A/N: I actually intended for this to be set after the events of the No. 6 novel, but I haven't read it 'til the end, nor has the full anime been released, therefore this is all speculation as to what will happen, or has happened. Thus, AU. I've also taken liberties with the sub-plots as well. I don't have much knowledge on the No.6 disease or the truth about No.6 to write a convincing enough tale on the true ending, so there is no mention of No.6 as the main city here. It is just a story of two boys who loved each other, and it centers on Shion's coping with loss.
I'm leaving it open. Enjoy! (: btw, thank you all who reviewed and faved my previous stories! I never imagined I would get such a response (: Thank you, again. I will try to keep writing, even though my main passion is really art.
Four years. Just when he thinks he doesn't keep track of the time.
His heart aches a little, but the pain quickly ebbs away, burying itself in trivial charms of the mind, settling into a state of false comfort. There is a reason why Shion still wears that scarf around his neck. He nearly forgets. Once, he has waited a similar four years. There had been more hope then, Shion realizes. Now, that hope has dwindled like the flame he keeps at his open window every night. The area by the bay window is wet when the rain comes, and during winter he catches colds. Still, he leaves it open like a nightly ritual, and there are times he forgets why. But when he wakes up in the morning, dew in his hair, fingers cold as death, he always remembers.
He is not coming back, he thinks, and rises from bed alone.
He doesn't cry anymore. Hasn't cried in a long time. It astounds him, really. He wishes Nezumi was here to tell him how proud he was.
As long as there is a tomorrow, I'll be here waiting.
Arms wide, heart open.
And Shion, being Shion, goes about his day with renewed optimism. Four years is longer than he imagines. He forgets he owns a copy of Macbeth that he has never read past the first page, though he knows the story by heart. He is surprised he's able to quote Shakespear out of thin air as though this had been something important to him in the past. Every squeak or soft patter of tiny feet catches his attention and he looks for the sound with a strange eagerness. When it is gone, he wonders what he had been hoping for in the first place.
He lives alone, in a quaint part of town, where the cobblestone streets are clean, and there are no rats. He works at a bakery not far from home; he's been saving up the money to return to school one day.
He has been waiting for many things in life. Before he knows it, he is twenty-one.
When he ponders on it, time is indeed cruel. Shion barely remembers his own age, but the cherry cake sitting atop his dining table serves as a stark reminder. It is left there from his mother, who owns a key to the house. Suddenly losing his appetite, he puts it in the fridge, skips breakfast altogether, and leaves home for his psychologist's appointment.
Even without him knowing it, the scarf finds its way around his neck. It is purely out of routine that he carries it with him now. Shion brings it close to his face out of habit, out of yearning. It has long lost the scent of the original owner. He isn't reminded of raven hair and stoic eyes anymore. Barely even recalls the exact shade of grey. Or were they dark blue? Some things he tends to will out of his memory, but he lies to himself by keeping these items, these physical memories that serve no purpose now that...
Shion stops by the bookstore around the corner, deciding to buy himself something nice.
As he skims the volumes, his fingers rest on a copy of A Midsummer's Night Dream, and he pauses here, as though trying to unearth the various possibilities of why, before he decides against it.
Later that night, he makes dinner for two, and he hates himself for doing so.
"Oi, stay awake. You wanted me to read to you, right? Don't go snoozing off like some kid."
"But," Shion starts drowsily, and leaves it at that. It feels like he's a child again. The gentle lulling sound of Nezumi's baritone carries him away to a place of fantasy and beyond. With his head in Nezumi's lap, the calloused fingers running through his hair, Shion feels more content than he ever did in his life.
When Nezumi thinks he's asleep again, he sighs, closes the book before caressing the pale cheek below him.
"You're lovely," he whispers.
And in that very moment, Shion feels so perfect; nothing could break him.
