He is you, and you, he.

He has your eyes (yours, jaded emerald, and his, wine red) and your hands (the same bloody ones) and your skin (and your heart).

He is in pain, writhing like a moth burning in flame, and so are you. You are weeping, mourning, burning. You have sworn to burn the universe, but not him, that's not what he did, not that one: he swore to live, he swore to forgive. The flame in him has been put out long ago—at least, you think, he likes to believe it has.

You remember his mouth, how it curls into a frown (or god forbids, a pout) under your palm, how it stretches gently into a smile under your own. At times like that, he is not you, and you, not he.

(At times like that, you are separate, separate in your whole, you know yourself, you know the edges of you and him and you know him like no other.)

You know the back of his hand like your own; you memorize the scars littered on his epidermis, like tattoos, the permanent and the temporary, you used to trace them with your fingertips (that's the key word: used to). You remember how he would graze them ever so gently over your neck, your wrist, your missing eye. You remember the way they clench at your hair and your shoulder blades and the hilts of bloody swords.

You've felt his warmth, his cold; his forehead, clammy and cool with sweat in feverish heat, or his heat with your own in hot summer nights. You know each and every one of his temperature and you wonder if he still has an affinity for your heat like he used to.

His skin is always scarred, ever since you can remember, ever since you first saw him, a scrawny boy with a sword too big for him to wield, wild-eyed and grinning with scratches here and there. You remember when you were a little bit older and you finally muster the pride to ask him, pointing at the jarred red flesh on his chest, where did you get that one? And he looks at you with blank eyes, fell off the stairs; and you remember when you were much, much older, the brink of manhood and sizzling hormones and lowering bass tone of your voice, you remember your eyes trained on his fingers and thighs and torsos, each patches bore bruises and blade marks and you had to tear your eyes away lest you touch them with your fingertips, your lips, your tongue (until you do, until you gave in, until each of your breath sweet with his breath and you call his name like he is a burning flame and you are a moth.)

You can still feel him, sometimes. You can see him, in the frenzy of a fight, in sleepless nights, in the reflection of every soul you have taken with your sword, in your dreams and nightmares. He is always there, somewhere, still, and you claw at your head and your chest because it hurts and you miss him and you hate him and you wish, you wish he were dead, like you know how he wishes he were.

You miss him. You do. You wish he were dead. You do.

Sometimes, the image of him is so alive, so brilliantly vibrant that you are tempted to shoot yourself in the head. At other times, you have to grit your teeth and spill blood to look for him, the real him, the good kind of him because there are times when all you can dig up in your memory of him are strands of sandy hair and a headless corpse and his tears. Either way, you despise him so.

There are many versions of him that you know—a scrawny boy with wild eyes and a sword bigger than his own figure, an older boy with a cheeky smile and a sword to wield (you miss this version of him), a teenager with blood on his hands clad in white, and lastly: a man who watches his own blood trickles down the drain and does nothing about it.

You think of you. You were a homeless boy with a heart of stone, and then an older one with a place to belong (you wonder if he misses this version of you, or you at all), and then a teenager with blood on his hands and a broken heart and no home to return to, a stray. You are a man now but you don't think you've differed from that version of you.

You are the warped, distorted reflection of him. You are what he sees at his shadow at dusk and his reflection in muddy gutter water. You haunt him, you know, just like how he haunts you.

(He can see you in the frenzy of a fight, in sleepless nights, in the reflection of every soul he has taken with his sword, in his dreams and nightmares.)

Sometimes, all the good memories of him feel surreal. A phantasmagoric imagery. You would remember how you once traced the dip of his waist and the slopes and rises of his collarbones with your fingers, your lips, your tongue, and you wonder if any of it ever happened at all.

But then you hold him in your fingers, for the first time in god knows how long, and you know it should make you doubt even more if you have ever loved him and yet, you know him more than ever in this moment.

