At the very least, the weather isn’t too harsh today. There hasn’t been a downpour for a few days, and so they don’t have to worry about the stifling mugginess that always followed; the humidity is low today, making their lives just a little bit easier. There hasn’t been any serious incidents in the past couple of days, either—or, well, not their idea of serious, which hovered somewhere between “the entire town is going up in flames” and “we have two days left to live.”
So, all things considered, today was a pretty good day. A pretty great day, even.
That’s what Makoto tells himself as he walks cautiously along the pathway that branched off from the town, a submachine gun tucked into the holster tied about his thigh and a plastic jug of water in each hand. It’s a miracle that most of the infected can’t be bothered to crowd into the woods and tend to prefer more urbanized areas, he thinks, the pathway becoming more and more dense with trees and shrubbery as he continued onwards. Even the small town that he’d just returned from was relatively empty in terms of infected, and paired with the fact that they were currently taking shelter even deeper into the middle of nowhere, Makoto thinks that this may very well be as safe as they’re going to get.
It takes about twenty-five minutes to finally reach the end of the path, where he’s met with the iron-cast gates that protect the tall, wooden house hidden deep in the woods—or, well, would protect, except these bastards know how to climb, so it wouldn’t really do much other than stall them for a few seconds. He unlatches the front gate, slides himself through, and quietly shuts it behind him. Turning around, Makoto passes the run-down, collapsing water fountain that stands just a short distance in front of the staircase to the door.
The house must’ve certainly belonged to someone with a decent amount of money, they had agreed on when they’d stumbled across it. It consisted of only two stories but was built with high ceilings and accented with large, rectangular pillars that supported the balcony above the porch. Although the yard was clearly neglected now, it was clear that it had once been tended to with great care, and when paired with the size of the house itself, it gave off the impression that one was entering a secluded estate. But it all blended in well with the rest of the woods and the area was relatively free of infected, given how quiet and remote it was without any sort of human activity for months now. Even now it was silent, save for the sound of Makoto slowly opening one of the double-doors to slip inside (it had previously been creaky, but a splash of oil had fixed the issue).
“I’m home,” he calls out quietly into the house, lit only by the steadily-melting candles—electricity was long gone here. Makoto frowns when he doesn’t get a response, though supposes it’d be hard to hear his voice from any of the rooms. Calling any louder risked attracting something unwanted.
Makoto begins to walk slowly down the hallway that leads out of the foyer, the silence heavy upon his shoulders. His footsteps echo dully in the empty corridor as he passes one, two, and three doors until he finally reaches the room that he’d left from. He hates walking down these halls by himself —have some more courage, me, come on— he always tells himself, but it never makes the unsettling feeling any easier to deal with. Even so, he’d managed a trip to town all by himself and returned with some goods, so he supposes that he can excuse his instinctive cowardice now given that he’d been so courageous the past two hours. That’s how it works, right?
Setting down one of the jugs of water, he lifts his hand to gently rap his knuckles against the door, murmuring one more time, “I’m home.” He hears the sound of movement from within—but not Izumi’s voice—and feels panic start to creep up the back of his neck as a flurry of worst possibilities enters his head: something found Izumi while he was gone and he wasn’t there to protect him; Izumi somehow got up and left and was who knows where without him; Izumi’s condition got worse and was now too weak to even reply to him. His blood runs colder with each potential scenario that he conjures, and he wets his lips anxiously as he presses his ear to the door, hearing nothing this time. He momentarily wonders if the silence is more terrifying than actually hearing something.
Makoto sets down the other jug and withdraws his gun from its holster. He holds it with one hand as he uses the other to shakily reach out to the doorknob.
Have courage, have courage, have courage. He needs you.
He takes a deep breath as his fingers make contact with the cold metal, exhaling slowly before twisting it and quickly pushing the door open. His hand flies to join his other on the gun, taking a defensive position in the doorway and pointing the barrel threateningly into the room, prepared to unload on whatever disgusting, mutated creature might await within—
—But it’s just Izumi. More specifically, it’s Izumi collapsed on the floor just a few feet away from the bed, which was definitely not a total mess when he’d left this morning. It takes all of three seconds for Makoto to process the sight, and when he does, the color drains from his face completely. He blindly shoves his gun back into its holster, rushing to Izumi’s side with a yelp of his name. His breath catches in his throat, his heart pounds wildly in his chest, and Makoto swears that, had he not been used to so much physical activity, his legs would’ve frozen up in fear.
“Izumi-san,” he breathes again as he tries to gather him into his arms in a frantic attempt to see if he’d been injured. “Izumi-san, Izumi-san—”
Izumi jerks against him, as though he’d been burned by his touch. Makoto hadn’t expected to be shoved away so forcefully, and so he winds up falling back with a sharp intake of breath, just nearly catching himself on his elbows. He presses his glasses to his face with a flailing hand as he pushes himself back up, staring at Izumi with an incredulous expression. But before he can get a single word out, Izumi turns his head to look at him, his face twisted with such anger that it makes Makoto’s stomach drop.
