[identity profile] compos-dementis.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] puppy_shinigami
Title: Sunflowers
Author: Dementis
Fandom: YnM
Pairing: Watari/Tsuzuki, implied Tatsumi/Tsuzuki
Rated: M
Disclaimer: Yoko Matsushita owns my soul. And Yami no Matsuei.
Summary: You poor, lost child.


“Yutaka.”

The one sound seemed to echo in his mind. A voice all too familiar to his ears but he couldn’t quite place it, mind buzzing confusedly as though drugged. He cracked open his eyes but the room swayed like a ship, blurred by his lack of glasses.

Young. That’s how everyone described him lately, whenever he tried to voice his concerns. Being followed, what a ridiculous thought for an eleven-year-old. You’re not being followed. You’re much too young. Now come inside before you catch cold.

Why did they never listen? Kept him locked up in their parental overprotection, afraid their boy was losing touch with reality. Losing his mind. Adults with tired eyes and lethargic hands flashing him cards with ink spots on them. What did he see in them? A shadow, he told them. Eyes. A cigarette. Death.

“Yutaka, look at me.”

Not enough. Incorrect, they scolded. Ruler smacking his knuckles. Butterfly. Flowers. Children. Cities. The moon.

The tests weren’t working. Mother cried and cried, why can’t you be a happy child, like the neighbor kids? Father got heated and angry. Stupid boy. Father left; child’s fault. Didn’t smile often enough. Too lost in his own head.

“Yutaka!”

The voices swam in dizzy circles around his head. His golden hair stuck to the floor, a sticky red like a used lollipop. Like candy. He tried to open his eyes but had to grip the floor as the room spun again. Someone held him close to their chest, a woman, stroking back his sweaty, candy-sticky hair.

Eventually they brought him in for more tests. Tell me what you see. A sun? No. A skull? A telephone, rabbit, mask, candy, lovers? No. Do you want to know what I see, doctor? Blank eyes, loneliness. I see an inkblot.

There were police. They surrounded his sore, tired body, nude and curled into a tight ball. “Don’t touch me,” he begged softly as they called for medics. “Please. Don’t touch me.”

He felt his bruises like tender violet blossoms of pain beneath his pale skin. A blanket came around his shoulders comfortingly and he shook to get away, but it was so invitingly warm, and he fell asleep in the comfort of a blanket.

“You poor, lost child.”

~*~*~*~

“Why don’t you start by telling us your name and age?”

The room was small and dark. Not as dark as he would’ve like it, but dark enough. The dim fluorescent light, flickering weakly over his head (like a soft cry for help that no one would hear for days) caused his golden hair to shine in a kind of twisted halo. Something angelic.

“You already know my name and age,” the boy told them flatly. The woman shook her head as though tired, a weak smile on her lips.

“It’s just for the recording,” the officer assured. The boy felt his mother’s hand touch his own. Finally he sighed, dragging a hand through his unwashed hair.

“Watari Yutaka,” he said clearly, then paused, cleared his throat. “Watari Yutaka. Seventeen years old.” He could hear more than the see the grief and pity rolling off the women. Feel them eyeing him as he pulls his hand away from his mother’s.

Poor child. Poor, lost child. Bruising like makeup around his eyes and mouth, blackened on his flesh like burns. It still hurt to sit.

Lost child, flickering like this light, ready to burn out at any given moment.

Not true. He was willing to see this through to the end (not like those whiny sob-story cutters, carving ‘RAPE’ into unwilling flesh). He wanted to see that bastard brought to justice. Revenge fueled him.

He answered all her questions truthfully, careful to look her in the eyes, to make her really see the pain in the deep golden-brown, the bruises painting ‘this is what I am, a toy, an object, a canvas for a sick artist.’ Yes, they hit me. Yes, I was forced to perform. Yes, they drugged me.

No, I didn’t see his face.

“Can I go?” He pushed his glasses up his nose and tried to keep from sounding bitter. The woman looked at him like she’d look at a ten-dollar whore. Which fit, since he felt like one.

