Disclaimer: The characters of Clover belong to CLAMP and their associates. In this ‘fic, only some of the minor characters with no names are of my creation. This fanfic is posted for non-commercial entertainment purposes only.Notes: This story takes place just before the start of Clover 1.
Summary: A bittersweet tale about a present from the heart.
Kazuhiko stood by one of the large, arched windows in Gingetsu's living room, gazing at the traffic passing on the street. There wasn't much of a view from here. Like the street beside his own apartment, the only things to see were cars and people and other buildings. Gazing outside now, however, made Kazuhiko realize that it had been a long time since he had bothered looking out the windows of his own apartment. He wasn't in the habit of spending much time in front of windows. Part of that was probably paranoia. But it was just as likely that he chose not to spend time staring out through those walls of glass because it was so easy to use a door. He had always found that being a part of life outside was better than simply observing it.
The sun was shining today, a fact which had drawn him over to the window in the first place. The light spread bright rectangles of warmth across the front of his black shirt. He hadn't noticed on his way over here how strong the sun was. There had been a refreshingly cool breeze blowing across the shady sidewalks, and it had stolen away most of the heat.
He heard Lan come back in from the kitchen, and chose to abandon the window in favor of company. He walked across the dizzying expanse of black and white tile to the cluster of furniture in the middle of the room. Gingetsu's ward was just setting a tray down on the coffee table. A simple ceramic tea service was arranged neatly on the polished metal surface. Kazuhiko noted that there were only two cups, confirming what he had already assumed when Lan had answered the door and offered him tea instead of offering to fetch the Lieutenant Colonel. "Gingetsu's at work?"
Lan's head tilted forward. "Yes." He picked up the teapot as Kazuhiko took up residence on one of the sofas, and poured light amber liquid into the waiting cups with a steady hand as the older man looked on. Kazuhiko's expression sobered as he saw the sunshine from outside pick up highlights in Lan's dark hair...highlights that were silver. They hadn't been there a month ago. Kazuhiko watched in silence as the young man replaced the teapot on the tray. He wondered, not for the first time, how old Lan really was. He doubted he would ever know for sure. The subject of Lan's age wasn't exactly something one could bring up in ordinary conversation.
Kazuhiko had resolved from the beginning not to pry, but it was becoming harder for him as months passed and he saw more and more evidence of accelerated aging. Lan himself gave no sign that it bothered him. Early on he seemed to have developed a calm acceptance of his eventual fate. It was as if he had been diagnosed with terminal cancer or some other fatal disease. He knew his time was limited. However, like others who had come to terms with tragic illness, he seemed to find genuine contentment in living each day, for however many he had left. Kazuhiko had never once seen him unhappy since the time they had first met.
"You stopped by pretty late. Did you have errands to run on the way?"
Kazuhiko accepted the cup of tea that Lan passed him, drawn away from his dark thoughts by the simple question. He noted that Lan's gaze had settled inquiringly on the white box he had set down on the sofa on top of his coat. "Yeah." Kazuhiko's hand hovered over the cover of the box. "I needed to pick up something at the store first."
Lan took a seat on the chair across from him, sipping at his cup of tea. He didn't ask any more than that. It wasn't his nature to pry, either.
"So," Kazuhiko said after sampling his own tea. He'd never been much of a fan of tea, but Lan had made it perfectly, as always. "You finished it?"
Lan nodded. "A few days ago. If you wait here a moment, I'll get it." He left the room, then returned a few minutes later with a square package about half the size of a shoebox. It had been done up in blue paper and tied with ribbons. Lan came to a halt in front of Kazuhiko, his manner suddenly becoming that of the shy child he had once been, as he held the package out for inspection.
"You wrapped it." Kazuhiko accepted the box. "You didn't have to."
Lan took up his seat and his tea once again. "I know. I wanted to."
"Can I open it?"
Lan nodded in assent, and Kazuhiko slid his fingers underneath the carefully applied tape, peeling back the wrapping to reveal a simple cardboard box. As he removed more tape from the lid, he commented, "It's smaller than I thought it would be."
He was answered with an enigmatic smile. "Don't worry. It's fine."
