Title: Fallen Hero
Pairing: Renzo/Tatsuya (one-sided, as in canon)
Other: So. This was inevitable. The Fallen Hero trope describes, well, a hero who has fallen to darkness. It's a pretty old, pretty popular theme, and some heroes just mold themselves to it. Canon Tatsuya is about an inch away from this on his bad days, so it's no inconceivable he could fall off the edge at any point. In fact, it's pretty likely. It's amazing he's still a good guy. However, in this, he's twisted and kind of fucked up in the head.
The first time he gave in, it was hard.
He didn't know what it was, but it seemed like a voice that was telling him that the world had hurt him, why not hurt it back? Too many people had struck near him and at him for too long for him to feel bad when he inevitably snapped on Hibiki, after his squad captured her.
Literally. She was one of his sister's assassins, so he strangled her with the thick green vines that sprouted from his wrists. No one else was there to hear her muffled choking sounds or see her struggle.
He threw her body in a cell for the guards to deal with, unable to think of it.
After that, it got easier and easier.
Cold dual-coloured eyes glared out at the runner who dared defy his will. How dare he run away from Mist? Being caught by him doing that made his life forfeit.
The Jounin stared at him, defiant but clearly scared. A fresh one, Tatsuya estimated. Once they passed their Jounin exam, they thought they were invincible and ready to take on the world.
"There are much worse things than me out there," he said softly, words dripping from his tongue like slick poison. He drew his spear. "But you will never see any of them."
His first strike caught the teen in the shoulder, nearly severing a vital artery already. Blood spurted out in thick red streams. The second blow went to his windpipe, cutting off a protest or perhaps a plead to be gentle, the third to his knees to keep him from running, knocking him to the ground in front of the Sennin, blood leaking out his throat and shoulder.
"Don't bother trying to speak. You'll only hurt your chances of living." Tatsuya's tone was cold as the teen struggled to his knees, unable to stand any higher. He knelt down, staring into scared eyes with his own unnatural ones.
They all asked that.
"Defying Mist is defying Renzo-sama. I won't allow that."
What would he say if he were there now?
Probably "Tatsuya, stop!"
He pulled back the spear. His captive stared, confused and scared.
He wouldn't want me to kill someone like this. He wouldn't have wanted me to kill Hibiki, either.
His eyes narrowed. In the old days, he would have said it wasn't worth it and simply hauled the criminal back to the Barracks. Somebody else's problem.
This wasn't the old days. He stabbed, the blade going through the teen's heart. He fell to the ground limp and unresisting, blood pooled around him. Tatsuya pulled his spear free and wiped it on a patch of moss.
No point playing anymore.
He glanced at Renzo, who was now seated across from him at the same café table.
"Ren?" His voice was even as ever, with the slight hint of a question. Never feign innocence, it doesn't work.
A slightly confused look. "What have you even been doing lately? I've heard things."
He shrugged, reaching forward to toy with his teacup. "Just my duties, as you request." He didn't really have any nervous habits, but knew how to fake a lot of the common ones to look like he did.
Renzo frowned a little. "I have something else for you to do. People have been turning up missing. I haven't seen you or any one of your people put a report on runners lately. Are the guards doing their jobs?"
Silence. Tatsuya's hand coiled back from the cup, as he was determined not to freeze. That indicated guilt. Unfortunately, so did staring at your drink instead of the person speaking.
"I don't want you to go the way of your predecessor. You're much better than this."
"Yes," he said quietly. "I'll get the reports recorded, of course."
"Good. See that you do," the smile was back, but by the time Tatsuya dared look back up he was gone.
There were a lot of files marked with the 'killed in action' sticker now he was done filing the run reports. None of them were tagged with the old Missing status tag and rank marker. It'd be difficult to explain, for sure. At least he was the only one who could access most of these...
Almost the only one. But this one he didn't mind.
"Ren," he turned and acknowledged his friend with a light smile.
"I see there's a lot of kill marks on the files." It could have been an idle observation, but it made Tatsuya still nonetheless.
"Were you watching me file?" There was a false level of emotion there, curiosity to overshadow the worry.
A shrug. "It isn't a problem. I know you don't like runners. Just try to bring some back alive for the arena, okay Tatsuya?"
"As you wish," he inclined his head. Whatever you say.
He was the only one skilled enough to handle this particular opponent in the arena. He had been told to draw it out, make it a spectacle. He detested spectacles.
