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In Limbo

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There were many instances, thousands or more, where Yamazaki Sousuke has found himself wanting to murder Rin Matsuoka. On account of their friendship however, he has successfully retained himself for a good 17 years or so. But this. This was the last straw. He was going to strip Rin down to the bone, soak him in hydrochloric acid and set fire to the prized shoujo collection under his bed. Then he would drive over to the Matsuokas, shed a little tear, maybe comfort Gou a little and help pin up 'missing' posters around town. Part of his plan diverged into ways of claiming part of his inheritance and the hundred dollars worth of protein packs he owned.

That was the plan, if he could manage to get out of this situation. As soon as possible, preferably without breaking a few more bones and risking tetanus infection with the many cuts he had.

Man, how can anything in the world hurt this much, was what Sousuke thought as he laid in a puddle of mud on his back, unmoving. His shirt and jeans were soaked through, ripped in shreds and parts. Sousuke thought faintly about how he would probably be shivering right now, if not for the fact that he was completely numb. The rain from the darkened sky above fell in mocking splashes on his face and dripped down his neck, as if trying to drown him in air. He felt dizzy- hitting your head on a boulder does do that to people sometimes. I didn't even tell my parents I love them, Sousuke managed to think, and I haven't even had sex yet.

Ah, the woes of a dying virgin. Fragments of Sousuke's life flashed quickly before his eyes in the most metaphorical sense, but it stopped to a week before, where everything started.

 

 

"No."

"Sousuke, I have great plans for you-"

"Nay."

"Might I interest you in this free gym membership-"

"Nada."

"Please! My all-year access pass to Universal Studios for you and your girlfriend. There, I said it. That thing is worth a hundred bucks."

Sousuke paused his online cat video and turned, leveling Rin with a glare.

"I don't have a girlfriend."

Sousuke sighed as Rin wailed, grabbing the edges of his jacket and tugging. All the melodrama that came with being Rin's friend has got to come with some kind of benefit, some day. It felt like retribution, needing to put up with all the things he tried to pull. Sousuke managed to get through some Vines on his Facebook feed before Rin ripped his earpiece out, snarling at him. Looked like Bribing Plan Alpha didn't work. On to Plan Omega.

"Sousuke, have a heart!" Rin pleaded as Sousuke reluctantly turned towards him. With Rin waving his hands around his laptop screen like that, he couldn't do anything if he tried.

"I have been duly informed that I don't have one," Sousuke said.

"Now we both know that that's not true," Rin snapped back. Now if they had time to quote meaningless dramas they jolly well had some time for useful discussion. Sousuke pinched his brows, trying to remember why Rin was so uptight about the entire thing. He was talking about a three-day retreat in the mountains, a hiking trip, imagine that. Something about setting up tents in the wilderness with no electricity or internet, to whole-heartedly immerse oneself in nature. The trail leading to a famous waterfall in the area-

"Ah, it's that Nanase guy, right?" Sousuke said, remembering. Rin nodded, his cheeks flushing. Sousuke groaned at the thought of the trip Rin had brought up. Rin was a godawful romantic, coming up with different mating calls and ideas every other week. This time apparently he went around the internet sourcing for private retreats that involved water, because his new boyfriend was some sort of hydrophile. He was so sure that the Nanase guy would love it, sparkling waters and the two of them alone, camping under starlight.

"If it's for you and your boyfriend, I am not sure I want any part to play in this," Sousuke said.

"He's not my boyfriend!" Rin said, cheeks flaring. "-Yet," he added, when Sousuke shot him a look.

"You have been asking me to join you guys on this trip but I am pretty sure you were over the moon at the chance of being alone with him a couple days back. I dislike being a third-wheel and might I point out a general fact that nobody does," Sousuke said. Rin could see the attempts at trying to appeal to Sousuke's sympathy aren't working. He scratched the back of his head, frustrated.

"Come on Rin, why can't you just leave on your honeymoon like that? The best man never tags along," Sousuke said.

