Dark Night

It was dark and calm inside the apartment. There were no signs of life--no signs that somebody might be awake. All the noise and movement of the day were absent, packed away somewhere to be picked back up tomorrow. Even the clock on the wall ticked softly, tranquilly, knowing no one was listening to it.

The tableau was shattered suddenly, by movement--but even then, night didn't lose its hold on the room. Nobody thought to flick the light switch; the sounds of struggle were muted, repressed, by the very fact that it was two or three in the morning. A man came into the room, halfway carrying a shorter figure who didn't want to be carried. They scuffled quietly, the rustling of their clothes and a few halfway uttered protests barely louder than a mouse's squeak the only noises. Arms flailed and bodies jostled, but slowly and certainly the taller figure won ground, finally maneuvering the other to the couch and pushing him onto it, perhaps with more strength than was necessary. The smaller figure landed flat on his back, winded, but quickly caught his breath and started to get back up. But the taller figure firmly planted a hand on the middle of his chest, and this time his arm was tensed and straight and there was no room for an argument. He was done.

The shorter figure recognized the hard look in his friend's eyes--even though it was dark, he could still see the glare on his face, and feel from the heaviness of the hand on his chest that their silent argument was over. He returned the glare, but remained motionless.

When his point had been made and acknowledged, the taller one removed his hand and began looking around the room for something. Wordlessly, the shorter one reached behind the couch and lifted a small case, handing it to his companion with no small amount of irony.

The taller man took it without thanks. "Shirt off," was his only comment.

There was no movement to comply. Another glare was exchanged in the darkness. "I mean it, Kurapika," the taller man threatened. "If you don't do it I will."

Kurapika glared for a moment longer before rising to a sitting position and wordlessly stripping his shirt and the tunic he wore under it. He noted bloodstains on them as he took them off--so that's why Leorio had known to insist on their removal.

Leorio stared without blinking at the patchwork injuries the removal of cloth revealed. The cuts on his torso matched the ones on Kurapika's arms in length, depth, even position; it was almost a pattern. Kurapika was nothing if not methodical. "I'm turning the light on," Leorio warned.

Both pairs of eyes squinted shut as Leorio switched on the lamp next to the couch and the room was flooded with light. "Pants," Leorio said, in an tone that didn't allow for argument.

Kurapika offered none--the fight seemed to have gone out of him, now that he knew how serious Leorio was about countering it. He simply shed his pants without comment, as though he was at the doctor's office, and didn't look at Leorio.

"Why'd you stop there?" Leorio asked before he could stop himself, seeing how the cuts stopped abruptly halfway up Kurapika's legs. It was a morbid question. But there was nothing about this situation that wasn't morbid.

"You woke up," Kurapika replied succinctly.

Leorio opened the first aid kit Kurapika had handed him, also doing his best to pretend they were strangers in a doctor's office, not friends at home in the middle of the night. It was best to stay clinical. "Stay here. If you try to get off this couch I'm going to find a way to tie you to it." Well, maybe not so clinical. He went into the kitchen to get some water and washcloths.

Kurapika was still lying there listlessly when Leorio came back, not having moved an inch. Leorio handed him a glass of water. "Drink some of that, slowly." Then he took a dampened washcloth and began systematically cleaning the dried and clotting blood away, doing his best not to remember that the body he was treating was his friend's body.

He heard the ice in the glass moving as Kurapika took a drink. Neither of them spoke for a moment, Leorio working and Kurapika letting him do so with remarkable indifference. Kurapika was the one who eventually broke the silence. "This is ironic," he said softly.

Leorio agreed--but it was ironic in so many ways that he had to ask. "How so?"

"My friends." It seemed for a moment that that was all Kurapika was going to say, but Leorio sent him a Look that said he had better elaborate, so Kurapika did so. "My friends were what kept me going when revenge wasn't enough to sustain me anymore. The reason that I was still alive to be able to defeat the Spider. And now--" Kurapika's eyes, and his smile, were dark. "Now that I've done everything that I want to do with my life, it's my friends that tie me here against my will. The thing that saved me is the thing that traps me."

"Give me your other arm." Kurapika complied, and several moments went by before Leorio spoke, softly. "This will pass, Kurapika."

"You seem remarkably sure of that."

"You'll get through it."

"Because you'll force me to?" Kurapika's tone was always calm these days; his questions, at once piercing and disturbing. "Because you'll lock me inside your apartment and keep me on suicide watch and--what was it--find a way to tie me to the couch. Until I decide that you were right and I was wrong and I should get better after all."

