Kintsugi: The Fragile Substance

Mamoru goes urbexing with a rock: the house above Jadeite's palace is familiar to both Kunzite and his prince, and they go looking around upstairs-- until things are familiar enough that Kunzite can tell Mamoru which room to look in.

Date: 2016-03-17
Pose Count: 14
Mamoru Chiba 2016-03-17 14:35:25 34147
After all of the immediate worries are sorted and the initial flurry of checks and re-checks and contacting people and ensuring Senshi and Shitennou hugpiles are enabled and enacted, and school has been attended for the first time in months, the Kunzite Resurrection Apparatus has been built and is being prepared.

The caracal, of course, is watching the proceedings with an air of 'you're all idiots', but being an enormous cat, this is hardly surprising.

Mamoru was good: he told everyone where he was going, once he'd acquired the parts he needed to. He's not sneaking off, and while he doesn't presently have an embodied bodyguard, he's also not alone.

Up the stairs from Jadeite's isn't an enormous task in henshin, and it's not long before Mamoru's up in the abandoned house with Kunzite, chewing on his lip. "I really can't shake the feeling that I've been here before, a long time ago. I still don't remember much."
Kazuo Takeba 2016-03-17 14:36:35 34148
The presence in the stone lingered long enough to be sure Mamoru and Usagi arrived safely. Woke, briefly, as needed to be certain that the others could be assured of his survival in some form. Has slept for the most part since - perceptible by Mamoru, perhaps aware, but conserving what little energy he has rather than communicating.

He is still a presence in the stone, though. Neither the unicorn's tear nor the Silver Crystal overcame that; they ensured that he retained enough energy to remain himself, but ... this was the truest form of himself that Usagi had seen in this life. When she made the wish that restored her friends, it could do no more than restore him to this.

He has no complaints, really. Even if they had no plan to try to restore him, even if the plan they do have fails - no complaints. Four out of the five of them, and the princess and all her own guardians, are alive, intact, breathing, whole. Nephrite laughs again, and thrives on company. Jadeite's expressions know a wider range, and he has the chance to sculpt something other than destruction. Zoisite's rises no longer seek to devour. And Endymion -

Mamoru is healing, still. But healing at all. And that's a name Kunzite will need to learn to use.

"None of us do. Perhaps it will return, with time." The voice in the stone wakes when addressed, always -- at least when addressed by Mamoru. No pointed silence for him. "And perhaps... mn. Let's test that. Has anyone looked upstairs?"
Mamoru Chiba 2016-03-17 14:36:44 34149
Half of Mamoru is still adrenaline, so soon after their return from D-Point, so soon after the months of stress and tenuous sanity-- half of him is still a contradictory mixture of needs: the need to be removed from the bustle of busy friends and constant input, and the need to withdraw and retreat into silence and work on rebuilding his equilibrium. Healing, still, and slowly, but more quickly than he could have been.

Kunzite may not have complaints, but if forced to tell the truth he's keeping hidden, Mamoru is disappointed: it worked for everyone else, why not for Kunzite? But they still have a plan, and if it doesn't work, he'll find another and another and another until something does, until something deigns to give him back all the way. The teenager has that in common with his past self, along with so many other things that don't change: he won't give up.

For now, he'll stay in as much of a holding pattern on the subject as a ghost in a rock. He can still talk with him. He can keep trying to feed energy to Kunzite, inasmuch as a soul gem brought forth from his planet can hold it. He can still hold on, and he can lean on more people to help him hold on than he ever could before his life started waking back up.

He can also still leap at the chance to know things, to learn secrets and uncover history. And, well, get into trouble.

"Upstairs, you say?" the boy asks slowly, the sound of side-eye in his voice as much as it is on his face. The crooked smile is as slow in building as the syllables are. But then, with no one but Kunzite to see him grinning, he's all of a sudden at the foot of the staircase going to the second floor, then taking the steps two, three at a time.

The windows up there are as cloudy as the ones downstairs, dust motes lazily drifting across sunbeams and settling again on the undisturbed wooden floors. Everything's empty, but nothing's been vandalized; the hall of open doors is clean except for the dust, the flaking paint, the evidence of moisture seeping in and trying to help nature reclaim the place.

Endymion starts looking in the doors, steps slow again. "It looks smaller than it should."
Kazuo Takeba 2016-03-17 14:36:58 34150
"You're taller now. It changes perspective." The stone's voice offers no hint as to whether it's joking. There's a pause for a step or two, and then Kunzite adds, almost reluctantly, "You're also right. I'm not sure it looks the same."

