Advent Calendar, part 16

 

16

It had been late when they got home the night before. They had walked through the quiet, empty streets in complete silence, snow crunching underneath their boots where they walked. At some point, Settia had taken his hand, in the same way that he had taken him into his arms the night before, as if he instinctively knew.
It was confusing, on many levels. But it was comforting all the same. Mizuki had felt grateful, but had no way to express it in words. Maybe Settia knew that too.
They’d walked hand in hand beneath the yellow sheen from the street lamps, and didn’t let go until they were at the doorstep, Mizuki fumbling for the key.

Settia had been sleeping restlessly again, so Mizuki had allowed him to sleep in when he left for university that morning. His body felt sluggish, heavy with too little sleep throughout the weekend, as well as a guilty conscience for not having worked on his thesis at all. Still, he had to argue that what they had been doing was more important.
It had been strange to leave the house with Settia still asleep on the futon on the floor, instead of being seen off by his usual cheeriness. It really was strange, how he had come to not only accept, but enjoy the man’s company even though… According to Settia himself, he wasn’t a man at all. Mizuki didn’t know what to think anymore. He had left the room as quietly as he could and offered a soft; “See you later.” as he closed the door behind himself and walked into the crisp, cold Monday morning.

***

“Wanna come with me to the library after class?” Noel caught up to Mizuki in the hallway after lunch, nudging him briefly in the shoulder as he squeezed past some students coming from the opposite direction.
“Sorry, I’ve got some things to do today.”
“You’ve been awfully busy lately?” his friend sounded suspicious. “Don’t tell me you’re at home crying about your thesis all day? January is ages away still!”
“It is not,” Mizuki rolled his eyes. “You need to take this thing more seriously. And no, I am not. Things have just been…hectic.”
He hadn’t told anyone yet about the man staying at his house. What would he say? On the other hand, anyone who was up late the night before could have seen them walking hand in hand down the street but… They weren’t about to start asking where Settia was from, and where they had met, or… other obnoxious questions. Mizuki didn’t mind keeping this secret to himself for a while.
“So what are you doing today?”
“I need to go shopping and then…” he hesitated, “I have plans with a friend.”
“Who?”
“Nobody you know.” He tried to dismiss Noel, without sounding too rejecting.
Noel shrugged. “Suit yourself.”
He seemed to give it a rest.

The truth was that Mizuki had wanted to do something for Settia, as a sort of gesture of gratitude, even though Settia had signed them up for both charity events without him knowing. He didn’t really understand himself, but he recalled what Settia had said on Friday, and had decided to set towards the grocery store as soon as he was done for the day.

***

“I’m home!” he called out, kicking off his shoes in the small hall space, lowering the plastic bags onto the floor. There was no reply. He noticed a slight chill in the air.
“Settia? Listen, I remembered what you said about wanting to make a ginger bread house. I mean, I don’t care about that stuff but… I thought we could try…” he rambled, hanging up his coat and picking up the bags again. “I only got one of those ready-mades,  so don’t expect anything fancy but…”
He noticed that Settia wasn’t sitting upright on the bed waiting for him as usual: he was on the futon still. His breathing seemed irregular.
“Settia..?” Mizuki set down the bags on the table, crouching on the floor next to him. “Are you okay..?”
He noticed that the man’s skin color was unnaturally pale, and his hair seemed listless, even the sparkle seemed to be gone. Reaching out to touch him, Mizuki noticed that the other male was cold to the touch. The room too, he noted, felt cold.

**TBC**

Sorry for posting something this short all of a sudden. The chapters are getting longer from here though, it’s kind of unnerving.

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