I woke up before my alarm as usual, and took a few moments to make a mental inventory of everything I needed to do that morning before heading to class. Of course there were all the usual things like starting bread dough and prepping roasts for their time in the oven, but since today was Wednesday, that also meant making mini pie crusts for the dessert of the day campaign I was holding all month. My mind raced with the possibilities; of course there would be basic fruit and nut pies, but the real fun came from making something unexpected. A spicy chocolate tart with cinnamon Chantilly cream would be just the thing. Hell, even Kiyo would appreciate it, if I made a couple with extra cayenne.
Nothing was going to get done if I stayed in bed all day. I threw back the blanket and sat up, stretching my arms overhead with a yawn. Man, I felt weird. Maybe I shouldn't have stayed up so late to finish writing up the dessert plans for the rest of the month.
Well, whatever. At least it was done now, so that would hopefully be the end of late nights for a while. I turned to grab my cell phone and turn off the alarm, but it was missing.
No. Everything was missing. Or rather, it was all wrong.
I was wide awake in an instant, heart pounding in reaction to the cold jolt of adrenaline. I wasn't in my own room! I was sleeping in someone else's bed! What the hell was going on? I distinctly remembered sitting at my desk and typing up my plans for the dessert campaign. There was no way I could have ended up somewhere else when all I'd done was drag my half-dead self over to the bed and collapsed into it!
"The hell is going on?!"
The sound of my voice sent another shock through me, and I slapped one hand over my mouth as if trying to take back the words.
My voice wasn't my own!
It was impossible. Impossible! I forced myself to look down at my body, which wasn't my body at all, because I'd never owned a set of long-sleeved navy blue pajamas, and there was no way the small cut on my thumb could have healed already.
I leaped from the bed, nearly stumbling as my feet hit the floor, and rushed into the bathroom. Or at least, I tried to rush, but there was something wrong with my - this - body, like the balance was off somehow. When I flipped on the light and saw my reflection, I nearly fell over.
Shit. This had to be some sort of nightmare. I'd had some pretty vivid ones in the past, right after my father disappeared, and some were even the kind where I had some measure of control. There was no other explanation. No one goes to bed at night and wakes up in someone else's body!
As I was desperately trying to convince myself, there was a sound from the main room. I recognized it as Yuki's cell phone ringtone, an overly cutesy pop song that would have been incredibly irritating if anyone else used it. I followed the sound to his desk and took a peek at the screen.
The call was coming from my cell phone.
Was it possible...? I snatched the phone from the desk and answered it. "Hello?"
"Um, Sonoda-san, is that you?"
God, it was weird, hearing my voice from the outside! "Yeah, it's me... is that you, Yuki-kun?"
"Yes, it's me! But when I woke up this morning, I didn't know where I was, and my body was all wrong, and when I looked in the mirror, I'd turned into you somehow! So I thought, if that happened to me... did you turn into me too?"
The voice on the other end was nasal, almost whiny. Did I really sound like that?! No, it was impossible. Yuki just didn't know how to use my voice properly or something. I was probably mangling his too as I replied, "Yes, I'm somehow you, but listen, this has to be some sort of bad dream. Or I'm hallucinating or something. There's no way something like this could actually happen, so don't panic."
"I'm not panicking!"
Damn, my voice sounded annoying as hell when he added in his signature whiny note. "Listen, if you panic, I'm going to panic! So let's just calm down, okay?"
Big words from someone who felt like his heart was about to explode. The last thing I wanted to do was give Yuki-kun's body a heart attack. Just as I was thinking that, my stomach rumbled, and I couldn't hold back a gasp of surprise. It was nothing like a normal hunger pang; rather, it was like a physical pain, a strange hollow feeling in my gut.
"Sonoda-san? What was that gasp just now?"
"My... your stomach growled. It kind of hurts."
"Ohhh, well, I need to eat a snack in the morning when I get up. If you look in the bottom drawer of my desk, there's lots to choose from." He sighed. "Man, I wish I had my snack stash right now. But it's weird, I don't feel hungry at all yet!"
The bottom drawer of each desk was tall enough to be used for file folders, if anyone was that anal and organized about their papers. I had a suspicion about what I'd find inside, but I still felt my eyes widen as I pulled it open. The entire thing was stuffed to the very top with colorful packages of cookies, chips of all types, candy, convenience store breads, boxes of juice, bottled tea, muffins, and more. All junk that I normally wouldn't consider eating, but now that my stomach wasn't my own, it growled again as if demanding that I choose something from the drawer right now.
"Yuki-kun, you have an awful lot of snacks..."
His giggle sounded creepy in my voice. "Well, I get hungry quickly. You should eat something before you start feeling sick." A brief pause, then, "But don't eat any of the chocolate muffins that are in the box on the right side! Those are from my dad and I've been trying to eat only one a day so I don't run out before the next shipment!"
"Shipment? You make it sound like you get a truckload a week!"
"It's not a truckload! It's just one box, otherwise they'd get really stale by the time I finished them!"
I opened the box and was greeted by the scent of chocolate. My stomach rumbled again in response. "Sorry, Yuki-kun, but since you're always going on about how great your father's baked goods are, I can't pass up the opportunity to taste one for myself."
"Sonoda-saaaaaan!" he whined.
"Hush. It's only fair, since you keep bragging about it. Though I doubt I'd be able to detect all of the ingredients while borrowing your tongue."
"W- well, okay, but you have to tell me your honest opinion as you eat it!" From his sullen tone, I knew he was pouting. It probably looked ridiculous on my face.
"Fine." I set the phone to speaker and set it on the desk, then bit into the muffin. I could tell that it was a few days old, but it was still reasonably moist, and a delicious flavor spread over my tongue. It was more complex than just chocolate; rather, there were hints of mocha and cinnamon, and there was definitely cardamom in there, and a pinch of pepper. The flavor was intense, and I knew it was because just the right amount of salt had been added to the dough, and not too much yeast, which could easily overpower the taste of a dessert bread.
"Oh my god," I gasped, horrified.
"It's good, isn't it?" His tone was almost smug.
"No, that's not it at all! I mean, yes, it's delicious, but..."
His palate is better than mine! It has to be! The flavor is so intense! Wait, no, maybe it's just that these muffins are ridiculously good.
"Hang on," I huffed, digging into the drawer to retrieve a package of cookies, a plain shortbread that I'd sampled a few times while trying to duplicate and then surpass the recipe. It had been a simple task, but of course it was easy to improve on anything that was mass produced.
All natural! No preservatives! the label declared. I tore it open and sniffed one of the cookies. It smelled better than I remembered, buttery and sweet, and when I took a bite, those flavors filled my mouth. A moment later, I tasted the hint of vanilla and the bite of salt that lent the cookie its delicate, smooth flavor. All things I'd tasted myself, of course, but more intense. More delicious. I set the package down with a sigh of defeat. Such a beautiful palate, and mostly untrained. What could it do if it was truly refined?
"Your tongue is wasted on you," I groaned.
"Huh? What's that supposed to mean?"
"Nothing," I grumbled. "Listen, I have a lot of work to do in the cafeteria this morning, how on earth am I going to do it if you're in my body? You have to stay with me all day today."
"But I have class! If I don't show up, Tomo will be worried!"
I pressed one hand to my forehead. "No, you have my classes."