The same as what?

"Two more doors on the right. Worth a try. If nothing else, there can't be many buildings in Tokyo abandoned this long and still untouched." By saner measures, one shouldn't expect there to be any at all.
Mamoru Chiba 2016-03-17 14:37:48 34151
The impressions of the expressions and postures Kunzite would be having if Mamoru could see him are there, but Mamoru's still tempted to put the energy in to properly channeling Kunzite's ghost. The desire's strong. He's not sure why he's suppressing it, and he's also not sure why he doesn't want to examine the impulse to suppress -- but he's not full of dark energy, so he puts it off and focuses on what he's doing, instead.

What he's doing, even as Kunzite eventually continues the directions, is crouching down to the height he estimates is correct-- the height he was at in that precious shadowy memory from before the accident-- and glancing around the hallway. Eyeing the top of the staircase. Surveying the doors, and the windows through them.

"Yeah," he says thoughtfully after a moment. "The deja vu is strong in this one."

He shakes his head, getting up, and runs a hand roughly through his hair. It sticks up a little and he leaves it that way. "Are you just not telling me what I'm looking for because you don't want to get my hopes up? Because obviously you've been here before, too. Even if it doesn't look the way you think you should remember it either, I was supposed to meet you that day."

It's not necessarily complaining, just a sort of pedantic call-out. The prince does, after all, follow the directions given. Two more, tracing the right side of the hallway, and Mamoru pushes the indicated door open. Like the other rooms, it's silent and still, dust crossing the diffuse sunlight through dirty windows.

Everything else in the house smells old and unused, generally dry but with a hint of mustiness underlying the lot of it, stagnant and static, quiet. Waiting. Sleeping.

The hand on this door is telling his psychometry a different story.
Kazuo Takeba 2016-03-17 14:37:52 34152
There have not been many people touching that door, not in a long time, though not as long as the rest of the place. There has not indeed been anyone touching that door in years; and for years before that, only one, occasional, intermittent. Focused and determined and driven, well past the point of obsession.

Familiar, yes, and not particularly surprising.

"No. The memories I have aren't clear, either. This place is on their peripheries. I'm missing parts of it; I can remember finding it changed, but not changed from what. I can remember realizing that no-one else noticed the place existed, and that it might be safe to leave things here, but not what I used it for."

They were supposed to meet, that day. Until the accident that left Mamoru in the hospital, memoryless, alone. Until the panicked reaching-out that Kunzite's reborn self had no way to answer, and did himself damage trying. He almost wonders if the others felt it. But they were younger, then, and their memories gone or damaged now; it would do no good to ask, and might do harm. They'll find out in time. And what matters most now is the present, and the future.

Strange, to be able to leave some of the past behind.
Mamoru Chiba 2016-03-17 14:39:12 34153
Strange for some of them, simply the normal state of affairs for others. It's new and difficult for Mamoru, for one, who's spent his whole life reaching for the past to prepare for the future--

He steps into the room.

"You might be able to remember more when you have a body to remember with," he suggests, then adds matter-of-factly, "or you might not." He laughs a little as he looks around the room, walks in slowly, absently closes the door behind him. "I remembered everything, before the accident. I was complaining it wasn't fair that I was the only one. They said I wouldn't be for long..."

As he passes by a window, tall and low-set, he glances down and puts a hand on the frame; the cloudy glass is--

Sparkling clear, showing the back garden lush and green in the bright mid-afternoon light of summer, warm and breezy. The patterns of bright and shadow as the leaves of the old oak dance in the wind are eye-catching, mesmerizing; he's lost in them momentarily. His gaze is wrenched back to proper perception patterns as a car lumbers down the gravel drive and pulls up under the tree, and he laughs, seeing the top of it.

It had been under that tree last fall, and the top was all dented from acorns falling on it like hailstones. How they'd complained! He thought it gave the car character, he thought it was evidence the car had grown and lived some, like some people got scars and others got taller. They didn't tell him he was silly, they just glanced at each other over his head.

Mamoru's hand falls away, and he frowns. "I thought I lived in the palaces when I was young, but maybe I lived here."

Turning the stone around in his other hand, he steps around to survey the room from the side facing the door, and there in one corner, there are cabinets set into the wall. His heart stutters in his chest, and it's completely absently that he puts his hand over it as he approaches the lowest cabinet, as one would a feral kitten.

