Yoo-hoo! Chapter Three up, peeps! I'm sorry it took so long, this story just has longer chapters than the rest…plus, I guess I've been spending more time on Rayne ad Aedan…thus neglecting poor little Zen and horrid little Ethan. Ah well. Still, here we are! THANK YOU GOGO-MUCH TO ALL MY DEAR, DARLING, SWEET, LOVELY REVIEWERS! YOU GUYS ARE SIMPLY BRILLIANT! I don't think I would have updated this soon if it hadn't been for your reviews, guys…so thank you. A LOT. ::glomps reviewers::

Okay. Now. I want to tell you: this may be the last update in some time…BECAUSE. IT'S THE HOLIDAYS::jumps around shouting for joy::gets dragged away to asylum:: I'M SO FREAKING HAPPY! I'LL BE ABLE TO WAKE UP LAAAATE!...on the other hand, I'll miss college (I know…I'm sad) I'll miss my fwends! I'll miss Awt and Fiwm lessons! I'll miss my SUPERAWESOMEMEGAGENIUSBRILLIANTISSIMOTASTIC teacher Mark (this man simply owns my soul) and the piano-playing of all these sweet persons I FORCE to play for me::sobs:: I love College so much…AND I won't be able to go on Internet as often. WHICH MEANS. If I don't update between now and next Thursday, don't expect an update until January. I know…I'm SO SORRY…it's just that I'm leaving for four days next week to GO INTO THE WILD! WINTER CAMP, HERE I COME! I'm so freakin' exited you cannot imagine! I'm going to be rockclimbing! HIKING! AND MORE! BUT ABOVE ALL, I'M FINALLY GOING TO SEE MY AWESOMESUPERBRILLAINTDARLINGSWEETLYBELOVED FRIEND! AFTER TWO YEARS OF ONLY WRITING LETTERS AND EMAILING! YAYE I'M SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO HAPPY!


So anyway. You understand why I won't be able to update. So: I'll be busy. The updates for my OTHER stories might be a little more rapid, due to the fact I've already got a few chapters written up…ah well…we'll see, I guess. Meanwhile, enjoy the Zen-goodness coming up!

Warning: slash, boyxboy love, shonen-ai, whatever. If you find it offends you I suggest you don't read.

Rating: Meh…still T.

Summary: Ethan loves his nice, neat, tidy, lonely, monotonous little life-until Zen decided to show him the 'beauty of shared love.'

Those Stupid Butterflies That Mess Around In Our Stomachs

Chapter III: Day Two

I rose early in the morning, preparing myself for a day of work. When I emerged from the shower dressed and clean, I went to prepare myself breakfast and brought it into the living room to eat while reading the news on internet.

When I entered the room, still plunged in semi darkness because the curtains were drawn, I stopped short, staring. During the night, I'd completely forgotten that I had agreed to share my beautiful apartment with some multicoloured-haired freak, even if my dreams had been filled with mysterious bouncing boys, but now the realisation hit me like a slap, as I stared at the sight that met my eyes.

Zen was lying flat on his stomach on his narrow little bed, the baby-blue blankets tangled around his body. His face was sunken into his pillows, his crazy hair half-covering his face and sticking out at odd angles. One of his arms was thrown over a huge, fluffy pale blue rabbit, his other arm supporting his pillow. His bed was scattered with fluffy toys, on open book and his Ipod, headphone chord tangled around his arm and neck. He was wearing a pale pink girl's nightshirt. He looked unbearably adorable.

The moment I realised that, I decided I didn't want breakfast anymore. I'd just grab something at the cafe not far from the office where I worked. I rushed to the kitchen, dumped my breakfast on to the counter, grabbed my coat and bag and ran out. I just didn't want to be in the same room as Zen any longer. This kid was doing bad things to my mind, and I didn't like it. I did not find things 'cute', especially not people, especially not boys and especially not this stupid, annoying, psychotic, loud, insane brat.