"O... oh, that's right."
"But before class, I have a lot to do in the cafeteria! Since you have my body, you have to help, or it'll look really suspicious if you're suddenly cooking like a professional. And," I brightened up a little, feeling a hint of hope, "maybe we can switch back if we come in physical contact with each other! Like if we shake hands or whatever."
"I have to help cook?" Yuki sounded like he was going to cry.
"If you do a good job, you can eat as many mini pies as you want with your lunch."
"Really? Okay, I'll do it!"
That was easy.
"Good boy," I nodded. "So get ready, and I'll come pick you up from your room in half an hour. Er, I mean my room." I looked around. "Well, I see that you just throw your uniform on the floor. Mine's hanging in the closet. And don't put on the jacket, that's suspicious! Got it?"
"Yeah, okay! And don't forget to wear mine! The armband's on there." He paused. "U, um, you're going to take a shower first, right?"
"Of course, I can't go to work or class without taking a shower first!"
"O... oh. I should take one too, then... but..."
Oh. Ohhhhhhh. I felt my entire face flush. "Um, it can't really be avoided, I guess. Well, I'm not embarrassed about my body, and anyway, you've already seen it in the public bath. Just... make sure to wash up normally. This is an emergency, so it's not weird or anything."
"Yeah, that's right," he mumbled, not sounding convinced at all.
Meanwhile, my heart was pounding. Yuki's body. I'd be lying if I said I hadn't daydreamed about it a few times, but now that I had no choice but to, er, handle certain things, it felt dirtier than the times Kiyo and I had sat around discussing exactly what we'd do with the cute Ace if we had the chance. Someone out there was doing it, after all; it wasn't a secret that Yuki was dating someone, and Kiyo and I both had the feeling that it was a guy.
Great, I'm stuck in the body of an underclassman that's seen more action than my own.
"Well, don't worry about it," I declared loudly, trying to drown out my own thoughts. "Just get ready and I'll come get you. We'll figure out what to do about the rest of the day once we're on the way to the cafeteria."
"Okay," my voice agreed. "Then, I'll go now. Bye, Sonoda-san!"
I set Yuki's phone down on the desk and made my way to the bathroom to start the shower, since it took a good five minutes to heat up in the morning. The hiss of the water made my overly-full bladder twinge unpleasantly, and I felt my face color despite myself.
Geez, this is so stupid. It's just taking a piss, it's nothing weird!
To prove it to myself, I marched over to the toilet and pushed down the pajama pants and underwear without hesitation. So what if I had to touch Yuki's junk? He'd do it without a second thought. It's just biology, I thought, holding it gingerly. Less than a minute later and it was all over, the evidence flushed into... god knew where.
The shower would be the next challenge. I sighed and pulled off Yuki's clothes, dumping them into the plastic laundry basket beside the door. I shuffled over to the sink to wash my hands, aware that it was silly since I was about to hop into the shower, but after years of working in kitchens, it just happened automatically.
I paused as I caught a glimpse of Yuki's face in the mirror.
Well, it was my face at the moment, but my mind didn't see it that way. As far as my brain was concerned, Yuki was staring out at me from the glass, a faint blush high on his pale cheeks. I reached up to touch my face, watching as the reflection did the same. It was surreal, too weird to be true, and I couldn't make myself believe that the face in the mirror was attached to the body I happened to be inhabiting at the moment.
Shit, this was too weird! Yuki was probably making a confused face just like the one in the mirror right now, faced with the same problems of getting ready for the day in my body. I lowered my eyes, avoiding eye contact, and my gaze drifted down Yuki's reflection to his oddly broad shoulders and scrawny upper arms, and between them, his pale chest.
My heart raced a little as I stared at the tiny pink nipples. As if in reaction to my gaze, they tingled and tensed, growing stiff as I stared. My face grew hotter. Of course I'd seen them before in the bath, and there were times that they were perky for no reason at all, but that was a public space that he chose to be in. Now that I was alone with Yuki's bare chest, it felt a bit wrong to look.
Alone. Except with those wide green eyes staring back at me from the mirror, it didn't feel like I was alone. Yuki was watching me, blushing and embarrassed, but with his lips slightly parted like that, blinking slowly...
My mouth felt dry, and when I stuck my tongue out to moisten my lips, Yuki in the mirror did the same, only his expression seemed different from what I felt my face doing. His eyelids lowered a bit, transforming that look of wide-eyed innocence to something more sensual. I watched, entranced, as Yuki brought one hand to his chest, fingers brushing lightly over the skin. His fingertips drifted down and out, index finger tracing first around the hard pink nub, then rubbing over it.
A sexy little sound came from Yuki's mouth, or maybe his nose, and my eyes darted to his face to see his expression.
Only it was my face. I pulled my hand away from my chest with a gasp.
What the hell am I doing?!
Yuki would kill me if he had any idea what I'd just been thinking or doing. It was one thing to sit around with Kiyo and talk shit about what Yuki got up to with his probable boyfriend, and quite another to touch him without permission. I let out a shaky sigh. It was an accident, curiosity gone a bit out of control, and I wasn't going to feel guilty about it. But I was going to be sure that I didn't happen again, so I could return Yuki's body to him with a clear conscience.
But how were we going to switch back? I contemplated it the entire time that I spent getting ready, turning possibilities over in my mind as I showered. None of the ideas meant anything; how could we switch back if we didn't even know how it had happened in the first place? I reached up unconsciously to braid my hair and stopped as I felt Yuki's feathery, messy hair between my fingers. My shoulders slumped as I sighed. So many things to remember.
Back in the main dorm room, I got dressed, scowling as I buttoned the shirt up to the very top and put on the tie, pulling it tight. There was no way I could get away with leaving it behind, or even keeping it loose like Kasahara. The worst part was the uniform jacket; I hated how the heavy fabric restricted my movements, so I never wore it. But it would be impossible to pass as Yuki without doing everything I could to appear normal, and he would never consider leaving behind his jacket or the precious armband.
My face colored again. The armband. Yuki hadn't breathed a single word about keeping it safe or not allowing myself to be tempted to steal it. He trusted me without question. And I'd...
Stop thinking about that. You slipped up. It won't happen again.
I busied myself with gathering up everything I'd need for the day, checking the schedule on Yuki's desk and stuffing the appropriate books and notebooks into his bag. English, chemistry, world history, and art were on the day's menu, all first year regular level. This was going to be the easiest school day I'd had in a long time.
Unfortunately, Yuki was probably going to have a very bad day, starting with ultimate level math with my jerk cousin, then a free period that I would spend prepping the cafeteria - which meant I'd have to skip chemistry to go "help" him.
"Geez, this is such a mess," I sighed, slinging his bag over my shoulder. I tucked Yuki's phone into my pocket, made sure I had his wallet and keycard, and headed for my own dorm room. Once I got there, I reflexively tried opening the door with the keycard in my pocket, frowning as there was no reaction from the electronic lock. I looked around, making sure no one else was in the hallway, then tapped on the door.
"Sonoda-san, is that you?" my voice called from inside.
"Shh, don't say my name! Let me in!"
The door swung inward and I was greeted by... myself. I stared for a few moments before pushing my way into the room, shoving the door shut behind me. "Geez, Yuki-kun, you look like a mess," I sighed, reaching out to touch my - his hair. "Still damp, no wonder it looks so flat."
