omnicat: (for Darker than Black)
Omnicat ([personal profile] omnicat) wrote2017-07-12 08:27 pm

FIC: From the Mouths of Babes [Darker than Black, Hei & Matsumoto & Kouno & misc OCs]

Title: From the Mouths of Babes
Author: Omnicat
Spoilers & Desirable Foreknowledge: Tensai Okamura & co’s Darker than Black: the Black Contractor anime.
Warnings: Past harm to children.
Characters & Relationships: Hei & Matsumoto & Kouno & Matsumoto’s OC relatives
Summary: Contractors make either the best or the worst babysitters in the world. The jury’s still out. // 5180 words
Author’s Note: Enjoy!



From the Mouths of Babes

Tuesday morning. The office was quiet save for the clacking of keyboards, the rustle of paper, and, occasionally, Kouno humming quietly to himself, because he had one earbud in to listen to music. It would have earned him a reprimand from Misaki if Misaki hadn’t been in a meeting. Hei had half a mind to dole out that reprimand himself, because Kouno’s humming had put the barest snippet of a song in his head and it just would not stop looping. From the dark looks Matsumoto kept shooting across the room, Hei thought he might be having the same problem.

The ringing of the phone on Matsumoto’s desk startled all three of them.

Matsumoto picked up. "This is Matsumoto. My daughter-in-law?" His eyebrows shot up. "Did she say why? I see. Okay, I’ll be there in a moment."

"Something wrong?" Kouno asked as Matsumoto hung up.

"I hope not," Matsumoto answered, and left the room, presumably headed down to the reception desk.

Kouno shot Hei a look, eyebrows raised. Hei shrugged. "Let’s hope not."

They returned to their reports.

Some minutes later, Matsumoto returned with a thirty-ish woman that must be his daughter-in-law and a small girl of maybe five in tow. His mouth was tight and his eyes pinched, and the woman looked frazzled and distracted, not meeting anybody’s eye. Matsumoto shut down his computer, locked his files and papers in a secured drawer, and lifted the little girl into his swivelling chair.

"Stay here while I take care of things with mama, alright?"

The girl nodded. "Okay."

Matsumoto looked at Kouno and Hei, and they both nodded at him: they’d keep an eye on his granddaughter. Their curiosity must have been palpable, but the girl’s mother looked so upset and unhappy, they both knew to keep their questions to themselves for now.

Shooting a second, speculative look at Hei, Matsumoto bent close to the girl and whispered something in her ear that made her eyes light up.

"Promise?" Matsumoto asked.

"Promise!" the girl answered, nodding eagerly.

"Good girl. Let’s go, Kimiko," Matsumoto said, stood, and left with the woman.

The girl looked at her knees, and inspected her chair, and peeked furtively through her neatly combed bangs, but never once looked Hei or Kouno in the eye.

Now that Matsumoto and the girl’s mother were gone, Kouno, Hei was amused to note, looked distinctly uncomfortable with the possibility that she would make eye contact. He rolled his chair to the side, slowly and quietly, until he was hidden from sight behind his monitor.

None of them introduced themselves. Yet. Hei threw himself into his paperwork with renewed vigor to get ahead of whatever Matsumoto and his granddaughter had in store for him.

After an impressive ten minutes, the squeaking of Matsumoto’s swivel chair stopped and slow, hesitant footsteps approached Hei’s desk. He scanned his computer monitor and papers for any particularly child-unfriendly words or images and then, brows raised just enough to eliminate as much of his Intimidating Grown-Up Stranger as he could, slanted his eyes the girl’s way.

She froze, her own eyes wide, but powered through her hesitation and closed the last distance to his desk. She clasped the edge in both hands and hid the lower half of her face behind it.

"Hello," she whispered.

"Hello," Hei answered.

Very five-year-old-sneakily, she looked around the room and then leaned towards him to whisper: "Grandpa says you have a desk full of candy."

Hei widened his eyes to the fullest and let his mouth fall open in faux-shock. "Really?" he whispered back. "How would he know? Who’s your grandpa?"

With a sudden proud grin, the girl puffed out her chest and raised herself up on her toes. "Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department Foreign Affairs Section Four’s Officer Matsumoto Kunio!" she rattled off. "He knows everything, because he’s the best detective in Japan!"

