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Thaw Your Frozen Heart

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"Rei-chan!"

Rei, who had been lounging at the edge of the pool telling Nagisa off for getting his glasses wet, turned his head at the sound of his name. "Yes, Gou-kun?" he replied once the girl had sprinted within a sufficient distance to hear his response without him having to yell. Haru and Makoto, floating freely in the pool water, flinched at the incoming 'it's Kou!!!' but were surprised when instead, Gou snatched Rei's arm and began tugging him out of the pool in a frenzy. Their looks turned to those of confusion.

"Gou-kun?" Rei questioned, climbing out of the water with the girl still trying to catch her breath and pull him in the direction of the buildings. "What is it?"

"Rei," she breathed. The panic that tainted her voice was unmistakable, and as they all looked closer they noticed she had tears in her eyes. "Come, please" she managed before Rei began trudging towards the buildings with her by his side, his expression frozen in an illusion of neutrality and composure, but his lilac eyes burning with fear. Nagisa shot out of the water but only managed two steps after them before Makoto grabbed his wrist to stop him. "Mako-chan!" Nagisa called, his usual bubbly tone laced with worry and anger at the obstacle that was his friend's hand, "What are you doing, let me go!".

"Nagisa, whatever it is it seems Rei needs to be alone right now. Give him some time."

Nagisa stared at him blankly. His gaze shifted to Haru's face who nodded at him as if to express his agreement with Makoto's point. The young blonde felt cold air hit the skin where his friend's fingers had been resting but he didn't sprint after Rei. Makoto was always right, after all.

----------

Rei's mother had been on a business trip to a nearby town when her car was hit by a drunk driver. Neither of them survived. After leading Rei inside the buildings to tell him that his father had called and would be coming to pick him up within twenty minutes, Gou offered to wait with him. He refused. She questioned if he was sure and if she should tell the others or if he'd rather tell them himself at some other time, but he didn't reply. He didn't seem to hear her or be aware of her presence anymore all of a sudden. The girl retreated back to the pool area, but waited out of view of the other three boys.

It came as no surprise to her that Rei became lost in his own thoughts. The shock of the news of her father's death had elicited a similar reaction out of herself and Rin years earlier. Her older brother hadn't said a word for two weeks, and although he was much younger then than Rei, it seemed like the natural response.

Once she was sure Rei's father had had enough time to pick him up, she emerged from her hiding spot. As she expected, Nagisa spotted her immediately and was racing at an impressive speed in her direction.

"What happened to Rei?! Where is he!?" Nagisa spat out as he nearly tackled her to the ground. She looked over his shoulder to see Haruka and Makoto running to join the two of them, no doubt anxious to hear what had happened and why Rei hadn't returned. She explained the situation to them and told them that Rei had left with his father to go home.

The next time they saw Rei was at the funeral a week later. Rei had been at home the entire time and never answered any of their messages and notes slid under his front door. They all received invitations to the funeral, of course, but Rei stayed beside his father the entire time and left swiftly after the end of the ceremony, before any of them, even Nagisa, managed to approach him.

The walk back to their houses was enveloped in silence. Nagisa was so quiet he seemed to be absorbing all sound surrounding them, and the only way he resembled his usual self was the fact that he didn't watch where he was going, although this time it was because he was so lost in his thoughts, his thin eyebrows furrowed to form a deep crease on his forehead. Eventually, once Gou had parted from the three boys to go her seperate way, Nagisa spoke up.

"Did you see his face?"

The boy's voice was hoarse and ragged from such an abnormally long period of no use and it was little more than a whisper. The two older boys hummed in answer, both worried and pondering.

"He didn't even look sad or angry, he just looked like... nothing," Nagisa continued, his tiny voice breaking at the last word as his eyes filled up with tears.

---------

Two days after the funeral, Rei returned to school. All sympathy and compassion anyone showed him bounced off his hard exterior with not as much as a blink of his lilac eyes. He went through the key elements of his daily routine - he took the train in the morning, sat with Nagisa in classes, ate lunch with the swim club, he even went to practice after school and then rode the train together with Nagisa - but he did it all coldly, emotionlessly, avoiding and shutting down any risk of conversation or interaction with anyone, even his friends. His classwork was perfect as always. His attention was perfect as always. His butterfly form was better than it ever had been, so much so that even Haru watched, impressed, but his expression never changed. He never smiled, and when people brought up his mother's death to give their condolences, he thanked them but he didn't even seem moved or upset at the freshness of the wound.

