“You got it all wrong,” Yukika said, staring at him. “I was supposed to be yours.”
“Mine?” zaShunina asked, confused.
“Yours and father’s.” She tilted her head in the direction of Shindo’s body.
zaShunina could feel tears rolling down his cheeks. Shindo. His Shindo. He’d done that to him and it was hard to say why. The bookmark that Shindo had given him appeared in his hand. He caressed it and looked up to Shindo’s body. It was just an empty shell now. He had extinguished the light that was inside of Shindo. He’d pulled his beating heart from his chest. But even empty, he was drawn to him. He started to walk towards Shindo’s body.
Yukika shook her head. “No. You’ve done it wrong. We must start again.”
zaShunina glanced at her. His eyes widened at the energy that gathered in her palm. He started to run towards Shindo, but he didn’t make it.
“Find the right answer this time,” Yukika said as the energy swallowed him up.
It was warm, but cold, sharp, but soft, it hurt, but it didn’t. He couldn’t see or hear. It felt like he was falling. The sensation was all he could feel and he clung to it. Falling forever, and then he opened his eyes. He was standing inside of Kado, looking out at the boundary between the universe and the anisotropic. Shindo stood before him with a bag in his hand, staring out at the boundary. Even though the feeling of falling had stopped, zaShunina’s heart felt as though it was still falling at the sight of Shindo standing before him, alive.
“Shindo,” he whispered, his eyes watering.
Shindo, the man whose heart he had torn from his chest, turned. “Yes?” Shindo’s eyes widened as he noticed the tears. “zaShunina, are you alright?” He approached him, concerned.
“No, I.” zaShunina shook his head. “Shindo, I…” zaShunina’s hand appeared in front of Shindo, cupping his face gently.
Shindo was startled, but didn’t pull away. “What’s wrong?” He asked.
zaShunina shook his head again as words failed him. His hands began to map themselves across Shindo’s body, starting at his face, then sliding down his neck to his shoulders, his chest, his waist.
Shindo set his bag down and moved in front of zaShunina. He reached up, taking zaShunina’s face in his warm hands. “What’s wrong?” he asked again as he wiped tears from zaShunina’s cheeks.
“I had… a nightmare. A waking nightmare,” zaShunina said, his eyes drinking in Shindo’s form, even as his hands continued to restlessly wander his body.
“Then it’s alright. Everything is fine. You’re awake now and I’m here,” Shindo said gently.
“Yes,” zaShunina agreed. “You’re here.” He pulled Shindo closer, letting their bodies align and press together. It felt good. This time, it felt right. His hand wasn’t pressed through Shindo’s chest. No, his hands were holding Shindo so close to him, he felt like he could merge their bodies together. But Shindo didn’t complain.
Instead, Shindo surprised him. He tilted zaShunina’s face slightly, and then their lips met. zaShunina’s eyes widened as their lips pressed together. He’d read about this kissing, but he had never expected the simple meeting of flesh to feel like this. After all, humans were quite fond of metaphors. He had to admit, that the sensation felt so much more significant than just flesh meeting flesh. It felt like a revelation. Shindo pulled back, studying him for his reaction.
zaShunina leaned in, pressing his lips clumsily against Shindo’s. He could feel Shindo’s lips curve up into a smile. zaShunina wondered why he hadn’t done this sooner. His nightmare flickered in the back of his mind and he shivered. He could still remember the feeling of Shindo’s heart in his hand. He squeezed his hand around the warm, live man before him. He could lose himself in these kisses forever. And that was why this hadn’t happened sooner. It was a distraction. He had been so focused on his goal. A goal that he had been so sure of. A goal that would destroy this man in front of him. He couldn’t let that happen again. He wouldn’t let that happen. This time would be different.
Shindo’s tongue licked slowly at the seam of his lips and zaShunina parted them. Shindo pressed forward, letting his tongue slide into zaShunina’s mouth. Shindo tasted like eternity. It was as though he could attempt to analyze his taste for all of time and never would he reach a single answer about it. The only thing he could say for sure was that he wanted more. He pressed his tongue against Shindo’s. He could feel Shindo guiding him through, coaxing him to respond just so. He wanted to kiss him forever, but Shindo pulled back once more, breathing in deeply.
