Falling from the Moon
A "Please Save My Earth" fanfic
By Natalie Baan
Chin on crossed arms, Jinpachi stared at the row of silver balls hanging absolutely still in their metal frame. Executive toy, hell: no wonder executives had dull, short lives. "Nothing's happening," he said.
"Keep trying," Hiragi suggested, glancing up briefly from his book. Jinpachi sighed and went back to concentrating on the little balls--although there wasn't much point to it because they weren't going to move. You could see your reflection in them, though, in a weird funhouse-distortion way. He tried shifting his head and seeing from different angles. Then he noticed Hiragi giving him a funny look and heaved another sigh, really did try to focus on the balls and not be so restless. But he'd been willing movement into them for almost half an hour with no luck, and he was getting just a little bit tired of it.
He'd arrived for the Sunday meeting with news that Issei wasn't coming for whatever reason and that Rin wasn't either--Rin's mother wouldn't let him out of her sight these days except to be with Sakaguchi-san--only to find out that Shusulan hadn't turned up either. No one had been able to contact Shion for days. And Sakaguchi-san herself--well, what did you expect? Hiragi had been a little put out. But they'd decided in the end that the two of them might as well hang out and talk, and eventually they'd agreed that if Hiragi would coach Jinpachi on his English, Jinpachi would let Hiragi try to test his psychic powers. Hence the executive toy, which was persisting in doing nothing and was starting to piss him off.
He blew on it and the silver balls started to swing.
"No cheating," Hiragi said.
"It's not working," Jinpachi complained. "I've been trying."
"Do you want to try the ball bearing?"
"No!" Jinpachi shoved away from the coffee table and flopped on his back on the floor. "Aaah, this is stupid. I couldn't control my powers before--why should I be able to now?"
Hiragi only shrugged. "Who can say what the effect of reincarnation is on such abilities? And reincarnation into an alien race, as well: I don't think such a thing has ever been documented."
/Alien race./ It made his head hurt when Hiragi did that, calling Earth people "aliens" and that far-off other world "home." If anything, it should be the other way around. /Here/ was real. Their other lives were a long time gone--even if they did come back at you sometimes, still.
"Well, it was worth a shot. If you didn't at least try, we could never be sure." Hiragi had that wistful, where-is-my-laboratory look. "I'd love to know whether Shion and Shukaido have been able to access their powers. I wish one of them would come to a meeting."
Shion would never sit still for this--although he'd seemed different, the few times Jinpachi had met him in this life. Maybe he would, now.
"And I was really hoping Enju would come today. I wanted to try this set of ESP cards."
"Yes. See, they have simple shapes on them. One person looks at a card and the other tries to pick up the image of it from his mind: a very primitive, basic form of testing for telepathic ability. I thought it would be interesting to see Enju's success rate. Unfortunately, the Earth doesn't really have ESP science--at least, not at this stage of its development, or not that I've been able to find. What little study has been done is so impossibly subjective. Are you and Enju still sharing the moon dream?"
"Pity. It was an interesting phenomenon. I have to admit, I don't know as much about telepathy as I'd like. I should call Enju sometime and discuss it with him." Suddenly Hiragi chuckled. "'Enju,' 'him'--that sounds really odd, doesn't it?"
"That was unexpected. There were a few times at our first meeting when I almost referred to him as 'her.' I wonder if he would have been upset?" Hiragi laughed again, and went on without waiting for an answer. "I can only imagine how strange he must find it. Though he appears to be coping well, don't you think?"
"Uh...." Not well at all as far as Jinpachi was concerned, but that was starting to get into topics that he didn't want to think about much less discuss with Hiragi, who meanwhile was going on:
"I wonder why, though? Is it something he chose, or something that happened to him? It's theorized that a person's mental state at the moment of death can affect the circumstances of the next life. On the other hand, some people say that our reincarnations are chosen for us by a higher power, depending on what lessons our souls need to learn. And of course there are those who believe that all our fates rest on the fall of a die--though as a traditionalist I'm personally biased against that view. You seem to know him pretty well in this life. Has he said anything about it?"
In fact Issei hadn't, because when they were still at a point to talk about each other's past lives they hadn't realized that those /were/ past lives: that they had actually been those people and died up there on the moon. Then they'd found out, and something had gone seriously weird in Issei the moment he'd suspected it was real. He'd shut up fast, got awfully silent about what Enju had thought and felt. You wondered, but figured it to be just the way he was, quiet, and he had to be embarrassed at some of the things you'd seen in the dreams. You thought you had him figured out and then--oh, god.
