Rowen was watching the television when he saw the headlights sweep across the thin curtains covering the window. He had the volume so low that the subtitles picked up, but he hadn't cared enough about the show to actually pay attention. For about a half hour, he amused himself with late night cartoons, letting out a stray chuckle now and again, and now he had settled on some cooking show, occupying his mind by trying to identify the ingredients in the concoctions the chefs were creating. Soft laughter had been replaced with sounds of disgust or intrigue as Rowen struggled to think in his half awake state of who would voluntarily eat some of the things they were cooking.
He got out of the couch bed just as he heard the engine idling in the driveway shut off. Rowen half jogged to the doorway to open it before they knocked; he flipped the lock and opened the door just as Ryo and Sage were coming up to the porch. Cye had decided to leave the porch light on for them, and the two stepped into the pool of light it created.
"Hey," Rowen said after he realized he could think of nothing witty or lighthearted to say at the moment. Ryo looked up at him and squinted against the light, and Sage absently swatted his hand near his hair to drive away the moths and small bugs the porch light had attracted.
"Hey, Rowen," Ryo said, and Rowen moved out of the way so the other young man could lug his duffel bag inside. Sage waited until he was in to enter, hands in his pockets, and made his way in after. Rowen shut the door behind him and flipped the switch to turn off the porch lights, plunging the front entryway into darkness.
"Turn on the far lamp, Sage; Cye and Kento are sleeping," Rowen called softly. The blonde nodded, hair unnaturally bright against the darkness, and turned on the lamp in the far corner of the room, bathing the living area in a soft, mellow glow.
Ryo dropped his bag next to the couch bed, and for a moment, he had no idea what to do. He wasn't tired; he couldn't imagine going to sleep after having just gotten here. He didn't feel up to coming up with any solutions for this at the moment, so he just turned to look at Rowen.
"You guys hungry?"
Fifteen minutes later found the three of them in the kitchen, mirroring the previous three who stood in the kitchen and ate. Pasta was still heating in the microwave, and Ryo was munching on a sandwich while Sage waited for his pasta. Rowen filled both in on whatever they didn't previously know, Ryo interjecting questions here and there as Sage kept completely silent. When Rowen finished, the kitchen was still except for the soft whirring of the microwave running.
"There's really nothing we can do now," Rowen said with a sigh. Idly, he rubbed his left foot with his right to absolve a mild itch, feeling the callous of his heel against the soft flesh of the inner arch. "Except be there for him."
"Did they catch the driver of the truck?" Ryo asked. Rowen and Sage looked up at that, and then exchanged glances. They hadn't really thought of that.
"I have no idea," Rowen admitted.
Sage shook his head slightly. "Cye never mentioned the other driver. I don't believe it was a hit and run, and my mother would have told me if he had been injured and at the hospital, too. We'll have to ask in the morning."
Ryo nodded, and just as he was about to speak, the shuffling of feet on carpet turned their attention to the doorway, and the three waited for the figure to appear.
The bulk muscle of a young man lumbered up in the shadows, and walked slowly into the kitchen. Kento rubbed sleep from his eyes and yawned loudly before waving at Sage and Ryo. "What's up, guys?"
Ryo couldn't help but smile as Kento slapped him on the back good naturedly, and the smile turned into a grin when he tried to do something similar to Sage and the blonde man glared at him, his expression clearly saying 'don't even think about it.'
"Did we wake you up?" Ryo asked.
"Nah." Kento shook his head. "But that did." He pointed to the microwave, and Rowen snorted. "The microwave's attached to the same wall where the bed is, idiot." Rowen flipped him the bird, and Kento ignored it. "So what's going on?"
"Ryo was wondering about the other driver," Sage replied calmly.
"Oh." Kento's eyes darkened, and the good natured humor left his face. "I hadn't really thought of that bastard. Ran a red light, didn't he?" The others confirmed this.
"We don't know who it is yet," Rowen said. "Cye probably didn't think to ask."
