A/N: A quiet moment between two friends on a cold night in Mugenjou. I got this idea while reading Kitarin's "The Silver Chain" and wrote it in one sitting. Hope you like it.
Next chapter of "Raitei" should be coming soon.
Disclaimer: Get Backers does not belong to me.
"The stars are bright tonight," said Kazuki, folding his arms and leaning against the wall, watching Ginji closely. The silvery tinkling of his bells was the only other sound.
The younger boy was sitting on the window sill, leaning his head back against the frame's cracked and paint-chipped wood, eyes fixed on some faraway point. His arms were draped carelessly on one bent knee, the other leg hung idly, nearly touching the floor. The lights from the surrounding city provided the only illumination, washing the room out in pale yellows and pearls and grays. It gave the boy, or young man perhaps, sitting in the window an ethereal quality, as if he was all white and aglow. Like an angel, thought Kazuki. Or a ghost. Angels don't smile so sadly. A sad ghost then, haunting over the city.
But there were the stars. Each star was a bright pinpoint of white light, and the sky was brilliant with them tonight. Kazuki beheld the sight of his friend framed by the rickety window, against the backdrop of the night sky and the flickering lights of Shinjuku. Quiet nights like these were rare. He wondered if he should fix this moment in his memory.
Ginji didn't respond to Kazuki's comment, only continued looking out at the deep night sky. Kazuki had a feeling that he'd been doing that for a while. He had come in search of the blonde, whose soft spikes were tousled gently be the draft from the open window, because the night was cold, and Ginji had be unusually somber the entire evening. When he had silently slipped away from the VOLTS lair a few hours ago, the others had barely noticed. But Kazuki noticed everything. Or nearly everything. When one was used to noticing even the smallest change in the tension of a thread, it was easy to read the tension in others, especially those you cared about. And so Kazuki, partly on instinct and partly because he knew Ginji so well, having tracked his movements over the past few years so closely, found the quiet VOLTS leader in this hideout with relative ease, and had approached quietly out of respect, breaking the silence with his comment only when Ginji signaled that he knew the threadmaster was there.
His comment hung in the air. Ginji knew what Kazuki really meant. The slender young man offered it as an un-intrusive inquiry as to why Ginji was here alone, and if Ginji wanted to be left alone. It was a statement that carried many questions, but required no response except those freely given. Kazuki was offering companionship, no strings attached.
Taking Ginji's silence as acceptance of his presence, Kazuki took a step into the room and paused. What to do now? Sometimes Ginji could be so easy to read, he showed his emotions so easily and readily. Sometimes, though, trying to read Ginji was like trying to read your future in the movements of the planets and stars. There were times when the VOLTS leader drew so far into himself that it seemed like there was an invisible barrier between him and those around him. He could be sitting on a window sill right before you, and yet he could be a million miles away. Kazuki walked closer carefully, his steps nearly silent due to years of training and habit, until he came within an arm's reach of Ginji. The lights from the surrounding city, spread out before them like all the world at their feet, a piece of the world teeming with activity below them—the lights blinked and flickered here and there, but the radiance reached all the way to Kazuki and enveloped him.
He felt the barrier between them now, and wanted to reach out and press his fingers against the glass, or shatter it with his fists, violently shake Ginji out of it. He wasn't sure which one he wanted more. So he stood there, silent, respectful, offering his presence for Ginji to take or leave as he will.
Finally, the younger man seemed to rouse from his contemplation of the nighttime sky. He inhaled deeply, held the breath for a few seconds, and exhaled it. Kazuki felt himself involuntarily following Ginji's lead, and felt some of the tension and uncertainty drain out with the exhalation. His Thunder Emperor was still here, still earthbound, no matter how distant and how otherworldly he looked bathed in the moonlight.
"Have you ever wondered, Kazuki, what would happen if you just disappeared?" said Ginji, breaking the silence suddenly. He hadn't moved and hadn't taken his eyes off the lights of Shinjuku, so the only way Kazuki knew that Ginji and spoken at all was by the echo in his mind. If you just disappeared….
Kazuki hadn't expected a question like this and was unsure how to answer, or if an answer was required at all. What was it that Ginji saw in the view before them that made him ask this kind of question? Kazuki had a feeling that the source didn't lie in Shinjuku or Mugenjou or even the nighttime sky. It was something Ginji was seeing within himself.
"What do you mean, Ginji-san?" he replied, even though he had his suspicions. With these types of questions, it was best to proceed with caution.
