Title: Wherever you are
Author: Seraphim Grace
Archive: Always appreciated and replied to.
Rating: PG-13 for shonen ai.
Pairings: AyaxYohji, AyaxChloe
Warnings: Angst. Massive Gluhen spoilers, if you've not seen Gluhen do not read.
Notes: This has been kicking around on my hard-drive that long I'd forgotten about it, I wrote it one day on a downer while listening to Neil Finn and then whilst reading Nekojita's fantastic Resurrection I remembered and thought I'd post it.
It has a background track "wherever you are" by Neil Finn that I listened to on solid repeat when I wrote it, and got the idea from.
Wherever you are
The flower shop is tidy, the doors locked for the night. Free is amusing Yuki with a complicated game of patience that requires two players. They are using a tarot deck. Michel, who is watching them intently, has already made the joke he doesn't know if they're going to win or predict the apocalypse. Free's answering smile was fond. I can't help but think that Free thinks of the two children as some kind of strange animal that wandered into the shop one day. I want to say that I don't understand Free, but he is a very simple character indeed. He hides nothing, reveals everything of himself in tiny small gestures. He fascinates the children, almost as if he was some kind of fairy that they found in the bottom of the garden.
It is raining. The autumn weather is typically foul. It isn't cold enough for a coat, but too cold for a light jacket, there is a wind that the locals call a bluster that pulls the leaves off the trees and pushes them into the drains. I still stood at the window where I had been washing it. I could hear the others laughing and joking when Chloe came up behind me. Of them all I had hoped that it wasn't Chloe to find me like this. "In Tokyo, it's 3am." I tell him quietly. "I would have been awake, waiting for him to roll in drunk." It's all I need to say. He understands. He always understands.
Chloe says nothing. He just puts his arms around my waist and puts his head on my shoulder. That was why I had hoped that it had been Ken, or Yuki or Free, or even Michel. I would have just put it away, and apologised for spacing out, as they call it. I miss him. It has been two years since the Kou academy, and I miss him. Just every now and again, something will remind me and I will miss him. "At first it was because he always woke me. He sounded like an elephant on roller skates when he came in." Chloe is nothing like him, quiet, patient, beautiful, witty, charming, suave. He is a perfect gentleman, but he was full of life and fire. Chloe burns cold, but he listens. He always listens. If he were here instead of me Chloe would love him. We are alike, Chloe and I. I want suddenly to tell about my lost love, so I can remember, if only for a little while. It's selfish, I know, talking to my new koi about the old. But Chloe listens.
I talk that long my throat hurts. I tell him things that I had thought I had forgotten. I started calling him Balinese, and talking about missions, but all too soon I talked about how gravely his voice was, and how soothing it was to smell his aftershave where he had been. I talked about his hair, which fascinated and repelled me, and that final cut when we were in Kou and his hair was short and dyed canary yellow. Chloe said nothing. He just got us chairs and tea. I think he made sure the rest wouldn't disturb us. I hardly ever talk to him about my past. He never speaks of his. We are alike, Chloe and I.
I tell him that his hair smelt of apples. Chloe's smells of roses, actually Chloe smells of roses. It's a soothing smell that I associate with home. Yohji always smelt of temptation, of liquor and cigarettes and aftershave, and how appropriate it was that his hair smelt of apples. I tell him how beautiful he was when he laughed, and how easy it was at the beginning to make him laugh. Before time took its toll on his smile. He was always smiling, and laughing, and joking. Chloe, like me, is prodigal with his smiles. I know when he's smiling though. It took very little to make Yohji smile. All you had to tell him was that a certain film was on at the cinema, or you'd taped the program he'd missed, or the bakers had the right cake in, and he'd grin for everyone to see.
I told him that I would anger him, deliberately, just to break that smile. I felt like it was mocking me. When we became lovers he showed me a different smile, one that was just mine, he said. His beauty still haunts me, two years after he is gone.
Chloe offers me a rare smile. "I can't compete with him." He says patiently, quietly, through his smile, "but I know you, Aya, I know you better than anyone else. You did love him, of course you loved him, but he's gone, and you're not."
I can't smile back, "I know that," I say, "I just,"
"Miss him," Chloe answers, he reaches forward and darts a kiss to my lips. "I'd despair if you'd didn't on horrible days like this, look at that." He turns to look outside the window, "blah, horrible." I smile at him. I let him wrap his arms around me and put his head on my chest, against my heart. "Shall we go out and play in it?"