Hei made his most impressed face. "Wow. That must make you Officer Matsumoto-chan the Third."

She giggled. "No, silly. I’m Sora!"

Hei didn’t have to feign surprise at that. Not many people still called their children ‘sky’ since the Gates appeared and the rest of the universe was lost from Earth’s sight. He’d always felt it took a special kind of foolhardiness to look at what had happened to it and what remained of it, and still think that one day your descendants would thank you for naming them after it.

The people who did so before, though, they just...

"Sora?" Hei finds himself saying, almost involuntarily. "No way, that’s impossible!"

Sora looked a little offended. "Is not."

Time to back down? No, of course not, who did he take himself for.

"Yes it is."

"Is not, that’s my name. It’s a really normal name!"

Hei probably wasn’t the first person to think that naming your kid after a hijacked sky full of fake stars was a little weird. Well, this should come as a nice surprise to the girl, then.

"It can’t be," he insisted, very seriously. "Because then our given names are practically the same!"

Sora blinked. "Eh?"

Hei smiled, soft and fond and honest. (It was just a name. No reason to be weird about it.)

"Nice to meet you, Matsumoto Sora." He held out his hand. "My name is Li Tian. That’s Chinese, and it means ‘sky’ too."

Sora’s mouth fell open. Laughing, she took the proffered hand and shook Hei’s whole arm. "I’ve never met anyone with the same name before!"

"It’s been a while for me too. Can you write your name yet?"

"Yes! I can write everyone’s. School didn’t teach me that yet, but mama helped."

"Will you show me? I’m sure I have a pen somewhere around..." He opened one of his desk drawers – to reveal his stash of aggressively donated candy. "...here. Oooh."

Sora’s eyes lit up. Hei could almost feel her start to salivate. With her little fists pressed to her chest, as if to keep herself from making a grab for the food, she let her gaze flit from one brightly colored box to another.

"Your grandfather told you I always share my candy with cute girls, didn’t he?" Hei stage-whispered.

Sora nodded vehemently.

He heaved a theatrical sigh that hid his smile barely at all. "Well, I guess he’s right, I just can’t resist. What do you like? Go ahead, take your pick."

She immediately pointed at a box of strawberry chocolate nibs. Hei retrieved that one, closed the drawer against any further temptation, and opened the packaging.

"Here you go."

"Thank you so much!" She snatched a piece from the box and stuffed it in her mouth, her eyes closing as she moaned in delight. "Mmmmmm, so good."

Hei smiled and went to fetch Ootsuka’s chair. When he came back, Sora was eyeing the box of chocolates again.

"Thank you," she said distractedly as she clambered into her seat.

"Another?" he offered, pushing the chair up to the desk.

"Mama wouldn’t like that..." Sora said speculatively.

Hei looked around the room. In the process, he caught Kouno’s eye around the edge of his computer monitor. The quarter of his face Hei could see looked terrified but impressed, and Kouno gave him a grim thumbs up before disappearing fully into the shelter of his workspace again.

Rolling his eyes, Hei told Sora: "Your mama isn’t here, though."

"OKAY ANOTHER," was the response, and Hei couldn’t help but laugh, both at the girl and at Kouno audibly jumping in his seat.

Kids were so easy.

He dropped another chocolate in her outstretched hands. "When you’ve finished that, will you write your name for me? I bet you’re really good at it."

"Okay!"

Take one small child, add paper and whatever writing or coloring utensils at your disposal, mix with the appropriate level of engagement, and sit back to enjoy your results.

"Matsu... moto..." she muttered, tongue between her teeth as she drew the characters in large, clumsy strokes. "Sora!"

"I knew it," Hei said with a small smile. "You even write our names the same. Here..."

Taking a pen of his own, he deftly wrote Li Tian in the row next to Matsumoto Sora, the identical kanji and hanzi for ‘sky’ right next to each other.

"Neat, huh?"

"So cool!" Sora agreed, grinning. "We’re like twins."

"I’ll say. What other names can you write?"

"Lots! Mama... grandpa... Yuusei, my little brother..." she narrated happily as she slowly and laboriously wrote down each name. Kimiko... Kunio...

