Title: Stature

Author: Lodestar

Disclaimer: Yami no Matsuei is copyrighted to Yoko Matushita and associates. I claim no ownership and intend no disrespect

Notes: Originally written for Kira's Tsusoka challenge: Get Hisoka into Tsuzuki's Clothes. Later just about doubled in length and betaed by the lovely Imbrii (whom I can never thank enough) before its publication here. Cheers!

The day swelters. Heat shimmers over every available inch of pavement, scorching everybody and everything foolish enough to get in its way. On a summer day like this, those who can stay inside with a cold drink and whatever makeshift fan comes to hand. Those who can't suffer, and conclude their business as quickly as possible before they touch the melting point.

Hisoka reaches his personal limit about halfway through the afternoon. Despite this, he doesn't let his partner to call a halt to their investigations until it becomes obvious that Tsuzuki's messy facsimile of footwork is, yet again, leading them to a dead end. Sense of superiority thus appeased, he gives in to his slightly less well-honed sense of self-preservation and allows himself to be lead back to their hotel.

The room is, in theory, a cooler alternative to being outside. In reality, Hisoka is fast becoming convinced that it is merely darker, giving the momentary illusion of chill. The temperature is still an almost palpable second presence, hanging over his head and waiting for the right moment to swallow him whole.

Tsuzuki has wisely but inconsiderately claimed the shower, leaving his overly-delicate young partner with nothing but visions of relief and the maddening sound of cold water spraying against the tile in the next room.

Hisoka licks his lips and rolls over lethargically, wondering if it would be worth his while to go out and locate a vending machine. His muscles tense at the thought, then relax into new levels of immobility, protesting loudly that nothing in the world could make it worth his while to move.

The shower shuts off. "Hisoka~!"

Almost nothing.

Hisoka lifts one eyelid irritably "What?"

"There's a change of clothes in that bag on the chair...."

With some effort the boy turns to see, blonde hair tangling annoyingly and prickling at the nape of his neck as his head swings in the direction of Tsuzuki's small black duffel. "Yeah."

"Can you get it for me?"

"No."

"Well then, I'll have to come and get it...."

If he can reach the phone, maybe he can ask someone to send up some ice....

"Naked."

Reflexes he would have sworn incapable of the task have him bolt upright in a second, cheeks warm even in the furnace-like room temperature. "Don't you dare!"

His incorrigible partner chuckles smugly.

Hisoka snatches the bag and pulls it close like a life preserver. He itches everywhere now, physical manifestation of his discomfort and response to the sweat he can feel rolling down his shoulders to catch and soak into the top of his uncomfortably clingy tank top. "Okay, I've got it."

"Sankyuu, Hisoka!" He can imagine the innocent smile that accompanies those words, as if its owner hasn't just resorted to blackmail of the most extreme and embarrassing sort. "I'll be out in ten minutes."

And said blackmailer starts the water flowing again.



Hisoka glares. At the door, at the bag, at his own white-knuckled fingers. "Idiot," he tells them, not sure who he is addressing. "That was just cruel." And *that* was certainly for Tsuzuki. "What does he think I am, anyway?"

Threat still imminent, he unzips the bag. There isn't much there. The papers that detail their current mission, a notebook he knows will be full of Tsuzuki's illegible scribblings, which somehow morph into flowing calligraphy when the moment requires it (and never before then, regardless of the pleas of his coworkers), the necessary items like a toothbrush (but no toothpaste, he must have forgotten again), and, as promised, fresh clothes.

First he pulls out the shirt. White, more or less crisp, but sloppily folded. Hisoka shakes it out over his knees and attempts to smooth it before abandoning the wrinkles as yet another lost cause. The fabric feels cool on his palms and legs, the way the bed did before it began to absorb his body heat. Thoughtlessly, he slips his arms halfway into the sleeves.

Next are socks, which Hisoka decides Tsuzuki won't need if they aren't going out again. Then a pair of crumpled boxers—well, yes, he'll need those. The shirt, backwards and half pulled on over his chest, is in the way now if he actually has to take more things out. He pulls it off and drapes it around his shoulders, annoyance masking his unreasonable embarrassment over pawing through his partner's personal items.

Slacks. He wonders how many identical pairs Tsuzuki owns.

The tie, at least, is purple rather than twin to the black one Tsuzuki wore to work today. There isn't much scope for imagination in ties, anyway. Hisoka fingers it thoughtfully. When he'd first joined the agency, Tatsumi-san had always been after him to dress like this, despite the patent foolishness of pretending the Shinigami were anything like a normal set of office workers who had to comply with normal business procedures. He'd like to know if Wakaba had gotten half the grief he did about his unconventional attire. Probably not. He drapes the tie around his neck.

There is a mirror inside the door to the hotel room's empty closet. He pulls it open now, just to see what he looks like. The glass confirms his suspicions that any teenager made to dress up looks like he is the unwilling victim of a school dance. Though in his case, shirt sleeves covering his hands and the ends of the open garment hanging over his thighs almost to the bottom of his shorts, he probably looks more like a kid whose mother is totally convinced that some older brother's dress clothes will be just perfect, no extravagant expenditure needed.

"Oh well," she'll say, this hypothetical mother-creature he'd just invented, pursing her lips at the sullen object before her. "Wait a few years and you'll grow into it."

Be it a few more years or a hundred, they will do nothing for Hisoka. The imaginary life he's been building melts away in the feverish heat, leaving him with the reality of what this shirt symbolizes—gaps that can never be closed. Child and adult. Weak and strong. Hisoka and Tsuzuki.

The shirt is becoming hot and sticky, like everything else.

"It's cute." Says the dark-haired, laughing-eyed man who, at some point, entered the reflection in the mirror.

