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The Rock Hopper and the Butterfly (expanded)

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The moment Nagisa lands, he is tackled to the ground by his camera operator Yuu,

crying in delight,

“‘Zuki, that was AWESOME!,” the short brunet crows, wrapping Nagisa in a celebratory hug.

Winded and now lying on the ground, Nagisa catches his breath and hugs his friend back, replying with a huge grin on his face “Yeah ‘Noya, so freakin awesome.”

The duo break apart and roll over to stare up at the sky, adrenaline still raging through their veins.

Pulling his smartphone out of his zippered shoulder pocket, Nagisa snaps a few candids of himself and Yuu for the show’s instagram and lies back, giving his racing heart time to slow back down to normal.

After 10 minutes of this post stunt ritual, a shadow passes above him followed by the precise clipped tone of their location manager Lukas Bondevik,

“Mr Hazuki, Mr Nishinoya, I would just like to remind you that we have exactly 1 hour and 57 minutes to catch the last ferry to Stavanger if we want to make our flight to Oslo,” he tells them from behind his notebook.

Nagisa and Yuu groan half heartedly before scrambling to get up and tripping straight over. They look down at the parachute cords tangled around both of their legs and burst into laughter.

13 minutes later (with the help of time-conscious Lukas) they manage to detangle themselves and unfasten their safety harnesses and parachutes.

57 minutes later (after a quick schedule adjustment by Lukas) they are packing up their equipment and filming Nagisa’s farewells and thank yous to the BASE jump crew at ‘Lysebotn adventures’.

1 hour and 13 minutes later (with Lukas packing their bags to save time), they finish recording the advertising for and are checking out of their hotel on the edge of the Lysefjorden.

1 hour and 28 minutes later they are ahead of schedule and at the ferry terminal.

As a reward for their (frankly- uncharacteristic) efforts to stick to his timetable, Lukas allows the two younger men to interview random tourists while they wait for the ferry.

One picturesque ferry ride and brief car trip later, the three man film crew (unit 3- “Rage on!”) board a small plane bound for Oslo and the final days of filming in Norway.


 

As their plane touches down in the capital, Nagisa reflects on the past three weeks that he and Yuu have spent filming his adventure tourism segment of “A Sight You’ve Never Seen Before” and smiles, already editing the episode in his head.

As he loads his luggage into the taxi, he thinks about the rest of the travel show’s cast and crew he will be reuniting with very shortly- he can’t wait to hear about their adventures around Norway and share his own.

On the ride to the hotel his mind (as it usually does) drifts back to his soulmate and

he wonders how Rei is doing. . .

and he wonders  what Rei is doing

and where Rei is doing whatever Rei is doing,

and who exactly is Rei doing things with?

Why? Why is Rei doing things with other people anyway?!

Nagisa’s thoughts are immediately interrupted by a small shove to his right shoulder.  

“Um ‘Zuki, you’re gonna cut off circulation,” Yuu states, pointing to, but politely averting his gaze from, Nagisa’s bare left wrist currently in the vice like grip of his right hand,

“Shit, I didn’t even. . .” Nagisa trails off, gently rubbing the feeling back into his wrist before bringing the soul-scar up to his lips for a quick peck.

“Whaaaat?” Yuu splutters, covering his face,

“what?” Nagisa asks, genuinely confused,

“y-you kiss your scar?”

“don’t you?”

“well, um, isn’t it a little” Yuu almost whispers, face a little red, “intimate?”

“so?”

“but it’s like, kissing someone in public,”   

“well if you think about it, it actually is kissing someone in public,” Nagisa replies, smiling fondly at his wrist, “this scar is a literal piece of my soulmate, the physical manifestation of our emotional link. . .”

“yeah yeah, I got the talk too, you know,” Yuu cuts him off, tapping his own (covered) wrist meaningfully, “but ‘Zuki, most people wait until they are in an actual relationship with their soulmate before they do,” he blushes furiously, “pda type stuff like that,”

“yeah well, most people don't jump off mountains for their soulmates either ‘Noya, so. . .”

“fair enough,” he pauses before a wide smile brightens his face, “you certainly dance to the beat of your own drum ‘Zuki”

“that’s why you love me”

“really? I’m pretty sure it’s all the free travelling I get to do while filming you doing crazy shit”

Nagisa just laughs as the taxi pulls up outside their hotel.

 

For two years the small cast and crew of Iwatobi Studio’s travel series “A Sight You’ve Never Seen Before”, have been travelling the world, visiting a different country each month.  

The four main segments of the show split into four, three-person units.

The four units filming separately for three weeks in each country, before reuniting on the last two days of on-location filming.

The last two days always being filmed in the capital city.

 

Nagisa playfully hits Yuu with his suitcase, “come on smartass, family reunion time”

 


 

On the elevator ride to their shared hotel suite, Nagisa can barely hold back his excitement, grinning at Lukas (who is finally off his phone), and asks the taller blond,

“have the others arrived?”

