Yume : Dream
Daijoubu : It's alright
Arigatou : Thank you
Baka : Idiot
Urusai : Noisy/Loud
Omae : You
Kawaii : Adorable
"God knows what he'll do once I'm gone," Haruomi heard Kiichi say, and rewarded him with a death glare.
"Kiichi!" The ailing man merely chuckled softly.
But Haruomi could not stay mad at Kiichi for saying such outrageous things for very long. More than anything, he was glad they were finally alone. A man of few words, he showed his overwhelming relief the only way he knew how.
Kiichi's lips were parched and dry, but their natural sweetness was undiluted honey still; hungrily, Haruomi savoured every drop of it, his roaming hand slipping inside Kiichi's loose yukata, finally coming to a rest on his bare chest.
"Oya oya," Kiichi whispered teasingly when Haruomi had to pause for a breather. "Whatever did I do to deserve this?"
Haruomi's face reddened slightly, but he managed to summon a hoarse whisper. "You gave me a scare." His frown deepening, he traced the edge of the livid bruise very, very lightly. "We're going to have to replace the tiles-"
"It was an accident, Haruomi." Kiichi winced, pulling away gently. "I just lost my footing, that's all."
"It was a good thing Shuuhei found you." Haruomi heaved a sigh, holding Kiichi up closer so he could touch his forehead to his.
"Were you the one who called Reiji?" Kiichi asked, cupping his companion's face, gazing softly into Haruomi's irises in gratitude. "Arigatou."
Haruomi shook his head, knowing the credit was not his to take, but glad nonetheless that Reiji had come to his senses, for Kiichi's sake. "I was not. My guess is, he dropped by just to surprise you." Kiichi managed a wan smile, his pallid face brightening slightly. He took a deep breath.
"I'm so tired.." Unsure what to do, Haruomi just held him, wracking his brain for a plausible enough excuse if someone were to walk in on them like this. In the meantime...
In his fervor, it took Haruomi a full five seconds to realise that Kiichi's lips were no longer responding to his kisses. His forehead furrowed. He deepened the kiss. Nothing.
Not understanding, Haruomi drew back and thumbed the rising arc of Kiichi's cheekbone reverently, marveling at the stark whiteness of his skin accentuating the ebon of his hair...Kiichi was still.
"Kiichi?" He called out softly.
"Kiichi, wake up." His heart hammering in his chest, Haruomi gave Kiichi's exposed shoulder a little shake. But Kiichi's eyes remained closed. A very, very bad feeling started to churn in his gut-
Haruomi hastily released his lover from his embrace, letting him fall back onto the bed-and Kiichi's head lolled to the side like a doll.
Kiichi wasn't asleep. He was unconscious.
"What's going on?" Reiji barged into the room. "What's happening?" He craned his neck and tried to see past the doctors and nurses crowding the bed.
"Pulse ox?" Dr Saionji asked urgently.
"85. He's hypoxic," A nurse answered anxiously.
"Someone tell me what's going on!" Reiji demanded,
"He's altered," Dr Saionji said grimly. He turned to a nurse by his side. "Mannitol 65g IV, quickly. Make ready 70 CO2 for later, but for now we need to get that CT!"
"Altered? What the hell does that mean?" Reiji pressed, struggling to get in closer. Kiichi was lying unmoving on the bed, his eyes closed. "Kiichi?"
"Reiji," he heard someone call from behind. He whirled, finally taking notice of his brother's Kashima, standing a few feet away, his face pale and stricken. Reiji's temper flared.
"I left him safe and sound with you! What the hell happened?"
Haruomi helplessly looked on as the medical team prepared to wheel Kiichi out of the room. "We were-talking. Then he just-" He looked haunted. "We were just talking..."
"It is the commonest cause of deterioration in patients who have experienced a lucid interval following injury, that was exactly why I insisted Aoe-sensei be kept under observation for fear of something like this happening. A blood clot is causing the rise in intracranial pressure, cutting off the blood circulation to his brain. That explains the sudden loss of consciousne-"
"Wait wait wait." Reiji had his hands up, his forehead a thousand fine creases. "Blood clot? Why didn't something like this show up on the scans?"
