Summary: They may have had the same face, but he had never been unsure of who he was. Written for 31_days, January 26, 2009: sine qua non (not one without the other). Spoilers for all the novels, aka way past the anime and manga. Naru-centric, Gene, maybe Naru/Mai leanings, and maybe not.
sunsets in your gone goodbye
I am you and you are me.
It was a ridiculous game they had played as children – taking advantage of how they were identical twins to confuse everyone around them.
Not really 'they', though. The game was Gene's idea, his creation. When they'd still had their parents related by blood and the twins' actions would drive their mother insane.
By age five, however, Gene realized that the game wouldn't work if Noll was always…more somber. Sure, Gene could mimic him instead, but then there would be two quiet, not-troublemaking little boys who most certainly wouldn't raise any ire or mischief.
"Come on. It's more fun this way," he'd say with a grin, Naru remembers.
He also remembers that back then, sometimes he smiled and agreed.
Naru doesn't really remember what his parents' deaths were like.
They were young when it happened, so very young. Except for their mother and father they had no one else in America, and no one had the heart to tell the two of them exactly what happened, exactly why their mother and father weren't coming home and why the house couldn't be their home any more.
They were so young, he doesn't really remember what it made him feel like, either.
If he told anyone about it they'd think him cold and withdrawn, as they always have. But the truth is, he simply doesn't remember. It wasn't as though he tried to forget.
(And if he had remembered, what with his ways regarding human nature and emotion, he probably wouldn't have even been able to put it into words.)
"I'm right here, Gene," he deadpanned, not looking up from the texts he was perusing.
His brother was undeterred. "Well, I was just wondering if you wanted to go with me to Japan."
"It's your business, not mine."
"Aw, don't be like that, Noll. Wouldn't it be fun to go back? And you shouldn't be so cooped up with your work all the time. All work and no play makes Noll a rather dull – "
"That doesn't concern me."
He laughed. "Ah well. Hey, at least I can tell Mom I tried. Anyway, I'll be gone for about a week, so I'll see you when I get back, okay?"
He looked up, gave one short nod.
"And when you go out, you should probably borrow some of my clothes."
"Why would I need to do that?"
"I have better taste," he said, grinning. "And if you're going out with a lady, then you most especially should do that."
His eyes seemed to say stupid, before looking back down at his writing.
"Idiot scientist," he joked, still smiling. "Well, I'll see you when I get back."
When Naru arrives at Narita Airport, Lin walking behind him, a young woman accidentally mistakes him for someone else. With one glance she can tell he's not who she thought, but she quickly starts to be an annoyance all the same.
(She started to gush and squeal and really, that was enough.)
Naru reacts so frigidly to her that the girl shivers and runs off, earning himself a reproachful look from Lin.
("A bit harsh, wouldn't you say, Noll?")
He'd normally respond to Gene with a pointed look, but it's Gene's voice in his head, not Gene's voice in person – not Gene in person, here.
So he says – and thinks – nothing, and keeps walking.
"Hey Noll, why can't you be nicer to the girls who talk to us?"
"I treat them as equally as I do anyone else," he replies.
"I mean, you could be a little…nicer, couldn't you?"
"…I fail to see what you mean."
"…Never mind. You'll never get a girlfriend this way."
"Something like that is – "
" – meaningless, I know. But…oh, never mind. Noll, you're impossible."
"Hn. Is that so."
Naru does remember what Gene's death was like. He remembers clearly and well. He had gone to borrow his brother's sweater. He'd slipped it over his head, and then the vision. The car, the woman's legs, the car once more, the green veil.
Green. He'd always wondered about that. Why green? Why not red? Gray? Why any color at all?
He remembers seeing his brother's killer wrap the body in silver sheeting. The hands were strong, slender. They hadn't shook, hadn't dithered. Precision, deliberation, and intent.
(These are the hands of a killer, he knows he'll never forget.)
He remembers seeing the body thrown into a lake from a boat. He remembers how the vision faded out.
He remembers thinking, "Gene, you idiot."
For what, though? For which part?
(Something in the realm of human emotion that he couldn't place, something that maybe he'd been thankful for not being able to recognize, something that might have unleashed all the cracks. Dangerous territory; charted once, but oh so many years ago, back when all he could remember was seeing and trying to process, but always knowing, always.
No, these emotions are not for him to have.)
