Disclaimer: No. 6 is not mine... never ever... *sobs* ever...

Day 12

"Hey, wait, Nezumi!"

Nezumi turned around, his hand suspended in mid-air as he was just about to open the door and leave the apartment. "Yes?"

Shion was standing a few feet away from him, book in hand. "When is your theatre's production of Romeo and Juliet going to show? I want to watch."

Nezumi wasn't prepared for this question. It was still fairly early in the morning, so he hadn't expected that Shion would do anything more than wish the taller boy off with a smile, like always.

"Why this time in particular?" asked Nezumi. "You never asked before."

"You never let me before," Shion protested. "Besides, I just thought... well, it's still technically the holiday season..."

"What do my performing and Christmas have anything to do with one another?"

Shion bristled at the tone in Nezumi's voice. "I just thought that it'd be nice to go see a play once in a while, and people are always a little perkier around Christmas, and I've heard that the actors tend to put little more energy into their acting. Also, you probably have a free ticket or two to give to family and friends. Thus, it's best to go to a play you're in around the holidays."

"It sounds like you already had that little speech prepared," Nezumi smirked while trying not to laugh. "Although you already know that the next play I'm performing in is Romeo and Juliet, so wouldn't it make the play somewhat worse if all of the actors were giddy with the holiday cheer? Imagine Romeo poisoning himself while humming "Deck the Halls." That would certainly be a play to remember."

"I didn't say that they'd be 'happier' while performing," Shion countered calmly, "I just said that they'd have more energy. Imagine Juliet stabbing herself while staring at Romeo's dead body blankly and speaking with no rhythm or emotion whatsoever. That would certainly be a play to wipe from your memory."

Nezumi visibly shuddered at the very idea. "Well played, Shion," he gave Shion a little pat on the cheek. "Well played. And as your reward for a good argument, I'll tell you that the play is actually tonight. To tell the truth, by now, I'm probably going to be late for the beginning of last-minute rehearsals and stage prep. Oh well."

Shion's eyes widened. "Tonight? That soon? Ah, never mind that," he added swiftly, pushing gently on Nezumi's arm, "Hurry up and go already. I don't want to get you in trouble with the director."

Nezumi waved Shion's worries away with a hand. "It's okay, really. He won't even notice." He sighed in resignation and reached into one pocket. "If you really want to come, then you can. You were right about the tickets," he admitted graciously as he handed Shion a slip of paper, "you lose it, you can't get in, got it?"

Shion nodded eagerly as he accepted the paper. He stared down at it, reading the simple words printed on that small flier. "Got it." He looked back up at Nezumi with a wide, bright smile on his face. "I'll see you tonight, then."

It took Nezumi a second to tear even just a snippet of his attention away from that shining smile. "Hey," he muttered, still not totally focused, "do you want to come backstage after the play? You've never been back there yet. It's not uncommon to have friends of the actors or crew go back there, so it wouldn't be any trouble."

The smile froze for a second, and then was filled with an even brighter light than before. "Really? That'd be amazing!" Shion replied, a whisper of awe fluttering about his voice.

The rest of Nezumi's mind finally started to catch up. "Now you can see that there's more to the theatre than just the actors. You should probably take notes." Nezumi grinned. "You never know; there just might be a quiz later."

"And what would happen if I fail said quiz?" Shion asked after a playful groan.

"Naturally," Nezumi answered sternly, his teasing grin falling away, "you'd be sentenced to a public flogging, followed by imprisonment for six to eight months."

"Ah, well then." Shion nodded seriously, crossing his arms. "Looks like I'd better be extra meticulous in today's note-taking."

"I expect to see improvements in all of your notes," warned Nezumi, "or else I'll be forced to find other ways of punishing you."

Shion stood up straight and saluted. "Yes, sir!"

Nezumi didn't let so much as the corner of his mouth give away the smile he was holding back. "I expect to see you tonight at eight o' clock sharp! Don't be so much as a second late!"

"Yes, sir!"

Nezumi nodded and Shion's arm fell back down to his side, though his posture didn't slacken. "Right, then. I'm off."

Nezumi opened the door and stepped out into the dank hallway. The door was just about to close when he heard Shion's voice-back to normal once again-from the other side of the door.

"Have fun!"

Nezumi paused, then closed the door without saying anything back. He stood there for a moment, hand on the doorknob, looking down at the ground. Soundlessly, he smiled faintly, then turned and walked away. The smile remained on his face long after he arrived at the theatre.


