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Bloom and Scatter
Chapter 6: Making Plans
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 ]
Rin looked up to see Makoto fumbling with the gun post-shot, already well aware that the idiot had forgotten to brace for recoil again, and ignored him in favour of eyeing the opposite wall where he’d drawn in target lines with some markers to see if he’d been able to hit anywhere close to the centre.
Outer-most ring. Great.
“I’m doing everything you told me to,” Makoto protested pre-emptively as Rin stalked over towards him, “Grip the gun firmly with your dominant hand, cup it with your other hand, feet apart, elbow straight, use the rear sight to aim—”
“—breathe in and hold it before you shoot, keep your finger down on the trigger after squeezing, and maintain your posture,” Rin interjected with equal amounts of restraint and irritation, “Your grip on the gun is obviously not even in the ballpark of ‘firm’ if it’s dancing in your hands like that. The recoil isn’t even that bad, you dolt. Stop getting so nervous.”
Makoto looked like he wanted to argue, but didn’t hand the words. He hung his head, muttering something that sounded like a well-chided ‘sorry’ and Rin was doubly glad his gas mask was on or the puppy-dog eyes would have overwhelmed him.
“One more time,” Rin said with an irritated sigh, crossing his arms, “Actually do everything I told you to; keep a tight grip on that gun – but not until it’s shaking – aim, take in a breath to keep you steady, shoot.”
He watched Makoto go through the motions, noted the still gun with approving eyes, and blinked at the noise of a gunshot. He glanced at the wall. Second ring from the centre.
“Well, well, well,” he said in a tone that could only be described at smug, “I guess you can be taught after all.”
“Did you see that?” Makoto in his excitement forgot he was training to shoot at zombies, “That’s the closest I ever got to the centre!”
“Well done,” Rin said graciously, in a good enough mood to slam another clip down on the table-top between them beside two empty ones he refused to think of as ‘wasted’, “Repeat that with all the bullets in this magazine until you’re shooting consistently in the centre.”
He foresaw the crestfallen expression on Makoto’s face. “Makoto,” he said patiently, “The target painted on that wall is the size of a car tyre.”
After two days cooped up inside the Tottori University sports complex, Rin was getting absolutely antsy. Between the constant barrage of gunshots into a wall that he hoped wasn’t an important part of the building’s support, and calling Makoto Ginchiyo enough times when he was tired to spur him on to swinging the un-nailed aluminium baseball bat at Rin (fortunately, the idiot did indeed hit accurately when he was feeling mean even if it ended up degenerating into a slew of spluttered apologies when it was time to take stock of post-training injuries), he was getting cabin fever. No, he didn’t need to leave the building for a bit of sunshine – after all, he was used to being quarantined, not thanks to the epidemic – but he did need to get out of the sports complex they were holed up in and explore.
Rin had spent the two days fortifying their base and thumbing through some of the books that had been left behind. Some of the writings were purely academic – sketches of plant parts, descriptions and uses of herbs and other vegetation – but they were very pleasing to read, from a purely aesthetic perspective. Something about the unconcerned writing about the nutritional value of mugwort in between diary entries regarding the death of another survivor and someone else’s conclusions from dissecting a zombie was… steadying. Amusing, possibly in some dark way. He really respected how keenly Nakagawa Akiko kept to her profession even in such dire times. He wondered if there was something therapeutic about drawing leaf veins while the world went to shit around her. He certainly found himself with a ripple of calmness each time he traced over her sketch lines.
“Makoto,” Rin called out in the lull as he was loading a new clip. Rin didn’t have to look to know that Makoto was starting to shoot consistently within the newer, smaller target on the wall, “I’m spelunking.”
Makoto lowered his hands, “Oh, let me get ready.”
“No, keep practicing.”
“I’m going to do a quick sweep of the university grounds immediately adjacent to us,” Rin explained, feeling a little tired of talking so much, but talking was what you had to do when you were partnering up with someone, “I’m not going to go too far, just one floor above us, and around the sports complex. I want to see if I can catch sight of the agricultural grounds. If we’re lucky, they were growing some vegetables or fruit, and they’re untainted. If they’re too far, we can double up and do a run together. Okay?”
He watched Makoto deliberate this.
“Besides, for short recons, it’s better to have someone at home base. You get it, right?”
Makoto took this information in before relenting with a sigh, “You promise to be careful?”
“Like a surgeon,” Rin saluted, “I’ll be back before dark, mum.”
“If—” Makoto interjected, “For future reference, if one of us goes out for, um, ‘recon’… at what point does the other person decide to go looking for him when he doesn’t get back in time?”