Shindo stroked zaShunina’s cheek. “How do you feel now?”
zaShunina licked his lips. How did he feel? “Like I never want to stop,” he said, honestly.
Shindo chuckled and pressed their foreheads together. “We can continue if you want.”
zaShunina nodded eagerly.
Shindo smiled. “Make us something soft to sit on and I’ll teach you more,” Shindo promised.
zaShunina was quick to pull Shindo down onto a soft bed-like structure that rose up from the floor. “Please teach me more,” he whispered, his hands already drawing Shindo’s face back to his.
zaShunina admired the colorful skyline of Tokyo. He was curled up on the loveseat on the balcony of his new home. A home he shared with Shindo. After he’d let go of his ambitions, it had been an easy decision to retire Kado to a quiet section of the ocean with the remaining gift for humanity sealed inside, ungiven. He’d left his plans behind after his dream. He’d let them crumble at the first touch of Shindo’s lips. And now, he was content. That hole inside him had been filled with so many new things. New sensations and feelings, like love. Such a small word, but it had such a large impact. Love had filled his life, and love had filled his stomach with life as well.
He looked down at his swelling stomach with wonder. After his dream, he’d suspected that an anisotropic being and a human could have a child, but not like this. Tsukai Saraka had the body of a human woman. He did not. Most of the time, his arms still remained detached from his body, yet Shindo never tried to change him. Shindo, his dear Shindo, had given him this wonderful gift. Together, they were making something amazing and new. Together, they’d made a child.
“How are you feeling?” Shindo asked, walking out onto the balcony with two cups of tea in his hands.
zaShunina turned and smiled at him. “Much better,” he said. “I have successfully held down food today.”
Shindo smiled at him fondly. “I suppose even a body like yours will have issues with a new life growing inside of you.”
“I do not mind,” zaShunina said, cradling his round stomach. “I am happy to have the experience.”
Shindo set the tea on the table and leaned down to press a kiss to zaShunina’s lips. “I’m glad I was able to give you a new experience.”
“I’m glad that I could give you a child,” zaShunina said, pulling Shindo’s hand down to feel where the baby was kicking. Yes, the near endless bits of information and love were nice, but together they’d made a child and that was far more exciting.
Shindo’s eyes softened. “You give some of the best gifts,” he said, settling on the love seat beside zaShunina.
zaShunina looked away. “Not always,” he said, thinking of the nightmare that still haunted him. It had been over a year since he’d dreamed of killing Shindo, but the guilt still weighed heavily on him. Shindo liked to push it aside with touches and kisses, as he did now. He stroked zaShunina’s stomach and kissed his shoulder, nuzzling him gently.
“What should we name it?” Shindo asked. Up till now, Shindo had only suggested that they think of names. But they were nearing the end of a typical human gestation period. Soon, their child would emerge.
“Her name will be Shindo Yukika,” zaShunina said, remembering the face of that girl and her words. ‘I was supposed to be yours,’ she’d said. Now she was. His and Shindo’s.
“Yukika,” Shindo repeated slowly.
“With the kanji for happiness and flower,” zaShunina explained.
“You’ve thought things through,” Shindo said.
“She told me her name,” zaShunina replied.
Shindo tilted his head curiously. “She did? You can hear her?”
zaShunina shook his head. “No. She told me in a dream.”
Shindo smiled. He still found it endearing that zaShunina slept and dreamed. He had no reason to sleep, but he did it. Shindo also had no need for sleep, but they’d still sleep together, curling up in bed and letting the night pass them by as they slept in each other’s arms. Even though it was theoretically wasteful, zaShunina cherished those times. Any time spent in Shindo’s arms was time well spent.
“Well, if she told you her name, who am I to argue?” Shindo asked.
“You would be very silly to argue with her. She will be amazing, like nothing our worlds have ever known,” zaShunina said.
“I can’t wait to meet her, my happy little flower.” He leaned down, pressing a kiss to zaShunina’s stomach.
