The sun is starting to set by the time we leave the main building, Hisao and I had decided to stay after to make up for the bit of class that we missed, and he had offered to help me go over all the other stuff I've been meaning to catch up on in my classes. Neither of us really had any better plans, and we had ended up receiving a rambling lecture on responsibility from Mutou--at Shizune's prodding, I'm fairly certain--so we had grabbed an empty classroom after school and formed some sort of secret study fortress.
We arranged all the tables together into some sort of... giga-table thing, and then spread out the various homework sheets and reports and chapters that I had had better luck drooling on than reading. Not that there was actually any drool on them, I'm very careful to dispose of the evidence but anyway, just when we were starting to get burned out, Miki had shown up. She claimed she was there to protect my virtue, but it turned out that she secretly needed some help making up some classwork too. Hisao's embarrassed stammering about how my virtue was perfectly safe had bought her more than enough time to settle in and that was that, we were a fully fledged study group by that point.
Now, with the three of us finally squared away, we stumble towards the dormitories, all looking exhausted.
“Is this going to be a regular thing?” Hisao asks, visibly drained.
“What, me cock-blocking you or--”
“Miki!” I wail, feeling myself blushing. Hisao is inspecting the clouds overhead with intense curiosity.
Miki laughs, giving me a friendly nudge. “I'm just kidding.” She says. “You mean this study group thing, right Hisao?”
“Y-yeah.” He mutters, still unable to look in our direction. Geez.
“Well, it could be.” She says with a playful look in her eye. “If you wouldn't mind sharing that amazing brain of yours with two beautiful ladies, Hisao.”
“When you put it like that, how can I refuse?” He puffs out his chest in a display of pure manliness or... or something like that, and the two “beautiful ladies” can't help but laugh.
“Just as long as you know that your brain is the only thing that you'll be sharing with both of us.” Miki says with a wink.
Hisao shrugs. “We'll see who's laughing the next time you ask to borrow my notes then.”
It feels good to see us bantering back and forth like this. It's a reminder of how things have changed since Hisao first arrived, when it felt like we were almost pulling him along on a leash, he looked so lost. At the same time though, it's a reminder of the way things once were.
That's right... I slow to a stop as we reach the point where the paths between the girls' and boys' dorms split.
A group of three feels normal, feels natural by now. But it used to be like that too. I wonder if Miki's noticed? If she has, she hasn't said anything, probably out of respect for me. But I remember our talk the other day at the track, and how she thinks I should open up to Hisao.
Easier said than done.
“Why'd you stop?” The object of my musing--well, kind of--asks, standing next to me.
“It's just--oh.” Miki keeps walking, taking the steps up to the girls' dormitory two at a time. “Are we still on for dinner tonight?” I call after her.
“What, instant noodles? Yeah, can't wait!” She fires back.
Just before she enters the dorms, she turns, and gives me that look. You can do it, her eyes say.
But I can't. I can't, not, not here. Not now. I still have time, maybe, like she said, during the three day weekend. Yeah.
Miki waves with her good hand and disappears through the door. I look back at Hisao, who's staring across the grounds with a distant smile on his face.
Ooh, he's spacing out. This should be interesting. I don't remember if he did this a lot when we first met or if it's something I do that's rubbed off on him. I think that would kind of be a compliment if it was, but I'm not going to assume. So instead I just watch him curiously, wondering what he's thinking about, what he's imagining.
Hisao blinks, he occasionally grimaces and even looks like he's about to laugh to himself, do I do that? I don't... I don't know. But after a little while he snaps out of it and comes back to reality, he comes back to me.
“Oh, sorry.” He says, looking a little embarrassed.
“I don't mind at all.” I reply, smiling brightly. He waited for me, I'm more than happy to wait for him. “Where were we?”
Hisao frowns. “I don't remember. Were we talking about something?”
I shrug. “That's a thing we could do. Miki's cooking isn't going to get any worse, she's not a very good chef with the... yeah, and the... you know.” I make some gestures that are vaguely connected with cooking in my mind, and end up throwing in a few of the signs that I've seen Shizune and Misha make back and forth that I thought were interesting. I hope I didn't just insult his mother or something like that. If I did, he's just as ignorant about it as I am. Good, good.
Hisao looks like he doesn't quite know what to say at the offhand mention of Miki's... off hand. Urgh.
“Does she cook for you a lot?” He asks.
“Not really, most days we scrounge something up. I'm not a very good cook either, to be honest.”
“Oh yeah?” He tilts his head, and I nod.
