Author: Kristen Sharpe
Date: April 7, 2012 Completed: April 17, 2014
Disclaimer: "Ao no Exorcist/Blue Exorcist" belongs to Kazue Katou, Shueisha, A-1 Pictures, Aniplex, and various other parties.
Author's Note: This takes place early in the storyline, probably just a few weeks after Rin and Yukio started school in the spring. Many thanks to SageSK for all her help along the (long, long) way.
It started with tofu on Wednesday. Not that tofu was unusual in his bento. Rin loved meat, but money was tight with only Yukio's modest salary and the limited living expenses Rin received at Sir Pheles' whims. And, growing up with an equally tight budget had taught Rin how to be frugal. So, Yukio ate his lunch and thought nothing of it.
But, when the third Wednesday came, marking the second solid week of vegetarian bento, Yukio knew something was wrong. He had given Rin money for groceries, more than enough to include some modest meat dishes. And, Rin didn't pass up meat. Ever. Given an unlimited budget, Yukio suspected Rin would eat almost nothing but meat.
Which was a little worrying, but he comforted himself with the reminder that Sir Pheles seemed to exist solely on sweets and cheap noodles. So, Rin's carnivorous tendencies probably weren't a demon trait. Probably. Hopefully.
If Rin was avoiding meat, it wasn't out of dislike or a lack of money. And, Yukio was certain he wasn't the only receiving meat-less meals. For all his flaws, Rin wasn't selfish. He wouldn't keep it all to himself.
It was time to talk to Rin. The fact that it took him so long to consider the idea, however, highlighted why he hadn't.
He and Rin did not talk. They were roommates. Good morning and Yes, you can use my spare pencil and Keep your garbage on your side. They were teacher and student. Have you finished your assignments? and Please stop sleeping in class and Are you taking any of this seriously?
They were two strangers brought together by school and interacting only as little as possible. And, they had been that way since the school year began. Since their father died.
Gathering his things to return to class, Yukio felt something inside clench with that thought.
"It shouldn't be this way."
But, it was, and the gap had been growing for years, even before their father's death. There was no point in worrying over it now. Or over Rin's sudden, strange food choices. There was probably a bizarre "only Rin" explanation behind it all, and he would be suffering the headache it brought soon enough.
So, Yukio set the matter aside and focused his attention on class as the teacher finished announcements and began the lesson proper. Tonight, he would ask Rin, and the bento question would be settled.
That evening, Yukio tracked Rin down in the kitchen that his brother had claimed for his own. Like the rest of their "private" – abandoned - dormitory, the kitchen was showing its age. But, under Rin's care, every bit of worn tile and stainless steel had been scrubbed into a dull luster. Strange for someone who could barely be bothered to hang up his clean uniforms, but cooking was the one thing Rin took seriously.
Which made the meat-less bento even stranger. Was Rin experimenting with some healthy diet plan? Or had he spent half the grocery budget buying food for stray cats?
Intent on getting answers, Yukio slipped into the kitchen where he found his brother humming off-key as he settled a saucepan on the stove.
"Good evening," said Yukio by way of greeting. Mentally, he steeled himself for the coming argument.
Rin half-turned from his position at the stove. "Hey, you're actually here in time for dinner."
"I didn't have a mission tonight," Yukio said, eyes wandering over the ingredients Rin had placed neatly beside his workspace. "So... what's for dinner?"
Given the suspiciously square objects set to one side under a plate for draining, he suspected he already knew the answer.
"Fried tofu," Rin answered immediately. "Anything special you want with it?"
Tofu. He had been right.
"Given how long it's been, I'm surprised it isn't sukiyaki," Yukio ventured.
Rin laughed as he began chopping up an onion. "We've got a few days to go for that."
Sighing, Yukio decided it was time to address the matter head on. "Brother, for two weeks you've cooked nothing but vegetables, tofu, or fish. I know I gave you enough money to buy meat. What is going on?"
Rin looked up to give his brother an unreadable look. Then, he reached out and flicked Yukio lightly in the forehead. "And, here I thought you were smart."
Yukio scowled and adjusted his glasses. "What are you talking about?"
"It's Lent, you know," Rin answered in a tone that implied it was the most obvious thing in the world.
It was not.
Lent was a Catholic tradition, but Rin hadn't even attended regular Mass at the monastery since he was fourteen, arguing that he always fell asleep during the service anyway. His idea of a religious observance was observing Sunday as a day of rest by sleeping until noon. And, if not for school, he would have similarly "observed" Monday through Saturday.
That in mind, Yukio stared blankly at his brother before finally managing a single, "What?"
Rin avoided his gaze and instead carefully cleaned onion from his knife. "It's Lent," he repeated. "I know I never cared much before... and it's probably silly now, especially starting in the middle and all, but... I just thought..." He let the words trail away.
Yukio was still working his mind around what he was hearing. "You... gave up meat for Lent?"
It was common enough among practicing Catholics. The clergymen at the monastery had given up something during the Lenten season that preceded Easter every year. (Excluding Father Fujimoto, who insisted that giving up smoking was enough sacrifice for a lifetime.) Yukio and Rin had even joined in when they were younger. Although, Rin's resolve to give up sweets had lasted only a day and a half.
Of course, again, Rin was not what one would call a practicing Catholic.
"Yeah," said Rin. "I couldn't think of anything else."
"Brother, since when do you observe Lent?"
"Since now?" Rin sheepishly rubbed the back of his neck. "Like I said, I thought I'd give it a try." He was still avoiding Yukio's eyes. "It just kinda... Well, everything's so different here... now... and..."
Words were still eluding Yukio. "Give it a try. Why?"
Rin fumbled for a radish and began peeling it. "Well, it reminds me of back home, I guess."
Home. The monastery. Yukio wouldn't have believed Rin was the type to be nostalgic, much less homesick. Rin seemed to live in the moment with no regrets from the past and less than no thought for the future.
And, yet… Memories of their argument in the exorcist classroom not quite a month ago flashed across his mind. An argument born out of grief and pain in the wake of their father's death. An argument that had shown him his own grief and pain echoed in Rin's eyes.
No, he couldn't say that Rin didn't have regrets.
"Anyways," Rin went on, "there's some meat in the freezer if you want me to fix you something else."
"Er... No." Yukio shook his head. "No, it's alright."
Rin finally looked at him, searching.
"I had forgotten it was time for Lent," said Yukio.
"Yeah," Rin began grating the radish, "I only remembered because of some sign that was up around school."
Yukio nodded an absentminded agreement. "Thank you, Brother."
Rin looked at him in surprise. "Thank me?"
"For reminding me."
"Oh. Sure." Visibly unsure how to react, Rin busied himself getting a few more things from the refrigerator.
A long minute passed in silence before Yukio spoke again.
"Do you need any help?"
Rin looked at him blankly. "Uh... You could get the rice."
Yukio moved to do so, speaking as he went. "There should be an Easter service in the school chapel this Sunday," he said. "I know it won't be like Father's services, but would you like to attend?"
Rin's smile split his face. "Yeah. Yeah, I'd like that."
Additional Notes: I'm assuming that True Cross Academy, as the exorcists' base and, well, given the name, is at least technically a Catholic school even if the majority of the student body isn't Catholic.