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[KinKi AU] Shinigami

For fishings, in fulfillment of the Sendai earthquake fundraiser exchange (yep, super late).

This is a "(young) KinKi Kids meets Yami no Matsuei" fic, but knowledge of Yami no Matsuei is not a prerequisite, or at least I try to make it so. It serves as a conceptual base, but the settings are not followed exactly.

jandeth wonderfully beta-ed, as usual. Any remaining blunder is only mine, especially since my fussy hands kept editing past her reviewing. -_-

Untitled because I can’t think of a title I like; anyway I'm forever calling this 'the shinigami!KinKi fic'. =X


Disclaimer: This writing is fictional and has no commercial purpose. Characters are real persons belonging to themselves.
Pairing: Teen KinKi Kids
Genre: AU, supernatural, drama, flangst
Rating: PG-13 for dark themes (see warnings)

Summary: Chibi-era Kouichi and Tsuyoshi become partners in the grim reaping job.

Warnings:
- Dark themes: death and its various causes, psychic stuff.
- References to early / chibi!KinKi works as well as various Japanese fictional works (manga, drama, movie), which may be spoilers. I list them at the end so as not to spoil this piece — if you're concerned, please go there to see.


-----


The first rule for a shinigami is: start with a clean slate.


"Name?"

"I..."

He's in the form of a seventeen-year-old, but he feels older— heavier, the weight of a lifetime.

Well, he's dead.

"I... don't know."

He remembers nothing of that lifetime. It's like a blank in his head.

"...Ah, one of those cases, huh?"



Shinigami: one who retrieves spirits of the dead.

...well, only those who don't automatically turn up in the afterlife when their lifespans are over...

...which may involve misbehaving spirits, paranormal disturbances, and, on occasion, nether-dimensional demons.



The one they call the Chief leans back. "Any question?"

He eyes the Book on the desk. "You're not going to tell me my identity?"

"What you don't remember is not for us to disclose," the Chief replies. "Besides, if you choose to move on, you have no need for your past."

He wonders if the heavy feeling will go away if he does. Where is it coming from in the first place? He barely remembers anything.

The Chief smiles. He looks like a friendly school principal. "So. Do you want the job?"

He barely remembers anything, only... a sense of something unfinished.

"I'll take it," he says.



“So. Do I get a new name or what?”

“Anything you want to be called by. What comes to mind?”

That’s an unusual name.

He blinks.

The thought flashes out of existence.

The Chief is watching him. He shakes his head.

“Hm.” The Chief taps his chin. “Since you’re our first recruit of the year, how about—”



The second rule for a shinigami is: always work in pairs.


About time, Tsuyoshi thinks. Without a partner, he's been stuck with the Librarian, who's really a supervisor rather than a teammate. But he can't complain. Shinigami candidates don't grow on trees, and the Tokyo office is too swamped with work to shelve him every time he loses a partner.

The new guy looks only a little older than him. Isn't it depressing how people are dying at younger and younger ages nowadays? Though it surely doesn't hurt to get someone who could commiserate about being stuck in perpetual adolescence, since a shinigami's physique does not age.

Not that this one is showing any commiserative tendency so far. He's totally unfazed when the Chief assigns them their first case, minutes after introductions are done.

Tsuyoshi reads the case description, and sighs. "Ueno Park, is it?"

"Is something the matter?" his new partner asks. The name’s Kouichi. No surname has been mentioned, but that’s not uncommon for shinigamis. Familial ties can be a burden after death.

"Just... it's spring."



The world of the afterlife exactly mirrors that of the living, except for, obviously, the living population.

The park is quiet when they arrive, the trees asleep.

Tsuyoshi shift-steps into the living realm, and immediately sakura petals rain onto his face.

Kouichi stumbles in a split-second later.

"Oh." The boy takes in the scenery. "You mean you're allergic?"

"No, the flowers are fine," says Tsuyoshi. He gestures towards the huge tree ahead of them.

Kouichi takes a look, and visibly tenses.

"The trouble with spring is that we keep getting these psychopaths with a penchant for killing under cherry trees in full bloom."



