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[personal profile] forcedsimile
III.

By now, staggering to the kitchen late at night was a bit of a practice. Tei could make the trip even with his eyes maddened and bleary. He gripped the faucet tighly before he turned it. It felt like he had Eri's neck in his hands. It was so real he thought he'd wake up and find her in his bed, lips blue, neck bruised, and eyes blank. He was relieved to wake up to Yuri after every nightmare. He'd calm him down, but never ask what he dreamed. If Tei spoke in his sleep, he wondered what Yuri thought of him. He filled a glass with water and took a long sip, hoping the water would help lessen the shaking. He heard Yeonho stirring on the couch again. Poor boy. If Tei kept on interrupting his sleep like this he'd feel very guilty. He knelt beside him and smoothed his hair. He was surprised to find it damp with sweat.

"I'm sorry, Master," he mumbled. Tei waited and held his hand. Yeonho continued to mumble apologies.

"It's so hot...It hurts..." he said. He wimpered and started to cry. He awoke with a start and looked down at his hand, the one Tei was holding.

"Tei...it's you..." Yeonho said. "I just had a bad dream. Was I too loud? Did I wake up Master?"

"No, I was awake and I saw you. Are you scared?" he asked.

"A little bit..."

"Do you want to talk about it?" Tei asked.

"It's just...Master was...in my dream...it hurt so badly," he said. Tei's eyes widened. Eri was hurting him?

"You know she would never hurt you," Tei said.

Yeonho bowed his head, "I know...but if she wanted to hurt me I would let her. If it made her happy,"

Tei hugged him. Yeonho returned the hug and sobbed a little.

"I don't know why I'm telling you this. I just want her to be happy no matter what. No mater what the cost is," he said. Tei stroked his hair and sighed.

"Don't make her cry by saying things like that. The only thing you can do to make her happy is to find ways to be happy yourself," he said.

"I don't want her to leave me alone. I don't want to be alone..." he said. Tei held him closer. The ache in Yeonho's voice mirrored the ache he felt whenever Eri was around.

"She loves you too much. I don't think she'd leave you alone. But even if she did, you always have me," Tei said. Yeonho looked up at him in surprise.

"You? You care about me too?" he said. Tei ruffled his blond hair.

"Of course I do."

"But you're so perfect, Tei. You're handsome, smart, and do everything right. Why do you care about me?" he said. Tei ran his hand over Yeonho's arm.

"Because I undersand the pain these caused better than you know," he said. Yeonho held him tighter and started to bawl into his chest. Tei held Yeonho until he fell asleep in his arms. Tei knew the anguish of being unworthy. No one should have to go through the guilt and shame he was going through, least of all Yeonho. He also didn't want Yeonho to make Eri worry by telling her such horrible things. Tei covered Yeonho with his blankets on the couch and started back for his room. He shuddered to think of telling Eri what he had been thinking. At least Yeonho's dark fantasies involvied pain upon himself. Tei had wanted to hurt her. It was so selfish for him to think of only himself like that, not to mention how she couldn't possibly trust him. She could never know. If anything could separate him from her it was for her to know just how dirty he was. Yuri opened the door and sighed in relief when he saw Tei.

"I was worried when you didn't come back," he said. Tei felt too numb to say anything.

"Yeonho had a nightmare of his own. I let him tell me about it," he said. Yuri sat on their shared bed.

"I see. Dispell the fears of children but let yours linger and tear you apart," he said. Tei crawled under the sheets.

"You don't want to know what I think about," Tei said. Yuri turned so he could look at him.

"I know I don't. But I also don't want you to hurt her or yourself. Maybe if you told me something, even a little bit, it could be more managable for you," he said.

"I...I can't. It doesn't matter what happens to me anyway," he said and turned on his side so he wouldn't have to look at Yuri.

Yuri grabbed his shoulder and pinned him to the mattress.

"Listen, you idiot. I don't know how many times I have to tell you but I'm not going to let you hurt her by hurting yourself," Yuri said. Tei couldn't look him in the eye but nodded absently. Yuri moved and opened his laptop.