(Did I do well? Did they like watching me writhe in that bound agony? Did they enjoy seeing me so broken?)

“Yeah.” The woman turned off the tape recorder, watched him go. (Faggot.)

Later, in the shower, no amount of scrubbing could scour away the dirt.

~*~*~*~

School got worse. People stared even when the bruising faded. He tried to ignore them. Teachers, too, excusing him from tests and watching him closely, examining him like a project.

(Dark hair. A white smile. Broad hands – of course. All perverts had broad hands.)

Science. His best subject. Chemistry specifically. Mesmerized by the attraction of atoms, the story of an isotope, the miracles that simply the right combinations of chemicals could bring. Even in chemistry, they looked. Stared at his broken, incredibly male body, and their eyes said, ‘Whore.’

(If I were a woman, would that have made it okay?)

Home was worse. Avoidance. More counseling, as if he was losing focus, getting distracted.

(Keep your eye on your task. Do what they need and they’ll let you go. No distractions. Just get the job done.)

The questions got repetitive after a while. Did he remember the man? The car? Was he having trouble at school? Was he comfortable with his parents, his father in particular?

They’d never gotten along anyway. ‘Blame the victim,’ and all that. Mother was understanding enough. No; the man was definitely Caucasian. The car… red? No, purple. European.

(Cigarettes. Smelled like nicotine, the leather seat creaking beneath his weight. A soft voice, reassuring. ‘Your bus is delayed. Your mom sent me to get you, Yutaka.’)

More questions. What about your dreams?

(Restraint, smoke, fingers picking apart his insides.)

“I dream of rabbits and roller coasters.” They ate it up as though starved for a good lie. Yutaka let them smile, let them reassure him, tell him he was healthy. What was the harm in letting them pretend?

“You’re surprisingly stable for a victim,” said the doctors. “Call if you have any questions.”

(I bet you enjoyed it, you little whore.)

~*~*~*~

It had been a long time. Unfortunate, since Yutaka was used to things getting back to normal after so many years. He had responsibilities now, a job as a chemist, a stable life. He called his friends regularly but lived alone, all for his two goldfish.

A small apartment with decent lighting, overstuffed sofa, small television.

Lonely.

Started with flowers in the mail. Sunflower telegrams, cards signed Anonymous. Made Yutaka uneasy at first yet made him feel wanted, for the first time since his teen years. Twenty-seven, finally courted.

Then letters, sometimes poetry, male handwriting; Yutaka had always suspected he was gay, but this only proved it. Every note and sunflower framed for the world to envy.

(Darkened room. Broken mattress springs jutting from worn fabric.)

Unfortunate, he thought as he opened his eyes since he’d been knocked unconscious. His head hurt, hair matted with that sticky red candy.

“I love you, Yutaka. Look at me.”

The same man as before, he realized with despair. Dark hair fell neatly into sharp blue eyes, and the white smile gleamed.

“Now we can be together forever… My beautiful Yutaka, my beautiful boy.” The hands were cold on his skin. Yutaka tried to talk but the gag prevented it. Danger; he welcomed it.

(Make me feel wanted.)

It repeats. The man’s mouth traced his skin (bites his shoulder; bright wet pain blooms there, comes back red), hands forced him open, body prodding him, bruising him, filling him.

Blunt force and pressure, and he couldn’t even scream.

And then it was over. His gag was removed, a kiss placed there instead (Good boy, relax), tongue pushing a pull into his mouth. He choked on it but it was forced down.

“Forever, Yutaka…”

(Will no one find me?)

“We’ll be…”

(I’m burning out. They were right.)

“We’ll be together now.”

(Vision blurred; dizzy. What about the poetry? The sunflowers?)

“We’ll be together forever.”

Yutaka closed his eyes and allowed him to fall asleep in the arms of his poet.

~*~*~*~

At first, he thought he was dreaming. He groaned slightly, but in confusion; the pain – the physical pain – was gone, and his eyes opened blearily.

