When Kanda is six years old, he meets his soul mate. Alma is his best friend, his brother, his mother, his father. Alma is every person who Kanda wasn't allowed to love, every person that fate denied him.
Alma is perfect. He grins like sunshine and laughs like rain, he whispers inappropriate jokes along the shell of Kanda's ear- just low enough that the Sisters don't hear him. His eyes are as bright as Kanda's are dark, his skin pale like moonlight and hair dark as raven feathers. In fact, the only thing that mars his countenance is a single scar stretched across the bridge of his nose. Kanda never thinks to ask how he got it, and Alma never tells him.
He's like something out of a fairytale, beautiful in his imperfection.
Kanda likes to pretend that he hates him. He likes to ignore the silly jokes and snap at the ridiculously too loud laughter, but really, it's kind of nice having a friend. Nice to have someone to sneak off to the kitchens with in the night, someone to collapse against when they finally manage to outrun Sister Helen. Alma grins at him, cheeks flushed red with exhilaration and says, "Wasn't that fun, Yuu?"
And really, it was. It was a lot of fun.
Today, a friend woke up.
(Whispers and affection and little boy laughs in the dark--- something doesn't quite feel right.)
The problem, though, is that Alma isn't real.
The first time Kanda meets Alma, he has one hand clenched in dark robes, teeth grinding into the fabric pressing down on his tongue. There's a meaty hand stroking down his belly, another that's worming between his clenched thighs and he thinks Oh God, Oh God, help me.
That first glimpse of Alma is of a scowling face- snarling lips and bared teeth and he's so angry.
But then the boy, this new boy is crouching down by his head even as the priest finally succeeds in spreading his legs and he's whispering Pretend you like it. Pretend, Yuu, and it won't be quite so bad.
Biting pain, and his canines tear into his lower lip when the priest backhands him, his vision goes blurry- voice catching on a sob and Alma says, urgently, Pretend, Yuu.
He closes his eyes. He pretends.
Four years later, when Kanda is ten, Alma starts acting strangely. Smiles that drift from friendly and open to cold and insensitive, joking whispers that aren't actually funny- but cruel, and a little bit callous. It's when Kanda has to stop Alma from killing one of the church cats that he realizes something is wrong.
"What's wrong with you?" he asks, heart thumping double-time in his chest- wildly and panicked and it's like a bird is trying to struggle free from beneath his ribs. There's a flash of pain along his wrist and he has to drop the wriggling cat, shoo it away from the boy lounging along that first line of pews. He rubs the cut, smears blood all down his wrist and tries to ignore the way Alma's wrist is bleeding in the exact same space.
Alma giggles, throws his head heavenward as he does so. Kanda has to creep backwards, involuntary steps because this isn't his friend- this isn't Alma- it's something else. Alma looks at him, and the madness is fever bright in his eyes. "But Yuu, she was a sacrifice!" he proclaims, gestures towards the altar like that kind of statement is normal- "A sacrifice to our Lord," he says and smiles, sweet and soft and completely at odds with the cruel twist of his brow.
Kanda's foot catches on something, the rug is mussed- he thinks, and then he's falling, back and back and the marble stairs rush up to meet him---
Kanda comes to three weeks later, his head throbbing and his heart aching.
Alma is gone.
When he asks, the Sisters give him odd looks, as if he's hit his head just a bit too hard. Like they're wondering if the crack in his skull has given him permanent damage. He squints against the too bright sunshine streaming in through the stained glass windows, fidgets with his robes. Sister Helen eyes him and she looks sad.
"There was never anyone here by that name, Kanda," is what they say, their voices pitying and just a bit wary. Kanda's world drops out from under him, even as they're walking away.
Kanda doesn't remember what the homily is about, he misses his cue to go get the cross, and when it comes time for Father Matthew to wash so he can prepare the Eucharist Kanda drops the water basin. It soaks the front of his alb, clatters away- bounces down the marble stairs and the sound is so loud-
The whole congregation is staring at him, their looks a mixture of curious, confused, concerned, cautious- but it doesn't matter. Father Matthew is saying something, voice pitched low and comforting, It's all right, Kanda, go ahead and sit down now but none of it matters because Alma. was. never. real.
The world falls away from him and he doesn't care.
The years pass. He outgrows altar serving, starts concentrating more on his studies. The Father wants to introduce him to the priesthood- wants to start his training early. Kanda smiles evenly, and his thanks are both apologetic and sincere when he says, "Thank you, Father, but I don't quite think it's for me."
He's fifteen when his voice starts to break and the Sisters glare at him resentfully for days before they finally give up and shuffle him out of the choir. For his part, it's about time. The other boys' voices had started to change at thirteen, and he'd been called a girl for weeks before he'd finally given up on just ignoring it and soundly beaten them all into the ground.
