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Crossing the Line

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Hisoka walks beside Tsuzuki as they make their way home from the Earl's dinner party. Everyone is a little tipsier than they probably should be (except for Hisoka, who can't bear the taste of sake to this day), all because Tsuzuki hadn't wanted to walk home in the rain and none of his friends would even think of leaving him alone at the mercy of the Earl. So they'd stayed longer, and as a consequence, had a few extra drinks to make the time more bearable. Although when the Earl had started singing drunken love songs to Tsuzuki, down on bended invisible knee (as far as anyone could tell), Tatsumi had shifted almost imperceptibly toward the door. Only Hisoka's icy green glare had stopped the secretary in his tracks.

The rain has ended, but the air is still damp and misty. Hisoka draws his jacket more tightly around himself to ward off the chill, and tunes out his grumbling partner. Tsuzuki's shields waver when he's been drinking (and when he thinks Hisoka is asleep, which is what Hisoka likes best - drifting off in a soft warm bed, surrounded by comfort and companionable sweetness). Tonight his partner's annoyance at the Earl's flirtatious antics is effusive; not so long ago, Hisoka would have found such feelings suffocating, but that was before Kyoto, before fire and tears and the desperate frantic fear of losing Tsuzuki forever. Now Hisoka finds it easier to shield himself, and easier to accept the temporary presence of Tsuzuki's feelings by reminding himself that their permanent absence would be unbearable.

Kyoto was when their friendship changed for good, Hisoka remembers. He's heard the old cliché before, that there's a fine line between friendship - the kind that's affectionate but has nothing to do with sex - and, well, love, which sometimes has nothing to do with sex, and other times has quite a lot to do with sex. It had seemed such a tiny step for Hisoka to take, from admiring Tsuzuki's tenacity and kindness, the beauty of his spirit, to also admiring the way he would lick his lips repeatedly after eating cinnamon buns and being dizzied by his bright, easy smile. Such a fine line between one feeling and another. Hisoka doesn't remember when he crossed it, because he didn't realize that he even had until it was almost too late.

Tsuzuki's content with muttering halfheartedly to himself and doesn't seem to be much in the mood for conversation, so Hisoka occupies himself with watching Tatsumi and Watari walking in front of them. They are walking a friendly distance apart, pretending to be arguing. Watari is a bit ahead of Tatsumi, expounding upon some new theory he has about teleportation, while Tatsumi swiftly counters each argument with skilled precision. Despite Tatsumi's serious expression, Hisoka can tell that the conversation is all meant in fun. When Tatsumi's dry comment hits on a weakness in one of Watari's ideas, Watari blushes and looks back at the other man, laughing. His glasses gleam in the dim afternoon light, eyes behind the lenses sparkling with mischief, his long hair a little wavy and damp with mist. Tatsumi follows slightly, his eyes bright and intense and never leaving Watari for a moment.

It seems innocent enough, nothing unusual about two men having an animated conversation while walking home together after a party. But the watching, the shimmering undercurrent of admiration buzzing between them, tells Hisoka that the conversation is just a cover for what is really being communicated. Hisoka can feel the warmth they are so uncertain about sharing with each other, the sensuality of their repressed feelings. He's been feeling hints of it for weeks: a hum of anticipation when the two are in the same room, tremored pauses in conversation, awkward moments when Tsuzuki blunders thoughtlessly between them in the midst of some innocuous exchange of daily pleasantries. A few days ago Hisoka had walked into Tatsumi's office and interrupted Watari leaning across Tatsumi's desk to tap something out on the computer keyboard (or so it had appeared). Only the dilation of Tatsumi's pupils and the slight flush to Watari's cheeks had given Hisoka any indication that all was not as it seemed. He hadn't wanted to make assumptions, but tonight they are both broadcasting loud and clear.

Tatsumi leans toward Watari slightly as they walk, the line of his body and the unaccustomed lightness in his voice taking the edge off of his critical words. I like you, Hisoka hears Tatsumi not saying. Enough to let my guard down, to let you tease without penalty, to tease you back just to hear you laugh. The slow burn of Tatsumi's desire ripples across the surface of the secretary's mind, like an unseen animal slipping soundlessly through dark water.

Watari's expression is more open, more revealing. When Hisoka looks into Watari's mind he finds an unrelenting desire for attention, like a single child overlooked in the bustle of a large family. It's never very hard to read him, but Tatsumi's powerful shields usually interrupt the signals. Not tonight, though. I can't believe you like me, Watari's thoughts question. Why me? He walks ahead, but continually turns back toward Tatsumi like he can't help himself. Watari sparkles around the edges, but with a mysterious darkness tucked far away that Hisoka hasn't quite figured out yet. He is so much like Tsuzuki sometimes - but no, Hisoka smiles to himself; there's no one else like Tsuzuki in the entire world.

To anyone else they could be just friends, all of them, co-workers, associates, partners and nothing more. But Hisoka knows otherwise; the difference is in the way Tatsumi watches so closely, the way Watari turns back, smiling. It's in the way that Tsuzuki leans into Hisoka so that their shoulders brush as they walk, just a little, his emotions glowing like something incandescent and winding themselves around Hisoka's heart. It's evident in the subtle manner in which Hisoka twines his cold fingers through Tsuzuki's warm ones, and how that makes Tsuzuki's eyes shine. It's in the way that the wind blows a tendril of hair across Watari's face and Tatsumi reaches out a tentative hand, brushes it away, fingers lingering for just a moment too long against Watari's skin. Hisoka watches, as the line fades away.