The man sighed, leaning against the doorframe, staring into the dark room.
"Takeshi…" A whisper came from behind him. "What are you doing?"
"What's it look like I'm doing?" He glanced back, assuming a mask of mock annoyance. "Isn't a man allowed to watch his children sleep?"
"Not when his children are teenagers, idiot." Tsugumi giggled a little, rolling her eyes at him. "You're lucky they didn't wake up. Now come away."
"Hmmph." Takeshi turned from the door. "Excuse me if I'm trying to exercise some parental feeling here. I'm sorta new at this whole 'father' business."
Tsugumi grinned again as they headed down the hall. "You do have some years to catch up on." She agreed. "Though you didn't miss an awful lot. Those first two years, we could only afford one bed, so we all slept together. And then later…"
She realized Takeshi was no longer walking beside her and turned. He stood stock still in the hallway, an unreadable expression on his face. He was staring at her.
"Hey, what's wrong?" She eyed him worriedly. He didn't reply immediately, and she came up to him. "Is it something with…"
"I just…" Takeshi sighed, passing a hand over his forehead. "Every time you talk about those days… I just…" he groaned again. "I'm sorry. It's just…"
Tsugumi stared at him uncomprehendingly.
"I…." With a final shake of his head, Takeshi looked up, a somewhat forced smile on his face. "I… I'm sorry. Never mind. Here, let's go." He draped his arm over her shoulders and continued down the hall.
Tsugumi wasn't fooled. She had some idea of what was bothering him. "Is it still the time-lapse thing?" she asked.
"I… it… no… well, yes." Takeshi stared at the ceiling in frustration. "Yes, partly. I still don't… I still don't quite get everything that happened while I was gone; and it's hard for me to… to picture the three of you going on like that. Shoot, I just got used to the idea of actually having children two weeks ago."
Barely suppressing a chuckle, Tsugumi leaned in closer to Takeshi. That had been a very interesting week. Watching Takeshi deal with the kids and trying to grasp the idea that they were actually his, not just two strange teenagers who kept following him around.
"It's just… It's just…" Takeshi shook his head, letting out an unbelieving laugh. "It just seems so bizarre, you know? I go to sleep, I wake up, and all of a sudden…" He gestured. "…You's a famous doctor, Kid isn't a kid, Sora's… well, I'm not sure what she is, but she's definitely not a hologram anymore… and I'm…" He sighed once more as they entered the living room. "I'm… a father."
Tsugumi looked at him with just a trace of fear. "Y-you… you don't regret it, do you?"
"What?" Takeshi turned his head to stare at her. "Regret? It's the most awesome thing that's ever happened to me! It's just…" He slumped onto the couch. "I'm just not sure I'm up to it, that's all."
"A Father… Aah, how do I say this." He passed a hand a face. "Dad's are like real great guys, right? They're supposed to be all awesome and wise and stuff. And they help their kids, teach them things, show them how to fish and all that." He looked up at Tsugumi. "And that's… I'm not sure that's me."
Tsugumi sank onto the couch next to him, her long black hair draping over the cushions. "You don't think you can be a good father?"
"You know me. Biggest fool on the earth." A trace of a grin flitted across Takeshi's face. "I don't even have the benefit of seventeen years of experience, like you. I'm just a little past twenty, both in body and mind. How'm I supposed to advise a kid scarcely three years younger than me? How'm I supposed to know what he needs to hear? Shoot, how'm I supposed to even know what's going on in his head? I didn't even know…" He fell silent, as if thinking.
"I didn't… I didn't even see him growing up." He said finally. "I didn't see either one of them. I don't know anything about them aside from what I've learned in the past week or so. I…" He looked at Tsugumi suddenly. "I wasn't… there. That whole time you were bringing them up, I was taking a nap in a gigantic freezer. When you were dodging Lieblich, working to take care of them, doing everything for them, I wasn't there. I…" He hid his head in his hands. "A father doesn't do those things!"
Tsugumi closed her eyes. Leaning forward, she stroked Takeshi's back with her hand, soothing away his sorrow. She felt his grief as her own.
"I just… I just…" Takeshi spoke through his hands. "I know… it's not really my fault… not really, but… I… I should've…." He sighed. "Whenever I hear of everything you all went through in that time, I can't help feeling… that if I'd maybe… If I'd… If I'd been there… things would have been different."
"There was no way you could have been there."
"But I should have been. And how… what kind of father… how am I supposed to guide them? More to the point, what makes me think they'd let me? Hokuto rescued ME for crying out loud, not the other way around. I probably respect him more than he respects me!"
