The first time he said it, he had been happy.
Sun had come to him as he studied in the library, chatting amicably about a fantastic training session he’d had when sparring with Blake, and though he tried to play it off with nonchalance, Neptune could see the elation Sun was experiencing with subtle giveaways: a perky tail, swishing this way and that, the way it did whenever the monkey faunus got excited; the twitching of his jaw as he tried to reign in his joy; the specific sparkle Sun got in his clever, obsidian eyes when he was wound up tight; and the ghost of the beginnings of a smile playing about his lips.
Yes, Neptune thought, Sun was really happy.
And so was he.
As Sun prattled on about how he flipped over Blake and evaded every swipe of Gambol Shroud with ease, gesticulating wildly and providing his own – rather good – sound effects, Neptune paid rapt attention to the excitable boy before him, his own smile finding its way onto his face. Sun could get so cute like this, all worked up and trying to conceal it, as though it were uncool to be happy.
“And then it came at me and I had like a split second to react and it was a close call, bro, it almost chopped off some of my hair – here, look! It’s the tiniest bit shorter! – but I managed to back flip and kick off the ground with Ruyi Bang and Jingu Bang and shoot at her while I was in the air – bang bang, bro! Pwsshhhh!!” – he mimicked an explosion – “and it was sooo cool, dude, you had to have been there, you wouldn’t believe the amount of craziness that –”
Neptune nodded, tuning out for a bit. There was that sparkle in Sun’s eyes again. The more he related the story, the more he loosened up about his reservations about looking too eager, seemingly forgetting he had been trying to play it cool, far too gone and wound up in his story to care.
“Hey, Sun?” he called, interrupting the faunus. An irritated look flashed across the blond’s face, cross that he had been cut short.
“Hey yourself, Nep,” he replied. “I was just getting to the good part.”
“I thought all of it was the good part.”
Sun pointed an accusatory finger, eyes narrowing suspiciously. “You know I’m susceptible to flattery. Every faunus’ fatal flaw.”
“Really?” Neptune laughed, brushing back his cerulean hair. “I had no idea.”
“Anyways, what is it?”
Neptune gestured towards the window. “What do you see outside?”
Sun peered outside. “Lots of grass. Clouds.” He squinted. “Lots of sunshine.”
The blue-haired boy grinned. “That’s whatever I see whenever I’m with you. Lots of sunshine, Sunshine. Everything seems brighter, clearer when you’re around.”
Sun stared at him for a second before he burst out laughing, only to be met with a chorus of hissing “Ssshhhh!”s from other students and patrons of the library. He stuffed his fist in his mouth, trying his best to stifle his mirth. “That,” he declared after he was finally able to catch his breath, teary-eyed, “has got to be the cheesiestthing you’ve ever said.”
“Maybe,” Neptune conceded, a playful smirk meeting Sun’s remarks, “but it’s also the truest. I love you, monkey boy.”
Sun beamed. “I love you too, water boy.”
“You know, I don’t actually control water.”
“If the name fits –”
Neptune waved him off with a laugh, pulling the boy closer to him to cuddle up close. “Mmm, you’re warm.”
“Well, I am Sun. The one and only.”
“Shut up,” Neptune chuckled. They lay in silence for a bit, eyes closed as they just melted against each other, content with the warm fuzzy feelings the other’s close presence gave them. Sun lay against Neptune, who had an arm curled around his boyfriend’s shoulder. Cracking open an eye, Neptune saw Sun was on the verge of sleepiness. Damn, that faunus sure could sleep anywhere.
Clearing his throat gently, Neptune began to sing: “You are my Sunshine, my only Sunshine –”
Sun froze, eyes snapping open. “Oh no.”
Unperturbed, Neptune continued: “You make me happy, when skies are gray—”
Trying to pry himself free of his boyfriend’s iron grip, Sun said, “No, Nep! Not in public!”
“You’ll never know dear, how much I love you—”
Laughing now, Sun pleaded, “Nep, please—”
“Please don’t take my Sunshine away.”
Sighing, accepting his inevitable defeat, Sun just melted back into Neptune’s embrace, the latter placing his chin in Sun’s mess of golden hair, content with his lot in life.
Continuing, Neptune went on, “The other night, dear—”
Sun scrunched up his face. “No, don’t sing that part. It’s so depressing.”
Laughing, Neptune obliged him, the boys collapsing back into a comfortable silence.
Yes, he recalled sadly – he had been happy.
The second time he had said it, he had been angry.
“Do you ever think things through?!” he yelled, anger radiating off him in waves, hunched over with the weight of his fury at the boy across the room from him.
