(A/N: Hello there, Switch community! I have bided my time, but today is the day I will share my story with the world! Or...all ten of you lovely people who are still into the series. Originally I started reading Switch in January of last year and finally finished it in September. This particular story has been in the works since the fall, was given up and then pick up again in February, and then languished until I decided to finish it today in the throes of my summer boredom.
But enough about that. This directly follows the last pages of volume 13, including the dialogue, and then...goes a little past that into some delightful Hal/Kai fluff. Hopefully it's more of the ending we wanted instead of that semi-cliffhanger Naked Ape gave us. Not that I'm complaining or anything.)
"Switch…it doesn't exist anymore."
Kai knows he should be afraid; he should be terrified-sprawled out on the grimy warehouse floor with a gun pointed in his face, with one of the leaders of the Ryugen at the other end, saying the last thing he knows he expected to hear.
But he pushes any fear aside. He has to say this. For the memory of his deceased father that he is just now beginning to remember, for Mr. Kurabayashi. For those killed in pursuit of Switch, both the victims of its use and its eradication.
For Hal, currently bleeding and broken in his arms.
He has to protect him. He's always wanted to protect him.
So he calls out to the members of the gang in the warehouse, men who wouldn't blink before blowing him away, now that he's served his purpose. "Switch is gone. My father and Mr. Kurabayashi burned everything. All the research, everything…gone.
"A drug like that shouldn't exist…isn't that right, Mr. Kurabayashi?"
He faintly hears the man agree, but his attention is drawn to Hal stirring in his arms. If they survive this-his mind automatically, optimistically, corrects with "when"-things will change. How, he isn't sure.
"That's right…Switch…is gone."
The weight of the secret he's held so close for so long lifts, and Kai feels free, light-too light, and he catches the eye of his reawakening partner before he feels himself collapse, his own limbs falling weak and useless. Distantly, he hears sounds-yelling, shooting, his own name (Hal)-and realizes he should be a part of this, should be fighting instead of laying so useless on the floor.
Eventually, everything falls silent, and he feels himself pulled away (so someone had held him) and carried off. He doesn't know if the silence is good or bad, and he's not sure who had supported him (Hal?) or is carrying him now, but the quiet is easy to slip into, to drift away and fall into not-quite-sleep.
He wakes up once or twice, muddled, incoherent. He's in a bed but can't move, can't even tear his eyes away from the statistically-calming mint green ceiling. When he strains his ears, he hears someone breathing beside of him; rough and broken (Hal?). And the beep-beep-beep of heart monitors and the whoosh of assisted breathing. He wants to say something, but his desire is snuffed out by exhaustion and he's under again.
Distantly, he knows that he feels…empty. For the first time in so long he's not sharing his body with the darker side of himself, and though he hadn't realized it…he's almost, somehow, lonely.
And some part of him says that he's afraid. Of what will happen now-now that everyone knows the truth about Switch, now that it's gone, what will they do? Now that they know the truth about him…Now that Hal knows the truth…
Now that Hal has no more reason to remain at the department, why should he have any reason to stay with him? Kai doesn't even know where he stands with him now-for all he knows, the other man sees him as, at best, a nuisance. Just a kid he was forced to deal with as he attempted to track his father down.
Kai doesn't even fully understand why the thought of this upsets him so much, though he has a hazy idea.
Shifting beside of him drags him away from his lethargic thoughts.
The voice is low and cracked, so different from the usual apathetic, yet confident drawl.
He feels a slightly shaky hand pass through his hair.
"Good for nothing," he says, even quieter.
(Hal-it's Hal, it's Hal, it's-)
The hand slips to clasp Kai's (so perfectly), and the press of something small and metallic is embedded into his palm. Calloused fingers curl around unresponsive, softer ones. Kai expects the machine faintly beeping in the background to speed up to a dangerous pace, but there is nothing.
"How ridiculous. I just haven't had the guts until right now…" The words are said in half wonder, and he feels the breath ghost across his face, so close.
Kal has never wanted anything more in his life than to sit up and speak to him.
A long silence passes, and then he says, "I'm giving you the word key. When you hear the words that come after the key, you'll fall asleep."
"And then…" he hears him swallow and exhale shakily. "When you wake up, you'll forget all the bad things. All of them. For good. You won't remember…" He almost hears another word, another word that suspiciously sounds like me, but Hal would never say something so sentimental, something that would make him dare to believe that maybe he, too, feels…
"…Any of those terrible things. Okay?"
(No, no, no-Hal!)
Another silence, and then Kai feels Hal's hand clench his tighter and his mouth press into his ear and whisper gently. "Key…I will give my life to protect you."
(Hal! Hal! Ha…l!)
He feels sleep of a different, safer, kind pulling him under this time.
