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It is a mystery to Hiyori, how someone could be homesick for a person. She has felt the cloudy ache of separation: in her older brother’s half-truancy, in the increasingly lengthy pauses before her grandmother remembers Hiyori’s name.

Hiyori comprehends distance. But she does not really understand - not until recently - how to be sick with missing a person. How to withstand being halved.

Then Yato leaves, and Hiyori is handed a curriculum of this new, unfamiliar grief without speaking its language. She is thrust haphazardly into lesson one: how to breathe as though your heart has not been scooped clean of its meat. How to present wholeness to the world, when inside you are eggshell-hollow.

Which, coincidentally, is also the name of lessons two, and three, and all the rest.

“Are you all right, Hiyori?”

She hears this question quite often, though Hiyori thinks she’s doing a fairly good job of not washing up on the rocks. But this time it’s from her grandmother, who has the gentlest hands for braiding hair, and who has forgotten so much already.

So she just says, “No. Not really.”

“Is it that boy?”

Hiyori jerks forward, shocked. Her grandmother’s hands catch in the snarls of her hair, tugging her back by the roots.

“That pretty boy,” her grandmother muses, working her fingers patiently through knots as stubborn as silk thread. “He was here before. I remember that.”

“Yes,” Hiyori says, barely above a whisper. “You wanted to shoot him.”

Her grandmother chuckles. “Maybe I should have.”

Hiyori’s lips twitch, and for a short time the raw, throbbing void in her chest is less intense. Her grandmother works for a few more minutes, then pats Hiyori’s head when the braid is finished. She kisses her grandmother on her furrowed cheek, and goes to her room.

; ; ;

Hours after she falls asleep, the hair on the back of Hiyori’s neck lifts. The uncanny tingle of a fellow presence shivers across her skin. At the corner of her eye, something slips in through her bedroom window: a shadow only a shade more dense than the room’s natural darkness.

Hiyori springs out of bed, hand flying toward the bedside lamp. In her haste she knocks it to the floor, where it rolls off into an invisible corner.

And then she is alone, in the dark, in her nightgown, with the shape of something tall and black blotting out the moon. Hiyori’s lungs spasm; she is frozen right down to her blood.

“Hiyori…?”

Her name, spoken so softly, has the same effect as a slap. Hiyori’s ears ring. The floor rolls under her like the deck of a ship.

She sits down, but entirely misses the edge of the bed and lands hard on the floor. Shock blunts her senses, and she barely feels the pain in her tailbone.

The silhouette crouches next to her.

“Are you okay?”

Yato’s voice is worried.

She opens her mouth, wondering, even as she does, what might come out.

“You.”

His eyes are easy to see now, even in the dim light. They widen at the force behind Hiyori’s tone. He opens his mouth, but she cuts in before he can speak:

“You idiot.”

There are tears in her voice. Her throat is thick with them, sinuses clogged and burning. Because upon the dim architecture of his face, her memory overlays that gentle, joyless smile: the hauntingly patient resignation she had seen him wear when he handed Hiyori’s heart back to her and told her to take care of it.

“Hiyori,” he says, reaching for her.

“Be quiet.”

Yato sits back on his heels, empty hands outstretched. Hiyori drags her knuckles across her eyes, and takes a long, fortifying breath - which is a mistake.

The smell - almost too good. If she were half-spirit, Hiyori wouldn’t be able to think straight. As it is, it’s more than enough to break the floodgates. She sobs, deep and wet and unattractive, and Yato makes a terrible noise and moves toward her, but she pushes herself back against the side of the bed, away from him, and he stops at once. Her whole body curls in on itself: a quaking, wracked thing that has too long been denied its heartache.

He waits for her to pull herself together. With no small effort, Hiyori suppresses her moist hiccuping long enough to speak.

“You went to get yourself killed.” Her nose is dripping aggressively, and she has to take a moment to sniff.

“You can’t just...show up.”

Yato’s entire body seems to sag.

“I know.”

His voice is heavy and scraped raw. Hiyori looks at him then, and her stomach flips when she sees the shine of tears in his eyes. There are other things about him, too.

Now that she’s adjusted to the darkness, Hiyori sees the wicked stripes of new scars on his neck and hands. His face is thinner and whiter than she’s ever seen it. The shadows beneath his eyes are deep, the sick violet of an old bruise.

Hiyori meets his eyes, and the fatigue in them summons stinging tears back to her own.

“I’m really sorry,” he whispers, clearly expecting rejection.

Hiyori scoots forward on her knees. Her hands are shaking violently, the overdue panic from finding an intruder in her bedroom finally manifesting.

“Good,” she says.

Then she launches herself forward, wrapping her arms around his neck. Yato grunts as her weight hits him, and they nearly tip backwards onto the floor. His arms tighten around her, squeezing her ribs almost painfully tight.

Hiyori buries her face in his shoulder, and his scent hits her system like a drug. Her galloping pulse slows. Her eyes flutter shut.

