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15 July 2010 @ 05:20 am
Man Behind [Nakatsu x Mizuki x Sano]  

Title: Man Behind
Pairing: Nakatsu x Mizuki, Sano x Mizuki
Fandom: Hana-Kimi
Genre: Angst, Friendship
Rating: PG
Word Count: 1,451

 

A/N: I know I said I wasn't going to write fanfic anymore cos I wanted to concentrate on original stuff. Well, that worked well until I came home for the summer and wanted to shoot myself because this place is a creativity blackhole. Then I watched Hana-Kimi (and several other Asian dramas) and totally fell in love with Nakatsu.

Man Behind

He'd always been the odd-man-out, the oddball (like a misshapen, gurgling, cracked porcelain spout). He'd always be the man left behind. Too slow or too soon, somehow, he never mastered the art of time. The precision it took, like clairvoyance without the mumbo-jumbo, the Chinese roots and lingering, incense-bitter tang of icicles in March and marching songs.

He could never get it right (he got that now).

He wanted to say something, always did—told himself, comforting to lie (even if it were only to himself). He just couldn't muster the courage, beg or coerce his guts to cooperate. And now, it's far too late. And now, like always, he's the man left behind.

. . .

"You're gonna drown yourself if you don't let it out,"

poison, they say. They, the ones that don't understand. A mile away, a sea, seven oceans and counting—

"I'm okay," he answered back.

Venom ran deeper than water, stronger than blood, which was why snakes could live for a thousand years. It's a binding that perforated every cell with individual attention and genetic lances. He, of all people, should know that by now. Rinse, repeat, and say it again: "I'm okay."

. . .

Sano's taller (three inches at most). But he's cuter (to Maman at least).

Sano's moodier.

Sano's...Sano's got her.

But Nakatsu was the nicer and kinder one, the one there for her. More often, frequenter, solicitor. More and more, they move on without him. So began the disillusionment. Third wheel's the weak link, made of plastic, soon to bruise—oh, that's a classic.

Goddamn, he hated Sano's guts. And God, he was dumb.

. . .

One fine morning in late summer, he was sipping cool tea and pondering on the causations of an icy heart when the telephone rang. With a heavy sigh and a pissy pout, Nakatsu picked up the phone and was just about to bark into it.

"Surprise!"

He pushed the receiver away. "Are you trying to make me deaf?" he screamed back.

On the other end, Mizuki laughed and asked if he wanted to join her (meaning Sano too) on a fishing trip. No reason, no explanation, just a simple question. Nakatsu was quiet for a moment, thinking hard and long on this-and-that, of the consequences (again with the what-ifs). Maybe this was just a good joke.

"Oh, by the way," said she, "I'm in Japan."

He dropped the receiver hard and cursed as it hit his foot.

. . .

Mizuki's grandparents had a house in Okinawa and agreed for them to stay there free of price. Nakatsu thought this was eerily, suspiciously nice, but Mizuki assured him that her grandparents won't mind at all. Since, well, she explained, they're kind of (really) old and the doting type. And so, Nakatsu packed his bags and left for the southern tip of Okinawa.

At the station (down under) he unexpectedly met up with Sano. Strange, he was supposed to come a day later (there went Nakatsu's charming plans). They greeted each other tersely, as was the manly way. A brief nod, a laconic reply, and a momentous pause. In a minute, Nakatsu leapt to hug Sano, his very best dearest friend.

"You're too close."

Nakatsu only laughed and whistled a tune. They picked up their luggage and walked. Side by side, they made the picturesque picture of two picaresque comrades—returning home at long last. Nakatsu flipped a strand of hair aside and lo' what a dashing pirate he made.

"I heard you placed in Nationals again, Sano."

"Oh."

. . .

She hadn't changed. It's been a year since they met in person, but there she was, the same. Standing at just above five-feet-two in one shoe, hair slightly grown out, and lips stained with the crimson lines of strawberry blood, Mizuki was a dream.

With open arms and a cheery laugh, she greeted them and hugged them tight. And when she pulled away, he could see into the muscled pockets of her heart. And he still knew her better than anyone else.

"Are you guys hungry?"

Nakatsu nodded and ruffled her hair. She smiled up at him brilliantly.

(Behind him, Sano doesn't say a word, and Nakatsu can feel the tension already rising.)

. . .

On Friday the last, she took them to the lake by the house, in a boat, in the middle of the woods, midmorning, heat of the day. She tossed each of them a pole and a box and issued a challenge to see who could catch the most before dinner. Being the men they were, they accepted eagerly.

He'll show him. He'll show Sano who's the man. He'll—

"You coming, Nakatsu?"

They were already halfway past the dirt-crunched path. He raced down the hill and thought—that almost, if only—he could clutch her close.

"I know it's small and old, but it's sturdy...I think."

Nakatsu eyed the vessel skeptically and shook his head, gave it a toss for good measure. He trusted her (if not the boat).

. . .

The boat capsized by three, and the three of them were soaked to the bone.

