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Totling ([personal profile] fourstarball) wrote2013-04-16 09:57 pm

Surviving Impact with the Surface

Kamen Rider Fourze

... It may have taken years to get there, but the pieces start falling into place in a life together instead of apart.


Work at INTERPOL was grueling, a complete time-consuming task that unfortunately left Sakuta Ryuusei away from home for great lengths of time. It was difficult to plan around, and many times those few fragile plans became terribly interrupted for which he often apologized, but the young woman would always shake her head and say it was fine. Her level of understanding was beyond him. Then again, had he ever really understood Tomoko?

It happened, one day, after a rescheduled date was missed for the third time, that he shook his head and questioned if she even wanted to try again. She tilted her head and frowned.

"Ryuusei-kun," she asked simply, "are you happy?"

The question stopped him cold.

"What do you mean?" His reply came slowly, unsure that he wanted to hear her out. She simply looked at him in utter silence a moment longer, time enough for his stomach to wrench. Perhaps she'd had her fill of waiting around for someone who couldn't make time and keep promises, and was trying to be kind about it. Somehow, he couldn't bear the thought.

Tomoko clasped her hands together, drawing them to her chest. She took a short step forward as she spoke, turning slowly on her heel. "It's an important job, isn't it? Very dangerous. That's like you."

Her smile curved upward almost deviously, like she'd found some secret joke she wasn't planning on sharing. His own seemed to fumble at the sight. "You are good at what you do. You never stop until you get your man. I like that determination. And you like that you're doing something good with your skills. However... "

Tomoko looked up at his face, her mirthful expression fading fast. Ryuusei shuffled his feet under her scrutinizing gaze and tried not to look away. The very idea that an agent of INTERPOL could be so intimidated by a girl so tiny would have been laughable, if it weren't so true.

"... Does that still make you happy?"

It struck him suddenly that she was pouting and that her eyebrows had knit in obvious concern, and found that he didn't have an immediate answer for her. He braced himself. "Ah, Tomoko-chan... "

"Ryuusei-kun," she repeated his name in her soft voice, but her tone darkened in an instant. "You're thinking something like, She's upset at me because I made her wait again, right?"

Wincing, he gave a brief nod. Tomoko stared at him, unblinking. The young man shuffled his feet in place and looked to the side, at the busy city streets. The weather wasn't terrible, cloudy but not accompanied by either wind or rain. If his job hadn't pushed this date off for so long, and if this meeting were happening days ago as it was supposed to, they would have been standing under a perfect sky and dazzling sun. Perhaps, Ryuusei considered, this was a metaphor of some sort.

Tomoko let out a sigh. "You're thinking about something pointless instead of enjoying our time together. That's awfully cruel of you, Ryuusei-kun."

He opened his mouth to respond. "That's not -- "

"I don't mind if you want to think about your job," she cut in calmly. She tented her fingers and gave him a smile, knotting them back together once more. "You were so excited to get it, after all. I liked that look on your face. And you like the difficulty involved, and the travel. That's good. So as long as you still like it, it's fine. I'll be ready and waiting every time. So you'll have to stop wasting our time today, before that thought becomes true."

The young man was thrown for a loop. There were a dozen things he should have said, though none of them were coming to mind. Ryuusei stared down at Tomoko in awe, watching as she loosed her fingers and wrapped an arm around his, slow and methodical, and he stopped thinking.

He proposed on the spot. He wasn't even sure which of them was more surprised by her "Yes".


Ryuusei spent a year working cases as short as he could manage, so that he was never gone from their small home for long. A day or two, at the most, and though he was often still called away when he was with her, Tomoko never did much more than pout over it. She understood the situation -- and anyway, she'd said, it gave her time to write. She couldn't concentrate on it enough to get a word down when he was home.

Slowly, his attention at work was demanded more and more. He had fewer days off in between missions to spend with his young wife and spent many of those trying to rest up for the next day's task. Still, even with their time together cut shorter than ever before, Tomoko never once complained.

It so happened that there came a particularly intense and grueling case kept Ryuusei on the go and out of their apartment for nearly a week. He was dead tired when he finally returned, but the quiet excitement of getting to spend a few well deserved days off in a row with Tomoko relieved him more than anything.

