A\N: one out of two fics in this style, trying to get used to it. (the other is a thorki.) uh i don't know if i'll be able to finish the other fics that i started because i'm working on a novel yeah. anyways this is a toshin spn!au. you don't need to watch supernatural (the live-action one, because idk about the animation,) to read this. uh m oh! the lore is mostly from spn as opposed to shiki, because shiki are really the only supernatural creatures in that anime… and toshio doesn't drive an impala, because i didn't really think it fitted into his character. + written to the wondersmith and his sons by astronautalis.

i.

Your hand is intertwined in your wife's hand. And oh god yes, she's kissing you and you know you want this. This little romantic moment or whatever it is. You had a hard day at work. Lots of patients, no breaks. You kiss her back and fuck yes, you want this so bad. Your eyes are closed, but you can hear a sound. It's loud, and you want to tell your neighbors to quit it. But then you realize that it's not your neighbors.

Someone is breaking down your door. Your eyes snap open, and a rugged looking guy is staring back down at you. You grab the knife you left on the table. The fancy cheese knife that is so disused that it's starting to dust. But he's fast. You don't even see him move. He's over your wife now, and that crazy son-of-a-bitch looks like he's about to kill her. With his bare hands.

Yeah. As if. You snort, and swing that knife, you give it a good hard swing and plant it in his jugular. And you watch blood spurt out of his neck. But you don't feel him crumple beneath you, and you think that that's not right. That really isn't right. The sucker should've been dead by now. But he's just laughing at you.

And you feel his hands around your neck, and the last thing you remember thinking is that you can't breathe.

ii.

And where the hell are you? The lights are bright, and you can't see, and there's something in your right arm and… Oh yeah. Last night. The friggin' invincible man. Which means your wife is probably holed up somewhere around here too. You're at a hospital, right? You squint and look up, and yeah. Same shitty ceiling. Your hospital. The one you work at.

You recline, and wait for the doctor to come back, so you can ask about your wife.

But everything just seems to be going slowly.

And you hear the clock ticking.

And damn it. You just want to see Kyouko. Know the cops nabbed that guy. Have everything be peachy, and get back to what you were doing, forget the entire thing ever happened.

But you guess today isn't your lucky day, 'cause the guy that comes through. Mutou or whatever his name is. You don't know. You don't really talk to him; nice guy, you bet. You know he's got a couple of kids, a wife, the whole shebang.

And you're sure that this is your voice, but it sounds so feeble and hoarse, and you hate it. You just want that sort-of-baritone, the rough edge back. "Kyouko… Is she…?" You feel that suffocation, those hands, every time you open your mouth to speak.

He looks at you with those eyes. The I'm sorry ones that you hate so much. You know, the ones when you're watching a funeral on a gray day, and you're wearing your finest suit, and you can't feel anything because you hated the goddamn man. But they look at you that way, anyways, because really, who isn't sad when their father dies.

You snap back to Mutou, and try to pay attention to what he's saying. Your wife, and the guy. They didn't find either of them, your apartment was wrecked, they think it's a robbery. Yeah. Stealing your wife. Damn crime. Really, now. You sigh, and fall back onto the pillow.

iii.

When you get discharged, get that cold tube out of your arm, you pack up into your car, and drive. You ignore the calls from your colleagues, forget about work. Go cross-country, and look for invincible man and your wife, fueled by scotch and whiskey. Your head is pressed against the steering wheel half the time, and you don't know where you've been (or where you're going for that matter.)

And there's this one particular roadside bar you stop by, and you don't really know why. No neon sign, no particular thing to draw you towards it, but you go anyways. Parking lot's small, you stumble out of your car, and onto a barstool.

The girl—er… woman behind the counter is a babe… gorgeous in an older-person way(?), though. You realize you're staring when she gives you that awkward smile. And you smile back and look away. Fiddle with the ring on your finger to show her that you're not interested. It works, she brings you a "cuba libre," tells you it's on the house—asks you if you're suffering from the aftereffects of some anniversary gone wrong.

And it's then that you realize that you probably haven't taken care of yourself, 'cause this older woman thinks (thought) you were interested. And she asks you what's wrong—and yeah. You spill. Because she's the first one who asked, and you don't think you could hold it in if you tried. And you find yourself talking to her about your wife, and how much you missed her, with your raspy little voice (`cause it hasn't quite healed yet, and you don't know if it ever will.) Oh. Yeah. There's the fucking invincible man. The one you rant and rave about.

She puts her hand on your shoulder. And then she says something that really sets you off. "That wasn't a regular man."

"Yeah. No shit." You bang the glass down on the counter. "Tell me something I don't already know."

You think you get what she's implying, and you don't really like where this is going. Because yeah. Okay you've been told that you were delirious. But there was always these handful of people who encouraged these stupid fantasies. And you don't need another, really. You can just sit here and be self-destructive by yourself.

You tell her to shove off, and she looks mildly offended. You sigh, and tell her that you don't really mean anything by it. Yeah. Okay. Fine. But you don't really expect the bouncer (if you can call him one, he's shorter than you, olive eyes, platinum hair) you don't expect him to come up to you, and tell you to respect his mom(?)

Sissy.

