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Zero Seconds

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My heart skipped a beat like it didn't want to follow the song I was listening to- a piano melody of four hands and two people. It rang in my ears as one side of the headphones played the melody and the other side the counter-melody. My feet skipped too and I couldn't stop them from lightly stepping off the floor in quicker steps than usual. My dark green shoulder bag bumped across my thigh with every step I took. This feeling...

My eyes wandered across the view of the city without really noticing anything at all. It was just a quiet morning after all, but really it wasn't. Not for me. Not for the boy I was meeting in about 25 minutes and 22 seconds, or one thousand five hundred twenty-three seconds. I couldn't help but hum along and smile. Well, I usually smiled a lot but only in this way when I thought about him, and his face, and the tip of his nose, and his delicate hands that I never doubted could hold the world's fate and his own.

I glanced down at my watch. He gave it to me on my birthday a few months ago and I treasured it with all my heart. This black watch I wore on my left wrist had a simple treble clef on it that coordinated with the bass clef on his matching white watch.

23 minutes and 12 seconds, or one thousand three hundred ninety-two seconds. We set up a meeting date at a nearby cafe in the city. It felt like I had not seen him in months, even years. Hours felt like years. I slowed down my steps a little bit since there were pedestrians starting to stare at me - as if my unusually colored grey hair wasn't enough to attract a few curious looks. I chose to walk today so I could spend more minutes thinking about how I could impress him today- how can I make him feel like he means the universe to me? Treating him to a crepe and a cup of tea can't be enough to do that, right? Despite being with him for so long, I still can't decide what makes him the happiest. His shy smile appears every time he tells me, "You really don't have to worry about me this much, Kaworu. I'm happy with anything as long as I'm with you." And I can think of no sweeter words in the world that could be spoken by one human to another.

13 minutes and 36 seconds, or eight hundred sixteen seconds until I get to wait for him in the coffee shop for five minutes. I'll always get there five minutes early because I'd rather be the one waiting for him to arrive. I spotted familiar landmarks- the old woman's house that her grand children came home to, the shoe store, the breakfast diner, the little fountain that seemed so out of place in the city.

6 minutes and 19 seconds, or three hundred seventy nine seconds. I could imagine him already. The piano song playing in my head continued on even though my playlist already was far ahead of it. This was our song. My fingers tapped against my leg, feeling the bump in my pocket. My muscle memory perfectly aligned to my humming because I remembered it like the way my fingers remembered Shinji's hands brushing across mine for the first time. He had hands soft like the ocean sand with rigid calluses on the pads of his fingers that didn't suit him. It's alright, I love that too.

2 minutes and 10 seconds, or one hundred thirty seconds, and I opened the door to the cafe at 8:53 AM. I greeted the blond owner who smiled at me knowingly. "Good to see you again, Ritsuko."

I took a seat by the window near the back where I could see the front door perfectly. I tapped the granite tables nervously and played with the sugar packets, rearranging them by color and then by brand. Their pastel shades were appealing to the eye, but not as much as Shinji was. I ordered a coffee, decaf because my nerves couldn't handle anything stronger right now.

The chime of the glass door rang to announce that someone came in. 0 minutes, or zero seconds.

He always arrived five minutes early, too.

"Good morning, Kaworu." His smile brightened up the room. His words filled my ears with music better than any song I played ever could. No one else was there, literally, and I could only pay attention to him. He wasn't wearing anything rather unusual, just shorts and a long sleeved crew neck t-shirt, which was blue, like his eyes, like the sea where we met. He waved shyly at me and his cheeks flushed pink. Ah, every time.

I stood up immediately and shoved my hand in my pocket. "Good morning, Shinji! I'm glad we can have breakfast together again today." And every other day actually, but I appreciated it every single time. Sometimes his hair would be ruffled as if he hurriedly got out of bed without brushing it, or he'll go iut with one sock rolled up higher than the other. But today, I don't think there was anything I could point out to make him flustered.

I stood in front of him.
"And Shinji. I know it's early, but don't sit down yet. I know you're hungry and you always like to eat omelettes at this time with ketchup and mushrooms and-"

Shinji laughed lightly and placed a hand on my shoulder. "You're so weird because you remember all that about me, Kaworu. You know, I managed to comb my hair this morning too, because the first thing I remembered when I woke up was that today was our anniversary." The words came out sweetly and I could not stop staring at the strands of hair he forgot to brush down. 

I looked at him and happily replied, "Yes, 8 years," or two hundred, fifty-two million, two-hundred eighty-eight thousand seconds. "Since we started...this." I pulled the box out of my pocket, crescent-shaped and white. With my other hand, I pulled him closer by the waist. His eyes met mine and time stood still. I always keep losing track of time when I see him because he was actually here with me again. A person like me and a person like him meeting up every other day since our high school days and...

The folds of his shirt drooped around his slender frame. It was pastel blue like the sugar packets on the coffee table. This was a good color on him.

I placed the box in his hand and curled his fingers around it, holding it there. Words tumbled out of my mouth out of sheer nervousness and unwavering emotions. "And I want us to continue this. I've never been more embarrassed in my entire life but I'm only like this around you and for today. I'd like it to always be this way, or even better. You deserve the best and I want to give you the best. I'd fly to the moon and back and do anything just so you could be happy with me and with yourself and the world... And you don't have to give me an answer now but Shinji, will you please marry me?"

He placed his callused fingers and soft hands over mine. We held the box together as his lips met my lips and then it felt like the first kiss again. Innocent, sweet, so full of him and me and everything we wanted to be. Together.

Zero seconds after that, he nodded his head and blushed the way he always did, maybe a little pinker than before. "Kaworu, I don't even have to hesitate for a second to say yes to you. I love you."

So, I stopped counting the seconds.