Rin fiddles with his jacket's sleeves, then his trousers, then his pockets. He shifts uneasily and gives a pained expression before he bites out words, one by one.

"The point being, I like him and I am pretty sure, no, maybe a little over 74.5% sure that he likes me too," Rin said. "Maybe 76% sure? He did agree to the trip immediately…"

"But?" Sousuke pressed on, irritated.

"But I am not sure if he camp-in-the-woods-overnight-alone likes me, or if he just likes me," Rin finished lamely. He looked at Sousuke, blinking owlishly.

"So if I agree to go on this trip-"

"Oh please do."

"-it would be on the basis of our friendship alone-"

"Our amazing friendship, might I say, our bond is practically unbreakable."

"-it's not to feel like a third-wheel, but to actually be one," Sousuke said, clarifying. There is a pause, and Rin bit his lower lip, mumbling a, "sorta."

"I am leaving."

Rin all but launched himself at Sousuke, pleading and groveling, "please Sousuke, please! I won't ask for anything more for the rest of my life. I beg of you, I have been planning this for months, I can't just let all of this go to waste! My best friend, amore, amigo, dos, prez!"

"I am not coming along this trip with you just because you are insecure about your relationship! To think I am just a side decoration because you don't know if you should try and take your relationship to the next level!" Sousuke snapped, vein pulsing in his temple. Rin shakes his head and leeches himself onto Sousuke's knees while he tries to count to ten and think of happy things, like dogs and protein. Rin was downright shameless, trying to use his friends like that.

"I would never again in my life Sousuke," Rin said, detaching himself to stand up. "You know how serious I am about Haru! I would support you the same way if you ever got a girlfriend!" Rin continued, throwing out all the reasons why being left to your own devices while your friend tries to score points with his lover is a perfectly sound idea.

"That is not happening," Sousuke said, grumbling.

"I demand we throwdown for this," Rin said, holding out his hand in a fist. "One-"

"Rin, that's not fair-"

"Two-"

"Stop-"

"Three!"

 

 

Sousuke stared at the mesh of tent poles and groundsheets and tried to remember what the metal stick was for. He heard laughter from the direction of the forest and forced himself to breathe evenly. Another day with Rin Matsuoka and his boyfriend goggling at each other and he might just pass out from high blood pressure.

He was too kind, too good and Rin just trampled all over his goodwill and took mighty advantage of his being. He wasn't sure what he was thinking, from the trip on the bus to the station, meeting the extremely poker-face boyfriend ("he is just shy.") and even right now, why he had even bothered coming in the first place. Sousuke could be at home, with his comforter, his laptop and his internet, oh god his internet. It didn’t help the sun block he used seemed to attract certain kinds of insects and they were hovering now, above his ear, his hair.

"Sousuke!"

Sousuke stood up and walked over to where Rin and Nanase were standing over a small pile of firewood. Sousuke wondered if he should applaud for good measure when Rin grinned at him, seemingly proud.

"Haru and I collected them, thought I knew what I was doing but Haru pointed out that I was collecting some damp sticks, can you imagine?" Rin said, gazing adoringly at Nanase.

"You weren't ever that bright," Nanase said with a straight face, as he bent to adjust the pile of wood. Sousuke snorted and Rin glared at him, before remembering that he owed Sousuke, big time, for this.

"Haru, let me hold the big sticks- you'll get splinters like that."

"Rin, I am fine."

"No, let me-"

"Yeah okay, go fix the tent, Rin," Sousuke said, shoving the metal stick in his chest. "I will help set up the fire.

"But I collected the firewood!" Rin said, indignant, shutting up as Nanase gave him a look. He sulked, walking towards the direction of the tent mumbling, "I don't even know what the metal stick is for."

Sousuke waited for Rin to go out of earshot before he shuffled closer to Nanase, arranging the dry leaves and rocks.

"So, about Rin," Sousuke said, cracking a few twigs.

"What about him?" Nanase asked.

