I Don't Even Know If I Believe


Date: 2018-08-25
Pose Count: 37
Mamoru Chiba 2018-08-25 04:49:06 95837
"If you want a glam kitchen you can remodel your own," Mamoru says firmly, stopped in the middle of the sidewalk with a grocery bag over one arm, paying a lot more attention to his phone screen than anything else. He's wearing a JAXA logo t-shirt and cargo shorts and an open vest, birkenstocks, his hilariously cute engagement ring and a pink-crystal stud earring, and his glasses are smudged in one corner and it's driving him nuts, but he's too busy trying to catch this goddamn "Get in the ball, Ponyta!" He shakes his phone because he's a grownup.
Jadeite 2018-08-25 04:57:08 95838
"I'm just saying, that a little bit of something shiny goes a long way! And it's not that I wouldn't want a great kitchen of my own, but we both know my place is just party overflow!" It's an earnest point, but not a strong one, not at all, and the truth is Mamoru won the war by virtue of it being his apartment. Jadeite - well, Saburo like this, he supposes - is just too stubborn to admit it. He's loaded down with three grocery bags, but he also isn't playing phone games while they walk, so it makes sense. Besides the bags, he's wearing a gray t-shirt with Mumford and Sons lyrics writen in English and jeans, a pair of snowflake patterned socks disappearing into his black and gray patterned sneakers. "Nine out of ten Pokemon Go experts will tell you, shaking the phone doesn't actualy help." He's smirking, because he's a jerk.
Mamoru Chiba 2018-08-25 05:06:40 95839
"Yo, the entire living room is something shiny. Had you missed the giant mural and the mosaic on the floor? Super busy and lots of bright colors, just saying--" And he amiably leans to punch Jadeite's arm for the phone-shaking comment. "Your apartment is the normal one. It's not just party overflow. I mean you could really actually make it your own, it's not like you haven't lived there long enough. Or are just renting."

He looks up the street, shading his eyes, then pockets his phone for a minute so he can finally de-smudge his glasses with the hem of his shirt. As one does.
Jadeite 2018-08-25 05:17:25 95840
"You might you know, have a point, there, and the entire living room does look like something out of a magazine, but I agreed with you about that one tile! But I have a serious moral objection to that one pattern. You know, with the sickle cell anemia shapes." That is not at all what the pattern looked like, but it gets across his horror pretty nicely, he thinks. The punch - well-earned - has him sticking his tongue out, because if he punches back and something falls it will be a mess.

But it's the apartment comment - true and factual and honest - that actually makes his smile fall, just a bit. He shrugs, glancing towards the ground. "Yeah, that's true, it is that. I dunno - it's weird, okay? It's big and empty and it's nice to have a place for all my projects, but other than that..." Another half-hearted shrug.

Though neither of them realizes it yet, they aren't as alone - or as unnoticed - as they think. Forty or so feet away is a crosswalk, and waiting for the light to change is a girl of average height, with dark brown hair pulled back into a ponytail. Her eyes, a frosty-shade of blue not unlike Saburo's own, are focused on the two young men, and when the light changes so that she can cross, she doesn't even seem to notice.
Mamoru Chiba 2018-08-25 05:24:53 95841
"*Boomerangs*! Not sickle-cell anemia!" Mamoru protests, in moderately overplayed horror and actual startlement. "Jeez." He puts his glasses back on, eyeing Jadeite's tongue like he's thinking about Mr. Miyagi-ing it with his fingers, and then he takes his phone out again-- but pauses when Jadeite's sunshine dims. He looks thoughtful, then says as he starts walking again, "Other than that, you just sleep there, and you live in Mahou Grand Central," he finishes with a small, affectionate smile. "That's fine too, you know. I mean Neil even only sleeps in his apartment because he doesn't believe in pants and nobody needs that in the morning."

The girl's at least not stepping into traffic-- that would make Mamoru notice, and probably do something immediate and ill-advised, entirely on reflex. And then he'd get yelled at later.
Jadeite 2018-08-25 05:44:48 95844
Mamoru's played up horror gets the smile back, but it's his gentle understanding that makes the sun come back out from behind the clouds. "Yeah, exactly - and besides, with how comfortable that couch of yours is, I barely even do that there." He's following after him, as if the pause had never even happened, bags swinging slightly as they move on. "Good, because, not that I'm not grateful for it, especially since I can avoid the temptation of taking apart the toaster oven there, but - yeah, it's just not home. Though, considering Mahou Grand Central is between it and Neil's place, there is even less of a chance that I'll see certain unspeakable things in the morning."

He pulls a face of exagerrated horror, eyes skimming over the girl as if she weren't even there. She's just one of many walking the streets at this hour, and not doing anything particularly worth noticing, or at least not enough to twinge his guardian senses. They would walk right past her, and he'd never even notice, except that once they get within ten feet of her she abandons the pretense of crossing the street altogether, wide eyes screwed up with determination and something wild, something like hope as she darts in front of them. "Wait! Wait, oniichan, oniichan, wait, I know it's you!"

To which a startled Saburo can only respond with - "What?" - and then again, as he realizes she's staring at him, and only him, as if Mamoru weren't there at all, "No,What?"
Mamoru Chiba 2018-08-25 05:51:27 95846
"Not sure about that one, sometimes he forgets pants when he zombies into the kitch--" Mamoru starts replying, smirking and finally unlocking his phone, when they're waylaid by a tween girl with Jadeite's eyes.

He stops in his tracks, eyes wide, and looks between her and Saburo, and he starts to grin-- starts to bubble up and overflow with relief and a ridiculous happiness, and it's all he can do to put a clamp on it and get it out of Jadeite's way and remind himself not to get his hopes up.

