raindrops

Spring was finally beginning to settle in. The snow was melting little by little, uncovering things that might have been lost within its wet and cold arms for the past few months. On this one particular day, the first show of spring’s return was the rain. Armin had woken up to the little platter of raindrops falling against his windows.

To him, it had been a beautiful sight, a sign that warmth was returning to their lives and that their chances of another snowfall was lessening with every passing day. He had no issues with snow, he loved it to a point but when there was enough slow that he had to struggle to get through it with his crutch, there just was too much for him to love it anymore.

As they all walked into the library from the backdoor, Mira lingered outside, his face turned up to the sky, his face set to elation as still cold raindrops fell and hit him. He laughed and Cyrille had to step back outside to snag his wrist to drag him inside. “It’s still cold as can be for a spring day out there, Mira, we had to deal with your brother being sick almost two weeks ago, I’d rather you not get sick too though I know you’re a pretty quiet and calm sick from what I’ve heard.”

Mira pouted at him somewhat but went inside with the tugging. He wiped his face clean and dry of the water and his feet of the dirt. There were mud puddles everywhere at this point, between the snow melting and the rain now adding up to it. The last thing he wanted was to track mud into their beautiful library.

They had more visitors now than he could ever recall seeing during the regular hours, it was warming to know that this place was better in every way. It was warmer, it had more room, the lights were brighter, there just was nothing negative about it all except that some people had mentioned that it was a little further out of their way but that they appreciated all the good changes enough that it wasn’t such a bad thing.

“Had to drag him inside again, huh? Just you wait, this summer, we’ll have to drag him inside whenever it rains and he’ll be soaked to the bone and you’d think he’d have just gotten done getting laid for how he acts.” Agni snickered softly, Mira blinking at him and rolling his eyes.

“It’s not as though you’d know how it feels to feel pleasure this way, Agni. I’m pretty sure you still haven’t even learned to give yourself a hand in the morning or in the afternoon or whenever your body seems to request it.”

“I have too jerked off before.”

Cyrille could only look between the siblings, amused in ways he couldn’t begin to explain. This was hardly the kind of discussion to have in a library and he could only be glad that they weren’t actually opened to their visitors yet. “Honestly guys, you’re having a fight about who knows how to jerk off best? That is so last season.”

He laughed, the sound soft and low before he walked off to head to the front so they could put all of their coats away. The twins exchanged a look, stuck their tongue out to one another and followed him to the front where Armin was already looking through the books that had been dropped in overnight.

“Now that you three are done talking about I’m not sure what way at the back over there, I’m sure one of you wouldn’t mind helping me sort through these books while the other two go about unlocking out front doors, yes?”

The day went by without much of a hitch following the opening of the doors, visitors came in, some went to the computers, a few parents dropped their kids off into the children’s area while they sought out the books they had come from, some settled into the reading sections and others simply came, found their books, stopped by the front desk and stepped back out into the grey day.

Mira kept their earlier discussion out of his mind as he placed books back where they belonged and made sure that others he found in places they weren’t meant to be went back to their own shelves as well. The work was routine in its own way but he didn’t mind. He could work without worrying that his fingers might try to fall off or that the heat might get so bad he’d feel like fainting because of it. The place was beautiful, there was low, almost inaudible classical music playing from placed speakers all over the place, it was so soft it could almost be forgotten about.

Agni didn’t step anywhere near him, keeping to his side of the library. He was brooding somewhat, not much caring to talk about his private life in the way they had while at the back of the library. Perhaps it just had felt too unfamiliar, this sudden step into a world he hadn’t really tried to discover yet. Of course he had lied to cover himself. He didn’t much see any need to touch himself yet though there had been mornings when he had woken up hard. He’d only ignored it, turning to the aid of a cold shower to get it to go away. He really was only waiting for the right time to try, that was all.

He doubted Mira had tried anything either, maybe he was only putting on airs so their friend wouldn’t think them slow to discover that side to life. He didn’t know and he didn’t care much. Eventually he did let go of the whole thing, focusing instead of checking books over and putting them where they belonged.

As they closed the doors, that afternoon, the rain had stopped, replaced by a fine mist that shrouded their surroundings in a pale cloak. Cyrille drove them back home, careful of where he went since he couldn’t see too far ahead of himself. It was just one of those things he didn’t care much about when spring came around. Spring and autumn both had days of mist turning to heavy fog that made getting anywhere impossible as he couldn’t even see his hands in front of his face. It was nowhere near that bad at that point but he was glad when he parked the car in the building’s driveway.

