Dedication: Razzy Rain and Agatha, my dearest neechan’s. *HUUGS* Razzy... I’m not sure where this series would have gone without your wonderful ideas and help. And Aggy, I’m not sure it would’ve gone anywhere without your ending, exuberant, slobbery support. XDDD
Beautiful: Epilogue - If This Should Be The Last We Meet
“Goodbye, lay the blame on luck Goodbye, lay the blame on luck Goodbye, lay the blame on luck Goodbye, lay the blame on luck.”
-- Am I Wrong, by Love Spit Love
It was one of those days covered with a blanket, where only tendrils of blue sky were visible. Even when the azure palette of the sky was seen through a break in the swirling, constant clouds, that distant, blue streak was misted, vacantly pale, and brief.
It was nearing dusk, nearing that time when the sun would have been a dripping, crimson orb on the horizon if it could have been seen. And although the bloody sight was not visible, the sentiment did not go unmissed; there was that distinct feel hovering in the air, of ending, of night, of dimming, swirling, comforting darkness.
A pair of silhouettes traveled empty streets, ghosting with graceful, silent steps along a cracked concrete sidewalk. It was a side street they traversed, and the stillness was echoing. No one else was out. They were leaving a quiet dinner behind, a soft-spoken restaurant crouched on the corner in the shadow of a taller building was fading behind them in the distance.
Shinya breathed a soft sigh into the night that gently returned it with a breeze, reaching up absently to brush bangs from his eyes. Reflexively he moved to tuck hair behind his ear, but the action was fruitless. He had gotten his hair cut the previous week, gone from a longer fall past his shoulders to this shorter, face-framing style. He altered the action to settle for running a hand through his hair instead.
A soft chuckle.
“Not used to the new hair style, eh, Shin-chan?”
The slender drummer cast a glance sideways, eyes sweeping briefly over the lovely, delicate features of the countenance that had turned to regard him. Toshiya’s eyes sparkled.
“No,” he affirmed, shaking his head. “Not yet...”
Soft smile. Teasing tone. “I still think you should’ve dyed it green.”
Shinya playfully pushed Toshiya’s shoulder. He had gone through a purple stage a few years ago, and actually stuck with that for a while. Almost a year. But now, in the end—he was back to auburn, the light auburn he had adopted from the start. He was quick to argue that there was nothing wrong with consistency whenever any of the others tried to get him to change his hair too much. Getting him to go purple for a while had been difficult enough for the rest of Dir en Grey as it was.
“Where’s Kaoru again?” Shinya questioned once Toshiya finished chuckling and regained his footing.
Shinya and Toshiya had gone out to dinner after practice when neither had anything to do. Currently, Shinya was walking the short distance with Toshiya to the bassist and Kaoru’s apartment before he would take the train to his own home. Toshiya had ridden with Kaoru that morning, obviously, and Shinya, with his car in the shop, had needed a ride from Kyo. Thus, both slender men were left without cars. Kyo had graciously dropped them off at the small restaurant in Toshiya’s neighborhood a few hours ago.
“At the studio,” Toshiya said. Shinya, glancing idly at him as they spoke, saw Toshiya’s eyes rippling over their surroundings, idly wandering across the overcast sky with the red tinge on the visible horizon and the darkening shadows.
“He wanted to work on a new song. Said something about inspiration... Couldn’t resist.” A fond smile touched Toshiya’s lips. “We were supposed to go out tonight, but that obviously fell through. You know how he is when he’s ‘inspired’...”
Shinya laughed softly. “Hai. I know.”
“Thank you, by the way,” Toshiya added, glancing at Shinya. “For coming to dinner.”
“Ah... you know I just came to keep an eye on you for Kaoru.”
More soft laughter. Then more silence.
Kaoru and Toshiya had been together for almost seven years now. Shinya reflected on this in that quiet stillness as they walked, as their footsteps echoed gently. Seven years. His thoughts scraped over the memories.
