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(the sunrise at) 11:30 PM CET

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The streets were surprisingly empty, considering how bustling they heard the nightlife was in this part of the city, with angels and gargoyles protecting it from the evils unseen to the human eye. Still, there were several groups of people occupying different spots on the streets - a group of teenagers sitting on the edge of the bridge, dangling their feet above the dark waters, talking loudly in a language they weren’t as fluent at as they wished they were; then there was a group of adults, perhaps even their age, sitting at the table of an outdoor cafe under the streetlights, indulging in glasses of red wine and desserts that could give you diabetes just from looking at them.  

 

Neither group took notice of the couple in fancy suits strolling merrily down the street.

 

“Ah, but I am telling you, the actress who played Mimì would’ve been perfect for the role of Musetta; they’re both sopranos so the voice type is not the problem, and yet I could practically see how much Mimì’s actress was struggling with her role…!” the man with long, light blue hair explained, gesturing theatrically at the pamphlet he held in his hands, occasionally pointing his finger at a section titled CAST.

 

He continued on.

 

“She put too much passion into it, too much fervor for someone who is on their deathbed! - ah, no offense to you, my love, - and Musetta, my God , from all the way where we were seated, I could feel her actress’ nervousness! Of course, this could have been her debut role - which, trust me, I know is very stressful, especially when the debut is in a large theatre like this - but this just seems unprofessional! Who cast them? Had it been in my power, I would have liked to have a word with their producer and ask them to switch their roles… Then , it would’ve deserved a standing ovation! But for now, it’s only an 8.7/10 from me!”  

 

Finishing his very important and very justified rant, the man stomped his feet as if portraying his utter dissatisfaction with that disaster of a production.

 

“So… Are you saying you did not enjoy the opera, Wataru?” the other man walking behind him tilted his head in question and furrowed his brows. “I thought it was quite nice - although I did not understand a single thing they were saying- well, singing.”

 

“No, no, no! Of course I enjoyed it, but I just couldn’t help but vent out my frustrations about the things that I did not like!” Shaking his head no, Wataru turned around to face his partner. “Overall it was a very pleasant experience, and it’s all thanks to you for somehow getting the tickets even though they were all sold out months before the opening night! Grazie , Eichi!” He bowed deeply, a bright, sunny smile on his face.

 

“It’s no wonder the tickets to La Fenice would get sold out faster than freshly baked cookies at a school fair. But , I do pride myself in having connections to all sorts of people.” Eichi chuckled gently, stopping when he felt the cold night air hit his throat, turning his chuckle into a painful cough.

 

It had been a whole year since they graduated from Yumenosaki and, subsequently, quit their idol careers. Eichi was now a proper head of the Tenshouin Conglomerate, spending hours attending important business meetings, carving his name into the world before he leaves and reshaping the entertainment world into a new, better version of itself - the version which was almost perfected thanks to its trial run in Yumenosaki.

 

Wataru, on the other hand, immediately landed a role in Setagaya Public Theatre as one of the main characters for their upcoming (at the time) production, and signed a partnership contract which bound him to that theatre for a year. In a few months, the contract would expire, but he wasn’t worried about that even a tiny bit. After all, different agencies were already sending invitation letters and offers, so he wouldn’t stay unemployed for long.

 

But just like any self-respecting adults, they too needed to take a break from their lively and exhausting everyday lives. And so they did, by revisiting the city which brought them closer than ever - Venice.

 

They had visited Venice a year and a half ago as fine for their CD album photoshoot, and stayed in the city for a week after it was over. Both Eichi and Wataru had completely fallen in love with Venice, and they made a promise to return there again before it was too late.

 

Truth be told, they wanted to bring Tori and Yuzuru with them, but they were in a middle of a busy school year, trying to pass all their exams, dealing with student council work and still performing as fine, so it was understandable as to why they couldn’t come.

 

”Now, where shall we go next?” Wataru asked as the couple passed San Moisè. “Are you hungry, perhaps? If you are, the guidebook said there are tons of Amazing restaurants in this area!”

