Epilogue

The soft breeze tugged gently at stray strands of soft gold and rich chocolate, whispering of unspoken promises and desperate hope. The falling sakura petals created a blanket around them, dusting the land like pastel pink snow. The fallen blossoms seemed to mock the people who stood among them.

Nature never changed. Spring lasted forever, and the very same sakura trees bloomed every year.

It was the people who changed.

Life was always a passing dream. Like all dreams, try as you might to hold on to it, it would always fade, soon to disappear without leaving anything behind.

Was death any different?

Death was even more surreal than life. For in death, you might claim to exist, but you could never say that you lived.

And when even death could be taken away from you, would you dare say that death is the final escape from life?

Would it not be better to be part of the land, where things are forever there, everlasting and eternal?

What did nature feel as it watched the fleeting lives that pass through it?

Did it feel pain and joy? Or did it feel nothing?

That is what a person could never find out.

Because we are all forever dreaming.

Death is never an escape.

For there is no escape from the dream of existence.

Like all people who dreamed, Kurosaki Hisoka silently watched his dream unfold itself in shades of emerald and amethyst.

This was a dream he never wanted to end, yet knew would never last.

Tsuzuki stood by his side, his head lifted to watch the wind take the soft sakura petals, violet eyes clouded with deep emotion.

The tears were long gone, because neither of them had any tears left.

Was he going to lose Tsuzuki?

Perhaps the promise to stay with each other for eternity was an impossible dream from the very beginning.

Together…it would never last.

Tsuzuki sensed his thoughts and turned to face him.

"I will never leave you," the other said softly.

You won't, but I am the one who will be leaving.

They stared into each other's eyes, vivid green meeting with deep lavender.

"We still have time," Tsuzuki said, his voice thick with fervent hope.

Hisoka didn't answer. He had once hoped, but he had long since learned that hope only led to pain.

He didn't dare to hope anymore, because he didn't want to get hurt again.

There were so many things that he wanted to say, but still didn't have the courage to.

He had once thought that time was the one thing he owned, but it seemed that even that had been taken away from him.

Tsuzuki once asked him if he wanted to change things.

Did he?

"Ne, Hisoka, have you ever wished that sometimes it were things that changed instead of people?"

"I…I don't know."

It was so much easier to run away by saying that he didn't know.

"You know; you just haven't realized it yet."

Tsuzuki was right. Deep inside his heart, he already knew his answer.

He couldn't afford to run away anymore.

What did he want?

He felt warm arms wrap around him from behind. Almost automatically, he leaned into that welcomed embrace.

He wanted…

But he was afraid.

He was afraid, but he didn't have the time to be afraid anymore.

"Why, Hisoka?" Tsuzuki asked quietly, the softness of his words tickling the edges of Hisoka's hearing.

Why indeed.

Why was he afraid? Tsuzuki would never hurt him.

Tsuzuki would never leave him.

"Tsuzuki…"

"Yes?"

"You once asked me…" The words caught in his throat. If he made the wrong decision…

"You once asked me if…if I wanted to change things," Hisoka whispered, unable to keep the slight tremor from entering his voice.

"I remember."

"I…I want…"

To his surprise, Tsuzuki pulled him closer and rested his chin gently on Hisoka's forehead.

"I know."

Tsuzuki knew…he knew.

Tsuzuki's soothing presence washed over him in waves, offering the calm before the imminent storm.

Hisoka allowed Tsuzuki's emotions to flow through his soul as if they were his own. For a while, they stood there in mutual silence, simply enjoying each other's presence like they always did.

"Tsuzuki, what do you…?"

He could feel the other smiling behind him. Inside his mind, he could see the momentary glow in those amethyst depths, the slight curve at the edges of Tsuzuki's mouth.

He could hear Tsuzuki laughing softly through their bond.

"It depends." It was still the same answer that Tsuzuki gave him last time.

Hisoka turned slightly to catch the other's eyes. Tsuzuki's eyes were still twinkling, reflecting the rays of sunlight in a way that made them seem like sparkling gems.

Tsuzuki had always been the most wonderful person he had ever met.

