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our filthy hands can wash one another (not one speck will remain)

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Your demons are similar, as much as you hate to admit it, and you're not sure what aspect of that scares you the most. Is it because someone might be able to relate to you, or because of what they had to go through to get to that point? Is your manufactured self preserving aversion towards people who might understand you protecting you against the danger you've learned comes with them, or have they slipped through the cracks and are you actually feeling sorry for them? They can't hurt you, you tell yourself as you begin to see them more and more often. After the fall of Oval Tower, Aoba, that other guy who you couldn't stop yourself feeling something towards (you've really been slipping lately, letting more and more emotions slip through that wall you built between you and them. You should probably be a bit more fucking careful about that) started spending a lot more time in the hospital. Something about a long lost twin brother he never knew about, some sort of soap opera bullshit like that. 

The first time you met them was about a month afterward, when they could have visitors. ("Finally" was what you actually thought. "Finally have visitors." That should have been the first alarm bell but your self critical thinking hasn't been as loud lately. Another fucking alarm bell you missed.) Apparently they wanted to thank the people that saved them or some sappy shit, and all they way there you were excited. Excited? You thought that's what it was at the time. Aoba had told you so much about them (You as in the group, because you avoid being alone with any of them. As a general rule you avoid being alone with anyone except yourself) and even though you try to avoid having opinions on people (opinions lead to feelings and attachments and things to miss when you drop them), you couldn't avoid it what with the absolute reverence Aoba spoke of them. Of course it could just be the years apart (can you call it apart when Aoba had no idea they existed?). People like him, who feel completely and openly and love quickly and without restraint, confuse (scare) the living fuck out of you. And that's what you used to rationalise the flies buzzing around your rotten insides. It was the hope that Aoba and his agender brother would fuck the confusion and the fear you didn't want to admit to and all the other feelings out of you so you could finally leave this fucked up island without having to face the emotions you spent so long denying yourself for your own fucking safety (This self destructive behaviour really has taken a turn for the worse). As soon as they fuck you, you'll know they're just like everyone else and everything you felt towards them would dissipate. That's how the world works. That's how you work. Get fucked, get out. And you intended to keep up tradition with these two. Until you saw them. Sei. Lying in their hospital bed reading something you told yourself you didn't care about when you knew that's just another fucking lie you were telling yourself because it was your favourite book. 

You could see the Aoba in them, or rather see the Sei in Aoba since Sei is the older twin, except Sei was paler and their face was sharper and their features were darker and their eyes were older and not just in the few minutes between them way. But when they looked at you, the softness of them and the kindness in them made you lightheaded and when they smiled it took your breath away. They spoke and the first word they said was your name and you swore you'd never heard anyone say that word without exasperation or malice or annoyance or anger and even though their voice was heavy your name was light in their mouth and carried none of the negativity you're so used to hearing and for a minute you didn't even realise it was your name. And you should leave, You needed to leave and you knew you needed to leave but something inside you was telling you to stay and when they patted the side of their bed, you didn't move. They wanted you to sit beside them on their bed and you told yourself you didn't want to and that you wanted to leave but you didn't, it's just another fucking lie and you didn't know what your face looked like (you never do, you haven't looked in mirror in months) but by the way Sei and Aoba were smiling, you have to assume that the stoic expression that seemed to just grow on you dropped. 

A few seconds later, though, the thing you knew was going to happen happened. It stopped. Every emotion you felt right there and then stopped, like a failsafe you unconsciously set up to go off as a last resort. And that's when you ran. You ran out of the hospital and all the way home and you weren't scared of Aoba following you or finding you because if there's one thing you'll credit yourself to doing well, it's running away. 

The next few days were a blur. You picked fights you knew you would lose and you crawled home and watched the blood seep from your body and when the thoughts of wondering how it feels consumed you, you picked more fights, and somewhere along the way you found yourself missing the brief things you felt in the hospital but it was mercifully fleeting and it didn't take you long to ship that thought far far away. 

