Title of the work: A Wish, A Spark
Rating of the work: PG
Recipient of the work: XianaAsuka
Series the work is for: Ressha Sentai ToQger
Spoiler warnings: Vague spoilers through episode 38.
Any warnings/kinks/advertisements: Allusions to past torture but nothing graphic
Summary: After all the fighting is done, it ends where it started, at a festival, with Zett wanting Right. This is a post-series AU written after episode 39 came out; vague spoilers through episode 38 are present.
A Wish, A Spark
Right's lips are warm under his, slightly chapped. They stiffen as Zett leans closer—all of Right's body stiffens, his shoulders hunching, his hands clenching into fists.
Zett should have been prepared for the strike. He probably should have been able to dodge it, if he had understood what was happening, but he was so wrapped up in the delicious shimmering of Right's body that he hadn't been paying attention.
He raises his hand automatically, intending to strike back.
Right scrambles away, both hands raised in a fighting stance, lips pulled back in a snarl.
Zett stops, blinking, staring at the man across from him. Right hasn't looked at him with so much anger and disdain since Before. Since Zett was the ruler of the Shadow Line, the embodiment of darkness, and Right was his counterpart. What—
"Don't you ever." Right's voice is shaking with emotion, his teeth still showing in a feral white line. "Do not ever, ever touch me without my permission."
"But..." Zett reaches out with his right hand, then hesitates as Right takes a frantic step back. "Everyone else touches you all the time. And you touch them. And you were touching my shoulder before. And kissing is supposed to be—"
"It's supposed to be between two people who care about each other. Love each other. Want to do it with each other. Two people, not one." Right slowly relaxes from his fighting stance, though the anger doesn't fade from his face. "Did I look like I was enjoying it?"
"No." Zett crosses his arms in front of his chest, feeling a pout start to form on his own lips. "But I wanted to, and—"
Right raises both hands again in a clear gesture for Zett to stop. The dark red sleeves of his kimono slide down, revealing pale arms criss-crossed by tiny scars. Scars that Zett gave him, scars that are a pale white when Right is happy and that seem to flare into vivid red life whenever he's upset. Bleeding still, perhaps, a reminder that Zett would rather not have about things he has done before.
When Right speaks, his voice is flat, carefully controlled. "Don't. I just... no. I can't do this right now, not with you."
Right takes another step back, his foot sliding slightly as he angles his way down the mountain, toward the festival that they walked away from not five minutes ago. "I'm going to go get Hikari or Akira or Mio. I'll send them up. They'll take you around for the rest of the night, okay?"
"But I want—"
Right isn't listening to him, though. Right has turned and is hurrying down the path, his arms once again covered by the sleeves of his kimono.
"But I want you." Zett growls out the words, his own hands clenching into fists as he watches the ToQger run from him.
For a moment he studies the festival from his vantage point, the morass of humans and sounds and lights just starting to show radiant in the twilight. His right hand stretches out, almost of its own volition, and he watches darkness pool in his hand.
It would have been easy, once, to eradicate the whole festival. All he would have had to do is will it, and darkness would have stretched down from him, encapsulated the people, swallowed them and their joy whole. Given them to him, to devour as he pleased.
Except it wouldn't have been whole. The part that he wanted, the part that he yearned for, as he never knew anyone could yearn, would have evaded him. The bright flare of love, the sparkling twinkle of joy, the steady glimmer of faith, the shivering rainbows of hope, they would have disappeared rather than become a part of Zett, lost forever in the shifting hues of black that were his birth-right.
Clenching his hand shut, Zett calls the power back inside. Even if he wanted to, he wouldn't be able to destroy the festival now. The final battles between the Shadow Line and the ToQgers had seen to that, leeching and leashing Zett's power until he was no stronger than a petty Shadow.
