A/N: Mild spoilers for Volume three of G.U.! Remember Team Hetero? I was rather disappointed by the lack of explaining on how Hetero and his two brothers ended up under Sakaki and what Sakaki meant when he said 'all your sufferings.' So this is my speculation how the story of Hajime, or The World's 'Hetero'. Rest assured none of this is canon, except for the arena battles. It's rather abstract, so read slowly. Enjoy.
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c i t y - l i g h t s
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Her hair is soft and black and easy to run his fingers through, but he doesn't do much more than stroke it with his palm when she rests her head on his chest. He doesn't like the fact that she's relying on him, perhaps because part of him is already imagining some great fall he's going to take, and all the different reactions she'll have to it. She'll dump him, she'll hate him, she'll pity him – it's all too much. She asks if he loves her, and he says yes, of course, why wouldn't he?
His brothers are the perfect brothers, everything a guy could ask for, as far as he is concerned. They stick up for him, even though he doesn't need anyone to stick up for him. They stand beside him and joke with him and worry about him, the way brothers should. But they can't tell what's wrong, he knows. What really amazes him is the fact that they know that something is wrong in the first place. He thought he was hiding it well, once he noticed that he was out of place and that there was, indeed, something to hide.
His brothers became the unspoken witnesses, and his girlfriend the oblivious audience.
He has hobbies - stupid hobbies. He collects old-style clothing and loves science-related things. He doodles in his notebooks in class. His brothers joined an online RPG a while back, and he joined with them. It was fun, not only because the set parties were parties of three and he and his two brothers made the perfect trio, but because online, nobody knew who you were, and nobody knew that there was something wrong with you.
Not that there was anything specifically wrong.
But there was. Something. A creeping something.
He doesn't call his girlfriend as often anymore, and she doesn't call back. Her soft black eyes and hair are not so soft anymore. She's beginning to hate him. He doesn't blame her. She's beginning to sense that something, that horrible something that is wrong with him. He doesn't know what to tell her, expect that he loves her (a lie) that he misses her (another lie) and that he wishes there was something he could do (which in the end, may have had some truth to it after all.)
But he doesn't do anything – other than play The World.
His mother hates 'those sorts of things', meeting people online and talking to them, never knowing what they are or what they've done or who they've talked to. But that was the beauty of The World – it was an escape. He laughed sometimes in The World, and that was worth a log in or two, or three, or four, or however many it took to distract him from that creeping something that had driven his girlfriend away.
His mother can get along without him, he hopes. She's had three son's now, so she knows how to be a mother. She can handle herself – right? Women know how to take care of themselves, right? Mothers want their children to take care of themselves, not take care of her – wasn't that how it was supposed to be?
He didn't know. He didn't care. He ignored her tiny questions, her sad eyes, her coughing, coughing, coughing. He moves to his computer again and types in his username – "Hetero." Sometimes he wishes it was all in caps, just so his little avatar face could have the impression of screaming.
He's screaming on the inside – listening to the answering machine with no new messages and the tiny clicking sounds of metal forks and knives as his mother sets a table for a dinner that will never be eaten.
He doesn't spend too much time online today. He logs off, he ghosts past his mother's sad frame, he sits by the TV and turns it on.
A girl's face fills the screen, dark hair and eyes, like his girlfriend's - but different. The colors are faded and strange and at once he can tell that he's in the middle of a dark movie. There is blood on the girl and the TV screen, blood on her mouth and teeth and neck, but most of the blood is on her wrists, and he recognizes it as what his mother calls 'the cry for help.' She's cutting herself.
He watches, trying to act disinterested, but internally mesmerized. It's a taboo thing, what this girl is doing - but what really gets him isn't the blood or the shaking fingers or her scared, lonely eyes. What gets him is when she throws her head back and screams, "HELP ME!!!"
And then the door bursts open (on screen, of course) and a man (an actor, he tells himself, only an actor) sweeps her into his arms and carries her away. It sickens him. It sickens him because such a thing could never be – help can never be won, not so easily, not with something so simple as a cut to the wrist and a scream for help.
