Itachi spends the next week in an ill and fitful sleep. He comes to, occasionally, briefly, pain filling every thought, and then… He could hear the sweet voice, sometimes, like honey on silver, a sound from a wounded man's dream. (A song from a beautiful, broken bird.

When he's unconscious, his mind wanders, and he dreams. He dreams of his past, flashes of a life that he had. He remembers sun kissed meadows, and the green, green, green grass and he's just a child, and everything is beautiful. He remembers when he gathered armfuls of flowers, the sun gently kissing his baby soft skin. And then, suddenly, the illusion is shattered, and the scent of blood is overwhelming... and he's looking down on the masterpiece in red blood of a battlefield.

(You did well, Madara said. You did well, you're becoming stronger. Itachi only ever feels weak.)

He remembers the Naka river, lazy and lulling as its dark waters swing by the rain washed shores in early spring, still a gentle muddy brown from the melted snow, and then summer washes over it, and Shisui is there, laughing, and talking, and his lips move, but no sound comes out and he wants to hold onto it, so, so much…

Shisui looks happy, even in death. Red billows out from the gaping, empty sockets where his beautiful eyes once were, the ghost of his last laugh still etched upon his face.

(Sorry, Itachi. There won't be a next time.)

He remembers his mother and her smile, like a lone ray of sunshine in the dark…(Her horrified face when he ran her through with his sword.)

(He wants to die. He wants to die so very, very much, but he's afraid, so deathly afraid, and...)

But mostly… mostly he dreams of Sasuke, Sasuke who was young and innocent and beautiful, and Itachi made him a monster, and he can't rid himself of the image of his otouto's loath filled eyes, and it's your fault, your fault, his mind screamed, you did this, you did this, you did this, and Nii-san, why? Just… WHY? And he is helpless and alone and trapped in this feeble shell of a body, and he's scared, so scared that he won't be able to come back, to save his brother, to pay for his mistakes with his blood.

But then he can hear… can hear that voice… a luminous timeless melody. A voice that talks in the dark and keeps the demons at bay

...

And then he dreams of flowers.

~x~

Taki is haunted. He is haunted by Klaus, by Klaus' memory, by the emptiness where he should have been, and he can't help himself. He grieves.

Why did you leave? I told you, I told you never to leave without my consent, you selfish bastard! Why did you leave?...You...now you'll never come back.

Taki is haunted by the boy, who can't be much older than himself, and who lies in a hospital bed, alone and broken, and even though he's doped up on painkillers, he still looks like he's in so much pain. It's not fair, it's inhumane… why do people… have to suffer so much?

He thinks of the patient daily, the beautiful delicate face flashing in his mind. Even in sleep, he looks so sad. that mysterious boy, with no country, no home to speak of... Taki wants to comfort him, to hold him and talk to this boy, this boy who screamed in agony, even as he slept.

The boy mumbles to himself, half-coherent ramblings, pleas of 'stop' and 'don't' and 'Please, it hurts...' Taki's heart turns to ice in his chest, because he knows what the boy is dreaming.

Other times, he would plead for forgiveness, begging pardon from whatever creatures haunt his mind.

'Mother, please...I didn't mean to...I'm so sorry...so sorry. Please, mother... Father, I'm sorry, don't hate me...Sasuke...Sasuke...'

The Sasuke character is what intrigues Taki the most. He is the one he begs most, the one he screams for when the burden becomes too heavy to bear. That was when the coughing would start, the blood and the thrashing and Taki would have to leave, and nurses would come rushing in.

But he always comes back. He rushes through meetings, so he could go to the hospital faster, and just… be there.

He would let his fingers trace a calloused, elegant hand, he would brush a strand of raven black hair, and he would talk, as if through the sheer sound of his voice he could make those long dark lashes, flutter, like a butterfly's wing, and make that beautiful broken perfect human being just wake…

(The boy, despite his illness, is beautiful. But there is a roughness to his beauty. Something callous, colder than ice, hotter than fire. The boy is a soldier, Taki knows it.)

He talks for hours to no end. Because he can't sleep, not when he dreams of Klaus, and the good days of stolen kisses and soft 'I love you's, and the bad days after, of animalistic lust and pain and fucking in back end rooms, and dark purple bruises left as a violent possessive mark… he'd rather go insane from insomnia.

He is already insane, he is sure.

'Just… just come around. Do that for me, even if you don't know who I am. Just wake. Please. Just stop this. Stop this and come back, and save me.'

Save me, save me, save me… he needs it so much, so desperately. He needs to be saved.

Taki takes the boy's hand in his own, crying against it, sobs shaking his body.

'It's selfish, I know...but I need you...' I don't know why, but I need you. Please need me back.

As his sobs die away, he looks down at the boy, and nearly faints from shock.

His eyes are black, black as midnight, black as sin. They swirl with haunted memories and horrors Taki could only guess at.

More importantly than that, they were wide open, and looking up.

This stranger, this fallen angel from heaven, is staring up at him, and his gaze is quite clear.