The next time you saw Aoba was when you were all invited to Koujaku's for some sort of bi party (you'd say gay but Koujaku's not gay and the last time you said that he punched you so hard you had to pretend to hate it. You didn't, but Aoba desperately wants you two to get along and on the down low you do too, so you try not to antagonise him too much. Plus the guy deserves to have his wishes respected even if he is an asshole sometimes) Aoba asked what happened, but when you didn't answer he didn't pursue it. He did tell you, however, that Sei still wants to see you and asked if Saturday was OK. Any day would be ok, because you're sure you could make ten minutes somewhere in between not sleeping and getting the shit kicked out of you, but you don't say that. Instead, you pretend to be reluctant in your accepting the invitation, and when Aoba tells you to meet in this cafe in the backass of nowhere, you can't stop yourself from asking whether he'll be there too. Without questioning it he says yes, he will, because Sei will have only been released two days by then and will still need help. The lack of frowning and questioning and jeering coming from him is slowly unnerving you because you fear Aoba's becoming used to you and that means inconveniencing him or even hurting him when you leave, which is what brings on the childish off handed comment about something you can't even remember. All you know is it hurts him and gets you kicked out and you walk home thinking that it's better for you to hurt him on purpose so he hates you and recovers than hurting him because he misses you and doesn't forget about you because when you die you don't want to live on as a story or a memory and if he hates you he'll forget you and you can be dead in peace. You also can't help wondering whether the invitation on Saturday is still standing and you figure if Aoba doesn't call to confirm before then you'll just assume it's not, because you don't actually think he's going to. But he does and he's not even mad and makes it very obvious that you're forgiven and that makes you so mad that you punch another hole in your wall. You want to tell him that he can't forgive you because you're unforgivable and you're just going to end up hurting him and his brother because that's all you ever do because you're evil and wrong and obviously did something unspeakable in your past life to end up being the person you are today. This is your redemption, you've always assumed. That you would live a life and never be forgiven because you once did something so horrible that you couldn't pay for it in that lifetime alone. And you're deceiving Aoba and his brother and every other person you've ever met but you can't tell him because he won't believe you so instead you hang up and ignore the consecutive calls over the next few days from him. But through some sort of weakness you do turn up on Saturday, hoping that somewhere along the way Aoba took your silence as you taking back the invitation and won't show up, but he does and Sei is with him and for some godforsaken reason they smile at you when you push through the door, grimacing at the obnoxious bell that alerts all five people there that you have, in fact, entered the most hipster cafe you've ever had the sarcastic honour of entering, and it takes all your willpower to convince yourself not to run away because what you'd really be doing is running away from your emotions and you don't have any of those. Instead you take a deep breath and sit down and thank the fucked up God above that they are both sitting on the same side of the table, giving you the other side all by yourself. 

Sei is still smiling when they start talking, beginning with a simple "Hey" and they sigh through it as if they're relieved about something and for the life of you, you can't even begin to look for a guess as to what, and some extremely unhelpful part of your brain that you didn't even know existed suggests maybe they're relived you actually came and you don't think you've ever wanted to laugh at something as much as you did in that moment. You nod your head in response, hoping it comes off as nonchalant as you usually are so Aoba doesn't get suspicious and Sei doesn't get the wrong idea. So Sei doesn't think you can feel or that you care or what ever the fuck else you can't do. So Sei doesn't think you're like them. 

Aoba and Sei easily launch back into the conversation they were having before you came and somehow you don't feel like a spectator, which is your usual role around people. Sometimes you like to imagine you're some sort of guard for the people you're with, and will fight whoever tries to start shit with them and that's all you're there for, and never usually bothering even listening to whatever they're saying, but not here. Here with Aoba and his skinny latte, and Sei with some latte with a long name and a fuck load of additionals, you neither feel pressured to engage in conversation nor outside of it. You listen to them and admire how they play off each other perfectly as if they've known each other all their lives and even though you try to stop yourself you can't help but think about your brother. Would you ever be able to make up for all that lost time? Would he even want to? Would you be able to form a bond with him like they have? Will you ever form any sort of bond with anyone? And of course you're back here with the self pitying bullshit and usually once you start you won't stop, but this time, with something to focus on (Sei is now reprimanding Aoba for surprising them with cream on their nose and Aoba is laughing so hard he's flushed) you're able to bring yourself out of it. This time, your forgetful off handed comment has them both laughing, and you can't say you don't feel what is possibly accomplishment and maybe even pride, both of which are rather alien to you, but they're your best guesses. After that, you're less hesitant to partake in the discussion and it could be the first non negative thing you've ever contributed to anything. Before you know it, all of your coffees are gone and you're getting kicked out and when they invite you back to their place for dinner that's when you're brought back to reality. Who were you kidding, thinking you could be normal and have friends and drink coffee and laugh and eat dinner with and the more you think about what you could do with them you're refusing and walking away before they can protest (which really they're only doing so they won't feel guilty later on). 

