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09 October 2010 @ 03:08 pm
[fanfic] Five Things Hajime Couldn't Stand About Rin... (PG-13)  
Title: Five Things Hajime Couldn’t Stand About Rin ... and One Thing He Could
Author: tiptoe39
Fandom: Please Save My Earth
Summary: Self-explanatory I think. This is my help_pakistan fic for prettybird, and I owe her thanks not just for the bid but for the chance to step, for a while, into an old fandom and find it still fits like a glove.

I. Hokkaido was an unusual place to be a child. The open fields and the endless bright skies spoke to parents who wanted their children to grow up athletic, with an appreciation for nature and an independent spirit. The cramped city life called to all Japanese young people after a while, so while they were in the tender years where their questions are why instead of why not, parents looked to spend some time in the country. There the father would work hard on next to nothing, the mother would take care of the modest house, and the children would run wild and make friends with every insect and flower. This was the image that brought the Sakaguchis, like so many others, to Hokkaido to raise their children. This was where Alice and Hajime grew to be thirteen and sixteen, respectively, before they made the move to Tokyo that changed everything.

Hajime would have been happy to stay there forever. In the endless fields and empty miles of their youth, he had the freedom to be not just a normal little brother to his very, very special and different sister. There was no one around most days to laugh at her, to tell her she was crazy or convince her that she was just imagining the voices she heard calling to her every day. Only the grass, and the flowers, and the small animals that made the plains of the northern island their home. Hajime watched Alice carefully, watched the air move around her and the sun sparkle against the pale beauty of her skin, and knew that she was special.

Alice had her hard times. The other children, the ones they traveled a half-hour by bus to go to school with each day, found her alternately fascinating and frustrating. The boys watched her and their jaws would hang open; the girls would frown at her, whispering about her behind cupped hands, and occasionally one would find her voice and confront Alice in the schoolyard. Alice would sneak beneath the slide, crouching in the playground's gritty sand, and cry. From his perch in the kindergarten, or his desk by the window in third grade, Hajime could do nothing but watch.

He confronted three of the girls once after school, a tiny eight-year-old facing down a trio of training bras and braces. "You made Alice cry today," he siad, his tiny fists curled and his expression fierce.

"We didn't make her do anything," the girl with a red bow in her hair said. "She wants to cry, she can cry."

Hajime was momentarily halted in the face of that logic. The girls tried to brush past.

His hands went out without his say-so, and he pushed one of the girls. Surprised, she stumbled backward and fell to the ground. "Ow!" she shrieked, and round tears began to well up in her eyes. "That hurt!"

"Now you made her cry!"said the second girl. The third looked between the two, unsure whether to scream or to break into tears herself.

"I did not," Hajime said, his jaw setting. "I pushed her. She wants to cry, she can."

"Hey!" One of the teachers was running toward them. Hajime bolted, running like a rabbit up over the crest of the hill to where he couldn't be followed. He hid out there until the bus was about to leave, then sneaked onto the back, where one of his friends opened the emergency exit for him.

When he got home, Alice enveloped him in a huge hug. "The trees told me," she explained. Hajime would have shoved a world of sixth-graders at that moment.

That was the person Hajime really wanted to be. Alice's tiny knight in shining armor, putting up his fists to push all obstructions out of the way and let her live. During that golden moment, it seemed like he'd get his wish. But golden moments never last.

They didn't go to the same school when they moved to Tokyo. Alice was in high school and Hajime was in junior high. He wasn't there to see the neighbor's kid hock gum into Alice's mouth. He only came home in time to see her picking at her oden and then listen to her crying herself to sleep. Rin's appearance was the beginning of the end of Hajime's career as Alice's white knight. And he couldn't stand it.

II. Then, the weirdness started.

Rin's accident. The engagement. And a blossoming of Alice's life from a solitary, lonely thing into an adventure that spanned cities, brought admirers and friends, and more often than not involved someone unconscious in a hospital bed. Hajime could barely catch his breath. He liked most of Alice's new friends -- especially that Ogura Jinpachi guy -- but that didn't mean he had a clue what was going on.

His big sister was keeping secrets. And even though he didn't have a clue what was going on, Hajime could tell it was something that was slowly tearing her apart.

She'd never come to him for comfort. For that she went out to the balcony and talked to her plants, to the big tree that had cushioned Rin at the time of his fall. But Hajime was used to seeing her find consolation with those friends. These days, she would close the sliding door behind her and slump against it, her palms drawing wet streaks across the glass, sighing. Hajime didn't know who to shove, what was making his big sister look like she didn't know her place in the universe. But he knew who started it all.

There were times he could hear the sobbing from next door, too, from parents whose child had disappeared. Nobody seemed to care how the Kobayashis were faring with the madness that was going on. And Hajime didn't know anything, couldn't say anything. They were grown-ups. They wouldn't find any comfort in their pre-teen neighbor coming to their door to say, "I have no idea what's going on, but I'm sorry about it." It would be insulting.

