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KH AU:: Through Thick and Thin Ch. 9

What is this I don't even. This chapter. Just. Ugh. Let's just say that I'm really displeased with the way it came out. All of my meager writing abilities have gone down the tube. *sighs* Oh well. It's done. I stayed up til 4 A.M. last night, I was so determined to just finish it instead of having it lay around like it has been all break.

Also, I take a strange and perverse pleasure in torturing Rudy. Poor kid. He needed a wake-up call. S'okay, BB. It'll work out. Maybe. Unless I decide to be even more sick and perverse. We'll see. >D


Rudol heaved a heavy sigh. He hated waiting. He really did. He was impulsive and impatient by nature, which is why sitting alone in an empty lounge waiting to meet with his writing professor was excruciatingly torturous. He managed to keep himself entertained by people-watching; the writing center was on the same floor as a number of classrooms, so he could at least observe students coming and going. He was in the middle of idly wondering just how much glue the girl with the mohawk had to use to keep her hair upright when he noticed another familiar head of hair pass by the glass door. Specifically, a dreadlocked head of hair.

Rudol didn't waste time thinking. The minute it registered that Dilan was in the vicinity, he was up and out of his seat and halfway across the room.

"Dilan!" he called, swinging open the door of the writing center, but the other man had already entered the stairwell. Heads turned his way, but he didn't care how many funny looks he received. Determined not to lose sight of Dilan, Rudol shoved aside anyone who dared to cross paths with him and took the stairs two at a time.

He slammed through the front doors of the building, the doors banging wildly behind him. "Dilan!" he called again, louder this time, but Dilan was halfway down the street. He took off at a dead run, ignoring the burning in his lungs, until he grabbed Dilan by the back of his shirt and forced him to a halt.

"Dilan, I need to tell you something," he managed to say in between gasps of air. "I love you." Rudol looked up at him, but his face was impassive, and he faltered. "You… you still love me, right? You do, don't you?"

Dilan finally met his gaze, and Rudol wished that he hadn't, because the cold in his eyes soaked through to his bones. "I trusted you," he said, his words quiet and carefully measured. The pain and betrayal in his voice was unmistakable. "I thought we had something. But you betrayed me. You lied to me, you stole from me, you played me for a fool. And you still expect me to love you after what you did to me?" He shook his head, disappointment etched in his features.

He was desperate to make things right again. "Look, I know what I did was wrong, but that's because I didn't know then what I know now. I love you, Dilan, I love you. You have to believe me, you have to take me back, you have to love me…"  Plaintive, pleading, Rudol touched Dilan's arm in an act of desperation. Dilan yanked away as if he had been burned and shot him a look of deepest loathing.

The sudden smell of scorched flesh singed Rudol's nostrils, and he recoiled in horror. He was unable to tear his eyes away, transfixed as he watched Dilan's flesh sizzle, an imprint of his hand branded into his skin.

"Why should I?" Dilan responded, seemingly unconcerned by the way his skin was bubbling ominously where Rudol had touched him. "You disgust me."

He could only watch helplessly as Dilan turned away from him and disappeared into the sudden fog that swirled around them. It was deathly quiet in his absence; the only sound Rudol could hear was the steady drip-drip of liquid pooling on the pavement. A sickening stench filled the air, the warm smell of internal organs, and he realized that blood was seeping through his shirt and trickling down his chest. He ripped off his shirt and looked down, aghast at the black, gaping hole in his chest.

Dilan had left him, and he'd taken his heart with him. He opened his mouth to scream, and —


Rudol woke up with a gasp, drenched in sweat and shivering. He clawed at his shirt to make sure that his chest was still intact and breathed a deep sigh of relief upon finding that there was no hole and his heart was still beating safely inside of him. His skin was still prickling from the aftereffects of the dream, just another one in the myriad of night terrors that plagued him every time he managed to drift off into a fitful sleep. Over the past few days, his fever had spiked drastically, bringing with it the chills that wracked him with tremors and made it impossible for him to stay warm.

