A/N: Set... I'd say sometime in the forties, episode-wise, but it's really pretty indefinite. No explicit spoilers, but some that could possibly be seen as such regarding Shinou's situation, so to be on the safe side I'm just saying there may be spoilers up to the end of series. There are definitely spoilers for Murata's identity and past, too.

Feel free to read this as either platonic or Shinou/Sage; I left it inconclusive on purpose.


He sits in the Temple and speaks.

This is his world - a dark and empty world, where his lonely voice echoes in stone halls and he strains to hear the whisper of a response. Do you remember, he asks in the silence. Do you remember?

I do, he thinks he hears in the wake of his words – but no, he is deceiving himself.

It is only the echo.

He remembers. He remembers that time long ago, when they spoke not in whispers and echoes but in loud voices, face-to-face and solid, with sunlight glinting off golden hair and losing itself in his dark strands. He remembers that time not-so-long ago, when he sat in this same place and spoke, but light filtered through the open doorway and he heard an answer...

But time presses inexorably onwards and there are so many shadows of late and Shinou's voice is faded, faded, faded-

Not gone.

He will not let it be gone.

"MURATA!"

A voice, not his and not Shinou's, shatters the silence into a thousand thousand shards; harsh sunlight filters into the room and he bites his lip until it bleeds.

Shibuya.

Shibuya, beaming at him with that open, guileless smile, boots clattering against stone and he loses his hold on Shinou's memory, because such echoes cannot exist here now.

"Murata, we're going out on a picnic! Do you want to come?"

And this is Shibuya's world, one of innocence and light and laughter, one without shadows or faded whispers, and he wants-

José never did understand that though he loved Christine, only a small part of her was - could ever be - his; that for that ancient being, such love could only be a brief memory in the grand scheme of things. After Christine's death, his well-wishes had been unnecessary, unwanted and oh-so-unwelcome.

May you be the moon...

But José had never understood that Christine had neither begun nor ended with him, that there had already been a sun in her world, and in his fumbling attempts to help her-

Murata clenches his fists at the sheer arrogance of the man.

"Murata?" Shibuya is looking at him.

For this is what José has wrought: Shibuya is giving him a choice. A choice between his old world, full of shadows and sorrow and loneliness, with barely a faded glimmer of Shinou remaining - or Shibuya's world, full of laughter and joy and the bright light of Shibuya's new power.

He has never had a choice before.

He has never needed, or wanted, or welcomed a choice.

Yet here he is, and he likes Shibuya, and he is so lonely...

"I..."

Stay.

Shinou?

The echo of an echo, perhaps only his imagination, but he clings to it desperately. Shinou...

Nothing.

"I'm sorry, Shibuya, but not today. Another time, maybe."

Shibuya pouts at him, but he holds firm and before long the chamber is once again empty save for the whispers, the unwelcome incursion of another world gone.

For now.

Long after the sound of footsteps has died away, he stares towards the doorway, absently licking the blood from his mouth.

Faded or not, the Shinou has always been his sun. Choosing otherwise, letting there be a choice at all, would be a betrayal.

Betraying Shinou in that way would be...

He wishes he could say unimaginable.

But he has a choice. He is being given a choice.

Shibuya Yuuri is giving him a choice.

And the Great Sage hates him for it.