Only Hurts Awhile
by Kira (kira@shikigami.net)

Title: "Only Hurts Awhile" is a song by Injected. ^^ Is appropriate.
Rating: PG
Spoilers: None, specifically, just a small mention of Hisoka and Tsuzuki being in GenSouKai.
Pairings: TerazumaxWakaba, somewhat, some mention of TsuzukixHisoka.
Genre: One-shot angst.

Notes: I've wanted to write something for Wakaba and Terazuma for months now. I decided it was about time to give it a try and this is what came out.

Thanks to Ruby StarD for betaing for me.



"I wonder . . . if Tsuzuki-san and Hisoka-kun are all right . . ."

Her own reflection stared back at her, offering her no response or insight. She sighed softly and shifted her gaze down, allowing thick lashes to veil her sight. Why she was so worried, she had no idea. There was no danger in GenSouKai. The quest to obtain a shikigami could be trying, some ending in undesired results, but she knew that Hisoka would be all right. Tsuzuki was with him.

But still . . . she had such a horrible feeling when they were gone. Some kind of lingering fear that something would happen to them.

"I'm being ridiculous," she murmured, smiling in spite of her worries, mocking the expression of anxiety that stared back at her from the reflection in the glass. A bakery shop. It brought images of Tsuzuki to mind. Tsuzuki-san, delighted over a cake, hiding cupcakes from Tatsumi so they could not be stolen from him . . . and Hisoka-kun all the while with that look of disdain, thinly veiling his caring.

Tsuzuki and Hisoka had an honest relationship. They did not have to say in words what they meant to one another -- they simply knew. With just slightly intimate touches, meaningful glances . . . they knew.

The smile in the reflection vanished. She was happy for them. It had taken so long for them to become as close as they were, and it was not even that much. Maybe her anxiety was just fear that something would happen to them, something that would ruin what they had. They deserved what they had; she didn't want to see it lost.

He would have yelled at her if he knew her thoughts, she thought with an inward smile. He would say that she was just being stupid, that there was nothing to worry about, even if Tsuzuki was a complete idiot that only managed to get himself into trouble.

She knew he cared. He pretended he didn't, not about anything or anyone, but she knew he did. Somewhere inside him, he did.

"Oi, Kannuki!"

The harsh voice had her nearly flinching. Embarrassed, and feeling somewhat sheepish, she turned toward its owner. He had one hand resting on his hip, the thumb hooked through the belt loop of his jeans, and the other hanging carelessly at his side. A cigarette, grit between his teeth, jutted out from the side of his mouth. He was scowling.

"You said the restaurant, three o'clock," he said. He held out his free hand to her, showing his watch. "It's a quarter past."

She blushed. "Sorry, Hajime-chan. I got distracted . . ."

Her explanation did not relieve any of the disgruntlement from his face, but he held his tongue from scolding her. With an exasperated sigh, he turned his back on her.

"You got any idea how big Hiroshima is? I had to look all over for you."

"I won't do it again," she said quickly. "Really, I'm sorry."

He glanced over his shoulder. "Stop apologizing. Anyway, we have a job to do, so get a move on."

She hastened her steps to catch up with his long, easy strides. On their assignments, he was always less abrasive and bad-tempered with her -- not anywhere near kind, much less pleasant, but less curt than he was when they were everyone else at the Shokan Division. Kazuma Shin, of the Peace Preservation Bureau of JuOhCho, always teased that it was because he had to make a name for himself at the Shokan Division. When they were alone, the farce was unnecessary.

She didn't know. She had never asked him, and anyway, she knew she would have been too embarrassed to if she even wanted to.

"You waited that long for me?" she asked.

He did not spare her a glance. "Yeah. So what?"

She didn't respond. She would not have expected him to wait so long for her. When they had first become partners, when she was even five minutes late to meet up with him, he would take off on his own -- she usually found him in a drug store stocking up on cigarettes. Meifu had a distinct lack of places to buy cigarettes. He always bought at least eight packs while they were on Chijou -- every assignment they had.

"Um, do you have the assignment folder?"

He handed it over to her without a word. She opened it up and briefly scanned the information. It was nothing out of the ordinary. The majority of the jobs they were assigned were simple retrieval assignments -- someone had died and had not passed on to Meifu. Usually, it was because they had something holding them back, something they were leaving behind that it hurt so much to leave they lingered in the living world. Sometimes for weeks, some months, even some for years.

