When Evening Comes

Shay Sheridan

Fandom: Tactics, Haruka/Kantarou. Tactics is about Kantarou, a boyish folklorist and supernatural investigator obsessed with the legendary "ogre-eating goblin." Haruka is the handsome, mysterious being in question. When Kantarou unlocks him from his prison, Haruka is forced to stay with him. It's an uneasy relationship, but the slash is virtually canonical.
Spoilers for episodes 24 & 25.

When evening comes, the night falls gently, like a flurry of dark feathers falling from the sky.

You sit at your window every evening, or on the outside step, if it is warm enough, watching the dark descend. Sometimes you climb to the roof as red dusk deepens into indigo, but Youko's anxious protests, come down, come down, you're going to fall! are too distracting. Reluctantly you promise to remain below. Some nights, though, the pull is too great and you climb again, though your head spins and your arms feel weak.

Before, Youko never had any worries that you'd fall.

Before, you were never up there alone.

She worries about you constantly of late, fretting about what you eat, when you will eat it, when and how you sleep. She even worries about your dreams; more than once she's told you you've cried out in your sleep. But you ignore her worries. You don't remember your dreams, anyway, even if you wake some mornings with your face wet with tears.

Reiko worries, too, though not about deadlines. These days you make each deadline with time to spare, writing with diligence and determination about folk tales, ghosts, monsters and inexplicable occurrences. You haven't written the words oni or tengu in months. Reiko waits quietly as you finish. When you hand her the completed manuscript she reads it soberly, saying nothing but "Thank you, sensei." She's stopped complaining about the quality – or lack thereof – of your writing; you both are aware there's no spark to it, nothing of interest, merely facts. Last time she came and told you, apologetically, that the editors were returning a manuscript as unusable. Perhaps there will be no more assignments. You think that should concern you more than it does.

Rosalie comes to visit often, left there by Hasumi, your rival. He's hardly a rival any more – his star is rising as yours diminishes and fades. When he finds he cannot rile you into an argument, he finally stops trying. He no longer bothers to insult you, merely frowns in your direction and casts a proprietary eye on Rosalie, only speaking to Youko of when he will return and where he will be. He seems to have forgotten to be afraid that you will alienate Rosalie from him. Mostly he ignores you, though you have heard him wonder aloud to Youko, what exactly is wrong with Ichinomiya Kantarou?

What is wrong with you cannot be explained. You only know your chest aches constantly, though you haven't taken on an investigation in some time, and therefore have not been exposed to ogres. There's no reason for it to hurt so, and yet there's every reason. But you will not explain this; you cannot.

Sugino, more easily driven to jealousy, still appears with an angry rustle when his beloved Moo-chan ventures to your home. Moo-chan can still wrest a wan smile from you with her silly behavior and inappropriate comments. Sugino glowers at you, scoops up his wife and sends a threatening comment your way, but you can tell his heart isn't in it. The last time he blustered his way into your room, he paused at your window and spoke more quietly as he left. "You'd best learn to live your life without him, human," he told you. It's hard to tell if he was taunting you or trying to be helpful. Perhaps he was relaying a message.

For a while Youko tried to distract you with games of cards, or go, or any number of entertainments. When she was ardent and stubborn enough, and could rope others into her plans, you'd agree, but only to placate her. After many incidences of your attention wandering too severely to continue the game, she finally stopped asking. It's a relief. Mostly you wish to be left alone, to write, or more often to sit and watch the sky.

You prefer it when the moon is full.

There is a round glass bowl in your room, round as the moon, filled with black feathers. You don't remember when you began to collect them, finding them in the garden, on the roof, in the yard. Some were in your house, though not many. You never found one in your room. Now you can scarcely find one anywhere. It's been many months; the winter winds have carried them away.

From where you lie you can see the bowl on the shelf above your bed. You'd like to reach in to get one, to hold it in your hand, but today, like yesterday, and the day before, you feel too weak to move. Youko has been and brought you food, tea, sweets, delicacies that surely cost too much of the budget -- anything she thinks you might like. Each time she returns, her dismay is more apparent as she discovers it untouched. She's cried, little mewling fox-tears, and sat by you wringing her hands, until you sent her away. She didn't want to go, but she is bound to do your wishes. Yesterday, despite your protests, she sent for a doctor, but when he came you wouldn't see him.

The moon is full tonight.

This evening you watched the dusk fade and the night sky become dark, almost black, and waited patiently for moonrise. At last you were rewarded. It seems immense tonight. If you had the strength you would climb to the roof, but you cannot hope to do that any longer.

The moon shines in the open window, filling the glass bowl with moonlight until it glows golden-white, rendering the feathers inside it inky-black silhouettes. There are tears blurring your vision, turning the light-filled vase and its dark contents into splashes of color with no form. You raise a hand to wipe your eyes, but your arm is heavy, and will not rise. Instead, you close your eyes and wait for them to clear.

The night is still; not a breath of wind whispers. Somewhere in the house you think you hear Youko quietly weeping. No matter.

The fluttering you hear is just the echo of a memory.

There is the scent of night-blooming flowers in the air. Spring is coming, everywhere but in your heart.

Funny; one shouldn't feel dizzy while lying down. You have a strange sense of weightlessness, though you feel pressed down at the same time. No, not pressed down, that's wrong; what you feel is a tight band around you, as if something were holding you strongly, holding you aloft, soaring with you through the night sky.

There is wind against your face.

Haruka, you sigh.

Your eyes are not open, but in the moonlight you reach out a hand toward the familiar darkness, and smile.

redchance @ aol.com
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