I'm not really sure about this one (rather, this one either). But, at the moment anyway, I can't really see what else to do with it. I seem to have a slight theme with Rei and troubled pasts. There's YuBo if you want to see it, otherwise it's easily ignored. There's homosexuality, too. Not quite as easily ignored.
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Rei, Kai slowly realised, was very, very guarded, almost unnaturally so. Kai himself was a very private person, withdrawn- but still somewhat open, and always honest. Brutally. Kai had, at first, believed Rei kept his distance as a way of showing respect, or even as a way to honour Kai's independence. It seemed a fair assumption considering how much more mature Rei was then Takao or Max.
Then Takao, for some vague reason he hadn't quite grasped, decided to invite Yuriy, who, of course, hadn't arrived alone. Yuriy didn't do alone, not since he had the freedom to make his own choices.
Kai tolerated Yuriy to a certain extent. He had slight difficulties with certain aspects of his personality, easily ignored, of course. And when it came to Yuriy's travelling companion, Kai could almost agree to say that he liked him. Boris was easy to deal with in comparison.
As a former team-mate Kai was also familiar with the constant need to touch Yuriy had outside of the arenas and stadiums.
"Kai," Yuriy sat down on the couch, and three shuffles later found Yuriy tightly pressed to Kai's side. "Is it possible for…let's say someone like me, and Boris, to live here a bit more permanently?"
Sighing, Kai leaned back, annoyed waving Yuriy away as he came that bit closer. "I don't know. Ask the immigration department."
Yuriy hummed, stretching out, pushing the coffee table away from the couch in the process. "Y'think that'd work?"
"Do you know the language?"
"Then fill in an application."
"That smells nice, Rei." Yuriy stumbled slightly as the shoulder he was about to lean against abruptly disappeared.
"Thanks…" Rei replied, distracted as he blindly reached for the saffron. "Set the table, would you?"
With a shrug and a nod, Yuriy began the search for plates.
"Don't you ever eat outside when the weather's so nice?" Yuriy laid out the plates, frowning softly at the chopsticks. "Do you have forks?"
Rei shrugged. "Not really, no. Takao and Max 'accidentally fell' on the table we used to have outside and it 'just went to pieces'. And there're no forks."
Yuriy tsked, a slight smirk hovering around the corners of his mouth. "I think Ivan had a similar experience once. With the neighbours' dogs. He doesn't like…dogs."
Rei laughed, moving for the oven as Yuriy sat next to him on the counter. "I think it's ready." he hummed. "Get the others?"
There was a deep, tired sigh. Then- "Borya!"
For a second, everything was quiet. Then a door slammed upstairs, and Boris' voice drifted down, clear and somewhat grumpy. "What?"
Obviously, everyone else also heard.
Kai leaned his head on his arm, dark eyes following Rei as he moved about, somehow managing to find a dozen tasks that needed his attention before he deemed himself worthy of joining them at the table. "Rei."
Smiling sheepishly, Rei sank down in the chair next to Kai. "Sorry." Kai shook his head. "Really."
Sinking into the hot water, Kai frowned to himself as Rei's quirks, or at least one of them, started to form a pattern.
Rei was never still, relaxed or at ease whenever Yuriy was close by. When Yuriy sat down, Rei would inevitably stand up. Would always be one step ahead and away of the clinging arms.
Was that what Boris glares were about lately? His team-mate, and friend, hurting Boris' team-mate, and…whatever they were? Maybe.
Frown deepening, Kai sank further down in the warm, foamy water. Rei never touched him, and he never touched Rei. Even when they shared beds they managed not to touch, and when the beds were small there was never more contact than was strictly necessary. It had always been one of their many silent agreements.
Did Rei ever hug anybody? Not him, or Yuriy. Not Boris or Rai, or even Max and Takao, and certainly not Kyouju.
Kai massaged his scalp, rubbing in the shampoo, for volume and shine, the bottle said.
Hugs…Mao? Kai shook his head, he'd never seen that either. Sure, Rei had leaned against her that one time. But that was still only that one time.
It seemed that Rei never touched anyone, never a causal hug or slap on the back. Never fell back into a friendly pair of arms. And yet, when Takao or Max needed comfort, they'd run to Rei. When he needed reassurance of that he was doing his duties as a captain properly, then who did he go to?