Yuusei? Hei thought, momentarily thrown as his mind supplied a very different pronunciation for the last two characters she’d written. Xióng xing: a male star.

"No," he told himself under his breath. "Really?"

"Hm?" Sora said, looking up.

Hei hesitated. But he’d opened the pit of memories now, and this was the one smoldering ember of emotion he had never managed to stamp out in the first place – had never even tried to.

So in the row beside Matsumoto Yuusei, he wrote another name, one ‘star’ next to the other.

"My little sister," he said quietly. "Li Xing."

"We really are twins!" Sora exclaimed.

Hei managed to conjure up a smile, but quickly held out the box of strawberry chocolate as a distraction anyway. "Another to make it official?"

"Yes!" With her mouth full and her mind mercifully nowhere near his emotional turmoil, Sora said, putting pen to paper again: "I can do grandma too! And papa..."

Grandmother: Ayame. But a few strokes into the father’s name, Sora’s face started falling, until she bit her lip and clutched her pen tightly.

"Papa fought with a car today," she said quietly.

"Oh?" No wonder Matsumoto and his daughter-in-law were so out of sorts. That sounded like he got run over. "Did he win?"

Sora nodded slowly. "Yes. But now his leg is broken and his arm is a hundred different colors. And he has to stay in the hospital tonight because he hit his head, so he won’t come home, and Mama says I can’t stay in the hospital with him because I have school tomorrow."

"I’m sorry," Hei said; voice compassionate, so the child knew she was being taken seriously, but making sure not to sound upset himself, because if even the grown-ups around her couldn’t handle the situation it would only make her feel worse. "I’m sure he won’t have to stay in the hospital long. At least he won. A lot of people lose when they try to fight a car." Just to be safe, he added more sternly: "It’s really dangerous – you should never do it."

"Papa says the car started it," Sora said, looking at him mutinously.

"Oh, I don’t doubt it. Cars can be very mean. That’s why you always have to stay out of the way of the moving ones."

She nodded solemnly. "Can I have another chocolate?"

"Sure, but this is the last one. You’re small, you have a small stomach. Not much room."

He hoped he hadn’t let her have too much already.

Shaking her head, Sora ate the piece he gave her and fell into silence. Her father’s name sat on the paper, half-written and abandoned.

"Can you write any more characters?" Hei asked.

Sora shrugged despondently and didn’t answer.

Understandable, he supposed. So he sat back for a while and let her feel her feelings. Only when she started fidgeting with her pen and looking restlessly around the office, stuck on whatever train of thought she was having trouble processing, and his suggesting of some more writing still didn’t enthuse her, did he think, Hm.

"Would you like to see a cool trick?" he asked. And, voice lowering so only Sora would hear, he added, "My little sister taught it to me," because that was the kind of fool he was and always would be.

She gave him a dubious look. "What kind of trick?"

Not the most enthusiastic start, but he’d get there.

"I’ll show you." He turned their chairs so they were face to face. "Feel your hair, like this," he instructed, and demonstrated by patting his head, from the bangs hanging over his forehead to his nape.

Sora followed his example.

"Normal hair, right?"

"Yes."

"But if I do this... come here, give me your hair..." Sora obediently leaned forward; Hei put his hands on her head and began rubbing her hair. Slowly and lightly at first, so as not to frighten her, but gradually increasing in speed and vigor. "Close your eyes."

"They’re already closed," Sora said, her face all scrunched up.

All the better. "Don’t be scared, this might tickle a bit."

Eyes lighting up a decidedly child-unfriendly red, Hei unleashed just the slightest hint of a charge and really dug into Sora’s hair for the home stretch.

He slowly raised his hands. Sora’s hair rose up with them.

When Hei withdrew, Sora’s hair stayed as it was; a big, floating mass haloing her head, like a patch of overgrown grass. He allowed himself a small smile of accomplishment.

"Don’t move," he said, and rolled his chair over to Ootsuka’s desk for a moment to root around in the drawer he knew she kept her make-up in. He rolled back with her hand-held mirror. "Okay, now feel your hair."

Sora opened her eyes and reached for her head. For a moment, she looked utterly, adorably befuddled. Then Hei held the mirror up in front of her – and she shrieked with laughter.

