my family. I found it, all on my own. It's little and broken, but still good.
Yeah, still good."
Stitch, Lilo and Stitch
All the Fears You Hold So Dear…
If someone asked me to describe myself, I'd point that person to anybody I know. To my coworkers, I'm one of Japan's most respected attorneys. To my wife, I'm a loving husband and father. To my son…well, half the time, he seems to think I'm the world's biggest idiot. The other half, he thinks…I don't know what he thinks. I can see that there's some respect—at least, I think there is—but he's always so angry at everything that I can't ever tell.
Now, if that same person asked me to describe my family, that's a story to tell.
To start off, there's my wife, well, my second wife. Her name is Satomi. At first, she seemed to be everything a man would want in a wife: a good cook, an excellent mother, and a well-organized lady—not woman, lady. She has a sense of dignity and gentleness where she could only be described as a lady. But as time passed, I saw that she was also extremely determined, and nothing could ever discourage her—
Okay, almost nothing. There was still one thing that could.
That thing, or person rather, would be my son, Koji. He's…I'm not really sure what he is. Up till he was eight, he was all I had left from a shattered family. He was often quiet and thought a lot. Most of the things I assume he thought about were the differences he noticed between him and other kids. He was the only one in his school who didn't know his mother's name or face. He surprised me one day when he just asked me out of the blue what happened to her. All I could say was that she died.
And saying that was the biggest mistake I ever made. From then on, Koji became devoted to her memory, and when I got remarried, he was furious. Most eight-year-olds aren't very scary when they're angry, even when they're halfway toward being masters of the martial arts. But then again, most eight-year-olds aren't Koji either. Something inside of him died the day Satomi and I got married, and it never returned. Never again did he talk to me of his own free will, and he purposely avoided Satomi for the most part. He also didn't care if he got into trouble; one time, I caught him going through some of my old things. When I asked him what he was up to, he angrily tried to hide something from me. I found out quickly that it was a picture of his birth mother. I think I really surprised him when I said that he could keep it. For the first time, he had a new sense of respect for me, and I could see it. He was ten years old at the time.
That was the Koji I helped raise for about ten years: first insightful, then passively angry, and then… Then there was this new change I didn't expect. And it all started when I told him to go out and buy flowers.
It was Satomi and my third anniversary. Koji was less than happy about it. I wanted him to do something nice for her, to show that he could accept her into the family. He was completely normal when he went to the florist: depressed and angry. But when he returned… When he returned, he had the flowers in hand, and he apologized for being later than we expected. And he blushed when Satomi thanked him for them. I know he's not used to compliments, but he actually showed more emotion that day than I ever saw him do in ten years. For the first time, I felt like I had the two sons I'd seemingly lost so long ago.
You see, there's a reason I'm a little bit too protective of Koji. Once upon a time, long ago, I had two sons: Koichi and Koji. They were nearly ripped away from me once, and then I lost Koichi. Because of that, Koji's very important to me. I've made mistakes raising him, but I'm trying my hardest. But still, every night I find myself waking from the same nightmare. My ex-wife comes and takes him away, and Koji never looks back. It's a dream that is so realistic that I can't determine what is reality or fantasy anymore. All I can do is walk into my son's room and check to see if he's still there. That's the only reassurance I have after these dreams. But nightmares can never be erased. We can try to wake from them only to find that they exist still in our waking minds.
There was nothing special about that day other than what came later. The entire family got up at around the same time, ate breakfast, and left: I went to work and Koji and Satomi headed for school (Satomi's taking classes at the university in order to get a higher degree). There were no spectacular cases to work on at the office, so I was content with helping wrap up any remaining issues of a previous case. Koji and I were the only ones home that night because Satomi had a night class. Nothing separated that day from any other, until…
Koji walked downstairs and met me in the kitchen. I assumed he'd just finished his homework, but he was holding his cell phone in one hand. "Can I go out for a little bit, Dad?" he asked.
"Did you finish your homework?"
"Yeah. But I have to meet one of my friends at the park. It's something I promised a while ago that I'd do."
"Do you need a ride?"
