"There's 6 billion of us... and yet we're all alone. That's why we're all frantically searching, for that one person we need no distance from."
- Arakawa Under the Bridge.
In the story of Hamlet, the reason for his going irrefutably mad, the cause of all those destructive events, was because of the appearance of a ghost.
If madness is the fuel that drives his phantom, then Shion will gladly succumb to his eventual destruction. But thinking about it, he wonders if the true culprit is depravation. Half starved for a love he was robbed of, the break between mind and reality is closed, fusing with such a force that his brain thinks it is asleep. Nezumi on the other hand – Nezumi remains an enigma, even after death, in ways that Shion will never be able to fathom.
It is the third day of madness, Shion counts.
Nezumi did not come to bed the night before, even though he said he would. It must have been the way Shion's cheek still droned in numb agony long after he'd been hit that Nezumi refused to sleep in the same room. It is morning, and the wound is almost nonexistant. He sighs in relief when he finds no bruising around the area; it feels a little stiff, a little raw, but nothing Nezumi will have to worry over. Shion checks his hair over in the mirror, making sure he doesn't look as sick as he feels, before climbing down the stairs into the living room.
The first thing Shion comes to notice, is that the dent in the wall Nezumi made with his fist is no longer there.
He fixed it?
Nezumi is nowhere to be found, and one look in the kitchen shows he hasn't bothered to make himself anything to eat yet. Shion supposes it's his role now. He takes out a carton of milk from the fridge and prepares to warm it up. He's too sleepy to be feeling peckish. That's all he's having; and Nezumi will have to take it or leave it.
Shion almost gets a shock when he sees Nezumi through the glass door of the balcony, just extending from the back kitchen. He didn't notice it before, which is strange. Nezumi's back is towards him; he's leaning out against the railing, so deep in thought that he's completely still, except for the slight rise and fall of his shoulders as he breathes in the dewy air. Shion pauses to take in the sight, and decides he misses the high ponytail that Nezumi used to wear. There is something so stern, and so painfully mature about this new look that Shion feels unaccustomed to. There is already so much distance between them.
As he begins to stir their breakfast in a pot, the balcony door opens.
"How's the wound?" is the first thing Nezumi asks, as he comes in. "Are you feeling better, Shion?"
Shion is touched by such commitment. There will never be anyone who can possibly love him any more, nor will there be anyone whom he'll surrender his everything to.
When Nezumi is close enough, Shion takes his hand and presses it against his healed cheek. Nezumi's hand retains the coolness of the outside air, as it slips down to cup his jaw gently, rubbing a thumb along the smooth plane of Shion's tender skin. Shion leaves his mind blank, when Nezumi brings himself closer still, and does not resist the lingering caresses that Nezumi leaves along the bony trail of his arms and his scarred neck. He wants to stay like this. He wants to be touched, on the inside and out.
If this is a dream, he'll need to make sure he doesn't open his eyes. At least not yet.
He feels Nezumi give a start, before he extends a hand to the pot on the stove, taking over Shion's forgotten task of stirring the milk.
"Is this milk?" he asks, bemused. "Or did you just forget to put in the eggs and butter?"
"I'm not hungry," Shion insists. "This is all that's left, anyway."
Nezumi's worry is obvious, but he does not put it into words. He pours the milk into a bowl to let it cool, and refuses to take a single sip, even when Shion offers him some.
"I'm not living in poverty, Nezumi. Just take some to keep warm at least."
"I'm not hungry either, I suppose," Nezumi says dismissively.
He watches with a keen eye, as Shion brings the bowl neatly to his lips. They sit close together at the small dining table, knees knocking against each other's under the cloth. Shion cannot help but blush, as Nezumi casually leans an arm over the tabletop to rest his head against his knuckles, and swallows him whole with the sheer intensity of his gaze. Shion does not miss the tongue that comes out to lick those avid lips, and gulps at the thought of what might be going through Nezumi's mind at the moment.
Not hungry... huh.
"I'm going out today," Shion tells him, setting his empty bowl down noisily. "Doctor's appointment. You don't have to keep a watch on me," he adds quickly.
Nezumi crosses his legs under the table. "I'm not your keeper. Do as you wish."
The stare Nezumi pins on him hasn't wavered. It leaves his stomach churning, his pulse racing.
"I'll be going to the mart after that," Shion continues, trying to dispel the warmth in his cheeks. "What would you like for dinner?"
"Buy whatever you want." Nezumi runs a hand through his short hair, wan and uninterested.
Just beyond the balcony, they hear someone passing through the narrow pathway below, footsteps grinding the frost-bitten stone. They have good weather these days, despite the snow. Shion decides to wash the bedsheets when he returns later. He needs something to occupy himself, with Nezumi in the house now, haunting him with his somber prescence and killer eyes. It's not only the hair, almost every part of him feels different. But he evidently remains that Nezumi he's known since forever; the runaway rogue who's bleeding out on the carpet of his bedroom, the fugitive who saved his life, the boy who taught him fear and hatred and love. In that aspect, Nezumi remains very much the same.
His gaze is near piercing, and Shion struggles to direct that heat somewhere else.
You are my imagination. I forbid you to do anything to me.
"Shion." Nezumi's voice freezes all conscious thought. "How... are you?" and that is the first time he's asked since arriving here.
It takes Shion by surprise. He wonders if Nezumi's genuinely interested, or if it's disquiet that prompts him. "Nezumi... I'm-I'm fine. It's just been an exhausting few days, hasn't it?"
"Hmph. I see." Nezumi reclines in his chair. There is something about the way he says it that makes it unsettling. "You know, I think I prefer the old Shion better. That one was a much better liar."
