This is a bit of a mess with the ratings, a bit of a mess with the timeline, but I love it a whole lot. Even being a fic, it's a really personal thing, so I wasn't sure whether to publish or not, but I figured the worst that can happen s'that I'll get my ass flamed into next week. And that's not too bad!

Anyway, in the main story here, Kamina is about 15, and Simon's about 9. Dunno, I'm not sure exactly what their age difference is, but it shouldn't really affect anythin'. Aaand the other time period it switches to is before the fight to overtake Dai-Ganzan. Knock yourselves out!

-:-

Digging

-:-

He's word nearly sounds like an excuse this time, but he doesn't really want to take it back. He's scared. He's downright terrified of what happened today, of what will happen tomorrow, and the fact that he's still alive doesn't seem to help things much.

It was reckless. What Kamina did was even more reckless than usual, too stubborn, too hard-headed. It makes Simon feel like they had no choice. It makes him feel like they were cornered, because being reckless is what Kamina is good at, and it just wasn't enough to overpower Dai-Gunzan.

And Simon... all he's good at - all he can really do - is dig.

So he did just that.

-:-

He's too early. Again.

Kamina yawns, crossing his legs and leaning back on his drill, stuck firmly on the ground behind him. Five or six years of digging and he's always early. He would jump out of bed as soon as the chief announced daytime and the lights came on, eat breakfast with his father, grab his drill and run out towards the expansion area. The whole routine usually took him well over twenty minutes, but he was still the first digger to get there. Every single time.

The chief has already forbidden him to begin early, long ago. He's faster than the others as it is, and starting before them – supposedly – makes it easier for him to mess up the route. It's not his fault that they're so slow, and in a way, it's not theirs either; they dig because it's their job. Who wouldn't get bored of something like that?

Kamina doesn't have to worry about that. No, he's digging for other things: for whatever's out there, where the walls around the village end. The world can't be just one big wall with the tiny Jiiha village hidden somewhere in the middle, he figures; there has to be something else beyond that, other places, and he wants to find them. If they're out there, he's surely going to find them.

So he'll just continue getting up early and working fast. It's no problem, he'll just relax outside the expansion area with his drill, his determination and that weird kid that always seems to get up early, too. Simon, he's heard. He doesn't really mind; the boy usually just sits around and watches the diggers work, still too young to do it himself, and if he's not in the way, Kamina couldn't care less.

Maybe Simon wondered what would happen if they dug far enough, too. If he thinks like that - furthermore, if he's determined enough to be there earlier than most diggers every day - then Kamina really doesn't mind him sticking around. In fact, if there's anything he does mind, it's just what Simon does when it's just Kamina and him on that side of the village: he hides and glances at him from around a corner, and only comes out when there are several other people around, like he doesn't want to be noticed at all.

As far as Kamina is concerned, Simon is a little crazy. But he has spirit, so it's okay.

"Mornin', Kamina."

"Mornin', everyone. Ready to start?"

"Guess so."

Simon may not be acting according to his spirit, but Kamina sure is, so he figures the best thing to do is work twice as hard and show him how it's done.

"Is everyone here now? Alright. Kamina, get up," the chief orders. "You're picking up from where we left off yesterday, so get started!"

"Gotcha!"

He takes a quick look over his shoulder before crawling into yesterday's tunnel - Simon's come out of his hiding place and takes seat nearby, observing the diggers intently. Kamina flashes a grin at him and spins his drill with twice the vigor as he did last time.

-:-

He's sort of impressed, he has to admit. He spent several hours digging, and Simon was still there by the time he came out. He didn't even look like he'd moved. Spirit, alright. He knew it. That's the only explanation he can come up with anyway, and it's good enough.

Of course, being looked at seems to startle the boy, and he avoids eye contact with something much like shame slumping his shoulders. Kamina figures it's a good time.

"Yo, Simon!"

He's startled again - so that really is his name - and turns slowly, fingers fidgeting with each other in his lap. He doesn't always seem that nervous, Kamina notes. Then again, he supposes there's a big difference between the Simon happily hidden behind his mother most of the time and the Simon that sits out in the open, alone.

