Title: in places, empty spaces
Day/Theme: 5. 30 . I am remembering you
Rating: PG-13, probably.
Author's note: kink meme: Japan loses his memories due to the trauma of losing the war/getting bombed, and Greece is the only one who can help him get it back, basically.
The title comes from a The Most Serene Republic song title.
The light comes in white through the rice paper sheen. He wakes without a name. Outside is a ruin, scattered wood and crackling ash. There, the gods step down to mortal soil, leaving their divinity behind in the wake of the defeat. The land is being dissembled. Territories lost, words choked back should they contain any anti-American sentiment. They are banned from war ever again, molded by American generals to something entirely new.
Mostly, he sleeps through the days to escape the drawn faces, the ruin. Dreams only bring more confusing images (People he doesn't know and someone is isn't. Places he's never been, people he's never loved.).
The days slip by, unnoticed.
Food is scarce. He can wander for miles and see the gaunt faces, filled with a kind of horror that defies words. He can bargain for food that has grown expensive overnight, or try and search through streets for whatever he can glean. He leaves it to the newly made widows and childless, the orphans.
This is his only memory: scorched ground, ash, and the steadfast living of the defeated.
He sips at weak tea during the day. He never goes hungry, for a man comes to him. His hair is tied back, and hidden under a cloak. He only comes when it is dark, and even then never for long. When he speaks, it is in murmurs as if to keep his accent hidden away. Even if he does not know him, he senses that in this respect, the man means him no harm. The food is not poisoned – he has tested – and it is too delicious for him to resist. Hunger wins out every time.
"I don't believe I know your name," he says as the bowl is placed before him. The man looks pained, but then there is always an air of sadness. He cannot tell if the man is given to melancholy, or if it is specifically related to his presence.
"It's better that you don't, aru," he replies.
The man that comes to him is raucous and tall. There is an air of childishness about him. He seems so sure of himself, as if he were the right hand of justice itself. Japan knows him from the streets, knows him from how he guides the process around. He seems unaware of the dislike of the people towards him, the ones who smile at him with insults bitten back behind their teeth. He can't help but catch their sentiment, as if he has caught a particularly bad cold.
"Oi, Japan, you aren't sleeping again, are you? It's a wonderful day to be up. We have work to do! We're going for a bright new future, you know?"
The man presumptuously puts his hand on his shoulder. He draws back, and away.
"Japan? I'm afraid you are mistaken... there's no 'Japan' here," he says. His tone is chilly – chillier than the neutral politeness he has intended.
The stranger's face blanches. For a moment he looks very much like a lost child. He mumbles something, and looks down, guilt evident in his expression.
"I hope you find whoever you are looking for," he says. "But for now I am not feeling well, and need to rest."
It isn't a lie. The fatigue has crept up on him. Sleep calls, and he can only obey. When the stranger leaves, he looks like for the first time he has questioned his morals, his justice – as if he wonders if he's really done the right thing. But ever confident, he shakes it off.
When night falls, he is greeted with more visitors. They skulk in, like the man with the dark hair he feeds him. The man is relatively short, with auburn hair and a large curl from the side of his head. Beside him is a much taller man with slicked back blond hair. The redheaded man embraces him, and he stiffens, and draws back at the contact. The redheaded man looks hurt.
"Vee, Japan! What's wrong with you? You're even more stiff than usual!"
He stares back at them, uncomprehending.
"But don't you remember all those times? Like when you'd make us yummy rice balls and that time you taught me all about tea ceremony even though I could never get it right? Or the time that I fed you pasta and Germany woke us up early for training?"
"..I'm sorry, but the person you're looking for is not here."
The man begins to cry. The larger man, the one with blond hair cradles him in an awkward, concerned gesture.
"Germany, Germany–he doesn't even remember us–" He sobs several great, racking sobs. When the man – Germany, is it? – looks at him, it is a mix of concern, pity and anger.
