title: trading tomorrows
pairing: Seizawa/Naruse (Maou)
word count: 2,969
author's note: Based on this image and commentary on tumblr. Also, because Naruse and Serizawa both deserve a better end ♥ Title and quote from Janis Joplin's "Me and Bobby McGee." Spoilers for the end of the show.
summary: They run away together, the two of them.
They run away together, the two of them.
It's not easy, not for a variety of reasons. Once Serizawa wrestles the gun from Naruse, there's a moment of what now, because they've been struggling and struggling against one another and suddenly, here they are at the end of the fight and there's nothing. No winner, no loser. No answer. Just Serizawa Naoto and Manaka Tomoo-come-Naruse Ryou. They've come all this way to this climactic moment, but in the real world there is no "the end" and while neither of them have thought that far, it's suddenly screamingly obvious in a mindblowing way. Where they go next is suddenly no longer obvious, and so they're frozen, as if waiting for some direction, for the next cue to become obvious. --but really, it is obvious, because Naruse is bleeding out moment by moment, and it's probably a good thing Serizawa notices and oh god oh god oh fuck oh god he panics before grabbing Naruse by the hand and pulling him towards the nearest train station, and Naruse can't refuse because he doesn't have a plan after this. His entire life has culminated in five minutes ago and he's stumped. What now? What next?
They're at the hospital before he realizes what's going on, but before he can protest, Serizawa is telling them no, he doesn't know this man's name, he saw him injured on the street, and yes, he's willing to pay if there's no health insurance, yes, yes, yes, just get him fixed up, and then they're taking Naruse away to get stitches for an injury that he wasn't planning on living long enough to see healed. Serizawa comes along, as far as they'll let him, that look of determination on his face, as if he can single-handedly figure everything out, as if he can single-handedly fix everything...
They put him under anesthesia to give him stitches, more than fifty of them in his tummy, just like that. When he wakes up, Serizawa is there, holding his hand as if somehow that would help, because Serizawa has always thought that way, always behaved as if by the sheer power of his heart and his will he can change anything, everything. It's infuriating and inspiring and utterly confusing all at once to Naruse, but before he can think too long and hard on that, some part of his mind reminds him that the present is going on around him and as if Serizawa wants to help is a more pertinant question. Because there Serizawa is at the end of it all (not the end, clearly, the middle, the intermission, the beginning--), and in his just post-surgery drugged stupor, he squints at Serizawa and asks why, why. Why has Serizawa saved him when he has targeted Serizawa, when he's murdered Serizawa's closest friends, when he's caused the death of Serizawa's family. Why when undoubtedly Serizawa has been fighting with his own demons, and it should be just as easy for him to blame it all on Naruse as it was for Naruse to blame it all on Serizawa.
He doesn't know what he was expecting-- clearly, his expectations have all been off, so off, because here they are now and he doesn't know what's next, doesn't know anything--but what he isn't expecting are the tears that roll down Serizawa's cheeks silently as his fingers squeeze tighter around Naruse's and he chokes on apology after apology after apology. His voice is tight and cracking as if he were that middle school boy again, stripped of everything he's built himself up to be, and his eyes are mournful looking down at the ground, as if he can't bring himself to look Naruse in the eye, and he just looks so pathetic that Naruse doesn't know what to do. He's striven years to humble the great Serizawa Naoto, but somehow, in losing, he's accomplished more and so much less at the same time. Because how can he hate this? How can he hate this man who's never been anything but completely earnest, whose body shows an honesty that Naruse has never known, who's sobbing apologies to Naruse for something that wasn't ever his fault in the first place? How can he do anything but fall apart himself, and then suddenly Naruse is the one grasping Serizawa's hand and Naruse is the one with tears running down his cheeks, and then suddenly he and Serizawa are one and the same, boys with feelings, boys who have been frightened and hurt and beaten down lower and lower and lower until they don't know where else to go.
There's nowhere else to go but up.
They know they have to get out of there before the consequences of their actions catch up to them (Naruse's consequences, Naruse's actions, but Serizawa always phrases it as if it's both of theirs, as if they've become one now-- or perhaps they always have been) and so Naruse discharges himself after another day despite the protests of the doctors and the searing pain that cuts through his stomach any time he moves. He's strong enough-- he deserves the pain-- there are excuses, but when he starts to lag behind, Serizawa carries him, and Naruse doesn't have it in him to protest. I deserve to carry a bit of the burden he says with a laugh-- since the time in the hospital, he's tried desperately hard to make light of the issue, to make Naruse smile, and despite the fact that he wants to say you've carried too much already, Naruse obliges him. Smiling feels strange when there's no real purpose, but then, there's no real purpose to any of this, really. He's not even sure why he's going along with Serizawa's half-baked escape plan at all, but he is, all the same.