The prince crouches, then gets to one knee as he reaches and opens the door--

Focused and determined and driven, well past the point of obsession.

It's even stronger on this door than that of the room, but Mamoru's braced for it this time, and it's with a sense of inevitable completion that he reaches inside, around the corner and just out of sight. His hand closes on cloth, and he pulls out a nondescript backpack, top-facing surfaces of its angles covered in dust.

Hands, callused and strong and deft and young, practiced, steady, packing things into it in another place, zipping it up.

"This is yours," he says unnecessarily, words hitting the still air like bricks, shattering the held breath of the house. "You used this place to keep this here. Can I open it?"
Kazuo Takeba 2016-03-17 14:39:21 34154
The most focused the first time, after the argument --

He knows there was an argument; but the context is missing, the knowledge of with-whom. All that mattered was that he might not have been able to reach these things, if he'd kept them where the person he'd been arguing with could find them. They had to be somewhere else. The risk of a stranger stealing them, here, was less than the risk of the known, less than the risk of someone well-meaning trying to help.

"Yes." The 'of course' is unnecessary, too.

The clothing is likewise nondescript, wrapped in plastic as most things in the pack are. More of the weight is the bottles of water. The protein bars are a lost cause; so is the container of pills, unlabelled, once known by size and shape. Neatly packaged bits and pieces of this and that: duct tape, paracord, knives.

(Packed once somewhere else. Hidden here. Added to over time, maybe over years.)

Money, folded into place. A trivial amount by Mamoru's standards; a surprising amount for a teenager.

More valuable than the money: the passport it's wrapped around. Too valuable, too useful, to leave where it could be taken away. Better to risk it in the strange place where no-one else set foot, that never seemed to move beyond a particular state of decay.
Mamoru Chiba 2016-03-17 14:40:13 34155
To use both hands, Mamoru has to put the gem in his pocket again: there's no loss of connection, only the irrational regret of not holding something physical in his hand, against his skin; there's no thought given to that regret, only awareness which is as neatly packed away as the clothing in plastic. That, he pulls out of the bag, lays out on the floor next to him carefully.

After a second he shifts to sit tailor style, backpack in his lap as he unloads its precious contents. Precious to him, precious to the boy who put them there over the course of years, probably not precious to anyone else ever (except possibly the cash). Some of the things make him smile, faint and wry and bittersweet. Sweet-bitter.

He comes to the money and lifts an eyebrow at the amount; it's quickly translated into milkshakes and burgers and game tokens in his head for simplest estimation, and he lets out a low whistle as he unfolds the bills from around the little booklet.

When he sees that, sees the gold lettering on its cover, the cash is dropped to the floor and his eyes widen.

Instantly, Mamoru's glasses come out of his shirt pocket and he fumbles them on. The fumbling is better than the unsteadiness thereafter as he opens the passport and looks inside. Expired. Never stamped. Dated. A birthday. These things are filed reflexively in the back of his head, because it's the face and the name he stares at.

The stillness in the house is immense, shutting out the busyness of the city, the sounds of traffic and birdsong and laughter and shouting, of car horns and the buzzing of electricity in wires, of rushing water and vents and machinery, of radios and televisions--

The thunder of his own blood in Mamoru's ears is deafening, anyway.

He can't see the writing anymore.

His voice comes out as a cracked and breathless whisper. "I-- I'm sorry, Kunzite. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I wish--"
Kazuo Takeba 2016-03-18 04:13:50 34291
There's no response from the stone to the low whistle. The idea that even a reincarnated Kunzite might have forsaken normal interaction is a perfectly reasonable one to him. He might indulge himself in small luxuries when there's time; but the handful of days he holds more or less blurred memories of all suggest to him that he knew, even then, that he had a job to be doing.

Besides. Mamoru's already distracted.

The startling thing about the face is that it's his own age, or was when the picture was taken. His own age. He hasn't, in this life, seen Kunzite younger than the adult version, sometimes looking mid-twenties, sometimes seeming older, sometimes ancient and ageless. But this one -- this is a teenager. Bone-white hair, deathly straight; faint impatient glare of metal-gray eyes into the camera, as if considering its proper fate for wasting his time; the familiar shadow of a frown already in place.

Not quite a familiar face to Endymion's memories, either. The features are the same, but -- not quite. The way he wears them is different. All the same intensity, but without a known focus. All the same drive, without a purpose to bend it to. Without brothers to push back, to give him boundaries, to blunt enough of the sharper edges to make it possible to have contact without bleeding.

