Summary: M-21 doesn't have good sleep one night.
Rated for vague bloody imagery.
Set between 154 and 156.
For all the people who believe M-21 needs lots of hugs. :3 Unfortunately, he doesn't really allow himself to be hugged, so have the next best thing.
Had an absolute ridiculous amount of fun thinking and writing this up. :D
By Dark Ice Dragon
M-21 woke with a gasp caught behind clenched teeth, his heart racing, his blanket thrown to the side. He could still hear the doctors' detached assessment of him, M-24's last words, the children's screams. The moments he'd never wanted to live again, queued up back to back.
He took a shaky breath. And then another. His heartbeat roared in his ears, but the voices wouldn't stop. He could still feel the cold metal table he had lain on while being examined, the rough rock under his fingers and knees, his blood pooling around him from the holes in his chest. Hesitantly, M-21 brought a hand up to his chest, just to make sure. His fingers brushed against smooth skin; he released a breath he hadn't realised he'd been holding.
M-21 reached over and switched his lamp on, flinching at the sudden change of light. It helped to make the dregs of memory recede faster as he stared at his bedroom walls. But not completely. They were still there, quietly replaying over and over in the back of his mind, and they sharpened into focus the second he stopped distracting himself.
Slowly, his heart began to settle down and the echoes faded further after that.
When he looked at his clock, M-21 sighed. Just after two.
He wasn't going to get back to sleep now, not if there was a chance he could have another repeat of the nightmares he'd just had.
M-21 tugged at his blanket so that it covered him again and prepared himself to stare at the ceiling for the next few hours.
The lights were on when M-21 arrived home after work, and he could hear the children as soon as he opened the door. He hid a wince, adjusting his grip on his jacket. He hadn't fallen asleep again, but that meant he'd felt lightheaded before he'd even started getting ready for work. His balance had also been distinctly off, but eating breakfast had helped a little bit. Eventually, the lightheadedness left over the course of the day, but he still wanted to go straight to bed and hopefully regain the sleep he'd missed. No-one had realised that he hadn't been at his best at least.
When he stepped into the dining room, however, there was a loud cheer around the table, all the children's attention on him.
"Awesome! We have another player!"
"That means our teams are equal now!"
"Pfft. It doesn't matter – you're still going to lose."
"Heh. We'll see."
Seeing their grinning faces, M-21 pushed his previous thoughts to the side and walked towards them, resigned to his fate. He wouldn't be able to sleep while they were playing anyway.
M-21 raised an eyebrow at Regis, who huffed and turned away.
As he picked up a few empty packets of crisps, M-21 smirked. "I didn't think you'd be so disappointed by losing a game."
"I am not," was the curt reply.
"Oh? I saw the way your face fell when we won." The packets were dropped in the bin and M-21 mentally grimaced at the state the table was in: the dropped pieces of chocolate had already melted and some had smeared, leaving wide streaks while there were crumbs scattered from end to end, and they dusted the floor as well. That was only some of the things that M-21 could identify.
"You were obviously affected by a meaningless victory that you began seeing things; I would not have done such a thing." Regis straightened a toppled juice carton and frowned when the contents swished inside.
"Or you were the one who was taken in by the game so much that you forgot yourself." M-21 swept some of the crumbs off the table into the bin, taking care to avoid the puddle of juice and anything else that could make a bigger mess.
"Ha." Regis picked up a wrapper and tossed it in the bin. "So you're back to being your usual self then."
M-21 paused from picking up a tissue. What? "You were staring at me throughout the game." Of course he would act differently under that scrutiny, even if Regis had tried to hide it.
From Regis' twitch, he must have thought he hadn't noticed.
The front door opened and M-21 lifted his head to see Takio and Tao enter. As soon as Tao saw him, a bright grin spread across his face.
"You're not busy, are you?" Tao asked as he came up to them.
"No…" M-21 said warily, not sure what to think when Tao's grin widened. Cleaning was Regis' job primarily, so it wouldn't matter if he stopped.
"Great!" And then Tao loped an arm around M-21's shoulders and started to tug him towards the door. M-21 was too startled by the sudden entry into his personal space that he didn't put up any resistance and allowed Tao to guide him along. "You've been here longer than me and Takio so you can show us around some of the more interesting places – Takio just got us lost trying to find a coffee shop."
Takio glared at Tao. "You couldn't find it either."
"Yeah, but you had been 'sure' were it was."
The pair continued to bicker as they left the house.
When they eventually returned home, the sky had been dark for some number of hours already. M-21, surprisingly, wasn't feeling that tired either, but that had been because trying to keep up with Takio and Tao required every bit of energy and attention at his disposal.
The lights were still on and Frankenstein was sitting on the couch, a cup of tea in front of him as he wrote on a piece of paper. He glanced up at the sound of the door closing and smiled when he saw them.
"Welcome home," he greeted them warmly. Frankenstein waved towards the kitchen area, where a pot sat on top of the stove. "There's left over ramen, though the noodles will have grown considerably. Oh, and the dishes have been done already, so you don't have to worry about that."
M-21 stared at him for a few seconds, and then glanced at Takio and Tao behind him. Everyone had been acting a little strangely today, but he'd put that down to him not being able to process anything properly.
"This is only for tonight though," Frankenstein warned, looking at him over his glasses.
Slowly, a small smile grew on M-21's face. "Of course." Shaking his head, M-21 went over to fill his stomach, Takio and Tao following after him.
That night, M-21 found his sleep to be a lot more restful.
I was surprised that I didn't have a scene focused on Takio and Tao but then I realised that I actually know exactly what happened in that bit. It will be written - for Expenditure. XDD;;