He was happy for them. Even in the singular privacy of his mind, in his thoughts—he had to be happy for them, he couldn’t be bitter. Even if he still sometimes hurt, all that really mattered in the end was that they were both happy, so happy.
Their relationship had been neither smooth nor easy. Shinya could affirm that fact without being involved in the relationship, with being only a close spectator, sometimes a confidant. Kaoru and Toshiya never quite broke up, they always made it, somehow. There were fights, rough times, moments that almost affected Dir en Grey—but never a separation. Theirs was love.
The worst had, perhaps, been the first year after Die left Dir en Grey. That had been a traumatic experience for everyone, and the added stress of dealing with the press and, more importantly, trying to pull through as a whole band, had pulled everyone down. Toshiya and Kaoru, as a pair, almost broke under the strain.
And Shinya—he almost broke under the strain, too. The closest that Kaoru and Toshiya came to breaking up was the closest he came to breaking.
It happened only months after the ‘incident’, after Die left and they tried to struggle forward as an incomplete band, searching for purchase.
Shinya still didn’t know exactly what happened. He only knew that it hadn’t been good, that something with Toshiya had driven Kaoru to show up on Shinya’s doorstep. Appear at his door looking vulnerable and upset and desperate.
Gazes turned into words, words into touches. Touches into emotion, emotion into action. Shinya never meant to let it go so far, he never meant for anything to happen at all. It was like that situation he had faced before in the middle of the entire affair when Die was still around, when Kaoru had wanted him and Shinya didn’t care that he would be used, he only wanted Kaoru to look at him like he had, to *want* him.
That time, it had been Kaoru who stopped them, who made himself pull away when Shinya was ready to fall. This time, it had been Shinya.
But it had taken longer because he was not so strong. He almost let it get to the point where he couldn’t stop. Their shirts were on the floor, Kaoru was touching him, kissing him, *wanting* him. With only a last flash of strength and resolve that Shinya didn’t know he maintained had he forced Kaoru back, had he broken away.
He wanted what would have happened. He had wanted to be used. He didn’t care. And yet—it had not happened. He had pulled away and had fled, fled his own home because he couldn’t be near Kaoru, he couldn’t trust himself or the other man. He was crying as he left, the tears were silver on his face, falling from the strain and the want, the aching need and the pain.
The next day Kaoru had barely been able to face him. He hadn’t stopped apologizing until Shinya begged him to stop. And soon after, he and Toshiya were back together, after Kaoru—knowing he couldn’t lie, knowing it would ruin them if he tried to cover what he had wanted to do—told Toshiya what had happened with Shinya, what had almost happened.
Shinya forgave Kaoru that moment Kaoru asked for forgiveness, there was never forgiveness to be given. It was Shinya’s fault because he was weak, it was his fault because he loved Kaoru too much.
He loved him for months after Die left, when that near-fatalistic incident occurred. And now, years later, he hadn’t stopped. Shinya still loved Kaoru, he couldn’t stop, he always had, always would. He liked to believe that it was making him stronger. Somehow he was almost sure that it was.
And he wasn’t unhappy. Even seeing Toshiya and Kaoru together everyday, knowing they were only this happy with each other—he wasn’t unhappy. It was gratifying to know they had finally found each other, fought for each other and won. And for Shinya, there had been others since Kaoru. But never as serious, never as deep.
Shinya didn’t believe he could replace Kaoru, but he did think he would find someone else, someday. Whatever he found—it would have to be different. Because, like he knew—he couldn’t replace Kaoru. It wasn’t a matter of clinging to the past. He had, in fact, let go of the past. As much as he could, enough to not be bitter, to be only wistful.
“Where do you think Kyo is?” Toshiya asked softly, suddenly. His voice sliced into Shinya’s thoughts, drew the slim drummer from his reverie.
“....Probably went home to sleep.”
Chuckle. “I bet you’re right. What about Aki?”
“I don’t know...”
“He seemed in a bit of a hurry when practice ended. Maybe he has a date...!”