Wakaba had pity for all of them, but she knew it was better for them to go on. Remaining in a world you were not apart of was more painful than leaving your loved ones behind.

"Guy was murdered in a store hold-up," Terazuma interjected.

She nodded and gave the folder back to him. He tucked it inside of the jacket he was wearing -- dusted brown leather. It was not particularly cold -- she was wearing a skirt, after all -- but he always wore some kind of jacket when they were outside. It was just another of his oddities she had learned, being his partner for as long as she had.

"We'll try his house first," Terazuma said. "That's where they always are, nine times out of ten."

He turned down a street corner abruptly, leaving Wakaba to tag along at his heels. Assignments like these . . . he hated them. He hated to see their misery, hated to listen to their stories of woe -- as though they were the only people in the world that had ever hurt. Death was inevitable. He would never understand why people could not just accept that and live their lives while they could. They had no idea how easily it could be taken from them . . .

They entered a less densely populated area of the city, a small neighborhood of closely knit houses. Children were running up and down the street, others on bicycles, some forming a group for a game of baseball. It was a family-based area, not very well-managed; most of the houses looked they could use a new coat of paint or a few new shingles for their rooftops. But none of the kids seemed to care. It was enough for them.

Terazuma opened the folder, looked down at the address of the man's residence, and looked down the street. "Should be on the right," he said, starting forward. Wakaba followed, barely managing to duck out of the way of a young girl and boy streaking through the middle of the street. Terazuma kept walking, unperturbed.

"Here?" Wakaba asked, pointing to a house. Its gate was open, but there were no children playing in its yard, no discarded toys lying in the unkempt, yellow-green grass. The house itself was a fine sight better than the yard -- one of the few decent looking houses on the entire street. Someone had taken great care to keep it in shape.

"Yeah, here," Terazuma replied. "C'mon."

He flicked off his cigarette before they entered the yard. It fell on the curb, its embers burning brightly for a moment before fading away. Wakaba glanced back at the children, laughing and playing carelessly, before following him in.

"Feels like someone is here," he murmured. She could feel it as well, a kind of spiritual residue identified with a wandering spirit. Coming from . . . Somewhere a little further away.

"Backyard," Terazuma said. "Better not go in human form if someone's in the house."

"Right," Wakaba said agreeably, and without a word of command, both shifted out of their living forms into spirits, hidden to the eyes of anyone but the dead.

Terazuma walked ahead of her, leading a narrow path wedged between the house and the fence surrounding it. They emerged into the far more spacious backyard. Like the front yard, it was unkempt, its grass growing long and dying at its roots. The garden lining the back of the house was overgrown. The flowers were all either already dead or dying. Wakaba thought for a moment of Tsuzuki. He loved gardening. He would have thrown a fit to see such an disheveled garden . . .

Terazuma was less than interested in the state of the house. His focus was on their target.

He had been right in suspecting to find the man at his home -- there he was, seated on a tree swing, staring in through an open window of the house. Following Terazuma as he approached the man, Wakaba looked him over. He was not very old . . .maybe in his early forties, still a very young age to die. There were lines of stress around his eyes and mouth, showing his age, and his dark hair was beginning to gray around the roots.

He realized he was not alone and his head turned, very slightly, to look at him. They always knew who they were. Somehow, they knew that they had come to take them away. Some of them ran. Some begged to be left alone. This man, he . . . stared at them. Unmoving, unsurprised, just . . . accepting.

"I thought it was my time," he said, and to Wakaba's surprise, he gave them a wry smile.

"You're Itsurou Hiko?" Terazuma asked.

He nodded.

"You know we have to take you to Meifu," Terazuma said.

He nodded again. Wakaba had never seen someone so accepting of their fate that had purposefully stayed behind to not have to move on. Why didn't he argue, she wondered, why didn't he ask them to leave him be?

"Why . . . did you stay?" she asked, unable to contain the question. Terazuma glanced at her; he never asked. He believed that death and its circumstances were a person's own private matters, something he would not dwell in. But Wakaba had always been so much more open than that, saying what she wanted to say, but always so gentle about it. He would have never been able to have that kind of tact.

"For my wife," Hiko answered.

He gestured into the house. Wakaba followed his gave. A woman, late thirties, dark-haired and brown-eyed, could be seen through the kitchen window. She moved through her chores with an air of indifference. Her gaze stared into nothing. From one of the rooms, Wakaba heard a child cry -- but it took the woman a full minute to notice. She disappeared from the room, leaving to attend to her ailing child.

