[07-Ghost] And One For The Journey

(He takes a running start and leaps, holding his arms out wide, feeling the wind whistle through his hair, past his ears, and he flies.)

As far back as he could remember (though that is of itself funny, now that he’s aware of how little he actually remembers), Teito Klein has never dreamed like normal people. He’d heard other students at the academy talking about it, though the conversation always died when they became aware of his presence, but he’d heard a few from Mikage–in the morning, bleary-eyed with the desire for more sleep, his hair at odd angles, always starting with, I had the weirdestdream last night, before he launched into wild descriptions of this instructor in a skirt or that instructor with three heads or Shuri Oak shrinking to the size of an ant and the mad quest to find him before someone could step on him and his father blew up the entire Academy. And Teito, who had seen a building explode once before, only scowled and told him they would be late for breakfast if Mikage didn’t hurry and get dressed.

Things like that, those were what Mikage would tell him, and at first, Teito had thought he was being made fun of, because who would dream of someone like Shuri Oak ever? Or even such frivolous things as rolling around in a bed made of clouds, watching stars pinwheel overhead. Mikage never stopped with his stories, though, as if his words needed somewhere to go, so they would flow around his reticent roommate until Teito found himself listening in spite of himself. More often than not, he still ended up confused, but Mikage just laughed and said, Roll with it, come on, just roll with it! and never seemed upset at being misunderstood.

Mikage had been a good person like that.

Had been.

(It’s easier than he expects, sliding into his old shape, feeling the still-familiar stretch of arms and legs and the body he left behind, stretching into it like a wrinkled coat. He pats his face a few times until he feels the rise of the edges of the scar under his fingers, confirming that it’s where it needs to be, then pushes off again. It feels like falling through layers and layers of tissue, which all bears his weight gently downwards. There’s a light ahead, and he knows that’s where he’s going.)

Teito slept rigidly and absolutely still: a carryover from his days as a fighting-slave: a restless sleeper was an unrested fighter, and one who quickly ended up dead. The first morning after receiving his new roommate, he’d woken to see Mikage hovering over his bed, very nearly teary-eyed, saying Oh thank God, I thought you were dead, don’t you even breathe? Breathing is something you do, right?? and more until Teito hauled back and punched him just to get him to move away from the bed. In time, Mikage grew accustomed to it, but every now and then, he would say something like,Hey, you know, you can relax around me. I’m your friend, right? and Teito would feel small and ashamed and then irritated before telling Mikage to mind his own business.

To which Mikage always said, You’re my roommate and you’re my friend, so you’re my business, and Teito never quite knew what to say to that. At the time, he’d been embarrassed to be so easily defeated by a boy who only made decently good grades and was a passable fighter–one who would perhaps survive the first wave in true war, and maybe even the second, but after that …

He regretted, now, being irritated with Mikage. If he’d known how little time there had been, from the first time he’d been offered a stranger’s hand to when he’d felt his friend’s body had dissolved in his arms, he would have cherished it–he would have been kinder, he would have held on just a little longer, he would have–he would have done a thousand things differently, just to see Mikage smile.

(He touches down lightly and easily, first one foot, and then the other. Once more, he swings his arms, testing the familiar weight of them, and he nods with satisfaction. This is good enough.

He turns to the bed and goes to sit on it, beside the lump that curls under all of the blankets, as if it could drown within them. He reaches and paws through them, peeling back each layer until the boy underneath is revealed. He smiles at that dear face, pale and stiff even in sleep, and reaches to touch it, tracing borrowed fingers over the curve of Teito’s cheek. When those big green eyes open, he smiles, but doesn’t pull his hand away.

“Missed me?” he asks.

There’s a heartbeat of silence as Teito stares at him; then a moment later there is a blur of movement as Teito then launches forward, tackling him down, off the bed, to the floor. “Mikage,” he says, in a voice that is strangled and cracking, “Mikage, Mikage, Mikage–” and he’s crying as Mikage, finally named, puts his arms around Teito’s shoulders and hugs him, shrugging against the cold stone under his back.

