Chapter 20

Takeshi tapped his fingers impatiently on the café table, looking out the window at the heavy snowflakes spiralling down. The fifth of January. He had always been quite fond of winter. It made him feel inspired.

A light tinkling of bells from the door made him look over, a smile crossing his face as he recognized a cold and slightly irritated Anarchy, snowflakes clinging to his dark hair and jacket.

"Hi-ho, Ani!" Takeshi called, sending the other boy a mock salute.

"What the hell happened to you?" was the muttered reply as Anarchy slid into the booth across from him. Takeshi raised an eyebrow.

"What do you mean?"

Anarchy took off his gloves and scarf, stashing them between himself and the window. His usual spikes were a little damp, curving a little to frame his face. Personally, Takeshi thought it was a good look for him. But if he told Anarchy that, he'd do something drastic like shave it all of. He didn't want people to like him.

"I mean you're obviously way too cheerful for this kind of weather," said Anarchy in a droll tone, threading black-nailed fingers together.

Takeshi blushed slightly. "I had a good Christmas," he said, rather lamely. "Kael came to visit," he added, as a means of explanation. Anarchy gave him a knowing look and a smirk, and Takeshi's blush deepened.

"Well, it sounds like somebody had fun, anyway," Anarchy said, blue eyes glittering.

"What about you? How was your Christmas?" Change the subject! Change the subject!

Anarchy rolled his eyes, leaning back against his seat, crossing his arms lightly over his chest. "Nothing too thrilling. Got drunk. Avoided my insane family. Nothing else." His eyes narrowed, as if daring Takeshi to say anything else.

"Oh. That's too bad."

The two of them fell silent for a while: Anarchy in his usual sulk, Takeshi sitting rather primly and awkwardly. Waiting is never pleasant business.

After a few minutes of that, Anarchy glanced at his watch, scowling. "She invites everybody to meet her here, and then she's late." A pause. "She's probably somewhere snogging that mop-head of hers."

Takeshi hid a smile. "I thought that mop-head was your best friend, Anarchy."

"Oh, he is. That still doesn't mean I can't insult him. And speaking about best friends…" Anarchy was undoubtedly the master of turning the conversation around to pin Takeshi instead of himself. "Where's Tybalt?"

"Uh… I'm not sure," Takeshi said slowly. "I've barely seen him since break ended. He's either asleep or listening to music if he's in the room, and won't talk to me. I think I might have made him mad but I'm not sure what's up. I really think that something might be wrong with him…" He said this all in one fast rush. He had promised himself that he wouldn't burden the others with private matters between roommates, but… He really was really worried about Tybalt.

"You don't say?" said Anarchy in a near-drawl, examining his fingernails with meticulous detail. Takeshi blinked in surprise. Anarchy wasn't shooting him down. He was almost acting like he cared. Well, Takeshi supposed, there was a first time for everything.

"Yeah…" the art major said slowly, looking down. "He's been acting differently ever since he met Nary. Weird, y'know? At first I just thought that it was the whole denial thing, but now I'm not so sure. What if he really cared about Nary?"

Anarchy shrugged. "What if?"

Takeshi looked confused. "Excuse me?"

Sighing impatiently, Anarchy repeated, "What if? So what if Nary broke his heart. These things happen. And he should have had the good sense not to screw around with a fast and loose dirtbag like Naraja Anantha in any case. He'll get over it, if that's what the problem is."

"…You think so?"

"I wouldn't have said it if I didn't think so," Anarchy said scathingly, narrowing his eyes. "Tybalt's a big boy. He can take care of himself. He'll figure out that he's better than that."

Takeshi raised his eyebrows. "Why, Anarchy! That's one of the nicest things I've ever heard you say."

Anarchy glowered at him. "So I'm feeling magnanimous. Don't count on it being frequent."

Leaning forward, Takeshi grinned widely. "You know, I think you might like Tybalt…"

"I don't swing that way, bitch," said Anarchy, and kicked him.


Eliot Koyata sank gratefully into his chair, leaning his head back and closing his eyes. Only the first day of classes and already he was being run ragged. At this rate he'd need a stress leave by Valentine's Day.