When I arrived at work I felt glad for the distraction. Nothing better than a good day's hard work to get one's mind off things one didn't want one's mind to be on in the first place. Unfortunately, as the hours dragged by, my documents and notebooks and ideas and scribbled notes seemed less and less interesting, and I found myself thinking more and more about this walking, talking problem. Sitting at my desk with my head in my hands, I let out a muffled groaned, wishing it had all never happened and I could go back to enjoying my day's work and looking forward to going back to my clean, tidy, quiet and lonesome flat. My brooding thoughts were suddenly interrupted when an obnoxious voice cooed:

'Oo-er, Ethan is in love!'

My head snapped up, and I glared at the person who had just uttered these fucking ridiculous words. She was a tall, blonde idiot of a woman, one of my colleagues. Lie all of my colleagues, I didn't know her name, and like the rest of all the people in the world, I hated her. Except now I hated her a slightly bit more than I hated the rest of all the people in the world.

Completely oblivious to the hateful look I was giving her, she went on, in her loud, brash, obnoxious voice:

'I mean, Ethan? Distracted? Showing some…feelings? The poor man is in love, at last!'

Several people in the office laughed, and someone shouted a vague: 'Hallelujah!'

'Fuck you,' I snarled quietly, standing up abruptly and storming out.

When I was safely locked in one of the men's bathroom, I stopped, breathing hard, leaning forward on the sink and staring at my reflection in the mirror: I had forgotten to gel my hair into spikes this morning, since I generally did it after breakfast and I'd skipped breakfast, and now it was in a sort of fluffy-looking mess around my face. My eyes were slightly red from rubbing them too much, and I looked generally royally pissed-off. I did not look like a man in love.

I mean, seriously? Me? In love? What a joke. That stupid blonde bimbo had just said this because she had run out of juicy gossip about the rest of the world, so she'd just decided to piss me off instead of slagging other poor jerks in their back. What was wrong with her? Couldn't I just be left alone? I was not Zen's soulmate, I did not find him adorable, and I was not in love. Fucking let me be, why couldn't they?

When I returned to the office, I ignored all the smirks and sly looks thrown my way, and instead tried to concentrate on my work. I flicked through piles of documents, wishing that my job was more challenging…right now, being a rock-climber would have been perfect. Clinging on to jagged rocks for dear life would at least have taken my mind off that stupid little brat and his antiques, which flicking going through documents I couldn't even be bothered to read did nothing except enforce my boredom and therefore force me to think more about all the things I hated. Mentally, and to distract myself, I began making a list.

Zen. Zen was the first thing that popped into my mind whenever I thought of the word 'hatred.' He was weird, annoying, insistent, crazy, stupid, gullible, probably had some sort of psychological disorder or something…He was too noisy, too chatty, too loud, too childish, too everything! He was the symbol of everything I hated.

The Stupid Blonde Bimbo from the office came next. That cow didn't even deserve a name. To me, she was nameless and she would stay that way. I hated her. She was obnoxious, brash…she thought herself so smart, and she was nothing more than a nosy gossip with no interest in anything apart making other people miserable and aggravated.

People came next. How I hated people! They said and did stupid things all the time. They insisted on having empty conversations on the buses and on the trains, even in queues they thought it was some sort of obligation to speak. People were annoying, I wished they'd all just disappear off the face of the earth one day, leaving me blissfully alone with my thoughts and my books.

Windows. What the hell was the point in windows? Didn't anyone ever hear of electricity? You know, this thing that allows us to draw energy from other things and then turn into light? What the hell was the point in having huge glass panels that let in the cold and the noise from outside when you could just have one smooth wall and a lightbulb? Windows were stupid and useless and I hated them.

Window cleaners. I mean, come on. Window cleaners should all be brought into one place and then shot down. Something was seriously wrong with window cleaners, they were such freaks of existence they should never have existed in the first place. Now that I came to think of it, Zen was probably the son of two window cleaners.

High-heeled shoes. Like the ones Stupid Blonde Bimbo was wearing today. Loud shoes that made you know she was coming towards you hours before she actually entered your field of vision. What was the point in high-heeled shoes? They were loud, and attention-seeking and stupid and just plain wrong. They were, in some twisted way, just like Zen: they made you aware of their presence even when all you wanted to do was ignore them. They forced you to notice them. They were evil and I hated them.

