A/N: Hello! I don't really have anything to say about this fic, other than that I hope you enjoy it!
Disclaimer: I don't own No.6 and only in my wildest dreams could I make money from writing fanfic.
Never Let Me Go
On the night of Shion's fifth birthday, there is a storm. It's not a particularly large one; the rain is heavy but there's only the occasional bout of thunder and lightning, and Shion isn't afraid. His mother has tucked him into his bed, cozy under the single, soft blanket, and he has already loudly proclaimed to her that now that he's five years old, he is a big boy and doesn't need his mama to comfort him during storms. Karan had smiled gently in response to that, bending down to kiss his forehead, and then she had left the room, shutting the door softly behind her.
Not ten minutes after the door is shut, a flash of lightning illuminates Shion's room. His eyes snap open and he trembles a little despite his best efforts to hold still, because he knows there is no reason to be afraid.
And then he sees him, outlined in the remnants of the flash, and there are plenty of reasons to be afraid.
That figure that had appeared in his room had a face, and a name, and a sense of humor that Shion could never quite manage to wrap his head around. The very next day, after the figure, who was in fact a boy the same age as Shion, had introduced himself as Nezumi and had climbed into Shion's bed without invitation or explanation, Shion had accepted the boy's presence in his life and had dubbed him a new friend.
Shion was pleased. He already had one friend, a girl named Safu, who he was very fond of. But sometimes she didn't understand him, and he thought that maybe it was because she was a girl. Nezumi kind of looked like a girl, Shion thought, but he was definitely a boy, and a very interesting one, at that. Shion didn't think to ask where Nezumi had come from, or how he had gotten into his room, but he had tried to introduce him to Karan the day after his birthday.
Nezumi had followed Shion downstairs into Karan's bakery. "Goodness, you're finally awake," she had mock-chastised, smiling warmly. "I was just about to go wake you up for the third time."
Shion nodded, too excited by the presence of his new friend and wondering why Karan hadn't asked about him yet. "Mama!" he had said proudly, gesturing to the boy next to him. "This is my new friend, Nezumi."
Karan shot him a blank look for a second, then smiled. "Oh, an imaginary friend? You know, you should give him a better name."
"No!" Shion pouted. "He's not imaginary! He's right here!" He prodded Nezumi in the shoulder, attempting to push him closer to Karan. "Say hi, Nezumi!"
"Hi," Nezumi said quietly.
"See?" Shion asked eagerly. "You heard him, right, Mama?"
Karan's smile softened. "Shion," she began, "sometimes we make up friends in our head to play with us, and that's okay. I'm sure you and Nezumi will have lots of fun at school today. Are you ready for breakfast?"
Shion almost stamped his foot, but restrained himself. How could his mother not see the boy standing right in front of her? Nezumi wasn't imaginary; he had talked and walked and Shion had heard the steady beat of his heart while they lay in his bed the previous night.
But now wasn't the time to argue. He had to eat breakfast and go to school so his mother could open the bakery.
"Yes, Mama," Shion replied sullenly.
That day at school, Shion had tried to introduce Safu to Nezumi, but she hadn't been able to see him either. In addition to that, she had crossed her arms and informed Shion that it wasn't good to have imaginary friends, and that only babies did that. Shion had almost cried, and upon seeing the tears welling up in his eyes, Safu had said that maybe it would be okay for Shion to have an imaginary friend as long as he knew he was imaginary, but Shion ardently refused this notion. Why could no one else see Nezumi like he could?
"I don't like her," Nezumi had said decidedly as they sat on the ground at recess, pulling up blades of grass.
Shion ignored this. "Why can't anyone else see you?" he asked quietly. "You're not imaginary, are you? I didn't think you up! I would know!"
"No, I'm not imaginary," Nezumi had said, offering no sort of explanation.
Shion had let the matter drop, content to be with his new friend.
As the years passed, Nezumi never left Shion. Sometimes he would disappear, but never for longer than a couple days, and the times when he was gone were the worst moments in Shion's life. Still, no one believed him when he told them of the boy standing beside him, smiling, laughing, talking, poking fun at Shion's clothing or intelligence or personality or anything else. No one believed that the reason Shion was so much smarter than his classmates, and in a different way, was not from extra studying, but from the boy who told him stories and taught him lessons that couldn't be found in any textbook. Although he could be rude and sometimes downright cruel, Nezumi wasn't heartless, and he always apologized when he realized he had gone too far.
When Shion found himself dissatisfied with his classes, or his peers, or his teachers, or anything else, Nezumi was like an anchor, and Shion would cling to him, mentally and sometimes physically, because he was the only thing that made Shion truly happy.
It was his twelfth birthday, and Shion was sitting at the small kitchen table in his home with his mother and Safu. Once the candles were blown out and the birthday cake was eaten, Karan got up to wash the dishes on the other side of the room, and Safu leaned over to whisper in Shion's ear.
"I have a special present for you," was all the warning Shion got before something wet was touching the side of his face.
A kiss. Safu had kissed his cheek, much like his mother often did. Shion was about to ask why that was such a special present when a voice on his other side muttered, "Eww."
Shion laughed. "Nezumi!" he chided.
Safu's eyes widened, and then her face took on a disappointed look, and she sighed. "Shion. You're 12 years old. You're much too old to still have an imaginary friend."
Shion was about to counter with his usual response when he heard his mother echo Safu's sigh. "She's right, dear. You must know by now that your friend is made up. I'm sure he seems real, since you've thought of him for so long, but—"
"Why can't you just believe me?" Shion shot up from his chair, already feeling the tears welling up behind his eyes. "Why do you always say that? Why can't you just—just—leave me alone!" he cried finally, and with that, he ran off up the stairs to his room.
He could hear his mother and Safu calling him from downstairs, so he locked his door and flopped down onto his bed. Let them say what they wanted. It didn't matter. He knew the truth, and the truth was now staring at him with an unreadable expression.
"Shion," Nezumi began, but Shion cut him off.
"Why can't they see you, huh? You've never given me a straight answer." He rolled onto his stomach so that Nezumi couldn't see his face; couldn't see his eyes, now steadily leaking tears. "Who are you? Why can't you tell me?"
The bed shifted as a weight settled on it. Shion refused to turn his head, instead burying his face deeper into his pillow. He felt a hand on his shoulder, a warm, soft, gentle hand, and he shifted closer almost subconsciously. The hand pushed at him until Shion gave in and turned onto his side, facing Nezumi, who stared at him with his glittering grey eyes. "You should go to sleep," he said simply.
Shion huffed, and before he had the chance to say anything, that same hand was on his face, gently wiping away his tears. He sniffled. Nezumi laughed.
"Don't sniffle like that. You sound like a child."
"I am a child," Shion said defensively, then realized how that had sounded. "I mean, not really; I am 12 now and—"
Nezumi was grinning at him. Shion returned his expression.
"Go put on your pajamas," Nezumi said.
"Don't tell me what to do," Shion mumbled, even as he got out of bed and headed towards his dresser.
Shion unlocked his door before crawling back into his bed. "I don't want Mom to think I'm mad at her," he said sheepishly, and Nezumi ruffled his hair and said, "Of course not."
That night, the sky was clear, and grasshoppers chirped outside Shion's window. He slept soundly, wrapped in Nezumi's arms, and silently promised to apologize to his mother and Safu the next day.
When he woke up, Nezumi was gone.
Shion waited. Nezumi didn't come back.
Shion had cried, he had gotten angry, he had fought with Safu, much worse than he ever had before, and he had searched everywhere. The first few weeks after Nezumi had left, without even saying goodbye, was the lowest point of Shion's life. He was worried. What if Nezumi had been imaginary? What if Shion had angered and frustrated his mother and his friend, just to find out that they had been right all along? He felt a terrible loneliness sink like a weight to the bottom of his stomach, and it made him nauseous. His mother was consoling, but of course said it was for the best. Safu was more callous, saying that it was about time, but then immediately apologized after seeing the look on Shion's face.
For weeks, he barely ate, barely slept, and slacked off in school. Karan took him to a doctor, who gave him a clean bill of health other than a bit of dehydration from the lack of food and water.
And then, one day about a month after Nezumi had disappeared, Shion abruptly decided to change. Nezumi wasn't coming back, but that didn't mean that Shion could stop living. His mother was worried about him, and his love for her got him back on his feet. He stopped talking about Nezumi entirely, and adopted a rigid study schedule, which helped his grades to go back up. No one mentioned Nezumi to him, and Shion never spoke the name aloud, but Nezumi often haunted his dreams, and his conscious thoughts too, when Shion inevitably spaced out during the day.
The dreams were the worst, because he didn't know how to stop them. The more dreams Nezumi found a way into, the more hopeless Shion felt, and upon waking, he had to constantly remind himself that Nezumi was not coming back, and had probably never existed in the first place. It was terribly painful, but wholly necessary.
On the night of Shion's sixteenth birthday, there is a storm. The thunder booms through the sky, the lightning flashes get closer and closer, and the pelting rain can be heard clearly in the gaps between the crashing of thunder.
Shion was sitting at his desk, half-heartedly finishing the next few days' homework and daydreaming about a night like this one, 11 years ago, when the storm was less intense and had brought with it a person who had changed his life. Over the past few years, as time had gone on, Shion had dreamed about Nezumi less and less, although Nezumi had never left his mind completely, and Shion's heart still ached with missing him. No one else would ever understand him like Nezumi had. No one else would ever teach him about the world beyond his textbooks. No one else would ever hold him, comfort him, tell him he was being stupid and then grin away the pain of the insult like Nezumi had. There was no one else like him in the world, of this Shion was sure, and as such he felt he would always be incomplete, no matter how far back in his mind Nezumi was pushed; no matter how many years had gone by.
There was a flash of lightning. Shion looked up, his breath catching.
There was no way.
Shion's hands grasped his own throat, which felt like it was turning in on itself.
A blaze of white shined in the darkness, a moment of teeth bared in a grin, and then another flash of lightning lit up the room, and Shion could no longer pretend.
Nezumi looked different, but somehow he was exactly the same.
Shion had cried. Nezumi had apologized, over and over again, whispering in Shion's ears and against his neck and into his hair, and then Shion had laughed, and Nezumi didn't know what to do.
After a while, they settled into a silence. Shion didn't voice the question that was burning in his mouth—why did you leave me?—because he was sure Nezumi would tell him eventually. Instead, he reached out to Nezumi, felt how warm and solid he was, and made up his mind. Nezumi was real. He had to be. If Nezumi wasn't real, how could he feel so warm? If he wasn't real, how could Shion feel his heartbeat? If he wasn't real, how could he grasp Shion's hand in his, how could he run his fingers through Shion's hair, how could he wrap Shion in an embrace and breathe against his neck? Nezumi had to be real, because he was standing right there in front of Shion, his lips curved in a familiar smirk and his beautiful grey eyes glittering.
Shion didn't care what his mother had said. He didn't care that Safu had been concerned that he was going crazy. All he cared about was the boy in front of him, with a steady pulse and shining eyes that couldn't possibly belong to a mere illusion.
"I don't care," Shion said firmly.
Nezumi cocked his head at him. "About what?"
"About what anyone says. I know you're real. You have to be. No one else needs to believe me."
"That's quite a bold statement," Nezumi said, his smirk slowly growing into a grin. "What about your mama? Shouldn't you listen to her?"
Shion faltered for a second. "She…she didn't understand. She thought it was because I was so stressed out from school. She thought I was clinging to you because you'd been a constant in my life."
"That's true, isn't it?"
"Well…yes. But it wasn't because I was stressed. I'm not stressed now. School is easy. It's because…"
"Mmm?" Nezumi prompted after a few seconds of silence.
"Because…you're the only one who understands me. You're the only one who makes me happy—really, truly happy. You've taught me things that my instructors at school never could. And that's why no one else needs to believe that you're real—because it's always been just the two of us. I love my mother, and Safu is a very good friend of mine, but you—" Shion abruptly cut himself off and reached a hand out to touch Nezumi's chest, right over his heart. His heartbeat was strong and steady. "You're different. You're special. I couldn't…I couldn't stand life without you." He looked down, avoiding Nezumi's gaze, fully expecting to be showered in ridicule. Nezumi loved to poke fun at him, at how childish and open and honest he was, at how readily he spilled his feelings.
But Nezumi didn't speak. Instead, he lifted Shion's chin with his fingers, forcing him to make eye contact.
Shion dropped his hand from Nezumi's chest. He was afraid, he realized. He didn't know why, but he was afraid.
"Shion." Nezumi spoke quietly. "You really do not have a way with words. Promise me you'll never try to become a poet."
Shion would have giggled, had the situation been less serious. As it was, he released a sharp breath through his nose; the ghost of a laugh. Nezumi's fingers still held up his chin. There was no escape.
"I'm not going to leave you again, Shion. Not ever." Nezumi's expression softened. Shion could feel himself blushing, and knew that Nezumi could see it as well as feel it. "Since apparently I still have a lot to teach you on the subject of vocabulary." He released Shion's chin at last, and Shion ducked his head and laughed, too overjoyed to care about his flushed face.
That was as close as Nezumi would get, he knew, to saying that he felt the same way Shion did. That he thought Shion was special. That he couldn't stand life without him. What did it matter if no one else believed? Shion did, and Nezumi believed in him, and that was all that was necessary.
"Hey," Nezumi said suddenly, and Shion looked up into sparkling grey eyes. "Isn't it past your bedtime?"
Shion scoffed. "I'm 16; I don't have a bedtime, mom."
Nezumi laughed. Shion smiled.
"I should be going to bed, though. I have a big exam tomorrow."
"Wouldn't you pass no matter how much sleep you got the night before?"
"Well, probably," Shion admitted sheepishly. "But…"
"But you're eager to get me back into bed with you. I know; you don't have to say it."
Shion flushed immediately. "Nezumi!" he reached forward to slap the other boy on the arm, but Nezumi had already darted away, having expected Shion's attack.
"Hey, I didn't say I feel any differently," Nezumi said with a shrug that was far too casual for Shion's liking.
There was a pause while the two boys looked at each other from across the room, one grinning, the other glaring.
"Well, c'mon then," Shion said finally, and when they were both in bed with their arms tucked up between them and their legs intertwined, Shion knew without a doubt that nothing and no one else, real or imagined, would ever make him this happy.