 

“Actually,” Eichi quickened his pace, so he could walk right next to Wataru, “I was thinking about visiting St. Mark’s Basilica.” He took Wataru’s hand in his, intertwining their fingers together and squeezing his hand tightly. “What do you say?”

 

“Oooooh! I had completely forgotten about it!” Wataru’s expression changed into something that can only be described as faux-scandalized, as he put his other hand on his chest, right against his heart. “How could I! A place where I made so many memories with my dear friends, where I had finally seen real angels! Ah, woe…!”

 

“Yep, and a place where you almost dropped me into the canal.”

 

“Let’s not talk about such things, Eichi.”  

 

Both of them giggled, like the children in adults’ bodies that they were.

 

Wataru pulled out his phone and opened an app with a map of the city (which he had downloaded weeks before departing, just in case). After typing in their current location, the app displayed the shortest path to the location of the cathedral.

 

“It says it’s a 10-minute walk from here to the Basilica.” Wataru glanced up from his phone and looked into the distance, squinting his eyes as if trying to see something far, far away. “But I swear on my life, I thought it was at least half an hour away from here…?”

 

Eichi chuckled again, bumping his shoulder against Wataru’s. “Your memory is becoming rusty, it seems. You yourself mentioned how close it was to the opera house when we were here a year ago.”

 

“A whole year ago!” Wataru exclaimed, turning to face Eichi. “I am a genius, yes, but there’s no way I’d be able to remember something I said such a long time ago!” He hooked his arm around Eichi, almost dangling off of his neck. “Eichiiii…” Wataru whined, “am I becoming old?”

 

“Absolutely not, love,” Eichi answered without missing a beat. “I don’t see any wrinkles on your face, and you still have that ungodly amount of stamina that you had when we were in school, so it’s safe to say that you’re still my young and beautiful Wataru.”

 

Wataru raised his head, a theatrically pathetic expression on his face and looked straight into Eichi’s eyes. “Will you still love me… when I’m no longer young and beautiful…?”

 

Trying and failing to suppress a laugh at this ridiculous spectacle, Eichi leaned down to press a kiss against Wataru’s forehead, “Yes,” but I don’t think I will live long enough to even see you grow stubble, much less lose your youthful beauty, “ always and forever, as long as you’re my Wataru Hibiki.”

 

After hearing Eichi’s words, a blush unwittingly crept up Wataru’s neck and ears. After all this time he still wasn’t used to Eichi being so openly and honestly affectionate with him, be it in public or in private or in front of his doves.

 

Of course, there was also the fact that he had a hard time believing those words, no matter how many times Eichi had said them.

 

Everyone says that at first.

 

Letting go of Eichi’s arm, he murmured a quiet “thank you” and focused on the road, lest they lose themselves in both conversation and the streets again.

 

The streets of Venice were especially tiny and narrow, connecting houses and apartment buildings together in a way that made all these constructions blend into one long corridor of peach and white brick walls. There were no trees in sight, which made Wataru feel a little confined and claustrophobic, but still there were fine flower beds adorning the sidewalks and balconies of the houses. He recognized the sensuous waves of violet bougainvillea blossoms framing the stone doorways and lipstick-red geraniums spilling over balconies, and lovely white roses sitting in their flowerpots. The flowers had long since closed and gone to sleep, saving their beauty for the glorious morning sun, yet their closed buds and green stemlets brought a strange sense of tranquility to whoever laid their eyes on them.

 

Walking a bit further past the church and narrow streets, they were greeted with a crowded plaza, filled with brand boutiques and restaurants, clearly intended for tourists and people who don’t know what else to do with their money. Wataru allowed his gaze to linger on the letters above the store until he felt a tug on the end of his sleeve - asking for his attention.

 

“Shopping haul on the last day, remember?”

 

Wataru faked an exasperated sigh. “Yes, yes, I remember. But I can’t help but wish to waste all my money on new clothes which suit my aesthetic right now.”