No stronger than a Shadow, but, like a Shadow, able to walk in the light. Able to stand under the sun, and though he is more comfortable in the twilight that had been and the deepening dusk that now descends it is glorious to sit under the light of the sun and not feel it flaying his very being. Pressing on him, yes, pressuring him, yes, rejecting in a way, a flood of pain through his head and discomfort on his skin, but not destroying.
He can see the light, because of Right.
He can exist here, wrapped in his human shape and watching a human festival, because of Right.
His cheek hurts, his lip is swelling, and he is alone in the dark away from the clatter of human cheerfulness because of Right.
Settling down on his heels, Zett waits as patiently as he can, hoping that whatever ToQger comes to claim him—to guard him, to watch him, to ensure that they made no catastrophic mistake in letting him live—will be able to explain what he has done wrong.
It isn't one of the ToQgers who comes, though. The figure that strides up the path toward him in a white kimono with black animal patterning is not the person he expected to see, or necessarily wanted to, but he supposes she will be a good one to ask about adjusting to the human world.
Grita smiles when she sees him, quickening her pace. "Zett. Already getting into trouble again, huh?"
Zett glowers at the woman, though he knows it won't intimidate her. They spent too long together—truly together, in a way that few others could understand—for her to fear his looks. "I don't understand what happened."
"You upset Right." She says it simply, almost flippantly, as though it were the most obvious thing in the world. "And given that it's you, and his tendency to forgive just about anything, I'd say it was because you were being selfish. Again."
"I am not selfish!" Rising to his full height, Zett glares at the woman.
"You're made of selfish." Grita stares right back at him, clearly unintimidated. "You want everything, even things that can't be taken. Even things that have to be offered."
Zett's hand rises to cover his heart, a gesture he has made often since Grita was ripped free from him. He remembers the burn of her light, a shimmering, shining presence that he could touch but not consume, destroy but not own. "Why?"
"Because if it's not offered, it's not real." Grita walks up to stand beside him, turns so that she, too, is surveying the festival that now twinkles and glitters like magic in the deepening dark. "You can't steal or demand or force light to come to you, Zett. If you try, you can destroy it, but you can't claim it."
Zett's eyes scan over the twinkling lantern-lights, the row of fire that illuminates flashes of color from the humans. "They trick love and devotion out of each other all the time. If they didn't, we never would have been able to do... what we did."
Grita follows his gaze, silent for so long he almost thinks she won't speak. Then she sighs. "They feel light and dark. They walk a line somewhere between us and the rainbows. And yes, there are some who will try to trick others into giving them light. But it still has to be given, don't you see? It's still coming from someone else, not being ripped out of them."
"Why can't it be taken like darkness?" Turning away from the festival, Zett paces farther up the trail, away from the festival and all its frustrations. "We never asked to take their pain, their horror, their fear. We just took it."
"Darkness sweeps outward. Pain is easy to recognize, hard to disguise, and the darkness we harvested was all built on pain. Physical, mental, emotional. Light..." Grita pauses again, clearly groping for words. "Light can be easy to miss. Like... like looking up at the stars. And the blackness of the background is so obvious, but you can miss a tiny little light if you're not looking in the right direction, if you're not paying enough attention."
Zett glances up, at the stars that he loves seeing, tiny pin-pricks of burning joy. "There's so many stars it would be hard to miss that all of them exist."
"And that's what people are like, too. There's so many good things—small good things, little bits of light—that it's impossible to miss all of them, though it's certainly possible to miss any single one of them." Grita smiles, skipping up beside him. "We're here because of their light, after all. Their compassion. Their kindness. Their willingness to overlook... a great deal."
A snort of derision escapes Zett. "You were already half ToQger before they stole you."
"I stole Mio's body." Grita's voice is quiet, her hands clasping together in front of her. "I... had a reason, but it was still a terrible thing to do. And I tried to kill you. To destroy you. I am a Shadow, Zett, a creature born of darkness. I understand how hard it can be to find the light."
"But you did." The words come out half-plea, half-growl as he kicks a bit of foliage out of his way, his white pants almost glowing in the darkness. "You learned how to love, all on your own. While I schemed and stewed and simpered about what I wanted, you managed to grab it, to make it yours. You saved Right, when I wanted to..."