He understands, numbly, what the man at his bedside has just done and fights it (so similar to that fall day so many years ago, the pain of his parent's passing so fresh and painful). He will remember. He cannot forget Hal. He cannot forget. He cannot-
His first scowl on the first day; grudgingly accepting his candy on Valentine's Day; limping out of the hospital with a still-bleeding bullet wound on his shoulder; the long stakeouts in the squad car; on the trail and impervious in the rain.
Blue, blue eyes with no glasses; lips curved into a smirk, and maybe, once, a smile; gently lifting him onto his shoulder to carry him; a determined gleam, slouched posture; his backhanded compliments and grudgingly admitting he saw him as a sort of friend; a smell of too much smoke and a hint of something bitter.
The small, tenuous connection between them-always; from the first "Good for nothing" to now, a desperate, one-sided hand hold. Through all they had been through-the crime, the painful memories, chasing after the ghosts of their fathers.
-he feels it slowly slipping away, as colors seeping out of a painting. For somehow Hal has colored Kai's world, and now, removing himself from it…
He fights with all he's worth, and yet it's not enough. Even the press of what he dares to call a kiss against his forehead is not enough to keep the forgetting away.
It's Autumn; he knows by the sight of the red-orange leaves he crunches underfoot as he runs down the path. He doesn't know why he's running-is it to someone, or away from them? He feels free with the wind on his face, but at the same time as if there's something pulling him back, an invisible chain dragging him by the chest.
Maybe it's to his dad. He sees someone up ahead and doubles his speed, stubby legs kicking up dirt on the nature trail. But it's like no matter how fast he runs, the figure moves that much farther away. He finds himself panting hard, heart beating painfully in his chest.
And suddenly he's no longer a child; he's all gangly arms and legs from that last growth spurt that never hit, and he's no longer outside; it's a long, dark hallway, echoing with his footsteps and him calling for a name he doesn't recognize.
At the end of the hallway is a door. And behind that door he knows, with all the certainty one finds in a dream, that what he's been search for is there waiting for him. If he can get to it-
But it's the clichéd paradox of so close and yet so far away. And the longer he runs down the ever-lengthening hall, the more the door seems to disappear. Growing smaller and smaller until it simply ceases to exist and he's left running forever and ever, moving without a purpose.
Kai's eyes open and he shoots up in bed, breath ragged. The dream slips away before he can remember it, too caught up with the sensory bombardment of unfamiliar sounds and antiseptic smells and nurses coming in to check on him for some reason he doesn't remember.
He slips the charm bracelet he'd had clutched in his hands around his wrist, stares at it, then bursts into tears without knowing why.
They finally sedate him and he doesn't dream again.
Kai spends a week in the hospital, more to repair his mind than his body. His memory is clear-almost startlingly so-up to some point in his sixth year, then is a series of chronological blurs of people and places up to the present day, becoming more vague the more recent the year. The past few months are completely gone.
His case worker tests him, and reports that he seems to have retained all of the information his brain deemed necessary to keep during his years of formal schooling. Despite no short-term memory, he will actually be able to function in society. He tells him about where he worked at the Narcotics Division and about the investigation for the drug called Switch, but Kai only listens with rapt, child-like interest, not with any sense of remembrance.
The case worker tells him about his parents. It makes him sad, but hollowly so, like a loss he's already moved on from. At the corners of his mind he remembers a house and confusion and blood and pain, but can't bring himself to dwell on it for long. He realizes that explains why his aunt and uncle, a little more wrinkled and grey-haired than he remembers, are the only family members to visit him.
He (re-?)meets his boss and others that introduce themselves as members of the department he worked in. They all seem very kind, even if the abnormally tall woman hugs him a little bit too tightly like some kind of stuffed animal. For a second he wonders if anyone's missing in the group, but the moment passes and he doesn't question
When he asks, the case worker tells him he doesn't seem to have any close friends or…anyone closer, and this makes him look down at his bracelet again and wonder why that doesn't feel right, even though he knows the psychiatrist wouldn't lie to him.
He rests up his body, and finally the doctors sign off on his release forms. His memories might not have come back, but there's always the chance that they could trickle back in one day, when he least expects it. The mind is a mysterious thing. They agree that it's best that he get on with life and fill in any holes with new experiences, new people.
The day he checks out is a crisp one, like something he might have dreamed of at some point and forgotten. He thanks the staff and walks toward his coworkers to greet them, noting the bracelet jangling pleasantly on his wrist. Once again he's struck with the feeling that something's missing, brushing it off and dismissing it politely when asked.
It's nothing more than an ordinary cherry blossom tree, one of the many on the hospital grounds, some of the early buds and thin blossoms falling to cover the ground. He almost passes it without a second glance, hurrying his pace to greet the group waiting for him. What makes him look again is the person standing under it.
