Title: Important Loose Ends
Author: Proverbial Pumpkin
Warning: None, but some slash. (If this bothers you, you are in the wrong ass fandom, my friend.)
Summary: K and Tohma are together, but that doesn't erase some very important loose ends. Their names are Judy and Michael.
Tohma had warned me about extending my late December vacation to meet with my soon-to-be-divorced wife, and after his quiet but exhausting split from Mika-san, I knew he spoke from experience. But Michael, who I hadn't seen in six months, complicated things further and in the end I think my son was the reason Tohma gave me all the time off from NG I needed. "It's alright," he'd said, waving away the form I'd asked him to sign for additional vacation. "This is a family matter. Consider it paid leave. Besides, I know how important the holiday is to your country." I detected the slightest bit of condescension here, but I knew he didn't mean anything by it. "Michael should see his father over Christmas."
I snorted, sitting on the corner of his desk. "Right. One last time before Judy finds him a new father." I snatched a paperweight off his desk and tossed it in the air.
Tohma looked thoughtful for a moment, then laid his pen down and sat back a bit, hands folded across his desk. "K-san." His voice was uncommonly serious, even for him. I put the weight back down next to his paperwork. "I know you and Judy-san have already reached an… agreement, concerning your relationship. But don't… Don't finalize any papers right way. See your son, and speak to her." He trailed off. I watched him consider his own words before he met my eyes again. He was going to let me read between the lines.
He didn't want to be the reason for me doing something I'd regret later.
I had to smile. What can I say? It was always a treat watching Tohma struggle to be selfless when he didn't want to be. "I understand, Tohma. Don't know how I feel about hearing this from you, though. Are you trying to get rid of me?" He rolled his eyes, holding back whatever comeback I knew he had. "Or else maybe," I said, watching him more closely. "Are you having second thoughts about Mika-san yourself?"
"Of course not," he said, bristling and looking back to his work. "This isn't about me. You know very well why I married Mika-san, and why she married me." Yuki Eiri and money. "Our marriage was doomed before the two of us even met. But you and Judy-san are different. You're an actual family."
He was right about that; my split was nowhere near as overdue as Tohma's had been. But this family was thousands of miles away from each other, and after being with Tohma for four months, I knew there was literally no chance of reviving my bedraggled marriage.
Not that I'd put it that way to him. Especially not now, when he was out of his element. All this talk about families and feelings. I stood up off his desk, grinning at him. "Don't take this the wrong way, Tohma, but you're not nearly as cold and heartless as everyone in the world thinks you are."
He glanced at the door quickly. "I'll thank you to lower your voice if you're going to say things like that." He turned back down to his work, scribbling at his paper. I smiled at him for a moment longer, before checking my cell phone. Twelve-fifteen. I had to leave.
"Hey, Tohma," I said above him. "Look here a second."
"What?" Tohma looked up at me and I kissed him. "K-san!"
He pushed his chair back from his desk, looking indignant. I laughed, hoping I looked every ounce as self-satisfied as I was. "Oh come on, Tohma. If I'm going, and you said I could, I'm leaving as soon as possible. Three planes leave between now and tonight, and assuming I'm on one of them, that means I won't see you until after Christmas."
He looked deeply unimpressed.
"And you know how important the holiday is to us Ameri-"
"Oh alright," he snapped, standing up and walking around his desk. He crossed his arms and leaned his hips against the wood behind him. "When are you coming back?" he demanded.
I pulled him closer to me, glad he was bordering on cooperative. His arms were still folded across his chest, but I just had to work on him. "I'll leave the States the day after Christmas. Unless you're going to be a hard ass about it, I figured on coming back to work on the 28th. I'll probably see you then, unless you want me to make a house call the evening I get back." I kissed the top of his head and smiled at him. When he didn't protest with more than a sound of irritation, I trailed down to his ear.
"K-san, someone could walk in," he said, pushing unconvincingly at my chest. Then he stopped, as if he'd just remembered something. "Oh, the 28th is fine. But I won't be here- I'm leaving that morning for a conference in Osaka, remember? I won't be back until the 31st."
"Well damn," I grumbled. "This is going to have to last me even longer than I thought."
"Hm? What's going to have- ah, K-san…"
I left late that afternoon. My head was crammed full of things from the second my plane took off until I finally fell asleep in the San Diego terminal, waiting for a connecting flight. The usual excitement at the prospect of seeing my son was settling in, but it was a sad anticipation. It wasn't like I was giving up rights to ever see him again, but I didn't fool myself.
Michael, Judy, Tohma… Tohma. He knew he was the catalyst for all this, and I think it made him even more nervous than it made me. Oh, Judy and I would have split eventually, and there's no way I would have asked for custody when we had no reason to want Michael raised outside the U.S. No, but Tohma was the reason it was happening now, and there was no point pretending otherwise. I wondered if Judy had any idea; I certainly hadn't told her, but women were tricky about things like that.
I got my answer the first night in America.
It had been a long, long time since I'd put my own son to bed –not since Ryuichi's solo work- and I felt a lump in my throat that night as I closed his door, watching the hall light shrink over his drowsy form. Judy was waiting for me, seated in the kitchen with a cup of coffee. She was in comparatively muted spirits this evening, understandably, and the house was big around her. A small pile of paperwork was set on the table. I sat across from her, massaging my temples.