He blew up in your face. And you were left with things you didn't want to know about.
Wanting to pick up where Enju and Gyokulan had left off--how could he just ignore the fact that he was a guy now, and-- How could your best friend do that to you? It had made Jinpachi angry and scared until he'd realized Issei was just confused, having forgotten for a moment who they were, and now both of them were happy to forget it had ever happened. So they didn't chance bringing it up again by talking about their other selves. Didn't talk about much, in fact, outside of how's it going and did you read that book for class. Even after Issei's accident, when he'd come back to school and Jinpachi'd been concerned, naturally, wanting to know if he was okay, Issei had been standoffish: /I'm fine, Jinpachi. What're you so worried about?/ Never mind that he couldn't sit back in his chair.
But if that was the way Issei wanted to be.... Maybe when he got over the embarrassment he'd loosen up again, and they could settle back into being friends the way they used to be. Jinpachi was looking forward to it.
But right now Hiragi was still waiting for an answer to his question. Whatever that had been.
"Daisuke!" Hiragi's mother called up from the kitchen, "Is your friend staying to dinner?"
Hiragi looked at Jinpachi questioningly, and Jinpachi had just opened his mouth to answer when the phone rang.
"Yes! Got it!" Hiragi ducked out into the hall. "Hello, Dobashi residence--oh, Shusulan! Where've you been? Did you get my message? Mm, well, I can understand that. Are you coming over? Gyokulan's still here and-- Oh. Well, maybe after dinner? Dancing?" Hiragi sounded surprised at that. "Where? Mm. All right. Maybe I'll see you later, then. 'Bye." He hung up, and came back into the room wearing the distracted look that Shusulan tended to bring out in him. "She had to go shopping this afternoon, she said. A friend's cousin is getting married, or something like that. I asked her if she wanted to come over, but she said she's going out to one of those teen clubs of hers tonight. MoonWave, ever heard of it?" Jinpachi shook his head, and Hiragi said thoughtfully, "I have. Stay for dinner; then we can go over and say hello to her before you go back."
That sounded all right--could be fun. He hadn't been going to stay, but he wouldn't mind seeing Shusulan--and it would definitely be worth it, to get Hiragi's help with those verbs.
* * * * *
Shusulan had pretty good taste. It was a cool-looking place decorated in a night sky theme, the music was all right though he didn't recognize it--maybe European or American, something he didn't follow much--and there were enough unattached people coming and going that it was okay for the two of them to be standing around together without dates. They hung out in the foyer where the sound system wasn't too loud and where they could keep an eye on the entrance, and they'd only been there a few minutes when Shusulan strolled in through the door. Hiragi waved, and the look that came over her was just purely startled and very funny.
"Wh- what are you doing here?"
"We thought we'd surprise you," Hiragi said smugly. Shusulan looked from him over to Jinpachi, and her shock turned into something strange that Jinpachi couldn't identify. Hiragi noticed it too; the expression on his face changed to concern. "Is something wrong? Uh--" startled and embarrassed, "are you here on a date?" Yeah, that could be it, that'd be awkward for everybody. But:
"No. Not really" she admitted. So why was she still acting funny, fidgeting with the strap of her purse and giving him those little sidelong glances? Then she added, "I'm meeting Enju-kun," and suddenly he got it: she knew something, or thought she knew something, about them--god! would Issei have told her? He couldn't have! Well, damn it, then she should also know that nothing was going on there, and quit with the weird looks already. It was Issei who'd closed out on that, and he'd have told her so, surely, along with the other stuff.
"Oh," Hiragi said, "well, that's all right then."
Or maybe she thought he was still upset with Issei. She could be thinking anything at all.
Hell if he was going to panic and duck out just because Shusulan had some kind of ideas about him. What did she know, anyway? Everything was perfectly normal now, and he had no problem hanging out with Issei.
Except for the nervous feeling he suddenly had, deep in the pit of his stomach.
"Do you want to wait here for him?" Hiragi was asking. Shusulan shook her head.
