Disclaimer: It's Toei's sandbox. I just play here because it's fun.
Author's Note: As I said to someone in the past several days, I will finish another Deka fic if it kills me in the process… and here it is! There's some slash overtones, but nothing major. It can be read into or not, depending on your tastes. With that, I think I'm done talking. I really do like reviews—I just don't like people jumping on the bandwagon. So, good, bad or indifferent is fine, just don't start parroting your neighbor. So, on with the story…
CURSE OF THE MOON
By Etcetera Kit
The curse of the moon, in a cold dream,
I want to take you somewhere far away.
How far can we go?
To someplace where we can believe in love.
He slipped falling on the ice once again. He'd lost count of how many times he'd ended up sprawled on the ice, rather than gracefully gliding over the ice like Umeko. He'd been with the Special Police since high school and could hold his own in a fight, find logical insights into problems, identify bombs and use almost any kind of artillery. And yet, he couldn't ice skate. This had to be some kind of cruel joke.
Her laughter washed over him. Umeko stopped next to him, an amused and exasperated expression over her face. "Sen-chan," she chided playfully.
"Sorry?" he offered, not sure what else to say about his inability to remain upright on ice. Besides, it wasn't natural to be upright on ice. People were supposed to fall.
Umeko held out a hand and helped him back to his feet. He wobbled a little, but managed to keep up with her slow, stately pace. The other skaters could have done laps around them—probably part of the reason he fell so much—but he could work at this pace. He knew he couldn't lean too much on her—she was so petite and he was so much taller. Umeko slipped her gloved hand into his, smiling up at him as they made the rounds of the rink.
"You should have said you were terrible at ice skating," she said, laughter behind the statement.
He shrugged. "You wanted to go."
"I didn't realize you'd spend the whole time falling on the ice and getting bruised."
"It's not that bad."
She just shook her head, leading him towards an exit. "Let's go before you hurt something vital." Once off the ice, he found it easier to navigate in the ice skates. Not the purpose of the skates, but still. He'd always been horrible at ice skating and roller skating, yet could do handstands and was fairly flexible. Perhaps he just didn't like wheels attached to his feet.
They returned the skates and walked towards the DekaBase. On the way there, they'd pass enough restaurants to stop if they so desired. As they stopped at a street corner, Umeko stood on her tiptoes, pressing a hand to his cheek.
"You're freezing," she said, sounding almost annoyed.
"I did spend a lot of time on the ice," he replied.
"Well," she said in a take-charge tone of voice. "When we get back to the base, you need dry clothes and some coffee." A smile spread over her face. "You can just meet me in the bathroom."
He knew exactly what that would entail. "Sure," he agreed.
There was something wrong. He couldn't quite put a finger on the problem, but something felt off. His quarters had more noise than usual and felt warmer. What? Sen-chan sat up slowly, all his aching body would allow. He willed his eyes to adjust to the dim light. Nothing appeared out of the ordinary, except for his uniform over his desk chair. The fabric was torn and stained—from what, he didn't know. Glancing at his hands, one wrist was in an ace bandage and shallow scratches littered his palms and the backs of his hands. What had happened?
Someone sighed softly. Looking towards the sound of the noise, he instinctively tried to scramble away, meeting the wall next to his bed. He managed to slide off the bed, the movement causing a wave of vertigo and nausea to crash over him. Bile rose in his throat and the room spun around him.
He dropped to his knees, unable to move except for falling and sick to his stomach. Unable to stop the situation, he leaned forward and vomited on the floor. His eyes watered.
Hands were on his back, helping him to remain upright and avoid falling over into the pool of sick. He tried to focus on the person helping him. Ah, Tetsu. Both of him.
"Is he all right?"
Someone shoved a glass of water into his hands. Shaking, he tried to bring the glass to his lips, simply because he had nothing else to do. He didn't know what was going on. Why had Tetsu been in his bed? Why did he feel like his head was about to crack open in several places? Someone steadied his hands so he could sip the water, taking away the foul taste in his mouth.
Slowly, he was able to focus on the other people in the room. Ban had a towel and was cleaning up the mess. Hoji was sitting next to him. Had he brought the water? Tetsu was on his other side, making sure that he didn't spill the water, an arm around his shoulders. Soft lamp light cut the darkness, silver moonlight shining outside the building.
"Can you move?" Hoji asked softly.
He wasn't sure, but Hoji seemed to take his silence as confirmation that he could. Somehow, between Tetsu and Hoji, he got back into bed, head still spinning. Ban appeared again and placed a basin on his nightstand. "In case you feel sick again," he explained.
Sen suddenly realized what was horribly wrong with the situation. Ban had joined the Fire Squad two years ago. He shouldn't be here. "Why are you here?" he asked, his voice sounding like he hadn't used it in a long time… or like he hadn't used it for anything except screaming.
"I came as soon as I heard."
He wanted to ask, 'heard what?' but a wave of nausea passed over him. He winced, willing himself not to throw up again. Ban grabbed the basin and shoved it into his lap, probably thinking that he was being helpful. Hoji hovered by his bed, looking worried. Tetsu had perched at the foot of his bed, one hand now just above his ankle. Strangely enough, of all the things going on, that simple touch helped keep him grounded, able to focus beyond his pounding head, the nausea and his aching body.
