Disclaimer: It's Toei's sandbox. I just play here because it's fun.

Author's Note: This is dedicated to Etapa who wanted to see me tackle a Hoji/Jasmine/Tetsu love triangle type thing. This is more of a drabble than anything else, but I hope it satisfies for now. Honest opinions are appreciated!



By Etcetera Kit

I wish I could lay your arms and let you rest at last.
Wish I could slay your demons, but now that time has passed.
Wish I could stay here, your stalwart standing fast,
But I'm standing in the way.

He always made her laugh.

That laughter was rare. She smiled at lot, sometimes shook her head in exasperation at the ridiculousness of a situation. She was friendly, content and that smile that accompanied was wise beyond its years. Her life hadn't been easy. It couldn't be. She was an ESPer and people feared what was different, what they didn't understand. He had been at the Special Police's Earth branch when she joined. He'd been the one to help with her combat skills, the one who was always a combi with her, the one… who had always been there.

That didn't seem to matter anymore.

Tomasu Houji sighed, scrubbing his hands over his face, trying to ignore the pounding headache and to concentrate on the paperwork. That task was easier said than done.

Jasmine and Tetsu sat across the table from him. Their laughter shouldn't have been so irritating. Sen-chan and Umeko had never annoyed him with their antics. They would sit in the DekaRoom, while on duty and discuss dates, wedding plans, potential vacation spots… all kinds of things that people in love did, he supposed. He wouldn't know. Any love he had was short-lived and usually ended in tragedy.

Perhaps he was better off alone.

What made him think that she would want someone like him? People thought his job was his lover and most were correct. He was a deka first. That was why the relationship with Teresa had failed. She wanted him to be her boyfriend—her lover, first and foremost. And he couldn't. He had to be a deka first. That impulse led him to delete her younger brother. If he had been her boyfriend first, he would have made the effort to arrest Cloodo, not delete him. A brother in jail had to be better than a brother dead. She couldn't forgive him. He wouldn't accept the forgiveness even if she did.

"—tropical rainforest planet. They say the best beaches in the galaxy are there."

"That sounds amazing. How much are the resorts?"

"Pretty cheap. And the Tokkyou have unlimited access there from the government, since we got rid of the crime ring that had been there."

Hoji tried not to wince as Tetsu put a hand on Jasmine's back. An innocent gesture, but one that spoke of how close they were. She didn't encourage casual contact—brief touches, hugs… she could handle the ones away from her hands, but didn't want to deal with too much psychic residue when a day was over. The fact that she let Tetsu give her those touches… well, it meant a great deal.

He knew they were lovers, but tried not to think about it. Tried not to think about the way she would take off her gloves and concentrate on Tetsu, feeling the love he exuded for her. Tried not to think of them naked, together… making love.

Umeko had once asked Tetsu if he was old enough for a girlfriend.

From this exchange, it was painfully obvious that he was.

Could he ever stop being a deka long enough to show someone the man underneath? The person that wanted to care, wanted… someone, didn't want to be alone.

"Hoji? Are you all right?"

He snapped to attention. Jasmine was giving him a curious look, while Tetsu frowned. He noticed that Tetsu's hands were on the arms of his chair. Not touching her. That gave him little comfort. He thought that they might have had something, after Terri-X's reappearance. Revenge tied people together in strange ways. Was that all that tied them together? Wanting revenge on Terri-X for hurting Gykou-san? He had been there for a long time. Was he just a part of the wall?

"I just have a headache," he muttered. That much was true.

"Do you want to rest?" she asked. "We can finish the paperwork here."

Hoji nodded and stood up. He was very aware of her eyes, scrutinizing him as he left. Secrets were not kept from Jasmine. Despite her ESP abilities, she was extremely perceptive and didn't need telepathy to know what was wrong with people. Maybe it was because of her ESP abilities. He didn't know and would never know now.


He stopped his progress down the hall. Tetsu was coming from the DekaRoom, jogging to catch up. He sighed, wanting very much to hurt Tetsu for… being in the place he wanted to be.

"What's really wrong?" the other detective asked.

"Nothing." The lie was not convincing.

"You love Jasmine." It wasn't a question.

Hoji let out a long breath. There was little point in hiding his feelings, if even Tetsu had picked up that there was something amiss. Tetsu was the second-least perceptive person who had been on the Earth branch's team. Ban was the first. Or perhaps they were both oblivious. A part of him wondered why. Both were elite, some of the best at their jobs, but neither picked up on the nuances of interpersonal relationships. Ban just charged forward and Tetsu was naïve.

"Yes," he said softly. "But I'm not the one she loves." He paused. "Did Jasmine tell you to come here and talk to me?"

"No." Tetsu looked a little hurt. "It's obvious."

"Tetsu, I'm not the one she wants." He shook his head. "Besides, I can never be fully present in a relationship."

"Why?" Now Tetsu looked confused.

"You can leave work behind when you're off duty. I can't. I am always a deka, whether I want to be or not."

"That's just an excuse." Hoji's mind froze for a moment. How could the truth be an excuse? "You're scared of loving someone." His eyes widened imperceptibly as he stared at Tetsu. The younger detective looked at the ground. "I'm the opposite," he said in a voice so soft Hoji had to strain to hear him. "I care about everyone, trust everyone. Chief always tried to stamp that out… but it was natural."

Tetsu looked up, his expression determined. "I've been hurt a lot, but that doesn't mean I'm going to stop trying, stop caring."

Hoji closed the space between him and Tetsu, resting a hand on his shoulder. "Just love her, Tetsu. Love her in the way I never could."

Later, in his quarters, he stared at the ceiling, seeing and not seeing. If he had asked her on a date right after the incident with Terri-X, she might have said yes. Then again, her feelings might always have been that of friendship. Would he have wanted to find out? Perhaps some things were better left unknown, unsaid.

He was a deka first. Even off duty, even when spending time with his little sister and her husband, he was constantly mulling over cases, thinking about the paperwork that had to be done. There was never a time he was fully present.

Jasmine… being a partner and a friend was not the same thing as being a boyfriend, a lover, a husband. Tetsu flung his whole being into relationships, making her laugh, leaving her little presents. He wouldn't even think to do things like that. He would look at a relationship how he looked at everything else—as a case, a duty, something with set parameters. Love couldn't ever be defined and placed in a box.

Perhaps that's why he was better off alone.

He could never be a whole person, not until he stopped being a deka.

And that would not happen.

The End
2—3 April 2007