Flowers. I absolutely hated flowers. Flowers were too delicate and they had all these colours and these shapes and they attracted the eye too easily. They were too pretty, too perfect, too bloody loud, in a quiet type of way. Like someone screaming: 'Don't notice me!'…I hated flowers.

Orange. Orange was the most ridiculous colour I had ever seen…ever. Orange was far too fricking bright, it was such a goddamn arrogant colour! It was a colour that screamed joy and noise and seemed to vibrate all by itself. Orange was absolutely crazy, very much in a Zen sort of way: giddy, dizzying, too bright, too noisy, too everything. Orange flowers were the worst. They were like the wedding made in hell, the worst combination, along with the Stupid Blonde Bimbo plus High-heeled Shoes combination…Whoever created the world must have been one sadistic, twisted retard to have invented something like orange flowers. Or Zen. However Zen came into existence, it was the stupidest mistake any form of entity could ever have made. Zen existed only to irritate and aggravate and make you feel as though you wanted to jump out of the window rather than be in the same room as him a moment longer.

Wait—why the hell was I thinking about Zen again? What was wrong with me? I was tired, and harassed, that was what. I needed to go home and have a long, calm, reasonable conversation with that kid. Show him the wrong of his ways, calmly explain to him why it was simply impossible for him to live with me. Reveal to him the lack of the existence of such things as true love, soulmates, reading into the future and peaceful co-existence between him and I, or anyone else for what it mattered.

But of course, knowing Zen, it would probably all just go in by one ear and fly out through the other, leaving as little impression as a breeze on a block of granite. Reason and persuasion were no use when dealing with retorted brats. And if I began to scream at him that I hated him and that I wanted him to get the fucking hell out of my fucking life he'd probably say something about bad karma, denial, tai chi or something. In short, there was no way to win with Zen. He was just so far sunken into insanity it was like trying to rub out a stain off a carpet when the stain is so crusted into the carpet the harder you scratch at it the deeper it goes, and the more impossible it becomes to ever get it off. Yes, that was exactly it: Zen was an indelible stain on the otherwise stainless carpet of my existence. The only thing I could do was patiently bear the bloody thirty days. At least, it would make me appreciate the beauty of leaving alone even more when he'd be gone. It would be like starving for thirty days and then tasting food again. It would add a whole new value to everything that I used to have and that Zen had just causally blown away when he'd decided that I was his bloody soulmate.

When I finally got back home at the end of the day, I was ready to collapse from relief, weary from all the thinking, the worrying, the irritation, the people having meaningless conversations in the public transports and squeaks and squeals of the school kids as they rushed up and down street in their stupid little uniforms, all acting like mini-Zens. I reached for my keys, smiling slightly to myself, thinking that even if Zen was on the other side of the door, at least I would be able to lock myself in my room, in the peace and quiet, after a warm shower and some food.

My smile faded instantly as soon as I opened the door.

A strong smell of paint was floating around the corridor, assailing my nose as soon as I pushed open the front door. I closed my eyes, and prayed to every god known to man that the reason for the strong smell of paint did not include the words 'Zen' and 'paint' in the same sentence. I opened my eyes, and, holding my breath, my entire being tensed in fright and horror, I entered my flat.

When I reached my living room, I stopped, and stared. The furniture had been pushed into some sort of rickety pile in the middle of the room, haphazardly half-covered in lengths of canvas cloth. Newspapers had been clumsily spread on the carpet, whole patches of it still visible between the paper. Pots of paint and paintbrushes stood in a corner. The windows were wide open, letting in the icy air from outside, and letting out the heat from the radiators. All of this, however, was nothing compared to my walls. My walls. My. Walls.

My walls, my beautiful, clean, neat, ivory-coloured walls had been painted over. The brush strokes were still visible, going in random ways, some patches darker than others, spots of the creamy colour still visible in some spaces.

The new colour of my walls was orange. The brightest, most insolent, most screamingly-loud orange I had ever seen in my entire life.

