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Swing Sets and Reincarnation

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"You're a star Nezumi! Your very soul was born from the death of a star, you life is the remnants of the lights in the sky!"

"Hey, Nezumi, did you know, that your my star, that your my light? Have I told you enough times?"

"Hey, Nezumi, you can still hear can't you? I love you. I thought I should just tell you that, one last time."

"Nezumi, you can let go now. You can. No matter what, our reunion will come."


"Goodbye for now."

~~~~~

Nezumi awoke to the blare of his alarm clock, the voice in his head fading into the distance of the night. He slammed his hand down on the clock to shut it up, rolled over with the vague feeling that he was alone. A different type of alone than what he was used to, as though someone had been there but wasn't anymore, or that someone should've been asleep beside him, but they weren't. This was a type of alone he wasn't used to, he was used to breathing with the thought of himself in mind, he was used to the pity in someone's eyes when he was forced to admit the lack of family members he had, he was used to being by himself.

So why did it seem so different? When in reality nothing had changed, those he had to miss were dulled by time, those feelings hollow drifting around in his chest with nothing to do but sit and simply fade, only to erupt with new life and stronger force each and every night. He was used to that.

He wasn't used to this, to feeling alone, like another person belonged and wasn't there.

Nezumi rolled off the bed entirely, deciding nothing was different, that he was just feeling strange after his odd dream of a single voice, a familiar in the strangest ways voice that was attempting to reach inside of him.

Nezumi stepped into his bathroom, splashed the cold water on his face, not that it ever got warm, and stared at himself in the mirror.

Nothing is different. Nothing is different.

Nezumi mouthed at the mirror, not actually saying the words that didn't need to be said. He'd had a dream, a strange one sure, hell it hadn't even been a dream, it'd been a voice, certainly not one to be so worked up over. Nezumi figured it may have something to do with the show tonight. Yes, it could very possibly have something to do with the opening show of Romeo and Juliet tonight that has him a little on edge.

Even if he's never felt anything regarding his shows or how he'd preform. The nerves must've just been catching him late.

~~~~~

"Hi."

Nezumi paused for a moment, wondering if he'd actually heard that, if maybe it was just a figment of his imagination, if that had simply been a side effect of whatever was wrong with him earlier that morning. This thought was dashed when a man stepped beside him, brown eyes, brown hair staring at Nezumi with an expectant look.

"Uh, Hi." He said half expecting to blink the man out of existence, no such luck as the man spoke again, "Hello," the man said once more, his voice too soft, his features pulling apart into a smile, a wide smile with too much emotion. "Would you mind sparing some of your time?" The man asked turning to follow Nezumi who had begun taking steps forward to cross the street away from his apartment. He had rehearsals and wasn't about to miss them over a voice he may or may not have dreamt about.

"Nope." He answered simply, expecting the man to give up whatever it is he was trying to do, the brunette did not though, instead he snorted, "I'm sure you've a few hours." He said almost, playfully?

This guy is a lunatic, absolutely insane, "I don't know what makes you think so, but I have a very needy boss, who expects me to be there on time otherwise his fat ass will have a heart attack." Nezumi stated, hoping that could be the end of it.

"Oh he won't have a heart attack if you're late, after all, it's not his time yet." The brunette explained with an offhand gesture, stopping with Nezumi who paused then whipped around to be face to face with the man.

Brown hair, brown eyes, pale skin, pink lips like cherry blossoms that were undeniably attractive once he'd gotten a good look but unfortunately this man was undeniably annoying.

Those features that had too much emotion dripping off them lacked surprise at Nezumi's sudden movements, he almost looked as though he'd expected it.

"Okay who the hell are you?" He snapped, irritation flaring in his tone.

"I am Death." He answered, his tone too serious with too much genuine emotion pulling at his features.

"Excuse me?" Nezumi asked honestly surprised and somewhat amused by the man's answer. He called himself death. Rather funny honestly.

"Me. I am Death, the very thing you humans claim to be the end but in truth is also the beginning." The brunette explained as though this were the simplest truth of the world, that it should be easy to understand, easy to take, as easy as taking a name. Even if it meant rat.

 

Nezumi wondered for a moment if the guy was flirting or something, though he wasn't very good at it and the man had somewhat of a maniacal smile on his face that only grew as Nezumi's stunned silence stretched front mere moments to minutes.

Yup, the man is insane, absolutely bonkers. Nezumi decided.

"Right, and I'm a woman. See these boobs?" He asked sarcastically, groping the air directly in front of his chest. The man - or Death as he called himself, smiled even wider as though he expected that response. "I'm not only death." The man clarified his smile becoming a grin, "Oh yeah, what else are you? A wizard?"

"No, I, am Love, something that lives within all,within laughter and within tears, within dreams of the past and within fears of the night."

Okay, if this guy was attempting to flirt he absolutely sucked at it, Nezumi had to commend him for his creativity though. But why did it seem like he were speaking pointedly, as though with each word that left his lips he were thinking about Nezumi?

"Anything else?" He asked expecting the man to say no, or give up whatever act he was playing, one he was doing rather well, and give him some form of explanation as to why he was talking to him, or why Nezumi had dreamt of his voice, better yet. Leave. Simply walk out of Nezumi's line of sight as easily as he'd stepped into it.

"Yes, I am Time, the very thing that never stops but ultimately ends." He explained. Death, Love, and Time? Nezumi honestly felt as though he were missing something, or this man was awful at executing a joke.

"So you are a manifestation of contradictions then?"

"You could look at it that way I suppose." He said with a shrug.

"Alright, Death, are you here because I'm supposed to die? Here to claim my life?"

"No, I couldn't ever hurt you, I'm here.." he paused for a moment, rethought his words then continued speaking, "to help you."

"Help me?" Nezumi asked, incredulous, disbelief and genuine surprise tugging down his lips and narrowing his eyes.

"Yes help, make you happier."

"Make, me...happier?" He repeated surprised by the response but even more so, irritated by it, who hell did this guy think he was? Assuming Nezumi wasn't happy. Based off of what? Was he a fan? His features were rather plain, chocolate brown eyes with brown hair to match pretty lips, sure but otherwise it'd be fairly easy to lose this type of face in a crowd, to never see it amongst many other's attempting to grasp his attention after a show.

Stalker. Probably a stalker. A weird one at that, who liked to play silly games. "Yes, happy Nezumi, that thing you steal from yourself for guilt of the past." The man said, his tone gentler now, softer now. He seemed almost tempted to reach out and touch Nezumi, he didn't, clearly stopped himself.

Nezumi didn't like him, the flippant manner in which the man spoke. The way he used Nezumi's name as though he had some right to say it. The looks he offered Nezumi as though he had nothing to lose.

"Who the hell do you think you are? What makes you think I'm not happy? You don't know me." Nezumi snapped.

"Nezumi, I know everything about you, well I guess, I don't know everything about this you." His words were warm, were soft, he spoke genuinely which was annoying, it didn't make sense either. This man was a complete stranger what was he doing talking to Nezumi this way?

"This....me? You realize you make less and less sense the more you talk right? Did you escape from a psych ward or something?" Nezumi asked for a moment wondering if he should be worried for his own safety seeing as this man was insane.

"No," he laughed, breathy, short but full of life when this man declared that he was in fact the opposite.

It was now suddenly that he realized he was so late his manager may have already had his heart attack and Nezumi had missed it. He unfortunately did not own a wrist watch and therefore could not reassure himself with whatever time it was, "Okay, I have no more time to waste on this bullshit so I'm walking away now."

"Nezumi," the brunette started still planted firmly in place, his smile smaller but still there, lingering on his lips as though the man didn't know how to not smile. "You have all of Time, every bit gave itself to you a long time ago, but unfortunately could not give you all of Time. Could only give you moments." He said this, then took steps in the opposite direction of the theatre, walking down the strip of sidewalk and disappearing into the thick of the early morning crowd of men and women alike attempting to get to their own jobs. While the man disappeared Nezumi stood absolutely perplexed, stunned, and simply done with whatever game that guy was playing, he'd been playing it alone.

~~~~~

Once the brunette had rounded the corner, double checked to make absolute sure Nezumi could no longer see him, Shion allowed himself to grin so wide his lips should've split, and let streams pour from his eyes that burned blazing trails down his prickling cheeks. He let himself laugh and cry and revel in the emotions that poured from his being that overwhelmed him, finally, finally not because of grief but because of excitement, because that man with moons in his eyes and the starless sky draped over his head and spilled down his shoulders was everything. His everything. His star. His light.

He was crouched down now, his arms wrapped around his legs and his head buried against his knees, he whispered words to himself that he had not had the strength to admit to himself for a long while.

"I missed you."

~~~~~

Rehearsals were a blur, lines were said and Nezumi as usual was perfect, knew his cues and didn't miss a beat, spoke his lines with power and emotion that surpassed that of all the other actors in the play. He went through the motions that was his life, and now he was sitting in his dressing room (which was really just an oversized closet) wondering at a strange voice he'd dreamt of and a even stranger man he'd met, he'd spoken to. Confusing and probably just messing around. But that wasn't right. That man had too much emotion, he carried these emotions and opened them up like it was easy, like it was easy to trust as though he'd never once been betrayed. And maybe he hadn't, or maybe he was just a good liar.

Either way, Nezumi didn't want to have anther interaction with the guy, ever.

"Eve, you're on in five." A stage hand called, her eyebrows raised expectantly above blue eyes that were narrowed at him, he nodded and while she didn't seem quite satisfied with his response she nodded back then continued on her way.

Nezumi shook his head to himself, swallowed the desire to sigh, the words of a homeless old woman replaying in his mind. Then he allowed his mind to fall quiet, to allow silence to engulf him before he stepped onto that stage where he'd project his voice loud and then the lines he'd need to recite would play in his mind, the only voice in his head would be his own.

Not some stranger's that he'd never heard before that morning, not some stranger's that he'd never even see again.

He was wrong of course. As the show ended and he stumbled back to his apartment exhausted, slipping into bed well past 2:00 o'clock and getting up again at seven because his manager was a bastard and liked overworking his star actor. Who the hell knows why. Stepping outside the apartment building he was once again greeted by a brunette with lips full and the color of cherry blossoms pulled up in yet another smile, chocolate brown eyes that gleamed with something hopeful? Yeah, that seemed right, but the hell was he hoping for? A date? A fuck? That didn't seem too far fetched certainly not when compared to the nonsense he sputtered the day prior.

"So you're a stalker then?" Nezumi questioned as the man fell into step with him.

"No." The brunette answered, laughing a breathy laugh that he attempted to stifle with his hand.
"Oh that's right you're death and time and something else." Nezumi said dryly, "Love." The man corrected, "I am also love."

"Do you have a proper name?" He questioned half expecting the man to either say nope or come up with some other ridiculous thing to call himself.

"Yes I do actually, I'm Shion. And yes, like the flower," He - Shion said.

"I wasn't going to ask." Nezumi replied rolling his eyes at the assumption.

"Nezumi, you always-" he stopped himself mid-sentence, that too big of a smile faltering momentarily before he regained composure and laughed off his own strange comment. Though the way he reacted to it kept Nezumi from asking about it. He didn't much care anyway. "Well then, Shion why are you following me? While I may be single I'm uninterested in stalkers."

"I'm not a stalker. Shion repeated with a shake of his head.

"Then who are you?" Nezumi questioned, expecting the man to finally drop his stupid act. He didn't.

"I told you, I'm Death, I'm Love, and I'm Time." Shion explained once again.

"I call bullshit." Nezumi stated, stopping and pivoting himself so he was facing the brunette who took his scrutinizing gaze head on.

