Summary: The story of the Uesegi clan and Tohma Seguchi after the incidents of New York. A journey through the life experiences and bonds created that shaped the characters we came to know and love at the beginning of Gravitation. Prologue and Ch1 UP.
Disclaimer: I don't own Gravitation or the characters portrayed within it. They belong to the wonderful Maki Murakami and I'm only using her ideas and a bit of my own artistic license to write a story.
For those following War of Hearts:
I'm sorry I haven't updated in so long. I haven't quit writing it at all, but I've been writing some short NC-17 rated Gravi (see my profile for more info). I've started re-writing War of Hearts because I'm unhappy with it since I think my writing style has changed a lot since I started writing. Right now, I'm consumed by this plot bunny, so I can't say how long it will be until I start re-posting War of Hearts again, but I have not given up on it, so, don't give up on me, either. I hope you find it in your hearts to forgive me, but please don't hassle me about that story.
For a long time now, I have had the idea of a long series fic dealing with the New York events and its consequences for all those involved in it. This summer I finally got around starting to write it. I have done quite a lot of research for it, but if some events and places seem wrong, I apologize before hand and would appreciate any input/corrections the readers are willing to give me. This is set to be a long series fic. I can't exactly say how long it will be, but I'm guessing between ten and twenty chapters. The fic starts in New York and travels back and forth between the past and the present as well as doing slight jumps forward in time. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I am enjoying writing it.
It starts off quite dramatically, but I promise it won't all be pain and tears.
This fic is dedicated to all the members of the GraviMuseMeet. I wouldn't have gotten out of my writing slump if it hadn't been for the long, inspiring discussions with its members there, as well as their ever-present encouragement and belief in my ideas. I couldn't possibly name them all, but to this regard a heart-felt thanks goes to the following people (in no particular order):
Bakayaroonna, AngrybeeTelethaColonelShoDaiyaonnaAira, and - above all - my beta, Aja. Without her constant and honest, not to mention prompt, advice and suggestions, this fic wouldn't be what it is now, and I would have long ago lost heart in my own writing.
Thank you everybody.
The Dark Ages
In the misty air of a new day, dew condenses on blooming flowers. When the snow melted, it became Spring.
A BLEAK END TO SPRING
The man had been running far longer than a body like his could take; nonetheless, his pace didn't waver for a second. His feet pushed decisively against the concrete below, propelling him forward. He was experiencing raw panic; anxiety and fear dwelled within him, squeezing his chest, clouding his mind. The levels of adrenaline rose in his veins, powering him further. A strong breeze blew from the east, rustling his hair, making it occasionally slap his face and get in his left eye. He ran up the rusty metal staircase on the side of the building. Under his weight, the bolted-in screws biting into the wall squeaked loudly, disturbing the silence reigning over the barren neighborhood. A flock of pigeons took to the air with a loud batting of crashing wings, casting a long, moving shadow over the man's running form.
He got to the level where he figured he had heard screams a few seconds earlier. He tried to kick an old door open and the thin panel of wood gave way easily under the force of his foot, trapping his leg momentarily until he forcefully pulled it out, hurting himself in the process. The lock stubbornly held onto the door frame, however, and the door remained locked, blocking his path. He was heaving; strands of straw blonde hair clung to his narrow face with sleek sweat. The overpowering feeling of helplessness and despair in his chest went up another notch, and his heart pounded even louder in his throat. Desperate situations called for desperate measures: he punched through the already-cracked window that made up the upper half of the door, shattering the glass and reaching inside to finally let himself in. The darkness in the corridor was a sharp contrast with the orange blaze of sunset lighting up the skies of the dying day outside.
