A/N: I felt like I had to do something much lighter compared to my last story. It pained me to write it so much as it pained many viewers reading it, which makes me think why the hell did I write that anyway (/laughs). Hopefully I didn't make Nezumi or Shion too OOC here. I just wanted something less serious, and something I won't have to write another chapter for, haha. And there are too few No.6 fics out there that's set in AU, and they're all... so... serious. Yes, I write the serious stuff too, but even I need a breather! Or I'll go nuts in this fandom!
And thank you all, for reviewing my previous story A time for everything (: I'm glad I... provoked such emotion from you all. I'll continue to do my best (: So, please enjoy!
Nezumi hasn't been particularly fond of moving into the new abode. As is obvious by the lack of motivation with unpacking; the numerous stacks of haphazardly labelled boxes piling up around his living room can attest to that.
He's moved in just a few days before, and is barely getting used to the new neighbourhood, with all its quaintness and warmth and little cobblestone streets leading into the main town, and the place where his new school is. Having lived at the Western Block most of his life, this sense of homeliness is fresh to him. Kindness from strangers is also hard to come by back where he comes from; bumping into the wrong person may very well end you up without a limb in the next minute. Lost Town is a lot less lively, but everyone here has a friendly air. Well. Perhaps save for the landlord's cat. That one's the devil.
It's been four days, eight hours and forty mintues and he's not been mugged or witnessed anyone being mugged. This is the sweet life, he thinks.
He gives a wry smile and wonders if this streak of luck will continue over the school term. Classes for his English literature course starts next month, and he hasn't even found all the books he'll need. He already has some in his possession, having accumulated a private library of his own since reading has been the only pastime of his that's stuck around this long. If only he gets down to unpacking them from their boxes now.
Nezumi sighs tiredly as he walks back from his escapade around the neighbourhood.
Shit's got to be done. No point putting it off for later.
He weaves easily in and out the narrow streets, hands shoved deep into the pockets of his jacket as is his habit. Just as he turns round a corner, hoping to discover a new shortcut of some sort, a bell chime catches his attention. There are not many shops catering to anything other than food nearby his home, so the puzzling little bookstore here makes him just a tad curious. The gilded window by the entrance boasts of a cozy, magenta-hued interior where rows of shelves are filled to the brim with a decent collection of tomes.
Just my luck. Nezumi quirks his lips. Who knows, he might possibly find the obscure books he'll need for school here.
The bell chimes, signalling his entrance. The place is a little warm, but welcoming all the same. There's even a furnished corner where customers can sit and read with a cuppa in hand. Taking a glance around the shelves, it's obvious most of these books are second-hand, some impossibly frayed or taped up at the edges in an attempt to restore. There is also the faint aroma of coffee and old parchment in the air, and Nezumi cannot help but take a liking.
What comes next, he likes even more.
A cheery voice erupts from somewhere behind the tower of books. Nezumi looks around briefly before discerning that the greeting is meant for him. The speaker emerges, with a stack of books in hand, and a ready smile that puts him at ease almost immediately. Nezumi thinks he might as well prepare the shovels to dig his own grave. The bright eyes that address him are fucking shining with sincerity. It's been a long time since he's encountered anything remotely as benevolent as this, and he pauses to gather a conclusion to these absurd thoughts he's having.
I'm glad I moved to this street.
He stands, momentarily frozen and his brain suddenly forgets all the words it's ever learnt.
No, it is not because it's the first time he's seen white hair on a youth his age, nor is it because he's hardly been the recipient of graciousness. It's neither of these things and yet, he doesn't know what.
The boy is slightly shorter than Nezumi. As he blinks up at him, Nezumi idly notes how doll-like his features are. Such large doe eyes. They are framed with dense white lashes that flutter up and down coyly. Purple eyes...? They shine red against the afternoon sun, however. His face is small and round, and though he's surely not much younger than sixteen, the mere earnest in that gaze reflects otherwise. The lips too, are pale and pouting and Nezumi condemns himself for these stray wanderings that make his heart jump and his breath go just a little quicker. If Nezumi's been staring the boy doesn't pay much heed; he gives an even wider grin instead.
"You're a newcomer, aren't you? Feel free to browse; if there's anything you're looking for in particular, I'll be glad to be of help, sir," and he bows courteously.
Sir. Nezumi quite likes that.
