Categories > Anime/Manga > Read or Die

Mothers and Sisters

by Relia 4 reviews

Junior on the complications of ordering one's universe.

Category: Read or Die - Rating: G - Genres: Angst, Drama - Warnings: [!!!] - Published: 2005-12-27 - Updated: 2005-12-28 - 1355 words - Complete

"Who gave you that name, 'Junior'?"

"Joker-san. I am told."

She pauses.

He thinks about disappearing through the floor.

"If it had been me... I might have given you a different name."

"What kind of name?"

She pauses.

She thinks about disappearing through the floor.

"I don't know."

Junior divided his world into two groups of people: those who were Michelle-san, and those who were not. Beyond that, there were too many groups to break them into anymore, all the partitions in his head. If he split here, he should split there, and there couldn't be that many splits because this simply ended with everyone fenced into a honeycomb of their own unique ordering, and Anita could not be in a honeycomb.

There were too many people who could not be in a honeycomb. Anita was not Anita by herself. You did not wall Anita away from Maggie-san and Michelle-san and Sumiregawa-sensei, and Hisami who she called her bosom friend. Friend -- he had /friends now/. But you also could not put Maggie-san and Michelle-san in honeycombs without Anita-san, and there was Sumiregawa-sensei, and there was Yomiko-san, and there was, well, Nancy-san, and none of them would have survived in a honeycomb.

And there was Junior.

So he kept it simple.

It was because of the way that they had met, slate-haired boy and flaxen-haired woman, and how she had been happy and had danced with him, and because no one else, not Wendy-san, not Nancy-san -- in the whole world there was only Michelle-san who had ever wanted him to be in her family.

"Do you want to be my new little sister?"

And he couldn't think, couldn't think at all, so he could just say, "Actually, I am... a boy," and he thought /this might be the only offer I ever get in my life/, and he was just on the inhale of apologizing when she said,

"Do you want to be my little brother?"

From that moment forward it had been Junior and Michelle-san against the world, though she still did not know that now and he had not understood it then.

It was the age-accelerating toxins they gave him that troubled his sleep. He remembered nights he would be awake, listening to his tendons tear, listening to his bones grow away from his heart like they were trying to escape one another. Feeling. He remembered the distinct sensation of cell mitosis, which most people did not. There was sleep, but there were never dreams.

His hair was silver, like an old man's -- maybe he should have caught on, like Mr. Gentleman's -- and if he slept through the night he woke in the morning with all his long hair only to wonder, did Rip van Winkle feel like this, that day he woke up? Or did he feel like this every day?

Often because of the pain, he did not sleep much. He simply lay there, all his skeleton crushed and crushing together, and he held his fingers tight as he could and he begged in his heart that he would not keep growing if he just held still, but this did not really work. And in the morning he felt exhausted from holding all himself together so precisely, and he felt sick from doing this because he knew he was meant to keep growing up for the New World and when he vomited, Joker-san always somehow found out about it.

Then sometimes he would manage to drift off to sleep finally, and Wendy-san would be in his room shaking him awake. She would say, "Junior, please. You're talking in your sleep again." Only there weren't any dreams.

"I'm sorry, Wendy-san. I'm sorry," he told her. On those nights he did not get any more sleep at all, because he would wrench his hands together and beg pain back on. Because there weren't any dreams, and he didn't know how not to talk in his sleep, that being the case. That was for Wendy-san.

Wendy-san had been the best he had had for a mother and that had put him off mothers, for the most part. But he had learned Wendy's out-thoughts and in-thoughts, and they had come to a sort of a capital-letter Understanding, and they had parted as enemies, which he thought was better and easier on them both. That made it easier for her to set the key into his chest. It made it easier for him to stand it.

He meant to apologize to her, even then.

She had not ever found out his birthday ; or, if she had found out? She had not ever said.

And not like Nancy-san -- she would not have given him a different name. It would have been Junior just as Joker-san had decreed it was Junior. He knew that, he had always known that, but naively he believed it was for his I-Jin father, or even his I-Jin mother. Junior was not a name for a person, it was a name for a legacy.

It was meant to be 'Mr. Gentleman, Jr.', and Junior himself was ultimately meant to become little more than that abbreviation at the end. That was the way that echoes were, a faint resonance that caught just the tail end of a word. A redundancy of someone else. That was what Wendy-san would have named him. Marked, labelled. This is the name of the son who pays for the sins of the fathers.

A motherless child. A fatherless child. He was junior of no one. In the end, Joker-san just had a sick sense of humor.

If Michelle-san had asked, "Who gave you that name, 'Junior'?"

"Joker-san. I am told."

Then Michelle-san would have said, "Do you like it?"

And he could only have answered, "I don't know. I'm sorry."

He knew she would then say, "Would you like a different name?"

And if it was Michelle-san and he had answered, "What kind of name?," it might have been,

"Jackie Chan!"

Which would have made Junior happy. But the important thing about this was that Michelle-san /never would have paused/. Michelle-san did not take time-outs. She did not go away when he needed her because she capital letters Needed To Take Care Of Herself First. She would have invented him a name even if she had had to do it right on the spot. She would have known his birthday even if she had had to choose it herself. There was never a time when Michelle-san left him by himself, not since that first day. Michelle-san did not put Junior on a hierarchical scale of priority and she did not /have one/. Even when there were other people she loved more and longer, she still chose to care about him. There was only Michelle-san and she was only Michelle-san.

He never paused anymore when it was Michelle-san; Junior found he couldn't. The pause in the caves, at the underground springs, that had only been a moment. The pause was his inheritance from Nancy-san. The misgivings, his inheritance from Wendy-san.
He might have walked away except for one very tiny, very irrelevant fact which had shaped his existence:

Michelle-san talked in her sleep.

It wasn't words, it wasn't anything, really, it was just mumbling. It was just that she did it. This was what he thought of when Anita said "bosom friends;" this was what he thought of when she said "soulmates." Michelle-san, mumbling things while she dozed.

He'd laid down next to her, curling himself into her shape, and wrapped her arms around him. He could pretend it was Michelle-san hugging him, saying into his ear everything she had ever wanted to say to another person. It was only for a few seconds. That was all, that was enough. "Yes," he'd whispered, finding he had forgotten what his own voice sounded like. "Yes, I do want to be your little sister."

He confessed it, and he got up, and a short time later Michelle-san had woken.

Thereafter there was only one line of distinction -- Michelle-san, not Michelle-san -- and the only thing that stood between those two was a moment's pause.
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