Author's Notes

This is omnipresent Takuya's POV. That's important to keep in mind, because there are some scenes I just can't write due to that. On purpose mind you; it simplified the story.

My 200th fic. Yay!

Enjoy.


Impairment

The first time Takuya saw Kouji's twin, it had been purely a coincidence. Heck, he hadn't even known his best friend had a brother, much less a twin who, at first glance, was identical save for the length of hair and pallor of skin…and choice of clothing. While the long haired Kouji typically wore three-quarters of either an either dark grey or black colour and a pale top" that was usually white or pale yellow/ In the colder seasons he wore a navy blue jacket on top, but the skin just below his knees till the rims of his socks were always at the mercy of the elements. It never seemed to bother him either; the jacket only came out in the worst weeks of winter.

The boy sitting on the bench in front of the brunette though was dressed in almost the opposite manner: grey pants, full length and almost white in their tone, a darker and warmer pullover with sleeves long enough to cover his fingers…and it was just nearing the end of summer, Takuya pointed out to himself. He was in a T-shirt himself, orange with a salamander design. Seriously, about the only bit of skin he could see on the other was his face…and there was the blue cap obscuring that, and the fact he was bent over a book of some sort, sleeve skimming the pages.

Takuya debated whether or not to talk to the other…and then he shrugged to himself, threw caution to the winds and took a seat on the vacant half of the bench. The truth of the matter was that he wasn't even supposed to be out. Suspended and grounded…but staying in his room all day was detrimental to one's sanity, particularly when Shinya (having arrived promptly home from school) grinded on the stray nerves. Considering his mother hadn't sounded furious – angry, yes…but not furious – he supposed a little more "cooling time" wouldn't hurt.

'Hey,' he said cheerfully, turning to face the other. 'Mind if I sit here?'

The other gave no indication that he had heard, absorbed in his book.

'So…what are you reading?' Takuya tried again, only to get the same response. 'Geez, am I that disinteresting?'

Somebody did react to that, but it wasn't the person he had been addressing.

'What are you doing here Kanbara?'

If it had been anybody else, they'd have shot off the bench, stuttered apologies as though they had trespassed on the other's properties and cleared out before another word escaped the other, but Takuya was well used to his friend's attitude and simply grinned.

'Escaping the jail that's called my home,' he replied.

'That's not what I meant.' Kouji actually looked angry, which was a new expression for the brunette to sight on the normally apathic face.

'Oh.' Takuya scratched his head in response. 'I'm sitting? And apparently trying to talk to a guy who looks like you and is better than you at ignoring me?'

To his surprise, Kouji rubbed his own brow, before grabbing the other by the wrist and pulling him up.

'Hey,' Takuya exclaimed, before realising the other hadn't been bothered by the action but rather waiting for it. The book snapped shut and moved solely to the left hand as he held the right out, and slowly Kouji wrote something on it. There was a pause, before the other returned the action and felt blindly for the back-pack that had been lying by his feet. Kouji beat him to it though, snatching the bag strap and slinging it over his own with a hint of impatience, seizing the other's wrist again with his free hand. To Takuya, the outsider, the entire interaction was not only strange but rough as well.

'How about an explanation Kouji?' And the brunette stood there (unintentionally in their way) with a bemused expression. 'You're manhandling the poor guy just because he looks like you?'

'He's my brother,' was the sour reply. 'And I'm not "manhandling" him. He's both deaf and blind, so we have to be firm so he knows what's going on.'

It took Takuya quite a bit of time to grasp that, and the twins were long since gone without a farewell. He didn't take either personally though; Kouji always did that, and it was entirely possible the other hadn't even noticed he was there.


The second time Takuya met Kouji's twin was at their house: the first time visiting it actually. The still-stranger was sitting at the table, poking holes into a piece of paper using some sort of sliding device…or that was what it looked like anyway. There was also a dog lying under the table.

'C'mon,' Kouji muttered, seeing his gaze.

'What's he doing?' Takuya returned, bewildered.

The expression looked vaguely annoyed when he answered. 'Writing an essay.'

Apparently, the blind wrote by poking holes into papers…even if that wasn't the correct term for it.

'Do you know it?' the brunette asked curiously as he trudged up the stairs after his friend.

'Kinda have to. It's practically the only way to communicate with him.'