Nagisa tried to cheer him up - hell, Nagisa tried to get anything out of Rei - but the tall blue-haired boy didn't seem to care at all.

"Would you like to come over for dinner, Rei-chan?"

"No, thank you."

"Some ice cream, maybe?"

"No, thank you."

"Would you like to talk about what happened?"

"No, thank you."

"Would you like to talk in general?"

"No, thank you."

So the boys gave him space. He went to practice and sat with them in break times, although usually he had his nose in a physics book, but they never imposed on him or pressured him into joining their conversations.

---------

Almost two weeks after the accident, Nagisa was lying in his bed, staring at the ceiling and thinking about Rei when his phone buzzed. The boy pounced at the object as if it was his life support machine and someone was seconds away from pulling the plug, but instead of seeing the name he had been waiting for all week, he saw Makoto's.

'Wanna get some food somewhere with me and Haru?'

'Sure!!! Should we invite Rei-chan?? :C'

The next reply came after five minutes of the magenta-eyed swimmer staring intently at his phone, deliberating whether or not to text Rei himself.

'I don't think so... It's obvious he wants some space, maybe hogging him with messages and invites will only make things more difficult for him?'

Nagisa stared at the text on the screen. The thought of doing something without Rei, and especially doing something without Rei knowing about it, tasted as foul as betrayal to him. He tried to put himself in his best friend's situation, but although he knew more about Rei than the others did (and far more than he's willing to admit to Rei himself), he couldn't help but think that he wouldn't isolate himself and be so stone-cold. He'd want his friends to be there for him all times of day and night. He'd want constant reassurance that there was nothing he could have done differently, that she's in a better place, that everything will be okay.

Maybe that is what Rei wants, but he doesn't know how to ask for it? Maybe despite the way his usual caring and warm character transformed into an emotional black hole his pride remained, as a token to remind the world of what he really is? Maybe all he wants is for people to be there?

Or does he want to be as alone as he has made himself? Besides, his father is certainly at home, so it's not like he's completely on his own... And Rei knows that if he wants to talk, his friends are there for him always! He probably just needs more time and he'll come around within a couple days! His schoolwork and swimming are up to his usual standard (perfection) so he can't be in that bad of a state!

Nagisa finally typed out a message to Makoto saying 'okay' and ran downstairs to put his shoes on.

-----------

Rei sat in his room. His window, usually open to allow maximum oxygen levels in his room, was shut. His curtains, usually open to allow sunlight in so his skin would receive more vitamin D, were drawn. The boy sat on his bed, staring at the wall, as he had been for the past twenty minutes.

He had cleaned his room and prepared dinner for when his father would get home from work. He had finished his homework and cleaned up the kitchen and dining area. The book on quantum mechanics that he always took to school lay on top of his completed homework, it's spine perfectly parallel to the edge of the desk. The only reason he took it to school everyday was so he didn't have to talk to others. He couldn't care for physics now.

Rei had a problem. He'd spent hours studying the biology of the effects of alcohol on the human brain. He'd researched the physics behind car crashes, seat belts, air bags and all the protective devices used in his mother's Toyota. It all made perfect sense to him, except one thing - why her?

One second made the difference between life and death. One second. One shot of tequila. One blink of a drunken eye. One car. One person. One life. It could have been anyone, so why was it her?

It's not that Rei wished her fate on the driver behind or in front of her car. He grieved for the drunk driver as much as one can grieve for a stranger. What he didn't understand was the chaos of her death. She was one person of six billion. The driver was one person of six billion. Rei was one person of six billion. One of those people killed another one of them and left the third without a parent. Three people of six billion. It could have been anyone.

There is no law or equation for death. There is no variable one can change to influence death. It is not reversible, and Rei could not simply start the experiment again to get a different result. It was empty. Rei was empty.

Seconds slipped away as he sat and stared and thought as he had been doing since his mother's passing. It felt surreal, almost like he was high. He felt clean and distanced, his mind not clouded by emotion, allowing him to analyse the philosophy behind it. To marvel at the difficulty of the problem he was faced with. To wonder at what humans really are and at how quickly we can disappear. To realize that we are mere objects in a universe where everything material is the only tangible reality, and how little everything else matters. Happiness, joy, love, glee, fulfillment, pride, hate, disgust, embarassment, worry, hurt, accomplishment, fear - they're all just side-effects of chemical reactions in the brain and they mean nothing to what is in front of us. They are unstable, unreliable, and Rei had found a world without them that became his haven.

