Major (capital “M”) angst and have tissues at the ready for this story.
He woke with a scream. He sat bold upright, looking around a little wildly, trying to figure out where he was.
It took him a moment to recognize the room, then that he was on the bottom bunk, and that Kane was next to him. He put a hand on his heart and the pounding started to slow. He couldn’t remember the dream, had no idea what had caused the reaction, but he had a feeling he didn’t want to know, either.
That was right. Home. Kane. Hay… no. Don’t think it. Don’t think it. Don’t think it. He repeated it over and over to himself as sort of a mantra. Don’t think it. Don’t think about it and it won’t hurt.
The numbness had been fading for a couple of weeks now. He’d managed to go through the motions at school. He remembered doing homework and taking tests. Beyond that, he‘d been letting the numbness shield him and it was starting to go.
He’d been trying to hold onto it. Wrap it around himself like a warm blanket on a cold winter’s day. It could ward off the pain the same way the blanket would ward off the chill.
But he had to face that it wouldn’t last much longer. He’d become more aware of everything. He’d seen Kane watching him. He’d noticed Kenji’s worried looks. He’d felt his mother’s concerned touches and hugs. Slowly, but surely, the numbness was cracking and it was going to go.
He lay back down and rolled onto his side to watch Kane sleep. Kane’s face scrunched up a little bit in dreams of some sort. His friend started moaning and Ian puzzled over it for a moment. Why was Kane moaning?
“No. No, damn you, get away! No!” Kane muttered, rolling to his other side.
Nightmare? Ian blinked. He was right here. But then Ian registered the probably two solid feet between him and Kane. Enough maybe for Kane’s subconscious to think that he wasn’t there.
Had Ian left Kane? Had he left his best friend?
The numbness faded further but he pushed the thoughts aside. Kane was starting to moan again. The whimpering got louder. There was another shouted No! and Ian scooted over across the bed.
He put a hand on his friend’s shoulder. “Kane!” He shook it carefully, but, of course, it didn’t wake him. It never did. He knew what he needed to do.
God, what have I done? He wrapped his arms around Kane, raised one hand to brush at the hair. “Kane, wake up. Kane!”
And like it had back before, before the nightmares had ceased and before… he swallowed, before Hayden’s death, Kane rolled, wrapped his arms around Ian and held him close.
Kane’s breathing eased a little. “Fuck. I… I didn’t want you to wake up.”
Ian swallowed hard. “Kane? Kane has this been…” He let the question trail off.
Kane wouldn’t look at him. He tried to tuck Ian’s head under his chin like he had so many times before. But this time, this time, Ian was going to fight it. “No. Kane, talk to me. Have the nightmares been happening?”
Kane’s lips pressed into a thin line, but he nodded. It was barely perceptible, but Ian saw it. The dark of the room hid most things. Perhaps he sensed the nod more than saw it. It didn’t matter now. Kane had been having nightmares and Ian had been wallowing in numbness.
I’ll always be here for you. The words floated back into Ian’s mind. A promise he’d made a little over a year ago. He snorted to himself. Some promise.
Perhaps he was being a little bit unreasonable, a little hard on himself. But then again, if he was angry with himself, he couldn’t be angry with anybody else. He could hide those emotions quite a bit easier. Yes, yes, that works. He could be angry with himself.
“I’m sorry, Kane,” Ian started, but Kane shook his head.
“No, no. You have every right. God, what you must be going through…”
But Ian shook his head hard. “No. It’s… it’s still not right.” He paused. “Damn me. That’s no excuse to ignore you.”
Kane peered at him through the blackness of the room. A car passed, headlights bounced off of the ceiling and the silence sat heavy, almost like a living thing in the room with them. Finally, Kane said, “Ian, you can’t hide forever. Being… being angry with yourself is almost the same as being numb.”
Ian took a deep breath, trying to find some sort of calm and sanity. But he knew better, there was no sanity to be had, not yet. “Kane, just… just let me be mad, okay? Let me be mad at me?” He had no idea just how frantic his voice sounded.
“Okay, Ian, whatever you need, that’s okay,” Kane said quickly, his hands patting and smoothing over Ian’s back.
The hurried compromise, the hurried assurances only succeeded in pissing Ian off more. What kind of bomb had he been walking around as? Had they been expecting him to explode? Perhaps fall into a crying fit? That thought made him more than a little disgusted with himself.
He supposed it was only to be expected. But that didn’t mean it felt right to him. He sighed. “Kane…” He swallowed hard again and let Kane tuck Ian’s head under his chin, tighten strong arms around him and comfort.
Ian wondered about that, too. He was always the one that comforted Kane, not the other way around. But he had to wonder how much of that Kane had had to learn how to do. That thought spawned another question. “Kane… what’s the date?”
Silence. Kane swallowed, then “May thirteenth.”
“M…. May? But…” Ian started. Two months? Two months! He thought maybe a few weeks, but…
He refocused on the more immediate problem. “Kane, have the nightmares been going on all this time?”