The tree is more than alive, in a very unpleasant way.

"It's all that buildup of residual negative energy. Tends to trap spirits in." Tsuyoshi huffs. "It's messing up my radar too, damn."

He starts walking up to the tree.

Kouichi's gaze stops at a figure near the fence. "Isn't that her over there?"

Tsuyoshi checks. "Hey, yeah. You've got keen sight."

"Well, that purple kinda stands out," says Kouichi.

"What purple?"

"Her aura." He pauses. "Don't you see it?"

"No. I guess that's your specialty." Tsuyoshi strides towards the woman. "Come on. She's harmless. Just scared."

Kouichi follows, confused. "Shinigamis don't all see auras of the dead?"

"It depends which of our senses is more spiritually tuned," Tsuyoshi replies. "I'm more of an empath."

"Empath?"

"I synchronize with the emotions of others. That's how I know she's scared."

"You synchronize?" Kouichi considers this. "That sounds uncomfortable."

"That's... one way to put it, I guess."



"By any chance," Kouichi says, "You don't see any blood or dangling intestines or anything like that... right?"

Tsuyoshi cringes at the mental image. "Spirits don't have to look like their bodies do, silly. It's all in the mind."



She dissolves at the touch of Tsuyoshi's hand, the distressed purple now a peaceful sky blue, the transition of her lifeforce leaving silver dust sparkling in its wake.

Kouichi dares not voice the thought that, despite the circumstances, it's really quite a captivating sight.



"So that's it?" Kouichi asks, as they make their way back to the office.

"Eh, not quite. Next comes the report."



"I mean, what about the murderer?"

"Not our jurisdiction."



"How long have you been working here?"

Tsuyoshi pulls out a form from the desk drawer. "Slightly over two years. Why?"

"Just curious." Kouichi draws his chair nearer, and watches him fill in the report.

Their knees bump accidentally, and with the empathy amplified by physical contact, Tsuyoshi reads a whiff of disapproval.

"Anything you want to say to me?" he asks. At Kouichi's surprised expression, he says, "I can read your emotions, too, you know."

Kouichi hesitates. "Do you get this agitated at every case?"

Tsuyoshi looks at him. There's a straightforward one.

Kouichi fidgets. "...I can see your aura, too, you know."

Tsuyoshi returns his attention to the paper. "Isn't that normal? Every death is... something."

There's a pause, then Kouichi asks, "Why, then, are you a shinigami?"



“That,” Tsuyoshi says, “is a very personal question.”

Kouichi blinks. "But we're partners, aren't we?"



“I wouldn’t mind telling you my reason,” Kouichi says. “Except I’m not very sure myself.”

Tsuyoshi snorts. “It was on offer, there might be something to it, I’d go along for now?”

Kouichi looks startled. “…Oh. You can read that, huh?”

…No, he really can’t. It’s what he has thought. It comes as a surprise that their circumstances might be alike.

So Kouichi has no past, either.



Tsuyoshi turns back to the report. "Whatever I feel about the cases— as long as it doesn't affect our work, you'll be fine with it, right?"

Kouichi watches with surprise as Tsuyoshi's aura disappears from his sight. There isn't even the colourlessness of disinterest. It's just not there.

"So you can... shield."

"Of course," Tsuyoshi says flatly. "I suggest you learn to do the same."




The apartment is sparse, but it has a bed and basic furniture.

"I'm next door," Tsuyoshi says. Partners are allocated nearby residences in case of off-hour emergencies. "But I guess you are gonna be okay."

Kouichi catches the emphasis and throws him an inquiring look.

Tsuyoshi shrugs. "Naoki-san used to have nightmares on his first few weeks. He quit after a month."



“Nightmares... about the deaths?”

“I don’t know what about. Only the emotions got through to me.”

It could’ve been the deaths. It could’ve been his own past, if he’d retained his memory of it. Naoki hadn’t wanted to talk.

Kouichi doesn't seem disturbed; more like fascinated. “Empathy works through the walls?”

