Hey, long time no see.

"I've long since learned to drink milk… But Saru, you're the one that still hasn't learned to eat vegetables."

Fushimi Saruhiko coughed, lungs discharging something bitter and staining the front of his already tattered Scepter 4 uniform.

He couldn't bring himself to care.

He wondered why he was thinking of such strange things as he lay dying. Dying while thinking about vegetables sounded pretty sad.

His eyes opened blearily, met with a blinding white-gray sky, blurred and distorted.

Ah. He must have dropped his glasses somewhere. His eyes fell shut again.

Breathing was labored; each inhale and exhale was accompanied with a burning, sharp pain, somewhere in the middle of his torso.

I can't move…

He opened his eyes again – It seemed a Herculean effort for just that simple movement. His blurred vision could see bloodstained pants, a calf most definitely twisted the wrong way, but he couldn't be sure. A throbbing pain assaulted his right temple, and he closed his eyes again.

It's wet.

Oh.

It was raining.

Saruhiko fought the urge to laugh at the absurdity of his situation, but the barest of breaths escaped him anyway.

"Ha…" How pathetic. The chuckle was interrupted with a series of hacking coughs, which discharged another torrent of blood.

Ah. So this is how I'm going to die? He was in the mouth of a side alley, not completely invisible, but who would be walking around this area, especially in the rain? His PDA… he couldn't remember where it dropped. He briefly wondered if Scepter 4 was trying to look for him.

He still couldn't really bring himself to care.

His lips were dry.

He tilted his head back and hit the filthy bricks behind him, sending another wave of pain through his head. He couldn't tell anymore, everything hurt anyway.

The rain poured down against his cheeks and his lips, his eyes. The more rational part of him wondered how much bacteria he was ingesting, but he didn't move.

It hurts…Haha. Everything hurts.

I wonder what you'd say if you saw me in this sad state, Misaki. I wonder what you would look like, what your expression would be.

He could picture the shorter boy with his skateboard in hand, standing there off to the side, slouching, with his other hand on his hip. He'd be leaning slightly to one side, and a little forward, because he liked trying to look intimidating. His face…

Saruhiko imagined him with an annoyed expression, downturned lips and a furrowed brow. Oh, and since it was raining, his hair would probably be plastered to his cheeks.

And he would scoff and tell him off for being careless, insult him a little, maybe.

It's fine this way.

Fine.

Even if Misaki hates me-

Even if he looks at me with disdain-

He's looking.

And that's all

That matters.

Saru smiled a little and turned his gaze upward again. Even in the last moments, it's that virgin Misaki that I end up hallucinating, huh. He closed his eyes for the second time.

Only to be rudely awoken by a punch to the face.

Saru teetered and fell over onto his side, and hissed in annoyance in pain. What the-

His gaze was met with blue and orange shoes – there was only one person in the entire city he knew that was unfashionable to wear something that lame—

Misaki…

"The fuck are you doing, Saru?!"

Ah, he's angry. Saru's dry smile returned.

"Tch, you look like shit." The feet shifted and Misaki's chest and shoulders dropped into view as he squatted down next to his ex-best friend.

"….Misaki." It was the only thing he could manage, and even that was weak and breathy.

He could feel rough hands grab his shoulders and pull him up none-too-gently, and pain throbbed again with renewed force.

Misaki's expression was just the way he imagined it.

"How the hell did you get careless enough for this to happen to you, shitty monkey?"

A chuckle. "It's not a hallucination…"

"You high or something?" A callused hand felt his forehead and flinched back at the heat it found there.

Misaki glared at the prone boy. "High as a fucking kite," he muttered.

Even though Saruhiko wasn't.

Saruhiko could hear a beep.

"Yeah, I found him…Yeah…No, he's alive… Tch, barely… Got it."

Back at headquarters, Awashima Seri gave a sigh of relief when she received the phone call from Kusanagi Izumo, and went to report to her boss.

"Just so we're clear, shitty Saru, I'm only doing this because the blues came begging for help and Kusanagi-san made me, okay?" He grumbled as he pulled Saruhiko up and slung one of his arms around his own shoulders. One hand kept a grip on his skateboard as the other cinched around Saruhiko's waist. He could feel the shaking and shivers from the taller male, both from the pain and from the cold. Saru was slumped over, and his head drooped down to below even Misaki's shoulders.

"You're a mess." With a few other muttered obscenities, Misaki began lugging the dead weight out onto the streets.

As they stumbled through the rain-slicked pavement, Saru's head bumped against Misaki's shoulders with every step. He could make out, through the rain and his own nearsightedness, the flame-shaped HOMRA tattoo.

It went up and down as they bumped along, the black and red insignia – the same one that Saruhiko himself had, in the same place.

This tattoo

On Misaki's chest

It would be better if it was gone

Suoh Mikoto

It would be better

If he was gone

.

