Kaidoh Kaoru was interesting, at least Syuusuke thought so. His eyes when he glared at people. The beads of sweat that rolled down the side of his face when he ran. The arch of his back as he jumped to serve. The soft way he left a piece of fish for the cat who slunk around the courtyard, glancing first to make sure no one was looking.
Syuusuke was looking, looking all the time. One day, looking during tennis practice wasn't quite enough and Syuusuke followed Kaidoh out from the club room, a few steps back, making himself fade away a little so Kaidoh wouldn't see him.
Kaidoh went down to the park and sat cross-legged in the grass. Syuusuke looked through the leaves at interesting Kaoru to see what he could see.
The grass rustled and shook and a tiny snake slid up to Kaidoh. Syuusuke pulled a rock from his bag, but Kaidoh was bending down to it, whisper-close to its flickering tongue and shining green scales.
Another snake curled out of the grass, right up onto Kaidoh's thigh. It hissed softly and Kaidoh turned his head and hissed back. The green snake raised its head and Kaidoh hissed down to it too, the three of them, heads together, like friends taking turns to speak.
When Kaidoh left the park, the snakes left too, each going its own way. Syuusuke stayed behind the tree.
The next day, and the next, Syuusuke looked as more snakes came, coiled up Kaidoh's arms, curled around his knees. The tiny green snake whispered in his ear and Kaidoh answered him with words that Syuusuke couldn't quite catch, no matter how hard he listened. He wanted to know the secrets, he wanted Kaidoh to sigh those words into his mouth, and when he swallowed them, he would understand. He would know the language of the snakes. The language of interesting Kaoru.
Yumiko had a charm for him and all Syuusuke had to pay was a kiss on her cool cheek. He held it in his hand all day, coiled green soapstone, stroking his thumb around and around. And in the park, looking from behind the tree, he touched it to his mouth.
One brief and agonizing squeeze and he was stretched out on the ground, long and lithe with a red-marked back. It was no effort at all to slither and twist, to read the hums and smells on the air. Maybe he had always been a snake, just wrapped away.
Around the tree, and up to Kaidoh's feet. The little snake was circled around Kaidoh's wrist. Syuusuke wanted to strike and bite and chase it off, but he just reared up in the light and said, "Hello."
Kaidoh looked down at Syuusuke, eyes so direct, the tip of Syuusuke's tail shook just a little. "You're new," he said. "Hello."
Syuusuke flicked out his tongue, because that was how snakes smiled, and put his head on Kaidoh's knee and listened to him talk to all the snakes.
"I ate a mouse," one said. "I opened up my jaws and swallowed it down."
"A dog scared me," another said. "It chased me away."
Snakes were boring, Syuusuke decided. But Kaidoh listened and nodded and agreed with them all, until they'd each said their piece and slithered away.
"You're nice," Syuusuke said and looked at Kaidoh until he stood and walked away.
Next day, Syuusuke left practice early so he was coiled and waiting by the tree. He wound himself around Kaidoh's arm, head on Kaidoh's shoulder, while Kaidoh listened to the tedious talk of all the snakes. He touched his tongue to Kaidoh's skin, tasting his interesting taste, and feeling each vibration of Kaidoh's voice as he sympathized with each petty snake problem.
Two days later, Syuusuke curled around Kaidoh's shoulders, nose against Kaidoh's jaw, tail not quite circling Kaidoh's throat. "I like you," he whispered in Kaidoh's ear. When Kaidoh turned his head, Syuusuke flicked his tongue against Kaidoh's mouth, because that was how snakes kissed.
Kaidoh stroked Syuusuke's head, once, twice, down the back of his long body. Syuusuke sighed and settled closer, warning off the small green snake with a long flat stare.
"Can you stay and help me?" Syuusuke said to Kaidoh.
"What is it, senpai?" Kaidoh paused, fingers on the buttons of his white shirt.
"Wait and see," Syuusuke said, looking. When the last first year tumbled out the club room door, he came up to Kaidoh. He tipped up his face, pressed the charm in his hand to the side of Kaidoh's neck, just inside his collar, flicked his tongue against Kaidoh's mouth. "I like you," he said.
Kaidoh's body went still, his eyes opened wide. Then he pressed his interesting mouth to Syuusuke's.
Syuusuke cut his afternoon classes. He came back for tennis practice and looked at Kaidoh serving the ball, running laps, wiping sweat from his face.
"I should go to the park," Kaidoh said, and Syuusuke went with him, but no snakes came out to talk.
"Maybe it's because I'm here," Syuusuke said and slid his hand into Kaidoh's.