wordsworn: (TOTAL MASTERPIECE HERE.)
★ Writing Journal for Alory Shannon ★ ([personal profile] wordsworn) wrote2013-11-29 06:35 pm

"Wandelkoning: Zwischenschach" - Mikado, Masami, Aki (AU!DRRR!!)

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A/N: Oneshot, once again TOTALLY RP-influenced, this time from an AU that [personal profile] its_game_time and I came up with. Picks up from where this thread (if you choose "Option B" the first time, and also the second time it splits) left off, and takes the aftermath of that situation to one possible (and let's face it, likely the most probable) conclusion.

Summary: Mikado goes to confront Masami’s ex-boyfriend. What he finds, and how the encounter goes, is not at all what he expects.

(Alternately: SHOWDOWN!! THE QUIETLY FEARSOME DRAGON EMPEROR OF THE DOLLARS VS. THE ALWAYS-SMILING FORMER RED PRINCE OF THE YELLOW SCARVES!!)


[AU!DRRR!!. 'Wandelkoning: Zwischenschach']

There was an oddly eerie quality to this hospital during the twilight hour, Mikado decided. Visiting hours were over and admissions had slowed to an inconstant trickle, and though the nurses had finished their rounds it wasn’t quite time for a shift-change. It was as close to peaceful, amid the steady whoosh and beep of various medical machinery and the rolling clatter of wobbly wheels on tile, as a hospital could be.

Despite the fact that it was after visiting hours, Mikado made his way down the long, chilly corridors uncontested--the leader of the Dollars wasn’t restricted by something so trivial, after all. A single (and soon-deleted) anonymous message in the chat room asking for anyone who worked at that hospital to let a teenager wearing a green and white track jacket inside for “a truly important matter” and he was in, a pair of young, giggling nurses and a stern-faced janitor getting him past the check-in desk and finding the right room number and sending him on his way without any fuss or prying questions.

This wasn’t really the way he’d wanted to go about things--he wanted it to be aboveboard, devoid of any sort of foul play--and he didn’t like rocking the boat unless it was necessary, but in this case it had been. He had wanted to be sure Masami wouldn’t be there, and that he could be sure of some measure of privacy, so an after-hours visit it was.

Ever since she’d finally come clean to him--about her history with Mikajima Akihiko, about her dependence on Izaya’s advice and the information broker’s subsequent betrayal, and especially about her unexpectedly softer feelings for Mikado himself--Masami had seemed a little off. She was avoiding him, and while it was subtle, as long as he’d known her (and now that he really knew what to look for), he could tell that she was. She’d said that she was going to go straight to the hospital and talk with Akihiko, to settle things with him once and for all before they decided for sure what to do about their own situation, and he trusted her enough to believe that she’d done just that. She hadn’t told him about it the next day at school, though, and in a worrisomely out-of-character move, she hadn’t responded to his texts or e-mails about it either. She’d even gone out of her way to be sure they ate lunch with Anri-chan that day (not that they ever did otherwise anymore, but still).

That had been three days ago now, and Mikado was getting tired of having her sidestep or ignore his questions every time he tried to bring up anything to do with their conversation that evening, or especially what had happened when she’d gone to see Akihiko.

Truthfully, that was the part that troubled him the most. If her visit had gone well, she should be free to do as she liked, so why wouldn’t she want to talk about it…unless she’d changed her mind about wanting to be something more than friends. Then again, if it had gone badly and things still hadn’t been settled, she might try to avoid talking about it out of shame or embarrassment. Or, worst of all, it might have gone too well (or would it be ‘too badly’ really?), and she’d realised that she did still have strong romantic feelings for her ex after all, and she and Akihiko were back together again. She’d want to dodge his questions then too, if only to spare both of them some pain and awkwardness.

Still, not knowing for sure which one it was, or if there was another option entirely… Any way he looked at it, it wasn’t a satisfactory situation.

He didn’t want to put too much pressure on her when the situation was such a delicate one, though--he had no desire to force her to face such a sensitive subject a second time if she wasn’t ready to do so. But he still wanted—needed—to know what was going on, what to expect.

Which was why he had decided to face down Mikajima Akihiko himself, and find out firsthand what his best friend’s ex-boyfriend had said to her.

A slightly shady-looking orderly had met him by the elevators and asked about the room number, then taken him up to the correct floor and given him some simple directions (down the hallway to your right, left through the sliding glass doors, third door on the left) that Mikado had followed without incident. Before he knew it, he found himself passing an open doorway, peering into another unremarkable hospital room, then stopping in his tracks as his mind counted three, third door on the left and his eyes settled on the room’s occupant: another teenager, sitting up in bed, hands folded in his lap, his head turned just enough for him to gaze out the nearby window.