-------

They ate dinner in silence as they had since two weeks ago. The only sounds floating through the air were the crackling of the clock, the screeching of the birds outside, and the soft ticking of their chopsticks against their bowls.

"I saw your friends on the way back home. They were at a restaurant."

Rei didn't flinch.

"I'm glad."

"Why weren't you with them?"

The silence was interrupted by a terrible sound, like the barking of a rabid dog. Rei's father looked at his son in shock, and the teenage boy suddenly realized that the unpleasant explosion was the sound of laughter erupting from deep within the pit of his stomach. He felt his insides curl and twist around each other as he couldn't stop the hysterical growling that continued to ooze out of his mouth. He stood up.

"Didn't know," he spat, almost triumphantly at his horrified father. He left the dining area to go to his room without cleaning up his bowl. He tossed himself onto his bed, letting his body fly out of control of his mind, something he never dared to do, a new kind of energy pumping through his veins. A new drug he was excited to become addicted to. He stared at the ceiling and started laughing again.

-------

"I can't believe it."

Makoto, Haruka, Nagisa and Gou sat in silence in the changing room. The boys had already changed out of their swimsuits, but instead of rushing home like they normally did, they sat and stared at the floor and occasionally each other and Gou in disbelief.

"Someone needs to talk to him," Nagisa whispered. Haru looked at him apologetically.

"He quit the swim club, Nagisa. I think that's a clear sign that he doesn't want to talk to us."

Nagisa jumped off the bench and faced Haruka. The angry flames licking the insides of his eyes were complemented by the sparkle of the tears that leaked out in less than a second. "I'm not going to just leave him!" he howled, "Something must have happened!"

Makoto stood from where he was sitting and walked over to Nagisa, gripping his shoulder tightly in attempted comfort. The blonde turned and looked up at the boy, his body non-stop manufacturing fresh tears and his lower lip shivering uncontrollably. "Mako-chan?" he managed, before his knees gave out a bit and his quick breaths turned into agonizing sobs. Makoto grabbed his friend's other shoulder and pushed him back so he'd sit on the bench before he collapsed. The other two watched as Makoto sat beside Nagisa, who was the youngest and by far the most fragile and innocent out of all of them.

"Nagisa," Makoto soothed, "I know that you want to go to Rei, we all do. Not as much as you, I know, but whatever state he is in, it's clearly a very delicate one. He's not himself. But we have to believe that Rei, your Rei, is still there! But Haru's right, and pushing will only make things worse right now. He's not letting anyone in-"

"But it's me, Mako-chan!" Nagisa interrupted and grabbed fistfuls of Makoto's shirt in his quivering fists, "I can't just not do anything, I just can't!"

Makoto stared into his friend's eyes with a mixture of worry, desperation and pity. He opened his mouth to respond, but before a syllable could roll off his tongue Haruka spoke,

"If you really love Rei you'll give him time."

All eyes turned to him, surprised at Haru's voluntary involvement in this kind of discussion. He was probably referring to his experience with being in love with the water, but the message visibly stuck because Nagisa let go of Makoto and stared at Haru without blinking until the tears dried away and he had to blink so his eyes wouldn't dry up.

--------

Rin walked down the street, looking at the numbers on the houses so as not to miss the right one. It was past eleven on a school night, and he still didn't know why he was even doing this, especially since he didn't even know the guy. But when Gou called him earlier on and told him that Rei quit the swim club and completely refused to interact with Makoto, Haruka and Nagisa (who even Rin, who didn't go to their school, knew was pathetically in love with the amateur swimmer) as if he didn't know them, he couldn't help but feel a familiar stab in his chest.

So there he was, having finally located the right house, standing on the doorstep. His knuckles collided with the door harshly thrice. He stepped back and listened carefully for the sound of footsteps. He had no idea what he was going to say - he felt sorry for the guy, but he still didn't care enough to bother to plan out what his choice of words would be. Especially since there was a high probability that Rei wasn't going to even listen to a word he would try to say.