That thought made him smile, albeit very bitterly. He had almost been looking forward to Valentine's Day this year. He thought that, for once, he might have somebody to share it with. But that idea was rather irrevocably shattered over Christmas Break.

I was rather fond of Ryan, at the beginning, he mused to himself. But it never would have worked out. They both cared too much about their work, and Ryan was too concerned about what people thought of him. So Eliot broke it off.

It was probably for the better, anyway, he decided as he gazed through the frosted window down at the students milling about below. He couldn't afford to get distracted.

There was a knock on his door.

"It's open," he said automatically, becoming the gracious professor on reflex, turning to look at the door. He blinked in surprise, momentarily taken aback. "Ethan!"

"Hello, Uncle," said his nephew, looking studiously down at his shoes. "I hope I'm not disturbing you…"

Eliot pushed back his chair, rising quickly and moving towards the door. Steady pace, Eliot. Keep your composure at all times. Can't give them anything else to talk about. "Of course not, of course not. Do come in. Close the door behind you. Has something happened? I thought your classes started today…"

"Yes, yes," interrupted Ethan, pushing the door softly closed behind him. "Sit down, Uncle. You're going to hurt yourself." He grinned a little crookedly, eyes still downcast, and ran a hand through his hair. "Nothing's happened, don't worry."

Eliot frowned, walking back to his desk and sitting down. Ethan looked a little run-down. His hair was quite a bit longer than Eliot remembered, and styled less severely. He was wearing a brown jacket and a dark red scarf, hands shoved in his pockets. Above all, he looked… melancholy.

"Sit down," said Eliot softly. If Ethan was coming to him for anything, well… it had to be bad.

Eliot and Ethan were never very close. People expected that they might be, seeing as they looked like they could be brothers. There was also the homosexuality aspect. Perhaps things would have turned out differently for both of them if they had unified against the rest of their family, provided support for each other.

But now that Eliot thought about it, they never really needed to. He himself hadn't come out until he had nearly finished university. Ethan was, at best, only ten or so years younger than himself. He had somewhat softened the blow for Ethan, despite it all… desensitized and scandalized the family and all that.

Ethan carefully sat down in the chair across the desk from his uncle. "I… wasn't sure who to talk to about this," he said slowly. "But I figured that… even though we don't talk much… you might be the best to ask." It looked as if it pained him to admit that. Which, Eliot reminded himself, it probably did. Ethan was notorious for his independence and stubborn pride.

"Go right ahead, Ethan," he said seriously, watching his nephew over the rims of his silver glasses. "You know I care about you."

That conjured a brief smile, but it faded as quickly as it had come. With a low sigh, Ethan launched into the long, sordid tale that he had told Ophelia on that snowy night before Christmas Break in the warmth of the Schism coffee shop.


"Now, a cambiata is an unessential note similar to the eschappee. The eschappee moves by step away from the harmony note and leaps to the next harmony note…." 

Tybalt slumped over his desk, his back row seat allowing him to doodle stars in the corner of his notebook instead of taking notes. 

"The cambiata works in the opposite way. It leaps away from the harmony note and moves by step to the next…." 

The redhead glanced over the top of his desk at the students in front of him.  Most looked as dead as he felt, except for one brown-haired girl in the front row, who was watching the teacher with a rapt expression. Maybe she's shagging him, Tybalt thought, repeatedly dropping his pencil eraser-first onto the desk and watching it bounce.  I wish this class wasn't required for my fucking major, he thought for the umpteenth time, and leaned back, resting his head against the wall, and surveyed the other students sitting with him in the back row. 

Hmm.  Preptastic blonde bitch.  He eyed the pink shoulder bag with the sorority letters that was leaning against her desk.

Looks like the member of a punk band, he thought of an almost threatening-looking guy with spiky purple hair and about five earrings.

She's pretty.  He looked a dark-haired girl wearing a black tank top and a brown plaid skirt up and down.  Violinist, too, he thought, noting the slightly-battered violin case that was stowed beneath her desk.  Wonder if she's single.  His eyes moved on.