"Hmph. You know it's not that I don't trust your work, but...." He removed the lid and set it aside. Lying on a nest of white tissue paper was a tiny green circuit board, all of its miniature pieces precisely placed and soldered. Kazuhiko recognized the familiar spidery forms of I.C.s and hourglass-shaped resistors, but most of the individual parts were unfamiliar to him. He wondered how many of the tiny components Lan had actually created to complete this job.
"There's only one last thing," Lan said, his tone coloring slightly with regret. "You need to take it. I can't bring it where it needs to go."
Of course not. Lan never left this building, it was his own self- imposed cage. Kazuhiko knew that Lan would have disagreed with that description. Lan himself had never called this place anything but a haven. "I'll do it," Kazuhiko reassured him. He placed the lid carefully back on the box. "Thank you, Lan."
Lan shrugged, and had the grace to look embarrassed. "It was nothing. I'm glad to help."
Kazuhiko stayed for a second cup of tea, and filled the time by talking about how his latest investigative work was going. Lan didn't usually get any company, aside from Gingetsu, and Kazuhiko always tried to find some excuse to stop by once or twice a week. Gingetsu knew, of course, though he never mentioned it. That alone told Kazuhiko that the visits had his tacit approval. Lan always listened to the news attentively, taking obvious pleasure in hearing about the goings-on of the world outside. For his own part, Kazuhiko enjoyed the telling nearly as much. His own circle of friends had grown uncomfortably small in recent years. It was nice to have someone to talk to.
"I should go," Kazuhiko said at last. He finished his tea and gathered his coat and the large white package, then stopped as he picked up the box Lan had given him. His gaze rested on the young man a long moment, searching. "Are you sure this is okay? You might get into some pretty hot water because of this."
Lan smiled in response, his eyes lighting in playful mischief. "Gingetsu will be angry," he admitted. The spark of amusement faltered just a bit as he added, "The Parliament may be furious." Before Kazuhiko could respond to that statement, Lan's eyes turned serious again. "I'm sure," he said simply. "This is the least I can do."
Kazuhiko hesitated a moment, then nodded, accepting his words. As Lan opened the front door for him, he said, "Later, then."
"Good luck." Lan said. "I hope she likes it."
"Yeah," Kazuhiko replied. "I hope so, too."
The sun had not traveled very far across the sky by the time Kazuhiko reached his destination, the open roof of the tallest high rise in the city. He stood now with his elbows braced against the metal of an iron guardrail, the wind whipping at his hair and causing the tails of his trench coat to billow out behind him like a flag. The panoramic vista of buildings, a mosaic composed of all shapes and sizes and materials, stretched out as far as the eye could see. The vehicles far below were reduced to brightly colored dots moving in rows against grey asphalt, or higher up migrating along the air traffic lanes. The pedestrians were hardly visible at all. Kazuhiko leaned back from the rail to look up into the crystal depths of the cloudless sky. Being up here, away from all the crowds and traffic and noise, felt almost like freedom.
But he was letting himself get distracted by the view. With a sigh he forced himself away from the rail, walking back across the roof until he came to the spot that he figured might be about in the center. He set aside the white box he had been carrying, and took the smaller box that Lan had given him out of the pocket of his trench coat. He removed the circuit board, placing it down on the cement, then took a step back.
Lan hadn't really given him much in the way of instructions. He'd only said to bring it here. Kazuhiko looked around, wondering if he needed to plug it in. But then, the device didn't have a power cord, and there weren't any electrical outlets up here, anyway.
A glimmer of light sparked across the surface of the circuit board. Kazuhiko took another step back, and then another, as he saw why the device didn't have a power cord. It didn't need one.
The air hummed with computer magic, stronger than any Kazuhiko had ever encountered in his days in the army. Sheets of light formed around the green board, lengthening and expanding, and the hum in the air became twinned with the low hum of the generator that assembled beside it. More light, and a large metal box formed around the small board, hiding it from Kazuhiko's sight. Still more light...Kazuhiko backpedaled quickly as metal beams and supports solidified around him, reaching upward as if to touch the sky.
Kazuhiko stared at the growing structure in disbelief. The top of the tower must have reached at least thirty meters straight up, the supports extending to cover most of the roof of the building.
The other box. He had almost forgotten. He jogged forward between the steel beams of the tower, to reclaim the white box he had set aside earlier. He could hear the hum of the generator revving as he retreated nearly to the railing and quickly settled down on the rough cement with his back to the outer edge of the building.
