Kayura_Sanada's Fiction - Fanfiction, Original, Yaoi and M/F
Whatever It Takes
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Original Fiction
Gundam Wing Fanfiction
Naruto Fanfiction
Yami no Matsuei Fanfiction
Yu-Gi-Oh! Fanfiction

"I'm gonna give all of my love, all of my life
Whatever it takes, baby
Whatever it takes, baby
I'm gonna give you all of my love 'til the end of time"

"Whatever It Takes"
-Amy Grant

“Hisoka, close your eyes. What do you feel from me?”

“I... I don't know. It hurts, and it's strong, an undercurrent of something that clenches my heart and makes me weak...”

“Hisoka, he said I'm not human...”

“Tsuzuki, stop! Stop it!” Hisoka ran to Tsuzuki, knowing that he'd done so before, and soothed him, and held Tsuzuki's head in his lap.

But this time Tsuzuki turned away, without even a glance backward. “Tsuzuki?” Hisoka called, reaching out as if expecting Tsuzuki to turn and come back. But there was no answer. Tsuzuki's form continued to retreat.

“Feel it. I know it's painful...”

Hisoka gasped and grabbed his chest...

Hisoka fell to the ground in pain. There was that sadness again, that heart-wrenching, soul-twisting sadness...

“It's my depression...”

“Depression?” he asked. “I've never felt sadness so strongly before.”

“That's why it's labeled depression. It's stronger than sadness. It eats the soul.”

There was fire rising around him, a screeching of flames that wasn't of the mortal plane. Tsuzuki walked forward, unerringly into the thick of the fire.

“TSUZUKI!” Hisoka screamed, chasing after him, arm thrown over his face to protect him from the flames and the heat. The flames grew up above him. The roar around him rose until the world trembled around him. Hisoka saw nothing but that ever smaller figure, entering the flames... leaving him behind...

“There was an intense urge to die...”

Tsuzuki's body completely entered the fire, and his... spirit... started waning, just as it had the night Muraki had taken him away. Tsuzuki was dying...

“Tsuzuki, no!” Hisoka pushed against the flames in front of him, blocking him from Tsuzuki. The flames seemed to have minds of their own, blocking Hisoka from Tsuzuki. He couldn't reach Tsuzuki. He couldn't reach him! He was slipping further and further away...



Hisoka shot up from the bed, reaching out before his consciousness fully returned. The darkness was a huge difference from the bright light of the flames that had been everywhere... not only in his dreams. His breath was too quick, his eyes still wide and feverish, his body slick with sweat. He took a short moment to calm himself, taking a few deep breaths and hugging himself for warmth. Then, as he always did, he checked Tsuzuki to see if he heard.

The two of them had continued working as partners, always the same as it had been since the beginning. It was frustrating and upsetting and... comforting, all in one. But Hisoka had been having nightmares since that night, and he was sometimes in the same room as Tsuzuki. He had learned to keep silent, but he always checked to be certain. He didn't want Tsuzuki to know. He wasn't ready to leave himself that vulnerable... and he didn't want Tsuzuki blaming himself.

He sighed. He was only averaging about four hours a night – enough to work on, but not enough for him to get any actual rest. And it was starting to show.

But at least it was better now. Before, he couldn't get more than an hour. It was his hope that he was getting better that kept him silent, as well.

The fact that it had already been three months was ignored.

He looked around the small, cheap motel room they were staying in, waiting for more news about just what the hell the two of them were looking for. A young girl's soul had been lost before managing to make its way to the Underworld. Hisoka and Tsuzuki had been sent out to Karatsuo, a small city in Kyuushu, Tsuzuki's “turf”. Hisoka supposed that, as Tsuzuki's partner, Kyuushu was his district, as well.

Tsuzuki still slept, and Hisoka took the chance to quietly leave the room. He grabbed his shinai on his way out, intent on getting some practice on his swordsmanship. Ever since that duel with Oriya, he'd been concentrating even more on his martial arts and kendo. He had spent so much time battling Oriya that he had almost lost his chance to save Tsuzuki. He couldn't allow that to happen again.

Hisoka made his way down the old, musty hallway, padding silently in his stockinged feet – it was nearing winter, and the cheap hotel's heat was practically nonexistent – until he found himself in what he loosely termed a courtyard, with small, ragged bushes that hadn't been trimmed in years and grass that was both long and dead in various places. The courtyard still had that musty, smoky odor, but it was a bit more vague than earlier and easier to ignore.

He positioned himself in one of the areas where the grass was brown and wilted, placing his shinai down beside him and meditating for a few minutes. It wasn't particularly what he wanted to do most times, but it helped soothe him, and his dreams needed to be addressed, though he knew from experience that the dreams would continue, anyway.

He recognized the fragments of memory and wanted to push them away, but he had to admit to himself that he had learned a bit about the emotions he Felt when she had begun coming around. He remembered sitting in that cold basement at home, the bars erected around him, and he remembered her entering when no one else cared to. She had learned about his ability to feel other people's emotions and had helped him understand just what it was he was Feeling. But that all changed later...

He pulled his thoughts away from her, from what had occurred four years before his death, and struggled to gain that meditative calm. He continued trying for another minute.

His heart bumped painfully then, as the dream came rushing back to him, how he had rushed into the flames of the Serpent and had been unable to get to Tsuzuki in time. It was too similar to that night, too close to reality to sit well with him. His screams had been unanswered, his calls unheard. Tsuzuki hadn't even looked back.

In frustration – he knew enough about emotions to know that there was more than frustration, but he didn't dare address those – he rose up and grabbed his shinai. In short, somehow precise jerks, he moved through his warm-ups. He placed the shinai against his back and rolled his hips, somehow all without even noticing what he was doing.

Tsuzuki had come back. Tsuzuki had returned. Tsuzuki had fully recovered and was sleeping right upstairs, snoring a bit and probably dreaming of sweets or something equally innocuous. The Serpent had not taken him.

So why was he still filled with terror?

Yes, it was terror. He recognized it from when she had been around, when she had made herself feel that emotion so that he could Feel it and be able to recognize it. He knew now what it had cost her to pull that emotion up. It was... he felt helpless. He hated feeling helpless. Hated it with everything in him. Muraki had shown him terror for the first time. He hated Muraki for that, as well as everything else. The only other person to bring that emotion to him was... Tsuzuki. But Hisoka didn't hate him.

Hisoka didn't know, didn't recognize the emotions that came up when it pertained to Tsuzuki.

Hisoka shot forward as if to attack, chopping his shinai in a downward arc, as if to hit an enemy in the men, or head. He repeated the shomen uchi until he saw the gray of pre-dawn ascending through the small courtyard. He stopped, his chest heaving from the exertion, and watched the sun begin his ascent. The courtyard looked even more raggedy with the light to banish the dark shadows. There were pieces of trash littered everywhere; a Budweiser beer bottle was glinting in the sun's light, half-hidden beneath one of the untrimmed bushes. It was a sorry-looking place, with hardly any true color. There were no flowers, but there were plenty of weeds, some sticking up even past the grass. Dandelions were wilting, due either to the cold or the poor environment. The place was shabby, at best.

There were footsteps from the direction of the motel. Hisoka knew who it was before the visitor made a huge yawn and said sleepily, “'Morning, Hisoka.”

Hisoka turned to Tsuzuki, taking in his tousled hair and the way the sunrise glittered on it. Tsuzuki was more the type to sleep in. He wondered if Tsuzuki had had a bad night. His heart thumped oddly again, and Hisoka couldn't tell what his feelings were. He pushed them aside and walked over to meet Tsuzuki halfway. “Come on. Let's get dressed and get something to eat.”

Tsuzuki perked up considerably at that. Hisoka almost smiled, but he didn't know why he would, so he didn't. He began to walk to their room, which thankfully at least had a shower stall, albeit a musty, dirty, moldy, tiny one, and gently placed his shinai in the corner. He left Tsuzuki to get dressed (while singing/humming, of course) while he took a VERY quick shower.

When he came out, Tsuzuki was humming a tune he didn't recognize and wearing his usual, including the ever-present trenchcoat. Hisoka suddenly wondered if he was trying to hide, and if so, from what. He mentally shrugged and ignored the pang that shot through him when Tsuzuki discreetly turned his head and started rummaging through the nightstand drawer. Hisoka knew damn well there was nothing in there but the complimentary Bible that's in every motel room.

He quickly got dressed in his more conservative jeans and shirt, choosing a loose shirt because he felt a bit of a need to cover himself up at the moment. He didn't understand it and he didn't have the patience to question it.

When he was done, Tsuzuki turned back around and smiled at him. “Ready?”

Hisoka let out an aggravated brush of air, even though he didn't think he was aggravated. “Yeah.”

They made their way out of the motel and into the morning light. Dawn had barely broken through, so the sky was still tinged orange and pink and violet. The town was only just waking up. Thankfully, Tsuzuki only thought that Hisoka was getting up early every morning to practice kendo, and Hisoka wasn't about to tell Tsuzuki otherwise. Tsuzuki usually just let him go on and just came to fetch him when he woke up – which was never this early. Hisoka didn't like the feeling of worry that tossed itself around in his gut. He wanted to ask, but wasn't sure how to go about it. If Tsuzuki had had a nightmare and didn't tell Hisoka, then that would hurt him... a lot. So he didn't ask.

Their breakfast was at a small cafe with a waitress that had frizzy hair and an obsession with bubblegum. Tsuzuki got into an easy banter with the woman that never failed to leave Hisoka in awe of the man... and to feel a little more out of place.

Tsuzuki bought an omelotte and pancakes and hash browns and bacon and, of course, a complimentary dessert, and was still done a tiny bit before Hisoka finished his french toast and biscuit. Hisoka was the type to eat slowly, while Tsuzuki sort of shoveled things in. Hisoka, as usual, gave Tsuzuki his napkin and pointed to a spot on his face. Tsuzuki dutifully rubbed the syrup off.

When they returned to the motel, it was to find that there was nothing new on the case and could they just look around for a sign of the girl?

“How can we find her if we don't even know what we're looking for?” Tsuzuki complained exactly two minutes after receiving the orders. They were walking down the street, more exercising than searching, and Tsuzuki already looked bored. Hisoka knew that would lead to either a hunger pang or a conversation he'd rather avoid. And though he agreed that their search was fairly pointless, he didn't want to find out what Tsuzuki would say this time. Last time, Tsuzuki had asked about any relationships that Hisoka might have been in, or who he'd want to be with in a relationship. Hisoka had almost died, if heat strokes could be brought on by blushes. Hisoka'd never had a relationship, but the image of Tsuzuki had come up when asked who he'd like to be with. Hisoka had managed to get out of answering the question only because he was so red that Tsuzuki had busted up laughing.

Their wandering led to nothing, as usual. They meandered through the city, getting lost more than once, until finally dinnertime came and Tsuzuki demanded a meal. Right on time, of course; seventeen minutes after six is too long a wait for Tsuzuki when it came to food.

They found the same diner they were at that morning – named “Granny's Kitchen” - and were about to enter when they heard a woman begin yelling, and a kid moaning. They looked at each other and raced off at once toward the sound of the cries.

People were giving the mother and child a wide berth, looking disgusted or upset but doing nothing to stop the woman's raging. The child, a boy around five years old, was kneeling on the ground, arms over his head. The woman was screaming at him, throwing her purse at the kid. Hisoka's eyes blazed with anger. No, fury. He was furious. He knew only too well what world the child would grow up in. Tsuzuki-

He turned to Tsuzuki. His eyes were a bit glazed, a bit distant. Without thinking, his heart suddenly going double-time, he reached for Tsuzuki's hand.

Tsuzuki jerked as if shocked, then looked down at Hisoka in confusion. “Hisoka?”

“Come on!” Hisoka said urgently, pulling on Tsuzuki's hand. “We've got to-”

But when Hisoka turned back to the woman, it was he who stopped cold. She had stopped screaming, had stopped moving – there was a little girl before her, shimmering in the evening light. She held her arms out, and her face was a mask of determination, even while translucent tears ran down her cheeks. There was something ethereal about her, even beyond her transparency. Hisoka couldn't place the sacrosanctness, but her will was strong enough to project itself beyond normal light.

Hisoka couldn't move for the shock taking over his entire body. The mother was staring through the girl to the boy lying on the sidewalk before her. She quickly picked up the boy by grabbing his wrist and roughly lifting him. She marched quickly down the street, and other pedestrians gave her a wide berth. The boy stumbled, unable to keep up with the woman.

People began walking through the girl, but Hisoka could still see her, clear as day. She was young, no older than nine or ten, her hair bright blond and her eyes a large, luminescent blue, like cobalt or the sky that one moment before it became completely black. She seemed to be pleading with him...

A pain struck him, fueled by the high-strung emotions of a lost, scared... dead... little girl.

There were images filled with fear, sights of a woman with dirty blond hair and eyes cold and cruel – a mother not unlike his own – slashing and screaming, a brutal hand, a sharp pain. A baby brother, unwanted, unable to be properly cared for on top of everything else. And a pledge to a crying child, even while on the verge of death – a pledge to protect, to save, no matter what. A coldness so complete – a coldness he understood, a coldness he had welcomed – and a burning need to uphold the vow to the one person who had ever loved her.

“AAH!!” He heard another cry, this time from somewhere closer, and a ringing grew in his ears until he couldn't hear anything else but a faint buzz... a faint buzz that sounded like his name and Felt like fear... a kinder fear... It was concern, and it was for him. The feelings... it was like with Tsubaki...

“Tsuzuki...” He had to impart this... “the girl...” He tried to point, to even see enough to tell where she was, but he couldn't see... He felt his fingers and toes tingle, felt his head seem to tilt... felt Tsuzuki grab him suddenly... felt nothing at all.


He awoke slowly, still reeling from what he had heard and seen. The girl's thoughts were so strong, like they were his own. He understood the girl's fear, her fortitude, strength, and courage. And he was certain she was the one they had been searching for. The one who had refused to allow her soul to be taken to the Underworld.

“Hisoka, you're awake! Are you all right?” Hisoka turned to see Tsuzuki coming towards him. They were back in the motel room, and it was dark outside of the musty window. Hisoka had tried to open that window the day before and had only succeeded in almost breaking it. “Hisoka?”

He turned back to Tsuzuki. “Did you see her?”

Tsuzuki's brow furrowed. “The woman? Yes, I saw her. I'm worried about that kid-”

Hisoka shook his head adamantly and instantly regretted it. His head rang. He kept the pain off of his face, but couldn't get rid of the frustration that tinged his tone. “No! The girl... the little girl!”

Tsuzuki shook his head. “There was no girl. There was a young boy, but-”

“She was there! A ghost! She...” Hisoka stopped and thought. They were both Shinigamis... Tsuzuki should have seen her, too. That girl... there had been something peculiar about her, beyond her... state. Beyond her being a ghost. He couldn't place it. Perhaps it was her blond hair, long and flowing beneath her bonnet, or maybe her eyes...


“She was a little American girl with a small pink and white bonnet on her head,” Hisoka spoke, stopping Tsuzuki from again asking him if he was all right. “She was a ghost. I think she's the one we're looking for.”

Tsuzuki's eyebrows shot up. “Really?”

Frustration again. “Of course!” He got up from the bed and moved toward the door, intent on finding the girl again. He had to get in touch with GuShoShin. Maybe he could help shed some light on what was going on.

“Wait!” Tsuzuki came after him and placed himself in front of Hisoka, effectively stopping him. Hisoka again noticed Tsuzuki's reluctance to touch him. He knew why, as well. It made him feel... cold, somehow. “Hisoka, what happened back there? You passed out in the middle of the street!”

Hisoka was reminded of their first day together, when he had gotten drunk on Tsuzuki's sake. He had passed out suddenly then, too. And Tsuzuki had taken him back to the hotel and cared for him then, as well. Hisoka was surprised Tsuzuki even dared to touch him to get him back here.

“I Felt her... her sorrow, her fear... the emotions were festering ones, ones that Felt... old... almost deeper than time.”

“Hmm...” Tsuzuki considered that. “That would make sense, if she were a ghost. The question is: why did only you see her? I didn't... did the woman or kid?”

Hisoka shook his head. “I don't think so. When the woman grabbed the boy, her hand went right through the girl, and the mother didn't seem to notice. The same thing is true for the kid when he was pulled through her.”

Tsuzuki chewed on that, too. “You said she was an American?”

Hisoka thought about it, then admitted, “she could have been from Europe. I just got the feeling that she was an American.” After all, he thought silently to himself, he had met an American before.

“But I thought our girl was born and bred in Kyuushu.”

“It's not impossible to have Americans here,” Hisoka reminded, a bit harsher than was necessary. “She may have been born in this area. We need to ask GuShoShin.” Hisoka stepped forward once more, intent on doing just that.

“Wait; it's getting late. Why don't we contact him tomorrow?”

Hisoka turned to argue, but was faced with Tsuzuki's hopeful puppy-dog eyes that were oddly... drooping. Hisoka remembered that Tsuzuki had woken up early, and had probably not gone to sleep yet. Hisoka had long gotten used to not getting much sleep, but Tsuzuki hadn't. Hisoka gave a frustrated sigh and went toward his bed. “Fine.”

“Yay!” Tsuzuki clapped his hands together. “Thank you, Hisoka! We can get GuShoShin first thing tomorrow morning... after breakfast.”

Hisoka laid down and turned his back on Tsuzuki to hide what he feared might be a grin. “Whatever.”

With a happy little noise, Tsuzuki settled into his own bed. Hisoka only fell asleep after hearing the soothing sound of Tsuzuki's soft snores.


He was walking away again, entering the fire without a look behind to see Hisoka's desperate face. “Tsuzuki, wait! Don't go...” He tried to follow, but the fire was everywhere, burning into his lungs, filling the path Tsuzuki had just taken. Tsuzuki was lost in the flames, and the Feel of him was disappearing. Again. And even though a small part of him thought this was a dream, the fear and terror were too real to ignore. There was a voice screaming inside of him - “no, no, please don't leave me, please don't abandon me here all alone!” - and it was overpowering his body. He felt his entire body begin to shake.

He ran toward the flames, trying to reach what was already long gone... what he could Feel was already long gone...

“It's stronger than sadness. It eats the soul.”

“Tsuzuki!” Hisoka cried out, then coughed as smoke filled his lungs. “TSUZUKI!!!”


He shot up from the bed and swallowed back his scream. He looked over to Tsuzuki's bed, only sighing in relief after he listened for Tsuzuki's telltale snore. Only then did he allow himself a moment to shiver in the chill created by his cooling sweat... and the thrice-damned non-existent heater.

Hisoka got up and used the tiny, nasty little restroom, then grabbed his shinai and made his way down to the courtyard, assuming his place from the morning before. He sat and allowed himself a moment of meditation, in which he thought of the girl, Tsuzuki, his nightmare, and Tsuzuki again before giving up in disgust.

His warm-ups included thoughts of breakfast and Tsuzuki's face when he gets the dessert, then the ghost and her tear-stained cheeks, before he finally began attacking the air with a viciousness that would have made Hitler proud.

What could he do to help that little girl? She was already dead. If he took her to the Underworld, she would be unable to keep her promise. If he tried to get involved in the crisis, he would seem a complete fool and will have solved nothing but to make the mother angrier. Yes. He knew from experience that being confronted only made cruel parents crueler. What could he do to help her?

And why had she looked directly at him? How had she known that he could see her, when not even Tsuzuki could? Why had she pleaded with him – because he was certain that such was what she had done – and just what was she pleading him to do? He didn't understand her message! And just what the hell could he do to help her when she disappeared on him, anyway?

And exactly why hadn't Tsuzuki been able to see her? He was the greater Shinigami, not Hisoka. Unless it had something to do with Hisoka's ability to Sense things.

That thought made Hisoka stop in the middle of a shomen uchi. If such was the case, then... what the hell did that mean? The only thing truly left of that girl was her emotions? Was that it? What the hell?

Hisoka resumed his practicing and also consciously switched his thoughts...

And started thinking about Tsuzuki. He almost growled in frustration.