'Then how about what you did the other day? Writing on his palm?'

There was another noise of irritation before the answer: 'Not particularly reliable, but when we're out its pretty much all we've got.'

The tone of his voice warned against any more questions. But Takuya couldn't help it, particularly when the writing device fell from the unnamed twin's hands with a clatter. The dog slunk out from under the table – and it was only then that the brunette noticed the harness – and picked up the pencil with his mouth, butting the other's leg. A smile slid onto his face as he leaned down on his chair, pawing the air momentarily before touching the instrument. The smile widened as the fingers enclosed over it, and the boy patted the dog with the closed hand as he felt about for his essay with the free one.

'Your brother's dog?'

'Guide dog,' Kouji muttered. 'And quit the questions otherwise we'll never get this dumb assignment done.'

'One last one,' Takuya hastily interjected. 'Name?'

There was another noise, this one somewhat indiscernible, before the other answered: 'Kouichi.'


Takuya and Kouji's relationship was unusual at best. Takuya himself wouldn't hesitate to call it a friendship, but a lot of outsiders rebuked the notion. None of them understood Kouji though. In fact, none of them tried to plow through the snow and roll over the snowman.

'Snowman?' Kouji had raised an eyebrow, face settling into an expression that could come out as rather intimidating, but the brunette was resistant to those sorts of expressions. It did get him into trouble on occasion, but it was also rather helpful, particularly in breaking down peoples' barriers. Hence he had learnt over the trials of time that the expressions didn't quite match with the heart.

But the knowledge about a brother broke through a new level in their relationship…or friendship. Because Takuya wouldn't leave the topic alone, and Kouji really did need someone to talk to.

Because, the truth was, dealing with a brother, a twin no less, with only half their senses in contact with the world, was a rather trying experience. Particularly when their parents both worked late hours and were almost always absent when school let out. That usually left Kouji to pick up his brother from the special school a little further out from the private elementary school they both attended, bring him carefully home (a guide dog wasn't particularly useful in such heavy traffic; the one and only time that had been tried, Kouichi hadn't been able to move from his spot as Ookami waited for the endlessly busy road to clear), prepare him a nutritious snack (the other wasn't allowed around knives for obvious reason) and settle him down so he could start on his homework before the other could do something of his own.

'I do love my brother,' he confessed, back against the open doorway where the other was poking away. 'But sometimes I wish he hadn't been born.'

He said it badly, almost angrily, but Takuya had a brother of his own and could relate, even if not to that extent. After all, Shinya wasn't both deaf and blind. He wasn't either. He was just a regular peppy nine year old who constantly grated on his nerves.

'I get you,' the brunette replied, but he received a scathing (translated to sceptical) look in response. 'There are times I feel like murdering Shinya.'

There was a pause, and then: 'You didn't…' There was a hesitant pause – true hesitance – before Kouji finished the statement: '…laugh.'

'Why would I?' Takuya blinked. The other had asked a rather stupid question in his book.

'People tease him,' the other muttered.

'Oh.' Then the brunette grinned. 'And you beat them up for him, right?'

There was another pause. 'My parents tell me off for that,' he admitted finally, telling more about his true feelings than he ever had before. 'They say he can't even here it. But who cares about that?!' His voice rose suddenly. 'I can hear them, and he's my brother.'

There was the sound of Ookami barking, and then a chair being scraped across the floor. Both of them looked over to Kouichi trying to reach for Ookami's harness and constantly missing as the other danced around.

'Ookami!' Kouji snapped sharply, and the dog froze…but the boy accidently knocked his writing utensil off the table before he could clasp the harness. He slipped off his chair easily enough and picked out the utensil after feeling about the floor, but he took a little longer to locate the end he could slip back out of. Losing patience, his brother reached out and yanked him none too gently from underneath the table and set him on his feet, thrusting the harness at him. 'Here.'

Then he turned around and stormed upstairs.

Takuya made to follow, before something made him turn back. He wondered if Kouichi realised his brother's frustration. The boy had an almost sad look on his face. The unseeing eyes turned towards the stairs as if he knew exactly where his twin had gone, and the edges of them glistened slightly before he reached a sleeve up to wipe them away.

Ookami barked before dragging the other off. The brunette wondered how he knew where the other wanted to go, before remembering the boy had knelt by him before. Perhaps, just like the twins had to each other on the first day, Kouichi had traced the instructions onto the other's skin…or fur.


