Pairing: Jin and Kazuya
Word count: 10,019
Warnings: Extreme!AU, one of the main characters has a disability.
Summary: The story of two heartbroken children or "how fate played a trick on you and me".
Notes: written for defiancebyfire for Kizuna Exchange 2012.
This fic has quite an epic soundtrack yet I'd really single out Kamenashi Kazuya's "Zutto", John Lennon's "Julia" and Ed Sheeran's "Give Me Love" :) Also, kicher, you are fabulous, thank you so much for being my friend.
洋子 - [Yōko] - Ocean Child.
There is always little you can do when you lose the most important thing in your life. You can try and fight for it if it is possible, try and forget the pain of your loss, try and distract yourself from the hollowness in your life, heart, soul. Or you can try and replace it. Replace the thing you treasured, thing your life depended on, that something that kept you on the ground, safe and sane, intermingled with the gray crowd of normal people who have never had their sanity doubted and their freedom threatened. I have made the decision myself. At that time, I had not yet been in the world for a long time, yet I had never felt alive and interested in the gray surroundings of the outside unless you were there for me to paint the life in bright colors of your ideas and splash around the watercolors of your laughter. But then you left. You took the paints with you. Inside, my world was crumpling. Inside my mind, I was a blank canvas, stripped of its picture that you had stolen, unknowingly. But I had made what seemed to be the rightest decision that kept me glued to the reality, having saved me from languishing in exile. I replaced you. I had squeezed you, along with the leftovers of your paint, out of my world, instiling that other something by drops, absorbing the only one thing (beside you) that ignited me. Ocean. The ocean percolated through my shell, my membranes, filling me up to the very brims, splashing around my no longer hollow soul, lapping against the rocks of my broken heart. I became one with the ocean the same way I had once thought I was one with you (that was never the case). It healed me. It gave the needed sense to my life and served as that thinnest thread between me and the reality, at the same time creating a shield from the normality I had once had a taste of and found too bitter. Now I am the Ocean Child. And you are no longer my palette (then why you still haunt my dreams).
Jin was growing up as a cheerful kid who knew no sadness, bitterness or rejection. The second he was brought into this world, his life was filled with love and joy, the sheer fact of his being alive making everyone around him happy and ecstatic. The outside world was everything but cruel to the little boy, giving him no reasons to cry or feel sorrowful, his tiny heart overfilled with love for life and everything that surrounded him; he quickly learned to share and how he could heal any mental wound, any ache someone’s soul was experiencing just by showing them a hint of kindness, by giving them his bright lopsided smile and a warm glance of his dark penetrating eyes. Oblivious of the perennial problems adults had to deal with day to day, his innocence was not darkened by a thing, his utmost happiness not hindered, spreading around him like spilt water runs free on smooth surface.
Little cheerful Jin had a lot of friends. Everyone in his tiny neighborhood reached out for him, eager to seek just a tad bit of his good-natured laughter with an aftertaste of honey, his welcoming chocolate eyes and a sugar-coated smile – a treat to innocent children and grown-up people who always suffered from the lack of the sincerity in the feelings, their surroundings and themselves alike. But Jin was generous. He sought out energy and the needed encouragement in seeing faces light up with bliss; the right sign that one could forget their problems and become more positive if shown care, shown a smile. Jin was happy to give those smiles away, naïve and tiny that he was.
(But) the first time Jin had felt truly betrayed proved to have the biggest impact on the little boy, breaking him from the inside, once strong walls of his heart filled up with love, cracking. Little cheerful Jin could no longer be unconditionally happy. The bitter realization of the fact that his family (his dear family) was breaking apart made the tiny ray of sunshine that he was wish to hide behind the clouds, for the first time in his yet short life. So it was not without reason that Jin had found his first true friend then; not without a reason he had not to heal, but break a heart later.
It happened on one of those summer days when the laughing scorching sun used its full right to burn earth, plants and people, boil the salty ocean water and dry the tears Jin shed, his usually warm chocolate eyes squeezed shut, his full cherry red lips trembling. The force of his shudders was so powerful, at first he didn’t feel the light pat on his shoulder. A moment later, and Jin was startled by small fingers sliding over his forearm, two big piercing eyes staring right into his own puffy ones, as he jumped out of shoal, his little cotton shorts and flannel shirt dripping. A boy, younger and smaller than him, gave a fleeting look to Jin’s wet through clothes, his red eyes and tear-stained cheeks, and then pointed somewhere high in the sky, making Jin momentarily forget about his heartache, as the boy looked up to see dark clouds gathering under the merciless sun; the rightest sign of approaching summer downpour. Jin turned around in time to see the boy getting out of water, his small feet rising clouds of sand that clang to his wet skin as if on glue. Jin, suddenly intimidated by the idea of being left alone on a seemingly lifeless beach, quickly followed him, loudly splashing ocean water in his hurry. He continued walking right behind the boy, with his heels burning on the heated sand, constantly turning around to see if clouds had gathered close enough to begin “shedding their tears” as his grandmother liked to explain the rain; when he again threw a look at the sky, he never noticed the other boy stop, and so their bodies collided. Polite boy that he was, Jin quickly apologized just to be left surprised when the other turned around, a frown set on his prominent features, his big black eyebrows knitted, thin lips set in a firm line.
“What? It’s going to rain soon, and I don’t want to stay alone on the shore.”
Jin quickly elaborated, but the boy only shook his head at him, his eyes serious as he pointed towards the far end of the shore where Jin knew was running his road home. Not waiting for him to finish his thinking process, the boy quickly turned to walk to the opposite side of the beach. Jin bit his lip as he watched the boy make his way to the very few houses built there, having guessed that the other had to live in one of the shacks because village inhabitants or “normal people” as his grandmother called them never visited that part of the coast; it was the residence of the poor people and that part of the beach was left in their possession. Little cheerful Jin had once been prohibited of going there, but that was then, and now was now, and summer rain loved to take you by surprise. And so Jin ran.
