A/N- Just wanting to remind everyone that I do not own Blood Plus or the characters or the song lyrics in this story. The song is "I Am Safe" Natalie Grant. ALSO- Look for Life, Love, and Family Part 2 so you can see what happens next. This BIG 'OL STORY is going to be 5 parts in all, so take your time and enjoy!
Jim found Marva standing on the porch of the ranch house, sweeping up. Grady used to do it, but had retired more than a year ago. Hagi had asked for a final plane ticket last night. Marva knew that it was finally time for Saya to wake up, she dreaded it. She knew Hagi would be leaving and, likely, never returning. It was going to be his last week with them. She absently listened to Jim.
"Marva," he began, "I've been meaning to talk to you for some time, but I just don't know where to begin. Your boy, he gets along with everyone just fine- we even think of him as one of us, but he's..." He kicked the gravel under his feet. "What the hell! Marva, your boy is weird. I mean, he's been wearing that bandage on his arm since he got here and it still ain't healed, yet whenever he gets cut, burned, or bruised, he's healed by nightfall. Then, he barely speaks to anyone- even the night we went out. He hung out with those kids, but he barely said more than three words to them. He NEVER eats anything. Then there's the rumors of what happened the night Claudia…"
"Those kids were drunk," Marva explained quietly as she continued to sweep.
"I know that Marva, but they all said they saw the same thing."
Marva didn't look up. She debated within herself what she should do.
"Marva, why doesn't he age?" Jim questioned.
His pointed question pierced her like a knife. How do I explain this? I knew the time would come when questions would be asked, but I just can't handle it- not now. "Jim, please, I will explain. Just give me time to gather my thoughts, please," she pleaded.
Jim stepped onto the porch and placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder, "We just want to know the truth. We aren't going to judge anyone. Lord knows, none of us have any right to."
Now where have I heard those words before? She thought. I told Hagi that many- many years ago. Now I understand his fear of revealing the truth. I doubt they'll even believe me.
Hagi was out at the barn. He had asked Marva over a year ago if Angie and her friends could use it to practice their music. Hagi listened to a couple of sessions before he was asked to join. He really didn't think a cello would make any sense with this very different style of music. After all, Saya had taught him how to play classical music. He had been disciplined in the rigid structure of Beethoven, Mozart, and, Saya's favorite, Bach. He wasn't sure about this. He had only "jammed" with Marva before and she played acoustic guitar, he would just follow the chords in succession. This band had electric guitars, drums, keyboards, and, on occasion, they'd scream lyrics rather than sing them. It was very different from what he was used to, but he just sat and listened, mostly.
During one of their sessions, Angie began to sing a song. It was beautiful. The second verse found Hagi playing along a basic bass line, but in the most melancholy tone, perfect for the tone of the song.
Drowning the tears won't make it go away.
It's robbing my soul, so I'm taking this mask off my face.
Yea, to discover love and uncover all it means to really breathe
I'm not gonna hide, I'm not gonna run away
I'll uncover the scars and show you every mistake.
Your love is mending my blisters and
The bruising shame.
Here with you, I am safe.
The song had stopped and everyone was looking at Hagi. "That was beautiful, Hagi," Angie breathed. "We should try it again. Only this time, do you think you could start it off, Hagi?"
Claudia and Marva had watched from the barn door as Hagi began to play the simple notes that led into the song, the notes he felt best suited it. What the notes lacked in complexity was more than made up for by the somber tone that conveyed a painfully sad emotion. Then, Angie began to sing the first verse as each instrument joined in. Claudia and Marva watched Hagi playing the music, eyes closed. To the average person, he just looked like a cellist playing notes written for him to play, but Marva and Claudia knew him better than that. "I've never seen him like this," Claudia commented. "He actually looks like he's enjoying it."
"All those years I played with him, I could never get him to improvise this way. He was always so analytical with music. He was always calculating the notes, but now, he's playing from the heart," Marva smiled.
The refrain brought a triumphant tone that sped the momentum of the song. Hagi swayed with the music, becoming lost in the notes as well as the words. He longed to be like the person the song depicted, allowing himself to open up his defenses and declare to the world his love for Saya, but he knew that love was forbidden. She was his queen and he was her chevalier, but he couldn't stop how he felt. He'd felt it before he had become a chevalier. He was torn between obedience and his heart. He wished for- desired for the ending to their story to be like the song. He wanted to take the mask of stoicism off and show Saya his true feelings. He couldn't… he just couldn't do it. Why? He asked himself, Why couldn't I? Is it because of Vietnam- am I afraid because she went berserk? No, it's what she's been ever since we left the Zoo. Her ultimate goal is to kill Diva and end the suffering in this world by eliminating chiropterans- all chiropterans. She clearly had no time for emotions, especially the one that Hagi stifled behind his stoic façade. He hid his emotions because she had no need of them, they would only distract her and create awkwardness. He did everything to please his queen. As the song ended, he looked down at his cello, hiding the fact that he was blinking back tears.
