|A Few Steps Behind
Author: chibisanzo PM
It would have been so simple, to stop, and tell Tsuzuki and ask him things he couldn’t understand, but it wasn’t. He didn’t want Tsuzuki to smile, and say kind words, and ruffle his hair. They hurt, the kind gestures and affections. Postkyoto complete.Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama - Chapters: 3 - Words: 8,676 - Reviews: 13 - Favs: 8 - Follows: 11 - Updated: 06-28-06 - Published: 12-01-05 - Status: Complete - id: 2683701
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Title: A Few Steps Behind.
Disclaimer: I own nothing. Except the words.
Parts: To be completed in two parts.
A/N: Post Kyoto-fic. shakes head Don't I ever get tired of post-Kyoto fics? It's like the lover that wouldn't break up. I should move on. Feedback is very much appreciated, and thank you.
They were on a new case by week two. Tsuzuki had been given a clean bill of health – at least physically— by the physician on duty at the infirmary, and was declared good to go. He certainly did look good on the outside, Hisoka had observed. All his cuts had cleared up by then, and the purplish bruises had returned to their normal color. He smiled a lot too, during visiting hours, when the whole lot of them stopped by to say hi to both the partners.
His eyes were still the same, always sad.
They hadn't talked about it, about what happened; only that one time, on the bank by the river, where less than twenty words had been exchanged.
Their latest case was no less gruesome than the last which had pushed Tsuzuki just enough to go over the edge.
It was a girl, this time, and she had been possessed, according to the files.
"What is her history?" Tsuzuki asked, his face a mirror of seriousness and genuine concern. He rested his hip on the conference table, as Hisoka sat hunched in his chair, carefully observing his partner.
-Did I do something wrong? Was my decision correct?-
The office was cramped and small; Meifu had always been lacking in funds and worse so when Tsuzuki destroyed half of the building due to one of his many many 'mishaps', and had to make do with meager portions of conveniences such as these. A conference room was way too much on the budget, Tatsumi had said, and only approved construction on the conversion of one of the old offices when it was calculated that it would take less than 5 000 000 yen to build. It could barely fit five people as it did then, with Hisoka in the chair, Tsuzuki on the table, and the other three scattered around the periphery.
Watari slapped the folder on the table, and Tsuzuki picked it up. Flipping through the pages, Hisoka only noticed that the knot in the middle of his forehead got tighter and tighter. He was mumbling softly to himself, and the rest of them had to strain to hear the details. The mother was abusive and had no other children, the father was with another woman so he could care less, and it seemed as if the girl was hallucinating a lot. She was seeing ghosts around her lately, and was reported to have stabbed the mother in the thigh, because a demon asked her to.
The mother was safe, in hospital, recuperating. The girl, meanwhile, was sent to the psychiatric ward and hooked on sedatives to keep her unconscious.
Nurses at the hospital have complained of hearing voices from her ward at night, and sounds of hollow laughter. Three have refused to return, until the girl was gone.
Hisoka and Tsuzuki were needed, to investigate the situation, and, if need be, exorcise the ghost.
"You only become possessed when you are weak mentally," Watari explained. He took out another folder, and these contained spiritual diagrams of known demons and ghouls. "They possess to take over the body, because they do not have the flesh shell, to keep them earth-bound. The easiest way, would be to take over souls that have a desire to leave."
Hisoka glanced at Tsuzuki, whose face bore no signs whatsoever that he was affected. Tsuzuki turned, and caught his glance. He smiled softly and returned to Watari.
"So, we have to find out the cause of the girl's desire to leave her body. Then, we can force the ghost out, and persuade her soul to return, or bring her soul to Meifu." Tsuzuki said. Watari nodded.
Tatsumi, Hisoka realized, had an important part in Tsuzuki's stay. He had sat down by Tsuzuki's bed the whole night, and he could hear, from his side of the bed, that they had a long conversation. Sometime during the part where Tsuzuki had broke down and Tatsumi had hugged him, Hisoka had willed himself desperately to sleep, and tried to block away the regrets that were swimming around his head since they returned.
He noticed now, the soft kind gaze Tatsumi had upon Tsuzuki, and the brave smile Tsuzuki put on in return.
