He could easily step right between the gaps in the fence. A fall off this cliff would be instant-

Sena barely breathed as he was swept away by the darkness.

It would be instant death.

Sena's vision darkened around the edges. His brain had shut down, or maybe time had stopped. It didn't matter either way; what made his vision shrink, his whole body go numb in a second was that without any hesitation he was honestly considering walking off those green cliffs.

He had been hurting himself for months, hadn't he? Was this any different, other than being more extreme?


He had hurt himself when the stress or the hatred or the fear or the numbness became too much. It was an awful way to deal with anything, but he had done it so he could survive, so he could live for another moment.

Death would be the exact opposite of that.

Yet with cold, shaking legs – was this shock? – he stepped a foot closer to the gap. There was still a good distance between him and the mossy border of the cliff, but that one step forward, almost involuntary, further confirmed his train of thought. He was truly considering this a chance to escape.


Escape from the seemingly insurmountable problems that faced him. The cutting was getting more frequent, deeper, more out of control; he couldn't seem to sleep properly, either too much to no effect or very little. Sena's chest tightened up painfully – when his whole life started going downhill, he went for weeks without injuring himself, the wounds had been so small. His appetite was diminishing into painful convulsions of his stomach; and oh God, he was always so worried. Always so scared of being discovered by anyone.

Sena bit his cheek, his tongue, his lip, trying to feel, but he couldn't. He couldn't feel or hear anything, his vision tunneling towards the edge of that cliff. The colours seemed to become harsher, like the image had been sharpened. The edge of the cliff began to look like a paper cut-out against the grayish background, two-dimensional. He now stood right in front of the gap, the wooden fences on either side like a balustrade leading to the edge.

Could he do this? It would take, what, two more steps? Even if he changed his mind, there's no way he could scramble up the sides of the cliff with that slippery moss on the sides. His hands would just slide right off as the rest of his body was battered on the way down. It would be final, the ultimate in final decisions, with no chance of surviving the fall.

Sena reached out with his hands, shaking and slow, resting them on the worn surface of the two nearby fences. The feeling didn't register, and he still couldn't hear a sound for the pounding in his ears.

Logically, he could do this. Anyone standing where he was could technically do it. After it was over – well, there wasn't an after . And that was exactly it.

Carefully – still aware of the permanent consequences of the decision he now knew he could make – Sena craned his neck, looking over the edge. A breath caught in his throat. That would be a long fall. The fear of that height further weakened his body, forcing him to crouch slightly. His stomach felt like a pile of lead, but no gagging or heaving came. His vision lost a little focus as his breath became short, quick, hooking in his throat and speeding up.

Out of nowhere, he was considering the end to his life – no planning or intention for this when he was coming up the trail, but the opportunity had presented itself and he was honest to God considering it.

All those plans and discussions about graduation, careers, a house, saving for his future would all become meaningless, instantly.

Sena's breathing became even more rapid, and he was sure he felt a small groan leave his mouth – though he still couldn't hear it with his racing heart beat. He was hyperventilating, like his body was trying to knock him out before he could do anything more harmful.

His thoughts were becoming duller as his brain focused on one idea, one decision only; are you going to take that last step forward?

Suddenly, roaring in his head came a resounding no! NO!

Sena had hundreds of cuts on his thighs in the various stages of healing, he felt trapped and miserable and scared back home. He had a façade, a lie that he had to keep up all day, every day to merely function in society. He had hurt nearly everyone around him in some way, to varying degrees. What he had could barely be called surviving.

But an hour ago, he had felt hope. It was buried under the confusion that came with it, but he had felt hope because there was someone who could help him, wanted to help him.

Had helped him.

Sena finally moved. He shook his head, throwing away the idea forever. After everything he had gone through over the last few months, he had still been able to find hope. So, no.

Sena was choosing to live.

He turned around, stumbling back, away from the fence, far away. He looked up and barely had time to register the shining green eyes before it all came to a sudden stop, like a car crash. Sena reached his hands over to Hiruma; he couldn't be pulled away from the edge of that cliff fast enough. Arms yanked him around the waist, throwing him a good five feet back towards the trail. He only dazedly registered the wind being knocked out of him as he hit the ground full-force, arms up around his head as he tried to force himself to breath, to see, to hear, none of which seemed eager to return quickly. What had just happened?

A loud thud reached him, fists slamming into the ground on either side of his head. Hiruma. Hiruma was crouched over Sena on all fours. Sena squinted, trying to focus his eyes because maybe his mind would follow.