Cold. He'd kicked the covers off of his bed in his sleep again. Rudol groped around on the floor in search of his comforter and dragged the tangled bundle of sheets onto his bed once more, wrapping himself in it as best as he could.

"I… I don't understand…" he mumbled to himself, still delirious and unable to process his latest nightmare. He was too shaken up by the images burned on the insides of his eyelids to function, let alone wrap his mind around the inner complexities of his dream. His head refused to listen to any logical thoughts, and he rationalized away the dream. "It's just a dream," he repeated to himself. "It's just your mind being weird and spewing things out. It doesn't mean anything. It's not like… you… love him or anything."

He buried deeper under the covers as if that could block out his traitorous thoughts. And with that last conscious thought, he sank back into reluctant sleep, his body's automatic defense mechanism to the predatory virus eating away at his immune system.


There is no prelude, no context, no situation as in his previous dream. Just him, Dilan, and the thin layer of clothes that separates them. And then, not even that.

It's like nothing has changed, yet everything has changed. Their bodies fit together like a jigsaw puzzle, like finding the missing piece and placing it back where it belongs, where it fits snugly next to its other half.

Simple, fleeting sensations are all he knows. Dilan's mouth against his, lips seeking out his own, trailing down his jaw line. Hot breath whispering in his ear, tantalizing words of lust and affection. He shudders, a thrill coursing down his spine and causing his back to arch beneath Dilan's hands.

His breath, ragged and raw. His legs, wrapped around Dilan to give him greater access to his sweet spot, allowing him to deepen his thrusts. His hands, scrabbling for purchase, trying to pull Dilan closer to him, pressing his body tight against his, rubbing up against his firm stomach. It's too much, too much to bear.

He squeezes his eyes shut, biting Dilan's shoulder to keep from crying out in painpleasureparadise, but it isn't enough to stifle the whimpers that escape him. The tension hits its peak, and he gives in, moaning unrestrainedly as he rides out the waves of his climax, hips rolling forward as he comes, spilling across his bare torso.

Then, cold hits him all at once. Still foggy, as if moving through water, he blinks up at Dilan, his source of body heat gone. He tries to speak, a question on his lips, but he finds himself physically unable to vocalize.

Towering over him, Dilan speaks for him. "Now you know what it's like." His words are accusatory, devoid of any prior trace of warmth. "To love and be left."

He watches as Dilan turns and departs, struggling to call after his retreating back, but his words are stuck in his throat. Finally, he manages to utter a single name, but even that is ripped from his throat and snatched up by a sudden gust of wind, and Rudol is left alone, vulnerable, and cold.


Wet, was his first conscious thought. It took him a few moments to dimly realize that he had been crying in his sleep, hot, salty tears leaking out of the corner of his eyes, tracking down his cheeks, and dripping onto the sheets. He half-opened his eyes, blinking rapidly, and struggled to a seated position.

Sticky was the second thought that occurred to him. His face was still slick with unbidden tears, his body was drenched in sweat, and his sheets and pajamas were plastered to his skin. He peeled away the layers of fabric covering him and grimaced down at himself. He was a mess, wrecked both physically and emotionally.

"Jizz, sweat, and tears," he said aloud. "It sounds like the beginning of a bad porno." He gave a shaky laugh, which only made him feel worse, and the forced laughter quickly turned to half-hysterical sobs. He could feel a constricting panic gripping him, and he fumbled about for his phone, which was buried somewhere beneath the thin layer of tissues and debris that coated the floor around his bed. Still in a feverish haze, he somehow managed to find it and dial one of the few numbers he had programmed into his speed-dial.

A sharp, feminine voice answered with a slightly irritated, "Hello?"

"Rennie!" Rudol blurted out, relief washing over him. His mind was too fuzzy and jumbled to really register her tone of voice; he was simply grateful that she had answered at all. He was sure she'd be able to help him, or at least soothe his frazzled nerves. "Rennie, I'm such a wreck, I keep dreaming about him, and they're the worst nightmares. I wake up, and it's like he's still there, but he's not, and I don't know what to do. Rennie, what's wrong with me?"

