mdseiran: (Default)
[personal profile] mdseiran
Title: Layers
Fandom: Gakuen Heaven
Warnings: Slash.

- Written for [ profile] strawberryharem! Happy Birthday! ♥
- For [ profile] 15pairings, #8 what lies within.
- [ profile] rozarka_cz has done a Czech translation which can be found here.

Iwai Takuto can always tell when someone is watching him paint. At home there was usually someone watching; his father, his mother, sometimes his father's manager. They watched to make sure he didn't screw it up or wrote his own name on the edge of the canvas, and being the focus of those eyes often made Takuto feel trapped. This observer feels different, calmer, but if Takuto has learned anything over the past fifteen years it is that things are almost never what they seem to be on the surface. Just like his art, everything has layers; just like his art, the top layer hides the ugly splashes of paint that start the picture.

His observer doesn't speak and Takuto stays silent as well, keeping his focus on the flower unfurling on his sketchpad. The petals are looking weird; too droopy, he decides, and brushes the charcoal away with a piece of old bread.

Takuto is used to being watched, but he isn't used to comments, and the piece of bread falls into the grass when his mysterious observer asks, "Why are you erasing it?" He recognizes the voice, knows it belongs to a fellow classmate whose name he can't remember, and silence reigns. 'It's my art,' he wants to say, 'I don't have to explain it,' but he represses it and looks back at his malformed flower. "It's the wrong shape," he informs the other boy, and picks up a different piece of bread to resume his task. He ignores the boy even when he steps closer, ignores him when he crouches down next to Takuto, ignores him when he brushes the edge of the sketchpad with his hand, even though he wants to pull his art towards him and hide it against his shirt.

The boy's hand moves away from the paper and the urge fades. "Maybe it was a bit different, but why does it have to look real? I like what you drew, it was like the flower had a personality. It seemed sad. Like it didn't want to live anymore." The boy sounds sad, and Takuto tilts his head up to watch the expression on his face. He smiles faintly, his classmate smiles back, and Takuto erases the petals.


The only reason Takuto attends social gatherings is to sketch faces. People tended to overlook him, small as he was, and by the end of the event he would have several sketchbooks of facial expressions that he could later use as references. When they didn't know he was looking, people would let their masks slip and he'd get a glimpse of what lies underneath. These sketches he never showed his father; they were his collection of masks.

Even after leaving his home, Takuto continues to add to his collection. He sketches the pout on Niwa's face when Nakajima snatches the last piece of meat and the look of pure bliss on Nakajima's when he eats it. He sketches Matsuoka-sensei when his hair tie snaps and the long strands spill slowly over his shoulders. He sketches Shinomiya when the archer thinks he is focused on someone else; sketches Shinomiya while he is looking at Takuto, and tries to analyze the look in the other boy's eyes. He thinks it looks like pity, something Takuto is all too familiar with, and those particular masks he locks away and never looks at again.

It would have been easier to put them out of his mind if Shinomiya hadn't decided to follow him around, that same expression on his face whenever he thought Takuto wasn't looking. He brings Takuto food when he's sketching or painting, drags him to do his laundry and urges him to classes every day. If Takuto protests Shinomiya will say, "It'll be good for you," or "Why don't you want to?" or "Please go? I promise you'll feel better about it afterwards." Takuto would always go, and he would never feel better like Shinomiya promised. And when he said as much Shinomiya would give him that look and herd him off to lunch.

When Takuto returns to his room he takes out his masks and tears Shinomiya's pitying glances into tiny pieces.


"I have a brother you know," Shinomiya says one day while Takuto is painting, and Takuto ignores him in favor of adding splashes of red to the somber art piece. "He's eleven now and very smart for his age. You sort of remind me of him. He likes to write and when he's concentrating on his notebook he looks just like you."

The red paint mingles with the shades of grey, and Takuto steps back to look at the effect. "I'm not sure why you're telling me this but let me assure you. I really don't care." He lifts his head to frown at Shinomiya. "About you or your brother, so how about you leave me alone now? I have work to do."

He doesn't look back at Shinomiya but doesn't hear the archer move away either, and it irks him. "Well, why are you still here? Was I not clear enough?"

"Kenji is very weak because he has been sick for a long time," and the tone of voice, so unlike how Shinomiya usually sounds, makes Takuto pause in his painting. "The doctors can't do much to help him, and despite his age he knows it could be over any minute. He's very cheerful usually but sometimes, there's a look in his eyes when he thinks no one is watching. I recognize that same look in you, but while you seem underfed you don't seem deathly ill."

He feels a pair of strong hands grab his shoulders before he's firmly turned around, standing so close to Shinomiya that it is impossible to not look at his eyes. "You're not ill so I can help you deal with whatever it is that's causing you pain in a way that I can't help Kenji," he says urgently, and Takuto understands then. Understands and recoils from it violently.

"I am not your brother," he hisses, "don't you dare pity me!" And he storms off, leaving canvas and paints sitting out on the grass, and when he wakes up the next morning he finds his discarded art supplies where they usually are; neatly packed on his dresser.