There were so many people bustling outside the doors of the theatre, it was hard for Shion to breathe. He kept on getting jostled about and had been elbowed so many times that he feared seeing how many bruises he'd gained.

Nezumi said before that there wouldn't be that many people, Shion recalled vaguely as he did his best to not step on people's feet. Because of the harsh winter and all.

But maybe that's why there were so many people waiting to enter the theatre. The cold winter and the food and firewood shortage only meant that people needed more joyful moments than ever. They needed some sign of hope, some sign that there was something else going on in life besides just work, work, work, work.

Of course, the play was Romeo and Juliet, a tragedy, but still...

"Hey... hey, Shion! That you?"

On instinct, Shion turned towards the voice calling his name. The voice was saying something else, but he couldn't understand it. Through the cracks between one person and the next, Shion managed to make out a tall figure making its way towards him.

"Hey! C'mon, is that you, Shion?"

Eventually, the figure got close enough for Shion to recognize that mess of brown hair. "Oh, Jean!" He responded only when his co-worker was within arm-length.

"You could have said something sooner," Jean panted, already tired from trying to push through the crowd. "You could have at least let me know that it was you, yeah? I know you saw me."

"Maybe I did." Shion's answer was teasing, but also kind of wary. Nezumi had said that Jean wasn't a bad person, that he would make a good friend. But that didn't change the fact that Jean had still made Nezumi angry enough to physically attack Jean. What had they been fighting about anyways?

"I know you did, you jerk." Jean punched Shion lightly on the arm. "Luckily for me, your hair sticks out like a sore thumb." He chuckled. "Whatever that means. Around here, everyone's thumbs are sore."

"I guess so," Shion agreed, looking down at his own hands. They were still rather soft, and had yet to develop the callouses that covered the hands of everyone in the lower city. He decided to change the topic by asking, "What are you doing here anyways, Jean?"

"Isn't it obvious? I'm here to see the play!"

"Oh, you like Shakespeare?"

"It's amusing," Jean replied without really answering the question.

"Even Romeo and Juliet?"

Jean's smile twisted a little. "In a way. Not amusing in the comedic sense, but amusing in the darker sense that they were so close to being happy together, but then died by their own hands, next to their beloved, because of a slight misunderstanding." The twist in his smile melted away. "But as I said yesterday, I'm not one for the deeper meaning. At the very least, it's a good way to pass the time."

Shion nodded slowly. "I suppose."

At this lull in the conversation, Jean looked around. "Hey, where's Nezumi? Isn't he with you?"

"Ah, he's-" Shion quickly clamped his mouth shut. Nezumi didn't really like people knowing that he was Eve, and Shion had a feeling that Nezumi especially didn't want Jean to know. "He's busy with work," Shion finished, inwardly smirking at the fact that he wasn't lying in the slightest.

"Too busy to make the show? A pity." Jean's rapidly widening grin didn't make it look like he truly meant his words. He wrapped one arm around Shion's shoulders. "Guess I have you all to myself then, yeah?"

Shion stiffened. "D-didn't you come with someone else?" he asked weakly. Then, realizing that he sounded rude, he quickly added, "I wouldn't want to impose on your time..." But it was too late.

Jean looked hurt, like a puppy that had just been scolded for jumping on the bed. He drew his arm back. "Ah, I didn't... But hey, man, that's fine." He smiled a pointless smile. "I understand what you mean. I really am sorry about yesterday, Shion. I was just worried, yeah? I mean the way you spoke about Nezumi kinda weirded me out sometimes, and then," he vaguely gestured toward Shion's neck, "when I saw that hickey on you, I thought he was some creep trying to 'show that he's mine' or whatever. It's in an obvious, visible place, after all. I figured it was be some twisted way to publicly embarrass you without him having to be there."

Shion's brow furrowed. "What? What are you talking about?"

Jean stared at him, and even though there were other people talking and shouting, Shion could hear Jean's silence perfectly. "Don't you... didn't you notice?" Jean asked after a moment. Getting no response, he pointed to a spot on the back of his own neck. "Here. On your neck. You have a hickey."

"A hick-" Shion's hand flew up and he desperately twisted his head around, as if he could see his own neck. "What?! I-I do not!"

The corner of Jean's lip twitched into an almost half-smile. "Well, it's all but gone by now... But man. For it to have lasted this long, you must have been bitten pretty hard, yeah?" He lowered his voice. "If he's hurting you like that and you don't want it, you can just tell-"

"How could I have a hickey?!" Shion demanded of no one, apparently not having heard Jean at all. He was still jerking his head around in a panicked frenzy. Jean quickly reached out and clapped one hand on either side of Shion's head, forcing the younger boy to keep still.

