The Kintsugi Club and Other Stories [08/28/2019]

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Craftyatom
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Re: Ekephrasis and Other Stories [08/14/2019]

Post by Craftyatom » Thu Aug 15, 2019 2:09 am

Craftyatom wrote:
Fri Jul 06, 2018 2:31 am
I'm not really the crying type
It's still true. But this time, it didn't matter.

Absolutely brilliant. The characters work well, including Kaiko, who is from the very beginning just too sweet without being, well, too sweet. Hisao and Rika's relationship seems organic, which is easy when things are happy, but much harder when things get tough. In fact, that transition, I think, was what really made the story work. The opening is overwhelmingly saccharine and idyllic, but things don't swing over to hellacious and violent. They just kind of... stop. Rika closes herself off from people. Time feels like it takes forever to pass, and yet, a week is gone in the blink of an eye. Her relationship with Hisao isn't hurt, just... frozen. That was the most chillingly realistic part, in my opinion: the happy parts and the scary parts (and the explicitly sad parts) are lived through, but when things get depressing, one hardly lives at all.

I was worried, at the beginning, that you'd swing too hard, but you got it just right. I personally tend to think of long, drawn-out depressive stages as a standard for fics, and I probably would've spent far more time on those aspects, but the way you handled it was both realistic and succinct. The only real issue I had was the humor early on: the first few humorous lines (language of smiles) didn't really feel right to me, despite a decent atmosphere for them. Once Hisao came into the picture, though, I think the humor worked better. Just my personal taste.
Mirage_GSM wrote:
Wed Aug 14, 2019 6:14 pm
And is she going to tell him something different?
I think it might be in reference to some thoughts a few paragraphs earlier about the next step in their relationahip.
Feurox wrote:
Wed Aug 14, 2019 2:51 pm
I strongly recommend listening to Dan Smith's 'When All Our Friends Are Dead' , it accompanies this story very well.
A good piece, and fitting, though not exactly what I had in mind. But I won't turn this into a "sorrowful yet tragically uplifting music suggestions" thread.

Excellent work, brilliant piece, absolutely fantastic. I hope I'll remember this one for a long time to come.
Main route: COM(promise)
One-shots: Crafty's One-Shots (Brief Exchanges, Dark Winter Sky, Dreamy, Project Blue Curtain, and more!)
Old poetry: Google Drive Collection

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Feurox
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Location: England, Oxfordshire

Re: Ekephrasis and Other Stories [08/14/2019]

Post by Feurox » Thu Aug 15, 2019 6:50 am

Okay, I wrote all this out once before. Then I accidentally exited out of the window....
Lap wrote:
Wed Aug 14, 2019 4:12 pm
So I stop to take a break from my labors and see, Hey! A new story from Feroux! Hurrah! Good way to take a break.

...uh...

Sure, just rip my heart out and stomp on it a few more times, why don't you.

Brilliantly done, and a wonderful set of new characters. Thank you for this story.
Thank you so much for the kind words, and the high praise. I hope this story resonated with you. I'm glad that for once, you didn't have to go over this story a million times with me during proofreading, please, if at all possible, consider this story a small token of my thanks for the wonderful help you give me. Your writing inspired me to give Gravity another crack, and your help is always, eternally appreciated.

...Feroux…

Am I a joke to you?
Mirage_GSM wrote:
Wed Aug 14, 2019 6:14 pm
That was a beautiful story! It has been quite some time since a story has made me cry, but this one managed to do so, even though I saw the twist coming a while in advance.
Thank you for writing it!
Again, thank you from the bottom of my heart. To hear that this story was able to affect you, and even elicit a few tears, it truly humbles me. I have of course amended the problems you brought to my attention, and i hope they did not detract from the experience too much, nor, I hope, did the predictability.
Scroff wrote:
Wed Aug 14, 2019 7:24 pm
Thank-you so much Feurox, an amazing story and an incredibly generous dedication. Its immense personal significance, which you were completely unaware of, makes the dedication even more poignant.
Had either of us known from the start, that a silly little joke about having a story in you name, would become so poignant and meaningful to either of us, I think I would have taken that initial dedication more seriously. I hope you're happy with the ways in which I have changed it now.

You honour me with your praise, your friendship, and your honesty. Please know, that whilst this story has elicited tears from our community, it was composed through blury eyes itself, and your response to this story, it's importance to you, has made those tears that of contentment. You truly humble me. Thank you.
Craftyatom wrote:
Thu Aug 15, 2019 2:09 am
Craftyatom wrote:
Fri Jul 06, 2018 2:31 am
I'm not really the crying type
It's still true. But this time, it didn't matter.

Absolutely brilliant. The characters work well, including Kaiko, who is from the very beginning just too sweet without being, well, too sweet. Hisao and Rika's relationship seems organic, which is easy when things are happy, but much harder when things get tough. In fact, that transition, I think, was what really made the story work. The opening is overwhelmingly saccharine and idyllic, but things don't swing over to hellacious and violent. They just kind of... stop. Rika closes herself off from people. Time feels like it takes forever to pass, and yet, a week is gone in the blink of an eye. Her relationship with Hisao isn't hurt, just... frozen. That was the most chillingly realistic part, in my opinion: the happy parts and the scary parts (and the explicitly sad parts) are lived through, but when things get depressing, one hardly lives at all.

I was worried, at the beginning, that you'd swing too hard, but you got it just right. I personally tend to think of long, drawn-out depressive stages as a standard for fics, and I probably would've spent far more time on those aspects, but the way you handled it was both realistic and succinct. The only real issue I had was the humor early on: the first few humorous lines (language of smiles) didn't really feel right to me, despite a decent atmosphere for them. Once Hisao came into the picture, though, I think the humor worked better. Just my personal taste.
Before I continue accepting and cherishing the wonderful feedback this story has wrought, I would like to make one thing very clear. I now consider it a personal victory, that a story of my composition was able to bring so many of our community to tears. Four that I know of. Thank you for saying that Crafty. It means a lot.

Anyway, that is a wonderfully thoughtful analysis of this story. This entire story was written and published with 24 hours, and whilst I wouldn't normally encourage that kind of behaviour, it is clear that I made the right decision in listening to my heart on this one.

The majority of that time was spent on the relatively shorter sections, the times following the storm. I thought very hard about how each mini-section should end, about how Rika would be thinking, about how it affected her relationships, her life. I'm just so immensly relieved that you think I did it justice. I'm also hugely grateful to hear that I put the correct power and timing behind my swing, though, I do worry that it was too predictable. I'm sorry that the first part didn't resonate with you, I'll likely tidy it up a bit, but I'm glad it was able to hook you eventually.
Craftyatom wrote:
Thu Aug 15, 2019 2:09 am
Feurox wrote:
Wed Aug 14, 2019 2:51 pm
I strongly recommend listening to Dan Smith's 'When All Our Friends Are Dead' , it accompanies this story very well.
A good piece, and fitting, though not exactly what I had in mind. But I won't turn this into a "sorrowful yet tragically uplifting music suggestions" thread.

Excellent work, brilliant piece, absolutely fantastic. I hope I'll remember this one for a long time to come.
I am actually deeply interested in hearing what kind of music you think fits well to this story! So please do share. There are three other pieces that I think fit the story brilliantly, and i'll link them below:

Florence and the Machine, 'Never Let Me Go' (Unplugged)
Greg Laswell 'Off I Go'
Ralph and Dan, 'Electric Head'

All of these capture the feeling I was shooting for I beleive, but I settled on my initital recomendation, because I felt it aslo captured the energy of the story well, the slows, the sudden highs, then the sink and the rise.

Thank you so much Crafty, and thank you so much everyone.

Hanako Fancopter
Posts: 242
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Re: Requiem for a Heart Song and Other Stories [08/14/2019]

Post by Hanako Fancopter » Thu Aug 15, 2019 6:43 pm

That was a very nice story. As Crafty said, sugar levels were high all around. Nothing wrong with an earnest and sweet story sometimes.

you can leave the other type of stories to me
An Unusual Friendship (Misha x Hanako Route)
Riposte (Rika Mini-Route)
One-Shots Thread (Random Smut/Meme Stories)

NuclearStudent
Posts: 39
Joined: Tue Jul 09, 2019 3:05 am

Re: Requiem for a Heart Song and Other Stories [08/14/2019]

Post by NuclearStudent » Fri Aug 16, 2019 3:19 am

Unfortunately, before reading this, I got completely spoiled from the discord that the little girl would be attrit. This probably strongly biased my emotional reactions. The following are live notes.
Hisao begins to read from… uh… After the dream. It’s some story about multiple timelines interacting with one another, from the sound of it, it’s very interesting.
you motherfucker
"...It reminds me of how we first got together, when I was feeling depressed at the festival. You were very… insistent.”
That’s a pleasant memory. After we spent the day together, he started joining me for lunch with my friends, and then I joined him a few times, with his friends, Suzu and Takeshi. About a month later he confessed to me, and we shared our first kiss.