Shinya let the musing fade into the street around them.
Aki. Their new guitarist.
He wasn’t new anymore. He had been with Dir en Grey for six years now. But a part of Shinya would always consider him to be ‘new’.
After Die left, Dir en Grey went through a period of struggling along with various temporary, replacement guitarists. One lasted almost half a year, but that didn’t work out either. After only an entire year of searching did they find one who could fit, who could not take Die’s place, but at least be a fitting supplement.
Aki was similar to Die in a way, inherently different in another. He fit in, they accepted him. He became part of Dir en Grey. But somehow—it was never the same. Without Die... They were never quite what they were before, what they would have been. It wasn’t a matter of sound or success—it was a matter of feeling, of emotion. Of unity. Aki was a part of their band. Just not in the same way Die had been.
And now, years after becoming Dir en Grey without Die and with Aki—they were beginning to fade. Dir en Grey was sliding out of the spotlight—had been sliding for a while, actually. Their fame was dimming, diminishing, they were giving way to newer bands.
No one was trying to stop it, no one was clinging because that would somehow ruin it. Their time as a band was drifting away, ending, and it was no one’s right to stop it because the road had been long but successful and there were too many memories that might be forsaken should they hold too hard. This end was a thing they had to accept, that they would accept with smiles and fondness and a glowing, wistful sadness.
It wasn’t so much a matter of fans as a matter of time. There were still those fans who had followed them from the beginning, that would recognize them on the street. There were still new fans discovering their music for the first time.
The end was simply—a matter of time.
All good things fade. One had to accept that and let them fade gracefully if they wanted to be able to look back without regrets.
< And in the end... Sometimes that’s all I think it’s about. Regrets... Having them, not having them. >
He steered his thoughts away from darker paths, away from paths that traveled too close to memories.
The wind sighed, picked up, brought leaves skittering gently along the side of the road. Shinya glanced at the street next to him, watched momentarily as the cracking, curled leaves played with gentle scrapes across the pavement.
And then, when his eyes wandered back in front of him, down the corridor of the street, he saw there was a figure materializing, approaching. A silhouette walking their direction on their side of the street.
Shinya remained walking placidly by Toshiya’s side, he found his eyes resting on the figure, watching the silhouette’s progress for no reason. Just watching. Eyes drawn there by some pointless magnetism.
Blurred figure becoming sharper. Hazy shape manifesting as a man in a trench coat. Hands shoved in pockets, head down.
Still walking in the cool wisps of wind.
Footsteps drawing closer, bringing the pair nearer a lone silhouette. A silhouette that was becoming more. A figure that finally lifted it’s head when within ten feet of Shinya and Toshiya.
Shinya didn’t know if Toshiya had been watching the figure as well. He only knew that when he came to an abrupt halt that the slender bassist next to him did the same thing at the same moment. Comprehensive words fled, Shinya felt a shock of distance, of recognition, crash into him.
Dark eyes, upon looking up, had met his gaze. A dark gaze imprinted in Shinya’s memory was suddenly fixed upon him, a shadow of the past stood before him.
Shinya wanted to speak, but he didn’t know what to say, how to say it. If he had known this fateful moment was approaching he wondered if he would have been any more prepared instead of clawing for purchase.
Die’s gaze was distant and echoing, not so much cold as cool, masked. It remained on Shinya, heavy and with some image of portent, and then slowly, deliberately, those deep eyes shifted to Toshiya.
Silence. Echoing, resounding, consuming. Shinya’s eyes flickered from Die to Toshiya and back, he was almost afraid to move. This was Die standing before them, *Die*. Whom they hadn’t seen since he walked out of the studio seven years ago, who existed only in their memories.
He had changed, as had they all. His hair was a deep brown, shorter now with long bangs that the wind threaded through, pulled to the side. He was older than those images held in memory, very fine lines of aging were beginning to gather around his eyes. His skin was evenly pale but not in an unhealthy fashion, his features were still handsome.
