A bit of an odd story. But I liked the idea anyway, so out it came. Took awhile to figure out how to tie everything together.
Anywho, enjoy, and tell me what you think.
Behind my Reflection
AU. A mirror cannot lie. It always shows the truth. Although not always in the most obvious way, or the most welcome.
Kouji M & Kouichi K
A mirror is essentially a piece of object that reflects light or sound, preserving the original quality of the stimuli it is hit with and then simply feeding it back, giving all and taking nothing. The generic kind, the one that hung in bathrooms and bedside tables, people generally used to groom and admire their own image. In cars, they were used to expand the peripheral field, as they were in certain shops and other areas. In all cases, they were used to enhance the senses, to see what couldn't be seen by the naked eye, or else heard by the naked ear as sound was bounced around and amplified till it was audible. It is funny how people automatically tend to assume it is only applicable to the physical senses, and not the social or paranormal ones.
This was especially true for the more so-called "down to earth" people. Those who disregarded everything that lacked a basis of fact. Those who were scientifically oriented, disbelieving and even somewhat scorning the fantasy and supernatural interest of others their age, believing what they saw and heard and possessed evidence of and searching for facts for what they didn't. Minamoto Kouji was one of those people.
Mirrors were rather unavoidable. There was one in the bathroom which his father shaved daily in front of and he used to just as often to tame his long black hair, and occasionally trim. There was the one in his parents' bedroom that his parents used to stand in its view and groom themselves for a day at work or a night out. There was the one in the hallway by the door that visitors normally caught a look at themselves. There was the one in the guest room for guests. And there was one in his own room so he could be presentable for his own demands. Then of course there were the ones at the train station, the bus-stop, the school, various shops…it was impossible to escape them.
They were a normal part of his life. It was almost natural to find his reflection fleeing behind him or running ahead of him as he turned through roads and things, weaving through various people on his way somewhere. There would be other people as well; how could there not, when he could barely get from one side of the road to the other without seeing someone?
It was once he turned twelve that he realised something…different. His reflection would be there as it always was, looking quite the same, handsome (and said without the slightest hint of vanity or pride, a simple fact) but rather stoic and cold. Someone who had very firm ideas and plans and followed them to a 'T'. Routine was the one thing he had to rely on, after his mother's death, the constant moving and his father's remarriage to a woman he neither accepted as a replacement nor loved and trusted in her own right.
So naturally he picked up any change in the routine.
The reflections in the streets were always crowded with people, but he rarely recognised a person from the crowd. Sure, there were the occasional that stood out, but seeing the same person so often was unusual. First, it was fleeting, so much so that he barely caught the black hair so similar to his own and noted the similarity. In fact, he hadn't caught it at all till he realised later down the track that that same black haired youth was appearing in those reflections again.
It was nothing unusual, he told himself, pausing in front of a store and staring at his own reflection. It could easily be somebody else who followed a similar route to him. It might not even be the same person. In fact, it probably wasn't; black hair was extremely common in Japan. It was later than usual; he had been taking his German Sheppard out for a walk and his usual routine had to be adjusted thanks to his father and stepmother somewhat spoiling his original plans. The only thing that bothered him was that the streets were empty when he turned to look, but he was sure he had seen a black haired boy around his age and height reaching for something…or someone.
He turned back to the mirror, seeing only his reflection on the empty street and the German Sheppard barking impatiently at his heels, tugging at the leech. He was probably mistaken, he assumed. Or else he was hallucinating. Or else there had been someone, who had left in a hurry. There was nothing strange going on.
That was, until he could barely see a reflective surface without seeing the black hair and blue eyes staring at him. Those blue eyes! How they looked like his own, except while his were shutting out the world like two coloured blocks of ice, the other's were like the oceans: deep, mysterious, intoxicating but at the same time deadly. He couldn't get those eyes out of his head.
Nor would they leave him alone. Every mirror in the end, every reflective surface showed them, staring at him, searching him, yearning, calling out to him.
