Author's note: Because there aren't enough TerazumaxWakaba fics out there. The part about the Count's ball is taken from volume 9 of the manga, which is the basis of the fic.



Terazuma stood back, watching as Tsuzuki took Kannuki's hand and walked her to the dance floor. For some reason, it pained him to watch. He told himself that such a feeling was normal, seeing as his rival was whisking his partner away. Yet no matter how he tried to deny it, he knew that was only half of it. What really bothered him was the fact he himself could never do such a thing. He could only be a spectator as the two glided across the dance room floor, Kannuki being twirled about by Tsuzuki as they danced, a smile spread across face. She had asked Terazuma to dance, to which he had replied that he would never do something so effeminate. Of course, that was a lie, and he knew it.

"Doesn't it bother you, Terazuma? Seeing them like that?"

Terazuma glanced to his left, where Hisoka was standing, looking at him from the corner of his eye. Terazuma shrugged. "What's there to be bothered about?"

"You should dance with her, at least once."

"Idiot! You know what will happen if I do that!"

Hisoka didn't look convinced. He stared at Terazuma for a moment, as if daring him to speak aloud what he was really thinking, take Kannuki from Tsuzuki, and dance the night away. A few seconds later, he turned away.

"Well, that's a convenient excuse."

Terazuma turned around, stomping his foot as he did so. "What did you say?! Hey, stop walking away! What are you trying to say?! Talk!" But Hisoka was already heading out the door. Terazuma growled. Just because the kid was an empath didn't mean he had to butt in to other people's business. It was the damned Shikigami's fault! No way he could dance with Kannuki without transforming.

…Right?

------------------

"I wish you would have joined in, Hajime! It was so fun!" Kannuki said as they walked back home, side-by-side, but not close enough to make Terazuma uncomfortable.

"Meh. You know how I feel about dancing." Terazuma responded, lighting up a cigarette. There you go, Kagan Kuroshungei, enjoy and shut up.

Kannuki had a teasing grin on her face. "You weren't jealous, by any chance, were you?"

Terazuma growled. "Of course not! What's to be jealous of? Tsuzuki? Hah! He's so clumsy, I'd be surprised if he didn't step all over your feet."

"Oh, come on, Hajime, he isn't that bad. He is actually a pretty good dancer when he wants to be. You know, I bet you would be too, if you gave it a try."

"You know I can't."

His partner sighed, but quickly hid the frown forming on her lips, turning it into her usual bright smile. "It's okay, Hajime, we'll find a way someday."

By this time, they had arrived back at their house. Terazuma dipped his hand into his pocket and pulled out his keys, unlocking the door and letting Kannuki in first. After they were both in, he closed the door behind him and locked it back up. He tossed his keys onto the kitchen table as he walked past, stopping in front of the hall that led to his and Kannuki's rooms.

"I think I'm going to go to bed now." Kannuki said with a yawn. "I'm kind of tired, it was quite a night."

"That's for sure, what with the Count 'losing' his mask and all." Terazuma grumbled, making quotation mark signs with his fingers at the word 'losing'.

"Mm. It was still a fun night though!"

Terazuma shrugged. "I guess."

"Well, good night, Hajime." For a brief moment, Kannuki stood there, as if expecting a hug or something of the sort, but then smiled and skipped off to bed.

"'Night, Kannuki."

After his partner had closed the door to her room, Terazuma headed for his own bedroom. After closing the door behind him with more force than was necessary, he let himself fall onto his bed. He couldn't help but feel he let Kannuki down someway. The way she spoke, she sounded as if she had really wanted to dance with him. She seemed to have had fun with Tsuzuki, but would she have had more fun if it had been him instead? Bah, no point in thinking on it now. It was over and done with, and there was nothing he could do about it anyway.

As he undressed, Terazuma caught his reflection in one of the windows. He wasn't particularly fond of his reflection; every time he saw it, he was reminded of Kuroshungei. How could he not be? The damn parasite had changed his whole face. It had been a while since the incident, so he was used to it by now - it wasn't nearly as shocking as when it first happened – but naturally it still bothered him a little.

He could still remember the day he was forced into obtaining a Shikigami. Since Terazuma had no special powers in particular, the previous chief had ordered him to tame a Shikigami. He had protested, of course. Oh, had he protested. They literally had to drag him in to Gensokai to face Kuroshungei. Terazuma had passed the Shikigami's test, and thus Kuroshungei had to accept Terazuma as his master. Unfortunately, since Terazuma hadn't wanted Kuroshungei to begin with, he couldn't completely control the parasitic Shikigami. They melded together in a way that forever altered Terazuma's appearance which, because of his reluctance, was much more severe than the marking a Shinigami with a parasitic type Shikigami normally obtained. Ever since, he'd been stuck with a hotheaded, fire-type Shiki that apparently loathed women, and Kannuki seemed to be the only one who could return him to normal when Kuroshungei went out of control. In fact, that was the reason he and Kannuki had been partnered together, as well as the reason they shared a house. Neither of them went very far without the other.