Surname, printed neatly in bland mechanical Latin capitals: Takeba. Given name: Kazuo.

The rest is filed away.

"Shhh." Not silencing the urge, or the wish. Not silencing him at all. Gathering in, rather, so much as he can by will alone. "I know. So do I. But if we could have had better -- we could also have had worse. You have us back. You won't lose us again."
Mamoru Chiba 2016-03-18 04:42:31 34296
He just keeps looking at that damned passport photo, blinking his eyes clear again, taking in all the details and all the ramifications, extrapolating, surmising, reconstructing--

Kunzite's talking sense to him, and the sense is missing the sensation; gathering in by will alone is a thing that--

The flare of Endymion's temper is there, quick and bright and righteous and furious, and Mamoru's hands shake as he forcibly puts the passport down on his lap. Hands in white-knuckled fists on his knees, he shuts his eyes tightly and makes himself breathe, regularly, in and out.

She's dead, she's already dead, they killed her.

She's dead. It's over.

It'll be over soon.

It'll begin soon.

The rebuilding will take a long time, they've all missed years, and what's been done to them-- done to them all, but done to them-- can't be taken back, can't be forgotten, can't be smoothed over, is in no way acceptable but there's no way to do anything but accept it and move on; she's dead, they killed her, she can't do it again. But that doesn't fix any of this. That doesn't give years back, memories back, lives back; doesn't make might-have-beens possible--

This is not constructive.

Endymion breathes.

Mamoru mechanically unwraps the bulkiest piece of clothing from the bag and unfolds it: an unremarkable dark brown hoodie, warm-looking, large. Too big for Mamoru's slender frame. He regards it for a moment, then unzips it and puts it on. Then he starts putting things back in the backpack, though he keeps the passport out and puts it in a pocket.

He doesn't say anything, just finishes re-packing the bag-- the unusable items get shoved in the plastic from the hoodie, then stuffed in the front pocket of the backpack-- and then slides himself across the floor to sit against the wall, knees up and arms around them. Leaning his head back with his eyes closed again, it's a long moment before he can bring himself to say anything at all.

When he does, it's just, "I feel like a jerk for missing you this much when you're right here."
Kazuo Takeba 2016-03-18 05:04:33 34305
His eyes are closed. He can't see Kunzite's image manifest beside him, can't see the ghost settle down on one knee, can't see the eyes, can't see the faint tells in his expression. And none of that matters, because seeing isn't the sense that Mamoru needs to use, and Kunzite can't give that sense any answer at all.

It's a waste of energy to stay visible when Endymion isn't looking. It's a waste to stay visible when it wouldn't help if he were.

Kunzite doesn't particularly care. The pale shadow of his presence remains, visible when Mamoru opens his eyes to study the hoodie. Visible while he repacks. Visible when Mamoru's eyes are closed again.

The answer that he gives Mamoru is the same one he gave Nephrite. "Soon."
Mamoru Chiba 2016-03-18 05:29:48 34311
One eye opens, this time, a little red around the edges, and Mamoru regards Kunzite's ghostly face for a long moment.

"You have a terrible history with the word 'soon'," he finally says, but one corner of his mouth turns up a little. Not enough to be good humor, or even the pretense-- just enough to indicate he's not about to fall apart. Just enough to indicate he's in the process of making himself acceptable for public consumption.

He doesn't even realize he's fussing with the overlong cuff of the hoodie sleeve. He's certainly not looking at it. After a second he notices, though, and glances down.

"Thanks," he says after a second. "For the security blanket. For-- while you're on the road."

A beat. "Be careful driving."
Kazuo Takeba 2016-03-18 05:47:54 34320
"I told him 'soon,'" Kunzite replies, in acknowledgment of the spirit of Mamoru's words. The glint in his eye is familiar, ghost or no. "I promised nothing resembling 'direct.'"

A moment's pause, while Mamoru is fussing, and noticing himself fussing. There might be the start of some other reassurance; but the essential part of it is conveyed in the shift of his expression, the angle of his head. The words are stopped before they start, to let Endymion speak.

Silence after that. Because those last three words can't be answered until the plan works.

Or it doesn't.

It will. It almost certainly will. There are no cliffs that might be fallen off of in the course of the next week. But convincing Mamoru's heart of that will take longer.