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The Spiral on the Edge

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When consciousness slowly returned you to this plane of reality, you were unsure whether you had been asleep or unconscious. While you could not remember dreaming, you had a distinct feeling of time having passed, which spoke for the former. Opening your eyes was a chore, but you could already feel your heartbeat speeding up at the uncertainty of where you were going to find yourself.

The familiar ingrain wallpaper on the barely illuminated ceiling coupled with the barely-there weight of the thin blanket covering you brought knowledge of your present location. You were… home. Frantically, you tried to remember how you got here, coming up with nothing but the not-quite-quantifiable feeling that you were missing memories that would explain everything.

Your related attempt to sit up proved more difficult than expected as pain consumed the left side of your head. All in all, it was a little as if there were an invisible weight trying to keep you in a lying position. You felt so, so worn.

“[Name]?” You knew that voice, despite its unusually meek quality. What was Katsuki doing here? He had no business being here, in this place, where there were countless reminders of all the parts of your life you kept separate from him, where there were blister packs in various states of fullness lying on the nightstand, where there –

Thinking hurt.

There was a hand on your shoulder, pulling you back down onto the mattress. You let yourself be pulled, putting up no resistance and closing your eyes again. You felt all kinds of wrong, and trying to keep your eyes open was not helping.

“You’re home. You’re safe.” If you had been able to properly get your thoughts in order, perhaps you would have questioned how unlike him those words were, but thinking was becoming harder by the instant.

For now, your body helped itself to the rest it desperately needed. Already, you were falling back asleep.

This time around, you dreamed vividly, as if your mind were trying to make up for its period of inaction. The meaning of the shapes and colors in your head was already beginning to fade the second you woke up once more.

You felt like half a person again, which was more than could have been said of you earlier.

Still, you were quite weak as you opened your eyes properly. You were in your own bed, but not alone, which was an anomaly of great proportions. Next to your head, sitting against the headboard with crossed legs, was Katsuki. His head was leaned back against the wall, eyes closed, mouth slightly open. His breathing was quiet and even.

How the fuck had it ever come to this? This was not what you had wanted, at all. Now he had taken a step behind the veil you had so carefully crafted, and that was irreversible. You had a strong premonition that this was going to mean the end of whatever the two of you were.

You slowly untangled yourself from your blanket, that small amount of movement already exhausting you to no end. But you needed to use the bathroom. Placing one shaky foot on the floor, you were almost up when a cramp shot through your calf. Through pure instinct, you pulled your leg back up onto the bed, pressing the heel of your hand against the quivering muscle to alleviate the pain and make this stop.

Katsuki groaned, awoken by the sounds of your pain.

Already, there was a hand on your shoulder again, distracting you from the slowly fading pain and making you turn your head to him. Your gaze was still a little unfocused, but you could still make out the blankness of his expression. You had never seen him expressionless. It almost made you shiver.

“Are you okay?” he asked, voice as devoid of assessable emotion as his mien.

“Kind of,” you tested your voice. Your tongue was too dry and too heavy for your mouth. “Not really. Maybe?” Speaking was harder than thinking, but both were possible again at this point. “Was I…” You swallowed, but it did nothing to make your mouth feel less like a desert. “…awake before? Or did I dream that?”

“For about a minute. Remember anything else?”

You searched your brain, trying to get everything that had become jumbled back into order. (Not an easy feat, considering your mind might best be likened to an M. C. Escher painting, even on the best of days. Today was a particularly bad day.)

“I remember being outside. Then dancing.” You also remembered leaving your drink unsupervised like an idiot, but did not want to put the words out there. You were able to reprehend yourself well enough without saying it out loud. “I think I hit my head?” Reaching up, you could feel a bump near your crest. Touching it stung, making you pull air through your clenched teeth. “But nothing else,” you finished your incomplete retelling of last night’s events.

“You were really fucked up all of a sudden. You fell into a wall at the club. I caught you before you fell again, but I used too much force.” There was still no change in his disturbingly calm tone as he pointed to your right upper arm. You followed the indicated path with your eyes and found bruises that clearly resembled fingers there. Lifting your left hand and putting the pads your fingers on the marks, you silently remarked that he did have big hands.