"I'm late, so he may be here already," she answered. "If you didn't see him, he's inside: come on." She led the way into the main room, paused to look at the dancers mobbing the floor--and between one breath and the next a monochrome whirlwind whipped out of the crowd: dark hair, pale skin, clothes black and white, all a blur of motion. He grabbed her by the hand and she shrieked as he snatched her practically off her feet. Her purse flew out of her grasp and smacked Jinpachi in the face. Then she vanished with Issei into the crowd, and as they went Jinpachi just barely heard a thin yell through the music:
Hiragi folded his arms across his chest and muttered something inaudible. When he noticed Jinpachi staring blankly, he repeated himself more loudly. "Nothing wrong with /him./ He can't make it to Sunday meetings, but he can come all the way out here to meet Shusulan."
They retreated to the side of the floor, where there was an area with tables and chairs for the non-dancers. Jinpachi realized that he still had Shusulan's purse, and he put it down on the edge of a table.
"Don't leave it there," Hiragi said. "Someone'll steal it."
"I don't want to carry it!"
Hiragi sighed and pointed to a counter back in the foyer, just visible through the lighted doorway. "Bag check," he said.
"You." Jinpachi glared at him; Hiragi glared back for a few moments, then flung up his hands, took the purse, and stalked off. Jinpachi sat down and looked out over the floor. From this angle he could actually see Issei and Shusulan, who were in a small clear space at the back of the room. Shusulan was standing with feet wide apart and fists planted on her hips; it looked like she was really chewing Issei out, but Jinpachi didn't have a view of her face and sure couldn't hear her at this distance, which was probably a good thing. Issei had his hand to his forehead and his eyes closed.
The song began to fade out, and the DJ mixed in the beginning of the next one. Shusulan's stance eased up, and finally she reached out and touched Issei's arm. He opened his eyes, looked at her for a second, then smiled and nodded.
Hiragi reappeared, giving Jinpachi some kind of significant look as he put a brightly colored paper ticket in his pocket. Then he glanced across the room.
"Ah. There they are."
They were dancing now, and--where the hell'd Issei learn /that?/And how did he make it look so easy? Well, at least he was over his injuries. No trouble, even the way he was moving, which was--damn! Just when you thought someone couldn't surprise you anymore, they did. Shusulan wasn't half bad either, and the two of them together...they must actually go and practice this kind of thing. Go figure.
Hiragi'd been watching too, and now he leaned over. His voice was hesitant; Jinpachi had to strain to hear him over the music. "Gyokulan, do you know--does he like her?"
Like her? Like her as in...girlfriend?
Issei and Shusulan?
"Holy shit!" That was too cool! That would work! He realized all at once that he'd leaped to his feet, and that Hiragi'd pulled away, startled. "Uh, I don't know!" Oh, but it could be true, and that would explain why Shusulan was looking at him funny, wondering how things stood with him and Issei. But she definitely didn't have to worry on that score, and now neither did he. What a relief! He glanced over at Issei, who was just coming out of a spin that would almost do for a music video--and Issei stopped, right then, dead still among all the people dancing. Their eyes met and locked across the floor.
--He put a hand on his friend's shoulder, turned him around. Could feel Issei trembling beneath the touch. Scared, he thought, scared he'd be mad, embarrassed, ashamed.
Hey, he'd been going to say. Don't worry about it. It was just a dream.
Only now, there was somehow nowhere else to look but into Issei's eyes....
The song's refrain came up, and someone ran into Issei from behind--sent him staggering and broke the connection of their gaze. Jinpachi found he'd taken a couple of steps toward the dance floor. No! He turned and stumbled blindly in another direction. But the door was the other way and--oh, hell, it didn't matter, didn't matter where, he just had to go. Somewhere. /Anywhere./
Away from here.
He found himself in a dingy back hallway, with a pair of doors to the restrooms and an exit that read "No Reentry!" For the moment no one was around. It was quieter there: you could hear yourself think. He put a hand on the wall to steady himself, there was some stupid graffiti under his thumb--
"We have to talk."
He turned around. Issei was standing there, studying him, head held high and the look on his face too serious to deal with. Jinpachi focused on Issei's left ear instead, where something bright glittered and swung with each movement of his head. New earring? Issei came a few steps nearer, and he got a better look at it: a dangling star. One more weird thing to Issei's account.
"We really need to talk."
"Not here!" Whatever it was, Jinpachi didn't want to hear it in the first place, and definitely not like this where any kind of stranger could walk up and, if it was what he was afraid it was, get all sorts of wrong ideas about them.
