A/N: I'm tired. : / After this is done, my happy ass is going to bed.
Ganta continued to marvel at each and every mushroom that he and Senji tread across. They were all so specifically detailed, as if they were all their own little masterpieces.
"I can't believe they grow like this," Ganta said as he made a small hop over to a mushroom blended with oceanic colors.
"They say that in the beginning of time," Senji said, "there was this great artist and all the world around us, from each blade of grass to every mushroom, even you and me, is a work of the artist."
"Really?" Ganta pondered.
"Yeah, they even say our lives our part of the 'great work'." Senji said with some sarcasm, "The greatest work they say, since it's all intertwined."
Ganta pouted a little.
"I'm not so sure I like that." Ganta noted, "It makes it sound like we don't have any control."
Ganta didn't quite stick his landing to the next mushroom. The gap was just a little wider than he anticipated. He stumbled a little.
"Hn," Senji easily caught Ganta by the arm and balanced him, "there's a lot of controversy over that but I'm not much for god talk. If you really want to know how I feel about it, I figure we're made a certain way and then we act a certain way because of it."
"What do you mean?" Ganta asked curiously.
Senji sighed and turned his back from Ganta. He eyed the clearing for the White Kingdom. It was still a good distance away.
"We don't really have time for me to get into this, kid," Senji pointed out, "We've still got a lot of ground to cover."
"Well, we've got to talk about something along the way, don't we?" Ganta pushed carefully.
Senji shoved his hands in his pockets. He really did not feel like talking about existence and folklore. He really didn't believe in the whole great artist thing. To be honest, nobody really did. There were maybe one or two old timers who really felt that it was the honest truth but most just saw it as Wonderland mythology.
"To put it short," Senji said gruffly, "I was born a little as who I was and grew into the rest. As far as what I do, I do what I want. It's still what I want but it's not like it's out of character or something. And as far as everyone else is concerned, I don't really give a damn."
Senji said it in such a way that further discussion was out of the question. Ganta felt at if the tone had been a little irritated and he suddenly worried that he'd annoyed Senji.
Senji and Ganta went a few steps across the mushroom. Senji looked over his shoulder to check on the young boy and he noticed the slightly hurt expression on his face. Senji looked forward again quickly, feeling awkward under the silence that moments ago he'd wanted.
"What about you, kid?" Senji asked suddenly.
Ganta looked up. He hadn't really thought about it up until then. So far, he assumed that there was more to his life than the last few hours. After all, he did he feel like he was fourteen years old. Obviously that meant there was some time that needed to be accounted for.
"I'd like to know where I come from," Ganta said, "but no one seems to know that. As far as I know, I fell out of the sky so I don't really expect anyone to know."
"I was kind of aiming for that whole existential crap," Senji said as he rubbed the back of his neck, "but- and let me get this straight- you don't know who you are?"
"No, I don't." Ganta answered, "I mean, I know my name is Ganta now, at least if the white rabbit has anything to say about it but I still don't know how I got here or why I'm here."
There was a pause in the conversation. Senji wasn't very good at it and Ganta had little to no knowledge about anything around him. Finally, Senji just said the first things that came to mind.
"You feel like there's a reason why?"
Ganta mulled it over for a minute. Senji still looked straight forward, leading them across wide mushroom tops. He seemed so strong and at the same time there was a laid back feel to him. He was casual and even friendly in his own way.
"Sure," Ganta reasoned, "I mean, call it crazy, but I feel like there's a reason that I'm here. I feel like I'm supposed to do something but I don't know what."
"Just do what you want," Senji said a bit abruptly, "Screw destiny or whatever you're talking about. Just do what you want, fight for what you want. Either you get it or don't, pretty simple."
"You mean... like following my heart?" Ganta asked.
Senji stopped dead in his tracks. It was such a quick stop that Ganta bumped right into his back. Ganta looked up at the back of Senji's head and began to wonder if he'd done something wrong.
Senji tilted his head back a little and begun to laugh. He turned around and put a hand on Ganta's head, ruffling Ganta's hair a little.
"Sure kid," he said, "that's one way to put it."
Ganta felt a little embarrassed. He hadn't intended to sound childish but he had. He immediately wanted to push Senji's hand away and tell him to stop calling him 'kid' but the urge stopped short of execution.
Senji's eyes lingered a little longer. He blinked and the slight endearment he felt vanished. Senji stared at Ganta with an expression Ganta couldn't describe.
It's like he's looking for something. He's not confused exactly, he's just...aware? Thinking about something? Something important I think...
Senji turned away wordlessly and moved forward. Ganta followed a few steps behind, a little glad that the moment had been broken.
Ganta and Senji traveled on for a few more hours and eventually Ganta became comfortable with the silence between them. Senji just wasn't one for words as Ganta had come to assume. Ganta had so many questions about the world around him. Are there other lands than Wonderland? Who was the White Queen? Who was the Red Queen? Why was there a problem between them? Why did people have a name and a title? Were there more tiny people like Lieutenant Dormouse or was she the only one?
Of course, nothing that Ganta had learned up until this point made any sense really. So he was Ganta, didn't know why he was Ganta. So he was in Wonderland, didn't know where exactly that was. The answers he received just spurred more questions but for the time being, Ganta was content to follow Senji. Senji seemed fond enough of Ganta and maybe if Ganta was patient enough, then Senji would give him answers without him asking.
Eventually, it became dark and Senji had the two of them stop for the night. They had settled on a mushroom that had a slight glow. Senji didn't say so but he figured it might keep Ganta from falling off the edge in the middle of the night.
"How far are we?" Ganta asked as he sat down.
