81 Moonrise

The scent of spearmint was drilling into the air, diluting his senses and Shu stood numb. His expression was of the same, unchanging apathy, but it was the most subtle ripple of current, the wavering hue of his irises that gave him away. He stood numb, unfeeling even when the man stopped speaking.

He had exchanged no words – Zen was the one talking all the while, telling him of a story, a past he'd buried long ago. The humidifier had stopped running then, and as the mint slowly dissipated, he turned and left by rote. He walked away just like that and his brother never tried to stop him.

Zen did, however, repeat over and over, "I'm sorry."

And an apology was – is – not what Shu is looking for. He's never wanted an apology – not now, not before. He sits now in the room prepared for him, mind cluttered with excess, not paying attention as the overhead clock ticks past four. The view from here to out isn't satisfactory. There's a window, sure, but it's not big enough and there's no balcony, nowhere he can walk on to gaze upon the stars, take a smoke, lean against the railing and let the wind drift away his thoughts.

He sits on the wing chair, back flush on padded foam. There's an object digging into his thigh – a retractable knife, he'd forgotten he left it here earlier. The blade is a lot duller now – he's lost count of the number of undead he's hacked away at. The steel has been sanitized for the fiftieth time. It glints off the moonlight, reflects on blue crystals, shines past the clouded navy-black skies.

It's not a true blue moon though – Shu has heard that those appear in the aftermath of wild fires, uncontrollable disasters or volcanic eruptions. Scientifically, Elliot had told him, the particles block out spectrum red and only allow blue light to enter. Moons have always been romanticized, but so have the stars, or the nights in general.

He keeps replaying that dream every waking minute. He's settled it as a memory and not a nightmare – the telescope, the particles in the sky, the Carina Nebula. He also replays the image of his friend flitting away and when his mind wanders further, just a little further, he's replaying a scene of himself in his mansion home.

Shu still considered it his home back then – he was sixteen, still young, still waiting for his brother to pick him up. That night, he doesn't remember his brother coming, but he remembers someone else heading into his room, closing the door behind and Shu, on the verge of sleep, felt himself being choked so hard he couldn't breathe, couldn't see. He might have fought back – his memory is hazy – but then a knife was plunged straight into his chest, aiming for his heart. It swerved a little, drilled deep into mid axillary.

He thinks now that it had hurt badly. He should have died, might have died, perhaps he had already—

Shu loses grip on the knife, watches as it slices through inches on his knee. It flips once before landing. The hilt knocks against porcelain, bounces again, clatters and trembles on the floor. He watches as blood begins to form on the slit, trickles down the cap – it's almost mesmerizing. An artwork. It comes out red.

His world is spun around – physically, when somebody yanks him out of reverie, pulls his forearm up, makes sure his attention is focused.

"What are you doing," the man says.

Shu has to blink several times. His breathing is stuttered but not from that – not from the knife, not the blood that still runs red. By the nape of his own neck is a long-running mark that trails from bottom to throat, wrapping around the sides. It's scalding. It's invisible but it's 'there', as is the sharp blade that's pierced deep enough to go through his chest.

He leans forward and wraps his arms around Glenn's torso, nuzzling his face against the latter's body. The chair creaks with the movement and Shu sighs softly, inhaling into rosewood.

"You're back," he murmurs, the words muffled through fabric.

Glenn wraps his arms around him too, gently cajoling him.

"What's wrong?" Glenn asks sotto voce, the timbre controlled to match the night. He sounds a lot softer now; he was sterner before.

"I'm thinking if I…" Shu belatedly realizes that Glenn's shirt is slightly torn by the seams. He catches hint of black stains and dirt. "If I had died before."

It's not the first time Shu's asked this. The raven-haired man breaks the embrace, crouches down to meet him in the eye. He's not in the best condition – there are small scratches on his face, residues of soot by his temple. There's a smear of blood, now dried, by his jawline.

Glenn says, "You are still alive now."

Glenn places a palm on his chest, right on his pulse, and smiles with the warmth of a thousand ember hues. It's so contrasting in the dead hours past midnight. Shu is, quite literally, smitten.

Glenn leans forward, pleased with the reaction. "See? And it's beating very fast right now."

"Only because you are good-looking," Shu says.

Glenn laughs softly. "Only because?"

Shu only hums in response and lightly nudges him with his toes. "Next time, take off your shoes before you enter my room."

"Your room is my room as well," Glenn replies teasingly, taking him in for another hug.

Unexpectedly, this time, Shu is pulled out of his chair and lifted up into his arms. Surprise flits on his face as he wraps his legs around Glenn's midline, trying to keep balance. "What are you doing—" he says, or 'tries' to say, but his breath is cut off when Glenn makes an abrupt turn toward the bed.

