...and I still can't finish anything I'm supposed to finish. On the plus side, I think a lot of people wanted me to write the rest of this ficlet, so, well, here it is!
When Niou walked into Yagyuu’s classroom, Yagyuu’s classmates studiously avoided looking at him. This was easy enough for them to do, as the lesson had already begun and the teacher was talking about paramecium or clams or something. “Hey,” said Niou, with a careless little wave.
“Niou-kun,” said the teacher (whose name was Takada, though damned if Niou would admit to knowing it). “This is not your class.”
Niou pulled out a chair at the only empty desk in the front row and plopped into it, leaning back and stretching out his legs. “Yes it is, sensei.”
“No, no it’s not.” Takada-sensei walked around the teacher’s desk so that he could inspect Niou more closely, as though this vantage point would let him determine exactly why Niou was sitting at that desk, in this room, like he owned the place. “Niou-kun, you have to return to your own classroom.”
Niou looked up at Takada, unable to feign innocent confusion but able, at least, to look like he didn’t give a damn. That was good, because he didn’t. “This is my class.” He rifled in his front pockets and comes up with a wallet that wasn’t his. He pulled out an ID card that also wasn’t his, but might as well have been. “Here.”
Takada gave the card a quick look, blinked, shook his head, looked again. “Well… well, Yagyuu-kun, everything seems to be in order.” He turned back to the blackboard, wearing a dazed expression.
Niou mused that clearly Yagyuu hasn’t been working hard enough, with how surprised this guy was. Or maybe Yagyuu’s been working overtime and the guy was just in a constant state of puzzlement. It was hard to tell, with Yagyuu.
Later they met in a hallway that was exactly twenty-five meters from each of their two classrooms. The precision tickled Niou’s sense of the ridiculous, and he sometimes thought that it amused Yagyuu even more. He couldn’t decide whether Yagyuu found the thing itself amusing, or whether it was more Niou’s amusement with it that caused Yagyuu to be amused as well. This was one of the many conundrums of Niou’s life. Fortunately, he liked conundrums.
“So, how’d it go?” Niou asked.
“As well as could be expected,” said Yagyuu.
“Awww, c’mon, Hiroshi. More than that,” said Niou. “You should’ve seen the look on Takada’s face. Doesn’t he know what you are yet?”
“And what might that be?”
Niou grinned. “My partner in crime. So how’d Takamura take it?”
“Takamura-sensei did not so much as bat an eyelash,” said Yagyuu. “Someone has clearly desensitized her.”
“Yeah, little troublemakers,” said Niou, stretching lazily like a cat in the sun. “C’mon, let’s go up to the roof before lunch.”
“We have class in five minutes,” Yagyuu pointed out.
“Yeah,” said Niou. “Come on, let’s go.”
And they did.
“Hey, you. Niou Masaharu, right?”
“Oh man,” said Niou under his breath. “Here we go.”
The hall monitor headed briskly in his direction, pad of paper and pen at the ready. “All third-years should be in class at this time. I’m going to have to mark you down for truancy. ID, please.”
“Well,” said Niou. “Fine.” He made a show of searching for his card, and came up with it and handed it over.
The hall monitor looked from Niou to the photo and back again. “This… isn’t you, Niou-kun.”
“Yes it is,” said Niou.
“Well…” the hall monitor hesitated. Niou and Yagyuu were well-known around the school, legendary almost, even though they hadn’t graduated yet. “You responded to the name Niou, didn’t you?”
“Didn’t actually say I was Niou, though,” said Niou. “Did I?”
“Then… Yagyuu-kun. I’ll have to mark you down for this, anyway. Ah…” The boy scribbled something hastily on the tablet that may or may not have been Yagyuu’s name. “You can go now. Straight to class,” he added, in an attempt to be stern.
“Hey, of course.” Niou gave him a grin that was exactly as reassuring as it was meant to be; which was to say, not at all. “See ya.”
He walked around exactly one corner and then stopped, listening.
“Niou… Niou-kun?” The hall monitor sounded, naturally, rather uncertain. “Is… I… Yagyuu-kun just…”
“Hiroshi did? Nah.” Niou heard his own voice saying, in a low and secretive tone, “I’m really Yagyuu, you know.”
“See for yourself.” A rustle of fabric, signifying the withdrawal of an ID card, and then: “See?”
“That has Niou-kun’s name on it…”
“You think we can’t swap IDs around, too? Oughta try it sometime, kid. Thinking of having a set of over-18 ones printed up for both of us.”
“It… I…” The hall monitor, a second year, younger than both of them, sounded slightly desperate. “I’ll have to mark both of you down for being truant from class.”
“Hey, of course,” said Yagyuu. “See ya.”
As he came around the corner and he and Niou locked eyes, they both heard the hall monitor scratching out whatever he’d written on the pad of paper. “Hey,” said Niou.
“Nice,” said Yagyuu.
They both grinned.