You tell him that you didn't really mean anything by it and all you wanted to do was drink in peace, because really? Are you really being more disorderly than the guy cleaning his rifle off on the table? Okay. Chill. You just sidestep and… smooth. Accidentally knock into the bar. Spill all the drinks. Break the glasses.

Whoops. Sorry. I'll just leave now.

Big guy gets mad at you, tells you that you've got quite the nerve and… bouncer. Thank god bouncers.

But… he socks you. He packs quite a punch for a tiny guy. What the hell? It was an accident!

He says that you're threatening the guy. And you'd better leave.

But then you get cocky and tell him to make you.

Fuck. Right in the gut. And he's got you pinned. You try to slip out but he's pretty friggin strong. Seriously? This just isn't your day.

You tell him you'll pay for the drinks. But that isn't apparently what he wants. Where are you? Crazytown? Isn't that what you're supposed to do? You feel him giving you a quick once-over. Freakin' perv. And then he says this. In the quietest voice you think you've ever heard. "He's not one of them."

iv.

"What the hell do you mean?"

"That I am sorry. You may leave now." He lets you go, and expects you to shove off, like you said you would. But then the bartender lady. His mom. She does this thing with her eyes, and all of a sudden you can't leave anymore. Well, then.

And he takes this thing, this steely blade out of his pocket. (Actually, it's more like a mini-sword.) He grabs your elbow, and makes a cut. It's not super deep, but it stings.

Ouch.

"No. Not…" His mom nods, and you just want to get out of this nuthouse, everybody is staring. You grab some money from out of your pocket, and shove it at the bouncer.

Then, suddenly you feel yourself falling, and you black out. If you'd been awake, you might've heard the big guy say something like "Just in case." And you might've seen the rifle that he knocked you out with.

v.

When you come to, you're in some midway motel, your stuff is laid out on the dresser. It's in some sort of order, but you can't quite figure out what it is. There's a throbbing pain at the back of your head, and wow, where's your car? But fuck. Advil first.

There's some on the bedside table, and it's only after you take it that you begin to worry about it being laced with something. Today really isn't your day. You flop back on the pillows, expecting to bite it any minute now. (At least that'd put an end to the goddamn nightmare.) But when you don't you wonder why it isn't laced, and were the guy is and where you are.

There's some sort of red spray-painted circle on the ground (mumbo-jumbo crap in it,) and a bunch of grime… is that salt, actually? On the windows and the door. You shake your head because you just can't take it. Jesus Christ, you just want to get back to being drunk, or whatever that hazy feeling between fleeting scotches was. Is that too much to ask for really?

(Apparently so.)

vi.

The guy waltzes in and he's completely nonchalant. He steps over the salt line, and there's a little girl with him. She's creepy as hell.

You want to punch him in the face. But you know that he can take you. And he'll probably knock you out again. (Deep down, you know that he's probably not the one that did it in the first place, but you're still angry, dammit.)

"I imagine you have questions."

No shit, Sherlock.

"Where would you like me to begin?"

Where the hell am I? "What?"

He squints, because he probably thinks you're dumb.

"Sorry, I mean… no. I really do mean it. What?" Your voice is rising, because you're angry. You've been kidnapped by a guy and his kid, in a motel, and you don't know where your car is, much less where you are. You've already pinched yourself, but it's not a dream. And that sucks the most.

"Oh." Because that's really an answer. He shrugs. What the hell? Did he bring you out here on an impulse? He goes to the fridge, and takes out a beer. He offers it to you.

You just glare.

"You have questions." He repeats it again.

Another glare.

He takes the beer for himself, and you know he's not a drinker, because of the way he holds it. The bottle doesn't fit right in his hands, and there's some trepidation. So why was he in the goddamn bar in the first place?

"Hunters stop by." Creepy mind-reading bastard.

"For what? Tricks on how to pick up big game?" You have a hand on your forehead. More Advil. You need more Advil.

He laughs. "Not those kinds of hunters."

And you feel like you already know the answer to this. "So what do you hunt? Ghosts?"

Yes. "Actually, we were hunting a shapeshifter, this time."

Really, now? "Oh okay. And, where does this shapeshifter live?"

"Sewer." He answers with an honesty that makes you want to vomit. Does he believe this crap?

Yeah? Well leave me out of it. "Right." You scoop your things off the table, and you make a move to get up. But then you remember. No car.

vii.

You sit there, and listen, because there's nothing else to do. Hopefully the psychopath will give you back your car, if you stay until the end. He talks about this like it's his duty to do something about all the bad stuff in the world.

When he finishes with "your wife was probably taken by a vampire," you say "that's nice, give me my car back." And he hands over the keys, then asks you to drop him and the girl away in some tiny town with a haunted graveyard.

You don't know what compels you to do it, but you decide to tag along.

viii.

He gives you a goddamn shotgun, and tells you to fire at anything that may, or may not come out at you. (Apparently he's going to be digging up graves.) The girl's doing the same, you imagine.

Great parenting skills. Deluding your kids, and making them hunt down ghosts in the cemetery. Yeah. Now you're not so keen on your earlier decision. It's chilly, you've got a cardigan on (his, not yours,) and nothing substantial really.

