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Stay with me, sunflower.

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The first time Gauguin sleeps without Vincent in the same room as him since the incident, it almost drives him insane.

Bullets of sweat drip down his pale face, lips cold and trembling as his guilt eats away at his being and threatens to leave nothing else behind. Thoughts once occupied by a tropical scenery, his fantasy dreamland of sun-bleached sands and cool tides, now overrun by manifestations of his anxieties and regrets. He was never one for hearsays, and yet with one concerning someone he’d learned to hold close to his heart, it was impossible for him to treat conversations about him the same way. Collapse due to mental exhaustion, an ear scarred beyond belief, and an indefinite hospital confinement.

He feels the knot in his stomach tighten, and the pain must’ve reached his throat with the way he suddenly found it harder to breathe. He wonders endlessly if it was his fault Vincent had fallen into his state, if it would be his responsibility if the artist never pursues art again. His nails dig into his sheets, and heavy pants fill the hot and humid room. The image of a smile he loved and loves gauged out mercilessly, his sunflower uprooted and snuffed out, vivid imagery he’s relied on once upon a time for an escape from life’s horrors now weaponized against him.

It doesn’t take long until he decides to purge the sickness out in the restroom. For the next few nights, rinse and repeat.

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When he reunites with him at last, he realizes something important.

It hits him as he lies down in bed, the top bunk and above Vincent's, with his eyes staring up at the ceiling in his usual daze. But instead of a tropical paradise, he looked inward himself (something you wouldn't often catch him doing.)

“I can’t sleep if you’re not with me.”

His confession must’ve been surprising, with the way Vincent pauses in the middle of taking the cap off of one of his new acrylics.

“You can’t?” The younger man sounds like he's in disbelief more than anything.

“No, I can’t.”

And Gauguin feels it. It flusters him, with sun-kissed cheeks turning red as he rubs the back of his neck.

“I... Have trouble at best. I used to have sleepless nights before, when I heard that you were—“ He says no more, realizing if he did it would be too much, for both himself and Vincent. He looks at Vincent’s face in search of guilt, hoping he hadn’t said too much. Instead he finds confusion, and he’s thankful for how dense he can be.

“Well if that’s the case, then I’ll try not to leave your side.” He says so confidently, with all the qualities of a burning sun emanating from his being. Sometimes Gauguin feels as if he could get burned if he steps too close, and yet to be apart from him was a thought too painful to even imagine.

A small creak sounds throughout the room as he steps down from the top bunk, and he walks over to pull Vincent into an embrace- one that Vincent returns ever so excitedly. He holds him gingerly and strokes his apple-red hair with all the affection he could muster, as if in attempt to make up for those months he's spent without his presence. He revels in the warmth he offers, and he buries his nose in his hair, planting a tender kiss against his forehead. Everything else— as nothing else matters besides this sensation— fades away. He takes in the faintest scent of freshly made bread in his hair— he must’ve been at a bakery again. He should really learn to eat something else other than bread...

“Are you feeling sleepy now, Gauguin?”

“Mm.”

“Want me to tuck you in?”

“Both. Both of us in.”

And how can he refuse? Vincent laughs a bit to himself, not minding the request. He does feel the same, though it would be a lie to say Vincent would’ve liked to stay up for a bit longer.

But, it’s hard to stay awake when Gauguin isn’t either.