To Leave Is To Die



Scene Title To Leave Is To Die
Synopsis Because in a way, you can never come home again.

In a picturesque neighborhood of houses distantly set from each other upon a hill on the side of a mountain, all should be peaceful at this hour of evening. The sun is going down in the distance, casting an orange glow through the trees that have begun to change color similarly– shades of fire curling in on the edges of leaves. It's an early end to summer this year in temperatures that have fluctuated rapidly and dramatically. Today was still warm enough, though, that Kaori sits on the slanted roof of the home, the window to her bedroom open behind and beside her while she observes the trees and the remaining light in the sky.

She can hear the sounds of the motorcycle parked in the home's driveway turn something in its engine over one last time as it cools.

She can hear the sounds of shouting from inside the house, directed at the person who parked it there.

Kaori tries not to listen as she waits, but it's also hard to shut the entirety of what's being said out. Eventually things– not quiet, but calm inside, and she can hear the sounds of footsteps in the stairwell. Behind her, she hears the sounds of indoor slippers being kicked off near the window, and then suddenly she's not alone anymore.

Out crawls Asami beside her, still wearing the leather she adorns like armor when she goes riding. The subject of the scolding inside was one part her brazenness in engaging with that dreaded counterculture, and the other part of it was…

Asami palms a slightly-crushed pack of cigarettes from her coat pocket after she tents her knees up in front of her. She flips open the box to look down inside to verify the safety of them.

And then, wordlessly, she hands the pack off to well-dressed Kaori, who accepts them, still in her school uniform. From the pocket of her skirt, she produces a lighter, and fishes one of the undamaged cigarettes free, pinching it between her lips and flicking the wheel of the lighter to set the tip of it aflame.

Together, they look out over the oncoming sunset, both ready for embrace of the evening for different reasons, appreciative of it in different ways. Smoke wisps up and away from them as the cherry on the end of the cigarette flares and then fades before being flicked away onto the roof's shingles. Kaori exhales long, and on the end of it wonders, "ね。"

Asami doesn't look, only answers with an upward tick of her brows and wonders, "んん?"

Staring out, voice an unrefined laze compared to her usual face, Kaori wonders, "私がいなくなれば、何をすると思うの?"

Asami blinks twice and then turns to look at Kaori. "え?" she wonders in open surprise, and then chides her with, "何てそのバカな質問って。。。"

With a small grin pulling at the corner of her mouth, Kaori regards her sister out of the corner of her eyes and takes another long pull of her cigarette. Holding it between two fingers, she asks of Asami with smoke drifting lazily from her mouth like a dragon, "考えよし。"

Realizing there's very little she can do to get out of this thought experiment, Asami looks off into the trees, brow furrowing while she considers it. "んん。。。" But she finally decides, "考えて嫌な感じがするよね。" She digs a heel into the roof and adjusts her seating, muttering, "別に気に入りたくないことよ。" She barely has time to express how deeply unnerved she is before Kaori openly laughs at her, though.

"アハハ,どうしてそんな変な言い方?" Try as she might to keep her voice down, the side of her hand pressed to her mouth, Kaori's eyes glimmer with amusement anyway.

With some frustration, Asami chides her in return, "どうしてその変な質問!" The anger in her over the ridiculous question and then the nitpicking of her response rolls right off Kaori's shoulder though. The rest of the smoke wafts away from her in a contented sigh.

"ん," she supposes, returning her gaze to the sunset. A moment later, more quietly, more peacefully, she says into the air, "ま、いいか。" as if it all was a small, meaningless matter to consider to begin with. It's not the end of her thinking, though. The cigarette wanes down, more ash collecting rather than being flicked away into nothing. Neither of them have considered getting an ashtray. Neither of them truly think this is a behavior that will last forever.

But finally, Kaori blows on the end of the cigarette to send the ashes scattering– and ending up partly in her lap. She makes a face of dismay and quickly tries to pat away her mistake before it stains or burns her clothing, receiving no help from her sister who thinks she deserves it a little for everything she's been put through to keep Kaori's secret. Finally she lets out a sigh, puts the cigarette butt out on the roof, and sets her hands on her knees. She rubs them back and forth, and instead of looking out at the horizon, looks down at the motorcycle that ferried her sister home tonight.

The one that before long will take her away again. And each time, it might be the last, what with the way things have been carrying on lately.