"S- sorry," he muttered, pouting. "I usually don't spend a lot of time getting ready..." His expression brightened, and that smile looked oddly out of place on my face. "You did a really good job, Sonoda-san, you look more put together than I usually do in the morning."
"Yeah, I actually brushed your hair, which I suspect is something of a rarity for you."
"I, I brush my hair! Sometimes... but it doesn't stay down!" He gave his own cowlicks a pointed look.
"Anyway, get back in the bathroom and dry it completely. Then I'll braid it for you. It would be too suspicious if my hair didn't look normal." I herded Yuki into the bathroom and picked up the hair dryer, intending to take care of it myself, but I was too short to reach comfortably. "Ugh, this isn't going to work. How can you stand being so short? Everything looks wrong, like the perspective is slightly off."
"It's the same for me, Sonoda-san!" he protested over the whine of the hair dryer. "I feel like I'm going to knock stuff over, like I don't know where my body ends." As if to demonstrate, he turned around, nearly knocking the cup that held my toothbrush from the vanity with his elbow. I reached out to steady it and sighed.
"Well, just do your best to get used to it for now. I'll have to remember to be extra careful as I'm cooking today. The last thing I want is to hurt your body, or myself while I'm stuck in it." Man, this really was the worst. Would Yuki's hands even be able to hold a knife comfortably? I guess I'd find out soon enough.
A minute later and my/Yuki's hair looked dry. He ran his fingers through it, testing it, then nodded. "Okay, I think it's good. Though," he held up a lock, eyeing it, "I can see the roots. I didn't realize you dyed your hair, Sonoda-san. But when I got into the shower... uh..." His face turned red.
I blushed too. Damn, why did his body react so easily? "You can't be serious, of course my hair is dyed! Who on earth naturally has hair that color? Anyway, stop thinking about that!" I grabbed his arm and pulled him back into the main room, pointing toward the bed. "Sit. I'll braid your hair."
Yuki complied, and I climbed up onto the bed and knelt behind him; it was the only way I'd be tall enough to reach the top of my own head. It took a few moments of positioning and repositioning my hands before I found a spot that was enough like placing my hands on my own head. Unfortunately, I had to press myself hard against Yuki's back to maintain that position.
"Um... Sonoda-san?" Yuki squirmed a bit.
"Hold still! This is really hard to do on someone else's head."
"But you do it every day, don't you?"
"Yeah, but it's completely different than braiding my own hair." I paused. "I mean, this is braiding my own hair, but... oh, whatever..."
It took at least three times as long and three times as much product as usual, but I finally got my hair looking the way it should, more or less. "There. As long as no one touches it, it's fine." So of course the first thing Yuki did was reach up to touch the side of his head. The unpleasant crunch of too much hairspray made me cringe.
"Hehe, it's kind of hard," Yuki said, grinning.
I nearly swallowed my tongue at that. "S- shut up! Anyway, let's get to the cafeteria!"
"Huuuuh, what about breakfast?"
Breakfast. At the very mention of the word, my stomach growled. "Ugh, what the hell, I already had a muffin and a cookie!"
"My body runs out of fuel fast. You have to eat more! So no skipping breakfast."
"Fine, fine," I sighed, "but we are not eating in the dorm cafeteria. I'll get so saturated with the stink of curry, I won't be able to prep the pies. Come with me, I'll make you a special breakfast as a reward for helping out in the kitchen. Okay?"
It was ridiculous, watching my face light up. I really hoped I never made that face myself. "Really? Woohoo! Sonoda-san's special breakfast, I can't wait!"
With the way my stomach rumbled in response, it seemed I couldn't wait either. Or at least, Yuki's hummingbird body couldn't wait. We grabbed our bags and headed for the cafeteria.
Ugh, as expected, my hands ached from all the unfamiliar work they'd been forced to do in the cafeteria kitchen. Or rather, the work was familiar to me, but not to Yuki's body, and it had been difficult to hold the knife properly with his small hands. I wanted to rest my chin on my hands with a sigh, but they were still tingling, so I settled for resting my hands on the desk and heaving a bigger sigh than I normally would.
Kasahara nudged me. "Yuki, you'd better answer or Professor Sakaki's gonna mark you absent."
I blinked, turning back toward the front of the classroom, where my cousin was standing with his gradebook in hand, frowning slightly as he glared at me. Shit, the day had just started and I was already missing my cues. "Here!" I called out in my best imitation of Yuki's voice.
The professor's frown softened, and he shook his head as if to say you're hopeless before continuing down the list. A couple of names later, Kasahara responded, then turned to me. "I'm usually the one who's out of it in the morning. What's with you? You even missed breakfast."
"Oh, that's because I was helping Sonoda... san, uh, cook this morning. In the big cafeteria."
"Huh, that's unusual. I thought your motto was I eat food, I don't make it. Didn't you say your dad was complaining about that?"
Damnit, I had no idea what he was talking about! Best to be vague. "Uh, I guess so."
Kasahara sighed. "You really are unenthusiastic today."
"I didn't sleep well last night," I lied.
"Well, don't take a nap in class. I need you to stay awake and warn me before it's my turn to answer a question." He made a face. "Man, I'm so tired of English studies, but at least all the extra lessons have made this class a breeze. I can sleep without worrying about falling behind."
Extra lessons? Kasahara? He was the last person in the entire school who I would imagine making some sort of extra effort outside of class. "Why don't you just pay attention in class instead of having to take extra lessons?" Had Yuki really not asked him that already?
Kasahara eyed me. "You can't possibly have forgotten all that annoying stuff I have to do because of the Suzubishi thing. Are you okay?" All I could do was blink as his hand darted out to press against my forehead.
Suzubishi? What on earth was he talking about? As I strained my memory, searching for any hints of possibilities, Kasahara drew back his hand. "Hmm, you feel normal. Well, normal for you, anyway." He stretched his arms overhead and yawned. "Man, I'm tired."
"Ka-" I caught myself. "Tomo, class didn't even start yet. Are you going to sleep already?" Man, you had to admire a kid who was bold enough to not give a shit.
"Of course. Why should today be any different?" With that, he folded his arms on the desk and plopped his head down. "Night."
Everyone else was busy talking around us, waiting for Professor Matsumoto to switch out with my cousin and start class, so I nudged Kasahara. "Hey. So... how is the Suzubishi thing going, anyway?"
He cracked open one eye. "Huh? I already told you on Monday. I only get to see him and Professor Ito on the weekends, so I don't have anything else to report. In fact, I'm still busy trying to erase the scars of this weekend from my mind, so don't make me think about it too much." Kasahara lifted his head up a little, both eyes open now. "Though I think you were more messed up by it than I was. Maybe repeating it will transfer more of the trauma to your brain. So, wanna hear the story of knitted penis cozies again?"
My face turned bright red, and Kasahara laughed. "You're so easy to tease, Yuki. It's almost worth remembering the horror just to see your face like that."
Suzubishi... Professor Ito... knitted penis cozies?!? What the hell?!
"Geez," Kasahara continued, "I wonder if my brother knew about any of that. Maybe he took over as director just to escape the dark secrets of Suzubishi."
My mouth fell open. Wait, Kasahara's brother was the director?!