Nezumi folds his arms, as though doing so will hide his heart beneath. He has done much reflecting himself, that much is obvious. "You don't even spew lovey-dovey rubbish anymore. You don't talk about ideals, you're so rooted to the present. Where are those stupid questions you loved asking so much? It's weird, seeing you so quiet. But I won't deny, you're much more attractive like this. Did someone come around telling you to shut up? Did you realize what an annoyance you've been by yourself? I guess it's natural for a genius like you to figure it out sooner or later."
"Where is this going, Nezumi?"
You don't even mean the hurtful things you say.
"...Why did you change, Shion?"
"People change," he replies simply.
He stares down the white-rimmed bowl at his breakfast table and hopes that when he looks up again, Nezumi would be gone, or at least look appeased by his answer. The clock in the living room ticks loudly, like an ominous chime. Even with another person in the house, it feels all too silent, even more so than when he lived alone. It is this deathly calm that frightens him. It's in direct conflict with the chaos in his heart.
They never do it often. It kicks off the day they give up their virginity to each other, but their sex is never casual, never spontaneous. Not really. Shion likes to keep it sacred, believes in keeping it proper and exclusive, and Nezumi respects that.
But there is nothing proper about the way Shion moans his consent into the pillow as he's taken from behind, nor the way Nezumi's essence leaks down his shuddering inner thighs.
"So fucking gorgeous," murmurs Nezumi, as he rides out his pleasure with Shion licking the spread of his open palm with no reserve whatsoever.
He runs his fingers inside Shion's mouth, feeling the warm pliant tongue, the set of perfect teeth.
Nezumi gnarls deep in his throat when he comes. Shion likes this raw animalistic side of him. It feels so primitive, so domineering, yet so endearing, that he can only scream at the height of his ecstasy for Nezumi's neverending happiness.
Nezumi shifts in his seat restlessly, as though it is uncomfortable to be in the same room together.
Shion stops eyeing the invisible crack in the tiled floor and comes to his senses.
"I have," he says, ignoring the jolt of longing he feels in his chest, "I have something to do."
He is about to stand, when the room is suddenly filled with the screech of table legs against the marble floor as Nezumi roughly pushes it out of the way with one arm. Shion barely has time to register, when Nezumi launches at him, closing whatever distance left between them. All this happens in less than two seconds.
Shion lets out a strangled whimper as he feels strong hands jostling him to the kitchen counter, and cannot help but shudder violently as hot, hungry lips start to devour his neck. "No!" he cries in protest, beating down and pulling at the other's hair with all his might. The passionate necking serves to plunge him deeper into a dangerous, unrequited desire. Shion forbids himself to follow that dark beckoning. He screams from both the lust and frustration at his defenselessness, blindly clawing at Nezumi's back. With all the kicking he's doing, Nezumi easily slips himself between Shion's thighs, which causes the latter to panic. Shion wonders if it is worth crippling the other, if it means getting out of the situation unscathed.
Nezumi wastes no time in catching up on their lost years. His kisses are desperate and intrusive. He has his large hands wrapped around Shion's face, forcing his mouth to tilt this way and that according to his needs. Shion wants to push him away, wants to pull him closer, wants to hit him in the crotch. He is weak from sleep and lack of food. His feeble hands grasp and wrestle with Nezumi's unyielding strength to no avail.
Stop it! You're in my head! Disappear before I hurt you, Nezumi!
It is his kitchen, and he knows where he keeps the knives.
Nezumi doesn't need Shion to warn him before he stops; the blade at his throat delivers enough of a threat. He pulls back wisely. Shion's face is flushed from the vigor as he pants for air. The tears that run down his face are burning with shame and the bitterness of betrayal. The hand that grips the knife is shaking like a leaf, but it continues to point straight at its target.
"Don't touch me," he cautions, but it sounds more like a plead to his ears.
Don't make me watch you die a second time, Nezumi.
It is Nezumi who's taught him how to fight, and thus the one who disarms him effectively; it doesn't take much effort on his part. Shion is dazed and a lot less nimble from lack of practice. He gives an involuntary gasp as Nezumi snags his wrist sharply, and the knife is literally pulled out of his clutch like it is the simplest thing in the world. Nezumi chucks the blade across the room but doesn't free him just yet. Shion is rendered mute from fear and shock. He forgets that Nezumi is a fighter, and the poor attempt at guarding himself must have seemed so utterly below par.
"So naive," Nezumi growls lowly. "I guess some things don't change."
And he lets go, leaving Shion to nurse a bruising wrist and deflating ego.
Nezumi moves away to lean an arm against the sliding balcony door, looking outside, at the fallen snow and white buildings. Shion feels his head pounding with all the stress and emotion that's accumulated since Nezumi's arrival. Their parting was a trial, it must have been. But that doesn't give Nezumi any reason to force him. Nezumi is not like that. Was not like that. Maybe Shion doesn't know this Nezumi any more than Nezumi knows him. Four years to test their trust. Perhaps it was too long.
Nezumi sighs, pulling at his scalp like he's having a headache. "Shion-"
Shion doesn't see Nezumi turn around abruptly to address him, because he's already passed out on the floor.
Under Nezumi's instruction he was not to see him off. Shion thinks it might be because Nezumi's afraid he'll cry.
It's been two days since Nezumi's departure. The new job has taken him far, but this four years will be the longest yet, and Shion doesn't want to leave his mother by coming along. Nezumi's taken almost everything with him. Including the things Shion lavished him with. Books, clothes, breakfasts in bed, good morning kisses. This distance is a trial, he tells himself.
Shion only has a scarf, a hair tie, and a note to remember him by.