His parents found it rather strange when he suddenly and rather spontaneously decided to cut his hair. His father especially had been goading him about the "unprofessional" hairstyle for years, so it was a rather pleasant sort of surprise, but there was suspicion in the undertone. Not only did Kouji always use the argument as a form of rebellion, but he also genuinely liked the style, neatly tied back in the bandana. However that also invited him to constantly look at the mirrored surface, and consequently, at those soul-searching eyes staring back at him. For a moment, the loose strands flying in the breeze granted him that respite; with how quickly the wind drew it awry, he needed not groom it in the mirror, and his stepmother always fixed any sloppiness in his uniform or appearance. She seemed a little happier too; he was, even if it was just a bit and not even for that reason, opening up to her.
It was like he had suddenly developed catoptrophobia. He avoided mirrors as best as he could; the feeling of being constantly watched was frightening. Logic had failed to explain. At first he had thought it had been someone, or a group of someones; on the street it had been a distinct possibility. However, in the sanctuary of his own home, and more importantly, in the safety of his own room where no-one stood for an eternity but he himself, the nameless face still followed, becoming clearer and more pronounced day by day.
Even as he tried to tell himself he was simply hallucinating, little things stood out. Their hair was exactly the same shade of black, and the fringe fell just like how his did without the bandana he had now put aside. Ironically, the barber had cut it to the exact same style, but he didn't comment, writing it off as a coincidence. It had to be…right? There couldn't possibly be someone invisible following him.
Then there was the face shaped exactly like his own, only a ghostly pale as opposed to the healthier pallor his own face adorned. And those eyes, the exact same shade, but turning inward to an alarming extent…and worst of all, screening a desperate cry for help.
Either way, those eyes frightened him. He couldn't rationally say why either; they just did. So he did his utmost to avoid them. But they followed. Fleetingly as he rushed past them at first. But then they left the mirrors, or what people normally called mirrors, and expanded out to its true meaning. Anything that reflected, down to his father's eye glasses, showed those deep blue eyes.
He started picking up little odd habits. Some were noticeable. Some not so much, especially since he connected with very few people to begin with, and was close to even fewer. One such was when he began to close his eyes before drinking, whether that be water or milk or any form of tea. The first time he had seen those eyes staring back in them though, he had dropped the glass. The little white shards had scattered onto the carpet, and it had taken an age to vacuum out again. Not to mention the glass was the cut sort, that reflecting minute rays of light and colour. So if that superstition that breaking mirrors bringing bad luck had any substance, he was really in for it.
There came a point where those eyes refused to let him be. Every waking moment, they would be staring at him, into him, enough to make his parents wonder to his health. He denied it; he knew how crazy it sounded, seeing a face following him with haunting eyes. And when he thought about, he realised all he had seen of the body to go with that face was a flash of forest green.
And then, when he closed his eyes, he saw those eyes again. At first, it was only those eyes, that face calling for him, pale white arms stretching for him, but then the desperate image warped into something even more horrifying. The ghostly pale figure deteriorated, slowly but fast enough to witness the entire process. Flesh hung off the bones, rotten and decimated, and those fingers still reached for him, the intensity in those blue eyes darkening, dimming, dying…
He woke up screaming too many times to count. At first, it was his father and stepmother there to soothe him like a child back to sleep. But it soon became so frequent that it wore them all to their very bones, and he was forced to rely on sleeping pills to attain some form of rest.
During that time, they moved twice, but those haunting eyes followed him all the way. While they became clearer, others became more distant, disconnected. His schools had changed too many times to count, but at that point he would be lucky if he remembered the name and face of even a single person. Nor did he want to.
Those blue eyes however were looking everywhere, almost as if they were forcing him to remember.
Then they moved a third time, this time to a quieter country-side town which had nothing to do with his father's job. The older man never admitted it, but he suspected it had something to do with himself. His parents were worried; any fool could see that.
He started a new school. It was nothing abnormal, except it was quieter, more lax. The streets weren't as crowded; the people were far more widespread. It was somewhat comforting, not having the constant pressure of company on one's back, the constant rush of the metropolitan where he had spent his entire life. There was something calmer, more peaceful.
Their new house was across the street from a graveyard. It made him rather uncomfortable, seeing as the corpse still appeared in his dreams. When he had accidently caught his reflection in the car's mirror, he noticed the shut-off blue which couldn't be more different to the drowning ocean if it tried.
The people were more lax, friendlier. They tried to talk to him a lot, never deterred by the frosty front he exhibited in return. But unlike others, they didn't quit. They had no reason to. The community was always tied closely. Everybody knew one another; there was no way around that.
