On rainy days, on sunny days
every day, I loved you
and, simply, even now that will never change
The church, in the end, turns out to be three broken walls and rubble spread across the top of a lonely hill, vaguely reminiscent of the sugar sprinkled over his mother's donuts. Shion wrinkles his nose in disappointment.
"Unfortunately, Your Majesty, the people here never had much time to care for the Lord or his house," he's smiling but it's not contemptuous or derisive as it could be; after all, it was Nezumi's idea to come here. "If someone still feels the need to ask for his help, they do so when they're alone—in bed, for example, clutching starving children they know won't live until dawn; or under a bridge as their fingers fall off from the cold".
Something in Shion's expression becomes duller. It makes Nezumi's grin grow larger before he turns his back on him.
"Praying is proof of weakness: it means you can't rely on yourself anymore. That is why, you only pray when nobody can see you, in the West Block".
The grass beneath their shoes is thick, fresh and soft. It sways with the winds, obedient, like the gently rippling sea. Shion is reminded that he has never seen the sea.
He walks past Nezumi and turns to face him. He doesn't like not being able to look into his eyes for too long: it feels as though as the distance between them is growing into something Shion will never overcome. Stubbornly, frowning, he seizes his hand.
Nezumi blinks. "What?".
"Have you ever seen the sea?" Shion blurts out but there are so many other things he wants to ask, because there is so much he doesn't know.
"I… I've never been there and," I want to know what this world I never knew existed is like.
Nezumi stares at him, probably waiting for Shion to finish the sentence, but Shion knows he won't. There are so many thoughts and questions and wishes in his head, so many that he isn't even aware of them all. He doesn't think he's skilled enough to put them into words, either. He wonders if Nezumi could.
I want to know the world reflected in your eyes.
Nezumi tugs, almost gently, and frees his hand. His smile is something that belongs on stage or to those moments when he finds Shion's ignorance more amusing than annoying. He is smiling, Shion thinks, like he can read his thoughts, even those Shion himself can't understand.
Tell me, do I exist in that world too?
Shion isn't aware that, in his eyes, he is an abyss, so deep and so dark, Nezumi's afraid to peer into it.
"Come on, young master, don't make that face," Nezumi flicks his forehead and chuckles when he winces. "I brought you here because you wished to see a real church, didn't I?".
Yes. This short trip is the fulfillment of a wish, Shion remembers. Because he has read so many stories that have left him wondering about times past, balls, knights, dames, castles and ceremonies, and Nezumi, out of boredom and his immense generosity, declared, why don't I at least show you a real church.
Inukashi would have glanced at Nezumi with narrowed eyes only to call him an arrogant show-off; Shion instead finds this side of him funny and recognizes the act as kindness. So he wills himself to smile and finds that it's easier than he thought. Anything is, when they're together.
Nezumi skips to what's left of the wall in front of them and rests his hand on exposed bricks: they're all broken and resemble jagged teeth.
"The altar stood in front of this wall. It was decorated with red marble, and golden angels with their trumpets saluted the Virgin Mary," Nezumi's voice is loud and clear and he moves his hands and points to clouds and grass like he is actually before the old church.
Shion watches, transfixed, eyes shining and laughter bubbling in his throat. He wonders whether Nezumi has really seen this place or if he's describing a church from one of the books Shion has yet to read, or if this is just a daydream he's painting right now, for his sake alone.
Nezumi summons saints and martyrs through stories that are hard to believe and confusing and fascinating in the same way dreams are. Shion's heart is warm.
This is a world just for the two of them.
"Here, sins were cleansed, lovers married, fears and doubts turned into hope," Nezumi's voice is clear and almost commanding: actor and magician of words, he makes faded memories into tangible illusions. "I bet," he smirks again like Nezumi does and not Eve, "you've never heard of any of this in No.6".
And it's true that in No.6 marriage is little more than a contract and the only sin is not working hard enough for the city. There are no ceremonies except for the Holy Day, because the Holy Day is the only useful ceremony; and then Shion finds himself with Nezumi's scarf covering his head, shoulders and back and white daisies and stubborn yellow flowers that grow from concrete have been pushed between his fingers and behind his ears.
He looks at the other with an eyebrow raised half in confusion and half in faint irritation. Nezumi shrugs, grins.
"I figured that staging a funeral would be in bad taste even for me".
Shion blinks, realizes that the cloth isn't draped over him like a cloak, but a veil. He remembers Juliet, Jane Eyre, Catherine and Cosette and others and frowns.
"I'm not a girl," he says in the end.
"Neither am I," is Nezumi's only retort: he must be in a good mood today. He keeps smiling in a way that it's impossible to tell if he's being condescending or affectionate. "But I thought those flowers would look better on you".
Shion's scowl doesn't melt away: he is stubborn, of course. Nezumi sighs – his patience is running out – and a moment later forces his features into a kind, almost bashful expression. There is something coy about his smile, though.
"Why, if my lord wishes to take this lowly girl as his bride so much, who am I to deny him?" he speaks in a woman's voice: still low enough to be husky and seductive, too high-pitched to belong to a man.
Shion finds himself blushing, not because he prefers Eve to Nezumi but because this is part of him, too. You can do anything, can't you. How many sides of you are there that I don't know, he wonders, and it's painful.
Nezumi takes Shion's hands into his.
"However, my lord should at least wait until he gets a bit taller, before he proposes. It would be embarrassing for him if he couldn't carry me to our love nest after the ceremony," he giggles and it slowly dissolves into an expression that is too sly to be Eve's and too affectionate to be Nezumi's.
Shion remembers fragments of words from the stories he's read.
"In sickness and in health, in good times and in bad, and in joy as well as in sorrow… wouldn't that be nice, Nezumi?".
The sky is colored with lead and the clouds are pregnant with rain. Nezumi's eyes reflect the incoming storm. He's livid.
"That's something you should tell your friend back in No.6, to your bride, not a guy you barely know," he tugs at the scarf still draped over Shion's head and wraps it around his own neck.
The flowers Nezumi had put in his hair fall down too. They will rot under the rain when it comes.
"I knew you were a natural, but I assumed you'd know at least that you can't marry another guy. How naïve of me".
"That's not the point!" Shion's hands are balled into fists. He's not yelling but his shoulders tremble under the weight of all the things he's always wanted Nezumi to know, and all the feelings he can't even name yet.
"Then what is? Do you even know what you're talking about? Of course you don't". Nezumi is furious at him for ruining everything, even this, even a stupid game; for making everything too complicated and his head hurt. He has never felt the need for promises of eternity, and he doesn't want to start to now.
He's tired, so tired. Everything has been so hard lately. Shion is dragging him down, to an unknown place.
"Let's go," he grabs Shion's wrist without looking at him. Nezumi can feel him stiffen, in quiet protest, under his fingers.
"… Where to?".
Nezumi knows Shion is probably angry, but he doesn't care. He doesn't have the strength to fight right now. If Shion doesn't want to follow, then he's free to stay here under the rain until he freezes to death or someone kills him to steal his coat. But Shion keeps walking in silence, only struggling enough against Nezumi's grasp so that he can hold his hand too.
Shion likes the word home and what it has come to mean to him, to them.
His mood is still a bit sour but his heart is warm: he daydreams and wonders if he will really be tall enough to carry Nezumi in his arms by the time he can recite, in sickness and in health again without him getting mad anymore.
On the way back, they never talk, and Nezumi never turns around, but their hands never leave each other.