A sweet moment indeed. A minor change like "After I insisted that we spend the day together" or "After I dragged him around me the whole day" might help the conversation to flow even more smoothly.
But there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.
This is a well used phrase. It was once venerable and esteemed, and oft serves as a familiar visual metaphor. That said, this phrase is better retired due to overuse.
The last thing I see is Kaiko’s eyes.
I really like reading this whole scene. Hype tense action.

>Her beautiful, horrified eyes.

A favourite line of mine. I like how the repetition gives it that extra emotional resonance.

>“Hey beautiful girl.”

>Kaiko’s face brightens up as I enter the room.

And here we are back again. Kaiko not dead, given a temporary dawnlight reprieve. I like the transition into this scene, as well as the continuity of repeating the word "beautiful" from the end of the last scene.
He told me that they’re planning to go ahead with the operation, and with any luck, she’ll still be able to leave the hospital soon.
Ohoho, I like this. I'm drawn into this whole sequence of comforting Kaiko.
I remember telling Hisao, people like us don’t really die in hospitals.
Ohoho.
“Rika…” I can barely hear her voice, it’s so quiet. “I’m still scared.”
Ohohohohohohohoho

I'm not going to keep quoting things because I'm ohohooing or feeling other emotions through this. This will probably be my favourite sequence.

[I read through to the end of the story, engrossed, not stopping to take notes.]

____

Overall Remarks, First Read

This is the most enjoyable non-meme oneshot on this forum that I've read. The midsection of Keiko collapsing and Rika comforting her was the point where I really got engaged into the story.

I'll read it again while listening to the song.

Remarks, Second Read

I really don't like this song. Not the singer or the lyrics. To me he sounds like he's giving the sky an ineffectual blowjob. I broke my promise and turned the music off. I found the reread unnecessary. It's lucid enough to be understand perfectly fine the first time through, and I don't think there are any hidden details to remark upon.

Something I missed on the first time through:

>Yeah, I’m nearly ready to tell him.

What does this line mean?

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Feurox
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Re: Requiem for a Heart Song and Other Stories [08/14/2019]

Post by Feurox » Wed Aug 28, 2019 2:51 pm

Thank you Nuke. Thank you Hanako Fancopter. Your kind remarks mean a lot to me. I'm glad you enjoyed this story.

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Feurox
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Location: England, Oxfordshire

Time is Dancing [08/28/2019]

Post by Feurox » Wed Aug 28, 2019 2:54 pm

Time is Dancing

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Come on Suzu, you need to try.”

“I don’t want to talk about it,” I repeat.

Dad sits in his arm-chair, clearly frustrated, but he struggles to calm down and gives me a sympathetic smile. Mom is sitting beside me, gently rubbing my head.

“If you don’t talk about it, we can’t help you,” she says, though her voice is barely above a whisper. She sounds upset, but not at me, as if she’s upset with the world.

“You do want to get better, don’t you Suzu?” Dad asks. I can’t really read his expression, I’ve never seen him look like this before, like he’s breaking from the inside out.

I turn towards Mom; she’s giving me the same look.

“I’m really hungry,” I finally say.

They sigh. I feel so helpless when they sigh like that. I know they’re just trying to help me.

Mom gets up from the sofa, and the warmth of her hand on my head leaves with her. She disappears into the kitchen, and I think I hear her stifle a whimper. I settle myself into the armrest. I’m hoping I’ll be able to get some sleep, but I haven’t been getting much of that lately. Dad is still looking at me with a concerned expression.

“Do you want to go out for dinner? We could eat at that noodle place you used to go to with your friends,” he asks, trying to smile despite the oppressive atmosphere I’m causing.

“Not really, I’m comfortable,” I lie. This sofa is old, and the cushions don’t really do it for me anymore, but Dad seems to buy my excuse anyway.

“Okay, well, how about we order something in?”

“I think I’d like some of Mom’s cooking.”

He thinks on that for a moment, but his smile seems just a little brighter than before. He’s probably just glad I’m talking.

“Okay, well l think we can arrange that easily enough.” He gets up from the armchair and pokes his head into the kitchen. I see his face go from relaxed, to concerned, to a strained, solemn look. He whispers something I don’t catch to Mom, but the tone is apologetic.

Then he raises his voice. “Our child requires sustenance immediately; shall we prepare the toad and worm stew for her?” He takes a sidelong glance towards me, to see if I’m laughing, I think. I try to give him a smile, but I don’t know how to anymore.

Dad’s a trooper though, he doesn’t let my mood faze him, and he laughs.

“Apparently, we’re out of toad, so your mother would like to know if chicken is an acceptable replacement.”

I try and smile again. I can do all the actions involved in one, but it doesn’t feel right, like the pieces don’t fit together.

“Chicken sounds nice. Thanks, Dad. Thanks, Mom.”

He smiles, and pokes his head into the kitchen again. “Chicken is an acceptable replacement, but she expects frog and worm stew for dinner tomorrow.” He says, and I hear my mother giggle. Even though it sounds anxious and strained, I feel a bit better for hearing it.

“I thought she wanted toad?” she asks, and now Dad is the one chuckling.

“What’s the difference?” He passes the threshold into the kitchen, and the chuckling continues for a few more seconds, before their voices disappear into hushed whispers that I can’t make out.

I close my eyes, trying to block out what little I can hear of their conversation. I know they’re talking about me. I know they want to fix their little girl. I know they’ve only ever wanted what’s best for me. But I don’t know if they can help me with this, I don’t know if anyone can.

I can’t hear them anymore.

I must endure. I must stay strong. Only one person can help.

And he’s gone, and he took so much of me with him.

“Suzu, wake up sweetie.”

I open my eyes. The room is painted in a different colour. The orange sun has set, and the white light of the bulb’s glow is above me now, filling the room with artificial day.

“I thought you were hungry?” I nod and wipe my eyes; I must have been crying in my sleep. I don’t feel very recharged.

Mom helps me to my feet, I don’t think I need the help but she pulls me up anyway, and we sit down at the dining table.

We don’t normally talk much when we eat, but this time the silence feels uncomfortably quiet. I was expecting Dad to try and make me laugh, but when Mom sets down the various bowls of vegetables, rice, and chicken, he just watches me. I thought he’d at least comment on how toad would be better or something, but he doesn’t.

They’re waiting for me to help myself, so I do. I feel like a stranger in my own home.

We eat in complete silence, and Mom doesn’t ask me to do the washing up like she usually does. It was nice to have a home cooked meal after so many times eating at the cafeteria, but even though the food tastes great, it doesn’t really feel like home.

I wonder if anything will ever feel the same again.

After everything is put away and washed up, Mom and I sit back down on the sofa. I lie down and place my head on her lap. She starts rubbing my hair.

There’s something on the TV, but I’m not really watching it. Dad seems interested enough, but he keeps glancing back at me, trying to be stealthy and failing.

After about an hour of nothing really happening, nothing really being said, Dad sighs and turns off the TV. He stands up in front of me, looking frustrated again, and Mom tenses up.

“Akio…”

“No, I’m sorry, but this isn’t fair to us,” he says, and I sit up into the corner of the sofa. I can feel my heart sinking as his voice rises. “She just calls us up in this condition and we’re meant to shrug it off?”

“Akio, I don’t think this is the –“

“So, what, we’re meant to just pretend everything’s okay?” he asks Mom angrily.

I can’t breathe.

“No, but we can’t force her to tell us.” Mom stands up now, and her tone has gotten considerably angrier too. “You know what happens when she gets too emotional.”

She’s talking about my cataplexy, but, but, it’s not about that, Mom…

“I…” I try to say, but I can’t find any of the words I desperately need right now.

“She’s already emotional! She was crying in her sleep, for God’s sake!”

“And you think this is helping?” Mom replies, her tone matching Dad’s in anger and volume now.

“I, I just…” Tears are stinging my cheeks now. Coming home was a bad Idea, but I haven’t got any good ones left.

“Well, you might be happy to sit and watch our daughter fall apart, but I certainly am not.” He looks at me now, half angry, half sad.

“I’m not happy either but what am I supposed to – “

“I miss him.” They both look at me, surprised I’ve even said anything after so long. The room suddenly feels so cold, and everything is so, so blurry.

“I miss him, so, so much.”

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

“You’re not going to catch any like that,” I say, and Takashi drops his net to the ground in frustration.

“Oh, I give up, you guys are much better than I am anyway,” he replies, though I’m not sure it’s true.

“That’s the attitude of a quitter,” Ikuno responds, but she’s smiles at him softly. Miki, however, has no concept of soft, and smacks him on the butt, which produces a shriek from Takashi. Still, he takes it in his stride.

“For that alone, I should get all the points Miki’s earned,” he says.

Ikuno thinks for a moment, “I guess that’s reasonable.”

“Wait, that’s not fair! How do I take back a butt slap?”

With that ridiculous question, we all burst into laughter, the quiet sanctity of the woods very much wasted on our group.

