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It’s warm.

Nezumi woke up startled with the thought fresh in his head, unsure at first what had woken him in the first place. He hadn’t been having the usual nightmares – those started with warmth too, but this was a more… well, comforting kind of warmth.

Then he noticed he was looking into a mop of white hair and realized what the warmth around him had to be.

Shion had managed to wrap his arm around Nezumi at some point during the night, his head pressed against Nezumi’s chest as he had done so. Judging by his calm and even breathing, he was still asleep. Maybe he hadn’t even woken up at all as he’d sneakily invaded Nezumi’s personal space and cuddled him in his sleep like a child would cuddle his teddy bear.

Nezumi briefly wondered if Shion had had many teddy bears growing up before he was reminded once again that he probably had, that Shion had probably had everything he could have wished for and more when he was little while Nezumi had almost nothing. And yet he couldn’t really resent Shion for it. Resenting the boy from within the city walls seemed like the easy, natural thing to do, and still…

“Hey, Shion.”

There was no response. Shion’s grip wasn’t necessarily that strong either, but he was somehow all around him and Nezumi would kind of prefer it if he let go of him now. He almost preferred the nights where he kicked Shion out of bed in his sleep, even if it meant he’d get a half-hearted scolding in the morning and dubious fish for breakfast, in one particularly memorable case. At least during those nights, he didn’t have to deal with whatever the hell this was. This warmth that really had no business being this damn comfortable.

Shion had already gotten way too close; there was no need for him to get this close physically too.

“Oi, Shion, wake up.”

The only other sound was still Shion’s even breathing. Nezumi briefly contemplated kicking him off, but that sounded a bit too cruel even for him. It was one thing if he did it in his sleep, but to kick Shion out knowingly was… something I should have done before, Nezumi thought, but he knew he couldn’t. He’d had a debt to repay. He still had.

And didn’t he still need Shion to get to the heart of the Correctional Facility?

That’s right, Shion. I’m just going to use you, corrupt you. I know what’s in there, I know what we’ll have to face, and yet I’m taking you there.

Let go of me, Shion. Why don’t you just let go of me.

Shion was still oblivious to Nezumi’s thoughts and seemed to have snuggled a little closer in his sleep, possibly just to torment him.  

Shit. Complete airhead. Doesn’t even recognize danger when it’s staring him in the face with a knife against his throat.

Nezumi had no knife to hold against Shion’s throat now, not even a spoon. His knife was within reach, of course, but…

He softly rubbed his thumb over the tiny scar he’d made on Shion’s throat, barely noticeable now and even less so next to the stark contrast of the red scar against Shion’s skin. Still, it was there, from the time Nezumi had asked him if he was so conceited as to think Nezumi would never kill him. Sometimes, he wondered if Shion was right to believe that. He wanted to deny it, he really did.

His thumb was now idly tracing the red scar around Shion’s throat, remembering the day it had first appeared. That hadn’t been fun to watch, and he could only imagine what Shion had gone through back then. But he’d made it, and here he was, sleeping as if he didn’t have a trouble in the world, probably fully confident they’d be successful in their most likely doomed mission to rescue the girl Safu.

And here he was, shamelessly clinging to Nezumi in his sleep. It was almost nostalgic, like that night four years ago when Shion had saved him. Nezumi had woken up almost exactly like this, though Shion had let him go in his sleep back then, rather than held him extra close.

Living people are warm, huh. The thought crossed Nezumi’s mind again, still as true as it was back then.

“Mm,” Shion suddenly murmured.

Nezumi froze, but the boy next to him gave no further indication of being awake. Shion shifted a little and snuggled just a little closer, which moved Nezumi’s hand until he was cupping Shion’s neck. Nezumi blinked in disbelief.

I would only have to squeeze a little tighter for a little longer to kill you right now, you know.

But he didn’t – he couldn’t. Nezumi accepted that with a deep, deliberate sigh as he very carefully stroked some of Shion’s hair from his face. Even though it was the middle of the night and almost entirely dark, Shion’s white hair still stood out. It really was quite alluring.

Nezumi found himself stroking Shion’s head despite himself, softly letting his fingers slip through the strands of white hair. Shion was already so close against his chest anyway; even if Nezumi might pull him in now, he doubted he’d notice. No real harm, then. No real harm in relishing this warmth while he still could.


