This is a real-world college AU of Tales of Vesperia. I've put a lot of effort into developing a setting based on the background and personalities of the game characters—I hope that nothing feels OOC, though this story's universe necessitates some changes from having a different childhood experience and worldview. I've tried to make the situations fairly believable. If anyone notices something that feels off, please let me know and I'll do my best to fix it or do better in the future. *smiles* Thank you; I hope you enjoy!
Yuri made it through an entire semester and half of the next one before he finally had to visit the campus library. It wasn't that he didn't ever read, but the two-story brick building, with its musty smell and desks filled with earnest studiers, wasn't exactly high on his list of places to spend his time. He hadn't decided on a major yet, but when he did, it definitely wasn't going to be one of those where the library would become a common haunt.
Unfortunately, being a freshman meant core classes, and only Algebra didn't have the dreaded essays and term papers listed on its syllabus. Last semester, he'd taken Biology, some ridiculous Freshman Welcome course and Astronomy, because it filled the rest of the science requirement and sounded interesting. (It wasn't.) Now his English class had assigned him a book to read in preparation for some kind of comparative essay—so, off to the library it was.
With a sigh, Yuri ascended the steps and was greeted with row upon row of books, the end of the shelves plastered with only the vaguest of signs indicating what each section contained. Stupid system—even if he entered the book he wanted into the computer, he still had to go find the right row as a starting point. It was mid-afternoon and the library wasn't very busy, not that there ever were very many people lingering among the stacks. Who would want to?
People like that guy, apparently. He was at a table in a central area amidst the shelves, bent over some complicated looking textbook and every so often scribbling notes onto a nearby piece of paper. Yuri passed by and found what he thought was the right shelf just a couple of rows over. He turned into it, muttering darkly as he scanned the rows of books, the nonsensical numbers and decimal points on their spines.
Yeah, he would find the book. It was supposed to be...right here. Dammit. This was starting to piss him off. Maybe someone had checked it out already. Better that than admit he had no clue what he was doing. He huffed an exasperated sigh.
Ah. Mr. Diligent Student.
"Nah, I'm good." He ran a hand over the top his head, puzzling over the situation. The slip of paper with a number hastily scrawled onto it didn't match what he was looking at—this was where the classic literature was supposed to be, right? Without thinking of how it sounded, he let loose a mild curse; not loud, he knew enough about libraries for that, but definitely audible.
"Let me see." And the guy snatched the paper out from where Yuri loosely held it between his fingers. When had he even gotten over there? He could only blink at him, watching as he examined the number.
"Right. You're looking for classics. This is where you find English anthologies. You were very close, though." His mouth twitched a little with what Yuri could only assume was amusement. "It should be just on the other side. Here."
He turned the corner onto the next row, even though he had already told Yuri where to find the book and could have just returned to whatever he was doing. Yuri followed wordlessly, stopping when the other guy crouched down, running a finger along the books and pulling out a thick volume.
"Melville, hm? Good luck with that." He handed the book to Yuri. The title was written in fancy gold script across the front, and Yuri was way too mature to laugh at it. (Snickering for half a second when he saw it listed on the paper in class didn't count.)
"Is it bad?"
"Not really, but he's very descriptive," he said, shrugging a little. "You'll probably be bored."
"Oh, yeah?" An edge of defensiveness crept into Yuri's voice. What did this guy know about him, anyway?
The comment earned him a level gaze. "Almost certainly."
Yuri held the look—this guy's eyes were really blue. Wait, what? He shook his head, turning to go.
"Whatever. Thanks," he said, shaking the hand that held the book through the air.
"Wait." A touch on his arm stalled his exit. "Sorry, that didn't come out right. Um. You probably will be bored, if only because almost everyone finds him boring. It's about whaling, after all."
Yuri resisted rolling his eyes, placing a hand on his hip instead. Why was he still standing there making small talk with exactly the type of student he didn't want to become?
"I take it you've read this. Did you like it?"
"No." The hint of a smile appeared.
He did smile, then, a sunny grin that matched the slightly messy blond hair that fell across his eyes.