In fact, you're thinking about how you're freezing, when it shows up. It looks kinda like her, his kid. So you don't even really notice, until it zooms forward at you. And then it does this thing. This zooming thing that looks like a cheesy CGI, or something. Then, you flip out.

So he wasn't lying after all.

ix.

When you stop off for the night at the motel, you're still trembling. You managed to fire a round at it, and watch it dissipate into black smoke. And then it came back. But (burned?) the body in time, apparently, so the ghost burned along with it.

So he must not have been lying about your wife. Which means that you'll need him to kill the vampire that took her. Your hands are shaking, but you manage to grab a hold of his shoulders, and ask him to please take you with him. Please. You have nowhere else to go. You just want to kill the bastard and have it be over.

He tells you that it's not really that simple. It's been a few months, so she might not be alive. They drain victims slowly, but not that slowly. And if she is alive (well, sort of,) she's going to be one of them, and you may or may not like that. (You see, vampires need fresh blood, and they can't really be turned back. So it gets hungrier and hungrier, and you're not really sure you want to hear this.

Plus, he doesn't know where that particular vampire is. (Could be halfway across the country by now.) And if you want to kill it, you've got to get stronger, because you can only kill a vampire by beheading it. So, he tells you that you're going to start small, learn the skills, then go on him with cases. You live out of your car for now (and it's this, this part that suits you just fine. You've been doing this for the past few months.) And you've got to live like he does. (But this, this, you disagree with. You agree to fund him for as long as you're with him, because it seems right.

(It's only then that he gives you his name, and hers. Seishin, he says. And she's Sunako. But there's something about her that puts you off—and makes you think of her as less of a who and more of a what. She doesn't come on hunts; he takes care of her, you don't touch her. His orders. Otherwise you don't get to come along.)

x.

The very next day, you go down to the range. He leaves you there while he works a job. He says he's going to go exorcise a demon. A small demon, and don't worry, he's done this before, just stay here and practice.

The gun(s) are loaded with rock salt, because rock salt is corrosive to hellspawn.

He leaves you an entire buttload of them, and tells you to go crazy.

You oblige.

xi.

By the time he comes back, you're shooting closer to the bulls-eye, and he gives your work an approving nod. Apparently you have a few days before he expects his mom to call him back about a case. She's an informant or something like that.

He drives you to a gym, but you complain and say that your arms are sore. He doesn't have it. You're the one who signed up for this.

Twenty reps later, you feel about ready to faint.

xii.

A week of work pays off, because he tells you that you're allowed to hunt some sort of woman-thing. It's a ghost, or something. He told you all about it, but honestly you can't remember a thing. You just want to kill this sucker. Get to your wife quicker.

He makes you dig up the bones while he fires rounds. And damn, that bastard is fast. He's so fucking fast.

It's then that you (truly) realize that you've got a lot of work to do.

The crazy thing is, you don't know if he's any good or not. But you do know that you have to be at par with him. Because he apparently knows how to off the guy who has your wife. That's all you really want in the first place, isn't it?

xii.

After your first hunt, he buys you a couple of drinks at the bar. And it's then that you wonder, why a fairy-eyed guy is in this kind of stuff in the first place. It can't be love, because he's sitting here with you. Not with any of the other girls in the bar. And it can't be for money, because they don't pay you to go out and kill these things. And it can't really be for companionship either—all he's got is that little girl, and occasionally a stop in a bar full of crazies. And you. He's got you now, you guess.

But you look at him, you look at this guy in the soft light of the bar, and you think that he could have all of that. He's good-looking, mild-mannered, good-natured. (And he's dedicated.) Yeah. Some industrialist would pick him up in a heartbeat. And he'd have everything. That life that you and Kyouko had, in the high-rise apartment. The one you didn't think you'd miss until you left on your little drinking binge. But you don't know if that is what he wants. God knows how long he's been on this road. Killing things until something bigger and more badass comes along and kills him.

But he knows that if he ever asked Seishin, he wouldn't get a straight answer. That's how the guy works. You ask him about his mom, and he says that they're "estranged." But you know that that's not really the truth. And you don't really know how to get more out of him.

You ask how old Sunako is, and he says "old enough." The first time, anyways. The second time, this time, when you ask him in the bar, he says "older than you'd expect" But you notice that he doesn't say "older than me," so yeah. You begin to suspect that he's just as much of a what as Sunako. But he's killing these things, and that should be enough, right?

How old are you?

32.

How long have you been 32?

Is this some sort of teenage fantasy romance novel?

Yeah. You banish that train of thought quickly. As fetching as this guy is, you don't really bat for that team. And that wasn't how you expected the thing to end. Plus, there's your wife. And is he flirting with you by buying with those drinks? You ask him that and he laughs. But that's right. He wouldn't know how to flirt in the first place. He's spent far too much time (you think,) being part of some terrible horror movie. (And the worst part is it doesn't even end.)

But you just worry about yourself for now. You see an end in sight, and you work towards it. Yeah. That's right. Just focus on ending that bastard, getting Kyouko back. Then you can go back to apple-pie land, and be happy. (Or at least as happy as you can be, knowing that ghouls actually exist and live in the vents.)

xiv.

