Teito sat down on the roof of one of the buildings to eat his lunch, the rather spacious flat stretched blankly before him.
He was alone, as usual.
Popping the protein pills in his mouth, he swallowed without really tasting them. He didn’t have much of an appetite today. Not after his... job.
A sickening copper taste coated the entirety of his mouth, slick liquid running in rivers down his arms; he knew they would be sticky later...
He shook his head, as if that could erase the memory of earlier that day. He didn’t know why he couldn’t just forget it; he didn’t even feel different than normal when he went on missions anymore. And if he didn’t feel any different than normal, that obviously meant he didn’t care. He shouldn’t be having flashbacks to things that didn’t matter to him.
“Teito! There you are!” A blond boy with a cross-shaped scar on his cheek climbed his way onto the roof and, despite his disheveled look, grinned. It must have taken him quite a while to find this certain roof; Teito idly wondered how many times he’d gotten himself yelled at for disrupting classes by using the windows as steps as he studied the as yet nameless student’s face.
Mikage, Teito recalled. He was the boy that wouldn’t take no for an answer. He didn’t answer, as he was sure the blond wanted him to. If he was ignored, surely he would leave Teito to drown alone in his less-than-stellar situation instead of throwing himself into the black water as well.
Mikage’s grin stretched, and he plopped himself down on the roof despite the cold reception.
“I’m starved! Those lessons this morning were even duller than usual,” he grinned, pulling out some of his own food. Teito nearly choked on air, the aroma of hot meat making his stomach churn awfully.
The copper taste of blood, a dull thud of something fleshy hitting the ground...
Teito grunted noncommittally, and Mikage suddenly looked at him as if just realizing something.
“Wait, you weren’t in class this morning. Testing out this early’s pretty impressive. What do you do when you don’t have class anyway?”
The adrenaline washed through his veins in place of fear, a long-sought-after reaction finally perfected. The blades on his arms were hardly felt anymore...
“Nothing,” he said, avoiding looking at the other boy. Why was he avoiding looking at Mikage? He wasn’t embarrassed or ashamed; if he was, wouldn’t he feel different than normal?
“Don’t you have anything to eat?” Mikage asked, changing the subject when he saw how the smaller boy avoided his gaze. To his surprise, Teito’s mouth twitched into a grimace for half a second before he managed to school it into the straight line he usually held.
Water ran over him, he scrubbed, washed, scratched as if he could also wash away the memory that came with the crimson liquid now running down the drain...
“I’m not hungry,” he replied evasively, spilling out some vitamins onto his hand and swallowing them dry. ‘Real food’ was a waste of time and money when all of the necessary vitamins and nutrients could be delivered quickly and in very nearly any situation with no problem.
As a bonus, the tasteless pills only made his stomach turn slightly.
“What the-?” He heard Mikage yelp, and that was the only warning he received before the bottle was torn from his hands. “What are... vitamins? I thought they were drugs or something! Is this all you have to eat?” Mikage just kept talking, not giving Teito enough time to process all of the words, forget answering. Before he knew what was happening, he was being dragged down the hallways of the academy, through doorways and past confused students. As he pondered how on earth Mikage had managed to get him off of the roof that the had been sitting on, a roof that had no easy way off except to jump the fifteen feet to the ground, he was pulled into the lunch room. Then Mikage was yelling at a cafeteria lady, and all Teito could do was stare because he still didn’t quite know what was going on.
When his brain had finally caught up, he was sitting at one of the many tables with a bowl of grey, lumpy porridge in front of him and Mikage, not to mention everyone else in the room, staring intently. Teito’s eyes flicked around the room, instinctively logging his position and possible escape routes as well as (by chance) seeing everyone’s faces. Finally, his eyes rested on Mikage. He wasn’t like everyone else in the room. Some sneered, some glared, quite a few honestly didn’t care. The only person who looked... concerned, maybe? If that was the right word, the only one who looked it was Mikage. Not that Teito knew what concern looked like.
Now, determination was something he knew all too well, and that was also present on his... acquaintance's face. That look informed him he would never get out without eating the porridge, no matter how much he protested against the horrid action.
Accepting this, he wasn’t going to get in a fight over porridge after all, he looked at the lumpy substance and felt his stomach writhe in protest.
How long had it been since he’d had a meal? An actual, whole meal with no protein pills or vitamin substitutes? He couldn’t remember. Maybe his stomach’s reaction to the food was because of that; because he’d gotten so used to the tasteless pills and the barely-substantial food-substitutes. He glanced back up at Mikage, hoping to talk his way out, but the look on the blond’s face was both teasing and covering a great amount of worry.
If it made Mikage relax... stopped him from worrying... that look was unnatural on his visage.