"Oh, we'll think to ask in the morning," Kento promised darkly. His whole stance had changed from sleepy and half awake to tense and angry. The others could hardly blame him, for they all felt the same helpless anger at the unknown driver of the truck that drove Mrs. Mouri's car into a pole. "If that son of a -"
"Kento," Sage warned, and Kento faltered when he realized he was raising his voice.
"If they let that bastard off with anything less than manslaughter, I'm gonna be pissed," Kento finished, his voice softer but no less laced with menace.
"You won't be the only one," Rowen muttered, arms folded across his chest as a frown crossed his face. "It could go either way. Technically, she died as a result of the strokes, not the car accident."
"She never would have had them if she hadn't been hit," Ryo argued.
"Right. If this went to court -"
"Why don't we talk about this in the morning?" Sage suddenly interrupted, effectively cutting Rowen off. He had a feeling Rowen would launch himself into a monologue, and Sage was too tired to discuss it now.
"Sage is right," Ryo agreed, and finished his sentence with a loud yawn. "It's too late for that. Not all of us can keep the hours Rowen can." Rowen gave a small smile at that.
"All right, guys. It's good to see everyone here," Kento said, mimicking Ryo's yawn and stretching. "But I'd rather see your ugly faces in the morning."
Rowen snorted, Ryo laughed and threw his empty plastic pasta dish at Kento; Sage calmly made a rude gesture with his hand, causing the other three to laugh.
"Classy, Sage," Kento chuckled. "I'll bet your mother's proud." Sage gave him a sardonic smile in return.
Rowen shushed them, and Kento waved them off as he headed for his room.
It was quiet for a moment as Rowen, Ryo, and Sage walked into the living room. All three eyed the bed and the couch.
"So who's sleeping where?" Ryo asked. Before the other two could say anything, he added, "I'm not sharing a bed with Rowen."
"Then take the couch," Sage suggested.
"I don't want the couch."
"I was sleeping in the bed before you guys came here. I'm getting back in the bed."
"I'm not sleeping with you, Rowen."
"Thank the Lord. Sleeping with you wasn't on my agenda, either. Take the floor, pyro boy."
"I – I didn't mean it like that -"
"Look, he's turning red and stuttering now. Good job, Rowen."
"Are you sure you don't want me to stay until you settle in?"
Cye heard his mother's voice come from behind him, and he turned from the now full book shelf to look at her. She kept anxiously tucking her rich brown hair behind her ears, and her eyes darted from the room to Cye's face every half a minute. Her expression was mainly calm, but her eyes held all the worry and reluctance to leave. She was trying so hard to keep it together for him, and Cye felt a swell of love for his mother, coupled with the curious pangs he was getting from knowing that when she left today, he would only get to see her once a month or so, if he was lucky.
Part of him wanted to say yes, mum, stay the entire day and help me unpack. She had been so cheerful on the drive here, chattering away with him on the university he had picked and how exciting it was to have a roommate, although wasn't it a shame that Cye wouldn't have the opportunity to cook as much as he liked to do at home? They arrived at whatever was the equivalent of rush hour for move in day at the university, and it had been hell to find parking, and then find an empty bin to carry up all of Cye's things. His mother had stolen an empty bin from someone else, much to Cye's mortification, but she had only laughed, and told him to "Hurry up, quick; throw your stuff in before they find me with this."
Cye was on the fifth floor of the dorm, and when they arrived, his mother stood in the middle of the room and declared, "Love, this room isn't bigger than your closet."
"Yes, it is. My closet can't fit two beds."
"All right. Cye, your side of the room isn't bigger than your closet."
"I'll manage, mum," Cye had chuckled.
His sister and her husband had even stopped by a few hours earlier. Sayoko had swooped in on Cye with a bear hug, which had been quite uncomfortable since his sister was very pregnant at the time, the cotton material of her soft red shirt stretching to accommodate what would soon become his baby nephew. She had gushed over her little brother gaining college experience, and her and his mother reminisced over Sayoko's first days of college. All four of them ate lunch at the university's student union, and Cye had tried to mentally soak up the image of his family before they all had to leave him.