You learn how to build a devil's trap. It's the easiest thing in the world, really. (But, you admittedly fucked up the first time. And you were damn glad that he'd made a salt-line-ring-thing and that saved your ass in the end.) Just draw a circle, and a star inside that circle. (Of course there's this mumbo-jumbo-junk that you've got to write inside it, but you don't know what the hell that means, and he's probably not going to tell you either.)

You learn about exorcisms. And from what you've heard, they sound fucking terrifying. He said that the things try to lock themselves in their meat—so if you're hunting, and you don't have the thing in a devil's trap, they'll fatally wound themselves. The human inside is as good as dead without them, anyways. (But you have to keep going. You can't just let the monster run around with a meat suit.)

And you learn about them. They're demons, he's not a specialist. Most of them are incapable of returning to the earth without possessing a human. They are typically stronger and faster than humans, and their blood is toxic. In other words, don't OD on that stuff. He doesn't want to clean it up.

He only knows how to dispose of them through exorcism. And he's damn good at doing devil's traps. They're immobilized once they're in them. Salt hurts them, because it's pure (and so does holy water, which is a good form of torture, he says, but you, you're not that kind of guy.)

He tells you that you're half-way to being a hunter. And you guess that you're kind of proud of that. Well, no, scratch that. You're pretty proud of that. Your dad didn't order you to become a hunter. He wanted you to grind the urban hospital politics mill and take his place.

But yeah. You will eventually go back. With Kyouko. It's just that this, whatever-it-is is a nice reprieve. (Sort of.)

Oh! But there is one thing that you find weird. He can walk through devil's traps, and over salt lines, but you're still not 100% sure that he's human. Why not? Because all the demons are scared of him. And sometimes, he exorcises them with his hands. When he thinks that you're not watching. No Latin, no Enochian, nothing. Just his hand on their forehead, and they kind of burn. (Yeah, it's really disquieting. But what kind of thing can do that…?)

xv.

The first time you meet hunters. Well, other hunters, really, you become aware of some sort of underground news network. One that Seishin taps into frequently, apparently. This duo… Ookawa and idiot son are first to voice their opinions on that. They're overly critical of him, claiming that he's at once hollow and sympathetic. At first glance he was nice, but then he went serial killer on them, and that's that story. (But that's goddamn stupid, isn't that what hunters are supposed to do.)

You don't go on the defensive though. You sit down and listen to their story. Which finishes with: "Oh and that vampire he's carrying around… what's her name, Sunako! Yeah that one. I don't trust her." Which is also the only rational thing that idiot son Ookawa has said during your entire conversation. (He introduced himself as "son of man next to me," and talked about things you don't really want to repeat.) But after he says that, you excuse yourself. Because shouldn't you fucking know if your partner is carrying a vampire around?

You stomp into the hotel room, and he's just sitting there, complacently watching TV. (And you suddenly remember that case you worked a couple of weeks ago, when you sat at the inn and watched Casa Erotica 13. Thank god he didn't walk in on that. That would've been embarrassing.) And you flip out on him for the nth time.

"Yes. I understand your rage." Really? Who fucking says that anymore. What if the vamp chick could have led you to the vamp dude who has your wife? "But she's perfectly harmless." He says this, while she's leaning into his shoulder, and yes it could have been adorable, except she's actually probably been dead for centuries.

"No, I don't think you do." You grab him by the hands and yank him out of the couch. You're ready to get physical. You've got the muscle, (which you probably wouldn't have gotten at the roadside gym,) and you've got the knowledge. And there's that height difference that just might give you the advantage. You pin him, it's all over. You're taller than him.

"Okay." He seems resigned to the fact that you'll shove both your fists down his throat. "But if you hurt her, I slit your throat in your sleep." It's said with that same half-smile. The fake one he gives everybody, when he pretends to be an investigator, or a novelist, or something. And it scares the bejesus out of you. You back off and crawl under the covers of your queen mattress for a while, and try to forget that you ever wanted to take him on.

xvi.

Other than that though, your relationship is going swimmingly. The two of you share beer, and food, and whatever else you guys buy with fake cards. You try warming up to Sunako, but it doesn't really work. You guys clash a lot, especially over Seishin. She wants to go to the salon, you back off. Back the hell off. This one time, she glared at you, and you jumped out of your skin.

The two of you offed a group of skinwalkers (and hello, what were they doing all the way out here, aren't they rare?) the other day. Then went for a round of pizza and sat there and joked like regular joes. And now you're at a diner, because you asked, and he complied. You ask him how his mom got into the hunting thing, and he says that she's not his real mother. Which is weird, because family resemblance. He's her spitting image, and you're starting to wonder whether or not he's a shapeshifter, but you think that those have mortal lifespans and from what you overheard about him picking Sunako up it was almost right after she fed for her first time and she was turned in the late 1800's, you think which means that—

"Toshio, are you okay?" He sounds genuinely warm this time. Unlike that faceoff in the hotel room. And you choke because goddamn you feel like you're going to melt those eyes oh god.

"Fine." You manage, after an awkwardly long pause. "Just thinking about Kyouko." You lie, because you don't want him to know what you were actually thinking about. You sort of don't want him to tell you about himself, because you wouldn't be able to take it if he was some sort of possessed serial killer clown doll thing.