"Now I have my shows to watch. And I'm going to stay awake until you fall asleep. Is that clear?" he said. Tei nodded and closed his eyes. How hypocritical. He had just told Yeonho not to say horrible things about hurting himself and there he was saying the same things. Tei most certainly did not want Yuri to hold him until he fell asleep, but the absent minded vigil he kept was enough.

#

Tei had started breakfast by the time Yeonho came into the kitchen. He smiled brightly.

"Good morning!" Yeonho said. "Can I help you today?"

"Hm...can you make sure Eri is awake?" Tei said.

"Of course!" he said and bounded off.

Tei had one hope. That Eri was deeply loved and protected by someone. Lance, Red, Yuri or Yeonho, anyone. It didn't matter. Maybe if he encouraged and cared for Yeonho, there'd be another chance for her to be happy. If Tei worked hard and put her happiness over his own and thought of her safety before his crazed desires, she'd be safe. He gripped the ladle he was stirring with so hard he could feel the metal bend. No, that wouldn't do. He decided to put on the tea and be more constructive about his pent up feelings.

That was another thing he was finding slightly disturbing. He was unusually strong. He had all that strength and he could easily, oh so easily, forcibly take Eri and make her his. Yuri joked (only partially, Tei wa sure), but Tei felt like he was one wrong word away from actually doing so. How deeply would she be hurt if he violated her trust like that? He invented a few new chores to do, forcing the others to go ahead of him. He did things in a frenzy of precision. He dusted shelves, folded laundry, washed dishes and then headed to school. He just couldn't be around her. If they walked to school together, he'd be too tempted to throw her over his shoulder and run away. Today was just a bad day and he didn't have work until the evening. He wasn't sure what he was going to do with nothing to distract him. School would be a relief. At least he'd have school to distract him from her.

#

There was a decided refuge in information, Tei couldn't explain it. Forced to absorb all these facts thrown at him at once was an excellent escape. It was like a neat wall of white bricks hid his dark side for a while and he could relax. He decided to walk home with Red who was, of course, surrounded by girls and all to happy to take all the chocolate candy they were offering. He had his fair share of girls sure, but he systematically refused them all. He watched Red mostly in silence, until he saw Eri run up to him. He came over then. She was panting and she looked up pleadingly at Red as he offered her candy. Her alarm was much too clear for him to ignore, even with all the girls staring at his every move. Tei came over and put a hand on her shoulder.

"Did something happen?" he asked.

"Yeonho is missing," she said.

Tei was a bit thunderstruck. That was certainly worrisome. Lance caught up with them and they started to go through details. All the while Eri teared up more and more. If everyone wasn't watching, he would have hugged her until she felt better. Did he even deserve to comfort her? As he debated within himself, Red and Lance stepped in to console her. Tei was a bit troubled. He was slightly worried that Yeonho had made good on his promise to do anything to make sure Eri was happy. He hoped he hadn't done anything drastic but if he had, he didn't want Eri to be the one to find him. Because if she had to see Yeonho like that...

He was beginning to understand why Yuri was so adamant about Tei not hurting himself. Regardless of what he was inside, Eri cared about him. She wouldn't see a monster that was vanquished, she would see her beloved doll, a friend, broken and dead.

"I'll ask Yuri to check the building. Lance, Red, check the school grounds. I'll look on near by streets," he said.

"And me? What should I do?" Eri asked.

"You should go home," Tei said.

"But..." she said.

"Yeonho might have gone home. We need someone there to inform us if he has," he said.

She looked down, "But Tei..."

"Please go home. We'll take care of it," he said.

Eri seemed resigned to agree, until a strange cat began to rub its body against her legs. He was a little surprised.

"Street cats aren't usually this friendly," he said.

Eri's eyes lit up, "A cat!"

It ran off and she chased after it. He sighed. At least she was out of the way.

"Lance, go after her and make sure she gets home," he said. "We'll take care of things here."

Lance didn't need to be told twice. Red searched the grounds as told and Tei went inside to tell Yuri what happened. He found Yuri in the music room packing up for the day.

"Oh? Fancy seeing you here," he said.

"Yuri, something's happened," Tei said.

Yuri's face actually looked serious for once, "Is Eri all right?"

"Yes, she's fine. Yeonho's gone missing."

