A/N: I'd like to dedicate this one to the lovely Amethyst-eyed Koneko for her kindness in giving this a last minute read through for me. u
"Tsuzuki, wake up!" Watari cried, shaking the drugged shinigami back to consciousness. "The Sword of Serpents has been stolen." Tsuzuki bolted upward, shaking his head to clear it.
"Muraki has possessed Hisoka," Tsuzuki said, rushing from the room with Watari in pursuit. They left the palace quickly and made their way across the city. The others were waiting at the end of the causeway that led from Tenochtitlan.
"Xiuhcoatl sleeps in her mountain temple. I will take you there," Hohoq said, leading them towards the hills beyond the city.
"How did Muraki get past Byakko and Hohoq?" Tsuzuki asked Watari.
"Quetzacoatl and Tezacoatl lied about the sword being in the chamber they were guarding, the damned fools," Watari said. "Muraki must have used Hisoka's empathy to find clues as to where it was really hidden."
"I just hope Hisoka is all right," Tsuzuki said.
They hiked through the thick forest that covered the mountainside quickly, occasionally coming across the ruins of other temples, the stony edifices taking on a mysterious, ghostly aura in their vine covered shrouds. Hohoq eventually stopped before one that seemed in no way remarkable from the ones they'd previously encountered.
"Here is where she sleeps. I only hope we are not too late," the thunder god said, pulling back the vines clinging to the dark entrance.
Torches lit the dim, narrow corridor, which sloped steadily downward into the earth. The pathway leveled out, taking them to a large, shadowy corridor ahead, when they heard childish laughter echo through the hallway. The shinigami looked at one another in confusion.
"Xiuhcoatl is awake, then," Hohoq said softly, leading them to the opening of the chamber. "Byakko and I can go no further. She has set up a barrier to prevent the intrusion of her brothers."
"But we'll need your help, surely!" Watari exclaimed. "Does this mean Tsuzuki and Jarrett cannot summon the assistance of their shikis?"
"It does," Hohoq said, nodding solemnly. Byakko knelt before Hy, looking up him with a sad smile.
"Last chance, old friend," Byakko said, giving the confused boy a pleading look as he took his hand. "We need you, okay?"
Byakko stood and squeezed Hy tightly, giving him a little push through the door, and sighing with relief as it became apparent that he was able to breach the barrier without harm.
"You'll have one shiki with you," Byakko said with a wink, as the others followed Hy.
Hisoka lay unconscious on the stone floor. Tsuzuki immediately went to his side, as they looked upon a rather curious scene. Muraki appeared before them, shimmering with silvery light like an apparition, and was crouching before a small, innocent looking girl holding a sword engulphed with blue flame.
"Do you challenge me, white demon? Do you truly wish for the destruction I can bring?" Xiuhcoatl asked, her large black eyes staring up imploringly from beneath a tiny crown of feathers.
"Yes, fire serpent, grant me the weapon that I may use to make you mine," Muraki said, his voice echoing strangely as his form grew more stable.
"Don't give it to him!" Tsuzuki cried from where he sat with Hisoka in his arms.
"Has the world grown peaceful yet? My master used to tell me about the wars and destruction and the evils of your world, in dreams," the girl said with a weary sigh. The chamber shook as she spoke, cracks spreading in the stone walls.
"It is far more corrupt and foul than you could ever imagine, fair goddess," Muraki said, drawing closer to her. "There is nothing worth saving." Xiuhcoatl looked up at the doctor with tearful eyes, extending a tiny hand.
"Show me," she asked.
"No! Don't listen to him, please," Tsuzuki pleaded, as Muraki placed his palm to hers. Xiuhcoatl released a small gasp, her eyes wide, as she tore her hand away from Muraki's with a sob.
"It is as you say," she said, sadly, lowering the sword slowly, and turning the handle towards Muraki.
"My challenge precedes this being's, does it not?" a voice asked clearly, causing all to turn and look to the place where Hy had been standing. In his place stood a thin and tired looking man, his scraggly brown and gray hair pulled back in a sloppy braid, and a sharp toothed smirk on his lips.