"I don't know what's wrong with you, but there's going to be something wrong with you if you interrupt me during my date one more time. Some of us still have love lives to maintain, you know." L'Erena hung up in a huff without giving him a chance to respond.

Rudol stared at his phone through glassy eyes. "Ouch," he said quietly despite the fact that there was no one around to hear it. L'Erena could be downright cruel at times, even though he knew she would regret it later and would inevitably call him to apologize like she always did.

But it didn't make him feel any better at the moment. He pressed number five on his mobile phone's keypad and closed his eyes, praying for Lumaria to pick up his phone. He perked up slightly when he heard someone pick up on the other end. "Lulu?" He knew he must sound weak and pitiful, but he was too far gone to care what he looked like to others. His ego was already bruised enough. And besides, it was Lulu, who loved him unconditionally regardless of his physical state.

"Rudy, hang on—" There was a rustling noise as Lumaria held the phone away from his ear and hissed something at someone else who was in the room. "Even, get off of me for like two seconds, this is important."

He didn't think it was even possible to feel even worse than he did currently, but his spirits sank even lower at Lumaria's hushed words. Just like when he contacted L'Erena, he was interrupting another set of lovers, when he himself was all alone and miserable with only the ghost of a past relationship to keep him company. The floodgates opened, and he found himself spilling everything to Lumaria, words tumbling over one another in his haste to get them out.

"I'm sorry, I'm interrupting, I just— nightmares— and they're all about him, and I don't even know what— and I tried calling Rennie— but—"

"Rudy—" Lumaria tried to intervene, finding an opening to speak once Rudol paused long enough to take a breath. "Rudy, I can't understand a word you're saying. Calm down. Blow your nose. Get a drink of water. And then tell me what happened."

He sniffed. "Okay." Rudol put the phone down and crawled over the box of tissues at the foot of his bed. He could hear Lumaria squawking at Even on the other side of the line and giggled unsteadily.  Lumaria really did remind him of a deranged, pink mother hen. It was a comforting thought.

When he picked up the phone again, the first thing he heard was a distant, "I told you, Even, this is important. Go study or something while I talk to him. Jesus." More crackling of static in his ear, then Lumaria spoke to him again. "Rudy? You there?"


"Okay. Let's take this one step at a time," Lumaria instructed, his voice soothing and rational. Rudol would have smiled if he wasn't convinced that the corners of his mouth were incapable of turning upwards at the moment; he could always count on Lulu to hold his hand and walk him through a crisis. "First, what was that you said about Rennie?"

He sniffed, wiping his nose with a tissue. "I tried calling her first," he explained, subdued. "And she said something about how 'some of us still have love lives to maintain.' And then she hung up on me."

"Well, she is PMSing," Lumaria said knowledgeably. "You know how she gets. Plus, I know that she's nervous because she's spending the day with Nami and taking her out on a proper date tonight. I helped her pick out an evening outfit, and she's going to be the cutest little gentleman ever, I swear—" Rudol sneezed suddenly, and Lumaria immediately stopped gushing. "Sorry, I got carried away. That was a little insensitive. The point is, don't take it personally. She's just crabby and crampy and taking her nerves out on you. Now, what happened to make you so upset in the first place?"

He twisted his sheets in his hands as he tried to corral his thoughts together, the phone cradled against his shoulder. "I'm," he began slowly, attempting to sort through the jumbled mess of thoughts inside his head, "having some seriously fucked up dreams. Nightmares. And they're always about the same thing, every single time." He paused to wipe his brow with the sleeve of his shirt.

"Go on," Lumaria prompted him. "What are they about?"

"Dilan," he said, finding it difficult to even speak his name.