“I don't make soups... and I don't do good around frying pans. Or, or ovens in general to be honest.” I squirm a little at the memory of the time I'd tried to make my parents breakfast in bed and almost fell asleep on the stove. I was banned from the kitchen for a long time after that.
I open my mouth to tell him what I can cook, like rice! ...Unless I pass out and it overcooks.
...Same with fish, or beef, or... or just about anything else...
I close my mouth. Some nights, the microwave in the common room is my best friend. Thank god there are restaurants within walking distance or I would die of malnutrition.
Hisao speaks up, probably seeing me start to look depressed at my lack of culinary skills.
“That's okay, I only know a few simple dishes myself. I was wondering, though...” A change in subject, that's fine with me. Hmm, but what does he want to talk about now? It's starting to get dark.
“After the career survey we had the other day...” Oh. Oh, uh oh.
“I had a talk with Mutou, and he told me what he likes about teaching.” Alert. Alert.
“You know how he is, he was weird about it. But what he said kind of spoke to me.” Hisao looks a little embarrassed by talking about things like this, like he doesn't want to tell people about his plans in case they fall through later. I can understand that, but I still have warning bells going off in my head.
“So I've been doing a little research of my own. I've only started looking around at a few colleges and universities, but I finally feel like I can look ahead now that I'm, well, back on my feet.” He smiles at me, and I smile back, but... warning, warning, danger, Suzu Suzuki. What's he saying now? The sun is setting, and...
“You helped me with that. So I was wondering, I never really asked.” And it would be fine if you never--
“What do you want to do after high school, Suzu?”
I stare at him for a few long moments. How did we get to... weren't we just talking about cooking? I'm not a good chef. I, I can't cook breakfast so I usually either eat things from a wrapper or whatever's left over at the cafeteria by the time I get there and...
And, can't we go back to... I mean...
He's looking at me again. I have say something.
I don't know what to do.
[Make something up]
[>Tell him the truth]
If I tell him that I have no idea, will he cluck his tongue at me and be disappointed? Or will he be like my parents, and start prodding and pushing and signing me up to get college brochures in the mail?
I don't know. I could feign sleep, but... it would be a little hard to aim for the grass and make it look natural. So, uh. Okay, okay.
“I don't know.” I say simply. “I try not to think about it.” And that's because... that's because when I do, I...
You can do it, Miki said. Or at least, I'm pretty sure that's what that look meant.
Miki, Miki, I can't. I can't, it's...
“Well that's okay.” Hisao says, and I look up at him. My gaze had sunk to the ground without me noticing.
“You can probably figure it out in college. Do you want to see some of the stuff I've been looking at so far?” He asks. I shake my head, and he frowns.
“Are there any jobs that you can picture yourself doing for a career?” Nope. I shake my head again. Hisao's brow furrows.
“I try not to think about it.” I say again. He gives me a look halfway between concern and frustration. I know that look. I get it a lot from my parents.
I don't have to see it as much, since coming to Yamaku. But, but I'm going back home next week, so...
“Well, there'll be time. It's getting dark though, I should go.” He gives me a smile, but I can't manage to return it. I feel like I messed up, like I missed an opportunity, but I don't know what else I could have said, and...
It's always dark here, Suki.
“Suzu?” Once again, Hisao's voice drags me back to reality. The setting sun is in my eyes, I can't make out his features. He could be anybody, he could be...
He could be...
No no, enough. Enough. I've already cried too much today. I don't want to be some weak little girl, it's bad enough that I'm vulnerable all the time when I'm sleeping, I don't want people to feel like they constantly need to console me when I'm awake. I want to be normal. I want to be like everybody else, even if I'm not.
Am I just pretending? Or if I try for long enough, will I start to believe it?
I mumble something about my noodles getting cold, and then beg another long hug from Hisao. He says he'll see me tomorrow. I make him promise it.
Saturday goes by quickly and relatively peacefully. I manage to survive a half day's worth of classes, Miki suggests that we get lunch in town for a change. I almost live out my nightmare of falling asleep at the top of the hill and rolling the rest of the way down like a barrel, but Miki and Hisao manage to catch me and carry me between their shoulders the rest of the way. It was probably a sight to see, two students from that weird disabled school lugging a third one, fast asleep, through the streets. But I wasn't there to get embarrassed, I was dreaming. And not about playing battleship or stargazing either, I... I hope he doesn't ruin stargazing for me, I used to do that a lot back home. But that probably won't happen, I don't have any bad dreams all day, I haven't since the day of the career survey. Maybe it was just a fluke, maybe I just got unlucky. Maybe it won't happen again.
