You don't know what is love, when you don't know what is pain...
Three Kinds of Love
From Usami Akihiko's seat inside his car, he could already see the form of the eighteen year-old teen he would be driving to school. His lavender eyes, as much as the total bright skies and clear weather that day, were clouded with repulsion.
"For how long?" he asked as he gritted his teeth. "How long am I going to do this?"
Jogging towards the red sports car, the teen waived a shy one towards Usami's direction. The older man pressed a button on his side and the window pulled down.
"I'm sorry Usagi-san! Did I make you wait?" came the apologetic and worried tone of this green-eyed teen, sparkling together with the morning light.
To Usami Akihiko's surprise, his thin lips curled up into a smile. He was so surprised because he wasn't feeling like smiling at all. Thanks to the forced smiling he had to do during parties in his publishing company, his facial muscles had learned to pull up a fake one whenever he needed to.
"I did wait, but that's because I was too early," Usami replied, with that dashing, yet empty smile. "Hop in."
Takahashi Misaki just stood there for a while, eyeing the silverhaired man. When Usami blinked questioningly, the teen grinned and ran towards the passenger seat.
"You know Usagi-san...I saw a bunch of Usagi-san's being sold at a shop near Udagawachou..." Misaki started as he made himself comfortable. "They're all cheap and cute!"
"Eh..." Usami nodded, pretending to listen.
Misaki grabbed the seat-belt and started fumbling into it. "I think I'll go buy something for the fruitcake I'm going to make, you said last time you like it right?"
"And also...you know what..." the kid continued to blabber, his face animated, his voice energetic. But slowly, this kid's voice started fading away in Usami Akihiko's ears. Fading it did, until the older man was already lost in his own thoughts. Misaki's voice, as just a distant background.
Usami looked up at the window located at the second floor of the house Misaki came from. There he saw Takahashi Takahiro, Misaki's older brother standing. The man, despite that distance, his lips were in an obvious apologetic smile. Takahiro raised a hand and he lowered it down again. And then, just like the clouds, fluidly vanished from Usami Akihiko's sight.
"For how long..." the question that Usami's mind wouldn't let go rattled his brain. He pressed on the accelerator, heading to Misaki's high school. "For how long...Takahiro?"
"Usagi...go out with my brother will you?"
They were at Usami Akihiko's place that night, four months ago. Usami, a famous novelist despite him never meeting his deadlines was currently busy typing away. Takahiro had been calling him for many times but the man just couldn't let go when the ideas were already overflowing. He had to type them before they disappear into thin air.
However, hearing that, the novelist's long fingered hands froze on top of his keyboard and glanced behind him. Towards the bed where Takahashi Takahiro was seated by the edge, half naked.
"Huh?" Usami asked, brows furrowed.
Takahiro reached for his eyeglasses on the side-table and put it on. As soon as he placed those glasses, it felt like a barrier has been made and that Takahiro was really being serious.
"Just a favor...for me...and for my brother..."
Usami turned around using the swivel chair, his look, the kind those totally clueless made. He narrowed his eyes and it was his turn to remove his glasses.
"What are you saying?" Usami questioned, placing his eyeglass on top of a hardbound book.
"I think...my brother...might like you," Takahiro replied, darting his eyes somewhere else. "I saw him keeping a photo of you in one of his books..."
Usami smiled mockingly. "So?"
"So?" Takahiro repeated, sounding lost himself. "So...ask him out."
"Ha?" Usami stood and walked towards where Takahiro was. He sat abruptly, sending the bed creak a little. "I can't follow you. What's wrong?"
Takahiro turned to the lavender orbs looking intently at him. He didn't want to, truthfully, but what choice did he have? He had to. As an older brother.
"Hey...don't sulk like that..." Usami cooed, brushing his lover's hair away, brushing his thumb to Takahiro's cheek. "I just have to finish this..."
"No...it's not that..."
Usami knitted his brows even further. "Then what?"
The two had been classmates in high school. Best friends, that was what they were. However, reaching adulthood, they had come to realize the difference of friendship and of that romantic feelings towards one another. Having come to terms wasn't that easy but they made it.
They were able to accept the 'them' that most people wouldn't agree upon. They had even agreed that they'd tell Misaki about it, they were just waiting for the right time. So what Takahiro was asking Usami was making a total nonsense.
"You know about Misaki right? He's got hereditary heart problems...and he's already doing so great..."
Usami pulled his hand away with an annoyed look. "I know that. And so?"
"If we come out and tell him about us...he'd be very hurt..."
The novelist laughed a forceful laugh as he annoyingly ruffled his soft locks. "What the fuck? Look, having my picture in one of his books doesn't mean he likes me okay? And so what, you're telling me you're fine with him going astray?"
"I can tell. I can really tell...I'm his brother after all, same blood, same flesh..." Takahiro smiled faintly. "Besides...I am not a very good example anyway right? I don't care anymore about how he'd be 'different' from the path I wanted him to take, his health is what's important for me..."
"What the hell, Takahiro, you're pushing me to your little brother?"
"Usagi...you've been by my side every time I wait for him to wake up after rushing him to the hospital..." Takahiro mumbled closed to whispering. "When he felt so depressed, so sad, or too excited, his heart would just stop...I don't want to lose my brother..."
Usami stood and went to the middle of the room. He had his eyes at the floor the entire time. And like piercing arrows darted to the other male.
"Takahiro...this is bullshit you're asking me!"
Burying his face to his palms, Takahiro made a very deep sigh like he just gave up on something important. "Usagi...we're both very healthy...but Misaki...Misaki...who knows when-"
"What? Should I act like his fucking lover until he dies?"
"USAGI!" Takahiro shouted, shaking at the term 'dies'.
Sighing himself, Usami raised a hand, massaging his suddenly pounding temples. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said that..."
"Usagi...he's the only family I've got," Takahiro whispered in between his fingers. "Asking you to go out with him must be really an idiotic idea...but please...let us not tell anything to him about us yet...and be nicer to him...that's all I'm asking for now..."
Usagi and Takahiro ignored the ringing on the home phone coming from the living room. They just both took in the silence that came after the shrilly ringing sound.
The thickness of the atmosphere made Usami wanting to hit something. But throwing a glance at the most important person to him, he, with all his might, buried the annoyance and added more blocks of patience.
"Alright," the author finally broke the silence. "We don't have to tell him anything yet. And I'll be nicer..."
Usami walked towards the bed and rested a hand on Takahiro's bare shoulder, silently assuring his partner.
"Usagi...Misaki still doesn't know that you know his condition. He believes he's done great not letting others know about him being sick. So please...don't bring the subject up...okay?"
That time, Usami could just sigh. His lover had already sacrificed going to his dream university just so he could watch over his sickly, little brother. Now this very same little brother was becoming a burden into Takahiro's personal life as well.
Takahiro and him was going just fine with their relationship. Now they had to consider Misaki? Truthfully, Usami was mad. Mad and annoyed because everything sounded unfair. Unfair to Takahiro who's done nothing but place Misaki his number one priority. And unfair even to him, having to act 'nice' when he didn't even feel an ounce of liking to his lover's brother.
Takahiro watched his younger brother Misaki patiently look into his english cards in preparation for his entrance exams to Mitsuhashi. The man smiled inwardly at the vigor he could see at his brother's young eyes.
"Dr. Itsugaya at Room 457 please...Dr. Itsugaya..."
The two of them were occupying a lengthy sofa outside the office of Misaki's doctor ever since he was little. So while the doctor was still doing a consultation with his other patient, Misaki and Takahiro chose to wait outside.
"You sure are working hard, Misaki," Takahiro suddenly commented, smiling a proud brotherly smile at his younger brother. "Rest a bit..."
The boy grinned and scratched the tip of his nose, the green of his eyes, contrasting the bright, white walls of the hospital.
"Nii-chan, I'm not a kid anymore. Besides, the entrance exam is my own war. I have to prepare for it!"
Takahiro clasped his hands on his lap and looked up the white ceiling.
"Misaki...how are things with Usagi going?"