"Ask that man over there if he can see me." He said nodding to a man who was walking up to them, coming to a stop beside Nezumi, awaiting the signal to cross the street.

"That man? Fine. You, hey you! Is there a person standing next to me?" Nezumi asked, turning to the guy who seemed somewhat alarmed by the question.

"Uhh no?" The man responded confusion apparent in the cock of his head and his raised eyebrow.

"There isn't?" Nezumi asked again.

"I-No I don't think so."

"What did you do?" Nezumi whispered turning back to Shion ignoring the questioning look the man gave him as it appeared as though Nezumi were whispering to himself.

"I didn't let him see me, I made myself invisible to that man's eyes." Shion explained simply.

"How do I know you're not just a figment of my imagination and I'm just slowly going insane then?" Nezumi questioned skeptically.

"Ask her." Shion offered gesturing to a woman that was crossing the street, long blonde hair flapping behind her in the breeze her green eyes coming to glance at Nezumi, quickly he conceded and called.

"Hey, you over there, is there someone standing next to me?"

"Uhm yes. Wow you guys have amazing eyes!" She exclaimed her own lighting up with amazement.

"What?" Nezumi asked turning back to Shion who now adorned dark long locks that fell from the top of his head and just past his shoulders, as well as a pair of grey eyes to match Nezumi's own, "The fuck." He whispered as Shion said, "Thanks."

"How?" Nezumi asked, his tone demanding as he awaited an answer with eyebrows raised expectantly.

The mirrored version of himself grinned and suddenly he was Shion again brown hair, brown eyes, full lips, "I can make myself appear to be anyone and everyone."

Nezumi eyed him for a moment then opened his mouth to say more, to ask something else or think of something that could explain what this man or not a man, had just shown him, but before any words left his mouth Shion suggested, "Want to get some coffee, we've been standing here for a long while, I'll answer your questions if you come with me."

Grey eyes narrowed at brown ones, "Fine, but you're buying."

"Sure."

 

Chapter Text

"Well, ask whatever you'd like, I can't promise that I can answer everything though." Shion declared sipping from his coffee, brown eyes glowing in the sunlight that streamed through the large window, lighting up his hair to the extent that it seemed golden beneath the sun's hues. Nezumi narrowed his eyes, "Why couldn't you answer all my questions?"

"Because your brain is incapable of comprehending the world you live in." Shion said with a small shrug.

"So I'm stupid?" Nezumi asked,
sarcasm laced in his tone.

"No, humans have not opened themselves up to the full capacity of their brains, and therefore are incapable of excepting their own tiny existence." The brunette explained, that smile never leaving his face, slipping with the syllables he spoke but otherwise still there, still full of emotion, strong loud emotion that spoke volumes louder than anything Nezumi had ever heard while strangely enough seeming almost painfully familiar.

"What does that mean?"

"It means," Shion started, leaning forward over the tabletop, "that your acceptance of my very existence is quite outstanding."

"I never said I accepted your existence, I still think you're either joking or a good liar." Nezumi said, composure slipping bit by bit the more Shion simply stared at him. Something about him felt off, felt odd, god, what the fuck was happening to him? What the hell was shaking him up so bad, this guy was Death, and Love, and Time, so what? Wasn't that big a deal, he supposed he should start simple with his questions though, "Why can you change your appearance?"

Shion seemed caught off guard by this question, his eyes widening slightly before he relaxed his gaze and opened his lips to answer, "Because I'm not always meant to be seen as a twenty year old." Shion said softly,
"What do you mean?"

"Nezumi, you are more likely to take notice of a twenty year old whereas the woman who runs this bakery was more likely to take notice of a small child." Shion explained watching as bafflement pushed Nezumi's eyebrows together but before he could say more Shion was already talking, "Yes Nezumi, we stepped into a Bakery, I know the owner who is in fact my mother."

"You have a mom? If you have a mom then what the hell is she? Earth? The universe?"

So this guy really was just joking or is that seriously how this works?

"Nezumi, not like that, not the way you humans would perceive a mother to be, she didn't give birth to me as I'm a being that's lived as long as there has been time. But, when a young woman discovered she could not have a child of her own, she adopted one off the street, a helpless looking young boy who desired warmth."

"And that was you?" Nezumi asked, his coffee forgotten, the one he'd added too much sugar to and Shion had chastised him for, told him it was too much and laughed at Nezumi's attempt to spite him by add even more sweetener and in doing so spite himself instead.

Shion nodded, his smile faltering again, what seemed like sadness looked to be pulling at his lips and creasing his eyes, "Why?"
Shion seemed somewhat confused at the question, "Why what?"

"Why did you play as her son?"

"Because she needed me, for a long while she'd been heart broken. I didn't stay forever though, and she did eventually adopt a child, I visit every now and then, she'd adopted him several years ago and named him after me. In fact, she's the reason I call myself Shion." He explained this with almost awe, the love he felt certainly shined through in his tone, "So then where is she?"

"In the back baking," Shion said nodding his head in the direction of the kitchen then turning to his own coffee, perfectly bitter with a slight tinge of sweetness, "Aren't you going to say hi or something?"

"No." He said replacing his cup atop the table and staring intently at Nezumi, his gaze warm (must've just been the light in his eyes) as he finished speaking, "I'm not supposed to visit for a little while longer."

"So what, can you see the future or some crap like that?" Nezumi snorted, sitting back in his own chair because Shion kept leaning forward and as tempted as Nezumi was he wasn't about to give Shion the satisfaction of seeing such curiosity at what would happen if he were to lean forward too.

"No Nezumi, that's not how this works, I cannot see ahead of myself. But I'm pulled places, when someone is desperate for my help I'm pulled to them." Shion supplied with a short shake of his head, the brown mop atop his skull, fluffy, looked fluffy, bounced with the movement.

Tempting indeed.

"You must be pulled to a lot of places all at once."

"Oh I am, always, even right now, someone is crying, someone is hurting, someone is laughing because they no longer feel much of anything and if it hurts to laugh then they feel something, someone else is silent, and is promising to stay silent." Shion said, closing his eyes for a brief moment and clutching at his chest, "So then why the hell are you with me?" Nezumi asked, Shion opened his eyes and turned up his gaze to once again land on Nezumi, "Because I can't save everyone." He stated, the sadness he felt at such words though weighed them down and made them heavier as they fell from his lips like bricks.

"I don't need saving." Nezumi snapped, his tone clipped. "So why are you wasting your time with me?"

"I'm not wasting anything, by being here I'm making the most of what I am." Shion said, sighing at the look he received from Nezumi built up of disbelief, "Sometimes, I have to make a choice, like when I chose to help a man who was dying, who hadn't told his family. His wife would listen as he vomited his own blood into the toilet and took it when he insisted he was fine. Because that man didn't want to die, he didn't want leave the family he'd built that was still growing, but, he had no say in his death so I stepped in to tell him he had a say in his life, that if he didn't tell them and he died, his family may never even get a chance to say goodbye, so he did. He died with a smile on his face and now he is living once again."

"You just said he'd died."

"Nezumi, death while the end of one life it may be, it's also the beginning of another. Endings exist to create new beginnings," Shion said to the scrutiny Nezumi offered him, clearly unconvinced, clearly disbelieving of the truth staring him in the face. "You know Nezumi, one of the hardest things to swallow in life, is the truth."

"And what truth is that?" He scoffed.

"All of them." Shion answered, his tone too serious with too much emotion while still withholding so much.

"Could you turn into a cat?" Nezumi asked completely derailing the conversation deciding he didn't want to talk about that anymore but still wanted some answers. Shion's eyes widened in surprise then narrowed skeptically and finally glinted with some amusement, "Yes, but I don't turn into something, I simply change the way you perceive me."

"That's how you could be seen by me but not that man earlier then?"

"Yes." Shion muttered in a satisfied sigh, still the narrowing in Nezumi's eyes lingered, "What?"

"Could you make yourself have..." he paused for a moment, and tapped his fingertip on his lower lip in thought as he contemplated, "white hair, red eyes and a snake?"

Shion giggled after the initial surprise wore off with another shake of his head, "Yeah I could." He said through breathy giggles. Nezumi continued to stare, expectantly, "Oh you want me to show you?"

Nezumi nodded and watched as color began to drain from Shion's hair, dripped off the tips and left behind a snowy white, a shade of perfection, his pupils dilated to the point that they overtook the color of his iris, when they receded again his irises were red, a brilliant color that practically glowed behind the fringe of his now white hair. His skin took on a paler tone as a red strip pulled up directly below his left eye and curled around his neck to slip below the collar of his white button up.

The absolute awe on Nezumi's face was short lived as he quickly regained composure and slipped back on his mask of indifference that now gleamed with doubled curiosity.

"I morphed my appearance much slower this time." Shion said answering the unasked question on Nezumi's tongue, "What are you?" He asked, "I told you, I'm Death, the ending and the beginning, Love, a laugh or some tears, Time, something that ends but doesn't stop."

~~~~~

After Nezumi had left the bakery, making a quip about Shion's much improved appearance, he allowed himself a moment to breath. To release the breath he'd been withholding during the majority of their discussion. Shion's thoughts fell back into what seemed like a hundred years ago, which it just may have been.

"Hey Nezumi, when you open your eyes again, I'll be here I promise. I know what I told you, I was upset, and I was angry and I'm not used to feeling that type of thing. A-anyway. I have to go now. Just...please don't leave me yet."

Shion whispered to his unresponsive lover, storms hidden behind eyelids that were growing paler by the day, by the hour, by the minute, by the second, in this very moment. Nezumi was going to leave him, he knew it, he wasn't ready, he wasn't ready yet, but he couldn't say that he ever really would be ready to let him go. Again. Again, again.

Shion shook his head, it wasn't then anymore, he knew better than anyone that waiting for the hurt will make the now just as painful. Nezumi is alive, he's breathing and Shion has gotten one more chance to fall in love with him. One more.

~~~~~

Nezumi decided to skip rehearsals entirely after leaving the bakery, glancing at the sign that sat above the door, Karan's Bakery, Nezumi could recall walking past it on several occasions, stopping every time at the smell that wafted from it, that changed depending on the season but never ceased to amaze him. He'd never gone in though, never felt the desire to walk in and spend money on a pastry that last moments.
He hummed then continued on his way.

"Sometimes, I have to make a choice..."

"Why the hell would you choose me then?" He murmured to himself crossing the street, moving further and further from the bakery that threatened to yank him back, he'd wanted to yell at Shion, to tell him just how ridiculous he is, how much time he's wasting, shouldn't Time itself know better? If Shion truly felt the urge to help those in pain why was he bothering with Nezumi? He who has little desire to have more than what he's already got, he was taught at a young age that a person could only have as much as they could carry.

Nezumi carried his job, his rent, basic necessities such as food, and payed his bills on time he didn't need anything else. He was fine like this. He was safe like this. He was fine alone. He was safer alone. Nezumi surely wasn't the happiest person in the world but no one really was, we get moments but otherwise life is pretty crappy. To expect much else was naive.

Nezumi hadn't realized where he was going until he'd stepped into the library, cool and smelled of paper and ink, the carpet as hard against the sole of his boots as the concrete, multicolor dots floating about the blue yarn.