Despite awaiting the sounds of movement inside, Rin was surprised when the door was yanked open. What he saw absolutely terrified him - it was Rei, as he had been described to him physically, but his face looked like it was made out of marble. His features were not graced by a single wrinkle of emotion, but he looked well fed and well rested, and his eyes... His eyes glowed with a hysterical kind of happiness, almost lust. He looked like a madman. He stared into Rin's eyes, not interested but not surprised or confused. He just stared with that unhealthy victorious gaze.

"Yo. I'm Matsuoka Rin. You're Rei?"

"Indeed." Rei's voice had a hint of amusement about it but also darkness. The fact that he didn't slam the door right after hearing Rin's name shocked him. His next move would normally be to ask if he could come in, but he decided to test Rei a little and see if he really was worth his time and the drama of quitting the swim club and isolating himself in a home-made quarantine.

"I'm sorry about your mom."

"Whatever."

Rin's eyes widened. Rei meant it. Rei meant that it was whatever to him. His looks betrayed no splinter of care or worry or grief. Absolutely nothing. Rin slid past Rei into the house.

"Close the door and come on."

--------

Nagisa walked down the hallway. He listened intently to the sound of his shoes against the floor. He focused on the squeaks of his rubber soles and silently prayed for his eyes to have gone back to their normal shade by now, though he knew it was unlikely. He had just skipped the entire class to bawl his eyes out privately in the bathroom, after all.

He got to his classroom and stood next to the door, on the side that he knew it would swing out to when opened by the pack of teenagers dashing out to begin their weekend. He leaned against the wall and begged his body to calm down. It was doubtful anyone would see him here, but Rei was in that class too and if he was to be discovered he would be utterly humiliated. And he would start crying his eyes out again if he saw his best friend. The thought 'ex-best friend' raced through his mind and he had to cover his mouth to stop the pathetic sob that was threatening to escape. The door swung open and smacked him in the forehead before he could start crying again, which he thanked the gods for, despite the splitting pain in his skull. He cast his eyes down so as to not get a single glimpse of Rei.

Once all the students had filed out, Nagisa slipped into the classroom and began to approach his English teacher nervously. The man looked up, and his expression went from one of curiosity to one of anger and disappointment at Nagisa skipping the entire class, finally to one of worry and pity when he saw the state Nagisa was in. Having someone look at him like that did nothing more than remind the boy of why he looked the way he did, bringing back thoughts of Rei. The sound of his teacher's 'oh, Nagisa' was muffled by the fresh sob that struggled out of the blonde's mouth as his eyes once more filled with tears and his chest wrapped around his young heart, like a boa constrictor preparing to crush a mouse.

--------

Rin stood, leaning with his shoulder against the gate to Iwatobi High School. He had absolutely no desire to be here, but after all, he was the one who told Rei he'd pick him up after school and they'd go to the graveyard together, so here he was.

"Rin-chan!!!"

Rin sighed. Of course, it was just his luck that he ran into his ex-friends. And of all his ex-friends it just had to be Nagisa.

"What?" he barked, rolling his eyes to communicate his aggravation at the boy's presence. When his eyes finally settled on the three who had approached him, he registered how undeniably terrible Nagisa looked. He made sure not to let the pity he felt welling up in the pit of his stomach to show on his face. Remember what Rei told you, he reminded himself.

"What are you doing here?" Haru stated in that typical 'I couldn't care less but I still care enough to pester you about it' way he spoke since they were kids. Rin saw he had an opportunity to make a dent in his rival's confidence. He smiled smugly.

"I'm picking Rei up."

All three boys gasped simultaneously. If not for the circumstances and the state that Rei was in (and how annoyed he was at the company that thrust itself onto him seconds prior) Rin would have thought it was like a scene taken right out of a comedy. The thought became ironic merely a second later when Nagisa, of all fucking people, grabbed his shirt in his fists and pushed him back against the gate roughly. Another scene taken right out of a comedy, though the little fucker is way stronger than he seems.

"What are you doing with Rei?!" Nagisa snarled venomously enough for it to make Rin wish he could replicate it. His usually magenta eyes were darkened by a passion that was bringing out the Hulk in the little guy, but he still gave in when Makoto pulled him back gently. Rin looked up to find three pairs of eyes glaring at him, silently demanding answers. Rin chuckled and dusted himself off.

"Trying to fix what you did, of course! Gou told me about his mother and about how he quit the swim club. I was... I felt sorry for him so I went to his house and he let me in and we talked" Rin stated matter-of-factly.