'We'll be reunited again. I promise. Wait for me.' it says, and keeps Shion's lonely days filled with hope.
'I'm going to die without you.' he messages Nezumi one night. It is cheesey, but it is also half-true.
Nezumi takes another day to reply, because of the time difference. 'You're going to live, idiot. Live on for both of our sakes.'
The meaning behind the message is grimly appropriate. Barely a week passes, before Nezumi lapses into a deep coma, half the globe away.
The room he is ushered into is cold and metallic and blue. There are various charts and scans and graphs clipped to the walls that he cannot really understand but it keeps him on the edge anyhow. The scan was quick, thankfully so. There was no way he could have endured it any longer than that. He sits where he's told to, and waits alone for the results. The anxiety makes him sick to the stomach. The fainting spell confirms it; there really is something abnormal going on within his body. He needs to get it out. Even if it means being strapped to a surgical table and cut open like a biology experiment.
I'm ready. I'm ready for this. Come what may. I need to get to the bottom of this.
The doctor enters, and he nearly jolts out of his seat. "U-um..." He doesn't know how to ask. Is there something wrong with me? Is there a tumor in my head? Am I insane? Should I be referred to a different section? He fears asking, but the thing that frightens him most is the answer he will get, regardless the severity or lack of in his condition.
It determines everything.
His sanity is at stake.
The doctor gives him a small smile. He clips the set of CT projections to the light box. It is a strange otherwordly feeling, being able to look at the inside of his brain in such a dull monotone. Veins, arteries, vessels. Every detail is mapped out. This is what he's made out of. He feels like a specimen already.
"I'm glad you came to get checked today." The man taps at the angiogram, specifically at a small dark lump at the circle of Willis. It makes Shion's heart sink. He's seen this before, a long time ago. "See this ballon-like bulge? It's filled with blood. An early stage of aneurysm, I'm afraid."
"I'm..." There is nothing he can say. There is nothing that needs to be said.
No. This is... But Nezumi also...
If his condition doesn't kill him, his declining heart will.
"Now we know the reason for these hallucinations you're experiencing. There is nothing abnormal about your case, given the disease you suffered five years ago. It most likely caused your blood vessels to weaken as a result. But you have nothing to worry about. You've come to the right place. The procedure might sound daunting, but it is much smoother than it had been, say, ten years ago. The advancement in medical science in these recent years has been promising. You can be saved, Shion. There is nothing to worry about," he repeats, for good measure.
There is a pressure between his ears, blocking out the words, clouding his vision with black spots.
Shouldn't I be glad? They found the problem. They have the solution. I can be cured.
'Aneurysm. Cerebrovascular disorder. Can result in severe hemorrhage, other complications, or death.'
Shion recites what he's learnt from paperback science books in his head, to drone out his other feelings. Facts, facts, facts.
"Thank..." he only says this out of habit but cannot even finish. It feels like it will take a supreme amount of effort to talk right now, so he merely resorts to taking in shallow breaths to keep himself calm, keep himself from fainting right then and there from lack of air. He's always known there was a medical explanation. Aneurysm. Cerebrovascular disorder. That is why Nezumi...
The tears flow down, unstoppable. He knows it will come, be it good news or bad. He's been crying a lot lately. He allows himself this little freedom.
Three days of madness is nothing compared to four years of suffering.
Nezumi... is not...
It is that day again, four years ago. He is wide-eyed and sixteen and has never held a dying person in his arms before. The positions are switched, and he is left to bleed out on the starched white sheets. He wishes for someone to hold him now. Who will hold him when he dies? Nezumi's not in the house. He's dead. Six feet under. He'd buried him himself. There's no way he could have come back. Of course, it was never real to begin with. He should have known, should have readily accepted the fact. Shion cannot deal with it. He's not as strong as Nezumi thinks he is. Contrary to his thoughts, he's not ready to face it. If they cut him up, Nezumi will be gone for good. Nezumi will leave him again. He doesn't want to be cured. He'll rather die. All the vessels in his brain can explode for that matter, there is no meaning in life if there is no Nezumi to share it with.
Nezumi... is not real.
He weeps like a child, eyes pressed against his palms to stop the flow but it is futile. He is shaking in his chair. His slender shoulders are staggering with the force of his tears. His miserable wails eventually cause the nurses outside to rush in, curious and frantic. There are hands on his shoulders, on his back, stroking his hair. The doctor is saying something again, but everything outside the bubble he's created around himself is reduced to nothing but a dream.
It's a lie! I'm going to go home to Nezumi, and everything will be alright.
He thrashes around in the nurses' clasp like a frightened animal. Eventually, they get him to the floor, and he is subdued by force. The last thing he thinks about as his eyes start to droop, is the feel of Nezumi's hand on his cheek that morning, filled with the warmth of life.
When the plane touches down, Shion is swamped with tears. The cabin crew are obliged to coax him down to land.
At the hospital, he nearly makes a scene. But the sight of Nezumi, lifeless in bed, compels him to silence. He is surrounded by machines that keep his heart rate in check, keep him stable for as long as his beating heart may sustain.
'Stage 5 aneurysm,' is the doctor's explanation. 'I am so sorry.' and Shion repeats this in his heart, I am so sorry I am so sorry I am so sorry and it is all he tells himself for the next few days.
He doesn't eat, doesn't speak, barely sleeps, and the nurses fear they might have to make room for another patient. He's curled up next to Nezumi in the whitewash sheets, feeling small and useless. His ear is close to Nezumi's chest, so that he can hear the faintest thump of the heart, and waits for the weakest rumbling of a voice to emerge. Sometimes, when he accidentally drifts off to sleep, he dreams of the life they had so long ago, holding Nezumi's hand as they press on to another day.
