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In the Desert

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It was past noon, and no one had seen Kei.  As Kai went up to go looking for him, he hadn’t really been sure what to expect…maybe Kei had overslept, or was watching some TV show, or had left him behind again.  Any other number of things would have all been plausible.

 His first thought was an incoherent set of question marks.  This followed an extended period of an uncertain amount of time in which Kai had just stared, his mouth open.  Kei was a mess; his hands and his clothes and the sheets all needed some serious cleaning.  Distantly, Kai was aware that he was probably breathing, but he felt like he was about to pass out.  Kei is a human Kei is a human Kei is a human he chanted inwardly, but the words felt a little more hollow than usual.  “Oh,” Kei said, “Kai.”

 “Hi,” Kai replied.  His mouth felt dry.  His feet were frozen.

 Kei was sitting on the edge of the bed, covered in blood and with a literal heart in his hands.  It was understandable that Kai was a little disoriented.

 A drop of blood trailed down Kei’s wrists, forearms, down to his elbow, where it dripped down to the floor.  “Kai, you’re hyperventilating.”

 “Ah.”  Neither of them moved.  “Is that…yours?”

 Red eyes curiously glanced at him through long eyelashes.  “I’ve been wondering that all morning,” Kei said, “Taking this out killed me, but I have a new one now.  Is this still mine?  Is it still me?”

 “Kei…”

 “And if it isn’t me, then really was it ever me?  Where even am I anymore?!” he asked, gesturing at his body.

 Kai crossed the distance to the bed and sat down beside Kei, wrapping an arm that was much more solid than Kai felt around Kei’s shoulders.  “You’re here with me,” he said firmly.

 Kei said nothing, but Kai could hear his breathing slow, just a little.  Suddenly and without warning Kei brought the heart up to his mouth and took a bite.  Kai, understandably, screamed and backed away, but Kei seemed nonplussed.  He chewed for a surprisingly long time before finally swallowing.  Alarm bells were going off in Kai’s head, and that pesky inner voice was screaming that the thing he was looking at was not human.  Kai coughed.

 “Is it good?” Kai asked desperately.

Kei shrugged, but took another bite.  “It’s bitter,” he said with his mouth full, blood on his lips and dripping down his chin.  He sighed, and threw the heart away.

Kai lunged forward and caught it, his hand closing tightly around it.  It felt…denser, than he’d expected.  Kei was staring at him in open-mouthed surprise, and Kai felt almost vindicated at the exaggerated expression he’d managed to put on his friend’s face.  “Kei, did you have a nightmare last night?” he asked softly.

Kei scowled and looked away.  “No,” he lied.

Kai smiled and shook his head fondly.  Blood started dripping down his arm.  He immediately shivered and felt like he was going to puke.  Why did he have to grab the heart?  This wasn’t a metaphor, it was a dead organ that had two bite marks in it, which he was holding in his hand like it was the golden snitch.

He lifted it to his lips.  Kei was pretending not to watch him.  Kai closed his eyes, not really able to look at the heart, but not wanting to just stare at Kei either.  As the heart touched his lips, Kai suddenly had the eloquent thought of I can’t fucking do this.  Bite aborted, he cautiously placed the heart on the floor, as though it might bite him instead.  Kei stared at him, and grinned.  “Did you seriously just kiss my heart?”

“Aha!  So you admit it’s yours?”

“That’s…!”  Kei got quiet, his smile slipping into insincerity.  “I, I was sort of hoping that it would keep beating.  That even if it was out of my body, even if it had been replaced, I’d still feel what it felt.”

What was there to say to that?  Kai opted for a joke.  “Are you saying you want me to kiss you too?” he asked cheekily.

…maybe not a joke.

Kei’s face morphed into one of those exaggerated expressions of distaste that would seem contrived on anyone else but just made Kai laugh.  “I’d rather eat earthworms,” he said with remarkable dignity, standing up and picking up the heart.

“Haven’t you done that before?  When you were nine or so?”

Squint.  Kei dropped the heart in the garbage can.  Kai loved when he won.