The sun was fading behind the tall, looming walls of No.6, just a glint lighting up the base of the sky a pale orange. Shion looked out over the ruins, his eyes scraping over the cluttered markets of the West Block. As he walked back toward the quiet, warm basement room that he now called home, his legs began to ache from exhaustion. He had spent all day at Inukashi’s Hotel scrubbing dogs until their fur shone like newborn puppies. Kneeling beside the dogs, scrubbing them vigorously, taking constant trips to and from the river to collect water…the day’s work had left him more tired than he had ever been before in his life. But it felt good. It felt good for his muscles to scream in protest and to feel sweat running down his brow and back. Nezumi was right. He had never really experienced manual labor before. Inukashi had given Shion a silver coin for his work, a little extra than he was originally going to be paid seeing as he scrubbed every dog within an inch of its life. Even though it was simple work, Shion felt it was plenty more rewarding than his work in No.6 had been, even though he only received a silver coin, which appeared pathetic in comparison to the pay he used to receive. Come to think of it, now that he was earning his own money, Shion had expected Nezumi to tell him to look for a place of his own. Shion had been working at Inukashi’s for over two weeks now and he was constantly on edge waiting for Nezumi to bring the topic up.
But he hadn’t. Not once.
When Shion had originally asked Nezumi why he had taken him in, he had replied that it was because he owed him a debt for that time four years ago during the storm. But Shion had felt for a while now that the debt had by far already been repaid, that he had now overstayed his welcome. But Nezumi had never once told him that he should go live somewhere else and fend for himself now. Shion kicked a stone aside as he trudged over the ruins. Maybe it was because Nezumi didn’t want to feel rude saying something like that to Shion. Shion didn’t particularly think Nezumi would have a problem being rude but he couldn’t understand why else he had continued to shelter Shion under his roof, share his food and his warmth in bed at night. The question had itched at the edge of his mind for a while now, ever since he got the job at Inukashi’s. Shion couldn’t stand the feeling of being such a burden on him. Nezumi had saved his life twice now. Once from the correctional facility and once from the parasite wasp. So often Nezumi complained to Shion’s face about what an airhead nuisance he was to have around, so why did he endure it?
Shion’s feet trumped down the steps to the basement room heavily. A small ray of light was escaping through the bottom of the door so he new Nezumi was home from work also. He knocked on the door once before opening it so as not to startle him so much, however Shion suspected that Nezumi would have heard him coming down the steps anyway. Nezumi was sitting next to the boiler, slowly stirring his infamous Macbeth soup. The warm smell reached Shion’s nose immediately and he inhaled, a smile stretching across his face.
‘Welcome home,’ said Nezumi in his graceful voice, his eyes briefly flitting across to Shion and returning to the soup.
‘How was work today?’ asked Shion.
‘Hectic as usual. Several arguments broke out and a couple of the cast members threatened to quit. But they’re all desperate for the money so it’s not like anyone is actually going anywhere.’
‘Sounds like fun.’
Shion shed his coat and walked over to sit next to Nezumi on the couch. Their knees tapped each other as Shion lent over to smell the steam rising off the soup.
‘This is my favourite part of the day,’ commented Shion as the steam condensed on his eyelids.
‘Really, the soup? Not my dashing face welcoming you home?’ Nezumi said with a smirk.
Shion laughed shyly, ‘Well that too.’
Nezumi had begun to exhale a sigh but stopped himself before saying, ‘You’re so weird sometimes.’
Nezumi filled each of their bowls to the brim with soup. Usually the bowls would only be three quarters full but now that Shion worked they could afford a few more extra ingredients. Maybe that was why Nezumi hadn’t asked him to leave yet. But, Shion thought, if I weren’t living here he would easily be able to fill just his own bowl with soup seeing as his pay is considerably better than mine. If anything I’m a financial burden, not an aid.
‘You know I may be a restless sleeper but you also need to work out your annoying sleeping habits as well Shion.’
Nezumi’s voice drew Shion back to the room. Shion turned his head and captured Nezumi’s grey, luminous eyes with his own red ones.
‘What did I do?’
‘You’re so clingy in bed. It may be winter now but with the boiler it gets pretty stuffy in this small space and there’s nothing more uncomfortable in bed when you’re hot and there’s someone clinging onto you or pressed up against you. Do you think I’m your own personal teddy bear or something?’
There it is again. Look how much of a bother I am. I’m such a nuisance so why am I still here?
‘Hey, Shion. Shion!’
Shion found himself staring intently at Nezumi with a blank expression, lost in his own thoughts.
‘Such an airhead,’ Nezumi scoffed.
‘I’m sorry,’ he said quietly.
Nezumi looked over with an expression…was it confusion or agitation?
‘What are you apologizing for?’
‘For being such a burden. You have to buy food for two now, you have to deal with my annoying sleeping habits, you have to watch over me like a child because I’m such an airhead. I’m sorry for all of that and I’m confused as to why I’m still here.’
A deafening silence filed the air after Shion had finished speaking.
‘Why are you confused as to why you’re still here?’ Nezumi asked turning to face Shion directly on the couch.
‘When I asked before why you let me stay here you said that it was to repay the debt from four years ago. But Nezumi, you’ve saved my life twice and had to deal with me for over a month now. I’m an immense burden on you so why haven’t you asked me to leave yet?’
Something faltered in his expression and Nezumi leaned back slightly. He hesitated slightly before he answered, ‘The debt isn’t repaid yet. Four years ago you saved my life and that moment turned my life around.’
‘Didn’t you hear me Nezumi, I said you’ve saved my life twice now so really I should be in debt to you now. I just don’t get it.’