Rin opened his mouth but no sound came out. He’d… never had to consider that before.
“Uh,” Rin scratched the side of his jaw thoughtfully, “I have a working watch. Do you?”
Makoto fumbled around on his person before he pulled out a lady’s wristwatch from his pocket. Rin would have made fun of him, but he also recognised it as being from the pallets where they found Nakagawa Akiko’s diary. They moved close together to synchronise their times and Rin quietly watched him strap the delicate thing onto his bony wrist, notched at the last hole, before he let out a breath through his nose.
“I think… possibly the allowance should be until the next morning,” Rin raised his palms placatingly and continued over Makoto’s torrent of disapproval, “Think about it – sunlight is infinitely safer to move about in, and it’s easier to search. There should be less bodies moving around too, if it came to that. You’d have a clear view of where you can go.”
“Three hours,” Makoto’s tone was surprisingly sharp, and his suggestion was rather generous if Rin had to be honest, “I can wait until the next morning if you’re doing recon somewhere far, and it takes time to get back. If you’re just upstairs, I will look for you within three hours. It’s just the two of us, it’s up to us to bail the other out if they get in trouble. I wish,” Makoto sounded frustrated, “I wish mobile phones worked. Or that we had walkie-talkies.”
“You and me both, sister,” Rin could tell a touch of a smile had reached Makoto’s lips at that, and he couldn’t really find it in him to disagree with Makoto, considering how quickly Rin had doubled back to the hospital when he found out about the zombies, “But I tell you what; while I’m scurrying around, I’ll try to find us a campus map, all right? If it’s that important to you, we’ll chart out the exact movement of future recon.”
“That sounds good,” Makoto’s tone was thoughtful and relieved, “While you’re at it, their course brochures would be nice.”
Rin let out a bark of laughter. Trust Makoto to be so damned pragmatic in his optimistic little view that life could still return to normal after all this mess. “What, you interested in Tori U’s agricultural programme?”
There was a smile in Makoto’s voice, “Something like that.”
Without a doubt, Tottori University was in shambles, but it was still one of the most put-together places Rin had come across during his plague experience. Good old Japanese order. He could picture the quick, calm but slightly noisy evacuations as he toed over upturned chairs and spilled papers. By contrast, Australians were… well, they were something, all right. Whenever they had to evacuate, they always seemed extremely annoyed. A child was always wailing. Lots of swearing and cursing. Lots of elbowing and pushing too. To be fair, he could firmly picture Australians punching their way through a zombie plague, and considering some of their laws on invasive plants and immigration, he understood why Australia stood as a bastion against the undead… as well as the living who hoped to keep on living. Rin winced slightly at the thought – it was his second home – but he’d be a fool to ignore all the people who drowned or were forcibly turned away at the ports. Fortunately, they didn’t shoot people like Japan did but Rin knew that some deaths were infinitely worse than others.
Rin shook his head clear of those thoughts. He hadn’t allowed his mind to wander the entire time he’d been back, and with the exception of this one incident, he couldn’t afford to let it happen anymore. He had to be single-minded about this – he didn’t believe in no-win situations and he was going to find his family and he and Makoto both would make it out alive, no matter what state his family was in, or wherever they would have to find safety.
He heard a crunch underfoot and lifted his leg up to see that he’d stepped on a room sign.
Rin crouched under a fallen bookcase into what looked like a faculty office, and managed to fish out a dozen maps and brochures of the university from a plastic display shelf on the sidewall. Spare maps were always handy, and he was lucky to get a supplementary map of the surrounding area for new students, which included locations of banks, ATMs, marts, convenience stores and train stations. The other brochures were on their different programmes – some in English, which he immediately discarded if memory of Makoto’s foreign language skills still served – and he noted with disjointed fascination that they also had a medical and engineering department. It certainly explained the dissection activity in Nakagawa Akiko’s diary. He stuffed everything in his backpack and realised with some relish that there was a full water dispenser in the corner of the office, with cups. Rin scanned around until he saw the floor plan in a neat little picture frame on the wall, by the fire extinguisher and alarm, and smashed it. Fishing out a pen nearby, he marked where the water dispenser was on the plan and folded into the complex map.
Despite how futile it would be, Rin walked up to the window and tried to get a good look at the grounds. The fog here was thick, though not as thick as Iwatobi, and he realised that there appeared to be what looked like a vast garden and a vast stretch of water not too far away. It was definitely within the grounds area, more or less. Water? Were they by the sea? Shouldn’t the fog be thinner in that case?
