Chapter 1: Anchorless
Tsuzuki loves Tatsumi. Loved- past tense. Because now he loves Hisoka. The two of them couldn’t be more different: Tatsumi’s careful restraint is nothing like Hisoka’s brash impulsiveness; Tatsumi’s dark hair and lean muscles share no qualities with the fine, golden bangs that always fall into Hisoka’s eyes, or the deceptive delicacy of Hisoka’s wrists and face. There’s no way Tsuzuki’s emotions could be confused, that he might desire them both.
He has so little to offer either. If one would indulge him it would be miraculous; two is beyond imagining. But he can’t be held responsible for his dreams.
Chapter 2: I Should Be Happier Now
Sometimes, when Tatsumi lets his guard slip and he watches Tsuzuki, the weight of decades is behind his emotions. A thousand moments in a rush: Kyoto's autumn dawns, porcelain teacups, and songs slipping from the static on a nearly-broken radio, a helpless, paralyzing ache from the memory of Tsuzuki sobbing, the echo of footsteps in a hallway.
It's like being drunk. Hisoka's swept under old love and pain, and loses his fight to not know these things.
Tatsumi passes by. Hisoka shakes after he's gone, still remembering the salt of Tsuzuki's skin, how it always tastes like sweat and tears.
Chapter 3: Dirge
Hijiri grows old. There are many years of concerts and melodies, and he grows used to his name in newsprint, to roses scattered on his stage, to the high, sweet song of violins. But Hijiri is human, and all humans die. His fingers twist and bend with arthritis, until the pain becomes such that he can no longer even hold his instrument.
Somewhere, he knows, there is another him, one still frozen at the age of sixteen. One still strong and young, with clear eyes and not a single gray hair. Hijiri wishes he could see him, just once more.
Chapter 4: Souvenirs
Tsuzuki keeps things. Nothing from before he died- you really can’t bring it with you. Or he couldn’t, since everything he had was stolen or sold during those last eight years. He has a fading fish doodled by the kind man who taught him to write fuda. The toy bear was a parting gift. In the bottom of a drawer somewhere is Tatsumi’s tiepin, left behind on Tsuzuki’s dresser. A broken paper fan. A superball from a jumpy girl who died suddenly. Mementos of too many years.
He’s careful to keep nothing from Hisoka. No souvenirs mean he won’t leave.
Chapter 5: Fuda
"It's not writing," Tsuzuki said to Hisoka's silent question. His brush paused above the paper, its tip full and shining with expensive ink. "It's praying." His skin was always tan, but it looked more golden than usual, stretched above pure black and white as his fingers smoothed the delicate sheets, the kanji still glistening. The precise, elegant lines seemed not words but the stark meaninglessness of nature, like dead branches pictured against a blank winter sky.
"You have to care," he said, and blew lightly to dry the ink, pinning the paper at its corner with fingertips. They worked miracles.
Chapter 6: Deliberate Miscommunication
Hisoka was gone when Tsuzuki got back from lunch, but there was a note in his scrawled, familiar handwriting, accompanied by the CD Tsuzuki hadn't had the money to buy.
You talked so much about this stupid thing that I bought it to see if it was any good. It's not. It's a waste of money to buy something and only listen to it a few times, but I don't want it anymore and this is your fault. Keep it, if you feel like it. I don't care.
Tsuzuki picked up the CD. The plastic wrap was still sealed.
Chapter 7: Take Action
"I don't wanna talk about it," Hisoka said when he climbed into Tsuzuki's bed, his cheeks damp. Tsuzuki would've asked anyway, since he was still mostly asleep and very confused, but Hisoka pressed into him and he forgot.
"Um. Is this- or just a-" Tsuzuki was grinding against Hisoka, but it was probably okay, since he'd started it. "-kind of thing, because-"
"Shut up." Hisoka could sound irritated and needy simultaneously, which was pretty neat. "Want you," he muttered, and Tsuzuki knew that meant they wouldn't have to pretend this'd never happened, so he was grinning when Hisoka kissed him.
