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Liminality

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He felt lost, even though he hadn’t moved.

Or at least, that was what everyone told him: a coma. How could he deny it, when his limbs felt so weighted and movement was so painful? Nor could he deny the mundane tiles of the hospital ceiling, or the shining faces of the nurses who came to treat him in those first rare moments of consciousness. The amnesia, the wooziness, the horrible realisation that he looked older than he considered himself to be when he first looked in the mirror: all of it was viciously real.

So then, why could he still taste the night air of the concert like blood in his mouth?

It was raining when he first opened his eyes. Not that he noticed for a while: he didn’t know who or where he was, or why he could only move his fingers, and terror gripped him on the inside, tearing through his body until he was shaking with fear.

He must have fallen asleep again, because he found himself opening his eyes again, like a dream, to the same grey ceiling and rain-spattered window. Someone called him Takuto, and he liked that: it was like a beacon of light; he had an identity, something to cling on to. Then there was the song too, stuck in his head, with the saddest lyrics and the most pained voice he’d ever know. He wanted to hum it, at least, but he could do nothing more than watch as the man that seemed so familiar bustled about the room in a lab coat, a faint smile echoed across his lips.

It could have been the third or the thirtieth time Takuto woke that he finally remembered everything. Not that it all returned at once- it took him about seven hours to sort his way through the suffocating darkness of his own mind- but it was all there, quite intact, as if it had all only been yesterday.

Then the darkness enveloped him once more, and he was lost in himself until he resurfaced later, in the dark, with nothing but the lights of downtown Shinjuku and the buzz of the ventilation to keep him company. He was dripping with sweat, but his skin… His skin was so cold, it were almost as if he were dead again.

He cried then. He cried for his voice, for Mitsuki, and for the time he’d already wasted recovering leaving her unprotected. He wanted nothing more than to throw back the bed-sheets and walk through the night in his bare feet to her house, voice or no voice, and somehow make it clear how much he loved her, but his body betrayed him. Instead, he had to console himself by wiping his own tears, tears that felt so real; with a hand that he didn’t want to believe was his own.

It took a while for Takuto to realise that he had to tread a fine line between recovering life and love. It may have been sixth months already, but Mitsuki couldn’t see him like this, not if he could help it. He instead decided to focus his efforts on employing the help of one of the few people he felt he could trust.

If Keiichi Wakaouji had noticed the glint of recognition in Takuto’s eyes when he walked in to check-up on him, he didn’t show it. Indeed, Takuto considered himself pretty much an expert when it came to telling when the former member of Route L was lying, especially after having Takuto having seen him when he thought he was alone, but this time, he really wasn’t sure. He put all his effort into reaching out and gripping the man’s lab coat, giving a gentle tug and doing his best to mouth “Keiichi” with a half-smile.

He’d never expected tears. Not from the notoriously cool Ojii-sama.

There were some days where he could barely contain his frustration, his sadness, his loneliness. Days when it rained and rained and rained, and it stained the window like tears. Days when he’d be helped up into a sitting position, legs dangling off the edge of the bed, and he’d suddenly fall back, uncontrollably and helplessly, not even flailing or breaking his fall. Days that mounted on top of each other, where he was more alone and fragile than he ever thought it possible to be.

Yet, other times, there was a clear sky, and he could see the full moon hanging low over the city, huge and yellow through the pollution. And the times when he fell, someone was always there to catch him and hold him until he regained enough energy to have another go.

And, of course, he improved. From sitting and eating, to scrawling wonky hiragana, to getting himself into a wheelchair. Every minute of it, for the sake of the one girl he simply could not let go of again.

On the lonesome nights Takuto spent wandering the hallways of his own mind, he began to slowly understand how Mitsuki must have felt being separated from Eichi, unsure of where he was or what he was doing. Except… She did. Maybe she did what Takuto did when no one was looking, and close her eyes and pretend Eichi was sleeping next to her, and that the breeze from the open window was his breath tickling her neck.

Takuto wasn’t sure why Wakaojii supervised his physiotherapy sessions. He was glad he did, or they never would have rediscovered Takuto’s voice.

Takuto himself barely even noticed he’d made a noise when he’d fallen over for what felt like the millionth time that day, but Wakaojii looked like he’d seen a ghost. The session was terminated, and, for what felt like the first time ever, Takuto was taken somewhere other than his room, physiotherapy or the canteen (which didn’t even have almond jelly).

“Takuto-kun, try and say something. Anything.”

Nothing came out. Wakaojii gave him some water, checked his throat, and they tried again.

Nothing. Nothing. And then… a tiny “oh”.

Unfortunately for Takuto, he had to swallow a camera before Wakaojii was satisfied. Fixing his eyes on Takuto, he leant back, and split his face into an uncharacteristic grin.

“I… There’s no trace of the cancer…”

Takuto wouldn’t let himself believe it. Not until he could finally bring himself to say her name- her full name- four months of speech therapy later.

“…Hazuki’s daughter?”

“I…” There was no simple explanation.

“You remember her?”

Takuto remembered everything. What’s more, he knew her more than Wakaojii or any of Mitsuki’s family did. He knew her weakest moments, her hopes, her fears, her love for taiyaki and the way her blush felt under his thumb. Hell, he’d kissed her. And, in return, she’d taught him things about himself and his situation that he’d never realised himself. She was the reason he could hear the blood pulsing in his ears again.

He never had liked the silence.

“How is she?”

No good. He could barely hear himself.

“Good. She’s a singer,” he smiled.