So his grin's sublimated into an earnest politeness, appropriate for nearly all occasions that deal with strangers. He definitely pockets his phone. "Is he your brother?" he asks, eyes round behind his glasses. "What's his name?"

Oh that dick.
Jadeite 2018-08-25 06:00:25 95848
Oh that dick.

Were he in a position where he could glare at Mamoru, he absolutely would, but he can't, because he's half convinced that if he looks away from this girl she'll do something reckless, like touch him. Or worse, hug him. Worse, because he is not her brother. He's absolutely not, and he starts to say something to that effect, something like, "No, she can't, because -"

Except he's interrupted by said little girl, who looks astonished and vaguely horrified at the question, glancing at Mamoru and then at Saburo accusingly. "You haven't told your friend your name?" She demands, "Is that why we couldn't find you, because you stopped using your name? Takumi-nii, how could you?!?"

The name means nothing to him. It is nothing to him. It is certainly not familiar in anyway, does not fit somewhere inside him that most certainly had not been empty. He has to make words happen and get this whole thing to stop. He's the silvertongued, clever one. Surely he can say something suave and cool and mature that will make this all go away. "I - wait, look, I think this is a complete misunderstanding. I can't be your brother."

Or maybe not.
Mamoru Chiba 2018-08-25 06:15:46 95851
Mamoru's phone is definitely back in his pocket, and his newly-freed hand comes up to rest on Jadeite's forearm. With the contact comes reassurance, comes calm, comes a focus to the scatter if Jadeite wants to use it, comes an unerring and never-faltering sense of home and belonging. Here. With Mamoru, with the Shitennou, alongside the Senshi, and all their friends and extended adopted family.

But it's the little girl Mamoru addresses, and he's quite serious, addressing her as if she were an adult. "Takumi what? This is Saburo Yukimura, he's my best friend and roommate."

Nevermind that he has a few people he considers his best friend, it's important to say and it's important for Jadeite to hear.

"I'm Mamoru Chiba. He might be your brother, it's true, but we have no way of knowing that. Saburo was in an accident five or six years ago and can't remember anything that happened before it-- but there are doppelgangers in this world, and this could easily be a case of mistaken identity. Please know that I don't think you're lying, just that it's very possible you're mistaken." A beat. "I'm sorry, what is your family name--?"
Jadeite 2018-08-25 06:45:29 95853
He's not yet worked up seriously, not panicked or frustrated, but confusion runs rampant and with confusion comes and urge to scatter, to get away until he can dissect this feeling, can understand it, know it, and dismiss it when he needs to. He's already trying to think of another denial when Mamoru's hand lands on him, and the reassurance there, the calm and that un-wavering sense of where he belongs, it keeps him in place. It is hard to be anything but under control when Mamoru's hands are there, reminding him that even if he doesn't entirely understand a feeling, he can withstand it, because there are people who will stand with him even when he doesn't know his direction. He might look like a regular boy, but he isn't.

He's a Shitennou, a guardian, a friend, and a brother - and though he's sure he's never seen this girl, and he doesn't want to be her brother, it's remembering that he has brothers of his own that settles him enough for empathy to come through, and he has to consider how he would feel, if he saw someone who looked like one of his brothers, and they just ran away. Terrible, that's how he would feel, and he doesn't wnat to do that to someone else. To Mamoru comes a rush of gratitude and warmth, as he lets his friend take charge and waits.

Terrible, is how the girl looks, hurt and confusion at being so utterly denied cutting across her features. "But -," she says, and then, "Takumi-nii-", before she falls silent, lips quivering for just a second before she squares her shoulders and looks up at Mamoru as he speaks, as he claims her brother so firmly. "Suzuki. Takumi Suzuki, and he's my big brother."

Her big brother, and she is certain, as sure of this as she is of her own name, and when Mamoru introduces himself, the faintest flush comes to her cheeks, embarrassment at her bad manners, but not enough to not continue. "My name is Hana Suzuki, and that's my brother, you're my brother, and it's been years, five, almost six years, and," her voice breaks. He isn't wrong to say that there are doppelgangers in their world, he isn't wrong to suggest that she could be wrong, because she has been before, but she isn't this time, she just knows it, "Are you sure you don't remember anything?"

Suzuki is too common a name to mean anything to him - there are many Suzukis in the world, and he's heard that name before, without a single thought, a single reaction. Surely, if that was his name, there'd be something there, something that would come to mind, and there isn't. He's working out how to say just that, when she says her own name, and that strikesa chord in him like a ringing bell, a flash of warmth and affection and twisting guilt that curls in his chest and doesn't want to leave. It's a shame that Mamoru's hand is still on him, is still steadying him, because it means he'll feel the echo of it too. He's never wanted to lie as much as he does in this moment. It isn't as if he's the knight of honesty, there's nothing to stop him from doing it, but. He just can't deny this, not entirely. "I - I don't remember anything from before the accident, but... your name, it does sound familiar."
Mamoru Chiba 2018-08-25 06:56:00 95854
There's one thing Mamoru has gotten better at-- the on-and-off touch telepathy. He's not inviting himself into Jadeite's mind for mochi, beer, and action flicks, but his presence is most certainly a palpable thing, and his not-voice -- the one that was 'audible' while he was a ghost, haunting them -- sounds in the back of Jadeite's awareness. << We have her name, we have your name. We can look you up when we get home. You don't have to give her our address, though since she knows my name she can look that up -- but she's also much less likely to freak out and do something drastic if we listen to her a little while, right? We can get ice cream and just... talk to her. >>

Meanwhile Mamoru's got a friendly expression on his too-far-up-there goddamn princely face, and he adjusts his glasses with the hand holding the grocery bag, not daring to let go of Jadeite. "It's nice to meet you, Suzuki-san. I'm sorry about all the stress you've gone through-- I was looking for my brothers for a very long time, too. I know how it feels. There's an ice cream stand up the street, shall we go get some and sit down to talk?"

