xianaasuka: (D*Date - Star)
[personal profile] xianaasuka posting in [community profile] toku_holidays
Title: Limited Express
Recipient: box_of_doom
Series: ToQger
Characters: Tokacchi, Kagura, the rest of the ToQgers
Rating: G
Summary: Sometimes, you just have to take a break.

Notes: box_of_doom, I'm so so sorry T____T I actually wrote for your first prompt, the Gokai/ToQ crossover, but somehow the drive it was on got displaced and long story short at this point I'm pretty sure it's either a) locked in one of my schools over winter break or b) lost at a training institute in a distant prefecture ;n; So I put this one together as quickly as I could but I hope you still enjoy it, and I still hope I can get your real gift to you sometime soon :(

--
Limited Express

In retrospect, they should have seen it coming. No matter how cool it was battling in giant robots and exploding bad guys, it still took quite the physical and mental toll on them. It could have gotten to any of them first.

Nevertheless, they were all shocked when Kagura burst into tears in the middle of sticking a bandaid on Tokacchi's cheek and ran out of the car and jumped off the train without a word of explanation.

Mio was the first to react, but she had been hurt pretty badly in the last fight, and could barely stand. “Kagura? Kagura! Come back!” she shouted after her, and the sound of her voice made Tokacchi unfreeze. He quickly took stock of the situation: Hikari was in the middle of wrapping a huge gash on Right's arm, while Wagon was trying to hold Mio back, but she was struggling against her and in danger of reopening several of her wounds. Akira had already left to work on repairing Build Ressha and the rails that had gotten damaged in the last fight.

He got to his feet. “Mio, you stay here and finish getting patched up. I'll go after her.”

Mio looked like she wanted to argue, but winced in pain as she shifted her weight onto her injured leg and sank back into her seat, where Wagon immediately went back to wrapping her ankle. “Sorry. Please take care of her.”

Tokacchi nodded firmly and dashed out of the train. “We'll catch up with you when we're finished,” Hikari called after him.

Tokacchi barely had time to take in the station name of Iwashibara before he was out of the small station and into a rural part of town, where a line of small storefronts stood closed and shuttered for the evening. He jogged down the main road, calling Kagura's name and peering down each small alley and connecting street until he heard muffled sobs coming from behind a vending machine. “Kagura?” he said, peering around the machine.

Kagura didn't look up at him. He knelt down beside her and set a hand on her shoulder hesitantly. “Hey. What's the matter?”

“Don't wanna fight any more,” she mumbled.

Tokacchi sighed and leaned back against the wall. “Yeah. Me either.”

“I know we have to. I know! But it's still scary. It still hurts. And I don't want to see any of you get hurt like this.” She went silent for a second. He knew she was picturing Mio, a cut on her cheek and a scrape on her chin and tons of other bruises and cuts, limping and in pain but doing her best not to let it show, because Mio was strong, because she always thinks she has to be strong for them. He knew what she was imagining because he was imagining it too. “But it's going to keep happening. Until we find our town... no, until we defeat the Shadow Line for good, we're going to keep getting hurt.”

Tokacchi didn't know what to say to that, so he glanced around and fixed on the vending machine and stood up, fumbling with his pass. “U-um, do you want some juice?”

Kagura sniffled. “Sure. Thanks.” She started playing with the end of his shoelace, maybe not even noticing that she was doing it, and Tokacchi swiped his pass against the machine's reader and stared at the lights that lit up as a result. He thought about how the plastic part on the end of a shoelace was called an aglet and tried to remember where he had learned that, but couldn't. He wondered why he remembered that when there were so many important things he had forgotten. He looked at the canned coffee and the water and the sports drinks and at the two cans of juice in the bottom corner, one orange, one grape. He reached toward the buttons, then stopped and just went on staring at the cans. He didn't know what the right choice was. He didn't know why it was suddenly the hardest choice in the world, but it was, and he couldn't make it. He squeezed his hand into a fist and closed his eyes, and made himself stop and remember what was important. He could feel Kagura poking an aglet against his sock. Kagura. Kagura was what was important.

He opened his eyes. “Do you want orange or grape?”

“Umm, grape,” she said, and he inwardly sighed in relief and pushed the button. The can fell into the bottom of the machine with a satisfying crash and he gave it to Kagura, who popped it open and drank, looking a little more cheerful.

He turned back to the machine and scanned his pass again. This time he pushed the orange juice button without hesitation, but then every light on the machine lit up at once and it made a loud beeping sound. He yelped and dropped his pass on the ground. “Congratulations, you're a winner,” an automated female voice told him, and two cans thunked into the bottom of the machine.

Kagura giggled, and Tokacchi laughed too, and retrieved the cans from the machine a little sheepishly. He squatted down next to Kagura again. She gave him back his pass and he put it in his pocket and wiped the condensation on his hands off on his pants. Kagura finished her drink and tipped the can back to catch the last few drops before slipping it into the recycle bin. “Do you want the extra one?” he asked, offering it to her. She started to shake her head, then reconsidered.

