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The floor is sand.
Ryou runs his hand through it, pulling mystic patterns from the grains before scrabbling to reach the gold beneath. It will not budge, even as his nails chip and his fingers bleed, even as the silver-white sun upon his skin burns and makes him tremble.
Only the ring upon his neck is cool. He borrows down into it, seeking some strange sanctuary and he feels the familiar slither of shark-fins; as his shadow touches shade.
'You're sick,' The Voice informs him and Ryou agrees.
The white sun is too high, too hot, too bright. He tries to grab at it, to extinguish it with his hand but it dances away, slipping through his fingers.
'You have a fever.'
Ryou has to agree with this also. He's been out in the rain too long. He's been eating too little. He's been worrying too much.
'Get to bed.'
Bed? He has a bed but he's in the desert right now. There is sand beneath his fingers and back, the sun hot white against a beige sky. He's in Egypt, his father is going to excavate a tomb and he needs Ryou to be very quiet because otherwise he won't be let in. Just like in the museums they have visited, drifting through the dust and stone, his sisters hand warm around his. Quiet Ryou. Shhh…
'Bed, Yadounushi. Now.'
He's telling himself this. He must be because he's standing above him. He's sick and he's not sick and he's feels like he's floating above the red-hot carpet of sand, drifting serenely out of his body. He must be because he can see himself doing it. So he wills himself to move to the bed but he doesn't, he only glares and he decides doesn't like the floating-him, not when he looks at himself like that. So he closes his eyes to it and falls asleep.
He wakes with the world pounding on his head, begging to be let in. It's hot and bright and he needs the bathroom badly but he can't get up, can't even draw patterns on the sand any more.
He doesn't feel like floating now, the pain is too heavy for him to fly.
He turns from the light and sees amidst the heat waves a figure near him. Leaning down, white hair, pail face concerned… Amane…
He speaks her name out loud, she frowns and stands up, gesturing for him to do the same.
He does so, feet moving shakily beneath him. There's pain and unsteadiness and confusion as the wind whips around him and the sands surge beneath him and the sun burns above him. But his sister is here, so it's all OK.
She's holding him, arms strong and secure, so close she could be in him, part of him, breathing the same broken breath. She's always done this, placing herself before him in the face of danger. When the children at school threw stones at the pail haired half-breeds she would stand before him and he would cower in her shadow. She's younger than him by five whole minutes and a girl to boot, but she's always so much stronger.
She's always protected him, a mother to replace the one they killed.
Coddling, his father called it.
The bathroom is a haze of white tiles and tinkling water. It makes him thirsty but, when his bladder is empty, Amane guides him to the kitchen, leans him against the white-pure-bright counter. She feels distant somehow. He wants her closer, underneath his skin, wearing him like a cloak, sharing eyes and hands and lips.
But it won't happen, can't happen, because he's sick; because it's contagious and deadly and it's in his head.
He's not felt like that since he took all those little pills the Psychiatrist gave him.
Pills that made him calm and sleepy and peaceful, dulling even his own thoughts, reducing the world to a cotton-wool dream.
But the voice still came and the pills disappeared and the meetings with the psychiatrist stopped when she killed herself, only an hour after Ryou's last session.
Ryou was glad because spirits and ghosts and demons were so much friendlier than those precise, cramped notes she'd written, laying down the twisted contours of his mind and soul with their neat little phrases.
Insecure, avoidant, antisocial, a little paranoid… mostly schizophrenic, in desperate need of help, preferably professional, possibly padded
Everything right there. All those little neat pieces of paper lost to the wind or smudged by the blood trickling across the psychiatrist's desk.
But that was a fever dream. He doesn't remember that.
Father couldn't afford for his son to go to an asylum. Not with a sponsorship deal at the tips of his fingers anyhow. So Ryou made sure to stay silent, stuffing his hands in his mouth whenever he felt like screaming.
Quiet Ryou. Shhh…
He has to be quiet, has to be good. Father can't afford for it to be otherwise.
But sometimes quiet isn't good enough
There is water in his mouth now, and Amane is pushing garlic and honey in there too. The taste makes him sick but he's swallowing it before his mouth can protest. He feels it slip uncomfortably down into his stomach and he wonders if he could keep it there.
It is ancient Egyptian medicine, he thinks, combined with tokens and amulets to chase away evil sprits of fever and pain. But he already had an amulet and that didn't chase way the spirits. Far from it. Only the little pills did that. Little pills all poured away down the toilet.
Amane is guiding him away now, across the sands towards the temple of his bed. He wishes Amane was still alive. He wishes he hadn't been sent away.
But he is sick. Sick in the head and, if he stays too near others, they got sick too… one way or another.
Besides, children with white hair can't afford to be seen and children with voices that aren't their own even less so. Father can afford a small flat in Domino far better than he could afford to lose the sponsorship, to lose his dreams. Somebody has to have dreams, after all.
The temple looms before him and Amane is divesting him in his cloths, his own hands moving rhythmically as he wraps himself in clean cotton pyjamas which stick and cling to his sweaty skin.
He feels like one of those mummies, being prepared for burial. He wonders if that is why his head hurts so much and his nose is running. Perhaps they have already removed his brain and his nostrils and dripping with the after-fluid.
He looks down to his hands, half expecting them to be withered and brown but they're still white and whole under the artificial silver sun.
Now he's being pushed down into the sarcophagus, Amane looming above him, the light haloing her pure white hair, but darkening her features.
He's crying now. He doesn't want this. He's being sealed away, wrapped up and hidden in some mouldy sarcophagi, preserved and isolated and hidden. Lost and alone in the darkness with only the Voice to keep him company. It's whispering over his skin like some monstrous centipede, eating his soul from the inside out.
"Quiet Ryou… Shhh"
And he's sorry, he's so, so sorry he couldn't save Amane. So sorry that he wasn't there to jump in front of her when the car hit, so very sorry that his wasn't the body to fall, a broken patchwork of red and white upon the concrete floor.
He's sorry and he's sorry and he cannot stop weeping from the fear and the pain, begging her not to seal him away, not to banish him, not to leave him alone.
She is impassive as the lid wraps around him, closing out the light, up, up until it touches his chin, now soaked in sweat and tears.
Her eyes are darker than he remembers, narrower, but she gazes at him and leans close, her lips brushing his forehead in a tender, possessive kiss. They're as sweetly cool as the ring upon his chest; he feels the fire melt away.
'Don't worry,' the voice whispers, 'you're mine. I won't leave you.'
He should know that voice. It's hers, it's his, it's neither and it's so familiar and wrong and yet so tender. He struggles with it but the sky is darkening and the world is cooling. The Sarcophagi lid does not raise itself further; he can still breathe, can still see Amane at the foot of his bed, watching over him.
It occurs, as the first shadows of sleep steal over him, how very much like him she looks.
Eventually he awakes to find the floor is covered in carpet, not sand.
The light bulb is bright above his head, his bed is warm and covers are tucked neatly to his chin.
The fever has broken.
He gets up and makes some food. The pattern of his life resumes. He stayed quiet and for his pain the world remains unchanged.
As he continues, day upon day, the Voice whispering in his ears, the world spinning around him even as he stands still upon it's surface, he thinks he sees something else.
It flutters in the corner of his eye, it dances upon the edges of his vision. A white haired figure, his height, his age, his own.
So when the spirit whispers, when it screams and shouts and beguiles, he takes his small, stolen comfort where he can get it.
He takes sanctuary in the presence of his pale, silent sister.
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