He pauses, and frowns a little. "Is someone looking for you to come home, will you be in trouble if you're late? You should call. But don't mention Saburo, in case this is mistaken identity; you wouldn't want to get everyone else's hopes up."
Jadeite 2018-08-25 07:13:17 95855
That voice is comforting and strange all at once, because Jadeite associates it with Ghost Mamoru, with Currntly An Ex-Mamoru, with being haunted by a friendly ghosst that shouldn't be a ghost, but he's grateful for it right now, because it means they can plan this out in a way that makes sense, doesn't blow any secrets, and doesn't end with him freaking out in the middle of the sidewalk. << Right. We can - ice cream doesn't have to take to long, and if I listen to her then she'll calm down. Right. Let's do that. >>

His expression is not nearly as friendly, still shocked and full of denial, and he doesn't make a single movement, neither towards her or away from her, barely seeming to blink. But when Mamoru offers her what he's already agreed to, the ice cream, he finds his voice. "Getting out of the sidewalk and into somewhere a little less - public, might help."

They are both entirely too tall, the both of them at least two feet taller than her, but though she has to crane her neck to look at them, though it's impolite to look them in the eye so fiercely, though she flinched to hear Saburo say he doesn't remember anything, Hana is doing just that. "It's - um, it's not your fault, Chiba-san, and sitting down and talking sounds good, I left cram school early, so Mom isn't expecting me back yet." She's perfectly agreeable, eager even, until Mamoru says that she shouldn't tell anyone, and then a stricken look crosses her face. "But, our sister -"

Even as she stops herself, Jadeite is the one flinching now, because another one? He doesn't get a chance to explain how non-negotiable this suggestion is though, becaus Hana herself continues. "No, you're right. I'm - if you don't want to talk or come home, I don't want Nana to hear it over the phone."

Another sister. Jadeite doesn't even allow that thought to get any further, ignores it as completely as he possibly can, and just says, "That's a good choice, Suzuki-san. If you're sure you don't need to call anyone, then you can follow us."
Mamoru Chiba 2018-08-25 07:26:47 95856
"--and we are definitely staying in public, even if it's not the sidewalk, because neither of us knows you and you're... what, eleven? Twelve?" Mamoru emphasizes, then finishes off uncertainly, glancing over Hana again. "Someone really should know where you are. So just until when cram school usually gets out, all right? And we'll sit at the outside cafe tables."

He's so tempted to hold Jadeite's hand, for the continued reassurance and-- to be honest-- so Jadeite can grip it with white knuckles if he wants to.

All in all, it's actually a really short walk to the ice cream stand, which does indeed have cafe tables set up around it. He finally lets his hand slip off Jadeite's arm, as awkward as that walk may have been with it there, in order to open up his wallet. He orders chocolate with chocolate and extra chocolate, then gestures Jadeite and Hana ahead. "It's on me. Order whatever you want, I'm a trust fund kid."

Once they're waiting for their ice cream, he takes his and one of Jadeite's grocery bags and he puts them on the closest unoccupied table. "Good thing we didn't get anything cold," he says with a slight frown. "Kazuo's picking up the milk and eggs later, right?" Wait, who's the one with ADHD?
Jadeite 2018-08-25 07:38:36 95857
It hadn't even occurred to Hana to be nervous about that, and it shows on her face now, the widening eyes and surprise that crosses her face. This is her brother. He wouldn't hurt her, so neither would his friends. It's that simple - or it was, because now that the suggestion has been made it occurs to her that approching two men so brazenly could have been dangerous - but she nods all the same. "School usually lets out in an hour, and then I'd walk to the station to ride home. So - an hour?"

"An hour," Jadeite agrees before he can regret it, and then they are walking to the ice cream shop, his nails digging into the meat of his palm the whole way, even with all the reassurance in the world by his side, but the walk is short, and the awkwardness is entirely worth it just for that. If he were on his own doing this, his head would be spinning, he'd be already gone - he might have even literally teleported away, just to get away from this. He orders vanilla and strawberry, used to Mamoru paying, and after a moment of hesitation, Hana orders strawberry and green tea, and soon they're all just waiting, and she's listening, trying to catch as much detail as possible so she can share all of it.

"I think so? But I grabbed eggs too, before I put them back. I think I put them back." A quick check of the bags because he's honestly forgotten already, and this is normal, unfortunately, but that's good. Whoever let them go grocery shopping anyway? "Okay, I did put them back, I got jello instead, so we're all clear. Kazuo's getting all the cold things, because he won't ruin them."
Mamoru Chiba 2018-08-25 07:48:43 95859
Well, they had a list. And Mamoru's generally good with lists. But people are also used to grocery excursions with Jadeite ending up with at least two extra bags of stuff that wasn't on the list. They're also used to Mamoru not getting the cold stuff unless he goes alone, because Literally Who Knows Who He'll Run Into And Get Distracted.

So Mamoru nods firmly, then laughs. "Well, he cheats," he says, but doesn't elaborate. Then ice cream's getting called out, so he goes to get his and Hana's, and hands hers over, then gets Jadeite's and hands his over too, and then he deposits himself in one of the chairs and immediately licks his ice cream. "Okay, so, tell us about your brother. How did he disappear?"

Right to the point. He says it so matter-of-factly, too, like he's not deliberately opening a can of potentially rabid worms.