That damn nightmare. It plagued him. Every night, he witnessed Tsuzuki's retreat, his withdrawal and, finally, after being unable to save him, his death. Even though he was awake now and knew that Tsuzuki was fine, he still felt that gut-wrenching... feeling... like something truly was screaming and trying to release itself from inside him. Fear. It was a fear that shook his very soul.

His next few movements were so powerful he was gasping for breath.

He ended up stopping a bit before dawn, feeling a tiredness that was an ever-increasing poison in his system. How many more times would he see Tsuzuki leave him? Just like her, in the end. Just like her; he'll be left all alone, just like before...

His heart triphammered in his chest.

These dreams... these damn dreams... he couldn't get them out of his head! They consumed his thoughts, until all he could think about was...

That night. The fire. Tsuzuki's dead eyes...

Hisoka placed his shinai down with a trembling hand. He gently placed himself in the meditative position and desperately blanked his mind. It lasted less than ten seconds.

Tsuzuki. Damn the man for constantly invading his thoughts. He was like an addiction. Tsuzuki was a type of nicotine. And Hisoka was hooked.

He settled himself enough to admit a couple of things. He had been taught the basics of human emotion by Serendipity Channery. He had learned fear, anger, sadness, depression, and a few others by Feeling them. Serendipity had explained many others. Ones that he'd never felt or Felt, ones he never thought he would. But...

Dammit, just thinking about Serendipity brought on a mesh of emotions. And while he was having a hard time cataloging it all, he was irritated, knowing she would be listing them, just as she always did.

“What you feel is probably closer to bitterness, anger, and mistrust. Those, in the correct amounts, can fuel you. Do you understand the difference?”

He took a moment to Feel his own emotions and was disturbed by what he found. “Yes, I understand. But how do you?”

She turned to him and looked into his eyes. She rarely did that, which meant that what she wanted to pass along was important. “I've studied my emotions, Hisoka. Not knowing was painful, confusing. Focusing them made things easier for me and made them easier to control. It helped me understand myself, and it made others easier to read. You didn't trust me at all when we first met, after I forced my way into this room. In fact, you hated me, just as you hate your parents. You blame the world for your misfortune. I understand that, and, in a way, I envy it. Hating oneself hurts far worse. And now you understand that, as well.”

Hisoka nodded. “There was an intense urge to”

“Hisoka! Good morning!”

Hisoka turned with a jerk, staring at Tsuzuki as he made his way over to Hisoka's dead-grass plain within the sea of foot-high weeds that seemed to be multiplying daily. It was dawn already, and, just like yesterday, Tsuzuki was up way earlier than usual. Hisoka quickly stood, flustered, and glared at Tsuzuki. “What are you doing up so early?”

Tsuzuki looked surprised, but then only smiled. “I thought you could use some company.”

Hisoka almost snapped at him, but he restrained himself. It was true. He would like some company. So why did Tsuzuki's friendship hurt him? His heart hurt again. This wasn't depression. It was something else... something somehow even stronger. What the hell was this feeling inside of him?!

“Hisoka?” Tsuzuki bent down and picked up his shinai, holding out the hilt for Hisoka to take. Hisoka didn't want to take it. He was afraid his hand would shake. But take it he did, quickly and cruelly, snatching it out of Tsuzuki's hand before he could see that his wasn't at all steady. Hisoka brought his head down, already guilty for the harsh action. He needed to concentrate on something else. Anything else. Now.

“Well, since you're up, we might as well get something to eat and contact GuShoShin,” he said finally. He walked back to the motel, knowing that, just as the three other days they'd been here, the manager wouldn't be up for quite some time yet. “You coming?” He called back, and looked back to see Tsuzuki coming up behind him. He shouldn't have looked back; Tsuzuki seemed to be smiling, but it was a mask for... Hisoka tried desperately to shift through the barriers Tsuzuki had erected after finding out Hisoka's abilities... confusion... and sadness. Dammit!

He continued into the motel and toward their room. Tsuzuki followed like a puppy at his heels. He had to say something... Tsuzuki's sadness elicited his own. “Hey, and, um... thank you... for joining me.”

Tsuzuki made a happy sound (still similar to a puppy) and cheered. “Hey, no problem, Hisoka!” Then he contradicted himself with a huge yawn.

Hisoka gnawed on his lower lip for a short second – when did he start doing that? - and finished with, “but you should get your rest.”

“But you don't need it, Hisoka,” Tsuzuki pointed out, and Hisoka wanted to scream. Of course I do! I'm so tired I hardly feel tired any more!

His response was, “you need more than I do.” Which was true enough, he supposed. Tsuzuki very much liked his sleep. For Hisoka, sleep had only been a short reprieve from the pain, and was always interrupted by spasms of white hot agony. Unconsciousness had been his true savior in those days.

“Oh.” Tsuzuki seemed to truly be considering that. “How much sleep do you usually need?”

What a random question. “I don't know,” he answered roughly. How long had it been since he'd had a decent night sleep? He was so weary... but he knew that sleep brought the dream, and he couldn't stand seeing it happen... but his body needed some rest, after all...

“Well, how much sleep do you average a night?”

That wasn't something he wanted to admit. How much did he used to get? God... what he wouldn't give for a night of rest without having to see Tsuzuki...

He forced his thoughts away from the dreams with every ounce of control he had. “About six or seven hours,” he said finally, digging around the truth. He liked to get eight hours, but didn't know how much sleep Tsuzuki averaged.

Tsuzuki made a little sound of... what was that, acceptance? Agreement? Maybe just a sound. “I see. I am more of a nine-hour kind of guy.”

Hisoka let the conversation drop there and went to get his shower.


After Tsuzuki had enjoyed both a peach cobbler and a lemon meringue pie (how could he like both?), Hisoka and Tsuzuki had made a quick stop in the Judgment Bureau's library to get in touch with GuShoShin.

“What? A blond ghost?” GuShoShin was surprised. “But the girl we're looking for is dark-haired and dark-skinned, with brown eyes. Here.” GuShoShin gave Hisoka a printed-out picture of a girl with laughing brown eyes and black hair that fell down just a bit past her shoulders. Her skin was well-tanned, her body a bit lean, but that was most likely because she was a bit tall for her age. This was certainly not the girl he had seen.

Hisoka gave the picture to Tsuzuki – more of a formality than anything, since Tsuzuki had been looking at the picture over Hisoka's shoulder – and turned back to GuShoShin. “Then what did I see?”

“Hmm...” GuShoShin thought for a moment. Hisoka waited impatiently. “Well...” GuShoShin shrugged. “I have no idea.”

Hisoka made a frustrated growl. “Then what the hell was she?”

GuShoShin was more than ready to speculate. “It could have been a ghost, or an illusion, or a trick of the light on your eyes, or even a projection of your own abilities. Maybe you were feeling a strong emotion and it manifested itself into-”

“No,” Hisoka argued quickly. “She's real. She had memories and emotions of her own.” And a strong will to protect that I've only felt for Tsuzuki.

GuShoShin grunted, then went silent for a moment. “Well, then, it seems we have an even bigger problem than we might have first anticipated.”


“It seems we have an even bigger problem than we might have first anticipated,” Konoe mused, parroting GuShoShin's words. “Figure out what's going on, you two,” he ordered finally.

Hisoka only nodded, having already decided to do so, but Tsuzuki made a clumsy salute and shouted, “Yes, sir! I, Asato Tsuzuki, shall do everything I can to solve this problem!”

Hisoka rolled his eyes at Tsuzuki's outlandish behavior. “Come on,” he said shortly, and left Konoe's office without waiting for a reply. It was only after hearing Tsuzuki's footsteps following him, however, that he continued down the hallway.


“Well, thanks to GuShoShin, we know where the young girl's family lives,” Tsuzuki said as they made their way down the street they had traveled yesterday. Tsuzuki held a piece of paper in his hand that named the address of the house. Tsuzuki had already asked for directions and had written them down. Hisoka knew better than to try to read it – Tsuzuki's fast hand writing looked more like scribbles to him – and merely walked beside the older Shinigami. “We should be there in a few minutes.”

Hisoka merely grunted. He was busy thinking about that girl, her eyes pleading with him. Who was she? How had he seen her? What did she want? Did she know that boy? He had sent GuShoShin on the search for a child who matched that boy's description, but it could take a while to find “a scrawny boy around 4'2” with short brown hair and baby blue eyes” in the Karatsuo area, and there could be more than one boy with that description.


Hisoka turned his head to see Tsuzuki's concerned gaze. “Sorry. What did you say?”

Tsuzuki repeated himself, keeping his eyes locked on to Hisoka's. “I asked you if you wanted to come with me when we question the parents. The emotions in the room may be high.”

Hisoka had already thought of that, and had shoved it out of his mind. He knew the dangers of places with strong emotions, let alone people. He had dealt with it just yesterday. He was tired and confused. His own emotions, high and poorly guarded, would make this encounter even more difficult. But he wouldn't let Tsuzuki do this alone. No, not even this. Just in case.

“I'm coming with you,” he said shortly, and took Tsuzuki by surprise somehow. Did he think I would leave him alone?

But Tsuzuki just smiled and nodded. “Okay.” And they continued to the house.

When they got there, it was to find a normal, albeit a bit small, apartment building that promised to house the family. They were on the second floor.

Tsuzuki had said house, not apartment building. He hoped he didn't have to touch too much.

Tsuzuki got the door for him, for which he was grateful – though of course he didn't show it. They walked up to the second floor (Tsuzuki was a bit too fascinated with elevators sometimes), then stopped in front of a door numbered 210. There were sounds from inside, a crashing of furniture and suddenly crying. And the crying was familiar.

Tsuzuki quickly rapped on the door, lending instant silence from inside. Hisoka could Feel the emotions even through the door. Hatred, fear, and... that sadness again. The girl!

Hisoka opened his mouth to tell Tsuzuki, but then the door opened, and he closed his mouth again. The mother from yesterday stood before them, her hair a darker shade of brown than the boy's, her eyes a darker shade of blue. Hisoka tried to discreetly look behind her, but the woman blocked the doorway.

“Yes?” she asked impatiently, and Tsuzuki stood slightly in front of him, as if to guard him. Hisoka found himself both warmed and angered by the action. He glared at Tsuzuki's back.

“Hello, ma'am. We're here to ask you a few questions about your daughter.”

If anything, the woman's eyes became sharper, more heated. Hisoka Felt fury and fear radiating from her, when before there was only anger. He tried to step closer, but Tsuzuki wasn't moving. He felt himself become frustrated, as well. “Go away. I already spoke to the police.”

“Yes, ma'am, but we're here to ask you some more questions. May we come in?”

“No,” the woman snapped shortly. Tsuzuki took an involuntary step back in surprise, but quickly composed himself. He was about to ask a question anyway when the woman slammed the door in their faces.

The two of them just stood there for a moment.

“Well,” Tsuzuki said finally, “that could have gone better.”

Hisoka snorted. “The woman's hatred was too deep to have gone any better,” he retorted. “My best guess is that the hatred goes far into her past, until it's ingrained. There's no way-”

“Hisoka?” Tsuzuki's hands were suddenly around his shoulders. “Are you okay?”

It was only then that Hisoka noticed his trembling limbs. His head was fuzzy, too, like it was full of cottonballs. The anger wasn't like Muraki's... Muraki's anger was so complete, so consuming, that it left Hisoka almost weak next to it. The woman's wasn't so full, but it was as deep. But he knew it wouldn't be as big of a problem if he weren't so damn tired. He'd gotten four hours and twelve minutes of sleep last night. It was a record.

“I'm all right,” he said finally. “It was... a deep hatred that has no real outlet. A festering kind of hatred... not unlike Muraki's.”

Tsuzuki perked up at that one. “Like Muraki?”

“Yes... and no.” Hisoka hesitated. “They both have a deep loathing that has spread throughout their lifetime. But the woman has a few shreds of sanity left. Her soul has become twisted, but has yet to be... completely lost, like Muraki's.” Hisoka ignored the slight dizziness that had yet to dissipate. Damn his lack of sleep. Damn the nightmares. Damn Muraki.


Dammit, he was not going to lose it again!

He forced himself to remain steady and looked at Tsuzuki. “We have to get the woman to talk to us, one way or another. And we need to help the boy.”

Tsuzuki nodded. “Yeah, I know. But we would have to spirit ourselves inside, and we can't show her anything if she doesn't already know.”

Frustration was beginning to be a natural emotion for him. “We have to do something!” Hisoka growled finally.

“I know.” They heard a whimper from inside the house, then the woman screamed, and the child began crying.

“Dammit!” Hisoka pounded on the door, not thinking about what he was doing.

The silence in the house was sudden and broken only by sniffles, which stopped quickly. The door opened to a scowling face and a dark fury that hit Hisoka's barriers and lashed at him. He locked his knees and glared at the woman. “We need you to answer our questions. Now.”

“I've already answered-”

“And now you are going to tell us what you told them,” Hisoka cut into her rebuke. He stuck his foot in the doorway so that she couldn't close it on them again. “Let us in and answer our questions.”

The woman's face contorted, then became a mask of indifference. “Fine.” She shoved the door hard enough for it to bang on the wall of her room, then moved aside to let them in. Hisoka went first, ignoring Tsuzuki's warning... sound. He Felt the woman's anger simmering beneath a very poor facade. His shoulders were stiff as a board just walking past her into the living room. The little boy was sitting on the floor, fists rubbing at his eyes, silently hiccuping. And, with arms around the boy in a protective manner, the ghost-girl was there, staring once again at Hisoka. Her tears were there again, too, and he was knocked back at the strength of her sorrow, a sorrow that had survived... generations...

Tsuzuki caught him as he stumbled, holding him when he would have fallen. He Felt too many different emotions at once – fear from the child, fury from the mother, desperate sadness from the girl. It was difficult to guard against them all... especially as tired as he was. Damn!

“Well? Start asking or start leaving,” the woman snarled.

Tsuzuki started to speak, but Hisoka beat him to it. “What happened to your daughter?” Her name was Giselle Hisoto, and she was seven years old. Her brother was five, and his name was Shilah. The death was due to severe beating... in the park near this apartment building. Hisoka had a damn good idea of what occurred, but he wasn't sure what to do. He was too weak to just...

He glared at the woman, who finally said, “she was beaten in the park. Isn't that what the coroner said?”

No trace of sadness. Bitterness, maybe, anger...

Was that remorse?

“Why was she out there alone?” Tsuzuki asked, picking up the questioning when Hisoka faltered. Hisoka took the chance to reclaim some of his composure.

“I was taking care of Shilah. She slipped out.” The woman gestured at her son, who was still crying at the side of the room.

“Why?” was Tsuzuki's next question, but, if her story were true, Hisoka would hazard a guess that it was to escape from this witch.

The woman scowled. “She liked going to the park.”

Well, that explained everything.

“Why would she go into the park so late at night?” Hisoka asked then, taking over Tsuzuki's questioning. Only the deaf wouldn't hear his skepticism. Tsuzuki nudged him; he had certainly heard it.

The woman shrugged. “How should I know? She was always a real dumb kid-”

“Did you go out after her?” Tsuzuki asked, taking the chance to ask a more important question.

“Of course,” the mother said angrily... and Hisoka Felt a twinge of fear. He thought the kid, Shilah, would get a taste of that fear once they left. He made a sudden decision that was only confirmed when the woman said, “after I took care of Shilah, I went after her.”

“How long was that lapse in time?” Hisoka asked, jumping back into the questioning.

The mother's scowl deepened. “About fifteen minutes.”

Hisoka wondered if it was even longer than that. “And you just let-”

“Did you see anything when you arrived there?” Tsuzuki cut in; Hisoka didn't know whether to be angry or relieved that Tsuzuki had stopped him.

The girl was gone again.

“Just my daughter. Dead.” And she did seem a bit remorseful, though not sad or guilty. Anger was there, along with righteousness and tinged with fear. Then there was the child, still crying, his sounds muffled – trying to remain silent. Fear and pain and sorrow, pure as only a child could be. He shivered slightly. His barriers, usually erected well (they were a defense perfected over time, shielding his younger body from pain), were too weak to truly save him. Due, of course, to his lack of sleep, of proper rest.

Tsuzuki came and bumped his shoulder slightly, a subtle touch, a gentle reassurance of... something. Hisoka Felt Tsuzuki's growing concern and struggled to pull himself together.

Tsuzuki, however, beat him to the punch. “Thank you for your time. We may need to speak to you again.” The woman didn't seem too pleased by this statement.

Hisoka shook his head. “We'll need to take the boy,” he told the woman, and had both the mother and Tsuzuki staring at him oddly. The woman glared death at him (which of course didn't affect him whatsoever) and Tsuzuki looked... mainly surprised. But Hisoka didn't want the kid left there, and he was certain that the girl wanted Shilah out, as well. So he stuck it out, even when the mother began making vehement protests. “There are questions to ask him, and he must be taken somewhere until the mystery is solved. Whether you had anything to do with Giselle's death or not, you are a suspect. We'll have to take the boy.”

“How DARE you!!!” she cried. “I'll not have you-”

“It's standard procedure, ma'am,” Tsuzuki said finally, picking up his jaw and the thread of the conversation. The fact that he took Hisoka's side warmed him immeasurably. Hisoka Felt Tsuzuki's understanding and... what was that? Pride? Joy? Something like that, but he couldn't label it... he Felt that emotion and it seemed to lift his spirits. But was it foolish to feel so much?


Tsuzuki was carrying the child, who had been frightened by their taking him away and had cried for a long period of time – quietly. Hisoka didn't know what to do. He certainly couldn't sooth the child. He couldn't even sooth Tsuzuki, not even when he desperately needed soothing.

He didn't want to think about that time.

Tsuzuki cradled the child against his chest. “Shh, little one, everything's okay. You're fine. We won't hurt you.”

The child hiccuped, then turned bleary baby blue eyes to Tsuzuki. “Where's my sister?”

Hisoka turned away, unable to answer that hopeful, sad look in the boy's eyes. He shamefully hid his face while Tsuzuki struggled to answer.

“She... has gone somewhere.”

“Where? When will she be back?”

Dammit, didn't the mother explain this to her child?! Hisoka almost went back just to yell at her, but wouldn't completely abandon Tsuzuki with this. Even if he couldn't help.

“She's gone up there.” Tsuzuki pointed to the sky. “She has wings now, but you can't see her anymore.”


Hisoka risked a glance, only to find Tsuzuki with such a pained expression that he found himself jumping into the unfamiliar territory. “She has flown high up, so that she can see you wherever you go.”

Tsuzuki looked to him gratefully. The child turned to him, confused. “But why did she go away?”

“She had no choice,” he found himself saying, answering the sadness in the boy's face. “Her wings took her up, away from pain, but that meant leaving you, as well. That's why she's watching you – to make sure you're safe.”

“She said she was going to stay, no matter what.” The kid's face drooped. “She said she'd protect me.”

Hisoka wanted to both weep and kill. He knew the feeling of betrayal and pain. “She sent us here to take care of you,” he said finally, seeing that no response was forthcoming from Tsuzuki's direction. “We'll take you some place safe,” Hisoka told him, and led the way to the Judgment Bureau.


Tsuzuki and Hisoka left the kid giggling over GuShoShin and being played with by Watari, returning to the motel late. The lights were already off; the city around was turning itself over to those who lived by night. The proprietor gave them a look that was ignored by Tsuzuki and returned by Hisoka. The man harrumphed and waddled back to his room.

They got into their room, and Tsuzuki managed a quick stop in the restroom before collapsing onto the bed.

“We've got to check out the park tomorrow,” Hisoka told Tsuzuki before he could fall asleep.

Tsuzuki muttered something unintelligible. “Th'nks, 'Soka,” he said finally.

Hisoka didn't understand. “For what?”

“F'r helpin' me wiff th' kid,” Tsuzuki replied, then slipped into silence. A snore quickly cut into the growing silence in the room, for which Hisoka was grateful. He didn't know how to reply to what Tsuzuki had said.

Yes, he had stepped in to help Tsuzuki comfort the kid. He couldn't ignore Tsuzuki's helpless face. He couldn't just leave Tsuzuki alone.

He had stepped in despite being unsure, despite not knowing what to do or say. He didn't even think about it. He had just jumped in...

