Twin Sadsters

Date: 2018-08-27
Pose Count: 34
Mamoru Chiba 2018-08-27 20:20:37 96213
It's overcast, humid, and there are threats of thunderstorms on the forecast despite the fight with the Storm card the other evening. Nevertheless, it's only later that those thunderstorms are supposed to hit, so when contact was made with a pair of twelve-year-old girls, Mamoru suggested takoyaki just outside the theme park in Uminari. He noted it was just himself, but that Kazuo might show up later as well.

By the time they're there, Mamoru's already sitting at a table, playing pokemon go sort of absently and munching on his own order of takoyaki-- and there are two other orders on the table, covered somewhat so they don't get cold but also don't get mushy; his are vegetarian but theirs are not. He's got a chromebook on the table, but it's closed, and he's wearing a variation on the same getup from the other day -- cargo shorts, birkenstocks, a different t-shirt (with a faux-mosaic painting of headphones connected to a beating heart), and his glasses.
Saburo Yukimura 2018-08-27 20:45:52 96214
The twins arrive in short order, riding identical bicycles and differentiated only by the colors of the helmets and their taste in shorts versus skirts. The twin who wears a yellow helmet is the first to approach the table - Hana is after all, the only one who has actually seen Mamoru. She's nervous and it's a little obvious, but so is the cautious hope in her eyes. The girl standing beside her shows no sign of the nerves but even more of the hope - Nana's heartbreak was secondhand news, and a little stronger for it.

"Hello Chiba-san," she greets politely, the first to sit down across from him. A hand reaches out, and she tugs her sister down beside her. "Sorry to make you wait."

"We had to finish chores first," Hana explains, pulling the two orders closer after a second of silent debate. "Thank you for ordering for us."
Mamoru Chiba 2018-08-27 21:16:46 96215
The smile he has for them is real, bright and affectionate, and it immediately takes a tinge of rueful apology to it. He shakes his head. "You've been waiting a long time," he says quietly, standing up to give them a cursory bow in greeting; he puts his phone away. "I can wait five minutes. You can call me Mamoru if you like, both of you."

Once he sits down again, he pushes the takoyaki across the table to them; he's a lot less stressed, apparently. It makes sense, in a way: there are two of them and one of him, this time, and their brother isn't there being stiff and strange. "It's my pleasure. This place is nice, in the open air, but it's always been a little overpriced."

Finally he sits back with his veggie takoyaki on the table in front of him, wiping his hands off and turning the chromebook around. "Thank you for giving me his name the other day, Suzuki-san," he says, accurately looking to Hana instead of Nana. He opens the chromebook. "I was able to look him up with that, which has been the problem I've had since I met him. He didn't remember anything at all, and hasn't for the past three years. I'm sorry he was so terribly rude to you; he's frightened, I think, of the life he's made being turned inside out."

As he's been speaking, he's been typing and tapping, and he comes up with a government database page in one tab, and a string of newspaper article hits in another. He turns it around so they can see. "He's had a happy life for the past three years; he's a second-year university student; he lives with me and three other roommates..."

And his hands fold on the table. "And we've all had similar experiences we've had to deal with. Takeba-san was telling you he's been hurt-- that's true. This will take time-- but I believe you."
Saburo Yukimura 2018-08-27 21:57:20 96217
They smile back, Hana a little more cautious, Nana a little more curious, a touch of sadness in both of them at the reminder of how much time has passed, how long they've been waiting. There's no pity in the words, just a kind sort of acknowledgement that appeals to the both of them. That sadness doesn't quite pass as he continues, but it's overshadowed by a touch of curiosity.

"We've only been to the park before," Hana explains, playing with one of her takoyaki balls as Nana takes a peek around as the truck and the seating. "You can use our given names too, if you want."

"It feels strange for a friend of Takumi-nii's to be so formal," Nana adds, her attention returning to Mamoru at her sister's words. The sentiment behind the words is clear - even if their brother isn't acting like a brother, they want to be treated like his sisters, like a familiar part of his life, and that starts with names and forms of address. While Mamoru reaches for his chromebook, the two finally begin to eat, careful in the way that only naturally messy children trying to avoid making a mess can be.

"Ah -" Hana doesn't want to say it's okay, because it isn't. That's one of the problems. But it's okay enough, she thinks. "It wasn't your fault. I don't like that Takumi-nii was unhappy, but I'm not sorry I stopped you both. Sometimes people are cranky when they're scared, and sometimes they get mean, but they don't mean it."

"And even if they do mean it, they can get a second chance if you like them enough." Nana is quiet for a moment, both twins are, as they let the sentiment sit there. Even if every word had been meant, had been the total truth, they would still offer their forgiveness, would still be here sitting with their brother's friend, would still be hoping to learn more.

They take a close look at the screen, looking from the very official language on one page to the more casual language on the other, and Nana tilts her head, glancing up at Mamoru. "Are these to tell us about those three happy years, or about those sad ones?"

"Will you tell us about both, no matter what?" Hana echoes. "We want to help him get better."
Mamoru Chiba 2018-08-27 22:11:40 96218
"These are what I've pulled up with the name you gave, I'm just trying to compile any information on his life before..." Mamoru doesn't put a word after that; he hesitates for a second, then shakes his head. "I wanted to make sure it's all him. He's kept out of the papers, as we all have as much as possible, since he's been back and making a new life. He graduated with honors from Infinity High School with me and two of our friends, and now we're all at Keio University."

