Disclaimer: I do not own No. 6

Chiseling Ice


Unlike the utopia on the other side of the wall, the Western District suffered through all the seasons, but none compared to the cold, dreaded season of winter. Those months were the worst to hope to survive through, as food, shelter, warm clothes and helping hands became scarce. It was a time that accentuated the meaning of "survival of the fittest".

It was always a huge wonder why No. 6 went through with their "Man Hunt" execution every year before their Holy Day ceremony in the spring. Winter's harshness took many – too many – lives during its peak. The old, the young, the healthy, the sick. It was unpredictable; it was Mother Nature's own man hunt. It was something the inhabitants of West Block accepted, for they didn't have much of a choice, along with the fact they had more or less grown used to losing friends and family during this time.

Shion took the time to reflect that No. 6 must be in full swing of their Winter Festival as he trudged behind Nezumi. He recounted the different sights and smells, the sounds of jingling bells in the lightly falling snow, the countless bakeries' fresh, warm pastries in welcoming shop windows. With his mother and sometimes Safu, he'd carelessly join in with the carolers on the street corners like everyone else, he'd run through the festive lights with cheer. He'd savor those perfect, warm, and safe memories.

A wave of nostalgia washed through Shion, but he resisted the urge to look back over his shoulder. He wouldn't cut his ties with No. 6 like Nezumi suggested he do, but he knew better than to stick his fingers in an open wound. Instead, he bent his head against the cold wind and slipped his numbing hands into his coat pockets. Overhead the clouds darkened, threatening a snow heavier than a flurry.

It had rained a couple days ago and most of it had frozen over due to the low temperatures. The boys had to watch where they stepped if they wished to avoid falling to the dirty, garbage littered ground; Shion already had his fair share of bruises and minor cuts along his knees and the base of his palms for his carelessness. Nezumi gave him only one warning about the icy conditions that were sure to come during the season, and never gave him a helping hand when he did crash. Shion took it all in stride and pushed himself back up every time, mostly used to the other boy's behavior by now.

Taking extra care as they came to the underground apartment, Shion let one of his hands slip from the relative warmness of his coat to steady himself against the concrete wall as he descended the ice-laced stairs. There wasn't a handle he could use and the stairs had become even narrower with the ice draped over them. The short distance was treacherous, but manageable if one paid attention.

Nezumi gave him an exasperated look when he finally reached the bottom, but didn't comment. Shion smiled brightly, eager to return to the warmth of their cozy room and out of the cold. Before he knew it, the door opened and a fresh wave of heat and the familiar smell of soup, biscuits, and old books surrounded them.

"I call the first bath," the blackette claimed, pulling his scarf from his neck and kicking off his boots. Shion looked down at his own attire and dirtied hands, knowing that he was probably just as filthy as Nezumi. Since morning they had been helping out in the small coal-mining warehouse, distributing equal amounts to households that needed the extra fuel for the next couple days. It was grimy work, but it earned them a couple coins. They'd probably be back the following week. But between now and then, Shion would continue to help Inukashi with the dogs and Nezumi would resume his usual work; Shion still had yet to figure out what that was exactly – the theatre was closed during this season.

Stripped to his trousers, Nezumi sifted through the blankets and clothes for a towel, and Shion was reminded that they'd have to venture back into the hallway. Although it wasn't quite as bitter as outside, it was still unpleasant – especially when they were limited to cold water to bathe with. But of course, Nezumi didn't make a fuss and headed out the door without a moment's hesitation.

Unlacing his own shoes and pulling off his sullied coat, Shion head the squeak squeak squeaks of his tiny companions. Despite the soot, they skittered up his arms to rest on his shoulders and the top of his head, giving him their usual warm welcoming. "Hello Hamlet, Cravat, Tsukiyo," he greeted, gently scratching Cravat under his chin with his forefinger. The mice in turn squeaked and nuzzled at him, happy he was back.