 

“I’ll buy you all the clothes you want later,” Eichi said, and before Wataru could reply with (what Eichi thinks would be) something along the lines of I don’t want you to spend money on me, it feels strange, he changed the subject. “That statue over there - doesn’t it kind of look like you?”

 

He pointed at a marble statue at the entrance to what, they assumed, was another fancy restaurant. It was a long-haired angel, holding a loose bouquet of flowers, gazing solemnly in the distance, as if mourning a loved one. Following the direction of Eichi’s finger, Wataru looked the statue up and down and snickered,

 

“Fufu fuuu, my oh my, do I look like an angel to you, Eichi? Shall I throw myself into the next concrete mixer I see, or douse myself in liquid gold, so I can become another perfect statue in your heavenly garden?” His mind had already prepared an entertaining speech, all that was left was to play it out and let it flow. “Immortalized and immobilized, standing outside the window to your bedroom, looking up at it with eyes made of stone which seem all too real to your noble visitors - hoping that someday you will spare me just one second, just one moment of your time, and look back at me, letting me know that I was not forgotten, that I was still the most magnificent and bewitching statue you’ve ever owned… And perhaps, one day, you will come up to me, and press a kiss to my stone-cold and lips, setting my heart aflame, melting the stone and allowing me to break free from these shackles at last…”

 

Finished with his rather short soliloquy, he looked back at Eichi, waiting for his reaction. Thankfully, he didn’t have to wait long, as Eichi burst out laughing.

 

“Y-You are, pff…” unable to stop his laughter (which, to the people who don’t know Tenshouin Eichi, would sound more like wheezing , but Wataru has learned how to tell the two apart a long time ago), Eichi stopped walking and bent forward slightly, holding his stomach with one hand and laughing, laughing, laughing.

 

The faceless crowd was staring now - some eyes annoyed, some concerned, some indifferent.

 

For Wataru Hibiki this, too, was a performance.

 

“Oh my? Did you find something I said hilarious , mon amie?” Wataru comically raised one brow.

 

“Yes, yes, why-” Finally calming down his laughter, Eichi straightened up, wiping the tears forming in the corners of his eyes. Why do you always imply that I’ll eventually forget you? “Why would I want to turn you into a statue? And, and even if you were the one who did it to yourself, why would I just place you in my garden and leave you be?” He’s still smiling. “I’d rather turn everyone else into stone and have you by my side, all flesh and blood, and soul, as we watch the world turn motionless and people lose their human form!”  

 

Ah, there it is again.

 

“But Eichi! That would mean I’d be left without an audience!” after letting out a shocked gasp, Wataru clasped his hands together in what resembled a prayer. “And as much as I love performing for you and you only, I shall die without showing my Amazing to other people! I am a person of society, you see!”

 

“Well, if we have the technology to turn the entire population of Earth into stone, then maybe we can purchase a cloning machine and make clones of myself? I’ll give them all different clothes and hairstyles, so you’ll always have an audience full of different people.”

 

They’re comfortable - those nonsensical, bizarre back-and-forths and “what if?’s they have. It’s reminiscent of their school days, when they would sit down at a table in the garden terrace with two cups of Earl Grey, and talk not only about the fate of humanity and its philosophy (which they both pretended to understand in their own ways), but also about the unlikely fantastical scenarios that might happen to them.

 

“I appreciate your offer, Eichi, but I do think we should allow humanity to live its life for a little while longer,” Wataru said, producing a single red petunia out of thin air with a quiet poof and handing it to Eichi. Confession left untold. “I have got a performance in two weeks, you see, and I would be very upset if the house isn’t full because a certain someone decided to turn one of my audience members into a statue for experiments.”

 

“My-my,” Eichi took the flower, carefully placing it inside the front pocket of his jacket. “I’ll make sure to pause my world-ending plan just for you.”

 

With another (pointless) conversation over and done with, they continued walking down the street, past the indistinguishable mass of rich tourists and local citizens with plastic smiles and fiery eyes.

 

The boutiques and restaurants became a rarer sight once they entered another narrow street. It was a lot quieter too, with most noises and chatter coming from inside the buildings. Eventually, Eichi exclaimed,

 

“Look! There it is!”