Ever the resourceful one, he steals a quick glance at the little nametag on the boy's apron. 'Shion'. Shion. Pretty name. Nezumi commits it to memory, and prompty forgets about the books he's here to find.
For the next hour he spends his time here, lurking in and out the bookshelves, pretending to read A Tale of Two Cities but hasn't flipped past the second page. His eyes are trailing something far more appealing than lines of dry words. What am I now, a stalker? Nezumi ponders with dread. Techncally no, he's not following the boy home or anything. Just innocently watching out of the corner of his eye. Just that. No implicit thoughts, no questionable fantasies, none of that crap, none at all.
It seems as though this Shion's been working here for some time. The customers that come and go call him by name, and he greets them by their's in return. Nezumi wonders if their relationship will ever reach that sort of level any time soon. He'll wait it out. Good things come to those who wait, right? But it's good information; at least now Nezumi knows that he'll always find Shion working here.
He tries not to snicker out loud, when he realizes where this is going.
...What the hell did I just think? God, so fucking full of hope like a lovestruck schoolgirl. I'm losing it.
He shakes his head and grumbles about nothing under his breath.
Nezumi doesn't believe in love at first sight. Not really. The notion in itself is odd; you can't possible know what the other person is like just by looking. You only fall in love with the perception of what you think they are. A book is only as good as its contents. He's not one to judge by appearances either. The white hair and doll-face might have been a hook but that's all they were. Who knows, what's on the outside might not be a true representation of the inside. He's seen better-looking fish out there anyway. Why set his sights on just one, when there's a whole ocean he can throw his bait in? He chucks the book back into an open gap and is about to leave when Shion comes his way. Ugh. Think, you fool! he scolds himself, grabs another random book from the opposite shelf, and buries his face in it.
While Nezumi's throat starts to run dry, Shion, who faces the opposite shelf, goes about his chore without a clue in the world.
Risking a peek will only get me into trouble.
He hears books being shifted and replaced behind him, and he goes against his conscience anyway. Damn it all.
Up close, Shion is thin and fair of skin under his cardigan; it goes well with the shock of white hair and ruby eyes and, was that a scar coiling around the back of his neck there? Nezumi wonders if it goes all the way down. That would be quite sexy, to be honest. Shion has a hand reaching upwards to the shelf's top-most level, aimed at a copy of Wuthering Heights even though they both know he'll have trouble doing so without a stool or ladder. He has to stretch a little harder because of his height, and the action exposes a narrow strip of skin just above the waistband of his jeans. Nezumi forgets the book in his hand completely and procedes to cock his head at the charming little endeavor. Shion's small back looks positively adorable, as he stands on his tip-toes and tries the best he can.
After he's had enough of a show, Nezumi decides to put him out of his misery. He looks around to see if anyone's watching before extending a hand for the desired book, tipping it out so that the corner is visible from its slot.
"This the one you want?" he asks in a nonchalant manner, secretly applauding himself for being such a hero.
Shion makes an odd squeaking sound, obviously not expecting the helping hand. "A-ah... Yes, that's the one. Sorry to trouble you," he says, finally able to slip his fingers around it. "Thank you." Here, he turns around to face him, and Nezumi strongly notes how close they are.
The boy smiles at him sweetly, and Nezumi's cheeks start to burn.
No fair. No fair at all.
He cannot remember the last time he blushed, or if he ever did. This is not a normal occurrence for him, that's for sure. He doesn't really want to take a step back, though. This position is good. But for what? He's not going to do anything any time soon. Shion looks slightly uncomfortable, but doesn't complain. Not like he has the right to, in front of a customer. Nezumi feels bad if he were to use this to his advantage. But Shion looks up at him with those impossibly large dewy eyes, and it takes sheer willpower on Nezumi's part not to lean over and kiss him while he's still unaware.
Shion shuffles his feet. "Um... Is there something on my face?" he asks, fazed by all the endless staring.
Nezumi is about to step away and mutter an apology but stops himself from doing so. This is an opening. Like hell he'll let the opportunity slip past.
"Yeah," he answers, congratulating himself for executing such a smooth lie. "It's nothing really. Just..." He raises his hand to gently smudge off imaginary dirt from Shion's cheek, and his touch continues to travel up the brittle bone there, pushing the ivory hair aside so that he may see more of that bewildered gaze. It's Shion's turn to blush now, and Nezumi feels a tad rewarded.
"Oh," is all that comes out of Shion's parted lips as he keeps perfectly still.
