Title: Thief

Fandom: Yami no Matsuei

Rating: PG-13 at most.

Wordcount: 4,000+

time started: February 28th, 2006

time finished: February 27th 2007

Summary: AU. Kurosaki Hisoka, heir apparent to the Kurosaki lineage and cursed with a 'weak heart' met Tsuzuki Asato long before Meifu.

A/N: As for the timeline, Hisoka is about ten, thus three years before the death!curse and six years before he died. The festival they went to is a Tanbata – Takoyaki is fried octopus with batter and spices, basically.

In this fic I tried a more "normal" writing approach, and I'm still rather proud of it simply because I made myself write something on the longer, less fragmented side.

Also, there's a playlist for it, I'll probably eventually get to uploading it.

Thief - Our Lady Peace

Life Bitter Sweet Love - Dee'ree

Uphill Battle - Sarah Mclachlan

Touch - Sarah Mclachlan

The Fields of Donremy - David Arkenstone

Two Hearts - David Arkenstone

Blue - Cowboy Bebop OST III


I.

Hisoka was serious, even as a child. The stars outside his room seemed so far off, it was pointless to wish on them. What good would it bring? Beyond the windows and the outside world of the garden, farther than the roads which other people traversed on, farther than he could ever reach.

Nothing ever changed– The stains running across the wood grain, the one panel that always creaked, (Hisoka always stepped over that one, lest someone below hear) the solid, perpendicular walls surrounding it. It all remains the same, day in and day out. Time melded together in a dreamy haze of waking and sleeping and existing. Sometimes Hisoka focused on the ticking of the clock, steady as a heartbeat, focused so hard that time would seem to flow backwards.

Through the one window light would filter through, shaded by trees with branches like spindly fingers reaching in, If he listened closely, he could hear the trees speak in a unknown language. He would often put his head to the wall and listen, try to make out words of this fleeting speech. No one else heard this, it was just another anomaly of the Kurosaki heir. (He never wondered why they sounded so sad, to him sadness was natural and unquestioned, some universal law as binding as gravity, something ancient and too much a routine to ever think otherwise)

Hisoka was eight was eight before he first saw the outside world. By then he was tall enough to almost touch the window, and by piling books he could twist and fall to the shelter of the tree limbs and then the gardens outside. When Spring crept into the garden he would slip unnoticed to rest in the branches of budding cherry trees. His yukata hung loose and the night breeze would trace fingers across his skin, whisper him lullabies. The bark was rough between his thighs and would leave red lines where he had lain, but no one ever saw these markings, except for Sensei. ("Do you like the cherry blossoms? It seems they've left their mark on you")

But then, Hisoka was born fragile. Three months premature, each breath was borrowed and breathed into his lungs, Each beat of his heart was one more second of life in his grasp. One more moment of life which he had to fight for.

It started about age five, but for Hisoka it was, always had been. To him it was the simple matter that he saw and felt what they could not, and that choked his very insides.

Two weeks after his fifth birthday was his first 'fit'.

He does not remember much, a blur of images and the whirling sensation of tactile feelings which weren't his – anger, jealousy, sadness, irritation – all becoming one feeling, something sharp and suffocating which seemed to fill his insides like broken glass. The sounds, his and not his, a scream thin and shrill, trying to push away the darkness clawing at him, slithering and crawling in his stomach, up his chest like snakes creeping through his veins. He does not remember much after that, there was colors – white, and black and blue and fragments of sentences.

"He seems to have a heart irregularity, this 'fit' you talked about sounds like a case of a seizure, it would be best to– " it was overhearing those words that changed everything for him.

No longer was he allowed to walk in the main gardens or talk to any of the servants, now he was cloistered away deep in the attic, left with many books, blankets, and the loneliness which was to be his only companion in the days to come.

If anyone asked, he was too sick to see visitors.

Even with the ironclad rule Nagare had over his staff, there was always whispers. Even he couldn't prevent that. (The Kurosaki family is cursed, they would say late at night when he had already left. And they would never work there long, the manor was always in need of helpers. No one wished to catch their misfortune...)

Once a week a tutor would come, but Hisoka never saw her face, a screen was placed between them, made of rice paper and held together with deep mahogany colored boards. He doesn't remember her name, just that her voice was cold, and he rarely felt anything from her, just apathy and annoyance. But he did well with his studies, as she would tell his parents, her voice just as even and without emotion as the time she spent with him.

Other teachers came as well, one to teach archery who always kept far away from his small student, and always kept an amulet to ward away any evil that might lie deep within the Kurosaki heir. Lucky for him, Hisoka learned fast and easily picked up the basics of archery and he did not have to linger there long afterwards explaining the fundamentals.

