Please Save My Earth Fan Fiction ❯ Conference ❯ Conference ( One-Shot )
Warnings: contains mention of suicide.
Kazuto Tamura shrugged his jacket off his shoulders, tossed it in the general direction of his closet and flopped down onto the bed. Groaning, he stretched a little, trying to get the kinks out of his shoulder muscles. The move back from Kyoto had taken far longer than it should have: first their train had been delayed, then it had broken down in the middle of the journey, forcing them to walk two miles with their luggage to the next stop, where their replacement train was delayed again, turning what was supposed to be a one-hour journey into a grueling six-hour trek. Takashi had complained about his back hurting about midway through, and so Tamura had taken on half of his luggage in addition to his own. He hadn't minded; Takashi wasn't used to carrying such heavy loads.
While Tamura might not have minded, however, his muscles had, and they were letting him know with a vengeance now.
He smiled despite the pain. For all that Takashi was rude, for all that Takashi was spoiled, for all that Takashi was far too demanding, Takashi still needed him. Needed him, Kazuto Tamura. He allowed himself a moment of pride. This time, he was fulfilling his obligations.
His eyelids started to fall shut, and he frowned at them. It wouldn't do to fall asleep now, not when there was a party he had to attend! A group of old friends was celebrating his return from Kyoto. It would be rude enough to miss any gathering with them, but his own welcome-home party? Inexcusable. He'd missed them as well; a few had made the trip from Tokyo to Kyoto to visit, but he'd never had time to hang out properly.
He inched his way to a sitting position, muscles launching full-scale riots in protest. Pausing for a moment, he decided he needed a hot, hot shower before he left. And not only for his muscles; a quick whiff of the air around him told him he needed a change of clothes as well.
He bit the bullet and stood in one swift movement, groaning. Then he made his way over to his dresser, which was small and underused, as he mostly wore suits. Not tonight, though. Tonight he was off-duty. Takashi was having a formal dinner with his parents and grandparents, and Mr. Matsudaira had given Tamura the night off, after promising to call if anything happened, as unlikely as that was. He pulled a button-up shirt, pullover, and pair of slacks from his dresser and was about to head into the small bathroom-and-shower combination attached to his room when he heard wheezing.
Startled, he whirled around. He hadn't heard the door--
Haru was leaning against the wall, gasping and clutching at his chest. Rushing over to him, he placed his hands on Haru's shoulders and spoke, quickly and quietly.
"Haru, are you all right? How far did you teleport?"
Haru shook his head and tried to speak, but a whimper was all that came out. His eyes were shut tight, his breath hitched; he was leaning against Tamura as if he were about to collapse. Tamura helped Haru to a kneeling position.
"Breathe, Haru. I know it hurts, but you have to breathe."
Finally, Haru managed one deep breath, then another. Tamura slumped and dropped his head, the rush of adrenaline he'd had suddenly deserting him. Haru smiled wanly, then took another breath.
"Just--just from home. Not too far."
"Yes, too far. You know it's not healthy."
"I know. I just couldn't wait to see you. I stopped by earlier today, and they said your train was having problems, and--I just really wanted to see you, and I go back to the hospital again tomorrow."
Once Tamura felt capable of standing again, he got to his feet and pulled Haru gently after him. He tried to throw his clothes onto the bed, but found that he had dropped them sometime in his rush to reach Haru. Sighing in exasperation, he picked them up off the floor.
"I see your point. But maybe you could have called me and I would have visited, hmm?"
"I guess. But it's not the same."
Tamura deposited the clothing on the bed and sat down there, motioning Haru to the chair that was one of two other pieces of furniture in the room. He could understand Haru's feelings--with his own father gone most of the time, Haru saw Tamura as a surrogate, and maybe, in some ways, he was. But to risk his life just to see him?
"Haru, promise me you won't do that again. It's dangerous, too dangerous for something this minor."
He didn't complete his thought: 'I don't want anyone else to die because of me.'