Kasahara laughed again. "Don't make that face, you look like an idiot. Anyway, Brother was adopted by someone else in the Suzubishi family, so I'm sure he didn't know about Mr. Suzubishi's weird hobbies. They got along really well, actually." He scratched at his cheek, looking a bit embarrassed. "He's always saying I remind him of Brother. The way I think and handle my work, I mean. Hell, even Professor Sakaki seems to think so..."
Work? With the professor? What on earth was he talking about?
"Anyway, you two can meet me in my office after you're done with tutoring today, right? I'm not gonna be able to finish the presentation for the board in time without help."
Office? Board? I gaped at Kasahara like a dead fish.
Is he the director?!?
I was saved from having to answer right away by the arrival of Professor Matsumoto - a familiar face, since he taught all three years and all levels of English at the school. "Settle down, everyone!" he called out in his overly-loud voice, startling everyone into silence.
But maybe the most startling thing that morning, more than all the shocking and disturbing revelations I'd heard from Kasahara's mouth, was the way my cousin caught my eye on his way out of the classroom, and the gentle smile he gave me before disappearing into the hallway.
What the hell is going on here? My mind raced and my heart pounded as I dug out my textbook and opened it to the page Matsumoto had specified. Kasahara's brother... Suzubishi Nao, then? But then why was he Kasahara? Oh, but he'd mentioned adoption... and hanging out with a Mr. Suzubishi, who was probably involved with Professor Ito. And Kasahara was the director!
I felt the beginning of a tension headache coming on.
And then my cousin's weird smile. Maybe it had been directed at Kasahara, not me. After all, they worked together, didn't they? I snuck a glance at Kasahara, but he was already lying on top of his notebook, using his arms as a pillow. There was a quiet snore, but not from him; I turned to look over my shoulder, and Yagami was leaning on his desk in a similar position, deep red hair sticking out at all angles. It was messier than Yuki's. I reached up self-consciously, trying to smooth it back into place, but I felt it bounce back almost immediately.
This school and all its students are messed up, I silently concluded.
Just a few minutes into class and Matsumoto was already on a rampage, calling on anyone who looked like they weren't paying attention. And since I was on edge, wondering if I should actually warn Kasahara or not, I became one of his victims as well.
That time, I remembered to answer. "Yes!"
"Read the first example on page 53," the professor ordered, looking smug. What, did he not expect me to be able to do it? I grabbed my book and stood up, feeling all eyes on me. Behind me, I heard someone snicker: Yagami?
I looked down at the page and began reading. "The first president of the United States was George Washington. He was known for his love of farming and his dislike of war."
Matsumoto blinked, silent for a moment before saying, "Surprisingly good, Asahina. Whatever you've been doing differently in your studies, keep it up. Be seated."
I sat back down, trying not to smile. That would get Matsumoto off my back for the rest of class, something I could rarely accomplish in my usual level, mainly because there were showoffs like Kiyo who made the rest of us look bad.
Something poked into my side, and I shot a glance at Kasahara. "What?"
"Since when are you so good at English?" He had one eyebrow raised. "I've been taking lessons for a few months now and my accent isn't anywhere near that good. Is Professor Sakaki tutoring you in English too? I mean, his family's in international business too, so..."
"Uh," I stalled, trying to remember if I'd ever heard my cousin speak English. Nothing came to mind, but if Kasahara was asking, that meant he didn't know, so a little lie couldn't hurt. "Yeah, he's helped me out a couple of times. Like if there's a test coming up."
"Hmp, maybe I should ask him about it later. I'm getting tired of that slavedriver tutor yelling at me because I can't say things the way she wants me to."
"Professor Sakaki isn't any less of a slavedriver," I reminded him.
"Really? I thought you said he was going easy on you."
"Kasahara! Asahina!" Matsumoto barked. "If you're going to goof off and talk in my class, at least do it in English!"
"I'm very sorry," Kasahara said, though he didn't sound sorry.
"That's better. In fact, why don't you read the next example, Kasahara?"
Kasahara heaved a sigh and stood, shooting me a glance that clearly said this is all your fault.
Finally, finally, my long and hellish day was drawing to a close. Not even cooking had been able to calm my nerves and improve my mood, mostly because I'd been paranoid about safety, unused to Yuki's smaller body and its lack of muscle memory for many of my routine tasks. It had been comical, watching his awkward attempts to imitate my actions using my body, but sad in a way. I was glad that we'd done most of the prep while no one else was around to observe or comment on how I had become clumsy overnight.
And while Yuki had been awful at making food, I had to admit that he was something of a genius when it came to selling it. He had no chance of pronouncing the names of everything, especially the French special dishes, but his way of describing them had sucked in bidders just the same. He knew his audience, and how to play to it. It seemed that high school boys were better influenced by detailed descriptions of a dish's flavor, rather than the quality or scarcity of the ingredients, or the names of the original restaurants. Yuki's vivid descriptions - crispy, melting, buttery, slow-roasted - even made me gulp a bit, and I'd cooked those things! I'd scribbled my observations frantically, taking note of his exact words, tone, and even his gestures.
I can't lose to a little glutton like Yuki!
But the worst part was tasting the pies, finding them more delicious than usual thanks to Yuki's incredible palate. That was one thing I'd miss when we switched back. If we ever managed to switch back. God, that was depressing, the horror of possibly being trapped in this hungry body for the rest of my life! Until today, I don't think I quite understood the meaning of the word hunger. It was like there was some sort of monster living inside of Yuki's body, demanding regular sacrifices to its inhuman cravings.
And even more inhuman were the products of those sacrifices.
I didn't want to think about what Yuki's body had managed to leave behind in the toilet that morning. Or after world history. And I suspected it would happen again before bedtime. The only good thing was that they were no more troublesome than a normal, ah, deposit. Though I did worry a bit about the plumbing...
Well, at least the mystery of where does all that food go? had finally been solved. It certainly wasn't hanging around and helping Yuki grow, which explained a lot. With digestion that inefficient, no wonder he had to eat constantly.
Those were the lovely thoughts I turned over in my mind as I headed back to the first year regular classroom, after a brief stop in Yuki's room to pick up his math books. And eat a snack. Okay, two snacks.
I wonder if his parents started a bakery so they could afford to feed him...
I relaxed a bit as I reached Yuki's classroom. After spending the entire day trying to remember which honorifics and level of politeness to use, at least I wouldn't have to think too hard about talking with my cousin. I was used to reining in my snarky comments during class, and since tutoring was taking place in a classroom, it would be easy to fall into that mode of speech. Yuki must have known that, which made it weird for him to have been so hesitant about sending me off to tutoring in his place. At one point, he looked like he was about to either cry or have a panic attack, and he'd finally advised me to just be careful, whatever that meant. Was the professor really being that hard on him? If so, I'd have to have a little chat with him later, once I was back to normal.
I pushed open the door to the classroom. My cousin was sitting at the end of one of the rows of student tables with a stack of papers in front of him, but he stood up immediately as I entered the room. "There you are, Asahina."
I had no idea what Yuki was so worried about. If anything, the professor seemed overly happy to see him, not annoyed. At first, I thought he was coming over to take my books, but he passed right by without comment, so I shrugged and moved to set my things down on one of the chairs. Behind me, I heard a click from the door, and I turned around, puzzled.
Did he just lock the door?
