Summary: It's when Tsuzuki isn't mad that he's at his most dangerous.
Fandom: Yami no Matsuei
Spoilers and/or Warnings: Death, fire, madness, self-harm.
Title, Author and URL of original story: Broken Balance by ranalore
When they had decided it was safe enough to let him alone-- and how he'd had to act, to beg, to smile and pretend to be normal again-- he summoned Tohda.
Tohda just stared at him for a long time, silent, waiting.
Tsuzuki kept his voice low and calm as he explained his need. Tohda brought down his head and brought up his flames.
Not too much. Just enough. Tsuzuki watched the skin slowly peeling from his arm, charring in strips, the scent of burned flesh permeating his nostrils.
"Tsuzuki," Tohda whispered, a lover's caress, as he slipped from consciousness and the flames died down.
Hisoka found him later, but his skin had healed by then; there was nothing left to suspect. Hisoka brought him cinnamon buns and they ate under the trees. They both knew things weren't right, that things would never be right, but Tsuzuki smiled hard enough that Hisoka asked no questions. Hisoka was slender and sweet, and kind in his brusque, quiet way.
A wind stirred the cherry blossoms and Hisoka brushed them off their clothes, a tiny frown clouding his features.
Tsuzuki played with his watch and wondered if this time, he could stem the anger.
In the end, of course, he couldn't. He was a monster. Hisoka knew that much, though of course Tsuzuki had never let his partner see the full shape of it. He was made to do what monsters did best.
He did it every day, at work.
He thought of Hisoka, sword in hand, fighting to save a soul that had been damned a century before.
He thought of Tohda's flames, and Muraki's eyes as the blade found its home. Tsuzuki's face creased into a smile that Hisoka would never have recognized.
He had wandered at first, but his body knew better than his mind where he was going, what price he would exact. The torches were lit in the garden of the Ko Kaku Rou; he could see a small plume of smoke over the fence. Just one plume, though, and no voices.
Oriya Mibu would be alone.
Why are you doing this? Hisoka's voice rang in his head. For me?
"For me," Tsuzuki said to the air.
Oriya would have his sword. He might even be expecting such an attack.
It wouldn't matter. Tsuzuki's smile widened.
Oriya was more beautiful than Hisoka had described, fine-boned and elegant in his movements, his hair shining auburn in the light from the torches. His dark yukata brought out the paleness of his skin. "Another shinigami," Oriya said, his eyes showing a faint trace of amusement.
"I'm not like the others," Tsuzuki said, and stepped from the shadows. His heart pounded in his cold chest.
"No?" Oriya challenged, and then caught the look on his face. His expression only flickered a moment as his hand moved to his sword hilt.
You won't scream, though, Tsuzuki thought. You are too proud for that. He licked his lips, glad he had brought no weapon.
Oriya's skin would bruise so nicely under his hands.
"You're mad," Oriya said, pulling the sword free.
Tsuzuki shook his head. "No," he said. "Not now. Not for a while yet."
Oriya Mibu did not move on immediately to his next life.
He settled in the lands of the dead quickly enough, and soon found himself managing a small teahouse. In Meifu, no one expected him to run a whorehouse, and directing a cook and waitstaff was far easier than managing the egos of the powerful and the addictions of the weak. It was like retirement, he told himself, with wry amusement. He cut his hair and planted a garden in the back; herbs and flowers, nothing as elaborate as the Ko Kaku Rou, but comforting nonetheless.
Sometimes he touched the spot on his neck where the wound had been; it should have been sensitive. It should have been scarred. It was like it had never happened at all.
Three years after his death-- a strange thing, to count the years after death, but Oriya found a certain comfort in it-- Kurosaki Hisoka walked by the teahouse, passing the garden fence. Oriya tried to avoid the boy's gaze, but his pale green eyes were as sharp as they had ever been.
Defeated, he bowed in recognition.
"I had not expected to see you here so soon," the boy said, his face not quite concerned but not settled.
"It was hardly something I planned for," Oriya answered, realizing too late that his hand was at his neck, touching the wound that was not there. He kept his fingers there; let the boy wonder. It was past time he understood what he had chosen; many years ago, after all, Oriya had made the same choice.
Hisoka said nothing; his eyes merely watched Oriya, as he walked back to the garden to tend to the peonies. Meifu has only one season, but Oriya was long familiar with such gardens; it was not so difficult to grow what he wished. He watched the boy as he retreated, on to whatever faced him next.
He had not grown since the last time they'd met, but he had certainly changed. Or perhaps, Oriya thought, carefully cutting a thick, salmon-shaded blossom, it was the other way around.
Tatsumi watched Hisoka come into his office and slowly, carefully close the door behind him. His eyes checked the window, the exits. "Tatsumi-san," he said, in a voice that threatened secrets. "I have a question. About...certain procedures."
Tatsumi was too collected to raise an eyebrow at the question or his subordinate's behavior, but it was unsettling nonetheless. "Sit down, Kurosaki-kun."
Hisoka shook his head. "When I was hired," the boy said, choosing his words as carefully as shaping the characters of a fuda, "I was given a list of actions that were grounds for immediate dismissal."
"Of course," Tatsumi said, automatically, wondering where this was leading and if he really wanted to know.
"Are these actions...always enforced?"
"To my knowledge," Tatsumi said. "Yes." There was a sentence behind the statement that began with I hope you are not contemplating any such actions, Kurosaki-kun, but neither of them needed to be so direct. Hisoka would certainly understand.
Hisoka paused for a moment and then, thoughtfully, sat down in the chair opposite Tatsumi's desk. "And Tsuzuki."
"They wouldn't," Hisoka said, his voice rising a bit in pitch. "For anything. Would they? They want him here. They won't let him quit. Why is that, Tatsumi-san? Do you know?"
Tatsumi had no words that would not themselves be grounds for termination. They keep him here, he thought, though we both know this work drives him mad. Sometimes I think they want to keep him mad because they are afraid of what would happen if he were sane. He shook his head.
"Oriya Mibu was killed," Hisoka said. "Several years ago. Why was I not informed?"
Tatsumi kept his face steady. "We were both working other cases when the fire occurred," he said. "Yuma and Saya looked in on the investigation, but it was not clear that his death was anything other than a normal occurrence. Of course, they attempted to discern if there was any connection to Muraki, but the few witnesses who survived...." Tatsumi shrugged his shoulders. For months after his work in Kamakura, the search for Muraki had seemed more like a dream from another life than the necessity it had once been. "There is surveillance on his grave and at the remains of the Ko Kaku Rou. It seemed there was little else we could do."
"Of course," Hisoka said. "I understand."
Tatsumi nodded. "If you have further questions...."
Hisoka shook his head. "Thank you, Tatsumi-san."
"Of course," Tatsumi said.
Oriya was less beautiful in death than in life, with no wit or terror to animate his features. Still, he was beautiful, even with his face contorted in a memory of anger and pain. Blood soaked the yukata, congealing brown and russet at the edges.
Muraki would look at it and see a broken doll.
To Tsuzuki, it was a masterpiece.
Still, there was Hisoka to think of. And now, he could think again of Hisoka. Now, he could slip back to 'normal.'
Tohda did not seem surprised to see him.
"Burn it to the ground," Tsuzuki commanded. "All of it."
Tohda's flames burned like absolution.