It’s just after two in the morning at the Kuwabara household, and everyone is asleep. Everyone except for Yusuke, anyway – but then again, he’s an uninvited guest, so he supposes he might not technically count as part of the household.
Shizuru had been awake to catch him sneaking in the front door half an hour ago, but she’d only shaken her head, puffed on her cigarette, and continued on her way upstairs to her bedroom. By now, Yusuke is anything but a stranger, and he’s made himself welcome at all hours of the day. It’s nothing strange, and he doesn’t even have to pick the lock anymore since Kuwabara gave him a spare key!
Currently, Yusuke is sprawled on their worn-out couch, channel surfing as if anything interesting airs at this time of night (morning?). It’s all well and good though, because his plan is to fall asleep eventually.
If he can, that is. Ever since his return from the demon realm, that’s been pretty touch and go.
There’s something about this house in particular, though, that makes it a comforting beacon. It pulls him in when he’s not sure where else he belongs, and even when Kuwabara isn’t home (or awake) it’s still something of a sanctuary.
So he’s daring to feel a little hopeful, especially when Kuwabara himself stumbles gracelessly down the stairs and into the living room.
Pushing himself into more of a sitting position, Yusuke looks over towards the doorway. Kuwabara is kind of a rumpled mess, with his hair all mussed from sleeping on it, and his boxers crooked on his hips. He still looks half asleep, and he’s got a funny expression like he can’t decide if he wants to narrow his eyes or open them wide.
“Hey,” Yusuke ventures. Beside him, the TV’s stalled out on some action movie or something.
Kuwabara seems to relax a little, and he releases his grip on the doorjamb so he can shuffle further into the room. “Oh,” he mutters, “you really are here.”
As he gets closer, Yusuke can see that his shirt is wrinkled, and he’s missing a sock. Something about that is oddly endearing; it makes him want to smile. “Yeah I’m really here – did ya think you were dreaming or something?”
“I was dreaming. Before,” Kuwabara grumbles, sinking into the couch next to Yusuke. “Just wasn’t sure if my sixth sense was going haywire when I felt you downstairs.”
Yusuke snorts. “Why would you sense me if I wasn’t here, ya big dummy?” The urge to ruffle Kuwabara’s already messy curls comes pretty much out of nowhere, but Yusuke does a good job of deflecting it and punching him in the shoulder instead. “Even your powers don’t suck that bad.”
It doesn’t seem like Kuwabara even hears him, seeing as he’s currently busy spacing out while staring in the general direction of the television.
…Which is freaking Yusuke out, to be honest. It’s rare that Kuwabara is so still and serious-looking, and it doesn’t suit him. Then again, it has been literal years since they’ve spent an extended amount of time in each other’s presence. Maybe Kuwabara gets deep at two AM instead of slaphappy like before (unlikely).
“Oi, Kuwabara.” This time, he snaps his fingers in front of his friend’s face, but he still isn’t granted a response. Sighing, Yusuke turns off the TV and tosses the remote away somewhere. “Kuwabara,” he tries again, inching closer.
At long last, Kuwabara grunts in acknowledgement and glances his way.
“Y’alright?” Yusuke asks, leaning further into Kuwabara’s personal space so he can look him in the eyes.
It takes Kuwabara a long moment to answer, and he seems to be searching Yusuke’s face for clues about what to say. That, or he’s thinking about something completely irrelevant. Or he really is still asleep and this is some kind of freaky sleepwalking shtick. “Yeah, Urameshi. I’m fine.”
But then his head snaps away, and Yusuke can’t catch his eye again no matter how far forward he leans. Eventually he gives up and sits back fully on the couch, crossing his arms over his chest.
“Are you sure?” he prods some more, corner of his eye trained carefully on Kuwabara’s unnaturally stiff posture. “Because you’re acting kind of – ”
Kuwabara topples sideways until his head comes to rest on Yusuke’s shoulder, and he slumps in close.
Yusuke’s mouth freezes open midsentence. “Uh…”
“Be quiet, Urameshi,” Kuwabara mumbles, and now he’s the one inching closer.
Taking the advice for once, Yusuke snaps his jaw shut. It feels suspiciously like Kuwabara is snuggling against him, and he can feel a sharp cheekbone against his shoulder as well as soft hair tickling his face. Kuwabara is definitely taller, but somehow he fits okay tucked into Yusuke’s side as he is.
Yusuke figures he might as well roll with it. Much stranger things have happened to him, after all – and besides, he won’t be the sore one in the morning if they fall asleep like this.