"No, it's okay. I can get there on my own." He walked out the front door and left. I didn't think too much about it; after all, it was good that he had friends and that he was trying to keep his promises to them. I didn't want to ruin the friendships he'd finally made.
An hour passed, but I wasn't too worried. If Koji had lost track of the time, he would soon realize it and come home as fast as possible. He was responsible enough for me not to worry constantly if he wasn't home at a given time. But an hour passed into two, and he hadn't even called. I took my car and drove around town for half an hour, but I couldn't find him. I was driving back home when I saw him walking to the house, clutching his right arm while a—I feel guilty for saying this, but an overweight boy—led a bicycle next to him. I stopped right in the middle of the road and got out.
"Koji, what happened?" I questioned.
"I'm okay, I just fell," he answered. "J.P. found me and wanted to make sure I got home okay."
I turned to the other boy with sincere gratitude. "Thank you for helping my son."
"It's okay," he assured. "But he's pretty lucky I found him. The fall was harder than he says it was, and he couldn't even move for a little while after."
"Thank you still, though. Would you like to join us for dinner? It won't be a problem."
"Nah, I gotta get back home. Just wanted to make sure he didn't get hurt any worse. Anyway, Koji, I'll see you around."
"See ya," Koji replied.
"One more thing," J.P. remembered, handing me the bike. "Don't want you forgetting this." I stared in absolute confusion at the retreating boy before turning puzzled to my own son. There was one thought running through my head, and I was deeply ashamed of it:
Since when could Koji ride a bike?
I'd never taught him. I never had the chance to. I kept promising that I would, but then work would get in the way, or he'd have to go to another martial arts lesson, or we had to move. It wasn't until I married Satomi that we ever had the chance to teach him, but by then, he didn't want to learn. He'd made it clear that the last person on Earth he wanted to teach him to ride was Satomi.
Back at home, I had Koji take off his jacket so I could clean and bandage his arm. Right away, I could see what his friend meant about the fall being bad. His entire upper arm was a massive bruise with several bleeding cuts and scrapes. His elbow was badly scraped, but his forearm was relatively fine, minus a few scrapes. I wasn't sure if anything was broken, but if he had trouble moving it in the morning, I was going to take him to the hospital.
"Why did you take that bike?" I asked as I wrapped up his arm. "You know you can't ride."
"I needed to get there fast," he explained, wincing as the bandage tightened. "I was doing okay for a while before I got to the park."
"Did you find your friend?" If he did, I wanted to know why he didn't ask for a ride back home from the kid's parents. But Koji shook his head.
"I tried calling, but he didn't pick up. After a while, I gave up and started riding back home."
"How long did you wait?"
"About ten or fifteen minutes. It took a while to get there, and I had a little trouble with some things."
There was a fairly noticeable red tint to his face. "Steering, breaking, and balance." Just about everything involved with riding a bicycle. I couldn't keep myself from sighing.
"What happened next? How did you fall? And how long did you stay there before help arrived?" And most importantly, though I kept it to myself in case he answered it for me, why didn't he call me to pick him up?
"I lost control of the bike and crashed. I was still on the bike when I fell over, so my leg was stuck under the bike. It hurt too much for me to move, so I just stayed that way. My cell phone was in my right pocket, so I couldn't get it with my left hand or without hurting my right any more." I nodded; that was what I wanted to know. "I'm not sure how much longer it was before I saw J.P. walking past. He helped get the bike off me and walked me home."
I sighed again. Koji was very lucky he'd seen one of his friends before anything else could go wrong. I couldn't tell where he'd been when he fell, but it was obviously some place without a lot of people. I wasn't surprised at all that he was avoiding the crowds, but I was upset that he had. Someone could have helped him beforehand if he was riding near a busier street—not too much traffic, but enough people to notice him fall.
"Koji, I don't want you trying to ride that bike again."
"Dad," he reasoned, "you did that last time with the kendo lessons."
I went silent. He was right. I'd let him take kendo lessons when he was six. He sprained his left wrist when he was nine. It wouldn't have been so bad if he wasn't left-handed, but he couldn't write for weeks after. I made him drop out. The sensei was sorry to see him go; he was one of the best in the class. I could tell that this was something he still couldn't entirely forgive me for.
