Author's Notes

This is partially inspired by Vinnie's War. I've returned the book now, so I forgot the author's name.

By the way, don't judge this story by the first few pages. There's a reason I wrote it this way, but I think Asarikou-chan might be the only person to pick it out. We have after all had that discussion before.

Oil Paintings

The war had seemed so far away, until it practically landed on their doorstep. Their lives had changed in a fraction of a moment, but they were still luckier than a lot of others who had lost it all…for Asarikou-chan.

Kouji M/Koji &Kouichi K/Koichi

Genre/s: Tragedy/Family

Rating: T

He'd been nearly home when the air-raid alarm sounded, piercing through the grey sky better than even the sun could manage. It wasn't a new sound by any means; how many times had it been in the past few months that he'd heard the siren shriek? A lot. Too many to count. But it had never been as loud or as close as it was now.

Their spacious and comfortable suburban home had always seemed remote in terms of the war…except for the day the draft notice had come. That was the last they'd heard of their father, but many letters had come since then. Including the one he'd been carrying home with a skip in his step, spirits roused due to the good tidings contained within.

"It looks like the tides are changing. Hopefully, this will all be over with soon and I'll return home to you all."

After that came the usual farewell, a request that, for the majority of his journey home, had been quite easy to follow.

"Keep smiling till I make it back. Those three big sweet smiles are the first things I want to see."

The air raid alarm quickly wiped that smiled off his face as he did the instinctive thing: bolted for home. But he'd barely made it three paces when the whir of engines was upon him, and the grey sky was blotted out to engulf him in a sudden blackness.

He'd never make it home before the first bombshell dropped. It would take another five minutes. Three if he ran to his upmost, but the warplane above was already freezing his breath. Or maybe it was the dark. Or the fear; they'd never been so close before.

People sprinted past, and he followed, all diving into the nearest shelter like a rat fleeing from a cat. It was the animal instinct driving them…because, for a moment, no child thought about their parent and no parent thought about their child. Therapeutic items such as blankets and toys were trampled under scrambling feet as everyone: man, woman and child alike, burrowed themselves in a place that would be a haven to them, falling over one another in their haste.

The next few minutes were some of the most terrifying he had ever experienced. There were sounds he had never heard before. Never imagined. It was nothing like the news reports they watched on TV.

And then it was suddenly over and he lifted his head to take in the new blackness. The crying he only began to register at that moment quietened as a strange silence echoed above them. It had only lasted a few minutes, but it had felt like it had lasted for eternity. Everyone sat still, as if waiting for the next shoe to stop, but after a few minutes, people began moving as the claustrophobia sat in. Those closest to the doors pounded on it, and eventually the steel creaked open, coating them with a fine layer of dust as they crawled out of their wormhole and into the sun that glared down upon them.

And then it was suddenly over and he lifted his head to take in the new blackness. The crying he only began to register at that moment quietened as a strange silence echoed above them. It had only lasted a few minutes, but it had felt like it had lasted for eternity. Everyone sat still, as if waiting for the next shoe to stop, but after a few minutes, people began moving as the claustrophobia sat in. Those closest to the doors pounded on it, and eventually the steel creaked open, coating them with a fine layer of dust as they crawled out of their wormhole and into the sun that glared down upon them.

The rest of their journeys, all of them, were quiet and subdued as hesitant and half-paralysed steps carried them to where their destinations once stood.

An identical boy only minutes older had been with his mother at the time, helping to dust the various things that scattered the living room. The woman was a fan of flowers; it was natural, seeing as she was a florist by trade. One thing the war had done was increased business from the city. It was sad to think though that those flowers weren't for weddings or lovers or even friends, but for graves where flesh lay rotting beneath topsoil and rock. They were actually the only ones who made some sort of profit from the war; the grave-makers lost out because of the bodies never returned, so all that remained to be done was put up markers of their deaths. The tailors suffered because less men were ripping their pants like little schoolboys. The house-wives suffered without their husbands; it was even said that some, who all would call pure, turned against the love of their husbands and committed infidelity in the desperate times. It seemed harder somehow, being so far away, to be the one waiting rather than the fighter.

This particular woman didn't have that problem, because the peak in business kept her busy…and she had two rather protective sons, both old enough to know morally right from wrong and both of whom (despite their differences in personality) would have no problem making absolutely sure such a thought never entered her mind. Indeed, her slightly younger one was bringing a letter home as the remaining one hummed and polished a family portrait.

