This has been necessary for a while.
A Jet Set Radio Future fanfiction by Bagatelle
Corn must have called him. Told him what happened. Beat can only assume as much. He figures he would've, if he were Corn. If he had been in that state for so long. Beat grimaces into his comforter, but it doesn't help. Nothing helps.
It's been over four months since he saw his old friend. Four months since life felt normal. Winter has been passing in slow, spiteful steps: snow caked the city streets, turned to slush, ice, snow again. He couldn't skate. He barely wanted to. He'd never been one to get the "winter blues", but for once in his life he understood what that really meant. He was miserable…even looking at himself in the mirror in the morning made him feel sick inside. Signs of life, of happiness, felt dulled and blurry, and everything was grayer than it should have been, even in the dismal light of winter. Christmas was nothing. A day in so many. Nobody to give gifts to, nobody to call. He had spent Christmas in his apartment, watching It's a Wonderful Life: that fucking movie they play every year, and he'd never really liked it before, but for once, he watched it, and he cried. He cried so hard, thinking of Yoyo, thinking of Corn and Soda and what they must think of him, now.
Corn, and the scars on his arms. He must've thought about it. Must've thought about fucking the world and just following after. There's nothing else here for him, now, but Soda, Beat thinks. And Soda…god knows what he would do. No. Beat knows. Soda would probably kill him, plead guilty, and be put to death. Two birds with one stone.
Two fucking birds.
Beat sleeps. He sleeps and dreams about it, and when he wakes up he's crying, every time, even though he knows it's not as bad as it could be. They were there. They saw it happen. They saw him fall…saw the blood…Beat shivers and heaves into his toilet, can't handle it, can't stand the thought. The mental images torture him. He can't wipe his mind, can't forget, can't push it away or bury it. And what's worse is, he knows that Corn suffers so much worse. To him, it's almost just a bad dream. To Corn, it's real. It's a memory, clear and solid, devastating, filled with sensory experiences. Beat leans against the toilet, throws up again. Water. Only water. He can hardly eat anything. It makes him feel like shit. He's lost twenty pounds since he saw Corn. His clothes hang on him, drooping, miserable, just like him.
He makes himself get up, get dressed, go outside. Be in the world. Act normal. Maybe it won't be so bad tomorrow. He walks through the city, staring three feet ahead of himself, blind to everything else. Sub-consciously, he wonders what would happen if he got hit by a bus. He wonders if anyone would be this sad. He doubts it, and that doesn't hurt, because he understands why.
He finds himself in Shibuya Terminal, the ground damp. It must've been raining before he came out, he realizes, and that's a little strange, for some reason. He finds a bench and sits in it heavily, doesn't care when he feels water soaking through his pants and shirt. Just stares at the ground. Remembers being here, years ago, with everyone…happy…he buries his face in his hands, pushes his palms into his eyes. He hates this feeling. Total helplessness. Guilt. He doesn't wear his goggles anymore, because he doesn't feel like he deserves to. Way back when, he was Beat, and Yoyo looked up to him. When he wore those goggles, and those headphones, he was like a superhero: somebody who couldn't be touched, not by the Rokkaku, or Hayashi, or the Golden Rhinos…nobody. He saved the day. He got the girl. Now, though…now he's almost a murderer.
But that's bad enough.
There's somebody sitting on the bench on the other side of the street, eating a One-Pound Burger and glaring at it in obvious dissatisfaction. Beat looks at him half-consciously. The nose is still fierce, grappling, half of the face hidden behind a turtleneck jacket. The hair is longer, though, falling to one side, a hateful scowl on his sunken face. Serious eyebrows. Lanky. Beat shudders and looks away. It's him, isn't it, he thinks, though it's not much of a question. Part of him already knows that it is. He folds his hands in his lap, able to hide how terrified he is only through how broken he feels.