How ironic it was that the only person who could force Kuroshungei back was a female. That always confused Terazuma. He guessed because she was one of the Gatekeepers and had a high spirit power. The first time he had found out she would have to be his partner permanently and he would have to live with her he wasn't too thrilled. She was hyper, bubbly, and a tad annoying. After a little while though, he got used to her, and began enjoying her company. She was kind, helpful, and did her best to make sure she didn't transform him on accident. Of course, there was still the occasional slip-up when she got excited and hugged him, but she put up with his smoking and strict no physical contact policy. He had grown attached to Kannuki. Even if he were now given the choice, he'd never trade her in for another partner. If only he could give her what she wanted. She wouldn't show it, but Terazuma knew she was disappointed he didn't dance with her. Kuroshungei was just too powerful to hold back.

Or was he? Would it be possible to learn to better control the Shikigami so that, at the very least, he could touch Kannuki for even a short amount of time? Just a few minutes, just long enough for one dance. Maybe there was a possibility of training himself so that he could better hold Kuroshungei back. He probably couldn't do it alone, but whom could he ask for help? Certainly not Tsuzuki. No way would he ever ask that lazy excuse of a Shinigami for help. Maybe Tsuzuki's partner? Terazuma hated going to anybody for help, and asking Kurosaki wasn't much better than asking Tsuzuki, but it was a start. If Terazuma couldn't even touch a boy, how was he going to learn to touch a girl? But…Kurosaki, of all people! It was embarrassing enough that he had transformed once before because of the boy, and in public, no less. Terazuma sighed. Then again, what other choice did he have? He really wanted to do something for Kannuki. Kurosaki was his best bet. Perhaps he could speak with the boy tomorrow. In private. No way was he going to let anybody else know about this, and if Kurosaki didn't agree to keep it a complete secret from everyone, especially Tsuzuki, then he wasn't going to even bother.

Well, he'd find out tomorrow. At the moment, he just wanted sleep. The Count's ridiculous "stolen" mask fiasco had left Terazuma tired. Settling into bed, Terazuma closed his eyes. It took him a while before he actually fell asleep, but eventually he stopped thinking about the problem long enough to slip into unconsciousness.

------------------

The next morning, Terazuma awoke to the smell of breakfast cooking. The scent of bacon snuck in through the crack under the door, almost instantly making the Shinigami hungry. Bacon always had that effect for whatever reason. Even if the rest of the meal didn't make him all that hungry, the smell of the bacon did.

With a stretch, Terazuma slipped out of bed, not bothering to dress himself further than throwing on a shirt, leaving it unbuttoned. He walked out into the kitchen, where Kannuki was happily preparing their breakfast.

"Good morning, Hajime!" The younger Shinigami greeted with a bright smile. Her happiness was contagious, and Terazuma couldn't help but smile back.

"Morning, Kannuki." He sniffed the air. "Mmm, smells good."

Kannuki giggled. "Good timing, I'm almost done with breakfast."

While his partner finished cooking, Terazuma set the table for the two of them. By the time he was finished, so was Kannuki. She walked over with a skillet, slipping two fried eggs into Terazuma's plate and one into hers. She then put on an oven mitt and pulled a pan of bacon out of the oven (which only consisted of a couple slices, since she insisted on eating healthy and wouldn't let Terazuma eat more than that at once), gave the slices to Terazuma after padding as much grease off of them with a paper towel that she could, set the hot pan on top of the stove to cool off, and took a seat across from Terazuma. A few slices of cantaloupe sat on a plate in the center of the table, which Terazuma had sliced while Kannuki was serving the food. Both Shinigami reached for the plate at the same time, freezing for a fraction of a second when Kannuki's hand overlapped Terazuma's, then both pulling away like a couple of shy teenagers.

"Ah, Hajime, sorry!" Kannuki spurted out, her fingers already clasped on an ofuda, ready to change Terazuma back.

For a moment, Terazuma was worried that he was going to wreck the nice breakfast Kannuki had made, but the feeling subsided as Kuroshungei relaxed. "It's alright, I'm fine." He heard Kannuki sigh in relief as she relaxed, moving her hand away from her breast pocket and grabbing her fork. Terazuma gave a small grin. "I can't have Kuroshungei ruining the breakfast you made, now can I?"