Over the course of a couple weeks, Shion had grown to appreciate what Nezumi called home. Granted, he could never say that he resented the place, but compared to his old home in the city…well, Shion knew that there were some downfalls there, too, mainly the lack of literature that Nezumi had plentiful of here. But even then, the longing to be back in his first home would sometimes sneak up on him, but he once again had learned not to grieve too much on the matter. Compared to the rest of West Block's makeshift homes, his and Nezumi's could be considered rich and lavish, and Shion was not about to look a gift horse in the mouth. He cherished his time in this room, what with some of the horrifying things he saw in the square…his stomach would still tighten uneasily whenever he'd make the unfortunate mistake of spotting a dead body tucked into some corner, completely forgotten.

A rush of cool air pulled him from his morbid thoughts and Shion glanced up from his spot on the floor to see that Nezumi had returned. His hair was still damp as it stuck to his neck, his upper body littered with goose-bumps. He arched a brow at the white haired boy as he dried off an ear. "What, you didn't start dinner?"

Tearing his gaze from the other's unmarred front with the tiniest of flushes, Shion took to his feet. Briefly he glanced at the mirror and was shocked to see how dark his hair had turned. "I didn't want to get dirt in the soup," he replied, taking a step back when Nezumi came to him, pinching a lock of his hair in between his fingers and looking him up and down.

"It's not that bad," Nezumi said indifferently, "You took your coat off, so you're not that dirty."

Shion shifted. "Still…it'd do neither of us any good if we were to get sick. We're already low on supplies and falling ill would only cost us –"

Nezumi "hmphed" and pushed past him, muttering under his breath that he'd been through worse than some poisoning from ash. He threw the towel on the bed and Shion turned around as the other boy shucked off his pants in favor of clean ones. He thought he'd be able to hold his tongue in protest of Nezumi's trademark rudeness, but Shion found that he couldn't hold back.

"Look, I know that these aren't the best of times to be living in, but your selfishness is starting to go a little far." Nezumi didn't look up at him as he searched for a clean shirt and Shion pressed on. "I've been cooking and cleaning and working to keep us afloat; the least you could do is help out with the first two!"

The other boy still didn't turn to him, but his sigh certainly acknowledged Shion. "Are you really this frustrated with the situation, Shion?" Nezumi asked quietly, finding a shirt and pulling it over his head. "Heh, you really should return home if you're saying you can't handle this much."

He had a feeling he knew where Nezumi was heading with this; it was a familiar conversation that they'd had in the past. "I can handle it; I'm just saying that it'd be nice if you'd –"

Suddenly Nezumi turned on him, the conversation escalating at an unprecedented rate that Shion hardly expected. Grey eyes glared at him with annoyance. "If I'd what? You know, Shion, I could kick you out right now, and then you'd have something to complain about."

"I'm not co –"

What had caused Nezumi to become so angry? Shion took a step back as the other threw his dirty pair of pants down to the ground with a cracking whip. "Yes, you are complaining. You're tired of washing the clothes and making the same meal every day. You're tired of working for a few pieces of metal to pay for food and fuel. Well guess what, your Majesty? So is everyone else!"

Shion held his hands up as if it'd cool the other boy down from his sudden flare in temper. What Nezumi had said was true: he was tired. But he'd been here long enough to understand that everyone was in the same predicament here. Yes, in some ways he and Nezumi had a few advantages, but they weren't by much. They still harbored the same hardships as everyone else. But why Nezumi was making such a big deal out of him asking to help make dinner…?

"Is something the matter, Nezumi?" Shion asked cautiously, half expecting the other boy to pounce on him in his unexplained ire, but all the other did was flop down on the bed, his forearms covering his eyes as if he were trying to block out the world. When the blackette didn't answer Shion went to him. "Is something bothering you? Can I do anything to he –"

"Just…" Nezumi spoke with a great sigh, silencing the worried boy, looking weary for the entire world, "…go take your bath, Shion."


