[Author's note: For those of you who've read my longer Please Save My Earth fic, "Falling from the Moon," please note that this is a totally different continuity. It's still based off the OAVs rather than the manga, but there's no overlap with the plot of "Falling." The title of this story came from Shanti, and the concept from our conversation about Mikuro's opening words to Haruhiko in epidosde 5. Is it just us, or does that sound like one heck of a pick-up line?
Please see my disclaimer page for copyright information regarding this story.
Enjoy! and comments are most welcome.]
Love and Fishes
By Natalie Baan
"D'ya c'm'ere often?"
Behind the glass, delicate fish are swirling, gossamer koi unfurling their tails behind themselves, translucent fins fanning the water.
"So, d'ya like fish?"
Haruhiko lays one hand on the railing that keeps passersby from bumping into the tank. He watches the fish drifting, silver white and burnished gold beneath the overhead lights. Radiance suffuses the water, gilds the small world behind the glass, echoing outward to touch the faces and forms of the people who walk past. The hallway where he stands is more shadow than anything else, its darkness given texture and depth by the illuminated tracks that line the ceiling and the glow that puddles in front of every window. It's as though, where these two worlds meet, they pass into and through each other--as though he could reach into the light that crosses the barrier in between them and feel the kiss of water against his skin.
Haruhiko looks doubtfully at the tall young man, this stranger taking an interest in him that seems oddly personal. "Well, they're okay," he answers, returning his attention to the slowly swimming fish.
"Oh, that's so? Then I'll give this to you." The man holds out a small, hard-bound book. "Please, take it." Surprised, Haruhiko glances up again, but the other's determined smile remains unchanged. He closes his hands about the book somewhat gingerly, its cover cool and stiff against his palms. "Well, 'bye," the man says, turning to go with a little wave, as Haruhiko peers in bemusement at the book's title.
In the next tank, sea anemones waver, rippling their peach-colored arms. Coral reaches upward all around them: flat sprays of lace, jagged and pitted tangles that resemble weathered bone, branchings like underwater trees. Swift-moving creatures dart back and forth between them: clown-fish diving in among the anemones' stinging tendrils and feeding there, unharmed; dark eels with cold and hungry eyes. Prey too large for those small, slender hunters, blue parrotfish mouth the coral, then sail serenely up toward the light.
I believe that any teleportation causes great stress upon the heart. I suggest that you not do it too often.
Please take better care of yourself.
Haruhiko collapses out of that place between, dropping to his hands and knees. He raises his head, trying to look beyond the blur of disorientation, the pressure that makes it impossible for him to draw his breath. So far, /too/ far, too much distance to cross to save Tamura-san and the mysterious M from the disaster he's brought upon them. He tries to raise himself anyway, and the pressure knots itself into a fist--
Haruhiko falls forward onto the empty roadway, unconsciousness sweeping over him like a flood. In that last drowning moment, he thinks despairingly, /For me, it's always been like this./
The next tank has angel fish, alien, angular creatures, thin enough almost to disappear when they turn sideways. They vanish, then glint back into view, their sides barred with silver and black. Drifting among the coral, they seem carried by invisible forces, not the movements of their tiny fins. Their strangeness makes them beautiful, and also a little frightening. Whatever dreams they're part of have nothing to do with him.
"You have to stop harrassing innocent people!" Haruhiko cries. Eight years old and merciless, Shion balances before him, poised above the peak of the temple roof. Dropping his last defenses, Haruhiko opens himself to what he knows has to come. "If you want to kill me, then go ahead." And as Shion's voice accuses him, exulting in this final justice, rising toward a peak of raw hatred, Haruhiko surrenders to his punishment. After all, he reasons, it's nothing more than he deserves.
But another voice mocks him from deep inside himself, one that isn't blinded by noble intentions. It's the voice that's always realized that, in the end, he's only ever been good for this.
Always that weakness he despises so intensely, the ineffectual struggle to be a better, stronger person.
Is this the best he can do: to let Shion to act out revenge upon him, unable even to overcome his own resentments?
Better that such a person should just die.
Stripe-sided fishes whirl and dart past the windows, bright flashes like meteors marking the sky, falling across the stars--
In the midst of the thundering barrage of pain, Haruhiko opens his eyes. Shion hangs in the air in front of him, suspended from the sky. "Not yet. Not enough. Not for those nine years." The hunger in the boy's voice has its own life, feral and cruel. Hearing it, seeing those eyes gleaming down upon him, feeling his body becoming heavy and far away, Haruhiko knows. They're doing it again, replaying the same pattern, hating each other just as much for being a twisted reflection as for things that have actually been done--/and they can't stop./ They won't stop, they won't ever stop, not across a thousand lifetimes, not unless one of them can step out of that circle, not unless somebody can change the person that he is. Shion's eyes narrow and a new splintering of agony shoots through Haruhiko as something inside him breaks. The bright lance of pain almost takes him out of consciousness; he fights with all his strength against that fall. Now that he understands the meaning of this--now that he knows--
/I can't! If it ends like this--!/
He reaches out toward the smiling Shion.
/I can't die,/he cries. /I haven't told you yet!/
/If I die now, you won't be saved!/
And then, just beyond his outstretched fingers, a shadow solidifies between himself and Shion. A strange figure--no, he sees the storm-colored hair, the sweatshirt that's just barely familiar. It's M appearing out of midair. "Oh, haven't had enough?" Shion taunts the man, and the other responds with an incensed gesture.
"I've had it with you!" M snarls back. "I don't care what happens--we fight to the death!"
