Chapter 2: Getting Busy Doing Nothing

"Thank you for the yukata…Shoyo-sensei." Hijikata said as he walked next to his teacher towards the dining room. After Shoyo had woken Hijikata up from his slumber a good few hours later, Hijikata finally got a good look at his yukata. It was made of a simple black material, tied together by a grey obi, and Hijikata tugged on its ends gratefully. Shoyo had gestured for Hijikata to follow him out to where supper was being served, all the while smiling amicably and speaking in kind tones to the young boy. Hijikata himself had been content at simply listening to his teacher explain the schedule for the day, when breakfast was served, when classes started and the such, and had entertained the thought of reaching out to grasp the hand of the man who had treated him extremely kindly since his arrival.

Finally plucking the courage, Hijikata had quickly reached for the other's hand before grasping it with upmost determination. There was a slight pause in Shoyo's speech, before Hijikata felt his hand being squeezed and they continued walking forwards.

That warmth had been very nice, Hijikata had decided as he stared around from his seat at a low table. Kids (all of them seemingly older than him) were scattered around the table, all digging heartily into their meals of white rice, miso soup, and mackerel with glasses of milk, while speaking in happy, fast tones to their friends. Hijikata poked sullenly at his fish, feeling rather alone, before taking a big bite out of it. He continued eating without pause, pretending to be caught up in his dinner in order to avoid eye contact with anyone.

"Hello." A sudden voice spoke up, but Hijikata continued to eat, believing the person to be speaking to someone else, until the voice repeated again, "Hello."

Looking up, Hijikata clumsily dropped the piece of mackerel he had been holding with his chopsticks, and with a blush staining his cheeks attempted to discreetly pick it back up. Sakata continued watching this with bored eyes until Hijikata managed to brush the dropped piece of fish back into his bowl and looked up before giving a light nod and turning back towards his meal.

After a brief pause, Sakata spoke up again. "I'm sorry Zura made you cry. He's always like that. Super careless."

"Ah…no," Hijikata put down his bowl and decided he was full anyways. "I'm sorry for crying in front of you, Sakata-san."

"Just Gintoki is fine," Sakata…Gintoki said with a careless shrug of his shoulders. "If you call me Sakata-san, I'm really gonna feel like an old man." He proceeded to pick his nose out in the open, and Hijikata stared at him blankly before nodding.

"Okay then. I'm sorry for crying in front of you, Gintoki…"

Finished picking his nose, Gintoki flicked the remnants into the wild yonder, and said simply, "Don't be. But if it makes you feel any better, I don't have a family either."

"Oh. Sorry." Hijikata offered, deciding there was absolutely no need to clarify to the older boy that it wasn't so much that he didn't have a family, but that they simply didn't want him. Gintoki watched him with strangely blank eyes before shrugging and standing up. Walking around the table, he tugged at Hijikata's arm until the younger boy stood up. Hijikata started as Gintoki began dragging him from the dining room and stared in confusion at the back of his ridiculously curly hair.

"Wait, Gintoki, where–?"

"I have something that'll make you feel better," was the simply response and Hijikata's eyes squinted in confusion before staring back at the half-eaten dinner that they left behind.

"But I didn't clean—"

"Someone else will do it," Gintoki interrupted indifferently and Hijikata gaped at him. "This is more important."

They walked through winding corridors and the chattering of conversations and laughter with light drifted further and further away the deeper they walked. Hijikata didn't even notice how late it probably already was until he noticed the shadows dancing in the darkened halls. Unconsciously, the younger boy tightened his grasp on the other's hand, and jolted when Gintoki simply squeezed it back in return.

"Scared?" Gintoki's taunting voice seemed to bounce around in the halls, and Hijikata's eyes narrowed before he puffed out his chest as much as he could (not that it made much of a difference as the perm-head wasn't looking at him).

"No. Why would I be?"

"No reason," Gintoki sang back nonchalantly, "just that your hand's beginning to sweat."