Shion made their usual soup dinner that night. Nezumi didn't eat much of it, and Shion wondered if he felt guilty for yelling earlier. There was a stiffness, a tension in between them that wasn't entirely too unfamiliar, but Shion still worried. Most of their past conflicts and quarrels were settled easily. Shion thought of what could be making Nezumi act in such a way, but he could think of none. The blackette had worked in a fairly content mood, and they hadn't had any trouble with other residents as of late. And this was the first time he had personally voiced his own small troubles over the little things.

Perhaps it was the weather? He knew that the cold and extra work was making him a little sluggish, but there was hardly a reason to become so peeved like Nezumi had. By the time he had finished his supper, dozens of curious questions were floating around in his head, but in fear of Nezumi lashing out again, Shion wisely bit his tongue.

"What are you reading now?" he enquired attentively, trying to make out the title between the other boy's fingers but failing. Nezumi lay on his back on the bed, the book obscuring his face at Shion's angle.

My chest aches.

The book fell slightly and then slapped shut in what Shion deciphered as aggravation. Something was definitely bothering Nezumi, and although he knew well enough that the other wasn't the type to openly talk about himself, Shion still wanted to help in any way that he could. He took a seat on the edge of the bed near the other's knees. He felt a little trepidation as he inquired, "Is everything alright?"

Nezumi took a moment to look at him, his face completely blank; Shion thought for a silly second that a smile would break that void expression, but that would never come to pass. Instead, Nezumi pushed himself up and reached for his boots. "I'm going out."

Shion started with a small intake of breath and he reached out to grab the other boy's arm but his hand was slapped away. "Where are you going? It's freezing out there!"

"I'm going out," Nezumi repeated, dodging another one of Shion's attempts to keep him on the bed as he slipped up and grabbed a sweater and a spare coat. The other boy followed him to the door as he pulled his hair back and into a high ponytail.

He was successful in grasping the ratty coat even though he knew Nezumi would break his hold and leave one way or another. "Is it something I've done?" Shion asked, his voice a little strained as he tried to makes amends. "I'm sorry about earlier, we're both exhausted and it was a really bad time for me to say something stupid like that and I'm –"

His grip had been broken not even within half a second, leaving Shion with the door shutting in his face and alone. "…sorry."


"Hey, quit slacking, Shion," Inukashi's voice scolded half-heartedly, the hotheaded girl's own body shivering in the gloom of the hotel. Said boy glanced over his shoulder, his breath coming out in short puffs. Dressed in everything he could possibly wear wasn't doing too much to keep him warm while giving the dogs baths. "If any of my dogs grow icicles, I'll never forgive you!"

Nodding, Shion tried to clear his worries from his head and focus on drying the dogs properly, but it was a losing battle. His hands were lethargic and the dogs started to whine in protest. It wasn't long before Inukashi seized him by the hood of his coat and shook him.

"What's wrong with you?!" she questioned a little angrily, dragging Shion back until he lost his balance and landed on his arse. Pale red eyes blinked at her dazedly and she tsked in frustration. Inukashi stared at him for the longest moment, as if drinking in his unusual features would give her the answers she wanted. But with her patience being as thin as a thread, she quickly threw her hands up in the air. "Why is it I have to do everything myself? I knew you were good for nothing right from the start."

"Sorry," Shion mumbled more to himself than Inukashi, watching as the bundled up girl snatched the drying rag from the ground and got to her knees to finish his job. Once the rest of the dogs were dry enough so that they wouldn't have to worry about freezing, Inukashi threw the damp cloth at him before heading towards the large staircase. Sighing as he clutched the dirty fabric in his hands, he asked, "Have you seen Nezumi lately?"

Having picked up a small pup in her trek up the stairs, Inukashi stopped halfway up at his softly spoken question. Perhaps it was his tone…? "I haven't," she replied, tightening her hold around the small canine. "Why, has he disappeared again?"

Shion nodded a little more than dejectedly, and the dog keeper sighed, descending back down until she was crouching beside him. The puppy was let go and it settled happily in Shion's lap, licking at his partially numb fingers.

