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Things That Matter

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In all other situations, Akihiro could fool himself into believing that Nishimura Shin didn't have him firmly wrapped around his little finger. He could sit with Keigo after school and talk, or they could sit in the comfortable silence of two people who didn't really need to speak to each other to know how the other felt. Sometimes, things were comfortable enough for that. Sometimes they weren't. This always seemed to fall in with the frequency of Shin's behaviour.

When he wasn't directly faced with Shin himself, Akihiro could cope. He could look at the situation in an objective kind of a manner and talk to Keigo about it and between them, they could usually come up with some theory or another on Shin's psyche that made sense at the time, albeit with no real practical usage. They would sit after school as the sun set and Akihiro would look to Keigo every once in a while, wonder if he was getting sick of this. Anybody would, wouldn't they? Akihiro knew that too many of the words that came out of his mouth involved Shin in some way or another and it wasn't fair to inflict this on Keigo, but with this situation? There was nobody else to talk to. Keigo, like with everything, absorbed it all without question. Offered his own opinions. Adjusted to the situation without ever really giving away his true opinion on it. That was, Akihiro supposed, how one came to be such a prized member of Seirei Gakuen's Student Council.

When he was with Keigo, Akihiro remembered what it was like to be able to have normal, rational conversations with normal, rational people. He didn't spend a lot of time talking to other people in the first place, and more and more often he seemed to be finding his spare time spent with Shin, and that was always going to give you a warped view on human interaction. Akihiro would mention this to Keigo with a smile, attempting to hide the other things he noticed about the situation. Small, private things. Things he didn't think that Keigo would care about, things he didn't think that Keigo should care about.

The main problem with Keigo, Akihiro felt, was that he was sensible. Almost too much so for his own good. He would look at these situations - these and any other - and offer up a rational solution, something straightforward and as diplomatic as he could manage. (Again, that's what you get for being on the Student Council.) He was always so sensible and in retrospect Akihiro would wonder why Keigo even put up with him - every problem seemed to boil down to the same basic answers and yet they found themselves coming to them again and again and again, and Keigo never once seemed to express any kind of irritation for the fact that Akihiro never actually seemed to follow him up on any of that advice, ever.

(Akihiro knew that Keigo was just as guilty of that, however. Perhaps that was why he never said anything.)

Shin often behaved in a completely incomprehensible fashion that Keigo would usually chalk up to, essentially, attention-seeking. Such a thing seemed quite obvious; natural performer that he was, it would have seemed stranger if he wasn't the kind to wish people's eyes always on him, on him only. And to this, Keigo would always tell Akihiro not to give him the satisfaction of what he wanted; if his behaviour was out-of-line, then it should be punished, not rewarded. And Akihiro knew this. Knew the idea in theory and retrospect and knew that surely any attention given would only make Shin's behaviour worse, but... he couldn't help it. If Shin wanted his attention, it was all he could do to provide it in an undivided and undiluted manner.

Keigo would explain it in the manner of training an animal. Good behaviour could be rewarded, bad behaviour had to be discouraged. Eventually, from that, Shin should hopefully learn the sorts of ways it was acceptable to behave in and the ways he'd behave that people just wouldn't put up with. And again, Akihiro knew that that worked in theory, but in practice he wasn't sure that Shin didn't have him trained just as thoroughly. To be able to reward and punish Shin's behaviour would mean having a certain level of stamina to be able to ignore him in those times where Keigo seemed to believe he should be ignored. Akihiro believed that in those certain times too, he supposed, but Keigo didn't seem to appreciate just how difficult that was. It was fine to take an objective view like Shin was some kind of case study, but really? Truly...?

