Kayura_Sanada's Fiction - Fanfiction, Original, Yaoi and M/F
You're Not Alone
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Yami no Matsuei Fanfiction
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The Grant Series
You're Not Alone
"You've got to remember
You're Not alone in this world
Always remember
You're not alone in this world
The moment I looked at you
I recognized the killing truth
You really think there's no way out
But if you let me,
I can help you now..."

-“You're Not Alone” by Amy Grant

Disclaimer: Yami no Matsuei is not mine. >P


“...You don't know what to do. You care for them so much, you're willing to follow in their shadow, even if that means they don't even acknowledge you. You give up everything without a second thought; you feel helpless whenever they cry...”

Hisoka turned, his breath becoming rapid. He knew what was coming. He knew...

Tsuzuki was in front of him, smiling softly. New. Tsuzuki lifted a hand and cupped Hisoka's cheek. “Hisoka...” That beautiful voice, full of happiness. Rare. Cherished.

“Tsuzuki...” What was going to happen this time? Could they finally...

“I'll finally be rid of you.” That same sound, with relief mixed inside. “Thank goodness.” And he stood straight, turning away.

“Tsuzuki,” he called, trying to catch Tsuzuki one last time. He felt the tears in his eyes, heard a soft chuckle from far away. The slight burn of his scars was ignored. “Tsuzuki, wait.” His fault?

A part of him fought. Tsuzuki would never say that. Too kind. He was too kind.

“Tsuzuki,” he called. “I'll leave. I'll leave. I won't bother you again, if you just come back!”

But Tsuzuki didn't hesitate. He never did. If anything, Hisoka's voice made him hurry faster into the flames.

“Tsuzuki, the others. Think of them!” It was like he was coherent, coherent yet living in this one moment. He had lived in this moment for months.

Tsuzuki passed from eyesight, lost within the smoke.

“Tsuzuki!” Whether Tsuzuki wanted to die or not, he wouldn't let him. Even if Tsuzuki never wanted to see him again, Hisoka wouldn't let Tsuzuki die!

He leaped towards the flames, Feeling Tsuzuki fade.

“Tsuzuki!” he screamed. “Tsuzuki, come back! Come back to Tatsumi and the others!” Even if you're not coming back to me...

He coughed, inhaling too much smoke. “Tsuzuki-” He had to stop; his breathing was becoming labored. “Tsuzuki...” His eyes watering, he tried to see beyond the smoke that surrounded him. Tsuzuki was almost gone. He could Feel it. Tsuzuki would die again. Another eternally lost chance.

“Tsu...” He took a blind step forward. Not this time. Please, please, not this time, too! Not because of him! “Tsuzuki...”

He stumbled, unable to hold himself up. Too much smoke inhalation? Shouldn't he be waking up?

Was it... real? Could what was happening be real? Could Tsuzuki...?

“No.” He struggled to stay on his feet. To stay up. “No. Not this time.” He wouldn't let Tsuzuki go.

A small, pathetic spark, like a zygote or embryo. “No.” The tears were expected, ignored. Unnoticed. Not again. This pain inside him, this tearing and burning in his chest. He was losing the one person he loved again... and the smoke, the feel of his energy fading, made it too real. Was it real?

“Tsu... Tsuzu...ki...”

“Now, now, You can't die yet, my little doll.” That voice, that damn voice. The bastard who had tried to kill him and Tsuzuki. The rat bastard. Muraki.

“Muraki,” he hissed. Muraki had become a normal voice in this nightmare, this Hell of his. Muraki, who had known where they'd been. It was only a matter of time.

If they killed Muraki, would the nightmares disappear?

He Felt Tsuzuki die.

“Tsuzuki!” he cried, turning back to where Tsuzuki had disappeared. Not again! Please, God, not again! “TSUZUKI!!!”

“You still have a part to play, boy.” Hisoka screamed, a cry of anguish and fury. He had no breath...


Hisoka shot up from his bed gasping for air. He clutched at his throat, feeling a burn that couldn't have been there. It was hard for him to breathe.

He looked around. No smoke. He didn't sense or smell any gas. Why was his throat so painful? What was the matter?

He carefully worked it, wincing when he sighed. What had happened? The smoke that had felt so real... had he let it freak him out so much that he'd messed up his throat on his own? He had heard that such a thing was done, though it was rare and only done when a person was extremely traumatized. The dream was traumatizing, but he'd seen it a lot these past four months.

He sighed and let his head fall forward, this time not acknowledging the pain with even a wince. Four months. Four months since that last battle with Muraki. One month since he'd found out he loved Tsuzuki and consequently found out that Muraki knew where he and Tsuzuki were, along with Hisoka's nightmares. Hisoka feared Muraki could see much more – where he slept, how he got into the Judgment Bureau, his dinners (and long desserts) with Tsuzuki. Could he hear Hisoka's thoughts? See what he was doing right this minute?

A quick glance at his watch on his dresser told him it was three in the morning. Four hours again. On the dot. That had been happening for the past week and a half. Like four hours was suddenly his limit.

He missed those days in the hospital, recovering from Amara's attack on him. Amara, a young girl who'd been beaten to death by her mother, had stayed alive through her feelings alone for centuries, trying to save her brother from his own repeated tragedy. Because of Hisoka's gift, Hisoka had been targeted. As a result, his immortal soul had almost died. He'd gotten a full week of solid rest. It had been a blessed time.

But immediately after being sedated off his ass, he'd awoken, and the nightmares had returned.

He'd managed, in the past few weeks, to assure the newly informed Tsuzuki that the nightmares had stopped. It had been rough work, but he had gained a new power over the nightmare. He didn't speak. He didn't sit up. He didn't do anything but flinch awake. Simple enough to hide. The hours awake were much harder. He'd had to skip out of working on his kendo a bit. He had needed to learn the art of being absolutely exhausted and horizontal on a bed with his eyes closed and not falling asleep. That had taken some wretched practice in his room, but at least now Tsuzuki didn't have that god-awful guilty look whenever he found Hisoka awake or saw Hisoka's shinai, or wooden practice sword.

Alone in his room that night, he decided to get up. He couldn't leave; Tsuzuki had caught him leaving early once. He'd had to make up a story about being worried about the soul in the last case they'd had.

He was disturbed. This was different. Way different. Something else he had to worry about now? Not only was he fighting a fear that centered around everything that was important to him, he had to worry about hurting himself while suffering through the damn things. Dammit.

What was he to do? He was back to that exhausted point, the point at which he would be practically useless to Tsuzuki.

Those dreams. They were getting worse instead of better. Worse. Ever since the end of that assignment...

One month. Each day for one month, the dream changed fractionally. Oh, Tsuzuki always died in the Serpent's fire, always left Hisoka alone screaming for him, but it was different. This time, Tsuzuki had touched him. It wasn't the first time Tsuzuki insinuated that it was Hisoka's fault he was committing suicide, but it was the first time Hisoka had seen that smile, that fully relieved, happy smile. The smile that was so rarely seen on Tsuzuki's face. True joy.

Hisoka closed his eyes, trying to shake out the thought, the image. Why had he fallen in love? And with Tsuzuki, for that matter? Was he insane? Was he stupid? To love someone like Tsuzuki...

He shook his head. No. No thinking about this. Tsuzuki was his closest friend, the man he cared about more than anyone else. Thinking this way was a danger. He could lose Tsuzuki – either to another partner or Muraki. He wouldn't risk it. He wasn't that foolish, at least. He wouldn't lose Tsuzuki. Not to anyone.


He left his room at dawn to practice. His voice, after hissing and working with it for a few hours, was practically all better. He could only thank his lucky stars that he had his Shinigami ability to heal. It was all that was saving him lately.

Tsuzuki. Why was he so... so... so damn unforgettable? Tsuzuki was his friend. Friend. Nothing more.

How many times had he told himself that in the past month?

He sighed, this time without pain. “No. No, dammit. This is enough.”

Enough. It had to be enough.

He Felt Tsuzuki's presence coming toward him. It wasn't emotions anymore as much as it was... just his presence. He grimaced at the thought.

“Hey, Hisoka. Up again?”

There it was, that concern and vague suspicion. He wanted to bang his head against the wall. “I'm not going to stop training.” He turned to face Tsuzuki in time to see him frown at Hisoka's words. Tsuzuki blamed himself for everything as it was. Hisoka's dreams only made that a thousand times worse. Hence the enormous secrets.

Hisoka put his shinai down and faced Tsuzuki completely. “What's wrong?” He could Feel worry and preoccupation. He waited for Tsuzuki to get to it.

“We have a meeting with Konoe,” Tsuzuki told him finally, eying Hisoka's shinai. Apparently Tsuzuki looked at the shinai as an excuse to be up early – a sign of his nightmares. Hisoka almost snorted at the thought. Too bad Tsuzuki was exactly right... but he had the other reason to fall back on.

“What about?” Because Tsuzuki obviously knew already. Hisoka wondered suddenly why Konoe had gone to Tsuzuki. Everyone thought of him as the number one slacker, kept in check by Hisoka. Though Tsuzuki was his superior, Hisoka was considered the one to go to about this sort of thing. Any sort of thing.

“He... he told me that I... I have a solo mission.”

Lying out his ass. And there was no way there would be a solo mission. Shinigamis had to have partners. It was a rule, one that was never broken.

“Bullshit,” Hisoka replied. “What did he really tell you?”

Tsuzuki hesitated again. “It's Muraki,” he said finally.

Hisoka's breath caught. Just the name of that bastard had his fury growing. “Muraki?” he asked. Had Muraki managed to get inside thanks to him? Impossible. It had to be.

Didn't it?

“Yeah,” Tsuzuki confirmed. Hisoka Felt his worry growing. Tsuzuki hadn't wanted him to know.

“Let's go see Konoe.” Hisoka grabbed up his shinai.

Tsuzuki stopped him. “Hisoka,” Tsuzuki began, then hesitated again. Hisoka could guess what Tsuzuki was going to say. He beat his partner to the punch.

“I'm going with you, Tsuzuki. There's no way I'm leaving you to face him alone.”

Tsuzuki hesitated again. If Hisoka could read minds, he'd probably be reading that damn concern again. Tsuzuki didn't want Hisoka in danger. But that was just it – Hisoka didn't want Tsuzuki in danger, either. So, he thought, they would just have to face it down together.

“All right,” Tsuzuki agreed resignedly. “Let's go.”

Apparently Tsuzuki had decided that it was too dangerous for Hisoka to actually work as his partner. It angered Hisoka. They'd been working together for a long time, and though he'd gotten into his share of scrapes, so had Tsuzuki. They'd helped each other out. Dammit, he'd become a Shinigami, just like Tsuzuki. He had signed up for danger, for exactly this reason.

He couldn't help but worry about Tsuzuki, though, despite knowing that Tsuzuki was able to take care of himself. Was it because of those few times when Tsuzuki had lost that damn fake smile and shown how lonely he was – just like Hisoka? Whatever it was, Hisoka knew now that Tsuzuki wasn't just some lazy idiot with a lot of power. He was vulnerable, too. It was what had warmed his heart toward a man who had fooled even him, with his ability to read emotions.

He dropped off his shinai with Tsuzuki watching him closely, then changed. They were at Konoe's office within five minutes.

“Ah, there you two are.” Konoe was sitting behind his desk, with Tatsumi standing right beside him. Tatsumi was his usual stoic, condescending self, but his concern was strong enough for Hisoka to get a small reading. “You're late.”

“Ah, sorry about that, Chief,” Tsuzuki said with a laugh, scratching his head. It was a typical Tsuzuki fake-out move. Like hell Hisoka was going to let Tsuzuki take all the blame.

“It was partly my fault, sir,” Hisoka said. Tsuzuki looked at him with his eyebrows raised. “I was in the middle of practice.” He didn't have to elaborate; everyone knew he was practicing his kendo with a new fervor. Tsuzuki opened his mouth to argue with Hisoka, but Hisoka's glare made him silence himself.

“Very well, Kurosaki,” Tatsumi said, fixing his glasses higher up on his nose. “I'm sure Tsuzuki told you about this mission having to do with Muraki.”

“Yes.” He was tense.

“He has started a new experiment.”

“What?” Tsuzuki asked.

“That we don't know,” Konoe put in. “But he's obviously targeting you. He leaves a letter with every... body. They all say, 'find my Shinigamis.'”

Tsuzuki tensed beside Hisoka. Hisoka knew Tsuzuki was thinking about who'd been killed. More people that Muraki was piling at Tsuzuki's feet. Hisoka elbowed his partner slightly. They would talk after they left Konoe's office.

“The victims are all female Caucasians,” Tatsumi put in then, watching Tsuzuki carefully. “They were identified by the DNA in the blood sent to the families. There's nothing else left.”

“In other words,” Hisoka mused, “they could have just been disappearances. He wants us to come.”

“Exactly,” Konoe spat. “Muraki wants you to come to him. That's why I'm sending Tatsumi with you.”

Both Hisoka and Tsuzuki stared at their superiors in shock. Tatsumi was coming with them? Since when?

Well, Hisoka mused, at least this time the hotel will be nice. Tatsumi was only thrifty with everyone else. If he was involved, everything was top-class.

“Yay! Tatsumi!” Tsuzuki threw himself forward and glomped Tatsumi, who fumbled a hug to keep Tsuzuki on his feet.

“Tsuzuki, calm down.” Tatsumi's harsh voice was warmed by the smile that lit his features. Hisoka hated the harsh feeling of jealousy that shot through him. Maybe it was because of his ability, but Tsuzuki never even thought to touch Hisoka that way. He hated how his jealousy made him curt.

“What do we know?”

Konoe nodded to him, turning so that he wasn't looking at Tsuzuki at all. “As stated earlier, the only bit of the victim found is the blood, placed in simple Ziploc bags and left on the family of the victim's front porch.” A nasty thing to find in the morning. “They were all lost during the night. And there's absolutely no trace of them. Muraki appeared at the last scene holding a red rose.” Hisoka wrinkled his nose. Yes, Muraki would bring a crimson rose. He had an affinity for them.

“It's obviously a trap.” Tatsumi entered the conversation again, having successfully escaped Tsuzuki's arms. Hisoka burned in anger. Jealousy, he decided, was an emotion he could live without. “That is why I will accompany you. We cannot afford to lose Muraki again.”