Nezumi tsked and looked away from Shion.
‘Not everything can be measured with numbers and facts, Shion. Some acts are worth more than others. Don’t you understand anything like that?’
Frustration suddenly rose up inside Shion. He lurched his body forward so that his face was only a few inches away from Nezumi’s, thinking that perhaps if he was closer his words might have more effect on him.
‘Of course I understand things that aren’t explained by facts and figures! But I don’t understand much about you, Nezumi. All you ever do is shroud yourself in mystery and never give me any answers so how am I supposed to know what debts are worth to you! All you do is complain about me, how much of an airheaded burden I am so I can’t help but feel that I’m imposing here. Maybe if you stopped hiding everything from me I might understand.’
‘I don’t owe you any answers Shion.’ Nezumi had tightened his hands into fists in the material of his pants. ‘Just accept things as they are and be happy that I haven’t thrown you out onto the street.’
‘Urggh!’ Shion threw himself up off the couch in anger and walked away from Nezumi towards the bookshelves. ‘This is what I’m talking about. ‘Just accept things as they are’. Well I can’t! I could see from your expression that it isn’t entirely a debt you feel you owe me that’s keeping me here, it can’t be. So what is it?’
Nezumi had now also raised himself off the couch and was standing a couple of metres away, his arms hanging beside him with his hands clenched not quite entirely into fists and his eyes hooded and slightly softened.
‘What is it that is making you keep me here? Just tell me!’
Nezumi moved so suddenly and fluidly that it took Shion completely by surprise. He felt the air close between them and soft, graceful fingers slide gently along his jaw to cup his face. Nezumi’s nose brushed against Shion’s and their lips overlapped. Suddenly everything faded into darkness and Shion realized that his eyes had closed. Nezumi’s hand shifted smoothly to brush through Shion’s white, feather like hair and settle at the back of his neck. He caressed Shion’s lips with his own, moving them slowly and tenderly against his. Shion didn’t really know how to respond. He had never kissed someone before other than on the cheek, but this was completely different. He felt his body respond as his head tilted slightly and his hands came up to fist themselves in Nezumi’s shirt. He could feel Nezumi’s heartbeat, faster than usual but not nearly as erratic as Shion’s was presently. Nezumi brought his other hand up and slid it around Shion’s waist, holding him more securely to him as he deepened this kiss. As he dragged his tongue along Shion’s lip, he coaxed open his mouth. Shion gasped as he felt Nezumi slide his tongue into his mouth. Shion clumsily tried to react, his tongue flicking against the other boys but Nezumi soon took control, sliding his tongue against Shion’s tantalizingly. A soft moan escaped the back of Shion’s throat as Nezumi pulled their mouths apart briefly to gasp in some air and then delved his tongue back into Shion’s mouth. Shion grabbed hungrily at Nezumi’s shirt, trying to pull him impossibly closer and Nezumi replied by pushing one leg in between Shion’s thighs and pressing their hips together.
‘Nezumi’ breathed out Shion before his mouth was once again enveloped in a dance of hot, wet, sliding tongues, gasping and moaning against each others lips. The hand that was snaked around Shion’s waist dragged to the front of his hips and pushed him gently back into the bookcase. Some of the books were stabbing at Shion’s back uncomfortably but he didn’t notice. All he could notice was the feel of Nezumi’s breath against him, the feel of his tongue sliding across his own, the feel of his hand gripped tightly in his hair…just the feel of Nezumi.
Nezumi’s hand sneaked under the hem of Shion’s shirt and gripped the bare skin just above his hip bone, his thumb tracing light circles. Nezumi’s other hand moved out of his hair and stroked along his jaw line until it reached the red scar along Shion’s neck. Nezumi’s fingertips brushed along the scar, caressing his neck softly. The heat that had built up in Shion’s stomach seemed to explode and warm his whole body. Nezumi withdrew his tongue from Shion’s mouth but did not separate their lips, lingering to slowly, almost lazily, massage Shion’s lips with his own. He nipped lightly at the edge of Shion’s mouth before pulling away and resting his forehead against the other boys.
‘Does that answer your question?’ he gasped, smiling with his eyes still shut.
‘I think so,’ answered Shion before burying his face in the dip of Nezumi’s neck releasing his breath in pants.
Later that evening when they had both finally settled down into bed, they started off the night facing each other, a rare occurrence as they usually began with their backs pressed together. Shion reached his hand out to entwine his fingers with Nezumi’s and a smile spread across Nezumi’s face at this gesture.
‘Thank you,’ whispered Shion quietly into the darkness.
‘For answering my question.’
Shion could hear the smirk in Nezumi’s voice as he said ‘I think you enjoyed that answer quite a bit, Your majesty.’
Shion was thankful it was dark as a blush filled his cheeks immediately.
‘You’re blushing aren’t you?’ Nezumi said as his fingers tightened against Shion’s.
Nezumi laughed lightly and rolled onto his back, resting their intertwined hands on top of his heart. Shion shifted so his head was nuzzled in the crook of Nezumi’s neck, their bodies close together.
‘Oh wait, you don’t like this clinginess. I forgot,’ Shion said as he began to move away.
Nezumi had brought his free arm, which Shion was lying on top of, around to cling Shion closely to him.
‘It may be hot but…it reminds me how warm living people are.’
Nezumi’s eyes fluttered shut as he fell into sleep. Shion smiled to himself and snuggled closer.
You’re an eloquent speaker Nezumi, but you’re not so deft at speaking what your heart feels. Shion thought as he too drifted off into sleep.