Wakaba did not see Terazuma tense up.

"Our daughter is nine months old," the man said, with a hint of pride in his voice, but it was lined with heavy sadness. "We tried for a long time to have a child, and finally we were given Itsuki. Miyame and I were very happy.

"But then . . . I went to the store that night, to buy formula for Itsuki. It was held up and I was shot."

He stopped there. The woman, Miyame, had emerged from one of the rooms, this time with a young child wrapped in blankets in her arms. The girl had stopped crying. Miyame sat down with her, rocking her back and forth soothingly.

The woman had such a look of sadness on her face, it was almost painful to look at her.

"I knew that I had to move on," Hiko said softly. "But I couldn't leave her alone. I can't stand to see her hurt like this."

He glanced up at Wakaba. She was listening intently to his story; Terazuma was staring at Miyame and the child.

"She had been worried that night, when I went out," he continued. "She always was. She never wanted me to leave the house at night, and if I had to, she wanted me to go. But she wouldn't leave Itsuki alone."

"Why was she so scared?" Wakaba asked quietly.

Hiko looked away from her, gaze falling again to his miserable wife. "She was engaged once before me. He was killed as well. She hadn't want him to leave their apartment. She told me . . . that she had such a horrible feeling that something would happen to him. And then she found out he had died."

Wakaba thought of Tsuzuki and Hisoka, and her own anxieties. Would something happen to them?

"I won't stay here any longer," Hiko said, rising. "I'm ready to go."

Wakaba, startled, took a moment to reply. "A-all right."

Terazuma stood, unmoving, staring into the house.




"You go ahead and report in, Kannuki."

"What? Where are you going to go?"

"Doesn't matter. I'll come back later."



Night had fallen on both Meifu and Chijou, and Terazuma had no returned. Wakaba had done as he had said -- delivered Hiko to Meifu and reported in to Tatsumi-san and Konoe-kachou. He had said that he would be back before dusk.

He had lied.

Unable to go home, knowing that he was still on Chijou somewhere, Wakaba returned to Meifu. But her search for him was proving useless. Night life in the city was contained in the red light distract, and though the streets she walked were empty, it gave her no help in her quest.

"Where is he?" she murmured, receiving no response and not expecting one.

She stopped, beside the same shop he had found her at that afternoon. Her eyes turned slightly to regard her reflection.

"Am I really that easy to ignore?" she asked. The reflection stared back. No insight, no response. She sighed.

Something had been bothering him . . . he had been so brief with her, to the point. She wanted to ask to stay with him, but he would have said no. Told her to go back, that she was just being an annoying pest. So she had gone to Meifu without him.

Now, she wished she had stood her ground, and made him take her with him.

Not knowing where else to go, she walked across the street, onto the sidewalk surrounding an expansive park. She turned down one of the winding cobblestone paths to walk through it. The paths were dimly lit by lamp posts, and occasionally, there was a brighter glimmer of the lighted fountains that dotted the grass. Head bowed, eyes downcast, she followed the path blindly.

He never told her what was wrong. He was so self-contained. What was his business was his business, no one else's. He would never open up, share his feelings with anyone else -- he never let anyone see past the surface. Did he think they would reject him? Judge him? Hadn't he learned by now that the past didn't matter to anyone?

It didn't matter to her. The past was just that -- the past. Things that happened, things regretted, they were all unchangeable. She had accepted that a long time ago.

Not regretting her own past, she would have never judged anyone else for theirs.

So why? Why did he hide away?

"Kannuki?"

She startled out of her thoughts. He was standing across from her, hands in the pockets of his jeans, cigarette in his mouth. Same Terazuma.

But it almost looked as though he was concerned. It was only a brief second that she saw it -- just a brief flash in the light of a lamp post, but it was there.

"I told you to go back to Meifu," he said. The concern was gone, replaced with his usual abrasive attitude. "You following me?"

"I was worried about you!" Wakaba exclaimed. "Can't I just be worried?"

"What the hell're you so worried about? I just went for a walk."

"You said you would be back before dusk."

She watched as those words caused a flash of some undecipherable expression across his face. His eyebrows lifted, almost surprised, and his mouth tightened around the cigarette hanging out the side. His eyes, for just a brief second, looked almost vulnerable.