"Hi, um… Kamina?" Simon tries, seeming to shrink back on his spot as the older boy approaches him.

"That's me, yep," Kamina nods. He pauses only for a moment, gives the smaller boy a measuring look and then grabs his wrist, easily pulling him to his feet. "C'mon."

Simon, though, seems anything but comfortable with such a straight-forward invitation - could he even call it that? "W-What? To where?"

"You're always watching us dig, so I thought you might wanna try it."

"Wha… really? You'll let me dig?"

"Sure, why not!" He exclaims, stopped short as soon as he finishes. He looks back to find Simon standing still, his feet planted too firmly on the ground to pull him along without having to drag him. "Huh? What's wrong?"

"Is that… really okay?" Simon asks; there's a peculiar light in his eyes even then, and Kamina has to wonder what's the use of questioning the chance after such a long wait.

He frowns. If it has to be that way, then fine. He lets go of the boy's wrist and walks behind him; with both his hands on Simon's shoulders, he pushes him forward and back into stride. "It's my drill and I decide who can and can't use it, so come ooooooon!"

The dark-haired boy makes some sort of sound on the back of his throat, like swallowing a yelp, and Kamina assumes that's an agreement, because he starts putting one foot in front of the other faster than the digger pushes him. He's running right behind Kamina by the time they enter the tunnel and hesitates just slightly as the lights of the village disappear behind them.

The inside of the tunnel is increasingly narrow; their running eventually slows down to a walk, and their posture goes from hunched over to nearly crawling. Darkness is nearly complete and the walls around them become more jagged, primary, and although Kamina himself doesn't bother to be cautious - if he doesn't know the tunnel by memory, he certainly knows just how many scraps he can get in there - Simon's steps soon begin to slow down further, their echo falling behind.

"Um… Kamina?"

"Yeah?"

"Isn't there any, ah, light in here?"

He mumbles a quick "hold on" as he tries to reach into his pocket, and turns to Simon as he pulls out a pair of goggles: a digger's standard ones, with a tiny flashlight on their right side. Kamina doesn't need to see to drill in a straight line, but keeps them with him just in case the chief would think he lost them. "Here ya go."

He hands them to the smaller boy as their light comes on, and it's then that he notices the look on his face. It's not the dark that bothers him. It's not claustrophobia. He's seen the look before, and what it says is "You're a stranger". Nobody is a stranger in a place like Jiiha, but it's pretty much the same with the boys his age; nothing like friendship and some enthusiasm to make everyone become overly cautious of him, he supposes, and there's not much else to expect from a timid--

"O-Okay, let's go," the boy says. "The chief might come soon, and you'll be in trouble if he finds me here, so…"

He pauses. That was cautiousness. Not too bad, though. Oh well, he doesn't have time to sit there getting all philosophical about nothing at all; he has a future digger to teach, and the goggles already suit him anyway.

"Alright, the place's just ahead!"

Things feel a bit livelier with Simon and that light behind him. With their pace renewed and just enough space to crawl on their knees, it's not long before Kamina spots his drill, reflecting the light they bring as it lies against the concave end of the tunnel. The last section, as he remembers leaving it before heading out, is wide enough for the both of them and tall enough to allow them to sit.

He moves aside and motions widely, a grin on his face. "All yours, Simon."

-:-

So he dug. When it looked like Kamina was walking right into something irreversible, something Simon didn't even want to name, and absolutely refusing to stop, the smaller boy dug, sinking the ganmen battleship.

Dai-Ganzan will rise again in the morning, and even though the two of them won't fight alone now, Simon has to wonder what Kamina intends to do. They have a plan this time, something that is entirely not Kamina's style. They'll have to fight apart. And if the man refuses to back down again...

"Don't worry," Kamina says, pulling him a little closer. Simon instinctively complies, the man leaning on him just the slightest in return. "We'll pull through. We'll win, and they'll regret messin' with us."

The cockpit fends off the brisk atmosphere from outside, he notes, but Kamina is really, really warm, and when he notes that much, he finds that he can't help but begin to relax.

He'll dig again tomorrow. For everyone. For Kamina. Things'll be okay.