I was sceptical when Ikuno suggested we trek down to the river, but from the moment we arrived I’ve been suspended in a kind of awe at the beauty of this spot. It feels like civilisation is a million miles away, and the tiny little fireflies hovering above the water and the bank before us are like stars fading in and out of existence. I’m not sure I’ve ever been somewhere so serene.

It had also been Ikuno’s idea to bring the nets and jars. I was quite confused by the big bag she made Lelouch carry, but all became clear when we saw the fireflies. She’s always enjoyed playing games like this, and she’s apparently brought a prize for whoever catches the most fireflies.

Since Ikuno is deciding the winner, she’s sitting out of the competition. Considering Takashi has given up entirely, and Miki has the patience of a child, I think I could win this.

The only person I have to beat is Lelouch, and if I asked him to let me win, he probably would. That would feel cheap though. Speaking of Lou, he’s disappeared down river, probably to avoid the noise and to try and sneakily catch a few more than those of us who stayed at the bank.

I’m not about to go down without a fight, though, so I slowly creep down river, catching the occasional firefly as I go, but otherwise keeping my focus on being stealthy. I feel like a secret agent, carefully examining the ground before each step.

I reach the next clearing. It’s darker here, but there’re more fireflies, and the sound of the river on the bend provides me with some cover as I begin to crouch and approach Lou from behind. I carefully set down my net and jar beside me. He’s completely unaware of my presence. Good.

Lelouch, prepare to be sneak attacked.

Any second now…

I realise I have no idea how to perform a sneak attack. Do I grab his legs? What if he kicks me? Do I jump on his back? What if we fall into the river?

Think, Suzu, think.

Lelouch turns around. He doesn’t seem very surprised.

“Hi,” I end up saying.

He carefully places his net and jar on the ground beside him.

[Hi.] He signs.

Well, this was anti-climactic.

“I was trying to scare you.”

He laughs, before running his hand through his hair and reaching for my hand. I offer it to him, and we just stay like that for a few moments. The moonlight accentuates every part of him; his soft but handsome face, his slender form, his really deep eyes. He looks around us for a moment, making sure we’re alone, before he continues.

“Y-you lyook beu – beaut – I – full iyn the myoonlight.” He says, apparently thinking the same thing I am. The world is really so much more magic when it’s cast in the light of the moon. The way he scans the area before he speaks reminds me just how lucky I am to hear his voice.

Hearing his voice sends electricity all through me, and I swing my arms around him in reaction. When we kiss, the memories of his confession come cascading back.

When I first met Lelouch, he would only speak in written notes or sign language. I couldn’t speak any sign language myself, but it was easy to pick up a few phrases with his help. Obviously, he can talk, but his aphasia makes it quite difficult, and he’s always been super conscious of it. I didn’t hear him speak for about six months, as we only communicated through writing, and what bits of sign language I could pick up from him.

And then, after knowing each other for half a year, he confessed to me. He found me in the library, and he confessed. He asked me out, but he didn’t write it, he didn’t sign, he spoke.

It was a bit difficult to understand, and it took me a few minutes to even realise what he had asked me after the shock of hearing his voice, but it was the most romantic thing that’s ever happened to me.

I kissed him then and there, I didn’t care who could see us. And I don’t care now.

I reach up and cup his face in my hands, running my fingers along his cheek bones, trailing them through the sides of his hair and down his neck. We kiss again, fireflies dancing like stars all around us.

After a few minutes in each other’s embrace, Lou lifts his wrist and checks the time. He looks down at me with a solemn smile.

“Fyive min- myinutes.” He says softly. I wish we could stay like this, but Ikuno’s game has a deadline, and since she’s the one who knows the way down here, I’d rather we didn’t get lost by staying out on our own.

I guess Lou can tell I feel a bit deflated that we’ve got to head back, because he clasps both of my hands in his and places a gentle kiss on my forehead.

“I hyave an- an idea.” He says, placing another kiss on my check and sending warmth all through me.

He steps into the clearing beside us, it’s pretty flat, save for a large fallen tree behind him, just before the tree line. Other than the path I came down to reach him, it’s completely encased by the forest. I don’t know what he’s got planned, but my excitement begins to build.

He offers me his hand again, specifically his left hand. It’s raised at an angle beside him, and his right arm is open, ready to be placed on my back. I giggle, and neatly slot my fingers into his cupped hand, accepting his wordless invitation.

I think when Lou revealed he knew how to ballroom dance, he was expecting me to tease him or something, but I was fascinated. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone else who can, and since he first showed me, and began to teach me, it’s become a little ritual of ours.

He straightens up again and smiles deeply, his eyes are focused on mine, and from the moment he steps forward with his right foot, all of me belongs to him. I slip up a few times, but for the most part, I follow his lead seamlessly.

There’s something about this position, and the motion of our dancing that makes me feel content. It’s like we belong to one another, and when we step, it’s like we’re mirrors of one another.

Apparently, dancing is a kind of therapy for Lelouch. He told me once that people with aphasia often take up ‘other’ forms of communicating, with their body, or with music. Now, it’s like our dancing is a part of his therapy. Like with every step I help him communicate, and we don’t need words at all.

We waltz in the moonlight, two lights in a million, a sea of firefly stars around us and above.

And then after what could be an eternity, it’s time to go home.

We pick up our captured stars and return to the others, hand in hand.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

My bed feels empty.

I can’t sleep.

I turn over.

No luck.

I sit up and swing my legs out from under the duvet. When I look out the window of my bedroom, I can’t see anything.

Where did all the stars go?

I can hear Dad snoring in the other room, and everything feels so dark.

After a few moments of fumbling, I’m able to find the button for the beside lamp, and the dark retreats around me.

I don’t really know what I was expecting when I came home for the weekend. That I’d suddenly feel better? That a home cooked meal could fix things?

That Mom and Dad would understand?

I run my hand up and down the space beside me, the empty space.

I wonder what my friends would say if they saw me like this.

Ikuno would probably cuddle me, maybe Miki would too. Takashi might buy me chocolate. I don’t know if any of that would actually help, but I guess it’s a moot point since they’re not here, and I don’t know if I can even still call them my friends.

I’m alone.

I roll over again. The room feels a little bit warmer with the light on. Maybe.

I don’t know how long I’ve been lying like this. Not asleep, but not completely awake. Entirely interstitial.

Eventually my eyes close, and I see the stars again, banging their little heads into the glass walls of a mason jar.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

“Slow down, Lou!”

Lelouch turns his head to face me with his hand clasped firmly around mine, practically dragging me through the busy streets of the city. He smiles, but doesn’t stop, and we dart around another corner into the surging veins of the metropolis.

Every corner we round, we head deeper into the heart of the city, the neon lights dancing around us like pulsating fireworks, appearing, then disappearing as we pass them. Some of the buildings we pass are offices, some are small café’s or bars with little groups of people sitting at tables outside. Their sounds, the laughter and chatting, mingle in clouds as we rush through them, like we’re moving through a city of rooms.

After a few minutes of what feels like getting lost, and narrowly avoiding pedestrians as we do, Lelouch stops, and I nearly crash into him. He doesn’t say anything, but gestures to the building before us, his face a mix of anticipation and nerves.

It’s a restaurant. A very fancy one at that. The windows are dark, so I can’t see in, but the outside has a few tables and those pillars with fire on the inside like personal fireplaces. There’s a couple seated outside, both dressed quite nicely and sipping glasses of red wine. Maybe they’re on a date, like us.

I look down myself. When Lou said I should dress fancy, I didn’t really know what he had in mind. Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t get him to tell me his plans, though that might have been for the best. I appreciate the surprise.

Our bus ride into the city felt pretty awkward since we were both dressed to the nines and back, but when we arrived that awkwardness was replaced by wonder, as we lost ourselves in the majesty of a small touring ballet production. It was beautiful and elegant, and it would have been enough, but Lelouch always seems to find ways to make even the most brilliant things better, and now here we are.

He gestures for me to enter the restaurant, and gives me a satisfied smile. There’s something in his eyes, like, there’s a few tricks left up his sleeve, so I ready myself for another surprise.

Of course, my suspicions are well founded, as the inside takes my breath away. The front of house waiter greets us with a friendly bow, but Lelouch quickly takes the lead and begins to discuss our reservation with him. I’m too busy scanning the room in awe to pay any attention to their conversation. Well, messages, since Lou has pulled out a notepad instead of talking.

The inside of the restaurant is extravagant. The interior maintains the modern and sleek look of the exterior, but a beautiful chandelier hangs in the centre of the room. The whole room feels timeless, like we’ve entered some forbidden palace. What really captures my attention is the large empty space beneath the chandelier, where the floor is slightly lower than the edges surrounding it. In the far corner of the floor, there’s a raised platform and a piano, where a man in a tuxedo is playing what sounds like a foxtrot.

