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Title: Sometimes I think Odysseus had the right idea
Author: Kate [[livejournal.com profile] greatfountain]
Pairing/Characters: Shinjo, Sekikawa, Aniya, Rookies ensemble / hinted Shinjo/Sekikawa and Aniya/Girl of the Week
Rating: R for language
Summary: Shinjo, before and after.
Note: For my baby doll [livejournal.com profile] merchendiver as a super-duper late (or early, at this point XD) birthday present. Yeah, this is that fic.>_>


It was only four days into the semester when Shinjo’s sister ratted him out for skipping school; it was something like a new record, for Kaede.

“Go to school today,” said his mother, her eyes and voice sharp.

Shinjo sighed, and nodded. It was probably good to show up once in the first week, anyway. So he packed his backpack—cigarettes, a lighter, and a notebook (but no pen). Then he left, ruffling his sister’s hair and smirking at her when she whined. He found himself being avoided even today, his first appearance on campus as a student, and found it darkly amusing. He’d tried, hadn’t he? To clean up?

He settled into his usual place on the couch, and smoked a cigarette as he watched Yufune kick ass at mahjong.

Aniya grumbled as he sat back. “Asshole,” he muttered, sharing a glance with Shinjo.

“It’s not his fault you suck,” answered Shinjo, and motioned for them to deal him in.

“Dude, where’ve you been?” asked Wakana, passing him his tiles.

“Around,” evaded Shinjo neatly, thinking of the smell of books.

“Uh-huh,” answered Okada, his voice sarcastic.

“Well, he had to have been somewhere,” said Sekikawa, “besides, what do we want him around here for? He smells like ass~”

Shinjo threw a volume of the closest manga at hand (Rokudenshi Blues) at his fat blond head. Sekikawa dodged, but barely, and laughed off Shinjo’s glare.

Shinjo’s stomach was declaring its desire for lunch when Mikoshiba made a feeble attempt to suggest they attend classes; Hiyama took care of that with a swift hand to the back of his head, and Aniya glared at him until he shut up. He left to go buy lunch as penance, and the whole lot of them relocated to the roof. Shinjo, leaning against the railing, poked at the bento his mother had made him take. He watched Hiyama and Wakana bicker over magazines and Yufune steal all of Okada’s chocolates before the other boy noticed and tackled him.

“Got a light?” asked Aniya, close to his side.

“My lighter died,” answered Shinjo, and leaned down to light the other boy’s cigarette with his own.

He looked up to see Sekikawa glaring at him, and straightened, abruptly, feeling as if he’d been caught out. Aniya bitched about ash in his hair, and Shinjo rolled his eyes as he brushed imaginary soot off of the other boy’s head.

They went their separate ways, at the end of the day—Aniya to meet the weekly girl, Mikoshiba to work at the family laundry (they all ignored this announcement but Sekikawa, who waved while he caught up with the group heading toward the batting cages). They were halfway there when Shinjo waved an abrupt goodbye. Sekikawa called after him, but Okada hushed him, saying, “he’s not gonna tell you, and nobody else has any idea, give it up.” Sekikawa frowned after him as he followed the rest.

Shinjo approached his destination, brushing smoke from his clothes and putting out his last cigarette. He pushed open the thick wooden door, and bowed his head to the man behind the counter.

Araki-san was not an old man, but his sheer knowledge put him far beyond anyone Shinjo had ever met (including every single one of his teachers, who were almost more bored in class than he was). "Good to see you again, Shinjo-kun," greeted the man, with a half-smile.

Shinjo half-smiled back, as he made a beeline for his usual back corner.

"There's a new one in that pile I think you'll like," Araki-san called after him; Shinjo his lifted his hand in acceptance and settled into his armchair to continue his adventures with Odysseus. He glanced at the new additions--a copy of Walden, and the first in a science-fiction series his father had recently started but he'd been too afraid to ask about.

