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[personal profile] wildfireblossom
Title: Breathe, Move On
Fandom: Erased
Rating: T
Pairings: Sachiko/Akemi
Character(s): Sachiko, Akemi
Word Count: 3277 words
Summary: A chat, a mix of emotions, and two women who understand each other.
Notes: Written for higuchi on AO3 for Rare Pair Fest 2016.

Moments before, she had been washing a dish. Today was an off day for her. Until Satoru returned home, Sachiko deemed to relax and clean house, or perhaps cook up a special dish for her son. Curry rice was optimal comfort food, as well as a healthy dinner, but she had wanted to reach further than that. After all, Satoru’s jumpiness had drastically peaked ever since the murders had escalated.

The door rang out with a resounding bang. The hinges creaked under the weight. The hairs on Sachiko’s neck went stiff. Thoughts swirled around in her mind and—she had paid the recent bills, right? The envelop was vacant from its usual to-do area on the counter, so she could consider it done.

Footsteps careful, she walked towards the door, confident of the outcome nonetheless. When Sachiko opened the door, she had not expected the sore sight before her, or the hand partially hanging towards her, the woman’s wrist hung towards her nose like a scythe over the neck of its victim.

Any other scenario would have been more probable than the shaggy-haired and wild-faced woman in front of her. Sure, perhaps it would have been one of her neighbors routinely checking up on her or Satoru. Maybe they wanted more juicy stories from the station. Someone from the news station could have even swung by in order to discuss a lead in one of the recent headline stories.

Sachiko’s head tilted. Her heart beat just a little faster in pure and unbridled amazement and victory. The clean sunlight seeped in through the door crack landed across her face like the light after a dark night. Once the door swung in fully, the shadow of petite but sagged over figure before her.

Akemi was the first woman who had ever thrown a punch at her son without any hesitation. Likewise, this was the woman that had the sheer audacity to hit her own child and show her face to the outside world. Most people would see it that way, anyway; the fear trapped in her eyes spoke volumes.

Desperation and despair clouded those dim eyes.

Bitterness and betrayal lingered, a surefire symbol of the person that had stained those emotions there.

Akemi’s expression, blank and vast, watched her in an almost delirious state. Bedraggled, black lines circled under her eyes, her plain shirt wrinkled at the corners and frayed towards the hem at the bottom, a thread undone dangling against her leg. Creases jagged down her face from her eyes and edged against her nose, her lips, and finally all the way down to her chin, where it aged her considerably.

Obviously to Sachiko, she had either been crying or she had permanently set her face in a perceptual snarl.

Sachiko crossed her arms and stared dead-lock at her head-on. Obviously, she had a reason to come here. And if she could not face up to when she finally had dragged her tired body to Sachiko’s threshold, she would have to wait until Akemi was ready to confess and bow her head and admit to her faults.

Briefly, Akemi’s mouth open and shut. Breathless, a fragile seashell broken in the middle of the ocean, the shelter she had incubated her anger in merely clawing to find leverage in the sloshing and threatening waves pushing her further into the reaches of the briny unknown.

“Tell me… I want you to tell me … You said you would…” Dismayed that she had to speak this, Akemi’s voice croaked as though she had not spoken for hours, or days for all that Sachiko could tell. Her eyes roamed the floorboards under Sachiko’s feet. “If you meant what you said, then tell me how…”

The offer had been genuine. Sachiko had meant her words; should Hinazuki Akemi need emotional support, she would be available at any time to discuss matters and grant her the crying shoulder she needed. Would she be able to polish all of Akemi’s problems in a short chat? No, not at all. But this was the step towards the light and not the blocking block she was headed towards—the hanging thread of love she could not pull back towards her herself and instead tiptoed around Kayo with. Anyone should have that much redemption despite all the frustration and anger she caused.

Sachiko did not wait for her to finish her tap-dance around the subject. She reached out and placed a hand on her shoulder. Nonthreatening. Not necessary, but necessary.

Akemi startled, almost as if burnt, struck, thunder roaring in a huff of anger.