Sensei was the only one who ever touched him. The rest of the staff either prescribed to the belief that he would crumble under their fingertips or that he was cursed, and their skin would blacken and fall off if they ever drew near him.

"Humanity is so frail" Sensei would say, brushing his fingers against the faintly beating pulse on Hisoka's neck, inspecting vials of clear liquid be injected beneath Hisoka's pale, near translucent skin, running his fingers up the loosened yukata and tracing each rib as if to look for a missing one, the gift to Eve, some trace of immortality in a child's delicate structure.

He was never afraid of Hisoka, far from it, he seemed to regard him with some amusement, as a cat would a particularly interesting bird, and a seemed to take a special interest in his conditions.

Sensei was always clad in white, all white from head to toe, his dress coats were spotless, his shirts and even his white lambskin gloves. When Sensei touched him, it was icy cold and tinged with darkness, the feel of heat disappearing from his fingers, Hisoka longed to draw back, repulsed by this deep black cold behind those charming smiles that Sensei always wore, tight over his face like a performers mask.

"There's nothing to be afraid of, Hisoka" Sensei would say, and smile, but it was cold, horribly cold.

"I'm not" Hisoka would choke out, his lungs desperate for air and his mind half-crazed with the feelings that seeped from Sensei, dark, darker than any moonless night or obsidian, darker than the back of his tightly shut eyelids which failed to bring any comfort.

"Good, it makes it much easier then." And Sensei would continue, his fingers practiced and nails just long enough to sink into Hisoka's flesh as he checked the pulse.

"Inhale. Exhale." he would command, the cool metal of a stethoscope pressed to Hisoka's heart. Listening for the murmur, the irregularity that made the Kurosaki family shelter him high above the house, the child too weak to be exposed to the outside world, lest he shatter.

At the end he would let his fingers run down Hisoka's back, almost appraisingly, and then clean up, while Hisoka played dead, his mind numb and his body locked in a fetal position. Ear to the floor, he could hear the sounds from below.

"Pleasant dreams, Hisoka." The door closed behind him. Hisoka waited until his footsteps receded to let out the breath he hadn't even known he'd been holding.

From below, the voices of wafted up, almost incompressible, but Hisoka could just make them out.

"Don't worry, he'll live." Sensei said. It was only Hisoka who heard the softer, far less gentle.

"For a few more years, at least"

II.

It was summer the first time Hisoka met him.

The cherry blossoms had long fallen and withered on the ground, and now were little more than compost, sticky mud that would catch between his toes when Hisoka walked the gardens by night. The servants believed them haunted, and they were ragged from disuse, taken over by thistles and brambles, weeds and wildflowers. Wind would thrum through the trees, Hisoka always lifted his face up and tried to listen, understand the wispy melancholy that soared through the leaves, rustling like a girl's skirts, and soft sounds like footsteps of small, delicate wooden sandals.

It was then that he caught sight of him.

He was passing though, sweetcake in one hand, apple in the other, a fried meatbun in his mouth, his pockets bulged with unnamed objects, Hisoka guessed them to be food. Tall, but not as tall as Sensei, with rumpled pants and coat as if he had curled up and taken a nap on some spare couch instead of working. The only thing truly noteworthy was his deep amethyst colored eyes, which seemed inhuman, but not unkind, far from that, they sparkled with mischief and seemed vast, deep pools that you could drown in if you weren't careful. He certainly didn't resemble any demon or monster that the servants would whisper about in the kitchens, and made charms to ward away.

"Who are you?" Hisoka said, still hazy from waking from dreamless sleep.

Startled, he froze and nearly choked. Removing the fried meatbun from his mouth, he said, somewhat incredulously "You can see me?"

"Of course I can see you" Hisoka answered, as if the question was absurd. (And indeed it was) "Who areyou?" He repeated, more forceful this time.

"Ahahah, of course you can see me. I'm Tsuzuki Asato." he said, taking another bite of the meatbun before continuing. "You see," he said conspiratorially, as if whispering a secret just between them "Tatsumi never pays for food" Tsuzuki sighed, taking yet another bite of the meatbun, food dribbling down his chin and missing his shirt only by a miracle.

"He doesn't even care if I starve, that stingy bastard – but don't tell him I called him that or he'll have my hide for a rug in his office!"

Hisoka only blinked in response. Even the idiots and drunks from all the books he'd read couldn't compare to Tsuzuki.

"But, you see, the kitchen maids kindly left me some food on a window sill, and even hidden in some easily accessed cupboards" he took another inelegant bite. "It's customary to introduce yourself, by the way."

