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m - stony silence

chemistryisfun in ghostsugar_rp

Trouble [closed to Chiaki]

[takes place right after Chance of a Lifetime]

Counseling Room 2 had ridiculous, brightly flowered curtains. Orange and yellow chrysanthemums with furling green leaves burst into bloom against the paned windows. Yuzuya felt it was incongruous. No one was summoned to a school counseling room for a happy reason. Ever.

Seated at a little round table beside those silly designer curtains, Yuzuya was at a loss for words. He opened his mouth as if to say something, then changed his mind, closing it again and leaned his elbow on the table, resting his chin on his hand. A brand-new manila folder from Student Records was lying open on the table before him. The tab of the folder had been neatly labeled not three weeks ago, "1st Year C Class - Aoki Chiaki"

Not three weeks ago this folder had been made, just as it had been made for each and every first year student. The surprising thing was that a mere month into the academic year, this folder already had the yellow and white copy of a disciplinary write-up in it. The slanted, perfect handwriting of one Samuel Kramer explained the offense in perfect detail. But that didn't mean that it was any easier for Yuzuya to believe.

Yuzuya took a moment to read through the report again. This was all rather surreal, and it was making him feel rather old and tired. He cleared his throat, took a sip of coffee to wash down a stubborn bit of phlegm or something that was irritating in his windpipe. Finally he exhaled and glanced up at the diminuitive boy seated opposite him. "Well. Aoki-san. I assume you know why we are here."
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Getting scolded by Kramer-sensei had been awful, but this was infinitely worse. Chiaki usually tried so hard to stay out of trouble, and he'd gotten along so well with Shibata-sensei...to have disappointed him at all -- like this -- he felt awful. Chiaki was normally such a well-behaved student -- but when Matsuzaki-senpai had told him to go up to the roof... Well, why hadn't he just said no?

There was really nothing left but to take responsibility for his actions. Even if he really hadn't wanted to look at those girls.

He sat in the chair opposite Yuzuya with his hands folded on his lap, his eyes fixed on the table. This was so nerve-wracking and uncomfortable -- he wasn't sure he'd ever been in a situation room like this before. He tried to swallow, but his mouth was suddenly so dry. "Yes," he said, quietly and politely.
The ticking of the clock seemed especially loud in the silent room. Outside, Yuzuya could hear the baseball team counting off their warm-up exercises over at the baseball field. "Then suppose you could fill me in," Yuzuya sighed, looking over Kramer's write-up again. "Because I'm completely... baffled, as to why you did this."

Cutting class to climb up on a roof and peek at girls getting a medical exam? This was indeed up there on the list of weird.
Me too, Chiaki wanted to say, but he refrained. He tried to swallow again, barely suppressing the dry cough that was struggling to crawl out of his throat. "I-i-it wasn't my idea," he said, unable to control the nervous stammer. His face was tinged a slight pink with embarrassment and shame. "It was M-Matsuzaki-senpai's idea. I d-didn't know why he wanted me to come up to the roof; he j-just t-t-told me to."
Yuzuya folded his hands and considered this. "Aoki-san. I would rather you were honest about this," he said, his voice grave. He exhaled and picked up his pencil, tapped it on his finger. He gazed at the curtains for a moment, then turned his eyes back to Chiaki. He tried to keep his tone calm and soothing as he spoke.

"Look, I was your age, too, once. I know how it is. Your....um, body is going through a lot of changes. It can be very confusing." Last week he'd suspected that Chiaki had a different kind of confusion going on, from how chummy the boy seemed with his classmate Chiba Yadoru. Bit of a boy-crush, perhaps? But now here the kid was getting caught peeking at half-dressed girls. Yuzuya frowned and scratched his head, perplexed and embarrassed. The boy had an awful lot on his plate, from the looks of things.
"N-no!" Chiaki burst out, lifting his head to look up at Yuzuya with wide, protesting eyes. "Th -- that's not it! I-I promise, I'm not lying, sensei! As soon as Matsuzaki-senpai told me why he'd called me up there, I w-w-wanted us to leave! I t-tried telling him that it was wrong, but h-he wouldn't listen, a-and -- then Kramer-sensei came, and..." Chiaki's breathing was less even now; it was clear he was upset. He just wanted Shibata-sensei to believe him. He'd accept responsibility for his actions, but those intentions had been Suguru's, not his.
Yuzuya regarded Chiaki solemnly for a few silent moments. He leaned back against the back of his chair. "You had to have known the girls' health checks were going on in the gym. It was announced more than once during the morning and afternoon announcements. The boys went yesterday. You must have been examined by the doctors. Yes, or no?"
Chiaki could feel his face burning. He felt trapped. He didn't care if he was punished; he just wanted Shibata-sensei to believe him! He could feel his mind spinning, threatening to shut down altogether under the uncomfortable pressure. He tried swallowing again, and this time he couldn't stop from coughing a little.