...Because he could. Because Tsuzuki had been there and had needed him. Hisoka had helped him without thought because... it was... not only was it something Tsuzuki needed, but something he needed, as well. He needed to be there for Tsuzuki. No matter what.

He felt his heart swell, then beat painfully once, twice, before it slowly deflated.


This time he recognized the fear that made his heart beat double-time. Why did he want so desperately to be with Tsuzuki? Why did he chase after the dark-haired Shinigami every night?

Troubled, he settled into bed. He had been willing to throw himself into that situation... he threw himself into the fire... over and over... and Tsuzuki just kept walking away, ignoring his screams. His heart cried out at that.

“There are some emotions I can't teach you.” Serendipity looked straight at him, trying to convey the importance of what she said. “There are some I've never felt, some I've never experienced. Those are the ones you must find on your own. Because they are different and new, they may be painful, confusing.”

“I can defend myself,” Hisoka told her shortly.

“Yes,” she allowed, “but that will not help you with understanding or accepting. Sometimes defenses are... ways to prevent pain, but they also keep pain inside of you.”

Hisoka's brow furrowed. “Then I'll stop the defenses.”

“You can't.”

Hisoka stared at her in shock. “What?”

“Just what I said.” She looked away from him, unable to continue contact. She had once explained to him that it was easier for her to speak when she didn't look into the eyes.

“You can't?” he repeated. Serendipity had never spoken of something that could not be done. Should not, would not, but never could not.

Again, she met his eyes. “No, Hisoka, you can't stop the defenses – at least, not without opening yourself to immense pain. You've guarded yourself from that for so long... but you can learn to understand you defenses, and to fight them if ever you need to bare yourself to someone else.”

There was only one person he wanted to bare himself to, and that person was walking away.


Hisoka almost choked keeping himself silent this time. It was somehow worse, now that he was beginning to see something beyond the emotions he could label. Beyond emotion at all, and into something...

He looked at Tsuzuki, sleeping peacefully in his bed. His hair was mussed, and a small dribble of drool was on his chin. He was lying on his side, his hand up near his face. He looked... content. Peaceful.

Hisoka grabbed his shinai and fairly raced out of the room.


Almost three hours. He was moving backwards. He hadn't been getting better. He hadn't, and he would never...

Was he doomed to lose Tsuzuki every night?

He couldn't stand the fear, the loss, and the resulting weakness. How much longer? How much longer until this demon would rest? Would it stay until Muraki lived?

Only three damn hours of sleep. Only three. That's not enough. He could feel the weariness in his muscles, so deep that he ached with every movement he made. Each thrust of his shinai made him even more tired, but he needed to get better. He needed to ignore the tiredness. There was no rest, no respite. His efforts to fall back to sleep always ended up with scenes of fire and a sorrow so complete it almost destroyed him. It was best to give in to the inevitable and just get up.

If only he dared watch Tsuzuki. Watching him sleep... or even stand, or think, or smile... it soothed something in him. It calmed the pain and the fear and the anger.

But he couldn't get caught. He didn't even know exactly what Tsuzuki would catch him doing. What the hell was this, which he had come so close to naming? Something that made him both weak and strong. Something that...

“...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...”

Yes. All that, and more. Serendipity had spoken of emotions she had only experienced in lesser forms, but she had spoken of them to warn him. Jealousy, greed, and joy were unknown to her. Ecstasy, love, friendship... but, overall, she had known a lot about emotions. She had studied them for years, in herself and in others.

So what... was that what he felt? Lo...

There was no such thing as love. He was... grateful to Tsuzuki, thankful and loyal to him. Tsuzuki was his best friend... his only friend, after Serendipity's betrayal. It made sense that he felt this way toward Tsuzuki. After all, Serendipity had admitted that she had never felt true friendship before, either.

That's what it was. Friendship. He was friends with Tsuzuki, and so wanted to protect him.

He cried out when he next thrust his shinai. Somehow, being his friend just wasn't good enough.


Tsuzuki got up and joined him again. It seemed to be a growing habit, one that Hisoka didn't want to admit made him feel good.

Their breakfast consisted of pancakes and eggs and Tsuzuki's peach cobbler, which the waitress now brought out without having to be asked. Then they made a quick stop at the Bureau, where Tatsumi was ordering Watari to “stop feeding the boy so many sweets!” and the girls were treating his wounds and getting him new clothes.

“He's going to be spoiled in another two days,” Tsuzuki estimated.

“Good,” Hisoka said shortly. “We'll find him a better life.”

Tsuzuki was silent for a moment, then finally spoke up. “Yes,” he said, and there was a wistfulness that slowed Hisoka's steps. “We will.”

Hisoka remembered what he had seen, the torturous childhood that Tsuzuki had faced alone. “No child deserves to be treated that way,” he told Tsuzuki firmly.

He turned when Tsuzuki didn't say anything back. Tsuzuki stared right into his eyes, deeper than anyone ever had before. Hisoka found himself getting lost in those violet eyes. “Like you.”

“Like you,” Hisoka argued, and though he wanted his voice firm and harsh, it somehow came out a bit... sad. Tsuzuki's eyes got a bit lost, and he suddenly seemed sad, too. Hisoka ripped his gaze away and began walking again. “Come on,” he said when Tsuzuki didn't immediately follow. “We have a park to investigate.”

Tsuzuki followed silently along, seemingly upset or cowed. Hisoka didn't know what to do to make him feel better. He was never taught... had never learned... not even Serendipity had...

He struggled for so long, Tsuzuki ended up exclaiming over the bright color of the flowers. He did enjoy the colors and the beauty, but his words and actions were exaggerated – he was hiding.

“Tsuzuki...” He wanted to tell Tsuzuki to trust him, to confide in him and believe in him. He wanted Tsuzuki to do so on his own. He wanted so much... but how hypocritical was it of him to demand so much when he gave so little?

“Yes, Hisoka?”

He didn't know what to say! What could he possibly do to help Tsuzuki? He certainly couldn't go to Tatsumi again. What was he supposed to say?

“No, you can't stop the defenses – at least, not without opening yourself to immense pain. And you've had them for so long... but you can understand the defenses, and fight them if ever you need to bare yourself to someone else.”

I will bare myself, he thought, for Tsuzuki, because I have to. For him.

“You... are human.” Hisoka walked quickly away while Tsuzuki was still silent, whether in shock or something else, Hisoka dared not find out.


Hisoka ended up next to a small sandbox in the park. He looked down at it; there was a dilapidated castle made out of the sand. It was crumbling, and would probably be gone in another three or four hours. He was afraid to even touch it, thinking that it would collapse beneath his fingers.

What else had he destroyed?

Had he hurt Tsuzuki? Had he helped at all? What if he'd made things worse?

He wanted to go find Tsuzuki, to see if he was okay. He wanted to run and hide. He wanted to scream and rip his hair out. He did none. Instead, he stood staring at that dying castle, wondering and fearing and... and that damn emotion that felt too much like something he had never understood.

He was too tired to fight the truth. Too tired to argue against himself. Too tired to fear any more than he already did. He was so tired...

You must help me...

Hisoka turned, almost tripping in his haste. The girl stood there, facing him, her eyes dripping tears. He was beginning to realize that they were always there – a constant form of her never ending sorrow. “You,” he whispered, unwilling to look away, just in case she disappeared on him again.

You must help me...

“Help you do what?” he asked, his voice hardly above a whisper.

The girl turned slightly, looking behind him. Hisoka turned as well and saw Tsuzuki behind him. He froze.

Help me kill her...

“What?” He turned back to her, but she was gone. “Wait!”


Hisoka found himself freezing in between crouching and standing. He almost chased after the girl (ran), but the soft, almost pleading tone in Tsuzuki's voice stopped him. He slowly turned to face his partner, suddenly afraid to look him in the eye.

“Hisoka, what...?”

Hisoka found himself turning away again, despite knowing that Tsuzuki needed them facing one another. “Just... don't underestimate your value to all of us, okay?” And he walked over to wear the ghost-girl had been standing. He crouched down again, touching the ground. It may have just been his imagination, but he thought the ground was a bit cooler than the surrounding areas.

Tsuzuki came up behind him, and he stiffened, not certain what was going to happen.

But then Tsuzuki crouched down beside him and touched the ground as well, then somehow made Hisoka look into his eyes. Or maybe Hisoka did that without any prompting. Either way, Tsuzuki gave him a true, if a bit small, smile and ended up making Hisoka feel... better, like his efforts were all worth it. “Thank you, Hisoka.”

Hisoka nodded and looked around again. “Don't doubt it again,” he ordered firmly, ignoring the small catch in his voice.

Tsuzuki chuckled. Why did the sound make Hisoka want to chuckle, as well? “Yes, sir,” Tsuzuki murmured, then looked at the place where Hisoka's hand continued to rest on the ground. “Hisoka, what did you see? Was it the girl again?”

He nodded, trying to find something that may point out where the girl had gone, or what she was, or why she wanted him. Why him? And why kill someone? Who? The mother? What kind of child has such thoughts?

The kind that are desperate, just as you were sometimes.

The kind that were full of bitterness and hopelessness. The kind who were out of other options. The kind who were not chained within a curse that left them too weak to do... anything.

Okay, he was getting a bit off-topic.


He jerked around when Tsuzuki grabbed him. He Felt Tsuzuki's worry and concern and fear, a multitude of emotions that almost swamped him. He wrenched his arm free and turned away from Tsuzuki's sad look. “She was right here,” he said slowly, “and she asked me to help kill her.”

“Her? Who? The ghost?”

“No,” Hisoka said, and shook his head. He stood. Tsuzuki stood as well, keeping close. He must have scared Tsuzuki down there, spacing out and being unaware of anything around him. “She wouldn't say.”

Tsuzuki's brows furrowed. “Why would a child-”

“If she's related to that woman, she might want to stop her. Especially,” he added as he realized something he hadn't thought of before, “if she had promised to stay with her little brother... no matter what.”

Tsuzuki's eyes widened. “What does that mean?”

“I don't... know,” he admitted, afraid of any possible answer. Was the girl as innocent as she seemed, or was the woman even more foul than they had thought? The girl might not have been left out alone. Hisoka had already thought of the possibility that the girl had been killed by her mother, but... this wasn't the same girl. Why did she want to kill the woman? To protect the boy, or avenge the girl?

Hisoka's head spun with the implications. “The questions that really need answering,” he said, “are: how did Giselle die, and what does this blond girl have to do with it all?”

“How do we know this girl is a part of all this?” Tsuzuki asked him, but he dismissed the question.

“No... the girl is definitely linked to this. But how?” he asked himself. “Had she known Giselle, or been hurt by Giselle's mother?”

“Hisoka, I don't understand why only you see this girl.” Tsuzuki's confused voice made Hisoka turn, just as it always had these days. “Why is it that I can't see her, even though we're both Shinigami? It has to be related to your ability to Feel others' emotions, but how?”

Hisoka shook his head. “I don't know.” He slowly stood, feeling the weariness that was dragging him down. He knew he would already be in even worse shape, but his Shinigami ability to heal was making him able to withstand the long period of time without sleep. He wondered idly how much longer he'd last.

He looked around again, wishing that the girl would show up and answer at least one of those questions. “She was here. She was right here.” His frustration came out into his voice. He tamped it down with an iron control that was slipping quickly away from him. “Where is she now?”

Tsuzuki took a small step forward and gently grabbed Hisoka's arm. It was only then that he noticed he was swaying.

Hisoka brushed Tsuzuki's hand, and concern, off. “I think we need to ask Shilah a few questions.”

He caught sight of Tsuzuki's face, full of concern and worry. He turned away from him (I'm sorry) and spirited himself to the Bureau.


Tsuzuki had quickly followed, and the two of them had made their way through the Bureau. Watari had needed to leave, so GuShoShin was with Shilah. They headed to the library.

“And so the female armadillo can wait up to four years to give birth-”

Hisoka knocked on the door, then entered. Tsuzuki was right behind him, watching him warily. Hisoka tried to ignore the heat of Tsuzuki's gaze.

GuShoShin was gesturing to Shilah, waving his arms wildly, but stopped and turned when the door opened. Shilah turned, as well. “Oh, Hisoka! Tsuzuki! How can I help you today?”

Hisoka nodded to GuShoShin and made room for Tsuzuki to come in. “We need to talk to Shilah.”

Shilah looked at him hopefully. “Have you seen my sister?”

Hisoka paused, but managed to push forward – he studiously ignored Tsuzuki's small sound of distress. “No, she's too high up for us to see. But there are a few questions we need to ask you about her, so that we can understand a message that she's trying to send.” At the boy's curious and anxious face, he reminded, “she wants us to protect you, remember? But we don't know what to protect you from, or how.”

Shilah nodded, seeming to understand. “My sister said she would protect me from my mom.” Though it was what Hisoka expected, it was still a blow. Hearing a child say he needed protecting from his mother... it was a sobering experience.

“Did she say how she was going to protect you?” Hisoka asked. Tsuzuki made another sound – this one seemed to be disparaging. He ignored that one, as well.

“No,” Shilah said, “but she said that this time there would be someone to end the cycle.” Shilah's face scrunched up in thought. “What does that mean?”

Good question. Cycle? Somehow Hisoka thought there was more to that than what was on the surface. The cycle probably wasn't just a monthly or yearly affair.

A sorrow that surpassed time...

“The girl,” Hisoka whispered.

“Hisoka?” That from Tsuzuki, who again sounded concerned. Hisoka almost felt guilty for a moment – how much was he making Tsuzuki go through? How often had Tsuzuki worried these passed few days?

“The girl,” Hisoka said, and literally felt things fall in place. “She had a sorrow that spanned generations... Giselle's...” He trailed off when he realized that Shilah was also looking at him, waiting to hear what he said. “Thank you,” he said to the boy. “I think we can help you... and finally fulfill your sister's promise.”

He grabbed Tsuzuki's wrist - concern, worry - and raced out of the room. He heard GuShoShin grab Shilah's attention and allowed himself to forget about the child for the moment.

As soon as they were far enough away Hisoka broke through Tsuzuki's worried questions. “I'm fine, Tsuzuki, but I think I've figured this out.”

Tsuzuki gave him a blank look.

“Tsuzuki, Giselle's soul never returned, right?”

Tsuzuki only nodded.

“And the girl I saw – she knew about Shilah and Giselle. She knew them as if she was one of them - because she is one of them.

Tsuzuki merely blinked in confusion.

“Dammit, Tsuzuki, think about it,” Hisoka continued. “The girl wanted to kill the mother. She... I don't know how to explain this. But the girl I've been seeing is Giselle!”

“How is that possible?” Tsuzuki asked. “You said she was blond – and American child.”

“Yes,” Hisoka said, “which is why I need GuShoShin to look up something for me.”


Hisoka went back to the room, Tsuzuki behind him and watching him warily. He nodded to Shilah and let Tsuzuki play with the kid for a minute (did Tsuzuki really carry that candy in his pocket all day? Why?) and told GuShoShin what he needed the librarian to search for. He didn't explain himself, but only made sure GuShoShin understood what he wanted.

Then he turned and watched Tsuzuki play with Shilah.

Tsuzuki was teaching the boy double-double-this-that while sucking on one of the mysterious lollipops that had formed itself from within one of the pockets of Tsuzuki's trenchcoat. Shilah, even while concentrating, looked just that little bit happier. Tsuzuki had that power over people – the power to make them happy, to make them feel...

There was that feeling again, that feeling that rose within him and filled him and... made him hurt so very, very badly. He felt... a need. He felt... vulnerable.

He shoved himself forward to stand beside Tsuzuki. “Come on, Tsuzuki. We have to go.”

Tsuzuki turned to look at him and nodded. “All right, Hisoka. You practice that and then we can race the next time we meet, okay?”

Shilah nodded and smiled. “Okay, Mister 'Zuki!” He then turned to Hisoka. “You'll help me? You'll keep my sister's promise?”

There was a faith in the kid's eyes that shook Hisoka. He understood now more than ever why Tsuzuki wanted to promise things to others that he may not be able to keep – why he tried so damn hard to protect others. He had a kind heart.

Lov... could he... could he... love that about Tsuzuki?

His heart... stopped. Could he... was that...

“Mister 'Soka?” Shilah spoke, and his hopeful-yet-wary tone shook Hisoka from his shock enough to murmur a response, one that must have been positive because Shilah smiled and thanked him, but he couldn't repeat what he'd just said if his life depended on it.

He couldn't. He couldn't. He couldn't love Tsuzuki. He... they were both guys. He was... he wasn't normal... love was...

He found himself outside the library and in a warm embrace and found that he had fallen to the ground in his shock. There was a noise, a fearful noise that encompassed him. There was a Feeling, too, one that screamed in terror and concern and a helpless confusion. Tsuzuki was holding him. Tsuzuki was holding him...

Hisoka loved Tsuzuki.

Oh God. He loved Tsuzuki. He loved Tsuzuki and he didn't know what to do. The feeling was so obvious now – fear and joy and agony and desperation. Tsuzuki. Tsuzuki. How could he have fallen in love with someone like Tsuzuki?

Because he was kind. Because he was so loyal and friendly and everything Hisoka wanted. How... how...

He found within him the urge to burst into tears.

“Hisoka?! Please, Hisoka... say something...” Tsuzuki was shaking him now.

He forced the tears back, mortified. He was going to go on... go on the same as he always did. Tsuzuki... when he'd told Tsuzuki that it was okay for him to stay within his heart... he'd meant forever, apparently. Whether or not he understood it... he'd fallen in love with Tsuzuki... now he would have to deal with it.

“Tsuzuki...” he murmured, trying to move out of his partner's grasp... and ended up being crushed to Tsuzuki even tighter.

“Dammit, Hisoka,” Tsuzuki murmured, “this has to stop. Something's wrong... something's wrong and you're not letting me help.”

“I'm okay,” he said, and tried to pull himself up. Tsuzuki would have nothing of it.

“Dammit,” Tsuzuki whispered. “I can't do this anymore... I thought you would tell me after a while, if I gave you enough time...”

Hisoka felt his whole body still. Was Tsuzuki... going to break up their partnership? Was Tsuzuki tired of waiting for Hisoka to realize...?

But I do realize! he wanted to scream. I understand now! I just need some time... I don't know what to do!

Please don't leave me alone!

“I know you haven't been getting sleep, Hisoka!” Tsuzuki cried out, hugging Hisoka to him. “I saw you wake up four nights ago... when we started this assignment. I saw you. You had a nightmare... you've been having them this whole time... and you won't tell me. I thought I could wait...”

...So that was it. Tsuzuki wasn't talking about his love. Tsuzuki wasn't talking about leaving him. A part of Hisoka felt immense relief... the rest was scrambling to pick up its pieces and keep up with what Tsuzuki was telling him all at the same time. Tsuzuki wasn't professing those kinds of feelings for him. That... hurt. It was... comforting, but it also... hurt. That was confusing.

But Tsuzuki knew. Somehow, despite all of the precautions Hisoka had made, all those times he'd checked Tsuzuki to make sure he was sleeping... Tsuzuki had found out.

“It's nothing,” Hisoka told him, and hoped Tsuzuki believed him. He didn't want to explain his dream... now that he understood completely. Now that he understood what he was seeing every night. He had almost lived through that nightmare... he'd almost met his deepest fear... of losing the one he loved.

“It's not nothing, Hisoka,” Tsuzuki argued, and there was that sad tone to his voice that cut into Hisoka. “You're hurting and-”

“Well it's not like you open up to me!” Hisoka froze again. He had never said anything about that out loud before. He had never told Tsuzuki just how much it hurt to not be allowed to see the true man hidden within. What was wrong with him?

Tsuzuki seemed frozen, as well. His arms weakened enough that Hisoka managed to get himself out of Tsuzuki's arms and stand. He couldn't turn to face Tsuzuki. He couldn't face what he may have just done.

“We have to go. There's more to check out.”

“Hisoka...” There was that tone again... pleading... lonely.

“I...” He didn't know how to answer Tsuzuki's question. “It's nothing, Tsuzuki.” Hisoka struggled with himself.