Takuto doesn't understand Shinomiya, and this lack of understanding irritates him. He is used to observing people, understanding things about them that they don't even know, but with Shinomiya his compass swerves off-mark and leaves him lost and confused. Trying to understand exhausts him, and his sketching fails to be the comforting outlet it usually is.

Shinomiya hovers and it grates on Takuto, but no matter how hard he pushes the archer keeps coming back for more. "Fuck off," he'd told Shinomiya once, and had been gratified to see a look of pure shock on the other boy's face. But he had been back again the next day, making sure Takuto slept and ate and bathed and asking at least once a day why Takuto wasn't happy. Takuto's reply is always the same: "Many reasons, starting with you." But he is never taken seriously, or if he was Shinomiya didn't let it show.

In the privacy of his room, Takuto draws a portrait of Shinomiya, standing with his bow and arrow pointing at the viewer. When it is done he burns the painting and uses the ashes to draw a lily.


Nakajima gained a reputation as troublemaker within his first year, much to the chagrin of Shinomiya and the amusement of everyone else, especially Niwa. The rumors surrounding him mentioned most illegal activities, with emphasis on the creation of porn videos and exclusive strip poker games. Takuto remained dubious about the truth behind the tales, but Niwa assured him the poker games were real. "Well, maybe not the strip part but Hide is thinking about it," he explains with a grin that matches Nakajima's. "Hey Iwai, you should join us some time. It'll be fun, and you can sketch Hide's face when he loses."

Nakajima snorts at that, muttering about hope that springs eternal, and Takuto finds himself smiling. "Thank you, I think I'll do that," he tells Niwa, and is instantly made to promise that he'll come the next night. The fact that Shinomiya protests only adds to the enjoyment, and for once he doesn't mind that Shinomiya insists on following him to the game. He'll let the archer think he was protecting him from Nakajima and have some fun at his expense instead. Takuto has experience with poker masks after all.

The evening ends predictably with Nakajima winning most rounds and Shinomiya losing all his chips, and considering the archer's constant frowning Takuto decides not to argue when Shinomiya announces it's time for them to go. He even lets the other boy walk him to his room, but stops Shinomiya with a light touch when he tries to leave. "Here, take this," he mumbles, flipping through his sketchbook and handing a page to Shinomiya, watching his expression dance between mortification and admiration as he looks at his own face sulking at him. And before he can say anything stupid Takuto gives him a small smile and closes the door behind him.


He is a child of habit, Shinomiya, and it fascinates Takuto sometimes to watch him go through his different routines. He has been dragged along to do laundry or cook or even to watch Shinomiya practice often enough that watching the archer is almost a comfort; something steady in the whirlwind of his life.

"I hate my father," he'd said once, just curious if a personal statement from him would make Shinomiya pause or falter while folding their clothes. But the folded pile continued to grow, and Shinomiya's only reaction was a quiet, "I guessed as much, Takuto." It becomes a game between them then, or at least Takuto thinks so. He tells Shinomiya about the circumstances concerning his birth while they are cooking and about the attempted suicides while Shinomiya is launching an arrow. And every time, Shinomiya's routine holds, and Takuto eventually finds himself without any secrets to spill.

But it isn't until his father's manager is looking through his art work that he notices how much Shinomiya's presence has truly affected him. And when the manager says, "Those figure sketches are good but too soft. Go back to your old style," and refuses to take them, Takuto laughs, frames the rough sketches and hangs them all around his room.


"I don't know how to be a friend. I never had any; it was just me and my mother and sometimes my father, but usually just me and my art. I never learned what to do with friends or how to treat them, so even if you say we're friends I can't be sure, because I have nothing to compare it to." The silence stretches, and Takuto feels a jolt of fear. But then Shinomiya smiles and pats his back.

"Don't worry, I'll teach you. It's just as easy as learning to cook."

It isn't, but Takuto doesn't mind.


Being friends, Takuto soon learns, involves a lot of talking, more than he's comfortable with, but he doesn't tell Shinomiya that in fear of disappointing him. Instead he tells his friend stories; about the art he used to draw, about his mother, about the many parties his father hosted. About the first time his father took away his paintings, and how he'd felt when he'd seen them hanging in the gallery.

Takuto tells Shinomiya most things and whenever he ends a tale he feels light, free or maybe it's just that he's held these things in for so long that it's a physical relief to finally let go, just a little. And Shinomiya sees this, notices when the telling is especially hard on the artist, and on those days he'll wait until Takuto is done and then hold him tightly as if his arms are the shield that will keep the memories at bay.

Takuto asks him, "Is this part of being friends too?" and Shinomiya brushes a kiss over his forehead and says yes.


And when, one day, Takuto kisses him and asks the same question, Shinomiya can only take a deep breath and repeat the kiss.

"Yes," he whispers then, and watches as Takuto's face lights up with a smile. For a single moment Shinomiya wishes he could paint, but then those lips are on his again and he decides it doesn't matter.

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