Kurosaki Hisoka was built for reception. Like a radio set, like an earthen vessel, like an ear, like the eye half of a hook-and-eye latch, like a well-worn glove, like a sheath. Like, for that matter, a woman.

But a woman's receptive design was a merely physical thing. Most of them, indeed, learned to take in what other people felt, and to give it back as if it came out of themselves, to please and beautify and manipulate and ease, but that was a matter of training. Many, many women turned themselves or were turned into mirrors, but many also resisted. Many women, self-sufficient, knew what they felt no matter what was expected, or they retreated into silence rather than echo back untruths, or were on the other hand too naturally insensitive to mirror anyone. There always had been these kinds of women. No matter the culture or conditioning, a woman had some kind of a choice.

Hisoka was different. For him, receiving was the reality to which he had been born. Other people made him a little bit into themselves just by feeling near him, pushing his own heart and mind along on the swell of their anger, the tug of their pity, the blaze of their fear. The weaker the projection, the further the physical proximity, and the older he got, the easier it became for him to sort their feelings from his own, his self from theirs, 'I' from 'him.' That measure of control made his circumstance in some small way a 'power,' and that made it terrifying; when he stopped being content or distressed along with the arms that cradled him, stopped being angry at the person his father was angry at, and started saying to his mother instead, Why do you want this lady to die? That was terrifying. They hated it.

And with them around him, hating it, he hated it, too, and that, confusingly, was both his own natural feeling and one imposed upon him. But the reception was unceasing, looking or not looking, willing or unwilling, caring or uncaring. Even if he purged all shreds of fellow-feeling from his breast, he would still be forced to feel the pain of anyone who wept.

Refusing to feel it from the inside as well as the outside was his only defense. Disliking everyone was the only way to maintain the boundaries of himself, be clear on what was him and what them—and so to minimize his ceaseless violation, he disliked and avoided everyone. It wasn't even difficult. He hadn't known many people worth liking. He had understood all this about himself long before there had been anyone to tell him that he was a psychic empath, and well suited for active postmortem occupation in the field. From childhood he had consciously, carefully segregated external emotions from his own, and when he was overwhelmed he did nothing at all, because keeping track of who he really was was the most important thing. And he became fairly good at it.

So good that, that night beneath the cherry tree, despite the terrible pressure that was Muraki's emotional cesspit, despite the damning closeness of the physical contact, even though looking back he wished, in a way, that he had lost track, so that the experience of that night would not be part of him, he had not lost all of his self to Muraki.

That man, when Hisoka felt him in these later days (though he tried not to), was a muddy nest of vipers, all turning upon one another and the world except at those moments where they managed to surge in vicious harmony, and then only the world suffered. But he had been more easily read that first night, partly because Hisoka had not known so well how to resist when he was twelve, and partly because Muraki's thoughts in his presence had always been more complex, since then, than the brutally simple ones he had oozed into the world, had thrust into Hisoka that night until that violation alone would have been enough for years of screaming.

But Muraki hadn't taken up entire residence even for a while, had never for a moment had his hands on a body that was really a doll with only himself inside, and so Hisoka had had to exist through it all, and do his best to struggle against a strength ten times his own, and do his best to writhe upright under pounding lust and scorn and darker things that he had never named, and remember that he was Hisoka, when Hisoka wanted so powerfully not to exist while this was happening. He had fought that night, wildly, half-aware, to maintain his horror and pain, because the only thing worse than being Muraki's doll would have been being Muraki.

The only thing worse.

Muraki had gone, but in his nightmares Hisoka knew that he had left a seed of himself inside, a seed that grew patiently, twining itself about Hisoka's being just as the curse the pale doctor had carved twined about his body, a twisting, spreading garden of evil, and then in those dreams he would doubt his walls, and see them as a cell, something that perhaps the Muraki in him had built when he thought he was building them himself, and he would fly at them, pounding, screaming to the people he could dimly feel outside that he was trapped inside with himself, and they had to break in to help him kill it.

Then he would wake up, and know that the dream was silliness, that the walls were older than that awful night under the red moon, that no champion could come inside even his indefensible soul to help him destroy the black bitterness that was all Muraki had left behind. Then he would rise from his bed and remember, too, that although walls might be barriers from both directions, his were completely necessary, the only way he could keep from losing sight of himself from moment to moment, the only way to know who he was and what he felt, thin and bitter as his own feelings might be. The only way to stop himself crying whenever someone's pain was great, devoting half his life to counteracting old sorrows, raging when someone else was wronged, the only way to stop himself…being like Tsuzuki. But not like, for Tsuzuki himself emoted vastly, he had huge feelings that bled out of him even more easily than foreign impressions could leak in, and when he wanted to be selfish, he could simply decide to do so.

Hisoka knew himself. Except for his fear, nothing in him was large or strong enough to stand against the deluge. If any rescuer ever tore down those walls and Hisoka could not build them up again quickly enough, Hisoka would soon be no more. The nightmare was only a nightmare, and the Muraki in him could not remake him into Muraki unless he allowed it. Nor could Tsuzuki make him into Tsuzuki, kindly and innocently as he went about trying.

Hisoka would die all over again for Tsuzuki's sake, but if he did so it would be because he chose and believed he wanted to. Not because Tsuzuki was there, feeling willing to do it for him.

The 'Muraki in him' thing comes from the end of the manga Queen Camelia arc where Hisoka says something to that effect after being manipulated into mercy-killing his love interest, who had turned out to be a murderess and another of Muraki's discarded toys. Notable for his hugging Tsuzuki, into whose care Tsubaki had recommended him. I only saw the anime once, so I'm not sure it made it in there. Please review!

[Reposted 4/11 with some paragraph breaks to make it more readable. Also noticed that I have a 114-word sentence here, which is now its own paragraph. Wow. It's totally grammatical, though. Relies on three 'and' conjunctions and a bunch of sub-clauses.]