"It was still too small perhaps to be visible on any scan. It's more of a secondary insult due to the fall, which may have not been forceful enough to cause a fracture, but could have injured the soft tissues of the brain upon impact with the bony inside of the skull."
"Is he going to be alright?" Haruomi stepped sideways to let a nurse with a cart full of magazines and tidbits push through, while keeping his eyes on the doctor.
Dr Saionji's face clouded over. "Right now we've put him on artificial hyperventilation to try to increase perfusion to his brain, and we're keeping an eye on the swelling, hopefully the bleeding's stopped competely so we can decide on our next step. I've called the neurosurgical unit and a consultant will be here to talk to you about our options-"
"Surgery?" Reiji's voice shrilled.
"If worst comes to worst, yes, he might need surgical intervention to exsanguinate the mass."
Reiji was as white as paper. "But he's going to be alright?"
Dr Saionji did not answer immediately. "It pains me to tell you this, Aoe-sama..." his voice trailed off. "But the prognosis is poor, at best."
"What do you mean?" A numbness was starting to set in his legs. "Surely it's-it's treatable-"
The haunted look in the young doctor's eyes darkened. "Aoe-sensei is a well respected man, and I'm sure many of us here share the same sentiments, but chances are, if he manages to live through the night-"
Haruomi stopped breathing.
"He might come out of his coma but with severe brain damage, or he might not come out of it at all."
Reiji felt as if someone had just socked him in the solar plexus. He shook his head and barked a nervous laugh, but his hands were trembling. "You're not making any sense. He was fine not a half hour ago! How can something like this happen?"
"Reiji," a hand reluctantly grabbed his elbow. He wrenched it free.
"Look, I don't care what you do, whoever you call, how much it costs-" he hissed. "Just-" His fists balled. "Do it. Make him better!"
"We can't work miracles, Aoe-sama," Dr Saionji said grimly. "But we'll try our best."
By the time Kiichi came out of surgery, it was already a quarter past four in the morning.
Dr Saionji's shift had long since ended but he dropped in anyway, looking quite the worse for wear. But he offered Reiji and Haruomi a tired smile when he saw them still very much awake, keeping vigil over his unconscious patient.
"They've managed to remove the clot. Hopefully it had not had time to do much damage," he said in a hushed tone.
"When will we know for sure?"
The young doctor now looked like every bit his twenty-five years, now that he was off-duty . Wordlessly, he reached down to reposition the respirator mouthpiece which had sagged a bit, into place. Then he clasped the sidebars, watching Kiichi's chest rise and fall rhythmically.
"An hour? A day? It's indefinite." A tired sigh. "If we're really lucky, he might just wake up in the next ten minutes."
He smiled as he caught Haruomi's startled eyes. "I shall be praying with you."
They sat in silence for what felt like hours after the kind doctor took his leave. Finally Reiji spoke.
"Go home, Haruomi. It's late."
Haruomi stared at him as if Reiji had suddenly grown two heads. That was an impossible thing to ask of him, and Reiji knew that, there was no doubt about it. His eyes hardened. Reiji may be the master of the Aoe house, but he answered to Kiichi, and Kiichi alone.
"I'd rather not," he said stiffly.
Reiji's blood boiled. Before he knew it, he lashed out in sheer frustration. "You've watched him long enough!"
The sudden clenching of Kashima's jaw told Reiji he'd hit a nerve.
He breathed in deeply. This is crazy. I am not getting into a fight with Haruomi. Get bloody hold of yourself. But it angered him somehow, that Haruomi was the last person to be with Kiichi, before he slipped under.
"Just-I need-" he sighed again, covering his face with one hand. "Please. I need to be alone with-" His eyes pleaded with Haruomi, hoping that his brother's Kashima would be sufficiently generous so as to grant him this one wish.
Haruomi averted his gaze, his face contorted in anguish. He too wished the same.
With legs heavier than lead, he rose and gave the sleeping Kiichi one last, longing look. Realizing what an impact his request had on Kashima, Reiji gave in and turned his head sideways. Gratefully, Haruomi leant down and kissed Kiichi on the forehead, before making his way silently out the room.