"Eh?" Misaki sounded surprised. As though he found himself in a tight spot, he forced a laugh. "Well...he doesn't annoy me anymore as much as he did before..."
Two nurses passed before them, bowing slightly with a warm smile. Misaki waited before the two of them were already of good distance before continuing.
"He doesn't point how stupid I am anymore...and honestly..." Misaki unconsciously started shuffling his vocabulary cards. "He's really a better teacher compared to the one's I got at school. He's still arrogant sometimes but I...he's really kind..."
Takahiro glanced at his younger brother and smiled. "Right? I told you..."
Misaki suddenly started laughing which surprised his older brother. "I thought it was creepy he suddenly apologized about his animosity before...hehe...but I'm glad we're getting along fine now."
The kid suddenly leaned closer to his brother, face so close, like how he always did when something was bothering him.
"What...what would you do if..."
"Huh?" Takahiro broke in cold sweat. "I'll...I'll just check inside if your doctor is soon to finish okay?" Takahiro straightened up, rushing towards the door without looking back. "He's taking a bit long and you're getting bored right?"
Misaki stared for a few seconds, as if reading something plastered on his brother's back and then nodded. As soon as Takahiro disappeared behind the doors, Misaki lifted his gaze back at the closed door, mouth half-open and looking so troubled.
As what Usami was expecting, the small flat was empty. He knew the brothers would be at the hospital for a regular check-up. It was just that, if he didn't release all these pent up anger and annoyance, he might just explode and do something he'd regret in the end.
He let the flat in utter darkness. Having his eyes adjusted to it, he just sat on the chair with a couple of beer cans, looking at the picture frames on the wall. Pictures of Takahiro and him together. Pictures of birthdays, pictures of outings. And though Usami just noticed, who did take all those photos of him and Takahiro? Misaki.
Usami found it funny. For as long as he had been with Takahiro was the same as he had been with the younger brother. He just couldn't care less.
"I knew you'd be here."
Opening his eyes, he closed them once more, the sudden bright lights hurt his eyes, piercing up to the back of his brain. Usami massaged his a bit red eyes, not expecting he'd doze off.
Usami looked behind Takahiro and knitted his brows. "Misaki?"
"He ran into a middle school friend..." Takahiro replied, heading to the kitchen for a glass of water.
The silverhaired man followed and rested his back against the door frame, eyeing his lover's back heavily.
"We're just in the middle of summer but he's already hyped up in studying for the entrance exams in January..." Takahiro brought up with a hint of pride. "He says you're a great teacher..."
"You know, Usagi...Misaki's checkup shows he's doing better and better. Attacks are getting rare and he's more energetic," Takahiro started, closing the fridge, holding a glass half-filled with water. "Even his doctor said it's quite a miracle."
"I see. He's getting better," Usami mumbled, colder than the water Takahiro was drinking.
With a curious glance, Takahiro turned on his heel, his hand holding out to the edge of the small, clean counter top.
"Yeah. If this continues, Misaki would be able to go to college without so much worrying about his condition."
Usami smiled wryly. "Yeah, if this continues, he's going to get better...while this relationship is turning for the worse."
"Takahiro. I'm tired of this."
"If you don't tell him about us, then I will be the one to tell him. I could still be nice and all to him as your partner. Don't you think, if he really likes me, this what we are doing is just leading him on, and in the end, will be crueler? Not all your good intentions would be for the better."
"Usagi! Not now..."
"Then when? After he graduates college? After he gets heart transplant or something?"
"He's still a kid...and if he..."
"I'm sick of pretending in front of your brother Takahiro!"
Takahiro sighed and raised a hand, stopping anymore words coming from Usami's mouth.
"Let's not talk about this here. Misaki's just out the street what if he goes home and hears?" Takahiro turned towards the stove and placed an empty pan.
"The baby brother again..." Usami stomped out the kitchen, out the living room, out the Takahashi residence. Hands inside his pocket, he walked away, catching on some breeze to cool his head down.
The sun had only the remaining purplish hints in the sky. The atmosphere though was still humid, instead of getting a cool down, it just made Usami more irritated. He walked round the neighborhood and stopped at the line of first graders running home, seeing who's the fastest. Their giddy and innocent laughter sounded foreign.
Just as he decided to go back, he stopped on his tracks, staring at the face he wished he didn't have to see so sooner.
"Usagi-san? What are you doing around here?" Misaki asked, carrying a stuffed paper bag. "Oh...you'll be having dinner with us? Uwah...it's been a while since you ate at our place!"
The man just looked to the side and continued walking. The kid, not being invited, still decided to tag along.
"We'll be having Nabe tonight..."
"Nabe?" Usami repeated, throwing a glance at the bouncy teen beside him.
Misaki grinned and hugged the paper bag closer to his chest. "Although we're currently in the summer...I miss Nabe's taste...so he suggested, he'd make Nabe tonight!"
The steep hill ahead annoyed Usami. The very fact that it was already dark annoyed him. And what he was hearing annoyed him even greater.
"Nabe in this kind of heat?" Usami spat. "Don't you know Takahiro is already busy and still has to accompany you today and now you request with something so out of season and complicated?"
Before Usami could stop, he already had blurted what was on his mind.
"..." Misaki's steps grew slower than they had been earlier. The distance between Usami and him turned into a wide gap.
"Tsk," Usami ruffled the back of his head and walked ahead of Misaki. He didn't know how to take it back and he wasn't planning to. It was high time the little brother realize that most of the time, he was just getting in the way.
Usami reached the Takahashi's residence in no time. He had been too absorbed with thinking so many things that when he turned his back, remembering that Misaki was walking behind him just a while earlier, he realized he was alone.
He looked to his left and right. But there wasn't anyone. Not even a shadow.
The man opened the door which was left unlocked and right away heard Takahiro's voice in a conversation. He walked silently as he listened.
"Why? You were pretty excited about it earlier..."
Usami sat on the sofa, closing his eyes. He felt tired all of a sudden.
"Okay...take care and don't stay out too late. Do you want me to go pick you up?"
The sound of Takahiro's pacing was loud enough for Usami to hear. One lavender eye opened, sensing Takahiro's presense. The darkhaired man looked troubled as he looked at Usami's weary form.
"Okay...give me a call," Takahiro sighed and inserted his phone back in his pocket. He then sat beside Usami. "Misaki says his middle school friend offered him to have dinner at their place. It's kinda weird, since Misaki told me you probably would come today and mentioned you were craving for Nabe..."
"Huh?" Takahiro blinked.
Takahiro sighed and continued. "I wonder what changed his mind. Misaki was so excited to help me prepare it...he said you wanted to have it too. Anyway...what do you want to eat?"
Usami frowned. He was annoyed how it seemed like now it was his fault. Usami hated that Misaki seemed to have this great talent at making him feel guilty, though he really think he wasn't at fault. "I'm not hungry."
Takahiro looked surprised when the man beside him suddenly stood while irritably scratching the side of his neck. Sweat from his previous walk still lingered.
"I'll go buy something for us to eat. You're tired right? What do you want?"
"Ah..." Takahiro smiled weakly. "Anything..."
Knowing the 24-hour Ramen shop nearby, Usami started walking in slow strides. He didn't want to acknowledge it but his real priority was to find the stupid little brother of Takahiro. Because he knew the thing about dinner with the middle school friend was just a whole fat lie.
"What is he expecting me to do, that fucking idiot?" Usami hissed, looking ahead at the playground. "So now the reason for that Nabe was me?" Thinking back, he had mentioned that during their drive to school that Nabe sounds good even in summer. He said that without thinking. Just so he could reply to Misaki's question of what he wanted. "...The hell..."
Like how Usami was expecting, the person he was looking for was in the park alone. Sitting on a swing, rocking it softly while looking at the thin clouds of the evening sky. Usami could have no other word to think but 'cliched'.
The kid had his back on him, Usami was even ready dragging the kid back home when a smaller kid dashed towards Misaki. The little boy looked about eight. With his small hands he carried two sandwiches probably from the convenience store at the other block.
Usami halted on his movements, not intentionally hiding behind a tree but ended up doing anyway.
