Autumn started off with the first true storm of that year. It was a real one, the kind that brought a torrent of rain and winds that almost qualified as hurricane and sent the news reporters into a frenzy. In a city that was still rebuilding, a storm like this could destroy a lot.
Shion didn’t need the warning to close his windows that evening. He already had, for he had started to keep them closed after his most recent birthday.
Back in his home office, he stared out the window at the dark skies for a moment, heaving a wistful sigh before eventually closing the curtains. Memories of a different time were flowing back, a younger and more innocent age. He still found himself longing back to it.
With the rain pouring down outside, he had almost missed the footsteps behind him.
“Were you going to scream again?”
Shion smiled, but didn’t turn around just yet. “Who would hear me in this weather?”
“You’d be surprised.”
He turned around now, grinning as he met with grey eyes. “Right. Well, I suppose it’s hard to shake a habit after so many years.”
“You were screaming into every storm in the last years? Shion, don’t make me regret coming back.”
“Oh, you’re hilarious.”
Nezumi rolled his eyes as he took a hold of Shion’s sleeve. “Come on, I have special orders to make sure you don’t work late again tonight.”
“I see. My mother called, didn’t she.”
“She was about the only one who didn’t beat me up. I don’t have any intentions of falling out of her good graces, too.”
Shion laughed out loud and followed Nezumi to his living room, silently marveling at just how easy the conversation was, how quickly the words rolled off his lips again. So much had changed, so much time had passed, and yet…
Well, Nezumi had only returned a couple of nights ago. As upset as Shion had been, desperate even at some times he’d rather forget, he couldn’t quite find it in himself to take it out on Nezumi. He knew they had to talk, and soon. They couldn’t postpone that for very long either.
But when Nezumi had returned, curtains dramatically blowing in the wind behind him to signify his stage entrance, Shion had felt all the words escape him. There had only been two left, which he foolishly spoke before anything else.
Whatever Nezumi had planned to say, it hadn’t lined up with Shion’s own words, and he’d shrugged and shuffled a bit. “Yeah, I guess,” he’d eventually said.
It was the beginning of autumn, of dried out leaves, but it had felt like a new beginning.
He’d found Nezumi at last, not even that far from Shion’s place. With the snowy weather, it had been easy for him to find an empty park bench for himself. Judging by the thin, white layer on his super-fiber cloth, he must have been sitting here for most of the time since he’d stormed out.
Shion cleaned the seat next to him and sat himself down without asking. “Feel better yet?”
“What do you think.” Nezumi huffed, his breath forming puffs of air against the frosty cold.
Shion shrugged, suspecting that didn’t need an answer anyway.
Nezumi was still staring into the distance, refusing to acknowledge Shion’s presence by looking at him. “I swore I’d destroy this city,” he said all of a sudden. “I never wanted to come back here, to come here in the first place.”
“I’m not just blaming you.” Nezumi sighed very deliberately. “It’s a change. One I had never planned on. Hell, I spent a long time running away from this place, wanting to leave it all in the past.”
“I’m glad you didn’t.” It was all Shion could say, the only truth.
Nezumi slumped in his place. “I was afraid you’d say that. Things have changed, Shion.”
“I know. Of course I know. It’s just…” Shion sighed. “It feels the same. We spent that winter together in the underground room. The snow, the cold…”
“It’s not the same. We aren’t the same anymore, even if the weather is. I told you, we can’t just pick things up as if nothing happened in between.”
“I am perfectly aware of that.” Shion voice had gone cold. “At least give me the chance to get to know you again, Nezumi. Why did you return in the first place if not for that?”
Shion knew he’d gone too far before Nezumi directed a piercing glare at him. “I’m sorry, I…”
“Don’t lie. You don’t regret saying that, it’s exactly what you were thinking.” There was a sharpness in his eyes that Shion didn’t recall seeing before, and he had trouble placing it. “Unless you are apologizing for saying it out loud, which I suppose is something you would regret. Or should, anyway.”
“Then why?” Shion caught his stare, not willing to back down anymore. “Why did you return, Nezumi?”
“I made you a promise. I don’t break my promises.”
“If it was to fulfill your promise, you would have left weeks ago after checking up on me and the city. You didn’t. You stayed, you even got a job at the theater…”
“Which you forced me into, if memory serves.”
“You could have said no,” Shion simply said, “but you didn’t. You came back on your own account, and you’ve been making preparations to stay for at least the foreseeable future.” He fell silent then, which caused Nezumi to quirk his eyebrow.
“Do you even have a point with this?”
“Not really. I guess I just… well, I’m glad for it, really. I missed you.”
Nezumi scoffed. “Missed me, or the idea you have of me?”
Shion grinned at the suggestion. “Definitely you. The idea of you wouldn’t ask me those questions.”
“Smooth, Your Majesty.” He crossed his legs with his usual elegance and leaned back a little in the cold bench. “Trying to woo me, aren’t you?”
“That depends. Do I need to?”
“Ugh.” Nezumi rubbed his temples. “You’re still annoying. Maybe not that much has changed, after all.”
He didn’t protest when Shion shoved a little closer to his side. It was a start.
Shion didn’t even bother to look up; if Nezumi had known to find him here, he also knew he wasn’t quite ready to face him now.
“Your mama called, you know. Don’t want those muffins to get cold before we get to the bakery.”
Shion snorted. “Right. As if you’d run after me if you could have those muffins for yourself instead.”
