Nezumi held Shion's hand, quietly rubbing his thumb over his digits in a repetitive motion that he hoped calmed Shion as much as it did himself. The motion began to stir up memories that Nezumi had long since forgotten to remember. He recalled cold winter nights sitting by the fire, and evenings spent reading stories to one another by candlelight as storms raged outside and the power died away. Nezumi remembered holding Shion tightly, cupping his gentle hands in his own as they danced across the room, bodies moving as if they were one. Less pleasantly, he remembered nights that were like this one… days spent watching over Shion as he lay sick in bed, hoping that tomorrow may be better for his lover.
So much had changed since then. The scarf that Nezumi wore in many of their old photographs had tattered to shreds years ago. Sweet Karen had replaced the scarf with one that she hand-knitted herself but… that scarf had also become lost to time. And so too had Karen.
Nezumi's agile grace had been lost to aching joints. The mice that once kept him company—mechanical and organic alike—were no more. An earthquake had even taken away the underground library that he once called home, and later held near and dear as a place of refuge for him and Shion alone.
But time had not taken away his memories, and not all that he had to look back upon was sour. A smile would curl his lips as he thought of his first time lying with Shion as lovers… although it disappeared as he remembered leaving Shion alone several times to wander on excursions that never did fill him with as much pleasure as seeing Shion's smile. Then again, perhaps that's why he would leave—to renew the feeling of returning to Shion's open arms again and again.
In his memories, though, things did not always remain this way. His younger self grew older, and with that age he grew reluctant to leave the white-haired boy that he held so close to his heart. Nezumi's smile returned when he thought of the first baby that they raised together, and how he never left Shion's side once throughout those years. His smile stretched as he recalled the second. Together, they had raised two beautiful babies, a young girl and a boy. Looking back, Nezumi liked to think that he was a good father. Flustered and easily overworked, but a good father all the same. How many fathers could say that they'd sang their children to sleep every night when they were small? Not many, he liked to imagine.
The work that came with parenthood was hard and arduous, but even though Nezumi was sure that he had joked happily the day their children left home, he would always remember those days with bitter melancholy. He remembered holding Shion tightly on both occasions, unable to say any words to console his lover. There were no words for the hollowness that came with such an event. The only thing that he could have done and was proud to have done was simply being there to share the experience. They laughed, they cried, and they reminisced together through it all. Nezumi clutched Shion's hand tighter as his heart clenched at the thought. Though weakly, Shion returned the grasp.
Shion's eyes fluttered open to two red slits. Even after so many years, Nezumi found beauty in him. He found beauty in the curve of Shion's jaw and the puckered flesh of the scar he had earned so many years ago fighting for his life. He found beauty in the light of Shion's eyes… though it had dimmed considerably. Shion was weaker than he used to be. The loud, air-headed boy that he had first expressed emotion for had calmed throughout his long life.
"How do you feel?" Nezumi asked, still massaging his lover's hand.
It took a long time for Shion to answer. His breathing had become weak and his movements were slow. There were times where Shion appeared to suddenly get better. He'd sit up and talk normally, asking politely for Nezumi to read him a story or just sit there and talk with him. This, however… was not one of those days.
The boy that Nezumi remembered contrasted violently with the Shion that lay before him. Youth and life had been battling with a withered body and illness for years now. The doctor never brought any good news, but Nezumi chose to ignore his word. Three years ago, the doctor hadn't promised Shion a year more. But three years was an eternity of clinging relief for two people in their situation. He wanted to continue to ignore the doctor… to belief that another year would pass.
"Ne… zumi," Shion said quietly, stilling Nezumi's thoughts. Although he was clearly in an amount of pain, Shion was smiling at him. Nezumi hadn't a clue where such a sick person could find the willpower to smile such a brilliant smile. Perhaps he was drawing upon the same memories that Nezumi was, then again. If they had been blessed with one thing in old age, it was that both had remained clear-headed.
"How are you feeling, Shion?" Nezumi repeated. He leaned forward and pecked a kiss on Shion's forehead, wiping back his unruly bangs. "Can I get you anything?"
Shion shook his head, a clear response as to how he was feeling entirely lost. Nezumi had always hated that about Shion's character. He cared too deeply for others to voice concerns that he held for himself. It was sweet of him to care so much, but Nezumi just wished that he'd place more of that care on himself.
But Shion did seem to have something to say. The words took him a long time to muster up, but he finally said, "Can you… sing for me?" in as clear a voice as he could manage. He looked at Nezumi with a renewed twinkle in his eyes that Nezumi had not seen for quite some time.
Nezumi couldn't deny such a request. His voice wasn't as luxurious as it had been back in his day's playing Eve, nor was it the soft tone that had drifted two babies to sleep—three, if you counted Shion on the occasion. But Nezumi could still carry a tune.
Nezumi began to sing a song that he hadn't for a very long time. He had once used the tune to calm Shion in the back of a crowded vehicle on the way to a place stained with blood. It was a hopeful song and, at this moment, at this time, felt right. He held Shion's hand tighter than before, allowing the song to softly leave his lips like a lullaby. Without even realizing it, tears began to pour down Nezumi's cheeks—Shion's as well. For a moment they were lost back in their memories, but only the good ones that made each of them smile in that melancholy way.
Slowly, Shion fell back against his pillow, hand limply placed in Nezumi's. His eyes began to flutter like the fragile wings of a butterfly before they shut.
Nezumi allowed the notes of his song to fade away like sunlight at the end of the day. He pecked another kiss on Shion's cheek, just upon his old scar. He was happy to be there with Shion. He was so very happy for Shion to still be there with him. For now, Shion's smile was still within reach. For now, Nezumi could put off his greatest fear: that Shion would go where he could not follow.
"Goodnight, Your Majesty," he said with a soft smile, pecking another kiss on Shion's cheek. "I'll sing for you tomorrow if you like."