 

He pointed excitedly at the dome of the basilica peeking out from behind another building. Fortunately, it was pretty close, and the road led them straight to its square.

 

Turning the corner, the cathedral finally came into full view in all its glory; brickwork walls covered with the finest marble claddings and carvings, some of them much older than the foundation of the building itself, dazzling gold ground mosaics, bronze-fashioned doors, opulent lunettes and stone sculptures on the lower and upper registers.

 

Illuminated by the bright lights, this golden place truly looked like the residence of God himself.

 

Amazing …”

 

Walking up to the center of the square, Wataru quickly took out his phone and snapped several photos of the building, of the unaware people around, of himself, and of course of Eichi standing behind him with a confused expression on his face.

 

“Didn’t you take enough photos the last time we were here?”

 

“Yes, but it wouldn’t hurt to take more, no?” Grasping Eichi’s hand and pulling him closer, Wataru embraced him, pressing his cheek against Eichi’s comically. “Smile for the camera, Eichi! Trois, deux...”

 

“Shouldn’t you count in Italian instea-”

 

“Un!”

 

Snap. The camera went off.

 

Wataru looked at the photo.

 

“Oh, this came out perfectly .” He smiled mischievously. “I’m posting this one on Tw*tter.”

 

“Wait wait wait, show me.” Taking the phone away from his boyfriend, Eichi also looked at the photo.

 

It was pretty, sure, but only on Wataru’s side. On his side, however… He didn’t look exactly gorgeous with his mouth open and one eye closed.

 

“I’m deleting this.”

 

“No!” Letting out a yelp, Wataru leaped on Eichi, trying to get his phone back. “It’s a perfect photograph, Eichi, do not deprive me of it! The world must see!”

 

“The world will be just fine without it.” Dodging Wataru’s quick hands, Eichi finally hit the delete button.

 

“Noooo!” Yelling louder than before and attracting the people around, Wataru fell down to his knees, teary-eyed and defeated. “You’re so cruel, Eichiiii…So heartless...” Pulling a handkerchief from his sleeve, Wataru wiped his tears away.

 

Look, look, you’re causing a scene!

 

“Let’s take another one, but… not here,” was Eichi’s answer.

 

“Eh? Not here?” Intrigued by his words, Wataru looked up at Eichi, the tears rolling up his face and back into his eyes. “Then, where?”

 

“Come with me, and you’ll find out.”

 

“Hoh.”

 

Quickly standing up, Wataru followed Eichi’s steps, as they walked closer to the cathedral. At this point, Eichi had made a turn, planning on walking behind the cathedral where there were fewer people who could see and intervene.

 

Wataru took pride in knowing almost everything about Eichi - from what he liked to eat on Sunday mornings, to his bedtime routine, to how the little cogs and gears in his head worked. But almost was the keyword here, because right now he had no idea what was going through Eichi’s head. Did he want to find a secluded, private place so they could be more intimate without strange looks being shot at them? Eichi had no shame, so he’d have no trouble kissing or touching Wataru in public. Unless… No, it was too cold for that, and Eichi was not that shameless. Then, perhaps, he hid something behind the cathedral when they were here a year ago, like a time-capsule?

 

While he wracked his brain about Eichi’s potential motivations, his partner had come to a stop.

 

“Here.”

 

They didn’t go as far as Wataru had expected. They stood in front of the small entrance several feet away the central entrance to the cathedral. Wataru vaguely recalled it being the entrance to the basilica’s museum and a gateway to the veranda on the middle register. But…

 

“...? I know my Italian isn’t excellent, but doesn’t this say that it’s only open from twelve noon until five in the afternoon?” Wataru asked.

 

“True, but we’re going to get inside anyway.”

 

“Oya, and how are we going to do that?”

 

Eichi drew a rainbow with his hands. “Magic, my dear friend…” He giggled silently at his own joke and then continued, “Well, to be honest, I had a talk with security beforehand and kindly asked them to let us in for at least twenty minutes so we can look at the square at night.”