It’s a ballroom…

Lou’s hand finds mine, and my focus is immediately drawn back to him. To his eyes. I have to fight back a few tears, and he gives me a knowing smile. We follow the head waiter to our table by the window. I remember Ikuno once telling me that they place attractive couples by the windows to draw people in, and that thought makes me feel pretty happy, before I remember that these windows are too dark to see through. The realisation dampens my smile a little.

As we sit down, Lelouch notices that my smile has faded, and the tears in my eyes from earlier. A concerned look shoots across his face. I can’t help but giggle at his sudden worrying, and I reach out across the table to take his hand. The waiter places our menus before us.

“I’ve never been anywhere so beautiful.” I reassure him, and I notice the waiter smile a little too. He leaves us to look over the menu

Lou gives my hand a gentle squeeze, before reaching into his suit jacket pocket and producing a small, beautifully decorated envelope. He hands it to me, and I take it carefully between my fingers. I look up into his eyes again.

“Hyappy Byirthday Byeautifl.” He finally says, and my heart nearly explodes. I can’t even fight the tears anymore. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so lucky, so loved. I open the envelope shakily.
We walk in winding whispers,
Where wordless whispers wander,
Waltzing dancers of the night,
That cast the world asunder.

Our hands entwined we race the lights,
With hearts conjoined in wonder,
So, we waltz, beneath the stars,
Through rain, and wind, and thunder.

The lovers’ dance is wordless,
And words I rarely pour,
But hand in hand and heart to heart,
We’ll dance forever more.

Happy Birthday Suzu, I love you eternally,
Lou

I fold the letter and slide it carefully back into the envelope. Lou has been looking at me, that same concerned and expecting look on his face.

He looks concerned as I start to cry, but I reassure him with my smile. Still, he squeezes my hand like he’s trying to comfort me.

I don’t think ever been so utterly happy. I have to be really careful that I don’t get too emotional and trigger a cataplexy attack. But apparently, fate, or God, is on my side. I mean, after all, it is my birthday.

After I’m able to calm myself down, and actually manage to take a good look at the menu, a new waiter comes and takes our orders. He initially gives me a concerned look like Lelouch was, but quickly realises that I’m just extremely happy. I wonder if Lou warned the restaurant that I was a bit emotional…

Probably not… right?

Our meals come, and we both tuck in wordlessly. I’ve come to love the quiet in our relationship. Neither of us need to say much to one another because it’s like we can communicate without talking most of the time. After our courses we hold hands across the table, watching out the window as business men and women, or students, or families all pass us by.

We sit and watch the world go by, hand in hand. Together.

I’d be content to sit like this for a lot longer, but Lou seems to have something else in mind. He squeezes my hand, and nods towards the dance floor, where a few couples have already started to slowly waltz. Since we’ve been here, the pianist has played various dance pieces, from the foxtrot, to the quickstep, and waltz. Lou tilted his head towards the dancefloor in suggestion when the pianist started playing a Viennese waltz but I’m not about to attempt a dance that involves that much spinning just yet.

The pianist is currently in the middle of a more sedate waltz, and Lou gets up from the table and offers me his hand. I accept, and the two of us arrive at the dance floor just as the pianist begins to play another quickstep. We get into position and Lou counts us in.

We twirl away, two in a million lights beneath a chandelier moon.

“I lyove you.” He whispers to me.

I look deep into his eyes – and within them I see our first date repeating, our first kiss in the library and our first dance under the stars.

“I love you,” I whisper back, “always.”

I try to remember a time when life was better than this. When I felt happier. And I can’t.

If I could capture a moment in a mason jar, like those fireflies a few weeks ago, it’d be this one.

And for a few precious minutes, we dance.

Timeless and forever.

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Last edited by Feurox on Wed Aug 28, 2019 3:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Feurox
Posts: 204
Joined: Mon Sep 02, 2013 2:03 pm
Location: England, Oxfordshire

Time is Dancing PT 2

Post by Feurox » Wed Aug 28, 2019 2:54 pm

“You need to let him go Suzu.”

Mom is sitting on the end of my bed, running her hand up and down my blanketed leg softly in some attempt to comfort me. She’s got fresh black bags beneath her eyes. Clearly, she didn’t sleep well last night either.

I don’t know where Dad is. My pillow is wet.

I think it’s about mid-day, but I haven’t got my watch on. Mom is clearly cooking something downstairs, and the smell has managed to waft up here.

I sit up in bed a little. Mom looks surprised.

“I’m hungry.” I finally say.

She sighs, and gets up from the end of my bed.

“Okay. Well, if you get dressed and come down stairs, I’ll serve you some lunch.”

“Okay.” I reply, and swing out of my bed unsteadily.

I move automatically, guided by the smell of mom’s cooking and my general desire to just be doing something. Anything, that isn’t sitting in my empty bed. I plop myself down on the sofa and turn the TV on with a click of the remote. After flicking through the channels, I turn it off again.

Where did I put my watch?

I don’t really know when it happens, but I find myself seated at the dining table again, an empty plate in front of me, and my mother’s concerned gaze shooting holes in me from the other end of the table. She asks me a few questions about school, and I give one word answers.

I told Mom and Dad everything last night. I don’t know how I expected that conversation to go, but they just sat and listened patiently. I don’t feel any different having told them though.

It made Mom cry, and it made Dad …angry.

“Suzu.”

Mom taps the table in front of me.

“The Lelouch I knew wouldn’t want you to be sad.”

…. The Lelouch she knew….

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The hospital is a labyrinth. Each room feels cut off from reality, a never ending, intertwining series of corridors, where the air hangs like it’s stale.

It’s been about three months since my birthday, and the memory of that night has been keeping me going whilst Lou’s been in the hospital.

After what can only be described as the most magical night of my life, we spent the night in a hotel room. We made love for the first time. It was slow, and careful, like neither of us wanted to hurt the other, but it made a magical evening into a magical night, and then, morning.

Until now, things have been amazing. We’ve made love a few times, but it’s always felt so special. It’s a lot like our dancing, with how intimate it always feels. With how gentle we are with one another. The thought makes me blush a little, and then the memory becomes tearful.

I almost lost him.

I wipe the tears from my eyes, it’s one of these rooms, and I don’t want to look weak when I see him. I have to be strong for him. I will be strong for him but which goddamn room is he –

“Miss Suzuki?” The familiar voice from behind me catches me off guard, but I’m very relieved to hear it.

“Mr Lamperouge!” I say, wiping my eyes again, though I suppose I’ve lost the chance to appear presentable. He gives me a grave smile, and scans the corridor up and down, before opening his arms to give me a hug. I accept, and he gives me a firm squeeze.

Lelouch’s dad has always kept up appearances in public, but he’s been a bit of a softie towards Lou and me in private. He was pretty quick to accept me as Lou’s girlfriend when we met nearly a year ago, and he’s always treated me very kindly. From the bags under his eyes, and the stubble he’s growing, it looks like he’s had a restless few nights.

“I came as soon as I could, Nurse made me wait until today.” I explain, the guilty feeling in my stomach beginning to well up again.

Lou’s dad gives me an understanding nod, and beckons me to follow him. He reassures me that coming now was the right choice, even if it wasn’t mine, because Lelouch has been sedated for the last few days. He talks about the hospital report, how the stroke he had was severe, but he hasn’t suffered from any major brain damage.

He warns me about all the things that go along with a stroke. How some people’s personalities can change, how they might struggle with things they used to find easy, how they might not remember certain things, especially initially, but I kind of tune out after hearing that Lou is fine. He’s okay.

Lelouch is going to be fine, and that’s all I need to think about.

We pass a few more rooms, and stop at one on the end of the corridor.

“I’m going to go and get a coffee; I think it’ll cheer him up to see you alone. Would you like me to get you anything?” Mr Lamperogue asks with a warm smile. I shake my head, and he steps aside to let me into the room, before bowing, and heading off back down the hallway.

Unlike the few times I’ve had to stay in the hospital, Lou has a room to himself, and it’s quite spacious. I enter it, but Lou isn’t paying me any attention, his focus is on the window beside him overlooking the courtyard of the hospital below. I briefly consider sneaking up to frighten him again, but I’m not sure I have it in me right now, I just want to hold him, so I cough to get his attention.

He doesn’t turn to face me, so I cough again, and again, he doesn’t turn.

“Hey Lou.” This time he gives me a glance, bit immediately his face scrunches in pain and he looks away. Have I done something wrong?

I make my way over to his bed, and tentatively place my fingers on the top of his hand, very gently rubbing them up and down. After an awkward moment of him looking away, he turns his hand over and accepts mine into his own.

“I’m sorry if I startled you.” I say, but he shakes his head. He opens his mouth, but doesn’t say anything and exhales deeply.

We just stay like that for a while, holding hands, saying nothing. I don’t know what I’m supposed to say in a situation like this. I never thought I’d see Lelouch suffer from another stroke. Wasn’t it cruel enough the first time, the time that sent him to Yamaku… to me…?

I don’t want to think like that. I don’t want to think about the what if’s.