“So how about that?” Yagyuu-as-Niou said, displaying their ID cards proudly to the rest of the team. “Not bad, huh?”
Marui, who was sitting across from them, blew a slow, thoughtful bubble and popped it. “So you have the same picture on both of them.”
“Yup,” Niou-as-Niou confirmed.
“Didn’t the photographer notice?” asked Jackal.
“Nah,” said Niou. “Two different days, and he saw hundreds of kids between us. No problem.”
“So if you both have the same picture on your ID cards,” said Marui, “and neither of you look like the picture… then… which one of you is really which?”
They didn’t even have to exchange a glance for that one. “Guess,” they said together, effectively driving Marui and Jackal and everyone else in the immediate vicinity crazy for the entire lunch hour, at least until Yanagi came by, five minutes before class started again, and easily pointed out which one was which.
Yanagi was hard to fool, really.
“So nothing independent out right now?” asked Niou.
“No, there isn’t,” said Yagyuu, who knew that Niou had already known the answer. Words had long since become a formality they didn’t always bother with.
“Right.” Niou nodded decisively. “Car chases and explosives it is.” That was all the discussion it took them to reach a conclusion about the movie they were going to see, and Niou ambled into the theater, Yagyuu beside him and walking like the prim gentleman most people thought he was.
He wouldn’t have pulled anything if the guy behind the ticket counter hadn’t been giving him a look, like he didn’t approve of Niou’s spikes or dye job or something. Guy was probably in high school, Niou would guess he was a bit older than them, anyway, but it didn’t give him the right to look at junior high school kids like they were lower than the dirt on his shoe. The trick was going to be in the name of justice, or else Niou wouldn’t even have bothered.
Aw, hell, yes he would have.
Niou glanced at Yagyuu, that’s it, just a glance, not even a fleeting grin. Yagyuu’s expression was unreadable behind those glasses of his. It doesn’t matter. Niou knew.
“Two students for ‘Fighting Nights,’ please.” Niou had to stifle a snicker, because no way anyone would predict that a straight-laced, preppy-looking guy like Yagyuu is going to buy tickets to a blow-em-up thrillride like that one
“Need to see some ID,” said the guy, eying Yagyuu like he wasn’t quite sure what to make of him. He decided that turning a look of disdain on Niou was safer, which it wasn’t.
“Fine.” Niou had to dig around in his pocket for his again, while Yagyuu’s was out of his wallet and in his hand within a second. Better that way, though, so the drama was a little staggered. Yagyuu showed his and the guy nodded curtly, then looked impatiently at Niou again. Like he’s got anything better to do, Niou thought, and any shred of remorse he might have felt about this charade of theirs vanished into the atmosphere. He came up with his ID, triumphant, and handed it over.
The guy checked it, and narrowed his eyes. “What are you trying to pull here?”
“Me? Nothing,” said Niou, leaning indolently on the counter.
“Nice try. This isn’t your picture on this ID.” The guy opened his mouth, about to say something to Yagyuu, to reproach him for letting Niou use his picture on an ID that’s obviously fake, but the mouth snapped shut just as quickly. Yagyuu’s inscrutable face was unnerving, sometimes even to Niou, although Niou liked being unnerved more than most people do. It happened so rarely, he counted it as a novel experience. “Full price or nothing,” the guy said finally. “Pay up,” and then something under his breath that sounded like, “Baby delinquent.”
Niou wasn’t a baby delinquent, he was a full-fledged master. How many other delinquents got perfect grades, played a sport on a professional level, and managed to keep up their bad-boy image? Not a lot, he knew that much. Yagyuu was even better, though, because he was just as much of a delinquent as Niou and nobody knew it. Niou felt that Yagyuu’s was the standard to which all delinquents should aspire, really.
“Hey. That’s my picture,” said Niou. “Right, Hiroshi?”
The guy leaned in close and said quietly, so that no one would hear him mouthing off to a customer, “Look, don’t even try this bullshit on me. I have eyes, I know that’s not your picture. We all know you’re a dropout trying to score a cheap movie ticket, and let me tell you, it’s not happening.”
Niou didn’t pull back, just locked eyes with the guy, looking completely and utterly disinterested. “Screw you,” he said calmly.
“That’s it, I’m getting my manager.” With a quick glance to make sure there was no one waiting behind them (there wasn’t), the guy left the counter. Niou grinned at Yagyuu. They might have pulled this off even if he hadn’t left, but it was so much easier this way.
When the counter guy came back, a weary twenty-something man in a suit in tow, Yagyuu and Niou were still standing there next to each other, perfect posture, identical expressions, the works. Niou raised his left eyebrow, and beside him, Yagyuu raised his right. The counter guy stopped, gaped, and looked like he was about to have a coronary right there.
“So what’s the problem?” the manager asked.
“I have no idea,” said Niou, in his carefully-practiced Yagyuu voice that’s become second nature, or maybe even first. “Your employee wouldn’t allow my twin and I to purchase tickets at the student rate.” He held out his ID again.