"Look, I'm not about to become all wishy-washy with you, Shion. You know just as well as I do that he can take care of his own damn ass," the girl reasoned with her usual edge and spite towards Nezumi. But when Shion made no move to answer, she sighed and awkwardly placed her hand on his back in a gesture of comfort. "He's probably got another job…he'll be back."

Dully, Shion nodded again in acknowledgment. "Has he…ever been mad at you, Inukashi?"

The girl laughed in disbelief, yet it did everything but cheer Shion up. "Are you kidding? I've pissed that bastard off more than I can remember. But he gets over it after a while. He knows that keeping grudges are a huge waste of time; if he kept them, I can assure you that I'd be dead by now!"

Again that didn't seem to be of any help to Shion's unusually quiet behavior. Inukashi took her hand away from the boy after a while and rolled her eyes, not understanding what Shion was getting at since he wasn't talking. She was about to ask another question when Shion turned to her suddenly, causing the small pup to stumble from his lap.

"Nezumi's been gone for three – going on four days now, Inukashi!" Shion exclaimed, taking the girl aback at his sudden closeness. She just narrowly missed him clutching to her decrepit jacket. "I think it was something I said, we sort of had a fight right before he left and I feel really bad and he usually comes back whenever he says he's going out and I'm getting really worried and –"

Inukashi grit her teeth as her hand stung from the light slap she delivered. Trust Shion to act like such a girl over something so dumb and trivial. The boy stared up at her in shock, a hand to his face where she slapped him. "Get a hold of yourself, you idiot. You're worrying over a whole lot of nothing."

"But this is the long –"

"He's been away longer than four measly days, Shion. He'll be back, alright?"

Shion, as usual, was pressed to keep asking. "But what could he possibly have for provisions? He didn't take anything with him when he left. It's the middle of winter, how could anyone survive in these conditions? I've seen people fighting over a slice of bread out there! What if he –"

Another slap silenced him, and this time Inukashi had him by the shoulders, trying to physically shake some sense into him. "When was the last time you cleared your ears, Shion? Listen to what I'm saying! Nezumi will be fine. You know this; you've been living with him for weeks now, haven't you? Have you developed any kind of trust in the guy?"

"I have but –"

"Bullshit, Shion! Nezumi can take care of himself; he has been for years. You're just not used to someone close to you disappearing for days at a time – your head's still stuck in that city of yours!" Inukashi gave him one last firm shake, as if that would make him understand.

She let his shoulders go, and Shion bowed his head, feeling a bit guilty for making such a fuss and troubling Inukashi with such a thing. She was right; he still wasn't used to the way people lived and behaved here. He was living in a world where it was kill or be killed, and he had no one to rely on but himself. But despite this hard truth that Nezumi had told him, Shion couldn't help but feel that he still wanted, needed to rely on the blackette. Call it arrogant entitlement, but Shion felt that he had a fair right to know where Nezumi would be if he was going to be gone for days on end.

What is this feeling?

The small dog's yipping brought him back and Shion blinked, his eyes focusing on Inukashi's scowling face. Pulling his sleeves down, he shivered and pulled himself to his feet, offering his tempered friend an apologetic and kind smile. "Sorry, I didn't mean to…"

"Don't even start with that bull, Shion," Inukashi scoffed, pulling her arms behind her head indifferently. "Now go home, you've ruined my afternoon."


Another three days passed and Nezumi had yet to return to their shared room. Shion spent most of his time outside when the wind wasn't blowing too ferociously, wandering through the partially snow and ice laden district, keeping an eye out for his companion, the other out for his own safety. A couple times he stopped by Rikiga's place, asking the same of him as he did Inukashi, but it became apparent that he hadn't seen Nezumi either.

"I'll keep an eye out for him," he promised through the crack in the door, the laughter of a couple girls behind him evident. "If he isn't back within a week, let me know! I can't have my poor Eve knifed somewhere – I don't know what I'd do if I were to never see one of his performances again!" Shion had nodded a little less than assured, the door closing in his face as Rikiga eagerly turned his attention back to his awaiting clients.