Just then, he heard the shot that would change his and many people's lives forever. It was a loud bang, like exploding fireworks, deafening and bloodcurdling. Everything froze for an instant – the image of the empty corridor, the blood in his veins, his heart beat. All colour drained from his face as he sucked the air into his lungs sharply. His sweat also turned cold, sending a sharp jolt down his spine, making him go weak in the knees as his whole head suddenly spun with fear. The echoing sound of the shot seemed to go on forever, reverberating, as it bounced from wall to wall in the narrow, carpeted corridor, making its way into the streets where he'd spent his breath and up to the sky to fly away with the pigeons. The next few moments passed in a blur - finding the room, catching a glance of the gun dropping from the boy's shaking hands, taking in the scene of the crime, gathering the youth in his arms.
"Thank god you are alive. Thank god you are alive," he repeated over and over again like a mantra, as he rocked them back and forth.
Yuki Kitazawa lay on the floor face down, a few paces away from where the man and the boy kneeled. He was dead. Dark blood was pooling around him quickly, seeping out from the firearm wound in his chest and creeping towards them, like a black tide rising with the pull of the moon. The strong smell of gunpowder mingled with the faint smell of red wine that hung in the air, combining in a sickening cloud of odours that made their heads spin faster.
The boy shook and sobbed loudly, digging his fingernails in the arms of the man holding him, wetting his shoulder with spit and tears. His clothes were in disarray and the slacks he'd been wearing pooled around his feet in a tangled mess. One leg was still inside the slacks leg whilst the other was bear to the foot, having lost both his socks and trainers at some point during his struggle 1. The man pressed his chin to the teenager's head, wrapping his arms more tightly around him in a vain attempt to bring him out of his state of shock, and at the same time asserting the fact they were both still breathing. He was relieved to find the boy alive, but other alarm bells soon started ringing in his head.
"You are not to be blamed," he rushed to say. "I'm so sorry. It is all my fault."
STAND BY ME
Tohma stretched his arm to flick off the light above him and to turn down the air-conditioning. Opening the pocket on the back of the seat in front of him, he put away the book he'd been reading. The seatbelt lights were off, but he preferred to keep his on while he was seated, only taking it off when ultimately necessary. He absolutely loathed flying. This was because Seguchi Tohma was a control freak, and the mere thought of leaving his life in the hands of tired pilots and an overworked cabin crew made his skin crawl with trepidation. If he'd had the opportunity to learn how to fly a plane, he would have taken it. This was also the reason he didn't have a chauffer, and never – ever – rode public transport. His public transport phobia was one of Tohma's secrets, of which he had very many, not all as harmless. He was a man who had to be in control of every situation, calculating the possible outcomes and pitfalls of events every step of the way. All of that had been tossed aside in the last day, however. The reins he'd been gripping tightly had snapped, and the carriage he'd been riding was plunging ahead, out of control. There now were new dark secrets to be added to his already too expanse collection. Tohma shivered.
His eyes roamed wearily back in the direction of the toilet. He'd been keeping watch of the queue for the toilets for the last twenty minutes. After a rather overweight foreign man, a lady with three little kids, and an elderly woman had gone in, it seemed to – finally – be vacant. Almost everyone around him was either asleep or reading, leaving only a handful of people actually paying attention to the movie showing on screen. Getting out of his aisle seat, he stood up in the narrow corridor, feeling the vibrations of the plane shake him from feet to head, dizzying him slightly. He took a deep breath and opened up the overhead compartment, taking out a black briefcase. Before closing the compartment once more and heading for the toilet, briefcase in hand, he cast a glance at young Eiri, who was curled up in the window seat, asleep. Tohma allowed himself a moment to find a smidgeon of happiness in the chaos they've been thrown into. Eiri was still alive, and that made up for anything fate might throw their way, even if things were far from okay. Tohma pulled the boy's blanket further up over his left shoulder and left.
