. Fear of the storm had disarmed Tomoya for just the length of time needed for Enami to close the distance between them, take Tomoya's hand, convince him back indoors. 'Convince'. He let himself be dragged willingly, no protest but no consent, either. He'd wanted to jump from the school roof. He'd been volatile right to the point of physical contact, and then it all washed away with the rain. He wouldn't say anything after that, nothing desolate but nothing hopeful, either. Nothing. Just nothing. The bid for freedom on the school roof had been the action of one who felt they had no options left remaining, and even that hadn't worked out. As they sat in the car Enami had worried, but didn't know what to say. Didn't know if there was anything to say. (Wondered what he'd say to Megumi, come the morning.)

Their area rarely got storms but in the months afterward on the offchance that they did, Enami would find his phone ringing. See Tomoya's name flashing on the screen. Pick it up before it had to ring again and leave him waiting for even that length of time.

"... I-it's raining..."

"I know."

"Weather report says storms are likely."

"I know."

"C-can I--"

"Yes."

(And he would.)

(And they did.)

Time passed and things changed. Tomoya grew and matured. Enami would wonder, sometimes, if he'd ever been mature to begin with. Tomoya learnt, slowly, that Seirei was not the be-all and end-all of everything. Slowly, with time, he changed from an unstable teenager into a self-reliant adult, and Enami watched the change with equal parts admiration and despair.

The storm's ending.

Enami would sit on his bed and know that he had open invitations to either Hiro or Megumi's company at any time after-hours, but it was never their company he sought. He would sit on the edge of his bed and stare at his phone and will it to ring, want it to be that number, want it to be raining and it to be Tomoya and for things to be as they were, back then. And he knew that if Tomoya were to know this then an argument would be inevitable, because who wanted to go back to those times...? (Enami did. Enami always did.)

Sometimes it would rain while Tomoya visited. Enami would bring the mugs of tea through and watch Tomoya's reactions carefully, tensed and waiting for any indication that that side of him still lived. He would hand over the tea and stand by the window and try to make his observation casual.

"... It's raining."

Tomoya would glance up as if he hadn't noticed, but then smile to say that he had.

"... I know."

They would drink their tea in silence, but Enami would stay by the window and listen to the soft clatter of rain against glass. He wondered what memories Tomoya had of such a sound. He supposed, too, that he had no real way of knowing.

end

23rd of September 2009