A/N: At 2AM in the morning, this is what I think of. My first, but definitely not last, Shiki fic. This one – and the title shows it – was inspired by the song "Dying Words" performed by Nu Pagadi. (It's been a while since I've heard any songs by them and I think the aforementioned song is one of the only two who ever made the charts. Sad, as they had potential.)

Disclaimer: Ono Fuyumi and all associated companies are the rightful owners of Shiki. No copyright infringement intended and no money is being made from this. Please support the mangaka by buying the original work!

Warnings: None. I think.

I Still Hear Your Dying Words

"You're playing dirty," he had said. "Act more like a vampire!" he had said. And what he didn't, couldn't say, "You're not Tohru-chan."

Because he was. Flesh, blood, voice, mind, and heart – even if no longer beating. He was still the same Tohru-chan. The one from his memories. The one who had managed to befriend him, the one who had managed to make him open up (if only a teeny tiny bit), the one who had been so open about his own feelings, the one who had drawn him in, and the one whose death he was responsible for.

Because that was true, wasn't it? Shimizu had only killed Tohru because he had been his friend. Because he, Natsuno didn't want to take on the role of her lover, not wanting to play out his part the same way everyone else in this godforsaken town did. He hated the idea of giving labels to people, of living out his assigned role as everyone expected him to do. This small town was suffocating with its ways; the people here and their narrow views were suffocating him and he couldn't wait to get out of this place and back to the big city.

What Natsuno hadn't realised though, was that, before long, he, too, had started giving labels to others. Shimizu who was just a stupid and annoying country-side brat mongering for his love and sneaking around his house at nights, the old geezers gathering together to trade rumour and belittle those who didn't fit with their views, even his own parents – he'd labelled them all without even thinking about it. And he had labelled Tohru as well, several times. Nuisance. Clumsy idiot. Maybe I can hang out with him some time. Best friend. Dead. Risen. My killer. Tohru was all that. All that and many other things which words couldn't express.

Tohru had never responded to those words, had never said the words which he had all the right to say. Which he would have said, if he hadn't been Tohru: "How do you expect me to act? I don't know what to do. I never wanted to become this way!" And then, what Natsuno dreaded to hear from him, but never would hear, "It's your fault."

It was, and Natsuno would have nothing to say to that. The only thing he could have done in response to that accusation he had already done. Because Shimizu had only killed Tohru in retaliation for Natsuno's refusal to play out her little fantasy, having Tohru kill him in turn was only fair, wasn't it? Yes, he had wanted to fight at first; it had been his first impulse after seeing Tohru alive again, after seeing him broken, no – only breaking. Back then, that first night under his window Tohru had been breaking. Natsuno supposed that it had begun after he'd been roused from his grave, after realising what he had become. Natsuno had wanted to fight. He had wanted to find a way to if not reverse the situation – that, he realised, was something that could never be done – then at least make it more bearable for his friend. He wanted to find a way out for Tohru because he was the one person in this entire village who didn't deserve to live like this. No, it wasn't even living. He wasn't alive anymore. Natsuno tightened his fists. And Shimizu had even dared to approach him after this, seeking his approval, his love. How could he regard her with anything but disgust and hatred after she had destroyed everything worthwhile in his life? No, Natsuno shook his head slightly. Not everything. The only thing, returning to the big city aside, that had meant something for him in this cursed village.

Tohru had cried, unable to live with his position, with this new existence, but had resigned to it every night after drawing Natsuno's blood. He had never wanted for it to happen, didn't want it until the last moment, but followed his destiny, his curse to the very last, and broke with the last drops of blood draining from the body of his once-best friend and the last breath escaping his lips.

Natsuno was no more, but Tohru continued to exist. Okiagari weren't supposed to cry; they never did in the stories grandparents used to scare their grandchildren with. Yet Tohru had already lost the count of times he'd wept. For himself, for his family, for Natsuno, for life itself. Having to kill Natsuno was the worst thing he'd done in his life. Having to kill people he knew since childhood was something he didn't think he could ever get used to, and yet he resigned himself to this life of sin, this new burden weighing heavily on his shoulders. But it couldn't even compare to the hell he'd gone through, having to approach Natsuno with the same intent, to see him give in and welcome it, to hear him confess his dreams and how he didn't think they would come true.

Tohru refused to fight together with Natsuno not because he liked this new way of existence. He refused because he saw no way out of it; he could never return to his old life and he couldn't live with the sin of this new one, but he couldn't die either because for as long as he lived, his family was safe. He had to make sure that neither his siblings, nor his parents followed him into this new life. If he still had a heart to break after Natsuno's death, seeing his family following him as well would shatter it completely. That's why he couldn't fight with Natsuno. Couldn't fight against him, either. Couldn't keep both of them intact either. He had to choose. And Natsuno… Natsuno understood.

Tohru couldn't stop the tears. Didn't try to stop them. Natsuno had hoped for him to change his mind until the very last moment and he had let him down. The flowers he brought in front of Natsuno's window, he realised, was a poor way to ask for forgiveness; an even poorer way to honour his best friend's death when he himself was the killer, but it was a ritual all humans followed and he wasn't ready to throw away that part of himself, not yet. So many others had easily embraced their new existence, their new name – shiki, their sin, but he couldn't. What he had been didn't want to fade in the face of what he had become. Just as the memories of Natsuno would not fade. Just as the taste of Natsuno's blood would remain on his lips.