"I was," he mumbled, back to staring at the table as if in a quiet panic. "B-but, please, sensei, believe me...I d-d-didn't know why he wanted me there, and it wasn't my idea. I didn't even th-think he'd want to -- d-do something like that, or..." Chiaki cringed slightly, and his hands tightened on his lap. "I d-don't have any interest in -- in -- in anything like that. I promise, sensei, I'm n-not lying."
Yuzuya turned to the sink and drew Chiaki a cup of water, and passed it to him. "Okay," he relented, with a sigh. "I believe you. Why did you cut class, though? Did he pressure you into it?"
Chiaki dared to lift his eyes only to watch Yuzuya place the glass in front of him. "I-I -- no," he said. A different person would have lied, would have convinced himself he'd been pressured, but Chiaki knew better. "H-he just -- told me to come. M-Matsuzaki-senpai is, u-um, one of the only people wh-who's been nice to me at this school. I j-just...I wanted him to l-like me." It was a pitiful explanation, even if it was the truth. Chiaki felt self-contempt burning hot in the pit of his chest. "It was a stupid decision. I'm s-sorry I did it."
Yuzuya steepled his hands and rested his lips against his forefingers. "Hmm."

He processed this for a moment, looking on Chiaki with sympathy. "Okay. I've done dumb things before, too. I know how it is. Don't cut class, all right?" he advised. "You should know right away that that means trouble. I don't think your friend Matsuzaki should have asked you to do such a thing. But maybe he's just troubled. I don't know." Thanks be to the universe that Matsuzaki wasn't in Yuzuya's homeroom.

"In any case," Yuzuya said quietly, "He's got Kramer-sensei to deal with now, and I'm sure he'll be writing you a sincere apology for getting you into trouble. Possibly in English. Ha!" he couldn't help a chuckle here. Then he remembered himself and cleared his throat. "Um, yeah."

He reached out and patted Chiaki's shoulder. "Hey. It's all right, Aoki-san. What you did was wrong, and stupid. But everyone does stupid things sometimes. Don't beat yourself up about it. All right? That would be really counter-productive."
Chiaki lifted his head to look up at Yuzuya. His face was flushed in embarrassment, and if it weren't for his glasses, it would have been easier to see the red edging around his eyes. But Yuzuya believed him -- at last -- and that made him a little more relieved. "I'm s-s-sorry, sensei," he mumbled again, but this apology seemed somehow more personal.
Yuzuya nodded, squeezed Chiaki's shoulder. Then he sat back in his chair and twirled his pencil around his thumb. "It's okay. You're a good kid, I think. I know you'll try to stay out of trouble from now on," he replied. There was a sneaky, passive command in that sentence. Yuzuya didn't like to order kids around right out unless it was absolutely necessary. He smiled wanly and waited for Chiaki to collect himself.
The gentle gesture went a long way with Chiaki. He sniffed and reached for the glass of water, taking a tentative sip. "Th-th-thank you, sensei," he said, and his sincerity was genuine. "I p-promise, it w-won't happen again."
Yuzuya smiled faintly and scratched the back of his head. "You're bringing back memories of myself," he admitted, his volume soft. "Hehe." Then he pushed his glasses up his nose and changed the subject as quickly as possible. "Anyway. We'd better get to the next order of business. Your punishment."
Chiaki nodded solemnly, trying to keep his shoulders square. He'd been stupid enough to cut class -- he deserved whatever was coming to him. "Yes, sensei," he said, keeping his voice steady as he could. "W-whatever it is, I d-deserve it."
"I think clean-up duty should do," Yuzuya informed him, going over the papers again. "You can clean things and pick up trash on the grounds every day before school for thirty minutes for the next week. Report to the teacher's room and I'll give you an assignment. For tomorrow, I'd like you to scrub out the sinks in the 1st years' hallway, wipe the mirrors, and refill the soap dispensers. Pick up any trash you can find around when you finish."
Chiaki gave a shaky nod. It was a long punishment, but it was by far not the worst Shibata-sensei could have given. "Th-thank you, sensei," he mumbled again, bowing his head slightly.
"All right, then." Yuzuya scribbled a note about the disciplinary action he was taking, and then closed the folder with a sigh. "Well. Let's go to the teacher's room together, because I think Kramer-sensei is expecting an apology from you, and I don't want to send you in there all alone." He got to his feet, and straightened his sweater and tie in preparation. Licked his fingers and ran them through his hair, apparently in the hopes that it would help the state his shaggy 'do was in.