Yuri frowned, "Oh, the chick."

"Can you look for him in the building?" Tei asked.

"Sure. But can't we just call someone to find him?" Yuri said.

"No, we need to find him."

Yuri crossed his arms, "No, you need to stay busy."

Tei glared at him.

"Eri was worried and crying. How can I not help her?" he said.

"And calling someone isn't helping?" Yuri said.

Tei grabbed his collar but Yuri didn't seem to be intimidated.

"Are your thoughts really so bad?" he said.

"You have no idea..." Tei growled.

"If this show of force is any indication, I might," he said. That startled Tei enough to release him. Yuri smoothed his suit and crossed his arms.

"All right, Prince Sunshine, you have to let me know something. What is it that is so bad you literally can't bear to stop working long enough to think about it?" he asked.

"I can't...I can't tell you," he said drawing away from and averting his gaze. Yuri took a step toward him.

"Let me guess. You want to have rough, passionate sex with her?" he asked.

"Stop it," Tei said.

"Oh, that's it. You're afraid of deflowering your little angel."

"Stop it."

"I never took you to be such a prude. All those books you read, I was sure some of them were bound to be a little steamy."

"Stop it."

"You just want to kiss her until her lips are swollen, and explore every inch of her, and you want to see if she screams when you--"

Tei slammed him against the wall and gripped his shoulders tightly. He forced hismelf to breathe evenly but that was difficult.

"I can't...do any of that..." he said.

"I see," Yuri said. Tei couldn't look him in the eye but he continued to grip his shoulders. If he was hurting Yuri, he didn't react.

"I can't even touch her," Tei said.

"Or she'll be ruined?" Yuri asked.

"Yes. She'll be dirty forever," he said.

"Just like you?"

Tei released Yuri and turned away from him.

"Yes. Just like me..." he said. Now Tei was shaking. "How did you know?"

"You talk in your sleep sometimes. I pieced together a few things. But that's not the whole story."

Tei gripped is hair and shook his head, "No. No. I can't tell you..."

Yuri put a hand on his shoulder, "All right, all right."

"Did you tell her? Did you tell her what I am?" Tei said. He wanted more than anything to choke Yuri right there just to make sure she never found it.

"Why would I tell her something like that? It's between you and her," he said.

Tei bit one of his fingers and started to pace around the music room.

"I've got to keep her safe," he said more to himself than to Yuri. "I've got to keep her happy. She's sad right now because Yeonho's gone. I have to find him or she'll be sad. I have to find him. Then she'll be happy. I've got to keep her safe. Got to keep her safe. Got to...to..."

Yuri put a hand on his shoulder, "I heard you. Let's focus on finding Yeonho. And then you have work today. If we don't find him before it's time for you to go, I'll take care of it."

Tei nodded. Focus on the present. Yuri's phone buzzed and he checked his messages.

"Ah, they found him. Let's go home," Yuri said.

"Yeah," Tei said. He was a bit upset about not being the one to find him. Though he could feel his composure returning slightly, he was still feeling a little shaky.

"Do you want to walk or take a cab with me?" Yuri asked.

"I'll take a cab. I'll be on my feet all night and I need to at least start my homework before I leave. The cab will save time," Tei said. A linear plan. This calmed him a bit more.

"Good. I'll have an ice pack ready for your knee when you get back. I'll say I'm trying an overnight ice facial or something if Eri asks," Yuri said.

They went outside the building and found Red running toward them. Tei was actually grateful to have Red there to talk.

"I'm sorry, Commander. I looked everywhere but I couldn't find Yellow at all," Red said with a salute.

"Good work, Red. Yeonho was found. We're going home now to reprimand him," Tei said.

"Go easy on him, Commander," Red said. Yuri rolled his eyes and hailed a cab. Tei let Red endlessly chatter and annoy Yuri. He found that it was so odd how Yuri got easily annoyed by Red's sentai rants, but didn't seem to realize he was a walking cheesy shoujo romance stereotype himself. They arrived home and found Yeonho, Lance and Eri waiting for them. Yeonho was cradling a cat. Apparently Yeonho can talk to animals as part of his concept and he explained the situation to them.

