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10 March 2007 @ 08:00 pm
Bones  
Place: Koneko no Sumu ie
Date: Saturday, August 19, 2006

She appeared outside the shop just after four, which was half an hour later than Omi had told her to come, but she had always been a beat or two off. He saw her through the windows, juggling with two bankers boxes and trying to offer Momoe a bow, hair sliding into her face and hands too full to push it back. Awkward at life, that one was, but more honest than ninety percent of the people in this world.

Omi was wrapping up a bouquet of bluebells for a middle-aged lady with a strange tilt of sadness to her smile. He decided to forget to charge her for the ribbon and saw her off at the same time Adachi Hideko managed to haul her burden inside. She smiled, and he had to tilt his head back to look her in the face.

If Yohji weren't still recovering, he would be at the door in an instant, making her blush.

"Adachi-san." Omi smiled at her in greeting--the pleasant but distant customer smile, more out of habit at this time of day than anything else. "Is this everything?"

"No." She sounded defeated, made an odd, embarrassed noise when he took one of the boxes from her. "I just..." She trailed off momentarily, all but dragging her feet, following Omi back to set the boxes by the back door. Paused there, biting her lip and looking sideways at a display of camellias. "Aya... She'll get better, right? I can't just pack up all of her stuff like she's never coming back."

"Well..." And how the hell do you answer that, Tsukiyono? You smile, you nod, you say something sweet and reassuring, tell her what she wants to hear because that will make her feel better. Because that's what Omi the Florist does. Because that's what Omi the Assassin does when his target's blind girlfriend comes downstairs after the kill to ask what's going on.

Just smile and nod.

"The doctors say she's healthy." Omi's face was like a sunbeam, bright and warm and reassuring. "And she's woken up before, I don't think there's anything to worry about."

"Oh." Just that, a relaxation of Hideko's shoulders, a release of tension from her eyebrows. If even the sun declared that all was well, then it must be true. "I'm sorry. It's... the university is assigning me a new roommate. It's been kind of a lousy day." She hovered a bit, half-watching Omi return to the counter and looking over the camellias some more. Finally bit her lip a bit and blurted out, "Tomoe-san called the other day."

Tomoe-san. Omi blinked for a full thirty seconds, wondering why he ought to know the name before it struck him, almost dropping the inventory clipboard in his hands.

Sakura.

"Really? I didn't know Aya-san kept in touch with her." True, the last Omi had seen or heard of Tomoe Sakura was her stilted sobs from outside his hospital room, watching Yohji's awkward posture leaning against the doorframe. Voice gentle and husky and oh-so-tired of being the one to tell everybody, telling her that her knight in shining armor was dead. Telling her that her schoolgirl dreams were over--not that they'd had any merit to begin with.

"She's going to school in Hokkaido." Hideko rubbed one finger along the edge of the counter, nervous habit, she'd end up leaving a groove in the wood the more she came to the store. "I told her--I hope that was okay. She was pretty upset, she said she wished she could come back here and see you all, go visit her. Um..."

Omi was listening to her through a kind of haze, not really processing the words. Maybe he'd been out in the sun too long, running, yesterday. Didn't realize he'd drifted away until he noticed her, waiting for his attention. "Sorry. What was that?"

"I was wondering... is there any chance I could go visit her? I won't be any trouble. Promise."

She looked so eager--lonely. All wide eyes and the corners of her mouth turned down in that way, looked like she had lost her best friend. Had lost her best friend, for all intents and purposes, and in all honesty--

There was no way of knowing if or when Aya would ever come back.

"Here." Omi pulled one of the Koneko's business cards out of the little holder next to the cash register, pulled the pen off the clipboard and scribbled on the back. Sketchy kana, not enough room for an explanation along with the address, but his signature on the card ought to be enough for whatever security Kritiker might have around. "The address and room number. If anyone asks questions just show them this."

Hideko blinked a little at that, just for a second, wondering, then took the card and smiled, still shy but genuinely happy. "Thank you. Um... sorry, I'll be late for class. It's good to see you again, though. Tell the others I said hi."

"Sure." He watched her leave, still with that fog hanging over his thoughts and hearing, waiting until she had told Momoe goodbye and hurried off down the sidewalk before setting the inventory aside and shuffling back to the door. Opening it, leaning into the storeroom until Ken noticed and looked up from the refrigerated orchids he was counting.

"Could you take over for a while? I need to put some things away."

~ * ~

The closet was stuffed into a corner of the basement between the door that lead to the garage stairs and an old armchair that had never been taken up those stairs to be dumped. The task, as Omi recalled, had been assigned to Yohji some years ago, as it was his chair that he had drug home from some drinking-buddy's moving giveaway, and somewhere along the line had started popping springs and losing stuffing. Ken had taken issue with it around the time that Yohji stole his favorite floor cushion to pad the springs sticking out of the seat, and they still argued over it and the fact that Yohji had yet to haul it off as a matter of course.

Nagi's opinion was that they were both idiots, of course, but he had his own chair off in another corner and made duly sure that no one else dared to sit in it. Ever.

Omi set the boxes down in the closet's doorway and reached up to pull the light cord on, wrinkling his nose at the bit of dust kicking into the air. Boxes. Some packed carefully, some stuffed haphazardly. Books stacked neatly on one shelf. A pile of CD's in beaten jewel cases. Trinkets, knickknacks. Things that had been set and stored in various places around Aya's room, things, he'd said once--at that street fair in Roppongi, just in passing, just because they were there that day scouting a location. He'd said, "She would like this." Omi figured he had all kinds of little treasures like that, bought in passing and squirreled away, only to be found later by his teammates packing up his room.

That was a bad day--worse than any of the days in the hospital, Omi thought, worse than watching Ken with those machines attached to him or listening to Yohji's voice, Yohji bearing all the bad news. Worse than Nagi and his dead look and grudging acceptance. Worse than all of that was sitting on that carpet, finding a necklace in a box under Aya's bed. Finding manga hidden in his closet that he didn't want them to know he read. Packing everything away like erasing a picture one line at a time. Finding and forgetting, Yohji standing in the middle of the room like he'd taken a wrong turn in Yokohama and couldn't remember where he was going to begin with.

Ken behind him, methodically folding clothes and packing them away in a suitcase that had always been by Aya's door, like he had always intended to up and leave one day. Any day, with or without notice.

Omi rubbed his forehead, looking and turning and looking more on the pretense of finding a suitable spot for these new boxes, new pieces of someone else's life, but really, he was just lingering. On the shelf to his right--orange sweater, folded, dust collecting on the collar and why wasn't that in a box? Some memory of that week after they were all home, someone finding it in the laundry room. Sending someone to put it in the closet with everything else and please, don't tell Aya-san. Omi shifted to the side, still with that fog over him and reached out, almost picked it up--

Knock it off, Tsukiyono. Stop feeling sorry for yourself.

He bent down, picked up the boxes one at a time and pushed them into a space near the back. White cardboard amongst brown, would be hard to miss when or if they were needed again. When, or if.

Omi caught himself looking at the sweater again, standing and staring and allowed it, just for a second, one last time. Then he turned off the light and walked out, closing the door behind him.