"If you don't want that as an answer…" Tsuzuki turned him around so that they now faced each other.

"I want whatever you want," Tsuzuki said softly, gently brushing back the stray bangs that partially covered Hisoka's eyes.

"I want whatever you want."

There was nothing anyone could offer that would outweigh the strength of Tsuzuki's words.

Just with those simple words, Tsuzuki had given him everything.

He could feel the other gently thumbing away the tears at the edges of his eyes. He didn't know that he had begun to cry.

He could feel Tsuzuki pouring his feelings for him through their bond.

:: Affection adoration care concern warmth fondness attachment… ::

:: Love ::

Tsuzuki wanted what he wanted.

It was perfect.

"I…I…" Hisoka wanted to tell the other what he felt, wanted to let Tsuzuki know what Tsuzuki had just shown him.

He found that he couldn't bring himself to say it.

He had never hated himself more.

"You don't have to tell me," Tsuzuki said with a smile.

Tapping the Hisoka's nose almost playfully, he said, "I can already feel it."

Hisoka looked down uncertainly. "I don't know…if it's the same."

"It is."

Tsuzuki pulled him into his arms again. "I know; it is."

"But there is something else that I want as well…something besides what we both want."

Hisoka looked up at him in askance.

Tsuzuki winked at him. "For now it can be a secret. You can try guessing what it is, but I don't promise cookies if you manage to come up with the answer."

Hisoka snorted. "Cookies would have been too much to expect of you." He jabbed Tsuzuki in his side, and rolled his eyes as Tsuzuki wailed in faked torment.

"It's only fair! I don't need help knowing what you want! You could at least put more effort into this relationship!"

His heart lurched. "Relationship?"

"I won't let you leave me." Tsuzuki gripped his hand hard enough that he was sure he was going to have bruises that were going to last him thirty seconds.

"We'll find a way, Hisoka." A familiar warmth settled upon his shoulders as Tsuzuki swung an arm across them protectively. "After all, we're partners, aren't we? We're supposed to stick together through thick and thin and face the worst of dangers hand in hand; we have this bond closer than that of mine with sugar, firmer than that of Tatsumi's with yen, more intimate than that of lovers…ouch!"

"Will you just shut up?" Hisoka snapped while silently cursing himself for blushing so furiously he felt he was going to burst into flames any minute.

"But Hisoka…mmmph!"

He knew he was still blushing but oh it was horribly satisfying to see Tsuzuki standing there, mouth agape, and with, perhaps, the start of a blush. And he caused it.

"Hisoka!!!!!!!!!!!" Tsuzuki wailed after a full minute's pause. "You can't just…whatever and leave it like that!"

"Shut up, idiot!"

"You just mo…OUCH!"

Three years…it seemed barely enough.

Dreams were like that. The nightmares would last forever, and the sweet fancies would pass by without you even noticing it.

But one would say that the value of life isn't in how long life is, but in how life is led.

Perhaps one should feel fortunate if one were to be given a chance to remain after death.

One life…one existence, both painfully brief.

The life was a nightmare, the existence a dream so sweet that you never want to wake up.

You never had a choice on when you wanted to wake up.

Was it fate that made the decision?

Or was it, like some romantics would say, the power of love that would transcend all barriers?

To two such lives or existences, it was neither. What they believed in was the strength of trust, faith, and conviction, the knowledge that they would always be in each other's minds and the unfailing understanding that they shared with each other.

It was something that surpassed even the so-called power of love.

Love might fade or even turn bitter. Love could never defeat the control that death had over lives.

The bonding of souls was eternal. It was something that even death would be powerless to seize. It was something that would continue, even if love were to fade and the devotion were to cease.

It was something that would remain till the end of days.

Be it three years or an eternity, they would be together.

Three years…three years before they might have to part.

But no matter what happened, the bond would forever remain.

They could forget the other's name, appearance; they might even forget the other's touch or smile.

But they could never forget each other's place in their hearts, could never forget that they once existed in each other's minds.

Three years…?

Be it three years or an eternity…

For now…it was enough.