“Hey, buddy,” he says. “C’mon, breathe, there we go.” And he pets Teito’s hair then, which is soft as kitten-fur and warm between his fingers, waiting until the babbling against his shoulder subsides. “I guess you did miss me.”

Idiot,” Teito says, wetly, but doesn’t lift his head.

“Ah, that’s just cold,” Mikage says, amused, but then Teito stiffens in his arms, looking up; his expression is stricken.

“No, I’m sorry,” he says. “Mikage, you know, I don’t, I never–”

He smiles, and he says, “Of course I know,” and he tugs fondly at Teito’s hair. “We’re friends, after all.”

“I’m sorry,” Teito says again, small and miserable. “If it weren’t for me–”

“I wouldn’t have had as much fun, this past year,” Mikage says. “I was happier than I’ve ever been, after meeting you. I’ve always wanted to find someone to devote myself to, you know? And I found that.” He pushes himself up onto his elbows and touches his mouth to the corner of Teito’s mouth, and then speaks there: “Thank you.”

“Mikage …”

“It’s easier to say these things when you’re dead,” he says, not pulling away. “Huh.”

Mikage!”

“Teito,” he says, “close your eyes.”

“Why should I!” Teito sputters, and does as asked, his brow furrowed and mouth pursed.

Mikage kisses him. It’s only his second kiss ever, and his first since dying, but it’s less awkward than he anticipated, with Teito’s mouth soft and warm against his, and though Teito starts at the contact, exhaling sharply once, he doesn’t pull away. The moment holds for long seconds, and as Mikage pulls back, Teito’s eyes open, nearly black, and for a sinking moment he wonders if he’ll have to explain this, too–or if this is something that has been ruined for Teito by his history, because otherwise he isn’t certain he’ll ever be able to forgive himself–

“Mikage,” Teito says softly, “I’m glad you’re here.”

“Teito?”

“You’ll be gone soon,” Teito says. He lifts his chin, jaw set in a stubborn line, meeting Mikage’s eyes. “For good. So–I don’t want to worry about other things. Even if this isn’t real–it feels real. That’s what matters. So, I–” And he leans forward before he can finish, this time kissing Mikage himself: a little off-center, a little clumsy, with both of his hands curled into fists in Mikage’s shirt. He kisses like every other gesture of affection he’s tried in the past year, stiff and uncomfortable until Mikage meets and matches him, until he learns enough from observation to relax. Mikage slides both hands into Teito’s hair and kneads.)

Once, when Teito had gone to Chairman Miroku’s room for a debriefing, he’d found the old man with a woman in a slinky black dress perched on the arm of his chair, her smooth arm over his shoulders and her breasts close to his face; Miroku acted as if nothing were out of the ordinary, but the woman had stared at Teito the whole time with a smile on her face that made his belly clench and twist, and when he’d finally been allowed to escape, the burning in his cheeks had lingered for hours.

Mikage’s kiss made him feel nearly the same, only warmer and closer, and he wanted to be closer still, until he could be wrapped up in the warmth of his best friend. Even if this was nothing more than an illusion, if he had the chance to give something back to Mikage in the slightest, he would seize that chance. He kissed with that thought in mind and tried to be as gentle as he could–he clung to Mikage’s clothes instead of his shoulders; he tugged their bodies to roll until he was the one who had his back against the stone floor; and he muttered Mikage’s name like a prayer in between kisses, hearing his own echoed back in reply.

Teito bent his knees up, using them to bracket Mikage’s hips and then pin them in place against his. He tugged at Mikage’s shirt and growled until Mikage laughed and said, All right, all right, I get it, and pulled back, tugging until Teito released him, undoing the buttons of his shirt with nimble fingers. In the dim light, he was not beautiful, but he was familiar, and that was enough to make Teito’s throat ache and his eyes sting. He reached up and put his hand to Mikage’s chest, where the skin was warm and there was no heartbeat. Mikage just smiled sadly at his sharp breath, and leaned to kiss him again. This time, Teito clung back, his surprise making him fierce–if he let go, if he closed his eyes, then maybe that would be the second Mikage disappeared again.

