What Is and What Should Never Be
Disclaimer: I really don't own Liar Game. Trust me on that one.
Summary: This is the exact situation Akiyama had hoped to prevent.
Warning: This story does deal with suicide.
Author's Notes: I'd like to thank Railway Station for beta-ing. I think it really did help pull this story together nicely. Your reviews (good and bad) are much appreciated, as always, especially on these serious stories.
It starts with a bad feeling.
A heavy feeling, in the pit of his stomach, that a stone has suddenly started dancing and sloshing up his insides.
It is not reason, but instinct, that tells him he needs to call Kanzaki Nao.
He must admit, things haven't been going well for her. Their individual debts are up to over two billion yen each, and while Akiyama doesn't expect to have to pay them, Nao may not have realized that particular point yet.
The last time they were together, she had seemed distant...closed off to him, and while she was always a bit too altruistic for her own good, that time, she had seemed to pursue generosity to the edge of self-destruction. Only when he had to take her aside and calm her down did Akiyama realize how much he missed the Nao he originally met, who smiled and reasoned with equal furor, and who seemed to have no qualms about opening up to him.
He still sends a text to her everyday, just like he has since the end of the second revival round, when the bond between them had began to fray. And then, sometimes she replied, and sometimes she didn't. But lately, she never does.
So he calls her.
The phone keeps ringing.
And the whole time his gut tells him something is wrong. That impression sucks the life out of the room. Some subconscious rumbling tells him that he should know what's going on.
The last time he had this feeling...
Calling her isn't enough.
Akiyama puts on his shoes and a sweatshirt and heads towards her place.
If he runs, he won't be too late.
He arrives at her place. He knocks but doesn't give her time to answer before he checks to see if the door is unlocked. It is.
Her house is dark, messy. No, not messy, piled up with boxes. Labels written in her neat script. "Dad's clothes." "Dad's books." The smell of alcohol is pretty strong, which is weird because he's never known Nao to drink, much less to excess.
"Nao?" He calls into the dim.
"Nao! Don't play games with me." She hasn't before, but the unreasonable part of him demands that she must be.
There's a light on in the bathroom. Akiyama heads towards it. The toe of his sneaker hits something soft. A hand.
He's down on his knees before he knows it. He checks for any sign of life, an erratic pulse, a sputter of breath, anything. It exists. That's good. He tilts her head to the side so she won't choke on anything that decides to come up.
Akiyama takes his cellphone out and dials the ambulance. Three numbers, and his normally excellent memory has to work to recall them.
He never wanted to be here again. Yet, here he is.
But this time, it will be different.
Overdose. Alcohol Poisoning. Akiyama pieces together what happened over the phone.
Sleeping pills. Prescribed to Kanzaki Tadashi. Her father. A bottle of scotch. Also probably belonging to Kanzaki Tadashi.
Almost an overdose, he amends.
Keep her stable, keep watching her, the ambulance will be here soon.
Don't let her go.
He's so far outside himself that he can see the ambulances arrive from inside the room.
Disembodied, he watches himself watch dumbly as they load her into the ambulance, as precious cargo. He watches himself climb in, standing to the side as they stabilize her breathing, her pulse.
He's a wreck, but from here, he can't feel it at all.
They want her details now.
"18." She hasn't had her birthday yet, right?
"Relation to victim?"
Words swim in his head, but none seem to encompass the truth. "I'm her ___" Her what? Not her friend, perhaps. They don't know each other socially. But acquaintance doesn't describe her either. He's not her boyfriend or lover... yet. A mentor and teacher, maybe. Partner? In a sense. For a second, 'belonging' comes to mind.
"I'm her guardian." Akiyama says. It sounds right, if not accurate. And it will keep him here.
"Parents?" He's getting grilled as they stabilize her. She's going to make it. She has to.
"Mother died when she was one. Father has terminal cancer." No. Akiyama sees it. "Father died recently."
He doesn't know. So much he doesn't know, even as he knows the content of her character so intimately, or thought he did.
"None that I know of."
He takes her hand.
Cool. So unsuited for such a warm-hearted girl. Soft.
He memorizes the bumps and dimples of her knuckles, the length of her fingers, the lines of her palm. If the unbroken line delineating her thumb from the rest of her hand means a long life, he'll believe in fortune telling, just this once.
He watches as they wheel her away from his grasp, hook her up to the machines, and turn once vibrant Kanzaki Nao into what people might call a "vegetable" as they work to save her life.
He watches as they intubate her. He doesn't even look away as they slowly, carefully begin to empty the stomach of the poisons she put in there.
He started his crusade against the LGT for one reason:
To prevent this from happening.
