Curiosity Gets You...

Xon skipped off up the road ahead of Rafariel, school bag bouncing against his knees. Less than half a block away, he spun around and came dashing back, skidding to a halt in front of him. Then he began to walk backwards just ahead of him, glancing over his shoulder to check the path every so often.
By now, though, Rafariel was finally getting used to just how much extra energy Xon had. He didn't over-exert himself trying to keep up anymore; he just let Xon go at his pace and stuck to his own, and in the end it worked just fine.
"So..." Xon was watching him, eyes bright. "...before you transferred to our school, you were in Japan, yeah?"
Rafariel nodded. He was also getting used to Xon's insatiable curiosity.
"Didya go to a music school there too?"
Rafariel shifted his school bag to his other shoulder. Sometimes he hated talking about his life in Japan... but he knew Xon at least well enough by now to know that the boy's questions were nothing but well-meaning. And somehow he found Xon easier to talk to than almost anyone besides Hanael. And for some things, even easier than Hanael.
"I didn't go to school," he replied finally.
Xon's eyes widened with almost comic shock.
"No WAY! Are you serious?!"
Rafariel hid a smile. "Yeah."
"How the hell'dya score that?" Xon swung his bag around in front of him, but his eyes never left Rafariel.
"I had private tutors." Rafariel brushed hair back from his face. "My parents... were a bit weird." He didn't know how else to describe them in a single sentence, especially to someone who hadn't been brought up a part of Japanese culture.
Xon tilted his head, flicking his spiky hair awry. "That'd be waaaaaay cooler than school, though!"
Rafariel smirked a little, remembering how lonely he'd been back then.
"At the time... I thought otherwise. Now that I've tried school, though..." He shook his head. "I prefer the tutors."
"Hell yeah, I can imagine!" Xon swung his bag over his shoulder almost aggressively.
Rafariel looked down at his ugly school uniform. "But... I've learnt a lot musically since I started school." And I met you, he added silently. But that part, he didn't think he could ever say aloud.
"Yeah, I guess they got that covered good." Xon started turning aimless circles while walking, and Rafariel watched, wondering how long it would be before he walked into another pole.
"So, whatcha gonna do with it all? I mean, when ya done with school?" Xon was still watching him while circling. Rafariel wondered suddenly how Xon always managed to twist the conversation around so that he himself answered nothing.
He stopped walking. "How come we're always talking about me?" he asked.
Xon skidded to a halt mid-circle, eyes wide and blinking at him, cheeks suddenly pink. He swayed on the spot, stumbled, then righted himself.
"Hell, I'm sorry." He grinned somewhat sheepishly, flicking at his hair. "I guess I'm just a nosy bugger."
Rafariel shrugged. "It's okay. I just..." He looked away, then forced himself to look back at Xon. "I want to know about you, too."
Xon's cheeks turned a deeper shade of pink, and then he flung his arms wide, grinning broadly. "Ask away then! I'll tell ya anything!"
Rafariel smiled and started walking again, and Xon fell into step beside him.
"Did you always go to a music school?" Rafariel asked, since the topic was still fresh in his mind.
"Pretty much." Xon stretched, tossing his bag from one hand to the other. "My mum pushed me to do it since I was a kid.. and I was good at it, so she made me go to a school for it."
Rafariel considered that. He understood being forced to do things by one's parents, but he'd never imagined that music could be one of those things.
"Do you like it?" he wondered.
Xon shrugged. "Yes and no."
Rafariel took a deep breath. Xon looked at him, then looked away again.
"Sometimes I could drown myself in music and be happy, ya know?"
Rafariel nodded. He knew how that felt.
"But sometimes I never want to see another note again." Xon looked out at the passing traffic.
Rafariel considered what he meant by that. He knew how it felt to get frustrated with the music, or with one's inability to conquer it -- he knew what it felt like to have to quit playing for the day before one broke one's instrument in frustration. But he always knew he had to go back, needed to go back. What Xon was saying... it sounded different.
"But hey... I'm good at it. So I can be successful. And that's what counts."
Rafariel looked up in surprise, his train of thought totally derailed. He met Xon's gaze, more serious than it usually was.
"You want to be successful?"
"I gotta stand on my own two feet and get away from my family somehow."
Rafariel looked away. "You don't like them much, do you?" This wasn't the first time Xon had hinted at such.
"Hell no!" Xon began to swing his bag around in front of him, his movements hard and aggressive. "I'm just.. my dad jus' sees me as some money making venture so as he c'n be comfortable when he retires. But screw that!" His sneakered feet scuffed loudly against the footpath. "Why should I support him? He never did a thing for me."
Rafariel sighed, looking down. Their circumstances were very different and yet, he saw so much of his old life reflected in Xon's words.
"Why is it that parents never see you as anything more than an outlet for getting what they want?" he wondered aloud.
Xon looked over at him. "Yours too, huh?"
"That why you ran away?"
"Pretty much." Rafariel shrugged.
"Hell, I wish I had the guts sometimes." Xon was looking out at the passing cars again. Rafariel watched his profile. Xon always seemed to him so much more confident and capable than he'd ever felt in his life, especially back then when he'd still lived at home, confined and knowing so little of the real world.
"Why don't you?" He couldn't imagine Xon afraid of anything.
"Heh... you don't know my dad." Xon swung his bag behind his back, his hands tight on the straps, his eyes still firmly focused on the traffic. "He's... well. He's got a hell of a temper."
Rafariel bit his lip. He wasn't sure he was capable of imagining what Xon's home life was like... but he didn't like the way it sounded. Or the way Xon's voice quavered a little. Or the way he was so focused on not meeting Rafariel's gaze.
"Hey, look!" Xon shaded his eyes, peering ahead down the road. "There's your place. Race you to the doorstep!"
Rafariel looked ahead of them; sure enough, his home was just visible at the end of the street.
He looked over at Xon. The boy was grinning at him, impish and cheerful again now that the discussion of family had been pushed behind them. And somehow.. he didn't want to bring that tenseness, that unsurety, back out again. He liked it best when Xon was happy. And... maybe it was at least enough that he could give Xon happy times like these, away from his home. Rafariel didn't know what else he could do for him, but as a friend, he could at least do that much.
"Okay," he said aloud.
Xon clapped his hands and slung his bag over his shoulder.
"Last one there's a monkey's uncle!" he proclaimed fiendishly, raising his eyebrows, and Rafariel blinked at him.
"Do you even know what that is?" he asked. Xon laughed, wrinkling up his nose.
"Naw, but doesn't it sound awful?"
Rafariel couldn't help but grin. "True."
"Okay, let's do it..." Xon assumed a racer's stance, ready to put on a burst of speed, and Rafariel hastened to ready himself as well.
Rafariel tensed his legs. He wasn't much of a runner, but he could put on a decent amount of speed for a short while if he really tried. And he didn't really want to be a monkey's uncle.
Suddenly, Xon took off from next to him, dashing down the pathway.
"GO!" he yelled back over his shoulder, the word choked up in laughter, his sneakers slapping against the pavement, his bag bouncing crazily against his back.
Rafariel started laughing as well; he couldn't help it.
"You cheat!" he yelled, and took off, running after Xon as fast as he could. "Just wait till I get my hands on you!"
"Gotta catch me first!" Xon yelled gleefully as he continued to dash off ahead of him, arms flailing wildly as he nearly ran into a pole, and Rafariel found that he was laughing so hard he could barely run. And maybe that was all either of them needed; to be able to laugh like that sometimes.