Shion could hear the curtains flapping in the warm autumn breeze. It was an odd thing to focus on, he thought, the sound of fabric rustling in the other room. Their cramped little apartment didn't have much space for an air conditioning unit, so they'd had to crack all the windows to get a comfortable draft going.
Shion thought about asking Nezumi to go into the next room and shut the windows. He didn't want to get too involved before thinking to mention something—lest he ruin the mood. Shion didn't like ruining the mood. For him, at least, it was difficult to get back into character. Shion wasn't a skilled actor. He wasn't even B-List.
The sound of the bedroom door closing blocked out the rustling of the curtains. The windows had slotted shades, and the screens had been cracked just enough to let a cool gust of wind wash over Shion's skin. Goosebumps rose on his arms and legs. His entire body was bare aside from a pair of black boxers, made of silk. Shion had spent more on this single pair than he'd ever spent on a three-pack of cotton boxer shorts, but at the time, it'd been worth it.
For Shion, the sexual appeal of these games came from the dilution of the senses. The temporary thrill of danger. The inability to know. The white blindfold around his eyes, settling above his ears and flattening his bangs to his forehead, prevented him from seeing the person he could feel sitting on the edge of the bed.
The same could not be said of Nezumi. Danger had never been a turn-on for him—but the ability to manipulate the game, to seize control and work a scene the way a puppet master worked a set of strings, was a powerful aphrodisiac.
Nezumi liked to dominate as much as Shion enjoyed being dominated. And Shion had found excitement in the ability to trust someone to cut off his senses, to blind him and bind him and leave him unable to fight back, and to stop when Shion had enough.
With the blindfold on, Shion couldn't see Nezumi, but he knew what he looked like. When Shion had first proposed the game several months ago, Nezumi spent hours agonizing over which outfit to wear. He'd stolen several of his costumes from the theater's dressing room and dragged them home for Shion to scrutinize.
Juliet's gentle pink frock didn't scream control at all. Hero's haunting white wedding dress had a mix of lace running down the spine that Shion thought was gorgeous, but the sight of it hadn't wowed him as much as it had when Nezumi wore it on stage. Ophelia's gown would do as a last resort, but Shion didn't find her to be all that intimidating, as far as heroines went.
In the end, it had been Lady Macbeth's dress that Shion picked. The deep wine-red of the fabric scratched against his bare legs when Nezumi perched at the edge of the bed and ran a long nail—lacquered and painted crimson, especially for this game—from Shion's navel to the hem of his boxer shorts. Shion remembered being enamored and a little frightened when Nezumi first swept from behind the wings during the theater’s Spring performance of Macbeth, his long hair swept up in a stern bun, the curve of his throat gloriously white against the material of the dress.
"This one," Shion had insisted, desperately trying to control the tremor in his voice, shifting to conceal the sudden growth in his jeans. "You should wear this one."
Nezumi's fingers against his skin hesitated for a moment. Shion's imagination remembered the sweep of mascara surrounding those devastating silver eyes. Nezumi's coworker, Tana, had stayed after hours to teach him how to make a wing. Shion had woken in the middle of the night to the sound of Nezumi fumbling with the eyeliner pen, muttering under his breath when the line wasn't crisp enough.
Shion could feel the weight of Nezumi's body on the edge of the bed, his hips angling toward the dip in the mattress. His arms were splayed above his head, tied to the slots in the headboard with pieces of silk cord that bit into the skin just enough to sting but never to cut. Nezumi had never been comfortable with rope, and Shion didn't enjoy handcuffs. After a rather unfortunate incident about a month ago, and a series of uncomfortable weeks where Shion hated himself for not following the rules of self-binding safety, Nezumi and Shion agreed to never use something that couldn't be broken with a little effort. The silk holding Shion to the headboard now kept him restrained well enough, but if Shion exerted a bit more force than usual, he could rip them.
The silk gave each of Shion's hands about six inches of movement. Not enough to be of much use, but better than absolute restraint. Sometimes during the games, Shion flashed back to the cold terror that had gripped him all those weeks ago when he realized he couldn't get out. Feeling daring one evening, while waiting for Nezumi to return home after rehearsal, Shion had attempted a binding method he’d discovered on the Internet that left him unable to escape on his own. His plan had been for Nezumi to discover him and dive immediately into another game—but Nezumi had been late coming home. Two hours late.
