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Aoba had taken a lot longer than usual to fall asleep that night. They'd had a late dinner thanks to Noiz being held back late at the office. Aoba had wanted to stay up to watch something on his coil after that, and he'd sat himself on the couch in their study with his headphones on, fixed on the screen as Noiz sat stiffly at his desk and reviewed documents. Then he'd insisted on performing maintenance on Ren after he'd heard the gears in the allmate's back legs grinding and become worried about whether a replacement part he'd bought a few weeks back was correct for the shape of Ren's frame. And then Aoba had crawled beneath the blankets at the end of the bed and reappeared at the top near the pillows, bare skin brushing smoothly Noiz's body. When he'd leaned down and caught Noiz's bottom lip between his teeth and rocked his hips downward, Noiz certainly wasn't going to say no. The late night was taking its toll, though; Noiz had felt like he'd need to physically hold his eyes open by the time Aoba finally settled and cuddled up against his side. He sighed softly when he noticed Aoba had finally fallen asleep, and a nervous energy began to creep through his veins.

Noiz leaned down slowly to brush his lips against Aoba's temple, and then started the slow and careful process of getting out of bed without waking him. He managed it with relative ease, he pulled the quilt up over Aoba's shoulders to keep him warm as he got up and retrieved in his suit and tie from work.

Once he had redressed himself, Noiz left the bedroom and carefully shut the door behind himself. He called up the main screen of his coil to check the time and then headed for the study, shivering against the late night chill.

It was past one in the morning, which meant it was the perfect time to put his plan into action.

Noiz loved Aoba, and he knew he wanted to be with him forever. And that was why he wanted to do this. They were already dedicated to each other of course, and had been for the last few years. But there was something about making Aoba belong to him, only him, that made him make his move. And likewise, he wanted to belong to Aoba, and that was why he wanted to do this. Not just for himself, but for both of them.

As he reached the study, he pulled the door shut behind him and locked it securely just in case. He reached for the bottom drawer of his desk and dug through the pile of papers until his fingertips brushed against what he had been looking for. Feeling slightly breathless from nerves, Noiz closed his fingers around the small black box he'd hidden away days earlier, opened it and placed it on the desk in front of himself.

The ring wasn't really elaborate or expensive by his own standards, but he knew that Aoba wouldn't want to wear anything that was overly extravagant. It was a slim band of platinum of simple design, and a small blue gemstone set into the metal was the only thing that served as decoration. Noiz had had it made over the course of the past few weeks, keeping it as secret as possible. Aoba had noticed his evasive behaviour once or twice but hadn't questioned it, probably figuring that it was something to do with his job that he wasn't supposed to talk about outside of the company. He was lucky he'd managed to hide it for as long as he had, and he didn't want to risk it for much longer.

There was still one important thing he had to do before he made his move.

Quickly reaching up to adjust the collar of his business shirt so it looked less creased, Noiz took his coil off, placed it on the desk and called up its main screen once more. This time he selected its phone function. He scrolled through the list of names until he'd almost reached the bottom, selected the number with shaking fingers and sat down in his office chair to try and force himself to relax.

The dial tone sounded for so long that Noiz was afraid it would ring out, but the call was accepted at the last moment and the video chat flickered to life in front of Noiz's eyes. It was still early in the morning in Midorijima, and Tae was still wrapped in a heavy dressing gown and pyjamas. There was a steaming mug of tea sitting in front of her, and Noiz felt a twinge of guilt for interrupting her so early. Her face had become more heavily lined and the joints in her hands looked stiff as she reached for her teacup, but overall she looked well.

"Noiz?" she asked, looking surprised. She withdrew her hands from her cup and placed them back on the table in front of her. "What time is it there? Is something wrong?"

Noiz realised what the situation could have looked like, and he quickly shook his head. "No, we're both fine."

"In that case... why are you calling so late at night?"

Tae's face was now stern, and Noiz couldn't help but feel he was being scolded. He managed to avoid frowning at this realisation and leaned forward onto the desk, steepling his fingers in front of him. This was serious, and he wanted to get it right.

"I needed to talk to you without Aoba finding out."

Tae's frowned, the lines on her face deepening with worry and making her look infinitely older. "Is that so?"

"As I said, it's nothing bad," Noiz replied, and he intertwined his fingers harder to stop them from shaking. "I wanted to ask for your permission to marry Aoba."

Tae's expression transformed from grave to blank shock in the blink of an eye, but Noiz stayed the same. He wanted her to know that he was completely serious about it. It wasn't a decision he'd made lightly, but he was sure that it was what he wanted to do. He couldn't imagine what his life would be like without Aoba in it, and he wanted to show everyone that he wanted Aoba by his side forever.

Tae sat back in her chair, sighing as she reached for her cup of tea. "Didn't I give you permission to take him with you to Germany?"

"You did," Noiz said. "And I'm still thankful for that. But now... it's different."

"How is it different?"

"Last time he could leave and go home whenever he wished," Noiz explained. "But this time... I'll be tying him down. He won't be able to do that so easily now."

Tae sighed deeply and raised her teacup to her lips. She set it back down again and looked at Noiz over the top of it, her gaze vaguely reflected in the surface of the liquid inside.

"Have your feelings changed?"

"Not at all."

"Is there a reason why Aoba would want to leave you so quickly?"