He gives them a half smile. "Hana-san, Nana-san. It does make things significantly easier," he says; the half-smile turns into a bright bubble of a laugh behind his eyes that doesn't quite burst into reality, and then fades back into the serious but not stern, softened sort of manner he's been employing. "I'm grateful that you love him so much, and that you understand how fear can change people. It's behavior I've never seen from him. But-- you're right. I believe in second chances always, and sometimes even fifth chances, or sixth." He exhales, looking at his hands for a moment. "About both..."

The young man, so freshly an adult, laces his fingers together. "Some of it's not mine to tell you," he says finally, glancing up through his hair, behind his glasses. "Some of it might put you in danger to know, and if you were hurt because of knowing, I would never forgive myself-- and Sab-- Takumi-- would never forgive me, either. And some of it's..."

He shifts uncomfortably, looking away, finally, instead of just down. "Some of it gives us nightmares, and I've seen what nightmares can do to people who are still growing up. So please don't ask me to tell you everything, but I'll tell you what I can. Is that all right?"
Saburo Yukimura 2018-08-27 22:31:56 96219
Graduation with honors, and attending Keio University - an entirely different world from what they had thought before a chance encounter brought their lives back together. Crime television has been banned from their home for years, because of the nightmares that stories of kidnapping and death and unspeakable things has given the two of them, and every year brings the fear that a new name will be added to the family plot. This happy news is almost enough for the girls to miss what else he's said. But only almost.

"Most of the articles are probably from after he ran away, but there's a Facebook page - you might have found it already, but if you didn't, I'll show you," this is Nana, reaching out to thread her fingers with her sisters. "I was worried he was dead. Alive and mad is a lot better."

Hana squeezes her hand, and nods in firm agreement, though her lips had pursed in unhappy fear at the word 'dead'. "He can have all the chances he needs, but if it takes a long, long time you have to promise to make him come to our middle school graduation."

They're twelve now, turning thirteen in five months. That means there's nearly two years before that graduation.

They glance at each other as danger is mentioned, but worried about what could have happened - both thinking of those very banned crime shows that they have seen - but they nod firmly, and Nana is the one to put words to the motion. "That's alright. We want to help, and if that means we can't know everything, then that'd okay."
Mamoru Chiba 2018-08-27 22:56:01 96220
"I'm sure we'll bring him around to you well before that," the college student says with absolute confidence, the first time he's displayed it that solidly in the entire conversation thus far. "I don't usually look at Facebook-- I'm more of a tumblr cats and urban legends kind of guy-- but definitely bring it up, if it's public. I don't even have a facebook account anymore," he confesses.

Then they're agreeing that it's okay if he doesn't tell them everything, and he exhales, some of his tension vanishing. "Okay. The other part of this is-- it's obviously not the two of you that he's scared of, not on your own. So I need to figure out what he is scared of, that's connected to you or your life together, which is making him shy away so hard. You," he glances to Hana, "mentioned that your parents blamed him for what happened to you," he looks to Nana. "First, I want to know if blaming him for things is something they did frequently, and second, I want to know why he was looking after you, instead of you being in daycare or all of you being in school, or instead of one of your parents staying home with you. He was pretty young to have been taking care of you, wasn't he?"

Then the adult sitting across from them says completely matter-of-factly, "I'm a tactile psychic, and one of the things I can do is see past events if you're touching my hands and thinking about them. Sometimes that's useful if you're telling a story but miss details that might be important because you didn't think of them as important at the time. If you're willing to let me see, that might also help a great deal, but it's entirely up to you."

A beat.

"Your brother knows I can do this, and he won't let me see."
Saburo Yukimura 2018-08-27 23:26:42 96222
A lot of comments are almost made, only to falter and be cut short because of Mamoru's matter-of-fact tone and clear language. Nana almost defends her parents, because they are good parents and she loves them and they mean well, but she doesn't. Hana almost says that babysitting at a young age is normal and that some of the girls she knows from school babysit, but doesn't.

The key word here is almost, because neither girl quite starts those sentences. They sit on their words, waiting until he's done, because this is to help, and because something is not right, though they had starting thinking that the hurts their brother was running from, the ones both Mamoru and Takeba-san have spoken of now, had more to do with what happened after he ran, not before.

And then, before they can begin to try and answer, the much older boy, who is so much more mature than them, says that he is a psychic. The twins glance at each other, and twin telepathy is perhaps not nearly as real as what Mamoru is suggesting, but it's real enough for them to see that the other is also confused, also suspicious, and also willing to say, well, and maybe. More unbelievable things have happened in the last few days.

"You just have to hold our hands and you can see stuff?" Nana asks carefully, not quite skeptical.

"Did he say no because he doesn't want you to know, or because he doesn't like that you can do that?" Asks Hana, because those are two very different things, after all. If he doesn't want Mamoru to know, it's because it's private, it's because he doesn't want to talk about it, it's because he's hurt. If he doesn't like the ability... maybe he has a reason for that, something they should know. And then, another question, another worry, one so foreign she can hardly believe she has to ask, but she does, because once, she had never thought her brother wouldn't love her either, "Would he be mad at us if we wanted to show you?"
Mamoru Chiba 2018-08-27 23:45:24 96223
"I could answer that, but you'd still only have my word either way," Mamoru points out, still keeping his hands very definitely away from them, on his side of the table, folded. "I will tell you that he's never shut me out before now, except for once, during the very worst of times. And it's not just me he's shut out, he's shut the world out. He won't come out of his room, more or less."

He broadcasts, but not psychically -- Mamoru's not hiding anything from them with his expression or his body language, and it's clear how much this is hurting him to be true. Not hurting to tell them, but hurting him because it's a situation that exists. Tight and unhappy, restrained, quiet and tense. "He doesn't want to talk about it, he doesn't want to think about it, and he doesn't want me to pressure him, so I haven't been. I'll give him some more time to brood about it, but then I'm going to have to try and talk to him about this again, and knowing anything about it at all will mean I'm not talking from a position of having no idea what's wrong."

