Why Didn't I Realize?
Normally a person sitting alone in a deserted area would have struck anyone as a sad and lonely sight, but in this case no one would. It wasn't because the words didn't describe the lone figure but that no one could see him in his suffering. After all he was a Shinigami and visible to only a select few, normally only seen when they were informing someone of their impending death or when someone was about to die. A young girl named Mitsuki was the only human to have ever see him without a reason, no one else alive knew he existed. Had anyone been able to see him they would have seen a young man in brown and yellow with a strange black hat on top of slightly shaggy blonde hair. An appealing, almost aristocratic face would have been seen and described as handsome though with an aura of something cold and otherworldly about it. Had they seen his eyes they would have seen pain barely suppressed and hidden from view. Any other day they might have been filled with arrogance, mischief or darkness but not so today. No today, for once their was a true, genuine emotion on his face with nothing to hid it but the hands that his face lay in as he sat, hunched over on the concrete wall he sat upon. The sun was just rising on a new day, soon people would come out of their houses and go about their lives, never knowing what would await them in death. Oh they thought they did but they couldn't really know. It was simply beyond their scope, Izumi thought as he lifted his head slightly before lowering his head once more. There were really only five fates that awaited you in death that he knew of, five roads you could be forced to travel. You could go on to what the human world called heaven, a place of happiness and joy where there was no pain and sorrow, where you could be reunited with lost but loved ones. The second was to become an angel, a messenger of peace and goodwill who roamed the world trying their best to bring about good happenings and the betterment of others. The second best road in other words. Then there was his fate, his punishment. As a Shinigami his eternity would be spent taking the lives of others, collecting souls and foretelling the death of others. For not living and appreciating the life he'd been given he'd been doomed to the punishment of an eternity of pain and suffering. The next was what he'd imagine was Takuto's fate now. The life of a ghost. Doomed to wander the world alone ghosts were souls who were being punished for breaking the rules of the spirit world as Takuto had by remembering his human life. The last fate was a descent into darkness for the most evil and unreformable souls. Of that world Izumi knew nothing about but he couldn't imagine it was much worse then his own fate.
Takuto's fate had been pretty much a given, even though he'd drank of the flower of forgetfulness in the hopes of escaping his fate. Izumi didn't really care about him though. No it was another's fate that had brought him here, awashed in pain and grief that he'd sought to hide from everyone else. It was Meroko's fate that tormented him. His Me chan. No one seemed to know what had happened to her and no one would give him so much as a clue either. The chief had merely given him another assignment then dismissed him, refusing to speak of her even though Izumi had come perilously close to begging. He'd even taken to following Mitsuki around, hoping that by some miracle Me chan would appear and he would know then. Know that she was all right and that he hadn't destroyed her in his scheme to have her. But she hadn't come yet and he knew in his heart that he had destroyed her. He had killed her as surely as if he had done it himself with his own bow and arrow. He hadn't meant to, no his target had been Takuto, but in the end he'd taken them both down and would have given anything, even his own life to undo that now. He should have known, should have realized that Meroko would have never stood by and done nothing. But he, who had never believed in love, in the strength and power of it, had refused to see the truth. So blinded by his need to get rid of Takuto, to take back the love Meroko had once showered upon him, he couldn't see the pain and suffering he would not just cause Meroko... but himself as well. He'd believed Meroko's love to be so shallow and flighty that she'd simply forget Takuto once he was gone and come back to him, be with him the way they had once been before he'd broken up their team. Before he'd run away from the feelings she'd inspired in him.
"Izumi kun? Izumi kun?" Came a familiar and annoying voice, a voice that had Izumi's eyes hardening as he forced himself to gain control as he lifted his head to look at his partner, as always wearing that ridiculous top hat on his ghostly head.
"What do you want?" Izumi said coldly, watching Jonathan's face drop at the cold greeting. Stupid, pathetic waste of space that he was, Izumi thought as he resisted the urge to send the useless idiot flying.