“No, you can't stop the defenses – at least, not without opening yourself to immense pain. And you've had them for so long... but you can understand the defenses, and fight them if ever you need to bare yourself to someone else.”

I can't, Serendipity, he thought silently. I can't bare myself this way. I can't... I'm afraid... he'll leave me all alone... just like you did.

“Hisoka, please...”

Hisoka hunched into himself, almost curling into the pain. “Tsuzuki, don't... ask me for this.” And he walked away.


This time Tsuzuki didn't follow him back. Hisoka made his way to the hotel alone. The night was dark and deep like a murky water. His head swam... and the case was the last thing on his mind.

So he almost yelped girlishly when he almost walked through the young ghost.

She was there, in front of him, staring at him through those tearful blue eyes. Through her he could see the sidewalk continue on until it faded into shadows.

“You're Giselle, aren't you?” he asked the girl.

“My name is Amara.”

Hisoka frowned. “Then you aren't-”

“My brother's name is Niran.”


“We died 235 years ago.”

Hisoka was brought up short. “You... what?”

“We died 235 years ago.”

“How?” Hisoka asked, dubious. “Shinigami would have come after you-”

“I will keep my promise.”

“Please,” Hisoka pleaded, his head starting to hurt. He was too tired to play word games and dammit, he wished Tsuzuki was there. His presence alone made Hisoka feel stronger. “I don't understand.”

“Our lives have repeated for centuries. This is the fifth time.”

“The fifth...” Hisoka echoed, amazed. “How is that possible?”

“I have a promise to fulfill. I have struggled to save my brother's soul each time he is reborn, but to no avail. Mother always takes me away from him before I can save him.”

Such strong words from such a young body. Hisoka struggled to grasp what he was hearing... what he was learning. “You never went to the Underworld. You've always been here, waiting... but how? Haven't others come to find you?”

“Only you have seen,” the girl answered, her eyes soulful. Hisoka realized that her lips didn't move when he heard her speak. She merely stood there... like he was hearing her voice in his head. “Your heart hears me.”

Hisoka trembled. What was he seeing?

“My soul has been lost these past centuries. I refused the chance to truly be born, instead deciding to stay here and guard over my brother. All that is left is my emotions. You are the only one who can see me. You will do my work for me.”

“But that's impossible,” Hisoka argued. “A body can't live without a...” Hisoka stilled. “You can't mean... the souls of these girls... Giselle...”

“Giselle never existed.”

“Her soul was never born,” Hisoka translated. “You killed it stillborn. You...”

“I must keep my promise to my brother.”


“You will finish my work.”

Her image began to fade in front of him. “Wait!” he called out, reaching for her – a mistake, as his hand went through her and he Felt those emotions again – sorrow, fear, hatred... yes, beneath everything was a hatred and a determination to uphold justice in the only way a trapped child ever could...

“AAH!” Hisoka cried out, seeing that woman again... the woman with dirty blond hair and hate-filled eyes... her bonnet askew and her dress dirty. Cries of fear and pain... blood... blood in the eyes and lips of a young girl... screams... his screams?

“Tsuzuki!” he called, instinctively trying to reach for someone who was always there... but he was alone...

He crashed to the ground, his own emotions too strong to control.


“Tsuzuki, please don't leave me!” He reached out, trying to grab, knowing that he wouldn't be able to. “Tsuzuki, don't go! Tsuzuki!” He felt that emotion, that love, that voice screaming inside of him, tearing apart... felt his hopes and feelings cry out more than he ever could.

Fire. Smoke. He recognized it all, recognized the dream and the horror he was about to Feel once again... he was going to lose Tsuzuki again-

“Hisoka? Oh God!”

A voice... Tsuzuki... but Tsuzuki was fading, he could Feel it... he could Feel...

Concern... Tsuzuki...?

“Hisoka! Wake up! Hisoka, please get up!”

Tsuzuki... it wasn't... possible...


He was aware of something warm around him again. His legs were cold and lying against something hard... something that felt like concrete. But his head and chest were leaning on him again... Tsuzuki...

“Hisoka? Hisoka, are you okay?”

“The girl...” Hisoka struggled weakly to get up.

“That's enough, Hisoka.” Tsuzuki's voice was quiet, breathy... he'd really scared Tsuzuki, he realized. He'd terrified Tsuzuki.

“Tsuzuki...” He meant to apologize, but... it was hard to do. “I...”

“Shh,” Tsuzuki said softly, then gently put his hands around Hisoka and picked him up. Hisoka, caught by surprise, could only grab onto Tsuzuki. Tsuzuki carried Hisoka back to the hotel.

Hisoka allowed his eyes to drift closed. This feeling inside him... not only love, but... security. He felt safe with Tsuzuki. He thought he might have called out for Tsuzuki when he'd touched the girl's form... he had reached out for someone he trusted to be there for him. And here Tsuzuki was, carrying him to shelter. He wanted to be angry. He wanted to be humiliated. A part of him... still was. But... the rest just took shelter in Tsuzuki's arms.

He was too tired to continue hiding from himself.

“The girl...” He struggled to tell Tsuzuki... he wanted Tsuzuki to help him. He was afraid he couldn't handle this all alone.

Stupid... of course he could... he just...

“Did you see her again?” Tsuzuki questioned, and he nodded against Tsuzuki's chest. “What... happened?”

Was Tsuzuki still upset with him? With what he said... with what he'd done? “She... she said that Giselle... she'd killed Giselle's soul stillborn. She took possession of the corpse of her soul and...”

“Made it seem as if Giselle's soul was still alive until she died. Then it 'disappeared',” Tsuzuki finished for him. “But why?”

Hisoka's head spun, trying to assimilate everything. “She... said that she was... that this has been going on for... over 200 years.” Hisoka wanted to face Tsuzuki, to be strong... but he was so tired... maybe... maybe it would be okay to lean? Just a little?

“What? Really? How?”

“She... she said that she had given up her soul... that's why you can't see her, Tsuzuki. She's nothing but emotions.”

“Then what should we do?”

“I don't... know.” Should he tell Tsuzuki the rest the girl had said – about him finishing her work? Would Tsuzuki... help?

“Hisoka, you need to sleep.” Hisoka felt Tsuzuki shift for a moment and feared that Tsuzuki was going to let go of him and let him fall. He only then realized just how vulnerable he was in this position. But Tsuzuki was only opening up the motel door and carrying him through. Tsuzuki clumsily closed the door after him. The motel manager was thankfully out of sight.

“Tsuzuki, I'm-”

“Hisoka, I haven't seen you get more than a few hours sleep each night. You need sleep.” Tsuzuki carried him into their room, this time closing the door behind him with a bit more grace.

“I'm fine,” he argued, trying to hide just how right Tsuzuki was. Too bad he was so weak... he could have shoved Tsuzuki and forcefully shown Tsuzuki that he was okay. Of course... he was too tired to do that.

“No, you aren't,” Tsuzuki murmured. Hisoka felt a shift in Tsuzuki's arms around him and found himself being placed down on his pallet.

“Tsuzuki, I-”

“Shh, Hisoka,” Tsuzuki whispered. “Let me help...”

And Tsuzuki pulled back the covers and laid down on the pallet, as well.

Hisoka's face flamed. “Tsuzuki, what are you-”

“Shh,” Tsuzuki whispered again, twining an arm around Hisoka and pulling him close. “Go to sleep.”

Hisoka couldn't imagine how he could possibly go to sleep. Tsuzuki was... right beside him... in bed! If Hisoka could die from embarrassment, his corpse would be growing cold right now. Instead he was hot as a furnace. A volcano. The sun itself.

What was Tsuzuki doing? What was he thinking? What was... What the hell was he doing? Was he going to... did he want to... make out? Was Tsuzuki...

His thoughts were abruptly disturbed by Tsuzuki's snoring.

He could only stare at Tsuzuki's face for the longest time. What was Tsuzuki doing? Was he seriously going to throw himself into Hisoka's bed and then just go to sleep? How the hell was Hisoka going to get any rest?

But despite the awkward situation he was in, he did get sleepy. Hisoka turned into Tsuzuki's arm and took a deep breath. Tsuzuki's touch, his scent... the sight of his sleeping form was a solace.

Hisoka fell into a deep sleep, comforted by the feel of Tsuzuki's breath on his forehead.


The heat around him had nothing to do with blushes or that strange feeling that sometimes overtook him when he thought about Tsuzuki...

This was all heat and fire and flames and smoke. This feeling inside him wasn't that 'love' feeling. It was fear. It was terror. It was...


Tsuzuki was looking at him. “Tsuzuki,” he called out, reaching for a body he knew was going to be too far away. “Tsuzuki, please...” Tsuzuki turned from him and entered the flames... just like every night... leaving him...

“Tsuzuki, please don't go!” He found tears in his eyes and fought them for only a millisecond before giving up and letting them stream down his face. “Tsuzuki, please... I... I love you!”

A laugh... Tsuzuki was... laughing? No, not Tsuzuki... Muraki... Muraki had never laughed in the dream before.

“Muraki!” he cried. He turned around, but he could see nothing beyond the fire and the smoke. Tsuzuki was gone... he was in the flames now... Tsuzuki had continued to walk away even after Hisoka's proclamation. Tsuzuki... was rejecting...

“Tsuzuki!” He tried to turn back to where he'd seen Tsuzuki, but the smoke was too thick-

“Shh, Hisoka... it's okay...”

The warmth around him changed. The fear diminished. Tsuzuki was there... Tsuzuki was right there with him.


He awoke to a burning brightness trying to work its way through the greasy window. Tsuzuki's arm was still around him.

His first instinct was that damn blush again. He thought about Tsuzuki sleeping with him all night and wanted to combust to avoid the confrontation that would occur once Tsuzuki woke up.

His second thought was... he'd slept through the night. He remembered the dream he'd had, but... he hadn't awoken... he'd been able to sleep through the entire night. Tsuzuki had chased away the nightmare.

He could feel Tsuzuki's breathing. He could feel his chest move steadily. Could feel the breath on his cheek. Could feel the warmth of Tsuzuki's body all around him. With the security of Tsuzuki's safety... with Tsuzuki staying with him all night... he'd been able to get sleep. A full night's sleep... maybe even more.

“Are you awake, Hisoka?”

Hisoka tensed like a spring. He moved back to see Tsuzuki's face. Tsuzuki was looking at him, smiling softly. His warm violet eyes looked Hisoka over. “You look... better. How are you feeling?”

“Tsuzuki...” Hisoka didn't know what to say. That blush was starting to peel his skin away from his face. How long had Tsuzuki been awake?

Had Tsuzuki been able to sleep with Hisoka's... problems? Had Tsuzuki had to fight off his nightmares? What kind of night had Tsuzuki had?

“You've slept for fourteen hours,” Tsuzuki told him.

“I-what?!” Hisoka struggled to get up. Tsuzuki only watched. “We have to get moving! That girl-”

“The girl can't do anything. She needs us, doesn't she?” Hisoka watched as Tsuzuki sat up and stretched, making little sounds as he worked kinked muscles over. “It's good that you got some rest, Hisoka. How long have you been having trouble sleeping?”

“It's no big deal,” Hisoka mumbled, but Tsuzuki turned on him. Apparently, he'd hit Tsuzuki's last nerve on the subject.

“Hisoka, you couldn't go two hours without thrashing around. Something's wrong. I may not open up, but I don't have anything keeping me from sleeping. This is different. You need my help.”

“I don't need...” But that wasn't the truth, and one good rest wasn't going to give him enough energy to fight Tsuzuki on this. He closed his eyes and... sagged on the bed again.

Tsuzuki recognized his capitulation and allowed him to just sit there and... mope for a few minutes.

Had Tsuzuki been with him this whole time? Hadn't he gotten hungry or something? He had to have left... Tsuzuki wouldn't have slept for fourteen hours, despite how lazy he seemed to be. So had Tsuzuki... watched him sleep?

He was blushing again.

“I... I've just had some bad dreams,” Hisoka told him. He was damned if he would admit just what it was he was dreaming... wasn't he?

“About what, Hisoka?”

Dammit, if Tsuzuki heard that he dreamt of Tsuzuki dying in the Serpent's fire every night, he would start feeling guilty. “It's not your fault,” Hisoka slipped out. Then gasped. Hey, he'd gotten some sleep – he had no damn excuse to have that slip out of his mouth! What was wrong with him?

He glanced at Tsuzuki to see surprise and confusion on his face. “Hisoka...?”

He looked away again. Serendipity was right – it was easier to talk about some things when you weren't looking into other people's eyes. “It's nothing,” he said again.

“Hisoka...” There was a sound of both sadness and frustration in Tsuzuki's voice. “Hisoka, let me help you.”

How could Tsuzuki help him when he was the one to hurt him in the first place? Hisoka didn't want to delve into that one. “It's not...”

“Hisoka, how long has this been going on? It's not just this mission, is it – it's been going on for longer than this, hasn't it?”

Hisoka really didn't want to tell Tsuzuki that one. Talk about admitting a weakness.

“Hisoka, how long?!”

Tsuzuki grabbed his arm and leaned in – Hisoka Felt Tsuzuki's anger and frustration and pain and couldn't help it when his lips opened on their own and answered, “a couple months, okay?”

Tsuzuki let go, and Hisoka got to watch it all click in Tsuzuki's mind. He saw Tsuzuki's eyes widen in almost-horror, saw his face pale slightly.

“It's not...” Hisoka was the one to lean in then, but he was careful not to touch. He'd had enough embarrassment for now. “Tsuzuki...”

Tsuzuki looked at him – really looked at him – for the first time since he'd figured out what Hisoka's nightmares might entail. “Hisoka...” His eyes were filled with that pain again, the pain that was etched into Tsuzuki since life. The pain that made Hisoka hurt, too.

“It's not your fault,” Hisoka said. I'm opening myself up again... could I ever do this for anyone else? “You came back... you came back... to us... I just...” I seriously thought I was going to lose you, Tsuzuki... and I would have died if I did. I would have desperately tried to die in those flames as well... that could only be love, right? I... love you... Tsuzuki.

“Hisoka...” Tsuzuki breathed. “I...”

“Don't.” Hisoka didn't want Tsuzuki beating himself up over this. “I... I know you came back...” It hurt, physically, to open himself up this way. The pain... the fear of rejection... the thought of Tsuzuki turning away...

“I'm so sorry, Hisoka,” Tsuzuki said, the first complete sentence in a long while. Too bad it wasn't something Hisoka wanted to hear.

“It's not... it's...” Frustration made Hisoka growl. “Dammit... it's me...” And he stopped, unable to continue for a few moments. He felt as if he were shoving against a wall, trying desperately to get out and reach Tsuzuki...

And that froze him completely. Was he not able to reach Tsuzuki... because a part of him was stopping himself? It was... a scary thought.


Shit, he was scaring Tsuzuki again! “I'm sorry,” Hisoka managed, shocked that those two words actually came out of his mouth. “I...” But it was too late – he wasn't able to open himself up any more. No more, please... “We should get something to eat.”

Tsuzuki's face got even sadder. Hisoka couldn't look at that face and turned away. He didn't know what to do... all he knew was that his chest hurt... he didn't want Tsuzuki sad. But... a peach cobbler wasn't going to cut it this time. He'd put that sorrow into Tsuzuki's eyes. He'd been the one to...

“Tsuzuki... I...” What should he do? He didn't know anything about consoling someone. He didn't know how to comfort. He, who had never felt that comfort in his life... he, who had only found it in Tsuzuki...

Don't you owe him for that? Hisoka cringed at the internal words, the thoughts that he knew were true but didn't want to acknowledge. He's given you that which you never imagined owning... don't you owe him?

He didn't know what to do. Tsuzuki was walking to the door now, ready to go out and pretend that everything was normal, that he was fine. He would talk animatedly the entire way to Granny's Kitchen and then would joke around almost ruthlessly with the waitress with the goddamn bubblegum. He would cheer when he got his cobbler and make sounds of orgasmic joy over the taste as he bit into it. He did it constantly.

But it would be different this time. Because it would be fake. It wouldn't be...

“Tsuzuki, wait...” Those two words sounded so familiar. Hisoka could almost smell the smoke rising up around him. Could almost feel his skin heating up. “Tsuzuki, it's me... it's not... your fault, all right?” He couldn't face Tsuzuki, even though he knew the older Shinigami had turned back to him. It really was easier to say these things when you weren't looking at a person's face... when you couldn't see the censure in their eyes. Or the pain. “I...” If you don't spit it out, you may lose him forever! “I... just almost lost you that day, and...” And it almost killed me, too.

“Hisoka...” Tsuzuki seemed unable to think of something to say, and Hisoka... Hisoka just didn't have the strength to say more.

He moved ahead of Tsuzuki and tried one last time... one last time... “You are... important... to us... Tsuzuki.” And he fled like the scared little Shinigami he was.


Hisoka all but ran screaming from the motel building, arms flailing and eyes wide and crazed. He needed to get the hell out of there.

Unfortunately, that left him once again alone, and he feared the girl would return. She seemed to like coming near him when he was alone.

And he would have to make his way to Granny's Kitchen and wait until Tsuzuki came for him... like Tsuzuki always came for him. He never really went to Tsuzuki, but instead trusted the dark-haired Shinigami to come to him.

Wasn't that... unfair?

Dammit! He kicked a pebble on the sidewalk and watched as the thing shot off a few feet before landing within easy reach of his shoe again. Feeling stupid, Hisoka took pity on the not-living thing and passed it by.

It was irritatingly painful to admit that he was as screwed up as he obviously was. Even more painful when he acknowledged that he'd never known... had never cared... before Tsuzuki had shown up. And then he'd seen it all – just what he was, what he'd become... how different he was... how... inferior he was... to Tsuzuki.

Dammit... It was too damn bad he was so tired... so frustratingly tired of it all. He... loved Tsuzuki. Stupidly. The guy was...

Hisoka hunched in on himself and promptly bumped into someone. He muttered an apology and went around the person.

He recognized the chuckle.

Hisoka swerved around, shocked as hell to find none other than Muraki before him. The curse marks on his body were thrumming slightly, testimony to the truth of his identity. “What...” His voice tightened. “What are you doing here, Muraki?” His entire body clenched in anger. This was the man that had turned his life into a living hell. The man who had almost taken away Tsuzuki. This was the man he had sworn to kill.

Muraki merely smiled at him. “This is a public sidewalk, boy.”

“Who are you planning on killing this time?” Hisoka snapped, fists clenched so tight his nails were biting into his flesh. This man... what was this man doing here?!

“Now, now, my little pet-”

“I'm not your pet!” Hisoka growled. He wanted to rip the man's head from his body. How the hell had he survived? Hisoka's brain kept chasing itself in little nips. He knew he couldn't take the man on physically... where was Tsuzuki? Was he okay?

“So touchy,” Muraki murmured, looking down at him as if he were... as if he were a baby Doberman yapping at him. The thought made Hisoka see red. “I'm here as a tourist. I just couldn't help but come when I heard your dear admission.”

Muraki's words momentarily stopped Hisoka in confusion. “What do you mean?” he demanded.

The smirk on Muraki's face brought fear settling like a stone in Hisoka's heart. “I do believe it went something like: 'Tsuzuki, please, I... I love you!'” Muraki's smirk grew in the face of Hisoka's dawning horror. “Oh, it was a very interesting development.”

“You...” Hisoka's rage almost blinded him as the fear roiled around in his heart. What was Muraki going to do? No doubt he would twist this around to suit him somehow. But... how? What the hell did this bastard want?!


Hisoka turned instinctively to the sound of Tsuzuki's voice. “Later,” Muraki called softly, and Hisoka turned immediately back to him. He was walking down the sidewalk as if strolling. Hisoka called after him, but was ignored. He almost went after the bastard, but he stopped himself. What did Muraki want? Was it all a trap? He turned to Tsuzuki again. Tsuzuki would follow after him...

He didn't want Tsuzuki anywhere near Muraki ever again.

When Tsuzuki got to him, he immediately placed a hand on Hisoka's shoulder. Hisoka was surprised to feel a tension he was unaware of leave him. “Hisoka, was that...”