She opened the door before his hand could take the knob and smiled up at him with a knowing warmth. Ryuusei smiled back, and Tomoko let him duck inside the doorway before latching her arms around him tightly. What was left to do but return her embrace?

It took a long few minutes before she pulled away from him. With both of her hands crushing his arm to her chest, Tomoko led Ryuusei to their living area. It was sweet, though unnecessary, as he couldn't possibly forget the layout of an apartment in a mere week, but the young man wasn't about to complain. Not with the way she was smiling at him, anyway.

It was only when she slipped away to get him tea that Ryuusei settled down comfortably on the floor and noticed it. They had set up a small decorative table on one wall, nothing too large or fancy, just a place to set up a few framed photographs. When he'd left, those pictures were the only things on top of that table. But there it now sat with a very long and lacy black tablecloth of sorts on top, tucked neatly into place.

He shook his head. It wasn't hurting anything, being there. It might even be a good idea to have something between the wood and the frames, so that nothing got scratched up or damaged on accident.

Tomoko clinked as she came back into the room, the teacups rattling against one another. She sat beside him with little flourish, setting up the tea with a quiet sort of determination in her eyes. Ryuusei smiled and decided not to ask, instead taking his cup in both hands with a murmured thanks. Her head lay upon his shoulder and the young man pressed his cheek to her hair, thinking only of how nice it was to come home.


The longer his cases became, the more small things kept changing back at home. Ryuusei noticed immediately the day he came home after a week and a half out and found that their white-with-blue-trim dishes had all been replaced with a black set. There was another time that he found a wicked looking candelabra in place of the decorative candles at the windowsill. He wouldn't have noticed that one if the power hadn't gone out on them. When he'd tried to grab something to light up the room with, he managed only to catch his hand on one of the candelabra's sharp, thorn-like points and rip it open painfully.

Still he didn't ask, not even when Tomoko had to fumble in the dark to find a bandage for his hand and accidentally passed him a box of "medicinal crickets" from the first aid kit. Just like he hadn't asked when the bathroom was suddenly decorated with a half dozen mounted butterflies in frames, or when the sofa gained black cushions patterned with dark navy bats.

He met his match when showering one day. He was going through the movements without paying much attention, just enjoying the relaxing hot water, and was paying so much attention to that that he actually jumped in surprise when his wife slammed the door open.

Ryuusei couldn't see her face through the curtain, for which he was actually relieved. The embarrassment still burned on his cheeks.

"I forgot," Tomoko said in a very low voice. Ryuusei could barely hear her over the running water. "My oils... Don't use them all."

Bewildered, Ryuusei opened his mouth to ask but the dark-haired woman just turned around and slowly closed the door behind her as she walked out of the room. Shaking water from his bangs, he brushed his hair away from his eyes and looked around to see just what oils were so important.

He found them easily. The bottles were tall and, of course, black. He wasn't even sure why he had missed them before. Simple writing on the front labeled each type -- snake and cod liver, the first with multiple bottles scattered around.

A cold shiver ran down his back despite the hot water.

When he hurried out of the bathroom a short time later, still toweling his hair, Ryuusei caught sight of Tomoko standing by the living room window holding in both of her hands a tea cup. He frowned and slung the towel around his shoulders.

"Sorry," was the first thing that came to mind. Tomoko turned away from the cup to face him, looking puzzled. Ryuusei tried to smile, but he was pretty sure it fell flat.

"It's all right," she replied. "I can get more."

That wasn't it. Ryuusei shook his head. "I'm leaving you alone too much."

She paused as if to consider it, and then shook her head as well. A strange glint reflected in Tomoko's eyes as she swirled the remnants of her tea cup and stared at the leaves. "No... I'm really not alone. Ryuusei, I --"

"Even if you're not lonely, I should still be here more," he interrupted. Tomoko frowned and Ryuusei hung his head. He hated to see that expression on her face, tinged with disappointment.

"Then, when you get back next time," Tomoko began slowly. She turned carefully, allowing her gaze to flick up and catch Ryuusei's eye. "You can stay for longer."

He frowned. "Next time?"

The young woman nodded. Without warning, she turned sharply and her gaze landed on the counter top where Ryuusei's cellphone lay, silent and motionless, plugged into its charger. He looked back and forth between her and the phone, trying to catch up with what was happening.