Keigo said to ignore Shin in certain situations, which led Akihiro to believe that Keigo had never had personal experience of dealing with somebody like Shin in the first place. This was a reasonable assumption to make. When would he have done? Keigo just called it how he saw it, offering up solutions that were valid and sensible but that, really, had no firm ties with life as it was lived. Perhaps it was better to ignore Shin some of the time, try to discourage some of that behaviour, but when could you ever know when was safe to do that? All of the times that Shin would cry wolf over the most terrible things, Akihiro didn't want to chance ignorance just in case this time was the one time that Shin developed enough fool courage to try to prove a point. Perhaps Keigo's theory could have worked in any other situation with any other less life-threatening trends of personality, but this was this and Akihiro didn't dare to take that chance.

Also, to talk of all of that in such a clinical manner seemed to ignore... practically everything else. Discussing Shin in such a manner seemed to be what they always fell into doing, but seemed to miss the point on every conceivable level every single time. To talk of him so distantly... yes, perhaps he was like that. Or this. Or that. Maybe this one thing would be good for him, or another, or another. Perhaps, maybe, if. Akihiro would always get far too wrapped up in their conversations to ever call Keigo out on the fact that it didn't matter, none of this mattered.

None of it mattered when it was three in the morning and Akihiro's phone was going off, when it was Shin and he didn't sound himself but it was all Akihiro could do to talk, try to guide him back and guide him down, calm him enough to promise they'd see each other at school the next day and everything would be fine. It'd be fine. It's fine, Shin. Don't worry. Sleep well.

None of it mattered when they met after school and Akihiro would try to make conversation, any conversation, only to have it reflected back by a shield of apathy.

None of it mattered when they met after school and Shin was in no mood for conversation, stood there smirking and with an empty look in his eyes that told of a predator that cared nothing for the fate of his prey.

None of it mattered for the heartbreakingly infrequent times when it wasn't for the simple aim of gaining attention, when he wasn't trying to provoke a reaction, when it wasn't because he just wanted to see what would happen. When the normalcy of the school day had been too much and Shin would fall apart on the roof, calling Akihiro by his first name and, in those moments, incapable of coping. None of it mattered when it was the early hours of the morning and Shin phoned to say he was standing outside Akihiro's house, when Akihiro would let him in and let him stay the night and maybe they wouldn't say anything, but didn't need to.

None of it mattered when Shin would make outlandish suggestions that Akihiro couldn't help but want to go along with. When he talked of escaping, of breaking free. When he suggested the fact that Akihiro had a car. That was true, wasn't it? They could, if they wanted to. They could. They could.

None of it ever mattered in those moments when Shin would say those things with such sincerity and look at Akihiro with eyes that expected everything. He would say those things because he really and earnestly believed that Akihiro could and/or would do something about them; he said those things because, more than anything else, he believed in Akihiro. And he would look up with eyes that wanted, eyes that needed, eyes that hoped and dreamed and relied and none of Keigo's psychoanalysing could ever appreciate the reality of what it was like to stand as the subject to that gaze, knowing what was expected of you and hoping only that you had enough drive and courage to be able to see it through. Every time Shin looked at him like that, Akihiro fell weak for Shin but strong against everything else. He'd take on anything for Shin's sake. Wouldn't he? That seemed to be what Shin was asking of him, so... alright. Fine. He would. There was, simply, no question of it.

And so, every time, every time after, Keigo would look up at Akihiro with a slight frown, "... It's too much for you. I don't mean that as anything against you, Akihiro, but... it'd be too much for anybody...! It's just not reasonable to rely on somebody that much, it's not healthy. You shouldn't encourage him."

Akihiro wouldn't look at Keigo, but he'd smile. "And what about you and Wada, huh?"

Keigo would talk for hours on Akihiro and Shin's relationship, but would silence himself perfectly when it came to anything involving Yoshikuni. Akihiro had a million things he felt he could suggest to Keigo in the same lines of their theoretical dissections of Shin's psyche, but knew that Keigo wouldn't want to hear them. Knew that, even if he were to listen, he'd never think of actually acting on any of those suggestions.

Like that, he supposed, they were equal.