Disclaim it- I do not own Yami no Matsuei

Notes- Another Yami attempt.  Feedback is always appreciated and thank you. ^_^

Passing

If science-fiction programming on TV had taught Kei anything, it was that when time stopped, everything stopped with it.  People stopped walking, cars stopped moving, and the fountain that was spurting forth outside would freeze, its water stuck in four permanent arches.   But somehow everything on TV and in books had lied, since he'd found out that when time stopped, nothing else did- nothing else, but you.

He couldn't tell you how long he'd been sitting on that bench, or even how he got there.  All he knew was that he had been sitting there, staring at the open door and the room inside it for what felt like forever.  He couldn't remember what came before him sitting there.  All he knew was that he was in a place that no one else was, because no one- none of the nurses, or doctors, or the other people who would go in to the room to look at the woman- none of them saw him.  None of them questioned him on why he was sitting on the bench and staring into the room.  If they had, if they somehow got stuck in time too and suddenly saw that he was there, he didn't know what he would say.  All he knew was that he was sitting in the hall because it was too painful to sit in the room.  He had been there first, sitting across from her bed, but every time he reached out to touch her, he felt nothing under his fingertips.  That's when he first started to realize that something was wrong.  That's when he realized he was in a different place than everyone else.  He didn't know what this place was though, and when he looked down at his watch and saw that it had stopped at 5:03, he realized that somehow he had gotten stuck in time.

After a while, staring into the room became just as painful as sitting inside.  He couldn't explain why he just didn't move away from it.  Something made him stay there though, so he remained where he sat on the bench, but instead of gazing inside, he turned his eyes down and stared at his shoes.  He watched all the people and their feet as they passed by his.  He listened as their footsteps came closer and then moved away.  He seemed to get so lost in the motion and sounds of their walking, he didn't even notice the one pair of feet stop and stand by his own.

It was the sound of someone coughing that broke his focus.  Kei blinked and looked up from his feet and saw a cup in front of his face.  It was staying in mid-air, as if it too had somehow got stuck in time with him.  He cocked his head and noticed the fingers wrapped around the cup and then the hand that they connected to. His gaze followed the hand and then went up to see a man looking down at him.  He had a calm smile on his face, a look that reached all the way to his purple eyes.

Purple...eyes?  He was wide-awake now.  The man, unlike anyone else in the hospital, was looking right at him.  Not through him, but right at him, as if he could see him.  He couldn't believe it, so Kei turned his head around, and looked behind him.  All that was there was a wall, nothing to draw any notice.  Suddenly, something was being placed in his hands, and he turned back to see the man pushing the cup towards him.

"Careful," he cautioned, still smiling.  "It's hot."

If it weren't for the hands that were closed over his, he would have dropped it.  The sensation of heat through the cup was so surprising.  He realized too that he could feel the man's hands on his skin.  They were still warm from holding the cup, and they gave his hands a gentle squeeze before letting go.

He stared first at the cup and then back up to the man.  He was young-looking, and wore a long trench coat over a suit.  His brown hair hung around his forehead, and his eyes, his purple eyes were looking back at him.  Realizing that he was staring, Kei swallowed and turned back to his cup.  It took him a second to realize that the pale face looking back at him was his reflection.  Who's that....he's looks familiar.  It slowly started to register, the face in the coffee.

Oh...wait...that's me...

It was another cough that brought him out of his cup-stare.  He turned to see the man sitting next to him on the bench, his hands folded and placed behind his head.   He leaned against the wall and stretched out, letting out a loud sigh.  No one walking the hall seemed to notice and just stepped over his legs that lay strewn out in the hallway.

Kei didn't know what to think.  After what felt like forever of being stuck alone, suddenly having someone there with you was something he could barely comprehend.  What does he say now?

"So..."  He fumbled.  "...Are you...stuck too?"

"Me?"  The man asked, looking towards him.  "Stuck?  I don't think so."  He chewed his lip for a moment, thinking.  "Nah, not stuck.  Although my partner calls me slow sometimes.  I wonder if that's the same thing."