Hisoka's eyes flickered to Tsuzuki. Knowing the elder Shinigami, he would blame himself for being unable to kill Muraki with the Serpent. And for letting Muraki get away when Hisoka had been teetering between life and death – permanent death. He wanted to do something, say something. But he couldn't open up in front of Tatsumi and Konoe, despite the fact that they were friends. He could only do it for Tsuzuki, in front of Tsuzuki. No one else.

“Where?” Hisoka asked.

“Milan. A small town on the East coast.” Tatsumi fixed his glasses again. “At least, that was the last girl. One was from Tokyo, another...” Tatsumi stared intently at Hisoka. “Another's blood was left on your grave, Kurosaki.” Hisoka's eyes widened. He froze. He found Tsuzuki suddenly by his side.

Caucasians? All the victims were... Caucasians... but he only knew one...

“Her name was Serendipity Channery.”

Serendipity? The girl who had been by his side for a few months, on a high school trip. The one who had shown him emotions... the one who had betrayed him. He'd never seen or heard from her after that last night. She'd disappeared from his life. She'd said she would come back, but she never did. What had she been doing at his grave? Had Muraki looked for her and stolen her from her home? Had he... had Muraki hunted her down, somehow knowing that Serendipity had been...

He heard raised voices around him, then noticed Tsuzuki's hands hovering over him. He was kneeling on the floor in Konoe's office. Shit. Shit! He squeezed his eyes shut. This couldn't be happening. Serendipity had betrayed him and left him alone to bear those years of anguish alone. He'd had no one when he'd thought he would have at least one person. Alone. He'd died alone because of her betrayal.

So why had she been at his grave? Why had Muraki gotten her involved? How the hell had she gotten involved? He wouldn't have searched for her in America just to torture him, would he?

Why the hell not? he thought, and moaned. He was hurting. His heart hurt.

“Hisoka? Hisoka, are you all right?”

Tsuzuki's voice, with that concerned tone. It was only then that he realized he was crying.

He shot up and turned away, unbalancing Tsuzuki, who had crouched beside him. Without a word, he transported himself to his bathroom. He washed his face mechanically, then leaned on the sink.

His grave. Her blood had been found at his grave. Why? He squeezed his eyes. Why? Why would it be there? Why would Muraki... how could Muraki have known that she...

He took three deep breaths and prepared to face his actions.

Tsuzuki opened the bathroom door behind him.

Hisoka turned to him, trying to hide what he was feeling. A bit late, he thought sardonically.

“Hisoka,” Tsuzuki murmured. He came to stand beside Hisoka. “You knew her.” A statement, not a question. Hisoka didn't see fit to answer. Tsuzuki sighed. “Hisoka... who was she?”

That was something he certainly didn't feel like diving into. “No one.” But the questions churned inside him. If she was nothing, why was he mourning? Why was he so sad?

Had her blood been left there as a joke, some sort of cruel prop from Muraki? Or... had she been in Japan?

Why would she be in Japan now?

“You're lying to me again, Hisoka.” Tsuzuki looked sad about that. “Tell me.”

He hated that damn tone in his voice. He wanted to beat Tsuzuki's sorrow to death. Or wherever. “It's nothing.”

Tsuzuki... growled. “Hisoka...” he warned.

“Nothing,” Hisoka repeated firmly. “We need to get back to Konoe.”

Tsuzuki's fists clenched, but he nodded and followed Hisoka back to Konoe's office.

It wasn't easy to apologize for leaving, or to effectively evade the questions, but manage he did. Konoe seemed to be a bit disturbed by his reaction and shared a look with Tatsumi. Tatsumi nodded.

It was when they had checked into the hotel – a disturbingly well-kept motel – that Tatsumi pounced. “Kurosaki, we need to know the importance of this girl.”

Hisoka grimaced. “She's someone I knew once. When I was alive. But she left a long time ago.”

“Left?” Of course it was Tsuzuki who caught the important part.

Hisoka nodded. “It's nothing.”

Now it was Tsuzuki and Tatsumi who shared a look.

Hisoka gritted his teeth.

Finally Tatsumi sighed and turned away. “The first thing we need to do is find out more about these women and what Muraki wants with them.”

“He may not want anything,” Tsuzuki said quietly, his eyes on Hisoka. “He may just want to get our attention again.”

“To get to you,” Tatsumi agreed. “Whether you like it or not, Tsuzuki, I'm here to protect you from that fate. So no...”

“So no trying to dump out on us. Got it?” Hisoka turned to him. “This is him killing, not you. Don't you dare take blame for any of this.”

Tsuzuki's face twisted into surprise, but then he smiled. “Thank you, Hisoka.”

Hisoka harrumphed and went back to unpacking. “You better remember.”

“Yes, sir!” Tsuzuki did an exaggerated salute.

“But the question arises as to why Muraki killed someone related specifically to Kurosaki. Was it to lure him out instead?” Tatsumi mused.

“Or,” Hisoka pointed out logically, “he knew how much it would anger me, how I would fight to find out why. It could be insurance, to make sure Tsuzuki comes. Because I would.”

He felt that shared-look occurring behind his back. He almost snarled.

“Yes, that could be it. Or he could have found it poetic, that what he had planned included someone close to you. It could be just a part of the game, just another kill, but one he knew would have a personal meaning.”

Yes, Hisoka thought. Muraki would like that. But he would had to have found out about his relationship with Serendipity. How?


It was the first place they went.

Hisoka stared at his own grave with disinterest. It had seen a sort of neglect, even over the short time he'd been dead. The grass around it was high and wild, the stone a bit dusty. But there were fresh flowers laying there. And beside that, a small drop of blood.


It was Tsuzuki who called him from the melancholy creeping over him. He turned and stared into those violet eyes and nodded. Tsuzuki was worried.

“Kurosaki,” Tatsumi ordered.

Hisoka steeled himself. He was stronger than he'd been before, when everything had blown up in his face because he'd been unable to sleep. No, he was stronger than that now. But how much stronger? He walked up to his own grave and gently brushed his hand against it-


He winced and snatched his hand away. He stared at the gravestone in horror. It was her. It had been years since he'd last Felt her, but it was definitely her. There was no denying it. He Felt her, right here at this grave. She'd been here? But when – why?

“Hisoka? Hisoka, what's wrong?”

He turned to Tsuzuki's concerned face and glared at the grave once more. He had to know. He touched it again.

Self-loathing, hate, regret, pain, sorrowsadnessdespair – why? Why hadn't she tried harder? Now it was overandshewouldnevergetthechance-


His hand was wrenched back, his connection disrupted. He Felt her slip away. He rounded on Tsuzuki – his would-be rescuer. “What the hell are you doing?!”

Tsuzuki seemed shocked by his outburst. Hisoka felt chagrin lace through his system; he shouldn't have yelled. But... “H-Hisoka...”

“What did you feel, Kurosaki?” Tatsumi was giving his a business-like glare, but Hisoka caught a slip of anger leak through that impenetrable mask Tatsumi constantly wore.

Hisoka turned back to his grave. “She'd been here.”

“Serendipity Channery. She was here?”

Hisoka nodded. “Yeah. She... was the one who left flowers here.”

Tsuzuki's face contorted a bit in sympathy. Tatsumi only nodded. “What was she doing here?”

Hisoka closed his eyes, shifting through the emotions, surprised he'd managed to handle them all. But maybe it was because he recognized them so easily, even after all this time. “She wanted to see...” He hesitated. “Me.”

“Hisoka.” Tsuzuki's voice was a mere whisper.

Hisoka ignored it and stepped forward, lightly touching the stone again-

Sadness; why hadn't she tried sooner? Harder? Because she hadn't pushed-

A shadow in the darkness, who in the world at this time of night-

Platinum-blond hair, such a strange eye – fitting that here, now, she would-

Painpainpain – agony – the scorching heat of death – sorry sorry sorry she couldn't have been there..


He felt a pain snap in his head, felt his heart beat race and slow. He felt dizzy – he was falling. He caught himself on the grave-

sorry sorry sorry Hisoka was this how you felt?

Hands grabbed him and wrenched him back as he screamed.

“Hisoka – Hisoka, are you all right?”


He grabbed onto Tsuzuki instinctively, even as he kept his eyes clenched tightly shut. “She was kneeling here when he found her,” he whispered. Tsuzuki's arms hesitated for a split second before wrapping themselves around his waist. He felt Tsuzuki lower the two of them to the ground. “He found her and he killed her.” He couldn't believe he was trembling.

“Kurosaki, I'm sorry, but I must ask this. What did you see? Tell me everything.”

“She was lying in front of the grave.” He thought he heard Tsuzuki hissing something to Tatsumi. He wondered what it was and if he should be jealous. “She saw a shadow in the darkness – a shadow in the street lamps?” He couldn't quite tell. “When she turned around she saw a white robe and silver-like hair and strange eyes... it was definitely...”

“Muraki.” Tsuzuki's arms tightened around him. Hisoka relaxed in the grip. He knew Tsuzuki's concern was the only reason the man held him so close; usually Tsuzuki – and everyone else – was careful to keep a safe physical distance from him. But Tsuzuki's concern, though strong, wasn't stifling. It was... welcoming.

Hisoka nodded into Tsuzuki's chest. “And a knife. Then-” he cried out softly, still Feeling it too strongly.

Poor Serendipity.

He heard Tsuzuki mutter something, then a hand ran through his hair. It was soothing – too soothing, when Tatsumi was right there.

Hisoka gently pushed Tsuzuki away and stood back up. “Sorry,” he muttered, scowling. His hands twitched, feeling the chill of the grave. “She was... killed, and definitely by Muraki.” He spat the name out like a curse.

“So he is definitely involved in this.” Tatsumi's calm demeanor was infuriating. Hisoka barely managed not to glare at the man. “At least that's verified. Did you sense any of his emotions? Anything he might have felt? Thought?”

Hisoka hesitated, sifting through what he'd Felt. “I would have to check again.” He looked at his grave like it was a pit viper waiting to strike.

“You shouldn't overexert yourself, Kurosaki,” Tatsumi told him. “We'll leave for now and try again tomorrow.”

Hisoka frowned at that, not liking the idea. The emotions here were still strong, but how long would they last? And how much would he be able to see beyond Serendipity's emotions? They'd been so strong...

“Come on, Hisoka. Let's get something to eat.” Tsuzuki pointed behind him towards the road beyond the cemetery. He was grinning, but his eyes were assessing.

Hisoka gave an exasperated sigh and willed his hands not to shake. “Fine. But only one dessert for you.”

Tsuzuki gave him a puppy-dog look. “Aww, Hisoka, no fair!” He turned to Tatsumi. “Tatsumi, please...”

Tatsumi smiled down at Tsuzuki. Hisoka felt his temper rise again. At least now he wasn't trembling from the aftereffects. “Sorry, Tsuzuki.”

“Aw, Tatsumi, not you too,” he whined.

Hisoka sighed. Tsuzuki was so kind to everyone – how would he ever know if the man felt anything for him?


Dinner, for Hisoka, was a disaster.

Oh, nothing truly awful occurred. There were no explosions, no accidents, no screams. There weren't even any arguments. No, everything was just...

Hisoka looked at Tsuzuki, whose dessert was eaten as slowly as possible so as to savor what little he'd been allowed. Tatsumi was calmly eating his own portion. Hisoka's had yet to be touched. He didn't like sweets, but he'd gotten it anyway in preparation. It didn't take long for Tsuzuki to finish and look at Hisoka's pleadingly. Feigning annoyance, he handed it over. Tsuzuki's overly excited face was worth it. Tatsumi's knowing look, however, wasn't.

And Hisoka could only sit back and think about how... how well Tsuzuki and Tatsumi got along. They practically knew one another's thoughts. Granted the two of them had been partners earlier, but still...

Hisoka blew out a breath. It was infuriating, watching the two laugh together. Tatsumi's light-hearted chuckles were reserved for Tsuzuki alone, after all. How could there not be something there?

Hisoka ground his teeth together.

“Thanks, Hisoka!”

Hisoka looked up to see Tsuzuki beaming at him, Hisoka's desert plate practically licked clean. He flushed and looked back down. “It's fine. I wasn't eating it.”

“Oh, yeah. Because you don't like sweets. Why did you get it, then, Hisoka?”

Hisoka couldn't look directly into those oblivious violet eyes. “No reason.” He saw that damn smile shimmering along the edges of Tatsumi's lips and scowled. “Well, if you're done, let's pay and go. I want to get some rest so I can return to that place.”

Tsuzuki nodded happily. “Okay!”

All three stood, yet it was Tatsumi who paid the bill. Hisoka left the restaurant to wait outside, and Tsuzuki followed him. Hisoka was inordinately pleased to see that Tsuzuki had joined him and not Tatsumi.

“Hey, Hisoka.”

Hisoka flashed a look into Tsuzuki's gaze, only to see curiosity and concern. Oh, shit.

“That girl – Serendipity Channery. Who was she?”

“I told you; she was just some girl I knew before I died.”

“Hisoka, I know there's more to it than that.”

He kicked a pebble and frowned. He didn't want to talk about this. “She came from America and spent some time in the high school. Heard some kids talk about me, came to see me. I learned a bit about emotions from her.” He blushed slightly, remembering her words on... on a certain emotion. “She helped me a bit. Then she left to return to America and I never heard from her again.” Even though she promised to return. But that was all ancient history.

Tsuzuki's eyes went all introspective for a bit. Hisoka wondered if Tsuzuki would be able to piece together the missing pieces of the puzzle. The man acted like a fool, but... “She taught you about emotions?”

Hisoka gave a small hum of agreement. “Yeah. She told me about a lot of them. I hadn't Felt many of them before, having lived in that house most of my life. I'd been amazed that she could pull them out the way she did, letting me get a good feel.” He shrugged, gazing out into the sunset. It burned pink and purple and orange, but the East side was already turning black. “Then she left.”

“Without warning?”

“No, I knew it was coming.” I just hadn't known it would be permanent.

Tsuzuki seemed about to ask something more, but Tatsumi made a timely arrival. Hisoka turned to him, inwardly grateful for the reprieve. “Let's go to the hotel. The sooner we rest, the sooner we can return to the scene.”

Hisoka found it interesting that he wasn't the only one unable to refer to his grave as... as his grave. It was a thought that kept him occupied enough to be the last one to fall asleep when they entered the hotel. Hisoka found it interesting – very interesting, and extraordinarily infuriating – that Tatsumi and Tsuzuki shared a room while Hisoka was given his own room. The privacy would be useful, but he was pissed that Tsuzuki was alone in a room with Tatsumi.

