Standard Disclaimers Apply.

He's afraid.

He doesn't mind if they think he's somebody else, he doesn't mind if he's being used as a replacement because at least someone is still there. Since Shirogane met him on the street several blocks away from his house, the wheels and cogs have ground themselves together, the clock inside him beginning to drain away his time. In twilight hours, he lies on his side facing away from Shirogane, hand clutching the shirt over his chest like he's got a heart attack going on, heart going thump thump thump and only the crescendo and diminuendo of the TICK TICK TICK going down.

Dolce, he thinks, hearing the strains of a lullaby, ritardando.

Slow down, because he's still here, because he shouldn't be used so much that he no longer exists in the eyes of those who use him. He wants to tell them not to call him the King of Rei, because that isn't who he is. My name is Nikaido Akira, he wants to say. And Shirogane looks at him like he's the only thing in the universe, and Kou looks at him like he wants to hide Akira away from the rest of the world, half-crazy with devotion and bound by duty. Kengo and Aya look at him like he's a hero and he wants to tell them that heroes don't exist except in myths and fairytales. Everyone else looks at him, surprised by his foreign looks and his unconventional ways, and mutter and murmur, shooting glances using the corners of their eyes, and Akira wants to smash their faces in.

A person exists only when someone acknowledges that he does, and Akira needs that. Agitato, and he nearly breaks his own weapon when Shirogane slips and almost calls him the name of the other. It's fine to use him as a replacement, but it is not okay to call him anything other Akira.

Akira, Akira, Akira, it's his name, and it doesn't have a meaning, but it's alright because he's becoming its definition. Akira is a noun, but it doesn't mean Ryuuko, or Aki. Akira means Akira, and he wants it to stay that way.