The light was nearly blinding, beaming down into his face. “Nng…” He remembered sunflowers, poetry, a bright smile and…

“No.” Yutaka shook his head and sat up. A hospital, or an infirmary. This wasn’t possible. He’d been poisoned, hadn’t he? Died at the hands of a stalker.

Where the hell was he?

Startled now, he reached to the bedside table and put on his glasses. Sakura blossoms fell past the window gracefully, the sky blue, the ground pink with fallen petals. Calm fell over him, but he jumped a little when the door opened.

“Watari-san?” Yutaka turned with wide eyes to see the speaker. Young, fairly pretty, with brown hair and effeminate eyes. Violet eyes.

“W-Where am I?” Yutaka trembled, glancing around in earnest. “I-I’m dead… is this Heaven? Did I die?”

The man gave a smile, one so saccharine that it made him queasy. “No, this isn’t Heaven, Watari-san. But it’s not Hell, either. That’s not what you chose, after all.” He came over and reached to lay a hand on his shoulder, but Yutaka flinched away in panic.

(Don’t touch me.)

“What are you talking about? We don’t get to choose.” Yutaka’s protests sounded weak and stupid even to his own ears. “Where am I? Who are you?”

The man had a blank kind of vacant look about him now. He lowered his hand. He looked to be around Yutaka’s age, possibly younger, though the age was clear in those eyes.

“My name is Tsuzuki Asato,” the man told him. “This is JuOhCho. The afterlife. I’m not an angel, or a d-demon… I’m a Shinigami.”

A wave of disbelief crashed over him. So he was dead. Not only him, but this man, Tsuzuki, as well. Everyone here.

“Oh, God… Shinigami?” Yutaka shook his head and nearly fainted. “I’m dead… I died back there, didn’t I? Am I…?”

“You chose this. All Shinigami died with regrets. I don’t know yours – we don’t tend to pry into cause of death here unless it’s abnormal – but you died and chose to become one of us.” Tsuzuki sighed as though he’d seen this happen one too many times. Yutaka could only wonder what his regret had been.

(He hadn’t really lived. Had never fallen in love, not once. Lured into false hope by gifts and flowers.)

“I…” Yutaka swallowed, trying to calm himself. “What do you do, though? I mean… do you… kill people?”

Tsuzuki thought a moment. “No,” he said finally. “We guide lost souls to where they belong. In a way, we’re saving people. I work the field, in the Nagasaki District. You’ll be assigned a sector too. We’ll pair you with a partner and you can help us to guide souls into the afterlife.”

It all sounded so ridiculous, like some kind of sick joke, but Tsuzuki’s eyes were so serious that he didn’t question a word.

“Okay,” he agreed softly, eyes on the floor. “Whatever you need.”

~*~*~*~

He had a difficult time getting comfortable. Everyone watched him. (Newcomer.) He thought of them all, tried to imagine their deaths in his mind. The Chief: probably old age, looking at the wrinkles and the arthritis so painful even death couldn’t cure it.

Terazuma: lung problems from cigarettes, or else something reckless and stupid like getting himself shot.

Tatsumi: hard to choose. Something quick and paced and likely money-related. Maybe a debate over a debt.

Tsuzuki. Yutaka couldn’t pinpoint it. Countless scenes of death played in his bored mind, but none made sense to him. Tsuzuki was loud and yet quiet, reckless and yet cautious. Happy, smiling, but Yutaka had a curious feeling that it wasn’t really there.

He sighed and the soft sound caught on the Kyoto autumn breeze. He loved Kyoto despite his mother’s hatred for it. Once he’d been born, they’d taken up their things and left for Osaka, where his grandparents lived, abandoning the beautiful historic city. She’d never offered an explanation as to why they moved. ‘Bad memories.’

He’d asked to be assigned here. Tsuzuki already had a partner, a pretty girl named Ayaka who looked at him with lowered lashes, so Yutaka had gotten paired with Tsuzuki’s previous partner, Saori. Landed with leftovers. She was nice enough, with a short soft bob of silky red hair and grey eyes that held permanent boredom. She liked Kyoto too, as it turned out. She just hadn’t liked Tsuzuki.

