A High Price
"You should know, I've been told to do everything in my power to bring him back."
Tatsumi didn't like to make threats, especially in a place such as this. It was too civilised, too sophisticated, and it made him feel like an uncultured bully. The violin sang too sweetly, the wine in his glass too fragrant, his padded velvet, Victorian style chair so wonderfully comfortable. He would have enjoyed it here, if he wasn't doing business, or having to pay. No doubt his meal would be an extortionate price, but this was where Oriya had decided they would talk, he would meet nowhere else.
"There's no need to tell me that. I expected nothing less."
Oriya twirled his glass between deft fingers. He'd only asked for water, and seemed reluctant to drink even that. Was he afraid he'd end up poisoned? Tatsumi frowned faintly. A man such as Oriya was bound to have enemies, possibly even politicians who were afraid he'd give away their nasty little secrets about visits to his brothel. Tatsumi had no intention of killing him though.
"You're not going to make things easy for me, are you?" The Shinigami asked. Oriya flashed him a quick smile, setting his glass down and nudging it away from him with one finger.
"You should know me well enough by now, to know that I won't betray my friends. But I don't lie either." Sitting back in his chair, arms folded, the longhaired brunette finally looked up at him. There was still a trace of the exhaustion that Tatsumi had seen at the funeral, but the pain and worry was gone. He was recovering it seemed, from whatever had been troubling him.
"Ah, but you do lie, Oriya-san. I asked you specifically whether Muraki was dead. You told me he was."
The swordsman chuckled quietly, shaking his head, and then leaned across the table, resting his elbows upon it, and placing his jaw in the palm of one hand.
"No. I didn't lie. I told you he was "gone" and that you'd "destroyed him". I didn't tell you in what sense of the words. He is gone, he's no longer within your reach, and you have destroyed him. Well, destroyed what he used to be."
Tatsumi smiled bitterly. He'd fallen for such a simple play of words that it was almost amusing. He might have mocked someone else for falling for it. He too leaned across the table, not particularly wanting others to hear their conversation. This made it seem more confidential, despite the fact that there were hundreds of other people in the hotel restaurant.
"Very well, you fooled me. I was na´ve for thinking that you'd help me without having reasons of your own. Now tell me, where is Tsuzuki?"
"He's with Muraki, of course, where he belongs."
Tatsumi forced himself not to argue, not to let this become personal. But it was. He couldn't deny it to himself. Even after Tsuzuki had refused his advances, it hadn't lessened his feelings at all. Now he was gone, and there was no way of talking to him, no way of apologising or explaining himself. It seemed strange to know that there was no way of reaching out to him, when all that lay between them was the man sat across from him, one obstacle. What was one man to a Shinigami? A man was no tough adversary, unless he was like Muraki, but Oriya was entirely different.
Oriya was loyal. Oriya would never submit and aid him no matter what tactics he used.
"Tsuzuki is a Shinigami, he belongs in Meifu, not with a mortal."
"That's what Muraki told him too." Oriya replied, nonchalantly.
Tatsumi stared at him, the shock threatening to make him slack-jawed. To think that Muraki had said such a thing! It seemed so utterly out of character, Muraki was never so selfless.
"And I say "told him" in the loosest sense of the word, you understand. But that doesn't matter, you don't need to know the details. All you are required to know is that Tsuzuki isn't returning to you. That is his own decision."
"It isn't his decision to make." Tatsumi growled quietly, fingers curling to form trembling fists. He was more upset than he was angry. Finally, at a loss for any other reasonable argument, he reached out to clasp Oriya's free hand. "Oriya-san, it is wrong! I believe Tsuzuki's claim to love your friend, but think of it! Muraki is a mortal. He will grow old and die and eventually Tsuzuki will be left alone entirely. Is it right to aid and encourage such a relationship?"
Oriya narrowed his eyes, scrutinising him carefully for a moment. There was something in the Shinigami's tone that led him to believe there was true feeling and care behind his words, more than simply concern for a colleague or friend. He recognised it all too well for what it was, and with a sigh he reached out his other hand, squeezing Tatsumi's shoulder gently, not pulling away from the hands that clasped his.
"Tatsumi-san. Listen to me. Tsuzuki is happy. He's finally happy. Let him be that way for as long as it lasts, even if it will come to an end one day. Isn't better that he knows real mutual love, even if it is ephemeral for immortal souls like you Shinigami, than to never experience it?"
Tatsumi sat in stony silence, not acknowledging Oriya's words in any physical way, but every one of them had made clear sense to him. It was the painful truth.
"We can't choose who we love, Tatsumi. Feelings often go against all logic. Do you think that Tsuzuki went along with his own feelings willingly after everything Muraki did to him, and you Shinigami?" The swordsman shook his head. "It only goes to show how strong his feelings really are, that he was willing to set his old vengeance aside in order to be with him."
Oriya jerked backwards as Tatsumi rose abruptly, his chair scraping noisily on the highly polished marble of the hotel floor. His face was so disturbingly blank and pale, that Oriya almost felt fearful of him. Without a word, the brown-clad man walked out, his pace calm and unhurried. Oriya sat alone for no more than a dozen seconds, before he took off after him.