He wondered if he was the only person in the world who remembered that today was the day Shiki died. The irony was so obscure, yet so blatantly obvious at the same time, that perhaps only ill-fated bastards like him were able to understand. Perhaps there was something about the alignment of his stars. Perhaps the House of Aoe was cursed.
Where had he put his cellphone? Reiji absently felt his back pocket. Kiichi might want something nice to eat when he awakened. He did not even get to drink his juice.
Three missed calls?
The caller ID blinked once, twice.
A name from the past. A serendipitouos encounter. A promise unkept.
Reiji let his hand drop onto the bed whilst still clenching the inanimate object in his fist. The back of Kiichi's hand was bruised black and blue from the large bore needle.
Of course. Of course.
Takamiya would never, ever forget today. Somehow that thought lifted Reiji's heart ever so slightly.
Takamiya belonged to that one page in his history Shiki's untimely death had brought to an abrupt close. Takamiya, who had loved Shiki perhaps just as much, if not more. A drunken kiss. Long, raven hair splaying on a rumpled bed, unmade from the night before.
A drunken kiss. Long, raven hair splaying on a rumpled bed, unmade from the night before.
Reiji ran a nail lightly along the edge of the bruise where the needle had punctured Kiichi's vein. Yes. I do.
"Do you understand that kind of love, Reiji?"
Yes. I do.
Good God, he had done this before. Reiji's heart sank, remembering with a pang; all those nights, watching over his brother as he slept. He had almost forgotten what it was like.
The kind of love that guarantees something no other love does.
The kind of love that guarantees something no other love does.
"We only had each other." Takamiya's words rang in his ear.
"How so very true," he whispered. A mother he never had. A father he'd rather not have. But before everyone else, Kiichi had always been there.
We really did have so much in common, didn't we Takamiya?
It would be a lie to say Kiichi never cried. Many a night he had stood outside Kiichi's room, listening to sobs he knew his older brother was trying so hard to stifle but never could, for the pain from the injuries inflicted on him by their dear father was always so bad.
But not once had he ever seen Kiichi cry for himself.
Oh yes, Reiji remembered so very clearly the hotness of Kiichi's tears seeping through his shirt and trickling down his chest that night; the utterly helpless look in Kiichi's eyes as their noses touched a constant reminder for Reiji of how alone Kiichi was.
Maybe death wasn't such a bad idea after all, those eyes seemed to say, but at the time Reiji just refused to accept it, choosing to let Kiichi cry, instead of allowing his brother the luxury of thinking that death was a way out at all.
That night Kiichi had cried for him. Just knowing that somehow made the cuts and bruises the bastard left on his body seem very insignificant.
Kiichi had always been so lonely.
His fierce love for his brother was probably the only thing keeping Kiichi alive all those years. Until Haruomi came. And it was with both relief and great reluctance that he relinquished his precious position as his brother's protector, friend, lover. Relief for he knew leaving home was impossible, until he was absolutely convinced Kiichi was in safe hands.
He doubted Kiichi had a clue, always blaming himself for sending Reiji away to a foreign land in search for a moment of solace before the responsibilities would inevitably bring him back. All the years he spent abroad, he rarely called home, but there was not a day that he did not think of his brother, that he did not worry-
Then he met Shiki.
You were completely smitten with me. Of course, you refused to admit it.
A bitter smile. He had never known another man quite like him.
When he left England, he thought he'd left Shiki behind as well. But of course, Shiki's pride couldn't take it so he sought Reiji out.
Ironic really, that the baka had to literally fall head over heels for him the first instant their eyes met in Japan.
What a great first impression it would have made if it had been their first meeting.
Was this what it would have been like, if Shiki had been treated? Would he have been hooked to a ventilator too, get a hole drilled into his skull? Would he have lived?
Mustering all he had, Reiji finally took a real look at his brother for the first time that night.
Or would he have died anyway, here in a strange place, instead of in his own warm bed?
Kiichi's face was a frozen mask of serenity, his smile lines all but erased.
Reiji swallowed down the bitter taste of salt at the back of his throat.
Please. Not Kiichi. He's all I have left.
Reiji clasped his fingers in prayer and pressed them against his pursed lips, his guts twisting painfully.
I did everything right this time. Please.