To make him a part of Zett, to own him, to encompass him, to have that shining, shivering, sublime light as his own.
"You didn't destroy me." Grita watches him evenly. "You could have, at any point, but you didn't."
"I wanted what you had. What you were."
"Yes." She nods, and there is the faintest shiver that runs down her back, a break in her composure. "But you didn't destroy me. And you're here. They clearly thought there was something worthwhile in you. Enough of a chance that it was worth letting you live."
Zett halts as they come to the edge of the path, the peak of the mountain, a panorama of sky and city and dark woods opening before them. "They did."
They let him live, though he tortured one of their own, tried his best to break the man so he could own the light.
They let him live, though he is the embodiment of everything they fought, darkness given flesh and voice and wanting.
They let him live, and he wants, so desperately, to be worthy of that. To be worthy of the light, to have some of it for his own. "I kissed him."
"Ah." Grita's sigh is mournful but not surprised. "That would explain his actions and your face."
"He's so..." Zett raises his hand to the stars, closing his fist on the darkness that separates him from them. "He's so bright. And he was smiling, seemed so happy to have me here, and he had his hand on my shoulder and he brought me out here to see the festival from above and that's what you do, right, if you're human and with someone that you want? You kiss them."
"Only if they want it, too." Grita's hand reaches out to touch his gently, bringing his clenched fist down between them. "Remember what I said about light being about giving, not taking? You make yourself vulnerable. You don't make him vulnerable. You let him say no. You let him pull away. You don't make him accept your offer."
"They do on the television. In the books." Zett can hear the petulance in his own voice.
"Because humans walk the line between dark and light, and they don't always post sign-posts about which side they're on. But you know." She taps a finger against his chest. "Would the Emperor of Darkness force a kiss, or wait to see if it was wanted?"
Zett closes his eyes. "You know the answer to that."
"I do. So does Right." Grita takes a step back. "And this is his response to that."
"But I am the Emperor of Darkness."
"Not anymore." Grita shrugs. "And if you're really serious about liking Right, about wanting to be with him, you'll figure out what being Zett means, instead. Now come on. Let's go back before they come looking for us, to make sure we're not trying to take over the world again or some such."
He follows her back down the forest path, into the light and the press of human voices, human scents, human desires.
The heroes are waiting for them. Right stays away from him, on the opposite side of the group, and though Zett wants to press his way through the other ToQgers and confront their leader the press of Grita's hand on his and a glare from Hikari convince him that patience is the best policy, at least for the moment.
He is surprised to find that he enjoys himself, too. It isn't the same as when he was wandering with Right, being with the entire group, but it's fun. It's a joy to watch Mio knock down cans to win Kagura a stuffed toy. It's exciting to watch Akira frown as he carefully tries to scoop up a tiny squirming goldfish in a scoop that starts disintegrating as soon as it touches water. It's a strange buzz of humor and confusion to watch Hikari and Tokacchi try on masks—to watch Tokacchi's face as he sidles up to Zett, mask in hand, and stutters out a suggestion that Zett try it on.
There is joy and camaraderie and light to be found in each member of the group, a rainbow glow to the whole, and though it isn't as heady and exhilarating as Right himself, Zett finds that he loves it all the same.
It's only when the night is drawing to a close that Zett breaks through the disapproving stares of the other ToQgers to approach Right. Zett will be going with Akira; Right will be going to his own place. If Zett doesn't talk to Right now, he doesn't know when he will get another chance to.
"Right." He wants to reach out, to grab hold of Right's shoulder and keep him in place and make sure that he listens carefully. His hand twitches toward Right, but the rising tension in Right's shoulders, the narrowing of his eyes, gives Zett the strength needed to control himself.
It's hard. It's one of the hardest things he's ever done, restraining what he wants, resisting the urge to act.
