Sleepless Beauty

Mika slipped her nightdress on over her head, and shivered. Not from the sensual feel of the grey-blue silk sliding over her bare skin, for it had been ten years since wearing silk on a regular basis had been a novelty, but simply from the chill in the elegantly minimalist bedroom with its bare polished floors and blank white walls. She supposed she could have worn a rather more practical (and warm) garment than the scrap of strap-shouldered material, but if she had ceased to wear clothes like this just because there was no one there who would notice it then she would have stopped a long time before. She wore silk because that was who she was.

It was past two o’clock of a cold night, and her usual bed-warmer was on the other side of the planet. But she refused to think too much about that, because if she did she would only start to worry. Tohma would surely be all right – she knew how strong and capable he was – but it was at times like this when her mind liked to remind her of how vulnerable he could be at times. At times related to a certain other person. And when that other person had bolted for a cold city thousands of miles away and vanished without trace –

/Don’t think about it./

She hadn’t heard from her husband in two days, since that brief phone call to tell her he had arrived safely at New York, and was about to start checking hotels. He had sounded as calm and reassuring as ever, but she couldn’t forget the fearful expression of his usually shuttered eyes when he had left. As he had reassured her that nothing was more important than Eiri to him at the moment – as if she hadn’t known that already.

But there was nothing she could do, and worrying wouldn’t help her or anyone else. If anyone could find Eiri it would be Tohma, and she had to trust him. She was a practical woman, and knew that if she didn’t get some sleep soon she would be worse than useless at work tomorrow. Nobody needed a company director who looked and thought like one of the living dead. So she brushed the few knots from her obedient hair, braided it carefully so it wouldn’t annoy her when she lay down, and got into bed.

By an effort of will she forced her tense muscles to relax – a hot bath would have been nice, but it was rather too late now – and half an hour later had almost managed to convince her mind to stop chasing itself in circles. She was just skirting the edges of sleep, when her ears caught the slight snick of the lock on the front door of the apartment, and the faintest of swishing sounds as it swung open and closed again.

For a long moment she lay there, waiting for the light in the living room to turn on, or – if it was her husband as she hoped – for him to come through into the bedroom. But minutes past with no other sound, except the gradually increasing drum of her heart against her ribs. Softly, she got up, wrapped a satin dressing gown around herself, and carefully took the small handgun from the drawer of the bedside table. Both she and Tohma hated the thing – Tohma particularly, as he had had more than enough of hand guns six years ago – but hating guns and not owning them when one was a the head of a major company and married to a millionaire music idol were two entirely separate things.

Still, she kept it at her side rather than in front of her as she crept over to the door of the room. If it was Tohma, she didn’t want to frighten him half to death by appearing fully armed.

The living room was in near darkness, broken by the strange glimmering non-light of the street-lamps outside filtering through pale curtains, but she could make out a figure sitting silent in the gloom.

“Tohma?”

Her voice was a little uncertain, though it was difficult to imagine who else could have been sitting quietly in their darkened living room at three in the morning. Even more difficult to imagine anyone else with that artful mess of pale gold hair which somehow managed to catch any light in the room and shimmer with faint silvery lines.

Mika flicked on the light switch, and winced a little as the harsh whiteness assaulted her eyes. Her husband sat in one of the deep leather chairs, his small carry-on bag by his feet, his hat held gently between his hands. Mika looked at him with a concerned frown, and set the handgun on a side-table.

“What are you doing sitting here in the dark?” she asked, perhaps slightly warily, though the yawn which accompanied her words added to the sense of careful nonchalance. “Why didn’t you call and tell me you were coming back?”

He looked up at her with his usual sweet smile. “Gomen, Mika. I didn’t want to disturb you…” Then his turquoise eyes flickered back to the dark material clasped between his hands, and Mika had the odd feeling that she had ceased to exist to him.

“Why are you back so soon?” she asked, still standing by the doorway. “Did you find Eiri?”

Another flick of eyes in her direction. “I…briefly. I’m surprised he hasn’t called.”

“What happened?”

“Shindou-kun found him and persuaded him to come back.” His voice sounded no different from usual, but Mika’s grey-blue eyes widened, wondering how much it had cost him to say those plain words. “I think he was on his way to the airport when I saw him, so he probably beat me back.”

“Was…was he all right?”

“Better, I think. He seemed…better.”

The vagueness of his tone almost frightened her. He was normally so decisive in everything, not tolerating anything less than perfection from himself or anyone else. She took a half step towards him, then hesitated.

“I’m surprised he hasn’t called,” the fair-haired man murmured to himself. “But then, he’s probably getting reacquainted with –“

The end of the sentence was bitten off. And Mika would have asked what he meant, but she knew that if she did he would only turn to her with that bright, reassuring smile, and tell her kindly that it didn’t matter. And every time he did that it seemed to drive another icy needle into her.

“Would you like me to get some food ready for you?” she asked. “I know they never give you anything that approximates to genuine food on these long flights.” Bright, empty words, as bright and empty as his smiles.

“No thank you,” he replied with perfect politeness. He was always perfectly polite. “I’m really not hungry.”

“A drink?” She was rambling, and she hated herself for it. But she knew he was hurting, could even guess why, and knew that he would never let her help him in any way more than fetching food. She was his wife and his closest friend, but that had never meant too much. “At least let me find you some tea -”

“No!”

