Author's Note: More half-awake, half-asleep fun (like the still unnamed "mission" fic about Ani's miscarriage). Yes, this is more angst, but this has a happy ending....sort of.
This is based off of a PL I did with Tavestry....using her Pillar story characters. So I've probably mangled things badly but oh well. This is what happens when my mind crashes after a day where I kept myself awake with too much sugar and especially too much caffeine. Plus I'd just watched the first 8 episodes of Fushigi Yuugi again, so I was sort of...primed for this. Gomennasai.
Oh and an additional note: The Mikos (Tenku-Chan, Rekka-Chan, etc. etc.) are all renamed at some point. Guess what names they get? Did you say the same ones as the IU Trooper/SYST girls?? Oh you're so smart!!
"No! Why would you want to do something so incredibly....STUPID?!" she screamed at him.
"It will help things a lot. I mean, the Tenku pillar's just a giant computer right? So I hack into it, and I can..."
"No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, NO!!" she interrupted, not caring WHY Touma was so set on suicide. "You're crazy!! You'll be killed!"
"We've snuck into the Temple before...," he reminded her.
"That was sheer luck, and besides, you weren't trying to HACK into the pillar then!!"
"....and I can take care of myself," he finished. "I'm a big boy now, all of 1,525 years old....1,526 in October," with a grin.
"Big boy...," she snorted. "Big CHILD is more like it, and don't act like you're so ancient and wise. You spent 1,500 years in stasis in the pillar. You didn't actually LIVE that span of your life."
"Kiv-Chan...," he sighed in a frustrated voice, reaching a hand to her hair. She jerked herself away from him, folded her arms, and turned her back on him. She was not about to be....seduced into acquiescence.
"Fine then just go. If you have this insane urge to commit suicide, there's nothing I can do to stop you. Just get out of here then," she said. It came out a bit harsher than she'd intended but she remained firm.
Touma paused, wanting to say more to her, but he knew anything else he said wouldn't help things any. He turned and left, intent on carrying out his little mission.
She heard his footsteps fade and she half-turned to him, half-reached for him, but he was walking away from her, not looking back. She sighed quietly and walked off in the other direction, praying to gods she knew didn't exist to watch over him. It was habit, and if nothing else, it was something to do.
Late that night, she was awakened by a gentle hand shaking her shoulder. She'd only been asleep for an hour or so; worry had kept her awake. She rolled over to see Sh'ten standing over her, an uneasy look on his face.
"What is it?" she asked, instantly awake. Since they'd joined the Rebellion against the Holy Houses, she'd been trained to be alert whenever needed, in case of attack. The need for sleep was set aside quickly, and she was half out of her bed, ready to dive for her bow when the MaShou shook his head.
"It's not an attack. As far as we know they still have not discovered us."
"Then.....what?" she asked, sitting on the edge of her bed and looking up at him worriedly. He ran a hand through hair that had also just woken up...or hadn't been to bed yet...and sat next to her. He took both her hands in his own and took a deep breath, cleared his throat, and took another deep breath. She wasn't liking this already and he hadn't even told her anything.
"There....was an explosion in The City," he told her, referring to Toyama, although everyone who lived there thought it was Tokyo. The real Tokyo was where they were now, where the Rebellion hid out in the remains of the once sprawling metropolis, but everyone called that Toyama. It was easier to just call them "home" and "The City". It saved confusion.
"An explosion?" she asked, a chill shivering into existence at the base of her spine.
He nodded, still holding her hands, and he seemed to be addressing them. He didn't want to meet her gaze. "We don't know what caused it, but....it...."
"It was at the Tenku Temple, ne?" she asked distantly. Her mind was racing ahead, picking up the obvious clues. She felt....detached.....and very very cold. He nodded again. "And....were there....? Did anyone....?" she tried, but apparently she wasn't distant enough to really be able to ask it.
This time the answer was a shake of the head, so slow and even that the long red-brown strands were barely disturbed. "No survivors were found." A pause formed, settled, became heavy and ponderous. "There's a possibility....he might've....I mean...he's not like most others."