“Nep, I had to!” Sun bellowed back, standing his ground. “They needed me, Team RWBY asked for my help and only Blake and I could get close enough to the White Fang to—”
“To what?!” Neptune fired back. “Get yourself killed? Because that’s what could have happened, Sunshine. Did you even think of that?”
“Of course I did, Nep!” Sun was getting agitated now; his tail told Neptune as much. Offhandedly, in a part of him that wasn’t angry, he found it cute. He wondered if Sun even realized when his tail twitched or moved when he was feeling particularly strong emotions. “But I can’t think about me all the time! Other people are involved, and we need to figure out what Torchwick wants with the White Fang!”
“That is not your concern! Damn it!” Neptune slammed his hands onto the nearest piece of furniture, a desk, before he swept his arms across the cluttered workspace, sending all the books and glass fixtures and pictures flying to the floor, shattering into a thousand pieces.
Sun stared at him blankly. “Don’t you see, Neptune? I’m a faunus. It is my concern.”
His gaze fell to the pictures strewn about the floor, memories of a better time: the time they met for the first time and hit it off; the time they crafted their weapons together; the one of the first time they had been assigned to Team SSSN together; the time they had arrived in Vale; when they had that picnic with Team RWBY; the time they had their first kiss, a tender gaze shared between them with matching dopey smiles on their faces, grinning at how ridiculously in love they were; and the time Neptune had taken a photo of them after he sang You Are My Sunshine to his “Sunshine” in the library.
Sun couldn’t muster the will to look at Neptune right now, to look him in the eye and be faced with what they were right now. He turned on his heel and left, tail between his legs as he slowly walked away from the situation.
Neptune shook with anger, rage crashing over him in waves. What if Sun had died? What if he had gotten himself killed because of his recklessness? What if he hadn’t been able to protect Sun? Why didn’t he tell him?
Neptune fancied himself an intellectual, and logically, he realized it was because Sun knew he would react like this and try to stop him. Sun wasn’t the type to sit by and let injustices go when he could do something to help put a stop to it. Neptune loved that about him.
But not when it would get his boyfriend killed!
He gripped the table’s edges until his knuckles turned white, and even then he didn’t let go. He willed himself to calm down, and fought the feelings inside him, feeling the ebb and flow of his anger, trying his best to reign in it. But his anger was as if it were the ocean itself, and the ocean bowed to no one. The ocean knew no master.
Slowly, excruciatingly slowly, he managed to get a handle on his anger and rationalized that he couldn’t hold what he loved about Sun against him. Sun wanting to protect and save other people, faunus and human alike, was one of his most genuine qualities. Neptune couldn’t begrudge him that.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, he sought out Sun, who was sitting on the rooftop, staring into the dark of night, milky blotches of light sprinkled all about the obsidian sky. He sat down beside him.
“Hey,” he said. Soft. Tentative.
“Hey,” Sun said, just as simply.
They stared out at the horizon in silence for a while, gazes slowly shifting upward. Eyes traced stars and constellations and the bright points of unknown celestial bodies.
Neptune pointed skyward. “What do you see?”
“What do you see?” Neptune persisted.
“Nep, I don’t think I want to play this game right now.” Chancing a glance at Neptune, who said nothing, Sun sighed. “I see dark. Stars. No sunshine.”
“That’s alright, you don’t need to. Stars can’t see their own shine, but I can. That’s whatever I see whenever I’m with you. Lots of sunshine, Sunshine. Everything seems brighter, clearer when you’re around.”
A ghost of a smile tugged at the monkey faunus’ lips. “That has got to be the cheesiest thing you’ve ever said. Twice.”
“Perhaps,” agreed Neptune, but it’s true. I love you, monkey boy.”
“I love you too, water boy.”
They melded into one another’s body, this time Neptune leaning against Sun, with Sun’s arm around Neptune’s shoulder.
“You are my Sunshine,” he began, singing voice soft and low, “my only Sunshine. You make me happy when skies are gray. You’ll never know, dear, how much I love you. Please don’t take my Sunshine away.”
This time, Sun didn’t fight him.
He listened quietly, opening his eyes when his boyfriend’s serenade was over. He shifted his head to look at Neptune, who caught his gaze, and his breath hitched.
Those intelligent, clever eyes, swimming with deep devotion and intense feelings, told him that perhaps Sun in fact did know just how much he loved him.
He wished, in the end, it had mattered.
The third and final time he had said it, he had been sad.
More than sad. Distraught. Devastated. Very nearly destroyed.
Blood pooled about him. His pants were soaked. His hands seemed painted with the substance. It wasn’t comfortable.
He didn’t care, though. Sun was in his arms. Sun needed him. Now more than ever.