A horrible feeling settled in the pit of his stomach as image after image of Nezumi injured and helpless somewhere dangerous filled his mind's eye. Shion knew better than to let his worries get the best of him, but it was becoming increasingly difficult.

Please be safe, Nezumi.

The sun was starting to sink when Shion called it a day. A light snowfall was descending as he marched the long distance back to the underground apartment. The wind picked up every now and then as it usually did near nightfall, and he pulled his coat closer to his chilled body, stuffing his hands into his large pockets. By the time he reached the concrete stairs, the snow was coming down faster and starting to stick. Shion made quick work of the stairs and moving into the warmer room below.

"Where are you?" he mumbled into the pillows as he plopped onto the bed after stripping himself of his jacket and boots. His chest hurt terribly and he felt awful. Was this all his fault? Would he ever see the blackette again? Would Nezumi ever forgive him? Could he fix what he had broken? He buried his face into the soft fabric, tears brimming along his eyes as all his questions remained unanswered.

Surely he wouldn't be left alone, to fend for himself in this place? Judge him selfish, but Shion knew that he'd have never made it this far without Nezumi, and he was pretty sure he'd fall apart if the other didn't return soon. He was still too dependent on the other boy despite all he had learned thus far.

I need you.

Clutching the pillow as he felt his chest twist with mounting emotion, Shion curled in on himself for warmth before fitfully falling into slumber's embrace…

squeaksqueaksqueaksqueaksque ak-!-squeaksqueaksqueaksqueaksque ak-!

Shion groaned softly, turning his stiff body away from the tiny noises that seemed to surround him. Miniscule claws scratched at his face and ears, prompting him to wake. Something nibbled on his earlobe and fingers and Shion blinked his eyes open to the dimly lit room. He licked his lips drowsily, wetting them as he looked around him for the sources that woke him. He just barely missed Tsukiyo scurry up his arm to nuzzle his neck with urgency. Cravat and Hamlet shifted restlessly on his thighs.

Rubbing his eyes, he asked his little friends, "What is it?" The three mice wriggled their noses and shuffled their front paws at him before leaping down to the floor and darting to the door expectantly. They squeaked at him, Hamlet in particular impatiently moving from the door to Shion and back.

Taking note of their urgency, Shion took to his feet and pulled his shoes and coat on. His stomach rumbled with hunger as he hadn't eaten the night before, but he ignored it and pulled the door open, bracing against the cold air that immediately hit him. Adjusting his sight took a moment, but Shion was soon following the three rodents down the hall and up the stairs. Morning light seeped through the cracks of the main door, and hesitantly he pulled it back, not looking forward to the freezing temperatures just on the other side.

Shion had to shield his eyes against the onslaught of brightness. The sun was already fairly high in the deep blue and cloudless sky. Blinking, the boy gasped with a mixture of surprise and delight as he realized that at least a foot of fluffy snow blanketed the ground, the sunlight reflecting off it beautifully. A childish smile pulled teasingly at his lips as he took a step forward and cupped a handful of the substance.

Never in his years had he witnessed a snowstorm capable of depositing this much snow in one sitting. For the longest moment Shion stood in enchantment, thinking of how each and every snowflake was unique before trudging up the stairs, and getting a better view of the land.

He held back a silly laugh that bubbled up into his throat, instead reaching down and collecting another handful of coldness and throwing it into the air, watching as it sparkled in the sunlight. Shion could almost feel his worries of the past days temporarily melt from his person as he indulged himself in the simple pleasure of playing in the untouched snow. Before he knew it, he had fallen back, the substance biting into small slivers of uncovered flesh, but he didn't pay much mind. Shion felt that he could lie in the snow contentedly for hours, gazing up at the endless sky and feel completely weightless…

Squeaksqueaksqueaksqueaksque ak-!

