Hah! I told myself I'd get this finished before the end of August, and I was right! Of course, I'm kinda pushing it, but still…I hope you all enjoy the conclusion.
Disclaimer:I do not own Digimon, nor do I own anything to do with 'Loveless'. I just write. A lot.
Chapter 21: Denouncement
The Principal kept his word, to everyone's surprise.
Despite the fact that a good wing of the school had been pulled down, there were few readily apparent injuries and only the Zeroes were missing. The Headmaster climbed from the rubble with the rest, brushed himself off and scowled his way through the proceedings, but he did not go back on the promises he had made at the beginning of the fight.
The paperwork was drawn up within hours. Izumi was officially expelled, much to her delight. The twins were likewise absolved of whatever ties had bound them to the School in the first place; and the efforts to recruit Takuya were officially abandoned. Junpei and Tomoki's permanent records were wiped clean – along with, it must be said, most of the rest of the school, given that the registrar's office was immediately next door to the Principal's office and therefore among the rubble.
Then, to everyone's surprise, a number of black-suited figures bearing paperwork from the School system that Ryo had spoken of turned up bearing paperwork. The Headmaster, they said, was being called in for questioning over the abuse of the now-defunct Zero project. It seemed that the project was unstable enough as it was, but the current Principle had taken extra measures to increase the potency, while likewise increasing the risk to the subjects, himself and those around him. He looked even paler than usual as they were escorting him away.
Nobody was exactly sure how that got taken care of. Takuya suspected Soubi's involvement – pulling the strings from behind, watching over his former students in his own way. The twins rolled their eyes, but didn't deny it. Besides, no one had yet laid eyes on the 'temporary' principal who was to take the disposed Headmaster's place. No one involved in the combat was interested in sticking around.
They went home, escorted by Fearless who, in spite of their injuries, were in good spirits. Or at least, Ryo was in good spirits. Ruki remained as stoic as ever, but even she seemed relieved of a heavy burden now.
Once they were sure that everyone was settled back at home, Fearless packed up their things from the twins' apartment and returned to the School to 'Monitor' the ongoing situation. They promised to make sure that the new administration was better than the last, and to keep in contact with their new-found 'friends.' Kouichi even convinced them to give him their cell phone numbers. It hadn't occurred to Takuya that they even had cell phones.
Meanwhile, those who had homes to return to did so. The twins settled back into their apartment, shooing Takuya away politely but firmly with the affirmations that he would see them at school – safe, secure, normal school – soon enough. Takuya himself returned home to worried hugs from his parents and threats of being grounded until the end of time if he ever so much as thought about disappearing on them like that again. He laughed, assuring his mother that no such thing would happen, and he actually meant it.
Izumi spent one night with a contact of Fearless's, then found herself a small and relatively unassuming apartment nearby that was willing to rent to her without much question. The next day, she found herself a part-time job at the ice cream shop where she and Takuya had their first – dare they day it? – date. That afternoon also found her newly enrolled in the same class as Takuya and the twins. Nobody really thought too hard about how that gotten taken care of, either.
One way or another – through chance or effort or the actions of a man too devilish to be called a guardian angel – their loose pieces finally fell into place.
Spring Break came to an end.
( - )
Knock. Knock knock knock.
"Nii-san? Are you all right?"
"I'm fine," Kouichi called through the bathroom door, toweling his hair. "I'll be out in a minute. Go on to bed."
Kouji snickered at that, and though he fell quiet, Kouichi knew he wouldn't be going to bed. His brother had been keeping a protective watch over him from the moment they'd gotten home, never leaving him alone for too long. He supposed that Fearless had suggested that – they seemed intent on making sure that neither of them did any more damage than had already been done.
Kouichi sighed, setting the towel to the side and glancing at his reflection in the mirror. He had heard once that amputees would sometimes feel as though their missing appendage was still there, leaving them with a 'ghost limb.' The principle shouldn't have worked with a limb that was meant to fall off on its own, but it did. He could still feel the instinctive twitch of ears he no longer owned and the brush of a non-existent tail against the back of his knees.
Slowly, his eyes and fingers drifted to the cardboard cigar box that sat on the countertop. Nestled inside, on a bed of tissue paper and bubble wrap, were two realistic-looking fake ears that exactly matched his hair color.
They had arrived the day after they had returned home, special delivery. The invoice had been in Soubi's name. Other than the ears at the fake tail that went with them, the package had been empty. Still, they knew what to do.
Kouichi lifted the costume ears out of their wrappings and held them against his head. They blended perfectly, and the clips that would hold them in place were practically invisible. Nobody would no the difference.
No one but him.
Outside in the hall, Kouji jumped a foot when the sound of shattering glass echoed from inside the bathroom. He twisted around and pounded at the door with both fists. "Kouichi! Kouichi, nii-san, are you all right?! Nii-san!"
When he didn't get a reply, he slammed into the door shoulder-first. It burst open, the simply lock shattering under the force, and Kouji stumbled into the bathroom on the force of his own momentum.
The mirror was broken – shattered, really, in three places. Blood clung to the sharp edge of glass surrounded the impact points. A few crimson droplets scattered across the sink, the countertop and the fake ears that lay there. Kouichi was crouched on the floor, curled around his bleeding hands and sobbing miserably.
Kouji sucked in a breath, moving to his brother's side. He knelt beside his twin and gently pride the injured hands out where he could see them properly. Kouichi sniffed, not meeting his eye. "I'm sorry."
"S'okay," Kouji soothed. He brought his brother's hands to his lips and kissed the broken flesh. "I understand."
His brother choked out another short sob. "It hurts."
"I know it does."