“Wait! There’s no chance that I will make it home before the rain starts. If I get under this downpour, I will get wet, will catch a cold and die. You want me to die? If I die, I promise I will haunt you in your sleep… oooff”
The boy turned around in time to knock Jin off his feet, a painful elbow to the ribs anything, but a welcoming gesture. Jin stared at that little short seemingly harmless creature, with clothes too big for his bony body and eyes too serious for such a young age. The boy shook his head vigorously, pointed at Jin first, and then pointed towards the road; he then jabbed his finger at his own chest and waved towards the few buildings and shook his head again. Jin only smiled; his lopsided grin disarming the boy as he stared at him, frowning.
“It’s not like I will take a lot of space or something,”
Jin stood up, his wet clothes dirty with the sand as first still innocent drops of rain fell onto his skin; he shrieked and dashed towards the small houses, grabbing the bellicose boy by his hand, shocking him so much the other had absolutely no presence of mind to resist. As they ran the short distance to the flimsy buildings, tiny drops quickly outgrew into a pour of monstrous force, a wall of rain hindering Jin from seeing well as he stumbled on the rocky path his tiny fellow was running up; a minute later and they both literary flew into one of the farthest shacks, their clothes and hair dripping wet, skin slick with cold rain drops. Exhausted by the wild running, Jin fell onto his knees, shuddering, partially from the subsiding excitement, partially, the draught that walked so freely inside that tiny room; suddenly, he gave out a hoarse laugh, his carefree nature having a habit of finding its way out in most inappropriate of moments.
“Well, wasn’t that simply crazy just now?”
He continued giggling as he lifted up his eyes to throw his companion a look; he had to cough as the next laughter fit got stuck in his throat, so fierce was the glare the other boy was giving him, reprimanding Jin for not obeying and running here with him. His chest was heaving wildly, coal black hair that was now stuck to his forehead making him look even bonier, his hollow pale cheeks a glaring contrast to Jin’s rosy face. The boy was quite tanned, his skin swarthy compared to Jin’s, but not the brown tone people expected from someone who practically lived on the beach. If Jin was the judge, he would say the boy did not look very healthy. Meanwhile, the other opened a small side door Jin had not noticed at first, stepped inside, and after grabbing something with one hand, quickly closed the door again. He then threw a thin cloth at him, drying his own hair with another one of same-looking rags; Jin sniffed at the suspicious piece of old material, surprised by the strong scent of spices waffing from the cloth. He then jammed the so-called towel on his head and looked around the room, not surprised how every piece of furniture looked like it had been in constant use for at least half a century (that was actually the case).
“So, you live here?”
Jin was not given a reply, as the boy continued ignoring him; his face was an emotionless mask, but he continued drying himself off more vigorously, leaving the skin where he stroked red and burning.
“Your mom and dad, they live here with you too, right?”
The other boy turned away from him, slightly scandalized, probably considering his questions too simple and answers to them too obvious, otherwise, why wouldn’t he say a single word since the moment they had met?
“My mom and dad don’t want to live together anymore. Funny, right? Adults are funny. Mom says she doesn’t love my dad anymore, but when I ask her why, she just shakes her head and says I’m too young to understand. Just, why wouldn’t she simply tell me the reason? Like, dad doesn’t want to share his chocolates anymore, or she is annoyed by his snoring. I’d understand, I’d give her chocolates instead of my dad, I’d even switch places with her and try sleeping with him and his loud snores. Just… is it really necessary for someone to leave?”
Jin sniffed as tears intermingled with rain drops from his wet hair ran down his cheeks; all the painful memories of the last few days returning full speed, all the reasons why he had run away from home and ended up there, on the beach, caught up by the downpour, gnawing at his heart. His emotions found their way out in the form of jumbled words while the other boy was staring at him in shock, listening to Jin’s squeaky voice filled with the pain he probably couldn’t understand. Their eyes met during the next few moments of silence, and the boy bit his lip, as if in doubt what to do with a crying stranger on his floor. Jin pouted, letting the last big teardrops draw zigzag paths down his wet cheeks and asked, his voice having a note of bitterness, so unusual for the little cheerful boy he had once been (a few days ago).
“Aren’t you supposed to comfort me or something? I’d love to get a couple of hugs too, if possible…”
He was then given a very unsure look as the other boy gulped and hesitated, before reaching for the big notebook that had been carelessly thrown on the table, judging by its opened state and pages in a mess. His new companion pondered over something, something serious, as Jin noticed a deep wrinkle settling between his thick eyebrows; the boy was probably weighing the pros and cons of showing Jin something personal contained in that very notebook. But he had no actual time to guess what it was exactly when a moment later the boy grabbed a pencil and scribbled something short on one of the blank pages, his lips set in a determined line.
“Is it some sort of secret you can’t speak about?”
Jin moved forward from his sitting position on the floor, curious, when the boy squatted down right in front of him, shoving the notebook right under his nose.
Jin stared at the words, the short phrase serving as a good explanation to why his “interlocutor” had been so taciturn so far. The other boy attentively watched his face for any hint of disapproval or pity or, the worst of them all, mockery; he could find none though, as Jin looked up at him, blinking, his eyes big and curious, cherry red lips still in a pout.
“But you do have a name, right? Mine’s Jin.”
The pencil scraped over the cheap paper as Jin waited a second or two with bated breath.
The boy blinked then, shocked, so wide and blinding was the smile that lit up the features of his new self-proclaimed friend.