"How did you do that?" she asked, awed, turning her head this way and that and running her hands through her gravity-defying hair.

"Just like this," Hei said, and ruffled her bangs again with a smile.

"Oh, let me try, let me try, I wanna do yours!"

Hei obligingly lowered his head into the range of Sora’s grabby hands and, eyes lowered, electrified himself a little too.

"It works, it works!" she crowed in delight, and shoved the little mirror in his face to prove it.

"I’m a rock star," Hei gasped, and struck a melodramatic pose. "Visual kei!"

Sora couldn’t stop grinning.

They played around like that for a while, smoothing each other’s hair down and raising it back up, and trying to sculpt Sora’s hair into different static-electric styles. Hei was just about to reapply the fading charge – Sora hunched in front of him, head down, her tiny fists clutched to her chest in excitement, while the fingertips of one outstretched hand just brushed her head and the red glow rose in his eyes – when –

"SORA!"

– he almost had a heart attack.

Hei was a meter and a half away from the girl before he even stopped to blink. Sora jumped in her seat and looked over at her mother like she’d seen a ghost.

Shit. This was bad.

The mother was there only a fraction of a second later. She snatched her daughter from her chair – and almost dropped her with a yelp as the static buildup Sora was still carrying jumped from daughter to mother and gave the latter a tiny but startling shock.

This was really bad.

Looking horrified, the mother – Kimiko? yes, that was it – backed away from Hei, stumbling into desks and chairs in her unwillingness to turn around and let him out of her sight.

"WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO MY DAUGHTER?!" she screamed.

Hei opened his mouth and – and – nothing.

Turning to Kouno, who had jumped up at the first shriek of Sora’s name, she yelled: "WHY DIDN’T YOU DO SOMETHING?!"

"Do what?" Kouno asked in wide-eyed bewilderment. "Li had it handled."

"Sora, are you okay?" Kimiko asked, finally turning to the child clutched in her arms. "Did he hurt you?"

Startled by the sudden commotion, overwhelmed by her mother’s screaming, uncomfortable in Kimiko’s clumsy, too tight grip, and utterly confused, Sora did the only thing a five-year-old child could do: she welled up.

"M-mama?" she said, looking from Kimiko to Hei and back, chin trembling and tears brimming in her eyes. It was like looking at a photo negative of the happy, excited child Hei had been playing with mere moments ago.

Stop that, he wanted to tell her. She was fine before you started screaming.

But what right did he have to say something like that? What had he even been thinking?

"What happened?" her mother urged, shifting her grip to something more stable but immediately undoing the progress it made by shaking Sora’s shoulder. "Sora?"

Getting nothing but whimpering and a crumpling face from her daughter, she turned to Kouno again. "WHAT HAPPENED?"

"I... nothing, what –" Kouno, in his turn, turned beseechingly to Matsumoto, who still stood in the doorway, looking as stunned as Hei felt.

Shooting Hei a look of fearful disgust, Kimiko followed suit. "Father!"

Sora started crying.

Hei should say something. He knew he should, but...

"Kimiko, calm down," Matsumoto said as he finally stepped through the doorway. His hands were raised; half placating gesture, half reaching for his granddaughter. "You’re scaring Sora –"

Kimiko was still backing away, Sora clutched to her chest tighter than ever, refusing to take her eyes off of Hei for more than a moment at a time.

"Why didn’t you tell me he was here?" she said, tears appearing in her own eyes. "Your son almost died this morning and now that – that – that man touched your granddaughter. How could you?!"

Talking himself out of trouble was second nature to Hei, sure. When he was pretending to be someone else. PR? No problem; that was about the cause he represented, not about him. ‘That’ was a policeman with probably more reason to be on his best behavior and prove himself than any Tokyo PD officer in history.

This, though, this was about him. Hei. Li Tian. He’d made it personal himself, knowingly and willingly. And what could that person possibly say for himself to justify letting an already distraught mother walk in on what looked like the police department’s leashed attack dog about to tear her child to pieces?

For himself, there was less than nothing to say. But he owed the mother the full force of what he knew to be an inexhaustible fountain of positive spin (maybe even idealism) inside of him. And he could give it to her, he knew – if he could only make it not all about himself. Make it about PR. Make it about service, his duty to the public, his job as a police officer, anything but children named for lost skies and stolen stars.

But he couldn’t. The switch wouldn’t flip.

Kouno looked at Hei, and whatever he saw seemed to prompt him to finally emerge from the safety of his desk. "Ma’am, they were only playing. Officer Li took perfect care of your daughter."

"Playing? Him?" Kimiko’s voice cracked shrilly. "You’re supposed to be the police who protects us from those people, why would you let one of them near my baby?!"

Tears rolling down her face, she finally turned her back on the Contractor threat and fled.

"Kimiko, hold on now –"

Matsumoto turned on his axis as his daughter-in-law sped past, then again when she disappeared and he turned his desperate gaze on his coworkers.

His coworkers couldn’t help him.

"I – oh, for..." Muttering worriedly to himself, he went after Kimiko, calling her name all the while.

That left Hei and Kouno, untethered and aimless in the sudden silence.

"Damn," Kouno said.

Hei said nothing. He couldn’t have if he’d tried.



When Matsumoto returned and wandered into the room, he looked around, scratched the back of his head, and sighed.

"Well. That went badly," he said.

"You can say that again," Kouno agreed, leaning back in his chair and shooting Hei odd looks.

Hei stood, turned to Matsumoto, and bowed deeply.

"I’m sorry," he said stiffly. "I shouldn’t have risked causing such a commotion. Especially at a time like this."

He made sure there wasn’t a trace of emotion on his face when he straightened up.

Matsumoto stared, dumbfounded. Kouno looked like Hei had grown a second head.

"No," Matsumoto said slowly, in the end. "I’m the one who should apologize. I told Sora to go pester you if we took too long. You struck me as the kind of person children warm up to quickly."

"He is," Kouno interrupted. "I know what it may have looked like when you two came in, but seriously, he’s a natural. Sora loved him. You should’ve seen it, it was unreal."

Matsumoto nodded grimly. "I had no idea her mother would react like that, though."

"Well, who can blame her," Hei said, voice flat.

Matsumoto frowned. Damn. That surge of bitter self-loathing hadn’t shown, had it? After another quick half-bow, Hei returned to his desk and made to pick up his work where he’d left off. Or at least look like he had. He’d said his piece. Anything more would just be needless repetition, and Matsumoto had never been one for that kind of groveling.

But Matsumoto said: "I managed to calm Kimiko down somewhat, and Sora stopped crying. She says you were very nice to her."

Hei looked at him over his shoulder. Matsumoto scratched the back of his head again, his eyes dark.

"I hadn’t expected any different, and I told her mother that. I’m not sure Kimiko... but anyway, it’ll be fine. She’s just a little emotional after what happened today."

"Sora told me about your son’s accident," Hei said. He probably shouldn’t sound so cold, but there was nothing for it. It was talking like this or not talking at all. "Will he be alright?"

"Yes, fine, fine, thank god," Matsumoto said gruffly. Sighing, he meandered closer to Hei’s workstation, and zeroed in on something on his desk. "What’s this?"

Before Hei could think to stop him, he’d picked up the paper he and Sora had been writing on earlier. Shit. How could he have left that out? Where was his head at?

"Ah! You two noticed that?"

Matsumoto chuckled, his whole face lighting up. The change from his normally so stern and serious demeanor would have been astounding under any under circumstances. As it was, Hei could tell, with a corresponding spike of dread in his stomach, the exact moment he noticed the second set of matched names amidst the various Matsumotos. His eyes narrowed in concentration.

"Li... Hoshi? Li Sei?"

Hei swallowed thickly and corrected, "Xing. Yes, the meaning is the same, and yes, that just made everything worse for our parents when the Gates appeared," before all but snatching the paper from Matsumoto’s hand. It went into his desk drawer as a crumpled mess. Hei was already making plans to burn it. What was he thinking, giving out information like that – not once but twice over?

Matsumoto’s eyes widened in surprise. Little wonder; Hei had never volunteered such personal information to the rest of Section Four. They knew the basic outline of and more than a few scattered details from his Syndicate service record, plus whatever Misaki had told them about him as a person and a few things Hei had foolishly let slip during his first press conference. On the whole, nobody but Misaki really knew anything, and Hei preferred it that way.