"Misaki, shouldn't you be home by now?" the little boy scolded, as if he was the older one. "You shouldn't stay late outside you know?"
Misaki laughed. "Oi, if there is someone who shouldn't be out at this time, it's you twerp."
The little boy scowled and sat at the other swing. His feet a few inches from the ground that Misaki almost wanted to tease the boy since he looked so cute.
"You always study everywhere, not playing..." the kid mumbled, mouth still full of his own sandwich. "Doing part time job...you're not a superhero you know?"
Misaki turned at the kid with a surprised look. He almost fell from where he was. "Ha? P-part time...how did you know about that?!"
The kid pointed at Misaki's nose. "I saw you! You were in the theme-park in a doggy costume right?"
"Uwah..." Misaki seemed to have finally gathered his composure back and bit a small one from his sandwich. "Keep it a secret or I'll scald you alive."
"But Mi-sa-ki!" the little boy seemed to not think of Misaki as a brother, he wouldn't call the teen 'nii-chan' even if it killed him. "Takahiro-nii told me you can't be too tired, that's why he even asked me not to play with you too much...you don't seem to need money anyway. Takahiro-nii and that arrogant tall guy seem to be loaded."
"Hah...kids these days..." Misaki sighed and patted the little boy on the head once. The little boy seemed not at all amused he slapped Misaki's hand away. Misaki pouted. "Don't be so embarassed now Keita, I used to change your diapers!"
"Shut up!" the boy grumbled, sulking. "You should listen to Takahiro-nii, you don't look too strong to me either."
From where Usami was standing, the man could see Misaki's profile as the teen gazed at the little boy. From that distance, Misaki was indeed thin for his age.
"I have to work hard to catch up you know..."
"Catch up?" Keita asked. "Catch up with what?"
"Hmmm..." Misaki took the paper bag from the ground and placed it on his lap. "'If the star you're trying to reach is so up high, become a star yourself'. Ever heard of that?"
"Huh? What?" Keita asked, putting the remaining of his sandwich all inside his mouth. "You wanted to die?"
Misaki frowned. "How did you end up with that?!"
"Well, dead people become a star right? My Dad is also a star...look..." the boy pointed at the sky. Towards the brightest one. "Mama said that's Dad."
Misaki looked up for a short while. The kid was pointing at Venus, shining proudly and brighter than the rest. But Misaki didn't want to shatter the kid's belief so he just smiled.
"What I mean is, I want to be able to do things on my own. See...my brother and his b-bestfriend are all capable people. I always get in their way. I know it without them telling me. If I was a bit stronger, Nii-chan would be able to choose all the things he wanted to do. And well...this person I look up to, I don't want him to think I am just a burden. So...I wanted to work hard and support myself as soon as I can. Be of equal standing. Then they can be free."
Keita jumped off from his swing and stood before boy's huge black eyes were observing but he didn't say anything.
"Maybe...I'll become a star soon too...like your dad..." Misaki mumbled. "It gets tiring too you know? But that's after I accomplished something."
The boy scratched his head, looking angry. "What's wrong with you? You talk sad things all of a sudden!"
"Sorry," Misaki apologized. "I got a little emotional. I got brushed off again you see...hehehe..."
"Don't talk like that again! I'll get angry!" Keita patted his small chest. "I'll help you tomorrow after school!"
"Shut-up! I'll take Takahiro-nii's place!"
Misaki stood from his swing and pinched the boy's nose without warning. "Just do your homework, twerp."
When the two started heading their own ways, Usami instead of following his real business, followed the little kid instead.
He produced an annoyed sound. Mostly because of the heat, and the seemingly deafening noise around him. The combination of indistinct and excited voices, plus the music, plus the theme park's employees combined into a one buzz that made Usami Akihiko's head ache. Everything that didn't make sense in his ear was just plain noise.
"How can they put up with this...?" Usami whispered, severely annoyed that even the way he had to walk on was cramped with couples, family, friends and children.
As he kept his unwanted visit to that theme-park, the heat was blazing above his head. He had this sudden urge to take off everything he was wearing but of course, rationality ruling out, he settled with himself undoing a couple of buttons from his shirt.
Stalls of ice-creams, games, photo booths, colorful and lively didn't really catch even an ounce of the man's attention. He was focused at that one part of the theme park where a silly looking dog mascot was standing, selling cheap paper and plastic masks.
"In this heat, he'd suffocate inside that thing. That idiot..."
Going against the flow of people, Usami stood before the makeshift hanger where tens of different masks were displayed.
The mascot busy looking the other way, Usami took one red mask he could remember coming from an anime. "Daimos or something huh?"
"Oi, how much is this?"
"Ah! Konnichi wa that is-" the dog mascot seemed to have bit its own tongue. Usami could already imagine Misaki's face inside. "...500 yen Sir..."
Usami merely looked at the mascot and as if bored, wore the mask. His face suddenly hidden by that childish mask made the mascot seemed more relax.
Giving Misaki a bigger bill, the doggy mascot seemed to have a problem counting for the change. Hesitantly, the mascot extended his paw towards Usami. And Usami slapped the paw away and instead leaned on the mascot's shoulder.
"Takahiro would be frantic if he knew about this little job you're having here..."
"Eh...I-I don't know what you're talking about..." came the reply of a voice sounding so low.
Usami behind his mask frowned. "Quit this already, you're busted."
"And leave this..." it was hard to see Usami's expression behind the kiddy mask, still, the way his voice sounded, there would be in no way Misaki would be humored. "Leave this, this stupid parttime job. You're just wasting your time."
"Huh? What are you suddenly saying?" the dog mascot replied. If it could show teeth, it probably would have bared its fangs. "Why are you even here?"
"Misaki. Shouldn't you be focusing on your studies?" the man behind the red mask asked. "It's not like your brother can't support you."
The mascot grabbed Usami's hand, forcing the change on the man's hand and started fixing his items in display.
"You don't know what it's like. I enjoy working. Just because I am sick-" Misaki looked hurriedly towards his only customer and then looked back at the masks. "I mean, I want to do new things. So just leave my job alone. I wouldn't skip on our tutorial sessions so there isn't a problem right?"
Usami removed his mask and used it to fan himself. He had this annoyed look on his face that even Misaki couldn't paint.
"I know you're condition so no need to hiding it from me."
"W-what are you talking about?"
"You're sick. Though you're recovering already from heart problems right?"
The boy lost his grip on the yellow green mask he was holding. It was Usami who picked it up, offering it back to Misaki.
"Since when?" Misaki asked softly.
"Is that even important? Working during your recovery, wouldn't that be just a hindrance? Isn't it much better to take one step at a time?"
A balloon vendor passed. An icecream seller passed, pushing his cart loudly. Kids ran, tugged at Misaki's paws and hurriedly flew to the other mascots. Misaki just silently looked at Usami's hand holding out the fallen mask for him.
"You'd have all the time in the world once you're completely recovered."
Misaki took the mask and neatly aligned it with the rest.
"If I said 'no'?"
Usami paused for a moment, wondering. There were so many meanings behind a simple 'no'. 'No I don't want to quit'. 'No I don't have time'. 'No I don't want to listen to you'. So many answers behind a 'no' what could it be?
"I don't care if you're sick or recovering. I'd drag you out of here by your feet. "
The kid smiled inside his mask suddenly as he raised both of his paws in the air.
"Today is my last day anyway. So you don't have to do that, Usagi-san."
Misaki cocked his head, the huge and long ear of the dog mascot dangling on his shoulder. "Just don't tell Nii-chan I did this, please?"
Usami snorted and without answering wore his mask once more.
Just that act he saw, the boy knew Usami would not say anything.
The maple tree leaves around the Takahashi residence seemed to be fiery fire on the sidewalks. Gone were the days of sweltering heat. It was replaced by the cool wind and the colorful change of the trees before it turned to grey for the winter.
Takahashi Takahiro was nothing but happy. His only brother was really set into getting into the university even though a lot had told the kid that he wasn't college material. That hard-work and perseverance added color and life to Misaki's cheeks.
"Misaki?" Takahiro called, gently closing the door behind him. He was carrying a glass of milk and Misaki's prescription drugs. "Drink this first before sleeping."