Luckily, some of the people were also rather eccentric. Which meant no-one found his behaviour odd.
It was such a peaceful atmosphere, that he couldn't help but want to relax. There were less shops around, less bus-stops and train-stations. All in all, there were less mirrors. Only the sea stretching its long tongue provided the constant haunting ground, and the steel-wrought gates of the cemetery across the street.
His mind failed to convey though. He was afraid. The corpse refused to leave his dreams and thoughts. It became more real as time went by; the smell of formaldehyde clogged his nose and the decaying skin and the wide, deep ocean blue clouded his vision. When he was in school, he could barely concentrate on his studies, feeling the death behind him, in front of him, beside him, upon him-
Then, he noticed a new student. It was odd, no-one seemed to have done so. The teacher had introduced him when he had been new, but no-one had commented on the newcomer. Perhaps he wasn't new.
But when he got a good look at the other, he reconsidered that notion. It was almost a carbon-copy of his nightmarish stalker, down to the haircut and the midnight blue eyes.
But when the other turned around and smiled warmly at him, he realised the hair was just a few shades lighter, not quite black but more a darkish blue, falling in a choppy and somewhat haphazard yet neat pattern around his pale skin.
'Is something the matter?' he asked, concerned.
Kouji shook his head. 'Who are you?' he asked bluntly. 'I haven't seen you around before.'
'You haven't been here that long,' the other replied softly, looking intently into his eyes, not with that dead and dilapidated look but the intense, enchanting ocean blue. 'My name is Kimura Kouichi.'
The other didn't recognise the name, though for some reason he felt he knew it.
He didn't see the other for a few days, but the blue eyes followed him everywhere. The sudden surprise had somewhat backtracked him, but it didn't take long for the dam to burst again. His father was seriously considering taking him to a hospital; he could barely hold down his food anymore. Everything tasted rubbery and slimy and decayed, and still contained that smell of formaldehyde with every breath.
He dragged himself to the first class. Art. But his head hurt so badly that he wanted nothing more than to just give in and sleep…without nightmares. But they wouldn't leave. But even that was better than the waking nightmare he was living through.
But then that boy from before walked in again, and he changed his mind. There was something about that boy, and his eyes, that compelled him. Distracted him from his nightmares and haunting corpse.
Once again, the teacher ignored him as he looked around the classroom, explaining the task.
'Today, I'd like you to look at the person in front of you, and draw what you see. Remember, this is an abstract piece, so I don't want to see any portraits.'
Kouji looked at the person in front him. It was a rather boisterous brunette, swinging on his chair. Joy, he thought sarcastically. Fire was about the only thing that came to mind.
He noticed the other boy, Kouichi, had taken the empty seat behind him when he turned to submit his own paper.
'Can I see?' he asked abruptedly, pointing at the paper in the other's hands as the teacher moved along the row.
The boy looked at him, then nodded seriously and handed the paper over without a smile.
He froze when he saw what was on it.
His eyes snapped back to the other, who had an apologetic look on his face. 'Gomen nasai,' he said quietly. 'But I could only draw what I saw in you.'
That moment gave a new perspective to his view.
A mirror cannot lie. It always shows the truth. Although not always in the most obvious way, or the most welcome. Was it their way of showing what was inside him? What he buried every time he pushed someone away?
The mirror in his bedroom, covered with a sheet, broke that day. He hadn't meant to; it had been an accident. But gathering up the broken pieces, he noticed there were only one pair of blue eyes staring at him. His own. But they weren't as shut off as they used to be. It was like a chasm had split open in them, one that could never be closed again.
When his step-mother came home from the supermarket, he suddenly hugged her. She was surprised, but happy, and she hugged him back.
'What brought this on?' she asked, a little worried. 'Are you okay?'
'Hai,' he replied slowly. 'Ano…Gomen nasai…'kaa-san.'
Her face could have lit up the sky that day.
When he went back to school the next day, he looked for the boy. The picture, he had accidently taken with him, but its object had left him for the night. In any case, it wasn't his, so he thought he really ought to return it…but he couldn't find him in the small number of students.
The boy he had drawn stopped him on the way to class.
