It felt like rain, which was weird because he had specifically checked the forecast before going out, and there wasn't a speck of rain on the radar for days. The humidity had spiked, and it felt like he was breathing liquid into his lungs, head tilted back against the brick, eyes adjusted to the dimness of the alley. Everything felt jumbled up and backward, the dreams chewing at him, tearing off little bits and leaving him like a string of paper men cut wrong, holes punched and torn sideways, arms deformed and jagged at the edges.

Dreams, that's all they were - entire lifetimes that fit inside the scope of a night, leaving him blinking at the ceiling in the watery light of dawn, confused and addled and empty, so empty, arms flung across the expanse of a bed far too big for one person and chest aching and hollow. He rubbed his palm across his cheek, rough where he had been struck - the skin wasn't split, just reddened - and the vivid memory of a fat baby hand patting him there, a laugh and bright trusting blue eyes - and he shuddered and felt his stomach twist.

He was so happy, in these dreams - even when the dream was different, when he was glaring over a pillow at a face that mirrored his own, tongue stuck out in petulant defiance and he felt the fondness and irritation in equal turns, the soft brush of another's hand through his hair and his triumph at the scowl that crossed his twin's face - two of him, why would there ever be two of him? He was alone in the world now, no family left with his grandfather's passing.

They felt so real he would walk through the day in a haze, and wonder why his apartment felt so big and lonely. He'd catch himself skirting empty space expecting a futon spread on the floor beside his bed; or turn down a street he didn't recognize on autopilot. It was affecting his ability to function, so he had thrown himself wholeheartedly into his training, into his plan, into his goal to distract himself from the disquiet he felt.

The first time he'd had the dreams though; he was seated in the cockpit of a machine he knew by instinct how to fly, breath echoing in his ears, head enclosed in a protective helmet - he could feel the ring on his finger, strangely enough, strangely heavy through the thick protective gear of his flight suit, secure in the knowledge that he belonged to someone, that he was loved, that he would be missed if he vanished in that instant - but that dream was fantasy, with the stars single points of light in a black canvas of eternal night and the earth stretched across the bottom of his forward viewscreen. He'd been watching mecha anime before bed, it fell in line with everything else in his life, wishful thinking - but there was this nagging realness to it, with his hand curled around a flight control, staring at a formation of dark approaching craft and the fear crawling through his gut, what if he died here…

Three entire lifetimes spread out behind him, fragmenting and bleeding into each other like puzzles upended onto the same table, some pieces fit together and others did not … but they all started the same way, they all started here, in this alley, on this night, why, why is this so important?

It is important, so he waits.

There is a faint whiff of tobacco smoke, of cigarettes being smoked out on the sidewalk that sets all of his nerves alight in a way he doesn't understand - he lifts his head, expectantly … but that whiff slowly fades into the humid night air, and he feels the strangest twinge in his chest, solid and heavy.

It wasn't supposed to rain, but several heavy drops land on his bare knees, sliding down and out of sight. Baffled, he raised his head and looked up, but the sky isn't visible from here, crouched naked in an alleyway, alone and aching. A few more drops fall from his face and he wiped his hand across his eyes, unconcerned. The moment has passed him by, the emptiness digging into his gut and nestling there. He has to figure out a way home now, and get his costume mended - and try again tomorrow, to see where that takes him.

Hazama Masayoshi does not have the dreams again.