Turning under the sheets, the green-eyed teen sat while rubbing his eyes. He moaned at the time on the wall-clock and groggily took the glass his older brother was offering.
"I didn't know I fell asleep Nii-chan..."
"It's good to sleep early once in a while. You even sacrificed summer vacation for studying..."
The boy grinned sheepishly as he one by one swallowed the capsules he had been drinking since he was little. The older brother just watched the kid with that nightly routine that Misaki found it a bit strange for some reason.
"What is it Nii-chan?"
"Nothing...it's good that you and Usagi are getting along better now..."
Misaki slowly lay on his brother's lap, closing his eyes.
"Nii-chan...can I sleep like this for a while?"
It's been a while since the brothers did this. Somehow it felt like its been years. Takahiro felt like stroking his brother's hair until the younger one falls asleep.
"The doctor says I'm soon reaching my full recovery right?"
Misaki opened one eye and frowned. "When is that 'full recovery'?"
Takahiro's fingers lay tangled on the boy's soft strands of hair and searched Misaki's face. "Well...soon..."
"Maybe he's just being nice," Misaki mumbled, hugging his brother's waist like they came back to when they were still little kids.
"What are you talking about?" Takahiro asked, staring hard at his brother's head. "Is something the matter?"
"Hmm...Nii-chan...I'm sorry for always getting in your way..."
Though Takahiro wanted to ask more, the next thing he heard was Misaki's light snoring. He kept listening to it until he was sure that moving Misaki properly back on the bed wouldn't wake him. And then paying one last glance at his brother, Takahiro walked out the room, walking to where his lover, Usami Akihiko was sitting, drinking tea as he finished the last paragraphs of his novel running late.
Takahiro sat across the table, the beer he placed on the surface was dripping. It made Usami look up at the man.
"Takahiro..." Usami started, eyeing the beer and Takahiro alternatingly for he knew the man wasn't the kind to drink beer just because he felt like it.
"It's nothing," Takahiro smiled, nodding at Usami's laptop. "How's your end going? Will you be able to meet your deadline?"
Usami typed a few more on his keyboard before shutting it off. "I'm done now. Misaki's so tired from all the studying. He's heaviest subject is still English..."
Takahiro chuckled. "He hates English..."
Quietly, Usami just watched the man across him. He knew Takahiro have something in his mind.
"Time is so fast, isn't it? It felt like yesterday was just so hot and then autumn...it's going to be winter soon..." Takahiro mumbled dreamily drinking his beer in can. "Please look after my brother okay? I'll fly back in the morning of Misaki's exams as soon as the project at Hokkaido is over...really...If I could only decline..."
"We've been in this set-up since your brother's middle school, why act like this?"
Takahiro traced the body of his beer in can with a finger. "Because it's kind of different now..."
"If Misaki gets in Mitsuhashi...a lot of new doors would open up...I'm excited for him," Takahiro continued. "He'd make lots of friends...and though he could be useless sometimes he's a hardworker so many organizations would want him. He'd be busy...and then he'd have the courage to confess and fall in love openly..."
Usami glanced at Misaki's door and then stood. "I'll get myself a can of beer too."
Without saying anything, Takahiro followed the silverhaired man. He gulped his drink as he watched Usami looking into the fridge.
"Usagi...let's break up."
Usami flinched. Leaving the door of the fridge open, his lavender eyes darted at the form standing by the door frame. Takahiro looked like someone defeated.
"Let's end this now...you and I...because I finally realized...this isn't working anymore."
At that point, because it came so suddenly, Usami stood there in the kitchen, with the refrigerator open, feeling nothing. Nothing at all.
They just looked into each other's eyes, searching for something that both of them should still have. They both searched into the deepest they could look into, but it seemed like it wasn't there.
"Usagi...before we became lovers...we were best-friends..." Takahiro mumbled. "There are times...that I have to be the one to tell you so you'd see..."
"Takahiro, what are you trying to say now after everything's going better...like what you wanted?" the other man replied in a hushed voice.
"You just didn't notice it Usagi...the animosity you showed to my brother is just your normal reflex to protect what you believe in." Takahiro walked to Usami, patting the other on the shoulder. "You believe that you love me...when the truth is that's been gone since long ago."
After the silence, to which only the sound of Takahiro's footsteps fading away could be heard, Usami reached for the beer without thinking. He gulped the contents tasting the bitterness in his mouth, feeling the coldness in his throat and the prickly little sensations in his chest.
When you were stuck with a kid who would run to the bathroom or at a room gripping at the sheets, crying silently that their chest hurts and would still want to hide it from you that they have heart problems, wouldn't that make an impression?
When a kid would remove your eye-glasses thinking you've fallen asleep on your work-table, wouldn't that somehow, just for a bit, would make you smile?
Usami had been with Takahiro, with Misaki in tow. If one day one woke up, realizing that his eyes were following the younger brother, instead of his real lover, wasn't it a normal reflex to hate it and fix the problem?
Usami tried to act cold, putting on the barrier. He might have fixed the surface, but beneath was a strong current that even Takahiro, who could be very slow with these kind of things noticed.
When Usami looked at the crampled empty can of beer in his shaking hand, he sighed.
Takahiro was right. The love between them has long been gone.
He pretended he was reading the news paper, when all he was doing was observe Misaki fixing his hair in front of the mirror against the wall.
The living room was quiet and smelling of tea. The cold outside was still biting.
The boy grabbed the checkered scarf on the nearby chair. He carefully wrapped it around his thin neck, tugging here and there.
"Today is the day huh?" Usami thought, flipping to a newspaper page he didn't know about.
Usami could see the boy drawing deep breaths. Perhaps, Misaki was really nervous taking the exams.
"When you can't solve a problem, don't panic..." Usami could remember the advice he had been telling Misaki. The boy was bad with Mathematics that he gets seriously impatient which was why a lot fails in entrance examinations. "Instead, try solving the next one...and when you're done...go back."
"It's easier said than done!" was Misaki grumbling reply. "What if I can't solve the next one? Then the next one...and I still can't solve anything?"
"Why are we stuck in this place if you can't even solve a single problem which I can solve even when my eyes are closed?"
Usami folded the newspaper before placing it on top of the table. Misaki just popped something in his mouth. Prescription drugs as what Usami could tell.
"Usagi-san, why is it 'good', 'better' and 'best'?" a question Misaki asked during their English language review. "If there is a rule that 'smart' should be 'smarter' and 'smarter' should be 'smartest'...then why is it wrong to say 'best', 'bester', and 'bestest'?"
"Is it not enough that you know it's wrong to say that?"
Misaki haughtily grinned, which Usami could remember getting annoyed at. "Hmm...you just don't know why either..."
When the older man darted his eyes at the dangling object from Misaki's bag, he saw the charm they bought from Kyoto.
"Uwah...why are there so many cow statues Usagi-san?"
That time, Usami thought that a breather would be fine. So he brought the teen to the Kitano Tenman-gu Shrine in Kyoto for a change. The cows weren't that appealing for Misaki. Not to mention that Kyoto was far from Tokyo and for a teen who didn't care about Shrines, he would naturally not know why they were there.
"Are you really Japanese? This place is popular for examiners. They pray here for wisdom to pass."
"Why would I depend my test results to a cow statue?"
"Ah...you're right..." Usami could remember walking away. "But then, they say rubbing the head of the cow would make you smarter. I guess a genius like yourself won't be needing that..."
Usami was really amused at how Misaki turned his attention somewhere else. But when the kid thought the older man wasn't looking, Misaki earnestly rubbed the deity hurriedly. It was so funny in its own way that whenever Usami remembers that, it was impossible not to smile. How he wished he took a photo.
"Usagi-san...I'll be going now," Misaki announced. It took Usami to have that sink in. He just found himself watching Misaki jogging towards the door.
At the genkan, there stood a completely wrapped teenager with scarf. He wore a few coats on top of another. His hands enjoying the warmth of his mittens. His green eyes both serious, excited and happy at the same time.
Usami Akihiko patted the boy on the shoulder and rested his hand reassuringly.