"Ah," he started to say something, but Tomoko shook her head to silence him. She was staring so intensely at the phone that he wondered if, just maybe, she was putting a curse on it. The atmosphere was certainly serious enough for that.

Before he could reach out and touch her shoulder with his hand, she started in place. Seeing her jump made his stomach turn, but she just lowered her eyes to the floor and shook her head slowly.

"It's here," she whispered. Ryuusei drew his arm around her shoulders. Tomoko looked up at him with wide eyes, giving her husband a sad smile before stroking his cheek. She said nothing more and stepped out of his embrace, disappearing in an instant to their bedroom, leaving him and the phone in complete silence.

He did go over and check his phone, but no calls had been missed and the volume was still on high. Once again, he was left with no idea about what was going on in his own home, and that was distressing.

Just as Tomoko reentered the room, pulling his travel bag behind her, the phone rang. She watched him from the doorway with dark eyes and Ryuusei felt the shudder chill his spine as he saw that it was work calling. How had she known?

The call was mercifully brief but the mission, on the other hand ... Ryuusei bit back a groan. It was a long one, no doubt about that. Current information about the target combined with his known accomplices made that perfectly clear. He was looking at being gone for a month, maybe; Less if he manged to get lucky.

Luck had yet to be a factor.

Tomoko was already at his side before the call ended, though she did have to wait for him to hang up before pressing the straps of the bag into his hand. Her touch lingered, her tiny hands curling around his fist. For all that she hesitated, she pulled away without any fuss.

As he looked at her, he wondered just how much of that call she had foreseen. She may not have been saying it, but Ryuusei was certain that at that exact moment, Tomoko knew far more than he did about this trip. Judging from the bag's weight alone, she'd packed it to the brim some time ago, and that had his stomach sinking.

"You aren't happy," she spoke up when he said nothing. Tomoko was right, and he knew she could tell by the look on her face when she looked at his. "But you'll go anyway."

Ryuusei's brows knit and he said, "I can stay."

The woman shook her head again, soft curls bouncing. "No."

"There are other agents!" he tried to argue. Tomoko was having none of it. Silently, she brushed past and gathered the phone cables to tuck into Ryuusei's pocket. The man closed his eyes and clenched his fists so hard that he shook from the exertion. Was she really just going to ignore the entire situation?

"I'm not," she answered out loud, and for once Ryuusei didn't stop to think twice about it. "You'll be the one to do what none of the other agents could. There isn't anyone else as determined as you are. I'll be waiting right here for you to return. And ... you'll spend more time with me then."

She smiled. It lifted his spirits somewhat, but the worry still gnawed at him. "You won't be any less lonely."

The look she gave him was almost cripplingly cold. "You already have your phone."

His mouth opened and closed wordlessly. He almost thought he heard her whisper "Fish?", but she was busy in the closet and he was sure he'd misheard her. If anything, she was talking to herself about the clutter in there. One of these days, he really would have to organize it better.

Watching her ready the last of his things, he knew he didn't want to go. When he struggled to tried to find the words to say that he would rather stay beside her, her smile disarmed him.

"I'll be waiting," she said again. Ryuusei's gaze softened as she drew her hands to her chin and intertwined her fingers. Tomoko stepped forward carefully, bumping her hip against his lightly. "If you want to call me, I promise to answer."

He asked if she was sure, and she swore that he was. A long minute passed between them in silence after he swept down to kiss and to hold her, spent studying every inch of her face. He kissed her twice more before he was out the door, and she ran to him in the lobby of the building one last time before he disappeared on the trip.


Twice he almost turned around and went home. He never made it out of the building either time, in either city. The first time happened somewhere in the outskirts of Moscow, after a solid three weeks away from home. If it hadn't been for his commanding officer walking in as he reached the lobby, Ryuusei really might have gone home right then and there.

The second time was in Morocco. Ryuusei wasn't sure about the city's name, just that it was pathetically run down in the district they'd sent him off to, and the room he'd been given had an excellent view of the streets. He was supposed to be on the lookout for the target. In the meantime, he saw hundreds of other people out living their lives. There had been one couple, dressed in black satin and lace, that made him think of her every time. It was another couple however, who he found made him overpoweringly homesick. A little old couple, man and wife, with a thin cane in either hand as they led one another through the square, arms laced at the elbows to support each other.

