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if home is where the heart is

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The road spreads out before them like an ocean, rolling off into the horizon in concrete waves, stirred into flickering motion by the heat haze of the afternoon. Looking out at it like this, Yuu finds himself instilled with an almost childish sense of excitement, like they could go anywhere in the whole world.

Like reality would ever be so giving.

“Hey,” he murmurs, voice dry. “Where are we going?”

A few seconds tick by, and then Mika glances back at him over his shoulder, a small smile on his face. “For now,” he says, voice soft, “we need to just get as far away as we can.” He turns his eyes back to the open road, and Yuu can no longer see his expression. “I'm sure – there are people who will want to come after us.”

Why? Yuu thinks, but says nothing.

-

When it happened there had been no rational thought behind it, just the fervent pounding of his own heart, so overwhelmingly loud he swore he could feel it rattling through all of his bones. No weighing of his options, just one request – run away with me – and one answer, yes, always yes. His fingers had formed trembling fists in the folds of Mika's clothes as they ran, him curled helplessly into Mika's arms, closing his eyes as if that would block out the roaring din of everything they were turning their back on. And after that – the world flashing past him in blurs, the laborious heaving of Mika's chest as he rested his head against it. Everything had seemed surreal, the angles of Mika's face blurred into a dreamlike haze as he glanced up at it, scarcely able to believe this was really happening.

And when they had ran far enough away, or when Mika had finally exhausted his unwavering stamina, Yuu had slipped from his arms, coming to stand on the ground with trembling legs. But they buckled beneath him as Mika flung himself into his chest with unexpected force, sending them both crashing to the floor.

“Yuu-chan,” Mika had murmured into his chest, voice hoarse, “Yuu-chan, Yuu-chan -” like a mantra, like he was desperately grabbing onto the sound of Yuu's name, like it was the only thing tethering them to the earth. Slowly, Yuu's arms had come up and curled around Mika, wrapping around his back, pulling him tight against him.

“Yeah,” he said, and as he closed his eyes he felt the hot trickle of tears down the sides of his face. “I'm here, Mika.”

He vowed he would not let go again.

-

They spend that first day in a state of almost dreamlike disbelief. Every few moments Yuu finds himself overwhelmed anew with a wave of stunned elation, unable to fully believe that this person before him is really Mikaela. He finds himself reaching out unconsciously, fingers itching with the urge to touch him, just to ascertain that he's here, tangible and vivid and alive.

It wasn't like he'd never imagined it before – that Mika would have survived, somehow, through some miracle – but he imagined it in the way he liked to imagine the entire vampire population dropping dead overnight, or the world magically resetting to normal like it had all been a bad dream. A pipe dream, despairingly impossible, always beyond his reach. But the world has twisted into some rare, unbelievable miracle, and every inch of Yuu feels alight with breathless, euphoric gratitude.

(Still, even in his wildest dreams he never imagined that when he met Mika again, he would no longer be human.

But it's fine. Mika is Mika, no matter what.)

-

“We need to get away from the capital,” Mika says, later. “I think it would be best if we went north, I guess... I don't think it would be good to move towards Osaka.”

Yuu nods. “Okay.” He gets the impression Mika hasn't really thought through what they're going to do from here on out, beyond the basics. It's a far cry from the Mika he knew when they were younger, who was thoughtful and methodical, a stark contrast against Yuu's brazen nature. And then he thinks about himself – about what he's left behind – and realizes he doesn't really have room to talk.

He wonders, idly, what the others are doing now. If they're looking for him. If they even want to look for him.

He doesn't realize he's stopped walking until Mika himself stops, turning back to look at him with a small frown upon his face. “What's wrong?”

Yuu shakes his head. “No, it's nothing.” He tries to push away his thoughts, but they linger, clinging to him like cobwebs. “Hey - remember that time I really wanted to go to Hokkaido?”

Mika smiles. “Yes, and I told you someone who complains incessantly whenever the heating goes off for more than 5 minutes wouldn't survive a Hokkaido winter.”

“Shut up,” Yuu says, elbowing him gently in the side, and Mika laughs. It's small and all too brief, but it's the first genuine laugh Yuu has heard from him since they were reunited (the first he's heard in four years), and the sound of it rings pleasantly in the chambers of Yuu's heart.

“Why did you want to go to Hokkaido so badly, anyway?” Mika asks, sounding curious.

“Hell if I know,” Yuu shrugs. “I was like, eight.”

