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Communication Breakdown

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"So this is the way the world ends," Nezumi proclaims, chin hooked over Shion's shoulder and weight pressed over his already-hunched back. "Not with a bang, but with bureaucracy."

"The world isn't ending," Shion mutters distractedly, changing views on his console and hurriedly scrawling a note on the electronic paper that's half-hidden underneath four binders. "I imagine there'd be less paperwork if it was."

"Hmm," muses Nezumi. He loops his arms around Shion's neck, leaving them to dangle loosely. It makes typing difficult, which is probably the point. Nezumi blows a bit of air into Shion's left ear. "This is what you get for being a productive member of society, you know."

"Carpal tunnel syndrome?" Shion absently replies, squinting at footnote twelve. He doesn't notice that Nezumi has taken hold of his wrists until they're being neatly plucked right off from the keyboard. Nezumi makes them waggle side to side before he's satisfied that they're not about to detach.

"You should take a break, then, Your Highness."

Nezumi's mood is infectious, but Shion has three more grant proposals to read through before tomorrow, a fifty-page report to skim, and an endless pile-up of e-correspondence. None of which he really has any direct say over, but until he officially switches over from being an active committee member to an independent consultant ("Oh good, because the other title wasn't vague enough," said Nezumi), they're his responsibility anyway.

Everything in these reports and statistics and studies and proposals uses language like 'long-term' and 'continuing progress' and 'conservative estimates' and 'ongoing'. After over four years of 'immediate attention required' and 'provisional' and 'interim measures' and 'expedited process', it should be reassuring to see the gradual shift in vocabulary.

Instead it's just incredibly boring. Shion thinks maybe he has something of a revolutionary spirit in himself, after all. It's probably Nezumi's influence.

"I just want to get through this," Shion mumbles. He's read the same sentence six times now. "I'll feel better once I finish."

Nezumi sighs. Loudly.

"You've said that for a week and a half," Nezumi reminds him.

"It's still true."

"Who's going to do this stuff when you finally tell them to piss off?"

"I don't know, probably no one. I'm really just overseeing things at this point," Shion gestures at the entirety of his workspace. "It's all long-term projects and research I was involved in at one point or another, back when—"

You weren't here, Shion finishes silently. When no one had any idea of what they were doing but we knew we needed to do something. Back when I had to spend every minute thinking about No.6 and its future, because otherwise I'd think of you and end up missing you so badly I couldn't even breathe.

"Back when it was a gongshow?" Nezumi supplies. He lets out a barking laugh. "At least gongshows are interesting."

He's right. Shion knows now that even with the stress and sleepless nights and seemingly insurmountable problems, part of him – most of him, in fact – had enjoyed it. The chance to take the theoretical into the practical, to analyze and interpret and implement on a wide scale… Shion thinks that even if he hadn't been motivated by personal reasons, he'd still have done it for the intellectual challenge alone.

But now –

Now Shion sort of thinks that short of holding Nezumi or his mother at gunpoint, there's pretty much nothing that could motivate him to want to continue this for another however-many years.

"At least let's move the desk back into the living room, where there's sun," suggests Nezumi. "Remember the sun?"

It's a spectacularly ironic comment, given the source, but Shion lets it slide. What Nezumi's really saying is 'At least work where I can annoy/distract/guilt you more easily.' And possibly 'I want the study back so I can read where the books are instead of carting them around the flat and oh, by the way: I don't care that you've tripped over the stack in the living room twice this week, it's your own stupid fault.'

"Give me another week?"

"So am I just soliloquizing to myself, here," Nezumi huffs in annoyance. "Take a break, give the committee the middle finger, go outside—"

"I appreciate your concern," Shion cuts in sharply, "But I don't need to be managed like a child. Go be bored somewhere else, Nezumi."

He regrets it the second it leaves his mouth, and freezes with guilt. Nezumi has likewise gone still, his expression shifting into neutral so fast it reminds Shion of an elastic band snapping back into place, and he fights down a flinch.

"You know," says Nezumi. "I haven't paid a visit to your mama in a bit."