Shion wakes up confused. He's still a little drowsy. The faint sound of machines fills his ears. There are lilac curtains drawn around him. This is not his room.
A hospital bed?
He sits up, remembering. The embarrassment comes first. He must have seemed unstable. He'll have to apologize when he sees the doctor again. The doctor who offered to save his life. Shion curls back into bed, nuzzling into the pillow. Will Nezumi be gone when he reaches home that night? Surely his emotional capacity can only take so much. Nezumi will be gone, and he can continue living, continue forgetting, start the healing process all over again. He calms his heart, by attempting to embrace this reality.
It is so very odd, the chances of them both having the same disorder. He thinks this is fate. It's proper. It's perfect. To go exactly the way Nezumi did.
Did you see me then? Did you have visions of me too, as I do now of you?
A broad hand entwines around his. Shion nearly yells again.
It must be his own ribcage that's constricting his heart right now, as Nezumi looks down at him from where he stands. Shion doesn't let go. He convinces himself that if he does, the illusion will reveal itself for what it is.
But how did Nezumi come here on his own? Did they call home and Nezumi happened to answer the phone? That must be it. The hospital must have informed him.
"Nezumi," he sighs, kissing the calloused hand in his own. The fingers are so solid, so tough. He remembers every instance Nezumi has ever protected him with these hands. "Do you know, Nezumi... Do you know how much I love you? I love you so much. I love you so very much."
It doesn't stop Nezumi from looking worried. He leans over the bed. "Shion. I'm here now. What do you want me to do?" he repeats the words he uttered the first morning. "What should I do, Shion?"
"Don't leave me," he begs.
I'm dreaming. Don't let me wake up. Don't let them drag me away from you.
"You're going to be fine, Shion," Nezumi says, caressing his side. "You're going to live."
His eyes shine with the blessing of the dawn. But Shion is afraid. He's going to lose Nezumi. They're going to take him away. He's afraid of losing the very memory that makes him human.
To die, or to live. To be saved, to be left alone. Where is his third choice now?
He swiftly turns around at the new voice, slipping his hand away from Nezumi's instantly. Karan stands at the foot of the bed, having drawn the curtain back. She has a hand on her chest, her eyes deeply troubled, her lip quivering. She looks disheveled and pale. Shion rarely sees his mother like this, and the sight melts his heart.
"Mum," he calls, giving her a smile to show he's alright. It's been a long time since he's last seen her, and he feels ashamed that they have to meet under such circumstances.
Karan ignores Nezumi completely in favor of hugging her precious son tight enough to suffocate. Shion doesn't say anything. He wants her to see for herself that he's well, that he's trying his best. He won't have to be alone anymore, now that Nezumi is here.
"The hospital called, and I rushed here as soon as I could," she explains, combing his hair fondly. "You didn't even tell me you came here, Shion. You got me so worried."
"I'm sorry. It was something I had to deal with myself."
Mum, I never wanted you to know. You shouldn't have any reason to worry. Not for me.
Nezumi goes to sit in the lone chair in the corner, watching them with a fairly apathetic gaze.
"The doctor told me everything," Karan says encouragingly, but she doesn't choke with sobs, doesn't waver. She is strong as ever, forever a pillar of support in the best and worst of times. "You're going to be fine, Shion."
Shion thinks he must look so frail, so tender of heart, that everyone feels the need to reassure him every few seconds. He hasn't even begun plotting suicide yet. He looks down at his hands, so white and small like a doll's; can he really overcome this on his own? Can he find the courage to deal with his demons? Can the one who's always being cared for by others, protect himself?
"How did you know, Shion?" his mother asks.
"Did something happen? The doctor said you were pretty sure about it, that's why you came in for a check."
"Oh." Shion remembers. "I... I was having these hallucinations. I thought Nezumi-"
He stops. Wait. It isn't right. What was he talking about? What was he going to say?
"What about me?" Nezumi is right there in plain sight. He's seated in the chair, legs crossed, poise relaxed. Like he's alive.
"Mum?" Shion's voice cracks.
What's... going on?
"Nezumi is here," he says quietly, cringing with dread. The mental stress is slowly eating him up, stealing his composure, detaining his judgement. "He's sitting in this room right now. He came back, since three days ago."
Why hasn't she said anything? Nezumi is sitting right there!
Karan shifts a steady glance around the room, looks directly at the place where Nezumi is and back again. Her eyes are filled with concern, more than anything. They don't judge him, they don't pity him. All he feels is her compassion, as she strokes his face with all the love in the world.
"I don't see him, Shion."
"I guess it can't be helped."
"What can't?" Shion cocks his head to the side.
"I'll have to keep protecting you forever, won't I?" Nezumi pinches his nose, causing Shion to yelp and swat the hand away. "Don't worry, I'll come find you wherever you are. You worry me sick sometimes."
"I can take care of myself. You don't have to always look out for me."
"Like hell I don't, you're a danger to yourself. I'm just making us even. I'll be there whenever you need me, even in death. And when the time comes, I don't want you to forget about me."
In death. The thought alone disturbs him. "Don't say things like that, Nezumi! Besides, it's impossible and you know it."
"With me leaving next month, it's something you'll have to learn to face."
"I'd rather we just stay like this forever."
"Like this? What's so great about now?" Nezumi briefly glances around their small, cramped room, full with books of love and loss.
"You're here with me," Shion says, smiling with all the innocence and goodness that's in his soul. So pure.
