Nighttime Trials and Tribulations

No matter what direction he looked in all he saw were bodies. Some lying face first in a pool of blood, heads caved in and necks slit unevenly, others standing and staring at him with their dead eyes. The floor was barely visible under all the blood covering it, and there seemed to be no walls surrounding the area. Even though the room—was it a room?—was open, it didn't feel that way. Even when he wasn't moving, he could feel a heavy pressure on his back. Constantly pushing him down farther, farther, and farther until—

Without realizing it his breathing had become ragged and Keisuke could hear his heart pounding loudly in his ears.

One step back.

Faint movement from the corpses on the right.

Another step.

Now movements from the left.

Turning on his heel he tried to run away as fast as he could manage.

He had barely made it five steps before something, someone, reached out and yanked on his shoulder, causing him to crash into the ground face first. Blood splashed onto his face, went up his nose and into his mouth, burning him and everything it touched. He made the mistake of crying out when the hand gave his shoulder a rough squeeze, and soon his mouth was filled with the metallic taste of blood once again. As much as he hated it he felt tears starting to well up in his eyes. He had promised himself long ago that he'd become stronger, and the fact that with just a few rough pushes he had been reduced to tears made him sick.

"Hey." Barely audible above his coughing, Keisuke heard a voice nearby. It must've belonged to the person who had pulled him down. He tried to look up, but was met with more darkness.

"Hey." This time the voice sounded much closer, and Keisuke felt his chin being grabbed and yanked up, forcing his head at a break neck angle. Now he could make out the faint outlines of what looked to be a jacket and a ragged yellow scarf. "It's not nice to ignore someone when their talking to you. Out of all people I'd figured you would have some manners, Keisuke."

The way they had said his voice made him shudder. Who knew someone could pack so much hatred and disgust into just one word? When he started to think, something about that voice was familiar. Once he had spat out all the blood he could manage to, he looked up.

Just when he felt nothing could have gotten worse he was proven wrong.

He had no face. Or, he had before, but it was barely recognizable now. His head like many others in the room was caved in, and where one eye should have been there was nothing but more black. Blood coated his face, dried and cracked in some areas. It was hard to tell by now, but Keisuke swore the man had blue hair.

He felt sick. Before he even knew what was happening his head was forced up higher. He groaned, neck protesting the odd angle. He saw the others lips turn upward in a crooked sneer. Things were getting fuzzy, maybe his heart was giving out, or maybe he was having a bad reaction to the mouthfuls of blood he had gotten earlier. Soon he couldn't even hear what the other was saying, but judging by the look on his face it was better he didn't hear it.

The last thing Keisuke saw was a giant knife—both wide and long—rise up above his head.

He closed his eyes as it swung down.

. . .

Akira could do nothing but lay there and listen to Keisuke's cries and whimpers.

They had both agreed long ago that it would be better if Akira didn't comfort Keisuke when it came to the nightmares. What comfort could he offer anyway? They were Keisuke's nightmares, conjured up in his mind. It was his job to deal with them.

Of course there had been nights when the rule of no comforting was broken, and Akira would climb in next to him, holding him silently until the morning sun started to shine. But for the most part their nights went like this. Keisuke would lay there suffering and reliving the crimes he had committed while on Line, and Akira would lay there and pretend not to hear a thing.

In the morning they would get up early to eat and prepare for work. There Keisuke would flirt and harass Akira like usual, stealing kisses from him when he thought the others weren't looking. Afterwards they would go back to their little apartment and spend of the night doing various activities.

Over the years Keisuke had developed little tricks to try to extend their time together, before the lights would shut off and they'd enter separate worlds. Whether it be trying to persuade Akira to go out in town with him "just because I feel like it," or trying to trick Akira into a round of sex. Most of the time Keisuke won.

It's not that I don't want to comfort him…It's just for the best I don't. Akira often thought when alone. Truth be told part of him felt horrible about abandoning Keisuke like that. But it had to be done. They had sworn on it right after leaving Toshima. There was no other way Keisuke could completely atone for his crimes.