It was predictable he would pick that one, the mother mused to herself, picking the dining table where the sparse crumbs remained from their breakfast. A black cat was licking them up happily.

At least she could provide well for her children, even with her husband away. Some had been entirely dependent on them. Others had lost their homes or their business in the city, but none came to seek their fortune in the smaller villages far from the hand of war. Whether it was because they thought nothing awaited them there or something else, it was hard to know. All she knew was a proprietor carried away her flowers and brought back gold. Their little village was, apart from that, almost self-sufficient. Even the poorest man could survive in a few hectares of land by sowing barley, and indeed, most of it was farmland. Their crops had suffered because of the lack of men in the field, but the women did their best, and indeed enough to sustain the village. It was one of the better circumstances, all in all. They weren't like the city, almost stripped dry and raked flat. They weren't like the northern side, where soldiers marched through, attacking children and stripping women of their morality and their wealth. They were horrible times…but they were far away from all that. Safe in a tucked up corner of Japan…except when the draft notice had come.

She knew though, as did most of the adults, that it was only a matter of time.

She looked at her eldest son, still humming merrily as he carefully coaxed the dust off the painting. It was a fine piece of work, even if one could see the unrefined talent underneath. Her son loved his paints; give him a brush and he could create almost anything. A lot of his works were scattered all over the house, beginning with the reddish earth paints that were easy to make before stemming into the seamstress's dyes and finally the paints her husband had once brought from the city when he had gone on business. He had brought something for his younger son too: a bandana to keep his long bangs out of his face as he helped his mother in the garden. The elder didn't have much of a green thumb, but he was starting to make bouquets better than she.

It was when the boy had gotten to his own face and was carefully coaxing a speck of dust off his nose that they heard the sound of wings fast approaching before being devoured in the sounds of an alarm.

There was a crash as the black cat knocked over a vase of flowers on the table. The young boy dropped his cloth as well, but the slight thump was easily swallowed by the louder sounds. The woman looked up, eyes suddenly widening in terror, before she rushed to the window.

The boy didn't even get enough time to blink before his mother was back, dragging him into the basement.

'What is it Mum?' he cried, feeling her panic radiating in waves.

'Air raid,' she panted, opening the latch and dropping him into the first steps. Her son clung to him as she made to leave again.

'No mummy,' he wailed, slipping into the childish name in the horror he had never experienced. 'Where are you going? You can't leave?' Then, without pause, he continued: 'Where's brother? Where's Daddy?'

'Daddy's still at war,' the mother reminded gently, attempting to calm her tone and not frighten her child further. 'I'm going to check on your brother. He shouldn't be too far. He should make it in time.'

She had picked up her elder son during the little speech, embracing him tightly before making to set him down again, the other's feet were mere centimetres from the ground before a shockwave shot through the house.

The boy let out a terrified scream as his mother suddenly threw (with a hint of pushing) him onto the steps with none of the gentleness he knew.

He slipped on the third step and tumbled the rest of the way down.

'Seriously Ni-san, you make yourself fall down the steps again? Wasn't it enough the first time?'

Kouichi looked up from under his desk, where he had been looking for something in the boxes that served as storage. They normally came from the grocery store, and were sturdy enough to support the pages or anything else he threw in them. They were a little scattered, but not wholly so. He knew generally where everything was (that wasn't on his desk of course). The one with library books was at the forefront and labelled so he didn't forget to return it. His scraps of stories were in another one, as were drawings and paintings. And neatly too; not a single one was scrunched.

At his twin's words, he lifted his head, almost bumping into his desk before he withdrew it. 'What?' he asked, bemused, before spying the papers the other held, carefully torn from an exercise book. 'Oh.' Then he blinked again. 'What's that got to do with falling down the stairs?'

Kouji handed him the pages and he quickly skimmed through the top one before his lips formed an 'o'. Then he laughed. 'I haven't mentioned names.'

'Seriously,' Kouji repeated. 'You don't really need to. This practically screams us…except 'kaa-san's not a florist.'

Kouichi shrugged. 'The inspiration had to come from somewhere,' he pointed out. 'But who knows how we would have been if we were growing up together at eight.'

'And 'tou-san going to war?'