"She'd – like to see you, I'm sure," Shion replies, feeling like a bad actor.

"Okay then. I'll leave you to your important things."

And he does.

Nezumi comes back late in the evening, carrying the usual care package from Karan (this time, scalloped potatoes and half a dozen poppyseed muffins).

"Your mother and I had a lovely time," Nezumi announces, breezing into the study without so much as an 'I'm home.'

"Oh –"

"We spent a good hour or so trying to piece together what your face looks like. She'd forgotten and I'm getting hazy on the details, but together we managed a convincing mental picture."

"—good," Shion finishes, gritting his teeth. He's worked up a monstrous headache during Nezumi's absence and it hasn't helped his productivity any.

"Get anything done," Nezumi asks, plainly not interested as he wanders into the kitchen to put away the food.

"A great deal, thank you," Shion lies. Nezumi just laughs like he knows, and it makes Shion's headache spike painfully at his right temple.

"Hey," says Nezumi, ambling back in and peering at the bookshelves that take up all the study's wallspace. "Are you still working through Woolf? I think we're missing To The Lighthouse; have you seen it?"

"Nezumi," Shion says, in a voice far more brittle than he'd wanted to come out, "Can you please, please, please be quiet."

"Are you okay?" Nezumi asks, moving to crouch beside Shion at the desk. He puts a hand on Shion's thigh. "You sound like you're about to cry and I don't think Woolf is ever that upsetting."

"I'm not, I just have a headache that won't shift."

"For fuck's sake," is Nezumi's assessment, as he switches off the console and all but hauls Shion to his feet. "If you won't at least take a nap, I'm going to pummel you until you're unconscious."

"Nezumi," Shion says, in as firm a voice as he can manage, but he's being tucked into bed before his argument can fully form. "Nezumi."

"What," Nezumi replies, pausing from making sure the blankets are folded just so to look up at him.

"Stay for a bit."

Nezumi's mouth twists in an expression Shion can't quite pinpoint, and goes to shut the blinds, blocking out the night outside. He flicks on the bedside lamp and switches it to the dimmest setting.

"Fine," he agrees, settling cross-legged on top of the covers. "I'm gonna read, though, so don't get weepy about the light."

"I won't," Shion promises, and curls onto his right side to face Nezumi. He waits for Nezumi to settle in with his book before he dares brush a hand against Nezumi's thigh.

Nezumi tsks.

"Sure, now you want my attention. You're like a dumb toddler, seriously."

But he drops one hand down to lace it with Shion's all the same.

The headache goes and doesn't come back. Nezumi isn't so easy to avoid.

"Where are you going," Nezumi says, somehow managing to make the simple inquiry sound like an accusation of high treason. Shion cringes. He'd thought Nezumi had been asleep.

"A meeting. Sorry, did I wake you?" he asks, suspecting not because otherwise Nezumi would be a lot more irate.

"I have a stupid-ass all-day rehearsal," Nezumi yawns in response. "Prompt attendance required, be-off-book-or-lose-the-role-to-your-understudy, the whole deal. What time is it?"

Shion consults the stove's digital clock. "Just after 9."

"Well." Nezumi lets out another yawn. "Good thing I'm too irreplaceable to have an understudy. I thought your meeting was this afternoon."

"It is; this is a preliminary meeting to make sure we're ready for the one this afternoon with—"

"It's like they're testing you," says Nezumi, wonderingly. "To see how much they can get away with before you finally clue in."

"They are not," Shion sighs, opening the closet to get his shoes. "I offered to come to this one, anyways."

"Oh, well, as long as you're volunteering," Nezumi mocks. "Heart of gold. Brain of rotted vegetables."

"Thank you," says Shion. He laces his shoes too fast, and has to redo them before finally standing up, ready to go. "Your pep talks are always so inspiring."

"Endless source material," Nezumi's smile is tired but genuine. "Have a good day at the office, honey."

"You, too," Shion replies, and slips out the door.