If he'd come home even a moment later—well, neither of them liked to think much about what could have happened.
Shion didn't worry about not being able to end it. Nezumi dominated the game, but the real power rested in Shion's ability to stop it with a word. Two words, to be exact. He and Nezumi had spent long days pitching ideas for safe words, struggling over something that would match the nature of their game but also provide an exit.
Two weeks after Shion had proposed the game, thirteen days after Nezumi had agreed to explore it, Shion had pitched the phrase: "Forgive me." Matching the dominating tone of their game, Shion believed the words worked because Nezumi didn't like it when Shion apologized for things that weren't his fault. Nezumi didn't like apologies.
And so "Forgive me" had become Shion's "Stop." It had become Nezumi's "No." Shion had placed the entirety of his trust in those words, in Nezumi, in the love that he had for the other man and in the knowledge that Nezumi would never hurt him.
When Shion said "forgive me", the game ended. Then and there. No room for negotiation. No hurt feelings. When Nezumi said "forgive me", Shion became himself again. He stepped out of the role of dominated playmate and Nezumi emerged from the cocoon of dominating mistress.
Nezumi's fingers resumed their exploration of the skin on Shion's stomach. Shion arched into the touch and whimpered. The cool end-of-summer air was sharp against his bare flesh, and the buzz of excitement that burst through him was narrowed down to the path of Nezumi's nails.
Shion's spine lifted off the bed. The balls of his feet dug into the comforter—plush and soft and smelling of expensive cologne and perfume. Part of the game involved taking Shion's mind away from the comforts of home, tricking his senses into believing he was somewhere other than the third bedroom, the smallest, in his and Nezumi's little apartment. Nezumi had practically soaked the blankets in the clove-scented mist he'd purchased at the market downtown. Shion's back pressed into the fabric, slightly damp where Nezumi had held down the nozzle too long.
"Well," said Nezumi, and the lilting sound of his voice sent pleasurable shivers through Shion's spine. "I didn't think you'd be this excited." His nails traveled south, hooking in the hem of Shion's boxers.
During these games, Nezumi slipped into his "Eve" voice. Slightly raised and melodic, a faint echo of his own sarcastic snap. It was similar enough to Nezumi's usual sound for Shion to be comforted, but different enough for Shion to differentiate between Nezumi and Eve.
Shion shuddered at the sharp sensation of nails against his hip bone. He wondered if Nezumi had forgone cutting them to be prepared for the game. "N—Nezumi." His eyes were squeezed shut behind the blindfold. A comfortable grey buzz began in the back of his skull.
"’Nezumi’?" That musical voice lifted at the end, an obvious question. Shion could hear the scowl in his voice, the feigned disgust at Shion's impudence. "Getting a bit ahead of ourselves, aren't we?"
Shion's stomach clenched. A thrill of excitement and just a dash of terror went through him, from the tips of his toes to the top of his head. "Ah, I—I'm sorry, I didn't mean—"
Something sharp and damp clamped around Shion's left hip. He arched off the bed with a yelp. Punishment. He was grateful Nezumi had bitten somewhere he could easily hide. It'd been a little awkward to have to wear a turtleneck in the middle of June.
"What's my name?" Shion felt the soft brush of Nezumi's lips above the hem of his boxer shorts. The warm puff of breath against his skin.
"Eve." Those sharp nails brushed against the fabric of Shion's boxers, and then the expensive silk was sliding down his legs. They caught at his knees, but Shion shifted his legs without thinking. The cool air fluttered over his too-warm body. He shivered.
The hard sensation of Nezumi's teeth pressed into Shion's skin, again. The groove of the indentations formed in a deep oval. Shion could feel the bruise forming. "Say it again," Nezumi demanded.
"Eve," Shion whispered.