“You guys go up first without me, I need to help Armin bring in a box of book into his apartment and I’ll be up once that’s in.” Cyrille stepped around the car and to the back, he popped open the trunk and hefted the box out of it, moving towards the building itself. Armin was not far from him but it was Mira who opened up the door for him.

Cyrille stepped inside and Mira stepped out of the way, holding the door open so both Armin and Agni could step inside as well. Once all were within, he released the door. Cyrille stepped down the hallway, Armin a few paces behind him and Agni was turning to head up the stairs. Mira looked between the three a moment before he followed his brother up.

“I’m sorry for this morning, Agni. I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable. My mouth went off before I could really think it through.” Mira stopped at the top of the stairs, curling his fingers around his brother’s wrist to stop him as well so they could talk. He knew he could have waited until they were in the apartment but he felt bad, had felt bad since lunch had rolled around and it had weighed on his mind since then.

Agni blinked at him, looking down to his caught wrists though he didn’t try to pull them away. He knew he couldn’t be mad at his brother, not for long. The longest had only been a few days and it had been back there, when Mira had decided that they needed their own separate rooms.

“It’s okay. You caught me by surprise. This is just one of those things I hadn’t honestly really given any thought about and I didn’t feel comfortable talking about it where we were. I guess, if you want to, we could talk about it tonight though, I mean, it’s not a subject I can imagine brothers talking about but we’ve never really hidden anything from one another before so it wouldn’t be such a bad discussion to have, would it?” He shrugged, a little uncomfortable by what he was offering, what he was asking.

Mira tilted his head to the side, he released his brother’s wrist and enfolded him in his arms, hugging him tightly. Only a heartbeat passed before Agni was returning that hug, a fierce hold on his brother. They only parted ways after Cyrille had made it up the stairs and stopped next to them, a look of worry settled into his face. The twins shook their head a moment, resting their forehead together.

“We’ve been drifting apart for a while, I think it’s time for a good and long discussion about where we are in our lives. We should do that more often to this kind of thing doesn’t happen again.” Agni murmured those words before they straightened.

“We’re fine, Cyrille, I promise. I think we just both realized we’ve been a bit distant to one another lately and we found out how to fix it, I promise.”

“I just don’t want you guys to not be friends anymore, that’s all I honestly want. I need the three of us together.”

“We’re not going anywhere, are we, Mira?”

“Nowhere at all that isn’t right here with the two of you. Let’s head in, I’m starving, we can have ourselves something to eat and then we can sit down and just talk and then talk some more.”

“Sounds perfect.”

“Do you guys want to do this with just the two of you and should I make myself sparse?” Cyrille headed back to their door, opening it for them as he did. They stepped inside, quiet for a few moments. Mira shook his head first.

“I think we can have this discussion all three of us together.”

aftermath

Curled miserably on the couch, Agni tries to ignore the churning of his stomach. He looks at the empty container of sour candy with reproach, as though it had ruined his whole life before he closes his eyes with another groan. He feels pathetically ill and it is most unpleasant.

This is a first in his life and he wishes he would never have to go through it again. He knows there is nothing he can do about it at that moment but live through it and learn from his mistakes.

Not far from him, he hears his brother and their friend talk together, their voices are low, whispered notes that he can’t focus on. He breathes in and out slowly through his nose, not much caring to breathe through his mouth else he throw up again in the trash bin they’ve left not far from him.

“What happened, exactly?” Cyrille looks over to the curled teenager before he looks away. They have wrapped Agni in a blanket and left a bin next to him, in case he feels the need to throw up again. He doubts there is much left to throw up as he’s rather certain that all the sour candy he’d eaten has already come back up.

“He had bought the container of that sour candy he loves so much in order to celebrate, we went through our exams for history, the last ones we were meant to go through, I passed mine with flying colours but he failed his. Just by a few points but he failed and Eoghan said he’d have to take it again. Cue him stuffing his face with his candy to forget the bad news.”

“Mira, I was gone for all of half an hour, you’re telling me he ate through all of his candy in half an hour?”

“Twenty minutes, I’d say.”