Who am I kidding?
I woke up in time for lunch, and we passed the next few hours just talking about everyday stuff and unwinding. Miki totally set me up to ask if Hisao had any plans for the long weekend coming up, and I was going to ask, I really was. But I fell asleep again, and by the time I woke up they were ready to leave, and my plate was missing a cookie or two. They blamed our waiter, but I know who the culprit really was.
The rest of the day passes by before I know it, time flies when you're having fun. Or at least, when you're not doing boring things like sitting in class or studying. Time seems to go by faster whenever you're doing stuff that you don't mind doing, so that you can get back to doing boring things again. Like, you know, sitting in class or studying.
I unlock the door to my room, intent on having a deep, intellectual conversation with my pillow, but my foot hits something as I take a step inside. A medium sized envelope has been shoved under my door, I guess I hadn't noticed, because I need sleep. I... I need sleep. What is this thing? Upon closer inspection, it's addressed to me, from home. Oh.
I take a seat on my bed and kick off my shoes. I'm curious, but my bed seems to have developed some kind of strange gravitational powers, I'm being sucked in. Suzu, it says, come to me, for I am soft and warm and be careful not to roll off of me like last time because you almost hurt yourself.
Speaking of that--well, the bed wasn't actually speaking, unless... unless I'm having one of my going-to-sleep hallucinations again--I need to ice my knee. The nurse will be mad if I don't show any signs of improvement the next time I see him. Maybe, maybe I could just be careful not to need to visit him any time soon and he would never know. But I really should, I just... I just don't have the strength to get all the way to the common room and grab some ice.
I'm sorry, nurse. I wouldn't make it. And passing out and possibly hitting something hard on the way down or getting abducted would most certainly be bad for my health, so this is for the best anyway. Tomorrow, tomorrow I'll ice my knee twice as hard. Or twice as cold, or whatever the equivalent is.
All this thinking is wearing me out even more. I gather up the last of my strength and change out of my uniform into a plain tank top and a pair of shorts, and then fall into my bed.
Something nags at me though. As exhausted as I am, something tells me I won't be able to sleep until I find out what's in that package from home.
Ha! Then maybe you can make it to the common room and grab some ice after all. No, no, that's not happening. Okay, I'm just being lazy, all right? I'll do it tomorrow. I promise. Just... just open this thing. What the heck is this. It's...
Still lying on my side, I rip open the side of the envelope and dump the contents onto my carpet. In the glow of my reading light I can make out about half a dozen folded pieces of paper. I know what they are. I've already got a bunch more just like them, scattered around my floor and probably busy evolving into birds or something. Or is that dinosaurs? Papers would evolve into trees if they... no, that's dumb, god, I need to go to sleep.
College pamphlets. That's what they are. And a note. I reach to pick it up, and hold it in front of my bleary eyes.
“Suzu. Please give these a look and let us know what you think. There's a workshop for helping third year students prepare for college entrance exams next month, your father and I have signed you up for--” Noooo. No, mom, why. Why would you do that? I drop the note in disgust, or, or despair, I just...
Damn it. Damn it, we'll have actual high school exams soon, I don't have time to worry about even more tests, it'll crush me. And besides, I don't want to go to any of these schools, I don't want to go to... why worry about it, I'm not going to... damn it.
I flip my reading light off, plunge my face into my pillow and pull my blankets around me tightly. I don't need this. What I need is some rest, what I need is some...
This is not what I need right now. In fact, this is probably the opposite of what I need.
This isn't supposed to happen. This isn't how it works.
He's not playing by the rules.
I glance at the sky above me, it's like something out of a painting, a maze of swirls and stars and bright orbs. Light shines down from above, but the sheer blackness on all sides seems to swallow it whole. Here, again, in that field. His bony, cold body against mine and I'm paralyzed, unable to move.
This doesn't happen at night. It never happens at night. When I'm lying in my bed I dream about all sorts of things, some good, some bad, but none of them are this. This isn't fair.
“I told you you would come back.” He says again.
The only response I can manage is a whimper. I don't want to be here. I don't want to see him anymore, now that I remember. I don't want to see him like this. Go away, please, please go away.
Please stop reminding me.
He says nothing further, and I do the only thing I can, watch the brilliant stars above.
“Where's the game?” I ask after a few long minutes.
“Isn't it a little too late for games now, Suki?” His voice is barely more than a whisper. He sounds angry. He sounds sad. “Besides, you won. You left.”