Sano grabbed Mizuki around the waist and pulled them both to safety. Like hauling wood, there was nothing to it. Sano was as cool as ever. Two skeletal silhouettes with nowhere to run, they paddled to shore and sank knee-deep into the mossy sand. Adrift, alone, Nakatsu floated on by

(past the water dragon's home and leagues away).

Man overboard, man left behind. He dragged himself ashore.

Breathing hard and hardly beat, Nakatsu gathered the strength to rest, collapsed, and started to snore. Incidentally, his head collided perfectly with Mizuki's lap. Except, this time, she didn't push him away.

. . .

The night before they had to leave was a night covered in ink.

Nakatsu spilled ink all over the porch (he slipped). Mizuki received a rain-splattered letter from Julia (who's in England visiting a cousin) and had twin streaks of gray on her cheeks. And Sano was in a murky mood (some things never changed).

There were fireworks that night to celebrate the summer solstice. Among splashes of haphazardly painted strokes of endless darkness, reds and golds and even bits of pink sprang alive. They jolted into the air, soaring high, rockets into the sky and forever unreachable. Then, in a poof of magic and touch of God, they disappeared and died. Down stormed a million pieces of artificial stars.

Summer was midway done, and Nakatsu hadn't even begun. The rehearsals he'd prepared flew from his head, out the ear, onto the grass, and never to come back. He was no good with words, should've realized that long ago.

. . .

In the end, she was the one who spoke first.

"I missed you a lot, you know," she mumbled quietly into the lapel of his shirt.

He thought he felt a wet drop piercing the cloth and looked up to see. She blinked quickly and looked away. It must've been his imagination.

. . .

There was a gulf of things unsaid between them, a valley of deaths and traps to cross, and just before the finish line, howled the boogeyman. The cloaked man, the laughing man, the man who never shut up (in his head) and couldn't construct a coherent sentence to save his life. Nakatsu stared at his reflection, paused for a second, before reaching for the toothbrush.

It was the start of a new year. He was entering university. He had matured (must have somewhat, oh please). She won't be there to push him forward.

"Ready?"

Nakatsu nodded and strolled confidently past Sano.

. . .

One evening, after a particularly grueling chemistry lab, he received a phone call from her. She didn't say much, not like they used to, spending hours just talking. Bratty kids, goofing off, hey, they were young. She might visit sometime during the winter holidays, but that'll depend on her studies. Maybe during the summer, or maybe they could…

She didn't say much else. But that was okay, now. He was used to waiting, used to standing on the sidelines. Nakatsu smiled to himself and suppressed a yawn. Soon Sano will be home, and they'll be bickering over who's turn it was to be in charge of dinner.

"Mizuki, ah, I'll call you later, all right? I really need to shower. I stink like Yujirou."

He couldn't stop grinning stupidly. Maybe it's a genetic curse or masochistic disorder, he didn't know, because it didn't matter anymore. Because he'll still be there now and always. A step behind, but that was fine.

"I'll be here."

The phone clicked silent.


 

 
 
 
treeflamingo: ikemen: moe!treeflamingo on July 15th, 2010 04:33 pm (UTC)
It's hard for me to decide if my exuberant happiness at reading this is due solely to rediscovering your fic (it's been, like, a year since I've frequented LJ), or if it's also because you've written Hana-Kimi fic. Either way, the happiness is indeed exuberant.

May I ask which Nakatsu I'm dealing with? I can sort-of see this is the manga Nakatsu, but I believe you said that you had watched one of the dramas - I assume that would be the Japanese? (As opposed to the Taiwanse.) And if you have only watched a drama and not read the manga, I'm going to have to insist on some remedial classes. Neither drama does justice to the original, and Nakatsu is one of the characters who, in my opinion, tends to get slighted. He really is awesome. But I very much like your Nakatsu, at any rate. Melancholic and introspective. I've never attributed such depth to him, honestly, and now I'm beginning to think I've done both the character and myself a disservice.

My favorite bit about this fic is how Sano is marginalized into the setting, rather than being a character in his own right. Nakatsu + Mizuki, but Sano as an irremovable blip in the background. I really, really love that. I think I'm going to start writing Hana-Kimi fic again...

Anyway, thank you, as always, for the beautiful read :)
Y U no auto-translate?lye_tea on July 16th, 2010 06:16 am (UTC)
Hi there. :)

I haven't read the manga. This is solely based off the Japanese drama. I was so sad when she chose Sano instead (well, obviously she would, but still). For once, I would like to see the girl choose the nice-guy over alpha-male-supreme-douche-sir-melancholy.
treeflamingotreeflamingo on July 16th, 2010 01:20 pm (UTC)
Ohhhhmigosh, I'm going to have to beg you: read the manga. I forgot, until you reminded me just now, how horrible the J-drama's Sano is. The SanoxMizuki relationship has no chemistry, makes no sense, and causes any even semi-rational audience to become genuinely upset at Mizuki for shoving away Nakatsu, who is clearly the better guy. Manga!Sano is actually a pretty nice guy (although still a touch moody - some things, as you (he) say(s), will never change), and his relationship with Mizuki is truly adorable. I mean, you (I) still feel for Nakatsu, and there's a part of you (me) that wishes she would have chosen him, but you (I) don't have to hate her as you (I) must in the drama. Manga!SanoxMizuki is one of the few anime/manga pairings I can honestly get behind. (For the record, the Taiwanese drama is better.)