She nodded weakly, and after a moment, pulled her hands from his and gave him a hug. "Thank you for coming and letting me know, Douji-San. You will let me know anything else, won't you?"
"Of course," his kind voice reassured her as he returned the hug....briefly. He broke away and gave her a smile intended to be reassuring. "I can tell you to go back to sleep, but I can't really expect you to do that. Lay down and rest at least...or you won't have the strength to give him one of those tackles you call a hug when you see him again."
She returned a thankful half of a smile and decided the suggestion was a sound one. As she pulled the covers up, he left her room, closing the door behind him quietly. She clutched her pillow to her body tightly and curled herself up underneath the blankets. It was a warm night, and she had a lot of covers on her bed, but she still felt like a winter sunset's breeze was blowing through her body.
A week passed...and another....and then it was given up. She knew it before the search party returned. For the final time, her hopes fell. With each passing day they'd risen less and less; the only positive note about this was that each day her hopes did not have as far to fall. Touma could not be found; he was presumed dead.
The next day, and every day thereafter for the next week, Kivrin neither ate nor slept, and she wouldn't leave her room. She did nothing but stare out her window, a blank, indeterminate expression on her face. The other ex-mikos tried to rouse her, but she ignored everyone. The other "gods" as it were (calling them that had become something of a joke....it was a bit less funny now that one was gone) tried as well. The MaShou tried, Sh'ten especially. She acknowledged no one's presence.
After the first week, she slowly came back to the real world, but she wasn't ever quite the same.
"It's like she's lost her spirit," Lee commented over dinner one night. Kiv had already eaten quickly and quietly and left for her turn at night guard duty.
"No, no, no you know what it's like?" Dakota informed them, finishing a mouthful of food and gesturing with her fork. "She's like a just blown-out candle. You know how right after you blow out a candle, you just have a thick puff of smoke and the faintly glowing end of the wick, before that dies too? That's what she is. She's the thick puff of smoke, and the barely-glowing wick. That's all she is anymore," she announced, spearing another bite of chicken with her fork and popping it into her mouth.
"I think, to stick truer to the actual metaphor we're going for here, she'd be more like.....a sparrow in a hurricane. Touma's death being the hurricane," Yoshie added by way of further explanation.
"No, what she's like is a woman who just lost her true love," Mason said finally. "There's no sense getting metaphorical about it at all. It's bad enough in real life."
"I think that's why we like the metaphors better. It's....easier somehow, you know?" Dakota commented quietly. They all nodded with a quiet, simultaneous, "Yeah."
A Year Later...
"Are you sure?" Sh'ten asked the men again. And again they nodded. "Without a doubt?" He sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "Well....talk to him. See what you can do about....recruiting him." The men nodded and left. Sh'ten sank back into a nearby chair, feeling somewhat....uneasy. Dais put a hand on his shoulder.
"You don't look right."
Naaza looked up from the map of Toyama, aka, The City. "You're sure you made the right decision? What if she....?"
Sh'ten shot a look at Naaza that would have had any of the other members of the rebellion quaking with fear. Naaza, however, merely shut up.
"I made the right decision." Sh'ten's words were half-venomous, half...the uneasiness of someone who knows they were at a turning point just now and is not sure they chose the correct road to go down. Dais, Naaza, and Anubisu looked at each other and, by general silent consensus, left Sh'ten alone with his thoughts.
The next evening was Kiv's night to help cook and serve dinner. She was chatting quietly and smiling warmly at everyone as she handed them their food. A group of three men came up behind her with a fourth. She could hear them coming, even if they hadn't been talking loudly.
Without turning around, she gently reprimanded them. "The end of the line starts on the other side of me, boys."
"We're no boys!" one of them exclaimed in mock-anger.
"Ne, Kiv-Chan. We got a present for you."
She laughed. "A present?? What are...." as she turned around to see them," ...you talk....ing....." Her words trailed off. Three of the men she knew: Andrew, Makota, and Jacques. But the fourth....