It’s so peaceful that Yusuke expects Kuwabara to start snoring in his ear any minute. His own eyelids are drooping, and he’s almost asleep until his shirtsleeve starts to feel wet where Kuwabara’s face is pressed to it.
His first thought is that the big lug better not be drooling on him – but then he hears the sniffles.
Wide awake now, Yusuke cranes his neck to look at Kuwabara’s face without dislodging him. Sure enough, there are tears leaking from the corners of shining grey eyes, and he looks to be biting the inside of his cheek.
“Hey – hey,” Yusuke says, sitting up a little straighter so he has a better view of Kuwabara, “are you crying? What the hell…?” His fingers twitch like they want to do something, so he clenches them on his knees, digging them into the denim.
Kuwabara shoves the heel of his hand into one of his eyes, rubbing out any tears before using the back of the same hand to repeat the action on the other eye. “Sorry. Sorry, I….” His voice sounds small and watery.
“It’s.” Yusuke has faced plenty of difficult and off-putting situations in his relatively short life, but he’s never felt more out of his element than he does right now. Kuwabara crying brings back all kinds of memories that he has to remind himself are years old by now. Not to mention that comforting people is way above his pay grade. “It’s whatever,” he settles on, almost wincing at how dismissive that sounds.
Against his shoulder, he can feel when Kuwabara nods stiffly. He keeps pretty still and quiet after that.
“Come on,” Yusuke says, poking his friend in the side with what he hopes is a casual air, “we should – you should go to bed. Don’t you have school tomorrow, nerd?”
Another stiff nod, and then Kuwabara sits up straight again.
Yusuke catches himself shivering at the sudden chill brought on by the absence of the solid warmth. But Kuwabara still isn’t moving, so he doesn’t dwell on it, instead opting to shove at that broad back. “Gotta walk there, y’know,” he coaxes, “I can’t carry your fat ass.”
Standing up, Kuwabara gives a snort of amusement, almost sounding like his old self. “It's all muscle,” he says with a half-hearted smirk. “Not my fault you have noodle arms.”
“Hey! D’you think I got to be the most powerful demon with noodle arms?” Yusuke flexes one bicep to show off, pushing his t-shirt out of the way – but Kuwabara’s already leaving the room. Rolling his eyes, Yusuke trots after him.
“Oh, so you’re just lazy, then?” Kuwabara jabs as he climbs the stairs.
Yusuke is hot on his heels, glad for the return of a more lighthearted atmosphere at long last. “So what if I am? It’s two in the morning, you can walk on your own damn legs.”
“It’s nearly three by now, Urameshi.”
“I still ain’t ever gonna carry you.”
“Who asked you to?!”
Crossing the threshold to Kuwabara’s room does something to the mood, Yusuke notices. He’s surprised he can feel it, because his spiritual (and emotional) awareness is notoriously shoddy, but he figures it might have something to do with the way Kuwabara’s strong shoulders slump.
The hallway might as well have been a whole different world.
Kuwabara slips into bed slowly, and he’s back to not really looking at Yusuke, staring up at the ceiling instead.
Yusuke himself has no idea why he’s still in here. He isn’t gonna tuck Kuwabara in, for fuck’s sake, so why is he lingering in the doorway like some kinda creep?
“Well, g’night,” he says, and starts to turn to head back down to the couch.
So Yusuke does.
“There’s…I still keep the spare futon under my bed,” Kuwabara tells the ceiling.
Nodding, Yusuke enters the room fully and closes the door behind himself. Kneeling by Kuwabara’s bed, he tugs the futon out and sets it up, snagging the extra pillow, too. He stands up long enough to wiggle out of his jeans and toss them into a corner, and then crawls in.
Beside him, he hears Kuwabara sigh.
It’s nice to properly sleep over at Kuwabara’s house again – so nice that Yusuke falls asleep faster than he has in a long time, the comforting atmosphere doing its job just as he’d hoped.
Something wakes him up what couldn’t possibly be more than a couple hours later.
Eyes blinking open, Yusuke forces all his senses to come online at once, instincts from his time in the demon realm kicking in. He stays under his covers, though, because it doesn’t take him long at all to find the source of the disturbance.
Kuwabara is sitting up in bed with both hands buried in his hair, posture tense. And he’s mumbling to himself, sounding pretty insistent about something while he tries to catch his breath.
It’s tough to make all of it out, but Yusuke can hear bits and pieces. The main one that stands out is “Urameshi’s right here, you idiot, he’s fine,” and then Yusuke can’t pretend to be asleep anymore. Or rather, he doesn’t want to. Something like that.