"Are you sure you don't want me to drive you to the University? You'll get there faster..."
Misaki shook his head with a smile. "I'm okay. I want to start everything today by my own. Today...is my war...besides...I'd like to be alone before the entrance exam...like a meditation."
The silverhaired man frowned worriedly, his grip on the boy's shoulder rather growing tighter.
"Usagi-san...this is the first event that I have to do everything on my own. Thank you for teaching me."
Usami didn't know whether to be happy. He just stood silently while being given a respective bow he didn't expect coming from Misaki.
The boy straightened himself and started heading out. As Usami watched the brunette slowly walk his way to the elevator, Usami could tell, could feel with every nerve in his body that he was getting tense. His heartbeat was rising. His pulse racing.
"Usagi...have you decided on telling Misaki?" was the voice that echoed in Usami's mind. That was Takahiro's sincere question that night when they broke up. It sounded weird for the ex to ask that concerning his own brother, but Usami just stood there speechless.
Just the thought made the man move. Usami found his feet walking hurriedly. Those hurried steps grew bigger and louder. Just as the doors were about to close, he right away placed his hand in the middle to stop them.
"Usagi-san?" the boy blinked in surprise.
"I..." Usami mumbled, looking at the boy's face as if he forgot what he was going to say. "I have something to tell you."
Usami patted Misaki on the head for a very short while. "After you pass the exams. It's so awesome you'll regret not hearing it."
Misaki frowned. "What is it?"
"Just focus on the exams for now...do your best."
Sighing, the man let the door finally close. That one glimpse before the doors closed felt so slow. So slow that Usami wished that Misaki wasn't so stubborn and just accepted his offer for a ride. Deep in thought, Usami went to his place and grabbed his coat from the hamper. Holding his keys, he just knew, that he has to know whether Misaki made it to the University or not.
Usami had long forgotten how festive and somehow very tense it could be during the entrance exams. It was that time when one would be left alone to face a process for another chapter in life. The silver haired man, despite the rule that outsiders shouldn't be at the premises, was able to get in because of a certain connection. He stood patiently on a spot where he could have a clear view of the entrance area.
One by one, Usami traced every head. It was like watching a goldfish in a school of tons of other fishes. All colors, all heights and since most were wearing bonets and thick coats to fight off the cold, it was harder to look. But Usami knew he'd spot Misaki right away. Even if it was just a single dot, he'd know.
"He's so slow..." Usami muttered. He had already asked Takahiro who just arrived from Hokkaido if he had received a message from the teen. The brother was on the other side, even holding a banner for his younger sibling. He didn't care that it was embarassing. But he wanted to show all out support. But Takahiro said he didn't get any. Since then, the two men had become a tense mess.
His arms were crossed over his chest, his fingers tapping restlessly on his arm and his sharp, hawk-like lavender eyes grew fiercer as the thick line of examinees grew less and less.
"Where is Misaki?!" Usami hissed, his breath fogging his view of his wrist watch. "They'll be closing the gates in a few minutes!"
A sound of shoes clicking against the floor called Usami's attention. It was Takahiro looking ashen.
"I found him!"
"Huh?" Usami's hand holding the phone fell on his side as he turned to his ex-lover. "He's almost here...just a few more meters..."
The two men left their places they had claimed earlier and ran out of Mitsuhashi. Careful not to be noticed, they went inside a crowded convenience store a few meters away from the testing place. Both looked agitated that the other customers started glancing at them curiously.
Usami could feel his heart constrict the moment he got a clear view of a Misaki walking towards the gate. At any circumstances, he would probably have laughed as he watched Misaki looking like a sushi-roll trudging his way on the snow covered sidewalk. But he could only swallow a sweet yet painful feeling in the depths of his throat.
Both men, Takahiro and Usami could tell, Misaki was already at the fastest speed of walking he could muster. The boy was already even stopping once in a while, clutching at his chest, breathing very deeply before resuming walking.
Takahiro's hand lost the grip of the banner he had rolled and it fell on the floor.
"Maybe we should help him now!" Takahiro exclaimed, ready to dash out of the store.
However, Usami grabbed the man by the arm and shook his head. His eyes though was more than screaming of getting to Misaki and carry the kid towards the building himself.
"Takahiro no. He insisted he wanted to be alone. If you go there..." Usami glanced at Misaki's back. Obviously looking tired yet Misaki went on in that snail-pace of his. "...he would be very sad."
"But..." Takahiro glanced at Misaki. Just a few more, a few more steps and he'd get to the gates by himself and would be taking the entrance exam he worked so hard for.
Though Misaki's medical check ups said that the boy was getting better, the strain of the cold season and the act of having to climb a steep hill was already a strenuous job for a person with a weak heart. A heart, though it was the muscle pumping life all through out the body, Usami and Takahiro knew, that same organ was a traitor. Just the mere sight of Misaki walking so slow while people were running past him to make it in time was very painful.
"They said my brother is getting better..." Takahiro mumbled.
"Yet he looks the opposite..." was Usami's thoughts completing Takahiro's concern.
"Just a few...Misaki...just a few..." Takahiro whispered, calmly taking his arm from Usami's grasp. "You can do it..."
Takahiro lowered his gaze at the hand that had just grabbed him earlier. It was closed in a tight ball. It was shaking, trembling that Takahiro could see Usami's palm growing white. When Takahiro lifted his gaze at Usami's profile, the reddening on Usami's eyes had grown so much obvious. The silverhaired man had been biting his own lips, trying his best not to leave where he was standing.
"He'll reach the gate in time and he'll pass," Usami mumbled.
"Yes..." the brother agreed.
And both prayed silently, in their own earnest ways, for everything good for the boy who was determined to conquer his own weaknesses. When everyone sees that kind of innocent vigor, one would just want Misaki to succeed.
Akihiko exhaled right after Misaki reached the gates, just before it was closed. The determination on Misaki's face was so strong, his will probably soaring, that Usami had to look away, hiding his face with a hand.
"I'm so proud of you...whatever the results are..."
The traffic was bad. It rarely happens but when it did, it was just getting to one's nerves.
The weather was getting better but it could still make one shiver. The mellow music coming from the car stereo and Takahiro's low humming along was a bit refreshing though.
The brothers had been gone for a week by themselves for a short vacation without Usami since the latter's schedule was too tight that time. After not seeing Misaki for a week, Usami had become an irrate man even the editor couldn't handle.
The reunion last night happened to be the night before the big day.
"Now now...break off the tense feeling and ease up gentlemen..." Takahiro chirped glancing at Misaki at the back seat and to Usami at the passenger seat. "We've waited for this day...be more lively..."
The youngest in the car kept on looking ahead, at the line of cars hindering them from getting into the university fast.
"There must be some accident for it to be this packed..." Takahiro mumbled. He offered to be the driver for that day. The day when the results for the entrance exams will be posted. They didn't want to spoil it and it was Misaki's want in the first place to see the results with his own eyes at the boards himself. So there they were, the three of them stuck in the traffic.
Usami on the other hand just fixed his gaze at the young people walking in the sidewalks. Walking in groups, sharing their worries like if they'd pass or become ronins instead while walking under the hazy day.
This was how a young adult should be. And yet, there was this green-eyed boy inside the car with them. Hands with pills. Looking out positively from the windows. He found it funny but he couldn't make a joke out of it because deeper, it wasn't funny at all.
Also, Misaki was all hyper when the three of them ate at an Izakaya the night before. But this morning, until the car, Misaki was so quiet. Takahiro and him just placed it as Misaki being nervous. But Usami felt uneasy. Misaki's frequent coughing at the back was bothering him.
One more thing. Takahiro was being cheerful, too cheerful to the point that it looked as if he was faking it.
"Misaki...are you alright?" Takahiro asked, turning at Misaki. "Take my coat. Maybe you're still dressed lightly."
The boy shook his head. "I'm fine. My throat's just itchy," he nodded to the windshield. "Can I take a nap...?"
"Okay...we'll wake you once we reach the university."
The traffic finally eased up. They were preparing to get onto the maximum speed allowed when the two finally noticed Misaki's light snoring at the back.
