Two Dishes, But to One Table (Hungry Ghost Overdub)
by Rana Eros
My assignment for Remix Redux V: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut. I got Dorian Gray, and decided to take on her excellent Two Dishes, But to One Table. Eternal love to Eliza for helping me select the story, then brainstorm the direction to go. Thank you to Eliza and Phoebe both for betaing this critter. And extra thank yous to Dorian, for writing such a wonderfully evocative drabble in the first place. It was an honor to play in your sandbox, madam.
"He killed me too," Eileen says in Hisoka's dreams. "He killed me for her."
"And then you made her kill," he says, because he's tried ignoring her, tried waking himself up, tried telling her she's just a dream, and she hasn't gone away.
"I wanted her to kill him, but she loved him." Eileen's face, Tsubaki's face, twists as she shreds a crimson flower in her hand. "He gave her my heart, and she gave it back. Vampires, both of them."
"And you're a ghost."
Eileen smiles. "A ghost of a ghost. Do you believe I was only her guilt made manifest, Hisoka? Her dirty little secret?"
"No." He shakes his head. He felt her inside Tsubaki, at the end, felt her fighting the confines of Tsubaki's dying body and Muraki's compulsions. He knows that feeling well enough.
"No." Eileen's smile softens. She drops the mutilated camellia and glides toward him, stopping just short of touching when he jerks back from her hand. "I knew you knew I was in there. I knew I just had to stay alive long enough for you to shoot, and I'd be free of them both."
"Yet you still look like her," Hisoka can't help pointing out, and Eileen's lips compress to a thin line.
"I look how you see me. See me differently, Hisoka. I'm not her ghost, after all." Then Eileen laughs, and her teeth are very sharp and her mouth is very red. "You could say she was mine."
Hisoka's certain they've found their killer as soon as he learns Muraki's aboard. And with Tsubaki's glowing praise of the man, he now understands another piece of Muraki's monstrousness. Angelic, she calls him, the man who saved the life of a little girl, and Hisoka doesn't even know it's Muraki she's describing until Muraki comes into the room.
Which is why he doesn't think to ask her where Muraki got the heart.
He's certain they've found their killer, but it's not as simple as making the accusation. Muraki's set them a game and they have to play it. Tsuzuki doesn't see it, or doesn't see beyond the part of it that's Muraki stalking him, and Hisoka doesn't know how to tell Tsuzuki that the game involves deaths they can't prevent. So he stays silent, and watchful, gravitating between Tsuzuki and Tsubaki and wondering which Muraki will strike when he's not there to take the blow.
He hasn't yet learned the answer is both, and it'll hurt anyway.
"I was a dealer, you know." Eileen sits behind a small round table and deals cards onto the surface, face down. "I was a novelty, so young. Very popular. I can't imagine what they were told, that no one looked for me."
"You can't?" Hisoka blinks. "Didn't Tsubaki--"
Eileen snorts. "Tsubaki knew nothing she didn't want to. But you know that as well as me. Tell me, do you really think he strikes anyone as an angel who knows him for longer than five minutes?"
"She was a child, and he was her doctor." Hisoka blinks again, startled at himself for defending what he'd found indefensible. Eileen only smiles, close-mouthed, and gestures at him.
He sits at her table, and then he sees the cards aren't dealt in hands. She flips the first one up to show the King of Swords, and he swallows bile. "This isn't--"
"He taught me to deal, and to play." She flips the next card over, and it's the Knave of Swords, laid crosswise on the first. "He also taught me to read, just before he killed me. He gave me two decks, first one, then the other. I was giving the second back."
She turns up the card closest to him, and he reaches out to stop her, holding her hand above the Tower. "He's no concern of yours any longer."
"Why, because I'm dead?" She flashes him that sharp-toothed grin again and he lets her go. "That's why he's my concern. If he'd left me alive, selling flowers in Hong Kong, I wouldn't even know who he is, and I wouldn't care." She flutters her lashes at him coyly, a gesture disturbingly like Tsubaki. Or maybe it was Eileen all along. "But you know that, don't you, Hisoka?"
She reaches for the card nearest herself, and turns up the Moon.
"What does it mean?" He knows, though, he knows. She's dead, and she wants Muraki dead, and she might only be a dream, but she's his dream, and she's not telling him anything he doesn't already know, already want.
He turns the Hanged Man up for himself.
He knows Muraki's going to accept his challenge. Muraki tells himself he thinks Hisoka is his copy, and Hisoka has learned to use the fascination of reflection to his advantage. Muraki also tells himself he's completely in control, but Hisoka knows it's the fact that he's not that makes Muraki weak to the curiosity of what Hisoka might do.