Tatsumi had not gone far, judging by the uncontrolled sobs Oriya could hear close by. Rounding the corner at a jog, he found the Shinigami slumped sideways against a wall, his shoulders shaking violently, face hidden by both hands. It was such a pitiful sight, that Oriya felt at a loss. He wasn't used to dealing with crying people, certainly not adult men. Hesitantly he approached, reaching out for the Shinigami's arm. The way the bicep tensed beneath his fingers made him brace himself for a blow, but none came. Instead the weeping quietened a fraction as the secretary made a valiant attempt to regain his composure, and turned to face Oriya.
Neither spoke for a moment. Tatsumi was entirely unable to communicate how he felt, nor did he feel comfortable doing so with someone he barely knew. It was Oriya who took the initiative, reaching around him gently, ignoring the shocked gasp his actions received. He held Tatsumi until he relaxed and leant against him, his shaking subsiding, and his sobbing ebbing away until he was just crying silently, his eyes closed and his brow resting on Oriya's shoulder. The swordsman wanted to pull away, but the Shinigami's fingers were clutching tightly at his kimono, and with a sigh he pressed a hand to the back of his head, stroking short brown hair in a manner that he hoped was consoling.
Before long, Tatsumi straightened up; cheeks still faintly damp with tears and his eyes red-rimmed. Oriya released him, and took a step back.
"I came to tell you, before you ran off completely, that Tsuzuki gave me a message for you."
Tatsumi's eyes seemed to flicker with momentary pain. He wasn't sure he wanted to hear. Would it be something spiteful, something concerning what had happened the night he ran away? He was on the verge of begging Oriya not to speak, but by then he had already begun.
"He said he's sorry. Sorry for worrying you, sorry that he couldn't speak to you in person and sorry that he's caused everyone so much distress. He wanted to thank you for all the times you've supported him and let you know that he loved you all. He also said, and these are his own words, 'Tell Tatsumi I understand why he said what he did, and that I don't think any less of him. Let him know I still love him.' I thought it was important that you hear what he had to say."
Tatsumi's gaze was fixed on the ground, but he nodded anyway. Tsuzuki didn't hate him, and Tsuzuki was happy. As long as he knew this, he would simply have to be as strong as he always was, and let time do its healing. This he could accept.
"Thank you, Oriya. Thank you."
Tsuzuki woke to feel the first rays of morning light warm against his face. The sky was brilliant, splashed with deep red and vibrant orange, littered with lofty clouds that seemed to hover unchanging, the gentle breeze unable to carry them further. It was beautiful, and as always, when deeply affected by the beauty of such simple things, a smile softly graced his lips. Contentedly, he curled up more tightly against the warm body beside him, winding his arms around a white-clad torso, and snuggling further beneath the blanket they'd thrown over themselves as they sat out here on the front porch the previous night.
Still asleep, Muraki looked perfectly peaceful, despite the bandage wrapped around his brow and the bruising upon his cheek. To Tsuzuki, he was incomparable, beautiful and angelic, and he couldn't resist pressing the lightest of kisses to the bare flesh of his throat, just above his collar. The doctor's lips twitched into a smile despite his slumber, and the ex- Shinigami heard him murmur one word:
This was how things were meant to be. It didn't matter that neither really knew where they were, that they were still dependent upon Oriya for the time being, or that in the end, both knew one of them would be left behind. True happiness was always brief, but Tsuzuki knew that as long as he was with Muraki, his would be longer than most.
The brightening light finally woke the doctor, and for a moment he seemed disoriented, squinting at the rising sun, and then glancing down at the amethyst eyed man that clung to him so comfortably.
Lips touched tenderly, large ivory hands gently cupping Tsuzuki's narrow jaw before drifting into silky, dark hair, smoothing it away from his face. For the doctor, thoughts of vengeance for old wounds were soothed, plans long forgotten and power to a laboratory he'd maintained for so many years had been cut. Permanently. None of that mattered now. He was finally ready to let it all go.
As for Tsuzuki, well, the loss of his friends would have been near impossible to stand in any other situation. Perhaps he was being selfish. Then again, perhaps it was better for everyone this way. He'd felt the brush of Hisoka's mind several times since his departure, and on each occasion he'd tried to let him feel the extent of his happiness, opening his mind so completely that he could have sworn he'd heard Hisoka whisper to him; "Be happy, it's your time."
Taking some comfort in those words, Tsuzuki resolved that he would be, that they both would be, he and Muraki, for as long as they had together.
~ The End ~
Author's Note: Finally finished! I never intended it to be this long, but who can tell where these things end up going? Half the time I hadn't any plans. Anyway, I'd like to thank everyone that's read and reviewed this, especially those of you that have done so whenever I posted, everyone that's e-mailed me about it or offered to do me a picture for it (which are always welcome btw =] ) and everyone that's given me encouragement. I hope the ending didn't disappoint too much!
~ Lizard ~
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