Saguru moaned in his sleep, and rolled over, uncomfortable more from his dreams than from the heat that came with the summer weather in Japan.
He was running, or he felt like he should be. His feeling of 'self' was off - he should be taller but at the same time he should be shorter and hair that wasn't there was bouncing and brushing against his back - something that was even worse than on a normal day.
In the manner of dreams, he didn't even know what he was running from - or even whether it was an 'it' or a 'who'. Only that whatever it or they were, it was chasing him down, and he didn't want to be caught.
I hear you now... I HEAR you...
Dread pooled in his stomach, fear of something he couldn't understand making him unable to think logically about the situation at all.
It's been SO long. So very, very long.
And if Saguru had any say in matters, it would be longer still, but he was panting, leaning with his head back against an unfamiliar wall, needing some reprieve.
I've waited. You don' t know how long I've waited.
The voice was closer now, and his surroundings changed, swirling around him as though turning into some sort of vortex, within which he could see - things and places and people and stars and minds and school and home and himself-
He could see himself.
Not the form that was still asleep, but some other part of himself, still terrified, and it was one thing to feel such emotions and it was quite another to see them on your own face.
But I HAVE YOU NOW.
He woke up half screaming, thankful that Baaya wasn't around tonight and that his father was busy elsewhere. He'd taken to being excessively private in the mornings anyway, but this - this would have brought them running, he was sure.
He checked his alarm by the side of his bed. It was the middle of the night still, and several hours until he needed to be waking up in the morning for school. Which, technically, he didn't need to do any more, but it was that or study Criminal Science in London, and he already had enough in his head that he'd be able to teach the professors there a thing or two, should he wish to. His 'studies' were more for appearance's sake now, that and a decision to stay where he was most comfortable.
He sighed, running a hand through his hair, which was back to being blond again, although it took copious amounts of hair dye to keep it that way. Cut short, too, and although that was easier to do and something he was familiar with due to the number of years he had kept it that way, he still felt like there was a bit of length missing.
He'd grow it back, but that would take some time. It wasn't as though he was lacking in it, though.
And more than enough right now, as he realised with a groan that he wouldn't be getting any more sleep that night. Every time he closed his eyes he heard that, that voice in his dreams. He shuddered, dragging first one foot then the other out from under the sheets, onto the floor and into his slippers.
It being the middle of the night, with barely anyone in the house, he was sorely tempted to 'be himself' for once. Forego the make-up that Kaito-kun had taught him how to use several weeks ago to lighten the now darker skin tone on his face, neck and hands. Leave off putting the brown contacts in until later.
Tempting enough that, in rebellion, he went down without either, heading to the kitchen to make himself a calming cup of tea.
It hadn't been the first time he'd had nightmares since his death, he mused to himself as he did so, the routine soothing him just as much and possibly more than the drink itself would. It was far from the first.
There were times still when he awoke curled in on himself from dreams created from memories that his mother had of the Time War, of the times before she'd turned tail and fled. Before the Lock had been placed on the entire event, leaving her stranded outside of its timeline. The horrors stayed with him, haunting him far worse than any murder he'd seen, or would ever attend.
But in the midst of it all, the nightmares like the ones he'd had earlier had started to crop up from time to time, and he didn't know what was worse - that they seemed less based on definitive memory and were more like actual dreams, or that they changed so often that he sometimes wondered if something had somehow been able to work its way inside his mind.
But that... he shook his head before sitting down with the tea, smelling it briefly before taking a sip. That would be unlikely, would it not? He may not be so unbelieving in such matters as he was before - magic and fiction were merely that which had not yet been explained by science, after all - but he highly doubted that it would be so easy to invade his mind. Especially in such a haphazard way.
Hours passed, and in too short a time the household would be waking up. Saguru made sure to be far away in his own rooms when they did, applying the pieces to his disguise before anyone would notice anything was off about the young master of the house. Skin was lightened from its even slight tan, fading back to the pale complexion he'd had before. He checked his roots - darkening, but no one would think twice, assuming that it was a mere trick of the light. He could touch them up tomorrow.
His eyes were the last to undergo their transformation, the contacts Kaito-kun supplied sitting in their box for a precious few moments more while he stared at the mirror.
