Shuichi doesn’t know if it’s just him, but he’s been suffering from terrible insomnia ever since this game began.
Each time he lies in bed, Kaede’s words echo in his mind. She urged him to protect everyone and defeat the mastermind, and he promised that he would. Even as she died, she held no regrets in her heart; she believed that Shuichi would break free of this horrible game. But her sacrifice has so far been in vain, and her trust in him has been misplaced. This group is already down seven people, thanks to Shuichi.
He’s disappointed Kaede time and time again, he knows it, and all he had been doing is following her advice. Following the truth, no matter how harsh, is not treating him well. Everyone notices how much more confident he’s been ever since he’s taken his hat off, but with each death, invisible hands tighten around his throat. No matter how much he tries to swallow his guilt, he’s suffocating on it more every day.
Shuichi pulls his covers over his head. When he presses the fabric against his ears, the blood rushes to his head. The pulsing of his veins is all that he can hear, and the bad thoughts all fade into the incessant noise. It’s as close to silence as he’s going to get.
Everyone else has to be sleeping by now. He’s not sure exactly what time it is, but the nighttime announcement felt like a small eternity ago. Shuichi wonders if he can catch any sleep tonight, but he figures it’ll be the same as every other night. He'll lie here until his fingers grow numb from clutching the blanket so tightly, and once he lets go, the same guilt-inducing thoughts will echo in his brain like a broken record.
No, he'll hope for the best and look on the bright side. He can make it through tonight and fall into a relaxing, undisturbed sleep if he tries his best.
He keeps his eyes open, staring into the near-pitch darkness of his room. So long as he keeps the blankets firmly clenched over his ears, he’ll be fine. All he needs to do is stay here for a few more hours, stretch his fingers a bit so they don't grow sore and lock up, and he'll be able to fend off everything until he either passes out from exhaustion, or is startled up by the the morning announcement. It's as good a decision as any of his other late-night resolutions.
Time to enact his plan.
But it doesn't work for very long, because a sudden scream pierces his fabricated veil of silence. The tormented sound stabs into Shuichi like a knife, anxiety welling up in his chest as he shoots upright in bed.
He can’t let this go ignored. If there’s another body to be found, he knows he’ll never forgive himself for hesitating. Exposing culprits isn’t enough; he has to do his best to protect everyone. If he never uses his talent again, that would be for the best.
Shuichi untangles himself from the mess of blankets and jumps out of bed. His footsteps thunder loudly behind him as he rushes to throw open his door. It clatters open with much protest, straining feebly against the hinges. The sudden clash of noise elicits another shriek that’s undeniably from the same source as the last.
Shuichi surveys the scene in front of him, and notes that there’s no body to be found. Shuichi is relieved, but the feeling is short-lived, as he realizes the source of the scream is the supreme leader himself, standing by himself in the middle of the dormitory, a few feet away from the door to his own room. He looks like a deer caught in the headlights, with his hands up in surrender by his side. Shuichi sees that Kokichi is wearing an uncharacteristically terrified expression. But once Kokichi catches sight of Shuichi, the shock fades into a smile, and then it's forced into laughter. His hands make their way behind his neck, melding flawlessly into his signature pose.
“Saihara-chan, what was that?” he asks. Though he’s laughing and smiling now, there’s unmistakable trepidation in his crossed arms and toothy grin. Shuichi plays it off as a trick of the dim lighting, but something about it nags at him.
“I heard screaming— I thought—” Shuichi stumbles over his words, prompting more laughter from Kokichi. “I thought somebody was hurt.”
“Oh, that was me. Did I scare you?” His smile is so bright that it’s blinding, but it doesn’t draw Shuichi’s attention away from Kokichi’s eyes. The bags underneath them are as just as profound as his own. Is this really just the light?
Shuichi needs a moment to calm himself before he answers. Now that he’s confirmed that there’s nobody dead, the adrenaline fades back into his normal anxiety. He wraps his arms around himself, sighing.
“What the hell did you scream for?” he asks.
Kokichi thinks for a bit, tapping a single finger against his quivering lips—wait, quivering? Not once has he seen fear of any sort on Kokichi’s face that wasn’t an expertly plastered mask. None of this is like the Kokichi he knows at all. No, Shuichi must be imagining it, he decides.
“I came outside for my nightly walk when I thought I saw another poor dead body. I was just oh-so-shocked that I screamed!” he says, pressing his hands to his cheeks. “But it just so happened to be a ghost is all. Don’t worry, I scared him away with my shouting. Did you know that a scream at the right decibel is 79% more effective than salt?”
