watching the lights go down

other worlds through sunglasses


it's alright, a stranger in this town
Rook the Librarian gisho
Previous Entry Share Next Entry
[GetBackers] Salt [2/2]
I had the ideas anyway, but I should mention large bits of this fic were given firmer form by reading the end-of-chapter profiles. Ayamine-sensei, you're nuts, but we like you that way.

Part 2. Part 1 is here: http://gisho.livejournal.com/97186.html





11.

He had not fought the man called the Beastmaster, although he had wished for the opportunity. But it had been Kazuki's by right, and so he and Kakei had stood aside and waited, Kakei with a grim and terrible patience, Toshiki with clenched fists and not patience at all, ready to spring. He's mine, Kazuki had said, and so they had given him to Kazuki.

The fight had not taken long at all.

It was a matter of reach, and even then Toshiki had understood that, been able to watch the currents, the ebb and flow, and he had understood how these things worked. He could attack at a distance himself but he preferred to close with his opponents, if they were worthwhile. The Beastmaster had no choice but to come close, but Kazuki had a choice, and he preferred to stand back and cast his threads before him and around him and stay aloof, distant, even as he sliced open their flesh. He did not dirty his hands.

Afterwards Kakei had offered to patch him up, with the thoughtless, casual chivalry that left Kazuki with a soft, amused smile and Toshiki full of simmering resentment, but instead he had run off as soon as he was able to rise. "Don't worry," Kazuki had told them. "He will return. He cannot bear the thought of a loss." His smile was one of genuine happiness, almost affection. "He has grace. Not as much as you, Toshiki," he had added almost absently, and Toshiki's heart had thumped heavily in his chest. "But I think we would go well together, if we were on the same side."

That was the first time, but not the last. The Beastmaster was a fast learner. The second time it took far longer to finish. He brought his own second to that fight, a young man with long brown hair and a grin that was only a little removed from mad, and a golden lion that padded beside the man on noiseless paws. Toshiki had watched them warily, but the man made no sudden moves, only leaned on the same wall as they stood beside and made odd, biting remarks. There were crows circling overhead, and after a little bit one of them landed on the young man's shoulder, and he gave it a crust of bread. He did not seem to mind. Toshiki wished he could grab the bird and wring its neck, and he did not quite know why. The lion only yawned, and watched the fight with dark impenetrable eyes.

The third time, they fought so long Toshiki began to hurt from the swirl of chi he surrounded himself with in readiness, and at long last the Beastmaster fell to his knees, but no further. It was Kazuki who called his threads back, who suggested a temporary truce.

They were men of honour. They declared a truce, and Sakura had appeared from nowhere and made subtle suggestions, and somehow they came to realize that they had much in common, and both wished only to protect their friends. The truce became a permanent end to hostilities. Toshiki should have been nothing but glad.

He had still wished the fight had been his.

---

12.

He liked Nagano, and he found work there quickly, putting up the frame of a new office building. On Sundays he walked about the city. It was unsettlingly clean. In Mugenjou there had been dust and dirt and smears of black tar everywhere, and things left abandoned in the streets, decaying cardboard boxes, newspapers from weeks or months ago blown in on some wayward breeze, bulging plastic bags into whose contents only the desperate cared to enquire. The occasional weed, but green and growing things died quickly.

It might have been like that in bits of Fukuoka, or Kanazama, or Matsuyama, or Kobe. He had only seen a little bit of blowing trash, nothing out of the ordinary. But there had been smoke, and fog, and haze hanging over the air. In Nagano the air was clean. He wondered if he had still been half-asleep until he left the Oki Islands after all, if the haze had been the tears lurking in the corners of his eyes, the static of the dreams he had not allowed himself.

He took the bus once, on a wild whim, to a park on the outskirts of town. Passing through the downtown shopping district an old man in a kimono got on, and Toshiki yielded his seat automatically before he realized the man was middle-aged at most and unsettlingly familiar. His hair was brown streaked with gray, and the look on his face was one of habitual exhaustion. "Thank you," the not-old man murmured.

They got off at the same stop, and Toshiki found himself trailing after the man. His motions were slow and careful, although it was obvious to Toshiki at least that he he had once been very strong. A beautiful ruination, he thought. He got the ides that the man was on his way to meet someone. But instead he only bought a can of coffee from a vending machine, and turned with half a smile. "Would you like one, young man?"

"Why?"

"You were kind to me on the bus." The man shrugged. "And you have the look of someone who's been hard done by."

