Author: trivialaffair's fic, Sleep, because I am sadistic and would like to dabble about with sick!Shige. Please try not to remember that I have already killed him off twice before. I swear I really do want him alive so that he can continue breaking my brain. For now though, I hope that you like this...it is really not half as depressive as Sleep. Really. Comments are always and forever loved.
Life More Abundantly
Shige likes looking at the night sky. No, not because he has a particular sentiment for stars – he thinks that it isn’t much fun going gaga over something that one will never be able to reach in one’s lifetime. Nor does he like it because it’s dark and expansive and somehow gives you the feeling that you’re glimpsing into the outer universe. Shige wants to stay right where he is.
He likes it because when he’s lying on his bed, unable to move, staring out of the window at the night sky is the only thing that he can do. And when you’re forced to do something so frequently, you better learn to like it.
Sometimes he feels like he’s drifting, air rushing through his body and making it weightless. During times like that, he raises a trembling hand towards the sky to make sure that it’s still too far away for him to touch, that he’s really where he is, lying in bed trying to recover from his latest collapse. But the moment he closes his eyes, he’s drifting again into unfamiliar territory that squeezes his heart with fear.
And so Shige stares at the sky, as hard as he can.
Because it keeps him grounded. Alive.
There are sounds that you can’t get out of your head for a long time, no matter how much you try to forget them. The day that the doctor spoke to him pointblank about what was wrong with his bodily functions, Shige thought of the words as sounds, each one harsh and grating, not very pleasant on the ears. He thought he would be able to forget them soon; after all, one doesn’t remember unpleasant sounds, right?
It’s best not to remember how the sounds told him that when heavenly people put his body together before he was born, they forgot a few details and so condemned him to living a life with an incomplete body. Like a machine that has been badly fitted together. Of course, the doctor didn’t exactly say it like that in so many words; he was more brief, clinical, throwing in a few big medical-theory-sounding phrases that Shige didn’t attempt to absorb, but Shige likes hearing stories even when they don’t exist.
Stories are good; they help one look over and above the harsh realities. Stories tickle one’s imagination, like how bodies can be fitted together. Maybe there’s a manual up there in heaven that they refer to constantly? If so, what had gone wrong with him? Maybe they had run out of spare parts and couldn’t order them in time, so sent him down hoping that whatever was missed out wouldn’t have terribly ill effects. Or maybe they’d gotten tired of making so many bodies and so became lax by the time his turn came.
When Shige thinks of it like that, he manages to go on. But sometimes, when the stories turn back into their original sounds and he hears them again, spaced out and enunciated in his head, and knows that this is reality…
At those times, even the sky can’t keep him grounded.
Everyone in NEWS knows that Shige is likely to collapse without due warning. Shige has a weird sleeping disorder that strikes at opportune moments…very opportune moments, as a somewhat envious Tegoshi declares…and they’ve all learned not to take too much notice of it. In a few minutes, he’ll be awake and scrambling to his feet stuttering apologies for disrupting the flow of activity, and everyone will just shrug in a “What else is new?” sort of way.
So when Shige goes down one day, nobody even tosses him a second glance. Yamapi’s gaze lingers on him longer than the others’, but Yamapi is at the other end of the room and he thinks it isn’t worth the effort of going over and waking Shige up.
But for a long moment, all Shige can see…instead of the back of his eyelids…is the uneven whiteness of the ceiling marred by black spots flashing randomly across it. He struggles to breathe, feeling his entire body shudder with weakness, already weightless, almost drifting, and he feels the whiteness coming down and crushing him and he groans, blinded, before the mist clears and he sees Ryo staring down at him with panic in his eyes.
“My god,” breathes Ryo.
When he grips Shige’s arms, his hands are cold.
