Happy Valentine's Day everyone! Have an angsty fic I wrote for the Secret Santa event as a gift for this lovely day.
[Original Note: Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! To akuthecactus, my Secret Santa giftee! With a request for angst and drama, I came up with this lovely 4k piece of work. I really hope you enjoy! I had to crank out my old angst playlist for this one. It broke me out of my writer's block, that's for sure. Enjoy!]
I can't erase you
Shion couldn't help going to sleep and dreaming of Nezumi. He also found he didn't mind.
It was the only way he could see Nezumi.
In his dreams, he could forget reality and instead dream beautiful things. He could be reliving the time he spent with Nezumi in his house in West Block. He could be dreaming about the two of them living in Shion's new house between West Block and No. 6, where the walls once stood. He could be dreaming of Nezumi's beautiful voice singing to him as they watch the stars together. He could be dreaming of the two of them dancing together. He could be dreaming of what could have been if Nezumi had stayed.
Of course, it was all a dream.
Eventually, he woke up and had to face the cold, harsh reality.
Shion curled up in bed, still feeling the lingering warmth of Nezumi – no, the heated blanket that fell off the bed – and wishing for a brief moment that he could stay in his dreams. The alarm in his bedside reminded him that, regardless of his feelings, time went on. His hurt and longing couldn't be erased but continuing with life helped ease it.
Nezumi was gone.
Nezumi had left him following the collapse of the walls of No. 6 almost four years ago. He had left him alone with the baby, one of Inukashi's dog and Hamlet. The rest was a haze until his mother found him and the two of them had cried in each other's arms. Again, that had been almost four years ago.
In all the years following the collapse of the walls and restoration of the government, Shion had not heard from Nezumi. He received no letters, no calls and there were no signs of Nezumi. Not even all the contacts Inukashi and Rikigia had had spotted Nezumi. If it hadn't been for the empty house he returned to that was filled with books, it would have been as if Nezumi had never existed.
In the first couple of months, Shion lived in denial. He couldn't believe that Nezumi was gone. No, he refused to believe he was gone. He would find himself going back to that small house filled with books, waiting for hours for Nezumi to come back and coming up with excuses on why he hadn't come back.
He's probably haggling in the market.
Maybe he was asked to do another play.
Inukashi probably picked a fight with him.
He made up numerous excuses, everything to forget that Nezumi had left and he might not come back any time soon. Still, he would rather act delusional by pretending he was coming soon. It made the pain less strong.
Inukashi would eventually drag him out by asking for his help with their dogs or asking for help with the baby. They always had a sad expression whenever he asked if they knew when Nezumi was coming back. There were days where they went along with his delusion and said that Nezumi was coming back to the house in a few hours. Other days, they would scream at him that Nezumi was not coming back and to pull yourself together, dammit!
After that breakdown, Shion's visits to Nezumi's home became less frequent.
"Good morning, Shion!"
Shion kissed his mom in the cheek as he entered his mother's shop and he paid for one of her pastries. She didn't like that he paid her for her own cooking – "Shion, I would cook for you for free." – but he thought it was the least he could do for her. She smiled and Shion hid his face from her before she could figure out that he'd had another dream about Nezumi. He didn't want to worry her. He had already done a lot to worry his mom.
"Morning, Mom." Shion said between bites of the bread she had made that morning.
"Inukashi called," She said, putting some pastries on display, "They said that there was a new litter of puppies that were born last night, and they would like you to come down to see them."
Shion nodded, "After breakfast, I'll go. I can't believe that the due date was off by one day this time."
Karan turned to look at him, "You're skipping work today or starting later?"
"Later," Shion answered, finishing his bread, "It's not like the canvas is going anywhere while I go visit the pups."
"Alright, make sure to not stay too long there. Inukashi gets too huffy when you're around the dogs too much."
Shion laughed, "They're jealous that the dogs might like me more."
His mom laughed again before glancing at the calendar. Shion could already feel her sadness and worry as she turned to look at him. Nothing needed to be said for him to understand the look in her face as she looked at him. He didn't want to worry her and, yet, the date had done just that.