Only in Nezumi's wildest dreams will he be able to attain such perfection. As long as Shion is with him, that purity is his to protect. He smiles sadly to himself, but it is a true smile nonetheless.
One of the many things that attracts Shion to Nezumi is his darkness. His contempt for everything that Shion has grown to love, the things he's been taught to endure. Nezumi destroys it all. Their worlds are incompatible, so much so that they create such a wonderful fit when broken. Surrounded by the normalcy of his home, Nezumi is the one thing that disregards all laws of nature, the defiance in his perfectly-constructed universe. The love Shion holds for him is fatalistic, mindless, eternal. It would scare anyone else. But Nezumi knows no fear. He knows exactly what to do, at every given time. It hurts, this very quality of him. Shion can only revere it from afar, like an admirer of a play. The curtain is closing soon, and Shion pays it no heed.
The moment they get back, Shion throws himself at Nezumi. He dares not acknowledge the truth. Not yet.
I'm never going to fall in love again.
They stay like this for a while, in the shadows of the living room, breathing in the scent of each other and memorizing it fully. Nezumi slips his hands down Shion's narrow back, crushing their bodies together. Shion takes in every line, every bump, every curve of Nezumi's body as he's being squeezed to it. He moves his hands in Nezumi's short crop of hair, not sparing a single strand. When Nezumi kisses him he runs his fingers down the smooth chiselled cheekbones, down to the strong jaw and up again to the curve of his ears. Shion sobs into Nezumi's mouth, his hitched breaths doing nothing to wear down their passion.
I'm never going to see you again.
Nezumi cradles his head in his wide palm, smearing the tears away.
"Oi, don't cry now. I'm a little hurt, you know. You act like you haven't been happy to see me."
"That's not true," it spills from his mouth before he can even think.
"Then what are these tears for?"
Shion swallows the lump in his throat, and smiles, much to his own surprise. It is not a pained smile at all. In fact, it feels so good doing this, he's almost on the verge of laughter. "I am just," he replies happily, "so glad that I met you."
Nezumi presses a sweet kiss to his forehead. "So you're happy, then?"
"Yes," Shion says. "I'm happy."
I can finally say goodbye to you properly.
"It's good to see you smile again," Nezumi's words are hot on his temple, fluttering his hair out.
Illusion or not, Nezumi will always be Nezumi. It doesn't matter if he's a product of reality or a figment of a dream. He's here right now, with his ragged old boots and short hair, and Shion will receive him in whichever form he chooses to appear.
"Thank you, Nezumi." Shion looks up to meet those secret eyes, basks in the glow of their adoration. The expression he has on is a powerful one, belying the tear tracks coming down his face.
Nezumi chuckles. "What did I do this time?"
"You saved me."
Yet again. I can never repay you, if you keep this up. My debt will never be settled.
He feels as though he might live forever, with Nezumi at his side. With their arms around each other like this, Shion knows he will never equate to anything, without the other.
"It might sound weird but, if you hadn't appeared before me, I wouldn't have had any reason to suspect that... I was dying. Aneurysm – who would've thought? I would have just dropped dead one day, without even knowing it. Or go into a coma. And even now, where there's the probability of me dying suddenly, I'm not afraid. I've never been more fearless; you lend me your courage, you make me feel safe. I'm never going to stop being grateful to you, Nezumi. I'm going to do my best, and treasure this life you've saved over and over."
"Tsk." Nezumi blows hot air into his ear. The action makes Shion's breath catch in his throat. It's something from so long ago; he remembers it now. Nezumi is spinning him round, moving his body with the elegance and confidence of a true actor. He is a little nervous, Nezumi can tell, so he doesn't let go, doesn't give Shion the impression that he'd let him fall. He gives that same impression now.
"Idiot," Nezumi scolds half-heartedly. "Didn't I tell you before? I'm just making us even. I'll be there whenever you need me," he brushes aside the white hair that's covering the scar. "Even in death."
"When the time comes, I don't want you to forget about me."
Shion blanches. He hates himself, when fresh tears sting at his eyes again. His heart is thundering against his chest so hard. If it keeps up, will it affect his aneurysm? He finds that he doesn't care. He puts up his bravest smile, and recites the words he remembers himself saying that very day:
"I'd rather we just stay like this forever."
Nezumi doesn't miss a beat. "Like this? What's so great about now?"
Shion exhales. He finds acceptance waiting for him at the end.
"You're here with me."
Shion awakes from a vision where Nezumi is singing to him.
He cranes his head closer, wondering if the real Nezumi will suddenly burst into song. But all is quiet; the only song coming from the ringing in his ears and the ticking of electronic instruments. Nezumi looks too tired, too deep in slumber to be wanting to open his eyes anytime soon. Wondering if he might hear it, Shion hums a little of the verses he knows by heart. He's never dared to sing in front of Nezumi before. This is Nezumi's song. When he's alone he sings it to himself, having secretly memorized the lyrics and tune. He loves it when Nezumi sings. Will Nezumi like it if he sang, too?
Soul carried away by the wind,
Heart stolen away by a human.
Shion snuggles himself into Nezumi's shoulder. He watches the sleeping face of his most precious person. He sings to the beat of Nezumi's throbbing heart.
Oh heavens, Oh light,
Shelter all within your embrace.
Shion sees it. It's only an inkling of a smile but it lights up Nezumi's features like the afternoon sun coming into their room. Pitter-patter, goes his heart.
To live in your embrace.
An apparatus beeps once, twice, then holds the note until all that's left of the pulsing green indicator is a perfectly horizontal line that travels on with a constant, indifferent velocity. There is no rhythm left in Nezumi's chest, but Shion cannot bear to leave it at that. He carries on, singing softly into Nezumi's ear, so that he may hear everything.