He had his phone out and dialed home before he realized what he was doing.

Tomoko didn't mind being woken up, at least. She was quiet, no more than usual, and her soft voice was a comfort Ryuusei sorely needed. He only hung up before his battery was going dead, and he couldn't keep up a conversation with the charger plugged in -- the only outlet in the room was too far away from the window. His goodbye felt hollow and dry in his mouth.

It had been five weeks then, since he'd seen her last in person. His body and mind both were aching to fix that, but she told him she'd be disappointed if he didn't finish what he set out to do. It was a reminder that he would be even more disappointed in himself for it, and so reluctantly he stayed.

When he at last, two weeks out of Morocco and in sunny San Diego, called to tell her he was finally coming home, Ryuusei was biting back joy. He was days away from being gone two months. Aside from being an entirely new absence record -- ten days suddenly couldn't compare -- his head was swimming with nervous energy at the idea that, in minutes, he'd be back where he belonged. His own home, his own bed, and if he were very lucky, his own sheets to go with it all.

Ryuusei didn't know if she would be home or not. He considered calling, but he didn't know if he could keep the surprise doing that. Given how well she could read him, she might already know that he was taking the stairs two at a time to get to their door, but maybe not. He hoped not.

His hand wrapped around the doorknob and gave a testing turn. It was unlocked, but he couldn't seem to open the door. Nerves. Where this anxiety was coming from, he didn't know. Ryuusei closed his eyes and inhaled deeply, breathing out and pushing the door open in the same swift instant.

Except for the smell of natto, everything seemed normal. There were no new additions to the walls that the young man could see as he removed his shoes and closed the door behind him. Honestly, it looked refreshingly perfect.

"I'm home," he said softly. His bag he left in the entryway, to take care of later. As he moved further into their little home, he could see no visible changes save for the natto. There was a carton open on the counter, and one still closed beside it -- he could see an empty package peeking out of the trash bin.

Ryuusei sighed to himself, but the smile tugged at his lips. It felt like home

The young man gave pause as he stepped into the living room. It was quite the sight, and not at all like any of the quiet terrors he'd imagined on the plane home.

Tomoko was sitting in the middle of the floor, curled up with the orange and yellow gingmam kotatsu they'd picked up somewhere last winter. She was asleep, with her face nestled in the crook of her arm, surrounded by half-filled notebooks and journals. An open carton of natto was balanced on top of her iPad, and there was another wrapped up in her sweatshirt, which lay in a heap on the other side of the room.

What really made him stop and stare wasn't that she was napping in the middle of the day, or that she hadn't salted and burned the hideous kotatsu in his absence. No, it was that Tomoko was wearing his faded denim jacket over her thin camisole top and sweatpants. She was actually clinging to it with her hands tugging to the shoulders as she slept.

Should he wake her up? He wanted so badly to that he had to fold his arms tightly across his chest to keep himself from doing it and lean against the wall behind her instead. She might not have slept last night if she still had all her writing things scattered about the room.

He closed his eyes and breathed out as slowly as he could manage. A soft sound startled him back to reality. With widening eyes he watched as Tomoko stirred and sat up slowly. He held his breath he watched her slowly stretch. She reached forward and stopped before her fingertips could pull the iPad closer, as if frozen.

Ryuusei could only smile. "I'm home."

Tomoko spun her face around to look up at her husband. The shocked expression she wore said it all, and one of her small hands clapping over her mouth to muffle a gasp. Just for a moment, he thought, it looked as if she might have started crying.

But then she shook her head and whispered his name. Ryuusei had just enough time to spread his arms out before Tomoko was up and barreling into his chest, squeezing her arms tight around him and pressing her face to his chest. The young man could move only to wrap his arms around her, hold her to him, and bury his face in her hair.

Ryuusei pulled away after he didn't know how long. Long enough that his neck ached, anyway. He watched in near awe as Tomoko moved and scrubbed at her eyes with the back of her hand.

"Welcome home," her soft voice said. Ryuusei pulled her close again, his eyes closing briefly. If she hadn't stiffened in his arms, he would have stood there holding her for an hour. But she resisted for just that half second, and Ryuusei froze as well.