Their first meeting might have been awkward, but, if one dared to believe in little miracles and be brave enough to use that one infamous word without fearing the consequences, “fate” was what had thrown the boys together: one with his heart broken by his dearest and the other void of the ability to voice out his thoughts met on an isolated beach, frolicsome summer rain catching them unawares, as if on purpose. But that time, that moment, that place, it all meant a lot to Jin. It meant a whole new world he had to plunge into to fully comprehend, had to surrender himself in return for the trust he sought for. Crushed by the events, he was grateful he could escape from the harsh reality by running to that one distant beach, hiding from everyone in one of the few shacks, his father’s working notepad and ink pen safely squeezed in his sweaty hands.
Their conversations had dragged on for hours. Jin was too curious, Kazuya – too untrusting and, in a way, embarrassed to write lengthy answers to the other’s never-ending flow of questions. Having noticed that queer overly shy side of his, Jin tried to assure the other that the time Kazuya took to reply was everything but a bother, yet the boy seemed not willing to believe; too many times he had been mocked and ignored by the other children, who were always so cruel in their lack of common knowledge about world and inabilities some people had to unwillingly live with. But Jin had always been stubborn. He forced his way into Kazuya’s heart, his outgoing nature and the manner of his slow speaking, the ridiculous sound of his ringing laughter, and his warm chocolate eyes; honestly, Kazuya could not resist him even if he wanted to.
Gradually, they had become two halves of one puzzle; two mazes, interwoven so inextricably, their walls fragile, yet so difficult to trace. They had different stories, shared different kinds of heartache, and the dissimilarity of their characters was so striking, one could only wonder what had gotten them together. Light-minded Jin had quickly learned that Kazuya had a difficult nature; the mute boy could get so temperamental at times, he made Jin wonder how he managed to keep up an indifferent mask of haughty seriousness when outside of his house, “his shell”. But the first time Jin saw Kazuya flip happened to be the moment when Jin understood the other boy had finally acknowledged their friendship.
They were in Kazuya’s tiny room, half-lying on his old moth-eaten futon as the two of them wasted away one particularly hot summer day in the salutary coolness of Kazuya’s small house. Kazuya was carefully turning pages of the book that Jin caught him studying sometimes; the boy could never go to school because of his inability to speak and his father, a lonely extremely gaunt man taught him to read and write himself, in the evenings, when exhausted, he came home from work at the town’s plant. Jin had been doodling on the big notepad they used to converse by, but now he was getting very sleepy, his comfortable position and Kazuya’s warm body pressed to his side serving as great means for lulling him to sleep. His head fell on Kazuya’s shoulder and if Jin had enough presence of mind, he’d have noticed how his friend did no longer stiffen at his simplest touch; his body stayed relaxed, his eyes continued catching lines as he let Jin doze away on his shoulder. But it seemed like Jin had only slept for several seconds, when he was shaken awake by an angry female voice.
“If your father’s not going to pay the debt this weekend, he can grab his dirty possessions and get ready for policemen to take him to prison, you hear me? I’m not going to wait anymore, I need this money and I’ll get them back, one way or another. You tell him that, okay, boy?”
Jin found himself staring at the door, perplexed, the newly drawn information sinking in. For a few seconds, he was expecting someone to reply to the scandalized woman, but then remembered that Kazuya was the only member of the family present and he was… well, unable to answer. Jin rose from his lying position on the futon in time to hear the entrance door slam shut, and a moment later Kazuya was storming into the room, the features of his face schooled into the cold indifference he used to present Jin with so many times before. The boy grabbed a glass of water from the table, and Jin opened his mouth to tell him it had probably gone stale already but Kazuya was not about to drink it anyway; Jin only had time to cover his eyes with his hand when the glass collided with the wall and shattered into tiny sharp transparent pieces. When shocked, Jin lifted his eyes up to look at Kazuya’s face, he found his friend’s lips trembling, bushy eyebrows knitted as tears slid down his cheeks.
“Wow, is everything that bad?”
Kazuya just shook his head at him, a silent request to keep silence, and buried his face in his palms, his small body shuddering from the force of his sobs; all the emotions he could never voice out were bound to burst him open sometime, but Jin could guess the boy didn’t let it happen often.
“Everything will be alright.”
Jin sprang to his feet and hugged the boy, his hands softly squeezing the bony body, a sad smile adorning his features, but the kind gesture only made Kazuya cry harder. He threw his arms around Jin’s middle then and buried his face in his shirt, wetting the soft cotton with his tears, as he could no longer contain his worries, not in front of Jin, who knew Kazuya had always wanted, needed a friend and was grateful to become the one for that tender boy in the moments when life felt most unfair. He was ecstatic he could once again become that little cheerful Jin at least for someone and reserve his sunny honeyed smiles for that one person who needed them the most. That new side of Kazuya was what had brought them even closer, breaking the hoarfrost of doubt Kazuya had still felt towards the other boy as he let Jin claim his heart (secretly hoping he would never want to give it back).
Despite getting so close to each other, there still stayed some taboo topics they both were not willing to discuss. Only once, Kazuya mentioned that his mother had died during the difficult delivery; the boy immediately tore that almost blank page into pieces as if frightened the prohibited words might escape and haunt him in his sleep, as an unspoken reproach that he had been the reason for her death. Jin never had the heart to prod those dangerous waters of Kazuya’s secret. He himself chose not to talk about the endless brawls which took place in his household every day, the cruel verbal fights his parents had stooped themselves to while eager to split their common possessions. Even Jin’s dear grandmother, as she had always been a woman of gentle disposition, having no strength to bear her son screaming at the mother of his child and her only grandson, left, thus, betraying Jin and making him walk through that so-called hell alone.
