He slumped into his chair at the table and leaned his forehead against the grain of the desk. His fingers slipped up and popped the buttons at his neck. “It’s hot.”
All through class the students had been restless.
The heat snuggled in close, wrapping each person up and not letting go, feeling very much like an uncomfortably long hug from an odious relative that must be endured.
Hikaru lifted his head. ‘That’s a weird line of thought,’ he frowned. ‘Comparing the heat wave to a hug.’
“Hikaru.” Takashi’s voice boomed, startling the younger man. “I have a proposal for you.”
He sighed and laid his cheek on the desk so he could watch his elder walk into the room. “Does it involve a research mission to the artic? I’m all for that.”
“What are you talking about? It isn’t hot. This is lovely. Exactly what we need leading into summer break.”
Hikaru sat up right. “It is hot.” Was all he managed.
Takashi looked at him intently. “Have you been sleeping at all?”
Shaking his head would use too much energy and rattle his brain inside his skull making the headache worse. “No.”
“This paper is going to kill you if you’re not careful.”
“It’s only while there are assignments from students coming to me on a regular basis. Once the holidays begin, I won’t have to divide my attention.”
“And you probably won’t emerge from your home or see sunlight for months.” Takashi’s tone was light, but it was in contrast to the worried look in his eyes. “Keep this up and you’ll end up collapsing, and if that happens when you’re alone in your home, it could be ages before help reaches you.”
Hikaru bit his tongue. He wanted to tell Takashi to go away and leave him alone, that it wasn’t his business what he did. The headache pulsated. His eyes drooped. His irritation levels dropped so that nothing was pleasing.
“But I may have a solution.”
“No,” Hikaru repeated. “I’m not going to be distracted over the holiday, I’m going to get this paper done and submit it for review.”
Takashi placed his hands on his hips and stared down his friend. “That’s not going to take all of the holiday to complete. At most, it’ll be a week to plan it and another week to compose it, and I know you’ve completed most of the research already.”
Hikaru grimaced. ‘He’s right.’
“So I want you to come to the holiday home we’re renting near the beach.”
“No.” Automatically came out.
“Ruby will be disappointed.”
Air caught in Hikaru’s throat. ‘Ruby will be there?’ He hesitated saying no again.
Takashi smirked. “She’ll be here for another few months, at the end of summer she has to fly back to Australia.”
Hikaru knew what he was hinting at. If he wanted to do anything, pursue her in any way, he had only the holidays to do it. ‘But you also need time to work on your paper. There is so much information to put down. If you get distracted by a woman now, you’ll never finish it and… but Ruby.’
The warm fluttering happened in his belly as he thought about her and he felt a little sick. ‘Attraction is a distraction,’ his brain warned. His mouth answered for him. “Okay.”
Takashi broke out in an all-out grin and clapped his hands. “Great. that’s going to make it one full house.”
Hikaru rolled his eyes. “If you didn’t want it to be full, you didn’t have to ask me to go.”
“Stop being so grumpy. A full house is a good thing.”
“Full house?” Hokuto poked his head through the doorway. “What are you talking about? And what are you guys still doing in class? It’s over, we can go home.”
Takashi chuckled and turned to the other young man. “Nothing is over just yet. One more week and then it will be holidays and we can all do as we please.”
Hokuto pestered for more information about what they were talking about. Takashi danced around his questions. They laughed.
The noise was irritating to Hikaru.
And they left him to stew in his thoughts. ‘It’s going to be like this, lots of human contact and no time to work. Is it worth it?’ Then she flashed into his mind; Ruby dancing under the cherry blossoms the first day he saw her and later met her. Turning his head, he looked at the trees outside without their pink clouds. They were just green.
‘Don’t be stupid and get ready for an interesting holiday by the beach.’ He scrubbed his hands over his face. ‘Some rest would be amazing.’
“I’m off,” Hikaru stood up and collected his notes from the desk. He nodded to Takashi, all too aware of the smirk firmly fitted to his lips.
As he exited the building and hurried back to his office he had to question reality.
Being pointed his way by one of the faculty members was Ruby. She bowed politely and her lips moved before she started down the path.
That’s when she saw him.
Her face broke into a smile and she called out. “Good afternoon, Mamiya-san.”
When they met half-way he frowned at her. “I thought you were going to call me Hikaru from now on.”
“That would be too rude to yell out.”
“What are you doing here? Classes have finished for the day.”
“I was sent on a mission.” Her eyes twinkled.
He began to worry. “What sort of mission?”
“I suppose Takashi has spoken to you already?”
She bounced on her toes. “My mission is simple then; capture you.” Her hands latched onto his arm and she dragged him behind her.