He lets out a small, short breath, and his eyes fix on one, then the other of them, and he lets his Endymion out. Not entirely all the way; he doesn't want to intimidate them, he doesn't want to-- he doesn't want to do anything to them, he just wants to be real. With them, in front of them, not hiding what's behind his eyes. That Presence that's ancient and young, ever-renewing, aware of life and emotion and interconnectivity; the weight of the world but the strength of it also. And nurturing love, deep and abiding; hope and belief.

That's the person who says, with slow regret, "I suspect he'd be mad if he knew I were here talking to you right now. But I also suspect that later, he'll be happy I asked and you answered, because it's one more burden I can lift from his shoulders, one more thing I can avoid making him face before he's ready."
Saburo Yukimura 2018-08-28 01:20:58 96224
"Well, I guess have us there," Nana agrees after another round of silent twin communication, because they wouldn't know if he's lying, that's true. They don't think he'd lie though. The hurt in his face and in his body is too real, too raw, and he looks, for a second, almost lost. It hurts them to hear - it maks Hana flinch, a little, and Nana bite her lip, to think about.

"I dodn't mean to," Hana says guiltily, looking down at the table. It sounds like - not like everything had been perfect, but like they had been good, and then she had opened her mouth and messed it all up. "I didn't think seeing me would make him so sad."

She's trying to hard to keep the hurt of that out of her voice, but it's still audible enough for Nana to squeeze her hand, the hand that hasn't quite been relinquished this whole time. "If it's your fault, then it's my fault," she says practically, "And it would be a lot more fault than my fault, so I think - " She sucks in a breath, "I think we can save that for Takumi-nii's birthday."

A wince is the response from her twin, not just because the words hurt to hear, but because they're true. Not the fault laying - Hana has fought with Nana for years to try and convince her that this wasn't more her fault, that it was both of them or neither of them, and since they couldn't find themselves not guilty, they had to be guilty together, and she'll keep up that fight for years - but the rest of that sentence is. Takumi's birthday is the day the house gets sad and quiet, the day they both mourn, the day it's another celebration missed, another opportunity lost, a day that always started with unreasonable hope and always ended with relentless despair, and it's a day that could be better this year, if they can help with this. Their brother's love is worth his anger. And when she looks away from her sister, it's not the same adult looking back at her. He's similar - looks the same, obviously, but he feels older somehow, wiser and stronger in a way that only makes him kinder, not harder. Like his shoulders are broad enough to carry the world on his back. Like he'd wait for their answer, however long it would take, because it's like, like he trusts them to make the right choice.

There's really only one thing to do.

Together, both twins stretch out their hands. "Okay. We'll show you as much as we can, so he doesn't have to."
Mamoru Chiba 2018-08-28 05:12:04 96279
"Of course you didn't mean to," Mamoru says in surprise, and he shakes his head. "But he was going to have that reaction either way, since he had it at all. He's -- there are a lot of complicating factors, but he's incomplete. And I'm pretty sure you're what's missing."

The two girls communicate silently, and Mamoru takes that moment -- his Presence easing off -- to stuff the rest of his veggie takoyaki in his mouth and finish it as quickly as possible, which looks so incredibly dorky college student that it's actually normal. He wipes his hands off, looking to one then the other again, trying to read between the gazes and the line about the birthday.

Then there's an actual address, and they offer their hands.

Mamoru leans forward a little, then reaches his wiry grownup tall-person arms across to meet the hands, until they all look a little like a seance. That doesn't escape his notice, and as contact's established, one corner of his mouth's turned up in self-amusement.

But there's the contact, and they can feel his reactions too, they can feel him: not intrusive, just an awareness of his presence and his emotional responses. And they can feel that-- that which Jadeite clung to so fiercely the moment he met it, clung to with his heart and his life, because it was home. And it might not be home in the same way, but Earth is the girls' planet too, so the sense is certainly there. Solid and calm and warm, the sun bright on beach stones and summer grass.

"Tell me about him, and about your parents. You can tell me stories, or just answer the stuff I asked, as long as you're thinking about it too." There's mild amusement that most definitely isn't mocking, and he says quietly, "It might help if you close your eyes. I'll close mine too. I'm paying attention, nobody can sneak up on us." A beat. "And you should be able to feel each other a little differently than you're used to, too."
Saburo Yukimura 2018-08-28 05:44:14 96280
Mamoru's automatic surprise earns him two smiles, one a little more confident, the other a little more cautious. Both grow wider, sweeter, at his words, at the thought that they still have place in the heart that means the most to the two of them.

His wiry tall-person arms and big grown up hands are held by two smaller hands, one soft-skinned and gripping tight, the other callused and loose, each of them with one hand in his unfamiliar grip and the other in a far more familiar hold. Hana is hoping that this won't involve any ghosts or chants - Nana is hoping no one takess her bike while they aren't looking. Both of them are hoping that it works -

And when it does, it's warm. It's warm and soft, like getting snug under the kotatsu in winter but without the cold to chase them into it's embrace. It's there - an offering and an embrace and a promise of safety, and with that - a familiar presence, brought closer than ever before, so that self and not-self almost seem to blur. Hana can feel Nana's trepidation, her uncertainty, her hope and love and worry and Nana can feel Hana's hurt hand in hand with love and forgiveness, her anxiety and her trust, and to the both of them, it's like an echo, a reflection of the heart in their own chest. It is the awareness that where the flesh has to end, the heart doesn't, because her heart is next to her - because her heart is next to her, separate and together.

