A/N: Just a little drabble I thought of after finishing Loveless 6. Slight spoilers for that volume. Please review!

"My home is not a place, it is people." -Lois McMaster Bujold

House of Cards

Soubi returned home from school late that night, the winter hours having caused the sun to set much earlier than should be allowed. However, that was okay to the art student; he liked the darkness of night, and its cover only made it that much easier to stealthily sneak onto Ritsuka's balcony, where the boy would once again scold him for not using the door like a normal person.

Of course, Soubi was anything but a normal person, and Ritsuka's front door wasn't the most welcoming of places; he was sure that having a 'friend' like him wouldn't be easy to explain. But the playful arguing was routine, and they did it just the same, like how Ritsuka would protest at his attempts at a good-night kiss, blushing furiously, before eventually giving in to watch curiously as Soubi fell away into the darkness of his yard, his footsteps fading on the dimly lit sidewalk.

But today was different; he could tell as soon as he walked through his door and flicked on the lights. The air smelled musty and thick, as if no one had caused enough movement to stir the molecules for a long time. It was far too quiet as well; the warm sound of clanking pots and pans, the familiar chatter and snickering of amused voices that usually came at dinnertime from Natsuo and Youji's...experiments at cooking were absent, the smell of dust, not food, permeating strongly across the worn tatami mats.

He made his way to a note on the table after listening cautiously for intruders, the training drilled into him as a fighter automatically making his footsteps as noiseless as possible. Still, it was the only sound inside the frozen room, besides the soft intake of his breathing. It felt like time had stopped only for this moment, for whatever change was waiting for him on that paper.

'Kaeru', the note said in two simple, neat characters. Natsuo's writing. So that was it. Zero had gone home. Soubi pushed the hurt to the back of his mind, having known from the start that it had always been a temporary arrangement, them staying for only as long as they needed.

But the sting of being left behind without so much as a goodbye, though it was in their characters to do so, being left alone here in his loft without even Kio pestering around like a gnat to distract him, almost made him flinch. As much as he'd told himself not to, he'd begun to believe that they were a sort of family. Now they had gone home, and the tension in his heart reminded him painfully that this apartment was not it.

He sank onto his bed after turning off the lights, pulling a cigarette out of the carton inside his jacket pocket. Flicking his lighter on with a sharp chink of sparks caused the room to glow briefly. He didn't move for a while, allowing himself the luxury of being idle as he felt time speed up to normal, listening to the exhale of cigarette smoke from his lungs.

It was the only sound in the apartment, hollow now as the butterflies in his paintings seemed to flutter silently upon their canvases. The feelings of his first real home had toppled; their time together having only been, after all his foolish hope, a house of cards that had collapsed with the gust of one word scrawled across a note, the pieces settling around him as a smoky haze filled his quiet, lonesome rooms.