"What the fuck!" Gasping sounds, beyond anger or concern, reached Sena. They were like the noises of some terrified, injured animal, echoing beyond the cliff. Those words, yelled from the terrifying blond, dragged Sena back enough to see the disturbing expression on Hiruma's face. His face was flushed, eyebrows contorted into something Sena had never seen before.

"What the fuck were you…" Hiruma was breathing like he had run up here much like Sena had. "Fuck, what…" Hiruma shook his head, assuring Sena that this highly distressed young man was faring about as well as he was with coherency. Sena forced his chest to expand, pulling in the breath he needed to think clearly.

Of course.

Of course Hiruma was so agitated. God knows how long he had been watching, maybe afraid that any movement by him would create a stirring of air enough to push Sena off the edge.

Sena had come so close to killing himself. One hand of Hiruma's clamped over his own mouth as this strange series of choking gasps came out of the captain. Hiruma didn't cry, but those dry, violent sounds forced their way out of his mouth, through his hand, onto Sena, into his very being. Maybe Hiruma knew at that last moment that Sena wasn't going to do it, had seen him turn away from that darkness, but that didn't release either of them from the understanding of how close Sena had come to making the most devastating decision.

Despite the pain in his head and back from having been thrown to the ground, Sena mimicked his previous action and lifted his arms up towards Hiruma as best he could.

He was reaching for life.

Before he could even attempt to put forth a better attempt, he was tugged against Hiruma, pulled into his lap. Years of conditioning had turned those arms into weapons, and Sena was sure he was going to bruise from the way Hiruma constricted around him. His face was once again buried against a damp neck, except it wasn't from sweat. Sena just hadn't realized that he'd he crying softly from the moment he hit the ground.

Hiruma breathed and choked into Sena's hair, both of them shaking with the shock of what had happened. Sena knew he had to say something, anything.

"I want to live." Hiruma choked again, pulling Sena ever closer with his titanic grip. Sena's face burned with the sheer force of the emotions that came with those words. It hadn't hit him fully what had just happened, only bits of it at a time, and Sena knew it would be a while before he really understood. But those words were the truth no matter what happened or how he felt, and those words held more strength and conviction than anything he had said in the last year. Hiruma's eyes narrowed, a nearly angered look crossing his face as he buried it into Sena's hair, but his body relaxed a little, allowing Sena to slide into a more comfortable position.

"I will not lose you." The whisper was gasped out, nearly unintelligible but Sena absorbed every word as Hiruma tried to pull him closer, tighter, hiding him from the world that nearly lost him. And just as Sena had come up the truest words he knew, so did Hiruma. As they sat there in the sun, the fear began to evaporate, leaving just two exhausted boys.

After about a half hour, another breeze blew cold causing Sena to shiver, and this movement seemed to pull Hiruma out of a trance. He stood up, arms still around Sena, a weary, fitful gaze meeting its twin in the other. Coming to a decision at the same time, Hiruma crouched down as Sena pulled away in the direction of the trail back to the inn. Sena had barely enough energy to throw a confused look at the blond.

"There's no fucking way you're walking back." Hiruma's words were a bit hoarse, jarring in the silence that had held them for nearly an hour. But it contained a bit of that arrogance that Sena was so used to, and both of them broke into small grins, though Sena's was more sheepish while Hiruma's was more a smirk. Sena climbed on Hiruma's back as directed and promptly fell asleep on the way down.

Sena sat obediently on the sofa in Hiruma's room, nervously clasping and re-clasping his hands. He had awoken a while ago to an empty room, and after washing his face briefly, he had no clue what he was supposed to do. There was no manual or guide on what to do after a emotionally tumultuous near-suicide. Was he supposed to go find Hiruma, or would leaving the room only cause Hiruma to freak out?

Or maybe Hiruma didn't want to see him. Sena couldn't help but cringe, retreating into himself at the thought. He had completely blocked out the embarrassment and shame, because when he had first woken up the emotions completely overwhelmed him. He couldn't allow himself to think about what would happen if people knew how weak he was, how much cowardice was hidden inside him. Sena rested his face in his hands, trying to block out everything, not just the shame.

He heard the door open and close quietly, but couldn't move. He was so afraid of what he'd see when he looked up. However, after several minutes of silence, he felt a bit silly when the first thing he saw was a plate full of food sitting right in front of him. He looked around further and eyed the blond quarterback, trying to figure out what he was supposed to do now. Hiruma was sitting in chair, arms folded as he looked outside towards the hot spring and the forest, scowling and pensive. Hiruma seemed to catch the movement and met Sena's eyes, immediately making Sena feel several feet smaller.