Every window in the flat is open when Shion finally escapes at 3 o'clock, and Nezumi is lying in the middle of the living room floor, shirtless and spread-eagled. He's quite visibly drenched in sweat, his hair plastered against his forehead and cheeks.

Shion doesn't feel equipped to deal with this sort of thing right away, and doesn't have much time before the afternoon meeting starts up, so he leaves his shoulder bag on the kitchen counter and veers delicately around Nezumi's prone figure. He needs to load new content onto a data chip, and it takes him a few seconds of scrounging about the desk's disorder before he finds one.

That accomplished, he brings the chip back to the kitchen, sliding it into his bag's front pocket. Shion breathes in deeply, and walks back to the living room.

Nezumi glances up at his approach.

"I've got nothing," Shion admits, sitting down on the couch nearest to Nezumi.

"Air conditioning wasn't turned on," Nezumi explains. He sounds like he's just crossed a desert or twelve on foot. "Spotlights are very, very hot. House manager is a bag of dicks. 'It's barely spring, of course I haven't asked for it to be turned on.' Director is useless and apparently I am a small child that needs endless fucking direction on blocking, of all goddamn things, like I can't fucking orient myself on a stage—"

"Did you throw a fit?"

"How well you know me," Nezumi admits, his burst of temper escaping him in a huff of air and then promptly regathering itself after a sharp inhale. "Apparently I'm 'inexperienced' and 'could benefit from direction' and 'need to work harder to make the audience connect with Hamlet.' It's fucking Hamlet, if you aren't connecting, you don't buy a fucking ticket in the first place."

"Maybe he's just nervous. We've never had a Shakespearean tragedy," Shion points out, meaning No.6 as a whole. "You got along with him fine for A Midsummer Night's Dream last year."

"And then he has the fucking gall to tell Ophelia that she's 'doing more work than the rest of the cast put together,'" Nezumi continues, like Shion hasn't said anything. "At which point we experienced what is known as a professional disagreement."

"Oh, Nezumi."

"It's insulting," Nezumi insists. "I got more respect dragging it up in the West Block."

"Do you still have the role," Shion asks, tentatively. Nezumi sits up abruptly, giving Shion an incredulous look.

"Of course I still have the role, why wouldn't I?" Shion blinks, bewildered. Nezumi laughs, slicking back his hair with one hand. "It's theatre, Shion. It's not a production until someone throws a prop into the house seats and leaves in a rage."

"I see," says Shion. What he's really seeing, though, is the way Nezumi is twisting his hair back up into its usual knot, the way the muscles in his arm ripple with the motion. There's sweat on Nezumi's tight stomach, just above his belly button. "You're—"

Nezumi meets his eyes, and everything inside Shion goes molten all at once.

Meeting, Shion thinks frantically. Think of meetings and paperwork and not Nezumi and his eyes and his lips and jaw and throat and.

Nezumi is kneeling in front of the couch. His hands are placed lightly on Shion's spread knees, but they might as well be anchors.

"So?" Nezumi prompts, like he's presented Shion with a menu.

"So—" Shion swallows. He forces himself to break away from Nezumi's gaze.

Spreadsheets, reports, meetings, he chants inwardly. "When I get back, we can—"

"Fuck that," Nezumi declares, and Shion only manages to haul himself off the couch in time because Nezumi lets him. "Shion."

“Nezumi, no,” Shion half-laughs, darting out of the way of Nezumi’s considerable reach in a series of moves he’s learned, however imperfectly, from Nezumi himself. He spins around, a little out of breath, as soon as the kitchen counter is safely between them. In the living room, Nezumi is getting up slowly, an expression like he’s not quite decided if he has to put in effort or not on his face, and the sight of it ignites a pleased panic in Shion’s stomach. “Nezumi, seriously, put on a shirt—"

“A shirt?” Nezumi drawls, rising to his full height. He looks at Shion with a spectacularly forlorn look, shaking his head slowly. He’s using his theatre voice. “A shirt cannot save you now, Shion.”

