Tsume has a dream, and it leads him to the one he loves.
Tsume was running wildly through the forest, the forest he and the others had entered only the day before. His body was overwhelmed with a feeling he wasn’t familiar with—fear. What the hell am I running from? He asked himself. He commanded his body to halt, but of course it wouldn’t obey. He kept running. What the hell is going on? Where are the others? He tried again and again unsuccessfully to make himself stop. It was as though his body knew of something his mind did not. He continued to run through the forest, dodging trees, bushes, and other animals, always headed in the same direction. And still, the entire time, he felt like someone had possessed his body, unwilling to surrender him, despite Tsume’s curses of protest. Suddenly, he reached the edge of a cliff. His body skidded to a halt, rocks flying into the dark chasm below. Simultaneously, Tsume regained possession of his body, turning to see what had made him, Tsume, actually run in fear. To his surprise, when he turned he did not see a forest at all. A blue sky diluted with large specks of gray met his eyes instead. He found himself looking down at tall, dingy but still oppressing structures, all the same brand of grey as the sky above him. A long, shaky pipe extended from the cliff, sticking out over the edge for at least a yard. Tsume took a single step forward, his right foot on the pipe. He wouldn’t chance his life on that rickety thing if someone had dared him.
He sniffed. Smoke. He sniffed again and allowed himself to decipher the smells. Dust, metal, cloth. Humans were here. His nose sniffed again. Hotdogs, food, the scent of wolves, and the very faint smell of Lunar Flowers. Cheza. He was in the city, no doubt. Dome city. But that didn’t make sense--everyone knew that Cheza was gone. Had been for a while, and her scent had never been strong, even when she had been there. So why did it linger? Why was he even—
His senses suddenly filled with fear again. But not his. Someone nearby was extremely scared. Fear akin to someone risking losing their life.
“Tsume! Tsume help me!” he heard from below. Tsume looked down, to see Ghel, hanging from the ledge. What on earth was going on? Was this a trick? Tsume sniffed, but the scent reaching his nostrils was real. It was Ghel. Tsume’s eyes widened as he surveyed the scene on the cliff. He and Ghel were on the exact same ledge that the boy had fallen from when he—
“I can’t!” Tsume shouted. This had to be a nightmare. A horrible, horrible nightmare…there was no way that Ghel was still alive.
“Please! I’m sorry Tsume! Please! Please help me!”
“I—” Tsume sighed. He considered it. If it was a dream, no one would really be hurt, right? Staring down into Ghel’s tear filled eyes, Tsume’s chest swelled with emotion. If this was a nightmare, it was a damn good convincing one. This was the moment of his life that he hated the most. That boy hadn’t deserved to die. He hadn’t done anything. And here, now, he was faced with making the same decision over again, dream or not. He was in the same quandary as before. If Ghel found out that he was a wolf…well, when Leara found out about Toboe…
But before he could make a decision, someone ran past him on the long metal pipe on which he stood. They pushed past the wolf roughly, and Tsume fell near Ghel, unintentionally grabbing his old comrade for support. “Tsume! Thank you, thank you…” the young one cried, but his look of happiness slowly turned to horror as he realized that he was being bitten, not grabbed. “…what are you?”
“I’m sorry,” Tsume said, his voice sounding as though he was gritting his teeth while he spoke. “I’m sorry that I’ve been keeping this from you.” But unlike that idiot Toboe, he didn’t allow his wolf form to be seen. He just held on, determined not to let go, not like last time. This time, he would make it right. He wouldn’t have to go with Kiba and his losers; he would stay with his gang. Where he belonged.
A small voice spoke within him. But what about Toboe…?
Tsume drowned it out. “Hang on, Ghel,” he said. The wolf craned his neck to see how much room he had to pull Ghel up. Not much. But to his utter and complete surprise, when he looked back down, he wasn’t holding Ghel. Instead, it was Toboe. What in the hell…?
