Gerald rolled over in bed, in that state where he was half asleep, half awake. Subconsciously, he reached out his arm towards Shiki’s side of the bed. He was confused when he didn’t immediately feel his warmth or his weight next to him. He stretched his arm out further and still couldn’t feel him.
As panic raced through him, Gerald opened his eyes and sat up bolt straight in his bed. His eyes, though blurry from sleep, stared at Shiki’s side of the bed. It was empty. The sheets were ruffled, but cool. He was gone.
Gerald’s heart immediately leapt into the triple digits. Shiki wasn’t lying in bed next to him. The sheets were cold. He was gone. Had been for a while.
Where was he?
“I’m here, Gerald.”
The sound of Shiki’s voice cut through the panic static of Gerald’s mind and he immediately turned in the direction the voice resonated from. His vision seemed to clear instantly when his eyes fell upon a thankfully familiar grey-haired man a few feet away from the bed.
Shiki sat on a chair by a desk beneath their bedroom window. His hair was dishevelled and he wore a simple pair of pants, and nothing else. He didn’t have his armour, his armlets, his sword. Just him. He wasn’t going anywhere. He wasn’t planning on going anywhere.
“Didn’t mean to scare you like that,” Shiki said with an apologetic but truly empathic grin on his lips.
Gerald let out a sigh of relief, relaxing his tense muscles. He felt his shoulders physically sag and the urge to flop back onto the bed promptly followed. He ignored that, though, and instead pushed the blankets aside to take to his feet. His heart was still pounding painfully in his chest as he slipped on a pair of loose pants. But laying eyes on Shiki and knowing he was still here in the room with him, helped him to begin to mentally and emotionally relax.
“What are you doing up?” Gerald asked as he declines to put on a shirt and simply walked over to Shiki.
As he drew closer and looked at the contents of the table next to Shiki he realised that the answer to his question was obvious; Shiki was in the process of bandaging his left arm. The terribly injured one. The one that was significantly weaker than the other.
Gerald immediately frowned in blatant concern as he stopped to stand directly in front of him. “Your arm again?”
Shiki gave him a slight shrug of his right shoulder. He idly pulled at the bandages around his left arm, though, indicating that he was actually in the process of changing them. The bandages were just plain old supportive bandages. All they did was conceal, not heal.
“Let me,” Gerald said as he pushed at Shiki’s hand and began to carefully unfurl the bandages.
Gerald had expected Shiki to insist that it was nothing, that he didn’t need to bother himself with it and quickly try to bandage it himself so not to worry him. However he was surprised and greatly concerned when all Shiki did was nod his head.
His arm must be hurting him quite badly tonight. Gerald couldn’t help but wonder if it was something he did. Had he held onto his arm too tightly when they were in bed together? Was his grip too tight when he was in the throes of pleasure from Shiki’s attention? Had Shiki place to much pressure on it when he was busy concentrating on Gerald himself?
As Gerald pulled away the rest of the used bandage, letting it flutter soundless to the floor, Shiki sighed softly. It wasn’t a sound of pain, thankfully, but Gerald couldn’t help the bubble of concern from appearing in his chest.
The arm was…in bad shape, to put it lightly. Large, red, gagged scars, cutting through the muscles and reaching down to the bone, making it look like it when through a meat blender. The skin itself was a sickly red and cool to the touch. The movement in his arm was limited, but still miraculous compared to the physical state the arm was in.
It was…hard to look at. Yet Gerald couldn’t look away. He wasn’t disgusted. This arm was a part of Shiki.
He just felt…
Shiki suddenly stood up to stand chest to chest with Gerald. He slipped a finger beneath Gerald’s chin and tilted his face up towards him. “Hey, don’t go looking guilty on me.”
“I can’t help it,” Gerald returned, still a little shaken from that frightful feeling of waking up alone, of not finding Shiki next to him. “You know I can’t.”
Shiki shook his head. “It’s not your fault.”
