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Muse

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Yusuke's stomach spins like an empty washing machine, compounding the dull ache in his skull. His thoughts scatter and he can't focus enough to chase them.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Look straight ahead.

The car stops at an intersection. Yusuke glances out the window to catch a glimpse of the passersby before he's sucked further into motion sickness hell.

His eye catches on a boy.

He wears glasses, and the frames change the composition of his face. There's a hint of the divine in the partially-obscured line of his cheekbones, the shape of his jaw. He's watching his peers bicker without a hint of disquiet, interested but not completely engaged. His hair looks so soft that Yusuke can almost feel it under his fingers.

Ethereal.

He's out of the car before he registers the feel of the door handle against his hand. His stomach lurches with the sudden movement but sound is melting in his ears. His brain dismisses the discomfort as easily as it dismisses the idea of consequences.

He catches them outside the train station.

Yusuke's muse watches his approach during the last stretch. He straightens his back and puts himself between Yusuke and the girl in their group. There's another boy, bleached blonde with terrible posture, who moves in sync with him.

For some reason, they think he's stalking her. Turning his attention completely to his muse seems to dissuade them of the notion fairly quickly. Madarame's appearance only pushes forward the momentum.

"No, no, while you are, indeed, quite lovely-- it is your companion who has caught my eye."

Their defensive stance falters and dies.

"What?" The blonde boy blurts out, pointing to his friend. "This guy?"

"Yes, absolutely. I have been searching for you for what seems like lifetimes."

A cat meows from somewhere. Yusuke thinks he might be imagining it.

"Have we met?" Yusuke's muse asks, stepping forward from his friends.

"No, I would never forget such a meeting-- I beg of you, please model for my next art piece."

The conversation skips a beat, then another.

"Is this dude serious..?" The blonde boy mutters, while the girl simply gapes at him. Yusuke's muse takes this in stride far easier than the others. He doesn't so much as flinch.

"Of course I am serious! The intensity underlying your gaze, that subtle masculinity... There is a passion in you that I have found nowhere else!"

The declaration comes easily, an expression of something as natural as water. But there's something uneasy about the atmosphere, the way the boy's friends glance at passersby. Somewhere in the depths of Yusuke's mind he thinks that, perhaps, he has missed something. Some clue. Regardless, he carries on, buoyed by sheer enthusiasm.

The color palate of Yusuke's muse has shifted. His skin takes on a soft, rosy hue, which is captivating in a way that tugs something in Yusuke's stomach. It is the car ride in reverse, a churning that warms rather than sickens.

His muse is watching him in return now, his eyes tracing Yusuke's face and then dropping to his chest and onward. Even with the high collar of his uniform, Yusuke can see how the boy swallows.

"I don't have modeling experience," The boy says, apologetically.

"Oh, that won't be necessary!" Yusuke assures him, but the blonde boy cuts them off before Yusuke's muse can amend his answer.

"Akira, dude, you can't seriously be considering this. Who even is this guy?"

Yusuke realizes very abruptly that he hasn't made even the slightest effort to introduce himself. The new knowledge of his muse's name will have to wait until that's done.

"Oh, where are my manners? I'm a second-year at Kosei High's fine-arts division. My name is Yusuke Kitagawa."

Now that the introduction itself has been made, Yusuke steps forward, pushing the blonde boy out of the way. Akira is watching intently, the weight of his gaze almost heady.

"I'm Madarame-sensei's pupil, and I am being allowed residence at his place. I'm striving to become an artist."

In the moment, he feels only pride at these words. The moment of recognition on Akira's female friend's face only heightens the feeling. She knows his teacher, even though the blonde boy doesn't.

And... something about Mementos. Yusuke doesn't recognize the word, at least not as a place. Perhaps it is a television show that had done a piece on Madarame's work? He can't keep track of everywhere it's featured, the sheet volume is overwhelming.

Guiltily, the only incidences that Yusuke remembers are the ones where the work on display is his own, signed with a different name.

Madarame calls for him then, as if sensing the traitorous thoughts in his charge. Yusuke calls back to him and hurriedly passes along the exhibit information to Akira, along with a plea to stop by.

"You may bring your friends along, although I doubt that this one has an interest in the fine arts," Yusuke says, nodding his head slightly in the blonde boy's direction.

It's fortunate that he has enough tickets on his person, though Yusuke truly does doubt that both of Akira's friends will attend. The girl seems knowledgable enough, but his male friend is another story altogether.

And then he has to be off, hope high in his throat in spite of his rushed goodbye.

Which puts him back in the car with Madarame. The noise of the milling crowd is gone. Yusuke comes down from the high of Akira's presence quicker than he could have imagined.

"So your next subject is going to be that girl? A good choice."

"Ah. The boy, actually."

Madarame goes silent, and as the moment drags on, Yusuke's mood dips even further. A sharp coldness blossoms in his gut.

"There is some artistic sense in following your... passions, but keep my reputation in mind."

It's an admonishment, plain and simple. Yusuke's reputation feeds into Madarame's much the way his work is sacrificed to his teacher's art block. It's only fair, and it's familiar, a staple for years now. He should know better than to choose such a difficult subject matter.

"I will do justice by my model, and by you, Sensei," He promises.

"Ensure that you do."

The rest of the car ride is marked by silence and malaise, both familiar. Yusuke gently rubs blood into his fingers, poor circulation compounded by a lunch that wasn't. He wants to sketch when he gets home, to try to put shape to the rapture he felt today before it slips away into nerves and unease.

He wants to hold that feeling in his hands forever.