Nor Are We Out Of It -- Prologue

Tatsumi sighed, and inspected the remaining piles of paperwork which cluttered the smooth surface of his desk. There was too much of it -- and for once, it was probably not Tsuzuki's fault. Not entirely. Not if you were prepared to argue the point (and this once, he felt like arguing the point). It wasn't as if one could blame Tsuzuki -- or even Hisoka -- for a psychotic serial killer blowing up the Queen Camellia and necessitating salvage operations. Higher authorities had notified him that his department would have to take some of the expenses for that, but he intended to fight that judgment tooth and claw. Trying to keep some money in the department treasury was one of the few things he could actually do for the others.

It wasn't as if he'd been able to protect them from Muraki, after all. Or save the boy from that girl's death. Or do anything that had actually been useful, except perhaps turn up too late with too little.

Sometimes he regretted abandoning his position as Tsuzuki's partner.

He rubbed the underside of his right forearm. It was aching again. He'd taken a long gash there during the fight after that episode with the demon and the violin and the boy with the transplanted cornea, when they were trying to get Tsuzuki out of the way, and from time to time the wound ached as if it were still fresh . . .

He had work to do. There was far too much of it. Perhaps if he got down to it now he might be able to clear enough of it to go home with a clear conscience.

Yes, and that reminded him, Watari had been making noises about everyone needing a department medical check, as part of the standard procedure. He ought to set an example by dropping by, though of course he wouldn't agree to let Watari try out any of his dubious experiments on him . . .

But the work had to be done first. The work demanded his full concentration. He might even be able to shave some of the costs a little if he truly applied himself to this set of figures, and that was the important thing. Minor points of health or heartache or an ache in his arm which should have healed the way all shinigami injuries healed . . .


Yes, work was the most important thing.

He had so much to do. There was so little time, so little money, so much to organize. In the pleasant light trance of focused concentration and application he could forget for a little while about the pain in Tsuzuki's eyes, the flinch and shiver in his movements, the way he used to cry.

He could forget it all.

Tatsumi picked up a mug of coffee which had gone cold a long time ago, and took a sip of the dark liquid. It burned harshly in his mouth, and he welcomed the focus which the taste brought him.

This was where he belonged, not fretting over a partner who was now with someone whom he cared about, someone whom he fitted with much better than Tatsumi could ever have managed. This office was his home, his temple, his dojo. He needed nothing else. He was safe here. He need not think about anything else.

He began to work again.

He wanted nothing else.

Later, when he looked up from the papers and smiled, shadows writhed behind his glasses and ran down to pool between his fingers. He continued to smile.


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