That's when Usami whispered the question he so wanted to ask since the two came back.
"What's wrong with Misaki?"
"W-wrong?" Takahiro innocently asked, slowing down. "Nothing."
It was irritating to watch Takahiro so occupied with driving. He let it pass trying to put up with it. In the end, Usami Akihiko hissed in his low voice, careful not to wakeup the one at the back, "Takahiro, your face says it all."
Takahiro stared straight ahead. From the way his shoulders was shaking, Usami could already tell the burden was heavy. Too heavy it was weighing Takahiro down.
"You know Misaki's been living with all the capsules and medicines since he was young..."
"Well..." Takahiro smiled bitterly, eyes reddening. "They don't work for Misaki anymore...but he keeps on drinking them anyway..."
Usami just stared at the darkhaired man on the driver's seat, feeling himself sinking into the leather.
"Misaki's body have grown immunity from his medicines...a long time ago."
The silverhaired man turned abruptly to Misaki at the back seat. Misaki was still lightly snoring, head against the foggy car window.
Usami grew silent. He had no idea. Didn't even notice it.
"He was getting fine before the exams...what's all this...?" Usami whispered as he looked at Takahiro.
"Misaki's got a traitor inside his body..." Takahiro mumbled sternly.
Usami found himself watching the faint rise and fall of the teen's chest at the back. "We don't have a heart donor...the medicines are not working..."
No one wanted to admit it. Because deep within them, they wanted to live in the illusion that Misaki was indeed getting better. Though the pale, weak shell and the rotting flesh inside the boy was the complete evidence of the opposite.
The squirming and the wheezing sound at the back kept on getting louder. Every rustle Misaki made from trying to find comfort at hugging his bag, or pulling his knees up made Usami grit his teeth.
When they had to stop at an intersection, Usami fixed his gaze at the bespectacled older brother through the rear-view mirror.
Usami was as if saying, "Let's head to the hospital now!"
Takahiro on the other hand looked away, wiping his eyes with his sleeve before pressing on the accelarator once more.
The author knew why. There would be no way on Earth Misaki would ask them to turn to the hospital when they were almost reaching the university.
Still, it hurts.
"Alright! We're here!" Takahiro announced cheerfully, though his voice betrayed him. "This is it!"
Misaki smiled at the back. The teen glanced at Usami who was seriously staring hard at him and then reached for the handle to open the car door.
The look of surprise on Misaki's face made Usami and Takahiro lose color on their faces.
"Misaki?" Takahiro asked, heart thumping violently in his chest.
"Uhm..." Misaki shifted, looking at his feet. "My feet...they feel so heavy so suddenly I can't lift them..."
The green-eyed boy laughed, as if it was the most normal thing that could happen. But he himself was getting teary. There he was, at the front of his dream school. Then he couldn't even walk himself to see if he passed or not. What a joke.
"Misaki...uhm..." Takahiro mumbled, not knowing whether to call 911 or cry or scream.
Usami swallowed the thickness in his throat and went out the car. The look on his face was so fierce. Someone who was really angry. When he pulled open the side of the door nearest to Misaki, Usami pulled the boy's hands. He wrapped them around his neck and carried the boy on his back.
"Usagi-san? Let me down..."
"Shut up," Usami mumbled, trying to make Misaki comfortable as he carried him. "Takahiro, put more blanket on his back."
Takahiro though confused just followed.
"Listen you idiot..." Usami whispered hoarsely. "I haven't told you anything so don't you fucking go anywhere...understand?"
Misaki buried his face on the man's shoulder nodding.
Takahiro followed behind the two, ignoring the curious look of the people who were there to see the results as well.
The way towards where the results were posted was jam packed with young adults chatting. Each and everyone would find themselves silent as the lavender eyed-man, reddened due to the cold weather or who knows why passed them by, carrying a teen on his back. And Takahiro, silently praying to all the gods he know just focused his senses every step of the way.
As if people understood, or could feel it, they gave way. They didn't argue, they didn't push. They just allowed the three to get to the boards without so much hassle.
"Are you ready?" Usami asked, turning his head a bit to see Misaki's face.
"Listen..." Usami mumbled, eyes at the many numbers and names before him. "After this, I'll haul you to the hospital whether you like it or not, whatever your results are. Don't give me shit if you passed and just died. Understand?"
Misaki, despite the pain in his chest couldn't help but laugh. "What are you talking about?"
Usami drew a deep breath. "I just have a feeling that once you saw the results...you'd drift away..."
Silently, Usami and Misaki traced the numbers corresponding to Misaki's name. Misaki was biting his bottom lip as Usami walked small sidesteps to read the rest of the names on the board.
But until the very last name on the main board, Misaki's name wasn't there.
"I didn't pass..." Misaki weakly announced. "After all the things you taught me...I'm really...sorry..."
The boards where the names were suddenly seemed so big. Big enough to swallow everyone before it.
"Misaki, the thing I wanted to tell you before..." the man called as he took one step backwards. "I'd love you...even if you're the dumbest person in the world..."
Misaki's arms round the man's neck grew tighter, not saying anything. This respect he thought at first towards Usami. The respect that grew to admiration. And the admiration that grew into a well of unexplainable feelings, they were things he thought never to be returned.
He did not say anything because he couldn't say anything. He didn't want to confess or reply knowing he didn't even know if he'd last to stand up for these taboo feelings.
"What? You're not going to say anything?" Usami asked, ignoring the flock of people behind them. Ignoring the fact that they were in public.
"I'm a guy..."
"I am too, so what?"
"I know. So what?"
The silence between the two was broken with Takahiro's calling voice. The man was crying despite his age. His finger pointing at a certain spot on the board a bit separated from the rest.
Usami hurriedly ran to where Takahiro was, careful not to lose hold of Misaki on his back.
It didn't take a long while before Misaki sobbed. And Usami, not even realizing it, cried himself while laughing.
"God...this is so like you...waiting list..."
Two men who loved Misaki so much didn't care how funny they must have looked. They were just so proud it didn't even matter.
Usami raised a hand, patting behind Misaki's cheek. "Once you get in no one would know anyway...congratulations..."
"Shut-up..." Misaki whispered, his name becoming less and less readable, until he was enveloped with so much brightness so warm he could feel them running down his cheek.
"Usagi-san," Misaki called. "I want to live and go to school, I want to look after Nii-chan, I want to live with you...I don't want to die..."
"You're not dying."
Usami balanced Misaki behind him, turning his head to see Misaki's resting face on his shoulder. "Misaki?"
Takahiro raised his shaking hands. Patting Misaki's cold cheeks strongly he was soon panicking.
"We need to do heart transplant as soon as possible.I'm afraid, if we couldn't find a matching donor within this week..."
The voice of the surgeon was calm, sincere and understanding. Listening to his words based on experience made Takahiro want to cry.
Usami, hair all over the place, looking ashen could just stare at the glasses separating him from the ICU were Misaki was. With all tubes and respiration apparatuses bigger than the boy's body, Usami wondered when he last prayed. If he prayed now...would he be answered?
"Usami?" Takahiro looked worriedly at Usami's back as the man without notice turned away. "Where are you going?"
There wasn't an answer. Usami just walked with that staggering stance. His form growing smaller and smaller as he got lost in the maze of that white labyrinth smelling of disinfectants and the scent of hopelessness.
"I don't know how to pray..." Usami whispered as he walked with his head bowed. "If You really do exist...though I'm sinful...though I am a bastard...please...he's so young..." Usami paused before a room, hiding his face with a hand, knees growing weak. "Extend his life...send someone...Takahiro needs him...I need him...tell me...that you do exist even for someone as me..."
Usami would never admit it to anyone else. But this was the point where he knew his fame, money or writing abilities wouldn't add a day to Misaki's flickering candle.
"I told you!" a shouting voice echoed through the hallways accompanied by the door to Usami's right slamming open. "HIS ORGANS STAY WHERE THEY ARE!"
It was just for a very short moment that there eyes met. Usami's frustrated ones, and that darkhaired man's angry eyes.
Usami had to pause for a moment. He had seen that face somewhere.
