Leave Out All The Rest
It was quiet and it was subtle, but it seemed to come from out of nowhere all the same. He got in less fights, drifted less often. He became more tender, his touch like a gentle breeze. He still wasn't romantic, not the way movies and TV and books say he should be, and not the way other girls' boyfriends are, but she'd never minded about that much. But he seemed to be there for her more often, making sure he never let her down in any way. A knight, maybe not in shining armor, but a knight all the same. It was like he'd come to love her even more all of a sudden, and mysterious as it was, it was nice.
It was the rest that worried her. She had to start managing his money when he constantly forgot he had another thirty-thousand yen saved up—never more, never less, always thirty-thousand that he seemed to forget to add to his account. He seemed quieter, withdrawing, brooding when things went wrong, and she had a harder time reading him. There was some kind of sadness deep inside him, something she couldn't reach.
And he had nightmares. Painful, persistent, and always when they slept together. A moment of perfect bliss could be shattered hours later when he woke in a cold sweat, trying not to wake her as he looked over, trying to convince himself she was there. He always did manage to wake her, and she could see that for all he regretted it, it gave him comfort when he saw her eyes open, looking at him in confusion and worry.
"Are you okay, Ren?" she asked him every time.
"Yeah," he answered every time. "Go back to sleep."
It was those nights that made Eri realize why he was so gentle. He was afraid of losing her. He touched her softly and even had sex more gently because he was afraid she would break like glass. He was constantly there and always tender because he had to remind himself that she was still there. It was enough to make her wish that things could go back to the way they used to be, when he was still rough and angry, but right. When one perfect moment didn't become broken glass. When she didn't have to take his fear and pain as a sacrifice to pay for the tenderness and love.
And the worst part was that Ren didn't even know why.
It was somewhere, in the back of his mind, caught up somewhere in the nightmares that he could never remember but always knew to fear. The times he held his breath when he went to pick her up from the lab. The mirrors he tried to avoid. The money he always thought he'd lost. The way he began drinking tea instead of coffee. The things he felt like he was missing, even though everything seemed like it was fine.
Something he wanted so badly he could taste it, but it was always just out of his reach.
"Excuse me?" Ren asked, looking at the fortuneteller. He'd set up shop next to the table where Ren had gotten a cup of tea, and uninvited, began divining his secrets.
"An ancient Greek king, tormented in hell by being unable to drink from the water he stands in or eat from the tree over his head. When he tries, the waters recede and the branches grow higher, always tempting him without satisfying him, as punishment from the gods."
Ren snorted. "So you're saying the gods are punishing me for something?"
The fortuneteller looked at his American quarters for a moment before admitting, "I don't know. I suppose that's for you to figure out."
It was probably the worst prediction he'd ever heard in his life, and he got up to throw away his tea (it didn't taste right for some reason; it was like he knew what he wanted, but he didn't know where to find it). As he walked away, he saw that the fortuneteller was still watching him, giving him a look almost as if he knew him.
No, that wasn't right. It was almost as if they knew each other.
Ren felt a chill run down his spine, and he didn't know why. All he knew was that there was something about this man that almost reminded him of something, a presence that threatened to overthrow everything. Something that would explain the changes, but would destroy everything he held dear in the meantime.
He could have hit him. Would have, if he hadn't changed. Should have.
But he didn't. Hurriedly, he turned away from the fortuneteller and got to his bike, trying his hardest to get as far from him as possible.
Eri saw him an hour later when he came to pick her up. There was still clearly something wrong with him, though she couldn't guess what. Had it been before, she would have guessed that it was a fight gone wrong, but now, there was no way to know. His gaze was unfocused, and he looked like he'd seen a ghost—maybe one of the ghosts he couldn't remember.
"What is it?" she asked softly. "What happened?"
But he wouldn't say. She could only hope that when he knew what was wrong, he'd tell her.
They slept without touching that night, as if Ren couldn't go near her without the nightmares creeping, and Eri was drowning in the changes. There was an ocean separating them, filled with change and half-remembered fears. It was impossible to breathe.
Despite the distance, Ren still woke gasping for breath, his heart racing and his mind trying to sort through the terrifying sensations that came without warning. Eri falling. Dark wings. Broken glass.
He looked over to her to see that her eyes were still closed. He didn't know if she was really sleeping or if she was pretending to for his sake. He would have known, once. He reached out a hand toward her, just to feel the warmth of her skin and ease his mind so he'd know everything was going to be fine. But he froze, his hand shaking.
Why was he so afraid? It was a dream, nothing more than confusing thoughts dredged up by his sleeping mind. No matter how persistent the nightmare was, there was no reason he should have been so afraid to touch her.
Something was wrong with him. Something had changed. Something had taken everything that he was and turned him into someone he didn't know, and it scared him because he didn't know what it was. He could take it as long as he knew. He'd survive the changes if not for the rest—the fear and uncertainty. If not for the questions. Take everything else, leave the rest.
He went into the bathroom to wash his face. In the darkness, he couldn't make out his reflection clearly, but for a moment, he thought he saw the mask of a knight in the mirror.
He gasped in shock, but the illusion faded, showing only the fear on his face. There it was: the change. The fear he'd suddenly developed, the confusion that blinded him, everything that was keeping him from Eri. And there was at least enough of him left to know how to react.
Eri knew she shouldn't have waited, but she'd hoped that it would be easier for Ren if he didn't know she was awake. But she realized it was too late when she heard the door close and lock behind him. She hurried to try to stop him, but he'd already taken his bike and left.
When she returned inside, she saw the broken mirror and drops of blood on the sink in the bathroom. The distance between them had widened, and now, she didn't know what to do for him.
