I've got reservations/about so many things/but not about you
I seriously don't know what this is. I planned it as a fluffy break to my depressing Those Who Burn series. Then it happened, and ended up forcing me to stay up till two in the morning to finish it. It couldn't decide which tense it was in either, and generally caused a lot of stress that it was supposed to mediate. And it isn't even fluff. It's like fluffy angst. Angty fluff? Flangst? I have no idea, you tell me. As always, comments, criticism, and stuffed animals are appreciated.
Takanuva paused and conjured a small ball of light, illuminating the stone stairs above him. He tread softly, even though he knew there was no reason to be quiet. Or perhaps there was; paranoia seemed like a good idea in these times.
Jaller sat on a stone stool, which along with the table he was leaning on, appeared to be carved from the same huge stone as the round room Takanuva now stood in. A small lightstone hanging from the ceiling provided the only other light in the room. There was hardly enough to see by, let alone read whatever maps Jaller was currently perusing. Takanuva was about to clear his throat when the toa of fire turned to look directly at him.
Jaller flinched momentarily at the sudden light, then met Takanuva's gaze.
"Takanuva...could you put that out? Its dangerous; we don't want to attract attention."
"It's dark, you know I can't see as well as you."
"Well, try going outside."
"Isn't that dangerous too?"
"Not...look. Takanuva, I don't have time for this. Why do you need to consult me?'
Consult...Takanuva sighed and put out the light, casting his gaze towards the far side of the room. The light behind him went out, and for a moment he was sure that he was going to trip. Then he felt Jaller's hand on his elbow, guiding him. He didn't look up to meet his friend's eyes.
This helpless feeling made him uneasy, more so because he knew that a few days ago he wouldn't have been helpless. A few days ago he would have been able to feel every shadow like it was an extension of his own body.
Something, moss maybe, brushed past his face and then he was outside, under a cold sky filled with stars. Ga-metru lay spread out before him, its still pools of water reflecting the sky.
"So what is it?"
Jaller leaned on the edge of the small stone balcony, looking out over the city. Takanuva studied his friend's face. With the golden hau he wore now, he looked much the same as he had when Takanuva had last truly spoken to him. He remembered the look on Jaller's face as they pressed their hands together, not quite touching because of the invisible barrier. The way his eyes screamed Go, and something else, something that Takanuva regrets not saying as well.
There were different barriers between them now, and Takanuva's old regrets had turned into something sharper, more urgent. He had no idea where to begin.
Jaller's eyes glowed brightly, too bright for any normal toa. They were the only thing obviously different in his face. Takanuva wondered if he could absorb that light. He wanted to take in all of Jaller's pain and memorize the toa of fire in front of him, so familiar and yet so changed. But there was not enough time for that.
Jaller turned to face him. His earlier annoyance seemed to have faded, replaced with something softer. He looked almost–
"I heard about what happened to you in Karda Nui."
"Who told you—wait no let me guess: Gali?"
Jaller winced. "Nokama actually, but you're half-right. Gali told her. She was worried."
"About me? Why did she come to you? Isn't Tahu my leader?"
Takanuva regretted the words as soon as they came out of his mouth, but instead of snapping at him the toa of fire just sighed and scratched his head.
"Well, I have this strange feeling I've known you before..."
Takanuva punched him in the arm. It hurt more than he expected and he found himself shaking his hand out and wincing at the pain. Jaller tried and failed to keep a straight face.
"Besides," he said, his smirk vanishing, "you are here, so she must have been partly right. This is about that, isn't it?"
Takanuva stole a glance at the city below them. He couldn't see much, but he could swear that there was something moving in the streets below.
"Don't think about it," Jaller said. "That's how he gets to you. You shouldn't let your imagination run away with you."
"But the Makuta controls—"
"Sight isn't the only sense. Close your eyes for a moment."
"What?" Takanuva asked, confused.
"Just do it. Close your eyes and listen."
Takanuva obeyed. The first thing he noticed was his own breathing. Then he picked up Jaller's, slower and more measured. Beyond that there was—
Nothing. No sound of some creature of the night, but also nothing else. No chirping of small insect rahi, no humming of machinery. Ga-metru had always been a quiet place, a place of reflection, but there was something oppressive and hard about this silence. He thought he could pick up the sound of water running somewhere, but even it seemed muffled, as if it was trying to avoid making too much noise.
"It's too quiet," he said, opening his eyes and looking into Jaller's.
The toa of fire nodded. "Rahkshi are loud...really loud. We'd hear one if it was coming. But when they don't...I miss the noise sometimes. I never really noticed all the little sounds before, and in that way—I wouldn't say I'm grateful for the darkness, but I understand it more now. It isn't all evil, you know, the night. Sometimes it helps you notice things you never did before."
A few years ago, Takanuva would have immediately opened his mouth and teased Jaller about sounding like a turaga. Jaller would always have these sorts of lessons directed at him, though before they had been of the "don't pick up anything you see on the ground" variety. Now he could only stare back at his old friend. He could only feel helplessly grateful.
He supposed that was why he kissed Jaller.