Shige can feel his legs giving way underneath him. The room seems to be spinning around him like he’s the only thing still in a bizarre world, and he thinks maybe he might throw up, but the frenzy it would cause if he does and all the questions that will be asked and all the answers that he doesn’t want to give…
Then Ryo’s grip tightens and he’s suddenly reminded again that there is one person at least who might be asking questions if he doesn’t pull himself together very soon. He really doesn’t want to face that now.
“Thanks, Nishikido-kun,” he says, pushing Ryo’s hand gently off his arm and trusting himself to the unsteadiness of his legs.
“Ice cream!” Koyama calls out cheerfully as he and Tegoshi enter the dressing room. Shige turns thankfully away from Ryo to grab his preferred flavour before Massu can get to them.
“Ehhh?!” Massu wails when he sees Shige taking the chocolate chip. “I wanted that, Shige!”
“That was meant for…” Koyama begins.
Shige takes a very deliberate lick at his ice cream and rolls his eyes exaggeratedly. “De-li-cious. I knew you guys would get me chocolate chip.”
“Shige is so evil,” Koyama pronounces, poking Shige reprovingly in the side as he passes by. Shige almost drops his ice cream, and Tegoshi squeals with laughter. Shige wishes he could laugh too, but he’s breathless and he might just choke if he does.
“Let’s get back to work when we’re done,” Yamapi says.
Shige thinks about his legs, wonders if they’ll be able to keep him up for the next two hours before he can go home and collapse onto the bed. Then he gives himself a little mental shake. Everyone thinks there’s nothing wrong with him; they hardly even noticed his collapse a few minutes earlier. Of course he’ll be able to get through the next couple of hours. He’ll be fine.
He steadily avoids Ryo’s eyes, which he can feel burning into the side of his head. He’s afraid, so afraid, that if he looks up and meets those probing eyes, he might just give in and confess there and then that he can’t go on, he’s liable to drop down at any moment, and that he really shouldn’t be here, pushing his body beyond what it can take. He thinks of saying all that in front of the members, seeing them pale with shock and horror, and then he’s dizzy again.
The hours crawl by. He has to fight to get past every minute. Has dancing always been this hard? Or is it because they’re doing particularly difficult choreography this time round? He can feel the perspiration rolling down his face, standing in beads on his forehead, and he struggles to breathe, to keep his heart pumping in a steady rhythm. The members sigh at his seeming incompetence; why is it that Shige can’t catch on to the dance moves when they’re so simple? Really, there must be something wrong with the guy’s head today.
Shige focuses on his breathing. It’s so painful. It’s terrifying. And so easy…so possible…to just die, right now, on the spot.
He shivers, and his mind goes blank.
Ryo finds him later, huddled on the couch, his body shaking with the effort to breathe.
“Do you need a ride back?” he asks.
Shige blinks slowly at him, as though laboriously processing the question in his head. Ryo is one minute from pulling him up and declaring that he gets a ride back regardless of whether he likes it or not when Shige finally drags himself up, slowly testing the ground lest it give way under his feet. He nods.
When Ryo pulls up before his apartment block, Shige knows what’s coming.
“Are you okay?” Ryo asks, his voice flat and quiet.
Shige raises his eyes, looks Ryo in the face for the first time that entire day. He knows he isn’t a good liar, but for now, lies will have to do. “Yes,” he says.
Ryo doesn’t attempt to ask any further.
“Maybe you should tell them,” says his mother softly that night.
Shige turns his face into his pillow. He’s not sure if he can stand being a dying person in both his worlds.
Shige thinks he could hate Ryo, just a little. Hate him for walking into the toilet just as he falls, hate him for being witness to his unstoppable coughing, hate him for seeing the blood on the tissue paper.
“What the hell?!” Ryo demands, and Shige is sure that he hates Ryo, maybe a lot. Ryo shouldn’t be finding anything wrong with him. Shouldn’t have to.
“I’m fine,” Shige says, emphasizing the word.
Then Ryo snaps, his voice raising, and Shige finds his voice raising too, he’s really hating Ryo now, hating him for accusing him of being something less than fine, of insisting to know the truth.
