He loved to stand in the rain.

It was midnight, and for once it was dark. It never seemed to get dark here in the city, with so many lights below, but instead achieved a state of perpetual twilight until it was burned away by the sun. But you still couldn't see the stars, hidden by the rolling stormclouds.

There was no lightning, though--even Keiji knew better than to stand out in the middle of a lightning storm--only rain. Sheets of it, pouring down from the sky, soaking him to the skin. His T-shirt clung to his slender frame, his jeans were drenched and stuck to his legs, and his hair hung in straggly clumps and strands around his upturned face, arms raised upwards as if in supplication.

Everything seemed muted by the rain. The street was always quiet, but today it seemed even more solemn than usual, the whir of traffic distant and muffled. All around the shrubs and trees hung sodden, dripping wet, content to hunch and wait for the storm to pass. The street lamps threw feeble orange pools of light on the water-slick sidewalk as fat drops slapped against the pavement, illuminated for a dying moment in the light before becoming indistinguishable. The rain had consumed everything, and Keiji was in the middle of it, teeth chattering and gooseflesh rising on his skin, loving every minute of it.

"Kei, what're you doing out here? You're going to catch your death of cold."

The young man opened his eyes. Jesse was there, holding an umbrella and looking comfortably dry, with a thick sweater to ward against the chill. He looked more amused than anything else, but slightly puzzled as well. He didn't understand.

"I dunno. I like to stand in the rain," Keiji replied, holding out one hand as if to catch a single raindrop in his palm.

"Come on in, Kei. You've been standing out here for almost twenty minutes."

"Already?" He looked to Jesse, who was still waiting patiently with one hand in his pocket. "All right. But close that umbrella."

"What?"

"C'mon. Just close it. Getting a little wet won't hurt you."

Jesse sighed but gave in easily enough. He shucked the umbrella closed, with clear reluctance, and flinched as the first few heavy drops splattered onto his hair. He was drenched in an instant and looking a great deal like an unhappy cat in a bathtub. "There. Happy now?"

"Only if you are," Keiji said, grinning. "You get used to it."

"Yeah, whatever. Let's go. Your cocoa will get cold."

"Ooo, you made cocoa?"

"Yeah. It's freezing."

"Wuss."

Keiji was always in a better mood when it rained, Jesse noted. He held out an arm for Keiji to take and they walked back together, the umbrella hanging at Jesse's side.



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