A/N: *manic grin* I finished! And it didn't give me nearly half the trouble chapter 13 did. So, herein we have much more rational conversation, some nostalgic reflections and uncomfortable feelings. The fallout continues...
The night wind played softly over Satome's hair as she stepped through the front door of her home. A soft smile hesitantly crossed her lips as she tilted her head back to let the wind blow her hair away from her face. It was such a calm night, and she tried to draw that peace into herself as she turned back to regard her husband, hovering anxiously in the doorway.
"Are you sure you'll be fine getting to your sister's on your own? You don't have to go anywhere, or I could take you-"
Satome held up a hand, grateful when Kousei stopped speaking immediately. "I'm sure. I could get to Midori's blindfolded by now. She doesn't live that far away, besides." She shook her head. "No, Kousei. You and Kouji still have a lot to work out and I don't want him worrying about offending me while you two do that. Since I need some space and time to think, it's best I leave. At least for the night. You can call me tomorrow afternoon, and let me know how things went."
Kousei stepped out of the house and pulled the door closed behind him. He hesitantly reached for her, and then dropped his hand, uncertain of his reception. "Satome, I don't think I can ever tell you how much I regret lying to you about this. Kouji's more right than he knows. I should have told you about Tomoko and Kouichi, even if I couldn't make myself tell a seven-year-old."
Satome drew a deep breath and let it sigh out, feeling oddly removed from her emotions for the moment. The gentle breeze still softly ruffled her hair, as if trying to comfort her. It gave her the courage and the strength to keep her composure, faced with a repentant and regretful husband.
She stepped closer to Kousei and lifted his head with a hand under his chin. She forced him to look at her. "Minamoto Kousei, you listen to me, and you listen well." Her voice was stern, but quiet. Kousei's wide blue eyes were fastened on her face as if she were the only thing holding him to the earth. "I knew full well who you were before I married you. Your I-know-best attitude and all. I knew you'd hurt me with that someday, just like you did – admittedly on a smaller scale – before our marriage."
Kousei winced. "I-Satome…"
"Hush," she said firmly, gaze steady. She felt mostly numb right now, but there was an odd peace to the numbness. Everything was out in the open now. "I knew you couldn't change that part of you, and I have never tried to change it. I knew you would hurt me with that attitude again one day. I chose to marry you anyway. Doesn't that tell you anything? Kousei, I love you. I love your son. Kouji. And I expect Kouichi will be just as lovable when I meet him. But right now, we all need space."
She let go of his chin and stepped back. Kousei swallowed and nodded, eyes over-bright behind his glasses. "I understand." He backed up, mouth firming into a stern line as he battled back his churning emotions. "I'm…Satome, I know you…need space, but please, please, remember that I'm sorry, and that I love you."
Satome simply nodded her head and gestured back at the house. "Kouji needs you now, Kousei. Go on."
After a long moment, Kousei nodded, and retreated back into the house. Satome tilted her head back to look at the sky and drew in a deep breath. Releasing it in a quiet little sigh, she squared her shoulders and headed for the nearest bus stop, firmly not thinking about all that she had to tell her sister.
Kousei sighed as he shut the door and leaned backwards against it. He took a moment to simply breathe, his mind drifting, touching upon different moments from this eventful evening, but not for long, or in very much depth.
He wasn't sure, even now, if he was glad or not that everything had come out into the open. He was grateful that Satome didn't seem likely to repudiate him immediately for his lies, and that Kouji seemed to be willing to listen to him now, but there were so many other, better, ways this could have been done.
Ideally, he would never have kept this from either of them in the first place. At least not from Satome. Kousei was realistic enough to know that no matter the situation, he probably wouldn't have been able to speak of Tomoko and Kouichi with Kouji immediately after the divorce. Not soon enough to prevent his toddler memory from forgetting them.
Maybe, if he'd planned this better, he could have found a time to tell Kouji. Some day, some situation, where he would have been able to control the flow of information and prevent the explosion that had occurred this evening.
But, then again, maybe not.
Kousei also knew his youngest was almost alarmingly like him in some respects. Even if he had told Kouji himself, there would have been yelling and anger over being allowed to forget in the first place. It was how he would have reacted at that age.
