UsamixMisaki but will have Egoist cemeos. This was both enjoyable and frustrating to write because, no matter how many times I changed it, it was never as perfect as I wanted it to be, but I'm very happy with this final version.
On a note: The names of each chapter refers to a certain way of playing music. Since music is a key theme in this fic, I thought it was appropriate.
Walking amongst the butterflies
- Pastorale -
"Takahiro, I don't know…" Usami Akihiko trailed behind his friend as they walked along the sunny sidewalk to that dreaded place.
Takahiro stopped and turned towards him, sighing in a manner that wrapped itself around Akihiko's heart. "Please, Usagi, Minami and I have to go to Osaka, it's for work but I can't bring him with me."
Akihiko's protests almost completely dissolved before his friend. He could never say no to Takahiro but he really did not want to do this. He really, really, really did not want to do this.
"I still don't know," he weakly objected.
"I wouldn't ask you if I could help it. You don't have to do anything, just…be there," Takahiro looked at him imploringly and he knew that there was no way he could possibly refuse now.
"Be there, huh?" he muttered under his breath, drawing a cigarette from his breast pocket. He would not be allowed to smoke once he was inside so he should have one now. God knew, he would be needing a smoke by the end of the day.
Well, it was not like he had anything better to do. He could not go any further with his writing, he could not go any further with his life; both had come to a screeching halt at one point or another. He would liked to have blamed it on Minami and Takahiro's marriage - there went the love of his life, hitched to some woman and still as clueless as ever - but it was not Minami's fault and it was not Takahiro's fault either. It was his.
He just could not write anymore, he had even lost the spark on those BL novels. The worst spell of writer's block since he had become a professional novelist. He was getting slammed for his works in the literary journals too. When you fell, everyone was clamouring to take a blow at you.
With a sigh, Akihiko snuffed out his half smoked cigarette before entering the hospital. He scrunched up his nose as the doors slid open for them. They did not let people smoke but hospitals stank far worse than the smell of tobacco. Antiseptic, disinfectant, iodine, a slight lemony smell, it was so artificial. He had never been given a reason to be fond of hospitals.
Takahiro led him straight to a hospital room with the number 202 marked on the door. "Misaki? Misaki, I'm coming in!" he called and stepped inside.
Akihiko was not sure what to expect when Takahiro pushed open the door. He had heard the story countless times; car crash, dead parents, a crippled, precious little brother - the lone survivor.
Every time Takahiro spoke about the incident, he could feel the man's relief and pain; relief that at least his brother had survived, at least he had not been taken away too, pain that his brother's life had been practically destroyed before it could even start. Brotherly love was astounding, but to Akihiko he could only see some faceless kid who was stealing all of Takahiro's time and affection.
The door swung all the way open and they stepped inside.
Akihiko was not sure what to expect when the door shut behind them. In a white room with a single window stood a lone bed, like the first sketches an artist puts onto clean paper; faint and hesitant. The bed had such spindly legs it looked as though it could collapse, the cabinet besides it was just as thin and rickety, with a glass of water on top with a single daffodil inside.
Except he was not really paying attention to the daffodil or to the sheer curtains being billowed about in the wind. His eyes were automatically drawn to the person in the middle.
If the décor around him was like a watercolour image, the boy was an oil painting. His surroundings seemed faint and whimsical but the boy stood out against it as the one firm thing within the room.
At first, Akihiko noted how he did not look a thing like Takahiro. Were they really related? The boy's hair was dark brown and slightly spiky, his eyes bright green despite being sightless. In the mostly white room, he was the single splash of colour.
Then, the boy smiled without turning his head. "Oh, Nii-chan! How are you? Who's your friend?" he asked cheerfully. Perhaps it was true what they said; that people who lost one sense made it up with the others.
When the boy spoke, he had a plain sounding voice. There was nothing special about it at all. Akihiko smiled a little bitterly. What was he expecting? A clone of Takahiro?
"This is Usagi, I mean, Usami Akihiko," Takahiro sat on the edge of the bed, smiling faintly. "You know I told you about Osaka - "
The boy - Misaki, wasn't it? - shook his head in exasperation. "Jeez, Nii-chan, I told you to just go! You don't have to worry about me, I'm in a hospital! There's lots of pretty nurses to look after me!"