Hijikata flinched just a tiny bit before he yelped indignantly, "It is not!"

Gintoki, however, had stopped and didn't answer him. Pulling open the shoji doors before him, the older boy entered the room with Hijikata trailing cautiously behind him. The room was bathed in a silvery glow caused by the moon, and the black-haired boy stared entranced as Gintoki's hair seemed to glow under the natural light, much like an ethereal being. So focused he was on the other's strange hair, that Hijikata didn't even notice the cardboard box sitting before him till he was bent halfway over it.

"How the heck did you not notice that?" Gintoki asked from across the room, where he was shuffling through another cardboard box with the words, 'Sakata Gintoki's Stuff' scrawled messily on the side. Hijikata huffed and pushed himself up, his knees stinging a bit from the fall, but nothing he hadn't experienced before.

"What're you doing?" He asked and Gintoki spared him a split-second glance before looking back down.

"I'm looking for something."

"Looking for what?"

"Looking for something that'll make you feel better."

"I'm already feeling better." Hijikata answered truthfully, and while Gintoki didn't look up this time, the younger noticed a silver eyebrow arching in question.

"Are you a masochist or something? It's alright if you are," Gintoki nodded sagely. "I think Zura is one. And I think I'm beginning to think that I'm a super sadist. The other day, I ate some mochi in front of Takasugi and I didn't share. It made me feel important. Super sadistic, right?"

Hijikata pondered over that long and hard as the rifling sounds continued. Finally, he asked, "What's a masochist and a sadist?"

Gintoki shook his head. "Never mind, it's not important. Ah-ha!" He yelled out in triumph, and Hijikata walked slowly towards him, carefully avoiding all boxes strewn recklessly around the small area. Gintoki quickly pulled down the younger boy once Hijikata reached his side before shoving a book into his face. Pulling it away from his face and carefully holding it with his hands, Hijikata blinked slowly at the colourful pictures and words depicted on the cover.

"What's this?" Hijikata asked in bewildered wonderment, already enraptured by the happy drawings and the bold words that seemed to almost pop from the page. Gintoki's chest puffed up in pride and he traced a giddy finger over the spine of the magazine. Hijikata pushed it back towards the older boy, assuming he wanted it back, but Gintoki simply shook his head and pushed it back to Hijikata.

"It's a JUMP magazine," Gintoki explained patiently, and Hijikata clutched it to his chest even though he didn't understand what it actually was. "It has tons and tons of manga chapter in there, and there's new JUMP magazines that come out every week. I only have three issues because it's super hard to get your hands on them. That one's the first JUMP I've ever gotten – it's from Shoyo-sensei."

Hijikata's hands faltered in fear of damaging such a priceless gift, but Gintoki shrugged apathetically. "I've already read that one hundreds of times," the silver-haired boy stated, "so you can have it. But make sure you take good care of it. JUMP is the second best thing in the world…after sweets. No wait, third thing in the world…after sweets and Shoyo-sensei. Yep."

There was a silence where Hijikata just stared at his new possession in awe.

Gintoki nudged his pointedly. "Go on and read it. I'll tell you all my favourites."

And that was when Hijikata decided that though Shoyo-sensei was nice and sweet, Gintoki was probably his new favourite person in the world.

He cracked open the magazine with its yellowed pages and stains caused by food and tea and all other things ("Stained with love," Gintoki said simply), and proceeded to attempt to understand the world his new favourite person seemed to be so absolutely infatuated with.

Shoyo found them later that night, much past their bedtime with everyone else already tucked in, inside the storage room, surrounded by boxes and leaning against each other. Shoyo chuckled in faint amusement even though he knew he should be reprimanding them as he caught sight of the beloved magazine connecting them.

Meanwhile, Hijikata was lost in ridiculous dreams involving ninjas and orange jumpsuits – he hadn't slept so well in quite a while.

Or woken up feeling so harassed and disturbed before.


Chapter title from the song 'Busy' by Olly Murs.

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