The greatest change was in his eyes. Eyes that used to never stop sparkling, laughing. They were not dead, there was still that glimmer of amusement, of joy, but it was deeper, farther from the surface. Distant.
And in spite of those changes, the physical and emotional alterations that inevitably come with time, everything that had passed between them all suddenly sprang back to the surface. Memories drew closer, emotions re-arose, history was revealed and was now tempered with time, hindsight, and recollection.
Slender Toshiya, sometimes fragile, sometimes strong, was the first to find voice, to find breath, to break the tense, tenuous silence.
“It’s been a long time,” he acknowledged, voice quiet and almost breathy, distant.
Die momentarily glanced away, eyes flashing away from Toshiya before returning. “Aa,” he agreed quietly, softly. He did not acknowledge Shinya, and Shinya did not expect him to. In this moment—Shinya was an observer, a figure watching from behind a glass screen.
“Has he treated you well?” Die’s words fell into the stillness, heavy with meaning and the past and the connotation of emotion.
“....You know he has,” Toshiya replied softly. Not with anger, not with accusation. A statement, an acknowledgement.
Shift of topic, smooth, sudden. “Congratulations... on your success, I mean.” Die shifted slightly, gaze again momentarily dancing away. “I never stopped following Dir en Grey.”
Quiet smile. “Arigato. But Dir en Grey... won’t be around much longer.”
Understanding nod that only one who had been in a band could give.
“I saw that you used ‘Undecided’...”
Soft expression. Another nod. “Aa...” Then, in a quieter voice: “of course we used it. You wrote us a good song...”
Silence of acknowledgement. Toshiya continued.
“So.... what have you been doing, since—then?”
“I moved back to Osaka... I’ve been there since. I work in a music store... play my guitar on the side. Play locally sometimes, for some extra money.”
The short, muted narrative was accepted and fell out of the silence as soon as it was spoken. From the corner of his eye, Shinya saw Toshiya open his mouth to speak, but Die cut him off. Shinya watched Die, watched the flicker of emotion in his eyes, heard the new inflection in his voice. The inflection of words that were no longer meaningless, no longer distantly cordial and spoken for the sake of reunion, for the sake of formality.
“Can you tell Kaoru that—that I don’t hate him?” The light of meaning reflected in Die’s eyes, there was an almost pleading shadow in his gaze. “Maybe.... maybe I don’t forgive him. I don’t think I’d want to see him again. I... can’t think about forgiveness. I don’t know how. But... will you—will you tell him that?”
Toshiya gazed at him mutely, eyes large and guardedly open, expressive. Shinya glanced at him, watched as he slowly nodded.
“....I will,” the bassist whispered as the wind picked up.
And then it was Toshiya’s turn to let a glassy film overcome his gaze, a revelation of still-deep emotion.
“I still don’t know... why you acted how you did...”
Die opened his mouth, he seemed inclined to speak, although Shinya, with a particular certainty, knew he didn’t understand what he wanted to say. But Toshiya did not give him the chance to voice flailing thoughts.
“I don’t want to, even—if you could explain. I... still think of you, you know. Even now... I remember. What we had—it wasn’t meaningless. I swear to you that...”
Shaded eyes, gaze dancing away as Toshiya seemed unable to hold that wavering gaze for longer than the few moments after his voice died.
Shinya watched the reflections in Die’s eyes, watched a sorrow swirl that had forever before been hidden with anger.
“When did you stop loving me?”
Toshiya did not flinch. He only appeared sad, wistful. He returned his gaze to the man standing ten feet before them.
“When you changed.”
“.....But Die—I forgive you. I have to. Only now, seeing you, can I forgive you—never before this... I couldn’t. But now..... I do.”
“Because... I couldn’t understand then. I don’t understand now, but I realize that it doesn’t matter. If I stand here and say that I can’t forgive you, if you or I were only to walk away having not said anything, it’s forsaking what we had... It’s erasing the meaning of the time we shared, it’s erasing the memories. I can’t do that. People do things, people change... It’s always going to be that way.”