"…all right. I won't use my powers unless there's an emergency."
Tamura would have preferred that Haru never use his powers again, but decided not to press his luck.
There was a moment of silence as he gathered himself again. He cast around for something to say that might break the sense of urgency that still lingered, but as he was opening his mouth Haru spoke.
"How was the trip? I heard the train broke down."
Tamura closed his mouth and took a second to settle himself into the flow of the conversation.
"Awful. And it did. We had to walk to the next station."
Haru whistled in sympathy.
"That doesn't sound like fun."
"It wasn't. But enough of that. How have you been? I haven't heard from you in a while."
"All right, I guess. Shion got out of the hospital."
"Really? Has he been bothering you again?"
Tamura was glad, on both accounts. As much as he liked children, he had no desire to fight with this one again and get another three ribs broken.
"He's been clinging to Mokuran a lot lately. At least, that's what Enju--sorry, Issei--says."
"So you've been keeping in contact with him?"
"Yeah, a little bit. I asked him to keep an eye on Shion for me, tell me how he was doing. I was worried."
"Why the sudden concern? Isn't he trying to kill you?"
Haru paused, gathering his thoughts, and Tamura let him. He thought he knew what Haru was about to say, but Haru had to say it himself, without any prompting.
"When Shion and I were fighting... I looked at him and I thought to myself, 'This isn't right.' And then… I don't know how to explain it. I backed down. My hatred, my anger… it died. For the first time in a long time, I saw him as a person. Someone who was hurting very badly, more badly than I am or ever did. And I couldn't be angry any more. I…"
Haru shook his head.
"I want to save him, Mr. Tamura."
Tamura closed his eyes and smiled as Haru continued. He'd been right.
"I want to help him. I want him to be happy. I want to see him smile at me. He only ever smiled--really smiled--at Mokuran, and only then when he thought no one could see him."
Haru took one deep breath, then another.
"I'll... I'll give up Mokuran. I love her, but he needs her, and I can't hurt him like that, not anymore."
When Haru fell silent, Tamura found he couldn't speak.
"…Mr. Tamura? Is something wrong?"
Tamura swallowed, blinking hard.
"I'm… just so proud of you."
Haru breathed in sharply.
"I mean it, Haru. Anyone can fight. Anyone can hate someone else, hurt them. It's not hard to do that. What's hard is not fighting."
Haru was staring at him, and he knew he had to say more. He racked through almost thirty years of life for the right words.
"Forgiveness, Haru. When you forgive someone… it's acceptance. Of why you're fighting. It makes you accountable. But at the same time, it frees you, because you're not fighting yourself anymore."
He was aware that he wasn't making much sense, but hoped that Haru would understand. It had been a long day.
"…when my brother killed himself, I was angry at him. Furious, even, because he had blamed me. Even though he never said it, I could tell."
He paused and took a deep breath. Ayako was the one he had first talked this though with, the only one so far, and he needed a moment to recover himself.
"I didn't want to accept the responsibility for his death. I couldn't. So I was angry. I fought him, even though he was dead. Being angry helped me not to think about why he died. And when I realized--when I finally understood--that he was dead because I'd ignored him, I couldn't bear it. I wanted to kill myself too, but I was too much of a coward. So I'd walk across the subway tracks and wonder what would happen if I were hit by a train. I hoped for it."
His throat was tightening up again, and he coughed, then looked back up at Haru. His young friend was watching him with too much sympathy in his eyes, and Tamura realized with a shock that he really did understand. He was too young to understand, and yet he did. Shukaido shining through, maybe?
A thought struck him: what if Shukaido had wished this disease of Haru's on himself as some sort of penitence? What if Haru was going to suffer all of his life for a crime he barely remembered? What if--
He took a breath.
"I couldn't do anything. I'd go through my day not thinking about anything but how guilty I was, how much I deserved to die. But the thing was that all the beating myself up I did didn't make me feel better. All it did was keep me from doing anything useful. I thought that if I hurt myself enough I wouldn't have to pay. I wouldn't have to accept my actions."