"Oh." He thinks for a bit, and asks you one simple thing. The first reasonable request he's made (yes, hunting a wendigo isn't really reasonable, that's a goddamn vengeful was-human-now-eats-humans thing.) "Will you tell me about her?" And then he adds: "if you'd like." Because he wasn't already enough of a gentleman.

So you do. You talk about the weirdest little things. And it sounds like a drunken ramble. You talk about how she wore the little black dress that every lady has like it was none of anybody's business, and how she had the most confident stride, and was forgiving when she needed to be, and flirty when she didn't. You tell him about how she'd complain if you left your things on the couch, or took a night shift, and brought home company without telling her. How she hated the floor-to-ceiling windows in your luxury apartment, but stayed there because you wanted to. And you talk about her nails, and her hair, and how she was always so put together, and how you were so lucky to have her, and how your marriage might have ended, but fuck you just want her back.

He listens the entire time, and you're eternally grateful that he doesn't say something like "oh well yeah. That's how I feel about my ex." But instead, when he senses that you have nothing more to say, he reaches out a hand, and touches yours, and gives you a tiny nod. You feel like you've known him forever, because he says "yes. You were lucky." And not "I promise we'll find her," because you already know how impossible that promise would be.

You just look back at him and mutter a "thanks." You sit there in silence, hoping that he'll talk about his step-mother, or godmother, or whoever she is. But he doesn't. And you can't help but feel the tiniest bit hurt.

On the way out, you ask him if he's ever had anyone like Kyouko. (Man or woman, or some inbetween, because really, you're not a prejudiced asshole like your father was. You don't care what he's into, and you kind of hope that he was happy for at least a short time.)

But it doesn't really surprise you when he says "no." It just stings a little. And you don't know why.

xvii.

You're not really a huge fan of injecting vampires with dead mens' blood. It's apparently corrosive and toxic to them. It makes them squirm and wriggle and it hurts them and it's the only thing that can. It makes you feel uncomfortable, a little. So you let him do the torturing/inquisition-ing or whatever it is. The hunters haven't really been too knowledgeable about this vamp. He's elusive, so probably asking one of their own would be helpful. There was one girl, a Yasuyo, who'd lost her best friend to the vampires, who'd apparently tracked this guy for months, hiding in trees, or whatever, really. But then he caught wind of her, and decided to take her on a wild goose chase. Which ended with Kyouko's disappearance.

You hear a scream, and you know it's done. Seishin's hacked the guy's head off with a meat cleaver (as opposed to a machete, because that's so much easier.) And decapitation, in the case of a vampire, means death. You've heard that so many times you can't even begin to count.

He didn't get anything on the guy that you plan to kill. (Which is typical—none of these guys are very loose-lipped when it comes to information.) But at least, he wrangled out the recipe for a cure. As long as that vampire hasn't fed yet. And you think that that might come in handy, because if Kyouko's a vampire, she wouldn't have done that, you just know it. So yeah. There is a chance that everything is going to come out okay.

You hold onto that little sliver of hope for now.

xviii.

You guys go back to the hotel room, and he slips into the shower. You flip through the stations, hoping to get something good. Maybe the news, maybe some sports, hopefully a dumb movie that you can watch for a little bit, to take your mind off of things.

You settle on Dr. Sexy M.D., there really isn't anything else to watch, and you're willing to put up with Sunako's diatribes about it, just so long as you can laugh at the fact that the guy wears cowboy boots to work, and has somehow gone around the entire workplace without anyone noticing. (Oh and the fact that one of the surgeons is shot and nobody really knows how or why they allowed a guy with a gun and a history of offenses to be allowed into an operating room in the first place.)

The two of you are in the middle of having yet another fight about god-knows-what, when he steps out of the shower, and he's dripping wet, toweling off his hair. He's a lot more muscular than you thought, originally, but you think it looks good—and you realize you're staring, when he asks you if something is wrong, to which you hastily make up an excuse. And then Sunako elbows you, and you know that she saw that. Whoops. On the bright side, she talks to you now?

xix.

You meet this other hunter, this lone gun named Tatsumi. Apparently he and Sunako go way back too. Skinwalker, you think. He looks kind of like a dog, and he's said something about being closely related to a werewolf (but he was implying that his uncle was bit and turned, or something.) And you wonder how many of these hunters are actually weird-ass creatures. Sunako says that it's hunt or be hunted, and nobody with half a brain wants to do the latter.

xx.

You, Seishin and Tatsumi take care of this demon infestation, and then Tatsumi bails, because he's a hired gun. His boss just wanted the job done. He sort-of helps with cleanup, out of loyalty to Sunako (you think that maybe him and Seishin were partners before, and you feel jealous.)

You two deal with the rest of it, and return to the hotel room afterwards. You take a siesta, damn straight, you deserve one. You've been hunting things for two weeks straight, and Seishin's fairy godmother won't stop calling about cases.

You wake up with a blanket over you, and Seishin reading a worn paperback. You don't really ask what it is; you saw his name printed on the cover—so maybe he wrote about some monster, and it came after him, and the barista lady saved him? Whatever. He's affectionately combing through Sunako's hair with one hand.