I've never noticed him around before, Tybalt thought, eyes widening slightly and all thoughts of the pretty violinist fleeing from his mind.

The "him" in question was sitting in the opposite corner of the tiered classroom.  He was slumped slightly over his notes but his pen was flying over the paper, gripped between very long, very pale fingers which were adorned with white nail polish.  He paused for a moment, raising his head to look at the teacher, and tucked a piece of hair that had been bleached white (at least, Tybalt assumed it had been bleached) out of his eye and behind his ear.  Tybalt noticed, with a strange quivery feeling in his stomach, that he had one sturdy-looking silver stud going through his eyebrow and another underneath his lower lip.  He was also wearing a form-fitting white collared shirt with dark grey stripes, a black tie, and a long, black canvas skirt.

He's wearing a skirt, Tybalt thought intelligently, a little shocked.  That's really hot.

The young man he had been checking out suddenly turned his had in his direction, and the redhead hastily turned back to his notes, a fluttery, excited fear filling his chest.  Did he see me watching him? Tybalt thought anxiously, suddenly unable to think of anything but those large, mournful, mercury-silver eyes that had - just maybe - caught his for a moment.

When is class over? I wanna talk to him.  The redhead glanced at the clock hanging over the blackboard.  There was an hour left.

Tybalt slumped even farther over his desk.


"Sorry we're late!" Chiclet carolled, strolling up to the table where Takeshi and Anarchy had been waiting, Tictac in tow. Her bright pink hair was liberally streaked with dark purple, and her eye makeup was a similarly dark plum colour, accented with sparkles. She was wearing a trendy white jacket with faux fur lining and a pair of plaid pants in various pastel shades. Her gloves and scarf both glittered with bead patterns, and star earrings the size of Takeshi's palm swung from her ears.

Ever the contrast, her boyfriend was wearing a simple gray jacket and a pair of jeans. Though, for a change, his hair was combed back smoothly and wasn't falling into his face. There was a first time for everything, Takeshi supposed.

"It's about time," Anarchy muttered, glaring at her over the top of the coke he had ordered while waiting for them to arrive. "You're so irresponsible."

"Oh, shut up!" said Chiclet cheerfully, sliding into the booth next to her half-brother. Tictac sat across from her, next to Takeshi, nodding in greeting. "Traffic was bad, that's all."

"Well if you didn't spend two hours primping you probably wouldn't have to worry about traffic," Anarchy countered. Chiclet pursed her lips together disapprovingly, crossed her eyes, then glanced around.

"Hey, where's Tybalt? Not here yet? How rude!" she asked, pouting. Anarchy snorted.

Takeshi hid a smile. "I don't know where he is," he said. "He had a class right before this. Maybe it went late."

"Well, I only have so much time before my next class, and I did so want to see everybody!" Chiclet said crossly. "We haven't been spending nearly enough time together."

She was right, Takeshi realized. He hadn't been seeing as much of his friends lately. He'd been spending most of his time with Kael, and he knew that Tictac and Chiclet spent most of their time with each other.

Now that he thought about it, Takeshi mused, examining Anarchy critically while Chiclet nattered on about something, their little group had began to rip at the seams ever since they began to get romantically entangled elsewhere.

It was kind of sad, really. But… wasn't that just the way things were?

Somebody kicked him in the shin.

"Ow!" Takeshi yelped, trying to grab his leg but only succeeding in hitting his head on the table. "Ow!" he repeated. He glared over at Anarchy, who looked like a smug cat. "What was that for?"

"You were staring at me."

"I was thinking, that's all."

"Hey!" exclaimed Chiclet, waving her menu around excitedly. "They have muffins."


"Kael! Hey, Kael!"

Hearing his name, Kael glanced over his shoulder, peering through the crowds for the caller. Catching sight of Marius, he broke out into a grin, stopping beside a park bench as his friend jogged to catch up with him.

"How are you, Marius?" Kael greeted warmly, breath steaming visibly in the chill air.

"Just fine. Walk with me?" offered the taller boy with a winning grin.

With a grin of his own, Kael fell into step with Marius, taking quicker strides to keep up with him. "How was your Christmas?" Kael asked.