Something wonderful was happening, Shion realized. There were parts of himself that lingered beneath the security of his skin. Little bits and pieces of a broader picture that, at first glance, nobody paid much attention to because of their insignificance. These games, however, brought those minuscule tatters to the forefront of Shion’s mind. Nezumi brought them out. Nezumi—and Eve, in the confines of the game itself—saw the entire picture of Shion at first glance. All the parts that were beautiful and hideous and cruel and overwhelmingly amazing.
“Eve,” Shion said, louder this time, and Nezumi’s hand came to rest on the bite marks. Small, purple bruises would be there in the morning.
Nezumi was an imposing weight above him—and Shion was tempted to take off the blindfold without asking. Partly because he wanted to see Nezumi, and mostly because he wanted to make Nezumi mad. He wanted Eve to get mad at him.
Shion has never thought of himself as someone who enjoyed pain. And he didn't enjoy it in large quantities. But little bits, tiny flickers—and especially when it came in the form of painted lips and a wine red dress, there was nothing in the world he wanted more.
"Hmph." A gust of warmth against Shion's stomach. He clenched his fists, his own short nails digging into the palms of his hands. He strained against the silk trapping his wrists to the headboard as Nezumi's canines traced a path from his navel to his pelvic bone. "What am I going to do with you?"
Everything. Shion leaned into the weight against his stomach, the heat radiating from Nezumi's body. He shifted his hips, feeling a slow ache forming in his lower stomach, a pressure that crept up his spine and into the base of his neck.
The game wasn't new. This wasn't the first time—when things had been awkward and hilarious. The first night, Nezumi had strutted around the bedroom in his red dress with his hair piled on top of his head like a crown, dramatically reciting Shakespeare while Shion curled in a ball on the mattress and laughed until it hurt too much to speak. And yet, despite the fact that the game had been played well over a dozen times, there was still that same magic, that same wondrous amazement, of discovering something new. Shion discovered something new about Nezumi, and about himself, every single time they were together.
With his eyes completely covered, Shion couldn't see Nezumi, but he could picture him. He could see the red line of Nezumi's lips as he smirked, smearing a smudge of scarlet along the crook of Shion's inner thigh. Nezumi was pressed close enough that, when he blinked, his eyelashes dusted against the scar on Shion's leg. There would probably be tiny scratches of black when Shion looked. He loved those tiny markings. Loved those things that made the game so real. Loved that Nezumi was here with him and that he'd come back at last.
Shion opened his mouth to beg—and then Nezumi's lips were on him, kissing Shion in places he'd never imagined he would be kissed. Shion knew what a blowjob was from a practical standpoint, but experience was much different than speculation.
Shion dug his heels into the mattress. He whined when Nezumi's hands clamped around his hips and forced them back on the bed. Nezumi drew back and hissed “stop it” against his thighs, and the sharp command in his voice sent bolts of excitement racing through Shion's body. "Stop it," Nezumi repeated, digging his nails into Shion's skin and forcing him to keep still.
Nezumi was stronger than him. Even without restraints, Shion would never be able to fight him off. He whimpered and tossed his head against the pillows. He pulled on his restraints and thought, for a moment, that he might rip the silk in half.
And then the warmth was leaving him. The bed creaked as Nezumi shifted his weight. Shion could sense him sitting on the edge of the bed again. Could picture the elegant curve of his throat, the dark hairs gathered at the nape of his neck. "I gave you an order," Nezumi said, the words sliding over his tongue like water. "And you keep not listening."
"Then do something about it!" Shion demanded, the words leaving his mouth before he could think to stop them.
For a long moment, Nezumi didn’t move. Shion closed his eyes behind the blindfold and took a deep, steadying breath. He could picture Nezumi perched at the bed, looking down at him with that blank expression. One fine, dark eyebrow raised over those fierce silver eyes. A queen passing judgment on an unworthy subject.
Perhaps Nezumi was smiling a bit. Perhaps he’d broken character for a moment: a brief upward quirk of those painted lips. Shion doubted it. Nezumi was a very good actor.
“Very well,” Nezumi said, the gentle lilt of his voice sending shivers through the pit of Shion’s stomach. He knew that voice. He liked that voice very much. “I’ll do something about it...if you’re good. Can you be good, Shion?”