Now; now, with his mother standing in the middle of the small room, his roommate having yet to make an appearance, Cye wanted to tell her to stay; perhaps she could stay at a hotel and come back tomorrow, so he wouldn't have to say goodbye today. Realistically, however, Cye knew that he would have a harder time saying goodbye to her tomorrow than today. It physically hurt knowing that his mother would leave today, and he would be alone.
"There's only a few bags left; all of my clothes are put away, and I just need to set up the computer and all. I wouldn't want to keep you waiting."
"It's no trouble." Mrs. Mouri stepped forward, eyeing the two or three duffel bags still unopened, filled with odds and ends of Cye's. Cye knew she was just dying to put everything else away for him and maybe even tidy up the room; probably both sides of the room. "It's a little stuffy in here." She stepped over to the two windows, and pushed them open to let air circulate through. They both knew she was stalling, but it was getting late; the sun was starting to set, and she had a drive ahead of her still.
"Thank you, mum," Cye said quietly.
His mother suddenly smiled, eyes suspiciously bright, and cleared her throat. "You're welcome, love." She took in a deep breath. "I should probably get going, then, if I want daylight left to drive in." Cye nodded, and they turned and walked out of the room. His mother hugged him to her as they walked, a slim arm wrapped around his waist, and Cye had no trouble returning it. All too quickly, they were down the elevator, past all the other families leaving their children in the dorms; crying, hugging, and taking pictures.
Cye's heart thudded in his chest as they walked closer to her car. The sun was bright and it reflected off of the windshield, creating a glare that Cye had a hard time looking at. He looked at her profile instead; she had tears in her eyes, and Cye had to look away. He could feel them burning in the back of his. It didn't matter that he fought a long, bloody war in her absence; that he had been on his own in more ways than one for years; right now, the thought of his mother leaving him there made him want to sit down on the curb and cry like a five year old.
They reached the car, and Cye turned and enveloped his mother in a bone crushing hug. She returned it just as tightly, and for a long moment, mother and son silently said goodbye to each other.
"Call me to let me know when you're off for a weekend to come home," his mother said, her voice wobbly and combined with sniffles here and there.
"I will." Cye nodded, and they smiled at each other; smiles that turned into laughter as they wiped at their eyes and poked fun at each other over the tears.
"I would tell you to make me proud," his mother said, her voice now quiet and the tear tacks drying on her cheeks. "But you already have."
The lump ached in Cye's throat, and he fought for self control. It was in his mind, in his throat to tell her he loved her, more than anything; that he would call all the time –
This was two years ago –
And he knew she would leave and he would go back up to the room, feeling miserable and homesick for his mother and for the friends that he cherished so much, but they –
Am I dreaming? –
Cye was suddenly staring at a blank white wall, and next to him was Dr. Tuchiya, looking old and helpless and sad.
"Would you like to see your mother before the coroner comes?"
Cye turned his head to the open doorway next to him; the now silent machines, and the two nurses who were slowly leaving the room. The bed was still occupied, but its occupant was still.
He didn't want to go in. He didn't want to see. But Cye's feet were moving anyway, feeling heavy and sluggish as they slowly made their way towards the bed as if of their own accord. Cye's heart was pounding in his ears; there was his mother, there she was, her eyes half open. Cye stared, briefly mesmerized at the sight of the blue irises that were staring at nothing. He waited for her to blink, and then he waited to see if her chest would rise, if she would sit up –
But there was nothing.
Cye was aware he'd stopped breathing only when his lungs began to burn, and he took in a deep breath –
I don't want to do this again –
"Mother," Cye whispered. He waited…and nothing. The tightness in Cye's lungs returned, and no amount of deep breaths would make it dissipate. It hurt to take in air, and it hurt to look at her face. The pain was so physical as he watched his mother's still form that he found himself moving to the chair beside the bed and sitting down. Her hand was pale and still on the white sheet, the wedding ring she still wore glittering brilliantly under the bright lights. Her hair was lustrous and rich brown in the light; face peaceful and beautiful as it had always been, and Cye could no longer look.