Tsugumi did not respond instantly, and a heavy silence hung over the room. When she did speak, it was in a strange, choked tone. "Hokuto saw you, you know. Back in 2017."
"Blick Winkel." Came Takeshi's reply. "And no, I don't really know. I'm still trying to get ahold of this 'third eye' fourth-dimensional stuff You keeps spouting."
"He saw everything you did back then, Takeshi." For once Tsugumi did not take the bait. "He saw how you led us through it all, how you kept us alive, and what you had to do to do that."
Takeshi shifted a little uncomfortably. "Can't have been very nice for him." He said in a jocular tone, hoping to change the subject. "I mean, he saw us do the… y'know. How creepy would that be, to watch your parents…"
"I'm serious!" Tsugumi snapped at him. "He saw everything you did. Even more, he lived everything you did, everything you said…" Her voice choked. "Everything you sacrificed. He saw you save me. Twice. And he saw you die to do it."
Takeshi could think of nothing to say.
"He respects you, Takeshi. He loves you. I don't even have to be his mother to see that."
"Should he? I mean, I wasn't…"
"For a moment, stop blaming yourself for everything!" Tsugumi's voice was sharp, but it trembled. "You're not the only one here who's got sins to worry about!"
Slowly, Takeshi's head came up to look at her. She was staring at, or rather past, a spot on the bare floor. She was biting her lip, and her whole body was tense.
"They… Our whole family, Takeshi, is a collection of sinners." She wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. "A series of broken promises. None of us were who we should have been. I abandoned the children, Hokuto abandoned Sara, Sara…" Tsugumi let out a shivering sigh. "Of us all, perhaps Sara is the only one without blame."
Takeshi said nothing, but his arm slipped around her shoulders.
Slowly, her eyes came around to meet his. "How can… how can any family like ours deserve to even be together…? Don't you think… maybe… eventually, it will catch up? That they'll remember everything I—we…" She corrected herself, seeing the sudden change on Takeshi's face. "… did to them? Now, oh now, they're just glad to have us back, just to be with us, but later…" She hid her face in Takeshi's shirt. "I'm scared, Takeshi. I gave them up once. I don't want to lose them again."
"Shhhh…." Takeshi rubbed her shoulders, his free hand circling around to pull her in closer. She accepted the comfort and cried even more. She hated herself for crying, told herself to stop, but she did it nonetheless. With her husband, she could let go and not be afraid of the tears. Only with Takeshi.
For a long time they simply sat that way, Tsugumi's sobs gradually diminishing. Takeshi staring past to the wall.
"You didn't tell me you felt like this." He murmured eventually. "You should have let me know."
"I didn't… I didn't even… really know myself… until now." More tears could be heard in her throat.
"Shhh." Takeshi quieted her. "It's going to be okay."
"Idiot." Tsugumi smiled through her tears. "You always say that."
"It's worked so far, hasn't it?" He tilted his head to grin at her. "Listen. You got me thinking and you know, there's not really any family that's exactly as it supposed to be. I mean, I can't speak for yours, I suppose, but I know my father wasn't perfect, or my mother, and definitely not my brother." Takeshi made a face. "But we hung together all the same."
"They can't have been as bad as ours." Tsugumi whispered.
"Maybe not." Takeshi agreed. "But see, at least we know about it in advance. We can work on correcting our problems. They're a little too obvious to miss." Tsugumi gave a noise of agreement. "And more importantly," Takeshi added with a smile. "We all realize how precious our family is. That's very rare, these days." A shadow passed over his face. "I don't think I ever had any real idea how important my family was until my father died. And then it was too late."
Tsugumi looked at him.
"Anyway." The shadow passed from his face. "Both we and our children are hungry for a family, and none of us are exactly going to throw it away. Might not be obliged to, but we want to. "
"I guess you could say we're held together by desperation." A smile returned to Tsugumi's face.
"Well, I was thinking more like love, but I guess that works too." Takeshi kissed the top of her hair.
To my regulars, I'm rather sorry for this random entry. But a friend of mine gave me this game and it was so incredibly fascinating I had to get this out of my system. The whole Tsugumi/Takeshi family is so awesome. You get to play the Father and the Son. It's a really great moment when you find out about it.
Having said that, it brings up all sorts of issues that I thought should be addressed. And when I saw the amount of fanfics on Ever17 (i.e., two), I decided I should do one in the general interest of society.
So here you are. Not much, but I wanted to write it. REVIEWS are greatly appreciated.