He let it go, thinking it providence. Tsuzuki would have stronger back-up than what Hisoka could provide – an almost physically painful thing for him to admit – and he would have a room to himself, where he would be safe to choke himself and rush up from the bed in the middle of the night as much as he wanted. Thank goodness for that, at least.

It was a nice room, as well – fairly spacious, with two beds and a nightstand and even a chair and small table by the tiny deck. He took the chance to stand on that deck, looking out. Then he turned and went to the bed. It was dark out, insanely late. But... he sighed. It didn't matter when he slept. He would inevitably see it. He might as well get it out of the way.

And with that, he decidedly went to bed.


“Tsuzuki, dammit! Wait!”



Tsuzuki turned on him from within the flames, his eyes glaring hate. Hisoka knew it was a dream. He knew it. But still he had to take a step back. The Feel of Tsuzuki's fury swirled around him, thick enough to choke on. “Leave me the hell alone, Hisoka!”

Hisoka winced; that one hurt, especially with Tsuzuki not even attempting to hide his emotions. But, he reminded himself forcefully, it was a dream. Tsuzuki would never...

But he remembered that day outside the library when Tsuzuki's anger had run unchecked, and he couldn't help but think that this was so very similar to that time.

He saw Tsuzuki moving forward until he was almost lost in the smoke. “Tsuzuki! Stop!” He raced after the man. “Tsuzuki, stop! Why? Why are so set on doing this?!”

“Leave me the fuck alone, goddammit!”

Hisoka wasn't ready for it, wasn't prepared for Tsuzuki to turn back to him, slashing his hand through the air. Hisoka didn't even think to dodge. He flinched as a wind cut him on the cheek, his left arm. “Tsuzuki-!” He took the chance to run forward and was right in front of Tsuzuki, reaching for him-

He was blasted away before he could grab him. With a sharp cry, he slammed to the ground.

And Tsuzuki slipped away.

He screamed as he pushed himself onto all fours, pounded the floor. So close! So close to saving Tsuzuki – to potentially stopping this damn cycle – so close! He screamed again, Feeling Tsuzuki fade as always into the Serpent's fire, leaving him alone. He felt the tears fall hot to the floor. “Dammit!” Was there no way to stop this?

He curled into himself, unable to bear the loss of Tsuzuki again... and it would happen tomorrow, wouldn't it? And the night after that, and the night after that, an endless loop that Hisoka would be forced to endure every single night.

“No more,” he begged, Feeling that life flicker. “No more, please!” He sobbed into the fire.

“Just a bit more, little doll.”

That voice. Hisoka surged to his feet in fury. “Muraki!” he snarled. “Where are you hiding?!”

A laugh. That damned insidious laugh. “You will soon see,” the man promised.

Hisoka searched around him, but the smoke was too thick, even if the man truly was in the area. “Mur-”

He fell to the ground in pain and grabbed his chest. “Ahh...!” Tsuzuki was dead. His eyes closed tightly without a conscious order. It hurt. Even though he knew... he knew he would wake up... it still...


“Just a little more...” He heard the man snicker, felt his scars burning him. He swallowed back an agonized scream--

He snapped up in the bed, eyes wide. His breathing was labored, his shirt moist with sweat. He put a hand over his face and struggled to control his breathing.

What the hell had happened? What had that been about? Tsuzuki had turned cruel, furious. That wasn't Tsuzuki... Tsuzuki could get annoyed, and with Muraki, yes, he would become enraged, but that was just... that had nothing to do with...

Hisoka shoved away the sheets and comforter and stood. His feet were wobbly, his heart beating haphazardly against his ribcage. He had to grip the wall for support. He thanked every god he could think of that he had a room to himself.

Muraki. He truly was there, in his dreams, watching... waiting? For what?

"Just a bit more, little doll.”

He shuddered, remembering... he chased the thoughts away with a shake of his head. No; he didn't want to remember that. But Muraki was a danger now, and a serious one at that.

What was he going to do? He turned and stared at the clock on the nightstand. “Fuck,” he whispered. Four hours. Again.

His head drooped. He'd been able to handle Serendipity's emotions... for the most part. But... what about the others? He knew it was the nostalgia of the Feel that made it so simple to accept her emotions, just as it was getting easier and easier for him to Feel Tsuzuki.

But there were other victims, other girls who had felt the edge of Muraki's knife. What would he do then? He might very well be overwhelmed. And with Muraki nearby...

He stood then, stretched and moved to the bathroom. After flushing the toilet – hopefully Tsuzuki didn't hear that – he watched his hands and face in the sink and glared at his reflection – and froze. There, on his left cheek, sat a cut mark. Not deep enough to drip, it still showed up like a flashing neon sign. Carefully he touched it, as if to touch would make it disappear. But it was real. How?

He remembered Tsuzuki, in the dream, attacking him. He remembered, also, that his left arm had been hit.

Impossible. But still...

Hisoka looked at his arm, pulling up his sleeve-

There it was. A thin line marred the skin there, as if he'd been cut by a knife. He took off his shirt then in a small panic. Turning round, he saw a bruise on his back. From being thrown? It was only a yellow-brown for now, hardly more than a little stiff. But it traveled along his back for almost a foot across.


Hisoka thought quickly. He could hide the cut on his arm and the bruise on his back, but what about the cut on his face? That was beyond obvious. And what could he say about it? Would it heal like his throat? Surely it would; he was a freaking Shinigami.

Hisoka looked again, trying to see whether it had started healing. He couldn't tell yet. Shit. Hopefully it would be gone by morning.

This was getting out of hand. What next? He left the bathroom and sat in one of the chairs. He had to do something about these dreams. Muraki was definitely involved in this somehow. But how? What had he done? What could he see? He'd found Hisoka during the mission with Amara. Had he seen his location because of the dreams? If that was the case, Hisoka could be leading Tsuzuki straight into Muraki's waiting hands.

That was unacceptable.

So what could he do? How could he stop it? How could he possibly...?

He stood. The best thing to do would be to get as much information as possible without getting Tsuzuki involved. As long as Tatsumi was with him, the chances of Tsuzuki being attacked were slim. Right?

He took a deep breath, then another, thinking it over. However, if he were caught, there was no doubt in his mind that Muraki would use him as bait again. More than anything, he didn't want to cause trouble for Tsuzuki.

The best thing... would be for him to be taken off the case.

But if he was taken off the case, then there would be no one who could search through the girls' last emotions to find clues on Muraki. He also wouldn't be able to find out what happened with Serendipity.

He started pacing. There was nothing for it; any move he made could send Tsuzuki into Muraki's grasp. No matter how it happened, it would be his fault. His hands shook at the very thought of it.

Right now, he was utterly useless to the team. He could Feel the emotions of the victims, but he was so weak from lack of rest it took nothing more than a little sadness and fear to make him pass out. Pathetic. He was probably the weakest Shinigami ever made. They were probably regretting their decision to let him join the ranks with Tsuzuki and Watari and Tatsumi. He had to get stronger.

But... how?

He stopped pacing suddenly, bent his knees, and kicked. He hadn't ever learned martial arts, though he'd been taught the basics by his kendo instructor. He remembered the night he'd seen Muraki again, how the man had easily grabbed his arm and twisted him around... dammit. He didn't have the skill to defeat Muraki. What could he do to help Tsuzuki? He would be able to do no more than stand there while Tsuzuki did all the work. The way he was now, he was no more than a hindrance.

He looked to the corner, where his shinai lay. With no more thought, he picked it up. Without leaving the room, he began his warm-ups.


He stopped at seven, afraid that Tatsumi would rise early. He placed his shinai back in its corner and went to the bathroom. An inspection had him sighing in relief – the cut had healed. He stripped and took a shower, letting the sweat be washed away. When he was done and dressed, he heard a knock at his door.

His brow rose at the sight of both Tatsumi and Tsuzuki on the other side of his door; Tsuzuki was yawning hugely behind his hand. “I'm surprised you managed to get him up so early,” he commented.

Tatsumi smiled and sent a fond look over his shoulder to Tsuzuki. Hisoka steamed. “I allowed him a dessert if he got up.”

Hisoka flicked a gaze at Tsuzuki. The anger was unreasonable and unstoppable. Dammit, but Hisoka wanted Tsuzuki to be closest to him, not Tatsumi. But... but Tatsumi knew how to help Tsuzuki, and Hisoka couldn't comfort worth anything.

Hisoka lifted his chin. “Then let's get going. The sooner we finish eating, the faster we can get to work.”

Tsuzuki nodded while he yawned. “O-okaaay.”

Despite himself, Hisoka smiled.


They skipped over the cemetery first and took a train to Hagi, where another of the girls had been killed. He was led to a back alley this time, behind a restaurant. The dumpster smelled like rot, and the gravel under his shoes held mysteries he didn't want to discover. Still, he walked around the lot. Finally he stopped and, perplexed, walked the area again. Nothing?

He ignored Tatsumi and Tsuzuki, standing very close together as they waited for his verdict.

It was impossible that there be no reaction; everyone reacted to murder. Even if they were caught by surprise, the instant they died would have an impact, and...

He stopped then and turned to the dumpster. He hadn't gone back there yet...

Ridiculous. Who would be behind a dumpster?

He took the next few yards with strong purpose, already knowing that he would feel nothing. He'd already walked around here...

The dumpster was big, taking up a nice portion of the restaurant wall. He touched the wall, the red paint dry, testing. Nothing. She hadn't been touching the wall when it had happened, then. He turned to the dumpster and made a face. He didn't want to touch that. He took a step behind it, tense for a reaction. Nothing? Still?

There wasn't enough space for someone to be comfortably ensconced, but maybe she'd been there out of fear? Maybe he'd chased her and she'd hidden there? But then why hadn't he Felt anything from her run?

The dumpster. It was the only thing left that made even a tiny bit of sense. He inwardly sighed and reminded himself that the restaurant had a bathroom. He could wash his hands thoroughly afterward. He would. Blegh.

He needed only touch his fingertips to be hit. Skipping work, shouldn't have told her to leave the building if they didn't want her to slack off – tired – bored – who's that? Cute, very cute – weird. Trenchcoat?-

He jerked back, breathing hard. He didn't want to be weak – he had to stick this out!

He thrust his entire hand on the nasty dumpster and concentrated.

Sexy voice – glint what's he doing with that? No, no, not yet! Don'ttouchme – fearfear – painpain like she'd never experienced worse than her broken arm no! not yet!-

He stumbled back, shook his head. “Hisoka!”

He ignored Tsuzuki and slammed his hand back – glee – so much fun – will she work? will she be the one? Doesn't matter, will find out soon – blood, listen to that heartbeat slow, slow, such a beautiful sight, eyes blanking-

“Aaagh!” This time when he pulled back he fell. He felt his body shuddering, heard his breath in harsh gasps. Footsteps spewed pebbles everywhere, then Tsuzuki's familiar concern wrapped around him, warming him from the cold.

“Hisoka! Are you okay?!”

He almost clutched Tsuzuki again, but his hand felt too dirty, like slime was dripping from it. He carefully kept it away from Tsuzuki and focused on breathing.

“Kurosaki. What happened?”

Tsuzuki hissed at Tatsumi again. He took another breath. “I... I Felt him.”

No need to say who. Tatsumi and Tsuzuki must have understood immediately; he could Feel even Tatsumi's tense expectation. “H-He was wondering if she would... would work.” He spat it out. “And that he would find out soon.”

Tsuzuki heard something in his voice, because his arms tightened around him. Or maybe it was because he was still shivering like a kitten in the cold.

“Does your hand hurt?”

Hisoka flinched. He quickly shook his head. Tsuzuki made to touch it, but Hisoka snapped back from him. He stood then. “I have to... go to the bathroom.”

He escaped before either could say anything more to him.

His first act when safely in the restroom was to turn on the faucet with his good hand and smother his hands in the soap. It smelled like all nasty foam soap, but he didn't care.

No matter how much he rinsed, he couldn't get Muraki's thoughts out of his head. To take such delight in the girl's death, in watching her soul fade from her eyes... he shuddered again in remembrance. Muraki's soul was a black hole of darkness and shadows, full of such hate it made him weak in its stead.

He just let the water run over his hands as he stood there, staring at the faucet blindly. What was Muraki planning? What did killing a bunch of American girls have to do with Tsuzuki? Last Hisoka had heard, Muraki had been after Tsuzuki's immortal body-

Hisoka shuddered at that. No, it was better to not imagine all the what-ifs for that night.

He didn't bother turning when the door opened, knowing who it was before the door clicked closed. “Hisoka.”

“I'm fine,” he said before Tsuzuki could ask.

Tsuzuki walked up behind him, hesitated. If Hisoka concentrated, he thought he could even Feel the hesitation... did Tsuzuki want to touch him? “I-”

“Tsuzuki.” Hisoka turned, almost bumping into him. His eyes widened; he hadn't known Tsuzuki was so close. He felt a rush of heat before Tsuzuki backed up. “We have to go back outside.”

“Huh? Why?”

Hisoka didn't like Tsuzuki being out of Tatsumi's sight. Hateful as it was, only Tatsumi could protect Tsuzuki right now. “Come on.”

He slipped by Tsuzuki, hyper-aware of his nearness, and impatiently led them back to the alley. Tatsumi was waiting for them. “Are you all right, Kurosaki?”

Hisoka nodded. “I'm fine. Let's move on.”

“I want to return to Serendipity,” Tatsumi said. Tsuzuki turned on Tatsumi in obvious protest.


Hisoka understood why – there was an emotional connection between him and Serendipity. If he concentrated beyond her pain to Muraki's thoughts, he might be able to pick up more information. To be able to help Tsuzuki in any way he could, he needed to do this.


Tsuzuki was worried. Shit. “I'm fine, Tsuzuki.” He turned an exasperated look on Tsuzuki. “Besides, the sooner we're done this, the sooner we can eat.”

Oddly enough, this news did not deter Tsuzuki in the slightest. Hisoka sighed and gave up. “Let's head back.”


A train ride and quick lunch later (much to Tsuzuki's disappointment), the Shinigamis returned to Hisoka's grave.

He needed to find out what Muraki was after. If only he knew, he might be able to help find a way to stop the man from getting it. He needed to make sure Muraki never got Tsuzuki again.

“Kurosaki, are you ready?”

Hisoka was getting tired of hearing that question. “Of course.”

The flowers still sat there, though a few had been pushed around by the wind. He stared at them for a moment before moving to them. Would it be better to touch the flowers, or should he try the grave again? He was deadly aware of Tsuzuki's eyes on him. He had to get through this without any incidents. If he did, maybe Tsuzuki would stop hovering like he was helpless.

