Fandom: No. 6
Disclaimer: Not mine
The dress is where Nezumi has left it. It’s not even hung up properly. He’s sloppy when it comes to these things. He also hates it when people get too nosy, but Shion just wants to make himself useful. He may be completely out of his depth at times, but he’s not a freeloader. If there’s anything he can help out with, he’ll do it.
And so, since the dress is dirty anyway from where he half-carried, half-dragged Nezumi home (he’s beginning to understand how lacking he is in strength and stamina), he decides to clean it.
The task is more difficult than he anticipates. It’s a delicate and elaborate piece of clothing, and he has to be careful in order not to damage it. Washing anything by hand is a tiring and tedious exercise, but he takes his time so he can do a decent job of it. The dress dries quickly in the afternoon sun, and it leaves Shion with a sense of accomplishment. He’s not expecting praise or thanks for what he’s done (if anything, Nezumi will probably get mad at him for interfering with his work), but it doesn’t matter. Shion is pleased with the end result.
He’s also vaguely curious as he makes his way back downstairs. He wants to know more about Nezumi. He wants to understand him better. Sharing the same experience will bring them closer together, or so Shion thinks, which is how he ends up trying on the dress for himself.
It’s much too big for him. The sleeves dangle over his hands. The hem trails drags over the floor, and he almost trips up over it when he tries to move. When he sees himself in the mirror, his reflection makes him cringe. He’s not beautiful or elegant. He looks like a little kid playing dress up with his mother’s clothes.
Then, with impeccable timing, Nezumi appears. He seems lost for words, but it’s not long before he manages to find them again. “What the hell are you doing?” he asks, his usual expression of irritation firmly in place.
Shion turns bright red over being caught. “I just wanted to find out,” he stammers, smoothing out the wrinkles in the dress with his sweating palms for lack of anything else to do. “I want to know what it’s like for you to wear something like this. How it makes you feel. It wouldn’t hurt to learn these things, right?”
Unimpressed, Nezumi scowls. “I don’t do it for fun,” he replies, the annoyance clear to hear in his voice. “It’s not a hobby. It’s my job.”
“Maybe I could do it too,” says Shion, cautiously optimistic. “Acting, I mean. I’ve been trying my best to read as many books as I can in order to broaden my vocabulary. And I have a good memory. I’m even getting better at expressing myself. The idea of putting on a performance for a crowd of complete strangers is kind of nerve wracking, but if I practise–”
“No,” Nezumi snarls, grabbing Shion by the throat and slamming him up against the bookcase. “Absolutely not.”
He’s seriously angry. And it’s not because Shion is overstepping his boundaries. There’s a deeper meaning behind his fury.
“But why?” Shion rasps out.
It’s hard to speak when Nezumi has his fingers clamped so tightly around his vocal chords. Even breathing takes more effort than usual. It’s nostalgic. They’ve been in this position before.
Nezumi relaxes his grip, but his eyes still glint with the threat of danger. “Did you *see* that audience? Do you have any idea what the people in it are like?”
Shion shakes his head wordlessly. He can only remember being overwhelmed in shock and awe upon his new discovery. When he tries to bring to mind the faces around him, they’re just a blur. All he can recall is Nezumi. Nobody else matters. Nobody else is more important.
“You said it before, when I brought you back, about how I shouldn’t have gone to the theatre. About how I could have been swallowed whole by the monsters in the audience.”
“And by that I mean getting your ignorant ass raped.” Nezumi laughs bitterly. “You think you’ve learnt so much since you came here, but you still don’t know a damn thing when it comes to protecting yourself. You shouldn’t trust anyone. Not even me.”
“Don’t say that!” Shion shouts, rattled as always whenever Nezumi tries to keep him at a distance. They stopped being strangers long ago. Whether Nezumi likes it or not, they’re bound to one another. And Shion wouldn’t change that for the world. He can’t stand the thought of living without Nezumi. He doesn’t ever want to lose him. He doesn’t ever want to let him go. “I trust you with my life.”
