Title: Windows and Buttons
Characters/Pairings: Rei/Kira, duh.
Rating: T. For adult themes: there is generalized violence, and the specific sort: rape is alluded to. There also is sex, of the nice, consensual kind.
Notes: Stupid inspiration. Comes when it is not at all welcome, and then, just to be bitchy, makes me absolutely incapable of doing anything productive until I spit fic out. This is just mostly Kira, dealing with the aftermath of the rape and her developing relationship with Rei. Constructive criticism would be very much appreciated, given that this is probably the most serious thing I've written, like, ever.
The Lovely Bones, of course, does not belong to me, but to Alice Sebold, who is amazing and magnificent and writes things that make me sob.
Kira hates rainy days. She hates rainy day skies, rainy day clouds, and rainy day mud. She hates the heat, sickly and moist, as it festers on her face and slides down her back, like the slimy trails nightmarish monsters dribble down her back while she sleeps. She hates windy rain even more. She hates how it doesn't quite cut her skin with the raw, clean audacity of wintery, snow-storm gusts, nor how it doesn't quite twirl around her body and playfully make her hair and clothes leap like sweet, fresh summer breezes. It's middling—neither here nor there, neither definitive nor whole—and yet, it makes her flesh goose pimple and makes her nipples harden, and thus, makes her sick with worry that her bra isn't padded enough or her shirt is too thin, and the world can see. Rainy days make her hair frizzle, rainy days make her skin oily, rainy days make her clothes damp, rainy days make her shiver and sweat and wish that the sun would come out and cauterize every dripping eave and roof with its brilliantly blaring heat and make everything sizzle so she can dance upon the coal-hot sidewalks and burn the stains of blood (on the sheets and smeared on her thighs) and shame (in the bile that gurgles up her throat and splatters on the white porcelain toilet) and horror (in her dreams, her nightmares, her very breath) away.
She hates the mood rainy days instill in her. She hates the melancholic, almost-sad, almost-angry funk that settles around her, a funk that kind of feels like diffident complacency, but isn't quite as concrete. Rainy days make her want to pull the covers over her head and sleep, sleep a black, dreamless, blameless sleep, until sleep itself is sick of her, and shoos her away from its shores.
Rainy days are blurry. They fog her vision and take away any semblance of balance—they take away her morning, her afternoon, and give her only everlasting evening in return. She hates the low, oppressive blankets of clouds, how they shroud so close, and make the air thick like cotton or thin like ether. Either way, it's hard to breath. She sucks the air in, big heaving gasps, deep inside her lungs and tries to saturate her blood with oxygen, but it's not enough. It's never enough.
She spends most rainy days with her head bowed over her sketchbook, pencils furiously scribbling away until they are worked down to nubs, rubbing her fingers over the paper until her hands are black and flaking with lead. She draws blazing sunsets and bright, scalding suns over baked desert landscapes. Sometimes, she will etch in a falcon, flying over the dunes with its body so straight and true in the tall, wide sky. Sometimes, she even pretends she's that falcon, so high and fast and fearless that no hands will ever pull her down, yank at her shirt, or press a sweaty palm to her face so hard that her jaw is numb for days afterward.
II. Buttons, part one
The sound of buttons skittering across the floor and hitting the walls of her bedroom haunts her like a dogged ghost. It pings in her ears day after day, while her teachers go on and on. Her peers don't hear it, but it's all she hears sometimes: the small pitter-patter of round, black buttons, ripped from her white school-girl blouse by greedy, meaty hands. He held her down with his right forearm, she remembers sometimes, when the memory is too sharp and vivid and jagged to ignore. Held her down with his forearm and grabbed at her clothes with the other hand, pulled her blouse off with no heed for the buttons he scattered, like her innocence, like her childhood, like her womanhood.
Day by day, she feels a little bit of herself lost to the currents that tug at her in strange directions, like buttons ricocheting and clattering into dusty corners. Her pencils and stumps of charcoal are the only things that anchor her to the world of the awake, that keep her from fading, like an old painting that hasn't seen varnish, like the washes of watercolors on an old canvass.