They continue walking in silence for a few seconds. Mika's shoulder brushes gently against his.

“I guess,” he continues softly, “I guess I just wanted to go anywhere, you know? I wanted to get out. It didn't matter where.”

The gravel beneath his feet crunches with a satisfactory sound. He feels a bead of sweat slide down the curve of his jaw and raises a hand to wipe his brow.

“Do you still want to go?”

The question takes him by surprise and he turns his head, mouth parted slightly. Mika meets his gaze with a gentle smile. “To Hokkaido.”

Yuu snorts. “What – we're gonna walk all the way there? To Hokkaido ? Have you lost it?”

“Maybe,” Mika replies, but his smile doesn't waver. “But what's stopping us?”

And Yuu feels that feeling bubbling up inside of him again – the feeling that they could go anywhere together, like the whole world is theirs for the taking. It bubbles in his veins, effervescent and overwhelming, and curves his mouth into a smile.

“Okay,” he says, with a laugh, “Let's go to Hokkaido.”

-

'Are you content with running away?'

-

They sleep wherever they can find shelter; in the decrepit remnants of buildings long-abandoned, deep within a tangled maze of alleys in some forgotten village, in the quiet darkness of a hollowed-out vehicle they find discarded at the side of the road. Most nights, sleep comes intermittently for Yuu; he stirs back into consciousness at the smallest sound, nerves constantly on edge. Mika, at least, sleeps unexpectedly soundly – but when he wakes, he often looks more tired than when he woke up.

There are plenty of things for them to talk about, and Yuu finds he doesn't want to bring up any of them. He can see the invisible scars that Mika bears, etched into his face as clearly as if they were corporeal. His face twists into the edges of a scowl when he thinks Yuu isn't looking at him, and in his sleep his face is distorted into agonizing expressions. He thinks of the Mika he knew when they were kids, who smiled gently even in the face of whatever hell was brought down upon him. He wonders, idly, if that boy is dead now. He doesn't know. He sees pieces of the old Mika come through at times, flashing like light falling across shards of shattered glass, and thinks maybe not everything is lost.

Yuu almost resents himself for thinking like that – in terms of the old Mika and this Mika. There's only one Mika, and it's the boy sleeping in front of him, brow trembling as he wades through some fragmented dream.

He reaches out to grab Mika's hand without thinking about it, gripping Mika's slender fingers in his own calloused ones. The act wakes him, unintentionally, and Mika's eyes flutter open.

“Yuu-chan?” he murmurs, drowsily. “What's wrong?”

Yuu squeezes his hand. “Nothing,” he tells him, voice cracking in the quiet. “Nothing. Go back to sleep.”

He stays awake the rest of the night. He does not let go of Mika's hand.

-

In the daylight they travel onwards, following quiet paths that wind further north. They stay away from larger towns, and even the smaller ones for the most part, save for when they need to venture in for necessities. Mikaela is always on high alert whenever they approach any sort of settlement, but it's in vain; they are yet to encounter a single other individual, human or otherwise. Like this, Yuu can almost make himself believe that it's just the two of them – like they're the only people left in the world.

You know that's not true, a voice in the back of his mind reprimands him. He swallows the thought down.

They follow the signposts at the side of the roads, rusted over and weather-torn from years of disuse. It's almost like they're going on a trip – and if Yuu closes his eyes, he can almost see it; the two of them, in the thick of summer, wandering through the warmth of the streets, perhaps with the others from the orphanage still trailing behind them -

But when he opens his eyes, his puerile dream evaporates into the sweeping twilight. Idiot, he thinks. There's no use thinking of things that will never come back.

-

One day, they find an abandoned cottage, laying isolated in the middle of nowhere. Yuu decides to scale its walls, his feet tangling in the vines that crawl over its surface as he clambers up its uneven, weathered bricks. Mika protests, but goes along with him anyway, won over by the child-like exuberance in his eyes.

“Ah, crap, I cut myself,” Yuu mutters as he swings through the first floor window. A trail of blood trickles down his arm from a small cut near his wrist. Mikaela watches its path with narrowed eyes, mouth tight, and only drags his gaze away when Yuu drops his wrist to his side. They stand in comfortable silence for a while, staring out the frame of the cottage's shattered window. In the distance, the sun is beginning to disappear beyond the horizon, taking with it the last fragments of the dusk's gentle hues. Overhead, the stars are tearing open the darkness, their glow brighter than Yuu has ever seen before, unstifled by the pollution of the cities he once knew.

