Disclaimer: I do not own SIH or JR or any of their characters.

Fall

Chapter One: New Neighbor


Yokozawa stood near the dumpsters, smoking, as he disinterestedly watched the other "M" University students returning after their summer break.

The student-heavy housing unit his one room flat was located in, was cheaply made and about two thirds of the apartment complex's residents had gone home for the vacation. Having stayed behind, he'd enjoyed the absent, intrusive sounds coming through the paper-thin walls, the evidence of living over or under others. Given this, he really wasn't all that pleased to see his neighbors back again.

Yokozawa's normally serious demeanor grew increasingly stern as he observed his classmates buzzing about. Witnessing the happy reunions of friends, he scowled. From his place of quiet surveillance, he caught snippets of their excited chatter about trips and family. For him, however, there had been no reason to return home and, in truth, no real home to return to.

He had been born late into his parents lives and growing up, soon realized neither had been particularly pleased with this intrusion. He'd quickly learned that things went best if he left his parents alone: they seemed happiest when reminders of his existence were minimal.

Then, three years ago, his father had passed away. Though he never quite understood why, Yokozawa thought that somehow his mother felt him responsible for his father's decline. This was a key factor in his leaving home even before completing high school. Two years after his father died, his mother re-married, wedding his father's older-brother.

Still trying to be a dutiful son, he had gone home to Osaka to see his mother for a weekend during the break. But it was clear after just a day that there was no room for him in his mother's new household. In addition, after having pined after his brother's wife for years, Yokozawa's new stepfather had no intention of sharing his long-sought-after wife with any one now, not even her son.

While Yokozawa had not really expected his mother to protest this, her silence in the matter had still pained him. So, rather than stay, the twenty year-old cut his summer trip short and returned to Tokyo. Back on his own, he'd hoped that the remainder of his university vacation would offer him some fruitful time for his writing, but he'd no such luck: everything had stalled and even with all the quiet, no words came to him.

At least I had that internship at Marukawa, so I can't say that I was entirely unproductive.

Yokozawa tapped out his cigarette. He threw the butt into the dumpster and looked down to where half-a-dozen cats contentedly twined about his legs, happy for the meal he'd just given them.

"Merrroowwrrr," one particularly bold, yellow feline chirped, gazing up with unblinking green eyes.

He bent down and slowly extended his fingers, allowing the tom he'd nicknamed "Gunzi" to push into his hand.

Looking up from petting the cat, he saw an unfamiliar car pull up into the apartment's small crowded lot. Being that this unit housed students, few of the residents had vehicles. Yokozawa watched a striking, dark-haired youth clamber out. The boy opened the back door, pulled out a smallish suitcase and, to his surprise, a pet carrier.

Gray eyes watched as the new arrival muttered some soft, soothing words to the mewling creature inside the carrier. Then the boy's phone rang. He set the pet crate with its now quiet occupant on the roof of the car as he pulled his cell out of his pocket to answer it.

"What?"

The surprisingly deep voice was sharp, and loud enough for Yokozawa to hear at least one side of the conversation clearly.

"Eighteen years you don't talk to me and now I'm not even gone a day and you ring me four times? If I'd known that was what I needed to do to have a conversation with you, I would have moved out when I was ten."

The boy's broad shoulder's stiffened as he listened to the caller on the other end of the line.

"I told you, a guy will come and pick up the rest of my stuff tomorrow… No. I paid him already with the money you left… No. I don't need any more. Bye."

Yokozawa watched the boy put his phone away. The kid took up the carrier again and his suitcase. As the teen turned, their eyes caught and he was momentarily stunned by the sharp amber gaze that met his own. He knew the newcomer had immediately ascertained his eavesdropping and he also knew he should have the decency to lower his eyes and look away but he couldn't bring himself to do it.

The two of them were locked into a silent standoff, until a loud voice pierced the hot afternoon air. Yokozawa dropped his eyes only to see the cats milling around his legs suddenly scatter.

"Hey, Yokozawa! What the hell did I say about you feeding those strays?" Sawada the building's assistant manager shouted.

Yokozawa glanced up again just in time to see the potbellied, middle-aged man lumber over to him. He casually kicked the empty, plastic plate he'd put the cats' food on under the dumpster as he pulled out a new smoke.

"Don't," he gruffed around his cigarette as the breathless man drew near.

"Eh?"

"You said don't feed them," Yokozawa growled, lighting up.

"That's right! I don't want them hanging around."

"Well, do you see any cats here?" Staring hard at Sawada through his exhalation, Yokozawa's smoke-laden voice was brusque. "Any trace of feeding? I mean, you make these accusations when I'm just standing here innocently smoking."

