Part Eight: Hiroshi and Satoshi
I sort of just stare at Satoshi for the longest time. "So that's everything that happened while you've been on border duty?" I ask, and he nods, smiling. He chances a glance at Shigeru and then sighs.
"Hai, it's only been two days, Hiro..."
He has a point there. "So, did you really have that much fun in the Orange Islands?" He asks.
I nod. "Hai, I'm glad I met Kasumi..." He smiles at me.
"Well, I'm glad that Shigeru's my prisoner..."
I grin and I look towards Kasumi, smiling now. She's just... still beyond words. She and Shigeru are talking, lost in their own little world. I turn back to Satoshi.
"Do you like her?" He asks, even as I ask, "Do you like him?"
We stare at each other and start laughing. "All right... that was a fated question." He jabs me in the arm and I wince. "Well?"
"She's nice, and she's a great friend... and I want to do whatever I can for her and the Orange Islands." Satoshi looks sincere and nods.
"I... I'm just glad that Shigeru likes me."
"What's not to like?" I ask with a smile. "You're a great person, you're friendly, you attract others like a magnet --..."
"I'm not the only one!" He quips.
"All right... are we sure we're not brothers?" He sticks his tongue out at me and then sighs. "I know what you mean... we act too much alike..."
All I can do is nod. "Like two parts of one whole or something like that," I murmur, pulling my knees up and wrapping my arms round. He sighs and then smiles.
"Well, it makes us great friends, that's for sure."
Then he's suddenly nervous. "I..."
"What is it, 'Toshi?" I ask, urging him on. It's such a serious look in his eyes, and he doesn't get this deep most of the time.
"Well..." He looks at Shigeru and then brushes hair out from in front of his eyes. "You really do trust him?" I nod and he looks that much more relieved. "I... it's because... I think I'm feeling selfish, but I don't *want* to keep him as my prisoner. He..." He gestures but it's not something that can really be explained.
That doesn't mean I don't understand, though. He'd rather him want to stay of his own free will. I smile at him. "I understand, 'Toshi. I understand..."
He smiles. "Thank you..."
"Hey, no problem!"
And then I have to sigh. "I don't know how long it's going to take Koori to heal... I just wish I could have put together the pieces and realized that's what the Johto forces were going to do." I glance at Koori and Shiika. They're just... so like night and day... I smile slightly.
"Hiro, no one's perfect, we all make mistakes."
"I know, but I could have saved her so much grief..." I say softly, brushing hair away. It falls back. He smiles that enigmatic smile that I find so annoying at times.
"But she's still here with you and you can make a difference now."
"Always, ne?" He smirks at me.
"Isn't that *my* line?" I grin right back at him. He shrugs helplessly.
You know... we're both walking this thin line. The want to do our job, we're pledged to the Kanto military. But there's something else, it's nearly tangible, it's... I glance at Kasumi. She makes me smile, she makes me happy, and she doesn't even have to do a thing.
And I can see the way that Satoshi looks at Shigeru. It's the same way. It's... "I'm glad you met him, 'Toshi." I say with a smile.
He exhales softly and gazes at Shigeru thoughtfully. "So am I." And then he grins. "I'm glad you met her, too. She brings out... something, in you."
"Oh, stop it now or I'll find a way for you to blush in front of your precious Shigeru!" I say under my breath. He flares crimson at the mere thought of it. I muffle a giggle. "You're so strange, 'Toshi."
"And you're not, Hiro?" He asks me seriously. "Now stop messing with me or I'll tell your dear Kasumi about that one time where you and Rindou..." I clamp my hand over his mouth and end up knocking him back -- I go with him. This can't look good...
"You're not playing fair, you brat!" I hiss. Shigeru and Kasumi are sort of just staring at us. I sit back up and Satoshi scrambles into a sitting position and tries not to laugh. He gestures wildly and shakes his head.
I offer Shigeru and Kasumi a weak smile. "I think he's lost it, I'm sorry..."
"*I've* lost it?" I scramble to my feet, glaring at him mock-angrily. "Who was it who just out and attacked me, *Hiroshi*?" I can't believe he'd blame me, though. How low can you get? He's just trying to impress Kasumi, I think wickedly.
"You *threatened* me!" he shoots back. "What did you expect, 'Toshi? Good grief!"
"I didn't threaten you at all." OK, I'm totally being evil, but it's just to try and get back some of the respect we both probably lost in that little... er, scene. "I just thought I tell tell Kasumi more about yo -- " I'm cut off as Hiroshi lunges at me again, but this time I jump back and avoid him, laughing.
