even when you're next to me (it's not the way i'm picturing) @alystag
even when you're next to me (it's not the way i'm picturing)

Nazuna lurches awake before she realizes she’s dreaming.

For a moment, she just has to sit there, gasping, because the air she’s breathing seems to puncture her lungs instead of satisfying them.  She clears her vision with a few rubs of the heels of her hands, then sighs loftily.  

When will Boris stop creeping into her nightmares?  

Her bare toes graze the floor, the coolness of the contact soothing her, just a little.  She can still feel Boris peering over her shoulder, even if she knows for a fact he isn’t here, and will never be here again.

Still, she checks behind her quickly, just in case.

Then she checks again. 

She’s being ridiculous, but fear is bustling through her faster than it should be, and the absolute darkness of the night would make just about anyone irrational.  She combs her fingers through her hair, scolds air from her mouth in what she hopes will be a freeing whoosh but ends up being a rather hollow one instead.

“Ugh,” she mutters to herself before boosting herself to her feet from the bed.  The covers are in an ugly twist, but she can’t bring herself to care, not when Boris is still lurking at the corners of her eyes, still chanting in the corners of her head--

“Stop that, you aren’t even here,” she says aloud.  She’s not talking to anyone, but maybe she hopes - selfishly, always selfishly - that someone is awake, that someone will hear.  Michiru did mention just a few days ago that the Silver Wolf never sleeps, so maybe he’ll hear her pleas for attention and heed her call.

Somehow, though, it doesn’t seem likely.

Nazuna knows she doesn’t belong in the home of perfectly decent people - the home of Melissa and of Gem, and they seem absolutely docile, but more importantly, the home of Michiru and that Ogami man, and they are good, and she shouldn’t be here alongside them.  Hogging the air they breathe.  Poisoning it with her every exhale.

A growl gurgles, low and weak, in the back of her throat.  So Shirou isn’t going to be her confidant.  She shouldn’t have hoped so.

For a while, she roams the house.  With everyone asleep and her bare feet freezing against the floor, there’s something peaceful about it.  She buries her hands into the pockets of her hoodie, wondering what she might do until she’s been able to finally banish Boris from her thoughts and get some genuine, quality sleep.

One particular idea beckons to her: go to Michiru, slip in bed with her and let her innate, insane warmth tug Nazuna back into slumber.  It’s tempting - they used to do it all the time, back when they were who they were, back when they had sleepovers.  Back when they did normal things.  Nazuna still struggled to sleep soundly then, and Michiru was somehow the perfect antidote.  But then, Michiru was the perfect treatment for anything that could be wrong.

She still is.

But the fact remains that things aren’t the same.  Michiru and Nazuna are not Michiru and Nazuna anymore, they are...changed, now, for better or for worse.  It’s not Beastmanitis that changed them either, Nazuna reminds herself with a grimace as a sick feeling stirs her gut.  It’s Nazuna’s fault.

Or maybe Alan’s fault.  Or Boris’s.

But also hers.  Nazuna soiled things with her own stupid hand, didn’t she?

Still...she imagines nuzzling into Michiru’s bed, sniffing the pillow and savoring that smell of Michiru again...she imagines sleeping as quietly, without incident, as she used to.

And, okay, Nazuna never once claimed she is some queen of restraint.  She finds her legs guiding her to Michiru’s door of their own accord, and finds herself thinking it’s cruel to resist her own instincts.  

So now she’s swaying in Michiru’s doorway, scanning the room, which is small and cramped already, and regret leaks into her mind, but she decides to ignore it.  If Michiru wants to restore their friendship as much as she claims to, then there’s no problem with this.

She only hopes there’s nothing weird about what she’s doing, loitering here in Michiru’s room, one foot in the welcoming darkness and the other still tentative in the hallway.

The back of her neck prickles, still exposed to the outside world - that harsh hallway where Michiru isn’t.  Nazuna nibbles her lip a little mercilessly and swipes a glance behind her again, and she can’t stand another second so bereft as she is of anything but her stupid nerves, so she stumbles the rest of the way into Michiru’s room and clicks the door shut behind her.

