But hold me fast, and fear me not
At sixteen, Hisoka is newly dead of a wasting disease the doctors could never explain. He shies from contact, but he always has; touch strengthens his curse, weakens the walls he's built to define himself, to hold himself separate from the rest of the world. Of course that curse didn't fade with death. He's never been that lucky.
His luck doesn't improve. While the Department Secretary proves a bastion of self-control, the Chief seems given to sentimental fondness, and Hisoka's new partner.... Well. He's not quite sure what to make of Tsuzuki Asato, even with the man's emotions nearly smothering him. Perhaps because of that; it's hard to clearly see the whole when the parts are so tangled together and pressing so hard against him.
He still hasn't managed to figure Tsuzuki out by the time they've solved their case, and then Muraki is reminding him of things he'd forgotten about himself. The murder he'd suspected is real, the other reason he hates to be touched given form and name. There is an old, cold rage in him against the family who locked him away, but there's also something warmer, something more recent, and now it has a target.
Of course, he can't do anything about it, helpless as he still is.
Then Tsuzuki comes, with his screaming affection and his relentless loyalty, and though Hisoka lashes out at him, he holds on, stays by Hisoka's side. Fights for Hisoka, as though Hisoka's pain matters. As though Hisoka's feelings matter, when most who know of his curse assume he doesn't have any.
When Tsuzuki falls protecting him, it's Hisoka who holds on, even as Tsuzuki's emotions scald him, as Tsuzuki's power floods him. In that moment, he understands, he sees the terror at the core of Tsuzuki's heart, that this vast power will drive everyone away, that the very intensity of the love Tsuzuki feels is what dooms it.
That power and that love threaten to drown him. Hisoka reminds himself he's dead already, and holds on.
And thae's the takens I gie thee
When he's seventeen, Hisoka meets his "might have been." Or at least that's what everyone thinks except Tsuzuki and himself. Minase Hijiri is poor, of a family of no consequence. He's a talented musician, but he has no discipline in any other aspect of his life. He's impetuous, passionate, alive.
Hisoka sees their differences very clearly. He knows Tsuzuki does, as well, and the way Tsuzuki's eyes shine when he promises Hijiri their protection makes Hisoka more snappish than he means to be. He leaves the room as much to distance himself from the loss of control as to stop himself from berating Tsuzuki.
He meets Tatsumi in the corridor. Even after nearly a year, Tatsumi checks on him, from time to time. Then again, a year's not long at all to the dead.
He tries to explain his concerns about Tsuzuki, about Tsuzuki's promises and kindness and fear. About how easily Tsuzuki gives away his heart, though he's certain every time it will be broken.
"You and Tsuzuki are good for each other," Tatsumi says, and as he passes Hisoka, his eyes shine, his hand comes up to touch Hisoka's shoulder, firm but non-invasive. In that touch, Hisoka feels it clearly: Tatsumi sees all the differences between himself and Hijiri, and Tatsumi only gives his heart with great deliberation.
Which is not to say Tatsumi's way can't also lead to heartache. Facing a possessed Tsuzuki in the halls of JuOhCho, Hisoka's aware this is a choice he and Tatsumi have both made with their eyes open. Therefore, it's their responsibility to ensure it's not one that leaves them shattered.
His responsibility, and despite Hijiri's foolish mortal interference, despite his sense of Tsuzuki's torment, he knows better than to let pity stay his hand. Pity is a weapon against Tsuzuki, and it's not one Hisoka wields. Instead, he focuses, flooding Tsuzuki with his power, reminding Tsuzuki that he didn't pull away, that he won't.
You protected me, he thinks, armoring Tsuzuki, arming him. You are protecting us. That's what Shinigami do. We do not do the dirty work of demons.
He's not a mindreader, so he has no idea of how much of the reasoning is getting through to Tsuzuki. He only knows the moment Tsuzuki dares to hope again, and that's when he says, "Come back to us."
Tsuzuki, who has his own way of choosing where to give his heart, comes back.
And ask nae leave at thee
Tsuzuki kisses Hisoka for the first time in his eighteenth year. In some ways, it's the absolute worst time and place to do it. They're undercover on a ship, investigating a number of untimely deaths. Muraki is aboard, playing the good doctor as he pursues Tsuzuki and taunts Hisoka, and Hisoka's not good enough at lying to himself to deny that some of the panic he's feeling is his own, even if some of it is Tsuzuki's. The younger Gushoushin is in the next room, trying to get technology to cooperate long enough to communicate with his brother and get further instructions, and they are, in short, at sea in nearly every conceivable way.
The sudden press of Tsuzuki's mouth against his startles Hisoka, and he pushes at Tsuzuki instinctively. Then his brain catches up with what's happening. He pulls Tsuzuki back down, cutting off the frantic apology. Tsuzuki tastes sweet, of course, chocolate and pastry and, very faintly, blood. His mouth is very warm. His emotions are a tangled-puppy heap of love and excitement and worry and guilt, but sitting on top is pure joy and pleasure, that Hisoka's kissing him back.
