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TRULY, MADLY, DEEPLY

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TRULY, MADLY, DEEPLY

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CHAPTER 1 – UNTIL THE SKY FALLS DOWN ON ME

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Yūichirō/Mikaela

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A bitter, winter breeze ruffles through dark hair and cuts his pale skin like sharp claws. Yūichirō stares blankly over the safety railings on the school roof. The town seems so peaceful from so high up, he could close his eyes and pretend to be someone, anyone else. Is there any point?

   Yūichirō opens his tired eyes, blinking once, twice. His vision briefly wanes out of focus and his stomach rumbles angrily, reminding him body and mind, just how many hungry he feels.

   How long has it been since he has eaten? Two, three days? Yūichirō wets his chapped lips with his tongue and swallows thickly. His dry throat fleetingly sings in relief before returning to ache in protest.

   With a small step, Yūichirō leans against the railings, carefully peering down to the concrete below. The school has five floors, a fall from this height is a one ticket trip. He tilts his head towards the sky. Cloudless and empty. There’s no reason to keep on existing in this world, he can barely get himself out of bed in the morning.

   But how could anyone understand? They tell him it’s all in his head, but where are they when his drunk, piss poor excuse of a Father beats him senseless? Where are they when that man leaves him curled up on the Kitchen floor, whimpering, begging for release from the pain? Where are they when day in, day out his estranged Mother calls him demon spawn? When she turns her face away and lets her husband strike her only child again, again, and again?

   The breeze rises up like a snake, blowing his dishevelled hair into his eyes. Yūichirō sighs inwardly, gripping the railings tightly with both hands and heaving himself over. The slender ledge between the railings and fall is barely wide enough to stand on, but still, he manages. His knuckles bleed white as he stares down into oblivion.

   Just take a step, one little step. A dark voice in his head whispers. You’re so very, very tired, it’s time to sleep, Yuu. So, jump. . .

   There was a time not so long ago Yūichirō would laugh and smile like a normal child. He remembers a sanctuary. Azure eyes and the cute blond curls of a boy that lived down his road. They used to play Doctors and Nurses. So every time he received new wounds from his Father, the boy would lovingly wrap them up in the bandages he stole from his Mother’s first aid kit. Yūichirō had sunk himself into the boy’s existence, let himself become a part of those gentle blue eyes and sincere smiles until it became his reason to live. But then his one flicker of happiness was cruelly ripped away.

   The boy’s family moved to another country. He selfishly left Yūichirō alone in a world that did not want him. The seventeen-year-old sighs as he looks up once again over the sleepy town. He had been but six at the time, a child and a lonely one at that, still, it does not surprise him that he fails to recalls the name of the first and only friend.

   Yūichirō slowly tilts forward, his arms shaking from the strength it takes to holds him in place. There was a time school was an escape, but then, even that small respite was taken from him. The bullying by upperclassman started a few years ago. Of course, he fights back every- single- time. He would not let them walk all over him. The bruises, black eyes and busted lips are worth the message it sends to those jerks. The detentions not so much.

   His Father has beaten him black and blue upon receiving calls from the school about his ‘violent and incessant anti-social behaviour’ towards other students. Tells him to stop causing his dearest mother such trouble and grief, that he is an ungrateful, spoiled brat. Yūichirō laughs hysterically, the sound filling the crisp afternoon air. He supposes he truly is. Pretending to get bad grades just to piss off his parents that little bit more. It feels like a game when he knows the answers but writes something absurd, if only to amuse himself. His strategy worked for a while. He laughed at the disappointment in his parents’ eyes, until he overheard his mother whispering to her friends about her disgraceful, shameful son.

   He doesn’t want to live this anymore.

   Spending his life thinking of ways to get back at his parents, while they beat him, break him. Round and round like a horse on a carousel. There’s no end game here. Nothing. They’re just a freakshow hidden by floral curtains.

   He doesn’t want to continue living.

   Yūichirō closes his green eyes.

   Let go. The voice whispers. Jump, jump and fall to sleep. . .

   Yūichirō smiles dazedly, tilting further forward. His fingers slowly losing their tight grip. He’s so tired, when was the last time he had a proper night’s sleep? Yūichirō cannot remember. The metal railing starts to slip out of his hold-

   “What are you doing?!”

