A/N: This story was originally a fic published on tumblr. It takes place in an "Office AU," where Hei eventually comes to work for Section 4 as a sort of detective/asylum seeker, and carves out a strange niche there. My thanks to quicksilver-ink for suggesting that I try putting it on here, and lolgirl607 and major-victory for being part of the tumblr DtB gang to provide headcanons and general inspiration (including the "straight edge" headcanon included here, which we took after Hei's general toned-down use of cursing, and also because it's amusing). Thanks also to major-victory for originally coming up with the final spoken lines in this fic, and for her truly phenomenal cover pic.
She looks at you like lightning: the kind that fractures blooming orange trees to pieces, in the midst of the field and the storm. There is charred incense in your touch, and it's the kind of killing that your nature cannot help, but your explanations are not heard over the crashing of the rain.
And she looks at you like lightning: the kind that illuminates the dark when she's trapped on a country road, where the daffodils are no help and the empty sky is no council. A bolt of blistering direction, comfort on high and high above her expectations. Since childhood she has studied the heavens, but it was lightning like a benevolent kiss that lit her pathway home.
"Thunderbolts," she says, and in her clothes you smell the burn; in her hair you sense her rural maps, written in the ozone. Born and bred a planner, she. You wonder if your meeting then might constitute an act of God. "Both good and bad, but how they shine."
You propose to her in winter, when the air is the biting frankness of a silver coin. Others would criticize it, if they had the nerve to speak to you. But Misaki does, and Misaki will; you are her legal tender, for her to lose beneath couches and bed frames as she pleases. You're beginning to think that your purpose is to be lost by her. She spends you in kisses on Saturday mornings, when your coworkers cannot watch your happiness and wonder on your blackened soul. And yet she manages to save you every day.
You've always liked the winter. You used to believe that you had no right to think that; to have preferences for grey snows and brown eyes. But January nights in the park are clarity. She is clarity. She is the warmth that melts your clouded breath and takes your breath away.
A couple passes by you in the park from where you sit on a blanket atop the hillock, watching the barren trees and winding paths twine below you like a parable. The pair's smiles are summer watermelons to spite the season; dripping with July whispers and the promise of an ocean wide. Your fingers brush what is in your pocket, kept warm by your body despite the lucid cold. It still surprises you that you are capable of conducting heat.
"Have you ever considered…that?" You say, in a voice so hesitant she must think you've backslid, deep in another alias again. There are so many people who have never lived, kept within you. You think sometimes that it makes you half-dead.
"I didn't used to," Misaki says, turning to face you from where she sits, curled in your harsh corners. She has never needed you to keep her warm- yet for reasons you cannot fathom, she chooses to.
"And why is that?" Even now, you wonder why you feel justified in trading the loops of handcuffs for a wedding band.
"Because," she says, looking at you in a way that makes you want to run. There is trust there that you have no right to see; affection, in the way your knuckles brush. You crave what isn't yours like the degenerate you are. "I always assumed I'd end up married to my work."
Her hip presses into you; she grins knowingly as you blush, pink herself. Your hand is sliding through your pocket now, pulling the ring out, palming it in a thief's slight of hand.
"Would you…would you consider it, for us?"
And suddenly she is standing, forcing you up by the armpits, lips like shooting stars on the crease of your eyelids, your nose, your mouth.
Her hands push you down until you stumble onto one knee. "Propose properly this time," she says, bright eyes betraying her sternness. The Black Reaper never falls. But oh, have you.
She finds you with tea in your hands, a whispering mist of jasmine steam flirting with the stillness of the room. Perhaps it was not in your original nature to be a pane of glass, only seen upon the smudges of the world. Indistinguishable from the rest of a room, and yet at base so transparent.
To blend in with Misaki's apartment (our apartment, she says, but that is not your kind of mimicry), you would have to resemble the tender practicality of her bookshelves full of case files; the warmth of her sheets pulled up on the couch, kept there for late nights pondering case after case. You would have to believe in the ultimate good of people, just as you believed in the necessity of traffic light violations and the turning of dusk to dawn.
You would have to believe that this applies to yourself.