He doesn't look up, doesn't react when Soda gets up and skates over to him, scowling, his half-eaten burger still in his hand. Soda doesn't look at him. "…You got…about 350 yen?" he asks bitterly, apparently more than pissed about something. Beat glances up at him. Soda always seemed angry to him, back when they were GG's, and now, nothing appears to have changed. Beat does in fact have money with him, so he nods and pulls it out of his pocket, extending his arm to the other redhead. Soda gawks at him when he realizes that he's actually being given what he wants. Confused and a little taken aback, Soda takes the coins and puts them in his jacket pocket, considering the situation for a moment before he shrugs and mutters thanks to Beat, taking a deep bite of his burger. He turns to leave when Beat's mouth speaks for him.
"What's it for?" he asks.
Soda stops, slowly, and turns around again. Looks at him uncertainly. "…I was supposed to buy lunch for a friend," he says, his voice quiet. "…Didn't have enough for both of us." Beat nods. Corn. It figures. It's kind of good to know, though. Good to know Corn hasn't…done anything. Soda stares at him. "…You…sound kind of familiar. Do I know you from somewhere?"
"No," Beat mutters. It's half a lie. He is in no way the same person he was three and a half years ago. He can't do anything if Soda recognizes him, though. When. It's only a matter of—
The burger hits the ground. Beat assumes that this is as close to seeing Soda faint as he'll ever get. The expression on the taller man's face is astounding: shocked, confused, angry, terrified, upset, miserable. A quick wave. Soda stands there, half-in the road, as if trying to decide whether to go forward or go and buy Corn's lunch. Beat sees his hands shaking, a little. He's really bewildered. He doesn't know what he should be doing. Beat's sure he's had some scenario planned out in his head, all this time, but now that the moment's finally here…
"…Beat…" Soda says hoarsely. "Oh, god…"
Beat moves over on the bench, makes room for Soda, looks at the road blankly. He doesn't feel like talking to Soda about this at all, but…it can't be helped. And besides, maybe Soda will be able to ease some of his guilt in regards to Corn, anyway. Soda glides back over to the bench, shivering. He sits beside Beat slowly, almost unsure that he's real, that this is really happening, before he grimaces and glares at his knees.
"…I can't handle this, you know, I can't…" he grinds his teeth, shakes his head. Beat nods. He knows. Soda closes his eyes. "…Corn told me you found him, a while ago. I…I didn't believe him. Not at first." Beat says nothing. He's not sure it'd be right if he spoke, just yet. He wants to wait. Wants to hear what Soda has to say to him. "…He's been…ugh…Christ, but you wouldn't care, would you…?"
"I care," Beat says weakly, hating how he can hear tears in his voice. He swallows hard. Of course he cares about Corn. Shit…
Soda shakes his head, sniffs hard. "…I hate you…I fuckin' hate you…" he growls, but Beat can hear the misery behind his glacial words. "…You…you don't know what's happened…so much shit has happened to us…it ain't…something you should have to deal with…when you're as…as nice as he is…as good a person…"
"…Please tell me he's okay," Beat murmurs, hating himself enough for the both of them. "…That's all I want to hear, at this point. I just want him…and you…and…whoever else is still free…I want everyone to be okay…"
"Well fuck, you idiot, ain't that w-what all of us wanted?!" Soda snarls, quickly reaching up and rubbing at his eye. "Corn just wanted the kid to be happy, yeah?! He wanted shit to be cool…wanted us to move on from the GG's, even though it fuckin' hurt…it was his l-life, man, all of our lives…you fucked it up…you fucked it up—"
"I know!" Beat snaps, ashamed a second later for losing control. Tears spill down his cheeks, no longer repressed. "I know, man, okay? And I'm sorry…but I know it doesn't mean shit to you…not now…"
"Yeah," Soda mutters. "Not now. No fuckin' way, now. It's…god…goddamnit, man, you have no idea…"
"Just…tell me," Beat says, wiping his face. "Just tell me what's going on."
There's silence between them. Familiar, almost. Like a long time ago, when they would always be in the same room together, awkwardly, waiting for something. Alone. Not speaking. Beat would never have admitted it back then, but he was always sort of intimidated by Soda. He was taller…rougher…no doubt stronger. And he wasn't afraid to piss off Gum, which had never seemed like a good idea, in Beat's book. Now, Soda is just tired. Angry. Upset. All results of what happened, Beat knows, but it's less to be afraid of. More of a stab in the gut. My fault. My fault.