Yūichirō jumps out of his skin, almost losing his footing and slipping over the ledge. He looks emotionlessly down at his arm to see a hand clamped firmly wrist and frowns.

   What- How? That’s not. . . That’s not possible he made sure he was alone on the roof. How had someone gotten so close without him releasing? Yūichirō blinks numbly and looks up into the blue eyes of the year above’s mysterious transfer student. He arrived in Japan a few months back, the adopted heir to a wealthy family with the land and connections to prove the rumours true. Yūichirō scowls.

   Had he been so lost in his thoughts and misery that he failed to hear this boy- Michael, was it?- approach? Looking up with dull eyes, he meets the other boy’s gaze. It’s neutral. There’s no pity, no anger or hate, no judgement. How strange.

   “What are you doing up here?” The blond smiles gently. “Lunch is over, classes are about to start.”

   Yūichirō turns away and lets the breeze settle before replying. “I could ask you the same thing, idiot. Just go. Leave me alone.”

   “I can’t do that.” The boy states firmly. “I won’t leave your side again.”

   “Leave.”

   “No.”

   “Yes.”

   “No.”

   “Why?” Yūichirō spins around on the ledge swiftly causing the boy to flinch. Fear flashing over his pale features before his face falls neutral once again, seeing Yūichirō’s hands are still grasping the cold railing. “What is wrong with you?”

   “A discussion for another day perhaps,” the boy jokes lightly, switching the hand he has clamped on Yūichirō’s wrist, “but if you don’t come back onto the roof we’re gonna be late for class.”

   Yūichirō blinks in shock. Was this guy oblivious? Or just plain stupid? He shakes himself from those pointless thoughts and snarls instead. “Let me go.”

   “Nope.”

   The blond smiles kindly, but it’s sweetly-fake. Yūichirō’s jaw tightens. After seventeen years of the pretend affection his parents offer outside the house, did this bastard think he wouldn’t recognise the falseness of his act? Anger boils inside Yūichirō’s chest, filling his empty stomach.

   “I TOLD YOU TO LEAVE ME ALONE!” He screams, relishing in the small flinch from the blond as he draws back. Unfortunately, his grip on Yūichirō’s wrist does not falter.

   “I’m sorry but I just can’t do that.” The boy replies softly, gently.

   And oh, he’s good, Yūichirō thinks in disgust. Quite the little actor.

   “Persistent jerk.” He spits.

   “Mika.”

   Yūichirō’s eyes narrow. “What?”

   “My name is Mikaela Tepes, but you can call me Mika.” The blond states proudly.

   With a testing tug on his wrist, Yūichirō sighs. “. . .Alright, Mikaela. Will you let go of me now?”

   Mikaela shakes his head, never losing the light, carefree tone in his voice. “You shouldn’t jump. It’s a long fall, it will hurt.”

   “That’s what I’m counting on, Mikaela. That and something else as well.” Yūichirō bits venomously at first, but only manages to weakly trail off at the blond’s big, imploring eyes.

   “Please don’t. You’ll break your bones.”

   It’s Yūichirō’s turn to flinch back. Had- Did this boy just beg him? He looks away ashamed, his cheeks bleeding a little paler at the awful memories that plague him. “It’s not like they haven’t been broken before.”

   An awkward silence falls between them. A moment. A beat.

   “You’ll miss the cherry blossoms this year.”

   Wait- what? Yūichirō glances back at the strange boy. What a peculiar thing to say. Except Mikaela continues like there are just two friends chatting about the weather.

   “I’ve been waiting a long time to see them again, ever since I was little really. Perhaps you’ll come with me?” The blond admits serenely, eyes flashing with an odd distance.

   “I’ve got better places to be.” He retorts and tries yet again to tug his wrist away.

   “Like where?” Mikaela perks up hopefully.

   Yūichirō laughs inwardly and replies coldly in his head Underground. He doesn’t answer the blond but instead looks down to the concrete ground.

   “Leave me alone.”

   “No.”

   “Please.”

   “No.”

