Summary: Miyagi just wanted to be a better man (but only after being prodded to it). Shinobu simply had a lot of problems, very few of them school-related.
Disclaimer: I own nothing. Also, this is un-beta-ed, and though I am fairly meticulous, there could still be the odd grammar issue. I doubt there are spelling errors since that's my niche, and even if it weren't, there is always Spell Check. Apologies.
'Baka, you've been staring at that same spot for the past twenty minutes. It isn't about to change any.'
Miyagi Yoh stirred restlessly in his ergonomic office chair - speaking of which, was not living up to the standard advertised when he had made the purchase. It molded to his strong back just fine but the problem was that it did it too well. The chair gripped his form and kept it positioned in one place, anatomically straight and supported, but he felt rather like he was stuck there when he sat in it, and that fact only made him squirm harder than he would have normally during his fits of distraction.
It was yet another ponderous afternoon in which Miyagi faced the conflict of a full stack of papers in his inbox, and absolutely no will remaining with which to deal with them.
He glanced covertly over his shoulder to the other side of the room, where his assistant's desk stood empty.
It was habit from the many times they did have the pleasure of working together, and for an unknown reason Kamijou seemed perturbed whenever he felt the elder's eyes cross over to where he was, as if he had some sort of sixth sense to pinpoint it with. Because he now instinctively feared the ferocity of the younger professor's retaliation, he had trained himself to be more stealthy in sneaking a peek.
Alas, today none of that mattered. The devil had gone home as soon as he had finished his tasks for the day, leaving behind Miyagi, whose spunk had steadily dissipated the more he found himself without his main source of amusement.
Miyagi had tried to finish off the rest of the grading for the essay he had recently assigned to one of his higher-level courses, but only had been able to muster the drive to sort them out into preliminary piles based on the quality of their content: great, good, passable, in danger, and, lastly, concerning.
He did not enjoy giving out bad marks, but such was the life of a teacher. Usually in most scenarios, at least at this stage, his students were not bad essayists. He had come to know that it was generally one of two reasons why they did not hand in a well-written paper. Either the content had been difficult to pick apart - which would leave the blame at his door as an instructor for not having clarified it properly, or the student had some pressing personal problems to distract their studies.
If a student seemed to be having some troubles that the professor perceived during lecture, or if those problems manifested in a low grade, Miyagi always strived to meet with that student one-on-one, just to see if he couldn't help them back onto the right track. This was far more convenient for him to do now that he could leave the instruction of the introductory courses to Kamijou, and instead focus on his elite, passionate about literature, students.
He truly cared about each of them and their unique paths, and would do everything he could to boost them to success. The professor could not even begin to count the number of times he had stayed on campus late with a frantic student, allaying their fears and providing gentle guidance as they worked through the ruffles in a certain project or assignment. To tell the truth, it was all he lived for, these days.
After doing that much work, he felt properly exhausted. His prospects for other entertainment seemed bleak, so it seemed that no matter what, he would have to resolve himself to the task of pushing through and grading the essays.
Of course though, it would go so much faster if there were two brains instead of one combing them over...
Miyagi whipped out his phone from his slacks pocket, hitting one of the first speed dials. Kamijou probably would not be amused to know that he had him on one of those shortcuts, but it was convenient in those many moments where he needed to quickly track down his subordinate.
To his joy, he did not have to wait for more than a few rings before the man in question picked up.
"Ka~mi~jou," he trilled happily over the phone. Miyagi deigned to leave off his usual appellation of 'my sweet honey', as not to enrage his prickly assistant professor before he had even asked him nicely for something.
"I sincerely hope, for your sake, that this is important," Hiroki replied, his voice guarded by the usual hissing brand of ire he employed to keep his superior at arm's length. The elder fought a chuckle - yet lost - at his guesses as to why his devil might be so ruffled by a call. 'Probably about to get something good from that giant of his - he did speed on out of here earlier like there was a gift waiting ahead for him...'
"What could be more important than the work we do here?"
"I'm hanging up," Kamijou informed him shortly.
"But there's so much! And it's all... can't you just come by for half of it?"
"Ka-miiiii," he drew out the surname, but ultimately did not reach the second half before he received a rather impassioned, if brief, rant.
"No! Do your own work, Miyagi, that's what you're paid for. I am home for the day, and I have done all that is required of me. If you are bored, well... I have a brilliant suggestion, so listen! Why don't you get up off your selfish ass and do something for someone else for once in your goddamn life!" He hung up after that declaration, his tone ringing in Miyagi's ear.
Normally, he would not have taken to heart the raging demon's vitriolic words, but today of all days, they pierced his consciousness through, causing him to tip back into the mold of his office chair, lost for thought.
