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[personal profile] forcedsimile
II.

It started again. The looks. Tei remembered this from the store. He was in a display case back then and he saw the hungry eyes of the women and girls who wanted to buy him. Unlike back then, there was no glass or kind sales clerk to separate him. He could almost feel the vibration from the growls of the girls who stalked him like a lion does a gazelle in the savannah. What they didn't seem to realize was that in his mind, he was no graceful gazelle. He was more along the lines of a wilderbeast, he was disgusting and had the strength to keep them at bay. Much like a lion only sees food, all they saw was a hot guy with a sweet smile. They had no idea what he was hiding and he didn't care to let them know. He had no control over who was his owner as a doll, but he had a lot of control as a human.

Initially, he saw a few ways of dealing with this. One was, the Lance approach which was to ice everyone out. Not only was that contrary to what Tei was naturally, he saw the way Lance's actions worried Eri. He had no friends. That was no good. He could not indulge them the way Yuri did, he was not oblivious the way Red was and he had the spine to say no, unlike Yeonho. He didn't quite remember the first present, but it was one of many to come. The girl came up to him blushing and demure, but all Tei saw were claws and fangs ready to tear into him.

"T-Tei...I made this for you," she said, holding up a small box, presumably of sweets of some sort.

He flashed her his disarming smile, "You are so kind to think of me, but I can't accept it."

"Oh, please...just take them..." she said.

"I can't. I'm so sorry. It must have taken so much effort," he said.

She was defeated. The first confession was a bit harder to get around. He had been trying to get lunch and look for Eri when an upperclassman approached him.

"Tei, can I talk to you for a moment?" she said. He knew this scene from every drama and anime that Yuri watched on his laptop when Tei was attempting to sleep.

"Why can't you tell me in front of everyone?" he asked, hoping she'd back down then. She swallowed but lifted her chin.

"Please! It'll only be a moment," she said. He followed her but sighed deeply and silently when he was away from everyone else. She was mentally coaching herself through this and he felt a thread of sympathy for her. He probably should just tell her right now...

This was the first time he had been taken to the roof courtyard but he had a feeling this would be a familiar place soon.

"Tei, from the first time I saw you, I knew there was something special," she said.

He smiled kindly, but hadn't she said something similar? Yes, in the time before Eri there was someone else who said that to him. This poor girl had no idea how those words made his blood run cold. After that, he couldn't force himself to listen to her heartfelt plea.

"Your words are quite moving. But I'm sorry, I can't be your boyfriend," he said.

"Not even one date?" she said. He shook his head. Her heart was in his hand and he gently handed it back.

"Please be happy with someone else," he said and put his hand on her shoulder. He left before things could get awkward. As he walked down from the roof, he ran into Yuri. Yuri smirked and raised an eyebrow at him. Tei frowned and walked past him.

"If you're not careful you're going to get a reputation as a ladykiller," Yuri said.

Tei turned slightly and rolled his eyes and kept walking. Yuri clucked his tongue.

"Everyone thinks you're so pleasant, if only they saw this side of you," Yuri said. Tei returned to class and didn't mention the incident to anyone. When school was over, Red decided to stay and play soccer. Tei had no other activities to attend to so he decided to walk home alone. He saw Eri leaving around the same time and he grinned as he followed her to the train station. They caught eyes as they waited and she smiled slightly but looked away quickly. He kept looking at her though, her smile lingered even as she focused on the building ahead of her. Did he really make her that happy?

Impossible. She must be smiling for some other reason, he thought. He looked away from her, lest the pairs of eyes that sought to conquer him trace his gaze to Eri. He didn't want them to waste their time trying to take down competition. There was no competition. Eri had already won. The bus was packed and he stood the whole time. It was murder on his knee. He had no idea how his injury would affect him as a human. He found that he was mostly fine but when he did too much strenuous exercise or was active for too long, his knee would get extremely sore. Thankfully, the pain could be managed until after Eri fell asleep and he could ice his knee at night while he read before he attempted to sleep.