"Eat. Then, you're going to talk." Hiruma carefully enunciated each word with a low, even tone. He only looked away again when Sena gave him a slight nod. Sena could tell that his mind and body wanted to go into overdrive and freak out and panic, so Sena just focused on the task at hand. Eat.

He felt like time jumped; naturally, when he needed to stall, everything went by so fast. Sena couldn't even remember what he had just eaten. All he could recall of the minutes that passed was a still, tense blond sitting across from him who wasn't even looking. And yet before Sena could even lay the utensils on the plate, Hiruma was moving to sit beside Sena, on the other end of the couch, which completely unnerved him. Even on opposite ends, they were physically much closer. Heat automatically rose in Sena's face, because this whole 'physical closeness' thing had been happening a lot more often and he found himself being ridiculously comforted by it, which was weird and bad and not good.

"Talk." The single word wasn't angry or even demanding. It was simply final, with no room for Sena to evade – not that he had ever been able to evade Hiruma anyway.

"Umm." Where was he supposed to start? What did Hiruma want to hear? Sena opened and closed his mouth a few times as he tried to find something to say, surely looking like a fish, but he felt like he was trying to grab at objects flying around in a hurricane inside him.

"Anything. I don't care if it's about the fucking weather." The silence continued despite Hiruma's steadfast effort to get Sena to crack. "Fuck! Right now- what is happening inside that goddamn head of yours right now?" Sena could feel the adrenaline race at that question, that push. He could definitely answer that question, but it was going to be a leap into dark water where there could be anything waiting. His eyes scrunched shut so all he could think about was answering the question. Despite all the habits he had built to deny, cover up, run away, he leaped.

"I'm scared." It came out as such a pained whisper, Sena wondered if he had even said it out loud. However, it was certainly true. He was terrified.

"Of…?" Good question. Sena could answer questions if he didn't think about who he was talking to or what the consequences could be for finally letting go.

"Of everything getting worse, of hurting more, of-" Sena's breath caught in his throat as felt the truth bubbling up. "Of you." Again, even he could barely hear the last part of what he said. As the silence stretched, Sena couldn't help but clench his fists and curl his arms in. He wanted to hide or run or do anything but sit here waiting for what could only be more pain and rejection.

"Why?" Hiruma's voice betrayed nothing of what he was thinking, and Sena couldn't see his face even if he opened his eyes. At least it wasn't rage. Sena could answer. Maybe. Sena was scared of Hiruma's anger, of his disdain, his rejection.

"I don't – I don't want you to hate me," Sena's voice broke a little, but he knew he had to be completely honest even though it hurt more, "even though you should." Sena cringed automatically at the thought, knowing he deserved it.

"That's the most bullshit statement ever, but," Hiruma's voice sounded strained, like he was trying not to explode, "please. Elaborate. Why the fuck should I hate you?" Sena's eyes popped open in horror at this, thought he wasn't sure if it was because Hiruma didn't hate him yet or was trying to get Sena to convince him.

"Hiruma – please, don't – " Sena whimpered. No way. He heard fabric move against fabric, and suddenly Hiruma was right beside him.

"You want to know what I would hate the most?" Hiruma's voice was a low growl, his face must have been inches away from Sena's ear. Sena trembled, half out of need to know so he could accept that hatred and half out of fear, because he didn't want it.

"If you had died. If you weren't fucking alive right now. And since you whatever you're not saying is seemingly killing you," Hiruma leaned a bit closer, Sena could feel the warm breaths against his ear as Hiruma paused, "tell me."

Sena felt something shift inside him as he processed those words. For once, he think he may have actually understood what Hiruma trying to say, what he was promising Sena. There was safety in those words. It was as if Hiruma had finally found a key that fit and had unlocked Sena, opening a door that went through all the walls Sena had been building up for months, maybe years. The words began tumbling out of Sena; it still wasn't easy, Sena was still terrified, but it was enough to stop the muscles from tightening so hard in his chest that he wondered if he would suffocate in his fear.

"Sometimes I – I hate myself so much I can't," Sena paused, his stomach turning painfully, "I can't even look in the mirror. Sometimes it hurts or it scares me, and when it gets really bad…it's like I can't feel anything." Sena had to gulp in air, each word felt like a kick to the chest. Why was he saying this out loud?