“Tsume!” the young wolf cried, tears in his eyes. “Don’t let go, please!” A strange feeling, so unlike fear, gripped Tsume’s heart. He felt compelled to lift Toboe up with all of his strength. But what was the pup even doing here? Everything was so confusing, and Tsume didn’t understand a thing.
But he tried to pull himself together. Toboe’s life was on the line, and the smell of fear still wafted through their air like poison. “I won’t…” he answered. I wouldn’t let go for my life, he finished in his thoughts. He didn’t want to let go, and he knew—even though he didn’t want to realize it—that he would rather fall than do so. He heaved and pulled, and finally managed to get Toboe up on the ledge, only to hear the sound of hostile barking. He sniffed to discern who it was. “Dammit,” he muttered. “It’s that bitch.”
“What?” Toboe said, looking confused.
The barking sounds seemed closer. Blue was nearing them. Wait, didn’t Blue leave Quent? However, Tsume’s thought were jumbled and he didn’t know what was what. “Let’s go.” Tsume said gruffly to Toboe, and they both ran, Toboe behind him as always. They ran into the city, through buildings, up fire escapes, hoping to fool Blue and get to a place where she couldn’t find them. Despite all of their efforts, however, Blue began to catch up. What the fuck? I am not being caught by someone who shouldn’t be chasing me in the first place! Tsume ran faster, putting distance between him, and Blue—and not to mention himself and Toboe. He jumped up onto a nearby rooftop, hoping that Toboe get the drift and follow. He stood there, waiting…
“Tsume!” he heard Toboe’s voice cry out, and he immediately stumbled, falling face first into the dirt beneath him, dust kicking up and clouding the scene. What was wrong with him? He could’ve been falling into a trap! It was then that Tsume’s senses took in the situation. Blue had caught Toboe, leaping from behind to tactfully bite into Toboe’s right arm, already partially injured because Tsume had bit the young wolf to pull him up. As the dust cleared, Tsume could even see the blood soaking the young wolf’s clothing. Tsume was filled with rage at the sight, and lunged at Blue, knocking her at least seven feet from Toboe.
“Don’t you ever,” he growled, showing his true wolf form and no longer caring who saw it, “don’t you ever touch Toboe.” He bore his teeth, still not fully processing his own reaction.
He heard a gunshot, and turned around. He saw the bullet--almost as though it was in slow motion--hit Toboe in the chest below his heart. “Tsume!” the young wolf cried out, tears spilling everywhere. “Run! Please!” The pleas were lost on Tsume. He ran straight to Quent, knocking Blue to the ground as though she were a toy when she tried to attack him. He pinned Quent to the ground, biting, scratching, doing any amount of damage that he could. Quent’s gun had slipped from his grasp, and lay several feet away. Soon enough, Blue rose to her feet and leaped on Tsume, biting his neck from behind, but in his rage, Tsume ignored it easily, not even able to feel the pain; he was that upset. Quent shot Toboe. Quent had to die! After a few moments, Blue summoned enough strength to pull Tsume off of Quent altogether, helping the old man—who was surprisingly alive, even after being mauled by Tsume—to his feet. Tsume quickly ran to Toboe’s side, but not before picking up Quent’s gun and taking it with him.
Toboe was still alive.
Quent, leaning heavily onto Blue and bleeding from several wounds, laughed as he watched Toboe being helped into a laying position by Tsume. His own face was almost unrecognizable. His hands were useless, and blood had leaked through the majority of his clothes, although most of it was on the ground. Blue growled viciously, but he patted her head. “Easy there, Blue, hehe. Leave ’em. The young one’s dead anyway.” Tsume snapped at the both of them, and he bore his teeth protectively until they were out of sight. You never knew with Quent. His drunkenness made him the most unpredictable of enemies. Had Toboe not needed his immediate attention, he would have finished the old coot off! He turned back to Toboe, who barely had his eyes open.
“Toboe,” Tsume said firmly.
Toboe blinked, but said nothing.