"And??" Nagisa pressed.

"And," Rin leaned forward to speak directly to Nagisa, "he told me how he felt, which I promised not to tell anyone like a not-shitty friend, and he also told me how you guys just started hanging out without him like very-shitty friends."

Nagisa's head retreated fast enough for Rin to wonder if the little boy snapped his neck, especially considering the outraged and terrified look on his face. "We-" Makoto started but apparently hadn't planned ahead what he was going to say because his voice caught in his throat. Rin scanned each face carefully, amused at the astounded expressions. He laughed. "You poor fucks" he wheezed. His fit was halted by two shaking hands on his upper arms and a teary-eyed Nagisa who looked like he was about to switch into full waterwork mode any second.

"Rin," he pleaded, "it wasn't like that. We thought it was what he wanted, we just thought he didn't want us bothering him all the time, we.. Rin, please! He talked to you, you have to tell him that's not what it was!"

Rin looked at Nagisa for a couple seconds. The blonde was breathing heavily, almost panting, in anticipation. Rin glanced up and saw the other two swimmers looking at him with expressions almost as desperate as Nagisa's. He stepped back and shrugged the blonde's hands off. "Fine," he spat, "but I'm not gonna bother cleaning up your shit. I'll try to get him to agree to talk to you but that's it." He watched the youngest closely as he finished formulating his response, expecting something as uncomfortable as a hug, so he was ready when Nagisa let out an ecstatic 'oh, Rin-chan!' and launched himself at the shark.

--------

Nagisa had never walked so fast in his life. It was a warm April Sunday morning but his teeth were chattering and he was shaking all over. He felt like he had tried to swallow an entire loaf of bread in one go (which, considering his eating habits, wouldn't have been so bizarre) and he felt like his knees had been replaced by water balloons. But underneath all the nerves and the panic, there was also hope. Two days before, Rin had agreed to convince Rei to speak to Makoto, Haruka and Nagisa. Yesterday, Gou had contacted Nagisa telling him that Rei had agreed, but only to speak to the young blonde alone. Despite the desperation and gravity of the situation, he couldn't help but feel a little privelaged because even after the terrible misunderstanding that caused Rei to push them all out of his life, Nagisa still came before the other two. He couldn't help but wonder if maybe, just three weeks ago, there had been a little more than friendship between them after all - from both sides. And if so, was it gone forever now? He pulled at his fingers and bit his nails all the way to Rei's doorstep.

He closed his eyes and inhaled and exhaled a couple times. 'It is important to supply enough oxygen to the brain, Nagisa-kun', Rei had always told him. The young boy went over the speech he had spent the entire previous night memorising. He knew it would be to Rei's taste - well, at least the Rei he knew. He went over the bits that he knew worse than the others, like the quotes from famous leaders and scientists that he added in. He faced the door and lifted his hand, feeling his breathing calm down. Of course Rei's breathing exercises worked. He mouthed the opening sentence - 'I know I'm weeks late and that makes me weeks off the friend you deserve, and there is nothing that can come in my defence, likewise that of Mako-chan and Haru-chan, and first off I want to thank you for agreeing to hear me out in all our names, though I never doubted you would... you have always been the best of us' - and knocked on the door.

--------

Rei sat on his bed, staring at the wall. But this time he wasn't just sitting, relishing in the thoughts that have been nourishing his cold mind. This time he was waiting.

He didn't want to see Nagisa. Not because he was mad, he wasn't a child after all, but simply because he had found something better. He had found the peace that came with being alone. Feeling nothing is bliss next to feeling pain, and he knew perfectly well that whatever Nagisa was going to say, it was going to be painfully embarassing for Rei, and embarassingly painful for Nagisa.

There was a knock at the door.

The boy took his time sliding off his bed and gliding lightly down the stairs. He walked comically slow towards the front door, as if to secretly mock the person on the other side, though his face hinted at no pleasure or happiness. He gripped the door handle and slowly, majestically swung the door open. He looked fearlessly into magenta eyes, which stared back at him and widened slowly, rhythmically and the blonde boy took in the sight before him. As he took in the statue that opened the door for him and look that gave away nothing, felt nothing.

"Well?"