"I'm better now," he muttered, but he didn't argue when the man got a second can, and they sat down together on a bench. Finally Toshiki ventured, "You look a lot like that yourself."

"My wife, my eldest son, and my only daughter are all dead. My middle son left home and hasn't spoken to me in a year. After a while you get tired of it," the man said evenly. "But you're a bit young for that. A sibling, perhaps? Sweetheart?"

Toshiki bit his lip and sipped the coffee, watching the birds twitter and peck at the ground. Finally he said, "I havn't lost anyone. I just never had anyone in the first place."

The man nodded sadly. "And you don't think you ever will?"

"For a while I did," Toshiki said quietly. "I was a bastard son, disinherited in favour of my brother. I left home and finally joined a gang, and I fell in love with the leader. Of course he already had someone better. When I left ... they didn't even ask me to stay." He sighed. "I know that sounds very petty."

"Not really." The old man leaned back on the bench, tilting his head to look at the sky. "You're young. I can't blame you for regretting what you've never had. Everyone needs the love of a family." He looked sideways at Toshiki. "My son would be around your age now," he added, quiet and guilty.

They stared at the sky for a while. It was a perfect autumn day, crisp and bright, with the smell of distant rain in the air.

Eventually the man began to speak again. He told Toshiki about his family, the house in the woods that had been theirs for five hundred years. He did not give his family name, and Toshiki wondered for a moment why, but then, Toshiki had not given his name either. There was a kind of distance in anonymity that allowed startling intimacies elsewhere. The man spoke of his youngest son, all he had left, he said, who worried too much about him. "He said I should go to the city," the man told him. "He said it wasn't good to sit around the house all the time. Perhaps he's right."

Toshiki told stories about his travels, as he had no home to speak of, save Mugenjou. He did not wish to mention Mugenjou here.

Eventually the man told him, "You shouldn't give up yet, you know."

"Why not?" Toshiki shrugged. "I've never had good luck. I've never found somewhere I belonged."

The old man smiled. "But you're young, and you have ideals, and you're a good man. I can tell that. There are so few people in the world these days who have any strength left, any drive." He stood up, stretching. "There will be a place for you, even if you have to make it yourself."

Toshiki blinked and clutched his empty coffee can. The man continued implacably, "Look at it this way: You have the advantage of starting entirely anew, looking at the world from outside before you're bound to your path. I had a place from my youth, and it nearly killed me. I tried to uphold tradition, and my son and daughter tried to do the same as they understood it, and the last time I ever spoke to them, it was to call them fools. It's not too late for you." He sighed and turned to go.

Toshiki started up, dropping the can in his haste. "Wait!"

"Hmm?" The man turned back.

Impulsively, Toshiki pulled the stuffed dog out of his pocket and held it out to the man. "Thank you," he said. "For - for the advice. And everything. But you know, it's not too late for you either." He paused. "A little girl gave this to me. She thought I was lost. I think I was, then, but I'm not anymore."

The man smiled, and took the dog. "I'm not lost," he said softly. "I never was. Imprisoned, maybe, and still am."

"But you don't have to be alone."

"No. Thank you."

Toshiki watched the not-old man, walking slow but upright, until he turned the corner behind a building and was out of sight. Kazuki had never spoken of his past. Neither had Kakei. They were from old families, and there was a shadow hanging over them, but of the immediate past there was never a murmur.

Toshiki had a long ancestry, on his father's side, but he did not expect to have descendants. Nor did he have any urge to pass on the Murasame techniques. He was a lone warrior; that was as it should be. But he didn't want to be alone forever.

He would find somewhere he was wanted, for himself alone. He would find a master worthy and desirous of his service, and his heart would not hurt any longer.

---

13.

Sariel is standing in his office, looking as neat and uncomfortable in his uniform as Toshiki feels in his suit. The boy is smiling, though. He is rearranging the vase of flowers on Toshiki's bookshelf. The flowers are roses. They were a gift from one of the office ladies. He does not remember which one. Girls blur together in his mind these days; people blur together, and he has to fight before he recalls that this boy is named Kakeru, but he does not think the boy would be grateful of the reminder. Sariel, until he is asked otherwise.

"Nice," Sariel says, and frowns at the roses. They are not the sort with any kind of smell. "You have a girlfriend?"

"No." Toshiki sits down, tensing as the chair molds to accommodate him. He is not accustomed to this much comfort. "What do you want from me, Sariel?"