"I know," he said, "but just in case I'm going to have Usagi check up on you every now and again. You can ask him for anything, okay?"
"I'll be fine," Misaki insisted.
Takahiro tightly clasped his little brother's hands in his own. "If an emergency happens, ring me immediately! I don't care what time it is, I'll fly back immediately!" he cried.
"Nii-chan!" the boy protested, shaking off his over-protective brother.
Akihiko watched and did not speak a word. He did not say anything when they walked in and he did not say anything when they left, yet he had the disturbing impression that the boy had been completely aware of him the whole time. It was slightly odd looking at the boy, swamped by his sheets, his eyes staring at his lap even though he seemed to know exactly what was going on around him.
His impression of the boy on the first day was that of a normal kid who lived in unfortunate circumstances. He doubted the kid would make stimulating conversation. Why could he never turn Takahiro down? He felt sorry for the kid, of course, but wasn't there someone more appropriate for babysitting?
When he returned to his apartment, he sighed and flung his coat over the couch. There was a message left on his house phone. It was from Aikawa probably. He pressed the button and, sure enough, her voice screeched at him.
"Usami! Where are you? Where have you been? Is the manuscript ready yet? I'm serious about this, you're in the red zone! If you don't cough up the goods, our agency is going to drop you so - "
He pressed the button again, deleting the message from his phone. Manuscript? He wanted to laugh. He did not even have a plot outlined for his next novel let alone an actual manuscript for it! Who was he kidding? He couldn't write anymore. What was there to write about?
Well, he thought, at least he could use the hospital as an excuse to hide.
Three days later, Akihiko made his way to the hospital ward where Takahiro's little brother was staying. A promise was a promise after all and Aikawa was getting even more vocal about his deadlines.
He stopped and had a smoke outside before entering the hospital. If the nurses looked at him with disgust because he reeked of tobacco, so what? He had a thousand things to do but when he had tried to complete one of them everything had fallen apart miserably. At least he could walk into a hospital without a problem.
"Oh, Usagi-san," Misaki looked up the instant the door opened. He was sitting in his bed again, smothered in thin white sheets that were really too big for his bed. He looked like he was floating in a sea of white. A piece of moulding clay was clutched between his fingers. On the cabinet besides him, stood several child-like, wonky figures of cartoon animals; a rabbit, a panda, a duck, a bear.
"How did you know?" Akihiko tore his gaze from the cheerful statuettes to pull up a chair by Misaki's bedside.
"I recognised the sound of your footsteps," he smiled.
"You're…blind, aren't you?" It was a pointless question but he still found it hard to believe that the boy could tell when he arrived without seeing him.
"I lost my sight during the crash when I was riding with my parents," Misaki nodded.
"I heard from Takahiro," he frowned, gazing him over from head to toe. "You also lost the ability to walk."
"I have a wheelchair."
"That's not walking."
"Heh, I suppose not," he laughed apologetically. "You're an author, right Usagi-san? What do you write?"
Akihiko supposed that Misaki was not comfortable talking about his disability, if that quick change of topic was anything to go by. He thought he would be generous for once and not pursue it either.
"Anything that interests me really. I write BL on the side," he replied with a shrug.
Lately, things had just become worse and worse. Every time he tried to write, he ended up throwing pens across the room and breaking them. Aikawa had been serious about being dropped. He did not think the agency would keep him on for another week if he did not submit something soon.
"B - BL?" the boy stuttered.
"Is that a problem?" Akihiko cocked an eyebrow, which Misaki could not see but could probably sense the slight shift in his tone.
"Eh?! Uh, no…sorry," Misaki stuttered. Akihiko sighed. What was he doing taking out his frustration on an innocent kid? He just had to write something, right? It could not be that hard.
"I'll bring round one of my stories for you if you'd like. They have it on audio cassette so you can listen to it," he offered.
"It's not going to be a BL one, is it?"
"No, although I could - "
"No thank you!" Misaki said so sharply he wanted laugh. For a moment, he completely forgot about his deadlines and Aikawa's death threats.
"When will you be released?" he asked, shifting the conversation to a more cheerful one.
"Never," Misaki's reply told him that he had failed. This was not a more cheerful topic at all.
He opened his mouth to say something, he did not know what, his condolences maybe. He was never good at dealing with people, especially not sensitive subjects like this, it was out of his comfort zone.