--------------------------------------------------------------

His days passed with little variation, beyond his sister's favorite KAT-TUN idol of the day, Aniya's girlfriend, and his place in the Odyssey. That is, until the day Aniya followed Shinjo to the bookstore, pushy and silent and looking too interested for Shinjo to punch him or leave him (or both). "Put that out," ordered Shinjo, quietly, grinding his cigarette into the heel of his shoe and motioning for Aniya to do the same. Aniya blinked, and dropped it to the sidewalk, stomping on it.

Shinjo lead the way in, nodding as usual. Araki-san was busy with a customer; he waved a harried hello, and Shinjo moved to his chair, hefting the Odyssey and settling in to watch the unfolding events of the throne room bloodbath. Once or twice, an awkward-looking Aniya would open his mouth to speak, but Shinjo glared at him so sharply his mouth closed with an audible snap. After half an hour of raid texts and fingers drumming on the armrest of his chair, Aniya quietly informed Shinjo he had a date and high-tailed out with barely a goodbye.

He didn't tell anyone else about the trip. Shinjo is grateful for it.

--------------------------------------------------------------

"Is there a full copy of the Iliad anywhere?" asked Shinjo, suddenly, into the stillness of the shop.

"Why, that one no good, either?" asked Araki-san from the next aisle, up on his ladder and shelving books.

"It has the full text but the translation barely makes sense," answered Shinjo, sighing as he shut the book.

"Then maybe I'll--oh! I just got a used book collection in, there's a full Homer collection I was quite surprised to find, Shinjo-kun," said Araki-san. He crawled down his ladder rungs and motioned Shinjo back to the storeroom. Shinjo accepted the leather-bound, fat tome in his hands with something like reverence.

“Wow,” he said, thumbing through the pages carefully, “this is…wow.”

“I wish I could just give it away,” said Araki sadly, “but it’s a commission, or it’d already be yours.”

Shinjo smiled, for real this time. “Thank you… for the sentiment,” he managed, “but I couldn’t take this, anyway.”

Araki-san nodded in understanding, but pushed the book at him. “It doesn’t go on display until you’ve finished with it,” he said. His tone brooked no argument; Shinjo nodded.

He spent the next month going to the arcade with Sekikawa and wading through the bodies of the Trojan War.

--------------------------------------------------------------

“All right, then I’ll go now,” called back Sekikawa as he threw the clubhouse door open—and ran right into Shinjo, who steadied him distractedly after he stumbled over his feet (and Shinjo’s, ouch).

“I missed something?” guessed Shinjo.

“You won’t if you join me~” said Sekikawa cheekily, and grabbed him by the elbow, leaving Shinjo no choice but to follow after him, confused.

“Where are we going?”

“The arcade,” answered Sekikawa, as if this were the most natural thing in the world. (For Sekikawa, who spent more time among those machines than in his own home, it probably was.)

“Why?” asked Shinjo wearily.

“We’re stealing a pinball machine!” Sekikawa informed him, grinning back.

“Oh—wait, what?! We’re… why?”

“They bet me I couldn’t,” answered Sekikawa, gravely.

Shinjo understood pride. Oh, he understood pride, all right.

“Then let’s go steal a pinball machine,” he said, quietly.

“That’s the spirit~” agreed Sekikawa.

--------------------------------------------------------------

“…how did I end up doing all the work?!” muttered Shinjo, wrestling the damn unwieldy machine out the back door of the arcade. Sekikawa was out front, yammering about one of the store’s rivals’ new machines and giving a review. Sekikawa’s phone buzzed in his pocket—‘down the alleyway’—and Sekikawa wrapped up his conversation, waving goodbye and taking off to meet Shinjo and his moneymaker behind the arcade. Carrying it together was much easier than going it alone; Sekikawa’s ready excuses and conversation (and Shinjo’s glares) kept away too much suspicion as they made their way back to the school.