You know this heat, you recognize this heat, this skin, this body, as you claw at the lapels of his shirt, and your fist swings again and again and again, bruising and scarring his cheekbones, his jaw, his neck; your sword dug deep in his abdomen and shoulders and you remember how you once watched another sword, another hand, as they hurt him the exact same way and you remember how you would check on his wounds later at night, applying what little salves and spoons of sake left on them, bandaging them with your obi because that's what Gintoki would do—he would let his skin rot and his wounds fed by flies, you know he would, because once upon a time you would too, until everything went wrong and you stopped watching your blood trickles down the drain, until you kill merely to satiate your wrath (even if it takes a hundred corpses or two).

Your skin cries because they have missed being on his skin, for so long, it's been so long.

(He thought he has stopped burning, you know. You know he hasn't. Here is an analogy: he is a moth, and you are the flame—you are he, and he, you. You are a moth, and he is your flame.)

Your sword and skin are wet with his blood, red as his eyes. You feel like your heart is eating itself behind your ribs.

(But you are a blade, and so is he—bloody, broken swords, clashing and fracturing each other: your touch skins him alive, his hold breaks you apart. You were never meant to be.)

You look at him, and the reality of it is crushing you. He is here and you are killing him. (You are here and he is killing you.)

He is looking at you. His eyes blazing and bright (burning), you try to decipher the emotions that reside in them. You used to do it all the time—guessing what's running through his head; you know how unreadable he can be, how in control he is of his expression and his words, sometimes you would force them out of his mouth with your own—but you know you don't want to because it will hurt even more, you'd be in even more pain than you already are, as if he is the one twisting his blade in your skin and not the other way around.

You scream. You hurt. You want to kill him, you want to hurt him, you despise him, you are hurting him and it feels like you are hurting yourself and maybe that's why you vowed to rob him off his heartbeats.

(Or maybe you just want to keep the score.)

Your lips are stretching into a manic smile, your chest heaves and blazes, his fingers wrapped tight on your wrist and your blade merely inches away from his eyes, he is in pain and so are you and you want to tell him, let me end this, you want this to end—this suffering, this nightmare (this nightmare begins at that day, that day with strands of sandy hair and headless corpse and his tears—you have never awaken since), this constant screaming monster inside of you.

Your nails dig the earth, trembling, your fingers yearn of his skin. You want to touch him, you want to hold him, you want to twist his fucking neck. You know you can't be saved.

You are on the ground. Your body, for once, is as wrecked as the inside of your head. But you must move, you have to, you have to end this—this is the finale, is this not?—you have to, else you'll go even madder. You reach for your blade, every fiber of your being ache and weep, and you see him, that man, your home, and you laugh at the ridiculousness of it all. You laugh and your left eye throbs, you laugh and you want to die, you wonder why did he die, why did you die, how could you fucking do this to us, to me, to him?

Because Gintoki is the one who bears the cross.

You think of your first version of him, the boy with wild eyes, wielding a sword too big for his figure, you think of his small, fragile back and you want to cry, you want to save him, you want to end his pain, you want to bandage his wounds with your obi, you want to take his cross and burn it to ashes even if you lose your flame, your heart, your eyes, because he doesn't deserve it—he doesn't, not him, of all person, why him? Therefore, you curse the heavens, you damn the gods and you swore to burn them down.

(There is a lot you'd like to tell him, but you are not sure if you want to tell him that much, if you can tell him that much. You've watched that back spun into battle, into war, dancing a morbid, bloodthirsty ballad. The first night you came back from war into the soldiers camp, spitting blood-laced curses and a cold skin, you saw him limping from the battlefield, dripping red with cold, cold eyes and you had thought to yourself, he's changed, I've changed, we are murderers, we are monsters but you also thought that, as long as he is here, as long as he is tainted also, you don't mind being a monster.)

He is looking at you.

His flame has died—his eyes, gentle (you can feel his gaze caresses your cheeks like his fingers used to), and so, so tired. And then it dawns on you—this man, this boy with a cheeky smile and wild eyes and bloody hands, he knows.

He knows. He understands. He knows you like no other.

He is you, and you, he.

You wish you were dead.