"Reiji." A voice, crystal clear, its rich timbres resounding in the heavy silence of the night.
Reiji's eyes flew open.
His pupil darted crazily around his brother's private room, dimly illuminated by the small overhead lamp over Kiichi's head.
"Haruomi?" He called out hesitantly.
Haruomi was nowhere in sight. Of course, Reiji had sent him home. There was no one else with them.
It had been his voice. There was no mistaking it. He would know it anywhere.
Perplexed, Reiji leaned in closer, his heart hammering against his ribcage painfully. Was his brother awake? "Kiichi?" he whispered. Kiichi's eyes were still closed, his arms unmoving by his side.
He stood there for a full minute, rooted to the floor. He did not even dare move.
Your mind's playing tricks on you.
He can't possibly be here, Reiji told himself.
The dead stay dead. They don't come back. No matter how much you want them to. His fists balled.
But I see you. In everything, in everyone...I see you still.
But I see you. In everything, in everyone...I see you still.
Reiji looked down. And slightly squeezed Kiichi's first three fingers, careful not to disloge the oximeter. Even in my brother.
"I'm sorry," he breathed a sigh, too low to be audible. But deep down he knew, it did not matter. He squeezed his burning eyes shut, tightly, tightly; the words he'd been supressing inside for years, the words he so badly wanted to say but no longer had anyone to say it to rose in his chest, starving him of precious air-
"Shiki, I am so, so sorry.." A raw whisper, and he frantically suffocated it with a trembling fist.
He did not know how long he stood there, but by the time he opened his eyes and was feeling calm enough to resume breathing, the first lights of dawn were already seeping through the blinds.
The monitor beeped softly once.
The light danced across his brother's sleeping face, casting dark triangles across the high arc of his nose, the sloping ridge of his cheekbones.
Will you tell him that for me, Kiichi? He asked silently.
You'll know him, really. He looks just like you. A bitter smile. When you still had all that hair.
If Kiichi could hear him, he did not give a sign. Or maybe he was just plain ignoring him. Served Reiji right.
"I'm just going to the restroom for a while now. Gonna wash my face, then we'll talk okay? We can talk all we want, about anything at all, okay?" Reiji reached down to pat the only part of Kiichi's head not covered with the bandage gently. "I'll be back."
Reiji stepped out of the room and closed the door quietly behind him, before turning around just to freeze in his tracks.
His shadow loomed over the man dozing restlessly on the hard, wooden bench outside the room, wrapped only in a rumpled jacket.
It took Haruomi a full minute to rouse.
"Did you stay out here all night?"
A reluctant nod.
Reiji stood there watching him for a few seconds. Then he shook his head and walked away.
Haruomi handed him a large polystyrene cup filled to the brim with hot, steaming coffee. Surprised, it took Reiji a few seconds to register that it was actually for him.
"Thanks. I needed that."
Haruomi nodded, placing the bento boxes Shuuhei had especially made from home on the side table. His brother had been thoughtful enough to brew Reiji's favourite blend, knowing his employer would not live long on the hospital's horrid java.
"I didn't mean what I said."
Haruomi gazed at Reiji questioningly.
"Kiichi trusts you with his life." Reiji placed the palm of his hand over the lid of the cup, the intense heat from the steam condensing on his skin tingling his fingers. "There's no reason why I should have doubted you."
Haruomi regarded him silently, before taking his seat by the bed on Kiichi's other side.
"You have every right to. I made a promise to you." He felt hollow. "But I keep failing you. Kiichi still keeps getting hurt."
"Not your fault he's a human magnet for every perverted psycho there is out there." A snort. "Not to mention a klutz."
Haruomi only looked at Reiji sadly.
"It's just like the old days. Me sitting here, not knowing if he was ever going to wake up. The old man could never go easy on the blows." Reiji's eyes gazed heavenward. Even the ceiling still looked the same, he realized in wonder. "I'm sick of this place."
Here they were, sitting together, two men who had lost so much, now a hair's breadth from losing someone who meant so much to them, albeit in different ways perhaps. But love, in the true sense of the word, was unconditional after all. And blind.
Haruomi stared at his own wringing hands. He could not even begin to imagine what would become of him if Kiichi were to-
No. He wouldn't let him. Not ever.