Hisoka almost didn't dare speak, afraid that Tsuzuki would go after the flowing white trenchcoat and the darkness that hid inside it. They say that psychopaths were obsessed with perfection. Muraki seemed obsessed with the purity of the color white. Too bad it couldn't cover his black heart.

Tsuzuki squeezed his shoulder slightly. “Muraki...” Tsuzuki knew who it was, and the fury in his voice was unmistakable. Hisoka feared the older Shinigami would go after that bastard.

Which was stupid, since their ultimate goal was to kill him.

But why was the man here? Was it merely to gloat over hearing Hisoka's proclamation in his nightmare (dammit, he'd laughed right in the middle of Hisoka's nightmare – had he been seeing them this whole time, as well? What did the bastard have planned?) or did the man have another nasty motive hiding up his maddeningly white sleeve?

“We should go after him,” Tsuzuki told Hisoka, but Hisoka didn't want Tsuzuki going after anything that looked remotely like Muraki, let alone the actual man. Stupid. They had to kill him.

Hisoka reined in his emotions with all the control he had. “No. He'll be gone by now if he doesn't want to be caught. If he does...”

“It's a trap,” Tsuzuki finished for him. “But we can't let the man get away. Who knows what he's planning...”

Hisoka's fists clenched. The man had known about Hisoka's dreams... what else did he know? What else could he see? How the hell had the man managed to...

Hisoka cursed, one soft, heated word, then ran after where Muraki had turned off the sidewalk and into an alley. He heard Tsuzuki behind him and made himself ignore the fear that raced through him, knowing that Tsuzuki and Muraki would have to face each other down at some point. Hisoka didn't have the strength to defeat the bastard. Tsuzuki... Tsuzuki would have to face the platinum-haired fucker and Hisoka would be unable to stop it.

But the alleyway was empty of human existence. There wasn't even a bum to be found, though there were certainly enough beer bottles. Muraki wasn't there.

Hisoka glanced around, then up, remembering Muraki's affinity for helicopters. But there was nothing. He heard Tsuzuki stop beside him and look around. Though he was glad Tsuzuki wouldn't be facing Muraki yet, he didn't know what to do. Muraki could apparently see into his mind, at least into the dreams that he had. How? For how long? When did this start? How could he get the man out?

He wasn't happy thinking about the fact that his dreams were nightly entertainment for his worst enemy.

Not to mention how vulnerable Muraki's new knowledge made Hisoka. No, best not think about that.

“Dammit,” Tsuzuki muttered. “He got away.” As if Hisoka couldn't tell.

Hisoka stepped away from the alleyway and surveyed the brick structures around him. Anything to keep from thinking about what Muraki had said. Too bad the graffiti on the buildings didn't deter his thoughts.

Dammit, Muraki knew. Muraki knew and he was letting Hisoka know that he was planning something. Something to do with Hisoka's fear... which meant something concerning Tsuzuki.

And if Muraki could see Hisoka's dreams, what else could he see? Had Muraki seen where they were because of Hisoka? Could Muraki... could that bastard see things like that within Hisoka's mind? The thought made him vaguely nauseous.

Tsuzuki sighed in frustration. “It's too late now. We should go.”

Hisoka looked at Tsuzuki in shock. Tsuzuki wasn't the type to shrug off Muraki's presence in an area. He knew as well as Hisoka did just how evil Muraki was. They were both determined to kill the white-wearing cocksucker, no matter what... why was Tsuzuki brushing this off?

He watched as Tsuzuki turned and began to walk away. Suddenly all thoughts of Muraki vanished, leaving Hisoka with only that vision again... that fear again. That all-consuming fear...

“Tsuzuki, wait... please...”

Tsuzuki turned, shocked, to see Hisoka's hand reaching out for him. There was a moment of confusion before understanding dawned within those beautiful violet orbs. Tsuzuki came back to him then and grabbed his hand when he thought to bring it back to his side. “Come on. We'll go together.”

Hisoka couldn't help the flame of embarrassment that sparked his cheeks, but he gripped Tsuzuki's hand like a vise. They walked to Granny's Kitchen in silence, walking side by side down the sidewalk.


Hisoka led Tsuzuki to another alley once they were finished, hoping that the barren surroundings and lack of human existence would make Giselle – no, Amara – willing to come out and speak to them. He then turned to speak to Tsuzuki about what they had spoken of yesterday on the sidewalk before Tsuzuki had come.

“But what does she mean, 'you will finish my work'?” Tsuzuki asked.

Hisoka shrugged. “I don't know. Perhaps it has to do with my ability to...” Hisoka thought about it some more. “I doubt Shilah knows anything about this.”

Tsuzuki shook his head. “No, his soul went through the natural process, so it doesn't remember its past lives.” Tsuzuki frowned slightly. “Do you really think she'll come here?”

Hisoka merely shrugged again. “She's mostly shown up when I was alone. The other times were when Shilah and his mother were together... but I don't want to bring the kid anywhere near that woman.”

Tsuzuki nodded. “I agree. And I also don't want you doing this alone.” Hisoka opened his mouth to protest, but Tsuzuki held a finger to his lips, effectively silencing him. “We're partners, remember?”

Hisoka could only stare at him. Yes, they were partners. They were... partners and that's it. Why did that made him comfortable and pained at the same time? What was it about this feeling – this love? He was scared of it – it hurt even while it healed. He wanted to be with Tsuzuki... he wanted to be near Tsuzuki no matter what... but at the same time, being with Tsuzuki hurt, and he didn't want to be near Tsuzuki because of how much it hurt.


This didn't make any sense! He wanted to go back in time... wanted to go back and only be a friend to Tsuzuki... only like him as a friend... but Tsuzuki had been kind, even from the beginning... okay, mostly kind... when had Tsuzuki managed to get this far inside his skin?

“We'll wait together, Hisoka,” Tsuzuki was saying, and he struggled to pay attention again. He was captivated by Tsuzuki... everything about him. Even his childishness... the innocence the man managed to maintain, even after everything he went through. He was awed by Tsuzuki's strength.

He shook his head to clear his thoughts. Dammit, realizing how he felt just made it more difficult to get over the man! “We don't have forever, Tsuzuki.” Why did he feel the need to tack on the man's name? Why did he feel it necessary to say “Tsuzuki” when there was no one else he could possibly be talking to?

“I know.” And Tsuzuki sighed. “I'm worried about Muraki's sudden reappearance. I thought he'd gone into hiding.”

He did, but because of what I've found out... he's back because he's sniffed out a weakness. My weakness... you. But there was no way he could admit that to Tsuzuki.

How much danger does hiding this put him in?

Hisoka realized that he'd been silent for too long and cast desperately to try to find something to say. “Tsuzuki...” Dammit, there he went again, saying Tsuzuki's name! “How could Amara have ignored the call of the Underworld?”

Tsuzuki's intense expression was too inscrutable for Hisoka to name. “She had a reason to stay – sometimes a person's soul feels incomplete or unfinished in the world of the living. That's what creates ghosts.” Hisoka already knew that. “The Judgment Bureau gets those clinging to the living world and takes them to the Underworld, along with its other responsibilities.” Tsuzuki's gaze penetrated Hisoka, a similar look to what Serendipity would sometimes show – a look that demands attention, a look that warns of a remark that he may not like to hear. “You and I are the same as Amara.”

That surprised Hisoka. “What do you mean? We haven't taken souls... we aren't...” Hisoka trailed off, thinking about it. He'd been about to say that they weren't obsessed with the living world... but then...

Tsuzuki seemed to see Hisoka's dawning realization. “That's right,” he whispered. “We are still here, not living but not quite dead... we still walk on the mortal plane... because, for one reason or another... we can't let go.”

Hisoka's mind provided him that picture again – Muraki, leaning over that unnamed woman, the plunge... that unnatural eye turning to him...

Hisoka's scars burned slightly in remembrance. Yes, he thought, there is something that holds me to the living world. Until I kill Muraki... But more importantly... He looked at Tsuzuki, focused on his eyes, his hair, his face... just being near him... More importantly, something binds me to the Underworld... and I don't want to be reincarnated and separated from Tsuzuki... The thought alone hurt him.

Hisoka had to look away, afraid that Tsuzuki might read his emotions in his eyes. Despite how ridiculous Tsuzuki acted... the man was surprisingly observant.

“She's not showing up,” Hisoka said finally. “I think... I need to be alone. I don't think she'll come with you here.”

Tsuzuki seemed worried... Hisoka refused to look, still trying to school his face. He was used to the mask that showed indifference or anger. It was normal... almost natural. Why did it always seem to slip around Tsuzuki?

“Hisoka, I don't want to leave you alone with her.”

So many conflicting emotions snapped up at those words. Why was he so damn vulnerable? This was... scary... this was absolutely terrifying! He opened his mouth to snap at Tsuzuki, to run him off... but he had to stop. He had to stop himself, because... if he spoke the words on his tongue... he would hurt Tsuzuki.

Suddenly he wanted to run. He wanted to escape these feelings... this fear, this hurt, this desire... this hope. “I...” He couldn't speak. He couldn't say this to Tsuzuki... he couldn't admit this to him... this fear, this need... it was all-consuming.

Had it felt like this before, before he'd been able to name it? Before he could feel all these emotions and label them with that one, small word? The word that changed everything... the word that... the word that couldn't exist for him... him, the child hated by his parents, shunned by the world... abandoned by everyone.

How long until Tsuzuki abandoned him?

“Dammit,” he whispered, then spun and raced out of the alley, ignoring Tsuzuki's surprised yelp... ignoring his name being called from those lips.


“That was stupid,” he admitted a few minutes later. But he couldn't deny that fear, that roll of emotions... what would he do? What was he going to do in the future... as they continued being partners, as he continued feeling this way? What would he do?

“You are afraid.”

Hisoka jumped about a foot off the ground. She was to his left this time, not standing straight in front of him. He turned and walked over to her. The street he was on was run-down, but there were still a couple of people walking around. He moved over to the side of a building, making sure she followed him. He leaned against the brick wall, idly wondering what the building was for. He hadn't read the sign.

“You hurt.”

Hisoka didn't understand exactly what the girl wanted, but he certainly wasn't going to let this conversation continue. “What do you want from me?”

The girl was silent for a moment. He looked at her from the corner of his eye. Her transparent form shimmered for a moment as a car light passed through her. Her eyes were staring right at him, still leaking tears. Always leaking tears.

“You are the only one who can finish this. You're body is the only one that can do what must be done.”

Like that explained a damn thing. He already knew his ability was necessary somehow. “Just how am I necessary? What must be done?”

Somehow, her eyes seemed to grow sadder. “Your body is necessary.”

He wasn't in the mood for riddles. “You said that. Necessary for what?”

He thought he Felt uncertainty... regret. “It must be done.”

Now he knew something was wrong. She was hiding something... something devious. It only became apparent when she stepped up to him and grabbed his shoulders – pain, anger, fear, despair, hate hate hate! - and then she leaned up, floated off the ground – shit, he knew exactly what she was doing... he had to get her off of him!

He couldn't – his arms were trapped! His legs wouldn't move... he had to...

Her transparent face, pale as death, white... the shadow of the building beyond and through her... her tiny lips came up to his face, her hands lightly touching his cheeks – her mother's face, furious, the pain that came and came and came... the blood that covered her eyes until all she could see was her mother's dirty blond hair and beyond her, the tearstained face of her younger brother, his screaming voice fading – he couldn't move his head. He couldn't move!

Her lips came closer, her breath – breath? – stifling, stealing, stealing his strength... He tried desperately to pull away... pull away before...

She wanted to... she planned to... just like...

She pressed her lips to his – the sights and sounds and feelings rose and rose until he thought blood was pouring from him, his entire being trying to escape – the pain... oh God...

Tsuzuki... He wanted to cry out, wanted to scream... wanted... Tsuzuki... His formless thoughts reeled away, lost...

He was lost.


Tsuzuki had returned to their hotel room, knowing that Hisoka would eventually come back. He checked the laptop GuShoShin had given them and found the mail holding the information Hisoka had asked for.

There was a list of girls the same age as Giselle when they'd died... two from Europe, one from America, one from China. He read what Hisoka had specifically asked for – where were their souls? Nowhere, apparently. All of them were “lost.”

GuShoShin, ever brilliant and once again proving just how invaluable he was, said that (Hisoka must have realized that the female ghost he saw had to do with these disappearances) the ghost could have been taking the souls. They'd already found that out.

Tsuzuki continued reading, his eyes widening more after every line. The ghost was looking for a way to live. To finally hold her promise to her long-dead real brother... and the only way for her to save him with the repeat of fate that continued to occur...

Tsuzuki shot up straight, then raced to the door. Where the hell was Hisoka?!


Hisoka couldn't move his body... he felt so cold...

This must be done.

It was the girl's voice... Amara. It didn't sound like it was a voice anymore, though... it was like... a thought. But how could he hear that?

You have the ability I've waited so long to find. I must do this.

Do what? He tried to speak... but he couldn't. An icy fear gripped him, and he began to try to struggle. Why couldn't he move? Why couldn't he speak? He remembered... he remembered her grabbing him... he remembered the pain, the Feelings... the kiss...


He knew... he knew what she wanted to do...

His Shinigami soul... his immortal soul... she was after his soul!

No... He wanted to speak... he wanted to grimace. He couldn't move! He was trapped... he Felt her inside of him, Felt his body rejecting... the pain of two souls trying to live inside the same body...

His eyes opened... as if they were shutters that someone had pulled the cord of. He had no control. He found his arms moving... moving... he tried to fight it...

Don't. Your body is necessary. Your body that could see me... this must be done.

No, he wanted to scream. This isn't necessary. There has to be another way... another choice. There had to be – he could stop it all... he could take Shilah away from that woman. He and Tsuzuki could save that child!

This must be done.

Listen to me! he tried to say. Tsuzuki and I can...

His hands were still moving, touching his body – he gasped as his fingers brushed over his chest, his stomach, his...

So strange...

If he could have, he would have flushed in shame. This girl... this young girl was touching him, and he was enjoying it. Granted, it was his own hands and his own body... he knew that he couldn't help the reaction... she was rubbing his hands over the verge in his pants. He could Feel her curiosity, her wonder... and he knew she could feel the reactions her movements created within him. He wanted to tell her to stop... he wanted control. His panic resurfaced, but his emotions couldn't touch his body... his dick only knew that he was curious... not scared. Not terrified.

He heard himself gasp, but it wasn't him – felt his body jerk, his hips lift up, then down. His hand was unzipping his fly...

Don't! Don't do this – this isn't right!

But she found it entertaining, erotic... her first taste of this sort of pleasure... she wanted more.

No! Amara, don't... don't do this!

He heard himself groan, felt his hips buck again... his hand was clutching his member, and Amara somehow knew what to do... his hand was in a fist now, pumping... another groan...

Stop, he wanted to plead, unable to ignore the rising tide that signified an oncoming climax...

His voice cried out softly and the pumping increased, faster, faster... His teeth bit into his lip painfully, and his hips thrust harder, faster... the tide waved over him crashing and crashing... his voice cried out again...

His heart beat fit to take wing, his breathing was labored, his body jerking into his fist again and again until he finally went limp, exhausted.

Incredible... A little girl's awe and shock... she was still curious.

No more! he wanted to cry. Don't do it again, please!

He Felt her sudden sadness. I hope you enjoyed that, she thought... spoke... whatever. You must die now.

No! Don't do this-


A tear slipped down his cheek, his tear ducts too full to contain it all anymore. It was as if a cord had snapped – he Felt her shock, her pain... her hesitation. He wanted to take control again, but he couldn't. All he could do was lie limp, unable to move anything... the tears continued to spill. His hand moved on its own, wiping off the remains of his seed... and, his pants still open, legs still wide... touched his cheek. Touched the tears.

I am sorry, Amara told him. But this must be done.

No! No, it doesn't need-

Agony. Suddenly all there was was agony – blistering pain, a ripping and tearing, a claw that bled out every pore of his body... he felt like he was being ripped apart from the inside – pain! He wanted to scream – tried to cry out – his mouth wouldn't even open. There were more tears now, tears of pain and fear... tears of regret.

Tsuzuki... Tsuzuki... what would happen to Tsuzuki? Where...

His immortal soul was being torn apart piece by piece and through the torture all he could see were violet eyes and that smile, that smile as he said, “we're partners, remember?” The smile that gave everything without demand...

Through the tears he wished he could convey his heart in words... he wanted Tsuzuki to never be lonely...

Would Tsuzuki live if Hisoka's heart was gone? Where... would he live?

He wanted to reach out... he wanted...

...to live...


After an eternity the pain stopped. He thought he was still alive... wouldn't he have disappeared if he were dead? He Felt nothing but pain... he still couldn't move... he doubted he would have been able to even if Amara wasn't holding him still. He was so weak... more tired than he'd ever been... worse than the lack of sleep... his soul was weary...

Your soul regenerates so quickly, he heard Amara say, then heard her groan. An immortal soul? A soul beyond that of a human's... how is that possible?

He couldn't truly understand what she was saying... all he knew was that the pain had receded. It had stopped. It was a blessed relief.

It lasted another four seconds.

He Felt Amara dig into him again, Felt her chip away, chip away... as if she were peeling his skin off... peel... peel... the agony could find no way to be released... no sound, no escape... he couldn't feel his body at all... like he was completely removed from it-

There was a familiar pain then, different than Amara's inflictions... similar... physical. His mind produced a picture of a man in white... he couldn't move. He couldn't even feel hatred for the man. He could only vaguely recognize him... Muraki.

But why... why was Muraki here?

“Now, now, haven't you gotten yourself into quite a predicament, my little doll?”

Through the haze... through Amara... he could see Muraki leaning over him. Muraki's hand reached out towards him, towards his legs... that's right... his pants had never been zipped up again... Muraki touched him there. Amara gasped, shocked at the feeling... he wondered what she felt. A tiny part of him stirred in fury - How dare he touch me! - but he couldn't react. Muraki smiled at him. Hisoka's mouth opened-

“Who are you?”

Muraki laughed. “Come now, little child. You should see his memories. You should know.”

There was a pause. Could she see? “Muraki,” his voice murmured. Apparently yes, she could. He thought it strange – shouldn't his voice hold hate, malice and all-out loathing? Why did it just sound like he was hearing the name Muraki for the first time? “You... are evil.” Again, like asking for change from the cash register.

Muraki laughed. Another twinge of anger, again quickly lost. “Is that what that boy thinks?”

“There are memories...” His voice sounded unsure.

“Of course there are,” Muraki said, and he sounded both bored and intrigued. “I gave the boy many memories that night.” A smirk. Hisoka felt another quick flicker of anger.

“What do you want?”

Muraki's fingers caressed his member, up and down on the underside, tracing a vein. His breath hitched. “As much as I enjoy the thought of my doll being tortured -” here he gripped Hisoka's dick tightly, making his voice cry out – did he feel the pain, or had he imagined it? “- I cannot have him die yet. He still has a purpose to serve.”

Hisoka definitely felt the pain that time – a sharp, long stab of pain that lanced from his groin throughout his entire body. He couldn't cry out, but Amara did for them both. “You will have to leave that body, little soul.”

“I won't,” his voice replied petulantly. A part of Hisoka winced at the tone.

“Oh?” Another hard squeeze, practically crushing him. Hisoka's scream seemed to echo... when had he gone behind the building?

Muraki grabbed Hisoka's hair and pulled his head back, exposing his throat. His other hand left his groin and skimmed up his stomach, then chest, then lovingly caressed his throat. His hand spread slowly, rubbing his throat – Hisoka heard his voice moan (Oh God, is she enjoying this?), a loud sound – And then Muraki's hand clamped on his throat, cutting off his air. His body jerked, his hands raised to claw wildly at Muraki's fingers and wrist. His legs tried to come up, but Muraki was between them and all he had to do was press himself to Hisoka's groin and Hisoka's body jerked again, differently this time, in reaction. Muraki chuckled.

Hisoka's eyes were unfocused... Amara didn't seem to know what to do – fight this man off because he was choking her or pull him forward because he was touching it, that thing that felt so good.

Get him off me! Hisoka wanted to scream.