   Yūichirō clicks his tongues against the roof of his mouth. Was Mikaela trying to vex him? He’s standing on a bloody ledge, finally ready to stop being a coward and actually jump, but this weirdo wants to talk about fucking trees? This truly is one strange guy.

   He often thought about how he might die. Usually the scenario in his head involved his Father misjudging how much damage a Human being could take before its body decided to give out. He imagined the world growing colder as his blood spilled out over the Kitchen floor. At least he was right about one thing. Up on the school roof in the middle of winter, he’s freezing.

   “Hey.”

   Yūichirō looks back at the blond blankly. Mikaela must have released he’d lost the other to his thoughts.

   “Just. . . Just focus on me.” He smiles gently. “That’s not too difficult, is it?”

   In one swift movement, Yūichirō spins around, back facing Mikaela. The blond tightens his grip to the threshold of pain.

   “I want to die.”

   Why. . . Why did he admit that? Yūichirō wonders. No scratch that, it’s pretty fucking obvious. He watches Mikaela reaction over his shoulder and there it is again. A moment of pain, regret, grief washes over his features before they fall neutral. He must practise in the mirror, Yūichirō sneers.

   “And you will one day, but let’s- let’s not make it today, huh?” The blond asks quietly. “What’s your name?”

   “My name?”

   “Yes, I told you mine, but you didn’t tell me yours.”

   “Amane.”

   Mikaela raises a curious eyebrow. “Do you have a first name, Amane?”

   “Not one that anybody has used in a long time.” He confesses in defeat. It’s oddly comforting, disclosing all that he had kept bottled up to a random stranger.

   “Oh.”

   That’s it? All he gets is a lousy oh? Yūichirō frowns heatedly and turns his face away from Mikaela.

   The blond watches as him patiently as a round of violent shivers attacks his body.

   Yūichirō regrets wearing nothing more than the thin school-uniform shirt and black cotton trousers. Not bringing his blazer with him may have been a mistake as he looks over Mikaela. The blond is wrapped up warmly in a beige winter coat and blue scarf. But then again, does it really matter? He is here to jump, not admire the season.

   “It’s cold up here. Do you want my scarf?” Mikaela queries as if somehow reading his thoughts.

   “No.”

   “You sure?”

   “Yes.”

   “Well, take it. I don’t need it anyway.” Mikaela purrs calmly.

   With fingers still firmly wrapped around his wrist, and Yūichirō hates to admits how much it feels like a lifeline, the blond uses his free hand to remove his scarf. Then he hastily places it around the dark-haired boy’s neck.

   Yūichirō frowns darkly. “I said I didn’t want it.”

   “Too late.” Mikaela declares brightly.

   A sigh brushes past his lips and the younger looks away. “Why won’t you leave me alone?”

   “Do you read manga?”

    Yūichirō blinks in surprise. “W- What?”

   With a small nod, Mikaela explodes into a rant. “Yeah, you know. Japanese comics, graphic novels, Pandora Hearts, Death Note, that sort of thing?”

   “I know what manga is, idiot,” Yūichirō snarls deeply. “Why do you care if I read it?”

   His harsh tone does little to deter the blond’s enthusiasm.

   “Have you heard of Seraph of the End?” He asks.

   Yūichirō shakes his head and turns his attention back to the concrete.

   “Oh, wait it’s also called Owari no Seraph?”

   “. . .Yeah.” Yūichirō replies reluctantly, the name rings a bell. “It’s okay, I guess.”

   “Exactly!” Mikaela approves. “The anime pretty much caught up with manga, but they’re continuing to publish new chapters each month!”

   “So?” He snaps coldly.

   The blond bites his lip, suddenly unsure of himself. “Well, you kinda like it, right?”

   Yūichirō sighs again, answering sarcastically. “Why not. We’ll go with that.”

   “Then surely you want to find out what happens?” Mikaela encourages. “I share a name with one of the main characters so I’m quite invested by this point.”

   What’s with this guy?

   Instead of ignoring the boy’s last comment, Yūichirō growls angrily and retorts at the absurdity of it. “You want me to continue living so I can read a manga? That’s stupid.”

   Mikaela’s eyes soften. “Finding a reason to live isn’t stupid.”