A warm buzz had muddled Shion’s mind into a horrendous pile of gray and crimson. His tongue was a thick weight in his mouth. He couldn’t form the one word he knew Nezumi wanted to hear. Yes. Rather than attempt to speak, Shion nodded quickly. The gray haze flickered with bits of white, and Shion’s entire body fluttered with excitement.
Nezumi placed his hands against Shion’s thighs and began guiding them apart. Shion didn’t resist. In previous games, when he felt a bit more defiant, he would shift around and stick his tongue out when Nezumi growled at him to stop moving. Other times, he would beg and shiver when Nezumi’s amused laughter shot through him like bolts of lightning.
Today, however, Shion felt like handing complete control of the situation over to Nezumi. He’d already been as defiant as he wished—he’d made Eve scold him and punish him a little, which was always exciting.
These games had evolved so much in just a few short months. It had started small: no costumes, no makeup, no pretending. Just Nezumi tying Shion’s hands together with a silk scarf he’d accidentally brought home from the theater, progressing from there to expensive rope designed specifically for bondage that Shion had, at first, reprimanded Nezumi for purchasing.
Experimentation and communication. Those had been the two factors in the development of these games. Dozens of conversations that continued to cycle through Shion’s mind, even now: Stop laughing at me, I was trying to sound sexy. Um, Nezumi? Did you get waterproof lipstick, because this isn’t coming off. Are you all right? Yes, Nezumi, I’m fine. I’ll tell you if I’m not. Trust me.
Shion's back arched off the bed, a breathless cry snapping out of his lips. Nezumi was a hard, sudden weight on top of him, inside of him. Shion's eyelids fluttered behind the blindfold. He felt the familiar, pulsating warmth against his hips. Ribbed. The condom Nezumi was wearing must have been one of those ribbed ones. That was new.
Nezumi's lips dusted along the curve of Shion's cheek. Shion felt him mouthing words against the shell of his ear, airbrushing that red lipstick into his hair. Are you all right?
Shion smiled around the pleasurable ache radiating through him. This was the only time during the game when Nezumi became himself without the safe word. The only time he broke character.
Shion nodded, rolling his hips and feeling the new, unfamiliar sensation of the ribbed condom inside him. He was all right. He’d prepped himself while Nezumi had dressed in the bathroom. The little voices in his head that’d made him embarrassed about these things months ago had long since vanished. It was impossible to feel embarrassed or insecure when Nezumi looked at him the way he did. When Nezumi looked at him and talked to him and treated him like he was the most beautiful thing in the world.
The scratchy fabric of Lady Macbeth’s dress pooled around Shion’s legs. Shion’s hands were bound, so he couldn’t dig his fingers into the blades of Nezumi’s shoulders. Couldn’t curl his fingers in those long strands of hair and take down the braids Nezumi had spent almost an hour winding together.
Shion could feel Nezumi inside him. Every inch of him, every place where their skin touched and their bodies connected. He squeezed his eyes shut and clenched his teeth. Nezumi panted in his ear as Shion adjusted to it. Small movements, gentle rolls of their connected hips that had Shion seeing red and black stars behind his closed eyelids.
Nezumi went slower than Shion wanted. Much slower. Several aggravated demands formed on the tip of his tongue, but Shion caged them behind his clenched teeth. He’d played this game long enough to know that arguing would only make Nezumi go slower. Or worse, pull out completely. Shion had already been punished once in this round of the game—if he wanted anything, he would have to beg.
A strangled “please” cracked off Shion’s tongue and dissipated into the air between them. He couldn’t form anything stronger than that. Damn. He wasn’t even sure Nezumi could hear him over the crinkling of the fabric.
Another slight withdrawal, and then Nezumi plunged back in. Shion’s spine arched off the mattress. He choked out a breathless grunt.
Something sharp nicked his throat. Nezumi moved inside him, hard and sudden, and sunk his teeth in the soft space between Shion’s throat and his shoulder.
Shion couldn’t tell if he was saying anything. Couldn’t tell if the please’s firing off in his mind were making their way off his tongue or not. He didn’t care.
Tingles began to form at the base of his spine. Shion never lasted long in these games. And, for that matter, neither did Nezumi. Shion could feel Nezumi’s breath on his neck, could hear the sharp intakes of breath next to his ear. One of Shion’s whispered pleas must have made it out into the world, because Nezumi had begun to move harder. Either that, or he’d grown desperate for something other than slow friction.
