Title: one hundred years of cloud dreaming
Author's note: Giripan exchange for naturethezafara, the prompt was something based on Bouncing Off Of Clouds - Tori Amos.
Thanks to Feral_phoenix for looking this over for me :)
He wrote down his dreams and the shape of each cloud, scrawled them in messy notebooks with little cat footprints in the dust, in a handwriting so unordered that even he could barely read it.
Japan was a pragmatist, cynical and reserved. And Greece was all idealism, dreaming up better worlds than the one he lived in. They both understood silence in ways others didn't, sitting together and thinking of Bashō and Plato, cats and abstract shapes of flowers and trees on silk or stone. Sometimes they shared those thoughts, but just as often they didn't, embracing the quiet without awkwardness.
Most people thought Greece was too dreamy, too forgetful, but he kept some details sharp. It was only the extraneous—the stupid, petty squabbling of those around him, the transient trends of the humans—that he let slip on by. They always came again, just a few shades different from the last.
But one thing he always kept close: dark eyes and a first kiss; the year eighteen-ninety-nine; the feel of grass against his skin and every minute of that day.
One hundred years of cloud dreaming; he fell a little more each year.
Greece held the pen up, talking to himself as he wrote.
"They were shaped like apples today. It made me hungry. Another looked like Mittens—the cat you named."
I miss you.
"I dreamt I was a frog in a pool looking up at the sky."
I want you. I love you.
One of his cats–Mittens, again–stared as he refined the letters. She seemed so wise: judging him, and finding him lacking. Or maybe she just wanted more food. He reached out to scratch her behind the ears, the pencil going slack in his other hand. She began to purr, a mass of soft grey fur with white paws.
He tried to think of a way to put this into haiku, as a nod to Japan's culture, but he could never quite remember the sentence structure, and he didn't want to make that big of a mistake for a gift.
When he was around Japan, he never remembered to ask. There were too many moments to absorb. From the way Japan would tilt his head thoughtfully in contemplation, the way Japan murmured in his sleep, the careful way he'd eat Greece's food, the way his customs lingered on, thanking Greece after every meal with a gochiso-sama deshita.
If he had ten more lifetimes, he still wouldn't be able to absorb all of Japan's facets, but oh, would he try.
When he was sleeping, he was always one step away from dreaming. Under his blanket of cats and clouds, he could fall into a place of ideals, of peace. His hand uncurled under the blanket, like reaching out for another hand, thousands of miles away.
One day he woke up to find another hand in his. He rubbed groggily at his eyes as the image began to come to focus. Japan stood over him unannounced and in a casual green yukata. Had Greece displaced the letter which told of his arrival? Had a cat used his stack of letters as a bed again?
"Do you mind if I stay a while?" Japan said.
"Stay as long as you want," Greece replied.
Japan laid out in the sun, out on the grass, uncaring of whether his robes got dirty for once.
"I think it looks like Mittens," Japan said, his finger pointed up to a cloud. Greece tilted his head. He couldn't see it. The wind caught Japan's sleeve, left his hair windblown. Japan tried to smooth down his hair, and looked awkwardly away.
Was he trying to say something else? Greece looked up to the cloud, but it had blown further now. "It looks like mochi," he said.
"It looks like happiness," Japan said softly.
He felt a pressure on his arm. For a moment he thought a cat had crawled up and onto him, but a single glance told him that it was Japan who had curled into him and used his arm for a pillow.
For once, he was the one awake while Japan slept. He traced his hand down Japan's back, in that soft way he always did when he didn't want cats to wake up. He felt too alive with the moment to sleep for once. It'd been years since he felt Japan's skin under his fingertips. The memory of his skin had grown fainter despite how often Greece had relived the time. A kiss at a juncture of a hip, a mark a cat left on him when he picked it up, a bite, an old scar. There were new scars, now, new kiss marks and old wounds, not all of them on the outside.
This was what happiness looked like.
He couldn't saw how much time passed or how many clouds he missed as Japan slept. For once, he didn't slip into a dream. He petted Mittens, who had crawled into the space between him and Japan and stayed there.
It'd been so long since they'd lain like this. Years that blurred the line between real and dreams until it was hard to remember the difference.
It could've been hours or minutes, Greece couldn't tell. When eventually Japan began to stir, and with him, Mittens let out a disapproving meow.
"Welcome back," Greece said.
"I dreamt about you," Greece said. "Not now, but before..."
I kept reaching out until you would take my hand.
"You aren't dreaming now, Greece-san," Japan said.
And it seemed an unanswered question he'd been wondering all along.
"No, I'm not," he said.
He looked up to the sky, and for a moment he thought he saw what Japan must have seen. "I think I see it now, the happiness..."
Japan pushed himself up from the ground, and picked up Mittens.
"Me too," Japan said.
And it said more than poetry or love confessions, hidden between the years and clouds of a sunny day.
"If you're staying, we could go out for food. I'd make you some, but it's hard to cook souvlaki chicken with the cats around."
"I'd like that," Japan said. "Thank you for your hospitality."
"Anytime," Greece said.
They walked back, wordless in the heat of a waning day towards home.