I think I must have passed out. Next thing I knew I was sitting in my once-pale-cream and now pale-cream-splattered-in-orange-paint sofa, my head hunched between my shoulders, a cup of strong coffee between my hands, Zen sitting at my side with his arm around my shoulders, slowly stroking my back in soothing motions. He was saying:

'It's alright, cupcakes, it's alright…Drink your coffee now, drink up, ballerina, you'll feel much better afterwards. That's it, annata, that's it…nice and slowly. Take your time. I know how you feel…you must be so little used to joy, I understand it must have been a shock to you…it's nothing to worry about, cuddle-toy, it happens…sometimes when a person has had a particularly hard life, their first moment of joy can come as a huge shock, and they stay in a coma for days…just drink the coffee, lullaby, it's okay…it's okay…'

Feeling hollow and completely empty, I drank the coffee. Zen was speaking:

'Yeah, because, I dunno, orange seemed like the colour you'd like the most, I mean, you must be so bored of that pale baby-vomit colour you had and when I saw the paint I just thought: this will be perfect, my purple cream-puff will love it! So anyway, as soon as it's dry I'm going to paint flowers over it, just so it's not too boring. Do you have any favourite flower, candy-heart? Because I was thinking of, maybe, sunflowers? Big sunflowers and little sunflower-faeries, what do you think, Barbie-doll? I just love sunflower faeries, I've been a total sucker for them ever since I found my first Cicely Mary Barker Flower Fairies book in a charity shop and I bought it and it was so amazing, you know, so freaking cute, though obviously if faeries truly existed they totally wouldn't be like that. I personally imagine faeries the Holly Black way, you know? Hot pervy cruel faeries with yellow eyes and thorn-lined cloaks, you know what I'm saying? Oh please tell me know oh my God you don't, do you? I am so totally getting you to read Tithe and Valiant and Ironside because, angel-wing, they are teh awesomeness, you know? And I'm a total fan of the Spiderwick Chronicles because Tony is so totally my idol and if he'd let me I'd worship him with prawn-cocktail crisps and Skittles, but anyway, so yeah, we were talking about faeries and how incredibly cool they are and seriously, if you ever were to meet a faery, how would you react? I totally wouldn't be surprised, I mean, it's not like I'm not aware of their existence, but I'd think I'd go a little dizzy and kind of trip and land in his arms, because my first faery would totally be a guy faery…so he'd catch me and take me into his thorn-lined cloak but I'd go, oh no, I can't, I have a soulmate, and he'd go it's alright, sweet mortal, I am forcing you so you are not to blame oh my God my mind is totally going into imagination overdrive and the stuff I'm seeing would make me blush if I'd have to watch it on TV with my mom, and that's saying something because that woman is possibly the most perverted person on earth, but then again, like son like mother, right petal-lips? So anyway, going back to Cicely Mary Barker I totally love the woman, it's like we are sister souls? I say sister because I know my soul s definitely a girl, it's this kind of thing, you know? I mean, do you think your soul is a guy? I'd say your soul is a guy, you simply look like a man-soul-ed kind of guy, if you know what I mean, it's probably the way you move and the way you glare and the way you whine: you're not my soulmate, it's totally a man-soul kind of thing to do, you get me? Talking about man-souls, I'm going to the next The Automatic gig and I'm taking you with me, okay, because these guys are totally the thing, you know? They are brilliant, I totally wake up yelling 'what's that coming over the hill?' all the time, that's how ace these guys are, talking about ace, Ethikins, you and I are totally playing beggar-my-neighbour once we've finished turning your place into our little Ethikins'n'Zenikins Heaven because it is the best game that ever existed on this planet, maybe with the expecting of Pictionnary, but then again we can't really play that with only two players but no matter I'll get my friend to come over and we'll all have a massive Pictionnary and marshmallow orgy and it'll be so grand you'll love it, trust me, would you like another cup of coffee, marzipan?'


