Takuto dropped the piece of charcoal he was holding, and it clattered to the ground, the impact snapping it neatly in half. His fingers were shaking.
It was lack of sleep, Takuto decided. He hadn't been sleeping properly, that was all. When Koji came back… but that didn't have anything to do with it. It didn't matter if Koji were here or there – just on the other side of the wall, or visiting his family out of the city. Shouldn't have mattered.
But his fingers refused to stop trembling, and the much smaller piece of charcoal now felt clumsy in his grip as he picked it up from the ground. He would ruin his drawing if he tried to continue, although he had not planned to stop until the light had faded.
His arms felt heavy, the easel an unwieldy burden as he carried it back to the art room and folded it up, leaning it against the others at the back. The room was silent – despite finishing far earlier than he would have liked, he was the final student to pack up for the day. From elsewhere on the grounds, he could faintly make out the sounds of students gathering for dinner. Plates grating against each other, the jangle of cutlery and chairs scraping back and forth on the floor. He tried to imagine the effort it would take to join in – having to be in such close proximity with the chattering crowd, the smells and noises of food cooking and people eating invading his senses. He felt sick.
He dismissed from his mind the image of a disapproving Koji, walking over to close the door to the art room instead. Immediately the sounds grew more distant, and right away he felt safer. There was, after all, no need to join the throng tonight – he was not hungry. Only tired.
Too tired, just yet, to make his way back to his room, and perhaps have to bump into people along the way. Curious glances, enquires about how his work was going, having to smile and answer questions without stuttering, was not something he felt capable of doing. But sitting down where he was, watching the slow descent of the sun behind the hills, just breathing and not thinking too much – this, he could do. There were no people here to make him feel uncomfortable or anxious, and he would not have to eat – to swallow and feel the food lodge in his throat, and eventually settle like a stone in his stomach.
The chair was hard, but the last of the sun was still streaming through the classroom windows. Later, when it was much quieter, he would find his way to bed, but at least for the moment…
"…kuto… Takuto, wake up…"
But his eyes didn't want to open. He didn't want the dream to end, because he had missed Koji's voice – the only one in the world that didn't make him feel uneasy.
"Mm…" A murmur escaped him at the sensation of fingers brushing away the loose strands of hair from his face. They were warm. He was cold.
Cold. A shiver ran through him as his body awoke to the knowledge, and his eyelids fluttered reluctantly.
"You're freezing", said the voice, and Takuto suddenly woke up properly.
"Koji!" It hadn't been a dream, Koji was here, and Takuto forgot himself for once as an unselfconscious smile grew in response to the sight. Koji was here, and everything that had made him tense, nervous, afraid, had vanished the moment that Koji had spoken.
"Are you alright? You're freezing, let's get you to bed."
"Oh…" Takuto blushed – obviously, Koji had not meant it in that way, but the very thought was enough to make white spots dance in front of him as he stood. His knees buckled underneath him, and he surrendered himself to the fall. The lights disappeared, and for a minute he couldn't see anything at all.
"Takuto! Takuto! Can you hear me?"
"I'm alright", he made himself say.
Koji frowned. "You're not alright. Have you been eating while I was away?"
"I'm only tired", Takuto asserted weakly, and his eyes slipped closed again at the way Koji's hand lingered over his forehead. He didn't remember hitting the floor, but Koji's body was a welcome heat where he was being held like he was something precious.
"You haven't had dinner", Koji answered, only half-questioningly. His hands moved to Takuto's shoulders.
"I'll fix you something later, when your stomach settles."
Takuto struggled to maintain awareness. "How did you…?"
Had this not been Koji talking so quietly to him, gently kneading some feeling back into his limbs, Takuto would have protested at the fact that someone was professing to know him. He was too shy, too silent and unassuming, for anyone to be able to claim that they knew him. But somehow, Koji did, and Takuto did not need to say a word.
"Shall we go?"
"Yes." It felt rather nice, to be using Koji's lap as his own private pillow, but it was getting difficult not to shiver again, and he didn't want Koji to think he was so weak that he couldn't even make it back to the dormitory. A brief smile flitted across Koji's face, as if he knew, once again, what Takuto had been thinking. But it was gone again before Takuto had time to be embarrassed, as quickly as it had arrived, and by then Koji was already steering them carefully towards the door.
"It's late. I was worried when I couldn't find you."
The stab of guilt was chased away as the grip on his shoulders grew firmer. Not weighing him down, but bearing him up. Safe.
His heart knew more rest than it had in days.