Throughout the rest of the month, Shion does some housekeeping. Stray longings and dismembered details have no place under his roof, and he is relieved by this acceptance to move on. It is a gradual process, one he has undertaken alone. The reluctance has worn itself thin over the past four years. He no longer drags his bloodied heart by a leash. He no longer encases himself in the old scarf, and his friends comment on how it never really suited him anyway. He looks smaller, somehow, younger even, and the scar around his neck stands out even more. At the back of his mind he thinks he doesn't look a day past sixteen.
He rolls the scarf into a corner of his drawer, behind a rumpled blue sweater he hasn't worn in ages.
I have to move on.
Shion looks toward the future. Arms wide, heart open.
It is a long time since he's loved. He considers Safu's offer thoughtfully, still unsure what to do in the face of such an open confession. He vaguely wonders what she sees in him. He is certainly not the most masculine, nor is he athletic, clearly lacking in several aspects that will deem him an unsuitable mate in Safu's calculating, scientist eyes. He supposes his brains have something to do with it.
It is a chilly night tonight, when he's walking home from his grocery shopping. The first fall of snow worries him, and he speeds up a little. His breath turns to fog as night deepens. It is a lot colder without the scarf, he muses.
In the morning, Shion says to himself, I'll buy another.
He bypasses a stranger and her child, as they narrowly avoid what seemed to be a fleeing rodent. The woman gives a curt remark about pests and hygiene. Shion gives it no second thought, clutching the brown paper bag tightly, full with eggs and milk and bread for the week ahead.
The snow falls softly, quietly, in the litte district he lives in. No one is on the streets at this time. It gives him peace of mind, and he reflects upon his day, the murmuring of his thoughts taking over the white silence. Within his muted surroundings, he hears the snow crunching pleasantly under the weight of his step. Subconsciously, he avoids making too loud a noise when he walks. But his footfalls are nothing compared to the din the paper bag makes as it drops to the ground from his limp arms; splat was the noise it made.
For a moment, like many things in the past few months, he forgets what shocks him. For a split second, he doesn't understand why his limbs stopped functioning, why his heart stopped beating, at the sight of this beautiful dark-haired stranger standing in wait at his doorstep.
The sting in his cheek throbs dully. An aching reminder of reality.
Nezumi drops to his knees, embraces him by the waist. He looks vulnerable in this position, bent over, head low, but the grip on his hips is firm, almost desperate. "I care for you, Shion."
"Then don't leave me, Nezumi."
"I won't," he lies.
He's grown taller. His shoulders are broader. Shion doesn't recognize him at first, because he'd cut his hair short. But he secretly knows, he will never be able to erase that face from his mind. Ten, twenty years from now, Shion knows, he'll definitely recognize him. The man's eyes are wild with emotion, reflecting the look of vivid turmoil in his own. They stand there at least a full minute, studying one another.
I'm dreaming. Shion's entire form is trembling now. It cannot be. It's a lie, it's a lie, it's a lie, it's a lie..
It seems like another four years has gone by. Nezumi is the first to break silence.
"Shion," he says. The voice is shaky, careful. He makes to advance but thinks twice.
He has outgrown the jacket he was so fond of; he now wears something similar, but keeps it unzipped. The boots are the same though, scratched and weather-worn, even more so than the last time he's seen them.
Shion cannot take it. The first breath he takes is a harsh one which gives way to unchecked tears.
This cannot be happening. I'm seeing things. I must be sick.
"Nezumi," he says weakly, perfectly ready to die.
Shion finds himself unable to move, much less turn to flee. The words won't reach his tongue, even though his thoughts scream at him from the inside. It gnaws him apart, even more so than any virus, any form of alien contraction, and he does nothing but wait for death, obediently. Surely, with a pain like this, he could just drop dead, heart bleeding out. Blurry fragments of memory scrape at his chest. His carefully guarded heart, with its wounds freshly mended, is going to fail him. He knows it. He is imagining things now. This must be it, his last moment.
Of course, Nezumi will have none of it.