Sariel smiles. It's a slightly twisted smile. "A lesson. I want to learn how to erase someone's soul."

"That's a dangerous move." Toshiki leans back in his chair and blinks against the darkness on the edges of his vision. Outside the sun is already setting. He has a window office; he can look out and watch it set. "Why now? Why not wait and ask Lucifer?"

Sariel's smile is quite calm. "I want to know now. He's not here. Besides, why not ask you? You know all about the cards. You're always standing around looking bored."

Toshiki finds his hands running over the objects in the top drawer of his desk. A yellow highlighter pen, a deck of replicas, a small pile of coins, a paper-knife. "I don't belong here," he tells the boy. "Here, this office. I'm just waiting for the day we start building our paradise. But then the same applies to you, doesn't it?" Sariel does not respond in words, only smiles and waits. Toshiki's hand hovers for a moment over the paper-knife before it settles on the deck of replicas, pulls them out and sets them on the desk. Begins to deal.

Sariel's eyes are dark and empty. He sits down in the other chair, and watches Toshiki's hands.

"It's easy," one of them says. "Most people don't have any soul to speak of. Any strength of will. But of course, the easy ones aren't worth converting."

Toshiki shivers, and thinks of Kazuki. His fine dark hair, the emptiness in the back of his eyes. He keeps moving by instinct, and does not look out the corner of his eye at all the lights springing up as darkness overtakes the city. All the people living their lives. Hundreds of lives, thousands of them, and each one wrapped up in its own desires. But then, so are they. He is working for the sake of the promise Lucifer has made him.

But even as he thinks this, he looks at Sariel and knows it is a lie. The promise was his bait, but Toshiki's whole heart belongs to Lucifer now, as much of it as still exists. He does not need promises. He has found the place where he belongs.

Sariel smiles slowly, and sets his hand comfortably over Toshiki's. The sunset paints both their skin bloody. "Thank you," he says. "I think I understand now." Toshiki bites his tongue to keep from screaming, and his mouth fills with the salty taste of blood.

---

14.

He could find no work in Sapporo; it seemed as if the building trade had shut down for the winter, and he did not care for the alternatives. He scavenged in dumpsters for a while, then left town. He went to Sunagawa, to Ashibetsu, then Kamifurano, picking up a few yen at odd jobs but never more than a day at a time. He grew weary and resentful of buildings.

At last he took a half-deserted tourist bus to the foot of Mount Tokachi. It was raining, covering the sky in a gray shroud. He shivered in the long leaky coat he had bought with the last of his money, and stood under the trees until the worst of the storm had passed. He realized he was exhausted, but for the first time in several months he did not feel the buildings closing in on him.

It was after several days of bathing in the hot springs and growing increasingly hungry that it occur ed to Toshiki that the mountain would not be unreasonably difficult to climb. He consulted the large sign put up for the convenience of hikers, which marked out the four trails and advised strongly against attempting them alone, in inclement weather, or without a fairly large selection of the proper gear. Toshiki ignored the warnings, picked the most winding trail, and set out. His feet, still in heavy workboots, were the only parts of him that were not cold.

By the time he was halfway up the clouds were clearing, and he could look down and see the landscape spread out before him like a map of itself, lush and green, full of life even in the dead of winter.

He thought that it looked very alien.

Once upon a time that had been his world. He could barely remember the last time he had felt like he belonged in it. Before he had left his father's house, surely. He hiked the rest of the way to the summit in sullen silence, and realized that night was falling and he was far too exhausted to go back down in the dark. Instead he sat down against a rock and closed his eyes, wrapping his coat tight around him like a shroud.

The night was dark and quiet, and when a woman he did not recognize sat down next to him he was almost too annoyed at the disturbance to realize he was dreaming. He blinked at her. She had dark skin and wore masses of black lace, and for an absurd moment he expected her to be holding a black rabbit, the inverted shade of the girl he had met in dreams before who had spoken to him so earnestly and futiley. "What do you want?" he asked her, frowning.

"Oh, lots of things. But from you?" She stretched, in a way that would have been fascinating and distracting if Toshiki had been straight. "Right now I just want to pass on some advice."

He narrowed his eyes and waited. She grinned at him and tapped his nose, her bracelets clanging gently. "It's not too late for you. You could still get out clean."

"From what?" He had thought that he had gotten away- from Mugenjou, at least, and he cannot imagine what else he might need to be freed of. Kazuki's ghost, perhaps, but he does not think that is possible.