Muraki's hand was unrelenting. The hand in Hisoka's hair slid down to grasp at his neck as well. Amara seemed to have decided that the lack of air took precedent over the great sensations of groin on groin and began fighting. Hisoka's body was already too weak, however, and the attacks she tried to inflict weren't able to do much damage...

“If you don't want to die with him, you will leave his body.” Muraki's voice was almost conversational – Hisoka almost expected to see a cup of tea and a china set within easy reach.

Amara fought against Muraki's hold with greater fervor, unwilling to part from Hisoka's body... unwilling to leave what she thought she needed. Hisoka felt his body slack more and more, found the shadows around him deepen. He heard sounds then – blood raging in his ears, but more than that – cars, voices... pounding footsteps.

With a cry, Amara finally left him. Her parting made a cold chill stick to every inch of his body, like he'd been locked inside an icebox or a meatlocker. He couldn't move, though... he gained his body back when it was too late to fight... The shadows were everything now... there was nothing else. Muraki's unnatural eye was focused on him intently. The psycho was taking delight in watching Hisoka die...!

“Mur... raki...” He growled, his eyes drooping. If only he could fight... if only Tsuzuki... no, it was better that Tsuzuki wasn't here...


“Tsu... zu...” He tried to lift his hand to grab Muraki... to try to fight-

Muraki's hands left his neck, leaving Hisoka to arch up, gasping for air. The gray blurred now, able to see but unable to focus yet... there were more sounds, his name shouted out over and over... a warmth enveloped him... arms... arms around his shoulder and back, carefully lifting him. Concern. Fear. Worry. Tsuzuki's scent...

“Tsuzuki...” He tried to lift a hand to touch Tsuzuki, to make certain he was real... that he had come...

“Hold it right there, Muraki!” Tsuzuki's arms adjusted themselves around Hisoka's body and suddenly he was in the air, held in a protective grip. Held in Tsuzuki's arms...

Hisoka couldn't see... couldn't use the energy to open his eyes. His focus was on breathing and listening and to hell if his body could manage anything else without him passing out.

“You should hurry,” Hisoka heard Muraki advise. “The boy is in trouble there, even if he is immortal.”

“What do you mean? What did you do to him?” The arms holding him tightened when Muraki laughed. “Muraki!”

“I do believe you have a greater problem now than just me, my dear Tsuzuki.”

The arms tightened again and a whimper escaped Hisoka's lips of its own accord. Tsuzuki made an almost-gasp and loosened his hold immediately. “Muraki... Muraki!”

There was that laugh again... it felt good to feel the hate roil around in his gut. Tsuzuki called after Muraki once more, but Hisoka knew the man was gone – his scars were no longer burning. The man had escaped again, unpursued because of him...

“Hisoka, what happened?” Tsuzuki gently shifted his arms and zip! closed Hisoka's pants... if Hisoka had the energy to, he would have flushed with shame. He knew he should respond to what Tsuzuki asked... make some point of saying something as proof that he was okay... maybe a sarcastic comment - “Where were you?” or “You're late again!” - but he just couldn't do it... if he did... he would lose consciousness completely... and he would fail in the attempt anyway. No... best not to even try.

Of course, that succeeded in scaring Tsuzuki spitless, and before Hisoka even knew what Tsuzuki was up to, he found himself transported... and heard Tsuzuki shout out, “Tatsumi! Please – help me!”

“Tsuzuki? What...?”

“I don't know.” Panic. “We saw Muraki again...”

“Muraki?!” The sound of a chair crashing to the floor.

“Yeah, but there doesn't seem to be a wound on him... I think it was the girl...”

“Come on, let's go to the infirmary.” Then he was being moved again, carried... to the Judgment Bureau's infirmary, apparently. He wondered what could be done for him... no... he would just have to recover over time... his soul had been damaged... could that be recovered?

There was no more talking; Tsuzuki's tense muscles said that he was in no mood to speak. There was the sound of a door opening... then rushing footsteps... noises... then hands pressing on him.

He gasped and started to struggle – forgetting to breathe in his haste.

The hands disappeared and he calmed again. There were words exchanged, but he'd worn himself out from the struggle and couldn't make out the words, only the emotions in them... worry being prominent among them. Tsuzuki moved again, slowly, as if afraid he'd jump and run off – if he had the ability, he would laugh at the thought.

Tsuzuki's arms bent slightly and then there was a cool, soft feeling beneath him... his mind supplied him with a vision of a bed and sheets. They felt cool against him, soft and comforting.

Then Tsuzuki's arms began to leave him and he panicked again.

“Shh, Hisoka, I'm right here. I'm right beside you – the doctor has to take a look at you.”

He could make out words again... Tsuzuki's voice. It calmed him, even though he couldn't understand just what Tsuzuki was saying. He heard the words, but... they had lost their meaning.

So he reacted again when the hands touched him, using every last bit of his ability to fight... no touch... he wouldn't let someone take control of him again!

His coherency left him again, but the voices were terse now, ordering. He lashed out.

Hands were on him again, gentle but firm... those hands... he recognized them... and the voice. He stopped struggling again. “Hisoka, please... don't fight us.” Pain. There was pain in his voice... because of him? Because of...

He opened his mouth to try to speak-

New hands – those hands, unknown hands. He struggled in Tsuzuki's grip, losing the ability once again to understand what Tsuzuki was saying to him, only knowing the pleading tone. He tried to calm himself, but he didn't have the energy to. Finally his body went limp with suffocation and weariness. He struggled now to breathe.

The voices became harried, afraid. Tsuzuki's voice seemed almost an octave higher, calling to someone... him. Calling to him. Reason began returning. Tsuzuki was afraid because he... couldn't get his shit together. Even now... thinking about it... he just couldn't grasp the ability to take control. That brought a quick, sharp stab of panic.

The hands were on him again, and he focused on not fighting. It got harder and harder and harder... he realized he wasn't breathing again. He had to stop for a moment and think carefully about breathing... his body began bucking away from the hands... there was a prick on his arm... a needle, his mind helpfully informed him too late.

He needed to open his mouth, to warn them... If he was having such a hard time remembering to breathe with his mind clear...

Would he remember to breathe when he was drugged?


He slipped into unconsciousness, he was certain... but he still heard noises, felt hands... was the drug to just calm him? He heard movement around him... voices... Tsuzuki. Tatsumi. There were others... GuShoShin, he thought, speaking to both of them... Tsuzuki and Tatsumi. He thought he heard his name... Amara's name.

He had to stop paying attention and focus on breathing again.

The doctor spoke up, seemingly frightened. Hisoka heard the doctor mention the drug... distinctly heard the words “bad idea”... he wanted to say something sarcastic... or maybe just give the doctor a 'no shit?' stare... but he... just...

Tsuzuki's voice shot out, panic rising again. Because of Hisoka... because of him...

Dammit... he couldn't die... where would Tsuzuki live? What would happen...

He couldn't let Tsuzuki die...


The voices and footsteps and hands were inconsequential... he had to focus on breathing more than anything else...

He heard one voice, one pleading voice, felt a pressure on his left hand... he let Tsuzuki's presence give him the strength he needed... and breathed. Breathed.

He couldn't let himself die... couldn't let himself disappear... for Tsuzuki... he had to live for Tsuzuki...!

Had to...


He didn't try to count how many breaths he took. Counting would take too much concentration. He checked sometimes to be certain his heart was still beating... funny, he almost thought, how they were dead but their bodies were...

He had to stop the thought... he was losing control on his breathing... he listened for Tsuzuki's voice... heard a soft murmur of something... felt that pressure on his hand...

And felt enough strength to take one more breath...

One more...

One more...


He slowly became conscious of more voices... females... a voice that reminded him of owls – Watari – Tsuzuki. Tsuzuki's voice. He remembered to breathe.

He wanted to hear what they were saying... the voices were distraught. Tsuzuki's voice sounded... tired. Still scared. Terrified.

But hadn't Watari gone on some mission? How long had he...

He had to stop that thought, too.

He hoped Tsuzuki would get some rest. He let the voices fade back to background rumbles and concentrated on breathing... He felt Tsuzuki's hand in his and took solace in it...

It left.

He panicked for a second, then lost control on his... control. He tried to move again... forgot to breathe... shit... shit... how to breathe? It was simple... it was...

Where was Tsuzuki?!

Fear... fear...

He had to breathe... but...

There were louder noises now, voices of fear...

But Tsuzuki's hand came back to grasp his... and he was speaking to him again... he was right there... not leaving... not abandoning him...

He took a sudden breath that jarred something in him... he recognized pain and grasped at it and the greater control it represented. Another sharp breath... another...

“...soka? Hisoka, it's okay... I'm here...”

He wanted to turn his head, but at the same time didn't want to use up any energy. He could hear Tsuzuki now... could hear what he said...

“Pain...” He tried to convey his message... why was it so tiring just to say that?

“Where? I'll get the doctor...” There was a world of relief in Tsuzuki's voice.

Hisoka didn't have much time... didn't have much strength left. “No...” He had to say this before he slipped back into that oblivion. The voices of Watari and the girls were silent. “Pain... need... control...” He panted the three words out.

He didn't dare use the energy to open his eyes, despite how badly he wanted to see Tsuzuki. He breathed sharply once again, but the pain was beginning to recede. Quickly...

He overrode Tsuzuki's voice with his wavering, weakly stated words. “Please... too much... I need... to be able... to breathe...”

A shocked, pained gasp from Tsuzuki... more vocal sounds of denial from Saya and Yuma. He thought he might have heard Watari shush them.

“Hisoka...” Tsuzuki's voice was pained. He wanted to get rid of that pain...

“Tsuzuki...” He wanted to say so much... just in case. But the girls and Watari were there, and he just didn't have the time.

“Pain... gives... control... I need...”

Tsuzuki finally said, “alright,” and Hisoka only needed to say one more thing.

“Take care... of yourself... you fool...”

Another pained and shocked gasp, but he was already fading back into the darkness he'd managed to escape from... his message had been received.


There had quickly come a needlepoint of some sort, a small prick... it only gave him enough control to say “more” in a thick, hardly-identifiable way. There had then been a small electrical shock that worked perfectly. “Perfect,” he'd said, then had allowed himself to focus on breathing again. Shocks came in an orderly pattern – over a period of time... how long he didn't know.

But eventually, breathing became easier... the more natural thing that it was supposed to be.

Later he would be told that the electrical shocks served to jumpstart his Shinigami ability to heal.

After a few shocks, Tsuzuki's hand left him. He managed to use enough strength to keep himself still for a little while, hoping Tsuzuki was leaving to take care of himself...

But his control eventually waned and he'd begun losing his ability to control his breathing... he'd been surprised when he'd felt himself take a sharp, deep intake of air without conscious thought.

From there on, he began to improve.


He didn't know how long he'd been in that unconscious state while his body desperately regenerated his soul, but when he finally managed to open his eyes, they were gritty and felt glued together. The lids were extraordinarily heavy. It felt like he was using even those tiny muscles for the first time in years.

He turned his head – 200 tons – and tried to find Tsuzuki. There was no one in the room.

He looked to the ceiling, trying to find a hint as to how long he'd been in the bed... he felt a needle in his arm... an IV, of course, giving him fluids and, most likely, that nasty liquid food supplement shit... he refused to think about how that worked.

He was breathing on his own without having to think about every individual inhale or exhale. He doubted he'd be able to do much else... his body still seemed weak... but he thought about Tsuzuki and just suddenly couldn't stay in the bed. Muraki had been there... he could hardly remember what had happened, but he knew he remembered Muraki's voice. He had heard Tsuzuki's voice, but he didn't know about the man's injuries. Knowing Tsuzuki, he could've been bleeding to death and would have still carried Hisoka to safety. The man had too kind a heart.

His legs were leaden, seemingly bolted down to their places on the bed. Moving them was similar to pushing against a car that was out of gas.

Then he was pulling himself up – slowly, so slowly he might as well be a glacier – but he made it into a sitting position. He almost blacked out.

He allowed himself to sit for a couple of minutes, breathing heavily. There was a small chill that encompassed him and a pain that flowed through his entire body. He supposed his soul was still healing.

Thank God it could.

He tried to remember what had happened after Amara had tried to kill his soul... he remembered Muraki's presence... more than that was the memory of pain so profound he couldn't compare it to anything... maybe like getting stabbed over and over and never dying, never being released from the pain...

He remembered that Tsuzuki had come... with Muraki and Amara still there...

He needed to check on Tsuzuki.

He managed to stand with the aid of the bed. His legs were far too unsteady to support him. If he had the time to split his concentration up, he would probably be utterly humiliated at his weakness. As it was, he was flushing... but that may be because of the strain.

Trying to move forward almost made him crash to the floor. The world spun. He clutched the bedpost tightly, then shoved himself with all the strength he could and lurched forward. He stumbled out two more steps. Stopping wasn't an option – he knew he'd fall to the floor and be unable to get back up. That was a humiliation he would skip, thanks.

Three more lurching steps and he was within a yard of the door. He managed to get to it by taking one more step and falling against the wall beside it. He was sweating, panting even more heavily than before, and liberally cursing his weakness to the deepest depths of hell. This sucked.

It took probably another ten minutes before he could move again. He looked at the tiny clock on the bedside table, but all it told him was that it wasn't quite dinnertime... or it was too damn early to be awake.

Shouldn't a doctor or nurse be poking his or her head in and raising hell?

He had to find Tsuzuki before he was found.

His lurching had a handhold this time – the doorknob. He grabbed it with a slick palm and tried unsuccessfully to turn it. He growled at it and tried again.

It turned beneath his palm and the door swung out because of his body leaning on it. He stumbled and almost fell, but he managed to stay upright through sheer will. He was running out of energy... about to black out and fall into that damn darkness...

Where is he?!

He used the wall as a support now. His steps were tiny, tiny, tinier... each time he moved, the pain within him seemed to intensify... but he refused to give up and sink to the floor. He had to find Tsuzuki.

The rising buzzing in his head masked the sound of footsteps until the were right at the corner, about twenty feet from him. There were doors around him, and Hisoka would have made a jump for one of them if the person weren't already turning the corner.

It was Tsuzuki, looking down to the floor as he walked, his hands in the pockets of his trench coat. He seemed as yet oblivious to Hisoka's presence.

Hisoka was so happy to see him he stepped forward without using the wall as support. The world tilted for a moment, but he was once again able to maintain his balance. A quick scan showed no obvious injuries, but...

Tsuzuki gasped suddenly, making Hisoka worry. But Tsuzuki was looking at him, his eyes overflowing with both relief and alarm. “Hisoka!” Tsuzuki yelped, then raced forward.

Tsuzuki's hands were suddenly holding his upper arms. Hisoka trusted in Tsuzuki's hold and allowed himself to sag a bit. “Tsuzuki...” He needed to ask whether he was okay, though he seemed to move well enough.

“Hisoka, what are you doing? When did you wake up?”

Tsuzuki effortlessly picked him up. It seemed that he was getting used to Tsuzuki carrying him; it didn't embarrass him as badly as it used to. Or maybe it was because he knew damn well he wouldn't be able to get back to the bed with his own meager strength.

“I...” Admitting he was worried about Tsuzuki would mean admitting he cared... and how the hell should he know when he woke up? “Are you... okay?” It was why he'd struggled so damn hard. Let Tsuzuki take it how he would.

The arms holding him tensed. “I'm fine.” Tsuzuki sounded ashamed of the fact.

Hisoka sighed in relief, but had to make certain.

“Are you... you?”

Confusion. “What?”

“Yeah, you're you.” Tsuzuki hadn't hesitated at all in his confusion. Amara, he remembered, had to sift through his memories... she would have to find out how Tsuzuki would react before saying that. And Tsuzuki had sounded honest...

Hisoka trusted in Tsuzuki enough to believe he truly was all right.

Hisoka allowed himself to go limp. “Amara... we have to...”

“No.” Tsuzuki's voice was firm. Did Hisoka Feel fear? “You will stay here. I'll do the rest of this alone.”

“No way.” He tried to fight against Tsuzuki's arms now. “No – it's too dangerous.”

“Don't you think I know that?” Tsuzuki snapped at him. Hisoka was forcefully reminded of when Tsuzuki had found him checking out things in the library after ditching him at the diner. “I'm strong enough to handle it without a problem. You...”

“No!” Hisoka shouted. “No,” he said again. “Amara... she's...”

“I know what she did.” Tsuzuki sounded kind of pissed. “GuShoShin sent you a message... I read it. That's how I found you... how I knew to look for you.”

“She said... she needed me to... that my body was the only one...” Hisoka struggled to remember everything Amara had told him before the pain had wrapped itself around him.

“Tatsumi, GuShoShin and I spoke about that. They think it has to do with your ability. You're the only one who's aware of her presence, so you're the only one who would know if she tries to take over. Zygotes and embryos are easy and weak, so they can be taken over, but the adult mind needs to be aware somewhat of her existence for her to take over. Since you're the only one who can see her...”

Hisoka let that process. “She only wants to save her brother.” He felt he needed to convey this. “If we can find evidence that the mother beat Giselle's body to death, then we can fulfill Amara's promise without...”

Tsuzuki seemed to sigh. “I know. Shilah has spoken to me... he's willing to speak against his mother, but he's scared. I don't want it to come to that...”

Hisoka was gently laid back on his hospital bed. He wanted to snarl at it – he hated hospitals.

Tsuzuki stood and turned to leave. “Wait!” Hisoka cried. “Where are you...”

Tsuzuki merely turned back to him and smiled. “I need to get a doctor, Hisoka. You've been unconscious for six days.” The smile quickly faded. “You scared us... all of us.”

Hisoka thought he remembered panic in Tsuzuki's voice. “I'm all right,” he found it necessary to tell him.

Tsuzuki tried to smile again, but he just wasn't able to do it this time. He didn't say anything in response to Hisoka's words, only turned and walked out of the room.

Six days? What had happened during that time? Had he slept? Had he slept... undisturbed? And what was happening on Earth – Muraki, Amara... what was happening?

He was so tired... Stupid... He'd just woken up...

“Hisoka, please stay awake for me.”

There was a familiar voice. A doctor. Dr. Nato if he remembered correctly. The doctor was giving him a checkup. Hisoka saw Tsuzuki hovering at a safe distance, ready to come forward in an instant. Hisoka kept his eyes locked with Tsuzuki and managed to stay awake for the few minutes it took to do the checkup.

“We will run a more thorough examination after you've rested,” Dr. Nato told him. “And Hisoka?” Hisoka wrenched his gaze away from Tsuzuki to look into the man's brown eyes. “No more excursions for you.” Hisoka nodded weakly. “Go on back to sleep,” the doctor said softly, and Hisoka just couldn't fight it anymore.


He awoke screaming.

It was like the first few weeks... when he'd been used to getting a normal amount of sleep. He had a shock of a moment where he had no idea where he was. He was thrown into his reality when a nurse shot in and came toward him. Oh yeah... that's why I screamed... it's been a while since I had to worry about this...

The nurse immediately checked him over, then asked him if he needed more pain medication.

“No,” he said testily. When she opened her mouth to argue, he snapped, “I'm fine! Go away!”

She gave him a half-hearted glare, but she did as he said and left.

Hisoka looked around and concluded that it was the night shift. He wondered how long he'd managed to sleep, and how much of it was sleeping as opposed to... unconsciousness.

He needed to heal quickly. They would only be able to hold Shilah away from his mother for another few days before the mortal laws demanded his release. They needed to prove the woman guilty before that happened. He needed to get moving so that he could find Amara and...

The thought of seeing Amara scared him. The thought of Tsuzuki seeing – or not seeing, as the case may be – Amara terrified him.

He had to get better...

He got out of the bed – like shoving against a concrete wall, his body was so damn heavy – and made his way to the door like a drunk.


After three hours of practicing with his shinai and sweating himself dry, he felt like he could move on his own without too much of a problem.

He looked at the sakura trees around him, ever blowing in a small breeze... he let that breeze caress him, let it hold him up for a moment. His practice had given him back his control over his body. His practice... and his will. They needed to get this job done and hunt down Muraki before he went on another mindless killing spree.

Hisoka didn't want to think about what Muraki planned. It had to do with Tsuzuki and him... about his... love... for Tsuzuki. He had practically laid himself in Muraki's lap. He may have laid Tsuzuki in his lap.