Her eyes went wide, her jaw dropped and the spoon in her hands fell to the floor. That was all in the first instant. In the next, her arms were flung around him and she was hugging him with a vengenance. The three men looked at each other and back at Kivrin and Touma with a scared, hopeful look in their eyes.
Touma glanced down at the girl suddenly embracing him and asked her, "Who are you? Do I know you, Miss...uh...?"
Her head shot up and her brown eyes met confused sky blue ones. "Don't you remember me?" He shook his head. "Kivrin?" Another negative reponse. "Kiv-Chan?" When that also drew a blank from him, she resorted to a name she'd sworn she'd never use in addressing herself ever again. "Tenku-Chan?"
He shook his head, and her arms slipped away from him, her eyes stunned and wounded.
"I'm sorry, but....well 'Tenku' is familiar obviously, but....um....Miss?" he inquired as she ran off, crying. "Did I do something wrong?" he asked his new companions. "Or were you guys playin' some sort of trick on her? Or on me for that matter?"
Sh'ten went to her room after hearing about the incident. He knocked quietly and peeked in. She was sitting in a chair by the window, tears still occasionally trickling out and slowly leaving streaks down her pretty face. He sighed and walked over to stand beside her, resting hands on her shoulders.
"He doesn't remember me....why doesn't he....how can he....is that even really him?"
"Yes, it's really him. The men spotted him a couple of weeks ago and approached him but he didn't recognize them. They've been talking to him since then, getting to know him. Last night I told them to see if they could recruit him, bring him here. For you. I knew you'd want to know he was alive." She nodded mutely at that. "As for his memories....he doesn't seem to recall how he was really released from the pillar. His memories up until then are intact, but he's convinced that the explosion at the temple somehow freed him. I'm sure the other 'gods' will straighten him out some on that."
"So that's why he doesn't remember me....or the Rebellion or anything....it's like....it's like someone hit the 'Restart' option on one of your computer games," she commented softly.
A still, stifling silence settled until Sh'ten suddenly said, "So now what?"
"Now what?" she repeated.
"He's back and...even if he doesn't remember you...you still remember him. You've never forgotten him, and I've never had a problem with that. And if....if you wanted to....I'd....I wouldn't...."
"Sh'ten," she said quietly, standing up and turning to face him. "You've always been a very good friend to me, and for the last six months, you've been more than that. I know you love me, and you know I care about you, very much. But....this Touma that came here today....doesn't know anything about me. He's....a little different. I don't really know...."
"You need time," he told her.
She nodded. "I need a month. To see...if he remembers. If anything here triggers his memory at all....and the Touma I know comes back...." She shook her head. "And if not....if, at the end of this month he still remembers nothing, and he is permanently this new Touma, this....stranger who only looks like my lost love, then...."
Sh'ten took a breath to prepare himself. This would've been difficult under normal circumstances and now, with this.... "...Then, would you marry me?"
Her breath caught for a second and then came out all at once as he held out the box with the small ring in it. Diamonds were hard to find here, as was gold, but there was a small gold ring with little diamond chips in it. Certainly worth a fortune now, in this ravaged city-scape. She looked at his earnest face for a short bit then took the box from him and snapped it shut. She held it in both hands and held it to her breast. "Yes, of course. But he needs this month....I need this month. And....if it works out that....if he does remember and....."
Sh'ten bent down and kissed her softly. "I'll understand. You need not worry about my interference in such a case." With a faint smile he added, "I'm not Naaza."
She laughed a little and leaned up to kiss his cheek. "Thank you. For....everything."
His smile waned a bit and he nodded at her before leaving her alone with her jumbled thoughts and even more jumbled emotions.
"Well I still say she ought to just jump him and get it over with," Mason announced around a mouthful of rice. "This is ridiculous!"
"But she wants him to LOVE her, not MAKE LOVE to her!" Lee argued.