Lou grabs my attention with a squeeze, his eyes look really pained. Like he’s scared, or hurting. It breaks my heart to see him like this, but all I can do to comfort him is squeeze back and give him a kiss on the forehead. I expect him to react somehow, to hold me tighter, or kiss me back, but he doesn’t.

“I love you.” I say, running my free hand through his hair.

Still, nothing. Just that vacant, pained look in his eyes.

“I’m so glad you’re okay.” I say, bringing his hand up to my lips.

He laughs harshly, and pulls his hand back from me, which startles me a little.

“Nyot oykay.” He finally says, his slur sounding worse than before.

With that, we fall into another awkward silence. We’ve always avoided talking about our conditions. My cataplexy has always been a bit problematic, but Lou has always been willing to wait with me until things calm down, or call the nurses when things got bad.

Now it’s my turn to help him and I have an idea.

Standing up from his bed, I offer Lou a hand. Finally, he smiles, only a little, but still. He looks to the doorway, and takes my hand, swinging out from under the sheets. His feet meet the floor with a gentle thud, and he wordlessly assumes his position before me, his IV stand trailing behind him loosely. I ask him if it hurts, and he shakes his head.

I rest my head against his chest, and his hand strokes down my hair until he stops at the small of my back.

He tries to lead but steps forward on the wrong foot.

Every time he tries, we stumble and falter a little, like we’re out of sync. I try to reassure him that it’s probably just my fault, but he doesn’t seem to buy it, and we spend the rest of the visit in awkward silence.

I’m just glad he’s okay.

He’s going to be okay.

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“We believe in you Suzu.”

Mom and dad have been pretty much silent for the entirety of the drive back to Yamaku, not that I mind, I don’t know if there’s anything left for us to say to each other at this point. They held me extra tight after dinner last night, and they at least seemed to believe me when I said I wasn’t going to hurt myself or anything like that.

The drive is quite serene. It’s mostly fields, hills, valleys.

There’s not much in the way of civilisation.

I let my head jolt against the window as we round corners and drive over particularly bumpy sections of road. I haven’t been able to sleep very well at home and I can feel the wave of tiredness approaching me again, like the closer we get to Yamaku the less awake I feel. Maybe I’m thinking about things too much.

Did I think that going home would fix things? Did I really believe things could be fixed? That things could return to how they once were.

My eyes sting again but I swallow hard and sit back into the seat. Dad has his window down and the breeze coming in causes me to shiver.

Mom and Dad think they understand. They keep telling me I’m brave, and that I have to think about me. But this isn’t about me. I can’t escape the feeling that it’s all my fault.

Our perfect picture is broken, and no matter how hard I try, I can’t put it back together.

And now I’m supposed to just let him go?

Dad tried to tell me it’s what Lelouch would want. I think maybe Mom had told him to say that, but I just ended up crying again.

Crying seems to be the only thing that alleviates this feeling now, even if it’s only for a little bit. When I cry, it’s like the dead parts of me gets let out a little bit.

Then more of me dies to fill its place.

Before long, the scenery outside is replaced with the occasional building of the town below Yamaku. It’s not very late, but the sun has started to set and the amber evening makes everything look like we’re driving into heaven or something.

We don’t see anyone as we drive through town and up the hill, and then, we arrive at the cast iron gates.

I don’t want to leave the car, but Mom and Dad are looking at me with a concerned expression again.

I open the car door and grab my bag from beside me.

Mom looks like she might get out for a minute but instead settles back into her seat, and gives me a half-hearted thumb up in encouragement.

When I pass the gate, I see the ghost of Lelouch, his slender frame leaning against a tree. He gives me a wave and walks over.

[I missed you.] He signs.

His hand finds my face and brushes my hair behind my ear. Any resolve I had before feels like it’s melted away. He brings his face to mine, and suddenly, everything feels tangible again.

I hear the car disappearing behind me.

We kiss.
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Today’s the day.

“What time is he meant to arrive?” Ikuno asks, holding a small bag in her right hand. It’s probably a present for Lou.

“Within the next ten minutes, I think.” I reply.

All of us bar Miki are assembled by the gates to Yamaku waiting for him to arrive. Takashi has various snacks, and Ikuno keeps checking the time on her phone in anticipation. We’ve written a card and got various little presents to cheer him up when he arrives.

It was my idea to throw a small party for Lelouch. He hasn’t been himself in the hospital, not that I blame him. I just hope this cheers him up, at least a little.

I’ve visited him whenever I’ve been able over the last few days, but aside from the occasional remark, we’ve spent the time in silence. That kind of quiet isn’t anything new to our relationship, but this is the first time I’ve felt it to be… worrying. We didn’t try to dance again after my failed experiment when I first visited him, though I’m pretty sure I was just mucking up somehow.

Takashi clears his throat and rests his hand on my shoulder, grabbing my attention.

“You think he’ll like all this?” He asks, lifting the small bag of snacks he’s carrying for emphasis.

“Of course, he will,” Ikuno says, moving to stand on my other side. “besides, he’d do the same for any of us.” Takashi gives us both a warm smile and begins looking off into the hills before us.

I feel pretty nervous to see Lou now. Every time I left the hospital, I felt more and more alone without him here. Every night I’ve been without him has been sleepless. Is it selfish to need someone this badly?

Before I can continue that train of thought, Takashi jumps up and down excitedly and begins waving at a car approaching the front gate. The excitement of Takashi is contagious, and I find myself smiling despite my worries and Ikuno beams from ear to ear beside me.

The car pulls up just before us, and Lou gets out from the backseat and rubs the back of his head at our surprise. Lou’s dad steps out from the driving seat and opens the boot of the car, before pulling out a small overnight bag that Lou must have been using whilst in hospital. Takashi offers to take it for him, but he’s quickly waved away and Lou takes it himself.

He smiles at us timidly, but accepts mine and Ikuno’s hugs, and the fist bump Takashi offers him. Mr Lamperogue motions for me to come and speak with him, so I give Lou a kiss on the cheek and step past. The others seem too distracted by Lou’s return to notice me slip past anyway.

Mr Lamperogue checks over my shoulder, before placing a hand firmly on it and kneeling to be eye level with me. It makes me feel a bit like a kid, but I don’t really mind. He’s had time to go home and shave since I last saw him, so he doesn’t look quite as dishevelled anymore, but he still looks tired and… uh, concerned?

“Ms Suzuki,” he whispers. He’s speaking so quietly that I have to really focus on his lips to even understand what he’s saying. “my son might be out of the hospital, but he isn’t entirely,” he stops and considers his words for a moment. “He isn’t entirely better, as it were.”

I don’t really know what he means by that, will he still be taking medications or something? I thought having a stroke again so soon after the first would be unlikely. If he’s still in trouble, why has he been discharged from the hospital?

Mr Lamperogue checks over my shoulder again but continues in the same hushed tone. “Do you still have my number?” He asks, and I nod in affirmation. The air between us feels really serious and tense and it isn’t doing wonders for my nerves. He gives me a smile. “Okay, good. If you feel concerned about him, or notice anything unusual, I would like you to call me. Is that okay?”

That’s uh. That doesn’t seem right. Lou’s dad must notice my hesitation, because he stops smiling and returns to his serious look.

“I’m not asking you to spy on my son. I would just like to prevent something like this from happening again, and I’d like to make sure he’s recovering well. As his girlfriend, you have the most intimate relationship with him, and thus, you’ll be the first person to notice if something is wrong. The staff here have also be notified to pay special attention to him, but you have the most privileged position. Do you understand what I’m saying?” He says, and I turn to face the group. They’re giving us a puzzled glance now, so Mr Lamperogue straightens himself up and pulls me into a quick hug. “Please consider it.” He whispers, and I give him a small nod in agreement.

“I’ll be taking my leave now. Have you got everything Lelouch?” His dad asks, shutting the boot of the car and returning around to the driver’s seat. Lou gives him a pretty unemotional nod, and waves him away. I notice Mr Lamperogue frown, before he gets into the car and the engine kicks back into life.

I don’t really know what to make of all of that, and I can’t help but feel that if I were to call Lou’s father, I’d be breaching Lelouch’s trust in some way. Then again, I don’t want Lou to have another stroke…

“Suzu, we’re heading back to Takashi’s room now.” Ikuno calls out to me, and I quickly shake my head free of my previous thoughts.

Lelouch is back. He’s really back.

I make my way over with a smile, and the four of us head through the gate. I reach for Lou’s hand, and he wordlessly takes it. Ikuno and Takashi fill Lou in on the drama of the week, but he doesn’t seem very interested, he’s never been a fan of small talk anyway. I squeeze his hand to get his attention.

“I missed you,” I whisper. “Welcome home.”

He thinks for a moment and gives me a tiny smile. It looks a bit forced.

“Y-ywou, as -ash – ashwyell.” He finally responds, but he doesn’t squeeze my hand back, and our fingers slowly fall from each other as we follow the others to Takashi’s room. The grounds are eerily quiet as we pass and save for a few first years in the common room of the boy’s dorm, we don’t bump into anyone at all. Takashi turns his key in the door with a push, and we enter.