"Well I was just wondering when we were going to head to our subject's house, Izumi kun." Jonathan said hesitantly, watching Izumi kun carefully in case his partner felt like lashing out at someone. Namely him. With Izumi kun you never really knew what he was going to do next. "We're supposed to go there today, remember? The sixteen year old boy on.."
"I know that." Izumi said as he got to his feet swiftly, his eyes flashing dangerously as Jonathan quivered like white jelly under Izumi's icy glare. How dare this pathetic little weakling suggest that he would forget his job, his punishment. How could someone possibly forget the ever present weight around their neck, constantly choking the life out of them. If you could even call this a life. He was well aware that soon he'd be going to a sixteen year old boy and telling him that his life was soon to end. He remembered every soul he'd ever taken and would soon take. That was just one more aspect of his punishment. "And we'll go when I say we go."
"Of course, Izumi kun." Jonathan said as he rapidly nodded his agreement, floating there silently as he waited for Izumi to say something. Ever since the human Mitsuki had survived and beaten her fate thanks to the sacrifices of her two Shinigamis Izumi kun had been like a completely different person. But that was because of that rabbit, Meroko chan. Izumi's former partner. She'd stupidly sacrificed herself for that baka Takuto and the human, such a senseless thing to do in his opinion. Of course he could never say such a thing to Izumi. He never mentioned Meroko chan now. He didn't want to see what Izumi kun would do if he did.
"Why are you still here?"
"Uhmm..because..but, Izumi kun... we're partners...well where should I be?" Jonathan asked weakly, floating a little further away as Izumi's eyes flashed once again. What had he said? What had he done? What was Izumi going to do to him?
"Anywhere but here. I'll meet you at the subject's house in four hours. Now go before I rid myself of your presence in a way you won't like at all." Izumi said as he crossed his arms in front of him, never a good sign. Nodding rapidly Jonathan quickly rose into the air and soon disappeared from sight with no intention of going near Izumi kun until he had to. Pathetic, running away like a mouse from a cat, Izumi thought with a sneer which slowly faded away at his next thoughts. Meroko. Meroko would have never run away from him just because he was in a bad mood. She would have just ignored it and done her best to cheer him up no matter how long it took or how nasty he was to her. She'd have smothered him with affection and soft words until he couldn't not forget about his problems. She'd have even turned him rage onto her just to help him because she'd loved him or at least she'd thought she had. She'd told him, so many times and he'd never, ever, once said them to her. He'd let her know he cared though, that was the best he could do. The only thing he could do. After all he couldn't tell her he loved her if he didn't even believe in the existence of it. He hadn't then. But he did now. He'd seen it. He'd watched that fool Takuto and Me chan sacrifice themselves for it. Takuto for that stupid human girl and Me chan for the girl..and for Takuto. The man he'd lost her to. The man he'd practically handed to her on a silver platter because he'd been too afraid. Too afraid to believe in the paradise Me chan had offered him in her arms. After all if he accepted it, came to depend upon it then what would happen when it was gone? Because it would go, as every good thing did in his life. Better to not have it at all then to only have it for a short while. At least that's what he'd told himself. Now..now he'd give anything for even a single moment in her arms, one last I love you from her lips. But even before she'd left she hadn't wanted anything to do with him, had turned away from him as he had turned from her. His arrival was greeted with weariness and fear where there had once been warm and loving welcome. That was just one more part of his eternal damnation.