Dakota, in sensible mode, pointed out, "She wants both." The other three giggled somewhat at that. As always, they'd waited until the Topic of Gossip was absent before getting around to the actual gossiping. They extended this courtesy to everyone else, so naturally it applied to their fellow ex-miko as well.
"The point is....she ought to just tell him and get it over with!!" Mason declared.
"The guys already told him. Seiji had a long talk with him about it when he first showed up," Lee told her.
"But that was three weeks ago! And all they've done is avoid each other as much as possible and, when they can't avoid each other, be only as nice to each other as they have to be until one of them finally gets too uncomfortable and leaves!!" the former Kongo no Miko exclaimed in a huff. "It's ridiculous!"
"Well, they're going to have to put up with each other tonight," Yoshie said quietly. All three girls turned to look at her. YOSHIE? SCHEMING?! Something was amiss here....either that, or they'd all really underestimated the shy, quiet girl.
"What did you do?" Dakota asked, intrigued.
"Well Shu was supposed to have night duty tonight, and so was Kivrin. I just suggested to him that he might want to trade off. He's been so tired lately and he usually doesn't like night duty anyway."
Dakota grinned and hugged Yoshie. "I'm so proud of you!! Good job!!!!!"
Lee smiled widely and said, "I always knew you had it in you."
Mason only commented, as she finished eating, "And of course, this way you get an extra night of Shu-cuddling, hmm?" Yoshie's blush was answer enough.
Touma stopped when he saw who else had night duty. She stopped as well, and for a brief moment there was that air of uneasiness that always greeted them when they saw the other. But she knew there was no help for it and took up her position next to him. Both of them looked straight ahead, and tried to not even so much as peripherally glance at the other.
"I thought Shu was on duty?" she asked. She'd been looking forward to night duty with Shu; he was always fun to talk to and a nice guy to boot. Yoshie'd made a good catch with him.
"We traded off. He said he was getting tired. If you ask me, he just wanted some quality snuggling time with Yoshie."
The awkwardness was almost tangible.
"So, you're....you've acclimatized well, I take it? At least I've not heard you were unhappy."
"Well that's because I'm not," he agreed. "Mostly...."
"Mostly?" she inquired, fairly certain she knew what this meant.
"Well.....I mean.....the whole thing with...you.....Seiji told me.....I don't recall any of it, but he said that....."
She nodded. It was times like this when she hated being right. "I....I don't want to make you uncomfortable, but...."
"You....miss me?" If it sounded awkward, well it was an awkward statement. Touma ran a hand through his hair merely to have something to do. He still did not look at her.
She paused and then nodded. She still did not look at him.
"You really loved me, hm?" he asked, somewhat awed by the concept. A girl in love with him? A sweet, pretty, intelligent girl like her?
She shook her head. "No."
"No?" Now wait just a minute here....what about? and....? Had Seiji been lying to him? It wasn't like Seiji to do something like this. To joke around period, let alone when it involved such a serious thing as love.
"I....love you. Present tense." It felt like trying to trudge through waist high and very thick mud, saying this. She hadn't had this much trouble saying it the first time, she was almost certain. "You're not dead. You're here. But.......you're not really you. I....I can't go on loving someone who doesn't love me."
"I could, I think," he told her, meaning it. Neither of them looked at the other.
She shook her head. "I suppose....I love the old Touma. You.....you're different than he is, was...oh whatever. You're not...quite the same....it's....."
"So if I'm not him, you'll go with Sh'ten, hm?"
Her head shot up but she still did not turn to him. "How did you.....?"
"The guys have been keeping me up to date and if they weren't, the girls would be."
"Does that.....bother you?"
"I don't really know that much about it....I...I'm not sure if I should be bothered."
"After you were 'killed', at least as far as we knew, I sort of shut down. And for a long time after that I was sort of distant from everyone," she told him, leaning back against the building. "Sh'ten helped me. He'd always been my friend and he slowly revealed the fact that he'd like to be more. We've been dating for about six months now...."
"But you don't love him?"