There’s so many questionable things in Kokichi’s account that Shuichi doesn’t even know where to begin picking it apart. Even though there’s nobody dead, the scream undeniably came from Kokichi, and he can’t imagine why someone as composed as him would be shouting for no reason. Something has to be wrong. Maybe someone attacked him, or maybe he attacked someone, or—!
God, why is he panicking? It’s just Kokichi being Kokichi. Even still, Shuichi needs to confirm that everything’s fine before he can relax enough to wrap himself back up in his blankets and stay awake for the rest of the night.
“You’re okay, right?” he asks tentatively, glancing around the dark hallway. There's really nothing else there but the two of them. Shuichi can't fathom what roused such a frightened noise from such a composed boy.
“Are you concerned about me, my beloved?” Kokichi asks, eyes sparkling with fake delight. “That’s so sweet of you. I’m not okay, but if you come play a quick round of Russian Roulette with me, I think I’ll be in tip-top shape in no time.”
The lack of sleep is killing his sharpness, and Shuichi can’t get out a more eloquent answer than a stammered, “Huh?”
“I’ll fill it with six bullets,” Kokichi says. “You can go first.”
Shuichi’s arms fall back to his sides. “I don’t know why I bothered asking.”
Even if Kokichi is up to his usual antics, at least no one is hurt. Of course nobody but him would hear the scream—they’re all still sleeping soundly in their rooms. He envies the lot of them, rubbing tiredly at his eyes. At least no panic will spread from this false alarm.
“Hey, hey, Saihara-chan, do you want to come on my nightly walk with me?” Kokichi asks suddenly, eyes alight once more. “Do you?”
Kokichi wants to spend time alone with him in the middle of the night. That’s a recipe for disaster waiting to happen. Really, there’s no easier way to get away with murder than this set-up. For a second, he thinks it might be a relief if Kokichi decides to kill him. The overbearing weight of his promise will fall off of his chest. But the moment the thought enters his mind, it’s washed away by guilt. That’s no way to feel. Once he lets himself sink into that hopeless mindset, the game is over. All of his remaining friends are as good as dead.
Just like before, he rubs at his ear until it sounds like the scratching of the sea inside of a shell, and the thought is gone. Clear-headed, he's able to find his voice again.
“I doubt you really take nightly walks,” Shuichi replies. “And I’ll pass. Goodnight, Ouma-kun.” The moment he turns away from Kokichi, he hears the beginning of crocodile tears.
“Saihara-chan doesn’t want to spend time with me?” Kokichi wails. As obviously fake as they are, the sound of tears make Shuichi’s chest tight. “I’m hurt! You're so mean to me, and I never did anything to you… I don’t know how I’ll ever recover from this—”
Turning around, Shuichi interrupts, “What do you want?”
Acknowledging Kokichi makes the waterworks subside, but he still has a look of utmost distress plastered onto his face. Tears are threatening to spill from the corners of his eyes. “Don’t leave me,” Kokichi whines, expression the epitome of pitiable.
Shuichi knows it’s all an act, it has to be, but he can’t shake the thought that there’s something truly bothering Kokichi. So he falls for the bait, hook, line, and sinker.
“Is… something wrong?”
It takes a moment for Kokichi to reply. His gaze turns to the side and he laces his fingers together, fiddling with them anxiously. “I had a nightmare,” Kokichi whimpers. “I'm scared to go back to bed all by myself. What if I have it again?” The fear in his voice is palpable. Kokichi refuses to make eye contact.
He wouldn’t lie about something like this, right? Kokichi has no reason to be malicious right now, especially not when he’s in such a suspicious position, out at night screaming like this. Maybe this is the truth. Upon coming to such a conclusion, Shuichi softens. If Kokichi is willing to open up to him and show him this little bit of weakness, then maybe something good can come of this. Perhaps he’s willing to stop screwing around and finally join together with his classmates as the last missing link in their chain.
“Look, it’ll be okay… I can’t say there’s nothing to be scared of, but if we all work together for once, everything will turn out just fine, I promise.” Shuichi places a hand on Kokichi’s shoulder, watching as his posture slumps, so he tries to offer the boy a brave smile. “We’ll get out of here, and then there will be nothing else to fuel your nightmares, okay?”