"Mereoko.... My Me chan...." Izumi choked out as he suddenly collapsed forward, his hands automatically coming up to halt his fall so that he lay on the cracked, concrete ground on his hands and knees, head down as the beginnings of tears gathered in his shining eyes. His body tensed in painful grief the tears began to fall down his cheeks to spatter onto the ground below, temporarily settling on the rough surface before spreading out to slowly disappear. Mumbling her name over and over again he wept like a child for his loss, the dam that had held back his feelings for so long finally breaking. God but he'd loved her. Everything that had been good and light in his world had been her. Even when he'd pushed her away he'd still been able to see her, touch her, talk to her. But now even that was gone. Fate had taken even that from him. He'd rather be a ghost then continue on for an eternity without her or risk the extreme punishment of going after that flower himself, the flower of Forgetfulness to ease his suffering. Erase all the memories of her and everything he'd done to hurt her and others. That's what he'd do..he'd end his suffering and forget about everything that had happened since he'd come into this miserable existence. Become a fresh slate with nothing written on it to mar him. He'd rid himself of this consuming pain eating away at him every hour of every day until all he wanted to do was double over in agony and let it take him. He'd forget about happiness, he'd forget about love..he'd forget about the love of his life. The one and only person to ever love him completely and without strings.. his Me chan. "Oh God..Me chan!" Izumi cried out, not caring anymore about hiding his emotions which held his captive now. "I'm so sorry! I am so sorry! Forgive me!" Izumi called out as loud as he could, his hands fisting and scratching against the rough concrete as his whole body shook under the waves of emotion rising and crashing into him, pulling him under and robbing him of all strength until he was weak and vulnerable. Stripped bare before the heavens.
"Izumi kun." An angel said softly as she flew down, no longer wondering why her heart had been calling her to this deserted and crumbling area of town. Watching her former partner's whole body shake with emotion Meroko felt her heart clench painfully in her chest then release, allowing her to let out the breath she hadn't even been aware she was holding. Landing softly, not making a sound, she could only stare at him for a moment, her mind reeling at the sight before her. She'd never seen Izumi like this, never seen or known he could cry. Hearing him call out her name with such anguish, call out her name with such longing and grief was something she'd never expected to hear and her heart bloomed with happiness that it would. Slowly Meroko walked over to him then dropping to her knees in front of him slowly placed her hands on his heaving shoulders. "Don't cry, Izumi kun."
Shoulders tensing up under her hands Izumi's whole body turned to stone as he opened his eyes, staring down blindly at the gray concrete while tears continued to fall from his shocked eyes. Slowly lifting his head up Izumi's eyes connected with hers and there was the ever present connection, a meeting of hearts that passed through their eyes even after everything that had happened between them. "M..Me...chan....?"
"Hei, Izumi kun." Meroko said as her right hand left his shoulder to cup his cheek, her eyes widening when he automatically nuzzled against it, something he'd never done before. "I'm an angel now, Izumi kun. I'm okay. I wasn't punished..I was rewarded."
"A..a...angel." Izumi breathed as he really looked at her, the strange haircut from giving her power to Takuto. The costume she was wearing though..so similar to the one she'd worn when..when they'd been partners. And there was a mark on her cheek, shaped like a blue tear, Izumi thought as he continued to stare at her, trying to believe that she was really here. Perhaps it was someone pretending to be her, a punishment for helping the human girl at the end of her concert for Me chan. But no, no one could pretend to be his Me chan. No one could ever fool him when it came to her. "It's you." Izumi said carefully and slowly, the tears continuing to fall. "You came back..to me." Izumi choked out then launched himself into her startles arms, sending them both crashing backwards with Izumi's arms holding her in a steely embrace as they rolled to their sides. "Me chan. My Me chan." Izumi said as he buried his face in her neck, her eyes widening as her right hand automatically came up to stroke his head as he cried, silently now, against her neck.
"I knew you needed me, Izumi kun." Meroko said softly, making no move to push him away as she held him as he held her. She knew what he'd done, helping Mitsuki and for that alone she could forgive him for starting the whole mess with deliberately seeing that Takuto would be sent to take the soul of his former friends' daughter. Trying to get Takuto to remember so that he'd be turned into a ghost. She knew why he'd done it, she understood now. She'd thought it was simply to get back at Takuto for taking his place in her heart but now she realized it was deeper then that. Izumi had done it because he'd wanted her back and hadn't been able to tell her why. It hadn't been about pride or ego, it had been about him being unable to tell her that he truly did care for her and so instead he'd shown it the wrong way by trying to remove his rival even though he'd had to have known that it wouldn't work that way. But he'd ignored that so that he could take the easier route because after all it was easier for him to hurt someone then to admit he cared about someone other then himself. Her Izumi kun had never believed in love, in showing real affection to anyone, even her. She'd been content to know in her heart that he'd cared for her but her feelings had been too much for him in the end. And so he'd pushed her away and then couldn't bring himself to try and get her back. Oh, Izumi kun, Meroko thought with tears gathering in her own eyes. My poor Izumi kun.
