Fireworks - Part Two

The voice came from behind them. Muraki turned slowly, eyes glinting and the smile still intact. He recognized that voice and sure enough, his eyes fell on the secretary of Shokan division standing a distance away from them. He regarded the newcomer with icy indifference, still clutching his price tightly against his chest. Tsuzuki seemed to be completely out, not noticing that a rescuer had come to his aid. Well, too bad. By the time he would be able to recognize anything, it'll sure be too late.

"Well, well. Look who's here. Sir royal knight in shining armor coming to the rescue of the damsel in distress."

"If you know what's good for you, you will let him go immediately."

"Oh. And if I don't? What would you do Mr. Shadow Commander?"

Tatsumi pushed his glasses up in that customary manner of his and said, "I wouldn't guaranty that you would see the light of the next day."

Muraki turned fully this time, still on his knees on the ground and holding Tsuzuki in his arms. "And what gives you the right to do that? I thought you were a man of morals and manners."

Tatsumi's hand turned into a fist. "I have every right to take any precautionary actions where Tsuzuki-san's well being is concerned. I won't let anyone hurt my coworkers."

Muraki actually laughed. "Oh, I like it so much when you refer to him like that. It's so sickly cute. But who says he's hurt? "He stared at the semi- conscious man's face and idly brushed some stray locks out of the closed eyes. "Look at him. He is sleeping happily. My activities must have exhausted him quite a bit. Or was it the pleasure they gave him? He *was* crying for more after all." He lifted a lecherous gaze up to Tatsumi as he brushed his lips against Tsuzuki's temple and breathed in his scent.

Tatsumi's glasses flashed dangerously and, at the same time, every shadow in and around the square started to lengthen. They all rose up from the ground in a whirlwind of murky darkness that lashed out with swirling tendrils toward the doctor. Muraki's answer to the imminent threat was a simple smirk. Then, with mock weariness, he raised a hand and snapped his fingers putting out all the lights in the open place in one quick, synchronized motion. The town square plunged into complete darkness save for the faint moonlight filtering through the thick clouds.

"Damn you, Muraki."

The doctor chuckled as he heard the curse. Of course the shadow master would be angry. Good. That'll teach him a lesson not to be too proud of his powers. He looked down at the shinigami still clutched in his arms and saw the amethyst eyes were open and reflecting the flimsy moonlight in shades of purple. The view took his breath away and he leaned down to press his bloodless lips to the rose petal ones beneath him. He felt more silent tears falling from violet eyes. With a sigh, he gathered up the young man in his arms, one arm curving under the knees, and lifted him from the ground. He stood there for a while peering into the darkness to make sure the secretary wasn't up to anything vile. He could hear the man moving around hastily, trying out different lamps in order to get them to work. He smirked again and with a dramatic whirl to his long, white trench coat, he turned to go.

After only a few steps, he thought he heard a whisper coming from somewhere close. Looking down he was assaulted again by twin purple fires before he saw the half parted lips moving. It made him stop. What the hell...? Was the shinigami calling for one of his guardians or just praying to an unseen god in his desperation?

His question was answered when suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, a rocket burst in the sky high over his head. Soon the whole place lit up with red and orange and blinding white light of fireworks. Muraki was stunned. He looked up at the display in the sky when he saw another, and another fiery flower bloom on the canvas of the dark expanse. He didn't even see when the shadow hit him. One dark slab cuffing him right across the side of the head while multiple tendrils reached out for the bundle in his arms. He dropped his burden immediately, seeking refuge from the hordes of dark shapes rushing at him. And the fireworks kept playing in the sky providing enough light for them to stay dangerously solid. He made it to the dark safety of one dingy alleyway and disappeared into it with a curse. Once again his most cherished price was taken away from him before he was given the chance to sample its pleasures completely.

With his departure the lights in the square finally came up.

Tatsumi hurried to where Muraki had abandoned Tsuzuki on the ground. The younger shinigami was still insensible, lying on the cold, hard floor with wide-open eyes staring at the sky while the last bursts of the fireworks reflected in their depths. Tatsumi hesitantly touched Tsuzuki's face. He was a little surprised when the other responded to his caress and turned his face into his hand. Expressive purple locked onto concerned blue and he felt his heart tremble at the amount of despair and loneliness the eyes projected.


He lifted the young man in his arms, cradling him like a child, and just then he realized that the other shinigami was trembling, most likely an after effect of his encounter with the murderous doctor. Tatsumi ground his teeth. Oh how badly he wanted to hurt Muraki. Even inflicting the greatest pains in the world wasn't enough to pay back for what he constantly put his poor ex-partner through. Tenderly, he reached out and brushed Tsuzuki's hair with his fingers. He bent over Tsuzuki's head and whispered, "It's alright now. Come on, let's go back to Meifu."

Tsuzuki shook his head rapidly and his shivering worsened. Tatsumi felt moisture touch his hand and looked down in dread. True enough, there were tears on his hands, tears that had fallen from purple eyes. Tears he had promised never to let fall again, no matter what the cost.

He was about to curse Muraki again when a low murmur from the cowering man caught his attention. " angry ...will hate me."

"What did you say?" he asked as gently as possible, tightening his embrace and hunching over more to hear what the other was saying.

Tsuzuki lifted up his tear-stained face and looked at him with brimming, lavender eyes. "Said *sniff* I can't go back to Meifu. I *sniff* made everyone angry and now they all hate me."