Another shrug. 'I told you, it's not us. Partial inspiration.'

'And the rest?'

A third shrug. 'Seriously.' Kouichi mimicked his brother, both by word and by tone. 'You want to pick apart my head?'

'No thanks,' Kouji answered with a grimace. 'I get the feeling it's a lot more complicated than mine.'

The younger twin took the pages back and continued reading. The elder opened his mouth to say something, before smiling and leaving his brother be as he hunted through his boxes again. Some things were organised, but there were a few he just stuffed into some place at random and forgot about them.

It wasn't easy to find his house. In the end, it was the scattered remains of his mother's precious flowers that did the job. Petals were tossed and crushed under debris and the fallen limbs of the trees, bushes and vines upon which they had grown with such tender love and care.

No-one else grew flowers. That was how he had known it was his house…even if the house itself was no longer there. The entire street was crushed. Actually, the entire village was in shambled. There was a rickety old rack standing by some miracle, but everything else was flattened. They had a basement though; it was a rather old house, but sturdy. While it was so hard to believe it was actually in pieces now, he knew his mother and brother, and their dear cat, could have gotten into the basement in time. He hoped they did anyway. He prayed.

But still, he stood at where the gate should have been, staring at what had been, up till perhaps only a few minutes ago, his home. Part of him was afraid of what he would find. The basement wasn't as sturdy as the safe-houses. And there could be a hundred reasons why his family weren't safely inside.

Eventually, as the sun grew red, he took a deep breath and went over.

It didn't take him long to spot his mother's body, crushed by planks from the roof. Right outside of the basement door too, and he backed away in horror, walking straight into someone. Protective instincts flared and he raised his fists in defence, only to find a man dressed in volunteer uniform. He wasn't sure which one. It wasn't any he was familiar with.

How'd they gotten there so fast? Or had he been standing there for so long?

The man had a woman for him, who immediately covered up the dead parent before pulling the boy away, muttering something about thieving rascals in even the quiet towns

'Wait!' he cried, twisting free. 'My brother's around here! And so's my cat!'

The two exchanged glances. 'I don't think it's a good idea,' the man replied.

The woman scoffed. 'Can you prove this was your house?'

The boy paused. How could he? The entire place was in shambled. Tears stung the edge of his vision; why where they being so cruel?

'This is normally the best time for thieves to strike,' the man explained. 'In any case, there normally aren't any personal items that can be salvaged.'

The blue eyes looked around, sweeping the contents before brimming with tears. Then something caught his eyes and he ran over, pulling the painting from the debris.

'Here,' he said, pointing at the image who had, miraculously, remained in one piece, albeit torn. 'There's me.' He pointed to his year younger self.

The woman peered at the drawing, before nodding. 'My apologies,' she said, sounding now both stiff and sympathetic. 'It's normally very difficult to know, but it's still a bad idea to look for your brother…and your cat. Leave that to us.'

She nodded at the man who gently picked up the boy and carried him out and down the lane. 'We'll wait here,' he said gently. 'You can look over your things afterwards.'

After any bodies had been removed was what he meant, but his first statement still held true. There was normally very little to salvage. Money mostly. Some sturdy jewellery. Small items that weren't crushed by debris. Or things like boots, made of strong rubber. Maybe some clothes had survived too. But the rocking chair was probably crushed. Their little tree house above the rose bushes. The garden itself. And his, their, mother…

He choked back a sob, holding himself as he waited anxiously.

It seemed like an age before the woman returned with a bundle in his arms.

'We should get him checked out at medical,' she said before the other flew at the pair, the man following a little more slowly behind. 'Looks like he tumbled down the stairs and hit his head.'

She knelt down and set the boy on his feet as the other enveloped him.

'Thank god you're still alive,' the slightly younger whispered.

The other didn't say something. His eyes weren't really focusing on anything, and his hands clutched something. A case of some sort.

The other looked at the case, and then took it. Inside were only two things: his precious bandana, and his brother's box of paints. The things their father had brought from the city that one time. They had put it for safekeeping in the basement, like keepsakes, only to be used on special occasions. He'd brought duplicates, cheaper and for more every-day use, which they dabbed regularly. But these special ones stayed safely in the basement, along with

It took a close inspection to reveal there was a third item in the box. Money. All the emergency funds their parents had saved up…just in case. And neither of them had even known they were there, because both eye were wide in shock, although now the dry and dazed eyes were brimming with tears and the previously lubricated were starting to dry in the darkening land.