And honestly, he couldn’t really blame her for that. Tsuzuki was loud, enthusiastic, unreasonable (kind, understanding, honest). No wonder the man went through partners like shirts.

“Remember to keep a cool head,” she reminded him, steadying her gun. He didn’t carry one (too young, too rash, not sure how), so he watched her with fascination. Strong hold on the handle, finger poised near the trigger. “Panic only makes it worse. And for God’s sake, stay back. I can’t afford a rookie getting hurt.”

Yutaka took a deep breath and they entered the building at her go-ahead. Saori’s gun aimed for the front of the church, where a young girl – no older than fifteen, at most – was bent over an open casket. At first, there was nothing odd about it. After all, it was a church. But then the girl stiffened and a lump of rottenly grey flesh fell between her Sunday school shoes.

(The assignment had come up when the funerals in Kyoto began to multiply. Children, adults, the elderly, all dying of strange diseases that went unexplained in autopsy files. All had a common factor: the girl.)

“Miho,” Saori said, and the girl turned slightly at the sound of her name. Her brown hair fell tangled and ugly around her shoulders, clothes dirty as though slept in. Saori steadied her hands, and Yutaka stared, young and confused. “Miho, back away from the body now.”

(They’d talked at length to the Count at the Hall of Candles, whom Yutaka wasn’t particularly fond of; he found him much too clingy, and the man panted after Tsuzuki like a stalker. The Count had informed them that the girl in question, Miho… Miho’s candle had been extinguished for weeks. The girl was long dead.)

Miho turned to them and snarled; cold meat clung sticky to her mouth and chin, teeth reddened with it. Her eyes shone with a glazed kind of corpse look and fat from the deceased’s thighs glistened on her chapped lips. Yutaka felt his stomach churn violently, sick at the smell and sight, but mostly, he felt pity.

He pitied her. Imagined the kind of life she must’ve had before this. But Saori didn’t even hesitate, when the girl flung a handful of torn stomach lining, to fire a shot into the air. It missed the girl by mere inches, and Miho seemed to cower at the noise more than the actual bullet.

“You need to come with us now,” he heard his partner say. “We’ll fix you up. Make you normal again.”

(Don’t touch me.)

The girl was a cornered animal as they approached closer, growling these low throaty noises, and when Saori reached for her, she lashed out. The shout of “Watari-san!” was nearly lost to him before she’d lunged at him in fear and rage. Tore his skin with prettily painted nails, bit into him with sturdy teeth, pulled at his long golden hair.

(She’d been beautiful, once. A picture-perfect thing, happy. Turned savage. Didn’t want to. Just did.)

The gun cracked a second time. This time he heard the sickening squelch of the bullet sinking into her and she spat her blood (and his) onto his chest and face. Jerked and then went limp in his arms, silently twitching. Saori ran to him but he couldn’t move, clutching at this girl, this beautiful broken girl, rocking back and forth, crying for her because nobody else would.

“Poor child,” he sobbed into her. “Poor, lost child.”

~*~*~*~

A week passed, then another. Since Kyoto was a fairly quiet sector, he didn’t receive another assignment. Which he was more than grateful for. Sleep escaped him night after night, memory haunted by visions of that girl. What could have made her turn that way?

(Humanity clawed away by madness and disease.)

He came into work tired, golden hair frayed and eyes burning with sleep loss. He found himself distracted and was often scolded by Konoe and Tatsumi for every time he nodded off.

“You’re tired,” Tatsumi told him. “I get that. But you can’t fall asleep in the middle of meetings like that.”

(Distracted, that’s all. Mind’s on other things. Death. The afterlife. Zombie teenagers and Shinigami.)

Yutaka nodded. “Sorry. Won’t let it happen again.”

(She was so young. Younger than she should’ve been. Don’t any of you have any sympathy or compassion? How can you get to sleep?)

He bowed, though it hurt slightly, and made his way to the break room. Quiet. Linoleum. Fresh scones on the table (lemon, his favorite), stale coffee in the pot. No accusatory glances or disgusted expressions (‘Whore.’). No bitterness. No fear.

