It's empty, empty, everywhere is empty.
He runs through the deserted roads and skeletal houses. There is no sign of life except a burning bottle of coke lying in front of a pillar on the sidewalk.
And suddenly he sees a silhouette standing in an uncannily familiar alley.
Images flash up. The sing-song voice threatening to put a mantis in his mouth and the hurried feverish footsteps running down the stairs.
The silhouette moves.
And then come the fireworks.
Thousands of them. Running towards him, chasing him, burning him, and a defeated figure kneeling on the ground.
He can't even remember whom he asked for help the last time.
A call of his name. A gentle touch of a cool hand on his burning forehead.
The fingertips come alive with flames and burn the insignia.
How ironic is it that they both
have had their marks in the same place.
He can feel it on his own mark, and it hurts, hurts, hurts.
The smile hurts more than the smoke.
He comes across an old photograph of them in the camera.
"Together we can take over the world!"
It was their two man army against the world, and he wonders who betrayed whom — did he or did the other or did the world?
The wind blows the photo away from his hands.
Fushimi Saruhiko wakes up at the dead of the night, breathless and covered with cold sweat. In front of his eyes he still sees the broken fragments of his nightmare dancing about, and exploding into the darkness of the room.
When he gets down from the bed to head for the balcony, there is a sudden rush of blood to his head which leaves his vision dark and head spinning. It's almost painful, the frenzied hammering against his frail ribcage.
The air, once he's outside on the balcony, is cool, but he is colder.
Misaki had been lying just beside him and he hadn't been able to touch Misaki. It felt like one brush of his fingers against Misaki's skin would burn it, scar it, ruin it.
It felt as if his fingertips were on fire.
Five years ago, on this day...
Five years ago, on this day, he had been sitting in bar Homra, staring blankly at his right palm. It was two in the night, and Misaki was not back. No messages, no voice calls, nothing. No information about his whereabouts or his well being. He had smiled, for if everything went according to his plan, no one would be waiting up for Misaki in his precious Homra bar from the next night, and somewhere in a small dormitory in the big headquarters of Sceptre 4, there would be someone who would sit awake, with his burnt insignia and lots of new paperwork.
Saruhiko places his hand over his forehead, sticky and grainy, the sweat having cooled over his skin. But his eyes, his eyes feel like they're burning. And it hurts.
Suddenly, a flurry of faint sounds coming from the bedroom catches his sharp ears. The familiar tell-tale sounds of someone having a nightmare.
A sound of the rustling of sheets as the person frequently shifts his position. Muffled gasps and pained moans, broken fragments of the dream emanating from the person's lips. Laboured and harsh breathing.
When Saruhiko lifts his legs to move inside the room, they feel like they're made of lead.
The first thing he notices when he's in the room again is the radium dial of the bedside clock that reads two in the morning.
The second thing he notices is that Misaki is having a nightmare.
Saruhiko, heart sinking to his stomach, strides to the bed in long unsteady footsteps and crouches by the bedside, such that their faces come to the same height. And what he sees in the dim light filtering in through the curtains makes his throat clench and heart drop a beat and makes his eyes burn even more fiercely.
Misaki's face is convulsed with fear, his fists balled into the bedsheets, hair matted to his forehead.
Saruhiko places his palm on Misaki's hot forehead after a brief moment's hesitation, and shakes him lightly and calls his name. "Misaki."
Misaki almost responds to that, broken syllables coming out of his mouth in choked sobs.
Saruhiko stills. He's having nightmares because of me. I'm giving him nightmares.
If he attempts to count the apparently uncountable, Misaki has given him more nightmares than that guy, he thinks vaguely.
A strangled 'Saruhiko' brings him back to his senses. He reprimands himself severely and gives a more vigorous shake and a louder call of the redhead's name.
After all, this is the first time he is in a situation, a crisis such as this. He didn't even know Misaki had nightmares. To him, Misaki is the epitome of strength, one who never falters, one whose solid back is always there to support Saruhiko, one whose face and smile and eyes Saruhiko looks at when he wakes up gasping in the middle of the night. Yet somehow this entire thing feels so familiar, like a deja vú, like someone has just set the regular ordeals of his nights on a replay. And he knows how it hurts, and where.
Because Misaki's true strength is in his gentle kisses and warm smiles and soothing embraces, Saruhiko thinks, he needn't always put up this tough, big-man exterior, take all responsibilities upon his shoulder. Misaki needs to let things out to, let go of his façade at times; Misaki needs him as much as he needs Misaki, Saruhiko realizes, because waking up from nightmares by oneself is the worst feeling ever.