Chapter 8: Rearranged
"Don't cry. It's okay, right?" Tsuzuki says, his words brittle. He tries to be supportive, but his happiness is thin, inadequate, like ice over dark running water. Hisoka resents crying. Every tear has to fight its way out; his shoulders shudder with hidden sobs under Tsuzuki's hands. "We'll be okay. I hate it when you cry. C'mon, shhhhh. I'm the one who cries, and then you get annoyed and call me stupid and hopeless and act all grudgingly sweet. Hisoka? Hisoka, please, don't cry. I don't know what to do when you cry." His voice breaks on the last word.
Chapter 9: Sweets
The frosting on the Cinnabon was white and sticky, sliding down the sides to the wax paper underneath. Tsuzuki scooped some up and slid it in his mouth, closing his eyes in pleasure. It was so dense that he could feel the heavy grains of sugar before they dissolved on his tongue.
"Ugh," Hisoka said, watching him from behind a book. "How can that make you so happy?"
Tsuzuki pulled the finger from his mouth with a loud pop to see him roll his eyes. "Does it matter?"
The first bite was still warm, with spices laced through the dough.
Chapter 10: Every Happy Family
The Kurosaki heir attended the spring equinox the year he turned twelve. Surrounded by servants, he watched the ceremonies with the wary silence of a wild animal.
Gossips felt that he was too small and pale, though pretty; everyone agreed that he looked just like his father had. Nagare-sama hovered by his son, wrapping a hand protectively around his upper arm whenever someone wandered too close. After all, the poor thing was so shy he hadn't been seen in the village in years. He didn't leave his father's side that whole night.
Anyone could see how well he was loved.
Chapter 11: Truth
Hisoka likes his tea plain. He doesn't need sugar or honey; if he minded the bitterness, he wouldn't drink it. It's a waste of time for even tea to pretend to be something it's not. And though advertising and packaging strive to convince him otherwise, the simple truth is this: it's bitter. And the purer the tea, the bitterer the taste.
Tsuzuki loves his sweeteners. But Tsuzuki does lots of stupid things. He is also seemingly convinced that he will lose his friends' love and concern if he is anything but light and happy.
Hisoka likes him better without dilution.
Chapter 12: Maturity
Konoe sometimes felt like an old man around his employees. They were more children than adults, and it wasn't only poor Kannuki-chan and Kurosaki. Tsuzuki and Watari looked too young to buy their own sake, and even Tatsumi still had baby-fine hair and a face free of wrinkles.
And it was more than their appearance; they were so quick to laugh and fight and cry. Every mishap was the end of the world to them, every love a brand-new hope. It made Konoe tired.
They were children: flighty, inexperienced, self-absorbed, unstable. Young. They'd barely known the lives they wouldn't leave.
Chapter 13: The Library of Hell
"We finally have it!" one of the Gushoushin said.
"We’ve been looking for ages," said the other. "Literally."
"Oh?" Hisoka said. "What is it?" He reached for the book to read its spine, and a sound caught at his ears, reminding him of long sleepless spring nights when he was young, the crickets in the garden, flowers whispering as they fell, cicadas and wind and a faint, sentient, howling.
He glanced out the window. The cherry trees were still. There weren't insects in Meifu.
Hisoka looked at the book. "Can I borrow this?"
"Of course!" The Gushoushin smiled at him.
Chapter 14: Dying Light
The hospital, never quiet, sounded faint; its constant glare was dimmed. Hisoka breathed. He could hear machines beeping, urgent voices. He tried to sit up, to clench his hand. He dragged in a breath. The mask on his face seemed like it was suffocating him, and he shook his head.
He hurt deep inside, sourcelessly. He gulped air, short, quick. He could feel, distantly, his body shaking- like the anger he felt, though he knew it wasn't. He fought for more air. Everything faded, left him. He could still feel, but only fury, burning resentment as it all slipped away.
