“Are you sure about this?”

“Of course I am. It’s you who’s acting like it’s the end of the world.”

There’s newspaper spread out carefully on the floor. There are only inside pages showing, so thankfully it’s more regional news than international politics. The alternative would probably have made for some unpleasant juxtapositions.

“I’m only thinking about how long it must have taken you to grow it in the first place – “

“Oh, I was getting tired of it anyway. My only worry is that without the length to weigh it down, it’ll go back to how it used to be when I was little. Which, before you ask, mostly resembled a dandelion clock.”

“How terribly endearing.”

The winter sunshine is half-hearted where it makes it through the window. It can only muster a faint glint that doesn’t look in the slightest bit malevolent off the pair of blunt-pointed scissors laid out on the table.

“Laugh while you can. You’ll be the one who has to be seen in the street with me and my new permanent wave.”

“There are other ways of significantly changing your appearance you know.”

“Yes, but cosmetic surgery is such a pricy option, isn’t it?”

“You could always have dyed it.”

“That wouldn’t really have helped with the question of semi-regulation haircuts though, would it? And I don’t think I’d make a very convincing brunette anyway. I’d have to dye my eyebrows, for one. And what with communal showers, well – “

“I think you should probably derail that train of thought.”

The white-gold mass hangs sleek and heavy down over the back of the chair. Treize can’t quite stop his fingers from ghosting over its surface, smoothing out even the faintest hint of tangles.

“Not to mention how peculiar it would look when my roots started growing through. There are plenty of brunettes who dye their hair platinum blond, after all, but I don’t think it’s nearly so common the other way round.”

“All right, all right…”

“And you’ve said yourself that it’s my most obvious distinguishing feature. Personally, I think you’re just upset because you won’t get to play with it any more.”

“I’m not making any secret of that.”

“You could always tie the cuttings into a pony-tail and keep it in a drawer somewhere for special occasions.”

“That seems a little morbid even for my usual standards.”

“Or – no, here’s an idea. You could take the cuttings along to a wig-maker, and you could get a wig made up of them! That way you could get all the enjoyment of my long hair without actually having to have me present.”

“You are a sarcastic brat when you put your mind to it.”

Milliard, Treize notices, hasn’t touched his hair at all, not even to push it behind his ears in the old nervous gesture. He picks up the scissors.

“Are you absolutely certain - ?”

“Please, just – get on with it.”

It doesn’t need to be the neatest or most professional job in the world. Just neat enough that Milliard can go to a barber’s without his ‘most obvious distinguishing feature’ drawing the slightest possible attention to his identity.

There are long, long strands falling ticklishly over Treize’s hands, collecting in white-blond drifts on the newsprint.

Hair always makes a peculiarly final noise when it’s being cut by a really sharp pair of scissors.

“Will that do?”

Milliard puts his hands up to his head. He pushes his fingers briefly through his newly cropped hair, fingers pausing for a second at the nape of his neck, where the strands are short and downy and the skin is vulnerably pale.

“Is it all right?”

Milliard nods without turning round. “It’s fine.”