"You'll find out." The woman half-smiled at him, her eyes shadowed and unreadable. "It won't be long now before you're given a choice. A lot depends on which way you choose. Remember this; you can, if you try. You still have a chance."

Toshiki shivered as a gust of wind found its way under his coat. "Why are you telling me all this? Who are you?"

"Call me an interested bystander. I expect we'll meet in waking life and neither of us will remember properly. Or we might not, if all goes well." She glanced sideways at him, and suddenly her expression was all brightness and a wicked grin. "I hope we do. You've got nice muscles. I bet you're a good . . . dancer."

He allowed himself a small chuckle. "Sorry. Not really."

"Isn't that always the way?" She sighed, and patted his shoulder. "Well, perhaps someday. Good luck."

When he awoke it was a clear and beautiful day. The sun was rising in the east and a few low-lying clouds were painted gorgeous shades of orange and red. His stomach hurt a little and his head was buzzing, but he was used to that by now.

He knew where he had to go.

He gathered his coat around himself and began the journey down.

---

15.

"He could be yours if you wished it." Toshiki shivers and finds himself gathering chi in his fingers, without thought, ready for battle. But there will be no battle here. There is only himself and Lucifer and the tangible absences of the people they long for most.

If he were here Kazuki would be smiling, Toshiki thinks. Smiling and licking his lips. Toshiki is not quite sober, although far from inebriated. On edge. His head is buzzing and he moves a little slower for fear of misjudging his movements and knocking something over. "I . . . I don't know," he whispers, anguished. "It's not that easy, is it?"

"Perhaps not, but nonetheless. Would you not endure much for the sake of your heart's desire?" He would, and he knows what his heart's desire is. He would give up his heart if he could; it only drags him away from the one he is sworn to serve.

The walls are too close around him and the folds in the dark red curtains, shut tight against the cool night air, seem to mock the folds in the deep red coverlet of his bed. He wraps his arms around his shoulders and shivers. "He never even looked at me,"he says. "All that time. I was always second best. Always. Never enough for him. I wanted him to need me."

"I need you," Lucifer says. He says it as simply as he might say his name.

Toshiki tries to look up at the shadows of the room but he cannot make them out. He tugs at his loose necktie and his breath catches in his throat. "I know. Thank you," he says, or tries to, but the words catch in his throat too and emerge as a cough more like a death rattle.

If Kazuki were here he would rest a hand on Toshiki's back and look at him out of his deep dark eyes and laugh, that terrible laugh, and suggest that Toshiki be more careful with his drinks. He is still clutching the goblet. He tells himself that it doesn't matter. He doesn't long for Kazuki's touch. He swallows more wine but the sweetness does not kill the bitter taste in his mouth.

"No," Lucifer tells him. "He doesn't deserve that." His hands are strong and soothing on Toshiki's shoulders and the sudden firm contact is enough to bring him back. "You are your own man. You should not allow him to rule you so, even so late. If you desire him, he can be yours. You shall not be his."

Juubei was, Kazuki does not say, and will not. Would not, for he was far too gentle to rip someone's heart to shreds so casually. Juubei was mine utterly and that was why I chose him.

Toshiki sinks to the bed and presses his face against the pillow and wishes that he could want his freedom, now that he has it. Lucifer presses a cool hand against his forehead and whispers something that Toshiki cannot hear. This is not how it happened, he thinks. He agreed, so eagerly that he hardly remembered. He did not lie here sick with longing while the man he should have knelt before held his hand and tried to call him back.

---

16.

The shadow of the tower above them had been something they had all become accustomed to. Kazuki had looked up at it from time to time, and the expression on his face was one that terrified Toshiki far more than any that had ever graced his face in battle.

"You're not thinking of trying to go up there?" he had finally asked, and Kazuki had smiled at him and said, "Of course I am, but not yet. I'm not strong enough yet."

Toshiki had thought that this was ridiculous, that there could be no one in the world more strong than Kazuki.

That was how Kazuki had always been, impetuous and utterly heedless of fear, and so when he vanished without speaking to them of where he was going Toshiki had not been at all surprised. He had waited, while Kakei stood silent and miserable and terrified, and Sakura found (or made) clean rags and left them in a pile beside the stove while she boiled water endlessly, occasionally pouring some out for tea that would have cooled slowly in its cups had not Saizou, ever loyal, tossed it back like beer as he cracked unanswered jokes, in the brief intervals between his patrols. At first he had been the only one with the heart to go out, but then Kakei, in a sudden ecstasy of purpose, had left as well, striding along the dusty streets and listening for anything at all.