He made a grab for Kiichi's hand safely tucked under the blanket. Warm. "But he always wakes up right?"
"Hmm?" A frown.
"In the old days?"
"Aah." The nurse had come in the early morning to remove the respirator, and now Kiichi was breathing on his own. That must be a good sign. Reiji still did not like the white turban around his head though.
"Reiji?" Haruomi broke the silence a moment later. He was not by nature a talkative person, but even Reiji had to admit, his brother's Kashima had borne Kiichi's extrovert disposition all these years with the patience of a saint. Sometimes he wondered if Haruomi had ever won an argument with his slick, headstrong brother.
"What was he like? When he was little?"
Reiji's frown deepened. If he could describe Kiichi in one word, what would it be? He tried to think.
It did not take very long however.
He shrugged. "Lonely."
Haruomi's face fell. Reiji looked at him strangely.
"What, you expecting some kind of fairy tale? A fairy godmother who looks after us, tells us bedtime stories?" He scoffed. "There were only monsters. Monsters have been in that house long before you came."
"But there must have been..." Haruomi gazed at him imploringly. "-something... "
"Not for us, no. Especially not for Kiichi." Reiji looked away. "God knows how he managed to survive this long, and not go mad." He downed the rest of the lukewarm coffee.
Haruomi shook his head. Reiji gave himself too little credit sometimes. "There's no way he could have-"
"Urusai na..." A weak voice rasped. "Both of you..."
Reiji nearly choked, sputtering coffee all over himself.
"Kiichi!" Haruomi rose from his seat so fast, his chair nearly toppled backward.
He's awake! True enough, Reiji watched in amazement as his brother's eyes fluttered open slowly. Tired. Drowsy.
"And you two are still here." A wry smile. "Should have known."
"Kiichi," Reiji whispered, leaning heavily forward against the cold metal sidebars of the bed, literally feeling his heart expand. He covered his face with one hand and allowed himself a relieved smile. Kiichi was awake. And very much alive.
"How long-?" Even Haruomi was speechless with overwhelming relief.
"Long enough. And I'm not a klutz." Kiichi tried to glare at them, but it took too much energy. So he settled for a smile.
"Haruomi, get a doctor." Haruomi nodded, and gave Kiichi's hand one last squeeze before rushing out the door.
Reiji fought to keep his emotions in check. There was nothing more beautiful to him at this very moment than the sight of his brother's familiar brown orbs. "What?" Damn. Even his voice was breaking.
"You drank my orange juice, didn't you?"
Reiji looked around. He knew this place. He had visited it enough times in wake and in sleep to know what was awaiting him.
He strolled past the shops. Street peddlers. Exquisite fountains overflowing with shining coins in place of water.
Foreign faces spattering accented Cockney English left and right-
Children with balloons in their hands, women with ribbons in their hair; no black in sight.
This was a place of colours. Of wishes. Dreams.
Ah! Just around that corner! Reiji quickened his pace. He had walked this cobble path countless times, his dream heart fluttering with excitement. He remembered! This was where they first met!
There! He has to be there!
Reiji nearly stumbled, but was quick to regain his footing.
The sharp corner was just a few yards away now. He thought he could hear laughter, the excited chatter of children, a spatter of applause-
The fog lifted. And he could see...nothing.
Just a blind alley, jealously guarded at all three sides by huge brick walls. No Shiki.
Reiji startled awake in the armchair. For a second he was in such a daze he could not remember where he was.
His heart was still racing from the run.
He sniggered, groping his face with a hand. It came away damp with perspiration.
Shiki's never been there. How many times have you had the dream? He asked himself. He's never there.
His eyes finally adjusting to the dark, Reiji blinked to clear his vision and turned his head in the direction of Kiichi's bed.
It was empty. The sheets pulled back, the blanket hanging in disarray at the foot of the bed, reaching the floor...but no sign of his brother. Reiji threw himself forward and frantically grasped the covers in vain.
"I'm here, Reiji." Camouflaged by the early shadows of dawn, there Kiichi was, huddled in the large armchair right opposite him, his long legs tucked underneath him, cheek propped on the back of the hand, watching him steadfastly.