We didn’t have much time to decorate his room, but we did manage to stick up a few flags and extra lights. It looks a little bit like a birthday party, but we couldn’t find any decorations that fit the ‘welcome back from the hospital’ vibe. Lou doesn’t seem overly impressed, but tries to give a reassuring smile anyway, and Ikuno and Takashi seem oblivious.

Everyone gets comfortable in Takashi’s room, and he sets the snacks and drinks up in the middle of the floor. After about an hour of idle chat, gossip and snacking, Lou yawns loudly. He’s spent the duration in silence, save for a few one-word answers. I think everyone has noticed the uncharacteristically short mood he’s had, but it’s understandable given how long he was in the hospital.

“Tired?” Ikuno asks, and he nods. She thinks for a moment but gets up. “Shall we call it a night then?” She asks, and again, Lou nods.

Everybody rises to their feet, and Takashi begins to clean up his room.

“Do you want us to stay and help clear up?” I ask, but Takashi shakes his head.

“Nah, it’s nothing really.” We make our way over to the door, and just before we slip out, he calls after Lelouch. “It’s good to have you back man.”

Lou looks at Takashi, but doesn’t say anything, then he disappears out the door and into the hallway. Takashi and Ikuno look at each other, and then at me, but I don’t really know what to say, so I end up shrugging.

“He’s just tired.” I say, and they return a smile.

I exit Takashi’s room, expecting to find Lou waiting for me.

But he’s not. He’s already left, presumably for his room.

He’s just tired. I tell myself.

I send him a text asking him if he’s okay; telling him I’m here if he wants to talk.

I don’t get a response.

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Last edited by Feurox on Wed Aug 28, 2019 3:08 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Feurox
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Location: England, Oxfordshire

Time is Dancing PT3

Post by Feurox » Wed Aug 28, 2019 2:55 pm

[You didn’t tell me you were going home.] Lou signs, the sun is setting on the gate beside us, and my parents’ car is disappearing behind.

“I’m sorry.” I manage to say, but I can’t really look at his face anymore.

[That’s the kind of thing you should tell me.] He signs again.

“I’m sorry.”

He looks angry for a moment.

[You won’t do it again?] He asks.

[I won’t.] I sign back. He smiles.

[I missed you.] Lelouch signs again, taking my hand into his firmly.

I’m meant to say something, but it’s like I’ve swallowed a handful of sand.

I tuck my bag under my arm, and he pulls me in his direction.

We head towards the dormitories. Neither of us say anything, but Lou’s grip on my hand tightens occasionally, like he’s checking to see I’m still here, and I haven’t slipped through his fingers into the evening around us.

It feels cold outside right now, and Lou’s fingers in mine hurt a little. My stomach twists and turns as we get closer to the dormitories.

We pass the girl’s dorms like we have some wordless agreement. I would have liked to drop my bag off, but I guess we’re going somewhere else. As we pass, I notice Miki heading out. She pretends not to see us, and pulls her hood up, before disappearing around the corner.

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Since Lou got back from the hospital, the dynamic in our friendship group has been… tense. It feels like everyone is stepping on eggshells around him, and, to be honest, around me. He’s shut down every conversation, and mostly just sat with us in silence.

I keep asking him if he’s okay.

He keeps saying he’s fine.

I keep asking him if he wants to talk about anything.

There’s nothing he needs to talk about, he says.

It’s lunchtime now, and before all this, we’d usually head to the cafeteria as a big group. Now though, it’s like nobody wants to make the first move. Still, Miki gets up and heads over to Lelouch, a determined look on her face.

“What’s your problem man, ain’t you glad to be back?” Miki asks, her slender form perched on the edge of Lou’s desk. Takashi gives me a worried glance.

Lou sighs loudly and covers his eyes with his hands. After a moment or two of awkward silence, he begins to write on his notebook.

Miki picks it up with her good, uh, only hand, and reads his message.

“What’s that supposed to mean? Nobody’s pretending to do anything.” Her tone gets a little more heated. I don’t know if I want to know what Lou wrote.

He presses his fingers on his temples and begins to rub circles into them. Then he picks up his pen and begins to write again.

Takashi moves over to their table, and Lou sighs loudly again, but continues to write. Ikuno appears in front of me, blocking my view of the three of them. She’s got a worried look in her eyes, but she gives me a smile.

“You wanna come get some lunch?” She asks, but I look around her.

Miki is holding up the notepad again. She’s clearly getting angry.

I suddenly feel sick.

“You know man, that’s a really cruel thing to say,” she slams the notepad down on the table in front of Lelouch. Takashi flinches at the sound, but Lou just stands up from his desk, his face looking a lot like Miki’s.

He begins to sign, but remembers that Miki can’t read it, so he stops and closes his eyes.

When he opens them again his whole-body shakes with anger.

“G-gyet lyost Myiki.” He says, and now Miki visibly flinches. Since she slammed the notepad down, there’s been quite a few turned heads in our classroom, and Takashi is whispering frantically to try and calm the situation down.

For a minute, it looks like Miki might actually cry a little, but she resolves herself. Ikuno has turned around to face them now too.

“I don’t know who the hell you are anymore.” She says, but Lou doesn’t look wounded at all.

“y-you nyever dyid.” He finally says, and it clearly hits Miki like a bullet. Even I feel hurt by that. “Nyow g-g-get loss – lost.”

Takashi is stunned into silence between the two of them, and Ikuno is beginning to tremble. The classroom has gotten so quiet now.

Miki opens her mouth to say something, but quickly stops and takes a few calming breaths. Her eyes have welled up a little bit, but she turns away from Lou and heads for the door. Ikuno and Takashi immediately move after her, but she stops in the door, causing everyone to freeze.

“Asshole.” She says, before running into the hallway.

Nobody knows what to say, but Lou turns towards me and gives me a smile.

[Lunch?] He signs.

[Sure.] I reply.

I feel so sick.

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The short walk from the girl’s dorms to the boy’s feels so incredibly long. I guess Lou has noticed me scanning the treeline around us, and he squeezes my hand, hard.

When we arrive at the boy’s dormitories, Lou looks around before pulling me into another kiss. Our eyes stay open the whole time.

He quickly pulls me inside the building, still holding my hand firmly. There are a few boys in the common room, including Takashi, but he quickly turns away from us when our eyes meet, and Lou and I quickly disappear up the stairs to his room.

Everything feels grey.

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It’s been a week since Miki and Lou had their argument in class. She hasn’t eaten with us since, and Ikuno and Takashi have been eating with us less frequently too.

Lou and I have been spending a lot of time together now, still not saying much. Sometimes he kisses me, sometimes we have sex. We haven’t been on a date since he had his stroke, and we haven’t danced together either, despite my constant attempts to instigate it.

I had a cataplexy attack a few days ago. As always, Lou was there. He stayed with me until things calmed down.

When things got back to normal, I asked him if he wanted to talk about Miki, but he didn’t want to, and I haven’t really been able to bring it up since.

I’ve been thinking about my condition a lot lately. It used to make me so weak, but since Lelouch and I started dating, I haven’t had to worry about it nearly as much. If I was heading somewhere, and my limbs started to shut down I only had to say, and Lou would wait with me. Sometimes he’d carry me to class, or to the nurse’s office. Now, with how distant he feels, and how on edge he seems, I just want to carry him in return, but I guess I’m not that strong.

I’m not sure what we were on our way to do tonight, but our plans have certainly changed.

Takashi is standing in front of us, he looks determined, and a bit concerned.

“Lou, I need to talk to you.” He says.

I can already tell this is going to be bad. I guess Lou can as well, since he sighs loudly, which makes Takashi’s determined look falter for a moment.

[We’re busy.] He signs. But Takashi shakes his head. Lou turns towards me; he looks angry again.

“No, this can’t wait.” He says, closing the distance between them. I withdraw from Lou’s side a little.

There’s a brief silence, then Takashi begins again.

“I’m worried about you, we all are,” he thinks for a moment and takes a deep breath. “I think we should speak to the nursing staff; you didn’t act like this before.”

I can practically feel Lou’s temper rise now.

[I don’t need to go back to the hospital. I don’t need you looking out for me.] He signs, and Takashi’s face drops once again.

“Friends look out for each other man,” he says. He steps forward and tries to place a hand on Lou’s shoulder.

There’s a loud thud as Lelouch bats his hand away forcefully.

“Dyon’t to – toyuch me,” he spits.

Takashi looks angry for the first time since I met him.

“Why’re you doing this man? Why’re you being so cold?” Takashi asks, his tone rising. “Don’t you care about any of us anymore?”

“Guys…” I begin, but Lelouch’s angry stare shuts me up.

I sit down against the wall and Takashi gives me a sympathetic look. He faces Lelouch with a renewed determination.

I tuck my head into my arms.

I don’t see what Lou signs back, but Takashi clearly finds it upsetting, as he exhales angrily.