“Why do you care anyway?!” he yells discordantly.
In the pause that follows, Shige only hates Ryo more.
“We’re in the same group,” says Ryo lamely. “I care about whoever’s in the group.”
Of course he knows that.
When Shige stalks out of the toilet, he thinks of running away. Quitting. Never seeing Ryo again.
Darkness has a strange quality to it. Somehow, things are more foreboding when you can’t see them.
When his life is not there before him, lit and shining under the sun, Shige feels like it’s gone already. As though he’s buried underground hearing the rain fall on the soil above his head.
When he cries, he makes sure he does it softly so that nobody hears.
It’s a Thursday, dismal fourth day of the week, when Shige coughs blood into the toilet sink. The floor tiles are cold under his feet, but his forehead is hot. When he leans it against the mirror, the coldness feels almost jarring to his skin.
Downstairs, his parents are watching TV and he hopes that the volume is loud enough to have covered all the rough sounds that came out of his mouth. They’re upset enough without having to see this, too.
“What the fuck is wrong with you?!” Ryo had screamed at him only a couple of days earlier in yet another toilet…always toilets…Shige is constantly finding himself breaking down in toilets.
He lifts his head and stares at his reflection. His face is thinner, his cheekbones standing out clearly under the rounded hollows of his eyes. What the fuck is wrong with you? He hears Ryo’s voice again. Ryo had been so frightened. There had been the fear in Ryo’s eyes, jumping out at him, devouring him. Ryo hadn’t really wanted to know. Nobody would really want to know. Shige doesn’t want them to, either.
But when he looks at himself again, sees the death in his face, he wants to take hold of Ryo’s hand and point it towards the face in the mirror.
“This is what’s wrong with me,” he hears himself saying. “This is a dying person you’re looking at.”
The terror in Ryo’s eyes reflect in his own, and then Shige is gasping, fingers clutching hold of the basin. When he closes his eyes, he can see himself lying on the floor, staring up at the endless skies.
Halfway there, almost reaching the clouds.
“I’m sorry, Kato-kun,” says the doctor, sighing. “I’m afraid you will have to quit your job earlier than I thought.”
Shige grips the sides of his chair, tries to breathe past the shrieking whiteness of the walls and the stench of sickness in the air. “Why?” he says.
Then the doctor is talking again, and Shige hears stories about how the heavenly people messed up and missed out on a really important part and so his body is disintegrating faster than it’s supposed to. Or maybe it’s because of the way he’s been forcing himself for the past month. One never really knows whether one is at fault.
“…pushing yourself too hard.” The doctor looks up at him. “You have to slow down, Kato-kun. If you continue working like that, you’ll die before your time.”
Before he can stop himself, Shige laughs. Bitterly.
“Before my time?” he repeats almost caustically. “What do you think is happening to me now, Sensei?”
The doctor flushes, but doesn’t hesitate in his reply. “Kato-kun, please take care of yourself. The more blood you cough out is a sign that your health is deteriorating faster. Sleep longer hours, lessen your physical activities, and take your medication regularly. Also, quit your job as quickly as possible.”
Shige smiles a little. “You’re telling me to kill myself.”
When he walks out of the room, he meets Ryo’s worried gaze. He doesn’t have to say anything. Ryo falls back onto the couch as though the strength has been drained out of him.
It is strange having Ryo in the know. Shige has never imagined telling Ryo about his condition. He never meant to tell anyone in the first place, of course, but somehow he has always thought that if he did tell someone in the group, that person was most likely to be Koyama. Ryo has never cared enough. There is absolutely no reason why Ryo should know.
But as they move forth into the twelve weeks lying ahead of them, twelve weeks before the curtains fall on the Dome concert and Shige quits NEWS, he begins to see that Ryo does care – and that he cares awfully. Ryo doesn’t help him out obviously; doesn’t hold medicine to his mouth and force him to take it, nor does he reach out a hand to support him when he walks, nor does he nag at him about keeping warm in their freezing dressing room…doesn’t do any of the things that Shige was horrifically afraid the members might do if they knew.
