They had technically agreed this would be a study weekend. Finals were coming up soon, and though none of them had much trouble with the material, the problem was mostly that Nezumi and Inukashi never really bothered with the actual studying part. So Shion and Safu had come up with the idea that maybe if they all studied together in a friendly environment, all four of them would benefit from it. To be fair, that had mostly been Shion’s reasoning, as Safu had figured that they wouldn’t get much studying done outside of a classroom.
She turned out to be right within half an hour of studying in her grandmother’s old study, which they had picked because it stood separately from the house and had enough space for four people to sleep on the ground. That had been a decidedly bad idea, and Safu was honestly surprised they had lasted thirty minutes of actual studying.
Clearly, all hope was lost the minute Nezumi decided to thwack Shion with a pillow as a reward for a rather unnecessarily dramatic reading of a chapter in their biology book. “Hey!”
“That’s your own fault for looking at me like that. I am not a mouse, Shion, and certainly not a lab rat.”
“I never said you were!”
“You didn’t have to. I could build a house with the amount of bricks that are more subtle than you are.”
“What is that supposed to mean?”
Shion had mysteriously shifted almost into Nezumi’s lap in an earnest effort to get his answer, and judging by the sudden softened look in Nezumi’s own grey eyes (about as subtle as he accused Shion of being), he would have leant in for a kiss if a pillow hadn’t stopped him dead in his tracks.
Inukashi barked with laughter at Nezumi’s face, but not for long, as the next pillow flew across the room and hit Inukashi square in the face, resulting in a rather spectacular scowl. “Hey!”
Nezumi’s eyes had narrowed to slits. “You are so dead.”
And just like that, a pillow fight had started. Safu would have stayed out of it, but a pillow thrown by Nezumi almost hit her reading glasses off her face. The pillow thrown in retaliation landed with deadly precision and almost threw Nezumi flat on his back, and earned her a high-five from Inukashi. Shion wouldn’t so readily forgive Inukashi for assaulting Nezumi, and so the teams were decided.
The pillow fight ended in what they all agreed was a draw, as Shion missed Inukashi quite spectacularly and smacked his pillow so hard against the nearby desk that it broke and the feathers flew out everywhere. As this effectively left Shion without both a weapon and a pillow to sleep on for the night, they called it quits before anyone else suffered the same fate.
Safu got up to get them all some drinks from the adjacent supply room by then, and Shion rushed out to return with a cherry cake that had to be big enough for at least six people.
“Mom finally taught me how to make it,” he proudly announced as he sat back down on his now fairly deflated pillow. Nezumi shifted a little closer to pick some feathers out of his hair at first, but then purposefully let his hand slip on the nearest piece of cake, fingers moving smoothly and elegantly as he broke off a piece and licked off the crumbs and cherry. “Nezumi!”
“Hm. Karan’s is better.” He smirked at Shion’s offended expression. “What? It’s just true, didn’t you try yourself?”
“I wanted to bring over a whole cake, of course I haven’t!”
Inukashi took the opportunity of the two quibbling to break off a piece of the cake, quite a bit larger than Nezumi’s bit had been, and devouring it immediately. “Tastes plenty good to me. Free food, I’m not complaining.”
Safu was the only one making an effort to actually cut the cake into somewhat even pieces and shoved them on plates, though she made sure Nezumi and Inukashi got their already assaulted pieces. Not like they cared – Inukashi didn’t even touch the forks, and Nezumi broke off some extra pieces and put them aside for his mice.
“Just keep them with you,” Safu warned him, “I know they’re domesticated, but I will have a hard time explaining that to my grandmother if she finds any droppings.”
Nezumi made a noncommittal sound as he finished his piece of cherry cake at impressive speed, considering he didn’t think it could hold a candle against Karan’s baking. Then again, Karan hadn’t won all those bakery prizes over the years for nothing.
After they had finished their dinner of cherry cake and Karan’s muffins, it became clear pretty quickly that not much studying was going to happen anymore that night.
Inukashi grinned a toothy grin and got up. “So, it’s a sleepover! Why don’t we play some stupid game to embarrass each other?”
“Yeah, because you need help with that,” Nezumi muttered, earning him a jab from Shion’s elbow.
“Be nice, Nezumi.”
“Game?” Safu said, staring at Inukashi with a wondering expression in her eyes. “You mean such as, what are the names – True or try, or spin the bottle?”
“Truth or dare – and gross, no way I’m playing spin the bottle with you guys,” Inukashi said, nose wrinkled in disgust.
“Why not?” Nezumi’s smirk grew as he cast a look at Shion, who twitched his eyebrow in anticipation of what that expression would promise. “Shion here gives excellent goodnight kisses, I’ll have you know.”
In the short time it took him to say the words, Shion’s face had managed to flush to a charming red hue that almost rivaled the cherries. “Ne-Nezumi!”
