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A Little Ghostly Nudge

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"As they stared at the little girl's ghost in horror, she smiled coldly at them."

Kayashima Taiki paused, his face expressionless except for a slight twitch at the corner of his mouth. He subtly let his gaze drift over the group of boys gathered around him. Noe was rocking back and forth, seemingly unaware of the terrified look on his face. Nakatsu and Sekime didn't look to be much behind him, while Nakao kept shooting uncomfortable looks around the room as if he wasn't quite sure why he was there. Sano was sitting on the other side of the room, calmly reading a letter and not paying any attention to them whatsoever.

Noe leaned forward, his eyes wide. "Then what?" he asked frantically. "What happened next?"

Tilting his head a bit, Kayashima met Noe's gaze. "Behind them," he said, drawing out the words so that everyone's attention focused on him again, "someone started to whistle a familiar tune."

Sano finally glanced up from the letter he had been reading, shaking his head in amusement.

Noe let out a strangled cry, his face paling as he drew away from Kayashima. Beside him, Sekime grinned and shot Kayashima a conspiratorial wink. Then he softly started to whistle the song from the story.

The others burst out laughing as Noe let out a high-pitched shriek. Even Kayashima chuckled a bit, enjoying the terrified look on his friend's face.

"I know!" Nakatsu said after a few seconds. "Why don't we have a séance of our own?"

Kayashima's chuckles died instantly.

Sekime shot Nakatsu a thoughtful look. "You know, that's not such a bad idea. It's not like we have to get up early for classes tomorrow."

"Speak for yourself," Sano muttered under his breath.

Nakatsu ignored him, nodding at Sekime. "Isn't it great?"

"It does sound neat," Nakao added after a moment.

The three of them turned toward Noe, who stared worriedly back at them. "Are you sure?" he asked. "I mean, you heard what happened in the story."

Sekime waved his hand. "It's just a story," he said casually. "Right, Kayashima?"

Kayashima stared back at him with an unamused look on his face. "Amateurs shouldn't get involved in things they don't understand," he said, frowning.

"That means 'yes,'" Nakatsu said, mock-whispering, "'it's just a story.'"

Most of the others burst out laughing, though Sano just rolled his eyes and glanced down at his watch. Kayashima just sighed.

"So we're really having a séance?" Noe asked after the laughter died down. He still looked a little nervous, but there was definitely some excitement mixed in.

Sekime threw his arm over Noe's shoulder. "Of course," he said, grinning. "It will be fun."

"And we only have a few more months before graduation," Nakao pointed out. "This might be our last chance."

Noe slowly started to grin. "It would be kind of neat to do some of that stuff from the movies."

Kayashima barely resisted the urge to roll his eyes.

Nakatsu looked around the room, still grinning. "Is everyone in?"

Sano shook his head. "Count me out," he said, pushing himself to his feet. "I'm supposed to meet with my coach tomorrow to discuss my plans for college, and I want to reply to Mizuki's letter before it gets too late."

"That letter's from Mizuki?" Nakatsu asked, his eyes widening. It was obvious that he'd missed the rest of Sano's reply. He quickly jumped to his feet and followed Sano toward the door. "Why didn't you say so? Can I see it? What did she say?" He paused for a second,. "And where are you going?"

Sighing, Sano paused in the doorway and held up one hand. "Yes," he said, holding up a finger. "I just did." Another finger raised. "No." Another. "She's fine." A fourth. "My room." The last one.

Without saying another word, Sano dropped his hand and stepped out of the room, pulling the door shut behind him. Nakatsu stood there, staring at it for a moment, before turning back around and clapping his hands. "Fine then," he said, eyeing them all, "that leaves five of us to do the séance."

"Four." Doing his best to ignore how pink Nakatsu's aura still grew just by hearing Ashiya's name, Kayashima stood up and started toward the door.

Nakatsu blinked as Kayashima walked past him. "You're not helping?" he asked, surprised.

"No," Kayashima replied simply. Without saying another word he opened the door and walked out, shutting it behind him. Then he flinched. Judging by the quiet thud on the other side, it sounded as if Nakatsu had tried to follow him out.

Shaking his head, he started down the hallway. After several seconds Kayashima heard the sound of a door opening behind him, and he quickly hurried his pace. He opened the door to his room, not looking back.

"Nakatsu, where are you going?" Sekime called out, his voice muffled. "It's your room!"

"I'll be right back! Go ahead and start getting ready!"

Ignoring the sound of footsteps coming down the hall, Kayashima shut his door behind him with a loud thud. He pulled his chair out from under his desk, grabbing a nearby book as he dropped down into the chair. Without even glancing at the title, he opened to the middle and started skimming.

He didn't even look up when his door crashed open a few seconds later.

