Title: Silk Threads
Summary: Once upon a time, there lived a boy without the ability to feel with his fingertips. (Kisses and blindness; MidoTaka)
Disclaimer: Midorima owns Takao but everyone can claim ownership to Midorima.
A/N: Thanks to Catherine for the help!
Once upon a time, there lived a boy without the ability to feel with his fingertips.
The doctors of his tribe could not explain the weakness of his fingers. He was born a healthy boy but his fingers shook ever so slightly at every touch, like the dandelions that bow their heads for the wind to pass. He held everything with so delicate a touch that it was hard to know exactly which was more fragile, his fingers or the things he held. It was a harmless defect in his birth and yet people talked because people love to talk, to ruin and to hurt. At five, he still held his chopsticks with difficulty. He has broken more plates than his mum could afford to replace. The kids of their tribe refused to play with him, taunting him and his lack of ability to pass properly the ball they threw around like fools. He was a wreck, alone and unwanted except by his mother who took care of him on her own. Nobody thought to comfort him; what they did was voice out their speculations, as if this was enough to heal him. Some blamed the way the stars were aligned the night he was born. The water elements crashed in torrents, conflicting with the earth and the air until it pained and eventually numbed him. The science men blamed his ancestors and the genetic material they passed down to him. They argued it was in the blood, they shouted it was in the stars, but the spiteful, the condescending and jealous, they talked about his mother. She was a proud woman, but not unkind. What others refused to acknowledge, however, they will never see. They said it was her fault, that she was violent and had hit the poor child to numbness. Everyone agreed; the science men said she had been the vessel for the genes, after all, the occultists claimed it was truly odd that she had both the earth and air elements in her. They talked and talked and talked. They compromised the ground they stood on just to match the blame with her qualities. She tried not to listen, she isolated herself, but people often become what society dictates them to be. On the brink of despair, she grabbed a knife and blinded her own son. With the same knife stained with her son's blood, she cut her own throat, tears streaming down her face and a repeated apology in her lips.
The wolves howled and the air grew cold.
Nothing remained of that night except a dead woman and a blind boy.
The Takao family were travelers. They never stayed in a place for more than a year, but the father was getting old. He wanted to settle down in a village that could support his wife and son. He had experience in farming, fishing and other crafts owing to his vast travels. For three months they walked in search of a place to stay until they came across a tribe that had no name; and though it was far from other civilizations, the people provided for themselves sufficiently. The father lost no time in talking with the chief of the tribe and, being a good speaker, they were welcomed with a feast and everyone danced and ate and enjoyed their company, especially that of the young son who, on his first day, had completely wooed the ladies in with his innate happy disposition. The young people, the son being the center, formed their own group, away from the adults who talked of boring business. They shared stories and laughed merrily, the flame of the campfire illuminating their faces. The guys showed off, the girls giggled and tried to look interested and aloof at the same time. But youth is fickle and they soon grew restless, wanting new entertainment, so that when someone (it was hard to recall now who) suggested that they play hide-and-seek, a common game for flirtation in their tribe, everybody was enthusiastic.
"Kazunari-kun should be It because he's new."
The newcomer smiled and, not one to back down, accepted the challenge.
Kazunari looked back on the events that led to him being lost and silently cursed himself. It seemed like a good idea at that time but, being new to the place, he was soon lost.
'I can't hear the sounds of the feast anymore...'
Ahead of him lay the forest which the young people had warned him not to go to with stories of wild beasts and unexplainable noises. The young man looked around while thinking of his next course of action. East of where he stood was a small dilapidated hut. It looked uninhabited but the sound of a fallen plate convinced the lost traveler that there might be someone there who could help him. He drew closer to the house, curious as to what kind of person would choose to stay alone in his house instead of joining the festivities. The wooden floors creaked as he stepped inside and a panicked voice demanded:
"Who is there?"
Kazunari stopped on his tracks. He had expected an old man but the voice was definitely that of a young person. His confidence wavered and he grew embarrassed of stepping inside without first introducing himself.
"I-I'm sorry for barging in unannounced. I-"
"What do you want?" the voice grew hostile but there was fear in it and somehow, Kazunari knew that someone so afraid couldn't possibly hurt him.
"I'm sorry but may I ask for directions?"
"I can't help you."
Kazunari was at loss for words. He knew it was wrong to invade someone's privacy but the cautiousness with which he was greeted was more than what was necessary. His thoughts raced as he made guesses of what the fear in the unknown young man could mean. The traveler in him felt the usual rush of curiosity and excitement combined.
"Are you gone?"
It was a mumbled question. The floor creaked under the owner's weight as he took a step forward, but the sound was slow and deliberate, as if the owner was making his way as slowly as possible. Shadows cast the house in darkness but directly beneath the window, the light of the sunset streamed through. Kazunari waited with held breath as the owner of the voice drew closer and closer until he was standing directly against the sunlight. The man was tall, with hair like grass. He had bruises all over and what looked like a permanent scar over his eye. The kimono he wore was a few inches short, dirty and their color long faded. Kazunari felt unsettled. The owner was facing him but it still felt like he was looking right through him.