Startled, Shion shot up with a gasp, his hands digging into the snow to steady himself as his head spun from the sudden movement. Hamlet and Tsukiyo were perched on his knees now, moving as frantically as they had before. Shion's short-lived peace dissipated as an unsettling feeling filled his stomach. "What's wrong?" he asked the two mice, his eyes searching for Cravat. He stood up and Hamlet scurried up to his shoulder, squeaking at something behind him. Turning, he quickly noticed the tiny, almost invisible trail that Cravat must have made, for Tsukiyo was darting through it.

Guessing that they wanted him to follow, Shion plodded through the deep snow; his eyes squinted the whole time so he wouldn't lose sight of the trail he was supposed to follow. He hadn't even gone a quarter mile before he realized what his friends had led him to.

"NEZUMI-!"

One would have thought that the height of the snow tripled, for the short distance to his face-down friend felt like an eternity. Shion stumbled as he cried out incessantly, almost tumbling forward himself, but the sudden rush of adrenaline kept him vertical. It was once he reached Nezumi that Shion fell to his knees, his hands frantic to tug the other around.

He was pale. Almost as white as the snow beautifully surrounding him and Shion fought back his tears as his willpower screamed at him to not accept the thought that Nezumi could already be gone. His hands tore at the tattered fabric for purchase and he staggered to his feet, hefting the other boy with him with desperate urgency, his mouth spewing words of encouragement and determination that fell deaf upon even his own ears.

He's so cold. So heavy.

It wasn't until Shion had Nezumi back in their room and on the bed covered with cloths soaked with steaming hot water and all the blankets he could obtain that he thought to check for a pulse…a tentative hand reached out, shaking fingers delicately pressing against icy flesh.

Live!

His heart thumped wildly against his ribs, the sound of his blood rushing filling his ears in a deafening noise. Shion's throat constricted as he pressed his whole palm against the other boy's neck, and yet he still felt nothing.

Nezumi couldn't…Nezumi still had to help him find Safu. They still had to plan their infiltration of No. 6's Correctional Facility. He was helpless, he didn't have the street-smarts to keep him alive in this kind of place – he was a lost, ignorant, idiotic child who knew nothing about the world! Shion felt indescribably vulnerable, so feeble, so useless…

You're stronger than this! Live!

Shion pulled back the covers he had so neatly tucked in and with a force he didn't intend to use, he pressed his ear to Nezumi's chest, listening so hard that tears started to fall unchecked. His hands unconsciously sought out the other's arms and he clutched at them as if physical force would make Nezumi alright.

Please don't die! Please don't –!

His lips quivered with sobs as tears ran down his face, his chin. They landed on the blankets, on Nezumi's shirt, staining everything as they came down in torrents. Shion sniffed as his chest started to ache tenfold, his hands uselessly trying to wipe away the wetness from his eyes but failing miserably.

Please…don't leave me.

"Nezumi," he choked out, his throat rough from all the strain he had put on it in the last hour. He wondered if willpower had anything to contribute to this situation on Nezumi's part, but Shion quickly dismissed the thought, finding it foolish. This was extremely different from his personal ordeal with the bee a while back.

Carefully, Shion lowered himself to lie next to the blackette. He rested his head against the other's shoulder and pulled the blankets up to Nezumi's chin before draping his arm across the motionless boy's chest. He couldn't help but hug Nezumi close, the hindmost part of his mind thinking about how sharing his body heat could help.

Shion absent-mindedly stroked snow-water crisped hair from Nezumi's face and tucked it behind the other's ear. His tears had dried up and his breathing had evened out. The stove's fire that he had banked many hours ago was just starting to die out, but it had served well and warmed the room up like never before. Nezumi was still a little cold to the touch, but had thawed out nonetheless. Tsukiyo, Hamlet, and Cravat had nestled up to their master long ago, helping the only way they could.

Who should he tell? Would Inukashi really care despite her hostile nature toward Nezumi? Shion had half a mind to think she would, especially since it was hinted that they had helped one another in the past through tough times. Rikiga would definitely react, but would it be for Nezumi or for Eve? Shion buried his face further into his friend's shoulder, trying to shove his thoughts away.