He searches himself and finds nothing, no memories, no connection to these people who claim to know him. All he feels is weariness. When they finally leave, he feels nothing but relief to fall into nameless slumber.
It is morning when the man comes to his doorstep and lingers there. By now, he is weary of company with people who ask for things that do not exist. The wind catches his hair, and it looks impossibly soft, like an animal's fur. He wants to stroke it, but knows this would be impolite. There is orange cat hair stuck to the man's shirt, contrasting against the dark blue material. He seems not to notice, or perhaps he just doesn't care.
"I don't think you'll find what you're looking for," he says.
"I already have," the man replies.
He does not know this man any more than he knows the others. He stares, wishing he could just go back to sleep.
"You called me Herakles," he says.
He's glad, for of course just as the others, no name came to mind.
"Herakles-san, I have nothing to offer. All I want to do right now is sleep for a very long time."
He does not usually admit this. He hides behind cool, aloof politeness. There is something disarming about Herakles that makes little truths spill out before he can check them with the proper polite lies.
"That's a good idea," Herakles says.
He puts his bag down, and lays down right on the floor. He uses the bag as a pillow, of sorts, and closes his eyes.
"Herakles-san...Um, you're on the floor," he protests.
"There's only one bed..." Herakles says sleepily.
"But you are a guest, so you should use it..."
But Herakles has already fallen asleep.
He watches for a while. His actions do not irritate him, however strange they are. He is an odd person, yes, but there is something calming about him. His voice, his languid ways. He knows that this person will cause him no harm.
Herakles is still there the next morning. He has slept all through the day, and even the night. Herakles must have gotten the food in the night, for it is prepared and ready for him upon waking. There are also types of food that he does not recognize.
"It's from where I come from," Herakles says. "I just wanted to share."
He places a piece of the treat in his mouth. It tastes of honey and nuts, and has an almost paper texture to it. It is like nothing he's ever tried.
He bows his head and whispers a thanks.
"I'm glad you like it," Herakles says.
There the smell of rich coffee, and tea. It's thicker than his usual fair, making him believe that it must have been brought by Herakles.
"What brings you here, Herakles-san?"
"You," he says. He takes a sip of his drink.
He tenses, and awaits the inevitable. Them calling him 'Japan', demanding him to take on the memories of this person he must surely resemble. But Herakles does not go on. He does not call him 'Japan'. Instead, his attention is diverted by the clouds outside which seem to fascinate him.
"Would you like to go for a walk?"
Herakles is shaken from his reverie. "...Hmm?"
He repeats the question.
"Yes...if it isn't too much trouble."
Herakles does not bother to clear the table as he gets up. It irks at him, but he respects his guests wishes and saves the mess of breakfast for later.
They go out t beyond the city where the fires started. The sea is behind them, the smell of salt still in the air. Herakles does not make conversation, but the silence is not uncomfortable. He seems a quiet person by nature. Herakles touches the ground. He seems sad, even regretful.
"It used to be greener," Herakles says.
Nearby is the remains of a shrine which had been destroyed. It has yet to be rebuilt, perhaps it never will.
"They say that the gods have been killed," he says. He touches the ground where the shrine had been turned to rubble. He feels ash beneath his fingers.
"The gods only die if you forget them," Herakles replies.
"Then surely they've all died out," he says. He brushes the ashes from his fingers, and with it the untold stories of gods and heroes and men. They walk on. The sky above is clear, serene, with only a few clouds. The wind is on his skin, as soft as fingertips, as kisses. He closes his eyes and an image of a sunny day, much like this comes to him.
yes...it feels nice...
It is a jumble, but even in his state, he knows the physical act of love when he sees it. It shocks him that such thoughts of Herakles-san would assail him, but then a thought comes to him: this is a memory, not a daydream.
He looks in Herakles in shock as the memories keep coming. They're alluring, enticing, even as he wishes to turn away and shut his eyes from them.
"Is something the matter? You're all red...are you sunburnt?"