It's an uncomfortable truth, an uncomfortable power; Hisoka's used to discomfort.
So he offers his challenge, and he waits as the cards are dealt, and he lets Muraki taunt him with innuendo while Tsuzuki sits and sweats. He'd like to reassure Tsuzuki, but any words of comfort are dry as old blood in his throat, with Muraki facing him across the table. This is their killer, his killer, and he can do nothing but nothing yet, leaving Muraki to guess at any impact.
Perhaps that's why his win is no victory, though certainly Tsuzuki is grateful for it. If Muraki's surprised, Hisoka can't read it, too relieved and sick to pick up more than the jangle of Tsuzuki so close.
Of course, Muraki snatches even the relief away the next morning. Hisoka never does get it back.
"I wanted to chop him up," Eileen says, flashing knives in her hands as though shuffling cards. "Or at least cut out his heart. She wouldn't let me, though."
Hisoka flinches from the sight of the blades against her skin, small shallow cuts dripping red, for all she's a ghost. His reading remains on the table before her, the last card still waiting to be turned, the faces of the others flecked with her blood.
"I like that you don't try to tell me it wouldn't matter, that I'd still be dead even if I'd killed him." Eileen smiles once more, and Hisoka notices her face has changed a little, sharper-edged than Tsubaki's, eyes a lighter hue. Her hair is also lighter and straighter. Shorter. "Do you like me, Hisoka?"
"I don't know you," he says, and he's not sure if it's honest or not. He expects her to get angry, but she only tilts her head, and the knives in her fingers still.
"Don't you?" She tilts her head the other way. "Do you want him dead, Hisoka?"
"Yes." He doesn't even have to consider it, and it feels so good to say it that he does so again. "Yes."
"But he didn't cut out your heart." She stabs the facedown card with one knife, holds it out to him so he can see the Ten of Cups split on her blade. "Not yet, anyway. Perhaps you should give it to me for safekeeping."
"You're a dream," Hisoka whispers, not moving to take the offered card.
"You see? You do know me." Despite all the cuts, Eileen's hand is very steady. Her voice is. Her eyes burn like phosphorescence. "He didn't, as he doesn't know you. But you know yourself. You know him. How long will you let him think he won?"
"He--you're dead, and Tsubaki is." Hisoka takes a breath, takes a step closer to her knife. "I'm dead. He did that."
"Yet you have not moved on. Shinigami." She speaks the word with precision, emphasizing each syllable. "I didn't have that choice. It's because of your heart that you did."
"To learn why I died. It's not my place to kill him." It's where Tsuzuki is so wrong about what they do. Shinigami don't kill; even Tsubaki had been meant to die before he shot her.
"Whose if not yours?" Eileen lowers the card and knife at last, driving the blade into the table. "Who else among his victims can do it? He thinks you're his puppet. Prove him wrong."
"You want me to be your puppet." He can feel it, her rage and her drive for vengeance. It's not so different from his, but then, she's his dream.
"My weapon," she corrects him, "and your own. Have you tried to kill him?"
"No." Mostly because he hasn't had the chance, truth be told, and he hates Muraki for that too, for feeling helpless and mostly being helpless in Muraki's presence. But he won the card game, and he surprised Muraki just by his existence.
"Try," Eileen says, and she begins to shuffle the knives again. "The next time you see him, try. I've a deck to return to him, but now I can only do it if he's dead."
Hisoka doesn't expect they'll save anybody, and in the end they don't. Of course, he also doesn't expect to think he's killed anyone, and that's precisely what he does until they get back to Meifu, where he learns Tsubaki should have been dead at ten. It's no real comfort; he didn't know when he'd pulled the trigger.
Muraki thinks Hisoka's his puppet, his copy, but Hisoka's certain he's not thought that through. Hisoka doesn't do what he wants, and Hisoka hasn't yet seriously tried to kill him. Surely, were Hisoka what Muraki thinks him, he'd be more focused on murdering Muraki than stopping him, less defiant, less of a nuisance.
But with blood on his hands, Hisoka's hard-pressed not to see the similarities, and the blood seeps into his dreams. Drips down onto the stained, abandoned knives at a small card table, scattered haphazardly over the faces of faded and waterlogged Tarot cards.
He can barely make out the images anymore. The Hanged Man alone is clear. The King of Swords lies torn in half beneath the Knave of Swords. The Ten of Cups is fixed to the table by a rusted knife, and the Tower's fluttered to the dank, dirty floor.
All that's left of the Moon is a pale, round blob, liberally splashed with red.
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