Airborne

Shay Sheridan

Fandom: Tactics, Haruka/Kantarou. written for Yuletide 2006, it may be viewed as a kind of sequel to "When Evening Comes."
Set after the end of the series.


Haruka is saying something, but the wind is strong up here, and it's hard for you to hear him. "Mmm?" you inquire, not really pushing the point too hard.

"I said, you're the most selfish being I have ever met." His tone is stern, chastising. It makes you want to laugh.

"How would you know?" you remind him. "After all, Haruka, so many of your memories are locked."

"I should drop you." One of his claw-like hands releases you, and your stomach does a nauseating lurch before you recognize his other hand has you securely. "I could do it. I should do it."

"You won't," you say carelessly, knowing full well it's true. "Haruka won't really drop Kantarou, will he?"

"Hmmm."

You smile.

The view from up here is extraordinary, even if it is nighttime. There's a glow from the town's new electric lights, enough to see its outline clearly; the lights in the windows give it the look of a tiny toy town, like the towns made for those model train sets you've seen in store windows. The moon is huge and full, and the river shimmers with its reflection. You wonder, idly, if there are any lovers on the riverbank to see the two of you silhouetted against the moon. What would they think? Will they see you as one enormous night-flying bird, or a terrifying goblin making off with its prey? Or might they glimpse you and think of a pair of lovers pirouetting in an airborne dance?

"Haruka."

"What?"

"Can we go up to the steeple of the shrine? I'd like to stop there."

"If you order me to."

"I'd rather ask." He says nothing. How petty he can be! "All right. I order you, Haruka, take me there."

"Fine."

The wind is cool against your face, even though it's a hot summer night. Up here is where the cool breeze lives; no wonder Haruka likes to soar. You touch down on the roof of the shrine, and finally Haruka releases you. The height is dizzying, and now that you no longer have his arms to steady you, you think you might, actually, fall. Would he swoop down and catch you if you did?

"Haruka. Why do you think I'm selfish?"

"I don't think it, I know it." He's stretched out on the peaked roof, just as he does at home. Clearly high places are Haruka's most relaxing spots.

"No, really. Tell me why." You look at him. He's frowning. "Please."

He opens one eye. "The fact you don't know confirms it."

You're growing impatient. "If you don't tell me, I'll throw myself off the roof."

"Go ahead."

Of course you don't move. He knows it's an empty threat, and you've been caught. "Haruka is mean."

"You're selfish because you make people worry. Youko says you didn't eat and didn't take care of yourself...during that whole time."

During that time. Haruka doesn't say while I was gone or when I disappeared or the three months, four days and eighteen hours you thought I'd never come back and your heart was about to shatter from the very thought. No, the ogre-eating goblin never takes any of the blame, and as usual, it's all your fault. Typical.

"You kept to your room until you were too weak to go out. Youko was frightened you might die. So was Rosalie. They said you didn't write a word, and you brought in no money, you just lay there and grew ill. Selfish. You didn't think of anyone else at all. Kantarou is the most selfish being in the world." He closes his eyes again.

For Haruka that's a long speech. Remarkably long. It piques your interest why he would make such a long and rather impassioned speech. "Is it possible, Haruka, that you were the one who was afraid I might die?"

"No."

And you start to laugh. It's not really funny, and you laugh so hard you almost do fall off the steep roof, but you can't stop yourself. "Liar," you say when you finally can utter coherent words. "Lying liar Haruka, and silly, selfish Kantarou. What a pair we are!"

"Hmm," Haruka says, frowning, but one eye is open, and it's looking at you, and it's twinkling.

"Come on, Haruka," you say. "Let's go home."

Haruka gets up and unfurls his shiny black wings. A few feathers come loose and fly into the air; you reach up and catch one as it spins past. It's soft when you rub it against your cheek.

Two powerful arms slide around your body and a warm, familiar weight presses against your back. "Come," Haruka says, as he lifts you into the air, and you think maybe he's nuzzling your hair as he speaks. "Home."


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