"I'm fine, Mom."
"Today makes it four years."
His mom sighed, "I don't want you to be alone, especially not today."
Shion went to hug his mother, who just ran her hands through his hair in the way he was used to. No matter how much time passed, today always hurt and his mom could always tell. Even if he said nothing, she always knew he was hurting. She knew him so much and he wished that he could alleviate his mom's pain.
"I'll stay as long as I can with Inukashi and the pups. After, I'll spend time with little Shion and then I'll go back home and paint a bit. I'll call, Mom, okay?"
His mom nodded, brushing stray hair from his face, "I'm here, okay?"
"I know, Mom. Thank you."
Shion would have frequent nightmares of that day following his time spent denying what had happened. He could vividly remember scenes he never wanted to remember. He would dream of Nezumi being shot, of Nezumi dragging him away from Safu, of losing Safu, of his vision going dark, of Nezumi leaving him behind. . .
He'd wake waking up to find his mom holding him and trying to reassure him. In her arms, Shion had felt safe enough to tell her about the pain he felt. There was a hole in his heart that would not stop hurting because of that day. Not only did he lose his best friend, but, shortly after, the person he loved so much left him behind.
His mom was so kind during those nightmare-filled months. She would ask him to help out with the shop when he could, and she would try to stay awake all night with him if he was too scared to chase the nightmares away. He felt bad for making her go through so much, but she would just kiss his forehead and tell him she would do anything for him.
During that time where he was plagued with nightmares, he would wonder what would have happened if he has asked Nezumi to not leave him. If he had begged, would Nezumi have hesitated to leave? If he had begged, would Nezumi have flicked his forehead before saying that he was just playing with him?
What could have happened if I had asked to Nezumi stay with me?
Why didn't he stay?
Why did he leave?
Was it my fault?
Did Nezumi leave because of me?
The thoughts of why and what if ate at him. He couldn't stare at his reflection because he had been so certain that Nezumi had left because of his fault. It was why Nezumi never tried to message him. It was why Nezumi hadn't come back. It was all his fault. Nezumi was gone because he had done something wrong. It had to be.
The epiphany drove him half mad with guilt and sorrow. On the anniversary of Nezumi's departure, he ended up destroying his room. He had first started by breaking the mirror that reflected his own face, a face he hated. He had been so disgusted with his face that the rest of his furniture followed, anything to distract him. Before he knew it, it looked as if a storm had blown into his room and he just fell to his knees, uncaring of the glass shards that clung to his body.
It was how his mom had found him.
She had gently held him in her arms as he screamed and cried about how it was his fault that Nezumi had left him and had not come back. That, so long as he was around, Nezumi would never come back. She said nothing throughout it all.
When he had stopped being overwhelmed by his own emotions, his mom spoke. She helped him understand that Nezumi leaving was not his fault. Nezumi had left of his own accord because he wanted to see a world beyond the city of No. 6 that had caused him so much pain.
"Nezumi will come back one day. He loves you, Shion. He loves you so he will come back to you."
It made Shion think of the promise Nezumi had made to him to return to him. If he had promised such a thing, then that meant that he was going to come back, right? It was a fleeting thought, one that Shion held like a lifeline. His mom rocked him to sleep in her arms as he repeated her words like a mantra.
Nezumi will come back one day because he loves me.
That one day became less likely to happen as days turned to weeks and weeks turned to months.
"So, he comes at last!" Inukashi grinned, hair tied up in a high ponytail as they often did while they were doing hard work with the dogs. They were currently rubbing the fur of one of their dogs while the new mother fed her pups.
Shion smiled back at them, looking at the litter, "Six? My, she had a large litter this year, didn't she? She's going to be tired for a while, I can tell. At least the pups are going to have a lot of brothers and sisters to play with. Can I keep one this time?"
"No way." Inukashi said, rolling their eyes, "The kids stay here."
Shion pretended to whine, "Come on, I've been wanting a dog for a while now. Don't rob me of my dreams to have a pet dog."