"Yeah. I know. And, I mean, it's like…" He was having a hard time articulating his thoughts. Hell, he didn't even know what he thought. "Okay, I've never said 'I love you' to anyone before. Never. So why am I saying it in my dreams? It's just… just some fucked up mental thing, right? And— okay, if this was anyone else it would be awkward, but it's you, so whatever— I had a wet dream, for Christ's sake. I feel like I'm thirteen and a virgin again. I haven't had one in years, and never about someone I know, let alone an ex. I don't know where all this is coming from, and it's seriously starting to scare me." His voice broke a little. "What's wrong with me, Lulu? I don't know why I'm feeling like this, why I'm having all these bizarre dreams, why I can't get him out of my head…"

There was a moment's pause as Lumaria worked out how to tactfully approach the subject. "Here's what I think. I think that right now, you're sick. You're a mess. It's no wonder you're having weird dreams. But I also think that your subconscious is speaking to you."

"What do you mean, my subconscious is speaking to me?"

"Oh, Rudy…" Lumaria said sadly. "Don't you get it? Look inside. You know what you feel for him."

Rudol fell silent. He understood what Lumaria was insinuating, but his brain refused to accept the possibility. "Lulu, I can't," he pleaded. "I can't l-love him."

"But you do, don't you?"

"No. No, I don't." He shook his head fervently, drawing his knees close to his chest and curling up into a protective ball. "I don't, I can't, I won't." He knew he sounded pathetic, or worse, like a petulant child, but he was feverish enough to not even care.

"It's okay to love someone, Rudy, it's okay. I know you're scared, but I promise you it'll be okay. You don't have to be alone. You can let someone else in." His voice was soft and gentle, a healing balm, but it only frightened Rudol further.

"You don't get it!" he burst out. "None of you get it! You don't know what it's like for me. What it's like to go your entire life being so independent, not needing anyone else, jumping from one person to another, being so goddamn happy— and then suddenly have life as you know it, your entire worldview, turn upside down, and you realize that you're so fucked up—" He felt unshed tears prickling the back of his eyes, and he wiped at them roughly. He blamed the virus that was destroying him from the inside out for this overwhelming emotion that besieged him. "I can't do this. I can't talk about this anymore. Not now."

"Okay," Lumaria said, and his voice was so kind and understanding that it made Rudol want to cry all over again. "We'll talk about it later, when you're feeling well again. How are you feeling, by the way? Any better?"

"No. If anything, I feel worse," Rudol said, relaxing from his tense position. He was glad for the change of subject; at least he could talk about his health without feeling ridiculously weak and needy. "I still have a fever, I know that much. I can't find my thermometer so I don't know if it's gone down any, though. It's buried somewhere in here." He looked around his room in despair. He wasn't exceptionally messy under ordinary circumstances, but his entire living quarters had fallen into disarray since he'd taken ill. "I'm either too cold or too hot, and I can't stop shaking. I'm nauseous all the time, dizzy, lightheaded…"  

"Hmmm." Lumaria said thoughtfully. "Have you eaten anything yet today?"

"No. I finished off my Cheerios last night and don't have any food left in the dorm. And I don't even want to eat right now. I feel like I'm going to be sick."

"Well, you need to eat something. Your body needs nourishment to get better, and not eating will only make you feel more nauseous and lightheaded. I'll stop by with some chicken soup in a few hours, okay?"

"No way," Rudol said immediately. "You are not coming over. I'm not going to risk you falling ill because of me, Lulu. I'm fine, I swear."

"Rudy. Do you really think that's going to stop me?" Lumaria scoffed. "Remember when I gave you swine flu last year, and you bombed all of your finals because of it? If I get sick, consider it payback. I'm not going to let a silly thing like that stop me. Besides," he added, his voice softening a little, "I have Even to take care of me. You have no one. So let me take care of you today, and let Even douse me in disinfectant and anti-bacterial hand wipes when I get home. Okay?"

Rudol sighed; there was no arguing with Lumaria when he got an idea in his head. "Fine," he said grudgingly. "Whatever you say."

"Great!" he chirped, excited to play the role of nursemaid. "I'll just whip up some soup, and I'll be over in, say, two or three hours?"

"Alright. I don't know if I'll be asleep then or not, but just knock me up when you get here. It should be enough to wake me up, god knows how restlessly I've been sleeping…"

Lumaria stifled a snigger. "I don't know how Even would feel about me knocking you up."


"Never mind. You go get some rest, and I'll see you later."

"See you."

