Dreams and Destinies
Warnings: PG-13, Rai + Ren. No real warnings, but fic gets the rating for some slightly disturbing descriptions. Ren thought he was lucky to have Rai around. He'd protect that if he could.
Note: Okay, so in the manga, Rai and Ren were generally homeless, sleeping on park benches and what not. Despite that, I can't believe that they were always outside… with as many half-abandoned apartment complexes there were, I'm sure they found somewhere indoors to sleep. This is where this story setting stems from.
At first, Ren didn't know which was worse. His nightmares, or the fact that he would wake up and realize that the nightmares were actually memories. At first, he and Rai slept in separate beds; or rather, Rai slept in another bed and Ren tried not to sleep. His nightmares – memories – were so vivid at night that he oft woke with the scent of charred flesh in his nose and bile rising in his throat.
At first, Ren would wake up before the scene turned horrible. He would immediately come to upon seeing his mother, with a crazed, not-there look in her eyes, holding the lighter that all but forced him into his new destiny. It wasn't enough to wake screaming about, not really, not yet, but his tongue still felt heavy with the sensation of wanting to do just that.
The first night he dreamt the scene all the way through, he was yelling before he had even opened his eyes. When he finally did, Rai was there peering over him with a hand on his shoulder, telling him to wake up. For a long moment he tried not to blink, knowing that a flaming hand was waiting just behind his eyelids.
Rai went back to bed that night, and Ren tried his hand at sleeping again. When he woke again, Rai had moved his meager futon next to Ren's and said, "I'm your shield, remember? This may help keep the dreams at bay."
Ren wasn't exactly sure what to say to that, so he'd nodded and smiled. Rai, so sweet and caring – still, with an unfortunate situation like this, Ren thought he was lucky to have Rai around. He'd protect that if he could.
Even with Rai sleeping near, two arm lengths away, the dreams of his past didn't cease – they only became more complex. Sometimes, he dreamt of himself as a child, wide-eyed, frightened, and stained with blood. So much blood that the feel of it drying chafed his fingers, that his nose was clogged with the scent of it, his mouth blocked with the taste of it. Then it would be his mother, frying, drenched in gasoline, contradicting herself with please come closer and stay away from me in a single breath.
Ren had never had anyone to sleep next to, being an only child, but he found himself dragging his futon closer to Rai's until the edges touched. He told himself that if they were closer, Rai could shield him better. That night, Ren's nightmare only replayed half of his harrowing tale before he was jarred awake by a heavy arm across his middle. He relaxed when he realized it was just Rai, and he scooted closer until he and Rai fit together, side by side.
Ren slept like that for the rest of the night and the next morning, he woke unburdened.
From then on, Ren slept by Rai's side, and though the dreams never went completely away, they didn't overtake him every night. When the dreams started to shift and change, incorporating his daily horrors, Ren would wrap his arms as best he could around Rai and bury his face in the taller boy's chest. He thought he might have surprised Rai, in a bad way, but Rai only smiled in response and held him in kind.
At first, Ren wasn't sure where he stood with Rai. Rai had spent the last 10 years tracking him down, but he had to wonder what did that really mean? Ren wouldn't easily believe that someone would expend so much energy to find someone just for companionship, even if he and Rai were something like kindred spirits.
Now, though, Ren knows.
"You love me, don't you?" he says plainly, as Rai types out a text to Hiromi.
Rai smiles, but doesn't look away from the phone. "What makes you say that?"
"Well," Ren starts. "You protect me."
"Of course, I'm the shield, your shield," Rai replies.
Ren makes an annoyed face. "You hold me too, like my mother…" he pauses, trails off. "Should have."
Rai looks up at that, but his smile is small and sad this time. "Another part of protecting you, Ren."
"Alright, alright," Ren says, and pulls his knees to his chest. "You kissed me last night, right here, how about that?" he says with a grin, and presses his finger to the middle of his forehead.
Rai's smile is wry, and he pushes 'send' on the cell phone and closes the flip. "You were awake, huh?"
"Yeah, a little bit," Ren mutters, and after all this time, why now is he shy in front of Rai?
Rai throws his arm around Ren's shoulders, pulls him close in a half hug. "Well, I guess I do love you then, don't I?"
Ren leans into Rai and sighs. Rai is warmth and comfort personified, and Ren takes a little pleasure basking in it despite being on a hard park bench. He knows that they don't have much time left, knowing that Rai is inextricably linked to his own death, but perhaps he'll dream differently for a change.
If not, he'll make a memory instead.