breathe / (v.) to take air, oxygen, etc., into the lungs and expel it; inhale and exhale; respire.

It's one of those nights - the nights where demons pass silently and obtrusively through the windows of his shut eyes and haunt him endlessly, prodding the broken fragments of forgotten memories. Kurapika tosses in his bed, but every shift seems like a jab at his body, bruising, yet un-bruising. The bed is suddenly very small, very enclosed, and the air seems to be leaving the room hurriedly through the fissure of his heart. He gasps (but without anyone in the room, who is here to hear?).

Blinking awake, he is silent, yet the room screams and pounds. He counts that tonight is the 729th night that his sleep was interrupted.

'Breathe,' he tells himself. 'Count to three, and it will all be over.'

He closes his eyes, but maybe he shouldn't have because he finds himself reminiscing over things that were better left untouched.

'One.' If loneliness were a taste, would it taste like this?

It's a wedding, white and innocent, and he feels awkward there because of how much blood he had plunged his hands and heart into, and can only smile stiffly when people congratulate him.

"It's great that Leorio is finally getting married!"

"Mom!" Leorio hastily rushed over, shooing his mother away. "Sorry, Kurapika," he grinned embarrassedly. He inched his face closer, sensing Kurapika's uneasiness. He put his arm around him, and it felt as if, in a room of one thousand, there were only the two of them.

"Calm down." On demand, Kurapika's heart slowed.

"Now breathe." Leorio took in a deep breath and breathed out exaggeratedly. Kurapika imitated him.

"Good! Now always remember: count to three!"

'Two.' If sabotage were a taste, would his tears taste the same?

His eyes were red, not from his bloodline, but from [tears]. His? Maybe.

'Three.' If abandonment were a taste, would it be his life?

He has been using the same trick to calm his nerves for the past two years, but just using it hurts him in a way that isn't tangible nor physical but only mental. As his breathing calms, his heart aches in a breathtakingly way (so isn't it a bit ironic?).

His phone beeps, a flash in the dark.

"Are you okay?"

In the same way that Leorio saved him from his life prior, he saves him again and Kurapika can see the hand reaching for him, calling for him, through the murky waters, but he (1, 2, 3) breathes again and sinks lower.

"Yes."

No.

The reply comes even before his own message was sent out.

"Are you sure?"

A few minutes, and then Kurapika decides to answer, albeit dishonestly.

"Yes."

No!

(because even when he screams, there is no one to hear him in an empty world)

And then, as if he were satisfied that Kurapika was indeed fine and still breathing (yes, but barely hanging on), the replies stop and the hand disappears. Kurapika wants to call after it, but the water seeps into his mouth and nostrils, and a vague sense of drowning overcomes him.

'Come backā€¦'

(and yes, his truthful answer is far too late. Two years too late because Leorio has been married for two years and it's been to the wrong person for two years because that person wasn't and will never be Kurapika)

because (1,2,3,breathe) without Leorio, is Kurapika complete?