"I'm open to suggestions." Issei was determined, though; now what? Jinpachi pressed his back against the wall for support as Issei looked around. "Where--" Issei broke off sharply: he'd seen something, and before Jinpachi could figure out what it was he stepped close--much too close, right up next to Jinpachi all of a sudden, laying one hand on his chest.
Not--! Ohmygod, people could be watching. Jinpachi grabbed Issei by the shoulder to shove him away and froze. Stared. At the pale brown hair spilling down past his hand. Brown eyes raised to meet his briefly before glancing away, back up the hall: a girl's eyes, a girl standing there, leaning lightly against him, slender and delicate and wearing--hadn't Shusulan been wearing that tonight?
Enju would look like this, sixteen years old and on Earth.
Three guys were coming into the corridor, laughing and talking roughly and looking like trouble, but they pushed past and into the men's room, only throwing a couple of interested glances at the two of them. Jinpachi might've said something angry, but he was too occupied with the thought /How?/ and the realization that he couldn't feel the brown hair lying across his wrist at all.
The door to the men's room closed and the hall was empty. She turned her head, looking up at him again with those wide, questioning eyes, then started, skipped back a step--laughed, the voice going from high to lower as he listened, shocked. She started to blur and fade in front of him, and then it was Issei standing there. "Neat trick, isn't it?" Issei said softly. "I learned it from Shukaido, indirectly. You'll catch flies if you keep your mouth open like that."
"Jinpachi?" There was just the suggestion of a smile on Issei's face.
"Did they--did they /see/ that?"
"Of course. That was the point. Come on." Jinpachi gawked at him, and Issei nodded toward the exit door. "You wanted to go somewhere else. Let's go now, before they come out of there."
He didn't like it, but he went, and as they reached the end of the hall, something else occurred to him. "Can you, um, look like anyone?"
Like maybe, Sakaguchi-san? You could get paranoid very quickly. But Issei only sighed and said, "No. I can only look like me."
Somehow that wasn't as reassuring as he'd thought it would be.
* * * * *
The heavy security door slammed and locked behind them, shutting them out in the alley behind the club. Jinpachi rattled down the short flight of steps to the ground. He turned to look back at Issei and saw him leaning on the handrail, gazing down from the top step with that look Jinpachi'd seen once too often.
"Will you cut that out! Quit looking at me like that!" And he didn't care if he was yelling, because things were spinning way out of control again and he was furiously resentful at being stuck right back in the middle of a mess. Issei's mouth tightened, angry at least a little, and he came down the stairs too.
"You were looking at me," he sniffed.
"I was not!" And what exactly was Issei trying to imply there? "What the hell did you want to talk about?"
"Do you hate me?"
"What?" Jinpachi took a couple of hard breaths as he regathered himself. "What do you mean, do I hate you? Of course I don't hate you. Aren't we friends, Issei?"
"But you know who I am."
They'd been here before, and Jinpachi backed up a couple of steps before he realized he shouldn't have: that his lack of trust was like a slap in the face to Issei, a sure sign of how bad things were between them. Issei dropped his eyes, shoved his hands in his pockets. Everything was wrong about this.
"Yeah. I know. It wasn't a joke. Issei--"
Issei's eyes lifted again, and for once Jinpachi could read him perfectly.
"I love you...."
"...don't do this..."
"I love you, Jinpachi."
"/Don't do this!/"
"/Why not!/ Am I not allowed to say these things? You can talk to me about what's in your heart, but I'm not supposed to say anything because what I feel is wrong--is that it? Is that it, Jinpachi? and now that I've said it, what will you do: will you start to hate me, will you go, will you run from me the way Sakaguchi-san ran from /you--/"
Issei stopped and put both hands to his mouth. The tears he'd been crying glistened on his face as he stared at Jinpachi with shocked eyes.
"Oh. Forgive me," he whispered. "Forgive me. That was wrong."
"No! I was wrong to--" Issei had started backing away himself; he stopped, regained control with an effort. "Jinpachi--I had to tell you. I'm so sorry. But from here on out it's your choice. What happens next is up to you. No, don't say anything now! Go home, Jinpachi, think about it, think about me.... I'll talk to you tomorrow, and you can tell me what you've decided. I--don't want to influence you."
But it was Issei who went instead, fleeing down the alley, while Jinpachi stood still and watched him go.
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