Sachiko simply smiled and shook her head. She waited until the flare of Akemi’s nostrils lowered their guard, until the intensity in her shoulder muscles relaxed and she relaxed. For all of that time she did not look Sachiko in the eye like she did her likewise, but Akemi gave her half distrustful sidelong glances.

Sachiko found herself preparing cups of tea for her guest not too long after. Akemi’s arms were slung over the edge of the kitchen table chair. Downcast and annoyed, she did not make the first move to talk or voice her concerns even when Sachiko placed Akemi’s cup of green tea in front of her.

Sachiko would have done more, really, but Akemi was obviously not in a wait-for-her mood.

Warm and inviting, a moment of silence echoed in the way Sachiko stirred her own cup of tea. She allowed the quietness to invoke questions, and for the heat in Akemi’s face to lessen just a little bit.

“Well, I must say I didn’t expect you to come at all,” Sachiko admitted in a cheerful tone, shifting in her chair forwards. Ten minutes was long enough for an ice breaker, and Akemi looked more on the brink of divulging pent up anxieties. All she needed was someone to help her drag out what was hidden under façade with a little extra nudge in the right direction. “I certainly am surprised to see you here.”

Akemi did not touch her tea. She mumbled. She did not even flinch.

“I bet you’re just laughing at me under that smug smile,” Akemi hissed, teeth gritted and bared.

Sachiko laughed indeed but the sound was soft like a piano note drawn in a large auditorium. “Not at all. I know you don’t like my son, but I hear so many things. My Satoru talks about Kayo all the time and the fun things they do. I mean it when I say that Kayo is quite the delight to have as a dinner guest! Satoru and his group of friends really were happy to accept her into their group.”

She could see it. The flash ghosted across her face. Dinner guest. Here, at the Fujinuma household, because she could not sit at a table with her mother and discuss trivial matters like homework.

Akemi’s hand shook, and she stomped to her feet, the chair scraping the floor tiles. Not accepting this, she slapped her palm down on the table. Her tea splashed inside the cup, and she lashed out at it, flinging the cup at the nearby cabinet. The glass shards shattered and dropped into her sink with crude clashes, each with a renewed bitterness, a crackle for each emotion twisting like the balloon animal Kayo had tried to twist into a kitten in her kitchen a year ago with Kenya’s help.

Sachiko sighed. ¥2000 down the drain. At least that had been her usual cup, and the one in her hand was Satoru’s. He would not be disappointed with a broken cup and she could avoid it, at least.

“Your child—“ Akemi began.

Sachiko’s hand shot up in harmless, lighthearted waves of amusement. Not wanting to continue on this track, she tried to be as gently dismissive as possible. Satoru should not have to be in this conversation. “They’re good friends, you know? Nothing else, because I trust Satoru to do the right thing,” Sachiko insisted. She smiled again and sipped at her tea. “But that’s not why you decided to look up my address and visit my home, is it? I think we should stay on topic. I’m sure you’re busy and I wouldn’t want you to miss seeing Kayo when she comes home from school in a few hours.”

Akemi frowned, expression twisting. But she did not say anything immediately; instead, she gripped onto the edge of the table, her shirt, anything that did not have to do with looking at Sachiko. Sweat pooled at the baseline of her hair, and she clasped her hands together, rubbing them slowly.

Sachiko dropped her tea back on its small, ornate plate. She had fallen to a conclusion days ago, back when she had first seen this woman’s reaction to Satoru and had not given him a single glance to stay near Kayo. Imagine, if Satoru had been a girl all of this might have been avoided to another degree. Part of her hostility might have stemmed because Satoru was a boy. Part of her resentment might have rested in the fact, in one way, Kayo being taken from her prematurely hit too close to home.

“May I ask you a personal question if you want to be frankly honest?” Sachiko asked. Tact would be the best here.

When Akemi said nothing, her hair a halo over her eyes, Sachiko decided this was encouragement.