"Hei?" Misaki says, settling beside you on the couch. That you had once calmly considered slitting her throat sickens you; you have felt everything for this woman, and it leaves you irreversibly open before her.
Despite your silence, she comes to you, twining her arms around your back and pulling you down until you're cheek to cheek. That she is slightly shorter than you means nothing to the gesture, although now your bent position gives the slight air of supplication. This is not wholly inappropriate.
You see her crumpled body in your mind's eye under your merciless hand, and want to make her understand. She says your name as though it belongs to you and not your hardened mercenary's heart; black for the hair she loves to tousle and not the darkness of your mind. She feels the warmth of your hands and imagines that the heat doesn't come from the fog of a South American graveyard.
You're going to let her down. You're going to mess this up. One day she's going to regret peeling back your porcelain mask and finding something she thought was human. Something she made you think was human.
You don't deserve to marry her.
But reading criminals is her job, and you're her special study. She can decipher you in the span of your own denial. Her hands tighten around you until you're caged in her embrace, listening to the beat of her breathing.
You shouldn't have asked her to marry you. She is the space between Tokyo skyscrapers, immune even to the stars and their vagaries. Counting breaths. But you want to. God, do you want to.
Your engagement party is in the private room of an old Shibuya shop, known for its cheap food and banter. Though your life as a god of death has made you wealthy in blood and coin, your newfound allegiance to the Tokyo Metropolitan Police has made it hard for you to use it.
Instead, your coworkers have paid for your dinner completely, and you now sit, watching Saitou and Kouno grow increasingly drunk, as you and your fiancée slurp soba in what is certainly not a competition.
"I'm telling you guys," Kanami says over a martini, though her shining eyes speak of stronger stuff. "Separate. Beds. I want to sleep without getting a million alerts."
"Nah. BK-201's off the wanted list, isn't he?" Kouno interrupts, his usual monotone swirling with drink. He jabs a finger at you. "Your lucky ass isn't priority anymore."
You glance at Misaki, who glares at her subordinate before being nudged in the shoulder by a falsely ignorant Kanami.
"No cursing in front of Hei!" Saitou hisses, and you fight the urge to recount every colorful swear each fellow operative and victim has used over the past ten years of your life. Maybe one day you'll remember when the habit of setting a good example for your little sister became such a hilarious character flaw for the Division of Foreign Affairs.
"You know," Kouno drawls at you, hunching his shoulders farther upon the table. "With your aversion to drugs, alcohol, and cursing, you're actually kind of straight edge."
A mischievous grin you ache to smack alights on your co-worker's face. "Ah, don't worry about it," he says. "But I assure you that straight edge is very punk."
You feign annoyance despite your gratitude. It wouldn't do to lose the game, and admit that you appreciate Kouno's off-color jokes and Saitou's bumbling good will, or Kanami's sporting obsession with reminding you of the myriad times you kept her awake, giving star reports to the police in the depths of the night. Somehow that justifies buying her alcohol tonight on your dime.
It wouldn't do to admit that some family ties could quickly grow beyond blood.
You look at her like thunder: the kind that rolls over your sidewalk cracks and proclaims that you are guilty, guilty, guilty of everything you knew you were.
And you look at her like thunder: the kind so loud that it cleanses the mind, so steadfast that it leaves the gaps between your uncertainties raw. You feel her skybound peals tapping in your bones, the secret codas of your redemption. You look at her steady rumble and live in wonder at how her heart can beat so hard as a shield and as a solace, heard by the farmers as the assurance of rain.
You live in a world of those you would die for.
Your almost-wife would die for the world.
This is what you will soon ask her to always be: the lionheart to your cowardice, and the conviction to your chameleon soul.
You try to tell her that, at the altar, as she says that she will always watch for your star. She may not have one like you for you to watch in turn, but she is still Polaris, unwavering despite the turn of its neighbors, a point of unflinching constancy.
"Promise me you'll catch me when I fall," you say to complete the vow. You have no doubt in her ability. She is much, much stronger than you.
"I promise," she responds, before demanding kiss after kiss, and you beg her now to bring her downpour.
True north still exists, despite the new sky. And you'll spend the rest of your life following Misaki there.