He looked down at his shaking hands, and put them to his face. He could see her out of the corner of his eye, and couldn't bring himself to look; it seemed physically impossible for him to look at her face, to call her name and know she wouldn't answer; that his mother truly wasn't there anymore. He focused on her hand instead, and compulsively reached out to touch it. His mother's hand was still warm.
Cye pulled his hand away, feeling tears well in his eyes and his throat begin to burn. If he had only come two minutes earlier – if he had left ten minutes early, or got the message in time, he would have been here. She wouldn't have had to die alone, surrounded by strangers. It seemed so cruel…such a cruel joke that he had been minutes too late.
Cye was gasping, trying desperately to keep it in, but it seemed absurd to try, and he could feel the tears on his face, choking his throat and wrenching his lungs. His heart felt clenched in a vice; a large portion of his mind so grief-stricken, but a smaller portion angry; angry at God for the worst timing in the world, anger at himself, at his mother for choosing that time to go out and be on the road.
Cye leaned over to the bed, and finally touched his mother's face. For a moment he wasn't sure he would get the words out; they stuck in his throat, threatened to turn into a sob, and finally he said them aloud. "I love you. You've made me proud, too, mum." He got up from the chair, leaned forward, and kissed his mother on her warm, smooth forehead, finally looking at her face again; memorizing her before they took her away. He leaned his forehead against hers and his shoulders shook.
- Wake up –
Cye felt himself fully awaken, and the phone was ringing shrilly on the nightstand. Briefly disoriented, he looked towards the clock, blearily reading six twenty in the morning. The pillow was wet underneath his head, and so were his cheeks. Cye wiped at them as he sat up and reached over for the phone. As he held it to his ear, he laid back down in the bed.
"Cye?" Sayoko. Cye quickly sat up in bed, dread filling the bottom of his stomach. "Is mum all right? Has anything happened?"
Cye told her. As calmly as he could, he began with the accident, hearing his sister gasp on the other line, and listened, miserable, as her reaction went from disbelief to horror and finally, to grief. When he told her their mother was dead, Sayoko began to cry. He could hear Ryuusuke in the background, alarmed at her reaction, but apparently Sayoko left the room, because his voice became more distant.
"Was – was she in pain?" Sayoko managed to say, taking in deep breaths between the words.
Close to tears himself, Cye replied, "I don't know." His voice was shaky, and hearing his sister weep on the other line nearly tore down his resolve to keep from crying with her. He put a hand over his face and clenched his eyes shut. Cye tried soothing Sayoko over the phone, but she was nearly inconsolable when reality really set in. Just when Cye thought he was about to lose the battle with his own grief, he heard the phone being taken away from Sayoko.
"Cye?" Ryuusuke's voice came over the phone, and Cye struggled to compose himself. "How are you?"
Terrible. "Tired," was the only reply Cye could come up with. And he was; completely exhausted, and he wanted nothing more than to curl up in his bed and go to sleep for the next few weeks.
"We'll be over as soon as we can." Ryuusuke's voice was gentle, and for once, Cye was grateful to the man for interjecting a sense of normalcy with his calm demeanor and general questions. Cye nodded wordlessly, and then realized Ryuusuke couldn't hear that. "All right. Thank you."
"Take care, Cye. We'll be a few hours. Are you by yourself?"
"No. My – my friends are with me."
"Good. Have you contacted a mortuary yet?"
"The – I chose the mortuary that mum said did my father's funeral."
"That's fine. When we get there, we'll all go together, all right?"
Cye agreed, and after a brief goodbye, he hung up the phone. Cye put the phone back in its cradle and buried his face in his hands. He was so tired, so sick at heart that he didn't think he'd be able to get out of bed. He wanted to go back to sleep, but he was so afraid he would dream up those memories again that it kept him awake. Between his fingers, he could see the sky outside turn a light gray with the impending sunrise, although most of his room was still dark. Cye hated that reminder that the day was already starting, and he wasn't ready for it.