III. Windows, part one
She reads a book called The Lovely Bones about two years after her world broke into a million, jagged little pieces. She doesn't like it very much: Mr. Harvey scares her into crying; Ray and Ruth she dismisses; she does not know what to feel for the grandmother, the sister and the brother, but she is fond of them, she supposes; above all, though, she aches for the father, and the mother—well, the mother she learns to dislike. There are too many secrets in her family as well, too many closed doors, too much silence between her mother and her, both of them frozen, her mother in her guilt, and she in her horror. These are the thresholds they will never cross, as the doors have been locked and the keys disposed of years ago.
But a line jumps out at her, what Susie says about her sister: "In the walls of my sex there was horror and blood, in the walls of hers there were windows."
Horror and blood. Horrors and blood and no windows.
Rei walks into her life like a hurricane. She expects from him what she expects from every other soul in the world: a brief moment of connection, of locking of gazes, of recognition, and then—then, the other pair of eyes would blink and slide away, sometimes perturbed, sometimes disinterested, sometimes altogether blank, like boats passing each other on silent velvety waters, looking, already, for more amiable companions.
Rei doesn't let go, though. She imagines that he is like a Kraken, wrapping his long, scaly arms around a boat and slowly embracing it, leading it to another watery world, where things are inverted and colorful and have shimmery halos of unexpected lightness—for the first time, she realizes that painting and sketching and drawing, all of which to her are as unremarkable and commonplace as taking breath, have unexpected hold over others. She learns this as she steals glances at his eyes while he asks her about her sketch: they are alive and alert and sharp and observant, as though they are categorizing and filing away every move she makes for later perusal, every flutter of her hands, every intake of breath, every swish of her braids.
She is not sure she is comfortable under such scrutiny, and had it been anyone but him, she would have gone scrambling for cover. But here he is, asking about one of her sketches, where she gets her ideas or if there was a specific model. She wants to tell him the truth—that her ideas come from everywhere and nowhere, that they spring forth, sometimes, fully formed and wrap gossamer stands of force around her fingers and compel her to stroke life into them with paper and canvas and brush, or sometimes, they meander forth, half-limping, milky-white with the dew of the newly-birthed dripping off of them, and these, these she must coax into existence, draw them out of the shadows of her mind with promises of light and dryness and the scent of oil-paints—but she does not. She is not certain, not yet, if she wants him to understand, or even if he will.
There is a keenness about his eyes, though. They are a sharp, pointed, purposeful blue, hard and unyielding like stone, but also soft and meandering and empty. He has known pain, she realizes, only moments after locking her eyes with his. Pain almost as deep and dark as her own, but he is not a frozen marionette in time like she is.
The thought gives her pause, but makes her fingers itch for a brush, a stump of pastel, a pencil, and it is probably that itch that pushes the words out of her mouth before they are lost to the abyss of her silence forever: "Will you lend me your body? I want you to model for me."
And in that moment, she feels a strange sense of heady triumph swill through her body; she has snatched something back from the Before, picked up a button from the cold floor of her horrors.
She paints him with all the colors of a bloody sunset, the russets and golds and browns and crimsons and vermilions of a star breathing its last. This is because Rei is like a dying sun: he blazes hot and angry and brilliant in his obstinacy, he blazes, and when he rides, when he becomes one with the roar of the motorcycle, he is utterly an indescribable explosion of color. She is like a comet, she thinks, and he is her sun: she circles him, seeking his warmth, and one day, he will swallow her up, and there will be nothing left of her.
She still paints him, though, as lovingly as she would if she were caressing his skin. She brushes brown onto the smooth line of his shoulder, colors the slant of his cheek with a careful hand, dusts his eyes with as many dreams as there are stars in the sky. The hues she can give him on her canvas are limited in number and in scope and skill; for the first time in her life, she finds the paints in their varied colors inadequate, finds her well-worn brushes cumbersome, finds her fingers clumsy and lumbering, because all the colors that he is are impossible to translate.
She will try, though, and try with all of her might, because she loves him.
There are as many demons lurking inside his head as there are in hers, all laughing, leering specimens of hate and greed and selfish, sweaty desire. His must be of a different sort, though, she thinks, because his stem from the betrayal and abandonment of love and blood and sameness.