It didn't.
Chiaki nodded again, standing up a little unsteadily. He swallowed, tugging his uniform jacket straight. Kramer-sensei was not someone Chiaki wanted to face right now, but Shibata-sensei was kind enough to come with him. "Thanks for believing me, Shibata-sensei," he said quietly.
Yuzuya nodded an affirmative. As he led Chiaki back to the teacher's room, coffee cup and file in hand, he stifled a yawn. "Let's get this mess over with and go home already. This is one day I'd really like to put behind me with a big bowl of katsudon. And a foot massage, but... dare to dream." He laughed, a timid chuckle in the empty air of the hallway. "At least I know where to get the katsudon."
Shibata-sensei's tentative laugh put Chiaki at much more ease. If he could laugh, then things weren't looking too bad for the two of them. He put a hand to his stomach as it growled quietly. He could go for some inaniwa udon, but he doubted they had any of that around here. Even just plain old shoyu udon would be good right now. "Yeah," he murmured in agreement.
As they neared the sliding door to the teacher's room, Yuzuya could hear the voice of Vice Principal Ono speaking with Samuel Kramer beyond the frosted glass. He paused, hand about to touch the door handle. Shit. A double whammy. He turned to Chiaki and whispered. "This won't be easy," he cautioned. "But give a sincere apology, bow really low, and that'll be enough. I'll get you out again fast. Get through this and then we can go grab some dinner, if you want. What do you say?"
Chiaki hesitated and looked up at Yuzuya with large, dark eyes. Was he hearing right? Had Shibata-sensei just -- offered to buy him dinner? After he'd screwed up so royally? "R...really?" he said, uncertainly. "Y-you'd do that?"
Yuzuya shrugged. "Why not? I'm hungry, you're hungry. No big deal." He took a breath, and offered Chiaki a nervous smile. "Here goes nothing." And with that, he slid the door open, and they went inside to face the music.

* * *

An hour later, Yuzuya and Chiaki were seated side by side at the counter of a back-alley diner. Yuzuya picked out what he wanted easily (jumbo katsudon and an iced tea) and slid the greasy plastic menu to Chiaki. "Get whatever you want," he said. "Pretty much everything is good here."
"Um -- a-ah, yeah," Chiaki said, nodding. He put the menu down. It looked like this place had good udon. "Yeah, I, um. I like calligraphy, and moon-gazing. Also, um, gardening..." It was sort of a girly hobby, he'd been told, but he enjoyed it. It was really calming. "W-what about you, Shibata-sensei?"
"Not a big deal," Yuzuya assured him. He figured facing an angry Kramer was punishment enough for Chiaki to handle, honestly, but it just wouldn't look right for him not to assign any sort of disciplinary action just because the kid was nice and Kramer and Ono were scary. "Don't mention it."

He waited for the guy behind the counter to come over and take their orders, drummed his fingers a little on the countertop. "So..." he mused aloud, after a long silence. What could they talk about? He had to think of something. "You have any hobbies?"
"That's cool," Chiaki said, and he sounded genuine. "Picking up the trash on the beach...that's really admirable, Shibata-sensei." He sipped from his water. "I've never really played video games, but they seem like fun."
Yuzuya was considering how to answer this question when the old man behind the counter decided to come over and take their orders. Oh, good, he was saved.

But as soon as the guy had loped away again to make their food, Chiaki was looking up at him again, ready and eager. Yuzuya swallowed some of his ice water and pondered how best to say that he had no life. "Um... I don't know. I play video games, and read. I go to the nature preserve at the lake or to the beach to pick up trash...."

