A Cold and Broken Hallelujah
by Rana Eros
This was written for a challenge posted to the LJ community, kagetsu_master. The parameters of the challenge were to write a story from Tatsumi's POV in which Tsuzuki did not survive the events of the Kyoto Arc. You might say I took that premise and ran with it. Betaed by the lovely Eliza and Boni, and written, once again, to Jeff Buckley's rendition of "Hallelujah" (I think it's becoming my Tatsumi theme song). Also written to Billy Corgan's version of "Landslide" and to "Parce Mihi Domine," performed by Jan Garbarek & The Hilliard Ensemble.
It ends this way, with fire and ash and shadow. With Tsuzuki surrendering in a burning building, and Hisoka struggling against tendrils of darkness, and Tatsumi thinking of unspoken promises as he holds Hisoka back. He truly did not mean to make his own choice the only choice, but it was instinct to save the one thing Tsuzuki valued most, and now he cannot make himself let go.
He can give Tsuzuki a peaceful death, if nothing else, unmarred by the guilt of killing his dearest partner. It is likely Hisoka will seek vengeance for it, but Tatsumi cannot summon any regret. If he dies at Hisoka's hand, Tsuzuki will be waiting.
The roof caves in with a rumbling sound, and Hisoka chokes, going to his knees.
"Tsuzu...," he gasps out, and it suddenly occurs to Tatsumi that Hisoka can doubtless feel whatever Tsuzuki is feeling.
"Watari!" he says, loosing the shadows that keep Hisoka in place. Hisoka slumps unconscious to the ground. Tatsumi reaches him first, and gently lifts his head, cupping the back of his neck. It fits perfectly, he notices, in the palm of his hand.
Watari kneels across from him, feels Hisoka's pulse, lifts one eyelid to check his pupils, then looks up. "He's in shock."
"Take him back to the infirmary."
Watari glances back at the burning building. "Tsuzuki--"
"I will stay."
He relinquishes Hisoka to Watari's hands with an odd reluctance. Perhaps it is that Hisoka is a connection to Tsuzuki, and he will not touch Tsuzuki ever again. Hisoka whimpers softly, and Watari lifts him up and rises, vanishing into the night sky.
Tatsumi stares at the spot where they disappeared for a long time, and then turns his attention back to the fire. He thinks it is almost finished now.
In the flickering flame, he sees a shadow that is no shadow. It's crouched low to the ground, moving slowly away from the building. Firelight catches on white, white hair, and Tatsumi feels rage like a dark tide move through him. He does not even try to hold it back.
Fire makes for abundant shadows, and they all swarm up to bury Muraki. Tatsumi thinks he hears the beginnings of mad, painful laughter, but he makes a short, chopping motion and it stops as abruptly as though he had used a blade. In a way, he had.
For Tsuzuki, he thinks, and for Hisoka.
And maybe, just a little bit, for himself.
Mortals arrive on the scene while he keeps watch, exclaiming in alarm at the extent of the fire, shouting out to each other as their attempts to douse it fail. Tatsumi could tell them it will not die away until there is nothing left of Tsuzuki but ash. Tohda has made a proper funeral pyre for his master. There will be nothing left for Tatsumi to take back to Meifu.
He thinks it is better that way. EnmaDaioh's powers are great, perhaps great enough to call a Shinigami back from true death. With Tsuzuki's essence scattered across the world of the living, that will prove a more difficult task. Tatsumi dares to hope it might even prove impossible.
The mortals find Muraki's body. Tatsumi watches as they recoil in horror, then force themselves to maneuver the corpse into a body bag and carry it away. He makes a note to visit the Castle of Candles when he returns to Meifu, just to be sure.
It is likely there will be a summons waiting for him as soon as he returns to headquarters. It is a serious matter when a Shinigami willfully murders a mortal whose soul he has not been sent to retrieve. He might even be stripped of his position, or at least his power.
He finds he cannot care, as the entirety of Muraki's lab collapses, and he knows of a certainty that Tsuzuki is gone. He rises into the sky as the flames die down at last, leaving the clean-up to the mortals.
He has his own clean-up to do, provided Tsuzuki's death, and Muraki's, have not between them taken Hisoka entirely beyond his reach.
It is the infirmary he goes to first, when he materializes in Meifu. Watari is hovering over Hisoka, who is lying pale and still in one of the beds. Watari looks up as Tatsumi approaches, and light catches on the tears behind his glasses.