“Obstacles don’t matter, only the proximity,” Tsuyoshi says. “And intensity.”

He wonders if Kouichi would be concerned about privacy. Every shinigami is bound to be intense about something. It takes that sort of personality to even consider the job.

The only intense thing about Kouichi so far is curiosity. But he asks no more.



And you, Kouichi thinks, do you get nightmares, too?




The air is saturated with waves of sorrow... pain... rage. In the background, the bright colours of the classroom decoration seem almost indecent.

"Time to move on, Masaki-kun," Tsuyoshi says.

The boy sits on one of the desks, swaying his legs. "I'm staying here. I'm going to haunt them."

"It won't do you any good."

The rage flares, pierces. "I'll get my revenge!"

"Oh, what are you going to do?"

"Rip their books! Trash their desks! And... and..."

"Lock them in the broom closet?"

"Yeah, and—"

"Slip razors into their shoes?"

The boy finally quiets.

"Become like them?" Tsuyoshi says.



If Kouichi ever wonders how far vengeance is from forgiveness, he can literally see it right now.

It's the distance from deep blue-violet all the way to pure white.



"That's amazing," Kouichi says slowly. "You..."

He doesn't finish the sentence.

Tsuyoshi brushes a hand over the carvings on the desk the boy was sitting on. "I can feel what he feels, that's all."

He never does get used to this.




"Flaming red," Kouichi warns, voice low. It's so striking it hurts the eyes, and he looks away, wincing. "You'd better not get close."

Tsuyoshi takes a look at him, then holds out two fingers and traces a pattern between Kouichi's eyes.

Kouichi restrains the impulse to jump back. "What are you doing?"

"A damper spell on your psychic vision. Try and see."

Kouichi turns to look at the furious spirit. The flaming aura is gone, leaving only a blunt outline he doesn't have to squint at.

He turns back, amazed. "But if you can do this, then—"

"Unlike shielding, offensive spells constantly draw power from the caster. I can't sustain this sort of spell on myself all the time."

"...I see." Kouichi heads towards their target. "Teach me when we get back."




The Librarian's primary function is to maintain records of past and upcoming deaths, including reports of all cases handled by the agency.

His secondary function is to put together background information on the cases and to assist the shinigamis in researching topics related to their assignments.

He's not used to —though he does welcome the change of— having someone simply come in to spend time reading in his library.



"You're here again, Kouichi-kun," he greets.

The boy looks up from his reading. "Yeah, it's my day off."

He glances at the books Kouichi has piled up. "You're learning spells? Isn't it better to have someone teach you directly?"

"It's alright, everyone's busy, so..."

The Librarian tilts his head. "There's Tsuyoshi-kun. If it's a day off for you, it's a day off for him too, isn't it?"

"Oh, Tsuyoshi's already teaching me in-between cases. I just need to catch up on the concepts."

The Librarian wonders. After all, a youth this studious is not the type of partner Tsuyoshi is accustomed to.

"You two get along okay?" he asks.

Kouichi looks surprised at the question.

Then, unexpectedly, he grins. "Sure. But we do need a break from seeing each other's face once in a while."




The second rule for a shinigami is: watch each other's back.


"Go ahead if you want," Tsuyoshi says distractedly. "I'll send him on later."

The man has pleaded with them to let him watch his son's baseball game before departing. Tsuyoshi has, predictably, agreed.

Kouichi sighs. "You know we can't work alone."

"Then wait up. It's fine as long as we bring him in by the end of today."

"His aura is getting thinner and thinner. You sure it's really okay?"

Tsuyoshi says nothing.

Kouichi glances at him. Tsuyoshi is not shielding at the moment. His aura is a pale grey, and that, too, is weakening—

Kouichi leaps up. "You idiot!"

He rushes to where the man is sitting and grabs his arm, at once streaming energy out of his fingertips into the fading spirit-body to take over the dwindling flow from his partner.

At the man's questioning look, he gasps out, "Sorry, time's up."

The man turns one last wistful gaze at the field, and nods.



"You idiot," Kouichi repeats.

