If there was one thing Hyoga had missed about Siberia, it was the solitude, the way he had time for himself now. But having lived in Tokyo for so long also made him not mind when he had to go to the city to buy stuff for his neighbors.
“Shun?” He stopped in his tracks upon seeing his green-haired friend. It had been four years since they’d last seen each other, almost four years since…
Shun turned around when he heard his name, hands buried deep in the coat that would be too thin for anyone else; but Hyoga knew just how warm he ran. “Hyoga,” and his voice was just as warm, “long time no see.”
“Long time…” He wanted to ask a lot of questions, but each one sounded more insensitive than the last one. “How… how come you’re here?” He managed to ask past the lump in his throat.
Shun looked back at the market stall he’d been ogling. “I was looking for my brother in Ukraine, and I thought I’d come say hi before going back to Japan.”
Siberia wasn’t exactly “on the way” back to Japan, but Hyoga didn’t want to point it out.
“I see,” and then, “are you staying in a hotel?”
Shun’s smile turned sheepish. “Not really, I actually just un-boarded my plane an hour ago. This was really impromptu.”
“You can stay at my place for the night. I can also show you around a little…”
Shun nodded. “Then I’m putting myself in your care.”
Having Shun in Siberia felt weird. Despite his pacifist tendencies, he was a breathing reminder of the battles they fought when they were barely fourteen years of age.
“Siberia is absolutely freezing! How do you stand it?”
“Borscht and vodka,” he replied, and tried to ignore the fluttery feeling in his chest at Shun’s laugh. You’d think that after a couple of years away he would forget about his stupid little teenage crush, but it would seem that distance makes the heart grow fonder.
“Well, that explains how you never got drunk back then.” Being called an alcoholic was never fun unless it was in company, so Hyoga jested back.
“Why, I remember you drinking more than a couple drinks before even getting tipsy.”
“Hey, soft drinks barely count,” they were already at Hyoga’s hut, the fireplace making the inside toasty. “On my twelfth birthday, while master Albiore was away on a mission, June and I snuck into his quarters and drank some wine. Back then I thought: this will make me more grown-up.”
Amongst all the things they had done, underage drinking seemed like the lesser crime. Being Saints made them very private, so being told of this one precious memory… it would make Hyoga feel bad to receive such confidence without giving back. “One night when I was absolutely freezing, Isaak dared me to drink vodka he smuggled from some shady bar downtown. He said it would keep me warm.”
Hyoga snorted. “Only after the fifth or sixth shot. We were punished by master Camus for it, obviously.”
“Do you think he would come back from the grave to punish you if you were to drink now?”
He licked his lips and thought it over for a second. “I think that master Camus has made peace with whatever bad decisions I’ve made so far. Besides,” he cleared his throat to rid himself of whatever heaviness was left on his heart. “We’re not in Japan. If we drink here, it wouldn’t be underage drinking.”
Shun chuckled. “How lucky.”
Hyoga got up and walked to the kitchen, there, he grabbed a bottle of vodka and two little glasses. He poured one of each, and with a quiet “kanpai!” the glasses clinked together.
They drank together in silence, and by the third shot, Shun was tipsy. His cheeks were flushed and his sentences came a bit slower than normal.
“You know… I was in Rozan the other month. Shiryu and Shunrei have a son now. I was lucky to be there for little Ryuho’s hundred-day celebration.”
Hyoga hummed. “Figures he’d be the first to marry.”
“Mhmm, he told me they eloped, actually.”
“Oh?” This he had to hear. “He always struck me as a stickler for the rules.” Shun drank a little more from his glass.
“Shunrei spent three months making their wedding robes, Shiryu made the wine, and they took their three bows in front master Dohko’s memorial tablet.”
“They sound happy,” Hyoga mused.
“And they were, happier than I thought I’d ever see them. But it was still… strange, you know?”
“As Saints, all we’ve ever known is fighting. So now being at peace almost feels…”
“Off-putting?” Hyoga guessed.
“You feel it too?”
Shun deflated almost immediately. “Oh.” They stayed silent, and Hyoga couldn’t help but feel that he’d screwed up somehow, but he also didn’t know how to fix it.
It was Shun who broke the silence again. “I wanted to become a Saint to stop wars and prevent more kids from becoming orphans.” The wording ‘I wanted to become a Saint’ felt wrong coming from Shun, even more so since Hyoga knew from experience that alcohol only made people more sincere. “I wanted to protect my brother. I thought that maybe if I saw Ikki again, if we could be at peace together, it’d be okay; but now I’m lost without the friends I made through battles under Athena’s guidance. I feel like the stupid little boy that just used to cry after his big brother.”
“You’re not,” Hyoga said instinctively.
Shun chuckled again, but with his morose mood it sounded humorless. “I guess you’re right, I’m a man now. A stupid man who still cries after his brother.” Hyoga didn’t know what to say to that, so he again stayed silent. He never expected Shun to be the sad drunk type. Or maybe so many years of battles had finally taken their toll on him, maybe having been the host of Hades’ spirit had been harder than Hyoga had dared to consider. “Have you ever… have you ever loved someone so much that it just… hurts to miss them?”
This one was easier to answer. “I have,” then, “my mother, my master, Isaak.” And you, he didn’t say, when I woke up in the Libra Temple and your cosmo was nearly extinguished.
“Ah, I think I remember you crying once about your mom when you just got to the orphanage. I remember back then I thought, so it’s okay to cry.” Hyoga blushed in embarrassment; he had never grown out of his crybaby tendencies, and he could never feel embarrassed of his love for his mother, but this…
And because he couldn’t take the credit, “You’re the one who taught me that it’s ok for a man to cry.”
It was Shun’s turn to snort. “I’m not sure I believe that anymore.” His eyes were glassy and droopy, his breathing slower. “I think… I want to become a doctor. Even if there’s no more fighting, I want to save lives, I want my own life to mean something."
A couple of minutes later, he fell asleep.
Hyoga wondered what to do. In the dim light he could see the bags under Shun’s eyes more clearly, so he needed all the rest he could get. He could move Shun to his bed, knew he could carry Shun even after his latest growth spurt.
Through your cosmo, I could feel your warmth, your feelings for me.
Shun had been near dead back then and probably didn’t remember, but if he did it now, would it be too obvious?
He never knew if Seiya and the other orphans had been told like him, about the actual reason they were brought to the Graad Foundation, that it wasn’t because of some grandiose destiny traced in the stars for them, but because one selfish man chose to sacrifice the hundred children he sired for the sake of humanity.
He never dared ask Shun any of this, even less after the whole month Shun’s girlfriend spent by his bedside after the battle they fought in the underworld. After all, how could he burden Shun with the feelings born from his endless, warm kindness?
And yet… he couldn’t help himself. He brushed his fingers against Shun’s forehead to push back his bangs behind his ear. Then, he placed his arms from under Shun and laid him on the bed.
He slept on the couch.
The next day he found a note on his table.
“Thanks for having me. When you come back to Japan, I’ll treat you to a drink. After all you said it yourself: Do Cvidanija doesn’t mean ‘goodbye’, but ‘until we meet again’.”
On the plane back to Japan, Shun could still feel the ghost of a caress, warmer than the fireplace had been.
Idly, he wondered if he’d imagined the warmth on his lips.