Frowning, Kai rinsed his hair. The why remained. Why?
He didn't like that sort of physical contact merely because it made him uncomfortable, and as a result he normally clammed up. But he could tolerate it; he could endure a hug or one of his mother's kisses.
Rei could, evidentially, not even handle someone sitting too close.
Kai's eyebrows shot up in surprise, subtly of course, as Rei hugged his knees to his chest five minutes into the late night movie they had all, mostly out of boredom, decided to watch. The only visible part of his face was his eyes, and from the occasional glances Kai bestowed upon the other revealed that they were stormy. Occasionally he would twitch, as if he wanted to stand up and leave, but couldn't quite get his mind and body to cooperate.
Yuriy coughed, mumbling something about Chinese traditions and nodded towards the film. The two leading actors were involved in a rather…steamy kiss. Kai glanced at Rei again, but he was silent, staring at the screen with his stormy eyes, fingers clenched tightly around the fabric of his trousers.
The second the credits started to roll, Rei was out of the room and halfway inside the pantry in the kitchen, the door to which he had slammed shut with a bang. The kitchen went silent as the lights flickered.
Standing, Kai walked towards the kitchen and closed the door behind him.
"B-boys?" Rei asked weakly. "I-I don't understand! Where's Li?" Rei sniffed, wrapping his arm around himself. "I want Li!"
Rei gasped, crying out in shock as Wei Zhe struck him across his face, sending him sprawling on the floor. Rei clutched his cheek, reddening by the second, his childish snivels turning into loud sobs.
"I will not tolerate your sort, filth. I will not allow any form of disgrace be brought down on the village of my ancestors." Wei Zhe grabbed Rei by his collar, forcing the boy to meet his gaze by gripping his jaw tightly.
Rei whimpered, tears streaming down his face. "I-I don't under-understand!" Rei wailed. "I'm sorry!"
Wei Zhe glared, bruising the delicateskin of Rei's jaw as he tightened his grip. "You defile the honour of this village. You deviant nature lures innocent boys, like young Li, to hideous, blasphemous acts of disgrace!" He spat, eyes narrowing to dangerous glares.
Struggling weakly, Rei wiped his face as the Village Headman released him with a disgusted hiss.
"I want you out of this village by dawn."
Rei sobbed, unsteadily reaching out for the man who glared one last time before slamming the door in his face. "Wait!" Rei sniffed, and desperately pulled at the handle. But the door didn't open, and he banged his small fists against the wood. "I'm sorry! I didn't mean to!" Rei screamed, voice hoarse, turning hysterical the longer he waited and no one came for him.
The dark slowly crept over the horizon, casting shadows. Hiccupping, small body still shaking with sobs, he huddled in the corner by the door. "I don't like the dark…"
Rei screamed, abruptly awoken as someone threw him down on the ground. He looked around, blinking at the angry face of Wei Zhe. As yesterday slowly returned to him, Rei felt tears once again gather in his eyes. "I'm sorry! Chief, I- Ah!" Rei cried, staring in wide-eyed horror at the man who struck him. Li's papa…but he was…nice, kind. "Shanyuan…?"
The familiar eyes hardened. Then Shanyuan spat at Rei's feet and stalked away, nodding once at Wei Zhe.
"Shanyuan! I'm sorry, I didn't mean to!" Rei scrambled to his feet, distraught and crying he tried to run after Shanyuan. "Li!"
The Village Headman grabbed him by the scruff of his neck. "Li is no longer any of your concern. Now leave." With a heavy shove, Rei landed in a heap on the ground.
Leaning against the door, Kai crossed his arms as he silently studied Rei. Rei's stare was fixed on a spot just to the left of his arm, his eyes glassy, but he was pale and biting his lip. Kai's eyes narrowed. Rei was troubled, then.
Over the movie? Possibly. Last Kai had read - granted it had been on the internet and he knew just as well as anyone else that internet was more often than not, unreliable - homosexuality was at large taboo in China, and something vile and shameful on the countryside, if it even existed. And Rei, was a villager.
"Is that kind of behaviour…normal, Kai?" Kai blinked over at Rei. "Do…people really do that?"