“You should have stayed away.” He says.
I wish I could have. I wish I had stayed home from class that day, I wish I had never seen the career survey. Things could have stayed the way they were, could have just gone on peacefully.
I can't keep Hisao in the dark forever. He's already starting to act like he knows something is wrong. But I don't want to tell him. I don't want to think about it, I don't want to have to remember, because when I do, I--
I hurt. And then I end up here, and I...
“Stargazing is a step up, I suppose.” I choke out a halfhearted response. Even if it beats that room, even if I'm not stuck playing some stupid game, I don't want to be here. I'll take floors of lava over this any day, bring on the spiders. Anything's better than thinking a wound is closed and finding out it's not.
I feel a shifting behind me, the body touching mine seems to be spreading one arm out, gesturing to the sky above.
“When beggars die there are no comets seen. The heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes.” He quotes. I feel my throat tighten up. Julius Caesar. Of course he knows that one.
“Please don't ruin Shakespeare for me.”
“I'm not here to ruin anything for you, Suki.” He says softly, the anger leaving his voice.
“Then why are you here?”
“I think you know.”
A silence hangs between us. I close my eyes, hoping that when I open them, I'll be greeted by the sight of my bedroom, morning light pouring through my curtains. But no such luck. Just the sky, the field, and beyond that, the dark.
It's always dark here.
“I'm scared.” The words leave my lips before I can even think twice.
Death says nothing for a few long moments.
“It's okay to be scared.” He replies at last. “I was scared too.”
I feel like a dozen knives were just thrust into my chest. “You don't know that.” My voice cracks.
“I do. And so do you.”
“I...” Please wake up. Please wake up. Please wake up. Can't I go back? Can't I forget? Can't I move on? I plead silently as I stare up at the stars that are starting to get a bit blurry from the moisture in my eyes.
Death sighs. “Fear is a very powerful thing, Suki.” He says, sounding tired. “It can make a man run all the way to the ends of the earth, just to escape it.” His voice is still that grating, unearthly howl, but it seems to lose its sharpness with every word that passes.
“But do you know what's stronger than fear?” He continues. “Do you know what makes someone stop running, and dig a hole, and wait for whatever comes next?”
I know. I know it pretty well. But my throat has gone completely dry.
“It's guilt.” He says softly.
All traces of the field around us have faded away, and the edges of my vision reveal only a familiar, deep black. The stars still shine over my head, but I can't see anything else. I can't see a way out.
I close my eyes, and at his next words, clench my jaw, commanding myself not to cry.
“I wish you had believed them, Suki. When they said it wasn't your fault.”
Please. Just wake up. Just, just...
“Just run away.” Death finishes the words that I hadn't even spoken. “And live to fight another day.”
I open my eyes, and a comet flashes across the sky above me.
“Not too many days left, Suki. And don't you know it's dangerous for you to run?” He says.
Another burning flash across the dark expanse, then another, and another. Soon the sky is filled with them.
“I'm not going to graduate.” I whisper.
I feel Death gently nodding behind me.
“I'm sorry.” He says.
And then I wake up.
I'm drenched in a cold sweat. Breathlessly, I wipe tears from my eyes and glance at the clock. It's almost 2 AM. Tomorrow is Sunday, no classes, I can sleep as much as I...
As much as I...
I want to throw something, I want to cry out in despair and frustration, but it's too late at night to be making noise and I don't have anythi--actually, I do. I can make out the dark outline of my massive, fuzzy t-rex, slightly squished between my bed and the wall.
No, no, I'm not going to throw that. In fact... I pull the stuffed animal to me and wrap it in my arms, bringing up my knees and curling myself in a ball around it. It's as close as I can come to having Hisao with me right now. I need something, I need anything here with me, if I can't sleep in my own bed without going back there then I... I don't know what to do. I'm lost.
I'm so tired, and I need to try to get some rest for the day ahead of me. But I don't want to go back. I don't want to see him anymore, it hurts. It hurts.
I don't want to hurt. I just want to sleep, even if I spend so much of my life doing it, it's the only thing I can think of that will make this go away. Except it might not. It might make it worse.
I bury my face in the stuffed animal that I've folded my body around, feeling the soft material grow wet. I would be a narcoleptic with recurring nightmares.
I can't stay like this, I might go back, I...
I glance at my phone, sitting on my nightstand. I don't want to wake Hisao up, but I don't want to be alone, and I don't want to go back to sleep. Miki would probably be willing to scoot over in her bed and make room for me, but she already gave me a pep talk a few days ago. I don't want to be some poor little baby that needs being held and reassured all the time.