Shion’s arms jerked, the strips of cloth straining against the headboard. He hoped he didn’t rip them, as Nezumi finally gave him everything he wanted. Nezumi always did. Regardless of the teasing, the impish smirks and the pretense, Nezumi always made sure Shion got what he wanted. It was his apology for taking four years to return. His thanks that Shion had waited for him, welcomed him back without hesitation. His assurance that he wouldn’t vanish in the middle of the night with no promises of return.
And then, all at once, Shion broke into pieces. Every inch of him fractured into bits, blown away into nothing but dust in the wind. Nezumi’s arms latched around him, gathering all the splintered pieces and holding them together.
Shion’s mind was a glorious haze. He couldn’t form any words, couldn’t feel anything aside from the final few thrusts of Nezumi’s body into his own before he came, too.
With a sharp gasp, Nezumi sunk his teeth into Shion’s shoulder, a bit harder than usual. He might have been meaning to aim for the pillow. Shion didn’t mind. No blood had been drawn.
Nezumi dropped on top of him, panting against Shion’s throat. He was trembling, and Shion’s arms ached to be free of the silk scarves so he could wrap them around him.
Shion turned his head to the side. Nezumi was buried in the crook of his neck, breathing hard. Shion’s legs trembled with little aftershocks, a gray haze lingering beneath the blindfold.
“Eve?” he murmured.
“Forgive me,” Nezumi replied, still a bit breathless, and like a light switch clicking, the game ended.
Shion felt a strange weightlessness wash over him—the feeling of shedding his skin, sliding it down his shoulders, letting it pool to the floor and emerging as a new, sensitive creature. Not for the first time, he found himself thinking of snakes.
The fabric scratched against his shins as Nezumi drew away from him. Shion heard something thump beside the bed, something that might have been the condom plopping into the little trash can they kept close at hand. Shion was weightless and hyper-focused on the hem of the dress brushing against his hip. He felt strangely empty without Nezumi inside him, but content with the fact that Nezumi hadn’t gone far. After years apart, a minuscule part of Shion still feared that, despite the promises, he would awaken one morning to a cold bed and no clue where Nezumi had gone. It was a cruel, disgusting part of himself that he kept bottled uptight. A part that became smaller with each passing day. He wasn’t certain if a time would ever come when it vanished for good, but he hoped.
Long fingers brushed along the curve of his jaw. Nezumi cupped his cheek for a moment, and Shion felt the soft, familiar scratch of calluses. No amount of moisturizer had been able to erase them completely. Shion didn’t mind. If anything, he preferred it. It was a reminder that Nezumi fit in more than one world. Nezumi was someone who could thrive in the apocalypse with nothing to his name. Someone who could wield an eyeliner pen with the same skill as he wielded a blade. A million and a half little fragments that created this wonderful person who’d come back to Shion after all this time.
Nezumi hooked his fingers beneath the blindfold. Shion lifted his head, freeing the knot that’d been wedged between his skull and the pillow. With a soft tug, the strip of cloth fell away.
Shion blinked into the dim light. Buttery rays of sun leaked into the bedroom through the slats in the curtains, but the color was gentle and warm. No longer the harsh brilliance of summer.
Nezumi shifted and loomed over him. “There you are,” he murmured. Setting the blindfold off to the side, Nezumi gently took Shion’s face in his hands. His thumb brushed idly along the red marking beneath Shion’s left eye. “Hey.”
Shion looked up at him with a breathless smile. He’d seen Nezumi just before the game began, when Nezumi had swept into the room, carrying the three silk scarves he’d use to bind Shion to the headboard. Their game hadn’t lasted long, but Nezumi already looked so different. His long, dark hair had started to sneak out from the crown-like pile Nezumi had pinned it into. Several strands clung to his throat. The dark lipstick he’d used to color his mouth was smeared, fading to a pale rose as it approached his chin.