"Don't get cocky with me, you disrespectful punk!" Sawada huffed, "I saw a dozen cats here!"

"Really?" Yokozawa's brows crooked in mock surprise.

Furious with this bad attitude, Sawada couldn't help but rise to the baiting tone. He glanced angrily around and his eye caught that of the boy carrying the suitcase.

"Hey! you there!"

The youth's head turned to him, revealing an apathetic gaze but Sawada pressed on. "You saw all those cats here. Right?"

The boy's expression didn't alter. "No," he said simply and began moving forward again.

Sawada sighed in exasperation at how these brats hung together, then he saw the carrier the teen held. His bushy brows folded and he redirected his fury at the new arrival.

"Hey, what the hell, kid! No pets… did you not read your lease?"

This distraction offered Yokozawa the opportunity to amble away, making a very casual looking escape. Still, his conscience pricked him and he felt uncomfortable just leaving the other boy to Sawada's haranguing, especially after the guy had defended him in a way. At the base of the stairs, Yokozawa stopped. He cursed his responsible nature and turned around to see what further mess would occur as a result of his disobedience.

However, rather than act flustered, the new tenant simply stared at the assistant manager until Sawada became unnerved. "Well, what do you have to say for yourself?"

"Pet deposit," the newcomer offered coolly. "Substantial."

He set both his case and the carrier down and pulled out his wallet. From this he extracted a sheet of paper and handed it over.

Yokozawa watched as the assistant manager's expression shifted immediately. Sawada passed the slip back. After a moment of consideration, trying to save face he declared huffily, "Pet deposit or no, that thing gets out or makes too much noise... You'll both be looking for a new home!

"Got it?"

"Yes, sir," Though his words were polite the new arrival's tone indicated otherwise.

"Damn delinquents!" Sawada muttered, retreating from the expressionless gaze. He nodded at the watching Yokozawa. "I have my eye on you too, Yokozawa! So don't get too comfortable!"

The two young men watched the huffing manager disappear around the edge of the building. The boy with the carrier picked up his things and began moving once more towards the building. Yokozawa nodded slightly when the other's eyes connected with his again as he made way over to the base of the stairs.

"So you like cats?" the new arrival asked, though his voice sounded disinterested.

Yokozawa looked down at the carrier. A soft, mournful mew emanated from inside it.

"They're easier to get along with than people."

Yokozawa heard a snort and looked up into the boy's eyes and noticed a flicker of light there.

"No argument here," the boy murmured as he mounted the stairs.

Figuring this to be the end of their conversation, Yokozawa said nothing. He headed up to his apartment and was surprised to see the other traveling his same route a few paces ahead of him.

Finally, when the other youth had just passed Yokozawa's door, the newcomer turned and stared hard at him. "What's up with the following? I don't need any more stalk... er... strays!"

Yokozawa felt his anger rise at this, though he kept his face impassive. It gave him no small satisfaction then, to pull his apartment key out of his pocket and dangle it meaningfully in front of his accuser before slipping it into the lock before him.

"I live here."

The other boy set his suitcase down and rubbed the back of his head uncomfortably. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a key of his own, slipping it into the door next to Yokozawa's. "I guess we're neighbors then," He murmured without apologizing.

"Ummmm..." Yokozawa, opened his door without further comment. Then, for some reason, feeling unusually generous, he looked over at his new neighbor and offered with a nod, "I'm Yokozawa."

The other boy's eye's widened a bit at this verbal olive branch. He nodded back, "Saga… uh … wait, I mean Takano."

"Don't know your own name?" Yokozawa rumbled, getting even for the "stray" comment. He regretted this when the slight flicker of friendship that had lit Takano's eyes blew out.

"Long story," Takano mumbled looking away as he opened his own door and pushed his case in with his foot.

Again Yokozawa found himself going against his usually solitary nature. "Maybe you can tell it to me sometime."

He wasn't sure but he thought he saw an ember's glow again in the other's gaze as Takano glanced back at him briefly before he turned away once more and moved into his apartment.

"Maybe," Takano mumbled before closing the door behind him.


I keep putting a moratorium on myself for new stories, but the plot bunnies are multiplying out of control in my brain. This story should be like three chapters (though those of you who know me understand that means at least five… and yes… one of these will be Yokozawa X Takano lemon). Sorry to tease but don't expect an update anytime soon.

This is dedicated to miss Tea Bags… It was a prompt she gave me quite a long time ago and is in honor of our own tumultuous correspondence (presently placid).

Please Review…