“You need to take a long hard look in the mirror man,” he says.

Lelouch presumably signs something else.

“Yeah, maybe this is the real you after all. I guess the last two years were for nothing,” Takashi goes from angry, to just… sad.

“Shut up!” A voice says. I think it’s mine.

“Shut up!” I say again, and both turn to look at me. My eyes are stinging, but I’m not crying right now. “Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!”

Suddenly, there’s a hand on my shoulder.

I look up. It’s Lou. He’s not smiling, but he’s holding his hand out for me to take. I feel like a child.

Takashi is looking at me with a concerned expression.

I take Lou’s outstretched hand, and we pass Takashi in the hallway. Lelouch is holding my fingers tightly, but they feel like paper in his grip. I can’t say anything anymore.

Takashi watches us go. That sad, worried, look on his face. I keep looking back.

I tell Lelouch I want an early night, and he kisses me outside the girl’s dormitories. He says he wants to stay with me, but I tell him I’m not in the mood. I tell him a few times before he relents, and I enter my bedroom alone.

After an hour or two of staring at the ceiling, I reach into my bag and pull out my phone.

My fingers feel heavy now as I scroll through my contacts. It takes me a few moments, but I eventually find Mr Lamperogue’s number.

I hover over the dial button for about ten minutes.

I flip the phone shut, and continue to stare at the ceiling.

I don’t want to hurt Lou.

I’m scared of hurting Lou.

I guess I’m not that strong.

I slam my pillow into my bed. Over and over and over.

I kick my chair into the wall.

I straddle my mattress, and punch again and again and again. It starts to hurt but I keep punching.

When I scream, nothing comes out.

I call my parents.

They say they’ll pick me up this evening.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Lou closes the door behind me, and then pulls the curtains closed. He kisses me again, firmer than before. I let him fiddle with the top button of my blouse and drop my bag to the floor beside us.

I don’t really know what’s brought this on, but when he kisses me again, I try to kiss back, if only a little.

I feel completely sapped as my shirt falls from my shoulders.

I run my fingers beneath his shirt and up his back. I know he likes that feeling.

I close my eyes, and I can almost see us dancing again. Dancing under the fireflies.

His hand reaches around my back and squeezes my butt. My hands begin to fiddle with his shirt buttons and one by one they come undone.

When I close my eyes again, I see his dazzling smile in the ballroom. That was the best birthday of my life.

Our kisses get more heated, and suddenly my bra falls to the floor. The feeling of his lips on my neck, slowly lowering down to my chest, sends electric currents through my body.

I remember the night of my birthday, when we stayed in the city. The night we first made love.

My hands undo the buckle of his belt, and he happily wiggles his hips as I help him out of his trousers. Once they’re off, he kneels down and moves his lips from my breasts to my abdomen. My skirt falls to the floor.

I close my eyes again, and I’m watching Lou in the hospital. He’s looking out the window, and chewing his lip… but there’s nothing really out there.

His touch brings me back to reality. I run my hands through his hair below me. The sensation of his lips and fingers forces me to cover my mouth.

On the ceiling, I see Lelouch’s welcome home party. Nobody is having any fun, and Lou isn’t paying anyone attention.

I drop to my knees in front of him. My underwear has come off already, so I return the favour, and kiss him as our hands explore one another’s most intimate areas.

My eyes close when we kiss, and I see Miki confronting him. She calls him an asshole. She asks where he’s gone. Takashi tries to keep the peace, but neither Lou nor Miki will back down. I suddenly feel very small, and Ikuno’s hand squeezes mine.

He squeezes me and lifts me to the bed. I let him kiss me again. His hands dig into my skin a little, and his kiss forces my head down into the pillow.

Takashi is talking to Lelouch. He asks him why he’s being so cold. He asks him if he even cares about any of us anymore. Lou sighs and he grabs my hand. We leave Takashi standing there in the hallway. Lou asks me why I keep looking back. It’s been two months since the welcome home party.

I fall onto the bed facing the ceiling. Lou kisses down my neck and chest again, I can’t think of anything except the feeling of his lips. His hand runs up and down the outside, and inside, of my thighs. He’s holding my shoulder with his free hand.

Ikuno is crying. She’s asking me questions. I don’t know what to tell her. I don’t know the answers. I don’t know, I tell her. I don’t know, I repeat. It’s been two weeks since Takashi spoke to me last.

I let out an involuntary whimper as Lelouch enters me, and my arms clasp over his back.

He kisses my neck from above, and I reach up and hold his head between my hands.

I look into his eyes, but I don’t recognise him anymore. His nails dig into my arm.

He kisses me, and continues to thrust, sending shockwaves all over my body.

“I lyove you.” He whispers in my ear.

“I lo-love you.” He whispers again, “You’re all myine and I l-love you sho myuch.”

It feels like I’m trapped.

“I love you.” I respond, from somewhere inside me,

Those are the words that would bind us.

But something’s changed.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

We finished about an hour ago. Neither of us has been able to say anything to each other. Neither of us really finished, it just… stopped.

Lelouch stops running his hand through my hair. My shoulders tense up against him. He sits up and taps on the bed for me to sit facing him. Neither of us are wearing anything except our underwear, and without him next to me, I feel cold. His expression goes from angry, to… to sad.

[Something has changed.] He signs.

Something….

Where did everything go? I turned around for a minute, and all my stars had gone out. Their little lifeless bodies now decorating the bottom of a mason jar.

It takes all my strength, but I begin to sign back. I can feel my eyes stinging as I do.

[It’s you.] I sign, my hands shaking, my eyes already starting to stream with tears.

He looks angry again and turns away.

After what feels like an eternity of us just sitting like this, facing each other exposed, he turns back, his eyes red and teary like mine.

[I know.] He signs back, and I let out a loud sob.

I want to scream. I want to smack him for changing. I want to kiss him. I want to throw something. I want to help him.

My muscles fail me, and I collapse into him, sobbing as I do.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

There was a new guy in class today. I didn’t really pay him any attention. Molly asked me if I thought he was cute, but I didn’t answer her. She’s been trying to talk with me like we used to at the end of class.

Ikuno pulls her chair up next to me and opens her textbook. She’s been doing that every day for the last few days. She doesn’t say anything, like usual, but I appreciate the company. I think she probably knows what happened but she hasn’t asked me about it yet.

I rest my head on the desk and for the first time I feel the urge to say something, but my eyes are getting really heavy.

“Ikuno,” I manage, and she looks at me surprised. “I’m sorry.”

She takes a moment to process that, but I’m really starting to fade here. To my surprise she doesn’t say anything but begins to run her hand through my hair. It’s a nice feeling. It feels calming.

I let my eyes close and I feel another hand on me, this time on my back.

“We’re here for you Suzu.” I hear Takashi say.

“Always,” adds Miki.

I fall asleep.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

It’s been two weeks since I broke up with Lelouch, and I still don’t know how to process the feeling.

He told me he didn’t want to hurt me. He kept apologising, and for a moment, it felt like maybe the Lelouch I had been dating before his stroke was scratching to get out from beneath the surface. He begged me to stay with him, he told me he could change, but he kept signing the same thing, over and over.

[I need you.] He signed, again and again and again.

It was hard, but I told him I couldn’t help him.

I haven’t spoken to him since we broke up. I know that I’m still in love with him. Every time our eyes meet in class, my heart sinks.

He’s gotten more distant with everybody since then. Takashi tried to reach out to him, but they ended up fighting again.

Miki didn’t even bother.

I’m still empty. The world still feels so, so grey.

Ikuno told me that breakups always hurt like this but that’s not really what it is.

I love Lelouch but…

The Lelouch I was dating died in that hospital bed, and he took half of me with it.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Ikuno told me this was a bad idea, but I can’t keep running away.

I won’t.

Lou is looking at me with an analytical stare, that same one he wore in his hospital bed three months ago.

Behind him the lights of the town below Yamaku have begun to come on, one by one.

He’s facing me, and I close the distance between us. Every step towards him feels like I’m walking underwater.

My eyes begin to water, but I’ve come this far.

[Hi.] I sign, trying to keep my hands clear and steady. Luckily it hasn’t gotten pitch black yet, so we can still see each other clear enough to talk through sign language. No doubt my voice would be a mess right now if I tried to speak.

[Hi.] He signs back.

[I wanted to apologise. I didn’t want to abandon you.] I sign, and he scrunches his face up, not like he’s angry, just like he’s hurting. I’m about to continue signing, but he coughs and signs back.

[I know I changed. I’m sorry if I hurt you.] He thinks for a minute. [Our relationship meant the world to me; I hate myself for ruining it.] He signs again, and I feel a wave of heartache shoot through me.

[It wasn’t just you.] I reply. [Maybe if I’d said something sooner. Maybe I could have helped - ] He shakes his head before I can finish signing.

[I don’t think it’s healthy for us to think like that.] He signs back and steps a foot closer towards me again. My heart sinks another level, but I know I must be strong for him, and for me.