"Why you -- !"
"What?" I smile wickedly.
A calculating look comes on Hiroshi's face. "You know, 'Toshi, since we're going back into past stories, should I tell Shigeru about the time when you went back to Masara and that -- "
Panic makes me act without thinking. "No!" I knock him back onto the ground, hands clapping over his mouth. My face is bright red by now. "I give in, Hiro, let's just let the past stay behind us, OK?"
"And we're back on the ground." He rolls his eyes and sits up, shoving me back into the dirt. "Why do we bother standing, huh, 'Toshi?"
"That was your fault that time!" I protest, then look toward Shigeru. "You saw it, didn't you? That was *his* fault that time!" The smile fades from my face as I catch his expression. "Shigeru, what's the matter?"
The scowl on his face would make even Wataru proud. "Nothing," he answers in a sullen voice. Oh, come on now, Shigeru; even *I* can tell that something's wrong, and I'm not always good at guessing people's emotions.
I ignore Hiroshi completely, and move over to Shigeru's side. "Tell me what's wrong," I plead, and give him my best puppy-dog eyes. OK, so now I'm acting like a five-year-old -- but we weren't exactly behaving in an adult manner just thirty seconds ago, now were we?
The expression on his face completely softens. "Nothing," he repeats, and this time the word sounds more true. My face immediately splits into a wide smile, and then there's nothing at all left of that scowl of Shigeru's.
"Are you feeling left out?" I ask. I know, Hiroshi and I can sometimes get carried away and ignore everyone else around us. But it's because we're such good friends, and we have fun together, and we really don't see each other as often as we'd like. The thing is, with Hiroshi I don't have the same shivery feeling in my stomach as I do when I'm with Shigeru. I think I could stand to spend a long time away from Hiroshi, but I want Shigeru to stay with me always.
I can't believe I just thought that. Always... It's such a strange idea.
"Maybe... a little," Shigeru admitts, then hastily adds, "But it's nothing important, Satoshi, don't worry about me."
"I have to worry about you, Shigeru, that's just me." I grin at him, and glance over to see Hiroshi talking quietly with Kasumi. "See, Hiro and I hardly ever see each other, so we like to take advantage of the time we have." OK, I think I just said the wrong thing. Shigeru's face abruptly falls.
"I see. You care about each other, but you're apart a lot." His voice is dull this time, like he's avoiding pain. And that makes me feel hurt inside.
"Shigeru... I've upset you." I sigh. "I'm sorry. I don't know what it is about me that upsets you, but..."
"No, no, no, it's not you!" he assures me. "You could never upset me, Satoshi."
I smile again. His words make me feel warm inside. "Really?"
He nods earnestly. "Really."
"Oh good." I can't help myself then -- I reach over and give him a huge hug. And we're both blushing when I pull away. "Sorry," I say sheepishly. He probably isn't that kind of person... he's a noble...
"It's OK." And he actually looks happier, too. There's that sort of starry look in his eyes again when he looks at me -- the one I can't figure out, that makes me feel so funny. "I don't mind at all, 'Toshi." Then he looks uncomfortable. "You don't mind if I call you that, do you? 'Toshi, I mean."
He has no idea how glad it makes me. "I don't mind at all," I echo him. Because it means he's comfortable enough with me to use that nickname... Well, he probably got it from Hiroshi, but still. I think it's a step in the right direction.
"I'll have to think up one for you too, Shigeru." I grin. "Give me a little time, I'll come up with something. Then I'll surprise you with it."
"I'd like that," he says softly, and smiles at me. Shigeru smiles so rarely, it's like a gift. I love the way it lights up his whole face.
"You need to smile more often," I tell him, yawning slightly. "Oh, sorry, I guess I'm a little tired." I look up toward Shiika, and find her already asleep, curled up against Koori. "Now, isn't that cute?" I smirk. "A silver and a gold, all snuggled up."
She opens one eye, enough to put a whole wealth of meaning into the look, though. "Just teasing, Shiika," I tell her. "I know how it is. You and Koori are like brother and sister. I'd feel the same way if someone said something like that about me and Hiroshi."
Next to me, Shigeru takes in a breath sharply. I turn to look at him in surprise. "What's the matter?"
"Nothing." There's a huge smile on his face now. "Nothing's the matter -- not any more." I shake my head at him. He's so weird. One minute he's all depressed, and the next, he's positively beaming.