Simply holding each other for several minutes, neither needing to say a word Izumi finally asked one of the most painful questions of all. "Where's your..where's Takuto kun?"
"He was returned to this world to live out the rest of his life, a good life without taking it for granted." Meroko said with a half sad, half happy smile on her face. "It's Mitsuki chan's turn to take care of him now."
"He's..human again?" Izumi said in surprise, blinking as he stared into her eyes which were filled with tears as well. "I'm..I'm sorry." Izumi said weakly, bowing his head slightly as he let her go and sat up, Meroko doing the same so that they sat there side by side. He had succeeded after all, in separating them. But he'd hurt Me chan doing it so it was impossible to feel even the slightest sense of victory. She was only here out of pity now. She hadn't returned to him for any other reason. Getting to his feet Izumi hastily wiped the tears from his eyes and turned his back to her, hiding his face from her in an automatic defensive move. Standing there, still as stone he didn't even hear her get up until her arms were wrapping around his waist, her face laying against his back as she hugged him from behind, her tears wetting the back of his shirt as his eyes closed in pain. "Me chan?"
"I forgive you, Izumi kun. We all forgive you." Meroko said softly, nuzzling her face against his familiar vest, inhaling his scent and realized she'd missed it, more then she'd allowed herself to remember. "And in the end you did much more good then bad, whether you realize it or not. Because of your help Mitsuki chan is alive and well, so is Takuto kun. You've helped free him from being a Shinigami, just as I've been. He can live happily ever after with Mitsuki chan now and I can help people instead of hurting them. Those are the greatest gifts we could have been given, Izumi kun."
"But you've lost Takuto kun." Izumi said as he turned in her arms, staring down at her questioningly with prodding eyes. "You two can't be together now."
"I never had Takuto kun," Meroko said with a bright smile though there was a hint sadness to it among the happy brilliance. "He was always Mitsuki chan's. I always knew it really, in my heart. But it's okay because when you love someone you want them to be as happy as possible. I can't make Takuto kun that happy, even if it were possible now. But Mitsuki chan can and that's good enough for me. It hurts...but I'll be okay because I know they'll be okay."
"I....I don't deserve forgiveness." Izumi said weakly, his eyes bleak as he looked down at her. "I don't deserve anything."
"That's always been your problem, Izumi kun." Meroko said softly with a rueful look as she absently soothed him with her soft smile on her beautiful face. "You've never really thought that you deserved anything but darkness. For as long as I've known you you've always preferred to see the worst in situations and in people. You never want to let yourself believe that there is hope and goodness in this world and in the others. You never wanted to believe that I meant it when I said I loved you because that meant I was giving you something that could make you happy. Good things scare you because you always believe that if you show anyone that you want it they'll take it away from you. But the reason you're so unhappy isn't because your happiness is taken from you but because you aren't willing to accept it. You aren't willing to fight for it...the way I should have fought harder for you. For the love I felt for you even if you weren't capable of feeling it too."
"This time...this time I'll try." Izumi said quietly after thinking about it in his head for several moments before reaching an undeniable conclusion. Like Takuto..he'd been given another chance at love and this time..this time he knew it hurt more to throw it away then to take it. So this time he'd try and maybe he'd fail. Maybe he'd fail miserably but he would try..and he wouldn't give up. Hugging her tight against him Izumi smiled when she hugged him back. She loved Takuto but he wasn't going to let that stop him. "After all....I have all eternity."