And it's half-baked, to be certain. They have no way to access any of Naruse's money without calling attention to themselves, and so Serizawa withdraws what he can from his brother's bank account before they head for the coast. We'll get on a boat and go somewhere, Serizawa informs Naruse, and Naruse isn't sure what to make of that, but he's hardly in a position to argue, slung across Serizawa's back, Serizawa's arms tucked neatly under his thights, his arms looped around Serizawa's neck. Human contact is bizarre after so long, but at the same time, they fit together, somehow. Not perhaps as if they were meant to, but then again, perhaps they are, perhaps it's God's will... if there is or ever was a God. At any rate, Naruse thinks, the Christian way of thinking about this would be that it was all some sort of test given to them by God, but then, he's forced to ponder if he passed, if he's done the right thing...
But there's not much time to think about that, because sure enough, they get to Tokyo bay and then they get on a boat, just as Serizawa has promised. There are lots of boats, of course, and Serizawa surveys them uncertainly before instructing Naruse to wait and disappearing into the sea of people like soon they hope to disappear into the sea...
What is to come after is uncertain, though, and left to his own devices, the hesitance catches up with Naruse, starts in his stomach and crawls up through his chest to his throat where it clutches tight, choking him as his heart pounds in his chest. He's surrounded by people, so many people, and he doesn't have a mask to hide behind, doesn't have a plan. He doesn't have anything anymore, really, because before planning and preparing had been everything, every fibre of his being striving towards one end goal, an end goal that has now come and past. Perhaps it's a delayed reaction or perhaps this is the first moment that he's really been alone to think about it, but the panic begins to cloud his vision and all he can think is what am I doing, what am I doing--
But then there Seirzawa is in front of him, that stupid smile on his face, his hand outstretched to Naruse, and suddenly, it's all gone. The panic, the hesitation, the fear-- it all vanishes, and all that's left is Naruse and Serizawa and the future that's awaiting them, uncertain as it is. Ready to go? asks Serizawa, so earnest in his expression, his tone, his entire being. And, Naruse realizes, he is ready, he's more than ready, and perhaps he aways has been. This whole time that Serizawa has been his goal, his target, his reason for planning and preparing, perhaps all he's ever needed is that outstretched hand. Serizawa has been his reason for living for so long now, but what he's shocked to find is that, after everything, after all the hatred and the killing and the tears, that hasn't changed. It hasn't changed at all, only after so long of hiding, it's ironic that he doesn't feel secure when he's not by Serizawa's side...
But maybe too much thinking really isn't good for him, and so he takes Serizawa's hand and they're off together, tagging along on a cargo ship to Okinawa. Naruse feels utterly useless as he watches Serizawa help load crates, repayment, he supposes, for their ride. He used to be charismatic, he thinks, he used to be able to smile at people and win them over just like that, but the charisma is gone with the disguises he's shed to be here, and he doesn't know if he could compete with the sheer honesty of everything Serizawa does, anyway.
And anyway, soon enough, it's just the two of them again, leaning against the wall in an empty cargo bay. They don't have beds, don't have blankets, don't have anything really, but they're practically stowaways, and they're lucky there was room for them at all. It's a world away from Naruse's Tokyo penthouse, but Naruse is a world away from the person who lived there, anyway, and so he doesn't think on it, leaning against the wall beside Serizawa, close enough that their sleeves are just barely touching.
The silence isn't uncomfortable, but after a few minutes or maybe a few hours, Naruse sighs, running a well-manicured hand through his hair. Why are we doing this? he ponders aloud, not because he's expecting an answer but because it still seems utterly strange to him that he's right here right now.
But Serizawa laughs at that, somehow, it seems, in the past day, Serizawa has been happy about everything, and Naruse doesn't really understand. It's clear, really, that he's never understood Serizawa, because where Naruse has been unyielding, Serizawa has always forgiven, where Naruse has taken, Serizawa has always been willing to give.
Humming softly, Serizawa turns his head to smile at Naruse directly, to look him in the eye. ...birds fly over the rainbow, why can't we? he says, like he's completely serious, but a quirk upwards at the corner of his mouth betrays him, even as he takes Naruse's hand in his own.
And Naruse can't help but laugh at that. He laughs and laughs and laughs, fingers intertwined with Serizawa's, and it doesn't feel bizarre or strange at all.