Those piercing silver eyes softened as Nezumi gazed down at him. The thick black lines on his lower lids sharpened them. The wings he’d meticulously applied in the bathroom mirror were still flawless; Shion wondered if Nezumi had used waterproof eyeliner, and whether or not the makeup wipes he kept in the bottom drawer would be enough to remove them.
“Hi,” Shion murmured. He gave his wrists a slight jerk. “Untie me?”
Nezumi made quick work of the knots. They hadn’t been particularly strong. Setting the silk scarves on the mattress beside the blindfold, Nezumi took Shion’s hands and guided them down to the pillow.
“Thank you,” Shion said, giving him another warm smile. Despite the fact that the game had ended, Shion found himself eager to make Nezumi happy. Words were important, but Nezumi was someone who appreciated actions. A gentle smile had more weight than a verbal assurance that Shion was, in fact, all right.
Nezumi wove their fingers together. "How're your wrists?" he asked, because once the game ended, he always asked.
After the accident, Nezumi was careful with Shion's hands. It bordered on excessive, but Shion allowed Nezumi these moments. It was better than remembering the night Nezumi had held him as they waited for the ambulance, kissing away Shion’s tears and assuring him through his own that everything would be all right. It was better than remembering the night he’d spent in the hospital or the questioning Nezumi had been forced to endure, simply because the doctors had wanted to rule out any chance of Shion’s injury being related to domestic violence. It was better than knowing that, during their games, some hollow part of Nezumi worried about Shion having yet another panic attack.
"They're fine," Shion replied. He flexed all ten of his fingers, just to be sure. He could feel Nezumi’s cool skin against the pads of his fingertips, the creases of their palms lined up and their thumbs overlapping.
“You’re sure?” Nezumi gingerly picked up one of Shion’s hands and kissed his knuckles. A red stamp came away as he drew back, and Shion huffed out a slight laugh.
“Yes,” he said, as Nezumi placed his hand back on the pillow and gave the other the same quick, red-marked kiss. “I’m sure.”
Shion watched as Nezumi pushed the massive pile of skirts aside so he could drop off the mattress beside him. One of Nezumi’s arms draped across him, the long sleeve warm as it crossed over his bare skin. Nezumi’s hand rested over Shion’s heart, the constant thumping in his flesh a comfort that Nezumi required after all they’d been through.
Shion reached a hand out and cupped Nezumi’s cheek. “This came out well,” he murmured, his thumb swiping gently over the solid black line stretching from the corner of Nezumi’s eye.
“Glad you think so,” Nezumi remarked with a slight laugh. “I think my boss is just glad I can do it myself now. Apparently, Tana was getting sick of my ‘bitching’.”
Shion shook his head. He didn’t need to be told twice that Nezumi could be a bit dramatic when it came to his costuming. He’d made the mistake of stopping by the theater once on his lunch break, only to find Nezumi in a literal screaming match with his manager about which color dress best suited Hermione: pale blue or dark green.
“I like your eyeshadow, too,” Shion said. Nezumi had darkened his eyelids just a bit. A bit of dark smoke to make the pale color of his irises stick out. “You’re beautiful.”
Nezumi smiled. “Thanks.”
Shion’s heart skipped a beat. He was impossibly warm and content. He knew Nezumi liked to be told things like this. Knew that it meant the world to hear verbal assurances. Shion also knew that it meant everything coming from him. Nezumi had spent years being told he was beautiful by drunks who lusted after him or people who thought flattery could manipulate him into bending to their will. But Shion’s assurances were genuine. There was no hidden agenda. Shion said these things because they were true.
“Should we—” Shion shifted closer to Nezumi on the mattress, stretching his legs out. “We should shower soon.”
“Yeah,” Nezumi mumbled. He angled his head closer to Shion’s, resting his cheek against Shion’s shoulder and drawing in a deep, steadying breath. “In a minute.”
Nezumi’s hand was still resting over Shion’s heart. Shion reached up and overlapped their hands, feeling the light thump of Nezumi’s heart through his skin. For a while, there was silence, broken only by the diluted sounds of their breathing. Sleep hovered in the air before Shion’s eyes, unfurling like beautiful blue petals. Closing around him, Shion couldn’t feel anything aside from Nezumi, warm and safe and lined up perfectly beside him.