He had not apologized, but it was implied.

When you said nothing, he kept chronologizing the timeline of what had happened. “You couldn’t fucking walk, and you almost couldn’t fucking talk, so I got you out of there. I was gonna take you to my place, but you kept saying ‘home’ like a broken record.” He paused. You pulled your knees to your chest, wrapping your arms around them and resting your chin on top. It was anything from unsettling to downright wrong to be told about things you had experienced without being able to form any coherent memory of them, even now. “I got the address from your ID.”

Your carefully crafted front had been a house of cards, and it had crumbled without you there to maintain it. It was difficult to decide whether to be more upset about this or about the fact that someone had apparently thought you passable enough a victim to spike your drink. Both made you feel incredibly powerless.

“I think someone drugged me.” The words had escaped you before you had had a chance to reconsider them. You did not appreciate the emotional tone your voice had taken on, did not like to be forced into such vulnerability.

Thankfully, your body was willing to remind you that you had a good excuse to flee the scene for just a moment. Once more, you moved to get up, more successful this time, though you were still shaky on your legs. You put one hand against the wall for support as you had to concentrate hard to set one foot in front of the other.

“Where the fuck are you going?” Katsuki asked, his choice of words – as per usual – not a good indicator of whether he was actually angry or not. At some point, he had stood up and was now hovering behind you.

“Bathroom.” You were not so much being curt as you were simply too exhausted to form longer sentences. “I’d like to piss on my own, though.” You were already combusting internally from the embarrassment of having been dependent on him. Anything more, and you would die of shame.

His exasperation was tangible. “Keep the door unlocked, idiot. If you’re not back in ten, I’m coming to get you, and I don’t give a fuck whether you’ve got your pants down or not.”

While going about your business, you held your head in your hands, trying to make sense of everything. Already, you were thinking you had been too abrasive towards him just now. He was always blunt and vulgar, and you knew perfectly well that he was not trying to talk down to you. If anything, he was probably unsettled by last night’s events, maybe even worried. (You hated it when people worried about you. It was even worse to imagine him of all people worrying about you. But he had no way of knowing that.)

You washed your hands and wiped your face with a wet cloth, ridding your skin of the crudest share of ruined make-up. After that, you drank about one liter of cold water straight from the tap. Then, you used some mouthwash, the imagined exertion of using a toothbrush already too much in your current state. Without your allotted ten minutes having passed, you stepped back into the main room of your small apartment.

“Hey,” you said and then paused for a moment because you had caught yourself wanting to call him by a nickname, but all that had come to mind was lover, which was way too intimate to say aloud. You sat down on the side of your bed and habitually reached for your phone, which was exactly where it was supposed to be – plugged into the charger next to your bed. No new messages, a fact you were thankful for right then.

“Thanks for charging my phone.” That was not what you had been wanting to say, but you meant it. “And thank you for getting me home safe.” That was what you had been wanting to say, and you also meant it.

While you began your google search, he answered to only your latter declaration of gratitude. “What the hell was I supposed to do, fuck off and leave you there?”

You were unsure whether he could see your bitter smile from his position. “That’s probably what whoever drugged me was hoping for.”

“But why go for a woman who obviously isn’t alone?”

Discussing the precise parameters of the attempted assault on you made you feel uneasy and very empty inside. “Who the fuck knows. Maybe they thought that you didn’t actually know me, and if I were out of it, you’d leave me there. Or maybe they just thought I seemed easy.”

“I’m gonna find and murder that fucker. And don’t even start with that ‘blaming yourself’ bullshit. You’re not easy.”

“I am, and you should know that better than anyone.” You were headed for a fight, you realized. And despite your head still not feeling quite right, you welcomed it. You preferred a quick and painful ending to a slow fadeout any day.