"It appears so. I'm Flynn." He stuck out his hand, leaving Yuri to stare at it for half a second before clasping it in his own.
An eyebrow went up, as often happened when he introduced himself. He suppressed a sigh. Might as well get the obligatory explanation out of the way.
"Yeah, it's a family name. My great-grandfather was a Russian immigrant."
"What about you? Flynn's not really that common, either."
"Ah. Are you?"
"I'm not sure—maybe a little bit, somewhere. My mom just liked the name, I think." He shrugged. "It could be worse. She almost named me Finn."
"What, like Huckleberry?" Yuri snorted. "Oh, yeah. You definitely dodged a bullet there."
Somewhere along the way, they had drifted out of the bookshelves and back toward the table where Flynn had been studying. He tucked the paper into his book and closed it, picking it up to carry it under his arm. The guy couldn't have finished studying at the exact instant that Yuri had his minor library book crisis, and some of his confusion must have carried over onto his face.
"The rest can wait until after dinner," said Flynn. A pause, blue eyes flickering over. "Have you eaten yet?"
Yuri had not, a fact that a distant ache in his stomach reminded him. Huh. Apparently he'd somehow made a good impression on this guy, if he wanted to continue their conversation over dinner. The only question was, did he want to? Ah, hell, why not. It would be better than returning to his dorm room, where he'd probably spend the evening eating ramen and procrastinating on reading the first assignment out of this stupid book.
"Nah, I was thinking of heading over to the dining hall myself. After I take care of this, I'll meet you there." He waved the book at Flynn—again—and approached the desk, as-yet-unused library card in hand.
Flynn had grabbed a booth by the window, and at least had the decency not to embarrass Yuri by waving at him as he entered the room. Instead, he briefly inclined his head, sliding out of the seat and joining Yuri as he walked toward the cafeteria line. It was kind of a pain to be herded through en masse for what was almost always crappy food. Most days, Yuri didn't bother with it. He had a mini-fridge and a microwave in his dorm room, and that was enough for him.
They wove through the long tables and were almost halfway there when a group of girls at Yuri's right started giggling. Ugh, perfect.
"Yuri-kun," one called, which just set the rest of them off again. He stalked away, Flynn walking faster to keep up with him.
"What was that about?" he asked.
"That's the anime club," said Yuri, nodding subtly in their direction. "One of them was in a class with me last semester. I guess they felt they needed to tell me that my name was also the word for 'lesbian porn' in, I don't know, Japanese or something." He shook his head, grabbing a tray from the stack at the kitchen's entrance.
Flynn, who had picked up his tray and silverware ahead of him, only chuckled and made a brief, thoughtful sound. Huh, that was different. Usually when Yuri told that anecdote, guys would say something like "nothin' wrong with that" or make some lewd comment. As he followed Flynn in the slow, shuffling line, Yuri didn't have much to look at—he found his eyes wandering, settling at one point on Flynn's back pocket. Now, he didn't really know or care much about clothes, but weren't those designer jeans? Expensive ones, by the look of it. Yuri bit back a laugh, adding that detail together with the soft cadence of Flynn's voice and other things that might not really have meant anything on their own.
He was staring, he knew, but had to admit that the view was a nice one. Either the jeans had been specifically tailored for this guy, or he had been lucky enough to find a pair that struck the balance of being form-fitting but not awkwardly tight. Then he realized that Flynn had turned toward the pasta station, and was looking back at him. The expression on his face could only be described as...bemused. Oh. Busted. Yuri didn't think he broadcast his preferences like this guy did, but there wasn't really an innocent explanation for where his gaze had been focusing. He filled a section of his tray, doing his best to look nonchalant.
They were at the drink station on the other side of the kitchen when Flynn leaned toward Yuri and spoke under the loud hum of the cafeteria's numerous conversations.
"I believe the phrase 'take a picture, it'll last longer' is appropriate in this case?"
Yuri snorted. "Funny," he said, pressing his glass against the soda dispenser. "Did it take you this whole time to come up with that one?"
Grabbing a straw for his own drink, Flynn shook his head. "I could have said it then, but decided not to call you out—literally, if I'm not mistaken," he added, eyebrow raised a stitch, "—in the middle of the cafeteria line."