For a moment Mikado could only stare, because despite the shapeless hospital gown and the unkind effect of the dim industrial lighting, even he could see that the other teen was nothing short of exceptionally handsome. His haircut (which was somewhat shaggy and unkempt, doubtless due to his prolonged stay in the hospital) and the delicate structure of his face made him look vaguely like Hanejima Yuuhei--enough so that they could’ve played brothers, or at least cousins, in a movie or TV drama. His shoulders were broad, his arms sleekly well-muscled, his body lean beneath the blankets, and judging by how close to the end of the bed his feet were, he was a good head taller than Mikado. Other than the messy hair and the unhealthy pallor of his skin, he could’ve easily been mistaken for a model or a movie star.

It was enough to make Mikado’s resolve waver, and it left him suddenly feeling very plain and drab. Masami had picked him over this guy? That couldn’t be right…he must have the wrong room…but then again, beautiful and outgoing and magnetic as Masami was, it wasn’t at all surprising to him that she would attract a guy like this.

He’d just about decided that the nurses had been mistaken about the room number (despite the nameplate on the door telling him that wasn’t the case, but there could have been a mix-up, or maybe Mikajima-san had been moved) when the other teen looked away from the window and called out to him with a smile, seemingly unsurprised by Mikado’s presence despite the fact that standard visiting hours were long past.

“…Ah. Ryuugamine-san, isn’t it?”

“Y-yes!” Mikado’s voice squeaked a little, and he cleared his throat nervously before correcting himself. “I mean, yes, I’m Ryuugamine Mikado. And you’re…ah, Mikajima Akihiko-san?”

“That’s right. Come in, and have a seat if you like.”

“Th-thanks…” Mikado hesitated as Akihiko gestured towards the seat beside the bed, but the other teen’s steady smile didn’t waver, to the point where it would’ve felt rude to refuse the invitation. Clutching at the strap of his school bag, he stepped into the room and shuffled towards the chair, perching gingerly on the edge of it and then fidgeting for a second or two before asking, “Um, but…we’ve never met before, so how did you…?”

Aki (which was the name Mikado subconsciously connected with the other teen, casual as it was, simply because that was what Masami had called him) just smiled a little wider and looked back towards the window, giving a pointed nod towards the bloody violet watercolour sunset staining the sky outside. “I’ve seen you with Sami-chan.”

Mikado blinked at the unfamiliar nickname. “ ‘Sami-chan’?”

Aki hummed in affirmation. “Mm. ‘Kida-kun’ was what everyone else called her, and ‘Masami-chan’ just didn’t sound right to me somehow. ‘Sami-chan’ is perfect, short and cute just like she is. Though I guess ‘Macchan’ or ‘Masachii’ would’ve worked as well.” He gave an easy shrug, and while his smile didn’t change, Mikado couldn’t help notice how sharp and watchful the other teenager’s eyes were. “Of course, a close childhood friend doesn’t have to worry about honorifics at all, right?”

Mikado frowned a little at that--what he called Masami was between the two of them, and even if it wasn’t anything super-personal, he didn’t like feeling as though their relationship was being weighed or tested by an outside party.

“Kida-kun is Kida-kun,” he answered a bit stiffly, “though I don’t see what that has to do with anything.” Though I don’t see what that has to do with you was what Mikado had really meant, and judging by the amused, upwards quirk of Aki’s eyebrows, he knew it, too.

“I see. Well then, if you’re not here to swap stories about the good old days with Kida-kun—” He put obvious emphasis on that nickname, and Mikado tensed just slightly in response. “—Then what are you here for?”

“…I think you’ve probably already guessed that much, Mikajima-san.” Mikado’s hands tightened on the strap of his bag as he briefly looked down. “I know it’s not really my place to ask this, and I don’t know what happened between you when Kida-kun visited you a few days ago, but…” He forced himself to look up and meet Aki’s gaze, and speak with a firmness he only partially felt. “Whatever it was, I’m here to ask you to forgive her…or failing that, at least let her go.”

Mikado wasn’t exactly sure what sort of reaction he was expecting from Masami’s ex-boyfriend, but all he got was that same complacently interested quirk of the eyebrows and an equally interested-sounding question.

“Oh? You love her, then?”