"We don't have to do this tonight, Claude. I know you're tired," she said. I was still re-adjusting to being spoken to in English.
I waved off her concern. "I'm fine. Besides, I specifically came home today so we could go to the notary tomorrow if we need to. I don't want this hanging over our heads all weekend while Michael's trying to have Christmas." I started rifling through the papers, looking for something I knew what to do with. "I don't want this taking up what little time I have with him." She nodded, I made another pot of coffee, and we went to work.
Have you ever stayed up late after a transcontinental plane ride, arranging the middle stages of a divorce? Thank God we were in on it together and not handling things angrily, over the phone. I couldn't imagine how Tohma did it without getting an ulcer. Judy was scribbling circles to get her pen ink to flow, a little depressed like me but encouraged by the fact that I was here, and the papers were in front of us, and we finally had a sense of direction with the whole thing. "Alright, so I'm going to run through everything again just so we're clear, and we can sign off on it tomorrow. Tell me what the deal is with each."
"Again?" But I nodded, setting my cup down. It was only midnight. Not bad.
"Yours," I said. I looked around us. It was a nice place- Judy was a successful actress after all, and I wasn't exactly small potatoes myself. And she deserved it. It was almost three-quarters paid for and anyway, I'd recently decided on staying in Japan for… well, for a very long time.
"Judy, we've been over all this."
"Come on," she said, poking at my arm with her pen. "I'm not going to be accused of stealing anything while my former husband is off slaving away in Japan trying to make money for our son. Car."
I sighed. "Yours."
She grinned, looking up from her paper. "That ridiculous abacus from Italy with the shrunken heads."
"Mi- what?" I gaped at her. "How- how did you…"
Her hand flew to her mouth. "I knew it," she breathed, papers forgotten for the moment. Her curls whipped above her shoulder as she cocked her head, speechless.
I was nowhere near able to recover in time to pretend she had it all wrong. Of course I'd come home specifically to tell her, but now to find out she knew… I could feel the color drain from my face. In one moment, my evening went from tiring to surreal and terrifying. I sputtered a few moments and she let me.
She looked more bewildered than angry. No yelling, no crying. Just "I knew it," again.
I wondered if she had a relationship or two she hadn't told me about, either. "But how did you know it, Judy?" I asked, trying to remember where we used to keep the Advil.
"Oh, well that was nothing too clever. Ever since you went back to Japan with Sakuma Ryuichi, didn't you realize how much you ranted about Tohma and the way he ran that company?"
She nodded, straightening our papers again. "Even when you said you couldn't stand him, that he was inhumane and deserved to be skewered and roasted on a spit…. Even when you were complaining, you still talked about him more than anyone else you knew. Even your artists took up less of your time. Then about six months ago, I never heard his name at all. Things started going downhill with you and me, and I read on-line that his marriage had ended… I can put two and two together, Claude. Call it reading between the lines."
My jaw hung slack. Thank God Michael would never hear this. "Judy, I… I'm…"
She shook her head, her eyes going sad. "Don't apologize."
I grabbed her hand gently. "Just let me say it." I needed to say it.
"No." She pulled her hand away, but not sharply. All of the sudden she just looked tired. "You must know you weren't the only one."
She gave a humorless laugh. "Remember when you moved, and we said it would never come to this?"
Nevermind that, I wanted to say, who was it? When? But it didn't really matter, and I just watched her.
"What I want to know," she continued, filling in some menial data into a form in black ink, "is why him? I understand he's attractive, and not thousands of miles away from you." She looked up into my eyes, almost disbelievingly. "But this is Seguchi Tohma. You can't actually love each other, can you?"
My son cried when I had to go, five days later. He held my Christmas present to him, a stuffed lion wearing a fireman's hat, against his chest. I could imagine how he must have always felt, watching his father be swallowed up by the rest of the airport whenever I had to go down past security, and Judy held his hand in the lobby. I looked back, and it took every bit of strength I had not to run back to him and just miss my plane. I had no idea how much older he'd be by the time I saw him again. A young couple hurried past me, and Judy gave me an encouraging smile.
I'd given her a picture of Michael and me as we drove over. She'd taken it herself, but it had been in my wallet for over a year. "Give this to him a little later, will you?" I'd asked her. "Frame it or something- just make sure he keeps it." She'd deposited it in her handbag and now she patted the side of her purse, to let me know she wouldn't forget.
I went through security, and half an hour later I was en route to southern California. Two hour layover. I spent it with my elbows on my knees. Sometimes you have to let the feelings give you a headache. Sometimes you have to let it almost make you sick, just so long as it'll make you well again. Judy, Michael, Tohma, Michael…
And from there… home.
A text buzzed in my back pocket as I paid for a coffee in Tokyo International.
'You can't actually love each other,' she'd said.
Bad Luck v. inefficient without you. Hurry back.
Sometimes, you have to read between the lines.
A/N: I wrote this a while ago, and I maintain that K and Judy are both reasonable people who care about each other and probably wouldn't have an explosive break-up. One fateful day it just occurred to me that if I'm going to build up this fantasy world full of K/Tohma love, I maybe should at least address some of the major complications like…you know… the existence of K's five-year-old. So ta-daaaa! I feel kind of rotten for leaving a five-year-old fatherless, though. As always, comment if you're into that kind of thing. See you next time!