Title: The Still Point
Rating: PG – 13
Word Count 2,671
Summary: A series of flashbacks told in no particular order. Kaoru looks back and realizes Hikaru's hand has always been in his.
i. it's worth the try what's broken can be fixed tonight
The month hangs on the very edge of October. The wind is starting to pick up. Sometimes Kaoru thinks that the nights are longer than they're supposed to be and that the days aren't any different. It is almost winter and everything is slow and cold and winding. Everything feels like it's headed for a predetermined irreversible fall.
"It's like suddenly, everyone's gone home, ne?" Hikaru says and Kaoru looks up. There are decaying leaves at his feet. Across the street, a shop closes. Hikaru leans forward so his elbows rest on his knees, his movements casual but there is a certain weariness to them.
"Everything's so quiet, ne Kaoru?" he says.
Kaoru tries not to look at him for too long.
"We used to play here when we were kids." Hikaru continues. He doesn't sound wistful at all, just sad. Kaoru wonders how Hikaru's become so perceptive all of a sudden. He rests his head against the chain. He doesn't want to think about it, anymore.
"Remember this?" Hikaru asks. When Kaoru looks up at him again, he's gesturing to the distance between them. The wind is rustling the trees. Kaoru doesn't say that there used to be no distance at all.
Instead he says, "I remember falling off the swing because you pushed me too hard."
It makes Hikaru's smile falter though Kaoru doesn't mean to be so harsh. He trains his gaze to the street though there is nothing there to see. Just this emptiness that makes him feel so small like he's almost invisible.
"I remember you crying and your blood on my shirt." Hikaru says, quiet. Then he shrugs and Kaoru thinks of the leaves at their feet and how they die and live again. He can't help but feel that maybe, there's too much history between them. Maybe it would be better if they fell apart. The spaces between their legs and shoulders, and between their beds — everything feels like it's slowly decaying and coming undone.
Hikaru's gaze is familiar, kind. "Ne, Kaoru," He says again. He is the first one to reach out.
Kaoru tries to be brave and does not to let go.
ii. envelopes stuffed with feelings found
It is on their 9th birthday when Kaoru writes Hikaru a poem. He's been reading books lately—thick ones with gilded spines and strange titles that Big People read. Hikaru doesn't understand most of what's written in the poem but he folds it into a neat little square. He keeps it inside their piggy bank — it's where he keeps everything nowadays, at least those that fit into the slot.
Mostly it's just foreign coins okaasan brings home from the countries she's visited. He grins, bright and wide, and wraps short arms around Kaoru, tight. "Happy birthday," Kaoru whispers and Hikaru whispers it back, like a shared sentiment. He props himself up on one elbow and kisses Kaoru on top of the head. Kaoru's face heats and they hug until they fall asleep.
At noon, okaasan throws them a party. This one has lots of sweets and presents and they can have all the cake they want. When Kaoru sits in his pristine overalls by the birthday cake, Hikaru unclasps their hands and escapes his company. Kaoru feels somehow hurt. He spends the entire day alone, looking for him.
Later, the flowerbeds are ruined. The maids find Hikaru under one of the tables with his hands scratched and raw. His clothes are torn and muddied. There are leaves in his hair. "Happy birthday!" he grins foolishly when Kaoru goes to sit next to him under the table. Kaoru blinks. And he blinks again. Hikaru grins brighter, and even with his fingers aching and bleeding, reaches out to grasp his hand.
iii. write this down as means to reconcile
Hikaru is sitting on Kaoru's legs. Tomorrow there may or may not be bruises. He leans over him. His breath is hot against his collarbone, soursweet. "This girl from class left me a letter yesterday," he says, slow, deliberate. "I think she likes me."
"You want to play a prank on her?" Kaoru asks. Hikaru's hair tangles between his fingertips and Hikaru presses forward, his mouth resting against Kaoru's shoulder. "Yeah," he says and nods. "That would be fun."
A pause. "You think?"
Kaoru shrugs. Hikaru runs his fingertips across bones that jut out. "I can't see why nobody's figured out that I'm me and you're you, yet." he says. His chin settles against Kaoru's chest. The material of Kaoru's pjyama top is scratchy. "You're different from me,"
"We're different," Kaoru says. He looks out the window, though briefly.
Hikaru's hand drifts to hold his hand for a moment. His face presses against Kaoru's neck. Their fingers tighten.