"Don't do that!" Jean scolded. "You're going to hurt yourself!"

"B-but! How do I have a..." Shion trailed off as his eyes slowly fell to the ground. Ah. A few nights ago, when he and Nezumi had shared the bed because of the cold. Nezumi had wrapped his arms around him from behind and...

Shion's face instantly flooded with an alarming shade of red. His eyes were dull in comparison and his pale-red scar was lost.

Jean grinned shamelessly. "Remembered something, have we? So, are you going to tell little 'ole Jean how that mark came to be upon you?"

Shion shook his head violently. Or at least, he tried to. Jean still had a hold on his head and Shion barely managed to nudge the brown haired boy's hand the slightest bit. Shion would've sworn, then and there, that his hair was about to catch on fire just from how boiling hot his face was right then. Had anyone else seen the mark? Had everyone else seen it? How hadn't Nezumi? They were usually pretty close...

"Whoa." Jean's eyes widened slightly. "You just got a shade redder. Did not know that was possible!" He laughed openly and loudly. The people around them glanced at them; Shion stared at the ground and hoped that his shaggy hair was enough to hide his face from the onlookers.

Jean's hands fell from his head once his laughter has subsided. "So... am I... off the hook? Just a little bit?"

Shion looked up. Jean was still smiling, as always. But there was something else in that smile, and that 'something else' was reflected in his eyes; or maybe it started in his eyes and was reflected in his smile. It wasn't regret. If he was going to regret what he had done, he wouldn't have done it in the first place; that's just how he worked. No, he was sad. Sad, but yet... content. Sad that it had all turned out this way. Content that he had done his best to help his co-worker and friend. He had fought with Nezumi. Shion might never know what had actually occurred in those bookshelves, but Nezumi had more or less forgiven Jean, even if he hadn't quite phrased it like that. Was that enough?

Maybe it was. Maybe it wasn't. Shion didn't know enough to decide whether it was enough for life's balance of misgivings.

But it was enough for him.

"Yeah," Shion said, "You're off the hook." Jean's face lit up like a Christmas tree and he had just opened his mouth to speak when Shion continued solemnly, "On one condition." Jean's face fell, just a little, but he closed his mouth and patiently waited for Shion to finish. Shion paused, forcing Jean to stand there silently.

This is kinda fun, Shion thought idly. I feel kind of powerful. Is this what Nezumi always feels like when he touches me like...

He forced those memories and thoughts out of his mind before he could flush again and glared up at Jean. "You have to do something for me."

Jean nodded, still keeping quiet.

"You have to take me back to that store where we found The Jack Tales. Promise?"

Jean blinked. "That's... that's all?"

"Yup!" Shion smiled his widest, brightest smile. "There were other old-looking books there. Nezumi likes that kind of thing, so this time I actually want to know how to find that store again so that I can take him some time."

Jean grinned, already back to his old self. "Planning to go on a romantic date, yeah? Old books aren't really what I'd do, but hey, if he likes them, then..." His words trailed off as he winked.

"What? No! That's not..." The blush returned to Shion's cheeks, though not quite as hard this time, but Shion bit back the rest of his protest. It would only fuel Jean's teasings. Well, he wouldn't fall for it this time. "Whatever you say, Jean," Shion said.

Before Jean could reply, the crowd suddenly surged forward as one body, almost knocking Shion off of his feet.

"Careful," Jean warned, grabbing at Shion's shoulder to steady him. "The doors must have opened." He waggled his eyebrows as he and Shion moved with the crowd. "I hear there's an actor here that's really good, has his own little fan-group even. Name's Eve. You ever hear of him?"

Shion bit back a warm smile. "Yeah. I think I've heard of him once or twice."

Jean and Shion continued to speak about this and that as they were steadily pushed up to the ticket counter. Jean paid for his ticket, Shion gave his to the vendor, and then they were in. They both only had tickets in the main area, not anything fancy like the balcony. They didn't need anything fancy, anyways.

The filed in with everyone else and sat down in seats in the one perfect row that was close enough to the front to see and hear everything clearly, but just far enough away so that they wouldn't have to be craning their necks up to see the stage.

I wonder if Nezumi will be able to see me, or if he'll even be looking, Shion wondered as he sat down next to Jean. Of course he won't be looking. He's in the middle of his job, after all! Well, job and hobby, I suppose... still.

"Hey," Jean nudged Shion, "what's with the face?"

"You look like you swallowed a rotten worm." Jean frowned slightly. "You feeling okay?"

