I don’t even respond. Instead, I just flip my phone, showing Kiri my mom's response.
“What about your dad?” he wonders aloud. And, at that moment, I’m proud to say I very expertly began sobbing into his shoulders.
“Woah,” he laughs a little but then realizes it’s not a joke. “Are you...”
“Let’s go back to picking up trash,” I mumble. “Please.”
“Whenever you need to talk,” Kirishima promises, all swagger and confidence gone from his voice. “Please. Please come to me. I don’t want to see you go.”
“You don’t even know me.”
“But I want to,” he promises.
“Bullshit. I’ve heard those lines before.”
“Well, then you’ve gotta realize they’re right. Anyway, I’d help even if I didn’t know you. I can see right through you; you’re the healer in your friend group. You enjoy helping the world.”
“Where’s your proof?” I cross my arms, feeling nervous. It’s just like dad used to say. It’s the same thing I was told thousands of times, back at my real home.
“You don’t have any bite in you,” he laughs. “Well, your words do. But not really. You look like you could kill someone, but you’re a cinnamon roll.”
“Take it back!” I shout, pushing back at his chest to run outside. He doesn’t even budge.
“Bitch,” I warn. “Don’t call me adorable.”
“But you are!” He complains. Is this a game to him?
“I’m not even going to fight with you. Let’s just go clean up other people’s shit.”
He nods, complying. When I’m on my fifth trip back from the trash, he pipes up again.
“Your dad died,” Kirishima points out.
“How very astute of you, Sherlock.”
“Why do you always twist and play with my words?”
“Same reason you keep teasing me,” I wager. “Because it’s fun.”
“Well,” Kiri shrugs. “I do like seeing your face go red.”
“No fair!” I shout back, suddenly flustered. “Anyway, you win in melanin; it’s harder to see when you go red.”
“Go outside then,” he shrugs. “I mean, besides the biological differences, you could hide it too.”
“This isn’t exactly helping,” I shrug “What is it with you and your constant search for improvement?”
“When I hated myself,” Kiri drops to a whisper. “I wanted to look better. I wanted to be smarter, and I wanted to save people. It’s been my dream since I was a kid. And yet... I guess I don’t know. It’s so hard to express the world inside your head, you know?”
The world. Galaxies and galaxies. So he does think like that. “The skies the limit, I guess.”
“And I guess I wanted to touch the stars,” Kiri smiles. He looks up suddenly, watching the looming sunset. “I guess it’s getting late. But I wanted to talk a little more about your dad.”
“He died from cancer,” I admit. “He got an asbestos infection when we were cleaning the house. And you know the shittiest part? We haven’t even gone into that room again. We got it cleaned, but it’s a room of bones. All he wanted to do was clean up a fucking room, and now he’s dead. He’s dead and you know what? He was just like you; he wanted to world, and he wanted more. And maybe the old owners could have told us about the infection. Maybe we could have checked. Or maybe I could have gone up first? Maybe if I had gone up, he wouldn’t be dead, and I’d be in his place. Maybe it’d be better! Maybe I wouldn’t be in this haunted fucking house without friends, and the world would stop spinning? Is it wrong to want the world to stop spinning, all because you can’t handle the constant motion? Because I want it; I want it all to fucking stop!”
I let out a gasp, watching his reaction rise. It’s like his eyebrows are the curtains, and the sun setting in the background is the weight. I’m nearly breathless by the end, and I can tell that I’ve been screaming. My throat is raw, and I feel dead. Everything is a matter of fact.
“You have shadows under your eyes,” he reaches for my hair, pushing it behind my neck. Like the touch-starved baby I am, I freeze up at the motion. He catches it and stops.
“No,” I shift closer. “I’m just awkward. Not uncomfortable.”
“How many hours of sleep do you get?”
"Yeah," I shrug. "I just can't sleep. Who'd be able to sleep in a haunted house?"
He thinks for a second. before I can make a joke about how I can almost hear the cogs turning, he claps his hands together.
"When is your mom coming home?" he asks, whipping out his phone.
"Could you maybe text them?" he twists his fingers together, face growing red. "I could... make sure you get some sleep?"
"She isn't coming home," I kick myself for answering. Absolutely fucking ridiculous. He could be an ax murderer, even after all that.
"Good," Kiri pulls out his phone, sending a rapid-fire text. "Then I'll sleep with you."
I just stare at him, finally exploding into laughter.
"Okay," he grows even redder, almost as bright as his dyed hair. "No... I didn't mean it like that. I just..."
"No," I manage through laughter. When was the last time I laughed like this? "I get what you're saying. It's just like..."
"I want to help you get past this," Kiri promises, holding my hands up to his. "And I want to do it my way. Which means I'm going to be right by you all night, just in case you need anything."
"You know," I remind him. "I haven't had to sleep with anyone because of nightmares since I was like... six or something."
"But why stop there?" Kiri holds his arm around me, walking me inside. He sits me in a chair opposite him.
"You know I never actually let you in, right?"
"Why are you always so nervous?"
"You could be trying to kill me," I reason with him. "Maybe your plan is already working."
"Hey," he smiles, boasting. "If I wanted to kill you... I could easily with these babies."
He flexes his arm, causing my face to shoot up with red again. "God," I mumble. "You're such a fucking idiot."