He leapt to his feet, twittering:

'Righty-ho-ho-ho! I'm going to belike your nurse! In fact…talking about nurses…I have that little outfit thing in one of my bags…'

'Just get me another cup of coffee…'

'Sir yes sir! I'll be back with the coffee and the nurse outfit in a jiffy!'

When he came back, carrying a mug of coffee, I said calmly:

'Zen. Come and sit here.'

'Of course, my little beautiful soul.'

He handed me the cup and plonked himself down on my side, sliding his arm around my shoulders. I didn't even bother to shake it off.

'Zen. You are going to listen to me very carefully. Alright?'


'I am very angry at you. Alright?'

He pouted.

'Alright,' he whined.

'You have hurt me very very badly. Alright?'

He looked distraught.

'Alright,' he whispered.

'I am going to go in my room to cry myself to sleep.' Since he brat seemed to be such an over-sensitive little idiot, I might as well make the most of it. 'While I do that, you will get this flat back in the original state it was in. Alright?'


'If you fail to do that come the morning, I will never speak to you again. Ever. Alright?'

'Alright.' His voice shook.

'Not only will I never speak to you again, but I will also bring this whole bargain to an end. And I will kick you out. Without a second thought. Alright?'


'Now…' I smirked evilly at his bent head. 'Answer truly: do you still think I am your soulmate?'

'Yes,' he squeaked.

'You, brat, are an idiot.'

'I love you too,' he whimpered back miserably.

'Now go get me something to eat, because all the pain and shock has made me very angry. Bring the food in my bedroom when it's done. Then get to work. I don't want to hear another word from you until tomorrow. Alright?'



Feeling like an indescribably tyrannical lord, I stomped to my bedroom and locked myself in, trying to forget the dismal expression on my cute—I mean obedient slave. I knew I was evil. But he deserved it. At least I was teaching him what a stupid thing love is…in the end, it was all at his advantage.

I sat on the bed trying not to listen to for what Zen was doing: I could hear him moving around, but he wasn't singing or even being noisy, and I swear I didn't miss it. On the contrary, it felt good having the flat be so quiet. Almost as though I was alone again…alone without Zen…I wondered where he would go when the thirty days would be over…he said he got kicked out of his flat and he didn't seem as though he had a family he could turn to…maybe he didn't have a very good relationship with them? Well, good for him. Families were never worth the bother, they were cumbersome and the very best way to get hurt. One of the very best ways to get hurt, at least…Or maybe Zen did have a good relationship with his family (poor him) but they lived too far? Knowing Zen, he'd probably end up living under a bridge, sleeping wrapped in cardboard boxes…that just wouldn't surprise me at all, he was just so—


A knock came at the door, followed by a little squeak of a call. Zen was learning how to be quiet and contained. Good.

'What?' I barked, just so as to let him know he had to keep going.

'I…um, I cooked your food.'

I stood up and opened the door. Zen was standing there holding a tray laden with food, and looking positively miserable. His excessively baggy jeans and oversized shirt, both paint-splattered, hung loose off his skinny little body, he wasn't wearing his stupid smile, his hands were wrapped in his sleeves and even his crazily-coloured hair seemed to droop miserably around his little quiet face. I was not feeling suddenly overwhelmed with guilt and a bizarre feeling that made my heart feel light and fluttery like a feather.

I took the tray from him and made to turn away, but accidentally met his pitiful dark little eyes, and noticed that we was biting his lip ever-so-delicately: just slightly digging his front teeth into the wet pink cushion of his lower lip…

'Thank you,' I said, giving in to the guilt and pity and weird fluttery feeling…that I wasn't feeling.

I laid down the tray on my desk and walked back to the door to close it, but damn it, he was still standing there, this time with his hands, still wrapped in his too-long sleeves, hovering in front of his mouth.

'Alright. Come in and have a bite to eat with me,' I said, hating myself for my weakness and him for being so goddamn adorable. Not that I though he was adorable, of course. He was just adorable as a fact, not a personal opinion—that was all.

'Are you…are you going to start crying?' Zen asked tremulously.

'What the hell? Cry?'

'You…you said you were going to cry yourself to sleep…you said I'd hurt you very very badly…' he whispered.

