aquarium

The knock on his door had woken him up from a slight doze. Armin’s night had been very short-lived and no amount of rolling over in his bed had helped him find that ever elusive sleep that he had desperately sought to find, without ever managing that much. He didn’t know what had kept him awake but it had been unpleasant.

For a while he thought it had been the movie, that somehow it had bothered him, confused him, left some trace on his subconscious but it hadn’t made sense so he’d dropped the idea. It didn’t really matter all that much. He hadn’t slept and that was all there was to that, he couldn’t change it.

As he moved to get back on his feet, rubbing his eyes, the knock came a second time, he shook his head and stepped to his door. Opening it, he found Eoghan looking down at him, worry creasing his brow.

“Sorry, didn’t sleep so well so I guess I dozed off a bit on the couch. Is there something wrong?”

This wasn’t their usual meeting hour, let alone their usual meeting day, so seeing Eoghan at his door was like seeing some long lost friend who’d randomly popped back into his life after dropping off of the face of the earth.

Eoghan’s frown and worry remained for a moment more before they faded off to nothing once more. He smiled, straightening as he did so. “I just thought we could spend some time together. At first I thought we could go out to buy you a few more books for your new shelves but since you’re tired I think I know exactly what we should do. How about a trip to the spa?”

Armin stared for a long moment before he shook his head and leaned his weight against the frame of his door. “Out with whatever it is you’re hiding, Eoghan. I don’t even need to try to probe into your head to know you’re hiding something from me.”

Eoghan’s face remained calm for several seconds before he pouted. “Drat, you saw right through me. There’s this one surprise I’m preparing for you and I need access to your apartment, preferably without you in it, for a few hours up to half a day. Exhausted as you look, how about I walk you back upstairs and you can sleep in our guest room? Lex is working on commissions and he won’t be out and about to bother you. You know how the bedrooms work, they block out everything and anything so if there’s something nagging you, it should leave you alone just fine and you should be able to get plenty of sleep!”

“Eoghan.”

“Yes Armin?”

“Nothing extravagant and nothing I don’t actually need, yes?”

“It’s not overly extravagant and I’m sure you’ll love it. Is that fair?”

“I swear, I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with you. Sleep could be nice though, I feel absolutely exhausted. I don’t know if it’s last night’s movie or just something in my memories or even something in my room but I couldn’t drift off.” He sighed then, rubbing his eyes again. Eoghan looked into the apartment, shaking his head as he did. He couldn’t sense anything wrong with where he stood but maybe there was something in the bedroom.

“Come on, I’ll walk you up to that ever comfy-cozy bedroom so you can get some sleep and I’ll have a look around your apartment to make sure it’s boogeyman free. I’ll also come get you when the surprise is ready, so please, just please, please, don’t come back down until I’ve gone up to get you, okay?”

With a roll of his eyes, Armin stepped out of the apartment, carefully closing the door as he did. “All right.”

“Now if you need anything, you know where I’m at though I’d rather you didn’t. You know where most everything is in the apartment, if there’s something you need that you can’t find, Lex is there too and I’m sure he’ll be done with his commission pieces before too long. I should be up here to get you to see the surprise before the end of the day, I promise.”

At least, he hoped that would work out. He’d snuck the aquarium guys into the apartment when Armin had been at work a few days prior so they could measure and take note and set up the design before they headed out. He really wanted it to be as much a surprise as he could.

Armin nodded, seated on the edge of the bed, his crutch off to the side. He rubbed his eyes, feeling somewhat like a child who had been kept up far beyond his regular bedtime. It was a strange sensation. He felt calm however, so quiet and peaceful, as if everything that surrounded him was somewhat like a soundproof box that kept everything out.

“You sleep. I promise you, this is more than likely going to be the most restful sleep you’ve gotten in a whole.”

With that said, Eoghan eased out of the bedroom, closed its door, looked in on Lex to let him know about Armin and disappeared back downstairs to wait for the team of workers who would transform the wall between the kitchen and the living room into an aquarium.

Armin had mentioned, after all, that company could have been nice. Fishes were low maintenance, especially these, the whole systems, the whole set up, there was nearly nothing except the absolute basic of care that would be required to take care of the fishes.

Late in the afternoon, with Armin settled out on the couch, the green, tie-dye blanket sitting on the back of the cushion not far from him, Eoghan stepped back into the apartment. He was bright-eyed, almost bouncing. He looked into the living room first, just to make sure and if it was at all possible, his face brightened even more at the sight of his friend.

“You look rested, at least more rested than this morning, that’s great!” He laughed, walking over and Armin could tell he seemed quite pleased with whatever this surprise would turn out to be. Armin wasn’t sure if he really wanted to know but there was no backing out of it and Eoghan had yet to do anything for him or give him anything he didn’t actually need.

“Ready?”

“As ready as I’ll be. Thank you for letting me sleep in the guest room, you were right, I can’t recall last I’ve had such a restorative sort of sleep.” It had been dark and peaceful, he couldn’t recall any dreams he might have had, which was for the best really.

“Great! Let’s head down to see your surprise. I swear it’s only half a surprise, it’s one of our discussions that brought the idea up to the surface so I know it’s not completely out there and I’m not crazy. Not yet.”

“Not much, in any case.” Armin murmured with a gently amused note as they stepped out of the apartment and into the elevator, down to the first floor where his door was slightly ajar. Not something he minded, he trusted everyone who lived in the building and he left his door unlocked unless they all stepped out. One couldn’t step into the building itself without a key, or the code for the door. It was one or the other.

“You’re so cruel to me, boohoo. Now, you’ll just have to trust me. I want you to close your eyes and set your hand onto my arm. I will lead you safely into the apartment and to the surprise, once there, I’ll let you open your eyes so you can see what it’s all about, sounds good?”

“I already trust you with my life, Eoghan.” He did. At the door, he closed his eyes. Eoghan took his hand and held it, carefully leading the slighter man inside and to the wall separating his living room and kitchen, a wall now filled with water and fishes and coral of all sorts.

“Okay, open your eyes.”

And he did. He opened his eyes and stared, mouth hanging open just a little. Just a tiny, tiny little bit. “Wow.”

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