Author's Notes – Not manga based, AU for the final episode of the anime. This chapter is fairly short, but it's just an introduction for what is currently looking to be around six chapters or so.

Disclaimer – I don't own any of the recognisable characters or concepts. No copyright infringement is intended and no profit is being made.

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Tatsumi's shadows had caught Tsuzuki up and wrapped him safely in soft, intangible darkness seconds before the building came crumbling down around them, but in his dreams, Tsuzuki still knelt in the centre of his own funeral pyre.

Muraki's laboratory had been plunged into chaos. Touda's eerie screeches split the air as glass, metal, concrete all exploded into fire under Tsuzuki's will. He was at the very centre of the madness, a willing sacrifice kneeling in the heart and eye of the storm he orchestrated around him. The superheated air was whipped into a fury by the unnatural breezes he had called up, a lethal maelstrom of flames capable of consuming anything in its path, but Tsuzuki could feel none of the heat and no fear either, even as he stared straight into the heart of the destruction around him. There was a very still, safe place right at the core of his being where he had retreated to now, and nothing could reach him there.

Muraki was still alive. The fire had yet to take him and he began to stir, the crackle and roar of the flames drowning out the sound as he came round, choking up mouthfuls of his own blood. One pale hand clenched, slowly dragging himself up until he managed to stand, almost bent double, his silver hair trapping the flickering red and gold of Touda's cleansing flames. The floor at his feet was soaked crimson, and he spat blood and shot Tsuzuki a hateful look. A faint flickering light began to stir around him, the beginnings of a teleport spell too weak to do anything.

Something heavy crashed down from the ceiling and shattered into splinters inches from where Muraki stood and the doctor stumbled, falling back to his knees as though in prayer. A faint smile crossed Tsuzuki's face as he reached out to Muraki, and Touda's coils wrapped around the two of them, sealing them inexorably in an unholy circle of smoke and flame.

"We are the descendants of darkness," He said simply, meeting Muraki's mismatched eyes. There was no hatred or malice in his voice, not any more. "Die with me,"

Tsuzuki knelt there as the shikigami's otherworldly flames began to close in, and it felt like coming home. This was the natural concluding scene in their drawn-out little psychodrama. He and Muraki were nothing but two sides of one coin, both pledged to save and doomed to kill. Muraki had been made, but he was born this way, and some things could not be reforged by any flame. He was a mongrel caught between two worlds, an anomaly in space and time, a mistake that should never have been allowed to draw its first cursed breath. He had walked amongst humans in their own form and brought them only misery wherever his shadow had fallen, and now he was too tired to keep fighting against the legacy written in his own warped DNA. Misfortune's child, cursed from birth, bad luck and malice running in his veins. He had tried to let the poison out time and time again, only to be dragged back from the brink of death by his own treacherous, unnatural nature.

Touda reared up before him, the shikigami's dark eyes reflecting back fathomless depths of fire and ruin, eyes that had watched countless dynasties fall and kingdoms crumble to dust. One could lose themselves forever there, in the heart of those flames. He opened his arms to the cleansing fire and before it consumed him, the last things he saw were two heart-breakingly clear green eyes, the only thing still in the middle of all the madness.

I won't let you lose yourself like this

He woke up abruptly, back in one of the medical rooms in the Summons Division. The flames from his dreams instantly melted away in the cool, still surroundings. Everything here was calm and clear- white walls, crisp sheets, the window framing a wash of creamy cherry blossom against a pastel sky. The silence was only broken by the soft sounds of distant birdsong and a machine to his side emitting a mild beeping every so often as it monitored his heart rate. Tsuzuki lay there for a second, disorientated. He felt a little strange, bruised and raw and somehow cleansed, as though he had been flayed open to the core and some anomaly had been cut out and drained.

"Tsuzuki?" Tatsumi came awake, sat in a chair besides the bed. There were deep smudges like bruises underneath his weary eyes, and something too gentle in his voice. Everything came back to Tsuzuki then, and he sat up, shoving the sheets back.

"Did Hisoka get out okay?"

There was the faintest tremor across Tatsumi's calm features at the mention of Hisoka's name. "I think it's best if you talk to Watari about that," He said as he stood, leaving the room and returning a moment later with the scientist at his side. Watari crossed the room and stood there for a moment. His hair had almost entirely came loose from its ponytail, and he had the same exhausted look about him as Tatsumi.

"Glad to see you're awake so early, Tsuzuki," Watari said, his voice more subdued than normal. "Tatsumi managed to get you out complete unhurt, and there's no reason at all why you won't make a full recovery in time,"

"What about Hisoka?"

Watari looked uncomfortable. "Physically, Hisoka is fine. Touda's flames didn't touch him. But mentally.." He sat down on the bed next to Tsuzuki and cleared his throat. "He is in a bad way, Tsuzuki,"

"What happened?" Tsuzuki demanded, Watari flinching minutely from him.

"Well, we really don't know," Watari took off his glasses and began polishing them, clearly agitated. His honey-coloured eyes were flickering everywhere, except to meet Tsuzuki's own. "We've never had anything like this happen before. I'm not familiar with empaths either, and knowing just one is hardly a representative sample to draw conclusions from-"

"What happened?" Tsuzuki asked again, his voice very still and his eyes suddenly clear and focused.

"We think seeing you in pain was too much for Hisoka to handle, and we do know that empathy can be turned on others- whether to hurt or to heal. That much is quite well documented, and you've seen for yourself how taking on another's emotions could affect an empath. As for Hisoka.. this is purely in the realms of speculation, but the hypothesis is that somehow, he attempted to absorb all your pain and it caused some kind of an overload. A breakdown, if you will,"

"He tried to take the pain away, and it was too much for him to cope with," Tatsumi clarified.

"Take me to him," Tsuzuki said, struggling out of the neatly folded blankets. Watari wrung his hands together, looked anguished and then apparently decided not to say anything. He turned silently and lead them down the hall towards another room, his little owl nestled against his hair, quiet and still for once.

"Hisoka?" Watari asked, unsure. The bed there was empty and rumpled. An IV tube lay coiled on itself, spattering red drops onto the white sheets. For one moment, Tsuzuki found himself idiotically wondering what that was doing there. They had said he was physically fine and Hisoka was a shinigami anyway, he'd have to be very ill to need an IV. Perhaps it was just Watari fussing to try and keep himself busy, monitoring heart signs and breathing rate, finding comfort in the stability of safe, physical things that one could easily fix.

Then the sight of white crumpled empty sheets spattered with red hit him hard and he swayed, one hand on the door frame to steady himself.

"It's okay," Watari was saying over and over, to Hisoka or Tsuzuki, he didn't know. The scientist had crossed over to the other side of the bed and was standing there awkwardly looking at something on the floor, first leaning forward with his arms outstretched, then drawing back hesitantly.

"Here," Tatsumi said quietly, one hand on Watari's shoulder and moving the scientist back out of the way. "Come on, Hisoka,"

"Hisoka?" Tsuzuki asked, his voice catching in his throat. The other shinigami bent down and then straightened carefully, cradling the boy in his arms as though he was very, very fragile. He turned to face the others. Hisoka's hand was clenched in Tatsumi's shirt as though it was a lifeline. His eyes were as brittle and empty as green glass, and they saw nothing.