(No tortured innocents with savage eyes and dripping chins.)

A few moments passed as he tore open packets of SweetnLow and dumped the white powdery contents into his coffee. It made the black liquid cloud, and he tasted it. Still too bitter, and tasted of grief. Tasted dead.

(Like hopeless dreams and corpse’s flesh.)

He poured creamer in too, filling it so the pale concoction nearly spilled over. Uncontrollable anger came over him. Couldn’t they see? His hands trembled, coffee spilled onto his sweater. Stupid emotionless bastards. Shooting children, shoving forms and legalities at him, all business and corporate suits. All fake.

(It’s just how we do things. She’d been long dead anyway. Saori did the right thing.)

Fuck you people. No child, no innocent girl, deserves to be gunned down.

He shoved his hair behind his ears and took a deep breath. Getting angry didn’t solve anything, not even when nobody else could possibly understand how he felt.

There was a noise of fabric being dropped into a chair, and Yutaka looked up to see Tsuzuki leaning against the counter. He’d dropped his trench coat when he came in and now stood beside him with a mug cupped in his hands, white sleeves rolled up to his elbows, tie loose, hair casually mussed.

“I just got back,” Tsuzuki said in a vacant tone. “I heard about what happened a few weeks ago. You okay?”

Watari shrugged and let out a sigh. He didn’t want to talk about anything, especially not with happy-go-lucky Tsuzuki, but he couldn’t hold back. “It was my first mission. And… the girl, Miho, she was… young. So young. She could’ve been my little sister.”

He gripped his coffee, expecting another lecture on How We Do Things and Necessary Sacrifice. Instead, Tsuzuki looked at him and asked, “How young?”

Surprised, Watari blinked. “Erm… fifteen.”

Tsuzuki nodded silently, eyes suddenly pained as though he could see her. “That’s really young.” He swirled his coffee and reached to take a scone, then changed his mind. “I know it’s hard, but it is how we do things here. You just have to… I dunno… learn not to hurt after a while.”

Watari stared at him, and Tsuzuki looked at Watari in return. Their eyes met briefly but then, uncomfortable, Watari pulled back.

“Have you learned?”

Silence for a bit, then, “No.” Tsuzuki swallowed a mouthful of coffee. “Hey, you look beat. Why don’t we go out for a drink?”

(An invitation. Finally, something to look forward to in this place. Almost like Tsuzuki liked him. Ridiculous.)

“Sure.”

~*~*~*~

The bar was quiet. An older place in Kyoto, with stained glass windows like a church (how ironic) and candles for atmosphere. The alcohol was cheap and the bartender asked for no identification, even though Tsuzuki looked to be around nineteen as opposed to his actual twenty-six. Decent enough for tonight, anyway.

Tsuzuki fingered the shot glass boredly. His fingers looked purple through the glass.

(Purple blossoms of pain beneath the surface, blooming rosy and hot, fists coming down again and again…)

“It’s kind of pointless, isn’t it?”

Watari looked at him after downing another shot. It tingled warmly through him like summer sand, intoxicating, pulling him down. “Pointless?”

“Yeah,” Tsuzuki slurred, eyes struggling to focus on him. (Seeing double.) “I mean… the harder we work, the more difficult it is. It’s bullcrap. I hate having to work for that, like nothing I do will ever be good enough, like I can’t save them no matter how hard I try.”

The words seeped into his skin, and Watari found himself thinking of Miho again. A pretty girl torn to pieces by grief. (Or maybe she’d given up. Like a boy from so long ago with candy-sticky hair and bone-deep fear.) He couldn’t save her. Couldn’t save himself.

“But… you know, yeah, life sucks. Even in death. People die and we can’t save them, and we all live with our own darkness.” For some reason, he covered his watch at this, tight around his right wrist. “But Tatsumi taught me something. In order to go on, you just… grin and bear it. Smile even if you don’t mean it. Otherwise… you can lose everything.”

Watari watched him down shot after shot in this blind depression. So much different from the Tsuzuki he’d gotten used to knowing over these last few months. “You and Tatsumi-san… you two were…?”