After Kyoto -- after Alice came home half-conscious and lay in her room with a fever for days on end -- she finally told him. The words echoed hollowly against his ear. "We've been having dreams of our past, our past lives," she said. As though that explained everything. But how could it explain why Alice was torn up when her eight-year-old neighbor canceled their engagement? Or why a grown man who had the air of Yakuza all over him was suddenly her friends' consultant? How could it explain the way Alice looked at the moon these days, as though it might come crashing down through the window to crush her?

He believed her. He'd always believed her, but that didn't mean he understood. And through it all, her concern for Rin, inexplicable and unwavering. Past life or no, did he have to keep torturing her through this one? It was inconsiderate and cruel, and Hajime couldn't stand it, either.

III. They were in love.

His stupid, idiotic sister was in love with a grade-schooler.

Not just "Aw, I think you're cute" love. Not just "When I grow up I wanna marry you" puppy love. They shared long conversations, held hands as they walked together. Hajime almost barfed when he saw Rin (grown almost to full height by the time he graduated from grade school) lean in and peck Alice on the lips. She blushed, but she couldn't suppress a smile. Damn it, what did she have to be happy about? This was just plain embarrassing.

She'd finally told him the whole story, or at least a decent summary of it. Of Shion and Mokuren, and how Shion had been left alone on the moon for years, explaining why Rin was so young, why he sometimes acted like a kid and sometimes like he'd been on this earth forever.

Honestly, Hajime thought his shifting personalities had nothing to do with his past life. Rin was an opportunist. He had three faces: young and innocent; young but precocious; and older than his years. He used them to their full advantage. When "Oh, you're so cute and sweet" worked, he went with that. If "How clever, how can we say no to such a smart kid?" would do the trick, that was his tactic. And when he needed to be forgiven something, he played up the personality that would give him "Look at how much he's been through." Rin was a player of the worst sort. Not a playboy -- for all his faults he did seem to be faithful -- but he played everyone else he ever came across.

Yet for all that, when he was with Alice, Rin was someone else altogether. His eyes were bright, his voice was light and brisk with excitement and hope. And Alice's voice rose and fell in its musical cadence along with his as they ribbed each other and pondered the future. The two of them together exuded this glow that couldn't be faked. That Hajime, boring plain Hajime, couldn't fault them for in the slightest. Because they were in love. How was he supposed to stand that?

IV. And then there was Ren.

No, actually, there wasn't. There was "the baby," nebulous, foreign, this abstract entity that Hajime knew would come along soon but didn't seem to really exist. It was like a fictional character, and Alice kept talking about it like it was real, but Hajime had never seen the damn thing except in ultrasound photos, and he could see Doraemon in pictures too but Doraemon didn't exist so why should he trust that this baby would? For all he knew, it was another clever ruse cooked up by the boy (now a young man) who once accused Alice of not being a virgin.

Except for he had no clue.

It was on the knuckled end of Hajime's fist that Rin found out Alice was pregnant, and Hajime's righteous rage recoiled into embarrassment. Damn it, this was the story of his life, wasn't it? He finally thought he had good reason to punch Rin out, and he ended up looking like the ass for robbing Alice of the chance to tell her fiance (they couldn't get married until Rin turned 18, ugh, another embarrassment!) the purportedly joyful news.

What's more, Rin's jaw was sharp. And Hajime's knuckles bruised.

Yes, Hajime was the ass again, and what's more, Rin had taken to calling him little brother. Six years younger than him Rin was calling Hajime the little brother. It was calculated and it was insulting. There was only a need to call your older siblings "big brother" or "big sister" in Japanese; younger siblings you called by their name. Unless you were trying to call attention to the fact that you were older. Or, in Rin's case, that you were younger but still knocked up someone's big sister and were going to marry her. It was only the memory of those bruised knuckles that kept Hajime from socking him a million more times.

That and the story Alice told of how it happened. How badly she'd wanted him, and how noble he'd been. And then she'd given him an ultimatum: Tonight, or they were through. Rin had smiled, she said, and closed the gap between them, saying, "All right." And then Alice, blushing and glowing, had told Hajime, "It was the first time I'd ever kissed someone so passionately in public."

Damn her glowing and her blushing. In that moment Hajime couldn't decide what he could stand less: the fact that Rin had slept with her, or the fact that he'd kept her waiting so long.

V. They were married in a simple, traditional ceremony. Alice was radiant; Rin looked snappy in a sharply cut black kimono with stylized flowers embossed on the sleeves. Only family attended. Mikuro took care of Ren for the day; he was an old hand at diaper-changing with Kachiko, and the two of them played together and generally stayed out of trouble outside the temple while Rin and Alice sipped sake and joined hands on the inside.