A chuckle intercepted by a ragged gasp for air. Violent hacking. Blood spurted from the wound on his abdomen, blood from his mouth following suit. It came up in wretched coughs, trickling down the sides of his mouth, covering his chin.
Weak, obsidian eyes – eyes that had once been so clever and intelligent – swiveled as they fought to focus on Neptune’s dark azure ones. Currently, Neptune’s glistened with tears, streaming freely down his face as he gazed down at his boyfriend, hand pressing down persistently on the large wound straight through his abdomen, the work of Roman Torchwick.
He had told Sun that they shouldn’t have gone, that he was still recovering from his sickness, that Team RWBY and Team JNPR could have handled it on their own. Sun had declined his words, saying he felt fine and that he had to see this through, just as Blake had to. This was personal. This was important.
Neptune cursed himself. Sun lay dying in his arms and here he was blaming him for getting himself killed? Sun was doing what he thought was right – how could Neptune even question that? He knew better, and still, he couldn’t help but feel some small measure of resentment towards Sun. He hated himself for it. But he did.
Somewhere, in some part of him, though he didn’t want to admit it, he knew it was a lost cause. He knew Sun was a goner. This was one star, once so brilliant and commanding his attention, that was fading pitiably and would go out very soon in a quiet whimper. He didn’t want to accept it, he didn’t want to acknowledge it, but he knew it to be true. Some intellectual he was.
He hated it.
Sun was laughing again, weak little rasps that wracked through his body, painful to do and painful to witness. His own eyes were somehow shining, much to Neptune’s bewilderment – tears? That special sparkle he had whenever he felt strong emotions? Neptune couldn’t be sure.
Neptune’s eyes widened, shocked at Sun’s words. Was he really worrying about him when he had the gaping hole in his chest?! “Sun…you idiot…”
“Why, Sun?” His voice cracked as he asked. “Why did you jump in front of me and take the blow? Why?”
Sun beckoned, finger movements jerky, and Neptune hastened to obey before Sun slapped him lightly on the cheek.
Neptune blinked back tears. Sun saw them, and Neptune realized he too was crying.
“D-Damn it, Nep…” Sun wheezed. “You’re making m-me…cry…totally not c-cool, dude…”
“W-What?” Neptune asked, constantly surprised by Sun.
“Everyone knows…it’s not c-cool…to go out while c-c-crying…” Sun tried to inhale, instead hacking up more blood and shuddering. Tears streaked down his cheeks.
Neptune removed his bloody hand from Sun’s stomach wound and instead gently caressed his face, wiping away tears softly before taking Sun’s hand, looking skyward. Dark clouds loomed over them all, blotting out some stars, even the brightest among them. The clouds shook with a terrible anger, as though commanded by an ancient, wrathful god of limitless domains, rolling and billowing like a raging sea of tumultuous, ominous change. Thunder tore the sky asunder, and rain began to drizzle before descending in a relentless downpour, drenching them thoroughly. Lightning flashed, illuminating the scene before him like a dark, twisted display of Neptune’s worst nightmares.
Except it was real.
“Sun…what do you see?”
“Nep..? I-I can’t…” He sounded scared. Lost.
“No, N-Nep…I-I can’t…see…”
Neptune started, gazing at Sun’s eyes, flickering between them as he tried to figure out what to do. Sun…couldn’t see?
Choking back a sob, Neptune pushed forward, “It…doesn’t matter. You don’t need your eyes for this. Sun, what do you see?”
“I…I see b-blue…a sea of blue…an ocean of it…”
“S-Stars…they’re so bright, Nep…so bright…and-b-b-beautiful…they’re shining f-for me, Nep…all for m-me…”
“All for you,” Neptune agreed, sobbing quietly as he brushed back Sun’s hair, staring into eyes that couldn’t see anymore. “They all shine for you, so bright and beautiful, like you said. That’s whatever I see whenever I’m with you. Lots of sunshine, Sunshine. Everything seems brighter, clearer when you’re around.”
And everything will be darker, dimmer when you’re gone.
“I love you, monkey boy,” he said, voice thick with emotions. Regret. Sorrow. Longing. Nostalgia. Love.
“I…love you…water boy.”
Softly, he sang, “You are my Sunshine, my only Sunshine. You make me happy when skies are gray. You’ll never know, dear, how much I love you. Please…”
He broke off into sobs, letting them course through him without care. Tears intermingled with blood. He didn’t need to pretend to be strong. He didn’t need to push back his emotions. What he needed was Sun, and soon he wouldn’t have him.
“P-please…don’t take…my Sunshine…away…” he finished, letting the tears come, welcoming the familiar coolness as they streamed down his rapidly numbing cheeks, a chill from the thunderous rainstorm taking him. They were lost amid the rain.