Tsuyoshi lies on the grass, taking the abuse while letting the warmth of Kouichi's lifeforce flow into his veins. He feels boneless.

His head hurts.

"So long as you're going to be touching me, Kouichi," he manages, "could you tone that anger down?"

Kouichi's hand instantly lifts from his forehead.

It returns a second later, but his empathy no longer screams at the contact.

"It's more effective through direct contact," Kouichi says, answering a question no one has asked. In place of the prickly anger is melty embarrassment.

It doesn't take an empathic ability to synchronize with that one.

"...Thanks."




"So the Chief wasn't joking," Kouichi says, flipping a book on spirit summoning, "about the nether-dimensional demons."

He's had his doubts. Over a year has passed without any such encounter.

"We just don't get them much in this division," Tsuyoshi says. He's watering the philodendron he's brought over to Kouichi's apartment. "You want to see them, try transferring to Kinki. Much of the spiritual power in the land is concentrated there."

"But then we'd get even busier."

"Who says I'd transfer with you?"

Kouichi looks up. "Wouldn't you have to?"

"They can always assign each of us a new partner. Happens all the time."

Kouichi closes his book. "Well, of course, but how long have you had to wait before you got me?"

After a beat, Tsuyoshi huffs. "Been chatting with the Librarian, haven't you?"

Kouichi smirks.




“What the hell is this?" Tsuyoshi rasps. Even through the empathic block he's put up, nasty tendrils of neurosis leak into him, permeating his mind eye with nauseating terror.

He turns to his partner. "What can you see?"

Kouichi's voice is hardly audible. "Black. Everything's... black."



A freak accident at a factory has killed all the workers, but none of them makes it to the afterlife.

That should have raised alarms, probably, but the city has always had more accidental deaths than all occurrences of the dark arts put together, that they haven't suspected anything like this.

All around them are unnatural shadows, stretching out from the city landscape. Tsuyoshi looks down and sees the jagged ends slithering towards their feet.

He hurriedly sketches a barrier, but it melts away in no time. The opponent, harnessing energy from so many trapped spirits, is far more powerful than him.

As the shadows approach, he jumps out of the way. "Kouichi, move!"

But Kouichi is not moving. He's staring fixedly at a dark figure in front of the warehouse ten metres away.

Shit. Any keen vision, let alone psychic, is a horrible disadvantage when going against a shadow user.

"Kouichi! Look away!"

The shadows have reached where Kouichi is standing, spiraling on the concrete around him.

Tsuyoshi leaps back into the dark territory, grabs his partner's face, and turns it forcefully to the side.

It takes a few moments for Kouichi's pupils to return from the pitch-black of hypnosis to their usual shade.

"What—" he begins.

"We're getting out of here."

Before they can shift-step, the shadows lash up from the ground.



It is easy to fall into the illusion of immortality, but that is not true.

Shinigamis cannot be harmed by ordinary human means, and they have exceptional regenerative abilities, but they are not immortal.


"So... we still do... bleed red."

"Is this the time to be thinking about that?" Tsuyoshi grunts. He strains in vain against the spectral limbs that are pinning them to the ground, cutting gashes wherever they're gripping flesh.

The hard concrete is quickly turning damp beneath him, exuding the metallic smell he’s forgotten his own flesh is capable of producing. The body is healing itself alright, but it makes no difference when it's continually being slit open.

"Your hand... can you move it?" Kouichi asks.

Tsuyoshi tries it. The cut deepens, and it hurts like hell. "Somewhat."

"Here." Kouichi extends his own torn hand towards Tsuyoshi's, palm outstretched. "Might as well use the blood."

Tsuyoshi stares. Blood magic draws from both tangible and spiritual forms of the lifeforce, thus more powerful than most other spells.

Thus more dangerous.

"No," he objects.

"Got a better idea?"

Tsuyoshi grits his teeth. "...No."



Light rises from the blood-written symbol on Kouichi's palm and spreads through the dark red expanse, shimmering like fireflies in the surrounding darkness.

