"Can I keep him?"
"That's not a puppy, Choutarou."
I remember telling you that way back then, like you were a child in need of guidance. When the evening was waning, the sun setting on the horizon to lay across the world a brilliant blanket of golden hues while pixies of violet frolicked about, weaving a work of art through the heavens. We'd just left some play (Whose name has long since been forgotten.) and were walking back to the station together, hand in hand when some sound in the alley caught your attention.
Reminding you that curiosity killed the cat only earned me a teasingly quipped "But satisfaction brought it back." Before you dragged me into that alley and started investigating. You'd been begging for a pet for months but I'd never had the chance to find one. Work had kept us both busy for what must have seemed like forever and I knew you were growing tired of waiting. I also knew you were hoping that you'd walk into that dank and dirty place, find a unwanted stray mutt that you could whisk away to the haven you'd created for us both.
Except it wasn't a puppy you found, was it?
You turned that look on me. The look I both loved and dread. It made me want to hand you the world on a silver platter, to go to the ends of the earth to give you what you wanted, and filled me with fear at the same time.
"I. But." You paused, voice fading away to a bit of nothingness that told of disappointment at the best of times and during others I knew another round would be forth coming.
"Choutarou," That time, I knew, was one that didn't fall into the category of accepted and forgotten. It would be prudent to remind you of all the hassle what you were asking for would bring.
"But, Ryou, he needs us!" You exclaimed before I even had a chance to finish the sentence that would ring a death knell to your foolishness. Hoping, I knew, that the reminder of the filth surrounding us, of too thin limbs that told of near starvation and lack of care would sway me. And perhaps, it did. Because I felt that terrible sinking sensation in the pit of my stomach, sickeningly sweet warmth swarming to fill the gaping hole it left behind when you tucked in your top lip and the other began to tremble.
You were always so cute when you pouted. I've never been able to resist that and you, you devil in an angelic disguise of silver hair and amber eyes, knew it. Didn't you?
Somehow, and I'm still not sure how you accomplished it, we ended up taking him home. You spent months taming the beast you courted that fateful night. Days of planning each strategic attack you leveled on his defenses, approaching and retreating while tempting him with glimpses of the paradise you'd opened for me when I finally let you past the wall I kept between the world and myself.
The poor kid never stood a chance, just like I didn't.
When it was all said and done, after we were sure that he didn't have any more surprises to throw at us, (Beyond the harmless snakes, bed sheets knotted together and frogs hidden in your slippers.) the brat rocked our world with a revelation that still leaves me breathless when I think about it.
And I guess that night was the night I really decided to give you what you wanted. Because even though we'd talked it over at the beginning, accepted the limitations our relationship would bring with it, it never took away the ache. Did it? Not for you. Not for you who I knew had so much love to give, who as you grew older thrived on nurturing those you felt needed or deserved it.
For years afterwards I was the sole focus of that mothering instinct you possessed in abundance and I grew used to it. So much so that maybe, just maybe I was a tiny itty bit jealous when you brought him into our lives. Only a night of terrified screams, fearful cries for help and a recounting of tales filled with degradation and humiliation changed that.
I never asked you if you knew what I did, how I went about swaying the officials to approve our affidavit for his adoption. I didn't want to know if you were ashamed of me for the way I used the money our families left us. Because even if you were, it wouldn't have changed the course of action I had chosen. Not when I knew that what I was doing would in the end make you happy.
Then, the ends justified the means.
Choutarou, I wish you were here, now. I know it's not your fault that you aren't, even if I did blame you for so long afterwards for leaving us. I know I ranted and raved for ages, cursing you for making me love you and throwing it all away for the fanciful whim of giving him the first birthday present he'd ever get from us. The outing that you never should have ventured out on because it stole you away from us in an accident that wouldn't have happened if only you had stayed home.
I'm sorry for that and I wish you were here now so I could ask you the same thing I asked you the night you came back to our bed toting a weeping child in your arms and tucked him in-between us, where he could sleep undisturbed by dreams of his past.
"Tori, what do we know about raising a girl?"
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