Notes: YST world, though I've bumped the war to year 1990, instead of 1988, aging everyone by two years. Not something I usually do, but for the story's sake, I've taken to using my artistic license. Story opens two years after the wars, 1992. I am not going completely traditional to the Japanese school-year, because this is a fan fiction, a story for pure enjoyment. So rather then attempt to use a school system I know little about, I'm using the American one that I am familiar with, with summer break from May through August. Other then that, this story is cannon to YST.
He felt no physical pain, though his throat was numb and raw from his screams. In fact he could feel nothing physical, not the hands holding him nor the surface beneath him. He couldn't hear beyond the rushing blood in his ears, blissfully unaware of the male voice coming from above him.
But still he screamed when breath allowed it, his feeling-dead body arching with each retched, painful jolt that was consuming him from within. Despite his inability to even think, his mind was far from blank. It was a jumble instead, of mixed and conflicting emotions and almost-thoughts. One such half creation holding a flavor or feel of himself brushed the surface: 'I feel like I'm being ripped apart!'
From above him the voice turned its attention to something new, and the familiar serpentine voice snapped, "What is it?"
"…five hundred sixty-three yen, Mouri-san."
"Hmm?" Shin blinked and focused once more on the red-headed cashier and smiled a touch sheepishly to ease the mild concern she felt. "Of course, sorry Cherin-san."
Chuckling at her exasperated roll of the eye, Shin dug out his wallet and paid what he owed. "Thanks, I'll see you in a couple weeks." Grabbing his bags, Shin left the pharmacy with a wave at her returned jibe.
Shaking his head, Shin tilted it back to look up at the sky, the sun shinning brightly down upon him. There was only about a month and a half left of summer, then the next semester would start. Still it was beautiful out so Shin decided to indulge and walk the long way back to his apartment.
It was only about another week and a half to the marker of the end of the wars. Currently, if his overly active and sadistic mind and calculations were correct, he was in the middle of his capture. A wonderful excuse for the increasing number and frequency of his memory flashes. They had always been vivid, but until recently he had never become lost in them as such, save when alone. Not even last summer, the first since the war's end.
'Fewer distractions this time,' he told himself, the same he'd been repeating for a handful of days now. It was true though. He was already settled into his apartment and would be starting his second semester this fall; he'd become familiar with the area and people months ago.
He only half believed himself; part of him knew there was more to it and it sent a shiver down his spine if he thought on it for too long. Shaking his head and drawing in a deep breath, Shin shrugged it off and told himself to stop worrying on it. Sighing, he adjusted his bag, turned off the sidewalk and entered the park. There he spent a good hour watching various children and families, a mixture of appreciation and melancholy building and mixing within him.
But it was with a smile that he took his leave, making certain to wave at the small group of young ones he'd pushed the swings for. He stopped by the water fountain attached to the small building for public restrooms. Emptying his bag, Shin placed everything but one bottle in his pant's pocket and stuffed the bag in the tall trash bin. Tipping a pill out, the bottle joined what was in his pocket as he leaned forward and held the fountain on.
Refraining from gagging with practiced ease, Shin slipped his fingers into his pockets and turned to continue from the park. Looking down to his watch, he realized he only had a few minutes to get to the coffee house if he didn't want to be late. Not that they had really set a time. Lifting his gaze as he assessed how far he was from the shop, he continued his sedated pace; very much at ease and unassuming as he started to slip his hands into his pockets. The children were still playing, their sounds of laughter easing his soul. As was common after experiencing such…vivid "visions," Shin sent his well wishes to his comrades from the wars that inspired them, wherever the four young warriors might be.
Only three quick steps later, old but ingrained instinct kicked him in the ass. He dropped down into a crouch and grabbed the arms that would have grabbed him. Moving forward with the other's momentum, Shin flipped the heavier body over himself and onto the male's back. Releasing the forearm he held as he straightened, he noticed that the background noise of the children's laughter had turned into screams and cheers.