'Where were you?' the elder of the two finally whispered hoarsely, voice trembling like a rope hanging on by a single thread. ''kaa-san went looking for you.'

And had been crushed by the debris when the roof had collapsed from the first of the bombshells.

'Now that's just mean,' Kouji said aloud, turning to the next page, only to find he'd come to the beginning again. 'Where's the rest?'

'Haven't finished,' his brother replied, straightening soonafter with triumph, pulling out some faded photos and articles. 'You know, I'm surprised I didn't throw them out. We did the assignment years ago.'

'Well, it's good for me you didn't,' the ex-warrior of light pointed out, setting the pages he'd snatched of his twin's desk back upon their allocated space. 'What's that for?'

'The story?' Kouichi asked. 'Homework.'


'What's wrong with it? It's way better than history reports.'

'For you,' Kouji pointed out. 'I probably wouldn't be able to come up with something creative if…well, not if my life depended on it.' He mock-scowled at his brother's snort of laughter. 'It's not that funny.'

'Sure it is,' the other replied, though he did swallow his amusement. 'You were about to say "if my life depended on it", weren't you?'

'Yeah,' Kouji replied. 'Until I remembered-'

'All the crazy stuff you did in the Digital World?' Kouichi asked with a quirk of his upper lip.

'It wasn't crazy,' the other said defensively.

'Sure it was. And there's no denying it; digimon love to gossip.'

'And you didn't have anything better to do than to listen to that gossip.'

They were dancing around what had once been deadly waters. Funnily, it was Takuya who had put them on that track, pointing out that light-0hearted teasing generally…well, lightened the situation. Of course, Kouji wouldn't admit that…but it was rather pointless denying it as Kouichi probably would if someone thought to ask him.

'So,' Kouji replied after a brief giggle. 'What comes next?'

'After what?' the elder twin asked.

'After what you've already written.'

'Well…' Kouichi thought for a moment. 'They'll probably get temporarily shipped to another village, with all the orphans and those who have a parent in the war or those trying to get their kids out of the warzone. Eventually, their father will return from the war and they'll build a new life from that.'

'That's if they're all still alive.'

'Ah, I just told you they are, didn't I?' But it sounded more contemplative than accusatory. 'The idea is for them to be luckier than most others. They'll recognise it in time. After all, they still have each other, and their father still lives. But they wait every day for news, thinking-'

'It could be news of his death.' Kouji nodded. 'At least it's not going to have a sad ending.'

'Even if it did, there had to be something happy about it.'

'Says who?' It was an almost teasing question.

'Says me silly. I'm the one writing the story after all.'

That didn't mean though that the same didn't apply in real life.

'Let me guess,' the younger twin quipped after a minute. 'The older brother is going to keep painting with those special paints.'

'Of course,' Kouichi replied with a smile. 'Pictures tell a thousand words.'

'And no speaking lines there?'

'Mute for the time being. Though there was that one.' Albeit it just piled blame on the other.

'That's going to drive the younger twin crazy.'

'That's not the only thing,' the elder twin pointed out. 'There could be meetings on the train, the village – the kids there are probably going to be territorial, and that won't help the adjustment…and no doubt the entire village doesn't want kids mooching off them…' His voice trailed off into a slight sadness. 'Wars still go on, but we're even further away from them than they were.'

'We've been in a war,' Kouji reminded.

'Our war was nothing like this though.'

They were silent for a moment as they heard a helicopter pass overhead.

'A police helicopter,' Kouichi explained, putting his own story away. 'I wonder who they're looking for.'

'Maybe we're not so far from war after all,' Kouji commented. 'I can't help but think that's what you're saying, buried under all that.'

'Well, a war isn't only guns and bombs and nuclear missiles, is it? It's about people too.'

They listened to the chopper pass, beating its wings.

'I guess I'd better get started on this assignment.' Reluctance oozed from the younger twin though. It didn't take him long to reconsider. 'Oh, I'll do it later. Let's watch something. What's on now?'

Kouichi shrugged. He didn't know. But when they flicked through the TV five minutes later, they found Ringu going on. Hence why Tomoko came home finding the twins clutching each other in terror halfway through the horror film.