“I believe units 1 and 2 arrived last night,” the Norwegian began, reading off his note book,

“Mako and Soul!”

“original flavour and chibi-Haru!” Nagisa and Yuu cheer simultaneously,

“Indeed,” Lukas nods, before continuing, “and unit 4 arrived early this afternoon”

“Kisu and Nana,” Nagisa whooped, high-fiving Yuu, both men excited to reunite with their friends and co-workers, their tv family.

 

Saying goodbye to Lukas as they exit the elevator (on his way to fulfil the final duties of his fixed term contract), the diminutive duo make their way to the suite they will be sharing with their six permanent co-workers.

 

Nagisa and Yuu don’t even bother using their key cards, opting instead to bang loudly on the door,

“open uu-p, we know you’re ho-ome,” Nagisa sings,

“it is us, team awesome,” Yuu adds, striking a superhero pose as the door opens to reveal the hulking form of Makoto Tachibana (presenter unit 1- “Resonance”)

“you’re finally here!” he half shouts, rushing into the hallway to envelope them both in a bear hug, which is both enthusiastically and noisily reciprocated.

A throat is loudly cleared from the doorway as a petite brunette impatiently ushers the three into the central sitting room of the hotel suite,

“team awesome?” asks Haruhi Fujioka (camera operator unit 2- “Free your tastebuds”) tilting their head, “no, the three of us are called team shotacon now,” they stress and point to Nagisa “Pico,” then Yuu, “Chico,” and finally themselves “Coco.”

 

 

In the silence that follows, Makoto covers his face in mortification while Nagisa and Yuu share twin looks of incredulity.

After a solid minute, a duet of depraved laughter explodes from the couches,

“Oh my god,” chokes pink haired Kisumi Shigino (presenter unit 4- “Give it a shot”) shoving his likewise chuckling friend,

“They have no idea…” Soul Evans (camera operator unit 1- “Resonance”) starts, biting his hand in mirth,

“so innocent,”

“so pure,”

“you filthy bastards,” snaps Haruka Nanase (presenter unit 2- “Free your tastebuds”) folding his arms, “I thought I told you to keep Haru-two away from weird internet shit,”

“it’s just a fandom nickname,” says Kisumi defensively, though still shaking with laughter,

“but it’s gross and offensive,” points out Nana Sakurai (camera operator unit 4- “Give it a shot”), “and erases Haruhi’s non-binary status,” she adds indignantly,

“but mainly, it’s gross,” Nagisa reiterates, clutching his chest, “on a deeply spiritual level,”

“amen,” agrees Yuu shuddering in disgust,

“I feel like I’m missing something here,” huffs Haruhi, hands on hips.

 


 

A few hours later, in the central sitting room of their hotel suite Nagisa and Yuu have claimed an entire four seater couch, moved a coffee table in front of it and covered said coffee table in computer equipment.

They are revising the footage they have shot today, making notes for appropriate background music, sound effects they might want to use and recording voice-over variations.

As they are skimming through footage from their BASE jump, Nagisa suddenly stills, pausing the playback.

 

The scene in front of him is tilted and shot from below (like a hurriedly removed helmet camera lying on the ground- his brain supplies).

It shows Nagisa, slumped over on his knees clutching his stomach, his face twisted in unimaginable pain.

Nagisa gasps in shock as realisation dawns.

It’s the moment before the jump.

It’s the moment Rei had an emotional breakdown.

Nagisa has never seen himself in the throes of a ‘soulmate echo’ before, nor has he let anyone else see in years and bile rises in his throat at the sight of it.  

To his right, Yuu lets out an explosive breath, “what the fuck ‘Zuki?” he turns to Nagisa, eyes full of concern, "you never said the echoes were this bad,"

but the blond is shaking, unable to answer, unable to take his eyes off the screen.

In a trance, Nagisa slowly reaches out to rotate the screen and hit play.

The video continues and Nagisa watches in confusion as his on-screen self gasps for air, struggling to get his breathing under control.

He watches in morbid fascination as his on-screen doppelgänger falls back onto his ass and starts rocking back and forth clutching his head- something he hasn’t done in years (or so he thought). He can’t believe what he is seeing.

 

Nagisa remembers pain yes, but surely not this much.

He remembers being out of breath yes, but surely not to the extent of the guy on the video.

Was this the worst echo yet? yes, but surely it couldn’t have been that bad- that- that stranger wearing his face looks like he’s dying!

 

The video is abruptly cut off as the laptop is snapped closed. For a few moments Nagisa just stares blankly at the space where the screen was, (currently occupied by Haruka’s arm), completely oblivious to the world around him.

 

Sound returns to Nagisa’s world in the form of pained sobbing, he follows the sound coming from his immediate right and wonders why his vision is suddenly blurry.

For the second time that day he is tackled by his camera operator Yuu, except this time he is crying in sympathy. Nagisa embraces his best friend tightly, as his own tears begin to fall.