'Aren't you going to be late?' Takuya asked.

'My parents are picking him up today,' Kouji replied, his face devoid of emotion.

'And?' the other persisted.

'Doctor's appointment.'

There was a pause at the sharp answer, but Takuya didn't let it hang for long. 'You never told me,' he began. 'How your brother wound up like that?'

There was another pause, but this was of a different sort. 'He was born that way,' Kouji said eventually. 'Like most twins we were born prematurely, and there were some…complications. I got lucky: I'm perfectly fine…or that's what everyone says. Even our parents. Kouichi doesn't go to them when he's upset or needs anything; he comes to me. I'm the one who protects him. He probably doesn't even realise how everyone calls him a freak, and it isn't even his fault. They say all sorts of things about us when we're together, but he doesn't hear or see any of it. I'm stuck doing all that.'

'He might not,' Takuya said reasonably. 'But I think he does understand what you're going through. Next time, just take a good look at his face before you storm upstairs.'

'Huh?' When Kouji turned back to look at him, Takuya declared his eternal mission in life a success. There were no barriers on the other's face, no obscurities. He was just a kid struggling with a mix of guilt and a burden that few had to bear.

'Take a look at his face,' Takuya repeated. 'Or better yet, let's find a mirror. You've got that exact same expression on your face now.'

And he did. He hadn't realised it before, but Kouichi had had that same image of guilt as well. As if he felt his brother's frustration (was frustration the right word? Takuya wondered) was his fault.


'Man, I'm glad that's over with.' Takuya stretched his arms over his head, thrilled that the exams were finally finished. They had seemed to drag on an age, particularly with having to return to revision for a new exam as soon as one was over and done with. 'Let's go to the arcade. I haven't been there I weeks.'

'Can't,' Kouji sighed, looking about as drained as everyone else for once. 'I have to pick my brother up.'

Takuya had honestly forgotten about that, but quickly changed tactics. 'I'll come with you.'

'You don't-'

'Beats going to the arcade by myself with those guys.' And the brunette jerked a thumb at the crowd neither of them got along with.

'All right.' Kouji knew the other well enough to know it wasn't pity.

But the problem with being wiped from exams was that people generally had short tempers. And it had to be the one day where Kouichi's special school let out late.

It wasn't that late. About five minutes or so after they had gotten there, although if they added the time the elder twin usually had to wait, it was a different story altogether. But Kouichi came finally, alone as usual as he felt across the fence to the seat he usually sat on to wait, patting it to make sure there was no-one there.

Kouji caught his wrist and the other looked up with a bemused expression and an odd sound escaped his lips.

Takuya blinked. He hadn't realised the other could make sounds. He'd always thought deaf and mute went hand in hand.

'He can't mimic sounds,' Kouji replied, a little impatiently. 'But that doesn't mean he cannot make them instinctively.'

'Alright.' And Takuya held up his hands before turning. 'Uh, Kouji?'

'What?' He followed his friend's gaze. 'Oh great.'

Their "arch-enemies" from school had followed them.

'Who's that Minamoto?' One of them asked, looking at the way Kouji was holding his brother's hand. The other immediately let go, but the bullies had latched onto the wrong ideas like leeches. 'Oh, the little boy's that deprived, dating a clone instead.'

'He's my brother,' Kouji muttered sourly.

If he thought that was going to deter them from the prospect of a taboo relationship, he couldn't have been more wrong.

'Sleeping with your brother then? Freak.'

Apparently, it was something Kouji had heard before, because he didn't flatten the boys to a pulp like Takuya had expected…even though they were outnumbered and possibly outmatched in any case. His face had darkened warningly though, but the problem was the contrast. It wasn't particularly convincing beside Kouichi's usual calm and almost cherubic expression.

Kouji began to firmly guide his brother away, careful not to be too rough and inadvertently warn his brother of the situation, but the parting statement made him cast aside that pretence and literally yank his twin into the next street.

Kouji began to firmly guide his brother away, careful not to be too rough and inadvertently warn his brother of the situation, but the parting statement made him cast aside that pretence and literally yank his twin into the next street.

Poor Kouichi stumbled straight into his brother, unable to catch himself in the air, but Kouji didn't give him a chance to straighten up, dragging him further until Takuya caught them.