“Toboe.” Tsume said louder, pulling the younger wolf’s ear. Too exhausted to keep his human appearance, Toboe appeared as he was naturally: the beautiful wolf with auburn fur. Fur flecked with blood from his wounds.
Toboe whined in pain. “Tsume…?” he said in his innocent voice, a voice that expressed his confusion.
“Toboe. Hang on. You’ll make it,” Tsume said, trying to convince himself the same, trying to ignore what his heart knew to be true. That Tsume couldn’t help him, and Toboe would—
Toboe coughed, and Tsume focused his attention on the young pup, who was trying to speak. “Tsume,” Toboe said slowly, and it sounded as if it pained him just to speak, “I’m sorry. I couldn’t keep up with you.” Something landed and Tsume’s head and he looked up.
Oh, great, he thought dryly, rain. After only a few seconds, the rain had cloaked the entire area. “Toboe…” Tsume said hesitantly. “Can you move?” Toboe looked at him sadly, his fur slick from the rain, and shook his head. Tsume then tried to pry the bullet from Toboe’s chest, but to no avail. Every time he touched Toboe’s wound, the young pup would cry out. So he stayed there, at Toboe’s side, telling the young one that he would live and holding him as closely as possible.
Hours later, Toboe attempted to sit up, but failed.
“Just lay there, Toboe,” Tsume said. Toboe shook his head.
“I—I have to sit up.”
“No, you don’t; just lay there.” Toboe shook his head, and continued to struggle into a sitting position. After watching him for a while, Tsume finally gave in to helping him, the boy’s back leaning against a wall in the forgotten alley to help prop him up.
“Wait,” Toboe said, and closed his eyes, furrowing his brow. And suddenly, his human persona appeared, just as Tsume heard a rustling in the alley near them. As quick as a wink, his human appearance was able to be seen, too. They watched carefully as a dog made its way down the alley, sniffing in the garbage cans. It reminded Tsume of the young pup so much…when they first found him…
“Toboe?” Tsume asked, aware of the struggle that the young wolf was going through to remain human. “Are you alright?”
“Y-yes.” Came his shaky response. The dog’s ears pricked. It looked through the rain, in the direction of the two wolves. As it sniffed, and caught their scent, it turned and ran, scattering rainwater in its wake.
“Good riddance,” Tsume muttered, finally helping Toboe into his lap. “Happy now, kid? What’s the point of you sitting up anyway, runt? You’ve got to be still, or you won’t heal.”
“Toboe looked up, smiling sadly. “I want to see your face…before I die.” He said. Tsume said nothing, but looked away.
“I know that I’ll be gone by sunrise, Tsume. You don’t have to lie to me. I can feel it. I can feel my body fading slowly. I wasn’t you fault, Tsume, because I know that you’ll be an idiot and beat yourself about it.”
No, Tsume told himself, this can’t be happening. He still said nothing.
“Tsume, please look at me,” Toboe said, and Tsume couldn’t help but turn to meet the young pup’s golden brown eyes with his own. “Tsume,” the auburn haired wolf said softly, “Tsume, did anyone tell you that you have beautiful eyes?” Toboe smiled a bit more.
“No.” Tsume said in bitter tones. It was the truth. “You’re imagining it.”
“Don’t…get upset, Tsume. I love your eyes.” Tsume noticed several stray strands of hair in Toboe’s eyes, and concentrated on removing them instead of listening to the words of someone who thought they were going to die when they weren’t. “Tsume?” Toboe was beginning to sound like his old annoying self again.
“Tell me something, Tsume.”
“Tell me something, Tsume. Anything. I want to hear your voice.”
Tsume groaned. He was such a sucker. “There’s an annoying wolf sitting in my lap who won’t leave me alone. How’s that?”
“I…should’ve known…Tsume,” the pup said. There were gasps of ragged breathing in his speech now. A lump formed in Tsume’s throat. What the hell was it with him and emotions?”
“Tsume?” Toboe’s voice broke through his thoughts.
“Do you want to hear something?”
