"The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen, nor touched ... but are felt in the heart." -Helen Keller
Kazuki liked taking Juubei to the museums. One of his favorite places to go was the museum of Natural History. He would guide Juubei in the maze of downtown city streets, their hands loosely gripped. Their schooling had been far more practical, rooted in traditional practices and fully involving their future roles. Juubei was the studier of medicine, in preparation for his role as a doctor; Kazuki learned the old lessons of formal, ceremonial concern, and both enjoyed their schooling in martial arts.
But as they headed deep into the city's center, their past was the last thing on their minds. Kazuki had had his fair share of exploring urban life, having a small apartment on the outskirts of the metropolitan world, everything within his reach. But Juubei had been isolated in Mugenjyou, and survival had been the most important activity. Now, they hurriedly crossed a large avenue, Kazuki cheerfully reading aloud the streetnames, stopping to listen to a street musician.
To any outsider looking in, it would look like a pretty girl leading her boyfriend around enthusiastically. They wouldn't notice Kazuki's masculine strength or the fact that Juubei was cautiously securing his feet as he walked, the visor obscuring the view of his tightly shut eyes.
When they reached the stairs, Kazuki carefully guided his guest, telling him it was safe to step up. Together, they began to rove through the museum, the thread spinner chattering excitedly to Juubei, describing each room in detail. They rested for a while on a bench near the gift store, catching up on the mundane details of their lives, Kazuki leaning his head on Juubei's shoulder, whispering happily.
As they traveled the various wonders of the foreign past, Kazuki spoke quickly about the displays, Juubei especially interested in the North American Indians and the massive, recreated dinosaurs. The words flooded out, echoing in the tall rooms, sketching and painting aloud the ceiling, colors, and displays. His bells tinkered as they moved about, a beat added to his voice, an audible direction for Juubei to follow.
Kazuki realized once again, in the back of his mind, how much he had taken for granted before Juubei had lost his sight. Before Ginji had dragged them back into Mugenjyou, he had tried to tell himself that he was fine alone; he didn't need anyone. Instead, he stayed awake at night, tracing through his moonlit apartment with the lights off, completely unable to sleep. It was hard during those long years, lying to himself.
Today, he told himself, that was going to change.
There was a gigantic elephant in the lobby as they hurried up the steps. It loomed over the visitors, a monumental statue of what was to come as they traveled the floors. Its eyes stared out, blank and unseeing. Kazuki stared up at it for a moment, detailing what it looked like while Juubei listened quietly next to him.
"It seems so unfair," Kazuki thought out loud, "Even after death, it can't rest wholly with its skin on display." He shuddered. The animals standing in exhibits filled his heart with pity, because they had no one to guide them around, their eyes wide shut.
Juubei watched him with closed eyes before he reached out to touch him, and the world suddenly seemed to right itself, filling him with more peace and relief than he'd had a minute ago, years ago. He turned away from the display, taking Juubei's hand and clearing his throat. "Let's go this way."
Kazuki liked taking Juubei to the children's section, because there were a lot of interesting items, like figurines and examples from the exhibits for Juubei to touch, with Kazuki's guidance and forewarning of what the item was. It was something he could do, at the very least, experiencing some part of history without his eyes. The kids stared at them curiously, the way children do before they know it's impolite. Kazuki smiled warmly at them, and they returned it, less cautious than before.
The guard on duty nodded kindly at them, but remained watching with a wary eye until they left.
After they explored the rooms, Kazuki led Juubei outside, wrapping the taller man's arm around his waist as they walked together, heading out of the older art district, turning down a few side streets before arriving at a small café for hot chocolate and pastries.
They only went on their downtown adventures during mid-week, when it was less busy and relatively quieter. Everyone else was at work, after all. No matter the weather, they sat at the outside patio together. Although he had repeatedly said that an indoor table was fine, Juubei could feel the breeze and hear more things outside, and Kazuki always requested a table there. The day was cold and frigid, the sky a luminous overcast gray. Kazuki liked this kind of weather, settling down to his steaming mug.
"Careful, it's hot." He warned as leaned forward, wrapping Juubei's fingers around the mug handle. Juubei blew on the surface and took a cautious sip, smiling slightly at the taste. Growing up in formal, traditional families, they usually had had tea. It was always a treat to have hot chocolate or coffee, especially with Kazuki.
Kazuki, looking above, described the sky for Juubei, who could feel no intense sunlight, but no drizzle either. Losing one of his senses had made every other one stronger in an effort to make up for it. The wind rustled his hair softly, and he could hear the soft movement of Kazuki's bells, feel the warmth and steam of his mug and the smell of the pastries baking inside.
In the air, he could feel only mist, a dampness that surely brought fog. It seemed to seep into his mind, clouding his focus, the cold breeze twining around his neck.
"I love the sky this color." Kazuki breathed. "It's a perfect medium, with not too much of any weather. That's why people like gray, I've heard, because it's both white and black."
Juubei smiled, hearing the happiness in his friend's voice at such a simple thing as the sky. Kazuki noticed, and rubbed his foot mischievously against Juubei's leg underneath the table. This launched a playful footsie war, something they did as children when the adults had stepped out, both chuckling in their efforts. Finally, they stopped, Kazuki flushed with laughter, gasping for breath. It took a while before both of them were settled, going back to sipping their drinks.
Juubei set his mug down and lifted his face to the sky, expression wistful. "I wish I could see it too."
Kazuki studied him for a moment, quiet after a morning full of talking. "In a strange way, Juubei, I envy you. You might not be able to see, but you can feel better than anyone I've ever met. You always have."
And Juubei could sense something very subtle changing, sliding into place, like a taut string, stretched for ages, finally let loose. The air settled heavily around their table.
"Here, give me your hand." Kazuki murmured suddenly. He grasped it, fingers rubbing the rough skin on the back of Juubei's palm. Tracing his own face with Juubei's hand, he made sure that Juubei felt his features, brushing across his nose, "You remember what I look like, don't you?"
"As clearly as the last time I saw you."
He slid Juubei's hand down his neck, running the fingers across his collarbone, pausing as the hand reached his heart. A boundary they had been careful not to cross loomed closer.
Juubei could feel Kazuki's heart fluttering, beating steady and strong. The pulse was slowly, surely increasing. Kazuki was anxious about something, and Kazuki was never anxious. He gave him a small, reassuring smile, letting go of his mug in order to use his other hand to judge the distance to Kazuki's mouth, touching his soft lips, before closing in.
Their lips connected, both leaning over the small table, Kazuki pressing the hand harder into his chest, his other hand curling behind Juubei's neck and into his hair. The mugs of hot chocolate sat untouched, still steaming, forgotten.
At this moment, both of them with their eyes closed tight, breathing in and out, they could feel each other better than ever, with all that was left of their remaining senses.