He clenched his teeth and grabbed the grave roughly.

Regretsorrow who could that be?

He pushed through Serendipity's emotions - fitting that here finally she would- trying to Feel Muraki, sosorryIwasn'tthere, Feel the roiling hate and madness that accompanied the man like a stench. Pain, pain like she never could have imagined what...? Finally he Felt it, strong enough to make his head swim.

Perfect, better than he ever could have imagined, a specimen with more importance than any other it won't be long now.

He clenched his eyes shut and flinched as the knife flashed down – no, not knife, he'd been wrong, it wasn't a knife, no, no-

Triumph, ultimate triumph there was no way this one wouldn't work perfect bait-

He winced; Serendipity wasn't bait!

She'll bring him straight to me...

The malice made him cry out. He jerked back on instinct, trying to escape; he shivered. He stood on a sudden need to get away, but he stumbled.


“I'm fine!” he shouted, breathing heavily. Hell. Hell. He couldn't falter now. They were ready to catch him and coddle him like a baby. He wouldn't let it happen. He had to be strong. If Muraki... “Tsuzuki.”

“I'm here, Hisoka.”

Hisoka searched behind him; he was reassured by the strong Feel of Tsuzuki's presence, his concern and his worry. Hisoka reached out for him without thinking. Only when he felt the security of Tsuzuki's hand on his was he able to breathe properly. “Never leave Tatsumi's side.”

The worry escalated, almost painfully so. “Hisoka?”

“He thought Serendipity was perfect bait,” Hisoka snapped. “That she would lead you straight to him.”

Tatsumi hissed under his breath. “If that's the case, then Kurosaki is right, Tsuzuki. You will not leave my side, not under any circumstances.”

Tsuzuki seemed to ignore Tatsumi, because he moved so that Hisoka could see him better. “Hisoka, are you all right?”

Hisoka looked away and studied the grave. “I'll be fine if you take care of yourself.”

Tsuzuki's worry didn't abate in the slightest. A part of Hisoka noted that reaching for Tsuzuki was probably why.

“We'll be leaving, then. I don't want you too strained, Kurosaki,” Tatsumi said lowly when Hisoka turned to protest. “We need you strong.”

There was no point. Strong or weak, he couldn't... Hisoka's eyes shifted to Tsuzuki. Though it was true, wasn't it, that Tsuzuki would worry about him if...? He sighed and capitulated. “Fine.” He had to get stronger. He hoped his training over the months since they'd last fought Muraki had helped. If not...

“Good. Then shall we go eat?”

Hisoka looked at him, surprised. “Already?”

Tatsumi smiled at him, but it was more like an aw-what-a-cute-kid smile. Hisoka felt his blood fire up in indignation. “We've been here for a couple of hours.”

Hisoka turned to Tsuzuki in shock. “Is that true?”

Tsuzuki looked away and shifted his feet. That told Hisoka before Tsuzuki even opened his mouth. “Well, we've been here for a while, yeah.”

Shit. No wonder Tsuzuki had been so upset. He looked back at the grave in surprise. But... two hours? How? It had seemed like only minutes. Ridiculous. It never took so long – it was like flashes, pictures that ran and disappeared in an instant. That's why they were so overwhelming. It was like he was struck with someone else's emotions... how? Just because he was comfortable with Serendipity's emotions? But no... it had to be because he'd been searching through them that whole time, trying to get to Muraki. Two hours for that? But it had been worth it. There was no doubt that Muraki was after Tsuzuki for something. What was that bastard planning now?

Hisoka's fists clenched. He wouldn't let Muraki touch him. He wouldn't let Tsuzuki go again.

“All right; let's get some food.”


He feared the dream more than ever now, but he knew that he needed whatever sleep he could manage. He had to be ready. But if he was injured, seriously injured, he might be worse off than if he had just skipped a night of sleep.

Still, he'd gone to sleep, and now here he was, Tsuzuki lost in the fire and him on the ground in pain. He hadn't gone after Tsuzuki this time, afraid he would choke again, but now the fire was spreading, coming close to him, and the air was swelteringly hot. He felt sweat on his face and neck and back. He backed away from it, but it was as if the fire was following him. He needed to wake up.

But Tsuzuki was dead, dead again and that could very well happen if he didn't get stronger. He clutched at his chest, winced at the pain of loss. The feeling never lessened over time or experience. It always hit like a cannonball, destroying him from the inside out. But now it was destroying from the outside, too.

The fire wasn't even touching him, yet the heat made it feel as if his skin was peeling from his body. He covered his face on instinct.

“Trying to die again, I see.”

He turned around, but he couldn't see him. “Muraki! What are you after?”

Muraki laughed. “You'll see.”

“I won't let you touch Tsuzuki!” Hisoka screamed, but the fire was touching him now and he knew he could very well die right now. It was so hot... “I'll kill you!” Words, and nothing more. He had to get stronger for those words to have weight.

Muraki laughed, calling his bluff. “Kill me? Perhaps I should keep you alive. Yes – I still have a use for you.”

“No!” Hisoka would not bring Muraki to Tsuzuki! He wouldn't – no! Fear and panic tripped his heart into overdrive. He bent under the flames surrounding him, coughed.

He couldn't die – he couldn't! Tsuzuki had asked if he could live inside Hisoka's heart – Tsuzuki was living in him – he couldn't die!

Hisoka screamed. What could he do? Muraki's pawn... again, again Muraki was using him against Tsuzuki. Was there nothing he could do?

One of his hands fell to his chest again, clutching it as if it was on fire; it felt like it was. His heart burned. “I won't let you...” he coughed out. But how could he stop it? He couldn't die... he had to...

“I won't let you die yet,” Muraki murmured, his voice low.

“I won't let you use me!” he screeched, but he felt the dream world swirl around him and knew-

-He stared up at the ceiling in horror.


He lurched up from the bed. He felt aches and pains all along his body, but he blindly ignored them and threw himself into the bathroom. “No. No...” He turned on the water and just let it run while he leaned weakly against the sink. His hands shook. Muraki was going to use him to bring out Tsuzuki. Was he waiting for the right moment? Was he watching right now? A shiver ran down his spine at that thought. He thanked Tatsumi then with a new fervor, both for coming and for taking a room with Tsuzuki.

If anything happened to Tsuzuki...

He cupped his hands under the water and let it spill over for a bit before splashing some on his face. What was he going to do? Could he tell Tatsumi and Tsuzuki? But he brushed that off immediately. Tsuzuki would freak out and demand Hisoka rest, or be watched over, too. And Tatsumi would at least agree with the latter. Tatsumi's focus needed to be on Tsuzuki. If he watched over Hisoka, too, then there would be openings. And Muraki would take them.

Hisoka's eyes clenched tight against the memory of Tsuzuki lying limp in Muraki's arms. No. No! He wouldn't let it happen again. Not again...

There was a soft knock on his door. He ignored it, letting the water run down the drain. His hands gripped the sink as if trying to break it. He shook his head violently, dislodging the image. And shuddered, remembering Tsuzuki lying lifeless amidst a raging fire...


He jumped a mile high, running to the door and wrenching it open. Tsuzuki stood frozen in surprise on the other side.

“Get back to Tatsumi!” he hissed.

Tsuzuki ignored his order and stepped inside his room. Hisoka noticed he'd left the water running. He turned and saw the mess on his bed. The comforter was tangled around the sheets, parts hanging to the floor.

Tsuzuki quietly clicked the door behind him. Hisoka felt another moment of panic and swiveled back around to Tsuzuki, but the older Shinigami spoke first.

“So you are still having the nightmares.”

“That doesn't matter,” he hissed. “Get back to Tatsumi. Idiot! Have you forgotten that you're being targeted?”

Tsuzuki's eyes glittered when they turned to him. “This is important.”

“Not as important as your life! Now go back to your room!”

“No!” Tsuzuki yelled back, surprising Hisoka so much he jumped back a half-step. Tsuzuki settled a bit. “Why don't you go turn off the water?”

Shit. Tsuzuki had no intention of leaving. Hisoka thought about it for a split second, then ran to the bathroom. The sooner they got through this disaster, the sooner Tsuzuki would be safe. Arguing against Tsuzuki when he was like this was like banging your head against a brick wall. You'd always lose, no matter what. He heard Tsuzuki click on the light while he twisted the handle.

When he came out of the bathroom, Tsuzuki was fixing the bed. Even from Hisoka's distance, he could plainly see the sweat still drying on the pillow. He grimaced. Tsuzuki was pissed; he could Feel it, even though Tsuzuki was doing his best to control his emotions.

Then Tsuzuki turned back to him and gasped.

It was only then, stupidly, that Hisoka remembered that he'd been trapped in the fire in the dream that night. He turned away, but by then it was far too late.

“H-Hisoka, what...?”

“Stay back,” he ordered, but Tsuzuki ignored him again, coming up beside him and trying to turn him around. He hissed when Tsuzuki touched his shoulder.

“Show me.”

He shook his head and tried to move away, but Tsuzuki had only to step in front of him. “Hisoka, you're burned.” Tsuzuki lightly touched Hisoka's cheek, which felt hot as a furnace. Even though Tsuzuki's touch was feather-light, he felt it like it was a slap in the face. He flinched slightly. “H-How...?”

Hisoka shrugged; hell, even that hurt. “Dunno.”

“Don't know?” Tsuzuki asked incredulously. “How can you...” Understanding dawned in those amethyst eyes. “The dream,” he breathed.

Hisoka turned away from him then, taking advantage of his shock to get some distance between them. He wondered how bad it looked; he hadn't checked himself in the mirror while in the bathroom. And he'd left the lights off. How the hell had Tsuzuki known he was waking up? Had he been listening? “Idiot; you're taking too big a risk. You need to get back to Tatsumi.”

“Hisoka, this is... we have to-”

“It'll be healed by morning. Get back to Tatsumi.” The longer Tsuzuki was alone with him, the higher chance that Muraki would see and attack.

“Hisoka, you're burned-”

“And I'll be fine in the morning!” he hissed. “Get out of here!”

“I'm not leaving!” he snapped back. “How could I, knowing you're hurt?”

Something warm and painful slithered into Hisoka's heart despite himself. He tried to ignore it. “I'm hurt, but you could be...” He glared at Tsuzuki. “You're in danger, idiot! Get the hell back to Tatsumi!” Didn't Tsuzuki understand how very difficult it was for him to admit he couldn't fucking protect the one person he loved more than anyone?

“Hisoka, when did this start?”

“Who cares?” he challenged.


Hisoka was caught off-balance on that one. He shook it off and took a deep breath. “I'm fine. Really!” He glared until Tsuzuki shut his mouth. “It's nothing; it really will be gone by morning. And I'll be fine for tomorrow-”

“Absolutely not!” Tsuzuki shook his head. “You aren't doing that when you're so tired-”

“I'll only be more tired if I wait!” Hisoka said thoughtlessly. Tsuzuki jerked back from him.

“Why?” he demanded. “Why have you hidden this from me again? Aren't we partners?”

Hisoka flinched. Didn't Tsuzuki understand that their being partners was the exact reason why he refused to tell him? “We can solve my problem anytime.” He hesitated, feeling a surge of panic flutter through him. “But you... you're in immediate danger now, being here alone with me... I don't have the strength...” He couldn't meet Tsuzuki's eyes.

“I don't care about that!”

“You should!” Hisoka looked up then, desperate to make Tsuzuki understand. “It's not just me – Tatsumi, the Chief, Watari, everyone – we can't lose you!”

Hisoka stopped cold just as Tsuzuki did; he twirled away in horror. Had he just said that? The hell?!


“You have to go back to him!” Hisoka cried. He felt horrible; the last thing he wanted was for Tsuzuki to go to Tatsumi. His hands fisted at just the thought. Tatsumi and Tsuzuki... his chest clenched. They would be good together, wouldn't they? “You aren't safe here.”

“Hisoka, I can take care of-”

“Not against him,” he snarled. “Now get your ass back to Tatsumi.”

“But what about you?” Tsuzuki pressed.

Who cares? he thought rudely, but he swallowed it back this time. “I'll be fine. We can talk about it after the mission.”

“But you-”

“Tsuzuki, go!” Hisoka slashed the air. “We don't have time – you need to get back to your room!”

Tsuzuki took a deep breath. “Hisoka, he doesn't know-”

“He could!” And that would be all his fault. If Tsuzuki was attacked right this instant, it would be his fault. And would he have to watch helplessly as Tsuzuki was taken from him again? He wouldn't be able to survive it – not this time. “Go back?” he whispered.

Tsuzuki's emotions were scrambled, just like his. Still, Hisoka Felt pain in Tsuzuki's chest. It made him want to weep; he'd hurt Tsuzuki again. His shoulders hunched.

“All right.” Tsuzuki moved past him, to the door. Then he hesitated. “Do you promise? That we'll talk about it later?”

At that moment, Hisoka would have promised anything. “Yes.”

Tsuzuki seemed to accept that, because he opened Hisoka's door, started to close it. “Wait,” Hisoka called. He Felt hope blossom in Tsuzuki's chest. “I'll walk you over.”

The hope died.

He walked over the two steps across the hall, watched as Tsuzuki opened the door. Tsuzuki turned to him once he was safely in the room. Waiting?

Hisoka took a deep breath, turned his eyes to the side. The hallway was lit, but Tsuzuki's room was dark. “Be careful.”

Tsuzuki nodded blankly and started to shut the door.

“And... thanks.” He shuffled his feet uncomfortably. “For worrying. I won't overdo it.”

Tsuzuki's face turned sad. “Yes, you will.”

Hisoka rolled his shoulders, knowing the truth of Tsuzuki's words. “Because...” How could he possibly say that he could do no less, with Tsuzuki's life and soul on the line? He managed to fight back the shudder that wanted to take his body. He wouldn't think of those days anymore.

Tsuzuki smiled, but Hisoka could still plainly Feel that sorrow. “I know.”

No. You don't.

Hisoka let Tsuzuki close the door on him. He stood there for a moment, stupidly staring. As if he could see what was happening beyond that door. As if he could hear a conversation. Surely Tatsumi had woken up. Was Tatsumi asking Tsuzuki what had happened? What was Tsuzuki telling him? He wished he had the power to protect. The ability. But despite all of the training he'd gained from the Chief, he was still...