“No. But you’re gonna tell me anyway, right?”
“Not if… not if you really don’t want to hear…it.”
“I want to hear it.” His voice said contrary, but Toboe either didn’t notice or didn’t care.
“It’s a song I made up when I was younger.”
Oh Lord, Tsume thought. “Fine,” he said nonchalantly.
“Okay.” Tsume snorted, but Toboe ignored him and began to sing.
“How come...I feel sorrow? How come… I feel pain? How come…There’s no tomorrow for me? How come… I feel no relieving? Why…is it so cold? And why… does the darkness keep me? Crying every night… Why won’t… the dawn come and wake me? How come… I feel so sad? How come… I’m so alone? How come… My heart aches all the time? How come… I feel like grieving? Why…is it so cold? And why…am I so melancholy? Crying every night… Why won’t…the dawn come and wake me?”
There was silence after he finished the song, a silence that seemed to echo throughout the entire alley. The song had been so simple, yet so deep…Tsume couldn’t imagine what could’ve happened to Toboe for him to create that song. “Nice song,” Tsume said, noting that Toboe’s singing voice wasn’t the worst thing he had ever heard. Hesitantly, he added, “Sing it…one more time.” And Toboe did. He sang the song as beautifully and at the same level of heartbrokenness that had the first time. Tsume decided to memorize the words as Toboe sang, as the words touched his heart, though he would never admit it.
When Toboe finished the second time, they both sat in silence for a while, until the runt said, “Ironic, huh, Tsume? That this song fits perfectly with our situation?” he smiled sadly. Tsume looked at the ground.
“Tsume?” Toboe said after a little while longer.
“What?” How many times had the runt called his name?
“I’m…really tired. I want to go to sleep,” Toboe said.
Tsume’s head jerked towards his companion. “No.” Tsume said firmly. If Toboe closed his eyes for even half a second, he’d— “You can’t go to sleep!”
“But, Tsume, I’m so tired…”
“No. You have to stay awake so that your body can recover.”
“Tsume…whatever you may think, I…I know I’m going to die.”
“No you won’t,” Tsume said coldly, almost as if he were commanding Toboe to live. “You won’t die, not unless you want to. You can’t…”
Tsume felt Toboe shift in his lap, laying his head against Tsume’s chest. “Tsume…I want you to look at me.” Tsume reluctantly looked down into Toboe’s golden brown eyes, and he could see the young pup’s tears. Why was he crying? He wasn’t going to die. He wasn’t… “Tsume…” Toboe said softly. Their faces were inches apart, and Tsume could feel Toboe’s breath; it was hard and ragged. “Tsume…” Toboe said again, reaching a hand up to stroke Tsume’s cheek. Tsume watched Toboe, never taking his eyes from the young wolf’s face. It felt…good having Toboe’s hand caress his cheek. Then, slowly, suddenly, but gracefully, Toboe raised his lips to meet Tsume’s, kissing him softly, gently, lovingly. Toboe’s lips were very soft, but they were also cold, a blunt sign to Tsume that Toboe was dying.
Tsume didn’t push the pup away, but instead held him close, letting his own hand brush against Toboe’s back, holding him there in case the injured wolf felt weak. Despite his initial surprise, he allowed himself to revel in the bliss of Toboe’s kiss. He allowed himself to flick his tongue against Toboe’s lips, and allowed himself to relish Toboe’s taste as that same tongue explored Toboe’s mouth. He heard Toboe groan against his will, and Tsume smiled to himself despite the situation. Tsume was happy. But never mind the happiness. God, how Tsume loved the taste of Toboe’s lips. He tasted like marmalade, the perfect mixture of bitter and sweet that both burned and chilled his tongue like the fires of hell and a thousand days of snow. Toboe’s lips were perfection, the untouched preservation of good and evil, the complete joy of innocence and the unsatisfied hunger of corruption. Toboe was beautiful. Toboe was everything.