"Amarok," Xiuhcoatl said with surprise, pulling them sword back towards her. "You lost your challenge long ago." Amarok's eyes narrowed.
"If you had defeated me, I would have been destroyed. You did me no service by sparing my life. I do not consider my challenge fulfilled," Amarok said.
"You challenged me because you did not see how a fit ruler could allow themself a master, and yet I see you have one of your own now," Xiuhcoatl said furiously, her eyes reflecting the flame of her sword.
"I have no master!" Amarok growled. "I have a host. A host within whom I could sleep after the humiliation of your unwanted mercy. And I see that I was not incorrect in my reasons to challenge you, hiding away and letting those brothers of yours run things, and now turning over the fate of the world to this man!"
"Very well," Xiuhcoatl said. "I accept your challenge. All of you must leave. This is between Amorok and I."
"And what of his host?" Jarrett asked.
"Leave!" Xiuhcoatl roared, causing the cavern to shake.
Muraki's form quivered slightly, as he looked at Tsuzuki.
"Do not think you have defeated me, my love, with this one failure. But I'm sure you know better. You of all beings know just how resourceful I can be. I'm sure you've discovered how I used Mr. Greenwood's resources to allow me to breach the borders of Eden. This experiment has been most educational, even if my exact goal was not met. I'll be going back to our realm now, where my body will be waiting for me in full health. Perhaps we'll continue our little dance there? I do look forward to it. Be sure to give my poppet my gratitude for so willingly letting me use his body again," Muraki said with a smirk as he faded away.
Xiuhcoatl began to grow and change, becoming a frightening and massive form of scale and flame. Her great serpentine body uncoiled, a piercing shriek emitting from her fanged mouth. Amarok revealed his form as the great dire wolf at last, his eyes flashing yellow as he howled.
Tsuzuki gathered Hisoka in his arms and followed the others out of the temple, as the ground began to shake violently beneath them.
"She knew all along that Amarok was the one who would not just defeat, but truly destroy her," Hohoq said, as the sounds of the battle bellowed from beneath the ground. "This is why she spared him until a time when his rage and resentment could fulfill her prophecy."
Tsuzuki laid Hisoka on the ground, kneeling beside him and stroking his hair from his face as his eyelashes began to flutter.
"Are you all right?" Tsuzuki asked. Hisoka nodded, sitting up and leaning against his partner, shaking.
"I could see everything that happened, and yet I couldn't do anything about it," Hisoka said. "When he -- when he had you pinned down --" Tsuzuki hushed him, shaking his head.
"It's okay. I'm fine. Did he hurt you?" Tsuzuki asked.
"No. Everything's all right now," Hisoka said, looking up. "I love you, Tsuzuki."
"I love you, too," Tsuzuki murmured softly, holding Hisoka tightly.
"He's still out there, but at least he's out of Eden now," Hisoka said with a sigh. "Do you think that's really what he wants? To destroy everything, including himself?" Tsuzuki shook his head.
"I really don't know. Men crave weapons that will destroy their world for the power they can wield over others just by having them. That kind of power over life and death would certainly appeal to Muraki," Tsuzuki said.
A loud explosion rumbled from the earth, and everything went still. Jarrett ran towards the temple.
"Jarrett! You can't go in there! Even if the tunnel hasn't collapsed yet, it still may," Watari called, following him. Jarrett ignored him, disappearing into the gaping entrance.
"I will protect him," Hohoq said, and disappeared.
A few tense moments later, Jarrett and his shiki emerged, Jarrett carrying the crumpled body of his partner. The others looked at the pair expectantly.
"They destroyed each other. It's over," Hohoq said. Byakko nodded, his head hanging low as he turned away.
Watari made his way to Jarrett's side, as the other man sank to his knees, still clutching Hy to his chest.