“No wonder he’s sick. You want to keep an eye on him while I head back down to the store? I know what to get him, he needs to at least keep hydrated and in a way that’ll stay down.”

Mira shrugs gently, a wry smile finding his lips though he sighs and closes his eyes, rubbing the back of his neck as he does. “I have nowhere else to be though I was thinking of asking Eoghan or Armin for a miracle remedy if there’s any. Just come back soon, please.”

“I’ll be in and out, I’ll head to the closest corner store and once I’m back and trying to get him to drink the stuff, you can head up and check in with Eoghan to see if he might know something though I don’t think there’s much we can do, else than keep him hydrated.”

“He what?” Eoghan frowns as he lets Mira in, closing the door behind him and walking him to the kitchen.

“When you brought us our test results back, he started eating his way through that big container of sour candy he’s bought. Now I’m pretty sure he’s thrown it all back up already but he’s miserable and he can barely take a few steps without feeling dizzy and wanting to throw up again. Cyrille got him some sports drink of sorts, he said it was to help him stay hydrated but I wanted to check with you to know if there was anything we could make for him or give him that would help him along.”

“That is one poor coping mechanism.” Muttering, Eoghan looks through his herbs and spices, knowing he might have something he can put together to at least help a little though he knows it won’t be much. It could soothe the stomach enough, at least. “I can probably manage to prepare him a mix of herbs to steep in hot water, a tea that could help his stomach settle down. I would feel better knowing it came from Simon at the shop but that would take longer to get to him and back, then steep it all up than it is for me to try to recall the ingredients. Can you get some water heating on the stove? We’ll prepare it up here and you can bring it down to him once it’s cooled.”

Mira nods, filling the kettle with water and setting it on the cooking top to heat up. With that done, he steps back and out of the way as he only watches Eoghan. The man digs through his spices, most of them Mira still has never heard off and he puts little quantities of this and that into a tea bag.

After five or so minutes, he nods and closes the bag, sealing it with its little string to pull the top closed. He sets it in a large pitcher and Mira blinks at him, opening his mouth to ask his question but closing it when Eoghan chuckles softly and shakes his head. “I’m preparing more than less, that way you’ll have extra to give him throughout the day. About a cup of the stuff should be enough for a few hours and it can be taken hot or cold, it’s what’s in the bag that helps.”

Eoghan knows it’s not perfect, far from, Simon would have known better but the herbal shop is nearly at the other side of the town and it would have taken them too long to get there.

Once the water is boiling, Eoghan fills the pitcher up to the brim, drops the tea bag in it and sets a five minute timer on the microwave, letting it count down, second by second until it beeps. Once it does, he pulls the bag out and sits in on a plate to the side. He puts a cloth around the pitcher and offers it over. “It is going to be piping hot but it should cool down a little bit by the time you’ve gone back down. Just fill in a glass three-quarter full for him and have him drink it up. He might not like the taste but he has no choice if he wants to get better, hear me?”

“Thank you, Eoghan.”

“You’re welcome, now get.”

“That stuff smells pretty bad.” Cyrille leans over the still somewhat steaming glass of tea, scrunching up his nose as the smell of it. Mira shrugs gently, leaving the pitcher on the counter to allow it to finish cooling down. He then takes the glass to his brother, kneeling down next to him.

Agni looks at him, misery all over his face, he scoots up just slightly, barely, so he can at least be mostly vertical and he curls his fingers around the warm glass.

“This is going to taste pretty bad but you have to drink it all down. Eoghan said it will help your stomach feel better. I have more and you’ll likely be needing more throughout the day but only some hours apart. It all depends on how you’ll feel.” Mira sighs but steps back and away, letting his brother sip slowly at the cup. He utters not a single word but it is written all over his face that whatever is in there tastes terrible.

Cyrille watches from a distance, trying not to feel guilty. He is the one who helped the twins discover these candies. Of course, Mira cares little for them but Agni’s adoration for the sour little bites have obviously turned to a bad thing. He wonders if the teen will ever eat another sour candy again after this little issue, however. He shakes his head at the thought, hoping that Agni has learned his lesson well enough that he will leave those candies be, at least for a while yet.

When his glass is empty, Agni sets it down, feeling his stomach already settling down somewhat, despite the terrible taste in his mouth. His throat no longer burns from all the throwing up he has done. He cares little for what little he has ingested but he can understand natural medicine to a point and knows it’s for his own good.