Before he can draw away, Herakles' hand is at his forehead. The memories come with the heat. He's drowning in them. It's a tumble of grass and skin, mouths and heat.
"I...don't feel well," he says.
Herakles looks concerned. "Do you want me to carry you back?"
"No! No...please, I can walk myself," he says, desperate.
Herakles seems worried, but respects his wishes. Herakles stays close, lest he fall. He stares ahead, unable to forget what has been dredged up from the bottom of his mind.
The images stay with him, a constant flash of heat, of arousal even when he closes his eyes, even when he tries to sleep he does not forget.
Herakles is a constant presence. He has not left since the moment he has come, but he does not resent his presence. He is quiet, and understands when he needs solitude. Since that moment outside the city, Herakles has not touched him, as if he had innately sensed his aversion to contact. He tries to keep Herakles from the worst of the ruin to keep him from worrying. They walk side by side. He cringes when Herakles catches sight of one of the victims of radiation poisoning. Their skins like paper, their eyes haunted, death so close.
In the end, they sit out by the docks. People assure him that they were once lively, but he does not remember. Herakles takes off his shoes, rolls up his pant legs and lets his feet dip into the ocean.
"I don't have a name," he says. It's sudden, and he almost doesn't know why he says it – why it bothers him.
"No one has told you? ...Your name is Kiku. Honda Kiku."
He holds it close to him, this fragment of himself he has found. He tests the name, running his teeth and tongue over the syllables as he pronounces it. Honda Kiku.
"Thank you, Herakles-san."
"It's nothing," he replies.
The sun is bright over the waves, so bright that he almost cannot bear to look at it. On a lovely day like this, he is almost able to forget the gaunt, haunted faces of the victims of radiation poisoning, the fate of the defeated.
Almost, but not quite.
There's something inside him, growing and coming together until he can almost see it. The clearest image is of fire, heat, and razing. The losing of a war. It meshes with the images of that day, the teeth skimming skin and fire until they are indiscernible from each other.
It's too much. His head feels like he's splitting. He wants to sleep and sleep and just been in that dreamless state of between. The numb, the without, the nothingness.
He sleeps. He falls.
He's been in and out of sleep for days. When he wakes he takes nourishment in tea, but his stomach feels too closed to take anything more than a few sips. He knows that he's being rude to his guest, but Herakles is understanding. That's one of the few coherent thoughts he has as he drifts in and out of this self-imposed sleeping sickness.
When he wakes, he has only a few memories, but he knows his name. He is Kiku Honda, and it is Herakles that is looking down at him with such concern as he's never seen before.
"You were out a long time," Herakles says. "I was worried."
There is dampness on his forehead from where a wet washcloth has been lain.
"I didn't want to wake up. I think I'm afraid to remember anymore," Kiku admits. Without a word, Herakles lifts him up until his head is leaning against his chest. It's such a gentle gesture, and yet Kiku knows that Herakles is strong enough to carry him with ease.
"There's bound to be painful memories, but good ones too... In the end, running will solve nothing..." Herakles says.
"I know..." Kiku sighs. "It's just..."
"Take as long as you need. I'll still be here,'" Herakles says.
Kiku stares, and a piece falls into place. "We were close, weren't we?"
"Yes, I believe so," Herakles says. He is gently prompting, but not demanding.
"If you touch me, I might remember," Kiku murmurs. And he knows it now, that he craves the touch he has been avoiding, isolating himself from.
"Do you want me to touch you?"
"Do you want to touch me?" Kiku asks.
"Always," Herakles says.
Kiku lets his fingers run through Herakles' hair just as he wanted to on that first – or first that he remembered – meeting. It is just as soft and thick as it looks, and Kiku feels the same well of happiness that petting cats brings. He smells like Turkish coffee, of salt, and his own peculiar scent all his own. It's earthy, manly, with a hint of spice.
"Ah, but I probably smell awful," Kiku says apologetically.
