Takeshi Kaneshiro stared up at the rows upon rows of books towering above him. This was the first time he had been inside the school's library -- being an art major, and only in his first month of being a college freshman, he hadn't had a chance (thankfully, he thought) to go inside. It was pretty; the bookshelves were a dark chocolate brown, arrayed with hundreds upon hundreds of different-colored books with frayed covers or brightly patterned jackets. It was pretty, but not enough to send Takeshi searching through his khaki mailbag for his graphite and sketchbook.
"Why the hell did I pick 'mythical beasts' for my art concentration?" Takeshi muttered wryly to himself as he stepped inside. Of all the impossible topics...it had seemed like a good idea at the time, when he was brainstorming in his painting class -- before he thought of all the research he was going to have to do.
The first row of bookshelves loomed over Takeshi's head as he walked between them. Where to start? History? Art? Architecture? Was there even a Mythology section?
Takeshi walked through row after row, searching, running his hands over the spines of the books on each side.
"Aha!" he said, quietly, to himself as he pulled a book entitled 'Mythic Beasts From Around the World', then grimaced as he flipped through. There was not a picture of a mythical beast to be found, simply pages and pages of text. Takeshi made an annoyed sound and stuffed it back on the shelf, running an irate hand through his frazzled brown hair.
Twenty minutes later, Takeshi was still having absolutely no luck. He moved on to the last row and began a search of the art section.
The brunet was just about to pull down a book called 'Medieval Art and Architecture' when he heard a quiet humming coming from behind the row of shelves. There was a light rustling of papers, and the humming continued. Takeshi soon heard the scratch of a pencil.
He poked his head around the corner of the bookcase.
His first impression was that this person couldn't be older than fifteen, because his legs didn't touch the floor from his perch on a tall green-painted stool. His clothing was also much too large for him; the sleeves of the light grey-green button-down shirt he wore would have completely covered his hands had they not been bunched up around his elbows. His hair was, not black as Takeshi had thought at first, but a very dark brown, shining softly under the fluorescent lights. He was completely surrounded by books; they were stacked up on the table, on the chair next to him, and even onto the floor. This small person was writing furiously in a notebook, pausing every so often to collect his thoughts, still humming softly and tunelessly to himself.
Suddenly the boy looked up, as if he could feel Takeshi's presence, locking gazes with the other blue-eyed boy, his own pale violet eyes wide in surprise. A question rose on his lips, but Takeshi squeaked and pulled his head back around the bookcase before the boy had a chance to react. Heart hammering a million miles per hour, Takeshi flattened himself against the shelf nearest him, blinking his eyes rapidly. The boy was not a boy at all, but an attractive, wise-eyed young man around Takeshi's own age.
"Hey," came a warm voice slightly tinged with suspicion as the violet-eyed boy appeared around the edge of the bookcase. "Did you want something?"
Takeshi felt as if his heart had stopped. For some reason the sound of that voice was sending delightful shivers down his spine.
So he ran.
All the way back to his dormitory.
"Idiot, idiot, idiot!" Takeshi said breathlessly, snatching off his glasses and pressing the heels of his hands to his blue eyes. He was safe, inside the common room of his dormitory, so he flopped ungracefully down onto a well-worn couch.
Back in the library, a rather confused Kael Taésidé returned to his seat in the corner of the library, taking off his black-framed glasses and rubbing at them habitually with the corner of his shirt. "That was... weird..." he murmured thoughtfully, picking up a thick brown book. He tried to get back into his studies (he had a big test in two weeks and had to do some extra studying) but found his concentration inexorably shattered.
"Dammit," he muttered to himself, rubbing vigorously at his eyes. "Snap out of it... just because some guy interrupts your studies doesn't mean that he has to continue being a deterrence..." But Kael just couldn't get out of his head those big blue eyes and the slight, confused blush that spread across the tall young man's face...
A blush spread across Kael's own face, and he slammed the dusty book shut irritably, scattering papers in every direction and earning him a scornful look from a nearby couple who were doing more study of the human anatomy than they were of the math textbooks open in front of them. "Dammit!" he cursed again, biting his lip as he slid off his stool, gathering the books and papers and shoving them - carefully and in an organized fashion - into his large, well-worn grey backpack.
He needed to go for a walk.
The next day, after lunch, Takeshi just couldn't make himself turn the doorknob of the library door. He stood outside like an idiot, staring at the brass handle, trying to work up the nerve to go inside.
"What are the chances of him being in there again? I mean, how many people just hang out in the library...?" Takeshi muttered to himself. He had to go inside -- he was falling behind on his art project. Everyone else had already started, and he didn't even have an idea.