He kicks his way out of the futon cocoon, and sits on his heels, as close to Kuwabara as he can get without actually climbing into bed next to him.
Kuwabara must feel him, because he stiffens and curls further in on himself.
“What’s with you?” Yusuke asks.
“Nightmare,” Kuwabara answers. “Go back to sleep, Urameshi.”
“Like hell I can!” Yusuke sits up straighter on his knees, gripping Kuwabara’s comforter in both fists. “You look like shit, what’s bugging you?”
Kuwabara shakes his head, but he does pull his hands out of his hair and deflate into a slightly more relaxed position. “I’m fine,” he insists again, even though there are tear tracks on his face that are even visible in the dark.
And he’s biting the inside of his cheek again. Yusuke can tell.
“What the hell kind of nightmare makes you cry?” Yusuke isn’t gonna be able to get any sleep at this rate. Something about Kuwabara freaking out…well, freaks him out.
Sniffling again, Kuwabara rubs his nose with the back of his hand and scrubs the tears off of his cheeks. “It’s nothing, Urameshi.”
Okay, now he’s taking this too far. What does he think Yusuke’s gonna do? Make fun of him? …Well, maybe once upon a time he would have, but they’re friends now! Plus this feels different, and Kuwabara is altogether too distant tonight, not like him at all. “Like fuck it is! Quit brushing me off!”
“Sometimes – ” Kuwabara snaps, pounding his fists on his knees and glaring at Yusuke “– it’s hard to tell my dreams apart from my visions, alright?!”
Yusuke can only stare, feeling his irritation ebb away as his eyes meet those of his best friend. There’s a sad kind of fire there.
“So, sometimes, m-my nightmares are a little too real. Memories and shit. Or things that might not be happening but could be and I w-wouldn’t know it.” Kuwabara’s voice wavers a little, but he soldiers on. There are tears in his eyes that cling to his lashes and threaten to spill over. “So I’m sorry if I c…can’t just….” He loses the battle then, and the tears fall almost faster than he can scrub them away.
Something in Yusuke’s chest constricts as he watches Kuwabara chew on his bottom lip to keep from sobbing, face all scrunched up. Even without the physical signs, his sadness is tangible in the room, and he wonders if Kuwabara has learned to project his own feelings or something.
“It’s okay,” Yusuke says, “Kuwabara, it’s….”
Kuwabara puts both hands to work on his face, wiping determinedly at his eyes like he’s trying to erase all the evidence of some heinous crime. Once he gets the tears to stop, he’s back to staring straight ahead. He would look almost calm, except that his jaw is working as he very obviously grinds his teeth.
Yusuke decides he’s had enough. “Kuwabara, move over.”
“Urameshi, I – ”
Hanging his head, Kuwabara does as told and scoots over to the side of the bed that’s flush against the wall.
Yusuke doesn’t waste time making himself at home under the covers next to his friend, who right now is making him feel all sorts of squishy things that Yusuke is going to ignore because it’s way-too-fucking-early-in-the-morning o’clock. He’s going to go with the flow here, since that’s never steered him too wrong in the past.
But right now, Kuwabara won’t even look at him.
“Lie down,” Yusuke orders, trying to sound gentler and pretty sure he’s missing the mark.
Kuwabara does as he’s told, although he curls up on his side, facing the wall.
Oh well, Yusuke thinks, I can work with that. So he lies down on his side, too, and invades Kuwabara’s personal space so he can throw an arm over him and cling to his back, effectively spooning him. With this much of him touching that much of Kuwabara, Yusuke can feel as he tenses up and then relaxes.
“Urameshi.” It’s a tiny mumble, so quiet that Yusuke almost misses it.
His hand on Kuwabara’s chest, Yusuke can feel the almost imperceptible dips in his skin where Toguro plunged his fingers in all those years ago. “Yeah?”
“What’re you – ?”
“But – ”
“Unless you’d rather tell me about your nightmare,” Yusuke quips, leaning up and on Kuwabara just enough so that he can rest his chin on the other man’s shoulder. “Otherwise: shut up and sleep.”
The mention of the nightmare is, apparently, a mistake – because now Kuwabara’s clammed up again, eyes misting over.
Yusuke feels like an insensitive jerkwad. Which is only fair, he supposes. “…Damn, Kuwabara. Was it really that bad?”
Kuwabara’s only response is to press his face into his pillow, jerking his shoulder forward so that Yusuke slips off of and away from him.