"He's such a cute little guy. His name is John, short for Johnston," Yeonho said. All of them, except for Red visibly stiffened, and Tei hoped Yeonho wouldn't notice. Of course he did.

"Why is everyone acting weird? Is there something wrong with the name?" he asked.

"I think it's cute. John, Johnston. What's wrong?" Red said. They both turned to Eri and she turned her eyes to him. He didn't even want to think about having this conversation in front of Eri. Fortunately, Yuri saved them. Tei had to be honest, Yuri was saving him a lot these days.

Red dropped the subject.

"You all need to listen to my rousing song for cleansing your dirty minds!" he said. Tei flinched when he heard that and eyed Red suspiciously No, Red was too simple to know what his words meant. Tei made dinner and started his homework before heading to Banjul. As he started to leave, he saw John sitting outside. He smiled a little and knelt down. John came right up to him and placed his paws on his knee. Tei stroked his ears and he purred a little.

"You're quite charming. I suppose Banjul can use a mascot like you. If I can convince Mr. Hobin, that is," he said. He carried the cat all the way to the cafe, unsure of whether or not it was a good idea to ask Mr. Hobin to keep him on. John meowed as they went up the stairs and Tei chuckled. As he came to the top of the stairs, Hobin seemed to materialize before him.

"I heard a cat," he said. His eyes were not on Tei at all, but on John.

"Yes, this is John," Tei began. "He needs a home and--"

Hobin already had John in his arms and cradled him.

"Yes. He can stay here," he said.

Tei was a little dumbfounded. The impression he had of Hobin was that he was a smooth, reserved person. He had never expected him to get so excited over a cat. Well, as excited as Hobin could get, which was still nothing compared to other people.

"Well? I'm taking care of this guy. You go get your work started," Hobin said and shooed Tei away.

"Thank you," Tei said. Hobin didn't hear him over the sound of John's purring.

#

Tei came home with some tea, hoping to be able to make some for Eri in the morning and report than John was now in a safe home. There was a dull ache in his knee and he was all too eager to crawl into bed. As he put away the tea, he glanced over at Yeonho. He seemed to be sleeping peacefully tonight. Tei sighed in relief. He picked up his bag and headed down the hall. As he passed Eri's room, he heard humming. But it was a deeper voice than Eri's.

"Let's just take care of this," the voice said. There was a tearing sound. Someone was definitely in there and doing something.

"Oh, I don't like this either," it continued. More ripping. Tei opened the door. Eri was asleep, but no one else was inside. He saw Eri's diary lying open on the desk. He dared to walk in and take a look. He turned a few pages. He couldn't read a thing, all the words were smudged, and a few pages were torn out. Had Eri torn them out herself? Or was it the person who's strange voice he heard in here? Tei opened her closet. No one was hiding inside. He heard Eri sit up in her bed.

"Tei!" she cried. He froze. He had no way to explain this to her. Especially since no one was there. The ripped diary was not enough evidence. Much to his relief, she fell back and curled up again.

"No, Tei. That's too much syrup," she said. He walked over to her side and smoothed her hair. She was dreaming.

"I'm sorry," he whispered.

"I don't like that much syrup..." she mumbled.

He rubbed her shoulder until he was certain she was asleep and glared suspiciously around her room. The voice wasn't any of the other guys, he was sure, but someone was definitely out to hurt her. He wasn't sure exactly how, but he knew.

"I have to keep you, safe Eri. I have to keep you safe. I won't let him hurt you," he said.

Not before me.

Not now. Not when she needed protection. He left her room quickly and went to his own. Focus, focus! How could he protect her from the person who ripped her diary? He had to be with her every night. He had to be there to watch over her. At least on the nights when Yuri wasn't home. Yuri wouldn't believe he was trying to protect her. He had to wake her every morning and make sure she was safe. He had to see her first, the others wouldn't know what to do if something happened to her. She would never just let him stand over her. What if woke up to see him? What would she think?

"What if I could guerantee she wouldn't wake up?" Tei said to himself. He wondered how...

Now his brain was so full of worry he couldn't sleep. He went to the desk to his drawer and took out the bottle of sleeping pills. As he was about to open it, he got an idea.
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KHP

February 2014

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