Mink was gone.
Dead like the wind over the valley,
Over the mountains.
A song in Autumn never to be heard again.
Mink was home,
A puff of smoke from
The last, lonely pipe,
That sang until the others were avenged.
Part of Nature, like the red leaves that smelled of
Cinnamon and dense rain.
“Aoba…” Noiz patted Aoba’s back, careful not to touch his delicate hair.
Aoba shook with pain and fever, tears overflowing from his red-veined eyes.
“I couldn’t save him. I know I couldn’t have saved Sei, but Mink...I c-c-could have...He could be here right n-now with all of us. I just...I could have stopped him!” His stomach twitched as he alternated between moaning and attempting to talk.
“No, Aoba.” Koujaku and Ren said in unison, sitting on the floor with him.
Virus spoke up from the other side of Aoba’s crowded bedroom, “There was nothing you could have done.”
Trip chimed in soon after. “Mm. Nothing.”
Finally, Mizuki walked in the room. “Aoba...No one knew. He didn’t tell anyone. Sure, he might have hinted at it, but nothing is your fault. It’s what he wanted.”
“But I loved him.”
“Stockholm Syndrome, eh?” Koujaku asked.
“No!” Aoba stood, still quivering. “No...Those things...weren’t his true feelings. He did bad things to me to make me hate him, so in the end I could let him go without any emotions.”
“So why can’t you?” Noiz asked, getting a tad frustrated. The lot of them had been going at this for hours.
“Because I saw the real him. The real Mink was gentle, shy, peaceful, wild, strong...Beautiful. I loved him. And...I still couldn’t get to him. I failed. It’s not my fault, but I still f-feel...the guilt. You all...will never understand that. Of course, I-I l-love you all too but...Everything is empty without his presence. His v-voice, when he chose to use it. His...scent…That death.”
The room finally fell silent.
“Aoba…” Clear whispered, drawing near. “I can help, if you’d like.”
“No!” Aoba flailed his hands at Clear, pushing him away. “I don’t NEED YOU!”
Clear jumped back, shocked.
Months passed. Since Clear felt unneeded, he stayed in the corner of Aoba’s room, staring at the wall opposite from him. Everyone tried to bring him back, but not even Virus and Trip could persuade him. After a while, the light faded from his childishly shining eyes and all of the work Tae and the others put in for him went to literal waste.
Months passed. Noiz flew to and from Germany, but felt a weight in him grow bigger each time. After being hospitalized for slicing up his skin, he decided to stay at home, where he could lock himself up in his room and be alone, without problems, like his childhood. The real world wasn’t so great after all.
Months passed. Mizuki and Koujaku both could not get Aoba to talk. Koujaku disappeared in the same fashion as Mink, but was supposedly spotted sporting a red haircut, following a blue-kimono-wearing man. Mizuki left Aoba a few personal mementos and moved away like most childhood friends do.
Months passed. Trip and Virus lost interest. They left, taking the things they learned about true love and emotion with them, and using it on each other for an equal benefit. Perhaps, in a ironically twisted way, they received a good ending.
Months passed. Despite being the only one left, Ren felt the worst out of all of them. The loneliness and uselessness in his heavy heart was too much to bear one day. Leaving his collar behind, he found his way to a place with a blue sky and splashing waves that reminded him of his dear lover...And walked into them until he could walk no more. Everything was blue.
Aoba awoke with a jolt.
“Hey...Don’t fall off the bed.” Mink commanded, carefully pulling Aoba into his strong, warm chest. His long ombre-red hair fell near Aoba’s body in a wavy mess.
“Mink!?” Tears formed in Aoba’s eyes as they adjusted to the light.
He was in a seemingly huge bed, with light pouring in through a large window. Outside, there seemed to be mountains and a fresh topaz sky.
“What even…?” He whispered, sitting up from Mink’s embrace.
Aoba looked around to find that they were all in the bed. Everyone, from left to right, being Mizuki, Virus, Trip, Noiz, Koujaku, himself, Mink, and Clear, with Ren laying horizontally at their feet.
Everyone woke each other up, wriggling and blinking at the yellow daylight.
Mink’s golden eyes squinted as he smiled and tousled Aoba’s feather-ridden tendrils.
“What’s up?” Noiz asked, yawning and mindlessly tapping away at a laptop he had hooked to the headboard.
“What’s with the commotion? If it’s still early, I swear I will beat everyone senseless!” Koujaku murmured against the crook of Noiz’s shoulder, raising his fist in the air.
The others peeked over at Aoba in anticipation.
“Ahh…” He sighed, giggling. “I just had a bad dream.”
The group chuckled and hugged one another, nestling lazily back into their positions.
Mink’s lips pressed heatedly near Aoba’s ear. “You sure you’re okay?” He kissed where his long hair parted and revealed his soft neck.
“Yes,” Aoba whispered back with a smile…