   A heat crosses his cheeks at those kind words, but still, he refused to look at the boy.

   Receiving only silence, Mikaela continues to talk. “Then how about food? I’ve lived in Russia most of my life so pirozhki is my favourite, I haven’t really had the chance to try much Japanese cuisine. I remember liking ramen when I was little and I had a friend who loved curry. He’d come round my house and my guardian at the time would make it for us.”

   There’s something hidden in Mikaela’s tone. A painful truth.

   Yūichirō swallows at the melancholy that washes over him.  “I. . . I used to like curry.”

   “Used to. . .?” The blond sounds heartbroken. “What- what happened?”

   With a nervous glance, Yūichirō wonders if he should go there. Is there any point? I’m going to kill myself anyway.

   “My mother cooked it for me once.” He whispers quietly. “She put glass in it.”

   “That’s-“

   “-I released before I swallowed any.” Yūichirō laughs hysterically, it’s so tragic that it’s kind of funny by this point. “But I cut my tongue and the inside of my cheek. I learnt not trust anything she gave me after that.”

   Mikaela looks at him with such horror etched onto his face that Yūichirō almost believes it could be real.

   “Why- Why didn’t you say anything?

   “I did, no one believed me.” Yūichirō shakes his head disheartened.

   “She won’t get away with this.” The blond snarls in promise.

   It brings another round of laughter to his lips. “And what can you do about it? Just leave me alone, Mikaela. I don’t care anymore, I thought that much would be obvious? Since I’m standing on a rooftop ready to jump.”

   Mikaela stares at him blankly, eyes searching his own.

   “But you haven’t yet.” He murmurs softly.

   Yūichirō sees red. “Because you are holding my bloody wrist, stupid! You’d fall with me!”

   A scream sounds from below and Yūichirō’s eyes drift downwards to see a blonde girl. Recognition sparks in his mind. Her name is Mitsuba Sangu, a hothead in the year beneath him. She had stood up for him once when four of his peers thought it would be entertaining to use him as a daily punching bag. Yūichirō watches as she runs across the courtyard and into the second wing of the School.

   “Do you enjoy sports?”

   Yūichirō jolts at the question and snorts. “Do I look like I enjoy sports?”

   Mikaela laughs tensely. “You’re not giving me much to go on. But I suppose you’re too skinny to do sports.” He hums lightly. “Computer games then. Everyone loves computer games.”

   “I. . . I like fencing.” He confesses quietly.

   “If you jumped, you wouldn’t be able to go fencing anymore.”

   Yūichirō looks up to the sky. “So, what? I gave it up years ago.”

   “Never a reason to give it up forever.” Mikaela grins. “We could go fencing?”

   “Why do you care so much? What if I jump? What’s it mean to you?”

   Mikaela steels his features, waiting patiently until the other grudgingly returns his gaze. “If you jumped off this roof today, I would follow you.”

   “Liar.” Yūichirō growls threateningly.

   “It’s true, Amane. I would.” The blond answers in a heartbeat.

   “You’re stupid.” He huffs. “Stupid, stupid, stupid.”

    Mikaela sighs. “I have been, but no longer. I promise you, I won’t be so blind anymore.” He pauses briefly. “Have. . . Have you thought of a reason?”

   “For what?”

   “A reason, Amane. To continue going.” The blond soothes.

   “. . . No.”

   Pulling the dark-haired boy closer to the railing, closer to his face until their lips are merely inches from each other. Yūichirō’s eyes widen in surprise as Mikaela’s hot breathes dust his reddening cheeks.

    “Then let me be your reason for living, Yuu-chan.”

    Wait- what? He never told Mikaela his first name-

    -Yūichirō freezes at the sound of raised voices. The door to the rooftop swings open, revealing the Headmaster and their two homeroom teachers. His muscles go rigid.

   No, no, no, no he’d let Mikaela distract him. How foolish. He would hear his Mother’s disappointed voice ringing in his ears. Couldn’t even manage to kill himself properly.