Hajime stood at the side, peeking out through slats in the wood. If there was one place he never dreamed he'd be, it was attending his 27-year-old sister's wedding to an 18-year-old while their illegitimate son played outside with a psychic's daughter. It wasn't the sort of thing one could talk about with one's colleagues over the edge of the cubicle. Never mind the whole flying-man thing.

How far they'd come, he thought, from Hokkaido. From running and playing in the endless fields, from the time when he was her only protector. Now she had a phalanx of friends ready to leap to her aid at any moment. Now she had a child of her own to protect, a career that was just beginning to take off. She'd flown so far past Hajime's reach, he feared he might never touch her again.

And then there she was right in front of him.

"Hajime," she said, her voice quiet, low. "Thank you. "

He blushed hard. "For-- for what?"

"You went through a lot for me," she said, reaching out and ruffling his head like he was just a child. "And probably, you will in the future too... so thank you. And I'm sorry I've been such a burden."

Her eyelashes fluttered, dragonfly wings against her cheek, and Hajime swallowed hard. For this one instant, they were in Hokkaido again and he was the ardent knight protecting his princess. "Don't worry about it, nee-chan. It was nothing," he said stiffly, his shoulders hunching up toward his ears in his best impression of a stoic soldier. She laughed and kissed him on the cheek, then lifted the folds of her gown and joined Rin at the door.

The newlyweds strode across the lawn, calling to their son, who along with Kachiko was climbing all over a prone Mikuro. He sat up, looking as though he'd been fighting a haystack, and Alice and Rin laughed as Kachiko clung stubbornly to her father and Ren ran on stubby legs toward the couple. The photographer's camera clicked and whirred as Alice picked Ren up. Rin put an arm around her and grinned impishly in the photographer's direction. Hajime watched it all, and for a few seconds he was optimistic about their future.

Alice looked happy. Happy, grown-up, a mother, a wife. She turned out all right, despite Rin's outsized influence on her life.

You mean because of it, an inner voice chimed in, and Hajime's momentary peace of mind vanished. He couldn't stand the thought that Rin had turned out to be a good guy. Hajime would never accept him as anything but a villain, a monster-child all grown up. No matter what.

and I.

Oh, the stories that flowed from Alice every time Hajime came over, every time they talked on the phone. Ren's friends, Ren's school. Ren had sung and made a plant grow just like Alice had. Ren had found an abandoned cat and now their household had a new member. Ren found an old poem of Rin's and cried so hard over it. Ren was the spitting image of his father. Ren had his mother's voice. Ren, Ren, Ren all the time.

Hajime couldn't get enough.

He'd never imagined being an uncle would be like this. The love that welled up in his heart every time he saw his nephew kept surprising him with its intensity, its newness. Ren had come from his sister. How she'd made something so amazing, so perfect, eluded him.

Oh, yeah, Rin was involved, too. He didn't like to think about that part. But for all of the fears about what Rin's DNA meant for Ren, Hajime could not fear Rin's parenting.

Because he still remembered that day in the hospital. Hajime running to the nursery to catch the first glimpse of Ren, and seeing Rin there. The huge, crystalline, round tears that had rolled down his face as he gazed at, held his son for the first time. Hajime had teared up despite himself. And he realized that no matter what kind of annoying brat Rin was to him, he would raise his son right. And in the seven years since, Rin had never once betrayed that trust.

Finally, something about Rin Kobayashi that Hajime could stand.

The Soul is:: nostalgicnostalgic
Lee: Alice & Rin // Happy Endingprettybird on October 9th, 2010 07:45 pm (UTC)

Be back shortly with proper feedback.

Dammit, now I want to reread the whole series...
Lee: Rin & Alice // Nothing endsprettybird on October 9th, 2010 09:44 pm (UTC)
So much love for you right now. One of the many things I adore about PSME is how it side-stepped the issue of one sibling being jealous of the other, "special" one. Hajime thinks what Alice can do is amazing and he doesn't flinch when she tells him about her past life. Of course, that doesn't mean trusts her judgment about other things. :P You captured their relationship perfectly.

If there was one place he never dreamed he'd be, it was attending his 27-year-old sister's wedding to an 18-year-old while their illegitimate son played outside with a psychic's daughter.

*giggles* Poor Hajime. Welcome to the rest of your life.
Tiptoe39tiptoe39 on October 9th, 2010 09:49 pm (UTC)
I really, really, really loved writing this. It was such a trip into nostalgia land to me, and considering nostalgia is PSME's signature emotion, it was doubly wonderful. I'm so grateful to you for giving me the chance to do this.

I really love Hajime in that way. I hope he meets someone awesome and stops brownnosing ;D Poor fella.

Thank you so, so much!