"Hmph. Yeah, well, don't read too much into it." Yuri grabbed his tray, half wondering why he had even said that. Natural defensiveness, he guessed. Kind of stupid, though—the guy was clearly interested, knew from Yuri's careless ogling that he might be, and his looks weren't half bad, even if he was one of those nerdy library-goers.
They made it back to the booth, setting down their trays and drinks. They hadn't said anything to each other on the way back. Well, this was awkward. Yuri cleared his throat.
"So, you're a freshman too, right? Have you decided on a major?" Okay, now who was the nerd? Despite Yuri's thought that it was an incredibly lame question to break the ice with, Flynn just nodded.
"Criminal justice, on the pre-law track."
Yuri almost choked on a bite of overcooked pork chop. He'd known the guy was kind of hardcore, but this? Flynn was choosing to go into a field that would take more than the minimum four years, not to mention countless hours of memorization and study. Yuri was willing to bet he was the type that would be able to get into one of those prestigious law schools, too.
"Woah." Flynn smiled as he speared a steamed carrot on his fork, and Yuri attempted to recover. "So, why law?"
He shrugged. "You'll probably laugh."
"Fine." Flynn squared his shoulders, looking surprisingly determined. "I want to change things from the inside, to have a hand in bringing people to justice and making this country a safer place."
Yuri blinked, not inclined to laughter at all. He'd had similar thoughts, before, but had never really known how to go about it. He definitely wasn't cut out for law school, though. At least, he didn't think so. Oddly, Flynn's words dredged up vague yet powerful memories, but Yuri didn't feel like sorting through them at the moment.
"You know," he said, tilting his head, "for some reason, I believe you could do it."
"I will," said Flynn, eyes intense.
Man. Who was this guy?
Yuri changed the subject to something lighter, and they chatted and ate for a while. The dining hall's overhead speaker announced that it would be closing in thirty minutes—time had gone by a lot more quickly than Yuri had expected. Flynn, he had to admit, made good company. Somehow, though, their conversation turned to the past.
"I grew up in a suburb of D.C.," Flynn was saying, naming the town, and Yuri's eyes widened a little.
"Hey, no kidding? I lived there until I was 9."
Flynn smiled. "Small world, isn't it?" Then an odd expression came over his face, but he shook it off.
"No, that's impossible," he said under his breath. "That wasn't his name."
Yuri's curiosity was piqued. "What's that?"
"Oh, nothing." Flynn took a sip of his drink, but he looked a little shaken. "I just knew someone, once. It wasn't for long, but he was in my karate class."
Karate? Wait, no way. Memories flooded back into his mind, fuzzy at first but steadily clearer. Yuri had kept them in a mental box for a long time—that had been the summer of his parents' accident, the beginning of a long string of foster parents. It wasn't something he liked to remember, and so the karate class he had begun just a few months beforehand had gotten repressed along with it.
"Flynn, was this kid named Connor?"
The color—and there hadn't been a lot to begin with—drained out of Flynn's face. He nodded mutely, and Yuri couldn't help laughing.
"I used to go by my middle name, because I thought my first name was too weird," he started explaining to Flynn, who was, apparently, speechless. "You were in the class, too? Woah, hang on. I remember you. That scrawny blond kid I used to hang out with while I waited for my mom to pick me up." He pressed a hand to his forehead, grinning with disbelief. It was all coming back to him, now. No wonder the name had tickled his mind with an odd familiarity.
"You were pretty scrawny yourself," Flynn countered with a smirk, seeming to have recovered some. "That's why they always paired us for sparring partners."
Oh, yeah. He definitely remembered, now. Despite their similar sizes, Flynn had always had the advantage in their sparring matches—no matter how he dodged and twisted, Yuri was the one who ended up pinned to the mat, staring into the kid's victorious smile. He laughed again, but for a different reason.
"It's just funny," said Yuri. "I can't believe I forgot about you."
Flynn's lips curved upwards a little. "I'm flattered, but it's understandable. We didn't know each other all that long."
"Yeah, but..." Yuri shrugged. "You were my first crush."
