By unspoken agreement, sharing a bed with Uenoyama became the standard. Even the few times Uenoyama came to his place, they shared his bed.
The same bed he'd shared with Yuuki.
The same bed he and Yuuki had sex in.
The same bed he'd hidden himself in for a week after realizing Yuuki would never come back to him.
Would never share his bed again.
Would never breathe another breath or smile at him again.
Would never finish the song he'd been writing.
Yuuki was gone.
But Mafuyu couldn't let him go. He didn't want to let him go. And he hated himself for that.
It wasn't fair. Yuuki was gone but he was still here.
They'd been together so long, done so many things together, that everything reminded him of Yuuki.
Even Uenoyama, in some ways, if only for the way he was so different.
And he hated himself for that, too. It wasn't fair to Uenoyama, to be compared to Yuuki. Even if it was only in Mafuyu's head.
Sometimes when they walked together, it felt so similar to walking with Yuuki he almost expected to look up and see Yuuki grinning at him. Or be tormented with another stupid joke he'd heard. Or be asked to have sex in a weird place.
But the not-quite-comfortable silence was always a sign that it wasn't him. And as grateful as he was for Uenoyama being so different, that silence hurt the most. It was a stark reminder that the one person who'd understood him better than he understood himself was gone.
"Hey," Uenoyama said, quiet voice cutting through the haze of his thoughts.
Mafuyu looked up from the homework he hadn't been working on.
Uenoyama hesitated before asking, "You're thinking about him, aren't you?"
Mafuyu dropped his eyes back to his homework, his throat tightening with words he couldn't even think much less speak. It wasn't fair, having to find a way to communicate things when Yuuki had always been able to read him so easily. When Yuuki had been an open book to him.
Yuuki was an open book to everyone , but the quiet, thoughtful part of him had always been reserved for Mafuyu.
Uenoyama slid across the floor, sitting next to Mafuyu instead of across from him. A quiet pillar of support, patiently waiting for an answer where Yuuki would have distracted him with kisses.
Mafuyu shifted, leaning into the solid warmth of Uenoyama and curling into him until he could press his face into Uenoyama's neck. He breathed in the familiar scent, winding both his arms around Uenoyama's. "I'm always thinking about him," he whispered. "Or being reminded of him."
Uenoyama didn't respond immediately, and Mafuyu knew this wasn't fair. Knew Uenoyama was jealous and shouldn't have to listen to how much he missed his dead boyfriend - best friend, soulmate, other half. But he was grateful that Uenoyama was willing to listen. Or at least pretended he was willing.
"What reminded you this time?"
Mafuyu hesitated, sliding his hand down to find Uenoyama's and lightly threading their fingers together. "The bed."
"The bed?" Uenoyama asked, sounding surprised.
He nodded, closing his eyes and curling tighter around Uenoyama's arm. He didn't want to explain. It would hurt, and it would probably hurt Uenoyama more than him. But the damage was likely already done. There were only so many uses for a bed for most people.
Sleep. And sex.
But for him…
The bed was a safe place. It was the one place in the apartment he'd always escaped to where his father wouldn't follow. No one touched his bed except him. He'd even made it himself as soon as he was old enough to wrangle the sheets on without help.
No one ever slept in it except him.
And then Yuuki.
And now Uenoyama.
"I'm sorry," he whispered.
"You don't need to apologize," Uenoyama replied, squeezing his fingers. He slid his other hand through Mafuyu's hair. "I'm sorry I can't help more."
Mafuyu lifted his head so quickly he was momentarily dizzy. "What?" He tightened his fingers around Uenoyama's, throat tightening so much it was hard to breathe.
Didn't Uenoyama know just how much he'd helped the past months? He fixed Yuuki's guitar. He taught Mafuyu to play it. He'd written the music for the song that had been trapped in his heart since Yuuki left him. He'd let - made - Mafuyu write the lyrics for that song.
The song that finally let him express what it felt like to lose Yuuki. What it was like to be left behind.
The song that finally popped that wound of pain and agony and released all the festering emotions trapped inside it.
The song that finally let him breathe again.
The song that finally let him live again.
He shifted to sit across Uenoyama's lap, wrapping his arms tight around Uenoyama's shoulders. "You saved me." He curled his fingers in dark hair, feeling the rapid beat of Uenoyama's heart against the bridge of his nose.
That was the biggest difference. Uenoyama might have looked cool and collected all the time, but moments like these, Mafuyu knew he was more affected than he let on.
Yuuki's heartbeat had always been steady.
Uenoyama wrapped his arms around Mafuyu and squeezed.
He could tell Uenoyama was struggling to find a response to that, but he didn't need one. He just needed Uenoyama to know the truth. Mafuyu had been drowning for a year before Uenoyama tossed him a lifeline.
He lifted his head enough to press a kiss to Uenoyama's cheek, not missing the flush of color across his nose. "Thank you, Uenoyama-kun," he whispered.
He hid a smile as Uenoyama stammered a response, nuzzling into his cheek and neck. "Will you stay the night?" he asked softly.
"If you want me to."
Mafuyu nodded. As soon as they'd started sharing a bed, he wasn't able to get any sleep alone. The comforting weight and warmth of someone next to him was something he hadn't been sure he'd ever have again.
He stayed in Uenoyama's lap a few minutes more before going back to his homework. He let Uenoyama shower first, pausing in the doorway after finishing his own.
Uenoyama looked up from his place on the floor, dressed in the sleep clothes he kept here just in case he stayed over. "Do you want me to sleep down here tonight?"
