title: Critique
fandom: Loveless
characters/pairings: Ritsu-sensei/Soubi (implied), Seimei/Soubi, Ritsuka/Soubi
rating: G
warnings: implied child abuse
summary: Soubi refines his style over time.
notes: came to me while rp'ing with my beloved on _gamesweplay...

He stared up at the rows and rows of glass-covered boxes on the walls, the beautiful things pinned down and preserved forever. His pencil moved over the paper, seemingly of its own will. His tail flicked back and forth, indecisive. It didn't look right.

"Soubi-kun. What are you doing?" Sensei's large hand came down on his shoulder, and Soubi's back went rigid. He hadn't heard Sensei approaching, a fatal error.

He didn't think there was anything wrong with what he was doing, but he felt like he'd been caught, anyway. He swallowed once, so his voice would sound suitably neutral and flat, lest he raise Sensei's ire with unfounded emotion or, worst of all, fear. "I'm just drawing."

"Oh?" The hairs on his tail were standing on end, though he was fighting to keep calm. He had most obviously said something wrong, but he wasn't sure what. Sensei leaned down, and Soubi could feel his breath on his left cat ear. "Weren't you supposed to be working on your assignments?"

"I finished," Soubi admitted quietly. This was trending downward in a spiral, coming closer and closer to the inevitable point of punishment. Any appearance of escape would be an illusion, he knew.

"You finished? Already? And you didn't say anything?" Sensei's fingers dug into Soubi's shoulder more. "Show me your drawing."

Soubi had started to reach for his assignment, and then he froze. Irrationally, he wanted to run away, and protect the picture, even though it was just something he had done to pass the time quietly, even though it meant nothing, even though it was of the butterflies. He handed it to Sensei, though, because he had no choice.

Sensei frowned, and looked it over, standing upright, but leaving one hand on Soubi's shoulder. "Is this your first drawing? I can't recall you doing anything like this before."

Soubi kept his chin down. He knew it wasn't any good. He didn't need to be told that. "Yes, it is."

Sensei squeezed Soubi's shoulder. "Then this should go in my drawer, shouldn't it, with all my other... mementos of you. Your first drawing." Sensei smiled, and then touched Soubi's ears affectionately, rubbing the thin, fur-covered flesh between his fingers. "Oh, yes. This should be part of my collection."

Soubi did not shudder, because he was not allowed. He waited until Sensei sat down, and he concentrated on breathing as he stared at the butterflies, caught and displayed on the wall.

"Art college?" Seimei frowned. Soubi's stomach fell. "Really?"

Soubi shrugged, and looked away. "It was an idea. It's not important, really."

Seimei chuckled darkly. "Since when have you been interested in art college?"

"It really..." Soubi sighed. "I thought I might... have a talent for it."

Seimei was regarding him coolly, and Soubi felt... exposed. "Draw something for me."

Soubi blinked. "What?"

Smirking, Seimei pushed a pad of paper and a pen over to Soubi. "Draw something for me."

"But..." Soubi picked up the pad and pen automatically. "What do you want me to draw?"

Seimei shrugged. "Anything. Show me your talent, Soubi."

It took a moment, but he pressed the pen down to the paper. It was just a legal pad, and a disposable pen. It wasn't really conducive to making something worthwhile. But Seimei had said... Seimei got up and circled around him, standing over his shoulder, his tail swishing back and forth, predatorily.

Soubi's hand faltered.

He could feel Seimei's amusement, his disdain. Soubi felt his cheeks getting hot. "Are you going to watch me?"

"Yes," Seimei said, determined. "I want to see you create something."

Seimei was close enough to touch, close enough to put his lips on Soubi's skin... but he wouldn't. Soubi tried to continue on, as best he could, but his hands were clumsy, and he couldn't make the picture live.

"Are you sure about art college?" Seimei chuckled.

Soubi sighed. "It's hard to draw with someone looking over my shoulder," he muttered.

Smirking, Seimei walked away, his tail swishing playfully.

"It was just an idea," Soubi sighed. "I'm sure Sensei would disapprove, anyway."

"You don't answer to 'Sensei'," Seimei sneered. "I think it's a good idea. But work on your portfolio. I'd rather you didn't try and fail."

"You think it's a good idea?" Soubi blinked.

Seimei smiled. "Yes, I do. Anything that takes you even a step away from the Institute is a good idea."

Soubi looked down at the sketchy butterfly on the legal pad, the lines on the pad like bars on a cell. At least Seimei thought it was a good idea, for whatever reason.

Ritsuka stalked about the tiny studio nervously. He would stop for a moment to look at something, and then keep moving. Soubi smiled softly, and very quietly sketched, his eyes never leaving Ritsuka.

"Are these your paintings, Soubi?" Ritsuka asked, his fingers hovering over the canvases in the corner.

Soubi's lips twitched. "Yes. You can look through them. I'm done with them."

"Done with them?" Ritsuka looked, being very careful in how he touched the canvases, and how he moved them. "What do you mean?"

"They were for school," Soubi affected a bored tone. "The projects are done. They aren't needed anymore."

"They're your art!" Ritsuka looked at Soubi, his eyes narrowing. "What do you normally do with them when they are done?"

Soubi shrugged. "Discard them. Sometimes, someone asks me for a piece. I'm not terribly good. There's not really anything else to do with them."

"Soubi!" Ritsuka's tail fluffed out. "That's horrible! These are really good, and besides, they're yours! You should take better care of your art! Soubi! Are you listening to me?" Ritsuka plopped down in front of Soubi, and pulled down on his sketchbook, looking it over. "What are you doing? Is that... Soubi, is that how you see me?"

"Sorry," Soubi smiled, feeling a bit embarrassed. "I was just trying to capture you in the moment."

Ritsuka looked away, his cheeks beautifully pink just under his eyes. "You make me look like I'm a child."

Soubi bit his lip to keep from laughing. "I'm sorry. Ritsuka. But I already told you... I'm not very good."

"Hmph," Ritsuka sulked. "I like your art."

"Ritsuka," Soubi's eyes were open, unblinking, staring at Ritsuka who refused to look at him. "Do you want one of my paintings?"

Ritsuka huddled into himself, his cheeks even redder. "I can't... I mean... But you should keep them all! They're beautiful! You'll regret it later if you destroy them now."

"Is that an order?" Soubi asked, breathless.

Ritsuka gave Soubi an odd look. "Fine. It's an order. Save all your artwork from now on!"

"Will you want some later, then?" Soubi pressed.

Ritsuka blushed, and looked away. "Maybe."

Soubi leaned over, and kissed Ritsuka, softly. "Fine. I'll save them. But I'll try to make something that you'd really want."

Ritsuka slouched away from Soubi and watched his fingers make patterns on the floor. "Make something for yourself. I like all your art."

Soubi stared at Ritsuka for a moment, and then he chuckled. "If you say so. Ritsuka."

It didn't matter if Ritsuka wasn't being objective. It felt good to have an appreciative audience.