Shion nodded. "Yeah! Of course! Just... I didn't think there'd be so many people. It's kind of stifling. Like, what if there's people who'll talk during the performance? That would be annoying."

"Hopefully there won't be," Jean agreed. "I want to actually focus on the performance, yeah? If there are people like that, I hope that others around them will tell them to shut up."


Both Shion and Jean jumped in their seats as the person in front of them suddenly whipped his head around to shoot daggers at them. It was then that they noticed that the lights were already dimming and that silence was quickly cascading down the aisles of the theatre. The two boys flushed in embarrassment and mouthed their apologies, but the man had already turned back around.

Then the curtains opened, and the play began.

Shion was still reeling from the deafening applause that had thundered through the theatre at the final curtain fall, but he was too excited to care about his ringing ears.

"That was amazing!" he beamed happily, bouncing from foot to foot as he stumbled through the crowd.

"That... That was pretty amazing, yeah..." agreed Jean with awe. "I never knew Shakespeare-some old play-could be like that. Gah, I nearly cried at the end... But don't tell anyone that."

Shion grinned. "I won't so long as you keep on my good side."

"Curses!" Jean snapped his finger in mock frustration. "There goes my plan to torment you for all eternity!"

Shion laughed. A second later, the two of them ended up at a small section of the theatre just outside the doors of the main auditorium, but where it was slightly less lit and not quite as crowded. They both leaned against the wall, staring into the bustling throng of people, some of which turning astray to head to the restrooms which already had long lines trailing out in front of the doors.

"It's been a while since I've seen Shakespeare performed," Shion admitted. "Mostly Nezumi and I just read Shakespeare's plays together and talk about them." He snorted. "And by talking about them, I mean mostly Nezumi mocking me through the plays for not knowing everything about the plays or not having them all memorized as he apparently does."

There was an audible silence from Jean, then he sucked in a breath. "...Is Nezumi really as good a guy as you said he was?"

Shion was taken aback. "What? I mean... He's always just poking fun at me. He isn't mean to me or anything. You know. Just some friendly teasing and banter. He does know more about a lot of more practical or more literary things than I do, anyways, so I actually learn quite a lot from him!" He smiled up at Jean, who in return, sighed.

"Well... That's good. Just..." he reached out and ruffled Shion's hair. "Be careful, yeah? Nezumi kinda reminds me of this one guy I knew a while back. And things with this guy... Well..." Jean shrugged, and turned his gaze back towards the swarming mass of bodies. "Things didn't really turn out all that great, yeah?"

Shion cut himself off right before he asked "what happened?" It took him a second to remember that the people living outside of the citadel of No. 6 had led completely different lives than he had. Nezumi had led a darker life than he let Shion know about, so it shouldn't be too surprising that Jean had his own sordid memories. He had the feeling that it was probably far better to let it be.

"I understand," Shion said, swallowing his guilt of not really understanding on a personal level. "But... Nezumi is... I trust Nezumi."

Jean's smile was a twisted shadow. "Whatever you say, Shion. I think you're right, but... Maybe I'm just kinda paranoid, yeah?" He pushed himself away from the wall and looked back at Shion, his normal, charming smile already back. "So, you gonna head back home now?"

"Not immediately. I have some other plans first." Shion did his best to bite back a dopey smile as he thought about his 'other plans.'

"Oh? Sounds like fun. Want a companion?"

Shion hesitated. "I don't... I mean, Nezumi-" Luckily he didn't have to worry about whether he was giving away Nezumi's past-time since he was jarred out of his place by someone all but running straight into him from the side. Shion let out a yelp as he was barreled into and fell back against Jean, who didn't really catch him so much as not fall down in turn.

"Owowow hey!" Jean called out as he awkwardly stumbled back against the wall.

"S-sorry..." Shion stammered as he straightened himself back up, not really paying attention to Jean.

Shion looked to see who had run into him and was met with a head of platinum blonde hair atop a small, pale frame an inch or so shorter than Shion's own. A young man dressed simply in a baggy shirt and pants.

"Hey," Shion said, reaching a hand out towards the dazed figure, "are you okay?"

The young man's hair was covering his eyes, but Shion could still see him flash a white toothy grin before darting away. Shion watched him for a second, then shrugged and turned back to Jean.

"That was..." Shion blinked at the sight of Jean's eyes nearly bursting out of his skull as he stared after the fleeing figure. "Weird," Shion concluded, no longer just talking about the young man.

"I... I think..." Jean swallowed hard. "I have to go, yeah?"

