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Thoma has been... going missing all the time.  

 

Although Ayato can immediately sense Sayu’s whereabouts, Ayato can’t seem to find Thoma anywhere these past weeks. And Ayato’s sure it’s not because of his duties.  

It’s more like... Thoma is deliberately hiding from him.  

There might be two reasons as for why he’s doing this:  

  1. Thoma regrets kissing Ayato when he was drunk, therefore, he remembered everything they did last night including his confession, and is now fearing Ayato’s rejection. 
  2. Thoma regrets kissing Ayato since he mistook him for someone, and now hates him.  

 

Ayato was so sure that it was the first reason but the second one is not far too off. He purses his lips. No matter the reason, it still hurts that Thoma wasn’t facing him after what happened...  

 

Ayato glances at Thoma from across the table, cup in hand, dead drunk and sleeping on the floor.  

He might’ve taken this thing too far; the whole drinking challenge was just to tease Thoma a bit. Now, he’s not enjoying this at all. He wasn’t even swayed by the alcohol despite drinking the same amount as Thoma’s.  

“Thoma.” Ayato moves from his seat to check on Thoma. He tries to reach out but Thoma recoils and sits up groggily. His lidded eyes, green and dazed, lock with Ayato’s.  "... Hey." 

Without a word, Thoma crawls on the floor.   

“... Thoma? Can you hear me?”   

No words. Thoma kept crawling and Ayato has to keep himself away to prevent Thoma from leaning up close. It’s too dangerous. Ayato pushes himself while Thoma keeps closing in, until Ayato feels the wall on his back. Having no choice, Ayato takes Thoma by the shoulders. “Thoma!”   

“...sama.” Thoma mumbles, and he takes Ayato’s hands from his shoulders.   

Then, he... leans in.   

Time stops. Reality shifts.  

Lips press against Ayato’s.   

“I... love you.”   

A beat later, Thoma collapses on Ayato’s chest.   

Ayato stays between the wall and the warm body gracing his own. His fingers find their way on his lips, confusion rattles his brain.  “What... the hell just happened?”  

 

 

The morning after, Ayato is alone, and the days following that incident become Thoma-less.  

Even now where he had to deliver letters to Lady Yae to the Grand Narukami Shrine and Ayato was about to greet Thoma by the doors, the letters were already gone along with Thoma. When Ayaka was asked, she just bowed with an apologetic face. It’s unusual for Thoma to go there so quickly... knowing his fear of Lady Yae. So, that just reaffirms Ayato’s reached conclusion that Thoma was indeed hiding from him. 

Still, if he were Thoma... If he were to be the one hiding, where should he go?  

Ayato has thought about it all day, and if his hunch is correct, he’ll be seeing Thoma in no time. He starts to head his way. Be prepared, Thoma. I’m coming for you.   

 

❒❒❒

 

Petals sway; they gather on the ground as Ayato reaches his destination.  

It might not be the first choice of anyone if what they’re looking for is a place where Thoma can hide, but if you’re going to hide, you hide where anyone doesn't expect you to be there.  

The Grand Narukami Shrine is beautiful.  

Ayato looks around. Yae must be here somewhere.  

“My, my, an unexpected visitor.” A lilting voice makes Ayato turn around, and he sees Yae, standing with her crossed arms. “Kamisato Ayato.”  

“Lady Yae, good day,” Ayato greets. “Have you received the letters?” 

“I did.” Yae nods. “Is that what you came for?”  

“No,” Ayato says. “I am after the delivery boy.”  

“Oh, dear. I believe he has gone out already after giving the letters. He squirmed when he saw me, you know.” Yae chuckles. “Such a silly boy. He must’ve been scared of me.”  

Ayato smiles. “Please return him to me.”  

Yae sighs. “I already told you that he left.”  

“I am not one for violence.” Ayato grips at his sword. “But if you keep him here for any longer, I am  not  afraid of exercising my power.” Ayato might’ve made it sound like a no big deal, however, if his patience is pushed any further, even at the face of this shrine, he’ll do anything to make Thoma come out. Though, no actions are needed. Words are enough to make his name pierce through the air.  