Shaking his head, Kousei pushed off the door and made his way back to the kitchen. Regrets wouldn't fix any of this, and there were still several things he needed to talk with Kouji about tonight, or tomorrow morning.
Kousei paused at the doorway to the kitchen, taking a moment to observe his son unnoticed. Kouji hadn't moved from his seat, head propped on his hands while his fingers curled in his hair, pulling parts of it from the low tail he kept it in. The bandana was discarded on the table. Kousei sighed and walked quietly up behind his son.
"Kouji," he said, laying his hands over his son's, ignoring the boy's start. "You'll give yourself a headache if you keep pulling at your hair like that."
He felt Kouji's snort more than he heard it, but the fingers relaxed and lowered to the table and Kouji didn't move as his father pulled the tie out of his disordered hair.
"Too late," the boy muttered, "I think I've had a headache since we started yelling at each other."
Kousei felt his own snort escape before he could stop it, letting half-forgotten skills guide him in smoothing out his son's hair and replacing the hair tie. Kouji turned in the chair to regard him curiously, one hand hovering over the tie in his hair.
"You haven't done that in a while."
Kousei smiled nostalgically as he took the seat next to his son. "Four years or so. You decided you were old enough to take care of your hair yourself somewhere around your seventh birthday."
Kouji avoided his eyes as he toyed with his bandana. "I guess. I don't really remember deciding that." Blue eyes glanced sideways at his father and then away. "You had to learn a lot of new things, after Mom and Kouichi left, didn't you?"
Kousei nodded. "Your mother and I had always had our own tasks within the house. Making sure your hair didn't resemble a bird's nest was something Tomoko had done for you…before the divorce." The father sighed, and then laughed slightly. "I'm fairly certain I started your preference for longer hair because the place we had taken you and your brother to closed, sometime around the divorce, and with everything else I suddenly had to take care of, or learn how to do…" Kousei shrugged, still smiling slightly. "I wasn't about to try my hand at cutting your hair myself. Aside from my probable horrible hair-cutting skills, I doubted I could get you to sit still long enough for me to try. And by the time I did find someplace to take you, you had gotten rather attached to having longer hair." Kouji was still looking away, but Kousei caught the slight upturning of his mouth that indicated a smile. Encouraged, he pressed onward. "Cooking decent meals and adding laundry to my daily schedule, reworking our finances to just my salary…those were rather more important than the length of your hair."
Kouji snorted again, and retied the bandana over his hair. "That makes sense. Though I think the cooking took longer than anything else. I still remember being really happy when Satome-san brought us some of her meals, to share over holidays and birthdays."
Kousei flushed slightly, but didn't deny his son's insinuation. He had been glad of those meals too. And the cooking tips Satome had discreetly dropped whenever she brought them a meal. "Yes, well…it was a learning process." He tilted his head, and tried not to visibly brace himself. "So…you said Kouichi wants to meet me," he prompted.
The boy sitting next to him didn't tense, but he did sigh before looking up at his father. "Yes, he does." This time, it seemed it was Kouji's turn to be embarrassed about something, because he was flushing. "I…probably should have brought this up sooner. Kouichi's waited just as long to meet you as I did to meet Mom, but…I just didn't know how to start the conversation. And…well. It didn't start off very well."
Kousei gripped his son's shoulder firmly. "Kouji," he said sternly. "I do not want you to feel guilty for tonight. Yes, you should have gone about it differently, but so should I have gone about things differently. Both my reactions to your accusations tonight, and in my conduct after the divorce. You've brought it up now, that's the point." Kouji nodded, and Kousei moved the conversation on. "Do you know when he'd like to do this? Or where?"
Kouji shook his head. "No, I don't. We haven't really spoken about it. We were hoping for sometime before school starts up again, but that doesn't give us very much time. And I know you've got to go to work still-"
I won't let that be a problem. I can get Kouichi back. Keep my promises, finally, Kousei swore to himself. He let that certainty bleed through into his tone as he interrupted his son, leaning forward to pin the boy with a firm look. "Kouji," he said, "talk to your brother and decide on a time that works best for him and your mother. I will make it work."
"But-" Kouji started.
"No," Kousei said, shaking his head. "I've made enough mistakes in my life, especially when it comes to you and your brother. The two of you are far more important to me than my job. You two give me a day, and I'll be there. For as long as Kouichi wants me there."