“Do you now, Shion?” Safu asked, a teasing tone in her voice but her face as serious as if she were in class, eyes sharp and lips pursed as if she was thinking up a way to put the theory to the text.
“No! I mean, I c-can’t judge my own quality, I would have no objectivity and it would be uneth- hmph,” Shion ended his sentence, lost in a huff against Nezumi’s hand against his mouth. “Mmmm!”
“That’s a ‘no’ on spin the bottle,” Nezumi decided, “and I can pretty much guarantee that with these two literalists, the ‘truth’ in truth or dare won’t be much fun either. Don’t you have some creepy movie we can watch or something?”
To everyone’s surprise, Safu perked up at that. “I do.”
Two hours later, Shion was hiding in his significantly flattened pillow behind Nezumi’s back, having squeezed out the majority of the feathers in his pillow and having tugged Nezumi’s already slightly oversized shirt one size or so bigger. Inukashi wasn’t off much better, leaning over Safu’s shoulder from behind her to catch the movie, but eyes tightly shut during the majority of it anyway.
Nezumi rolled his eyes when the credits came on and looked back over his shoulder at the huddle of hiding boy there. “Coast’s clear, hero. Geesh, you sure are a wimp about bugs for a future ecologist.”
“These weren’t normal bees!” Shion defended himself, though he still wasn’t coming out of his hiding place behind Nezumi until Safu got up to retrieve the disc from her laptop. “And who’s the hero now, you freaked out over the kitchen fire at the start.”
“Fear of fire is completely rational,” Nezumi stated, “all animals are afraid of fire, as you should know. And fires happen in real life all the time and are thus a realistic danger, unlike parasitic brain eating bees.”
Safu softly cleared her throat at that. “Well.”
“There are parasites that infect the brain, including insects,” Shion muttered in a grave voice, and Safu nodded in agreement.
“Hosts include various other animals like insects, but also humans,” she said, completely serious, “and the infection can cause their behavior to change rather significantly in order to provide for the parasite. Related to this, according to estimates a significant portion of the world population is currently unknowingly infected with toxoplasma gondii, though of course this is a single-celled parasite rather than an insect.”
Shion was hiding his face in his pillow again, whereas Inukashi and Nezumi were both staring at Safu with almost identical expressions: mostly baffled, with a mix of horror and disgust thrown in.
Safu simply shrugged and put her DVD back into its case. “Well, I thought it was an interesting film at any rate, although it took quite some liberties with the science. That was a minor let-down.”
“Safu, I – really don’t think it was that kind of movie,” Nezumi carefully said, voice controlled but not nearly enough.
Inukashi had completely cowered into a corner. “But – parasitic brain bees like that don’t really exist, right? Shion?”
“They could,” Shion mused, voice still grave. “There are certain species of wasps that –”
“Ooookay, I’m done with biology for the rest of forever, thank you,” Inukashi loudly proclaimed, “can we just play some stupid game now? Please?”
They still didn’t end up playing truth or dare or spin the bottle. As Shion first had to rescue the remainders of his cake from the mice and Safu suggested they’d all use the bathroom in the main house to change now that it wasn’t that ridiculously late yet, they soon forgot all about those games anyway.
Shion returned last, in pajama bottoms covered with dog footprints that had been a gift from Inukashi and Safu, and a shirt with purple flowers that Nezumi had thrown at him one day and told him to throw out, but which Shion had kept as a gift. He yawned and collapse onto his pillow – or tried to, anyway, having forgotten his pillow had flattened and consequently blowing out most of the remainder of the feathers with his fall. “Oops. Sorry, Safu.”
“No matter, I seem to recall you volunteered to clean up in case we made a mess.”
“Yes, because I was bringing the cake and – oh.” Shion had been correct to make that promise, as he’d found himself leaning in a lost cherry as he’d put his hand on the floor. An excited chirp next to him signaled the arrival of a brown mouse that happily started nibbling the food off his hand. “Ah, thank you, Cravat.”
Inukashi snorted. “Hope you got custody over your mice, Nezumi, ‘cuz I think they’re gonna move in with Shion soon.”
“Nezumi can just come with them,” Shion easily said, petting Cravat’s head to show his gratitude. His comment got him a half-hearted shove from Nezumi, though he made no effort to argue with Shion on that front.
“So what now?” Inukashi asked, ready for the night with long hair tied up in a ponytail and in a pair of pajamas with a huge dog head on the front, proudly proclaiming a simple ‘WOOF’.
“I would suggest sleep,” Safu said. She’d put her reading glasses away and donned her own nightwear, a long nightdress with simple purple and pink stripes. “It is a study weekend after all, and we haven’t been very productive tonight.”
Inukashi scoffed at that. “After that movie of yours? Plenty productive. Nah, why sleep when tomorrow’s Sunday?”