When he locked the door, the lights came on automatically and he settled the briefcase on top of the toilet seat, which had the lid down. The buckles made a 'clack' sound as they were clicked open and Tohma got a small brown toiletry bag from the top compartment. He opened it and found a small bottle of soap. Squirting some of it onto his hands, he proceeded to wash them and his forearms, all the way to the elbow and a little beyond. The soap smelled refreshing and its scent was soothing. The label read lavender. He took a nail brush from the brown Louis Vuitton bag and used it to clean his fingernails carefully, one by one. This was the third time he'd washed them on the plane, the fifth that day counting the two times he'd used the toilets in the airport terminal, and the sixth counting the time he'd washed them in the shower before packing the bags. Yet, it seemed he still couldn't shake the dirty feeling away, couldn't wash it off, couldn't stop it from crawling all over his skin.
"Dammit," he muttered to the tiny, empty cubicle. His whisper was lost in the background noise produced by the plane engines. He knew he was hurting himself, but he couldn't help it. He felt dirty. His usually manicured nails were chapped and the back of his hands had gone red from scrubbing it too hard. The cuts in his right knuckles were bleeding again. He watched mesmerized as a few blood droplets dripped from his hand and fell into the metal sink; deep crimson against silver. It looked much different than the blood that had stained his clothes, his hands and his fingernails a little over twenty four hours ago. This was redder and had a different consistency, he thought, compared to the blood coming out of a living being's death wound. Or perhaps it looked like that because it wasn't washed in the moonlight or mixed with dirt. Maybe his mind was registering the world around him differently now, as if in a dream where the edges of things appeared sharper and more colorful – more defined. Or, perhaps, he had just woken up, and it had been his dream that'd been foggy. He couldn't tell which and, quite frankly, finding out was at the bottom of his priorities at the moment. He briefly thought about the glass cuts in his right hand, and how he hadn't even noticed getting them at the time he'd injured himself, when he'd punched through the window.
The water washed his wounds clean, turning pink before reaching the sink and disappearing down the drain. He wondered if the water would be discarded out of the plane and, if so, if it would freeze in the cold temperatures outside, as it fell from the skies. Twenty thousand feet, the pilot had said – that's how far up they were. And that's how far down they'd plummet if the plane crashed. Twenty whole thousand feet between them and the Earth below. In a twisted way, however, it was somehow safer than being on the ground right now; up there on No Man's Land, criminal laws were loose, cutting them some slack. At the very least they were safe until they touched the ground.
He washed his face and the back of his neck, leaving the water on his skin to prolong the sense of cleanliness. He patted his hands dry with tissue paper, and waited for the cuts to stop bleeding, peeling off the tiny bits of tissue that stuck to his skin afterward. He shaved, combed his blonde hair and changed his white shirt, placing the old one in the plastic laundry bag where he'd got the new one from, and tucking it away in the bottom compartment of the briefcase.
For a long moment, he watched his reflection in the small, rectangular mirror, resting his hands on either side of the sink; a weak yellow light shone above him. The man staring back at him was a stranger with a weary expression and sunken blue-green eyes that had lost their sparkle. There were purple bags under his eyes and the rest of his face looked pale and lifeless under the artificial lighting, adding ten years to his current age of twenty-six. His lips were dry and cracked, and stretched in a mocking thin line he couldn't recognize as his own. His shoulders shook for a moment in a shiver as he broke eye contact with the man in the mirror. He fixed his eyes back on the sink instead, but it was only to find that his reflection there was a morphed shadow even scarier than the image in the mirror. He snapped his head up to the ceiling, trying not to let the agitation in his gut get to him. He was cool. Everything was under control, he lied to himself. He wrapped some bandages around his right hand hastily, for he was now desperate to get back to the relative safety of his seat. He packed everything away and left the toilet for what would be the last time that flight.
"You are awake." Tohma's voice came out steady in a whisper as he put the briefcase away, back on the overhead compartment. He sat himself down and buckled his seatbelt on. The boy didn't answer him back. He simply looked out of the window and unconsciously wrapped himself tighter in the blanket.
