pairings: gen; Tohru and Hitomi-centric
warnings: the focus of this fic is PTSD and the treatment thereof. While it’s not described particularly in detail, if that topic is likely to be upsetting to you, please read with caution.
word count: 1,280
author’s note: This is set on January 17th, 2010, five years after the end of Karafuto Ojisan. It follows the timeline of 赤いスイートピー, but is set before it. You don’t necessarily need to read it to understand what’s going on here, but it might answer some questions. Like in 赤いスイートピー, I named Hitomi’s unborn (at the time of the play) child, though he doesn’t play a major part in this fic. Written for the 22nd anniversary of the Hanshin Earthquake in 1995.
summary: Hitomi has never really known how to help Tohru on the anniversary of the earthquake that totally destroyed his life.
January seventeenth is not a good day for Tohru, Hitomi has learned over the past five years. Not that she can blame him— she can’t imagine what it would possibly be like to live through such a horrifying natural disaster as Tohru has, and she knows that he still struggles with the memories (“post-traumatic stress disorder,” the papers Tohru brings home from his therapist say, but Hitomi’s no expert in these things) to this day. While things are certainly better with his mental and physical health than they had been when Hitomi had first met him five years ago, he still has issues and breakdowns weekly, sometimes daily, even if usually in smaller ways than before, and it breaks Hitomi’s heart to see him suffer the way she knows he does. She wants to help, and in the past three years since she’d moved to Kobe and begun to live with him, she’s learned a little, when it’s best to bring him a glass or water, or put a hand on his shoulder, or just keep Ayumu away and give him the space he needs to recover, but it’s been a rough learning curve, and as his current stand-in mother (or perhaps real mother, a little bit, somehow, in some way), it tears her up inside to see him hurt. And while the whole year is bad, January seventeenth is always, without fail, the worst.
Hitomi has never really known how to help Tohru on the anniversary of the earthquake that totally destroyed his life, especially when the news and the world around them are saturated with stories and videos and talk about it, but in three year’s time, what she’s worked out is that it’s best for her and Ayumu to be out of the house so that Tohru can decompress however he needs without having to worry about them seeing him, or worse, being hurt by him. She worries about leaving him behind when he might hurt himself, but she knows that when he really gets into a fit, he’s the only one who can stop himself, and while it’s hard to accept that she really can’t control his feelings, unlike with Ayumu, a hug and kind words can’t fix what’s destroyed Tohru inside for the past fifteen years. And so, when January seventeenth rolls around again, she makes a playdate for Ayumu with one of his friends from preschool and finds a nearby cafe to spend the day reading women’s magazines and keeping a close eye on her phone in case Tohru should need her.
Tohru seems agitated and unwell that morning when she says goodbye and tells him what time she’s planning to get home, which doesn’t help her peace of mind at all, and she feels preoccupied and anxious as she drops off Ayumu at his friend’s house and briefly chitchats with his friend’s mother before heading to the coffee shop. She has a feeling that caffeine isn’t the greatest idea right now, but even the cup of herbal tea that she orders and the inane stories of the stupid magazines she chooses off the coffee shop’s rack aren’t enough to calm her or distract her for more than a few minutes from thoughts of what sort of horrible things Tohru might be going through in her absence. A newspaper in the rack across from her, proudly displaying a huge headline about the fifteenth anniversary of the earthquake, seems as if it’s mocking her, and even playing the mindless phone games that she uses to entertain her during brief gaps in her daily schedule don’t stand a chance against the concern that weighs heavily on her mind and heart.
The time seems to pass at a snail’s pace, and by a half hour to three, when she’d told Tohru she’d return, she feels like she’s going insane. She gets a call around 2:45 from Ayumu’s friend’s mother that Ayumu is welcome to stay for dinner, which, she supposes, reduces the complication of dealing with hiding her feelings from him, but it also takes away the activity with which she had planned to fill the impossible last minutes of the time before she could go home, which now feels unbearable.
She ends up leaving the coffee shop early with the excuse that she’ll go the long way home for exercise, but something in her subconscious clearly can’t deal with the uncertainty for even a moment longer than necessary, because somehow, she arrives home in record time, and almost ten minutes early, all the same. But as she approaches the factory, she’s suddenly filled with a sense of dread, because who knows what state Tohru will be in when she arrives? Will he be angry, upset, having a breakdown? Or what if he’s hurt, what if he needs help and she wasn’t there? The various possibilities swim around her mind in an unpleasant whirlpool of anxiety, but Hitomi has never been one to beat around the bush or put off things that need to be faced head-on, and so, with a deep breath, she opens the door.
After all her visions of worst-case scenarios, Hitomi braces herself for the worst as she calls “I’m home!” into the factory, but to her surprise, no sound comes in response, no “welcome back,” no faint sound of tears, no screaming, no crashing, nothing. She blinks and steps inside, closing the door behind her and looking around the factory, but Tohru is nowhere to be seen. It’s a little worrying— or perhaps a lot worrying considering the situation, but Hitomi does her best not to let herself panic, especially not when it comes to Tohru— but before she can get too far ahead of herself, she notices a piece of note paper sitting out on the desk.
Upon closer inspection, it’s a note written in Tohru’s scribbled handwriting on the back of a scrap of paper that Hitomi had used last week as a shopping list and then never thrown out: Gone to the doctor’s. I’ll bring home dinner. The handwriting is barely legible and the message is as short as possible, but Hitomi can feel tears prickling at her eyes and a warmth spreading through her chest as she reads the words. She knows that “doctor” is Tohru’s way of saying “therapist,” but while the terminology is vague, the message isn’t. It had taken months for Hitomi to even talk Tohru isn’t seeing a therapist at all for his anxiety and depression and survivor guilt left over from the earthquake, and even once he’d gone, it had taken Tohru years to verbally acknowledge it, even in euphemism. For him to not only take the initiative to go, to get help at a time when he was struggling, but also to inform her directly felt like leaps and bounds from where they’d been when they’d first met five years ago, or even when Hitomi had first moved in three years ago, and Hitomi can barely control all of the warm and positive feelings threatening to overwhelm her.
But then again, Hitomi has never one to become useless in the face of a few emotions or to hide the way she’s feeling, and so, once she wipes her eyes, pulls out her phone to send off a reply mail to Tohru: Looking forward to dinner. Be careful on your way home. Love you.