Tsuyoshi pushes more of his lifeforce into the spell, trying to slow down the rate at which it's vaporizing each red drop from Kouichi’s already blanched physique. The shadows seem to be indiscriminately absorbing some of the energy, making it so much more frustrating.

"You should... see this, Tsuyo," Kouichi breathes, half-delirious. "It's... silver... shining— It's so... beautiful."



The light flares white-hot, and grows brighter still. Tsuyoshi feels like he's about to explode out of his skin.

The shadows disperse at the edges, releasing them finally.

Tsuyoshi drops the spell, grabs Kouichi's limp hand, and shift-steps back to their world.




Tsuyoshi leaves the infirmary on the second day, having recovered a bit sooner than Kouichi.

He returns a while later. "Just talked to the Chief," he reports. "He's handling the case now."

"The culprit is human, isn't he?" Kouichi asks. "I thought it wasn't our jurisdiction."

"He's meddling with the dead. That makes it our jurisdiction."

"The guy's pretty scary," Kouichi recalls. "How strong is the Chief? I've never seen him in combat."

"Neither have I, and I suspect we'll never do," Tsuyoshi says. "For cases like this, he calls in Kyoto's Sumeragi."



Sumeragi Hokuto traces a complicated pattern with her hands, speaking ancient words of summoning incantation to the wind.

A majestic spirit-dragon rises into the air in front of her, radiant sparks of energy crackling all over its skin.

With a roar, it spurs forward.



The black bloated figure shrieks, its shadow limbs rapidly withdrawing. Before long, it cracks and shatters, exposing the shadow user slumping at its core.

The earth begins to rumble.

Hokuto turns to the two shinigami boys. "He's trapped the spirits underground," she says. "Here they come."

They leap to their feet, and get to work.



When Tsuyoshi snickers for the third time, Kouichi decides he's had enough. "Stop reading me."

Tsuyoshi gives him an amused look. "I don't have to. My non-psychic eyes see just fine."

Kouichi's gaze slides back to the visiting shinigami, who's currently talking to the Chief in his office: an exuberant fancily-dressed sixteen-year-old when not unleashing dragons on magic-abusing villains.

"It's just," he tries. "She's so... yellow."

Tsuyoshi laughs out loud. "Oh well. If Sumeragi Hokuto-san couldn't appreciate a colour-coded compliment, then I don't know anyone else who can."



Words are inadequate. Auras have an infinite range of shades, and shades within shades.

At the moment Hokuto's is a deep yellow, with wisps of gold and sunglow. Beneath all that, however, he detects a suffusing hue of dusky teal— almost the colour of mourning.

He wonders what that is about.

Tsuyoshi says, "Ultimately, she's a shinigami. Most of us are in this business because we didn't die in peace."

He wonders if he's wondered aloud. Tsuyoshi can read emotions but not thoughts.

"I thought all shinigamis were made to forget how we died," he says. It's an admission and a question at the same time. "I mean, wouldn't the knowledge compromise our judgement?"

They haven't breached this subject again since that first time, but Tsuyoshi doesn't seem to mind now.

"The Librarian told me once, that if we didn't remember, it was only because we had willed ourselves to forget."

It’s an answer and an admission at the same time.




Kouichi reads the case description. "You should probably sit this one out."

Tsuyoshi frowns, and pulls the paper out of Kouichi's unwilling hand. "You're the one who always goes on about not breaking the rul—"

Moriguchi Manami, 4 years old. Death by drowning.

Kouichi is watching him silently.

He returns the paper, meeting Kouichi's eyes. "You think I cannot handle this? I'm still two years your senior, Kou-chan."

He sets out, not waiting for a response.

Kouichi follows closely behind. "Big deal. I was two years older than you when I died. I daresay we're about the same age."

Tsuyoshi snickers. The argument doesn't matter; only the fact that Kouichi is now oozing relief instead of worry.

His partner's shield is, as always, erratic.



As it turns out, he has to eat his words.

Kouichi drags him to the edge of the pool. "Tell me earlier if you can't swim!"



—Can’t breathe

A hand is pushing his head down. Again and again.



