Tunnel Vision

He moves through the place as though he owns it. There isn't even the shadow of hesitation. Of course he smiles, of course he speaks politely -- excuse me, I do beg your pardon, please forgive me, shitsurei shimasu -- but there's never any hesitation as to whether or not he should be where he is, whether or not he should be saying those words.

There's never any fear in his eyes.

He smells. It's impossible not to notice it. Less, recently -- but that's different. Old sweat, lank hair, stains on that labcoat which he is so fond of, those cigarettes. It trails after him like a personal entourage. You always know where he's been. However quietly he walks -- you wouldn't have thought someone that careless, that casual, would walk so quietly -- or however little he speaks.

He's like his books. Open him up and you can't stop him talking. Leave him be and he's smiling and silent.

This is how he sits when he doesn't know that he's being watched; casually, preoccupied by other things, his head in a book or tilted to consider a scroll, curled up in a corner, leaned against a desk, draped over a chair with his ankles crossed, toilet slippers dangling from his feet. He doesn't notice his posture. He doesn't care about it.

Perhaps he does stand in a different way when he's called for military duty. Perhaps he looks different then, hair bound back, dark leathers sleek and glossy, smells of sweat and cigarette scoured away. Perhaps he holds himself differently on those occasions.

I wouldn't know.

It's not something that I take an interest in.

I have work to do.

I do not spend my time loitering around other people's offices. Desks were not made to be lounged against -- arms folded, cigarette casually dangling from between his lips, or waved between his fingers to make a point, leaning so that the muscles of his back and shoulders show through the fabric of his coat -- or sat on. Papers are to be kept in order, not dropped across the floor in some filing system which only he understands.

I know where everything is, he says.

I haven't managed to catch him out yet. I will some day.

His collar is never done up. His tie is always loose. You can see the hollow of his throat, the lines of his collarbone, pale untanned skin curving downwards.

Long hands. Careful fingers. He likes to play with things: his cigarettes, his books, his pens, his seal. Untidy nails. Stains on the fingers: nicotine? Isn't that what it's called? Sometimes he puts his hands flat on the desk when he speaks to me, and they stroke the wood as much as touch it.

I don't want to drink his wine. He stopped offering it to me. We drink tea instead.

He bends his head to sniff at the steam rising from his teacup, and his greasy hair falls across his face, dark and thick and lank and untidy, brushing against his cheek. Then he looks up again, sharp and sudden, present where he had been absent a moment before.

He folds his hands around the teacup as though he didn't care about the heat.

He walks through Heaven and smiles.

Flesh shouldn't smell of anything. I scrub myself in the bath and am clean.

He speaks softly, lightly, voice mild, as if courtesy were natural to all the inhabitants of Heaven, and as if I would be interested in what he had to say. Theories on war. Theories on death. He listens to me as though he is interested in what I have to say. He bends his head and watches me with eyes like polished wood, as dark, as deep, as thoughtful.

He would leave if I asked him to.

I recognise his step in the hall outside.

He moves as though he owns the air around him: proprietorial, commanding, casual. He gestures widely and the world makes room for him. His men watch him with hungry admiring eyes. He pauses, says something light, quick, fluent. He brings his cigarette to his mouth, inhales; hand, fingers, lips.

I attend to my work.

The old hag says that he has a pretty face. I suppose that may be true. I've never noticed.


Fanfic Page