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Old Habits Dying Hard

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As difficult as it was when Nishimura Shin said nothing, Akihiro found him far harder to deal with when he bothered to actually speak. Not all of the time, but a lot of it; Shin was the kind of person who didn't speak unless he felt he really needed to, and Shin feeling that he really needed to usually spelt some kind of problem for Akihiro to deal with in whatever way he saw fit. Shin spoke casually of terrible things, suggest destruction in the same breath as he did his homework for the next day, smile in sadness and laugh in despair. He was, at the very least, rather difficult to deal with; Akihiro knew this. Every second interaction proved this again and again to Akihiro and yet, maybe for that reason alone, he never saw fit to halt their encounters. Shin was difficult and he knew this, but did anybody else? He was Seirei Gakuen's star musician. Successful band, hoards of fangirls, a bright future which Shin himself seemed to let himself be gleefully clouded against.

Akihiro knew that at least some of those words in that behaviour were designed purely to get a rise out of him and hated the frequency in which this actually worked, but could he ever take that chance? He knew that giving in to Shin's demands left him vulnerable and Shin with a capable weapon, but that was still preferable to the alternative. If it detracted from Shin's self-aimed negativity even the slightest bit, Akihiro thought it worth it... he supposed. Every time, all the time, this was reluctant. Never something he would stop or give up on, but something that exhausted him. It exhausted him that Shin was like this; it would anybody, wouldn't it? He leant across his car steering wheel, pointedly staring in the direction that Shin wasn't, gazing through the windowscreen to the unfocused world beyond. Shin sat in the passenger seat; he had it tilted back, and the air was thick with the silence left as aftermath to an argument. Argument? Akihiro wasn't sure one could even call it that. No, more just... more just Shin being Shin again. Akihiro trying to dissuade him. Shin being adamant that this tactic wouldn't work. It seemed almost like a game a child would play, but here there were firmer things at stake and it frustrated Akihiro that Shin would be so throwaway on such heavy subjects.

there's homework due at the end of the week

(but if I was dead, I wouldn't have to do it)

I've got a concert on this month

(if I died it would be a problem, everything's already sorted and we've been rehearsing and I've written a new song and--

no, but if I was dead, that'd be the end, right? I wouldn't have to worry, because there wouldn't be a me to worry in the first place. And it'd be a pain for the people left to deal with it, but it wouldn't be my problem anymore, would it?)

Akihiro told Shin that he was selfish. Shin smiled and laughed and agreed. There wasn't much more you could say to that.

Shin had said similar things so many times that it would have been easy to accuse him of crying wolf by this point, but Akihiro couldn't allow himself to do anything other than take Shin to his word and to take him absolutely seriously every time, because what if the one time he didn't was the one time that Shin did...? Akihiro knew that if somebody really wanted to do something like that, there wasn't a lot you could do; Shin liked to say these things to cause a reaction, this seemed an easily-recognised pattern. If he ever got serious, though...? If he chose not to say anything, if he acted in secret, then surely it would be quite easy for him to avoid suspicion until it was too late, and Akihiro hated to think of that but knew it as true as anything. He couldn't keep watch on Shin twenty-four hours a day. He couldn't understand or predict the frenzied non-sequiturs that served as thought processes in Shin's mind and was, occasionally, somewhat surprised that they'd even made it to this point. Clearly, up to now, Shin hadn't been serious (or at least, his ideas hadn't held enough merit to warrant action). If he were, though? It didn't seem beyond the realm of possibility for Shin to go too far on a whim, a split-second decision made as part of some adrenaline rush. It all depended on, Akihiro supposed, where Shin was likely to get his particular rushes from of a given day. He did at least seem to hold a genuine love for music and, as it followed on, for performing also. As a professional singer, there was nothing wrong with this. Akihiro didn't know (and didn't really want to know) what else Shin got up to with his bandmates, but had a strange feeling that that one section of Shin's life was perhaps, at least for now, quite 'pure'; his train of thought seemed projected with most clarity when talking on that subject, when trying to express the feelings that particular high gave him. They performed. The audience liked them. They, in turn, liked that. Shin seemed a little too young and new and underexposed for the diseased underbelly of the music industry to expose itself; Akihiro was fine to let him see his musical pursuits as this grand calling for a little while longer yet.

He performed, and that was fine. He fucked around fucking Enami and Akihiro didn't like that, but could at least admit that there were worse targets to pick on. Akihiro didn't get on well with Enami too well personally, but as an element to be involved with Shin he did at least trust Enami to try to be some kind of guiding light and positive influence on Shin; whether this would actually work was another thing entirely but at least like that, Akihiro could feel like his own personal efforts were not as solitary as they could have been. Shin would bring knives to school, showing them off to (again) get a reaction. Again, Akihiro was surprised that Shin had never been caught; alright, so Akihiro was the only one Shin was likely to want to show off to in that fashion to begin with, but his actions (even if passive) were still dangerous on many different levels. Shin would smile

I'll do it, Jinguuji

Don't you want to see me bleed?

I want to show you--

Akihiro only wished he knew how he'd fallen in with such a person so he could avoid such stressful situations in the future. The more he thought about it the more he thought he couldn't take it, but then the next example would show itself and he would, because he was the only person who could. Because he was the only person present in that situation who could do anything about it (because out of he and Shin, Shin certainly didn't seem to be putting in the appropriate effort).