When they finally parted, Tsume still looked in Toboe’s lovely golden brown eyes, brushing some stray strands of auburn hair away from the young one’s face. Toboe smiled, and began caressing Tsume’s cheek again. “You’re so beautiful, Tsume,” he said. “I love looking at you.” Tsume turned away from him at the comment, and Toboe knew that it was the closest he would ever get to a blush. “But,” Toboe continued, suddenly lowering his hand, “I can’t do this anymore, Tsume. I have to sleep now. I could barely raise my hand to touch you.”
Tsume looked slightly alarmed. “No. You can’t sleep. I won’t let you…you can’t, dammit—”
Toboe had put a finger to Tsume’s lips, silencing him. “Tsume. We both knew I was going to die, didn’t we?” Tsume looked away again, but it was far from a blush. “Tsume, don’t look away, not now, I still need you.” As Tsume turned back to look at Toboe again, he knew it was true. No matter how long he made Toboe sit there, bundled in his arms, he would still eventually die. The bullet had struck too close to his heart. If Tsume had pried it out earlier, Toboe wouldn’t even be sitting there now.
But—dammit!—he didn’t want Toboe to die. He wanted Toboe…with him.
“I…” Tsume said slowly. “I don’t want you to die. That’s two deaths on my hands, and I don’t want them!”
“You didn’t kill me,” Toboe said, “And you didn’t kill Ghel. They were both accidents beyond your control, situations that you tried to make better. And you did make this one better, Tsume. You made me better. You made me happy. Please, Tsume. I’ll be so sad if you still beat yourself up about this when I’m gone.”
Tsume shook his head. “You can’t die.” Toboe reached up with the last strength he had, and gave Tsume one long, lasting, lingering kiss, before settling comfortably into Tsume’s lap, head still nestled into Tsume’s chest.
“I…I love you Tsume…” Toboe said. Tsume opened his mouth to say something, most likely ‘I love you, too, runt,’ but Toboe shook his head before he could say anything. “I know how you feel, Tsume, you don’t have to tell me. Tsume, just don’t forget that I love you, never…”
“I won’t.” Tsume said, the lump in his throat returning. Toboe nestled down closer to Tsume, and with all said and done, he smiled and closed his eyes. Tsume didn’t stop him; he knew it was right, that it had to happen that way. At least it had been a peaceful death. If anyone had deserved that treatment, Toboe did. But it’s not fair! Hell, me dying would’ve been better. Damn you Blue, you stupid bitch, and the asshole Quent, too. Damn you both to hell! It’s your fault that Toboe’s gone… He felt the sadness swell inside of him, until he couldn’t hold it anymore. He howled. It was a long, sad cry that echoed through the sky that was tinged with light blue as a signal of the coming dawn. Why does it have to be this way? Tsume still held Toboe in his arms, filled with grief.
“Tsume…” the wolf suddenly heard a voice whisper in the wind, “Tsume…” Tsume looked around, and saw that his surroundings were growing dark. Toboe vanished from his arms, and he wondered what the fuck was going on. He blinked—
And when he blinked, opening his eyes, it seemed, he was staring into a pair of golden brown ones. “Tsume, are you okay?” A sweet, familiar, innocent voice asked.
“Toboe?” Tsume said, confused. He sat up, and looked around. There was forest in every direction. The forest they had been in…the day before. The same forest that he had run through before…in his dream.
It was all a dream, wasn’t it? Tsume was washed with relief. So…Toboe was alive. But if that was so great, then why did he feel so… incomplete?
“Yes, Tsume?” Toboe answered cheerfully and expectantly, like usual. “You were tossing in your sleep.” Toboe’s demeanor sobered. “I was worried about you.” Tsume stiffened slightly. Toboe…wasn’t the same as…He probably didn’t even…he sighed. He stood, and walked away, not saying anything to Toboe, Kiba, or Hige. He walked, using his ears and nose to find a stream, and sat on the banks. Occasionally, he looked back towards the direction he’d come, towards the camp, towards…Toboe. He sighed again, then closed his eyes and pieced together his dream, like the frames of a movie, playing in his head. He sighed for a second time. This wasn’t like him at all. But…he still felt awkward, different, like something was missing.