He walked blindly back to his room and closed the door behind him. Tsuzuki... he closed his eyes and leaned against the door and hated his weakness for having to separate them when he so very much wanted Tsuzuki near.


He slid down to the floor and covered his face with his hands. Yes, that was right. He was selfish and stupid and he was going to get Tsuzuki killed.

His gut clenched at the thought alone.

How could he stop it? He stared at his shinai and hissed. “Ridiculous.” How could practicing his swordsmanship help against Muraki, who could conjure up a dragon? How could he save Tsuzuki by doing nothing more than using all his energy to shield? He only knew defensive maneuvers.

Hell, the only good thing about him was his ability to sense Muraki's nearness – nothing screamed 'crazy mass-murderer nearby' like the burns he felt from the curse when Muraki came close enough. Maybe that could act as forewarning...?

As if imagining it had made it come true, his scars scratched like fire. He hissed and surged to his feet. Tsuzuki.

“Hello there, my little doll.”

He froze. Muraki was in his room? Hell! His fists clenched. “Muraki.” His eyes took in the room. Where was he? His voice-

He swiveled to the bathroom. Even in the darkness, he could see the outline of him; his white trenchcoat shone like a beacon. He backed up. Hell, hell! If Muraki had been waiting for him to be alone, he'd been waiting for the opportune time to grab him and use him as... absolutely not!

He glared at the man who killed him. “What do you want?” he asked again, just as he had in the dream.

“Haven't I told you?” The man stepped forward. “You'll see.”

His breathing clogged in his throat. Until that moment he hadn't known he was even holding out hope that Muraki really couldn't see, that maybe he'd imagined it. But wasn't the fact that Muraki was here proof enough?

What could he do? Should he call out, warn Tsuzuki and Tatsumi? But knowing Tsuzuki, he'd race over here despite all precautions... would that be a good thing or a bad thing? Muraki had obviously waited for Tsuzuki to leave...

As he thought it over, Muraki came closer. The burning sensation increased, as it always did. He opened his mouth to shout.

“Bring him to me,” Muraki whispered.

He froze.

Muraki moved faster than he could have anticipated, shooting across the room and grabbing Hisoka's arm. Pain lanced up his arm; he no sooner opened his mouth that Muraki was behind him and clamping his other hand over his lips. He struggled against Muraki's hold desperately. Shit, no, he wouldn't be used against Tsuzuki, he wouldn't, he wouldn't...

Panic seized him at the thought – what would Muraki do, how would he hurt Tsuzuki, no, no-

Muraki twisted his arm until he bent his back against it. New pain blossomed then. His scream was muffled by Muraki's hand.

“You know...” Muraki leaned in, breathing into his ear, “though I love my dear Tsuzuki-” Hisoka bristled at the possessive “-I had no intention of taking him tonight.”

Hisoka froze in shock once more. With lightning speed, Muraki released his mouth and reached into his coat. Hisoka fought to get free. Wasn't after Tsuzuki? Then-

Before he could shout, Muraki's hand returned. He saw what he'd once mistaken as a knife; the needle plunged into his captive arm. He cried out then without thinking; pain soared up his arm, raced through his system. It was almost like he could feel it traveling through his bloodstream; a sort of venom that turned his arm to fire. He felt it travel up, not content to stay in one place. Then it was in his chest, moving quicker now, closer – it seized his muscles, one at a time, then grabbed his organs and burned them to ash. Vaguely he felt the needle leaving his skin; he screamed out again at the feel of it. Muraki pulled him back, towards the window. A door slammed.


“Move, Tsuzuki!” A splintering sound split Hisoka's skull. The venom grabbed his heart, made its pulsing feel like a knife digging through his skin. He moaned at the feel; what was this? Muraki... Muraki had...


“Tsuzuki...” Just saying Tsuzuki's name made the world spin around him; he couldn't make out the figures in front of him. He felt himself being pulled back and yelped at the pain. It was spreading to his legs; he couldn't walk; he couldn't move. Muraki was...

“Muraki! Let go of him!”

“Ah, my dear Tsuzuki. How are you?”

“Let him go, Muraki, or I swear I'll...”

Hisoka was moved a bit. He felt Muraki's presence behind him. He grimaced. Used as a shield? No. He had to... He tried to escape and screamed in agony. He slumped in Muraki's grip and tried to get his breathing under control. His lungs burned.

“Now, now, my little pet. You don't want to do that.” Muraki pulled him up against his chest; his scars burned like they were being placed on his skin for the first time. He couldn't help but scream once more.


“You made a mistake, didn't you, Tsuzuki? You were too busy protecting yourself to take care of your little partner here.”

No! Wasn't Tsuzuki's fault... don't hurt Tsuzuki! He turned his head, trying to find Tsuzuki in the blur. Where...?

“No, Hisoka, I...”

Not your fault, not your fault, I should have known... “Idiot,” he gasped, “not...” But he couldn't finish, the pain, the pain... it was...

“Now you'll have to say good-bye, Tsuzuki. Too bad, hmm, Shinigamis? You lose.” Muraki laughed in delight. “I got exactly what I was after.”


“I'll come for you later, my dear Tsuzuki, but you'll just have to wait your turn.”

Hisoka felt darkness sweeping over him. No... was he still so weak...? But Muraki's arm went around him, picking him up in his arms, and his cursed body seared in even more agony. He slipped into unconsciousness without another thought.



“Go to hell, Hisoka!” He cried out at the heat, at the pain.

“Tsuzuki, wait!”


“Tsuzuki... no, wait... please...”


He was awoken by searing cold.

He shivered at the Feel of it, the liquid Feel of hands-



No I have too much to live for I can't die now what about my dream of marrying rich?

“Good morning.”

He snapped up, shivered. “Muraki!” He remembered, then, the feel of the needle, the overwhelming agony. And Muraki's words... that he'd never been after Tsuzuki... but how could that be? Muraki was always after Tsuzuki. Hisoka was just a... an interesting distraction.

He looked around him as his scenery clicked into his senses. All white and empty, he felt like he was in a mental facility. There was nothing in the room, just blank white walls and floor and ceiling. He saw a dark part of one wall. His eyes narrowed. There – a one-way window? Muraki was most likely behind there.

“Come out, damn you!”

Muraki chuckled. His voice echoed in the room, but now Hisoka could tell it was coming in through speakers. He searched for them. “There is no reason for me to enter the room. I would not be able to sense them.”


Something brushed his arm then - Aaaaaagh!-

He flinched away. Turning, he saw nothing.

“They aren't finished, of course,” Muraki said conversationally. “Many were poorly done. I personally can't know how many worked. That's why I brought you.”

“What do you mean?” Hisoka looked around warily. He couldn't see anything, but he knew he hadn't imagined that scream.

“So slow.” Muraki tsked. “I took the souls of the girls I killed and attempted to extract their emotions. I believe you know the inspiration.”

Amara. He swiveled back to the dark wall. “You bastard!” He'd killed them for that?!

Something grabbed his arm - Help save me!

He screamed and backed up. The insubstantial thing couldn't hold him, but he lost it the instant it let go of him. He couldn't see them. He could only Feel them when they touched him...? Then something shimmered in front of him, a small silvery smoke. It came to him slowly, watching, it seemed, as he backed up. Then it touched him.

REGRET sorry I couldn't be there for you I didn't know I swear-

He gasped and jerked, falling to the ground. He felt hot tears on his cheeks. Serendipity? Had he... even to her...

“Ah, I see at least one was a success.”

That smug triumph made Hisoka's stomach roll. Even Serendipity was nothing more than smoke now.

Cold flew past him, a spirit that either had no thoughts or didn't quite touch him. He scooted back instinctively, watching the silvery smoke waver in the air. There was another that floated past her, less substantial, like a wave of heat that only rippled the air but left no sign of itself otherwise. He watched them both in fear.

“It was most likely my later subjects,” Muraki continued. “The two girls – Lisa Duncan and Serendipity Channery-”

Hisoka flinched at the name.

“Ah, yes, that's right. You knew her, didn't you? I found it quite fortuitous to find her at your grave.”

The cold touched him again, and now he knew it was all that was left of one of Muraki's victims, trying ineffectually to tell him something... he shivered. Another came up to him, grabbing him up – blood pain why? What did she do to deserve this? Nonono she didn't want to die-

He screamed and pulled away, overwhelmed with the girl's fear. Another brushed against him – Aaaaaaagh!

He clutched his head and hunched into himself. His breath caught in his throat.”What – what do you want from me?”

He didn't know who he was asking, but Muraki was the one who answered. “I want to see just how strong I've made these girls. I want to see if they can weaken you enough to take your body as that little girl did.”


“Tsuzuki, we need to pull ourselves together.”

Tsuzuki heard Tatsumi, but the words didn't make any sense. Pull themselves together? Hisoka was trapped with Muraki, suffering God only knew what, and Tsuzuki hadn't been able to protect him. Now Muraki...

His head fell into his hands. “What is he doing to him, Tatsumi?” he asked, not for the first time.

Tatsumi knelt in front of him, touched his shoulder. “Tsuzuki, we can't think about that. We need to find him.”

Tsuzuki thought about Hisoka's concern over him and wondered if it had felt like this. If it had, he could understand why Hisoka was adamant that he return to Tatsumi. But if he'd said no, if he'd stayed with Hisoka...

He nodded, letting Tatsumi understand that he'd heard. He sent out a few scouting birds and stood, letting them out of Hisoka's window. He hadn't managed to return to his room after...

He still saw Hisoka slumped against Muraki, bangs matted to his forehead, screaming whenever he moved. What had Muraki done?

Please be safe, he begged, knowing it was useless. No one was safe around Muraki.

If only he'd been strong enough to kill the man that night. Hisoka wouldn't be suffering for his weakness.


They didn't have the strength to go that far.

He could Feel that they didn't have that strength. Because Amara had somehow kept her soul from leaving, but had somehow absorbed it into her emotions, making them solid. This was merely emotions, and emotions couldn't jump into another person's body and take over.

But they could overwhelm.

Trapped in that room with no escape, he could only endure the touches of those intangible beings and suffer. The thermal-spirit chased after him if he tried to run, but her emotions were the strongest of all – save one. But she sat in a corner, keeping a distance from him after that one try. He could only breathe a relief at that.

Of course he didn't tell Muraki that they didn't have the strength – he didn't know what Muraki was up to, but he wouldn't help in any way. Let the man live with false hope.

Plus, the longer Muraki waited, the greater chance he'd be found.

But of course that was stupid to want. He also remembered Muraki saying he wanted Tsuzuki, too. So of course he didn't want Tsuzuki to come... and at the same time, he did. It made no sense.

I don't want to die-

Not fair not fair not fair-

It hurts, the pain make it stop I'll do anything please-

The thermal spirit grabbed him up again – I wanted a big house with beautiful flowers and a gardener a really hot gardener and an old husband who would die in five years and then I could live without worrying about money anymore-

He stumbled away, bumping into the cold one. He shivered.

And then Serendipity moved from her corner, racing up to him, and for a split second he thought he saw her hair whipping behind her before the look disappeared again. He backed up, but she stopped right before touching him and just floated there in mid-air. For a blessed moment, nothing touched him. The thermal spirit floated there before her, unmoving now. Could they communicate with one another?

He heard a sigh. “I very much wish I could see them,” Muraki spoke up.

So do I, Hisoka thought with a frown. He saw both Serendipity and who he supposed was Lisa flinch at the sound of Muraki's voice. His teeth gnashed together. Murdering girls just for an experiment...

He had to get out of here. But what about the girls? He couldn't let them get loose. What could he do? But it was his job to get these girls to Meifu. Surely he could do at least that.

“Everyone, please listen to me.” He tried desperately not to think of Muraki, listening to him from that other room. He had to think to be able to take care of this on his own, before Tsuzuki and Tatsumi arrived, before Muraki got everything he wanted. He wouldn't let Muraki have Tsuzuki. Never again.

“You don't have to live like this.”

Of course only two fully understood his meaning. Both were waiting, it seemed, for him to continue. “You can return-”

“Now, now, my little toy, that's enough of that.”

Hisoka ignored him, though his blood boiled. “You're all dead, whether you want to be or not! Your souls are waiting for you; why the hell are you still here?!”

Hisoka turned at a whooshing sound. A part of the wall opened up. He saw Serendipity's little silver fog flinch away. Lisa, on the other hand, flew over to the opposite corner, going through him in the process. I wanted a beautiful lover - He shivered at the touch.

“That's quite enough.”

Muraki walked in, white trenchcoat billowing behind him. The Feel of Muraki's madness made Hisoka's hair stand on end. He turned to Muraki and glared. Muraki's right hand was up, holding something. It glinted, and he recognized a needle. With his heart thumping hard, he backed away.

“There's no where you can run, boy.” Muraki pushed the needle, letting some liquid – clear – shoot out of the tip.

Tsuzuki, he thought desperately, stupidly. But he knew there was no one who could help him. He was alone.

The silvery fog jumped in front of Hisoka as if it was trying to defend him. He stared at it at horror. Something lodged in his throat. Serendipity?

“I don't believe it will work, but I can't allow you to try,” Muraki continued. “I very much need this data.”

“They aren't data!” he snapped.

Muraki laughed. “Of course they are. Just like you.”

Him? Hisoka snarled. “I'm not your data, either!” He skirted around Serendipity and charged at Muraki, fists raised. It was disgustingly simple for Muraki to grab his fist and raise it, stabbing the needle into his arm. He jerked and screamed.

The fire was just like last time, traveling through his system... he stumbled away, muscles spasming at the movement-

“Enjoy your sleep, little boy,” Muraki said with a smirk. “I will not be saving you this time.” And he laughed, walking away.

“Wait...!” Hisoka stumbled forward, but his muscles seized up and burned beyond imagination. He collapsed to the ground. He didn't remember much about what he'd dreamt about before while unconscious, only that it had been oddly short. Muraki had saved him? He didn't believe that. A wave of pain rolled over him then, and his thoughts shut down.


Tsuzuki winced.

“Tsuzuki? Are you all right?”

Tsuzuki hadn't been able to breathe without pain since... the image flashed in his mind again, and stupidly he wondered if that sight haunted Hisoka as much as it haunted him. The memory of Hisoka lying limp in Muraki's arms, head and arms dangling like strings had been cut...


He flinched. Tatsumi grabbed his arm and shook him slightly. “Tsuzuki, I need you to focus. Hisoka needs you to focus.”

Tsuzuki had a hard time nodding his head. How had Hisoka done it? How had he managed to carry on and find him when...