Sensing no other would-be assailants, he dusted himself off before looking down at the young man still at his feet, eyebrow quirked. Then he blinked, his breath catching before his hardened expression shifted into one of confused surprise. "Wha-" he breathed, only to have a voice speak up from a few feet behind him.
"You should have known better then to try and sneak up on him. I did warn you." The words were spoken with such refinement and precision, one had to be familiar with the silken smooth voice to recognize the amusement it carried. Shin half turned to look at its source and both eyebrows went up at the approaching blond. The hint of a smile on the young man's lips caused a sense of wariness within the redhead.
There was a snort from his other side in response. Shaking his head in disbelief, Shin turned back to the first boy, intent on offering him a hand up, only to see the slate-haired boy already on his feet and dusting his pants off.
"Whatever," Shu flippantly brushed Seiji's words off, but when he met Shin's gaze, there was a hint of pouty remorse in his chiseled features. Then a smirk pulled at his lips, causing Shin to tense. "I told you it was him. I'd know my little bud anywhere."
Before he could say or do anything, Shin suddenly found an arm around his shoulder, the owner mindless of his discomfort and careless of the fact that a similar attempt had been what put him on his back in the first place. Shin was turned completely around to face the blond, just a couple of steps away. "Not so little anymore. You better watch it or you may find yourself on your back again."
Fingers clinching at his sides, Shin dipped his shoulder and slipped out from beneath Shu's arm. He twisted in the same motion so as to see both boys, and spoke up before the banter could continue. "Or worse if I'm not taken out of third person, the both of you," he warned, eyes serious as he looked between them both. "What are the two-" Shin cut himself off with a groan. He could see another figure running towards them, looking none too pleased in his coffee-house apron. Hearing the elder call out his name, Shin stifled another groan when he realized his first had put the other two on the defensive.
"Hey Janus," Shin greeted quietly, managing a small smile. Janus' expression only hardened, while the two warriors' reflected surprise.
"Everything alright?" The tall, older-looking young man stopped before the three, looking Seiji and Shu over with distrustful eyes.
"Everything is fine," Seiji assured, discreetly motioning Shu back down before the boy could say anything brash. "Merely a reunion of old friends." Shin fought the urge to roll his eyes.
Janus quirked a brow before clearly dismissing the two by focusing on Shin. "You alright?" he asked in direct disregard to Seiji; the blond wasn't pleased.
Shin sighed and nodded, feeling the heavy weight of being in the middle of the two parties. "Yeah, I'm fine Janus. They're friends from a few summers ago. It's alright."
Janus didn't seem too convinced. "If you say so," he reluctantly conceded, but just as Shin was breathing his relief, Janus' dark brown eyes narrowed on the two. "Wait, you mean from two years ago? These're the ones-"
"Yes," Shin interrupted, voice hard and stressing his point, his expression cool and calm. "And like I said, it's fine."
Eyeing the two a moment longer, Janus snorted in disgust as they looked back at him with confusion and distrust. "Whatever you say Shin. I just got off, so I thought I'd see what was keeping you." He quirked a brow when Shin made a sound and checked his watch. "He's already taken off. You're only running a few minutes late, but he said he couldn't wait. Seemed rather disappointed and agitated too."
"Shit," Shin muttered the curse, ignoring the surprise it caused in his old comrades. "He didn't leave a note or anything?"
Janus just shook his head. "Afraid not."
Shin snorted in aggravation. "Of course not," he muttered. Janus just shrugged.
"He did say he'd call you," the elder offered, though he knew it wasn't much.
"Shin?" Shu spoke up with a touch of uncertainty, hearing the redhead sigh. The young man's shoulders slumped as if reminded of his and Seiji's presence.
"Thanks Janus. I'll talk to you later." Shin watched as the other hesitated a moment before reluctantly nodding.