Oh soul, oh heart, oh love, oh hope,
Return here to find shelter.
There is something so possessive about the way Nezumi embraces him now, something even stronger and tighter than the red snake wound around his body. It threatens to undo him right there and then. Shion opens his mouth to the kisses, eager tongue seeking out the other's fervently. He wishes he had given Nezumi more of these kisses, more of these moments back then. He pours every regret, every lingering loss into his desperate touches, surrendering all control to his phantom. Nezumi squeezes his shoulders, then his hands move down to massage his backside; his caresses fill Shion with desire and dread – he loves it, but regards it with a sort of horror, because for four years Nezumi's been dead.
He puts a hand on Nezumi's heaving chest, leaving some space between them. Nervously, he brings his trembling fingers up to slowly undo the buttons of his coat. Nezumi looks a little bewildered, but who is he to refuse such an offer? He places his hands on Shion's own, gently kneading the tension out of them, and takes over the task of undressing.
Nezumi's always been the more aggressive one. Always feeling the need to take charge, to lead, to guide. Shion on the other hand – since birth, he's been bred to be a follower. And since he turned twelve there's no one else he'll rather follow than the man touching his naked skin right now, who's leaving trails of fire down his back and his chest, branding him with his mouth.
Just for a while longer, Shion wants to feel sixteen again.
He's surrounded by the typhoon of his emotions, and it shreds him to dust, dust, dust, the dust by which he came from.
If only for this moment, I don't want to think anymore.
He lies back onto his bed and twists about uncomfortably as Nezumi sinks his own weight into the mattress, stradling him. "You..." Shion watches Nezumi remove his own clothing, one article at a time. "...don't know how much you mean to me." Nezumi brushes him there, and he is gone, just like that.
He's being flipped onto his stomach; Nezumi looms over him, planting kisses on the bumps of his spine, at the back of his neck, on his hip, in sensitive corners Shion never even knew existed. He scruches up his shoulders and lets in a shaky gasp. Nezumi's hands don't forget to work; they are all over his torso, worshipping every inch of him, pinching his nipples taut, sliding down to tease the dip of his flat stomach. The action makes Shion lift his hips in zest, and in doing so he unintentionally rubs his buttocks against the underside of Nezumi's hard cock. Needless to say, he hears Nezumi's breath hitch, and he stiffens a notch, before turning Shion over onto his back again.
"Ah...!" It feels too good, resigning control for all this rapturous bliss.
Nezumi bestows on him more open-mouthed kisses to his stomach. Shion arches up to those lips, throwing back his head. But this feeling is nothing compared to when Nezumi takes him into his mouth, and Shion's short punctuated cries give way to a deep, arduous moan.
"N-ngh... Ah! Nezumi!"
Shion does his best not to grip Nezumi's head, afraid that it might anger him. He claws at the sheets beneath him instead as he bends over with another luscious moan, and can do nothing more but collapse back again, spine arching deliciously, hands pulling at his own hair. "Oh g-god!" The combination of teeth and tongue sends all sorts of sensations up to the tips of his fingers, the curl of his toes. With his tongue, Nezumi presses his dick against the roof of his mouth and sucks hard. Shion whimpers into his cupped hands. It's too much. He forces his eyes open and risks a peek downwards; Nezumi is looking right at him, scrutinizing his every reaction like a hawk, eating him up with both his mouth and his eyes.
Shion comes on the spot. He bites his wrist in order to muffle the strangled shout that erupts from his lips. Much to his languid surprise, Nezumi swallows everything he's been given. He's never done that before. The few times they've done this, Nezumi always spits it out afterward. This is the first time. The very display of such ardor makes Shion choke with the sentiment, and he lets the tears seep down his face and onto the pillow.
Nezumi doesn't let him relax for long. He starts to squirm when he feels fingers spreading apart his butt cheeks, exposing his most private area.
"Shion." Nezumi's voice is calm and even. "Do you want me to continue?"
The panting boy on the bed can only squint up at him with heavy-lidded eyes. "Ne... Nezumi..."
"Do you want me to go on, Shion?" Nezumi implores, already half-bound with lust, as is obvious from his darkening gaze and leaking erection. "Say it."
He runs his thumb across Shion's lower lip, and the boy catches it with his teeth. Nezumi only watches, fascinated and incredibly turned-on, as Shion begins to lick each of his digits, coating them sufficiently with saliva, bringing them into his mouth to suck vigorously. The sounds he's making with his lapping tongue fill the room. He literally sees Nezumi pinching the tip of his own erection, as though forcing himself not to come just yet. He wonders vaguely if it's any help.
Nezumi pulls his hand away roughly, and grasps his jaw so that Shion is forced to look him in the eye.
"What do you want me to do, Shion?"
The question is asked again, but he draws a blank. Nezumi's firm grip on his face is oddly arousing. He thinks how thrilling it would be if he were to direct that grip to some other places of his body.
"Do you want me to rim you?"
Shion purrs from the very thought, and blushes when he realizes he's made such an erotic sound so easily.
"Do you want me to fuck you?"
The mere vulgarity of Nezumi's words gets him up again, and he lifts his hips up in silent consent. He doesn't want to speak just yet. He doesn't want to hear how desperate his voice might sound like right now.
He draws a sharp breath as Nezumi's strong arms prop him up by the hips. Shion can only writhe in delight as a moist tongue prods at his opening, circling it with the tip before thrusting in fully. Shion thinks he might really go insane this time. His white-lashed eyes flutter close. He has an arm stretched over the pillow and the other reaching down to gently stroke the side of Nezumi's face. A shy stream of pleas escape his lips, accompanying the wet noises coming from down south.
