A High Price

Chapter 18

By Lizard


By the time Tatsumi managed to locate his old partner, the sky was pitch black, the usual radiant midnight blue obscured by a thick bed of clouds that threatened to drench the land in rain. A sharp breeze scattered the Sakura blossoms in violent flurries, tugging the secretary's usually immaculate hair into a windswept, tousled mass, as he silently watched the huddled figure that sat shivering at the base of one of the trees.

Tsuzuki looked utterly miserable, his knees drawn up to his chest, back hunched, as compact as he could make his slender frame. Tatsumi couldn't be entirely sure over the sound of the wind, but he thought he detected a soft sobbing every now and again, which made his approach all the more nerve- wracking. Tatsumi's one real weakness was Tsuzuki's crying. It had been the same when they were partners, and been the cause of their split. Well now there was no running away from it, not if he wanted to make amends for what he'd done. Quietly he approached, his hands clasped behind his back. He wasn't at all accustomed to apologising.

"Tsuzuki, please don't cry."

The smaller Shinigami appeared to stiffen, lifting his head from where it had been resting against his knees. Even in the dim light, Tatsumi could see his expression. There was no accusation there, only despondency and a flicker of fear. The secretary crouched down in front of him, not wanting to appear to loom over him, or be intimidating in any way.

"Tsuzuki-san, I'm so very sorry." Even Tatsumi was surprised at how humble he sounded, swallowing nervously as he reached out to give his friend's knee a comforting squeeze. To his relief, he did not pull away or protest.

"I'm sorry I'm such a pest Tatsumi-san." The response was quiet, and the older Shinigami had to strain to hear him.

"What do you mean?"

"I'm surprised you haven't done it before. I deserved it, I'm lazy and I cause trouble. I guess it was just a bit of a shock." Tsuzuki blurted it all out without giving Tatsumi any time to interrupt, not once looking up to meet his gaze. At first the Secretary was astounded by his words. How could he be blaming himself for what had happened in the office? But then again he reasoned, this was typical Tsuzuki, blaming himself, never even contemplating that it might be anyone else's fault.

"You aren't to blame, I lashed out when I shouldn't have. Please, come inside Tsuzuki." The smaller man eyed the hand that was offered to him with mixed emotions. He knew that Tatsumi was speaking honestly, but he couldn't force his limbs into action. "Please, we can't talk here." A harsh gust of cold wind buffeted them both as if to emphasise those words and Tsuzuki nodded, accepting the hand and getting to his feet shakily. Tatsumi smiled at him gently, relieved to have managed to make some progress, and unbuttoned his heavy coat, extending one side of it to wrap around the other Shinigami.

Tsuzuki's response was almost violent, arms clinging tightly to the older man, face pressed against his shoulder. What he needed more than anything now was reassurance, the comfort of knowing that his friend didn't despise him. Tatsumi was only too happy to oblige, wrapping his coat around the man that clung to him, and then encircling his back with both arms. To anyone watching, the emotion upon the Secretary's face would have been undeniable.

Tatsumi led them back inside, hardly daring to look down at Tsuzuki, and feeling an almost giddy elation. It would be so easy to reach down, tilt up that delicate chin and drown him in kisses. Such thoughts naturally led elsewhere, and it took a concentrated effort for him to force his mind back to the matter at hand. They needed to talk; though what he really wanted to confront him about would be terribly tricky. He hadn't the faintest idea of how to bring the situation with Muraki up, and would Tsuzuki deny it out of shame?

Tsuzuki on the other hand, was only too happy now that his friendship with Tatsumi had been mended, content just to cling to him like a child, comforting himself with the thought that he wasn't hated afterall. Tatsumi wasn't mad at him, he was just stressed at the moment, and maybe he could help him relax a little, make up for all the work he'd neglected to do that day.

Finally they came to the office shared by the EnMaCho staff, and Tatsumi reluctantly released Tsuzuki, before tossing his coat over the back of a chair. The papers were still scattered upon the floor, but he couldn't care less about them at the moment, he was too busy watching Tsuzuki settle himself, cross-legged on top of his desk. For a moment Tatsumi wondered why he'd taken them back to the office, rather than somewhere more comfortable, but his steps seemed to have naturally led him in this direction. Watari was right, this place was more or less home to him.

"Tatsumi, is something wrong?" Tsuzuki's question came as a surprise. The secretary had been expecting to do the questioning, not vice-versa. "You seemed so unhappy all day."

Tatsumi sighed quietly, hands feeling empty now that they weren't clasping Tsuzuki, of full of files and folders. He shoved them deep into his pockets, eyes downcast.

"I just haven't been sleeping well Tsuzuki-san. It's nothing to worry about."

"Maybe Watari could fix you something to help. He's always coming up with new potions, though they don't seem to work all that well. Maybe just some normal pills would be better." Tsuzuki noticed Tatsumi's frown as he babbled, and stopped himself from saying anymore. "It's not just sleep is it? There's something else wrong."

Tatsumi had begun to pace incessantly, still engrossed with the floor it would seem, for he still refused to look anywhere else. He knew Tsuzuki wouldn't want him to lie to him, so maybe he should just come out and admit what he knew, what he was feeling.



"I-Never mind. It doesn't matter." Tatsumi was becoming more exasperated with himself by the minute, and Tsuzuki all the more suspicious.

"If there's something wrong I want to know. Why can't you talk to me? I want to help." Amethyst eyes watched Tatsumi with concern. He was beginning to feel a little fearful again.

"You can't."

Tatsumi glanced up as he heard Tsuzuki slip down off the desk, approaching slowly. All he could think of, was how beautiful he looked, how perfect, and how sinful it was to be thinking such things about his dearest friend.

"You need to talk to someone, Tatsumi. Talk to me." His voice was slightly tremulous, and he almost recoiled when the secretary fastened those frigid blue eyes on him, expecting to be struck again, but determined not to go running this time.

Instead, he found himself pressed back against the wall, arms wrapped around him, and damp, heated lips pressed against his own. Some soft sound escaped Tsuzuki, as he stood there with eyes wide, immobile, not due to the strong arms that held him, but because of pure shock. Tatsumi leaned back slightly, but did not release him.

"Now you know." He murmured.

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