He got up from the chair. "Shall we go?" he asked hollowly, and walked out of the room, without waiting for Tsuzuki.
Tsuzuki was taller, and more powerful. He caught up easily, in two long strides, and held Hisoka's shoulder to turn him around. He took hold of his hand, and asked, "Shall we?"
Hisoka nodded, looking down at his shoes. He gripped Tsuzuki's hand tightly as Tsuzuki beamed at the rest of his colleagues barely visible through the crack of the door, and in a flash of light, they disappeared.
They hadn't been alone, since that day. For a week and a half, they were surrounded by other bed-ridden shinigamis, and the regular visits of the doctor-in-charge. Tsuzuki always had a kind word, and everybody else seemed to know who he was. He laughed easily at Takemono-san who was admitted for being accidentally bitten by his dragon shikigami and was then sporting a rather nasty green and yellow colored magical bruise. Adrian-san, the shinigami on business in Japan, was admitted for a broken leg suffered when he was exorcising the demons that had followed the poor victim all the way from Australia to Japan. He laughed when he saw Tsuzuki, and hobbled all the way to his bed to give him a bear hug.
-What makes me so different than everybody else?-
The rest of the second week, Tsuzuki had been busy attending welcome back parties. Hisoka hated parties; he wouldn't have minded terribly when it was Watari and Kachou and the others, but he didn't know how to act around the rest of the subdivisions of Meifu. His world was a small one – it had been that way ever since he was born. He only watched from a far corner, as other colleagues surrounded Tsuzuki and prepped him with telling offs and encouragement and cake. Tsuzuki had pushed his way through to the crowd to him, once, and offered to get away somewhere else, somewhere quieter where the crowd's emotions weren't stifling. He refused and scowled for Tsuzuki's benefit. He didn't know how to act around Tsuzuki either. He had spent the rest of the night at the library, with the Gushoushin twins for company and the many many towers of books. He didn't want to be alone.
"It's a nice day out, ne?" Tsuzuki mused; his hand deep in his trench coat-pockets, as they walked down the tarred road towards a grey old building in the distance, with a red cross perched on the very top. It was the only building within sight, and the road was the only sign of any activity. A few cars zoomed up and down.
"Yeah," Hisoka said. It wasn't really. Huge, gray, puffy clouds were slowly making their way across the sky, signaling a thunderstorm.
He glanced sideways at Tsuzuki. He wasn't even looking up at the sky.
Hisoka had dared himself to ask Tsuzuki, what he and Tatsumi had talked about, that night. Tsuzuki had merely grinned and ruffled his hair. He said to Hisoka that it wasn't anything worth worrying about, and Tatsumi had merely questioned him about Muraki and his motives. "Nothing to worry about," he had said, and smiled, before ducking into the store room, for more strawberry cake.
Hisoka had stood in the hallway, and waited for Tsuzuki. He gave up waiting five minutes later, and had gone home by himself.
He rubbed his hands together and blew on them, as they trudged along the road. It was already autumn; and cold wind was spewing and seeping in between their clothes.
"You cold?" Tsuzuki asked, instantly concerned and stopped in his tracks.
Yeah, he was.
"No," he muttered, and shook his head furiously, giving Tsuzuki something that resembled a reassuring smile. He managed a lift of his lips. It seemed to be enough. Tsuzuki smiled again, before continuing.
They reached the hospital grounds, and the automatic doors opened to release the revolting smell of antiseptics, flowers and injured people all rolled into one. Hisoka decided he didn't like hospitals, though he'd never been in one before. The infirmary was a cheerful place, at least, here it seemed as if people came here to die. It was white and sterile and barren. Occasionally, patients were wheeled in, in stretchers, sporting rather horrifying looking injuries. The thoughts that were emanating from them were subtle –Hisoka had raised his shields when they stepped in- but he couldn't help stopping in his tracks when a dying man's wish seeped between the cracks.
"We're looking for a Sayuri-san," Tsuzuki said politely to the nice-looking lady at the reception counter. She blushed in return, and very willingly, looked up the name for him.
Hisoka felt sick. He looked around for an available chair. There was one, down at the far corner at the end of the hallway. "I'll be waiting for you there," he said, tugging slightly at the sleeves of Tsuzuki's coat. Tsuzuki nodded absently.
