Title: Everything's Okay
Disclaimer: Panic Age in no way belongs to me.
Pairing: Eiji/Jay, but it's not the focus
Warnings: Mentions of BL and age difference, angst
Author's Note: This may or may not be the conclusion of the series? XD; Any way, I really wanted this to happen. Poor Daiki. Companion to Hate, Between the Cracks, All or Nothing, and Growth.
Jay remembers it so vividly, waking in the night as a child. It used to happen with some regularity, but over time, all the memories have melded together into one, and it's that conglomerate image that Jay still sees in the nightmares that squeeze in his chest painfully even when he wakes. The cause must have been a sound, bottles being knocked over, a chair scraping against the floor-- or maybe it was some sort of subconscious empathetic pain, but whatever the reason, he'd slide from his bed despite it being far past his bedtime and stumble towards the light still on in the kitchen where he knew his father as still awake.
He can still see it in his mind, the way he most likely saw it when he was six or eight or ten, his father curled on the floor, clearly having fallen from his chair at some point, tears in his eyes, and to a child of Jay's age at the time, it was the most horrifying sight imaginable. "Daddy!" he'd sob, tears of his own beginning to form as he tripped over his own feet in his rush to be by his father's side, to make sure his father was okay, "Daddy, what's wrong?"
It was then, though, that his father's eyes would regain their focus, and he'd look back at Jay for a long moment. Jay never understood at the time and he still doesn't understand now exactly what it was, but something changed then, because his father would lick his lips and shake his head and, trembling and imbalanced, make his way to his knees. "It's nothing," he'd promise, "I'm fine," and Jay would cling to the words and try so hard to believe them, because at that age, there was simply nothing else he could do. He'd help his father to his feet, holding onto his hand as if what little weight he had could somehow keep the man upright, but then his father would give him something that was almost, almost a smile for reassurance and tell him, "Everything's going to be okay."
Jay clung to those words for a very long time before, as a teenager, it became clear to him that they were flimsy and hollow, all a lie.
By the time that Jay's been in Osaka for a year, he's getting a little tired of Mizuki's constant calls and emails. Certainly, he doesn't mind seeing his uncle from time to time, but it's a little ridiculous that he calls almost once weekly. It's not that Jay doesn't like him or doesn't want to be around him, but Mizuki doesn't seem to understand that some topics are best left unmentioned, and Jay can't help the fact that he gets tied of constantly dancing around Mizuki's hints that he should break up with Eiji or guilt trips over his father. "You can't keep ignoring him," Eiji chides gently when Jay gripes about another message, and Jay knows that, in the end, Eiji is right, but he's happy right now, the way things are, and what's done is done, so can he really be blamed that he doesn't want to reopen all the old wounds?
But Mizuki is persistent, and Jay doesn't know what to do but ignore more and more of his attempts until, finally, he's hardly answering any of them at all, and he knows it must be obvious to Mizuki, but he simply can't think of any way around it. Saying to Mizuki that he needs to let things go would be far too confrontational when all Jay wants after this whole mess is to let everything calm down, to let the dust settle and cover up everything that had gone wrong, but he really doesn't know how to the handle the situation delicately, and he has a feeling his method is going to blow up in his face sooner or later.
Sure enough, the next time he meets up with his uncle, Mizuki wastes no time before making his accusation, "You've been ignoring me."
Jay's throat tightens, because he can't really deny it, but somehow, after everything that's gone wrong, everything he's fought and clawed against to get to the happiness he has now, at the end of his teenage years, the confrontation's all worn out now, and all he wants is to let things be the way they are. He swallows and shrugs, avoiding Mizuki's eyes. "I've been busy."
Mizuki raises an eyebrow skeptically. "To answer an email or pick up your phone? Too busy with what?"
When Jay shrugs again, this does not seem to please Mizuki any more, and he raises an eyebrow, voice growing sharper. "Too busy with your Eiji-san to worry about your family?"
Jay stiffens, and something flares up in him that hasn't reared its head in a long time now. But who is Mizuki to judge when Jay has had to fight so hard just to find some small corner of happiness in the world? Mizuki wasn't raised by a depressed, alcoholic father who never had anything to talk about besides the man who left him behind, Mizuki could only see the good in Jay's father, and, in Jay's opinion, there wasn't a whole lot of good to see. "Shut up," he responds tensely, wanting so badly not to snap and knowing at the same time that there's going to be no easy way out of this.
And sure enough, Mizuki pushes again, just a little harder with, "As if what you did to Daiki-chan wasn't bad enough," like Jay is the bad guy and his father was the victim, like Jay hadn't been suffering his whole life too, isn't just looking for a little bit of happiness of his own, and that's the last straw.
If nothing else, the shouting match that ensues ends in Mizuki swearing not to contact Jay again, something which Jay knows he'll regret later, but for now, he's simply too angry to care. By the time he makes it back home, though, the guilt is already beginning to set in, and though he doesn't think he was wrong, he isn't so sure he was right, either.
Thankfully, Eiji doesn't ask any questions when Jay comes home in worried silence, instead pulling him close and just holding on. Jay is amazed at how he's able to read him and do just the right thing, but, he supposes, that's the reason why he's thrown away everything he considered to be his life just for this. Not that it was much to throw away-- his father had never been much of a father, and it's clear now that his uncle will never be able to see anything but his father's side of the story. But still, knowing that he has absolutely no family left to him now, that he has no one, really, besides Eiji is a little lonely to think about, and Jay spends the evening curled up in Eiji's arms trying not to do just that.