Rudol ended the call and dropped his phone to the floor. He looked down at himself in dismay and figured that he should at least attempt to make himself suitable for company, even if it was only Lulu who would be seeing him. He stripped off his shirt and used it to clean himself up as best as he was able before shoving it in the hamper stored beneath his bed. He stared at his bed for a few moments before opting to strip the top sheet off of it as well.

With a fresh change of clothes (or at least a dry pair of boxers and a shirt that wasn't soaked with sweat), Rudol dragged his blanket around him and flopped back down on his bed. He pressed the heels of his palms into his eyes until multicolored lights swarmed his vision, like the flash of a thousand cameras popping behind his eyelids. "God," he groaned. "What's happening to me? It's like I don't even know who I am anymore."

Thinking was still too painful to indulge in much of it.

Thinking about him was even worse.

He struggled to keep his mind carefully blank, yet it never failed to keep drifting back to the same cyclical thoughts, to the same person who wouldn't get out of his head, asleep or awake.



He was floating in the in-between dividing dream and reality when the sound of someone knocking jolted him back into consciousness. He'd just managed to zone out any thoughts of Dilan and his own personal inadequacies, and he scrunched his eyes shut, trying to lose himself once more. The knocking came again, more persistently this time. Grumbling in protest, he got out of bed, dragging his tangled bundle of covers with him.

Rudol padded over to the door and unlocked it, opening it to reveal Lumaria, who was looking far too perky in a flowered apron and clutching a Tupperware container like the perfect little housewife.

"Oh my god, Rudy, you look like shit!" Lumaria exclaimed without thinking, then instantaneously clapped a hand over his mouth. "Shit, did I just say that out loud?"

"'Lo to you too," Rudol replied dully, stepping aside to let him in. As he shut the door, he caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror on the wall and was forced to admit that Lumaria had a point. His face was ashen, his usual shock of blond hair was limp, and he had enough bags under his eyes to rival his great-aunt's handbag collection.

"So! I made you some chicken soup. Are you hungry?"

His stomach lurched at the thought of food. "Ahh… no." Lumaria eyed him beadily. "But I suppose a little soup wouldn't hurt," he hastily amended, not wanting to provoke Lumaria when he was ill and defenseless.

"Wonderful! It's still warm, too." Lumaria, who knew his way around Rudol's room like he knew the back of his hand, retrieved a bowl where it had fallen behind the micro-fridge and a spoon from his bottom left desk drawer. He ladled out a generous portion of soup and handed it to Rudol, who took a dutiful spoonful. The blond expected to simply taste it and put the rest aside for later, when he had more of an appetite and was less prone to regurgitating everything he swallowed.

"This… is actually good," he admitted and took another sip.

"Don't doubt my cooking," Lumaria admonished, wagging a finger at him. "Nurse Lulu knows best!" He swiveled around and appraised the room. "You keep eating while I straighten up in here." He pulled out a garbage bag and began sweeping up tissues into it.

Rudol took a few more gulps of soup before placing the bowl down on top of the micro-fridge. "Actually, Lulu?" His voice sounded impossibly small, even to himself. "Can you… do me a favor?"

"Sure, Rudy, anything."

"Just… hold me."

Lumaria didn't ask questions, but simply gathered up Rudol's broken body in his arms and held him as he fell apart, shaking uncontrollably. Rudol tried to tell himself that he was only quivering because of the cold chills that accompanied his fever, but the truth was that he didn't even know anymore.

"I know how hard this is for you," Lumaria said soothingly, stroking his hair.

He choked out a bitter laugh. "Yeah, that's a word for it. I feel like I'm at the lowest point of my life right now. I just feel so miserable all the time, even before I took ill. And I don't even know why. Breaking up with Dilan should have been the best thing that ever happened to me. But now I keep seeing him in my dreams, only this time, it's me getting rejected, and it's… it's tearing me apart. It's just one more thing on top of the massive heap of failure my life has become. I've just… I've fucked up my life so irreparably."

"Nothing's irreparable, Rudy."