They got off the station near the apartment and joined each other. She smiled brightly at him, reminding him of those warm days as a doll. No pain, no hungry stares, only her and her smiles.

"How was your day?" she asked.

"It was fine. I liked all my classes," he said.

"Did Red behave today?" she asked.

He chuckled, "He didn't cause too much trouble."

They talked idly. He liked talking with her, having conversations, though he had to admit, there was something so much more intimate about having her cradle his small doll body in her hands and stroke his hair. When they got home, she hurried to wash up first. He went to his room and sat at the desk and started his homework. He was mildly distracted by various concerns he had. All these girls harassing him were starting to be the bane of his existence. He didn't really want their attention, he only wanted...her. How different his reaction would be if it was Eri trying to get his attention instead.

He pictured Eri stammering as she gave him a gift, her cheeks blushing and offering it with both hands, not daring to look up as though she'd be rejected. If Eri ever did so, he'd accept before she even said her entire sentence. He probably would just crush her in a hug and not even think about the gift as she was more than he could ever hope for. To him, Eri seemed more like a confession sort of girl. When would she ask him? She could probably confess at home but the school's rooftop was a touch more romantic, he understood why that was the preferred confession spot. He could see it now the way she'd wring her hands, and bite her lip.

"Please be my boyfriend!" she'd say finally.

Would she even have to ask? Before she could even speak he'd just say, "I'm so glad we're alone. I wanted to ask you to be my girlfriend for ages now."

He put his hands over his face. These were all scenarios that only involved him being clean. He rubbed his knee and it throbbed reminding him of the truth. He was imagining the impossible. There was a light knock on the door.

"Tei, the bathroom's all yours," Eri said. He heard her footsteps as she headed to her room and shut the door. He was glad. He wasn't sure he could walk without limping. He staggered down the hall to the bathroom, hoping she didn't hear his irregular steps and ask what was wrong. He didn't want to draw attention to his knee, the thing that destroyed all his chances at happiness. He turned on the hot water and neatly hung his uniform on a hanger he had brought from the room.

The irony was he was probably the cleanest of the five in all other respects. He sighed and entered the shower. As he stood there, a thought crossed his mind. Eri had been here mere moments ago, water streaming down her body. Down the soft skin of her neck and arms, down her legs, down her stomach, down...

Tei's face was hot from more than just the water and he switched the temperature to cold and covered his mouth so she wouldn't hear his stifled scream.

No. Of all the things that he could not do, that was number one. He clawed at the tiles in the shower. No. No. Never. He could never do that to her. He stepped out and dried off, heading back to his room with his uniform quickly and shut the door a little too forcefully. He put his uniform back in his closet, but he was still shivering from the cold shower. He ran his fingers through his wet hair.

He could not do that to her. Of all the things that would make her dirty that would be the worst. She'd be just like him. Just like him...what if she was just like him? What if she had a scar like his? Just a baseball bat to the knee should do the trick, or, given enough passion, he could do it with his own strength, he was certain. A little carving with a knife would make them identical. Then it wouldn't matter what he did to her after that.

The idea of her frightened cries made him nauseated and he hugged himself and started shaking even more. He couldn't do that to her either. When he received his injury he was a doll so it didn't hurt. As a human, such an injury had to be the kind of pain he couldn't even imagine. If he hurt her that badly she'd never smile at him again. Even worse, he'd only be greeted with screams and tears. Her tears would scald him, though she'd never let him close enough to wipe them away.

He'd rather die but someone made that quite impossible. He decided to focus on the moment. He dressed with shaking hands, finished his homework, cleaned the house and cooked dinner. His knee still hurt him considerably but the pain was something he deserved. By the time dinner was ready, he was overjoyed to sit down. He only felt more joy when he watched Eri eat and thank him for his hard work. He was earning those smiles and there was no way he was going to jeopardize them.