"All right then," I compromised. "I promise that I'll teach you how to ride so this doesn't happen again."
"As soon as my arm heals?" he checked. I'd made similar promises before that had yet to be carried out.
"As soon as you're better."
I took his phone and sent him off to his room to put his dirty clothes in the laundry basket. Frankly, I didn't want him talking to anyone right now. I wasn't sure how badly he was injured or if he'd hit his head as well. My questions were enough for him to answer at the moment.
I put our dinner in the oven and filled a plastic bag with ice for his arm. Those bruises worried me. Whether or not they concealed a fracture of any kind, I wanted the swelling to go down before Koji even tried to move his arm again. He would have to wait a while to learn to ride that bike.
I didn't know then that this whole event was about to change my life forever. It wasn't until after dinner that I found the never-ending spiral my world was falling into.
Koji's cell phone rang just as we were finishing up. I walked over and answered it before he could.
"Koji can't talk right now. He'll call you when he can," I informed. Whoever had called gasped and became silent. "Hello?"
The voice on the other end was rather shaky, as though afraid. "Dad? It's Koichi."
It was then that everything came together for me: why Koji had been in such a hurry to get across town, why he tried not to be seen, why he wouldn't let me drive him…
I knew that my face was white. My hands shook as I held the phone. Koji was calling for me, and the other voice—Koichi, oh God it was Koichi!—was saying something I couldn't make out from sheer confusion of it all. I knew I was going to regret it later, but I hung up and turned around to Koji.
"You knew this whole time," I realized. "You were going to meet with your brother."
"Dad, I wanted to tell you, but I wasn't sure…"
"About what? You weren't even supposed to know he existed. As far as the law goes, you two never met before now. Now why did you go and break the law?"
"It wasn't our fault. We were just in that situation…"
"And so you're trying to tell me fate intervened?"
Koji swallowed hard. God, why did this have to be the time when he was the most emotional over something? If he was the apathetic child I was used to, I wouldn't be having such a problem with this. "His grandmother told him about the divorce. It was her dying wish that we met. I learned everything from him. Koichi just wanted me to meet Mom."
"And so you'll break the law again?" He flinched slightly, as if from a physical blow. "You're not going anywhere near your friends. You're going to stay in this house until you're well past adulthood. You'll be lucky if I even let you go to school! Now go to your room!"
I was being unfair to him, and I knew it. But I couldn't stop this undying fear within me. I threw his phone into the garbage can and followed him into his room, locking the windows from the outside before locking him inside his room. Satomi came home soon after. I was too angry to tell her what had happened, so she couldn't even guess what was wrong.
That night was the first time in ten years that I didn't check up on Koji. I didn't have to. My nightmare had come true. My ex-wife was back and had taken him away.
The next morning, Koji was picking at his breakfast with his chopsticks. It was the weekend, so none of us had to worry about being up early. I sat down across from him, wondering why he looked so downcast that day in comparison to others.
Now, in order for anyone to understand this, you have to understand that I am not what you'd call a morning person. I have to have one or two cups of coffee or tea before I remember anything that happened the night before. So seeing that Koji refused to make eye contact with me was a surprise. But the sight of the bandage around his arm reminded me of what I'd said and learned the previous night. It left a cold feeling of guilt washing over me.
Koji only ate a little bit of rice at Satomi's request. Other than that, he hadn't touched any of his food when he returned to his bedroom. Satomi gave me a pleading look, silently asking me to reconcile whatever argument we'd had. I couldn't promise anything. My promises meant nothing. Koji could have told her that.
After I took a shower and got dressed, I checked in on him. He lay on his bed, staring at the ceiling in an even worse depression than he'd had before. His arms were at his sides and his unblinking eyes were fixed on the bumps in the ceiling, hypnotized. He didn't move. I would have thought that he was dead if not for the steady rising and falling of his chest. He seemed to be asleep with his eyes open. And somewhere in my mind's eye, I could see two tiny babies lying feverishly in their cribs. It added onto the guilt I already felt.