Once you get home you decide to switch up your schedule a bit and stare at your broken TV until you either doze off or the sun rises (the TV is broken because sometimes punching walls gets a bit too symbolic and you somehow convinced yourself that the more holes there were in the wall in your apartment, the more there would be in your mind, and you never watched TV anyway). Usually you'd only do this on Thursdays, but today seems like a special occasion so what's the harm? 

But because you hate yourself, you can't stop thinking about Sei. Sei and Aoba, but mainly Sei, because Sei reminds you of a song. Not any song in particular, just songs in general, music and instruments and melodies and harmonies, and you can't help but wonder that if Sei was a song would the beat match the beat of your heart and could you use it as a drum and that thought was so fucking disgusting you honestly think you might throw up. 

You don't realise it's the next day until the phone rings (it's been doing that a lot lately, you are seriously considering smashing that too) and when Sei greets you from the other end, you forget to reply. They say your name a couple of times, and each time they do, your voice gets caught in your mouth. After a few tries, though, you cough through it and ask them what's up. You (think you can) hear the smile on their voice when they start talking about some homecoming party they're having later on in the week, Thursday, and while they're rambling, you wonder how, through everything they went through, they still manage to be so soft. How they still managed to retain their humanity. This is the first time of many you compare yourself to them, but this time you tell yourself it's different because you never had any humanity to begin with. You deserved to be locked in that room and the tightening in your chest you get every time you think of it is because you know you should still be in there. Whereas Sei...Sei didn't deserve that shit. That's why they're still able to care and smile and laugh and feel. Because, while their soul might be tattered and broken, they still have one. You have none. You never had a soul, you were always just a body. And since every body has a soul, you assume it was sentenced to floating around without a body, and sometimes you swear you can feel it, like a presence and at times it feels more real than you do. Sei's all soul, though, and while it may be broken, it's still beautiful, like broken chords and here you are back at the musical metaphors and you're sure that if you turned on the radio (if it wasn't in ten different pieces in the corner of your room), every song would remind you of them. Even the ones about doing fuck all except lying in bed together and now you're thinking of waking up beside Sei and that's when you realise that shit maybe you actually have a crush on them and they're still talking, something about fucking Mario Kart or whatever the fuck, and your heart's beating in your ears and you're getting a headache because fuck you do have a crush on them and you don't know what to do about it. Usually people would ask them out, but you've watched enough made for TV movies alone on Friday nights to drown out the silence of your shitty apartment to know that in the end the good hearted protagonist will always end up with the good hearted side character and the douchebag will always end up alone, and you know that in this situation you are definitely the douchebag. And maybe you don't want that Apple Pie Life where you both get married and live in a three bedroom house in the suburbs with your 2.5 kids, but you do want to know what it's like to have their hand in yours even though you probably won't feel it, or make breakfast in bed for them, or washing the dishes while they dry them, and while you lose yourself in pointless domestic fantasies they're still talking, and you finally snap out of it when they ask if they'll see you there. Will they see you there? Declining would make it seem as though you care too much, and saying yes straight out would make it seem as if you're eager to go (which you are, but you don't want to seem  like it), so you shrug even though they can't see you and say eh, maybe, because you might have something on that day (you totally don't), and Sei sounds glad and says they'll make sure to leave some pizza to which you close your eyes at because fuck if you don't love pizza. 