Then he thinks of something and digs his phone out again, unlocking it with his thumbprint and then thumbing out a text.

    Mamoru TXT Kunzite: think j's little sister found us
Jadeite 2018-08-25 08:06:34 95862
They had actually done a pretty good job of staying on the list this time, too, a rarity that will surely not be repeated for some time. They only had half a bag of things that weren't originally on the list, and all of them were new snacks from favorite brands. They need all of it, and he regrets nothing about it except for that maybe if he'd stayed on list they would have finished sooner, and never run into this problem in the first place. But he's not thinkng about that - he's thinking about groceries, and he smiles. "That and he's the only one of us who wouldn't break the eggs."

The ice cream is called, so he waits and doesn't look at Hana, who is absolutely looking at him, as if he might disappear if she blinks too much. In all the years it's been, she never thought she'd find him like this, buying groceries with a friend, with roommates, living in the city, apparently. It feels strange and scary and wrong to think that they had been living in the same city this whole time, that he could have been safe and happy this whole time, and they just never saw each other. And then she has her ice cream, and he has his, and Mamoru has his, so they all sit, and Mamoru is so straightforward and blunt and her elbows are on the table, ice cream ignored. "He ran away. From the hospital, but he wasn't the one hurt, Nana was, and Mom and Dad were angry. It wasn't your fault."

Jadeite does lick his ice cream, because it gives him something to do after the faint shield of humor is so easily torn away. He leans back even as Hana leans in, and his brows furrow at the brief details she gives, until she offers that plea, and he doesn't squeeze his ice cream only because he doesn't want the cone to break. He notices Mamoru's phone, but doesn't comment on that, speaking from the pit of acid that feels like it's burning in his stomach instead, "If it wasn't your brother's fault, why are you so ready to defend him?"
Mamoru Chiba 2018-08-25 08:09:38 95863
No immediate answer from Kunzite. Mamoru looks a little abstracted for a moment, eyes trained on nothing, frowning faintly-- and then his face clears and he leaves his phone facedown on the table and licks his ice cream again. He notices Hana's ice cream being ignored, and he lifts his eyebrows. "Don't let it melt," he says, like exactly the stuffy kind of dad-friend he occasionally is, and then he blinks sidelong at Jadeite.

He doesn't quite kick him under the table, but it's pretty clear he's trying to figure out how to make physical contact again without it looking weird to Hana. Because he can feel the anxiety hiking and there isn't anything direct he can do about it. Except--

--ask another question. "Why would they be angry at him?"
Jadeite 2018-08-25 08:19:23 95867
Hana is all set to push right back and answer in the huff that question deserves, because it sounds like he's trying to blame her brother - blame himself - and that's not okay, but then Mamoru tells her to eat her ice cream, as neat and firm as her own dad would be, and so she takes a lick of the ice cream, and then another because it is good and it's hot out and the ice cream is already softened up. And she doesn't notice the kick under the table, but she does notice the little look, that half glance and she looks back to her brother's face. She doesn't want to criticize her parents - she loves them both, dearly, but they were wrong about this and Takumi was absolutely not at fault. "Takumi-nii was babysitting us, when Nana got hurt, and the hospital had to call Mom and Dad while they were at work, and so when they came in they - well."

The not-quite a kick makes contact, but briefly because they're sitting more or less side by side and it's not a good angle for kicking or contact. It's enough for a moment, where some of the tension falls away in favor of the story. "They blamed your brother for it."

She grimaces, but doesn't disagree. "It wasn't your fault," she repeats instead. "But you ran away while I tried to tell them."
Mamoru Chiba 2018-08-25 08:34:45 95869
Mamoru can't help himself. He grins. "Nana and Hana, huh?" He leaves that there, though, immediately continuing before licking his own ice cream again, making sure it never gets to the point where it'll drip down to his hand. "He was babysitting you? He can't have been that old-- and he managed to get you guys to the hospital all on his own, and they were still mad. It was because they were at work?"

There's no accusation in his voice, it remains mild and interested; he sounds like he's basically just trying to get the context of the situation. "It sounds like it was pretty overwhelming." He thinks of another time Jadeite ran away and kept running, and was much better for it. Ran away from something that was intolerable. Intolerable can have a very different explanation when you're a young teenager-- but the disapproval of an authority figure, and the threat of unjust punishment--? They never, ever help.

Ice cream. Right. Keep eating the ice cream, don't change expression, and take advantage of summertime meaning shorts. Mamoru nudges Jadeite's leg with his own and then just leaves it there. "Is it just you and your sister who've been looking? Or were your parents sorry they got mad?"
Jadeite 2018-08-25 10:19:10 95877
At least one of them is calm and useful - Jadeite isn't, after all, just eating his ice cream, picking at bits of the story and otherwise refusing to acknowledge that any of it could at all sound familiar. Some of it does, like her name, and her sister's name, in a way tnat is vague, unspecific but undeniably familiar. A story of angry parents isn't familiar, but a story of running - well. It wouldn't be the first time he ran. So he doesn't weigh in, only listens to the story this claims-to-be sister tells in bits and bursts.

Even in this most unusual circumstance, a faint smile quirks to Hana's lips as Mamoru grins. "Uh huh," is all she has to say to it, because she's heard it her whole life. His other reaction though, that's not something she's heard - her entire childhood is pinned together by the glue that was her brother, who had, it seemed, always been watching over she and her twin. She eats her ice cream because she's been reminded once already, and continues. "It was cause the nurse called them at work to say Nana was bleeding from her head and they were going to give stitches and when they got to the hopital there was me and Takumi-nii all covered in blood and no doctor to give them any answers."