What was he to do now? He may be smart, but Shion was painfully aware that he didn't possess the unique skills to actually save Safu. He was already halfway done memorizing the blueprints Nezumi had given him, but what use would it be if he didn't know where to start? Anything he'd think of would surely have him killed before he even started.

And all because he had to open his big mouth and request such a stupid thing of Nezumi.

The gaping void that had started to develop gradually widened in his chest. The agony had dulled down some, but as Shion clutched at the blanket, it was like tearing open a wound. "Nezumi…" he whispered searchingly, his whole reason for being here falling apart in his hands. Surely if Nezumi were able to see him now, he'd laugh at his wretched state of mind.

Somehow, that thought made Shion feel a little better.


Shion dazedly woke to Cravat licking his nose. He mumbled incoherently, batting the mouse away and rolling over. He groaned as a weight around his waist held him back, his dull red eyes blinking open reluctantly to see what was preventing him from switching sides.

It took a good three minutes to realize what the soft breathing on his shoulder meant.

"Nezumi!" Shion exclaimed, his whole body jumping into alertness as he sat up to his knees and gently held the other boy's face in his hands. "Nezumi, can you hear me?" He smoothed his thumbs over cheeks, temples and eyebrows, watching with growing happiness as Nezumi's eyes fluttered to half-lid, his shallow breathing becoming a little heavier. Glazed eyes managed to focus on him.

"Sh-Shion…?"

Said boy placed his forefinger over Nezumi's lips, silencing him. Shion pulled the blanket to his chin and tucked it in around his shoulders. Grey eyes watched him half-comprehending. "It's alright," Shion said with a teary smile.

Be strong.

"You're alright." And that was all that mattered.

He slipped from the bed, pulling the ingredients on the far table together for a light soup. Nezumi said nothing, but Shion could feel his wavering gaze upon him. So many questions ran rampant through his mind, but he knew better than to ask at a time such as this.

Ignoring his own hunger, Shion poured the broth into a small bowl and let it cool for a minute before returning to the bed. Nezumi was still conscious, but closed his eyes when Shion caressed the back of his fingers along his face, his neck. "Open your eyes, Nezumi," he quietly requested, and said boy replied, looking a little more alert this time around. Shion dropped his hand to the other's shoulder. "I'm going to help you sit up; I've made some soup." Nezumi remained quiet and Shion gave him a smile, proceeding with what he said he'd do. Surprisingly enough, Nezumi had little difficulty with this and he even finished the food he was given.

Color was blossoming in the blackette's face now and relief welled in Shion's chest. The food seemed to do some good, for Nezumi had managed to sit up even straighter by himself and his eyes were even sharper. The expression he wore, however, unsettled Shion. He didn't know what to make of it; not quite a blank slate, but contemplative, and perhaps…angry? Surely it was just his imagination…or Shion hoped.

"Shion," Nezumi called to him softly, and the boy placed the empty bowls on the table, retreating back to the bed. He took the hand offered to him, an unforeseen strength pulling him to sit. Shion sat next to the other, pulling his feet from the ground and resting his back against the iron-barred headboard. Nezumi interlaced their fingers and said nothing.

Was Nezumi going to apologize? Or was it still his fault? Shion still thought that something deeper than their petty argument had to do with the whole situation, and he had half a mind to bring it back up, but instead he asked, "How is it you're still alive? You…you weren't breathing before. I couldn't find a pulse."

A head and body lightly rested against him as a sigh escaped Nezumi's lips. Shion wanted to shiver; it sounded exasperated. "It was a survival method I was taught when I was younger. It's much like hibernation."

His calculated mind knew that it was possible for humans to go into such a state…but it was a very, very rare thing to do. Shion glanced down at their still connected hands. "But where did you go? What happened? Your undershirt was stained red."

"…it's of no matter."

Sick and weak, Nezumi still had the gall to dodge him. He was only worried for him, for his well-being. Why was this so difficult?

"No, it's not 'of no matter', Nezumi," Shion replied as calmly as he could, but as his throat clamped, his pitch only heightened. "You have no idea how worried I was over you. I looked everywhere for you; I hardly ate and I can't say that I slept very much. Can you fathom any of that? Of course you can't, you don't care, do you? I'm just some kid you're repaying a favor for and then using to destroy a city!"

Shion realized that his grip had turned like a vice and he let the other boy's hand go, hushing his voice. "I was scared that you were hurt or lying dead somewhere, Nezumi, truly, I was. I know that you have the skills to survive out here by yourself, but still, can't you at least accept the fact that someone cares about you?"

His words floated in front of him with a heavy weight attached, and Shion wasn't sure whether or not Nezumi was actually listening to him. His anger flared for a moment as he struggled for words, for something that would make Nezumi react. "And what? You leave in a huff just because of something so simple and stupid and…and…" His throat was starting to tighten and tears burned along the edges of his eyes as he felt himself start to lose it, the past days' worries and fears finally striking him down. "I-I'm sorry, Nezumi, for whatever I did. I'm sorry, so sorry."

An arm snaked around his waist and Shion suddenly found himself on his back, Nezumi looming over him, grey eyes burning a hole into him, through him. The blackette bit his bottom lip, looking on the verge of saying something, anything, but instead, he only wiped away the tears that threatened to spill from Shion's eyes. Then, like the first night they had met all those years ago, Nezumi flopped with exhaustion.

"I…forget sometimes," he started quietly into Shion's ear, his arms slowly moving to embrace the boy underneath him, "…that you'd react this way, that you're not used to this place; not by a long-shot."

"What do you me –"

"Shh…" And Shion did stay silent, gently, cautiously lacing one of his hands through Nezumi's messy dark tresses. There was nothing but peace, and after a while Shion realized that the other was listening to his steady heartbeat. He could fall asleep, perfectly content.

And he almost did, if it weren't for Nezumi rolling to lay by his side. "I overreacted, Shion," he said simply. "I've just come to realize, in the midst of everything we've been planning, I – you…" His lips parted, trying to make words, but nothing came out. Shion felt his heart beat faster when he noticed a red hue spread across Nezumi's face.

You're so innocent. It's…you're something I want to –

"Nezumi?" Shion reached out, running his hand down the other's arm to his fingers before slowly intertwining their fingers again. He bit his own lip as if to slow down his now racing heartbeat. To reassure them both, he smiled, relaxing his shoulders and said, "We'll get through this together, we'll save Safu and put an end to No. 6 and we'll mfph-!"

Comforting heat blossomed through his body, starting from his lips. Red eyes stared with surprise as Nezumi kissed him, his free hand gently moving to caress the back of his head, pulling them impossibly closer in so many ways that Shion couldn't even begin to comprehend. Nezumi pulled back a moment later, his grey eyes searching, and his hand gliding through white strands of hair as if petting a cat.

protect.

"I don't want to lose you," he confessed softly and Shion colored in turn. It was the last thing he expected to hear. It wasn't like Nezumi to say such things, such compassionate words that actually held meaning instead of his usual hollow sarcasm. He smiled and leaned forward to capture Nezumi's lips, glad to feel the other boy press back just as passionately.

"I don't want to lose you either," Shion replied once their kiss broke. Nezumi pulled him closer yet, leaving Shion to pillow his head against the other's chest as arms circled protectively around him. "Please don't run away again. Please promise."

Nezumi inhaled the smaller's scent, savoring every last inch of Shion's warmth after days of wandering through the cold and snow, searching for answers that were always within reach. Letting go of Shion with one arm, he tugged the blanket back up to cover them both, his mice taking the cue to snuggle together in front of Shion. Lying back down, he embraced the boy before him tightly, finally feeling at peace.

"I promise."


A/N: These two just give me so many feels. Hopefully this wasn't too much of an emotional disaster and actually makes some kind of sense. I just got into this fandom, and I've been dying to write something so…yeah (hides). Any feedback would be greatly appreciated~!