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talk me down

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The scent of iron hung heavy in the air; the overwhelming stench of death burning his nose and lungs, scarlet splattered across his clothes and the dry ground underfoot.

“Kurapika…” a voice on the wind breathed his name from behind, and Kurapika whipped around.

“Why did you let me die?” Pairo’s hoarse, weak voice spoke directly into his mind.

“Pairo?! Pairo, where are you! I’m sorry, I...I didn’t know, I promise I’ll protect you this time,” Kurapika called, his voice shaking.

From the dark, foggy forest in front of him, the sound of branches cracking underfoot sent birds flying frantically into the red sky. Out of the forest stumbled Pairo, blood dripping from a large wound in his throat and staining his clothes. His lifeless, unfocused brown eyes stared out at Kurapika from a pallid, ghostly face, his neat brown hair now unkempt and crusted in blood.

Kurapika ran to him, tears rolling down his cheeks. As he ran, the earth in front of him stretched out, and bloodied, eyeless faces stared up at him from the earth below, disgraced bodies scattered across the ground instead of buried in graves like they were supposed to be.

Kurapika stretched out his hand and opened his mouth to call Pairo’s name, but nothing came out. Pairo remained fixed in place, staring at Kurapika as his blood dripped onto the cracked brown earth.

“Kurapika...help…”

Again, he tried his hardest to respond, to say anything. Even a scream would work, but nothing came out. He ran until the muscles in his legs ached and his lungs burned and the ground twisted and warped below him, but he was still no closer to Pairo than where he’d started. Terror dug its icy claws into Kurapika’s chest, and he forced himself to run faster.

And yet, time mocked him again. He ran until his entire body ached and he could barely stand, and as he coughed blood dribbled from his lips and nose down onto his clothes.

“You...you let me die. I hate you!” Pairo cried as he ran towards Kurapika, the blade of a knife flashing in the red light.

Kurapika gasped as a sharp, throbbing pain erupted through his side. Wet, warm blood soaked through his shirt and tabard, dripping down his skin.

“Pairo?” Kurapika’s voice trembled as he looked down at Pairo, who held the knife in his side, blood coating his tiny hands.

Pairo looked up at him, eye sockets now empty, black and dripping blood and some kind of clear fluid.

Kurapika screamed.

He jolted upright, gasping as he clutched at his burning chest. His entire body was sticky with a layer of sweat, and darkness filled his vision.

Beside him, something moved beneath the blankets, and his vision shot down to the body.

Leorio.

Kurapika breathed a sigh of relief as his racing thoughts slowed to a halt.

Leorio’s snoring became more erratic, and a quiet groan exited his lips as his eyes opened.

“Mm…” Leorio raised his head, a strand of drool connecting the corner of his mouth to his pillow.

Leorio rubbed at his eyes and sat up, propping himself against the headrest. “Hey…”

Kurapika sighed, running a hand through his unkempt hair. “Hey…”

“You okay?” Leorio questioned as he swiped his arm across his mouth. “I heard a scream earlier, but I was dreaming, so…”

“What dream did you have?” Kurapika asked flatly.

Leorio laughed and scratched at his head. “It was fucking weird. I was at a fruit market, but I was dressed in a hotdog costume. For some reason, I went to buy some kiwis, which I don’t even like. The saleswoman smiled at me and I asked her how much they were. She just started reciting a bunch of names of bones in the human body. Freaky shit.”

“I...think you’ve been studying for your anatomy class too much,” Kurapika told him.

Leorio nodded. “Yeah, I’ve been crammin’! I have an exam in two days,” he laughed. “But are you alright?”

Kurapika sighed. “I’m fine...I just had a bad dream…”

Leorio’s smile dropped, and he scooted closer to Kurapika. “Wanna tell me?”

“It’s sort of hard to remember now, but...I was in some place I didn’t know. I saw...Pairo, one of my closest childhood friends. He was the reason I left my clan behind, actually. I went to take the hunter exam because I promised him I’d find him a doctor.”