"It's all right. You don't have to say anything. Just nod 'yes' or 'no', okay?" Tohma's hands started sweating again. He wiped them on his blue jeans and blinked. "Are you feeling well?" he asked worriedly. Eiri sat still, facing away from him, looking at the dark nothingness outside the window, unmoving.
"Okay. Let's try something else. Are you hungry?" he tried once more, patiently. But once more he received no reply. "You should eat even if you aren't hungry. The dizziness and the headache won't go away for a while yet and you need to eat to keep strong. You haven't had a bite for over a day." At that moment the boy turned around. His gaze was directed downwards, successfully hiding his eyes behind a curtain of blond hair. Tohma raised his right hand, but stopped it in midair, somehow hesitant of touching Eiri. He didn't know whether to comfort the boy or give him his own space. All thoughts of flying, planes crashing, and criminal laws were now forgotten, and his concentration and worries were fixed solely on Eiri.
"I know it's hard." Tohma swallowed, lowering his hand to his lap. "In case you are wondering, you are under the effects of Valium. After we arrive back at home you don't have to take them anymore if you don't want to," Tohma explained to Eiri carefully, even though he hadn't asked him anything. He hadn't expected the teenager to be very talkative, and the mood was as fragile and awkward as he'd predicted.
"One of the good things about traveling in first class is that we don't have to wait to be served food, and if we miss our turn we can order again," Tohma changed topic, to one he hoped might distract the boy from thinking too much. He caught the attention of the polite and ever-smiling stewardess and asked her to bring some food - preferably some of the fish if they still had any left. He also asked her for some tea for both Eiri and himself. The boy was currently busying himself by curling a blue thread of the blanket around his index finger until his digit turned yellow from the pressure, at which point he released the thread, watched his finger go pink once more, and started the cycle all over again. Tohma watched him in silence for a little while. When the food and tea arrived Tohma thanked the stewardess and opened Eiri's table, swapping the tray of fish from his table to the other, but leaving both cups of tea on his own.
"Eat," he commanded softly. "It's pretty good," he added. "I had the same," he said, knowing fully well that he hadn't been able to stomach a quarter of the food himself. Eiri kept toying with the blanket, and Tohma inched the tray closer to him and sighed, rubbing the bridge of his nose.
"Please?" His voice came out barely audible and Eiri lifted his eyes a little for the first time in the last ten minutes. "For me?" Tohma asked, searching for the boy's gaze with his own. Something akin to hope laced his plea. Then, Eiri saw the bandages on Tohma's right hand and his expression changed immediately. Amber sad eyes met those of Tohma for a brief second, and then turned to contemplate the tray of food, almost as if it were some sort of menace to him.
"It's nothing. Please don't worry about it," Tohma said, referring to his right hand, and he tucked it away under his thigh. Eiri picked up the chopsticks. He used them to cut a little piece of fish and to put it in his mouth. He chewed it slowly.
"Thank you," Tohma said. "Thank you," he repeated. Whether he was thanking Eiri or the Buddha he'd been praying to wasn't clear, however. Eiri swallowed the fish with obvious effort and then cut off another piece, even smaller, if that was physically possible, than the one before. He put it in his mouth, but his jaw didn't move at all this time. His chin quavered a little; a tear rolled down his cheek and was soon followed by another, and then another, until he was crying silently. Eiri hiccupped and swallowed, choking slightly on the food in his mouth. He wiped the tears away with the back of his left hand and turned his head away towards the window. Tohma produced a handkerchief out of his jeans' pocket and handed it to him, not quite knowing what to do or say. Tohma took the tray of food away and gave it to a different stewardess, a shorter one who wore glasses. It was suddenly obvious to him Eiri was seeking comfort, not solitude.