-:-

Despite the days and their occurrences, Simon doesn't change one bit. He still gets up awfully early, still hides, still doesn't speak, still seems nerve-wrecked, still doesn't dare to greet, still acts like everyone's a stranger.

Everyone except Kamina.

He stands in plain sight in the mornings, already aware that Kamina will be the first to get there, without fail. They greet each other like old friends - Kamina approaching him first, because habits truly don't die - and chat until all the diggers and the chief arrive. The sound of Simon's laughter and the way he blushes when he realizes he's been too noisy are two of the many things Kamina never gets tired of, but still some of the several that are put on pause when there are more people around. Simon never says a word while Kamina speaks to the others.

While one digs, the other waits nearby, and the roles are reversed before nighttime. Simon waits until he's sure the chief has gone elsewhere to sneak inside Kamina's tunnel, but the older boy is always by his side when he digs, directing and complimenting his work; Simon has a talent and an affinity with it, he always says. "But…"

Simon pauses instantly, eyes darting to check for mistakes. "W-What is it?"

"D'ya know why we dig?"

"To find something, I guess…" Simon answers, pensive. "Like pigmole colonies."

Kamina shakes a finger at him in the darkness, and grins confidently. "To get somewhere, Simon!"

"E-Eh?" The boy stutters. He's been completely pulled away from his task by now, turning back in full attention. "W-Where?"

"The surface, of course!"

"The… surface?"

Kamina gives a heavy sigh, mocking disapproval. "Listen… Dad told me about that place," he explains in a quiet voice. "It's where all the walls and everything end, so you stand on top of them, y'know? Like all that is the floor."

"Then what's above?" Simon asks, head titled curiously.

"Up is 'sky'." The older Digger's voice takes on a peculiar tone, then, one that Simon has only begun to identify through the time they've spent together in their cramped tunnels. "That's like air, and it never ends."

His response is entirely different. "The surface sounds… kinda scary…"

"Eh?! It's not!" Kamina pauses for a moment, and he's certain he's caught another determined look in his eyes. "I know 'cause I'm gonna go there, with Dad."

"What? W-When?!"

Kamina chuckles loudly, the echo mixing with that of his voice, and Simon is instantly flustered, cheeks red.

"Tomorrow," Kamina says. "I guess I should go to sleep early; gotta be in top shape, y'know, so we should get going."

A pause; silence.

"…Simon?"

"Y…Yeah. Let's go."

-:-

Their goodbye is simple, restricted by things Simon doesn't quite understand. He doesn't want Kamina to go to the surface, but when the Digger smiles and gives him a firm pat on the back, he just forgets that it could be too dangerous. He throws his arms around the taller boy's torso and smiles up at him in return. When he leaves, Simon just waves and wishes him good luck under his breath.

Even after Kamina is out of view, he finds himself lingering in the empty digging area. Kamina left the day's work complete and his drill at home, but Simon is simply too unoccupied not to wander inside their most recent tunnel and crawl all the way to its end.

It only occurs to him now, sitting alone at the dead end, that he'll really, really miss Kamina. It's been a long while after the older boy left to meet up with his father, though, and he doesn't want to hold him back at all (briefly, he also wonders whether Kamina would've stayed if he asked him to).

…but it's no use. He supposes he can't help doing things he doesn't expect himself to do lately, small occurrences amidst the blur of days, but Kamina always stood in the center of all those unplanned things, didn't he?

Even though Simon no longer expects to surprise himself, maybe never again, he finds that he's not in his own grasp either; before he knows it, before one day blurs into another, his feet are moving on his own and he's wandering away, seeking noise instead of the tunnels' silence.

"Hm? This area's off-limits, what're ya doing here?"

He'll always remember that he should've expected something even more surprising from Kamina, like appearing right there, sitting in the darkness of another primary hallway Simon can hardly remember walking into.

"K…Kamina?" An immense relief washes over him; he can't really help it, after all. "You're already back?"

Kamina isn't looking at him anymore. His head is hung low, and there's something in the gesture that the younger feels unsettled by. "…Yeah."

He blinks, trying to place the emotions. "What about your dad?"

"He's… up there," Kamina says, and there's something in the even tone of his voice, now, that worries Simon. "On the surface, like I told you."