And Mikage didn’t seem to mind–he muttered and directed and made little noises of pleasure, and even when Teito squeezed Mikage’s shoulders enough to make his own fingers ache, Mikage never protested. They kissed like it could communicate everything that had gone unsaid (that would always be unsaid, Teito knew, because this was only a dream), I love you and I miss you and Stay with me, whatever you do, don’t leave.

Then Mikage pulled away to rest his forehead against Teito’s, and he muttered, Can I? with his hand resting low on Teito’s hip, where the nightshirt had ridden up, exposing most of one leg. His eyes were dark and more serious than Teito could ever remember them being–even that last evening at the Academy, when he’d taken Teito’s hand without second thought and run, ready to throw away everything for the sake of friendship. His hand trembled slightly, but did not move from its spot, thumb pressed the rise of Teito’s hipbone and no closer. His mouth was open and red, but at whatever look he found on Teito’s face, it curved into a weak little smile. Hey, buddy, if you don’t want–

Teito grabbed Mikage’s hand and pulled it up and over, between his own legs, and he can’t help but gasp and rock into that, squeezing his eyes tightly shut. His entire body feels hot and focused on that touch–with how Mikage’s grip goes from tentative to confident, shaping around Teito’s cock through his nightshirt, and the feel of Mikage’s smile pressed against his cheek. Teito, hey, it’s all right, I’ve got you.

So Teito reached up, awkward, his hips rolling in tiny, desperate rocks against Mikage’s hand, and grabs onto Mikage’s arm, near his shoulder, squeezing to test the strength of it. He managed a smile of his own, forcing his focus on Mikage’s face, and he said, his own voice low, And I’ve got you.

Then he had to close his eyes, because the smile on Mikage’s face was bright enough to dazzle, and when Mikage’s hand moved again, fast and confident, it was all he could do to just arch helplessly in response. It felt good and it felt strange, to feel his body–honed and refined as a tool over the years until he thought he’d known it well–move helplessly in response to unfamiliar stimuli; he’d known gentle touch, and it had been nothing like this. Mikage’s arm over his shoulders, Kurena’s soft fingers over his palm–he hadn’t known. He hadn’t been ready. He didn’t think a lifetime of preparing would have have been enough to know what to expect. Like a prayer, Mikage’s name broke on his lips, over and over again, and he cracked his eyes open just that little bit to see Mikage’s face, so close their noses nearly touched, and he thought his heart would break from how full it felt.

Mikage, I, you know, I–

I love you, Teito, Mikage said, smiling.

Teito sobbed once and came.

(He kisses Teito’s brow one last time and pulls back to memorize that dear face–pale in the moonlight, stiff and stained with tears, but unchanged, unbroken, and he smiles. He rests his fingers on Teito’s cheek and sees that they’re already starting to fade. He’s stayed for too long.

“You know,” he says, “I was really happy. Thank you for being born and finding me. Thank you for everything.”)

The next morning dawned bright and harsh; Teito opened his eyes and immediately squeezed them shut again, turning his face hard into the pillow. His body felt hot and strange, like it didn’t really quite belong to him any more–it responded when he tried to move, but sluggishly, with small unfamiliar shudders. Images lingered behind his closed eyes, confused and jumbled and full of Mikage’s eyes and smile and voice, fading away even as he clutched at their tattered remains. A moment later and they were gone except for the vague impression of their previous presence, like how Mikage’s smell was nothing more than an illusion, buried deep in the folds of his jacket.

Even so, Teito pressed his face into the cloth and breathed in as deeply as possible. For the first time he could remember, he felt genuinely afraid.

I don’t know how to move forward. I don’t know where the path to the light lies. Because, Mikage–

You were my light.

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