“Oh geez,” Shion breathes out, reaching out behind himself for the shoulder bag on the opposite counter, not quite daring to give Nezumi his back. Nezumi is advancing slowly, completely unimpressed with Shion’s strategies. Shion flails his right arm, finally landing on something bag-like, and he knows – he knows – he hasn’t taken his eyes off Nezumi but it’s all for nothing anyways because now Nezumi’s in front of him, reaching into the front pocket of his bag and dropping the data chip he finds in it into the sudsy kitchen sink, right along with the butter knife and a plate from breakfast.

Shion just stares, feeling that this was an inevitable state of affairs. Nezumi contemplates the ruin of Shion’s reputation for punctuality, like they’re looking at a painting in a museum.

“What,” Nezumi begins, and Shion can almost see the scripted ‘beat’ hovering in the air, “A horrible, horrible shame.”

“I'm almost one hundred percent certain that was my last blank chip,” Shion tells him. “I hope you’re pleased with yourself.”

“I’ve achieved a measure of inner peace, sure,” Nezumi agrees, amiably. Shion scoffs.

“And yet your ability to cause problems remains immeasurable and very much not inner.”

“Hurtful words,” Nezumi notes, with a raised eyebrow. He sidles a bit closer to Shion, one hand braced on the counter in a parody of a casual stance.

“Now I’ll have to go out, buy another chip, come back, copy all the data all over again,” Shion lists, “by which point I’ll be at least an hour late to my meeting, which means it’ll go on longer than scheduled, which means I’ll be coming home later than scheduled, which means you’ll have less time to harass me, which I know is your chief joy in life. Therefore, your behaviour has been very counterproductive.”

“Well, QED yourself, Your Highness,” Nezumi grins, and that’s how Shion knows, even as he bolts from the kitchen to the relative safety of the bedroom’s locking ensuite bathroom, that he’s left his escape attempt much too late.

Skidding into the bedroom, Shion has a brief moment of hesitation: try vaulting the bed to save distance, or veer around and save himself the potential humiliation of falling flat on his face. It’s the indecision that gives Nezumi the split-second edge he needs to tackle Shion’s midsection and send him flailing into the bed with an unmanly sort of shriek.

“You might’ve made it if you’d turned off that brain of yours,” Nezumi says, like it’s the most helpful information he can give to the person he’s immobilized underneath him. Shion sighs, squirming minutely to test Nezumi’s resolve. “Nah, don’t bother, I kind of like you there.”

“I know,” says Shion, “and I usually like being here, too, but now is not really—"

“You’ve already said I’ll have less time to ‘harass you’, as you romantically put it, when you get home. I’m creating opportunity,” and here Nezumi punctuates the last bit by shifting his hips just so, giving Shion a deliberate look.

Shion has many, many weaknesses when it comes to Nezumi. His eyes just happen to be at the top of the list.

“You don’t have to,” Shion murmurs, meeting Nezumi’s gaze without hesitation. “I’ll always have time for you. You’re all I want time for.”

Nezumi blinks and his face forms an expression of bemused incredulity, but Shion knows he’s just embarrassed and trying to bluster his way through it.

“Hell of a line,” is what Nezumi says, and it has so little to do with what he means that Shion can’t help but laugh a little. “What’s so funny.”

“You, I guess,” Shion answers, honestly enough to earn himself a patented eyeroll. “Nezumi.”

“Uh-huh,” Nezumi says with an air of distraction, like he’s occupied by anything other than straddling and staring at Shion.

“Can you please decide if you’re going to kiss me or let me go to my meeting?”

“Ugh,” intones Nezumi, finally flopping down and burrowing his head in Shion’s shoulder. His ponytail tickles Shion’s nose. Shion obediently wraps his now-freed arms around Nezumi’s bare, sweaty waist, thinking that if that act alone wasn't love, nothing was. “Still your stupid meeting.”

“You’d probably say any alternative was stupid, so your criticism doesn’t mean much,” Shion points out. “Like if I were going off to save an orphanage or something.”

“Orphans are stupid.”

“You’re an orphan, Nezumi.”

“I’m the exception. Most orphans are not nearly as handsome, talented and smart as I am. Example: Inukashi.”