Yes, it was just as her own freedom had been slain from a man she had trusted and believed in to keep her safe and happy for her lifetime. Kayo never talked about a father figure—just a repulsive boyfriend her mother paraded around that she hated. Freedom… that was what she used to control Kayo.

“Did you hate him?” Sachiko asked. Sensitivity was important. The ability to pull the rug from under Akemi’s feet would only be determined by how she handled such a question, but she would not back down, because this was the truth that what fueled her fists towards Kayo. And she would rather have fangs latched into her shoulder if it saved that sweet little girl the pain.

Catching on, Akemi finally glared up at her with passion. If Sachiko was not trying to skitter around the harshness of the truth and read her so fully, she would have beamed in triumph.

“Of course I did!” Akemi screamed. “I hated him for what he did to me. My mother…” She paused at this point like a train screeching on the rails, throat apparently dry. She swallowed and eyed the broken pieces of the cup hesitantly, the tea splattered on the floor. The glass in Sachiko’s hand seemed to reflect the fire lit in her gaze. “My mother tried to tell me he wasn’t good for me. I stayed with him.”

“For Kayo?” Sachiko guessed.

Akemi’s posture sagged worse than when she had arrived. She slumped in her seat, the tightness a seeming comfort between her and the table edge. “A little, but it was also… routine.”

Sachiko nodded. She leaned an elbow on the table, her trademark pose. She waited patiently.

“Sometimes he would be fine. He would bring Kayo or me gifts. He worked hard,” Akemi said. Her bottom lip trembled despite how her voice had dropped. “But then… he would go into these rages whenever I would do something wrong. He would lash out. He would promise that he wouldn’t hurt Kayo as long as I was the one who endured it, or if I didn’t tell anyone. Only my mother saw through my lies and begged me to kick him to the curb and divorce him. But I thought it was too shameful.”

A tear slid down Akemi’s cheek. Then another, and another, and beads of tears pooled on her chin.

Sachiko’s spine prickled with a mixture of sympathy. But not pity. Not loathing for a woman who wanted to keep the fires of a lost love rekindled; the bond of two people that should have remained forever.

Neither did she reach out and wipe away those tears. If Akemi did not experience this, change would never blossom; the winter would come without the reds and oranges and yellows of the autumn.

“Do you think that’s fair to Kayo then?” Sachiko asked softly.

Akemi, tears flowing freely, reached up and viciously wiped them with her sleeve. She sniffed as best she could to reject any fake passion that Sachiko might send her way. All of it might as well have been false ringing in her ears from someone who did not matter. “What do you mean? What’s that supposed to mean, after all I’ve done. And after all I’ve tried to do—”

“To treat her like she does something wrong like your husband. The emotion you feel is from the past. It’s from a phantom that’s long gone.” Sachiko’s dark eyes steeled. Without making her stance here, the point would not absorb as easily, she would miss the beat. “But Kayo is still here. You can’t linger on the shadow of your husband, Hinazuki-san. You have a beautiful and sweet daughter that needs your love and affection right now. She doesn’t want to hurt you, but she doesn’t understand you.”

Slapped. Akemi’s fists gripped so hard that blood drew from her knuckles. She breathed harshly. She bit her lip, the salt of the tears running into her mouth still not relentlessly it’s waterfall of amazement.

“Kayo is—“ Akemi began again, determined to get through this time.

Sachiko finished, “The one hurt because you’re hurt. And neither of you should be victims of someone who is long gone and won’t ever return. You care and caring too much is what is ruining you.”

Akemi’s chest rose and fell. Rose and fell. She blinked, bewildered.

“But… but how do I do that?” Akemi frowned, shrinking back against her chair. She had no where to run here, escape to. The tight niche of comfort suddenly became a cavern straight out of hell, and she was too distraught to seek a way out of it, squirming uncomfortably. “I can’t tell her… anything. Because… she looks at me with so much hatred now. She won’t look at me even after I realize my mistakes and try to help her. She races out of the house… to your son… and she won’t talk to…”

Her throat hitched. She could feel it, almost, the enclosing pain and suffocation of her lungs bursting with too much air and the lightheadedness. Sachiko’s chest puffed, and she sat up straighter.