Kouji stared at him for a moment before nodding. Kousei smiled and sat back. "Do you want to call your brother tonight, or wait for tomorrow? It's not too late if you want to do it tonight, I think. We'll do whatever you want. Whatever you both want."
Kouji was remarkably good at masking his emotions, but this evening had been hard on everyone and it was quite apparent to Kousei that his son needed some time away from his father as much as Satome had needed to leave for a little while. It wasn't a surprise to Kousei when Kouji's hand drifted towards the pocket that habitually held his cell phone.
"Would you…mind if I called him now? Kouichi'd probably like to know it won't be a problem whatever day he picks."
"That's fine." Kousei stood and moved towards the door. "You call Kouichi. I have something I should do tonight, before we get to planning this properly."
He left before Kouji could ask him what he was going to do. He didn't want to disappoint either of his boys if he couldn't find the box his own father had entrusted to him. It had been more than eleven years, after all, since he had last seen it.
Kouichi sat on his bed, idly flipping through one of the books he had borrowed from Yoshida-sensei, but not really focused on the words in front of him. There was too much on his mind.
A slightly muffled ding sounded throughout the house and Kouichi heard his mother moving to tend to whatever she had set to cooking once they had gotten home. She had banished him from the kitchen with the admonishment that he rest some more. The day had been long and she didn't want him overexerting himself, even if he did feel practically normal now.
Kouichi hadn't argued very much. He had too much he had to think about. He would be meeting his father in the near future, as soon as Kouji could manage to arrange it. Kouichi wasn't sure how he'd make it to tomorrow, when Kouji would call with the information about when their father could meet him.
The rustling of the pages paused as Kouichi's hand tightened on the book for a moment. What did he think about meeting his father again? For the first time? Did the few years he had spent with the man as an infant and toddler even count, since he couldn't remember anything from that time?
And did his father even want to meet him? What if he didn't want anything to do with his eldest son? What if too much time had passed and he didn't care anymore? What did he really know about what fathers should be like anyway? He couldn't remember his.
Blue eyes stared sightlessly at the book's text as Kouichi sought answers that didn't yet exist.
Tomoko gingerly stirred the cooking food in front of her, only half her mind on her task. There was so much to think about now. Kouji's arrival – re-entrance? – into her life, into Kouichi's life, was a good thing. It was the fulfillment of broken promises on both sides of the divorce and she could not find it in her to resent that it had happened without her knowledge or consent.
Kouichi deserved to know his brother, just as Kouji deserved it too. She had been incredibly selfish to let her own feelings get in the way of that all these years.
The slight blurring of her vision alerted Tomoko to the fact that she had tears standing in her eyes. She sniffed and squeezed her eyes shut for a moment, fighting back the urge to cry.
Mom, why couldn't you have warned me you had told Kouichi?
How could she feel so lost and so complete at the same time? She had lost her mother scarce two months ago, and now her youngest son had been given back to her. Along with everything that implied.
Kouichi would surely want to meet his father now, and he certainly wouldn't get any protest from her. She was rather surprised he hadn't brought it up to her yet, but then, he had probably noticed how she had avoided any mention of his father today. Maybe he didn't want to bring it up to her until she started that conversation?
Tomoko sighed and shook her head. No, Kouichi probably just didn't know how to ask her about his father. He hadn't mentioned Kousei to her for years, not since she had stumbled through an explanation that even now she couldn't remember fully. How old had he been? It had been a few years since the divorce, since he hadn't asked about Kouji as well. So he had been at least seven.
She sighed and turned the heat down to let their dinner simmer. The ringing of the phone startled her into a small jump, but she managed to answer with her usual calm by the time she reached the phone in its new position by the couch.
"Um…" a newly familiar voice came through the line. "Hi, Mom."
A smile blossomed on Tomoko's face, worries momentarily gone as her youngest son's voice came through the line. "Kouji," she returned. "Did you get home alright?"
"Yeah, I did. And…um…I…well, I called to talk to Kouichi, really. Not that I don't like talking to you! It's just-"
Tomoko had a hard time deciding between amusement and hurt at her youngest's hurried explanation for why he didn't want to talk to her at this precise moment. A small corner of her heart ached at the awkwardness in their conversation. It should never be this way between a mother and her son. However, amusement quickly won out. There was just something so…familiar, about his nervousness. It was just like listening to herself at a younger age.