It's worth it, though, to watch Right relax, slowly but surely, confusion replacing trepidation in his eyes. "Yes?"
"I'm sorry." Zett faces the leader of the ToQgers squarely. "For earlier this evening. For... everything before. I'm sorry. I will try not to be as selfish in the future."
Right blinks, and then gives a strained half-chuckle, rubbing at the back of his neck. "I... accept your apology. Thank you."
Zett nods. When it seems Right won't say anything else, he turns away, intending to follow Akira away.
"Wait." Right's hand closes around Zett's wrist. "Before you go..."
Zett doesn't know how humans manage to speak without words, but the rest of the ToQgers shift away, just slightly—far enough to give them privacy, near enough to intervene if needed.
"I enjoyed the start of the night." Right's head tilts to the side, his lips twisting in an expression that Zett finds hard to read. "It was nice. Like when we first met, but with you being a little... older. Still excited about everything, and loving everything, but not..."
Zett tilts his own head, not understanding what Right means. "Not what?"
"Ahhhh..." Right blows out a frustrated sigh. "You can be amazing. You can be intent and excited and kind of adorable. But then sometimes you get all... caught up in what you want, and how to get it, and you don't care about who you're hurting. Like when you were Emperor. When you hurt my friends and you hurt the world and you hurt..."
Zett looks down at the hand that's holding him, at the scars just visible on the wrist.
"You hurt me." Right also stares down at the scars. "Repeatedly. In lots of different ways."
"I know." Lifting his eyes from Right's hand to his face, Zett swallows. "Grita said it was selfish of me to do what I did. I think... I have been selfish for a very long time."
"Yeah." Right laughs, and though there is still a nervous edge to it it's a more normal sound. "You have been. How could you not be? It's what they all wanted of you. To be the Emperor who would rule the world. Can't get more selfish than that. But I think... there's more to you than that."
"I would like to think so, too." He would like to think that he can have the light, now, that it can do more than burn and hurt and tantalize him. That he can be more than just a creature of darkness, more than just a moth burning itself to death on the light it can never hold.
"So give me some time. Learn how to be human. Win over some of the others." Right glances to where the rest of the ToQgers are gathered. "Because Hikari still thinks we were stupid to let you live."
Zett follows Right's glance, takes the full force of Hikari's angry glare in stride. There are no depths of anger that Hikari can find that Zett hasn't already explored as Emperor of Darkness.
Though the reasons Hikari finds himself there, the desire to protect, the love of a friend... Zett would very much like to find those steps, that light-path down to darkness.
"If you can do that..." Right shrugs. "Maybe one day... I won't want to shove you away for kissing me."
Zett raises his free hand to his chest, to where the burning ache resides, and stares down at the ground in wonder.
It hurts, to have what he wants so close and not touch it, to have the potential there but know it might not be fulfilled.
To have light inside, to offer it and know there is nothing he can do to affect the response.
To have the response be wait, and know that he will, as patient as his selfish body allows.
It hurts, and it is the most glorious pain he has ever felt. "I will be human. And I will offer my love, and I will accept your response."
The nervous edge is back in Right's laugh, but there is also a speculative, cautious hope shining in his eyes, and that hope makes Zett's chest hurt all the more.
"Come on." Right tugs on his wrist. "Let's go home."
They don't kiss for over a year.
One year and two days, until the next time the town is blanketed in darkness and human pinpricks of light put stars upon the ground.
Zett takes Right's hand, after Right has led them away from the crowd. He leans close, minimizing the distance between their bodies.
He wants to keep leaning in. He wants to feel Right tight against him, holding him, wanting him.
But he cannot make that happen.
All he can do is ask.
And Right's arms lock around his neck, Right's lips press hard and firm against his, Right's fingers tangle in his hair and it is glorious.
It is a bonfire of emotion in his chest, a mixture of love and desire and gratitude, a spark turned to a blaze in the space of one silent answer.
It is the most exhilarating, painful, best thing that Zett could ever imagine.