Nagisa responded with an inhuman howl as his hands clutched his cheeks before the tears could reach them. He managed to contain himself enough to step inside the house (he remembered how much his Rei hated public scenes) but he couldn't bring himself to walk any further. He wanted to hug Rei, to wrap his shaking arms around him, to cry forever because what on earth did they do to that happy innocent boy, why did they not stop him from becoming this block of stone and oh god what happened?

"Rei-chan," Nagisa sobbed pathetically through his fingers, crying too hard to open his eyes even a tiny bit. Rei watched, but he felt odd. The sound of Nagisa's voice, and the sound of his weeping, brought with them an instinctive need to protect, to hold, to soothe in Rei, but it was nowhere near strong enough to elicit any real emotion within him. He simply stood and watched as Nagisa stood in front of him, shivering and crying, desperately trying to gain control of his emotions but failing miserably. Rei felt sorry for him.

"Rei-chan," he tried again, after a series of deep breaths, "oh, Rei-chan, I'm so sorry, so so so so sorry, oh my god Rei!" His eyes shut tightly and he once again brought his hands to his face, but continued to apologize repeatedly and desperately through his fingers. "We thought you needed space, we thought you wanted us to give you time, we never wanted to hurt you, I'd rather die than hurt you Rei-chan, I'm so sorry, we all are, please come back, I need you back, I'm so sorry Rei!" Nagisa cried.

Rei couldn't help but furrow his eyebrows. He didn't see how it was relevant. He didn't leave because he was mad, he did it because he just realized that it all doesn't make sense, feelings don't make sense and it's easier not to feel. He knew Nagisa would get under his skin like a parasite and drag him back to self-pity and worry and doubt. He didn't want it. But he couldn't help but feel his stomach clenching when he saw the desperation with which the shorter boy was clawing at what Rei was. He hadn't changed at all. Rei hung his head in thought.

When Rin had come over, he told Rei about when his father died. He had shut himself off not in misery, but because he didn't let himself care and it felt free and powerful, like nothing could hurt him. But then he realized he was hurting others in the process - Gou, his mother - and it brought him back down to earth. He said that 'feeling again was like coming back to life'. Rei had felt nothing after his mother passed away because it made no sense. Maybe that's the point? It doesn't make sense, but maybe, instead of that shaking the balance of the rest of existence, it's the only thing that doesn't make sense? What if one thing has to be unstable for everything to be stable? Was his emotionlessness disrespectful to his mother's memory?

And when did he become hysterical and carefree? Wasn't it over dinner when he heard his friends had gone out without him? Doesn't that show that that is the reason why he pushed them away directly? Maybe it wasn't relief that lurked behind that violent laughter that terrified his father so much, maybe it was betrayal and longing and rejection and hot tears, because his friends, and especially Nagisa, had left him. Nagisa, who he had such inexplicable bizarre feelings for a couple weeks before, the one person he never thought would hurt him, who he'd been embarassed and flustered by, his weakness and his greatest strength, had abandoned him. But now here he was, sobbing and pleading.

"You were wrong," Rei spoke softly. He felt something now, but it was little more than doubt and he had to force himself not to push back into the pit it came from and go back to his blissful ignorance.

Nagisa's head lifted and his hands dropped. He saw Rei's face begin to show something, anything at all, and he clung to it like an anchor, willing to do everything it would take to help Rei sail back to shore where he'd be waiting with his arms wide open.

"We're so so so sorry, Rei-chan," he spoke, hopeful, "I'm so sorry... I will do everything and anything, just please give us, give ME, a second chance... I beg you!"

Rei clenched his fists. He knew he was about to leave the sanctity of oblivion and dive head-first into a whirlwind of emotions. He'd have to confront that weak memory of what it feels like to grieve, to be guilty of hurting your friends, to doubt yourself and others, to feel inadequate. The doubt he felt earlier was slowly blooming behind ribs, winding it's prickly roots around his lungs and his heart, fuelling his decision to become human again, because maybe the reasons he thought he had for becoming addicted to feeling nothing were false and they were just him trying to escape.

"Okay," he whispered, his voice trembling with fear at the emotions he could feel rising up in his throat like bile. The second the word left his lips, Nagisa howled again and threw himself at Rei to wrap his arms around the boy's torso. Rei's eyes widened as he felt warmth press against his body and slender but strong arms engulf him in a hug, wrap him up like he's the best gift in the world, and he felt it.