"D...Do you know that person?" ventured Shion.

"Yes. No. Maybe?" Jean shook his head with a groan. "I couldn't quite see him all that well, but... Maybe. I don't know." He took a step back. "I'll catch ya later, yeah?"

"Yeah," nodded Shion, giving a small wave. "Cya later, Jean."

Jean nodded back, then turned and dove into the crowd, trying to weave in between the bodies in the direction the blonde young man went, but with an overall failure. Shion watched Jean struggling for a few seconds, being both confused and intrigued by the past minute, then remembered his previous engagement, and swiftly turned on his heel to the right and headed down the long hallway towards where the stage would be in the main auditorium just on the other side of the wall to his left. He really should've asked Nezumi where, exactly, he was supposed to go and what he was supposed to do... A little too late for that now. All he could assume was that the backstage was... Well, behind the stage.

After a few seconds of walking through the dimly lit hallway, he saw a door to his left. On the door was a simple sign that read "Employees and Actors Only." Shion took a deep breath and rapped his knuckles on the door loudly, hoping for the best. A few moments later the door swung open, letting the sounds of chatter, laughter, and the occasional cheer tumble out from the other side. Shion froze when he saw who had opened the door.

"I'm sorry," the brown-haired man, still clad in his Shakespearean attire, said with a gentle smile, "the backstage is for staff only. If you need anything..." The man's brow furrowed. "Wait. Do I know you? You seem familiar..."

Shion's mouth gaped open. "Uh... I don't... Think so?" He instinctively took a step backwards.

"Oh, yeah," the man said with a snap of his fingers. "You're one of Eve's friends, right? I remember seeing you in the theatre a few days ago." He chuckled. "As if I could forget that white hair."

"You must be Ander, then," responded Shion dryly. "Neee-Eve mentioned you." Naturally Shion recognized Ander in his costume to have been the one who played Romeo. Shion knew that Nezumi and Ander never really kissed, but it still made Shion's chest prickle a little, meeting Ander face-to-face.

"Did he now?" Ander grinned. "What an honor. Anyways, I assume Eve invited you backstage, so c'mon in before anyone catches you." And with that, Ander stood to one side with a gracious sweep of his arm.

I guess all actors are dramatic offstage, Shion noted quietly. He forced a smile as he stepped inside, closing the door behind him. "Thanks, Ander." He took a long look around, the irritating prickle being swept away by the excitement of seeing what really went on behind each and every play.

There was a large amount of painted backgrounds-castles, fields, houses, forests, every background imaginable-piled against walls; in the corners and under tables were boxes brimming with assorted props such as staffs, clocks, plastic flowers, fake swords and daggers. The tables themselves, of course, were cluttered with papers and smaller props. Even more astonishing than the backgrounds and props were the people bustling around further into the room. It was really an amusing sight, actually. There were men donning the billowing, ostentatious garments of the Shakespearean era with arms amicably slung around men and women donning modern black t-shirts and casual jeans. Everyone was talking and laughing amongst themselves and no one was doing anything that looked remotely like work. The relief and joy of a play well-performed was so tangible that the air itself tasted sweet and made Shion smile as well. The air also tasted vaguely sweaty. Ah, well.

Shion turned back to Ander. "Everyone seems happy."

"Of course," Ander agreed with his own wide smile. "The play couldn't have run any smoother than it did, knock on wood."

"That's good," Shion nodded. "And, um... Do you know where Ne... Eve is?"

"He said he was gonna change outta his costume. Should be over there somewhere." Ander gestured to a door past where the main clump of people was standing.

"Great, thanks!" Shion nodded again and headed off. A few of the smiling actors and crew glanced at him as he passed by, but no one said anything to him or stopped him. A second later he was standing just outside the closed door Ander had pointed him to. The red chipped, painted text on the door said 'Changing.'

As Shion stood there, waiting, he saw another door a few feet away with the word 'Costumes' painted on it. It was open just a sliver, letting a little stream of golden light trickle out. He hesitated for a second, debating about how much trouble he could get in if he went in there. Then his curiosity got the better of him and he stepped away from the changing room and gently pushed open the costume room's door. He didn't step in all the way, just to be safe, but he ducked his head inside.

There were rows and rows of hanging garments from various eras. Naturally, there was a lot of Shakespearean costumes spread throughout the room, as were tunics and chain-mail for Medieval-style peasants and knights respectively. There were soft gowns with feathers or with beads dangling off of them. To Shion, it all looked like a huge mess. A golden dress was pressed up against a sickly green shirt and skirt; next to them was a shiny, metallic vest. It just looked like a jumble of random, strange clothes. Then Shion noticed the tags on each of the articles of clothing, and the different dividers on the racks. Clearly, someone knew how to navigate this vast forest of garments.