Even if the connection broke right now, even if it all went away - it's a feeling that neither girl will ever forget, and Mamoru, connected with them and through them, can feel it too, the way they are two complete beings whose souls are perfect matches.

It's no wonder then, with that kind of love, that kind of togetherness, that the first the thing they think of is a time when two were three, all of them in the same place. "He was always with us," Hana says, and Nana continues, "From the earliest I can remember," and the memory that unfolds itself in that space, that golden warmth that's washed away the cool darkness behind their eyelids, is of being small and playful, of the world being big and exciting and new, with so many new things to see and touch and taste, is of giggling and laughing and waving and hiding behind the furniture because he's coming to find them, and they're supposed to hide, and being too young to know that covering your mouth doesn't hide all the noise, especially when there's two squeezed into a hiding space for one. It's a memory of being found - of the most beloved person in the world leaning over the arm of the couch and saying 'found you!'.

It's a game of hide and seek, played by two little girls barely larger than toddlers and a boy who can't be more than ten. And though the Hana and Nana of the memory are too young to hold such details as anything more than abstract, the Hana and Nana of the present, and the Mamoru watching with them, will know that the memory is of that ten year old boy being alone in the house with his toddler-age sisters, and not for the first time.
Mamoru Chiba 2018-08-28 06:09:02 96281
That's the difference, yes: he's watching with their eyes but his own mind, and they're looking along with him. He's smiling at the fun they're having, they can feel it; he's a little wistful, since he had no one to grow up with, but he doesn't let that taint anything, tinge anything with sadness. The realities of it, the grownup practicalities, those he just processes and catalogues, doesn't judge or accuse, only takes information in.

The connection of the two girls to each other, that makes Mamoru grin, smile too hard with eyes squeezed shut and stinging from joy for them: he may not have a twin, but he knows that feeling of completeness, that feeling of matching hearts and souls. A stray thought of his drifts in and he ignores it, but it's visible if they chase it: a sense of kinship because that's very very close to how he feels about their brother.

Their brother--

--who Mamoru can sense, distantly, as a presence and a locational, a point of reference and a part of him, a strong golden thread to mark the trail through a labyrinth or a red string of fate or just a connection, solid and strong but frozen over and closed carefully behind a door. And that hurts. That's what's making him feel lost. And following his thoughts of their brother will always take them to that door with its cold, cold handle.

But him, he steers them back to them: "You two are freaking adorable," he whisper-laughs. "And so is Takumi. He was always with you? Did he do schoolwork at all--? Did he ever have friends over to play, his own age?"
Saburo Yukimura 2018-08-28 06:29:48 96282
The wistfulness of memory, the closeness of past self and present self, it binds the two girls together, but it also draws them to the person making it possible, and they can feel his smile and the way it's different from his own experience, but the feeling of difference isn't strong enough for them to do more than see and acknowledge and want to share further, want to share their memories in all their sweetness - they hadn't realized it would be like this, could not have gueseed that there would be so much peace in it, so much love in it. They can feel his joy and he can feel theirs, and when the thought of kinship and closeness and togetherness winds past them, they can't help their curiosity, can't help but chase the sense of it, wanting to know -

Mamoru will be able to feel their whole hearted joy when they feel the answer. Will be able to sense how happy they are that this closeness they feel - this closeness they have always felt with each other, if not so loudly - is what their brother has with someone else, what he has with his brother, and there is the tiniest flicker of desire, for their brother's brother to be their brother, because they want to be in his life, but it's only a flicker. They're too busy chasing the sense of their brother, following a winding path of love and support and home, security and reassurance, the feeling that is so close but not quite like the star-bright love they have for the boy who raised them and loved them and sheltered them.

The wall then, is the last thing they expect. The door and the cold and the way the love and reassurance and support don't die, don't vanish, but do get buried, like a river beneath ice, like trees sleeping in winter - alive and living but not as brightly or completely as possible. They feel his hurt, and his sadness and it calls to them, calls to the flickering memory of Hana's tears and a terrible afternoon before Mamoru can steer them back, guide their awareness from the cold door trying to barracade and block a shining path and back to summer warmth.

There is a feeling of remorse and worry, but love and care too, both of them all the more determined for it. "Thank you," they echo back, two speaking as one as they try to focus on brighter memories, the cold door fading to a soft awareness instead of a hard shock.

"Not for a long time," Nana answers in a contemplative whisper, and there is the flash of a dozen memories, of the soft warmth and dim awareness of newborns, the sleepy love of infants, the excitement of toddlers and the joy of discovery that fills a small child. There is the echo of a boy who grows beside them, from a child to a tween, until the memory of being old enough for school comes, and with it, the first memory of being away from him.Some of those memories include flashes of other children - but always the age of the twins, never the boy.

"Mama called it self study," Hana remembers, passing along the memory of playing with toys while the ever present form of their brother sat at a table, scribbling in notebooks.
Mamoru Chiba 2018-08-28 06:58:08 96283
In the background, Mamoru pulls up the sense of himself that he had in high school, that he took and honed into a defense, and he wraps it around the three of them. Unremarkable, someone else's problem, there's no need to look over here, something much more interesting is over there--

--and he doesn't hide it from them, he doesn't hide anything he does from them. They can always stop him, they're given every opportunity. But sisters of his brother, how he wants the same! He refuses to focus on it. It's just there, a sleeping giant under the hills.