“Oiiii, open up,” yelled Sekikawa, kicking the clubhouse door and rolling his eyes to Shinjo when Wakana’s ‘All right, shut up, Jesus, what—OH MY GOD YOU ACTUALLY—MOTHERFUCKER, THIS BASTARD ACTUALLY DID IT!’ greeted them.

They moved inside, kicking crushed boxes of cigarettes and Hiyama’s manga out of the way to set the machine down. Sekikawa gloated, cheerfully, and Aniya laughed a little breathlessly as he handed Sekikawa his winnings. Sekikawa leaned easily against the machine and promptly counted out half, which he handed to Shinjo. Shinjo blinked, and took it. He almost smiled, but caught himself in time. Sekikawa got the message anyway, he figured.

“I did do most of the work,” said Shinjo, smirking, and ignored Sekikawa’s scowl.

--------------------------------------------------------------

“Ow, Shinjo, what the hell—“ grumbled Sekikawa, leaning heavily on the other boy.

Shinjo adjusted his arm under Sekikawa’s shoulder. He’d dropped his corner of the pinball machine into its final resting place, with the rest of their gang out the door. Unfortunately, Sekikawa had noticed Okada’s curling iron under the other foot, and kicked it out to avoid the bitching. He’d ended up with a limp (and a hand home) for his troubles.

They climbed the seven flights to Sekikawa’s apartment—“the elevator here sucks, we’d be here half an hour”—and Sekikawa produced a key from his pockets, grinning—“wanna come in for a bit, big guy?”—walking through the front door. He froze, dropping his bag. Shinjo stepped out of his shoes, putting his bag on the floor, before he joined the other boy.

“What… happened?” he asked.

The living room was a mess, a couch flipped and Sekikawa’s PS2 halfway across the room. Sekikawa looked around, stepping out of his shoes, and bent to look under the kitchen table in the next room.

“C’mon out and tell Shuuta about it,” he said, and hugged a missile—err, little girl, probably his sister—close.

“Anikiiiiii,” wailed the little girl, “Mama and nee-san fought!”

“Picked up on that one,” said Sekikawa, sighing, “but about what?”

“Nee-san’s pr-pr-pregnant,” hiccupped the little girl.

Sekikawa stiffened. Shinjo, righting the couch in the other room, blinked. Well, shit.

“Where is she?” asked Sekikawa.

“She left, Aniki,” said the little girl.

“And ma?”

“Went out.”

“Shit. Keiko, you have school in the morning, don’t ya? C’mon, time to get to bed. Come on, kiddo.”

Shinjo had the PS2 plugged back in and was testing it to make sure it still played when Sekikawa returned. Sekikawa scratched his head, embarrassed.

“Sorry about that,” he said, finally.

“Don’t worry about it,” answered Shinjo, “my mom walks out about once a week.”

Sekikawa laughed, bitterly, before he said, “you play, I need to clean up the glass in the kitchen.”

Shinjo leaned over and flicked off the console. He rose, saying, “I don’t think you can reach the tall shelves, right?”

Sekikawa punched his shoulder before he lead him into the kitchen, a small wood-and-linoleum affair filled with sunflower cutlery. A few glasses were broken, making the trek dangerous, and Sekikawa limped over a broken coffee mug to fetch the broom and dustpan.

Shinjo, no stranger to broken glass himself, began gathering the largest pieces up, careful of his socks, and his palms. He hissed when he gashed his palm open anyway, dropping the shards to press his other sleeve to the wound.

Sekikawa dropped the broom, grabbing him by the wrist and tugging him carefully passed a closed door, a darkened room he assumed was Sekikawa’s (it smelled like dirty socks) and into a cramped, long bathroom. Sekikawa pushed him down onto the toilet seat and soaked a towel for a moment before he handed it off to Shinjo. Shinjo pressed it against his palm, wincing at the difference in temperatures. Sekikawa retrieved a first aid kit from under the sink and placed it gently on the counter. He’d flipped open the top when the front door slammed. Sekikawa glanced at Shinjo before he carefully and silently closed and locked the bathroom door. Then he sat down on the edge of the bathtub, pulling the first aid kid with him.

