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Bloom and Scatter
Chapter 5: The Truth
Characters, Pairings: Tachibana Makoto, Matsuoka Rin
Summary: Rin returns to Japan to look for his mother and sister. What he finds, instead, is Makoto.
Notes: Originally posted on AO3.
[ 1: Homecoming ]
[ 2: THe Fog ]
[ 3: Masks ]
[ 4: They Live ]
[ 5: The Truth ]
[ 6: Making Plans ]
[ 7: Lost & Found ]
[ 8: The Payoff ]
[ 9: Hopeless ]
[ 10: The Waiting Game ]
As it turned out, they had effectively barricaded themselves in one of the buildings of the Tottori University complex, which was a relief for Rin because they weren’t particularly far away from Iwatobi city. Some cautious exploration had yielded the fact that several parts of the university had already been cordoned off by the previous tenants, and the implements and fortifications keeping the building secure were still very strong. Their own entry point must have been how the original survivors had escaped – and considering the environment and surprise caches of food and ammunition stored around the place, they could only surmise that Tottori had been experiencing a zombie rather than a fog infestation. Tachibana hadn’t taken the news particularly well, but Rin was a grateful that that had been the case, particularly when he discovered additional magazines for his handgun and a generous amount of rounds for the sawed-off shotgun he’d made Tachibana take.
And so here they were.
“Come on! Hit me back!” Rin swung his bat into Tachibana’s side, “God damn it, Ginchiyo.”
“Ow,” Tachibana rubbed his ribs mournfully, his own bat lowered to the ground, “You hit too hard.”
“Have you never played baseball in your life? Ever?”
“Forget it,” Rin scowled at him, “Look, you can’t keep dodging me. I can evade you just fine, but you need to actually connect your fucking swing or you’re going to screw up when you’re actually faced with zombies.”
“I just… I don’t want to accidentally hurt you.”
“Luckily, I don’t feel the same way.” Rin swung his bat against the back of Tachibana’s knees.
“Ouch!” He crumpled to the ground, looking up at Rin with wide, pathetic eyes, “What was that for?”
“You can obviously get angry, so if that’s what it takes, then get angry,” Rin narrowed his eyes with a challenging smirk, “Ginchiyo.”
“Stop calling me that,” Tachibana grumbled as he made to stand. Just as he brushed the seat of his trousers, Rin kicked him firmly in the buttocks and he fell forward, “And stop doing that!”
“I will if you start hitting back.”
“I don’t want to hit you.”
“You’re going to have to hit something.”
“Something that’s not you.”
“Tachibana,” Rin began hotly, “Your targets are not going to be stationary. Sure, you can move fast, but eventually you’re going to get cornered with no way out, and if you freeze up at the wrong moment or attack the wrong way, you’re screwed. For the sake of survival, I don’t mind getting banged up a bit. Look at you, I’m kicking your ass and you don’t seem to mind, so it’s only fair that you hit me back.”
“Speak for yourself,” Tachibana muttered.
“What was that?”
“I thought so,” Rin eyed him, “Get on your feet and fight back.”
“Could I just… Could we do something else?”
“Chyeah, you can’t even handle this, what makes you think I’m going to give you the machete? You’re just going to hurt yourself.”
“I’m good at slicing vegetables,” Tachibana suggested hopefully.
“Yeah, no, not the same thing.”
Tachibana sighed and scratched the base of his neck, “Do I really have to do this?”
“We made an agreement,” Rin said firmly, eyes flashing dangerously at him, “You want to stay with me, you gotta learn how to fight so you can watch my back. I’m not going to waste my time looking out for someone who can’t even look after themselves.” In a more steely tone, “Men don’t go back on their word.”
“Okay,” Tachibana finally relented, extremely reluctant as he gripped his baseball bat tightly and arranged himself in a ready position, “Sorry in advance.”
Rin was howling laughter.
“Please stop laughing,” Tachibana sighed.
“Sorry in advance, he says, like he’s some badass action star,” Rin gasped between breaths, hands shaking too much for him to apply another cooling pad on the purple-black bruise on Tachibana’s shoulder blade, “You almost had me, I swear to god, I thought you were going to actually get serious and release all your strength on me. You had the eye of the tiger going on and everything. Holy shit, you are so bad!”
“Never, ever apply for the Iwatobi Eagles, all right? Any ball you hit will probably just land vertically on the ground at a perfect 90 degree angle. You’ll ruin their season and make them too ashamed to participate in the Japan Series, and they’ve been trying to make it into the big leagues for a decade now.”
“Sorry in advance,” Rin sniggered, the laughter started to fade into chuckles, “You are hilarious as fuck, Ginchiyo. Do you know what progress you’ve made today? You managed to make one dent on me. One. It is the size of a mosquito bite. I’d be angry if it weren’t so goddamned precious. Sorry, did I say precious? I meant pathetic as all fuck, Mister Sorry-In-Advance.”