After they hang up, you spend the day battling the idea of going. Now that you're conscious of the crush you have on them, you won't be able to keep it quiet. This happened with Aoba too, when you kissed him in the junk shop because he looked so fucking good in that shitty lighting, and even the thought of it now makes you cringe. So you decide not to go, but sure enough, Thursday rolls around and here you are in front of Aoba's house debating on whether or not to knock on the door when Koujaku and Mizuki surprise you from behind and Koujaku asks why you're standing outside like a loser and you're about to retort with something as equally ten-year-old-in-a-playgroundesque when Mizuki cuts between you and rings the doorbell. You note that they're both wearing matching dresses which makes you feel severely underdressed in your leggins and gray t-shirt, but then again you remind yourself that when Koujaku and Mizuki get together they outshine everyone, so it's not a big deal. Plus, there's no one you're trying to impress anyway, because just like your crush in Aoba, your crush on Sei is gone. Just like it never existed. So who cares if you look like shit like you always do? Not you. 

The door is opened by Clear, who is also in a dress, and you wonder if you missed a memo somewhere, and you slip into the house while the three of them stand in the doorway admiring each other's clothes. You follow the smell of pizza into the living room, where Aoba and Sei are crouched over controllers on the couch. Both of them are in slacks, which eases your conscience a bit, and when Sei wins, both them and Aoba lean back in the seat, Sei in celebration and Aoba in resigned defeat. 

Aoba says something about how it's not fair that Sei is so good because they've only been playing for a week to which Sei sticks out their tongue, and they seem totally oblivious to you standing there until Sei looks away and sees you. They exclaim in surprise and, with the help of Aoba and a cane, they make their way over to you, and before you realise what's happening, they wrap their arms around you. Of course you can't feel it, can't feel the warmth or the delicate touches, or their thin fingers as they grip you on the back, but you can see it, and it warms you on the inside, and you worry they're going to feel your heartbeat quicken where you can't, so you gently pat them on the back once and they let go. 

Invitations to sit on the couch come from both of them but you opt instead to sit on the floor, and when you do a controller is thrust into your hands and before you know it you've been destroyed by Sei twice because Aoba wasn't kidding, Sei is scary good at this. They beat everyone there, even (unsurprisingly) Mink, who turns up for maybe five minutes and can't even get over the starting line for a good two minutes despite Aoba's desperately repeating the basic controls probably seven times. Eventually, most of the people move into the kitchen, and before you know it, you and Sei are alone, caught in the middle of a Grand Prix. That's when they drop a bomb on you. 

"I was Usui, you know," they say simply, and the realisation is a slow burn. It takes you until the end of Coconut Mall to truly understand what they're actually saying. They were inside your head. They know something, possibly a lot of things, maybe even everything. You turn to look at them and wonder how, after being inside your head so many times and seeing what's in there, they still talk to you and smile at you and the pain you're feeling now is the only pain you can feel and it's the kind that makes breathing harder and your head heavy and you can't move as they pause the game and turn to look at you. 

You know they're going  to say something, but you also know it's going to be some pile of shit about how they can help you or fix you or blah blah blah and it makes you so fucking angry that you're up before they can even open their mouth and you storm out of the room and down the corridor and out of the house.

Somehow, and you don't know how, you're at your front door and you're fumbling with your keys and you drop them because your hands are shaking and your vision's gone blurry and are you fucking crying?

Like a flash flood, the anger comes back and before you know it your fist is all the way through the door, and you don't think you're even particularly angry at anything in particular, but you know that anger is a secondary emotion so whether you want to admit it or not you're definitely feeling something. And you stand there with your fist resting in your door and realisation comes in waves that Sei knows everything. All that you've managed to keep under God knows how many concrete slabs and Sei's seen it all and you feel so fucking violated. 

When you finally get your act together (and your fist  out of the door), you take what you assumeis a piping hot shower but even tthough you stand under the stream for over an hour you still feel dirty, and even when you use the rough end of the kitchen sponge to scrub at your skin until it's raw and bleeding you still feel sick, and even when you actually do get sick it doesn't make you feel better. So instead you sit beneath the unforgiving stream of water which you turn the tap onto the other side of the temperature settings (not that it would make a differnce) and this time you can't get Sei out of your head for a whole new reason.