 

After knocking on the door and waiting for a little while, a short old man opened it, greeting the couple with a warm smile. Eichi and the man had a brief exchange in English, after which Eichi handed him a suspicious looking envelope. The man opened it, swiftly examined its contents, and then let Eichi and Wataru in.

 

As they made their way up the narrow staircase, Wataru leaned in closer to Eichi’s ear and whispered, “Did you bribe this man so he would let us in, Your Majesty ?”

 

“No, no, I would never. We simply made a deal and an agreement which just got fulfilled, that’s all. Also, I’ve asked you before not to call me Your Majesty , even sarcastically. That chapter of my story ended a long time ago.”

 

“My apologies; old habits die hard…”

 

Shooting Wataru a doubtful look, Eichi decided it would be best to drop this conversation.

 

Stepping onto the church’s balcony, a breathtaking sight spread before them: the square below dyed gold under the lights of the church, the water of the canals and puddles reflecting the stars of the clear skies and the gentle Mother Moon making the surroundings look ever-so-soft and graceful. In the dark, all the people blended together, fused into small crowds of two, three, ten, twenty, turning into the grotesque angels from the Bible - their forms incomprehensible, yet so fascinating.

 

Amazing …” Wataru breathed out. “There are no other words to describe this! Amazing!” Running over to the bronze replicas of the Horses of Saint Mark, he stopped right in-between them, above the entrance lunette, and looked down at the square.

 

A central stage above the whole world, just for the two of them.

 

“We’re not going to get arrested or stoned by these people below for being here, are we?”

 

“Of course not,” Eichi walked up and stood next to Wataru, hands on the rails. “We can’t be here for long though - twenty minutes was all I could get out of them.”

 

“I think even the whole day wouldn’t be enough for me to drink my fill of this scenery, this architecture, this…” Wataru looked up at Eichi, his heart smiling. “This Heavenly beauty.”

 

Silently, Eichi’s heart smiles back.

 

They spent a few minutes like that, just standing there in awe, marveling at the mise en scène below. Eventually, Eichi, took a step back. Then another. Perfect. Wataru was too busy leaning forward and trying to decipher something carved into the marble of the lunette.

 

Feeling the small velvet box inside the pocket of his jacket, Eichi braced himself.

 

“Can you believe this?! Someone tried to vandalize this work of art! Do people not have any-” Wataru turned around to see Eichi, hands behind his back, looking… nervous? “... What’s wrong?”

 

Taking in a deep breath, holding back a painful cough, Eichi spoke.

 

“Wataru. I want to thank you for coming on this trip with me.”

 

“Why, there’s no need to thank me! It’s always a pleasure to-”

 

“Please, let me finish.” Eichi’s words were curt, yet soft. Wataru closed his mouth and turned around fully, now facing Eichi head-on.

 

After a pause, Eichi continued. “I have to admit… all this time, I thought I was unworthy of love.  ...you always knew I felt this way. Didn't you? I always got the impression you did. I always felt you understood it so viscerally. I debated whether it was worth clawing back my skin, exposing myself to you, when you already seemed to understand what lurked beneath. But confirmation is always so satisfying... even if we cannot return once it has been achieved...

 

“I felt like it’s always been too late for either of us. Perhaps in another life, when I’m no longer burdened by this pathetic, disgusting, pitiful body of mine… After all when one's life is coming to an end… It's hardly time to begin new things.”

 

Wataru wanted to interject, to tell Eichi something to drive those thoughts away, but clenching his fists, he kept quiet.

 

“...I wish it wouldn't happen the way it's going to; too early, with barely a whisper. Ever since I was born, I understood that there wasn't any point pursuing something doomed to bring pain.

 

“I’m dying, Wataru. That cold, merciless truth is not going anywhere. But… I’ve thought about it again, long and hard, and I asked the me inside my heart - why must I deny myself love and happiness? Why must I push away others, making it even more difficult to deal with my inevitable demise?