Covering his eyes with one hand, he turned the doorknob quickly and ran inside, jumping behind the first bookcase he came to. The withered old librarian gave him a disapproving look, but he ignored her and continued on his search for a book he could use.
He was once again in the Art section, and was about to pull down a promising-looking book when he got the overwhelming urge to look around the corner.
"He's not there. No, he wouldn't be there! There's no way." Takeshi walked silently to the edge of the bookcase. "I'm just going to check...just because..." He peered around.
The mysterious young man was sitting in the same spot he had occupied the day before. Takeshi felt his face heat up inexplicably and he shot back behind the bookcase, nearly tripping over the bottoms of his pants.
He stayed there for a few seconds, breathing heavily as if he had just run a few laps in gym class. "Dammit, Takeshi..." he scolded himself under his breath.
"So your name's Takeshi?" came a quiet, slightly amused voice from right next to his shoulder. Takeshi's heart leapt up into his sinuses in shock as he gave a squeak, whirling around in a tangle of limbs. He tripped over the hem of his pants, flying backwards with windmilling arms. Wincing for the crash he knew would come as his body lurched towards the bookshelf, he shut his eyes tightly...
But the crash never came. Takeshi felt his body stop suddenly, then drop harmlessly onto the carpet. Slowly he opened one bright blue eye a crack, then a bit more.
Standing in front of him, wearing a long grey jacket, black turtleneck, and faded jeans, his eyes glinting slightly grey-green in the shadow of the bookcases, was the mysterious boy from the day before. Pushing his black-rimmed glasses further up on his nose with his free hand, he gently released his hold on the front of Takeshi's jacket where he had grabbed it to stop the tall boy's inevitable journey into the heart of the bookcase.
"Are you okay?" he asked quietly, his voice reminding Takeshi of darkness, but in a warm, comforting way like a dark bedroom.
Takeshi's face felt unbearably red. He just made a complete fool of himself in front of...
"What's your name?" Takeshi blurted out, suddenly feeling certain that if he blushed any more the library fire alarms would begin to go off.
"Kael Taésidé. And you're...Takeshi?"
"Takeshi Kaneshiro," the brunet managed to get out around his embarrassment. Kael, then. He had just made a complete fool of himself in front of Kael.
Kael knelt down beside him, half leaning on the bookcase. He extended a small, delicate-looking hand. "Pleased to meet you, Takeshi."
Takeshi stared at the proffered hand as if it would bite him, gulped, and took it. "N-Nice to meet you too." Kael's hand was cool to the touch, and soft; the brunet suddenly felt very conscious of his callused fingers and sweating palms. He suddenly wondered if Kael's skin was that soft all over...
Takeshi mentally kicked himself.
"You going to stay down there or are you going to stand up?" Kael's voice brought Takeshi back to the present once more. The boy still wasn't smiling, but his dusky eyes sparkled slightly and the corner of his mouth was slightly turned up. He got the impression that it took a lot to make this serious, slightly cynical-looking young man truly smile.
Not that he wouldn't like the chance...
"Er, yeah, getting up... good idea..." Takeshi stumbled over the words, using the bookcase behind him to help push himself up off the floor. Kael backed away slightly, tilting his head to the side and making the two long strands of hair framing his face whisper slightly against his collar. An awkward silence fell as Takeshi straightened himself out, looking down at the much shorter, dark-haired boy, whose green gaze flickered up at him unperturbed.
"Um, hey..." Takeshi said as something occurred to him suddenly. "Weren't your eyes... violet yesterday?"
Kael raised one dark, delicate eyebrow. "You noticed? I'm impressed... they change colour, actually," a small ghost of a smile flicked across his face. "They change colour with my moods..."
"So what does green mean?" Takeshi asked before he could stop himself. Once more he was fixed with an uncanny, knowing gaze from the smaller boy, whose eyes sparkled in the strange way that made Takeshi think of darkness rather than of light, and intrigued him...
"I guess you'll have to find that out for yourself, won't you?" Takeshi felt an intoxicating shiver slip unheedingly down his spine. That same ghost of a smile crossed Kael's features again, and his dark lashes dipped down to touch his rose-tinged cheeks.
Had he been blushing this whole time too? Takeshi suddenly felt ten times better about his current situation. He broke into a grin.
Kael was slightly taken aback by this show of open joy. It was free and contagious, and he felt the corners of his lips twitching upwards into a small, timid grin. He bit his lip, but the smile was unmistakable.
Takeshi's eyes brightened. "You..." he began, then thought better of it. "Hey, um, you spend a lot of time in here, don't you? Do you think...you could help me out?"
Kael, meanwhile, had gotten his expression under control, and Takeshi briefly wondered whether he had imagined the cracking of Kael's demure, calm mask. "What are you looking for?"