He walked further in picking a random aisle, nodding back to the librarian that nodded at him with a smile, as she always did when he walked in, which was frequent because when he wasn't at the theatre he was here. Nezumi had no desire to be any where else. He supposed in a way, trips to the library to read fiction could be considered a frivolous and unnecessary thing, but it's free and passes the time he didn't otherwise know what to do with.

~~~~~

Many hours later, as the sun began to dip below the horizon, Nezumi exited the library, his stomach protesting at lack of food all day. He glanced to the sunset, vividly colored with different hues of reds and oranges, wondering momentarily at how such a sight could pale in comparison to eyes that stared at him from across a table topped with two coffees one too sweet the other just right inside a bakery named after the owner of such eyes mother.

Nezumi turned from the sky of many colors and stuffed his hands in his jacket pockets, the chill of the evening air biting at his flesh and whitening his breath. Grey eyes landed on buildings that adorned multi-color lights, that were lighting up with the setting of the sun.

Right, Christmas is coming up.

He remembered, though he could say that he much cared for such a holiday, he wasn't religious, and he didn't have someone to spend it with. He supposed he could keep a body next to himself for the night, soak in the warmth of another person in some drunken stupor, it'd probably be one of his fans considering the amount of shoes they'll be doing the week prior to and the week of Christmas.

Nezumi sighed, damnit. He continued down the sidewalk now focusing his gaze on the sidewalk, keeping his thoughts at bay, not thinking about Death, or Love, or Time, he didn't think of anything. So when he arrived at some random fast food place he was irritated upon the discovery that Shion was there too, quite easy to pick from the crowd now that he had stark white hair.

He was in the midst of making light conversation with an old woman, who smiled with all her teeth -dentures most likely- grinned with as much emotion as Shion did. A dog stood beside her, cocking its head in the direction of the doorway where Nezumi stood, drawing both the slender old woman's stare as well as Shion's.

He grinned at Nezumi, said his goodbye to the woman with long greying hair, a strand of it hung across her face in a way that was clearly exasperating as she continually tried to blow it off her face.

Shion stopped in front of Nezumi, drawing grey eyes from chocolate brown ones, a smile still lingering on plump pink Sakura colored lips, "You want to let me inside, my ass is freezing."

"Oh, yeah." Shion said as he stepped back out of the way, allowing Nezumi to step fully into the warmth of the space. "Who was the woman you were talking to?"

"Inukashi." He said warmly, his gaze falling back on the old woman. "In her last life she died young, very young." Shion said his voice tinged with bitterness?

"You knew her in her last life?" Nezumi asked turning his own gaze back to the old woman who was standing at the front of the line at the counter, taking her order and pointing to her dog several times. "Mhm." Shion hummed, "You hungry?"

"Well I didn't come in here to watch a bunch of strangers eat." Nezumi said shrugging, a small smile pulling at his lips when Shion inevitably laughed, breathy, lively, beautifully.
"Alright, I can order for us then, you find us a table." Shion declared walking over to the line leaving Nezumi with a retort hanging on his lips. He huffed a breath that made his bangs fly, then turned to find an empty table, fortunately there was a booth unoccupied in a corner, furthest away from people. Perfect.

He sat himself down, hands still in his pockets, watching Shion move from last place in the line to first, every so often red eyes would glance back to grey ones, lips delivered another smile then he'd turn back, each time this happened Nezumi either shook his head or rolled his eyes.

The fifth time this happened the old woman stepped in Nezumi's line of sight, she was a short woman and she squinted at him as if she were searching for something, "Can I help you?" He asked, she seemed somewhat startled by the question, or possibly the fact that he was talking, "What's your name?" She asked in a rasp, her voice like sandpaper, "Why?"

"Because I once knew man who looked so much like you, he even had a ponytail just like yours. I was young and didn't know him long though, he's dead now...you just look so similar." She explained, a wistful look upon her features tugging at her smile and forming more crinkles around her eyes. "Nezumi." He murmured not really sure why he was giving her his name, just that he was.
"I'm Nezumi."

Her eyes glazed over with a dull shine, "I miss him." She muttered through cracked dry lips, "Oh sorry, this is probably very strange, I'm Inukashi, now I must head home before it gets too cold out." She said in goodbye beckoning to her dog whom he had not even noticed, watching as the animal turned from him and ran up to the woman, sniffing her fingers and continuing out of the building at her side.

Chapter Text

"What the hell happened?" Inukashi whispered to the lifeless form of her dying friend who lie in a hospital bed, hooked up to many machines designed to breath for him.

"Inukashi..." Shion murmured, almost pleadingly, how many times did she need him to repeat it?

"What happened?" She asked again, this time her tone angrier. She hadn't visited him not once after the accident. She'd refused, saying she'd see him when he woke up.

"Inukashi, I told you what happened." Shion repeated, sounding tired, he was tired.

"When is he waking up?" She asked because she always asked and she didn't trust doctors so she always asked Shion. 

"I don't think he will." Shion choked out, amazed at the fact that he could even form these words, to wrap his lips around syllables he hadn't let himself even consider during the nine months his lover had been here. 

"Are you pulling the plug? Are you going to kill him?" Inukashi asked in an accusatory manner turning herself away from the man with grey eyes and the night sky that was his hair.

"It wouldn't be killing him if he's already gone..." Shion whimpered, trying hard not to cry in front of her, she's still so young and if he cried she'd most certainly cry no matter how strong she was trying to be. She was still only thirteen. He swallowed them back. Afraid of the decision he'll have to make but still had yet to do so. Inukashi fisted her hands at her sides, "I call bullshit! He'll wake up! He will and then he'll be pissed at you for not believing in him!"

"Sir, your food?" The man asked, holding out Shion's order, "Right, yeah thank you." Shion said, a smile on his lips that threatened to be yanked back down. Shion handed the man his money, then sidestepped out of the line, food in hand he turned and walked over to Nezumi, who was awaiting him in a booth furthest from people.

Of course.

The look Nezumi wore when Shion arrived at the table was dumbfounded, he looked utterly confused and Shion couldn't blame him. He bit his lip, knew Inukashi had probably said something to him, knew it had to do with when she was younger.

"Hey, here's your food. I got what you like I swear." Nezumi snapped his gaze from the floor and looked up at Shion, his presence seemed to startle the man for a moment before he calmed and eyed the food suspiciously, "How do you know what I like?" He asked as Shion placed their food on the table, "That's..a story for a different day." Shion mumbled sitting himself down across from Nezumi, who narrowed his grey eyes.

"What did Inukashi talk to you about?" Shion asked disregarding the burning stare Nezumi offered him, still the man responded, "She asked what my name was." He replied simply with a stiff shrug. Shion hummed, averting his gaze to the food between them, honestly Shion had lost an appetite, he didn't need to eat anyway. But he had spent the money and he knew Nezumi would get angry if he saw Shion waste the food on top of the money.

Their meal was eaten in silence despite Shion's desire to talk and Nezumi's desire to ask a million questions that ran about frantically within his mind.

When they'd both finished they'd stood, tossed out their trash and left the building where the amount of people had halved during their stay. When they'd stepped outside the icy cold of the night bit Shion's cheeks and stung the tip of his nose. "Nezumi," Shion murmured his gaze on the moon that hung lazily in the sky, "Could you come with me for a bit?"

~~~~~

Nezumi didn't know what had compelled him to agree to following this psycho somewhere secluded, at night. But he had and he was beginning to worry that may have been a bad idea.

"You're not dragging me all the way out here to murder me right?" Nezumi questioned, glancing at the surrounding foliage that Shion had dragged him into, oddly enough seeming familiar. Shion had promised something interested awaited them at the end of the dirt trail that had chunks of what appeared to be road sticking up out of the earth.

"Maybe." Shion hummed. Amusement glinting in the starlight that shown along Shion's features, making his hair shine and his eyes gleam. "Trust me. Okay?" He offered, his words white puffs, continuing through the trail that began to slope taking them up hill.

"This used to be a road, you know. At the top of the hill there used to be a house. A small, one bedroom house that was home to three. Two adults and a toddler, four maybe she had five years old. And after that, a little while later it became home to a family of four." Shion explained as they kept walking, his steps slowing the closer they got to the edge of the trees.

Shion sucked in an audible breath, then took off running. "Wha?" Nezumi mumbled somewhat confused, and began to walk at a quicker pace until he'd stepped out of the trees. Looking up to see Shion sitting beneath the moon light, soaking it up as it poured over him, seated in a swing. "We aren't very high up, but there's a pretty decent view of the town. Fifteen yeas ago, this didn't even exist. But when the forest that once stood here burnt down, people decided to build here." Nezumi tore his gaze from a glowing Shion down to their small town, the theatre, the bakery, the library were easily spotted from his position.

Familiar.

So much about this place felt familiar in the strangest of ways.

"Sit in the one beside me." Shion beckoned, pointing to the swing hanging next to him. The chains shined in the moonlight as though they were brand new, the seat while dusted with dirt was otherwise fairly new looking too.

Why didn't he know of this place? Well that was easily answered, he didn't much care to see or know about different parts of the town, he was content in his small theatre and spending time in his small library that people rarely visited, content with visiting the same grocery store each time he needed to restock food.

What else did he need?

Nezumi plopped down on the swing, the chains protesting at the sudden weight he'd so rudely placed upon it. "These swings have been in this spot for a long time. In fact, the man I fell in love with lifetimes ago built them," Shion murmured into the chilled air, his words slipping off his lips in shaky ease. Grey eyes glanced to red ones that stared straight ahead, off the edge of the hill and down at their small town. Nezumi couldn't place it but something felt wrong in his chest and he didn't have a response to Shion's statement, except for one question that hung off his tongue but he was adamant in not saying.

You have someone you love?

"He died." Shion muttered, "He's alive now."

"Did he-" Nezumi started not sure why he was asking it, why he was saying anything at all but Shion cut him off before he could finish, "Yes, he did, he always does." Shion said simply, turning his gaze to Nezumi, a cocktail mix of perplexity and something else Nezumi himself didn't even realize he felt swirled about his features.

"How does Love itself fall in love with just one person?" Nezumi asked, breaking the pause because the silence had just been too quiet, too empty. Shion grinned, "I don't know. All I know is, I fell hopelessly in love him lifetimes ago." He explained softly.

Nezumi was tempted to ask who it was, if the identity of such a person that somehow gained the complete and utter affection of Death itself, Love itself, Time itself, was someone he knew. Or maybe the man lived in Tokyo, maybe the man wasn't even Japanese, maybe the man was American or something.

Nezumi clenched his jaw, he didn't care, he didn't, why would he care?

"Why does the swing set look so new?" Nezumi asked, diverting the conversation as he didn't want to talk about Shion's significant other that may or may not even be aware of his existence. "Because I rebuilt it, no one really knows about this spot, and when the forest burnt down, the house and the swing set burnt with it." Shion said, his tone wistful as his gaze went back to the moon.

"Oh."

"Mm."

From this spot he could clearly see all the stars that dotted the sky with their lights and oddly enough, he felt as though he were seeing them for the very first time in years. Nezumi recalled looking at such a sky when he was young, when he sat atop his father's broad shoulders and pointed out constellations that he wasn't sure he could discern anymore.

It's been so long.

"I've got to go." Nezumi said, feeling uncomfortable, feeling like something was wrong.

Nothing was wrong. Everything was wrong.

"Ok." Shion agreed standing up too, Nezumi moved away, went to walk off, from the familiarity of this place, of Shion, of his voice that he dreamt about. He wanted to get away from Shion who was wasting his time on making Nezumi, what was it? Happy? Happy, Nezumi didn't want it.

He kept his pace several steps ahead of Shion's, ensuring he didn't have to look at him and his strange appearance that for some reason he kept. His strange appearance that was absurdly attractive. His strange appearance that belonged beside someone else.

Nezumi shook his head, shut up his own thoughts because he couldn't trust them, and continued walking like nothing was wrong. Because nothing was wrong.