"Shh!" Kiichi held a hand to his temple, wincing in pain. "Please. A hundred decibels lower!"
"Should you be moving around?" His heart still racing, Reiji stood up slowly, wrapping the thin shroud-like blanket around himself tightly; he was freezing.
Kiichi smiled sheepishly. "Not really. But you looked so adorable and I thought it'd be fun to watch you."
This is coming from a man who nearly died a hundred times over in a day. "Get back in the bed," Reiji growled.
"I'd rather not move, thanks."
Reiji looked around. "Haruomi wa?"
"I told him to go home."
Reiji stared at his brother incredulously. "And he said yes?"
"Bet you're dying to know how I did it. Man was practically dead on his feet."
Reiji shook his head. "You're amazing."
Kiichi gave a small shrug. "Not that hard, really. Told him I wanted his special truffle omelette for breakfast. And more."
"Please, spare me the details." Reiji walked around the foot of the bed and sat down on the mattress, rubbing the last remnant of sleep from his left eye. "How are you feeling?"
"Not bad, considering. Just a little lonely."
Reiji ran a hand through his tousled hair restlessly. He seemed to be debating something with himself. Finally he stood up, unwrapped the blanket from around his shoulders and wordlessly placed it over his brother who did not even have the sense to put on slippers. At a loss for words, Kiichi could only mumble his thanks.
Reiji coughed uncomfortably. His face looked flushed. "I'm sorry for being such a bastard."
Kiichi was quiet for a long time. Reiji looked away. Then finally-
"That's nothing to be sorry about. Gives you a margin to surprise people, I should think." Kiichi shrugged. "A huge one in your case though..." His voice trailed off.
They locked gazes for the longest time, saying nothing and everything in the language only they could understand. Kiichi was the one who finally broke the spell with a playful wink, and Reiji watched enthralled as his brother broke into one of his famous, trademark smiles he had thought he would never see again.
"You're still my kawaii little brother, bastard or otherwise."
Reiji's nose twitched.
"I really don't like you, you know that?"
"So I've been told," Kiichi mimicked. Then he pouted. "That totally ruins the wonderful apology, Reiji."
"Get over it."
Kiichi laughed. And hissed in pain. "Hngh."
Reiji had had enough. He jumped to his feet. "Get up."
Kiichi peeked at him through the crevices of his fingers, muttering something in protest.
"Get out of the chair. Come on. Up and at it." Reiji slipped a strong arm around his still whining brother and carefully pulled him onto his feet. Kiichi was barely able to stand; God only knew how he was able to get out of bed in the first place.
"If it hurts so much, stay in bed next time," he grumbled as Kiichi settled back against his pillows very, very carefully, his face paper white.
"To hurt, to heal..." Kiichi held his breath as a shard of pain coursed through his head as the bed jostled. When it finally passed, Kiichi exhaled slowly, painfully.
Reiji dropped onto the armchair he had just helped his brother vacate, giving Kiichi the evil eye.
"It's only human," Kiichi whispered tiredly. He opened his eyes.
"So is to forgive. And love. Hopefully one day, you will find it in your heart to forgive yourself. Perhaps he then, will forgive you too."
Reiji's face drained of colour.
Kiichi was still gazing at him softly. "He who haunts you in your wake and in your sleep...whoever this person is."
How did you kn-
"You loved him, didn't you?"
I never told-
His brother's long fingers crept across the bed silently and engulfed his cold, icy ones in a warm, tight squeeze.
All his breath left him as Reiji's eyes watered. He furiously blinked the dust away.
Kiichi was waiting. And perhaps, in a very distant somewhere, Shiki was too.
"Yes," he whispered, his voice shaking. He dropped his head forward and a drop of tear fell onto Kiichi's hand. "I did. I do, still..."
"So very much..." A strangled sob.
Reiji doubled over slowly and buried his face onto Kiichi's pillow, his body shaking uncontrollably as he sobbed and sobbed. He could feel it; the warmth of Kiichi's cheek, the loving answering pressure against the crown of his head...the gentle touch of Kiichi's fingers stroking the back of his neck...
Shiki once told him he was a proud man, incapable of forgiving and tolerating all that was ugly and short of perfection. Perhaps he was. But if there was one thing he was not proud enough to lose, it was this.