Now it's harder to keep his judgement away, but Mamoru and school are like bffs, and he can't help feeling both indignant and proud at the same time. "He's doing all this himself, in elementary and middle school, and you two were surprised he graduated with honors from Infinity and attends Keio...?" he asks, finally, a little baffled. "He's basically self-taught, and there's no middle ground-- either you don't bother, or you learn everything you possibly can..."

No friends his own age. None. Babies he loved, that he could play with, but sometimes when you're only talking to babies you forget how to use words yourself. And caretaking of smol breakable people is an enormous responsibility, and it's starting to look like he never had any time to himself, any time for developing himself as a distinct person--

"Did they blame him for a lot? Did his course of study disappoint them or something...? Kazuo's father certainly disapproves of his academic choices."
Saburo Yukimura 2018-08-28 07:22:04 96285
The twins don't stop him from doing anything - they're too curious about what he does and how it works to consider it, and the love he feels for their brother is such that at least like this, bonded by magic and empathy as they are, they can't imagine being scared of him. No one who loves their brother so much would hurt them. No one loved by their brother would consider it.

It's a bone deep surety, one not shaken by the chill of the door or the memory of a blank face rejecting love. The sleeping giant is not woken, is not even teased, but Mamoru will feel the glow of their acceptance, their trust and curiosity.

Even the growing sense of judgement doesn't spook them, though there is some mental flushing where, unconnected, the same might have prompted self-conscious bristling. "Most surprised because Mom and Dad say he's dead," Nana explains, shying away from his bafflement, because there isn't a logical explanation, there's only a familiar familial structure.

Memory sweeps in - memory of quiet conversations held when parents were certain that their children were asleep, conversations about how Takumi can work the register of the family shop when he is older, because that's the farthest a mother and father can envision his future. Conversations about worries - about how well Hana does in school, and remember how Takumi struggled with this when he was her age, and delight in how naturally it comes to one small twin, learning basic maths, and frustration when Takumi struggles, how there is no pride when he overcomes. "When we started school, Takumi went back too. He wasn't used to it but he wasn't bad at it." Parental frustration over science scores, or math tests, dire lack of interest in excellent scores in language, in writing.

"The first time I remember them being maad was - the accident," Nana says, the words for now unaccompanied by memory, "But they used the D word a lot." And D word coemes bundled with memories - not of Takumi, but of Hana and Nana, growing older without him, nd the times they've upset their parents, for breaking rules, for failing to put away bikes, for not scoring as high as they could, 'I'm not mad, I'm disappointed.'
Mamoru Chiba 2018-08-28 07:41:38 96286
That one, Mamoru understands instinctively, on a gut level, both in regards to Takumi and how it affects him even now, and in regards to himself in another lifetime when he had parents, when he had guardians separate from them, when he did things that worked or things that didn't and they were things that got those guardians in trouble or things he had no business doing, and--

--a flash of their brother, looking maybe a little different, the ages that they remember being around him but with short hair and some kind of uniform. A sharp memory of pain and panic, their brother's blood, and relief mixed with guilt on his part, and nothing but guilt on Mamoru's, and their brother being afraid of the disappointment of an older boy. Not just any older boy, but Kazuo, looking even less Japanese than he does now but still him, also wearing a uniform, one that matches their brother's--

--Mamoru actively healing the wound, erasing it, almost panicking but being held steady by Kazuo's focus, and crying only afterwards.

He shoves that memory away fiercely and concentrates on Takumi now, over the past three years, so eager to please and so pleased when praised, so very shut down when he didn't feel as though he were living up to some ideal, or when someone was less than enthusiastic about something he did or didn't do.

And Mamoru feels suddenly and abruptly horrified by the more recent memory of Saburo telling him 'not even for you', and cutting off his own feelings, and something else trickles in: a memory in darkness and pain, and their brother smoothing Mamoru's hair back and telling him 'there there'--

He cuts that off by speaking aloud. "Oh," he says, "oh. Sh-- f-- kuso, he thinks I'm disappointed in him for reacting the way he did the other day, to you, Hana-san. That's-- kami-sama, I can't believe-- I tried to make him understand, but it didn't cover enough, and I was disappointed, but not in him--"

Their brother's friend's eyes are shut tight, and they can feel him hating himself just a little, disappointed in himself, and trying to bury it to keep it from interfering. "I understand, I think, what he's running from. Never being good enough. He's running from never being good enough. And it's not you. And I think-- I think I made it worse."
Saburo Yukimura 2018-08-28 08:38:37 96288
The memory, with its blood and its guilt, is almost familiar to the two. It takes them back to the hospital, to a bad day - but this doctor isn't the one from before, the one more interested in getting to his next job, in clocking out, than in helping. In this memory, the doctor is Mamoru, and they feel him, the warmth of what he is and what he offers, what he offered, in that memory of the boy who is their brother but not.

They're all different people, but the same. Their brother, they realize, or start to realize or know, is more than just their brother, than just a person. In the child who looks like a small Mamoru, they see the start of what will be that presence of warmth and sunlight, and they realize that he too is older than he seems, older than he should be. It ought to be frightening, or confusing. They are seeing something that makes no sense, that exists only in anime and fairytales. But it isn't - there's only wonder, as the boy Mamoru heals the boy who is and isn't Takumi, and then concern, as they feel the downward dip of Mamoru's mood with no idea of what's caused it.

Except that the next flash of memory is of Takumi, a thousand flashes of sight and sound to explain cheer and smiles and tireless effort, and they can feel Mamoru's horror, and they are worried and worried and worried, because they aren't psychic, but they can feel that something has gone wrong for Mamoru, has made a picture he doesn't like.