Kannuki giggled. "Glad you like it, Hajime-chan."

The two ate in silence for a few minutes, Terazuma's mind already back on the problem he had been thinking about the night before. He had already decided to talk to Kurosaki, but the problem was keeping it a secret from Kannuki. She was the only one who could bring him back if he transformed, so it was hard to try to train himself without her there, ready to change him back if he transformed. He wouldn't ask for her help at all if he had the choice, but by the time he regained control on his own, a month's worth of paycheck was down the drain from the destruction Kuroshungei left in his wake. Then again, it shouldn't be too hard to explain away. He could just blame it on Tsuzuki. As much as he hated to admit it, it wasn't uncommon that the two would get into an argument that resulted in Terazuma's transformation.

"Hey, Hajime, I need to go food shopping later. Do you want to come with me, or do you want to stay home?"

"Hm? Oh...actually, I was going to go visit Kurosaki today...I uh...have something I need to talk to him about."

"Kurosaki? What do you have to talk to him about?" Kannuki asked, curious.

Terazuma shrugged. "Not sure, he just asked me to stop by when I got a chance."

"I guess that's okay, as long as you don't get into a fight with Tsuzuki. If Tsuzuki is going to be there, you are better off waiting until I get back, I can't be held responsible if you transform while I'm not around."

"Hey, gimme a break. I won't be there for long, and it's not Tsuzuki I'm going to talk to, it's Kurosaki."

"I suppose. Though, he made you transform once too."

Terazuma flinched. "That...was something different."

"Okay, okay. I'll leave you alone."

After finishing their breakfast, the pair began cleaning up. Kannuki was about to do dishes, but Terazuma insisted on washing them, since she had made the breakfast by herself. About fifteen minutes later, everything was clean and Kannuki was heading out the door.

"If you aren't back here when I get back, I'll meet you at Kurosaki's, okay, Hajime?"

Terazuma nodded. "Alright." That meant he would have to be back before Kannuki was done putting groceries away. If it was at all possible to keep this a secret from her, then he was determined to do so. He knew she'd be more than willing to help him, but he wanted to surprise her with it. That and, if it turned out he couldn't gain control over Kuroshungei, he didn't want to disappoint her.

No more than a minute after Kannuki had walked out the door, Terazuma grabbed his keys and followed suit. It was a nice day out, the temperature was warm, but not too hot, and there wasn't a cloud in sight. No clouds meant no rain, no rain meant a comfortable Kuroshungei, and a comfortable Kuroshungei meant a happy Terazuma. Maybe things wouldn't be so bad after all.

As Hisoka's house came into sight, Terazuma looked about, trying to see if Tsuzuki was anywhere nearby. He wasn't anywhere outside, at least, so unless he had actually gotten his lazy ass out of bed in the morning to visit Kurosaki, he probably wasn't inside either. It was still possible though, so he'd have to be careful. He approached the door and knocked, trying to peek in the windows to see if he could see Tsuzuki. He couldn't hear his loud mouth, so that was a good sign.

The door opened, and Hisoka looked totally confused at the person standing on his doorstep. "Terazuma? What are you doing here?"

"Hey, your partner isn't around, is he?"

"No..."

"Good. Mind if I come in?"

"Uh...no, I don't mind." The younger Shinigami stepped aside, still looking as confused as ever, and let Terazuma in before closing the door behind them. "What's going on?"

Terazuma was rather uncomfortable and hesitated a moment. "Er...well, I wanted to ask for a favor..."

Hisoka raised an eyebrow. "Favor?"

"Yeah...you know the whole thing on how I can't touch girls. Well...I was thinking about it, and I was wondering if you could...er...help me out a bit. Since you...you know...that time...at the archery contest..."

"You want me to help keep from transforming every time you touch a girl? Or...er...me?"

"Well, yes." Terazuma's gaze suddenly hardened as he stared down Hisoka. "But I swear, you cannot tell ANYBODY! That includes Tsuzuki!"

Hisoka held up his hands. "Don't worry, I won't tell anybody."

"Are you sure? Not going to say anything to Tsuzuki?" Terazuma growled.

"Just because he's my partner doesn't mean I can't keep secrets from him."

Terazuma backed off. "Fine. So, will you help me?"

"Wouldn't you be better off asking Kannuki for help?"

"That's the point. I don't want her to know. I want to surprise her. And...if I can't do it, I don't want to get her excited only to disappoint her. Look, if you don't want to help, just tell me."