Instead, Shige starts seeing the subtle caring side of Ryo that he has always heard existed, but never before experienced first-hand. When he gets dehydrated from the amount of perspiration pouring out from his pores, there’s a bottle of water within reach. When he lies down on the couch and closes his eyes against the raging headaches that attack him more and more frequently, the dressing room is silent and he knows it’s because Ryo is glaring at them to shut up. When he walks up stairs, Ryo is behind him, ready to catch him if he shows the least sign of falling. Ryo does everything so carefully and quietly that none of the members notice it particularly except once, to remark on their seeming friendship.
“I got tired of arguing with him, he isn’t worth the effort,” Ryo replies, and Shige looks at him and suddenly feels as though half the burden of dying has been lifted off him and placed on Ryo’s firm, bony shoulders.
He starts hanging around Ryo more, taking lifts from Ryo back home, and within a couple of weeks Ryo starts taking him back to his apartment and cooking up simple, delicious meals for him. They don’t talk too much; hardly even turn on the television to fill the silence between them with the blabber of on-screen people. Ryo simply lets Shige lie on the sofa with a cushion supporting his head as he sits on the floor with a guitar, strumming random melodies and singing occasionally.
When Shige closes his eyes now, he doesn’t see endless skies anymore. All he feels now is light on his eyelids, his body warm and solid, right there with him. He knows that he’s alive.
“When you lie on your back a lot, you tend to notice things that you didn’t before,” Shige says.
He and Ryo are lying on the floor of the dance rehearsal room. He’d been practicing at his dance sequence long after everyone else left; he knows that he’s falling horribly behind and they are all worried and frustrated over him. He had been making some progress in his solo dance when suddenly he dropped to the floor and couldn’t get up, and that was how Ryo found him when he came in five minutes later to check on him.
“Do you want to go home?” Ryo had said immediately. “I think it’s enough for one day.”
“In a minute,” Shige replied. “I just want to lie here for a while.”
Ryo had come forward and lain down beside him then. Quietly.
Shige points towards the ceiling. “You see?”
Ryo squints. “I don’t see anything.”
“You have to look hard enough. The paint is so uneven. There’s a crack here, and another crack there, and a couple of lumps. People always notice uneven floors, but they hardly ever notice uneven ceilings.”
Ryo is silent. Shige continues studying the ceiling for a long moment before turning his head towards Ryo and grinning. “I think I should get up now, huh?”
Ryo raises his eyebrow, but grins back. “Yeah. And stop staring at things that aren’t worth staring at.”
Shige laughs as Ryo gets to his feet and helps him up. “But then, you know,” he says as the both of them start packing up his gear, “these days I feel like everything is worth staring at. It’s like I want to absorb them as much as I can. It sounds dumb, but that’s how it is.”
Ryo slings Shige’s bag over his shoulder and heads to the door, switching off the lights. “If you want to absorb something, I suggest you absorb the taste of good shabu shabu instead. Come on. You’re treating me.”
Shige laughs again as he follows Ryo out.
It becomes harder to hang on. Some days, Shige feels like his head is in a mess just trying to focus on breathing and keeping his heart pumping at a steady rate. At times he can’t catch his breath and speaking in itself requires terrible effort. Each day that passes, he loses just that bit more strength, just that bit more life. He knows that he’s slipping away.
He doesn’t look at the calendar anymore, nor even at his watch unless absolutely necessary. He doesn’t want to know how much time he has left. Somewhere in the back of his mind he can feel anguish lingering there, a deadly anguish that might overwhelm him if he lets it out, and he struggles desperately to repress it. He doesn’t know what will happen if it should ever break out.
One day he wakes up in Ryo’s apartment with a headache fit to split his head apart and sees Ryo sitting by the sofa, watching him somberly. Shige tries to remember why he’s there, but the moment he thinks, his head screams in pain, so he gives up.