He passed several rooms, rushing by them so the thoughts wouldn't linger for too long, and squeezed his eyes shut, when the patients seemed to jolt awake when they sensed someone passing.
There were large glass panes so you could see the patient in each one, probably making it easier for the doctors to do their rounds. It wasn't a pretty sight, with all the wires and tubes hooked up to one's body. Hisoka blinked it all away. His goal was the empty chair, where he would gather his breath, raise his shields, and wait for Tsuzuki.
He had a clear view of Tsuzuki's back. He seemed rather small, from the distance. He was standing in the way he always did, resting his weight on his left leg. His face had a soft expression on it when he talked to the nurse.
Hisoka looked away. He stared at his shoes.
Another shoe came into view and nudged his. Looking up, he saw Tsuzuki smiling back at him. "Hey," he said, and jerked his head towards the lift. "Third floor, West Wing, Room 506 for Sayuri, and East Wing, Room 207 for Sayuri's mom. Which one do you want first?"
He held out a hand, but Hisoka got up without holding it. "The mom," he said. "Easier to deal with than a possessed girl."
Tsuzuki nodded slowly, casting him a wary glance. "Okay," he said.
They walked past the rooms again. Hisoka was rushing even faster this time. The third room was creepy- it emanated stronger thoughts than the rest when he passed it just now. Closing his eyes, he hurried past the few feet, and willed the thoughts away. He was aware that the tap-tap-tap of Tsuzuki's shoes had stopped. He stopped. Turning back, he saw Tsuzuki's face pressed close to the window, and both his hands pressed on the glass on either side.
"Tsuzuki?" he called from where he was. Tsuzuki didn't budge. Sighing, Hisoka edged just a little closer. He couldn't see from where he was. But he could see Tsuzuki, and the look on his face sent a chill down Hisoka's spine. His eyes were wide, and his breathing labored. "Fuck," Hisoka muttered and sprinted the remaining steps to stop beside Tsuzuki.
He glanced at the patient. It was a young man, a little more than twenty. He was awake, and yet it seemed as if he weren't. His pupils didn't move at all, but Hisoka saw his mouth moving. There were slash marks on his right hand, and ugly scars on his palm. If he realized he had two people staring at him from the outside, he made no notice.
"Come on," he tugged harder at Tsuzuki's coat. The emotions in him were so messed up; he didn't know the line between his, the patient's or Tsuzuki's any longer. There was fear; there was also desperation, and above all, the cry for death; for release. Tearing up, Hisoka tugged harder, and was grateful when Tsuzuki's feet began moving. They moved, he observed from the blurred view of the floor tiles, from white square tiles to chipped pearl ones. He saw the edges of red colored seats dotting the periphery of the hallways, and several green plants.
They stopped when Tsuzuki laid a firm hand on his shoulder, and bent down in front of him to look at him directly in the eye. Hisoka hated it; he hated being seen in a moment of weakness. His banned audience didn't really include Tsuzuki, but he would much rather have three brick walls separating him and his partner now. "I'm okay," he said, nodding again, and jerked out of reach when Tsuzuki raised a hand to cup his cheek.
Tsuzuki nodded slowly and wordlessly, his eyes never leaving Hisoka's face. He felt raw and naked, but couldn't bring himself to wipe away the wetness that was dotting his cheeks. Tsuzuki opened his mouth to say something but he stopped- shook his head, then shut it again. He got back up from his knees, and shoved his hands into his trench coat.
They walked silently towards the elevator. He fell back and when Tsuzuki was three steps ahead of him, he used the back of his hands to smooth out the tears. It would have been so simple, to stop, and tell Tsuzuki and ask him things he couldn't understand, but it wasn't. He didn't want Tsuzuki to smile, and say kind words, and ruffle his hair. They hurt, the kind gestures and affections.
"You know," Tsuzuki said, when they were in the elevator, his voice bouncing off the walls. Hisoka looked up at him. "I don't mind."
"Huh?" Hisoka stared. Tsuzuki looked down and grinned, but his eyes were heavy.
"You being afraid of me," he said. "But I'm not going anywhere, so don't worry." The light switched from the first floor to the second.