Jin no longer appeared in the streets of his neighborhood, the local playground and never went to school; his parents, too occupied with themselves, did not keep an attentive eye on the life of their boy. His mother, visibly devastated by the drastic change in her life, her once unclouded happiness shattering like a mirror, could only care enough to feed him when he returned home late in the evening, not having second thoughts about his attending school and not questioning his absence during the day. If Jin could, he would not return home at all, but the circumstances didn’t let him; the last thing he wanted was to create problems for his friend. Kazuya’s father who now came home to be a witness to the unusual sight of his son laughing at some joke of that “nameless” boy who had appeared one day out of nowhere with his handsome face and neat clothes just to shake his dull son and make him feel alive, never said a word to Jin. He only stared at the clock where the hands were getting close to strike midnight and then frowned at Jin, indicating that it was time for him to go home. The man knew how to talk but it seemed like he had no reason to use his vocal cords any longer, using sign language to speak to his mute son and mostly keeping to himself when outside.
The two of them were building castles (castles in the air); Jin chucked them up out of sand, Kazuya pretended they were made of marble. The bliss could never continue forever because there was always someone willing (sometimes involuntarily) to ruin what others had worked so hard for. The two tiny aching hearts which had found each other, two hollow souls which filled each other up were bound to be separated, because “fate” never remits debts; once it had given you something, it wanted something back, something no less precious.
Jin’s mother decided to leave. She decided to leave the town where she had once been happy and where she knew she’d leave her heart buried forever, buried by the father of her child. Having no reason to stay behind, she gathered her belongings and wrote her husband-soon-to-be-a-stranger one letter where she stated how much money he had to send his son every month and how happy she wished him to become; still in love, she sincerely wanted her beloved one to find his true happiness, even if it was not with her. That morning she woke her clueless son up too early, shaking him awake and helping the sleepy boy dress up; she had to pull on his hands when he tried batting her away to continue watching his dreams, the ends of his blanket still squeezed in his fists as she dragged him out of his room. When the determined woman shoved a fish cake and a glass of milk into his hands and ordered him to eat quickly while rearranging their heavy suitcases, the realization suddenly dawned on Jin. Startled, his thoughts in a mess, his heart caught on fire of panic, he fled the house with lighting speed, his feet immediately bringing him to that one distant beach and that one flimsy shack that had become his real home in a span of so little time. He drummed on Kazuya’s old wooden door, not even noticing how forceful sobs were rocking his small body. When Kazuya’s father, seemingly frightened, opened the door, Jin jumped inside, startling the sleepy man but not noticing his presence at all, and then broke into Kazuya’s room, tears and snivels running down his face. His friend was standing on his futon, dressed only in his small sleeping shorts, shocked and uncomprehending, his thick eyebrows raised in question, when Jin threw his hands around his bare middle and buried his face inside his prickly hair, crying hard and loud, almost in hysterics as he shouted the cruel words out.
“Kazuya! I’m leaving! I’m leaving, Kazuya! They’re taking me away!”
He wept bitterly, squeezing his dearest friend hard, as Kazuya stiffened in his arms, his mind blank of all thoughts, heart cracking.
“My mom… She wants to leave, now! I don’t want to leave, Kazuya, I don’t! I want to stay with you!”
There was a commotion at the entrance as Jin continued desperately clutching Kazuya to his chest, silent tears streaming down the mute boy’s cheeks as he tried to stomach that new piece of information; they were both too shocked to understand it was the very moment to say their goodbyes. Then suddenly, cold and cruel hands like clamps dragged them away from each other, Jin’s mother pressing Jin to herself as she tried calming her son down, shocked by such a strong reaction from him, and Kazuya’s father holding his own son close, speechless just like always, only patting the boy on his head as Kazuya watched hysterical Jin being taken away, sullen, his face paler than usual. The sad emotionally exhausted woman excused herself and, having no strength and patience to calm Jin down and let him bid farewell properly, took Jin in her arms and found now was the best time to flee, the town and her past.
“I promise that he will write to you. Sorry.”
Were the first and last words Jin had heard that woman say to his Kazuya before he lost his conscience.
I fill my lungs with cold salty air, malicious morning breeze hitting my skin, touching my face, messing up my bed hair. The sleepy morning sun peeks from behind curly clouds, as if questioning my early visit, but the ocean welcomes me, the cold transparent still virgin pure waves splashing around my bare feet as I leave my clothes on the beach and step into the water, as even as glass at the faraway border where it slowly uncovers the sun, hinting that the new daybreak has finally caught up with me. I take several deep breaths, my pulse calm and eyes closed, determination settling over my features, as I continue walking further into the ocean, my skin prickling at the drastic change of temperatures, my stubborn mind sending a signal to my panicking body before I finally dare to dive, water as amiable as ever, taking me in but pushing up to the surface when I try to reach too close to the bottom. I continue swimming, the pace of my strokes slow, my mind blank of all thoughts as water habitually washes away any traces of worry about the problems I now have to deal with on my own. As I find a few beautiful small shells half buried in the sand underwater, they seem unique in the soft glowing of morning sun and I take them to the beach with me, holding them in my hands as something precious, like ocean’s gift to my unconditional loyalty. Wet and salty from the water, I march to my clothes then, my stance relaxed, and a smile adorning my features. I am not about to get embarrassed over my nakedness, the vulnerability one has to be bound to feel forgotten the moment I stepped on this abandoned beach; the both of us have been outcasts for too long to bother about people and their useless opinions, now that we both have aged and coarsened so much.