Before I could ask, the professor was beside me, arms sliding around Yuki's shoulders. I blinked as his face came close to my own, and a cold shock ran through my body as his lips came down firmly on mine. My body froze.
Wh, wh, what the hell is this?!?!
Thoughts raced through my mind, tumbling over each other in a messy jumble. Is he kissing me, holy shit is he Yuki's boyfriend, what am I going to do, no wonder Yuki was so hesitant about me going to tutoring, does anyone else know about this, oh god he locked the door, does that mean... ?!?
But nothing could have prepared me for the wetness of his tongue against my lips, requesting access. I reacted without thinking, making some sort of noise and flinging my arms out, shoving him away almost violently.
He stared at me, obviously shocked. "Asahina, what's wrong?"
Everything is wrong, you pervert teacher! You and Yuki, what if someone found out?!?
My face was bright red. I felt the heat of it as my brain struggled to find an excuse. Think, Eiji, think! A reason why Yuki wouldn't want to kiss his, his boyfriend!
Thinking of it that way made the answer obvious. "I... I have a cold," I murmured in my best impression of Yuki's cute, sheepish tone. God knew the blush was convincing enough.
The professor's look of surprise softened into a fond smile. "Ah, I see. I thought you'd seemed a bit out of it today. You do sound rather stuffy."
I seized on that point, trying to sound even more stuffed up as I replied, "My nose is all stuffy. It's not bad enough that I'd miss class, but I don't want to get you sick, so..."
"That's a shame, I was planning to reward you for making excellent progress recently." My cousin crossed his arms over his chest and sighed, looking a bit out of sorts. "I thought you were supposed to have good luck, Asahina. It doesn't seem to be on your side today."
"Maybe because I'm not feeling well," I offered with a pasted-on smile. For a moment, I considered using that as an excuse to escape the entire fucked up situation, but then inspiration struck. Despite the shock, this was still an incredibly rare opportunity. When else would I have the chance to ask my cousin what he really thought of me, without worrying about him sugarcoating the truth? Part of me was insanely curious, and another was almost afraid to ask. Surely he'd discussed my involvement in the plot to close the school with Yuki, right? Normally I'd say no, because Yuki was still friends with me, but he was weird, so...
"Do you want to skip tutoring today, Asahina? If you're not feeling well..."
I dodged the hand that reached out toward my forehead and settled into the seat opposite the professor's papers. "I'm fine for now."
I wasn't fine. I'd probably never be fine again, with constant flashbacks to the feeling of my cousin's tongue against my lips. Ugh. My hand was halfway to my mouth before I caught myself. If he saw me rubbing at my lips, he might take it as an invitation or something.
I deserve some sort of reward for putting up with all this crap today. Some of it literal.
As expected, Yuki's math tutoring was a breeze, mostly simple concepts that I'd covered in middle school. There were a few things I didn't quite remember since we weren't using them in my class, which made it even easier to pretend I was at Yuki's level.
"I thought you understood how to find a parallel equation," the professor sighed, pointing to my notebook. "What are you doing here?" He leaned closer, squinting at the paper. "And what happened to your handwriting? It looks much better than usual."
Oh, hell, it was a good thing all I'd written so far were numbers and the occasional variable. The professor was sure to recognize my actual handwriting if he saw it. "Oh, um... I'm trying to write neater now. It's embarrassing when no one can read it, right?" I was pretty sure I'd heard the professor complain about Yuki's scrawl on student council documents.
"Oh, so you're trying to improve that too? I'm impressed, Asahina."
The warmth in his tone was nice, but it also made me feel a little sick. I couldn't remember the last time my cousin had been so gentle with me. Maybe it was because he'd planned to betray me all along, and wasn't a good enough actor to be kind while he had that intention in mind. I hadn't really noticed since I was used to his harsh nature, and I knew not to expect special treatment in class just because we were related. I'd never seen it coming.
But now that I thought about it, he'd been distant since the Bell One, when things should have started going back to normal. There hadn't been a single bar night in the cafeteria or even one weekend outing to try new restaurants. Of course I'd noticed, but my attention had been focused on the changes in Durak and trying to change our strained relationships into real friendships. I'd just assumed that my cousin would be there when I was ready.
Except he wasn't, probably because he'd gotten involved with Yuki. That was when it had all started, right? Everyone's lives had been turned upside down by those events. Some more than others, apparently. I couldn't imagine my strict, serious, by-the-rules cousin getting involved with a student, much less someone so cheerful and carefree. No wonder he seemed so happy recently. Was it the relief of saying eh, what the hell and just going for what you want, no matter how improper? Or was it more than that, a genuine shift in personality brought about by all sorts of internal and external changes, ones that he normally would have shared with me?
This is really depressing. I sighed quietly, fixing the calculation.
"Asahina, what's wrong? Are you too sick for tutoring today?"
For a moment, I was tempted to snap at him in my usual manner just to see his reaction. That impulse faded, and I just sighed again as I forced myself to meet his eyes. "I'm fine. I have a lot on my mind, that's all."
"That's unusual, what's bothering you? You don't seem like yourself today."
No shit. But maybe I can use that to my advantage.
"Well, I've been thinking about some things." For some reason, my heart was pounding, making it difficult to get the words out. Ugh, I hated feeling nervous. I could stand in front of crowds all day, or instruct the cooking club, or even read long passages in class without hesitation, but borrowing Yuki's body and fishing for information was a bit much.
"Yes, I can see that. Spit it out, Asahina."
I wonder if he does spit it out, my brain supplied, and I felt my face turn red. "Well, I was thinking about the Bell One and all the other stuff that happened around that time."
I wasn't sure exactly how much Yuki knew about my involvement, so I had no choice but to be vague. Luckily, the professor didn't seem to mind. "Yeah, that was a rough time. Though it all worked out well in the end. What's bothering you about it?"
Now or never, I guess.
"I was thinking... I haven't seen you spend a lot of time with Sonoda, er, Sonoda-san recently. He hasn't said anything about it to me, but I think he's kind of upset about it."
"Sonoda, huh?" The professor lowered his gaze, looking vaguely embarrassed. "He hasn't said anything to me, but he's not really the type to be honest with his feelings."
It's because you say stupid things like that! Who would be honest?!
I couldn't resist saying, "You're the same, Professor."
"Geez, Asahina, you just say whatever you want, don't you?"
His cheeks darkened, and I felt a little spark of triumph. It was incredibly hard to make my cousin blush, and it usually only worked when he was a bit tipsy. Then again, maybe it was something that happened easily when he was with Yuki. Damnit. So much for scoring points.
"Actually, I've been wondering," I pressed on, "what you really think of Sonoda-san. You're cousins, so you're pretty close, right? But you seem distant now."
I waited a few seconds for the rest of his response. But it didn't seem like the professor was going to continue without prompting, so I added, "It's kind of sad," in my best Yuki imitation.
That finally broke him. "It is sad," he sighed, turning his body slightly to look out the window. "It's my fault. I intended to tell him everything after the Bell One, but then you started chasing after me, and I ended up telling you instead. And then we..." His voice faded, and he was silent for a few seconds before continuing, "Ever since then, I've devoted all my free time to you. Don't think that I regret any of the time I've spent with you, Asahina, that's not it. But I regret not dividing it in a way that would include him as well."