"Are you serious about him?" Sousuke asked, looking at Nanase intently. As much as an asshole as Rin was, he was kind of his best friend, as told by process of elimination. He guesses it was standard procedure for best friend to question would-be-boyfriend before they move on to meeting the parents.

A faint pink settled on Nanase's cheeks, which surprised Sousuke a little. For the entire day, he had barely seen him crack a smile or show any expression remotely human. He thought Rin's descriptions of him being a little 'shy' was an understatement. Nanase plucked a few leaves from the pile but stared at Sousuke straight in the eye.

"I am," he said.

Sousuke gave a small smirk, sighing.

"I would give the usual threat and say don't break his heart but he has done so much to me I can't imagine what else as revenge," he said and Nanase made a noise that sounded like a horribly muffled laugh.

"But seriously though, don’t hurt him," Sousuke said, "he is stupid but he is-"

"-a melodramatic shoujo heroine," Nanase said, nodding. "I won't, I like him a lot," he continued in a small voice, face flushing. He noticed Sousuke staring at him in awe and he frowned.

"What?"

"And here I thought you were either a robot or some kind of stoic asshole," Sousuke said, "turns out you are alright."

Nanase was about to reply when Rin's distressed yell interrupted the both of them.

"Sousuke! I fixed the tent but I still don’t know what the metal stick is for!"

 

 

The day of the hike starts with mildly depressing weather. Rumbling clouds, gloomy sky. The trio trudged up the side of the mountain, sweating through their shirts and groaning under the weight of their haversacks. Sousuke grimaced as he felt a sharp pain through his left shoulder. The injury acted up whenever he stressed it a bit. Rin glanced over to him, concerned, but he shook his head, waving him away. It was in due time that he would have to tell Rin though. He got the injury a few months back during the summer holidays and he is pretty sure it is not going to go away any time soon. It was a heavy topic that he hated talking about. He clicked his tongue as and felt wetness against his cheek.

Tears?

Oh no, just the rain. Really heavy rain.

The sudden onslaught caught the trio by surprise as the sky unleashed gallons and gallons of water in a torrential downpour. They yelped, pulling out their ponchos as fast as they could and scurrying forward. They were only a quarter way to their next checkpoint and it did not seem like they were going to reach anytime soon. Sousuke bit back thoughts about why he was here again and focused on catching up with Rin, who was attached to Nanase at the hip.

 

 

Sousuke knows. Because God can probably read his mind and he knows that Mother Nature is affiliated with God in some way, that Mother Nature was probably extremely pissed at his expression or lack thereof when he reached their destination. Try as he might to gain some sort of enlightenment from the wondrous presence of nature and its sedimentary rocks but the moment he sees the waterfall, he thinks,

Is this it?

"Haru! You can't swim there, it's dangerous!" Rin called somewhere towards his right.

Sousuke slumped onto the ground, tired, wet and a little disappointed. He expected more of Nature's great architects but he had a hard time seeing past just rock and foamy water. It looked like a different case for Rin and Nanase though. The latter had produced a swimsuit out of thin air and he was running towards the water, hypothermia and sharp rocks be damned. Before Nanase hit the water, he looked back and smiled at Rin fondly, as if to thank him for the trip. Sousuke glanced at Rin and saw him regarding the sight before him with such a tender expression that Sousuke had to look away. He felt as if he was intruding on private time, a decision which, by the way, he had no play in.

He sneezed and decided that he better set up camp before the rain hits again. But before he managed to take a breather, thunder cracked through the sky and he shared a look with Rin. Oh how the world just loves him.

The rain came down on them much heavier than before and it was a sad thing that they couldn't pitch tents right there because of all the surrounding foliage. They backtracked to the nearest flat piece of land but a distant rumble made them still. The ground was vibrating impossibly so and Sousuke only looked up the hill to see brown earth rushing towards them at an extremely fast speed.

But earth can't move by itself- Oh god it's a landslide.