"I have to do an art project...on mythological beasts..." Takeshi trailed off with a theatrical grimace, but Kael's eyes lit up with the light of a scholar who finally has the chance to show off what he did best - which was exactly the case.
"I have just the thing!" Kael said, grabbing Takeshi's wrist and pulling him to where his backpack and belongings were stashed. A laptop sat half-open on the table, and a tattered blue notebook lay sprawled open with several different colours of pencil crayons scattered on top of it where he had been using them to colour code his notes on Renaissance calligraphy.
The slim boy's light, firm grip on Takeshi's wrist was all that the brunet could concentrate on at the moment. But, as if in realization, Kael suddenly flickered his eyes, now faintly blue-grey, up at the taller boy and dropped his wrist with what might be a mumbled apology. Tipping his head downwards so that his hair shielded his face, he quickly rifled through the piles of books and came up with a heavy, leather-bound red book.
"What does that say?" Takeshi asked, pointing to the rampant gold writing across the front. It was definitely not in English, and as Kael quickly and expertly thumbed through the book, eyes narrowed behind his glasses, he could see that the rest of the book wasn't either.
"Roughly translated, it means the Gods' Book..." Kael said absently. "It's in Greek...about their gods, old customs..." he briefly glanced up at Takeshi. "Magical beasts."
The brunet nodded, and Kael continued flipping through the heavy, old book. As Takeshi looked closer at the cover, he could make out the worn, embossed shape of a hydra frozen in the midst of swinging its countless heads in a dizzying pattern.
Kael sat in complete silence, flipping page after page. Takeshi couldn't stand it anymore, and went to peer over his shoulder, squinting down at hundreds of tricky, unfamiliar symbols.
The shorter boy was having a difficult time concentrating on the book in front of him; the closer Takeshi drew to him the less attention he could pay to the pages he was flipping. A comforting warmth spread over him, and his heart fluttered excitedly in his throat. It was sweet and unbearable at the same time; Kael was almost relieved when he came to the page he was looking for. Almost.
"There are quite a few pictures here," Kael said, in a most businesslike manner; he was, however, unable to disguise the slight tremor in his voice.
Takeshi reached over Kael's shoulder and ran his fingers over the picture before them. "What's this?"
"Chimaera," Kael replied as Takeshi removed his hand, brushing the other boy's wrist lightly as he pulled it back. "Fire-breathing beast with a lion's head and body, serpent's tail, and a goat's head in its midsection. It ravaged Mount Chimaera and was eventually killed by the hero Bellerophon... and this is Echidna, a half woman, half-serpent monster who ate men raw. The daughter of Phorcys and Ceto, she coupled with another half-snake, Typhon, and gave birth to Hydra, Cerberus, and Chimaera..."
Takeshi looked confused. "Wait a second - how could a half-woman half-snake give birth to Chimaera? Isn't it part-goat, part-snake, part-lion?" At Kael's nod, Takeshi looked even more confused. "What kind of weirdo wrote that?"
Kael smirked, his lips almost parting in a genuine smile, emerald eyes glinting slightly with peridot. "The same weirdo who wrote that the furies were apparently born of the blood of the castrated Uranus."
Four days later...
Takeshi made his way towards the library, swaggering slightly with a bright, off-key tune whistling on his lips. Under one arm he carried his sketchbook, under the other a few photocopies from Kael's 'God's Book'. The dark-haired boy had been unwilling to lend the whole book to Takeshi, who couldn't understand it all anyway, so Kael had photocopied a few sheets and made quick jot-notes for Takeshi to reference back to.
Takeshi smiled slightly to himself as an image of his new friend came to mind; thick, dark hair with the two long strands framing his face, the rest of it deigned off in feathery bangs and slightly spiky, layered locks that fell just past his chin, tapering to a point at the back of his neck. Takeshi had studied every inch of the boy's pointed face, his slightly dark skin, arched eyebrows, and large eyes behind black-framed glasses that were so prone to changing colours...
The brunet felt himself flush as he made his way into the library, the whistle dying on his lips in the stillness although his heart was still light. It was amazing how having the quiet, serious boy in his life for just a few days made all the difference. Takeshi knew that he was spending far more time in the library just to see Kael than he really should have, but he didn't care. And his art project was coming along beautifully...
However, Takeshi had to admit that he was working a bit slower than he actually would have just so that he would have an excuse to come back and see Kael again.
He found the dark-haired boy sitting in his usual nook, but today he had opted for the slightly worn-out blue couch between two large bookcases instead of the stool at the table. The reason was probably that he liked to be comfortable when simply reading, not taking notes. Kael didn't seem to hear Takeshi approach, and he gave a startled squeak when Takeshi sat down beside him, kicking his legs out and propping them up on a bookcase.