During this session, they were practicing another song that didn't have words, yet. It was mainly played by acoustic guitar and Hagi played along with it. The melody was simple, but the harmony was a bit more complex. They had tried a few lyrics with it, but nothing seemed to fit.
Angie came over to Hagi as the group began to break down the equipment, "Marva says your gonna be leaving soon, Hagi."
He sighed as he began to put his cello in the case, "Yes, I am going back to be with Saya."
Angie gave him a big hug and cried, "Oh, I'm so happy for you! Are you going to ask her to marry you? Could you bring her back here so we can meet her?"
"We will see," Hagi stated. He didn't want them to know the truth. "I will be leaving in six days."
Angie looked at the rest of the band and then Marva and Claudia, "We have to throw you a going away party."
"Yeah," everyone agreed.
"That will not be necessary," he responded. He was not keen on the idea of being the center of attention- especially on a day that he may be saying farewell forever.
"Yes, it is necessary, Big Brother," Claudia mimicked his tone- teasing him, as she walked over and hugged him. "We're going to miss you. I know my life won't be the same without you here."
He smiled at his sister and then turned to the group, "Alright."
Six days aren't a long time for someone whose life is eternal, but those six days seemed to fly by. Claudia was going to Italy to work for a designer, but she wouldn't be leaving for a month. She was planning on what she needed to bring with her and what she could replace when she got there.
He gently rapped on the doorframe.
"Come in," she called. She saw Hagi enter and smiled as she patted the empty space next to her on the bed. He sat down as she rummaged through a box of things.
"So, are you ready to move?" he asked.
"Ha. Ha. Ha, Big Brother," she answered.
He smiled as she continued to rummage though the box.
She then turned to him with tears in her eyes, "I can't believe you're leaving today. I'm gonna miss you." She threw her arms around his neck and tackled him to the bed. She then began to dig her knuckles into his hair to mess it up. He pushed her off, laughing.
"You really should laugh more, Big Brother," she smiled.
He straightened his hair as he chuckled as he retied the ribbon around it.
She considered the ponytail and then commented, "You know, I could cut that off for you. It may make you look better."
Hagi's look of surprise was priceless. He had come to realize, as had many others on the ranch, that only Claudia could make him react with his face. She had a way of shocking him. He composed himself and replied, "No, Claudia. I have always had long hair. I do not wish to change it."
"Does she like it like that? Is that it?" she asked.
He looked at his shoes as he cleared his throat before he gave a quiet answer, "Yes." He remembered, when he was a young boy at the Zoo, Saya would braid his hair. He loved the way her hands stroked his wavy locks, albeit roughly.
"Remember what I said, 'Let her see the real you, tell her the truth about how you feel, and no murder suicide pacts." Claudia held her finger to his face as her strong gaze told him that she was not backing down. She finally shook her head and turned back to her task.
Hagi sighed, there's that advice again.
Claudia began to rummage in another box, pulling out a personal undergarment- a red bra. Hagi turned his head in embarrassment. Claudia was dumbstruck this time. "What's the matter, Big Brother, haven't you seen a bra before?"
"Yes, but it is not proper for a man to look at women's undergarments."
"Then, how do you take care of Saya if you can't look at her underwear?"
"That is different. If she is injured or unconscious, I must attend to her."
Claudia raised an eyebrow, "Does that include sex, too."
Hagi shot a look at her, color growing on his cheeks, "Of course not."
She howled with laughter. She knew that only she could bring him to this point of shock and embarrassment, but she didn't really expect this much reaction. She tried to control her laughter and asked, "Oh, come on, I'm sure you two have…"
He tried to regain his composure as he cleared his throat. The color just would not leave his cheeks. She turned his face to look into his eyes- they conveyed embarrassment, but something else... innocence! He turned away from her as she gasped with realization, "Oh, my god you haven't. As much as you love her and as long as you've been with her and you haven't?"
Hagi buried his face in his hands. This is not the kind of discussion I want to have with Claudia or anyone else.
She thought for a second before musing, "Being with someone for over a century and never, ever doing it with them- what's that like?"
Hagi looked up and responded, "Sometimes it is hard." He immediately saw the mistake and hissed. The ranch hands usually had a good laugh from the crude humor in these situations. He had noticed the 20-year-old Claudia did, too.
Claudia roared with laughter as tears squeezed from her eyes, "I'll bet!"
Hagi rose to leave, he wasn't going to stay any longer. He'd suffered enough humiliation for one night.