"It is done, then," he says hoarsely, and Tatsumi stops on the other side of Hisoka's bed, and nods.
"Muraki is also dead."
"Good." For a moment, Watari looks more vicious than Tatsumi has ever seen him, but then he blinks and just looks tired.
"How is Kurosaki-kun?"
"Fading. I think--"
Hisoka stirs, and arches back in the bed, his mouth opening wide in a desperate gasp for air. His cursemarks flare, red and bright as flame, and Watari swears, reaching out to grab his shoulders.
Tatsumi helps hold Hisoka down as a tortured sound emerges from his throat, wondering if he miscalculated. If Muraki was truly dead, the marks should have disappeared already, shouldn't they? Perhaps he should have gone to the Castle of Candles first--
There is no need for Watari's exclamation. Hisoka fists one hand in his sleeve, and as he looks down at it, he sees the cursemarks that trace the contours of Hisoka's arm disappearing. The effect is that of the scars being erased, of the damage being undone. But as Tatsumi glances at Hisoka's face and sees wide green eyes fixed on his, he knows that part, at least, is illusion. The marks can vanish, and Muraki can die, and Hisoka will still have spent the last years of his life in utter misery. The curse will still have killed him.
And now, it seems, the lack of it may be killing him again.
Hisoka's eyes squeeze shut as another seizure wracks his body. The marks continue to fall away, but slowly, so slowly. His fist clenches convulsively, pulling at the fabric of Tatsumi's suit jacket, and Tatsumi sees the other one wreaking similar havoc on Watari's labcoat. He wishes they could do more than hold on, than murmur Hisoka's name and watch as his death is unmade, but it appears this is a night of keeping helpless vigil.
At last, Hisoka slumps back into the bed. His hand falls from Watari's arm, and his grip on Tatsumi becomes fragile, strengthless. Still, he holds on, and he looks at Tatsumi again with wide, luminous eyes.
"Tatsumi-san," he breathes, the word nearly soundless, and Tatsumi bends close.
"Save your strength, Kurosaki-kun," Tatsumi says, but Hisoka ignores him.
"You were wrong, Tatsumi-san."
For a moment, cold settles in his gut, and he almost pulls away. He does not want to hear this, does not want to hear how he failed Tsuzuki and failed Hisoka and will now never be able to make amends. He did what he swore he would do, and he cannot take it back.
"I...am not the one he needed," Hisoka continues, and the words are so unexpected Tatsumi jerks. The movement disturbs Hisoka's hold on him, and Hisoka's hand begins to fall to the bed. Tatsumi reaches out and catches it. He cannot say why.
"Bon," Watari whispers. Hisoka ignores that, too.
"I would have made him come back. He didn't want that."
"He didn't want that," Hisoka says more insistently, and has to stop to draw a deep breath when the effort exhausts him. He continues more weakly, "I felt it, before...before. He wanted...peace. You gave it to him."
His sight blurs, and he realizes with a shock that there are tears in his eyes. The whole time he watched Tsuzuki's burial place burning, he had not cried. He realizes now he had not allowed himself to do so, because he did not feel he had the right.
Hisoka has given him the right, but he blinks away the tears nonetheless. He will save them for later, for himself. Tsuzuki does not need them now, and he does not think Hisoka will either.
"Muraki is dead," he says, because it may be obvious, but he feels Hisoka needs to hear it. And then, because Hisoka needs to hear this too, and because he needs to say it, "I am sorry, Kurosaki-kun."
"I am not." It is absolution, and gratitude, and farewell, all in one.
"Bon." Watari's voice is almost as quiet as Hisoka's, and there's a ragged edge to it.
"Rest, my friend," Tatsumi says, as he could not say to Tsuzuki.
Hisoka's eyes fall closed, and he lets out his last breath on a long sigh. His hand goes still and limp in Tatsumi's, and for the first time Tatsumi sees what Hisoka looks like when he's at peace. Watari moves to cover Hisoka's face with the blanket, but Tatsumi stops him.
"Not yet," he says, and he thinks he can be forgiven the single tear that escapes his vigilance and splashes down on Hisoka's cheek. He brushes it away, one last touch that he cannot give Tsuzuki, and watches the light of the full, white moon catch in the glistening trail.
It ends this way.
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