“A doctor?”

“Yeah. He had...some kind of condition. I think it may have been a TBI or something, because he had a bad fall. He started losing his eyesight, lost parts of his memory, and had some problems with his motor skills afterwards.”

Leorio nodded. “Sounds like TBI to me, along with possible spinal cord damage.”

“The thing is...he fell protecting me. I felt so guilty that I swore to myself I’d find him a doctor who could help him, since our clan’s medicine man couldn’t find what was causing him trouble. Of course, a little while after I left…he was murdered, along with everyone else in my clan.”

“I see,” Leorio nodded, placing his hand atop Kurapika’s and stroking it.

“I saw him. I saw the bodies of my dead parents, and Leq’a, and Chalenkh-aimah, and Noroum, Iwarnbe, Kawolhgoq’, Lomach, Imkairmaa, Addom, Suomepok, Tikepaii, Kip, Tagoro, Daw’aan, Bikko...everyone I knew...they were all dead, staring at me with their...empty eyes. But the worst part was Pairo. He asked me why I let him die, and he was all bloody and looking at me with those eyes…”

Kurapika felt tears sting the corners of his eyes, a sharp jolt of pain piercing through his chest.

“He looked so...sad. So of course, I ran to him. I wanted to hug him and apologize for being such a horrible friend, but...I never reached him. I ran until I was spitting blood, and nothing changed…”

Kurapika’s voice shook, and Leorio clicked his tongue as he moved in to put his arm over Kurapika’s shoulder. “I...I’m so sorry. That sounds horrible.”

“I screamed because Pairo ran towards me and stabbed me. I couldn’t say anything. I kept trying to apologize, or even just say his name…” Kurapika pressed his hand to his face, shoulders trembling with the threat of tears.

“C’mere,” Leorio cooed, wrapping his arms around Kurapika and pulling him into a hug. Kurapika pressed his forehead against Leorio’s bare chest. His skin was warm and slightly clammy, but he didn’t care.

All he could do was try not to cry.

Leorio combed his fingers through Kurapika’s messy blonde hair, rubbing circles into his back through his oversized shirt. “I’m sorry you had a dream like that...it isn’t your fault. What happened to your clan, I mean. No matter how much you feel like it is, you were just a victim of fate.”

“Or maybe it was an act of G-d,” Kurapika shrugged. His voice broke more with every word that left his mouth, and sobs quickly stole his ability to speak.

“Hey...if you hadn’t survived, I never would’ve met you. You never would’ve met Gon or Killua either, nor would you have had any of the good memories we made together.”

Kurapika nodded, his tears rolling down Leorio’s chest. “You’re right. My life has been painful, but all the good memories I got to have make it more manageable.”

“Got to make?” Leorio asked as he pushed Kurapika’s bangs back and pressed a kiss against his forehead. “You have plenty of life yet to live. We both do.”

Kurapika nodded. “Mm...you’re right. We’re entering the best years of our marriage, after all.”

Leorio smiled down at him. “That’s true.”

“For now though…” he looked at the alarm clock flashing its angry red numbers into the blackness. “We should probably go back to bed. Both of us have work tomorrow,” Kurapika sighed.

“Give me a kiss first,” Leorio laughed.

“Hm?” Kurapika wrapped his arms around Leorio’s neck.

“Kiss me, and then we can go back to bed.”

Kurapika smiled and leaned up to press his lips against Leorio’s. The two of them kissed each other passionately, Kurapika’s arms around Leorio’s neck and Leorio’s hands on Kurapika’s waist.

“Wanna cuddle? We still have a few hours before work, so I wanna help you sleep,” Leorio asked.

Kurapika nodded as the both of them lied back down. Leorio draped his arm around Kurapika’s waist, their bodies pressed together.

“You’re warm,” Kurapika mumbled.

“So are you. Also...I like when you’re the little spoon.”

“Me too.”