“Partners,” Tsuzuki replied. He paused and continued, “Lovers. During ’48. He couldn’t handle it, said I was too emotional, too inconsistent. So he left.” Tsuzuki looked at him and then shook his head. “You see? This is what I am. I come back from an assignment, get wasted, and spill my guts to a rookie. I have to act the way I do, I have to smile. I can’t let myself slip up like I did with Tatsumi. Nobody else can know the truth about me.”

Tsuzuki was gay, and hurting. This thought tumbled in his head. It would certainly explain the gardening and dancing and cooking, but… Watari couldn’t help but feel a little less alone now.

(Cold floor, bare skin, pain and muffled screaming. If I was a girl, it would’ve been okay. If I was a girl…)

(Nicotine breath and sugared smile, blunt force pushing, pushing, tearing… pain.)

Immediately, he felt a connection. And when Tsuzuki lay a hand on his, he didn’t even flinch away.

“Whatever happens… just pretend that it’ll all be okay.”

~*~*~*~

Late, later than he’d realized. The streets were dark and Tsuzuki stumbled along beside him; Watari half-supported him as they searched for a payphone.

(So pretty. Smallish and soft-featured and boyish in his face. Makes me feel silly in comparison.)

“There’s one,” Tsuzuki pointed out, motioning drunkenly to a single shady phone booth. The kind Watari had seen in ghost stories or The Blob, with the defenseless woman trapped inside.

(Held down by belts and gravity, monsters looming over with dirty hands and violently lustful eyes.)

Tsuzuki stumbled inside and rummage for a moment in his trench coat. Then he slipped 10.03 yen into the slot after missing twice and dialed the number. “Hi, Tatsumi! It’s me,” he giggled into the mouthpiece after a while. “What? No, I know it’s late… yes. Well, I’ve got Watari-san with me. I’m a little drunk… I don’t have enough for a taxi cab. Or the train. Uh-huh. What? But…!” He paused and sighed, twisting the cord around his fingers like a teenaged girl. “Okay. Yes, that’s fine. See you ‘morrow.”

Watari watching him fumble to hang up. “Is he going to come get us?”

“Tomorrow,” Tsuzuki slurred. “He said to get a hotel for now and put it on his card. He’s too busy ‘n’ can’t leave.”

“Oh.” Watari got the man around the waist again; Tsuzuki was thinner than he looked. Watari felt the ridge of a hipbone beneath his fingers. The dip of a waist. The bottom curve of a rib. He imagined getting close again, feeling these things from a sensual perspective.

“I think I need to throw up,” Tsuzuki whispered, and Watari led him to the nearest waste bin.

~*~*~*~

The room was small, with a single be due to limited yen. The woman at the counter had looked at them strangely when they’d requested only one bed for the both of them. (Faggots.) But the sheets were mostly clean and they had hot water for the morning, so Watari didn’t complain too much.

It was dark, too, the moonlight barely visible through the dark curtains. Darkness caressed his skin. (Like nicotine kisses or broad, callused hands.) The night settled around them as Tsuzuki’s breathing hitched softly in his sleep and Watari had visions of regrets behind his eyes.

All Shinigami died with regrets.

(Is that what went wrong? A lifetime spent in bitterness and fear of affection. I’d been breathing, yes, steadily – in, out, in time like a metronome – but I hadn’t really lived. I never once fell in love, never once gave myself willingly, never once felt truly wanted.)

He glanced over at Tsuzuki with eyes that itched from lack of sleep. The other’s eyelids flickered in slumber. Eyebrows furrowed. Nightmare, hands clutching blankets. So beautiful, even when afraid, face soft-featured and body lithe.

“Nn… stop…” Tsuzuki breathed. Watari reached over and gently brushed a strand of brown hair out of his eyes. Immediately, Tsuzuki seemed to relax slightly, until he suddenly stiffened and curled in on himself. “N-no…!”