From the white box, he removed a small portable radio. He switched it on and turned it to one of the stations. He knew that it didn't matter which one.
//It's my dream//
Kazuhiko closed his eyes.
//A beautiful dream
That no one's ever seen,
A beautiful deceit
That no one's ever noticed,
A beautiful love
That no one will ever break.//
The familiar music washed over him. It had been a very, very long time before Kazuhiko could bring himself to listen to that voice again. That perfect voice that husked emotion and passion in low tones and soared like something not bound to earth in the upper registers. Incredibly beautiful...just like the woman it had once belonged to.
//Now, come close to me, I'll sing an endless song. God, please tell me, Redder than red, the truest love.//
He could imagine her perfectly in his mind, as she had been when she was singing on stage. When she was one with the music beneath the brilliant illumination of the spotlights. The rich black silk of those shining curls, so soft to touch. The doe-dark eyes, innocent and worldly-wise and flirtatious all at once. The curve of those lips, dark and red as wine and just as sweet.
//Everyone says, But no one knows its true meaning. Cannot be grasped alone. So, I want to see it with you.//
He loved her, and told her so in the words she would most appreciate. You are the best singer in the world to me. It seemed like so long ago that he had told her that, in her dressing room during a break in her show.
Oruha's return reply came playfully. I want to be everyone's best, not just yours, Kazuhiko. She never allowed him to become complacent, always teasing, always challenging. He loved her for that, too.
I won't allow it.
Because, he had answered possessively, you're mine.
She understood. The songs are everyone's. she told him. But, she pushed him back on the couch with a possessiveness of her own. my body and soul are all yours, Kazuhiko.
He hadn't known the meaning of love until he met her.
//Though you'll laugh, Will never return, once lost.//
It had been exactly one year since her death. She had been killed on her birthday, while she had been singing up on the stage. He had been standing in the audience, waiting for her to finish so that they could go someplace quiet to celebrate. He had brought her gift with him, the present she had asked for.
Only he had never gotten the chance to give it to her.
Today it would have been her birthday, too. He wanted to give her a present, something she would have wanted more than anything else. Maybe it was silly of him to celebrate the birthday of someone who was no longer here to share it. Maybe it was silly to offer gifts to someone who wasn't able to receive them any more. But Kazuhiko couldn't give up on the hope that somehow her spirit would know, and would approve.
//Hear the whisper of the heart, hear its true voice.
Where lies true
Whom to give true love.//
To you, Oruha, his heart answered. My love was only ever given just to you.
Kazuhiko listened until the last strains of music died away. They were replaced by static--he had chosen this song and this song only. Soon the workers at the radio stations that had been interrupted would realize that the interference was over, and would return to their regular programs. But in their data banks, an extra song had been uploaded, immortalized in their records. Some of the copies would be deleted manually, of that Kazuhiko had no doubt. Some people wouldn't like it, or it wouldn't fit in with the station theme, or some would get rid of it as a safety measure in case it had brought with it some new sort of virus. But enough people would keep it, and continue to play it. Enough would be touched by it, that they would want to hear it again, and to play it again for others to hear. That was what was important.
"It wasn't a real debut," Kazuhiko said softly to the wind, hoping that, somehow, Oruha's spirit would hear him. "It certainly wasn't the one you would have deserved. But I wanted you to have the chance to share your songs with the world. Now your music really does belong to everyone."
As if his words were some sort of signal, the tower that Lan's magic had created began to splinter apart in shards of colored light, the pieces glittering and falling downward like a rain of stained glass. The fragments vanished before touching the ground. The generator and control box broke apart, the jagged pieces fading away like a mirage in the desert, or the remnants of some half-forgotten dream. The original component, the circuit board, also self-destructed, its wires melting together and incinerating in a puff of fire and smoke. No evidence was left behind. Kazuhiko knew that he should leave. It probably wouldn't take the military very long to arrive here and investigate. That was all right, though. Accomplishing this goal was worth it. If they caught him, he knew he could take the heat from Grandma Kou.
He lingered one last minute, however, looking out across the endless expanse of the city, the endless blue of the sky, as if he could see beyond it, to the place that his love had gone. "I miss you, Oruha," he said, hoping that this too, would be heard, and remembered.
"Wherever you are, I hope you have found peace, and happiness."
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