“I’ll help you study for the next test, Agni. I looked at your test answers and it’s mostly a few numbers you’ve switched around, stuff you know but probably didn’t notice were written jumbled up.” Mira’s voice is soft but Agni ignores him for the time being, not even wanting to think about the test for the time being. He knows he didn’t fail by much but still he failed and it annoys him to no end.

community

“Alexis?”

The tall demon turns slightly, looking down to the blue and black haired youth as he stands next to him. He still does his best to respond to his full name though it sounds so formal to him. He smiles however, a soft chuckle escaping him as he realizes he hadn’t noticed the teen coming up to him.

“Yes, Mira?” He can hear the rest of their little group going about not far from them, in the adjoining rooms, talking, walking, placing dishes on the table, preparing for their meal, he tunes most of it out and focuses on their group’s youngest member. It seems strange, the oldest and youngest having a discussion, though perhaps not all that strange.

“Back then, before these cities and these large buildings and this technology, back when demons really didn’t have to hide about who they were,” he pauses on that point, frowning softly as he does, “there was a time when demons didn’t have to hide, right?”

Lex knows this isn’t the primary question, that somehow Mira has deviated from what he was wishing to ask. “There was a time when we, demons, didn’t have to hide. We were accepted by society as it was.”

“Okay, back then, during that time, did people live in split communities or was everyone together, helping everyone else and working with everyone else?” His eyes are wide and curious. Lex feels the urge to run his fingers through Mira’s growing hair to muss it up gently, so he does.

“Well, some demons were comfortable enough to mix in completely with the humans, I think that part of our civilization hasn’t really changed, Mira. There will always be those who prefer to stick to their own kind and those who feel more comfortable mingling. Where I was born, so long ago, the village was pretty close to a relatively big community. Demons and humans alike worked together, ate together, bathed together. People saw no harm in who we were and they didn’t use us for our gifts. We helped them willingly where we could. There were no slaves and no masters. At least not in our village and we were one of the few settled this way, sadly.”

He shakes his head then, looking out the window as he does. He sighs and tries not to think too much on the past he has lived through. It was a very long time ago.

Mira, still standing at his side, nods, as if that was all he had wanted to hear. “Thank you, Alexis.”

“You’re welcome.” He pauses, looking back once more as the bustling sound of movement is letting up somewhat, their table is almost ready for the meal, he’s certain, “you know you can call me Lex, right?”

Mira looks out the window again, gazing out, as if trying to find the right answer before he cranes his neck to look back up to the elder demon. “I know, I just don’t feel comfortable calling you that yet. I know you but I don’t really know you. Maybe in a decade or so more.”

The thought amuses Lex in ways he hadn’t expected. It is so sweet in its own way, this kind of respect. A lot of teens in this day and age no longer have that form of respect for their elders. “Thank you for that, Mira. Come, let’s go see if they need any help for the final few things that might need brought onto the table and then we’ll eat.”

With that, Mira turns and heads into the other room, to join his brother and their friend. Lex follows him, just a few paces behind.

“Should I get a penny?”

Next to him, at the door as they watch their friends walk back down the stairs or take the elevator down, Eoghan stands, hands lost in the long sleeves of his shirt. Lex blinks at him a moment before he turns away and closes the door with a soft yawn. As it always is, the dinner tickled the tastebuds of everyone present and the movie was appreciated by everyone.

“I’m just thinking, that’s all, really.”

“Okay, I’m going to have to up that bid and make it a whole dollar, you’ve been thinking since before we all sat down for our meal so it has to be some pretty deep thinking. What did you and Mira talk about? You two were the only ones not about to help with the table, not that it was necessary, we had plenty of folks almost walking on one another’s toes.” He laughs softly, those ever blue eyes looking up to his companion, trying to catch those green ones.

“He just asked me about how things were when I was younger, with demons not feared by humans but that’s not really what gets me, I think what gets me is how much he seems to respect me. Everyone I work with, when I’m dealing with the law side of my job, respects me, it’s earned because they know what I can do and that I’ve yet to ever lose a case but otherwise, when you meet up with people nowadays, it’s like there’s no respect taught to anyone anymore.” He shakes his head, stepping away from the door and deeper into their home.