He swears then and there that if there is one thing he will never say, it is those words – 'help me.'
I don't need help. I can take care of myself, just the way that Mom takes care of herself and her coughing and her sighing and just the way that Sai and Osamu take care of themselves. I can take care of myself, and I don't need help. I'll never need to ask for help.
He doesn't log in to The World that night – this time, he wants a little air. His apartment is roomy and fitting, and there's a balcony on the second story close to his room. He opens the opaque sliding door and steps outside unto the balcony floor and immediately he can tell the difference in atmosphere. There are city lights illuminating every last inch of darkness, and all of Japan is a fluorescent glow. The air touches his face and chills his skin and it's all so wonderful that he can't help but smile.
Only it's not a smile, it's a cry, silent and shaky and lost.
He wants to get closer, somehow closer, to the city lights and the air and the people who don't know he exists, just like the The World – never knowing his name – and he moves gently, softly, not stopping to wonder what his brothers or mother or girlfriend might think if they saw him now. He swings one leg up over the balcony, then the other, hooking his ankles unto the other side of the railing. Carefully he maneuvers his arms to grasp the metal rail backward, leaning his head back, closing his eyes.
He thinks of the fake TV blood splatters, of the actor's sad face, of her scream.
How can you help someone when there is nothing wrong? There is nothing wrong, nothing at all. If there was he would be able to pinpoint it. Men don't let themselves waver on the edge of their apartment balconies just for no reason. Men don't obsess over such stupid things for just no reason. So there was nothing, nothing.
It would be so easy, though, even if there was nothing wrong….it would be so easy to climb back over the edge, to wake up Sai, or Osamu, or even his mother, and then, when they were awake enough to see him clearly – ask for help.
But standing there on the edge of the world (because that's what it seemed like – the edge of the very universe) was strangely comforting.
The city lights were comforting.
It was easy to believe, somehow, that those tiny neon pinpricks were acknowledging him - understanding him. It was enough, without asking for help. It was, in it's own way, peaceful.
Things moved quickly after that. He never spoke a word, and yet his brothers seemed to pick up on things. They silently agreed that things were changing. They noticed that he was changing. But they never asked what was wrong, and he never asked for their help.
The World never changed, it seemed. They wandered around it, a trio, their talk less silly and more serious, on the few occasions that they even talked at all.
And then one brother led him to Sakaki, and everything began to spiral out of control.
The man himself was a paradox. His eyes were cold yet warm, strange and distant, telling of many things yet nothing, and inside his words were hints of ignorance in spite of the overwhelming confidence and intelligence. He allowed himself to be swept away by the mystery that was Sakaki. He allowed himself to be comforted by the fact that the man never said those terrible words; you need help.
He would not ask for help. He would not accept help. But when Sakaki extended his hand, there was nothing to do but to take it.
"That man is really into making things work." Sai had said once they had logged out for the night. "He's got that whole 'help those in need' thing down."
He cringes at those words, but nods regardless, telling himself the person in need was not himself.
I don't need help.
And then he was at the arena, and there were voices – so many voices – in his head.
There was no language or word, there was no command, and yet the message was clear. He grasped at his new body, his new dark eyes, he screamed when all of it seemed to move so fast, so fast, too fast for him to grasp unto, too fast for him to understand how he ended up someplace different or why he got there or what happened to Sai and Osamu or what happened to Sakaki, too fast for him to wonder if now was that terrible, fateful time he'd have to ask for –
( I'll never ask for - )
help, they needed help, they needed help when he cut them down, and when it was all over there was a fading PC laying at his feet with his eyes half-open and his fake, computer features slowly relaxing, like a mockery of a real human death. The arena exploded in cheers and jeers and nothing really mattered, not even the dying creature mattered, all he could see was the darkness and the fact that if he looked past all those faceless people the city lights were bleeding back into his vision – the arena lights, so much like the blurry lights of moving cars and neon ads of the Japan sitting outside his balcony window.