"But I can," he argues. He doesn't understand why he’s suddenly become paralyzed underwater. There has been no malicious presence he can detect.

He senses Kouichi's worry returning, only for a moment, then the shield is back up.

"Just lie down," Kouichi says, before heading back into the water. "I'll get that child."

Then Tsuyoshi realizes that Kouichi's shield is erratic only when they're not facing a target.

When Tsuyoshi is the only one around.



Comforting someone is more Tsuyoshi's forte, but Kouichi tries his best.

At least the child has stopped sobbing when he sends her on.



He walks back to where Tsuyoshi is lying at the poolside.

Tsuyoshi is breathing in a slow regular rhythm. His aura is the light bluish green of mild anxiety, nothing alarming—

Cold skin, cold breath

Kouichi stops and blinks. Something about this situation scrapes at the back of his mind.

At that blank he's forgotten for a long time.

He focuses back on Tsuyoshi. A darkening edge has appeared around the bluish glow, which grows... grows...

He blacks out.



When he comes to, he's in his apartment, and Tsuyoshi is sitting beside his bed.

"What happened?" he asks, disoriented.

"I don't know," Tsuyoshi answers.



They talk no more of it.




Tsuyoshi looks at the case report, then at Kouichi. "Go home."

Kouichi turns to him. "Uh, why?"

"I can't even comprehend what you're trying to write here." Tsuyoshi pulls out a new sheet from the drawer. "Go home and rest. I'll finish our reports."

Kouichi is silent for a while. Then he rests his head on the desk, and closes his eyes. "I'll wait for you to finish."

"Can't sleep at home?"

Kouichi's eyes open.

Tsuyoshi can't read thoughts, only emotions; but perhaps, Tsuyoshi can read Kouichi just as well.

That blank in his mind that's suddenly bothering him again. The shadows that have begun to come creeping into it whenever he's alone.

"So don't tell me to go home," he murmurs.

Tsuyoshi shows no sign that he's heard, but Kouichi thinks he seems to be writing those reports three times more slowly than usual.




The first rule for a shinigami is: do not abuse present privileges to settle past regrets.


Tsuyoshi enters the library. "Is Kouichi here?"

"He came in this morning, but I think he's left," the Librarian replies. "Isn't today your off day?"

"Eh? No.... We’re supposed to have a case briefing fifteen minutes ago, but I can't find him." Tsuyoshi looks around. "What time did he leave?"

"Hm, I'm not sure. I haven't seen him for the past hour, so I assume he left around then."

A thought occurs to Tsuyoshi. It isn't pleasant, so he keeps it to himself.

"Oh, I might have missed him, then," he says. "Thanks for your help. I'll go check his apartment again."



The second rule for a shinigami is: keep each other in check.


"This is a restricted-access section, you know."

Kouichi whips around, a book in his hand, a guilty look on his face.

"What are you trying to find out?" Tsuyoshi asks, stepping closer.

Kouichi puts the book back. "Doesn't matter. It's not here."

"What is not there?" Tsuyoshi looks at the shelf. This section keeps records of names and times of death, but not much else. "Your past?"

But that volume Kouichi has just shelved back is...

"My past?"

"Sorry," Kouichi mumbles, and pushes his way out of the library.

"Wait—" Tsuyoshi makes a grab at his hand, but misses—



He falls.



"Name?"

He's in the form of a fifteen-year-old, but he feels older, weary... detached.

"...You're the one with the Book, you tell me."

He can't remember.

"All right... Tsuyoshi-kun."

He can't remember, but...

"Pardon me, but I think you're lying."

"...An empath? Interesting. But I'm not lying. It's one of the names your consciousness has taken up in the past. Just not the last."

"So, what's the last?"

"Your mind blocks that memory for a reason. We cannot simply tell you."

He can't remember, but there's a sense of something— someone...



"...Ruka."



The world reverses, and he falls into the sky.



Kouichi halts.

"Ruka...?" he repeats. His heart pounds, but he does not understand.

Tsuyoshi's eyes are fixed on him. "It's the name of your last human existence."