“It's beautiful, isn't it,” Mika murmurs, and when Yuu glances at him he follows his gaze not to the stars overhead but down to the overgrown state of the cottage's front garden. The fences have been worn away by the years, with leafy tendrils curling possessively around them.

“The way nature is growing into these manmade things,” Mika continues, quietly. “Almost like the earth is fighting back. Like nature's claiming back what's rightfully hers.”

Yuu can't find the words to speak, silenced by the subtle wonder in Mika's voice. Mika has always been a few shades more poetic than him, more in tune with the depths of his heart. He finds himself overwhelmed with a quiet gratitude towards the fact that these years of misery have not crushed this facet out of him. He wants to shelter it – to coax this gentle, wondrous side of Mika's heart into full bloom – but he cannot find the words, and he merely replies, “Yeah,” cursing himself for his ineptitude.

-

As they travel further north, the days grow colder. One night, they sit beneath the shelter of a bridge and spark a fire, huddling around the warmth, grateful for the way it sends waves of heat rippling over their faces.

“Do you miss them?”

The question comes suddenly, giving him no time to prepare. He opens his mouth to ask Mika who he's referring to, but closes it again immediately; they both know exactly what he means. He tries not to think about the friends he left behind, and when he does, he makes an effort not to let it show – but Mika sees more than he lets on, apparently. Yuu gives a bitter smile.

“Yeah,” he admits, pressing his face to his knees. “Yeah, I do.”

Mika says nothing, waiting for him to continue. The fire crackles on, oblivious to the weight of their conversation.

“It's just,” Yuu begins, not quite sure how to put his thoughts into words. “They weren't just my teammates, you know? Well, I mean, they were – but – they were my friends, too,” he murmurs, his arms tightening around his legs as he hugs them to his chest. “They were my friends, and I just – left -”

“You did nothing wrong,” Mika says, unusually loudly, and he reaches out to grab Yuu's arm. Yuu almost jumps at the touch. “You were – that wasn't the right place for you.”

Yuu looks at his face, at the desperate set of his eyes, the slight anger in the curve of his brows. He knows that Mika despises vampires, sees it in the hateful curl of his lip, the trembling hardness in his eyes in the rare times he recounts his memories of the last few years – but he also seems to extend that hatred to humans, for reasons Yuu doesn't understand. What is it like to live like that? Caught in an abyss of hatred and loneliness – and to stand in the balance between each side? He feels overwhelmingly sad, all of a sudden.

“Yeah,” he breathes, placing his hand atop Mika's where it lays on his arm. “Thanks, Mika.”

When they sleep that night, Yuu lays with his back facing Mika, staring out into the blurry darkness of the night. He hears Mika shifting closer to him as though drawing closer to a flame – whether it's unconsciously or not, he can't tell, unable to discern from his breathing whether he's asleep or not. But then he feels a gentle tug at the clothes on his back as Mika reaches out to grasp them.

“You don't need them,” Mika whispers, voice quiet but firm. Unsure of whether to respond or not, Yuu continues to feign sleep; eventually, Mika's grip falls slack and the slight pull at his back disappears. He doesn't move, and then, just when he's convinced Mika has fallen asleep -

“You don't need anyone but me.”

His voice is so quiet that Yuu almost doesn't hear him, but there's a raw edge to his voice, something bordering on desperation, its earlier firmness gone. Yuu closes his eyes as Mika's breathing evens out into that of unmistakable unconsciousness.

Who are you trying to convince? he thinks as he follows Mika down into dreaming.

-

Asuramaru comes to him in his dreams. Yuu tries to weld his heart shut, but he slips in between its cracks, digging into the recesses of his mind.

“Isn't there something you're meant to be doing?”

No. This is all that matters now.

A cackle. “Where's that resilience you showed me in the past? Where's that vengeance I liked so much?”

It doesn't matter. That isn't important anymore.

“Huh. Maybe you're a lot more boring than I thought. If you keep this up, I'll take over your body, you know.”

Shut up.

His laughter is shrill as he is ejected from the dream. “Have it your way. But I'll tell you one thing -” and Asuramaru's smile is wicked, carving into Yuu's memory - “there's no way you can save him like this.”

-

It is only days later that Yuu really begins to notice how frail Mika looks. Oh, he knows, of course, the incredible, inhuman strength that lies between his surface, having seen it firsthand, having witnessed his indomitable agility before his own eyes. But just to look at him, like this – he looks so fragile, like his bones could bend and snap under the slightest pressure. His skin is sallow and pale, his face gaunt with some deep-seated fatigue that seems to have settled into his very bones. And Mika seems like all bone, his skin stretched taut over the sharp angles of his elbows, the dips and curves of his knees.