“Bullshit. Fuck that. And stop telling me I know shit. I know fuck-all about you. I had to check your ID for your address and last name, for fuck’s sake. And we’ve been fucking for seven months! Also, what the fuck are you doing?” He was referring to you still typing on your phone. “At least look at me while we’re talking!”

Since the end had now officially begun, you felt little inclination to keep information confidential anymore. “I’m looking up the most common types of roofies and trying to find out whether there’s a risk of adverse interaction with my antipsychotics.”

He did not know how to properly react to that information, if his silence was any indication.

“Fuck it,” you continued rather than to wait for him to think of something to say. “It’s not like I’m not gonna take my meds.” You’d been there before, and you were not keen on a replay of that spectacle, regardless of whether you were risking adverse effects or not.

One (surprisingly small) yellow pill later, you finally settled in properly next to him, back against the headboard.

“Look, Katsuki. When I went home with you for the first time, I assumed that it’d be a one-time thing. And then, when it wasn’t, I still thought that that… spark, or whatever, between us would eventually flicker out, and that we’d grow bored and stop seeing each other. I wasn’t planning on you becoming a fucking seven-month-stand.”

He made a sound then that was parts snicker and parts derision. Still, he shuffled closer, until his upper arm was pressed against your own. His skin seemed cold, but yours was colder. Fair enough, you thought, before continuing.

“And I don’t really like sharing anything about myself, because, to be frank, I’m not in the greatest place right now. I’m way better than I used to be, but not… good. And since we weren’t together or anything, it was easy to reason with myself that I didn’t need to tell you anything about me. And to be fair, you never really asked.”

He interrupted you then. “Yeah, because I got the message pretty fucking early that I wasn’t supposed to ask. I may be kind of an asshole, but I’m not unobservant enough to miss that you never fucking talk about yourself.” He was annoyed, and he had a right to be.

“I’m not accusing you. I was glad you never asked, because that made it easier for me.” You considered for a moment how to best put it into words he would understand. It was not as easy as it could have been, your general exhaustion blurring into the drowsiness from your medication. “It’s like… there’s all of this bullshit, and it’s not that far below the surface once you disturb the waters. It goes from ‘Hey, I’m [Name], I’m twenty-four,’ to ‘So what do you do for a living?’ to ‘I’m in university,’ to ‘What do you study?’ to ‘Human Quirk Biology,’ to ‘What semester are you in?’ to ‘I’m on a break right now,’ to ‘Why?’ to ‘Oh, I went kind of crazy and spent a while in a mental hospital and now I’m trying to get back on my feet,’ really quickly.”

You paused, giving him time to let that settle.

Against all of your expectations, he put his arm around you. You did not miss the fact that he placed his hand near your elbow rather than further up on your arm, avoiding the bruises from last night.

“You know,” he said, “I knew you were older than me, but I wasn’t expecting five damn years.”

His reply was so out there, you couldn’t help but laugh a little. For a moment there, you had forgotten how much you enjoyed being around him. This also reminded you that less than a day ago, you had been having the time of your life, getting the daylights fucked out of you in a bathroom stall. There must have been a fissure in time with how long ago that felt.

“That’s what you’re focusing on? Not the ‘I’ve been getting it on with a schizo’ part?”

“No, dumbass, I just don’t know what the fuck to say to that. So, does that mean you’re schizophrenic?”

“Schizoaffective. Not sure whether that information gives you something to work with or not.”

He just scoffed, squeezing you to his side. You understood the hint and moved on to explain. “Basically, I go through these manic episodes. They start out pretty nice, I’ll be in a great mood – downright ecstatic – for a while, and all is well. And then I start making all of these plans, and, at first, they’re realistic – maybe after I get my bachelor’s degree, I’ll go for a master’s. And then, they aren’t. Like, screw the master’s, Imma get a doctorate! And on the side, I’ll write a series of novels that will be great and everyone’s gonna read them and know my name! And then, it goes downhill fast. I don’t need sleep because I’m not like normal people! Also, things that hurt others can’t hurt me, because I’m superhuman! And that’s about the time it switches from manic to psychotic. I’m superhuman, but things aren’t working out the way I wanted them to, why is that? It’s because someone out there is scared of what I could do with my powers, and they’re pulling strings to keep me down. It has to be someone close to me, because they somehow know where I am and what I’m doing at all times. What if they implanted me with some kind of device and then erased my memory of it? Hasn’t the back of my neck been itchy for a few days now?”