She loves her parents, and she understands, because she has heard the story for years, remeembered the story for years, tried to figure out what she could have done - "They weren't listening. They were all worried and upset and it was our fault, but they didn't believe me. They listened after, though. You left, Takumi-nii, and the doctor came back with Nana and you still hadn't come back, and then we had to go home because it was getting late and nobody was hurt so the hospital wanted space back, and you didn't come back. Me and Nana looked, and then Mama and Papa looked, and then we all looked, but we never found you and nobody else said they did either."

That little nudge from Mamoru is brief, but it does enough. Does everything, because Jadeite is listening at least, even if he doesn't want to. He's not listening to this alone. And he'll hav a better case for arguing if he listens, so. "They stopped being angry, then, and you wanted me to know that, because you worry that's why your brother didn't come back." He's not claiming this family, this history, or this girl. But he can try and understand it all, at least. "Can you tell us why you're so convinced it's me?"
Mamoru Chiba 2018-08-25 10:33:41 95878
%rMamoru's texting with just his thumb again, splitting his gaze between screen and conversation, and keeping up with his chocolate. His gaze sliiiiides over to Jadeite again, but it's only his expression that says 'have you looked in a mirror lately, champ?'

His actual voice says, "And keep in mind that if Saburo is Takumi, he doesn't remember, so if it's really the case, he's going to need time. He has a life, he has a home-- so please, try to be strong. Saburo isn't running anymore. Everything will work out the way it needs to, I'm sure of it."

Nope, not breaking that contact. Jadeite can tell Mamoru's constantly evaluating the two of them, balancing with awareness of the situation as a whole.
Jadeite 2018-08-25 10:43:46 95879
If it was possible to completely ignore someone while also being in psychic communion with them at the same time, then that was what Jadeite was doing at this exact moment. No he hasn't Mamoru, because mirrors don't exist and neither does his reflection. He will stand by this against all logic.

Hana however, who cannot interpret the expressions of a boy she just met and who can only hear his voice, can only bite her lip and nod. "I - I understand. You don't remember it, and that's why you're saying it like that, even though we have the same eyes, and you don't remember it, but you have the same hair as our mom, and when you make that face you look just like dad. But you do, and I can see it because I have great vision, and because I see your picture all the time. You're alive though, so - I can be patient, I guess. Nana always says I should be more patient, because maybe then my crafts would look better."

She digs into her pocket to pull out her phone, with it's bright pink case and half a dozen phone charms, and unlocks the screen so she can dig out a picture. When she finds it, she flips it around and slides it towards Jadeite and Mamoru. The picture on the phone is clearly a picture taken of an actual photo, of a blond teenager with wavy hair to his chin and eyes like a frozen lake, whos is grinning at the camera, braceketed by identical girls, both of whom have equally blue eyes, their brown hair in pigtails. The boy looks just like Jadeite - the one standing here, but also the one Mamoru will remember from years ago, when he first met a classmate who called himself Saburo. "Tell me that isn't you."
Kazuo Takeba 2018-08-25 10:54:21 95880
It is, of course, clearly purely coincidence that when Mamoru sends that text he's thumbing out, there's a faintly-audible chime from the direction of the ice cream stand. Kazuo has the irritating habit of not looking at all in disarray from the heat that Tokyo's been suffering through these last weeks.

What he is looking, of course, is over at their table, while Hana's attention is down on her phone. He doesn't have a good enough angle to see what the picture she's showing them is. It isn't terribly hard to guess.

Then the line moves, and his attention goes back to the person wanting to take his order, before Hana has a good chance to notice they're being watched.
Mamoru Chiba 2018-08-25 11:04:49 95881
Ruining Kazuo's Batman act is something Mamoru could pull, but won't, because sometimes he's a dick-- but he's very calm through that contact, working on his ice cream steadily. Almost done, in fact.

He looks apologetically at Hana; he remembers being eleven or twelve and completely adrift. But he's also not telling her no. He hopes she understands that the delay in telling is also to give Jade that necessary time--

--he can't tell her he believes. That would undermine his brother, who needs his support-- and Hana has a twin sister.

He peers over at the photo, then observes critically, "If that's you, kinda glad you got a haircut before I met you. I always liked having at least ONE of you with hair as short as mine."
Jadeite 2018-08-25 11:16:37 95882
Completely missing Kazuo's Batman act is something that Hana and Jadeite share, something besides the blood that flows through their veins, because the two are so focused on each other that it's a miracle that they're giving Mamoru attention, let alone realizing that other people exist. Hana is challenging, and Jadeite deflecting, because at least for now they can't both have what they want.

Jadeite looks at the picture and the girls and it had never even occurred to him that the two girls weren't twins. It had been assumed, on his part, because Hana and Nana fit like two pieces of a puzzle he did not want to solve. The boy in the picture, the odd man out - he could deny how much it looked like him, how alike it is to the youngest version of himself he can remember, but it would be a lie. He has four brothers and a sister already though. He doesn't need two more, and he doesn't want the complications that will come with them. "I am too. I don't think longer hair suits me."

Hana doesn't take back her phone yet, leaving the picture and the three smiling siblings looking out at the two men. "That's not you saying it isn't you," she points out, and despite how much she's trying, her voice shakes.

"That's because I can't say if it is or isn't," Jadeite says slowly, pushing the phone back to her. He's managed to regain his steadiness, come to a decision, and it reflects in his reclaimed calm. "I don't have any pictures of myself from when I was that young. I have nothing but memory to compare it to, and memory is the problem. But I can tell you that I don't want that to be me, and that's what matters."
Kazuo Takeba 2018-08-25 11:27:26 95883
Kazuo is not here, in fact, to meet Jadeite's maybe-sister. Kazuo is not here to push Jadeite's decision one way or the other. He did what pushing on the subject he intended to do years ago: when he used himself as an example to the others of what could happen if they left these connections unexplored, untended, ignored, forgotten.