“She wouldn’t consider herself an orphan.”

“Okay, a retarded orphan who thinks dogs are parental substitutes. She’s still a stupid orphan at the end of the day.” Nezumi pauses, and lifts his head up enough so that Shion can tell he’s glaring, before dropping it back down again. He’s squirmed his hands between Shion’s back and the mattress, and his right ankle is lazily knocking against Shion’s. Shion can almost feel his own body temperature rise by degrees in response. “Why are we even talking about this?”

“I need to leave, Nezumi.”

“That’s an even worse topic,” Nezumi groans. He bites Shion’s shoulder as though to prove his point. “This is a better one,” he continues, giving Shion’s neck a leisurely, open-mouthed kiss. Shion knows what kisses like that mean, and while he can afford to be half an hour or so late, he absolutely can't miss the meeting outright. "I'm hot and bothered anyways, might as well make the most of it."

“Nezumi,” Shion says, in the kindest way he knows, “I'm sorry, but now’s really not—"

“Fine,” Nezumi snaps, flinging himself off Shion and the bed before Shion can even blink. “I can see you’re really fucking eager to go to your damn meeting; does everyone there take turns sucking your dick?”

“Nezumi,” Shion sits up slowly, like Nezumi’s a trapped animal liable to attack.

“Go enjoy your orgy,” snarls Nezumi, and he's disappeared behind the door to the study with a theatrical slam before Shion can say another word.

Shion gathers his shoes and bag. He mentally formulates the apology he'll have to make to the committee, and wishes Nezumi had picked a different venue to hole up in, preferably one that didn't house his console and work materials.

“Nezumi,” he tells the study door. “I’m going now. I’ll be back around six, maybe seven. If you want to eat without me, that’s fine.”

The responding silence is loud as thunder. 

Shion doesn't think he’s done anything wrong, but the pit of his stomach gives a troubling pang. He never wants for Nezumi to hurt. He wishes he could learn the right thing to say for moments like these, a more eloquent way to comfort.

“I love you,” he says, because that's what it always has and always will boil down to, and then he has to go.

Shion comes home at quarter after seven.

"I'm home," he calls out, as he takes off his shoes and hangs up his jacket. There isn't a single light on. Shion pads out of the foyer and sees there's no light coming out from underneath the study, either. He sighs, runs a hand through his hair, and makes his way to the kitchen.

"No one sucked my dick," he begins, opening the refrigerator. "Which I think you'd agree is too bad, because it was a really long meeting. We wouldn't have even had time to look at my data."

It's the usual cacophony of leftovers: curry-style chicken (Shion's second attempt after the first had been deemed 'too bland for even the mice to eat'), steamed broccoli (bought on sale and slightly overdone because Nezumi had been reading lines at the time and Shion had gotten distracted), and his mother's scalloped potatoes. 

He pauses after shutting the fridge door, not really expecting an answer but not wanting to risk not hearing one, either.

Shion pulls two plates out of the cupboard.

"Mostly we talked about school curricula," Shion continues, as he spoons broccoli onto both plates. "The new minister of education was there. She's very – well, you'd like her. Lots of talk about what should be mandatory learning, and at what age. Which was funny, because how do you determine at what age it's appropriate to hear about bees hatching from people's necks and sucking the life out of them? I can't imagine what kind of expert we'll source for that," he laughs, ruefully.

There are four pieces of the curry chicken left. Shion frowns, wondering if Nezumi's even eaten since he left.

"Just split it evenly," says Nezumi, as he silently drops into one of the chairs at the kitchen bar counter. Shion gives him a smile, divies accordingly and puts Nezumi's plate in the microwave. "No blowjobs, huh."

"You've still got the monopoly, it seems."

"That happens when you're that much better than the competition," is Nezumi's breezy retort, but he's shifting uneasily in his seat and won't quite meet Shion's gaze. Shion opens the fridge again to see if they'll need to buy more milk tomorrow, and notices they're almost out of eggs.

The microwave dings, loudly.