Hiruma seemed to sense the door starting to close again, because he drew Sena close and tight, half sprawled across his lap. Sena was now resting the side of face against Hiruma's collarbone, warmth seeping into him from every side. So Sena let himself release some of the tension in his body, because he had said something, and Hiruma hadn't yelled at him or pushed him away or kicked him out. He had pulled him close, where Sena felt safer for some weird, bad, not-good reason. But after a few deep, shaky breaths, he was able to continue.

"It's like it gets so bad – whatever it is – I feel like I'm going to shut down. I can't live like that-" Hiruma's hands gripped him a little bit harder at this, so Sena shook his head gently against Hiruma's shoulder. "Not like that- I just, I have to make it go away so I can keep going." Sena shuddered at this admission. He wanted to push Hiruma away, because he was just so…"Pathetic. It's so weak and pathetic, I hate it-" Sena couldn't help but let out a wry smile that was probably more of a grimace, "-how can you not?"

Sena slumped, a dead weight in Hiruma's arms. He felt like he had just played a whole game against the White Knights, so completely exhausted he almost forgot where he was, because when Hiruma spoke after a few minutes he jumped slightly in surprise.

"Holy shit." Hiruma breathed out the words in a stunned whisper. "You are so wrong it's stupid." Hiruma quietly let out a humourless laugh. "Shit."

Sena didn't know what to make of this statement, but Hiruma still hadn't let go, so Sena felt his spirits raise a little bit. He let out the breath he didn't even know he had been holding. He was doing pretty well in fighting the need to doze, because he was sure if he fell asleep, Hiruma's legs would go numb.

But Hiruma once again beat Sena in this by carding his hand through Sena's hair. This movement sent pleasant tingles through Sena's skin, the idea no longer terrifying him, because he had told Hiruma some of the awful things stagnating inside him, and the blond hadn't done anything but held him. If he weren't falling asleep rapidly, Sena was sure he'd be crying in relief, so his last waking thought was one of gratefulness for not crying yet again on Hiruma's shirt.

Sena wasn't sure if he should have been surprised when he woke up gasping from another horrific dream. Just like the other one, it was as if only one colour could exist in his nightmares; he had been lying in a pool of his own blood, broken on some shadowy, jagged surface.

Everything had been covered in red.

Deep gouges had been torn all over him, and he swore he could feel the pain of broken bones and achingly sharp gashes in his sleep. Again, he couldn't breathe because his lungs had been torn straight through, coppery blood dripping out of his mouth. It all left him with this paradoxical mix of disgust and yearning and hatred, all at once.

It made him want more.

He wanted – needed – to make this terrifying ache go away. Flashes of the nightmare kept running through his mind, each one leaving him a shivering mess. He needed something to would erase all of it, anchor him here and just make him forget. A few stray tears of desperation ran down his face, he knew what he needed to do and already hated himself for it.

Trying to orient himself in the dark, he whipped his head around, not even remembering where he had fallen asleep. As he moved to get up, wanting to find his bag and his blade and the bathroom, a pair of strong hands gripped his wrists hard enough to bruise.

"What the fuck?" Hiruma's raspy, sleep-filled voice jolted Sena harder than the restraining hands did.

This was so wrong, Sena was so messed up right then and he knew it, there was no way he could hide it. One pair of watery, fearful eyes met the faintly gleaming other's and a realization of the situation hit them both at the same time.

Sena yanked his hands free, turning to run and do what he so badly needed to stop being this way in front of Hiruma, to stop being this shaky, panicky, disgusting sham of a real person. He heard a muttered curse from behind him as a he got a few metres away, but it was hardly enough time to actually build up the speed he needed to get away from Hiruma, and pair of practiced arms stopped him dead in his tracks. Hiruma had Sena's back pulled flush to Hiruma's chest, arms like vices around Sena's waist.

"No no no, let me go, please. Please!" Sena thrashed in Hiruma's arms until he lost all his strength, the only thing keeping him from falling flat on his face were the arms like steel bars around his middle. "Let me go," he sobbed dryly in defeat, his mind racing with self-loathing thoughts faster than he could stand, making the whole world spin.

Nothing was worth feeling like this, a few cuts seemed like a pittance to pay in return for some freedom from this; he was humiliated at being seen and so angry that he couldn't make it all go away. What he had said to Hiruma earlier seemed like nothing now – this was the real reason Hiruma should hate him, it was all happening before his eyes.