“And that’s what makes you such a hopeless idiot.” Nezumi’s fingers are gentle when they run along Shion’s cheekbones, but his smile is cruel. “You’d fetch a pretty high price, with those eyes and that hair. What’s more, you’re dumb and innocent. Those filthy old men would fall over themselves to buy you. You’re totally their type.”
Shion bites down hard on his lower lip until the coppery taste of blood reaches the tip of his tongue. Nezumi isn’t doing this to rile him up. It’s his way of saying ‘watch your back’ because, as he tells Shion so often, there might come a time when he won’t be there to save him.
“Fair enough,” he says, the words calm and steady. “I promise to be more careful from now on. But,” he adds, smiling brightly, “since I have no intention of getting myself sold, and because I only got to see a few minutes of your last play, I asked Rikiga-san to get me a ticket for your next one. I still have work to do for Inukashi, but she promised to lend me pepper spray and a stun gun for when I go. So I’ll be all set when it comes to self defence.”
Nezumi stares in disbelief, like he’s not sure Shion is being completely serious, but then he bursts out laughing. He has to hold onto Shion in order to stay upright, gasping for breath, and even though Shion doesn’t see what’s so funny, he’s not going to get upset because Nezumi finds him hilarious for whatever reason.
Besides, he’s used to it.
“Take that dress off,” Nezumi says, once he gets his breath back. “You look ridiculous.”
At least he helps Shion out of it, tossing the garment aside carelessly when they’re done. Shion picks it up from where it’s fallen on the floor, muttering about how he’s going to have to wash it again. Nezumi really needs to take better care of his possessions. He loves books, but he doesn’t bother keeping them organised. Hamlet, Cravat and Tsukiyo are forever undertaking difficult (often dangerous) tasks, yet he’s never even given them names in return for their hard work.
It’s his job, then, Shion supposes, to do all these things in Nezumi’s place. And he has no intention of stopping.
“Idiot. Put your own clothes back on before worrying about someone else’s laundry.”
Shion glances down at himself in surprise. He never would have noticed if Nezumi hadn’t mentioned it, but he’s forgotten to get dressed. Underwear alone won’t provide much protection from the chilly winter weather. The hard stone floor under his bare feet leaves him even colder.
“Look.” Nezumi’s fingertips dance along Shion’s left arm. “You’re covered in goose bumps.” Sighing, he removes the super fibre cloth from his shoulders and wraps it around Shion. It’s warm. Shion can smell Nezumi’s scent when he rubs his cheek against it.
“Thank you,” he says sincerely.
Nezumi turns away, disgruntled. He can never seem to meet Shion’s eyes when he’s expressing his gratitude. He prefers to shrug it off as no big deal or tell Shion to stop being such an airhead. Either way, it leaves him suspiciously flustered. “Whatever,” he mutters. “I’m going to make dinner.”
“Wait,” says Shion, catching his sleeve. “Let me do it.”
He’s getting pretty good at cooking. And he knows Nezumi’s tastes. He likes his soup hot enough to scald and not too salty. If it’s any cooler or over seasoned, he’ll only complain. Then he’ll be in a bad mood for the rest of the night. He’s surprisingly picky about certain details.
“Suit yourself.” Nezumi flicks an index finger against Shion’s forehead, making him wince. It’s as though he’s literally trying to smack some sense into his brain. “But get dressed first. You’ll catch a cold otherwise.”
Shion does as he’s told while Nezumi grabs a book at random from the nearest shelf and flops down onto the bed to read it. He hasn’t asked for the cloth back yet, so Shion figures it should be okay to hold onto it for a little while longer. He’ll clean it along with the dress tomorrow morning. The bed sheets need airing too. He’ll have to visit the market at some point to stock up on food.
There’s always something to keep him busy, but that’s how Shion wants it. He’s happy to have a mental to-do list. He enjoys simply being with Nezumi. He cherishes the time they spend together.
And he feels like he belongs somewhere.