“Of—of course I do,” Mikado snapped, momentarily flustered into stuttering by the other teen’s bluntness. “We’ve been best friends since elementary school. I care about her as much as I care about my family!”

“That’s good to hear, Ryuugamine-san,” Aki murmured with that same cussedly beatific smile as before. “But you know that’s not what I meant.”

Mikado had drawn a breath to say something more, but he balked at that, that all-too-knowing and almost condescending tone.

“You probably do love her, but you’re not really in love with her, are you.” He pressed on before Mikado could respond to that offhanded yet unnervingly accurate statement, “You do want her though, right? Hmm, of course you do…and I can’t blame you for that. She’s very easy to want, for a lot of different reasons. So if you’re here to ask for my blessing or permission or whatever, then go ahead. You’re welcome to try winning her over and keeping her eyes and heart focused on you. But I’ll warn you now, before you let yourself fall in love with her for real and it’s too late, that she’ll always come back to me. No matter what.”

Mikado’s eyes had dropped to his lap again, though his face was utterly blank, a perfectly expressionless mask, and it was some time before he replied, letting that off-balance--and wholly intentional--sort of silence linger between them for a handful of seconds.

“…What,” he said at last, slowly, deliberately, “do you mean by that, exactly?”

Aki didn’t seem the least bit unsettled or put off by the unexpected dip and eddy in the flow of the conversation, his smile as calm and inscrutable as it had been from the start.

“I mean even if I let her go, she’ll never really be able to leave me. That’s how things are. That’s how she is. So she can love all the other guys she wants, and I won’t care. In the end, she’ll love me more than she loves them. Because she’ll realise that I love her more than any of them, and nothing they can ever do or say will be a match for her memories of me, and us.”

There was an implication there that Mikado wasn’t sure he wanted to dwell on, but even so he felt a brief twinge of something that he would almost, but not quite, describe as jealousy. He hardly registered that sensation though, too busy fitting pieces together and sliding people and events into place.

“…And you told her that, didn’t you.” It wasn’t a question, and it was delivered in a flat, toneless voice, without reproach; there was the start of a dangerous glint in his eyes, however. “You told her that months ago, the one time she came to see you, and you said it again just a few days ago.” It was only a guess, but when Aki didn’t deny it, didn’t respond at all, Mikado knew he’d hit on the truth. “That’s a pretty manipulative way to make sure she keeps thinking about you. Even if she tries to move on, she’ll always be second-guessing herself and comparing whoever she’s with to you.”

Aki gave him an amused look that almost seemed to say, are you really accusing someone else of being manipulative? “Is that really so wrong when I know that I’m the only person who can love her the way she deserves to be loved? Of course, she needs you and Sonohara-san as well--I can be her lover, but she needs the support of your friendship to be truly happy.”

Mikado ducked his head, his ears going a little pink to hear another guy talking about being Masami’s lover, and with such a warm, casual familiarity, too…because that made it obvious that Aki wasn’t speculating. He knew for a fact that he could satisfy her in that sense, and he clearly wasn’t shy about admitting it.

Having never been with any girl, much less Masami herself, Mikado felt no such certainty. But he was very certain of one thing: that he didn’t like a lot of what Aki had just said.

Not. One. Bit.

“…You’re the only person who can love her the way she deserves to be loved…? That’s a pretty awful thing to say.” Mikado hadn’t raised his head again until that moment, looking at the floor as he spoke with a quiet sort of contemplation; now he did, and that dangerous glint from before had intensified into a slow-building anger. “You might mean it in the sense that you love her more than anyone else ever could, but what it sounds like to me is that you don’t think she can make anyone else fall in love with her as deeply as you did. How do you know she can’t? Or that someone else won’t love her more than you do?”

Aki still just smiled serenely, utterly unruffled by anything and everything Mikado had said. “You mean like you?”

While he wasn’t typically prone towards physical violence, Mikado found his fists clenching alongside an unambiguous desire to punch that angelic smile off the other teen’s face. “We’re talking about Masami, not me--this is about her, what’s best for her--but maybe so. And how exactly do you expect to measure anyone else’s love for her against your own anyway?”

“I can’t. All I know is what I feel. But I’m sure that what I feel will always be stronger than what anyone else will feel for her. And if I have a wish, it’s that someday she’ll realise that, and come back to me for good.”

He said it so calmly, as if it was a rational conclusion, a scientific observation based on fact, when really it was the exact opposite.