"Hajime-chan . . ."

He strode past her, his shoulder brushing across hers. She was startled he had allowed the touch -- he was always so afraid that Kagankokushungei would appear if he was within inches of her. He avoided her like the plague because of it . . .

"You don't have to worry about me," he said dismissively. "I just wanted to take a walk."

She didn't follow him.

"Why do you do that?" she asked softly.

He stopped, but did not look over his shoulder at her. "Do what?"

"Pretend like nothing is wrong like that! Why do you do it?" She took a step forward. "Why can't you just act for a moment that you're like everyone else? That you hurt and are upset like everyone else, that you actually feel things and care!"

She brought her hands up to her mouth, trying to stop the words from coming, but they were already out. A fierce blush spread across her cheeks. She suddenly wanted to turn and run away from him. How could she be so stupid? She knew he would never open up to anyone, why was she pushing him so hard?

She stared down at her shoes. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't . . . I'm sorry."

He turned slightly. He was thankful she was not looking at him -- she would have seen the conflicting emotions on his face. Confusion and surprise, but most of all an overwhelming sense of sadness. It was a feeling he was unaccustomed with . . . he had no idea why he suddenly felt so sorry. For her, for doing this to her, for shoving her away all the time.

Why now?

"Miyame was my fiancé."

Her head snapped up. "What?"

Terazuma looked away. "That woman we saw today. She was my fiancé."

"She . . ." Wakaba tried to force her mouth to work, tried to swallow to rid herself of the dry feeling, but she couldn't. She could only stare at him.

"I died fifteen years ago," Terazuma said, quietly. "I was twenty-four; she was twenty-three. I was working with the police -- the homicide division. Trying to work my way up to be a detective, even though . . . I really wasn't ever very good at it."

He looked almost as though he was smiling at the memory, remembering past mistakes, when he had messed up, what problems he had caused . . . he had almost been as much of a troublemaker to the people he worked with as Tsuzuki was to everyone in the Shokan Division.

"I was partnered up with a guy that had been doing it for years. He was teaching me the ropes, you know? We were tagging this guy that was going around, killing all these people, for no reason at all.

"He called me up one night at home -- said he had a lead and needed my help. Miyame didn't want me to go. She said . . . she had a bad feeling about it, that she was sure something would happen to me.

"I laughed. I told her everything would be all right, she didn't have anything to worry about. I went out . . . and I didn't come back home that night."

He lifted his face skyward. Wakaba said nothing, only watched him. He was looking up there, remembering something, something private that she could not know and would not dare to ask to know. The moment passed, and his gaze returned to the ground.

"I became a Shinigami because it's what I was trying to do with my life -- solve problems, help people. And maybe . . . I wanted to keep an eye on her too. I stopped looking after her when she got married, I figured she would be okay . . . I was wrong."

He looked over at her. "Now you know, huh?"

He watched her. She opened her mouth, tried to speak, but no words would come. She tried to move, but her feet would not lift from the ground. Then he saw it -- a tear slide down her face.

"What're you doing?" he demanded. "Don't cry."

She was. Another followed the first, and then another, and another. He didn't know what to do.

"How can you," she began, her voice not in the least strained or hindered by her tears, "how can you do that? How can you accept it so easily? Doesn't it hurt you?"

Terazuma sighed.

"It hurts," he answered. "Sometimes it hurts. Most of the time . . . it's fine. It's life, isn't it? It's like . . . no use crying over spilled milk. Right?"

He stepped over to her, and unthinking, dropped a hand to the top of her head. There no reaction from Kuro. It was almost as though the shikigami was beginning to understand the one he was joined with -- knew when to let him be.

Maybe Kuro was just giving him this moment.

"Don't cry about the things you can't control," Terazuma said quietly. "Just accept them and move on. Otherwise you'll spend your whole life with regrets. I know she'll be all right, someday. Because I'm all right."

Wakaba looked up at him, no longer crying, but there were unshed tears in her eyes. Terazuma let out an exasperated sigh and, gently, brought up his hand to her face and wiped them away. She stared up at him.

"Hajime . . ."

He looked away. "I hate seeing a girl cry. Sheesh. Why've the lot of you gotta be so damn emotional?"

Her surprised faded away into a smile. "Sorry, Hajime-cha~n."

He looked at her, and startlingly, smiled back.

"Let's go home, Kannuki."