He fists his hands in his hair and his breath is ragged and his eyes are leaking tears that he had long forgotten he had hidden inside, fossilized inside him for years. She cries with him. They might be over before they even had started, this tenuous, gossamer connection—beyond petty titles like 'girlfriend' and 'boyfriend'—so fine and new, might be broken forever, but she holds him anyway, her arms around his shaking back, and they mourn together. His hands, so large and strong, shake, and this time, she holds him steady.
VII. Windows, part two
Her mother's actions, she can perhaps understand. Her mother is a lonely creature, just like her, and a creature so trapped in her own isolation will often reach out for comfort, and often does not question the source of the warmth, so long as it stays and is lasting.
She can understand. But she is not so sure, after all, if she can forgive her mother for bringing such a malignant, cancerous force back into her life. She curses herself for nearly falling into his trap, for being plied by a life of false comfort and false locks on doors, as he pulls at her and shouts at her and fills her life with his ugliness again.
This time, though, she has Rei bolstering her limbs as she scrambles for leverage and gives back as she bites and claws and scratches and lands blows—heavy ones, filled with festering rage—on his body again and again and again.
Only when his blood streams—red, like hers, how curious, because in her nightmares when she plunges her knife into his chest or neatly separates his skull into hemispheres with a heavy axe, blood and brains and guts do not spill, but bile and slime and feces do—does the skittering of buttons stop long enough for her to realize that she has committed murder. It is one thing in the safety of her own mind, where the only things raking their claws through her were of her own making. Here, it is the real world; here, he is a body of a person; and here, she is a murderess.
She scrambles for Rei, and holds onto him with a vice-like grip. She will not let him go, because to do so would be as effective at ending her life as drowning would be. She clings to him that night, and tries to reclaim who she was Before, and she thinks, after so long of just existing in the grey area, she might be moving into an After. Rei is infinitely gentle with her, like she is some sort of fragile thing in a menagerie made of glass, but he moves his body with the litheness of a man, with the weight of man, with the needs of a man, but she does not hate it. She loves it, even, because, this time, it it Rei, with his familiar eyes and beloved face, loving her, filling her, bringing her to completion at last.
Perhaps, this time, she may even have cracked open a window.
VIII. Buttons, part two
Rei races like the wind, circling the track with speeds her eyes cannot follow. She sees over and over again ghastly images of a mangled and torn body, of a wrenched motorcycle with an idly turning wheel and body lying nearby.
She banishes them. She may shake like a leaf every time Rei flings caution to the wind and rides so fast and so skillfully that no man nor demon can catch him, but she will watch and cheer, dry-eyed and proud, gripping Harumi's hand and feeling Tatsuya at her back, as the man she fell in love with, the man that she will spend the rest of her lifetimes with, the man with sharp, gentle eyes and the smile of a fox, rides races and laughs and becomes a hurricane that takes the world by storm. This is his choice, his nature, his calling: and she will not deny him that, no more than he has not denied anything that is her.
She has snatched back all that the darkness had robbed her of, and then some. She is still a mass of broken bits that still don't fit quite right and she still has nightmares where buttons fly and blood is smeared.
She doesn't let them bother her now because Rei always wakes up when she is having a bad night and lets her burrow in his chest and runs gentle hands through her hair and down her back until she is asleep again. Her world, now, is composed of tall, cloudless skies and airy breezes. Dreams are dreams, and buttons are buttons, and she—well, she is more than the sum of her parts.
She links her hand with Rei's as they walk along the beach together. The sun is setting, a large orange dollop on the horizon, painting the waters iridescent shades of red. They talk of small, meaningless things—supper that night, the new bike's transmission, a painting she wants to do, his father's newest demand for a grandchild—but they hear all of the important things, too. Those things don't need to be said with words, because they are said by the hand he curves around her hip while they sleep, by the kisses she plants on his chin, by the millions of small comforts they draw from one another every day.
They walk together, hand-in-hand, as the sand squelches between their toes.
Perhaps they might even build a sandcastle, with the smell of oil paint and grease clinging to them in the salty air. Perhaps even an endless line of them, stretching into the gusting wind.