He said all of these things and sometimes he did even follow through on them. And he'd bleed. And Akihiro would watch him bleed and silently panic, should I be taking him to the nurse's office? Shouldn't he have some kind of bandage? Doesn't that need some kind of treatment? but he would stand transfixed (hatefully so) under the glint of warm bodily fluids under the sunlight and Shin's smile, never so sincere as it was in those situations. And Shin just seemed to have some kind of 'thing' about this; bleeding, cutting, hurting, being hurt... he came the hardest with bites to his neck that would leave brown-purple bruises the next day. Still that didn't seem to be enough; Shin wanted to bleed, but Akihiro had learnt the hard way how precisely difficult it was to pierce human skin with teeth alone. This was where blades came in, but Shin would often voice his dilemma; you could cut with a knife with less force than it took to bite with teeth, which was both the plus and the minus. One could easily bleed with a knife, but then where was the challenge - and the bestial nature - present in something tried entirely by human means? To bite like some animal, wild and untamed. Maybe that's what he likes about it, Akihiro would think. He didn't understand it, himself. He thought about it a lot, but just couldn't. Perhaps as a dry and dusty theoretical, but not as it was presented in the here and now. Not when it was like that. Not when it was with him.

And so was the grace period of another meaningless disagreement. That silence in which anything could happen, or not. Shin could bring out his accusations and his suggestions or he could give up on the spot, depending on his mood. Akihiro wasn't in the mood for any of Shin's usual tricks, but knew he'd endure them for the sake of the current scenario. If that was what Shin needed to get off his chest, then, fine. Whatever. They were in his car, after all. He had central locking. And the silence continued; it went on and on and on and the inside temperature of the car increased from the heating, those fans serving as the loudest noise in their space. The windows steamed, somewhat. It was cold outside. Still Akihiro stared to the side, tapping his fingers lightly against the tight surface of the steering wheel. How long would they be waiting there? Not that he had any reason to rush off, but sitting through such a tense atmosphere was not an activity he happened to enjoy.

And then Shin spoke, and it was the worst thing he could have chosen to say.

"... I love you, Akihiro."

Akihiro did look up then, though only enough to be able to half-glance at his passenger. He still lay back against the seat, his fringe covering closed eyes. He lay back as if exhausted, as if tired of this, as if giving up. And there was no response you could give to this. The most ineffectual and simultaneously most powerful weapon, one with impact but no practical use. What had that got to do with any of what they'd been talking of previously? It wasn't a get-out-of-jail-free card, after all. It was nothing to do with anything and yet for all that Shin presented it, it seemed to be the last support standing. The last whole thing to broach. The last thing that could be said.

There was nothing to say, but a lot Akihiro felt he could say. Nothing that would help, of course. First and foremost was Akihiro's most firm argument for this,

I don't believe you.

He did and he didn't and he often couldn't tell which he favoured more. Sometimes, in some circumstances, Akihiro almost believed that Shin could mean it. Sometimes even believed that Shin did mean it, as far as he knew it. How far was that, though...? He threw words around on whim and impulse and just because he didn't smirk while he said something didn't mean it wasn't just as tumultuous. Where had that come from? Perhaps it made sense to Shin's mind, but such a thing was impossible to anybody else once that thought entered the wider world. And Akihiro would look to Shin sometimes and think yes, maybe you do, but he still didn't believe it. How was there any way to know just what Shin meant by such a thing? Did he love like other people loved, or was this another barb used as punctuation, waiting for a reaction to complete the sentence? Love was a kind emotion, forgiving and gentle. Was this supposed to evoke that response? You love me, therefore I forgive you, or... or something...? Akihiro didn't know and didn't even know if Shin knew, though it amused Akihiro (in a bleak sort of a fashion) that the leader of Synchro so praised for his songs and lyrics and emotional tone while singing could be so far off the mark when it came to actual emotion used in day-to-day life.

"... Akihiro."

Akihiro didn't respond to this.

"... Akihiro, I love you."

There, again. Why? Why would anybody keep saying that? Why would anybody say that in the first place? Shin could keep saying that or things like it over and over, but it wouldn't make it any more 'true' or 'real' or 'valid'. He talked of suicide, but he'd never made that final push. He spoke and sang and wrote of love, but never displayed any healthy attitude that could be attributed to such an emotion. Akihiro wouldn't have denied that there was something between the two of them, but he would have been very hesitant to call it 'love' (or any permutation of). It was something, but that--... not that. Not like this. Not at the moment. It would have been nice if that were possible, but so would so many other things, Akihiro would think to himself.

Those last words sounded spoken on the edge of tears, but Akihiro couldn't bring himself to be moved. Why would Shin cry, now? Another inexplicable emotion from a completely inexplicable human being. Rather than bother even trying to respond, Akihiro instead sighed deeply and turned his key in the ignition.

"... I'll take you home."

He looked to Shin. No answer, but this was as much consent as it was rejection. Perhaps having to interact with his family would snap him out of this, whatever 'this' was. Maybe they'd meet at school the next day and it'd be as if nothing had ever happened. Maybe this day would become some side-reference, made months in the future. There was, Akihiro knew (with that sigh lying weary in his throat as he drove along quiet residential streets), simply no way of knowing.