Sun shivered in his arms, but he had the faintest grin on his face. “T-that has g-got…to be…the cheesiest t-thing….you’ve ever s-s-said.” He squeezed Neptune’s hand as hard as he could – still pitifully weak, Neptune noted absently, not the usual strength from his faunus lover. “Y-you are m-my Neptune…my only Neptune…you m-m-make me h-happy…when skies are gray…I’ve a-always known, d-dear…how much you love m-me…please don’t t-take my Nept-t-tune…”
And then he stopped. He went slack, his once graceful body slumping gracelessly against his lover. His gaze was distant. Glassy. With sightless eyes, once so clever, once so bright, he stared at nothing.
And suddenly, Neptune felt nothing.
How he wished he had said it more often.
Months passed. Neptune became withdrawn. He had nightmares. Terrors. Most people would call them dreams. Images of Sun laughing. Sun hugging him. Nuzzling. Murmured half-sleepy affections. Promises of a long life together, full of love and happiness and laughs and more.
They haunted Neptune. They served to remind him he failed. That he no longer had Sun. That he no longer had light and love and laughter in his life.
The others were worried, but Neptune didn’t care. He didn’t have a reason to. He just wanted to have his boyfriend back.
“Hey,” Sun whispered, brushing Neptune’s hair out of his eyes. “What are you thinking?”
“I’m thinking that you’re the most beautiful person I’ve seen,” Neptune replied, gazing deep into charming obsidian eyes, so very like the twinkling, dark night sky. “How are you real?”
“Because I’m your idiot. And you’re mine.”
Neptune looked down, eyes trailing along Sun’s body, feeling uncertain but trying to be nonchalant about it. Sun lifted Neptune’s head by his chin, gazing back at honest azure eyes, before leaning in and claiming his lips in a kiss.
“I can be real if you want me to, Neptune. I’m here.”
“I love you, too.” A pause. “Are you worried it’s that nightmare again?”
“Yes,” he confessed, and Sun stroked his cheek with tender, soft swipes of his thumb.
“And if it is?” Sun’s eyes searched his. “What would that change?”
“I don’t know. Something? Everything? Nothing?”
“Do you want me to hold you?”
A laugh, light and playful. Sun scooted on over to Neptune, gesturing for him to turn over, spooning him and holding him tightly in his arms. “For you, I would do anything. Don’t you know that by now?”
Neptune nodded. Sun hummed in contentment, warm and comforting against Neptune’s back, brushing his hair softly and whispering sweet nothings to help calm his lover down.
“Is this real?” Neptune asked, after a while.
“I don’t think so,” confessed Sun, but he didn’t seemed worried.
“How can you be so nonchalant about this?”
“It’s because even if I’m not real, our love still is. It will always be real.”
Neptune mulled that over. Finally, he spoke.
“I love you.”
“Love you too, water boy.”
He sat up in bed. Beads of sweat peppered his heaving form, all over his body. He wiped a forearm against his forehead, swiping away the terror-inspired moisture.
He couldn’t go on like this. He saw Sun every waking moment, every time he closed his eyes, every time he went to sleep. He saw him in his dreams.
But he couldn’t touch him. He couldn’t tell him he was sorry. He couldn’t tell him he missed him. He couldn’t tell him he loved him.
Neptune threw the covers off, rushing past the photos he had thrown on the ground in frustration after Sun’s death. He ignored the smiles and grins and love in their eyes – those eyes were no longer warm, but cold and dead and gone.
He raced up to the rooftop, not bothering with a coat or anything. The night was chilly. Frosty.
So was his heart.
He clambered out onto the roof in only his boxers and a tank, goggles hanging around his neck. He sat down where Sun had sat, looked where Sun had, tried to feel what Sun did.
He stayed there for hours, just gazing out into the distance. Gazing at the stars and noting how none of them seemed as brilliant, bright, or clear.
“I love you, monkey boy.”
He hoped that wherever he was, Sun had somehow managed to hear him. He could also imagine a soft voice carried on the wind that replied, I love you too, water boy.
At some point, without realizing it, his mouth opened of its own accord, and he began to sing, tender and morose.
“You are my Sunshine. My only Sunshine. You make me happy when skies are gray. You’ll never know, dear, how much I love you. Please don’t take my Sunshine away.”
Sun had always told him the next part was depressing, and Neptune agreed. Still, he found himself singing it.
“The other night, dear, when I lay sleeping, I dreamt I held you in my arms. When I awoke, dear, I was mistaken, so I hung my head and cried.”
Tears stained his cheeks as he broke off the song, noting how right Sun was, even in death.
And now, as the sun broke out over the horizon, heralding a new dawn and a new day, Neptune consoled himself, glad that he at least got to see Sun one last time.