Haruka sat at her desk, blinking sleepily at the comic in front of her. By the time she turned the page she'd already forgotten what happened on the previous one, but it didn't seem right to just go to bed when Karasu was out there in the dark, fighting his friends to keep her safe. She reached down to scritch Baron behind the ears and glanced out the window. It wasn't exactly comforting to know that at any time the trees and traffic might freeze and go silent, making way for the alien sounds of some far-off battle she had no way of reaching in time to do anything that might help. She fingered the mark that ringed her neck, the one she could only just see in the bathroom mirror when she pulled her hair back and squinted.
Sighing, Haruka let the book fall shut and got up to check on the storage room, just in case Karasu had gotten back without her realizing. The streetlights silhouetted the lamp and the boxes and glinted in the big bottle of water she'd brought up for him; she didn't need the overhead light to see that no cloaked figure sat slumped underneath the window. Her stomach twinging in disappointment, she closed the door, dropped back into her chair, and flipped through her desk drawer for the magazine about paranormal happenings that Miho had made her borrow, hoping that would be weird enough to keep her awake.
The air crackled, and Baron's head jerked up as Karasu rematerialized in a swirl of black cloak and blue snow, swaying on his feet. Haruka was up and at his side even before she realized that the sparks weren't just swirling around him but coming from him. "No—oh, no!" she cried, clapping a hand over her mouth.
"I'm fine," he said, schooling his expression into something gentler, only for her. He staggered backward as she reached for him, and his hand rose to grip shut the wound in his side, but that still left the terrifying gash in his neck that spilled blue fire like sparklers at a hanabi festival. Even though the sparks melted away like real snow when they touched her skin, she couldn't feel them, which just seemed wrong, somehow.
"You are not fine." Haruka steered him back toward her bed, where his legs gave way. One hand rose to his neck, a wheel of light gathering in his palm, and she watched in awe as the liquid light he was bleeding slowed and reversed direction, flowing inward to fill in the gap in his flesh. She stepped backward uncertainly, and fear flashed through her as she realized she had no idea what to do except stay out of his way.
Water. It was the one thing Karasu ever let her bring him, and he always seemed to need some after he'd been gone. Tearing her eyes away, Haruka ran for the storage room door.
When she got back with the water, he'd already closed up the wound in his neck, thank goodness, and was working on his side. The breath that shuddered out of him as the light died and his hand came away wrenched something inside her chest. It did look like he'd healed himself, so why was he still shedding sparks? Baron sidled up to him, panting, and as Karasu stroked the furry white head that nosed its way into his lap, Haruka realized the glimmering motes of light were falling like stars through the messy strands of his long silver hair.
"I think you're still hurt." She set the water down on the floor and reached out to touch his hair, and he jerked upright, his eyes wide and startled as they met hers—but the motion let him see the sparks dissolving in the palm of her hand. Murmuring thanks, he probed through his hair for the hidden wound and summoned more light while Haruka settled down on the rug and poured a glass of water for when he was done. Worried as she was, it was fascinating to watch. Finally he slumped forward, his elbows propped on his knees, and Haruka handed the glass up to him. He didn't take it.
"Karasu?" Baron pushed at the hand that had stopped petting him, and Haruka leaned forward to get a better look at his face past all that hair. His expression was closed and still. Her heart thudding dully, she leapt up, spilling half the water down herself, and shook him by the shoulder. "Karasu, are you okay?" Still no answer, but to her relief his chest was rising and falling, at least. She looked down at the water in her hand. Trying to get it into him while he was passed out probably wasn't a good idea. It made her feel crumpled and small inside, not to be able to anything at all for him when she didn't even know if he was okay.
Taking him by the shoulders, Haruka eased him back onto the bed so he lay curled like a shrimp on his side. She didn't quite dare try to slide the pillow under his head. Even though he was a lot bigger than Yuu, Karasu was weirdly easier to move around—of course, he also wasn't fighting her the way Yuu always did when she tried to get him to go somewhere with her. She doubted she could get the covers out from under him without disturbing him, but hopefully with his cloak he'd be warm enough. He hardly ever used the blanket she'd brought him. It was summer, after all.
