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Catch My Fall When I Start To Slide

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The weather in Mink's hometown is a strange mess of extremes. The daytime is so hot and humid that Aoba swears he could hold his hand out and feel the weight of the air in his palm. The nights are so cold that waking up early means feeling the bite of the cold on your exposed skin, a sting not unlike the sensation of needles piercing your flesh.

It takes a few months for them to grow accustomed to each other's constant presence, but eventually Aoba stops sleeping in the spare room and joins Mink in the main bedroom. Mink stops shutting the bedroom door when he reads at night. It's an invitation as far as Aoba is concerned, and when he walks into the room, cradling Mink's reading glasses carefully in one palm and a mug of coffee in the other, Mink beckons him closer with a gentle inclination of his head.

Soon Aoba stops sitting in the wicker chair at the end of the bed and lies next to Mink instead. Soon that changes to Aoba lying against Mink instead of beside him. Mink takes it all in his stride, gets into the habit of cradling his book in one hand and Aoba's head in the other with relative ease.

As it nears the winter months, they shift from the bedroom to the living area to make use of the small fireplace in the corner of the room. As the weeks wear on, it becomes too cold and too dark in the evenings to do much else except stay indoors by the fire and enjoy each other's company. Aoba doesn't see any problem with being able to spend the long nights beneath the thick layers of woven blankets from their bed covering them both, head resting in Mink's lap as the other man's eyes scanned and savoured every word on the pages of the book. Truthfully, after the first few weeks of this, Aoba can't think of spending his evenings any other way.

Every night, somewhere between nine and ten o'clock Mink leans back, takes of his glasses and offers his emptied coffee mug to Aoba with a pointed look.

"Refill?" Aoba asks, squirming down to avoid Mink's outstretched arm as he sits up.

"Not tonight," Mink replies, massaging the bridge of his nose with his free hand. Aoba smiles; it's taking Mink an unusually large amount of time to get used to wearing reading glasses again, but his gentle insistence that Mink should use them seems to be working.

"I'll take it to the kitchen, then."

Ignoring the immediate ache that flares in his feet at the cold, Aoba walks to the kitchen, washes the cup out with the lukewarm water that in this weather passes as "hot" and returns to the other room. His toes are numb despite the short amount of time they were exposed to the cold of the wooden floor. Mink is settled again now, with his book back in his hand and the blankets pulled around his waist to ward off the cold. He takes one look at Aoba's flushed cheeks and awkward gait with a smirk, and let's the moment draw on just long enough to make Aoba look annoyed before moving to leave Aoba enough space to spread out again.

Aoba seats himself in Mink's lap this time, and when Mink doesn't object to his presence, he lets his head fall back against Mink's shoulder. He can see the bookshelf that stands against the back wall of the room out of the corner of his eye, and although he's seen it hundreds of times by now, he can't help but feel drawn to it. It's full of Mink's personal effects; decorative traditional craft, a few photos so old that the images are barely visible, and his books. All of the books look the same, with dark red covers and gold lettering down their spines, but each one must have been different and of the highest importance to Mink because he would pore over them with the same amount of care and reverence that Aoba has become accustomed to since they started living together under one roof.

"... Mink," Aoba starts, shifting in Mink's lap until he's comfortable,

"Hmm?"

"What's this one about?" Aoba asks, tracing his fingertip around the corner of the book's cover. The book's pages aren't even a quarter of the way turned, as Mink had just started reading it that evening. Aoba tries to read the page the book is open on and fails: he suspects that the books Mink reads would be difficult to understand even for a native speaker.

"... it's about a man who's grows bitter because of hardships in his life, but begins finds redemption with help," Mink says slowly. "I thought it was appropriate."

"Ah," Aoba says, feeling the tips of his ears burn as Mink settles back down to read. "How does it end?"

"Impatient brat," Mink scoffs, but his voice is free of malice. "I don't know."

"That's weird," Aoba replies with really thinking about his answer, and he smiles sheepishly when Mink gives him an irritated look. "I mean... you usually reread your favourites, right?"

"... I've owned this for years. I guess I was waiting for the right time."

Mink's free hand slips to the nape of Aoba's neck, fingertips brushing against sensitive skin before tangling in soft blue strands of hair. Aoba shivers and stays silent, enjoying Mink's touch until the other man's hand falls away and his focus wanders back to his book.

Aoba shuts his eyes, breathes in Mink's scent and leans back against his warmth.

"Mink."

"What is it?"

"Could you read it to me? Out loud."

Mink gives Aoba a look of disbelief. "Ha?"

"I want to share this one with you."

Mink is silent for a long while, and Aoba fears he's made a mistake. He's about to apologize when Mink begins to speak, low and soft.

Aoba listens, enthralled by the sound of Mink's voice. Sometimes he stops to translate things in his head, frowning as he struggles to find the right words, and other times he reads so smoothly that Aoba could swear that Mink had already planned this, had already known what to say in his head.

It's close to midnight when Mink closes the book, looks down and finds Aoba sound asleep in his lap. Sighing and stretching out his tired muscles, Mink yawns and reaches down to pick up Aoba and the blankets draped over their bodies in one go.

"Stupid brat," Mink mutters as he stands up, Aoba barely stirring in his arms, "this is a story we've already shared."

Aoba makes a soft, sleepy noise, but does not wake. Mink sighs, smiles, leans down to rest his forehead gently against Aoba's, and then heads for their bedroom with Aoba cradled in his arms.