[ Sky – Master Post ]
Title: Without Stars
Characters: Severen, Sin
Warnings: Creative application of expletives. Uncomfortable situations.
Notes: I haven’t touched Sky since November, but I haven’t forgotten about it. I just got busy with other things. This is the longest single work of the lot, at about 2400 words. Severen’s nightmares have been more or less canon since day one, and this one’s just a glance at his coping techniques. Also, this fic has art. Lazy art with no post-work. It’s a better shot of Sebastian and the book.
It was probably creepy as hell, but he liked to watch Batty sleep. Sin would just sit on the window ledge, or the edge of the dresser, and drink tea, while the great black bat of the English Department drooled into a textbook, in his bed. He’d learned that Batty didn’t stop studying until he absolutely had to — usually, because he’d finally passed out from exhaustion. He barely ate, barely slept, and cooked, when he wasn’t reading. Sin would grant that Batty was an excellent cook, but the guy did it for all the wrong reasons. It was like he just couldn’t understand that Sin didn’t want or need anything in return for letting him take up space — and Batty didn’t take up much space, at all.
Sin braced himself in the open window, sipping his tea and splitting his attention between the paranoid, overworked sleeping genius in his bed and the late night creep of the streets, below. The night brought out so much fear in other people, but Sin had never minded it. It was just like the day, but with less light. The things that could hurt you only did it if you were afraid of them, and he had no reason to fear anything, these days. That could change. Sometimes it did. But, Sin had never met anything he couldn’t talk his way into or out of, that wasn’t a Jesuit’s pants. Or Batty’s, come to think of it, not that he’d tried recently.
Batty’s fingers gripped the edge of the open book tightly, as if he knew, even in his sleep, that he needed what was in it. He didn’t sleep well, and Sin was cautiously quiet when he knew Batty had finally passed out. He watched the hand not holding the book clench into a white-knuckled fist, and knew this sleep wouldn’t last long. Batty would wake like he did, half the time, feet already under him, wild-eyed and keening. It was unsettling, but what unsettled Sin more was that he couldn’t make it stop happening. He had no hand-holds in Batty’s mind, and there was nothing he could say that would undermine the grip these nightmares had. So many people in the world, so many minds he could change and heads he could turn, but there wasn’t a damn thing he could do when it actually mattered.
And that was another thing. Sin wondered if it would matter at all, if he could change Batty’s mind — if Batty would matter. Probably not, and for that, Sin supposed, this was how he paid. He could fall in love, but he couldn’t change a thing — only watch them all unfold.
He slid down from the window and set the tea on the dresser. Four… three… two… Batty snapped up, into a crouch, hands tensed into claws in front of him, as he wailed. Sin sat down on the end of the bed and held out his hand.
"Batty, hey, look at me." Sin’s voice was quiet, but he knew he’d be heard. "Everything’s just how you left it. Look at me. It was just a dream."
Batty finally looked, confused, shaken, and still not entirely awake. As his head turned, he lost his balance and fell back against the headboard. "Goddamn son of a fuckass fuck piss shit bloody ass damn!"
"You said ‘ass’ twice."
"Fuck you, your mother, and the horse you rode in on," Batty spat, curling into a ball and rubbing the back of his head.
"You wouldn’t like my mother, Bats. Me, on the other hand…" Sin trailed off with an expansive gesture.
"Sometimes I wonder why I like you…" Batty muttered into his knees. There was a long pause before he spoke again. "Sorry if I woke you up."
Sin laughed. "Me? Nah. I was up. The neighbours, though? You probably woke the neighbours. No help for that. They deserve it, anyway, with those parties they throw."
"I swear to god, if I hear that Gloria Gaynor album one more fucking time, I’m going to go over there and throw their turntable out the window." Batty struggled to sit up, still rubbing his head. "What time is it? I have an exam at nine."
"It’s not even midnight, yet. And you’ll pass the exam. You always pass the exams." Sin snatched the book. "Stop. Studying. I mean it. I’m going to go get some tea for you, and that half a salad from the fridge. You’re going to eat, like the smart person you keep telling me you are, and then we’re going back to bed."