"Move!" he yelled at Rin and Nanase, who were shell shocked. The rapidly darkening sky lit in temporary luminance as lightning cracked through, splitting the sky in bits and pieces. The wet earth beneath their feet seemed to cling onto their boots as they ran desperately down the hill in search of coverage. Mud sloshed around Sousuke's ankles and he was running, panting heavily as the rain beat mercilessly around his ears. He found his heart thudding against his ribcage, so hardly he was sure it was going burst, or that he was going to have a seizure. He glanced frantically around for his friends and what he saw through the heavy veil of falling rain made his heart stop cold.

"Rin!" he cried, as if that was going to help him get up. Nanase was by his side, tugging and pulling but Rin was stuck. Stuck on something in a thunderstorm and a goddamn impending landslide. He rushed to their side and saw that Rin was tugging at lace of his boot that got caught on a fallen log.

"Can't get-get it out," he seethed, trying to tug his foot out of the boot. Sousuke cursed and grabbed his swiss army knife, bending to cut the lace.

One,

"Sousuke-"

Another one down.

"Sousuke stop-"

"Shut your mouth!" Sousuke made out as he forced his trembling hands to slice through the tangled laces. It was a second too soon when he cut free the boot and pushed Rin up and Nanase forward and forced the both of them down the path, him following as well-

But his foot met air and he felt himself falling sideways instead, Nanase and Rin disappearing quickly from his line of vision. It must have been a side cliff, somewhere; everything was so fast and dark, horribly painful, frightening. Sousuke felt himself in a cycle; hit, roll, smack, rinse, repeat.  It might have occurred to him that he blacked out halfway through, only to wake up gasping, feeling the pain in his head and lungs yet numb everywhere else - his arms, legs. Especially his legs.

 

 

It was here that his life flashed back to the present, laying on the cold wet soil. He breathed in small gasps, the air entering his broken lungs in painful pockets a reminder of how he was still alive. It felt as if standing at the edge of Death's door made him a man full of contradictions. He thought about how much he wanted to murder Rin. A few seconds later he thought about what he would give to see Rin a last time.  He thought about the untouched gym equipment at home after the accident with his shoulder. Later he thought about how he should have tried again. He wondered if Rin and Nanase managed to find shelter from the landslide. He prayed, antagonistic in his last moments, that they had brought themselves to safety. The rain was icy pellets, undaunted in their beating.

Midst the cold droplets that slid past the pale face, a few warm ones snuck their way through, falling and disappearing into the earth.

And then all was black.

 

 

 

The light that snuck through his eyelids was a relentless bully. Allowing his eyes to slid open bit by bit took great effort, but all he could see was light.

Am I in heaven?

Sousuke tried breathing carefully, trying to remember how he died. He was with Rin and Nanase, then there was the rain, the waterfall, the landsli- oh god the landslide. His eyes protested against the bright light and iridescent circles and stars bounded across his vision. The light changed, forming an ebony brown roof. Sousuke felt a numbing pain in his lungs but it was nothing hard to deal with. He twisted his neck to look around and realized that he was in a small japanese styled room, tatami mats and an ornate screen by the side. It was with blinding relief that he could feel his hands and legs as he shifted, finding himself on a comfortable futon. Sousuke was left wondering if heaven took into account your place of origin when the door to his left slid open.

If his throat was dry then, it was hella parched now.

Standing at the door was this holy being in a simple white yukata. He had emerald green eyes that were startling clear and reminded him of the greenest forests, the lightest twilight. They shone with the brilliance of the gleaming bike Sousuke got for his eighth birthday, but had the gentle tilt of the lullaby his grandmother used to sing. Holy being had olive green hair that looked soft to touch and he has these cheekbones and this really accented jaw. Holy being had a gentle smile and holy being was- oh my god holy being was looking straight at him.

Definitely in heaven.

"I am so glad you woke up!" Holy being said in an excited voice, but it was no more than a whisper because holy being was extremely considerate and beautiful and did not want to disturb Sousuke's rest. Holy being had a voice that felt like it was a humane manifestation of all the good in the world placed in the tiniest box, residing within the depths of that glorious throat.

Holy being turned to shut the door and-

Holy-

Holy being had a tail.