She breathed in, and out, chi-laden air flowing from her lungs to his, a grounding hand on his forehead. Jyuushirou reached out to the shimmering-hot basin of water and pulled. The water flickered in the oil lamp’s light, steam wafting off its surface.
Shunsui exhaled slowly, face relaxing as the water washed over his skin, summer-warm. She’d feared the worst when she’d pulled him from the water, not breathing, so cold. His lungs were still damaged from the water, and it was taking all of her strength to keep herself from slumping over in exhaustion.
But he was her betrothed, and she could not properly rest with him injured. Air stirred as Rangiku shifted forward, placed a hand on her shoulder.
“There’s no shame in taking a breather.” Nanao opened her mouth to reply. She had to keep healing him, she had to.
“I’m—” But her voice cracked, and she felt tears prickle at the corner of her eyes. She swiped them away; angry, yes, but so bone-tired. She couldn’t look anywhere else but Shunsui’s chest, and the marks the plague kamuiy had left some twenty years ago. Her sight blurred as Jyuushirou bent the water back into the pot, reaching across his blood-brother’s body to brush tears from her cheek.
“I’m not strong enough.” It hurt to say, but it was the truth. There was an intake of breath behind her, and Rangiku pulled her close. She wishes Auntie Hinata was here, with her sturdy hands, her strong arms. But there was just her, and she let the tears fall.
She wept like she hadn’t done for years, aching for the songs of her kin to soothe the pain away. But she had a family here, and they loved her, brighter than the sun at noon. Jyuushirou moved, fitting around her as a shield from the storm, pressing kisses to her shoulder, to her hair.
The first step to healing was admitting that something was wrong. She didn’t have to pretend that everything was okay all the time. All she had to do was remember that there were people who cared, people who didn’t want to see her hurt.
A hand, broad and calloused and warm, squeezed her knee. He was alive. He was hurt, yes, but he was alive. No further spirits would be worming their way into the apartment tonight, not with spirit mazes from four nations and salt lining every opening. She let herself relax into Rangiku’s hold. She was safe, and he was safe, and it was okay to be tired and unable to keep healing Shunsui tonight.
The haima-jiao was dead. A hatchling had driven it off with fire-in-water, and a force of will so bright it could rival the sun itself. If the boy was not of a great name’s blood, she’d eat her betrothal necklace.
“Cheater,” she murmured, realising that Jyuushirou was stroking her side with water, coaxing her into sleep. But she let him shift her so she was sprawled out beside Shunsui, violet eyes meeting… gold? But his eyes had been green… Vaguely puzzled, Nanao let Jyuushirou nudge her into slumber, warm beside Shunsui. Safe, for another night. Dawn could wait.