 

Suddenly, the voice of Haruka rings in the air, “You’ve been hiding things from us again,” he states bluntly, from somewhere in front of Nagisa,

“Haru . . .” the voice of Makoto softly warns, close to Nagisa’s head- just before a large warm hand settles on his back, rubbing in slow circles, accompanied by Makoto crooning soothingly.

After a while, Nagisa can feel himself (and Yuu) calming down so he slowly looks up, quickly glancing around the room.

His eyes find a kneeling Haruka, clutching a box of tissues,

“Don’t worry, it’s just me and Mako in here,” he voices quietly, sensing how exposed his friend feels, Nagisa nods in relief before gently disentangling himself from Yuu and Makoto to reach for the box.

Drying their eyes and feeling much better, Nagisa and Yuu sit side by side on the couch as Haruka and Makoto take a seat either side of them.

“Mind telling us what this is about?” Haruka gestures towards the closed laptop,

“it’s the moment before my BASE jump,” Nagisa replies, a little subdued,

“that was a pretty intense panic attack,” Makoto began, “are you sure. . .”

“wasn’t his,” Yuu cuts him off,

“what. . .” Makoto starts, confused, but Haruka cuts in, peering closely at Nagisa’s face,

“it was an echo, wasn’t it,” he prods,  

“yeah,”  

“wait,” Makoto yelps, “your soulmate did that to you? again?”

“again, every two months, same diff,” Nagisa shrugs,

 

“again? something this bad has happened before!?” Yuu demands, glaring at Nagisa,

“every two months?!” Makoto demands, glaring at Nagisa,

Nagisa just stares blankly at the floor,

“you’ve been hiding it this whole time,” Haruka states, crossing his arms, “you should have gone to a doctor like we told you to back then,”

“back then?” Yuu prompts, turning his glare toward Haruka,

“instead of doing his university exams, he convinced us to go skydiving with him and had a major panic attack while we were in the plane,” Haruka explained,

“and at that stage, we’d seen enough Hazuki panic attacks to know that this one was completely wrong,” Makoto added, “once we landed, he was fine so we thought it was just a weird one time thing, we didn’t find out it was an echo until much later,”

“because this lil shit likes to keep things to himself too much,” Haruka huffs,

“that’s rich, coming from you Haru,” Nagisa snarks,

“excuse me?” Haruka bites back, his voice rising, “I may choose to keep my thoughts to myself (and Mako), but do you forget that I was in and out of hospital for the better half of my senior year because of my soul-scar?”

“Haru, that’s enough,” Makoto pleads with his soulmate,

“No,” Haruka half yells, “this bitch thinks he’s the only person to ever go through echo-trauma, you remember. . .”   

“I don’t need a doctor Haru,” Nagisa states defiantly, before he can finish his rant,

“but ‘Gisa,” Makoto tries to reason with the stubborn blond, “you shouldn’t have to put up with painful echoes, you have options, there’s medication. . .”

“No Mako, I’m not taking bond-blockers”

“but. . .”

“the soul-bond is all I have,” Nagisa cuts him off,

“but at what cost?” Makoto asks nodding meaningfully at the closed laptop that started this debate,  

“the soul-bond is all I have,” Nagisa repeats stubbornly.

“you like being in pain?” Haruka accuses,

“how else will I know if Rei needs me?” Nagisa replies in a small voice, “not that it’s even working”

“what?” Haruka and Makoto intone together,

“Adrenaline rush!” Yuu blurts in a jolt of sudden insight, “you time all of our stunts around. . . but this whole time. . .oh ‘Zuki,” he turns to his friend in equal parts admiration and commiseration, “you’re amazingly strong,”

“not amazing or strong enough, it seems,” is all Nagisa replies as he buries his face in his hands, fresh tears welling up,

 

“‘Gisa,” Makoto croons, rushing over to comfort the small blond, “talk to us, please,”

“did you see what it did to me Mako?” he glares at the laptop of doom,

“a little bit, just before Haru closed it,” Makoto tells him,

“it was bad wasn’t it?”

“pretty bad, yeah”

“pretty bad?” Nagisa exclaims, snivelling, “it was the scariest fucking thing I’ve ever seen”

“ok ‘Gisa, scariest thing ever,” Makoto agrees, rubbing his back,

“I mean,” he sniffs, “if I was affected that badly,” he whimpers uncontrollably, “Rei must have been so much worse,” Nagisa wails, clinging to the older brunet, as his body convulses with sobs, “I. can. only. treat the wound,” he heaved brokenly,

“but you can’t stop the source of the pain,” Yuu finished sadly, finally understanding.

Haruka rolls up the sleeve covering his right wrist; he lovingly traces the name ‘Makoto’ made of the topmost layer of scar tissue, before locking eyes with the beautiful man himself and marvelling at his incredible luck.

He walks over to Nagisa and in a rare show of affection, kisses the top of his head before whispering one word to him,

“yet”