Yes, safe and happy and not with me, he thought. Safe from the snake coils that are my arms. He sat at the opposite end of the table that day. Her presence was too overwhelming for him to handle. He was grateful when Eri decided to retire early. He was able to focus on cleaning up the kitchen. Yeonho helped him and Tei scolded Red to clean up his wrappers so Yeonho wouldn't have to sleep on them at night.

What he feared the most was the part of the night when everyone else fell asleep and Yuri wasn't home to distract him. He was alone in that room with Eri a quick walk away. He wanted more than anything to tell her how he felt and kiss her soft lips. He didn't want to admit that he'd been yearning for them. He had no claim. No right. He could sooner kiss the surface of the actual sun before he could kiss her.

He decided it was probably best if he attempted to sleep. He forced himself to rest and tried to quiet his thoughts. Hopefully he could recreate that sweet, quiet blackness that was the first time sleeping as a human.

#

Tei was at school. Class seemed normal enough, save for one thing. Eri was sitting beside him. A bright, red apple was suddenly on his desk. She leaned over to him, her lips a mere centimeters away from his ear.

"Aren't you going to cut it for us?" she whispered. Her warm breath tickled him and made him breathe in sharply. He had no idea where the knife came from, but he cut the apple into neat wedges. She giggled.

"Well? Feed me one," she said. Tei looked around. No one seemed to be looking at them, not even the teacher. He did as she asked and she slid the whole wedge into her mouth, wetting his finger tips. He hissed as though she had burned him. It certainly felt like he was on fire. She picked up a wedge and held it to him. He hesitated and her smile faded.

"Do you not want one from me?" she said. Desperate for her smile to return, he bit the slice offered to him and she laughed and pressed the remaining apple slice into his mouth, her finger tip pressing against his lips. She fluttered her eyelashes and smirked and Tei felt like like his entire body would break. Please...stop, he silently begged. The teacher called her and she stood up, her eyes never leaving him. She went to the board and started writing. He couldn't quite read what she had put on the board but his eyes lingered on her.

Suddenly, the room was empty save the two of them. He didn't question it, just marched up to her. She was still writing on the board. He put a hand on her shoulder and she dropped her chalk and turned to look at him. Her cheeks were pink and her eyes sparkled in a way that put gems to shame. He touched her cheek and she yielded to him. Could it be? Could it be that all this time...

He pressed his lips against hers and tasted the apple that still lingered. When he drew back, hoping to stare into her loving eyes, he was greeted with dull black. She fell limp in his arms and he sank to the ground.

"Eri? Are you all right?" he asked, holding her closer and touching her face. She was growing colder and paler by the moment. Something black like ink leaked out of her mouth. Just a little at first, but then more, it spilled all over her clothes and even got on his uniform, but he did not let her go. His eyes filled with tears.

"What happened?" he asked.

"You," a voice said. He turned behind him. It was another version of himself standing there, his eyes glowing demonically. Black oozed from his mouth, was all over his clothes and streaked across his face. Tei held Eri even closer.

"I won't let you hurt her," he said. The other him only smirked.

"I'm you. I already have," the other him said. There was a loud screeching sound as he looked down at her dull eyes and black stained lips. She was so cold...so cold and dirty and it was all his fault. She was dead and it was all his fault...

#


Tei bolted awake. Yuri was sitting next to him on the pullout bed, watching anime on his laptop.

"Aw, did Momma Tei have a bad dream?" Yuri said. Tei honestly didn't hear him. He shook violently and gripped the sheets tightly. Yuri popped an earbud out of his ear.

"You all right?" he asked. Tei was still oblivious to Yuri's presence. He got out of bed and paced back and forth, then walked out of the room and down the hall. He stood in front of the door to Eri's room and placed his forehead on it before pressing his palms flush against it.

"Forgive me, owner. I was thinking of you inappropriately. I am so dangerous for you. I'm sorry. Forgive me. Forgive me," he whispered. He slid to his knees, chanting "forgive me," until his knee felt like it would snap in two. He suffered though the pain, his fingernails digging lightly into the wood. When he finally dared to stand up again, he went straight to the bathroom for another cold shower. He was back to his senses though his mind felt raw. When he came out he was surprised to see Yuri sitting outside the bathroom with his laptop.