Kazuo is here in case he's needed. That's an entirely different thing.

From where he's standing -- Jadeite's found some decision; that's good enough for the moment, for him. It may or may not be good enough for the girl, or for Mamoru. That's yet to see. For the moment, he and his green tea ice cream take a seat where he can watch them out of the corner of his eye.

Odds that he will get to stay in that seat after what he didn't hear Jadeite just say: not nearly as good as Kazuo thinks they are.
Mamoru Chiba 2018-08-25 11:37:37 95885
--okay, despite being in contact with Jadeite, that is not at ALL the tack he was expecting the blond to take. Mamoru's eyes widen behind his glasses in shock, and his mouth opens-- then closes. He quickly looks at Hana, and then at Kunzite, and even more quickly he says-- last of his ice cream turning to liquid in the suffocating heat and humidity, and threatening to spill down his hand, "Suzuki-san! This is another of our roommates-- Kazuo Takeba. He actually had a similar experience, so it may be a good idea to have his father talk to y-- your p--..."

He trails off because Jadeite doesn't want to be her brother, and adding Hiroshi to the mix at this juncture is, if not the worst idea he's ever had, a pretty damn bad idea.

He swallows, and then chocolate melted ice cream drips on his hand, and he swallows a yelp and then opens his mouth to say something else, and then shuts his mouth again and looks at Hana again, and watches her face, and looks like he's going to explode in anxiety. Oh my god don't cry don't cry don't
Jadeite 2018-08-25 11:52:43 95886
Despite everything, it isn't what Hana thinks he'll say either, and it shows in her eyes, wide and huge and growing shiny with tears, in the way the corners of her mouth tremble, in the way that she so very suddenly looks like a much younger child. Hana has been searching for the brother she lost for years. She's wanted to bring him home, wanted to know he was safe, wanted to make their parents take down the shrine in the corner of their home because he isn't dead, and she knows it, and Nana knows it - she's thought about the ways he could have gotten lost, or hurt, or not wanted their parents. She's never once considered that he might not want her. She can't move. She doesn't even look when Mamou jumps, when he tries to drag her attention to someone else. She can only look at the young man with eyes exactly like her own, the young man who's replaced the boy she's been looking for all this time. "You - is - did I say it wrong - did I - I can bring Nana, I can Nana, and, maybe you'll like her - and - "

She's crying now, the tears that began building the second her brother said he didn't want to be her brother falling thick and heavy, and she tries to scrub them away, to not be a crybaby, and all she manages to do is spill the ice cream against the table. She'd gone and let it melt, the one thing her brother's friend asked her not to do, and she lets the cone fall and gropes for her phone with shaking hands - "I have better pictures - I could - I promise I'm not a bad sister, I, Nana can tell you, she's better at, at saying things, and - "

Jadeite reaches out. For the fist time in this conversation, he reaches out, and Hana stutters to silence, and he finds the button to shut off her phone's display and folds her hand around it. His face is Saburo's polite mask, his voice as distant as if he were speaking to a stranger about the weather. "I'm sorry Suzuki-san. I'm not the brother you're looking for - and I don't think your sister should have to hear that from me."

Your sister. Another rejection, just as complete as the last. Hana presses an ice-cream slick hand to her face, trying to stifle the choked noises that want to spill from her lips as she dissolves further into tears.
Kazuo Takeba 2018-08-25 12:13:37 95887
Called out. Or at least called over. Kazuo rises duly at the sound of his name --

Nobody else here is noticing Mamoru speaking. This is not a good sign.

A moment later, Mamoru finds himself custodian of a second ice cream cone. Whether or not he notices that is anyone's bet; Kazuo merely presses it into Mamoru's hand and trusts to reflex to take care of it. He circles the table, sweeps the post-demise ice cream from the table with a disposable oshibori before more of it can make Hana's situation even worse. Mamoru's text messages must have warned him about the sugar as well as the sister.

Then he settles to one knee beside her, leaving her other side open -- even with twelve-year-old girls, or perhaps especially with twelve-year-old girls, Kunzite is always conscious of escape routes -- and says quietly, "You're not a bad sister." Picking up her words. Mirroring. Offering an anchor point, even if that anchor point is a complete stranger.

Taking up one of the two situations, so that Mamoru only has one completely overwhelming problem to deal with.

Maybe.
Mamoru Chiba 2018-08-25 12:30:58 95888
And Saburo can feel it. Can feel Mamoru's horror, his gutwrenching rejection of the reality where Jadeite just said that, when it's so clear-- and even if it weren't so clear how could he say--

--no, Mamoru doesn't have to ask that, because he's still in contact with Jadeite and he can feel exactly why he said that, and how he said what followed, and some distant part of his mind is examining why he's so startled that even Jadeite touching Hana's hand didn't jog his guardian's memory, and his own hands are shaking because

he knows

that self-blame

and rejection.

His voice is stuck in his throat as he uselessly watches her start to cry; it's not like Endymion, not like Mamoru, to be so conflicted, to be so undecided. Jadeite's walking wounded, and so is this little girl, this little girl who loves Jadeite, misses him, wants him back in her life-- and she's crying and it's destroying Mamoru and so is the ice around Jadeite's heart.

The ice he recognises-- from a boy in an alley in a dark grey uniform, who he'd just healed, and who he had to take his hands away from, and who he had to tell he wouldn't be going with him, despite the connection they had. Jadeite's heart iced over then, sealing off the connection that had wrecked him with its love and then its absence, and cut Mamoru out.