He shivered at the thought.


He turned without thinking to the voice, ignoring the pain and heaviness in his limbs. He thought his soul had recovered, but maybe at the cost of his bodily functions, or maybe this was a sign that his soul was still trying to become whole. He supposed it could recover... a memory supplied him with the sound of anguished frustration as Amara lamented his soul's ability to recover. It was probably the only reason he was still here.

That... and the recollection of Tsuzuki's voice... and his urgent desire to remain with that voice... to not leave it alone.

Selfishness and selflessness at the same time. Maybe... maybe that was love.

Tsuzuki, in his ever-present trenchcoat, was running toward him. He cautiously moved forward to meet him, attentive to his healing body. After a few steps, he decided that maybe he had gone a little overboard. Still, he managed to stay on his feet without leaning on anything. He blamed his attention to his weakness on what happened next.

“Hisoka, what the hell do you think you're doing?!”

Hisoka, who had been innocently watching his feet to make certain they didn't do something beyond what he wanted them to, jerked his head up in shock. Tsuzuki sounded wicked pissed... he didn't know if he'd ever heard Tsuzuki that angry unless...

... unless he'd been speaking to Muraki.

“What...?” Hisoka's brow furrowed in confusion, then he made the mistake of trying to move back and away from Tsuzuki without looking down to his feet.

It was the feel of roots and rocks hitting him that made him realize that he'd not only fallen, but that he also successfully managed to fall down a little hill. He stopped falling when his back hit a sakura tree.

Already flushing with humiliation, he tried to get his hands and knees under himself so that he could stand.

That last dignity was taken from him when Tsuzuki came to a sudden stop beside him, a nonstop litany of apologies and worried questions spewing from his mouth. A fleeting thought manifested itself in Hisoka's head – Tsuzuki isn't acting right. Something's wrong.

Tsuzuki lifted him up carefully, checking him for injuries. Hisoka knew that he was fine except for a bruise or two that would quickly heal. “I'm fine,” he said irritably, then again, “I'm fine!”

Tsuzuki's face didn't seem to know how to look – sad, regretful, abashed... or still angry. Hisoka squirmed out of Tsuzuki's gaze despite how much his body wanted to stay and looked away. “We need to get this mission completed. I have to heal.”

“Hisoka, that can't be rushed-”

“Well, it has to be!” Hisoka snarled. “I can't lie down anymore... we need to finish this before Shilah is sent back to that woman.”

Tsuzuki seemed to hesitate for a moment. “I've... never seen you be so emotional about a case.”

Hisoka flushed hotly. “I just... don't want to return Shilah to that...” He desperately tried to close that line of conversation. “I have to get better so that I can handle the rest of this damn case.”

Hisoka could envision Tsuzuki's brow furrowing. “Hisoka, we're partners. I can do this while you rest.”

“You can't see her,” Hisoka argued. No need to expound on 'her'. “I need to be out there.” There was also no need to tell Tsuzuki about his unreasoning fear that Tsuzuki be alone with Amara. After all, he had undergone three years of torture thanks to Muraki's curse... he was more used to that sort of pain that Tsuzuki probably was.

“It would be better if you stayed,” Tsuzuki began.

“I thought you said we were partners!” Hisoka snapped, finally turning to look at Tsuzuki. He bulled forward while Tsuzuki just gave him a shocked expression. “We're supposed to work together, aren't we?!”

Tsuzuki was frozen for a few seconds, then fell into a small smile – a real one. “You're right, Hisoka. Hey – can we go to Granny's Kitchen? Then we can get back on the case. Okay?”

Hisoka was a bit shocked that Tsuzuki capitulated like that, but didn't bring it up. Instead he nodded, and Tsuzuki only held his elbow as he stood instead of picking him up and carting him off. Hisoka dared think that they would be able to get through the day without his falling on his face like a helpless child.


Of course Tsuzuki hovered, even when they were sitting in Granny's Kitchen and he was devouring his precious sweets. The waitress had managed to comment about how long it had been since she had seen them – a small surprise to Hisoka, who thought Tsuzuki would have continued the case and therefore come into the restaurant for the sweets. His surprise had only increased when Tsuzuki had said that they'd had to leave because a friend of theirs had been in the hospital. The waitress made the right “oh, poor thing!”s and gave sympathy. Hisoka refrained from comment.

They left the restaurant – Tsuzuki hovering hovering hovering right by his side – and headed to the alley Hisoka had been in. Hisoka blanked out Tsuzuki's words of worry. They sounded something like “Hisoka, you don't have to go there – I can handle this – blah blah blah” anyway.

They made it without a hitch, but that didn't surprise Hisoka. Amara was probably hiding from him, either because of shame, fear, or Tsuzuki's presence. Hisoka looked around, but he didn't feel as if he'd ever seen the place before. It made it easier to contemplate where he'd been when Amara jerked his body off... easier to think he'd almost died for good there, not being able to remember the clean yard so different than their hotel, shabby but not disastrously left uncared for. He had been lucky no one else had showed up but Tsuzuki and Muraki. He could swear Amara had screamed.

“Amara! Show yourself!” Hisoka shouted out. “We can save your brother – we can do it without any more sacrifices, but you need to come here!” Hisoka was gambling. These centuries may have taken Amara's sanity. He was clinging to the hope that her emotions, the things that held her to this world, hadn't changed that drastically throughout the years.

“Amara!” he called again, stepping forward. Tsuzuki was right behind him, just in case. Hisoka struggled to ignore it. “If you don't show up, we may not be able to save Shilah – your brother – in time!” Hisoka thought she'd called her brother Nidan... he just couldn't imagine Shilah having a name other than Shilah.

“Only I can save him.”

Hisoka turned to his right. There she was, at the very edge of the alley before it was lost beneath the building beside it. It was a bigger building, made out of stone. Maybe a bank. As always, it was a bit disconcerting to see the wall behind her... and know that that was all Tsuzuki could see.

“You're wrong,” Hisoka told her. “Times have changed. If we can find proof that Giselle had been murdered by her mother, then we can get Shilah away from her. She won't be allowed to care for Shilah anymore.”

Amara stepped toward him slowly, her Feelings swirling around a righteous belief in what she said and did. “That woman must die.”

“No.” Hisoka's voice was firm. “That's not for the living to decide. She will be judged accordingly by the Bureau – we'll make it a priority – but those in the living world can't make the decision of who lives and who dies.”

“You are wrong. You, who could never understand-”

“What the hell do you know about what I do or don't understand?” Hisoka snapped. “How the hell do you know?”

“Hisoka...?” Tsuzuki, who could only hear his side of the conversation. He sounded upset... concerned.

Hisoka saw Amara turn to Tsuzuki and reacted without thought, moving to stand in front of him. A protective stance. It got him a sharp “Hisoka, what” from Tsuzuki and a long, silent stare from Amara.

Finally, finally, after an eternity, she spoke again. “That is what I did.”

It took a few seconds for Hisoka to assimilate that. “You protected Shilah?”

“It is my destiny to die in that way. Every time.”

“Then... the park...”

“I led her away.”

Hisoka grabbed onto that. “Where? Where exactly were you beaten? Could there be any evidence?”

Amara only stared back at him.

“We need to check with the coroner. This should be a case... there should have been an autopsy. Maybe they found something... Amara, did you fight back?”


He growled in frustration. “Amara, I need to know if you fought back – if you scratched her, if you struck her hard enough to draw blood... if you did, we can have the evidence we need.”

Amara seemed almost confused. “That would not help.”

“You're wrong,” Hisoka argued. “Times have changed since the first time you'd... died. Technology has improved drastically. Laws have changed. If we have that evidence, Shilah will be taken away from her. She won't be allowed to raise him.”

Amara just stared and stared and stared.

“Dammit, Amara!” Hisoka shouted. He wobbled momentarily on his feet, but managed to get it under control before mother-hen Tsuzuki could do or say anything about it.

“You lie. You try to save yourself.”

“No! No – this is the truth. Even if you take my soul, killing that woman won't teach her soul... won't do anything in the long run... we need to get Shilah away from her...”

“You lie. And no one can stop her from her hate.”

“The law can. She won't be allowed to go near Shilah. If she does, she'll be arrested. It's called a restraining order. She won't be allowed near Shilah.”


“Damn it, Amara, we don't have that much time! Right now, she's still considered Shilah's guardian. We can't keep him away from her forever.” He wobbled again. Tsuzuki seemed about ready to flip him over his shoulder and take him to bed. Hisoka spared a second to glare at him. Don't even think about it.

Tsuzuki merely looked more concerned.

“You lie.”

“I'm not lying!”

“You merely wish to save yourself, but it must be done.”

“You're wrong. We can-”

“You lie!”

And Amara was gone.

“Shit!” Hisoka shouted, but he couldn't Feel her. She had left. Run away?

“Hisoka...?” Tsuzuki stepped forward and cautiously grabbed his elbow. Hisoka wanted to wrench himself free, but he knew that if he did, he would fall on his face. Tsuzuki seemed to know this.

“She left,” Hisoka growled. “She ran off.”

Tsuzuki nodded. “She needs time to think about what you said. It goes against everything she's believed for centuries. We have to wait-”

“We don't have time to wait!” Hisoka did shrug off Tsuzuki's hand this time, his anger keeping him from falling until he could lean against the back of the building for support. “You know that,” he continued when his legs stopped wiggling like jell-o. “Shilah will have to return to that woman soon.”

Tsuzuki nodded slowly. “Yes, I know.” And he came forward again. “I'll check the coroner's. You go back to the hospital and rest.”

“No,” Hisoka argued. “I'll go with you-”

“Hisoka, I can do this myself.”

“You shouldn't have to-”

“Hisoka, you're dead on your feet!” There it was again, the end of Tsuzuki's long-enduring patience. It made Hisoka freeze. “Go back to the hospital. Rest up. I'll go to the coroner's and see if they've found anything.”

“But,” Hisoka began.

“No!” Tsuzuki snapped, then took a deep breath. That made Hisoka stand on alert. “No,” he said, more gently this time. Like he was talking to a skittish colt – or a child. “Go back. Rest.”

“You shouldn't be left to do this alone,” Hisoka argued, but his voice sounded... weak. It didn't tremble, but it was thready. Almost a whisper. Because he was still recovering – because he was weak.

“I'll be fine,” Tsuzuki reassured. “Go back to the Bureau.”

Hisoka wanted to argue, but knew that Tsuzuki was holding in a temper by a thread that looked ready to snap. Hisoka knew he wouldn't be able to stand his ground in a fight... so he gave in now. There was no grace in it.


Hisoka lay in his bed, refusing to go to the hospital. That's right – he was petulantly rebelling. He didn't care. Besides, he was merely told to “go back and rest”. He was back. He was resting. The end.

And yet he couldn't rest. Fear gnawed at him, keeping him from getting any. Where was Tsuzuki right now? Was Amara with him? What about Muraki? Oh, God. What if Muraki was with Tsuzuki right now, staging his plan, as Hisoka just laid in bed and pretended to try to sleep? What if Tsuzuki was...

Dammit. He rolled to his side and winced – stupid to still feel weak. He had to get stronger. Tsuzuki was fine – the man was strong. Capable. His easy-going attitude was more a front than anything. He could take care of himself.

But all that didn't dissipate any of his worry.

Would Tsuzuki be okay all on his own? Certainly the man could fight, could defend... but hadn't he needed Hisoka's help on occasion? Against Muraki... and against that vampire...

Oh, God. So much for any rest whatsoever.

He struggled up out of his bed again and grabbed his shinai. He couldn't rest. If he tried to, he would rage and scream and end up joining Tsuzuki, which would only anger him further.

Like he wouldn't be angry if he saw Hisoka practicing kendo.

Well, screw him. Hisoka was worried about the stupid idiot. The man was always doing something stupid... risking his life for others. Did the man truly think his life was so worthless?

Hisoka went out to the sakura trees and touched the bark of one tree. They always reminded him, but now he sometimes found peace with them. Tsuzuki often laid down beneath these trees. That thought always managed to calm him. Thoughts of Tsuzuki usually did that to him...

Unless he was worried. As he was now.


He pulled his lips back in a snarl and raised his shinai for a lightning-fast strike.


He went back to his bed after two hours, his nerves even more tangled. What was taking Tsuzuki so long? Was he okay? Where was he? Had he met with Muraki? Amara? Oh, God. Where was he?

His mind spun, helping him by producing an imagination more vivid than he had ever thought possible from himself. Mutilated. Cursed. Captured. Amara, chipping away slowly, slowly at his soul, Tsuzuki unable to even writhe or scream in agony-

Oh, God. Oh, God. Where the hell was Tsuzuki?


He didn't know how he'd managed to fall asleep, but suddenly he was in fire. He knew what that meant – what that always meant. He shivered slightly when he saw Tsuzuki before him.

Why did he always call out? Why was he standing there, screaming for Tsuzuki to come back, when he already knew the outcome?

And when Tsuzuki disappeared into the fire, why did he try so desperately to bring him back when he already knew what he would Feel? “Please, no,” he murmured anyway, feeling the smoke fill his lungs. Feeling a loss so deep, so unfathomable, that he lost his will to stand. “Tsuzuki...” He felt tears on his face and allowed himself to cry for more – for the love he held for the man who he could never have. The man who would never see him that way, this broken boy who he had mended. “Tsuzuki!”

“Hisoka! Hisoka, it's okay... I'm here. I'm here.”

He sobbed at the sound of his voice and turned blindly. “Don't go,” he begged, holding onto something solid that chased away the fire.

“I won't.” A choked sound in the voice, a sound that caught on the word 'won't'. “I won't leave you, Hisoka. I promise.”

He knew damn well, in a tiny part of his mind, that promises like that couldn't always be kept. Still, the words comforted him, and he was able to return to sleep with a sigh.


He awoke strangely comfortable, snuggled up to something warm and hard, like a dog or...

He hated blushing.

But there was Tsuzuki, asleep beside him, snoring ever so softly. His face was almost childish, a small line of worry creasing his brow. Hisoka lifted his hand without thought to try to brush the line away with his fingertips. Thankfully, Tsuzuki didn't seem to notice.

He remembered what had happened yesterday in splintered pieces. The dream was there, menacing as usual. Then Tsuzuki's voice, reassuring him. And he remembered turning to Tsuzuki, though that was where things splintered the most. He had reached for Tsuzuki... and he'd been there.

That was all that mattered.

He stayed in the bed and watched Tsuzuki sleep, oddly content to do no more than that. Tsuzuki had become something so vital to him. He found himself calling the man an idiot less and less, unable to continue saying such things when he knew the truth, that Tsuzuki only acted like an idiot to draw people's attention away from how much he was hurting.

But Hisoka wanted to see... he wanted to know. Tsuzuki knew about his past. He hadn't really told the man, but... he would. He froze at the thought. He would tell Tsuzuki everything – anything – to keep the man near him.

Oh, God. How far had he fallen?

Sunlight was trying to filter through the window – just how long had he slept? Dawn was just about to break. Carefully, Hisoka got up from the bed and closed the curtains. There would be no grime to keep away the sun, and Tsuzuki should get all the rest he could. No doubt he had to take care of Hisoka during the night.

He blushed again as he turned to his shower stall.


Tsuzuki was up when he came out, clothed because he didn't want to come out in a towel if Tsuzuki had managed to wake up.

“I'm sorry I woke you,” he said quietly, turning and sitting on his bed. Tsuzuki was way too beautiful when he was rumpled from sleep.

He didn't look up to see Tsuzuki's face, but he thought he knew – a little shocked at the apology, concerned, worried, and intense. He would soon act childish.

“You can get a shower if you want,” Hisoka offered. “I have to practice.”

“Hisoka, you should let yourself rest.”

Yup. Concern. Why did it make his chest hurt? “I need to get better,” was all he said.

“But why?”

Certainly Tsuzuki had been told about what they had to do to get to him? He was usually astute enough to figure it out. And why the hell was he going to answer this question? “I wasn't strong enough that time.”

A brief silence. He could hear the wheels in Tsuzuki's head turning. “What time?”

Had he not been told or was he always this clueless when he first woke up? “When... when you were... taken by Muraki.” The time you almost died. Please don't make me say that.

Thankfully Tsuzuki apparently knew the time period. Tsuzuki's brow furrowed. “What happened then?”

Hisoka shrugged. If Tatsumi didn't tell him... there had to be a good reason. “We had to persuade Oriya to give us a key to enter Muraki's lab.” Please don't make me think about it... about the panic that increased with every heartbeat as I fought with all my might to get to you... to save you... and if it continued... I never would have won. And you would be dead.

He hadn't realized he wasn't breathing until Tsuzuki's arms wrapped around him and he heard Tsuzuki murmuring nonsense in his ear. He shuddered. “I'm sorry, Hisoka... I'm sorry...”

“No, it's okay... it's fine. You're...” You're still here. “Oh, God.” How humiliating to find tears in his eyes and sobs in his throat. He fought them off with everything he had.

“Let it go, Hisoka. Let it go.”

“No.” He couldn't. If he let it go... he didn't know if he could stop. “Amara... Giselle's body. Did you find anything?”

Business. They had to start talking about business now or he would be lost.

Tsuzuki made a frustrated/sad sound and let go of him. Hisoka felt the loss immediately, especially the loss of Feeling Tsuzuki within him, a kind and gentle concern that felt really strong. If he hadn't been wanting it so badly, he would have labeled it love. But he knew he wanted that emotion from Tsuzuki too much to trust what his heart wanted to tell him.

There was a sigh, then finally a response. “Yes. There had been hair fibers and a piece of cloth. Extremely lucky, in the coroner's opinion. The lab guys are checking them out.”

That was extremely lucky. Could they finish it that easily?

“We have to tell Amara,” Hisoka said. “She has to know. She has to be stopped.”

Tsuzuki didn't answer for a long time. “How will you get her to come with me around?”

Hisoka didn't know an answer to that, other than 'you need to leave me alone with her.' That wouldn't work – Tsuzuki wouldn't let him near Amara again without supervision. Which was good, because he didn't want to be around her without Tsuzuki.

“I don't know,” Hisoka said finally, “but if we don't let her know, she might... do something rash.”

“You mean take another child's soul?”

Hisoka shrugged. “No... she would probably not like that idea... it would take too long.”

Tsuzuki shifted, and Hisoka wondered if he was nodding. “Exactly – her brother always kills himself when he's eleven.”

Hisoka gasped – he hadn't known that. He almost asked Tsuzuki how he knew that when he remembered that the older Shinigami had read GuShoShin's report. “Then it would be useless,” Hisoka finished.

“Then you were referring to what she may do to you.”

He regretted bringing it up. Tsuzuki's voice had fallen into concern and worry again. Despite Tsuzuki's efforts to shield him from the worst of his emotions, Hisoka had always felt them loud and clear. These were like flashing neon lights – either Tsuzuki wasn't holding in his emotions or they were just too strong.

“I'll be fine,” he reassured, knowing that both knew just how false that little sentence was. He'd almost died – an immortal soul had almost been erased. Tsuzuki was right to be scared to death. Hisoka just didn't want Tsuzuki to worry. “It wouldn't be your fault if something happened to me, anyway. I'm a Shinigami, too. I'm at risk every time I go out on a job.” During the tense silence that followed that statement, Hisoka realized that it probably hadn't been the smartest thing he'd ever said. Who was the idiot now?

“I'm supposed to protect you, Hisoka. You're my partner.” Tsuzuki's voice was low. Was that reproach in his voice? Hisoka tried to ignore the hurt that sprang up – did all who fell in love become so damn weak? He could live without the constant weakness within him. Maybe.

“I'm responsible for myself,” Hisoka said, because 'I can take care of myself' would sound hollow after almost dying.

“Dammit, Hisoka-”

“Don't you dammit me, Tsuzuki!” Hisoka snapped. He reigned in his anger desperately, not wanting to blow up and lose his temper. He had a habit of saying something stupid when he let loose his anger. They were only hints... but they seemed to be slipping at a very rapid pace. “Do you think I don't know the dangers? I accepted them when I became a Shinigami. Just like you did. If you have to keep protecting me, we'll never be a team.”