"Oh…" He breathes in deep, lets a second pass. "Isn't he… coming back?"

"No."

Somehow, even before he takes a few hesitant steps forward and sits down next to Kamina, he has the certainty the Digger's hand will be a tight fist when he reaches for it. He still does, though, and the only surprising thing in it is that he expected himself to do that. Despite the warmth of a pair of smaller hands around it, his fist begins to quiver.

"I'm…" He pauses, as though unsure of what he's begun to say. "I'm gonna go with him… someday. I will." Another pause, a swallow, a tightened hold around his hand. "I'll catch up with him."

"But… i-isn't the s-surface… d-dangerous?" Simon asks, frowning; he thought he'd stopped stuttering that much.

And then Kamina raises his head, fast, and all Simon can do is avoid his eyes in the dark. "So what if it is?!" The older male exclaims, shifting closer. "I don't care! I'm gonna go anyway and no one's gonna stop me!"

"It's not that!"

He regrets the tone of his voice instantly and slumps back against the wall behind them both, removing one of his hands from Kamina's. The older boy himself remains still and quiet, too calm for Simon to dare apologize yet. Instead, he takes another deep breath and chooses to speak without thought, like Kamina did, if only to surprise himself.

"I think you will."

But he finds that it's no surprise, either.

Kamina, however, relaxes visibly. He opens his fist and holds Simon's hand in return, intertwining their fingers. Simon can't even see that much if he looks down, but the emptiness around them creates enough of an echo for him to be sure he's heard Kamina biting back a sob.

-:-

Kamina lets out a soundless sigh, drawn-out. He's exhausted. He really is. It won't be long before things get a lot better, he reminds himself, but that's not enough. Being tired after that won't do. If anything, he has to fight harder and believe more and struggle more desperately than ever, keep going, keep going until the beastmen stop hunting them for good, and then he can rest, if he even remembers how to do that. He sleeps - a lot, soundly, an arm draped around Simon's shoulder and his cape around them both - but he doesn't think he can really rest.

Simon grows tense against his brother, and although the sudden exhalation makes him wonder if he should worry a tad more, feeling the weight of Kamina leaning on him gives him a sudden sense of strenght, of not being quite so small anymore, even between the man's arms. Leaning back against his broad chest, head tucked under his chin, long legs on his sides; he feels warm, comfortable, secure, and yet, he thinks he quite likes the weight against him.

He likes the arms tightening around his wiry frame more than anything else. More than pigmole steaks and the lights under the pond, more than the tiny lights in the night sky and the big, round one Kamina promised to take him to. 'Stars'. 'Moon'. He lets his hand rest upon the arms crossed over his torso and traces the blue lines tattooed on the skin - he finds them more fascinating. Still, these are the strong arms and calloused hands that have showed him all those lights. This skin, this touch-- he likes it better.

"You ain't worried anymore, huh," Kamina breathes unto the top of his head, and Simon can feel him smile proudly, fondly.

He gives a smile of his own. "I'm... a little scared, but I'm not worried."

"You can do it, Simon." Kamina lowers his head to press a kiss to his temple, and then another to his cheek. "You know that, right?"

He nods as best as he can, head tilted, leaning into the touch. Of course they can do it. Kamina is there, and he won't take anything but that. No matter what, they'll find a way. He knows this, and when he half-turns to meet Kamina's smile, he's certain he can believe in it, too.

(The infinite small lights shine brightly outside, above, way above the Lagann, but he can only catch red reflections in his brother's eyes. Volcanoes, he recalls Yoko telling them. Burning magma that just can't be underground anymore, at some point, and finds a place to burst out from. Just like Kamina, as he remembers him saying.)

Fire painting the sky red behind him, Simon smiles broadly - cheeks tinted pink, hands clumsy, but smiling still - and kisses Kamina on the lips.

-:-

"I know you've been telling the other Diggers to go the wrong way."

He's scared, he'll admit. The chief's never sounded so angry, although he's barely raising his voice, and Simon's already wondering what will happen if he's found. All the chief has to do is push Kamina aside and take a look inside the tunnel, and he'll undoubtedly catch sight of him, curled up tight within. He can't bring himself to hide further in; any noise, he's sure, would give him away and get Kamina in even more trouble than he seems to be.