And then he shares that picture, and Hana can't hide the thought - is it worse for someone in your head to be disappointed in you? - and hopes that that isn't what her brother was thinking about. She reaches out.
% Nana reaches out too. She's wondering the same, similar, but she's pushing at the sense of guilt instead, trying to lighten it with the promise of happier memories.

They are both of them focused on him, and so neither is prepared for the answer that comes to him. "You mean," one starts, "Mom and dad?" The other finishes.
Mamoru Chiba 2018-08-29 02:13:28 96371
Since it's a memory of Mamoru's, they can't actually see his face, and his hands are a light brown -- darker than a light-skinned person with a regular tan, or maybe as dark as a deep tan, but uniform on his arms with his sleeves rolled up and his hands bloodied, applying pressure and then emitting a warm golden glow which stops the bleeding, closes the wound-- and those sleeves, they can see, they can feel in his memory of wearing it, are well made from expensive cloth, hand woven and hand-sewn, tailored.

He gratefully and so very quickly takes the promises and encouragement offered, not at all embarrassed to be given these things he needs by twelve-year-old girls. It doesn't erase the guilt, but it lessens its impact, it allows him to shove it to the side and focus on the parts that aren't his own feelings, his own kneejerk reactions.

That's a good thing.

That's good because he can feel the impact of his implication on their feelings, and he sobers, apologetic and looking for any way to lessen its hurt. "I think so," he says softly. "I think so. I mean, there were very awful things that happened in the two years between when he was taken from the street when he ran from the hospital and when I met him, and some very awful things after I met him and before we all got ourselves free, and I'm certain the D-word was a part of them, too-- but he was dealing with not wanting to disappoint me or Kazuo back... then..."

A flash of those too-vivid skies, that too-real reality in another time, a castle, a throne room, training at weapons in a yard, and then Mamoru's thinking about darkness and shies away from it immediately, and then images of their brother in the past three years, trying so hard always to be the most help, to make his brothers happy and safe, to dedicate himself to them as much as they to him, and looking so bright and happy when something he can do helps--

"...if he had to deal with it in all the parts of his lives, then it only makes sense that he'd feel it so very deeply, and be wounded by it, when your parents applied it to him. No matter what he did-- and not even getting praise for accomplishments?" Mamoru shakes his head. "I doubt they meant to crush him. Anyone who could bring children as lovely and kind as the three of you into the world can't have been cruel on purpose. But-- but he has every reason to run from that."
Saburo Yukimura 2018-08-29 02:55:32 96390
The soft sense of apology - it makes it worse, because it makes it real, because you don't feel sorry if you don't think something is true, is real, and he does. He thinks that their mom and dad are the reason Takumi doesn't want to come home. He thinks that their mom and dad hurt him so bad he'd rather run away and never come back.

It doesn't make any sense - because their lives are full of good moments, of being sad but having mom right there, of being happy and seeing dad smile. But it's true, isn't it, that self-guided study is hard, because you do it all alone, and fuzzy memories of childhood are full of being read to from history books, of the soft repeitition of numbers and problem sets as Takumi studied, and not a single one of their parents being pleased by his progress, being pleased that he'd been able to go back to school when they did without problems.

Just as Mamoru could not see his own face in his memories, they couldn't see their own blindspots in theirs.

The explaination that follows makes sense, but doesn't take any of it away - because those other lives, with that other version of their brother, it only makes it sadder. Parents are supposed to make you feel better, not worse. Even if the bad stuff, the things you're struggling with, are from old lives, from magic lives, parents should still make it better. Like their parents made everything better for them.

"They made him feel bad, like he made me feel bad," Hana says softly, and it isn't a question. "That's not fair. Takumi-nii was - is - the best big brother, the best ever."
Mamoru Chiba 2018-08-29 03:45:41 96402
"He would be," Mamoru says softly, smiling; his eyes are still closed, but the smile's in his voice and in his feelings; he squeezes their small hands in his larger ones. "Sometimes I think he's the best of us all. But fear and trauma make even the best of us do things we regret once we come back to ourselves."

He lets out a small and soft sigh, leaning on the focus and presence of his most constant source of calm and quiet, and then he says in an even lower voice, "So-- I need to fix what happened between myself and him, but I don't think I can do that until I figure out a way to keep them away from him without letting them keep you away from him. I'm afraid that means he most likely won't be going to your house for his birthday, but I might be able to figure something out where you two can celebrate it with us. I'm just running out of time."

He finally opens his eyes, and there are flecks of gold in them as he watches their faces from behind his glasses. "Do remember that he has people who support and encourage and praise him for his efforts and successes now. There can't be any hint of taking that away from him, and he can't be let to think that we would let your parents have any further, new influence on him or his decisions or his life. I don't want him to think in any way that he has to run from us."
Kazuo Takeba 2018-08-29 04:20:45 96404
Opening eyes means --

Opening eyes means that, for all that Mamoru said nobody could sneak up on them, there are four people at that table.

And yet, at the same time, that's not entirely a surprise. The girls have been in close contact with Mamoru, and Mamoru wasn't paying attention to it, but he knew. He knew when that same too-tall, white-haired figure came close, knew when he ghosted silently nearer, knew when he seated himself without disturbing them. Like their brother: presence and a locational, a point of reference and a part of him. Not to be paid any more attention to in a moment like this than Hana or Nana pay overt attention to where exactly their hands are when they're walking; but still, it's not a surprise that their hands are there.

