A/N: This is the fourth installment in a series, beginning with Sweetness, Ephemeral and the Imaginary World. In all honesty, I have my doubts as to whether it will ever be finished, so be forewarned.

Tsuzuki gave a sigh of relief and shook his head sadly as the old woman faded from sight, leaving only her earthly body behind in the darkened back room of the closed pet shop. He had finally managed to send her to what he hoped would be a better place after two weeks of trying to determine and resolve the reason she had outstayed her time among the living for so long. She had been listed on the Kiseki for nearly a month, but had refused to move on for fear of what would become of her pet shop, as she was the last one surviving among her relatives, with the exception of a daughter that she had given up for adoption when she was very young.

Chief Konoe had been a bit impatient with him as he had tried and finally succeeded in helping the woman find her long lost daughter, but Tatsumi had intervened on his behalf, and using the resources of the Gushoshin's records, he had managed to locate her quickly.

Despite collecting reluctant souls being an aspect of his job that he hardly enjoyed, and being saddened that he couldn't give the woman more time with her new found daughter, there had been a few pleasant aspects of their latest closed case. Hisoka had seemed to relish his undercover role as a nice boy taking his first job in a pet shop. Tsuzuki had been surprised at the affinity the young man seemed to have with taking care of the animals. He found it rather adorable.

He watched as the quiet boy cradled one the shop's kittens, nuzzling it affectionately as his wide green eyes rose to meet Tsuzuki's. Tsuzuki smiled and sniffed, before having a particularly bad sneezing fit and causing the feline to panic and jump from Hisoka's arms. Another thing he had discovered on this case was that he had a rather nasty allergy to cats.

Hisoka gave a funny little half smile, scooping the kitten from the floor and returning him to his cage.

"So it's finished?" Hisoka asked, handing his partner a handkerchief. Tsuzuki nodded.

"Goodbye," Hisoka said softly to the five kittens in the cage he'd just locked. Tsuzuki wiped his watering eyes, and smiled at his partner lovingly.

"I'm afraid with my allergies we can only take one back home with us," Tsuzuki said. Hisoka's eyes widened.

"B - but, with your allergies, we shouldn't take any of them!" Hisoka said incredulously. Tsuzuki cocked his head to one side with a pouting look, and caressed Hisoka's cheek with his fingers.

"But I can't let you leave without a kitty!" Tsuzuki cried, glancing at the tiny mewing creatures in the cage. Hisoka looked from Tsuzuki to the kittens thoughtfully, and looked back to Tsuzuki with gratitude before unlatching the enclosure and lifting out an orange tabby kitten.

He would pick the one with the thickest fur, Tsuzuki thought with a grimace, his sinuses burning.

"We'll see if Watari can find some sort of cure, okay?" Hisoka said hopefully, twitching his finger before the little cat's nose, who swatted at it with his paw.


"Tsuzuki?" Hisoka called, entering their darkened apartment cautiously.

Receiving no answer, he sighed heavily and flipped on the lights, his heart heavy with concern. Not long before, the pair of shinigami had been attending Chief Konoe's birthday party when a sudden, unexpected change had come over his usually cheerful partner. He had sensed dread and fear before Tsuzuki had fled the place without a word, his black coat dissolving into the night as Hisoka tried to follow him.

He had tried to piece together what had upset his lover so greatly on his way back to their home, going carefully over their evening. Tatsumi and Watari had been planning a surprise get together to honor the head of the summons department for nearly a week, and Tsuzuki had been enthusiastic about the event, especially in its promise of free food and alcohol. The party had seemed to go well, the Chief seemed pleased and in good spirits, and Tsuzuki had appeared to be having a good time. He had indulged in quite a bit of cake and sake, and Hisoka had found himself even willing to be good natured through a bit of teasing from Saya and Yuma for his sake, which seemed to make him even happier.

Watari had been working on a project for the event that he had kept top secret from everyone, and they were all surprised to find that the fruit of his efforts had come from the dusty confines of the research department rather than from his lab. Instead of any ponderous gadget devised for the occasion by the eccentric scientist, he had instead pulled out a slide projector to give a retrospective of Chief Konoe's long and respected career, beginning with his early days as a shinigami.

Yes, Hisoka thought to himself, it was around this time that he first began to sense some tension from Tsuzuki.

Puzzling over what this all meant, Hisoka toed off his shoes and tread silently to their bedroom, peering inside and finding it completely black. He heard Cousa meow, and felt the cat rub against his leg, pushing her away gently with his foot. Feeling his way through the familiar space, he reached the chair beside the bed and began to undress as his eyes slowly adjusted to the slim beam of moonlight that shone through the curtains.

"I feel you, Tsuzuki. I know that you're trying to block me out, but you're there," Hisoka whispered to a vague dark shadow in the corner of the room. He waited for a reply or a glimpse of movement, but the shadow remained still.

"Suit yourself," Hisoka said, feeling overwhelmed with anger and hurt as he laid his jeans and shirt aside and made his way to the bathroom door in the dim light. He heard Cousa hiss and growl, before making out her small shadow fleeing the room.

He was completely startled to find the light within the bathroom peeking beneath the door, and cried out with alarm as the door swung open, revealing Tsuzuki inside.

"Who are you talking to, Hisoka?" Tsuzuki asked softly, as the boy glanced around dizzily in the glaring light to where he'd seen the shadowy form.

There was no one else in the bedroom.