Tatsumi knotted the tie he'd draped around his neck quickly and efficiently, straightening his collar as he went. He glanced across the room at Watari, sitting upright and open-eyed but otherwise asleep. His partner had still not adjusted to life in the Kurosaki compound, or at least waking up sometime ante meridian.
Tatsumi smiled. This was his morning ritual: waking, dressing, waking Watari, making coffee and forcing Watari completely awake with the aforesaid coffee. Later, there would be too many people to accurately predict the form of the day, but this was comforting in its predictability.
The kettle began to whistle. Tatsumi adjusted his glasses without thinking and ran his fingers lightly through his hair.
He reached for the kettle just before it boiled and poured the water out into three waiting mugs, two plain, one patterned. Tatsumi (black) drank more coffee than Watari (black, two sugars) and neither could stand the other's preference. Three mugs had seemed excessive for two men, but Tatsumi had found drinking one and returning for the other did not fit nearly so well into his morning routine.
Tatsumi held one of his mugs up to blow upon and stirred Watari's with a teaspoon before removing it (so that Watari would not accidentally poke an eye out). He drank as quickly as possible, feeling an irrational rush of clarity to his head. Dead men should be beyond physical addiction, but Tatsumi found his head hurt if he forget to drink. He placed the empty mug by the kettle, dropped Watari's teaspoon inside it. He took the other two in hand and stood.
Watari was no more awake than he had been. He blinked at Tatsumi without focusing and one shoulder of his yukata had slipped off. Tatsumi felt a tiny stab of guilt-- Watari had obviously worked through more of the night than usual-- but 'Sensei' was expected to be punctual.
Tatsumi huffed, put down the mugs and knelt next to Watari. He picked up Watari's hands and placed the patterned mug between them, holding on until he felt the other man take the weight. Lifted out of his blankets, Watari's hands were only slightly cooler than the mug.
Tatsumi sat for a tense minute, not looking at his watch. Watari moved, but only so far as sipping coffee went. They were not strictly late, not yet, but they had ceased to be early.
Excepting the medical textbooks scattered the night (or morning) before, Watari's things were more or less neatly grouped together, shirts on top of curious bits of metal and pieces of string. Tatsumi gingerly reached in, feeling for the short, flattened roundness of Watari's glasses' case. Tatsumi found, instead, the handle of Watari's hairbrush.
Tatsumi took one look his partner's waist-length hair and decided: however long it took to brush, the less time they needed, the better.
Tatsumi first gathered Watari's hair back across his shoulders, discovering where the surprisingly few major tangles were. Watari's hair was fine and thin and-- softer than Tatsumi expected. There was also much less-- spread, it fell between his shoulder blades.
He held the edge of his left hand flat just above the small of Watari's back and lightly moved the brush over everything below his fingers, testing the strands before brushing them with a stronger stroke. The wave in Watari's hair bounced back as soon as the brush's pressure left it.
"Tatsumi, are you brushing my hair?"
Watari stretched, rolling his shoulders. He tilted his head back to rest under Tatsumi's chin, covering Tatsumi's hands in his hair. There mightn't be much breadth to Watari's hair, but there was certainly abundant length. There was also fragrance, but Tatsumi could not name the scent.
"If 'Sensei' wasn't late already, you could do it yourself."
With a wrist behind the other man's neck, Tatsumi tilted Watari's head forward again and resumed brushing. Watari returned to his coffee.
Tatsumi worked right to left, always with overlap and inching his way up. He ran the brush through with an apology behind his teeth for every snarl. At the crown, he leant over Watari and attempted to smooth out ear-tails and bangs. They were light enough to curl, and he found they did, no matter how many times Tatsumi ran the brush across them.
When the brush slid through all of Watari's hair without resistance, Tatsumi put it back on top of Watari's pile. He gathered the open strands back to the center of Watari's back. Eyeing it critically, he divided it in three, taking one portion in each hand and one hanging in the centre. He brought the right strand under the centre and the left in turn under it and changed his hands to the two outer portions. He pulled the braiding tight and began again with his right hand.
"I should get it all cut off, right?" Watari said. "Short and neat. Less trouble."
Tatsumi's two hands fumbled, suddenly, with the three sections and the rest of Watari's hair. He'd not managed to pull in Watari's ear-tails. Other sections fell out as he braided. His hands rested against Watari's back, sandwiched warm between hair and pyjamas. He still could not place the fragrance, though he suspected it was shampoo or another hair product. It was of no matter and he resumed braiding.
Watari did not turn his head this time. Tatsumi's grip made that impossible. He put down his mug and untied his hair ribbon from around his wrist. Watari reached one of his hands behind himself, poking Tatsumi's knee lightly. He held out the ribbon. Tatsumi took it and tied off the end of the braid.
"I will wake you up earlier tomorrow, Watari-san." Tatsumi rose quickly, crossing the room. He called back, "dress quickly, please. Nagare-san will be expecting you."
Watari reached unerringly for his laptop and took his glasses' case out of the front pocket, but by the time he could see, Tatsumi was gone.
'Predictable,' Watari thought, and reached for his coffee. He sipped, and winced at the unexpected bitterness. He looked down. It was a black mug. One of Tatsumi's.
Tatsumi... had forgotten his coffee?
Watari ran fingers over his braided hair and smiled.