"Keep dreaming, hopeless artist." Inukashi replied, face caught in a pout, "The only thing you can do is name them, if you want. Just don't get too attached since you're not keeping any of them. Got it?"
"Yes, I got it!" Shion said.
As he watched the pups eat and planned their names, he felt Inukashi tap their shoulder. He looked up to see Inukashi looking fidgety. That was new. He was confused before he remembered what day it was again. He sighed. Not Inukashi too.
"I'm fine." Shion sighed again before pointing at one of the pups, "That one has a bunch of spots on their fur, it's almost like they have stars. Maybe Romeo or Juliet because they're star-crossed lovers?"
"Are you really fine or are you just saying that?"
Shion turned to look up at Inukashi, "I'm fine. Really."
Inukashi stared at him, still looking a bit awkward. They weren't good with offering comfort. It was obvious with the way they acted with baby Shion all those years ago. It was sweet of them to think he needed comfort, nevertheless. It did make him love his friend more than he already did.
"Listen, when that bastard comes back, you bet that I am punching him right in that smug face!" Inukashi said, cracking their knuckles, "Might punch him once or twice after that. Maybe four times, after the years he's been gone. What do you think?"
"I think that you're getting soft." Shion teased.
Inukashi turned red, looking away. They were so nice but Shion didn't want to worry them too. He already worried his mom enough. He didn't need to do the same to Inukashi. Did everyone see him vulnerable still, to the point that Nezumi's name was avoided whenever they wanted to mention him?
The nightmares had vanished, and he had stopped crying so much from the dreams and painful memories. All that chased him were his dreams but those never hurt him. He was fine. Really.
"I'm just. . . I heard from your mom about what happened to you during these days. That bastard did it and he's not here to do something about. I thought I. . . You know you can stay here with the dogs, right? I won't pitch a fit or anything."
"I'm fine, Inukashi, it's been four years. I'm better. I have a lot of work that I need to do. Time doesn't stop just because today is the day Nezumi left or anything," Shion lowered his voice, looking up at the beautiful sky, "Besides, I'm ready to just let go of that pain now."
Shion shook his head, "Let's just focus on the pups, okay? What do you think? Romeo or Juliet for that spotted puppy?"
Inukashi made a face before finally saying, "Neither, I'm not naming them after some characters from an old book."
"Aw, come on!"
Shion occupied himself working with his mom in the bakery, helping Inukashi with their dogs and even taking care of baby Shion. He eventually worked enough to get his own house, and, with a heavy heart, he left his mom's home. His house, once located where the walls used to stand, soon became filled with memories. Pictures of his friends and family adorned the walls and reminded him of the beauty the world offered.
It was this reminder and the pictures that made him remember that he didn't have a single picture of Nezumi. The thought had terrified him, especially when time went by so fast. He became scared of one day forgetting. He was scared that he could cease to remember that face. At least he had pictures of Safu to remember her by. He had nothing like that for Nezumi.
Shion decided to take up painting to help.
He started with crude images, ones that Inukashi would laugh about and Rikigia would chastise them about. His mom would offer support for his hobby by finding him art supplies and plenty of white canvases. It would take months of practice for him to get good and he knew when he was good when Inukashi finally praised his art.
Rikigia sold the paintings he had done as practice and, pretty quickly, people started asking for more. His mom supposed that people longed for art to help them get over all the hurt that they had gone through. Shion understood the sentiment, and he started working as a full-time painter. He painted No. 6, West Block, people, the foliage, the animals, and the sky.
His most famous work became a painting of Safu adorned by white lilies, dancing in the sky. The painting had been created to remember his best friend, to offer a tribute to the girl he had known most of his life. It had helped him move on from her death and find some kind of peace. People loved his work and hailed him as the greatest artist of their time. It was incredibly flattering, to say the least.
When he finally felt like he was ready, Shion began painting Nezumi.