"Professor..." I didn't know what else to say.
"He must think I rejected him, and at the time he most needed support. He used to come over on the weekends, you know, and we'd go out to different restaurants so he could sample the dishes and come up with new ideas. I know he can't do that with Jokawa, and he's complained about Chiba's simple tastes more times than I can count." The professor rested one elbow on the table, leaning his head against his hand. "It was every single weekend. It was more fun than you'd imagine, watching him get excited about the recipes and ingredients, making plans for his own work. I was never that motivated at his age. Well, maybe that mess in middle school had something to do with it."
Middle school? I had no idea what he was talking about. The pang of jealousy I felt was so strong that my chest tightened, and it was hard to force out my words. "If it's fun, shouldn't you start doing it again?"
He frowned at me. "Asahina. It's not that simple."
Like hell it's not! If you want to go out again, why don't you just ask?!
"Yes it is!" I leaned forward, glaring. "That's just making excuses! I'm sure Sonoda, uh, san, is annoyed about it too, so why don't you be the adult and just ask? Or are you just going to leave things the way they are now and wish it was different? Don't be a coward."
The professor sat up, eyeing me with surprise. "Asahina..."
Shit, I'd probably just given myself away! I tried to backpedal a bit and soften the message. "Well, maybe that's the wrong word, but still. If you want to spend time together again, instead of worrying about what he'll think, why not just ask? The worst that can happen is that he doesn't want to, and that's the same as things are now, isn't it?"
Big words from someone who was also too much of a coward to ask what was going on. But now that I knew that the professor really did miss our outings, it wouldn't be hard for me to approach him about it either.
My cousin nodded slowly, turning the words over in his mind. "You're right. The worst that could happen is that things continue as they are."
"I'm sure it will be fine if you just ask. Maybe he's waiting for you to make the first move." I made a face; really, that was a horrible way to phrase things, in light of the relationship I'd unwittingly uncovered only a few minutes before. "If you don't want to ask him yourself, I'll tell him to ask you, how's that?"
The professor looked scandalized. "Don't do that, Asahina, I don't want Sonoda thinking I'm some sort of coward who's intimidated by the thought of asking my kid cousin a question."
I somehow resisted the urge to roll my eyes. Kid cousin? Yuki's younger than me, you pervert!
"Sonoda-san isn't a kid, he's pretty mature, and a genius cook! You should appreciate him a little more." My face grew hot. "A, and he's been through a lot. I'm sure he would be happy to have a little more support. He said something about not being close to his family. It kind of sounded like you're the only family he has..."
His eyes met mine. "You really know how to hit someone right in the emotions, Asahina. If I didn't know better, I'd think you were doing it on purpose."
I swallowed reflexively, though there was no way he could actually suspect me. "It's just because I've been spending a lot of time with Sonoda-san lately. He seems kind of lonely."
For the first time that day, I was grateful for the weird body swap. Yuki was free to say whatever he felt to anyone, without hesitation or filtering the message. No one else in the school could get away with being so free, except maybe Kiyo, but he usually chose to hide at least part of his true intentions. That I could say exactly what I wanted, directly to my cousin's face, had to be connected to Yuki's stupidly good luck in some way. Right?
If I believed in garbage like fate, I'd say this was what was meant to happen today...
My cousin held up his hands in surrender. "Okay, okay, Asahina, I'll talk to Sonoda about it soon. Don't hound me about it, give me a few days to get my thoughts together. You know how touchy he can be about things."
I had to bite my lip to keep from spitting out a caustic reply. I settled for, "Maybe he's touchy because of all the stuff that happened with his dad."
"Oh, he told you about that? I'm surprised he opened up that much."
Crap. I had no idea how much Yuki actually knew. I just hoped the professor wouldn't ask him about it later. Maybe I'd have to spill a bit to Yuki so things wouldn't seem too suspicious. Ugh. It wasn't that I didn't trust Yuki, or didn't want to tell him, but it was hard to talk about.
"Anyway, that's not the point! Just talk to him later, okay?" I started gathering my books; I had to get out of there before I ended up tangling myself in a mess that I wouldn't be able to fix.
A warm hand covered my own. "Where are you going, Asahina?"
Ugggh, was my face getting even redder? "I don't think I can concentrate on tutoring today. I want to get some rest before meeting you and Ka..." I faked a sneeze to cover up my mistake. "You and Tomo later."
He nodded, drawing his hand back. "That would be wise... we have a lot to review today, and I'll need your help with getting things organized. But don't slack off, Asahina, I expect you to get a good grade on this week's quiz. Don't forget everything you've learned just because you got a cold."
"Riiiiight," I agreed, trying not to make a face as I closed Yuki's math notebook. Geez, my cousin could be so annoying, I bet he reminded Yuki about studying while they were in bed together. Now that was a gross mental image, and one that threatened to lead to more detailed imaginings. I pushed those thoughts from my mind, hoping they wouldn't haunt my nightmares.
With that, I stood, gathering Yuki's stuff, and headed for the door.
"Asahina," the professor called, and I turned around without thinking.
He was watching me, a soft smile on his lips. "Take care of yourself. Feel better soon."
I swallowed hard, embarrassed. "Y- yeah, I'll be fine. Bye for now."
Once I was safely out in the hallway, I heaved a huge sigh. I hadn't noticed at the time, but my hands were shaking, though maybe that was just Yuki's monstrous body demanding more snacks. Speaking of Yuki, I needed to find him and tell him at least part of the story about my father. Damnit, I really didn't want to reveal that much to him, though it probably wouldn't be a big deal. In fact, I was sure he'd end up literally crying about it, but the thought of seeing that happen while he was in my body was a little gross.
Shit. Where was Yuki right now anyway? I'd been so focused on pretending to be him all day that I hadn't thought about it too much. He was probably just as busy with trying his best to imitate me, using a cold as an excuse for poor performance in class just as we'd agreed. But now that classes were over, where would he be?
"Durak," I groaned, setting off at a run. God knew what would happen if Kiyo suspected anything.
I almost forgot to pause and knock on the door to the Durak room, but I caught myself with my hand on the doorknob. There was no way Yuki would ever bust in without at least offering a token knock to announce his presence. Only moments after I tapped on the door, it swung open; clearly Hayato was on door duty as usual. Except when I tried to enter, he stepped out, a solid wall of muscle like a bouncer at a club.
"It's Asahina," he confirmed, then stepped out into the hallway and shut the door. When his gaze came back to me, his tone was more firm. "Keep out."
Ohhhh no. Any time that Hayato was assigned to keep anyone else from coming in, that meant Kiyo and I were up to no good inside. "What's going on in there, Hayato? Let me in!"
He just blinked at me. Crap, I'd done such a good job of pretending to be Yuki all day, and I was going to lose it all at the last moment because I was freaking out!
But Hayato didn't seem to notice. "Joker-sama said not to let anyone in. You have to wait. And..."
"And?" I huffed.
After a long pause, he added, "Sonoda is acting weird. You too, Asahina."
I pressed one hand to my mouth and faked a cough. "Oh, sorry, Chiba-san. I have a cold."
Nothing sucked more than being polite to Hayato. Except maybe knowing that he was being nicer to me than usual because I was wearing Yuki's body. I sighed heavily.
"You're sick too? Don't cough on Joker-sama."
