A High Price

Chapter 24

By Lizard


Tsuzuki lay staring blankly at the ceiling, not really aware of anything around him, not taking anything in. All he could see was Muraki, standing fearlessly before the very monstrosity he had summoned, a figure clad in white calling some accursed words to try and banish the beast. He saw this over and over again, as if it were his one and only memory. The voices that spoke to him, he never registered. He never saw the hands wave back and forth before his glazed, vacant eyes, trying to grasp his attention. Since they'd started sedating him, he'd reacted to nothing.

No responses to sight and sound or even pain. That's what Watari had told the others, and Hisoka had burst into tears. Could he not sense some emotion coming from the amethyst eyed Shinigami? The others had crowded around him, asking the boy for answers, and he had been able to give them no reassurance. None of the usual feelings he could detect, not a whisper of that deeply embedded sadness. It was as if there was no emotion, and that had frightened him to the state of constant trembling.

Wakaba and Terazuma were struggling to keep on top of missions they had been assigned from areas out of their normal districts. Watari was permanently locked in his laboratory, trying to work out some miracle cure, and Konoe was trying desperately to answer the questions of his superiors. What had happened to their most powerful employee? He couldn't tell them. He didn't know. Everyone turned to Tatsumi for answers. Tatsumi always seemed to know everything, but he was never in his office, always down on Earth dealing with some business he'd never discuss with them. And now he had returned, without warning, and brought a human with him to Meifu, offering no explanation for his presence. Was this human somehow going to cure Tsuzuki? Whispers spread from office to office, wary glances given to the secretary and the swordsman as they passed. It was obvious where they were heading.

Tatsumi stopped outside of the door, pausing to glance at his guest. Oriya had said nothing to him since he arrived to collect him, and even now he did nothing but stare at him patiently, face calm and composed. Again, the secretary felt guilty for harassing him, for asking him to come when he was still in mourning. He simply cared too much about Tsuzuki to see him in his current state. He was willing to do anything to try and bring him back to his senses.

"Please, be gentle with your words." Tatsumi spoke quietly, barely above a whisper, one hand on the doorknob as if he were reluctant to let Oriya inside until he agreed. The swordsman nodded, and stepped within the room. When Tatsumi moved to follow him, he blocked his way, and only when the secretary had stepped back to wait, did he close the door, and move to the still figure upon the bed.

Tsuzuki didn't acknowledge his presence as he moved to his bedside. He looked hopelessly defeated, so frail beneath the crisp white sheets, his hair a dark, silken mass fanning slightly across his pillow. As he had been the first time they met, Oriya found himself looking at him appreciatively, thinking how truly beautiful he was. Unable to resist for a moment, he reached out to brush his cheek with his knuckles, almost as if he were afraid to touch him with his fingertips for fear he might shatter.

"Tsuzuki-kun." Oriya spoke softly, not entirely sure why he'd called him that. Tsuzuki wasn't that much younger physically that he was himself, but he seemed so innocent and boyish lying there. "Tsuzuki, it's Oriya. I've come to speak with you."

No response, he hadn't expected there to be any, not even the flutter of those thick lashes.

Oriya glanced at the door for a moment, wondering how long he had before Tatsumi decided to enter, or whether his patience would last long enough for him to do what was needed.

"Tsuzuki, you must wake up. How can I take you to him if you don't wake?"

Not even this provoked a response, and gently Oriya grasped his shoulder, shaking him slightly, until his face fell sideways against the pillow. It seemed terrible that he was suffering so, that truly it was needless. With a sigh, he reached for the bandage around the Shinigami's wrist, unwinding it to find the drip it held in place. As gently as he could, he drew out the needle, letting the mix of fluid and sedative drip onto the floor. There was a dark bruise staining the puncture wound, and it dribbled blood for a moment before Oriya reapplied the bandage.

Peeling away the sheets, Oriya slipped his arms around the slender Shinigami, one beneath his knees, the other around his shoulders, and lifted him from the narrow bed. Tsuzuki's arms swung limply, his face turned inward and resting against Oriya's chest. The swordsman headed for the window. No bars or locks. No one expected there might be trouble.