"Ishi is still alive and fighting! I don't need anyone coming to me asking for his organs!"
The man, with his hair as messy as Usami's stomped angrily. His steps sounding so loud in the silence of the private hospital they were in.
From the open door came another familiar face. The round, wrinkled face looked surprised when he saw Usami. And then smiling, which made him look like a kind grandfather, walked towards the author.
"Usami-san...I'm sorry you have to see that."
"What does he mean...'asking for organs'?" Usami couldn't help but ask.
The doctor sighed and placed his wrinkled hands in the pockets of his white coat. "There's this patient in the other ICU...and well...he's dying. He's been there the past six months..."
Patting Usami on the shoulder as he ushered the man to sit on one of the long black sofas, the doctor then removed his round glasses.
"Do you know that the best organ that could be donated to someone needing it is a fresh one? Meaning right after a person's death...would be the best time to do a transplant to extend someone else's life."
"I know there is always hope, a miracle even..." the old man mumbled. "But scientifically...that kid will not last long. So I asked Ijuuin-san, the kid's guardian if he'd allow it. If we could take the kid's heart for Takahashi Misaki if for example the kid gives up...But then you saw his reaction right?"
Usami stared hard at the old man's eyes filled with wisdom coming from his age and expertise. Such confidential matters, the man was telling him. Possible donors, names and lives, they weren't meant to be mentioned. But suddenly he was there hearing that there could be someone, a possible matching type just beside Misaki's room.
Senseless, Usami couldn't even remember how him and the doctor parted ways. He was just all determined to make that Ijuuin Kyo agree, whatever the consequences may be.
"Ijuuin Kyo..." the name that was so familiar in Usami's mind kept on bugging him. When the man saw a poster for kids at the lobby towards the ICU, Usami finally remembered.
Ijuuin Kyo, the mangaka for Zakan. The huge-name mangaka who announced that he'd be taking a leave six months ago. Who would have thought that he'd see that mangaka he never liked in the same hospital, with almost the same circumstances?
Usami walked, collecting all strength in his body. When you care and love someone, you don't see anything or anyone else.
"Damn these bastards..." Ijuuin Kyo hissed as he made his way towards where one of his talented assistants was, fighting for life and against death. "How could they ask such a thing...?"
Contrary to the first floors of the hospital, in the third floor, one would feel that they've entered a different world. Even without seeing it, the faint sounds of respirators, shallow breathing filled every corner of the way.
Ijuuin hated to be in it. He really hated to be in such a place surrounding him of nothing but equipment and other people's faces. Those faces that looked like a part of them already died just watching their loved ones inside those tightly closed and monitored ICUs.
Exasperatedly, Ijuuin turned behind him, ready to shout. But he stopped himself when a pale face whose eyes were the only ones with color from crying perhaps smiled at him apologetically.
"You're Ijuuin Kyo right?"
Raising a brow, Ijuuin sized up the man in the dishevelled suit. "I am."
"Uhm...I'm sorry I know this isn't an appropriate place to be asking this...but could you give me an autograph?"
"My brother...is a really huge fan of yours..."
At any day, Ijuuin would have ignored the office guy. But he could see himself at those barren eyes so he stayed.
"I have my handkerchief and a fountain pen here..."
"Okay...sure. What's the name? How old?"
Ijuuin, a bit taller, grabbed the white handkerchief and ready to glide the fountain pen away.
"Please write 'hang in there Misaki'."
"Hang in there...Misaki..." Ijuuin said as he wrote with the fountain pen. However, he found himself stopping at the next words of the man before him.
"You see, he's really in a bad condition...and we're still hoping for a heart donor-"
Takahiro looked dumbfounded when the acclaimed mangaka, who always had a smile on his face on interviews and press-cons, threw the handkerchief and the pen towards the blemish free white tiles of the floor.
"Don't you people realize what you're saying?"
"Every single time you say you're waiting for a fucking organ donor..." Ijuuin's voice rising, his fists shaking. "...you're wishing for someone innocent to die!"
With that, Ijuuin walked out, angrier than before.
Takahiro silently picked his handkerchief and pen from the floor. He couldn't get mad or say a come back. Because that mangaka who walked out on him looked like he has been hurting too.
Selfishness. When one is being cornered, it comes too natural to be noticed. That was what Takahiro learned.
There was nothing different. Even in his sleep, Shizuku Ishi still have that cold aura that made other people wary of him. Looking at that face, Ijuuin had to supress a smile. His breath was starting to fog the huge glass windows he had to step back.
"You don't look good."
Ijuuin Kyo who was wearing the same clothes for two days now scowled and didn't have to look at who it was.
"Outsiders are not allowed here, even if it is the great writer, Usami Akihiko."
Usami looked at the person behind those glass walls. That form which like his Misaki, was being overwhelmed with so much medical equipment he couldn't even name.
"More like a pain," Ijuuin gave a lopsided smile. "The kind of pain I can't seem to live without."
Usami remained not saying anything. Because he knew that pain himself. He understood it perfectly well.
The darkhaired man faced the other straight on. He looked like he'd explode but his voice was surprisingly calm.
"I'm not stupid. I could tell why you're here. You're one with the patient near this room. The one that needs heart transplant. Takahashi Misaki, is it?" Ijuuin asked almost mockingly. "Even if you beg...nothing and no one is going to touch Ishi."
The author seemed like he had something to say the way he opened his mouth. But he just shrugged his shoulders in the end as if he came to realize something.
Usami turned his back. "You're surprisingly a good man Ijuuin."
As Usami was taking slow steps back to where Misaki was, he couldn't help but grit his teeth. "I was there ready to beg...really...but if I were to put my self in his shoes..." he smiled looking defeated. "...I'd do the same."
Ijuuin was trying to keep his cool but failed. He just called Shizuku Ishi's only relative. The useless father who wouldn't even see his son even in his death bed.
"I've already sent an authorization that I leave everything in your hands. I have a new family now. And they don't know about Ishi. I'm truly sorry..."
Ijuuin leaned on the open window, glaring at the shadows the building was casting into the parking lot. The evening's chill licking his face as he gritted his teeth.
"Fuck you! Why do you think he's been there lying on bed for six months! Fuck you!"
He was never the type to lose it. But he was so frustrated. So annoyed. So angry. He didn't even know what to feel anymore.
"Fuck you..." he whispered in thin air. "He wanted to say sorry for not being able to meet your expectations...fuck you..."
The man suddenly turned behind him. The flood of people in white lab coats passed him by. As if they were all heading to a war they all knew what the end results would be.
Ijuuin wouldn't deny that he felt relief when he heard ICU 7. He was damn sure for a moment they'd say ICU 8, where Ishi was.
There was no explaining why he did that. But as if he was pulled by a trance of the hurried steps of the doctors, Ijuuin Kyo followed. He followed until the door to Takahashi Misaki's room.
Everyone was so preoccupied. They were all focused into the failing vital statistics of this toothpick like figure that they left the door a little ajar.
The man with eyeglasses who asked for an autograph was there. The acclaimed novelist too, Usami Akihiko who looked like he'd collapse any minute were both on the corner, staring at the small body on the white bed. His small chest exposed.
"Pulse rate declining!"
Ijuuin didn't pay any attention to the terms these medical people were yelling out loud. He just watched the small face on the bed. He wanted to go away, but the boy's open eyes as he stared into the lights above his head fixed Ijuuin on the spot.
"Misaki...do you hear me?" It was Usami's voice who despite the warnings of the doctors not to come closer, still did what he wanted and needed. "It's alright okay? We're here..."
There was a camera in Usami's his mind. This camera that was panning closer to a scene that Usami Akihiko had endlessly played in his mind, but never had the courage to finish. So afraid that he didn't even want to entertain the idea.
The man by the door secretly watching drew a deep breath. He didn't want to see this.
"You said you still have a lot of things to do...so don't give up on us yet. Understand?"
The last scene that Ijuuin brought up with him was the weak 'okay' that pounded hard against everyone's chest.
After splashing his face with cold water and changing into clean clothes he brought with him, Ijuuin's mind was more awake and clear.