"Slow...?"

"Yeah, when he gets cranky he calls me lots of things.  Moron, pig, dork, a lightning rod for disaster.  Got that one yesterday.  Not stuck though.  Not yet anyways."

Kei looked back down at his coffee.  "Then...why are you here?"

"To pick someone up."  The man said simply.  "It's part of my job to do that."

"Who do you have to pick up?"  Kei asked.  He turned his gaze to the hallway, looking at the people walking about.

"Someone who's not ready to go yet."  The man said.  "So, if you don't mind, I'd like to wait here until he is."

"...Why not?"  Kei brought the coffee up to his lips.  It was warm and bitter tasting.  He realized suddenly how thirsty he was, and he drank it quickly.

"Thought you'd be thirsty," the man said.  "Do you want some more?"

"I..."  Kei didn't know.  It felt so strange to drink something and to suddenly notice that you could drink something.  The man didn't wait for a response.  He took the cup away and brought out a small silver thermos that was in a bag by his feet.  He filled it to the brim and passed it back to him.  The coffee was hot, and he could just touch his lips to it before he had to pull back.

He noticed the man was looking at him.  He turned towards the hall and then back.  "What?"

"Ah, nothing."  The man shook his head.  "I was just thinking that you're probably going to be hungry soon too.  That's the way it usually goes.  First you're thirsty, then you're hungry.  Kind of like life, funnily enough."

"Kind of like...what do you mean?"  Kei couldn't wait any longer.  He brought the hot liquid to his lips and began to drink.

"Being dead.  It's a lot like life."

The nurse didn't even notice the coffee that he sprayed on her as she passed them by.  It never even hit her skirt, but instead, just disappeared in the air, as if it was never there.  He looked to the man, his mouth open wide in surprise, only to see the other holding out his handkerchief to him.

"You got a little something," He waved his hand to the side of his mouth.  "Little spit right here."

Kei took the handkerchief and began to wipe his face.  "...I don't understand.  What do you mean...dead?"

The man looked at him for a second and then turned his attention to the room they were sitting in front of.  "Who's that?" He asked, pointing to the young woman who had been lying in the bed ever since Kei could remember.

Who is that- he wondered, and then he answered without thinking.  "That's my wife."

"Your wife?"  The man's expression turned concerned.  "What happened to her?"

What did happen- "There was a car accident."  It took him a moment to realize it was him speaking these things.  It felt strange to suddenly know information that didn't seem to be there at all before.  It started to make him excited, as if he wanted the man to ask him these things just so he too could see the answers.

"That's horrible.  When did it happen?"

When- "Three days ago."

"Has she been asleep all this time?"  The man leaned forward and rested his chin on his hand.  He looked into the room with an intent expression, and Kei followed suit.  He gazed at the woman on the bed, her arms lying by her sides, her hair spilling out on her pillow.  She suddenly seemed so familiar as if...he knew her.  But he did know her.  He knew everything about her, everything…

"She was awake at first," He spoke slowly, watching the words form in his head, just as he remembered looking into her eyes before his had closed.  That was before he had started to sit on the chair next to her, always reaching out, but never touching anything.  That was before...before he knew.

"When she was told that..."  He felt a new sensation, something different from the warm cup in his hands.  He touched his eyes with his fingers, and they came away shiny and wet.  "She's been sleeping ever since."  He bent his head down.  Once again, it hurt too much to look at her.

He felt a hand on his shoulder, and he looked up.  The man's purple eyes were on his now.  They held all the sadness that suddenly seemed to fill his insides, so much so that he thought he would burst right there in the hall.  He already was, in a way, except it started to come out through his eyes.  He wiped them with his sleeve, but his sadness still kept slipping out.

The memories of what had happened, the memories of before, were like a wave, dragging him away.  And he couldn't stop it, nor could he swim back, back before he met this man, back when time had stopped. 