He, selfish? Was that true?
It was not a thought he wanted to ponder, so instead he turned to another task, rifling through the stacks of essays littering his desks, and beginning with the unpromising ones, thinking to work his way up. To save the best for last. Maybe by the time he reached there, he'd feel cheered once more.
There was a great sigh of relief as Miyagi set down the last paper, filing into into his outbox with a hint of pride. And who said he couldn't really crank the elbow grease when he wanted to?
At any rate, his students would be happy to get their results in so soon - most of them were far too jaded by the professor's slow return rate that this would come as a nice surprise. He himself was glad to finally be rid of the build-up. The work had been looming for the past few days, and now he could relax.
Also, he could now leave the office, having tied up his loose ends, and head on home.
Miyagi did not linger for long, packing up his belongings quickly, revitalized at the impending change of scenery. It was just beginning to hint at darkness outside, a lovely time of day in which he'd relish the walk to his vehicle, and the lack of a staggered commute to deal with. Perhaps everything was truly well with the world after all.
The professor had been strolling just outside the university gate when a voice called out, vying for his attention.
"Ah, Miyagi-kyoujyu, may I have a minute of your time?"
He turned to see one of his colleagues traipsing along behind him to catch up. He recognized the man, Akiyama Wataru, as belonging to the university's social sciences division, teaching a few different courses within that heading. Miyagi did not have a close relationship with him, but they knew each other passing well due to administrative meetings.
The older man soon approached, smiling behind thick-rimmed glasses. He was certainly a lively face among some of the raven-haired man's coworkers, and he had always thought their teaching styles somewhat similar.
"Miyagi-san, I had been meaning to ask you about something. Well, and your assistant, if he were enticed I suppose," the other professor left off, giving the impression that he seriously doubted the second half was a possibility.
Miyagi had to admit that once he knew what it was, he agreed. Kamijou wasn't impossible, but his advisory skills were best suited for his own literature students, not with a bunch of other, younger kids who required general guidance and a kind hand.
"I've just been put at the helm of a group who runs an advice website of sorts. The service is for high school children who have questions about coming to university. That could be a simple as questions about what life is like here, or the expectations they will face, but it could also be for students who need guidance on what department to pursue - they may have trouble knowing what they want. The respondents are all professors and other university faculty from around the country. It's all anonymous, and I was wondering if that might be something you would consent to become a part of? I hear so many good things from students of mine who have been in your classes..."
"It won't take up too much up of your free time, I promise. You may respond to the messages at your leisure - there's no quota or time limit. Just whenever you are able to, and you're on your computer."
Miyagi pondered the request. It didn't sound bad or anything, the question was did he care to do it?
"Here." Akiyama drew a small card out of his pocket and handed it over to Miyagi, who took it.
"That's the information you'll need if you decide to participate. I really hope that you will consider it, Miyagi-san, I think that you would be a fine addition to our group, and the students could use a man of your caliber lending them advice."
"I thank you for inviting me, Akiyama-san. It may be that I will join you, but that of course, will require some thought. If you'll excuse me...?"
"Of course, of course," the older professor murmured, bowing slightly. "Take your time. Good evening, Miyagi-san."
"As to you, Akiyama-san, a good evening."
The two academics then parted ways, both headed in opposite directions to return home - Miyagi to his car, and Akiyama to the nearest train depot. All along the drive, Miyagi's thoughts were occupied with other things, though he did pay some attention to the proposal made to him. Would it be so troubling to take that responsibility on? One would think the personal satisfaction he could glean would outweigh any nuisance inherent in the work.
Besides, he hated to admit it to himself, but he had really grown so old that he was bored with his life. He had been searching for a hobby for a while now, and though it wasn't the sort of hobby he had thought he'd take up, this was harmless. Better to fill his empty hours by boosting up another person than wallowing in his living room or office, staring at the walls for a distraction.
He was leaning toward a 'yes.'
Miyagi had been gazing listlessly into the abyss of his refrigerator for the past few minutes, considering what an analogy it could make to the similar emptiness of his free time when he finally snapped out of the reverie to notice his foolishness. There was nothing edible in there apart from a few beers and a single lonely head of cabbage - he was sure it wasn't enough to make a proper meal out of - so the logical course of action would be to order take-out.
He had nothing against that, but to tell truth it would have been nice if a ready-made meal had been sitting in there for him to graze on when he came home from work. Far less effort, and probably cheaper than ordering food as often as he did. He just did not have the energy nor the inclination, and probably not even the skill to prepare his own meals, though, and so the debate raged on, seven days a week, between his stomach and his good sense.
