Tanaka was on the run. He needed to find water; Nishinoya’s lips were dry from his fever, his face white like crayon. The place he had left him was also not secure enough. Fear was bubbling inside Tanaka’s chest as his head snapped from right to left. He listened and searched. For the short amount of time he opened his eyes, his surroundings looked like they were burning, as if fire was eating away at them. The sun, orange nearly red, beat down on earth. Its otherwise gentle calming rays of light now arrows that shot through his skin and eyes as he looked around.
There was a reason why water was such a rarity nowadays, it evaporated faster than one would think; the reason why he was searching for all the larger shadows he could find. They were the only havens for water, they were what was deemed as secure at this point. Tanaka swallowed, his tongue was sticking to the roof of his mouth and the walls of his throat felt like glue, he could barely swallow or breath. The air was similar to the one in an oven. Dry and hot.
He kept his eyes closed. Too much of this light could make him go blind, no matter if it was reflected on stone, tree or earth. In his run with closed eyes, he felt his foot catch in a root and he toppled over, his head, legs, and arms hurt yet he kept his eyes closed. He stood up and was about to go further when he heard an owl.
His body tensed up and his head snapped to the direction he heard the sound coming from. This couldn’t be true, it shouldn’t be true. Cold sweat began condensing on his skin, his hairs on end. Another sound from the same direction, the same owl. Tanaka nearly screamed; anger and a feral fear clutched his heart. He began dashing into the sound’s direction, opened his eyes for the fraction of a second, felt them burn under the orange and red hues around him. Burning, everything seemed to burn. Everything. So he closed his eyes again and ran.
Nishinoya, they couldn’t find him, they couldn’t take him away. Tanaka’s heart beat heavily against his chest, made him feel nauseous as he ran and ran and ran. For the love of everything, he had just been searching water. He opened his eyes again for a glimpse, to see where he was. Then he turned left, just a few more minutes. He’d be there soon. Another hoot. It was from the direction to his back. Lucky. So lucky. It was not exactly where Nishinoya was. He was so lucky.
His breaths were fast when he finally reached the cave he had left Nishinoya, the only place that seemed to be cool enough to stay without the feeling of being cooked alive. Finally he could open his eyes. The darkness was welcoming him with open arms, the cool dry air made his skin prickle in delight. Tanaka rubbed over his arms, as he proceeded deeper inside, without giving a sound from himself. The owls shouldn’t find them, otherwise they’d end up like the rest.
Goosebumps rolled over his skin as the cold sweetly kissed each inch of his body, as if it had found its lost lover. His eyes adjusted to the dark, he was able to make out the faintest of silhouettes but soon that wasn’t possible either. The entrance was too far away. If he wasn’t sure that his running would echo loudly within the walls of the cave he would’ve run. Run to see Nishinoya. Run to see him, feel him, take him into his arms.
Finally a flicker of dim light caught in his eyes; the torch he had left with Nishinoya. Without even realising his steps quickened and when he reached Nishinoya he fell to his knees right beside his head. Cradled his head on his lap. Kissed his forehead and then placed his own forehead on Nishinoya’s. Tremors went through Nishinoya’s body. He must feel cold. Tanaka squeezed his eyes shut. There was nothing he could do. Nothing.
“Hey, Ryuu.” Nishinoya’s hand felt so feathery light against the back of Tanaka’s head. It was tender as it petted his hair yet for Tanaka the light touches only meant that Nishinoya was losing more of his strength.
“Couldn-” Tanaka stopped in the middle of his sentence, he somehow couldn’t find the right words, they just weren’t there, escaped him like each shimmer of hope.
“No luck?” Nishinoya rasped out.
Tanaka could only shake his head as he tried to bite back sobs. He couldn’t help Nishinoya, wasn’t able to give him some security. Nishinoya was ill, infected by some devil’s fever, and all Tanaka could do was watch as he slowly fell apart.
Tanaka heaved his head up and looked at Nishinoya. The light in Nishinoya’s eyes was dim, his lips chapped, his body shivered like crazy.
“Let’s go out together tonight.” His short sentence was filled with heavy breathing and short stops to regain some strength to talk on.
It was unbearable. Tanaka nearly looked away. He wanted to refuse to see Nishinoya like that but it wasn’t possible. It wasn’t his choice to make anymore.
He had made up his mind when the world turned into a hellhole. When each of them slowly disappeared. When food became scarce and water so rare people killed one another to get it. When animals were wiped out and were replaced by huge owls that looked like all kinds of elements were cursing through their body, pulsing alive; their bodies either stone or the barks of a tree. Tanaka had made up his mind then. To never leave anyone as long as they were not…
He didn’t even dare to bring his thought to an end, his jaw clenched when he finally remembered that he still had to answer Nishinoya. So he nodded his agreement. Then silence befell the cave. Tanaka soon turned off the light, he lied down beside Nishinoya and listened to him breathe. Who knew when he wouldn’t have his breathes to accompany him anymore. His grip around Nishinoya tightened and he buried his face in Nishinoya’s shoulder.
The world wasn’t ever fair, not exactly. It was fun to be around. It was fun to talk to his friends and family. It was fun to be alive. There were ups and downs. Tanaka had lived through happiness and grief. But the sad parts, the parts that made his heart heavy in his chest never felt like this. The world never had been as unfair as it was now. So many losses right after another. His parents, his sister, his friends. Now the only one left was in his arms, shivering like crazy while burning up like coal.