You paused to catch your breath, because you had been ranting. Then, you decided you might as well go all out to emphasize the gravity of your condition. Maybe that way, he would not feel as bad about leaving when he did.

Reaching up, you lifted your hair from the back of your neck to the side. “That scar? It’s from when I tried to cut out a nonexistent chip with a pocket knife.”

That was when a shiver went through him, strongly enough for you to feel it. “That’s some fucked-up shit,” he pressed through his teeth. Still, he did not actually recoil from you, opting instead to hold onto you tighter.

You knew it was a crass thing to share, but you needed him to understand that your disorder was not some romanticizeable gimmick that bestowed temerity upon you. It was not a thing that would ever pass. It was a life sentence.

“I’m sorry for being graphic. I wish there were prettier words for it. But it was really bad. I was twenty-two at the time. They took me to a hospital, and after a while on medication, I got a lot better. Good enough to return to life as planned, as long as I was taking the antipsychotics. So that’s what I did. But I was taking a different drug then, and I had pretty bad side effects. I was tired basically twenty-four/seven. I felt like someone had wrapped me in bubble-wrap, and everything was dull and muffled. Oh, and guess what?”

“What,” he stated and did not guess.

“You know how I have a pretty big sex drive?”

“You tell me,” he deadpanned, motioning for you to keep talking.

“Well, I lost all of that too. And I wasn’t able to orgasm, no matter what I did.” You kind of wanted to wait for his reaction to that information, but decided that he deserved all of the story, which required you to get on with it. “So, I went off my meds, because everything sucked, and I told myself that my first episode had probably been a one-time thing, because – isn’t there a statistic that one in three people goes crazy at some point in their lives or something? That was about a year ago. Well, guess what, that was a bullshit idea, and I ended up relapsing. It wasn’t quite as bad as the first time, probably because I was admitted to a clinic pretty early on this time around. I started a new type of medication that doesn’t cause me tons of side effects. Been on it ever since.”

Perhaps, to put all of this into perspective, you could end the whole story on a more positive note, it occurred to you. “I’m going back to university once the new semester starts in a few weeks, too. So, I’m not… in as bad a place as I used to be, I guess.”

He made a quiet noise deep in his throat to signal that he realized you were done with your tale.

You felt like you had been talking for hours, although it had more realistically only been ten minutes. Your perception of time was genuinely crooked, and you were unsure whether it was a residuum of whatever had been given to you last night or simply a side effect of this situation that you had been entirely unprepared for.

“So,” he began eventually, the arm he had had around you all this time slowly sliding from around your shoulders. You tried your best to prepare yourself for the rejection that was sure to come. “You never told me about your disorder because, what? You thought I’d tell you to fuck off?”

“Well,” you answered and got up, having trouble looking him in the eye. This was getting dangerously close to the terrain of your feelings for him, a matter you would strongly prefer to leave untouched.

Slowly, and trying not to move your head too much, you took off the leggings and shirt you were still wearing from last night. You even still had your bra on. You appreciated the fact that Katsuki had not undressed you. You felt violated enough in your physical integrity as it was. (You did not mind him seeing you naked, as evidenced by the fact that you were changing in front of him without a second thought right now. But the idea of not being conscious while someone handled you was too unsettling for words.)

“Basically, I figure there’s not a lot of different ways to react to that kind of information. Either you think I’m making it up for attention, or you think it’s creepy, or you think you can save me. One isn’t true, one kind of is, I guess, and the last one’s impossible because it’s not a temporary or conditional thing. But yeah, I kinda assumed that either way, it’d end up with us parting ways, because you shouldn’t have to deal with my mental illness. It’s not like you’re my boyfriend.”