“Hey, Mika,” Yuu starts, one evening, as his eyes study the outline of Mika's profile, cast into warm light by the sunset. “Have you been -”

The words eating properly die uselessly on his tongue and he trails off into silence. No , he thinks, Mika doesn't eat – hasn't eaten since their journey began, in fact – and as Mika raises a thin eyebrow at him it clicks into place.

“You need to drink,” Yuu states, his voice no longer carrying a question – and instantly, like he's flipped a switch, Mika's face snaps into a guarded, defensive expression.

“No,” he says, and he draws back from Yuu, just a couple of centimetres. “No – I'm fine.”

“You aren't,” Yuu insists, reaching out a hand to grasp at Mika's wrist gently. “You can't just ignore it, you know – you're so exhausted, you can't keep going like this – let me -”

“I'm fine,” Mika hisses, and it's the first time Yuu's ever heard such venom in his voice. His grip falls slack in surprise, and even Mika looks slightly shocked at the voice that just came out of his mouth, but he doesn't falter. They stand in uncomfortable silence for a few seconds before Mika turns away, hiding his face from sight. “Don't mention it again. Please. Yuu.”

He feels the weight of the missing honorific, the serious tone of Mika's words, and nods. “...Okay.”

-

“What did you do?”

Mika turns to him, raises a questioning eyebrow, wordlessly asking for clarification. Yuu waves a hand in front of his face.

“Sorry, that was – I mean,” he trails off, tentatively, not sure of how to phrase it. He tries to avoid asking about the last few years for both of their sakes, but his curiosity itches at him uncomfortably. “What did you used to do, back in... back in the city? You know, for -” he nearly says for fun and the thought leaves him feeling incredibly stupid - “When you were by yourself, you know.”

Mika turns away slightly, leaving Yuu's eyes to linger upon his profile. There are a few seconds before he answers, and Yuu is about to tell him it doesn't matter when Mika speaks again. “I read,” he replies, quietly. “Sometimes. There wasn't really much to do. I thought about -” He falls silent, suddenly, and turns his head further away. He sounds more tired than he has in days. “...Nothing.”

Yuu stares at him for a while. Only now is it beginning to really sink in how alone Mika must have been, all these past four years – four years spent in silent, isolated anger, waiting for a chance that might not ever come. He thinks of the little boy who reached out his hand and befriended him with an unyielding, persistent determination, and his heart aches.

He wonders, foolishly, if Mika would've gotten along with his friends. He would've liked to introduce him to them. Was there a possibility where that could've happened? Was there a path he was meant to have taken? He doesn't know. He stares at the hunch of Mika's thin shoulders and before he realizes what he is doing Yuu finds himself stumbling over to him in the low light of the room.

“Yuu-chan -” Mika begins, startled, but he falls silent as Yuu pulls him to his chest. He presses his lips to the top of Mika's head, gently, and wishes there was some way to fill this aching hole.

-

“Well, someone certainly looks down in the dumps.”

When he opens his eyes, Shinoa is standing over him, the edges of her figure cast into halation as she blocks the sun from his view. From where he's lying like this, her gentle, perpetual smile looms upside-down, strangely disconcerting. Yuu pushes himself up via his elbows, turning around and peering up at her. “...'S that meant to mean?”

“I wonder,” she hums, spinning on her heel. Her skirt flutters and billows with the motion. Yuu clambers to his feet and follows after her as she walks away. His body feels strangely lethargic, a sense of dysphoria seeping through his veins. He can't quite put his finger on what's wrong about this – when he tries to reach out, the answer slips through his hands like water, impossible to hold.

“Where are you going?” Yuu asks her.

“I wonder,” she says again, and he can't see her face but he can hear the smirk. “Where do you want to go?”

And it's that which clicks the pieces into place - “Oh,” Yuu says, slowly. “This is a dream, isn't it?”

“Ding ding ding,” she replies, voice light, and her hair falls down her back as she cranes her neck around to look at him. “Though I wonder what it says, if you're dreaming of being back here. Do you want to come back?”

Yuu suddenly finds his mouth is very dry. He clears his throat. “Maybe,” he hears his voice say, without even thinking about doing it. “But – I don't know if I'd be allowed to, I guess.” He isn't entirely sure of the army's policy on desertion, but he imagines it wouldn't mean anything good for him. In any case, Guren would kill him. Verbally, and then physically.