We walk arm in arm through the deserted streets of London. When it rains the streets of our borough empty as people seek shelter from the rain. It's the best time to walk through the parks, as no one is about, when even the ducks have hidden from the rain. In Tokyo I would have had an umbrella, in London I never do. I just walk in the rain. Books and poems and songs have been written about London rain, and I have nothing more to add. It slicks the streets and the streetlights leave puddles of sodium orange light on the pavement between the white facades of the buildings. "Autumn is my favourite season." I tell Chloe.
"That's good," he answers, he's teasing me. "It is the predominant season in England."
I decide to ignore that, "I love the colours. The golds and reds and browns. They're beautiful."
"I associate with the dying of things." He answers brusquely, marching me forward.
I unlock the gate to the communal garden, such a space in this part of London costs KR, according to Michel, his first born son as well as the mortgage. We share it with the other people in the square. Ken's been banned from it for using it like a soccer pitch, not that he minds, there are pitches all over London, but it took him a few weeks to learn that. Chloe has a tendency to prune the rose bushes when he thinks that no one is looking. Free sits on the grass and reads fortunes for anyone that passes him and expresses an interest. Yohji would have loved this, a quiet little oasis in the middle of London. Just a hundred years away there is a busy road and a tube station, but here there are trees and roses and a fountain. Yuki and Michel were here a few days ago looking for something called conkers; all I know is that it hurt their knuckles whatever it was.
Chloe sits down on the bench and gestures that I sit down next to him, in the rain, in a park in the centre of London, my Chloe, mine.
Fragile; beautiful; wry; dour; literate; erudite; deadly; mine; Chloe.
He opens my jacket, just a little, and then the collar of my shirt to pull out a silver chain with a gold hoop earring on it. It's all I have left of him, truth be told. He has never asked me about it. I gave Aya-chan her earring back, but I still keep Youji's.
"No one will disturb us here." He says, "do you want to tell me the rest of the story?" I don't want to, but I do.
I tell him about the disastrous mission at the Kou academy, about the terrible cost. I tell him about Kyou, and Sena, and Toudou, that poor child used and then murdered, twice. I tell him about being a history teacher for nearly ten weeks. I tell him about s class and z class.
"No, tell me about Yohji," he chides softly, he's playing with the rose bush besides us. He's coaxed it up unto his knee and is using his thumbnail to break off the branches before it gets pruned.
"He was in Germany," I start, trying to fit everything into place. I've never put this in words before, when I told Ken I told him that he was dead. There was no embellishment. "We were separated so that we could take down both sides at once. A woman made him an offer." Chloe is paying complete attention, even though he doesn't look at me. "She offered to let him forget."
"Tempting," Chloe admits, "there's a fair few things I could happily live without remembering, but other things I wouldn't part with." He reaches over and squeezes my hand.
"He wanted to, he had lost so much, even me." I am trying to tell this story evenly, to not pepper it with other distractions. "We couldn't, at the Academy. He said that I was on a fast track for a breakdown, when I had just come to terms with what and who I was. He said a lot of things; in retrospect I think they were about him.
"He fought me on the roof. He didn't want me to go after her. He made his mind up there."
"And Abyssinian couldn't let it rest." Chloe admitted, I haven't been Abyssinian for two years, since before Krypton Brand. Chloe has never seen him, that other me - the killing machine. Just hints of who he was in missions, but he knows me well enough to know Abyssinian by reputation and that Ken fears him.
"No," I admit, "we fought to an impasse. I honestly thought that I would kill him. I would have too, if he hadn't been defending her. He wanted to be free, but he wanted her to free him, and she had done those terrible things. I could have killed him, he wanted it, but I didn't."
Chloe just takes my hand again. "It's getting colder, and my pants are soaked, shall we go back?"
It helps to talk. It also helps to get out of wet jeans where you were sat in a puddle in a park bench in the rain. Free notices us coming in, we're both sopping wet, but just shakes his head as if we're long past the point where he could do anything about it. "I'm going to get a shower." I tell Chloe, he nods.
"Then you'll finish your story. I'll make us some tea." I love Chloe, really, he's nothing like Yohji, they're almost complete opposites but that doesn't mean I don't love him. Everything with Yohji was instant and explosive. Everything was written large for all to see, but with Chloe it was slow and inexorable. I didn't set out to seduce him to be seduced. I just woke up one day and it had happened. I wouldn't trade him for the world, I wouldn't trade him for Yohji. I just hate what happened, that's all. I've made my peace, but I still regret. I'm only human, after all.
I have two pictures in my room, only two. In Weiss we always had separate apartments, we spent all our time together as it was. It was nice to have somewhere to escape to. That's how it started in Krypton Brand, and then Michel and Yuki were there and then Free and it was easier to have one big house. In Tokyo no one cared when a fifteen year old boy lived on his own, in London it was like the world was ending. So we all just moved in together. It's nice.