Arms wide, heart open, he embraces Shion fully.
Shion feels the flesh beneath the jacket, the muscles, the roaring blood beneath skin, the tendons. Nezumi feels real enough. The hair that tickles his cheek feels real enough. But to Shion, this is no more than a greater punishment.
"I'm back, Shion."
It's killing him.
No. Shion cries and cries, the anguish of four long years pouring down his face and into Nezumi's warm shoulder. It doesn't stop. This is the first time he truly understands how one can compare tears to a broken dam. He doesn't lift his arms to return the hug. There is no way a mortal being can possibly touch an apparition, as though it were made of living cells. One part of him refuses to yield to this Nezumi's very existance, the other part just wants to give in to the dream.
But there are no such things as ghosts.
"Shion." Nezumi pulls back, and Shion gets a good look at his face. Was he always this gorgeous? He cannot help but stare. "I came for you."
Shion lets out a shuddering breath. "Stop," he finds his voice. It comes out painfully like he's chewing stones. "This is not happening. You cannot be real."
Nezumi looks hurt, but not entirely shocked. He runs his hands through Shion's soft ivory locks. "Forgive me," he says, and presses their lips together.
Shion wants to believe. He wants to be fooled. He opens his mouth, and drowns himself in reawakened desire. Nezumi Nezumi Nezumi Nezumi. He's insane. There's no other explanation.
I've gone mad.
When his legs finally give way, Nezumi holds him up, concerned. Shion forcibly pushes himself away to form a safe distance and lets himself crumble to the ground. Everything that he has dilligently built around himself the past four years, is being torn down so ruthlessly like the pathetically weak front he keeps up.
"You're not real," he chokes, unwilling to look up. The tears falling to the ground turn to frost almost immediately. "Why are you here? Why did you come back?"
Nezumi doesn't budge. "I love you, Shion."
"Lies!" he Nezumi he knows would never say that so readily. It must be the blood of his shredded heart that's seeping past his throat, stealing his voice. "You're dead, Nezumi. You've been dead a long time."
It's the first time he's acknowledged it. It's taken him this long to accept.
Faced with the ghost of his past, he finds unexpected strength.
"Do I look dead to you?"
Shion doesn't listen, only convinces himself otherwise. He prides himself in forgetting, but truth is, he never has. Even if he's made a thousand happy memories, there is no way in hell he can ever bury his troubled past.
I loved you so much.
"You're in my head," Shion confesses. "Nezumi wouldn't be standing here, if it weren't for me."
"Look at me, Shion."
"Please leave me alone. It's too painful. I want to forget you."
"I've just managed not to think about you for one full day!" Shion snaps. "Why won't you let me forget you?"
Without even lifting a finger, Nezumi breaks the very foundation of Shion's universe.
Nezumi kneels down. The hand that cups Shion's chin is pulsing with life.
"If you refuse to believe me, I'll make you," Nezumi says.
Shion's memory races back to a time of similar shame, where he is slumped on the ground, his body weak and his faith weaker. Even though he isn't naked this time, he feels equally exposed under Nezumi's stormy gaze.
"Don't cry, Shion. I'll make it up to you," Nezumi promises, and leans in.
He realizes his lips are so cold, compared to Nezumi's own. For a moment he forgets who's the one living and who's already dead.
There is a shuffle, and Shion feels the weight of Nezumi's scarf tucked around him like a banket.
"I want you to think about me when you wear it," Nezumi smiles. A true smile.
Shion tightens his hold around Nezumi's body, and doesn't hold back his kisses anymore.
"That goes without saying," he says quietly. "I'll never be able to forget you, Nezumi."
A/N: It is up to you, whether you believe Nezumi is real, or if he has passed on, or if Shion is just finding it hard to move on and let go. But I kinda have a whole story planned out for this, so if you'd like me to continue please say so (: A big thank you for reading my pitiful story! I think I've lingered on writing this long enough.