Kai shrugged. "'Normal' is only what the surrounding society deems as acceptable." Rei visibly swallowed, hands clenched in tight fists. "No one is hardly ever normal, Rei."
"That's not an answer, Kai!" Rei's eyes flashed, voice growing louder. "Are there, people…like that?!"
Kai frowned at Rei, who suddenly hovered just in front of him, hands still by his sides. "And what if there are, Rei?"
Shaking his head desperately, Rei closed his eyes. "There…they- it's disgrace!" Rei blurted, grimacing, eyes still closed and head half turned away.
Kai glared softly, voice lowering. "If you can't even make yourself believe that, then I sincerely doubt you'll be able to convince anyone else."
Kai arched an eyebrow, leaning down so that his head was level with Rei's. "Now, Rei, there are people like that." Rei flinched slightly as Kai's breath ghosted over his face, and his previously pale cheeks regained some of their lost colour. "Open your eyes." Rei shook his head, and Kai sighed. Then he grabbed Rei by the shoulder, and Rei's eyes shot open. Kai smirked and opened the door just enough for Rei to be able to catch sight of the couch. And its occupants.
Rei gasped sharply and Kai closed the door. "Their strength came from…disgrace, was it? It still comes from it." Kai smirked, letting his hand drop from Rei's shoulder, and Rei visibly relaxed. "I don't think they call it disgrace, though."
Rei looked away, not saying anything. Then he sighed, "Good night, Kai." and left.
Kai was doing the dishes as Rei came back from his shower, hair bundled up in a towel.
Grabbing a yogurt, Rei hopped up on the counter next to Kai, stealing one of the freshly cleaned spoons and a bowl. Rei ate silently, following Kai's hands intently with his eyes in their mundane task.
Pulling out the plug, Kai let the water out and washed his hands. A quick glance at Rei told him that the other's eyes were still fixed on his hands and Kai flicked water at Rei. Rei wrinkled his nose up, shooting Kai an annoyed glare.
"I…need to use the internet, Kai." Rei said as Kai turned away.
Kai smirked, drying his hands on a towel. Rei and a computer was always…amusing.
"Don't laugh at me." Rei grumbled, licking his spoon clean.
Kai shook his head. "I'm not."
Rei narrowed his eyes, depositing the bowl in the sink. "So you say…" Kai grabbed Rei's arm and pulled him down from his perch. Rei instantly snatched his arm back, opening his mouth, and then he shook his head. "Internet?" He moved for the hallway, stepping out of the kitchen and mockingly gave Kai a curt bow as he motioned for him to take the lead.
"Hn." Rei grinned briefly, and then he skipped past Kai once again as the right door came into their line of vision.
Feeling… suddenly, strangely, apprehensive of opening the door to Kai's room, Rei frowned softly, quenching the feeling, and gently pushed it open. Rei blinked, paling and he slammed the door shut, causing Kai to shoot him an annoyed glare and re-open the door. Kai came face to face with a rumpled looking Yuriy, shadowed by Boris, who was buttoning his shirt and Kai swore.
Yuriy's flush rapidly drained from his face, leaving him paler than usual. "Rei-"
Rei shook his head, waving a hand to silence Yuriy as he turned around, shoulders tense, to stare at the floor. Swallowing, Rei tried in vain to remain in control of the chaotic storm that was his emotions, mercilessly attacking his nerves, his mind, his walls, and Rei didn't know what he was feeling, what he was supposed to feel, or do, or react.
Speaking softly, quietly he tilted his head slightly sideways to Kai. Kai frowned softly, and nodded hesitantly, then he spoke, something blunt and straightforward and Rei whirled around, eyes flashing. "That was nothing like this! Nothing!"
"You saw them on the couch!" Kai growled.
Rei stubbornly shook his head, taking a step back as Kai advanced. "Hugging, Kai! People, friends, hug-!"
"You don't!" Kai interrupted. Rei's eyes widened briefly before he shook his head.
His eyes narrowed suddenly. "What they're, were doing just now-" He blanched as childish words from a boy so long ago said slammed into him from his subconscious. Rei suddenly felt winded, mouth left with a vague ill feeling.
Moms and dads?
That was a child's view on his life. A child's life in a secluded, rural part of China where tradition was worth more than modernisation, more than…the fragile hearts of children who were scared, confused and hurt. Who didn't know and didn't understand.