Damn it, he was rambling again. Hopefully Haru would somehow figure out what he was getting at. He needed coffee. Strong black coffee. Then maybe he'd make some sense.
"It got so bad that I went to Mr. Matsudaira and told him I couldn't work anymore as Takashi's guardian. Then he hit me, and told me, basically, 'Get it together! People don't have the right to be useless, guilty ones even less so. You didn't help him, so help everyone else!' So I went off for a month and thought about it, and decided it was the best advice I'd ever gotten."
"And since then you've tried to help people?"
"Ever since then. And I'm doing it, Haru. I'm doing some good. I'm paying. For all the times I haven't been there, I'm paying. And I've never felt better in my life, even before my brother died."
Haru's eyes dropped to the floor as he processed this new information. Tamura pressed on.
"You see, I stopped fighting. I was finally able to tell myself, 'This is who you are.' Instead of trying to pretend my guilt wasn't a part of me, I accepted it, and now I can finally work on paying back the world."
The words ran out, and Tamura slumped forward, emotionally exhausted. He had gotten over his brother's death, but reliving that time was more intense than he could really deal with in his exhaustion.
"I… Mr. Tamura, I don't think a crime of Shukaido's magnitude can ever fully be paid for. He drove a man insane. How can I make up for that? I can try to help Shion now, but he'll never be the same as he was; even if he was, it doesn't change the fact that it happened."
"Nothing ever will."
"While you're beating yourself up over how guilty you are, nothing's getting done, right?"
Haru was silent.
"Right. So it's useless. You can't change what happened, it's in the past. But you can't just lie down in the middle of the road and not go anywhere. If you do that, you've lost."
"But what if you deserve to lose?"
"Are you really the best person to judge that?"
Haru had his eyes fixed on the threadbare carpet on Tamura's floor. Taking advantage of the lull in conversation, Tamura allowed his mind to unfocus, letting it rest from the long day he'd had and the hard thinking he was doing now.
"…was it hard?"
"What? Was what hard?
"…yes. The hardest thing I've done in my life."
Haru shivered and drew into himself, and Tamura leaned up again, scooting over closer to where he was sitting. The boy was silent for a long time.
"I don't think I can do it."
"I'm weak. I'm a coward."
"You forgave him, didn't you? All that hatred, and you just let it go. How much of you was based on hurting him?"
"And you let it go. That's not weak, Haru."
"I don't deserve it."
"Neither do I, but that doesn't mean I can't work to get myself to a point where I think I do."
Haru fell silent again, and Tamura stifled a yawn. He really did need coffee and a shower if he was going to make it to the party in one piece.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Tamura, are you tired? I shouldn't be bothering you, you had that trip today."
"Don't worry about it. Keep talking; if I can stay awake for a few more minutes I'll be fine."
The seconds ticked by. Haru smoothed his pant legs, then laughed, nervously.
"Except now I don't have anything to say."
Tamura raised his eyebrow.
"Yes, you do. Go on."
Haru dropped his eyes again, closed them, took a deep breath, and met Tamura's gaze.
Tamura reached out and placed his hand on Haru's shoulder, squeezing gently.
"You didn't need to ask."
Emotions flickered one after another through Haru's eyes, too quickly to decipher. Tamura held his gaze until a small smile appeared.
"…thank you, Mr. Tamura."
He squeezed Haru's shoulder again, then let go, gathering up his clothing and standing.
"If you really want to thank me, could you head down to the kitchen and make me a pot of coffee? I'll walk you to the train station once I'm halfway awake."
Haru's smile was wider now, and Tamura felt himself smiling back.
"Sure. It'll be ready when you get down."
Haru stood as well and walked out of the room, with a cheerfulness in his posture that hadn't been there for months. Tamura found his mood lifted as well. He was back home, he could see Ayako regularly again, Haru was going to be all right, and his friends were waiting for him in a little bar in downtown Tokyo. Life was good.