Tanaka forced back tears that threatened to come out, loosened his embrace even though the wish to tighten it was eating away at him. Each tremor that went through Nishinoya’s body made Tanaka’s heart race more. At some point he got used to them until his mind told him that the second Nishinoya would stop shivering was when he had given up his last breath. That was the moment Tanaka became hyper aware of them again, wished to feel them against his chest.
He didn’t realise it then but Tanaka eventually fell asleep. When he opened his eyes again he listened carefully. His eyes widened and he let go of the body beside him. Sat up slowly and looked then down after lighting the torch. Tanaka’s eyes jumped from Nishinoya’s face to his chest, to his face again. His heart picked up a beat.
Tanaka reached his hand over. “Noya?” He lightly shook Nishinoya’s shoulder. “Noya?” This time a bit stronger.
He swallowed, his tongue stuck, his throat dry.
“Noya?” He said louder and then heaved Nishinoya’s upper body up.
He had been sleeping. He had only fallen asleep a few moments ago. How? Tanaka gritted his teeth as tears found their way out of his eyes, He pressed the smaller body to his chest and cried. He couldn’t cry loud. He couldn’t alarm them. His throat felt tight, his nose bubbly. His mind raced as he tried to hold his breath for a bit, it was no use, he couldn’t stop the sobs from escaping him. He couldn’t seal them away that way. Nishinoya’s wish. He hadn’t been able to fulfill his last wish even. Pathetic.
There was sound from up close, but he couldn’t care less. His firm embrace tightened even more. Then something was tugging at the back of his shirt. Tanaka’s heart nearly stopped, he froze. He slowly let the body go and looked down. Right into brown eyes. They seemed to be slightly out of focus, they- they were open!
“Noya!” This time he embraced him tightly. His heart thudded against his chest but soon calmed down. “Let’s go out.” He then said firmly as he let go of the other and looked at him. They would do this, see the outside world one last time together.
Tanaka tried to shove those dark thoughts away. Again and again. But the knowledge that their moments could be counted on a hand kept him from doing so. Death was pulling the string closer around Nishinoya’s throat. The only thing Tanaka could do was fulfilling his last wish.
“Okay.” The other rasped out.
Then Tanaka stood up, he placed the torch on Nishinoya’s stomach and heaved him up. They needed some light at least while they walked out of the cave.
“Could’ve…” Nishinoya started but was silenced after Tanaka gave him a stern look.
“Let’s go.” He then said firmly as he began to walk out of the cave.
It was like Nishinoya had no weight in his arms. The light of the torch bounced off the walls as Tanaka walked. When they reached the outside he switched it off and began walking with the stars showing them the way. He followed a path that lead up to a hill and only stopped when he was at the top. The surroundings were freed of trees, and the only thing below them was dry ground, cuts marring earth’s beautiful face. Tanaka though couldn’t care less as he slowly sat down cross legged, with Nishinoya resting comfortably on his lap, against his chest.
When they were seated he looked down to see what was up with Nishinoya. He had been awfully quiet as Tanaka walked. His breath stuck in his throat because of the view in front of him. The stars were being reflected in Nishinoya’s eyes. It was then that he finally looked up.
It had been months since he last looked up into the sky to relax. It had been an eternity since he last looked up nights to watch the stars. But he did exactly that. They were beautiful, they were everywhere. Their light bright. Sprinkled all over the night. There were blue ones, white ones and even those that looked redish-violet. It felt like the stars shouldn’t be a part of the view of the hellhole they were living in now. It looked so out of place when Tanaka considered what he’d to go through those past months.
Yet his mouth was wide open as he looked. Such a beautiful view he had never seen as their world was filled with humans, filled with things to light up the dark and laugh about. Yet in this world, where everyone died. Where the sun cooked them alive. Where nothing but a handful of humans existed. The sky looked exactly like books tended to describe the night. The stars really twinkled. They looked happy and hopeful. They looked like a promise of another, better, more secure world.
Only Nishinoya’s uneven and flat breaths brought him back to their current situation. He looked down at him, his eyes still staring up to the sky as his breaths slowed down. Tanaka swallowed against the tears that tried to build up and smiled instead. The last thing Nishinoya should see was supposed to be a smile, the last thing he had to see was something beautiful, something that gave him hope. It was the right decision that Tanaka had brought him outside right after waking up. The last thing Nishinoya saw could never be a dark, empty cave. He was a small man born to act and be like a star. His strength unequalled by any of them. His reliability never met before. It was fitting for him to be wished a goodbye at the doors to heaven, beneath a rain of stars.
Tanaka could exactly see the second Nishinoya’s last breath escaped him, he could feel his soul leave him.
The body of his boyfriend sagged, all Tanaka could do was close Nishinoya’s wide open eyes and then sit, stare, smile. He knew that he didn’t have to keep the smile on his face. But what if his soul was around? What if he could see him? It wouldn’t be fair to let him see Tanaka crying and sobbing again. So he bit back his tears, swallowed down his sobs.
Somewhere an owl shrieked the promise of death but Tanaka looked up, clutching firmly to his lover’s body and praying to the stars to guide him to a world that was fit for him. A world that would accept him with open doors and invite him with a smile with which he was sent away.