But just as soon as the reassurances come from Shuichi’s mouth, Kokichi snickers. Shuichi’s heart sinks when he realizes that he's being played, and his arm recoils like he's been burned. It’s nothing to joke about, especially when these terrors are exactly what’s plaguing him.
“Just kidding! That was a lie,” he says. “Wow, Saihara-chan, I didn’t expect it, but you really are concerned about me. I’m flattered.”
Yet again, Shuichi wonders why he’s even bothering with Kokichi. He should’ve expected this kind of answer to start with. Kokichi is always lying, so why would it be any different this time? Too tired to deal with this any longer, he turns away from Kokichi again.
“I’m going to bed.”
Kokichi either doesn’t hear or opts to ignore the disappointed irritation in Shuichi’s voice, because he shouts, “Great idea!”
Suddenly Shuichi feels a small arm link into his, and with strength unexpected from the smaller boy, he’s being dragged away. Kokichi pulls him towards his own dorm, pulling his key out and shoving it into the lock. Before he even has time to complain, Kokichi’s shut the door behind them both. Shuichi is dazed from the unexpected interaction, and all he can bring himself to do is examine the unfamiliar surroundings he's in.
The room is a mess, for lack of a better word. There’s evidence from each case so far littered on the floor, and there’s boxes upon boxes piled on top of each other in the corner. Shuichi’s gaze stays plastered to a corkboard that looks not unlike the one from his uncle’s place, linking together suspects and victims and culprits. Once he breaks eye contact with a photograph of himself, the sound of Kokichi dropping his keys and flopping onto his bed draws Shuichi’s attention to the other side of the room.
“Right here, Saihara-chan,” Kokichi says, smacking the empty half of his bed with a wink. But Shuichi’s gaze catches onto the lifeless eyes of Rantaro’s wax effigy. There’s a chill sent down his spine as his corpse and the shot-put ball come to mind.
“Hey, come on,” Kokichi whines, slapping his mattress with a hand. “Stop looking around and just look at me.”
He doesn’t know what to say about this mess. Perhaps organized disaster is more fitting. It’s all evidence, he quickly realizes, though he can’t even begin to fathom why Kokichi has all of this stuff. If anyone’s room should be littered with evidence, it’s his. He’s that much of a failure of a detective, he thinks disparagingly to himself.
“Hey!” he shouts. “Earth to Saihara-chan!”
Shuichi finally manages to look at Kokichi.
“It’s a mess in here,” he comments.
Only once the words come out does he realize how dumb he sounds. But no matter what he says, Kokichi will mock him anyway. He supposes it doesn’t matter one way or the other. Kokichi stares at him, expression blank for a moment. That moment of emptiness is enough for Shuichi to see the bags under his eyes again. Has Kokichi been sleeping at all? Shuichi thinks back to Kokichi’s earlier scream, wondering if it has anything to do with the puffiness of his eyes or the weariness of his normally confident body language.
“Huh, I guess that’s the Ultimate Detective for you. What an astute observation!”
“Anyway…” Shuichi casts a glance back to the door. “You know as well as I do that I meant my own bed. I think I'll go back to my own room now, if that's alright with you.”
His voice growing sickeningly saccharine, Kokichi begs, “Please, Saihara-chan, don’t leave me all alone. I’m scared when I'm all by myself, you know.” Once more, Kokichi motions to the empty space next to him.
“What are you—”
“I'm lying! Supreme leaders like me aren't scared of anything,” he says, disproving his own words before Shuichi even has a chance to refute them. “But without all ten thousand of my minions, I do get a little lonely. That's not a lie, you know.”
“Ouma-kun, I'm not going to—”
“Oh please, oh please, oh please?” he interrupts. “Don't go. Don't leave me alone.”
“Fine,” Shuichi groans, pulling on the collar of his shirt in hopes it'll suck him up into it and let him disappear.
But it doesn't. Begrudgingly, Shuichi trudges his way through the path of junk. He sits down on the bed next to Kokichi, who brightens up instantly. He inches closer to Shuichi, who can now say he's far too close for comfort.
“You’ve fallen for my trap!” Kokichi announces, lips curling into a menacing sneer. “Did you expect anything less from the Ultimate Supreme Leader? You’re so naive.”
Shuichi’s heart skips a beat. Of course this was a trap—!
Kokichi looks up at him, mocking Shuichi with that devious expression he’s seen a few times before. His eyes look hollow and empty.