Don't stop. Take everything you can. This is all yours.
Shion's eyes fly open when he feels fingers coming in to join that skilled tongue. They flex and curl and stretch him wide open. It's so strange and wonderful and invasive and –
All this moaning he's doing will surely put the most promiscuous whores to shame. Even after all this time, he still feels embarrassed; his legs are spread too open, his reluctant cries are too loud, his skin is flushed too red, and the sweat that beads down his chest in this cold room clearly reflects the heat that's pooling in his loins and resonating throughout his entire being.
Nezumi comes up to kiss him, letting him taste his own surrender. His hands are at either side of Shion's head, supporting him up, clinging to his damp hair, stroking the junction of his nape. Shion is afraid to close his eyes. He wants to see everything. He commits to memory every detail, Nezumi's touch, the way Nezumi's fringe tickles his face, the way Nezumi steals a glance at him every now and then. He seals it somewhere safe, somewhere he can delve back into to relive the moment.
Nezumi pulls away first. The soft look in his eyes is full of admiration and praise, belying the lust and longing he must be feeling.
"I always thought," Nezumi whispers, "that you were too good for me. Too pure for the world I dragged you into. Too innocent for the things you had to do. You might not think it, Shion, but I always believed you deserved a much better life than the one I gave you."
His eyes glaze over.
No... No, Nezumi, that's not true! That's not true at all!
"You're wrong," he breathes, kissing the hand that's fondling his face. "Wrong, wrong, wrong, you're so wrong, Nezumi. How can you say that now? You're perfect, you're beautiful. You taught me things, you took care of me, you made sure I was safe, you gave me what you had and more... And I?" Shion exhales, and the tears stream down unbidden. Catching his breath begins to be a problem. "I couldn't even save you. I'm useless. I'm weak. It is I who never deserved you, Nezumi."
I died along with you that day.
"I'm a terrible person," Shion whines, shielding his face so that Nezumi wouldn't have to see him cry again. He'll get mad. The last thing Shion wants is to displease him. He'll swear never to shed another tear.
His shuddering arms are plucked away from his face, and Nezumi traces the delicate curve of his temple down to his chin. His fingertips glisten with the tears of his charge. His eyes mist over with an unfamiliar darkness.
"How dare you talk like that," Nezumi hisses, "about the person who saved me."
Shion gulps, draws his shoulders closer together.
Nezumi tucks his lover's legs over his broad shoulders, and Shion giddily holds his feet up together in the air. Before he can even cling his arms around Nezumi's neck or mentally prepare himself for the intrusion, the latter is already slipping past his tight entrance, inching deeper into the recesses of his body. Shion lets out a stunned shout, eyes widening in alarm, his body hurting like a sword is being rammed through him. Despite the pain, he tries to relax, and takes Nezumi in until he is fully sheathed. The sensation leaves him breathless. He feels about to faint.
Shion knows little about sex. For four years he's never let anyone else touch him.
He feels like a self-conscious virgin again, with Nezumi hovering over him lke this, staring him down with such possessive eyes. Nezumi keeps still for a moment, waiting for the right time to move. He seeks out Shion's clammy hands amongst the sheets and weaves their fingers together. When Shion finally manages to find his breath and look up again, all he can see in Nezumi's eyes is pure, unbridled devotion. Nezumi pulls back and thrusts in again, this time hitting that part deep within him that he's never shown to anyone; that very center of his soul, the secrets of his body, the nestle of nerves that send sparks of pleasure flying through his very system and leaves him screaming at the top of his lungs for more.
"Shion," Nezumi grunts, as he forces them into a slow rhythmic pattern.
Even now, you show me a glimpse of heaven.
Shion tries his best to follow the momentum Nezumi has set. He's so loud, the neighbours can probably hear.
"Shion... S-Shion, you fool," Nezumi pants, into the crook of the other's scarred neck. "You're lovely, you're beautiful... the sweetest person I've ever known... so bloody s-selfless... ngh, so... fucking tight... Fuck, how can you not know... what you do to me... You're the only person who's ever... meant so fucking much."
Shion attempts to shake off the cloud of pleasure that's hindering his senses. He blinks up wildly at the one who's making love to him. He looks right into the handsome eyes of Nezumi's sweat-studded face and something wondrous pierces through the fibres of his heart, exploding with all the love and respect in the world for the man who's buried deep inside him.
"Nezumi..." It's always been a feat for him to be able to talk at all during sex. "Nezu... mi... Ah! I... never doubted... your love..."
He feels so full. Every nook and corner of him is filled. There is no way he can accept any more. His legs are numb from being suspended in the air for so long. A storm is rumbling through him. When he opens his mouth to speak again all that comes out is Nezumi Nezumi Nezumi and then a hand is on his erection, pumping in a similar rhythm to the pounding. He promptly forgets everything he was about to say.
Nezumi... I can't...!
It is over all too quickly. Shion cums all over his stomach with a final cry. Nezumi goes on for another minute or so, even as Shion struggles to regain his breath, still delirious from his high.
A low growl at the back of Nezumi's throat signals his coming; Shion inhales shakily, as the sudden heat of Nezumi's release sends tremors all over his body, filling him enough to overflow.
"Shion...!" Nezumi gnarls and ruts like a beast. He hammers into Shion madly before his last moments of climax, making sure every drop is spilled, before the thrusts eventually come to a halt. He sighs, gratified, and is careful not to collapse with Shion under him. He still has some spare stamina left so he stays propped up, unwilling to slide out of that moist heat just yet. He kisses Shion on the corner of his mouth and down his collarbone.