'Yeah, well, I…' this was getting way too uncomfortable. The kid seemed to have taken to heart every single thing I'd told him. God what a los—

'I'm sorry!'

Zen burst into sobs, throwing himself at me, wrapping his arms tightly around my neck and pressing his face against the side of my head. He was sobbing and I could feel his tears, warm and wet against my cheek.

'I'm so sorry! I didn't know you would be so upset! I would never have done it if I'd known! Please don't hate me! I'm sorry I hurt you I will never do it again ever I promise! I couldn't bear it if you hated me! Please don't hate me! I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I'm so sorry!'

He was bawling and sobbing and half-strangling me and he sounded so very, very sorry I just couldn't take it anymore.

'Zen! It's alright! I don't hate you! Don't cry…it's okay…don't cry…I don't hate you, Zen, you know I don't…please don't be sad…'

I stroked his hair, the messy strands surprisingly silky beneath my fingers, rocking him slightly back and forth. He had stopped bawling, but he was still crying, so I decided to use the weapons he kept handing me.

'Zen,' I said as poignantly as I could, 'if you carry on crying to will make my very, very sad. I fear I may even begin crying,' I lied.

I couldn't believe I was actually saying this—but the effect on Zen was immediate. He jerked away from me, wiping his eyes frantically with his sleeves and exclaimed, his voice shaking with sobs:

'I'm sorry! I'll stop crying! Please don't be sad! I won't cry again! I'm sorry! I just...I don't want you to hate me…'

'I don't hate you Zen,' I say soothingly, patting his head. 'Come on…wipe those tears and come eat with me. I'm impatient to test your culinary talents.'

This was an obvious attempt to distract him but he didn't seem to notice. He asked suspiciously:

'Are you sure you don't hate me?'

'I'm sure, Zen,' I said firmly.

'Oh my God thank you!' he shrieked, and launched himself at me, wrapping me in a choking hug. 'I love you!'

'Yeah, yeah,' I said curtly, pushing him off me. 'Let's go eat now, okay?'

'Okies!' he twittered and hopped towards the bed to sit down.

I sighed, and tried to choose which one I hated the most: the bawling distraught Zen or the happy bouncy Zen. I decided that I hated them both equally.

Thirty minutes later, I'd finally discovered an advantage of having Zen share my flat: he was a despicably amazing cook. He'd cooked some sort of Japanese dish and some salad, and it was seriously delicious. I didn't tell him, though, because from the sobbing, sorrowful wreck he'd been when he'd knocked at my door he'd immediately moved on to the hyperactive hopping bunny he usually was, and I felt that a compliment would just make it all worse. However, saying something and risking sounding flattering was better than listening to his continuous speech, so I interrupted in the middle of his opinion on video games and asked:

'Do you have Japanese relatives?'

He looked pleased at the question and answered brightly:

'Nope! My mom's just massively obsessed with Japanese cooking and I kind of learnt from her! It's not really hard, you know! If you want, I'll even cook you sushi! I'll just need to buy the ingredients and stuff. I'm a bit short on cash these days but it's alright I can just spend the weekend playing guitar in town and I'll be able to get more than enough to buy everything I need so yeah I guarantee you almost a hundred percent that I will be doing sushi for you on Sunday, are you happy? I am, I'm so exited! It's going to be great I know you'll love it everybody loves my sushi and when I used lo live with—'

'We'd better get going with the washing up now,' I announced, loudly and firmly.

'The wa—Oh! The washing up! Yeah, I see what you mean, I mean, I never used to do the washing up usually I just pile things up in a basin full of hot water and wait for the dirt to float off or something which I know isn't very hygienic, and seeing as you are so manic about your flat and everything you probably think it's disgusting but really it's not—'

I stood up from the bed, picked up the tray and carried it to the kitchen. Zen, seemingly completely oblivious to the hint, followed me, never stopping the flow of word for a second. Because I could feel my patience slowly slipping away from me, I decided to do a gambit:

'Zen!' I interrupted him as he began telling me the story of some film he'd seen.

