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Shion wasn't prepared for it to be such a replica of the first time.

He woke to darkness and the muzzy certainty that something had happened. The rain that he had fallen asleep to had turned into a storm, banging and rattling the shutters of his old bedroom window in Lost Town.

No, he realised, pushing himself up on his hands and blinking into the darkness. The banging was being filtered through the sounds of the storm; it wasn't part of it.

Shion slipped out of bed, the covers sliding off and tangling his feet up as he stood. The room wasn't big, and his bed was near the window. He shook off the blankets and stumbled the couple of steps to reach the window and pull it open, his limbs uncoordinated and sleep-heavy.

The city glow spilled into the room along with the wind and rain, backlighting a figure crouched on the window sill. Then the figure slipped inside and Shion was being shoved backwards, his knees hitting the bed. He fell onto his back on the tangled covers, and found himself immediately held down. A heavy body weighed down his legs, and a hand pressed against his collarbone.

Shion stared up into Nezumi's half-lit face. It was as though sleep and surprise had combined to hypnotise him. He opened his mouth and couldn't shape the name on his tongue.

Nezumi's eyes were a steady unreadable grey and so familiar it made everything in him want to cry out in recognition, even though there were subtle changes to Nezumi's face, too. The changes of months stringing themselves into years.

Something hot splashed against his cheek, and Shion came part of the way out of his daze. He lifted his hand, smearing the drop on his finger, and held it under his nose.


"You're hurt!' Shion said.

Nezumi rubbed his thumb over the snake on Shion's neck. The sensation was an odd buzzing on the edge of numbness, on the not-quite-desensitised skin. It had been so long since anybody had touched Shion there, he'd forgotten it didn't feel quite the same as when he did it himself.

"Is that still your first thought when a stranger breaks into your room and puts you in a life-threatening hold?" Nezumi asked. His voice was the same as ever. "You haven't grown up at all."

Shion got his hands against Nezumi's chest and pushed him off. Nezumi went more easily than Shion had expected, with an indrawn breath of pain.

For a moment Shion still couldn't move, his heart hammering too hard. Finally he rolled into a sitting position, looking down at Nezumi. He was lying with his arm at a stiff angle on the bedclothes.

"You're not a stranger," Shion said. "If you were, then so would everybody in the world be." Somehow both their voices sounded hushed. Maybe it was because of the storm.

Nezumi made a tch sound in his throat. "Maybe everybody is."

Shion ignored him in favour of turning on the bedside lamp. There was a plaintive sound from the bed, and Shion turned back to find Nezumi had thrown his uninjured arm over his eyes. "You were always terrible at maintaining an ambience," he protested into his arm.

"I know," Shion said, slipping off the bed and padding over to the window to close it against the storm. "But I have to be able to see what's wrong with your arm, you know."

Nezumi lifted his good arm, peering cautiously into the now-brighter room. His eyes flicked to Shion. "I can tell you that," he said. "Somebody put a knife in it."

Shion paused. He had knelt to draw out his first aid kit, which he kept in his bedroom under his bed for reasons he had never felt the need to examine. "A knife?"

Nezumi turned his head, cheek resting on the coverlet, and regarded Shion with glittering eyes. "This phoenix city of yours is still no utopia, you know. There are plenty of people who will knife you if you pick enough fights."

Shion finished pulling out the first aid kit, his hands trembling a little. Then he took a trip to the bathroom to fill a basin with water. He returned to find Nezumi sitting up against the headboard with his old kingly air.

Shion knelt by the bed, because that was the easiest angle, and began peeling away the cloth Nezumi had wound around his arm, underneath the sleeve that Shion could see now had been slashed.

Nezumi hissed a little as Shion cleaned the gash, dabbing in careful, even passes with the cloth. There was something intensely dreamlike about everything still, Shion caught in that strange night-time feeling of unreality.

"Oh," he said. "It's not so bad. You don't need a trip to the hospital."

Nezumi raised his eyebrows. "Hospital? You wouldn't have thrilled at the chance to repeat your amateur suturing job?"

"No," Shion said. "Yes. I don't know. Nezumi, you said you had been picking fights. How long have you been in the city?"

He looked up at Nezumi, and quickly back at the gauze he was applying.

"Mm," said Nezumi. "About a week, I suppose."

Shion stopped. He couldn't help hunching around the pain of that.

"It's a compliment of sorts," Nezumi said, after a pause. "Or it could be, if you want to think of it that way. When people avoid somebody, it's most often through fear. And you only fear people who matter, who have a very strong hold over you."

Shion looked at the floor, his hands still paused halfway through wrapping Nezumi's bandage. "Is that true?" he asked. "That you stayed away because you were afraid?"

"Who knows?" Nezumi said lightly. "Maybe –"

"I don't want that kind of compliment," Shion said, interrupting him. He lifted his face, clenching his fingers in the length of bandage. "I want you to want to see me."

Nezumi's eyes widened, and for a moment it seemed like he couldn't break Shion's gaze. Then he turned his head away. "Why do you always want dangerous things?" he muttered.

Shion couldn't find a quick answer. Nezumi could always make him inarticulate. He finished securing the bandage and put the basin and supplies away.

For a moment he paused over the lamp. Then he turned it off. The window was closed, but the curtains were still open, so the room wasn't entirely dark. He sat down on the other side of the bed, since there was nowhere else to sit.

Nezumi rolled over in the semi-darkness, crowding Shion against the headboard. His hand came around the back of Shion's neck this time, his fingers carding through the hair at Shion's nape. He let his other hand – the injured side – rest on Shion's cheek.

"You want to be wanted," he said, low. "Is this good enough, then?" He leaned in and touched their mouths together.

It was a shivery, chaste kiss, like the other kisses, until Nezumi's tongue flicked against Shion's lower lip and Shion opened his mouth with a gasp, and then it was something else.

"No," Shion managed to breathe, arching up into him. "Not enough." Shion kissed back, clumsy and unpractised, heat and sweetness and Nezumi's teeth scraping Shion's lip like sparks in the darkness.

"Stay." Shion turned his mouth to the side, pressing it against Nezumi's cheek, urgent to make his words clear. "Stay, stay." And then turning back to Nezumi's mouth because he couldn't help it, words lost between them but still reciting like a mantra in Shion's head, Stay, stay this time.

Only a few moments more, then Nezumi calmed the kiss. Shion could feel him doing it, the skill in it, how Shion was being led into softer kisses that broke more easily. But Nezumi was breathing almost as hard as Shion when he pulled back, all the same.

Shion pressed his forehead against Nezumi's and closed his eyes. He found Nezumi's loosely curled fist on the bed, his uninjured side, and wormed his hand into it. He laced their fingers together.

Nezumi gave a silent huff of laughter and flopped onto his back, his hand in Shion's on the pillow between them.

Shion felt some of the tension leave his body. He lay down beside Nezumi, all his limbs feeling light and strangely weak.

He wanted to shift closer, but this was almost too much already. Nezumi's fingers were interlocking warm with his in the darkness.

"In the morning," Nezumi said quietly, "we need to talk. About a lot of things."

"Oh," said Shion. "Good."

That wasn't the same as Nezumi saying he would stay, but the word tomorrow tasted like hope on Shion's tongue.

Nezumi was back. The world would be new tomorrow.