After all, it's not as if Keisuke had the nightmares every night. As the years went on they became less and less frequent. Both of them know they'll never disappear completely.

The only time Akira can ever remember the nightmares causing real trouble is right after the war had ended, and they had just started their jobs at the factory.

Back then the nightmares were still happening quite often—some weeks he'd have at least 3 or 4—and one night instead of crying out or curling up on himself, Keisuke just sat there staring at the wall. That night was also one of the first times Akira had broken the no comforting rule. He remembers peaking over his shoulder and seeing Keisuke hunched, shaking ever so slightly. After spending almost 5 minutes battling with himself internally he sat up, pushing off the covers and taking the spot next to Keisuke.

He didn't do anything more than just wrap an arm around Keisuke's shoulders, letting the other lean against him, and pressing a soft kiss to his temple before leaning back. They spent the whole night like that, neither one falling asleep. Of course when they arrived to work the next day Akira was more out of it than usual, and even Keisuke was off. They were sent home early that day; and they walked home silently with their heads down in shame.

. . .

On some occasions Keisuke will be the one to climb into Akira's futon. Sometimes he'll mutter a short sorry, give him a short kiss, and wrap his arms around the shorter male. Akira never protested; he couldn't find it in him to push Keisuke away.

Deep down he hated when Keisuke did this.

Because then Akira would have to suffer through waking up and seeing him smiling at him, leaning in a pressing a kiss to whatever part of his face he could reach.

Because he knew that he was the only reason Keisuke would be able to sleep that night.

It made him feel horrible. Stupid, and in some cases useless. After everything they both had gone through, everything Akira had gone through just to get him back, and he still couldn't protect him.

Why should Keisuke continue suffering so much when Akira could easily help him with it? In a way it was making Akira suffer as well.

One time he brought the subject up.

It had been one of their rare days off, and they had spent a majority of it lazing around on the couch. Akira doesn't remember what made him think of asking such an absurd question, but he does remember Keisuke's expression when it leaves his mouth.

First, shock.

Second, hesitation.

Finally, an expression too complex for words.

"A-Ah…Well, Akira did say that doing this would be the best way to pay back for everything I did…" But did that necessarily mean that he had to go through with it? Was it too late to take it back and just say it was a suggestion?

When Akira didn't reply Keisuke started to shift his eyes back and forth from his face and the wall in front of them, another thing about him that would probably never change. Sighing Akira sat up. "It is. It's better than what you had originally planned." He didn't have to look at the other to know that he was probably looking down at his lap. "But I still don't think it's totally the right thing to do. It's been years now, Keisuke, yet you still act like it happened just yesterday."

"That's because it does feel like yesterday!"

"Have you ever thought you're the one holding yourself back from moving on? Even after all this time there are still points where you won't think for yourself and do what you want to."

"That's because I know it annoys you." His voice had gotten considerably softer now; Akira mentally slapped himself. "If I kept bothering you every night to sleep you'd get mad quickly. I don't want to bother you, so."

"Well maybe you not doing anything about it bothers me."

After that there was a long stretch of silence. These types of arguments between them weren't uncommon. If anything, Keisuke would be making a move in 5…4…3…2…

Akira felt arms wrap around his waist, and someone burying their face into the crook of his neck. Warm breath tickled him, and he tried to squirm away. "I'm sorry." He could barely hear what he had said, but it didn't matter. Even without hearing him he knew what he had said. Another sigh spilled from his lips, and he reached behind him, giving Keisuke a small slap on the head.

"Hey!" The taller boy straightened up quickly, rubbing at the spot that had just been hit, giving Akira his famous hurt puppy look.

Akira still wasn't completely satisfied with the answer, but he wasn't in the mood to fight; especially on their day off. He still didn't say anything, but he moved to lie back down across Keisuke's lap none the less.

That night they shared a futon, and for once when Akira woke up to Keisuke's smile he didn't feel useless.