The moment passed and Sen took a deep breath.
"Do you remember anything?" Hoji inquired.
Sen shook his head and immediately regretted it. Black spots danced before his eyes and he choked back another wave of nausea. He tried to think. What had he been doing before he came here, before he woke up?
"There was an Alienizer," he ventured tentatively. "A Dynamo Seijin."
Hazy shards of memory came to him. The Alienizer in question had been responsible for several minor building bombs. They had his last known location—a warehouse. Everyone had assumed that he'd have moved on from there and they were merely investigating, looking for clues as to his next location. They had been wrong and walked straight into an ambush. Tetsu and Hoji had both called for a return fire, then… things went fuzzy. What had happened after that?
"Why are you all here?" he asked instead.
Hoji's expression remained stoic, but Sen detected a flicker of fear behind his eyes. Ban and Tetsu exchanged worried glances. They next had a silent, but ferocious argument. Tetsu lost. He sighed and turned towards Sen, still grounding him. "You were hysterical when we got back to base," he started softly. "Swan-san didn't want you to stay in the infirmary, in case you work up and panicked, but she didn't want you to be alone. I volunteered to stay here with you."
That explained part of it. Tetsu had a hopeful expression on his face, like that recital of events would jog some memory and save him from further explanations.
Part of him felt annoyed as he looked at the faces.
"What happened?" he asked. "What aren't you telling me?"
The other three were silent for a long moment. Finally, Hoji spoke up.
"Umeko. She's dead."
Three words and his entire world came crashing down. Wildly, he looked from face to face, detecting no humor, only anguish and sorrow. The pieces began to fall into place. Details he had ignored before flashed before him. Tetsu's eyes were red and puffy, like he'd been crying. Now, silent tears fell down his cheeks. Ban looked miserable, like someone had taken away his favorite toy. Hoji's expression was unreadable, but unshed tears glistened in his eyes.
They were lying, weren't they? Umeko was fine. She had to be!
The fuzz around the memories cleared. The ambush had been bad, more than the five of them could handle. Jasmine had finally been the one to call for a retreat. Sen had dodged behind a crate with Umeko. She was cradling her wrist at an odd angle—probably sprained or broken. She had a superficial head injury, the bleeding making it appear worse that it actually was. They had an exit and had dashed for it after the others. The crate exploded behind them…
He'd thought she was right beside him, but when he glanced, she was gone. Stopping, he took in the horrific scene. She was lying on the ground in front of the destroyed crate, blood pooling around her abdomen.
Back-up arrived and the ambush was pushed back.
Cradling her body against his, trying to stop the bleeding… too much blood. Whispered words. It'll be all right. The medics had arrived and…
I love you.
No. Drawing ragged breaths, he pressed his hands to his ears, trying to block out the pronouncement of the medics. They were lying, they had to be! How could everyone else get out with superficial injuries and she… he couldn't say it, couldn't wrap his mind around it. Hands dragging him away from the medic, a pinch and sleep…
"No," he cried, instinctively drawing his knees up to his chest. "No…"
Tears burned, spilling over and sobs rose. This wasn't happening. It couldn't be happening! They had survived so much and one renegade Alienzer took it all away.
"I'll kill him," he growled, his voice rising, feral. "I'll kill him!"
He hadn't realized that he'd tried to get up, hadn't realized that his pounding head had been about to incapacitate him. Someone held him down, keeping him from moving. The burst of anger passed and he felt drained, exhausted and in so much pain. The person who had grabbed him to keep him from moving released him as he lay back on his pillows. Tetsu?
"Your head injuries and your hands… that happened in the infirmary," Hoji stated, voice emotionless and hollow. "You hit your head on the nightstand pretty hard." He sounded like he was reciting bland facts for a test. "Swan-san tried to restrain you, but…" he trailed off. Sen squeezed his eyes shut, not wanting to remember the broken vase, the glass flung against a wall… he knew where the scratches came from, although cuts would have been more accurate.
"I want to see her," he whispered.
"In the morning," Hoji responded.
"It's only a few hours until sunrise," Ban added.
Since they weren't going to take him to Umeko's body, he didn't want them to talk. But Ban kept asking rhetorical questions, while Hoji tried to shut him up. It didn't matter. He realized that Tetsu's hands were still on his shoulders. Almost unconsciously, he scooted over, making room for Tetsu once again. Umeko was gone and he just wanted comfort. Tetsu was silent, no longer crying. Sen just wanted to sleep, didn't want to remember.
"Sen-chan," Tetsu said softly. "You were the sole beneficiary in Umeko's will. You decide everything about her belongings and funeral."
He wasn't surprised. They had been engaged, neither of them overly close to their families. They still talked, but it wasn't the same. Ban and Hoji were still bickering, but their noise sounded like it was in the distance, coming from a badly tuned radio. Ban and Hoji didn't know what to do with grief or mourning, but Tetsu did.
Sen didn't realize he fell asleep curled against Tetsu.
