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The Road Taken

fandom Love Mode
characters Kiichi, Tien Li
cross-posted love_mode
for Yuletide


Kiichi is awoken by the ringing of the phone, and he listens with his eyes closed to the hand that fumbles around on the bedside table, then the low voice that answers the call. The conversation is brief, and he feels the bed shift as the person beside him gets up, and he hears the sounds of pants being pulled on and zipped up, a shirt thrown on over the head. He opens his eyes.

“You’re going out?” he asks, facing the alarm clock; it’s 4:13 in the morning.

“Yi Shin called,” Tien Li says. “Got a job.”

Kiichi rolls over to face Tien Li, who is running his hands roughly through his hair. “Yi Shin?” Kiichi asks.

“New kid,” is all Tien Li says. But Kiichi continues to stare at him enquiringly, so he adds, “Whines all the time, fucking annoying to work with. But he’s good, so he should last a while.”

“Good,” Kiichi murmurs, and lifts his hand up to hide a yawn. “I hate it when your partners die.”

Tien Li doesn’t reply as he walks into the bathroom. He returns to the bedroom two minutes later, collects his phone and wallet, then leans over the bed. “Go back to sleep,” he says, and kisses Kiichi gently on the forehead.

Kiichi breathes in the scent of minty toothpaste and Tien Li’s musk, and when he breathes out again, Tien Li is gone. He goes back to sleep.

***

“You’re not Chinese, are you?” a customer asks, and Kiichi smiles politely and shakes his head.

He gets this question three times a day, five days a week, and sometime after the first month he realised that no matter how good his Cantonese is, there will always be something about him that makes him seem different, out of place. Another month after that, he stopped caring; now the polite smile and shake of the head is as automatic as breathing. A foreign language bookshop tucked away in a tiny arcade in Mong Kok is, ironically, one of the few places where somebody different is almost expected; the irony is that people never cease to be surprised.

During quiet moments in the store, of which there are many, Kiichi reads medical textbooks in English -- Oxford Textbook of Medicine, Gray’s Anatomy -- and he thinks that he could’ve been a doctor. Sometimes he even considers it seriously, going back to university and getting a degree, because he knows just how fragile the human body is. He thinks that, when he eventually receives the call that he’s constantly waiting for, it would be good to have the knowledge, to have something, that might be able to piece Tien Li back together.

***

Kiichi flicks through the channels and wishes for the hundredth time that they could afford cable; the programs are so boring that Tien Li has fallen asleep, stretched out on the sofa with his feet hanging off the end and his head resting on Kiichi’s lap. But just as Kiichi switches off the television in favour of playing with Tien Li’s hair, his phone vibrates quietly in his pocket.

“Kiichi, it’s me.”

“Hi, me,” Kiichi says, and waits for the irritated grunt that doesn’t come; it’s silent on the other end, and his hand immediately stills on Tien Li’s head, his chest tight as he asks, “What’s wrong?”

“He’s dead,” Reiji answers, bluntly, and for an instant Kiichi’s heart stops beating.

When he’s able to breathe again, he forces the hand clutching the phone to stop shaking, and he asks in a voice that’s almost steady, “Who is dead?”

“The old man. He’s dead, Kiichi--”

There is a sudden roaring in his ears, and as if from a distance he feels the phone slipping from his fingers and clattering to the floor.

Tien Li jerks awake, jumping up from the sofa and groping for a weapon that isn’t there until he sees Kiichi, motionless and silent; Reiji’s voice rings out from the phone lying on the floor. Tien Li takes Kiichi’s face in his hands, forcing him to look up, and he says softly, “Kiichi?”

Kiichi’s own hands come up to wrap around Tien Li’s, squeezing them until he can feel the bones grinding together but still he can’t seem to stop, to let go, and he whispers, “My father is dead.”

After a minute -- or perhaps ten, Kiichi can’t tell -- Tien Li carefully extracts his hands from Kiichi’s grip, and picks up the phone. “He dropped it,” he says, then holds it up to Kiichi’s ear.