I'll kill him quickly. No point drawing it out just for a crowd.
This didn't account for the man being somewhat difficult. Or who it was.
"Edge," he hissed, rage coursing through his veins at the sight of the other man. There was no mistaking that tousled grey hair and those acid blue eyes, almost glowing even in the early afternoon light. Nor was there any mistaking that razor smirk, even though he had to know that regardless of the outcome, he would die.
"Hey kid," was the easy tone of a voice burned into his memory. "They actually think you're good enough to handle me? Funny, last time I saw you, you were all tied up and couldn't even talk."
Tatsuya's gaze narrowed to razor intensity. Tied up and gagged, you mean.
"I am going to take you apart piece by piece," he didn't even recognize his own voice. It sounded hard and cold.
For the first time he could recall in his life, the mocking smirk faltered on his enemy's face and the blue eyes dimmed a little.
"She was right," he muttered, transmuting his arm into a water sword, "you could be worse than her."
He was. Somewhere on the edge of his consciousness, he knew that, but he couldn't stop now.
"That was pretty brutal." He didn't even blink or turn around at that voice now. Being the Mizukage meant you could get into a lot of places, after all.
"I'm sorry you had to watch." He was. He didn't want Renzo to see him like that, when his rage took over like it did all too often these days.
"It's okay, Tatsuya. I trust you had your reasons." The blond perched on the bench and patted the seat next to him. Tatsuya hesitated, then set down his bloody weaponry and sat in the offered spot.
"I...did. I knew him." He couldn't quite meet Renzo's warm gaze.
He stifled a gasp at the arm that went around his shoulder. This was...
"You don't have to explain. I should have asked you first." There was no reprimand in Renzo's voice, only understanding. "You were the only one I knew could handle someone that skill."
You have faith in me...thank you.
"Yes, I know," he murmured, just enjoying the feeling of Renzo's arm around his shoulders, even knowing it was meant as an entirely platonic gesture of friendship. "I don't blame you. I should have told you sooner."
"I'm not going to push you to tell me things, Tatsuya. Just next time we'll both have to be more open with each other to prevent that sort of scene again." He was released as the blond stood and sat for a second, imprinting the touch in his memory.
"You're not going to punish me?" The scene had been fairly disturbing. Something at the back of his mind nagged him that most of the crowd wouldn't have been comfortable seeing exactly how much blood was in a human body, especially by seeing it splattered all over the arena. He ignored it.
"No. You're forgiven," and now Renzo sounded a little amused. "Why do you always think I'm going to punish you?"
Tatsuya ducked his head. "It's just what I'm still used to."
"Well, we'll have to train you out of that." He felt a hand on his shoulder and looked up. "Now get changed and cleaned up, you're on duty in a half hour."
"As you wish, Ren," he was aware the expression on his face could have been described as 'blissful,' but didn't care.
"There he is."
"Is that really him?"
"Can't be him. He doesn't walk in public."
"Shh! He'll hear you!"
Everywhere he walked the whispers came. At first Tatsuya dismissed them entirely. They couldn't be talking about him. He'd already had a reputation, he couldn't have changed it that much. Why would people be afraid of him? He protected the village, didn't he? He hadn't let a missing nin or runner go once he caught them in ages.
But then. No one ran anymore.
He reached his apartment and threw his bag into the corner, making Tokiya jump. He sighed as he sat down on the couch, his brother having long since moved onto a cot at night.
"It's just me."
"Yeah." Tokiya fidgeted. He looked like he wanted to run away. "Uh. Niisan?"
"Mm?" Tatsuya mentally debated whether to pull out a book or grab a drink first.
"Did you...really...I mean?" A gold eye cracked open to stare at the speaker, who'd never had an issue with finding words before. This only seemed to make him more nervous, and the whole sentence tumbled out in a rush. "Did you really rip Edge apart in the arena?"
"Yes." Flatly. No explanation, and no apology. He didn't understand why anyone was making a production of it. It wasn't as if the man hadn't deserved it, and worse. His screams had been nothing compared to what he'd made others endure.
"I hoped that wasn't you." Tokiya was still fidgeting. "Why?"
"It was necessary." He tilted his head to level a glare. "That's enough."
Shocked aqua eyes stared back at him. He never told his little brother to shut up, no matter how long he went on for. "O-okay," Tokiya mumbled, sliding down to the opposite end of the couch and pressing himself to the armrest. Tatsuya didn't notice.