 

“And, of course, I thought of you : why are you still here, by my side? Why have you forgiven me, and given me all the love in the world, everything I could’ve asked for? It’s still a mystery to me, but… I’ve decided to give back to you. Yet, as we are right now, the only things I can give are this starry sky, these golden lights…”

 

At this point, Eichi knelt down on one knee and took the little velvet box out of his pocket.

 

Wataru couldn’t breathe.

 

“... and my heart, soul, and body.” Eichi opened the box. Inside was a beautiful, gold ring with a blue diamond.

 

Wataru couldn’t breathe.

 

“So, allow me to ask you a question. Wataru Hibiki...” Eichi took Wataru’s hand in his. “Will you marry me?”

 

Wataru couldn’t breathe.

 

It felt like an eternity until Wataru’s brain finally processed what was being asked of him.

 

Eichi is asking you to marry him. Eichi is asking you to marry him.

Eichi

is asking you

to marry

 

him.

 

The world, which until now felt just a little far-away and dulled out, was rapidly losing its color. He felt like his body wasn’t his own, but belonging to the character he played, to the person that he brought out on stage. Like he was watching a performance, like this was all a part of a play, and soon the curtain would fall and the booming applause from the audience would ring, and it’d all be over in a blink of an eye, like a dream or an illusion.

 

But just as suddenly as he was drifting away, the colors returned, brighter and more vibrant than before. He felt his body again, became aware of its blood flow, of the drumming of his heart, of every shaky breath he took and of every little twitch of his fists. It was overwhelming, feeling nothing then everything at once, the chatter of the crowd below so loud loud noisy and the lights above the cathedral so bright bright blinding.

 

His vision was getting blurry.

 

“... Wataru?”

 

What was an eternity for him was ten seconds for Eichi. And only after Eichi had called out to him, had the strings inside snapped, and he was dimly aware that tears were slipping down his face, pooling under his jaw and dripping steadily onto the marble floor.

 

The image in front of him shattered, transformed into a kaleidoscope by the prisms of saltwater.

 

“Ah!” As if he had just woke up, Wataru jolted in his placed and rubbed at his eyes. “Ahah, ha, my sincerest apologies, Eichi, it’s, um, it seems like I’ve been overcome with, uh, a deep emotion of love, for you! Please give me a moment to- to collect myself, I just, ahh…”

 

But the tears didn’t stop falling. He inhaled, lifting a balled-up fist to his face to scrub away some of his tears hurriedly, and instantly regretted it as he smeared light, peachy makeup onto his knuckles, revealing the purple-ish bags under his eyes. His expression crumpled just a little more, another layer of his defenses broken, and he sat down, curling over, feeling another spasm shake through him.

 

He never wanted Eichi to see him like this, never wanted to remember him as anything like this. What would the point be, for such a transient relationship? For his perfect, radiant Eichi, who he wanted, needed to see him as perfect. But after all this, this revelation of his weakness, what was the point? Perfection was no longer attainable.

 

Wataru drew in a breath, trying to shakily let it out silently, but it got caught in his throat, and he let out an embarrassing whimper.

 

This time, Eichi was kneeling in front of him, his fingers twitching with the desire to wipe Wataru’s tears away, but he wasn’t sure if it was safe to do that yet. “Wataru, what’s wrong…?” His voice was soft and quiet, trying not to scare his dear.

 

He'd seen Wataru cry before: a few times from laughter, even fewer times from happiness, and sometimes he would catch his eyes watering while looking at his juniors from theatre club... The one time he had seen Wataru being close to shedding tears of sadness was when Eichi had woken up in a hospital after another bloody attack, Wataru sitting by his bed, holding Eichi’s hand in his, quietly reciting something - almost like a prayer - with his eyes closed… But he had never seen something like this.

 

Taking in another shaky breath, Wataru finally spoke, “I… I never thought it would be me.”

 

“What… do you mean?” Scooting closer to Wataru, Eichi caressed his wet cheek, placing his hand on Wataru’s.  

