Thaniel’s voice was green. Not emerald or mint or even spring green, it was puce. The same sickly yellow-green of Annabelle’s dining room set passed down from their great-great grandmother. Normally he’d be speaking in pale blue, but the insistent tingle at the back of his throat and the scratchy feeling of his breath signalled a phlegmy outcome to this sudden change in hue. Dragging himself up the stairs from the workshop— Mori and Six noticeably absent, he bypassed his room entirely and opened the door to Keita’s. There was a cup of tea on his bedside table, small curls of steam still drifting lazily off the surface. Thaniel considered the drink for a moment, then let himself fall face first onto the bed.
There was no use denying it if Mori was already laying tea and fresh sheets in his path. Thaniel was ill. Their wash basin had been moved to the floor beside the bed and as if compelled by the sight he retched the meager remains of his lunch into it. He took a sip of tea after and found that it tasted strongly of mint. He'd been sent to the grocer earlier in the month after Mori made noises about all its wonderful uses. Feeling his eyelids growing heavier, Thaniel toes off his shoes and tossed his collar somewhere near the window. He fell asleep between one breath and the next.
There was a grandfather clock tolling midnight purple from down in the workshop and a heavy weight at Thaniel’s back. The gentle bongs dragged him out of murky slumber to find that at some point he’d been stripped down to his smallclothes and tucked under the heavy duvet. Gentle eddies of rose gold fell over his shoulder as Mori breathed, tucked between Thaniel’s shoulder blades with an arm draped around his middle like a limpet. Mori was usually comfortable enough being held after some mild protest. “I’m not a child or a girl, Mr. Steepleton.” he’d say before Thaniel flicked whatever bare skin was in reach in protest at the use of his surname.
“You gave me your cold.”
“It was inevitable.,” Mori mumbled sleepily, “we’re both going to be laid up for the rest of the week.”
Three days then, just enough time to develop sore joints from lazing about. “As long as we get up eventually,” he said, turning over in Mori’s arms and burying his nose in freshly dyed blonde hair. He grumbled and didn’t protest, but did pinch Thaniel sharply on the hand that was wandering under his shirt.
“Stop that. I barely have the energy to move and you’re going to fall asleep in ten minutes anyway.”
Thaniel huffed lightly, but kept his fingers curled loosely around Mori’s hip. He intended to say how the contact was comforting and felt Mori tap his collarbone in acquiescence. “I’d rather not. I don’t like sleeping during the day. It makes me feel as if I’m missing something.” Thaniel said.
Mori simply hummed in reply. They lay together quietly for several minutes basking in each others presence. Thaniel would never tire of breathing in Mori’s lemon scented soap mixed with his own unique scent. Some enigmatic mix of green tea and metal. Thaniel himself smelled like ink most days, and river water when Six caught him unawares out in the garden.
“Talk to me. I don’t want to fall asleep.” Thaniel said.
“What do you want me to talk about?”
“Anything. How many different words are there for seaweed?.”
“That’ll put you to sleep faster than the illness.”
“Tell me about your family.”
“They’re all dead. There’s nothing to tell.”
“People don’t stop existing just because they die.” Thaniel thought back to the picture he had seen in Mori’s file so long ago. A collection of strapping young men and in the middle of it all a reedy, younger Keita. He wondered if there was any likely future where his brothers had all lived, or if Mori carried the secret of their tragedy around and hid it behind congenial smiles. “Tell me about your brothers.”
“I had six of them. You may be alert but I’ll fall asleep before long.”
“Pick one, then.”
Mori sighed gold against his throat and Thaniel smiled because all of his annoyed sounds were lilac. Their cold made his voice go scratchy and sharp around the edges, and so the normally rounded cadence of Mori’s Japanese pitched a note too high for his normal voice. there were many different shades and hues of gold that most middle class individuals would never get to see their whole lives. Thaniel's favorite sight was Mori enveloped in the shimmering hues fit for some Arabian palace.
“Makoto was the fourth eldest, five years older than me. He used to take me into the woods to hunt stag beetles in the summer. He dropped a ball of ice down my coat once and I pushed him into the river. Our eldest brother fished him out and made us both sit in seiza for two hours, but he brought us steamed buns and told their mother it was an accident.”
“One time I put a bug in Annabel’s hairbrush and she filled my sheets with goat dung.”
"Hatsuo once had to rescue me from a tree when I was five. I didn't understand how my memories worked and went chasing after a birds nest that had already fallen to the ground."
"I found a dead squirrel on the road and made by father bury it in our backyard."
“She’s sorting out the finished cogs from scrap metal. Unless she cuts her finger it’ll be at least an hour before she comes looking for us. I made rice porridge and put it in the icebox with a note.”
Six doesn’t like rice porridge, Thaniel thought.
“Not enough eggs for...an omelet.” Mori mumbled. His sleeping breaths were wildflower pink. In half an hour he’d wake long enough to hear Six puttering around in Thaniel’s room, touching things she wasn’t supposed to, but Thaniel would chide her later and show off his sheet music anyway. He was going to start giving her lessons shortly after their cold blew over, and the house would be filled come evening with her attempts at “Ode to Joy”, which Thaniel will tell Mori are pastel orange and burgundy.
“Sleep well, Keita.”