"I like to think that we're all idiots. Some of us just don't call attention to that part of us. Anyway, why do we stop going to our parents' room when we have nightmares?"
"Because we're not babies anymore? Because we're supposed to be equipped to deal with this shit?"
"All good answers," Kiri nods. "But what if someone can't deal with everything. Then what?"
"Then we want to kill ourselves," I finish. "And then it ends."
"What is your obsession with becoming a statistic?" Kirishima whines. "I get that your life isn't perfect. In fact, it's pretty much fucking shitty. But why kill yourself?"
"Because the world lost its color," I stumble across my words as he stares into my eyes. After shifting uncomfortably under the steely gaze, I continue. "My friends haven't answered my texts since the funeral. It's like I'm stuck here."
"Well," he shrugs. "There are worse places to be stuck. I'll tell you what; I'm gonna show you why you need to leave, whether you like it or not. The world needs people like you. I need you."
"You don't need me," I shove his arm off me. "You just think you do."
"I've never met someone like the old me," Kiri sighs. "And I don't want to see anyone like you ever again."
"That's not what I mean, and you know it. I just want you to be better. I hate seeing people broken."
"I do too," my voice quiets down to a whisper. "Do you think there's a day where I don't look at myself and hate what I see? I've been helping people for so long, but it feels like when I need their help... they just don't come."
"Well!" Kiri pulls me up into a hug, literally leaving me feet off the ground. "Then I guess it's good I'm here to change that."
"Yeah," I smile into his warm neck. Who cares about showing weakness or whatever? I am being picked up by a boy nearly four inches taller than me, he is warm, and for the first time in a few months, I don't want to die.
So let's just fuck the notion that I have to be cold and icy. He's not only melted my exterior but he's melted my insides too.
"Are you comfortable?" Kiri asks, looming over my bed.
"Yeah," I mumble. "Still, I'm worried; what if I can't sleep? And what are you gonna do while I try to sleep?"
"Oh," a sly smile grows on his face. "I can answer both of those questions in one thing."
A massive weight plops down on the side of my bed. I crane my neck, straining to see as he tries to fit in my twin bed.
"Oh," I say, sounding stupid. "You actually meant..."
"Yeah!" he pumps his fist, baring his sharp teeth. "I'm gonna sleep with you. Of course, I thought your bed would be a little bit bigger..."
"No," I sigh. "It's okay. I should have assumed; I don't think we have any other beds. Just... are you fine with this?"
"Nico," he purs my name into my ear. "You're gonna be fine. And I don't mind this either."
"Okay..." I nod slowly. He shifts his position a little, taking up most of the bed. One of his arms drifts down to the floor while the other one gets lazily thrown over to me. I can smell his crisp, burnt pine scent, mixed with a little bit of a pungent orange smell. Somehow, it works for him; perfectly comfortable, but just a little bit surprising.
"I never had anyone do this for me," Kiri's voice bubbles up, soft and (dare I say it?) cute. "I would have loved someone's comfort. You're lucky, you know."
"You don't have to remind me," I breathe into his warm chest, less than an inch away. I can already feel his warmth causing me to drift off. My stress is still warring with the melatonin inside my head. "This is..."
"More than you ever imagined?" Kiri laughs. "You know, I never had anyone to tell me I liked boys either."
Fuck. "What do you mean?"
He turns his head, a smile playing on his lips. How can one boy capture so many different emotions inside of him? How can someone be as complicated as me? "Don't play dumb. I caught you staring at me."
My face grows cherry red, worse than it was before. "No... oh my god, I am so sorr-"
"Don't be!" he laughs, running his tongue over sharp canines. "No... I thought it was sweet."
"It was creepy," I complain, rubbing my arm awkwardly. "And anyway, I still don't kno-"
In a single moment, his arm is completely over me as his face hangs above mine. His hair dangles down, free from the hairspray it was trapped in earlier. "Is this enough?" he pants. "Or can I do more to convince you?"
"Gah," I swallow nervously. "No... I believe you."
"Really?" Kiri teases, running his tongue against jagged teeth. "Because I don't think so. Let's try this..."
His mouth moves closer to mine, touching it slowly. I feel my body go numb, complying with the slow kiss. Everything is enveloped inside his lips and mouth, all of which taste like pop rocks and oranges, all blended up into a fizzy, sparkling world.
"How was that?" Kiri pants, beads of sweat rising at his forehead. "Convinced?"
"You're..." I struggle to find the correct word. "Insane."
"Not as much as you..." Kiri whispers. "You know... you get all sexy when you don't hate yourself so much... but... I think I'm okay with a little bit of pain..."
There is a boy in my bed, and his teeth are at my neck. All of a sudden, it's like something straight out of twilight fanfic; his teeth are at my neck, and I can barely breathe.
"I don't know if I'm that ready for all of... this yet," I protest. "Maybe take it a little slower."
"You're right," Kiri backs off immediately. "Shit... I shouldn't have-"
"It wasn't bad," I amend quickly as he returns to his original position. "I just wasn't expecting it. You look so soft..."
"There's more to me than just the outside," Kiri promises, tossing his red hair. "Well... just know that I'm capable of both sides."
"Noted," I give him one last smile before I slam my head back against my pillow. "You know... maybe I'll be able to get a little more sleep this wa..."