He thought her fragile. He saw the possibility and the vulnerability within her that said history would repeat. To stop it, he thought, would be a matter of helping her get out of the game before he went back to his own business of building a life in the outside world.
He was there for her.
That should have been enough.
So, what went wrong?
She was too strong to give up. A weaker person would back away and not try to start this ridiculous crusade to save people. Nao was too strong to leave everything to Akiyama and walk away, but she wasn't strong enough to bear the burden herself.
No...how can that be too weak, he wonders. Being all of eighteen years old and owing more money than she's ever likely to make in her life. Not knowing (because he never told her his plan, fearing her disapproval and defection) that she won't actually have to pay it. He can't imagine any person who wouldn't be affected by that
Still, he sent her messages. To cheer her up. To assure her she wasn't alone. That he would take care of her.
Still, it comes to this, the crudest of methods.
Someone makes a suggestion that Akiyama should...
Should what? He can't pay attention to anything but the girl sleeping as people swarm around her trying to save her life.
What if these are her last moments?
Can't be. Can't be. They saved her.
She's so small. Akiyama looks at her. Lying there, she looks so thin and fragile. She never should have gotten involved. She should be in college, learning, laughing, making friends, finding herself.
He realizes, he knows nothing of her.
How can she leave him before he's gotten a chance to know all about the person he's been working for this whole time?
What's her favorite color? Her favorite book? What type of music does she listen to? What does she want to study? Who was her best friend growing up? Cat person or dog person? Where is her favorite place to go on vacation? What type of guy would she fall in love with?
Who is Kanzaki Nao?
And what of her future? Akiyama can see it more clearly than he can his own. She's got school yes, and maybe she'll get a job going out and changing the world. Or she'll marry someone--perhaps him--and become a fierce dragon of a mother protecting her children while teaching them to be kind and honest.
She can't go, not yet. He's not done studying her, and she's not done with life.
Again, Akiyama remains above himself and watches passively the man next to Nao, his hand in hers again. The touch exists for him as much as it does for her. He stares at her, to be the first to know when her eyes open.
If they open.
If the chemical mess she's inflicted on her body can be reversed.
Finally, they finish the procedure. Akiyama watched the whole horrible ordeal. He watches now as they take the tubes from her.
There. Life saved, right?
"You..." he whispers. "Just live. Please."
No use in saying anything else until she wakes up.
Time means nothing until she opens her eyes. Hours, days, years. They pass the same for Akiyama. Should he eat? Should he sleep? Not until she wakes up.
Her eyes flutter. They open.
It's the moment he's been waiting for since the moment he discovered her, and yet, what can he say to her?
It's too much for Akiyama. The tension that's been slowly building since that initial bad feeling wells up. The depth of his desolation when he thought he lost her. The pressure to not let history repeat itself. They accumulate in Akiyama Shinichi, even as they are relieved in this very moment. The hand holding hers trembles and shakes. He lets go and walks from the room before she can even pass a shocked "Akiyama-san" through her lips.
If he seems calm, it's a lie. If he seems merely livid, it's an understatement.
The moment he's in a somewhat private place, the stall of a bathroom, Akiyama lets himself go. Not yelling, not screaming, but through the clenching and unclenching of his fists. Curling up sometimes. Digging his nails into the sleeves of his shirt. Completely silent except for the vibrating intensity of his anger.
The blazing heat piles up in him, threatens to explode.
How dare she?
He was there for her, for fuck's sake. Why do all the people he cares about specifically have to do this to themselves instead of calling someone?
He wants to kill her himself. No he doesn't.
Why would she even try this before confiding in him?
He can't answer that. He's not even sure he can accept any answer from her. Can he even bring himself to ask?
He's still angry, still tense, but he returns to the room anyway.
"Shut it." He's very cold now, or tries to be, but the rawness bleeds into his voice. "Let's make one thing clear. You do not try to kill yourself ever again. If you're hurt, or nervous, and feel like you can't make it, you call me. We talk about it. I'll stay with you for as long as you need. If you think you can't talk to me about, talk to someone else. If you try this again... I'll follow you to the very end." He means it too, he realizes. Maybe not through direct means, but there are less-direct methods of self-destruction that will get him the same results.
Her eyes widen. "No..."
"And if that's not enough to stop you from trying it, I'll take others down with me. So that if you do this again, I assure you, no one will be saved."
She looks away. "I'm sorry, Akiyama-san I wasn't thinking...."
"Obviously not. Nao...I've..." he hesitates to admit this, "I've been here before. Only that time the victim was my mother, and I had no chance to save her life. Throwing your life away like that...it's stupid, and it's pointless. And it hurts others."
