It's what Takiji always says. He's always fine, after a fight, when he ends all hurt and bleeding and is on the border of collapsing. He's always fine, when they meet for breakfast, and there are shadows under his eyes, and his hands tremble a bit when he grabs his cup of coffee. He's always fine, like now, when Shigeharu finds him sleeping, of all places, on a bench in the courtyard, with a book on his lap. Would be a cute picture, really, if it weren't because Shigeharu knows Takiji would never fall asleep in the open like this because it isn't safe . Would be something silly to make fun of, later when they talk with Sunao about it, really, if it weren't for the way he suddenly awakes, making the book on his lap drop on the ground while he gasps for air, wearing a terrified expression on his face.
Totally fine. As if.
Shigeharu wants to yell at him to stop saying he's fine when he clearly isn't but he can't say anything to Takiji, because he does the exact same thing. Can't make the kettle call the pot black. He can be subtle about it, though. Maybe he can call the pot gray.
"It's weird seeing you sleeping outside."
Takiji jumps a bit at the sound of Shigeharu's voice. From where Takiji is sitting, Shigeharu is standing at his right, with the bench's armrest placed between them. He sees how Takiji's breath is uneven. How he reacomodates his hood so it hides his face from Shigeharu. How he waits a bit before talking to make sure that his voice isn't trembling. How he puts that facade of his work once again, somehow, even when Shigeharu witnesses the whole act.
"It isn't weird."
Takiji isn't even looking at him. He knows he can't be convincing at lying about how fine he is when he hasn't got rid of the fear showing in his eyes and the trembling all over his body. Shigeharu finds it amazing that his voice actually sounded like he's alright.
He really wants to talk about their nightmare problem. But Shigeharu can't. Since their talk while rescuing Sunao from the corrupted Sunless Street, he's been trying to reach the topic somehow, but he always ends backing out. Because if Shigeharu asks Takiji about it then he has to share his own shit too. The thought of bothering Takiji with his own issues when the man himself has it worse than Shigeharu always stops him from talking. Do they both need to be under the effects of some weird looking gear while delving inside a book to start to be sincere to each other? He sure hopes not.
Lost in thought, Shigeharu looks down to the ground, and sees the book Takiji dropped a moment ago. He picks it up. It’s a collection of Ishikawa Takuboku’s poetry.
He remembers an essay he did about Ishikawa’s poetry. To take back the revolutionary message he clearly left in his latest writings that most of the current interpreters at the time were clearly ignoring. Tsk. Shigeharu feels like checking that one out later, it might need a revision… he sure hopes there is an available copy of that early essay of his in the Library.
Shigeharu remembers another thing too, Takiji is a big fan of Ishikawa’s work. He heard about how in his younger years Takiji was such an avid fan, even his mother was tired of listening to the man’s name and verses. And also how he dedicated some of Ishikawa's works to his lover back in the day.
Takiji’s probably looking for some comfort reading. That gives Shigeharu an idea.
"Can I sit next to you?"
Takiji’s head tilts in his direction. Still without looking at him, Shigeharu notices.
Having his consent, Shigeharu sits next to Takiji and opens the book in some random page.
And starts reading aloud.
“I don't know why
of the cliffs
in my head
tumble down day after day.
What does it feel like
to grow aware of who I am?
Sometimes, as I look-” (1)
Takiji interrupts him. The grip he has on the book tightens. Maybe this is a bad idea. Maybe he should have walked away. Maybe… no. Shigeharu promised he wouldn't leave Takiji alone again. But what if Takiji says he wants to be alone? It's not like he can just impose his company on the other man...
“Can I make a suggestion?”
Oh. Yeah. That. His grip relaxes. Shigeharu just started reading the first one he saw. Of course Takiji had something in mind when he chose this book. He looks at Takiji, who's looking at the book in Shigeharu's hands. Takiji still doesn't look at his face but he knows, somehow, that he isn't hiding from Shigeharu anymore. He can feel Takiji still trembling a bit besides him but the expression on his face is more relaxed. Tiny progress.