    The blond glances over in shock as well, his grip momentarily loosening. Yūichirō takes his chance and pushes off the railing, falling backwards. He closes his eyes as he hears everyone shouting, screaming in panic. There’s a moment where he is weightless, floating and suddenly there’s a sharp tug on his wrist. It’s painful. Yūichirō looks up to meet terrified azure eyes. He frowns in confusion because. . .  because Mikaela is crying.

   “Tepes, keep hold of him!” The Headmaster Eusford yells.

    Except Mikaela’s grip starts to weaken and he lets out an anguished, broken cry.

    “Yuu-chan, Yuu-chan. Don’t let go. Please, please.” He begs, tears spilling down his face and falling into his hair.

    Yūichirō memorizes every angle of Mikaela’s face. The blond curls that frame his pale, unblemished skin. His gentle, surreal eyes that seem so familiar. Yūichirō never really gave it much thought before, but if he had to choose a favourite colour, blue might just be superior.

   In another life, Yūichirō could have fallen for those eyes. His kind voice. That warm soul.

   But not this one.

   Yūichirō relaxes his hand, giving Mikaela very little to keep in his grasp.

   Heavy footsteps follow. They are too late. He slips through the blond’s fingers, the soft touch feathering as it disappears completely. Yūichirō smiles as his stomach twists with the feeling of the fall.

   “Goodbye, Mika.” He whispers.

   Everything becomes a blur. A blur that swirls across his vision. All that remains is the sky so he reaches out, his arm stretched towards the eternal expanse of white. It’s so very peaceful. The wind rushes past, catching on his shirt and ruffling his hair. He falls so fast, yet so slow. Memories flash before his eyes and Yūichirō thanks whoever is listening that they are the happier ones. He inhales deeply. Then impact. His bones shatter instantly, chest weighing with a heaviness it had never possessed before. A salty, metallic taste lines the back of his throat. Yūichirō chokes. Every nerve jolts with fire.

   Mikaela’s scream fills the air, so sharp and pained that the Heavens themselves must have heard and sort to take pity.

   “NO, TEPES. DON’T!”

   A stillness passes before Yūichirō frowns dazedly at the deafening THUD sounding by his side. With great effort, he turns his head and waits for his swarming vision to clear. He blinks a few times and splutters as the metallic taste leeks into his mouth.

    There’s blood on the concrete, splattered on his face but it’s not his own. Blond curls and closed eyes wane into focus. Red paints the side of the boy’s forehead, creeping across his hairline and into his almost-silvery roots. Yūichirō stares through half-lidded eyes.

   An angel? No. He reasons, more like a sleeping doll.

   Slowly realisation dawns in his dying thoughts.

   Mikaela.

    The idiot had actually jumped. Confusion drowns Yūichirō.

   Why. . . ? Why had he followed through with his promise?

   It makes no sense.

   They barely knew each other. The mysterious transfer student who he passed once or twice in the corridor, that often sat near him in the library but never uttered a single word.

   Why?

   Mikaela isn’t breathing. The term ‘dead on impact’ rings in Yūichirō’s mind. Guilt wells in his aching chest, tightening around his hammering heart. This wasn’t supposed to happen. He didn’t want to hurt anyone.

   Weakly, feebly, he reaches out for Mikaela. His fingers lightly curl around the blond’s warm but still hand.

   The world darkens and it’s- just- so- cold. Yūichirō shivers. He chokes, wheezes, splutters as blood fills his lungs. Blurred silhouettes rush around them. Too quick to follow with his tired eyes so he looks back to Mikaela’s peaceful face. Yūichirō sighs and hums deliriously.

   I give my last breath to the wind of which I stole my first.

   Everything fades away and death greets him with a loving, caressing embrace.

. . .

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. . .

“In other news, tragedy struck yesterday afternoon as two students jumped to their deaths at Sanguinem academy. Yūichirō Amane and Mikaela Tepes, both aged seventeen, took their lives after reportedly being seen talking on the five-story roof of the third wing. Charges of domestic abuse and neglect have been filed to the police in relation to wounds found on Mr. Amane’s body inconsistent with those he would have sustained from the fall. His parents have been taken into custody and are being further questioned. No allegations have been filed against Mr. Tepes’ parents or the School at this time but investigations are continuing. There will be more on this story at six.”

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