She paused, and her hand crept into her pocket. She'd taken to carrying the ring around, still in the box, as a reminder. As though she needed one. "I could, I think," she quoted his words back to him, before adding, "but no, I don't love him right now."
"Oh." After a few moments of the obligatory heavy silence the situation called for, Touma asked, "And you were hoping I'd....remember?"
She nodded. "I was also hoping I could think of something to trigger your memories, but...." she shrugged.
"Nothing, hmm? Well, I suppose I should help you then. I mean, they are my memories, after all. I can't say I really like the idea that part of my mind is locked away from the rest of me."
"Oh well.....I suppose...uh....arigato," she commented. He sat down, leaning against the brick, closing his eyes to think. Neither of them looked at each other.
"What about a phrase or something? Obviously just seeing you and the others did nothing, and seeing this place did nothing, so we have to think about something that hasn't already been done. We haven't talked much, or been around each other much...erm.....so, maybe..... phrase or something like that?"
She paused and then shook her head. "The only phrases I can think of you...er...him...oh whatever....using often were my name and 'aishiteru' and 'Damnit don't call me -Sama!'," she added with a giggle.
"Maybe something you used to say to me?"
She considered that. "Other than your name and 'aishiteru'?" She shrugged and then brightened. "Yes, there was something I was rather fond of calling you."
"BESIDES 'Tenku-Sama'??" he made a face, which she couldn't see, facing forward as she was, but she laughed at the comment.
"Yes, besides 'Tenku-Sama'." Half-hoping that would cause some reaction, she glanced at him sideways.
After a few minutes with no answer, he said, "Well?" He still wasn't looking at her. "C'mon, penny for your thoughts, a whole nickel for the other name you used to call me." Pause. "Not that I have a nickel. So let's just stick to the thoughts, hm?"
Not really knowing why she did so, she told him what she was honestly thinking. "The moonlight is so soft, and it only allows you to see what you want to see. The sunlight is so harsh, so unforgiving, but at the same time, so honest and true. The moonlight lives for seductive deceptions...." The words flowed from her tongue. She'd been writing again, but not nearly as much as she used to, and the writer's need for description took control of her speech.
Now Touma did turn to her, and saw her half-turned toward him, her eyes fixed on him. Their gazes locked and he didn't even need to tell her he understood what she meant. She knew it by looking at him.
From somewhere inside him a door unlocked but remained closed.
"You're a writer?" he asked quietly, not sure if he had the breath for much else right now.
She nodded, almost as though she were ashamed of it. "I....wouldn't go that far. I....scribble occasionally."
"You're a beautiful writer." Pause. Where had that come from? "If your recent description of moonlight is any indication," he added.
"Thank you." She'd been avoiding him for so long and now she couldn't stop looking at him. He was made for the night; the moonlight seemed to almost come from him instead of the sky.
"And you're right about the moonlight," he commented, trying to get things back to a non-awkward place, as if they'd ever been not awkward. And yet strangely, there seemed to be nothing awkward about gazing at her, seeing how it almost looked like she could absorb the moonlight, and take it into herself, and make it her own. Of course he'd never had this problem during the day....you couldn't see even the brightest star when the sun was shining.
To pierce the silence, she said, "Obakachan."
He blinked at her. "Nani??"
"That's what I used to call you. 'Obakachan'; little idiot. Teasingly, of course, I never really meant it...." in an apologetic tone of voice.
"Say it again?"
"Do you remember?" she asked hopefully, taking a step toward him.
He shook his head. "Not....really. Say it....say it now like you would've said it then. Does that make sense? I'm thinking....maybe...tone of voice, inflection....that sort of thing."
"Oh. Hai, of course," the hope dying stillborn. "Umm....it's not really easy to just...."
"Take your time, we've got all night," he reminded her.
"Well it's not a matter of time, so much as situation...."
He nodded. "Hai hai, well it's always hard for girls to do some things," he told her, a mocking tone entering his voice.
"NANI?!" she exclaimed.