"Kurosaki Hisoka" he muttered, the words tasting bitter in his mouth.

Hisoka watched, impassive but somewhat curious at this strange person who appeared in his gardens – (as he considered them, no one else walked them, no one else cared for them and they foundered deep in a shade of ragged and unpruned trees, and pools that no one dared cross due to the legends of monsters that lived within.)

"Hey Kurosaki, you're quiet. Are you ok?" Tsuzuki said, and pressed the back of his hand across Hisoka's forehead. The touch was warm against his skin, and Hisoka was surprised. Sensei was the only one who dared to touch him.

"I'm fine , " he said, moving back, almost surprised at the harshness in his voice, Tsuzki just laughed.

"And don't call me 'Kurosaki'. It's unpleasant."

"Oh? Is 'shorty' a better alternative? Or do you prefer ' Hisoka-hime'? " Tsuzki said. He ruffled Hisoka's hair, and got hit several times for it.

"Neither, you idiot! It's 'Hisoka'."

"Sure thing, your majesty " Tsuzuki said leaving with a wink and a wave

By the next day, Tsuzuki was back, still smelling of sugar.

"Want some?" he offered one of the stolen pastries, his hands covered in sticky glaze.

Hisoka ignored the offer. "Ah well, more for me" Tsuzuki said.

Tsuzuki came often, sneaking away to the kitchens to pilfer a bit of food, which he would always eat while sitting in the gardens. There would always be traces, footprints in the soft ground, a foreign sweet scent in the air. Hisoka always came out to meet him, bending and twisting his way out of the room, then making out through the winding paths to where Tsuzuki would appear.

It was a long time before Tsuzuki said anything, and Hisoka basked in the near silence, the rustling of the leaves and the sounds of Tsuzuki, his breathing, even how he chewed. This time, Hisoka didn't try to move farther away from any contact.

Tsuzuki was warm. Even from this short distance he could feel it, kindness, caring, and something foreign to him. Something softer that he couldn't place. It made his heart beat frantically, but was somehow...pleasant. Hisoka didn't fight it, but allowed his mind to drift in a sea of these feelings – Tsuzuki's emotions.

When he finished, Tsuzuki stretched out and sighed "the only thing better than good food is a good nap to go with it, don't you think?" Impervious to Hisoka's silence, he went on. "Aaah, but Tatsumi will skin me alive if I don't get some work done. Sooo– This place seems to hold a lot of spiritual power, is there any legends about it?"

Hisoka didn't answer. "Hisoka?" He leaned over and saw the boy, curled up and resting, almost a trace of a smile.

"He must be having good dreams." Tsuzuki smiled, gently brushing the boy's bangs from his face.

Tsuzuki came the next day as well, and the next and next. Hisoka found himself looking forward to his visits, making a place in his sheltered world and opening little by little each time.

Today as well, he stopped by but much later than usual, not until dusk slunk around, shifty and silent. The spatter of colors pooled, only dispersed by the silhouettes of trees, dark against the horizon.

"I have a job nearby, and besides, there seems to be a disturbance around here, but I'm having trouble finding it"

"Probably because you're only looking in the kitchens" Hisoka muttered under his breath.

"I heard that!" Tsuzuki said, and playfully ruffled Hisoka's hair. Hisoka halfheartedly attempted to smack his hands away.

Work never impeded on Tsuzuki's lunch break, Hisoka had a sneaking suspicion that very few things could.

Again, Tsuzuki offered to share, this time, Hisoka took the offered pastry, if only to find out why this strange man found it so entrancing. The sweetness was almost sickening, it offered no insights on Tsuzuki's personality, no clues as to why he appeared and was sitting next to him, something so sudden and unprepared for.

This time, it was Hisoka broke the silence. "Tsuzuki... What's it like, outside?" He asked, almost too soft to hear.

"Haven't you ever left your house?"

Hisoka shook his head. "Only here."

"Well, I'll show you" Tsuzuki said, fishing in his pockets. The search only brought up a few crumpled 1,000 yen bills and some 500 yen pieces ("Tatsumi is so damn stingy. 'You need to pay what you owe, if you don't pay those debts I'll have to dock your pay, blahblahblah' I swear, he's going to let me starve just to save a few expenses here and there." ) some brightly colored candy wrappers, and a small worn compass ("I have a poor sense of direction." Hisoka was somehow not surprised.)

"Oh, looks like there's not much to show." Tsuzuki said, looking discouraged.

"Obviously." Hisoka murmured.

"Is that anyway to treat your elder?! Che, kids these days"

Abruptly, Tsuzuki stood up and offered a hand.

Hisoka blinked. "What?"