“I concur.” That was Nezumi, who was wearing simple sweatpants and a long-sleeved T-shirt that was slightly too short on him, if the tail on the front didn’t already betray it wasn’t his shirt to begin with. It looped to the back of his shirt where it was attached to a big cartoony mouse that had climbed in the stem of a flower. Shion had literally said it was a shame the flower wasn’t purple when he’d pulled out the shirt to lend it to Nezumi. “It’s barely night, where’s the fun in going to sleep now?”
“So you’re really nocturnal? I thought you tried to argue you weren’t a mouse,” Shion cheekily remarked, which earned him a pointed grey-eyed glare. “Right. What do you suggest, then? Something like karaoke?”
Inukashi groaned. “Oh, hell no. I want to have fun, not get trampled by Eve here.”
“Good to hear you know your place.”
“Ugh. Disqualify him and I’m in.”
They were lucky that the study stood apart from the house, as three in the morning was really no acceptable time to be yelling horrible renders of eighties songs at the top of their lungs in any household.
“You are absolutely terrible,” Nezumi concluded, when Shion flopped down next to him panting and laughing after his duet with Safu. “Seriously, I think you sang every single note off-key, that’s a special talent right there.”
“’T was fun!” Shion argued, though his words got muffled by the sheets he’d landed on.
Safu sat down with a little more dignity across from him, gladly taking the glass Inukashi was offering her. “It was indeed,” she said, humming her agreement with Shion. After the first hour, she’d gradually accepted they were indeed not going to go to bed early and study diligently the next morning. At the end of the second hour, she’d dragged Shion to his feet and made him sing some sappy duet with her, which she somehow knew all the words to.
Inukashi munched on a mouthful of crisps before speaking up. “I think your laptop just died, Safu.”
“Oh dear.” It had died indeed, as Safu hadn’t brought out her charger and they had been using it to find their cheesy songs of choice. They should probably be happy it had lasted as long as it had.
“Good, because my ears wouldn’t last much longer,” Nezumi proclaimed. He stretched as if to prove his point, then abruptly let himself fall backwards into his pillow. “Think I’m gonna lie down now.”
“Good plan - oh.” Shion stared down at his own pillow, or what was left of it anyway, which was mostly an empty pillowcase. “I guess I can’t go into the house to get a spare pillow now, can I.” It was a rhetorical question, given that it was by now four in the morning and even though tomorrow was Sunday, Safu’s grandmother would probably not appreciate the rummaging through her closets at this hour.
Nezumi sighed and slammed his own pillow over Shion’s. “Here, you dork.”
“Thanks!” Shion beamed and tentatively settled on his new pillow, lying on his side so he could still face Nezumi. “But what about you, then?”
Nezumi yawned and pulled his sheets closer to Shion’s, then comfortably planted his head on the other side of the pillow. “Still my pillow, don’t get any ideas.”
Shion softly laughed. “Sure, sure. Please don’t kick me for once, though.”
“I only kick you when you deserve it.”
“You kick me in your sleep, Nezumi.”
“Believe what you want, Your Majesty.” But Nezumi’s remark lost most of its bite due to its obvious sleepy tone and the fact Nezumi was softly stroking Shion’s hair in the mean while, absent-mindedly as though it was a habit he didn’t know how to stop. Which was not that far from the truth, really.
Just a couple of inches from their heads, Inukashi sighed very, very deeply. “Ugh. Seriously?”
Safu just giggled mildly and softly kicked Inukashi through the sheets. “Ssh, let them be.”
“Oh, please. How does Shion even know you kick in – oh, never mind, I don’t want to know. That bee movie was enough horror for one night.” Inukashi sighed again, exaggerating as much as possible, and settled between the sheets.
“So what is it? You’re jealous and want to share a pillow too, Inu?” Safu now asked, which got a response alright as Inukashi yelped and jumped up again immediately.
“The hell’s wrong with you people?!”
That only resulted in laughter from the other three, however.
It was silent for a while, and Shion at least had dozed off for a bit under Nezumi’s idle petting until Safu spoke up again.
“The sun will rise soon,” she sort of dreamily mused, staring out the window. She abruptly propped her pillow against the wall and dragged her sheets along, so she could sit upright and look outside. “Why don’t we stay up and watch? It’s late enough, or early, I suppose. Matter of perspective.” She smiled broadly. “Hey, we can actually watch the sun rise! I don’t think I ever got up early enough to see it.”
Inukashi raised an eyebrow at her sudden outburst. “Safu? Are you okay? Drunk, maybe? You’ve been super giddy now for a while.”
“Of course not, what a ridiculous notion!”
Inukashi sniffed her glass anyway, just to be sure, but there was indeed not a trace of alcohol to be smelled. “Huh. The heck?”