Ice cream? There's ice cream in his other hand--? Kunzite is talking to Hana.

It kicks the orphan's brain into gear, and abruptly what Saburo can feel through the contact with Mamoru is the searing, white-hot anger of a child who, not knowing his brothers, was wanted by exactly no one. The incandescent fury of a teenager who built a picture of a life for himself from books and television shows and movies, with stolen memory and fantasy, with a dream as company and continual existential crisis as a waking life, with other people's feelings-- who would have given anything for two little sisters; who's adopted how many little sisters at this point?

And yet he still understands the terror underneath that ice, the fear that he'll lose everything again, the complete lack of spoons for another life change; he still understands that memory was stolen painfully from this boy next to him again and again and again.

They're all broken.

And Kazuo is talking to Hana.

So Mamoru's feet go under his chair, breaking the contact off for a moment while he collects himself, jams the melted ice cream of his first cone in his mouth, and determinedly licks the chocolate off his hand after swallowing the last of his cone. Then he switches Kazuo's to that hand, and by that time, he's got a handle on his temper, blocked off from everyone with a link to him, and he reaches over to clamp a hand around Jadeite's wrist the same way Neil had taken Mamoru's the other night.

This time it's a different kind of reassurance, and Mamoru ducks his head until he can catch Jadeite's gaze and hold it, face very carefully blank. "I won't let go," he says in a low voice, and he's not talking about Jadeite's wrist. "No matter what you do, or who you do it to. Can I make you understand that?"
Jadeite 2018-08-25 12:48:41 95889
A stranger doesn't matter when her brother doesn't want her, doesn't love her, when the heartbreak of that is fresh and new and horrible, a sting that feels like it will never go away, will never heal, a bleeding wound on her heart. Her brother doesn't love her, and thinking it again doesn't make the thought make sense, doesn't make the nightmare end. It isn't until the stranger is right next to her, is bracketing her on one side, dropped low so they're the same height, so that she could look him in the eye if should but look, that she really notices him.

The ice cream spattered hand scrubs at her face, a futile effort to wipe away tears that won't stop falling, so she can talk, because no, because she's a bad sister, because it hasn't even been a whole hour yet and he's decided he doesn't want to be her brother. And she wants to hate this stranger, suddenly, a wave of jealousy fit to match her heartbreak, for the stranger with white hair, for the stranger who bought her ice cream, because her brother doesn't want her, doesn't want her sister, doesn't want to be in her family, but he wants them, and the injustice of it burns and stings and cuts. (It's proof, isn't it, that she's a bad sister, because a good sister would just be happy for him, that he loves someone - but she wants him to love her, she wants him to be her brother) the thought only makes her cry more.

"I am," she insists to that end, "He doesn't want to - he doesn't want to be my brother, and, and that's my fault - "

If she was a better sister, he'd love her, she doesn't, can't, won't say. She's too afraid it will be true to make the words come out of her mouth.
Jadeite 2018-08-25 13:12:19 95890
Saburo watches her cry and if he were allowing himself to feel anything - to feel anything right now, he might go to her, he might comfort her, he might wipe away her tears and urge her to calm down, he might tell her that everything will be alright, Hana-banana, everything will be alright, I'm here -

But he is not allowing himself to feel anything at all, not even Mamoru's horror, not even his unspoken but very real denial of all that he just heard and saw. He can feel his prince's hands shake, he can feel his best friend's hands shake, and if he were feeling something, he would reach for him, would squeeze his hand, would reassure him that things are different now, that life is different now, that it will be okay, that everything will be alright because he'll fix this -

But he is not feeling things now. He is watching a little girl cry and his heart is ice in his chest, his mind a frozen plane of crystal clarity, because this is, was, and will be too much and he is stopping it here. This little girl loves him. He will not love her.

The man next to him is his best friend, and the man in front of him, in front of the little girl who is and is not his little sister is his older brother, and he cannot focus on both of them, on all of them, so he lets his brother take the little girl's grief onto himself, let's him talk to her because he can't and won't. He is the ice of glaciers, of polar frost that never melts and cam tear down mountains, and he accepts the heat of Mamoru's rage with the calm awareness that when it burns out he will still be here. And underneath the ice, in a place he will not acknowledge and that even Mamoru may not feel beneath the ice, bonded at the soul though they are, is the pain that says 'if you start now it will never stop' and that is not something he is willing to accept. Not even to soothe his friend's fury. Not even to make peace.

He is the Knight of Patience and Harmony, and he is out of the one and through with the other.

The connection breaks and Jadeite takes the opportunity to assess. The ice cream in his hand has not melted - it is frozen, colder than it was when it was handed to him, because there is too much happening around him for something to be able to melt in his own hand - and he takes a bite of it and doesn't spare a thought to think of pretending brain freeze. He only takes another bite, tuning out the sound of sobs, the motions Mamoru takes to gather himself, the words Kazuo offers as comfort to the litle girl he has torn open. He is frozen and ice and none of this bothers him, which is why he can manage the illusion that all others see, the illusion that they are four at peace and happy with their treats, all the better to avoid unwanted eyes and attention. When Mamoru clamps a hand on his wrist, the ice cream stays frozen, the illusion stays up, and his brother loves him. It isn't enough to melt the ice, but it's something. He doesn't look away.

