It wasn't unusual for the Mochizuki household to be woken up by screams. Tomoka sat upright, her hands instinctively reaching to pull her brother against her. She rocked him back and forth, understanding the younger's need to grip her night shirt and cry.
"Yuuya, it's alright," Tomoka whispered, knowing that the boy had suffered a great ordeal. She held him tighter to her body, wishing she could do more; nothing she did for him seemed to make a difference. "It's alright."
"N-nee-san..." Mochizuki's slender fingers curled into the white fabric of his sister's clothing, his tears creating wet patches on the girl's shirt. His body trembled, unable to rid himself of the visions he had endured.
The bedroom door opened and their mother walked into the room, looking older than her forty years due to stress. She sat on the bed beside her children and reached out, running a hand through the dull-coloured hair, humming a soft tune.
Mochizuki trembled as he shook his head, pushing further into his older sibling. He choked on his sobs, the pictures that had been painted red playing through his mind like a movie on repeat.
Riku pulled her son onto her lap, planting a kiss on his forehead. She fought back the tears that threatened to spill from her eyes, a deep pain reflected in her grey orbs. The fact that she had been unable to protect her son hurt more than any physical pain ever could.
Mochizuki, however, was unable to push past the memories, remembering over and over again everything he had seen during the Calamity's occurrence. Before the trip to Yomiyama Shrine, his trauma had only just been setting in – but after everything that had happened during the climax of their trip was what had tipped him over the edge.
Trying to care for his best friend was no help at all; the suffering Teshigawara was experiencing only made his own worse; trying to fix someone else's problems when he couldn't even face his own was an impossible endeavour. Maybe it had slowly crawled up on him before consuming him whole in an instant, but already today felt harder than ever. He didn't want to get up and face his friends, his family – he didn't even want to see himself, knowing that he could see only the reflection of a weak, defeated boy who was merely a shadow of his former self.
"K-kaa-san...!" Mochizuki all but screamed for his mother, his overwhelming agony swallowing him like a black hole. He didn't know what to do – what could he do? His head felt like it was about to explode; his mind was overrun with thoughts of death, his own and his friends who had been taken; he just wanted to die.
Riku and Tomoka stayed with the boy for the rest of the morning, biting down their pain in order to try and help the youngest, but Mochizuki had done nothing but cry himself back to sleep. They left him in Tomoka's bed, hoping that the more rest he got, the easier the day would be for him.
The oldest Mochizuki entered her son's bedroom in order to check on Teshigawara, pleased to find that he was still fast asleep himself. She moved over to the bed and stroked the blond's cheek, not knowing what to do. It was true that Teshigawara was not her child, but he was her son's best friend and, right now, they were both in desperate need of as much love and support as they could get.
Teshigawara didn't even so much as stir, his seemingly-peaceful sleep uninterrupted by the woman's presence. He remained still as the blankets were moved to sit higher on his body, almost as if he couldn't feel it.
Riku just brushed her thumb against the teenager's cheek again before she turned and left, ready to do her morning chores. She knew, in the back of her mind, no matter how much attention she put into her duties, she would still worry about the two boys in the bedrooms, the worry that they may never be normal kids again eating at her.
~~Two days later~~
"Mochizuki-kun, what happened to your hand?"
The addressed teenager looked up at his teacher, his head having been down as he stared at the floor. He struggled to hold back tears at this question, the reality of what having happened hitting him hard.
"...I... fell..." the boy lied, his voice barely audible. He moved silently to his seat, hoping for no further questions to be directed at him.
Tatsuji Chibiki shook his head, his glasses slipping ever so slightly down his nose at the action. He brushed grey strands of hair out of his face, looking weary.
"I do not believe that, Mochizuki-kun." Chibiki reached out and grabbed the hand in his, the white bandage brushing against his flesh. "Tell me the truth."
He probably already knows... Mochizuki dropped his eyes to the ground, a pained expression filling them. ...Kaa-san was adamant the school know about my stress levels... It's only natural Chibiki-sensei – taking the place of Kubodera-sensei – know about it, too.
"...I punched the wall..." Tears welled up in Mochizuki's grey eyes. He tried to blink them away, but the tears only duplicated at the action. "...I... I got so angry..."
"Is this why Teshigawara-kun is absent?" Chibiki dropped his voice, knowing that the other students who were slowly filing into the room were listening to the conversation.
"...He's with his parents... I... I didn't mean to... I just... I got angry... I don't even know why I did... I just... did..."
Chibiki understood. He understood perfectly. With a nod of his head, he dismissed the boy to his seat, the slip of paper he had been handed about Mochizuki's condition fresh in his mind. He acknowledged that the trauma of what had happened had affected more than just Mochizuki and Teshigawara; he knew some of the other students were carrying their own scars, some more pronounced than others – or the few who had survived the Calamity, anyway.