“Tsuzuki…” Watari felt a wave of pity roll over him like he had with Miho, and he scooted closer in the small bed until he felt the other’s body heat against his legs. Tsuzuki was trembling now, and Watari could hear the soft hitching of long awaited sobs.

The man folded so easily into his arms. Tsuzuki woke but said nothing, violet eyes glittering prettily with unshed tears. Watari realized that he’d willingly taken someone into his arms for the first time in ten years, not flinching away, unafraid of the warm brush of Tsuzuki’s skin. The dampness of the tear-streaked face buried in his neck.

(The whole world, narrowed down to this, just this, the simple human comfort of an embrace.)

Tsuzuki looked at him and whispered something that was nearly lost because of the way Watari’s heart raced in his ears. “It’s all just… pointless. We can’t save anyone, not even ourselves. We just struggle through each day with only the little comforts… just trying to get by. So pointless.”

Watari stroked his hair back and touched his forehead, his eyebrows, his cheek down to his chin, anything just to touch again, just to be closer… and when he pulled Tsuzuki close, it was only natural; and when Tsuzuki pressed their lips together, it seemed perfectly okay.

“M-mn?” Watari mumbled out, but didn’t protest, not really. Tsuzuki’s mouth was soft and he could taste the minty hotel toothpaste there overpowering the alcohol.

After that, he lost track of the passing time. Tsuzuki’s hands wove through his hair and their mouths slanted and he felt every detail of Tsuzuki’s body pressed to his own. Hot, burning, trembling (take me, take me, make me feel beautiful).

Suddenly Watari felt himself shaking, hands working open Tsuzuki’s shirt and then Tsuzuki wrestling to under the buttons on his own, pulling until the buttons popped from the fabric and scattered over the hotel carpet.

(Lost there like a boy with candied hair forgotten in a memory.)

“That shirt was expensive,” Watari breathed, and Tsuzuki ran his fingertips over the pale expanse of skin and replied shakily, “I’ll buy you a new one.” Watari’s heart leapt and his eyes became out-of-focus for a moment as he felt Tsuzuki’s mouth kiss down his jaw line and neck; he was losing control over himself.

And he felt panic surge through him to his very core as Tsuzuki’s hands slipped lower to undo his pants. That too-familiar sickness and mental echo of “don’t touch me” rang throughout his suddenly still body. He couldn’t do this. He couldn’t allow this near stranger to dominate him.

(Holding me down and stealing away my spirit to leave my empty shell on dirty sheets.)

No.

“Wait.” Watari reached and stilled the hands with his own. Violet eyes gave him a look of desperation and confusion, of ‘I thought you wanted this.’ A look he’d seen a thousand times in the mirror. Tsuzuki hadn’t felt wanted in a very long time. Partners came and went, some within only months, none of them taking the time to know him. Each making rash presumptions like Watari had before.

So Watari kissed him again, holding his face in both trembling hands, tongue slipping into the wet darkness there. Tsuzuki shivered and gave a soft sigh and his hands, previously at his fly, now wound into his hair. Tsuzuki was warm against him, and inviting, and Watari angled their heads, angled their bodies, rolling the both of them until Watari lay atop the other man.

His hair fell in a wavy golden curtain around Tsuzuki’s face and the purple eyes gazed up at him in a passionate haze. Looked at him as though he hadn’t been touched in a long while. Watari’s breath came unevenly and thinly as he touched Tsuzuki’s chest and stomach, fingertips tracing the bared skin down to his pants. Tsuzuki’s breath caught before shakily exhaling. Watari took in the sight before him as he slipped his hand beneath the waistband and touched him. Tsuzuki, hot and willing beneath him, let free the softest, most broken moan and his eyes drifted shut, hips inching up to press into the fingers around him.

“Oh… o-oh, please…” Tsuzuki’s hands fisted weakly in the sheets and his face flushed. Never had Watari seen another man like this; pleading, broken, and completely lost. Watari obediently obliged, hand wrapped firmly around his erection, watching every gasp and motion with hungry eyes.

He couldn’t take it anymore. This time, when Tsuzuki went to remove his pants, he let him. And when they pressed together, it felt as though a million jolts of pleasure shot through his body at once.