Shion jolted when he was knocked on the back of the head-not hard enough to really hurt, but more than enough to startle him into jumping a little and letting out a strained yelp. He heard an all-too familiar chuckle behind him.

"Oy," Nezumi said, giving Shion's head another rap, "where do you think you're going?"

Shion turned to face Nezumi. "I wasn't gonna go in. I was just looking."

"That's what all future criminals say," Nezumi teased, affectionately ruffling Shion's hair with his free hand, the other hand gripping his costume slung over his shoulder.

"Is that what you told yourself before you came into my room and threatened to kill me four years ago?"

A pause. "I doubt it." Nezumi's gaze drifted past Shion, his eyes darkening. "Back then, I was going to do whatever it took to survive. I didn't even think about anyone or anything."

A shiver ran down Shion's spine. Shion swallowed hard at the thick, twisted air they were now engulfed in. He forced a small smile. "Guess you aren't a criminal, then."

After a long moment, Nezumi blinked, his eyes clearing. He looked at Shion once again and his silver eyes softened. "Guess not. Better step up my game."

Shion cracked a grin. "So, are you going to give me a tour of this place or what?"

"Yeah. I just have to check in my costume." He nodded his head at the gown over his shoulder. "Though, truthfully, there isn't much to see."

"But isn't the backstage where the true performance takes place?"

"It's where the truth of the performance takes place," Nezumi corrected, stepping past Shion and into the costume room. He looked at Shion over his shoulder. "The true performance, the true theatre, is always in the words and in the actors, never the building. Remember that."

Nezumi slipped out of sight before Shion could react. So Shion was left to stand there, Nezumi's words swimming around his head. Shion leaned back against the wall, stuffing his hands into his pockets as his gaze slowly swept the room. He didn't see anything; he was too busy thinking and remembering and processing to see. Before he knew it, he felt a tap on his shoulder. With a smile, he lifted his gaze up.

"That was fast, Nezumi." The words had slipped from his mouth before he could be startled by the long, dirty blonde hair in front of him.

The girl laughed when Shion jumped and started to stutter an apology. "No worries," she said with a smile, waving his apologies away with a careless hand. "So you're a friend of Eve's? He's never brought anyone with him before, so it's kinda shocking…"
"Ah, yeah, he's usually rather cold to a lot of people," agreed Shion with a faint chuckle. "But he's actually really nice once you get to know him."

"Really?" The girl blinked quizzically. "I would never have guessed. He rarely talks to anyone outside of the theatre and he's always just kinda… dark. But not in a bad way!" She quickly added. "And I've always admired his work as an actor! He's truly amazing. I've always wanted to get to know him better, but never really knew how…"

Something in Shion's chest was twisted with just a little bit of… pain. His hand curled into a fist as he tried to ignore it. "I don't think I've ever felt like that around him, but… I guess all you have to do is just start talking to him. Just be yourself."

"Thanks for the advice!" The girl smiled happily and tucked a lock of hair behind her ear. Suddenly she flushed a little. "Oh! I never even introduced myself!" She stuck her hand out. "I'm Aimee! It's nice to meet you."

"Oh, umm…" Shion shook her hand awkwardly. "I'm Shion. It's nice to meet you, too." It'd been a while since he'd had such a straightforward introduction that he couldn't help but join Aimee in flushing, just a little bit.

Before Shion could say anything else, he felt something gently nudging his side. He turned and saw Nezumi, donned in his usual attire. He had his hands stuffed in his pockets as he elbowed Shion.

"What're you doing?" asked Nezumi dryly. He didn't so much as glance at Aimee.

Aimee swallowed hard, her blush refusing to leave her soft cheeks. "Hey, Eve, I was just introducing myself to Shion here."

Nezumi's eyes flickered towards her for a second, but they were hard as steel. She took a step back, perhaps unknowingly, and her flush faded. "I see," was all Nezumi said.

Shion sighed and elbowed Nezumi back. "Warm up a little, Mr. Ice," he said playfully in an attempt to bring some cheer back to the conversation. "No need to be so frosty."

Nezumi blinked. "If I'm 'Mr. Ice,' as you said," he mused, "then you telling me to 'warm up,' means that you want me to melt and die. How kind of you."

Shion rolled his eyes. "You know that's not what I meant."

"But that's what you said."

