For all his laughter and joy in life, Yamamoto’s mind is surprisingly quiet in sleep. He sifts through memories and thoughts like sand, watching the snatches of color—azure of the cloudless sky, kelly green of the grass in the outfield, slate grey of the chalkboard at school, fleshy pink of the fish his father carves—spread out before him, drifting in and out until he is not sure what he supposed to be looking at, not sure if these are things he has already experienced, or if they are dreams of things yet to come. He can’t remember why he’s here. He wonders if he’s dead.
Sometimes (as if time really holds sway here) he wonders if he ever really existed.
Waking feels like drowning.
There is a sudden wrenching feeling just behind his gut, and Yamamoto scrambles with panicky limbs that are not there to hold onto this peace for just one moment (one eternity) longer, but he’s dragged into consciousness like a fish on a line.
The first un-thought that comes to his mind is a muddled combination of huh? and oww. Next comes the nagging feeling that he’s supposed to tell someone something he has long since forgotten. Then his eyes finally begin processing the world around him, and he sees the figure beside his bed.
“Good morning, Yamamoto Takeshi,” (Oh, yeah, that’s his name) the man says in sickly sweet tones. “Or perhaps ‘good evening’ would be a more accurate greeting.”
Yamamoto is slow to recognize the voice, the hair, the markings upon the cheek, the eyes, and even when he does, he can’t bring himself to be afraid. In fact he can’t bring himself to feel much of anything, still lethargic under the smothering cocktail of drugs running through his veins.
When it is obvious that Yamamoto is in no state of mind to hold a conversation, Byakuran clucks his tongue and presses a syringe into the shunt on the IV tube near the crook of Yamamoto’s arm. Almost immediately, Yamamoto’s eyes come into focus, and his entire body vibrates with new found alertness and pain.
“Don’t scream,” Byakuran warns before removing the oxygen mask from Yamamoto’s face. Yamamoto follows his instructions, instead gasping in deep gulps of air and gnawing at his lip to distract himself from the knife-sharp throb in his abdomen.
“Byakuran,” he grates out, to which the man hovering over him laughs in response.
“So you do recognize me,” Byakuran murmurs, “even though we have yet to meet. How interesting. Now, before you go on about ‘how can this be?’ and ‘back, you savage!’, hear me out.”
Yamamoto doesn’t nod because he knows it’s unnecessary, but he does cast a glance to the corners of the room.
“Your little friends are very much occupied at the moment. Which is actually why I am here.” Byakuran slips the now empty syringe into a small leather case attached to his belt and pulls out another nearly identical tube. The liquid inside is clear and viscous, almost like oil, and when it catches the light it reflects shades of indigo and violet onto Byakuran’s skin.
Twirling the syringe between his fingers, Byakuran smiles sweetly down on Yamamoto’s supine form. “This,” he says, giving the vial a little shake, “is your ticket out of here. I don’t know if you’ve noticed yet, but you are currently in no condition to be up and about.” He pats a comforting hand against Yamamoto’s knee, and Yamamoto has to stop himself from crying out because despite seeing the contact, he can’t feel it.
“And you,” Yamamoto starts, pauses to calm his suddenly frantic thoughts, breathes, tries for a smile, gets only one corner of his lips to twitch upward, and then continues, “and you think that can fix me? Haha, you sure seem a lot nicer than you were in the future.”
“It’s a tricky thing, the future.” Byakuran hums. “But yes, this will ‘fix’ you—at least for the time being. Your body will heal faster, but only for a few days. Then it’ll start breaking down again. Do you know what the doctor’s notes say on the end of your bed?” Byakuran doesn’t wait for an answer, pointing an index finger and his chin to the heavens in a parody of a haughty physician. “‘Temporary Paralysis’, with parantheses around ‘temporary’.” He adds a wink at the end.
Yamamoto simply smiles in response, stronger than his last try, because how else is he supposed to respond to news like that? Despite wishing he could have his friends with him, he’s kind of glad Gokudera isn’t here to see him because he can only imagine the verbal assault he would get for masking his true feelings.
What the hell’s wrong with you? Stop smiling like everything’s okay, you freak!
(He wants to see them so badly, he needs them here, why aren’t they here when he needs them?)
“Yamamoto Takeshi. Your friends need your help.”
(Something must be wrong if they’re not here, he needs to go to them, why won’t his legs move, he needs to go to them, why won’t his legs just move?)
“Why are you doing this?” Yamamoto interrupts.
Byakuran’s chuckle sends shivers down Yamamoto’s spine. “Oh, I have my reasons, but you needn’t concern yourself with such trivialities.”
A vision of Genkishi, lying on a hospital bed, swathed in bandages, hurting and oh, so desperate, flits through Yamamoto’s mind.
“There’s a catch, right?” Yamamoto says because games like this always have such complicated rules.
“Isn’t there always?” Byakuran replies with a sigh. “It’ll cost you a kiss.”
Yamamoto’s side throbs violently as he laughs, but he ignores it. “You’re pretty funny.”
“You don’t know the half of it. Any more questions?”
“You haven’t really given me many answers,” Yamamoto counters, but his resolve is already hardened. Although he’s not too sure what is going on, he knows that he is needed outside the hospital walls. “Alright, I’ll do it.”
“Good boy,” Byakuran murmurs. As he flicks the vial and affixes a needle to the end, Yamamoto snorts out a nervous laugh.
“Haha, umm...it’s not poison is it?”
“No. Your little famiglia has me under twenty-four hour surveillance. They’d have me strung up within minutes if I killed you,” Byuakuran assures. “But that doesn’t mean it won’t hurt.”
With that, he injects the contents of the syringe into Yamamoto’s IV, and the world shifts and shatters. Scarlet and white bloom beneath his eyelids, and Yamamoto’s mouth convulses in a pantomime of a scream, but no sound escapes. It’s trapped in his wound, trapped in the flesh that burns and writhes as the liquid flame rushes into his capillaries and sets him alight. He is vaguely aware of Byakuran’s hands on his body, holding him down to the bed as he thrashes about, but they are a mere grain of sand in the ocean of his painpainpain.
(He can’t remember what he was supposed to be doing, he can’t remember if there had ever been anything other than the razor sharp teeth of agony rending his body.)
Several minutes (days? eons?) later, and with one final, violent spasm he is spent. The physical torment is gone, replaced with a throbbing heaviness that weighs everything down. Byakuran’s hands are still there, stroking his sides, trailing along his fingers, and clutching at his hair. His nerves tingle all the way down to his toes.
In a voice that seems to resonate from Yamamoto’s very core, he hears Byakuran murmur, “I wasn’t joking about the kiss,” before his jaw is suddenly wrenched apart, and Byakuran’s tongue is invading his mouth, filling him, and threatening to choke him. Byakuran takes what is rightfully his, leaving Yamamoto breathless, wanting, and tainted. There is a small tug in his chest, Tsuna-like in its distress, Gokudera-like in its brusqueness, that tries to tell him that something is wrong, but Byakuran has brushed a hand over Yamamoto’s thumping heart, and he is suddenly aware of a monstrous, gnawing demon inside him that wasn’t there before. It devours every recusant feeling in its path until Yamamoto is left wondering why he had ever been wary of Byakuran before.
Byakuran is good. Byakuran is generous. Byakuran is trustworthy.
“You’ll be strong enough to leave in the morning,” Byakuran assures him. “Now, sleep.”
When he floats back into consciousness again, his eyes flicker open onto a vision of an angel standing above him, pale face serene and eyes dancing with an unknown joke. A voice in the back of Yamamoto’s mind whistles a bright tune that tickles his senses and drags a smile onto his lips.