TITLE: Fever
Part of the Darkness Unleashed series

AUTHOR: Macx

DISCLAIMER: not mine. Definitely not! I just play with them and hope I tread on no one's toes.

Author's Voice of Warning (aka Author's Note):
English is not my first language; it's German. This is the best I can do. Any mistakes you find in here, collect them and you might win a prize g The spell-checker said everything's okay, but you know how trustworthy those thingies are.....

ARCHIVE: yes

WARNINGS: Some Hisoka/Tsuzuki moments, but nothing more than a kiss.

Slight change from one scene in the Kyoto arc: the Count didn't visit Tsuzuki. In our take on him he's restrained to the palace and the palace grounds. We took that idea from the masquerade scene where he says the palace is his prison.

FOCUS: Tsuzuki, the Count – no, not what you think! Sheesh!

RATING: PG-13

FEEDBACK: empty inbox seeks emails g

The man lying in the huge bed was flushed with fever, his skin hot, dry, but also glistening with sweat. Chapped lips opened, a gasp escaped the parched mouth, and eyes roamed behind closed lids. For a moment the eye lids cracked open, the glassy, violet color barely visible, then they slid shut again. He clawed at the rumpled sheets and tried to push the blanket off the heated body.

Hands reached for the feverish man, brushed the weakly moving hands aside and gently drew up the blankets. A soft moan voiced the protest, but the prone man was too weak to really do anything. The same hands stroked over the hot face, gentle, loving.

"Shhh, it's okay. It's okay…"

The voice was just as soft and gentle and loving, but also sad.

Tsuzuki Asato whimpered again, twisting in the sheets, trying to escape from the nightmares that held him in their grasp. He whispered something, too soft to be heard by the sole watcher, but the tone of voice said it all. It was panicky, pained, filled with need and despair.

One hand continued to stroke while the other grabbed the flailing hand of the insensate patient.

"I wish I could take away the dreams, Tsuzuki. I wish I could do more, but there is nothing. Nothing at all."

Eyes the color of blood strayed from the sick man to the darkness outside the windows. It was night, the second night Tsuzuki was here, and the second night there was nothing to do but sit and wait for the nightmares to pass, for the body to quiet down, then try and feed liquids into the poisoned system. Tsuzuki was strong, he was a fighter, but the creature had doused him with a dose of almost lethal poison and that poison was now running through his blood, emanating from his very pores, and no one could get close – except for a select few.

It had been the reason why Tsuzuki wasn't in the medical facility of Meifu. He was contagious and whoever of the shinigami came too close might catch the same symptoms.

So he had been brought to the only safe place in this realm, a place that was secluded, was a prison to the one being residing in it – the Palace of Candles.

The Count looked at his guest, visitor and patient. A sad smile flitted over his features. Of course he had agreed to have the handsome shinigami in his home, in his bed, so to speak, but his thoughts were far from erotic.

"Any other time I would have been delighted to have you here," he whispered. "Any other time I would have seduced you, Asato, you know?"

Tsuzuki shivered, curling up, another cold spell hitting him. His eyes were screwed shut and a steep line of pain was visible on his forehead. The hand the Count was still holding clenched around his.

"You are the best thing that ever happened to me," he murmured. "You are what I needed to go on. You were a ray of sunshine in a cursed existence. I'm sentenced to be alone, without a chance to be pardoned, and it was hell. But then you came. You're so alive, Asato, so wonderfully warm and innocent and powerful. You're what makes this miserable existence worthwhile again. You're brighter than all the candles put together."

He chuckled and pushed a rogue strand out of the hot forehead.

"You'll never know what I feel for you. More than I could ever imagine feeling again, more than I thought anyone could feel. I have to hide from the world, from myself, from those who sometimes come by. I can never come to you and your friends; I have to rely on visitors."

The Count smiled again, his face visible to the world. But the world was just one unconscious, feverish shinigami. The mask lay on the nightstand, forgotten. It was his punishment, his cross to bear. He would never be able to look at this man and have him see him. He could never smile at this wonderful being and tell him that Tsuzuki made him live.

"You've come so far, my friend," he whispered, never stopping the caresses. "You overcame obstacles others would never have attempted to cross. You are the life line of so many, changed so much without ever attempting to… and I wish… just once… I could look into your eyes, face your power, have you look at me in turn, and smile."

He leaned down, placing a chaste kiss on the hot forehead.

"I love you, Tsuzuki Asato, and I can never have you. I would never take what you will not give; I could never force you."

He liked to play with the shinigami's inexperience, with the innocence that was so innate as was his power. He liked to see him flustered, embarrassed, maybe even slightly bothered, but he had never gone too far. The Count knew that had he been persistent in the past, he might have gotten what he had desired back then.

Not now.

Not any more.

Tsuzuki had a partner now, he had Hisoka. The boy was what this man needed, and Tsuzuki was perfect for the bitter and sometimes emotionally cold young man.

"You found what you need," he murmured. "You found happiness, and it's all I need. Your happiness is my life. I need you, Tsuzuki. Never leave; never try to leave again."

His suicide attempt had shaken the Count's world, had made him want to break the barriers of his prison, run to the medical wing, see that this wonderful man was all right. And it had made him want to throttle Tsuzuki, demand reasons, an answer… even though he had known.