Aimee chuckled, cutting off Shion's next response. "It's nice to see that you two are such good friends," she smiled and tilted her head a little. She took another step back until she was just on the edge of a doorway. "Well… it was nice meeting you, Shion."

"Wait," Shion said, leaving Nezumi's side to stand in front of Aimee. He dipped his head and lowered his voice to the barest of whispers, knowing that Nezumi could hear really well. "Sorry for how he acts… He just… is." He smiled apologetically. "I'm sure he'll warm up to you over time."

Aimee's cheeks reddened at their close proximity. "Thanks," she whispered back. "I kind of doubt that, but it's a nice thought."

"I don't doubt it at all." Each word pummeled against his rib cage, yet he still managed to get them out.

Another girl, dressed in the same black clothes as Aimee, passed by them on the other side of the doorway. At first she merely glanced at Shion and Aimee, but then she did a double-take. A slow grin slunk over her features and she turned to face them.

"Oooooh, Aimee, look where you're staaaanding," she giggled mischeviously as she rocked back and forth on her heels.

Aimee, confused, looked around, as did Shion. It only took a moment for Aimee's eyes to be cast upwards and her flush to return in a rapid storm at the sight of the small green branches above them. Her flush must've been contagious because when Shion saw the twigs as well, a blush also tainted his pale cheeks.

The second backstage girl started to sing-song, "Aimee and Pale Boy, standing under mistletoe. K-I-S-S-I-N-G." At this point, Nezumi stepped up to join them, his face drawn and his jaw set.

"C'mon, Rachel, stop that," complained Aimee.

"It's tradition," Rachel continued in her sing-song tease. "You hafta kiss, hafta kiss, hafta kiiiiissss."

"We don't-" Shion started to say, but he was interrupted by Nezumi's arm wrapping around his shoulders and his hand turning the shorter boy's face towards Nezumi's own and his lips captured Shion's.

Shion was so caught off guard that his red eyes were wide open and they locked with Nezumi's burning steel eyes. Nezumi calmly watched Shion as his tongue slipped past Shion's slightly-parted lips. Shion shivered from the surprising warmth of Nezumi's tongue and his hands feebly clutched at Nezumi's sides. Their lips parted a little and their breath mingled in the small space between them for a second. Nezumi's lips brushed against Shion's one last time, his tongue flicking out just enough to lick Shion's upper lip, before the taller boy finally pulled away.

Nezumi directed his gaze at the girls, who, needless to say, were standing there speechless. "Happy?" His low voice was hot and husky. Without waiting for an answer, he dropped his hand down from Shion's jaw to wrap around his lower back and started directing the two of them to the door Shion had come in.

Shion realized that he hadn't been breathing and started to gasp as they left the backstage area. "Wa-wait!" He panted as Nezumi continued to pull him along towards the exit of the theatre. "Nezumi! Sl...Slow down!"

It wasn't until Nezumi had dragged the two of them outside and to the shadows guarding the entrance of the alley next to the theatre that he finally stopped. His dark eyes quietly watched Shion catch his breath.

When he could finally speak again, Shion swallowed hard. "What… what was…"

"Tradition," Nezumi answered simply. "Kissing under mistletoe, you know."

Shion's heart thumped painfully. "You… you didn't…" His voice dropped to an almost shameful whisper. "You didn't have to do that, then…"

"What do you mean by 'that'?" The glint in Nezumi's eyes told that he obviously knew what Shion meant.

"Th… you didn't have to use your tongue…"

"Why? It didn't feel good?"

"I-" Shion bit his lower lip, trying to get rid of the echoing sensation of Nezumi's lips. "It's embarrassing," he confessed. "You could just do that kinda thing with other people standing right there… You'll still have to work with them. Won't it be super awkward?"

"Doesn't matter." Nezumi shrugged, then the glint in his eyes brightened. "But… it was just embarrassing?"

"I… I g-guess?" Shion spluttered awkwardly.

Nezumi stepped closer to Shion, his hand gently cupping Shion's chin. "So you wouldn't mind doing it again?" His thumb traced Shion's reddening lower lip.

Shion's breath caught in his throat. He barely managed to choke out, "Don't have to now, though."

"It'd be a shame to only kiss when others are watching…" Nezumi murmured just under his breath and Shion wasn't sure whether he heard correctly or not. A little louder, Nezumi asked, "And if I want to?"

Shion really didn't know how to respond, mostly because he didn't know how much of this was Nezumi teasing him and how much was… real? Ah, of course. It couldn't be more than Nezumi teasing him… Much more than that would be presumptuous of Shion at best, arrogant of him at worst.

