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River Wash The Mountain

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Micchy stood, hands folded, next to the butler. Finally, finally, Takatora was coming home. It had seemed like forever since his brother had woken up in the hospital bed, doctors testing everything to figure out how he'd suddenly come out of a coma without the brain damage they swore he'd had.

Even with his miraculous healing, Takatora still had been a mess. His first sentences had been slow, as if Micchy's brother had to struggle to remember how to speak and how to conjugate verbs. His physical condition hadn't been much better - he had to relearn how to walk, or at least he had to get to the point where he could walk, after he'd been in bed for so long with a brain that didn't work completely.

But there had been speech therapy, and physical therapy, and even if Takatora was far less able than he had been before Micchy had fought him on that dock, at least he was alive. At least Micchy hadn't killed his brother, even if Takatora wasn't back to normal yet and wouldn't be for a while.

"He should be here shortly, sir," the butler said to Micchy. Micchy nodded, trying not to say too much.

Indeed, there was a distant clank as the gate opened, and then the butler opened the door. There was a car being parked just outside the entrance, the gloved driver going around to the trunk to pull out a wheelchair and then assisting Takatora into it. There was a ramp, a temporary one, on the front steps, and it would be in place until Takatora felt a bit steadier on his feet.

A lot of things had changed. While Takatora had argued to keep his bedroom, there were now railings on the bed so he wouldn't fall out at night and that he'd have something to steady himself on when he needed to leave the room. The parlor nearby was now an impromptu dining room, just so that he wouldn't have to go downstairs unless he needed to. There were extra rails on the staircase, a walker in his room just in case he needed the support, and railings in the bathroom and near the tub, just in case he needed help after soaking.

"Mitsuzane," Takatora said. There was a smile - tired, uncertain, but a smile - on his face. "I'm home."

"Welcome home, brother," Micchy said, trying to sound as obedient as he should have been almost a year ago, when he was still hiding his Beat Rider activities from his brother. But this was real obedience, this time. Even if Takatora had been wrong, Micchy had been wrong, too. As his hallucination had pointed out, his team had moved on; he hadn't.

To be honest, he wasn't sure how to move on. But he was trying. He'd supervised everything they'd put in for Takatora, as if that would somehow redeem him. He'd spent more time in Takatora's room than he had in his own, almost memorizing it.

He pulled his attention back to the present. Takatora was frowning a little at Micchy's words, as if expecting to hear a different tone. But it was the only tone that Micchy could manage now. He'd learned that manipulating people wasn't the way things should be done.

Micchy had learned his lesson. "Come on, let's go upstairs," he said. "I want you to see what's been done. We've been working very hard." It was no longer just him doing things for his brother, though he'd been at the hospital almost every day during both his brother's coma and his rehabilitation.

Takatora's expression softened a little. "I know you've been doing a lot. Thank you."

Bowing a little, he let the driver leave. The butler pushed Takatora's wheelchair to the bottom of the stairs, and Takatora grasped the railing, levering himself up. He walked up unsteadily, and Micchy and the butler followed quietly behind him. There was another wheelchair folded up at the top if they needed it.

Takatora made it to the top, staring at the wheelchair sitting by one wall. But instead of using it, he grasped the rails that had been installed along the hallway for his use. He reached the newly-converted dining room first, staring through the open doorway. "Are you hungry, sir?" the butler asked.

"Food would be a good idea," Takatora said after a moment. "I want to see my bedroom first."

With that, he grasped onto the next set of rails, heading towards his bedroom. The butler bowed. "I'll make sure some food is brought up," he said.

"There's not much that's different, other than the rails on the bed." Micchy didn't want to see the inside of his brother's room again, but he also had to make sure that Takatora didn't collapse. His brother might have been wearing one of those alert buttons that would have alarmed someone if he'd fallen, but Micchy was determined that no falls would happen on his first day back.

There was a sigh from Takatora, and Micchy cringed a little. "Still, I want to see it for myself."

Maybe there was some of Takatora's old determination in there. Micchy obediently followed his brother into the bedroom, not too far from the parlor-turned-dining-room. The bedroom was larger than Micchy's own, though not as large as their parents', which was good as Takatora now needed the extra room.

Takatora nodded wearily at the rails on the bed and the walker to one side, but smiled a little at the fact that the rest of the furniture was still there. Micchy glanced uneasily at the painting that graced the room, an unsettling one that reminded him too much of a hallway stained with blood. It sat between Takatora's dark-colored desk and wardrobe, as if to give color to that wall.

It probably wasn't the best thing to keep there, but Micchy wasn't sure if he had the right to take it out. At least there were slightly more pleasant pictures in the new dining room, if one didn't look too closely.

"Good," Takatora said. He seemed at least a little pleased by the fact his room wasn't too different. Apart from the rails. And the walker.

The doctors had told Micchy that his brother was going to tire easily, thanks to everything that had happened. He was going to have to go to rehabilitation regularly. It would take time for Takatora to reach where he had been before his accident. At least he was doing better at mental tasks, but his body wasn't quite back to normal.

"Maybe we should go to the dining room, brother," Micchy said. He didn't want Takatora getting hurt more, since it was his fault that Takatora was in the state he was in the first place.

"Yes." Takatora headed out of his bedroom, walking as if he was going to fall over any minute. Which Micchy hoped he wouldn't.

Micchy had let the staff do most of the work in setting up the temporary dining room. He had to admit that they'd done a good job at it. They'd moved the parlor furniture to who knew where, and then moved in a table big enough for the two of them and then some. There were also some new paintings on the wall - or at least Micchy didn't recognize them.