"Yes, it is. I've cocked it up completely, haven't I? Christ, what have I done?" Lumaria simply held him tighter and chose to keep silent. Just the fact that he was there and listening was comfort enough for Rudol. He didn't need advice, just someone to listen to him.

"Lulu. I'm scared," Rudol finally confessed as he lay there with his head on Lumaria's chest, listening to the steady rise and fall of his breathing.

"Of what?"

"Love," he said after a moment of silence. "I mean… I've never even done this before." He gestured vaguely at the two of them. "Just held someone or had them hold me. And I've never wanted to before. You know me, it's always about no-strings attached, purely sexual relationships. That's always been good enough for me. It's what keeps me happy; there's no drama, no baggage, no promises to keep, nothing like that. It's why I always get out if I think things are becoming too serious. But… now I'm not so sure if that's the right philosophy. I'm lonely. And it hurts. And the thought that I have to start all over and learn all these rules, the sheer prospect of loving someone so much that you're willing to devote yourself to just that one person, the fact that I'm completely out of my comfort zone and facing the unknown for the first time in my life… it fucking terrifies me. And then there's the fact that I fucked up any chances of me having a normal relationship with anyone. I'll never be able to have a normal relationship in my life. And it's not like anyone could ever love me to begin with, since I'm just a two-faced, lying slut." His voice cracked on the final syllable.

"What?" Lumaria said, indignant on his behalf. "Of course you're not! Who said you were?"

"Dilan," Rudol replied, and he was suddenly struck by the insane urge to break down into laughter. "When he cornered me in the bar after I dumped him. And I gave him an ultimatum: take me as I am or leave me. He left." His shoulders began to shake again, and he tucked his face into Lumaria's apron so that he wouldn't see that he was crying. Between the sickness, the nightmares, and his own thoughts, he'd been worn down, fraying at the edges until he unraveled completely.

"Oh, Rudy," Lumaria said helplessly, rubbing his back in small circles. "It'll work out. If not with Dilan, you'll find someone else. It'll be okay."

Rudol hiccupped. He wanted to say that he didn't want anyone else, he wanted Dilan, but he couldn't bring himself to say it. Because saying it out loud meant that it was real, and he couldn't deal with the reality of his feelings, the reality of the situation as a whole. Instead, he pulled away from Lumaria, sniffling.

"Eh, I'm sorry," he apologized. "I probably got, like, snot all over you or something…"

Lumaria waved away his worries. "I'm wearing an apron, it's fine." He stood up, undoing the neatly tied bow in the back and removed the apron. "I'm more concerned about you. Are you going to be okay? Do you want me to stay the night? Because I will if you need me…"  He hovered over Rudol like an anxious, flitting butterfly.

"I'll be fine," he said, but he was reassuring himself more than he was Lumaria. "You can go. I'm just going to drug myself up and pretend that these past two months never happened."

"Well, as long as you're sure you'll be okay by yourself. I put the rest of the chicken soup in the fridge for you. I want you to eat some with a few saltines later so you can get something inside of you and build up your strength again. Text me if you need anything at all, and I'll call you tomorrow to see how you're holding up."

"Yes, Nurse Lulu."

Lumaria smiled affectionately at him. "You'll feel better in the morning. Just get some sleep and don't think too much." He disentangled the blankets from Rudol's body and smoothed them down around him. Once he was satisfied that he was comfortable, Lumaria turned and headed for the door.

"I'll try. And, Lulu?"

"Yes?" Lumaria turned, his hand on the doorknob.

"Thanks." Rudol smiled. It was his first real smile in what seemed like ages.

"Don't mention it. It's what I'm here for. I just wish that I could fix everything for you."

Rudol smiled ruefully. "There's just some things that can't be fixed. But it means the world to me that you try. Bye, Lulu."

"Bye, Rudy."

With the door clicked shut behind Lumaria, Rudol sighed and rolled over so that he was facing the wall. He huddled himself together, drawing his knees to his chest. He was determined to stay awake, determined not to drift off to sleep, determined not to sink back into the twisted torture of nightmares that seemed all too real. His pain was still too raw.