I slowly sink into the water, smiling as it forces me up to float on the very surface, and involuntarily, I start resembling a small ship, drifting in the vast waters like a stray dog lounges about the streets in a big city. Playful little waves strive to lick my whole body as I continue floating there, motionless, as if ready to sleep, my body warm and pliant like clay. But my ears submerged under water, keep ringing. Following some bizarre ritual, memories start flooding my hollow mind as usual; every morning, during my so-called bathing in the ocean, the fragments of my life come back to me in forms of vivid dreams and bright stage plays as I watch them like one would watch a television program. I have to run this so-called film through my mind to keep it secured during the day and night, to reassure myself these memories won’t come haunting me in my sleep to cause insomnia which will be devastating for my daily routine.
The face of my father has been first to arise from the fountain of memories since two years ago, his unexpected death still causing my sadness even now, and a choked gasp escapes my throat; the quiet man who he has always been, passed away just as quietly, when one morning he no longer bothered to wake up. His death did not shake my world though, nor did it make me inconsolably depressed. That turn of events was probably for the better, as my father could finally meet his wife, the woman I had involuntarily killed when she was giving me birth. Maybe, she took my ability to speak as a price for the sacrifice she had to make so I could be alive, but I am not about to ponder over this thought as next slides come up to the surface of my vast memory, and they succeed to make me smile. I look at myself, slightly younger than now, a feeble teenager who has only started learning surfing. In my hands, there is my first board that I got after doing a favour for a few villagers as the people from the beach houses used to call them. The half-ruined houses now stand abandoned, forgotten by the people who have once lived there, and only one of the flimsy buildings happens to still be in a more or less appropriate state; my old house. I cannot say I have spent the best years of my life there, but that was the place where I was brought up and taught many useful tricks of survival in the savage world of talking people.
Suddenly, there is an unexpected big wave covering my body, water flowing into my nose and filling my mouth, caustic salt pinching my tongue, as I try to emerge from the suddenly choppy ocean, the urge to cough irrepressible. My mind in a messy panic, my guards falling down, I now see it coming (that rare moment when the can of worms is opened); there are these painful memories I have always been trying so hard to get rid of, but they always come back to me, in most inappropriate of moments, always the most vivid ones, crudely clutching at my heart, just like now, as I come up to the surface, coughing hard, my wet bangs clinging to my eyes. In my mind, I am seeing myself as a child, no longer lonely yet still so vulnerable, and this recollection is literary making me wince. My small tanned body, so bony, my tiny stubby fingers smeared with ink intertwined with long digits-spiders, pale knuckles contrasting with my brownish fist. This is one of the most vapid memories that I have of that time, yet I find myself frightened by the prospect of seeing more, seeing the smiles, seeing the happiness, seeing that face…
I freeze at the call of the name I had not heard for years already, huddled up, shocked by the sudden unwanted waves of water and memories, suddenly aware of my surroundings. The morning sun still looks sleepy, having lazily risen only slightly higher, but the innocent lambs of clouds have dissolved into dark puffs on the horizon and the coastal waters seem so worried now, suddenly beating against my bare back as if to warn me of the coming danger. As I raise my head, surprise written over my features, I hear the stranger on the shore chuckle (it sounds so familiar), his voice making my heart miss a beat, as he pronounces the next words slowly and quietly, almost longingly.
His blinding smile is what gives him away.
Years passed. The heartbroken boy, betrayed by his dearest, forgotten by his father and stolen by his mother, matured. He was no longer that sobbing child in the caressing arms of others, he no longer sought any solace in the cold gazes directed at him. As he cast away everybody who had ever hurt him, finding his own heart too weak to forgive and forget just like that, the brave boy had to become a fighter, ready to face the world on his own, still so young, yet already difficult to read. He crossed the needed borders to achieve what he himself wanted; always so assiduous in everything that could really catch the fleeting sparks of his attention, he followed his own ways of understanding “the crowd”, slowly building his own point of view using the bricks of past experiences, sometimes too heavy to handle, sometimes too fragile they crumpled in a fraction of a second, immediately forgotten by its owner, who strived to get more knowledge about the world where he had to survive on his own.
He had done everything to become estranged to his mother, his belief in the woman lost the moment she and her father had forgotten about him to devote their time to fruitless verbal fights, venomous words biting him in the very heart, killing the glimmer of love little cheerful Jin of that time still felt for his parents. Gradually, he and his mother drifted apart. Having moved to the school dormitory, Jin only visited the woman on those days when she was desperate to hear from him; with time, those days became rare as the older her boy grew, the more his features resembled the ones of his father. Having no strength to look in the familiar face of that one man who had once been her everything, she let go of Jin, setting him free. And so far, everything had been working out greatly for bright matured Jin, if only his dreams weren’t constantly haunted by his father’s face, the question of “why” never answered by his sombre mother. If only each time he blinked, each time he closed his eyes, he didn’t see the face of that one speechless boy, his Kazuya.
Now he was there, at that very shore, where he had first met his best friend, his savior, and where he had spent the best summer of his life. He still remembered their talks, his random questions and Kazuya’s unhurried written answers, the squeak of his father’s stolen ink pen over the expensive paper of the “borrowed” notepad, his own long adventure stories which often ended with aliens enslaving all the adults, his excited speech always accompanied by Kazuya’s even breathing as the mute boy’s eyes were sincere in showing the fireworks of emotions he felt when together, they wasted away days. He still felt the clutch of the stubby fingers as Kazuya involuntarily grabbed his hands and hair in his sleep, as if afraid, Jin would run away during their naps.
He remembered it all like it was yesterday.
Now he stood there, his bare feet half buried in the sand, the ends of his black trousers dirty and wet from the dew he had probably caught while walking in tall grass past the abandoned houses of once “poor people”. The morning sun played on the gold of his thin rims, his round glasses pleasantly flickering in the daybreak, as salty ocean wind pulled on his coal black curls, blowing his long bangs out of his eyes, drying his lips.