The priceless look on Flynn's face was totally worth the confession. It was true, though. At nine, he was pretty confused by the fluttery feelings he got whenever the other kid leaned over him on the floor, hands around his skinny wrists preventing him from further attack. It would be several more years until he figured out what was going on, and he didn't dwell on that first moment of attraction as it got lumped into that painful period in his life. Now, though? It all made sense.
"Well," said Flynn, after a moment. "I hope that my current self lives up to your childhood memory."
Yuri leaned in conspiratorially with a wide, mischievous grin. "Definitely."
A deep flush colored Flynn's cheeks almost instantly. Oh, this was going to be way too much fun.
The speaker warned the scattered few remaining students that the dining hall would be closing shortly. Yuri stood, picking up the mostly empty tray and his cup, now only half-filled with ice.
"Guess we'd better go," he said. "What dorm are you in?"
Not far from his. Interesting.
They started walking across the dark campus together, companionably silent for a while. After crossing a street and stepping up onto the sidewalk that led to their dorm halls, Flynn abruptly stopped.
"Yuri," he said, voice almost soft.
"This might sound a bit silly, but...do you remember making a promise?"
Yeah, he was right. It did sound silly, and not at all something that Yuri would do. At least, not the Yuri of today. Unfortunately, he did remember, as soon as Flynn mentioned it.
"Something about changing the world, right?" Yuri smirked, looking up at the dark sky. What an idealistic thing to promise; how much difference could two people really make?
"Yeah," said Flynn.
Oh, the law thing. Was it because of what they'd said back then? That was his fault? Yuri chuckled at the irony of it all. Or at least, he thought it was irony. Hadn't really been paying attention in English class when they explained it.
A loud, slightly distorted sequence of musical notes interrupted the moment, to Yuri's private relief. He fished through his bag and retrieved his phone, flipping it open.
"Hey, Estelle. What's up?" He nodded toward Flynn in apology, but he waved it away.
"Yuri! You'll never guess what happened at school today."
"Hmm, Judy got in trouble for breaking the dress code?"
An indignant sound came through the earpiece. "No fair. How'd you guess?"
"It happens just about every week, Estelle." He chuckled. Judy, a junior at the high school, had a penchant for revealing clothing and didn't seem to care that she got dragged into the principal's office for it on a regular basis. Yuri knew her through Estelle, who he had met in drama class when she was an entering freshman and he was a senior. The girl was sweet, if a bit hyperactive, and he found himself forming a close friendship with her as they practiced for the class productions. It was an unlikely one, not only because of the age difference but also because she was the heiress to an international corporation. Yuri couldn't stand entitled rich people, but she managed not to be too much of a spoiled little princess.
"But it's a big deal this time, Yuri! They're going to have a meeting with her parents and everything."
"Judy can take care of herself; it's not the end of the world." Nearby, Flynn laughed a little—the girl's chirpy voice carried so much that Yuri had to hold the phone a few inches away from his ear.
"Is someone with you? Ohmygosh, if you have a boyfriend and didn't tell me about it..." Yuri could almost hear her pout through the phone.
"No, it's..." He had been about to say 'nothing like that,' but that wasn't entirely true. "It's funny, actually. I ran into someone that I was friends with before I moved here."
"Oooh. Is he cute? I bet he is." Estelle gasped. "Are you at your dorm room? Did I interrupt anything? I'm so sorry."
Yuri glanced over at Flynn, who coughed out a laugh—it was hard to tell under the streetlights, but he might have been blushing again.
"No, but I do have to go. We'll talk about Judy later, okay?"
"Okay, fine. But you're going to tell me all about this guy. Every last detail."
"Alright, alright. Later, Estelle."
He clicked the phone shut, shaking his head.
"Well," said Flynn, "that wasn't embarrassing."
Yuri grinned. "That's Estelle for you. She's actually pretty great. I think you'd like her."
"You think so? Hmm." They were walking again, the sidewalk running parallel to Yuri's dorm building. He stopped at the outer staircase, hand on the rail.
"Hey, can I get your cell number?"