"Good afternoon," Takeshi grinned at the boy, who was scowling slightly at his brief loss of dignity.
Kael's eyes warmed, and he gave his customary half-smile to the taller boy. "Hello," he said. "How's the project?" He could disguise the happiness he felt at seeing Takeshi from the other boy, through professional questions like those, but not from himself...
"It's going great!" Takeshi bubbled. "But, ah..." he stopped suddenly, "I still need your help. If that's okay."
His back turned to Takeshi as he picked up the God's Book and a few others that contained information or pictures on mythological beasts, Kael's eyes sparkled bright teal green as an almost-smile crossed his face. It was almost as if Takeshi was afraid he wouldn't want anything to do with him if they didn't have any more work to do...If only it were that easy to forget about him, he thought bemusedly.
"Of course it's okay," he said curtly, returning to sit cross-legged next to Takeshi on the faded couch. "Look - this is another book I found on Greek mythological beasts. It surpasses the God's Book in that it focuses completely on the beasts and their origins, as opposed to the gods and the full legends. But for your purposes, I think this will do better..." he placed the book on his lap where Takeshi could easily see it, but the taller boy quickly seized that opportunity to move closer to Kael and tug the book over so that it was on both their laps. Kael quickly let his hair fall down to shield his face. "This is a chapter about beast-human crosses..." he said, tracing a path down the page as he translated.
"How do you know all this?" Takeshi asked, fascinated, eyebrows arching as his eyes flickered over the black-inked, incomprehensible writing that spanned the faded pages. Over the past few days, the smaller boy had shown an unsurpassable knowledge of everything and everything.
"I study," Kael said simply, tilting his head up slightly, a half-smile back on his face. His eyes had faded from grey-green to emerald green, and he watched Takeshi's bright blue ones eagerly scan the pictures in front of him with an unreadable look on his face. He licked his lips unconsciously. He hadn't known Takeshi for very long, but the boy was placing severe pressure on his self-control...
Takeshi flipped through a few more pages, pausing at a two-page spread that caught his eye. "What's this?" he asked, tilting his head upwards and suddenly finding himself face-to-face with Kael, bringing their lips inches apart. "It's a sphinx, r-right?" Takeshi stuttered slightly, feeling Kael's breath play over his lips, unable and unwilling to pull back.
"That's right. In this picture...she's being confronted by Oedipus...he wants to get into Thebes..." Kael breathed, bright green eyes staring unblinkingly into Takeshi's.
Suddenly there was an enormous crash coming from the bookshelves. Both boys whirled around, hearts racing. A pretty, sheepish-looking girl with slick indigo hair stood about ten feet behind them; somehow, she had knocked half of the books off the shelf and onto the floor. Face colouring, she bent to pick them up.
Takeshi was over there in an instant. "Here, let me help you with those," he said with a winning smile.
Kael sighed, looking down at the book in his lap, eyes fading to a light blue. "I should have known...he'd never...not for me..." he thought, studying the picture in front of him. He absently traced the lines around young Oedipus' face.
Books never hurt you. Books never strung you along.
Of course, books didn't have bright blue eyes or musical voices or gangly limbs or flirtatious smiles. Not in Kael's experience, anyway. He shivered, but whether it was from fear or delight, he didn't know.
Out of the corner of his eye Kael saw the girl put the last book on the shelf, and, face burning, dodge out of sight into the heart of the bookshelves. Takeshi straightened, walked back over to the couch, and plopped down next to Kael once again.
Kael didn't look up.
"I..." Takeshi's mind went completely blank of the speech he had composed while he was picking up books. "I..." He took a large breath, steeling himself. "I... I mean, me and my roommate and some of my dorm friends are going to go to the club in town tomorrow night...since it's Friday and all...it's not really that b-big of a deal and... and...I think it'll be fun, you know, and... wouldyouliketocome?" Takeshi flew through his speech in one breath, only pausing to look up and gauge Kael's reaction.
Kael was looking at him again; his eyes had changed to a misty grey-green once again. "I...I don't know. I'm not really one for parties and... clubbing." Takeshi's eyes went wide and pleading. "But...I might make an exception. I'll think about it."
"WAII!" Takeshi squealed happily, throwing his arms around a very startled Kael. "Uh, that is..." Takeshi pulled away quickly, blushing. "I mean..." He flashed a nervous, chagrined smile at the darker-haired boy.
Kael demurely tucked a strand of hair behind his ear, looking down at the book that still resided in his lap. He raised his eyes to Takeshi's, suddenly-green irises staring up through dark lashes.
"What does bright green mean? Your eyes..." Takeshi trailed off.
Kael's lip quirked ever-so-slightly upward. "You'll find out sooner or later."