His knees touched Shinjo’s as he pulled away the stained, bright yellow washcloth and sanitized it, peering at it closely for any more slivers of glass. After a moment of tweezers and glaring, he began to wrap Shinjo’s palm, the pads of his fingers steady on Shinjo’s palm.

“Shuuta, what’re you doing in the bathroom?” asked his mother from the other side of the door.

Sekikawa coughed. “Ma, I’m busy, go away!”

“Shuuta, that’s disgusting,” said his mother, sounding amused, “…go to bed soon, kid, I need you to walk Keiko into preschool.”

“Gotcha, ma. Drink some water and head t’bed, all right?” answered Sekikawa, gruffly.

She sniffled. “Yeah,” she said, “g’night. And… thanks for cleaning up the living room, kid.”

Sekikawa was silent for a moment as he tied off Shinjo’s bandage. He stared at the white stripe across Shinjo’s palm for a moment, his knees hitting Shinjo’s shins, for another long moment, before he haltingly began to speak.

“Dad walked out right before mom told ‘im she was pregnant with Keiko,” he began.

“We lived in a nicer apartment, then—he was an engineer, he made good money. But there was some chick on the side, some pretty lady who didn’t work the night shift, like Mom. She’s a nurse. She took up the day shift whenever she could now that Keiko’s around, but Haruka…” Haruka is his sister, Shinjo decides.

Sekikawa chuckles, darkly. “I won’t miss the fighting, that’s for sure,” he said, “but this is Mom all over again, ‘cept her boyfriend’s a real jerkoff. He’s not gonna—marry her, or whatever she’s thinking. My sister wants to just not be my mom. She’s not doin’ a very good job avoiding it.”

Shinjo’s jaw tightened. Sweat prickled on his brow when he placed his uninjured hand atop Sekikawa’s fingers. “It’s like my dad’s never home,” he began, suddenly. “He’s a salesman, but he’s not very good at it, so he’s always away. I end up fighting my sister to bed while my mom escapes the house for an hour and visits her favorite host to avoid fighting with me or dad or having a breakdown. She really needs to go back to work. The only things she thinks about are my grades… or my hair.”

Sekikawa laughed. “Ma’s given up on that front,” he said, “b’sides, Haruka’s was pink when she was last home.”

Shinjo snorted, his lips quirking up at the corners.

--------------------------------------------------------------

The next month is a painful blur for Shinjo, heralded by a hurricane (better known as Kawato Koichi) being hired as his homeroom teacher and promptly turning his life upside down. Shinjo, terrified of losing everything he’s living for these days, struck out against that thought as he struck out against all threats: with his fists.

--------------------------------------------------------------

“I knew it,” he whispered, feeling his face flush, mightily. “I knew it.”

He repeated that, bitterly, as he passed Aniya’s pitying—damn, but he hated pity—-face, and Sekikawa’s eyes under that bandage.

Later, he would say he barely remembered half of it, so driven by emotion and panicked adrenaline he was lucky he could remember his own name at the time. It wasn’t until he began hiding out in Araki-san’s shop during the school day proper that things began to make a bit more sense.

“Try this one next,” recommended Araki-san, handing him a copy of The Fountainhead. “It might seem a bit strange, but… go with it. You’ll enjoy it.”

And enjoy it Shinjo did, inexplicably drawn in by Roark’s understanding of himself and what he would do to do right by himself. He was most of the way through, heart pounding through Roark’s court speech, when Araki-san’s point dawned on him.

“You want me to go back to school,” he said, finally shutting the book and placing it gently on the side table.

“I want you to learn, and I don’t just mean the fundamental theorem of calculus.”

Shinjo frowned, and packed up his schoolbag.

Suddenly he wanted a trip to the arcade.