"Of course," Janus smiled faintly. "I'll call you later tonight." With that promise, he turned and took off at a jog to the park's entrance, the heat of the two un-introduced boys burning into the back of his head. He heard Shin snap at one of the boys before he was out of hearing range, and smirked. 'Good,' he thought with a twisted sense of pleasure. 'Serves them right.'
"Geeze, I said I was sorry Shin." Rubbing at his arm, Shu took a step back away from Shin and closer to Seiji, flinching beneath the force of the glare Shin turned on him.
"No," Shin corrected slowly, his voice ominously soft. "You were insulting my friend to his back."
Somewhere between frustrated and ashamed, Shu's shoulders drooped just slightly. "I'm sorry-"
"I don't want to hear it," Shin interrupted. Agitated gaze drawn to Janus' back and the coffee house just outside the park.
That pushed Shu's frustration into anger and Seiji's hand suddenly on his shoulder was all that kept him from snapping. Instead he silently fumed. ~It's been two years since we last saw him, since he left the manner before Ryo even woke! And he hasn't a kind word yet!~
~Shu….~ His name was like a gentle brush to his soul, another attempt to calm him. Seiji turned his gaze to Shin before he spoke aloud. "That was rather forward," the blond edged. His calm voice snapped Shin from his thoughts and earned him the redhead's attention. "And a little rude."
Spinning on his heel, Shin leveled a flat yet haughty look on the blond, somehow managing to pin them both beneath it. "Considering he was expecting me ten minutes ago and came out here to essentially see two strangers assaulting me, what would you expect? He wouldn't have even left if I hadn't insisted."
"I was just messing around," Shu groused, cooling anger and embarrassment creating a sickening mixture in his belly.
"But not to the public," Shin snapped, cold sea-green eyes snapping to Shu's. "You didn't give a single thought for what it would look like." Holding slate-colored eyes a moment longer, Shin deliberately looked away and drew in a discreet, calming breath. "Was there something you needed?" he questioned as he settled his nerves.
Sharing a look behind the redhead, Shu took a step forward. "I'm sorry Shin. I was out of line. As you both have pointed out, I let my excitement get the better of me and didn't think before I acted. I'm sorry," he repeated with a small, unseen bow.
For a handful of heartbeats Shin didn't move. But as the two boys were growing antsy, a heavy sigh escaped Shin and he slowly turned around to face them. "Thank you Shu. It has been a stressful day already. I was running late for an appointment."
Shu winced, but it was Seiji that spoke next. "So we heard. I hope it wasn't irreparable that you missed it?"
Shin shook his head as if to shake it off, but his eyes spoke otherwise. "I can reschedule. But what are you two doing here? I didn't think either of you had family out here."
"We don't," Seiji answered before Shu could. "We came with Touma. He's got an interview at a University about half an hour from here." He glanced at Shu and caught the end of his nod. "We were just walking around to learn the area."
"And to find a motel," Shu muttered with a look of irritation. Seiji's expression twitched but he didn't comment.
Shin meanwhile quirked an eyebrow at the two. "So you came all the way out here…without a place to stay?" He heaved a sigh when he saw a faint trace of sheepishness in their expressions. 'So much for it being a surprise visit.' Shaking his head and such thoughts away, he looked between the two with a hint of confusion. "Why is he interviewing? He's still got a month of summer break left." 'And he doesn't graduate until end of this year, unless he tested out. Which I highly doubt, even with his intellect.'
Here the two youths shared another look. "Shin," Seiji started slowly. "Haven't you received our letters?" he shook his head faintly as he asked.
A small frown was starting to pull at Shin's lips. He shook his head in the negative, a wary glint lighting his eyes. "What letters?"
When the two shared another look, Shin caught a familiar light in Seiji's eyes. The blond was working hard at an old puzzle. Shin just sighed and shifted where he stood, a familiar weight settling on his shoulders. "Are you two suppose to meet up with Touma soon?" He sounded almost…resigned.