"Are you gone?"
'He can't see...'
Kazunari's eyes widened. Silence wrapped itself around his neck and made itself comfortable. He could not speak even if he tried. There was nothing that he could say.
"I can still feel you. I have been blind long enough to know when someone is around or not. Please, leave me alone. Leave me alone...I have done nothing wrong." the guy was on the verge of tears, his voice cracked from the effort of controlling his tears. He sounded afraid and Kazunari felt his heart ache.
"I'm not going to hurt you, I promise. A-are you okay? You're bruised..."
Kazunari approached him with the slowness of a tiger approaching his prey. But the man was no prey. He was a wild animal and Kazunari sought to tame him. He took a step forward and paused when the guy grew anxious. It was slow but finally, he was face to face with the young man and saw, upon closer inspection, that the wounds and bruises were new or at least a week old. He looked weaker and more fragile up-close so that Kazunari had to handle him as gently as he would handle porcelain. He made the man sit down and prepared, as best as he can, the first-aid he knew for cuts and bruises.
"Who did this to you, may I ask?" Kazunari asked as he dabbed a shoulder wound with water and crushed moringa leaves.
"What's your name?"
The young man inhaled softly, hesitant and on-guard. Just when Kazunari lost hope of a reply, however, he whispered, "Midorima Shintarou"
"Midorima-san..." Kazunari tested the name on his tongue and found out that he liked the sound of it. He smiled and said, "I'm Takao Kazunari. We just came to this village. The people are very warm here."
Midorima was silent again. Minutes passed in silence as Kazunari worked and Midorima deliberated whether to trust the stranger or not. Finally, he broke the silence that he himself allowed to grow with a whispered name,
"What was that?"
"Please call me Shintarou. Midorima is my family name. I have no family."
Kazunari smiled to himself. It was lonely, the way Shintarou's voice dropped, but it was something that Kazunari felt was for him alone and it made him happy to have gained the trust of so guarded a man. Shintarou was a silent patient, wincing only when the pain was too much but even then trying to conceal it. When Kazunari declared that he was done, Shintarou made a request.
"Kazunari-san...may I call you that? (here Kazunari nodded happily) Kazunari-san...may I feel your face? I am blind and I want to know the face of such a kind stranger."
"Don't call me a stranger."
Kazunari nodded and sat straight. He waited for Shintarou to raise his hand but what Shintarou did instead was bring his face closer to Kazunari's face. The latter was frozen. He had not expected this but at the same time he could not protest. He did not want to break Shintarou's heart or add to the bruises on his body. Shintarou grazed his lips through Kazunari's face, he traced his savior's features with his pale lips. Reaching Kazunari's eyelids, the once-predator-now-turned-prey felt Shintarou smile. He wondered what it was in his eyes that had made the sad young man smile so warmly. He imagined him seeing visions of mountains and rivers, all the places that Kazunari had been to in his family's travels. The blind man moved on to his nose and to his cheeks. He brushed his ears with his lips and inhaled the scent of his black hair. He moved with such slowness that Kazunari felt this must be a sacred ritual. He felt like a god, an idol clad in gold and jewels. Their lips brushed and time stopped.
"Warm..." Shintarou whispered without moving an inch away from Kazunari. He could smell the man's breath, could see clearly his eyes that were dead but still so beautiful it was almost heartbreaking. Kazunari wondered, who could possibly hurt this man? Has humanity gone so senile that it would purposely break an emerald into a thousand pieces?
"Why do you do that?"
"Kiss me, my eyelids, my nose and my cheeks."
"Do you not like it?"
"I don't dislike it but why?"
"My fingers are dead."
Kazunari looked down and saw that Shintarou's fingers were shaking slightly. He held them close to his face and felt they were cold.
"You can't feel this?"
Faint shouts could be heard and Shintarou drew back his hand. He shook violently once again, as afraid as he was the first time Kazunari saw him. Kazunari's name was being shouted all over and they both knew it was time to go, that it was the end of their brief meeting and that they would never see each other again.
"I need to go."
"Will you be alone here? The whole time?"
"I'll visit you."
Kazunari grew silent. Realization hit him and he knew instinctively that it was the same people he shared his company with and will share his whole life with that did this to Shintarou. To choose one would be to give up the other. He could not give up life for Shintarou. He had a family and a father who needs him. He could not abandon them, not even for Shintarou. He could not give up that much. He hated himself for being a coward but he could not turn his back on society. He has always been around them and he loved people. They were spiteful, especially against those different from them, but they had their own beauty, too. He could not give them up. It pained him and the narrowness of the world broke him.
"You will not forget me?"
"I can never forget."
A/N: boy, was that long...