He remembers resolving to leave for Japan the next day, and how his parents had acquiesced.
He doesn't think: this was where it began. This was it.
Naru vaguely remembers when he and Gene had first met Martin and Luella.
Theirs was the sort of orphanage that was visited by many prospective adopters, and many had taken an interest in one of the brothers – but always walked away with a different child. Perhaps it was the twin factor, or something else. Learning about their history evoked pity and sympathy, but little more.
(He can't remember fully, but maybe, at the time, they'd been so entirely unapproachable. Naru himself had always been that way, but even Gene was more somber. The powers they shared only furthered the aura.)
And then one day, another couple appeared. Not old enough to be old, but not young enough to be young. British, Naru thought after observing them, though he couldn't quite explain why. Most definitely not American.
The man looked, first at him, then at his brother, and in an instant seemed to see everything.
"How long have these boys been here?" he asked an attendant.
"Longer than the other children. They've…they're most unfortunate children."
The man paused, and the woman looked at the twins.
Naru held his breath.
"We'll come back tomorrow," they said, and left.
The next day, the boys were asked a single question, the most important one:
"Would you like to come with us?"
By all means, he expects to find his brother's body within the first week. Because things will work out the way he wants, what with his abilities and intelligence in play.
The week stretches into two, then three, then six. Map after map lies charted on his desk, but he still hasn't found the lake in his vision – and probably has hundreds of other places to search.
To say that Naru is frustrated would be an understatement. He has full confidence in his capabilities. He knows that he'll find the lake eventually. Can't he simply find it sooner, then, if it's bound to happen one way or another?
(Secretly, he's annoyed at the mystery lake for causing such a problem. Or chance, which is the only thing he knows that can trump skill. Or the lake. Or everything that's led up to this.
An extremely strong belief in one's abilities does tend to lead towards this kind of thinking.)
Lin always stays back at the office when he goes on his searches, and the man rarely says a word about it. Until that six-week mark, when Naru miraculously steps foot into the office and Lin says, "Don't leave today."
Naru gives him a look.
"You have a potential client," says Lin, perfectly immune to that perfected expression of disdain. "Please keep in mind the cover we maintain while we're staying in Japan, and your obligations."
Naru sighs. "If the case doesn't interest me, I won't take it."
The man turns and leaves, not saying a word, not at all surprised.
Gene never thought that Martin adopted them because of their powers; Naru thought the same. But still they questioned.
"Why us? Why so quickly?" Gene had asked.
"Anyone with their eyes open could tell how special you two are," Luella answered.
"Did you know from the very beginning?"
"No," answered Martin.
The boys continued to look at them.
"In this world," Luella continued, "some special things are special in ways beyond those of the paranormal, beyond those of the living."
She looked at Martin.
"One day, you could understand. You will understand."
Gene had smiled.
(Naru had not.)
In the end, Naru took the case.
After all, even he wasn't immune to Madoka's pleading and scolding.
"Now, Naru," she'd said upon her victory, "Be nice to your clients! You can't run a business without them!"
He couldn't really say anything in response, all things considered.
(It's not that he's scared of her, though. It's just that…
Well, some things are just too hard to explain.)
There was no flash bang of sudden realization, no dramatic awakening to their abilities. It simply…happened. Easily, fluidly; like instinct, like something natural.
They discovered most of their abilities that way. The psychometry, the psychokinesis, the PK seed. Others were more accidental – Gene's perfect medium capabilities, and so on.
Just as naturally, both of them gravitated towards becoming psychic researchers. To Naru it was logical – they knew that the paranormal existed, and he had no doubt in his abilities of scientific research and elucidation.
Gene knew, and always tried to remind him that modesty was a virtue. Naru would smirk at that.
(He never really wonders, what would have happened to them if they'd kept from the path of exploring paranormal phenomena? Would Gene have stayed alive?
And because he never really thinks about it, he doesn't need – or have – the answer.)
"Naru! That's such a ridiculous thing, coming from – "
Naru walked into the laboratory to see Gene and Madoka facing each other.
" – you." She paused, realized. "Gene…"
His brother turned to him, dramatic sadness evident in his gestures. "Noll, you could have timed your entrance just a little bit better."
"I should have known," Madoka said with a little twitch, though she simultaneously stifled a smile. "Play your pranks on someone else, Gene!"
He raised his eyebrows in a half-waggle. "But you have to admit, it was funny…"
Madoka broke out into laughter.