After a heart-fluttering moment of indecision, Haruka slid in next to him on the thin strip of bed that wasn't occupied, so she could keep an eye on him until he woke up. She leaned in closer, peering into his face. The lines around his eyes were more relaxed now, less fierce than when he was awake. Even though he was Yuu, they didn't look much alike, but when she tilted her head she could see the resemblance—the bridge of his nose, the stubborn set of his mouth. On impulse, she pushed back his hair and kissed him lightly on the forehead. He might say he was an illusion, but he certainly felt real.
A yawn overtook her, and she shifted onto her side, laying her head down next to his. Just for a second, to rest her eyes.
She woke to Karasu's arms wrapped tight around her, almost too tight, with one hand knotted in the back of her nightshirt. Even as heat flushed her face and pooled in her stomach, her mind leapt at explanations for what was wrong. Was he still hurt? Did he have a bad dream? The odd pattern of his breathing knocked the wind out of her with the realization that he was crying.
For a second it was as horrible as if Miss Yukie had broken down in front of the class. After a frozen moment, the arm Haruka wasn't lying on uncurled from between them to give him an awkward half-hug. "What's wrong, Karasu?"
"You were dead," he rasped into her hair. "You were dead under glass."
Haruka's head and heart and stomach were suddenly full of the moment when the water closed over her head in La'Cryma. It was the one thing since all of this had started that she tried very hard not to think about. She burrowed closer, glad of his arms around her, and shook her head against him. "No, that's not what happened. You saved me, remember?"
Abruptly, Karasu pushed back from her. Propped on his arms, he stared down at her with wild eyes. It wasn't until he shook his head and looked again that Haruka realized that there was a difference between looking and seeing. His face collapsing, he untangled himself from her and flung himself back off the bed. He tripped over the dog, making Baron snort in his sleep, but caught himself quickly.
"No, don't go!" she cried, but his cloak whirled around him and contracted into nothingness even as she grabbed for the hem. To her relief, she heard the crackle and thump as he landed next door in the storage room. She levered up from the bed, and after turning this way and that in a fit of indecision, she grabbed the bottle of water and flung open the door.
He had fallen to one knee in the middle of the floor, panting. When he looked up at her through his hair, his expression reminded Haruka of when she'd found him that first time in the warehouse. Pain was naked in his face, pain that didn't have anything to do with having been wounded. Fear was there, too—fear of her—and that was something that had never made any sense.
Seeming to realize she wasn't going to leave, Karasu folded down into a sitting position. Haruka sat down crosslegged beside him, a few feet away so she didn't make him more nervous than he already was. Now that her heartbeat was slowing, the exhilaration of the moment draining away, silence hung heavy in the room. She still didn't really understand what had just happened, but more than anything she wished she could make him stop hurting.
"I'm sorry I startled you," she said finally. "I didn't want to leave you alone."
"It's all right," he said. A moment passed before he went on. "I'm the one who should apologize."
"But why?" She chanced a sidelong look at his downcast profile.
"I shouldn't have—it wasn't appropriate." His voice was low, rough.
Haruka blew out a frustrated breath. If he wanted to look at it that way, it wasn't exactly appropriate for him to be staying here in the storage room, either.
"I didn't mind," she said truthfully. When his lips compressed, she asked, "But what about you?"
"You don't need to worry about me, Haruka." A shiver went down her spine at the way he said her name.
"Somebody has to." She leaned forward and smiled. "I have water, if you want some."
"Not right now, thanks."
Her heart sank. "Okay." There was no reason she couldn't just leave the bottle with him and go back to bed, but she hated the thought of leaving in him in here, alone in the dark. "If you don't want water, can I at least hold your hand?"
Karasu shot her a startled glance, but at her hopeful look the hard lines of his face softened.
She scooted closer, and his cold fingers slipped between hers.