"I’m not hungry," Batty protested, ineffectively, over the grumble from his stomach. "That’s just the egg from earlier disagreeing with me. You’re not allowed to cook, anymore."
"If that means you’re going to cook more, you have a deal." Sin stood up and headed for the door, with the book still in his hand. "Stay the hell in bed, Sebastian. I’m serious."
"I really thought you were more the Rigel sort," Batty called after him.
Sin stopped in his tracks, at the edge of the linoleum that defined the division of the one-wall kitchen from the living room. He looked back over his shoulder, staring at the bedroom doorway, before he started to giggle. "You are completely out of your mind, you know that?"
"I thought that was your job."
"It is. Cut it out," Sin laughed, getting the salad and pouring another cup of still warm water, for the tea.
By the time Sin got back to the bedroom, Batty was perched on the edge of the bed, squinting at a building across the street. "I wonder what it’s like to see sky out the window. I’ve never lived anywhere tall enough to see over the tops of the other buildings."
"I forget you’re a city boy," Sin said quietly, handing the salad to Batty and putting the tea on the nightstand. "Back home, the sky was in everything. Touched the world on all horizons. As far as you could see, you could see sky."
"I can’t imagine. It sounds surreal." Batty ignored the fork and picked up a leaf of lettuce in his fingers, rolling up some olives and cheese in it.
"This is surreal. So many people crammed together in a box of boxes, and the only sky is straight up. I don’t know if I like it, here," Sin admitted, stealing a tomato.
"But, you’ve been here long enough to get a degree and then start another one. You could’ve gone somewhere else for your masters, you know."
"Yeah, I could’ve, but I didn’t." Sin was quiet, except for the sound of chewing, when he swiped a carrot slice. "I could’ve left. There were countless places I might have gone to, but it wasn’t time to leave. Maybe I’ll go somewhere else for my doctorate."
"Yeah." Batty sounded lost. "You’ll go somewhere great. Everything always works out for you, doesn’t it?"
"I’ll take you with me, if you want. You’re the last person living who’s completely unimpressed with me, and I know this makes me crazy, but I don’t really want to go anywhere, if you won’t come along." Sin got his tea from the dresser and finally sat on the bed. "Perspective, you know?"
Batty just stared, stunned. "You want to take me with you? I make you crazy! I am crazy! I wake up screaming in the middle of the night. I’m neurotic. I’m not sleeping with you. Well, sleeping, technically, but not… You’ve completely lost it."
"Better than I’ve been in a long time." Sin stared out the window, sipping his tea. "You’re the only friend I have. Why would I want to leave you behind?"
"Okay, now you’re just full of shit. Everyone talks to you. You’re constantly surrounded by people. I am not your only friend," Batty insisted, sounding almost offended at the idea.
"Everyone talks to me. Everyone listens to me. How many of them have you seen here? How many of them even know where I live?" Sin just kept looking out the window. "I gave up my family. They don’t know where I am. And everyone else is just so … easy. They’ve got so few convictions. You don’t take me at face value. You’re the only person I can trust, because I know I can’t make you do anything."
"You’re that good at it? I know when you tell people things, they listen, but you’re that good?" Batty looked surprised, but he didn’t seem to actually disbelieve. He’d seen Sin disassemble people’s realities and put them back together — like the girl who tried to jump off the library, last fall — but he’d never really thought about what that meant.
"I wish I wasn’t, sometimes. You give me that. Every time I start to feel like I’m the only thing that’s real, I come home, and here you are, being a cranky little so-and-so on my couch." Sin failed to hide his grin with his teacup.
"Solipsist." Batty snorted and stuffed some more salad into his mouth.
"Not anymore. You broke it." Sin stuck out his tongue. "Mo~m, Batty says I’m not the only person in the world!"
"Asshole," Batty muttered around a mouthful of salad.
"That’s a whole lot more accurate, for the time being." Sin finished his tea and reached behind Batty to set the cup on the nightstand.
For a while, they sat in relative silence, interrupted only by the sound of chewing, and the occasional slap on the hand, when Sin tried to steal an olive. Batty finished the salad, without really noticing, until he stuck his fingers in a puddle of French dressing. He looked down in startled dismay.