He could not contain the silly giggling as he looked at the shocked face of his matured friend, caught in the moment of vulnerability, half-hidden in the ocean water; his Kazuya was now a young man, his black wet locks framing his face, tanned body still so very bony, yet muscular in a way a child’s would never be. His features were now more prominent, eyes more piercing, yet unreadable as the two of them exchanged long looks.
Jin smiled then, his lopsided smile a proof of the happiness blossoming inside his chest. Noticing the flicker of recognition in his Kazuya’s eyes, he once again could not believe his luck; finding that one person he had lost years ago the minute he stepped on the beach that still felt like his second home even a little less than a decade later. It felt miraculous. But his Kazuya was still standing in the water, staring at him, and Jin had an urge to cough, suddenly embarrassed by the piercing gaze the other was giving him.
“Are you… staying in the water? Not that I mind, but waves are getting kind of wild and this wind is anything but pleasant…”
The truth was, the ocean seemed suddenly in rage, angry waves shattering against the sandy beach, taking away little shells in their countless efforts to reach further onto the coast, to lick more of the dry land, to submit it to its will to possess more space. The wind, as if it was in collusion with ocean, a moment ago so pleasant on his skin, was now hitting Jin’s face with prickling needles of cold air, tearing his jacket and dress shirt, carelessly left untucked, its crumpled end sticking from under his black jacket. Jin raised his eyes to the sky to see dark clouds obscuring its morning idyll. Feeling slightly intimidated, a shudder touching his spine and goosebumps running up his arms, he returned his gaze towards his friend who had finally deigned to leave the coastal waters either because of the cold or (as Jin sincerely hoped) the urge to welcome him. He had to gasp and quickly turn away though, a blush settling over his cheeks as his eyes caught the nakedness the other young man was sporting. For some reason, he was not yet ready to think of his innocent Kazuya as of someone mature enough to be in “that” particular kind of situations.
“Umm… that was unexpected. Sorry, I didn’t think you’d be swimming naked.”
A quick rustle of clothes and few moments later, and he was given a slight pat on his shoulder, as an indication that Kazuya was done dressing, and Jin’s eyes again met the ones of his old friend; he was saddened as he was not able to call out any happiness in those dark orbs which met his for only a fleeting fracture of a second. A moment later, Kazuya was marching away from him, his pants and loose shirt with wet patches all over them and his hair – dripping with salty water. Unsure now, Jin followed him, tensed silence between the two of them making him twitchy, nervous wrinkle forming on his forehead; he had a strange feeling he was not welcomed here. The thought made him panic and he quickly explained his friend’s manner of “welcoming” him as a gesture of shyness; after all, his Kazuya had always been kind of afraid of people but he was Jin, Kazuya’s Jin, and he only needed to give him a slight push of encouragement, right?
As they dragged their feet through tall wet grass, Kazuya’s back, as it was facing him, seemed so distant, Jin was afraid of closing the space (miles away) between them to touch him, was afraid to utter a single word, frightened by the possible rejection, after all, he could be the only one of the two who had always been missing the other… Following the familiar path, that had once been covered in billions of annoyingly tiny rocks but now was a mere sandy mess, they reached the house where Jin used to feel safe and unconditionally happy. Kazuya simply pushed the squeaky wooden door open, probably considering the lock no longer needed as it had been taken out, and Jin first took a look inside, before stepping into the other’s premises. The house turned out to be not lived in, dust covering the sparse furniture, the only two doors to the tiniest bathroom and Kazuya’s room missing; nothing was littering the space there, cold naked walls glaring at Jin, sending him in a frenzy of despair. As Kazuya chose that very moment to turn and stare at him, expectant, Jin gulped, his palms suddenly sweaty. Mind in panic, his eyes caught a collection of differently sized and shaped shells, perched up on the decrepit table near the wall.
Kazuya threw him a confused look from under his fringe, as if he was trying to read him, but could not grasp what it was that that new matured Jin wanted from him, now, years after they had parted their ways. The thought made Jin even more nervous, and he started fumbling through his pockets, in search of those two things, now necessary like air they both could not help but breathe.
“Umm, I… I thought we would want to talk and so I came prepared.”
A notepad and a simple cheap ball pen, indispensable in their situation, the best Jin could find in the shop at the village’s railway station. But Kazuya’s features only hardened and he sent a dirty look at the items in Jin’s hand, as if Jin was trying to humiliate him by asking him to use these as a means of conversing. As he chose to ignore the other’s outstretched hand, never ceasing to glare at the man opposite him, Jin felt his heart sinking. Carefully, he laid the items on the edge of the table, moving them closer to Kazuya, hoping the other would consider taking them now that they were out of his hands. The humid weather and the tension in the room made him sweat in his suit, his dress shirt becoming see-through as he opened his mouth to speak.
“True, my return is very sudden. But there are two reasons why I had to come back. Now, that I am officially an adult, I think I need to know what kind of life my father chose… how much better that life is that he was ready to forget all about my mom and, well, me. I want to look him in the eyes when he tells me that he doesn’t love me, and, umm, yes, I think that’s what his answer will be anyways. That’s the first reason. And the second reason… is you.”
During his little speech, Jin’s eyes were boring holes in the wooden floor, but now, that he was finished, he could not contain himself; he looked up, biting his lip, feeling awkward under the unimpressed stare (still his) Kazuya was sending him.
“And how… How have you been?”
Kazuya licked his lips, letting out an exasperated sigh. He waited a moment or two, his gaze settled on the window as if considering just throwing the other out to spare himself the trouble of answering his questions, but, a second later, he took pity of Jin, seeing his desperate eyes filled with hope. He grabbed the pen and notepad from the table, raising a small cloud of dust by that move, and scraped something very short.