The next few seconds, he didn't really register anything beside Jaller's hands around his waist and the feeling of his lips and that he was kissing back. Then, Takanuva returned to reality and the other toa's hands were pushing him gently but firmly away.
Jaller looked into his eyes, searching for something. "What was that exactly?"
"A question? I don't know, I—"
He didn't know. The way Jaller had looked at him had been different and he had just acted, because he knew there was was a chance that he would never—
"I'm leaving," he said. "Tomorrow. Somewhere up North, I can't..."
"Tell me? So you just thought you would come up here and kiss me goodbye and—"
The toa of fire hid his face in his hands, rubbing his tired eyes.
"Its been a long time, Takanuva. We've both changed."
"You can call me Takua. It's not like we've changed that much. You still worry like a mother ash-bear."
"And you still have the caution of fledgling gukko."
They lock eyes for a moment, and then they were laughing, breaking the silence of the night, and it didn't matter that they were probably attracting far too much attention. He had missed this. Missed Jaller; missed the days when he was still Takua and danger was an adventure.
When the stitch in his side loosened, and he looked at Jaller again, his friend was smiling, truly smiling, not the sad little upturns of the mouth that Takanuva had seen until now. Takanuva wanted desperately to kiss him again.
Then the smile vanished, replaced with what Takanuva knew his own face must have looked liked before.
"I'm leaving too, you know."
Takanuva felt the barrier between them click back into place.
"And you can't tell me?"
"I suppose it's safer that way. I mean if—"
Takanuva clutched the raining. "You always, come back. Remember? You're invincible."
He turned to his friend. The last words had only been half a joke.
"You must think very highly of me."
Takanuva forced himself to keep Jallers eyes. He reminded himself that it might be all he had now. Then Jaller's hand was on top of his, and he had to force himself not to jump away in shock.
"But you're not. And like you said, I worry like a mother ash bear."
His voice sounded unsteady, and the fact that he might never see Jaller again hit Takanuva with full force. Jaller intertwined his fingers with his, and Takanuva closed his eyes. He really wanted to scream, but the paranoia had returned. His throat ached and his eyes stung. He was almost grateful that the Order forbade him to tell anyone else about his mission, because he didn't know how he would be able to go through this again. Yet at the same time, the idea of not seeing Macku or Kopeke or any of the others made him go cold all over. They could die too, and he wouldn't even have this goodbye to give them. It was just all so unfair and Takanuva hated how much it upset him.
Jaller pulled him close, and he surrendered to the pain in his eyes and throat. The tears felt hot poring down his face, and he knew that he must be shaking and babbling incoherently, but he didn't care. He could feel Jaller's hand rubbing circles on his back.
Takanuva didn't know anything about love. He couldn't name the point where their friendship ended and this, whatever it was, began. Perhaps it was that moment that he left Jaller and his other friends stranded on the other side of that gate, when he turned and began to feel that persistent ache of Jaller's absence in his chest. But it didn't have a name then, and Takanuva had groped for that name ever since, as the ache continued to grow. Perhaps then, when the Order told Takanuva that he could only tell one person of his mission, he came because he needed too, because the pain had stopped being bearable.
But he was done thinking. He felt drained and his wet face felt hot against the crook of Jaller's neck. He removed himself from the other toa's arms and managed a smile.
"So you can't tell me anything? Even where you're going."
He had at least known that before.
Jallers mouth twitched. "It's going to involve swimming, I know that."
"What's breathing under water like?" Takanuva asked. He used to ask these sorts of questions all the time. He took Jaller's hand, but this time it didn't feel awkward or desperate. It felt natural, this connection between them.
"Its a bit different from having a Kaukau. It's like I have to breath the water, but I don't really think about it any more. Of course I was too busy dodging things getting thrown at me to notice it at first."
"That's kind of weird."
"Well, guess you don't get to be the different one all the time."
Karzahni. He was done crying and this was not the time to go back there. But he did anyway.
"Do you know how I managed?"
"When you died. I didn't think about it, I didn't think about being a toa. I just expected you to come back. And it worked—You came back. So I'm going to expect you all to be waiting for me and everything to be the same, even if it isn't. And you have to do the same thing for me."
For a few seconds, Jaller only stared back. Then the toa of fire's face broke into a smile, and Takanuva blinked. In the old days, Jaller would never have smiled after hearing a speech like that. The toa of fire squeezed his hand.
"Promise. We'll be wise old Turaga together."
Takanuva snorted. "You know, Vakama and Dume aren't actually older than us. They just use it as an excuse to boss us around."
"Yes, but..." Jaller's smile faded. "They remember more. Besides, being a toa ages you. Look at us."
"That's true, you're acting crusty already."
Jaller rolled his eyes.
Takanuva felt an irrational smile on his face. He should not be smiling like this, because he knew that he needed to leave now.
"I should go."
If Jaller was surprised by the sudden change of subject, he didn't show it. He just raised his left hand, the one that wasn't holding Takanuva's into a fist. Takanuva raised his own fist and they clanked them together.
Then Jaller was grasping both his hands and kissing him, and Takanuva held tight, because he knew this wasn't a question.
It was a goodbye.
Edited by Yukiko, Mar 14 2013 - 09:13 PM.