Shion woke up surprisingly well-rested that morning. That may have something to do with the fact that he woke up in bed with all his limbs still under the sheets for a change. He’d almost gotten used to Nezumi’s nightly kicking, but he couldn’t remember any of that from last night.

In fact, Nezumi was surprisingly close to him and by the looks of it, still asleep. Both of these facts were quite unusual on their own, let alone together. Shion didn’t usually see him this unguarded. It reminded him of four years ago.

Part of him wanted to wrap his arms around Nezumi, hold him close, but he knew that wouldn’t exactly be appreciated. Instead, Shion opted for silent happiness that he hadn’t been kicked out last night, and how it most likely meant Nezumi hadn’t had any bad nightmares last night, even if he refused to talk about them if he had. These were good things. And well, he didn’t mind being able to stare at Nezumi unabashedly, though he’d prefer it if Nezumi had his eyes opened for that.

“I can feel you staring, you know.”

Shion almost fell out of bed as yet when Nezumi suddenly spoke up, his eyes still closed and for all appearances still asleep. He evidently was not, considering how he now lazily opened one eye and managed to give Shion a judging stare in return.

“Oh. Good morning, Nezumi.”

“Hmph,” Nezumi huffed, closing his eye again and waiting a moment before he made an actual effort to get up. “Your Majesty’s up early.”

“Yes, well, I had a good night’s sleep for a change.” Shion meant for it to sound teasing, but either Nezumi didn’t catch that or he just couldn’t be bothered to formulate a reply to that.

Shion meant to say something else, maybe point out the obvious a little and mention how he hadn’t been pushed off the bed for once, but the words died in his throat when he caught Nezumi’s look on him. Grey eyes were studying him, staring so deeply into him that Shion for a moment feared Nezumi could completely see through to him and knew exactly what he’d been thinking earlier about holding him close. He said nothing, just stared, his eyes unreadable but somehow – were they growing softer?


“Go brush your hair, your bed head is looking particularly ridiculous this morning,” Nezumi abruptly said. He shoved his legs out of bed without ceremony and cast Shion a look over his shoulder. “What.”

“Nothing,” Shion murmured, feeling his hair self-consciously. Nezumi did have a point, it did feel way more ruffled up than usual that morning. Strange, since Shion didn’t think he himself usually trashed around in his sleep a lot. He wondered how it had gotten that messed up anyway.

Nezumi was still sitting on the edge of the bed and heaved a sigh as he turned around, brushing a couple of strands of hair from Shion’s face. “Better get up, don’t you have mutts to wash today?”

“Oh.” Shion was slightly distracted by the gesture. “Oh, right.”

“Go get dressed then, I’ll walk you there. No time for your slacking.”

Shion smiled to himself as he watched Nezumi leave the bed for the bathroom, raising his hand to touch his face where Nezumi’s fingers had been just now. Hm, felt familiar somehow.

He had some vague recollections of a dream last night, mostly just a sense of warmth near him and a soft, even sound, like a heartbeat. It had been a really nice dream, even if he didn’t really remember. That touch just now, however…

Shion shook his head to himself. Right, no time to daydream. Nezumi was right, he had promised Inukashi he’d come over to wash more dogs today. He couldn’t be late; there were a lot of dogs to wash and the sun would set early.

“Hey, Nezumi?” he asked, not really expecting an answer as Nezumi was washing up in the bathroom by the sound of it.

What, Shion.” Nezumi even bothered to peek around the corner, his hair slightly damp at the tips.

“No, I just – I hope you slept well last night.” It wasn’t entirely what he’d meant to say, and Nezumi rolled his eyes at the sentiment.

“You are such a… oh, whatever. Yes, I guess so. Was that all?”

Shion just smiled. “Yes, that’s all.”

Nezumi muttered something that could be ‘weirdo’ or ‘airhead’ or something less flattering under his breath and retreated into the bathroom again.

Shion leant back against the wall, flattening his hair as well as he could without a mirror or a comb. When he stepped out of bed, he realized just how cold it still was in the underground room and thus how cold must be outside. Maybe there would even be snow.

He gathered his clothes as he was softly humming, looking forward to the day. Maybe tonight, he’d sleep as soundly as he had last night; maybe he’d even dare to get a little closer to Nezumi, like how they’d woken up just now. He’d enjoyed it, the closeness and warmth and not having to think about what would happen later, what they had set out to do. Not for the first time, he found himself wishing time would just stop.

Of course it didn’t. Of course the clock kept ticking.


That day, the Man Hunt came.