Well, Rin was spelunking. A glance at his watch told him he had 30 minutes until Makoto’s 3-hour countdown began, but he decided that Makoto needed to kept on his toes anyway.
He managed to break through a blocked fire escape at the end of the passage with a handy axe he found near a hose reel and navigated his way through to the grounds. He could see the sports complex was a decent sprint away and, slightly comforted by its sight, hitched up his backpack and trekked towards the water. His route took him through the main campus and across several avenues. He strained his ears for the barest hints of a growl, suddenly incredibly glad of the axe in his hand because he had, like Makoto normally would, stupidly left without weapons, but the end of his little exploration found him at the edge of long brackets of neatly arranged greens and absolutely breathless at the sight beyond it.
The door groaned open, echoing noisily in the enclosed space, and Rin saw Makoto scrambling up and rushing towards him.
“You’re late,” Makoto’s voice was stupidly stern and unhappy, but Rin was on cloud nine as he secured the door behind him and strode past Makoto to their pallets. Makoto kept apace, “Rin, you had me worried. You were gone for an hour longer than you said you would.”
“And what an hour it’s been,” Rin replied sunnily, upturning his back and shaking out his spoils.
It went on for days it seemed like.
“…Rin,” Makoto said when he finally found his voice, “Are those… potatoes?”
“And radishes. And carrots. And a handful of onions.”
“You’re…” He sounded faint as touched one of the potatoes and rubbed the still-clinging dirt between the index and thumb of his other hand, “Where did you get these?”
“The university farms, god bless the agricultural department,” Rin threw him a brash grin and passed Makoto the sheet of maps and brochures, “Long live Tori U.”
“Right,” Makoto’s voice was still utterly spacey as he dumbly accepted the papers, “Tottori Banzai.”
Over the most amazing bowl of fresh and hot vegetable stew that Rin scrabbled together (as Makoto’s domesticity, contrary to his appearance, did not extend to the kitchen), they pored over the maps as Rin detailed the route he had taken and all the useful things he had seen. Makoto mostly nodded and asked for clarifications, and they agreed to do one more round of joint exploration before they properly aimed for Iwatobi. Now that Rin was masked and vaccinated, Makoto knew how to handle a gun, and they appeared to be well-supplied, Iwatobi appeared to be less of a Mount Fuji in the distance and more like the four hour walk it really was.
“I thought we were near the sea when I first found the farms,” Rin said, “Turns out we’re actually by a lake.”
“Oh, right,” Makoto replied, as though he just recalled, “Lake Koyama. We passed it on the way from the hospital.”
“Did we? I didn’t even realise.”
“Ah, well, it’s not something you take stock of while running for your lives. The hospital’s a 30-minute walk from here and we made the run in about 10, 15?”
“My coach would be so proud,” Rin said wistfully. Makoto chuckled.
“You’re not wrong though,” Makoto eventually said, “We’re not that far from the coast.”
He pulled out the area map and laid it flat between them, smoothing out the creases and pointing at the legends. “We’re here, near the main campus. The airport is between us and the ocean.”
“Whoa,” Rin leaned in, “Is that a 50 metre swimming pool?”
“Hey,” he protested, “We’re near a lake, the ocean, and an Olympic-sized swimming pool. Give a guy a break.”
“Promise me you won’t do something stupid, like go for a swim.”
“Damn it, Ginchiyo, you killjoy.”
“Promise me,” Makoto said firmly, and there was something in his tone that gave Rin pause.
“…Okay,” he finally said, “If it means that much to you.”
“It does,” he said a bit too quickly, and tried to lighten the mood, “Also, you’re bad at jokes.”
“Oh, we’ll see if it’s a joke if you’re going to be that way, you giant nerd.”
Makoto let out a laugh that sounded slightly nervous, even to Rin’s ear, but he said nothing more, as though not wanting to bring any attention to it.
“I thought,” Rin found himself saying after a brief silence, “I’d have to swim across the ocean. To get back here.”
“I think you’ll find the distance between Australia and Japan to be a bit too ambitious, even for the best swimmers,” Makoto replied lightly, “So you’ll pardon my saying that it was for the best that you’d flown.”
“Ass,” Rin jabbed Makoto in the shoulder, “I meant… I thought the plane would get shot down and I’d have to front-crawl all the way to shore.”
Makoto looked at him. “… shot down?”
“Anti-aircrafts around the border,” Rin shook his head, “It sounds morbid, but part of me hoped that we would, so that I could. What a stupid thing to think, right? I mean, all those people on the plane were screaming for their lives, and I was thinking how great it would be to go for a dip. Just… anything to get me away from the gunfire and moving towards Iwatobi.”