“—That’s an unusual name.”

The name sinks in, and the blank in his mind implodes.



They were at school, meeting for the first time.

"You read comics? Won't they make your brains go bad?"

He liked him.

"As far as humans are concerned, you're my first close friend."

More than that.

"Don't you think... loving someone is like going insane?"

...Yet, not enough.

"I can't help it. If I talked to you, they'd bully me, too."

The selfishness of youth.

“It’s your own fault, going against them. You see, I’m one of them, too...”

The contradiction of adolescence.

“If I don’t hurt you now, they’ll think— they’ll know—”

He liked him.

“If I don’t— will you…”

He liked him after all.

“...will you still trust me?”

Yet, not enough...

"Take my hand! Would you rather fall—?!"

He killed him.



Kouichi reaches up with two trembling hands.

"Makoto," he whispers. "I'm sorry."



He remembers now the broken existence of the two years before he died.

He remembers now how it feels when a heart shatters completely.



But where his fingers used to find the bleak hollow of hallucination, they now touch solid skin; where the chilly abyss used to be, is an assuringly warm blare of white—silver—platinum.

"You've been sorry long enough," Tsuyoshi says.



Emotions so strong they are choking. Drowning his own bitter, newly-returned memories.

So this is what two years’ worth of misery feels like.



Guilt. Panic. Disorientation. Anguish. Deathwish. Fixation.

Love.



Kouichi sinks to his knees, his head in his hands; but Tsuyoshi comes down with him and clasps his face, tilting it up.

"Listen to me. Makoto is dead. So is Ruka."

The radiance of that smile, too, is something he remembers to the point of torture.

"I'm glad we met, Kouichi."




Tsuyoshi lies awake, overwhelmed by memories.

Of Makoto: the bullying, the anger, the helplessness; of Ruka: the dubious friendship, the betrayal… the feelings so twisted and confused they’ve needed no disguise to stay hidden.

Of the past he would’ve been content not to remember.

—But also: of Kouichi. Of the partner he’s known for three years now. Of what they have arrived at without any of that past.

He wonders if Kouichi, too, can't sleep; his empathy reaches out instinctively, but finds nothing. Not even the insipidity of unconsciousness.

Slowly, he sits up.

Kouichi is, most unusually, shielding.



The door lock does not present much of an obstacle. For a moment he's glad Kouichi hasn't learned barrier spells.

Quietly, he steps in.

Kouichi is sitting on his bed, looking blankly at his left hand. It's drenched in blood.

In his right hand is a knife.



Kouichi catches the movement, if not the shielded presence, and looks up.

Tsuyoshi's eyes are wide.

Oh, right. He supposes most people find this creepy.



Tsuyoshi watches as Kouichi takes the blade away from the bloody flesh.

"It's not going to kill me," his partner says, entirely too placidly.

How bewildering. "It still hurts."

Kouichi shrugs. "No point if it didn't."



Tsuyoshi takes a deep breath. At least Kouichi seems calm. Is calm. He has dropped the shield.

On the other hand, the calmness tells him nothing.

He sits down beside Kouichi, and carefully asks, "Why?"

Kouichi contemplates his arm. The wound has closed swiftly, although the spilled blood remains.

"Peace offering," he says.

"I don't need that, Kouichi."

"Not you," Kouichi says. "For Ruka."



They sit in silence. Then Kouichi asks, "Are you going to quit?"

Tsuyoshi frowns. "Why would you ask that?"

Kouichi tinkers with the knife. "I mean, now that you've figured out the circumstances of your death. Didn't you become a shinigami for that purpose?"

Tsuyoshi is silent for a moment. Then he takes the knife out of Kouichi's hand.

He asks, "Do you still want to know why I became a shinigami?"

Kouichi looks from the bladed edge to Tsuyoshi's face.

Tsuyoshi says, "Thought you might come looking for me."



"Lies," Kouichi says, but days after, when it occurs to him. "You didn't even remember me back then."

Tsuyoshi chuckles, and doesn't argue.