Naru ignored them both and walked over to his work.
Still, he doesn't complain. Too much. They can be as devoted as he is to their own work, anyway.
(Though he doesn't think it much, those really were the days.)
He always expected he'd find the lake one day. Always.
I found you, Gene.
Before he's called the divers, before they take his body out of the lake, before he lifts a corner of the silver sheeting – he knows.
I found you.
He feels something, doesn't cry. Martin and Luella fly in and Luella can't stop the tears and buries herself in Martin's shoulder but still he doesn't cry.
"They never should have been separated like this," the hushed whispers went, all those months before. "They're twins."
Naru thinks that it's a ridiculous sort of sentimentality. According to that logic, would the death of a younger, non-identical sibling to an older one mean less? Vice versa? Why should it even matter?
Deep down, though…
(he feels the irrationality, a little. Understands. But feels most of all.)
He sees Mai talking to Luella, sees his mother crying and something glistening in the corners of his assistant's eyes.
He almost wants to tell her that she's foolish. Why almost cry for someone whom she didn't know at the time?
Outside the bungalow, he breathes in deeply, stares at the stars. In a way, something feels lighter.
Then he sees Mai run towards the forest and hears the sound of unmistakable sobs.
"Why don't you talk about yourself more?" Mai asked after she'd poured the tea one slow workday. "Where you're from? What your family's like?"
"…Is there a reason I should?"
"Just wondering," she said. "I can be curious, can't I?"
"Yes. But I don't have an obligation to tell you anything, either."
She frowned at him.
He ignored her. "Don't you have work to do?"
(Thus he evades the question, and wonders how she has the skill to ask those questions all the time, how much her latent psychic ability might have to do with it or whether it's just because she's Mai.)
She's surprised to see him, standing there looking at the moon. He says the same sorts of things that he normally does, but today something's not the same.
Naturally today it's not the same. She's probably sensed it by now. He's found what he's been looking for and now comes the conclusion – something long and inevitable and soon-to-be gone.
"You're really not honest with yourself," Mai says, almost as though she's trying to make sense of him.
"I'm afraid I'm a fool who doesn't understand human nature," he replies wryly.
Her voice is soft, mourning things that never existed. "You're going back to England…"
And then, a confession. "…Uhm, you know. I really liked you."
"I heard that you viewed me favorably more than enough this afternoon."
"Idiot. I don't mean in that way."
You're dense, she says. I liked you in a special way.
He almost needs a second to process this. "Me? Or," and before the name comes, he's sure of it, sure from what she's seen in her dreams, "Gene?"
Something whirls to pieces in her eyes; she's obviously never considered this before. But he knows that. She's easy for him to read.
"I didn't know…I didn't understand anything."
But it still…pulls at him in a way, seeing her like this. Knowing why she's like this.
"I always called him 'Naru'…"
He takes everything in as she lets everything out, but has the good grace to look away at the horizon and not at her tears.
(Still, he can't help but think, Gene wouldn't have let her cry.
It's no good. It wouldn't have been.)
That idiot, Naru thinks, even now. That idiot, staying here floating in the realm of dreams instead of moving on. And in Mai's dreams, no less.
Idiot attracts idiot, perhaps. After all, they are the same kind.
("Oh, Noll. Idiot scientist. You'll never change.")
He shakes off the memories.
When he closes his eyes, he sees green sight and silver sheets.
"His smile was so beautiful – I loved that…"
(They are three again, or four, or all the ages of youth blending together in his mind. Through illusions of memory in his mind he can see the colors that Gene's wearing, hear the ringing clarity of his voice.
Can remember his words.
"Hey, let's play the game!"
It haunts him, will probably haunt him for the rest of his life. It's impossible to forget.
Maybe, if he ever needs to understand once again what feeling is, this phantom memory is all he needs.
If he ever.
I think I've been trying to write this…for months. Ever since last summer, probably. I blame this entirely on the difficulty of pinning Naru's voice with my style, as the two aren't really compatible. 8D
Either way I definitely rushed this for the theme, so I feel like chunks are missing here and there – these sorts of fics usually need a lot of time to develop. Buuuut if all things go to plan I'll write a multipart that comes after this, so…we'll see.
And…this hasn't been beta'ed, so er. Yeeees. All mistakes are whoops, comments and critique are adored, etc etc brain fried need to study and sleep, sob.