“Reiji,” Kiichi says.

“We-- I need you here,” Reiji says, sounding frustrated, and bitter. Then his voice cracks on the words: “Please come home.”

***

Kiichi sits in the middle of the bed with the covers wrapped tightly around him, but he still feels cold. He doesn’t look up when Tien Li appears in the doorway; he simply says, “I can’t stop shaking.”

Tien Li walks over and climbs onto the bed behind Kiichi, pulling him into his arms. His body heat gradually penetrates the layers of cotton surrounding Kiichi, and when he’s finally warm again, Kiichi says, “Reiji asked me to come home.”

The arms around him tighten, just slightly, then relax. Tien Li’s voice is even as he asks, “What’re you gonna do?”

Slowly, Kiichi says, “If I returned to Japan--” Tien Li’s arms tense up again, “--you wouldn’t come with me.” They both know that this is a statement, not a question.

“No,” Tien Li says anyway.

Kiichi twists around until the covers fall down to his waist and he’s facing Tien Li, looking into his eyes; and what he sees there makes him smile, in spite of the grief that he doesn’t want to feel and the regret for what he’s about to do. “Pass me the phone?” he says, and Tien Li does, without protest.

He picks up on the second ring, and Kiichi says, “I’m sorry, Reiji.”

***

“How does it feel to be free?” Tien Li asks.

“I don’t know,” Kiichi replies.


.fin


A/N: This is a universe in which Kiichi’s decision to go with Tien Li changes seven lives: Reiji never leaves Japan, Takamiya never meets Izumi, Shiki never stops loving Takamiya’s father, and Haruomi never stops loving Kiichi. It’s all rather depressing, really.

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Comments

( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
kuromontsuki
Jan. 19th, 2007 06:27 pm (UTC)
This is cool. I like your writing ^ ^
Thank you so much for sharing!
reality_is
Jan. 20th, 2007 01:21 pm (UTC)
Thanks. :D
skeleton_rust
Jan. 19th, 2007 08:30 pm (UTC)
Hi. Great fic. Isn't Kiichi asked the same question in the manga as well? Does he give a different reply?
reality_is
Jan. 20th, 2007 01:24 pm (UTC)
He does? :O I don't remember it happening, but then it's been a while since I last read LM.
meguchan
Jan. 20th, 2007 05:31 am (UTC)
I hope it doesn't sound insulting to say that while I was reading this, I was thinking, "This is weird, this is weird, Kiichi choosing Tien Li instead seems so wrong," but the way you write it sounds so right, so poignant, and full of depth as always. (It is quite depressing, especially being such a huge shipper of Kiichi with the other brother.)

Love love love the last lines. ♥
reality_is
Jan. 20th, 2007 01:27 pm (UTC)
Not insulting at all; I know exactly what you mean, since I'm a huge HaruKii shipper myself. Thanks for your comments. :D
darkgloom
Jan. 20th, 2007 09:26 am (UTC)
*speechless*

Depressing, yes, but so very good too.

I kind of love this universe, where Kiichi and Reiji swapped places, Tien Li got what he wanted for the first time, and Kiichi is still Kiichi no matter where he is. ♥ (I adored the "Good. I hate it when your partners die" line. So very Kiichi ♥).

The Tien Li/Kiichi relationship here is just lovely.
reality_is
Jan. 20th, 2007 01:34 pm (UTC)
I kind of love this universe too. Which may not be a good thing, since it's all so depressing. But thank you anyway. :D
photoash
Feb. 11th, 2007 04:47 am (UTC)
wow a really interesting au.. I just read through all your memories you really are a fantastic writer I'm so glad the love_mode community has your great contributions!
reality_is
Feb. 11th, 2007 06:52 am (UTC)
Thanks for all of your comments. :D
fillia_lucis
Sep. 22nd, 2010 01:07 pm (UTC)
so beautiful <3
i am a secret shipper for tien li x kiichi myself~ and so sad that they didn't ends up together ;v; but i have this anyway, i love your writing, so so so beautiful~
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )