Tatsumi never thought so much could change overnight, until a year ago when it did. But there is always something left unsaid... [Watari/Tatsumi]
Author: Rhea Logan. That would be me. ::nodnod::
Summary: Tatsumi never thought so much could change overnight, until a year ago when it did. But there is always something left unsaid...
Okay, so I said Wish was a one-shot. It was. This, however, is something that has been on my mind ever since I wrote that - a One Year Later sort of continuation. Therefore, if you want to know where all of this is coming from, read the other story first.
Lots of fluff ahead. Guilty as charged. I don't normally write my fics like that, but I believe Watari and Tatsumi more than deserve it. ;)
by Rhea Logan
There were times when Tatsumi wished he had lost the track of time.
There had been days, once, when he believed it would have been better not to remember how many years had passed since his soul should have gone to rest. But it never happened. He remembered each and every of the seventy seven years of his afterlife. They were stored in his memory, sorted as neatly as the files on his desk he had been putting in order again for the past two hours. Each year held something special that distinguished it from the others.
The first year, it had been anger. Directed at his death, then at fate, at himself - but always carefully wiped away from the front he had put up for others. Well hidden, suppressed. To Tatsumi, it seemed better that way.
The second year, and many that followed, it had been Tsuzuki. He had often wondered what had drawn him to that man. Perhaps it had been his weakness that had stirred Tatsumi's protective sense. Perhaps it had been the strength he wished to rekindle in him just because he cared; to help Tsuzuki and, in some way, himself. Or maybe it was darkness, the black veil that enveloped his core and held both his power and his frailty together within that one soul. Tatsumi knew that darkness; he had walked in the shadows himself.
Which of those had been the reason, he couldn't - or refused to - tell.
Then, it had been work. He had dedicated himself to his duties completely, with no second thoughts. But somewhere between numbers, letters, reports and budget plans, he had found himself forced to stop and look at what he had done. That day he knew the anger had faded, as had the passion, and his existence was mundane again. The hope he still harbored in his heart, for the tables to turn, was bound to fade as well.
From that time on, he had begun to look for reasons to stay another year.
It was summer, when most people's spirits were high, that Tatsumi had chosen as the time for his summary of the previous twelve months and a new resolve for the coming twelve. At first it had been easy. He had stayed to watch over his ex-partner of three months. He had stayed because the division would have suffered a financial hell without his detailed budget plan. Then, because someone or other needed him for something or other but it no longer mattered who or why. He had stayed out of habit, out of some deeply buried fear of change he had once craved.
Over time, the list of his reasons had been steadily growing thinner.
The clock on the wall chimed eleven lazy strokes and found him still in his chair behind his desk, smoothing out a pile of invoices in front of him. Adjusting his glasses, Tatsumi sighed.
Come year seventy six, the bittersweet irony of fate had laughed in his face.
He remembered sitting alone well into the warm, summer night, recalling the past twelve months as had been his habit for years. But when it came to his new resolve, the reason to stay another year, he suddenly felt weary. He was tired, finally forced to acknowledge that the years had worn him thin. There hadn't seemed to have been enough reason for him to want to stay. Everything had become trivial, and what hadn't, was out of his reach.
And then it came.
Tatsumi reached down to open the lowest drawer in his desk. Under a pile of folders, old notebooks and papers he kept there, he felt a small envelope he had hidden there exactly a year ago.
The small letter inside looked precisely the same as it had twelve months before, when he had first held it in his hands, plus a few carefully smoothed creases on the snow-white paper. The message printed there was all the same as well; not that the letters could have shuffled over time to suddenly mean something else. In a few short, concise sentences, it had informed him that he had been given a chance never to have to look for reasons again. A chance for which he had silently hoped, and apparently he was not the only one who thought his time was running out.
He remembered the messenger boy, no older than fourteen if his appearance was any indication - which he knew it probably wasn't - with a big grin on his face and a red baseball cap worn backwards on his head. It must have been a hunch that had his legs grow week at the knees as he signed for it and slowly closed the door.
He remembered reading the words over and over again until they clung to him like a wet shirt. He had stood in the middle of his office room, gripping that piece of paper that could have changed it all.
He had fought confusion as one thought at variance with the next had raced through his mind. And suddenly he knew why he wasn't nearly as happy about it as he thought he would have been.
Ascension meant that he would go away. He would no longer wake up in the morning and come here, fighting his way through endless reports and files and cases and all that amounted to his job. He would no longer come to the break room for a coffee, and for that matter, his coffee would never again contain any suspect substances, added in secrecy by a certain blonde scientist who had to break his habit of never getting up earlier than absolutely necessary to spike the coffee pot.
He remembered his decision going up in flames. Suddenly he felt as though it had been just yesterday; that heaviness in his chest and how he found himself out of breath. He had argued with himself that it had been foolish. He had misplaced his feelings before. He had sworn to himself it would not happen again.
And yet it had.
Tatsumi smiled to his thoughts, running a finger along the edge of the paper in his hand. It must have been a breath of luck that had scattered his thoughts as he had tried, in vain, to write his positive response. Several versions of it had met their end in his trash bin before he gave up and left the building in search of a better place to think, to weigh his options again.
And he had found Watari on that roof, staring into the night that marked the thirtieth year since his death. The night that could have been the end turned out to have been the beginning. A new start, after which Tatsumi no longer had to search for reasons to stay. His reason wore a lab coat and whirled around his office in a flurry of golden hair, every single day, though no longer just for the sake of the money-begging fest. His reason had an owl that somehow always managed to sneak her way into his food. Every one of the past 365 nights, Tatsumi had been reminded of why he had stayed, trailing off to sleep with a warm, slender body curled up against him in bed.
Now, a year later, the note he held in his hands mattered little, if at all. He refused to ponder what he would have lost, had fate not been so kind to him and given him a chance. A chance so different from what that slip had offered, and one so much better, at that.
He resented being alone tonight, but he understood. Watari, much as himself, had his work to do. Their private celebration of the first year together would have to wait for his return. Tatsumi reached for the drawer to put the letter back in its place, but a sudden thought stopped him and he withdrew his hand. He knew the only thing that he should do with it, now that it had sat there long enough. Slipping it into his pocket, he turned off the light, locked the door and went out of the office, away from the now silent building and made his way back to where it all began.
He had promised himself to find time to come here by himself many times in the past year, but somehow something always got in the way. When not caught up in the whirlwind of work, Tatsumi often found himself too tired to go anywhere. He and Watari spent nights together; apart from that, they seldom ran into each other during the day. It sat well with them both, and left them with enough space to breathe their own air.
Closing his eyes, Tatsumi took a deep breath. There was a sense of peace inside and around him, as if the whole world had slowed down on his whim and made him calm again.
Seventy seven years had defied the laws of the gravity of time. They no longer weighed upon him as heavily as they once had.
Something stirred the air and Tatsumi stiffened as he turned, instinct taking over even though he knew the presence behind him before he saw its source. He relaxed his stance. Something stirred again; inside him, this time.
Watari landed on one knee just a few feet away, his brown coat whispering softly as it fluttered and spread around him. He looked up and a broad smile bloomed on his face.
"Tatsumi," he said breathily. "Who would have thought." His amber eyes laughed as he winked. "You're the last person I'd expect to find in a place like this."
"Am I, now?" Tatsumi found it almost beyond him to tear his eyes off his partner. Cheeks flushed, wind-tangled golden locks spilling around his slender silhouette, and that glow in his eyes made Watari look so... young. He radiated brilliance and warmth Tatsumi could almost feel where he stood, still a step away.
"Yup." Watari cocked his head, taking a good measure of his partner. "You should be cooking one of your specialties right about now."
Tatsumi shook his head, but a small smile curled the corners of his lips upwards anyway. "I thought you wouldn't make it."
"You have got to be kidding me." Watari crossed the distance between them. He stood face to face with the older man and reached out his hand to smooth out the lapels of Tatsumi's suit jacket. "I told myself I'll make it, or die trying."
"You're already dead." Tatsumi managed that with a straight face.
Watari chuckled. "Thank you, Captain Obvious. Thirty one years, as of today."
The words rolled smoothly off his tongue, quick and carefree, but Tatsumi knew better. The past year had taught him much about the subtle changes in his partner's singsong voice, had taught him to hear, not just to listen.
Watari rubbed his hands together. "So, what's the big plan?"
Tatsumi brought his own hand to his face and pushed his glasses up his nose. The lenses rattled softly in their frames. He let out a deep, soundless breath. "I'll leave that up to you," he said in a voice that had grown serious once more. "But there is something I'd like to give you before we get to that."
Watari raised an eyebrow at the sudden change of air, but he gave a casual shrug and smiled. "Be my guest," he said lightly.
Tatsumi fished in his pocket for the folded letter and took it out. He handed it to Watari, but caught his hands in both of his before the other unfolded it. Deep blue eyes met amber ones.
"Read the date, before you threaten your otherwise immortal existence with a heart attack." He had a lighter tone in mind, but he knew it didn't work too well.
Frowning, Watari opened the letter. The playful smile gone from his face, he adjusted his own glasses. Not even the sheath of darkness could have concealed the change as Tatsumi saw his face suddenly growing pale. He swallowed down on the fear and second thoughts.
The few short seconds seemed to drag forever as Watari's eyes skimmed across the text. Then he looked away, arms dropping loosely to his sides.
"Yes." Tatsumi schooled his voice into the best calm, soothing tone he could manage. He took Watari gently by the arm.
The scientist bowed his head and closed his eyes, "I didn't know," he said quietly. "A year ago. To the day."
By his quiet voice with that cutting hint of disbelief, Tatsumi could tell the battle of emotions in his partner's mind and heart. He reached out his hand and lifted Watari's chin, then gently cupped his cheek and waited. Still like stone, never pushing with so much as a breath, he stayed silent until Watari met his eyes again.
"A year ago, I might have wanted that," Tatsumi said evenly. "As you see, it never happened. I'm giving this to you for a reason. I want you to know... why I stayed."
"Tatsumi..." Watari gave his head a shake.
For a split second, Tatsumi wondered if he had made a mistake. Perhaps it would have been better to keep that to himself. He felt a familiar sting of regret at he looked into Watari's eyes that glimmered in the faint light.
Next thing he knew, a pair of arms slid around him and Tatsumi forgot the words of apology that had almost made it to the tip of his tongue. He returned the embrace, relief washing over him in a slow, gentle wave as Watari's warmth soaked into him. It ran deep into him, pulling at the strings of his very soul. He buried his hands in those rich golden locks, inhaling the well-known herbal scent. He felt himself relax, the weight in his chest, the tension and fear gone as it had never been there at all.
Watari pulled back, giving them both room to breathe but never breaking the contact. Tatsumi's thoughts fought for dominance over one another as at least ten things he wanted to say crowded in his mind, but neither seemed to sound right enough.
"It's okay." Watari smiled. He brushed the tip of his finger across Tatsumi's lips. "I know."
Of course you do, Tatsumi mused, you learn faster and see more than you admit.
Disentangling himself from Watari's embrace, the Shadow Master took the letter from his partner's hands. He met a questioning look, but before Watari could speak, he tore the paper in half and handed it back to its new owner.
"There," he said, "Now it's as it should be."
Silence reigned for a long while as Watari held the two halves of what could have been his lover's fate between his fingers, a thoughtful look on his face. Then he lifted his head and his eyes lit up with a sudden thought.
"Hold on," he said quickly, hardly trying to suppress a grin. "Don't go anywhere." He walked a few steps away and turned his back to Tatsumi.
The Shadow Master's eyebrows made it quite far into his hairline. He could see nothing of what Watari was doing; he only heard the quiet whisper of paper in the scientist's skillful hands. Then Watari turned around, a brilliant smile brightening his face.
"They say ascension sets the spirit free." His voice rang clear through the air. He brought his hands up. There was a small white item sitting in each of his upturned palms. "Since you're staying with me," he said, then lifted both hands close to his face and whispered something Tatsumi couldn't hear. "Let's have these go up." With that he threw them up in the air.
Tatsumi looked up.
Above his head, two small paper birds took flight, paper wings whispering as they brushed against each other. They picked up speed, shooting high up towards the night sky, then came down in a spiral dance and circled around Tatsumi who only stood, at a loss for words, watching their smooth performance with blurry eyes.
Watari returned to his side. He cast his partner a critical look. "Tatsumi, you're /staring,/" he said, with a chuckle.
A paper bird brushed against him and caught in his hair. Tatsumi reached out his hand, untangling the tiny thing from the trap of Watari's long strands. It escaped his grasp, resuming flight as it cut through the air to rejoin the other in their dance.
"Pretty, isn't it?" Watari grinned.
Incorrigible. Tatsumi's inner voice had to laugh. He still found himself surprised by how often he caught himself doing just that around that man. He looked at Watari. The scientist stood still, his head up, watching his own creations. Two white dots far away against the jet-black sky.
Tatsumi smiled. "Have you made your wish yet?" he asked.
Watari's attention was back with his partner. "I only had one, Tatsumi, and that one's done," he said. "But I think you might want to make one, this time."
Tatsumi raised an eyebrow before he reminded himself that with Watari, one should never think they had seen it all. "Do I, now?"
The blonde nodded. "You know, they say that if you make a wish upon a shooting star, there's no way it won't come true," he said, voice serious, but his eyes shone with open amusement.
"But there are no--" Tatsumi broke off as Watari pointed up, a knowing smile playing across his face.
One after another, several thin lines like quick silver crossed the midnight sky.
"Make a wish, Seiichirou," Watari said quietly against Tatsumi's ear, sneaking one hand around his partner's waist.
Tatsumi reached for his glasses and pushed them out of the way. "Did you--"
Watari's warm, soft lips pressed against his before he could finish. A quick tongue ran along his lower lip; teasing, playfully inviting.
Watari took off his own glasses and slid them into the pocket of his coat. He threw his arms around Tatsumi's neck. "Trust me, you don't want to know."
Tatsumi closed his eyes. His inner voice echoed softly to the rhythm of Watari's breath against his lips. As long as I can, I wish to stay.
August 21st 2005
To Shannon, with love.
The number of years Tatsumi has been around, in this story, is estimated time; based on whatever canon information there is. Tatsumi makes a couple of remarks that suggest Tsuzuki is older than him. weirdquark in yami_backstory on LJ developed a timeline according to which Tatsumi died some time between 1930 and 1949. Watari died in 1977 (at the age of 24)