When they'd come up on his apartment Nezumi waving him goodbye, Shion said, "Nezumi." In response he turned back to look directly at the man for the first time since they'd left the hilltop. Shion wore a strange expression, like he was deciding something before he reached out and cupped Nezumi's cheek, catching him off guard certainly not preparing him for the press of plump Sakura colored lips against his own.

Nezumi was given no chance to kiss back or even push him off for Shion was already pulling away, something sad shining in his eyes, "I'll be at the hilltop tomorrow morning, it'd be nice if you came too." Shion murmured, his words not registering to Nezumi's ears, not when too many thoughts whirred about in his head, not when he was consumed by confusion and something that seemed to ache in his chest. "Goodnight Nezumi," Shion whispered, dropping his gaze, his hand retracting from Nezumi's face, palm warm, soft, fingertips gentle, as he stepped back, then turned to walk away.

Nezumi nearly reached out and grabbed his wrist, nearly caught that hand and brought back those lips because damn it felt good to have them pressed against his own. It felt good to have some human contact, fuck, when was the last time someone had touched him like that? So tenderly like that?

Nezumi didn't, he refrained, held his hands balled into tight fists. Decided he wasn't going to see Shion the next morning, hoped he didn't ever see him again.

~~~~~

Shion was smiling again, so broadly that it hurt, but he didn't care, and while the prickly feeling seemed to invade his cheeks and burn his eyes, he didn't care. How he'd missed touching Nezumi, he shouldn't have kissed him though, but he didn't care. Not at this moment, not now that he felt a happiness he hasn't felt for years.

"I missed you so much." He murmured to himself on the empty sidewalk.

Shion wanted Nezumi to fall in love with him already, but they'd only been talking for two days. Love didn't work that way, Shion had lifetimes of loving that man, Nezumi didn't. Not that he remembered anyway.
He would, he would whenever his soul left his body, he'd catch a glimpse of all his lives, of all those times he fell for Shion and he fell for Nezumi all over again.

I want to touch him...

Shion continued on his way, not sure how he'd make it through that night, not when it'd feel like another eternity till he saw Nezumi again. But that was fine, Shion could deal with it, the anticipation. He knew how to wait. He'd grown good at it, in ways he didn't even realize a being such as himself needed practice at.

~~~~~

Nezumi went to bed that night restless, feeling emptier than usual, that hilltop with a swing set, a small one that could seat two people, red much like Shion's eyes.

Nezumi rolled over, keeping his hands between his knees because he knew if he removed them, his fingertips would fly to his lips. To check, to see if there was any lingering warmth there, if his lips were stained with cherry blossom pink, if the color would rub off on his fingertips, or perhaps stick to his lips and never wash off. Proof that Shion had touched him. Shion had kissed him. Why the fuck did he do that?

Nezumi rolled over again. He was tired, he wanted to be tired, he closed his eyes and the first thing he saw were red ones, were mornings spent simply staring, waiting for them to open, so he could kiss them closed again,earn that sigh of satisfaction he knew so well, earn the giggle when his lips left pink ones and traced over a red snake, his jawline, dipping down to his throat and moving even further to his collarbone.

He rolled over again, and this time he rolled completely off the edge of his mattress landing on his back with a loud thump, he groaned to himself. Sat up, and tried to disregard his strange thought that felt too real, too much like it's actually happened. Like it had been a memory.

Nezumi threw himself unceremoniously back onto his bed, slipping beneath the covers that he'd snatched from the floor, closing his eyes and seeing only darkness. Taking comfort in the familiarity that he knew so well.

When he awoke the next morning he noticed he didn't feel any emptier than he usually did, good sign right?

He stood, used the bathroom, splashed his face with cold water, went to get dressed and as he did so came up with a good excuse for missing the showing last night.
Left his apartment, went down the hallway and stepped onto the elevator. He hated elevators but he hated stairs more.

Nezumi broke through the door of his apartment building, the cold air just as biting as it had been the night prior. Not knowing why the hell he was doing it, but he followed the same route he'd taken the night before to get to his apartment from the hilltop, a solid twenty minute walk that he shouldn't even be taking.

But it didn't matter because twenty minutes later he was standing at the edge of the foliage, watching as Shion laughed with an older woman, her hair was brown, the same brown that had once colored Shion's own hair, brown eyes and a wide smile that matched Shion's. They were laughing and talking whilst a young boy with auburn hair was seated on the swing set, his legs pumping back and forth, back and forth. Calling to the two, exclaiming "Watch me, watch me!"

There was another woman too, she was younger, looked to be around Nezumi's age, her hair was bobbed, and she was smiling too but not nearly as broadly as the other two. Nezumi watched for a moment longer, then turned to leave, he had rehearsals, he had a job, he had a life. Shion was someone that just didn't belong. It was best that they part ways now, Nezumi hadn't gotten any answers to any of his questions, like what the hell Shion was doing, what the hell he was thinking, what the hell he even was, but he didn't need them. He was fine without them.

He was fine without a being promising him happiness, since when had he needed to feel happy, contentment was fine, was good enough.

Right?

~~~~~

Shion watched as Nezumi turned and left, his eyes hadn't met Shion's, they'd lingered on his mother, and examined Safu, they'd followed the young Shion on the swing set, calling out "Look what I can do! Look what I can do!" As he swung higher and higher threatening to wrap the chain around the metal rod that held him up.

Shion felt himself deflate a little, this was normal, this was Nezumi.

Nezumi who didn't trust easily, Nezumi who didn't accept the necessity of other people easily because too many had left him behind. His family, burned alive in their own home, Nezumi only spared because he'd gotten away, not unscathed of course, burn scars littered his back, permanent reminders of what he'd lost, of what he'd refuse to ever have again.

"Is he coming?" Safu asked, her tone soft almost worried sounding, "No, Safu, he's not." Shion said gently.

"Jerk." She muttered, pursing her lips, "He's not a jerk, you realize he just met me two days ago." Shion said cocking his head a little at Safu who harrumphed, "You told him didn't you?"

"Told him what?" Shion asked confused, "Uh, the truth. You know, how he's your destined, your one and only?" She asked pointedly, jabbing him in the side with her elbow, he squirmed and said, "No! Of course not, why would I tell him that? Have you forgotten already that he just met me two days ago, for him that was the first time." Shion said, exasperated but ultimately amused at his friend's words.

"And your point is?" Safu asked, shaking her head, her hair swishing back and forth with the slight movement. "Nezumi doesn't work that way, he still hardly believes that I am who I say I am. And I don't blame him, I'm sure if I was in his shoes I'd be unconvinced as well." Shion said, ending his sentence in a mumble. "I don't understand why you'd say that, after all I believed you the very first time you told me, regardless of the fact that you could make yourself like me." Safu declared.

"Yeah, well, Safu your not like regular people." Shion laughed, "I'm going to take that as a compliment." She said after a moment, smiling up at him, something like pity though seemed to curl in her lips and swirl about in her brown irises. "Safu he'll come around, he always does. He just needs time."

"But, Shion, you said that he doesn't..." The lightness to her tone was gone, it was soft now, and she clearly hadn't a clue how to finish her sentence. "Safu, I know what told I you, but he's got this lifetime." Shion said quietly, stealing his gaze from hers, bringing it over to land on his mother, who was pushing little Shion, his head thrown back in laughter and his mother smiling so bright she put the sun to shame.

"I have this lifetime, it'll be the last one for a long time but, I'm glad I have this one." Shion said.

"And what happens if he dies young again?" Safu asked quietly her gaze drifting over to Shion's mom and little Shion who were now running about, Karan attempting to catch him as he ran around the swing set. Giggling uncontrollably as she continually chanted, "I'm gonna catch you!"

"He shouldn't, not in this lifetime. But even if he did, I'm still going to cherish the last bit of time I have with him." Shion said softly, the whisper of a smile tugging at the corners of his lips.
"Before-"

"Before he becomes a star again."

Chapter Text

"Nezumi? Nezumi, oh god..Nezumi, please. Please, please be ok. Can you open your eyes for me, please?"
.
"Nezumi why haven't you woken up yet? I miss you. Please, please come back to me. You promised you always would. You did and you don't remember but you did! You also promised you'd never lie to me...."
.
.
"Goddamnit Nezumi! Please, give some sort of fucking sign that you're coming back. That you're still in there because I can't tell anymore!"
.
.
.
"I love you Nezumi, I'm waiting for you."

.
.
.
.
.
"You aren't coming back...are you?"

~~~~~

Nezumi woke with wet cheeks and tears stuck in his eyelashes. His heart beat erratically and his breaths shuddered out of him. Nezumi sat up abruptly as though he'd just woken from a nightmare a terrible awful one, much like the dreams of a baby's cries and his mother's screams. But this dream had been different, what was worse was that he couldn't even remember what the dream had been about. What had run rampant through his mind as he slept. But he did remember the feeling, the emotion behind whatever it was his subconscious came up with. It hurt. Ached in the center of his chest as though there were a gaping hole there.

There wasn't, he checked, clutched at his chest thinking it could release whatever pent up pressure was there. That didn't work either. Cold shower might, but a glance to his bedside table where a clock sat atop it told him that wasn't happening. He stood, walked over to his bathroom, slipped in, flicked on the light, twisted the faucet, splashed the liquid ice on his face. Avoided looking at himself in the mirror suddenly worried he'd see something awful, the feeling compelling him to look anyway.

He saw absolutely nothing different.
Nothing at all, same grey eyes, same lips, same nose, same hair that was messy from sleep but otherwise unchanged.

Nothing was different.

His routine was different he supposed, it'd been a week since Shion had kissed him, and besides the occasional touches here or there Shion hadn't really touched him since. Hadn't kissed him since. But he had in fact begun seeing Nezumi's shows, despite the fact that the very same thing has been playing for six days straight, he was honestly amazed that the man insisted on coming to watch the same damn thing over and over. Insisted on meeting him after the show, dragging him over to the swing set to sit. To sit in silence or make idle chit-chat either way, Nezumi could not pin Shion's thoughts, he couldn't begin to guess what the man was thinking. He certainly did not understand the man's actions.

He sighed, fuck....

Stepped out of his bathroom, dressed while doing so remembering that there weren't any rehearsals until later on that evening just before the final showing of Romeo and Juliet. So Nezumi had free time, and hadn't been to the library much less read a book in a week. That was a very long time for Nezumi and he absolutely hated it. So the library was where he was headed.

He left his aparmtment, followed the sidewalk several blocks, watching as the library slowly came into view. Crossed a couple streets.

Nezumi walked into the library, acknowledging the librarian's nod and continuing on his way into a random aisle. Searching for who knows what, he certainly didn't. What he was surprised to find though (not pleasantly) was Shion, his steps slow, his fingertips lightly tracing the backs of books, feather light touches that bounced from one book to the next. He clearly sensed Nezumi's presence, as his fingers ceased for a moment then fell to grip the shelf lightly, twisting himself around so he could look at him.

"Hi Nezumi," Shion murmured quietly, the whisper of a smile gracing his lips, not big and loud like the one he'd worn the night prior as he talked of his experiences as a being that lives forever.

He'd said that a very long time ago, he'd been a queen, Nezumi had snickered at the prospect of the man as a woman and was harshly punched in the shoulder for it. Nezumi had even asked if he should start referring to Shion as Her majesty, to which Shion punched him again with an indignant No.

Still that did not prevent Nezumi from bidding Shion goodnight with, Sleep well your majesty. He'd even took a defensive stance in case the man had the urge to punch him again, instead though, the man wore a smile, sad, wistful, while also seemingly beyond happy. Shion then said goodnight for second and left Nezumi standing before his apartment building willing himself not to think too hard on the look Shion had offered him.