The elder sighed and drew one of the drinks out of the store, popping off the top and closing the door. If nothing else, this was done right, as the alcohol was perfectly chilled for consumption; the only companion he had for the evening.
For some reason, in his languor, he found that he wasn't so much hungry as moping about his kitchen had become a nightly ritual. He'd peek around to see if anything changed (never had it), feel sorry for himself, and then press on with whatever he could find to occupy his time.
It was late, but not so late, and Miyagi knew that sleep, while passing the night away, would not be healthy for him, or at least, the amount of sleep he'd get if he started now. Whenever he overdid it, he often ended up feeling more tired than he had been before that session. Factor in that article he'd read that claimed excessive sleep was a sign of depression, and well, he wasn't inclined to be hopping into bed just yet.
If he could just do something before resting, some activity, then his conscience would be set at ease.
As if bidden, fingers that had been thrust carelessly into his front pocket alighted upon a crisp rectangle of paper. Comprehension dawned on him, and he brought it out, scanning the print carefully, holding the card about level with the middle of his broad chest.
He tilted his gaze up and away after finishing off the reading, considering the option. The professor drummed the card errantly against his body as he weighed the pros and cons, his drink beginning to chill the palm that held it.
The man made his decision when he took one more good look at his home, the emptiness of it that somehow he knew adding more belongings wouldn't help, and inwardly at himself, a perfect pair for the barrenness in human form. He might have been riding the line of exaggeration on that comparison, but at times it did seem hurtfully true.
He would do it.
With this new determination steeling him, he headed in the direction of his bedroom, only pausing to grab his laptop bag from amongst his work things. He plugged in and found the site quickly, feeling, despite himself, some anticipation at sampling it for the first time. He reminded himself of the joy that he got from helping the students who attended his seminars, and thus he was further convinced.
Miyagi clicked the log-on prompt, shoulders set, and mind resigned. For once in so many years, he was going to have to put in an effort to care at all hours, not just during his work schedule. To be responsible for another person's well-being, even if that well-being was strictly in an academic sense. The age group of the kids he was going to be advising threw him stumbling back into a vat of unbidden nostalgia, recalling a time he had been young and lost, much as they would be.
Though certainly, no one had felt the same burdens as he at that tender age. Being so gut-wrenchingly in love, and summarily having it ripped away from him by a force he could not control... it had broken him, and as much as Miyagi was a jolly man by nature, there were some spaces within him that were not, could not, and most of all, he would not allow to be fixed.
Perhaps this would be a good exercise for him. With any luck, he'd be able to steer a few youngsters in the right direction, and their success would be his joy. It might feel pleasant to be a guiding influence outside of the older students he normally dealt with.
It was rather late for a school night, so he took the liberty of updating a few things on his profile - nothing much outside of his professional qualifications, what subject he taught but not where (as this was supposed to be anonymous), a philosophy of learning, and a small greeting.
He had managed this without too much trouble. Miyagi was more computer-proficient than might appear at first glance, and the layout was spartan and very accessible besides. It was not that he had a predilection for technology, but he was not dense. This was a part of the world he was now living in, and it was none-too-slowly becoming a required skill.
Due to the hour, the professor had been prepared to call it a night and trundle off to his warm bed, but, out of nowhere, a insistent 'ping' noise interrupted his winding down routine.
Miyagi sidled over to the laptop to investigate it, one hand scrolling the mouse to where a pop-up had appeared, indicating he had received a message. His usual laziness gave him another side to consider when he made his decision - read it, or leave off until tomorrow?
He scratched his head with his free hand, ruffling his dark locks unconsciously as he mulled it over. Indeed, it was late, and he would do well to ignore this and sleep, but unwittingly, his curiosity was piqued. He had said that he would give this extracurricular an honest try, so... he chose to click on the script, opening the message for his perusal.
Shininja: 'Can I ask you a personal question?'
It was this one inconsequential phrase that would, in the months following, turn around to bite him in the ass, for it was at the root of so many later frustrations.
Honestly, Miyagi sometimes thought that instead, he should have just walked off to bed. Alas, the smarter part of him knew that taking that different step ultimately wouldn't have saved him from the trouble he found himself in later on.
At least not when that mess involved one very persistent terrorist.
TO BE CONTINUED.
A/N: Ehehe, I am very excited, as this is my first story for Junjou Romantica. I cannot say if the Egoists or the Terrorists are my favorite couple; I am very fond of them both. An aside - it makes me question my sanity that I was only able to complete this chapter under the influence of 90's pop music. Aqua, to be exact.
I hope that you are enjoying it so far, though I admit this open chapter is slow, and I would love to have some reviews (questions/chat/suggestions/corrections etcetera are welcome! - For example what should our dear Miyagi's screen-handle be?)