“Ayato-sama! P-Please stop it!”  

Lo and behold, Thoma reveals himself from behind the sakura tree. The threat worked. Because Thoma knew that Ayato was a man of his words.  

Yae covers her mouth. “Dear... I thought you were going to conceal yourself until dawn?”  

“I... I changed my mind.” Thoma rushes towards Yae and bows. “... I apologize for bothering you and please don’t heed his words any attention. He won’t do anything.”  

Lies.  Ayato sighs. “You’ve been there the whole time?”  

“I’m sorry...”  

Yae smirks as she looks directly at Ayato. “Don’t worry, boy. I know his intentions.” She pats Thoma’s head. Thoma flinches. Ayato furrows his brows. “If this would help alleviate your fear of me, I had to offer my help. You’re quite adorable.” 

“T-Thank you...” Thoma bows and laughs shyly.  

Ayato clears his throat, loud, to catch the attention of Thoma once again. “Thoma, we need to talk.”  

Thoma’s eyes droop. Like he didn’t really want to talk to Ayato. “Alright...” 

It hurts.  

“Lady Yae, if you’ll excuse us.”  Ayato grabs Thoma’s hand, pulling him away from Yae. “Let’s go, Thoma.”  

“You’re dismissed.” Yae waves at them goodbye.  

 

❒❒❒

 

“A-Ayato-sama, wait!” Thoma yells as Ayato drags him along. Ayato’s not the type to get irritated so easily but the fact that Thoma is scared of Yae and Ayato yet Thoma goes to her...  

“Ayato-sama!”  

Ayato pulls Thoma to a nearby tree and pushes him to the bark. With two hands caging both Thoma’s sides, he can’t possibly get away now. “Why...” Ayato glares at Thoma’s scared eyes. “Why were you hiding from me?”  

“I’m... not.” Thoma looks away. “Anyway, you didn’t apologize to Yae-sama—”  

“Thoma.”   

Thoma freezes.  

“Did you hate it that much?” Ayato takes Thoma by his shoulders, his head dropping to the ground. He can’t see Thoma’s face. “Did you... hate kissing me that much? Or did you mistake me for someone else? Were those words last night lies or for someone else?" 

Silence hangs in the air.  

“Say something... Thoma.”  

“No...” Thoma mumbles. “I didn’t hate it, Ayato-sama nor did I... mistook you for somebody else.”  

“Then,  why?”   

“I—” Thoma fumbles. “I was... I didn’t know how to face you.” His voice shrinks. “After that, I didn’t know what I should tell you. I didn’t know if I—”  

Ayato looks up at Thoma again, and his eyes widen when he sees tears streaming down Thoma’s cheeks. Ayato reaches for Thoma’s cheeks, his thumb wiping them. Thoma closes his eyes, taking Ayato’s hands.  

“I didn’t know if I did the right thing...” Thoma eventually says. “I don’t even know if I am worthy of loving you, waka.” 

“Don’t say that,” Ayato says. “I am fortunate enough to have you in my life, Thoma.” He pulls his and Thoma’s intertwined hands to press a kiss on Thoma’s knuckles. “I’ll be even more fortunate if someone like you falls in love with me.”  

Thoma looks like he wants to say something, but he doesn’t say anything.  

“I love you,” Ayato breathes out. “If you fear my rejection, your ears will never hear them. You are enough for me.” He goes closer, eyeing Thoma’s slightly parted lips. “May I?”  

Thoma nods. Ayato doesn’t hesitate. 

They kiss under the tree, for no longer than seconds but enough for Ayato’s words to come across.  

And they part, only for Ayato’s forehead to touch Thoma’s. He grips Thoma’s hands. “I missed you. Will you stop running away from me?” 

“Sorry... waka.” Thoma sniffles. 

"Will you stop running away now?" 

Thoma nods. "I will." 

"Do you love me, Thoma?" 

Thoma grows red. Like a tomato. "... I do." 

Ayato laughs, pressing another tender kiss on Thoma’s forehead. “I love you too.”