“Mira respects everyone. I suppose I should give Zora that much, she taught them how to respect others.”

“I don’t know that Zora has taught them much of anything, honestly. Not when you really think about it. She refused to teach them the language, so they could hardly talk or interact with anyone, they couldn’t learn respect that way. It’s innate, or it’s in spending time with Armin or even Cyrille-“

“Or us, Lex.” Eoghan steps into their bedroom, moving to sit on the edge of their bed as he watched his lover round the bed to his side, tugging his shirt off as he goes.

“That could be too. Thing is, he refuses to call me Lex. Says he doesn’t know me well enough, that maybe in a decade or so, he’d feel as though he might know me well enough to be able to call me Lex and not Alexis.”

“They all call you Alexis though, I’m the only one who shortens your name.”

“I wish they all would, it feels strange.” He sits on the edge of the bed on his side of it, looking out of their window.

“Or you know, you could ask them to call you by the name you were given when you were born.”

Lex blinks and turns his gaze to Eoghan, eyebrows lifted in amusement. “So you’d rather they call me Lexius instead of Alexis?”

“You still were Lexius when I met you. You changed your name to Alexis when it seemed a more common name that most people wouldn’t really ask any questions about.”

“I had to, Eoghan. When I first left law and then came back to it a couple of decades later, when I told them my name was Lexius, I had to come up with the excuse that in our family, it was a really important name. At least with Alexis, I don’t stand out so much.” He laughs, shaking his head as he stands and goes about undressing so he can slip in between the covers. He feels absolutely drained and he knows it only is because he’s had himself several last minutes commission to finish before their friends came in.

“I know, I know. Aside the point, I know, you’re more comfortable with being called Lex but you can’t force anyone to anything. If they want to call you that, they will on their own time and that’s all there really is to it. It’s sweet that Mira respects you that much though. I know they all respect us in their own way but Mira seems to be the one who shows it the most. As parents, it proves we’re doing something right.”

Lex laughs and shakes his head. “We’re not parents, Eoghan and we both know this.”

“Details! Now come to bed and cuddle. I deserve cuddling for managing to cook perfect souffl├ęs that didn’t deflate.”

“You always manage perfect souffl├ęs that never deflate, love, but I can cuddle all you want. I don’t think our relationship would be the same if I wasn’t so willing to cuddle you whenever you want me to.”

“Are you complaining?” Eoghan, finally nude, slips between the bed sheets, shivering at their temperature and grumbling about it for a moment. When Lex settles in next to him, he scoots instantly over to steal some of the other’s body heat.

“Not complaining one little bit, I promise.”

“Good.”

surprises

“I think aliens have kidnapped Astra and replaced her with an exact copy that doesn’t act the same way.” Quentin’s words pulled Yael out of daydreaming. He looked up to his companion, said mentioned feline curled along his shoulders and rumbling away happily.

“What makes you say that?” He made his eyes focus a little more. Astra looked as she always did, a happy ball of fur who adored playing parrot. Curled around Quentin’s shoulders and rumbling away as if nothing else mattered in the world.

“I suppose I should show you more than try to explain it to you, it’s rather surprising, honestly.” He shook his head, moving to pull Astra from his shoulders. She made a little disgruntled noise at being moved but otherwise didn’t fuss or fight. “Though actually, we should head back into the cats’s room, it’s the best place to check it out and you can set her up so she can do her little trick so you can see that I have nothing to do with it.”

He sounded vaguely amused at this point and Yael eased to his feet, curious about whatever it was that this big surprise was supposed to be. Quentin started off towards the cats’s play room, Yael following him calmly. “Usually you have little to do with most surprises the cats come up with. That is, unless you think back on the two boys taking off with your underwear and some of mine to make a nest for the kittens back then.”

“Don’t remind me.” Quentin laughed, shaking his head at the memory. It had been just one of those things, really.

Once inside the room, he offered the feline to his companion who curled his arms about the warmly purring ball of happiness. “So what am I meant to do now?”

“Set her up on the highest spot of the cat tree.”

“Quentin, you know as well as I do that she can’t get down from there on her own, she never goes up there as it is anyway, what is this about?”

“Yael please, just humour me? I promise there’s a reason to all this.”