No his smile right now was not like the one he'd worn last night, it was quiet, it was subtle, it was soft and Nezumi suddenly felt the urge to press his lips to Shion's, to feel that smile against his mouth. To run his tongue along it and taste it, see if it would taste like the flower his lip color implied. He wanted that smile to be his. He wanted that smile to be for him. But this person did not belong to him, couldn't belong to him. What was he doing desiring something he couldn't have? Since when had he been so delusional?

"Hi." Nezumi whispered, wondering if his pause lasted too long, if Shion noticed and somehow knew what Nezumi had been thinking about.

Wondered if this man pitied him.

"What were you planning to borrow?"

"What?"

"A book, Nezumi." Shion said.

"Oh," Nezumi muttered, "I don't know. I don't usually come here with something in mind." Nezumi shrugged, Shion's gaze felt heavy, bore into him. Nezumi couldn't remember the last time someone truly looked at him, truly looked at him. Not Eve. Not the character he was playing. Not someone he was pretending to be. Not the mask of thick sarcasm and indifference. But Nezumi. Shion was looking at Nezumi.
Shion was seeing him.

What the hell could he see?

"I was going to get Hamlet, care to read it with me?" Shion offered holding out a book Nezumi was only just now noticing, grasped firmly in his left hand.
"I've already-" Nezumi started, "Read it, I know, Nezumi." Shion said, effectively cutting off Nezumi's sentence while also finishing it, though he wasn't done talking quite yet, "I just wanted to know if you'd keep me company, I've read the book too, several times. It's my favorite too."

"In my apartment." Shion added.

Too, that addition to Shion's sentence was not missed, was not lost on Nezumi who'd never told anyone his favorite Shakespearean book had been Hamlet.
Who'd never had anyone to tell.
"Would you mind reading it with me?" Shion asked breaking the silence that lingered between them.

Nezumi didn't answer, not verbally, not with a yes or no, he just nodded. Unsure of himself as his head bobbed slightly, then turned on his heel, not bothering to check and see if Shion was following him because he knew for a fact that he was.

Paused for a moment at the exit, give Shion a moment to check out the book, before stepping outside beside him, white hair glowing in the suns rays, blinding, but utterly impossible not to stare at. Not to admire, the only thing that could divert his gaze would be those eyes, a brilliant red that was brighter than the sunset. Warmer than flames, as natural as the crimson that dripped from a paper cut. Then from there his gaze would fall to that snakelike scar that started below his right eye and curled around his neck, curiosity would often get the better of him as he thought on just how far that snake wrapped around Shion's body. White hair and sunset colored eyes that proved such beauty didn't have to be fleeting, a scar-like mark on his cheek, belonged to someone.

Shion had already given himself to someone else.

Nezumi dropped his gaze to the concrete, reminded himself that he didn't give a fuck about whoever it is that Death, Love, and Time gave himself to ages ago. He didn't.

Nezumi instead focused on the cool of the early afternoon air, focused on his empty stomach, he should probably eat something, he focused on Hamlet, on the book grasped firmly in gentle fingers, he didn't focus on Shion's hair, on Shion's eyes, on his scar, or his lips.

"Fuck..." Nezumi groaned, not intending to say it loud but catching Shion's attention nonetheless as they rounded a corner, and crossed a street.
"What?" Shion hummed red eyes trained on what Nezumi assumed to be Shion's apartment building as it came into view. "Nothing." Nezumi snapped, Shion seemingly unfazed by Nezumi's sudden hostility except for the slight flinch, the subtle jolt of his shoulders that had Nezumi feeling some guilt at taking out his frustrations on the man. Even though technically this was all Shion's fault.

They arrived at Shion's building, a few stories high. The man leading him from the entrance to the elevator, because if he knew what Nezumi's favorite book was, Shion surely knew of Nezumi's hate for elevators and stairs. But believed stairs to be the bigger evil of the two. Stepping through stainless steel doors, Shion jamming his thumb into the button for the third floor.

Getting off the elevator and walking down the hall, a couple doors down Shion stopped, pivoted himself so he faced the door, unlocked it with minimal effort and pushed open the door. Offering Nezumi a smile before asking, "You hungry? Safu always has her fridge and cabinets stocked."

Shion sidestepped, making room for Nezumi to step into the space, what he assumed to be the living room, grey eyes trailing along the space. To the left was a kitchen, small, cute, to the right was the living room, a couch, a coffee table, and a tv. Further over was a hallway, from where he was standing he could clearly see a door to either a bedroom or a bathroom. "Safu? So this isn't your apartment?" Nezumi asked dubiously.

"No, I'm just staying with her for a bit." Shion explained, shutting the door, locking it, then moving to place Hamlet on the countertop, maneuvering about the kitchen with practiced ease as he opened cabinets, turned on the stove after filling up a teapot. "Why?" Nezumi asked, following after Shion, stopping to lean against the sink.
"Why what?"

"Why are you staying here?" Nezumi questioned quirking an eyebrow, curiosity really being his only motive for asking. Shion looked at him as he thought of an answer, clearly unsure of how to answer but nonetheless putting something together that may or may not be a decent explanation.

"Because she asked me to. I left this town for a long while, I had been taken to a lot of other places, men and women alike in need of some form of reassurance, be that as a kind word in passing or a shove in the right direction, like when I reminded a man just how important love is, how it's in every decision he makes and feeling he feels, be that hate or happiness it's there. He just had to rediscover it. Or when a woman who had long past the time when she could have kids, or so she believed, when in reality she had many, she had so many that loved her dearly even though they weren't her kids, weren't birthed by her. I reminded her that family is so much more than blood relations." He paused, caught his breath, continued, "Safu, called me while I was on my way back, said she knew I was coming and that I'd be staying with her. I didn't get much say in the matter." He laughed, opened mouthed, loudly as though this were the funniest thing on earth.

It just might have of been, it was enough for Nezumi's lips to quirk slightly, offset but completely comfortable smirk that effortlessly pulled at his lips whenever this man smiled big, with all his teeth.

"What is Safu?"

Shion snorted a laugh and replied, "Safu, she's just Safu, yes she's human like you. But I've met her every lifetime." He said, his words carrying warmth to rival that of the sunlight or the steam rapidly seeping through the teapots spout.

"Every lifetime? How the hell did you manage that? How many lives has she lived?"

Shion chuckled as he turned to the squealing teapot, turned off the stove and moved to fill two mugs with tea. "Many, many, many lifetimes. I lost count of just how many times she became my best friend." Shion said, his words dripping the immense affection he felt for this person. "We're friends from childhood, well her childhood. I'm simply playing he part as my mother's son, growing like a normal child, giving her time to come to terms with the fact that her body is incapable of birthing a child. Anyway, I spend those years like any other child and I always meet Safu. Because she is always in need of a friend, without me her childhood would have run differently. People weren't exactly fond of Safu and her mind that understood things well past her level." Shion continued, passing Nezumi one of the plain white mugs, wrapping his hands around his own, smiling softly with the gentle touch of steam.

Nezumi took the mug, gripped it firmly, sucked in the scent, wet because of the steam, strong because of how long Shion allowed the tea to steep. "Would you like any sweetener? Sugar?" Shion suggested, adding a sweetener to his own, a very small amount, before placing the rim between his lips and tipping the cup up, sipping at the still boiling hot beverage.

Nezumi shook his head, didn't much like sweet things, took a drink of his own tea regardless of the fact that it felt like fire as it ran down his throat, still too hot to be drinking. But Nezumi had nothing to say and didn't want to extend the silence by keeping his mouth shut, feeling like an idiot.

Shion pulled the mug from his lips, bit down on his bottom lip, teeth sinking into plump pink, shouldn't have looked attractive. It did.
Shion released his lip, opened his mouth to speak, "You ready to read?"

"When does your friend come back?"

"Not for a couple hours." Shion said.

"Ok." Nezumi said, downing the last bit of liquid fire that should've tasted like tea but only tasted of heat then watched Shion expectantly. He smiled again, did the guy ever stop smiling?
Then moved to grab the book, sipping the last remnants of his own tea and placing the mug in the sink behind Nezumi. Reaching back behind him, pink lips so close Nezumi was tempted to touch them, to reach out and trace fingertips across his mouth, see what that smile felt like against his skin and if he could steal it for himself.

His eyelashes are white too.

Nezumi noticed from this distance, they fluttered as Shion blinked. Then he backed away, too soon, much too soon Shion was stepping back, grabbing Hamlet and beckoning for Nezumi to follow before slipping out of the kitchen and leading the way into the living room. Passing the couch entirely and walking into the hallway, a door to the right several steps in Shion twisted the doorknob of.

"This wasn't a plot to bed me, right?" Nezumi asked sarcastically, following closely behind Shion, honestly startled by the clutter. He had towers of books surrounding his bed? Bed, yeah it looked like a bed, certainly not big enough for a grown man least of all two. There was a desk to the right side of him, also covered with books and what seemed like an endless amount of papers. Shion shuffled about the space, clearing up some of his mess, which was just stacking the books in a corner.

He plucked a random one from the desk, not expecting much, but most certainly not expecting this;

1990

He died again today, I miss him. He left me around noon, finally let go. I wonder if I had asked him to stay a little longer if he would have. Probably not, I knew deep down he was going, but it's hard accepting that. It's so hard. 

His funeral is in a couple weeks, Inukashi is heartbroken. Swore she wasn't coming, oh but that's simply just her fourteen year old self rejecting the very concept of death. Oh yeah..he missed her birthday. Anyway, his life will restart in a couple decades. I know that, I promised her that. She'd screamed. I'd never heard her call out like that. Ever.

Nezumi looked up, the shuffling had ceased, footsteps abruptly stopped, grey eyes landing on red ones that stared at him with pure sadness and maybe even some fear. Nezumi didn't know for sure, but what he did see swirling about within red irises was enough to catch his breath and make his stomach churn. He swallowed something thick and heavy, his tongue refusing to move, to create the sounds necessary to voice I'm sorry.

"It's okay. Nezumi, it's okay, just...please...don't read that. I'll let you, in the future...but not right now. You..just..please?" Shion pleaded, fuck Shion was begging him to put the page down, the page he'd had no business picking up but he had done so anyway. Shion who's voice shook with pain as his eyes gleamed with an overlay of tears.

Fuck

"Nezumi." Shion murmured, his form closer now, gently slipping the page from Nezumi's clenched fingers, "Its ok Nezumi. You can read them, just not right now. You aren't ready yet. I'm.. not ready yet."

Nezumi nodded because he didn't have the voice to speak, didn't have the strength to lift his tongue or manipulate his lips to protest. To demand what the hell Shion meant by he isn't ready yet. What the hell wasn't he ready for?

What the hell was Shion doing, what the hell was he thinking? What the hell did he want?

"Read?" Shion asked, he almost sounded as though he were pleading with Nezumi, to just disregard what he'd read, to pretend it hadn't happened. "Yeah." Nezumi said his voice barely audible, hardly leaving his lips, he didn't even know if they'd moved, if he'd actually said anything or if he just imagined it. Shion smiled again, small and sad, but he smiled nonetheless, like he didn't know how to not smile.

Even when it hurt to.

Chapter Text

His eyes opened slowly, sunlight streaming in and pushing away the darkness that lingered in the corners of his eyes. It was blinding, painful, incited a round of pounding within his skull as though there were a hammer rapidly ramming against his forehead in quick succession. The burning brightness of the suns rays gradually faded, the sky came into view as well as the tops of trees, obscuring the sight of the overcast sky.

Puffs of white left his lips with every breath he exhaled. Shion couldn't think of much, his body felt sticky, his hair stuck to his face.