He knew Tsuzuki wasn't human, had seen and felt it from day one. It was what had attracted him; it was what mesmerized him.

Demon blood. Except for Konoe and Enma-Daiou, only he had known.

Of demon descent. So strong, and so vulnerable in one. You fear that side of you, you have its power and its resilience, but your heart is very much human.

The demonic side was quite strong; it showed in Tsuzuki's abilities, his powers, which had developed a lot lately. The Count could feel the changes, was aware of the tamed darkness, and he smiled sadly again.

Tsuzuki whimpered in his nightmares, twisting, crying out a name.

"No!" came the repeated denial from the delirious man. "Don't… don't hurt him… please…!"

"No one's hurting him," the Count reassured him softly.

One of the nightmares Tsuzuki had fought through lately. One of many that dealt with death and punishment and his shikigami; or with pain and agony and an old ghost… Muraki. The man was no longer a threat, was no longer here, but his ghost would be in Tsuzuki's subconsciousness for a while to come.

"He didn't mean it," Tsuzuki whimpered. "Didn't… Touda!"

The scream was ear drum shattering and the slender body almost bolted from the bed.

"No!" Tsuzuki screamed. "NO!"

He had little time to think as the other man tried to lunge up. The Count caught the hot body and held on as Tsuzuki screamed and pleaded and cried, fighting invisible bonds, crying for his shikigami, tears tracking down his feverish cheeks.

He held him. He caressed the sweaty back, held the shaking man as Tsuzuki whimpered, hands clawing into the white shirt, until the shinigami finally sagged, breathing hard.

"Touda…" was the broken plea. "Don't… not his fault… hurts… stop!"

The Count sighed softly. It wasn't the first episode since he had been brought here, and if he was any judge, it wouldn't be the last. Watari had estimated a week for a complete recovery, about three days for the poison to run its course.

"It's all right," he murmured, stroking over the trembling form. "It's okay. You're safe, Touda's safe… it's just a dream…"

Violet eyes, glazed with fever and the echoes of whatever horror they had seen, looked into the Count's inhumanly red ones. He smiled at the child-like expression, the need for reassurance, and ran his hand over Tsuzuki's cheek.

"Get some sleep, Asato. You need to recover. Your body needs to heal."

He didn't know if the other man heard him, but the violet eyes slid shut and he felt the body in his arms slacken. Placing him gently back onto the sheets that would need changing soon, the Count sighed softly.

You're my life, he thought. My light, my reason to continue this cursed life. You came when I was close to losing everything, myself, my mind… and you brought me back. You'll never know all of this Tsuzuki Asato, and no one will ever be able to tell you. I'll protect you, what you are… what I need, just like so many others.

And he would never touch this man in a way that would blemish this light.

Another sad smile crossed the thin lips.

"In another life I wouldn't have let you off like that," he murmured and pulled up the blanket. Tsuzuki was sleeping more peacefully now. "In another life I wouldn't have been deterred by Hisoka. I would have pursued you, wooed you… but this isn't that life."

But he had also been warned not to touch this man, though he had no idea what else could be done to him by the means of punishment. This was the ultimate horror already – the loneliness.

With a last, gentle caress he rose and straightened. Slightly shaking fingers picked up the mask and looked at it.

My curse.

My punishment.

I deserve it, and I do not deserve you, Tsuzuki.

And he slipped it on, becoming invisible to the world, turning into the transparent being everyone knew. He settled back, eyes on his feverish charge, as he had done the other night before.

The night passed, turned into morning, and for the first time Tsuzuki actually woke up with some sort of conscious awareness of who he was, though he had no idea where exactly had ended up.

His memories were a jumble. Mostly of a fight, of some hellish creature, and then the pain as he was bitten. Fire burning down his veins, tearing him apart… poison… He had been poisoned.

Everything else was a blur.

Now his slightly unfocused gaze roamed around an unfamiliar room and his mind fought to remember more. But he drew a blank.

Getting up was no easy task and his knees buckled several times, the young man holding onto the massive, wooden bed, the wall, the chairs, whatever there was. He stumbled over to the door, the only exit of the room he was in, and he managed to get out into the corridor.

He blinked as his vision swam, as his body announced that he wasn't fully healed, that he required rest. He managed three more steps before his knees finally gave way and he sank onto the carpeted ground in the wide hallway, moaning softly.

Where was he?

Why was he here?

This wasn't the medical facility…

Touda? he sent through the bond.

There was no answer, just silence.

Touda?!

It was like running into darkness. Not the familiar, cool darkness of his serpent shikigami's presence. This was just… emptiness.

Touda!

A sob escaped his throat and he curled up, flinging the bond as wide open as he was capable, frantically searching for the one who belonged to him.

Someone touched him, talked to him, and his wavering vision showed him… nothing. Just… a mask. Half a mask. The Count? Why was the Count here? And if it was really him… then Tsuzuki had to be at the palace?

Why?

"Gone…" he whimpered.

The voice was soothing, reassuring, but he couldn't make out any particular words. He was sliding back into unconsciousness, but the cold, dark place where Touda was missing was there with him, an open wound that hurt bitterly.