Chapter 15: Friends
"Hey, hey, hey," Tsuzuki said, slinging his arm around Watari's shoulders and laughing moistly into the side of his face. "You have nice hair."
"Thanks!" Watari grinned, fingers slipping off his can of beer as he turned to Tsuzuki. "Do you wanna make out?"
Tsuzuki blinked at him, mouth a little slack. "Watari, I mean, you're my best friend. And we have fun, right? Yeah. You- you're so nice. And you sort of smell like strawberries.
Watari nodded, drunkenly serious. "It's my shampoo. Well?"
"And I really want to kiss you right now."
"Just watch out for 003. She bites."
Chapter 16: New Uses
Shadows, Watari thought, were very useful. Softer than more conventional materials, they were light and delicate enough that sometimes the only way he knew they were there was by looking. But even so they were stronger than, say, handcuffs, and tended not to scrape the skin in that annoying way.
It was fascinating, really. He wondered how to convince Tatsumi to let him try a few experiments-
"Are you bored?" Tatsumi asked, setting his hand in a particularly distracting spot. "Do try to pay attention."
"That's not hard." Watari grinned and moved where he could. "Unlike other things."
Chapter 17: Expense Account
Tatsumi had stopped in the store to pick up necessities- stamps, envelopes, stationary; the constantly-disappearing staples of all bureaucracies- when something caught his eye. Glowing warmly despite the dull florescent lights, buttery leather seemed poured across its cover and spine, entirely unmarked but for a subtle pattern on the edges. The paper inside was tinted faintly blue, narrow-ruled and perfectly aligned atop the back cover.
The price tag was not nearly so agreeable. Still, Tatsumi had reserved funds for one personal expense this month. It would be a pleasure to hide the red of the budget in such a portfolio.
Chapter 18: Sleep
He's cute when he's quiet, Tsuzuki thought. He hadn't noticed it before; his new partner was too loud and angry and cold to be cute. And with that gun, he was sort of scary. But asleep, the rigidity and tightness had faded away, and he was just a small, pretty teenager curled up in Tsuzuki's bed. Tsuzuki smoothed hair from his face, letting himself barely brush the pale skin.
He looked so much younger than he had awake. Not childish or weak, just... young. Pure. Tsuzuki paused before turning to the GuShoShin to say something cheerful. We won't get along.
Hisoka sat in the hard wooden chair, pulled his knees against his chin and locked his arms tight around them, looking at Tsuzuki. He was silent. Tsuzuki was asleep, and anyway, if Watari heard him he'd force him back to his own bed. He was exhausted and injured, but he wanted to see Tsuzuki, stand guard while his partner shifted and sighed in dark dreams. Because otherwise he had dreams of his own, and he was never fast enough or strong enough or good enough, and Tsuzuki died even though he cried and begged. Hisoka dragged his eyes open again.
Chapter 19: The Shadow Proves the Sunshine
Tatsumi slips wordlessly into the dojo. He could be just another shadow in the corners of Hisoka's vision: brown coat against the brown wood of the wall. Hisoka pretends not to notice his entrance, preferring the concentration to any conversation. He almost manages to ignore Tatsumi's quiet pride and interest.
Hisoka has claimed that he doesn't know how to dance, but watching him, Tatsumi thinks he must have lied. His steps are graceful, balanced; the black gi sweeps loose around his ankles and the hakama's slipped down to expose his collarbones. His daily practice of violence turned beauty. Tatsumi stares.
When Hisoka stops, his cheeks are flushed and his mouth opens around heavy breaths and his eyes dart, reflexively, to Tatsumi. Tatsumi wipes his fingers against his jacket. He steps forward, shoes sinking into the mat, and Hisoka comes to meet him, hands gripping Tatsumi's sleeves as their mouths close.