There goes Yusuke’s chest tightening again. This really could be going a lot better…probably. He hates seeing Kuwabara like this – hates that Kuwabara is trying to hide his feelings when he should have no reason to this late in the game.
“Kuwabara,” he mutters, letting his hand rest on a decidedly-un-noodle-like upper arm, “talk to me.”
When Kuwabara speaks up again, his voice is quiet and muffled against his pillow. “I’d have dreams sometimes, while you guys were away. Sometimes they were alright, just like…normal stuff, or happy memories.”
He pauses, and Yusuke squeezes his arm, wisely keeping his trap shut for once in his life.
“Other times,” Kuwabara sounds a little choked up again, and this time he bites down on his knuckles until he’s calmed a little. “Other times you’d – ”
Now he’s trembling, and Yusuke can feel it, so he tugs on his arm. “Easy,” he says, impressed with how soft he managed to sound that time, “you’re….”
When Kuwabara sobs, Yusuke can feel how his whole body jerks with it. And then he rolls over, just like that, and shoves his forehead into Yusuke’s chest.
“I watched you die, Urameshi,” Kuwabara says, voice small. His hands are fisted in Yusuke’s shirt, and he’s shaking all over. “You died.”
For a moment, Yusuke is too stunned to reply. “It was just a dream,” he says at last, “I’m right here.”
Kuwabara shakes his head vigorously, his entire face bumping Yusuke’s chest as he seems to be trying to merge them together. “But you weren’t here!”
Yusuke wraps both arms around Kuwabara’s back, and presses him ever closer. One of his hands buries itself into orange curls, and he catches the scent of the pomade that Kuwabara uses. “I’m here now,” he repeats, “I’m right here.”
“B-but you – ” Kuwabara sobs, then swallows, and his fists slowly loosen their hold on Yusuke’s shirt, palms pressing to his torso instead, “– I lost you t-twice already. Yusuke.”
It’s stupid, Yusuke thinks, that his eyes start to sting when he hears that. “I know.” He scratches at Kuwabara’s scalp.
Kuwabara shivers, and squirms forward until there isn’t an inch of space left between them. “And again when you w-went to the demon realm!”
“I’m sorry.” The apology comes easier than any ever has before, and it’s actually entirely unnecessary if he’s being honest – but it feels like the right thing to say. “I had to go.”
“I know that!” Kuwabara protests. He tilts his head back as much as he can, and puts enough space between them to look Yusuke in the eye. “I just…” A sniffle escapes him, and he looks awfully sheepish, not to mention the puffy eyelids and face all blotchy red from crying. “I missed you. And I didn’t know what was happening to you, all I had were those visits from Kurama, but he didn’t ever really know much about your side of things, and I – ”
Deciding he’s heard enough blubbering, Yusuke tugs Kuwabara back in with the hand that’s still tangled in his hair, and presses his lips to his forehead. He pulls back for half a moment, then kisses the same spot again.
“Urame – ”
“Shut up.” One more kiss. “Stop crying already.”
“I – I did!”
Yusuke pulls until Kuwabara is flush against him yet again, this time tucking the other man’s head under his chin. It’s easy enough to pull off, with Kuwabara pliant in his arms like this. He can even feel his heartbeat, and how his chest expands taking in a nervous sigh, and the puff of breath against his neck as he lets it out.
“You big baby,” he grumbles, “making me all mushy.”
This finally seems to bring Kuwabara back to himself, and he snuggles in – and even nuzzles against Yusuke’s neck, nosing around. It’s weird, but it’s still cute, damn him. “You asked about the nightmares,” Kuwabara reminds him.
This time, Yusuke kisses his temple, just to throw him off. He leaves his mouth there, and mumbles, “M’not goin’ anywhere.”
Slowly, Kuwabara wraps one of his arms around Yusuke, leaving the other one pinned between them, and uses it to squeeze him tight. “Thanks,” he mutters.
“Anytime. Now go the fuck to sleep.” Yusuke realizes that he’s running his fingers through Kuwabara’s curls again, but doesn’t bother to stop. His hair would be even softer without product, but it’s whatever. “Your sister will kill me if you’re late for class tomorrow.”
“Today, you mean.”
Kuwabara snickers, but settles in all the same, his entire form relaxing.
An hour later, as soon as he’s absolutely sure that the man in his arms is completely and fully asleep, Yusuke speaks up again. “Besides,” he whispers, softly as he can, “you died on me, too.”
He then gives Kuwabara another kiss for good measure, this time on top of his head.
“W’s’fake,” comes a mumble from against Yusuke’s throat.
“It still counts, dumbass!”