LOVELESS (is the property of Kouga Yun)
Word Count: 743
Characters: Ritsu, Soubi.
PSA: underaged smoking is bad!
Maybe he'd done it because Ritsu had told him not to, who could tell. Ritsu caught him with the evidence, a pair of scissors in his hand and a small, circular hand mirror with roses on the handle propped in front of him. He'd wedged it cleverly between the wall and some old filing cabinet; it was the perfect height and angle to reflect the cracked vanity mirror behind him. The mirror reflected Soubi's straw-colored hair, which was now short and even all the way around.
Very neatly done. He was impressed.
Ritsu looked on mildly from the doorway, allowing Soubi the first word. Soubi, an old hand at this game, said nothing, though when Ritsu had first opened the door to the storeroom he'd been so startled he'd nearly stabbed himself with the scissors. He reached behind himself to lay them on the vanity. The movement stirred a cloud of dust.
"Ritsu-sensei," he said, eventually.
"I told you to keep your hair long," Ritsu said, in the tone of one stating a fact.
"I felt like changing it," Soubi said, trying for the same equanimity and failing. "I don't have to listen to you, you aren't my Sacrifice." He'd learned enough to keep his shoulders relaxed and not hunched forward, but he couldn't help his ears, which lay back almost flat against his skull, or his tail, which bristled.
Ritsu would miss them. He was, at best, an indifferent judge of mood or character -- but with only a basic knowledge of adolescent psychology, it was possible to judge by ears and tail alone the mental state of most people who had them. Only the naturally reticent had any measure of control over the core mental processes that controlled such reactions; Soubi had none. He practically broadcast his thoughts with them.
Which was why, sooner or later, the ears had to go.
"Are you going to punish me?" Soubi asked. His hands, clasped together in his lap, trembled.
Ritsu was an indifferent judge of mood and character, but he wasn't blind. There was no way he could miss the eagerness in Soubi's posture, or the hopeful look in his eyes.
"No," he said. "I don't think I am."
Ritsu pulled a cigarette from his pocket and lit it, in a completely unscripted show of nonchalance. "You don't deserve to be punished," he continued, mercilessly. "And I don't have the authority to punish you. As you said, I'm not your Sacrifice. In fact," -- he paused thoughtfully here, to inhale, then exhale a lungful of smoke -- "I shouldn't have told you how to keep your hair in the first place."
"Does that mean I have your permission?" Soubi asked. He reached up to nervously brush his hair back from his face, and seemed startled when there wasn't more of it.
"It means you don't need it," Ritsu corrected. "I have no stake in any part of you, aside your training. As long as you remain fit for that, I don't care what you do with yourself. It's none of my business."
Soubi looked at him. Ritsu couldn't decipher the look, though to be honest he wasn't really trying. It really wasn't any of his business. On a whim, he reached into his pocket and pulled out the package of cigarettes.
"Want one?" he asked, holding them out to Soubi.
Soubi hesitated, then reached into the pack to withdraw a single cigarette with slender, boyish fingers. He put it to his mouth with the same movement he'd seen Ritsu use many times before, and Ritsu lit it for him.
When he inhaled, he didn't choke or gasp. He held the lungful long enough to burn. When he exhaled, he closed his eyes. Ritsu tapped the ash from his own cigarette.
"Progress check. Why did you take the cigarette?"
Soubi's response was automatic. "Because I was curious."
Ritsu nodded. "Clear. Anything else?"
"Because it was something to do."
"Clear. Anything else?"
"Because..." For the first time, Soubi hesitated. "Because it was Ritsu-sensei who offered."
"That's no good. You can't get attached to me, I'm not your Sacrifice. I wonder what I should do."
This time, Soubi didn't tremble. "Are you going to punish me?"
It was a better acting job than Ritsu would have credited him for, but it wouldn't work.
"No," Ritsu said. "I think that part of the training is over. It doesn't have the same effect anymore."