Sakura had known her place in this and kept to it; she had stayed by the stove, waiting. Toshiki had not known his place and so he slept fitfully, curled against the wall, and woke without speaking.

Saizou's face had grown more shadowed with each hour until at last he had joined Toshiki by the wall. Toshiki remembered this later, because it seemed to him in hindsight that the shadow over his friend's face had never quite left after that. At the time he had not thought anything of it. He had been far too sick with worry himself to see.

When Kakei came back, carrying Kazuki - there had been blood still dripping down his arm and puddling on the floor and Toshiki had not known how he did not explode with rage and undirected terror - Sakura had been the only one of them steady enough to speak. Afterwards Toshiki could never remember what she had said, although it had seemed terribly important at the time.

---

17.

Raguel holds out a hand and Toshiki takes it, not without some trepidation. But the angel smiles. "It's going to be fine," he - she? Toshiki knows there is a woman's body underneath the mismatched clothes, but he is not sure of the mind - whispers, and the voice is the edge of hoarse, as if some great emotion were being held in check. "You see? Lucifer promised us. He'll come through."

"Thank you," Toshiki says. Raguel's fingers are cold in his.

"You don't believe me, do you." The comment is made without malice; merely an observation, and they both know it. As if to prove it the angel continues, "You've seen that the world is a cruel and unfair place, on the whole." His hand is released, and with an unearthly smile Raguel continues, "Will you play a round with me?"

Toshiki smiles back.

They begin as always with their guardian cards; the ring of sword on sword carries through the empty chapel and echoes in his ears. It is nothing like Kazuki's bells. Raguel has the Aegis, so he cannot make a direct attack; this is not to his liking but he understands: he must work here without his strengths and then when the true battle comes he will have no weaknesses.

They know each other too well for two who speak so little. Match, match, and then Raguel smiles again and Toshiki realizes he has left an opening, and the knight's blade blocks the fiery spear and then something flickers in the edge of his vision and he moves back, drawing the cloak about him as he goes. Raguel cries out, a word of triumph in a language he does not recognize. He calls back, wordlessly.

The next move comes from the side and he turns just a little too slow, and he watches the shining sword for an endless second before Raguel pulls back and they drop heavily into the real world again, just two young men kneeling on each side of an altar spread with little rectangular cards that do not look like keys at all.

"You're improving," Raguel says. "That was luck."

Raguel would not lie to him. He bows his head in acknowledgement of the compliment.

The touch on his forehead is quite unexpected, but it is cool and soothing and he realizes Raguel's hands are damp. "You know," the angel says sadly, "I'd do anything I could for you." The voice seems to come from a very long way away. The light through the windows is bright and blue; for a moment a cloud ripples across the sun and they could be underwater. He feels light and clean and when Raguel whispers, "You deserve better," for the first time in years he thinks he could agree.

---

18.

This is what happened.

He walked into it and was swept up before he knew, but he was never lied to. At that moment he had no regrets. He went willingly. The regrets came later.

Toshiki looked into the other man's dark eyes and could not see the depth of them, and he did not speak of how much fear this engendered in him.

When he joined Lucifer he did not know why he had returned to Tokyo, only that he felt as if he had walked into Hell and that he could only return to the world above if he found its ruler and begged forgiveness and a boon. Lucifer promised better, and so Toshiki took up his watch at the gates, looking out at the world that would be his when the other had ended.

Lucifer saw him sitting alone and walked up to him, striding confidently, as if each slab of pavement were his own property. He said, I have need of you. Will you come with me? Toshiki had followed without a second thought.

He laid his hand beside the other man's cheek and peered into his endless eyes and did not think that he would be able to stand before them any longer, so he said, "Close your eyes." The other man obeyed him. He thought he heard laughter somewhere but he did not look; he did not want to know.

Lucifer taught him how to bend reality to his will. He had been patient, taken his time. Toshiki asked once why he had been chosen. I could see you were strong, but lost, Lucifer said. I thought you would be grateful for a purpose. Was I wrong?

No, Toshiki could only say, of course not. You found me. You saved me.

The other man's hands were cold in his, and his body was limp against the wall. His hair reflected moonlight; he did not open his eyes again. Toshiki did his best not to think how akin he looked to a body laid out for burial, and how cold his lips were when Toshiki kissed him, hungrily, desperate for a response.