He began with the distinctive hair and face shape before painting his eyes. In his dreams, instead of nightmares, he dreamed of being together with his mom, Inukashi, baby Shion, Rikigia, Safu and Nezumi. What he dreamt motivated to continue the painting, to dream of a reality where Safu had lived and Nezumi had stayed by his side. He painted the eyes and made a silent wish to the canvas on the second anniversary of that day.
Before I finish this painting, Nezumi will come back home.
Requests came flooding in, so he put the painting on hold. People wanted their portraits draws or portraits of loved ones they had lost two years ago. Shion obliged. If painting had helped him with Safu's death and helped him cope with Nezumi's departure, then he could help others do the same.
Before he knew it, the third anniversary of that day came.
Instead of making him be hurt, it made Shion feel angry.
He had waited.
He almost trashed his studio as he kicked his furniture and yelled angrily. He cursed at Nezumi because he kept waiting and still nothing. He kept waiting! He was angry at Nezumi because he said he would come back. Why wasn't he back?!
"Don't come back then, you idiot!" He had screamed at the incomplete painting of Nezumi, "I don't care if you don't come back! Get out of my head and let me move on!"
The painting didn't say anything as he screamed at it. It was just a painting. All it could do was stand propped where he had placed it. The incomplete eyes of Nezumi that seemed to pierce his soul made him feel worse than he did.
The next day, Shion hid the painting of the attic. He covered it in a white blanket and never went up to the attic to see it again. He was done chasing after a memory, crying over a memory.
Waiting for someone who was never coming back. . . it was a useless thing to do.
Only the dreams were able to comfort him.
Shion walked down familiar roads, hoping Inukashi would not follow because they were worried about him. He didn't like that his mom and Inukashi looked at him with such worried faces because of what today was.
He couldn't be weighed down by thoughts of Nezumi anymore if he was going to continue going through the day. He didn't have that luxury during the day, during reality. Besides, he couldn't be crying or whining like a child anymore. He was an adult. He shouldn't be crying at this point.
Crying would not make Nezumi come back.
Shion stopped in front of Nezumi's house, taking a deep breath before entering. The house looked like he remembered it. Well, almost. He was sure that there was a bag that hadn't been there before thrown on the ground. He dismissed it because it was probably Inukashi's.
He entered, walking past the bookshelves. For a brief moment, he thought he saw someone, but he ignored it as he grabbed the copy of Macbeth that was misplaced. He put it back where it belonged before looking around the house. The familiar longing and hurt threatened to bubble out and explode.
"Nezumi. . . I have faced reality."
Nezumi was never coming back.
Shion was ready to let go of the foolish thought that he was coming back.
"I'm tired of waiting," Shion said, heading to the exit, "I can't believe in reunion anymore. I'm sorry, but I'm ready to forget you now. Forget that you were here, forget the time we spent together, forget that I love you. I can't go on if I can't erase you."
Four years without any word from the one he loved. Four years wishing and hoping for his return. Four years filled with tears and screams that he couldn't get back. He was done. Even if it hurt, he was going to stop believing in Nezumi. The Nezumi that lived in his dreams only existed there. The real Nezumi. . . was nothing but a memory.
"Goodbye, Nezumi," He said, beginning to close the door to leave the house, "Just stay in my memories and dreams. That's the only way you can exist now."
The sound of books falling made him pause as he closed the door. Long enough for him to hear a very familiar voice.
The door was flung open, making him almost fall. Someone grabbed his hand with desperation and Shion's traitorous heart began to race. His eyes widened as, before his eyes, Nezumi was standing right in front of him.
"Nezumi. . .?"
The hair was longer, but it was still Nezumi's. His beautiful gray eyes, although filled with so much emotion he couldn't immediately place, were the same eyes from his dreams and memories. He was slightly taller, and he was dressed in different clothes – except for that scarf, that oh so familiar scarf – but he was undeniably Nezumi.
"It is you!" Nezumi cried out, looking relieved, his grip on his hand tightening, "I was half-asleep when I heard someone come in but hearing your voice, I knew it had to be you. I didn't know how I was going to find you this time, but you came to me. I-."
"I've cracked." Shion half-laughed, "Haunting my dreams isn't enough anymore. Now I'm seeing him in reality. Why?"