"Here," Shion says, setting the plate in front of Nezumi. Nezumi doesn't move. "What, should I heat it more?"

"Cutlery," Nezumi replies, shortly.

"Oh, geez," sighs Shion, sliding the drawer open to pull out a knife and fork, reaching across the counter to pass them to Nezumi. "My brain's completely mush."


"Eh? It's okay, I don't think it's permanent."

"Not your stupid brain," Nezumi hisses. "For losing my shit."

"Oh," allows Shion. He loads his plate into the microwave before turning to face Nezumi. There's an emotion prowling somewhere in the pit of his stomach again, but Shion can't name it for the life of him. He crosses his arms to ward it off for the time being. Nezumi just looks away. "I wish you hadn't."

Nezumi doesn't say a word. They eat in silence not because Shion wants to give Nezumi the silent treatment, but because he doesn't know how to say what he needs to say.

He finally sorts it out while Nezumi is brushing his teeth and he's curled up in bed with Mrs Dalloway. "Nezumi," he starts, when the person in question emerges from the bathroom. Nezumi looks at him, the ends of his loose hair damp from washing his face, and Shion almost panics at the late realization that he has, in fact, done something wrong. "I'm sorry. I've—"

Nezumi shifts his weight from one hip to the other. It's an unconscious motion, graceful as any Nezumi makes. "What, forsaken me for Virginia Woolf," he drawls, making a loose gesture at Shion's novel. Shion doesn't dignify the evasion with an answer, and affects what he hopes is a no-nonsense expression.

"It's okay," Nezumi says, finally.

"It's not," Shion disagrees. Nezumi's nonchalance just makes him feel worse. Nezumi quirks an eyebrow, and his expression is so convincingly unconcerned that Shion would probably believe it if he hasn't seen what Nezumi is capable of on stage. "It's not, and I'm so sorry."

"You can be sorry all you like," Nezumi tells him. "Doesn't really change anything, but if it makes you feel better, go for it."

Shion feels either tears or anger coming on. He clings to the latter because if he starts to cry now, Nezumi will probably yell and say things he doesn't mean.

"Did you feel better when you blew up at me?" he shoots back.

"What the fuck do you think," Nezumi bites out. 

"Then I don't feel any better, either!"

They stare at each other for few tense moments.

"You're going to ruin Mrs. Dalloway's party like that." Shion blinks stupidly, then looks down at the novel in his hands. He's gripping it hard enough to cause new cracks along the spine. He takes a deep breath, exhales, and replaces the book on the bedside table, on top of Nezumi's Siddhartha.

"I really am sorry."

"I know. But I know you have your – whatever it is you do," Nezumi dismisses, "And it's not like that's a new thing you've just sprung on me."

"The sixty hour workweek is a new thing," Shion mutters, irritably. "Trust me, I have the sleep deprivation and typos to prove it."

"You know what I mean," says Nezumi, making a vague hand gesture. Shion's relieved to see it: a hand-talking Nezumi is a communicative Nezumi. "I don't really get the sort of shit you have to do."

"Well, likewise," Shion smiles. "Can you see me on stage or with a microphone in front of me? I'll take meetings and reports, thank you."

Nezumi grins at that. "You'd be a horrible actor. Too honest."

"Nothing about my musical abilities?"

"Personally, I'm a fan of your sound," Nezumi says, and there's heat behind it. Shion feels his face and the back of his neck flush, not unpleasantly. "Think you're better suited to a private audience, though."

Shion turns off the bedside lamp and lifts the covers for him, because it's the only appropriate response. Nezumi's nestled against his side at once, a leg between his own and hands against his sides, underneath his t-shirt. They kiss, and it's slow, the sort of kiss that could go anywhere or not at all. Shion cups Nezumi's face in his hands. The only illumination comes from the bright press of streetlights against the bedroom blinds, but it's more than enough to go by.

"See something you like, Your Majesty?" Nezumi teases, but the way he leans into Shion's touch is all seriousness.

"Always," Shion answers, simply. When Nezumi kisses him, he lets his hands wander through Nezumi's dark hair, pressing over his nape and down to his upper back, the topography of scar tissue there.