Misaki probably picked up on his discomfort for he rushed in to fill the gaping silence that was left in his wake. "Ah, well, sometimes I get these attacks in my legs," he said casually, attempting to ease the atmosphere back into an amiable mood. "It's really random but it really hurts so it's better for me to stay here where there are doctors and nurses. I can't live by myself obviously and it's dangerous for me to go out alone."
"Of course it is! You could be hit by a car or lose control of your wheelchair or…" Akihiko trailed away. He could think of a lot of things that could befall an innocent kid if he went out alone. Not all of them were work-safe.
"Well, there are lots of other people here so it's not lonely!" Misaki laughed. Akihiko wondered if that sort of thing was funny.
"Misaki," he began, "don't you ever want to go outside?"
"I do go outside. There's a garden - "
"No, I mean, outside, outside," he said.
Misaki laughed again. It was becoming a little more strained each time, though he did an admirable job of trying to keep it covered. "That would be a bother to Nii-chan and the nurses. They wouldn't let me anyway."
He shifted his sightless gaze to the window. Akihiko followed it and found himself staring outside where the sun was gently filtering into the room.
They were on the third floor; he could see the tops of a few low-level houses from where he sat, though a large peach tree growing just outside the window obscured most of his view. It was in full bloom, the branches laden with blossom which fluttered across the window like snow. He wondered if Misaki realised that the blossoms were falling at all. He wondered if he could sense the same thing even without being able to see.
Yet when he glanced at the boy's face, it suddenly felt as if he was the one lacking one of his senses. A small smile played on his lips, one which Misaki was probably not even aware of himself. Akihiko found himself staring at that smile. What was he thinking about? What could he see which made him smile like that? What could he see which he could not even when he scrutinised the view.
"What does it feel like?"
"Eh?" Misaki turned back to him.
"Your other senses are more acute than the average person, right? It's intriguing. I think I might write a blind character in my next novel," he said half-jokingly.
He thought really he might write about a blind character. If he could write anymore. No, he was sure that he would be able to write again soon and there would be a boy in it who looked so out of place in a room full of whiteness and a peach tree which was always in bloom. Just a little more. If he just had a little bit more, he was sure that he could write.
"Ugh, it's not going to be based on me, is it?" Misaki instantly picked up on his thoughts.
"That depends on your answer," he replied teasingly.
"Ehh?" Misaki looked as though he had been cheated. "Uh, well, since I wasn't always blind I can still imagine what things look like. It's spring so the trees are all in bloom, right? And the sunlight is pale yellow, the shadows are grey. Spring feels really warm, eh, well, of course it does, the sun is shining!" he chuckled nervously. "It smells like flowers and freshly cut grass…that's an obvious answer too, isn't it?"
Akhiko smiled. He did not know at what point in time since he had stepped into the room that he had begun to feel comfortable around the boy, but it was quite cute to see him so flustered.
"If I have to liken it to music though…it would be a happy piano," Misaki replied thoughtfully.
"A happy piano?" Akihiko lifted a hand to stifle a small chuckle.
"Don't laugh!" Misaki cried, reddening even more. "I mean, Spring is like someone playing a happy song on the piano! Winter is a crisp sounding flute, autumn is the cello, maybe the violin too, and summer is…um, a full blown orchestra! Why are you still laughing!?" he yelled as Akihiko's chuckles turned into full fledged laughter.
"No, that was very helpful," he waved him away, drawing back his composure.
"You didn't have to laugh," Misaki muttered sourly.
Akihiko's expression softened as he watched him pout and blush. Misaki did not look anything like Takahiro, he did not act like his brother either, he was sort of like Suzuki-san. Maybe he should introduce them.
It was such a shame that Misaki had hardly ever left the hospital grounds. That thought suddenly sobered him as he imagined what it must be like to be cooped up in a foul-smelling hospital where the food was bad and there was nothing to do except mould badly shaped clay figurines. He would have died of boredom.
"W - what?" he asked, startled.
"Don't you want to go outside?"
Misaki stared at his lap. "What are you saying, Usagi-san? Are you going to take me outside?" his nervous laughter quickly gave way to a much more sombre tone. "Thank you, but you…you'll probably regret it if you do."
It made him want to take him outside even more.