"Suzaku to Delta. Could you please come here for a minute? I'm in my office."
Tatsuya paused and flipped on his headset. "On my way. Delta out." He glanced at the AiTs he was training, all of whom looked worn out and exhausted. "Dismissed. Do your exercises, we'll pick it up in three days."
The Monolith was as cold and impersonal as ever. It made Tatsuya wonder how anyone could work in the place normally, but right now he appreciated the fact that no one there gave him a second look. He was perfectly allowed to be there; even if he hadn't been the Kage's bodyguard he was still a Sennin.
He pushed open the door to Renzo's office easily. The water flowing around the edges lapped gently.
Renzo glanced up at him from his paperwork and seemed to relax. "Yes. Tatsuya, I need you to--"
"Who are you talking to?"
Tatsuya whirled around to come face to face with the Sixth, who was looking at him with a raised eyebrow. He scowled.
"Do you mind? You shouldn't be walking into private meetings."
Enzan hesitated, then stepped into the room. As if sensing him, the neon glow of the walls shifted to purple. "...with who?"
"Ren called me." He indicated the desk, but there was no one there. He stared. Hadn't Renzo been there a second ago?
Now the look he was getting was one of slow understanding. "He can't have."
"Why not? Where is he?" Tatsuya dipped his fingers in the water, wondering if he'd just turned to water to avoid Enzan. They'd never gotten along, after all.
"He isn't here," getting a patient tone from him of all people was infuriating. "You know that."
He glared. "Only because you came in."
Enzan sighed. "Tatsuya, it's been...how long? You need to--"
"Rokudaime-sama. Are you attending the meeting?" Setsuko had appeared right outside the door, as silently as ever. Both of them turned to look at her, Tatsuya's forehead creased in confusion.
"Why are you calling him that?" he demanded of her. "Why aren't you trying to find Renzo-sama?"
"I'll be right there. Give me a minute," Enzan shooed the secretary, who obligingly glided away down the hallway. "Tatsuya...Renzo isn't here."
"Then where is he?" he grabbed the other man's shoulders, nearly shaking him. "Why is everyone acting like they don't care where he is? What's going on?"
"Sit down." He was steered to a chair with surprising strength. "When was the last time you spoke to him, before he called you here?"
"It was..." he gave it some thought. "A few days ago. After the arena fight."
Enzan winced. "Right, that. So you've been speaking to him regularly, then?"
"The same as ever," for some reason, Tatsuya felt off-balance, as if he was missing something vital. "Why?"
His face contorted, as if he had bad news that hurt him to tell. "Tatsuya...Renzo's been dead for eight months."
There was a strange buzzing sound in his ears. His own voice sounded so far away. "What? No...we got back from Leaf, and..."
"No." There was a hand on his arm, as if to comfort him. "You got back from Leaf. You broke down crying over his body. We had to restrain you to keep you from going back out there and getting yourself killed avenging him. You spent two weeks under bindings in the Sanatorium. Remember?"
That didn't sound right. His head was swimming, he couldn't focus. "I've been talking to him..."
"I guess you've been hallucinating," Enzan said softly. "You must have repressed the memories..."
"No!" He pushed out, knocking the walker over and taking off down the hallway, running blindly down the steps and out the door, across the city...
"Tatsuya...take my body home, huh? And don't get yourself killed...I'd rather at least one of us live..."
He tripped over a root in the ground and fell flat on his face into the dirt. He lay where he fell, panting, for a few moments before picking himself up. He moved forward unsteadily, slower now, and fell to his knees by a fairly new, large, elaborate gravestone.
"Ren," his voice was hoarse. "I..."
He couldn't finish a thought. His fingers reached out blindly to brush the tombstone, trace the characters etched onto it.
What have I been doing all this time?
He struggled to his feet, swaying slightly, and looked out into the mist, as if he'd been hallucinating now instead of before. No one approached him, no comforting hallucinations appeared.
Then...I need to make this right. I'll get the ones who did this, and whoever else stands in my way.
His state of mind since he'd gotten back and the way everyone walked on eggshells around him suddenly made sense. They were afraid he'd fall off the edge, snap and go on a killing spree or some nonsense like that. Ridiculous.
Not in Mist. Renzo wouldn't have wanted that.
He reached out to brush the gravestone again. "I'll avenge you," he said quietly, in the same tone he'd once vowed to protect the same person. "I swear it."