In front of Kyle's door, shaking, with a pillow in one hand and the last wisps of another nightmare in his head, was not where Ed had anticipated ending up that night.
Then again, he hadn't anticipated having the nightmare again, either. Jack hadn't wandered into his dreams in a few weeks, and he had started to hope that maybe he was done with nightmares for a while, with that particular nightmare at least.
But Jack been there tonight, half of his face covered in that familiar birthmark, splashed like wine across the side of his face, the other half obscured by boils that ran from the bottom of his neck up, up into his hairline. This much, Ed had come to expect. The boils never changed. But this time, the cheek that had the birthmark was gone - rotted away or torn off, Ed couldn't tell, but it definitely was not there anymore, and he could see through Jack's face, into his mouth, could see his teeth, his tongue, his saliva as he came at Ed, intent to kill.
Each time Jack appeared in Ed's dreams, he looked worse and more decayed. Ed could still clearly remember his first nightmare with Jack - he had looked like he'd always had in life and it hadn't even been a particularly bad dream, not at first. It was pleasant, almost, just the two of them once more, until suddenly the Jack in his dreams had doubled over, his face distorted in pain, and his stomach had torn open without warning right in front of Ed, ghastly recreations of the wounds that had killed him.
Ed had woken up screaming, but not loud enough to alert anyone. That's what he supposed, at least, since no one came to check on him.
The dreams after that night had gotten progressively worse and worse. They had initially all been the same, Ed and Jack relaxing together, until Jack's stomach pulled apart and he died, again and again and again, but never before asking Ed the same question, night after night.
At first it had almost been a relief when the dreams changed, when it was just Ed alone in the dark until Jack lurched out at him, the signs of whatever disease the sickos had evident all over his face. But as Jack seemed to grow sicker and sicker with each dream, and as Ed failed to find relief from these visions, month after month after month, it got to be more than he could stand.
For the past few weeks, however, these dreams had stopped and Ed had been blessed each morning with no memory of any of the dreams, nightmares or otherwise, he had had the night before. He didn't know if it was because of the kids' poor diet or how hard he and the others had been working themselves recently or whatever, but he found he didn't much care, as long as he didn't have to see Jack, ruined and half-dead, like all the other sickos.
But tonight, a little over half a year since he and Kyle and Jordan and the others had made it to the Tower of London, he found himself in front of Kyle's room. He couldn't entirely remember how he had gotten there. He remembered going to bed, expecting another dreamless, peaceful night; he remembered Jack lunging out of the dark out him, moaning and dribbling and trying to kill him, begging begging begging why?; he remembered gasping awake. But the next thing he remembered was being here, in front of the door to where he knew Kyle slept, holding a pillow and hesitating.
"This is stupid," he muttered aloud to himself. It always helped a little to hear someone talk after he'd been woken by a nightmare, even if was only his own voice. Maybe that's why he'd come here, just to hear another person - a real, live person, not a dead friend manifested as a sicko - talk, hear their voice. But it was stupid to bother Kyle. Either Kyle would be among the kids tonight woken by nightmares, in which case he wouldn't want to be bothered with Ed's shit, or he would be among the lucky few who slept soundlessly through the night, in which case he really would not want to be bothered with Ed's shit.
But Kyle's your friend some small part of him argued. And friends don't bother friends with inane bullshit just because they can't handle a bad dream the rest of him retorted.
He turned to walk down the hall, back to his room, but he'd only gotten about halfway when he heard a door open.
"Ed?" Kyle's groggy voice drifted down the hallway, stopping Ed dead in his tracks. He had to admit it was a little nice to hear his name said by someone who wasn't dead or a sicko or a dream.
He turned slowly and sheepishly, holding his pillow behind his back. "Hey, Kylo." Kyle was standing in his doorway, leaning against the frame. He looked just as exhausted as Ed felt, but he also looked like he hadn't been asleep all night.
"Hey. I thought I heard a voice in the hallway, so I came to check. You look like shit, you okay?"
Ed felt an ache in his chest. It had been a long time since someone had asked if he was okay. He felt his throat close up and a pressure begin to build behind his eyes as he tried not to tear up. He nodded, not trusting himself to speak, but even that was too much and he felt the first tears start to drip down his face.
Kyle clucked understandingly and held his arms out towards Ed, who very quickly moved down the hallway and into his embrace. They stood like that for a while, Ed's face pressed firmly into Kyle's chest, taking deep, shaky breaths, Kyle's arms around his shoulders.
"I know, bud," Kyle muttered. "Was it Jack again?" Ed choked on a whimper and nodded as best he could without lifting his head. Kyle sighed and squeezed him tighter.
After a while he put his hands on Ed's shoulders and pushed him back. Ed's free hand instinctively went to his face to wipe away the wetness there.
"Do you. . . ." Kyle breathed slowly, hesitating. "Do you wanna' sleep here tonight?"
Ed wanted to say no, wanted to suck it up, show he could handle shit on his own, wish Kyle a good night and march straight back down the hallway and go back to sleep, nightmares be damned. Instead he nodded fervently and let Kyle lead him into his room.
They lay silently in the dark for what felt like hours to Ed. There had been a lot of awkward shuffling at first, but they'd finally ended up with their backs toward each other, with plenty of space between the two of them.