Shinya studied Die, studied his silence. His quiet, fragile, echoing silence—for what could he say to that? What words might he offer in return?
< You cannot thank him for his forgiveness... In some way would it then be diminished. It has not so much been given as simply stated, released, set free. >
And so, in the end, Die said nothing in return, the acknowledgment he gave Toshiya’s words was in his eyes and within him, in his mind, memories, and heart.
< And now... There’s nothing left... >
Even Shinya’s thoughts were distant, he was still on the outside of this moment. The wind echoed his sentiment, Die echoed his thoughts.
“There’s nothing left to say... Is there, Toshiya?”
< No. There’s not. >
< And at the same time... There’s everything left to say. But motives and feelings will remain unsaid, they will be spoken with everything but words. >
A glance at Toshiya’s eyes revealed that his gaze was resigned, sad, wistful.
“No,” he said, voice very soft. “I guess... there’s not.”
< Then this is the end. The end that has been wanting for seven years, that finally closes that which began over seven years ago... >
“Good luck, then,” Die replied quietly. His gaze finally took in Shinya as well. “With... everything.”
One step. Another. Toshiya shifted mutely of the way, out of Die’s path, closer to Shinya, who moved nearer the street.
They didn’t move after that, they watched as Die kept taking those steps forward, each measured and precise.
His eye slid away from them when his words died in the stillness.
After that, his gaze never returned.
Step. Step. Steps muted and ringing in time with two heartbeats.
One voice finally calling out when that silhouette was past them and still walking.
No response, no hesitation in that built-up stride. But the farewell did not fall flat, it was not in vain and it did not go unheard.
Perhaps it was taken to heart. Or perhaps it was washed away and forgotten in the next moments. They wouldn’t ever know—and in the end, it wouldn’t matter.
That figure, that silhouette, already etched in memory, forever remembered in recollection, disappeared into the gray dreamscape under the misted sky. Disappeared again, walked away like he had walked away seven years ago.
No more words.
This was the final breakage, the closure that had never been attained but that was always, desperately needed.
No more tears.
This was the end of something meaningless like the word ‘love’ but momentous like the concept of beauty. The end of something trivial in one way, unwatched by the world, and endlessly crucial in another, held closely to five hearts.
No more anger.
This was the end, the end of a time that thoughts had longed to believe sealed away for years, but that was only now finally, inevitably, fully in the past.
No more regrets.
* Owari *
Author’s Final Comments: Hrm, okay, just a few things. First of all, in regards to this last part.... you can guess who said ‘sayounara’ at the very end, there. I think it’s clear... But it might not be. So... you go ahead and use your imagination. If you really want to know ask me. XD
Alright, obviously, ‘beauty’ was something of a theme. So was the concept of regret... that sort of happened by itself. But a comment on that last line....
<< This was the end of something meaningless like the word ‘love’ but momentous like the concept of beauty. The end of something trivial in one way, unwatched by the world, and endlessly crucial in another, held closely to five hearts. >>
What I’m doing there is presenting the entire situation of what has happened in “Beautiful” as being trivial and important... This was a life-altering thing for those involved, but a soap-opera-ish situation completely overlooked by the rest of the world. It mattered while it didn’t matter. With that line, I effectively de-valued the words “I love you”, which is a distinct alteration from the way I treated them in, say, “Experience Pearls.” Instead I gave more weight to feelings, to, as I said, the ‘concept of beauty’. Basically I’m trying to say there’s more emotion and truth in the way we feel inside and might not be able to say out loud than in the words “I love you”. Yes?
Umm... I’m not sure there’s much else. I wrote this series over too long of a time to give any comments that really wrap it up or whatever.
So yeah... Thanks for reading my first DEG series! *Glomps* And double-thanks for reading my author’s comments... ^^;;
~ NightMajik http://nightmajik.pitas.com http://come.to/nightmajik
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