"Here you go, sir," the butler said, ushering Takatora to a chair. Takatora even looked grateful - and tired. "Food should be ready shortly."

"I'm sure you're glad to be home, brother," Micchy told him. He tried to be cheerful, even though he didn't feel like it. It was the same mask he'd put on so many times, but it felt it was slipping a little. He'd put on that same smile for the doctors and the nurses at the hospital, but they hadn't known him very well. Takatora knew him slightly better, and Takatora had seen a side of him that had been... misguided, if one was being polite. Evil, he'd say himself.

It was why he couldn't enjoy things anymore. Why he couldn't rejoin the Beat Riders. He was going to be paying for everything he'd done for a long, long time.

"Is something wrong, Mitsuzane?" his brother asked.

"Nothing," Micchy replied quickly. "I'm just glad you're finally home." He widened his smile. Not that it would do much good, but he had to try.

Takatora let out a breath, but instead of saying anything, he just looked at the paintings. "We both have a lot to atone for." He didn't say anything more.

Glancing at the trio of paintings, which were done in a classical western style, Micchy nodded. He couldn't even start to talk about what had happened.

Finally the food came, their butler making sure that everything was set correctly. "Eat well, sirs."

"Kurosawa," Takatora said, "Where are those pictures from?"

"One of the downstairs rooms," the butler said smoothly. "I couldn't find the rest of the set."

"Ah." Takatora nodded, as if it was the most natural thing in the world for them to be missing some paintings. "Thank you, Kurosawa."

The butler bowed. "If nothing more is needed...."

"We're fine for the moment." Takatora waved him off. As soon as the butler was gone, he spoke again, not even starting on his food. "I'm sorry, Mitsuzane. If I had paid more attention to you, I'm sure none of this would have happened."

Micchy stayed silent. True, Takatora had been at fault, but it was his own hubris that had taken him to where he was.

"Mitsuzane... we both have a lot to heal from. I don't know everything that happened, but I do know that Kouta would want you to go on with your life."

Kouta had said something similar, not so long ago. But that had been before he had disappeared, and before Professor Ryouma had killed Mai. He now haunted Micchy's dreams, sounding as forgiving as he had when they'd fought in that warehouse.

Micchy shook his head. He didn't want to respond to Takatora's words, because that would be admitting he could be healed, which he couldn't. He would never be healed, no matter what Kouta had though in that warehouse. "I'm just glad I didn't.... out at the docks...."

It was true, after all. He had done a lot of things, but Takatora had at least survived and was there, which was more than he could say for a lot of people. Nobody was sure why Takatora had come out of his coma, but at least he had. At least one less thing was on Micchy's conscience.

Takatora smiled, and worked on his food. "Just like me, you'll have to take it one step at a time."

If only that part was true. But he deserved his guilt and shame, and nothing anybody could say would change that. Not Takatora here, not Kouta in his dreams, not any of the Beat Riders.

He decided eating and getting out of there as soon as he could was the best course of action. His brother, as usual, had no clue how he really felt and he'd rather keep it that way. So he turned to his meal, not caring how it looked. It wasn't like he needed deception now because his brother would do it for him.

"Mitsuzane?" his brother asked, when he was about halfway through his food. He realized that it was because he hadn't replied. It hadn't really mattered before, but he guessed it mattered now just because the universe was out to remind him that Takatora was trying to care now.

"I'm eating," Micchy said. "I'm not ready to talk about it yet." He idly wondered if Takatora was going to try to send him to therapy or something.

He didn't dare look up, because he was sure that Takatora was shooting him a concerned look. For once, it would be really nice if Takatora ignored him.

"Ah." Takatora at least might give up this round. He hoped. At least there was silence for a little bit as Takatora presumably dug into his own meal. At least that's what Micchy hoped.

Micchy finished his food and folded his hands. "Thank you for the meal." He looked up, just to make sure that Takatora hadn't collapsed or anything like that. But Takatora was still there, fork in midair. Obviously Micchy's words had stopped him. "I'm going now." He'd make sure the butler was aware his brother might need help. His brother would need help for a long time, after all.

He was out of there before Takatora could object, though he thought he heard Takatora calling his name as he hurried back to his room. It was not the bravest thing to do, but Micchy wasn't brave, just guilty.

Closing the door behind him, he flopped into bed. Maybe he'd go back later to see how his brother was, when his brother was too tired to ask any awkward questions.

It was almost a relief when Takatora didn't come calling for him after a while. He was tempted to check, but he still wasn't ready to deal with what Takatora wanted to discuss.

There was a knock on the door and Micchy tensed, but it proved to be only the butler. "Sir? Master wants to know if you're all right."

Micchy almost laughed, but instead took a deep breath and moved to the door. He opened it, giving Kurosawa a small version of the smile he used to have. "I'm all right." It was a lie, and Kurosawa knew it too, but it really didn't matter, did it? Nothing would change things, or at least nothing he could do. "How is he?"

"Resting, sir, in the upstairs dining room. He wished to know if you wanted to join him for conversation."

"Not really. It's been a long last few days, just getting ready."

"I understand, sir. I'll convey your regrets. There will be other days, after all."

Micchy nodded. Yes, there would be other days. He'd just have to figure out how to get through them and find new ways to avoid things. It wasn't the worst thing he'd ever done, given that he'd done some really awful things.

"Tell him I'm going to go rest myself." Micchy gave the butler another small smile and closed the door. Alone once more, he looked down at his grape Lockseed and wished that he'd done so many things different. But that was a regret he'd have to live with, and live with it he would. Forever.