Tears. She cries for him, overwhelmingly so. But he notices the shock not present in her, or any sort of answer. Did she know? Did she know and try this anyway? That possibility does earn something for her very akin to hatred. Even if he still can't hate her.
"I'm going to go home and sleep. Then we'll talk about what's next."
Akiyama sleeps for a couple nightmare tormented hours. "What if?" His brain keeps asking. "What if she had succeeded?"
He sleeps through that question. The "what-ifs" twist and twirl, and after about four hours, he can't even sleep anymore.
He showers, drinks some coffee that scalds his throat on the way down, and makes a sandwich. How long has it been?
Almost forty-eight hours, from beginning to end.
Akiyama takes the train to the hospital. He doesn't talk to anyone as he walks into Kanzaki Nao's room again. He brings no get-well gifts, and carries no flowers. In no way does this situation deserve the first bouquet of flowers he'll ever give her.
"So...." He says when he sees her again and all the nurses have been chased away. "Why? Why do this?" At least he's calmed down enough to ask that question.
Nao looks down. Her voice is so quiet that Akiyama has to lean in close to hear her. "My father died. My father died believing that I was good and honest to the very end. He had no clue that something was wrong, that I was betraying his words every time I played that game. Then, the Fake Lawyer delivered that invitation the very day I received the news. He said that he hoped my circumstances didn't cause any difficulties for us. That game went badly, didn't it? We only scraped by because of you."
Fuck the game. "The game is worthless. Why didn't you tell me that your father had died? I could've helped you."
"I didn't want to burden you. You've already done so much for me." She's near tears now. Let her cry. It's the least she deserves for what she's done.
"Idiot." He clenches his fists, "Don't say that. I'm here. By. My. Choice. You think I send you those messages because you force me to? You think I'm by your side because I like cheating people out of their money?"
"I thought I was useless. I thought I could strike a blow against the LGT if I died with that amount of debt."
"No." Akiyama shakes. "No. You're much more useful alive. My plans depend on you. You have to live."
"You don't realize, you do things I can't. I can plan, but you get people to move for you."
He's not listening. "And what about you? There's so much you haven't experienced yet."
"This world needs people like you, who are strong and brave and can stand up for what's right. You can't die."
"I want to live," Nao whispers.
To Akiyama Shinichi, there is no string of words more beautiful than those she just spoke. Those words can rebuild the bridge of trust between them that has been destroyed. Eventually.
"You almost died." Akiyama says later. "Do you know how close you came?"
"They told me. If it wasn't for you..." Nao looks away. "I would have, wouldn't I? They said you were the one to find me. That you stayed with me the whole time."
Akiyama closes up and says nothing.
"I'm grateful. I think I knew you were there by my side, and that's why I pulled through."
"You just got help in time." Akiyama says. He's dead inside. He doesn't want to think about this anymore.
Nao shakes her head. "They told me," she says, voice wavering, "that I was very, very lucky to pull through. I really didn't want to die...just things piled up...and I was going through my father's belongings...and the invitations...and everything just seemed so impossible..."
"How long are you staying here?" Akiyama asks.
"The doctors said they want to keep me here for a few more days. They say it's to make sure that there weren't any complications. But I think they also want to make sure I'm not going to try again. They'll discharge me then. They want me to get counseling...but I'm not sure I can talk to anyone about my situation. Who'd believe me?"
"Okay." Akiyama takes a deep breath. He can't believe what he's about to propose. "It's going to be difficult for you to return, isn't it?"
"All your father's things are there. Plus something bad just happened there. That environment is toxic."
"Yeah." Nao looks down. "But it's all right now. If things get too tough, I'll call Akiyama-san..."
He can do better. "Move in with me."
"If you stay there by yourself, you're going to think you're alone in the world. You aren't."
"At least until things are more stable." Oh, he has no intention of letting her go. "Then we'll talk."
Nao looks unsure still. "I'd hate to be a...."
"I'm offering." Akiyama makes it clear. "If it bothers you so much to be a nuisance, YOU can do all the housework. I'd feel better, knowing you were close-by."
"I see." Nao looks solemn. "I'll go. I really would feel better having Akiyama-san around."
Akiyama nods. The feelings are still inside him, wanting to spill out, but at least he can control it now. He no longer shakes. "Good."
They both manage to smile at each other, not happy ones by any measure, but smiles all the same.
When Kanzaki Nao leaves the hospital, Akiyama waits for her, with flowers. Recovery and moving forward do deserve flowers, although he still wishes this wasn't the occasion to prompt the first bouquet he's giving her. She smiles shakily at him when she catches his eye. "Let's go, " he says.
They walk away together.
As it should be.