The manager took it and examined it, then took Yagyuu’s and examined that as well.
“They’ve got different last names,” the counter guy managed to point out.
“Our parents are divorced,” Yagyuu put in smoothly. “I took our father’s last name, while Masaharu took our mother’s.”
The manager shook his head and handed their cards back. “Nakahara, don’t waste my time on this stuff. Their IDs check out. You have the theater’s most sincere apologies,” he said to Niou and Yagyuu, making a quick transition back to professionalism. “Your tickets are on the house this time.”
They nodded in unison, and took their free tickets with Yagyuu’s customary dignity. It was Yagyuu who winked at the counter guy as they went by, not Niou, and the guy was too shocked to do anything but stare.
“That was excellent,” said Niou, keeping up his Yagyuu-act even when it was only Yagyuu he was performing for. Yagyuu was, in fact, the most discerning audience he had, aside from possibly Yanagi and Yukimura. “Most amusing, don’t you think, Hiroshi?”
“Quite,” Yagyuu replied.
By the time they walked (sauntered, more like) past the ticket counter and out of the theater, Niou was back as himself. So the counter guy thought, anyway, and he sputtered indignantly when Niou tipped him a nod and a grin. Of course, this time ‘Niou’ was really Yagyuu, but it wasn’t like the guy could tell the difference, and it wasn’t like there was much of a difference anyway, even to Niou and Yagyuu.
“Pretty great,” said Yagyuu, slinging an arm over Niou’s shoulders. “We can probably only score free tickets once with that, though, huh?”
“Perhaps,” said Niou, and Yagyuu flashed him a conspiratorial smirk.
Sometimes Niou absolutely loved himself.
“Niou-senpai... Yagyuu-senpai.” Kirihara pointed to each of them in turn, coincidentally labeling them right. It didn’t matter.
“Nah,” said Niou, who was dressed as himself. “Try again, kid.” Before Kirihara could get away, Niou collared him and ruffled his hair affectionately.
“Niou-senpai!” Kirihara yelped, squirming to get away. A shame he couldn’t manage demon mode too often outside of the courts, in Niou’s opinion. “I mean… Yagyuu-senpai!”
“I bet that one’s really Niou,” said Marui, jabbing a thumb in Yagyuu’s direction. Then he looked at Jackal with a hopeful grin. “I’ll bet you a package of gum.”
“I don’t really want gum…” said Jackal, but he’d buy some for Marui later, no doubt about that. Either that or Yukimura would, or Niou himself.
“It’s not like we can tell, anyway,” said Marui. “They switch IDs all the time now too.”
Kirihara was still struggling. “Yagyuu-senpai, my hair!”
“Doesn’t matter anyway, not like it’s going to look any different,” said Niou, with a philosophical shrug.
“All right, Niou, that’s enough.” Yukimura’s voice had the ability to cut through absolutely anything. Probably if they were all in different sections of a concert with thousands of people between them, the members of the RikkaiDai Fuzoku tennis club would still snap to attention upon hearing Yukimura speak. Yukimura smiled.
“You were right, Akaya. That’s Niou,” Yanagi added.
Kirihara looked indignant, reaching up a hand to muss his own hair even more. “That’s not fair, Niou-senpai! And Yagyuu-senpai too!” He glared back and forth between them, as though unsure which would be a more appropriate target for his ire.
“Life ain’t fair, kid,” said Niou cheerfully.
Before either Niou or Yagyuu set foot on the tennis courts, they had switched back, Niou as Yagyuu and vice-versa. Yanagi gave no indication that he’d noticed, and Yukimura only smiled again, and said nothing.
“There’s a new movie in the theaters,” said Yagyuu.
Niou glanced up from the homework he wasn’t doing. He figured, why should he do today what could be put off until tomorrow? Essays turned out just as well when they were whipped out an hour before class. Strangely, Niou never saw Yagyuu doing his homework, but Yagyuu always handed in neat and perfect papers anyway. “Oh yeah?”
“Yes.” Yagyuu consulted his newspaper again. “Zafiro, Diamante. An independent Spanish film.”
“Artsy flick, then,” said Niou, without rancor. He liked Yagyuu’s artsy choices just as often as he liked his own action picks, which was about ninety-five percent of the time for both. The other five percent they usually agreed were crap, although Yagyuu called them ‘lacking in plot and sophistication’ as opposed to ‘crap.’
“Yes. You know, Nakahara-san will be working again tonight.” Yagyuu didn’t look up from his paper when he said it, but Niou could have sworn he caught Yagyuu’s eyes gleaming over the rim of his glasses.
“Oh, our good friend Nakahara, huh?” Niou asked nonchalantly, although the gleam in his eyes answered the one in Yagyuu’s. “It’d be downright rude not to pay him a visit, give him a little something to make his workday interesting.”
Yagyuu did not reply out loud, but the smile that flickered across his face said it all.