Shion knew this feeling, knew it well. It was the feeling of lying in your own blood. It was the feeling of your own blood dried to your skin. It was the feeling of warmth that still poured from fresh wounds. Though it didn't matter, it didn't matter that the back of his head had surely split open upon contact with the ground. Road?

Most likely, last thing he remembered flashed through his thoughts. His eyes had been on Nezumi, not the expanse of snow covered trees as they drove passed them, heading back to Inukashi who awaited them, they had been on their way home. His fingers splayed along Nezumi's jean clad thigh, body heat emanating from his leg and slipping into Shion's fingertips. They'd been talking, discussing something, he remembered Nezumi's lips moving. He remembered warning him, claiming he had a bad feeling. Something was about to happen, he'd no clue what exactly, but he knew someone's life was about to end.

They had not been new feelings, but normally the death soon to take place would feel far off, he'd know for a fact it wasn't anyone nearby, it wasn't the man beside him. But at that time, at that time he hadn't been sure. He'd grown wary too late, he'd said something moments too late.

That's right.

Shion remembered, he remembered Nezumi slowing the car as per Shion's instruction, his claims about an odd feeling that morphed into a painful gut feeling that nearly had him doubling over. He remembered the truck, the large truck that slid in the ice, the drivers attempts at gaining control of his skidding vehicle only worsening things as the truck slammed into them.

Shion didn't know how he'd been ejected from the passengers seat, or how the car ended up flipped over in the foliage, he didn't where Nezumi was.

"Nezumi?" He croaked, throat burning with the three syllables. Sounding awful as they fell from his dry lips. That lovely name sounding broken as it fell off his tongue.

Shion's body was heavy, he knew this feeling, it was the feeling of the healing process, his body was capable of healing all wounds, though it was slow and painful. So painful. But right now he hardly felt a thing besides the blood chilling fear that weakened his bones, creating the worst feeling in his stomach. It hurt. He was afraid. So, so afraid.

With a breath that racked his body, he sat up, pushing himself up on limbs that shook and threatened to buckle beneath his weight that seemed to double with fatigue. Once propped up on his elbows, Shion's eyes scanned the area, taking the blood, all the blood, the truck was still on the road. Whomever the driver was, was not visible from where Shion was.

"Nezumi. " he said again, not expecting a response, hoping for one anyway. Nothing. Silence so thick he could hear as all the individual snowflakes that drifted slowly to the earth hit the ground.

~~~~~

"I'm home." She called, her voice echoing throughout her house, listening for the telltale whisper of a welcome home signaling her grandmother being aware of her presence. Instead she was greeted with silence, a cruel reminder of her grand mother's recent passing. She sighed heavily, shut the door behind herself, locked it and moved further into her home. "Shion!" Safu called, "I'm back! Hey! You said you'd help me study." She shouted dropping her book bag on the couch

Shion had recently moved in with her. To help her get used to the lack of her grandmother's presence. To help her get used to being alone.

Safu sighed again, continued down the hall looking for signs of life, wondering where the hell Shion would be if not here. She was startled to hear whimpers emanating from his room just across from hers, stifled sounds of pain slipped out from beneath the door and into her ears. Opening his door she found Shion, crouched down on the floor, his form shaking sitting in the center of a ring of books. All his favorites, some were open, others had several more stacked atop them.
With the sound of the creaking door he sat back on his heels.

"Shi-"

"Sorry. I'm sorry. I didn't know you were home." Shion started, wiping frantically at his face, moving to stand up, to hug her in greeting as he always did per their newfound routine. His attempts at acting normal made her chest hurt and her eyes sting. "Shion, why? What's wrong? Why are you-?"

"No reason." He responded instantly, "Shion, you're not crying for no reason at all, I know you and you're fully aware that I won't believe such crap."

"Sa-"

"Shion tell me what's wrong." Safu said sternly.

"I miss him." Shion choked out, catching the sounds in his palm as though he didn't want them to be heard. "Him? Who? Shion what?" Safu asked, eyebrows furrowing in confusion, watching as more tears burst forth and he held his hands up against his eyes. As though he were trying to hide.

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean-I-" Shion was saying, choking on his words as he came up with some way to explain himself out of this. Who the hell thinks they have to explain when something hurts? Why doesn't he trust her to just comfort him? Why is he apologizing?

"Why are you apologizing?" Safu asked, her attempts at sounding level failing, cracking on the edges. "What?"

"Why are you apologizing?" She asked again, this time her tone almost angry, her fists curling at her sides.

"I-"

"Why are you apologizing?!"

"I don't know. You weren't supposed to see that, I wasn't supposed to- I shouldn't have-" he cut himself off, Shion was using his forearms now to block his face.

"Shion." She said softly, taking several steps forward, keeping her footsteps light. "Shion, look-look at me. Please? What happened? Who were you talking about? Shion come on you can tell me, after all you already revealed who you are. I doubt this could be as big or unbelievable as that." She said trying to sound light, trying not to show her heavy heart that was weighted by this sight, weighted by the sight of her best friend trying his damnedest to not show his face. To not reveal that he's more human than even she is. To not reveal that he carries weakness. But through her eyes, even in his mess of tears, he's the strongest person she knows. That's why she loves him. Strange, she'd thought in the past, after all how was it possible to fall in love with love itself?

Though she didn't truly care to get an answer to that, she didn't need it. Safu knew why she fell in love with him. That's all that mattered to her.

Shion sucked in a breath, a breath that rattled his being as it filled his lungs, his exhale shuddering out of him as he slowly dropped his arms with the assistance of Safu. Brown eyes glimpsed at shimmering red ones, "What's wrong?" Safu murmured, hoping he didn't just burst into more tears then further curl into himself.

"I'm going to lose him again, and I won't see him again for a long, long time." Shion responded in a murmur his voice breaking, falling apart as words left his lips. "Who Shion?"

"Ne-" he stopped himself, rethought his response, "Someone important. Someone so very important and he died a long time ago."

"Then what-"

"Reincarnation Safu. He laughed, breathy, broken. "And this life right now, is his last. For a long time." He whispered, his tone not once raising above the sound of their own breathing. "Not forever though, right?"

He shook his head, "No, but he'll be gone. For a very long while."

"Why?"

"He's going to become a star again."

~~~~~

"Goodnight, Nezumi," Shion said, shutting the door behind the man, waiting for the sound of his receding footsteps to diminish and return the hallway to its once undisturbed silence. "Safu, what was that?" Shion questioned still facing the door, his hand still grasping the doorknob. "I just asked a couple things. No harm in that." Safu said with a shrug, "He doesn't know yet, and I'm not going to tell him, I've tried telling him early on and it just takes him longer to come to terms with falling for someone. Least of all me."

"Why least of all you?" Safu asked, her arms folded across her chest, "Because Safu, he has a hard time coming to terms with caring for someone. It's hard enough to love another person. To fall in love with love itself he always thinks for sure he's being duped." Shion explained turning away from the door, his grip on the doorknob lessening to the point his fingers slipped off and fell back to his side.

Safu purses her lips clearly unconvinced by her friends words, Shion sighed, "I don't want to rush things either, yes I miss him. Yes I want to touch him again, but I'm not going to rush him into this, into the us that right now only exists for me. I can wait."

"Shion, when did you last break down?" Safu asked, her eyes softening on the edges, her lips forming a line, "Its been months Safu. Sometimes the pain gets to me, but most of the time it doesn't. It's easier with him around. I'm fine."

"If you say so Shion, but, don't forget that you can rely on me." Safu said firmly.

"I know Safu, I know."

~~~~~

"Splendid job tonight Eve!" The manager called waving him off as Nezumi exited the building, not caring about the fact that he probably should've stayed, probably should've offered autographs to his fans that somehow his fat-ass of a boss could charge five bucks for.

Opening the heavy metal door he was greeted by the cold of the night, early morning if you really thought about it, considering it was one o'clock. Nezumi's gaze drifted up to the multi color lights that lined the trim of buildings. The many decorations that ranged from sparkly candy canes to wreaths covered with ribbons.

The colors burned Nezumi's eyes, glared at him as he passed the endless amount of holiday cheer (as people called it) that really just seemed like a lame excuse to spend a ton of money, drink until you passed out, and make out with strangers. He didn't understand the excitement for yet another scam to get people to spend an obscene amount of money on gifts, decorations, and lots of cheap alcohol.

The excuse for such things being it's the time of year to celebrate and gather together and love each other. But to place all that in a specific time of the year on a specific day seemed more like an obligation rather than a desire. Especially when you've got the whole year to do just so.

Nezumi shook his head, deciding he didn't want to think about something as trivial as that, instead chose to wonder about the game of twenty questions -Safu? Yeah he was sure her name had been Safu - had started upon walking into Shion's (well her) apartment and discovering the two on Shion's bed. Well, Nezumi was on the mattress that had been surprisingly comfy despite it's looks, while Shion was on the floor resting against the side of the bed frame, eyes closed as he gladly listened to Nezumi read aloud. Claiming Nezumi had a wonderful voice and Shion well did not, therefore Nezumi should and would read to him.

She'd asked things like, "You're Nezumi right? Hmm, how old are you? Do you know who Shion is? Are you familiar with the cycle of humans and stars? Has Shion explained it to you? How far have you two gone? Shion refuses to give me details. Do you know yet? Do you know-" Her bombardment of questions were interrupted by a frantic Shion that shouted, "Safu! Oh my god Safu stop! Hold on a minute!"

Do I know what?

About the papers?

Shion's identity maybe?

Nezumi questioned silently his thoughts interrupted as he realized he had arrived at his apartment. But, instead of walking inside he chose to turn leave and head for the trail hidden behind tall bushes and trees. Not knowing why he hell he was going there at one o'clock in the morning, just that he was, just that it felt right.

Walking several blocks until he'd reached the dirt road where several chunks of cement stuck up out of the earth. Following it, cursing as he tripped over cement chunks and tree roots. Sighing when he broke through the opening in the trees. (Damnit.)

The moon was duller tonight, casting a minimal amount of light that cascaded down to the earth. To shine upon the swing set the metal gleaming underneath the subtle light, glowing softly. Nezumi walked over to it, sat himself in the red seat, unsurprised by the chains that squealed with his weight. He just sat there, watching as his breath left his lips in puffs of white and the way the tip of his nose grew a pale shade of pink.

He leaned his head back shutting his eyes, startled to discover what was hiding behind his eyelids. A similar scene to this one, sitting in the swing set only, it was much older and was made of wood instead of metal, the seats were still red and he was seated there watching as a young girl twirled around beneath the moonlight. Her giggles rippling in the quiet of the air, entering his ears in a muffled manner as though he were under water.

"Nezumi," another voice, not as far away, not as muffled, "Nezumi, I love you."

"I know, you say it all the time." Nezumi responded, not understanding where such words came from, "I know, I just feel I don't say it enough." The voice replied.

"You say it plenty Shion," Nezumi said, "I love you too."

"My star, my light, you are my everything." Shion said, sitting back in his own swing, his head titled up towards the sky, "Nezumi, you are my star."

Nezumi hummed in response, but he didn't want to hum, he wanted to ask what the hell Shion was talking about. Where the hell he'd come from. Who the hell that girl was spinning round and round, her black hair flying behind her as giggles echoed out of her. Nezumi couldn't though, couldn't respond to his own desires as though he were trapped. He was himself yet he wasn't, this felt like a memory but he didn't have memories such as these. Nezumi was sure of that.

"You'll take your place up in the sky too you know." Shion said, his gaze still tipped up at the starry night sky, "What do you mean?" Nezumi asked, "Its the cycle, Nezumi." Shion answered simply, his red eyed gaze falling back on Nezumi, too much emotion gleaming in his irises, it was beautiful in way that hurt. It was unfair that he could feel so strongly and trust so easily, "Cycle?" Nezumi asked even though what he wanted to ask was, "What are you and how can you look at me like that? Why do you look at me like that?"

"The cycle of souls to stars and stars to souls." Shion answered.

Nezumi eyes sprang open again, his heart pounding hard in his chest, grey irises landing on an empty hilltop, no little girl twirling beneath the moonlight, no man sitting beside him, staring at him lovingly explaining nonsense things as though they were the simplest of truths to understand.

Nezumi was alone and for the strangest of reasons he suddenly felt as though he finally understood that meant. What it meant to be alone. Hadn't he always been alone?

He stood, glanced at the edge of the hill, the town swelling with color, the opposite of whatever the hell that was just now, instead of a town there was an endless expanse of trees. Nezumi shook his head averting his eyes from the scene, and left the hilltop. He didn't want to be here anymore and didn't have a clue what had brought him there, but he regretted it.