Hisoka protested. "I'm not afraid of you." He stared some more, and was relieved when Tsuzuki's gaze grew soft and thoughtful. It was better than the one he put on ten seconds ago.
-Do you hate me for asking you to stay?-
He blinked and put a hand to the wall to steady himself, when the elevator stopped. The doors opened, Tsuzuki walked out first. Hisoka stared, shook his head, and then followed.
The older Sayuri-san was awake and resting in her hospital bed. She had a sour look upon her, and her frown grew deeper, when they knocked and Tsuzuki introduced himself as her psychiatrist. Just a follow up, he said, and some questions about her daughter.
It was clear what she felt for her daughter wasn't just love. It was rage, and jealousy, and over protectiveness all mixed together until it became something darker, and more intense. Tsuzuki was upset at this, he could tell, because of the way his mouth stopped smiling and became pinched at the edges.
How could anyone do that to their daughter? He could practically read it off his forehead.
He thought the mom was rather like his father: controlling, fearful, and ashamed. People love in many different ways, maybe not in the 'in your face', happy, squealing method like Tsuzuki, but sometimes in the desperate, reluctant, and restrained ways. It wasn't the best kind of love, but they knew no other way.
She wanted her daughter to be better, to change into someone whom she wasn't. Expectations were high, and they came crashing down to earth, and deeper still, when she realized her daughter wasn't going to be the ideal person she had formed in her mind. Then, resentment set in and denial ensued. She had the perfect life for her. She was going to study in the most prestigious boarding school in the prefecture, and come out one of the top students in the class. Then, when she graduated, she would be a shoo-in for Toudai, and study law, or perhaps, medicine. The family had seven generations of doctors, and she was the only child.
They would have led a better life. She was struggling, and lived through simple means enough to get them through the day, to support her daughter's education. How could she be so ungrateful, to have not studied harder and become the top of her class? Second wasn't good enough, it just meant that you lost all the same.
Seven years of slave labor and what did she get in return? A high-school drop out who wanted to become an interior designer, an artiste. It was preposterous; she wouldn't hear of it.
They left the room, to hysterical wailing and howling of the woman, trapped immobile in her bed, weakened by antibiotic and a week of fluid diets.
Hisoka breathed in deeply, listening to the hammering of his heart. Stupid pasts. Stupid screwed up parents. And yet, he understood.
Tsuzuki was babbling; nothing at all related to the case. He talked about the things he knew best; of food, of history, of what he did when he last visited the area, a little more than thirty years ago. Talking seemed best when the quiet grew too loud, and Hisoka was more than contented to listen.
They paused at the bridge of the two wings, where the main nurse reception was. There was a waiting area, and vending machines. To his quiet amusement, Tsuzuki's eyes practically lighted up several watts at the sight of the chocolate bars behind the glass.
He fished around for loose change in his pockets; there were none. He wasn't wearing his old jeans. They had been rather scorched by the fires.
Tsuzuki's face fell when he realized he hadn't any either. Hisoka cleared his throat, and then said awkwardly, "I'll treat you to cake after work."
He didn't brighten up. "I was supposed to meet Tatsumi at the sakura trees…" he said, then stopped.
He walked ahead then, not bothering to wait. "It's okay then," he forced a lighthearted tone. "Another time."
There was a hurried sound, and Tsuzuki caught up with him, and flailed his arms about. "A-ah, ne, Hisoka, I'm sure Tatsumi will understand. I want cake. Please?" He glanced sideways, and Tsuzuki had on his toothy grin and a pleading look.
He nodded tersely and couldn't help relapsing into old habits. "One slice. I'm not exactly made of money you know."
Tsuzuki laughed. It made his face heat up this time, and the cold tips of his fingers thawed slightly.
They both stopped in unison when the eerie sounds of several ghosts wailing drifted past, dying down into the walls. Nearby, a nurse dropped her medicine tray in fright and flitted away, darting nervous looks behind her every few feet. Hisoka stared at the room just ahead of them. He glanced at Tsuzuki.
Shrugging back at him, Tsuzuki asked, "Ready?"
He nodded, and edged a step closer to Tsuzuki. "Yeah," he said.
"Kay." Tsuzuki moved first, and Hisoka followed, a few steps behind.
From a distance, it looked, as if he was trying to catch up.