"You're weird, Shigeru," I say out loud, then chuckle a little. "But I like you just the same. And you know," I add, feeling mischievous. "I think Hiro's flipped over Kasumi, don't you?" I'm looking to where the two of them are talking, smiling at each other like they were the only people in the world. Well, I guess I can't talk, since I think Shigeru and I were doing the same thing just a short while ago.
"Yup." He looks so contented; I really like this side of him. Like I've somehow offered him the world without knowing what I was doing. I wonder if he's hearing the same things I'm saying.
But then he smiles at me again, and I don't think it even matters.
Shigeru and Satoshi might be trapped in their own little world... but I don't know what's wrong with Kasumi. There's this.... distance... in her eyes and I just can't quite place it. It's almost as if she's been hurt, and I never wanted to hurt her...
"Kasumi, what's wrong?"
She shrugs off the question and forces a smile onto her lips. I know she's forcing it, because it doesn't quite touch her eyes. There's this light that's missing... that light when she looks at me...
I'm not thinking and then I reach out and take her hand, holding it lightly. She just sort of melts and has this dazed look in her eyes. "Hiroshi..."
"Are you sure nothing's wrong?"
She blinks and then nods slowly. "It's nothing that I can really put into words, Hiroshi. So don't worry... I don't want you to..."
I smile back at her and she relaxes that much more. "If you say so..."
"I do..." She replies and I squeeze her hand to reassure her.
And then she glances at Satoshi and her gaze saddens just a fraction... especially when she looks at me. It's confusing and I can't place it at all, it's... I think I know what it is... "I'm really sorry about that..." I say, letting go of her hand. She sort of stares at her fingers for the longest time.
"Satoshi and I have known each other since... since forever, it seems. He's my best friend, and... well, we lose it sometimes." She nods weakly. I really don't know why I'm saying this, why I want to reassure her this way at all...
"But he's just a friend, and that's all. He's like the brother I never had..." She looks up at me sharply and stares me hard in the eyes. And then she smiles and pats my hand, her own gesture of reassurance.
"You're a very good person, Hiroshi. Thank... thank you for telling me that."
I smile back at her. I feel lightheaded and I just want to dance... and that's a strange desire, let me tell you *that*! "You're welcome. It's the least I could do!"
She smiles and it's like I'm being set free. I lean closer without thought and her eyes widen and she moves forwards a fraction... "You're a very special person," I murmur. "and I'm glad that I met you, Kasumi." She smiles and my heart feels like it wants to burst.
I take her hand again, if but for a moment. And then I shoot a glance at Shigeru and Satoshi, they're still talking. "He's got it so badly for Shigeru, you know? I wonder if *he* knows..."
Kasumi blinks. "You can tell?" I blush and nod.
"Hai... I've known him long enough. We can read each other pretty well..." I wish I could read her the way I can him. I wish I knew her as well... I wish that she could stay with me for the rest of our lives. I wish...
She's smiling again. "Yeah, it's pretty obvious. He's head over heels for him... they *both* are..."
I nod. "I know! Satoshi's... well, um, we're both pretty oblivious at times," I squeeze her hand. "but we mean well."
She laughs softly. "You do."
She's the type of person you could fall in love with in an instant, you know. And I'd never thought about that... love... but I could with her. Because... she's... her.
I can't believe I'm thinking about this. It's... it's so very strange. But... just to have her smile, it would keep me happy. It could keep me happy always...
"Yo, Hiro, stop staring at Kasumi and listen to me for five seconds!" I blink and Kasumi's blushing right in front of me... and Satoshi's standing by Shigeru's side with his hands on his hips.
Satoshi starts laughing again and Kasumi taps me on the shoulder. She's still blushing. "You've just been staring blankly at me for... um... five minutes or so..."
Oh... I think it's my turn to blush as well. "Gomen," I mutter. Yet she smiles.
"No problem at all, Hiroshi..."
I'm up before the sun again the next morning. It makes me groan -- this isn't becoming a habit, is it? I sure hope not. But then I look up and realize that I've fallen asleep right beside Shigeru, so close that his breath brushes on my face... I flush, and sit up, trying to ignore the fluttering somewhere in the vicinity of my stomach.
"Good morning, Shiika," I whisper, as my silver's eyes open. She makes a low growling noise -- like some kind of contented purr. "Is Koori feeling better?" I ask softly, and get an affirmative noise in response. Good. I know that salve works quickly, so I had suspected that he would be well enough to fly this morning. It makes me feel a bit sad, though, because Hiroshi and Kasumi will leave, and I'd really enjoyed seeing my best friend again. But, I suppose we'll see each other again soon.