He knew. Of course she had- why would Wakaojii have ever have doubted a girl who stood in the face of death incarnate and called them angels?

He didn’t tell anyone about being a shinigami. He wasn’t stupid- there were days when even he himself didn’t believe it, thought it might all be a dream- but then what was he living for? It wasn’t relevant, even to the counselling sessions he had. His time as a shinigami, for some reason, became a precious secret, an alter-ego that brought with it both contentment and shame.

That life (or lack thereof) failed to leave him behind, but then he supposed that would be the case for a while yet. There was something about Mitsuki that intrigued the spirit world.

Death eventually visited him. Somewhere along the lines, though, he’d learnt not to fear it.

“I-Izumi?”

“Ah, how cute, Ta-kun remembers me,” he said nonchalantly to thin air. It was possible Jonathan was hanging around, not in human form (like Izumi), but somehow Takuto doubted it. Thin air was thin air. Takuto should know: he’d addressed it with his worries often enough.

Not that it ever bothered to answer.

“What do you want? Why are you here?”

Izumi smiled a sadistic smile. Takuto would never admit that he missed Izumi, but he had. Seeing him again just bought a twinge of sadness for times gone by, if not the weight of responsibility of not screwing up his life for the second time.

“Not for your soul, unfortunately,” he said with a wave of his hand. “Just to tell you Mi-ki and Mero-chan are well.”

He sounded insincere, but since Takuto woke the following morning with a flyer for a certain new idol’s debut, Takuto had to admit that that worry at least was unfounded. Perhaps it was just how Izumi spoke.

The jerk didn’t return after that, either.

It was spring by the time Takuto could walk without fear of falling over, and it still rained every now and then. He stole away from the hospital, disappearing into the beat of the Tokyo rush-hour, letting the warm rain soak right through his borrowed shirt and plaster his hair to his forehead.

He bought four CDs: three of hers, one of his. It was nice not to have to shy away from the past anymore.

Wakaojii had noticed them a few weeks later, neatly stacked on his bedside table.

“Are you going to sing again? I mean…”

Takuto waved his hand, before stopping suddenly, realising how that one action meant he was almost back to his former self. His chest felt tight.

“I… don’t know. There’s something I need to do first.”

“Mitsuki-chan?” Wakaojii surveyed him carefully, and Takuto blushed a delicate salmon colour.

“That’s… Um… How do you…?”

“The nurses say you seldom talk about anything else.”

“Damn, can’t mind their own…”

The lost expression on Wakaojii’s face cut him short.

“You’ve grown, Takuto-kun… But… I understand. Well, no, I don’t, but I know how fickle the mind of Takuto Kira can be,” he laughed, and Takuto scowled, determined to punch the doctors patronising face out of the window but missing and nearly falling out of bed.

“Ah, mind.”

That had been the end of that conversation. Or at least, Takuto had thought.

Wakaojii’s opening question stuck in his mind. Asking him, over and over: was he going to sing again? He wasn’t sure he could face her knowing that he still couldn’t quite look at himself in the mirror. Isn’t that something people said- that you had to be sure of yourself before giving yourself to someone?

He wanted to give Mitsuki every single inch of himself, and he wanted every ounce of her in return.

He started with the headphones, one evening when the rainclouds had cleared and the room was flooded with a deep orange hue. He kept her voice louder than his, keeping his fingers pressed over the headphones so that the music filled his entire head and cleared all those forlorn hallways in the back of his mind. And he sang. Quietly at first, because it hurt- not in his throat, but in his heart- before he gained confidence, and slowly, he released it all.

The loneliness and the pain hadn’t left him: they couldn’t, not yet. They had merely lessened, allowing his mind to clear and his shoulders to relax.

“Did no one ever tell you not to stare?” he cursed at the nurse in the doorway. She didn’t seem surprised, merely let her grin fade to a small, satisfied smile.

Staring up at the same tiles on the ceiling, he felt a sense of resolution.

Wakaojii must have felt it too; maybe it permeated from his skin, a glow of optimism and love that manifested as an inner warmth for those nearby. Perhaps it was seeing Takuto finally smile, after what felt like a long, long time. However he noticed was irrelevant: all Takuto knew was that the man who had been a constant in his life since he was twelve decided it was time, and handed him a pair of jeans and a shirt.

“We’re going out.”

It wasn’t dark outside. It was brilliant sunshine; and although he couldn’t see the moon in the wide expanse of azure stretching out for miles over his head, he knew it was up there somewhere, smiling down at him.

He maintained his silence until they got to the park in the middle of the city.

“I’ll follow behind,” Wakaojii insisted, but Takuto spotted a familiar woman with an auburn bob, and he knew the man was lying.

He was aware of the blood pulsing through his ears again as he slipped through the crowd.

That was when his heart dropped, like glass on a hardwood floor.

It seemed so intimate, hearing her deepest secrets and most delicate forevers being spun through simple wires and out of loudspeakers, across a crowd of strangers. It were as if she were singing for the very first time: her feelings raw, her voice remaining so smooth while her lyrics almost cracked with emotion. He couldn’t bare it. He needed her.

It had been so long.

Taking a deep breath, he hauled himself up onto a step, turned around, and exhaled.

There she was, entwined in her music, her soul pouring out from the stage. His heart ached for her, but he remained still, he remained calm, a cool smile melting across his lips.

She opened her eyes, and looked straight at him.

Takuto could have measured the complexities of infinity in terms of love in the split-second it took for her eyes to widen in recognition. The microphone slipped from her hand, and he felt time slowing down.

It had been so very, very long.

“Takuto!”