However, it's then that the dreams start up. When they first start, Kanda doesn't really understand. When he wakes up his sheets are too sticky and all he's got is a fuzzy, vague recollection of skin sliding against skin, of bright eyes and the edge of a smirk.
He understands well enough. Sex is a topic that's come up before, both as the subject of conversations in the boy's bathrooms and in the quiet, embarrassed speeches that the priests had given them. These dreams are normal, he tells himself, and then carefully avoids thinking of the sharp hips and flat chest he'd pressed himself up against.
Predictably, the dreams get worse. Kanda starts remembering things better, the slide of someone's thigh against his, a cheek pressing intimately against his chest, the taste of sweat and the phantom ache of fingers pressing up and deep- insistent. His grades drop, because he spends more time fidgeting in school than he does doing actual work. He sits in his seat day after day, lip bitten raw- trying not to give into temptation because all he wants to do is press his palm to his crotch, wants to slip his hands inside his pants and stroke-
When he's seventeen, he finally matches a face to his dream lover. Somehow, he isn't surprised to see Alma smirking down at him, his grip just this side of too rough, too tight. He leans down, catches Kanda's ear between his teeth and says, "You're my sacrifice to God, Yuu."
Kanda can't think, can't respond, just jerks in his grip, helpless and panting. When Alma licks his way down his chest- wraps his warm lips around Kanda's cock and sucks- well, Kanda comes with a whimper and jolts awake, alone on his bed.
He tries to remember that madness. Tries to forget the way Alma used to be, back when they were just best friends. He tries to remember the insanity of his eyes and forget the way the other boy's mouth had looked- filthy, red and wet, Kanda's come clinging to the very edge of that smirk---
Forgetting isn't easy.
Kanda gets a scholarship in March, a full ride to the posh college an hour out and he takes it before he can second guess his decision. He needs to get away. Needs to get away from half-mad memories of someone who never existed.
He packs all of his possessions into one bag, gets on the 12:30 bus and doesn't look back.
College is difficult, but it's a good thing. It makes him forget. Makes the dreams go away and the nostalgic recollections vanish. His dorm is delightfully foreign, and no ghosts chase him through the halls.
-a friend woke up.
(A ragged whisper in the dark. Something stirs unsteadily. Something is wrong--)
He's a Junior before he goes to his first college party. Lavi is exuberant, already too drunk when they stumble out of their dorm room and down the street. He clings to Kanda's side, too affectionate- bold in his touches, but it isn't unexpected, because Lavi's Lavi. When they get to the dorm, all it's occupant's are already drunk, playing beer pong or shouting about how hot the new English professor is.
Not fifteen minutes in, Lavi disappears with the pretty Chinese girl from their Calculus class, and Kanda really isn't surprised. Instead he accepts a drink from a faceless frat brother- downs it in one go and pretends that he doesn't hear some of the boys whispering about how pretty he is.
It probably could have gone worse. But not by much.
Allen is too cheerful in the morning. He should have a hangover, should be squirming around in bed, but instead he's busy waving a paper McDonald's bag under Kanda's nose and grinning. He probably means for it to smell alluring, but really, it just makes Kanda want to hurl.
There's a headache trying to beat it's way free of Kanda's skull, the sheets are tangled in a sticky mess around his thighs, and Kanda feels like he's been fucked right through the mattress. His ass hurts and he wants some tea, not greasy fast food.
It could have been worse. He could have not started playing poker with Allen, the weird kid in his theology class; could have gone home with the trio of frat boys who'd been eying him all night, could have not stumbled up the stairs with Allen pressed up against his side but rather passed out drunk somewhere on campus, but really. He's also got a nine page paper to write in twelve hours so he can't really imagine anything worse than this.
He turns over and throws up all over Allen's feet.
They last for all of two weeks. There's spectacular sex- some really spectacular sex, but in the end, they realize that they kind of hate each other with a passion.
The dreams come back the night they break up and Alma whispers in his ear, "I missed you," soft and sweet and beautiful.
Kanda leans back into him, sighs, and tries to forget that he's dreaming.
His second college party is even more of a disaster.
