Gerald stepped out of his room and silently made his way toward the lounge room. Since his return, Shiki had taken up residence in his room, sharing a bed with Gerald. He was honestly surprised by that at first, but he knew that Shiki craved the touch of someone he knew, someone he trusted, someone warm who wouldn’t hurt him again.
And for his part, Gerald needed that, too. After missing him for so long, it was reassuring having him sleep next to him again, like they had done when they were children. But it did break his heart each and every time Shiki had a nightmare and would only settle down once Gerald rested his head on his chest, allowing Shiki to wrap his arms around him in return.
So when he awoke in the middle of the night to find Shiki’s side of the bed empty, he was naturally worried.
As he reached the doorway into the lounge room, Gerald stopped in his tracks. He felt a sense of relief to find Shiki there, standing in front of the tree. Despite the winter winds outside, that man still didn’t wear a shirt, let alone a jacket. He was used to the chill, he claimed. Either way, Gerald was glad to note that the fireplace was still burning, offering the man some warmth.
Even as Gerald stood there, watching, Shiki didn’t notice him. He was staring at the decorated Christmas tree. Simmons, of course, insisted they get one. A large one. Bigger than the previous year’s tree. And he insisted that everyone pitch in to decorate it.
Shiki had been jovial during their combined efforts to decorate the tree, laughing aloud when Kerri and Tiffany got into an onesided fight about how to decorate the tree while Simmons just placed adornments anywhere. But there were times, when Shiki thought no one was looking that Gerald saw a flicker of pain and remorse in his eyes.
Gerald was fairly certain he knew the reason behind that pain.
Hence the reason why he didn’t automatically call out to Shiki when he noticed him standing silently in front of the tree. He just continued to watch. Watch as he idly lifted a hand to trail a fingertip along one of the branches of the tree.
Shiki was remembering. Remembering a time when he was a father to a young son and husband to a doting wife. Where he was a smartass dark hunter who dragged his best friend around on his adventures. Where he would drink himself blind with his favourite bar-keep and boast about the stupid things he had done.
He was remembering the good times. Before they were brutally taken away from him.
Gerald didn’t know everything that had happened to him during those ten years. Shiki wouldn’t tell him. He insisted that they no longer mattered. That the present, the here and now was all that did matter.
Still, there were moments when he found himself drawn back into the past.
Gerald wanted to comfort him, but he wasn’t sure how. He didn’t know what to say to him to make him feel better. He was never really good at it. Even as a kid. But in moments like these, perhaps words weren’t needed?
He had to try something. He couldn’t just stand there and watch. He wasn’t going to be passive about this, about anything, anymore.
Silently, Gerald made his way over to Shiki. He reached out a hand to touch the man’s back gently, to let him know he was there. However before his fingertips could brush against his scar-ridden skin, Shiki abruptly turned around to face him.
Gerald uttered a small sound of surprise, his eyes immediately becoming transfixed with Shiki’s. He unexpectedly felt his heart all but sink when he realised that Shiki’s eyes were watery, and yet no tears marred his cheeks.
Before Gerald could react, Shiki suddenly reached out and gathered him into his arms, holding him tightly against his chest. Gerald’s chin rested on his shoulder, his head tilted back ever so slightly as Shiki wrapped on strong arm around the middle of his back and threaded the fingers of his other hand into Gerald’s hair, keeping him firmly in place.
Shiki didn’t say anything.
Nothing needed to be said.
Gerald uttered a soft sigh as he slipped his arms around Shiki in return, placing his hands on his back, unconcerned of the uneven, jagged skin. Though those scars where a reminder of the pain and suffering Shiki had gone through, they were also a testament to how strong and stubborn he truly was.
He didn’t care what he got for Christmas this year. He had Shiki back. That was all he ever wanted.
“I’m glad you’re home for Christmas,” Gerald murmured as he buried his face into Shiki’s shoulder.
And Shiki tightened his arms around him further. “I’m glad I’m home, too.”