Jin stared at the word, as Kazuya outstretched the notepad for him to read it.
Kazuya stayed motionless, his gaze merciless, as Jin felt the veil of depression falling over his crumpling heart, the sudden urge to cry irrepressible.
“I missed you. You never answered my letters. Why?”
Drizzling rain started drumming on the dirty windows, as if in an effort to shake the waxen atmosphere inside the wooden room, the stale thick air whipped out by the sudden draught. Jin noticed Kazuya, the skinny little guy in his wet clothes, shiver, but he did not dare move from his position at the door, afraid of the other’s possible reaction if he tried touching him. His heart would not be able to bear if the other suddenly got violent and slapped his helping hands away. Having realized that Kazuya did no longer need his friendship, Jin still felt that tiny glimmer of hope that that crude act of indifference could just be a means of protection from being hurt again. Jin wanted to believe it. He was surprised though, when Kazuya finally got a hold of himself and his uncontrollable shivers and wrote something down, once again outstretching his hand for Jin to read the written question, which fell like a slipknot on Jin’s neck.
What were you expecting anyways?
Jin blinked at the words, shocked, feeling his heart finally shattering inside his chest, broken fragments cutting his soul, shredding its fragile walls.
“I was expecting to meet an old friend.”
Kazuya snorted bitterly, the pen in his hand flying over the paper.
I don’t need friends like you. Friends, who give something but, in the end, take everything and more.
“Please, don’t blame me for leaving. I was hurt too. Yet I still hoped you would understand and that you would wait for me to return. You were my only close friend, I loved you. And I am ready to forgive you for ignoring my letters even though it is not in my nature. Just because it’s you.”
Jin sniffed, involuntarily letting out the desperate words, feeling as an avalanche fell over his feelings when he looked into Kazuya’s shocked eyes, cold indifference (or was it pain) outgrowing into rage as the boy in front of him absorbed the words he had just uttered, their meaning hitting him like ocean waves hit a drifting ship during the storm. He threw the notepad and pen on the floor then, right to Jin’s feet, shaking his head at him, his mind still in a frozen state, as he ran out of the house, right past Jin, probably not wanting to deal with all the emotions and look at tears that streamed down Jin’s pale cheeks.
“I will be waiting for you.”
The ocean is extremely rough today and there is going to be a heavy storm and I feel like I am falling right in the very middle of this horror, the tempest in my chest no less forceful, as I find myself beating against the rocks of my sinking thoughts, the fragments of my feelings like ruins of old ships stinging as I brush up against them in the wild dance in the wicked whirlpool of my emotions. There is an open hole gaping in my chest and I am suffering from the awful pain that is guilt, as it, like salt, gets into the wound and eats me up from the inside, my body numb from the (almost physical) pain I am not used to feel. I thought I have done everything not to experience this horrible feeling, and yet again I find myself dying, lost in the memories, half-frozen by the unknown emotion that is so powerful in its damaging force against the betrayal that has its sticky fingers around my throat; my body and mind are seized up as I am desperately trying to cope up. Involuntarily, I reminisce about the countless lonely days I have spent before you came and the endless days after you left, the solitude becoming thousands times more bitter after I have tasted what it was like to own a friend and then lose him, so crudely; you were stolen from me, and I lost the ability to feel for such a long time. But I needed someone to blame, after all, I am a queer one, but a human being nonetheless. And I put the blame on you; not because you left me, but because you found me, you shared everything with me, you gave me hope that I could become someone for somebody. Secretly, I hated myself for giving you my all, my childish shield I had once put up, cracking the very first time you showed me your kindness, your smile. I kept throwing away all your letters, without reading them, and having not received a single reply for several years, you stopped writing regularly, sparing me a couple of “verses” a year. I decided I could no longer get close to people; you were one of few overlooking my disability and if I had no luck with you, I believed there was no reason to look for someone else. Someone else who could hurt me. Now. I am lost. Because by always trying to throw you out of my mind and heart, I have involuntarily kept you by my side during all these years. Forever. With you. I am drowning.
There was a dull kind of ache at the place where Jin’s heart had just been beating that morning. If Jin remembered clearly, Kazuya, that stranger who he still dared to call (not his, not anymore) Kazuya, was the first to rip it out of his chest. Then, later in the day, the man, who he considered his father centuries ago, scraped out the remains just to stomp on them; he was oblivious enough to decide it was a great idea to show Jin his younger brother, whose face he never really wanted to see. They bore a resemblance they both seemed to find sickening; the teenager, his little brother, only frowned at him, as his father poked Jin in the chest, explaining how exactly they were related (the older brother who he would never see again). They nodded to each other and Jin felt like vomiting as he stared at all the smiling photos behind his back, where a woman, younger than his mother, showed a countless number of peace signs. He then knew what it was exactly that had charmed his father and ruined his own family; a peace sign and a smile on those full red lips. The truth, his mother had been hiding from him for so long, could only leave a bitter aftertaste now though. Maybe, Jin should be grateful to that lady for being so stubborn and keeping silence, for now he found himself hardly caring about the old man.
Time had stopped since he hid himself in the corner of Kazuya’s shack, his face buried in his knees, his jacket forgotten on the floor, now gray from the dust and dirt littering the place. He sat there, fallen into a stupor, his eyes closed, cheeks stained by dry paths of few teardrops he managed to shed, but no more, as Jin was not able to feel anything for today, so it seemed. The waterfall of emotions broke him. The only one the thoughts and memories about who had always managed to bring a smile to his lips, turned out to be dead. The person, who took his place, was a stranger who wanted nothing to do with him. Now, that was what poets called “solitude”. The realization that you were alone against the whole world, with absolutely no one by your side to turn to for solace. Jin remembered himself wondering what Kazuya would be like, now, that years had passed (so quickly). He remembered himself writing letters when he was in classrooms with no hopes to receive a reply. Now he knew Kazuya had probably been throwing them away. If he could, he would feel hurt, now there was just a dull ache inside his chest.