Claudia grabbed his sleeve as she caught her breath. "Oh, oh, Big Brother," she managed to say, "I'm sorry, but you stepped right into that one."
"I know," He answered. "I really do not think a young lady should participate in such vulgar jokes." This was just too humiliating.
"Oh, Hagi, I am really sorry." She let go of his sleeve and looked up at him. His was looking toward the door. She thought before she spoke, "Tell her for me, that she's a really lucky girl. You are a rare person, Big Brother. You hold your feelings in to protect her and yet you wait, only for her. It really is beautiful."
He sighed as he walked out. It broke his heart to think that he could never let Saya know how much he loved her. Why was it that Claudia just had to remind him?
He packed his daggers in the secret compartment near Saya's sword. He touched the sheath the sword rested in. He could feel it deep inside- this would be the last time. This time, the war would end. He packed the neatly folded extra suit in a separate compartment along with a change of clothes that he's picked out for Saya. Sometimes, clothes would get bloody and torn during battles, a change of clothes was a necessity for them. He looked at his room for the last time; he knew he would never return. This time, the war would end. He shouldered his cello and headed to the party that his adoptive family was giving him.
The party was lively, Angie and her friends played familiar songs and everyone was eating, except Hagi. People danced around the barn and Claudia danced with one of the boys from her school. He had briefly met the young man once when he came to get Claudia for their date. Hagi recalled his name was Gary. They had been dating for a couple of months now. Hagi walked up to the couple and tapped the young man on the shoulder after the song ended. The extended his arm and stated, "If you want the next dance, that's fine. I'll get her back later," he winked at Claudia as he walked to a group of friends.
Hagi bowed gracefully before her and took the young lady he called his sister in his arms. They began to move to the music as she commented, "So you're gonna wear that tired old suit?"
He raised an eyebrow, "Why? Is there something wrong with it?"
"It's outdated and it makes you look so- formal," she stated as she crinkled her nose. "It just makes you look like a mortician."
"It is adequate for…" he began.
"…for your needs," she nodded as she interrupted. "You always say that. Hagi, why can't you just listen to everyone's advice- be yourself. Let Saya see you for who you are." He looked away. "Big Brother," she waited until he looked at her again. "She'll never know who you are, if you're always hiding behind that poker face of yours." She leaned in and whispered in his ear, "Then you'll never get laid." She giggled as she watched a slight color rise to his cheeks.
"Claudia," he scolded. He was slightly surprised at the memory tone invoked. It was the same tone he used when scolding Saya about sticking her fingers in the jelly and then licking them off.
"Oh, Big Brother, you are hopeless," she sighed. She decided to give him another little shock,"So, have you learned Japanese, yet?"
He looked at her, the shock evident on his face, "How did you know?"
"I saw the English/Japanese translation book on your bed when you were out telling Fury goodbye. So Saya is in Japan- not France."
"Claudia," he pleaded, "please..."
"I won't tell anyone," she interrupted. She hugged him close as tears fell from her eyes. "Please, be careful, Big Brother. Come home safe."
He looked way, but she could still see the hopelessness growing in his eyes.
"Promise me, you'll try." She kissed his cheek and turned to walk away. She knew he would not be able to keep that promise.
He gave everyone hugs as he prepared to leave. When he came to Marva, she was dabbing her eyes with a tissue. He noticed that all her hair was now gray and lines had formed on her face. She was growing older. He wondered how much she would change in the time he would be gone, but he'll never know. He knew deep down inside, he wasn't coming back. She embraced him in a tight hug. He allowed tears to fall from his closed eyes, "I will miss you, Mother."
She cupped his face in her hands, "Promise me, you'll try." She looked into his eyes.
Those same words were uttered by Claudia only a few hours ago. He knew that she knew he couldn't answer her. The words stung his heart. How he wished he could try to convince Saya, but no one knew Saya like him. It was her only wish and she demanded it be kept- the extinction of all chiropterans. "Goodbye, Mother," he said, shakily as he quickly walked out the door.
He watched the ranch house growing smaller and smaller from the rear window of the taxi. I will miss them all, but it is time to return to you, Saya. It is time for you to wake up.
Marva and Claudia watched from the dining room window as the tail lights from the cab faded into the night.
They turned to face Jim, Clay, Ray, Bubba, and Dan. She pet Claudia on the shoulder as she sighed, "Everyone have a seat." When they all were seated she continued, "I don't think Hagi would like this, but I just don't know how I can keep his secret from you. Most of you have come to me with questions about him and I just didn't know how to answer you." She took a shaky breath, "Hagi is not my son- not by blood, at least. He's not even human."
A/N I will be working on the next series of this story and be sure to post it soon. It will be under the name Life, Love, and Family part 2. Please let me know what you think so far. Criticism is always welcome (any feedback is welcome).