"We're not roommates anymore," Kayashima said matter-of-factly. He pointedly closed his book and placed it on his desk before finally looking up to meet Nakatsu's gaze. "You shouldn't just barge into someone's private room."

Nakatsu shook his head. "You were five seconds ahead of me," he replied. "Besides, like you said, we were roommates for two years."

"That's beside the point."

"Beside the point?" Nakatsu threw his hands up in frustration. "What's up with you? Normally you're always ready to throw some of this supernatural stuff at us. I mean, you're the one who sees ghosts everywhere."

Kayashima took a deep breath, schooling his face so that it was as expressionless as possible. "The spirits I see are all around us," he said dryly. "They're as much a part of this world as you or I."

Nakatsu sighed and leaned back against the wall. "I sense a 'but' coming."

"However," Kayashima said, purposely emphasizing the word, "a séance calls forth ghosts that normally wouldn't be here. It's a completely different set of circumstances."

"So you're saying that people shouldn't do séances?" Nakatsu asked skeptically.

Kayashima reached up and rubbed his temples. "No," he said tiredly. "I'm saying that it's not something that should be done by amateurs."

Nakatsu stared at him, obviously puzzled. "Then why don't you help us? After all, you're the expert."

"I'm not that talented," Kayashima said, not quite meeting his gaze.

"Sure you are," Nakatsu replied instantly. There wasn't any doubt in his voice.

Kayashima chuckled softly and finally looked up. He smiled wearily at Nakatsu, taking in the familiar colors of his aura. "No," he repeated gently, "I'm not."

It surprised him how reassuring it was just to look at Nakatsu's aura. The color didn't steadily stay the same, as it typically did for Sano, Sekime, or even Ashiya to some extent. Nor did it switch between two extremes like with Noe and Nakao. It was... unpredictable. And that was something that Kayashima didn't find very often.

"Stop staring at me like that," Nakatsu said, nervously running his fingers through his dyed hair.

Kayashima looked away hurriedly. "Sorry," he said, mentally chastising himself for getting lost in his thoughts. He reached up to rub his aching head again, frowning a bit when he realized just how suddenly his headache had come on. Something felt off about it.

"You know, I think I'm going to go see how the guys are coming with setting up the séance," Nakatsu said, his disappointment obvious as he moved away from the wall. "It looks like we'll have to base it on the movies after all."

*

Kayashima jerked awake, gasping for breath as he frantically glanced around his room. His utter panic faded a bit once he realized that he must have fallen asleep at his desk, but it didn't disappear completely. Something felt off, and he couldn't shake the feeling that something was wrong.

He glanced over at his clock, frowning when he saw the time. It had only been a little over an hour since he'd left the others; not enough time for them to call it quits for the night, but plenty of time for them to cause all sorts of trouble.

Out of the corner of his eye, Kayashima saw something move.

He reacted instantly. Clearing his mind, he let his gaze drift over the room. There wasn't anything there, ghost or otherwise, but there had been... and recently. "The séance," he muttered, groaning. "They've actually managed to call something."

Someone knocked at his door just as wave of paranormal energy swept over him. The door swung open despite Kayashima's lack of an answer, revealing Nakatsu standing there.

"I knocked," Nakatsu said, grinning casually. "You didn't say anything about waiting for an answer."

Narrowing his eyes, Kayashima stared at the figure standing in the doorway. It looked like Nakatsu, but the aura was all wrong. Instead of the usual mismatch of contrasting colors, all of them struggling to overpower the others, it was dark. Faded. As if it wasn't him.

Or as if it was more than just him.

Before Kayashima had a chance to move, Nakatsu--no, the ghost inside of Nakatsu--cleared the distance between the doorway and where he was sitting. It grabbed Kayashima's shoulders, pushing him down in his chair. "Don't move."

Kayashima resisted the urge to struggle. Physically, he doubted that he stood a chance against whatever it was inside Nakatsu. His friend towered over him, and he was much more athletically built. Forcing himself to stay calm, Kayashima slowed his breathing and tried to concentrate. He could do a simple exorcism. He'd done dozens, perhaps even hundreds of them.

"I'm not going to hurt you," the ghost said in a wounded tone. If Kayashima hadn't known any better, he never would have been able to tell that it wasn't Nakatsu. "Or him."

Despite the warnings his brain was sending him, Kayashima tried to force himself to calm down. He didn't feel a sense of malice from the ghost inside of Nakatsu. There was something there that he couldn't quite define, but it wasn't ill-intentions.

Nakatsu leaned in and kissed him.

No, it wasn't Nakatsu. It was simply a ghost using Nakatsu's body as a vessel.

Kayashima couldn't keep his body from reacting to the unexpected kiss. It had been quite awhile since he'd been close to anyone, and--in spite of the argument his brain was sending him--other parts of his anatomy had just as strong a sense of reasoning. The fact that it was one of his closest friends, if not his closest, didn't matter.