"。。。あさみん,どこにも行かへん。" Kaori's tone curves with her concern, about where that road she takes when she leaves is going to lead her. Her voice falls to a self-conscious hush, but she tells Asami sincerely, "何でも起これば死ぬわけないんじゃん。"

This once again has taken a turn. Asami turns her head back to her sister, and she considers reassuring her more directly, but knows… "そう知ってる。" She also knows, "けど,いつの日かここから出るかもしれん。" To leave isn't to die, no matter what their parents have tried to impress upon both their girls– that breaking the mold is to resign themselves to an existence so lesser as to be hollow and less than meaningless.

Kaori is afraid of that future. Her brow crumples up in worry for it– for herself when Asamin is no longer there to help her. No longer there to stand up to others on her behalf, no longer there to put herself between her and their parents. She'll have to face things she doesn't think she's ready to, but knows she'd have to eventually, anyway.

She can't rely on Asami forever. And after all, leaving isn't like dying. Even if she'll never gather the courage to do what her older sister contemplates.

Her mouth turns up in a small, sad smile. "それにしてもまだお姉さんだよ。" The certainty of that should provide a measure of steadiness and relief to Asami, but instead all the air's left her. What comes next is a promise to begin to be a support in the same way Kaori's sought it from her before. It's a vow for her to be strong in the way she chooses to be. "私、なんか、付いて来んけど–" Asami can't meet Kaori's eyes as her sister turns to smile at her and reassure her, "あさみん、どこに行っても。。。


Petrelli Residence Panic Room

March 19, 2021

4:04 am

Asami's eyes blink open with tears in them already, her heart full of longing. She attempts to lay there on the cot she's slept on for two months now in as much silence as she can muster, but it turns out to be a failing fight. A moment later she needs to rock upright, one foot coming down to the concrete below as a hand comes up to cover her mouth.

Her eyes burn as she closes them and tries to stifle her sob.


She doesn't know if the memory is from here or if it's from there. She doesn't know if it matters. All she knows is it's tied deeply to something she's lost. Even if she stays here, that's a home and time she can't go back to. And if they all push forward, if they leave, if they somehow escape… she still doesn't know when, if ever, she'll be able to go home again. Asi won her freedom to go unhunted, but not the freedom to resume her old life.

Any of it. Especially not the part of it she'd forsaken over ten years ago.

A keening sound rises from the back of her throat as her shoulders shake, and she sobs into her palm, salt staining her cheek where it comes up against the dam of her hand. Asami tries and fails to get her breathing under control for much longer than she feels it should take. How long Asi feels it should take.

She curses whatever it is that's caused her to yearn for this thing now. Was it the system attempting to get her to reintegrate? Was it something she did to herself instead?

All that lay behind her was fraught with pain, and all that stood to come at them when they set out tomorrow promised more of the same. She knows she cannot– must not give in to the temptation to go back to her half-life here. Asami tries to remind herself what she knows well– that any promise of happiness here is always contingent on some future condition being met before the goalposts move again. It feels attainable because all of the requirements are until they shift. Further, all the postponements feel reasonable, like her next shot at what she wants will be just around the corner.

She's never even met her nephew Genji properly. Never held him. Never cradled him or carried him or tossed him into the air just for him to laugh and scream in delight. He's years old here. Old enough to call her when he steals his mother's phone when she's not looking.

… He doesn't exist out there, either. Only here. And even here won't let her have that true interaction, even if only here Kaori was able to have him at all.

Asami breathes out, strained, and at last gets herself to take in more than thin and useless gasps of air. She swallows hard and uses the side of her hands to swipe away her river of tears. She takes in deep breaths, in through her nose, out through her mouth, and stares off to the sliver of light coming from down the top of the distant staircase until it's no longer a transfixing blur of light but a single line from under the door to the kitchen.

She sets her hands down, bracing them against the side of the cot, knowing they all needed to rise soon to set out anyway. A long moment passes, and then she levers herself up to her feet, walking to the bag she's prepared for this trip to pick it up by its handle before heading for the stairs. Ascending them slowly until she can push the cellar door open into the kitchen, she makes it only that far before she sets the overstuffed bookbag down again, intent on finding something to occupy herself with until the others wake.

Busying herself with making a morning meal for any who want it will deprive her of another chance to succumb to her doubts… and if she's lucky, will even silence whatever 'what if's remain even after those disperse.

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