Ah, so that was why. Well, it made sense, though he still thought Terazuma would be better off asking Tsuzuki for help, since he knew all about Shikigami, but putting those two together was just asking for trouble. "I'll help. I don't know a lot about Shikigami though, so I don't know how much help I can be."

"That's fine, I just need to be around you a bit, you know, to try to keep Kuroshungei away. Since you are feminine enough to convince Kuroshungei you are a girl, I figured you'd be a good first step."

Hisoka glared. "Watch it, or I won't help you. Don't forget that right now, I can still transform you."

"Er...right...so...uh...I guess I'll just hang out here for a bit. Kannuki is getting some food so she'll be a little while."

"You mind if we go outside? I'd rather not have you destroy my house"

"Outside?" Terazuma really didn't want to go outside. He didn't want anybody knowing. It would be strange enough if somebody saw him at the kid's house, and soon his secret would be spread all over the office. There was no backyard, so they would be visible outside of the house.

"It's outside, or no deal."

Terazuma growled. "Fine. But if anybody asks, I was just dropping something off Kannuki wanted to give you or something."

"Fine with me." Hisoka said, following Terazuma out the door. Terazuma was standing closer than normal to Hisoka, but still not close enough to make physical contact. "So, how's this training thing going to go? Gradually stand closer until you can touch me without turning into Godzilla's cousin?"

Terazuma glared. "Something like that. Don't worry, when Kuroshungei gets to be too much to handle, I'll step away."

"As long as you know what you are doing." There was an awkward silence as both Shinigami tried to figure out what to do next. Hisoka could feel how uncomfortable Terazuma was with this whole thing, but there was also determination to see it through. Hisoka couldn't help but admire Terazuma's efforts, and he couldn't say no when Terazuma was dead set on trying to make Kannuki happy. "She has no clue what you are doing?"

"Nope. I told her you wanted to talk to me about something."

"How are you going to keep it a secret from her?" Hisoka asked, starting to walk down the street. Not only did it look strange, but he wanted to get Terazuma away from the houses in case he transformed.

Terazuma sighed and followed Hisoka. "Carefully. Very carefully."

They hadn't gotten very far when Hisoka suddenly stopped. "Oh no...Terazuma, I think you should-"

"And what are you doing here?"

Terazuma turned around to see Tsuzuki standing there, arms crossed with a not-so-friendly expression. "Oh, great, it's you."

"That doesn't answer my question. And why are you standing so close to Hisoka?"

"None of your business." Terazuma growled. He quickly corrected himself, trying not to get into a fight. "I was just stopping by to drop something off."

"Actually, it is my business, since that's my partner you are talking to."

Hisoka was resisting to urge to slap Tsuzuki upside his head. "Tsuzuki, stop being stupid! It's Terazuma, not Muraki. It's not like he's going to try to rape me."

"How do I know that?"

At this point, Terazuma could no longer seem to hold himself back. "He's your partner, not your property, and I'll talk to him if I want. In fact, I'll stand as close to him as I want. Got a problem with that?"

"Maybe I do." Tsuzuki said, glaring. He knew Terazuma was just trying to get at him, and there was no way he was going to let him win.

Terazuma positioned himself closer to Hisoka, mere centimeters away from touching him. If it wasn't for Kuroshungei, he'd have his arm around the boy too. "Well that's too bad. We are in the middle of a conversation, and you interrupted. Why don't you come back in a few minutes?"

"Hey, don't forget who you are talking to! You can't tell me what to do!"

Hisoka didn't stand a chance. Before he could even try to stop them from fighting, Terazuma had transformed and Tsuzuki had summoned Byakko. He tried yelling at them to stop, but neither were listening, not that his voice could be heard above the roars anyway. All but the battle was forgotten to Terazuma and Tsuzuki, including the fact Hisoka's house was right there. A blast came from both sides, meeting somewhere in between, and causing a small explosion that took half of Hisoka's house with it. He could only watch as the roof was blown clear off, and a good portion of the walls were destroyed. It was only when he realized what had happened that Tsuzuki had made Byakko stop attacking, leaving Terazuma transformed and thrashing around as the Shinigami tried to regain control over his parasitic Shikigami.

A couple of seconds later, Kannuki had appeared, ofuda in hand and jumping into the air. As the paper charm was stuck to Kuroshungei's head, he shrunk, Terazuma slowly turning back to himself. Once he was back to normal (or, as normal as Terazuma could get), he hastily put his clothes back on. His mouth dropped open when he saw what his and Tsuzuki's battle had done to Hisoka's house. Terazuma and Tsuzuki both slowly turned to face Hisoka, waiting for the imminent explosion.