"Please, Ren," she pleaded. "Please."
Nothing to do but pray for an outcome she didn't know.
Ren hated leaving Eri like that, but he had to get out. Take a ride to clear his mind, get a breath of fresh air, find himself—or at least find some clue to who he was now.
He finally made his way to a small teashop in the late morning. Though he'd never been there before, it felt almost like home—probably the feeling it was going for, he tried to lie to himself.
The woman at the counter regarded him suspiciously, though the cuts on his knuckles were probably the cause for that. Aside from Ren ordering, they didn't speak, not even when he noticed the photographs of children set next to the counter.
Somehow, the children almost seemed familiar. And the tea tasted exactly the way he knew he liked it—stronger than the big chains preferred to sell, but with a delicate note that kept it from being too bitter.
Part of him never wanted to come back here again. But another part knew he'd have to. Not to obsess over what he didn't know, but to accept it. To cope.
He walked out of the door, only to nearly crash into another customer. For a moment, the other guy gave him a strange look, like he didn't expect to see him, but Ren kept walking, making the other guy nearly trip over his bike. They tried to get out of each other's way as Ren tried to get to his bike, but they kept going in the same direction. Finally, annoyed, Ren told him, "Move."
"Move?" he repeated. "You move!"
At once, they realized just how stupid this was. Changes or not, there was no reason for Ren to pick a fight with somebody right outside a teashop just because they nearly bumped into each other. It was a simple, stupid accident, nothing more. Ren started to move for his bike again, only to collide with the other guy when he started to move for the door. This time, Ren grabbed him by his jacket and pulled him out of the way.
They glowered at each other for a moment before the other guy walked to the door and Ren got on his bike. And then, as they were about to go their separate ways, never to meet again, they couldn't help but look at each other.
It was that same sense that Ren had when he met the fortuneteller—that sense of lost nostalgia. Though they'd never met, they knew each other. And neither could explain it.
He didn't want to be afraid of it this time, so he tried to push it out of his mind as he rode off.
But some things that were missing couldn't be completely lost, as no less than an hour later, he watched the guy from the teashop collide right into a panel of glass.
Almost as if he'd done it before, he brought his bike to a stop and walked over, pulling out his wallet as the questions burned in his mind.
What's happening to me?
Why do I feel like I'm missing something?
Eri, I'm sorry. Just please.
The rest of the night was hard to get through. She waited and hoped that he would return, but he didn't. She didn't go back to sleep—she knew that her sleeping (or at least pretending to) was what had caused all of this, somehow. She tried to make it through class despite the lack of sleep, but it was hard to focus on Lorentz transformations when she was trying to deal with Ren's transformation. It was like time had passed differently for him—an entire lifetime that he'd lost, but pervasive enough to change him, all while she measured time by what they could remember, when they were together. But the closer they were, the wider the space between them.
Lorentz made no sense today, she decided. Physics couldn't provide a theory of everything for them; it only confused matters more. It couldn't grant a wish, what she wanted more than anything else right now.
It doesn't matter if you've changed.
It'll be okay, I promise.
Just please. Come home.
He wasn't there when Eri got out of class. She tried calling him, but he didn't answer his phone. And she knew he wouldn't be home, so there was only one place left that she knew to check.
It was a long shot, but she walked to the beach to find him sitting on the sand, staring out at the water. She couldn't help but smile in relief. No matter the distance between them, he was at least trying to remain close to her. The places they'd been together, the times they'd shared—that was what was important and made up who they were, not lost transformations.
"Ren," she called softly, and he turned to look at her, that expression of loss in his eyes. She walked over and sat down next to him, taking in the warmth of the sand against the cold air. "What's wrong?"
He hesitated, his breath caught, as if debating whether or not to tell her. The only thing she could do was wait. Say anything, try to force her way in, and he'd lock her out again. Wait, hope, pray.
"I ran into someone today," he confessed. "He broke some glass. I paid for it, told him to pay me back."
From anyone else, it would have been nothing to worry about. From him, it once would have been. But Eri had a guess as to why it bothered him, and she asked, "Thirty-thousand yen?"
Ren nodded. "I only met him today, when I walked into him at a teahouse. The only way I know his name is because I took his business card so I'd have his contact information. Even then, all I know is that he's a reporter named Kido."
She was silent, afraid to even nod. Ren's actions didn't make sense, not even to himself, to spend that much money helping a complete stranger. She now knew who the fragile one was, and she knew that he knew it too. Whatever had changed him had taken his coarseness and burned and blew it into glass—beautiful, but breakable.
"I don't know what's happening to me," he admitted. "I feel like I'm trying to remember something, and it's whatever's changed me. Sometimes, I don't even know who I am."
"You're Ren," she insisted, and she knew it now more than ever. "You may have changed, but you'll never stop being you."
She reached for his hand, taking it firmly before kissing him. She was sure now that however fragile he seemed, he wouldn't break. Not if they went through this together. It wasn't enough for him to be there for her; she had to be strong for him too. If he had changed, then she would change too to help him through it.
He had another nightmare that night, but before he even woke, she placed her arm around him and drew herself close. No more fears, no more confusion. She would fill in that gap.
"It's okay," she whispered to him when he opened his eyes. "Go back to sleep." Forget the rest.
Kamen Rider Ryuki is the property of Ishimori Productions and Toei. Fic written for Spring Kink. While I never studied physics, Lorentz transformations are mentioned briefly in Kanzaki's notes on creating the Kamen Riders, and so I did a quick look-up on Wikipedia to incorporate the reference, since it seems that Eri is a physics major.