Soda sighs wearily. "…You saw his arms, yeah?" he asks, his voice very quiet, very serious. Beat nods. "…Well…for a long time, he stopped doing that shit. I told him if he needed to let something out, he could call me and we'd go have a Tagger's Tag somewhere. That helped for a while. A long while. But then you showed up…ugh…and then…three weeks, nothing. Not a single fuckin' phone call. I had to go to his apartment after that, just to make sure he was still alive. He'd…been smoking weed the whole time. I could tell because the place smelled like total shit. He hadn't taken a shower…he'd been in bed all that time, just…ugh…" Soda reaches up and pinches the bridge of his nose between his forefinger and thumb. Beat closes his eyes. He can guess what's coming. "…Pots…h-he hadn't fed him…I…augh, shit…the poor dog…I…I took care of it, though. Took care of everything. Got Corn set straight again…cleaned up…helped him out. He was real upset when I told him what'd happened to Pots…that dog was kind of…the last link he had to Yoyo. I…I don't know. I stayed with him for a few days, to help him get back into reality, again. He fucks up his brain with that shit, and he knows it, but…I guess he likes it…I guess…anything's b-better…"
Beat swallows painfully. It's starting to rain again, slowly, softly.
"…After I left him…I had to call him every few days, to make sure he was okay. He fuckin' lied to me, of course. That asshole…he was fuckin' himself up again…I came back to his apartment about two weeks later, for Christmas, I guess it was. Yeah. I was just coming over to check up on him…wish him merry Christmas or whatever…and I found him with cuts all up and down his ribs. The idiot thought I wouldn't see, but one was bleeding while I was there…I…I smacked him. Told him how stupid he was being. He cried." Soda blinks and looks up, back over to where he was sitting before. "…He cried so hard. I hadn't seen him cry like that…since it happened. He told me it was too much. He's having such a hard time…he's lost so many people, you know…his mom, his dad…and Yoyo was almost like a kid brother, to him. All of them, gone in accidents…shit you know could've been prevented, somehow. I asked him why hurting himself made anything better. He told me it was a distraction. To take his mind off Yoyo. And…it pisses me off…it makes me so fuckin' mad…because that makes sense. It makes sense. And I almost want him to keep doing it, if it's going to help him feel better. But I know it's wrong. I can't stand to see him do that to himself. I…"
Soda stops, looks over at Beat, who's crying quietly, now, his face lost in his palms. Beat shakes his head weakly, sobbing, and Soda swallows the lump in his own throat. "…D-d-don't…just d-don't let him die, S-Soda," Beat chokes, shaking. "Don't let him d-die, too…I can't…I can't h-handle that…"
"He's not going to die," Soda says blandly, staring down at the water that's ricocheting off of his skates. "…He wouldn't do that to me."
Beat groans. He thinks, suddenly, of that fucking movie he watched a couple of months ago…that movie he was watching and crying about while Soda had to deal with Corn. He shivers. As usual, he misses the brunt of the situation…he can only imagine, despite how certain he sounds, that Soda has horrifying nightmares about Corn killing himself. Coupled with flashbacks to Yoyo's death…a powerful tremor wracks Beat's body. He would go crazy. If he had to shoulder all of that sorrow, he would go completely insane.
I would already be dead.
They're so much stronger than he is. Soda, contemplative, shakes his head and moves to get up from the bench, the money he's borrowed from Beat clinking in his pocket. He stands in the freezing rain, uncaring, and looks down at Beat, who's still crying, water streaming down his face, even under the shelter of the bench's protective overhang. Beat thinks of George Bailey, standing on that bridge on Christmas Eve, thinking so desperately of ending it all. And Clarence, who saved him, when everything seemed so dismal. Maybe that movie was supposed to mean something more to him, he thinks vaguely. So many things are parallel. So many things add up.
Soda shudders. "…I need to get back to him. I…" he frowns. "…I think you should just stay away. Just…nngh…it…he couldn't handle it, if you came back again. You…would be the trigger, if anything. So…just stay the fuck away from him." He shakes his head, purses his lips. Beat closes his eyes. All the blame is so easily traced back to him…always…
Soda turns and skates away into the rain, and Beat is left sitting there on that bench, alone.