“You just took the first step. You’re open to the possibility to change. Next step: dump that boyfriend of yours. Satoru has told me what he looks like, and I’ll tell you right now, you’re too good for him.” While this was an abrasive thing to say, Sachiko knew that the shine of relief that flittered across Akemi’s face was… not quite welcome but not instantly dead-set on opposing her. And that was enough for her to deal with. “I also had to raise Satoru all by myself. I know it’s hard—but children don’t need anyone in their lives that will hinder their growth. If there’s anything they need, even if it’s small and fragile and still blossoming, it’s love from a parent that only knows love and the future they can have.”

Somehow, not bit of surprise welled up in Sachiko’s stomach that Akemi did not understand this. Lessons like these were lost in the current of time. Love could still follow, and it was not always easy to keep—but though her love for Satoru was her own, she would make sure Satoru’s love for her stayed until her dying breath. No one could see the abuse flash in their eyes unless they stared in the mirrors for hours and hours. And even then, abuse had the channel to hide, keep itself uncleansed, unhinged.

Mother and daughter—they needed to learn how to love and forgive and forget. And listen.

“Just like your mother loved you enough to tell you to be happy. She didn’t care about what you said, or did to her, but she fought tooth and nail for you from all that you’ve told me in the last few minutes. She just did what she knew was right for you. And it’s that simple for a mother,” Sachiko said.

Akemi’s grip loosened. The blood on her knuckles dripped down her hand, but the tension ceased. For a lack of places to go, she reached for the invisible cup that had been there . Her finger curled around the invisible handle, but she did not seem to notice nothing was there, too lost in her own thoughts and the reassurances. “Like my mother did,” she repeated, voice dull, void of emotion. “Is that all it takes?”

Before she could stop herself, Sachiko pushed out her chair and rounded the table. Akemi watched her, wearily and confused. But she did not refuse the arms that lightly wrapped around her shoulders and hugged her, a fleeting touch of the cherry blossoms of death to life, words that did not need saying.

“If you can’t tell Kayo you love her like your mother told you, or if you can’t stop yourself from hurting her,” Sachiko murmured, “I think you should do something productive. If you can’t channel your emotion in the right ways, or say the right things, you need to work with your hands. Show her that you don’t only mean harm when you raise your hands; show her that you can create and not destroy.”

Akemi stared ahead. Her hand shook, now not so much in fear as in anticipation and adrenaline, the invisible tea cup still somehow rattling under its nonexistent glass frame.

“Productive? What else can I even do?” Defiance sparked up, and Akemi snorted. “I feed her, I clothe her, I make sure she goes to school every day with lunch money even though I’m poor. It’s never enough, and it never shows, but I’ve done what I could when I have the chance. There’s nothing else!”

“Love isn’t always something you show physically,” Sachiko scolded lightly. She inhaled; Akemi’s hair had a nice scent of cinnamon and strawberry, conditioner and perfume. It was nice—no one would ever know that she was as hard on luck as she made it out to look. “For example, you take your frustrations out on her, but you aren’t paying attention to Kayo’s well-being when you try to heal one of her bruises. That’s not creating a bond. You should give her gifts, or help her with her homework. Something Kayo will notice and the two of you can share together as mother and daughter only can.”

Akemi peered up her, gawking with those hideous black-lined eyes and tears drying on her skin. But she did not seem as hesitant or astringent as she had been a moment before to accept the other woman’s help. Her muscles tensed, seeing the truth and conviction in Sachiko’s entire being that radiated out from the soul. Instead of fleeing or jerking free, Akemi laid her cheek on Sachiko’s arm, the tears falling more freely more, but more checked and less restrained, all the frustration pouring, pouring out.

“… build on it….” Akemi mumbled to herself.

No promises were made, but Sachiko heard the subtle conviction in her tone. She would be okay.

Sachiko smiled and hugged her just a little bit closer. Because if there was anything that Satoru had taught her for the last few weeks, it was that she had to believe in someone wholeheartedly.

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