"I understand," though he isn't sure that he does, even with it warm against his skin as a shackle in the sun, as a bandage after a wound. He doesn't look away, and he doesn't have to be able to see his reflection to know that his cold eyes and unsmiling face are nothing like the boy in that picture, the boy he was and will not be again. "But I'm not doing this, not even for you."
Kazuo Takeba 2018-08-25 13:30:47 95891
A stranger doesn't matter. But Saburo is expressionless, is all ice. If she were a stranger, he would not need to close himself in that way; his face would not look the way Kazuo has -- has never seen it, when he was Kazuo. The way even Kunzite has never seen it in sunlight, not in this life. Only in the Dark Kingdom's strange and damned glow.

And if there were nothing of Jadeite in her, she would not have been able to pull the other two in so quickly.

And if she is their brother's sister --

He knows, all too well, how quickly and how hard Mamoru clings to secondhand kin.

"That's not your fault." Kazuo's voice is low, quiet, straightforward as stone. "That is hurt talking, and you are not the one who hurt him. Do you know how you can tell that it is hurt talking?"

He takes out the second and last of the disposables he's carrying, tears open the packaging, lays it over Hana's cleaner hand. "Because if it were not hurt talking, he would have let you finish your ice cream."
Mamoru Chiba 2018-08-25 13:43:49 95892
"I get that," says Mamoru, himself wearing a mask, the mask that he hasn't used in so long he'd forgotten he had it. It's calm and polite and blank. "And that's why I wanted you to understand first. It's not going away. I'm not going away. The moment you want me again, I'll still be here."

And then he carefully loosens the sun-heated shackle of his hand around Jadeite's wrist, and he withdraws his hand, and he withdraws. The presence of him is still there in the back of Jadeite's awareness; he still exists, he's still accessible if Jadeite reaches for him...

...but the sunshine is gone, the sense of Endymion's warmth and nearness is distant and quiet, buried beneath a mountain. He's put a wall up to keep Jadeite from seeing how deeply that ice is stabbing him, because letting go of it for Mamoru would be wrong. He can't reason it away, he can't stifle it, he can't make it stop, and he doesn't know what else to do to keep from pressuring Jadeite.

This isn't about him. He knew what to do for Kunzite. He knew what to do for Jadeite. He didn't know what to do for Zoisite, but Zoisite did it all on his own while he was pissed off at Mamoru-- so maybe pissing Jadeite off will end up being what it takes.

And maybe Kunzite just did that.

Mamoru stands, then, and glances at the ice cream in his hand, already starting to melt, and he looks briefly baffled and then somewhat put out. Again with the melting. Literally two people here could make Kunzite's ice cream not melt, and they're both busy because Jadeite's scrambling through the morass of damage he's been holding back for almost three years now, pretending it didn't exist. So he picks the spot that Kunzite licked, and he licks it at Jadeite, and then he picks up two of the grocery bags and pushes them at the blond. "But you're taking these home. I'm sure you won't mind if one of us sees Suzuki-san to the bus stop."
Jadeite 2018-08-25 13:56:39 95893
Hana knows nothing of what her brother has been through, of where and what he has been, of the things he's seen. She couldn't imagine anything close to the truth, though she's had nightmares of terrible things for years. What she can understand is hope, when it's offered to her, when it's dangled in front of her. Hope is photographs and message boards and haunting police stations.

Hope is a quiet, steadfast voice beside her, laying a wipe on her hand.

So Hana wipes clean her hand, first one and then the other, and then her face, sniffling and still crying, eyes red and cheeks puffy, until at last her face is clear and her voice isn't entirely choked. And she looks at Kazuo with trust and desperation (because nothing can make a person more desperate than hope) and asks, "Who's fault is it then?"

She's twelve and shaking and exhausted, the exhaustion of the emotionally drained, of the bereaved, but she's chased after him for five years, almost six, ever since he ran from the hospital with their parents' blame ringing in his ears, and if this isn't her fault then she isn't going to stop now. "And how do I fix it?"
Jadeite 2018-08-25 14:13:54 95894
He should be mourning the unearthing of that mask on Mamoru's face, but that's the point of the mask that he's wearing now - so that he can put aside the things he should be doing in favor of what he needs to do. So he only nods at those words, though he still doesn't understand, not until it moves away, the sunshine and the warmth and the pain and worry that aren't his but should and could be. Mamoru isn't gone. This isn't like when he was dead, when he was gone, but he's quiet, he's distant, and it is, in fact, exactly what he needs. Room to breathe, even though they're all still within three feet of each other.

He doesn't thank Mamoru, because icing him out didn't make him completely tactless, and his gratitude is felt by no one but himself, between his own walls of ice and Mamoru's mountainous defesnses. He's going to say something though, to acknowledge this, but before he can Kunzite - not Kazuo, because Kazuo has never seen him like this and Kunzite has, has talked him through the verge of destruction and created a path.

If that's what he's intended to do this time, he hasn't succeeded. The flash of anger - at himself for being so obvious, at Kunzite for pointing it out, at Mamoru for being gracious about it, at Hana for thinking he'll let her fix him - is swallowed up almost as soon as it sparks into existence. He takes a breath. Lets it out.

"Do what you need to do," he says as he taks the bags, and his voice is too calm, too even, to be natural. "I'll take them home now. I think I'm done here."
Kazuo Takeba 2018-08-25 14:25:19 95895
It's not what Kazuo intended to do this time. Not for Jadeite. Because there's more than one person close to that verge, just now -- and in a way, Jadeite's the one farther from the edge.

In one way. Not necessarily in others.

"Neither of those questions has an easy answer." Kazuo checks another pocket, extracts a clean handkerchief, offers that to Hana in turn. Something to hold on to against the rest of the tears. "Neither you nor I can make someone else's decisions for them. But the reverse of that is also true. So. What I would like to do is give you a number to reach me at. And then, if you're willing, you and I can sit down and talk when things are a little calmer. I'd like to know about your brother."