When Keith closed his eyes, he expected to see blood. He was sure he still smelled of it. But as it sometimes did, as all human minds sometimes did, his thoughts betrayed him. His mind was clear and empty, as if all his thoughts had gathered in the form of unshed tears in his aching throat. He knew it was only an illusion, but he felt like his shields had been torn down. For years he had slept calm and straight on his back. This time, he could not do it. He curled in on himself protectively, and only then could he sink into the emptiness in his mind.
He should not have trusted sleep to give him the same routine dreams as usual. He should have learned his lesson: nothing and no one could be trusted to do what they were meant to do.
Keith opened his eyes, and Matsuka was sitting next to him. They were somewhere in the light.
"Keith," Matsuka said, smiling.
"Leave me," Keith said. "You have no right to still be here." Matsuka had already gotten in too far. For him to be in Keith's dreams, now-that was too much.
"That's not true," Matsuka said. "You want me to be here, so I am. For a little while longer."
Before he could catch himself, Keith spoke again. "Only a little while?" Unfairly, he ached at the thought.
"Then I have to go," Matsuka said. He lifted his head and looked up into the light. "That's why I'm here."
"I see," Keith said. "You came to say goodbye. It wasn't necessary. I'll make my own coffee from now on." But suddenly his hand was warm. Matsuka was holding it-again. Keith could not bring himself to pull away.
"Please don't feel any more sorrow for me," Matsuka said. His smile reached his eyes. Keith wondered how people did that. It was something he'd never been able to master. "What you've felt already is enough. I have...everything I ever wanted."
"I don't," Keith said.
"No," Matsuka said. "You don't. I'm sorry about that."
"There's no reason for you to be sorry," Keith said. "It's only because there was never anything for me to want."
"That's not true!" Matsuka clasped his hand more tightly. Keith tried to pull away, but found that he couldn't. "All people want something. Human and Mu alike. That's why..." He pulled Keith closer, although Keith did not know why. "We can live together because we want to see each other smile."
"You were always naive," Keith said, trying to will himself farther away. But for the first time, Matsuka was the one in control. "Matsuka."
"And you were always cruel," Matsuka said. "But I'm not naive, and you aren't cruel."
Keith looked away. But then there was a pale hand on his chin, soft and careful, guiding his face back to look at Matsuka's. "Why do you touch me?" Keith demanded.
"Because I understand now," Matsuka said. "I understand why you chose to save me."
"It was because you were useful," Keith said. "Don't assume anything else."
"That's not what I mean," Matsuka said. "Choosing not to kill me...it isn't the same as saving me. You saved me when you took me with you. You did it because we both knew the truth."
Keith wanted to pull away, but it occurred to him that this was the last time he would have the chance to feel Matsuka's hands on him. Why had he not taken advantage of the opportunity before? "And what was the truth we both knew?"
"That Terra meant nothing," Matsuka said. "That all we had was each other."
Keith shook his head, then wished he hadn't, because the sensation of Matsuka's hand moving against his face awakened strange feelings in him.
"It's all right if you don't believe it yet," Matsuka said softly. "But please do one thing for me...Keith."
"What is that?" Keith didn't know why he was asking. He didn't have to do anything for Matsuka.
"I chose to save you of my own will," Matsuka said. "Will you remember that?"
The tears he hadn't shed suddenly threatened Keith's composure. He pushed them ruthlessly away. But when he spoke, his voice was too gentle. It was almost as if Matsuka were right. "I can't not remember it," he said.
Matsuka smiled. "Thank you, Keith," he said. "Thank you for letting me save you."
"You didn't give me a choice."
"There's always a choice," Matsuka said. "I want to make one more, before I go."
"What is it?" Keith tried not to look interested, but it was harder than it had ever been. Suddenly, what Matsuka would do was important to him. But still, he couldn't have guessed what it would be.
Matsuka leaned up, trying to reach him. Their mouths brushed. Matsuka's was so soft.
"That was...a kiss," Keith said.
"Neither of us had ever had one," Matsuka said. "We had that in common, even though we were human and Mu. We gave one to each other. Don't you think we can learn to live together...?"
Keith said nothing. It was too heartfelt a plea for him to brush off, and it hurt too much for him to accept. Silence was the only answer he could give.
"Goodbye," Matsuka said. "Keith. I'll wait for you." And then there was only the light.
Keith opened his eyes. He was lying in bed, no longer huddled in around himself. Now he was stretched out, reaching for something or someone. "Matsuka," he repeated. "Why did I never tell you? You were my monster. No. You were my Mu."
But the room was empty. When Keith closed his eyes, he could see Matsuka's smile. Yet it was only an echo. The real Matsuka had gone on ahead, and Keith knew now that there was still something he had to do before following him.
"I'll be there soon," he murmured. "This time, I'll be your human."