“I shouldn’t be this bothered by a damn dream.” He washed his face with the stream water. But he couldn’t get Toboe’s eyes, lips or voice out of his head. God, he wanted Toboe so much. The runt was kind of…cute. Well, at least he was alive, so Tsume wouldn’t have to go through that strange pain again… And then he remembered it. The song that Toboe sung in his dream, the song he had memorized. He felt compelled to sing it, as if it would lull his suffering. Maybe that was why the dream-Toboe had sung it. Maybe…it held some connection to the real Toboe? Tsume knew he would never do the song the same justice as Toboe had—or would—but he sung it anyway, his sweet, deep sultry voice making the words flow soft and slow, and sad.
As Tsume let the last words of the song die on his lips, and sighed for the third time. Real or not real, that dream had changed him. Toboe had changed him.
“Tsume?” Came a confused voice from behind him. Tsume didn’t even bother to turn; he knew it was Toboe. “How do you know…that song? I…” Toboe was utterly surprised, but Tsume wasn’t. He knew exactly what had to do. He had to do everything he’d refused to do since he’d come to Dome City, years ago. He had to follow his heart, and it was leading him…to Toboe.
“I know, you made it up, right?”
“Yes, I…” Toboe blushed. Tsume guessed he was embarrassed because of the fact that he sang.
“It’s a beautiful song, Toboe. I’m glad you came up with it.”
Toboe blushed even more. He just got a complement from Tsume. “Have you heard me…sing it at night?”
Tsume pondered for a second how he should answer that question. “Yeah…” he said, and he struggled not to smile. It was nice, having Toboe there, even if was confused…or scared. Maybe he had been too hard on the runt in the past.
Toboe’s face was red like a beet, his face getting redder and redder at each passing moment. “You…heard me sing?”
“Your voice is beautiful. You should sing more often.”
“I…” Toboe looked around. He wanted to escape somehow. Tsume didn’t say many nice things unless he was trying to prank you or something. Toboe didn’t know what the elder wolf had planned, but…
Tsume chuckled to himself. “Come, Toboe,” he said softly. Toboe hesitated, looking as though he wasn’t sure what was going to happen to him.“Sit,” Tsume said, and Toboe sat, a fair distance away. “Not there, stupid; I’m not gonna rip your arm off.” When Toboe stood to move, Tsume reached up and pulled him down into his lap.
Toboe gave a surprised yelp. “Tsume—”
“Shhh…Hush, Toboe stop being so loud,” Tsume said as he absorbed Toboe’s warmth. He was warmer than in the dream—but then again, Toboe wasn’t dying, and it wasn’t raining.
Tsume looked down at the confused Toboe in his lap. The wind blew slightly, and Toboe’s auburn hair floated around his face as this brown eyes met Toboe’s golden ones expectantly. Toboe looked almost… angelic, and Tsume decided…to tell him the truth for once. Tsume smiled, a beautiful sight that even Toboe felt honored to see; he’d probably never see it again. “Because…because I love you, Toboe,” he said, feeling like blushing as red as Toboe as he spoke. Of course, he didn’t; he had already gone over the top when he pulled Toboe into his lap and even more so by smiling.
“What…?” Toboe said, seeming even more confused.
Tsume rolled his eyes. “I said I love you, stupid.” He ruffled Toboe’s hair.
“What do you mean, ‘why?’? I love you ‘cause I love you. Take it or leave it, runt.” Toboe looked up at Tsume, as if he was trying to figure out a complicated problem. Then, suddenly, Toboe smiled, and threw his arms around Tsume and said happily, “I love you, too, Tsume! You make me happy.” Tsume kissed him. And, while he kissed Toboe’s surprised yelp away, he realized it:
Toboe made him happy, too.
And it wasn’t a dream.