"Please don't die," Jarrett said hoarsely, looking down at the still, dirt streaked face of his partner. Watari coaxed Jarrett to release him, with soothing reassurances, examining the boy's body carefully when Jarrett at last laid him on the ground.
"He'll be okay, Jarrett," Watari said with a smile. Jarrett looked at him gratefully, stroking the boy's now solid colored hair. Hy began to stir, peering up with gray eyes.
"Did I turn into a slobbering wolfhound again?" Hy asked weakly. Jarrett laughed, tears streaming down his face.
"Yeah, son, you sure did."
The next day, the shinigami prepared to leave Eden through the eastern gate. The palace of Motecuhzoma was silent, as the serpent gods mourned for their sister. They stood at the base of the massive building, waiting for Hohoq to emerge and send them home.
"Hohoq will probably be able to influence the kings a bit and keep things from getting out of control here. They're probably feeling pretty vulnerable without their sis. Even as arrogant as they are, they know she was the only one of them with any sense," Byakko said with a half hearted grin as they said their goodbyes.
"Thank you, Byakko," Tsuzuki said, embracing the tiger shiki. "Say hi to the others for me, okay?"
"Sure thing! Have a safe trip," Byakko said, brightening somewhat, before disappearing.
"Before I forget," Jarrett said, muttering under his breath.
"What now?" Kokopelli asked irritably, appearing over their heads with his arms crossed.
"You can let Mat-gwas go," Jarrett said. Kokopelli landed on the ground before his master with a thump, looking up at him disdainfully.
"Is that all?" the lust god asked expectantly.
"That is all," Jarrett said with with an amused grin. "Oh, and also, thanks." Kokopelli's bottom lip quivered slightly, before he leapt into Jarrett's arms, nearly knocking him over.
"You're leaving, aren't you?" Kokopelli asked, batting his large pink eyes. "Aren't you going to kiss me goodbye first?" Jarrett groaned, placing a quick peck to the lust god's forehead before dropping him.
"Is that the best you can do?" Kokopelli whined, floating to the ground and disappearing with a flash of light.
"How is Hy?" Hisoka asked, not seeing him anywhere.
"Losing Amarok's presence has weakened him considerably. He will be fine, but there will be after effects, I fear," Jarrett said with a frown. "I asked Hohoq to bring him when he is ready, so that he may rest."
Hohoq appeared at the entrance to the palace, supporting Hy as he descended the steps.
"We will be emerging at the Louisiana office. You are more than welcome to come home with us and rest before your return," Jarrett said.
"We may just take you up on that," Tsuzuki said with a smile, receiving a weary nod from Hisoka.
"Wonderful! I'd love to see the home of Jarrett St. Cin!" Watari said.
Tsuzuki and Hisoka followed the others through the swampy woods near the home of their friends. Hy hobbled along weakly, before Jarrett swept him into his arms, carrying him.
"What do you say we put in for our vacation after this?" Tsuzuki asked as they walked along.
"Didn't you get enough rest and recreation in Eden?" Hisoka asked.
"Oh, come on, some of it was pretty stressful," Tsuzuki whined. "I almost got thrown in a volcano!" Hisoka looked unconvinced. "And almost molested by Muraki!" Hisoka still said nothing. "I broke a nail?"
"Okay, already," Hisoka said with exasperation. "Where could you possibly want to go after all that running around?" Tsuzuki stopped him, stealing a kiss.
"Who said I want to go anywhere?" Tsuzuki asked with a wink. Hisoka colored slightly, looking ahead to see if the others were watching.
"Sounds good," Hisoka said with a small smile, giving Tsuzuki a quick peck before they continued.
As they joined the others in the clearing, they saw Jarrett speaking with a woman who was waiting by their cabin. Hy stirred sleepily in Jarrett's arms, his eyes widening as he recognized Adelina St. Cin. He pushed himself away from Jarrett, who sat him on the ground.
"Please, where is he?" Hy asked weakly, taking a shaky step forward and looking around. Adelina pointed to the back of the house, scarcely looking at him, her lips drawn in a severe frown. Watari stepped forward to help support him as he stumbled unsteadily to where she had indicated.
