Desire for the quiet

The whispers were louder.

Or maybe Shui was simply listening more. The silence which beckoned the voices, the silence that Ling used to fill with useless chattering – the useless chattering that Shui loved. Gone. It ripped into him more than anything had in a long time.

He missed the silence. He missed a lot of things. Trying to think about it selfishly lessened the pain somehow, dulled it, turning it into an ache which he could put aside with all of the other things which had ached him in life.

The nightlife wasn’t loud enough. It never was anymore. Shui felt like he was going crazy. Stopping at the bottom of the hill, he looked up at Kun’s lodge, at the dragon wrapped around one side of it. Kun was home. They all had homes now. That had been a while. It felt like a time before Ling.

The time before, the time after. What had Jin said about the children of earth? Shui wanted to throw up. He stepped up the embankment, hands in pockets.

“How’s it going?” he asked the dragon, not expecting a response. The dragon and he had only ever gotten along because of Kun. The fact that hadn’t changed much was more comforting than how Jin had become.

Silver scales gleamed under the fur which poked out from under each plate, from a light that came from nowhere.

Shui nearly walked right past the creature when a tail tripped him.

God fuck damn, you-” Shui bit his tongue before he could shout more at Kun’s pet.

“Shui? I thought I heard you.”

He picked himself off the floor and looked toward the door. As always, Kun’s home looked inviting, even when he could barely look inside. “Yeah, I’m here. You’re still up.” Thank god. “Wanna do something?”

Perhaps he would thank the dragon one day, for realizing before he did that he might walk right back down the hill and disappear into the town. Kun didn’t drown out the whispers.

But he spent too long trying to hear them.

Shared medicine

“I hate winter,” the both of them complained at once.

Shui was almost overly startled by the echo of his sentiment. He glared over at Ling. Was he mocking him? But no, the kid looked as genuinely surprised as he was. “What?” Ling asked, as defensively as Shui had felt. “Is it ‘cause the girls have to wear actual clothes?”

Shui rubbed the back of his head. “What do you have to hate winter about? I thought you’d love to play in the snow.”

“The snow’s cold.”

Such a statement of the obvious. Shui rolled his eyes. “Duh.”

For a while, everything stayed quiet between them. When Ling spoke, it was much quieter than he had spoken before. “It’s cold. Everything’s cold. I don’t like the cold.”

“You chose the wrong person to hang out with,” Shui said, in reference to Jin. “But just stay inside. That’s easy enough.”

“Well yeah,” Ling muttered under his breath, not looking at him.

It was then that Shui considered how little he knew about Ling, before Jin had started taking care of him. There was a reason that Jin was taking care of him, after all. It’s not as if most religious student whatevers took care of any orphans. It was hard to think of Ling as an orphan. He didn’t act like Shui had when he’d been left all alone.

Some winters there was no “inside”.

“Well, you know the one good thing about it?” Shui clapped a hand down on Ling’s shoulder.

“What?”

“Best time for mapo doufu. Let’s go.”

Just like that, Ling brightened up. He followed Shui outside with no hesitation. And while Shui knew he could solve most of Ling’s problems with winter without it meaning the same thing for him… As Ling started chatting up a storm, the winter seemed a bit louder.

The whispers went away.

Whispers you hear in the silence

Shui could hear them, when things were quiet enough. They were still there, waiting for him. The wailing, the moans.

Of course, the solution for this was simply to make sure things were always loud. During the day, in the city, that was easy enough. At night, in the city, that was also easy enough. The problem was that he had to go to sleep at some point and there wasn’t always the promise of someone being there if he didn’t play his cards right.

“What are you doing?”

“Just… don’t say anything.” Shui tried not to look at him, as he lay down next to Kun with his back toward him. “Do you snore?”

“I’ve never been told as such.” Kun sounded amused. Shui didn’t know whether to feel insulted or not. Kun wasn’t telling him to get out of bed though.

Nevertheless, he felt like some explanation was in order. “I’m just tired. I can’t get to sleep.”

“Hm?”

“It’s too quiet tonight. I hate the winter.”

“Shui, I didn’t need an excuse. Good night.”

Shui relaxed. “Night.”

The night was not good. Kun was his best friend, but keeping away the whispers was not something he was good at.