The last time I lived with my team was in Sendai.
That's one of the photos, of my team in Sendai. It's battered and I'm smiling in it. I carried it around with me for years. Last Christmas Chloe had it restored and had a frame made for it. They even managed to mend Kikyou's face, I wasn't sure that I had wanted them to, but they had. I think I preferred the hole I had made with a pen.
The other photo is of Weiss. All four of us, not long after I joined, I look young, thin and aloof. Chloe often cites the picture as the reason that he fell in love with me; he did it all to get with the blonde boy in the picture. When we're alone we tease each other. He loves beautiful things.
The photos are an unpleasant reminder. Ken stuck a pink post it note over his face, claiming his expression was stupid, and it managed to quite nicely cover Yohji's. I have never removed it.
In their own way both teams betrayed me. One betrayal was just more obvious than the other.
When I come out of the shower Chloe is sitting there in a robe looking for all the world like some sprite out of one of Yuki's books. His blonde hair is brushed back from his face to show his cheekbones and his eyes are sparkling with mischief. He is sitting cross-legged on my bed. "I brought tea." I hadn't thought that I was in the shower that long. The wind is lashing the rain against the window. The tray has a silver pot that he bought at Camden market for more money than I would spend on a teapot, and a crystal vase that he found in Oxfam with a single red rose in it. As I said, he loves beautiful things.
His robe is velvet lined in towelling with a deep hood. Ken says it makes him look like Christopher Robin. He is wearing pyjama bottoms, but he never wears the shirts. Both the robe and the pants are rose coloured. My robe is black.
"Are you going to finish your story?" He asks. I smile, sitting down next to him, and pouring out two steady streams of tea. It took a long time for me to get used to black tea, but you can't get proper green tea in this country, even at a Chinese supermarket. It's just, to quote Chloe, blah. So we're drinking Russian black with quince, it almost tastes like apple pie.
"Yes," I said, "I let him live. He was so distraught when I beat him to impasse, he knew I could kill him, but I didn't. I loved him." I sip the tea. Tea is something I share with Chloe, we love tea. We go to Fortnum and Mason once a week and spend a king's ransom on tea and cheese. All different types of tea. I like Christmas tea.
"You're vacillating." He says, "come on, you loved him."
"Yes," I agree, "I told him that we couldn't just forget, that remembering made us who we were. He agreed to cover me. I gave him my sword to keep him safe." I tell him, Chloe recognises the gesture for what it is, in most cases it would be easier for me to give away my arm, Shion gave me that sword. I have served with it, even now it sits on the dresser.
"And," Chloe presses.
"The building exploded with him in it." I tell him, "and that was it."
"And the rest," Chloe says, drinking his tea and pouring more from the pot. "The bit you'd tell no one but me."
"We dug him out, Omi and I, whilst Ken was unconscious. We took him, Nagi, and Ken to the hospital. Omi stayed at Nagi's side and I fluttered between Yohji and Ken. I took back my sword." I sighed, draining my cup, letting Chloe fill it. "I went to see Ken, and when I did, he woke up." I left a pause. "He didn't remember, anything. It was as if our Yohji died in the explosion so Omi and I made a decision, Omi as Persia created a new identity for him, a new past, an apartment, a job, everything and we told everyone that he was dead."
"You could have told him the truth." Chloe tells me, putting his hand on my knee.
"It was what he wanted." I tell him, "and," there are no more words.
"He was happy." Chloe adds, leaning forward and kissing me on the nose. "And now after all this time you mourn him, because this new man isn't him, but you wonder if someday he will remember and you're here and he's there." He moves the tray and lies along my bed with his head on my lap. "You'll always love him," he says, "I'd think less of you if you didn't."
"When did you get so wise?" I laugh, stroking his wet hair.
"About the same time that my ass got soaked in the park." He says with a laugh, a laugh that he reserves for me. "It completely ruined my pants." My Chloe, mine. Yohji is gone but Chloe is here and so am I. On the dresser, under the stand where Shion lies, between two photos is a bulky digital watch.
Chloe's right. It doesn't matter that I still love him. He was my first love. He's gone and I remain, but I still have Chloe. I'll always have Chloe. He is smiling up at me from where his head is on my lap, and outside it's raining and the wind wuthers around the house with a whistle and a roar. The house is warm and my team, my family, are all here. In Tokyo it's seven am. "wherever you are," I tell Yohji in the dark of my head, "wherever you are."
I'll leave you something for when I'm not around
To make you smile
Outside that wasteland
And if only I could make it through
If you think it then it must be true
Wherever you are