"The surface's up there," the Digger responds, and Simon detects the same quietly threatening quality in his voice. "We won't get anywhere just digging in deeper! We'll just put more roofs on top of us!"

"There is nothing above the roof." The dark-haired boy catches a glimpse of movement out of the corner of his eye, and then all light is blocked from entering the tunnel. "You're not fit to be a Digger anymore. Give me your drill."

"…what?"

"From now own, you'll work like us adults, and learn what it means to be a responsible member of this village. I don't know where your father's gone off to, but I can tell he won't come back, so you'll be taking his place."

A ray of light creeps inside, followed by several more; movement again. Soon, the chief's steps are resounding inside the tunnel, quieter every time. Simon waits until he can't hear them or feel the vibration of the earth around him anymore, before crawling to the tunnel's entrance. "K-Kamina!"

The older boy turns to him with a smile on his thin lips. "It's okay, Simon," he says, shrugging. "But, y''know… they're gonna need another Digger now, you wanna do it?"

Simon blinks at the easy tone of his voice. "Me?"

"Yeah! You said it looked fun, and you're really good at it!"

"I don't know…"

Kamina gives him a disapproving look, and still, Simon doesn't find it in himself to feel quite so small. "Do you want to?"

"Sure, but--"

"Okay, then that's that!" He waves the matter off quickly, and extends a hand toward the boy. Simon takes it without hesitation and lets Kamina help him to his feet, after which the older boy simply waves and strides away. "I'm gonna go tell the chief, then! See ya, Simon!"

Simon stands there for a moment, stranded. The occurrences and information are too much, too fast, and it takes him several minutes to realize what Kamina had said. A Digger… could he? He's practiced a lot with Kamina, but it doesn't mean he could take his job; he really wouldn't do that, or anything, better than Kamina has. It… doesn't work that way.

Still, despite that and the odd taste Kamina's acceptance - almost resignation, maybe - has left in his mouth, he finds himself smiling all the way back home.

-:-

It's not the first time they kiss like this. A lot of things, he thinks, wouldn't be the same if it were. Kamina wouldn't be so much larger than life in his eyes, and Simon would be nothing. He would've never been allowed to see Kamina overcoming fear, he would've never understood that it's fine to worry, that it doesn't instantly makes him as weak as he'd see himself, and he wouldn't have understood why the combined Gurren-Lagann was so strong.

They never hid, but nobody saw them either. Nobody heard Kamina sound so very unsure about visiting his father's grave before leaving Ritona, nobody saw Simon kiss him first, and nobody knew why he was smiling more genuinely than usual when he threw the battered red cape over his shoulders, Simon tying a drifting scrap around his own arm.

But it's not being unseen within the stolen ganmen that makes him feel so secure, he decides, because even that can't make him bold enough to allow himself to let out a sigh when Kamina's mouth moves from his own to his jaw, his neck, his shoulders.

"Aniki..."

Teeth graze his skin, cold, and then it's the man's tongue on his neck instead and he can't stop himself from shivering from something he can't quite grasp. Kamina stops to glance at him between softer, gentler kisses. He's not sure if his sudden feeling of guilt has shown or if it's something else entirely, but their next kiss holds a mutual urgency, mouths open, tongues meeting, and with Aniki's arms around him like that, Simon simply can't seem to feel unstable.

-:-

The earthquake, like most of the recent tremors, lasts no longer than a minute or two.

He's standing by the western end of the village when the first shift hits, smiling down at the drill the chief just handed to him. It doesn't seem new at all - he recognizes it as the one Kamina taught him how to dig with, and recognizes the marks of its use as well - and it's almost too heavy for him to hold properly, but the chief thinks he's ready to do his duty and he'd like nothing more than to be helpful. His parents ask the older man more than enough questions about just how safe digging is for a boy his age, as protective and concerned as always, but he's already too set on trying it, at least, to even remember being nervous. He only tugs on his mother's clothes and spins the drill when she looks at him, smiling wider than she's ever seen him smile.