His reflection stared back at him, a face he both did and didn't recognise as his own any longer, almost as though he was trying to keep the dead from vanishing completely, dragging them into the world of the living and not letting go.
My eyes. Those are my eyes, now.
He closed them, and reached for the box. First one. then the other. The last he would see of his true self until later, until that night, everything about him that made him 'himself' nowadays hidden behind masks throughout the day.
He let out a breath. As long as he wanted to be known as 'Hakuba Saguru', this would continue. And he was perfectly capable of dealing with that.
That didn't mean that school wasn't suddenly hellbent on boring him to death. If it weren't for his semi-inhuman physiology, he was fairly certain he would have fallen asleep several times rather than just zoning out.
It was enough to make the teachers confused, because after all where had their golden student gone?
Nowhere, he told them with his perfect grades. Either 'nowhere', or dead on a rooftop several blocks away. But 'nowhere' seemed the less likely to cause panic and start a riot, so that was what he stuck with.
The teachers weren't the only ones to realise something was wrong today, though. Kaito-kun - and when was it that he'd started to refer to the thief by his first name? Not long after his regeneration, that was for sure, although he wasn't certain whether it was the regeneration itslef, the addition of an older woman's memories, or the fact that Kaito had helped save his life that had brought it about - had noticed that something was off, sending his favourite detective a series of concerned looks throughout the day.
"Oi, oi... did you even get any sleep last night?"
And at some point during a break in classes Kaito had draped himself on his desk, elbows propping up his head so that he was just in front of Saguru himself and blocking out most of the rest of the classroom.
"I could well ask you the same thing," came the tart response. "Stayed up half the night again, have you?"
Kaito frowned, and bounced back, so that he was sitting on the back of the chair in front and his feet were now resting on Saguru's desk, an act that in the past would have had him livid, but now only had him rolling his eyes, making several of the other students there whisper, wondering what had changed. "Eh, you know me! I got hyper," he added with a worrying grin on his face.
"You're lucky Aoko-kun isn't here right now to have heard that."
She'd gone into one of the other classrooms, to talk with a few of her other friends for once. It wasn't as though it didn't happen.
"Like it would've been any different from normal anyway," Kaito said without a care for his friend's frustrations. "'Sides. You never did answer the question."
And Kaito... he could hardly say that Kaito didn't have any reason to care. Saguru kept out of the magician's illegal after-school activities, and thus made sure that the playing field was, to the best of their ability, level. He was now in on certain secrets - after what had happened, he would have wrung at least some of the truth out of him somehow or other - but as to the how, the actual technicalities, he was as much out of the loop as anyone on the Task Force.
It made it more fun, he thought, aside from anything else. A thought that he would have likely been scandalised to hear himself think just a month or so back. But now he couldn't help it - it was fun, when the shooters decided not to attend.
And so he could understand Kaito's late nights and the occasional dab of make-up around his friend's eyes to cover up the sleep deprivation.
But on the other hand, Kaito himself was having a much harder time understanding what it was that kept Saguru himself up in the same way. He didn't have heists to plan for (and no, they weren't counting whatever a detective had to do in order to give chase) as they only happened once a month, only a little more if something truly caught Kaito's eye... and the effects of the nightmares didn't care what time of month it was, or what he was supposed to be doing the next day.
"I..." He shook his head. "It's nothing. It doesn't matter."
Kaito narrowed his eyes, but was forced to drop the subject when the bell went for class, and everyone started to pile back in, including Aoko, a rather welcome distraction in Saguru's mind.
Just because they were now 'friends' didn't mean that he had to share everything with Kaito, just the same as Kaito didn't have to share everything with him.
So why should he wish to inflict the knowledge that in saving his life, he had also been given enough fuel to feed his nightmares to make his old ones seem tame? Why share that the war that he and Kaito were now involved in, was miniscule compared to the one memories stated that he (she) had been in, had run from, with all his (her) might. That in his memories, he had lost count of the number of times he'd (she'd) had to hurt people, kill even, simply to survive.
So it was 'nothing'. 'Nothing to worry about'. And if he told that to himself often enough, maybe he'd even start to believe it, a snide voice said in the back of his mind.