You watch them out of the corner of your eye, vaguely aware that Seishin knows what you're doing. And it's then that you think that you could maybe get used to this. One day, you'll have your arm around them both, and you'll be snuggling in the bed or whatever. And then you remember. Kyouko. That's right; you want to get back to your normal life. The juxtaposition of the two thoughts are so offputting that you try to find solace in a warm shower. But instead, you end up mixing the two and are transported to this very uncomfortable fantasy which draws heavily from Casa Erotica 13. Damn pay-per-view.

xxi.

The two of you track down a cupid gone awol, and that's all fun and good, except for when you're used as bait, and head-over-heels in love with Seishin's mom for a short time. You literally call her in rapid succession and sing cheesy poetry tunelessly, until he ties you to a chair, and sits on top of you. (Which again, is a whole bucketload of fun, because you see the family resemblance and start to get grabby.)

In the end, he does some Enochian ritual, summons the guy here, and it's all good. Guy fixes you, you apologize and go crawl under your blankets to die.

A short time later, Seishin comes to find you, and tells you that it wasn't all that bad. You manage to weasel something personal out of him. He's never been hit on, and thinks that you're an… interesting(?) flirt. You promise that this isn't how it was with Kyouko. And he laughs. That laugh is… wow. Adorable, maybe, for lack of a better word. And you hope that that cupid really did fix you up right.

xxii.

Sometime after that cupid incident, the two of you are booking a hotel room, and they don't have a room with two queens. Seishin's ready to hightail it, but you find yourself saying that yeah, a single king is fine. Both of you are surprised by it, and he immediately states his intention to use the couch, with Sunako. And you say that no, it's fine, kings are huge. All three of you will fit on a king bed, and yeah, it's fine it'll be like a sleepover. You don't know why you liken it to that, because he asks what a sleepover is and you're incredulous, the entire thing takes way longer than it should, and ends with the two of you actually wearing pj's, because apparently he's never had a slumber party before.

You watch all sorts of weird movies that you order with a fraudulent credit card, and drink beer out of the little hotel fridge, and actually do go to sleep at a somewhat reasonable time with Sunako in between you two. And you think that just maybe, yeah, you could get used to this…. whatever it is- driving around with a makeshift family, and saving people from things that go bump in the dark. You curl away from each other on the bed like bookends. And you remember that particular bed, and that particular night for a long time afterwards, even if the circumstances leading to it have been erased from your mind.

xxiii.

You begin to notice things about him. The way his lip twitches slightly when he's upset, and the way he looks out the window for long periods of time (especially when it rains,) and the way he hammers away on a keyboard, but doesn't tell anybody what he's writing. And in and of themselves, these things wouldn't be disquieting. (You think they're kind of cute.)

But every time you try to think of him toweling off his hair (in a non-Casa-Erotica-esque way,) you instead think of the spill he took fighting that wraith, and you think about how a normal person would have probably fractured their spinal cord, and been paralyzed, but there he was, dusting himself off, and carrying the thing's corpse out back. And how that cut on his wrist from the time you were trying to catch that disgruntled demon healed in less than an hour. Or when he was shot, and that bullet should've definitely stopped his heartbeat.

And you notice how he breezes through devil's traps, perfectly functioning devil's traps. He steps over salt lines, and iron doesn't affect him adversely. Neither does silver, or blessed knives, or bamboo blades, and he practically bathes in holy water. So, you're at a loss, and you wonder whether or not he's withholding information as to what he is, just so you won't be able to kill him.

But, then again, he's hunting these freaks, and saving people in the process. So that counts for something, right?

xxiv.

You find yourself in a djinn's layer, and it gives you an eerie feeling. But you have the knife and it's dipped in the right kind of blood. You'd be damned if you knew what kind. Seishin did it for you, and he's working on the guy's partner.

The abandoned house thing really gives you the chills. You walk around, and find old photos, and creepy-ass gothic portraits, and you just want to stab him and be done. You can't find any of the other victims. The five missing people. And you begin to think that something is really wrong here. That's when this muscular guy with tattoos and glowing eyes grabs you and touches you on the forehead.

You black out.

When you come to, you're on the couch with a blanket thrown over you. The TV is playing some crap show. You reach for the remote, to turn it off. When did you get back to the hotel?

You get up and stretch. You feel sore and tipsy at the same time. You look around, and wait. This isn't the hotel. The room is a whole lot bigger, and better layed-out. There's a bunch of magazines on a coffee table, and a laptop set precariously on top of them. You grab one and find that it's addressed to you. Which is weird, because it's not addressed to your apartment—apparently you own a house now, and oh shit is that a dog rubbing against your ankle? Yeah. Tiny little guy.

You bend over and give him a quick rub. Because, really, you're not sure what else you're supposed to do. You manage to stumble upstairs, passing a room with a rose decal on the door. Sunako is printed over it in elegant script (hand-done, because it's slightly wobbly, but pretty, nonetheless.) And there's a room with a giant TV in it. (And an XBOX, which is perfect, really. Kyouko wouldn't let you have one, and oh shit.)