"Shh..." Kiichi hushed him comfortingly. "It's alright..."
"It's alright, Reiji..."
Reiji kept running. Fifty yards. Twenty yards. He ran still.
This time it was not going to be the same dead end he encountered time after time. This time what he was expecting to see, would be there. This time he was not going to wake up alone on his bed, only to stare blankly at the ceiling. Just a little further!
The figure in the middle of the alley turned around slowly. The fog lifted, and Reiji could finally see beyond all that was white and unclear, and what he saw turned his knees into water.
Reiji sucked in a breath. This isn't a dream. He's really there.
The same smiling eyes, sharp chiselled features, the same long silky hair bunched in a loose ponytail, framing a heart-shaped face and sultry lips-
You're really there.
I guess I am, The figure shrugged, his crisp, unbuttoned white shirt billowing in the wind. He blew a stray strand of hair caught in his teeth laughingly. You rang?
Reiji's lips worked, but no sound emanated from his throat. He looked up in dismay.
There he finally was, after an eternity of waiting, and Reiji did not know what to say.
"Daijoubu dayo." Shiki smiled sweetly. "Reiji."
Hands in pockets, the apparition took a step forward towards him, and another, and another; its steps light, fluid, almost as if it were treading on air; and finally it stopped a mere feet away.
I've missed you.
Reiji's eyes misted. So much.
Shiki's eyes grew smaller, and disappeared as he cracked another big grin. There was no sadness at all about him, his face as bright as how Reiji remembered it, white, glowing. If death had been hard on him, it did not show.
A hand reached for his cheek, icy cold. Reiji's breath caught in his throat as he felt his hair sift through the icy fingers. On their own volition, his eyelids fell closed.
A cold pair of lips pressed lightly against his, so light he could have just imagined it all, if not for the sweet musky scent of his favourite cologne wafting through the heavy, foggy air. The lips trailed butterfly kisses across the hollow of his cheek, before finally brushing against his earlobe.
The wind stole Shiki's whisper away as soon as Reiji heard it.
Reiji opened his eyes. And for the first time in years, he greeted the early morning sun with a smile.
Kiichi wrinkled his nose. He tilted the object in his hand sideways and peered at it again with as much scrutiny as he could muster in his current condition. He switched to the other side in vain, somehow knowing it wasn't going to be much different. He was scheduled to be released today and thought he should try to appear the least bit presentable. He traced his fingers lightly along the edge of the bandage. The doctors really did shave most of it off, now there was barely anything left of his beautiful, shiny hair. Those butchers.
With a huge sigh, he threw the hand mirror down on the bed in between his blanket-covered legs. He cast a mournful look at Haruomi who had been pretending to be busy packing his things into his suitcase for the past twenty minutes. He sighed again.
"Everytime I visit this place...I keep losing more hair. Each time. Funny, isn't it?"
It could just be his imagination, but he thought he saw Haruomi flinch.
"Soon there'll be nothing left. I hope you like the skinhead look, Haruomi, because next time-"
"There's not going to be a next time." Kiichi's head jerked ever so slightly. His Kashima's voice was so low he almost did not recognize it at all.
After an imaginary pause-
"Aw, come on, I bet I'd still look sexy bald-
"There's not going to be a next time."
Kiichi would give anything to be able to look at Haruomi's face; so he could see for himself what Haruomi's suddenly rigid posture seemed to suggest. Kiichi watched as Haruomi's hands stopped folding his clothes only to grip the sides of the table tensely instead. One look at the visibly blanched knuckles and the pale face...that was when Kiichi knew.
"Hey..." he called softly. The tetanic stiffness in Haruomi's back showed no sign of relenting. "Hey. Come here."
Just as Haruomi got within a feet from the bed, Kiichi promptly wrapped his arms around his Kashima's waist tightly, burying his face against Haruomi's warm torso.
"Are you afraid?"
"Yes." A raw whisper. The rough, calloused hands caressed the sides of Kiichi's face, tracing the delicate outlines of his jaw very carefully, almost reverently.
"Me too." Tears dewed on his lashes, but still Kiichi held them in. Haruomi hated seeing him cry. And furthermore, now more than ever, he needed to be strong, for Haruomi, for himself, for all the people that mattered to him. He let out a shaky sigh.