“Hey, have some faith in me.” Nezumi breezed past him and took the seat next to him, a little closer than the bench necessitated but not close enough to get into Shion’s personal space just yet. “I’d at least try to seem considerate before hoarding muffins.”
His tone was light, but he wasn’t actively trying to put up an act and so it wasn’t hard for Shion to catch the underlying worry.
Shion guessed that maybe that wasn’t entirely unreasonable, all things considered.
“I know, okay?”
It was all he said, but it was all Shion needed.
“I’m sorry,” he rushed to say, “I thought I was doing fine. It’s been getting better, it was better last year. It’s just…”
“Yeah. Spring.” Shion heaved a deep sigh. “I know I’m far from the only one… So many people lost so much on that day. So much changed, for everyone. Maybe I didn’t even lose so much – I still had a home to return to, people to support me. Look at all those people who lost their homes and families, look at your…”
“Now would be an excellent time to shut the hell up.”
Maybe just last season, Nezumi would have shoved him off the bench; now, he moved Shion the opposite direction, straight into his arms if a little roughly. “Don’t you dare compare these things, Shion. Your grief is yours. Mine is mine, and everyone else has to deal with whatever they got shoved on their plates. You don’t get to mourn less just because you think others have it worse; you don’t get to decide that for them. Besides, you don’t owe them shit.”
Shion weakly smiled into Nezumi’s shoulder. “I do, though. I promised I’d take care of rebuilding the city, that the past wouldn’t repeat itself.”
“Ugh.” But Nezumi didn’t let go of him, just held him tightly and kept him together in every sense of the word.
After a couple of minutes had passed in silence, Shion carefully shifted to look at Nezumi. “Hey. Do you want to come to the memorial with me later?”
“I owe her that much, don’t I?” Nezumi softly hummed, his words making it clear he knew exactly which memorial Shion was talking about. “Of course, Shion. I’ve been meaning to pay Safu my respects. It’s the least I can do.”
“Will you sing for her?” It was perhaps a bold request, but Nezumi didn’t snap at him as he was almost expecting. Instead, he gave a quick nod in response.
“Let’s get going then, shall we? I wasn’t kidding about those muffins.”
“Of course.” Shion found he could laugh, and relief shot through him when he realized he meant it. “Thanks, Nezumi.”
Maybe Shion was slightly unreasonably excited over the current weather forecast, which would explain Nezumi’s look of annoyance as he brought the news.
“It’s one hundred and bullshit degrees outside and you’re happy over clear skies and no rain at night?”
“It’s been cloudy for the past week,” Shion countered, “don’t you like the night skies too? I never really got to see them while still living in the city before, and I’ve been too busy these past years.”
“Hm.” Nezumi didn’t sound as enthusiastic as Shion was, but perhaps he hadn’t quite caught on.
It was summer. It marked almost a full year since Nezumi had returned, about half a year since they’d seriously started working on whatever relationship they had. It was difficult at times, with Shion still busy with his Committee work and Nezumi being Nezumi (although he would probably argue ‘with Shion being Shion’), but he thought it was entirely worth it.
Plus, summer was the season he’d intended to spend together with Nezumi after all had been over, all those years ago. So maybe there had been some delay, but Shion got his wish now, and it made him almost giddy with happiness.
Of course, there was a slight change from his original vision - they weren’t in the West Block anymore, for one. The area still existed, but it was entirely different from the days Shion still fondly remembered. He wasn’t even sure if the underground room was still accessible, let alone intact. Still, he figured he could live this one little fantasy he’d had for the summer together.
“Come on, Nezumi. Go on a night walk with me tonight.”
“Shion, I get that it is an easy mistake to make, so let me explain this to you nice and clear. I am, in fact, not actually a mouse and as such, not actually nocturnal.”
Shion rolled his eyes. “Right. Because evening performances do not mean you get home later than I do on most nights, of course.”
“That’s work, it’s different.”
“Oh, come on, just this once. Make it an early birthday present?”
Nezumi quirked one eyebrow. “You’re gonna let me off the hook for your birthday that easily? Must be important to you, then.”
“Is that a yes?”
“It’s not a no.”
“I don’t want to hear that from you.” Nezumi reached the nearest book (which was never far away in the apartment they now shared) and thwacked Shion over the head half-heartedly to make his point. “I have a performance this afternoon, we’ll see.”
Shion tore his eyes away from the spectacle in the sky for just a bit to focus on Nezumi, who was a sight he’d never grow tired of even if he was a little difficult to behold now in the darkness. He’d picked a spot near the West Block, with as little light pollution as possible.
“Meteor shower, huh,” Nezumi remarked. “How very… cliché.” But he was very definitely still looking up, lying on his back on the grassy spot they’d picked.
“I just wanted to see the starry sky with you,” Shion said, “this seemed like a nice occasion.”
“They’re an annual thing, you know. Heck, there’s more meteor showers later in the year. You could have waited for that one instead of dragging me straight out of the theater.”
Shion smiled. “But the next time won’t be in summer. I wanted it to be in summer.”
“Hm.” Nezumi didn’t reply to that specific comment, but instead slowly extended his hand over the grass, finding Shion’s and lacing their fingers together. “Cheesy.”
“I thought you’d like that. Oh, hang on – you weren’t actually a mouse, were you?”
Shion laughed as he felt his hand being squeezed pretty roughly.
“Don’t push it, Shion. I’m already doing you a favor here.”
“Sure.” He squeezed back with significantly less force. “Thanks, Nezumi.”
He didn’t elaborate, and Nezumi didn’t ask. “Yeah. You too.”
Two new meteors shot through the sky.