"Sometimes," Nezumi breathes out, before he gets momentarily distracted with pulling Shion's t-shirt off. "Sometimes—and you're going to love the irony here—I just miss you."

"Says mister 'I promise we'll be reunited someday.'"

"That's where I was going with the irony, yeah."

"I miss you, too," Shion says, and then quickly adds, so Nezumi can't interject, "I think I could spend a thousand years with nothing but you every waking moment, and still miss you."

"You'll never make it as a poet, either," Nezumi replies. Shion presses his palm to Nezumi's shoulder, gently, until Nezumi rolls over onto his back. Shion helps him out of his shirt and lays his hand over Nezumi's belly, which trembles to the touch. "Oh."

"Hips," Shion requests, and Nezumi lifts his. Nezumi's pants get lost somewhere in the darkness of the bedroom floor, and Shion makes two circles on Nezumi's lower stomach with his palm before dipping lower.

"Oh," Nezumi gasps again, the sound of it like something bright bursting in Shion's heart. Nezumi swallows heavily as Shion kisses each of his ribs. "This really isn't allowed."


"No, it's cheating and you—" and then Shion takes him into his mouth, which effectively puts an end to coherence.

Shio doesn't think it's cheating, not really. Not when all he wants is Nezumi, just like this, sweating and flushed, his hands stroking through his own and Shion's hair by turns. Not when Nezumi's perfect voice is navigating meaningless syllables and vowels of pleasure, and not when he's saying Shion's name like it's a song.

It's been a while. Nezumi comes fast and with a rushed exhale, like he can't be bothered with breathing anymore.

"Fuck," he moans, dropping his forearm over his eyes as Shion pulls away. It's a habit Shion is determined to break.

"Don't," he tells Nezumi softly, gently clasping Nezumi's wrist and nuzzling underneath the raised forearm. "Nezumi."

Nezumi lifts his arm after a second or two of Shion's stubborn efforts, grumbling in a non-committal, post-orgasmic sort of way.

"Goddamn fixated, is what you are," he complains, but his eyes meet Shion's in the dim light.

"You're the one that keeps hiding," Shion replies, dropping a kiss on Nezumi's sweaty forehead in reward. "Don't, and I won't have to be fixated."

"You'll just pick something else," whines Nezumi, submitting to what is now more or less Shion trying to kiss every millimeter of his face. "Some other way to ruin my afterglow."

Shion just laughs, stealing a proper kiss before shifting to cuddle at Nezumi's side. Nezumi is still apart from his heavy breathing, the exhalation of breath from his parted lips.

"Hm, must've been good," Shion teases.  Nezumi manages to find the energy to scowl at the ceiling. "Maybe you're not the only one with a monopoly."

"Fuck you."

"Your refractory period isn't anywhere near that short."

"Fuck you, post-dated."

Shion hums in agreement. He lets Nezumi doze for a bit, figuring all that sulking had to have been a hard day's work.

"Hey, Nezumi," Shion whispers, once it's apparent even in the greyscale of night that Nezumi's face has lost most of its flush. "Can we talk?"

"I fucking knew it," says Nezumi. "You and your manipulative blow jobs."

"Oh, hardly," laughs Shion. He switches on the lamp and laughs again at Nezumi's exaggerated wince. "Come off it. You really think I can be that subtle?"

"Not on purpose, but that's what makes it so effective."

"Well, I'm sorry you feel manipulated," though Shion can tell by the way Nezumi's eyes crinkle that he doesn't really have to feel sorry at all, "But I still want to talk."

Nezumi gives him a look that is plainly asking him to reconsider.

"I do," Shion insists. "Did you think I was going to get up, phone the committee, and –"

"Tell them to fuck off? Would you, for me? As a very special gift?"

"You know I can't."

"I could do it for you," Nezumi offers. "I have a very pleasant voice, I've been told."

Shion has to laugh. "What would you even say?"

Nezumi props himself up on his elbows and clears his throat, giving Shion a conspiratorial look.