I don't want to be some poor little girl who can't go anywhere by herself or else she might fall and hit her head, either. Or, or be picked up by someone, and...
I don't want to be that person. But I am. I can't change that, no matter how much I try, no matter how much I hate it, or wish that things could be different. No matter how much I wish I was just a normal girl. I wish I was like Miki, I wish I was like Molly from our class. I would give up a limb or even two if it meant I could be anyone I wanted, do anything I wanted. Go anywhere I wanted, and not have to be afraid. Not have to miss half my day to dreams, be up for days at a time with insomnia, have vivid hallucinations or, god forbid, night terrors.
I clench the stuffed animal in my arms harder, and then reach for my phone.
I'm sorry, Hisao.
I flip open the phone, the bright light stings for a moment and I wince, but then my eyes adjust.
What do I write? What do I say? Do I even know if he'll wake up? Maybe he turns his phone off at night, or he's let the battery run out, I don't think he even carries it with him all the time so I doubt he cares that much about it. But at least I'll know I tried.
“Hi.” I hit send before I can start second-guessing myself, I guess it's as good an opening as any other.
I have no idea how long it will take to get a response, or if I'm even going to get one at all, so I snap my phone closed and place it on the bed beside me. I lay on my back, staring up at my ceiling, one arm still holding the t-rex to my chest. The seconds turn into minutes, and just as I'm about to give up and consider begging Miki for company after all, there's a vibration beside me and the blue LED on my phone begins to blink slowly.
“I'm Suzu's phone and I'm getting a text message.” I jump at the sound and scramble for my phone, everything always seems ten times louder in the dead of night. I quickly set it to vibrate only, and then navigate to my messages menu. There, a response. He's here, he's up. I go to view it.
“Hi. Is something wrong?” It reads. I guess most people don't usually start texting this late for no obvious reason.
“I can't sleep.” I lie. I'm not looking for a shoulder to cry on, exactly. Just talking to him, even if it's like this, just knowing that he's probably lying in his bed, reading my words and thinking about me... it makes me feel better. I set my phone down again, feeling myself begin to calm down.
I force myself to keep my eyes open as I wait, now I have even more reason to stay awake. The next message comes back a little faster this time.
“Me either now, thanks a lot.”
I let out a tiny laugh, even though my eyes are still damp. I'm sure he's joking around again. Or... I'm pretty sure he is, anyway. It can be hard to tell with just plain text.
About half a minute later, then the vibration again.
“Do you want me to tell you a bedtime story?”
I can't help but break into a tired grin. This should be interesting.
“Yes please.” I fire back, before setting my phone to silent. The vibrating is starting to get grating, and the blinking blue light is enough to alert me now. I wait to hear back from him in sleepy anticipation, I'm so glad that he responded.
I'm so glad that he's here, and that I met him and...
Hisao, I'm so glad you're here. I, I think I told you that, but I need you to understand. What if you think I only like you because I don't want to be alone, though? Because I can't do a lot of things alone? I don't want to come off too strong. I don't want to look helpless, I don't want to BE helpless. So now I'm back to square one, I don't know what to do.
Blue lights hold the answer. “I was kidding.” Hisao says.
“I wasn't.” I reply. A minute passes, I lie there in my bed, trying not to think anymore. Soft, blinking blue.
“I'm tired, or I can't sleep, or I'm fine. That's code for something's wrong.” The next message says.
Another message, I guess it was a two-parter.
“You never tell me when you need help. You always try to do it by yourself. Why?”
So he... he sees right through me now.
Why is this so hard? For some reason, it's easy to talk to Hisao. I feel like I can relax around him, it feels good when we're together. But when it comes to things like this...
He told me about his arrhythmia. About his heart, about how he could die at almost any time, with just a stroke of bad luck. This isn't easy for me, but that wasn't easy for him either.
I have to tell him. I have to let him in, or I'll lose him, one way or another. But even with that said...
My phone's screen has shut off while I was thinking. I press a few buttons to wake it up, and then begin writing a response. I hope he doesn't think I've deliberately cut our conversation short.
Okay, just. Just a little bit. Not a lot, nothing big. I can do this.
“I'm scared.” I feel like I'm firing a torpedo as I send the message, but who it's aimed at, I'm not so sure.
I get a text back almost immediately. Hisao must have been waiting for me.
Tap tap tap tap.
“A lot of things.”