There was none. His face gleamed white the moonlight and his tongue tasted sharp and metallic, like blood. Toshiki pulled back, breathing hard; he could already feel the sweat beading down his neck. "Please," he said very quietly.

Lucifer promised. He gave Toshiki everything he needed, and he always kept his promises. Toshiki would have loved him for it if he were still capable of such an emotion, but one needed a heart to love and that was the first thing he had given up; he had thought it was shattered, of no further use to him.

Slowly the other man lifted his hand, laid it on Toshiki's neck. He had no more expression on his face than ever. Toshiki pressed him back against the stone wall and closed his eyes against the tears.

--

19.

Saizou did not argue when Toshiki announced that he was leaving. Kazuki's expression had been fierce, Kakei's uncomprehending, Sakura's only sad, but each had spoken, tried to beg him to stay. Saizou had just looked at him and smiled, the same smile as always. He followed him out the door, though, while the other stood silently stricken or furious. Toshiki had spun around. "Don't say you're not going to let - "

"Oh, I won't stop you." Saizou had laid a hand on his arm. The sun beat down and Toshiki had to squint to see. "I just wanted to say goodbye properly, and wish you luck."

Toshiki had been forced to close his eyes then; the anger ran out from him like light running out of a room with the flick of a switch. There was no cause to be angry, because there was nothing he could do. Saizou was his friend; had never laid a hand on Kazuki, so there was no cause for resentment between them. Had never been anything been cheerful to him. "Thank you, then."

"And remind you - "

Toshiki had opened his eyes. Saizou had always smiled, and Kazuki had always taken it at face value, and Toshiki never had. "You'll be fine, won't you?"

"Remind you," Saizou continued as if he hadn't spoken, "that whatever you do, you'll never run out of chances. Remember that. Every day is a new beginning."

"Remember that for yourself, too," Toshiki had answered. Saizou had let go of his arm and just looked at him steadily, and Toshiki had turned and fled down the street, and been outside Mugenjou before he had dared to look back.

---

20.

He can hear a noise like pounding surf or a beating heart somewhere far off, but it is not important. Nothing is now; he has played his part and all that remains should be silence. But still he hears it. There is nothing but darkness around him, and cold. That, he thinks distantly, is right. All is right with the world, and there is nothing more he can do, nothing at all. His arms feel too heavy to lift, and it astonishes him that he can still feel them at all. He thinks he might be crying, and does not know why he would be. The faint taste of salt lingers in his mouth. Far away he thinks he hears someone laughing - not the soft scornful laughter he had heard, or almost heard, from Kazuki, but warm and earnest laughter that is almost familiar, although he cannot place it.

Without warning he can feel lips pressed against his and the warm salt taste of blood, filling up his mouth. After the long loss of sensation the taste is overwhelming and without realizing quite what he is doing he tries to cough it away, but to do that he has to breathe and just drawing breath in hurts more than he had thought possible. He chokes on a scream. Someone who sounds like Kazuki is begging him to wake up. There are voices all around, a riot of voices. Friends, he thinks.

He shouldn't leave them like this.

He opens his eyes.

--

21.

Once, years later, Yukihiko asked him what it had been like, dying.

"It was very quiet," was all that Toshiki could think to say. "Dark. Like everything was a long way off."

They were leaning on the balcony railing outside their hotel room, watching the twilight over the ocean. The breeze was blowing inland, and the air smelled of salt water and last night's rain. Somewhere far off a seabird was cawing. Toshiki hadn't felt quite this peaceful in a long time.

"Peaceful," he added, and watched the way the light glinted, absurdly moonlike, off Yukihiko's glasses as the other man bowed his head and tightened his hand on the railing.

"I would think it would be terrifying. Lonely," Yukihiko said softly.

It was not strange, Toshiki thought, that Yukihiko would be afraid of loneliness above all else. "No," he answered. "You don't really feel it. Nothing is close enough to hurt. But it feels . . . dry. I don't know how else to describe it. It's like there's an ocean just close enough to hear but too far off to tell what direction, and you're lying in the desert and don't have any water."

Yukihiko was quiet. After a while he whispered, "I'm glad. That you didn't die for good."

The waves washed gently against the beach far below. In a little while, they might go down and walk on the sand, and wade through the rising tide before it grew light enough to really see; then perhaps they would come back to the room and finally sleep, and dream of things that let them rest. But that would be in a little while.

Toshiki smiled and let his hand rest beside Yukihiko's, not quite touching it. "So am I."

?

Log in

No account? Create an account