It's less of a look than a sweep of his eyes back over the figure while walking on. Maybe he was double-checking to see if this was a random stranger, another patient or visitor, perhaps. Or someone else he was supposed to know, a coworker standing off from the rest. It doesn't make much sense, he knows.
His eyes take in his well-made suit but poorly knotted tie; the slumped posture and the stringy hair; the blue eyes so clear that the pain in them radiates out like daggers.
Kai takes exactly three steps before stopping.
The memories are already coming through, and he can't put his finger on the trigger.
A rainy first day on the job and the smoke of a cigarette, a late night of paperwork in a cramped office. A deserted warehouse and gunfire. Two little boys playing in the backseat of a car.
He whispers those three little letters. It feels like the first time he's ever spoken them and yet it feels right. Around him the world is going on; the work veterans shuffle and stare at his abrupt pause. A car honks in the distance. A bird calls. How can the world still be spinning now that his has stopped?
Yet he is not still. Kai sees the other one begin to walk away, and he feels something inside of him clutch up. He had waited on him. This was out of character for him. It was, wasn't it?
There's no time to be sure. He doesn't run to him like he should, his mind still miles behind his actions, but fast enough to catch up in thankfully few strides.
There is no hesitation, no hesitation at all as he grabs for him and snags the coat and holds his breath as he turns back to face him.
And this is what he needed all along, even if he hadn't known it until this very moment. Or maybe he had, and was just too afraid.
Kai feels him start, then slowly turn to face him, his own name hanging soundlessly on his former partner's lips. For a very long moment they just stand there, each memorizing the other's face. He nods in reassurance, and offers a small smile.
"I remember…I remember….everything." he says, breathless, blinking through the stubborn tears.
And he does. Somehow he does, the memories returning in a hazy background of kaleidoscope backwards images, overwhelming but never detracting from the sight of Hal's eyes widening, the sound of his quick intake of breath, the feeling of unexpected, long arms wrapping around him and pulling close.
It's brief, as the former rookie seems to realize how out of character he's acting. He pulls away with a muttered apology.
"Don't be." Kai shakes his head and offers his best smile. "Hal, you don't need to hide anything from me anymore."
There's almost an unspoken, Then in that case…in which Hal seems to make up his mind, then unflinchingly moves in.
Hal kisses consistently with the rest of his personality: passionately, but with deep concentration. And yet, unexpectedly, so, so gently his heart flutters. Kai can't currently remember if he's ever kissed anyone prior to this moment, but as he loses himself to the press of lips and the taste of tobacco and mint and second chances, he thinks it might be better if memories to the contrary were best left forgotten.
He finally pulls away and, before any false conclusions of unreturned feelings can be reached, he threads his right hand to his partner's left.
"Let's go say hi to everyone," he says, pulling slightly.
The younger Kurabayashi looks sidelong guiltily. "I can't."
"Hal," he presses gently. "Why not?"
"I thought that if you were going to forget, it would be better for me to not be there. I…"
A look of pure determination crosses his face as he pulls on the arm harder and begins to drag both of them toward the others.
"It's a good thing everybody likes me. I'm the only one that'll ever convince them to let you back on the team."
A smile creeps onto Hal's face. "Even though you are a good for nothing," he argues, amusement coloring his words.
"Yeah, maybe," he concedes, throwing him a look over his shoulder. "But now I'm your good for nothing."
And as Kai takes his first steps out of the hospital gates, to the faces that are still not completely familiar, to the life that is finally his own, to a future with no immediate goals, he reflects that yes, this is the end. The end of his time as a naïve rookie, the end of the drug Switch, the conclusion of the luxury of closing himself off from fear and pain.
But Kai has never been one to dwell on endings. He much prefers beginnings.
And as he is greeted by the warmth of dear friends and the promise of returning to his steady job in the next week, treated to lunch and laughter with an aunt and uncle he couldn't love more even if they were his own parents, and the heart-stopping sight of Hal's smile coming away from a deep kiss and soft promise of I'll see you tomorrow…
Kai thinks this might be the best beginning of all.
I will admit
Since you came into my world
It's changed me quite a bit
So look me in my eyes, and whisper something fragile
I'll see you soon
I'll see you real soon
~The Cab "Whisper Something Fragile"
Thank you everyone for reading! Hopefully this will be a nice little addition to the archives (which, by the way, I've read every fic in here at least twice, including translating the Polish one with Google) and maybe inspire someone else to add some more stories soon.
Reviews are always, ALWAYS welcomed and loved and I try to respond to every one I get. And, who knows, the more reviews I get, maybe the more likely I'll be to write another Switch story. I DO have at least another plot bunny running around...or, you know, if somebody wants to hit me up with ideas for a collaboration, I'm totally open to that.