Neither were talking about Kouichi's hands.
Reluctantly, the elder twin's eyes traveled upward until they came to rest on the fake ears. He bit his lip. "I…I can't wear them, Kouji. I just can't. They're not…they're not real."
"It's all right," Kouji sighed, reaching under the sink to pull out the first aid kit. "It was a stupid idea anyway. Fake ears. Of course that sneaky bastard would come up with something like that."
The insult against their former teacher brought a slight smile to Kouichi's face, but it wasn't enough to lift the weight from his shoulders. As Kouji applied bandages to the elder's bleeding hands, they sat in silence and stewed over their situation. They had a chance now, a chance for a normal life, or something resembling it. But if people knew…
Kouichi closed his eyes, and he could already see them. The looks of disgust, horror and pity that would follow him everywhere he went. The whispers that were bound to fly the moment he walked into the classroom and the loss became clear. The dawning realization that would flicker across strangers' faces when they realized how young it was and just how soon he had lost his…
Sensing his thoughts, Kouji pressed the last bandage into place and kissed his brother's forehead. "Don't."
"Don't apologize either," Kouji said, taking his twin's face in his hands. "You didn't do anything wrong. You never did anything wrong. You're going to be okay, you'll see."
Kouichi sighed and glanced away. The mantra was familiar by now. It was something that Ruki's therapist friend had said during their sessions, and she had encouraged Kouji to repeat it as often as possible around the home. It was supposed to be comforting, reassuring. Now, it just felt hollow.
"Nii-san," Kouji said, pulling his brother from his thoughts. "You trust me, don't you?"
Kouichi gave him an exasperated look and a very small smile. "Of course I do."
Kouji smiled back. He looked almost as pained as his twin. "I…I don't want you to go through this alone."
"Listen to me," the Fighter insisted. He picked up his brother's wounded hand and pressed it over the jagged scar on his own arm, over their Name. "We made a promise. A vow. I told you that I'd always be with you, and I still mean that. That's a promise I'm never, ever going to break."
Kouichi's smile became a bit more honest. He squeezed his brother's arm. "I know."
Kouji worried his bottom lip with his teeth, thinking over his next words very, very carefully. "And you'd know I would never, ever want to hurt you."
"You never have."
"But I don't want you to go through this alone."
Kouichi's eyes widened slightly as he realized what his brother was asking. Kouji's eyes were pained and scared, terrified of his brother's reaction. He looked a little like he was about to be sick. "If…If you don't want to…if you don't think…I understand, I do, and I'm sorry. I just, I can't stand seeing you like this, and I wish I could…I want to…I just want to help…"
Kouichi silenced his partner with a kiss. Whatever words had been struggling to find their way out were lost. After a long while, he pulled away just long enough gaze into his brother's eyes.
"I trust you," he whispered, and kissed him again.
( - )
The first morning back at school was almost unbearable for Takuya.
Nothing had changed, and it aggravated him. Classes continued on as usual, rumors still flew like wildfire, Matsuda was still a jerk and not a damn thing had changed. It just didn't feel right. Everything had changed for him, the whole world had changed, his whole life had changed. School ought to reflect that.
But it didn't, and it drove him insane.
He sat at his desk in the middle of the classroom and worried. He squirmed in his seat, tapped his pencil against the wood, and worried. He worried about Izumi, even as she introduced herself at the front of the class with a smile – he couldn't even focus on how cute she looked in her new uniform (and she did looks really, really cute). He worried about whether she'd be happy here, about how the other students would treat her, if they would be as savage to her as they had to the twins. He worried about Ruki and Ryo, even though he knew that they could take care of themselves better than just about anyone. And he worried for the twins. He hadn't seen them all weekend, and neither were in their seats…
Izumi gave him a concerned glance as she took her seat just in front of him. Takuya smiled at her, trying to assuage her fears as well as his own, but the concern for his friends quickly ate any comfort it might have offered away. The teacher began his lecture, as though nothing was abnormal. Takuya's tapping only grew faster with every word.
Then, the classroom door slid open. From the front of the room came a collective gasp.
Kouji and Kouichi stepped into the room hand-in-hand, sliding the metal door closed behind them. Their expressions were carefully blank and remained so even as a torrent of whispers flew around the room. Even in front of everyone, they never let go of each other's hand.
Neither one had their ears.
Takuya let his pencil drop in surprise. Izumi gasped. The classroom burst into a storm of quiet conversation, as though whispering made them invisible to the subjects of their discussion. The teacher blinked at the twins, his lecture trailing off in mid-sentence, as though he couldn't quite connect the scene before him with anything that made sense.
Finally, he spoke. "Minamoto. Kimura. You're…late."
"Sorry, sir," Kouichi said with a respectful bow. "The power was out at our apartment. It won't happen again."
"Ah, well…see that it doesn't."
Their expressions still neutral, the twins made their way through the classroom to their seats, pointedly ignoring all of the scandalous looks that people were shooting them. They slid into their chairs and pulled out their books as though nothing had happened, ready to take notes and start the new semester off right.
Takuya glanced their way. Kouichi met his eye and gave him a soft smile, squeezing Kouji's hand underneath their joined desks. The corners of Kouji's lips twitched up as well, and he raised an eyebrow at Takuya as though daring him to say anything.
Takuya did not. He just smiled.
Izumi smiled as well, and her expression lit up the room like a million Christmas blubs. All around them, the class continued to gossip and whisper and gasp, despite all of the teacher's efforts to silence them. All of their greatest suspicions had just been confirmed, but none of them – Takuya, Izumi or the twins – could care less.
Nothing had changed. Everything had changed. And that was exactly how life would be from now on.