'Ohayou,' he grinned. 'Remember my name, or should I reintroduce myself?'
Kouji thought for a moment. 'Kanbara Takuya?'
'Hai.' The grin widened. 'Want to play soccer after school?'
He stared at the dirty soccer ball. 'Why do you keep asking?' he asked instead.
The brunette cocked his head. 'Because I can tell you're a good guy,' he replied easily. 'Even if you keep yourself so lonely you were killing yourself inside. You should let other people in. It might hurt from time to time, but it's a lot better. Trust me.'
'I have to think about.'
A cheeky grin. 'Well, don't think too long.'
He didn't, and soon he found himself an irrevocable friendship with the boy, then with others as the barrier he had once built around himself to protect from pain crumbled into nothing.
He still carried that picture with him, hoping to run into the other boy, but he never did. It sat in his pocket, while the glass from his broken mirror sat on a box beneath the desk. He didn't know why he bothered to keep either of them; neither were really important. The mirror pieces perhaps; in coming to contact with a corpse, he really should tap the piece against its tombstone then grind it into dust upon the stone…or so superstition said. Once a time, he would have scoffed, but superstition also told that the mirrors showed nothing but the truth, even in sometimes unexplainable ways.
One day, he asked Takuya about the other.
'Do you know what happened to Kimura-kun?'
The other's expression was baffled. 'Kimura-kun? How did you find out about him?'
Kouji looked confused. 'What do you mean? I've seen him around here a few times. He's in some of our classes.'
Takuya shook his head. 'You're talking about Kimura Kouichi?'
'He died quite a few years ago, you know. Was sick, and whatever it was, there was no cure. He was so young; would have been our age. It was rather tragic. He was such a sweet guy too. Didn't have a mean bone in his body and he would help anyone. And I mean anyone, even when he could barely do anything. His mother died soon after; people say she died of a broken heart, then the father took his remaining son and up and left.'
The other was understandably shocked, having barely heard that last part. 'Did he have bluish-black hair, blue eyes that resembled the deeper parts of an ocean and pale skin? Wore –'
'Hey.' The brunette held out his arms. 'Don't ask me what he wore. But yeah. How do you know though; photos aren't quite that descriptive, especially when it comes to eyes. Man, talk about soul-searching.'
Logically, it made no sense. But he had forgone logic by then.
'Where's the grave?'
The brunette didn't question. Perhaps the people here were accepting enough that they didn't question the sanity of a boy who suddenly saw the spirit of a dead he had never met.
He took the mirror to the grave. There, on the stone that read the name and year, he tapped the glass, then crushed it beneath the soles of his feet. The tiny specks of glass caught in the granite, sparkling as the sun set over them. He didn't know why he bothered; that breaking mirror had brought no bad luck to him.
He stared at the inscription, wondering why it looked so familiar. Then he looked at the grave beside it. Kimura Tomoko.
His brain froze for a moment, staring at the familiar name. Here, his mother was buried. Why hadn't his father told him? And the grave beside it…why had no-one ever mentioned he had a brother, a twin from the birth date, that was dead and buried six feet beneath the ground. He looked one last time at the finely crushed mirror and the two graves, then moved to return home.
Mirrors were said to be reflections of the soul. Inside, his had been dying, so someone had reached out to help him. Now they were the ones crying for help, and he would give it to them.
He confronted his father about the graves. Apparently, he had forgotten the town in which he had met and lost the love of his life and one of his sons.
'Why didn't you ever tell me?' Kouji cried, tears running down his cheeks inexplicably as he found himself crying for someone he didn't even know, but still knew enough. 'Oh God, those eyes…they were begging for someone to remember them.'
Were they his, the ones he had shut away to die, or did they belong to the already dead? He never did figure that out. Whether that desperate reach had been directed to him or to the family as a whole was another thing too, but both had led to the same end.
The picture from art still remained in his hands. When realising it would be forever his, he put it into a folder, to forever remember the haunting truth he had unintentionally buried. The part of himself he had almost killed. The dead part that he had not remembered, and one other had tried his utmost for forget, lest that pain of loss not be carried forever across the tides of time.
But mirrors reflected the truth. They acted upon the senses, enhancing their reach and improving their reception. They sometimes however took a roundabout way of doing so.