"Do you remember the first time we met?"
"Hmm." Haruomi cupped both his hands gently around the crown of Kiichi's head, stroking the bandage protectively with his thumbs .
"It was not under the best circumstances, was it?" Kiichi's lips curled in a mirthless smile.
No, it wasn't. I was near the edge of my wits with grief, and about to get holes drilled into my skull. And you were clutching a dead dog. Haruomi's smile was genuine however, as painful as the memory was. And you held it as if it were a baby, never letting anyone touch its cold dead body, as if protecting it would somehow bring it back to life, fatal poison or otherwise.
"I remember how you made me laugh," Kiichi chuckled lightly.
Haruomi's face burned.
You really were the prettiest person I have ever laid eyes on.
"And I remember thinking, 'Ah! How beautiful!'...when you said it-"
Kiichi beamed at Haruomi's confused expression. "Your name. When you told me your real name."
"Heaven's Snow." Haruomi's breath caught in his throat. "And I thought, a person with such a beautiful name, has got to be a good man. A good man to me." Kiichi's lower lip trembled slightly.
"That's when I knew, that you were a gift. The only good thing my father had ever done to me-" his eyes began to water. "And I remember thinking that perhaps God has finally taken pity on me, that He's given me you to make up for all the bad and all the hurt-"
"My life was not my own. It has never been and on some days, it isn't still-" Kiichi breathed raggedly, the words pouring out of him like water- "You made me forget it all. Even if for a little while. You made me not hurt so much." His tears were falling freely now, soaking into Haruomi's shirt.
"But now you're here with me." Kiichi continued fiercely, his eyes bright with fervent need. "And I'm alright, see?"
Haruomi's mask finally crumbled, and a sudden weight rested on top of the recuperating man's head. Kiichi closed his eyes, savouring the pressure of the larger man's trembling lips against his hair.
"Don't you dare die before me." His Kashima's voice was raw with emotions he had neither seen nor heard the man display before.
"Haruomi, omae..." Kiichi choked out something caught between a sob and a laugh. "I mean a lot to you, huh?"
Haruomi leaned down to kiss Kiichi's eyelids one by one tenderly. "Baka."
"Kiichi, wake up."
Bright. He didn't like it.
He nuzzled his nose against the person next to him, inhaling deeply. "Haruomi...?"
Familiar, the scent. Yet, different. Eyes still closed, Kiichi frowned.
Reiji rolled his eyes. The air hostess was still standing over them, a furious blush colouring her cheeks, running across her nose. He should really wake his idiot of a brother before he could embarass them any further. Thank God the entire first-class cabin was already empty.
"Kiichi, we're here." He felt the slightest pang of guilt, but if Kiichi wished to sleep, he could do it once they got to the hotel. Right now, he had an important message he needed to convey to someone. Someone who had been waiting long enough. He gave his brother a shake, and kept at it until Kiichi finally opened his eyes.
"We're here," Reiji repeated. A rare smile graced his lips, his face unusually bright; Kiichi now wide awake, stared at his brother in amazement.
"Come," he said, extending a hand toward his brother.
I'm back Shiki.
Heathrow Airport was exactly how he had left it. Unchanged, undisturbed, untouched by the passage of time. He could sense Kiichi's uneasiness; it was his first time traveling such great a distance without his precious bodyguard watching over him, but Reiji had a feeling they'd be just fine. He smiled again. I'll introduce you to each other, properly this time.
This is where my two worlds meet.
From afar, he could make out a familiar figure, tall and statuesque in an expensively-tailored sports jacket. Too graceful for a man, too imposing for a woman, but he'd know him anywhere.
Now we're all together again. The three of us. I'll play your song again if you want.
Reiji raised a hand. Takamiya finally saw them and his face brightened.
Reiji beamed happily. And you know what? I think I love you.
Haha. Speaking of which...Hmm. Come to think of it, what was the dare he baited Shiki with in the ungodly hours of the morning of his birthday oh so many years ago?
"I'll make you say you love me. I'll do whatever it takes to make you say it."
Shiki never did say the words. But Reiji heard them anyway.