Hisoka blinks, jumps, and makes it into a half-turn to face his partner. Despite prior warnings, Tsuzuki has a bathrobe wrapped tightly around him and synched at the waist. The ever-present hint of a smile that hovers around his lips when he watches his partner is more pronounced than usual. "You didn't bring me my clothes," he offers as an explanation of the intrusion, "So may I ask what you're doing with them?"

"Playing dress up," Hisoka snaps, and stalks into the vacated bathroom, leaving Tsuzuki to stare in confusion at the door that has just become a barrier between himself and his only clean shirt and tie.

There is another looking glass opposite the entrance- a long, smooth expanse of truth he doesn't want to look at, stretched from wall to wall. Avoiding his own eyes, he allows his feet to slide along the still-wet tiles until he is crouched in a sitting position, back resting against the seam between door and wall.

He plucks angrily at the too-long casings of material surrounding his wrists. Tendrils of confusion are snaking their way around his anger and irritation. Emotions that are equal parts concern and befuddlement weave themselves into the fabric of his feelings and bring him to new lows.

Sentiments that aren't his. Tsuzuki must be standing just outside the room. The realization brings with it a supernatural sense of the man, tagging each foreign feeling and arranging them into picture of their own. He experiences the tension of this moment twofold, as if he was the one on the outside, unsure of what to say to get in. His hands twitch, wanting to reach out for a barricade that isn't in front if *him*. Only through careful self control does he keep himself from reaching up and opening the door to ease this painful pulse.

"...Hisoka?"

"Mm." Every muscle is suddenly too tired for this, head dipping and turning to rest against the edge of the door, closest to where he knew his partner is leaning, body flush against the door, throat tense and breath stopped in expectation of words he is hesitant to say.

"If you don't open the door... I'll break it."

"That would be stupid. We can't afford to pay for damages." Hisoka murmurs, fancying himself a shade above apathetic. A sigh. "I'm not dying, Tsuzuki."

"Obviously." Near-amusement is creeping back into the voice on the other side of the door.

"I'll be fine." Though that question hasn't actually been asked.

"Then let me in."

"Why should I?" Sounding about ten.

"You're wearing my shirt." He is laughing now. Hisoka can sense it as much a hear it-shivers of mirth that run up and down both of them and shake their shoulders, though for very different reasons.

"Oh." There is nothing else to say to such a banal reason. Using the wall as a prop he pushes himself to his feet and faces the door, unsteady fingers turning the lock to let it fall open on anxious eyes (a slight crease between the brows to prove it) and a body still bent forward so that its owner almost falls into the room.

But not falling. Leaning, deliberately, moving in to catch the smaller boy's shoulders and hold him at arm's length so he can't turn away. All humor is gone again, replaced by the desire to... comfort, Hisoka supposes. To shield him and save him, though from what he can't fathom.

"What's wrong?" Asked aloud this time, in the open and requiring a real answer, not the perfunctory brush-off of a moment ago.

Despite that, he doesn't intend to explain. He doesn't see that it is anyone else's business what depresses him or what had, for a moment, amused him and made him want to do such a foolish thing as pull on the larger man's clothes and parade in front of a mirror. He doesn't owe anyone explanations, not even this soulful-looking idiot who obviously isn't going to let him go until he says something.

*Nothing*. No, that is to blatantly false. *You wouldn't understand*. Quite possibly true, but not really to the point just now. "Why can't I be more like you?" Stupid, childish, and he'd actually just said that one, hadn't he? He feels his face could burn the cooler air of the bathroom away.

Gentle fingers are peeling the clinging material from his shoulders, leaving trails of cold gooseflesh behind. Hisoka's head tips up in shock, and his eyes dart over his partner's upturned lips to eyes that are contradictorily serious. It is a catching look, the only thing that holds him fast while the hands on him run down to his wrists, busily turning up the cuffs, folding them to just below his elbows. The tie is removed and tucked into the sash of Tsuzuki's robe. Hands brush thoughtlessly over his hips as the ends of the shirt are captured and tied together, hanging just above his waist.

"There," says Tsuzuki, spinning him around to face the mirror. "That looks better."

In Hisoka's eyes it doesn't. Tsuzuki has turned what had been a shirt into some kind of wrap that is slipping slowly down his upper arms to meet the tightly bunched sleeves below. He rolls his shoulders in an attempt to keep the mistreated garment up, but is stopped by a hand pressed between his shoulder blades. "Leave it. Look."

He obeys. At the very least, he'll admit, the result is not childish. Foolish, yes, but he no longer looks like he's been caught pawing through his parent's closet.

"Better." He admits grudgingly. It can almost be called stylish, though what style he isn't sure.

Tsuzuki smiles, and it might be real. "If you were like me," he says quietly. "You'd be scarred here." The hand moves to the back of Hisoka's shoulder. "And here." Slips down to catch his wrist. "And here." '

Hisoka sees one of Tsuzuki's arms rise up in the mirror, has a second in which he could turn away before it bends around him. His partner's fingers come to rest splayed over his heart.

"Besides," Tsuzuki continues, stepping back and turning away again as quickly as every other motion he's made, "That looks good on you the way you are."

He's leaving, Hisoka realizes. He thinks that he's so smart, that he's made everything better again. As if he hasn't just said something that might be profound. As if he hasn't opened more wounds of his own than the ones he closed for his partner. "Tsuzuki!"

Tsuzuki opens the door to the room, speaking as he steps into it. "Yes?"

Hisoka turns from the mirror. "Do you ever... wish you were more like me?"

He can see the man's shoulders tense, pushing inwards to trap the body between them. "All the time." He turns again, and Hisoka can see the deadpan blankness of his face. "But I wouldn't fit your clothes."