"No," Seiji replied, sharp violets watching the redhead. "He wanted to sit in on one of the lectures, so we decided to view the sites."
Nodding, having expected as much, Shin half turned and motioned for them to follow. "My place isn't too far. I don't think they'll stop watching." Shu and Seiji nodded in agreement. They could feel the eyes of those around them. None were being discreet, and being watched was something they'd learned to be both aware and wary of the hard way.
They walked in silence, Shin leading the way with Shu and Seiji behind him. It wasn't until they had reached an apartment complex that someone spoke up. "When did you move?" Shu asked, both worried and curious about the reasons for the Mouris to leave their family home.
Looking back as he stood within the sensors' range to keep the complex doors' open, Shin blinked at the stout youth. "About a year ago. It's taken some adjusting to, but it's pleasant."
Shu made a humming sound as he looked around. Seiji stood beside him, less obvious in his own observations. It was an upper-middle-class establishment, somehow appropriate yet disconcerting as well. 'Money certainly wasn't an issue for the move. So then why? There isn't even a natural body of water nearby.' Seiji was confused but he didn't show it.
They took the elevator up in relative silence. Shin took the opportunity to truly observe his old comrades without notice. At…'Dang, eighteen and nineteen already?' they had certainly…filled out. Shu's solid build was apparent, no longer giving the impression of an over-weight, stocky youth. And Seiji…six-foot four, and no doubt still growing. The young man's eyes were just as intense as Shin remembered, though there seemed to be a genuine peace in the blonde's spirit that he hadn't possessed two years ago.
"We won't be disturbing your mother will we?" Shu asked as Shin led them to his front door and unlocked it. The redhead's hand paused and he gave Shu a strange look before realization flashed in his teal eyes, but he turned back around before anything else could be read.
"No," Shin shook his head and pushed the door open. "She should still be at work actually." Closing the door behind them, Seiji removed his shoes and followed Shin with his eyes. "Have either of you had supper yet?" Shin asked while motioning them towards the living room. Like the complex downstairs, the apartment itself was very spacious and refined without being too much. There wasn't much filling it beyond necessities and a small handful of luxuries.
Seiji noted that colorings of the apartment and its furnishings were darker then what he would have expected of Shin and his mother. 'And an older sister, assuming she hasn't moved out yet.' Taking a careful seat on the couch, the blond couldn't help but sigh quietly in relief; they'd been walking around for hours and as much as he had enjoyed it, it was nice to sit on something comfortable.
Laughing, Shu shook his head at the elder's antics and turned to follow Shin. "Nope, not a thing," he answered, joining the redhead in the kitchen. "I think Seiji's going to fall asleep on that couch of yours though."
Shin looked up in surprise and let Shu take over making the salad he'd started. "When was the last time either of you had a full night's sleep?" he asked incredulously. 'None of them are old enough to drive yet, which means they've been taking the bus everywhere. I'm sure the college's offer a room if they've got an empty one. But even on Summer break those are scarce.'
Shu just shrugged and asked where the cheese grater was. Shin shook his head and passed it to the youth, then returned to the stir fry he had started. "Why are you two tagging along then?"
"To make sure he doesn't get too wrapped up at one of these places and miss the reunion," Shu replied calmly.
That gave Shin a start. "Reunion?" he repeated. Shu nodded and Seiji joined them, their quiet voices having threatened to put him to sleep on Shin's couch.
"We sent you an invite and a couple of letters after, since you never sent a response." Shin was frowning faintly when he glanced back at the blond, and Seiji once more caught something unreadable in those teal orbs. He still found it unsettling and was growing worried, though he wouldn't yet show it.
"I never received them," Shin spoke after a moment's silence, his voice notably quiet and a touch remorseful.
Looking first at Shin, then to Seiji, Shu decided to break the silence. "Well, no need to worry about it now. We ran into you before the reunion, so now you know. Think you'll be able to come?"