"Kouji," she interrupted him, laughter in her voice. "It's okay. You didn't make me mad. I have to check on our dinner anyway, so this is best. Wait a moment and I'll get your brother."
Tomoko managed to set the phone down on the side table before letting her laugh out. Kouichi came into the room just then, curiosity on his face, and this only made Tomoko laugh more. She waved him to the phone before he could question her and escaped back to the kitchen.
The awkwardness between her and her youngest son probably wasn't as funny as she found it at this moment, but she needed to laugh. Her only other option was tears, and she refused to cry after everything Kouichi and Kouji had done to make her happy today.
Kouichi had heard the phone ring through his haze of thought, but hadn't managed to get his feet moving soon enough to relieve his mother of needing to answer the phone. By the time he got to the living room, his mother was already smiling and telling whoever was on the other end of the line that she would "get your brother."
Kouji was calling?
He didn't need his mother to point him to the phone to know it was for him, but he smiled at her anyway and picked up the phone, hesitating a moment as she retreated back to the kitchen to give him some privacy and the faint sound of only partially muffled laughter reached his ears. What had been so funny?
Shrugging, he put the phone to his ear. "Kouji," he greeted.
"Hi," his brother muttered and Kouichi frowned.
"Is something wrong?" he asked hesitantly. Had the conversation with their father gone wrong? Did…did his father not want to meet him?
"No…well, maybe. I don't know. I called to talk to you and I'm not good at making small talk. I think I might have…offended Mom."
Oh, was that all? Kouichi smiled in relief. "Relax. She's laughing in the kitchen. I don't think she's offended. Besides, Grandma always says-" his voice choked slightly, but he ignored his slip. "Grandma always said it took Mom years to learn how to do that. Apparently it's genetic," he said, a teasing note entering his voice.
"Oh," Kouji breathed out, sounding inordinately relieved. "That's good then. So. Um. I talked to Dad."
Kouichi felt his stomach clench and it had nothing to do with being hungry. "Ah. And…"
"He wants you to pick a day and he said that he'd clear his schedule to be there. Wherever 'there' is. We haven't talked about that part yet. But he wants to meet you too. So, ah, whatever day works best for you."
Kouichi sighed and tried not to collapse backwards onto the couch. He managed to land upright, but he had a feeling he had fallen onto the couch more than he had sat down. His father did want to see him. Would clear out his entire day to meet his eldest son!
It was a relief, but not enough of one to distract Kouichi from the odd tense note in his brother's voice, or the fact that he had called early.
"I'll have to ask Mom, I guess. I'll let you know. But…Kouji, why'd you call tonight? I thought you were going to call tomorrow. And…well," Kouichi shrugged. "I thought your conversation was going to take longer."
"Yeah, well, we're taking a break. I didn't really…start the conversation in the best way."
Kouichi frowned. "What happened?"
Kouji evaded the question. "Does it matter? I managed to talk to Dad about the meeting. Do you have any idea for when you want to meet him?"
The elder twin rolled his eyes, trying not to let his frustration show. "I told you I don't know what day, yet. Now, what happened, Kouji? And don't say anything about it not mattering, either. I can tell it's bothering you. Remember, you're my brother-"
"-your twin, so you know when I'm upset or in trouble." Kouji finished, amusement taking place of the defensiveness in his voice. "Yeah, I remember. You really need to stop using my own words against me."
Kouichi quirked his eyebrows upwards. "Quit making it so easy and I will."
A sigh echoed over the line. "Dad wasn't home yet when I got home, and Satome-san asked me how my day went. I just…I remembered that I didn't know if Satome-san knew about you and Mom, and that got me thinking again about Dad telling me Mom was dead. I tried to calm down by helping Satome-san make dinner, but it didn't work. She asked me what was wrong and it all just came out. I didn't really say anything directly, not to her-"
"But she knew anyway?" Kouichi asked, not quite sure what to feel about that.
"She knew that I'd had a twin." Kouji said flatly. Kouichi blinked and before he could say anything Kouji continued. "Dad told her that he "lost" you and Mom on the same day. She assumed that meant you both died. Dad walked in just as I figured out he'd lied to her too. And I…I just kind of blew up. And even when we're not shouting, Dad and I can set each other off if we're angry enough. Satome-san's the only reason we got anything productive out of tonight's conversation."