Standing at the side of the bed, he just stood there without saying anything for a long time. And finally broke the silence.
"Did you grow fatter?" he asked quietly. "Lying in bed without doing anything...figures."
The man was just trying to annoy the kid. Looking if the sleeping face would have any change of expressions. It would have been better if the teen suddenly yelled and cursed him, but Ishi remained motionless on that bed.
Ijuuin ran his sleepless and tired eyes across the small room. There were so many apparatuses he still couldn't remember what for despite him almost living in there as well for the past six months. He was getting tired just looking at it. How much relief it would be to have Ishi released from all of them.
"Ishi..." Ijuuin called, kneeling. "You can hear me right? Don't pretend you can't."
The only response was the rhythmic beeping of the small box-like apparatus measuring the teen's heart rate.
"I'm sorry. He can't come here," he said in the weakest possible voice he could. "Your father really wanted to but he can't."
Ijuuin smiled, looking at the bony hands. "Also I'm sorry...I'm sorry too..."
He swallowed a couple of times, looking up the white ceiling to stop crying. But he failed. He was failing a lot of times the past days.
"I'm really sorry that I've dragged you this long...because I know you're just hanging there for my sake. Although it's tiring for you, I'm the bastard who doesn't want to let go."
Ijuuin took one of the bony hand and wrapped his huge warm hand around it. "Why do you have to get sick like this Ishi? We have so many plans..."
"If I tell you I'm going to be fine...and that I won't sink into an unproductive mess...would that make you feel lighter?"
No one answered.
"If I said I will try to move on and accept that this is just really how long we could be together, would that put you to ease?"
No one answered.
"Letting go is never easy. Never has been, never will be for me...but see...I'm trying."
"Rest up...leave everything to me..."
Ijuuin was expecting the sound of the life line to be shrilly, hurting his ears. Instead, it was a bit comforting. The tense expression on the boy's face disappeared suddenly. And deep down, for the past six months, Ijuuin could finally breathe.
"You could have at least told me you like me before sneaking out, that's how it is in dramas right?"
The doctors incharge of Shizuku Ishi, 19, with severe swelling of the brain, rushed into the ICU 7. They all did all the procedures for reviving. However, the peaceful look, tinge with a slight smile, was a proof that the teen was finally released from a bind.
Ijuuin pressed his lips on the boy's bony, cold hand. And wiping his face with his hand, went out. He was laughing, he didn't know why but he just did.
Or he really knew, he just didn't want to admit it. Most often than not, recently, he smiles or laughs when he doesn't know how to handle the pain.
The ice have melted. The cherry blossoms have floated and disappeared. The sun had risen so hot and humid. The maple trees have colored the streets of fire and gold. And once again, the ice came once more, covering the cemetery of white powder like a winter wonderland instead of being a resting place.
With a hand with spider-like-long fingers, he lighted the incense sticks and whispered something into thin air. And carefully, Usami Akihiko placed them on the space before the stone.
"I don't know what kind of person you are..." he whispered, pushing the dark sunglasses he was wearing onto the bridge of his nose. "...though it was kind of late, thank you."
The author heard a faint 'tsk' behind him. And when the man turned, he found Ijuuin Kyo, standing a few away from him. He was holding a bouquet of white lilies. His fingers obviously with remnants of blank ink.
Rolling his eyes, Ijuuin walked passed the author and carefully placed the flowers before Shizuku Ishi's gravestone.
"Thanks for seeing Ishi, I guess," Ijuuin mumbled as he knelt on the icecold pavement, arranging his flowers.
Usami waited silently. He waited until Ijuuin was done with whatever he was doing.
"It's been a year...don't you want to see Misaki? He's still at the hospital though...I'd take him here when he fully recovers."
Ijuuin chuckled. "What are you talking about? I thought you'd put a barricade around that kid."
"I did," Usami replied, tugging the scarf at his neck. "I just thought you'd like to see the person you helped."
"I did not help him. Ishi did."
Usami sighed, both knew they were never the type to get along with because both have extreme personalities.
"Still, you could have helped others needing a transplant. But you chose Misaki."
Ijuuin glanced at his side, catching Usami's sincere words. He looked back at the Haka slowly, his profile hidden by his hair that had gone longer the last time they saw each other.
"I think, I'm not ready yet to see the person with a part of Ishi...I'm afraid I'd see Ishi instead."
The author looked up. The sky was bright though the temperature felt biting.
"Usami, aren't you afraid that perhaps, there would be a time that I would come to take that part that belongs to me?"
Usami almost laughed, his eyes were serious though. "Then I just have to be prepared."
Both men parted ways. Every gap they made between each other was getting prominent. And yet they knew that somehow they have created an invisible bond. They weren't friends. They weren't family and they would never be close. There was just a Misaki.
"What's with the far gazing at the horizon, Usagi-san?"
It shocked Usami that Misaki would find him in that situation. With the teen mostly sleeping through most of the day and the night, the man never thought it'd be him caught off guard.
Usami walked away from the window, sitting before the free chair near Misaki's bed. He started tugging at the boy's blanket, making sure there would be no room for the chill to get into.
"I didn't know you enjoy much looking at my face," Usami threw back haughtily.
Misaki still was skin and bones. The operation had been so critical that even the surgeons almost thought it would fail. And now recovering, the process was still slow.
The man just sat there smiling quietly. With them just being the two souls in that room, this was really one of those times that Usami was reminded of how long and hard they've come along. It wasn't just a mere trial. It was life and death.
"Misaki, after all this surgery...with all your hope for taking the entrance exams again soon," Usami said, fixing some strands on the boy's head. "Did something change?"
The boy's green eyes looked up searching Usami's face. Such a short vague question, yet somehow, the boy knew what Usami was talking about. Change of priorities? Or perhaps change of feelings?
After all, the heart that extended his life belonged to someone else who was loving another.
Grabbing the sheets over his face, Misaki hid away. He hid his face away yet was holding Usami's hand under the fabric.
The camera in Usami's mind started panning farther and farther away. Away from the door's room. Away from the hospital and to the sky.
He could finally say they finished a chapter. And for sure another would come.
In the end, people like Usami and Misaki, Ijuuin and Ishi, and even Takahiro could tell that feelings weren't as simple as being locked up inside. They were much more deeper than that. They were things engraved into the fabric of one's soul. And because it was much stronger, makes a heart beat faster.
NEW YEAR DEDICATION AND THANKS:
maybe a lot of you are thinking, 'what, it's new year and another depressing story right off the bat?'
i am currently preparing for the entrance exams at the latter part of this january. this is some sort of my way for releasing tension. ...AHAHA...well that's me. someone asked me before why i write sad stories mostly. i really do believe that there is beauty in sadness and pain.
i think sadness stays longer in a person's heart than happiness. one can pretend they're happy but i think it's harder to pretend that one's sad.
sadness makes people mature, and people get to appreciate happiness more when they know what real sadness or pain or frustration is.
i am not a sad person. WWW. i am just a sucker for sad stories. so i end up writing them.
about this one (Three Kinds of Love), i wrote it in the sense that i want the readers to find them for themselves. you know, everyone has their own interpretations right?
it's quite long. but this is probably one of my favorites.
LASTLY and MOST IMPORTANTLY...i've received so much love and support the past year. thank you for giving me a part of your precious times. i greatly appreciate the words and the encouragements and the friendship. it makes me want to explore more and improve.
also...i realized that i don't like using 'i love you' very much in writing. i don't know why. maybe because i wanted to give the feeling of it out than being mentioned. LoL...what am i saying!?
together with you guys, let's make 2014 yet another wonderful year for fanfictions and BL!
-happy new year and to everyone who would be taking entrance exams too or busy with anything...let's all do our best!
please share with me your thoughts!
ps. please be all safe and healthy!
*misaki's question about the degree of comparison was my question when i was in elementary
*ronin-the term for people who didn't pass the entrance exams and would again study for another year or longer to take the dreadful tests! (wah!)
*if rubbing the cow really works...i've probably surpassed einstein by now! i wish. WWW
now i want to see misaki fall for ijuuin for real for some reason. buwahah..the devil in me...wants to get out!