“Hmm,” Shinoa murmurs, still smiling. “You're right. Maybe we wouldn't even want you back, anyway.”

“Get lost,” Yuu mutters, and she laughs, the sound ringing out like a chime.

“Maybe I will,” she replies. “Maybe it's not me you want to talk to, after all.” The memory twirls around to face him fully, tilts her head, looks right at him. There is something unbearably sad in her eyes. “Who do you want me to be?”

“I -”

Yuu doesn't know how to respond. Shinoa smiles, and then she shifts, the features of her face melting seamlessly into those of another, and Yoichi stands, looking at him with trembling brows.

Or maybe, Yuu hears a voice say, and then Yoichi turns to Kimizuki, to Mitsuba, to Guren, to so many people he remembers – and then the figure before him becomes Mika, twelve years old again, terrified and trembling and staring up at Yuu with terror etched into his face.

“All the people you've left behind,” Shinoa whispers to him, herself again, arms thrown around his neck as she croons into his ear. “Funny, isn't it? When you know so well what it means to be alone.”

He wakes with a start, sweat trickling down the curve of his brow. Next to him, Mikaela slumbers on, oblivious.

-

Days later, maybe weeks – time tends to shift into some unfathomable blur when you're living the way they are, Yuu finds – Mika collapses and can't summon the strength to get back up again, and Yuu puts his foot down.

“That's it,” he says, dropping to the floor alongside him, “Mika. Drink my blood.”

Mika instantly blanches, weakly struggling away from Yuu. “No – Yuu-chan, no -”

“Be quiet,” he replies firmly. He stretches out a hand and smooths Mika's hair with his fingers. “You can't even stand up, look at you – you think you can keep going like this?”

Mika doesn't reply. He gradually manages to push himself up into a sitting position and avoids Yuu's gaze. “You don't understand.”

“Understand what? You need to drink blood, right, what else is there to underst-”

“I won't treat you the way they treated us,” Mika hisses, voice trembling. “I swore to myself that I never, ever would – I can't use you like that, Yuu, like livestock -

Yuu flicks him on the forehead, gently, and when Mika's head whips round to look at him he's smiling. “Idiot,” he reprimands, softly. “It's not using me if I'm offering. Besides, even if you were using me – I'd rather you did that than carried on being too weak to move.”

Mika stares at him wordlessly, and his eyes swim with emotion. “You don't,” he begins, voice cracking, “you don't know how easy it is for th- for us to get carried away – I could kill you, Yuu-chan,” he breathes, voice desperate. Yuu leans forward, presses their foreheads together.

“I trust you,” he says, simply. “I always will.” He tugs Mika closer to him, pulling him into his lap so that Mika is close to straddling him. With one hand he shrugs off his jacket and turns his head, exposing the long, curve of his neck. Mika swallows, and there is something dissonantly feral within the haze of his eyes.

“Yuu-chan,” Mika murmurs. “Are you – are you really -”

“You know how stubborn I am, right?” Yuu replies, mouth curving into a smile. “I won't take no for an answer.”

He sees the acquiescence settle into Mika's face before he moves, visible in the way the indignant, angry desperation falls from his face. It's replaced with a desperation of a different hue, something carnal and raw that makes Yuu swallow anxiously. Slowly, with torturous hesitation, Mika leans in towards him, and the sharp point of his fangs glisten, catching the light of the late afternoon.

When his skin splinters beneath Mika's bite, he winces, one hand coming up to tangle his fingers in the waves of Mika's hair. The pain is nothing unbearable – distantly, he thinks that he would endure ten, a hundred times this, if it was for Mika's sake. The strangest part is the fire beneath his skin where Mika is biting it, the scrape of his teeth against his nape triggering a shower of sparks like electricity. The act seems to last an agonizing eternity, and through the sensation he recognizes how desperately Mika must be restraining himself; the thought is punctuated by a rush of affection, stark against the strange intimacy of Mika's mouth at his neck. Eventually, Mika pulls back, eyes glazed, and buries his head in Yuu's chest, his breaths heaving. Yuu leans down and smiles against the pale skin of Mika's forehead.

-

He shivers at night after Mika feeds on him, the cold permeating his body more easily after losing all that blood. Wordlessly, Mika rolls over and wraps himself around him, pulling Yuu into his warmth. His hand finds Mika's in the darkness and clings to it.