Noiz licked his lips. "No."

"Then you have nothing to worry about."

Noiz inclined his head a little in understanding. Tae looked him directly in the eye, but her gaze was not unkind.

"When I let you take Aoba away with you all those years ago, I didn't do it lightly. I wanted to see that the two of you weren't rushing in without thinking." Tae shut her eyes, and a small smile curved her lips. "Aoba hasn't looked back once. Every time I talk to him, he's happy with his life in Germany with you. And as I said when you left together, I just want him to be happy. If I'd doubted his feelings at any time, I wouldn't have let him go with you. But as it is..."

Noiz realised his mouth felt oddly dry, and he swallowed audibly as Tae paused to take a sip of her tea.

"I have no objections. I don't think Aoba will feel like you're tying him down. And Midorijima isn't his only home anymore. He has you, after all."

Tae placed her cup down again and pushed it away. "I've never regretted letting Aoba go with you. You've looked after him all these years, so keep doing that and you'll be fine."

"Should I take that as a yes?" Noiz asked, and Tae grunted.

"Idiot. What do you think?"

"... thank you," Noiz said, and he bowed his head forward in gratitude.

"Hmph," Tae grunted again, "that's the second time you've done that to me."

Noiz raised his head to find Tae staring at the black box he was keeping Aoba's ring inside.

"Is that what I think it is?"

Noiz nodded, and he flipped the top of the box open for Tae to see. Tae squinted at the box and Noiz grabbed it, holding it up to his coil's camera so she could see the ring more clearly.

Tae nodded after a few moments. Noiz snapped the box shut and pocketed it; Tae didn't say anything but she didn't look annoyed, and Noiz took it as a positive.

"Grandma, I'll pay for your ticket to Germany for the ceremony if Aoba agrees."

Tae scoffed. "If..."

"Anyway... thank you. I'd better go now."

"Sleep well," Tae said, "and remember... don't give up. Show Aoba the same conviction you showed me when you asked him to go with you to Germany and you'll be fine."

Noiz nodded and said goodbye as he ended the call.

It was creeping closer to two in the morning, and Noiz's eyes were growing red-rimmed and dry. He shut off the study light and closed the door behind him, heading back to bed as he stifled a yawn with the back of his hand.

Noiz re-entered the bedroom with the same amount of silence and care with which he left, and shut the door behind himself so carefully that the click of was barely audible in the silence of the room. He sighed, undid the buttons on his work shirt and turned around to face the bed, only to find sleepy golden eyes staring back at him through the darkness.

"Aoba..."

"... was wondering where you went..." Aoba murmured, turning his head to stifle a yawn in his pillow. Noiz grinned and stripped off his shirt as Aoba watched him from the bed.

"Had to make a phone call."

"For work?" Aoba asked. "Must've been important..."

"Yeah, something like that."

Aoba was still sleepy and only half attentive to what Noiz was saying, and Noiz found it adorable. His hair was loose and flowing down over his back and shoulders, and the tiny smile on his lips was positively cute. Sometimes it seemed amazing to him that he could love Aoba any more than he had when he'd first gone to Midorijima to bring him back to Germany with him, but the evidence was always there; his heart beat so fast in his chest when he looked at Aoba that it hurt, and his whole body felt warm, content. It wasn't just that he couldn't imagine life without Aoba; he didn't even want to think about it.

Aoba must have noticed Noiz staring, and he leaned over to turn on one of their bedside lamps. Both of them shut their eyes at the bright light, but adjusted to it as Noiz reached down to undo his pants. He hadn't bothered with a belt, so the weight in his right pocket had already dragged the waistline down to his hips.

It was only then that Noiz froze, remembering what the weight in his pocket actually was.

How could he have forgotten to put it back in his desk drawer?

"Are you okay?" Aoba questioned, and Noiz nodded slowly, stiffly. There was no way to avoid showing it to Aoba now, and so he sighed, ran his fingers through his hair and reached into his pocket to grasp the little black box. Holding it in his hand made him feel strangely calm.

"Actually, I was on the phone to Grandma before."

"Grandma?" Aoba asked, as if he'd never heard the word before in his life. His confusion quickly turned to panic, however, and he threw the blankets off his body and walked over to Noiz. "Is she okay?! What happened?"

"She's fine," Noiz said, and he reached out to place his hand on Aoba's shoulder to calm him. "I needed to ask her something important."

"What's so important that it couldn't wait until morning?" Aoba asked, expression halfway between suspicion and confusion. Noiz sighed, and suddenly he was steadying his own shaking hand on Aoba's shoulder instead of steadying Aoba with his hand.

It was fine. This is what he wanted, more than anything else he'd ever had the chance of getting.

"I wanted to ask her permission."

"Permission?" Aoba echoed, and he watched with glowing cheeks as Noiz slowly, carefully eased himself onto one knee and withdrew the tiny black box from his pocket. "Noiz, y-you..."

"... sorry. I didn't plan for it to go like this," Noiz muttered, and he leaned over go brush his lips against the soft rise of Aoba's hipbone in apology. He snapped the top of the box open, and watched with a small smile as Aoba's already blushing face became about ten shades darker in one blink of an eye. He grabbed Aoba's hand -- the one the other man hadn't raised to his mouth in shock -- and brushed his lips softly across his knuckles.

"Marry me, Aoba."