"An hour and a half at most," Senji said as he shrugged off his long coat, "but I don't suggest traveling up top at night. It's too easy to misjudge your footing and, well, that's not a fall even I'd want to take."
Ganta stared openly at Senji's body. The long coat had been a bit big on Senji and with Senji's torso and arms bare, his muscles were more impressive. He was muscular but still lean and tall. His tan body was slightly luminescent due to the mushroom and the moonlight. It made him seem dark and mysterious in way.
Senji dropped his long coat carelessly and sat down beside it. He looked back at Ganta, blinked in confusion and then tilted his head slightly to the side..
"You into me or something?" Senji asked.
"What?" Ganta squeaked.
Senji sighed and looked off to his left.
"You don't even know what I'm asking, do you?"
Ganta felt himself blush. He turned away from Senji's body, shining dimly in the moonlight. He didn't want to look at Senji anymore. It made him feel jealous and respectful and...weird. Like tingly weird.
Ganta eyes searched for something to change the subject and soon they landed on huge clearing off in the direction that Senji was looking at. Ganta had been so wrapped up in either looking at the mushrooms or Senji that he hadn't even noticed it until then.
At the top of the clearing poked out some branches. Branches. As in tree branches. They just barely peeked through the clearing and only because the mushrooms became progressively shorter the closer they got to it.
"Is that a-" Ganta asked, squinting in the dark, "is that a tree?"
"That's not a tree," Senji noted, "that's thee tree. The Tum tum tree. It's the only one in all of Wonderland."
"Only one tree?" Ganta furrowed his brow, "But why?"
"I don't know." Senji answered a little harshly, before flopping down on his back and pulling his beanie down to the bridge of his nose, "Damn, you ask too many questions you know that?"
"Hey!" Ganta defended himself, "I'm just trying to figure out what's going on around me, okay?"
Senji lifted his beanie to see out of his eye. He smiled a little when he saw the look of determination on Ganta's face. There was something admirable in that. Sure, the kid didn't know what he was fighting for but he kept on anyway. Senji could respect that.
"You've got gumption, Ganta." Senji said, "I like that."
Ganta watched Senji smile and once again he felt a little awkward under the inexplicable familiarity he felt. Senji winked at Ganta, making the young boy blush. Senji then pulled down his beanie again.
"The Tum Tum tree," Senji explained, "is like the center of all of Wonderland. It's impossible to cut down, not that anybody would. If you cut down the tree, you destroy Wonderland."
Ganta stared off into the distance at the top peeking branches of the Tum Tum tree. He wanted to ask why it was that the death of the Tum Tum tree meant the death of wonderland but he stayed quiet knowing that the less he asked of Senji, the more information Senji gave him.
"Come closer," Senji instructed, his voice low and his hand waving Ganta over.
Ganta crawled over to Senji. Senji's voice was soft and low, almost like a secretive murmur. Ganta was still on his hands and knees when he whispered:
Senji then took Ganta's hand, seeming to know where it was even though he couldn't see, and he placed it on his chest. The movement was sudden enough for Ganta not have time to refuse but slow enough to keep Ganta from losing his balance.
Underneath Ganta's palm and underneath Senji's chest was a sturdy heartbeat. It had a consistent and hearty thump to it.
"The tree was named the Tum Tum tree because it's the heart of Wonderland." Senji explained, his mouth serious, "If you put your ear to the bark, you can actually hear it."
As Senji's heart beat steadily, Ganta began to understand the name.
Tum tum- tum tum- tum tum.
The steady beat seemed to slowly Ganta's quick one which had sky rocketed upon touching Senji. Slowly but surely it synced up to Senji's and Ganta felt an odd calmness in touching Senji.
Suddenly Senji made a grab for Ganta. He quickly pulled Ganta down and to his chest while simultaneously grabbing his coat. He held Ganta close in an unwavering but gentle embrace and the long coat fell over them like a blanket.
"What are doing?!" Ganta asked, flushed and embarrassed to be pressed so closely to Senji.
Senji's eyes were still hidden behind the beanie. Ganta tried to push himself away from Senji but there was no point. Senji was obviously stronger than Ganta and held the boy with ease.
"It gets cold up here," Senji stated flatly, "You probably haven't notice but you've already started shivering."
Ganta had noticed the slight cold but he didn't want to complain about it. If Senji could handle it (and shirtless no less) than Ganta could handle the cold too.
"I would have been fine!" Ganta argued.
"We'll both stay warmer this way, kid," Senji tried to quiet Ganta as he loosened his grip a little, "Now shut up and quit bein' queer about it."
Ganta felt even more embarrassed. He was not queer. He wasn't. That's why he was so against them touching wasn't it? Because he wasn't gay.
Nonetheless, Senji was warm and for the first time since he'd gotten here, Ganta felt safe in the man's embrace.
"I'm not queer," Ganta mumbled.
Senji tightened his grip again but not in a way that was restricting. It just brought Ganta closer to Senji once more but in a gentler way.f
Ganta didn't know how to respond to that. He felt like asking Senji what he was thinking or why he was holding him the way he was but Ganta quickly let it go. After all, Senji wasn't one for words. He seemed like a man of action.
Then, what does this action mean? Ganta wondered.
Ganta felt like he understood on some level and he attempted to be like Senji and act wordlessly. He nuzzled up closer to Senji and put his ear to Senji's chest. Ganta felt warm and secure and safe and slowly he began to fall asleep as Senji's heart beat.
Tum tum- tum tum- tum tum.
A/N: Ah, nothing like a cup 'o fluff before bed. Night! :D