He dreads the horrible cold feeling creeping up his body, and vaguely wonders if Misaki feels the same while shaking him up from his nightmares. He hates to admit he does not know what to do, for if he's by himself he wakes up either by screaming or by falling out of the bed. If he's not alone, Misaki wakes him up. He does not know how, but he does know how much better he feels when he sits trembling in Misaki's arms.
Suddenly countless nights in the top bunk of his room in Sceptre 4 flash before his eyes. Uncountable nights spent in horrible agony, drifting between a painful slumber and an even more painful consciousness. Numerous times of waking up with a throat raw from screaming. Multiple times of falling right out of bed, writhing on the cold floor like a fish out of water.
Bleeding bruises and broken heart.
Hundred of nights of staying awake and innumerable cups of coffee, just so that he didn't fall asleep by mistake or from exhaustion, just so that he didn't have to go back to those days in the cold mansion, full of cold shoulders and cold laughter, or relive those days of slowly being pushed out of Misaki's field of vision.
Thousands of voices screeching inside his head, draining him of every last drop of sanity. Traitor. Traitor. Traitor. Mon~key...
Five years ago, on this day...
What he did probably, no, surely can't be undone now — not with a month of living together after making up, not with sleeping on the same bed, not with earnest confessions and novice kisses, not with physical intimacy. Sure they were living together now, but the entire dynamics between them had changed drastically.
Not now. A scar made on the mind is never really healed, repressed yes, forgotten yes, soothed even — but never healed completely.
His involuntary shudders everytime he sees ants and rubik-cubes, aren't they solid proof?
He realizes he is frantically shaking Misaki and desperately calling his name. He's never done this before, after all. And he sincerely wishes he never has to do this ever again.
Misaki barely manages to choke out a 'Please come back' when he breaks into silent but profuse tears and sobs and sobs. He sobs out the other's name like it's some kind of prayer that he had forgotten and thus sinned.
Saruhiko is bewildered to the point of losing his mind and he, out of sheer instinct, climbs on the bed beside Misaki, leans down, cradles Misaki's head in his arm and kisses Misaki on the forehead and soothingly calls out his name. He gently rocks Misaki and kisses his tear stained cheeks.
And for the first time in his life, he prays. Prays to the One above he's never believed in all these years; he didn't need to because Misaki was his God, and now Misaki is suffering and he needs this to stop. Somehow. Anyhow.
He wakes up with a racing heart and a raw throat. He is in the lower bunk and instinctively calls out for Saruhiko, to confirm that all he has seen in the dream is a stupid nightmare, and Saruhiko is still there, complete with the usual boredom, occasional smirks and rare smiles.
But, Saruhiko does not come.
He wakes up with a jolt, drenched with sweat, upon the couch in the living room. He feels vaguely relieved that it had been a stupid nightmare after all. He calls for Saruhiko.
The apartment is empty. Saruhiko is gone, so has his laptop and slippers and toothbrush and clothes and his smile.
He wakes up again, and again, and again and keeps waking up repeatedly, in the park where they used to hang out, on the rooftop where they went to when they were bunking classes, on the bar counter of Homra, frantically searching for Saruhiko beside him, desperately calling his name.
Again and again and again.
Saruhiko never comes.
And suddenly, there's a voice calling him, a familiar voice, a voice that tastes faintly of soda and mint and heaven and home, and Misaki stumbles towards it like a blind man without his walking stick.
That's how it is, then.
Suddenly, a switch is pushed on. Misaki sits up screaming and hugs his knees to his chest. Saruhiko immediately sits up and throws his arm around Misaki before he even thinks what he's doing, and presses Misaki's head to his chest.
Misaki is still crying, and frantically clutches at Saruhiko's shirt and sobs the other's name. He exponentially tightens his grip on Saruhiko, as if he is clinging on for dear life and sobs and occasionally chokes. It's all a symphony of Saru Saru come back Saru please Saru you came back Saruhiko.
Saruhiko, in turn, rubs circles on Misaki's back, and gently rocks him, but dares not say It's okay or It will be alright. Who knows if it will?
Suddenly, Misaki goes rigid in his hold. And just as Saruhiko is about to ask what the matter is, Misaki looks up, tears running down his face and lips quivering, but completely silent. He pushes away, his grip on Saruhiko's shirt going lax. He looks up again, but the eyes that meet Saruhiko's are frantic, desperately searching for something, for an anchor.
"Saru?" it comes out unsure and small; as if Misaki doesn't even believe that the person he is calling for will come.
Saruhiko gulps and nods, tightening his hold on Misaki's trembling body. "Yes, Misaki, it's me."