"There." Nezumi takes the chance to graze his fingers over a pinkish ear before he's done.
"Ah... T-thanks," the other mumbles, shifting his eyes downwards.
Nezumi smirks to himself for a job well done. But it's not long before Shion notices the book he's been pretending to read just a moment ago, and it all goes downhill from there.
"Oh wow," he says, suddenly bright-eyed again. "Do you like Harry Potter too?"
Nezumi blanches and looks down. Yes. Indeed, in his hand he holds an innocent copy of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
What on earth is an Azkaban anyway? he thinks with a raised eyebrow. Some magical prison where black-hooded creatures guard the cells of their demented charges? This is certainly one book he hasn't yet touched. It sounds like a child's sort of thing. Maybe Shion is a child at heart. A child who digs elves and magic castles and shit. Nezumi can handle that.
Well, what should he say? To fess or to fib?
"Yeah," he chooses the latter. "Why not."
Anything to keep that look of glee lighting up Shion's face.
"Which is your favourite book?"
There's more? You've got to be kidding me.
He gestures with the one in his hand. "This one, I suppose." And can say nothing more. Not that he can visualize the entire story just by looking at the cover.
Shion giggles. It's a sound Nezumi wants to hear more of. "On my first impression, I'd have never guessed you for the type who reads stuff like that. You seem more like a, um... Macbeth sort of person. But that's just my take. Well, who's your favourite character? It's Snape, isn't it?"
Still going at it? Nezumi suppresses the urge to grit his teeth. He tries to recall one name from the page at which he glanced to. "Hagrid. It's Hagrid."
It doesn't matter if this Hagrid was a prancing fairy or an ugly ogre; hearing Shion chuckle again was worth embarrassing himself. At least this once.
"Hagrid?" He beams. "I like him as well! You're just full of surprises, aren't you...?"
At this point, Nezumi almost doesn't take the hint. "Nezumi." He extends a hand.
"Shion." The boy takes it, smiling warmly at him.
And this Harry Potter person can throw himself off a cliff for all he cares – this is major progress. What a fluke this turned out to be! Nezumi likes how warm and soft Shion's hand feels in his own. He almost forgets to let go.
"Shion, huh? Like the flower?" Nezumi keeps up the act like a seasoned performer.
"My mum liked flowers," he explains.
"It's a pretty name."
As expected, this causes Shion to blush some, and it is exactly the type of reaction Nezumi was hoping for.
The store bell rings in the midst of their exchange, and Shion gives a start, as though forgetting he's still on the job. He swiftly apologizes to Nezumi with a short bow before bounding off to greet the newcomer. "Ah! Rikiga! It's been a while," Nezumi hears Shion exclaim, and from there he's found no opportunity to chat him up again for the rest of the day.
The first hour melds into the next, and the next, and he continues to observe (and enjoy some reading while he's at it; Shion's not going to leave anyway). He's getting a lot out of it already. He learns that there's a coffee dispenser somewhere at the back, where anyone can grab a cup whenever they feel like it. He learns that the books on display can be bought or borrowed for small fees. When evening approaches, he learns that Shion takes the time to read to a group of children whatever they fancy in the cozy corner of the store, long after his shift has ended. Even in Nezumi's eyes, that was pretty admirable.
The girl that takes over him afterward seems to be a close friend of his. Nezumi catches the glances she throws at Shion when she thinks no one is looking, and wonders if there's anything going on between them. He doesn't worry much about it; he'll garner enough information himself to find out eventually.
For the remainder of the week, Nezumi commits himself to the task. When, really, he should be at home unpacking his things for gods' sake.
It's been pretty interesting so far, so he decides to stick around to watch the development of things.
He carries on the same ritual of coming to the shop in the aftermoon, on the pretence of continuing where he left off with The Sandman. He listens to Shion read to the kids later in the day, and leaves before he starts to look too suspicious.
On Wednesday, a little girl in a purple sweater (one of the kids Shion reads to, no doubt) politely asks if he's Shion's husband, of all things, and prompty lapses into something akin to rage. Nezumi ends up buying her ice-cream to get her to calm down.
"But you like him, don't you? You make goo-goo eyes at him." Such is her idea of a valid argument.
"No, I don't. So shut up and eat." But he's beginning to worry if he's being too obvious.
Phff, husband, huh? I guess I can live with that.