Who the hell needed to be reminded not to cough on someone else? Who even did that? "I'll be careful, I promise. Now can you let me in?"
I gritted my teeth. "Why not?"
"Because Joker-sama said you have to wait."
Talking to Hayato was like pulling teeth. Would it kill him to actually volunteer a bit of information once in a while? "Until when?"
"Until he says you can come in."
If that's how it was going to be, I was at least going to take advantage of Hayato's cute little crush on Yuki. I held out my stack of books. "Then, Chiba-san, could you please hold these for me? I wanted to hurry and put them down since I'm not feeling too well today."
"O, oh, okay." Hayato blushed, and I tried not to smirk as he took the pile of books from my arms.
"Thank you, Chiba-san!" I gave him my best Yuki smile, and his face reddened even more. I was beginning to understand why Kiyo enjoyed teasing him and Yuki so much. There was something immensely gratifying about messing with an innocent boy's emotions.
"Y, yeah," he mumbled, looking down at the stack. He shifted from one foot to the other, lips pressed together as he tried to come up with something to say. Finally, he offered, "More tutoring?"
"Yeah, math and English." A sly smile curled my lips. "You should try tutoring with Professor Sakaki too, Chiba-san! He seems harsh but he's actually really nice. I'm sure he'd love to help you."
"No, myself doesn't need that..."
"Aww, but I'd be so proud of you if you improved your grades! Isn't it important to be strong physically and mentally? Inside and out?"
"Strong..." Hayato repeated, like a small child seizing upon the only word he knew.
"Yeah, I've definitely gotten stronger on the inside! Think of it as training!" I nearly laughed at the mental image of my cousin trying to get Hayato to study, and of Hayato struggling to deal with the professor's horrible personality. They deserved each other for all the hassle they'd put me through!
Hayato was rescued by Kiyo's call from inside. "Hayatooo, let Ace-kun in now."
"Right!" He turned around and opened the door for me, waiting until I stepped through before coming inside and closing the door. I tried not to let my irritation show on my face; there was no way in hell Hayato would ever hold the door for me! Instead, I watched as he carried Yuki's books to the desk, depositing them carefully next to the computer screen.
"Joker-sama. It's time for practice."
Kiyo waved to him with a cheery smile. "Right, right, see you later, Hayato!"
Hayato gave him a respectful nod and moved back toward the door. "Excuse me," he murmured as he brushed past, and my eyes widened in surprise. I couldn't remember him ever saying that to me, even when we'd first met!
"Well, Ace-kun," Kiyo called out in his usual singsong tone, "aren't you going to come in?"
My heart sank when I noticed that he was sitting at the card table with me. Or rather, my body, which clearly had Yuki in it because he was staring at me with an expression of dismay. Cards were arranged face down on the table, with the remainder of the deck set to one side. I couldn't tell at a glance what game they were playing, but the sight of it chilled my blood. Was Yuki's luck still active if he was in my body? That would be a dead giveaway.
But no, I'd been greeted as Ace-kun, hadn't I? And maybe Yuki was smart enough to fake losing some of the time, if his luck was even active at this point. I walked toward the table with what I hoped was a natural-looking smile. "Hello, uh, Joker-san." Ugh, just saying it made my skin crawl. "What game are you playing?"
"Hi, Yuki-kun. Nothing yet, Eiji and I were just getting started. Do you want to play too?" There was an unpleasant gleam in his eye, but that was nothing unusual.
"Oh, no thanks, I'm actually here to pick up Sonoda-san."
"Is that so? Eiji didn't say anything about leaving early."
"Um," my voice began, and I just glared at myself, or rather, Yuki. Don't be so hesitant! I would never sit around going uh, um, ah, or whatever other fillers you like to use!
I jumped in. "Well, maybe he forgot. Anyway, we need to go."
"Hold up, Ace-kun, you don't sound so good today." Kiyo tossed a card at me. It hit me right in the center of my chest and hurt more than you'd expect from a single playing card. I caught it as it slid down the front of my jacket and frowned.
"Joker-san, don't throw things at me."
"Yuki-kun, don't be in such a rush to leave. I wanted to ask you about that cold you seem to have. When did that start?"
I dropped the card on the table. "This morning. Why?"
"Hmm, that fits in with the rest of the cases." Kiyo leaned back, folding his arms over his chest as he glanced toward Yuki. "Eiji, it was you. Or rather, your cooking. I bet half of the school is going to have that cold tomorrow morning, thanks to your contaminated pies."
"Contaminated?! How dare you!"
Kiyo looked at me, smirking. "My, my, you seem awfully fired up today. But doesn't it make sense? You've been sick since the morning, and you helped Eiji prepare all the food for today. It's only natural that your germs would get into everything. I'm surprised Eiji let you anywhere near his precious food, I thought he was more of a professional than that..."
My face turned red, and I glanced at Yuki. Say something!
As if prompted by my stare, Yuki leaned forward. "H- hey! I'm a professional cook, not a doctor! How was I supposed to know he had a cold?"
Not bad, he even got the right tone. I nodded my agreement. "Yeah, that's right! Sonoda-san didn't know, because I didn't realize until it was too late! Sometimes people are stuffed up in the morning, I thought that was the problem!"
"Hmm, is that so? It was still pretty inconsiderate of you to cook, Ace-kun. It's out of character for you to be so careless about food."
Yuki attempted to jump to my rescue. "He wasn't careless, he was a big help! Sometimes things happen, it's not that big a deal."
"Really?" Kiyo twirled the end of his ponytail around his finger. "You're usually more careful about your precious kitchen. I remember that one time when you yelled so much you made one of the lunch ladies cry, just because she sneezed after inhaling some pepper that had spilled."
Yuki turned toward me with an expression of shock and disappointment. I shook my head. He's making that up! I never did anything like that! Well... I mean, she didn't cry about it. At least, not where I could see... damnit!
"That's not true," Yuki countered weakly, but Kiyo just steamrolled him.
"Well, I'm glad I didn't eat any of those gross little pies. I'm sure there wasn't a single one that tasted good out of all those flavors." He sat up, looking directly at me. "And you worked so hard on them, too. What a shame."
I didn't know if he was aware that he was messing with me directly, or continuing his mean-spirited teasing of Yuki, but I didn't care. Words exploded out of me without my input or permission. "Kiyo, you jerk, I made chocolate cayenne just for you! I even dusted the Chantilly cream with extra spicy cinnamon so you wouldn't complain about it! I saw you eat two of them during lunch, don't you lie to me about the flavor!"
At that, he threw back his head and laughed for an uncomfortably long time as Yuki and I watched with sour expressions. Kiyo finally sat up again, banging one fist on the card table, and I swear he had tears in his eye as he looked straight at me. "Eiji, you have no control over your temper. I'm surprised you made it this far in the day without someone confronting you."
It was no use pretending. "Shut up, Kiyo! You don't even know how horrible my day has been, stuck in this messed up body that does nothing but eat, having to be polite to everyone, pretending to be dumb in class so no one would suspect anything!"
"Sonoda-saaaaan!" Yuki whined. "You don't really think I'm dumb, do you?"
I pressed one hand to my forehead and sighed. "Geez, Yuki-kun. No, I don't really think that, it's just really hard pretending not to know things that I've already learned!"