He half expected the magician to be waiting for him at the end of classes, expecting a better reply, but instead he found Aoko, looking about as miffed as he was confused. Then again...
"Ah, Kaito-kun went ahead home, did he?"
Aoko blinked, still getting used to 'Hakuba-kun' suddenly calling her childhood friend and his own 'rival' by his first name, regardless of the presence of honorifics.
"Mm. He told Aoko he was going to have to do errands before he could go home," she shared with a slight pout. "Even when last week he said he'd do something with me today!"
Internally, Saguru winced. Kaito was going to be in for a world of pain and sore ears when she caught up with him, that was for sure.
"I'm sure that something must have come up at short notice," he said instead. "Kaito-kun wouldn't simply forget such a thing unless it was important."
He didn't, however, blame her for for not cheering up very much at his words.
"I could walk you home, if you don't mind the intrusion," he suggested, holding out an arm with a smile. It wasn't exactly flirting any more- not like it had been when he'd simply wished to irritate the thief-in-disguise - but simply an attempt at comfort in the absence of another, and an attempt at honest friendship.
Aoko herself certainly didn't see anything wrong with it. Indeed, she smiled, beaming at him and taking his arm once her shoes were back on.
On the way to her house they talked of things that had happened over the course of the day, recalling things that Kaito had done, and things that had had Kaito happen to them. Now that he no longer needed to read into every single thing, such conversation was easier, lighter, not laced with suspicion of more than half of what was being said.
But instead, it seemed that his mind was constantly, as it had been all day, focusing in on something else.
Just a dream. It was just a dream, so why am I worrying about it?
Evidently, enough that Aoko asked him if he was all right twice before they reached her road, to which he attempted to reassure her both times that it was nothing, he was fine, just going over a detail in a recent case...
He wasn't even sure why he'd lied. She knew what he did. He could have passed it off as a dream. Being Aoko, she would not have thought less of him for it.
But for some reason, he didn't want her to know.
Close... so close...
He jerked, as if shocked - the voice, the voice! How was it here? It wasn't supposed to be there when he was awake! He looked around, but saw nothing out of the ordinary, nothing out of place. It left him shaking, blood rushing to his ears, making it hard to hear Aoko asking, for yet another time, if he was all right.
He flinched, eyes wide, and turned around, only to find that there was a familiar face heading towards them with confusion written all over it.
And something coming from behind. He couldn't even see it clearly - only a thin haze, a blurring of the air - but he knew that it couldn't be good, and started to run.
Aoko, not knowing any better, ran after him in frustration and confusion herself, calling after him and shouting at him to explain what was going on, right now.
He knocked the dark-skinned detective over, but it seemed that not even that was enough, or even in good enough time.
He could almost feel himself disintegrating as the rudimentary transmat beam pulled them up, himself still wide-eyed in panic and the others likely terrified, without a single idea as to what was going on.
Then again, apart from an understanding of the technologies, Saguru couldn't say that he knew what was going on, either. Not much of an advantage, that.
In the end, it was all rather deserving of one word-
AN: IT LIVES! THE STORY LIVES, I SAY! IT'S ALIIIIIIIIVE!
Okay I can cut the melodrama now. ANYWAY. I'd had this idea in mind for AGES now, and since not long after the first one was finished, either. It took me about two days for the first couple of 'parts' (not as they're presented, but in what time they were written, mind), and about an hour for the last 'part'.
At which point even though I'd saved to Word, I was still worrying over oh no what if it loses the draft since it's been nearly a week by now?!... Because it'd been written onto AO3's document manager, and they only keep drafts of the first chapter for one week.
Thankfully, that didn't need to be an issue...
Now! All you reading this here on will probably know that there was originally going to be a series of short chapters chronicling events from the end of 'The Ticking Faces of Clocks' to the beginning of this, which were going to include events from episodes of Doctor Who.
That isn't going to happen any more. Unless I really feel the inspiration to do so, and even then, it wouldn't be required reading. It was taking too much time with me going 'But this is going to be so long aaaaaaaaaah' and in the end I just caved and went for starting this, as you see it.