Hisoka's shaky with the emotion, with the touch and the act and the shadow of Muraki, but he's not going to let that shadow stop him. It may be the worst time and place, it may mean he can't sleep for nightmares tonight, but for right now, Tsuzuki's warm and sweet, and the pressure of Tsuzuki's lips, Tsuzuki's heart, is...nice.
There's pressure of another kind later, in the helicopter that takes them away from the sinking ship, away from the scene of Muraki's latest crimes, away from a card game and a gun and a girl whose heart was not her own to give Hisoka. Away from the room where he and Tsuzuki kissed, and he's holding onto Tsuzuki again, with his blood-stained hands, and he wonders how Tsuzuki can bear the touch. He has played Muraki's game, and he's lost, and in the losing he's seen the parallels between himself and Muraki, how close he is to that line; he can't even be sure on which side now.
Tsuzuki doesn't see it. Tsuzuki sees Muraki's monstrosity, and his own, and he can't see past either of them to their reflection in Hisoka. Tatsumi doesn't see it either, sitting beside the pilot and glancing back from time to time, his presence solid and calming. Hisoka's learned to read him, subdued but not closed in, multi-layered. The calm is the top layer, unobtrusive comfort offered to co-workers he's just pulled from a sinking ship. The layer beneath that is relief, because even Shinigami can be pulled down by ocean currents and drown several times before being fished out. The layer beneath that, though, the layer Hisoka finds is soothing him more than the other two, is rage.
The familiarity of the emotion, the familiarity of the target, both work as a balm. It's a long ride back to Japan, and from there an oddly circuitous route to Meifu ("Just to be certain," Tatsumi says, the unacknowledged rage darkening his voice, edging the blue of his eyes), but by the time they return to JuOhCho, Hisoka has regained enough equlibrium to consider that it's not only Muraki he's like, and Tsuzuki and Tatsumi both may see him clearly enough after all.
He kisses Tatsumi for the first time in his eighteenth year, wanting to taste that rage. What he tastes is green tea, ink, ginger and shoyu. What he feels is love, as encompassing as Tsuzuki's, but calmer. Even Tatsumi's surprise is controlled, then gone. Tatsumi kisses him back, and if it's not sweet, it's warm.
Tatsumi opens his mouth, and Hisoka dares to push inside. Then it's not warm, but hot.
And they that wad their true-love win
He's nineteen, and he nearly loses Tsuzuki. It's Muraki's fault, of course, Muraki and his madness that Hisoka still can't penetrate. There might be clues in the reactions of Muraki's friend, Mibu Oriya, but Oriya feels like a man in mourning, and Hisoka doesn't know if it's for the Muraki who killed him or a Muraki that hasn't existed for a long time, if he ever did. Hisoka doesn't linger over the question; he can't feel Tsuzuki at this distance, but he doesn't need to. He remembers the way Tsuzuki felt when Muraki took him away.
It's worse when they reach Sheon Dai. Hisoka knew it would be, but he still has to take a moment to collect himself at the sight of Tohda's fire, the sudden wash of Tsuzuki's hopelessness. Tsuzuki's terror has burned away; what's left is the utter conviction that he is a blight on everyone he loves, and the world is well rid of him.
It's by the strength of that conviction that Hisoka finds him, peering through the fire to the dark figure unmoving at its heart. He starts forward, argues when Watari holds him back. He hears the passion in his own voice, but he's too busy calculating, factoring, to truly feel it as anything but determination. He can reach Tsuzuki, if Watari lets go. He can reach Tsuzuki, and he thinks he knows enough of his own power now to give Tsuzuki just a little of it, to let Tsuzuki feel how he's wanted. How he's loved.
Tsuzuki believes this is best, but he doesn't want it to be. Hisoka has to show him it isn't.
"Tsuzuki knows everything," Tatsumi says, but he doesn't believe it, and Hisoka pauses long enough to look at him, to catch his eye and figure him into the calculations, then turns and dives into the fire.
Tsuzuki doesn't know everything, but he will. Hisoka will see to that. It's Tatsumi's job to make sure that's not in vain.
He's nineteen, and he holds onto Tsuzuki, holds on while Tohda burns all around them, holds on while Tatsumi steals in through the shadows to pull them out.
"Stay," he says to Tsuzuki. "Stay." And what he means is he will.
Tsuzuki calls off Tohda and slumps in his arms, in Tatsumi's arms, as the living move in to deal with the fire. Watari comes to them, and Hisoka rouses himself enough to aid in transporting them all back to Meifu, where they're greeted by rare rain. Hisoka turns up his face to it, closes his eyes for just a moment.
When he opens them, Tatsumi is staring down at him, gaze intense blue even in the dark. "That was a risk you took, Kurosaki-kun."
"It wasn't," Hisoka says.
In the rain and the dark, Tatsumi's smile answers him, and then Tatsumi's kiss.
"Stay," that kiss tells him, and he stops counting, because he will.