Unrelated: alpha-male-supreme-douche-sir-melancholy Hah! Yeah.
Y U no auto-translate?lye_tea on July 16th, 2010 01:36 pm (UTC)
I feel like I should read the manga just to make sure that Sano/Mazuki really isn't this crappy. Usually the Chinese adaptations are worse, and I'm not saying this just cos I'm Chinese and am inherently biased. >.> Gawd, you are so right about the total lack of chemistry. I was so excited when I saw that Oguri Shun would be playing Sano (he was fantastic as Rui in Hana Yori Dango) but absolutely FAILED in Hana-Kimi. Okay, he, by himself, was fine. But all the "cozy" scenes between him and Mizuki seemed so contrived.

Haha. It's the universal codename for every stereotypical male protagonist in dramas.
treeflamingotreeflamingo on July 16th, 2010 01:58 pm (UTC)
It's my all-time favorite manga. It's worth the read, despite the daunting length (23 vol, maybe?). And personally, I blame the writers and the chick who played Mizuki for the J-drama's failure. I remember Oguri Shun being ok, but that Sano himself made no sense.

The Taiwanese drama screws up Kayashima and a bunch of the minor characters, but Sano, Mizuki and Nakatsu are all pretty ok. Changed, but not horribly so. It's my favorite T-drama so far (T-drama? Are they even called that? They are now.) Also, I heard that the J-drama of Hana Yori Dango is the worst of the three. Care to weigh in?
Y U no auto-translate?lye_tea on July 16th, 2010 02:08 pm (UTC)
Twenty-three chapters is a bit long. But I'll manage. I remember when I first read Death Note and halfway through, all I could think about was "gawd, when the hell is this thing gonna end???" xD

Sano is just dumb. Let's suffice with that.

I've seen the Japanese Hana Yori Dango and the Korean Boys Before Flowers, and here's my rundown of the pros and cons of each.

Japanese Version: Good -- shorter, Rui is awesome (but I'm a huge fan of Oguri Shun in this role), a wittier kind of "funny". Bad -- less flashy in terms, logic completely went out the window in the second half, girl is completely dumb in that she falls for the douche.

Korean Version: Good -- prettier setting, design, etc., main guy is slightly less aggravating and even becomes human at times, better-looking cast (although this can be contested). Bad -- inordinate amount of random filler scenes and plots, more emphasis given to background characters (secondary couple, but this could be a good thing depending on your taste), again the logic issue, main girl is extremely annoying at times.

Overall: They're both really good, but not something I would watch a second time. Excellent in terms of a series aimed at girls, but the whole love-triangle thing pissed me off too much. I hate romance. Lol.
treeflamingotreeflamingo on July 16th, 2010 02:37 pm (UTC)
I read the entirety of Hana Kimi in one sitting. But I'm kinda the obsessive type.

Thanks for the rundown! I will probably end up watching all three at some point... which I suppose means I'll also be morally obliged to read the manga oh gawd.
treeflamingo: hanakimi: sano: yumtreeflamingo on July 16th, 2010 02:53 pm (UTC)
Oh, and let me just say this about the manga (this is very important, so I'm going to italicize it): the art gets better.
Y U no auto-translate?lye_tea on July 17th, 2010 01:29 am (UTC)
All three???? I envy your stamina and determination. I get tired of something, even if it's something amazing, very fast.

Okay, better art is ALWAYS a plus. Because I am artistically shallow, I never read manga that doesn't have good art. Lol.

This is kind of random, but have you seen Tokyo Dogs? It has Nanaba and Sano as the two leads.
treeflamingotreeflamingo on July 21st, 2010 07:14 am (UTC)
Aaaaand five days later:

Well, you know, the best plaid plans of mice and men. I may never even watch one of them.

And yes, good art is completely necessary. That's why it's a manga instead of a novel. Totally not shallow. Totally.

Nope, haven't seen Tokyo Dogs. What's the premise? I kinda liked Oguri Shun, but honestly the kid who played Nanba was a bit sleazy looking...
Y U no auto-translate?lye_tea on July 21st, 2010 08:45 am (UTC)
It's a detective show about a NY detective (Oguri Shun) who gets deployed to Tokyo to stop a narcotic run, which is led by the dude who killed his dad. Basically, it's a revenge-plot mixed with slapstick, punish humor and some serious moments. Not the best but it's all right. And if you thought Nanba was sketch looking in Hana Kimi, he gets worse in Tokyo Dogs. The guy starts growing whiskers and sports hobo chic.
treeflamingo: ikemen: nakatsu: getting gayertreeflamingo on July 21st, 2010 12:01 pm (UTC)
Well, I'm sold.