He was blanking out here, and he unbuttoned the top button of his collar, loosened his tie a fraction. "I grade papers?" he added, knowing he was reaching. "I don't have a ton of free time."
"That's cool," Chiaki said, and he sounded genuine. "Picking up the trash on the beach...that's really admirable, Shibata-sensei." He sipped from his water. "I've never really played video games, but they seem like fun."
Yuzuya smiled painfully and took a swig of his own water. Eating with a kid meant no beer, which kind of put a damper on the post-work reward dinner. It was okay though... for tonight anyway. He wiped his mouth.

"It's nothing special. I worry about the environment is all. I have a college classmate who's a park ranger at the lake and I hear from him sometimes. People leave so much garbage there. Sometimes it clogs streams, or animals get caught in it or try to eat it. It's really a shame," he finished. "I wish that there were more we can do, but if picking up trash helps even a little, then I can sleep better at night."
Regardless of what humble things Yuzuya said, Chiaki still thought it was admirable. He'd never thought much about the environment before. "Maybe I can go help the environment sometime, too," he said, mostly to himself.

It was then that their food arrived. The lull in conversation didn't matter so much now that they had food to fill their mouths. The steaming aromas filled Chiaki's nose -- it smelled delicious, just like noodles always did. He reached for a pair of chopsticks. "Thank you for the food, Shibata-sensei."
Yuzuya nodded to Chiaki. Up on the dusty little TV over the shelves behind the counter, a tabloid tv show on the screen was showing pictures of something that looked like haunted places. He tried not to look too hard. "Anytime," he replied.

"It's nothing," Yuzuya assured the boy, taking the lid off of his katsudon and sprinkling a little pepper on it. "Actually, i-it's nice to have company. For a change. I usually eat alone."

There was a ghost with bleeding eyes on the tv. Yuzuya blanched and looked down quickly, gluing his eyes to his food. He broke the cooked egg with his chopsticks, dividing the pork cutlet into bite-sized pieces.
Chiaki nodded in agreement, but he stopped halfway when he caught what was on the TV. He jumped conspicuously in his seat, narrowly avoiding slamming his knee up against the underside of the counter, and quickly ducked his head back toward his udon. Man, why did it have to be ghosts? He was at a restaurant. Somedays it just felt like ghosts and their ilk insistently followed him everywhere he went, whether real or on the TV. Not to mention, the backdrop for that one shot there looked suspiciously like a part of the Kikuryou campus...

"Itadakimasu," he muttered quickly, stuffing his mouth full of noodles in the hopes that the taste would distract his mind from the grotesque images on the TV.
Yuzu slurped his food up at a ravenous speed, shoveling rice, egg, and pork straight from the bowl into his mouth. He sighed out the steam from the hot rice. "Haa... this is really good stuff," he commented. A few bits of rice flew from his mouth when he did, sticking to his chin, his shirt front, the countertop. Reddening, Yuzuya hurried to wipe the rice from his face with his handkerchief, but didn't seem to notice the ones on his shirt. (Which went a long way to explain a lot of the scoldings he received from the Vice Principal after lunch breaks.)

"How is it?" Yuzu nodded to his student, trying to cover his display of poor manners. He was a teacher, he scolded himself. He should try harder to be respectable. The boy obviously needed adults around him he could relate to, and Yuzuya wasn't going to gain Chiaki's respect by slobbering all over like some down-on-his-luck bachelor with moth holes in his sweater-- even if that's what he was.
Despite all that, though, it made Yuzuya seem that much more human, and that was a comfort to Chiaki. That was why he liked Yuzuya -- he was so obviously just a man. So many of the adults in his life were imposing and frightening and far too high for him to reach, but Yuzuya -- Yuzuya was within arm's reach, and Chiaki liked that.

"Oh, it's very good," he said, and he was sincere -- the food was delicious. He'd have to remember this place for another time. "Th-thank you again, Shibata-sensei."
Yuzuya flashed Chiaki a soft smile. "I-It's my pleasure," he assured him. "Just... don't get in big trouble like this again. And especially not with Mr. you-know-who, okay? Just reporting back to him after your apology took a few weeks off my life."

Yuzu wasn't going to say 'don't get in trouble again.' It was only natural that a boy get in some minor trouble during his high school career. He just hoped Chiaki kept it to something much more innocent, like faking an injury to get out of P.E., or being just a little bit late coming back from lunch.

But missing weeks of lifespan nonwithstanding, the look in Yuzuya's dark blue eyes as he gazed down at Chiaki was affable and warm.