omnicat: (for Darker than Black)
Omnicat ([personal profile] omnicat) wrote2017-07-12 07:35 pm

FIC: And Many Happy Returns [Darker than Black, Amber x Hei & a Kid]

Title: And Many Happy Returns
Author: Omnicat
Spoilers & Desirable Foreknowledge: Tensai Okamura & co’s Darker than Black: the Black Contractor anime.
Characters & Relationships: Hei x Amber & a kid
Summary: There was a time when he looked more like an old pervert with every year they spent together. // 1568 words
Author’s Note: Enjoy!

And Many Happy Returns

There was a time when he looked more like an old pervert with every year they spent together. It never failed to make her smile; someone would say something, or look at them wrong, she would wink, and he wouldn’t dodge the slap to his ass he knew was coming, because he loved the smooth, satisfied swing it put to her hips to make him look like a cradle robber. While they could have done without the attention, he can’t deny it amused him too, because ha. Him.

He still remembers the day he first met her (which was not, as it turned out, the first time she met him); nearly twice his age, but more importantly to him at the time, as distant and empty and alien as the moonless night. Remembers the first time she kissed him, he almost eight centimeters taller and she down at least five years already. Remembers the first time he touched her; how, in retrospect, it felt like he’d barely even known how to touch himself before she showed him.

"We never got looks like this in the war," he had complained once, jokingly, and she’d countered: "We were surrounded by Contractors. Even if we’d given them the opportunity to, they wouldn’t have bothered any more than I would have stopped."

"I just don’t think you’ve gotten your fair share of grief as the indecently old one in this relationship, young lady," he had said, tapping the tip of her nose.

And she’d smiled and said, "All part of my master plan," as if the fact that she was alive at all, was born twice from two different mothers, thirty-seven years apart, wasn’t entirely down to a fluke of pseudo-sentient Gate physics.

Seventy-nine years old; forty-two years old; countless days and months and years more yet behind her eyes, timeline upon timeline rewound and overwritten; while at the same time, who knew how many years had been shaved off of her body as a result.

"It’s impolite to ask a lady about her age," she says whenever the question comes up, because she doesn’t look forty-two, and she’s long since stopped counting or caring.

Well, almost. They celebrated the first two times she discovered, and rediscovered, undeniable crow’s feet – "I’ve never made it this far before! It’s an achievement." – and even though it had bought them all their lives and freedom, she’d mourned the loss when the stripes on her belly receded.

But mostly, she combines the strength still abundant in her limbs, which they can count on even when his aging joints fail him, with a practical appreciation for the fact that these days, people no longer mistook her for his stepdaughter.

Or their daughter for his grandchild.

Now, every time he wakes up in the morning and finds her still beside him, her breathing deep and even in sleep, he takes a moment to study the little lines in her face. Every morning that she is as he left her the night before is a victory, an unspoken promise of safety. Of good health. Of clean hands. Of peace.

Nothing drives away the dark clouds of his dreams like waking up to the knowledge that she’s growing older right along with him. And it’s been more than ten years since she last got any younger.

He’s studying her like he does every morning when she mumbles, voice thick with sleep, "If you’re awake enough to stare, you’re awake enough to close the curtains."

"That’s right," he says, not moving.

"And if you’re awake enough to joke, you’re awake enough to go online and buy me one of those sleep masks you see in movies."

"That is also, technically, correct."

"I love you too, you know," she says around a yawn, and turns away from him and the beam of light falling across her face through a crack in the curtains that hadn’t been there last night. The breeze coming in through the open window must have blown them apart while they were sleeping again. "But in an hour or two."

Smiling, he leans over and kisses her cheek. "I know. See you then."


He closes the curtains on his way out.

The bathroom mirror shows none of the abundant silver creeping back into his hair yet today, though he knows he’ll have to dye it again soon. He trims the little beard that masks the lines around his mouth and the slow but inevitable loosening of his jawline. As far as the calendars can tell, they sport a difference of twenty-two years, nine months, and change. But the right grooming choices can bring that down considerably.

He’s sixty-four, now. Straightforward enough, though a good fifty years more than he ever thought he’d see – during the war or after, with the Syndicate or out of it. It’s only in the last decade or so that he’s started to feel like all those years weren’t just some huge mistake that the universe could catch onto and correct at any moment.

He must really be getting old.

He has never been kind to his body, so time isn’t kind to him; his joints are worn and old wounds ache. There are treatments now that can turn any scar tissue back into healthy, unmarred flesh and bone. But like most Gate-derived technologies, seeking them out would draw attention that they take care to avoid. His metabolism has yet to betray him like people have been telling him his whole life it would, though, and while he makes sure to stay in fighting shape, there’s been no need for years and years to punish himself the way he used to.

The world just doesn’t care that much about them anymore. It has fresher fish to fry.

Somewhere in the world, stars no doubt keep falling, and lives like theirs are debated like nature show curiosities. But here, all that reaches them of that friction and conflict is a quiet knock on the bathroom door, and a whispered voice filled with excitement over a date they picked at random, that doesn’t really mean anything but what they’ve chosen it to mean.

"Pa, you done yet? Mama will wake up before we’re done if you don’t hurry!"

(Fourteen. Healthy, strong, clever. Happy. Her idea. Her insistence.

"Hei," she’d said, and that had told him right away how serious she was. He hadn’t gone by that name for almost twenty years before she found him again, and certainly not after. "I know how much you’ve lost, and how much you doubt yourself. And I know you realize that seeing through what we started in South America means I intend to live a long, long time, during which I will have the opportunity to experience more things, more often, than either of us can probably imagine. But I don’t think you realize I’ll only ever once get to have you. I want you for as long as I can have you, in as many ways as I can have you. And that includes this way."

As the father of her child. A Contractor’s child. His child. He doesn’t think he could ever thank her enough for talking him into that miracle of lunacy.

Thankfully, he doesn’t have to.)

He leaves the bathroom for his daughter to use, and spends the time she’s holed up in there to brew tea, pre-heat the oven, and review the night’s security footage.

"What do you think," he asks, casually switching to a webpage full of sleep masks and showing that to her when she joins him in the kitchen. "Should I get your mother the black one with the green eyelashes or the fruity pattern one? It’s too late to get it as a birthday gift now, but the curtains blowing open always bothers her in the mornings."

"Put snap fasteners on the curtains. Or, you know, close the window," she says, rolling her eyes while she rolls up her sleeves. "Or install roller shutters."

"And make the house look like a fortress? Nah. A well-ventilated bedroom is better for your health anyway," he informs her for the umpteenth time. "But fasteners aren’t a half bad idea. I think I’ll look into that."

"After we bake Mama’s birthday cake."

"After we bake your mother’s birthday cake," he agrees.

It’s going to be a big cake. He’s bought a hundred candles.

"Hey." He kneels by the side of the bed, in the dark, heedful of his bad knee, and brushes her hair away from her face. There’s a gnarly old scar near her hairline, hidden beneath her bangs. He traces it with his thumb. "You done with your beauty sleep yet?"

"Depends," she mumbles, leaning into his touch like a cat.

"Happy birthday."

Slowly, smiling lazily, she blinks her eyes open and into focus. "Hm, is it?"

"It better be. We’ve been slaving over it for almost two hours."

"How old am I turning, then?"

"How old do you feel?"

She reaches out to draw him in and nuzzle into the crook of his neck. "Like the luckiest girl in the world."

"Then we’re of an age for once, because I feel like the world’s luckiest guy." He lowers his voice – habit – and smiles, well aware of how silly it is. "Amber."

"Okay," she says, and looks at him like that name is the greatest gift he could have given her. "Sounds good."

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