"Well, he's okay with it, so…"

"He'll do fine," the chief concludes. "This is a very important job, I'm sure everyone will be grateful to have little Simon helping us expand the village."

Him? He's not really good at anything, despite what Kamina's told him, but there's so many walls around him… what would happen if he just drilled a hole in one and never stopped digging? Where would he get? Would it really be the surface? What would he find? He knows what Kamina would say, but still wishes that the older boy were at least looking at him.

"Here, Simon," his father calls, kneeling down to his height. He takes something the boy can't see from the chief's hands and places it atop his head; glasses? Goggles? Does that make him a Digger now? "Much better. Be careful, okay?"

"Now then, follow me, I'll show you where--"

It's at that moment, the second where he nods quietly at his father and looks at his very own drill, that the first tremor shakes all of Jiiha; walls and floor, earth just the same, seems to shift right under their feet and throws all of them off balance.

Four seconds. Merely four seconds pass, and when they're over, Simon finds himself on the ground, not far from the chief but distanced enough from his parents to feel insecure.

Ten seconds. He's just caught his breath and begun to stand when the second tremor arrives, more violent and lasting than the first. The chief's far away from him by them, alerting everyone of the earthquake and directing them towards shelter.

Fifteen seconds. He can't stay steady on his feet and stumbles to wherever the earthquake leads him. He can't see his parents anymore, and even though nothing seems to stay in place, he's pretty sure his knees are shaking.

Thirty seconds. Rock shattering against rock everywhere, and he should've been hiding already, but he's so scared. He can't go anywhere, not alone, not without them, not on his own…

Forty seconds. The bridges overhead are breaking into pieces and falling to the ground. Dust and pebbles fall atop his head constantly, followed by pieces of rock that he dodges only by luck, still stumbling around.

"Mom?! Dad!?"

He needs to find his parents, he needs to be with them, he-- he swallows the lump in his throat and tries to direct his feet in one direction, the one he was in when it started.

Forty-five seconds. He's struggling to walk at first, but it suddenly seems like the ground is pushing him to go faster and he trips, falling face-first.

Fifty-three seconds. He bites back a sob and crawls forward, his knees scraped by the now uneven floor. This is the place. They can't be too far. Just a little more.

One minute and eleven seconds.

"Mom!"

"Simon?!"

"Simon, stay where you are! Don't move, I'll--"

One minute and fifteen seconds.

The blur passes right in front of his eyes, and the sound it makes when it hits the ground is deafening.

One minute and twenty seconds. The rocks have settled on their position, an entire section of one of the upper bridges now lying on the floor, broken in places but still keeping its shape.

One minute and thirty seconds. He's starting to wonder if they'll ever come back up. He's looking, he knows exactly where they were standing twenty seconds ago, but he can't see them, and that bridge seemed so heavy…

One minute and forty-two seconds. Another tremor, not as harsh as the ones before it, but pieces of the bridges are still falling down and if that was a hand just now--

One minute and fifty seconds. That was-- they couldn't-- but he saw it, he's sure, and he just can't look anymore. He can't be there. He can't think about it. He has to run, be somewhere else, forget about it, and they'll be fine when he comes back.

One minute and fifty-nine seconds. He drags himself and his drill to the digging area in the western end of the village and runs straight into the darkness of the main tunnel. He'll do it now. It has to be now.

Two minutes and ten seconds. It's stopped.

He's already digging when the earthquake stops, and he keeps digging even after he can't hear voices behind him. He'll just keep going. Everything will be fixed when he comes back. Everyone will be okay. His hand quivers in a way he thinks he remembers, but seems shameful and weak on him; for now, however, all he can do is dig.

-:-

"Simon?!"

There's an echo and some sort of muffled quality to the voice, almost drowned by the sound of something shifting, something heavy moving near him. His body is numb, too heavy to move until he hears another shift, closer now, and feels as though a pressure if being lifted off of him.

Just like that, a sharp pain rises from somewhere in his gut and wills him to move fast, to double over while he coughs; the sensation burns his throat and makes his eyes sting and tear up, and the voice is still there, pounding right into his ear now.

"Simon!"

"Ka…" He swallows, coughs, tries his voice again. "K-Kamina?"