"Oh." What did he say to that? What was he supposed to feel?. He'd known that his father had lied to Kouji about their mother, but to know that he had been the subject of a lie as well felt somehow different. How could his father do that? To his wife? To his son? To him?
Anger seemed to be the natural response, but he didn't want to get that angry again. Not after all the damage he'd done the last time. But what else were you supposed to feel when told that your father had deliberately misled people about you?
Kouji seemed to sense some of this conflict in his twin. "Kouichi, I know it sounds bad, and I don't really know what I think about it yet, either. But…he did have his reasons. He…Dad loved you both. Loves you both. I don't think he'd have been so upset if he didn't." There was silence for a few moments, as Kouichi fought back sharp words and made himself breathe deep. "Takuya told me that maybe Dad lied because it was the only way he could handle losing you two. I'm starting to think he was more right than he knew. Just don't tell him I said that, or he'll never let me forget it!"
Kouichi laughed despite himself. The anger was still there, but it felt smaller somehow. He'd wait until his father could explain before he reacted to the lies. He'd done enough damage the last time he'd acted without getting all his facts first. "Okay, okay. I won't tell Takuya."
"Good." Kouichi could hear the smile in his brother's voice. "Now…any idea about a date yet?"
Kouichi rolled his eyes and let his eyes drift over to the calendar hanging from their refrigerator, despite the fact that he couldn't read it in detail at this distance. He blinked as he saw Dr. Wakahisa's card clipped to the calendar and froze.
"Did you…did you tell Dad what happened to me last week?"
The silence was answer enough. Kouichi sighed and unconsciously rubbed at the left side of his head, just over where he had hit the stairs.
"I haven't. He knows that's when I first met you, but…not what happened that night." Kouji's own sigh drifted down the line. "I'm not sure I can handle telling him about that tonight, too, Kouichi."
"Then don't," Kouichi said, yanking his hand away from his head as he realized what he was doing. "I think…that might go better if I'm there when we tell him. That way he can see I'm fine now."
"I don't want to lie to him."
Kouichi grimaced. "I don't either. Or want you to lie to him. But…he'd worry, wouldn't he? And it's over. I'm fine."
Kouji was silent for a long time. "I'll tell him there's something else he needs to know, but that we want to tell him together."
Relief flooded through Kouichi. "So neither of us ends up lying. I like that idea." He caught his mother's wave from the kitchen and nodded at her. "Mom says dinner's ready though, so I need to go."
"That's fine. Dad and I should probably get something to eat too. I kind of…distracted Satome-san from finishing dinner."
Kouichi couldn't help it. He laughed.
A/N2: The entire conversation between Kouji and Kouichi was a very last minute edition. Actually, everything after Tomoko wondering why her mother didn't warn her she'd told Kouichi about Kouji was a last minute edition. I sat and stared at the computer screen for too many hours and deleted about five different attempts to get that final bit moving before I figured out how to incorporate Kouji's phone call in there. Kousei and Kouji's conversation wasn't half so hard as that. (Maybe because I haven't written Tomoko or Kouichi for a few chapters? Hmm...)
And no, unlike the photos of Tomoko's present, I'm not making a riddle of the box Kousei is looking for. This is entirely my own invention, based on my mental back-story for Kousei. It'll be explained later. (Though if you want to guess, I won't tell you no. This'll just be quite a bit harder to guess than the photos.)
Also, this insisted on being written, but it REALLY doesn't fit the flow of the chapter. So enjoy a funny exert of my writing!
Kouji fought not to bang his head off the table as he waited for his mother to get Kouichi on the phone. "Smooth, Kouji, real smooth." Right now he didn't care that he'd never been good at small talk, far more direct and to the point than most people considered proper. "Why don't you make her feel more like a side-effect of meeting your twin? Idiot!"
"Kouji?" Kouichi's confused voice came through the phone.
"I'm an idiot," the younger twin informed his brother.
There was silence on the other end of the line, before Kouichi's voice came back, even more perplexed sounding than it had been before. "Are you an idiot for the same reason Mom's in the kitchen laughing at our dinner?"
Kouji gave up and let his head bang down onto the table, groaning. "Urrghh…" he groaned in the general direction of the phone.