"Great!" said Marius enthusiastically. His cheeks were flushed with the cold, his gray eyes glittering cheerfully. Birdlike and slightly awkward as usual, Marius looked doubly out of place bundled up in several layers of warm clothing. "Not too pleased to be back in classes, but it's great to see people again." He rubbed his hands together vigorously to warm them.

"I know what you mean," Kael agreed, tucking his hair behind one ear. He was still a redhead; to any that asked, he claimed that he did it in a frenzy of holiday spirit. It made them laugh, anyhow. "I don't have many friends, but it's nice to see familiar faces around."

Marius kicked at a pile of snow and laughed. "I just can't believe that, Kael. You're smart, you're likeable, and you've got good sense. I just can't see why you don't have a girlfriend, or at least a posse," he teased.

Kael rolled his eyes and sighed, his breath making a cloud in the air that quickly dissipated. "You haven't figured that out yet, Marius?" he sighed good-naturedly.

The other boy just looked dreadfully confused. "Figured out what?" he asked.

"Nothing," Kael said dismissively. "It's nothing. Hey, look! Starbucks! I'm in desperate need of something warm to drink. You want something? My treat."

Frowning slightly at having been put off, Marius nonetheless accepted. In the war between caffeine and better sense… Starbucks usually won out.


Ethan Koyata walked quickly down the street, staring fixedly at the ground and watching as mud and slush flicked from the toes of his boots as if launched. He trudged along like he had a black thundercloud marked 'doom' floating above his head.

As it were, he wasn't paying much attention to where he was going, and subsequently walked straight into a young man waiting by a bus stop. Being quite a bit heavier than the other person, Ethan only stumbled; the other young man wasn't so lucky, and he fell straight back onto the wet, slushy sidewalk.

"Sorry!" Ethan said quickly, attempting to right himself. "God… I'm sorry. I'm such an idiot… Here…" He held out a hand.

Wide blue-green eyes stared up at him from behind blue-tinted sunglasses as a mittened hand snaked its way into his own. "Ah, it's alright," said the young man quietly, a little shaken. "It's not as if I haven't been wet before."

Pulling the blond to his feet, Ethan bit his lip, still clutching the other man's hand rather tightly. "I'm so sorry," he said with the utmost sincerity. "I wasn't paying attention to where I was going."

"It happens," replied the blond with a valiant try at a smile, although he was already shivering. Ethan couldn't handle that.

"L-look, here…" Ethan swiftly began to unbutton his brown outer jacket. "Take this."

"No, honestly! I'm fine!" the blond protested, holding his hands up, palms out.

"You'll catch pneumonia or something!"

"I will not!"

"Take the coat!"

"I don't need it! I'm fine! Please, leave me alone!" the blond practically yelled, thin arms wrapped tightly around himself. Ethan clutched his jacket close to his chest, now shivering himself in the chill air. They stared at each other.

Ethan swallowed. "You're being ridiculous, you know."

"You needn't care about a perfect stranger," the blond retorted, teeth chattering.

"I haven't got anybody else to care about," Ethan said flatly. "So take the damn coat."

After a long pause, the blond held out one arm, mouth still set in a stubborn line. But his eyes, half-hidden by his shades, seemed to have relented somewhat. Ethan slipped the coat onto the other young man's arm, having difficulty due to the fact that they were both shivering.

"I can put it on myself," the blond protested again, after a moment. "You're just getting it tangled…" he paused, trying to turn away, and only succeeding in running straight into Ethan's chest. "Oof!"

They froze.

The silence stretched until the blond slowly looked up at Ethan and asked, "Just how did you manage to get us both entangled in the sleeves of the same coat?" he asked, voice a little strained, although a smile threatened at the corner of his mouth.

"Talent?" suggested Ethan weakly, giving the blond a small grin of his own. A lock of his hair flopped in front of his face, obscuring one eye. He went to brush it back irritably, remembering a little too late that his arms were, along with the blond young man's, rather tangled in the sleeves of his jacket, and partially wrapped around the shoulders of this random, wet stranger.

"Here…" said the blond, freeing one hand with a great degree of difficulty. He reached up and hesitantly brushed Ethan's hair back from his face.