He wanted to go back, back when before he didn't know anything, and he couldn't feel anything.  Maybe the man knew a way.  Somehow he unstuck time.  Maybe he could stop it again.  "Can I..."  He started, his voice was so shaky that words seemed hard to make.  "go back?"

The man's sad eyes answered him before his voice did.  "No.  You can't."

"Why?"  He dropped his head to his knees.  "Why can't I go back?  Won't you let me go back?"

The hand squeezed his shoulder.  "I'm sorry.  I can't do that."

"...Then what am I to do?" he asked.  What was he supposed to do here, with all these memories, and knowledge, and sadness that seemed to tear out of him from the inside?

"Well, when you're ready," the man said.  "You're to come with me."

He looked back up, a "where?" at his lips, but then he knew the answer.  It floated inside his head just like all the other answers did.  It just took time for him to see it.

He turned back to the open door.  "I can't yet."  He remembered now why he'd been sitting there all this time. "She's still here."  He couldn't leave, not without her.  "She'll be so mad.  See, she-"  His eyes clouded as he looked inside.  "hates it when I'm not around."  Or was this what he hated the most?  He couldn't tell anymore.  It all seemed mixed up in his clouded eyes.  "She...wouldn't want me to go.  Not while she's still here."

The man sat silent for a minute, his eyes following where Kei's were looking.  Finally, he got up from the bench and walked into the room.  He stood over the woman and gazed down at her.  Watching him, Kei suddenly felt the need to get up as well, and he entered the room slowly, one step at a time, until he was right next to the bed.  He reached out his hand to touch her, and just like before, he felt nothing.  He wondered if time had stopped again, but then the man's hand fell on his, and he felt the warmth of it above, and then suddenly he felt his wife's skin below. 

"Can you feel her?" the man asked softly.

Kei swallowed and nodded.  He flexed his fingers, pressing them into her skin.  He dragged his hand slowly down, and the man's remained on top.  He rested it finally on her wrist, and he turned it towards him and felt the inside of her arm.  After a few moments, he felt the regular rhythm of her pulse, and he closed his eyes and let the sound fill him up.  For some reason, it only made his eyes burst more.  But he didn't move to wipe them.  Instead, he placed his other hand beneath her arm so both could feel her.

"Can you tell me," the man asked, his voice just above a whisper.  "Wouldn't you rather go and wait for her?"

"...I can't."  He squeezed her arm.  Now that he could touch her, he never wanted to let go.  With his wet eyes closed, the whole, cloudy world was gone, and everything was him and her and the warmth that he felt with his hands-

-that suddenly fell away into nothing.  He opened his eyes and saw that he was no longer holding her.  The man, who had been right next to him, had let go and was walking to the door.  He spoke before Kei could even choke out his reproach.

"If you can tell me that she's not worth waiting for-" The man's purple eyes held no sadness, but a determination that made Kei take a small step back towards the bed.  "Then you can stay here as long as you want, and neither I, nor anyone else will stop you.  But you have to tell me honestly.  Is she not worth waiting for, even for an eternity?  Is she not worth that?"

Kei turned back to the bed, and he reached out for his wife.  His hands touched nothing, but suddenly he realized, just as he realized everything else, that she was there, alive, and he was not, and there was nothing he could do about it.

Nothing...but wait.

He bent over and pressed his lips to her head.  In his bursting heart, he believed she could feel it, even if he couldn't.

He left the room ahead of the man in the trench coat.  As they walked down the hall, all he could hear was their own footsteps.  All the others were lost in the world that belonged to only the living.

"It's me, right?" he finally asked.  "It's me who you're picking up?"

"Yes."  The man nodded.  "You and my partner."  When Kei looked at him, confused, the man shrugged, and the smile returned to his face.  "He hates hospitals, so I made him go buy dinner."

Kei nodded, a little stunned.  "Is this what you people do?  Unstick time...and pick up...the dead?"  He still had a hard time saying it, even though the truth was now completely clear to him.