But… Shion could feel a very, very faint tremble through Nezumi's soft grip on his chin. Nezumi's thumb was calloused and hard, but still sent soft vibrations through Shion's lip… Shion shoved this thought aside. Nezumi was always teasing him. Whether Nezumi was teasing him or just tired and not thinking straight, Shion was determined to get the upper hand in this.

Shion gently grazed his teeth against Nezumi's thumb, looking up at the taller boy with half-lidded eyes. "Then do what you want."

Nezumi's eyes widened and he sucked in a sharp breath. Accepting the invitation, he tilted Shion's head upwards dipped his head just enough to carefully touch his lips against Shion's. The kiss was so tender it made Shion's stomach flip. And when Nezumi tugged on Shion's lower lip with his teeth, it nearly drove Shion insane. He had to hold back a moan when Nezumi started to suck on his lower lip. Nezumi kissed Shion full on the lips one last time, then leaned forward to hover just over Shion's ear.

"You'll make a criminal out of me yet, Shion," he whispered slyly.

When at last Nezumi let fresh air separate them, Shion's cheeks were burning a furious red and his lips were glistening. He stared at nothing, his eyes cloudy and distant. Nezumi watched the white-haired boy's dazed reaction for a few minutes, then chuckled. He started walking away, elbowing Shion on the way. Shion was slowly pulled from his trance and his eyes naturally followed Nezumi, who looked back at him over his shoulder.

"C'mon," Nezumi called. "It's getting late."

"Ah, right…" Shion stumbled a little, just barely managing to catch himself before heading after Nezumi.

The two had barely taken five steps, however, when Shion felt a tiny, cold fluff falling on his cheek. He looked up and smiled.

"Hey, look," he gestured towards the sky. "It's snowing again."

Nezumi also looked. "Sure it is. I just hope we don't get another blizzard like before…"

"We'll be fine," Shion said firmly. "A little more snow to whiten up the holidays is nice."

Nezumi reached back and tugged on Shion's hair. "You have more than enough white to whiten up the holidays."

"Not as if I'm just going to share my hair with everyone." Shion laughed, shaking off Nezumi's hand.

"That would be quite the task," Nezumi agreed. He slowed his steps down a little to stare up at the sky more. "Maybe a bit more snow wouldn't harm us."

Shion smiled and stepped up next to Nezumi. Side-by-side, they walked together, the soft snowflakes slowly spiraling to the earth around them. Even as the snow started to pile up, they didn't exchange a single word and walked in a peaceful, perfect silence that blanketed them like the fresh spring sun blankets an open field, as their spring sun soon would.

"A bit more snow wouldn't be bad at all," Nezumi muttered when Shion had already gone inside their small home. "Maybe the holidays aren't so bad after all."

Remember that time I said that I'd write a 12 chapter fanfiction all in a span of 12 days? Yeah? When was that? Almost… 2 years ago? AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

'Tis a poor joke, I know. Not funny for you guys at all, and for that, I apologize… ;A;

So here it is… the final chapter… 2… years… later… ._. I sowwy.

It's been a REAAAALLY fun ride. During this fanfiction I have bettered my writing skills and my awareness of writing. I also almost killed myself whilst writing this fanfiction several times. Gyah, seriously, some moments were so embarrassing to write… But this was really amazing to write. :)

ANYWAYS. Much to your guys horror, I assume, I have other fanfictions with Nezumi and Shion in mind. One of them I've already have about… what… half of it written (YES I HAVE HALF OF A DIFFERENT FANFICTION WRITTEN FOR ABOUT A YEAR WHILST THIS ONE WAS UNCOMPLETE FOR TWO YEARS I SOWWY), but it's only going to be… 2-3 chapters long I SWEAR…. maybe four… NO NO MORE THAN FOUR.

To that end, the 2-3 chapters one I'll upload probably around this upcoming winter since it's also winter-themed.
The other fanfic on the other hand… It's kind of a sequel to this fanfic, you might say. This one is complete on its own, and the other one will be complete on its own as well, but there are some themes/ideas/characters in here (Jean, random guy who bumped into Shion #SpoilerAlert *wink wink*) that will carry over to the next fanfiction… Also the next one will be… darker, if all goes according to plan. Just as a warning.
So… ummmm… I hope you don't kill me too much, but uhh… Here's the final chapter. It's been quite the run, you guys. Thank you so much for all of your continued reading and support and love (and also hate for me not updating. I totally understand).

Please read & review!

Happy Halloween y'all! ^-^