Disclaimer: yada, nada, yada
“I mean, don’t get me wrong,” Miyako assured him, “I don’t hate my job.” She smiled, “I feel like we have an opportunity to really to do something, you know?” Daisuke nodded his agreement. “And how many people can say that they’ll ever really be given a chance to do something that will genuinely benefit others for years and years to come?” she asked.
“It’s like were standing on this precipice,” Miyako continued, “And, somehow, for some reason, I’ve been offered the chance to lead the charge. Me.” She shook her head as if she couldn’t quite believe it, “And the only thing I can think is that I don’t fucking want to.” Miyako threw her hands up in disbelief.
“People work hard for this kind of chance. People fight for this kind of chance. Someone,” Miyako leaned across the table, emphasizing every word with a stab of her finger on the grease smeared top even as her voice dropped low, “Someone has probably killed for this sort of opportunity.” She threw herself back against the booth seat, letting out a sigh of exasperation, “And I’m over her contemplating quitting work at a place I love just so I don’t have to do it.
What kind of bullshit is that?”
Daisuke took a long sip from his straw, contemplating the question. “Well...” he finally answered, “I don’t know.”
“You don’t know,” Miyako grumbled, stabbing her chicken piccata a tad more forcefully than customs would dictate. “Well I know,” she answered, “I know I should have found some poor schmuck to marry like Hikari,” Miyako rolled her eyes even as she sing-songed the name, “And started popping out babies every other year or so. Then I wouldn’t have to bother with trying to understand why what I want and what I should want are two such different fucking things.”
This time it was Daisuke’s turn to roll his eyes, “I’m sure Hikari’s life isn’t nearly so perfect,” he intoned. “Besides,” Daisuke moved quickly to cut Miyako’s rebuttal off, “I thought we said we weren’t taking about Hikari tonight.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Miyako groused, “Ice Queen is off limits. I get it.”
“Miyako...” Daisuke warned.
“Fine,” She answered, scowling at her dinner a second before offering up a heartfelt, albeit too perky, “So what’s new with you?”
Daisuke smiled, “Nuthin’ much, took a quick trip to Mars, saved the earth from an evil megalomaniac, met the Pope.” he answered, “You?”
“Other than winning the lottery last week, oh, and stealing that blond-haired, blue-eyed European prince away from his super-model girlfriend?” Miyako asked, smiling, “Not much.” It was an old game.
“But seriously though,” Miyako pressed, “What’s up with you?”
“I don’t know,” Daisuke shrugged, “What do you mean?”
“I mean,” Miyako answered, “It’s like we talk, but we don’t talk. And I’m not the only one who’s noticed. Takeru agrees. Even the Ice Queen. There’s something going on with you.”
“Have you been taking about me behind my back?” Daisuke asked coyly, a sly grin on his face,
“You know how that embarrasses me.” Miyako didn’t take the bait.
“I’m being serious here,” she frowned. “Are you okay?”
Daisuke laughed. “Of course I’m okay. Why wouldn’t I be okay?” Miyako’s frown only deepened.
“Listen Daisuke,” Miyako was murdering that chicken. Daisuke had seen her cut it and cut it and then cut it again, and now she had taken to moving different pieces aimlessly about her plate. Still, despite all the movement, Daisuke had yet to see her actually put any in her mouth.
“It’s…” Miyako trailed off, “I mean, have you…” she stopped again, “Is...” Miyako’s mouth snapped shut a third time before she could figure out how to put words to what she was trying to say.
After a long pause that only resulted in more hurt for her already abused dinner, she finally managed to ask, “Have you spoken with Ken’s parents lately? His mother?”
“His mother?” Daisuke wasn’t sure what he thought Miyako was trying to ask him, but I knew that that certainly wasn’t it. Mrs. Ichijouji was one of those subjects that Daisuke did his best not to think too much about. It hurt too much.
She had been so happy when Ken had first introduced Daisuke as his friend. She had embraced Daisuke like a second son, opened up her home and her heart. In many ways, Mrs. Ichijouji became the mom his mother never much wanted to be.
But then things slowly began to change. Or rather, she began to worry that Ken was changing. That he was being changed. Oh, her brilliant little boy was still there. What disappeared was the drive, the need to succeed, no matter what the cost. If he was given the choice between cramming all night for a contest or playing soccer in the park with his new friend, Ken choose Daisuke. Every. Single. Time.
Somehow, this ordinary little boy was taking her extraordinary son and dragging him down, turning him against his own potential.
And Mrs. Ichijouji was not subtle with her censure. Daisuke felt, in many ways, as if it was his own mother who had become estranged from him.
The gay thing had never even really played into it. And strangely, Daisuke almost wondered if it would have been easier if it had. That he knew how to deal with. With that, at least he had practice. If it had been that, then maybe he would have been old enough to better know how to protect himself.
But Daisuke had not been so lucky.
That was not to say that Daisuke had had to fight the battle on his own. No, Ken had stood solidly beside him the entire time, much to his mother’s chagrin.
Ken, always meek in his own affairs, was stern in the defense of others, and none more so than Daisuke. If he could not demand love for his friend from his mother, he would at least have civility. If not genuine kindness, then cool politeness.
And so that’s where things stood even to this day. Daisuke and Mrs. Ichijouji had come to a tacit agreement years ago to avoid each other whenever possible. They certianly didn’t talk. Daisuke had even taken to finding excuses to be out of his and Ken’s apartment on Sunday afternoons rather than risk having to make chilly chitchat with Ken’s mother during her weekly phone call.
Of course, none of this was any sort of secret. So when Miyako asked if he had spoken with Ken’s mother recently, Daisuke very nearly choked.
“Mrs. Ichijouji?” Daisuke begged confirmation. Miyako nodded. “No...” Daisuke admitted, “Why?”
The question seemed to pain Miyako more than it should. She refused to take her eyes off of Daisuke even as she laid her fork across the edge of her plate and pushed the uneaten food away.
“You know why,” Miyako insisted, her voice cracking. “Daisuke.”
“Miyako?” That was when Daisuke knew he was going to be sick. There had to have been something terribly wrong with his dinner because suddenly his head was pounding and his stomach churning and he felt feverish all over and Daisuke knew, just knew that he was going to be sick.
“Daisuke,” Miyako spoke gently. She reached her hand across the table to take his, but he jerked it away at the last second, not wanting her to touch his clammy skin. “Daisuke, please don’t do this,” she begged, “You’re scaring me.”
Daisuke pushed his way out from the booth, eyes wild, looking for an exit, “I’m scaring you? Me?” he asked, incredulous, “I don’t even know what you’re trying to say!” he insisted.
“Yes you do,” Miyako insisted, “Admit it or not, you do.” She looked as if she might start crying at any moment.
“Stop it!” Daisuke demanded, banging his fist on the table. He ignored the shocked look from the elderly couple in the booth behind them, leaning in to whisper “Why the fuck do you keep looking at me like that?”
“Because, Daisuke,” the tears had begun to flow in earnest now, “Because I know that you know, even if you can’t admit it,” Miyako insisted, “Not even to yourself.”
“God-damn it Miyako,” Daisuke complained, “Know what?” Miyako shook her head, suddenly unable to look Daisuke in the eye.
“That Ken’s 100-day memorial is next weekend.”
Daisuke didn’t even remember leaving the restaurant.
A/N: I’m thinking the end draweth nigh. ;) What I can’t decide is if it is coming as one longer-than-average chapter or one normal chapter and an, er, chaplet. I guess we shall just have to see. Hahaha!