Hisoka left the room after a minute passed without Tsuzuki saying anything.


He met with the coroner and made his way to the labs. The men had only begun on the pieces of evidence recently because of a backlog. The piece of cloth was being analyzed to see what kind of cloth it may have come from, and the hairs were being tested for DNA. However, a man working on the hair fibers told him something that made his blood run cold.

“Detective,” he was told, “I understand that you have many suspects. As far as I see in this case, the mother is one. Correct?”

Hisoka had gifted the man with no more than a grunt.

“It may be hard to indict her on anything, even with this evidence. The two live in the same house. Hair and fibers from her clothes – if, of course, these are hers – could potentially get on the body without the mother having done anything.”

Shit. He hadn't thought of that.

He went back to the coroner to ask if there were any other pieces of evidence and saw Tsuzuki speaking with the man – asking if he had come in. Without Hisoka saying a word – and he was certain he made no sound entering – Tsuzuki turned to him. There was concern in his gaze, but more than that was anger. He didn't like how Hisoka had run off on him. He must have thought Hisoka was just going to go... where? Out to the sakura trees, maybe.

“Thank you,” Tsuzuki said distractedly to the coroner. He then moved like a stalking predator over to Hisoka's side.

Hisoka sidestepped him and turned to the coroner. “Excuse me for one moment, sir,” he said, making the man turn back around.

He flashed a look of irritation – he apparently didn't like the constant interruptions. “Yes?”

“Has any other evidence come up?”

The coroner gave him a look for a moment that told Hisoka just how intelligent the man thought he was. “No. If I find anything more, I'll let you know.”

Shit. Shit! Nothing. That wasn't good.

“Hisoka, let's go.”

That was not a suggestion and did not pretend to be. It was in his head to tell Tsuzuki to shove off, but the words never left his mouth. Instead he sighed and allowed Tsuzuki to lead the way.

No sooner had the door closed than Tsuzuki rounded on him. “Why did you come here alone?”

“You didn't seem ready to admit I had a point,” Hisoka said surly. He put his hands in his pockets and turned away. His head was up, however, and he had his eyes closed. Defiance. It saved his dignity.

Tsuzuki... growled. Hisoka momentarily wondered just how far he was pushing his partner.

He almost got scared when Tsuzuki backed him up against the building, a threatening presence that was ignored by those around them. “Do you know what happened last night?”

Hisoka got scared for a moment, thinking they'd done more than sleep. He couldn't remember it.

“You screamed.” That relaxed Hisoka for only a millisecond – then he saw where this was going. “You begged. You clung to me and pleaded with me not to go. You cried, Hisoka.” Tsuzuki's eyes were so sorrow-laden with that sentence it was a wonder the Shinigami didn't cry himself.

Hisoka felt himself grow cold. He hadn't cried since the first week, back when the dreams had been new. He felt dread creep through him. No.

“You held me tight the entire time – you didn't let me move. Even after you'd fallen back asleep, you'd continued crying. Continued begging. You told me...” Here Tsuzuki actually seemed to choke on the words he was trying to say. “You told me you would rather take my place... as a sacrifice for Muraki.”

Hisoka... froze. He had frozen at Tsuzuki's words before, but this was different. This was... he had practically confessed. He had never said those words... hadn't even thought them. Yet they rang too true to ignore.

Hisoka waited with tense breath, his heart heavy. Waited for Tsuzuki to say whatever was coming next. He feared Tsuzuki then more than he ever thought he could.

“Are you truly all right? Can you say that with an honest heart?”

No! You almost betrayed us all – I almost lost you! You... how could I ever trust you to be alone when I'll never know if... if you're trying to...

Hisoka couldn't look Tsuzuki in the eye when he answered. “Yes.” He yelled when Tsuzuki began to argue. “I have to be, dammit!”

There was a silence again. “No, Hisoka,” Tsuzuki murmured, a low tone full of sorrow and understanding. “You don't.”

I'm afraid, Hisoka realized, not only of losing Tsuzuki because of Muraki or some enemy... but also by being pushed away. He shivered.

“You need to rest,” Tsuzuki said suddenly, pulling away from the conversation. Hisoka would have snapped a retort... but really? He did need to rest. He was dead on his feet... pun not intended.

“No.” He willed himself to shove away his exhaustion. After the mission. After the mission he could rest. If he had the ability. “The evidence may not be enough. The hair and cloth could get on... Giselle's body at any time. It wouldn't be enough.”

“Kill her.”

Hisoka turned quickly. Amara stood there, staring at them. “She must be killed. I need your body for that.” She stepped forward, a young ghost with tears in her eyes. Hisoka took a step back. Tsuzuki asked him what was wrong. “He is not here. Your friend will not harm you. This must be done.”

“No.” Hisoka took another step back as Amara advanced. “We'll find a way-”

“I have already found one.” Amara came forward again, her hands moving from her sides. Hisoka found himself panicking as he stepped away again.

Tsuzuki stepped in front of him and firmly stood between Amara and Hisoka. Amara shrieked and disappeared. Hisoka could still Feel her nearby, but now he couldn't see her.


“Dammit, Tsuzuki, you idiot! What were you thinking?” Hisoka went around Tsuzuki to try to find Amara. He had no idea where she could attack from... and she had sounded mad at Tsuzuki. She may decide to try to get Tsuzuki out of the way.

“I was trying to protect you. What are you doing?”

“She's still here. She's still here and I can't find her. You idiot!” Hisoka glanced up in time to see a flash of hurt in Tsuzuki's gaze before it disappeared. The man had had many years to perfect that technique. Hisoka hated it. “She may attack from anywhere.”

“Sorry.” If Tsuzuki had wanted to sound contrite, he'd failed. What he sounded was miserable.

Hisoka's anger lasted another two seconds.

“Dammit.” He looked around again, trying to pinpoint the emotions he Felt. He thought he Felt something more on his left. He followed it.

And collapsed on his fifth step.


“Hisoka! Hisoka!” There was panic somewhere. He recognized the voice and took solace from it. He would be just fine.


He was on his bed when he awoke.

His desk had been newly wrecked by the sleeping form in the chair next to him. Why was Tsuzuki so beautiful? Why was he the one to awaken him from his emptiness?

He'd been content in there. No upheaval, no pain. Sometimes he wanted to damn Tsuzuki for bringing him out. Other times... other times he was so grateful he could weep. These emotions, though painful and exhausting, were what he had never thought he'd feel. Friendship, camaraderie... love. He had thought those emotions were never his to have. He had friends now... so many more than he would have thought. Even the irritating Saya and Yuma. They were... friends. Watari... Tatsumi... Tsuzuki.

It was his own problem that he wanted more from Tsuzuki. After all, what he had was more than he'd dared to dream. He should be content.

But he wanted to be seen as more than an irritating kid, a bossy partner. Oh, yes. He wanted so much more than just that.

He stared at Tsuzuki in wonder. He'd slept again. Pfft. He'd passed out again. Luckily, his regenerative powers had finally healed him back up. He was officially back in action.

Tsuzuki looked exhausted. Hisoka feared his partner was so tired... because of him. There really was no other reason. Between his nightmares and his weakness... Tsuzuki had to run interference. He was still getting in Tsuzuki's way. God, he was pathetic.

Shit. He was getting depressed again. He had to get out of there. Introspection was always a bad idea with him. It only served to dredge up bad memories.

Hisoka rose slowly, but Tsuzuki was sleeping like a rock. Apparently he'd been so tired he'd put his guard down around Hisoka's nightmares. That was unlike Tsuzuki.

Instead of going out and practicing with his shinai, Hisoka found himself watching Tsuzuki sleep. Even in repose, Tsuzuki looked tired and sad. Hisoka hated that he'd been a part of that.

Not for the first time, Hisoka thought of leaving Tsuzuki. Of transferring or just... leaving. But he couldn't. He couldn't leave Tsuzuki... he couldn't drop his desire for vengeance or to continue seeing this dark-haired Shinigami. And he couldn't leave... in case Tsuzuki truly did find himself in Hisoka's heart. That was why, no matter what... he had to continue existing. He just couldn't bring himself to leave, despite what he may be doing to Tsuzuki.

Feeling selfish, he finally grabbed his shinai and escaped to the cherry blossoms.


He just stood there.

So many memories... some not even his own. So many swirling around these cherry blossoms. Tsuzuki was over here all the time. Did he find solace in these flowers? It was stupid, but Hisoka held a small fear of these flowers. They reminded him when he didn't want to remember.

So many memories of these trees... how many people had he met spoke about a cataclysmic event around these beautiful blossoms? These trees were cursed for their beauty.

Hisoka heard footsteps and knew immediately who it was. “You finally woke up.”

“Oooohh, I'm hungry.” A usual complaint.

“Granny's Kitchen?” Hisoka knew Tsuzuki would be completely useless without food. There was no use fighting it.

“Nah. I'll just grab something on the way. We're going back to the coroner's, right?”

Hisoka nodded. “Right. We have to find a way to resolve this. And quick.”

“You're still a target, even though you've probably healed. You need to be careful-”

“Me? You threw yourself in front of me yesterday. Do you have any idea how pissed you made her?!” Hisoka turned to Tsuzuki in anger in time to see his surprise.

“Hisoka... are you worried about me?”

Hisoka blushed bright red. “Sh-Shut up! Idiot!” He turned away to pick up his shinai.

“Aww, Hisoka, that's so sweet! Thank you!”

“Shut up! I'm not sweet!” What the hell? Tsuzuki usually had the sense to drop this subject.

“Aww, yes you are. Saya and Yuma are right. You're so cute! Especially when you're angry,” Tsuzuki added, seeing the steam rise from Hisoka's ears.

If he thought that last comment was going to save him, he was dead wrong. “Shut the hell up, Tsuzuki! I'm not cute! Stop treating me like a kid!”

There was that shocked expression again. It made Tsuzuki's handsome face almost comical. “Hisoka...”

Hisoka turned away from him. He hadn't meant to say that. He wanted to earn Tsuzuki's respect, not have Tsuzuki pretending. Damn his stupid mouth. “Come on. We have to get to the coroner's quickly so that we can plan our next move, and knowing you, it will be hours before we get there.”

“Aw, come on, Hisoka! You don't have to be so mean about it!” Tsuzuki followed after him until he was next to Hisoka.

It was Hisoka's turn to hide the hurt. He was still being cold, wasn't he? Could he ever get it out of his system? Would he end up...

No. No! He wouldn't repeat what he'd thought after... after killing Tsubaki. He would never repeat that thought. And he would continue secretly praying that Muraki was wrong. That Hisoka was truly nothing like Muraki.


It turned out to be exactly an hour-and-a-half before Tsuzuki and Hisoka entered the coroner's office. Hisoka thought he heard the man sigh. He Felt his frustration in waves. They didn't even have to ask the man anything. “No, sirs, nothing has changed. The clothing is being checked out by the police. The hair has been identified as the mother's. That is all I can tell you.”

Hisoka's face was blank as he thanked the doctor and walked out.

“The only choice we have,” Hisoka muttered once they were out of the building, “is to bring Shilah up against his mother.”

Tsuzuki frowned at the idea. “He'll be scared.”

Hisoka nodded. “He may not agree to it. And even if he does... his mother may threaten him, causing him to clam up.”

“He can't help it,” Tsuzuki murmured sadly. “That woman has beaten fear into every pore of that kid.”

Hisoka knew the type. He thought Tsuzuki did, too. Fear and even self-loathing. Would Shilah loathe himself if he put his own mother in jail? Or would he loathe himself anyway, for not being able to save his sister? Hisoka didn't want to put the kid in that position. However... it wasn't legally possible for Shinigami to send someone to the Underworld until their time had come.


Hisoka looked at Tsuzuki again with a new fervor. “I can't believe this slipped past us,” Hisoka said. Tsuzuki raised an eyebrow. “We don't have to send the woman to jail. We just need her to stay away from the kid.”

Tsuzuki nodded. “True.”

Hisoka began feeling success run through his system. “The mother's skin was found under the girl's fingers, wasn't it?”

Tsuzuki nodded. “Yes, but-”

“That means there was a struggle involving the mother, right? One bad enough for the daughter to scratch her mother in an attempt to hold her off.”

Tsuzuki seemed to be catching on. “Yes.” Tsuzuki snapped his fist into his open palm. “That's why the coroner told us that the mother couldn't be held in court. He was telling us to do this.”

“That's right. We don't need to send her anywhere. We just need to keep her away from Shilah.”

Tsuzuki smiled. “And this way, Shilah wouldn't have to stand against his mother.”

Hisoka nodded. “Let's get to the coroner's, then see Amara. We'll have to meet the mother again, as well. She'll be informed by us and taken to the police station. They'll make sure she stays away from the kid.”


The coroner was actually happy to see them when he heard what they wanted. He willingly put the report on his top priority list and got it completed before noon. They were late picking it up due to the third helping of dessert Tsuzuki indulged in. Hisoka paid for it himself, grumbling about the waste. And secretly happy to see Tsuzuki smiling.

They went to the back of a building and showed themselves. Hisoka ordered Tsuzuki back, which began a bickering argument.

“Hisoka, I'm not going to leave you alone to deal with this,” Tsuzuki finally said. “Period.”

Hisoka wanted to argue. The idiot was going to get in the way and get himself hurt. Then again, he considered, wasn't that was Hisoka did more often than not?

Hisoka turned in disgust and called out for Amara. “Amara, come out. We have a way to get your brother away from your mother and erase this endless circle.”

There was nothing for a bit but Tsuzuki's worry and lingering irritation. Then there she was, this time the anger in her stronger than the sorrow. Hisoka took a few steps closer to Tsuzuki, ready to defend him. Tsuzuki's emotions easily told Hisoka that Tsuzuki knew what his protective posture meant.

Suddenly Hisoka had a bad feeling about doing this. Not about telling her, and not about getting a restraining order on the mother and taking Shilah away from her. He was worried about Amara's initial reaction – about what she may do to the document Hisoka held protectively in his pocket.

Hisoka turned to Tsuzuki and gave him the document. “Tsuzuki, I...” Tsuzuki looked shocked by Hisoka's sudden antics. Hisoka was blushing terribly, not willing to admit this. “I made a mistake,” he snapped, his voice suddenly irritable. Gods, he hated saying that. “I need you to take this to the police and get the restraining order.” Tsuzuki opened his mouth to make a vehement protest. “Tsuzuki, we can't afford to lose this. I know what she does now. I can talk reason into her.”

“Hisoka, she's been insane for over a century. I can't take that chance.” Tsuzuki stood, stubborn as a bloody mule.

“You have to. After you get the restraining order on file in the police station, you can come back here if you don't trust me.” His voice hardened even more at the thought of that. “But you have to go. We can't afford to lose that.”

Tsuzuki knew that full well. Tsuzuki's eyes were doors to the war going on in his mind.

“You have to go!” Hisoka snapped, watching as Amara stepped forward. Her fury was rising as she heard Hisoka speak. “Now!”

Tsuzuki stared deep into his eyes. “I'll be back soon.” It was a promise.

Hisoka only nodded and waited tensely until he couldn't Feel Tsuzuki anymore.

What do you want?

The voice, though young and squeaky, still held a strange menace. Probably because he knew exactly what she could do.

“We can't send her to jail,” Hisoka said quickly, “but we can still keep her away from Shilah – from your brother.”

Of course, she thought-spoke snappishly. Kill her.

“No,” Hisoka said firmly. “But things are different in this time. The law doesn't allow such radical abuse to minors – to children.” Hisoka Felt her disdain and continued before she could say anything. “Tsuzuki is going and getting a restraining order on her as we speak.” He Felt her sudden confusion. “The order will make it illegal for that woman – your mother – to go anywhere near Shilah. She'll be arrested if she does. Your body had her skin underneath your fingernails, along with her hair and a ripped piece of clothing. All that signifies a struggle between the two of you, though it doesn't prove she killed you.” If Amara could have, she would have snarled. He was sure of it. “But that struggle would mean that she was responsible for some of the bruises – or at least most likely responisble – for some of the bruises on you.”

She killed me.

“I know. There's enough proof of abuse for the restraining order to be placed into use. The police will see the evidence and take it to a judge. The evidence is too strong to ignore – he'll okay the restraining order.”

It will not stop her.

“Most people attack their children because they think they're doing what's right. They enjoy power and control. But they also like being impervious to punishment – it's their child, right? But Shilah will become a child of the state – he won't be hers anymore. It would be illegal for her to go near him.” Hisoka tried desperately to make her understand. “Do you understand? If she goes within a certain number of yards of Shilah, she'll be arrested and fined. No one likes losing money. She'll be forced to stay away.”

Such things are not so easily attained.

“They are in this time. Things have changed.”

Amara was disbelieving. The only way to stop her is to kill her.

“No,” Hisoka said. “Not anymore. There's more technology. We can prove that the skin follicles under your nails were hers. We can prove it all. We have. The restraining order is just a few days away.”


“No.” She didn't seem to be ready to attack. She seemed almost frozen.

It cannot be so simple.

Hisoka understood the biggest problem she faced now. If it was this simple now, how long ago could this have been ended if only she had met him or someone like him sooner? Her suffering had been too much to be settled so easily.

“It is,” he told her. And Felt her sorrow reach out to him through all of her anger.

I need not kill you?

Hisoka shook his head. “No. I told you there were other ways.”

She could not move, and was already crying for eternity. But he Felt her sobs anyway, deep in his heart, by the time Tsuzuki came back with the news that the cops were headed to the judge.


It was all disturbingly anticlimactic, despite the mother's psychotic scratching session the next day when they took the restraining order to her. Tsuzuki had stepped in front of Hisoka, who had gleefully informed her, and had taken the woman's claws and shrieks without a word. The police had grabbed her and taken her down to the station to inform her of the new rules and to charge her with resisting... well, not arrest, but resisting nonetheless.

Shilah was tearful when it was time for him to leave. Yuma and Saya had bought him a huge teddy bear that came up to his shoulders, and Watari gave him a weird little paper butterfly wannabe that perched on his nose. Shilah laughed at that.

Then it was time for Tsuzuki and Hisoka to say good-bye. Tsuzuki had tears in his eyes, but he still wore a wide smile and left Shilah laughing. Hisoka, of course, did not have such skills.

“Thank you for helping me and my sister,” Shilah said to him, beaming. He was hugging his teddy bear possessively to his side.

Hisoka only felt completely awkward and uncoordinated. He'd rather face down Amara again. “No problem,” he mumbled.

“I won't forget you.”

Hisoka felt miserable and just nodded. “Me too.”

The kid seemed happy enough with that, though, and let Tsuzuki take him to the police station. Hisoka felt like a heel for not accompanying him. He made up for it by going to his desk and beginning the report.

Tsuzuki didn't show up at all. When Hisoka finally finished, he got up and went to the cherry blossoms, somehow knowing that that was where Tsuzuki would be.

He was right, of course. Tsuzuki was staring out into nothing, his arms crossed over himself. Hisoka went and stood next to him, not knowing what to do. He just stood there, silently trying to comfort.

Tsuzuki was content to just stand there, and Hisoka was, as well. He turned to look into the distance, creating his own memories. He thought of Muraki and the threat his return meant. Though of Amara and the anguish she had endured. Thought of Tsuzuki.

Finally he sighed. “Don't beat yourself up,” he told Tsuzuki. “We did the best we could, and now he won't be beaten every day like before. We couldn't save Giselle, but now Amara's soul can rest, as can all of the girls brought out to live her life. We ended the cycle.” Tsuzuki was silent, but Hisoka could Feel that Tsuzuki had at least taken some comfort in his words.

Hisoka looked back out to the distance. “Want some of Granny's peach cobbler?”

Tsuzuki turned to him with a hopeful puppy-dog face. “Really, Hisoka?”

Hisoka sighed in mock exasperation, but allowed himself a secret smile, only seen in his heart. “Yeah, why not? I got the report done – without any help from you, I might add.”

Tsuzuki whined. “Aww, Hisoka, don't be like that. I'm sorry.”

Hisoka just shook his head and began leading the way to the restaurant. “You worry too much.”

Tsuzuki just laughed.

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