Yato gives a shuddering exhale against her neck, sending delicious shivers down Hiyori’s arms and spine. He nuzzles his face closer into her, his nose pressed against her jaw, eyelashes skimming her cheek.

Before Hiyori lets herself think, she lifts her head from his shoulder, craning her neck so her lips meet his temple. She gets a nose full of hair, but the noise Yato makes - half-whine, half-sob - triggers a rush of adoration that is almost frightening in its intensity.

Hiyori is home now, arms full of her fragile, wandering god, to whom she whispers:

“Please - don’t ever, ever do that again.”

Chapter Text

(n.) a pleasant smell that frequently accompanies the first rain after a long period of warm, dry weather.


 

“Oh, no.”

Hiyori stopped in her tracks, her eyes fixed on the horizon. The clouds were still little more than a morose shadow in the distance, but they were rushing fast toward her, and her walk home wasn’t exactly short.

Several minutes later, the sky was gray and spitting rain as Hiyori jogged miserably down the street. The wind was picking up too, raking cold fingers through her hair and whipping it into her eyes. She pulled her scarf up snugly over her ears and chin and soldiered forward, leaning into the gale. She took a small amount of comfort in the knowledge that even if she had remembered her umbrella, by now it would certainly be inside-out.

With the scarf covering her ears, Hiyori didn’t hear the wet slap of approaching footsteps until something grabbed her elbow. She shouted, the sound muffled within the scarf, and spun on a heel to face her attacker.

“Whoa! It’s me!”

Yato let go of her at once, nimbly avoiding the uppercut aimed straight at his chin. He took a step back, both hands raised innocently. One of them was holding an umbrella.

Hiyori slowly lowered her fists, heart pounding in her throat.

“I almost punched you!” She glared at him over her scarf, struggling to suppress a wave of guilty annoyance.

Yato grinned crookedly.

“No, you didn’t.”

Hiyori bit the inside of her lip, holding his gaze. Yato’s grin melted, and he cleared his throat.

“Kofuku mentioned rain, and then I remembered you had to walk home, so I…”

He gestured vaguely at the umbrella. The rain was still falling in sheets, but he had made no move to open it.

Hiyori’s lips twitched, and she almost laughed aloud—because of course Yato had followed her with an umbrella without even thinking to use it himself.

“Thank you,” she said, and smiled.

Yato stared at her, looking a bit lost.

“Yeah,” he said, quietly. The umbrella stayed in his hand, unopened.

Then his eyes flicked to her feet and widened.

“Oh,” he said. “You dropped something.”

: : :

Yato worked on propping her empty, snoring body up against the driest wall they could find. Hiyori paced nervously, her tail lashing like an offended housecat.

“Why now?” she groaned to herself.

As Yato finished resting her body against the wall, he folded her hands gently in her lap. She looked more like a collectible doll than an empty human shell.

Hiyori—justifiably preoccupied with the nastiness of having dropped her body into quite a lot of dirty rainwater—did not notice the way Yato arranged her limbs: reverently, like a collector handling a priceless artifact. She didn’t see when he smoothed the wet hair from her forehead, his fingers sweeping the quiet curve of her brow.

She didn’t see his face, or any of the things that passed across it: the adoration, or the yearning, or the sorrow.

“I really don’t mind carrying you back to Kofuku’s place,” he said.

Hiyori paused in her pacing, her cord still switching back and forth nervously.

“No,” she said, rubbing her temples. “No, it’s fine. I just need a minute to…to relax, and wake up again.”

Yato straightened, fruitlessly brushing his muddy knees. He shook the water off the umbrella and popped it open.

“It was me, wasn’t it?” he asked.

Hiyori froze. Her heart leapt between her teeth.

“What?”

Yato moved closer to her, only near enough to hold the open umbrella over her. His eyes drifted away from hers, landing somewhere past her left shoulder. His hair was plastered down against his face, and drops of rain clung to his long lashes. Hiyori was seized with a wild, horrifying urge to giggle as she thought half the girls at school would commit unspeakable crimes for those eyelashes.

“I sneaked up on you,” he explained, oblivious to her staring. “And the surprise made you drop out of your body. I’m sorry.”

Hiyori smelled the electricity of the storm. She sensed the raw, mighty weight of it bearing down on her.

“It’s fine!” she said quickly. “It was probably just a coincidence.”

It wasn’t.

“I don’t mind!”

She did.

“You can go back, if you want to.”

Hiyori swallowed. Her tongue felt hot and sticky.

“Thank you for the umbrella, Yato. I’m sure I’ll be back in my body in no time.”

Please, don’t. Don’t go.

Yato looked at her, then at the umbrella, which he was still holding. Hiyori told herself to take it from him, but her arms stayed firmly locked at her sides.

“I don’t feel great about leaving you like…this,” he said, nodding at the limp body propped against the wall. Hiyori winced as a strand of saliva dribbled from the corner of her sleeping mouth. He made a fair point.

But Yato did not know that she would much rather be stranded here alone—guarding her fragile body with her still more fragile soul—than drop her guard with him so near, and so ignorant of her feelings. It was even worse than she had anticipated to be around him like this: especially outside her body, stripped bare of the denials and distractions that shielded her from the truth.

Now, Yato was too close, and Hiyori’s soul alone could not lie well enough to protect her.

“Do you want me to leave?” he asked, misreading the panic in her face.

Did she?

Hiyori’s lips trembled. She heard Tenjin’s measured voice: small, but insistent at the back of her mind.

Yes. Send him away. Distance yourself. It will only get more difficult from here, so pull yourself out of the riptide, Hiyori. Remember how human you are, and how much you can hurt him.

Above all, remember that you will die. Remember that he will not.

Yato saw her hesitation, and something behind his eyes went flat.

“I’ll go back,” he said, a sad smile tugging at the corner of his mouth. “Will you let me know when you get home?”

He reached for her hand to give her the umbrella, and Hiyori at last shook off her stupor. Yato yelped as she slapped his hand away. He shot her a hurt look.

“Ow!? Hiyori! Why did you…?”

The words in his throat dried up. Hiyori’s eyes were bright and feverish, the color in her cheeks high.

“Don’t go,” she said, her voice much lower than either of them expected.

Yato’s eyes widened as she took a step toward him. He felt her warmth, the thrumming restlessness of her unfettered soul, and he could not move.

“Don’t go,” she repeated, louder.

Yato licked his lips, which were suddenly very dry, and for a split second Hiyori’s eyes flickered to his mouth. Blood was roaring in his ears.

“Okay.”

For a moment, the air around Hiyori seemed to ripple with intention. And then she was in his arms, kissing him, her lips eager and inexpert and so, so soft. The umbrella hit the ground with a soft clatter, and rolled away into the street.

Yato cradled her face in his hands, his fingers burning where they touched her skin. He tasted rainwater on her mouth, and warm salt. He pulled back, barely enough to put space between their lips.

“Hiyori?” he breathed.

She clung to his shoulders, and with a tiny sob closed the gap to kiss him again. She was crying, although she couldn’t quite understand why, much less stop. She was overfull with…something. Surprise, certainly, at herself for kissing him. Or frustration, because her heart was beating itself to death, and and because every second aged her, and because it had taken her so long—so long—to do this, and now she had to kiss him hard enough to make up for all that lost time.

But it was also possible that she cried simply because Yato was so good, and so gentle, even though he held her very tight. Almost to the point of discomfort, though she wished it were tighter still.

The soft whine that broke from Yato’s throat when she pulled away echoed through her like a gunshot. His eyes stayed shut, those impossible lashes resting against his cheeks.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered.

His eyes slowly fluttered open, pupils blown wide, surrounded by a thin, icy ring of blue. Hiyori saw her own face mirrored perfectly in them.

“Why?” he asked.

“I—”

Hiyori stopped herself, blinking. Was she sorry about kissing him?

No.

“I…don’t know,” she admitted, giggling.

“Then don’t apologize,” Yato said.

And then he laughed, and kissed her again. She was still crying, but it was impossible to tell the tears from the rain. And in a few minutes, the storm would break.

Chapter Text

Although Takamagahara was not cold, Kazuma shivered. The bite of Yato’s growing impatience and the chaotic adrenaline of their quest had sent his thoughts scattering like bits of loose paper. He hadn’t even meant to come back here.

But here he was.

She lay exactly where he had left her, wrapped in what he profoundly hoped was a deep, healing slumber. He did not want to think she might be dreaming. He did not want to think what those dreams might look like.

Kazuma sank down next to the bed. When he reached for her wrist, his hands were trembling so badly that he pulled back, not daring to touch her. For several long moments he looked down at his shaking hands. He felt something wet drip down his face, and for a wild second was convinced the roof was leaking.

“Kazuma?”

His heart stammered.

Viina was looking at him. Her face was pale, the shadows of that long, dark sleep lurking in the creases of her eyes. But they were her eyes.

Viina’s eyes were open, and they were full of confused tenderness as she watched him.

Kazuma opened his mouth, but his voice was obstructed. Something heavy and wet had crawled from the pit of his stomach into his throat, and lodged itself there like a burrowing animal.

Viina’s mouth tilted downward as he struggled for words.

“Are you crying?”

She reached for him, cupping his face with a soft palm. Her hand was so cool, so gentle against his hot face. Like silk, Kazuma thought absurdly.

And then he realized he was crying. Sobbing, actually, like a wounded child.

Viina pulled his head in to her shoulder, her long, loose hair curtaining them both off from the world.

“I can feel what you’re doing, Kazuma,” she said. “Don’t.”

Her voice was soft, and she sounded so young and so fragile, that Kazuma felt something in his chest tear open. Her arms tightened around him.

“Please, don’t.”

So Kazuma breathed deep and held her, and she smelled just as she always had. She smelled like mountains: wind and steel and crisp salt. She smelled like a god.

He would die with that scent in his lungs.

Kazuma thought that might be fine.