“What the fuck is wrong with you!?” Izumi snarls, and Makoto prays to God—though given the whole apocalypse thing, he’s almost positive now that there is no God—that he’s dreaming. His lips fall open on instinct to apologize, but even that won’t come out, his voice reduced to nothing but a choked little noise as he looks at Izumi’s furious expression. But perhaps the other hadn’t expected him to say anything, anyway, because suddenly he’s saying something else , and Makoto feels like he’s on the verge of throwing up.
“Are you serious!? I woke up and you were just gone— is this your idea of a fucking joke, Yuu-kun!? Is it!?” he yells, and by some miracle that’s what kicks Makoto’s head into gear. He fumbles for Izumi’s hands, and when Izumi refuses to calm down, he’s left with no choice but to clap his palm over his mouth—much to the other’s visible distress.
“Are you trying to get us killed!?” Makoto whispers frantically to him, because despite how furious Izumi is and how terrified he is, there’s things they have to prioritize. Izumi’s eyes are blown wide, his chest pulsing with each panicked breath. Makoto glances nervously towards the open door, praying they hadn’t attracted anything, and only looks back to Izumi when he feels a warm wetness on the top of his hand.
He’s crying. Makoto takes his hand away when he realizes it, watching as the tears continue down his cheek in a wet streak. Izumi doesn’t yell this time—only responds with a weak whimper that’s so starkly different from his previous reaction that Makoto finds himself at a loss for words.
“I…I’m sorry,” he finally forces out, “I didn’t—something could’ve heard us—”
“You were gone,” Izumi whispers hoarsely, his lips quivering, and Makoto decides that it’s time to shut up. “I just—I woke up, and you were gone, and I didn’t know where you went—”
He pulls Izumi close to him, then, because he doesn’t know what else to do. He’s not shoved away this time, thankfully. Izumi does the opposite and clings to him instead, burying his face into Makoto’s shoulder as he takes in a few ragged breaths, trying to stop himself from crying and failing miserably.
“I thought you left me,” he sobs, “I thought you were gonna just leave me here—or—or that you’d gone and gotten yourself killed—”
“What? No,” Makoto interrupts softly, clearing his throat when his voice is weaker than he’d hoped. He holds Izumi close to him with one arm, lifting the other to gently stroke his hair. “No, no—no, no, no, Izumi-san, I’d never—”
“You left,” he points out tearfully, and Makoto can’t really refute that. He exhales slowly, giving them both a couple of well-needed moments to collect themselves. At least we apparently didn’t attract anything, or they would’ve barged in here by now.
“I’m sorry,” he says gently, placing a quick kiss to the top of Izumi’s head. “I’m sorry, Izumi-san, I…you needed rest, and your fever was spiking, and we were running low on water…you would’ve forced yourself to come with me, and you’d only get worse—I’m sorry.”
“I don’t care,” Izumi mutters against his shoulder, shaking his head over and over. “I don’t care, don’t you ever leave me alone again, don’t you ever…”
Makoto nods quietly, whispering reassurances as Izumi falls into another fit of hiccups and sobs. It’s all he can think to do to fill the absence of words, and to provide any sort of real comfort to Izumi, who seems too distraught to even process most of what Makoto had tried to explain to him.
“You’re all I have left,” he whispers, and Makoto knows, because it’s the same for him. He knows the pain, and hears it heavy in Izumi’s voice as the other trembles in his hold, mumbling out words through sniffling. “Don’t know what I’d do if you left—there’s nothing left—I’d just shoot myself—”
Makoto hushes him softly, not able to bear the thought. It’s a terrifyingly realistic scenario, though, and they both know that—but it’s hard to think about the last person you love dying, and even harder to imagine that there’d be any possible way for you to keep living afterwards. They’re both aware that the two of them are all that’s keeping each other alive amidst the end of the world, where the only possible reason that someone would want to keep going is if they had someone to protect and die for.
He vaguely remembers the glimmer of hope that he’d been intending to tell Izumi of when he returned, and shakes away that worst-case-scenario thought in favor of gently pulling Izumi away from him (despite the other’s resistance) and pushing aside his bangs to press a kiss to his forehead. He’d like to kiss him for real—he knows Izumi could use the comfort right now—but neither of them are stupid enough to let Makoto catch whatever passing cold Izumi had come down with as well.
“I picked up another radio signal,” he murmurs, running a hand through Izumi’s hair as he presses their foreheads together. Part of him misses even the times where Izumi could afford to protest on the grounds of skin oils. “There’s a marina a couple of miles south from here. There’s gotta be something we can use—we can try making it to one of those islands you were talking about.”