Neither of us do anything for a while, we just stand there facing one another with the lights of the town coming on like stars behind us.

[I’m sorry that I texted you. I wanted to ask you for one last thing.] He eventually signs. I tilt my head inquisitively.

[Okay, but first, I wanted to ask you something too.] He returns my quizzical glance, but nods. [I wanted to know if we could try being friends.]

[Just friends?] He asks.

Am I ready for that? Even in this proximity, the memory of his touch is coursing through me. I know I’m not over him yet, I’m not sure I ever will be. But I don’t want to lose him completely again, I don’t want to look back and think all our love was for nothing.

It takes all my resolve, but I finally manage to sign back. [Just friends.]

He lets out a small sigh, but nods in agreement. His eyes tear up in the corners, but he shakes himself to try and ask me his question.

“Cy – can I,” he sniffles, but reaches his hand out to me. “Cayn, I – I Hayve one la- last, one laysht dance.”

I…

My eyes being to water again. But somehow, I don’t feel weak.

With whatever strength I have left, I fit my hand into his one final time. His arm finds my back, and that familiar feeling causes me to let out a whimper. I hear him do the same but we both straighten up, one final time.

Like a pair of circling comets, we begin to twirl in the night. Our steps don’t quite match again. We’re a little out of sync, but we twirl on anyway.

Things have changed for better or for worse, but like firefly stars, we shine on. Uncaptured by the mason jar of time.

Half in love and timeless, we twirl the night away, two firefly stars in a million.

Eventually this dance will end, and then, I’ll be unsure.

But hand to hand, and heart to heart, we’ll dance forever more.










After a few minutes of dancing, Lou whispers to me.

“I l-love you, Shuzu.” He says.

This is wrong. This isn’t how it was meant to be.

This isn’t how it was meant to end.

I let go of him and step back. Both of us are crying still. I don’t know what to say to him, so instead, I turn around.

Everything in me is screaming to look back as I walk away. It takes all my strength just to stop myself, but when I get to the end of the clearing, I can’t fight it anymore, and take one last look.

Lou is still stood there, his posture slumped over, his face shrouded in the dark.

I swallow my heart and leave him standing there alone. The guilty feeling inside me burns and bubbles, but there’s something else in me too. Something freeing, something now released.

Maybe things could have been different. Maybe, in another world we could have made things work. Maybe if I’d been better, our story could have been a happy one.

But that’s not the world I live in.

And this isn’t that kind of story.

Previous Notes Contents
Last edited by Feurox on Wed Aug 28, 2019 3:11 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Time is Dancing (Notes)

Post by Feurox » Wed Aug 28, 2019 3:04 pm

This story exists thanks to the wonderful help of Scroff, and Lap. My thanks go out to you both, as always.

As usual, this story has a few fitting songs tied to it's creation. I'm going to link them below in order of preference. I'll be curious to know your thoughts, so do let me know if you listen to them whilst reading:

Amsterdam by Coldplay
In This Shirt by The Irrepressibles
Time is Dancing by Ben Howard
Cringe (Stripped) by Matt Maeson
Warning Sign by Coldplay

This story is quite personal to me. (It features an original Feurox poem, which is my first real foray into that kind of literature. Hopefully it works.)

I unfortunately knew someone dear to me who underwent this kind of change after a stroke. It's not an easy thing to experience, both for the person who suffers from the stroke, and those around them. It's an awful situation, and I hope this story demonstrates that in some way. A feeling of obligation can be haunting, and I can imagine no more devastating feeling than watching a loved one morph into something different, something cold and unrecognisable, where they scratch below the surface to get out.

I hope you enjoy this story, and I hope I've made my proofreaders proud! :lol:

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Re: Time is Dancing (Notes)

Post by Lap » Wed Aug 28, 2019 8:16 pm

I love the story & what you've done with it. Such a melancholic ending. I think this is the first KS story I've read that deals with a stroke & the changes that follow; it's a powerful thing. Not every story, every relationship, can end happily, and this felt like a very natural progression & outcome.

Thanks for letting me get a peek at your process of creation, & I'm flattered that you find my assistance valuable.
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Re: Time is Dancing and Other Stories [08/28/2019]

Post by Craftyatom » Thu Aug 29, 2019 1:42 am

My word, that was depressing. Really depressing. Like, human condition-level depressing. In my own life, I have experience with significantly altering the brain, but only for the better, and always with my hand on the emergency stop, which has certainly been used before. The thought of it being irreversibly damaged in such a way that reduces one's ability to communicate with the outside world, as so well displayed in Ekephrasis (since it's first-person there), is terrifying. Losing or damaging parts of one's own personality for the worse is, in my mind, a fate far worse than death. And this was all intertwined with visions of the joy and love that was left behind. And then, in the end, there is no solution - just an awkward acknowledgement that all that we tried was for naught. It's absolutely haunting.

That said, it's well-presented, and done justice. Definitely a good story, with well-written characters. Switching timeframes back and forth helped in some ways, but hurt in others - it set the tone for the story, but also removed some of the punch from the reveal. It linked certain events better, but also sometimes made it confusing when something was happening. Near the end, I kind of lost track of which was which, and just muddled through it (which was kind of the tone of the story at that point anyways, to be fair). Mixed feelings on that design decision. At the very beginning, I thought the story was going to be a prequel to PsuPsuSu - took until the second section to realize it wasn't. Also, just something that caught my attention, Lou's speech disorder in this story didn't really seem like any of the types of Aphasia that I know about. That said, it's a broad umbrella, so maybe you were just depicting one that I don't know. And I only found a single SpaG error, so no problems there.

Overall, a very powerful - in my opinion, powerfully dark - story. The part that I most appreciated was the extent to which Suzu's emotions are conveyed to the reader. Her journey is, by default (as she's the narrator), the one we associate with, and boy does it come through. Every scene is crystal clear how good or bad she feels, and why. Very relatable. That also somewhat saps Lou's relatability, later on: it takes some work for the reader to see it from his point of view, though to some extent that's unavoidable. But, all things considered, while I don't think this is really a piece to enjoy, per se, I definitely connected with it emotionally, and would call it a good experience.

As for the music, I only like one of your suggestions as a song, and I don't think any of them really fit the story. :P Harsh, I know, but I think it's clear by now that our tastes and takes on such things are very different.
(Come now, everyone knows that The Scientist is Coldplay's saddest song, and the lyrics even fit this story pretty well! But seriously, I reiterate, let's not turn this into a music thread.)
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Re: Time is Dancing and Other Stories [08/28/2019]

Post by brythain » Thu Aug 29, 2019 7:53 am

That was a good read. Apart from it being about Lelouch (whom I've never felt belonged in there despite his cameo in the class background photo), it was a lovely piece of psychological development and melancholic prose—and some poetry. Thanks!
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Re: Time is Dancing and Other Stories [08/28/2019]

Post by Mirage_GSM » Thu Aug 29, 2019 9:51 am

A very sad yet also very well-written story.
Thank you for writing it!

Personally I've always preferred Lelouch over the no-name guy who replaced him. He's just one of at least four cameo characters, and I don't really understand why he fit in less than the others. Also an aphasic character is fascinating to write about. You took another approach to writing his speech than I did, but as has been mentioned it is a broad spectrum.

I agree with Crafty that the time-jumps could have been more clear. For example I'm still not sure at what point in the timeline the first few scenes with Suzu and her parents occur. From the placement in the story I would assume it is just after her first visit in the hospital after Lou wakes up, but at that point it feels her reaction would be a bit extreme...
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Re: Time is Dancing and Other Stories [08/28/2019]

Post by Hanako Fancopter » Thu Aug 29, 2019 5:53 pm

Man that hurt to read. In the sense of how effective it was in making you feel things fall apart for the characters, not in the sense of it being badly written, of course. I like Suzu's portrayal as anti-fragile, as someone that is still able to force herself to do what she needs to even after it nearly kills her. The choice of Lelouch as her boyfriend is a bit unfortunate for me because the name and the meme reference of the character clashes with the story's serious and melancholy tone, but that's not a real issue, and his particular disability was obviously an important element of the story. That ending though.... just ouch lol.

Also this story reminded me of what I believe was the first one I read by you, Ekephrasis (no idea if I'm spelling that right). There is some similar language about the characters twirling timelessly and such, and a similar theme of life circumstances forcing them apart whether they like it or not, and them having to come to terms with that.
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Re: Time is Dancing and Other Stories [08/28/2019]

Post by NuclearStudent » Thu Aug 29, 2019 10:53 pm

I shared my feedback on the Discord. I am going to link records of that interaction here, for posterity and for the amusement of any third parties.

Live Notes Taken

Ensuing Conversation Between Feurox And I. I'm saving this as evidence that I am not a monster.

In essence, Time Is Dancing is a hella lot of fun and my favourite Katawa Shoujo piece to date. Great character development, fun drama, smashing conclusion. A sluggish first half but you can't have everything. Stay brutal, my friends.

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