Mikado forced himself to unclench his fists, because although it was pretty selfish and more than a little possessive, it was still love, and weren’t his own feelings towards Masami at least a little selfish as well? Still, he felt like he understood the situation a lot better now. No wonder Masami had put off coming to see Aki—she’d known what he’d say, what seeing him would do to her. And all of that on top of the guilt she already felt about abandoning him…

And yet she’d come anyway. After more than a year of running away, avoiding it, pretending it had never happened, she’d faced her past and all her guilt and self-loathing. For her own sake, of course, but…also for Mikado. He was the catalyst that had pushed her into action: she’d wanted to have that clean slate so that she could be with him, with Ryuugamine Mikado, without the crushing weight of remorse overshadowing her feelings for him. And she’d wanted it enough that she’d stood right here and looked at that benevolent smile and listened to a person who she’d once loved, and perhaps loved a little still, tell her for a second time how she’d never be free of him, how she would always be connected to her past, how he and the guilt and shame that he represented would always, always overpower anything else that she tried to find or feel.

Looking at it that way…Mikado thought that it was just about the bravest thing that Masami could’ve ever done. More than enough to make up for a single instance of justifiable petrified inaction.

Bowing his head, he gave a low, mirthless chuckle. “What the hell kind of thing is that to wish on someone who broke up with you…?”

Aki blinked at the laughter, a hint of curiosity touching his placid expression for the first time, and he leaned forward a bit, trying to get a look at Mikado’s face.

Right at that moment, Mikado shot to his feet--so swiftly that the chair he’d been sitting on skittered backwards with a clatter--and turned a polite and friendly-seeming, but also somehow cold and closed smile down on the other teen.

“Thanks for talking with me about this, Mikajima-san. To be honest, I was still a little unsure about things between Masami and me, but after hearing this, I’ve decided for sure.”

“Decided?”

“Yes. I’m more determined than ever to win her from you…and if you won’t give her up, then I’ll just take her.” Turning, he started for the door, then paused. “But…”

He glanced back over his shoulder at Aki, and though his expression couldn’t be called a glare, couldn’t be called anything really, other than flat and blank, it was all the more chilling because of that abrupt emptiness.

“…I think you’ll let her go freely, without me having to do anything.”

It wasn’t quite a threat--the words were too soft and bland to really come across as such--but coming from the leader of the most powerful gang in Ikebukuro, it wasn’t exactly not a threat either. It was more like the threat of a threat: a word of advice, an admonition.

A warning.

And for the first time, Mikajima Akihiko’s mask of calm slipped, leaving him looking a little surprised. Then he smiled, though not quite the same sort of smile as before. It was more brittle and less beatific, like someone who had come to the unexpected realisation that they were playing a game they now had no chance of winning, but who still wouldn’t concede until the very end, just to see how everything played out.

“Is that so. You’re just as interesting as I’ve heard.” From Izaya-san, no doubt, Mikado knew that in an instant, even without Aki having to confirm it. “It was very nice meeting you, Ryuugamine-san.”

“Yes, nice meeting you, too, Mikajima-san. Sorry for the intrusion.”

“Not at all. It was good of you to come.”

Mikado’s only response was to stop in the doorway and give a polite bow, and then he left, without even once looking back.

--

Masami was surprisingly silent at school the next day. Most of the time, she was dropping in on Anri and Mikado throughout the day, chatting with them and the rest of their classmates at every break. Sometimes she’d even show up in the middle of lessons to poke and pester her friends, and answer the teacher’s questions or give dramatic readings from their English texts from the back row. She hadn’t done much of that the last few days anyway, but she’d taken her avoidance to an entirely new level today, to the point where she was all but missing entirely. Most notable was her total absence at lunch; even though he and Anri both asked around, none of Masami’s classmates or even any of the teachers knew where she’d gone. One mentioned that she’d been unusually quiet in class, and another had chimed in that he hadn’t even realised that Masami was there until mid-morning, she’d been so quiet and withdrawn.

That made Mikado worry a bit, enough that he’d had trouble focusing in class, and he was still brooding about it as he said goodbye to Anri and packed up his things after school. Was Masami upset that he’d overstepped his bounds by going to see Aki? He had overstepped them, and he knew it, he thought to himself with a sigh as he bent to exchange his school slippers for his street shoes. He really had…but he’d been tired of standing by and doing nothing when Masami had already done so much to free herself—

His thoughts cut off and he gave a little jump as someone behind him suddenly brought the hard edge of a school notebook down on his head with a sharp WHACK! He knew who it was immediately, of course, even before a well-known voice called out some unintelligible English words.