--------------------------------------------------------------

The loud guy with the cell phone pissed him off, he decided, probably because of his uncanny vocal resemblance to Wakana, who had betrayed him—damn it, now he was—oh, shit, ow, red, everywhere oh god that’s the pavement no not his stickers, no---

“Shinjo!”

That was it—Kawato was a ray of Shinjo wouldn’t say hope—couldn’t say hope, that’s was not a part of his vocabulary, never was, what was this man doing to him?

“Talking nonsense again,” he muttered, walking away from dreams, and that open, honest smile, and a picture of friends he didn’t know how to keep.

--------------------------------------------------------------

“You shut up and play baseball,” he said, because even if they’re no longer his friends, he can’t betray them, not any more.

Aniya looked up at him, eyes wide, eyes hurt, as he walked away to deal with this, a problem he can at least understand.

He’s in over his head, he knew that already. But Kawato’s words had managed to do something to him, and couldn’t just ignore them, not now that he had a chance.

Aniya arriving to help out came as a complete surprise, his flying kick as potent as always and that grin, as if nothing had happened between them.

Then came Kawato’s team, looking like the cast of a drama and ready to kick some ass.

He couldn’t look at Sekikawa too long; and the backs of his eyes kept hurting, peculiarly.

--------------------------------------------------------------

Sekikawa didn’t say a word, shoving the white wad of jersey into his chest. Shinjo’s fingers closed in the material uncertainly, reflexively, and he could only stare after Sekikawa for a few moments, his hands still held to his chest. He held the jersey like a talisman, like a prayer, and he folded it carefully to put it atop his dresser when he got home.

“Whassat, nii-san?” asked Kaede, tugging at it. He pulled it away from her firmly before considering her question.

“…a baseball jersey,” he finally said.

“But I thought you quit baseball?”

“So did I.”

--------------------------------------------------------------

He couldn’t describe, later, what brought him to the game. But seeing them—united—he wanted—needed—had to—he opened his locker, and it all came rushing back. Cigarettes with Aniya, mah jong, and women and knees bumping his shins in a tiny, cramped bathroom as he spilled his life story and—he made a decision.

It was time to open his fists.

--------------------------------------------------------------

He hadn’t managed to win it, in the end, but they tackled him anyway, hands on his back and his head and his shoulders and god but having them back was the best feeling in the world. He smiled, messing up Aniya’s hair and watching Wakana and Hiyama tussle over a baseball.

Sekikawa’s fingers found his, in their huddle, and he squeezed them, once, before they each withdrew, on reflex.

They changed en masse, breaking off in pairs and groups, the depth of their loss reminding them of how much they had left. Sekikawa poked Shinjo in the side to watch him squirm.

“You should come by for dinner some time,” said Sekikawa, smoothly, leaning on the lockers in front of Shinjo, “my sister’s getting pretty good at cooking.”

“Your sister can’t even see over the—oh. She—came back?”

“Two weeks ago.”

“That’s good.”

(no subject)

Date: 2009-11-13 09:00 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] saemiligr.livejournal.com
BIG SQUISHY AWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW

*tears up* that was so gorgeous *sniff*
*claps* You did fantastically Kate <3

(no subject)

Date: 2009-11-13 11:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] saemiligr.livejournal.com
Your welcome babe
This really was fantastic
She'll love it

and its okay We all knew Shinjo was a giant teddy bear XD
he just has a fantastic growl

(no subject)

Date: 2009-11-15 07:12 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rinhriveiel.livejournal.com
This is so cute.

Even if I do ship ShinAni. XD

(no subject)

Date: 2009-11-16 01:06 am (UTC)
ext_207285: (Default)
From: [identity profile] merchendiver.livejournal.com
*gasp*!!! That was awesome Katie! Really. I love these kinds of fictions. The slice of life and Yay for finding out about the pin ball machine!!!! Really it was ust awesome!

(no subject)

Date: 2009-11-17 04:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] salkun.livejournal.com
ROOKIES FIIIIICC!!! Hooray! I love Shinjo the Bookworm, that's seriously adorable.

Great story. <3

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