"Oh, I was waiting for you," he said. Tei wasn't sure how to react to this scene. He definitely did not want Yuri to see him in this state but he had been so shaken after the dream he had to just act.

"Why?" Tei asked.

"Well, I saw how you were when you woke up from your nightmare, thought I'd watch you to make sure you were all right," he said. Tei sighed. He didn't know what Yuri thought but at the time he detected no malice in his voice.

"It's your messed up head again, isn't it?" Yuri asked. "I'm not sure how well these will work for you but I can be a bit of an insomniac. A friend of mine gave me some sleeping pills. I think they'll help you out a bit. At least for tonight."

Yuri handed him a white pill bottle and a glass of water. Tei took them hesitantly.

"How do I know I can trust you?" he said. Yuri closed his laptop and stood up.

"Why do you take care of us at all? True, you have your concept and I know you like some of us, but what's the real reason? It's for her, isn't it?" Yuri said. "I help you for the same reason. She cares about you. And you don't want her to worry if Red tells her you fell asleep in class."

Tei growled and took the pills.

"Now let's go back to the room together," Yuri said. They walked side by side in silence. Tei put on a new pair of pajamas and went back to his side of the bed. The pills were taking effect and it was getting harder to keep his eyes open.

"When are you going to sleep?" Tei asked.

"When I'm sure you're asleep," Yuri said. Maybe it was being medicated, Tei said something he'd never thought he'd say to Yuri.

"Thank you," he mumbled. It was all dark after that.

#

The sleep induced by the sleeping pills was not soft or sweet. It was like sleeping in a coffin. Tei some how woke up just as early as he usually did, picked out a book from the library, put it in his bag and got ready for school. He painstakingly made a mental note of every single action he took, careful not to think of anything he did the night before. Yeonho woke up shortly after and offered to help make breakfast as soon as he was dressed. Tei was grateful for Yeonho. He had a suspicion that of all the dolls, Yeonho had a very similar story to his own, Tei had seen the scars on his arms. But his scars seemed deliberate, like his owner put them there. Knowing how Yeonho was, Tei could not imagine what he had done to deserve such harsh treatment. Yeonho was a very good person. Quite loyal. If Eri chose to be closer to Yeonho, to love him, Tei would do whatever was needed to make sure they were happy. It was the same for all the boys. Though it annoyed him to admit it, he'd even trust Yuri with her, though not without seeing some signs of marked improvement on Yuri's part.

Breakfast was a whirl of confusion as usual, Lance and Red argued, Yuri tried to seduce Eri into taking a cab with him and Yeonho cried because he wanted to be close to Eri. Amid it all, Tei secretly treasured Eri's every expression and gesture, trying to memorize every moment. If you broke her, you could lock her up in a room and she'd be there for you always. You'd never have to share her again, he thought. He took a sip of his coffee knowing it was too hot just to stop himself from exploring that option.

"Are you all right?" Eri asked.

"Yeah...I just took a sip of my coffee too soon, that's all," he said. He smiled at her, knowing that it was universally disarming on girls, especially Eri. Her concern curbed just a bit. Tei knew she wouldn't look that way if he knew he had drank overly hot coffee purposefully or why he had done so. Her look of concern was cute still. He wanted the wide range of her emotions, not just to limit it only to fear or whatever he could force out of her. She could never truly be affectionate if he controlled everything she did.

But if she yielded to your control, wouldn't that be the ultimate sign of affection? he thought. Immediately, he got up and started clearing the dishes. He needed to focus his mind with something else. Thankfully, they were heading off to school. As they rode on the bus, he contemplated his course of action. He had taken to filling his mind with other things. When he wasn't doing school work, cooking or cleaning, he was reading. He was tearing through the books in the library, at the rate he was reading, he'd finish the entire room full of books soon. Possibly by the end of the month, maybe a week or so after. Then what would he do? They got off at their stop and still had a ways to go before they got to school. The others had gone ahead and Tei lingered, lost in thought. He needed a plan, school wouldn't keep him busy enough. He didn't want to join a club as he didn't want to be around the girls who fawned over him. Sports was out of the question. He could force himself to endure the pain, but he didn't trust his body not to betray him. What if he got injured? Eri would be worried. He had enough faith in her to know she wouldn't make him leave the house, but what would she think of him? So irresponsible and uncoordinated.