Tachibana sighed again.
With the humour mostly out of his system, Rin finished patching Tachibana up, feeling lighter than he had in a very long time (unsurprisingly at someone else’s expense—though that there is a someone else to laugh at is actually very surprising). As he scanned the sprawling cuts and bruises he’d put on the Tachibana’s huge, lumbering body, part of him felt a sly satisfaction at his handiwork. Tachibana’s wimpy fighting ability aside (despite the immensely impressive physique, what a damned waste), he felt that he had come to understand Tachibana’s basic personality. He was more behind-the-scenes, liked helping people out and being a pillar of support, but would step in if push came to shove. Rin knew that all too well, but he also knew that relying on instinct alone was bad news waiting to happen. If Tachibana could at least get accurate with his self-defence, Rin wouldn’t have to worry as much. He wondered if Tachibana could even really perform if they were attacked head-on by zombies.
He definitely needed to teach him how to fire a gun. If Tachibana was bad at close quarter combat, maybe something long range would make him less reluctant.
“Okay, I’m done,” Rin closed up the med kit and watched Tachibana’s muscles move as he leaned over for his shirt to pull on, “What have you been reading?”
“In, uh, the sleeping quarters, someone left behind a few books. They’re journals and notes, about life in Tottori University during the plague, and observations on zombie behaviour. I think they belong to one of the students who used to study here.”
“Yeah?” Rin took one of the books from Tachibana’s and skimmed through the pages, “Anything interesting?”
“I’ll let you know if I find out.”
“Does it say at the end where these guys went?”
“Oh, let me check,” Tachibana flipped the journal he had been holding to the last entry, “Let’s see… Last push tomorrow. Can’t sleep. We’re finally leaving this place. I wish Mari was still alive, but… it’s too late, I suppose. I wish things had been different, that the government had listened—”
“Whoa, hold up,” Rin had leaned closer, “What did he say about the government?”
“I wish that the government had listened to the professor. The plague is a virus, and it can mutate and become stronger, gain immunities. What is the fog but a pesticide?”
Tachibana fell silent briefly, looking up and meeting Rin’s eyes. They didn’t speak. Eventually, Tachibana cleared his throat and continued reading the journal entry.
“It’s too late now. They’ve given up on southern Japan and everyone’s evacuated to Kyoto. Everyone except for us, behind the line of the FDMZ, left for the zombies. There are so many questions that remain: What happens once we leave Tottori city? Will we have to go through Ground Zero? Will we survive it? If we do, will there be guns waiting for us at the edge of the FDMZ? All I know is that we cannot stay here. There is still a lot of supplies left – bless the agricultural department – but being left for dead is no life at all. The big push is tomorrow. I only hope it will not be the last one. Nakagawa Akiko, PhD Plant Pathology, Plant Disease Clinic, Tottori University.”
Tachibana rattled off the date of the final entry – about three weeks ago – and stared down solemnly at the journal, saying nothing more.
“The whole of southern Japan is empty, huh,” Rin said finally, all the cheer gone from his body, “Is that what the government did? Did they just abandon you guys when there were too many zombies?”
“There were never,” Tachibana sounded strained, like he was trying to withhold something from his voice, “There were never any zombies in Iwatobi. Or, there were, but… we didn’t have an infestation. There were a handful of cases there, but most of it came from outside the prefecture. When they first told us about the fog, they said that it was,” and he choked here, a brief incredulous laugh, “Smoking the zombies out, like they were mosquitoes. They made it sound temporary, or like we would be able to live with it until they were all gone. They never… They never said anything about it being a biological weapon. Of course, it was. How stupid could we have been, how could we have…”
“And then what?” Rin gripped Tachibana’s arm firmly, regaining his attention. There was time for platitudes later, “And then they abandoned you?”
“No,” Tachibana shook his head, voice softening, “They came back for us.”
“Then why were you left behind?”
He could sense the forlorn smile even behind the gas mask, “Not all of us.”
The Iwatobi evacuation had hit a sore spot, Rin could tell, because Tachibana had excused himself to read more of the books Nakagawa Akiko had left behind. He’d mentioned that she’d scribbled a little note on all of the front pages, about leaving her record of events for future researchers and survivors so they could know what had happened in Tottori University. Considering what Tachibana had been put through, Rin figured he needed the information and the closure more than Rin did. Also, despite appearances, Rin did not have the sensitivity of a brick wall; he knew when a guy needed space. Tachibana would most likely come back to him with information, on both the fog and Iwatobi, when he was good and ready.
Knowing what he knew now, though, Rin really did need to blow off some steam. He considered exploring Tottori University some more, but running into a toolbox had given him some arts and crafts ideas.
“What are you doing?” Tachibana’s voice sounded both weary and wary as he crept into their designated base.