Closing my phone plunges me back into darkness. Somewhere outside, a very confused bird is chirping, I wish it bodily harm.
Tap tap... tap tap tap. I can do this much. I don't want pity, I don't want him to feel sorry for me. But I don't think I can do this alone.
Just another thing that I can't.
“I have bad dreams. They've gotten worse lately.”
Silence. My bed is warm, the stuffed animal lying next to me, soft. What will he say? What will he think? I'm sorry? Poor little Suzu? Poor, fragile little girl?
No, no. I'm not bitter, I... should probably be bitter. A lot of people would. But I never was, life was never so bad before, and now, I... I don't have the strength to be angry or resentful. It was all I could do to hold on with both hands, and even then I had help. I wasn't bitter. I just ran. Ran away from the world and into the arms of my dreams. I buried all the weak and hurting bits of me in the ground and played battleship.
Should I even be getting close to Hisao? Am I just setting us both up for more hurt?
I can't see. I can't see anything in my future, graduation is a word, a myth to me. It's not going to happen. I'm not going to be there. Somehow, I'm not going to make it that far.
I can't. I don't know how.
I have to think for a moment to remember what he's asking about. My dreams, why have they gotten worse? Why did I start going back? All this talk of life after high school, for one. But there's another reason, too.
“My parents want me to come home for the long weekend next week.”
I close my phone, returning my surroundings to darkness. This is my chance to ask him to come with me. There's not a lot to do there, but it's nice, it's quiet and scenic but I... I can't stand it there anymore.
Lights. “You don't want to go home?”
Tap tap tap, tap tap.
“I can't sleep there. I love my parents but I hate being there.”
Silence. Black. I force myself not to think, just to focus on breathing in and out as the seconds tick by.
Blue. “Can I come with you?”
Tap tap tap.
“I meant to ask you. It's kind of boring there but would you be--” Oh. He already... oh.
I erase what I'd written so far, tap tap tap tap.
“You don't have to.”
His response comes almost immediately.
“I want to.”
“Okay.” Tap tap tap. “Thank you.”
A few minutes go by, our conversation might be over, I don't know. I haven't texted Hisao enough to know how he does things like this. Just as I'm about to set my phone on my nightstand and brave another attempt at going to bed, it lights up.
“Still can't sleep?”
Still don't want to. Tap tap.
“Yes.” Or wait, should that be a no? Yes I can't. No I can't. Either way.
The LED begins blinking again almost immediately.
“Then do me a favor?”
What does he mean? I rest my head against my pillow as I type out a response.
Again, he replies almost right away.
“Get dressed, and then come outside.”
He--he isn't. Is he? What is he planning on...? I have no idea what's going through his head right now, but I know I don't want to go back to sleep, and even though a part of me is nervous about leaving at this hour, the rest of me wants to see what he's up to. I lurch out of my bed and pull on some clothes, a pair of jeans and a warm jacket. Then I stumble out my door and into the dark, empty halls of the girls' dormitory.
Any place looks strange, looks alien in a different light from what you're used to. Even comfortable, familiar places can seem scary and foreboding when they're draped in long, crooked shadows. But I've had enough sleepless nights to know my way around the place at this hour. I carefully make my way through to the doors and slip outside.
Hisao is standing there. The moon hangs high in the sky, draping him in soft, pale light. He's wearing his uniform jacket over his usual sweater vest, hands thrust in his pockets, a stupid grin on his face.
You idiot. What are you doing? And why are you doing it for me? Just the sight of him chases away the cold bite of the night air.
“Why are you here?” I whisper as I walk up to him. He looks dead tired, but he's smiling at me, and I feel myself smiling back.
“Tonight, we declare war on dreams.” Hisao says, pulling me close and depositing a kiss on the top of my head. “If you won't sleep, then neither will I.”
I melt into his arms, relief flooding through me. That's stupid. This is stupid. I look up at him, and he stares down at me with that warm, comforting smile.
That smile, and he came all the way here, and he knows I'm scared about a lot of things and doesn't think less of me and... and he's here. For me. And I feel so warm, inside and out.
...I think I love you.
“Come on.” He says, giving me a gentle squeeze. “Let's go to the convenience store, you have an unfair advantage when it comes to staying up late."
“Okay.” I mumble, gripping his hand tightly as we begin to walk together.
The rest of the world is asleep, the rest of the world is dead. It's just us now. Just him next to me, his hand in mine.
"Now go we in content, to liberty, and not to banishment." I whisper.
Artwork by Doomish