They open a little bar in Okinawa together. Or rather, that's the culmination of their efforts; at first, they barely manage to find a place to stay and end up renting the tiniest studio apartment that Naruse has ever seen with the money from Serizawa's brother's account. They sleep on the floor because they don't have the money to do anything else, and Serizawa works 3 part-time jobs in order to feed them. It's rough for the first month or so, and Naruse wants desperately to work, to do something, but you're injured Serizawa says, and in the end, he's right. The effort of their escape hasn't been good on Naruse's stomach wound, and he's pratically bed ridden for weeks, left to the mercy of Serizawa's attentions as he feeds Naruse instant ramen and cheap microwave curry in between his job at the convenience store in the mornings and his construction job in the evenings. He waits tables on weekends, and those days, the food is best; it's cold, but the leftover American food from the diner near the navy base is better in quality than freeze-dried noodles from a vending machine.
At first, Naruse hates being an invalid, but somehow, after day after day of Serizawa waiting on him, somehow, some part of him starts to like it. Perhaps this is the best revenge, he would joke if he wasn't terrified of touching on the subject, but in the end, it isn't the food and the help that he likes. Serizawa smiles at him when he comes home, calls I'm back! so that Naruse can reply with a quiet, welcome home, chatters as he microwaves the ramen, as he sits on the floor beside the shabby futon he managed to save up for in which Naruse spends his days. It's stupid and average and everyday, but yet, Naruse has never had this sort of routine in his life, never had domesticity or companionship, and after years and years of honing every aspect of his life to a single goal, he likes the aimlessness of it. He likes floating forwards towards some unseen future with Serizawa, whether he wants to admit it or not.
But really, he's had no problem admitting it, he puts up no resistance to this new normal. Perhaps he really has died after the knifing, perhaps Manaka Tomoo really has been put to rest and left behind, back in that Tokyo alley. He doesn't know if it should be, but each day, it gets easier to smile as Serizawa walks in the door, looking tired but content all the same, each day, it gets easier to say how was work, how was your day as if they hadn't been wrestling over a gun only a month earlier. But a month becomes two, becomes three, becomes half a year, and soon, the red envelopes and tarot cards and enigmatic messages are more like a bad dream than reality, because reality is what's for dinner and a funny thing happened at work today and now that the weather's warmer, we should go out to the beach together, one of these days...
When Naruse's stomach finally heals, he gets a receptionist job at a local dentist's office, and Serizawa drops his construction job. It seems awfully mundane when he has a law degree, but he somehow feels a strange sense of triumph when he looks at their account and sees enough to buy a futon for the two of them, to buy a real set of pots and pans for the kitchen, to eat more than five-hundred yen worth of dinner each evening. The little things have never even registered before, but seeing Serizawa smile as they pick out their new refrigerator is somehow stupidly pleasing in a way Naruse doesn't really understand. At night, they lay side-by-side on their discount double futon; Naruse curls into Serizawa when Serizawa pulls him closer, and the sensation is natural despite how foreign it is, despite how it should be against everything Naruse has built himself up to be. He doesn't remember the last time he had real human contact. He doesn't understand the feeling that curls in chest either, warm and sweeping as it is, but he decides that he likes it.
Two years in, finally, they manage to buy a little place on the beach-- a shack, really, at first, but Serizawa cleans it up while Naruse puts together advertising and a small menu. They play American music from a tinny little radio on the shelf and serve American beer, and despite the fact that really, they're in an oversaturated market, there are always Americans looking for something familiar in a foreign place. Neither of them speak very good English, but they make it work; Naruse has the schooling and Serizawa has the determination, and their little place thrives in its own right, they thrive in this unexpected place.
The time goes by alarmingly fast, and it's only after another year that Naruse realizes: it's because he's happy. After a life of purpose, a life of hard work and ceasless effort, this simple, pointless existance is the best thing that's happened to him.
But Ryou, Serizawa will say on any given evening, glancing down the bar at him, to Naruse's normal place behind the cash register, will you pass me the tequila? And dutifully, Naruse hands it to him, a small smile on his lips; even now, he isn't the most extroverted, but of course, Serizawa understands. As Serizawa accepts the bottle, his hand brushes against Naruse's, and thanks he responds quietly, his eyes meeting Naruse's for just a moment before he turns back to the customers. It's taken Naruse a long time to realize what the look meant; it's taken even longer for him to get used to the fact that Serizawa would so easily and so readily want to express affection for Naruse. But when they get home, he knows, I love you Serizawa will say, unabashedly, like Serizawa always has been, and, Naruse has realized, he never wants it any differently.
But for now, he returns to the register, making change when Serizawa-- Naoto-- hands him bills and serving drinks whe things get busy. Sometimes, when he loses track of himself, he hums along with the radio, too, the same old American songs playing day after day. It's so entirely different than his life ever was before, living together with someone this way, so mundane and boring and stupid, but...
"...freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose..."