What else could he do? He saw a bright yellow flyer attached to a wall. The tea cup and logo caught his eye. A job opening at a cafe. A job. That would be the perfect distaction. He ripped it off, folded it and went to class. Although being on his feet constantly might still hurt his knee it was much more managable than say, going out for the basketball or soccer team. He could just ice it when he got home or take some pain killers if it got too bad. He resolved to go see the place after school.

#

He left before Eri could find him after school. He had to catch a different bus anyway. He followed the directions to the cafe. When he got there, he looked up at the logo in English letters.

"Banjul," he said as he gazed up at the sign. He shrugged, opened the door and went up the stairs. A young man greeted him.

"Hello sir, Welcome to Banjul. My name is Zion and I will be your server today. May I show you to a seat?" he said.

"No, no. I'm here about the job opening," Tei said. Zion's eyes widened comically.

"Job opening? Mr. Hobin!" he cried. A tall, thin man came out from the kitchen, smoothing his hair.

"What is it, Zion?" he said.

"You're hiring a new server and you didn't tell me anything about it?" Zion said.

"Oh, yeah. I thought I told you," Mr. Hobin said. Zion sighed and muttered bitterly. Mr. Hobin on the other hand turned his attention to Tei.

"You interested in applying?" he said.

"Yes," Tei replied.

"Any experience?"

"No, unfortuneately."

"Well, I'll let Zion show you a few things today and see how you catch on," he said.

"Mr. Hobin! What if we have customers?" Zion said.

"It's slow now, you can show him a few things and I'll take customers."

Zion muttered to himself again and beckoned for Tei to follow. Tei was surprised at himself. Everything Zion showed him, he picked up quickly. Could it be that his concept some how included coffee and tea making? Cakes and such weren't such a stretch he liked to cook so it made sense. By the time Zion said they were almost finished, Mr. Hobin joined them. He watched him with a blank expression.

"So how did I do?" Tei asked. Mr. Hobin frowned and Tei worried for a moment.

"I think you're lying about not having experience," he said.

Tei laughed, "I assure you I'm not."

Zion sighed forlornly.

"How soon can you start?" Mr. Hobin asked.

"As soon as you'll let me," Tei said.

"Good. You can start in a day or two. I'll advance you some pay so you can purchase your uniform," he said.

Tei felt slighly exhilarated as he left the cafe. He was going to love it there, for as long as he kept his customers happy and worked hard, he'd keep Eri safe. When he'd come home after work, he was certain he'd be in so much pain and so exhausted he couldn't even think about anything much less hurting her.

He returned home. Red was watching one of his sentai shows and Yeonho was at the table doing his homework and crying. Tei decided to sit with him and do his own homework and help Yeonho with his. Eri came home and Yeonho dropped his pencil and ran to give her a hug.

"Master! I missed you. How was cleaning duty?" he said.

"Fine, fine," Eri said. "How's your homework?"

Yeonho sniffed and started to wimper. She grimaced.

"I see. May I join you in your misery?" she asked.

"Yes! Tei is helping me, I'm sure he'll help you too!" he said.

"O.K. Let me get washed up first. I'll leave my bag to hold my spot," she said. She put her bag down next to Yeonho.

"Thanks for helpng us," Eri said.

"Anytime," Tei said. Yeonho sat at his seat and Tei carefully explained a few problems to him. This was an excellent distraction, keeping Tei from thinking about Eri being in the shower and bringing up all his dark thoughts from the day before. Taking care of Yeonho brought a satisfaction he couldn't explain. If he were to take on just one of the boys as an actual younger brother he'd choose Yeonho. It would be rather adorable to have Yeonho chase after him in the hallway, calling him "hyung." Knowing Yeonho, he'd probably call him "hyung-ah" like a child and make all the girls squeal and give him cakes.

