A/N: Look, everybody! I wrote some Shiki het! I am capable of it!
…but its incest.
Title based on the title of a Walt Whitman poem.
We Two Children, Clinging Together
When she woke up in the hospital room, she had found the white of the room overwhelming, and understood immediately that the world had changed completely. And as she and Akira made their rounds on the carousel of relatives in the successive weeks, and the newspapers and televisions were flooded with the news of Sotoba’s apparent collective psychosis, it only grew into sharper and sharper relief. In so many ways, she simply was no longer a child. Yet she nevertheless found herself trapped in such a state of being by dint of her age, and so they made their way through relative after relative, each one treating them as plague victims more than the last.
She couldn’t really blame them, if she thought about it honestly, and it didn’t really bother her, ultimately. Akira still got angry on occasion, but she found herself curiously blanched of feeling on the matter. How else would they treat them, after all? They could never understand. For one thing, they didn’t know what had actually happened in Sotoba. And of what they did suppose, they could not even fathom that either. They were the survivors of a massacre. How does one understand that when they came of age after the war? The sweet-smelling Japan of their youths granted them no resonance with true horror.
When the journey through relatives homes ceased, they found themselves settled in with an elderly woman of unclear relation to their own selves. They called her ‘aunt’ when they called her anything at all and it seemed to work just fine. She was mostly deaf, had lived through the firebombing of Tokyo and lost her first husband and first set of children in it. She seemed much more at ease with the circumstances of their arrival in her home, although she never stated anything outright. When teachers came knocking about the unbreakable silence that the Tanaka children held, she shook her head and shrugged, pretending not to hear. Teachers gossiped, too.
They didn’t speak much with one another, but it was relieving for Kaori and her brother to not have to. They felt buffeted on all sides when in school, as original attempts to communicate were replaced with scornful attitudes and bullying. She scared her classmates with her blank eyes; he scared his classmates with his explosive anger. Their teachers were dismayed with their academic performances, their inability to focus in on anything. But they’d given up on them, too, had ceased attempts to force the other children to leave them alone. When the Tanaka children openly looked out the windows and failed to take notes, they likewise did nothing.
She tried to focus on lessons, because when Kaori did lapse into these sightless periods she only saw before her the dark rooms of their empty home in Sotoba, felt the sensation of the shovel handle between her teeth once again as she shivered in fear. She couldn’t bring herself to quite care about the lessons at hand, but it kept her mind occupied at the very least, prevented all thoughts of Sotoba from seeping back into her consciousness. Occasionally she wondered what it was Akira couldn’t escape from in these drifting moments, but she never asked.
Although they did not know the contents of their waking nightmares, they knew that similar things occupied their sleeping nightmares as well. They slept closely together in the same futon, neglecting to even set out the second one for show. When in other houses they had, if only since it provoked too much in their other family members not to. They didn’t care what these people had thought, but it had been too overwhelming to listen to their arguments and unsettled feelings. So they at least played pretend.
Akira often woke up screaming, struggling against duct tape and rope that was no longer around him. Kaori woke up gripping tightly at a shovel and stake that had long-since burned to ashes in Sotoba. And if one awoke, the other did as well.
Kaori felt she had become an adult from all that had happened, but had also become inhuman as well. In less lucid moments she wondered if she had somehow become one of those monsters herself, had slipped into it without even becoming aware. She had not lain in a grave, but she may as well have.
But if she were no longer human, then so, too, was Akira the same. Far-flung from Sotoba, from the other villagers, they were the only two like that that they had. And even if they had stayed close to the villagers? She recalled seeing the blood-soaked villagers going by the hospital in the trucks and vans, and she knew she could not have felt kinship with them, either. Because she knew that they had not merely kept their efforts to those who were the living dead. They were monsters of another kind.
Her brother was not a monster. He hadn’t killed anyone, dead or alive. He just wasn’t quite human any longer. And so she sometimes shuddered inwardly when she embraced him, because she could feel that evil in herself leaching into him. But pushing him away hadn’t worked, for herself or for him. He clung so tightly to her, too, and she found that her strength failed her at a point, and she let it all just carry her away.
The night she kisses him after he wakes up crying she never questions. It’s such a natural extension of everything, and as Akira sobs, he kisses her back. He suddenly becomes aware of her as this other, becomes cognizant of the narrowness of her arms, the small swell of her breasts beneath her pajama shirt. He cannot explain it precisely, does not even think to do so, but it’s this understanding all at once of his sister as a separate person even as he feels she is the only person he can relate to, and the only person who can relate to him.
When they stop, Akira presses his face into the crook of Kaori’s neck, and she lets him, holding him so closely that it is nearly uncomfortable. The gentle rhythm of their breathing is soothing, and when he sleeps again, Akira’s dreams are of his childhood, full of sunlight and soft colors. Kaori shares this dream with him, and they slumber in ease.