Memory and Identity are such complex things. Who can tell when one ends and the other begins? Speculative futurefic. Very speculative
They tell him that during those three years, he could remember nothing. Sometimes he wonders
They moved away from wherever they had lived then, to allow him a fresh start his mother told him, smiling. He wonders if that other Ritsuka had friends who worried after him, and resented the stranger who had taken his place.
He remembers being himself, remembers his life and how he lived it, but it is a costume that doesn't quite fit, too tight in places and too loose in others, like the clothes his mother has kept.
His mother makes all the dishes he knows are his favourite foods, and occasionally ones he knows he hates. He knows all this, but somehow he also knows that he must never tell her that he actually quite likes this food or that, or that he has lost his taste for this.
When she draws him to her he goes limp under her hands even as a tense, resigned wariness coils through him. But he knows he must return the embrace, although he can't remember why the start of fearful suspicion in his mother's eyes is something to fear.
When he sleeps he always curls up on his side, eyes trained upon a small patch of mattress in the curve of his body, whereas he remembers always sleeping on his back.
In the dark of the night he thinks of that other Ritsuka, the one who lived for three years.
He feels ghostly arms about him in the night, a body pressed along his back, another head nestled close to his, and listens to the whispering voice that rises from within during the day. But he never turns his head to see, never dares to meet this other Ritsuka-self's eyes. In the darkness thoughts that daylight forbids come easier.
Does that Ritsuka of three years of life whisper subtle knowings into the heart of the first Ritsuka? Or is it the first Ritsuka who whispers details of a life into the mind of the three-year Ritsuka whose core self remains?
Is he a boy dreaming he is a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming he is a man?
He dreams of long blond hair and a deep voice that says things that make him feel cold inside, and although the words slip away, the yearning stays with him when he wakes.
An upper classman shoves him up against a wall and kisses him. The kiss is brutal, crude and inexperienced, all slobbering lips and huge, awkward tongue and he knows this is true, even though he can remember to kiss to compare it to. He tells this to his senpai, and watches the older boy's face darken with rage.
He grabs one of his ears and it hurts, the delicate tissue crushed as easily by that huge hand as a butterfly would have been.
It hurts more than he can remember ever hurting, but he finds he can focus past the pain, a small, hard cold knot at the bottom of his heart whispering, this is nothing.
It takes three teachers to pull him off him, and he ends up having to travel next to him in the ambulance to the hospital. The teachers murmur among themselves and cast doubtful looks in his direction, but the nature of his injuries bare mute witness to the order of events.
His mother watches him warily when she picks him up from the hospital, and he makes sure to ask for oyakadon omburi for tea.
When the dressings finally come off, his ear is slightly mangled. He puts up with the looks and whispers it brings, keeping the memory of the scandal fresh. Like the pain, he feels he has dealt with worse than this before.
And then one day he walks across the schoolyard after the last bell has rung, and the whispers aren't of him.
An adult leans against the wall by the school gate, hair pale gold under the sunlight, a thin tendril of smoke winding upwards from his hand.
Memories are not needed for this knowing.
Ritsuka skids to a halt next to him, glowers up at him, reaches up and grabs the cigarette from him. "I told you not to use those!"
The adult stares down at him, empty hand still raised, a strange expression in his eyes.
Ritsuka stares up at him, tensing as worry slowly wound through him - that the knowing had failed him, that he was wrong and still alone...
And then the adult smiles; carefully, deeply, and reaches out to brush a hand across his cheek. "Yes," Soubi murmurs. "You did."