"Shh, it's okay. Let it all out, it's okay to cry. Don't hold it back. Grown ups cry as well. It makes us cope better. It's nothing to be ashamed of," Tohma said reassuringly. He combed the teenager's hair back with his fingers and moved him so that Eiri's head lied on his shoulder, and nobody else could see him cry. Tohma thought that, even in a situation like this, it was important for Eiri he wasn't seen as weak. He knew how hard the teenager worked to appear mature and independent. To a certain extent he really was; but, despite his usually mature demeanor, the fact he was barely sixteen remained a painful truth. He squeezed Eiri's shoulder and put his mouth to the other's hair, spreading warmth with his breath on the other's scalp.
"Now you listen to me carefully, Eiri," he started whispering against the teenager's head, "What happened was not your fault, do you hear me?" He shook the teenager for emphasis and continued. "It was in self defense. It couldn't have been helped, all right? If you need to blame anyone, then blame me. Blame me for not seeing his true self, blame me for having hired him as your tutor, blame me for trusting him, but never – ever – blame yourself for what you were forced to do." Tohma swallowed hard and noticed they'd accidentally caught the attention of the stewardess to whom he'd handed the tray of food, and she was now walking back towards them with a concerned expression on her little face, although she tried not to let it show. The skin between her eyebrows furrowed a little, but when she was only a few seats away Tohma reassured her with a little nod, and dismissed her with a wave of his hand. He lowered his tone further. "It wasn't your fault, Eiri-kun. I want you to promise me you understand that, okay? Promise, mmh? Just shake your head 'yes' for me, please. Please." Eiri nodded reluctantly and the weight Tohma seemed to bear on his shoulders decreased a little. "Thank you, Eiri-kun," he added, before placing a light kiss on Eiri's head.
"I know you don't think you can, but try to forget what happened. Think of it as a bad dream, as a terrible story that happened to someone else, in a place far away. We'll be home soon and then everything will go back to normal. I promise."
Eiri shifted in his seat, making enough room for himself to lie down on Tohma's lap, taking advantage of the ample leg room in first class. His silent tears were warm and soaked Tohma's jeans, but Tohma didn't mind it. The tea lay on his table, forgotten, slowly evaporating, and losing its heat.
"Don't worry about anything, okay? Everything was taken care of. No one will ever know. Ever."
Between the warmth of the blanket, Tohma's fingers entwined in his hair, and the low humming of the aircraft's engines, Eiri was lulled to sleep once more. Tohma didn't sleep at all, but his restlessness subsided somewhat by holding Eiri close to himself.
Several long hours passed, flying over the vast Pacific Ocean, towards a new day, before the seatbelt lights came back on and Captain Samuel Harris announced their descent into Narita Airport, Japan - their homeland. Upon leaving the plane, the stewardess in the glasses smiled softly at Eiri and waved the pair of them goodbye as they left the large Boeing 777 behind and set foot on Japanese soil. Eiri's lips twitched a little, in what may have been an attempt at a smile, but it came out wrong, and Tohma smiled at her in his place.
It was a little before midnight, so the airport was rather quiet. Tohma wanted to hold Eiri's hand reassuringly, but such open gestures of affection in public were frowned upon in Japan, so he contented himself with placing a hand on the teenager's lower back every now and then, pushing him forward to meet Tohma's longer strides.
"I only packed the essentials. The rest of our stuff will be brought over within the next month." They stepped onto the escalator taking them down to the luggage collection area, and Tohma continued his explanation. "Everything was taken care of while you slept," he said, and Eiri looked up at him, looking as surprised as he could show through the myriad of emotions flicking in his eyes. There were only a few centimeters difference in their heights – Tohma being taller – and Tohma's hand lingered on his back, warming him up.
After the incident in the building Tohma had carried the sixteen year old in his arms back down the rusty staircase, where he thought they might not be seen by any neighbors. He'd lost track of how long he had spent inside, worrying over the possibility someone had called the police after hearing the gunshot, but unable to part with the boy all the same. After finding Eiri's socks and trainers Tohma had dressed him quickly, as gently as he could.
The first stars were visible in the sky and the wind had changed course, now blowing more gently from the north. To his surprise no police sirens rung in the air. He had settled Eiri down on the sidewalk and asked him to wait. The boy had clung to him, and tearing the youth's arms from his shirt had broken Tohma's heart. "I'm so very sorry, Eiri. I'll come back very soon. I promise. Please forgive me," he'd said, before forcing himself to turn around and leave. He'd walked around the corner and run to the nearest road where traffic could be heard. Not long after getting there he had hailed a yellow New York cab and made it his own. He had given the driver all the money he carried in his wallet, which was a hefty sum, and his diamond-encrusted Rolex. The driver had looked reluctant, but had accepted Tohma's offer in the end. The cabbie would probably claim the car had been stolen, collect the insurance money and keep what the stranger had given him, which was not that bad a deal.
Tohma hadn't wanted anyone to see Eiri and him together. He had wanted to avoid witnesses that might remember them. Considering the state Eiri had been in, catching people's attention was more than likely. Tohma's own clothes were stained a little, too, but to a much lesser degree, and in the dark, people might miss it. Just getting the taxi had been a huge risk, and yet his mind hadn't been able to focus on anything other than the youth waiting for him, in the ever growing darkness, crushed and alone. He'd quickly driven the car as close to Eiri as he could get, given the traffic direction of the surrounding streets and he'd run the rest of the way to where he'd left the boy, cursing under his breath. Tohma had found him there, just as he'd left him, propped against the orange bricks of the building, eyes glazed and unfocused. Tohma calculated that the whole thing couldn't have taken much longer than fifteen-twenty minutes. Tohma had apologized profusely and given Eiri kind words, but judging by the expression in the other's face, his words had been lost on empty ears. The boy was obviously experiencing what people referred to loosely as shock. He could tell because he could see Eiri's ramification of veins under the skin on his face, which had grown very pale. If he didn't show any signs of improvement soon, Tohma would have to seek medical assistance.
After carrying him to the car, and as if fate had suddenly sided with them, Eiri's color seemed to slowly return to his cheeks. While Eiri sat on the car, Tohma had stepped outside and walked into a pharmacy; purchased a First Aid kit, Dalmane, Valium, vitamin C, surgical gloves, and a few toiletries. It had taken some persuasion to convince the pharmacist he wasn't going to use both the strong sleeping pills and the Valium at the same time, and that he was aware that the effects of such a concoction could be lethal.
Back in the car's glove compartment, Tohma had found an old bottle of Pepsi, about a quarter full, and obviously flat. He'd fed a limp Eiri the Dalmane and a large dosage of vitamin C, which he knew helped shock-stricken patients. Then he had driven them out of the borough of Queens, to a three star hotel about forty five minute's drive away, in the borough of Brooklyn. It had been the longest, most tension-filled, forty five minutes of Tohma's life, second only to the time prior to finding Eiri at Kitazawa's flat earlier that evening. His eyes had kept straying from the road to the boy sitting next to him, who had by then fallen into a deep slumber. Tohma had kept taking the boy's wrist in his hand in intervals of a few minutes, and checking to make sure his pulse remained stable.
Once they were inside the hotel bedroom, Tohma had removed Eiri's blood stained clothes while the boy slept. His hands had shaken and his eyes gotten blurry as he'd bathed Eiri and put him to bed. Seeing the youth naked had finally confirmed Tohma's suspicions that the boy had been assaulted physically, and Tohma had been sick in the toilet until he'd emptied all the contents in his stomach, at which point he'd vomited bile. After recuperating he'd paced up and down the room, deep in thought as the minutes ticked on in a clock on the wall. At about midnight, he'd driven the inconspicuous cab back to the place where all hopes of a normal life had shattered a few hours ago when Eiri had taken Yuki's life away. He'd visited a couple of ATMs along the way and withdrawn a few thousand dollars from his bank account. It hadn't been difficult to carry out his plan in the area where he'd been.
Tohma had easily found and paid a low-life, drug-addicted prostitute to direct him to her dealer, from whom he'd bought a considerable amount of cocaine; enough to sustain a serious addict for about a week, maybe. After removing any implicating evidence from the scene of the crime using the surgical gloves he'd bought, and after planting the cocaine in Yuki Kitazawa's flat, he'd met the hooker again. He'd paid her more cash to make an anonymous phone call to the police from a payphone, relating a fight between a local gang in the area, and the subsequent sound of gunshots at the building compound. He was hoping the police paid it enough attention to find the body and the cocaine, but avoid digging any further on account of the many other gang related investigations that occupied the police in the borough of Queens. Luckily, Yuki Kitazawa had no relatives in America and, hopefully, few friends.
Tohma had taken all the evidence with him, which included the clothes Eiri had worn that day and the gun, amongst other items. He'd then driven to South Brooklyn Marine Terminal, in Upper New York Bay, only stopping once at a petrol station to refill the tank and to buy a small can of gasoline. He'd found a quiet spot in the port, away from the cargo ships that were loaded at night, taking care not to be seen by any night staff. He'd been methodical and efficient when setting about destroying any connections between them and Yuki Kitazawa. Like a robot on autopilot, he'd de-attached himself from emotions and followed what he'd determined was the logical path of action, methodically and purposefully carrying out his plans. Tohma, as always, had been in control.
An empty cylindrical metal barrel had served Tohma to throw Eiri's clothes and set them on fire, along with the license plates of the taxi, all doused in gasoline. He'd put out the fire in the barrel after a while, picked up the carbonized items from it, now soggy with sea water, and locked the wet ashes and metal burnt to a crisp in the trunk of the car. The last step of his plan consisted of dumping the car in the East River, in a spot where the current was particularly strong, in hopes it would be washed away and never found. The image of the back of the plate-less yellow cab disappearing into dark waters, disturbing the surface with a final swirl and audible gulp as it dragged the sea water down with its weight, would forever be engraved in Tohma's memory. Would it sink all the way to the bottom? Would that really be the last time a human being saw that car? Would it really disappear for good? Was everything really that easy? Tohma hoped with all his will that it was.
With those thoughts in mind Tohma had then walked out of the port, amongst metal crates deposited closely together and back along the narrow streets that had taken him there, in the crisp chill of the awakening day. He found the streets once more coming to life with commuters leaving their homes and boarding the subway, the buses, or one of many thousands of New York yellow cabs like the one he'd just caused to vanish. He was in a city of strangers, being a strange face amongst the crowd, himself; an ordinary man in dirty clothes with no coat. He was a foreigner in a city of foreigners, riding the bus. The fact he was riding public transport for the first time in many years didn't even cross his mind.
His calm and collected side had taken over him once more, and he'd ridden over Brooklyn Bridge, Manhattan bound, watching the violet haze of twilight slowly turn pink, then orange, and then cloudless blue. It was the sunrise of the twenty-first of June: the Summer Solstice. Today, the sun would be at its point furthest north and cross the Tropic of Cancer. Today was to be the longest day of the year; and yet, he felt as though somebody had gotten it all wrong, had miscalculated the coordinates of the celestial bodies that year. Not only had last night been the last day of spring, but the worst and longest day of his whole life. He witnessed the birth of summer, not finding in him to feel the gloriousness of the event. Tohma's mind had been somewhere else. He had been thinking how ironic it was that last night had also marked the end of Eiri's springtime, the end of his innocence, and he'd wondered bitterly if the gods were mocking him with that beautiful display of flames in the sky, as if showing off their cosmic power. The tall and worldwide-famous skyline of Manhattan rose ahead of him, in a field of skyscrapers, which included the incredibly tall Twin Towers and the Empire State Building. To the left of him, and through the suspending cables of the bridge, he could see Manhattan Bridge; below him, the East River waters followed their course. Life, it seemed, went on regardless.