He took a deep breath. No, he had to do this. He had to find Hisoka and save him. He couldn't imagine not finding him in time. But what if it was already...

“Tsuzuki, one of your birds has returned!”

Tsuzuki leaped up from his seat on Hisoka's bed – God, why had he been so stupidly worried about Hisoka's nightmares when Muraki had been right there – he held out his hand for the bird to perch on, but there was no news to report. He almost screamed. “We have to look for him,” Tsuzuki said desperately. He couldn't stay sitting any more.

“And where do you suppose we look?” Tatsumi demanded. Tsuzuki turned to him, surprised by the tone. Tatsumi's forehead was creased; his mouth was thin and frowning. Suddenly Tsuzuki saw the stress on Tatsumi's face, too. The worry Tatsumi felt was under more control, but it was just as real. Tsuzuki wasn't the only one terrified for Hisoka.

Tsuzuki raked a hand through his hair. Hisoka. They had to find him. Tsuzuki wasn't the only one Meifu couldn't lose.


“Tsuzuki, please, not again.” Hisoka got down on his knees, begging. “Please... I can't do this anymore.”

“Get away from me!” Tsuzuki snapped. Hisoka flinched in reaction. “I don't want to talk to you! I don't want to see you! Go the hell away!”

This isn't the real Tsuzuki. “I'll only leave you alone if you live,” Hisoka snapped, fighting back. “That's the only way you'll ever get me to leave you alone!”

“Damn you!”

Tsuzuki turned away from him, apparently done with arguing. The fire roared around them.

“Tsuzuki, please!” He surged to his feet, pushing forward even before he'd managed to stand. “Don't do this! What do I have to do?!”

Tsuzuki turned to him again, brow raised. “Die,” he answered.

Hisoka flinched. That's not really Tsuzuki. But that didn't stop his body from reacting as if it was. “What happened to living inside my heart? Well, Tsuzuki?!”

Tsuzuki paused for a moment before shaking his head. “I never said that,” the man murmured.

“You did!” Hisoka yelled. Why the hell were tears on his face? “After I came in and you said you couldn't take it anymore and I refused to lose you! You asked if it would be okay, and I said yes! You're still here, Tsuzuki!” He clapped a hand over his chest, right there over his heart. “You're still with me!”

Tsuzuki just stood there, not seeming to comprehend. Then he laughed, long and loud, completely different than Tsuzuki's true laughter. “Did I now?” He stepped forward, back to Hisoka. But his emotions were cruel, angry; his tone, too, seemed unsafe. Hisoka took a wary step back. “What's the matter?” Tsuzuki demanded. “Weren't you just begging me to return to you?”

This wasn't Tsuzuki! Tsuzuki was nothing like this! “Tsuzuki-”

“Well?!” Tsuzuki stopped right in front of him. With two fingers, he tipped Hisoka's eyes up. “Do you want to save me, Hisoka?”

Tsuzuki's eyes were hard, almost crazed, but they were definitely Tsuzuki's deep violet. “Tsuzuki, I... I want you to come back.”

Tsuzuki laughed, right in his face. One cool hand gently traced his cheek. “Why?” Tsuzuki whispered.

Hisoka felt his limbs tremble. Why was Tsuzuki so close? And why was his concentration fuzzing? “Because... I – we all – l-love... you.”

“Love me?” Tsuzuki repeated. “How much do you love me?”

Tsuzuki...? “More than... more than any-mmph-” His lips were suddenly crushed beneath Tsuzuki's. His body stiffened, shocked, but then his legs gave way completely beneath him and Tsuzuki had to grab him to hold him up. With just a push, Tsuzuki had their bodies pressed together. Heat rolled through Hisoka's body. He pulled Hisoka's hair, forcing his head back, granting deeper access. His tongue lashed in, stealing Hisoka's breath. One hand released his hair to grab his hands, beginning to twine around Tsuzuki's neck, and pulled them behind him.

Tsuzuki pulled up, releasing his lips for a short moment. “Tsuzuki – what-”

But Tsuzuki's lips were on him again, and suddenly Tsuzuki's weight was overbalancing them and they were crashing to the ground. Winded, Hisoka struggled futilely against Tsuzuki's hand, still around his wrists, making them dig painfully into the floor. His chest heaved, searching for air.

“Let's die together,” Tsuzuki murmured against his lips, crushing Hisoka beneath his weight. “Hisoka...”

Hisoka jerked up, eyes going wide. No! Not... and this wasn't really...!

Tsuzuki's hand traveled down, down his chest, down to the zipper of his...

“No – Tsuzuki, don't...!”

Tsuzuki shut him up with another kiss, that hand unzipping his jeans and venturing underneath...

“No – no, Tsuzuki – no!” He thrashed, but it was useless.

Tsuzuki wouldn't do this... he wouldn't...! Tears oozed down his face. “Please, Tsuzuki...”

“Yes... together, Hisoka...” Tsuzuki's lips trailed down to his throat, nibbled right on that pulse. It jumped in fear. “Let's die together, just as we...”

“Tsuzuki... no, not like this... please...” His hips jerked up, trying to wrench Tsuzuki off-

Tsuzuki screamed and rolled off of him. Hisoka's eyes snapped over to him. He froze in terror. Fire danced on Tsuzuki's back – Hisoka had pushed the man right onto the flames. “NO!”

He scrambled to his feet, but there was no way for him to get over to Tsuzuki, struggling madly on the ground, writhing. The fire was circling around him, ensnaring him within its net. He could only watch as Tsuzuki screamed and screamed, until...

“Tsuzuki, no!” He clutched his chest and stared right at Tsuzuki's still body. No longer did he fight. There wasn't even a twitch. Tsuzuki was...

Tears swallowed his vision and he shouted out. “No! Tsuzuki, no, I'm sorry! I'm sorry! TSUZUKI!”


He simply sat and let them touch him as they saw fit.

He was starting to recognize them – not by sight, but by Feel. One always screamed, one was always cold, one was trapped on her last thought – not fair – and one was focused on the pain she felt in her last moments. Then there was the one that was afraid to die, then Lisa and Serendipity. Yes, he recognized them all now. He just couldn't make himself care.

That wasn't... quite fair. He cared, he supposed. Or at least he would, if he hadn't... if Tsuzuki...

No, dammit, that hadn't been Tsuzuki. It was just that stupid fucking nightmare, mixing in his horrors from that night with the painful memory of Muraki... he shuddered, but not from the Feel of the cold girl, still trying futilely to make him hear her. That night with Muraki was one he wished he could forget again.

Muraki hadn't stepped in again. He'd gotten little sleep, no food, no water. His body felt like lead. How much longer before Muraki lost his patience and upped the stakes? It couldn't be much more now. It was only a matter of time.

“Tsuzuki...” he whispered, and curled up on himself. He didn't even know if he wanted to be saved anymore.


Unsurprisingly, the door whooshed open a few hours later.

Hisoka looked up, hardly caring to bother, to see Muraki striding serenely toward him. His scars started to burn.

“It seems we must up the stakes,” Muraki said.

Up the stakes? “How?” he asked dumbly.

“Well, now, obviously the girls don't have the power I'd desired. And of course I can't let you go until I know they can. I've brought a friend for you for that very purpose.”

Hisoka jerked. Another victim? He surged to his feet, fury giving him power. “What do you mean?”

“I must have left out an important piece of the equation, and I believe I now know what it was.”

Muraki seemed wholly unconcerned. How had he managed to get another victim with Tsuzuki and Tatsumi around? But of course they must not be watching for that too carefully... Hisoka clenched his teeth together. In looking for him, the victim had been caught? But maybe they'd seen Muraki catch the girl and had wanted him to lead them to his hideout. He would hold out for that possibility. “And what do you suppose is missing?”

Muraki chuckled. “Well, I must say it was foolish to overlook – you came out looking for one little girl, yet I had needed to lure you all out here after having killed several. I had forgotten to keep the soul.”

Hisoka stilled.

“Ah, yes, that was it.” And Muraki stuck his hand in his pocket. Hisoka knew what it was before the man even pulled it out – he braced himself. He would evade as long as possible. Buy some time. It was all he could do. “Good. I was afraid I'd made a mistake.”

“She's already dead?” he gasped. Then there was no way Tsuzuki and Tatsumi had caught him. But how was that? They must have... he frowned. “How...?”

“Oh, my dear little doll.” Muraki smiled at him, a smile so bright it was chilling. “Of course I'd secreted away a few, just in case. Just like I did you.”

Hisoka shuddered.

“So, let's see what happens, shall we? I'm afraid we'll have to have you leave this room. We don't want any distractions, do we?”

He backed up. It was almost as if... but of course Muraki had planned for this. Have a few test subjects ready, then have some extras on stand-by to be able to quickly continue collecting data. It was coldly calculating. It suited Muraki too well.

“No!” he shouted.

Again, Serendipity's silvery form shot out in front of him. Muraki stepped right through her, unfaltering, as if she didn't exist at all. He reached out for Hisoka, hand white and beckoning. Hisoka jumped away from it, glaring.

“The end result is inevitable,” Muraki told him, as if he didn't know. “Trying to buy time is useless, as well. They won't find you. Not until I want you to be found.”

Hisoka didn't like the tone in Muraki's voice when he said that. “What will this accomplish for you?!” he snapped, scuttling over to the corner furthest from the madman. “Only I can be affected by these souls.” If they could be called souls. “Do you really want my body?” Tsuzuki had managed to relate a bit of information after he'd recovered. He'd said Muraki had wanted to use his body as a replacement for someone else.

“You are closer to his old size,” Muraki murmured, “but no. I have other plans.”

Other plans? What other plans? What other plans could there possibly be?! “There are no other plans! I'm the only one-”

Muraki tsked and moved closer. He didn't seem to walk quickly, but suddenly he was only a couple of steps away. Hisoka belatedly realized he'd trapped himself in. “That's a bad habit, you know. Thinking you're somehow more special than anyone else.”

Hisoka's fists clenched. If he tried to run, Muraki would catch him. There wasn't enough space to run away. Did that mean fight? But that was useless, too. “That doesn't change the fact that Tsuzuki couldn't be hurt by Amara.”

“No. But he can be hurt by you, can't he?”

Hisoka froze. Of course Muraki took the chance to lunge, to grab him and pull his arm out and plunge the needle in. He writhed in Muraki's grasp, but it was as useful as his screaming. The fire swept him up and knocked him out.


Tsuzuki paced like a caged tiger, lethal and agitated and pissed. But unlike the tiger, he was terrified. There was no news; as far as he knew, Hisoka was already dead – permanently dead.

What could Muraki want? How had the man found them? What was he doing to Hisoka? Always the questions would circle each other in his mind, and always they would halt on that last one. Images would flash through his mind, dire endings that he couldn't bear to imagine. Then he would shake his head and begin again, trying to find an answer, trying to know. Wishing Hisoka was beside him.

“Tsuzuki...” Tatsumi stood still, as helpless as he.

“Tell me how you found me,” Tsuzuki pleaded, not for the first time. “Tell me how you tracked me down.”

“We found Oriya,” Tatsumi said, also not for the first time. “This time Muraki's working alone. We've already got the twins searching the library information ob the town for any likely spot Muraki may be hiding. As soon as they've finished, we can move. But not until then, Tsuzuki.”

“What if we're too late?” A fear he'd been too afraid to express, words he thought blasphemy to string together.

“We will,” Tatsumi stated firmly. “Kurosaki is strong.” Familiar words, but not reassuring. “He'll live, if only because the two of you promised.”

Tsuzuki held onto that as if it were his last hope. He was terrified it was.


He'd hardly felt the heat of the Serpent's fire when a voice screaming at him woke him up. His eyes snapped open. Immediately after his heart jumped in his chest.

Muraki certainly had moved him since he'd been unconscious. He'd been in a large room with no windows, but now he was in a much smaller room, still windowless, with what looked to be several consoles situated around his holding cell.

But his holding cell wasn't normal – what about this fiasco was? He thought it more a scene from a bad science fiction movie. Soon, he thought, liquid would be seeping in from cracks under the floor, and he would be immersed, left in a coma-like state for a couple of centuries. For the cell was more of a tube, a clear tube that trapped him within a small little area. If he moved as far back as he could, he still wouldn't be able to stretch his arms out all the way in front of him. Muraki was conspicuously absent.

But just as he thought that, a door opposite his tube opened and Muraki entered. He smiled when he saw Hisoka's eyes open. Hisoka surged to his feet and glared. “Good, you're awake. You can hear her, correct?”

Hisoka frowned. “What?”

“No?” Muraki frowned, then shrugged. “Ah, well. Back to the drawing board, as they say.” He made to leave.

“Hold on.” He pushed forward, as much as he could in the cramped space. “You're going to kill another girl, right? I won't let you!”

Muraki smirked. “And what, pray tell, are you going to do? That little tube is as enforced as the room I placed you in, though you never made the effort to attempt to break out. I placed wards all over this place. I would never be so careless as to let you escape.”

“Like you did with Tsuzuki,” Hisoka shouted, furious. Muraki paused then, a significant pause that raised Hisoka's hackles. When Muraki turned his head to look at him, his eyes were coldly murderous. Just as they'd been when Hisoka had first seen him.

“Yes. Like I had with Tsuzuki. But you helped that, didn't you?” Hisoka fought down a shiver. Muraki was calm, but Hisoka could easily Feel the hatred and madness roiling off him in waves. He'd stepped into dangerous ground.

Muraki left without another word.

He breathed out a quick sigh of relief, then looked around. If he could find a way to leave, to escape... his odd prison seemed airtight, but there had to be a weakness somewhere. If he could find it, he could escape and he and Tsuzuki could figure out a way to destroy this place. Then Muraki's plans, whatever they were, would never come to fruition.

The consoles were the key. He looked at them and scowled. He didn't understand what any of the knobs and switches were for, but he was sure destroying them would trigger something. He just had to find some crack in the seals Muraki had made and–

He gasped and ducked, smacking his elbow into the tube in the process. Above him, a shining form glittered. It flowed like water, rushed towards him. But it was certainly not water...

His mind finally processed what he was seeing. He stared in horror at... the ghost.

Pieces were missing; an ear, a foot. Her ring and pinky fingers on her right hand. But for the most part, she was whole. Her hair was long and red and curled; her clothes a simple, almost plain white skirt and vest. A light blue top peeked out from underneath. Her eyes, dark grey, stared sadly at him.

"Is it true that you can see me?” the girl asked him.

