Goodness, I forgot about this one! Here’s another Uraboku fan fic I wrote a few months ago. It isn’t as polished as “The One Who Loved Ashley”, though it was far easier to write. The story centres on Shuusei again and gives him a fleshier background (no pun intended).
And the reason for my interest in Shuusei’s health? Well, I can’t think of a male character in any series where their thinness is constantly questioned. While all anime characters are designed to be typically thin, it seems that eating disorders in guys is an overlooked issue.
* * *
+ One More Day +
Shuusei stared at the soup in front of him. Aware that his refusal would be awkward for the others, he raised his left hand, and with slightly trembling fingers, grasped the handle of a wide silver spoon lying quietly on the tablecloth. Vegetable soup, he thought. You can eat vegetable soup. He dipped the spoon towards the light brown liquid and skimmed its creamy surface, hesitating for a second, before bringing the spoon to his lips–
‘Seriously, don’t tease him! You know he doesn’t get it!’
Startled by laughter, Shuusei hastily lowered the spoon, as if the gesture had embarrassed him; he gazed from the glistening soup to the lively expressions of Yuki and Tachibana. Apparently, the latter had referred to a joke in the past which Yuki no longer remembered. Resting the spoon in his bowl, Shuusei considered pushing his chair away from the table and excusing himself, only to feel a pressure leaning softly on his thigh. He side-glanced his partner Hotsuma, whose face appeared to be engaged with the conversation around him, betraying none of his anger or inner concern; then he glanced at the place on the tablecloth where Hotsuma’s hand was pressing down – down and down on his thigh beneath the table.
Stay and have a good time… and eat the goddamned soup!
His lips pursed together, caught between an urge to smile and cry. His sole reason for being present this evening was to spend time with the others. Apart from Takashiro, and sometimes Tsukumo, the others had barely seen him, stealing what moments they could during meal-times or by knocking on his door when they felt he was free. The police had been especially vigorous of late, requesting Shuusei as a ‘clairvoyant’ now that they actually believed in him. They were as uneasy as ever, though, cautious not to trust what he could do until there was sufficient indisputable evidence; but they always changed their minds once the results came, grimly pleased with the justice he had brought them.
Silent, Shuusei placed his hand over Hotsuma’s, treating the warm, trusting grip in the manner he usually would when testing the spheres. The habit itself made him tense. Had he really worked so much that it could influence his conduct here, in less formal settings? He raised the glass near his soup bowl and sipped the ice-cold water. In his mouth, it tasted metallic and bitter. He swallowed with difficulty. Prior to a séance, he would settle his mind as he clutched the spheres that would let him into the past, clearing his thoughts of everything but the details relevant to the case. He called on this method now, to eradicate the mood that was fast invading his mind. He wanted to be alone. He wanted to be in his room, more than anything. But he tried to suppress this need so the evening could be spent with the other Zweilt Guardians.
‘Shuusei,’ asked Toko, leaning forward from her place at the table, ‘what’s the matter? Are you ill?’
Worried eyes turned to Shuusei in an instant.
Startled, he shoved Hotsuma’s hand from his thigh and threw them a quick smile. ‘I’m just tired,’ he said. ‘I think I need to rest.’
‘Certainly, Shuusei-kun,’ replied Tachibana, on everyone’s behalf. ‘Make sure to visit the kitchens later. Katsumi will heat up your food.’
* * *
Shuusei was careful to lift the specially softened fabric as he unbuttoned his shirt, treating the scars as if they still throbbed with pain. Despite the numerous skin grafts designed to censor the damage, they were ugly to look at and felt like the hide from some strange, foreign creature. He listened for the sound of footsteps in the corridor; there were none to be heard. Relieved, he shed the rest of his clothes and stored them in the lockers before entering the bathing hall.
In truth, Shuusei could not handle bathing with other people. While Hotsuma had not forbidden him to show the scars across his shoulders, there was something almost shameful in allowing them to be seen, like the world was being told a most hideous secret – even a glimpse of these scars could resurrect the lingering guilt of his fire-wielding partner, causing him to dwell incessantly on the past and how he should never have hurt Shuusei. With a strangled smile, Hotsuma would often reach out and touch the snaking weals on the dark, injured skin, and always, he would apologise and swiftly turn away.