“Oh – she’s just tired,” Shion quickly said, “if Safu doesn’t get enough sleep, she gets a little…”
“Loopy?” Inukashi helpfully supplied, staring at the girl with both eyebrows raised now. With the silence broken, the other three followed Safu’s example, and soon they were sitting in a row against the wall.
Safu was mostly staring through the window, her big eyes suddenly growing even wider. “Listen, what are you all going to do after high school?” she suddenly asked. “It’s getting so close now…”
“I’ll be going to university, like you,” Shion provided his answer immediately, “I thought you knew?”
Safu giggled. “Of course I do, Shion. I was mostly asking Inukashi and Nezumi, but you can answer too, of course.”
“I dunno – school’s not really my thing,” Inukashi said, surprisingly quick to reply. “I’ll find something, though.”
“You always do,” Safu agreed with a quiet hum, sounding honestly proud. “And you, Nezumi?”
“Even though it’s so close?”
Nezumi shrugged. “Does it matter? My grades aren’t good enough to get in some kind of top university like you two, so that’s out of the window. I’ll just get a job.”
“But you’re so smart,” Shion now said, “I don’t care what your grades say, you are. And how about your acting and singing? You’re so great, I bet you can make it to Hollywood if you wanted.”
“Yeah, well, maybe I don’t want to.”
Shion shuffled a little closer so that their shoulders bumped together. “I thought you enjoyed acting.”
“I can do that anywhere, can’t I?”
“Yeah, but…” Shion stared at him intently, trying to figure something out. His train of thought got interrupted by Safu, however, who was giggling again. She was definitely lacking sleep.
“I think Nezumi’s trying not having to say he wants to stay here with you.”
Nezumi just sighed and leant forward enough so he could push Safu into Inukashi next to her. “You’re lucky I’m too tired right now.”
“Too tired for what? And what did that mean, trying not having to say?” Shion was honestly confused, but Nezumi wasn’t about to enlighten him and stayed quiet. Shion’s brain tried to work its way around the words on its own. “But – chances are I won’t be able to stay here,” he finally said, “there really aren’t that many universities that offer the program I’m interested in, and… why are you staring at me like that?”
“Never mind, I forgot you’re Shion,” Nezumi muttered under his breath, but Shion heard him anyway.
“How can you forget I’m me? I haven’t changed that much in just one night, have I?”
“Shion.” Nezumi groaned his name now. “Do me a favor and please read an actual book for once.”
“I do! You let me borrow your entire Shakespeare collection over the summer, remember? What has that got to do with it?”
“Well, just – read them again, geesh, brush up your vocabulary a bit. I can’t believe you sometimes.” Nezumi’s arms mysteriously found its way around Shion’s shoulder regardless, stealthily pulling the boy in just a bit until Shion just smiled and let his head rest against Nezumi’s shoulder, quiet for now.
“Still a while to sunrise,” Shion eventually muttered, the words almost lost in a yawn. His weight on Nezumi’s shoulder got heavier by the second, and when Nezumi shifted a little to look at his face, it was quite clear he’d fallen asleep at last.
“You’re such a handful, really.”
“Says the stuck-up brat who can’t even admit the science girl is on point once again.” It was Inukashi’s voice, strained by a held-up yawn and reaching Nezumi from over Safu and Shion’s heads. “Damn, you’re so annoying.”
“Feeling’s mutual, mutt lover.”
Safu sighed on Shion’s other side. “Please, you two.” But she, too, sounded entirely too tired to put up a fight, and they weren’t arguing to begin with.
Nezumi still had his arm around Shion, letting his hand leisurely stroke his hair. He felt a slight thump as Safu heavily leaned into Shion’s other shoulder, eyes closed and breathes long and even. Next to her, Inukashi was nodding off. “You’re all hopeless. So much for watching the sun rise, huh.”
Truthfully, none of them saw the sun rise. They did, however, all have some deep regrets the next morning, as headaches and aching necks and shoulders told them that a) they had not gotten nearly enough sleep that night, and b) falling asleep on other people’s shoulders while sitting up was, in general, a pretty bad idea.
In the end, they didn’t get much studying done. Safu’s grandmother had appeared in the early noon and asked in surprise why they were only just waking up, blissfully unaware of the fact that the quartet had only managed to actually lie down on their pillows two hours ago at most. Shion and Nezumi had indeed shared a pillow, and Nezumi had indeed kicked Shion in his sleep at some point, to the point he’d shoved him out of his sheets and into the open bag of crisps on the floor. At least it had made it easier to guilt him into helping cleaning up, and even the mice had helped – eating the leftover crumbs, that was.
And so was the tale of how Safu aced her finals anyway after kicking them all out on Sunday afternoon, and how Shion scored a 95 for biology that he wouldn’t live down for a long time to come. There had been no less than three questions about lab rats and bees, after all.