"Koji?" I asked. He wouldn't move. "Koji, I'm sorry for shouting at you last night." He barely shrugged in response. I took his chair from his desk and sat next to him. "I suppose I should have told you about your mother and brother before, but I didn't think you were mature enough to take it. I'm sorry for telling you that your mother was dead, but I couldn't evade your questions forever." He wasn't answering. I knew I had to tell him everything before he'd speak again. "You probably won't believe it, but you and Koichi were very important to your mother and me. Both of you." He stirred slightly. At least I knew he was listening.
"Your mother and I had a very hard time having children," I explained. "We had gotten married while we were in college and tried for our first child. It was a self-abortion. No other attempts worked until a few years later, when we tried for in vitro fertilization. We weren't surprised to find a few months later that your mother was having twins, but the fact that you were going to be identical twins did surprise us. You and Koichi were born perfectly healthy and without any of the complications the doctors were afraid of. It was a huge relief to us.
"It wasn't long before the divorce. You were one at the time. Both of you came down with a bad bacterial infection. I remember that we had to hold you and Koichi in the cold shower just to try and get your fevers down." To my surprise, he sat up and looked at me. "Koichi was allergic to the antibiotic they'd prescribed, so he was covered in hives the whole time. The medicine didn't work on you at all. I stopped going to work just to help take care of you. Your mother and I were up all night for days just making sure you were all right. It seemed to take forever for you to get better. We were afraid that we'd lose you."
"You did all that?" he asked. I nodded.
"Did you know that it didn't take long for your mother and me to learn who you were?" He shook his head. "For the first month or so, we kept the hospital identification bracelets on you, but after a while, you developed completely different personalities. Koichi was always smiling and forever reaching out for whatever he saw. You did too, but not as much. But you were very affectionate…" He stared at me almost in horror. I couldn't help but laugh. Some part of my proud, "cool" son still remained, it seemed. "You were."
"I think that trait went to Koichi," he informed. "He's easier on people than I am."
"I wouldn't know," I confessed. A darker feeling settled into the both of us, actually making it a lot easier to move onto the next subject—one that no one in the family was very proud of. "When the divorce came, I almost lost you again. You know that the mother usually gets the children automatically?" He nodded. "I had to fight very hard to get either of you. Before the family court could turn us over to the district one, I finally gave in. I knew I was going to lose you both either way, so I asked them to choose. I expected them to side with your mother, but they let me keep you. I wasn't allowed to see Koichi again, but I could at least raise you. I decided not to tell you about Koichi because you weren't allowed to see him either. But you seem to have figured out a way around that law."
"Yeah," he answered, staring at the floor. Why was he embarrassed about this? What had happened? I wasn't sure I wanted to ask, but I had to:
"How did you two meet anyway?"
He sighed and only barely managed to lift his gaze from the floor. "Dad, you're not going to believe any of it."
Not going to believe it? I couldn't believe what had just come already! One son had made a dramatic transition from being cold and antisocial to being warm and accepting. My other son had suddenly resurfaced after ten years of no contact. And somehow, by some strange event that I wasn't going to believe, they had managed to meet and form a good friendship. Was I supposed to believe any of this?
But I only managed to answer, "Try me."
It took a while for him to start, but he finally warned me, "I'm not sure on any specifics, but this is what I know." I nodded in understanding. "It started on your anniversary. I was just paying for the flowers when I got a text message asking me if I wanted to play a game to decide my future. I thought it had something to do with you, Satomi, and Mom, so I answered yes. But instructions were sent back to me to take the train to Shibuya. I don't know why, but I felt like I had to go."
"Mm-hmm," I answered. I had suspected something had happened that day—after all, it was when all of the changes had started. But I didn't want to ask questions. If I did, he probably wouldn't want to finish.
"I didn't know it then, but Koichi was on the train with me. He'd been following me around town, trying to get the courage to speak to me. His grandmother had made him promise to find me, so he tried his hardest to meet me and explain everything. He thought he had the chance when he was running to the elevator at the Shibuya station, but one of my friends, Takuya, got on before he could. So he turned and took the stairs." He was silent for a moment, apparently trying to decide which way to go next: to his story or to Koichi's. He decided on his. "At the bottom of the elevator shaft, there was a large group of trains. I took one and Takuya took another. But we met again at our destination—a strange place called the Digital World."