Rin kept hammering the nails into his bat, imagining each one to be someone or something he hated. The cargo plane pilot. The ugly banker dude who told him his cheque had bounced. The arms dealer with the stinky breath. The assholes who had whistled at a picture of his sister.
“Kitajima,” Tachibana said, wincing at a particularly vicious slam of the hammer which partially cracked the wood of his baseball bat.
“Brush up on your Final Fantasy,” Rin said sharply, though his voice was tinged with malevolent glee, “Nail bats, simple but deadly. One swing of this, and you’ll get guts flying across the room.”
“Please don’t hit me with that,” Tachibana’s voice quavered slightly.
“I won’t if you stop pussyfooting around it. If you’re done moping, sit down and start hammering the other one.”
“I, um, I brought dinner, actually.”
Rin stopped hammering and looked up. He hadn’t realised because the mask was on his face and couldn’t smell anything.
“What did you make?”
“Canned stew. It’s slightly past expiry, but I had some and it tasted good.”
“You ate alone? Barbarian,” Rin took the bowl from him and began unstrapping his gas mask.
Now that he could smell it, it was fucking amazing and he dug in with fervour despite the slightly amused warning to beware of the heat. It was his first taste of meat and a hot meal in a long, long time. Tachibana ended up leaning up against the wall behind him and curling up with one of the books, reading in silence, as Rin shovelled his dinner into his mouth and gulped down a bottle of water. Finally satisfied, he was suddenly hit by a pang of drowsiness. His first instinct was that he had been drugged. Then he realised he was being an idiot. Rin was tired. They had been running non-stop all day, and he hadn’t allowed himself to rest since they had taken refuge in Tottori University. Although Iwatobi was his priority, it did him no good to barge in there blindly. He’d tried it the first time, and he’d ended up literally in a hospital. If Tachibana hadn’t been there…
“I’m taking a nap,” Rin said, stifling a yawn.
“Shouldn’t you put your mask on?”
“Suffocating,” Rin lay on his back, curling up on the sleeping bag that had been tossed over an old and thin mattress. The air was a lot better here anyway, “Maybe next time.”
Rin dreamed about his mother.
He couldn’t remember too many details, but she was stroking his head and telling him a story. Gou was there too, like she was fresh of out kindergarten, and she had been sitting in his lap and folding paper cranes out of cherry blossom petals. They were in a big field, surrounded by cherry blossoms that fell like rain out of the sky.
His eyes fluttered open eventually, and he realised that Tachibana’s fingers were in his hair, petting gently and soothingly. It felt… nice. Kind of nostalgic, really.
“You are surprisingly touchy feely for a guy your size,” Rin said drowsily.
Tachibana immediately withdrew his hand, spluttering his apologies as Rin sat up and rubbed his eyes. He held up a hand and gestured noncommittally – he didn’t really mind it (Tachibana had proved that he was as harmless as a kitten) and it didn’t really matter in the long run. Tachibana eventually quietened down in a relieved sort of embarrassed silence.
“Do you ever sleep?” Rin asked, eyeing his untouched sleeping pallet.
“Oh,” Tachibana cleared his throat, looking away, “I…”
“Seriously,” Rin let out an irritated sigh, running a hand through his hair, “If you’re worried I’m going to be judgemental, we’ve gone way past that, Ginchiyo.”
He wagered good money that a smile had flickered across Tachibana’s lips, because the man glanced up at him briefly before turning away again.
“I’m just… afraid.”
“Afraid of sleeping?”
“My family…” He trailed off again, “They were taken away while I slept.”
Rin frowned at this new information and scooted closer. Tachibana looked at him and sighed, scratching the base of his neck.
“Iwatobi was forcefully evacuated. I was panicking, trying to get my brother and sister in their masks and on the buses when I suddenly remembered my childhood friend – he lives alone and unless he was at home, he wouldn’t know that the city was being emptied out. I found him and managed to drag him along to the military cordon – we couldn’t get on the buses ourselves – and they took my sister out of my arms. I heard something about the buses being full, and I was trying to reach out for my sister, but then one of the soldiers pistol whipped me.”
Tachibana paused, hand lingering on the base of his neck.
“I was cut along the hairline, right here. When I woke up, I was bleeding and the city was empty and the fog was the thickest I’d ever seen. It was so hard to see and think and breathe. I don’t really remember exactly what happened, but I panicked. My neighbourhood was empty. My school was empty. My friends were gone. My family was gone. I don’t know if my parents and siblings made it out together, I don’t even…”
Rin surprised himself by reaching forward and squeezing Tachibana’s hand.
Tachibana looked at their point of contact and up at Rin, and squeezed back gently, steadying his breath.