“Thanks,” she said, and popped it open as well before holding it out to him again. He looked at her blankly for a second before catching on and scrambling to pick up his own can. They clinked them together and laughed. Kagura leaned her head against Tokacchi's shoulder and he suddenly had too many hands and not enough hands at the same time, because he didn't know whether to keep holding onto his drink or put it down and put an arm around her shoulder or both or what, but she started talking before he had time to feel much more than an initial wave of panic. “I guess I don't even really mind so much, fighting,” she mused, poking at the ground. “It's scary and I don't like it, but at least we get to help people. We don't have to wait for anyone else to come and help us. We can defeat the darkness! But sometimes...” She frowned and ground her heel into the dirt.

“Sometimes you want to be normal, just for a little while?” Tokacchi suggested, staring at his can. It said there were 35 grams of sugar in it, and 170 calories. Sometimes he wonders how many calories he's eaten in his entire lifetime, how much sugar, how much iron and protein and saturated fat. Thinking about it now just made him feel ill.

“Yeah,” Kagura said. They sat in silence for a minute, and watched their shadows fade into the grey of the pavement as the sun set. Tokacchi wondered where Right and Hikari were, if they were lost or if they had decided to stay with Mio and leave it to him. He hoped she was okay. He finished his juice and set the can down, and Kagura threw it away for him.

She whispered something to herself, and he couldn't make all of it out and he didn't want to eavesdrop, if that's the word for it, but he did catch the word “strong.” Like all of her mantras, it was rushed but rhythmic, and he actually felt her confidence and strength – not physical, but mental – grow after every repetition. By the end she was practically glowing. He was a little jealous of how easy it was for her to change herself like that, even though maybe he shouldn't have been. After all, he couldn't know if it really was all that easy for her, how much she had to practice, how many times she failed before she learned how to do it. She stood up and so did he. “Thank you,” she started to say when she turned to face him, and then started laughing. She lifted the drooping bandaid on his cheek up and smoothed it over the cut there. Tokacchi winced and blushed and then winced again.

“Has that been dangling off my face this entire time?” he moaned, remembering his dash through the streeets of Iwashibara, only for some reason he was convinced that they were packed with tons of people staring at him rather than being almost entirely deserted.

“Guess so,” Kagura said. “Sorry, Tokacchi.”

“Ah, no, it's fine, don't worry about it,” he stammered, and looked back at the main street, more to convince himself that there was hardly anyone there than anything. Then he got an idea. “Um, Kagura? Before we go back, do you want to maybe walk around town for a few minutes? I... I know you're still worried about Mio, and so am I, but I just thought it might make you feel a bit better. I... think it would make me feel better too, to be honest with you.”

Somehow, those words made a bit of her self-imposed strength disappear, not in a bad way, but in a way that made her just a little less unearthly and a little more Kagura. “Can we? I'd love to, just for a little!” They smiled at each other.

Tokacchi called Right to tell him that everything was all right, but got Mio, who told him that Hikari convinced Right to stay on the train with her and eat to get his strength up (and that his mouth was currently too full to talk to anyone unless they wanted him to spray rice all over the train). Just then Hikari came around the corner and told Tokacchi basically the same thing with a few more details while Kagura took over the call and apologized to Mio. Mio apologized to her too, for getting hurt and not noticing that she was at her limit. They both sounded happier the more they apologized to each other, and Hikari kind of rolled his eyes at them, but it kind of warmed Tokacchi's heart for some reason. He told Hikari about their plans to walk through town for a little bit, and Hikari said he'd go with them.

They walked down toward the river and found a few little shops that were still open and looked at the shelves of local foods and rows of mascot keychains. Kagura found one of a really cute yellow fox wearing a sunhat, and Tokacchi immediately agreed that they had to get it for Mio. When they looked a little longer, they found a pudgy red panda stuffing a huge riceball in its face, and Kagura almost went into hysterics over how perfect it was for Right. Hikari was staying a little aloof as always, looking like he was above cute plastic trinkets, at least until he dropped one into Tokacchi's hand, a grumpy-eyed snail with an orange shell that somehow looked exactly like Akira, and then they all lost it. After buying the three keychains and a bag of popcorn to share, they headed back. Kagura passed off the popcorn bag to Tokacchi and took his hand kind of shyly. Then she winked at him playfully and swung around backwards so she could grab Hikari's hand too. They walked back the rest of the way like that until they got to the train, and then she let go so she could run to Mio, who was leaning against the doorway waiting for them.

“I'm glad she's okay,” Tokacchi said to Hikari.

“I'm glad both of you are okay,” Hikari said, and gave him a look.

Tokacchi ducked his head. “Sorry. I didn't notice. I guess I have to be more careful about finding time to take breaks.”

Hikari gave him a rare smile. “No problem. You and Kagura make a good pair though, you know?”

Tokacchi gaped at him and tried to vocalize all the reasons Hikari should know that's not how it was and that he liked Kagura very much but not like that, which came out sounding kind of like “smnuuhhmm-No!!!”

Hikari smirked at him and snatched the half-full bag of popcorn out of his hands. “I mean you have good teamwork,” he said, and tossed the popcorn to Right, who caught it without even looking and immediately started eating it.

“Oh,” Tokacchi said. He pushed up his glasses and beamed at the train and everyone on it. The doors closed behind him and the train started to move, leaving the little station behind for the next destination.
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