Kazuo's been keeping a quiet watch while they were distracted, while they were enveloped in a conversation taking place on multiple levels at once. Been letting Mamoru pay more of his attention to them.
Saburo Yukimura 2018-08-29 04:24:59 96405
Of course he's the best of them, both twins think independently, in sync as ever. The statement rings with truth in their minds, never mind that they have no idea how many 'us all' could be, that they'v met only two of the people their brother lives with and loves now. In any crowd, in any situation, they would think him best, and challenge anyone who thought otherwise. There's sadness in that thought - because they aren't sure he would do the same for them now, because they aren't sure if he'll ever come home at all, or if he'll ever want them to come to his home, because home is different now. Home for them had been their house, where they have lived their whole lives, where they grew up with and without him, where they were safe, to be sad, to be happy, to be loved. But that isn't home for him, and not just because he lives somewhere else. Home for him has been a place where he was hurt, and sad, and gave shelter but didn't receive it. Their home isn't his home. It won't ever be his home. It might not have ever been his home.

But that's a private hurt, one that doesn't have to belong here. They don't hide it from Mamoru - they don't have the skill to do that - but they don't focus attention on the feeling either, trying to ignore it in favor of the problem he's suggesting.

"He'll be an adult after this birthday, so mom and dad won't be able to make him see them, not if he doesn't want to," Nana suggests after a moment of silent contemplation. "And - it wouldn't be a good idea to bring him home around his birthday, anyway. It's - it would be weird, for him."

"It would be weird for us too," Hana says a little more frankly. She opens her eyes, glancing up at Mamoru's gold-flecked blue gaze, then to the table, ready to say something - and then yelps, which makes Nana open her eyes, which makes her yelp, because there's a new person at the table. Recognizable, to Hana, and almost-familiar to Nana, who saw a different-but-same version of that face through Mamoru just minutes before. but still very much there when he had not been when they closed their eyes. Another thought had been on the tip of Hana's tongue, something about running and brothers and hurts, but it's gone now. "Takeba-san, when did you get here?"
Mamoru Chiba 2018-08-29 04:47:56 96406
"He's been here a while," says Mamoru with a lopsided smile. "Not the whole time, but a while. I did say he'd probably show up..."

That private hurt isn't called attention to by the college boy, either, but he does give a reassurance, a background trust and confidence, that they are still part of what home is to him. That he knows Takumi has been incomplete. And in the end, home isn't a place, it's the people that can fill your heart.

"I'm going to let go now," he says a second later, businesslike but not unkind: just a statement of fact. "You won't be able to feel each other the way you can at this moment, that's not something I can give you to keep, and I'm sorry. But you know what's there now, right? And we can work on fixing this."
Kazuo Takeba 2018-08-29 04:54:29 96407
"Not long ago," Kazuo answers. Which might, perhaps, only underscore the difference: to someone who's had the added layers of the contact, it's been a while. To someone privy only to the small fragments of the conversation that actually happened out loud, it ... hasn't. "My apologies for startling you."

Because startling them was ever a thing that wasn't going to happen.
Saburo Yukimura 2018-08-29 05:04:29 96408
The twins decide to assume the truth is somewhere in the middle - a while ago, but not too long a while, because otherwise trying to figure out which one of the two has the right idea of things could take a while. Nana thinks it could have been a lot worse - their bikes could have been stolen. Hana thinks that perhaps Kazuo should have a bell, because this is the second time he's seemed to just appear, and it's only the second time she's met hm.

"It's okay?" Both twins say, uncertain only in that they aren't sure if this is a situation that needs an 'it's okay', not because they don't mean the words.

"Okay," and this time the words are stronger, though they're addressing Mamoru now rather than Kazuo. "You don't have to apologize - this was like - a new surprise. A good one! But not a permanent one." In other words - though this connection has been nice, this knowledge that their closeness really is soul deep, it isn't anything they'll lose when his power goes back to him. It will change, not vanish.
Mamoru Chiba 2018-08-29 05:23:40 96409
"Okay, good," says Mamoru, and he lets go their hands and sits back-- and when he lets go their hands, the sense of golden warmth, of being connected to the planet, of knowing that this Earth is home and will always be home, a place that's ancient and always new-- that feeling goes away as well, but it's all right. Again, the knowledge they got from it will stay.

And then Mamoru leans over and punches Kazuo lightly in the arm. "Jerk," he says affectionately. "I didn't get you takoyaki because I didn't know when or if you'd get here, and it's gross when it's cold. Even the veggie ones."

He clasps his hands back on the table in front of them and looks at the girls really seriously. "I'm probably going to have to end up talking to your parents. I'd like to avoid them getting access to him, but the thing we need to worry about is that if they find out he's alive and won't talk to them, or that he's mixed up with us, they might be very strict about keeping you away from him. I mean, I could also spin it that he's much too busy doing important things that they never would have dreamt he could do to come see them, but since he's right here in the city, that doesn't hold a lot of water. I probably shouldn't talk to them at all until J-- Takumi is a little more settled, but there's the balancing act -- how to get him to the point where he's willing to acknowledge he is who he is, how to keep them away from him, and how to get you close to him. I'll figure it out, but input would be incredibly helpful."

There's a pause and he wrinkles his nose. "They don't believe in magic and reincarnation, do they? I mean they might, but..."
Kazuo Takeba 2018-08-29 05:32:48 96410
Kazuo accepts the punch and the title with equanimity. Mamoru's talking about talking to their parents he accepts with ... a little more of a tired expression, but he doesn't glance back to Mamoru to make any challenge; he studies the girls instead. Less their overt reactions than trying to catch any points at which they might give quick flickers of glances at each other. Seeing where, if anywhere, they feel the need to check in.