Eri joined them and set to work quietly. Eri didn't seem to need as much help as Yeonho. Her work was always slightly off, but never insane. Tei really adored Yeonho, but he wondered just how he processed information that would lead him to write the craziest things, not just in math, but in next to everything he worked on. Once he was certain they were off to a good start on their homework, Tei left them to work and started dinner. The smells and tastes did much to distract him from anything going on in his mind. He determined that dinner was going to be fantastic that night.

He found himself so preoccupied with dinner and cleaning that he forgot to tell Eri about his job. He didn't want her to wonder where he was every evening, unlike Yuri who said nothing about where he went. Besides, he wanted her to come to the cafe. It would be safe for her to see him at work. They'd be in public and he'd be so busy working he could just enjoy her presence. Would she smile at him? He hoped so.

He'd tell her in the morning. Maybe she'd come after school. Right then, he had to get through the night. He read exhaustively and when he found that sleep wasn't coming and dark thoughts were lingering like shadows he decided to take some of the sleeping pills Yuri had given him. He went to the kitchen for some water. As he passed Eri's room he thought he heard the rustling of pages, though her lights were out. He shrugged this off. There had to be an explanation. He took the sleeping pills and went to sleep.

#

Tei resolved not to use the sleeping pills again after he started working. If he couldn't sleep, he'd just have to do some chores or something. He woke up the next morning feeling like he had a hangover: sick to his stomach and with a pounding headache. Somehow this did not stop him from getting ready for school and making breakfast. Though when Yeonho came and offered to help, he gladly let him do most of the work with his careful supervision and coaching. He wanted desperately to make eggs that were rabbit shaped since he knew Eri liked it. Even Red decided to pitch in, though Tei made sure had actually washed before he touched the food. Tei's headache started to clear up and breakfast was entertaining as usual; taking pot shots at Yuri for his facemask (he was a rather handsome bachelor ghost if Tei had to be honest), making sure Red and Lance didn't kill each other, keeping Eri from being kidnapped by Yuri into his cab. He wondered if the girls at school would fawn over them as much if they knew they were just a bunch of goofballs at home. They were pretty much like average guys. As chance would have it, he and Eri were putting their shoes on to leave at the same time.

"I forgot to tell you, I got a job," he said. She looked up from her shoes in shock. He wasn't sure why she was worried.

"Oh...I see. It's not going to be too much for you, is it?" she asked.

"No, not at all," he said. She looked back at her shoes and continued putting them on.

"Where are you working?" she asked.

"At a cafe. It's called Banjul," he said.

She nodded furrowed her brow, "I always assumed you'd be in a bookstore since you like books."

He laughed. Under normal circustances, yes, he would have liked to work at a bookstore. He needed something to keep him busy, more fast paced. The cafe was perfect.

"You'll like it. Please come," he said. He gave her very detailed instructions and had her repeat them to him. He wanted to make sure she knew how to get there and see him. He hoped he didn't come across as too desperate. If he had, she didn't notice. He felt like there were two versions of himself fighting inside. There was the one that wanted to keep her safe and comfortable. Then there was the other that wanted to hurt her and control her in the worst ways imaginable. And he didn't want to know how vast his harmful side's imagination was. It scared him too much. Sometimes his dark side manifested in a desire to be around her, but his good side had this as well. When he chose to be around her, he wasn't sure which side he was indulging. He hoped he was doing the right thing by inviting her to come see him.

#

He now understood how Yeonho felt waiting for Eri to come home. Everytime the bell rang at Banjul, indicating a new customer, Tei hoped it was her. It had only been one day, but he thought he was going to lose his mind. Maybe he was too non chalant about her coming? Maybe he was too desperate and she wanted some space. Either way he felt slightly dejected by the time his shift was over. He was surprised upon coming home to find her sitting at the kitchen table working on her homework instead of in her room. She shouted a greeting across the room. He wasn't sure if he wanted to talk to her right then but he was still just happy to see her.