You run to the master bedroom, not exactly sure why. Instead, you find Seishin in a king-size bed. (It looks suspiciously like the one from the motel room, and you're kind of suspicious.) There's a mirror/drawer/display thing with a bunch of pictures of the two of you. In one of them, you've got your arms around him, and he's blushing, and it's cute. There's one with Sunako hugging that big dopey donkey from that Disney show with the yellow bear that likes honey. She's wearing those Mickey Mouse ears, and you wonder when exactly you went to Disneyland. There's a book with a lot of dust on it, which you swat at, before opening up.

There are a bunch of pictures in it. The first one has you smiling stupidly, looking at nothing in particular. You're staring out the windows of a coffee shop, and the light is streaming in. You wonder who took that one. There's something written next to it, in the same careful handwriting that you saw on the rose decal on Sunako's door. You flip through, skimming over photos that have both you and Seishin in them, or one of you, or both of you. The book ends with a picture of the two of you in black tuxedos, and you're kissing each other.

Your heart is pounding, because oh fuck when did you get married to this guy. That's what it is, right? A picture of your wedding? You just need to lie down and rest and figure out what that djinn did to you. But you don't really have the best luck.

"Toshio, is that you?"

"Uh… yeah." Fuck. What do you say now? Do you ask when you're going on another hunt? Or is now not really the best time?

"What time is it?"

You check your watch. It's 3:43. "Uh…" You don't say anything.

"You promised that you'd come back to bed at a reasonable time." He seems mildly upset.

You try to explain yourself. "Well there was this djinn, and we were hunting it and he grabbed me and touched my forehead and bam I'm in the couch and…" You're rambling and it sounds dumb. But you hope he'll believe it.

"How much did you drink?" He seems vaguely annoyed.

You try to appease him. "Nothing! I swear! We were hunting. You know, shooting monsters, whatever. You gave me this knife, and it was dipped in weird-ass blood, and you, you said that you'd take one, and I'd take one, and the two of us would just you know…" You're practically ranting now.

He gets up, and you notice that he's dressed in pj's. And they're not the ones that you got for him. He comes over to you, and puts his hand on your forehead, exactly where the djinn touched you. "Are you okay? Do you want my mom to come over later?"

You drop the book, and mumble "fine," irritably.

He frowns. He's not convinced. "You are a little warm. I can always call her, Toshio…"

You sigh. "No." And you ask him once again, because you really do have to make sure. That he's not lying about the entire hunter thing, just to put you at ease. You're think you know what that djinn touch thing did. But you're not sure why this, this weird universe where you're married to Seishin, and have a kid, and live an apple-pie life is the one he picked for you. Or really, the one you wanted. "…do we really not hunt?"

He bites his bottom lip, and damn, that's adorable. "Well, you did have a permit for one of those big guns… what do you call them…?"

"Rifles." You supply.

"Right. But I don't know if you still have it…" He sighs, and picks the book up off the ground. He looks at it with those olive eyes, and you think that you'll melt because you've never seen him looking like that. "Has it really been four years?"

"Excuse me?"

He gives you another weird look. "Since we got married. You know…?"

"Oh. Yeah. Right." You absently rub the back of your neck. "Sorry. I guess I'm a little out of it." Four years since you got married to this guy. You take it all in. And you give him a bear hug. Because, yes, somewhere in the recesses of your mind, you might have wanted to give him this. This carefree life, with no monsters, and no conflict.

"Are you sure you're going to be alright?" He seems a little concerned, but he's hugging you back. You forget about Kyouko for the time being, and follow him to bed.

xxv.

You wake up with a headache, and you're confused. But, then you catch a glimpse of Seishin's platinum hair, and it comes tumbling back. Apple-pie universe. Right. You tangle your hands in his hair and breathe in the faint scent of cologne he probably used yesterday. You don't really know what brand it is, and you wonder if you guys use those couples' things. The ones that smell better together. You figure that it doesn't really matter, but you still do want to know. Assimilate yourself into this lifestyle.

He wakes up, and gives you a little kiss on the cheek. His hand worms its way into yours, and you just lay there, the two of you. It feels… awesome… for the lack of a better word. And then he says, very quietly "you know, I wish I didn't have to clean up."

You're about to tell him how wonderful and spotless the house is, and how great everything is. But you keep your mouth shut, and settle for, "yeah. I know." You stumble into the shower, and find two sets of conditioner, and perfume, and are pleasantly unsurprised by the fact that, yes, you do use couples' cologne. Your stuff is in the closet to the left, and you pick (hopefully acceptably) casual clothing. A green tee, and some jeans. You march downstairs. Sunako still isn't up yet, and you don't really expect her to be. It's a Saturday, so both of you are off work (presumably.)

You know that you're still a doctor, but you wonder what Seishin does. He's already dressed, and you didn't think you'd live to see the day that he changes his monochromatic two-shirts and two-pants wardrobe. But here he is, wearing a bandanna, and a cute cardigan. He gives you a smile, and sets a plate down in front of you. Waffles, homemade, extra syrupy. With whipped cream and strawberries. Goddamn. This man is a miracle worker. You scarf it down.

"So, will you be taking Tatsumi for a walk?" You think you're going to choke on your food. Are you in a polygamous relationship? Why the hell does a fully grown man need a walk? What?