Izumi nods numbly, and finally seems to have calmed down enough to listen to Makoto. Makoto notices the flushed color of his face and the weary droop of his eyelids and cups his face gently with one hand, sliding the other beneath Izumi’s bangs again to hold his palm against his forehead. He watches as Izumi’s eyelids flutter shut, any physical contact whatsoever welcomed after the scare he’d had.
“You’re still pretty warm,” Makoto frowns, but notes that Izumi is at least a bit better than he’d been yesterday—and right now, any sort of improvement is enough to be good news. “We’ll stay here for another day or two before we head out, we have the supplies…and I don’t want you to collapse out there. Can you stand up, Izumi-san?”
Izumi grumbles something unintelligible and leans all of his body weight against Makoto, letting his entire body fall limp in a way that would’ve scared Makoto had it not been so obviously dramatic.
“You’re such a baby,” he teases, and realizes that he’d almost forgotten what it felt like to smile—to laugh—as he gathers Izumi back up into his arms. Izumi mutters something about being sick, muffled against Makoto’s shoulder before Makoto is slowly pulling him to his feet, one arm hooked around Izumi’s waist and the other guiding his wrist around Makoto’s shoulders. “Come on, let’s get you back in bed, Izumi-san…”
Makoto tries his best to tidy up the bed with one hand, trying to balance Izumi’s weight while leaning over enough to straighten out the blanket, before Izumi decides that he couldn’t care less and drops himself onto the mattress. A startled noise leaves Makoto’s lips as he’s tugged down with him, and he waits a moment before pulling himself to sit upright, fixing his crooked glasses. He moves to get up and try to make Izumi more comfortable, but just as he’s about to, he feels the other’s arms wrapping tightly around his midsection, pulling him back down despite his effort to resist. He sighs, turning to lie on his side and face Izumi, who’s already burying his face into his chest (gross, his shirt is definitely not clean, Izumi’s standards really have dropped).
“I brought some water back, Izumi-san,” Makoto says gently. “Let me go and get you some. You should really have something to drink…”
“A little longer,” Izumi murmurs against him, his fingers curling into the fabric of Makoto’s shirt. “Please…”
He can’t deny him a few more minutes, he thinks—certainly not when Izumi’s voice is so soft, vulnerable in a way that he’s still never gotten quite used to hearing. Makoto thinks that it sounds good to him, too; he’d gotten much better at keeping himself together over the past couple of weeks, but that never meant it was easy for him, either. There were days when he’d feel like giving up altogether and letting himself collapse into despair—and there were days when that’s what he did do—but Izumi had been the sole thing that had pulled him through it and pushed him to keep walking forwards. It’s always been like that, even before all of this, Makoto thinks, and that makes it all the more easy to forget about the world for a few minutes in favor of holding Izumi close to him and savoring the warmth of another living person.
Silence settles between them, and he reaches up to remove his glasses, letting himself close his eyes for a minute.
Like this, he can pretend for just a moment that he’s still in his bed, and that he’s going to wake up tomorrow and go to school as always, and that he’s going to smile and laugh and sing with Trickstar again up on one of the big stages with the pretty lights that only he seemed to know how to hook up correctly. He can remember it all if he tries to—he’s always stuck between the choice of remembering them and having to cope with the agony of never seeing them again, or opting to block the fond memories out and focus on keeping himself and Izumi alive. He still hasn’t figured out which is best for him, but that doesn’t stop the memories from assaulting him anyway, creeping up on him in every minute of silence. Sometimes, Makoto finds himself rambling incessantly to nobody, producing white noise if only to block out the vague recollection of Subaru calling him over with his trademark grin to say good morning; of Mao and his warm smile and gentle laugh; of Hokuto and his stupid manzai routine that was never actually funny but Makoto always laughed so that he wouldn’t be sad—
“—I miss them,” Makoto whimpers, choked, and the tears are coming before he can stop them. “So much.”
“…I know,” Izumi whispers back, because he does know—he’s not stupid. But it doesn’t bring anyone back, and it doesn’t restore the world to the way it once was. It’s an empty comfort at best, and the only thing that they can offer each other right now other than their presence, and the fact that at least they have something left.
The world is silent, now—devoid of the life they once knew; of the happiness they once shared; of the dreams they once reached for. The only thing that can keep them going now is the stubborn hope that there’s an island somewhere, far away and separate from the disaster, where they can at least cherish each other without clothes that were soaked in blood and dirt. It’s a small flame, just barely flickering within their chests, but for now, it’s enough to keep them breathing. It’s enough to know that, eventually, they’ll pull themselves away from each other and make the preparations to set out.
As he finds the slightest trace of comfort against Makoto’s chest, feeling the way that it shudders as Makoto tries to pull the broken pieces of himself back together, Izumi wistfully tries to remember the last time that he’d heard music.
But the silence is too loud, drowning him like the cold waves of the ocean he’d once loved.