"I'm sorry I didn't come to your cafe today. I wanted to take Soi and Shinbi, but they were too busy. Maybe I'll be by tomorrow?" she said. He felt relief when he heard why she hadn't come and he couldn't help but grin at her.

"Whenever you feel like coming, we'll be happy to have you," he said. He found new energy to cook dinner. As he expected, his knee hurt quite a bit, but he could push though it. Once he sat down, he'd be better. As they ate together it was as though Eri were enveloped in a halo of warmth and light. He felt contentment wash over him, though he knew he was unworthy of her. He was honestly exhausted, tonight she would be safe from him. He had so much to do after dinner. There were no more agonizing hours to think about her beyond this beautiful feeling he had right then.

By the time Tei settled in for the night, Yuri still absent, sleeping pills on the desk just in case, he was spent. He still read obsessively, but he actually fell asleep reading for once. For the first time, he was able to recreate that silent blackness from the first time he'd ever fallen asleep.

#

He never forgot the first time Eri came to Banjul. He had stopped looking every time the door chimed, but this time he knew. He saw Zion greet them, he knew one of her friends was going to gape, but all he saw was her. The mask he often wore for work could not remain, not when she was around. He had to smile at her as gently as he did when they were at home when he greeted her.

He didn't wait their table, but he was overjoyed when she took his suggestion when ordering. Candied Lemon Tea. He had helped to make it, he knew she'd love it. She was with her friends and he was happy just to have her there giving him energy like she couldn't imagine. His knee hurt, some customers were difficult, but it was worth it to know she was with him. They caught eyes a few times and he felt his heart race.

She left with gifts for the other guys, but he didn't mind. He had received his gift in full. She waved to him as her friends went ahead of her and he waved back.

So far, so good. He could do this.

#

He woke up screaming in the middle of the night. Yuri was awake and had a hand on his shoulder.

"Another nightmare?" Yuri asked. Tei just put a hand on his head and fell back on the bed. There was a knock on the door and he tensed. Had he woken up Eri?

"Is everything all right?" a male voice called. It was Lance.

"It's fine. I was just watching a horror anime is all," Yuri said.

"I'm pretty sure I heard...never mind. Just keep it down. Not everybody sleeps like the red monkey and Eri," he said. Tei looked curiously up at Yuri. He looked down and shrugged.

"Just saving face for you," he said. "Go take care of yourself."

Tei got up. The dream wasn't disturbing as the last few, just scary. He went to the kitchen and poured himself a glass of water. Yeonho stirred his his sleep.

"Tei?" he said softly. Tei came over and kneeled so he was eye level with Yeonho. He stroked his hair.

"I thought I heard a scream. Is everything O.K.?" Yeonho asked.

"Everything's fine. Go back to sleep," Tei said. Yeonho smiled sleepily and curled back up and slept immediately.

Tei started toward his room. He stopped in front of Eri's room and put a hand on her door. His hand was shaking as he recalled the events of the dream. He was about to go back to his room when he heard flipping pages. He put his ear to the door.

"No. No. I can't decide which of these I hate more..." a male voice said. "I need more time to decide."

Tei cracked open the door. No one was in the room except Eri who was sleeping so soundly she didn't even notice he'd opened the door. He looked around carefully, but she started to stir. He wanted to go in and check her closet but if she woke up he didn't want to scare her by being in her room and having to explain his (probably) paranoid thoughts. He shut the door quickly and went to his room. She didn't open her door, so maybe she was just stirring. He'd have to keep tabs on what was going on. He knew he heard a voice in there. Now he was too worried to sleep. He pretended to for Yuri's sake, but now he simply couldn't. His ears strained to hear anything coming from Eri's room.

There might be something more dangerous to Eri than himself.

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KHP

February 2014

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