“What happened?” he asks.
“You got stinking drunk, that’s what happened,” Ryo says, getting up and leaving. He comes back a minute later with aspirin and a glass of water.
Shige swallows and grimaces. “I should go home.”
“You should lie here until you’re fit to go out,” Ryo returns. “I’m going to get ready for work. Just stay here and try to look more like an idol than a bum.”
Shige makes a face at him and lies back down on the sofa. He looks up at the ceiling and senses that something is different about him, though he can’t really pinpoint it. He still can’t figure it out when Ryo hustles him out and into the car and drives him back home, but the difference is there and he can feel it palpably.
It’s only when he’s at the doorstep of his house fumbling with his keys, watching Ryo zoom off to wherever he’s supposed to go, that he realises the anguish at the back of his mind is gone.
It’s noisy and chaotic and wonderful and Shige can’t stop himself from beaming.
“Shige, you can’t wait to get out on that stage, ne!” Tegoshi sings as he zooms past Shige in a blur of pink glitter.
“Tokyo Dome~!” Massu yells and starts crying. Shige laughs at him even as he helps Massu straighten his yellow jacket.
There’s only a very brief moment that he shares with Ryo right before they take up position. Ryo, stepping onto the gondola and peering down at the brightly lit stage below, turns around and meets Shige’s shining eyes. They smile at each other from the heart, widely and blindingly, saying take it away, let’s go crazy out there, and Shige knows that this is going to be a magnificent night.
The audience’s voices are still echoing in Shige’s mind three hours later. He recalls the heat of the lights on his skin, the dizzying rush of adrenaline as he runs down the stage towards the audience, the harmony and synchronization of the members. He knows that he’s so lucky.
When they pull up in front of his apartment block, he turns round to face Ryo, wanting to thank him somehow for everything that he has done. He doesn’t really know what words to use, but he still wants to thank him anyway. He opens his mouth, but suddenly Ryo leans forward and kisses him.
Shige feels his entire body going into shock as he stays still, feeling the softness of Ryo’s lips against his as Ryo nudges Shige’s mouth open gently with his tongue. He can’t think straight; can’t think of anything for that matter, except that Nishikido Ryo is kissing him and somehow he has begun kissing back and this feels so right that he doesn’t want to pull away.
When they finally part, breathless, Ryo grins at him. “Otsukaresama.”
Shige feels the blood rushing into his cheeks, warm and dizzying. “Is that all you have to say?”
Ryo pauses for a moment. “…Yeah.”
“You…” Shige begins to laugh. “You idiot.”
They kiss again, and again, and again, until Ryo sighs and draws away. “It’s late. I’ll walk you up.”
There are so many things to say, but yet they don’t talk as they enter the elevator and ride up to Shige’s place. Ryo’s hand brushes his lightly and for once, Shige’s mind isn’t teeming with scattered fragments of thoughts. He feels calm, at peace, just basking, and when they reach his front door and turn to look at each other, he knows that this is happiness, right here and now.
Ryo leans forward and trails his lips along Shige’s cheek. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Shige nods, and Ryo flashes him one last smile before leaving. Shige leans over the railings and waits, looking at the darkness of the night sky and the little orange glows of the street lamps. It isn’t too long before Ryo emerges from the building.
As he watches Ryo walk across the car park, a small figure in white against the dark grey of the road, he thinks of love. Love, and love more abundantly; bursting at its seams, overflowing from the sides. It reminds him of an age-old phrase…what was it again? My cup runneth over.
Ryo turns his head up and Shige sees the small blur of his face with the whiteness of his teeth flashing in the orange glow. It’s beautiful, and uplifting, and Shige thinks of life, six more months of beautiful life with Ryo; for once a life he can believe holds full of promise.
A/N: If you haven't read triv's story yet, I recommend you do so that you'll know what happens after this.