'Yes, lovely-flower?'

I winced at the sickening pet name but ignored it.

'Put some music on. Really loud,' I ordered.

'Music? Really? You want to listen to something? Okies!' he twittered happily, bouncing around and flapping his hands. 'I'll be back in a jiffy!'

He dashed away from the room. I heard him do something in the living room, but when he came back there was still no music playing. Instead, he was carrying an armful of CDs.

'Alright! Tell me what you want to listen to! You want, I dunno…My Chem? I have Black Parade, or if you prefer their old stuff, I know I lot of people do, I have Three Cheers and I Brought You My Bullets. Not into that kind of stuff? Um, you like the older stuff? I've got some Queen here, and I have Nevermind, which is, like, totally one of the best albums ever, you know? How about some Evanescence stuff? I have Open Door if you want, I also have the new one by Nightwish if you're into that kind of stuff, their new singer is actually quite good, I mean, I felt really bad when Tarja left the band but now she's got her own album out, which I also have because I love her, and Nightwish's new stuff is still good so I'm not complaining too much. Oh! I also have Meteora if you want! And Hybrid Theory! And Minutes To Midnight—loads of people take the micky out of it and stuff but I say it's a brilliant album, I mean 'and wash away…what I've DONE!' it's such a brilliant chorus and Leave Out All the Rest? Freaking genius! And talking about genius, I also have December Underground…and Puzzle…and Absolution and—'

'Just put on anything, damn it!' I yelled, banging my fist on the counter. It hurt.

'Alright, alright! I'll put on Absolution…or maybe my Gackt CD? Ah, the choices the choices,' Zen muttered as he walked out of the kitchen.

Several seconds later, music burst through the flat. Zen came back, singing happily to himself, and began drying off the things I'd just washed. The music was so loud it hurt my head, but at least Zen wasn't talking, which could only be a good thing.

When we'd finished tidying the kitchen, we moved to the living room. The walls were mostly dried, and Zen had put half the furniture back in place, so I decided to repaint the walls a proper colour another day. Together, Zen and I pushed his narrow bed back into place, closed all the curtains, removed the sheets from the furniture and the newspapers from the floor, put the book he'd stacked in piles back into the shelves, plugged in the electrical devices and tidied up the rest of the mess. Then I switched off the loud music, and ordered Zen to go get his pyjamas on and brush his teeth and go to bed.

'Yes, mommy,' he said cheerfully, and gave me a rapid hug as he sauntered past me and locked himself in the bathroom. He came out minute later, dressed in a long blue nightshirt and smelling of mint. I tried not to look at his pale legs or the way his shirt was oversized enough to fall off his left shoulder, leaving it all exposed and thin and pale in the cold air of the apartment.

'Now, get into bed. You may read a little with this lamp. You may not touch my TV or anything that works with electricity. If you listen to your iPod then be careful you don't strangle yourself with the cord of your headphones. Understood?' I demanded severely, giving him my best glare.

It was hard to glare at him for long though…his head was peeping up from above his covers, his face surrounded in fluffy soft toys, his huge earphones around his neck, his hair a phenomena multicoloured mess. There was a single smear of toothpaste left across his left cheek…

'Understood!' he confirmed brightly.

'Good. Now, I don't want to see you or hear you until tomorrow, alright?'


'Good. Well—good night.'

I turned around and began walking out of the living room but he called:


He was calling me by my actual name and not some sort of sickening pet name, so I sighed, stopped and turned around:


'Can I have a goodnight kiss?'


I turned back around.


'I said no!'

'Pretty please!'


I was already out of the living room when he called:

'Please! I promise I'll cook anything you want tomorrow!'

I stopped. I considered. I sighed. I battled with myself. I turned. I went into the living room. I paused. I thought. I argued with myself. I walked to his bed, bent over him and dropped a quick kiss on his cheek.

'Yaye! Thank you! Nighty-night Ethikins! I love you!' he squealed.

I rushed to my bedroom and locked myself in it. Unable to stop myself, I licked my lips. They tasted like mint toothpaste.


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