Rain was tapping on the window. Jin was exhausted. He wondered if it was okay for him to fall asleep right there, on the floor, surrounded by Kazuya’s beautiful shells. For some reason, they were comforting him. He sat back, crumpling his dress shirt some more, but too tired to care about such a trivial thing. Taking off his glasses, he put them in the pocket of his trousers, careful not break them.
He closed his eyes.
And heard someone stomping into the house, light steps squelching through the little puddles at the door.
A second later, and he got himself an armful of the mute boy, the back of Jin’s head colliding with the wall behind, as the two of them hugged, desperate and giddy. The other’s soaked clothes wetted his dry suit, as Jin embraced him, hugged him to himself, squeezed him in his arms, making Kazuya fall onto him as he forcefully pulled him down. They sat there just like that, with Kazuya kneeling in between the other’s legs, as Jin buried his face in his neck, inhaling the salty oceanic smell intermingled with that one special scent of spices which had always clung to Kazuya’s clothes and skin since he was still little.
“I thought you would never come…”
He felt Kazuya pull on his hair and raised his head, showing him the brightest of his smiles (reserved only for his Kazuya); the other boy stared at his face, as if reminiscing how that attractive smile looked on the clumsy child Jin had once been. His eyes examined Jin’s features closely, fingers fiddling with a single scrap of paper as he shoved it under Jin’s nose.
Jin nodded then, his lips stretching even wider if it was possible, his eyes big as he let Kazuya hold his face in his hands, the boy staring at the lopsided smile that had always managed to shake his world and leave it confusingly messed up. Kazuya seemed genuinely sorry now, as if he was ashamed of himself, guilty for hurting Jin the way he had done. He pulled a single smile, quirking one eyebrow at him, as if asking for forgiveness; he used to be as mischievous when they were still children. Jin smirked, squeezing the air out of him, once again.
“It’s okay, I forgive you, because you realized what kind of an epic mistake you were about to make.”
He felt Kazuya snorting and couldn’t hold back a chuckle; his hands entwined the other’s skinny middle as he pressed his nose into his shoulder, his eyelids fluttering shut from the pleasure. His senses overfilled with his friend’s scent, his heart safely patched up inside his chest, as a happy expression ceased to leave his face; the most important person, his speechless savior was back in his arms, not resisting him, but hugging him back, not in his dreams, but in reality.
The other’s black locks tickled his cheek as he moved closer to the other’s surprisingly pierced ear; his hot breathing touched the boy’s earlobe, and he twitched in Jin’s arms.
“I want to give you something, show me your face.”
Kazuya drew back, his dark orbs so curious as they once again caught the honeyed smile, adorning Jin’s face; he seemed to be fond of Jin’s smile.
“Close your eyes.”
The boy frowned but still obeyed his request, slightly tensing in Jin’s arms.
“Kazuya, I really, really missed you.”
Cherry red lips met wet lips in a single fleeting touch, a blind press of mouths of two inexperienced boys that sent sparks bursting inside one’s chest, and panic squeezing its sticky fingers around the heart of the other.
A moment later, and Kazuya was again out of his reach, fleeing out of his embrace and the shack.
That is what Kazuya needs to put his own emotions in order. Water; to wash away all his troubles, to sort out his feelings, to carry away all the unnecessary things and leave his mind blank as a sheet of paper he used to write his life story on, his notepad always littered with silly pictures Jin loved to doodle.
The rain has ended, but the foggy twilight settled over the beach prevents the boy from seeing well as he races through the damp sand towards the ocean, its foamy waves furious as they keep colliding, like countless rabid dogs fighting each other. A horrifying view, but Kazuya does not notice anything as he rushes towards the water, his mind in panic, heart – a fluttering bird. There are thoughts and reminiscences tangling inside his head, one most vivid memory of warm lips touching his own clouding Kazuya’s mind; he vaguely remembers how pleasant that feeling was.
“Kazuya, idiot, stop!”
There is a strong pull on his loose shirt and hands grabbing shoulders as they throw him down, onto the damp sand, just few meters away from the raging ocean. All of a sudden, Kazuya is seeing stars lighting up on the dark blue of the twilight sky and strangely enough, they calm him down. His chest is heaving wildly as he tries to bring his own pulse down when he notices Jin staring at him, his round glasses crookedly perched up on the bridge of his nose; he has probably thrown them on in a hurry to catch him. Kazuya stretches his hand to adjust them and Jin lets him, blinking, his lips pursed.
I can’t believe you called me an idiot.
“I can’t believe you just tried to end your own life by jumping into that storm.”
I did not try to end my own life, you fool.
“Don’t roll your eyes at me. That was very reckless of you. You scared me.”
“It’s okay though… I forgive you. I can forgive you anything.”
You left me alone for so long.
“You too, I’m sorry I never visited you… I couldn’t. I would want to stay.”
“Actually… I came back for you. I want you to leave with me.”
Let me think.
“Umm… Because I don’t have any paper with me now… And I only just started learning sign language… You could give me your positive answer by responding to my kiss.”
You sure don’t waste any time…
As Jin takes off his glasses and wipes his sweaty palms on his trousers, Kazuya catches one more glimpse of starry sky before pulling the suddenly blushing guy down, their lips meeting in a kiss that tastes like honey and salt.