Families were so scattered in the real world, a stark contrast to the families of his childhood. How many married only once and how many children didn't have two sets of parents outside of there? Rei shook his head, clenching his eyes shut. And images from that movie flashed through his mind. People had been killed for less, been declared as outlaws for less. Did children have parents like that, too?
Underneath all their make-up and flashy clothing, there had been two men, two…men doing…things. Rei paled, openly cringing as he was assaulted by the unexpected realisation that their skin had looked so soft.
Rei startled, jumping back from the gentle touch upon his shoulder. "Don't touch me!" Yuriy's face turned into a blank mask, and Rei would've flinched had his eyes not already been closed. "How…how can-" Rei pressed his lips together, his forehead furrowing. It had been so forbidden, how-?
"Because this is a free world. Individuality makes way for the possibilities and the government applies the laws and legislations." Boris' voice was dangerously soft, his glare hardening the longer Rei remained quiet. "I never viewed you as a prejudiced person, Rei."
And then Rei hesitantly wet his lips, eyes slowly sliding open. "I-" He crossed his arms, and glared at his socked feet. "I think, I mean- there is a part of me, that, that…understands, that wants to understand." -Rei's eyes lit up, and he pulled back, pressing his mouth against Li's.- "And there is this heartless part that wants to…hate." -I will not tolerate your sort, filth.- "But, then there is this…storm and it- I can't make sense of anything! That part wants to be…something I don't like." Rei breathed out deeply, his sudden nausea slowly giving way for a lighter feeling. Regardless of the fact that he had forced himself to speak of things he still did not understand, words that would've landed him in trouble once, somewhere not here, a long time ago. Rei shook his head, and moved for the door, needing to do something to keep his mind off the past and the present. "I'm going to brush my hair."
Kai gave Rei twenty minutes before he followed. It didn't exactly come as a surprise that Rei's hair was still wrapped in the towel and that Rei instead was curled up under the duvet.
"Is that you, Kai?" Rei's voice drifted over, quietly. Drained.
"Hn." Kai glanced around grabbing the bright blue hairbrush from Rei's desk before sitting down next to him. Pulling the towel off, he let it drop to the ground before starting to sort out the black mess that was Rei's hair.
He had just barely gotten through the bottom three feet or so when Rei stirred, twisting around so that he was staring up at him. Rei's eyes were guarded, bright and swirling. "Are they angry at me?"
It was so typical Rei that Kai wanted to smile. He frowned instead, cocking his head slightly. "They come from a background, maybe not as extreme as yours, but it was hardly accepting. It's still somewhat forbidden in Russia." Kai pulled slightly at Rei's hair, freeing a new length to sort out.
"There was a boy in this one village I travelled through…there was a boy who looked to be barley fourteen. And they kept throwing stones at him until, until he was outside and there was blood everywhere!" Rei swallowed thickly, clutching the blanket tightly. "I was so scared, Kai. My-the first village I remember had just thrown me out, and an elderly couple found me in a small shelter near the mountains. They thought I was ill, when I saw the boy. They told me later I was so pale, so pale and shaking and I wouldn't speak." Rei's voice was barely a whisper. "I was so scared of touching other boys, Kai. I was terrified. I thought that if I did, everyone would know what I had done and how…disgusting I really was and they'd throw stones at me!"
"What had you done?" Kai said, holding back the rush of anger, and his voice came out clipped, cut off.
Rei blinked, hesitating slightly. "It's all fuzzy…my first memories are with…Li and his family. I think his name was Li… He was my best friend. I never had any parental guidance; Li almost raised me alone in his childish imitations of what his parents did. But I was happy.
"I think we were around eight or nine when I, when I…" Rei frowned softly, desperately trying to gather his scattered memories of those last days into something coherent. "We kissed. Like kids. But only…moms and dads could kiss, Li's dad had told him that. I don't know how, I don't remember, but the headman found out and I was so scared, and no-one explained, and there was so dark!" Rei sat up, staring into Kai's eyes desperately, betrayed. "And they left me there…" Rei looked just about ready to collapse, swaying even though he was sitting and eyes large and wild.
Kai awkwardly put an arm around Rei's shoulders. Rei tensed at first, then he relaxed, taking on a rueful expression. "The headman was an idiot, Rei, who couldn't see beyond his own pathetic limitations that you were children, and children look up to their parents, they want to be them."