"You smell like lavender." Hikaru says.
iv. embers, we're burning bridges down
Hikaru is standing in front of the bathroom mirror. His hair is dyed pink. Kaoru walks over to him and slips his arms around his neck, his elbows dangling out like ribbon loops from Hikaru's collar. "You look different," He says.
"That's because my hair's a different color now." Hikaru says. He tilts his head to the side and Kaoru used to be able to rest his head on his shoulder. Now he can't. "Why do you insist on doing this?"
Hikaru grabs the bottle of pink dye. Kaoru wishes he'd grab his hand too. "Because."
"Because?" He watches Hikaru in the mirror. He can tell that he's restless from the way his movements are quick, almost jittery.
"We want Haruhi to invite us over to her house, ne?" Hikaru shrugs Kaoru's arms off and he runs a hand through his hair tentatively. The strands feel rubbery between his fingers. He frowns.
"It looks good," Kaoru says. He wants part Hikaru's hair but he thinks better of it. "Don't worry. It suits you. "
Hikaru's eyebrows shoot up. "Really?"
"Arigatou," Hikaru says and grins. It sounds too polite. It sounds so forced. He examines the bottles laid out on the counter. Kaoru picks up the one labeled red. "This would look good."
"Iie," Hikaru grabs it from him. "The blue one. You have to get the blue one."
Hikaru gives him a look. "Because." He gestures for Kaoru to sit on the chair. "I'll put it on you," he tells him. His voice sounds distant, not his.
"Okay," Kaoru says. Hikaru grins, presses a kiss to his cheek but it is not the same.
v. let's look ahead and then we'll see there'll be room for change
"You like Haruhi."
They are sitting in the study. Kaoru is on the floor on his back. A book is propped open on his chest.
"You like her," He says again. Hikaru's arm dangles off the stuffed armchair. His gaze is fixed on the ceiling and he says nothing. Sometimes it's like he thinks in a different language. Kaoru can't read him these days.
"She told us apart." Kaoru says to fill the silence. He puts the book away. "What do you think it means?"
Finally, Hikaru lifts his head. "Why do you have to give everything meaning?"
vi. something like this broken is hard to fix
Okaasan — when she's home, she dances around in red high heels. She dances with otousan when he's home too, and sometimes they stumble into the bed and otousan's hands would find hers. For a moment, okaasan becomes a real person — not just this idea of mother, but some one else entirely. The lines around her eyes that makeup cannot hide, vanish. Her laughter becomes smoother and unguarded and free.
Kaoru doesn't know why the memory of it is so important. Looking back, it was nothing particularly enamoring, just okaasan and otousan and hands on shoulders and the sway of arms and legs. Kaoru remembers what came after it, though. When they tired of watching their parents, they went back to their room. It was raining. There was nothing to do.
Back then Hikaru was always restless (he still is). Kaoru remembers how he was lying on the floor when Hikaru pulled him up and asked if he wanted to marry him. Kaoru didn't know. Hikaru stole okaasan's diamond ring. Then he asked again.
The idea, it's so absurd now. When Kaoru looks back, he understands how things can be different when you're young. Kaoru asked Hikaru why he wanted to marry him so badly even when the ring did not fit. Hikaru had said, smiling widely, "I want you to be my bride!" And when they were eleven, he said, "So we won't ever have to be apart."
When Kaoru thinks of vows, what comes to mind is okaasan's diamond ring and Hikaru's wide smiling eyes. Okaasan has been looking for her king for the longest time. She doesn't know that Kaoru keeps it between the pages of his favorite book in the study. She doesn't know that now, it is a perfect fit, the glass clear and sparkling and hard to look at.
vii. we write to patch things up maybe not to agree but to proclaim love
Hikaru comes back after his date with Haruhi sometime near midnight. They are both tired and drenched in rain and Kaoru's first instinct is to run towards Hikaru to see if something is wrong. Hikaru brushes his hands away. He says he doesn't need him right now. He wants to sleep.
He trudges upstairs and collapses, face-first on the bed. Kaoru looks outside the window. Rain's coming down harder. He feels cold. He peels off Hikaru's shoes and his socks and fetches him drier clothes. When Hikaru gets up and takes off his shirt, his fingers catch Kaoru's wrist for a moment.
"Why are you doing this?" he asks. Kaoru thinks friendship and selflessness aren't enough to justify his excuse, so he settles for a shrug and runs his fingers through the wet strands of his brother's hair. "I'm your brother, right?" he smiles. It makes his teeth ache. "It's what I do."