But this is nothing like standing outside the balcony window.
This is nothing like that bleeding girl on TV or Mom coughing quietly as if she thinks I won't hear or wondering if committing suicide is really going to make the world stand still.
This is nothing like the city lights and the wind and the nothingness.
Nobody is going to push me off my balcony. I'm going to be the one to push them.
I'm going to be the one to –
There is no pain alongside the sound of drawing blades, and clashes, fake and computer stimulated, there is no rush of adrenaline because he is only sitting there in front of his wired laptop, trapped and speechless, feeling like someone reached cold fingers into his brain and nailed his body down to the floor so he couldn't move much further than an inch.
(an inch is all I need to kill.)
But he had never thought of killing, had he? That night at the balcony wasn't about death, was it?
There is laughter, maybe Sakaki's, maybe his own, and deep down he knows he's fallen for the wrong person and into the wrong trap, that now he's just a pawn. But what can he do? He'll never ask for help.
Never, never. Never, until his arms are long and sharp and his face is white with pain and the bubbling sounds of death are all around him and from afar he is something crawling, a black widow spider in red flames. His brothers are fading pinpricks beside him. There is no control, there is no help. He grasps at his head and tears at his hair, the world is here and not here and far away and so very close, and somewhere in the real world his girlfriend is sleeping sounding and his mother is coughing and baking and wandering around the house and his balcony door is half-open and the TV is switched on to the girl screaming HELP ME, HELP ME, HELP ME, HELP!!!!!!
He opens his eyes. It's blurry, but he can see the outline of a boy, a white-eyed boy with dark clothing and a sharp face like a sculpted doll.
The boy flinches, his spiked shoulders move as he takes a step forward in the summoned nothingness. And Hetero realizes all at once that he is the monster, he is the enemy, he is the one that is hurting people.
He is the one that made the little girl on the TV scream for help.
Something inside of him snaps. He chokes, he tries to speak;
"Help….me! Somebody, please, help me…!"
And then there is a cleansing pain, one that takes over his body and seems to tear the darkness from it. His fake, spider-like body is falling, and the real thing – "Hetero" – the game calls, but his mind whispers "Hajime" – falls out of it's grasp and into the dull, pounding light from beneath. He catches a tiny glimpse of the one who saved him – the boy in the shadow's beneath him, and the black, horned creature who delivered the last blows. He has three eyes – two circular ones that seem to pierce through his mind, and one thinner, black one that stood exactly in the center of his forehead.
He wants to reach out and kiss him, or touch him, or say something that can make up for the whole mess, something that can make everything better.
He whispers. "Th-"
And then he is sitting at his computer, wide-eyed and breathing hard, clutching at his chest with both hands. His face is wet with tears. He looks around, his heart beating loudly in his ears, and in the other room he can hear his two brothers stirring, the sounds of their computer chair's scraping the floor as they're pushed back to stand.
He rises, looking around the room, not sure what to expect. The image of the three-eyed monster remains in his mind's eye. Slowly, he drifts from his room, his computer left on and character still logged in.
The balcony window is closed. His hall light is on. His mother is in the kitchen, coughing, smoothing her hair back with one hand. The TV is turned off. Everything is so ghostly strange and eerie, he feels as if he's been ripped out of a horror movie and thrown into an insane asylum.
"Hajime?" a voice calls, and his mother's sad, uncertain face peeks into the room. "Is that you?"
He says nothing, only able to stare at her and wonder why he never noticed how beautiful she was before.
"Are you alright?" Her hand rose to her mouth in a small cough, but she swallowed it quickly. "You're as pale as a ghost. I'm…" her eyes wavered for a moment. "I'm worried…" she finished softly.
He closes his eyes, listening to his breathing. He thinks of the boy and the three-eyed monster, and the city lights and Sakaki and how nothing is ever worth being so damn lonely all the time after all. And before he can worry again, he takes his mother's hand and leads her into the kitchen and past the messily chopped up a dinner that will never be eaten and says: