Haruka hovered in the doorway connecting her bedroom to the storage room that currently served as his hiding place. Her yellow nightdress clung closely to her in the night's chill, and the faint light made her seem like a ghost.
"What is it?" he asked roughly. "You can't sleep?"
She frowned. "No, it's not that. I just wondered... you sleep in here each night, but there's no bed. It's not very comfortable, is it?"
"Don't worry about me. I'm fine here." He settled back into his slump under the window, as if to prove his point.
She shook her head. "Do you want to switch for tonight? I'll stay in here, and you can sleep in my bed."
"I cannot fit in your bed. As I said, I'm fine here."
She seemed at a loss, clearly wanting to address the inequality. Karasu nodded toward her bedroom. "Go back to sleep."
"No," she said, and to his surprise she stepped into the room and shut the door behind her. "If you can't be comfortable, then neither will I."
"Haruka, don't concern yourself. This room is sufficient enough for me. There's no need for you to stay in here, too."
"It's fine," she said, and gave him a bright smile. "This way, I can keep you company, and I won't feel guilty, right?"
She looked so earnest he couldn't bring himself to scold her again. Instead, he nodded curtly.
She padded over to him, her bare feet making hardly any sound on the hardwood floor. She stood beside him and slowly slid down, sitting next to him. "Right," she said, wriggling her back against the wall, trying to find a comfortable position. "Good night."
"Hmph." He watched as she kept fidgeting. She wrapped her arms around herself and huddled down, trying to stay warm. A moment later Karasu shrugged his black cloak off and draped it over her.
"Thank you," she said and pulled it around herself. "But won't you be cold without it?"
"I'll be fine," he said tersely and rested his head back against the wall. He felt her move closer. She leaned against him, pressing her thin frame into his.
Karasu gazed down at her. She seemed so slight next to him, almost lost in the folds of his cloak. For a moment he allowed himself to feel peaceful, nostalgic, content that here, in this place, she still existed.
Here, she was alive.
They rested against the wall, losing track of time as the night passed on. Karasu closed his eyes, enjoying the feel of this Haruka next to him. Only the crickets chirping and the rhythmic sound of their breathing broke the comfortable silence. Karasu found himself drifting into his memories, thinking of the happier days before she–
"Yuu." She leaned around the trunk of the old tree to peer at him on the other side. He turned around to meet her and his breath hitched – she looked so beautiful. The setting sun shone gently on her hair and her eyes were rich and intense.
"Y-Yes?" he stammered.
"I haven't given you your present yet," she said, "and it's almost evening."
"You don't have to give me anything," he said. "Just being here with all my friends is enough. It's already been my best birthday."
"But they've given you their presents, and now it's just you and me and I haven't given you anything yet. You're going back to Tokyo tonight..." Her voice drifted off, as though she were lost in thought.
He wondered what she was thinking about.
She broke out of her reverie and smiled at him. "Sixteen is a special year, right? I want to give you something special – something that will make you remember this day." She glanced down slightly, looking embarrassed.
"It's ok," he said. "I'm happy to be with you here, like this," he said quietly, feeling his face flush. He turned back and leaned against the tree trunk again, hoping she hadn't noticed how red he'd become. He squeezed his eyes shut, willing his thundering heartbeat to calm down.
"Yuu," he heard her say again, and he felt her fingers twine with his. His eyes shot open, and there she was in front of him, so close, looking at him intently. He hadn't even heard her move. He tried to back away, surprised, but the tree trunk prevented him from moving. He looked into her violet eyes, suddenly nervous.
She smiled and slowly moved even nearer, so close that he could feel her breath on his lips. He held his breath. The moment seemed to last for an eternity.
"Happy birthday, Yuu," she said softly, and she closed her eyes and brushed her lips against his...
Karasu woke with a start, jerking forward. The moonlight was shining through the window, bathing the room in a silvery glow. He was in Haruka's house, not against the tree in the front yard. Haruka was still sleeping next to him; his movement hadn't woken her. Several heartbeats later he sat back again and sighed, wondering why his memory chose to torture him tonight. Being next to Haruka like this brought back old feelings, ones he wasn't sure he could handle just yet. After all, she wasn't far off from that memory – just a couple more years and she'd be giving this time's Yuu his first kiss, too.
Would the moment be seared into this Yuu's memory, as it was for him?
Would this Yuu forever remember the gentle press of her lips, how soft her cheek felt? How his stomach dropped and his head soared, the kiss growing more passionate as they tasted each other for the first time?
Slowly, without quite realizing what he was doing, Karasu wrapped his arm around Haruka, gently pulling her closer.
His head dropped forward, pressed his temple against hers, and he was lost in her scent. She smelled like wildflowers, and grass, and warm sunshine. It was intoxicating – it was just as he remembered. He shook slightly, emotion welling up within him. "Haruka..."
She stirred, and he hurridly fought his feelings, brought them back under his command. He peered at her and watched disheartedly as she slowly blinked her eyes open.
"Karasu?" she said blearily and raised a hand to rub her lids.
"Hmm?" he answered, carefully hiding behind his accustomed stoic mask.
"Karasu," she said again, tilting her head to the side as she looked up at him. He hoped she couldn't see too much in his eyes.
She looked down, and noticed his arm around her. She didn't say anything, and neither did he, nor did he move it away; they lapsed into an awkward silence. Karasu closed his eyes again, hoping that Haruka would follow his example and drift off to sleep again instead of questioning him. He had almost convinced himself that he had put his arm around her to keep her safe, to protect her, and that it had nothing to do with his memory or with wanting to be closer to her. He thought she had gone back to sleep when she spoke again, timidly.
"Karasu... There was another me, right?"
He looked up at the ceiling, wondering if not only his memory but fate itself had sided against him tonight.
He stared at the gray panels, not daring to meet her eyes.
"What happened to her?"
With steely control, voice hard as ice, he said, "You are here. That is all that matters."
He knew she was gazing intently at him, but he still didn't look down.
And then he felt her trace her hand down the arm he had around her, so lightly he might have imagined it. She put her hand inside his, lacing her fingers with his own, and she grasped it tightly.
"Karasu..." she said softly, and leaned against him again. He finally looked down, only to see that she had nestled herself in the crook of his arm, her face hidden.
He squeezed her hand slightly, and knew that he would sleep no more that night.