Yael shook his head but he stepped to the wall, leaning up on the tip of his toes to actually be able to set the slight feline down on the highest platform. It was nearly out of his reach it was so high. “Now what?”

“Now you come back to my side and we watch.”

Confused but still willing to go with, for whatever the reason, Yael stepped back and waited, he watched and watched. After a few moments he was certain nothing would happen and as he took one step forward, there it came. Astra made her way down from the top of the tree. Made her way down and made it look easy as pie as she did.

Yael stared, trying to will his mind to understand what he had just seen. “Did she just get down on her own? She’s never done it before, always meowed at us pitifully until we got her down.”

Shrugging, Quentin went back to the cat tree, he didn’t pick Astra up on the way as he did, no, he merely stretched on his toes and put one of her favourite toys at the top. Once that was done, he stepped back away. She climbed up after a bare few seconds and was back down nearly as quickly.

“I think we might be able to try the garden trick again. From the start of the calendar but that might just work out and we may be able to have them out up there with you when you’re working.” It almost seemed too good to be true. It made no sense, no cat could learn to climb down places overnight, though it had been more than simply ‘overnight’ but still. It was more than a little surprising.

“I don’t know, Quentin. Cat trees are one thing, they’re made to be climbed on, real trees are different, what if she gets caught again? I have no issues about getting her back down but I don’t know that I want to.” Yael shook his head, watching Astra for a moment longer. “I guess we could give it another try but I just don’t know. I suppose we can’t know unless we try it. We can give it another shot in a few weeks if she’s still showing signs of this not being a fluke, somehow.”

He rubbed his eyes then, Quentin nodded and settled one hand to Yael’s waist, leading him back out of the play room and to the living room once more.

“Earlier, when you were wanting to show me Astra’s newly developed climbing technique, you said aliens had taken her and replaced her with a not-quite right copy. Why did you say that?”

Settled side by side, sitting in front of the still warmly crackling fireplace, there was quiet music playing in the background as Yael closed his eyes, trying not to think too much about things. His mind had spent most of the day trying to figure out how it had happened and he still hadn’t managed to understand it.

Beneath his head, he felt Quentin as he rolled his shoulders gently. “It’s just one of those things, I’ve heard people say while I was traveling. They usually say that when someone they know starts acting strange or in a way that’s really different from how they might usually do things.”

Yael shifted his head, looking up somewhat though he was so close it was a moot point to even open his eyes, he merely tilted his head back slightly, still leaning against that shoulder. He remained that way for a couple of heartbeats before he settled his head back down once more. “I guess that makes sense, in a way.”

“Humans are strange.”

“Not all of them and I know you think most of them are idiots though you’ve mellowed out a lot since I’ve moved in. It makes me feel warm inside, like I’ve actually done something right with my life, like I’ve done something to actually deserve being on this planet for.”

“Yael, don’t do that.” Quentin’s words were low, barely above a murmur as he hugged his companion a little closer to his side.

“Do what?”

“This thing where you start talking like you believe that you don’t belong on this planet and that you think you need to prove yourself. That’s not the case, plus, if it somehow were the case, you’ve proven your worth more often than I can count, I’m here right now because you’re with me and it’s the only thing that counts.”

“Thank you, Quentin.” Yael sighed, a soft, tired note as he relaxed where he sat. He was as close as he could get away with, without changing their position and he didn’t really feel like moving much. “Thank you for just being you, for not letting me sink into my moments of self-pity though I know there are days where I have more of those than I should. At times I feel broken and I think the only reason I still have all my pieces is because you’re with me. You’re my glue.”

“So you sniff glue?” A soft snicker escaped Quentin and Yael prodded him in the ribs with a roll of his eyes.

“Thank you for ruining the moment. I swear at times.” Yael was doing all he could to not start laughing, the moment was hardly ruined though it was still just one of those things.

“You adore me for it anyway.” That was the truth, as pure a truth as it would ever be. There were no other ways of looking at it.

“I think I was put on this very planet so we could meet and so we could learn more about the world together. Not that I really believe in things happening because of fate, I do want to believe that certain things do happen for a reason and that reason is something or other. My mind is done trying to be romantic, I’m too comfortable to be mushy.”

Their silence was gone, laughed, the good, relaxing kind replaced it though before long they both were quiet again, content to relax in one another’s soothing presence. This was all either one of them could ask for.

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.”