Title: Festering
Author: Kristen Sharpe
Date Started: April 15, 2018 Date Finished: May 10, 2018
Rating: K
Warnings: Spoilers for the current manga chapters.
Continuity: Mangaverse, some hypothetical time after Chapters 96-99.
Disclaimer: "Ao no Exorcist/Blue Exorcist"" belongs to Kazue Katou, Shueisha, Aniplex, and various other parties.

Rin dragged himself up the stairs of the aging dormitory where he lived. Every step was heavy. His tail dragged behind him. He was tired and beyond tired.

Demons were absolutely everywhere now. Even when there wasn't an official mission, like today, he couldn't walk through school without having to drag hapless people away from every nasty little imp, hobgoblin, and coal tar. The clown's barrier kept out the really dangerous ones, but people were so afraid the small-fry kept coming, drawn to all the fear.

Well, drawn to the fear and excited by the weird heavy, heady power hanging in the air that grew a little every day. Rin scratched behind an ear that was still a little too long, too pointed and growled.

Stupid Illuminati. Playing with Gehenna Gates, hurting people every chance they got, and what had Yukio been thinking...

But, he was stupid too. He should have listened to Yukio. Should have gotten over his own problems and not brushed his brother off the one time he actually wanted to talk.

He finally reached their – his – room and turned the key in the lock.

Stench. It hit Rin full in the face as he opened the door, and he reeled back.

"Ugh. What?"

It smelled like some of the overripe dumpsters he'd passed on shortcuts back in his old neighborhood. Why was it in his room?

Though there had been a sort of bad smell last night. And, he'd turned the heat up for Kuro. (He didn't really get cold himself, especially not since… everything back when Yukio left.) The heat must have made whatever it was spoil faster.

Dumping his schoolbag on his bed, Rin opened the window on his side of the room. A blast of winter air swept in, and the smell instantly lessened. Good. Hopefully, it would be aired out before Kuro got back from prowling.

That in mind, he went first to his pile of dirty clothes. But, it was small. The really nasty things, clothes stained fighting demons on his last mission yesterday, were still soaking in a sink down the hall. A few smelly socks had been left behind, but they weren't strong enough to be the source of the stench.

Tracking it across the small space, Rin realized the smell was coming from Yukio's half of the room.

He frowned.

He hadn't touched Yukio's things since his brother ran off. Everything was just like Yukio had left it. All neat and organized to perfection.

He'd always thought everything about his brother was perfect.

Until Yukio shot him and screamed - cold and calm, but it was a scream coming from Yukio - about being defective and left to join the bad guys.

And, they were the bad guys. Between the Gehenna Gate, people eaten in their homes and zombies and laughing at Eyebrows's tears. And, so what if the Order was bad too? Rin had known that since they called him a weapon and he saw how they wouldn't get off their butts to help people unless it was part of the plan. Well, they were off their butts now. They still weren't the good guys, but at least he had his friends. They were on the right side.

Something twisted in his chest as Rin approached the pristine area that Yukio had marked out as his space. The desk was office perfect. Pencil holder to one side with just enough pencils to look busy but not cluttered. Laptop in the middle. A pair of glasses exactly two inches from the front corner within easy reach of the bed.

One arm of the glasses was loose, lying at an angle.

Yukio had broken his glasses back then too. Did he have any spares?

More, did Yukio have anyone on his side? Probably not.

Rin wanted to believe in Shima. Idiot hadn't half tried to fight when he and Yukio left. But, Rin kinda thought he wouldn't half try to fight the Illuminati either.

So, Yukio was alone. Was he okay? Were they brainwashing him? Were they using him in sick experiments like in that lab out in Inari?

Or had something worse happened?

He remembered the voice that had echoed from Yukio's blazing eye. Satan's voice. He'd never forget that horrible, mocking, wanting voice. He tried to forget exactly what it wanted from him. But, he couldn't stop seeing what it might take from Yukio. Yukio bleeding out his eyes and nose and mouth. Broken and burning.

Rin shook his head and ripped open the first drawer on Yukio's desk. Inside was a disgustingly neat collection of pens, pencils, notepads, and other school supplies lined up in a divided tray. Nothing that even could stink. But, the smell was stronger here.

Rin moved to the next drawer. Papers. Homework and lesson plans.

Reaching around, he yanked open the desk's middle drawer. Several pairs of spare glasses glinted in the sunlight coming through the dorm windows.

What was going on with Yukio's left eye? Did he still have a left eye? It might be like that girl back in Kyoto. Or Rin's own – former? – body and nothing but—

Rin slammed the drawer closed with more force than necessary. Then, he closed the other two and reached for the bottom drawer they had been blocking.

As soon as it slid open, he knew he'd found what he was looking for.

The smell was horrible. Strong enough he reflexively threw a hand up over his nose. It was coming from a series of pouches lined up in neat rows along the drawer.

After a minute's thought, Rin realized they must be some of Yukio's anti-demon herbs and stuff. He'd watched his brother cut and sort them from time and time. It was funny watching the way Yukio's mouth twisted up as he tried to get everything just right… and then swearing when something came out less than perfect.

He'd watched and watched and still hadn't seen what was right in front of him.

Rin swore himself and then grabbed the first few pouches by their tied tops and started tossing them into the trashcan beside the desk.

A couple minutes, and they were all gone. Rin opened the second drawer again and looked at the papers there. All the assignments would be late now, and it wasn't like Yukio was their teacher anymore.

Rin threw the papers in the trash too.

Then, he reached up and over to open Yukio's window. More cold air flooded the room, pushing back the stench.

Drawing away, he spotted Yukio's shower caddy sitting in the floor between his desk and bed. Dust had collected across the top of Yukio's neatly arranged toothbrush, mouthwash, and other necessities. Moving around the desk, Rin scooped the caddy up and dumped all of it into the overflowing trash too.

"See," he muttered to the empty room, "you'd better get back soon because I'm throwing away all your stuff."

He reached for the broken glasses on the corner of the desk.

Halfway to the trash bag, he stopped and looked down at them. They weren't in that bad a shape. The arm looked like it was just missing a screw or something. And, glasses were probably too expensive to throw away for something like that. Even if Yukio did deserve it.

Huffing, Rin set the glasses back on the desk gently, making sure they were where he found them, two inches from the corner.

A lot of things were broken right now. And, it was going to take a lot more than a screwdriver to fix them.

But, he had to try.

Author's Note: This is basically my rambling thoughts after the recent-ish chapters with a lot of inspiration credit to Swift-Star9's excellent "Cold" and other post-"Yukio joins the Illuminati" fics.