In a moment they were outside, the scent of the Sakura blossoms heavy in the air, petals tangling in Oriya's dark hair as he sped away from the building, Tsuzuki a light burden for his strong arms. For now, all he needed was somewhere to hide, somewhere the other Shinigami wouldn't think to look, just to give him enough time to get Tsuzuki to respond, to wake from this drug-induced stupor. For miles he ran until the buildings were out of site, the lake utterly obscured, and night was upon them.

Like a leopard with its dead prey, the warrior dragged the comatose man into the higher branches of a tree. He climbed as high as he dared into the thinner branches, and settled with the Shinigami pressed against his chest like a child, perched on his knee and still as wide-eyed and silent as he had been in the hospital. From then on, he tried everything he could to rouse the dark haired man, slapping him lightly upon both cheeks, shaking him so roughly that he feared he may damage him, even raising his voice slightly. Nothing seemed to make him stir. Just as he was on the verge of giving up, sure that there was nothing he could do, he saw the Shinigami's eyes flutter, felt thin fingers wind around his collar.

Tsuzuki couldn't see anything yet. Everything was murky and dark, only faint patches of light giving any variation. But he could smell something. Roses. Roses and smoke. Muraki had always smelled of roses, fine wine and expensive cigarette-smoke.

But this wasn't the same smoke, this wasn't familiar. Or was it? Someone was speaking his name. The voice like the smoke, familiar and yet strangely new, as if he'd rarely come across it before, but it had been unique enough for him to remember clearly.

"Let me go, let me die." Tsuzuki murmured, his head falling backward like a drunken man unable to control his body.

"No, you must wake. He needs you now, and you need him." Oriya cupped his large hand behind Tsuzuki's head, cradling it carefully. "Rouse yourself, Shinigami."

"I don't care anymore. I'm too tired. I just want to die. I want to be with Muraki." His voice was so weak he could barely hear it himself. "His candle flickered out. He's gone, gone away. I saw. I saw it."

"Tsuzuki, it is to Muraki I'll take you. But wake. If you wish to see him, you must wake now!"

Tsuzuki squinted, able to see a face, but blurred and pale. Who was this man that held him, and spoke such dreadful lies?

"Who are you? Why are you tormenting me like this?" He choked, unable to swallow properly as he felt the tears starting to form in his eyes.

"It is Oriya. Muraki's friend. I protected him like I promised, but he needs you now. I don't know what else to do for him. Please Tsuzuki, I've come all this way to take you to him, but if we're found there's no chance."

Tsuzuki forced his limbs to move. They felt as heavy as lead. His vision finally clearing enough to see the man, recognise the face, he stared at him almost fearfully. He didn't dare to believe that he was speaking the truth. How had he reached Meifu? The Shinigami's heart was beginning to beat fitfully in his chest, racing horrendously fast compared to the slow, lethargic thud it had been whilst under the influence of the sedatives.

"Tsuzuki. Trust me. Please you must! Muraki is alive. Do you hear me? He's alive, and I must take you to him. But for that you must take us back to Earth, and quickly. Your friends will find us if we don't leave now."

Tsuzuki was too weak to do it. He was barely strong enough to remain awake. But Oriya's words were too full of honesty for him to ignore. He would get them there even if he killed himself trying. Muraki was alive. Muraki needed him. Wherever Muraki was, he would go.


Half an hour had passed, Tatsumi realised as he glanced at his watch for the third time, and Oriya had still not emerged. He paced, he leaned close to the door to try and hear some words or movement. But there was nothing. He became suspicious. Was he a fool for letting Oriya see Tsuzuki alone? Would the swordsman take revenge for his loss by killing Tsuzuki? Too many thoughts and here he was, utterly indecisive. Finally, he knocked upon the door, waiting for an answer. When there was no answer, he stepped inside.

The bed was empty. The window was ajar. Tsuzuki had been taken.

From down the hallway, he heard Hisoka beginning to shout. How had the boy known that something had gone wrong?

"He's awake, he's awake!" His voice was shrill. "Tsuzuki woke up!" From around the corner he sprang into view, almost barging into Tatsumi in his rush to see his partner. He was faced with an empty room, just as the secretary had been.

"Tatsumi-san, where is he?"

There was no answer.





Author's Note: Well, one more chapter to go, and then all the angst will be over. I think 25 chapters is a nice number to finish on, and I'd like to end things before my ideas start getting stale. Thanks for all the reviews ^^

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