"Thanks," said Ethan, dark blue eyes wide. He swallowed. And for once the cynical inner monologue that seemed to run continuously on loop in his brain had ceased to degrade his every thought and movement.

It was rather nice.

"Here…" They managed to get themselves disentangled, although Ethan, blushing, still made the blond wear his coat. "I'm Ethan, by the way. Just in case you're wanting a name to curse, not just a face," he added, a little self-depreciatingly.

The blond favoured him with a slow grin. "Hey, it was an accident. Don't worry about it." He paused. "I'm Devoin."

They fell silent again. Ethan wrapped his arms tightly around himself and studied the ground. When the silence became too intense, he opened his mouth to say something at the same moment that Devoin said, "Hey, um… would you like to… get something to drink?" Ethan looked up quickly, and Devoin helplessly indicated a nearby restaurant. "You know. Just so we could warm up a bit, and I could dry off, and you could have your coat back…" he trailed off.

Ethan stared at him for a moment, then slowly nodded. "Yeah. That'd be… that'd be great."


The words "Alright, you can go" filtered through Tybalt's daydream-stupor, and as the entire class prepared to bolt en-masse out of the classroom, the redhead couldn't help the confusing rush of happiness that resulted from the thought that he would get to meet his pretty, skirt-wearing classmate.  He scooped up the notebook page (with more doodles than notes) off his desk, pulled his coat off the back of his chair, then took a step towards the other boy…and stopped dead in his tracks.

Go over there, god damn it!  he screamed to himself.  Go!

But he couldn't.

He watched helplessly as the dark-haired boy gathered up his papers and slid them into his satchel, pulled on a heavy, black coat, wrapped a dark grey scarf around his neck, and walked out of the classroom.  As the melancholy boy stepped out the door, one pale hand lingering on the doorframe, Tybalt forced himself into a panicked run, skidding to a stop at the door of the now-empty classroom, frantically looking both ways down the hallway.

Tybalt's classmate was nowhere to be seen.  The hall was filled with students, many with bulky instrument cases; Tybalt craned his neck, desperately searching for a glimpse of that unmistakable black-and-white hair.  With a growl of frustration, the redhead turned back into the classroom, searching for something to damage.  His eyes lighted on a metal wastebasket, and he kicked it into the wall, taking an inordinate amount of pleasure in the way it dented.

Snarling obscenities under his breath, he shoved his note page into his pocket and stormed out of the classroom, angrily and carelessly pushing past the students filling the hallways.


Takeshi looked up, startled, as Tybalt made a rather violent entrance into the café.  Snow was already melting on his overcoat, as well as on his hair, and as his scarf slipped Tybalt pushed impatiently at it.

"Hey, look who decided to show," Anarchy said, throwing a narrow-eyed glare over one shoulder.

Chiclet looked up from her consomme. "Who pissed in your cornflakes?"

Tybalt gave Chiclet a look that would make Sauron envious, sitting down heavily. His upper lip was pulled up slightly in what would seem to be a vague feral snarl. It was kind of sexy... if you were into severe sado-masochism. And perhaps bestiality. "I don't want to talk about it," he said icily.

"Oh, but we do," said Anarchy.  Takeshi kicked him.

"Leave him alone," the brunet said with a frown, absently stirring his coffee.

Tybalt's left eye twitched in what might have been a subtle 'thank you' to Takeshi. In any case, he took it as one. "Fuck off, would you?" Tybalt said, heaving a loud sigh and grabbing Tictac's diet coke, downing half of it in one swallow.

Chiclet snatched her boyfriend's drink back, sticking her tongue out at Tybalt.  "Get your own coke, bitch."

"Get your own bitch, whore!" Tybalt retorted, making a valiant grab for her tongue.

Chiclet scooted backwards with an undignified squeak, then pointed ill-temperedly at Tybalt. "Did you hear that, Tommy?  Get him!"  Tictac suddenly seemed inordinately interested in his sandwich, and Chiclet gave a sulky "hmmph".

Takeshi leaned his head heavily in one hand. "Maybe it's a good thing we haven't been spending so much time together," he muttered.