"Up early, 'Toshi?" Hiroshi joins me by the dragons, examining Koori's injured leg. "This isn't like you." He inspects the wound carefully, under his gold's watchful gaze. "Oh, good. It's healing well."
"You'll be ready to go soon." I smile. It is important for him to reach Kanto as soon as possible, but I know I'll miss him. "And it's becoming a trend -- me getting up before the sun. That's two mornings in a row now."
He laughs. "Maybe because you don't want Shigeru to watch you sleep. You don't snore, do you?"
I pretend to consider that. "Maybe." I shrug. "I can't tell, though, because I'm asleep when it happens." He grins at that. "Seriously, Hiro, do you think Koori is well enough to get you to Kanto?"
"I think so." He pats his dragon reassuringly. "He didn't have a problem with flying, actually, but I don't like seeing him in pain. He did manage to get the black's wing, though, so there's one dragon we won't need to worry about for a while -- in the air, anyway."
"Good." Every little bit helps; that'll be one less black dragon to fight later on. I know there's going to be fighting, too. I just hope I'm up to the challenge. But, I think, Shiika and I can handle whatever comes our way.
"I thought I recognized the rider," he says, and his face turns serious as he looks at me. "I know he rode a gold some time ago -- a fighter, not one of ours. But he's fighting for Johto, and he rides a black... I can't shake the feeling that something horrible happened to him once. It makes me feel bad about this whole war -- and I know I should anyway, but now it's just that much more immediate..." He sighs.
I pat his shoulder sympathetically. "Don't worry about it, Hiroshi. We'll win, you know. We're strong, and they're evil, and everything will work out. You'll see."
"I wish I had your confidence, 'Toshi," he smiles. "It's going to be hard, you know."
"So? Everything in life that's worth having is hard to get." That's one piece of wisdom I take to heart whenever we're training during a bad rainstorm or a blizzard and my hands and face are aching with cold. "But you and I, we're strong, Hiroshi. We can handle anything."
He smiles. "See, now this is why it's good to talk to you when I'm in a depressing mood, Satoshi. You're always so optimistic."
I shrug. "That's me, I guess." I don't know why people think it's so weird. Hiroshi's about the only one who can understand. I *can't* look at the bad side, not when there's something I could be doing to make it good.
"Looks like they're waking up," Hiroshi says suddenly, and I turn to watch Shigeru blink rapidly, then sit up. He's so cute early in the morning when he can't figure out where he is or what's going on.
"Good morning, Shigeru," I say, then smile wickedly. This is practically becoming a ritual, I think. "Want some breakfast? I have plenty of food..."
He shudders. "I swear, that stuff is evil. How can anything that's good for you taste so bad?"
Hiroshi laughs out loud, and I grin. "Well, then, would *you* like some, Kasumi?" I ask, turning to the just-waking girl on the other side of the fire-pit.
"Some what?" she asks sleepily, stretching.
"Don't do it!" Shigeru warns her. "It's poison. If you don't have any food, I'll share mine, because I would never wish their evil rations on any normal human being."
I laugh at him.
"We have food," Hiroshi says, saving Kasumi. "But I'll have some of your rations, so Kasumi can eat 'normal food' while we head back to Kanto."
"OK." I hand him 'breakfast', such as it is, and take a huge bite of mine, grinning at Shigeru. He makes a face at me.
Hiroshi moves away from me and goes about getting food for Kasumi, while I dig in Shigeru's bag for his breakfast. "What did you want to eat?" I ask, looking down at what remains. "There's still some meat, fruit, bread..."
"I'll have some of the bread," he decides, and I toss a loaf over to him.
"Here, I'd better put your book back in here, Shigeru," I say, stuffing the heavy volume back into the bag. I make a mental note to ask him about that later -- though I'll probably forget. Oh well.
"I guess we should head off," Hiroshi announces, when Kasumi finishes eating. "Wouldn't want to keep Wataru waiting *too* long; I'm sure he's dying to hear from me." He grins.
I smile back, and we step forward long enough to clasp hands in farewell. "See you in a while, Hiro," I tell him.
"Not if I see you first." It's old, but that's just how we are -- things like that never die. Hiroshi mounts Koori, and reaches down to pull Kasumi in front of him. They make such a romantic picture up there. I smile.
"Good luck!" And then they're lifting out of the clearing, and all I can do is wave as my friend leaves me behind.