Nothing. He didn't feel a single thing. He stood frozen, not knowing what to do. He carefully placed his hands on Nagisa's shoulders, but the blonde must have noticed that something was wrong, because he retreated enough to free his face from the taller boy's torso and look up into his eyes. His face looked like it literally cracked as the blonde saw that Rei still felt nothing. His breaths immediately turned into ragged gasps. His eyes seemed to break and release neverending supplies of water. Rei watched, his hands still at the other boy's shoulders, when suddenly Nagisa jumped and slammed his lips against Rei's in a last desperate attempt to get him back.

----------

Nagisa felt the hands shift from his shoulders to his chest. He was thrown backwards a couple steps as Rei himself stumbled back. Nagisa watched, not knowing what more he can do, trying to figure out what Rei was feeling - hell, if he was feeling anything at all! The kiss hadn't even been a last attempt. It was a goodbye.

Rei stared at Nagisa with eyes open so wide his eyebrows nearly drowned in his hairline. He looked petrified. He was clutching his shirt where it covered his heart, and he was panting and watching. The blonde was sobbing again, as he took a step backwards, ready to give up and leave, but before he could manage a final apology, Rei breathed, "Nagisa?" and broke down in tears.

The younger boy didn't waste any time. Before Rei's knees could collide with the floor, his friend was there to hold him up and then slowly lower him onto the ground. Rei's arms snaked their way around Nagisa's waist in a grip that would break his ribs if he were a couple kilos lighter, but the blue-haired boy's face was already wedged between his neck and shoulders and he felt hot tears spilling down his back. Rei was shaking more than Nagisa had ever thought was possible for a person as he cried the pain away, muttering "I'm sorry", "oh God" and "why" repeatedly. The smaller boy stroked his head and pressed kisses to his temple and forehead, occasionally humming gently to remind his friend that he wasn't alone.

After 20 minutes of non-stop crying, Rei seemed to have calmed down, but when Nagisa lifted his head gently to look at him, he found that his friend had exhausted himself to the point of falling asleep.

---------

Rei woke up in his bed. His window and curtains were open, but Nagisa was nowhere to be seen. Rei rubbed at his face to get rid of the tear-tracks that stained his cheeks and gently felt at his puffy eyelids, before slipping out of bed. He began a frantic search for Nagisa.

Nagisa had brought him back. He was willing to come back by himself but he couldn't - if the blonde hadn't kissed him, all the feelings wouldn't have come back. All the pain and grief and misery were merely companions to what he felt most at that moment. Pure and utter love and joy and being wanted and cared for and worried about and being valued and needed and being able to rely on his friends, and all he needed was to say what no words could ever express. All he needed to do now was find Nagisa.

The blonde was in the kitchen, making two cups of tea. He turned around at the sound of Rei entering and began to open his mouth, worry painting his face, but he didn't have time to make a sound before Rei had crossed the kitchen and silenced him with his lips. It was a harsh, rough kiss, nothing more than lip-to-lip, but Rei's one hand was in Nagisa's hair and the other around his waist, holding onto him desperately. Nagisa slid his arms around Rei's neck and pressed closer to him, but broke the kiss to catch a much-needed breath. The second his lips were free Rei slurred "Nagisa-kun, I'm so sorry and thank you I'm so sorry I'm such a fucking idiot thank you", but Nagisa silenced him with a soft murmur of the other's name. They gave themselves a couple seconds to calm down before moving simultaneously into a much gentler kiss, one that expressed what they both wanted to say so badly and everything they felt, or didn't feel, in the past weeks. It was a kiss of forgiveness, a kiss that whispered every single thought each had to the other so they both knew everything that had happened without needing to be told. Both their lips were swollen and soft from crying, and they reminded Rei of how human he was and how much he wanted to be human, but they also stopped him from feeling disgust at what he had become until Nagisa had pulled him back. They stayed like that, gently nibbling and sucking on each other's lips, until Rei felt Nagisa tilt his jaw open just slightly enough to ask for permission without being shy, and the movement opened a floodgate in his chest. The pressing of longing and happiness swelled inside him as he slowly, gently dipped his tongue into Nagisa's warm mouth and exploded into millions of fireworks inside him when Nagisa returned the gesture and began a delicate dance they both knew the steps to.

They stayed like that for some time - how long exactly doesn't matter. Because the feelings didn't make sense, and they never would, and Nagisa didn't make sense, and he most definitely never would, but that's what made them beautiful.