His sight goes back towards the book.
“Uhm… which page?"
And to page forty-six he goes. Shigeharu gives a fast look to the poem on that page and… woah. How bold of him. Shigeharu can't help but smile at Takiji's choice. The revolutionary inside him is dying to read this one aloud. Like, these verses could be considered the beginning of how their fight started. But first he needs to confirm if it's the one Takiji has in mind.
"Are you sure you w-"
Didn't even let him finish the question. He really wants it then.
Shigeharu, once again, starts reading aloud.
"We read quite a lot and dispute what we read,
our fiery eyes flashing like the eyes of the youth in 'Russia'
fifty years ago.
We discuss a plan of action
but no one pounds the table with his fist
and shouts 'V Narod!'
We know as a rule what we want
and what people want,
so we know what we ought to do.
We know better than the-" (2)
Shigeharu abruptly stops reading when he feels an extra weight on his shoulder. He can see Takiji's head in his peripheral vision there. Did he fall asleep again?
"Can I stay a bit like this?"
He's awake. Oh dear lord.
Shigeharu, for a few seconds, forgets how to read, how to talk, how to breathe. The only thing his body is able to do right now is feel Takiji's weight against him. How warm it is.
He also feels how Takiji's body is still trembling.
Shigeharu breathes again, swallows hard and answers Takiji's previous question.
"Yes, no problem."
Takiji is, if he’s interpreting this correctly… allowing himself to show a bit of vulnerability to Shigeharu. (“but no one pound the table with his fist”). He can't hide his shaking from Shigeharu this way and Takiji knows that. (“and shouts V Narod!”). This is doing weird things to him. Why!? (“We're young and we're together”). He can hear how hard his heart is pounding in his ears. This is ridiculous. (“always ready to make things new”). What if Takiji can feel it too? (“We… we know that the old will die”). He’s so nervous he almost slips. Come on. This is a simple poetry reading. (“and we will win in the end”). Shigeharu has talked in front of dozens of people before. This is nothing. (“Listen to our burning words”). Why does it feel like a test of endurance then!? (“look at our burning eyes!”). Takiji is only one person, it should be easy. But for heaven's sake! Shigeharu prefers to take hundreds of people any day judging what he's saying in a speech rather than feeling like this . (“but no one pound the table with his fist and shouts V Narod!”)
What is... like this ?
(“Ah, the third candle is lighted!”). Heart pounding hard. (“Gnats are floating in our teacups”). Losing his ability to think after some physical contact. (“One young woman is as passionate as ever”). He’s been having problems controlling his breathing in the last minutes. (“but her eyes are glazed with weariness”). Oh no. (“after an endless argument”). Shigeharu has a hunch about what like this is now.
“but no one pounds the table with his fist and shouts 'V Narod!”
The moment he says the last V Narod Takiji decides that Shigeharu's shoulder has had enough and sits straight again. It feels cold without Takiji's weight in there. As fast as that thought crosses his mind, Shigeharu pushes it back. Might as well be that the thing he’s feeling but… do not think about it now , he tells himself, while playing with the corner of the page he finished reading a moment ago.
Ahh, how is he going to face Takiji from now on?
"It was a nice distraction, thank you."
"I didn’t do much…”
“Don’t underestimate yourself, Shigeharu.”
There he goes again. Takiji always does that. Giving him little praises, little compliments, that are too big for someone like him. But Takiji says them because he’s his comrade and a friend, not because…
Shigeharu feels like crying. To end falling for Takiji after being brought back to life... What kind of cruel joke is this?
“Are you alright?”
Takiji’s voice sounds worried. Probably his thoughts are showing on his face. Great. Shigeharu focuses all his inner strength so he can fake a smile to fool Takiji for a bit longer.
Saying he’s fine when he’s not. How the tables have turned. Whether Takiji bought his fake smile or not, it’s not something he has to worry about. They’ve kept avoiding talking about their issues all this time and they will keep doing it anyways.
Things work this way so it’s all fine.