No, it was the fault of those who kidnapped him and forced him to become Taksony’s hostage. The ones who threw him into Etria’s labyrinth when he was no longer of any use. It was the fault of a giant scorpion monster that attacked him and poisoned his arm to the point where the muscles rotted away. Where he had to cut at his own arm to rid himself of the poison.
Gerald knew it wasn’t his fault. But that didn’t make the guilt hurt any less.
“I know that. I wish it was so then I could find a way to make it up to you,” Gerald blurted out. “I feel guilty for no reason and I don’t know how to handle that. If I had done something wrong, then I could fix it.” He motioned towards Shiki’s arm with his hand. “But this…This…I don’t know how to help you with this.”
Shiki was silent for a moment as he looked at him. His gaze was inexplicably soft and his face rather placid. It was like he knew what he had felt before he even said it.
“Gerald…” Shiki said around a sigh before his lifted his hand from his chin to instead caress the side of his face. His fingers quietly slipped through Gerald’s hair until they touched the back of his head.
Slowly, Shiki coaxed Gerald to lean towards him. Gerald’s eyes slipped closed the moment Shiki’s lips rested against his. It was just like the other kisses they’ve shared; tender, consuming, comforting…loving.
“I hate seeing you in pain,” Gerald whispered against his lips.
“It’s only a minor annoyance now,” Shiki insisted.
Gerald sighed as he tilted his head to the side ever so slightly so that Shiki could continue to brush his lips against his. “I don’t care if it’s only minor to you. You’re still in pain. I don’t want you in any kind of pain.”
Shiki pressed his lips firmly against Gerald’s for a lingering moment before he pulled back. The hand in his hair slipped down to rest gently on the back of his neck and he gazed gently, tenderly at him in silence for the longest moment.
Suddenly, Shiki lifted his brutally damaged arm and turned away from Gerald to instead look at it with an expression that could only be described as bitterly nostalgic. “It’s not much to look at. It’s pretty hideous, actually. But it’s a testament to how stubborn I am.”
…That was true. He was very resilient. Could Gerald have been the same if their roles were reversed? He didn’t know. He was honestly afraid to think about it. To also ponder what he would have done if Simmons had been taken away from him, too.
Gerald pushed that thought to the very back of his mind and turned his gaze away from Shiki’s arm to instead look upon his face. Shiki’s gaze softened as he curled his hand into a tight fist. Which shook slightly as a pained expression slipped across his features. Despite the limited light in the room, the only source from the streetlights outside, Gerald could so easily see his mournful gaze.
“It hurt. It still does,” he admitted as his right arm slipped around Gerald to rest across the small of his back and pulled him firmly against his chest. “But it was nothing compared to the pain of losing everyone…”
Yeah…that pain. That kind of pain…he never wanted to experience it again. He didn’t want anyone he knew to experience it. Ever.
Gerald lifted his hand and placed it gently upon Shiki’s scar riddened left hand. The tension in Shiki’s hand immediately lessened and Gerald slipped his fingers between Shiki’s, to clasp their hands together tightly.
“Leave the bandages off for tonight,” Gerald requested. “The bandages themselves hurt, too, don’t they?”
Shiki idly rubbed the small of Gerald’s back with his thumb as he pulled their joined hands close to kiss the back of Gerald’s hand lightly. “Sometimes. A nuisance more than anything, though.”
“You should let Lynus look at it,” Gerald requested softly, almost pleadingly. “He’s the Miracle Medic, after all. If there is a way to help you, he will find it.”
“He would, wouldn’t he?” Shiki returned with a half grin. He, however, unexpectedly sighed and tugged Gerald tighter against him. “Alright. I’ll talk to him about it. Later. It’s late. Let’s go back to bed. I won’t slip out again.”
“You better not,” Gerald said as the two of them stumbled back over to their bed, parting for only a second to get themselves under the sheets before they reached out for one another once again.
It was hard for Gerald to fall back to sleep. But with Shiki holding him tightly, both his arms strong and secure around him, he found himself soon nodding off and he told himself that Shiki would be there again in the morning.