A High Price

Chapter 17

By Lizard


Tsuzuki was late for work the following day, looking distinctly weary, face drained of colour, dark circles beneath his eyes and his laces untied. Everyone noticed. It wasn't just that he was sloppier than usual, but he also seemed inexplicably happy. There was a nostalgic smile on his face and a far away look in his vibrant eyes. But how could he not be happy? He knew everyone was curious, but he was too content to want to spoil everything by admitting to what had happened and having to face a horde of shocked Shinigami. His work was piling up to dangerous new levels, and yet he sat there twiddling a pencil between his slender fingers, jaw resting in the palm of one hand. Even humming to himself. Hisoka managed to steal some of the untouched files, slipping them to his desk so that Tatsumi, should he meander past, would not notice that Tsuzuki had been entirely unproductive.

But Tatsumi was late too. Later than Tsuzuki even, and though he was just as tired, there was nothing even remotely happy in his expression. His face might as well have been a mask, only those stormy blue eyes showing a hint of his unrest. This day for him was torture.

And so the two men spent the day idly, one daydreaming, the other in a constant waking nightmare that was perpetually locked on violent images. Muraki, limp and bloody, choking on his own vitae and staring upwards pleadingly. Muraki, dead and rotting, or body swollen and with a sickly green hue, floating on the tranquil waters of the park lake.

Tatsumi couldn't shake them off, and to make matters worse, these visions were mingled with thoughts of Tsuzuki. These varied enormously, from snippets of past memories where he could almost suspect that his friend had felt something for him, to passionate scenes of wild abandon. Worst of all though, were the shameful thoughts of forcing the slender, beautiful man, almost as if it were retribution for his actions of the previous night. But no, he would never let himself commit such an atrocity, despite the obvious arousal such thoughts brought him.

When the day was finally over, the offices quickly clearing of staff, Hisoka found Tsuzuki fast asleep, head pillowed upon sheets of overflowing paper, lips slightly parted, pencil still clasped between his fingers. The boy couldn't help but smile. His partner always looked so damn childish and vulnerable when he was asleep, brows slightly raised, youthful despite the lean angles of his face.

"Tsuzuki, wake up. It's time to leave." Hisoka murmured, giving his friend's shoulder a gentle shake. He roused immediately, looking startled and rather guilty, as if he was about to be told off.

"Tatsumi I promise I'll do it tom--. Oh! Hisoka you scared me." Tsuzuki flashed him a sheepish smile before glancing at the paperwork. "I've been so distracted all day."

"I noticed. You should leave before the Chief or Tatsumi come and make you work overtime." The boy straightened up, fastening his jacket, hands automatically sliding into the pockets.

"No, I'll stay here and catch up. It's only fair. And Hisoka!" He called out as the boy shrugged and headed for the door. "Thanks for helping me out today." Another shrug in acknowledgement and Tsuzuki's young partner was gone.

So much for work. He'd not been awake for more than 5 minutes before his mind drifted back to the previous evening. Wrapped in Muraki's arms, he hadn't made any move to escape, even after his mind had cleared of the pleasure. He still felt that connection, simply by lying side by side. And Muraki? Well he'd been so surprised that the Shinigami had not tried to run off again that he'd spent the next few hours kissing him ardently, studying him as if he'd never have chance to see his face again and ignoring the constant beeping on his pager, finally becoming so frustrated that he'd turned the damn thing off. Tsuzuki had protested at that. People's lives were at stake, but the doctor had smothered his words with heated kisses, and distracted him in positively fiendish ways until Tsuzuki had been certain he'd never walk again. Both men had finally given in to reason, collecting their tattered clothes, when the sky had first started to lighten. Neither would get more than three hours sleep, but Muraki still attempted to lure him back to his grand home.



Papers went flying, files that would take a small eternity to organise again, and in the midst of them stood a startled Tatsumi. For some reason the image seemed very proper to Tsuzuki, the stern secretary surrounded by air-borne papers, and he almost grinned. He hadn't even noticed the brown- clad man approaching. Hadn't seen him all day in fact.

"What are you still doing here?" The question was put politely, but the amethyst eyed Shinigami noticed the strain to his words, knew there was something wrong.

"I was just catching up on some paper-work Tatsumi-san. I'm sorry, I'll clean it up." Before Tatsumi could even reply, Tsuzuki was out of his seat, leaning over to snatch the files from the floor. He'd never been very dignified, but Tatsumi felt his face redden as he watched the other man bending from the waist to grab at them, giving him a positively wonderful view of- He stopped his train of thought just in time, closing his eyes.

Tsuzuki straightened up at that moment, catching a glimpse of the frustration on his face, and automatically becoming concerned. He reached out, one hand clasping Tatsumi's broad shoulder and giving it a slight squeeze.

"Tatsumi are you-?"

Abruptly the other man lashed at him, palm landing with a resounding smack against his cheek. The papers ended up back on the floor. Tsuzuki was petrified. He'd never been so scared in his entire existence as he was now, with those icy blue eyes fixed on him, with such anger and raw emotion. He almost burst into tears. He wished he could, but all he seemed capable of, was standing there, rigid as a statue, cheek stinging as if it were on fire.

Tatsumi blinked several times, disbelief at his own actions written all over his face. He hadn't thought before he'd swung his arm, his body had acted as if it were a natural reaction, logic and instinct all forgotten. That simple touch upon his shoulder had been all it had taken for him to lose his cool. Despicable.

"I-I'm sorry, Tsuzuki!" He stammered the words out too late, for the other Shinigami had already fled, evading his hands as he reached out to try and hold him still, and disappearing as quickly as his legs would carry him.

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