The wave of power comes, and as it surges by Haruhiko, astonishingly deflected by M's defense, his eyes slip closed. M has made himself part of the pattern now, changing its flow.
Doesn't he understand that Haruhiko needs to take responsibility--for something, finally, after lifetimes of believing that there's nothing he can ever do?
/Listen to me, Shion! I'm--I'm--!/ Energy spikes and flares. Even tumbling toward unconsciousness he can feel the explosion as M turns the attack upon itself.
Haruhiko walks down the hallway, sliding his hand along the rail. He passes brown and white scorpion fish, impossibly frilled, each one fringed like dragon's head. A brittle star twines long, black arms against the glass, searching blindly and eagerly. Behind the next window, quizzical seahorses curl and uncurl their tails, bobbing through the water.
Stopping, he gazes at the seahorses for a very long time.
Haruhiko kneels on the tatami, just inside the open door. He looks out into the garden, not really seeing its green. A cup of tea, long cooled, sits by his side, while pain throbs tirelessly along his half-healed ribs, echoed by a hollow, empty ache inside his chest.
The door slides open behind him; he turns his head. It's Mikuro, who looks at him questioningly before entering the room. The young man walks over, barefoot and silent on the woven grass mats. He stops, just a little to Haruhiko's left.
"Nice day. Don't y'want to sit outside?"
Haruhiko tightens his hands on his knees, clenching the blue and white silk of his robe. He stares down at the tatami's subtle pattern. All he wants is not to have to move, not to have to try again when it's so hard, but he knows that there's no other way.
"Mikuro-san, why did you come back to rescue me?"
"I couldn't just stand there and watch you be killed." Haruhiko gazes up at him; the man is leaning against the doorframe, staring out into the garden, pale eyes narrowed. Mikuro ducks his head then and makes a soft, wry sound. "Besides, I'd hate t'lose to a guy like that."
"But it's not your fight!" Mikuro glances at him, slight surprise the only thing the man lets show. "You and Tamura-san--you're trying to help me, but you can't! You can't. I'm the one who has to do this; if anything's going to change then it has to start with me. But...I just don't know /how./" He crumples, feeling the weight of past failures and helplessness again. "I want to let Shion find the happiness that I stole from him," he whispers at last. "I want to be free of this guilt."
"Then stop blamin' yourself."
Startled, he raises his head. The man smiles at him--it's the first time, he realizes, that he's seen Mikuro smile since the aquarium, and that time it was deliberate and awkward. Even now, it doesn't seem like an accustomed expression; it makes the serious, almost grim young man look totally different.
"That's simple enough, right?" Mikuro adds. "Maybe not easy, but simple."
"You mean," Haruhiko draws in a breath, "you mean that I have to let him go. Not to do anything further, but instead just step away and that sets both of us free...yes. Yes, I see it. But--" He looks away once more, across the small stretch of lawn toward the willow trees that shimmer at its back. "After so long, I don't know who I am if he's not there. Hating him, envying him, wanting his strength--I think I can give all that up, but then I have to find out who I am when there's only me.
"/I'm scared./" The admission escapes him on a little sob of breath. He bows forward, closing his eyes. "It's like going to a whole new world where there's nobody I know, nobody I can see myself reflected in day to day. Comparing myself to him--it's like a conversation. Without that, I'm always alone."
Haruhiko opens his eyes. He stares at where a faint breeze riffles the hydrangea bushes, makes the willow branches sway out from the trees and then fall back. To his side, he hears Mikuro shift restlessly before the man says, "You're done with that tea, right? I'll take it back t'the kitchen for you." Mikuro steps closer, going down on one knee to pick up the cup. Haruhiko turns toward him, places one hand on his arm, and sees the startlement in the other's face, the faint recoil as if to brace for a rejection.
Earth ESPer, psychic, a stranger among his own kind.
"You're alone too," Haruhiko says. "Aren't you?"
Haruhiko touches the center of his chest--not in pain, but against a sudden leap of happiness. He smiles as he leans forward onto the railing, reliving the surprising joy of that day. That brief touch, that astounded look, a cracking of the wall between them, and he'd decided.
Let go of the habits of the past and become free.
/I can be a strong person after all. I don't have to look for missing pieces of myself inside of someone else. Instead of thinking only about what I lack, I can offer back what we both share./
And who would have ever guessed what might arise from such common ground?
Haruhiko puts his hand up, touching one of the willow's long green withes. He lets it slide little by little through his fingers, saw-edged leaves both sleek and rough against his skin. Mikuro brushes aside the curtain of twigs with one arm, stepping through it to join him in the shade--and then stops, warily poised, looking at him across that slight distance, taking nothing at all for granted, not even the shy familiarity that's been unfurling between them over these past few days. Vague and shadowed light falls across their faces, patterns Haruhiko's dark jeans. He finds himself smiling again, feeling strangely at ease, feeling safe in this small, wavery world beneath the tree's arch, safe with this one person. Mikuro takes a little breath and then steps toward him.
The wind moves the branches like seaweed; the sunlight ripples and dances on the ground like waves.
"Been waitin' long?" Mikuro asks quietly, melting out of nothingness. He steps down out of the air. Haruhiko turns away from the fish tank to look at him, feeling that bright flash of gladness inside, like a mirror's face greeting the sun. Both hands in pockets, deliberately casual, Mikuro settles onto the floor, and then tosses his hair from his eyes, letting slip his rare, real grin.
"No," Haruhiko answers, smiling. "Not long at all."
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