By Thursday, Shion's not there. He peeks in via the window and spots the short-haired girl friend instead, going about her rounds systematically. He decides against entering. It is the same on Friday. And over the weekend, Shion only appears after five. He's even waited around 'til dusk for this, and his own persistence astounds him. He doesn't recall ever being such a creep in the past.
By the second week, he promotes himself to desperate creep.
Shion's not there in the morning when he comes into the bookstore. It is the girl who greets him instead.
Well. What the heck. He'll need to ask for the books for his course sooner or later.
"I was wondering if you happen to carry Red Sky in the Morning and Twentieth-century short stories around here."
His inquiry is met with an impassive gaze and a curt nod. "Yes. I believe we have Red Sky in the Morning, but I will have to check on the other. Please wait a moment," and she leaves to check their stock.
While she's gone, Nezumi sneakily looks around the walls behind the counter for a roster of some kind, indicating which were the days Shion takes up shift. There is nothing here besides an old poster, peeling paint on the walls, and a stumpy cactus.
"Here you are, sir."
The calm voice nearly gives him a shock. The girl is back, faster than he'd anticipated. She holds out the two books in her hands, and he recieves them with a short thanks. 'Safu' is the name that's printed on her tag. As he takes out his wallet for payment, he wonders if he should have waited to be served by Shion instead. That would have made the experience better.
"He works from Monday to Friday, eleven in the morning to four in the afternoon. He takes full shift on Saturdays. Last week was the only exception but everything will be back on routine tomorrow."
Nezumi lets the information sink in at first, before he even realizes that the monotonous voice belonged to the Safu girl. He blinks once, twice, wondering what will be the appropriate thing to say right now. Is she some kind of mind-reader? Did he accidentally say something that exposed his intent? Whatever it was, Safu only begins to key in the cash register like everything's bloody peachy.
"What?" Nezumi says dumbly.
"Shion's schedule," she replies, without a hitch. "In another two weeks he'll leave for school, though. So you might want to consider your proposal thoughtfully before that happens. If this wasn't what you wanted to know then I apologize. But I take pride in my ability to deduce the body language and mannerisms of my customers. I've seen you around before. The last few days I spotted you looking through the window. I only concluded you were waiting around for Shion because you left once you saw me. Was I wrong?"
This is a familiar situation... Women's intuition?
Nezumi feels as though his inner mind is being ruthlessly sieved through. The girl is fascinating as she is dangerous. He plots to get away as soon as possible.
"You shouldn't pry," he says, looking away, not wanting to lie outright in front of Shion's friend.
"I'm sorry," she offers, but there is a knowing look in her eyes as she passes him his neatly-wrapped books.
This feeling... Is this what they call embarrassment?
Nezumi leaves without looking back. It is only when he reaches his front door that he bothers to feel a little flustered about the situation.
It is Wednesday before he dares to return again. He decides this is the best time to make his advances more apparent.
He brings Shion a cocoa from the opposite cafe – because that's where the coffee supply comes from – and a latte the following morning, before he learns that Shion's favourite is actually the green tea mocha. A weird choice, but it suits him all the same. Shion doesn't question these treats; he acts as though he's used to recieving similar forms of charity on a daily basis; but Nezumi refuses to lump in his efforts as a form of freaking charity (Goddammit, how obvious do I have to be?).
He makes sure the timing is right (read: Safu is nowhere near to read his damn body language), before sauntering in today. He's pretty confident that Shion's here now, and he's proven right in the best way possible when the boy comes skipping out to greet him by name. The smile on Shion's face shows how delighted he's feeling by his entrance. That makes something in Nezumi's chest tighten, making him squirm pleasantly on the inside. He's not sure if he likes the feeling yet.
He goes right to finding a quiet area amongst the many shelves and selects an old favourite, Hamlet, to pass the time. He won't be caught with another foriegn book this time. As he sifts through the pages with familiarity, he feels somewhat apprehensive. Is he going about this the right way? Do his actions really pass off as desperate? They all know why he comes to the bookstore, and it's not for the books or the free coffee. The last thing he wants is to act like a slobbering fool in front of someone who seems pretty much like an airhead himself.
A half-hour passes, before luck is back in play and he finds himself drawing Shion's attention again.
The white-haired youth is carrying a short stack of books under one arm, and goes about sorting them into their respective sections. Nezumi leans against an adjacent shelf to give him better room. After a good five minutes or so, he finds Shion standing directly in front of him, looking at somewhere above his head with a rather lost look.
Nezumi raises his eyes from his book. "Hm?"