But.. Wait. Why should Teito care about how Mikage felt? Or rather, why did he? Mikage had plenty of friends, real friends, not emotionless battle slaves, to cheer him up. That was their problem, not his. So why did he feel yet another lurch in his stomach at the sight? That had never happened before.
Despite his stomach’s protests, he scooped up a spoonful of the grey glop and placed it in his mouth. He made sure to chew deliberately and actually taste it, forcing himself to swallow through the vicious urge to spit it out and knock the rest to the floor.
Everything was tainted. The walls, the floor, his clothes and body, his very senses. Tainted with the blood.
Teito only barely managed not to react as his stomach gave a savage churn that made him nauseous. It was only like this when he was eating. It must have been from eating the pills so long. Nothing else made sense.
He glanced up with his usual blank look, only to freeze in surprise.
“Good! I don’t want you hurt you know, and that includes collapsing from lack of proper nutrition!” He looked so happy, so pleased. He had been worried, and... Teito eating a simple spoonful of porridge had done this?
Teito’s eyes widened fractionally and only his years of being taught to conceal his emotions stopped him from doing something more dramatic.
Suddenly, he felt... better. He wasn’t sure how, exactly, but the food was no longer sickening to look at and he felt he could eat the whole bowl. That nasty bowl of sickening substance was nothing. He could eat it; he could eat a thousand bowls. If it was for Mikage.
It was nighttime, and Teito lay spread on his bed feeling better than... than he could remember ever feeling. His stomach was settled, his eyes were rested, and his muscles relaxed.
He closed his eyes, content to just bask in this feeling. Analyzing it was asking for trouble; asking for it to leave. If Teito had his way, this free feeling would never leave. Drifting to sleep, head getting heavy, he inhaled deeply.
It smelt like blood.
The spatter had gotten everywhere. Other slaves, not battle ones, were called in to clean it up. They were tasked with dragging out the hulking body, and the head, and cleaning the blood he left behind. Teito stood stalk-still in the center of everything, eyes blank as the man’s last moments played over and over in his mind. The other slaves wouldn’t get near him. They were afraid of him.
No, it was more than that. When they looked at him, it wasn’t with fear. There was something else in their eyes; a dark emotion that nearly seared his skin. They hated him.
They had every right to hate him.
Teito gasped almost silently, barely stopping himself from bolting into a sitting position.
Then a feeling came, a sickening, writhing feeling in his gut. Like a family of snakes, no, eels were living where his intestines should have been.
He turned on his side, arms folded over his stomach as if that would help.
The desire, the need to throw up gripped him. Maybe it would feel better if he did. Maybe the porridge had been poisoned. Maybe Mikage was only pretending to care, and had poisoned him instead. He felt like he needed to get up, right now, and take a shower. To wash off... what? The dirt he imagined on himself? He had never felt this sick... this dirty before.
No, that was a lie.
He had always felt like this. That was why he couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t look in the mirror, and especially couldn’t look Mikage in the eye.
The drip... drip... drip... of liquid from a blade into the impossibly large crimson pool beneath him echoed through the tainted room, sending ripples along the surface in some perverted parody of throwing stones into a pond...
Subconsciously, he curled tighter into the fetal position and clutched his head in his hands. Maybe putting pressure on it would make the feeling leave again. The feeling. The memories.
How had this become normal? Before Mikage had come along, he felt like this every second of the day. It hadn’t bothered him then, why would it bother him now? What was different? There was only one thing that had changed. Or, rather, one person.
An irrational surge of anger swept through him, directed at the boy on the bunk below.
Now he knew. He knew how bad it was; he hadn’t before because he didn’t know how good it could be.
That idiot Mikage had done this. It was his fault. He had... what? What exactly had Mikage done? Show Teito that he didn’t need to feel so horrible all the time? Was that so bad?
The ball he was curled into relaxed minutely.
He was the answer. He was the reason Teito knew he didn’t have to feel like this; not all the time. He just needed to stay with Mikage.
The next morning, Mikage awoke after Teito, as per the usual. But, unlike every other day, Teito was waiting for him.
There was a moment of stunned silence when he first awoke and saw his bunk-mate waiting; he had never actually seen Teito in the morning before classes. After the moment of surprise, Mikage jumped up excitedly.
“Teito!” He grinned. “How are you today?” He already knew what the answer would be. A dull stare as if Teito was trying to figure out what type of trick he was trying to pull before a curtly muttered normal. That answer still worried Mikage somewhat, because he didn’t know what Teito’s normal was and whether it was good or bad. He suspected the latter.
Much to his surprise, Teito cocked his head and gave him an assessing gaze, as if trying to decide whether to tell the truth or not.
“...Good.” He finally answered, going back to his usual blank expression and taking up a position beside the taller teen as they walked to their first class.
Mikage grinned down at the brunette.Finally, progress.