I hoped it was safe to ask a question, but I honestly had no idea what he was talking about at this point. "Where was that?"
He shrugged. "Some other world linked to ours. I don't completely understand it myself. Most of it is just nature with villages popping up here and there, and instead of humans, there are creatures called Digimon. We met two, Bokomon and Neemon, and they were our guides as we tried to fight against the Digital World's corrupt ruler, Cherubimon.
"Cherubimon had five other Digimon fighting the most on his side. Their names were Grumblemon, Arbormon, Ranamon, Mercurymon, and Duskmon, and they were five of the ten Legendary Warriors—heroes from ancient times that defeated the dictator Lucemon before they disappeared and their power was reduced to Spirits representing their elements. For Grumblemon, it was the Spirit of Earth, Arbormon Wood, Ranamon Water, Mercurymon Steel, and Duskmon Darkness. Five of us kids got Spirits too: Takuya Flame, J.P. Thunder, Zoë Wind, Tommy Ice, and I got Light. We just thought we were fighting to protect the Digital World; we didn't know that there were going to be personal boundaries too."
"Personal boundaries?" I shouldn't have asked it, but I was again confused.
"Duskmon turned out to be Koichi. I'd learned that he was a human, but I didn't know that he was my brother, not until he told me everything. I was afraid to fight him until Takuya forced me to realize that it was the only way to save him. It was only with his help that I managed to purify Koichi and his Spirit. It took a while, but we eventually became…I guess 'inseparable' is the only way to describe it. Neither of us could let anything happen to the other. The others said it was like we'd known we were brothers our whole lives. And then, after we defeated Cherubimon and two other enemies called the Royal Knights, Lucemon returned."
"But didn't you say he was defeated long ago?" I questioned.
"Death isn't a final thing for Digimon," he explained. "All Digimon get reborn. Lucemon's data was sealed so he couldn't, but the Royal Knights managed to revive him. He opened a door to this world and was going to cross over in order to rule all humans as well as Digimon. Koichi practically sacrificed his life in order for us to have the power to fight. But Lucemon took in his data and eventually evolved into a dragon form and came through. I'm not sure how the media covered it up…"
"An electrical discharge," I provided. "They excused it on a massive electrical discharge that interfered with all communications in Tokyo and caused deaths from outages to life support systems in the hospitals."
"It was really Lucemon, and we were trying our hardest to stop him. It cost us a lot, but we won in the end."
"Cost you?" I repeated. I had gotten a lot of the story, so I felt better about interrupting.
"Lucemon caught us off-guard in his last form. He came up from behind and ran us through—or would have if the Spirits hadn't thrown us out of their combined evolution. We were forced to say goodbye to the Spirits and to the friends we'd made on the way, not knowing if we'd ever meet again. And I thought Koichi was dead until we found him back home." The slightly distant tone of his voice told me that he didn't exactly want to remember this detail. "Koichi had made me promise to visit Mom. That's why I had to go last night."
And there was my answer, right at the end of a very long and confusing explanation. I suppose it was evitable that even a simple-sounding answer like that was only going to lead to that conversation anyway.
"So what happens now?" Koji asked after a long silence.
I carefully observed the clothes he was wearing. Despite the warm weather, he had on a pair of gray pants instead of shorts so that he could hide the bruises and scratches that had come when his leg had been trapped under the bike. But his yellow T-shirt didn't conceal his bandaged arm at all. Finally, I told him, "First, get your cell phone from the garbage can. Then put on a jacket. I don't want your mother thinking that I've abused you." He was completely shocked to hear me say this of all things. Even I was surprised to hear the words come out of my mouth. But I nodded anyway.
He practically jumped out of bed and nearly raced out of the room before he remembered something and turned around. "Thanks, Dad," he said to me before continuing his quest.
Less than an hour later, I found myself in the driver's seat of my car, watching Koji walk into the park to meet with his mother and brother. I would pick him up in another hour or so. But I wouldn't let myself be seen; the whole thing was complicated enough to begin with, and my sons didn't need me adding to the problem. Yet still, I waited for a little bit, just in case nobody met him. I didn't see either of them, but he did, and he waved goodbye as he ran in their direction. I shifted from park to reverse and backed out of my parking space slowly before turning the car and driving away.