"You have a sibling?" Matsumoto asked.

The always inevitable, forever awful question. Even Kouno was leaning on Hei’s computer monitor waiting for the answer.

He didn’t look at either of them.

"Had. She’s gone."

"Oh. I’m sorry, Li."

"I need to finish this report, do you mind?"

"Ah. Very well." Matsumoto hesitated, and after a few moments Hei could feel his hand hovering near his shoulder. "Look, Li, I know that by and large, Contractors don’t go for sentimental stuff like that. But if you ever –"

"No," Hei snapped.

Only when he stood under the hot spray of his shower that night did he realize his shoulders hadn’t relaxed again all day.



Not even Kouno badgered him about his sister in the days that followed. Which probably had more to do with Hei’s lingering intimidation factor and less with Kouno’s sensitivity, but Hei wasn’t about to look a gift horse in the mouth. The babysitting theme, however, was apparently fair game. Not even the Chief could stop Kouno’s avalanche of Lone Contractor and Cub jokes and puns.

Hei would never admit it, but it was easy to roll with them because so many of them they were genuinely clever.

"– he’s faster on those crutches than he’s ever been on foot!" Hei heard Matsumoto say good-naturedly, when he returned from the break room with a fresh cup of tea one day.

"I’m glad your son’s doing better, Matsumoto," Ootsuka said as Hei settled back at his desk. Kouno and Saitou chimed in to agree, and the little group dispersed.

"Ah!" Matsumoto said, noticing Hei’s arrival and coming up to his desk. "By the way, Li, Sora wanted me to tell you ‘hi’. She keeps trying to replicate your trick, but no luck so far."

"Oh," Hei said eloquently. "Thank you."

Matsumoto gave him an expectant look.

"What?"

"Don’t you have anything to say to her in return?"

"Is that such a good idea?" Hei had to fight the urge to pretend to fidget just thinking about it.

Matsumoto waved a dismissive hand, though. "I told Kimiko you would never hurt a girl like Sora –"

"What?" Hei interrupted, voice sharp with surprise. "You shouldn’t lie to your family like that, Matsumoto. Thinking there are lines even Contractors won’t cross may make them feel better now, but if they ever do become a target it’ll only make things more unsafe for them."

He could hardly believe his ears. How could Matsumoto, of all people, with all his years on the force –

But Matsumoto told him, calmly: "I know; that’s why I specified that you wouldn’t. Not that all Contractors wouldn’t. Because you’re on our team."

Hei’s jaw dropped.

"Now what are you looking at me like that for?" Matsumoto huffed.

Hei opened and closed his mouth several times before he could get any words out.

"That’s a hell of an assumption," he said, a little faintly.

Matsumoto crossed his arms. "What? You became a police officer for a reason, didn’t you? Are you saying you would harm a child anyway, despite all that?"

"No, of course I wouldn’t now, but – I..."

The more he fumbled, the more impossible it became to hold Matsumoto’s eye. He faltered and looked away. Complete honesty, Misaki had made him promise when she offered him this job. If you’re going to be one of us, your partners deserve the truth.

"I’m sure I’ve hurt plenty of children in the past," he said quietly.

A coward’s way out.

He wanted to keep doing this job. He wanted this team to tolerate him. He wanted an end to this loneliness so vast he felt like he would drown in it, never enough air in his lungs to cry out for help. He wanted so many things he knew he could never earn back the right to, that he could only hope that every once in a while, a few people here and there would let him borrow some bits and pieces of out of the goodness of their hearts, despite everything.

He didn’t want his partners to know the truth.

"Have you really?" Matsumoto said in a strange voice.

Hei couldn’t look at him.

Did it count if he’d been just as young when he did it? Did it count if he’d stood by and watched it happen when Pai carried out her mission? Did it count when the child was a Contractor and it was kill or be killed?

Would Matsumoto still be outraged by how young Hei had been in South America if he knew what kind of person he had been even at fifteen?

Maybe. But not for the same reasons.