"Don't you want to see what it's like outside?"

Hisoka gulped, a sudden fear gripping him. "It's late."

"Late enough that the members of the house should be otherwise occupied. No one will notice." Tsuzuki said, and smiled.

It seemed a long while as Hisoka decided. Around him, the soft whispers of the garden reverberated like the ticking of a clock, the safety of it versus the unknown of the outside world, his senses sharpened then, cut by adrenaline and fear, a new emotion surged through him,

something completely foreign in this place, his walled view of the sky.

Finally he took the offered hand.

"Hold on tight."

Hisoka looped his arms, entwining his fingers at the nape of Tsuzuki's neck, Tsuzuki's palms at the curve of his spine, Hisoka found himself unconsciously holding his breath.

Tsuzuki scaled the wall as if it was nothing, just a mere anthill to step over.

The outside world looked little different than the world he'd known for long, it left him a little disoriented.

"How did you...?"

"Oh, um, you see... I'm a.. Secret agent! Yes, a secret agent. I have lots and lots of gadgets which let me do all sorts of interesting secret agent things"

"You're horrible at lying" Hisoka muttered, sensing something far different than what he'd described.

"You'd be surprised." with just that moment, he looked so much older and more tired, for that fleeting second, there was a cynicism to dampen all the kindness and innocence and warmth he'd felt radiating before. Hisoka wondered if he really knew this person – this strangeri at all.

It wasn't far to the town, and while it was a short walk, it seemed longer as Tsuzuki took it in languidly, making each step count and often making comments on the scenery as they passed. – This tree was said in mythology to be bad luck, while this reed was used to purify houses from evil spirits.

It wasn't until they were quite a distance from the house that Tsuzuki let Hisoka down, and still kept a firm grip on his wrist. The town lights spread around them, dizzyingly bright, paper decorations hung on shops and doorways, strings of lanterns looked like tiny fireflies in the distance.

Most people who strolled were dressed in dappled kimonos covered in patterns, goldfish, checkers, birds with brilliant plumage. Nestled around them were others in solid colors, darker ones to fill out the

Hisoka was remarkably nonplused for someone who stuck out like a sore thumb in this crowd.

"We should get some takoyaki, it's really good. Wait, have you ever had it?" Tsuzuki said, and

Hisoka shook his head.

The process of making Takoyaki was simple, a bit of grease and dough, the rest was a blur of preparation and movement.

It was only a few minutes before it was finished, and handed without ceremony to him.

In response, Hisoka stared blankly.

"You're supposed to eat it." Tsuzuki said, and popped it into his mouth.

In between mouthfuls Tsuzuki explained the significance of the festival, pointing out each constellation, of Orihime the weaver princess and Hikoboshi the cowheard, and the celestial river of the milky way that separated them.

"And only once a year they could meet" Hisoka finished for him. He'd heard the story before, through screens and walls, overheard whispers in the kitchen.

"Precisely"

It wasn't until they got deeper, that his senses reeled. The heat, the sudden rush of emotions around him made his stomach lurch, then his heart throbbed as if ghostly fingers crushed it with each shift of mood.

"Close your eyes" Tsuzuki said, and Hisoka obeyed, clinging to Tsuzuki and the safety of his warm, unthreatening emotions, unlike the swirling mass of confusion that lay around them.

"Now, open them"

From beyond the warm enclosure of Tsuzuki's arms, the world seemed less threatening. Instead of the dizzying mix of emotions, there was only kindness, warmth, the other feelings seemed sheathed beyond this embrace.

"This is what it's like, it's beautiful and cold, kind and cruel all in one. What a world." Tsuzuki said, almost wistfully, as if talking about a place he'd once been, but no longer.

Hisoka couldn't comment, he'd only seen a fraction of it. A sliver through his screened off room,

the thin curl of blue sky above the walls, and the part that Tsuzuki had shown him.

So he just clung tighter to Tsuzuki, taking in his view of the world and trusting it, not completely, but enough.

Thin ribbons of twilight were curled over the night sky, and the stars shone bright through the veil of colored paper and colored cloth.

Hisoka released his grip on Tsuzuki's arm for a moment, pushed aside by crowds while Tsuzuki was entranced by a stall filled with baked goods.

He fell, almost immediately, the weight of the emotions feeling like a punch to the stomach. He lay there a moment, feeling as if the wind was knocked out of him. Until Tsuzuki noticed.

"Oh, Hisoka! You tripped." Tsuzuki said.

Tsuzuki was quite adept at stating the obvious, Hisoka thought.

Tsuzuki brushed the dirt from Hisoka's face. He scooped him from the ground, as gentle as he was clumsy.