(Not like before. Not forced or painful. Only this exchange of forgiveness and forget; nothing regrettable and nothing romantic.)

Tsuzuki clutched at him and gasped. Watari noticed his watch was still on, but when he went to remove it for him, Tsuzuki quickly pulled back.

“Leave it,” he said. “Please.”

They worked this way for a while, each gasping the other’s name in the dark and damp of the sheets, clothes melting away to leave their flesh bare. Tsuzuki wrapped a leg around him (closer, closer) and Watari kissed him deeply (more, more).

But still, it wasn’t enough, and soon Tsuzuki leaned up to press his mouth to Watari’s ear and give the heated whisper, “Take me.”

It took everything Watari had not to reject him on the spot. He didn’t want to hurt him, didn’t want to force him into anything, didn’t want him to go through… that. Instead, he took a deep breath and whispered back, “Okay.”

Tsuzuki looked to devastatingly beautiful as he whimpered and writhed during the clumsy preparation. Watari was confused as to how anyone could enjoy this, one, two fingers up inside (blunt pressure and fingernails), but the other man ate it up as though starved for it.

“Please,” he begged under his breath, “oh, please…”

And all of the barriers between Watari Yutaka and Tsuzuki Asato broke in the moment he entered that tight body. It was dark and forbidden and closed around him with a tightness unknown to him until now, and he opened his mouth to cry out in pleasure. They moved together, gasped in a heated passion, and when Watari shifted to get the right spot, Tsuzuki jerked and choked on a moan.

“Th-there…! Please, Tatsumi, yes…!”

(The whole world. All of it in this one moment. The past is the past; I’ll never forget, but I can cast aside that candy-haired boy and all of his trauma. I can recreate myself here and now. Smile for the sake of the others. For Tsuzuki. For Miho.)

Watari clutched him and gave a broken cry as he came, hands scrabbling for long-awaited skin. Tsuzuki arched beneath him and followed (messily, over his chest). When it was over, they lay together on stained sheets and became lost in their own minds.

“Thank you,” Tsuzuki said softly into the darkness.

They slept curled into each other’s arms.

~*~*~*~

It’s mid-afternoon. The sounds of complaining can be heard all the way in his lab. There’s a drawn-out “Hisoka”, followed by “We just ate!” 003 flaps enthusiastically on his shoulder and he eyes the liquid in his flask.

“Almost done,” he tells his owl proudly. “Just a dash of this-and-that, and my sex change potion will finally be complete!”

He swirls the fluid slowly, watching it turn dark crimson. It was pretty, almost picture-perfect, the red gleaming like candy out of a child’s mouth.

(Candy, sticky against a concrete floor…)

Shakes his head. Sets the potion down and composes himself by the time Tsuzuki’s brunette head appears in the doorway.

“Tatsumi wanted me to remind you that he wants the computer fixed by Friday,” Tsuzuki tells him. There’s a kind of shine to his eyes, and Watari can’t help but think of their fling, their one-time act of desperation from so long ago. They haven’t since, but there’s still that lingering what-could-have-been between them. Barest hints. Vapor.

“Will do,” Watari responds with his best smile. “Hit the bar later?”

“Can’t.” Tsuzuki grins in rare pride. “Hisoka and I are going to a play. I’m leaving early, but let Tatsumi know that I’ve got my cell phone on. See you.”

When Tsuzuki leaves, an air of cold sets into his bones. He stays a few minutes, pours out his unfinished potion (what’s the fun in winning anyway?), sets 003 in his cage, and shuts off the lights to lock up.

In his apartment, he changes into pajamas and crawls into bed at around 9:30, earlier than usual. He says goodnight to nobody in particular. Nobody tells him goodnight in return.

And alone in the dark like this, he buries his face into his pillow and thinks, ‘Just one more day. Just one more day and I’ll find the salvation I’m looking for. I’ll find peace and love and red, red candy.’

(I’ll find a way to make myself beautiful. To make myself wanted. Just one more day…)

(And I can have sunflowers again.)
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