Other Fan Fiction ❯ Past Wounds ❯ Chapter 1
Disclaimer: Don't own Love Mode. Adore the characters however.
Title: Past Wounds
Spoilers: Mostly volume 8
Summary: AU. Same universe as Phantom Pains. Of what could have been if Tien Shue had never become Haruomi in the Aoe house.
A/N: Many thanks to dew_chan for the excellent beta and wonderful commentary.
Reji felt ill at ease. All day long he had been having trouble with his concentration, his mind slipping away to darker depths at the most inopportune times, and now he couldn't focus on the documents splayed out on his desk resentfully. There were better things to think about; why rehash the past? Why go back to those painful - sometimes excruciating - memories, where their lives were not their own, and they were under the rule of a cruel, vicious man. Never father, Reji thought with hot anger. No father, but an owner who controlled the fate of his children's lives, and used it for his own ends, his own means. He had been an owner who liked seeing visible evidence on his possessions, marking Kiichi with bruises and broken bones, and when Reji had intervened, marking Reji himself with his own set of lighter bruises.
What seared his soul the most was the utter helplessness Reji had felt. He hadn't been able to protect Kiichi, had been brushed aside, ineffectual as dead leaves during winter, and in the end, Shougo had made sure he knew the extent of his weaknesses. Not strong enough, not big enough, not good enough of a fighter despite being taller than Kiichi already and having been trained in martial arts on the advent of walking. That was when he had first felt the tightness of red-hot hatred, of dark wishes and the tenseness of being unable to react. To grab hold of that arrogant head and rip it off with ruthless satisfaction and cold triumph; to make that bastard bleed, cutting through skin and flesh; to break apart bone along the arm, the collar, the leg. As he had done to Kiichi. To pay him back for a thousand and more acts of physical and emotional abuse on them. Sometimes he wondered if he should have cared more for the hundreds of others Shougo tortured; then he thought it didn't matter because it had always been Kiichi and him, and him and Kiichi, and anyone else could wait until later.
Reji slowly unclenched his fist, letting the crumbled sheet fall. His concentration had slipped again. Reji leaned back into his chair and closed dull eyes, thinking, he didn't need this, not now, not when he was gone and they were in control, not when they were together, always together, impossible to tear apart. Not when Kiichi was safe.
And Kiichi was safe. Reji knew this with absolute certainty in his mind, but his heart was a different matter. Shougo was gone, and with him the others that had been present throughout his life. Not by his hands, he regretted; a plane crash had taken that chance away when Shougo had been travelling to a business meeting, which Reji thought was a better death than Shougo had deserved. He knew Kiichi had felt the same as well. He always knew. That night, Kiichi had taken his cigarette from his lips and slipped it between his, inhaling for several seconds before puffing out a smooth ribbon of curling smoke. He had stayed out in their porch, watching the night sky with a carefully blanked expression on his face. Reji had joined him a while later, Kiichi's winter coat in hand, and they had ended up sharing cigarette after cigarette until Reji had been too tired to keep his eyes open, drifting off under the caress of Kiichi's smooth hand through his hair and along his cheek.
The next morning Reji had woken to find himself under a large blanket, the space next to him cold and empty. He had wandered into the house, covering himself with the blanket, his mouth opening to call for his brother when he'd found himself being waved over by Kiichi, who had said, "I don't think we need a funeral for them, but preparations will have to be made."
Reji had just nodded, the blanket barely holding off the cold chill of morning. Kiichi had then smiled that soft, secret smile and handed him a cup of coffee.
From there on, it was like that, just the two of them and cheerful Kashima. He thought it wasn't a bad life.
Reji opened his eyes now, staring straight ahead and letting in emotions he suppressed most of the time. Guilt, fear, doubt, uncertainty thudded in rhythm to his heartbeat, pounded in his veins with a high speed, high pressure rush. The strongest emotion by far was guilt. It wasn't surprising considering the fact that guilt had been there from the first time the man they called their father had broken Kiichi's arm to the last time he'd seen Shougo's face in the mirror during the morning. He thought of his own hesitation, Shougo's ultimatum, and Kiichi's still body on white sheets, tubes sticking out from skin and blood and bruises marring smooth planes. He thought of Kiichi, who was never still, lying there motionless, helpless. Vulnerable. Kiichi hadn't woken up for two days. During those two days, Reji hadn't spoken. Shougo never visited.
Then one day, Reji had woken to a gentle tug on his hand, his eyes opening in shock to the small movement of the hand curled within his own. He'd sat straight up, holding Kiichi's hand gently before looking into his face. Reji smiled in relief, and then said simply, "Kiichi."
They remained like that until Kashima's father had arrived, speaking on behalf of Shougo. Reji had told Kiichi that having to fix Kiichi's long hair was a pain and that he liked it better short, and Kiichi, holding Reji's tightly had smiled.
Reji rubbed his temple wearily and lit a cigarette. He had hated what happened next, if simply because watching Kiichi struggle to gain back his strength and equilibrium had hurt Reji far too much and far too often. For as long as Reji could remember, Kiichi had always been strong. Reji had admired the way Kiichi kept his composure during confrontations with Shougo, wondered why he himself was so awkward, so easily manipulated into anger. That time, he'd had to watch Kiichi lose his calm. He'd vowed Kiichi would never have to struggle for equilibrium again. He'd vowed he would not hesitate the next time, or the time after that. He had vowed there would be no next time.
The healing had come gradually, Reji remembered. At first, Kiichi had suffered no one's touch save Reji's, and at the time, though he loathed admitting it, Reji had been glad. Then slowly, Kiichi had worked his way to shaking hands without tensing, to even smiling sincerely in greeting. And then, finally to being openly affectionate in tone and voice. This had all accumulated to the final healing. One Reji could remember protesting fiercely at, until Kiichi had made it clear he didn't want anyone to touch him other Reji, and if Reji didn't touch him, he wouldn't heal.
Reji couldn't help but shiver. Dark hair, smooth skin, the touch of Kiichi's lips and mouth, the press his lips against Kiichi's skin, Kiichi's scent - they were things he would never forget. Nor could he forget the look on Kiichi's face, the determination to get through, the will to let go, the need to obliterate past violations and past wounds. Reji could do everything but. In the end though, when Reji had moaned into Kiichi's mouth and Kiichi had tightened his hand in Reji's hair, pressing them close, Reji couldn't regret anything. He couldn't forget any of it either and it wasn't until several days had passed and he didn't want any of his usual women that Reji had realised he just wanted to stay home listening to the scratches and crackle of pen and paper and a low mutter whenever Kiichi found studying to be particularly annoying. A week passed before Reji woke in the middle of the night to a weight straddling him and a teasing kiss.
The doors opened, jolting Reji out of his thoughts.
"Still up so late, Reji?" Kiichi walked up to his desk, leaning against the edge with casual ease.
"Yeah," Reji said, shuffling papers and documents into piles, and then into his briefcase. Kiichi leaned over and took the cigarette from his lips, lightly puffing on it as he waited for Reji to finish.
He cleared his mind just like he cleared his desk, and stood up, walking side by side with Kiichi as they left his office. It wasn't until they were at home and Kiichi had put out his cigarette and they were curled under silk sheets, sweat cooling on sticky skin, that Reji realised Shougo had died years ago on the exact day. He held the sleeping form in his arms tighter.