Rei slowly sank back down on the bed, twisting to lie on his stomach. "I know that you're probably right, Kai. But…I, it's too…" Rei shook his head, and Kai nodded gently.
Maybe tomorrow, he would believe it. Maybe then, he could give Kai a proper hug. Ask Yuriy and Boris to forgive him…Rei sighed drowsily as Kai found the brush again. He was so tired; this day had been far too…emotional. Maybe tomorrow…
Continuing to gently run the brush through Rei's hair, Kai felt the small smile finally, almost defiantly, creep up on his face as Rei sighed contently, breathing steadying until it was rhythmical and deep. Rei shuffled, moving to his side.
"Sweet dreams?" Kai murmured, gently moving back the hair that was hiding the most beautiful smile he'd seen on Rei for a very long time, and his own widened slightly in response.
Rei grinned, scrambling up from where he was crouching. "Li!" He waved, the top of his head just barely visible from Li's side of the low stone wall. "Come!"
Nodding, Li clumsily scrambled over the low wall, falling in heap next to his still grinning friend. "What, Rei?"
Rei grabbed Li's hand, dragging him along the narrow path. "They're back!" Rei cried, exited, eyes shining and cheeks flushed. Li gasped, trying to hurry up that little bit more.
Sometimes, in the summers, when they were lucky, there would be berries in their favourite secret spot. Large red ones that were much sweeter than those Li's mama had in her garden. Berries they wouldn't get reprimanded for eating.
By simultaneously attacking the small bushes, carefully avoiding the sharp thorns, it didn't take long for them to have a small pile of berries each.
"Here, you first!" Grabbing a berry, Rei and Li called them thorn berries, Rei pressed it against Li's mouth, giggling at Li's startled expression. "Eat it, silly!" Li grinned, and a second later Rei gasped as Li mischievously, probably in an act of vengeance, bit down on his fingers.
Then it was Li's turn to gasp as Rei pushed him, and with a splash he landed in the shallow lake just to the side of their bushes.
Rei hands flew to his face, paling, he stared in horror at his friend, who stared back just as shocked. And then Li laughed. Rei startled, grinning, hesitantly at first. "Sorry, Li."
"I'm alright." Li splashed at the surface of the water. "Let's play, Rei."
Rei bit his lip, staring back at village, out of sight because of the trees and dense vegetation. Li's mama always said to keep away from the water, but… Li poked Rei's bare leg, having crawled closer. "Just a little." Rei said seriously, and Li hastily agreed, pulling off his wet clothes, hanging them over the bushes. In the summer heat, they would dry quickly.
Rei squealed as Li dragged him into the water.
"Do you like me?" Rei blinked seriously at Li, nervously biting his lip.
Li nodded hurriedly, hugging Rei hard. Li knew Rei always asked, because his mama told him Rei didn't have mama to tell him things like that. Li always told him when he asked. Always. "You're my best friend. I promise!"
"I promise, too." Rei's eyes lit up, and he pulled back, pressing his mouth against Li's like he'd seen Li's parents do when they were having 'discussions'.
Li pulled back, wide-eyed. Rei wavered, his bottom lip once again becoming the target of his nerves. "Did I do wrong, Li?"
Li shook his head. Then stopped, and nodded instead. Looking around carefully, he leaned forward, whispering in Rei's ear. "Mama said that, that only mamas and papas do that, Rei."
"Only mamas and papas?" Rei whispered back, staring nervously around the clearing. Sometimes, Li's papa became very angry when Rei and Li did 'mama and papa'-things. "I'm sorry, Li."
"'S okay, Rei. You didn't know." Rei nodded slowly, looking down. "I won't tell, papa, Rei." Li hugged Rei again.
"Promise?" Li nodded, and Rei's arms shot up, clutching his friend's back.
I made up the berries –maybe they do exist, but not anywhere close to where I live. And maybe Rei's recollection didn't really match with the past, but I have difficulties remembering what I did a year ago, much less nine.
As for the title…it's something I connect with Rei's childhood, the bright, sunny parts. Something that gives hope for the sunny, bright parts yet to come (And I might listen too much to David Bowie.).
Bye, and thanks.