~~~~~

The vigorous thudding on the front door was alarming, startling Shion from his dream, made up of broken memories, the good and the bad, all mixed together, different moments from different lifetimes. All swirled about in what seemed almost an unrecognizable and endless blur.

Another knock, quieter, softer then the others, slower, then they stopped as Shion grabbed the doorknob. He didn't need to open the door to know who was behind it, who was banging on the door at 2:30 in the morning. What he wasn't aware of was the reason, twisting the nob he opened the door to a disheveled Nezumi. He looked exhausted and his breath left his body in ragged pants.

"Nez-" Shion began in a low whisper, confusion clear in the syllable that he'd managed before Nezumi crashed into him, arms encircling Shion's form in what felt like a desperate grasp, his lips beside Shion's ear as he whispered, "What are you?"

Shion returned the embrace after his initial surprise wore off, replaced by the overwhelming love he felt for this man, his arms wrapping around Nezumi. Warmth spilled from Shion's body into Nezumi's chilled one, he'd been outside a while, long enough for his nose to feel like ice as it pressed against the side of his neck. He smelled of pine and sweat.

"Yours." Shion murmured, feeling the way Nezumi stiffened in his hold. Not surprised in the least by his reaction, worried, a little, but not surprised.
His body relaxed after a moment, falling into Shion completely exhaustion claiming him, "Want to sleep here tonight?" Shion offered -even though there really wasn't much Night left- when it felt as though Nezumi may just fall asleep on him. The grey eyed man grunted in response, Shion took that as a yes, half dragging half leading Nezumi into the space, happy to bring him to his bed but aware Nezumi would probably be irritated at the cramped space.

Even so, despite this Shion brought Nezumi's half asleep form back to his room having no desire to give Safu a heart attack.

He settled Nezumi on his bed that protested at the body that lay there, the man while unsure fell asleep quickly, it'd been obvious he hadn't been sleeping properly in the week since Shion stepped into his life. What Shion couldn't figure out though was why. Why was Nezumi getting even less sleep than he already did?

Shion knew about the nightmares that plagued his evenings, he was aware of what played behind his eyelids as he slept. He was familiar with how loud Nezumi screamed and how hard he hit when he thrashed around lost in the past that ran within his subconscious. He knew it all better than he knew even himself. Shion bit his lower lip as he listened to Nezumi's breaths, the way they evened out, he wondered if Nezumi would dream, would remember the past again, and if he did, would he scream? Would he thrash? Was it late enough that he wouldn't suffer in the final hours of the night? Could he have just a few moments of peace?

Shion released his lip with a sigh, bent down in front of Nezumi and placed a short kiss against his mouth then whispered,

"Good night, Nezumi."

Chapter Text

The flames were bright against the pitch black of the sky, starless, the moon hidden behind clouds of smoke that threatened to swallow the sky whole. His back burned, the orange and yellow licked and bit at his skin. Relentless, as though the flames had not attacked him enough, as though it had not taken enough, as though it needed to swallow his screams the way it did his mother's, his father's, his sister's, a baby's whom did not know pain. As though it still hungered for more. As though the flames still felt the need to feed on his home. Nezumi wondered, for a moment, if flames ever did tire of eating. Though this thought didn't last long as he carried himself on little feet further away from the flaming tendrils that still reached for his clothes, his hair, his skin that poured crimson upon its touch. 

This, was a dream of course. A moment that had already come and already gone. Yet haunts his mind when the night rolls around to remind him of that time, as though he'd forgotten, as if he could possibly forget.  Still, despite the fact he knew he was dreaming, he pushed himself through it the same way he had all those years ago. Though, normally the dream would end as flashes of his home dressed in flames repeatedly cut across his thoughts. Images of red and orange dancing along the horizon. That wooden swing set that had been there as long as he could remember stood out in front of the house, on the edge of the hill, overlooking the wide expanse of green now drowning in a sea of flames. The swing set with seats a color he could not recall now covered in fire that had jumped from the house. 

But right now the dream wasn't ending, he was still running, screams having long gone silent but still echoing in his ears. His lungs burned and his throat began to constrict as smoke was his every inhale, every exhale. Nezumi didn't remember this, he could hardly recall how he'd escaped the forest that had surrounded him, Nezumi just knew he had. But in this moment, in this dream his body was giving out on him, his legs were buckling and the dirt hit his lips.

Nezumi couldn't stand, he lay there, waiting, waiting for his breaths to cease, to stop, and then maybe he'd wake up. Maybe the dream would end and he'd awaken tangled up in his sheets that stuck to his sweat covered being like a vice. He'd wake up to the sound of his own cries, his own screams that echoed in his apartment. He'd awaken to pure emptiness inside and out, around him and within him. Nezumi would be alone as he always was. 

But that's not what happened, instead a pair of arms wrapped tightly around his waist and hoisted him up against their side. Now the person who'd grabbed Nezumi was running. Try as he might, he couldn't muster the energy to resist excepting a squirm here or there. Every movement he made though had the arms wrapping tighter around him and the breath of the person hitched. The guy's panting was loud, could be heard clearly above the sharp crackles of flames consuming the forest. His home. 

"It's okay." The man murmured his voice while quiet clearly ringing out above the fire that had stolen everything from him.

"You'll be okay, Nezumi." 

He didn't have time to wonder about this scene or how the mystery person knew his name, because the world that surrounded him was shifting, the flames died down and with them went the trees, in their place rose walls. Walls colored white and decorated with photographs displayed in frames ranging from big to small. The dance of reds, oranges, and yellows all dispersed as though all it took to push them away was a gentle breath.  Nezumi wasn't held against a stranger's side anymore, instead he was lying on a mattress staring up at a plain white ceiling instead of smoke that seemed to devour the sky. Nezumi wasn't breathing in smoke and sputtering out grey puffs that his lungs rejected, instead the air was clean and smelled faintly of pine and something sweet, like cherries. 

He dropped his gaze to the side, his eyes landing squarely on a man with white hair, eyes shuts, his eyelashes resting gently against his porcelain skin, white, just like his hair. Nezumi thought.  "Shion." Nezumi said, his voice leaving his lips even though he hadn't desired to speak yet, he'd wanted to sit and stare, simply watch as Shion's chest rose to fall back down with every breath he sucked in and every breath he set free.

"Hm?" Shion hummed, his eyes still shut, "Tell me about one of my past lives." Nezumi spoke softly, honestly surprised by his own words; words that were not his but he had said them. 

The corner of Shion's lips pulled up slightly, his eyelids opening slowly to reveal two red eyes that looked to him almost curiously, "Why?" He whispered, his words brushing against Nezumi's lips. He sucked in a breath, "It'd just be nice to know I was just as amazing then as I am now."

Shion laughed, breathy and sweet, "Well I suppose you were alright, though your person differs slightly between each lifetime." 

"I'm sure I was more than alright," Nezumi scoffed, "Big differences?"  

"No, not at all for the most part you're always the same. The parts of you that differ have more to do with speech patterns or points of view because you were born in certain times, raised around specific ideals that were more important then, than they are now." Shion explained, a smile on his lips that Nezumi was sure he'd never seen, not yet at least, yet somehow he felt as though he knew and understood that smile better than even himself. It built a flame in his chest that was achingly familiar.

Shion asked after a breath, "When?" 

"When what?" 

"When did you want to learn about?" 

"Hm," Nezumi contemplated for a moment, "Surprise me," he added eventually, propping himself up on his elbow, chin in the cup of his palm.  "Okay." Shion answered, the face he wore when he thought deeply scrunching up his features-but how the hell did Nezumi know what face Shion made when he thought deeply? 

His nose twitched slightly and Nezumi's first thought went to a mouse. It certainly suited him.

"Alright ok, in one life you were a king."  "A king?" Nezumi questioned despite the fact that he hadn't wanted to ask that, reminding himself that this dream was a memory he didn't remember having, or perhaps it was the beginning of his descent into insanity? That'd make much more sense. "Mhm, you were indeed. You did not have royal blood though." Shion announced, "Its quite the amazing thing honestly, you were adopted off the streets and named crown prince because the queen refused to have sex with and birth a heir for the king." This was certainly news to him, Shion hadn't yet brought up things about his past lives and he had trouble believing Shion would answer such questions outright. 

"Why? Was he that ugly?"  Shion snorted a laugh before answering, "No, in fact he was a rather good looking guy all things considered," the cocked eyebrow Nezumi offered had Shion laughing again softly and adding sarcastically, "Of course he had nothing on you."  Nezumi returned the half smile Shion gave him, "Anyway, she wouldn't because she loved someone else." 

"Yeah, maybe but couldn't he have just taken her as he pleased?" 

"In most cases yeah he could've, but! Their marriage had been an arrangement as a last resort in preventing an impending war. The deal being as long as he didn't touch her, she would marry him, and he was in no place to refuse unless he wanted to lose the last bit of territory he had left, that being the capital to what once was his kingdom as well as a couple towns within about 160 kilometers. So he agreed. But they needed a heir and you looked most like the queen, with your gray eyes. A color that few possessed." Shion supplied his eyes alight with excitement as he explained. 

"Ok, how did we meet?" Nezumi asked startled by his own question, 'How did we meet?' What? He inwardly asked, his lips not moving according to his own wishes.  Shion simply smiled at this and with a soft hum he said, "I met you as an oracle, someone who could converse with god basically. I met you as a man, and when you and I got together I...." He trailed off sheepishly, "I was a woman. To any and all that saw me, except for you. You said you liked me better as guy." Confusion spiked in his chest, "You played a woman?" He asked, his tone teasing, "Yeah, I married you as your queen. We ruled together, but unfortunately our kingdom fell due to terrible circumstances. You died alone in that life and I always regretted that." Shion said ruefully, his red eyes not meeting Nezumi's as spoke. 

Nezumi felt himself lean down and press his mouth to Shion's lips, soft and warm. Shion was quick to reciprocate the pressure, his head lifting slightly off the pillow, Nezumi was surprised by his own action. The feeling mixed and jumbled up in the center of his chest into a ball of emotions he didn't understand. Had forgotten he felt.

This didn't make any sense, none of this made sense, Nezumi didn't understand why he was kissing this man. He didn't understand why he desired it so strongly, not when he said there was someone else. Wasn't there? 

Nezumi pulled away just far enough so that he could look into red eyes that shined with a multitude of emotions, love and pain, happiness and sadness. Something was cracked inside him. Nezumi didn't know what. 

Shion was smiling, small and almost secret, "What was that for?" He asked quietly, words drifting against Nezumi's lips in wispy breaths. "I'm right here." Nezumi murmured, crimson eyes grew wider. "I know that." Shion whispered back, "I'm right here." Nezumi repeated, his words louder, harder this time, as though he were trying his damnedest to prove his point. To prove he was there. Why? 