That was the iron control slipping for a brief second, narrowed eyes snapping up to catch her own, the word that same whiplash of sound which faced his employees on a daily basis but he scarcely ever used with her. And like them she cringed back, even as she berated herself. Then the cold blue-green eyes clouded with a passing shadow of weariness, and he pushed his glasses up to pinch the bridge of his nose. He always wore glasses for long haul flights, she knew, because the air-conditioning always dried out his contact lenses and made his eyes painful. He disliked the glasses for their discomfort and appearance – such weakness was not part of Seguchi Tohma’s carefully projected image – but for Mika they were always a little welcome. They reminded her of a strange bespectacled boy she had met more than twenty-five years before.

“I…thank you. I’m just a little tired, Mika,” he continued after a moment in which his eyes flitted shut. “I’m suffering through two lots of jet lag. I…just want to sleep.”

A brief pause. “Come to bed then,” she said softly, holding out her hand in a gesture of invitation. After a second in which Tohma seemed to look at it blankly, he stood up, and walked past her into the bedroom. He didn’t take her hand.

Mika frowned again, and nervously fiddled with a few strands of brown hair which had escaped from her plait. /I wish I didn’t know what was wrong…/

The fair-haired man sloughed off his dark green trousers, before folding them neatly and placing them on a chair. The same meticulous pattern followed with the forest-green jacket and the paler shirt – though his normally agile fingers fumbled over the cuff buttons. At last the vivid purple undershirt joined the meticulous pile, and, unselfconsciously naked, he reached for night clothes from a drawer. Mika stood in the doorway, watching yet not watching – this evening ritual was too familiar to warrant anything more. Tohma had never seemed to care whether she looked or not.

Pyjamas were put on with the same neat, precise movements as always – aqua silk veiling pale gold skin by inches as he meticulously fastened tiny buttons – but Mika half fancied she could see less of the man’s characteristically feline grace this night than usual. She could have put it down to his tiredness, but she knew him better than that. And she knew better than to comment on it.

So she took off her dressing gown, draping it neatly over a chair as long years of living with him had taught her, and pushed back the crisp white sheets of the bed, sliding in without saying a word. Tohma sat down on the opposite edge with perfect control, no wearily throwing himself down between the welcoming covers, before swinging his legs up and lying down on his side, facing away from her.

Mika flicked off the bedside lamp, and lay in the half-darkness gazing at the back of the fair head a few inches from her own. The electric orange light snaked through a gap in the imperfectly closed curtains, dyeing the night a faintly lurid hue and illuminating the hunched curl of her husband’s spine above the line of sheet.

Soundlessly, Mika shifted a little closer to him – not intimately close, nor intrusively – just enough that she could feel the warmth from his skin and knew he could feel hers, and that her bare arms brushed watery silk. She knew he was not asleep, no matter how tired he might claim to be. The tensely unhappy feeling in the air told her that much, and Tohma was never one blessed with easy sleep at the best of times. She had woken more times than she could remember in the small hours of the morning to find the bed beside her empty, and heard the softest strains of the piano from within the imperfectly soundproofed music room.

She half wondered why he had not turned to the instrument the moment he got back. When he got this bad, it seemed to be the only thing that could calm him, soothing his turbulent mind as she had never quite been able. She had never before known him to have a problem that music could not help.    

With infinite softness, she touched her fingers to the white-gold strands of his hair. The minutes of silence stretched out through the cool air, and he didn’t react to her touch.

“He went back to Shindou-kun, didn’t he.”

No need to specify who ‘he’ was. The presence of that ‘he’ hung heavy over her husband’s slim form as he lay there, just as he always hovered between them. She could not blame her brother – she loved him too much for that – but sometimes she half wondered if Eiri knew just how much power he had over her husband.

There was a long moment of quiet, as she continued to gently card her fingers through golden hair. Below their window the occasional car was a distant rush of sound, a brief gleam of pale light travelling across the wall and away.  

“He thinks he doesn’t need me any more.”

The answer was breathed softly, in much the same tones as he used every day. No melodrama or tears over the man he had devoted his life to for perhaps more than twenty years. Just that same calm softness as always.

“He’s found that boy, and he thinks he doesn’t need me. But he has to. He…he’s always needed me.”

Mika could almost have imagined she heard the faintest of doubts in those last words – impossible, that the ever controlled, ever confident Seguchi Tohma should have doubts, but the slight tremor told otherwise. So Mika didn’t voice the thought that maybe Eiri had needed him because he had only been a child, in need of help and protection, and then a boy on the verge of adulthood in need of support and healing. And that now Eiri was grown, and had found a life away from such dependence.

Instead, she continued that gentle stroking of silken strands, allowing her forehead to rest slightly against the warm shoulder.

“He’ll always need a friend he can trust like you,” she said quietly. “You know him better than anyone else. He’ll understand that some day.”

Another lengthy pause, during which she felt the tense muscles of the man’s back begin to relax a fraction, and heard his breathing deepen a little.

“He has to need me…” came the whisper from the darkness, soft with the edge of sleep. “He has to…”

Mika stayed there, gently touching golden hair, until she felt him slip away. Only then did she wrap a protective arm around his waist, and closed her eyes.