"Why did you bring him back?" Jarrett asked. Adelina sighed.
"Because he was miserable. And because I love him. I always have my children's best interests at heart, unlike some," Adelina said. "We have been waiting in this hovel of yours for over a week waiting for you to turn up."
"You did the right thing, Adelina," Jarrett said.
"I still do not approve. But he would not eat, he would not return to work -- he has always been such an obedient child before. I do not know where this stubborn streak came from," Adelina said.
"He must have got it from you," Jarrett and Adelina said simultaneously, eyeing each other with surprise. Jarrett laughed.
"Yes, he could have got it from me as well," Jarrett said. "You are welcome to stay with us a while." Adelina shook her head.
"No. It was difficult enough to be away as long as I have. But Michael will stay with you now, until this thing runs it's course. I will speak to the Ministry about his transfer to your summons department for the time being. If his partner will not come here, I'm sure they can find him another," Adelina said with a weary sigh. Jarrett stepped forward, taking her hand.
"I do not think this is a simple whim of his, Adelina. You know as well as I do the determination it must have taken for him to defy you. He always was your favorite," Jarrett said with a gentle smile. "Be happy for him, darling. Believe me when I say that he couldn't do any better. Hy is a fine boy. Will you at least stay for dinner so that you can meet him?"
Jarrett and Adelina continued their discussion, as Tsuzuki walked around the cabin.
"I just want to make sure Watari's giving them their privacy," Tsuzuki explained with a smile as Hisoka followed him. To their surprise, they came upon Watari sitting on the back stoop, a respectful distance from where the boys sat by the creek side, Hy's head resting on Michael's shoulder.
"Oh, there you are," Watari said, wiping away a tear before putting his glasses back on. "Aren't they sweet?"
Tsuzuki whistled happily, walking back into their apartment with the mail to where Hisoka was setting breakfast on the table.
"Hey, we got a postcard from Hy and Michael!" Tsuzuki said. "They're in Sighisoara."
"That's really great," Hisoka said. Tsuzuki frowned as he opened the next envelope, and sat beside his partner at the table.
"Don't tell me. Tatsumi's weekly expense report?" Hisoka asked.
"I can't believe he's still docking so much from my pay," Tsuzuki groaned. "Big meanie." Hisoka buttered his toast, rolling his eyes.
"Let's see, two libraries, half the buildings in --" Hisoka muttered.
"Okay, okay, I know!" Tsuzuki said with a pout, stabbing a waffle with his fork.
"Hey, speaking of Tatsumi," Hisoka said slowly. "It's been kind of quiet around here lately." Tsuzuki grinned.
"You mean Watari hasn't been popping in unexpectedly the whole time we've been off? Now what makes you connect that thought with Tatsumi, pray tell?" Tsuzuki asked teasingly. Hisoka looked at his plate with a scowl.
"Nothing. Tatsumi just reminds me of work, and work is where Watari is, and maybe his absence has something to do with Tatsumi," Hisoka rambled. "In a completely work related way," he added. Tsuzuki laughed.
"Whatever you say, baby. I know you don't like to speculate on other people's love lives," Tsuzuki said.
"I'm just more interested in my own," Hisoka said, looking up with a smoldering gaze that made Tsuzuki pause mid bite.
"Our breakfast will get cold," Tsuzuki said, as Hisoka stood up from his chair.
"We can re-heat it," Hisoka said, slinking around the table.
"All this yummy stuff you put on the waffles will go to waste," Tsuzuki said, gesturing at the whipped cream covered strawberries.
"No it won't," Hisoka murmured, dipping a finger in the topping and smearing it over Tsuzuki's neck. Tsuzuki moaned as Hisoka began to lick it away.
"Well, in that case," Tsuzuki said, pulling Hisoka into his lap with a grin.
A/N: Thank you so much to all my regular reviewers who have been so kind and inspirational throughout this crazy story. I love you guys! Lucy May