"Sorry that you boys have to come all the way here." The old lady smiles. "Would you mind waiting just a little bit more? I'm expecting someone."

To Tsuyoshi's surprise, it is Kouichi who replies first. "It's fine, Kazue-san. We'll wait."



The house is quiet and simple. The only prominent decoration is an altar, with a photograph of a middle-aged man on it. There is no photograph of children anywhere.

Before Tsuyoshi can ask whom she's waiting for, the doorbell rings.



An elderly woman walks into the living room.

"Shizuru," Kazue greets, gentle. "I'm glad you can come."

The guest nods politely and waits until her host has closed the door. Then she takes a step, and grabs Kazue into a fierce hug.

"Seven years too late, stupid Kazu."



"Well, by the time Hideo passed away, I thought you would've been married too," Kazue says. "Besides, it's hardly appropriate."

"Alright," Shizuru sighs. "Back to the present. How long do we have?"

Kazue glances at the two young shinigamis presently leaning on her curtains, invisible to Shizuru.

They politely keep their eyes averted, saying nothing to her nor to each other; but she figures out their answer from the gentle strength flowing into her body that should have expired a day ago.



"Just curious," Tsuyoshi says, breaking the silence, "what's the colour of love?"

Kouichi looks up at their target. "You mean them?"

"In general?"

Kouichi thinks of this for a while. Then he uses his finger to sketch something on his left palm, and places that palm on the back of Tsuyoshi's neck. "Can you see?"



Kouichi's hand is warm with the power he’s lending. Tsuyoshi watches the dance of colours in front of him, and understands why his partner has not answered in words.

"It's beautiful," he says.

Then he turns.



-----


Reference notes:

[*] Ruka and Makoto are of course from that chibi KinKi drama Ningen Shikkaku. The story is much more complex than I can justify in a few paragraphs, so I took only one angle of it and paraphrased a whole lot. This makes for a somewhat misleading perspective of the full actual drama, but I figure if you’ve watched it then you wouldn’t have to rely on my perspective; while if you haven’t then the actual perspective wouldn’t matter… I hope? ^_^0

[*] Matsushita Youko's Yami no Matsuei contributes, notionally:
- The shinigami job description and rules.
- The Chief and the Librarian.
- Empathic ability, shadow magic, dragon shikigami.
- The confrontation scene in the library, and the idea of Tsuyoshi contributing plants to Kouichi’s apartment.

[*] The ability to see aura in colours that reflect emotional states is referred from Katsumoto Kasane's Sono Te wo Dokero.

[*] Sumeragi Hokuto is a cameo from CLAMP's Tokyo Babylon and X. So are that tree in Ueno Park and its resident psychopath. (Yami no Matsuei has their counterparts in Kamakura, if I interpret correctly.)

[*] Moriguchi Manami's case is borrowed from the 2010 movie Kokuhaku.

[*] The Shizuru / Kazue / Hideo relationship is loosely modeled after that of Shirou Tooru / Monou Saya / Monou Kyougo from, again, CLAMP’s X.

-----

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Comments

( 4 sketches — Chalk a line )
moonprincess7
Sep. 12th, 2013 09:09 am (UTC)
This is really good *__*
I love your style of writing <3
It's amazing how you managed to incorporate so many different concepts into one fic, and all the feels ;__;
The plot twist was so unexpected and heartbreaking!
And the ending is so sweet <3
Thank you so much for writing and sharing~
kireira
Sep. 12th, 2013 11:43 am (UTC)
Wheee~ glad you like it! The multitude of concepts worried me a bit, since they are mostly included on demand, whenever the plot requires. Hope they're not confusing. =P
Thank you for the generous comment! <3
faiee
Sep. 13th, 2013 05:08 am (UTC)
This was really interesting. I wish there were more to this verse. It was a little complex but after I got to the end everything made so much more sense and ahhhh I love them <333333
kireira
Sep. 15th, 2013 01:45 pm (UTC)
<3 Thanks for commenting! If ever a plotbunny pops out I'll try to write more on the verse.
( 4 sketches — Chalk a line )