Title: Lies and Promises
Author: Kristen Sharpe, co-authored by Sage SK
Date: August 17, 2012, completed November 11, 2012
Continuity: Any, pre-series.
Disclaimer: "Ao no Exorcist/Blue Exorcist" belongs to Kazue Katou, Shueisha, A-1 Pictures, Aniplex, and various other parties.
Nine year old Rin turned pages slowly, considering each one with great seriousness. After a few minutes, his tongue worked its way out the corner of his mouth. There were just so many choices. And, he had to pick the right one. Because they were going to let him cook tonight. With help, of course. The youngest of the clergy, Izumi, was already puttering around to supervise. But, Rin would be in charge. He got to pick the meal for the entire abbey and everything.
And, it wouldn't be a disaster like everything else he tried. Because he could do this. Do it and do it right. Even the clergymen who usually politely avoided him were relaxed when he cooked. So, he was going to make sure it was extra special.
Twenty minutes later, he was debating between curry and yakisoba when he heard the door open.
"That's probably Father Fujimoto," said Izumi, stirring from a half-doze against the counter. He started for the door and paused to shoot Rin a teasing warning. "Don't destroy the kitchen while I'm gone."
Rin was still sticking his tongue out after the man when his brother, Yukio, slunk into the dining area off the kitchen, almost dragging his schoolbag behind him.
'It did break the skin,' Yukio thought, eyeing the angry gash on his left arm. He tugged his sleeve back down. There was a first aid kit just outside the kitchen. If he was quick and quiet, he should be able to grab it and get to the bathroom to treat himself before his brother noticed he was home.
He should have been quick on the mission. He was nine and an Exwire now, and hobgoblins were minor demons if you only kept your head. Cursing the fear that had frozen him for that crucial instant, he turned the corner.
And, was met by his brother's wide smile.
"Brother…." Yukio forced himself to smile back. "I'm home."
"How was your after school thing?" Rin couldn't remember the name of the program Yukio had been accepted into, but it was something for "exceptional" students. Smart kids like Yukio. It made Rin glad he wasn't one of the smart kids. Who wanted more school?
"It was good," Yukio answered. "I'm just tired."
"Well, I'm gonna make dinner soon, so don't worry," said Rin confidently.
Except, even as he said it, he realized that Yukio didn't look "tired". He looked like he might fall over any minute. And, was that dirt on his cheek? Yukio never got dirty. Not on his own.
Absently rubbing his injured arm, Yukio caught the sudden frown out of the corner of his eye and froze. "Brother?"
Rin's frown twisted into a scowl. "What happened?"
Yukio forced down a surge of nerves and let his hand fall away from his arm. "Nothing happened."
Nothing he could tell Rin about. Rin couldn't know about his training as an exorcist. He had promised Father. But, Rin was suddenly in his face, blue eyes searching.
"You're covered in bruises!" Rin yelped, getting a closer look. "Did someone beat you up?"
Yukio's eyes widened. "I..." He fumbled for an excuse. Anything to get Rin out of Vengeful Older Brother Mode. Last time had ended in bloody noses and black eyes. And, Rin considered that a calm response. "No! I slipped and—" Rin was crossing his arms. "Really!"
Rin glared at him. "Do I have to take you to confession?"
Yukio nearly fell over. "What?" He took a step back because his brother almost looked like he was considering it. "No!"
"Then tell me what happened!" Rin insisted.
"I..." Yukio wavered. He had never had to lie like this before. Not when his exorcist studies were only bookwork and demonstrations. It had been easy then. Not a complete lie then. He was attending special, extra classes. But, this was different. And, caught between exhaustion, the terror that he would give away the secret Father had trusted him to keep, and sudden guilt, words simply wouldn't come.
At Yukio's silence, Rin's scowl deepened. Then, he threw his head back, bellowing, "DAAAAAD!"
As though he had sensed the brewing storm, their adoptive father was already coming through the doorway behind them. "Oi, oi. No need to yell." Father Fujimoto waved placating hands. "Now, what's this?"
Rin whipped around to face him, hands already balled into fists. "Yukio got beat up, and he won't tell me who did it so I can track them down and kick their butts!"
Fujimoto took a minute to process Rin's rapid fire explanation. Then, he looked past Rin and met Yukio's desperate gaze.
"Father, I−" Yukio started.
Fujimoto gave him a knowing smile before moving to rest his hands on Rin's shoulders. "First," he began sternly, "you do not track people down and kick their butts." He continued as Rin opened his mouth to protest. "Second, I was visiting at the school when it happened, and they have already had their butts kicked. Properly."
Yukio gawked at his father's careful wording, a deft mix of truth and things unsaid. The elder exorcist had overseen the mission, and he was the one to exorcise the hobgoblin that had dodged Yukio's wild shot.