“Thank you,” Mika murmurs, drowsily, and then, “Sorry.”

“Dumbass,” Yuu tells him, but his smile can be heard in his voice. “You never need to apologize to me.”

Mika's hand squeezes his as he drifts into darkness.

-

“There's Ursa Minor.”

“Huh? Where? Ursa – doesn't that mean, uh, what was it – deer? Wolf?”

Mika laughs, knocking his shoulder against Yuu's own gently. They're sitting on the roof of some abandoned mall, watching as the stars overhead bloom into existence. “You're just saying random animals. It means bear."

“Where the heck's the bear?” Yuu asks, frowning. Mika sighs affectionately, raising a finger to trace the constellation.

“You see those four stars, there, forming a rectangle? That's the body. And the three stars next to it, they're the tail.”

“That sucks,” Yuu remarks flatly. “Who came up with that? The heck kind of bear has a body like that? If I saw a bear looking anything like that I'd be terrified.”

“I think you'd be terrified if you saw any kind of bear.”

“Like hell I would,” he argues indignantly, but his complaints are silenced by the smile on Mika's face as he leans against him.

“Then again,” Mika says softly, “you never did appreciate things like this. I remember when I told you the story of Tanabata, and you were all like – that sucks, why can't they just go and meet anyway, who cares about the old guy, or whatever -”

“Why the heck do you remember that?” Yuu cuts him off, embarrassed, and Mika laughs. “Look, I was – what, 9?”

“I know, I know,” Mika soothes him, and his hair tickles Yuu's neck as he shifts. “I remember saying something about how that wasn't the point, it was enough just knowing they were going to meet again one day, and that you were just too insensitive to understand – and you got mad at me for that,” he recounts, voice fond.

“That sounds like me,” Yuu admits. A few lingering seconds pass, and his smile falls slightly from his face as he gazes up at the sky. “I think – I think I can understand a bit better now.”

Mika makes no response to that, at least at first. The silence stretches out before them like the swathe of stars overhead. The night wind curls around them, but Yuu does not shiver, warmed by the feeling of Mika pressed against his side.

Eventually, he opens his mouth to say something, but when he turns to Mika he is silenced by the look on his face – pensive and distant, mouth parted as if he's on the verge of speaking. He turns to look at Yuu, slowly, and when he does his eyes are soft and warm and shot through with some deep-rooted sadness.

“I always knew you were alive,” he says, and his voice is very small in the silence of the night. “I always knew I'd see you again. I never stopped believing that. Not even for a day.”

His hands reach out to grasp at Yuu's jacket, and his grip is trembling slightly. Yuu swallows, the weight of these words sinking in. He thinks of Mika spending the past four years, all alone, twisted by hatred and sadness and loss – and through all of that, never once letting go of his belief in Yuu, of his wish to see him again one day. He curses himself, nonsensically, for having no idea. There are so many things he wants to say to that – I'm sorry, thank you for believing in me for so long, I'm so sorry I didn't find you sooner – but the words die half-formed in his throat, his brain unable to transform his shapeless feelings into speech. So instead, wordlessly, he raises a hand to Mika's face, his thumb gently stroking his cheek, and kisses him, there, under the stars, slow and tentative and painfully gentle. He has not known home for a very long time, has almost forgotten the feeling of having somewhere concrete and unconditionally safe to return to – but he imagines that this, the feeling of Mika's lips against his, the warmth of his body against his own – this is what coming home feels like.

It feels like an age before they pull apart, or maybe only a second. When they part, Mika's eyes are wide, and Yuu can hear his blood pounding in his head.

“Sorry,” he says, instantly, drawing back marginally, “Was that okay, was that -”

“Yes,” Mika breathes, cutting him off, pulling Yuu back towards him. He kisses him again, clumsy and brief and hopelessly warm. “Always.”

-

Yes. This is enough for me.

'Suit yourself. If that's really what you believe.'

-

The world could have stopped then, on that night with the stars looming far above them, but it does not. Time continues its blurry march, merciless in its advancing. Somewhere, far behind them now, the war they left behind continues to rage, even in their absence.

Yuu's dreams stop, the door slammed shut by his own hands. Some nights, on the precipice between unconsciousness and reality, he thinks he feels something stirring within him, some darkness lodged deep within his being. It grows louder as the weeks slip by.

He ignores it. They keep moving, hands locked together as they walk as though they are desperate to confirm the other's existence through touch. At night, he kisses his own blood from Mika's mouth and whispers, “We're going to be all right.”