A hand twitched up, rubbing at the tension building in his throat. Blinking, he washed his body in silence and smoothed his narrow limbs over and over with soap. He was thinner than he should be. Although his friends were polite and pretended this was normal, he knew that his health was frequently on their minds, weighing his body through intimate gestures and offering food with obsessive regularity. Shuusei would accept their “fussing” with a ready smile, though he had come to the point where he loathed all physical contact, even going so far as to dump a long-term girlfriend. Rinsing his skin, he replaced the toiletries on their original shelves and strolled towards the communal bath, wiping the side of his face.
His dread of eating came from childhood. On a daily basis, his parents would snipe and argue in front of their only son, explicit with their hatred of having to care for him. They would bang his plate on the table and endlessly tally the mounting expense, never once addressing the tense young boy who would force himself to eat in an effort to please them.
Back then, he was still considered a burden, no matter what he did. Thinking he could lessen the strain somehow, regardless how small, Shuusei endeavoured to do his best at school and returned with invitations from prestigious academies. Rather than rejoice, however, his parents would fight over who should attend the parent-teacher meetings then row from the stress of always hearing compliments. By the time he was ten years old, his parents had abandoned any semblance of a proper family, taking their meals in separate rooms and reserving the brunt of their anger and resentment for when they were forced to actually serve him. With this lonely routine in place, it was easy for Shusei to dispose of his meals or claim that he had eaten before coming home.
I want to disappear… Please let me disappear…
Pausing in bathrooms or checking dim reflections in vehicles and windows, he would say these words as he studied his face. His cheeks had sunk. His wrists were too slim. And he could hide in the clothes he had been wearing a week ago. Instead of alarm, Shuusei felt something almost close to triumph, the feeling he would have felt had his parents thought to praise him.
Then his parents announced his impending departure: some man named Giou had paid for Shuusei to leave their house. Despite how the prospect should have made him feel relieved, he remembered the tears which had gathered in his eyes, the way that his throat had seized up with anguish. They were just being spiteful, he thought. They would never resort to that! But the man with pale, flowing hair smiled kindly in the background and soon stepped forward to take him away…
Shuusei winced as the water lapped against his scars. He rarely thought of his parents. He had died a few times since he had last seen them. Memories of their malice were naturally faint, not as sharp as they once might have been. Stroking the harmless scars, Shuusei closed his eyes and strived to recollect a different set of memories – anything to lift the slow, rising ache.
He chose that day he had woken up in hospital. A breeze from an open window was ruffling his hair, cooling the sheen of sweat lining his forehead, while the chime of a regular heartbeat measured the anxious silence. It was far too bright, he recalled, and he was paralysed with pain, unable to place the source of its burning, yet the shadow of Hotsuma had ineffably calmed him, made the sunlight bearable.
Made him want to live.
‘You didn’t eat, did you?’
Cringing, Shuusei sank to his chin in the water, hiding his shoulders. ‘Hotsuma,’ he said, ‘I’ll be out in a minute.’ He waited for the footsteps to leave him alone; instead, they approached and stopped just behind him. He touched his chest instinctively, to conceal the worst of his scars, and shied away from the Zweilt as he entered the water.
‘Tell me,’ said Hotsuma, ‘why do you do this?’
Shuusei smiled. ‘I don’t know,’ he answered honestly. ‘Let’s make something up?’
‘I can’t live without you,’ continued Hotsuma, in no mood to joke. ‘You do understand that?’ He brushed possessive fingers along his partner’s collarbone, moving leisurely up the skin of Shuusei’s neck until they neared his jaw-line.
The gesture caused Shuusei to freeze; his heartbeat had quickened. ‘H-Hotsuma,’ he stammered. ‘D-don’t…’
‘Please,’ Hotsuma mumbled, ‘I want you to live.’
Tears escaped, joining the water.
‘Of course,’ said Shuusei.