You took off your bra and then pulled on a fresh black top and a pair of plaid pajama bottoms. Looking attractive was not a priority at this point.

“Oh, fuck that, [Name].” You could actually hear him in- and exhaling, the strain of trying to contain himself obviously trying. “I get what you’re saying, but – shit, I’d really fucking appreciate it if you let me decide for myself what the hell I’m thinking or not?!”

He inarguably had a point. Of course it was unfair of you to preemptively ascribe to him one or several ways of thinking. But you had spent so much time considering and reconsidering all of these things in an attempt to avoid unnecessary pain whenever the inevitable rejection came – it was difficult to break out of this circular thought structure now.

He had more to say. “Obviously I’m not your fucking boyfriend. I barely actually know anything about you, we’ve been over this, damn it. And I still don’t fucking get it. I can know all the ways you like to be fucked, I can know that being talked down to during sex gets you off, but I can’t know anything else about you? Not even your fucking last name? And why, because I’m not your stupid boyfriend?”

“I just…” You sat on the bed again, legs crossed, facing him. It would have been easier not to look at him while admitting this, but you could not not look at him now. “I didn’t want to overshare. And it’s easier to say nothing at all than to avoid one specific topic, especially when pretty much any other topic is related to it somehow. I’m sorry. I just didn’t want to never see you again.” And, simply because you were already sorely vulnerable at this point and opening yourself further could not do anymore harm, “Am I never gonna see you again?”

This was what scared you. Once more, time seemed to bend and crumble and rise from the ashes in all kinds of unnatural ways until he answered.

He shook his head, still not having moved from his position at the head of your bed. “Shit, woman, you’re barely to stand up straight. You fucking took your medication without knowing whether it’ll interact with what’s still in you from last night. Do you honestly, for even a fucking second, think that I’m about to leave you alone? In that case, you’re way dumber than you seem.”

His one-sided smirk was only partially able to hide the sheer exhaustion on his face, the furrow between his brows deeper than you had ever seen it. Apparently, he was staying.

“And now, lie the fuck back down before you fall against anymore walls.” It was clearly an order, and one you did not mind following.

The rest of the day would feel just as surreal as everything else that had occurred so far.

You caught a few more hours of sleep, divided into several smaller naps. Katsuki never left your side, like a dog guarding you from anything that might aim to do further harm to you.

(Never mind the fact that all that could harm you now were chemicals already inside your body, and… well, your stupid head. Your stupid head, that was already trying to twist last night’s most likely coincidental attack into the idea that someone was trying to harm you individually. But that made no sense. You were able distance yourself from that train of thought well enough, and that was an important realization that calmed you, at least a little bit.)

Appalled by the jarring lack of proper food in your refrigerator, he ended up ordering pizza for the both of you. You ate while streaming the newest season of your favorite animated show on your old, but faithful laptop. Katsuki had never seen it, but complained about it less than he could have.

Already, he seemed to feel more at home at your place than you had done for the first half of a year you had lived here. And you felt more at home with him here.

Lying next to him, head on his chest while fully dressed was a new, but not unpleasant experience. You had had it all twisted, you thought. Was it not more normal to be surprised by how someone’s bare skin felt after only knowing them clothed? Now, it was your turn to be stunned by how intimate it felt to be close him in a situation that was clearly non-sexual. Even his hand under the back of your top, just resting there, felt right. It seemed he simply enjoyed the feeling of your bare skin, be it the leadup to something more basal or not.

The most important development, however, was the agreement he and you found regarding your future. The two of you would simply keep going the way you had been up until so far – but you were not to censor yourself anymore. That way, he would have a chance to finally know you in all the ways he did not, or did not yet. And wherever that would lead you both, it would probably be okay.

“Just so you know, I reserve the right to tell you to fuck off once I know you better.”

You laughed out loud, nuzzling his cheek before kissing him, softly, for the briefest of moments. “You do that. I need a boyfriend like I need a hole in my head.”

If mutual exclusivity was what defined the relationship between two people, you already had a boyfriend in him. But to argue definitions at this point would be to get ahead of yourselves.