Flynn nodded, reciting it, and Yuri punched it into his phone, calling the number so that he could program him in, too. He started up the steps, thinking of what he needed to do once he got to his room—that book rested heavily in the bag slung over his shoulder, and Yuri groaned as he remembered he would have to crack it open.
At the first landing, he leaned over the rail; Flynn had just started to walk toward his own hall.
"Flynn," he called, and the blond craned his neck to look up at him. "Do you want to come up?" He ran through some good excuses for the invitation, but honestly couldn't think of any, so he just grinned in what he hoped was a friendly way.
Flynn froze for a moment, then nodded, starting up the stairs. Yuri waited, leading him a few doors down to the room he shared with a sophomore named Eric. They didn't see each other very often—Eric was constantly at practices for the basketball team, and they just didn't have much in common. Unlocking the door and pulling it open, Yuri ushered Flynn into the room.
"Welcome," he said, sweeping a hand over his side, divided by two desks backed up against each other.
"It's messy." Flynn wrinkled his nose as he took in the crumpled clothing on the floor, unmade bed and various wrappers scattered on the desk.
Yuri ignored the comment, tossing his bag into a corner. The book could wait, even if he had to stay up late or read the pages while he got ready for class. Might as well, anyway, if it was really that boring.
He glanced over at Flynn—who was still scrutinizing the state of his room—and rolled his eyes.
"It's not that big of a deal," he said.
Yuri ducked his head, laughing at the nerve of this guy. "Yeah, I bet you spray your room with air freshener and…I dunno, fold your socks."
Flynn said nothing. Wait, so he did? The image distracted Yuri enough that he almost jumped a little when the blond finally spoke again, close behind him.
"How can you live like this?"
"This is normal," said Yuri, turning to face him. "You're the weird one."
Flynn opened his mouth indignantly. "Excuse me? You're the one with hair halfway down your back and a clothing palette that can only be described as goth-chic." He crossed his arms, apparently feeling that he had bested him. It earned him another eye roll.
"Whatever. Neat freak."
"Slob," Flynn countered, and if he was going to add anything else to that, Yuri would never know—he had stepped forward and was kissing him, slowly at first until Flynn recovered from the shock, and then with more fervor. Yuri realized that things had come full circle in this moment, and for some reason he found that hysterical. He laughed against Flynn's mouth, which earned him a brief, confused sound. Instead of explaining, Yuri slid his hand into that back pocket he'd been so fixated on earlier, teasing his tongue along Flynn's lower lip and between his parted teeth. Things were getting pretty heated, and Flynn wasn't backing down, to Yuri's surprise—he ran his fingers through dark hair, barely stopping to catch his breath.
One thing Yuri hadn't counted on, though, was the door lock clicking open. Before they could do anything about it, Eric entered the room. His eyes immediately lit on the pair, disentangling themselves just a little too late.
"What the hell," he growled, staring at them for a moment in disgust before grabbing what he had come into the room for and stalking back out. The sound of the slammed door lingered in the air for a while.
"Um," said Flynn, scratching the back of his tousled blond hair. "I hope I didn't cause you trouble."
"Nah," said Yuri, breathing deeply. The one time that he and that jock would end up crossing paths... "He'll look at me differently, I think, but I can deal with it."
Flynn nodded thoughtfully, then smiled. It held amusement, a little regret.
"I should go."
He headed for the door, looking back for a moment. "I'll see you later?"
Yuri grinned. "Oh, yeah. And hey, it was nice meeting you. Again." He winked, and Flynn laughed.
"You too." Then he was gone. Yuri chuckled to himself as he scrolled to Estelle's name on his contacts list and brought the phone up to his ear, listening as it rang only once.
"Tell me," she said. So he did.
A/N: Some of you may have already read this over at my writing journal on LJ, though it's been edited somewhat. This is going to be a multichapter now (though I'm still working just as diligently to update Glass Fortress), and the chapters may be somewhat more sporadic than my other fic. It really depends on what kind of response I get and whether the plot bunnies bite. Unlike GF, I don't have the overall story of this one plotted out. But I do have ideas for the immediate future, and will have the next part of this up shortly!