He couldn't stay in bed. Feeling exhaustion mar his every move, Cye slowly pushed the blankets down, and swung his feet onto the floor. He moved slowly out of the darkened room, and into the even darker hallway. The house was absolutely still, although he knew there were four more people in the house. That thought alone gave him strength enough to move down the hall. When the hallway branched, the living room on the left and the kitchen on the right, he paused at the living room and took in the scene. He felt a smile tug at his mouth at the sight of Rowen on the couch instead of the bed, cocooned in a blanket and feet perched on the arm rest, since the lanky young man was taller than the couch. He had presumably been kicked out of the bed by Sage and Ryo, who were sleeping soundly in the couch bed. Ryo was on his stomach, hugging his pillow, and Sage lay on his back, one arm draped over his stomach. Cye felt himself settle into a more calm frame of mind as he watched his friends sleep.
Cye hadn't stood there for very long when he realized he was starving. Moving into the kitchen as quietly as he could, Cye opened the refrigerator and pulled out the milk. He had no desire whatsoever to cook this early, and instead made himself a bowl of cold cereal. He sat at the counter, eating quietly and blearily watching the sky turn lighter shades of gray. Just at the edge of the horizon, he could see faint slivers of pink and orange, very faint and pale on the underbellies of the clouds.
Cye was almost finished with his cereal when he became aware that someone was standing in the doorway. He looked up, and Sage looked back at him, blonde hair faintly mussed and eyes blurry from sleep, which was unusual for Sage. It made Cye remember that the bearer of Halo probably didn't fall asleep until well after three.
"What are you doing awake?" Cye chided softly.
"I could ask you the same thing," Sage said, and slowly made his way towards the counter. He perched on a seat, sighed, and ran a hand through his unruly hair.
Sage closed his eyes. "I thought I heard the phone. I'm sure it wasn't pleasant."
"No." Cye swallowed, and pushed the empty cereal bowl away from him. "They'll be here in a few hours. I'm guessing two or three, depending on whether they decide to find a babysitter for the kids or bring them with."
Sage nodded. For the first time in a long time, he loathed his ability to get up with the sun, and longed to go back to sleep. Three hours of sleep was not enough, and his body knew it. Cye and Sage exchanged a glance, presumably thinking the same thing, and they exchanged a small smile.
"That gives you enough time to sleep for another hour or so," Sage suggested. "It's too early to do anything useful at this point."
"I know. And I want to." Cye paused, looking down at the counter rather than Sage's eyes. "I had a hard time sleeping last night."
"I would imagine," Sage said quietly. He watched Cye, pale violet eyes unreadable. "The next few days are going to be terrible. But it will get better, Cye."
Cye looked at Sage's face, and then looked away. "I hope so. I don't know if I can do this much longer."
"You can," Sage said, his voice firm. "I know you can. You're stronger than you give yourself credit for."
Cye blinked, not expecting to hear that from Sage. It was nice to hear, though, and it made Cye feel marginally better He hoped Sage was right. Cye gave the blonde young man a small smile. "Never expected a pep talk from you."
Sage's lips upturned in amusement. "It wasn't a pep talk. Just the truth." Abruptly, he sighed. "Get some more sleep, Cye. You'll need it when Sayoko comes in."
"You, too, then," Cye said, and narrowed his eyes when Sage looked about to protest.
Finally, Sage relented. "That wouldn't be a bad idea."
The two weary early birds departed to their respective beds. Sage stretched out on the mattress, and realized with agitation that Ryo had moved in his sleep and was in the middle of the bed. Sage none too gently shoved Ryo over, to which the raven haired young man mumbled in his sleep and turned on his side. With enough room, Sage pulled the covers over him and closed his eyes against the growing light in the window, determined to catch up on another hour or so of blessed sleep.
Cye curled up in his bed after drawing the blinds tightly to keep the morning light from entering in. He sent up a brief prayer that his dreams would leave him alone, and closed his eyes in an attempt to briefly forget the horrendous turn his life had taken not even a day before.
A/N: Sorry this update took so long. This was a hard chapter to write. I was depressing myself by listening to sad songs while I wrote it, which is mainly what compromises the titles of these chapters, if you haven't noticed already. Thank you all SO much for your wonderful reviews, I love hearing from you all. Let me know what you think, and I'll try to get the next chapter out sooner. I mean it this time :)