"I mean, what would happen to the world if you just disappeared one day, never to be seen again. Would anything change? Really change?" Ginji continued to look away, out the window, but his eyebrows were now furrowed, as if he was searching for the answer among the street lights and milling activity below.
"I think that if you disappeared, people would notice. People would care," said Kazuki simply.
"Yes, but would that change anything in the long run? Wouldn't someone step in and take my place? Lead VOLTS, protect Lower Town? There are many who have the strength of will and the physical power to do it. You, for example," he said, turning to Kazuki. "You would be able to do it, and you'd do well too. Or Shido maybe, even though he's quieter. Makubex could, if he was older. But my point is that life here would go on. VOLTS would go on. The residents would move on and live as they've always had. I would be just one ripple in a vast pond full of ripples." He sighed, and rested his head on arms, propped on his knee.
Kazuki was, on the one hand, flattered that the Thunder Emperor thought so highly of him, but any feelings of joy were outweighed by the feelings of worry that caused him to pause and take his time to shape his reply carefully. It seemed of the utmost importance that he say the right thing in this moment. He had a feeling that a lot of things were hanging in a delicate balance upon his answer. The boy ruler of Lower Town before him looked like exactly that for the first time in a long time that Kazuki could remember—a boy ruler, shrunken in on himself, eyes grown old because of the responsibility on his shoulders, the responsibility of so many lives, but face still that of a child, with soft features, round, sad eyes and dewy skin that nearly glowed in the moonlight. Always, Ginji was their unfailing leader. He was their pillar, the unmovable monument from which Kazuki himself and others had always used as a guide. It was so easy to forget sometimes that Ginji was younger than Kazuki himself was, younger than many of them. They relied on him and his judgment so much that it was easy to lose sight of the boy, and only see the ruler. But here, now, alone in this moment drenched by the city and sky lights, with the quiet cheer and friendly warmth of the VOLTS lair far away, Kazuki could see both the boy and the ruler, and the vulnerability and his realization of the crushing burden on those delicate shoulders was heartbreaking.
If only there was some way for Kazuki to show him that he wasn't as alone or insignificant as he thought, that there were those around him who truly cared about him and would miss his presence dearly. If only there was some way for Kazuki to show Ginji what he meant to him.
Kazuki remembered the first time they had met, when their paths had crossed for the first time and Kazuki had seen a soul of such purity and strength in the other's brown eyes that he knew he would follow him wherever he went. It wasn't a conscious decision. There was no decision to make, really. It was as if it had already been decided, just at their first meeting. Ginji had that quality about him that touched people and changed them for the good. His mere presence was a force in itself. When Kazuki first crossed paths with him, he was awash in this presence, like he was awash in the moon's light tonight, and he felt all of the darkness that had been creeping and seeping into him from Mugenjou's environment washed away by that presence. The contact in that instant of chance meeting was deep and penetrated to his soul and he was forever changed.
Suddenly, Kazuki knew what the answer was. He saw that Ginji was still in the same position, looking out over Shinjuku with that same expression that made him seem both deeply withdrawn within himself and far away at the same time. But he was waiting, Kazuki could tell, hoping for an answer. Kazuki took a deep breath, gathering his thoughts. When he started speaking, he spoke from the heart:
"Even if you were just a ripple in a pond, you would be like all ripples," he began, hoping Ginji would be able to hear what he was really saying. "You would start small, your rings would be small and touch few, but gradually you would spread, your rings growing ever larger and touching and crossing more and more rings, rings from other ripples, until they have spread across the whole of the pond. Then your rings, having touched and gained strength from the momentum of so many other rings, would have the power to crash against the shore, and they would resound against the sand and all other rings, until it reverberates back to you, bringing with it the experience of having traveled to the shore and back, and bringing with it the strength of all those other rings it touched along the way."
Kazuki stopped. It was the only thing he could've said, and he hoped that it was enough. Ginji was quiet, but Kazuki could tell from the way his shoulders seem to relax that his words at least, if not his feelings, had reached him. He felt his own tension, the tension hadn't realized was in him, rush out at last and he looked out the window on all the distant buildings and streets and thousands of teeming lives, busy living and loving and dying. The two stayed in companionable silence for a while.
And then Ginji reached out a hand, slowly, carefully, and wrapped it around Kazuki's. Kazuki was surprised by the gesture, but he hid it quickly and returned the action with a warm squeeze. The two figures stayed like that, one sitting in the window, the other standing just beside him, linked by the hands, a solace of human contact surrounded by a fortress of metal. Outside, the night wind seemed to lessen in its biting coldness and the light from the stars seemed less forbidding.
It was a beautiful night.