Shion kissed him again, long and languid, his lips opening to let in Nezumi's tongue. Warm, it was warm. Heat grew in his belly and something burned in his chest. As he tossed his leg over Shion's hips to straddle him, their kiss deepening things began to grow black around the edges. The black grew and grew to consume his surroundings. It took Shion along with it. Nezumi fell into its deep embrace. 

It was cold. 

When it receded again, he was standing in a hospital. Monitors were blipping signaling the beat of his slow pulsing heart. It was a room all on its own, a door several feet from the foot of the bed. It was white in the space, a dingy white that almost appeared to be yellow. The feeling of it sent waves of anxiety down his spine. Memories of waking in a hospital alone, a woman coming up to tell him he'd be placed in an orphanage and from there she'd work to find him a home. He hadn't understood that, he hadn't understood why she told him of new homes when all he'd wanted was to go back to his home. For the entirety of his time spent there he'd held a firm disbelief of the reality he had been forced to live in. 

Nezumi shook himself out of that train of thought and instead focused his attention on his current whereabouts within the crevices of his subconscious.  The strangest thing of all of this was, he wasn't in his body. He was looking at himself, lying unconscious in a hospital bed, his body was hooked up to multiple machines. None of which he could determine their purpose excepting the one that monitored his heart. It was an odd thing to see himself, to watch as his breaths entered his body and left it. A mask was on his face. It was breathing with him.  Nezumi took steps around the bed, a plethora of his own emotions and the emotions of this moment this *memory* spun around endlessly intertwining becoming an ugly mess in the pit of his chest.

Nezumi just watched, he simply observed himself as he slept. Or maybe he wasn't sleeping, what was happening?  Nezumi was startled out of his deep contemplation when the door to the room opened and in stepped Shion, deep lines pulled at his features, dark circles wrapped around his eyes. And behind him followed a young girl with long brown hair so dark it appeared to be black, tan skin, and light brown eyes.  She seemed anxious and held a heavy stare directed at Shion's back, eyes slightly narrowed as if she couldn't decide whether or not she was pissed at him. Her features greatly resembled that of the little girl he'd seen on the hilltop. 

Shion's gaze was on Nezumi, and stayed on Nezumi as he strode over to his bedside. A chair awaited him, he sat then reached for Nezumi's hand. Threading his fingers through Nezumi's, sighing heavily his eyes shone brightly with heartache.  "Hi Nezumi." Shion said, "Inukashi is here. She came to see you." He said, gesturing at the girl - Inukashi, to come closer. He realized as the girl positioned herself next to Shion, his arm coming to wrap around her and roughly tried to shake him off. Ceasing in movement when he turned his sad eyed gaze to her. That her name was the same as the old woman's he'd met some time ago. A dog at her side, a breed he couldn't identify with soft brown eyes similar to hers. He recalled the fragments of gray that slipped into her dark dark hair. His gaze fell back on Shion. 

Death, Time, and Love itself seemed broken, seemed devastated as he stared at Nezumi's unresponsive being. He wanted to reach out and touch the man, he wanted to tell him he was there. He didn't understand why. But all too soon the room was fading, everything around him was dissipating like mist. Nezumi wanted it to stay, to explain, to fucking make sense because nothing did. 

When he opened his eyes, his cheeks were damp, his eyelashes were wet with tears, his face was warm. This was becoming his new normal, to awaken from a dream made up of scenes full with smiles and laughter, to awaken from nightmares that weren't his yet he dreamt them all the same. To wake up from watching Shion in pain to seeing him drenched in the moonlight with a smile that outshone the stars. 

He sighed, not bothering himself with fussing over it and looked about his bedroom, startled to discover that he in fact wasn't in his bedroom. He was in someone else's, full with stacks and stacks of books, he was lying in a bed that was hardly big enough for one, a thin blanket pooled at his feet. He must've kicked them off in the night. 

Nezumi sat up abruptly, his head spun with the sudden movement. When his vision cleared and he no longer felt as though he were spinning he re-examined the space. Grey eyes wandering over multiple stacks of books, a pile of dirty clothes, a desk full with papers and papers, all written on. All speaking of the past and deaths of the one Shion loved. That much had been obvious. Who was it that Shion loved? Why was Nezumi beginning to wonder if maybe it was him? 

Running pale fingers through thick bangs Nezumi began to question why the hell he was in Shion's room at all. How the hell he'd ended up there.  He thought back on the night prior, the last showing of Romeo and Juliet, leaving the theater, walking over to the hilltop, leaving, planning to walk home. He walked to Shion's apartment instead. After that he recalled words whispered softly against his ear and he recalled a solid type of warmth that pressed against his mouth. And then everything went dark. 

Nezumi sighed again, pushed himself off of Shion's bed, opened the door that stood ajar all the way, and proceeded down the short hallway. He didn't call out to Shion, figuring it'd be better if the man was asleep anyway. His footsteps light, he noticed he wasn't in the clothing he'd worn the day prior, instead he was wearing a fresh t-shirt, the hem of which brushed his lower stomach, and a pair of grey sweats that rose up past his ankles. Must've been Shion's shirt, must've been his pants. 

Stepping out of the hallway he discovered Shion on the couch, his head nestled atop his bent arm, breathing softly, open book in his lap, pen loosely gripped in his fingers. Coming upon him like this felt...odd, as though he'd seen such a moment a million times before when this was the first, or should've been. 

Despite his better judgement Nezumi stepped around the couch and knelt down in front of a dozing Shion, his lips parted slightly, breaths slipped past them, they looked soft. They looked warm. Nezumi wanted to reach out and touch them, kiss them the way he had in his dream. With his heart behind his lips and his breath burning with need, tongue slow as if mingled with his. 

He wanted Shion and that was a strange thing, it went far beyond sexual attraction which made this, whatever this was that sat between them all the more bizarre.  Nezumi continued to watch as Shion slept, losing track of how long he spent crouched down in front of him. Long enough that his calves grew sore. Choosing that moment to stand Shion's eyelids opened to reveal tired red irises. They blinked as if confused, then widened, "Nezumi, morning." Shion offered softly in a sleepy voice. 

"It's noon actually." Nezumi corrected quietly, Shion's eyes widened further to the point Nezumi thought they may just pop out of his head.  "Seriously? Why didn't Safu wake me up?" Shion asked, sitting up, the book slipping off his lap, to land beside Nezumi's foot. He shrugged at the man, who's gaze fell to the book lying open face down in the carpet.

"Shouldn't you get going? Don't you have rehearsals for a new show? Christmas is in two weeks now right? Oh, what're you doing by the way?" The sleep had vanished from Shion's features, he was wide awake now, his eyes having drawn back up to meet Nezumi's once again. Curiosity lining the edges. "I don't know, I opted out of the Christmas play this year." Nezumi answered, "So no, I don't have any rehearsals for the next two weeks. Maybe three depending on how well it does, though I'm not in it so maybe it'll only last one." 

"Does that mean you're out of a job for two weeks?" Shion asked quietly, as though there were still someone sleeping, as though he had reason to keep his voice low and soft. Possibly to not wake the Nezumi of his nightmare, the one in a hospital bed that Shion looked at with pain in his eyes and devastation in the quiver of his lips. "Nah, I just got some time off and decided to cash in on said time." Nezumi answered. "So you're completely free for the next two weeks, did you get New Years too?" Shion asked, a small smile tugging at his mouth, Nezumi cocked a suspicious eyebrow, "Yeah." He said drawing out the word questionably. "Why?" 

Shion didn't respond, just smiled wider, then used his hand to shoo Nezumi out of his way as he stood. Reached his hands above his head to stretch, then walked around the couch and over to the kitchen standing beside the living space. "Holy shit it really is noon!" Shion shouted peaking at the clock in the stove, Nezumi snorted a laugh, stood picked up the book, placed it on the coffee table, and followed after Shion. Stopping to lean against the counter opposite the stove. 

"Would you like some tea?" Shion offered, grabbing the same teapot he'd used the day prior from a cupboard, moved to stand beside Nezumi, twisted on the faucet, then brought the full teapot back over to the stove again. "Sure." Nezumi answered, Shion twisted around after switching on the stove, his gaze warm and welcoming.  Nezumi cleared his throat, "Tell me about one of my past lives." 

The warmth vanished, the welcome look in his eyes grew cold with something of surprise and maybe even frustration, "Why?" Shion asked after a moment, the calm lull to his voice had diminished completely replaced by something almost icy. His tone very different to the one he'd used in Nezumi's dream that wasn't a dream. "What do you mean why? You've said we all reincarnate, so it stands to reason that I myself have past lives too." Nezumi said with a shrug, his own surprise at the sudden change of demeanor not slipping into his words or on the features of his face. 

Shion bit his lip in apprehension, released it, "Nezumi, no I can't talk to you about that." 

Grey eyes narrowed, irritation rising like bile in his throat, "What do you mean you can't tell me? You told me about the time you ruled as a queen," Nezumi pointed out, keeping his tone level, not letting anything slip. Shion's eyebrows fell against his eyes, "I never said that life had anything to do with you," Nezumi felt some of the irritation seep out, replaced with a subtle confusion. That had been more than just a dream...hadn't it? 

"Nezumi, why are you suddenly asking me this?" Shion asked his gaze on the floor, "Curiosity." Nezumi responded, his tone empty of anything at all.

"But why? You don't usually ask so-no never mind. That's not something for me to talk to you about." Shion said, rethinking his words mid-sentence reinvigorating Nezumi's fire, that dream hadn't been a dream.

"Why not?" 

"Why do you think you don't remember them yourself?" Shion questioned, his expression hard, his being emitting a firmness Nezumi hadn't realized the man was capable of. "I don't know Shion I'm not some mystical being like you." Nezumi snapped, "You don't remember because your brain, your mind, your very body could not handle it." Shion said his tone unwaveringly resolute. Nezumi opened his mouth to retort, to throw something at Shion in turn but he had nothing. 

The man was all too quick to cut off any form of response anyway, "You couldn't handle it because you have lived through so many hardships. Human beings walk through life with equal amounts of pain and happiness. Most people just miss all the good and focus on the bad. If you were to have all the memories of every life you've ever lived you'd go mad with the pain of loneliness that you've felt a million times, the deaths you've watched too many times to keep count of, all those times you died alone. All those times I-" Shion cut himself off, that firm shell cracking, those eyes that began to shine were averted again, aimed at the sink. Intently staring at the faucet as though it may drip and he needed to catch it. Needed to fix it even though it wasn't broken. 

Nezumi wasn't broken. 

"I'm not weak Shion," Nezumi said, his own eyes having left the man. Red eyes glanced back to him, "You're right you aren't weak. But you aren't strong either." 

Silence fell between them only broken by the teapot that hissed as steam rushed from it's spout. Shion ignored it, his eyes locked onto Nezumi's. 

His mouth was dry, his jaw clenched so hard he wondered momentarily if his teeth would shatter. Nezumi didn't have anything to say, he knew anger spilled off him in thick waves. He wanted to leave. He wanted to leave and never come back, pretend he hadn't met this man. Hadn't met this person that played games, that seemed broken and wasn't any good at hiding it.  Nezumi turned away from Shion. He didn't protest. Nezumi took steps out of the kitchen his feet carried him away, away from Shion and that suffocating atmosphere. He grabbed his clothes, changed quick needing no excuse to return to give Shion's clothes back. Shion stayed planted in front of the stove. Nezumi left out the front door after shoving his feet into boots that awaited him. Shion kept quiet. 

Nezumi left. Shion didn't stop him.