His eyes widened even further. There was no way. In so short a time, with nothing more than a perfunctory knowledge of what he'd needed to do... Muraki had done this? How?!

“You can hear me?” she whispered.

He stayed a very careful distance away from her. If Muraki had told this girl about his ability to Feel her presence, what else had he told her? “Yes,” he answered her finally. She couldn't be any more than thirteen years old. He scowled at that; Muraki must have a thing for little kids.

"He said he'd killed me." He hissed. “Why?”

He shook his head. Big grey eyes pleaded with him to explain, but he had no answers. Who could explain the thoughts of a psychopath? “I don't know.”

She floated down a bit more, reached out her deformed, half-there hand towards his face. “Can I really live again if I take your body?”

He tensed like a bowstring. “It doesn't quite work like that. You would have to kill me.”

She flinched away from him at that. Hisoka felt the faint stirrings of relief; of course this girl couldn't take his soul. She hadn't gone through centuries of tragedy. She hadn't become desperate.

“What do I do?” she asked him.

He didn't know that, either. “You can still leave this place. Move on.”

But she'd begun shaking her head before he'd even finished. “My brother needs me. I promised I would live for him.”

This time it was Hisoka to flinch. Live for him? He couldn't help but think of Tsuzuki. “I have someone who made the same promise. Someone very important to me.”

She kept a careful distance. “I can't break my promise. If I do, he might... if he blames himself...”

Hisoka Felt her pain, her anguish. He could easily understand; he himself was in a similar situation. The only difference was that it wasn't too late for him. It was for her. “I understand. But I can't let you kill me.” He carefully stood straight, making sure they didn't touch. “I can't let you take me away from him.”

She stared wide-eyed at him. “But what about my brother?”

His hands fisted. “You understand the importance of keeping this promise. He didn't reciprocate the promise; he doesn't need just you to continue living. But you needed him. You did your best to keep your promise. He still has you. His job is stay alive for you to live in him. It was your job to fight to stay alive. You both kept your promises. Now you need to let me keep my promise. I need to keep living.”

The girl's image blurred and trembled for a moment. “But Ryan...”

Her emotions, just like Amara's, were so strong they almost bowled him over. He grit his teeth against the Feel of it. Muraki had done well. He had to escape now. “Trust his strength.”

His words reminded him of what he had to do. He began searching the tube for weaknesses, for openings. He was infinitely careful still not to touch the girl floating partly above him. Her dress, however, billowed out so much it was almost impossible. Finally he gave up and turned back to her. “Can you move away? I have to-”

“Little Marie.” Hisoka's head snapped forward, his arms dropping guiltily to his side. Muraki didn't even bother to glance at him. “If you ever want to leave this place, you will do as I say.”

Marie shrank away from him, floating through the tube and almost through the wall behind it.

“Take his body and destroy his soul. If you don't, I will find your brother and kill him, as well.” Then Muraki turned to him. “I told you I did not want your body. However, when your soul is eaten away, I can use this little girl and bring Saki back.”

Hisoka glared at Muraki, his scars glowing and burning. “What are you talking about?” he demanded.

Muraki held out his hand. “I have a theory. If your soul is weakened, can it be switched out with a stronger soul? Then I could keep you safely near me until I'm ready, until I manage to extract Saki's soul without harming his physical body. Then I can simply use any body – my dear Tsuzuki's, for instance – and force the two of you inside. No matter who wins, your ability should be available. And then I can bring Saki back.” His eyes grew wide, impossibly wide, and a smile like a serpent's wound up his face. Hisoka shuddered at the Feel of the man's madness.

“You can't!” the girl shouted from behind him, not yet used to the idea of not being heard. Hisoka winced at the sound and Feel of her desperation. He was being pulled by extremes. He felt about to snap. “Don't hurt him! He's done nothing!”

She whooshed forward and tried to grab Muraki's arm. Her malformed hand slipped right through him, and she seemed to stumble in the air. Muraki turned and left the room.

Her dedication to her brother was so very much like Amara's. He knew already that she would make her decision. But still he had to try. “You'll be a murderer, Marie.”

She turned to him. “No! You'll only be weakened, like he said. You'll still be alive.”

“But you'll still have stolen my body from me!” He had nowhere to run. Nowhere to hide. And her damn fear and terror and utter hopelessness was sapping the very last of his waning strength. “You still won't see Ryan! You still won't be able to go to him! Muraki will keep you here; it'll change nothing!”

“I can't let Ryan die!” she cried.

And there was nothing to say to that.

“I... I don't really know what to do,” she murmured, gliding up next to him. He pressed himself into the glass – plastic? – behind him, but he couldn't escape and they both knew it. His fingers pressed into the tube. Tsuzuki... He had to escape, to make it out of there and reassure Tsuzuki, who had to be terrified for him and blaming himself for Hisoka's capture, just as he had last time. He had to...

“I'm sorry if this hurts more than it should.”

She touched him, and like an electric current her emotions slammed into him, as overwhelming as Amara's had been, tinged with a despair that was agonizing in its newness. He screamed at it, at the purity of her fear as it rushed in and ensnared his limbs.

No! Tsuzuki...

He managed to cling to consciousness as Marie entered his body; a cold that froze every particle of his body, every tissue, every cell, chilling parts of him he'd never been aware of before, his nerves, his blood, his organs. He choked on the feel of it, unable to draw breath. His heart froze, unmoving. His hand tried to move, to clutch at it, but it, too, was locked into place. With a sick twist in his gut, he slumped into darkness.



Tsuzuki stood and turned as Tatsumi re-entered the room. “So? They know?”

“They have an idea,” Tatsumi hedged, holding a sheet of paper in his hand.

“Where?” Tsuzuki demanded. He moved forward, practically vibrating in his anxiety.

“Tsuzuki, there's only a fifty-three percent chance that-”

But Tsuzuki ripped the paper out of Tatsumi's hand and scanned it. “The abandoned SM building?” he stated quizzically, then murmured the address. “All right. Let's go.”

“Tsuzuki, the chances-”

“Then let's go to every single place, starting from the top,” Tsuzuki hissed. He glared at Tatsumi. “We have to do something. I can't just sit here anymore.”

Tatsumi sighed, closed his eyes... and nodded. “I understand.”

Tsuzuki managed a smile. He pushed past Tatsumi and left the room, following the hallway to the door without fully noticing what he was doing. It had been far too long. How long? Two days, three? His hands shook at the thought. Hisoka could be... no. He wouldn't let himself think about that. He couldn't. They had to get there in time. Any other option was...


He was tired of awakening to pain.

He hadn't dreamed. He felt only a small bit of pain. He knew Marie was inside him, because the cold hadn't gone away and, more importantly, he hadn't been able to open his eyes. They remained closed, almost locked shut.

This is weird.

He hissed inwardly at Marie's voice. Her emotions choked him again. But now there was something more, something added to her fear and worry; she was uncomfortable. She kept making his body squirm, kept moving his fingers. They feel big. And his chest, which was breathing rapidly, frightened her. It's so light! And then there was his... they both cringed from the thought at the same time.

I attack your soul, right? I mean... Her emotions whirled through him, far too fast for him to categorize. He'd Felt female emotions before, but he hadn't truly understood then what he thought he did now; they just processed so many emotions at once, such an outrageous amount of feelings all at one time, he was amazed they could process anything at all. Feeling them all straight from their source, it was much stronger than even Tsubaki's feelings for Muraki, which had been so powerful they'd knocked him out. There was just so much.

Really? Guys don't feel as much? Marie seemed confused by this.

Stop this, he pleaded again. You can't want to do this. I'm sure Tsuzuki and Tatsumi can find a way to protect your brother-

But you couldn't protect me! she shouted. He and I were all we had! We'd always been together! We'd even been in the same classes as each other... what would we do without each other?

Same classes?

I have to do this, she continued, ignoring his own confusion. I have to protect my brother!

Marie, please – I have someone precious, too- But he had to stop when he felt something like a claw scrape across something intangible. He tried to scream silently, trapped within himself.

Marie flinched inside of him. I-Is that...?

Marie, don't, he gasped. Don't do this.

I'm sorry.

The words were an echo of Amara's, an empty apology. What was the point of saying you're sorry to the person you're about to kill? It didn't change what you were doing. It was pointless.

But I am sorry.

Not sorry enough to not do this. Hisoka resigned himself to the inevitable. He had to endure as long as possible. Forever, if possible. He had to withstand her attacks until Tsuzuki found him. He wouldn't help Muraki with his plans, and he wouldn't let Marie take his body. His body had to remain his, or else it couldn't house Tsuzuki-

The tearing started again, a bit stronger, a bit more sure, than last time. He wished he could scream. She stopped again, seemingly disturbed by his pain. What, did she think it would be quick and painless for him? Did she want such an easy out? It wouldn't be that simple.

He steeled himself once more as the agony seared through him. His mind blanked on the pain, focusing solely on the claws scraping away at him... and eyes unnaturally purple.


“There's nothing here,” Tatsumi said quietly.

Tsuzuki ignored him, as he had for the past ten minutes. He could swear Hisoka was here. Something told him that Hisoka was here, right here, where the chipped walls of the SM building sat. Buildings weren't very close by, giving a sort of privacy to any visitors to the store when it had been open. No one wanted to hear what went on in this building. Bad for their own business, Tsuzuki believed.

He stepped forward again, trying to see something more than an empty lot that looked as untouched as the old gas station. Other buildings thrived a mile away, but here on the edge of town everything was beginning to crumble. There was a sign that stated a renovation was on its way; big change. This place wouldn't last much longer, which meant Muraki would be packing up soon. With Hisoka? Or would he leave Hisoka behind? If he did the latter, then the only thing left would be...

He shivered and touched the building's wall again. It was cold, cold as ice. There had to be something here. But when he looked inside for the twentieth time, there was nothing. They'd already gone in, walked around and investigated. There'd been nothing. Absolutely nothing. But Hisoka was here. He just knew it.

“Hisoka,” he whispered, then again, “Hisoka.” Surely he could find Hisoka, his own partner. Just like Hisoka had found him.


“This place fits,” he hissed. It matched Muraki's morbid sense of humor. Tsuzuki could see the man getting a kick out of torturing people in an abandoned SM shop. There had to be all sorts of space with all sorts of potential. Hell, maybe some of the chairs were left from when some customers wanted to test out merchandise before... before buying...

He snapped back and swiveled to Tatsumi. He saw his old partner jump slightly in shock. “Basement!” he snarled.

Tatsumi blinked. “There was none...” But then his eyes lit. “Of course.” He hissed too, and grinned ferally. “Of course. He hid it. Stand back, Tsuzuki.” Tsuzuki scrambled out of the way as Tatsumi called out to the shadows. They spread, sliding into the building. Moments later a crash sounded and Tatsumi's eyes opened. “This way.” And he led Tsuzuki inside.


His little vow to hold on waned to nothing as the torture continued. He could Feel Marie's horror and guilt for what she was doing, could Feel everything she could. But his ability to read it, to fully understand what he was Feeling, fluctuated from a tiny bit to not at all.

He just wanted it to stop, just as he had before with Amara. He wanted the agony to end, to be free from the pain. But... but if he did...

The claws had gotten sharper, had learned to dig in deeper. Marie was learning through experience. He felt his lungs heave, exerting three times their usual effort to receive air. His heart struggled to beat. His limbs, even though he couldn't move them, felt heavy as lead. Painfully heavy, like they were dead. Was he really dying?


He tried to find the strength to fight it, to continue on, but... it was just so hard... he could swear that if the pain just stopped, he would be able to sleep forever. And maybe this time he wouldn't have any nightmares...

But if he slept that long, wouldn't Tsuzuki get worried? Maybe he should just wait another minute to tell Tsuzuki...

His mind blanked again as the pain multiplied, sucking his ability even to think. Marie was killing him. Where Amara had failed, Marie... would she succeed? It was a moot point... Muraki would never let them go, and he just might kill her brother anyway, just for fun...

No! I won't let him!

The pain seared through him again as the girl's voice rang in his mind. He knew he lay lolling silently within his transparent prison, but he felt as if he should be in an arc, eyes wide, mouth open, throat hoarse from screaming. The fact that he couldn't even do that somehow made the pain so much worse.

Then a strange sound broke across his hearing. Neither Marie nor he took any particular notice of it, though he felt as if he should. He felt a bit calmer – was this what it meant to die? To truly die, and not enter another plane of existence? To disappear altogether? He thought fleetingly of Tsuzuki. No. He shouldn't feel calm. He should... his thoughts slipped away again. His lungs stopped.

Like when he'd been recovering... no. No! He had to hold on... just a little while longer... surely...

“Byakko! You can destroy anything you want, but make sure you don't hurt Hisoka!”


His name slipped into Hisoka's mind, gave him enough strength to wearily bear up under the pain. He felt Marie hesitate and took the chance to breathe.

Is that him? Your special someone?

She had opened his eyes and turned his head. He could see Tsuzuki, eyes wide and gasping for breath, staring down at him. He Felt worry, concern. Immense relief. Enough almost to knock him out.


He couldn't respond, though he wanted to. He wanted to smile, to tell the idiot that he was late. He wanted to yell at him to take it easy, that wasting his energy was... but he couldn't. Marie was still... he thought about that as Tsuzuki ran over to the consoles. Marie made his eyes follow Tsuzuki's movements.

Would Tsuzuki try to take him back to Meifu with Marie still inside him? A stirring of panic fluttered in his chest. That would be bad. If Marie went into Meifu and posed as him, then came back to Earth, Muraki could get far too much information out of her. That would be bad. Monstrously bad. He had to get her out!

No! she wailed. I can't – I can't be taken away! If I don't stay, he'll kill Ryan! And she began digging into him with more vigor than before. The agony swept him away from reason once again. He felt his lungs deflate once more. His heart stuttered.

“Dammit! Byakko! Get Hisoka out of there!”


Just a bit more – I'm sorry, but I have to do this!

A crash. Marie managed to close his eyes, but didn't try to shield his body from the shards and debris as the tube burst into pieces around him. He thought his body might be falling. Marie gasped, stopping her assault on his soul, and Hisoka felt a vague flash of pain in his back.


Panic. The Feel of it hurt.


His eyes opened; his body moved. He saw his fist take a clumsy swipe at Tsuzuki's face. Tsuzuki dodged, his face blank with surprise. No... he didn't want Tsuzuki hurt. He would never hurt Tsuzuki...

“Hisoka? Are you all right?”