I did, however, finally get a glimpse of the son I hadn't seen in ten years. My God, he'd gotten so tall! Of course, I didn't expect to see an infant still, but I wasn't prepared to see what he looked like now. He looked like Koji's exact opposite: short-sleeved shirt over long-sleeved where Koji had the reverse, short messy hair as opposed to long and tamed, a sense of light in his soul while Koji had known darkness. If Koji hadn't told me their true elements, I would never have guessed correctly.
Koichi looked to where my car had been, but I don't think he saw me. Today was the day for their mother, not for me. I'd get my chance soon enough. Until that day came, I could just wait. I would wait until I had the chance to willingly break the law just to see the one part of my past that was severed off.
And I suppose I should find the divorce papers so we can work out visitation rights, I realized. But I would have to wait for their approval. It had been painful enough for me to leave my sons' fate in the courts hands, and they were old enough now to decide for themselves what they wanted. Their mother and I would just have to accept that.
But until that day came, I would just wait and watch from afar.
Ha! I am the first person crazy enough to use a Lilo and Stitch quote for an angsty Digimon fic! Plus, the title is from "Duvet," the opening theme by Boa to Chiaki Konaka's Serial Experiments Lain, and half of this was inspired by the Mother's Day episode of Rugratsnone of which I own The bike thing is sort of inspired by Leena and Leon Tauros in The Sh33p's "Reign of Chaos," and the moment where Koji's staring at the ceiling is inspired by Shinji of Evangelion. And this is not in any way related to Gemini Star's "A Mother's Tale," though there are similarities; I wrote mine before she did hers, only I chose to wait until Father's Day to post. This turned out part introspect, part normal fic. Hope I did okay with this. Especially with the two goals I set out to do:
MAKE KOUSEI AND J.P. LIKEABLE CHARACTERS RATHER THAN BASHING THEM THE WAY MOST FANFICTION DOES!
God, if I find another J.P.-bashing fic, I'm going to kill somebody—and this time, it won't be my muses. And Kousei gets it just as bad in the few fics he's featured in. You know, J.P. is actually one of Koji's best friends—after all, the two stand up for each other quite often in the Royal Knights saga and on. Plus Koji owes J.P. for helping watch out for Koichi, if many bashers have forgotten. And with Kousei, just the fact that he's got custody of his son has to mean something!
You see, all of the information in here is true. In Japan, it is rare for a divorced man to have custody of his kids—in 80 of the cases, the mother gets them, and no contact is permitted between the divorced families. Japan's Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi was an unusual case when he managed to get custody of two of his three sons after his divorce in 1982 (information on both from ). The very fact that Kousei has one of his kids indicates he can't be the cruel, heartless bastard people portray him as in the few fics he's in. So give the man a break; he's got to be doing something right if he's been raising Koji alone for seven or eight years (remember that it was only the third anniversary. If Koji's ten or eleven age disputes clarified in Lord Archive's "Important Information" page for "War Diaries/Red Digivice Diaries." Just search for "Diaries Universe" at Google since I'm not sure if he wants me to give his URL, then that means he spent most of his life with his dad as his only real role model). If you're bashing him, you're bashing Koji as well because his characterization until he's seven—possibly even beyond that—is inspired by his father. If Kousei's a bastard, so is Koji, and you've just screwed yourself over so badly with your attempts to make Koji look like the poor little whipping boy he isn't. This rant isn't directed solely at one person, but it serves to make you really think about the way you're writing your characters. Parents influence their kids—my friend has an insane family life, so she's not exactly sane herself. I have parents who yell when they're frustrated, and as seen by above rant, I do the same.
Expect this crap to overflow into a couple of chapters of "Fiction" because I was working on them simultaneously. But this isn't from the "Fiction" universe or else I'd have one really depressing fic on my hands now. Both fics are pretty much in-canon, but not from the same fic-verse.
Information on in vitro fertilization's increased chance of multiple births and on how twins are more likely to be left-handed than non-twins is from The National Organization of Mothers of Twins Clubs, Inc.
And now, let the flaming commence! (But be sure to read the rules before you review/flame)
Happy Father's Day!