Yukika was beautiful. Her hair was dark like Shindo’s, but her eyes were the unnatural pale pink of an anisotropic being. Her skin was pale, but not the unnatural white of zaShunina’s own skin. None of it really mattered though, as far as zaShunina was concerned, she was the perfect being. The perfect combination of human and anisotropic. She was the beginning of something new and wonderful and she was his this time. His and Shindo’s, just as she was meant to be.
“She’s so beautiful,” Shindo said. His voice full of awe as they looked down at their daughter who was resting in zaShunina’s arms..
“She is. I hope that she learns to smile more, unlike her father,” zaShunina teased, glancing up at Shindo.
“Which father are you referring to? Me or you?”
zaShunina blinked. “I am her mother,” he replied. “You are her father.”
“Ah, I suppose you wouldn’t have much attachment to the idea of gender,” Shindo said. “I think we’ll have to invite Hinamori around to teach her to laugh. I’m not very good at it.”
“Nor am I, but you do make me smile,” zaShunina said, looking at Shindo with a gentle smile.
Shindo mirrored his expression. “You make me smile. And so does our little flower. Yukika.” Shindo reached out for one of her balled up fists. Yukika looked up at him and opened her hand to accept his finger, gripping it tightly.
Yukika developed very quickly. She was advanced for her age, meeting and exceeding her developmental goals well beyond her peers. She was speaking like a ten year old by the time she was three. Both Shindo and zaShunina were in awe of her. They tried not to put her on a pedestal, but they were constantly surprised and delighted by her accomplishments and they celebrated every one accordingly.
zaShunina was currently engaging in the human art of “baking”. Yukika had been learning to write. She was learning hiragana and had managed to sound out and write her name in crayon. zaShunina decided that it called for something a little more special than their usual pat on the head, so he was attempting to bake cookies. He had read dozens of books on baking and watched various videos before he attempted it. The smell in the apartment was pleasant, leading him to believe he was on the right track.
“Kaasan,” Yukika said, wandering over and attaching herself to zaShunina’s leg.
“Yes Yukika?” zaShunina rested a hand on his daughter’s head, stroking her soft hair.
“I remembered something,” she said, looking up at him.
He tilted his head curiously. “What have you remembered?”
“I remembered when I told you to find the right answer,” she said, looking up at him solemnly.
He gasped, eyes widening. “You, but how?” He asked, staring down at her. How could she remember his nightmare. Or, had it not been a nightmare? Had it been real? Had he once killed his beloved Shindo and gotten everything so horribly wrong?”
Yukika gripped his hand in her own small ones. “It’s ok,” she said, pulling his hand down to rub her cheek against it. “You found the right answer. I’m yours this time.”
zaShunina sunk to his knees in front of her. He pulled her to him, hugging her tightly. “You are mine. Mine and Shindo’s. Our happy flower,” he said, wondering if she could hear the words over the loud hammering of his heart.
She smiled at him. It was a smile so bright, that he couldn’t help but smile back, despite the tears welling up in his eyes. “I am happy,” she said. “You’re happy. Tousan is happy. You found the right answer.”
He closed his eyes, trying to collect himself. The right answer. This was it. He had been wrong before, fatally so, but he’d been given a second chance. And he’d gotten it right this time around.
“There’s just one thing,” Yukika said slowly.
zaShunina’s eyes popped open. “What?” He demanded frantically. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing’s wrong,” Yukika said, shrugging her small shoulders. “I just want a sibling. Maybe a brother.”
zaShunina blinked, his eyes blurry with tears. He reached up to wipe them away. His thoughts were a dizzying spiral. “A sibling,” he said faintly.
Yukika nodded vigorously. “Yes, please. I don’t mind if it’s a boy of a girl. But maybe you can have twins and have one of each. Or triplets. Maybe you should do that. Then you can have two boys and one girl and there will be an even number of us.”
zaShunina stared at his daughter, bewildered as she went on to extol the virtues of birthing multiple children at once. He was snapped from his trance by the timer on the oven. He quickly rose and removed the cookies from the oven.