"You came? You... really—" Misaki nearly chokes.
Saruhiko feels a chill running down his spine, and this is not how he feels in Misaki's embrace ever, he always feels warm and safe, but now he's cold, what a fucking irony, when he's desperately trying to warm Misaki up for once.
He tries his best to hide the tremble in his body, as he holds Misaki's occasionally shuddering frame close, rubbing soothing circles on his back. But Misaki breaks the embrace and sits back again.
"Saru...you...you've –" and suddenly a realization seems to hit Misaki, and he flings his arms around Saruhiko and brings them both down to the bed with the sudden force of it.
Saruhiko strokes Misaki's back with his fingers, holding him close. "Saruhiko...," Misaki forces out, his breath still coming fast, pulse throbbing against Saruhiko's skin.
"You n-never came...I called and...empty, there was...no one— no one..." he forces out, exhaustion beginning to pull at the edges of his consciousness again, Saruhiko's nimble fingers running softly up his spine, and Saruhiko's trembling lips pressed to his temple.
Saruhiko says nothing, and exhales a shaky breath, mentally annoyed at his inability to support Misaki when he needs it.
Misaki opens his mouth to say something again, and Saruhiko softly presses a finger to his lips. Misaki's eyes widen, the remaining of his tears spilling out of the corners and running down his cheeks in a way that has Saruhiko's heart clenching and throat tightening.
Misaki's soft voice rings in Saruhiko's mind, and the words are out of his mouth even before he can give them a thought – the same words that Misaki always uses while rubbing soothing circles on Saruhiko's back.
"Shh, it's okay, it's okay, Misaki, I'm here.''
The words strike his own ears, I'm here I'm here I'm here.
Saruhiko says it almost to himself, voice going softer every time he says it, until he exhales it with every breath, everytime he draws his fingers through Misaki's hair.
Misaki's breaths even out soon after that, he mumbles a sleepy 'you're here' and rests his head on Saruhiko's chest.
They fall asleep that night, Misaki with the rhythmic rise and fall of Saruhiko's chest, Saruhiko to the soft, sunny and slightly damp smell of Misaki's hair.
Saruhiko wakes up to a feeling of a fist clutching his shirt.
"I had a bad dream last night, didn't I?"
Saruhiko wonders what to say. Not that he is good with words anyway.
Last night was the worst nightmare he's ever had. Seeing, witnessing Misaki having a nightmare about things that had been burnt five years ago, in a nameless alley, was the worst nightmare he's ever had.
And before the soft voice can again choke with something ugly, Saruhiko pecks the quivering lips and answers quietly, half lost in his own thoughts.
"Some nightmares are just longer than others, Misaki. Sometimes as long as five years."
Misaki blinks, and his eyes widen drastically at the mention of that five years. So Misaki remembers, after all. And didn't Saruhiko want Misaki to remember? Didn't he want to make it impossible to forget? Did he not burn a permanent, painful reminder of his existence in Misaki's heart on this day, five years ago, when he burnt his insignia?
He is sure he didn't want it to be like this, dragging Misaki to his own hell. Misaki deserves so much better. Misaki deserves sunshine and cherry blossoms and rainbows and sometimes, when the voices inside his head get too loud, he wonders why Misaki bothers to put up with such darkness and poison and pain.
Saruhiko continues regardless. "You know, the thing you always keep telling me? About how to let things out and how you'll be there to catch me, and how you'll have my back?"
Misaki opens his mouth to say something, some goddamn idiotic thing about how he is completely fine, he is strong, and has Saruhiko gone crazy, but Saruhiko presses a finger to Misaki's soft lips, the lips that he loves to kiss, the lips that were trembling last night.
"I want to...I want you to know that—" it is immensely difficult to get those words out of his mouth, his throat is dry already, and Misaki's open, honest, surprised amber gaze grounds him again. "...It is the same for Misaki too. I...will do it for Misaki. Misaki should...let things out too."
Misaki smiles, the warmest smile ever, warmer than the sun in the east horizon. And he speaks.
"Saruhiko...I know. I believe you. And Saruhiko, this, what we have now, this is not a dream. It's real. And it's not gonna break. We'll do this together, okay? I promise."
Misaki's hand closes over Saruhiko's. Amber meets blue.
For some reason, Saruhiko feels like he's home after a long time.
"...or burn," Saruhiko mutters under his breath, and squeezes Misaki's hand. "Me too. I promise, Misaki."
When Saruhiko looks at Misaki's face again, there is no trace of last night's tears, instead a warm smile lights all of his beautiful features as he holds his lover's gaze, and suddenly Saruhiko can't recall anything about his nightmares, none of them.