'Hang on Kouji,' he said firmly. 'Let the guy stay on his feet.'

The younger twin let go, stalking a few paces so there was some distance between the two brothers. 'Why do they always have to do that?' he muttered. 'I'm sick of it. I'm sick.' His voice rose an octave; he was starting to sound like the brunette grumbling about the unfairness of life when his mother took Shinya's side.

Perhaps that was how Takuya managed to guess what was about to happen before it did. Only he somewhat helped along the process by grabbing Kouichi's (at that moment) uncovered wrist and pulling him a little further away.

At the unfamiliar touch, the other had yanked his wrist away with an odd sound, something akin to nails scraping on a blackboard and it made both Takuya and Kouji grit their teeth, even if the latter was a little more used to the sound.

Of course, it didn't help the impending situation though.

'They're right,' Kouji muttered, before raising it to a yell. 'You are a freak! This is all your fault! I could have a normal life if it wasn't for you!' The last part came out as a half-sob, already choking on regret, but the words were out. It didn't matter anyway; his brother couldn't hear them.

Still, torn between wanting to believe those very words and feeling completely rotten about saying them, he spun around and sprinted off.

'Hang on!' Takuya yelled, before another choking sound caused him to snap his head back…and stare. 'You're crying?'

The other, both deaf and blind, was crying. Tears were slipping down his cheeks, leaving little salt treks along the pallid skin. Somehow he knew exactly what his brother had said, or felt, and it had hurt him.

And the whole situation left Takuya not only feeling as if he had witnessed something he shouldn't have but wondering which twin he was supposed to be going after.

The question was solved when Kouichi suddenly went after his brother. And the brunette didn't even get the chance to wonder how the other knew where he was going – he didn't, considering he almost tripped on the sidewalk and crashed into a pole before sidestepping it – before he managed to catch up to them both.

He swore at that instance that he was never going to skive off laps in PE again. He didn't know at the time exactly what had happened; all he could see was a car frozen in the middle of the road, traffic collecting as one twin stared petrified from where he had fallen or been pushed over at his brother's still and slightly bleeding form on the road.


'He should hate me. They all should hate me.'

Takuya was rather tempted to tear his hair out. 'Your brother is going to make a full recovery,' he gritted out, now resisting the urge to shake some sense into the other. 'And it was not your fault. I could have run faster. Those stupid poles could have been a little further to the right so he'd have run straight into the middle of them. Those cracks could have been a little bigger so he'd trip. Your mother-'

'Don't you dare blame my mother!'

Takuya simply folded his hands behind his head. 'That's better,' he nodded. 'Now, you're going to stop blaming yourself for this otherwise I'm going to Shinya and telling him I accidently drowned his pet bird when he was two.'

Kouji gave him an odd look.

'Can you imagine what he'll think when he finds out I killed a bird?' the other cried. 'His favourite species of animal. Even if it was an accident; I fed it too much water. Anyway…'

The story seemed to have at least half-way accomplished its goal. 'I really don't get what that screaming was about.'

He was talking about Kouichi's screaming, which had, again, sounded like nails on a whiteboard.

'The Doctor says he's damaged his brain, particularly the temporal lobe, the part that concerns hearing. Because he was already tone deaf, it seems to have somewhat changed that…'

'So he can hear?' Takuya jumped up from the uncomfortable plastic chair, almost ecstatic.

'But he's scared. He's never heard anything before, and because of the painkillers his skin is numb, and he's felt things his entire life, so…'

'So you're going to be a good brother and help him,' Takuya concluded. 'Come on, don't tell me he doesn't recognise your touch.' A pause. 'You haven't gone to see him, have you?'

'No,' Kouji admitted. 'I'm scared too.'

'Aargh.' He was really tempted to tear his hair out. 'Tell me your brother is less of an idiot than you.'

'You're calling me an idiot?' the other asked incredulously.

Well…when it was put that way…

Takuya waved it off. 'I'll bet it'll get better later on. And look on the bright side: he'll be able to actually hear you the next time you yell at him.'

There was silence, and the brunette was seriously starting to consider he may have said the wrong thing when Kouji finally spoke again.

'You should hear him laugh.'

'Huh?'

Blue eyes tilted back to look at the ceiling. 'It's like a dove singing…'