A/N: Somehow, some way, this will have a happy ending – this I promise you.
Happy Endings Are All the Same:
He spent the day in a daze, distracted from his work to the point that the other clinic workers noticed. He shrugged off their queries easily enough, but remained fully fixed in a fog. He found that the nurses were sending less of the patients on to him than usual, and felt a twinge of annoyance. Did they really think he was incapable of doing his own job? He was thinking about other things, but it wasn’t impossible to focus on a patient when they were in the room…
They had separated at dawn, as the distant noise of tractors floated up to them and the night insects’ songs faded away. His head hurt slightly, and his pajamas were soaked, clinging uncomfortably to his skin. He had gotten up without a word and gone indoors, and up the stairs to change. He had expected Seishin to follow him, and when he realized he still hadn’t, he’d gone back outdoors, only to find the other man gone. The grasses were bent where they’d lain, the only evidence that he’d been there at all. He’d cursed softly; where had he gone? And why had he himself been stupid enough to assume that Seishin would simply automatically follow him?
He’d felt that heart hammering through the dark hours as he’d slowly sobered up. He was surely home dwelling on it, turning it over and over in his mind and taking the worst possible view on it, steadily convincing himself of the least favorable potential truth.
Toshio chewed at a cigarette, sitting in the gazebo, gazing at the woods. Well, it wasn’t as if he knew for sure whether Seishin should have a negative or positive view on it. He didn’t rightly know why he’d kissed him, anyway. He’d been drinking… that Seishin had kissed him had caught him fully off-guard. But if he let him get away… well, wouldn’t that have been the end of Seishin?
He was trying. That was what he’d told him. That he was trying. But if he was trying, then that also meant that he still felt suicidal to some degree, didn’t it?
So maybe he’d kissed him to keep him from running away. Because he didn’t want Seishin to die. Seishin was…
He sighed, and rubbed at his eyes. Seishin was a good friend. They’d known each other their whole lives. He couldn’t even remember when they’d met. His earliest memory of the priest was of the two building a snowman when they were either four or five years old. It was such a lumpy looking snowman. They’d even gone to the trouble of sneaking an extra scarf from the closet to wrap around its neck.
Toshio lit his cigarette, finally, inhaling deeply. It was a bad habit for a doctor, wasn’t it? And his own father had died of lung cancer…
Seishin, Seishin, Seishin.
Well, he couldn’t leave it alone forever, he supposed. Although he wasn’t sure what his next move could or would be. Why had he kissed him back? Maybe it was the empty marital bed. He couldn’t even imagine the sensation of her hands any more. Did such things really fade so quickly?
He sat very still for a moment, trying to recall the feeling of Kyouko that last time. He could picture her face, even imagine the sound of her breathing, but the physical aspect was gone. He sighed and gave up.
There had been no calls from the temple, so at the very least he knew that Seishin was safe. But the sun was dipping further and further towards the horizon, and the other man had yet to appear. He got the distinct feeling that he probably wasn’t going to at all.
He picked another cigarette out of the box in his front pocket, at a loss of what to do with the empty hours between himself and bed. Well, dinner, there was one thing. Reading. There was another. No sake. Sake alone was always a terrible idea. Although if his mother happened along it could be the only thing to keep him sane…
Later in the kitchen, he did end up going to the cabinet for sake. His mother had come in as he’d sat at the table, picking at the last of his dinner and slowly making his way through a pot of barley tea. He held a copy of one of Seishin’s books, frowning. If he was going to be honest, he didn’t really like them very much. They were well-written, but so unpleasant. But he kept at it anyway; at least it sort of felt like he was doing something about the whole situation. He could convince himself that he was making some kind of effort.
Mrs. Ozaki made a face when she saw the book’s cover, the author’s name prominently displayed beneath the title. She also clicked her tongue, her tell-tale sign of annoyance. It was at this that Toshio noticed her. He placed the book page-down on the table, and stood, carrying his cup with him as he went to the cabinet.
He started to make his way back to the table, but his mother held out her hand, a sour look upon her face. He heard himself sighing again, and fetched another cup, then poured her a bit of sake, too. He’d avoided offering her any himself because he had hoped she’d leave him alone if he just ignored her. So much for dreams.
Her expression smoothed slightly after sipping at the sake, and Toshio resumed his reading. She stood, leaning against the counter, and even managed for a moment to look softer overall, too. But she had hardly been blessed with the voice of an angel, and the image shattered when she finally spoke, “What was all that racket last night about?”
Toshio merely shrugged, and Mrs. Ozaki narrowed her eyes at him, “Don’t be stupid. I heard your voice and then a lot of noise in the hallway before someone slammed the front door.”