 

“I thought… I thought that, eventually, you’d get bored of me and throw me away. That I’m only- only an experiment, while we’re young - someone you know you’d have fun with for some time, before it became too repetitive. Someone who won’t make a good, stable partner you’d want to live the rest of your days with. Someone who was clearly pushing his luck.

 

“And I was ready for that! I was ready for you to look me in the eye one day and say, “I’m sorry, this isn’t working out, let’s break up”! And I was ready to accept that future, to come to terms with it! But now, you…”

 

Wataru raised his head, looking at Eichi with red, swollen eyes.

 

“Why on Earth would you want to tie yourself down to someone like me?”

 

“Because I love you,” Eichi answered without a hint of hesitation. “Because I love every single part of you, every facet and every personality, because I know I will never grow tired of you, and I’ve told you so a million times. Because you’re my Wataru , and no one else’s.”

 

It was so hard to explain the sheer mix of pain and joy that those words brought. That comfort, the comfort from another human being he'd craved, craved so much he drove himself halfway to insanity, but the shame, the burning resentment and the embarrassment of how weak he was... Wataru tried to speak, but managed only to open his mouth, breathe out a little, and swallow, a fresh bout of tears seeping out of his screwed-tight eyelids.

 

“If anything,” Eichi’s own eyes were starting to water, “I don’t know why you stayed with me . But it doesn’t matter because… you’re here, with me, and that’s all I care about .”

 

Unable to stop himself, Wataru rushes forward, locking Eichi in a tight hug.

 

“Because I love you.” Wataru said through tears, mirroring Eichi’s own words. “Because I have never in my life met someone as radiant, as beautiful and as interesting as you. Because when I look at you sleeping, eating, scheming another plan of destruction against your enemies, or making funny faces at Keito, I can’t feel anything but unconditional love for you. Because I know I’ll never grow tired of you. Because you are my Eichi ,” he pulled back, holding Eichi’s face in his hands, “and I am your Wataru, and no one else’s.”

 

A surge of every feeling that was pooling in his chest overcame him, and now it was Eichi’s turn to shed tears. But those tears were not those of sadness, or despair, no - those were happy tears, tears of hope and new beginnings.

 

For a while, they both cried, holding each other, kissing each other’s tears away and laughing breathlessly at how emotional they had become.

 

“So,” finally, when Eichi felt like the tears were longer choking him and making it hard to breathe, he pulled away and looked at his Wataru. “What is your answer…?”

 

Eyes red and puffy and his hair an utter mess -  to Wataru, Eichi still looked more beautiful than any angel.

 

And looking at Wataru, with his makeup ruined, snot running down his chin and his hair all over the place - Eichi thought the same.

 

“Yes.”

 

Yes, yes, yes.

 

“That is my final answer.”

 

Taking the ring out of the box, Eichi took Wataru’s left hand in his and put the ring on his finger, completing their trial of love there, in front of God and his followers.

 

They stood up and hugged again, pressing quick kisses to each other’s wet cheeks and lips, not wanting to be separated anytime soon. Eichi buried his face in Wataru’s neck, inhaling deeply and muttering,

 

“... ru Tenshouin.”

 

“Huh?”

 

Eichi raised his head and pulled away to look at Wataru, still holding his hands. “Wataru Tenshouin. Sounds good, no?”

 

Wataru furrowed his brows comically, forming a curly W shape out of them. “Sounds good, but… I’d like to keep my family name, please.”

 

“Why?”

 

“I don’t want the echo in my name to go away!”  Wataru winked with one puffy eye.

 

“... pfff.” Snort. And Eichi was laughing again, at that stupid, lame pun that Wataru had made a thousand times before. This time, Wataru laughed too.

 

It was 11:30 PM CET in Venice, Italy.

 

The children had long since gone to bed; the adults were finishing their work, or hanging out with friends, laughing and drinking their sorrows away.

 

And though it was a dark night, illuminated only by the artificial streetlights, the stars and the moon in the sky, on the balcony of Saint Mark’s Basilica,

 

the smallest, warmest sun, created by two people in love, rose up.