Seconds later, Shu lands softly on memory foam, the extra layer of duvet cushioning his fall. His legs are bent on the knees, dangling off the edge, while his elbows are propped to support his body. Shu is a mix of confused and grumpy.

"What are you doing?" he asks again, hair slightly disheveled from the earlier struggle. He looks up at the other man, who has both hands placed on the bed, trapping him in between. Glenn returns the look with too much amusement for his liking.

"What do you think I'm doing?" Glenn murmurs, his eyes flecked with clear tease.

He leans forward. Shu leans backward. Glenn leans forward again. This goes on for far longer than appropriate, until Shu, in a sudden moment of coy, decides to play it up. He reaches out to undo a button on Glenn's shirt. The fabric dips down beyond decency and he takes slow, purposeful motions before he undoes another.

Shu smirks, lowers his eyelids in the way that he 'knows' he looks good, and says, with his most flirtatious voice, "How scandalous, Officer. Is this what you came to my room to—"

Glenn flicks him on the forehead.

Shu flinches and lets out a low, indignant noise. Disgruntled, he lies down atop the duvet, not wanting to exert any more effort. The raven-haired man lets out a sigh, though he still doesn't back away. Glenn angles himself on top, face only inches away. "You're really cunning."

Shu lazes in place without a care. "You started it."

"Are you always this competitive?"

"And you?" Shu rubs at his eyes, finally feeling the drowsiness hit.

"You're an exception," Glenn tells him as he pulls away. "You need to sleep, and I need to patch up the cut on your leg."

"You can leave it," Shu answers, closing his eyes and getting comfortable on the bed. "It's not a big deal."

"It is a big deal to me," the man replies. He pulls out the drawer under the bed – Shu himself didn't know it was there – and takes out some disinfectant along with a roll of bandages. The initial sting is uncomfortable, but it's not long before he eases into it, feeling the gentle dabs of cotton on his skin. Glenn, as always, is so tender as he works his way down.

Shu never has to do anything. He lies there, completely spoiled, and still he doesn't think he deserves such treatment.

"Glenn Lenos," he murmurs in the haze of sleep. "You are overqualified. What can I offer you?"

Glenn stops then, doesn't make a sound even ten seconds later, and Shu is beginning to think he hasn't gotten his words across. He decides to repeat again, though it all comes out in a mumble, "What do you want from me?"

He feels himself being lifted up again and settled back properly on the bed – head resting on a pillow, body covered by a duvet. Shu opens one eye, makes out the half-blurred outline of Glenn's body, settles on his clean-cut features, focuses on his eyes. Finally, Glenn responds.

"You," he says. "I just want you."

There is no need to respond, but Shu does anyway – and with full clarity. He opens his eyes completely, not a hint of murk in pale brown. They're made even more radiant in the moon's backdrop. He turns to his side, reaches a hand to rub at Glenn's cheek.

"I think I really like you."

The words are crisp against the silence and even more weighty in the darkness. Glenn pauses for a bit, then his lips curve, followed by his eyes and then he breaks out into the most captivating smile Shu's ever seen.

He takes Shu's hands into his own and says, "Are we back together now?"


Glenn chuckles. "I want to ask you something."

Shu looks at him and lets out a small, questioning hum.

"This ring," Glenn holds up his left hand. "Why did you keep it with you?"

"By coincidence, it fell into my pocket when we were at the mall," Shu replies. "I kept it. Originally, my intention was to have Meng Yun mod a tracker on it."

"To keep track of me?" Glenn asks with a knowing curve of his eyes.

Shu nods. "Because I was suspicious of you."

"And now?"

"Now I am with you," Shu replies.

In the far periphery, a streetlight flickers to life. It illuminates the ghastly streets of Helin and one by one, several others follow, bathing the avenues in a muted festival of lights. The utility poles have yet to be completely restored, but right now, as the glow makes way to the adjacent window, casting half-shadows onto the forms of two young men, everything seems normal – back to the way it is, the way it's supposed to be.

The contours of their faces are brought out crisp and clear. There's certain allure to downcast lashes, faint breathing, even heartbeats. Glenn reaches into his shirt pocket and the rest is fluent. It's a ring – one of the same design as his own, but the color of this is purposeful to match. Imperial topaz. A golden orange, a red tinged more beautifully than anything here sans one young man's jeweled eyes. In the sunlight, in the moonlight, they are the most beautiful shade.

Glenn looks mesmerized.

"Then I'm keeping you," the man says as he brushes his lips against Shu's ringed finger. "So don't run away from me."

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