"There's a kind of triage involved, also," he says quietly. "You two and Takumi need to be our priorities right now. That doesn't leave a great deal of time to take care of anyone else's reactions. Neither can we answer the questions your parents would ask until Takumi's in a better state to explain what he actually needs and wants." He pauses for a moment, then adds, "My apologies, again, if I'm saying things the three of you have already gone over."
Saburo Yukimura 2018-08-29 05:51:29 96411
The sensations go away - the sensation of a closeness so complete that they were nearly the same person, the awareness of the earth as home beneath their feet, the warmth that had made a windy day feel as comfortable as sunshine on a clear blue day - but the memory doesn't go with them, and they glance at each other, sharing a smile even as they settle more firmly into their own skins.

That smile fades as they consider the thought of Mamoru... talking to their parents. Talking to their parents like this, and being in their heads, and talking about magic, and they can't imagine it going well. Hana glances at Nana, sees Nana glancing back, and says, "If you come asking, they're going to want to know why. Unless you're the kind of psychic who could make them forget, they'd probably want to, look into why you were asking them questions."

"They're busy," Nana adds on, "So they wouldn't just want to meet up with you out of nowhere or something. You'd have to tell them something and well, I don't think they'd let you in the house if you talked about magic. Sorry." She looks at Kazuo, considering his perspective, and nods. "Mom and Dad aren't going anywhere, and the more time you have to help Takumi-nii feel less - bad - then the better. He's hurting, and I don't think talking to mom and dad first will change that."
Mamoru Chiba 2018-08-29 06:04:46 96412
Mamoru shakes his head. "I don't make people forget anything. If they forget about magic, it's because they have too much difficulty believing in it. I'd never take memories away unless someone thought I could and asked me to, and then I would try. For them." He's so very firm about this, he's -- it's not fervent, it's just out of the question. "I don't especially want to talk to them-- I'm sorry, I know you love them-- I'm only worrying about what if they see him like you did, Hana-san? But they haven't in three years, and he can get away if he has to..."

Then he laughs, apparently incongruously. "Only asking if they believed in it because if I had to talk to them, it'd make it easier. But as Kazuo said, the focus is on you two and your brother." Then he nods, abrupt and determined; he's agreeing. "Right. So, plan, then, is you won't tell them about him, and I'll try to get him to let me in again so I can show him. Plan b on that one is-- stop pressing him at all until he's a little more settled, and keep in as constant as possible touch with the two of you, and then figure out how to reapproach the subject. Or let the other guys work on him a while."

He reaches up to knuckle at his eyes under his glasses, taking a deep breath and then letting it out. "The other part of this is going to be-- you might notice more magical things after this. You might see more things. More things might notice you. Probably not, but they might. So I need both of you to have us on speed-dial. Ku-- Kazuo could you text Hana my number? Hana-san, can you text them both to Nana?" A beat. "And if anything tries to get you to notice it, ignooooore. And if anything tries to get you to make a deal, super double-plus ignore or just say 'no' no matter what it offers."
Kazuo Takeba 2018-08-29 06:15:23 96413
Kazuo draws out his phone, and a moment later Hana has a text coming in. "Most likely you will never need to know this," he says quietly. "But just in case: if something happens, and you're frightened, or you need help -- if you can reach out to either of us, do it. It doesn't matter when, or whether you're worried about disturbing us; just do it. Tell us where you are before you say anything else. We can get someone there."

He pauses for a moment, then adds, "If you just want to ask questions -- reach out to us anyhow. We might not be able to answer them, but you should have the ability to ask."
Saburo Yukimura 2018-08-29 06:27:10 96414
Hana takes out her own phone, and Nana after her, so that as Hana texts over the numbers, she's labeling the contacts, adding an alarm emoji that's moe to make the danger feel less - scary - than out of fear that she could forget what the names she's adding to her phone mean. As she does that, she looks back up at the two men, lips pursed in a frown. "How do you think you'll get him to let you in?"

Tears hadn't worked, and the ice wall in Mamoru's mind showed that avoidance was what her brother prefered. "You can't ground him, can you?"

Grounding - the last top punishment, that which broke the cold wars of huffy fights and first-to-the-bathroom showers. It always worked for the two of them, because it was better to be united against punishment than fighting with each other."

As she voices this point, Hana nods at Kazuo's quiet reassurance. "We will. If we see anything weird or strange or scary, we'll call or text right away. Not the police?" She's pretty sure she knows the answer, but it never hurts to be sure.
Mamoru Chiba 2018-08-29 06:37:44 96416
At the talk of grounding, Mamoru actually puts his hand over his mouth, eyes twinkling merrily. He lets it drop and he's grinning. "Out of everyone in our apartment, I'm literally the only one who's been grounded. I'm the aggravating loose cannon." Then he closes his chromebook and sighs a little. "I'm not sure yet. Stop pressuring is the surest way, but it'll have to be that and something that won't chase him off before he can see I'm not pressuring, and bringing it up is pressure and I'll have to do that eventually anyway. I-- the most important thing I need to do is get him to understand *I'm* not disappointed in him. Maybe I'll write dumb letters in hot pink ink and stick them under his door. I'll manage it somehow. I mean. He lives there. He can't avoid me forever."
Kazuo Takeba 2018-08-29 06:46:00 96417
"Ye-e-es." Kazuo draws the word out syllables longer than it needs to be. "Embarrassing yourself until your target capitulates out of sheer horrified pity is always a winning maneuver." He is not looking at Mamoru. He is also not preemptively trying to avoid any further punches to the arm.

More seriously, he regards Hana at her question, looks to Nana to check for the existence of any additional questions that might have been postponed to wait for that one's answer, and looks back to Hana. "If it's something you'd normally call the police for, call the police. If it's something you don't think the police would take seriously, whether it's because it's strange or because you can't put into words why you're worried or any other reason, call us."