“It was nothing.”
“Sure lot of noise for nothing.” She sniffed. He ignored her.
“And this morning – I heard you come in so early! You just stomped right up the stairs and down the hall. Why on earth were you outside so early?” She sipped some more of the sake, then looked at him sharply, “Did it have something to do with that priest?”
“He has a name.” He said coolly, turning a page in the book.
“Well, I wouldn’t rightly know it, he’s your… friend, not mine. You’ve been spending so much time with him lately…”
Toshio cocked an eyebrow, unwillingly, but resisted the urge to fix her with a glare, his eyes locked firmly onto the pages, “And?”
Her face was sour-looking again, “You know I’ve never been crazy about him. What’s wrong with him, anyway? You got married, and so did Mikiyasu, but I’ve never even seen him look twice at a woman! He doesn’t seem to take his responsibilities very seriously… I’ve always liked his parents, but it seems that they should’ve taken in one his cousins a while back.”
He chewed at the inside of his mouth, the side away from his mother. He was trying to breathe easily, to not start a shouting match with her. He knew it was fruitless. But it had always been so hard to ignore her when she was being nasty about other people. Nasty about her own son? Fine. But the clinic workers? The villagers? Seishin? It had always struck a nerve when she did that, although he’d learned better over the years to put it out of mind. Especially with his father gone she seemed to relish arguments. Better to not give her what she was looking for at all.
Mrs. Ozaki finished her sake, and placed the cup down on the counter, sighing loudly, “Of course, I suppose I can’t talk! Here’s my own son, picked such a terrible wife and ended up being abandoned by her. Twenty-eight years old and needs a new wife…”
She frowned, coming to sit at the table across from him, “You just need to get it over with and divorce her. I can’t very well start looking for new marriage candidates for you while you’re still married, after all. And you shouldn’t be spending all that time with that priest! You could at least be spending time with some of the young women around here, too! Isn’t there still one of the daughters of the construction company who is unmarried? I think she just finished college in Tokyo this past spring, so I’m sure she’s home now…”
He drained his sake, and banged the cup back in the table, “I’m not interested in marriage candidates.” He pushed his chair back and started to stand, sweeping his cup onto his empty plate, putting the used fork beside it.
“Toshio! You need to give up on that woman! It’s already been five months, she isn’t coming back!”
He smirked, “Hey, mother, maybe we can adopt a cousin, then, too.”
He dropped his dish and cup into the sink, letting it clatter loudly. Mrs. Ozaki was slowly turning red with anger, her knuckles whitening as she gripped at her cuffs, “You need to start acting more seriously! I let you marry that woman, and you were permitted to go play around at that big city university, but you need to accept your duties and grow up!”
Toshio turned away, headed for the door. He’d had enough of it and felt a weariness suddenly overtaking him. His book still lay on the table, but it didn’t matter; he could just retrieve it in the morning, there was plenty to read upstairs.
“And no more of that priest sleeping over here! I’ve put up with you acting like a middle schooler enough, and I’m sick of it! You aren’t twelve years old any more, and you need to get over it! What are you doing, a grown man having sleepovers?”
He walked swiftly away, leaving her shouts behind him, and made his way heavily up the stairs. A vein pulsed steadily in his cheek as he tightly gritted his teeth. He was angry – angry at her words, but also angry that she’d managed to bother him this much. He liked to think he was good at simply taking it all in stride and blocking out whatever she said. They didn’t have to agree or listen to each other to live together, after all. In the summertime in particular they saw very little of each other; it was the most peaceful time of the year and had been ever since his father had died.
But she was right. What were two grown men doing having sleepovers every single night? What was he doing holding a grown man’s hand every night, then sharing his bed with a grown man every night? He rubbed at his stubble in frustration, opening the door to his room. He snapped the overhead light on, and fell into the chair by the window, his thoughts all astir.
Well, he hadn’t given Seishin the wrong idea, that much was clear. He’d essentially said that in the front hall, yelling at him that it had all meant more to him than it had to Toshio… but then he’d gone and kissed him. So, maybe he had ended up sending the wrong message after all.
Or not. Seishin had left after he left him in the grass, and he hadn’t returned for after dinner tea or drinks, nor had he appeared to come back to bed once again. On an impulse, he squinted out the window, scanning for signs of anyone. But the grounds were empty, the only bit of life a raccoon making its way across the moonlit grass and dirt.
He pounded on the windowsill suddenly, his anger reigniting. He’d screwed up. He’d really, really screwed up. First with Kyouko, now with Seishin. And he’d let them both just slip away, too, Seishin twice now.
But he just didn’t know what to do.