"Shion, it's me." Nezumi said, slightly shaking his shoulders, "I'm real."
"No, you're not." Shion said, trying to get away from the cruel illusion his disillusioned heart had created, "Nezumi isn't coming back to me. Nezumi's gone."
Nezumi had left him four years ago. Nezumi had never come back to him. Nezumi, despite loving him, left him and never came back. That was the truth, wasn't it?
"Shion, snap out of it dammit!" Nezumi shouted, eyebrows knitted as he frowned, "Don't make me punch you in the face for me to prove it! Why are you acting like this?"
"Why? Why? Why is this so unfair?" Shion asked, feeling a single tear roll down his cheeks, "Why did you come back into my life when I just finally decided to let you go?"
The cruel devil's face looked hurt before pulling him toward him, enveloping him in a hug. The warmth – not a blanket's warmth, his warmth – made the tears fall faster. Nezumi's fingers threaded through Shion's hair and the touch was too real.
"I'm sorry, Shion," Nezumi whispered with so much tenderness that it felt like a dream, "I made you wait a very long time, didn't I?"
"I hate you," Shion sobbed, even if he didn't mean it, "I kept waiting for you. Like some idiot, I waited for you and you never came. Why now?"
"You don't hate me," Nezumi said, holding Shion closer, "I was held up, but I managed to come back. I didn't lie that I would come back to you. I'm sorry that I made you wait so long that it's hurt you like this. Shion, I'm sorry."
Shion sobbed, weakly pounding his fists against Nezumi's chest. Nezumi made no move to stop him and Shion felt he deserved it. All the pain from before that he had hidden in his heart just flooded out. Despite it all, Nezumi did nothing but hold him.
At one point, Shion couldn't feel the strength to continue hitting Nezumi. Nezumi put a finger under Shion's chin and just offered him a small smile. Shion's lower lip wobbled but he couldn't muster any tears anymore.
"Look at you," Nezumi said, wiping away the tear tracks in Shion's face, "I've really hurt you, haven't I? No apology can take away all those years of pain. I know that. Still. . . I'm glad that you waited and you still. . . and you still love me, even after what I did to you."
Nezumi kissed Shion's forehead and Shion wrapped his arms around Nezumi's neck, burying his face in the other's neck. Nezumi held him tighter, as if he could somehow erase the distance between the two of them. Shion's heart ached but Nezumi was here. He was holding him, apologizing to him, kissing him. Nezumi was real and he was so warm.
"Nezumi. . . welcome back. . ."
Nezumi quietly led him to the bed and they laid down together. Nezumi cradled Shion's head as he gave him soft kisses. For every day he missed, Nezumi said with a smirk as he got Shion to muster a smile. Nezumi softly told him about how he spent his years, but the words seemed to blend for Shion in that moment.
Nezumi's voice, the voice that haunted his dreams, now soothed the wounds in his heart. He didn't care too much about what Nezumi was saying. All he cared about was that he could hear Nezumi because Nezumi was here, here after four years of Shion having to use the dreams as a way to see and hear the one he loved.
"Are you listening?"
"Mmhmm," Shion lied, smiling weakly as Nezumi huffed.
"Whatever, I guess I can tell you about the beach later, then."
Shion curled closer to Nezumi, hearing his heartbeat, and feeling the rise and fall of his chest, "Just tell me about the stars you saw. I like hearing about the stars."
When Nezumi began to sing for him as he gently ran his hands through his hair, Shion was scared to fall asleep. If he fell asleep, he was scared that he'd wake up in the empty house and he had imagined this after all. He couldn't take it if it happened. He wouldn't be able to handle that hurt if it happened.
"Sleep," Nezumi reassured him, "and when you wake up, I'll still be here. I'm not going anywhere."
When Shion woke up hours later and Nezumi's smiling face greeted him, it finally hit him that everything was real.
"I love you, Nezumi. After everything, it's still you."
"I never stopped loving you, Shion. I won't let you forget that."
It took four years but Nezumi fulfilled his promise.