Confusion flit across his face as Tomoko stepped back, away from him. It stung and he fumbled for the words to ask what was wrong. "Tomo... ko?" was as far as he got. The young woman stared up at him, lower lip trembling in an upsetting pout, and then her gaze fell away.

Ryuusei frowned. Something wasn't right here. He took her hands in his and tugged her gently toward him. Just as she looked up to him again, he bumped into her -- or maybe he pulled her into him? It was something he'd done a million times, now a million and one, and somehow she looked so surprised by it

Tomoko made a little face, worrying her lower lip and looking down again. This time, Ryuusei followed her gaze.

"Wh-- ?"

His wife watched in silence as Ryuusei, with eyes widened by surprise, gaped open-mouthed and stared between her face and stomach. He continued back and forth for some time, almost starting to ask, but never quite getting the words out. Tomoko slipped her hands around his wrists slowly and drew his palms to her skin. She let go just to pull her top away and lay her hands on top of his, pressing them flat over the slight bump.

Ryuusei's mouth was dry. "T-Tomoko?"

"Mmm." The young woman looked on as her husband's fingers twitched under her hands. He was still staring at her belly, but he tore his eyes away to meet hers and see her mischievous smile for just a few moments. "Yes."

He couldn't think. The words simply were not coming. All he knew was the way his hands were being pressed into place was gentle and sweet, almost reassuringly so.

"How... ?" he creaked out. How long?, he meant.

Tomoko hummed before answering. "Four months. I knew," she admitted after the longest few seconds Ryuusei could remember. "The day you left, I knew it."

"What?" That much he understood. Ryuusei ripped his eyes away from his hands on her stomach, his own flip-flopping. If that were true, it would mean that she had known about this for two months almost -- and that she'd never so much as breathed a syllable of it to him until now.

His mind was reeling and trying desperately to play catch up. Tomoko lifted one hand away and stroked his cheek, her thumb rubbing along his cheekbone to calm him.

"I saw it in the tea leaves," responded she, "just like I saw how they would call for you."

The young woman shifted her weight and then pushed one of Ryuusei's hands away. Quickly, she slipped in between his outstretched arms and lay her back comfortably to his chest. He replaced his hand, silent as she curled her fingers around his wrists.

The pieces were fitting together now. His arms tightened protectively around her as the realization came together. "You didn't say anything," he murmured at last. "I wouldn't have -- "

"Gone?" she finished for him. Ryuusei hesitated but nodded. It didn't really matter that she couldn't see him do it. Tomoko shook her head and tightened her hold on his arms, pulling herself closer against him.

"You didn't want to go." Tomoko tipped her face upward, trying to find out if she could see Ryuusei leaning over her or not. The answer didn't seem to be what she wanted, as she looked back down at his hands again soon after. "But at the same time, you're glad."

He didn't feel very glad, Ryuusei thought. All he could really feel right now was confusion, laced with the hurt that Tomoko hadn't felt she could share this amazing news with him earlier.

"Ryuusei," she spoke warmly. He was listening. "How many years have you been working for INTERPOL?"

"I don't -- " he began, but stopped himself short. He didn't have to know why she was asking, he just had to answer. "Since graduating, so it's been seven years almost. But you know this."

She nodded. "You've been waiting that long to be given a job this urgent."

Ryuusei just shook his head again, letting his chin rest on top of his wife's head with an inward sigh. "That's not ... "

"You swore you'd be their best," Tomoko persisted. "That's why they called you in on it, to see how you'd do. A case like that should have taken longer." She paused for a moment, and the hairs on the back of Ryuusei's neck stood on end. "But you saw to it that you came home quickly. And it was safe enough that I didn't mind letting you go."

Let him go? Ryuusei really didn't have an answer to that. It was true, and he'd told her before, that he had insinuated himself into command during the mission, and that because of the changes he had asked for and the way he had sent recruits out they had been able to make a clean and quick arrest, but he still didn't see what that had to do with this. Just because he'd been able to impress a few agents and get things done didn't mean this had been a test just for him. That man was a wanted criminal, and it was his job to see to it that he paid for his actions in a court of law.