They're sitting on the back porch, drinking up the night- Lavi a warm presence to his left and Lenalee cuddled up on his right. Lavi's rolling a joint with far too much finesse, tanned fingers tucking the rolling paper together securely. Lenalee giggles and snuggles even closer, burrowing her nose into his sweater because it's fucking January and he has no idea why the hell they're outside. Just as he's about to complain, Lavi grins and presses the lit joint into his fingers and Kanda lifts it to his lips- inhales-
The universe tilts on its axis. He feels upside down, terrified, and there are protons and electrons crawling through his skull, synapses firing and he feels like his brain is trickling out through his ears. And then the world is righting itself again, Lenalee laughing and kicking Lavi as she accepts the joint from suddenly nerveless fingers, and everything's still spinning but-
He sits on the porch steps, reclining there, back pressed up against the railing and feet stretched downward, the tips of his fingers so close that they're almost touching the top of Lavi's knee. Kanda is terrified and frustrated, panicking but still he wonders what would happen if Alma touched them?
Alma smiles, like he's heard Kanda. And maybe he has. He's in Kanda's head isn't he? Deliberately, he reaches over, brushes his knuckles against Lavi's thigh. Lavi doesn't even flinch, doesn't even pause in telling Lenalee how he learned to roll the perfect joint in Egypt, and neither of them notice.
Alma grins at him, bright and a little bit mad, and says, "Whats up, Yuu? I missed you."
(The universe swirls and tilts and goes on and on. The world crashes and burns over and over again, and no one notices.)
The paper's clear, small, and has a little decal of a flower on it. Kanda thinks that it might be a lotus, and lets it dissolve on his tongue.
LSD makes the world a brighter place. Makes rainbows drown trees, turns men into lions; somewhere a violin sings and the music drifts to Kanda on a cloud made of cotton candy.
Alma is always there now. After that first burst of THC, he'd been back for good. He reclines against Kanda's desk when he's supposed to be studying, parks his ass on a pile of papers that Kanda needs and refuses to get off until he's paid a bit of attention. He's there when Kanda sleeps, sitting on the edge of the bed or curled up next to him and Kanda's tried to get rid of him, but he can't. Every time he tries something, Alma looks injured anyway, like someone kicked his puppy and Kanda really doesn't know how to explain to him that he's twenty and really can't still have an imaginary friend.
But sometimes it's not so bad. Sometimes Alma will waltz over to the teacher's desk, study the answer key, and shout back the correct answer. Kanda's not entirely sure how that works, if maybe his subconscious actually knows the answer and is trying to tell him through Alma-
Drugs make the experience better. It erases, dulls the sharp lines of reality until Kanda can almost convince himself that Alma's real, that he isn't crazy and that Alma's as solid as Lavi or Lenalee or Allen or any of them.
This time is no different. The club is almost quiet tonight, slow despite the throbbing techno pumping through the place. Idly, Kanda watches Lenalee and Lavi on the floor- watches them curl together, whispers of steam between their bodies. Alma sits down beside him- drops another drink into Kanda's fingers. Reflexively, his hand closes around the shot glass, downs it before the liquid starts to look like fire. Alma grins at him, and he looks so normal- jeans and a fucking band t-shirt and Kanda can't even think that this isn't real.
"Wanna dance, Yuu?" he asks, eyebrows waggling suggestively. And maybe it's the drugs, because when he starts tugging him towards the dance floor, Kanda only resists a little bit.
They sway together, pounding techno weaving around them in a too clear banner of white light and it must look ridiculous, Kanda in the middle of the dance floor, swaying to music that he can see- eyes wide and dark and wondering as he watches the notes chase themselves through the mass of bodies. Alma's tucking himself up against Kanda's back, half hard cock nestling against the cleft of his ass and Kanda's rubbing back against it before he can think better of it. Alma groans in his ear, low and deep, with such feeling that it makes Kanda's own cock stir the slightest. He shudders- presses back even further and Alma whispers, "Christ, Yuu" against his neck.
Kanda's high. He's so fucking high that the world is spinning, there are candy stars and rainbows coating the walls and ceiling, dark sand beneath his feet and electricity crackling up his arm. He's high and he's horny, and if he wants to fuck his own hallucination, well, who the fuck's gonna find out about it. So he leans back, content, and says, "Wanna get out of here?" as he sucks red and purple paintings into Alma's pale skin.
Alma breathes a shaky, "fuck yes," that makes Kanda grin, because he sure is eager to fuck himself.
Fucking Alma is nothing like the dreams, and even if it isn't technically real, it doesn't stop Kanda from coming harder than he ever has in his entire life.
When he wakes up the next morning, Alma's there, rubbing soothing circles into his back and mouthing nonsensical words into the curve of his spine. It feels right, good, happy, and when Alma kisses the nape of his neck and says reverently, "My sacrifice," Kanda only presses back more. He ignores the voice in his head that's shouting look at his face over and over again and nuzzles up into Alma's embrace.
Alma's grin feels wicked against the curve of his neck and when he presses Kanda down against the bed, something cold shoots up his spine.
He ignores the feeling, reaches up for a kiss-