"You smell fine," Herakles whispers.
Herakles undoes Kiku's yukata. Kiku's hands move slowly under Herakles' shirt. His touch is hesitant still.
"Were we lovers?" Kiku asks. Herakles' body seems so familiar to him, as if he has known every crevasse and island of him.
"No...We were friends. We've slept together before, though."
"And you love me..." Kiku says – not as a question, but as speaking aloud what he now realizes is true.
Herakles nods. "Always."
Kiku nuzzles into him, and lets Herakles take him. Herakles kisses every inch of him (even his toes, which wiggle as he draws back, ticklish.) He is slow, and feel is as if he is underwater. The memory comes up like breath, the air bubbles floating to the surface. He remembers trips in the rain, and shrines, the first touches are much clearer now as Herakles mirrors them.
It does not come immediately, but in bits and pieces. A historical figure; a sword; brothers and sisters; festival dances and lights; cats with an arm raised. By accepting that the images of the flames, the people dying, the pain comes with this, they come more easily. At times it is stream of consciousness, where Heian silk merges with the iron of the modern age, haikus with pop songs. It is hard to untangle, but Kiku faces it with as much bravery as he can muster.
It is intense, not only the feeling of Herakles touch, but the force of the memories. But Herakles is here, steadying him, holding him. He is strong, and he has lent Kiku that strength in his weakest hours. He traces Kiku's cheek, and every outline of his body. It's loving, adoring, and Kiku's body feels starved for it, for him.
For the first time in a long time, Kiku does not feel afraid.
Three days later, Herakles-san is called away, and for that time it feels as if a part of him has been carved away. All this time Herakles has been a pillar of strength for him. Softly supporting him, never asking more than Kiku can stand. Returning to the cage of sleep is tempting, and yet, he tries to stay awake. Kiku still does not remember everything, but he is so close that he cannot turn back now.
He sifts through his stored things, and finds the remnants of past lives. Ceremonial dresses, mysterious masks, silk and drawn ties.
It is when he finds the sword, the sword which America had tried to take from him with fire and rules that the last piece comes. He withdraws it from its sheath and sees a reflection of himself in its blade. He sees not just the face of a Japanese man, but islands – mountains and seas, red torii, and shrines.
"I am Japan," he says to the sky and country that is his skin and breath and soul.
He says it again when Greece returns, silhouetted in the rising sun at the docks. He smiles, and Japan says it again.
"And you, you are Greece-san?"
"I do not feel afraid anymore, though the thought of being a country is still very strange...Did it bother me before?" Japan asks.
"You never considered it much before," Greece says. "I was always the one doing the contemplating."
"Is it because of your scholars? Plato, Socrates...Aristotle?"
Greece smiles. "They were my teachers. My mother used to debate with them."
During his absence, Japan has looked through archives and libraries. He has listened to the old stories, and reacquainted himself with the histories of the world. But history is biased, he knows.
"And I...I thank you, Herakles-san for everything you have done for me," Japan says. He feels a trace shy. "Can you please tell me everything? I have been studying, but I wish to see from the perspectives of one of us."
Greece-san is not biased (save, perhaps, when dealing with Turkey, his own culture, or things of a feline nature). Others might omit things, whitewash or blacken the name of countries, but Greece is objective, and when he isn't sleeping, he watches the world as time passes by. If anyone is to give Japan his view of history, it is him.
"I would be glad to...however, it will take some time," Greece says. "There is a lot to tell."
"I have all the time in the world," Japan says.
"Where do you want me to begin?"
"Begin with..." and he stumbles on the words, the words inside him. Tell me the language to explain this which I cannot express. Tell me how to love you.
"Begin with where we met. The rest of the world can come later," Japan says.
"I met you in eighteen ninety-nine..."
As random note, large amounts of sleeping is a symptom of depression. It's also the body's way of healing, so it's a sign of sickness in general. Just putting Japan's constant sleeping in perspective, here.