"Working for the Syndicate –"

He grappled futilely for words and thought of Kashiwagi Mai, the hours he’d spent wandering the city with her only to turn away without a word the moment her star stabilized, letting the Syndicate snatch her up and turn her into a killer the way they’d turned Xing and Tian and so many other kids into killers; of Shinoda Chiaki, orphaned; of Maki, the odd-eyed boy Amber had been trying to teach how to live a normal, peaceful life, changed too young to cope with the return of jealousy and the fear that he wouldn’t be wanted anymore; of the handful of Brazilian children, orphaned or abandoned or bought or taken, nobody knew, who were kept around headquarters during the war to be harvested for their blood whenever Carmine was sent out to the front lines.

"Some, directly," Hei said haltingly, fists clenched on his desk. "And so many more I might as well have. Sometimes it’s hard to keep track of them all."

As Matsumoto stood silently beside him, Hei listened to the clacking of keyboards and the rustle of paper. To Saitou making a phone call. To people passing by the open door, talking amongst themselves. He probably wouldn’t lose his job just for confirming something they all must have realized already. But would it still be his? Would all of this still include him?

"I guess I shouldn’t be surprised," Matsumoto eventually said, slowly and quietly. His voice was inscrutable, and Hei still didn’t have the guts to look to his expression for clues. Whatever he had expected, though, it wasn’t: "But you decided things like that would never happen again, didn’t you?"

"Yes," Hei could only say, not quite seeing the contents of his desk.

"Good. Good lad," Matsumoto said brusquely, and abruptly brought his hand down on Hei’s head to ruffle his hair – just like Hei had done to Sora to cause all this. "Then that’s what you should focus on, not the past. The past can’t be changed. What matters now is the future."

Sitting there, hunched forward under the pressure of Matsumoto’s hand, eyes bugging, Hei could almost physically feel his brain grind to a halt. Maybe if he focused really really hard on that sensation, it would make the rest of this conversation feel less surreal by comparison.

A pair of legs and an empty coffee mug entered Hei’s line of vision.

"Oh boy, Matsumoto broke our Contractor," Kouno said, like the hilarity of that was the most significant thing about this situation.

"Huh. Oops," Matsumoto said. He smoothed Hei’s hair back into place and gently squeezed his shoulder. "Young men are resilient, though. He’ll be fine. Right, Li-kun?"

Hei nodded, just once. His hair fell around his face, obscuring his expression from his coworkers.

With a gruff, pleased noise, Matsumoto gave his shoulder one last squeeze, and departed.

Hei called his name; heard his footsteps stop.

"It was just static electricity. Tell Sora to blow up a balloon, or take a wool sweater, and rub that over her hair," he said.

"Huh?"

"The trick I showed her." Finally, Hei looked up; just enough to send Matsumoto the faintest hint of a smile. "Static electricity. It’s simple. Anyone can do it."



PSAN: Hope you liked it!

李天 = Li Tian
松本天 = Matsumoto Sora
松本雄星 = Matsumoto Yuusei
李星 = Li Xing

And now here's hoping all that googling didn't lead me astray after all. 8D;;



Work Ethic
a.k.a. "that other DTB Office AU". :)
Three years after the Tokyo-Explosion-that-wasn't, Hei returns to Japan, where Misaki promptly arrests him - and recruits him to Section Four as their first openly acknowledged Contractor police officer. These are their stories. *DUN DUN*
Loosely inspired by the Office AU first thought up and written about by darkerthanevanescence, starrycontractor (here, here, and here), major-victory here and here), lolgirl607 (here and here), and tsuki-llama, who are all awesome and let me play in their sandbox.
Jet Black Flower, Origins/Gaiden and Gemini of the Meteor never happened in this 'verse and never will, though I might repurpose one or two things I liked from them.

Debts Are Like Children
‘The smaller they are, the more noise they make.’ When Hei learned that saying from a Peruvian mercenary back in the war, he hadn’t expected the noisy party to ever be the person who owed him money, though.
Many Hands Make Light Work
From a certain point of view, Hei is just a walking, talking phone charger with an appetite. His coworkers at Section Four notice. Hei almost wishes they didn’t. Almost.
From the Mouths of Babes
Contractors either make the best or the worst babysitters in the world. The jury's still out.

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