"No, I meant this," and Hikaru gestures vaguely. He gets up and throws a frustrated glance out the window. "Why are you pushing this thing between me and Haruhi?"
"Because you're being an idiot." Kaoru says. He figures he's got a right to feel annoyed. Mostly, it's just late and he's tired. "You don't know what's good for you."
"You don't know what's good for me." Hikaru says. He crosses the room in swift strides and grabs Kaoru's wrist again. "Why are you pushing this?" he asks. His grip starts to hurt. Kaoru's eyes narrow too and he pulls away. "Because you don't listen baka, you don't see what's there in front of you! You don't notice anything!"
And despite the vagueness of his statement, the heat of Hikaru's breath on his face, he is not brave enough to pull his brother close. Kaoru leaves and the door slams behind him, but later he will crawl in next to Hikaru and be the one to apologize.
viii. if all is said and done and over, if we don't have to, we're not going to make the change
Sometimes Kaoru thinks he thinks too much. But he feels the binds coming undone. Soon enough, the pages will fall away. The book is not made for a happy ending.
It is Halloween. When he is separated from Hikaru for the first time in a long time, it gives him time to think. He is with the class representative. In the dark, they talk about Kurakano-san. The class rep says something about her, about her hair or her eyes, Kaoru isn't sure. He doesn't really think it's important because the class rep is too enamored. He likes her. He adores her.
"… and I pretty much don't like to ruin our current relationship." Kaoru leans against the wall, his shoulders heavy. He thinks about carriages drawn by horses and a road that goes on forever. He thinks about clocks and time and that carriage turning back into a pumpkin. Mostly he thinks about Hikaru, where he could be right now.
"That's one way to think of it, indeed." He says after a moment. "If the carriage keeps on going, it's not so bad, either."
And Kaoru keeps talking, something about Tono or the Host Club or intimacy or a book he's read, his thoughts are scattering. He can't stop.
"But someday," he says. His wrists are sore. "There's a high possibility that it'll turn back into a yucky pumpkin."
The class representative doesn't understand. Kaoru doesn't expect him to.
"Kaoru?" He looks up. "Are you there Kaoru?"
The doors creak open. Kaoru finds Hikaru standing there with a conflicted expression on his face.
The heaviness to his shoulders recedes. He gets up to his feet and Hikaru meets him halfway.
ix. forgiveness will be the thing that gets us by
Haruhi leaves them to go after Tono, moving forwards in an otherwise empty road. The winds are shifting. Kaoru doesn't recognize where they are. "Are you okay?" he asks Hikaru. His arm is injured. Hikaru leans his head against his shoulder, heavy. The gesture looks for comfort. It is familiar. Kaoru thinks about the ring that rests between the pages of his favorite book in the study. Only true wows make for true love. He thinks about the pages fraying and creasing under his fingertips.
"It hurts, don't touch it." Hikaru winces, looks away.
"I won't." Kaoru promises. Hikaru is heavy but he doesn't want to move.
"The spell is lifting, fast." He says.
Hikaru looks up with bewildered eyes. "What?"
"The spell," he says again. He doesn't know whether to laugh or cry or hit Hikaru for the first time. He knows where they are, now. They're in a pumpkin patch. "It's lifting, Hikaru."
x. ask to look past life as it goes by
They are too short to use the swings and hold hands at the same time. Instead, they settle for taking turns. It is Kaoru's turn on the swing. They are seven.
Hikaru is on his toes, hands resting on Kaoru's shoulders. "Grip the bars tightly Kaoru!" he says. The grin on his face is blinding and bright. Kaoru nods. "Hai."
Hikaru gives him a tentative push. Once, two times. Kaoru feels his inside flutter like butterfly wings. His feet leave the ground. It is like falling or flying. The wind tangles in his hair.
Hikaru pushes harder and Kaoru thinks of a book he's read in the study. It is about children getting lost in the woods and finding a house made of sweets.
For a moment, Kaoru is happy. "Hikaru, you should try this!" he says.
But Hikaru's turn never will never come. Kaoru will have split his lip open when it is his time and the maids will rush to tend to him with their lilac scented hands and soft whispers. Kaoru will reach out. He will grasp the air for a moment. It will be like falling or drowning, panic. But Hikaru's hand will find his and they will never part until the ride to the hospital. "I'll take care of you," Hikaru will say and he will be crying with him. "Gomen ne, Kaoru. I didn't mean to, to—" and Kaoru will say it is okay.
Lyrics from "Embers and Envelopes" by Mae.