Marie worked his jaw for a bit. “Fine.” She jumped – Hisoka's body jumped. She was surprised, apparently, by the sound of 'her' voice. “Stay away from me.”

Tsuzuki's eyes flashed hurt and pain. He could Feel it. He didn't like it. He struggled to gain more awareness. Could he force her out of him? He didn't think so, but he had to try. “Hisoka, your back-”

“I don't care.” His voice sounded odd. The tone was flat, but her emotions were wild. “Get away from me.”

She desperately began digging into him again. It was so strange; the claws and torment were real, more real than anything else in the Universe, and yet his body just stood there blankly as his lungs heaved.

Why, he finally managed to wonder, were his lungs having such a hard time?

Then she scratched at him again and he just... blanked out. He was still seeing through his eyes, watching as Tsuzuki called to him once, then again, carefully keeping a distance. He saw Tsuzuki turn in response to something Byakko was saying, but nothing really sank in. He just saw it and didn't catalog it whatsoever. Marie didn't pay any of it the slightest attention, either, too focused on her work. Tsuzuki said something again.

His chest burned. He needed air.

But... but, he realized suddenly, with such remarkable clarity it stunned him, his chest was moving. Steadily. In and out.

This... this was what it was like to feel oneself truly die.

Would it really happen like this, with Tsuzuki right in front of him? He didn't want Tsuzuki to suffer from this. He didn't want to imagine Tsuzuki blaming himself for this, for having been right in front of him as he was killed. He knew Tsuzuki would never get over it. Tsuzuki would be sad. He would be miserable. He didn't want to see Tsuzuki like that, helpless in his arms, crying for something beyond his control...

Marie faltered again. He Felt a dread worse than she'd felt before. His arm moved, his first sign of movement in quite a while. His fingers touched his cheek.

“Tears,” he whispered, his voice full of such horror he couldn't name it properly. His hand fell limp to his side.

What am I doing? Her voice in his mind was breathy with disgust. I'm just like him... I'm just like him! Abhorrence. For herself? And then she left his body of her own accord.

He crumpled to the ground.

“Hisoka!” Tsuzuki ran up to him and gently, ever so gently lifted him up. “Hisoka, answer me!”

“Thank you,” he whispered, but he didn't know who he was talking to. Tsuzuki, who had come for him, or Marie, who had let him live? His lungs were unsure of themselves, it seemed; they always froze before sucking in a ragged breath. And his heart was sporadic, as well. But he could feel his Shinigami ability to heal kicking in. “I need... to sleep.”

“Wait – wait, Hisoka, just tell me what happened!”

“Too tired,” he muttered.

“Please, Hisoka – Byakko, buy us as much time as possible. Make sure Tatsumi's okay.” Hisoka heard Byakko snort softly and run off. “Hisoka, please. If we don't know what happened, we can't help!”

Hisoka just smiled. It was oddly nice to Feel Tsuzuki's panicked worry. It felt like sanctuary. “He...” How to say this as shortly as possible? “Amara,” he said simply.

Tsuzuki froze. “She... she's still...? But I thought Enma said that-”

“Not her,” Hisoka sighed. “But same thing.”

Tsuzuki began to ask another question, but then stopped himself and lifted Hisoka up into his arms. Hisoka trustingly buried his face into Tsuzuki's chest.

“I'm sorry, Hisoka. This is going to hurt.” A sudden pain flashed him from the depths of unconsciousness; something had just been pulled from his back. He felt wetness all over his back then and knew he was bleeding. The dark abyss became even more prominent.

“Byakko!” Tsuzuki called. “Take over for Tatsumi!”

“He already has.” Hisoka vaguely noted Tatsumi's appearance. Tatsumi's well-guarded barrier to his emotions broke for a short instant. “What happened to him, Tsuzuki?”

“Later” was Tsuzuki's clipped response. “We need to get out of here.”

“I won't let you leave so easily, my dear Tsuzuki.”

Hisoka was awoken once again from the darkness from a familiar pain lancing his body. Muraki.

“Muraki,” Tsuzuki snarled, “what have you done to him?!”

Hisoka heard that chilling laughter. “I'm not finished with that boy yet. I can't let you take him, Tsuzuki. But don't worry – you are still my one love.”

Tsuzuki snarled. “Muraki, you bastard!”

Muraki just laughed again. “Are you sure you have only the boy there?” he asked calmly, and Tsuzuki froze again.

“What do you...” But then Tsuzuki's arms tensed around him, and Hisoka knew Tsuzuki had understood. And was doubting.

“Idiot,” he muttered. He fought against the blackness, fought against his weariness. “Trust me.” But then he thought about his nightmares and realized Tsuzuki would have a good reason not to.

Tsuzuki's arms convulsed, but then they loosened around him. “I do,” he murmured, then he shouted again. “Byakko-”

“I'll handle this!” Tatsumi snapped. “You get Kurosaki out of here! Muraki, you're mischief ends here!”

“Tatsumi, be careful!” Tsuzuki called, then transported himself and Hisoka out of the building. “Hisoka, are you okay?”

“No anesthetic,” he mumbled.

Tsuzuki gave a strained chuckle. “No. I agree.” He took an unsteady breath. “Hisoka, I really need you to talk to me.”

Fear. Hisoka was so tired, Feeling it was physically painful. “Tsuzuki, tone it down,” he complained. He Felt Tsuzuki make an effort, but it wasn't working too well. He really was terrified. “'S'better.”

“Hisoka, can you... can you breath?”

Hisoka felt himself being transported again. He wondered if he should be humiliated or relieved to be returning to the hospital ward. He could get some sleep, but it would be at the cost of some serious ribbing. He wasn't looking forward to the latter portion. “Sure,” he mumbled. “Tsuzuki?”

“Yes?” His footsteps echoed on the ground. There were a couple shocked gasps around them. Hisoka tried to tune them out.

“It was weird. I knew my body was breathing, but I couldn't get any air.” Tsuzuki's arms trembled. “What does it mean?”

Tsuzuki hugged Hisoka tightly to his chest. He seemed to be having a hard time breathing, too. “I'm sorry,” he said lowly. “I'm so sorry, Hisoka. I couldn't protect you.”

Hisoka snorted. “Idiot. It's my job to protect me. You job is to protect yourself.”

Tsuzuki didn't respond to that, but Hisoka Felt his reaction.

“I mean it,” he sighed. “I wouldn't be able to forgive myself if something happened to you.”

Tsuzuki was silent for a short beat, but he spoke again before the darkness could get the chance to close in. “I'll make it up to you. I swear it.”

“Idiot,” Hisoka said again, then said nothing. He really wanted to sleep.

“Please, Hisoka... don't sleep yet?”

“I'm so tired,” he complained.

“I know. We're almost there.” Hisoka could tell he wasn't bleeding as badly as he had been. His body was healing... it made him even sleepier.

“I won't leave you,” Hisoka told him. “so don't worry.”

Somehow this only made Tsuzuki's fear stronger. “Just hold on,” he said tightly.

Hisoka just hummed his response.

“Talk to me. What... what did he do to you?”

Hisoka felt so secure in Tsuzuki's arms. His heartbeat was steadying beat by beat, as if Tsuzuki's presence alone could heal him of everything. It was a stupidly romantic notion, but he was too tired to argue it. “Nothing much. I'll be okay.” He was sure of it.

“Hisoka, please answer me.”

If it weren't for the older Shinigami's panic, Hisoka would ignore him and go to sleep. “Just some tests 'n' stuff.”

Tsuzuki's panic only escalated to new extremes. “Tests? What tests?”

Hisoka yawned and tried to snuggle even closer. “Jus' stuff with Serendipity.” He frowned. “It's so sad, 'Zuki... they didn't even really exist anymore...”

“I'll help you through this, Hisoka, I swear it,” Tsuzuki promised fervently.

Hisoka just yawned again. “'Kay. I trust you, 'Zuki.”

Tsuzuki's arms spasmed again. “We're here,” he said, sighing in relief. “Doctor!”

“Yes, what – what? Again? All right, bring him this way.” Tsuzuki walked forward a bit more. “Set him down here.” Tsuzuki moved to comply.

Suddenly Hisoka was scared. Would Tsuzuki disappear? Would he, Hisoka, fall as he had with Amara, struggling just to breathe? Would he fail now, when he was so close, and leave Tsuzuki all alone? His feeling of security vanished. “Tsuzuki, wait... I...”

Tsuzuki paused, pulling Hisoka back to his chest. “Hisoka? What is it?”

“I don't... I don't want to...”

Tsuzuki sighed. “All right.” And Tsuzuki moved, keeping Hisoka close to him. Then Hisoka was moved, but Tsuzuki's arms remained strong around him. He felt something soft and cold beneath him. He recognized the feel of sheets. Tsuzuki's hand stayed on him, moving slightly until they wrapped him close, both of them lying on the bed. “This better?”

Hisoka just hummed. “May I sleep now?” Tsuzuki paused for a moment, then said, “all right.”

“Stay?” he breathed.

“Of course.”

Hisoka needed no more incentive than that.


“Watari, shh!”

“Oops, sorry. So how is he?”

“He seems all right, but he hasn't woken up for almost a week, not once. I'm getting really worried.” If Felt like he was already really worried.

There was another Feeling of worry from his right. “That's not good. Hey, I have just the thing! A brand-new, hot-off-the-shelf potion that-”

“No,” Tsuzuki said quickly, “thanks, but I don't think it's necessary. He just needs to rest.”

“But it's guaranteed to work!”

“Watari, keep it down!” Tsuzuki hissed.

Hisoka was beginning to become aware of other things around him and not just Tsuzuki's conversation. He recognized immediately that he was on a bed. This should have been a bad thing, should have brought the nightmares, but there was nothing. He felt safe. Safe and... warm.

He tried to remember exactly what had happened. He remembered the room in which floated Serendipity, or at least the pathetic piece that remained on Earth. He recalled Marie and her attempt to take over him, then her retreat. And he remembered Tsuzuki... yes, Tsuzuki had come and saved him. Again. And had taken him back to Meifu...

He flushed. And was laying right next to him this very moment!

“Hm? Hisoka?”

Tsuzuki must have felt him tense up, because he was gently touching Hisoka's shoulders. Hisoka feigned sleep for one more second, but he gave up when he felt Tsuzuki's concern spike again. He let his eyes flutter open. “Tsuzuki.”

Tsuzuki's face lit into a beaming smile. “Hisoka! I'm glad you're finally awake.”

“How long's it been?” he asked, though he'd already heard.

“Almost a week,” Tsuzuki told him. Hisoka let his eyebrows furrow. “Don't worry, though. Tatsumi got Konoe to give us both an extended leave.”

“For how long?” He struggled out of Tsuzuki's arms and sat up. A wave of dizziness swept him up, almost making him fall back down. Tsuzuki quickly caught him.

“Don't overdo it. Konoe gave us a month, but he said we could take more if we needed it.” His lips quirked. “We just wouldn't be paid after that first month.”

Hisoka grimaced. Tatsumi, that stingy bastard. “We don't need a month. I'm awake now; we can-”

“No, bon,” Watari spoke up, the first thing he'd said since Hisoka had opened his eyes, “you shouldn't. You're still recovering.”

“He's right, Hisoka,” Tsuzuki agreed. “Just take it easy for now.”

Hisoka turned on him, startling him enough that he let go of Hisoka's shoulders. “But Muraki...!” He had to stop, though, as his vision fuzzed. He grabbed his head and moaned.


“I'm fine,” he snapped. He clenched his other hand in the sheets to make sure his body didn't show off again just how much of a lie that was. “Are you?” he asked, turning the focus from him. “What about Tatsumi?”

Tsuzuki patted his head; he growled and shook it off, glaring. “Tatsumi's fine,” Tsuzuki reassured. “Muraki fought against him, but Tatsumi managed to escape after we did.” Tsuzuki frowned. “Even Tatsumi couldn't defeat him...”

“And you?” Hisoka pressed.

“I'm fine.” Tsuzuki lifted his hands as if in surrender, apparently in response to Hisoka's baleful look.

Watari sighed, but he said nothing. Hisoka shot his glare to Watari. “Is he lying?”

Watari just shook his head and put his hands up, too. “He's fine. He probably just wants to move around a little bit.”

Hisoka's body stiffened as Watari's words sunk in. Tsuzuki sent Watari a betrayed look. “You mean you didn't leave? Not once?” Hisoka finally managed to choke out.

Tsuzuki turned back to him and gave him a sheepish look. Hisoka was not impressed.

“You idiot!” he raged. Tsuzuki winced. “Didn't I tell you last time to take care of yourself? Are you stupid?!”

“Wakaba's been bringing me food,” Tsuzuki started, but Hisoka cut him off.


“Ah, I thought I heard Kurosaki's voice.”

They all turned as one to the door, where Tatsumi was strolling in. He hitched his glasses up on his nose and smiled. “It's good to see you finally awake, Kurosaki.”

Hisoka didn't respond.

“In any case. Tsuzuki.”

Tsuzuki saluted. “Yeah?”

Hisoka rolled his eyes and huffed.

“Make sure Kurosaki takes care of himself.” Hisoka stared at Tatsumi in horror. “He's your partner, so it's your job to care for him while he recovers.”

Hisoka thought of getting Tsuzuki's undivided attention and felt his jaw drop. “No!” he argued immediately. He could see Tsuzuki cheerfully wearing an apron and trying to force some food down his throat. He could also see that same apron fluttering in some nonexistent breeze while Tsuzuki accidentally destroyed half his belongings in an attempt to clean. And keeping Hisoka in bed. And trying to feed him in bed. And buying sweets with Hisoka's money. “Absolutely not!”

Tsuzuki turned puppy-dog eyes on Hisoka. “Aw, 'Soka. That's so mean! It's like you don't want me around at all!”

Hisoka stared at those eyes and grimaced. Fuck. Those eyes were lethal. Lethal enough to make his heart twist. He humphed and turned away. “Of course it's not that.”

If Tsuzuki had a tail, it would be wagging. “Then I can stay at your place?”

“No way in hell!”

“Aw, 'Soka!”

“Don't you 'Soka' me! I said no!”

“Come oooonn! Why not?”

“Because you're annoying!”

“Aw, 'Soka, you don't mean that!”

“Yes, I do! Now get off!”


“I said no!”

“Take care of him, Tsuzuki.”

“Tatsumi, dammit!”

“See? I have to stay with you and make sure you're all right!”


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Every story unless otherwise claimed is Kayura's, and is copyrighted 2006 under her name.