“I’ve got you surrounded, Saihara-chan,” he says, tone setting off Shuichi’s flight-or-fight response.
Anxiety pounds in his head once again, and he readies himself to run. But Kokichi just lets out a whoop of delight, his foreboding expression curling into a childish grin. Shuichi catches a flash of apprehension in his smile, but before he can pin it down, Kokichi throws his arms around Shuichi and buries his face in his chest, effectively hiding himself from view.
“Nishishi! Just kidding,” he says, voice muffled against Shuichi’s shirt. “That terrified expression of yours was cute.”
Shuichi regrets not doing an about-face and leaving this room immediately, but he’s trapped now. Still suspicious that he'll reveal that supposed lie to be another lie, Shuichi braces himself. He's ready should Kokichi decide to pull out a knife and jab it into his back, or should there be a gullible accomplice ready to jump out of the closet and choke him until he’s dead and unconscious. His heart is hammering erratically, preparing for the worst, but nothing happens.
Rather than attack him at all, Kokichi is simply laying there, arms squeezing him tightly. Kokichi’s chest rises and falls, and Shuichi can feel the heat of the small boy’s breath warming up his shirt.
Once he realizes Kokichi was just spouting another falsehood, and really was lying about having him in a trap, he calms down. But there’s still a quick and steady thumping against his chest. It takes him another moment to realize that it’s Kokichi’s rapid heartbeat and not his own.
“You’re so comfortable,” Kokichi coos, breaking the silence. “Man, I could fall asleep right here.” He pauses for a moment, and then, with a firmness to his tone, declares, “You know what? I think I will.” Kokichi nuzzles his face closer into Shuichi’s chest, his warm breath sending a shiver down Shuichi’s body.
God, how does he answer a comment like that? He’s too confused and flustered to come up with any smart responses, and he bites down on his already ragged and abused lip.
This side of Kokichi is scary in its own right. He doesn't know why it's so hard to believe that he's being genuinely friendly for once. Maybe because the last thirty times he trusted Kokichi, it all ended up being a lie.
“Saihara-chan, you’re so spacy.”
But the slight tremors in Kokichi’s breathing, and the fear that momentarily flashed across his face… was that all a lie? Something in him doesn’t want to believe it. But the rational detective inside is telling him that this is as true as everything else about Kokichi.
“Hey, answer me!”
Face hidden, Kokichi whispers, “I love you, Saihara-chan.”
The sudden words are as obviously fake as every other one of Kokichi’s lies, but Shuichi is embarrassed to no end at this point. A hand reaches out of the embrace, and Kokichi’s cold finger boops Shuichi on the nose. Shuichi’s distress flushes his cheeks, which he promptly covers with both of his hands, though he knows it’s far too dark for Kokichi to see.
“Ouma-kun, please don’t say things like that…”
“Nishishi,” he laughs.
Shuichi really doesn’t know what to think. It’s overwhelming to spend time like this with Kokichi, especially when the smaller boy is cuddled up to him so intimately. What would the others think if they saw him right now?
“That was a lie, by the way.”
Shuichi sighs. “I figured.”
They lapse out of conversation for a few more moments. Kokichi’s racing pulse finally matches up with Shuichi’s relaxed one, and their breathing just about synchronizes. Shuichi takes a deep breath to break it up, eyes darting around the messy room.
“R-right…” Shuichi stammers. “Good night, Ouma-kun.”
The silence resumes. While it had been taunting him before, something about being in the presence of another person has made the silence that much more comfortable. He looks to Rantaro’s effigy, eyes still boring a hole into the wall, and then down to Kokichi, whose eyes are closed.
Shuichi tries to find a place to put his arms. Around Kokichi is the most obvious place, but he can’t bring himself to do it. Something about it makes him feel flustered. He places his arms awkwardly on either side of himself, fingers curling around the fluff of the mattress.
Once he’s done fidgeting, he realizes that Kokichi has fallen asleep. His breathing has evened into a steady pace, and his lips are parted ever so slightly. Only now that Kokichi is so limp and vulnerable does Shuichi realize just how tense the smaller boy was before.
Suddenly, Shuichi grows uncomfortable. This has to be a set-up. Maybe this really is a ploy that Kokichi devised to have him bring his guard down. Once more, Shuichi tosses his gaze around the room, alert for any sudden attackers.
But nothing comes.