Luckily, after that, the calls and messages really do stop, and so, for the most part, Jay is able to forget. Work keeps him busy during the day, menial and tedious as it is, and he has Eiji to come home to, a fact which is more than enough to keep him happy. Weeks, months pass, and over time, the sting of Mizuki's words fades, it all becomes less keen. Jay settles back into his life without Mizuki in it, just as he had adjusted when he had first come to Osaka. It wasn't perfect, of course-- sometimes, he'll see a father leading his young son through the park, or one of his coworkers will bring in photos of family, and it stings, a little, even after so long. But for the most part, Jay is able to brush it aside, because he likes this new life that he'd made for himself, he likes making his own happiness rather than wallowing in his father's misery, like he had his whole life before coming to Osaka. There was nothing he could do about the past but ignore it, and so ignore it he does.
But then, almost a year after Jay moved in with Eiji, he comes home from work and dumps his phone on the bed to notice that he had one missed call and voice mail. His phone had been on silent while he was on the train, but, upon closer inspection, the number is Mizuki's, and Jay tenses. After so long, what could Mizuki want? It doesn't make any sense, and he's so tempted just to delete the thing without listening, but he's curious and concerned enough to hit the play button, anyway.
It's a short message, abrupt, and Mizuki's voice is spiked with worry and tension as he speaks: "Jay, please don't ignore this. Your father is in the hospital. Come to Tokyo-- he needs to see you."
When Eiji gets home from running errands half an hour later, he finds a note on the kitchen table that reads "Gone to Tokyo. Don't know when I'll be back. Love you."
The two and a half hour shinkansen ride feels like years to Jay. He'd been lucky enough to get a seat when he bought his ticket for the next available shinkansen towards Tokyo out of Shin Osaka station, but more than anything he feels like pacing the length of the train, because he's more than nervous, he's terrified, and he can't understand why. Hasn't he hated his father for his weakness for years now? Hasn't he blamed his father for chasing Eiji away to Osaka? Hasn't he pushed the man from his life almost completely? So why do his hands tremble when Mizuki messages him to ask if he's almost here yet, why does his heart pound in his chest as he waits for directions to the hospital?
But he doesn't come to any conclusions by the time he finally makes it into Shinagawa station, and after that, he doesn't have time to think, because it's a rush to get there in time, and all that fills his mind is I have to make it, I have to make it, over and over, overpowering everything else. But when he gets to the desk, they take his name and, it feels like forever for them to figure out what room his father is in and who's assigned where, but finally, someone arrives to lead him, filling in the blanks that Mizuki had left in his hurry. Jay doesn't know anything about acute alcohol poisoning, but his stomach lurches at the words anyway, because it sounds bad, and, worse, it sounds like something that's directly Jay's fault. If he'd known his leaving would lead to something like this...
Of course, he'd like to say he wouldn't have gone, but as he follows the nurse down the sterile, white hallway, he comes to the bleak realization that he isn't sure it would have made a difference. It feels like someone's dropped a rock him his stomach, and he has no one to blame but himself, but he doesn't know how to handle the realization. Luckily, he doesn't really have time, either, since the nurse is opening the door and informing him that visiting hours end at nine.
Jay hovers in the doorway for a moment, paralyzed in fear or anxiety or he doesn't even know what, but god. Mizuki and a man that Jay vaguely recognizes as a friend of his father's stand beside the bed, and then at the centre of the room, hooked up to all sorts of machines and looking more pathetic than he ever has before, even to Jay, is Jay's father. He's pale and skinny and sick looking, with bags under his eyes and a frighteningly white hue to his skin, but he's very much alive, and something Jay's never seen before lights up in his eyes when he says Jay.
He opens his mouth to speak, but Jay's there first mostly because he can't control himself. There are tears in his eyes and his legs are trembling as he stumbles into the room, dropping to his knees beside the bed. "Daddy...?" he breathes, voice wavering, and god, he doesn't know what's come over him, after years and years and years of hating this man, but right now, all he wants to do is make things all right.
He can't do that, of course, but when his father reaches out to him, he takes his hand without hesitation, a stray tear breaking loose and rolling down his cheek. "You came," his father rasps hoarsely, a smile spreading across his lips that's weak but somehow possibly the most real expression Jay has ever stopped to really see on his father's face, and in one sharp, painful jolt, he suddenly realizes that maybe he wasn't the only one suffering, maybe, in all of the things that got messed up between him, maybe-- definitely-- he was making his father suffer, too.
The guilt is honestly overwhelming, and before he can do anything about it, he begins to cry in earnest, hunched over his father's beside the way he knows his father's done outside his bedroom door so many times before, and he doesn't hate himself, but he's pretty darn close. Maybe when he's calmer, he'll be able to resolve this in his mind, maybe when he's had time to breathe, he'll be able to reconcile his years of hatred with this newfound love, raw and vulnerable inside of him, but for right now, all he can comprehend is that his father is alive, but no thanks to him.
His body shakes with the strength of his sobs, and he feels wretched and stupid and wrong for the first time in a very long time, but he manages to life his head again, meeting his father's eyes as he manages to choke out, "Dad... I'm so sorry..."
But his father's smile only grows, and despite how frail and sickly he looks, there's something warmer, stronger about him as he shakes his head, squeezing Jay's hand. "No, Jay, it's nothing," he replies quietly, voice a little steadier than earlier, and somehow, in some way, Jay truly believes him when he says, "Everything's going to be okay."