"Dear reconstruction committee," Nezumi begins, with a posh inflection. "It has come to my attention that you have been monopolizing the time and affections –"

"What affections? Do you see me making out with the paperwork?"

"Hush, I'm in the middle of something. Yes, monopolizing the time and affections of my paramour to a most grievous extent. Indeed, I cannot help but inform you," and here Nezumi shakes his hair out of his face a little, for effect, "Of how ruinous an impact this ill-use has had upon both my person and the quality and frequency of our connubial relations."

"We're not married," Shion notes, "And I hope the stage notes clarify that this is an aside because—"

Nezumi's look is withering in the way reserved uniquely to him.

"Sorry, I'll be quiet," says Shion, meekly.

"So you see I am left with no choice. I am a man of action, and in these circumstances, I must act. Relinquish your hold, or suffer mortal consequences."

"You're going to kill them?" Shion interrupts, alarmed. Nezumi tenderly covers his face with the nearest pillow. "Mmph!"

"And you wonder why I don't invite you to my shows."


"For although he is a very foolish person whose presence and actions have caused and continue to cause me incalculable irritation and strife, I nonetheless feel a bizarre, probably terminal affection for him. So then, esteemed committee, surrender what cannot be yours, and give him his new wondrously vague title and recommended eight hours of sleep a night—"

"And Nezumi," adds Shion, gasping for breath as he works his face out from underneath the pillow. Nezumi looks at him. "Give me Nezumi."

"And me. Thank you, and good day."

"Would you really thank them?"

"Makes for good intimidation."

Shion considers this, and other things. Nezumi sits up and stretches his arms out over his head. He looks over his shoulder at Shion and grins lazily.

"You're thinking."

"I'm trying to figure out a good end date I can set. I probably should've done that to begin with."

"You were trying to be gracious," Nezumi tells him. "Like an airhead."

"That's me," agrees Shion. "A gracious airhead."

"You say all the right things," Nezumi purrs, as he begins reknotting his hair. Part of Shion wants to ask him why he's even bothering, when it's only going to get tugged loose again, but the other part of him is watching Nezumi's slender fingers, their quick and effortless movements. He feels a sweep of heat that is only thirty, maybe forty percent sheer lust.

"I love you, Nezumi," he says. "I'm sorry I hurt you."

"Hurt isn't a synonym for slowly boiling rage," Nezumi scoffs. He lets go of his new ponytail slowly, like he's not quite sure it'll hold. It always does. "You're the emotionally delicate one here."

Shion gets the sense that Nezumi's limited patience for conversation is nearing its end. Which is fine, because Nezumi is lying back down and it's so easy to find his mouth and coax it open with his own.

He's pushing his luck, though, when he ends the kiss a moment later. "Actually, I'm surprised you didn't blow up sooner," Shion frowns. Nezumi rolls his eyes.

"Because it's better when Your Royal Obliviousness figures it out on his own."

"So I learn to pay more attention and be less oblivious?"

"No, so you'll feel guiltier," smirks Nezumi, "and fall all over yourself trying to make amends."

"You've got me all figured out then, huh," Shion notes, dourly. Nezumi's smirk softens.

"Nah, just enough to make me dangerous," he corrects, leaning in to nibble at Shion's lower lip. He adds, against Shion's mouth, "Not that Your Majesty has ever properly appreciated my dangerousness."

"Sorry," Shion offers. He pulls at Nezumi's shoulders and back until he has no choice but to settle on top of Shion proper, which is exactly where they both want him to be.

"Stop talking," says Nezumi. Shion's not talking so much as frantically shimmying out of his pants but that's a detail that goes uncommented on. "I know you're sorry, you're always sorry—fuck!"

"Not sorry for that," Shion comments, bucking hips against Nezumi's a second time. "Or that, either."

"Shut up shut up shut up," Nezumi gasps.

"I think you like it."

"You have some severe problems with listening comprehension, if that's what you think," snarls Nezumi, and then he gets a hand between them and Shion doesn't need to understand a single thing that doesn't live in Nezumi's touch, voice or heart.