It was nice and warm in Kyle's bed, especially with their body heat combined. Ed felt his eyes drooping, but he couldn't relax. His chest was still tight, but he didn't think it was from the anxiety of his dream anymore.
Ed had known he was bisexual for about the last half of his life. It hadn't been something he had tried to keep secret from anyone, and certainly Jack and Bam and Malik had known. He had known he was developing a crush on Kyle for about the last three months they had been at the Tower. That he had done his best to keep to himself, and even to ignore altogether. Kyle was a great guy and had become a really good friend in the past half year, but forming romantic relationships wasn't something Ed was too thrilled at the idea of, in the world's current situation, especially after all the close friends he had lost. But being in Kyle's bed now, even back to back with plenty of space between them wasn't helping.
He lay as still as he could, trying to slow his breathing, ease the knot of nerves in his chest, and fall asleep. But he wasn't too psyched about the potential of drifting off to Dreamland, either. It was nicer knowing another healthy, living person was with him, but he didn't want to face Jack in his dreams and bother Kyle with his screaming. At least he had managed to stop crying.
He didn't know how long he lay like this, caught between wanting to escape his nerves from being around Kyle and wanting to avoid falling asleep for as long as possible, but it felt like an eternity until Kyle's voice broke the silence. "Ed?"
Ed's breathing hitched for a second, startled by the sudden noise. "Y-yeah?"
"You still awake?"
He heard Kyle turnover in the bed, felt his eyes on the back of his head. "Still can't sleep?"
Ed sighed, then turned over to face Kyle. "No," he said softly. "I still can't sleep."
It was too dark to make out anything more than the vague shape of Kyle, but Ed could still hear the understanding in his voice. "You still thinking about your nightmare?"
"That's . . . part of it." That was as far an admission of his thoughts as Ed felt he could get.
"What's the other part?" Kyle's hand found his in the dark and squeezed softly.
Ed didn't trust himself to open his mouth and not let the truth come tumbling out, that he had spent the last whatever length of time quietly freaking out about Kyle, and about being this close to him, so he kept his trap firmly shut.
"Ed?" Kyle whispered, squeezing his hand again. Ed took a deep breath, slowly in through his mouth, slowly out through his nose. His eyes had gotten more adjusted to the dark by now, and he could just make out the features of Kyle's face. He met his eyes as best he could, and squeezed his hand in return.
He heard Kyle's breath hitch and suddenly his hand was empty, as Kyle quickly pulled his hand away. Before he had time to wonder if he had done something wrong, if he had upset Kyle in some way, if he was about to be thrown out of his room, both of Kyle's hands were on his face, one thumb planted firmly on the scar running down his cheek, and Kyle was kissing him, lips pressed against his own.
It was far from the first time Ed had been kissed in his life, and not the first time he had kissed someone since the world had gone to shit, either. There was nothing inherently special about the kiss either - to be perfectly honest, Kyle didn't seem that experienced of a kisser and the angle was a little off and the pressure was a little much. Ed had definitely had better kisses.
But these logical summaries of what was happening did nothing to quiet the storm of butterflies that had burst into flight in his stomach.
Kyle pulled away, just as suddenly as he had kissed him, and quickly pulled his hands off of Ed's face. "I'm - shit, I'm sorry, Ed," he gasped. "You just - I mean, I assumed. Shit, man, I'm sorry."
Ed still couldn't really make out most of Kyle's face, but he certainly seemed sincere from his voice alone. "What are you sorry for?"
Kyle was silent for a moment. "For kissing you?"
"I didn't mind. I liked it." Ed mentally patted himself on the back for sounding a lot less shaken up than he felt.
"You didn't . . .? Oh. You didn't really react, so I was worried. . . . I'm sorry."
"Sorry, I was just thinking."
"You were just - you were just thinking? While I kissed -" Kyle went suddenly silent and started shaking. Ed was concerned for all of two seconds before Kyle snorted and he realized he was laughing. "Man, you would be 'just thinking' while you got kissed."
Ed flushed. "That's not fair!"
"No! I mean, I was . . . I was thinking, but. But I was thinking about you kissing me, so, it's not too bad."
Kyle shook with more silent laughter. "I don't know, Ed, that's still pretty bad. Dare I say, even a little . . . nerdy?"
Ed pushed at Kyle's shoulder playfully. "Oh, shut up." He was grinning, and it felt more than a little weird with his scar, even now, but it also felt nice, genuine.
Kyle laughed, out loud this time, and grabbed the hand that Ed had hit him with. Ed could practically feel the dare in his voice when he said "Make me."
It wasn't until early the next morning, after the two boys, several kisses later, had finally managed to doze off for a few hours, that Ed realized sicko Jack had slipped completely from his mind, and that he had slept the rest of the night peacefully and without dreams. He smiled into Kyle's shoulder and wrapped his arms more securely around his torso, then drifted back off to sleep, content and at some semblance of peace for once.
So it's also currently 2 in the morning and I have not edited this at all, and I have read two books and 2 chapters of this whole series, so I'm sure it's ooc and inaccurate and whathaveyou, but I had to get this out of my head and also continue my quest to make everything I read very gay. (Title takes inspiration from Grace Potter's "Alive Tonight".)