"Yeah, it's me. Hold on, I-- fuck!"

The next shift sounds even closer, but it's not rock against rock this time, he can tell. Blinking fast, he tries to focus on the figure moving in the dark, and winces when he notices the red rivoulets on Kamina's back when he pushes the rocks and pebbles off of his shoulders. "A-Are you okay?!"

"Don't worry about me," Kamina replies, leaning over him. He looks the younger boy up and down, and he averts his eyes, suddenly feeling inadequate. Kamina's hand reaches in his line of sight, brushing strands of dirty hair away from his face; Simon, then, can't help but meet his steady gaze. "Just what the hell were you doing here durin' an earthquake, Simon?"

He keeps looking at the older boy, although his eyes are out of focus, and says nothing, throat patchy and burning. Kamina blinks a couple of times before looking away. "We're going back."

"I can't..."

"I'll carry you."

Simon wonders, as Kamina helps him up and unto his red-stained back, if it was the former Digger or him who misunderstood.

-:-

He doesn't feel small anymore. He's atop Kamina's lap, thin legs wrapped around his bandaged torso, barely at the level of his red eyes, but he doesn't feel small. The stars are still way, way above him and his body trembles when he rocks it against Kamina, Kamina around him, inside him, whispering his name in his ear, but he's not fragile now.

Aniki smiles like the entire world is under them, because in this moment, not for the first time but certainly more confidently than ever, he's decided that that's exactly how it is. The lights above them and the world below, not because there are no heights in the surface, but because Simon still looks upward when no one else is looking and Kamina wants to take him there.

He repeats the name once again, under his breath, the battlefield fading away with his voice. "Simon... Simon..." and absolutely nothing else. Simon gives a breathless moan when his pace picks up, skin hot and not awfully dry anymore; Kamina places lasting kisses down his neck, feeling him shudder and swallow his cries, and when he finally lets loose, everything else begins to exist again.

It's a good world. Dangerous, dangerous at every step and turn because that's what it means to be prey, but the sky is above and the world is below and Simon is right there, and he can't think of anything better.

-:-

It's been several days since then, the next time they speak. Simon's been doing this and that, digging and working and feeling lonelier than ever; Kamina's been doing that and more, working and running by and disappearing every now and then. Simon doesn't dare to stop him on his tracks, and finds himself speeding on his own with their every fleeting hello.

One day he just doesn't. One day he's just thinking too much and walking too slow. When that day ends, Kamina is waiting for him within the digging area.

"Yo, Simon!" He waves, and the boy doesn't yet find the energy to wave back. "Been working hard, I see."

Simon smiles a little despite himself. "Ah… I guess so."

"But, you know…" Kamina begins, approaching him to glance at the tunnel he's emerged from. He grabs a peddle from its edge, throws it inside and, with a sigh more theatrical than real, turns his attention back to the boy. "You should be digging up, not down!"

"Because that's where the surface is?"

"Exactly."

Simon pauses, staring down at his feet in more of a thoughtful gesture than a timid one. "Well, I-I don't…" He pauses again, his words lost, and soon laughs to himself. "I don't think I'm gonna go there."

"Eh?" Kamina frowns. "You're just gonna dig 'cause you're told to?"

"No, it's not that, I…"

The thing is that Kamina's meant for something different, Simon then concludes. Something - anything - in a different place, anywhere but underground with the rest of them, their little pushes against their walls and their constant "it's okay like this". Of course it's okay; Simon doesn't complain much and doesn't need much, but he can't shake off the feeling that it's not so fine for Kamina. Staying put is not what Kamina does. He changes things, he moves things, he starts things; it's just the way he is.

And Simon, well, what he does is digging, and he's good at that.

"I think I could find something, if I keep digging like this."

"Like what?"

"I dunno," he shrugs. "Something."

Kamina gives him the same measuring look he did before the accident, before the first time the boy held a drill. "That might work for you."

-:-

And despite everything, he's glad. All those lights so far above, Simon with him, everything else below - he won't be there to see all of that forever, but the world is still exactly what he promised.

-:- End -:-

There we go. I'd love to know if anyone takes the characters' relationship the same way I do, but any comments would be highly appreciated, y'know!