"No, of course not." Mafuyu crawled into bed, leaving room for Uenoyama. "I like you sleeping next to me." Especially on nights like tonight, when the memories felt like living things. Bad dreams always plagued him more often than not, but lately they'd slipped back into nightmare territory.
He'd had nightmares as a kid, and they'd lingered for years even after his father was taken away. They'd faded a bit as he got closer to Yuuki, and they hadn't gotten bad enough to wake him even after Yuuki left, but… Ever since he started talking about Yuuki, they'd returned with a vengeance.
Uenoyama stretched out next to him, settling close enough to invite Mafuyu to curl into him, which he did.
Rain soaked the air, clinging to his body like a second skin. Flooding the ground. Puddles splashed beneath his feet as he ran, though his destination didn't come closer.
Not until the rain turned to blood.
He stood at an open door, lightning shadowing the scene inside. He knew what he'd find if he took another step, but he couldn't stop himself from moving.
It was the last time he'd seen Yuuki's face, and the image was seared into his memory.
Yuuki looked like he was asleep, but no one could sleep in midair.
He knew he should call for help. Try to get Yuuki down. But he was frozen. He couldn't do anything but stare, wanting to tell Yuuki to stop fucking around. It was just a bad joke. An unforgivable prank.
Lightning flashed again, and then it was Uenoyama in front of him. He looked like he was sleeping, too.
The window shattered and blood-rain poured in and someone was screaming --
He woke with a gasp, coughing as he curled onto his side. His heart was racing and his chest felt like he'd run a marathon without taking a breath. He couldn't breathe and it took a few moments to wake enough to realize he was sobbing.
Uenoyama's fingers were in his hair and he was murmuring his name and "It's okay" and "You're safe" over and over again.
He reached out blindly, grasping Uenoyama's hand when he grabbed on. "Ritsuka," he gasped.
Uenoyama made a strangled sound a moment before he crushed Mafuyu against his chest. "I'm here."
Mafuyu clung to him with a ragged sob, pressing his face into Uenoyama's neck. He wasn't sure how long it took before he was able to breathe again. He shuddered and slowly went limp, fingers still clinging to Uenoyama. He was terrified of letting go.
"I saw you," he whispered. "I saw you where he was when-" He broke off with a sharp gasp, tightening his grip on Uenoyama's shirt until the fabric threatened to rip.
"I'm right here." Uenoyama squeezed tighter, crushing what little air he'd gotten into his lungs, before letting go. He slid his hands into Mafuyu's hair, tugging his head back and pressing their foreheads together. "I'm right here," he said again. "I'm not going anywhere."
Mafuyu stared at him with wide eyes, struggling to take in every detail he could make out in the dark. He had to memorize everything he could in case -
"Please don't leave me," he begged. "Not like that."
"I won't. I promise, I won't. Ever." Uenoyama ran his fingers through Mafuyu's hair, combing from temple to neck over and over again. "You're stuck with me," he murmured, kissing Mafuyu's forehead.
Mafuyu closed his eyes, breath hitching as he fought against more tears. The fingers in his hair were soothing enough he finally loosened his death grip on Uenoyama's shirt. "Sorry," he whispered.
Uenoyama curled his fingers tight in Mafuyu's hair and gave a gentle tug. "It's okay." He kissed Mafuyu's forehead again, then his temple, lingering there with a shaky breath into Mafuyu's hair. "I promise I'll never leave you like that. Even if we fight or we're angry at each other, or even if we… if we breakup. I promise."
Mafuyu swallowed a whimper and nodded, burrowing into Uenoyama's chest. He nuzzled into Uenoyama's neck, tightening his arms around him again. "Thank you," he whispered.
Uenoyama rubbed a hand over Mafuyu's back. "Can you get back to sleep?"
"Maybe," he lied. He could never get back to sleep after a bad one, and that had been the worst by far. But he wasn't going to ruin Uenoyama's sleep by keeping him up, too. He kissed Uenoyama's neck, just below his ear, and felt the shudder that went through him, the way Uenoyama's fingers tightened in his shirt. He filed that reaction away for later and nuzzled into the warm skin again. "Go to sleep."
Uenoyama made a soft sound that translated as "yeah right," but it only took a few minutes before he was lightly snoring.
Mafuyu waited until he was sure Uenoyama was asleep again before pulling back enough to watch him. He wanted to run his fingertip over the bridge if Uenoyama's nose. Over his cheekbones. Along his jawline. He wanted to commit every detail to memory like he never had with Yuuki.
His time with Yuuki he'd taken for granted, and he hated the vague sense of urgency being with Uenoyama gave him. Like they needed to hurry and experience everything they could together, before they were torn apart.
He didn't want to rush things. He didn't want to cheapen whatever they had together with his fear.
Uenoyama had given him a gift he didn't deserve, and he would never be able to live up to it.
But he'd try. Yuuki would want him to try.
He had to wonder if Yuuki was watching him. If he was happy for him. If he'd been the one to nudge Mafuyu to that stairwell, knowing it would lead to this. Yuuki wasn't the selfless type, but he'd always done what he could to protect Mafuyu.
"Thank you," he whispered.
A heavy warmth settled over his body, and a familiar sense of being safe and protected followed.
A faint smile tugged at his lips even as he blinked away fresh tears. He wanted to tell Yuuki he didn't need to keep watching over him, that he could rest in peace, but he couldn't bring himself to fully let go. Not just yet.
Someday though. When letting go didn't feel so much like shoving away bitter anger and more like a bittersweet farewell.