Shion opened the apartment door and pushed inside. He was covered in snow from another storm – the winter had been an endless progression of them – and the air didn’t feel warm enough. After he took off his patrol pack and jacket and boots, he turned the thermostat up. He had to smile as he did so: Nezumi had lived without proper heating for so long that his version of “warm” was barely habitable to Shion. Well, Nezumi hadn’t called out to him (which was hardly surprising, given it was nearly two in the morning) and so the temperature was Shion’s choice.
He padded in his socks into the living room, expecting to find Nezumi asleep on the sofa. That was generally where he found him on the nights he had patrols of the slums or late shifts at the hospital. Nezumi would promise to stay up and wait for him, but he almost never managed it (a reality Shion had learned not to point out, since it always put Nezumi in a foul mood.) It had been four months since he’d returned to No. 6, two since he’d left the hospital and moved in with Shion, but his ACL injury was still a good two months away from healing. Naturally, hating that fact, Nezumi pushed himself far too hard in physical therapy, and ended up sleeping a lot to compensate.
But he wasn’t on the sofa, which meant that he must have actually put himself to bed for once, without waiting from Shion to do it. Guiltily relieved, Shion went to the kitchen and made himself a cup of tea. He considered sitting in the living room to drink it, but Nezumi hadn’t been back long enough yet for him to take his presence for granted. Sometimes he wondered if he ever would, and that always made a tiny seed of panic unfurl within him. But no, he told himself firmly. Nezumi had promised that he wouldn’t leave Shion again, and at any rate, he wouldn’t get far on his injured knee right now if he tried.
So Shion passed over the comfortable couch with its rumpled quilt (clearly, Nezumi had spent some time there, earlier) and made his way to the bedroom. He opened the door carefully, not wanting to wake Nezumi if he was sleeping. And then he stopped short in the doorway, stunned and staring.
Nezumi was indeed sleeping, a dim oil lamp still burning on Shion’s bedside table. Shion had bought the lamps not long after he had brought Nezumi home. It had been somewhat of a whim, an attempt to comfort him in the depths of his depression about his injuries. The lamps’ soft, familiar, yellow light had soothed Nezumi more than Shion would have imagined. Without one of them burning, he could rarely fall asleep.
Now, Nezumi was curled on their bed, on top of the duvet, in sweatpants and an old t-shirt. His hair, loose from its ponytail, splayed like runnels of ink across the white pillowcase. He was beautiful, peaceful and almost childlike in his repose. But that wasn’t what had stunned Shion. It was the fact that Nezumi was clutching Shion’s old coat – the light brown one from their shared days in the basement room when they were teenagers – as if it were the last thing keeping him grounded on earth. He had his cheek pressed to the fabric of the hood as if it were a lover’s skin.
Though the coat had been threadbare and tattered by the time Shion returned to his mother, he had never been able to get rid of it. It simply held too many memories, and so he’d kept it for years after he stopped wearing it, crammed into a corner of his closet, first in his room above the bakery, and later in his solitary apartment. But he hadn’t even realized that Nezumi knew he still had it, let alone…he shook his head at himself. How many times, he wondered, had Nezumi fallen asleep like this, and somehow managed to hide it from him? His heart swelled until he thought that he would choke with love for this enigmatic man.
As quietly as he could, Shion crept to his side of the bed, and set down his teacup. He sat down carefully on the mattress, worried that he would wake Nezumi, but still, the other man didn’t stir. Shion looked down at him. Nezumi’s lips were parted slightly in sleep, his left fist curled into the fabric of the coat. There was a slight pink flush on his porcelain cheek, a tendril of black hair running across it. Shion couldn’t resist the urge to brush it back, and then to kiss that smooth skin.
Nezumi’s eyes flew open. For a moment, he gazed up at Shion with such unmitigated love that Shion’s breath caught in his throat. “You’re home,” he said softly.
“I’m home,” Shion agreed, smiling. He couldn’t stop himself from adding, “And I’m glad to know that you missed me.”
Nezumi blinked at him for a moment, his dark-fringed gray eyes clear and serene as they seldom were. And then, he remembered. He shot upright, the old coat clutched in his hands as if he might somehow ball it up and make it evaporate. But of course, he couldn’t, and under Shion’s steady violet gaze and slight smile, he reddened in a rare blush.
“You weren’t supposed to see this,” he grumbled.
“Why not?” Shion asked.
Nezumi began to mutter something about sentimentality and attachment to the past and all of the things that were wrong with that. But part way through his rambling, Shion took the coat from his hands, threw it aside. He wove his fingers into Nezumi’s hair, pulled him forward and kissed him. At first Nezumi seemed reluctant, as if he still wanted to argue. But gradually, he softened and returned the kiss, pulling the band from Shion’s hair and tangling his own fingers in it, moving them as if he could never get enough of the feeling.
At last, they broke apart. “So you did miss me,” Shion said, smiling more widely.
“Of course I fucking missed you!” Nezumi growled. “And for the record, I absolutely hate it when you patrol the West Block. Remember, I know what’s out there.”
“Remember, you were out there.”
Nezumi sighed. “That is not going to happen every day, I hope you realize.”
“I hope not,” Shion returned. “One of you is about all I’m equipped to deal with.”
Nezumi rolled his eyes. “I refuse all battles of wit at this hour! It’s almost tomorrow, your Majesty. Come to bed.”
Shion grinned outright. “It is tomorrow. But, if you insist…”
He shed his outer clothing, and crawled under the covers, helping Nezumi underneath them too, since he still couldn’t maneuver well with his injured knee. Then he blew out the lamp, leaving them with only the dim residual light from the street. They moved together instinctually until they lay in the embrace they’d slept in every night since Nezumi moved in (and, to be fair, several in the hospital before that.) For a moment, they simply breathed together, feeling each other’s heartbeats.
Then Nezumi drew a breath, and said in a low voice, “Never get rid of it, Shion.”
Shion, exhausted, had to think for a moment to realize what he meant. “That awful coat?”
“Yes,” Nezumi said.
Shion leaned forward and kissed him, and then pulled back. “Exactly how often do you sleep with my old coat, Nezumi?”
There was a long pause, and then Nezumi said, “Just don’t get rid of it, okay?”
“If you ever tell anyone, I will – ”
Shion laughed, and expertly slid Nezumi’s shirt off on him, making him catch his breath. “Of course, Nezumi. Anything for you.”
Shion trailed his fingers up his back, and Nezumi lost his own will to argue.