Still reeling from the buzz, Shion runs his hands down Nezumi's lean back, tracing the scars there with his butterfly touches. They come up to knot into the dark, damp hair, pulling Nezumi away so that they can look at each other.
I'm never going to be able to find someone like you.
"Nezumi," his voice is barely above a whisper. "I know what I want now..."
"Hm? What is it?" Nezumi asks patiently, as though waiting for this all along.
"I want... your forgiveness."
I said it. It's haunted me for so long. This is the thing I could never have, since I lost you that day.
"I'm sorry, for what happened – s-so," Shion starts to quake. "Can you find it in you to forgive me?"
"What's there to forgive, Shion?"
"What? I couldn't save you. I let you die. I'm responsible. Because of me, we'll never be together."
I hate myself more and more, every day you're not here with me.
"What an airhead," Nezumi chastises lightly. He kisses the tip of Shion's button nose. "Couldn't save me? What a load of bull. You did save me, idiot. Because of you, I live. Right here I do-" he places a hand on where Shion's heart is beating fiercely. "I'm living. Therefore I triumph above all. You helped me do that, Shion. I survived."
Shion is crying so hard he cannot see clearly. Nezumi's face is a bright blur when it leans down to kiss away his tears.
"Do you know how much I love you?" he whispers Shion's own words of declaration back at him. "I love you so much. I love you so very much."
The embrace around his neck tightens. It's as though Shion is trying to meld their bodies together, so that they'll never be apart.
"I've always known," he says smilingly, through his sobs. "And that is why I continued to live on." The shadow on his heart has lifted. His lungs finally find the will to breathe freely again. He doesn't know how to stop the tears but it doesn't matter. During their months together, Nezumi's already seen every part of him; they've been with each other through the happiness, the guilt, the sorrow, the madness, the shame – there's nothing left to hide. It's pointless. They share everything.
"There," Nezumi touches their foreheards together. "You're alright now."
They hold hands 'til Shion falls asleep.
'The night is long that never finds the day.'
I've never regretted opening my window to you.
Shion dreams that he is back in Nezumi's old room. He is brown-haired and carefree and he's out of bed before Nezumi opens the door.
'Welcome back,' he greets his companion.
Nezumi has his hair in a ponytail, and a scarf around his neck. 'I'm home.' Nezumi smiles, and it is a true smile.
He wakes up to the scent of a new morning.
The open window brings in vapor and snow on his desk and bedroom floor. The temperature in the room is the same as the outside but he doesn't feel cold at all. There is an added weight on his quilt. He shifts around and finds Nezumi's old scarf blanketing him from the shoulders down, and he remembers.
He is not coming back, he thinks, and rises from bed alone.
He doesn't cry, doesn't frown. Nezumi will be so proud of him.
As long as there is a tomorrow, I'll live for it.
Arms wide, heart open.
Shion tucks the lengthy scarf around him before leaving bed. He peers out the open window. Nothing. Only the wind and white and snowfall.
It's alright, he thinks, with a smile. You did come back. I'm not waiting anymore.
And he closes it firmly.
He turns twenty-two this day. There is a typhoon whirling outside his window, as the newscaster on TV warns residents to stay indoors. It is the anniversary of many things.
Shion is better now. He's started school again, and is meeting new people, learning new things, making new friends. He laughs like he did six years ago. He is more open about love and doesn't avoid the advances he gets from time to time. But some things are impervious too, some things can't be taken away. And not a day goes by where he doesn't remember.
Under the blue sweater in the drawer where he keeps the scarf, is a single handwritten note.
'We'll be reunited again. I promise. Wait for me.'
The glass door of his balcony is rumbling with the very force of the wind. The rainwater splashes against the pane, sending stray leaves and droplets hitting onto the surface. Beyond that, is a blurry haze of gale and rain. He remembers the thrill he had as a child, exactly ten years back; how oppressed, how stale his life had been, so much so that he'd resorted to such childish actions. He imagines how life would be like, if he never followed his recklessness and threw open that window. If he never made that miracle possible. If he never allowed such a miracle into his life in exchange.
Mischief comes in a sudden urge to relive that moment. It doesn't matter if anyone sees him, hears him. His call is meant for one person, and for that one person only.
Shion slides open his balcony door, and the rain and gust almost knock him back. Water droplets pound on his face, soaking his clothes and his snowy hair immediately. The roar of the wind fills his ear and he's motivated to challenge it back.
He takes in a deep breath, and screams into the howling wind.
And he knows that somewhere, Nezumi hears him, already saved.
Shion smiles. The rainwater dripping down his face can pass off as tears.
We'll be reunited again. I promise. Just wait for me, Nezumi.
A/N: Thank you, every one of you, who reviewed this story. Much love to you all! My first multi-chaptered fanfic, complete! (: Do tell me what you thought of it!
Wow this is the longest chapter yet...hope most of you sticked around for it., and I apologize for the mistakes I might have made, since I didn't have time to go through it. Once again, I emphasize, this was set in AU, although it preserves alot of elements from the original story. Sorry for all the melodrama, especially in this last chapter. It sounded WAY better in my head than it does all typed out. I feel so embarrassed reading it now. And I hope none of you are too confused as to what was going on. I also apologize for the lack of medical knowledge on me, ahaa~ Sincerely hoped you enjoyed it though! Not to worry, I haven't read the novel until the end, so this is just my lame take on it. I always felt something big and sad would happen at the ending, so... Anyway thank you so much for reading! (: Your reviews for the story have made me so happy, I cannot begin to explain these emotions I'm feeling. I'll do my best and perhaps continue writing for this fandom in future (: