Nezumi had seen many nighttime skies since he left those four years ago; nights when he could see nothing but clouds, nights with very few stars. There were also nights that the sky was so bright with starlight that it was difficult to focus on the dark spaces in between the stars. Those were the nights that Nezumi liked the most, the nights speckled with novas and meteors so pronounced that he could almost feel like he could see the colors hidden by the blackness. The nighttime sky in NO.6 wasn't quite as spectacular, but he could still see quite a few stars and he figured that was good for a city so it was something he could settle for. Besides, if he ever got the urge to see a starry night sky, then he could always drag Shion out to the West Block. The sky was always clear there, though with the reconstruction Nezumi wasn't sure how long that would last.
Still, though, the night was pretty and quiet as Nezumi slowly made his way down the sidewalk towards Shion's... Shion's and his apartment, which was halfway between the outskirts of the city and the center of the city where the Moon Drop had once been located. In the time of panic and destruction and heavenly reckoning, the glistening glass dome that once cried for typhoons had been shattered and destroyed. Nezumi felt almost sad for it, for a reason he could not comprehend, but supposed that Elyurias would have preferred all remains of the past NO.6 to be destroyed. So he didn't look towards the place where the Moon Drop was before anymore and decided not to think about it. If it was gone, it was gone, and that was all there was to it.
When the apartment building was in sight, obscured by trees just barely sprouting buds and lamp posts that illuminated the slightly cracking and aging sidewalk, he heard a squeaking coming from down by his feet. Puzzled, he glanced down and saw Cravat sitting on the sidewalk in front of him, blinking up at him with his dark eyes before squeaking once more. Nezumi chuckled and knelt down, holding out his hand with his palm facing up as invitation. Cravat scurried onto his outstretched hand, then up his sleeve and up to his shoulder. The creature's shuddering breath was like a little heartbeat against Nezumi's neck. "What are you doing here, huh? Does Shion know you left?"
Of course, he did not receive a response, but a sharp bite to the shell of his ear.
"You're hungry, huh? Didn't Shion give you any dinner?"
A small squeak in response that Nezumi took as a no.
"Dinner was hours ago, so you're out of luck. You should've been there," Nezumi said, before frowning to himself as his words took impact. Dinner was hours ago. "How late is it, really?"
I'll be home before dinner.
Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck.
"Let's go home, Cravat."
And it was loud, when Nezumi opened the door to his and Shion's apartment and the lock clicked in the silent apartment when it retracted back into the door then back out. Shion hadn't locked the door. Did that mean that he still expected Nezumi to come home, or had he just forgotten? Nezumi both did and did not want to know the answer to that, so he knew he wouldn't ask. He just closed the door again as quietly and slowly as he could, before slipping out of his shoes and taking his time to set them beside Shion's, straight and close together. Cravat took this opportunity to jump off of Nezumi's shoulder and scurry further into the apartment, behind the leg of the dining table and then disappearing from Nezumi's sight. Nezumi straightened up again, and he could see the electric clock on the stove blinking at him from across the room. Nezumi squinted and tried to make out the numbers; three-fifty in the morning. Damn it all.
He took his first step into the living area, and the sound of muffled footsteps against the hard wood floor sounded much louder to Nezumi than normal. He glanced around the apartment, and it looked the same from when he left. He felt like the entire world should have changed, but then he remembered that he'd disappointed Nezumi a thousand times before, so why should the world change? Everything was exactly the same. The clock blinked and it was 3:51, and the world still didn't end. On the counter, there was a bowl of soup covered with plastic wrap to keep it fresh and Nezumi's heart clenched at the sight. He heard a shuffling from the other side of the room and immediately turned in that direction, light on his feet and posture slightly bent from the years he spent living in the West Block. But it was just Shion, asleep on the couch with a book loose in his hand.
Nezumi slowly walked over to where Shion was sleeping, crouching down in front of him as quietly as he could so as not to wake him up. Nezumi breathed in deeply, exhaling slowly as he reached up to brush a strand of snowy white hair from in front of Shion's closed eyes. Nezumi gently tugged the book from Shion's fingers. Hamlet. Nezumi smiled to himself, looking to the newer copy of the book that he just took from Shion, and the battered copy in his other hand that he had taken from his library. He stood up again and took the books over to the bookshelf just a ways away, tall and stuffed with so many books that it was a wonder how they all fit. Nezumi knew that Shion must have had some kind of system to this, but didn't have the heart to figure it out just then. He saw a gap on the shelf right in front of him and assumed that was where the book belongs and shoved the book through the narrow gap.
As he pulled his hand back, Nezumi noticed that not every spine of every book was new looking. In fact, the entire bookshelf was spotted with the occasional frayed, tattered cover. Nezumi pulled out a tattered copy of Othello, and made a small, surprised noise when he realized that it was his copy, one that he had read hundreds of times in his small, underground home. And there was his copy of Macbeth, and there was A Woman of No Importance. His favorites
were there, the ones he would quote and perform in the theater. Shion had remembered, and Shion had saved them. Shion must have taken multiple trips to their old home, saving books by the arm-full and hoping they would still be there when he returned. Nezumi felt tears burn at the corners of his eyes but stubbornly ignored them, stroking the spine of his, his books.
Shion slowly sat up on the couch, rubbing his eyes with his fists like a child. Nezumi would have smiled, but he couldn't. Shion blinked wearily, sleep still cloudy in his eyes as he looked up at Nezumi, looking a little confused and surprised to see him there. His hair was disheveled and the top most button of his shirt was undone. "You're home."
"Shion," Nezumi breathed. He took a step closer to him, but hesitantly stopped and rubbed the back of his head nervously. "I... I'm sorry I woke you."
"No, it's okay," Shion said immediately, a tired smile on his lips as he stood up. He straightened out his shirt and ran a hand through his hair, and Nezumi's eyes followed the action. "I wanted to hear you come in, after all."
"It's late," Nezumi said dumbly, shifting his weight to one side and then to the opposite. "You should get some sleep."
"I wanted to wait for you," Shion said, much more awake as he appraised Nezumi with his eyes.
"I... You saved my books," Nezumi offered, glancing once at the copy of Hamlet in his hand, and then at the bookcase and then back at Shion. Shion smiled, looking pleased that Nezumi had noticed, and nodded. But it didn't quite reach his eyes the way his smiles normally did, and the tired look to his eyes reminded Nezumi of his mistake. Another mistake. A stupid, stupid mistake. And the fact that it was such a small, easily avoidable mistake stabbed Nezumi as a reminder of his own inconsideration.
"Of course I did," Shion murmured. "Of course I did, Nezumi. They're your books."
Nezumi couldn't breathe. "Shion, I-"
"You're right, I should sleep," Shion interrupted, and he suddenly looked so much older and so weary. "Are you hungry? I saved dinner for you."
"What? I, yeah, Shion-"
"You should eat before you come to bed," Shion continued, and took a step backwards, as though as a retreat. Nezumi took a step forward to make up for the distance, a small, panicky anxiety building in his stomach. Shion couldn't give up on him, not now. Not now. "So-"
Nezumi felt a burning desperation that gripped at him like hands reaching from the shadows, a heat behind his eyes and in his throat and deep inside his heart. He knew that if Shion let this go, if he just left the room like this, then there would be a barrier between them forever. Nezumi would leave and Shion would feel certain that Nezumi wouldn't return. And he would fall asleep on the couch, hoping to hear the click of the lock of the door, or soft footsteps, and fear that those sounds would never come. Nezumi couldn't have it, not like this. He wanted a fresh, new, happy life with Shion. He needed it.
"Shion, I'm sorry." Nezumi took the last few steps forward to close the so small, so large distance between them. Nezumi put a hand on Shion's cheek, but Shion didn't respond to the touch. He looked up at Nezumi with his wide, red eyes, and there was such an uncertain vulnerability in them that Nezumi wanted to scream.
A... Are you... Are you real?
"I thought that... I-I..."
Nezumi, you need to answer me. You just have to.
"I was afraid-"
I want you to stay with me always.
"I thought you weren't coming back," Shion finally choked out, sinking down to his knees and wiping his eyes on his sleeve. He shoulders trembled, and Nezumi wanted to reach out to him but felt as though he didn't even deserve to touch him. "I'm sorry. I wanted to trust you, and I tried really hard. I'm sorry. Please don't be mad at me."
"Oh, Shion, you're so stupid. You should be mad, I'd never be... Shion, no, stop," Nezumi whispered and sunk down to the ground with
him, desperately reaching for Shion, trying to reassure him, touch his cheek and dry a tear, touch his hair or his wrist, anything to calm him down. "You're such an idiot. I'd never be mad." He put a hand on Shion's head hesitantly, and he was afraid that Shion would push him away. "Stop blaming yourself. For once, please."
"I said please. I never say please," Nezumi muttered, and Shion looked up in surprise.
"This is my fault," Nezumi leaned forward and rested his forehead against Shion's. Shion breathed in deeply through his nose and closed
his eyes, but didn't pull back. "I just lost track of time, Shion. I fell asleep."
"Fell... asleep?" Shion repeated, and there was a color of confusion that tinted his voice. There was also a small hint of relief, and it flooded through Nezumi like a flame. He grasped at it and it warmed him, though just the tips of his fingers. "...Oh."
"Shion, I promised you that I wouldn't leave. I promised. I'll never break a promise to you."
"Never?" Shion asked, and he sounded so much like a broken child that Nezumi wanted to cry. Nezumi shook his head and ran his hand through Shion's hair, fingers working through the knots from Shion's nap on the couch.
"Never, Shion. Never. Shion, I'm so sorry."
"I get so mad at you sometimes." Shion leaned forward and rested his forehead against Nezumi's chest, sighing in contentment when Nezumi's arms wound around him in instinctive response. He reached up and bunched Nezumi's shirt in his hands, then flattened his palms against Nezumi's chest and straightened slightly so that their eyes were level. He gave Nezumi a sad sort of smile and tilted his head slightly to the side, his eyes flickering down to Nezumi's lips and then back to his eyes. "Sometimes I feel like I hate you."
"You... you have absolutely every reason to," Nezumi managed to form the words. "I'd probably hate me, too."
"I don't really hate you, though. That's just what people think when they're upset. And I know you didn't really mean to make me worry. I just do that too much sometimes. I just missed you so much when you were going that I'm terrified of doing that again. You understand that, don't you?"
"You should stop being so forgiving," Nezumi told him, and Shion shook his head with a smile. "No, I mean it. How many times are you going to forgive me before it's too much?"
"It'll never be too much."
"I wish that was a lie, Shion," Nezumi said with a sigh, running a hand through Shion's hair again. His fingers lingered at Shion's neck, brushing them against his skin before gently gripping the collar of Shion's shirt, his eyes intent on his task as he desperately avoided Shion's eyes. He needed to say it to Shion, to let him know, to tell him that he didn't owe Nezumi anything, anything at all. That Shion could move on and leave him and not feel a shred of guilt. That would
hurt, that would be devastating, that would end everything for Nezumi, but that would be okay. Those were his righteous excuses, but the honest truth was that he just wanted to hear it from Shion, in the form of forgiveness and a gentle voice. That no, Shion would still stay with him. That yes, all could be forgiven and dark things could be painted white. "You can still hate me. You should hate me. You should kick me out right now and never speak to me again."
"That's terrible," Shion whispered, his hands balling up into fists against Nezumi's chest. "Don't say that."
"I ruined you, Shion. You need to realize that. You were nearly arrested- hell, you could've been taken to the Correctional Facility for all we know. You were taken out of your special program and all for me. Why? Why? I don't understand. I just left. And then I pulled you away from NO.6 again-"
"You saved me."
"Well, that may be so. But I still took you away from everything, your mama and Safu. And for what?"
"To save thousands of lives, Nezumi!"
"To leave you again. Shion, I'm the worst. I'm the complete and utter worst."
"Shut up, Nezumi." Shion gently slid his hands around Nezumi's neck, the tips of his fingers just barely overlapping. Shion straightened up so that he was then positioned a few inches taller than Nezumi, looking down at him with an uncharacteristic serious expression on his face. Shion shook his head slowly, closing his eyes tightly as though it was painful to keep them open. "Don't you ever say things like that. If I want to be with you, isn't that enough? Can't that be enough?"
"No!" Shion opened his eyes and looked upset, even angry with Nezumi. "Stop. I don't hate you. I'm sorry, that was a stupid thing of me to say. I don't hate you. I could never hate you. Not when I-" Shion cut off abruptly and pursed his lips together suddenly, and Nezumi took the opportunity to speak again.
"It wasn't a stupid thing to say at all. It's fine if you hate me, Shion. Really, it is," Nezumi told him, reaching up to gently wrap his fingers around Shion's wrists, and Shion exhaled softly at the sudden pressure. "If you hate me more than anyone else, it would be okay. I'd still love you."
Shion's eyes widened almost comically; were the situation not as serious, Nezumi might have laughed and teased him for it. However, in their current position, Nezumi felt more like he was going to faint or cry at any moment. Love was the right word, wasn't it? For the feeling that had been so hard for him to put into words.
"I'll always be in love with you." And it was true. Shion was the only person that could ever possibly make Nezumi feel this way. He had breathed a sort of cosmic magic into Nezumi's life, a trail of stardust that he could only ever follow with his finger and try his best to remember. He knew it, knew he was lost when Shion read Shakespeare with a childish determination to understand and learn, when Shion laughed with glee at the sight at snow, when he battled against a city of tyranny to save a girl who loved him that he also adored. "I can't say it enough, Shion. I can't apologize enough. I
"I love you, Nezumi. Oh, I love you."
Shion looked like he was about to cry, but he smiled like sunlight and Nezumi made a small, choked sound that might have been a sob or a noise of relief. Shion leaned down and pressed his forehead against Nezumi's, and murmured, "I love you. Nezumi, thank you."
"It's not like you didn't figure it out already." Nezumi's attempt at a joke was feeble, but he wanted to demolish the thickness in the room that was deteriorating too slowly for his liking. "Even someone as slow as you must have noticed."
"But it's important to put things into words, isn't it? I think it's important."
"Not as important as the feeling itself," Nezumi argued weakly, and Shion laughed and nodded.
Shion placed his hands on either side of Nezumi's face and leaned down to kiss him gently, and Nezumi's knees ached from sitting on the floor the way they were but damn it he didn't care. He wrapped his arms around Shion's waist and kissed him back, and without warning the tears that he had been trying to hard to hold back began leaking from the corners of his eyes. Shion laughed once, quietly against Nezumi's lips and brushed the tears away with his thumbs, and then pulled back to dry his own tears with the cuff of his shirt. Nezumi sat up straighter, a sharp pain in his knees screaming in protest, taking Shion's hands in his own.
"You should, um. You should eat," Shion muttered, glancing in the direction of the kitchen and smiling sheepishly. "You must be starving."
"I've gone longer without eating," Nezumi said dismissively, and Shion pursed his lips.
"That's not good, though."
"Come on, let's go to bed," Nezumi suggested. He stood up and pulled Shion to his feet, leaning in to kiss Shion's lips again quickly.
"Oh, it's so late. I'm going to be so tired tomorrow," Shion said, and Nezumi laughed as he walked towards the door where he dropped off his bag of belongings. He picked it up and slung it over his shoulder.
"Take a sick day," Nezumi suggested, walking back over to Shion and taking his hand. Twining their fingers together, Nezumi tugged him in the direction of the hallway and began walking towards Shion's- their bedroom. "Spend the day with me."
"I can't! I have to work," Shion exclaimed, sounding surprised at the suggestion. "Oh, I'll have to take Shionn to Inukashi's... or my mama's. I wonder which she'll prefer."
Nezumi tossed his bag aside once they entered the bedroom, and it hit the door of Shion's closet and then slid down to the floor. Nezumi would have time to put those things away, to eventually throw them away and buy new things. That's what homes were for. Shion seemed to have followed his train of thought and smiled up at him blindingly, taking Nezumi's hands in his and leaning up to lightly press a kiss to his cheek. "You know, you're actually a pretty good papa."
Shion hummed in appreciation and smiled at him again. "You think so?"
"I do," Nezumi replied, and Shion looked incredibly pleased at the praise. He walked over to the bed and collapsed on top of it with a deep sigh, closing his eyes. Nezumi began to pull his shirt off and then froze in the action, smirking and glancing over at Shion. "I'm going to change. No peeking."
"I-I wouldn't peek!" Shion shot up and glared at him indignantly, though he was blushing lightly. Nezumi laughed and threw his shirt at Shion, feeling a surge of pride when it Shion square in the face.
"I was kidding. You can peek all you want," Nezumi said suggestively, laughing and catching his shirt when Shion launched it at him in response. "What?"
"You're the worst," Shion grumbled in embarrassment, but smiled sheepishly when Nezumi laughed again. He fell backward on the bed, covering his face with the pillow and clinging to it tightly, peeking up at Nezumi from behind it. Shion had come to terms with his feelings for Nezumi years ago, back when they were still living in the West Block. When Nezumi pulled him outside in the middle of a cold winter night and said, 'Look. It doesn't snow like that in your city, does it?' And Shion had to say no, not it doesn't. The city had always cleared the roads as soon as the first snowflakes began to fall. Shion had never seen it pile up like this, in mounds and mounds of powder scattered across the barren landscape. Nezumi had said, 'It even makes this ugly place look good, doesn't it?' Shion saw his expression then, cheeks red from the cold and eyes bright with the excitement of the first snow of the season. That was when Shion knew he was done for.
And now... now, when Nezumi kissed him it wasn't to say goodbye or goodnight. It was just because he wanted to. Because there wasn't any rhyme or reason to kisses and touches sometimes, because sometimes you just want to be with another person because that person was warm and you loved them. Shion didn't really understand it before, but he thought that, just then, when Nezumi turned back toward him with his hair loose and almost to his shoulders, looking comfortable and safe as was an unusual circumstance for the two of them, he really understood it. He really, truly did.
"What're you staring at me for?" Nezumi asked bluntly, walking over and crossing his arms. "What's with that expression?"
"S-Stop! Don't look at me!" Shion covered his face with the pillow again and rolled over. He heard Nezumi laugh and sit down on the other side of the bed, and jumped in surprise when he felt Nezumi's fingers in his hair.
"What're you doing?" Nezumi asked, amused. Shion peeked up at him from over the pillow, rolling back over and staring the ceiling while clutching the pillow to his stomach.
"Just thinking things," Shion said airily, waving his hand vaguely.
"Don't hurt yourself," Nezumi warned, grinning when Shion mock-glared at him. "You have to admit, thinking isn't really your greatest strength."
"You know, I can think just fine, thank you very much!" Shion defended, sitting up to throw the pillow at Nezumi in mock anger.
"Perhaps," Nezumi caught the pillow and threw it right back in retaliation. Shion pouted and clutched the pillow to his chest again, falling back onto the bed. Nezumi looked down at him for a moment while he stared up at the ceiling before reaching over to run his fingers through Shion's hair once more, then trailing his finger down the ride of Shion's face and brushing the scarlet scar that he so adored with his thumb. Shion glanced up at him and smiled softly, letting go of the pillow and taking Nezumi's hand and twining their fingers together. The way that Shion looked just then, with his snowy white hair splayed on the pillow beneath his head, and with such a shy smile on his face and a light blush dusted across his cheeks, Nezumi couldn't help but lean down to kiss him.
They'd kissed half a dozen times before, under different guises and with different names and excuses, but Shion felt like this kiss was different somehow. Nezumi had told him before that there were very different kinds of kisses, and Shion realized that this was one of those different kisses with different reasons behind it. Shion let go of Nezumi's hand and smiled into the unexpected kiss, reaching up to run his hands through Nezumi's hair that was cascading down and brushing against Shion's cheeks. He really did adore it when Nezumi wore his hair like that and ran his fingers through the blue strands,
and felt like maybe he understood why Nezumi liked to play with his hair all the time. Without breaking the kiss, Nezumi adjusted himself
so that he was kneeling directly over Shion, a leg on either side of him. Shion felt painfully aware of how experienced Nezumi was in comparison to himself, trembling slightly when their lips parted or a moment, Nezumi's breath hot and shallow against his skin before Shion leaned up to kiss him again, tangling his fingers in Nezumi's hair again. Nezumi chuckled softly against Shion's lips at his enthusiasm but didn't complain; he didn't mind, not one bit. He tilted his head
and, feeling slightly daring, bit Shion's bottom lip gently. Shion gasped in surprise, gripping Nezumi's hair more tightly without meaning to. Nezumi made a small noise in the back of his throat in response, pulling back slightly to meet Shion's gaze.
"I..." Shion cleared his throat and tried to get his breathing back under control, covering his mouth with the back of his hand in embarrassment. He looked away for a moment, blushing slightly. "S-Sorry."
"Fuck, Shion, don't apologize," Nezumi said in a surprised tone. He leaned down to press another kiss to Shion's lips, and then on his cheek; his jaw, his neck, and his collarbone. "That's what you're supposed to do."
"I-I'm not used to this," Shion admitted, and Nezumi laughed quietly. Shion felt his breath against his collarbone and shuddered involuntarily. Nezumi pressed another kiss to Shion's neck and then another to his collarbone and once more a little further down.
"Of course you're not," Nezumi replied, smirking up at Shion before slowly starting to unbutton the first button of Shion's shirt, then kissing the newly exposed skin. "I'd be a little jealous if you were."
"You? Jealous? I'd love to see that," Shion joked lightly, but his voice was far too breathless for his teasing to be anywhere near as effective as he would have liked. Nezumi undid the second button and Shion bit his lip, letting his head fall back onto the pillow as he struggled to control his breathing and heartbeat. From where Nezumi currently was, he could surely hear Shion's heart rate accelerate an embarrassing amount. "I-It probably wouldn't suit you."
"You'd be surprised," Nezumi replied, glancing up at Shion again. There was an almost insecure look in his eyes. "I'm jealous of everyone that looks at you."
"You shouldn't ever be jealous," Shion murmured, as Nezumi leaned down to press his lips to Shion's forehead gently, far more gentle than his other kisses. "You know you're the only one I ever look at, right?"
"Shion, you can't say things like that," Nezumi mumbled, and Shion tilted his head curiously. "I'll die. I'll definitely die."
"I don't think that's funny!" Shion said disapprovingly.
"It's not a joke," Nezumi insisted. took Shion's hands in his own and pulled him up into a sitting position, brushing his hair out of his face. Shion leaned in to kiss Nezumi again, winding his arms around Nezumi's waist and pulling him even closer as Nezumi continued his task of unbuttoning Shion's shirt, finally reaching the final button and yanking it free. Shion blushed at that, putting his head on Nezumi's shoulder and hiding his embarrassed expression.
"This is embarrassing," Shion murmured.
"I've seen you in less before," Nezumi reminded him, chuckling when Shion shoved his chest playfully.
"It just is!" Shion insisted. He turned his head and brushed Nezumi's hair out of the way to kiss his neck. He put his arms around Nezumi's neck against and pressed closer against him, sighing contentedly. A few hours ago, Shion was terrified that he'd never see Nezumi again. And now Nezumi was right there with him, and promise he would always be there. "Things are different now."
"Not really different. You're a little bolder."
"Maybe," Shion responded, and smiled widely when Nezumi kissed him again suddenly, Nezumi's arms snaking their way around his waist and pushing him back down onto the bed. He tightened his arms around Nezumi's neck and returned the kiss enthusiastically. Nezumi pulled back to pull off his shirt in one fluid movement, the one he put on just minutes earlier, and Shion tried very hard not to stare and maintain his composure. He must've failed, because Nezumi smirked at Shion's expression. "S-Shut up!"
"Didn't say a word," Nezumi defended, chuckling when Shion pulled Nezumi back down towards him by his shoulders and kissing him again. "You're really eager tonight."
"I've been holding back," Shion informed him, and a strange expression flashed over Nezumi's face at his words. He looked down at Shion with a hungry look in his eyes before smirking his special, Shion-only smirk.
"Well, then. Please don't hold back on my account, your majesty," Nezumi murmured, taking Shion's face in his hands and attacking his lips once more.