“~CONSTANT VIGILANCE~!!”

“Ow!” Wincing, Mikado clapped both hands over the spot where the book had made the hardest contact, turning a pained look up at his disapproving best friend. “Kida-kun, what…?”

Masami cut him off, wagging a reprimanding finger in his face. “Ah ah, no talking back allowed right now! After taking a hit like that, you’re already dead! Honestly, Mikado, I don’t know how you’ve managed to survive this long. You can’t afford to ever let your guard down here in Ikebukuro, or else you might be dead for real next time!”

Taken aback as he was by her sudden return to her customary (semi-crazy) behaviour, Mikado couldn’t help but fall into old habits and give his usual flat response. “I’ve been pretty safe so far though…and Kida-kun is the only one who ever uses attacks like this.”

Her eyes narrowed as she leaned in close, enough so that Mikado found himself pulling back reflexively. “Ohhh~? But it’s still true that you could be surprised by an ambush at any time! School hours, visiting hours, even after hours—none of that really matters, does it?”

Mikado stared up at her for a second with wide eyes, frozen in shock at the obvious meaning behind her words, then raised a hand to scratch at the back of his head sheepishly. “Yeah…sorry about going behind your back like I did last night, but…I won’t apologise for anything other than that. I wasn’t trying to save you, or anything cliché like that.”

He knew that Masami could take care of herself--she hadn’t been known as the Bloody Golden Empress of the Yellow Scarves for nothing, and he’d seen firsthand how insanely strong she was when it came to street-fighting. Still, Mikado could tell that she wasn’t entirely convinced of what he was saying just yet, so he pressed on with his explanation:

“…I just…wanted to help you. To understand what you were going through a little better. And…to be there for you in the only way I knew how.”

There were plenty of things he couldn’t do, but there were still some things he could. And he wasn’t going to stand idly by when he could do something for someone he cared about, even if it meant overstepping his bounds a little. He wasn’t going to change his mind about that, either. He’d already decided all of this for himself, after all, and looking out for each other was just what friends did.

And if Masami was still angry at him for that, for involving himself when it wasn’t strictly necessary, then she would just have to get over it.

She seemed to weigh what he’d said for a moment, her expression solemn…then her arm vanished into a blur of motion as she hit him over the head again, a little harder this time.

“That one’s for not apologizing! The first one was for going at all! And this—”

Mikado flinched, expecting another harsh blow to fall, but instead, there was a gentle touch on the top of his head as she continued,

“—Is for standing up for me, even if I didn’t need it.”

That touch changed to a series of soft pats, and when he looked up again and found Masami smiling down at him warmly, he knew that she’d forgiven him. That she understood his reasons for going, why he’d gotten involved, and also that she knew it had been from a desire to help her, to free her, not control her or force her into or out of anything.

Everything was good between them again.

…That patting was starting to feel really patronising, though.

“Cut it out!” he mock-growled, though he was smiling as he tried to swat her hand away.

Flashing him one of her usual bright grins, Masami pulled back in plenty of time to avoid the blow, tucking her arms behind her back and talking to him over her shoulder as she headed for the school’s front doors.

“C’mon then, aren’t you ready to go yet?”

Despite her playful impatience, Mikado took his time getting to his feet, putting away his shoes, and collecting his things, and his thoughts were of Masami the whole time--both in that moment, and in general. He watched her face as she smiled and laughed, chatting with a few passing classmates about nothing in particular as they left the building, and he could feel a deep contentment spreading through him as he looked at her, along with a faint thrill of excitement.

The future was uncertain--that was the only thing that was certain about it. But even so, he would enjoy the present, and live the way he wanted to. And while he might not be the one to win Masami’s heart in the end, he wouldn’t allow himself to lose to someone like Aki, of all people.

He’d been slow, so Masami had left him at the shoe lockers, but he was unsurprised to find her waiting for him at the front gates. The instant she set eyes on him, she waved him over, calling out to him cheerfully.

“Hey, took you long enough! I could’ve slept for fifty years in the time it took you to pack up! Let’s go home already, Mikado!”

“Yeah,” he said with a smile as he caught up with her, then impulsively did something he hadn’t done in years, but had done without thinking all the time as a kid: he reached for Masami’s hand. It felt the same as ever in a way, though it was also a little different now after all they’d been through, but even so, Mikado didn’t let go. He just held on, smiling a little wider at the hint of pink his action had brought to Masami’s cheeks as she smiled back, and returned that gentle pressure. “Let’s go.”

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