Those same relentless arms twisted him around so he was looking up, face to face with his captor. With his eyes adjusted to the dark, Sena could faintly make out the sharp angles of Hiruma's face, the narrowed eyes and furrowed brow. He had been seen and Hiruma really knew what he was hiding and the need to leave a mark of this moment on his skin only grew. He needed this all to stop, now.

"What?" Hiruma's twisted with more confusion. Sena had gasped out those last few words without even realizing it. Understanding began to seep into Hiruma's expression, like the puzzle pieces were starting to come together. "You…you need to make it go away. That's what you said, right?" He shook the smaller boy once at the last hissed word.

Oh. Hiruma was repeating what he had said earlier in the night, and Sena felt disgust ripple through his body hearing his words thrown back at him, but he nodded once. God. Having figured out much of Hiruma's language in the last few months of hiding and deception, Sena could see the frown morph into a more resolute grimace. Hiruma had come to some decision, and Sena trembled, not wanting to be pushed away now after so much.

But he wasn't pushed away.

Instead, it stopped.

Hiruma made it go away.

All thought faded away, because all Sena could feel were heated, chapped lips pressed firmly against his own. He didn't know when his eyes had closed or when Hiruma's hands had tangled in the hair at the base of neck, but it had happened as several tremors of shock ran through his body from his mouth. It was like the comforting warmth of Hiruma from earlier had multiplied, because every spot where his skin met Hiruma's felt searingly hot.

A tiny whimper escaped Sena, and he felt Hiruma shift gently – his thumb brushed across Sena's cheek, he pulled Sena infinitesimally nearer, his lips – oh god, Hiruma's lips – moving hot against Sena's.

Sena couldn't help being chagrined when he felt Hiruma pull away, but that was before he realized he had stopped breathing. As he sucked in air, he slowly opened his eyes. To anyone else, the blank face of Hiruma may have seemed indifferent to the whole situation, but Sena was inches away and saw the slight quirk in Hiruma's eyebrows that barely gave away how unsure he was.

Maybe if Hiruma hadn't been so effective in stopping all of Sena's thinking processes, the younger boy might have considered the next course of action a bit more carefully, but Hiruma had been completely effective and Sena ran on the basic instinct of doing what feels right because instinct was the only thing working at that moment.

With his hands entangled in the folds of Hiruma's shirt for balance, Sena stood on his toes to close that gap of a few inches and found those soft, dry lips again with his own. He messed it up a little, bumping Hiruma's nose with his own before figuring out he needed to tilt his head a little, but that was okay too because Sena couldn't even think enough to embarrassed.

Hiruma may have been surprised by this, but he must have gotten over that fast because he quickly relieved Sena of standing on his toes, using the arm still resting on Sena's waist to pull him up, squeezing him so tightly Sena gasped a little. Hiruma's reflexes were back up to par, because he took advantage of this movement and breathed hotly in Sena's mouth before gently tugging Sena's bottom lip with his own, sucking at it slightly to leave it red and moist, his tongue swiping gently across Sena's upper lip.

Shivers ran down Sena's spine, and he wondered very briefly how there anything could possibly feel more intense than this.

Perhaps sensing the overload of Sena's nervous system, Hiruma pulled away again only to let Sena back down. Before even a trickle of disappointment could reach Sena in response, Hiruma placed a small kiss on the bridge of Sena's nose and rested his chin on his head, panting softly – softer than Sena, anyway.

Of course, without Hiruma's mind-numbing kiss, Sena's thoughts restarted.

Of course, he'd only start thinking of the consequences after he had kissed the most terrifying, slightly criminal, demon captain of the football team.

"Oh shit."

AN: Well shucks.

Thanks for all the reviews guys, I felt appropriately humbled by the shock that I updated, as well as delighted that you liked it.

Who knew that the key to writing was just sitting down and doing it. Weird.

I'm very happy with how this story is going. Two years ago (you know, that last update before a long time) I was really about to write my characters and plot into a hole that I couldn't dig them out of, so when I came back having learned a lot more about writing, I realised I had to step back and figure out who my characters were. Then I understood out that Sena would never do what I had originally planned - he's a better, stronger person than where I was originally going.

And suddenly the story fixed itself. (Well, mostly - obviously I'll still have to think the plot through carefully until the end and edit each chapter, like five times, because even on the fourth edit of this chapter I still found stupid little typos. Life is so hard without a beta-reader.)