His destination had been River Place, on 42nd Street, the luxurious flat Eiri and he had shared during the months spent in New York. He'd collected a few things which were enough to fill up a medium size suitcase and had gotten changed, throwing his clothes in a black rubbish bag and putting it in the suitcase. He'd then gotten a cab back to Brooklyn, this time paying for his journey and getting off fifteen minutes' walk away from the three-star hotel. He'd disposed of the black bag, a few streets away from the hotel, and purchased the morning paper, finding no news of gang rioting or the finding of the body of a Japanese tutor. Once he was back in the bedroom, he'd checked up on Eiri, who appeared to have slept throughout the whole ordeal, thanks to the Dalmane. Whether Eiri had had a peaceful sleep or not, Tohma couldn't tell, but he hoped it'd been void of nightmares at least.
Tohma's body and mind had been running on the adrenaline produced by his body, and the fact he was still deeply restless and concerned had kept his mind sharply in focus. He'd sat down next to the boy and caressed his face, feeling funny when the boy's breath tickled his index finger. All he could think about was how he had failed Eiri, how he hadn't been able to protect him. He'd bent down and kissed Eiri's cheek softly, trying to show him, even if Eiri wasn't conscious to feel it, how much he cared about him. "I'm so sorry, Eiri-kun," he'd whispered against the boy's warm skin. "So very sorry. You have no idea." Tohma had wrapped his arms around Eiri and stayed in their embrace for a few precious minutes. It was during those few minutes that Seguchi Tohma had made a promise to himself, one he intended to carry to the grave without fail: he would protect Eiri from further harm for the rest of his life, at all costs; doing whatever was required to ensure this purpose – he would put Eiri's happiness above his own and anyone else's, even if it meant he might hurt other people, or himself, in the process.
As the hot water of the hotel's shower pelted down on his shoulders, the rest of Tohma's plan had come into focus. He'd settled the bill at the hotel, with cash, and helped a drowsy Eiri into yet another cab. This one drove them to John F. Kennedy International Airport. He'd managed to buy two business class tickets aboard the next flight to Japan, paying with his credit card. A small dosage of Valium pills and eight anxious hours later, Eiri and he had boarded a United Airlines plane, and left The Big Apple for good. Relief had washed over Tohma as the buildings that made up New York City became nothing but glowing yellow dots on a distant black horizon.
"Nobody knows we are here, yet," he whispered to Eiri as he steered the boy in the direction of conveyor belt number seventeen. A man wearing a uniform pushed a line of nested trolleys along, in the opposite direction, their wheels cluttering over the large, marble tiles of the floor. Not much activity was displayed in the information screens, as life at Narita Airport seemed to have slowed down to a crawl.
"You might remember Ryuichi-san, Nittle Grasper's vocalist. He's currently on holiday in Australia. I have the keys to his flat, here in Tokyo. We'll spend the night there and have a nice, long talk in the morning over breakfast, okay?"
Eiri nodded and Tohma patted him on the back. "I'm proud of you, Eiri-kun," he said. "You've been very brave."
To be continued
In the next chapter, we get a glance into Tohma and Eiri's life back in New York, as well as some brief knowledge of their lives just before it. We learn a bit more about Kitazawa and his relationship with Eiri, but all is not revealed yet. Stay tuned.
For some pictures, copy and paste the following links:
1 Eiri and Tohma in manga panel, from volume 8:
w w w(dot)patosan(dot)co(dot)uk/patimages/V8Trauma(dot)jpg
Upper New York Bay:
w w w (dot)patosan(dot)co(dot)uk/patimages/UpperNYBay(dot)JPG
Manhattan Skyline and Brooklyn Bridge:
w w w(dot)patosan(dot)co(dot)uk/patimages/BrookBridge(dot)jpg
Reviews and constructive criticism are always more than welcome.