"Well I mean....Seiji could've done it by now. But then again he is...." Touma stood dramatically and mimicked flinging a cape back over his shoulder, "The Drama Queen!!" in a melodramatically low voice. Kivrin blinked at him then began laughing as he continued, in an old television announcer-style voice, "Tune in next week when our Hero, er, Heroine, The Drama Queen, saves the world with his, er, her, er ITS hammiest acting!!!" He then proceeded to act out the evildoers vs. Seiji.
Evildoers: "No, no, keep it away!!!"
Seiji: *in an extremely melodramatic voice* And here Touma held his right hand out and put his left to his forehead. "Alas! Poor YORICK!!!!" Touma mimicked over-done sobbing. "I knew him, Horatio!!!"
Evildoers: *cowering in terror* As Touma switched around, pretending now to be cowering from the spot where he just stood, acting as Seiji, The Drama Queen. "No! No! NO!! Send us to jail, anything to keep this Drama Queen away from us!!! AAAAAAAAHHH!!!"
Kivrin laughed until tears came and still couldn't stop. Touma stood and dusted himself off. Because of all the hopping around he'd been doing whilst impersonating all these characters, he was a lot closer to her now than he had been when they'd been on either side of the double doors of the main HQ building. He smiled down at her, and a thought entered his mind. The thought sort of echoed somehow....in a strange sort of way. I really like hearing her laugh, seeing her so happy. Not knowing why he did it, he lifted a hand and brushed away a few mirth-induced tears.
Her eyes still shut and her mind still floating on hilarity, she only calmed a little at his touch and said, in the teasing voice that he'd hoped his antics had helped her find, "Obakachan," shaking her head.
And it did seem familiar. And somewhere inside him, the now unlocked door creaked open a bit, its hinges rusty after a year of not moving.
He studied her face and when she opened her eyes she found his curious, almost awe-filled, like a child seeing his first rainbow. Her mirth faded as hope began to stir inside her once more, a bit more frantically and insistently.
He brushed her cheek again, and her eyes closed in reflex, the better to let her concentrate on his touch.
"Do you remember?" she whispered, a taut bowstring's edge in her voice.
"Not....really...maybe...maybe if...." She could've sworn he moved closer to her, but in the moonlight and the haze of emotions now drifting through her brain, she couldn't tell properly.
"Maybe if what?" she prompted eagerly. The hope inside her was demanding to be freed, and her curiosity was more than willing to oblige it.
He paused for a second. "Maybe if I....kissed you? We certainly haven't done that, and it....it would be worth a shot...if it was the trigger...."
She nodded, perhaps a bit TOO eagerly. "It is worth a try," she agreed, hoping her voice sounded normal. His hands took hold of her face, tilting it just so. Her arms slid around his neck, and whether he remembered anything or not, memories of her own made themselves known with gale force.
And somewhere inside him, as he moved forward for a soft, hesitant kiss, the door slammed open all the way. He whispered, "Ore no Kiv-Chan," and crushed her lips to his, his hands leaving her face to pull her in close to him, a year away from her crashing in on him with the suddenness of a tropical storm.
She was a bit shocked, but only for the barest of instants. She could recognize him now, and she knew he was back, the "real" Touma, the one she had freed and the one she loved. Silent tears of joy came as her hands clung to him, as desperately happy as he was that he was back.
Both were so enraptured at their reunion that neither heard the quick sound of a twig snapping in the shadows; a twig which should not have snapped, had he been paying any attention to what he was doing instead of what he was seeing. As he made his way back to his room, he stumbled across Naaza, who read his friend's face and knew the truth instantly.
"And you aren't angry?"
"No. She's happy now. That's all I ever really wanted," Sh'ten told him quietly. "She's happy with him, and that's the way it's supposed to be."
"You're such a fatalist. You should be furious," Naaza informed him.
"I can't do that to her. She's been hurt enough."
"So you're just going to let him take her? He gave her up!"
"No, she was taken from him. There's a difference. I grow weary," he said, due both to the lateness of the hour and the conversation. "Oyasumi." He shut his door behind him with a soft and final click.