Half-asleep and pain-crazed, he was only dimly aware of the ludicrous thoughts floating through his head. The rain was pounding in his ears, the spasms of knife-like pain through his legs as they stumbled, the pants and swearing from Misaki as he struggled to get a better grip on Saruhiko.

.

Ah, this is the closest we've ever been since middle school. Even through HOMRA, I never went close to him, I just avoided him, avoided everyone.

.

Something like HOMRA

Is ridiculous

I don't want to be

A comrade

Too?

Like everyone else—

The same—

I want to be

More…

Misaki

Why don't you look at me

The way you looked at me before

.

Disjointed thoughts rushed by. There was no one else outside on the streets, just the two of them plodding in the rain.

"You still alive, shithead?" Misaki's golden eyes peered down at him, searching his face for any movement or signs of life.

There was… irritation, anger, distrust, exasperation… Saru could see the emotions reflected in his eyes.

"Mm." Was his mumbled reply.

.

But

This way is fine too

As long as you are looking

At me

Hate me more

Be disgusted with me more

Scream—

And rage—

Until your head is completely full

With just me

Misaki.

.

Maybe it's because I want you to eat my vegetables for me.

.

With that last fevered thought, he could feel himself falling into black, and could hear the faint yelling – "Oi, Saru! What the fu-"

.

Dark.

He felt nothing. There was no pain, no sensation, no emotion.

Ah, so this is death.

It's less exciting than everyone else gives it credit for.

You just… vanish.

Unimportant.

It's a shame, Misaki, that all your efforts, however unwilling, were wasted. Regrettable.

Sorry about that.

Haha.

But I won't apologize for anything else.

I don't regret what I did.

.

.

.

.

Ah, it's cold.

It's cold, all of a sudden. How odd.

Beep.

.

Oh, it's Misaki's watch.

Beep.

Beep.

Hurry up and answer it, Misaki.

Beep.

Beepbeepbeepbeep.

Was your PDA that annoying before?

I can't remember.

Beepbeepbeepbeepbeepbeepbeepbeep-

Ah, it really is very cold.

.

.

.

"SARU, you SHIT, WAKE THE FUCK UP!" The faint screaming- that's Misaki's voice. How nostalgic.

He's just as rude as ever.

His voice… sounds raw.

It sounds painful.

Hey, I'm in the one in pain here, stop crying.

Oh, pain. It hurts again. I can feel again?

Crying?

Stop crying.

Misaki's… crying? Why?

It's not so dark anymore, I wonder why. Why is it so white? It's blinding.

Oh, that's a ceiling. I'm in a bed. Hospital?

Yes, hospitals are annoyingly white. The bed is shaking.

Beepbeepbeep.

Heart monitor.

So it wasn't Misaki's PDA… Misaki?

There are people grabbing onto Misaki. Misaki is trying to… swim? No, grab the bedsheets.

Grab me.

"SARUHIKO!" What an ugly sound. As always, Misaki is so unrefined.

What kind of face is that? You look pained, Misaki. Did someone hurt you? You'll never get laid if you furrow your eyebrows like that. There's rain-

Rain?

Rain falling from your eyes.

Oh.

Stop crying, Misaki. Why are you sad?

Misaki?

Misaki.

Dark again.

.

Saruhiko opened his eyes, to sunlight glaring off the stark, white walls. He gave a groan – his head pounded. His throat was dry, lips cracked, sleep clung to his eyes – he felt like shit.

He managed to turn his head away from the window in an attempt to get away from the light.

He tensed immediately when he saw someone in the chair next to his bed. Who-

Misaki.

The boy's beanie was lying next to him on the sheets, a foot away from his tousled red-brown hair. He was breathing slowly, his back rising and falling rhythmically. His hands were still fisted into the white covers.

What are you doing?

Misaki, as if feeling his stare, woke suddenly, head snapping up to look at Saru immediately as if checking he was okay.

Saruhiko laughed dryly.

What kind of joke is this?

.

God has a bad sense of humor.

As if something like this could happen.

He let his eyes close again.

Yeah, right.

.

.

"Saru! Wake up, you little shit, I saw you awake just now. Fucking blind asshat, open your useless, ugly eye sockets! You think you can just go back to sleep just like that, huh? Think you're fucking royalty? Think you own the country now or some shit?"

You can't open eye sockets, Misaki…he thought.

He opened his eyes again – Misaki was blurry, but he could tell how angry the short boy looked regardless.

He's too blurry. Saruhiko's hand went up to grasp the front of the angry boy's collar, and pull him down till they were nearly nose-to-nose.

Ah, he's not so blurry anymore.

.

I'm not interested in something as crass as the country.

Just

Misaki—

Misaki is fine.

Anything else,

I don't need.

Misaki.

Will you eat my vegetables for me?