Tatsumi blinked. What was Tsuzuki saying? How could he possibly think...? And then he remembered. The fireworks. Tsuzuki's mishap and the way they all had treated him. Damn. So that was why Tsuzuki had wandered off on his own in ChiJou without his partner or any other protection. His mind tracked back to what had possibly been one of the worst chastisements of the reckless shinigami. Konoe's loud scolding of Tsuzuki, Hisoka's coldness, his own angry threats. Together they had unwittingly torn the purple-eyed man apart without even noticing it. But how *could* they notice it? Tsuzuki's cheerful front and bouncy manner gave them all the false impression that he cared as much about their rebuke as he did about following cooking instructions. He would be yelled at one second and run off to the nearest candy store the next to fill his pockets with his favorite sweets. No one ever thought their reproachful behavior would actually hurt the baka. Well, maybe the real idiots where they who never stopped to wonder if it did.

Tatsumi felt a vice tighten around his heart, actual physical pain coiling inside his chest. He was one of those responsible for Tsuzuki's current state. Perhaps the most responsible one. True, Konoe was the person who knew the most about Tsuzuki's past, but Tatsumi had been his partner and had worked with him for over 70 years. Of all of them, he was the one who knew best how emotionally fragile Tsuzuki was, and how easy he would fall into guilt ridden depression if others helped to confirm his beliefs of worthlessness. How could he have been so careless?

He looked down at the man cradled in his arms. Tsuzuki's shaking had lessened, but he could feel the tears still soaking his shirt. He closed his eyes and nuzzled the tussled hair, hiding his face in the chocolate brown locks. "I'm sorry," he murmured. "I'm so sorry."

"Huh?" Tsuzuki tilted his face up. "Tatsumi-san...?"

"Shh," Tatsumi put a finger on the petal soft lips. "Don't say anything. It wasn't your fault. Yes, you did truly mess up this time, but we went a little too far too. We shouldn't have told you off like that. *I* shouldn't have anyway."

Tsuzuki blinked, causing two fat, leftover drops of tears to escape from his eyes followed by a sniff that made his baffled expression all the more adorable. For all intents and purposes he looked unerringly like a kicked puppy.

Tatsumi laughed and touched the puppy's nose with his index finger. "It is alright Tsuzuki-san. Everything is ok now. Nobody hates you at Meifu. They are all worried about you, the way you disappeared all of the sudden. Kurosaki-kun was so concerned he couldn't go home. In fact, it was he who asked me to come here and look for you, and Konoe backed it up with an order. See, we all care for you very much." Before he knew what he was doing he bent forward and placed a kiss on the tip of Tsuzuki's nose, surprising himself as well as making Tsuzuki blush a deep red and go into full puppy mode.

There was an awkward silence after that when Tatsumi looked at Tsuzuki worriedly. Had he gone too far? Especially since Tsuzuki was just recovering from the advances of one psychopathic stalker. The feeling lingered until Tsuzuki smiled brilliantly. It was as if fireworks had gone up in the sky all over again. His smile was more beautiful than any of the preparations made to adorn the coming of the spring.

"Aa, are you serious Tatsumi-san? You are not mad at me anymore?"

Tatsumi chuckled. "No, I'm not, and neither are the others. Now, come on. Lets go back." He began helping the other shinigami to his feet.

Tsuzuki's face fell all of a sudden and he clutched his stomach with his arm. As if to help his miserable display convey the message more clearly, his stomach growled and the blush on his face deepened.

Tatsumi looked at him. "Tsuzuki-san, is something the matter?"

Tsuzuki shook his head, plastering the familiar smile on his face. "No, I'm, just a little hungry."

"When did you last eat?"

"Hmm...uh, this morning, I think. The bakery had put out a new assortment of cupcakes and I had to have some. But they were soooooo expensive so I could only get a few and ate them right there. After that, I had no more money to buy food."

Tatsumi bit his lip, remembering his angry declaration that Tsuzuki should not be given any money for food. Did he really mean that when he'd said it, or was is just an upshot of his anger? Poor Tsuzuki, no wonder he had acted so carelessly.

He softened his expression and said, "All right. Let's eat first then. It's late but I'm sure we'll be able to find an overnight diner here. My treat."

Tsuzuki looked up at him, eyes sparkling and surprised. A smile, a genuine one this time, graced his lips. "Really, Tatsumi-san? You will do that for me?"

"Yeah, and I'll also lift the ban on your food budget." Tsuzuki beamed and puppy ears perked up. "But you'll have to work overtime to finish all your paperwork and tally all the expenses you have caused with your little explosive performance." The ears dropped. Tsuzuki nodded silently, then cheered up again and grabbed Tatsumi's hand to pull him to one of the adjacent streets. "Come, Tatsumi-chan, there is a great bakery café right around the corner. They should be opened by now. Even if they aren't, we can teleport ourselves inside and eat some of their goodies."

Tatsumi shook his head and suppressed a grin. Things were back to normal.

"That is called 'breaking and entering' Tsusuki-san, and you know it is illegal by law."

"But we're not breaking anything, are we? It should be all right. Besides, I'll bake anything I eat right back onto their shelves."

"That will be a direct involvement in food poisoning of innocent citizens."

"Aww, Tatsumi, you're so mean. My cooking isn't that bad. Remember that time I made..."

Their voices faded as they walked further into the maze of the nearby streets. The streetlamps started to go out one by one as the sky overhead slowly turned from black to dark blue to purple to pink, heralding the approach of the dawn. As the city began to slowly wake up, two tall figures dressed in elegant, long coats walked up one street and disappeared into the warmth and aroma of a small bakery café that was just opening its doors to the light of the new day.


--------------- A/N: I never intended for Muraki to be in this story but he wormed his way into the scenes and wouldn't leave unless I let him play with Tsuzuki a little. I don't know what's wrong with that perverted man. Please don't forget to review.