Author's notes:

Firstly, I'd like to note that writing a fic about a series that hasn't yet finished is always dangerous—if you're not delicate, you're liable to see what you thought was your firm grasp of canon become just so much piss into the wind. If such happens to me, I'll do my scouts-honor best to remedy the situation, but at best it may turn into an AU and at worst, I may have to call it off. I don't see that happening though.

Saying a few words about the tone of this fic, it will not be like the series. Slapstick humor does not translate to the page, at all, no matter what people tell you. That doesn't mean I don't hope that in reading this, you'll get, as Richard "Trashmouth" Tozier might have said, your chucks, but they won't be as many or varied as in School Rumble, because this fiction isn't about School Rumble, not really; it's about Harima Kenji, and Yakumo and Tenma Tsukamoto, and all of the other characters that I love so dearly. Maybe it's about giving them a happy ending, maybe not. We'll have to see. Besides, anybody who knows how I write knows I'm best when it's long and angsty, as one reviewer put it. That reviewer was right, too. This fic will be long and probably very dark, though hopefully not without its light, too.

I don't align myself with any of the pairing "factions," so don't hold me to a pairing. I'm not even sure if there'll be a pairing, though, realistically, somebody's going to wind up boning (er, "dating") somebody by the end.

I'm going to divide each chapter into parts where I can—I've noticed that it's easier to read three short chapters than one long one, since you can just read a part of it if you're in a hurry.

Alright. So, this being lengthy enough already, I guess it's about time to start the show. Onward and upward, as they say. Or maybe we wont go upward, just onward. In any case.

Reviews are always appreciated! Concrit especially—I survive on concrit, though I'll probably keep writing this even if nobody reads it at all, which, honestly, is what I expect.

Thanks for reading!

(NO PROLOGUE THIS TIME! HAH)


I Disappear
A tale of getting back what was never really lost.
By Veg


Chapter one
In Memory


I can't live in the past and drown myself in memory


I want to go back to the way things were. To those happier days. "Those days" are always happier. I just want it to be like it was; that's all. Was it too much to ask that those carefree days last forever?

Harima Kenji didn't often think about his high school days since he'd sobered up—his sponsor had called it a "trigger," and told him it was probably best not to dwell on it. Chances were he was right, too; Harima always wound up thinking about it when he drank, and always wound up drinking when he thought on it too deeply.

That was before he'd sobered up, of course.

Not that anybody really, truly sobered up; everybody at those meetings knew that. What they were really doing was taking the chimp that hung around on their shoulders all day and stuffing it in a suitcase. They could make the cases strong—good material, tough locks, that sort of thing—but it was just a suitcase all the same. A little black bag you handcuffed to yourself and carried around with you. The kind of thing that you sometimes, in your weaker moments, desperately wanted to open out of sheer curiosity. I can do it this time. I'm cured, so one can't hurt, right?

Trouble with chimps was, if you let them out for even a second, most of the time they just hopped right back on top of you. And the trouble with locked suitcases was that they all had a combination, and Kenji's sponsor had (probably correctly) deduced that his was high school.

That wasn't his only "trigger," of course. He'd had a tough life. Parents gone god knew where at a young age, living with a neglectful cousin for a while, hopping in and out of poverty and squalor during the early years of his career and all the pain that brought; all of these were "triggers" too, but none had been quite so powerfully intense as the things he wanted to forget in high school.

Thing about high school was, and this was a common theme in "Hario Harima's" work, that people tended not to notice just how fast it went, nor how much they inevitably left undone when it was over. It was only three years, after all, and when it was over, it hit him like a hammer: That was it. It. School was out, over for good. He had zero University prospects, and neither did that one thing that got him out of bed every day, that one thing that had kept him in school and away from trouble: Tenma.

He had always thought, someday, someday I'll make it, and then, that'll be it, I can be really, really happy. Whenever he failed, there was always another chance at someday, and then all of the sudden, out of the blue, it was graduation, and that was it. He had spent it in shock. That couldn't have been it. Someday had to come.

It never did.

Mai Ootsuka gave a speech. She had been the valedictorian. Something about dreams never ending, or some such insubstantial crap, and then she had walked off the stage, and eventually, just before the middle of the alphabet, Kenji had walked onto it and off of it.

And then it had ended. He saw Tenma several times after that, but it was somehow…different. They were in groups, and soon after that, there were no more groups—Mikoto, Eri, and Akira all went off to university, and Karasuma went to America to promote his manga. He saw Yakumo—imouto-san, he had called her—less and less as his department assigned him to a professional editor and Yakumo refused formal training, and the less he saw Yakumo, the less he saw Tenma.

And then Tenma had gotten her job as a ski instructor, with Yakumo off to university (for what? Something to do with animals, I think; she said something about that the last time I saw her) like the rest of them, and then she had moved, too.

And then it had just been Harima. He was sure the girls saw each other sometimes, but now, all these years—seven, by his counting, which was never entirely reliable—later, it was probably less for fun and games and more for dinner with their husbands.

He had no idea what had come of them. Any of them. With the death of his dream had come the death of his drive; had Tenma proposed to move during high school, he might have moved with her. Maybe now, all these years later, with a recovered heart and (mostly) an empty shoulder, he may have as well, but now it was too late. He didn't know what had become of any of them.

But it was old news. He had found a few new friends, though none he liked very well, and he had dated a few girls, one a fan of his work. Mostly he worked. It was what he was good at; why not do it with everything he had? No heartbreak lasted forever, even that heartwrenching, seemingly unending agony dished out so constantly by an unrequited love.

But even with that, remembering was a little hard. Remembering all the time he'd spent, and how little he'd taken out of it in the end. (Tenma might have said that he was being stupid, that he should remember how much fun he had, and he might have even agreed, long ago). And remembering made him want the bottle, so he didn't remember, because the last place he wanted to wind up again was at the bottom of a bottle.

Really, it wasn't all that uncommon for writers (or, by extension, manga artists) to end up somewhere around there. A lot of writers had plenty of their own problems, and a lot more simply felt that what they wrote with a little bit of o-sake in them was just that much better, and then a little bit of o-sake wasn't quite enough to get the level of quality they needed, and soon enough they wouldn't even sit down at their desk until half-past shitfaced o'clock.

But Kenji had been there and done that, and he was done with it, and glad to be.

But even so, sometimes he wanted to be back. It was the chimp, that fucking chimp inside the briefcase, really.

But locks didn't magically break themselves. He knew that well enough; that was really how he managed to keep a lid on that chimp so well. He just didn't tempt fate. If he was starting to drift, thinking about high school or how miserable he'd been during the years afterwards, he just went out. That was really what those friends were for, anyway—he knew them all from his meetings, so they were safe, and being a decently-established author, he was allowed a little bit of leeway on his deadlines. Mostly, so long as he had his serialization in every week, he was in the clear, and, unbeknownst to his editor (it was, in fact, a closely-guarded secret), he actually had several weeks worth of material in a drawer somewhere. His current work, Heaven's seven, was fairly popular anyway, so it was allowed a few weeks worth of filler if need be.