"Aw, son of a fuck."
"Most people are," Sin replied, unthinkingly grabbing Batty’s hand and sticking two salad-dressing-covered fingers in his mouth.
Batty blinked and stared hard at Sin. Then he raised an eyebrow and stared harder. Sin stopped licking the fingers in his mouth and totally failed to look innocent. Batty reclaimed his fingers with a soft pop. Sin whistled to himself and looked out the window, for a second.
"Sorry, I forgot to get you a napkin." Sin sounded vaguely apologetic, even if he looked a little more starry-eyed than was strictly necessary.
"I’m not even going to justify that excuse with a response," Batty responded, setting the plate on top of Sin’s empty teacup. "Don’t say it."
Sin shut his mouth with an audible click, before starting a sentence that wasn’t the obvious one. "Bed? I’m tired, and you need to sleep."
"Not going to molest me in my sleep, are you?" At this point, it was almost a joke between them.
"Me? Molest you?" Sin put on his best shocked look. "Might I remind you that you are the one wrapped around me, every morning?"
Batty blushed and rubbed his face. "You’re warm. I’m sleeping. Shut up, I’ll go sleep on the couch."
"No, you won’t." Sin pulled off his shirt and threw it toward the dresser. "Come back to bed. You’ll be up in time for the test. I set the alarm, when you dozed off, before."
Batty moved back to his own side of the bed and tried to straighten the sheets. Sin slipped under the sheets, took the tops from Batty’s hands, and popped the covers straight. "Less effort for more result," Sin remarked, thumping the pillow before he put his head on it.
After a short pause, Batty lay down. He stared at the ceiling, wondering how long it would take Sin to fall asleep, so he could get back up, undisturbed. He wished he could sleep. He did. But it wasn’t going to happen with the horrors in his head lurking just the other side of the darkness.
"Sin?" Batty’s voice was small. Maybe Sin had already fallen asleep.
"Yeah, what’s up?" No luck, there.
"Does it bother you when I maul you, in my sleep?"
"Nah, I kind of like it. You’re just as real as I am, and you cuddle with me, anyway." Sin wondered where this was going. "Even if it is just because I’m warm."
"I don’t wake you up, when I have nightmares, do I?" This one sounded like a realisation, more than anything.
"Just that one time. You freaked out pretty bad, that time." Sin could remember coming fully awake as Batty rolled out of bed, screaming and fighting with the blankets. It had taken minutes to wake him up, and he’d just stayed on the floor, sweat-soaked and shaking, for almost an hour before he’d had anything to say about it. But, usually, Batty only woke up screaming when he was alone.
"Yeah. Is it…? Can I…?" Batty rarely had trouble saying what he meant. "It’s stupid. I’m afraid to close my eyes, because it’ll come back and get me. What am I, six?"
"No, you’re just maladapted." Sin rolled over to face Batty. "You’ve had it rough, these last couple of years. Now you’re safe, and all the bad shit is in the past, so you can see it, like you couldn’t when you were in it. If you saw how bad it was then, you never would have made it until now. But, it’s not just gonna go away."
"Social anthropology, much?"
"Everyone talks to me. I hear things." Sin half-shrugged. "It can’t hurt you, but it’s still real — or at least as real as the fake people."
"I’m never going to understand the relationship between you and people," Batty muttered. "But, you’re right. It’s real. It’s there. And if I close my eyes, it’s going to come out of the dark."
"I wish I could make it stop. But, you’re not like them. I can’t talk it out of you." Sin took Batty’s hand, under the covers. "I wish I could make it better."
"I think…" Batty took his hand back and looked intently at the ceiling. "I think that’s why I grab you, when I sleep. I think if you’re real, then it can’t be real at the same time. I think you do make it stop."
"Then stop talking and come over here, so you can get some sleep." Sin held up his arm, and the covers, expectantly.
"Thanks." It was all Batty said as he moved over, wrapping an arm around Sin’s chest.
Sin rested his chin on the top of Batty’s bent head, and draped his arm over him. Maybe one day, he’d be able to say it. Maybe one day, he’d be able to understand it. But, for now, Sin was just content to be real.