Tomoko smiled, and though Ryuusei couldn't see it, he could hear it in her voice. "That's why they're so proud of the work you did. And that's why they're going to call on you again."

"I won't go," he blurted out. His arms tightened around Tomoko, thinking only of what he'd missed already. "They can find someone else."

"It won't be as long as last time." Tomoko moved carefully again, turning around on tiptoes to face her husband. Instinctively, his arms wrapped around her waist and held her as she picked as his shirt with her fingertips, drawing her hands slowly to his shoulders.

He waited a moment before asking, "Why didn't you say anything after I left?"

She frowned at him. "Over the phone? I'm not that callous."

"I never thought you were." Ryuusei looked away, blushing. Tomoko just smiled at the look on his face and he tried to return it.

"I couldn't do that to you." A short pause, as she considered things. "The others, though ... "

It hadn't occurred to him until then that the others wouldn't already know. She'd certainly had time enough for it. "Even Gentarou?"

Tomoko shook her head, her eyes lighting up. "Of course not. It isn't his place to receive that news before you, Ryuusei. Besides, don't you want to be there to tell him?"

He had to let that news sink in a moment. This whole thing was still so unexpected and new that he wasn't completely sure he hadn't simply fallen asleep on the plane and begun to dream. Even though he knew that idea was completely ridiculous, the whole thing felt like a dream world. Or maybe he was just elated to be home?

But she was right, of course. He couldn't think of anything better than being there. Being here.

The young woman laced her fingers together, leaning back a little more into Ryuusei's chest. "I did want to tell you then. I almost did. You asked me if I wasn't going to be alone." He could hear the mirth in her tone and smiled crookedly. "I wasn't lying when I said no."

Ryuusei blinked hard. He'd all but forgotten that conversation, having spoken to her since then over the phone. He remembered it in a flood, the little smile on her lips and the look in her eyes, and the young man hung his head in shame. How had he missed that? Why had he cut her off?

He remembered something else, too. "You said ... Next time I came back, we'd spend time together," Ryuusei spoke slowly. He tipped his head, peering down at her face. "Next time. Not now?"

She nodded sadly, face glum, and he felt his stomach twist. He didn't want that. He didn't want to leave her alone, not ever again.

"I don't know when they'll be calling," Tomoko admitted. "Just that they will, and soon. But it won't be as long this time." She actually sounded sort of hopeful and absently she twisted the ring on her finger. "I can't tell anything too specific anymore. My body is too busy focusing on other things instead."

Ryuusei kissed the top of her head. "I don't have to go."

"Nothing exciting is happening yet," she teased. "And you won't be gone long."

He felt her shift, glancing in the same direction to realize she was staring intensely at the messy kotatsu on the floor. "I have work to do, too, Ryuusei."

"Ah, well, yes." Ryuusei could admit freely that he knew nothing of her writing process, and he knew she'd accomplished a lot in the last few weeks. She'd told him as much on the phone. As he understood it, Tomoko was getting close to the ending she wanted, but it was taking more time than she anticipated to set up the final chapters. It was no wonder she had every writing implement in the house out, hunkered down in the living room to work through it.

Carefully, she extracted herself from Ryuusei's warm embrace and knelt at the kotatsu. Ryuusei followed suit, taking a seat beside her and watching with mild interest as Tomoko piled her books up neatly. He helped where he could, mostly by seeing to it that the natto didn't topple to the floor and getting it set to the side. It earned him a soft look and the brush of her hand against his.

He slipped his arm around her shoulders when it was cleaned off. She hadn't sooner made herself comfortable than her back went rigid and she froze in place. Ryuusei leaned forward, the concern surging through him in a heartbeat.

"Tomoko?" he asked. She whirled, her hair flying behind her and she grabbed onto his shirt with both hands. He stammered, unsure of what was happening. Was something wrong, or was she afraid?

As if to give him an answer, his cellphone rang.

Ryuusei almost didn't dare to breathe. He didn't have a free hand to answer with and would have let it go to voicemail, if Tomoko hadn't pulled it loose from his pocket. She sat up straighter, looking at the phone as if it were personally offending her with its very existence. If not hers, then most definitely his, Ryuusei decided.

Memories of missed dates, dinners left untouched and wasted, standing around in the wet and cold all danced through his mind. He'd drop everything at the sound of that ringing. He had before. Tomoko was quite sure that he would again. That wouldn't do at all.