Kiyo stood, stretching his long arms and legs with a sound that could only be defined as a giggle. "Ahhh, this is the best! I never imagined that something like this could happen! Eiji, what did you do last night before bed? Yuki-kun didn't do anything out of the ordinary, so it must be your fault."
"How the hell would something like this be my fault? It doesn't even make sense! It can't be anyone's fault!" My hands clenched so tight that my nails cut into my palms. "I didn't do anything unusual, I just stayed up late planning recipes then went to bed when I was done!"
"Hmmm, that's kind of boring. Ace-kun, are you sure you didn't do anything special?"
Yuki shook his head. "I was thinking about how nice it would be if I could guess all the different desserts that Sonoda-san was going to make this month, and I was making a list... but then I got hungry, so I ate some snacks and went to bed."
You are completely hopeless, I thought, sighing again. But... it was kind of flattering too. I pulled out one of the chairs around the card table and plopped down into it, too worn out to stand any longer.
Kiyo scratched his chin. "So you were both thinking about the same thing as you fell asleep, huh... maybe that's enough to do it."
I glared at him. "Kiyo, are you nuts? If that was the case, then everyone in this school would get scrambled every single day!"
Yuki tilted his head; the pose looked ridiculous with my body. "Huh, why?"
Yuki, do I really have to explain that this is a school full of teenage boys who probably wank themselves to sleep every night?
"Never mind," I muttered. "Anyway, it has to be more complicated than that. It's like some kind of fairy tale curse or whatever."
Kiyo nodded. "That's what I was thinking too. And if it's a curse from a fairy tale, then it has to be fixed in a fairy tale sort of way." He came around from the back of the table to the side where Yuki and I were sitting and grabbed our sleeves. "Get up."
"Hell no," I grumbled, shaking him off. "I know how messed up Russian fairy tales are."
"Eiji," his tone held a note of warning, "this is standard fairy tale stuff. Now get up."
Yuki, of course, was already on his feet and waiting to see what would happen next. "Joker-san, do you really have an idea? Sonoda-san's body is nice and all, but I really want to be myself again."
Sonoda-san's body is nice and all. My eye twitched, and I got up quickly to hide my reaction.
"Of course I have an idea. It's very simple, actually. I'm surprised you two didn't think of it yourselves, especially you, Yuki-kun. You seem the type who enjoys a good story."
"Stop wasting time and tell us what it is!" I snapped. "I've had a rotten day and if I'm not back to normal by tomorrow, the cafeteria will cease to function! And you'll probably starve to death, Kiyo! No one's going to believe that Yuki-kun suddenly decided to become my assistant!"
"I would be your assistant if you kept giving me samples," he protested.
"Absolutely not," I huffed. "You eat way more than what your help is worth."
"That's so mean!"
"Anyway," Kiyo interrupted loudly, "you won't have to worry about it if you get switched back. The proper way to break a curse is with a kiss, isn't it?"
Yuki and I looked at each other, then turned to him. "No!" we shouted in unison.
"Huuuuh, why not? That's what always works in fairy tales. You're going to refuse without even trying it?"
"B, but... it's embarrassing!" Yuki's face was red. It really didn't go well with my hair color.
I felt my cheeks prickling as well, remembering the kiss that my cousin had dropped on me without any warning. "Yeah, I'm not kissing another guy! Anyway, this is Yuki's body! He's already dating someone, so he can't kiss anyone else!"
"It's not a romantic kiss," Kiyo protested. "Think of it as something necessary. Medical, almost."
"Ugh, no way, I'm not kissing my own lips! That's gross!" I tried to pull away, but Kiyo had a death grip on my sleeve. "Hey, let go!"
"Yeah, that's right! I don't want to kiss me!"
"That's too bad," Kiyo sighed, releasing our arms. My shoulders relaxed, and I could see the tension draining from Yuki's body as well. Kiyo turned toward the bookshelf, his pose making it seem as if he was studying the titles in hopes of finding another answer. He stepped toward the books, and I shook my head sheepishly at Yuki.
"At least that's over."
He let out a nervous laugh. "Yeah..."
"I'm not taking no for an answer!"
I jumped at his sudden grumpy declaration. "Kiyo, wha--"
Before I could turn around, I was shoved from behind. "Now kiss!"
I stumbled forward into Yuki's arms - my arms - and grabbed at his shirt in a desperate attempt to maintain my balance. All I succeeding in doing was pulling him further off balance, and we fell to the floor in a heap.
A heap that somehow, by some stroke of bad luck, ended up with our lips pressed together.
The world spun unpleasantly; had I hit my head somehow? We'd landed on a small pile of cushions, leftovers from a recent party that hadn't been put away in the storage room yet. I tried to gather my thoughts, but Yuki beat me to it. He climbed off of me, scowling.
"Joker-saaaaaaan! That was horrible! Why did you... wait..." He pressed his hands to his mouth.
"Well? Looks like it was a success."
I sat up, rubbing at the back of my head. There was definitely going to be a bump later, despite landing on something soft. "Kiyo, you jerk! What if I'd hit my head on the tile?!"
"But you didn't," he countered, without a hint of remorse. "Welcome back, Yuki-kun, Eiji."
"Ahhhhhh," Yuki sighed, bouncing up and down. "I'm me again! It feels so nice!" He waved his arms about, looking like an idiot imitating some sort of dance. "Everything looks and feels just the way it should! Welcome back, me!" Yuki hugged himself.
I, on the other hand, struggled to my feet with difficulty. "Ugh, it feels weird after being trapped in a scrawny body all day. I feel kind of heavy... and tired." Most of that was mental, after all the troubles and surprises of the day. How on earth was Yuki still so energetic?
"It's because you're old and worn out, Eiji."
"Shut up, Kiyo! You'd be tired too if you had to spend all day being nice to everyone, and then putting up with my stupid cousin's tutoring!"
Yuki stopped bouncing and turned to me with an odd expression. "Tutoring..."
My face got hot. "Yeah, tutoring! No one should have to put up with.... that!"
"Hmm?" Kiyo leaned forward, but I ignored him, and so did Yuki.
"Come to think of it, you left tutoring awfully early, Sonoda-san. Do you think, maybe... if I hurried over there, the professor might still be there?" His eyes were almost teary.
"I don't know! Go look for him yourself if you want, I didn't stick around!"
He looked like he wanted to ask stick around for what? but he nodded instead, an expression of determination on his cute face. "Okay, I will!" And with that, he hurried to grab his books and zoomed out of the room with a quick goodbye to me and a thank you for Kiyo.
Kiyo was at my side the moment the door shut, one hand on my shoulder. The warmth of his body pressed against me as he leaned in to whisper in my ear, "Well, that was interesting... why is Yuki-kun in such a hurry to get tutored, hmm?"
I snorted. "Why indeed."
"Now, now, Eiji. Don't hold back, I did fix your little problem, didn't I?"
I shook him off. "A little too easily. I'm inclined to think that you somehow caused this whole mess for your own amusement, except that's impossible. All of it was impossible."
"Eiji," he rubbed his shoulder against mine again, "stop stalling. What's up with Yuki-kun?"
I turned toward him with a sigh. His brilliantly blue eye was fixed upon my face, his expression so intent and hungry for the information that I found myself smirking in response.
"Let me tell you a little thing about my cousin and the Ace..."
~ end ~