Through the kiss, Kayashima felt Nakatsu's mouth twist into a smile. He could almost hear the words "thank you" echoing in his mind. Then the ghostly presence disappeared so suddenly that it startled him, surprising him almost as much as the sudden lack of pressure on his shoulder.

Nakatsu pulled away with a gasp.

They stared at each other for a second, both of them wide-eyed. Kayashima was aware of a dull ache in his shoulder from where he'd been held down, but he resisted the urge to rub it. He felt slightly dizzy, but he wasn't sure whether it was from the kiss or the earlier presence of the ghost.

"Kayashima?" Nakatsu asked hesitantly, sounding more than a little shocked. "What just happened?"

Kayashima couldn't answer. Without saying a word, he slid out of his chair down to the floor, his legs curling up under him. His heart was pounding in his chest and his breathing was coming out in short gasps. After a few seconds, he saw a hint of movement out of the corner of eye. Nakatsu knelt down in front of him, uncertainly reaching out his hand to rest it on Kayashima's shoulder.

"Taiki?"

Nakatsu's aura was dark red. Even though he knew that it could mean a lot of things, Kayashima was certain that it meant his friend was worried. He had to be, if he was using Kayashima's given name. He could count on his fingers the number of times that had happened.

A little surprised, but nonetheless touched, Kayashima forced himself to breathe more slowly. He was on the verge of hyperventilating, and that was the last thing either of them needed right then. Still struggling to calm his racing heart, Kayashima finally looked up to meet Nakatsu's gaze.

"I told you that it was a bad idea to try holding a séance," he said, his voice cracking slightly in the middle. "If you don't know what you're doing, anything can happen."

Nakatsu stared at him, uncertainty flooding his face. "What just happened?" he asked, sounding much more serious than Kayashima ever thought he'd heard. "I... I don't remember what happened."

Kayashima looked away, not quite meeting Nakatsu's eyes. "You were possessed again," he said, trying to keep his voice light. "Maybe you should wear that amulet I gave you more often."

Nakatsu stared at him, silently mouthing the word "possessed."

"It's gone now," Kayashima said hurriedly. Still shaky, he reached up and pulled off one of the amulets he typically wore around his neck, hidden under his shirt. "Put this on, and you shouldn't have to worry about it coming back."

Still staring, Nakatsu took the offered amulet and hung it around his neck. "It made me kiss you?" he asked blankly. "Why would it make me kiss you?"

"Normally, ghosts merely have unfinished business that they need to attend to in the world of the living," Kayashima replied, shrugging slightly. He finally met Nakatsu's gaze, but he forced himself not to give anything away by his face. "Ghosts that are called by a séance don't always act the same way. Sometimes they do have unfinished business of their own, but more often they just cause trouble."

"By making people do things they normally wouldn't?"

Kayashima frowned a bit when he saw the subtle change in Nakatsu's aura. The embarrassment he could understand, considering his friend's past, but there was something else mixed in that he couldn't quite read. "In a way," he said slowly. "More often they make people do things they would do if the situation was different."

Nakatsu stared at him.

Barely resisting the urge to hide his face, Kayashima instead focused his attention on Nakatsu's aura. It was quickly returning to normalcy, slowly turning vibrant and easy to read. Almost.

Kayashima frowned, tilting his head a bit. Nakatsu's aura had a definite pink tinge to it, the color that he was normally used to associating with Ashiya or any mention of their former classmate. It wasn't nearly as bright as it had been on previous occasions, but it was there nonetheless.

"Oh, what the hell?" Nakatsu muttered.

For the second time that night, Nakatsu acted before Kayashima had a chance to react. He grabbed him without warning, pressing his lips against his. It was different from the first time. Then it had been meticulous, a carefully planned action. This time... this time it wasn't. It was warm and friendly, scared and hopeful. It felt natural.

Most importantly, it was real.

Kayashima froze for a moment, completely stunned. Then he did the only thing that came to mind: he kissed him back.

Neither of them even thought to close the door.

"Kayashima! We think that Nakatsu's been possessed by... oh."

They both pulled away instantly, their faces red. Neither of them met the other's gaze. Sekime and Noe stood in the doorway, openly gaping, while Nakao peered around them with an impressed look on his face.

Kayashima cleared his throat, well aware that his face wasn't even close to its usual blasé self. "I, uh, noticed," he said weakly. "The ghost's already been dealt with."

He paused for a moment. "Next time, maybe you'll listen when I tell you that holding a séance is a bad idea," he added.

All three of them nodded, their eyes still focused on the two of them sitting on the floor.

Nakatsu coughed. "Out of curiosity," he asked anxiously, "I didn't kiss any of you, right?"