Then Seishin picks up the dog, and sets it in your lap. "I may have fed him the leftovers…" He gives you an apologetic smile. And oh yeah. Tatsumi's a dog now, apparently. You grin, and tell him that you will, but you do need something in exchange. You pull him in for a kiss, and damn, he really is good with his tongue.

Fuck where is that hand going, oh. There. Yeah. Awesome. He's stroking you, damn, is he a pro or what? And he's got his mouth on your neck. And it feels so fucking good. Yes. No don't stop. You're vaguely aware that you're pinned against a table, and are as red as a tomato. (Oh, and that you're probably almost never on top, because he seems so accustomed to this.) He's unbuckling your belt, and unzipping your jeans, when you hear the doorbell. Fuck.

He eases off of you, and goes to answer the door. You reseat yourself at the dining table, his mom comes in, Sunako wakes up, you guys talk about things. And it breezes by. It's all very pleasant. But there's a nagging feeling in the pit of your stomach. Like you should be doing something else. But you don't know what else you should be doing—you're not a hunter in this universe, and neither is he. You guys are just… normal.

You spend a week doing mundane things, washing the car, and mowing the lawn, and going to work, snuggling in bed. You don't really think about Kyouko, or the life you've had for the past however-long-it's-been-since-you-decided-to-start-hunting. You just think about how wonderful this all is. And then you feel rope on your wrists and you're tethered to a pole, and Seishin's cutting you free. Not the apple-pie Seishin, but the other one. The one that doesn't know what sleepovers are. Much less, how to run a household.

xxvi.

He apologizes to you on the way out. And you ask him what for, because if he hadn't come to get you, you would have been djinn food. And he agrees with that, but no. That's not what he's apologizing for. He apologizes about having to take you out of your fantasy. Being reunited with your wife. You are about to correct him, but then, you don't. You don't want to have to explain that you're not in love with the woman with ridiculously curled hair. And you definitely don't want to confess your love for this guy, the seemingly emotionless one in the driver's seat, because you know it won't go anywhere. You just know that even if you do tell him, he won't understand, because he isn't fucking human.

And this is what he says to you, to try to make you feel better: "if you want, you can go back to living that kind of life. I'll find your wife for you, and return her, if I can." And that's the part that hurts the most. The kicker, the zinger, the salt in your wound. You thought you were so goddamn indispensable. But you're just a fucking joke. Who knows how many partners he's had before you? You revisit that fantasy, the one where you're married. And you're pretty happy that, yeah. You're his top choice, or whatever it is. That Seishin couldn't live without you. And here's the difference.

xxvii.

And despite what he said, you find yourself asking him what he'd do without you. He says that he'll just go on. Hunt things. It's his job. And you tell him that he doesn't have to, but he says that he really does. You ask him who the hell told him to, because if it was his mom, he's got to stand up for himself. And say no.

But he says that heaven told him to, and you laugh, and ask him if he's a prophet or an angel or something. And he says yes (to the angel, not the prophet.) You feel like you should do a spit-take or something. You've been riding around with a goddamn angel. You fell in love with a fucking angel. And he's probably centuries older than you. (But that's actually the least of your worries.)

You ask him to tell you everything, as a good-bye present, or something like that. Because it's then that you know that yeah, he will be doing this for a while to come. His job is to defend the Earth, or some shit like that, and you're just the guy he used as transport, to do it. So what if his smile was genuine. There's probably been a thousand of you before, and there will be a thousand more guys that ride shotgun for him.

You're sort of surprised that he does. You see, this guy isn't really a guy, so much as a thing the size of the Empire State building, and he's just wearing a meatsuit. (Don't worry, the guy consented. He's a true vessel, or something like that. The bartender's son. A novelist, who was on the brink of death, and this was the only way to save him. (Well, no it wasn't as noble as that, he saw a chance to be with the guy he's destined to possess for all eternity, and took it. He's taken two before, one before Sunako, and one after meeting her.) Turned the bartender into a hunter, trained hunters. He had a direct order from the big kahuna, he says, though he can't tell you what that is.

And yeah, he can erase memories and time travel, and other cool stuff as long as it's mandated by heaven. (Well, actually he can zap demons on his own, but whatever. You don't really care about that.) You hate this, this unrequited love thing, and you ask him where he's going next, 'cause you'll drop him off, and head back home.

You're done with this. You know he'll bring Kyouko back to you, and at this point, you could care less if she's a vampire or whatever. Yeah. You're fine with that, you say, and he nods, and tells you to drop him off at the next hotel.

So you do.

xxviii.

A year later, you find yourself at your old job, at the hospital. You just told people you needed to get away and see the world for a while, and they believe you, mostly. They still make the I'm sorry eyes at you a lot, and you just take them all in stride. You do, kind of want to see Seishin again though, but your pride won't let you admit that.

You realize that yeah, you do want to be in a relationship with him, even if he's just a floating thing that happens to be possessing an obscure author, who had a rare disease. (You've realized that Seishin probably isn't his real name, because who's ever heard of an angel named Seishin?) You hope that he'll breeze into your life with Kyouko, but you'll reject her for him, and he'll love you back and it'll be like that conversation in the car never happened.

But even you realize that certain things can't be undone.