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late-night moment

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In the end, he still ended up at Akira’s place.

After everything, Seiji had just wanted to go back to his hotel room, where he could switch on all the lights and maybe raid the minibar in order to forget about everything that happened that night.

But of course, life was never that easy. He had barely made it to the entrance when he had spotted the familiar figure of his dad’s right-hand man talking to the reception. So, Seiji had turned on his heel and walked away.

He had been lucky, Akira still had been awake when he had knocked on his door and now both of them were curled up on Akira’s squeaky, cheap bed. Of course, it was way too small for two grown men, and Seiji found himself squashed against the wall because Akira’s bulk took up most of the bed. It was hardly different from all the times they shared a bed then they were still children.

Just like back then, Akira’s light snoring filled the room only a few minutes after they lied down. Seiji envied him. The tiny room was much different from the spacious hotel room he had planned to sleep in. There, he could have left on the lights with no one judging him. Here, the cramped room was dark, only illuminated by the pale strip of moonlight shining through the curtains.

Even at the slightest breeze, the building creaked. There had been spirits here before, Akira had told him of the nightly occurrences. Right now, Seiji strongly wished he hadn’t.

His mind was still filled with everything he had seen today. Tsukuyomi had been terrifying, and Killer Peach, even though she helped them, had been a grizzly sight. Seiji knew he wouldn’t forget them anytime soon. Tsukuyomi’s screams would haunt him in a way no living creature ever could.

As the Amanome heir, Seiji should be used to blood and death, to everything unpleasant of humankind. But he can’t forget what happened in Kintoki, he can’t even forget the little glimpses he had caught of the Urashima woman.

How Akira could sleep so easily, is beyond him. His best friend had faced so much worse, and yet he didn’t seem to be bothered by it. Seiji envied him for his strength. It wouldn’t be the first time a little insidious voice in his ear told him that Akira would be a better fit for his position.

The mere idea was laughable, of course. Still, Akira was the one already deeply asleep, while Seiji was still awake, staring up at the ceiling. Even with weariness clinging to him, his mind was too restless to succumb to sleep easily.

But in the end, exhaustion won out and Seiji succumbed to an uneasy sleep for few.

When he woke up again, he couldn’t tell how much time had passed. At first, he didn’t even know where he was. Drenched in cold sweat and shaking like a leaf, Seiji had a hard time forcing himself to lie still. Everything told him to run, to hide away until the morning sun finally rose again.

He barely remembered what he dreamt about, but that hardly mattered. There were few things that left him as terrified as he was and his mind ran with the remainder of the fear left behind.

It could have been him, cursed and haunted in Akira’s place. It could have been him, killed and beheaded by Kubitarou.

Seiji felt like throwing up, bile rising in his throat. But he couldn’t. Even a brute like Akira would wake if Seiji were to climb over him and he couldn’t be seen like this, not even by Akira.

So, he pressed closer to the wall, his back turned to Akira’s warmth and he forced himself to breath steady. It was useless. The shaking didn’t stop, he couldn’t stop remembering the smell of burnt flesh carried by Tsukuyomi, and the awful singing of Kubitarou.

His eyes were burning and Seiji gritted his teeth together. He had to keep it together. He was an Amanome, known for his ruthlessness even as a high schooler. He shouldn’t cry like a scared child, still afraid of the darkness.

“Amanome..?” Akira’s sleep-heavy voice cut through the hazy fog in his head and Seiji bit back a curse. Waking up his friend was the last thing he wanted.

“Go back to sleep,” he told his friend, trying his hardest to keep his voice steady. He didn’t want Akira to see him like this. It was ridiculous for him to break down like this when his friend was the one that had dealt with the full weight of Kakuya’s game.

Evidently, he wasn’t convincing. A hesitant touch to his shoulder made him flinch. It was truly sad how useless his fear had rendered him, he couldn’t even deceive someone as simple-minded as Akira anymore.

“You’re shaking,” Akira pointed out, his touch lingering uncertainly.

“No shit,” Seiji snapped back at him. The panic gave his voice a grating edge. It was infuriating how out of control he was. “It’s none of your business.”

The touch remained, and Seiji hated that it grounded him. Akira had always managed to come out on top, against humans as well as the most vicious spirits. It was no surprise that Seiji associated him with safety, but the thought of it scared him almost as much as the dreams.

“Did you have a nightmare?” Akira finally asked. Seiji couldn’t see his face but he could very well imagine the concentrated look on it. Sometimes, he wished that Akira was a little less observant.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” he still denied. “How could I have nightmares while you –“ He stopped there, interrupting himself before he could say anything be might regret.

“Hm..” The pensive hum told him that it was already too late. Akira’s hand moved from his shoulder to his head, forcefully ruffling his hair. “Stop overthinking.”

Annoyed at the sudden force, Seiji turned around, more reflex than conscious decision. He regretted it the same second he saw understanding dawn on Akira’s face.

For a moment, they stared at each other in the shadowy room. Then, Akira reached out, awkwardly placing his arm around Seiji’s waist, drawing him close.

It was so unexpected, that Seiji froze for a second. “What are you doing?” he hissed, unsure how to deal with the sudden closeness.

“Comforting you,” Akira grunted against the top of his head as if it was really as simple as that.

And maybe it was. Akira was probably used to comforting his little sister and even if Seiji resented being compared to a little helpless girl, he had to admit it was sort of working. Held against Akira’s chest he finally stopped trembling.

“Can you go back to sleep?” Akira’s tone was unusually gentle, and now Seiji was sure that his best friend drew on his experience from taking care of Ami. He wasn’t used to seeing this side of his best friend.

“I don’t know,” he finally admitted, telling the truth despite himself. After a moment he added. “How can you sleep?” Seiji hated how defeated he sounded, but Akira only held him a little tighter for a moment as if he had picked up on Seiji’s thoughts.

Akira shrugged gracelessly. “Guess I’m so tired that I just don’t really care.” They both knew it was more than that. If it came to human depravity, Seiji was just as cold-blooded. Only spirits managed to reduce him to this. “You should still try.”

The advice was as simple and straight-forward as Akira himself. It brought a weird comfort to him. Through the dark, Seiji tried to catch a look at Akira’s face. There was none of the judgment he had expected. In fact, Akira already had his eyes closed again, evidently ready to go back to sleep with Seiji still in his arms.

Hesitantly, Seiji reached out as well, wrapping an arm around Akira’s waist. His pride was already bruised, so, he might as well take the comfort offered to him. Breathing deeply, he closed his eyes as well. This close, Akira’s smell filled his nose, familiar and reassuring and Seiji’s mind finally stopped running in circles.

Soon after, he fell asleep again. This time, the nightmares stayed at bay.