"I think it's time to go back"

Hisoka was blank as Tsuzuki carried him back. The trees seemed almost ominous in this light, but their reach was far beyond Tsuzuki's coattails. Somehow, for this moment, he felt the spirits and other people's emotions couldn't reach him here.

When they arrived the house was dark, the shadows hung over it, cloak like. A few lights flickered in the house like wayward fireflies.

"Ah, Hisoka"

He turned. There was a sadness in the air, Hisoka thought. A guilt, a despondent air where it had once been joyous.

"I have to go back tonight, but... Someday, I'll come back for you"

Hisoka was silent, his face unmoving and emotionless as porcelain. He watched Tsuzuki's face change into a mask of guilt as he fell into hurried explanations.

"I can't take you where I live, it'd not be good for you, jeez, Tatsumi would fire me for sure, taking a mortal to stay, I mean for a few hours maybe, but..."

He lapsed into silence.

"I'm sorry." Tsuzuki said, so soft, a strangled whisper that the wind almost stole from him.

"I'm so sorry."

Hisoka remained taut and silent, for that moment he had become a porcelain doll. His mind numbed and his skin cold and smooth as glass.

Hisoka turned, saying nothing. He climbed the trees methodically, his fingers ice, his mind even colder. Outside Hisoka watched Tsuzuki stay for a moment, as if to absorb the details then leave, like he was never there at all.

"Someday, I'll come back for you"

Hisoka held those words close, even if he didn't truly believe them.

Not really.

III.

There's a few things stocked in the corner of Hisoka's room, small mementos which no one but he understands the significance of. A few candy wrappers, a variety of pressed flowers that only grows in the summer, and bits of paper streamers, a broken compass. They are his treasures, the bits and pieces which proves that one week three summers ago wasn't some illusion conjured by half-consciousness.

Every year he counts down the days (he's managed to find a crude method of working a calendar, and no longer gets lost in the days) until then and waits, wondering if promises are things just made to be broken, to be tossed aside and forgotten about. Yet there it is, candy wrappers and paper streamers, proof that one year he'll return like in fables, a captor waiting at the edge of a river of walls.

He believes without believing, wishes all the while wondering if it wasn't some midsummers night dream,

Five months ago his sickness worsened, red marks circle around his flesh, suck the life from him like some parasite feasting on his body. Doctors shook their head and gave up, painkillers only marginally helped, and gaps in his memory began to appear.

Hisoka slept, and woke, days would pass quickly, but he always managed to mark the day, to chronicle the time, each new mundane thing to assure himself that yes, for this moment he was still alive.

The river was wide, but not insurmountable.

IV.

Hisoka doesn't remember dying.

Below, his body looks gaunt and empty, just lying there, curled together , it must've been painful, but he doesn't remember it.

Red marks cover his body, circle around a neck like shadowy fingers, strangling the life out of him. He can never remember the exact cause of them, but it makes him angry just looking at it.

The anger is brief, it floods though him and leaves, burns out and again he is empty.

Hisoka has never feared death, he could often feel it around him, he even could feel its presence in others. When he was younger and much more naive, he would predict things. Would point the dark aura, the blade almost on their skin. It wasn't long until the whole household tread gently around him, lest he call their time and they fall dead before him.

There is nothing here, everything seems surreal and unknown around him. The trees seem blurred, and the flowers are more luminescence than solid, like trying to make out the shape of land from underwater.

And Hisoka is alone, even his body has abandoned him now.

Behind him there's sounds, an ethereal sense of laughter. Hisoka turns towards the sound. The sound of footsteps, a bright light. Not an angel, but Tsuzuki.

"We've been waiting for you."

For once, Hisoka is left speechless.

"I told you I'd come back, didn't I?" The unmistakable warmth surrounds him. It breaks through even the cold, damp feeling of death.

"You certainly took your time." Hisoka said.

"You certainly haven't changed much" Tsuzuki answered, with equal parts of amusement and annoyance.

Hisoka comes up to his chest now, and almost can look him in the eyes, but Hisoka doesn't. There's a prickly strange emotion now, he searches for the definition, and settles on something akin to embarrassment.

Hisoka's eyes fell somewhere around the ground to the girl, her hair short and a shade of gold, clinging around her pale face. He changes the subject at hand.

"Who's that?"

"Don't you remember? She's been here all along." Tsuzuki said.

She stared up at him again, and laughed softly. Her eyes are green, a deep, dark shade of green, like evergreens.

"Ah well, there'll be plenty of time to be reacquainted later. We've got all eternity, afterall..." Tsuzuki said.

"Let's go home"

fin