"Ryuusei," Tomoko's whisper was almost inaudible, "you have to go."

He shook his head. "They'll call back."

She fixed him with a curious look. Calmly, he pulled the phone out of her hand and lay it face down on the kotatsu. With that done, he curled closer to his wife, both arms wrapped around her middle to hold onto her.

"I'm doing something much more important here." His breath tickled as it rushed warmly past her ear. He hadn't been home long enough to say so; there was no way he was leaving this apartment anytime soon. Tomorrow, maybe, when they called again and he actually picked up, but definitely not tonight.

"When I get back," he said after a long and cozy silence, "I'll see about taking leave." And making sure he was never gone from their life together that long again.

He heard Tomoko's little excited gasp and squeezed her hand. At least he'd have a few hours to forget the time away and properly reunite with the woman he loved.


Three days, that was all.

Ryuusei was fairly proud of that. He'd finally picked up the phone late the next morning, telling the man on the other end that the phone had been in his bag, and that he'd had it shipped back from the airport. It was a lie, but one that wasn't questioned, so he stuck with it.

Tomoko kissed him when he left and Ryuusei hadn't looked back. If he were being truthful with himself he would have admitted to being afraid to, but that was ridiculous in his mind. A grown man shouldn't be afraid to leave for work, even if he didn't know how many days would pass until he got to come back home again afterward.

He'd gone up and down the chain of management until he was satisfied that he was getting the time he needed. They weren't particularly happy with his taking so much time off, but no one could deny that he'd gone above and beyond too often in the years for him to be refused it.

He was happy to go home knowing that he'd only be called for short cases. Tomoko just seemed happy to have him home, dawdling and pressing to his side more than usual. She'd missed him more than he knew, and he'd missed her more than he would say. Ryuusei thought that it might wane, their need to be touching constantly, but he was fine with things as they were for a few days longer.

Her dark eyes caught his attention one night, peering up from the other side of her iPad screen. Ryuusei tipped his head curiously to the side, stepping lightly into the living room and setting their tea cups down before taking his seat beside her.

"What is it?" he asked. Her smile was growing as she did ... something onscreen, her fingertips flying.

"Gentarou," was her full answer. Ryuusei inched closer to see. She propped the machine up with the orange basket to face them and pressed something that made the window pop up fullscreen. She lay her head on Ryuusei's shoulder as the video started, granting them the perfect view of Gentarou's eyes.

"Oh!" he shouted excitedly. His eyes lit up like a child's, completely beaming. He must have leaned away, because his whole face (pompadour and all) came into view. As always, Gentarou was grinning wildly. "Ryuusei! Tomoko! Long time no see, right? What's up!"

They waved and said their hellos. Their old friend was practically bouncing in his suit, delighted to see them -- or maybe that the computer hadn't overloaded. It was probably both. Either way, Ryuusei hesitated. His wife didn't.

"Ryuusei just led a delicate mission overseas," Tomoko stated. Her fingers tented, then laced, as she spoke. Excitement shone in her expression as she continued the story, her husband blushing to his ears as she retold the details of his moving around and searching. She ended it rather matter of factly, with a curt nod and her own opinion of the case. "Extremely dangerous work."

"Amazing! Did you get him?!"

Tomoko nodded. Gentarou pumped his fist. "Of course."

Ryuusei smiled as Gentarou heaped on the congratulations, but that didn't stop him from turning to the young woman next to him. "Er, Tomoko?"

"Weren't you going to say it?" She glanced at him, her eyes going back to the wide-eyed Gentarou onscreen.

"Say it? Say what? Aw, come on, Ryuusei! Are you holding back on me, man?"

"Go ahead." Tomoko's hands curled around Ryuusei's and he bowed his head with a nod, ignoring Gentarou's whining plea as he agreed.

"All right. Well, then." He threaded his fingers through hers and coughed into his free hand. With one look to his wife, and another to the screen, Ryuusei found himself boiling over with the excitement they shared. She'd waited for him just to do this, and she'd waited for him for long enough. It was about time he started sharing in more things together.

So he smiled at the onscreen camera and took a breath. It started here.

"We're having a baby."

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