The man opened the door ahead of them, and Kei looked past to see that it wasn't the hospital stairs on the other side.  "I've never put it that way before, but yeah, I guess.  Although I like to say that we're just...helping people pass from one time to another.  I mean, that's all that we have really, is time."

Kei considered that for a moment and then started towards the door into the darkness.  He wasn't scared anymore.  Suddenly, he knew everything that was happening.  Everything but-

"Will it really be...an eternity?" He asked, looking up at the man.

He shook his head.  "No.  It just always feels that way until the wait is over."  He reached out and squeezed Kei's shoulder one more time.  Kei gave one last look down the hall, and without wiping his eyes, he walked into the darkness.  As the door closed behind him, one thought ran through his mind above all else.

He was thankful now that time was moving, for every second that passed, was one less moment to wait.

-----

Tsuzuki stood by the door for what felt like a long time.  He finally turned away and walked down the hall, passing Kei's wife's room along the way.  He looked inside to see her still sleeping.  He knew that she would receive no visitor like him for a while though.  Unlike her husband, it was not her time to pass on.  He left the hospital and walked across the street.  He found an empty bench nearby and sat down.  The afternoon sun that had been out when he had entered the hospital had slipped off into early evening, and he buttoned up his coat to fight the chill that he suddenly felt.  It might not have been from the weather though.  His job sometimes did this, even if he didn't let it show.  Few people could notice how hard these things hit him, few people outside of-

"You idiot!"  A voice rang out.  "We were supposed to meet by the side entrance!"

Tsuzuki didn't turn, but simply bowed his head. "Sorry, Hisoka.  This was closer."

His partner only huffed in response and sat down.  He dropped a warm bag into Tsuzuki's lap.  "Here.  Dinner.  And no, you can't have any more, so don't even ask.  Tatsumi would kill us if we spent the whole day's budget before we found a hotel."

"We won't need it tonight." Tsuzuki replied as he opened the bag.  He was hit with the inviting smell of french fries.  He dug in, and brought out a handful.

Hisoka looked over at him, his own bag of food in his hands.  "Wait, you found him already?"

"He was sitting right by his wife.  Looks like he'd been there the entire time.  Poor guy.  He didn't even know.  It was kind of hard to break him out of it."

"Oh," Hisoka looked down at his bag. 

Tsuzuki had started in on his burger when his partner spoke again.

"I'm sorry." He turned towards Tsuzuki.  "I'm sorry."

He didn't need to be an empath to know what Hisoka was apologizing for.  He could feel it, just as if it were being passed through them where their shoulders were touching.  I'm sorry I wasn't there to help.  I'm sorry I wasn't there for you.

He reached out and tweaked Hisoka's nose with his salty fingers.  "So, I'm not an idiot?"

"Ah, cut that out."  His partner swatted him away.  Tsuzuki wondered, in the brief touch, how much of his feelings slipped out.  He could never tell sometimes, how much Hisoka shielded against him, how much he would leave open.  He guessed this was something he wasn't supposed to know.  This was something he was supposed to wait for to figure out. 

"You're the biggest idiot I know," his partner stated, still rubbing his nose.  "...But I'm...sorry for being late."

Even under the evening sky, Tsuzuki could still see his partner blush.  It always showed up so well against his pale skin.  Hisoka hated it.  Tsuzuki loved it.  It was a sign he could read easily.

"It's okay."  Tsuzuki nudged his shoulder and stuck a fry between his lips and kept it there until Hisoka took it.  "You know why?"

"Why?"  The boy chewed the fry slowly, like it was some strange foreign food he had never tasted.

"Because," Tsuzuki dropped his salty lips onto his partner's head, and hoped all his thoughts flowed with it.  "You are worth waiting for."

Hisoka turned away from him, a string of insults streaming quietly from his lips, but the lights coming from the hospital windows exposed the red tint in his ears.

They went back to eating their dinner quietly, but he didn't mind.  After this, they would have to head back to Meifu, and he wasn't looking forward to the paperwork that this case would demand.

For now though, Hisoka's red ears and his dinner were not bad ways to pass the time.   

^^