"If that's what it takes," Leorio replied, blandly ignoring Kurapika's sarcasm. "Lean forward." Kurapika did so, and Leorio set to work on his shoulders and back, wondering exactly how Kurapika had managed to cut himself there. "Time--"

"Don't tell me time heals all wounds, Leorio."

"I wasn't going to."

"Then what were you going to say?"

"...I was going to say it better than that."

"I wasn't trying to kill myself, you know."

"I know. If you were, you were doing a pretty shitty job of it."


"Which all goes to prove that you're not really suicidal, you see."

"Thanks again. I love being told what I am and am not."

Leorio put down the bloody cloth and picked up a clean one, liberally drenching it in antiseptic. "Well--you're not," he said mulishly.

Kurapika gave him an icy look. "Just because you say something enough times doesn't make it true."

"I'm just making an observation."

"No, you're not. You're trying to make it go away. You're trying to tell me what I want to do. And I'm telling you that I've done everything that I want to do, except--"

He didn't say it. Because Leorio looked him in the eye, and silently asked him not to. The look was real, cutting across the barriers of anger and indifference and the facade of a clinic that they had both created to deal with the situation. Kurapika had to look away, and they both sank back into silence.

It was several minutes before someone spoke again. "Gon and Killua keep calling," Leorio said softly, glancing upwards to gauge Kurapika's reaction. "Do you want to see them?"

Kurapika shook his head slightly, his face set like stone. Leorio debated for a moment, then spoke. "By the way," he said, reaching for the bandages, "I think you're full of crap."

Kurapika gave him a look that was half resentful, half inquisitive. "This whole 'I've done everything I want to do with my life' routine? It's total bullshit." Leorio started wrapping the worst of the cuts. "I know you better than that. Even if you don't remember, I do." Leorio's voice was shaking slightly, with something that it would have been easy to misidentify as anger--but it sprang from anger's opposite. "You know what you want to do with your life?" Kurapika stared at him. "You want to read every book that was ever written. You want to read them all and discuss them with people, and then you want to learn a bunch of foreign languages so you can read those books too, because you actually want to know everything there is to know. And then you want to travel to all the places you've read about and see what's there, and you want to learn about people and protect people from things and build things and--and do things I can't even imagine. You have more fire inside you, more passion, than any one person I have ever met. And that kind of fire isn't going to go out like this. Not like this."

Kurapika continued to stare, silent, his eyes wet. Leorio shook his head slightly, a little surprised at everything he had just said. "And you say," he added, disbelievingly, "that you've done everything you want to do with your life." He shook his head again.

Kurapika turned to face the wall again, and drew a deep breath. "Well--not everything," he conceded shakily.

Leorio couldn't help a brief smile. "Drink that," he reminded Kurapika, gesturing to the glass of water. Kurapika automatically raised it to his lips, replacing the liquid lost when he bled so much.

"How do you know?" Kurapika asked suddenly. Leorio looked at him, not understanding. "How do you know that--the fire, whatever you call it," Kurapika stammered. "How do you know it won't just crumble in on itself?"

Leorio shrugged. "I won't let it."

Kurapika put a hand to his forehead, as though Leorio's answer had given him a headache. "I knew you were going to say that."

Leorio shrugged. "It's the truth. You know that I won't let you go anywhere. Accept it and move on."

"You're remarkably callous, you know that?"

"Right. I'm supposed to be babying you and tiptoeing around you and granting your every whim and telling you I'm here for whatever you need. I'm fine with that except for the babying, tiptoeing, and whim-granting parts."

"...So, whatever I need..."

Leorio put the bandages back into the medical kit and did up the clasps. "Well--duh."

Kurapika smiled slightly, and reached to put his clothes back on. Leorio watched him. "You should come sleep in the bed," he finally said.

"So that if I decide to hurt myself again you'll feel the movement of the bed and you'll wake up and stop me?"

"I was going to say 'cause it's more comfortable, but yeah, your answer works too."

Kurapika turned off the lamp as he rose unsteadily, and began limping his way to the bedroom. "You haven't won," he informed Leorio as he passed. "I'm just too tired to keep fighting with you right now. It's not that easy."

Leorio shrugged. "I never thought it would be easy," he muttered under his breath to the empty room, after Kurapika had passed. He followed his friend back to the bedroom, warily trying to stay both close enough and far enough away, leaving the front of the apartment once more silent and dark and bearing no witness to the battle that was taking place slowly, one day at a time, inside it.