“Can I have one now?” Yukika asked, crowding him to look at the pan of cookies.
“They are hot. You will burn yourself. You may have one later, when they’ve cooled,” zaShunina said.
Yukika sighed, but accepted the answer. “How about siblings?” She asked hopefully.
“I will talk to your father about it,” he said.
Yukika smiled at him. “Yay!” She hugged zaShunina’s legs tightly before running off to her playroom.
Shindo found him in the kitchen not long after that. zaShunina was staring blankly down at the cookies when Shindo walked in.
“Is everything alright?” Shindo asked, walking up to zaShunina.
zaShunina blinked and turned to focus on Shindo. “Welcome home,” he said, leaning in to give him a quick kiss.
Shindo smiled and returned his kiss. “Thank you. Now, is something wrong? You didn’t hear me when I came in.”
“I’ve just been thinking,” zaShunina said. He never had told Shindo about his waking nightmare. Knowing that it was real, that he had once held Shindo’s heart in his hand as it beat its last, that was something he couldn't tell him. He’d found the best way to hold Shindo’s heart, this way. Having him alive and happy as they shared a life together. This was so much better than a future faced without Shindo.
“Did something happen?” Shindo asked, wrapping his arms around zaShunina. He rocked him gently in his arms, almost like a comforting dance.
“Yukika said she wants siblings,” zaShunina said.
“Oh? Would you want to have other children?” Shindo asked.
“Yukika is a joy. I would be happy to have another child,” zaShunina said. “But what about you?”
Shindo smiled gently at him, pressing their foreheads together. “I feel the same. I love her and the sound of her laughter and how you look at her. I love everything about her. I would love to have another child with you.”
zaShunina blushed. This man was so wonderful. How could he have ever thought to harm him? It was a mystery, one left for another time as Yukika streaked into the kitchen yelling for her father to show him her latest masterpiece.
Shindo released zaShunina with a quick kiss and picked up Yukika. He settled her on his hip and listened as she talked about her writing practice and how mother made cookies.
“Did Kaasan ask you?” Yukika finally asked.
“Ask me what?” Shindo replied.
“Did Kaasan ask you about siblings? I want siblings. I think you should have triplets. Two boys and one girl, so there’s an even number of us,” Yukika said, chattering at top speed.
“Is that so?” Shindo asked.
Yukika nodded eagerly.
“Making babies doesn’t really work like that,” Shindo said. “There’s more chance involved.”
“Maybe for humans, but Kaasan is something else. He can do it,” Yukika explained.
Shindo looked at zaShunina. zaShunina blushed under this scrutiny and shrugged. Shindo looked back at their daughter. “Well, your mother and I will have to discuss this. Are you sure you don’t want to spend more time being an only child?”
Yukika huffed. “No, it’s boring. And I can play with other kids, but it’s not the same.”
Shindo nodded. “You are a very special girl. Maybe we can find a group of special friends for you to play with,” he mused.
“Or make some,” she countered.
He laughed. “Even if we got pregnant tonight, your siblings would not be ready to play with right away.”
“Then we really shouldn’t waste time,” Yukika said reasonably.
Shindo could only shake his head at his daughter’s stubborn insistence.
“Would you like a cookie?” zaShunina asked, distracting her.
“Yes please!” Yukika said, squirming out of her father’s arms so she could move closer to the cookies.
zaShunina held the cooled tray of cookies down so she could select one. She snatched two and scampered away before anyone could stop her. zaShunina shook his head as he set the tray back on the counter.
Shindo took the opportunity to pull zaShunina back into his arms. “So, could you really control how many children we conceive?”
“Now that I’ve experienced it once, I think I could have more control over the process,” zaShunina admitted.
“I’m not saying that you need to have three more children at once, but that is interesting to know.” Shindo kissed him lightly.
“I wouldn’t mind three more,” zaShunina said once their lips parted. “It is certainly more efficient than having them individually.”
Shindo chuckled and kissed him again.
Nine months later, Asuka, Hiroki, and Noburu were born, to Yukika’s ecstatic delight.