Luckily, Michiru is an unbelievably heavy sleeper, or else Nazuna would’ve startled her awake by now, and Nazuna can’t stand the thought of doing that to her.  For a moment, she just observes her friend: Michiru’s nose twitches a bit, and she’s mumbling in some language of her own creation to whoever dances behind her eyes.

It occurs to Nazuna that she shouldn’t be here, and she feels like such a creep she starts to fumble back toward the door, blind in the blackness of Michiru’s bedroom--

And then the lights flash on, and Michiru is mumbling Nazuna’s name.

Nazuna can’t help but squeak her surprise.

“Nazuna,” Michiru repeats herself, and Nazuna stiffens midstep.  “Is something wrong?”

“No!  Well, not really, I-I just...I don’t know, actually.”

“Okay, well, what are you doing here, then?”

“Wanted to pay a friend a visit, is all.”  Nazuna tries to summon a laugh.  She musters a snort, but it’s honestly a pathetic attempt.

“At - wait, what time is it?” Michiru wonders aloud, snatching her phone up.  “Way too late for a visit.  Are you sure everything’s fine?”

Impatience and accusation blend together into Michiru’s voice, and Nazuna, of course, becomes defensive.  She doesn’t know how else to be.  “Yeah, I just told you it was.  Why do you keep asking?  Is something the matter with you?”

“Alright, that’s weird.  Oh, I...I get it.  You had a bad dream, didn’t you?”

Nazuna’s cheeks boil with color.  “How’d you know?”

Michiru laughs, and the sound settles in Nazuna’s ears, tingling, tingling forever.  “Come on, do you really think I forgot everything we do together the second you turned into a beastman?”  Nazuna ducks her head, pouting at the floor.  “I couldn’t forget about us, Nazuna.  There’s room in the bed for you, y’know.”  To prove her point, Michiru shinnies closer to the wall, and pats the newly cleared space far too enthusiastically for the hour.  “See?  Room for you!”

Little folds ripple across the sheet, from where Michiru had been nesting there before, and Nazuna knows, just knows, it will be warm there.

She craves it, but still, she feels inclined to resist.  “That isn’t necessary.  I can take care of myself after a bit of a bad dream.”  She turns her nose upward with an absolutely imperious sniff, and she’s sure she has Michiru convinced--

Until Michiru snorts.  “You wouldn’t be lurking in my doorway so late at night if you didn’t want to be cuddled.  Come on, you think you can trick me?  I know you too well for that.”  She pounds the empty half of the bed with her hand again.  “Enough of this.  Lay down, Nazuna.  What happened to needing your beauty sleep, huh?”

Nazuna huffs, but she finds herself drifting toward the bed anyway.  She lets herself fall onto the mattress - and fall a little in love, if she’s going to be really, actually honest - and Michiru’s warmth wafts up and envelops her like a pair of arms.

And ugh, her eyelids are already tumbling over her eyes--

But then an arm twines around her waist, and Nazuna’s eyes spring open again to gawk at Michiru, spread on her stomach, grinning over at her.  “I knew it,” she gloats.

And Nazuna can’t just not defend herself.  “I don’t have to be here.  This isn’t for me.”

“It definitely is,” Michiru says, then chuckles, the sound resonating through the mattress, through the floor, through each individual bone that makes Nazuna herself.  “But it makes me happy, that we’re doing this again.  Things would be completely normal, if I couldn’t do this.”  With that, she smacks Nazuna’s leg weakly with her tanuki tail.  “But they don’t have to be absolutely like they were.  We’re friends again.  That’s what matters.”

Oh, Michiru, we could be so much more than that.

Nazuna doesn’t say it.  But the thought strikes the very center of her mind, and it gets lodged in so tight she can’t stop obsessing over how much she wants to.  How much she wants to blurt it out, and for Michiru to smile the way she does and say she knows they could, and believes they should.

“Are you cozy yet?” Michiru asks, yanking Nazuna from her thoughts.  For once, Nazuna thinks that Michiru’s inability to let a second go by quietly is a blessing.

Nazuna humors being stubborn and sharp again, but it’s late and she sees no point in being cruel to herself or to Michiru anymore.  “Yes,” she confesses, “I’m cozy.  Thanks, Michiru.”

“No problem,” Michiru says.  “There’s always room in my bed for you, Nazuna.”

And those words mock Nazuna’s mind for the rest of the night.  

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