'Meaning get permission, right?' Shin thought derisively, resisting the urge to snort. "When is it?" he asked instead. He had his back to them and was mixing the cooked shrimp into the vegetables already in the wok.
"This was Touma's last stop. We were going to head for the manner in the morning," Seiji explained. He set the bowls Shin had pulled out for the salad, then moved out of the way as Shin dished out the stir fry.
"I see. What would you like to drink?" Shin asked, motioning the two to sit once the plates were in place. Returning to the cupboards, he pulled out three glasses and filled one with tap water for himself.
"Water's fine," Shu replied, dishing out the salad. "What have you been up to Shin?"
Shin waited until he was finished with the drinks and seated with them to answer. "School. Not much time for anything else."
"Mmm," Seiji hummed, understanding. The three gave their thanks before eating and catching up. Like him, not much beyond school. Shu was still helping in the family restaurant and Seiji his grandfather's dojo. Touma was totally devoted to his academics and Ryo had moved from his cabin to be closer to his high school.
"Even better then I remember," Shu praised after everything was eaten. He won a chuckle out of Shin and Seiji, as well as an agreement from the blond and a flattered smile from the redhead.
Still laughing faintly, Shin shook his head as he stood. "Well, it has been a while since I last cooked for a group. It was rather nice," he admitted as he started gathering dishes. He missed another shared look between the two before his companions stood.
'I guess his sister has moved out then.' Seiji shooed Shin's hands away as he stood, Shu gathering the dishes instead. "Leave those to us, you go pack. We're leaving tomorrow morning."
"Yeah Shin, we'll do the dishes," Shu repeated with a grin that got Shin to roll his eyes in exasperation rather then protest. The redhead had relaxed considerably as the hours passed in their company.
"Alright, alright. I get the point, if you're both sure?" It wasn't exactly a protest, and he was already moving towards the short hall that led away from the kitchen and living room. He suppressed a grin at the twin looks he received. "For how long should I pack for though?" he called back after vanishing down the hall. Neither had said for how long this reunion would be for.
"For however long you can stay!"
Releasing an exasperated breath, Shin entered his room. "Helpful as ever Shu!"
"No prob!" was his friend's vastly amused response. "Call your mom while you're at it!" Neither of the two boys heard the resulting growl.
Half an hour later, Shin was packed, the dishes were dried and put away. After that, he showed the two where they could sleep for the night. "There's a cot on the other side of the bed. More comfortable then the couch, and not overly used."
"Thank you Shin, we do appreciate it."
Shin just waved Seiji off with a smile. "I laid some clothing out on the bed that I thought might fit for sleeping, since you don't have anything. Where are your bags anyway?"
Shu looked stumped for a brief moment but turned to explore the room, leaving Seiji to answer. "Already there. This was…a bit of a side-track, you could say."
"I see," Shin mussed, then shook his head. "Well, good night you two, I'll see you in the morning." Receiving similar well-wishes in turn, Shin closed the door behind him. His hand was slow to fall away from the knob and he leaned back against the wall and frame with nary a sound.
Shu and Seiji shared a look once the door closed, but didn't speak. They remained silent as they changed, Shu surprisingly so. He'd not expected Shin to have anything broad-shouldered enough.
~This isn't the guest room,~ Shu commented, looking over the frames on the dresser. There was one of Shin with his mother and sister, of himself and Shin when they'd visited the Mouris on break, and another of Shin, Seiji and Ryo from their trip during the break in the wars as well. And a final one of Touma outside the Koji Manner with a telescope, pointing various constellations out to the camera person-Shin, with Seiji further back on the porch, if Shu remembered correctly.
~Indeed, his room no doubt,~ Seiji replied, coming up behind the younger boy.
~He never struck me before, as being quite as proper as you.~
~Two years have passed Shu, it's only natural. And we did surprise him, it's to be expected that he'd be a bit off-balanced. Just give him time. Now,~ Seiji stepped back and turned the lights out. ~Let's get some sleep.~