Shion gives a little jump that Nezumi finds amusing. "Oh. Um," he starts nervously. "There's a book up there that I need. If it wouldn't be any trouble for you to..." he trails off, hoping that Nezumi will get the message and move away to give him space.
Nezumi's not daft. He's known from the start. He decides to let some mischief do the talking.
"Can you reach it this time?" he asks innocently enough.
"Yes, I think I can," Shion presses on. "But you're kind of in the way."
"No, I'm not. You can see it, can't you? Why don't you just reach out and take it?"
Shion doesn't take the bait. "Huh? Are you alright, Nezumi? You can't move?"
"It's not that I can't. I just don't want to."
Shion blushes; from annoyance at the obstruction, or from the prospect of what he's about to do, Nezumi can't figure. Shion doesn't question him or his objectives, merely sighs and steps closer daringly, careful not to step on Nezumi's feet. They stand almost a hair's width apart. The distance makes him gulp, but Shion does not delay his maneuver anymore than it needs to be. Nezumi can only grin slyly as Shion goes onto his tip-toes and reaches out to whatever book that's above his head. He strains his body in an effort not to collapse against Nezumi while doing so.
It is all undeniably adorable. Strands of Shion's ivory hair tickle his nose.
Hm. And you smell pretty nice too.
Nezumi is ready, when Shion's face is level with his own. He plants a firm kiss right on those lips he's dreamed about the past week. Without looking, he knows that Shion's face is practically heating up from the sudden attack. He goes still from the shock, unintentionally letting Nezumi have his way for the next five seconds.
"Shit!" Nezumi curses, as a row of books come tumbling down and onto his head.
Shion only panics, forgetting about Nezumi's prior trickery. "Ah! I'm so sorry! I'm so sorry! I didn't mean for that to happen – are you hurt, Nezumi?" He puts his books on the floor and turns his full attention to the taller boy, eyes brimming with concern.
What an idiot. I just took advantage of you and here you are apologizing to me?
Nezumi only stares in amazement, and then bursts out in laughter. "Whatever. I guess I deserved that," he chuckles. "But for the record, you're an airhead for falling into the trap."
"Hey! It's not often that customers come up and harrass me," he defends himself. "I can report you for that, you know."
"Of course you won't," Nezumi says confidently. His charm falls flat on the other boy.
Shion puffs up his cheeks in an attempt to look more angry than he actually is. Nezumi wants to poke those flushed cheeks.
"Why are you so sure?"
"Because I'm ready to make it up to you." Nezumi gives him an honest smile this time, and Shion visibly relaxes a notch. So trusting. "You get off work at four, yes?"
Shion rubs the scar on his neck anxiously. "Um, yeah. Why?"
"I'll buy you a drink. Green tea mocha, right?"
Shion is still red from the earlier kiss. He pats his cheeks to ward off the renewed heat he's feeling. "That won't cut it. You'll have to do better than that."
Nezumi likes the challenge. "Alright. If you let me take you out, I'll give you a kiss even more superior than the one just now. You'll like it so much you won't be able to stop thinking about me."
Like I haven't been able to keep my mind off you.
"You're awfully cocky, Nezumi," Shion scolds lightly, but laughs into his sleeve. He bends down to retrieve the books that's scattered on the floor around them.
Nezumi kneels down to help. "Was that a yes?"
Shion hums teasingly. "I'll think about it. And you know, since you liked Harry Potter too, you get a plus point. You're probably the only person I can gush about it with."
Nezumi resists the urge to laugh nervously and droop his head. Karma does trippy things to him lately.
But good things come to those who wait.
Five days later, as Shion happily sips his cold, alien-green mocha and gives him the sweetest smile in return, Nezumi cannot help but think this is all worth the lurking and hassel. Who needs a whole ocean? One little fish is already so much trouble. Yeah, the white hair and doll-face certainly caught his eye but that's nothing compared to the things beyond the cover. For once, he's glad that what he sees on the outside is a reflection of the beauty on the inside.
And, needless to say, Nezumi goes to the town library the next day and finishes reading all seven volumes of Harry Potter in one shot.
A/N: Lamers, these kids, haha. But thanks for reading the story! (: Please tell me what you thought of it! My take on another AU setting, albiet a stupider one that I wrote with no semblance of a right mind. I did not bother to check it, please don't mind the errors. Pretty cheesey, some parts, I admit. And I have nothing to defend myself with on this one (/sighs)