The dull-haired boy turned at his name. He rubbed his eyes, glancing at Sakakibara, not knowing what to say to the brunet. The taller boy appeared worried, his eyebrows creased in a frown.
"Yes...?" Mochizuki hated that his voice was so weak, so shaky. He wanted to be strong and cheerful like he used to be – not scared and angry.
"How is Teshigawara?" Sakakibara asked. He reached out to put a hand on the younger's shoulder, but he pulled away when the other winced and recoiled. "I'm sorry, Mochizuki. How are you?"
Mochizuki closed his eyes as his shoulders begun to shake, the effort of holding back his tears taking its toll on him. He didn't want to be seen this way – he didn't want to make others worry. So why was it so hard to pretend everything was fine?
"...He's..." Mochizuki licked his lips, willing his voice to stay steady, "...he's with... his parents... They're... taking him to a psychologist."
Sakakibara wasn't stupid; he knew his friend was avoiding the topic of himself on purpose. However, his nosy nature wouldn't allow him to remain wondering.
"Have you been to see anyone yet?"
With a shrug of his shoulders, Mochizuki removed himself from the elder's presence and instead sat down at his table, trying to focus on not thinking about anything other than the man who had volunteered to take over their class for the remainder of the year.
Mochizuki hadn't had much time to think about his own emotions before the bell rang, signifying the beginning of class. He had even less time to think too much on how he was going to get through the day without Teshigawara by his side before Chibiki announced they were going to watch a movie.
Good... Mochizuki sighed mentally, feeling as if he had been snatched out of the mouth of the crocodile. I can just relax and do things at my own pace... No time limit and no talking... Just time out...
As Mochizuki had acknowledged, the movie had lessened his stress, the chance to lose himself in fantasy taking the edge away from his pain. All was fine and he felt like the day would be bearable, but then it happened.
The grey-eyed boy had been scribbling senselessly on paper, a smile beginning to form on his face at the peace, but that was when he heard it. The unmistakable sound of a raging fire.
Mochizuki froze, his eyes widening as his jaw tightened. He dropped the pencil he had been holding, his trembling hands unable to hold its weight. Tears welled up in his eyes as a loud whimper filled the room. He wouldn't realise it until Sakakibara told him later, but it had been him making that noise, a strangled plead for Teshigawara, someone – anyone – to help him.
The addressed boy didn't hear his friend calling his name, but when he felt a soft hand grab his shoulder, he screamed and flung himself backwards off his chair, falling onto the hard floor beneath him. His heart raced as his panting quickened to the point of hyperventilation.
The students muttered and gathered around, concerned looks on their faces as Sakakibara continuously called out to their classmate.
"Give him some room!" Chibiki instructed as he dispersed the gathering crowd. He knelt beside Sakakibara, reaching out to grab the arms that were now flailing around in a panic. "Mochizuki-kun, calm down!"
Mochizuki's scream was ear-shattering, his eyes wide as he tried to pull away from the hands grabbing at him. He felt like he was going to faint and his skin was clammy, his body trembling as if he were having a seizure.
Chibiki pushed through the display of terror and grabbed the frightened teen, pulling him into his arms. He stood up, throwing instructions to the other students to remain in the classroom as he left. The grey-haired male closed the door behind him before he hurried over to the small bench tucked away in a corner. He placed the dull-haired boy on the bench, his hands on frail shoulders as he tried to steady the younger.
"Mochizuki-kun?" Chibiki called to his student several times before grey eyes snapped open and fixed on his. He sighed softly at this, knowing he had broken through the other's stupor. He lowered his voice, knowing he needed to be careful with the frail pupil. "Mochizuki-kun, are you okay?"
Mochizuki shook his head as tears overflowed from his stormy eyes. A shiver ripped through his body as he tried to form his thoughts into words. "...I... I-it..."
Chibiki didn't need the small boy to speak; he was smart enough to know that the fire in the movie had triggered this reaction. He hadn't wanted to show the movie, but the curriculum was clear; it had to be shown as part of the course.
"I'm sorry..." Chibiki sighed, feeling the crushing weight of guilt weighing him down. "...I'm sorry, Mochizuki-kun..."
Mochizuki's eyes slipped closed, a small whimper escaping his lips. He shook his head, his body slumping forward to lean against his teacher's. He let out a weary sigh, almost as if he were tired of being here.
"Do you want to go home?" Chibiki offered, knowing he didn't want to force the boy to remain here if it would impact negatively on his mental health. "I can ring your mother to come and get you."
Mochizuki didn't speak; he only nodded his head, too exhausted to speak. He remained sitting where he had been placed once the grey-haired man left his side in order to go to the office on his behalf. Chibiki returned a few minutes later, saying that Mochizuki's mother was too busy on Tomoka would be on her way instead.
As Mochizuki waited, Sakakabira and Misaki joined him, sitting with him until the dull-haired boy fell fast asleep.