Rin's eyes were just as wide, though it was an entirely different brand of admiration. "You mean you kicked their butts?" he blurted. "How big were they?"
"I do not beat people up," said Fujimoto firmly. Well, he hadn't beaten up anyone human in, oh, years now. "I properly chastised them." With his shotgun, but that was beside the point. The point was that his words had the desired effect, and Rin looked like he was calming down.
"Oh," the elder twin managed quietly, finally lowering raised fists.
Behind him, Yukio breathed a deep sigh of relief.
For his part, Fujimoto just smiled and ruffled Rin's hair. "Yukio will be fine," he said. "Most of the other students are a lot older than him, but he's keeping up."
Yukio ducked his head at the praise.
Rin chewed his lip for a minute but finally nodded. "Okay." He turned back to Yukio. "But, if anything happens, you tell me!" he demanded. "Promise?"
Yukio froze. That wasn't a promise he dared make. He could never keep it. But, if he didn't promise, Rin would want to know why, demand to know why, and—
Once again, he was saved by their father, who was suddenly at his side gently shoving up his left sleeve.
"Mmmm." Fujimoto glanced back at Rin. "Rin, could you please do me a favor and get some rubbing alcohol and cotton?" he asked, gesturing not toward the first aid kit but the door leading out of the kitchen. His tone deepened then, quietly scolding. "I think your brother might have a scratch he didn't tell me about."
Rin nodded quickly. "Okay!"
And, he was gone, pelting down the hall off the kitchen.
As soon as Rin left, Yukio looked down at his shoes, miserably unable to meet his father's eyes.
"I didn't know it broke the skin," he mumbled. He knew how dangerous demonic injuries could be and that he should have reported even the claw graze on his arm.
But, that wasn't what had everything inside him cold and fluttery. He didn't want to lie to Rin. He was training as an exorcist to protect Rin. But, that meant protecting Rin from himself too, from the demon heritage Rin didn't, couldn't know about. He knew that. He did. But, it still hurt.
And, his father's arms were suddenly around him, drawing him close.
"I know," Fujimoto whispered in his ear. "I know it's hard."
"Are you sure we can't tell Brother?" Yukio whispered back. "Even… just about the demons?"
But, even as he said it, he already knew the answer. If Rin knew about the exorcists' world, it would be impossible to keep him out of it. Not all of Father's scolding or promises of punishment would keep him at home when he knew his father and brother were out there fighting.
"Not yet." And, Fujimoto filled the words with promise. Someday. "It bothers me too. But, for now, this is the only way to protect him."
Silent, Yukio nodded against him.
Gently, Fujimoto pulled away to smile at him. "And, you did fine today. You'll get the hang of it eventually." He thumped Yukio's nose lightly. "Provided you report any injury immediately."
Before he could say more, there was a pounding in the hallway, and Rin skidded back into the room. He shoved the requested items at their father before turning to Yukio with a huge smile.
"I know what I'll make for dinner tonight!" he declared.
Yukio looked at him blankly, still processing the last few minutes.
"Oh?" Fujimoto asked as he began sorting out the medical supplies.
"I'm making sukiyaki!" Rin announced. "That way Yukio can feel better too!"
Yukio took a few seconds to process that. Already limited to celebrations, sukiyaki was especially rare at the abbey with their limited budget.
"But, I'm fine," he said. "You should save that for something special."
"This is special," Rin insisted. "We're making you all better." Beaming, he darted into the kitchen and began banging his way through the cupboards.
Yukio watched him with startled eyes as Fujimoto gently treated his scratch.
Finishing, their father gave Yukio a gentle push. "Why don't we help Rin?"
Yukio nodded and hurried into the kitchen after his brother. Then, he paused, watching Rin dig in the refrigerator for the necessary ingredients.
"Brother…" He bit his lip and steeled his resolve. "I promise."
Rin looked over his shoulder in confusion, apparently having forgotten the earlier conversation.
Yukio continued anyway. He couldn't forget.
"If anything happens to me and telling you won't get you in trouble, then… then I'll tell you about it."
"Huh?" Rin frowned. "What does that mean? How could you get in trouble for telling me?" His eyes widened, and he spun around. "Would they beat you up for telling? If they try, I'll—" He raised the leek he had just taken from the refrigerator menacingly.
"That's what it means!" Yukio yelled back, surprising even himself with the force of it. "You always want to go beat someone up. And then, you get in trouble… or worse, hurt." He glared at Rin. "So, I'll only tell you when you learn to behave."
For a minute, he thought Rin would protest. His brother's mouth was set in that familiar, stubborn frown. But then, it suddenly curled up in a wide smile.
"Then, it's a promise," Rin said. "If I won't get in trouble, you'll tell me everything."
Yukio nodded firmly. It was a promise.
Someday. Someday, he would tell Rin everything.