Makoto touched his forearm gently, but said nothing.
“Anyway, I’m glad we didn’t get shot down. I don’t know how tight border security is here, even in the south, and we landed by the mountain pass leading into Iwatobi. That saved me weeks. And then there was the fog. Like, what the hell, right? Some homecoming that was.”
Rin sighed and rubbed his temples, aware he was breaking character and that this entire discussion was completely out of the blue. He couldn’t explain why he had suddenly so many words in his chest that he needed to get out, and he knew he was being impulsive and this could only turn out badly, but he’d been alone for so long that Makoto made it so easy.
“You don’t know how badly I need to see my mum and sister. I just… I really feel shitty for saying this, but I can’t be like you and not know. If they’ve turned, if they’re dead; I need to know. Knowing is better than constantly hoping, and being crushed in the end. Like… Like, my dad, he…”
He felt Makoto stiffen slightly, but he gently squeezed Rin’s arm. Rin took a deep breath.
“You guys probably don’t know the details but… he got infected, accidentally swallowed a drop of blood or something incredibly stupid like that, when the marina was attacked by some infected. He seemed so normal afterwards. We couldn’t believe what had happened had happened. My mum and I, we knew, but we refused to accept it. She didn’t report him. I watched him constantly, wanted to see the signs, convinced myself he was fine. But then, just out of the blue, he turned on Gou, and…”
Rin bit his lower lip.
“She doesn’t remember, thank god. But we should have taken him to the hospital. We should have done all sorts of things. Even if it meant saying goodbye, at least we could have said goodbye as humans,” Rin paused rifling through his memories, where there was an empty, black hole that gaped as large as the one in his heart, “I… I used to hope that he’d come back. I used to hope he managed to come back to himself.” Rin took a slow, shaky breath, “Now I just… I hope he stays dead.”
“Rin,” Makoto murmured, hesitantly placing an arm around Rin’s shoulders.
“Shit, I’m not crying,” Rin hissed, face in his hands, “I’m not homesick or any bullshit like that. I’m just… What’s going to happen to Gou and my mum, man? I ran out on them five years ago, like a coward, and then Japan just goes to hell while I’m completely safe and sound. I’m such a…” He choked, “I’m such an awful son.”
“Do you really think an awful son would risk getting shot and eaten just so that he could see his family again?”
“No, you don’t get it, Makoto, I…”
“You love your mother and sister enough that you’ve nearly died, several times, just to be with them. I’m sure your mother was happy to know you were all right, especially given what happened to your dad.”
“But I killed him!” Rin yelled, suddenly suffocating in his gas mask, “I just… He was about to bite a chunk out of Gou and I ran him down with a fucking kitchen knife. Then he turned on me. My mum saw the whole thing, could barely stand to say a word or look at me when the other fishermen came to take his body away. Fuck, it was all I could do to stay here, remind my mother every day that I killed her husband, I…” He felt his insides crumple, “What if my mother never wants to see me again?”
“Rin, listen to yourself,” Makoto said quietly, “You came all the way here because you need to know.”
“…right,” Rin squeezed his eyes shut, forcing himself to take slow breaths, “Right.”
They sat there quietly as Rin tried to calm down, come back to his senses. He’d been independent for five long years; he took care of himself then and he could take care of himself now. His chest felt less tight, knowing that Makoto knew, and he found that it didn’t matter what Makoto thought of him given the truth. He did remember to say one thing though.
“So, this is a pretty roundabout way of saying this,” he muttered, voice rough, and he let out a sigh, “First, it’s fair you know what happened to me since you told me what happened to you. More importantly though, being the point of the story; here’s the thing: Basically, and I hope this is reciprocated, if need be, I won’t hesitate to kill you if you get turned.”
Makoto jerked back. In revulsion or surprise, Rin didn’t care to know.
“It’s the only thing I can offer,” Rin forged ahead, impossibly calm now, “I want us both to get out alive, but we still have to make contingency plans in case one of us falls, god forbid. And if that happens, I really want to be stone cold before my corpse so much as sniffs you out and thinks you’re edible.”
“…Rin,” Makoto said weakly, “Don’t make me agree to this.”
“Think about it,” he said with finality, “But you know exactly why I won’t accept anything but a ‘yes’. You may be okay with me snapping my jaws at you, but I’d never forgive myself if I put someone like you in danger. Not again.”
“I…” One look from Rin sent Makoto quiet, “… I promise I’ll think about it.”
“Good,” Rin nodded once, firmly, “Get some rest, we’re doing a big run tomorrow.”