Moonlight spilled into his semi-darkened room as he located dry clothing. There were times he was thankful that living quarters weren't in the same wing of the building as the DekaRoom and other official work areas. That made things feel more… private. Not quite like leaving the base and going home, but close enough. He dropped his damp things into a laundry basket and pulled on a pair of loose black pants and ash grey t-shirt.
A small coffee cart was near the living quarters. Its sole purpose was to provide coffee and snacks at all hours of the day and night to whoever happened to be there. He got two cups of coffee and made his way down the deserted halls to the bath room. Just outside, he could hear Umeko singing along to the radio. He gave a perfunctory knock before pushing the door open, locking it behind him. Tetsu had accidentally walked in on them before… and they were still hearing about it.
"Are you going to join me?" Umeko asked, raising one leg and running her washcloth over it. She was baiting him and he liked it.
"Maybe." He set the coffee on the shelf above the sink and moved to the footstool by the edge of the tub. She handed him the washcloth and he began gently rubbing her back.
"Your hands are still cold," she murmured. "I didn't fill up the tub all the way so there'd be room for you." She pushed her lips out in a pout.
"I can take a hint," he replied, pressing a kiss to the back of her neck.
Standing, he stripped off the fresh clothing and stepped into the tub with her. A few minutes later, she was settled comfortably against his chest, his hands running up and down her back, fingers playing with the damp tendrils of hair that escaped her buns. "This is perfect," she purred against his skin, her breath hot.
She moved so that she was straddling his waist. He kissed her uplifted lips, the tension and passion crackling in the air. This was…
"Umeko," he groaned.
"Sen-chan? Are you listening?"
Blinking, he turned towards Tetsu, reverie smashed. "Sorry," he said simply.
"You still miss her." It wasn't a question.
"Yes." Six months… six months and he still felt the pain as acutely as he did that first night when he awoke to Tetsu in his bed, pain and nausea. He wasn't sure how he would have gotten through those first days without Tetsu. Hoji cared—in his own way—but was too distant emotionally. He helped with paperwork, but retreated within himself to mourn. Ban couldn't fix this situation and didn't know what to do. But Tetsu… for someone so much younger, he understood emotions and loss particularly well. He was there, a rock, a shoulder to cry on… whatever Sen needed at a particular moment.
At first, it had surprised him, until he remembered that Tetsu had lost his parents in a horrific car crash at a young age. The experience had obviously allowed him to recognize that same pain and suffering in others.
The wedding plans… gone. The future and family with Umeko… gone.
The summer sun shone brightly on the roof of the DekaBase. A partially consumed six-pack of beer was between them.
The sun seemed such a contrast to his normal haunts. For weeks after her death, it seemed that he slept during the day and roamed at night. The moonlight became his friend and his curse. Night life was not friendly and he longed for the sun, something he no longer had. He'd had sleepless nights and spent exhausting days on patrol, until Boss had forced him to take some time off, go out in the country and readjust his system. He'd been set to refuse. What would he do by himself for two weeks? He'd go insane in less than twenty-four hours.
Then Tetsu and Hoji offered to go with him. Ban could temporarily come back to Earth. He and Jasmine would be able to handle things. If there was an emergency, Boss could always contact them on their SP Licenses.
He agreed and they'd spent two weeks camping, holding an extremely laissez faire schedule. There had been no doctors there to worry, and Swan-san hadn't been breathing down his neck… For a suggestion he had taken with a grain of salt, he felt surprisingly better when they came back. He still missed Umeko, but had started to realize she hadn't really left him, not entirely. She'd always be there, watching over him and the others.
"I think you'll always miss her," Tetsu said softly.
"You're probably right."
Sen put an empty bottle back in the cardboard container, very aware that alcohol had been one the things that Swan-san had forbidden him to have. His headaches had continued, sometimes to the point that he was incapacitated. He'd tried everything to prevent them, but nothing worked. Swan-san swore that she couldn't find a medical reason for them—somatic, she had said. But what needed to give, so that the headaches would go with it? He didn't know. Tetsu and Hoji picked up his shifts when he couldn't move due to the pain.
Swan-san had recently decided his diet might be the cause. He tended to follow the regime, to a point. Hikaru, now married into the Ozu family—the magicians they had met two and a half years ago—had come to the DekaBase one evening on Tetsu's request. The ensuing night resulted in him becoming so drunk he couldn't walk straight. He had been extremely hung-over the next morning, but knew that the night had been worth every moment of pain.
He still had people who cared about him—he just had to remember that.
"What's going on between you and Tetsu?"
People would whisper and start rumors, but he didn't care. The others had been there for him and he knew that he'd do the same for any of them.
White puffy clouds dotted the sky. White on sky blue… perfect.
"Want another beer?"
Tetsu handed him another bottle, their fingers brushing in the exchange. Moonlight scared him sometimes. One didn't know what the shadows held and he'd had too many close calls in the shadows. But sunlight… he could deal with something that illuminated darkness.
Umeko… I still miss you. I don't know what happens now.
He didn't know what would happen next.
He only hoped there would be warmth and sunlight.
First Run: 27 November 2006
Second Run: 2 December 2006