He gets the feeling that he’s stuck here for the night, and he’s much too tired to get up, anyway. The thought of pushing Kokichi off of himself and trudging back to his own room seems like a monumental task. No matter where he lies down, it’s not like he’s going to fall asleep, anyway. There’s no point in returning now. So Shuichi allows himself to relax, letting out a deep breath. Maybe it’s foolish of him to let his guard down, but he doesn’t think Kokichi’s good enough of a liar to fake sleep. That’s a hard task, even for an actor as skilled as Kokichi.
Why did Kokichi forcibly invite him here, anyway?
Shuichi worries at his bottom lip again as he tries to think of a reason. By this point, Shuichi is sure that this isn’t a plan for murder. Maybe it’s a practical joke… but this is too convoluted of a set-up to be funny, even in a mocking way. What would Kokichi do, jump up and shout that Shuich was now the Ultimate Pillow? It’s too stupid and childish, even for Kokichi. Possibilities race through Shuichi’s head, but he can’t really pin any of them down. Whatever theories come in his head are quickly shattered by bullets of truth, because none of them seem plausible. There’s just…
…the quiet whispers of Kokichi’s sleeping breath.
Maybe Kokichi just didn’t want to sleep alone. It’s the most obvious answer, yet Occam’s razor has never helped him in any of these elaborate cases so far. Nevertheless, it somehow seem more plausible than anything else he can come up with.
Kokichi’s whispering breaths slowly devolve into whimpers. Fitfully Kokichi turns his head, and now that his face isn’t buried in Shuichi’s chest, he can see that his sleeping face has contorted into terror. There’s distress laden in his indistinct, half-asleep mumbling.
It couldn’t be…
Kokichi’s earlier scream echoes in Shuichi’s head. In his mind’s eye, he sees the worried expression Kokichi wore in the hallway. Shuichi looks down to confirm the bags under Kokichi’s eyes, and they’re still there, almost as purple as his hair. Now that he can see them more closely, he realizes that they’re a bit puffy. Fake tears can’t cause such gaunt circles under his eyes, but lack of sleep and profuse tears sure can.
Maybe Kokichi had been teasing Shuichi back in the hallway, but there’s no way that he would go this far, right? Having narrowed down every other possibility, Shuichi finally pinpoints the reason that he’s here. The Ultimate Supreme Leader is having nightmares, and he wanted Shuichi’s comforting presence to lull him back to sleep…? It’s so unexpected, and it’s the only thing that these pieces puzzle together into, so it has to be true. But this truth is so unbelievable that it’s almost funny, and even as much as Kokichi’s made fun of him, he can’t in good conscience laugh about it.
Because he’s in the same place.
Shuichi reaches out and places a hand on top of Kokichi’s fluffy mess of hair, stroking his fingers through it gently. Though he’s sleeping, Shuichi’s reassurances reach Kokichi deep in his dreams. His whining subsides into quiet murmurs, and then back into whispers as his breath evens out. As quickly as the terrors appeared, they disappear, and Kokichi looks as peaceful as ever. He almost looks like he’s smiling now. Kokichi is curled up on his chest like a cat, and he's just small enough that the mental image isn't so far off. His expression is endearingly innocent when he’s fast asleep, and Shuichi wishes he could be more like this all of the one. But he knows that Kokichi will be back to normal the moment he wakes up.
In the meantime, he resolves to enjoy it while it lasts. Shuichi relents to his unspoken desire and wraps his arms around Kokichi, placing his hands on the small of his back. The smaller boy melds against him perfectly as if they’re two halves of a whole. It’s only natural to be bashful and hesitant over something like this, but he finds himself surprisingly untroubled. Shuichi bites at his lip to suppress a grin, his cheeks growing warm.
Despite the precarious position he’s in, Shuichi's eyes flicker closed. He hasn’t been this calm since this game began. Not for one moment did he manage to rid himself of the figures of his deceased friends, haunting him both asleep and awake. But now, with one of the most volatile players cuddled up against him, Shuichi feels not only peaceful and guilt-free, but surprisingly safe.
Much to his own surprise, he finally, finally feels safe enough to fall asleep during this damn killing game, his arms holding Kokichi close to himself. As he nods off, he settles into Kokichi's embrace. The warmth from his small body and the steady rhythm of his breath lulls Shuichi to sleep.
As much as he doesn't want to admit it to himself, it's the best night’s sleep that Shuichi has gotten since this game has started. And secretly, Shuichi hopes that Kokichi will wake up screaming again and crawl right back into his arms tomorrow night, too.