“I tried to go to the borders, but they told me that they’d shoot if I came too close,” he confessed, “I didn’t know if they were serious at first, but a lot of people had been left behind too. A girl ran for the border and they just…” Tachibana shook his head, “It was instantaneous.”
“You didn’t stay with the other survivors?”
“I tried to,” he said, uncomfortable, “But things got out of hand quickly. Not to mention the fog eventually started to affect some of the survivors. It… was awful to see. One of them attacked me and I just made a break for it. I’ve been alone since then.”
He chanced a glance up, “To be frank, I honestly thought I was hallucinating when I saw you. That’s one of the first symptoms, you know, hallucinating. Hearing things.”
Rin looked at him, really looked at him, remembering their first meeting, “… you were so docile. Don’t people usually, I don’t know, retaliate against those kinds of things? Like, denial over the fact that they were going to be infected or something?”
Tachibana just shrugged.
Rin didn’t like that. That defeatist notion seemed so alien to associate with a guy like Tachibana, whose survival instincts were ridiculously alive and kicking to the point that he’d planned on outrunning a zombie horde via the roof. And Tachibana hadn’t given up on Rin, either, not when he’d collapsed.
After a pause, Rin looked up at him, “Hey. Let me see your face.”
Tachibana seemed taken aback at that.
“What? I don’t care if you’re defaced or whatever. You know what I look like, now it’s your turn.”
He hesitated, “The fog…”
“I napped for a couple hours and I was fine. I just wanna know what you look like.”
Tachibana was silent for a long while before he finally relented with a sigh, “Just for a little while.”
It didn’t take long for him to unbuckle the straps on the back of his head, and when he finally pulled the mask away from his face, he took a slow inhale, like he had forgotten what it had been like to breathe. Tachibana wasn’t defaced, which, although Rin had joked about it, had come as a slight surprise considering all the fighting he’d mentioned. He looked as normal as a guy could get. His face was easy going and lax, a good reflection of his personality, but Rin couldn’t help but stare at his eyes. There was something familiar about it, something he couldn’t quite place about Tachibana…
“You have got to be kidding me,” Rin muttered, narrowing his eyes at Tachibana and giving him another once over, “Tachibana Makoto?”
Tachibana was visibly startled at that, and it was so refreshing to see how much more expressive he was without that gas mask as a buffer, as though Rin could finally make out sentences from an indecipherable mess of text, “How did you know my name?”
“Oh my god,” Rin breathed, “You idiot. You gave me your real name?”
Tachibana—Makoto shook his head, looking at Rin in puzzlement, “I’m… sorry?”
“How have you survived this long?” Rin felt like he was suffering inside, “Makoto, how many people do you know with this hair? How did you not realise who I was sooner? You took my bandana off! How hard was your head hit?”
Makoto blinked at him rapidly, eyes hesitantly scanning his appearance, “… you do seem kind of familiar, but I didn’t want to assume… I mean, it would be kind of a miracle if you really were…”
“It’s Rin,” he couldn’t take it anymore, “Matsuoka Rin.”
Makoto gasped and clapped a hand over his mouth. Rin just rolled his eyes, pushing down the urge to strangle him.
“Rin! Oh my goodness! Is it actually you? I mean, you’re… you were different from what I remember, so I wasn’t sure… I didn’t know what to think, honestly… How long has it been, five years?”
“Yes, it’s been five years,” Rin sighed exasperatedly.
“You never wrote back.”
Rin stiffened at that unexpected comment. He cleared his throat, unable to look Makoto in the eye as he mumbled, “I was busy.”
Makoto squeezed his hand, “I’m just glad you’re all right.”
“Yeah,” Rin pulled his hand away embarrassedly, “Thanks.”
“So you’re looking for your family, huh.”
“Yeah. I’m guessing you wouldn’t know where my mum and sister are.”
“Sorry,” Makoto gave him an apologetic look. Rin was suddenly reminded of something.
“That friend you were referring to,” Rin said, “Haru?”
Makoto paused before nodding once.
“So you don’t know what’s happened to him?”
“Or anyone else,” he sighed, “I… To be honest, part of me doesn’t want to go back to Iwatobi. I was trying to leave when I first met you.”
Rin furrowed his brows in confusion, “Why are you following me, then?”
“I…” Makoto suddenly looked embarrassed again, “…I don’t want to be alone anymore.”
Rin understood the sentiment one hundred per cent, but it didn’t mean that he was immune to the embarrassment that sentiment was also causing him. He smacked Makoto on the back, ignoring the slightly yelp of pain at the agitation to the big bruise there.
“Get some rest,” Rin said, grabbing his gun and leaning up against the wall, “I’ll take watch.”
“I’m not going anywhere. Don’t make me pistol whip you to sleep, Makoto.”
He laughed softly at that, sounding more than a little relieved, and whispered ‘goodnight’ before he put the gas mask back on his face and curled up by Rin’s side.