Kobayashi normally comes home a little bit late.
But today. Today she’s very late. Extremely late. Worryingly late.
She feels terrible. Tohru must be worried by now but the phone is dead and at this point it’s just easier to get home.
She can’t wait to see her, not that she’d quite let on to her, of course. But it’s been a hellish day, and then all of the to-do trying to get home. She expects a certain amount of trouble on the way home. It’s the middle of winter and they get a fair amount of snow here. Its been a particular icy day today. But this? This was just ridiculous.
She sighs before opening the door. Only she doesn’t get to open it. Because the door disintegrates before she can even touch the knob and she has to hit the ground before she’s obliterated too.
She’s not worried. She’s livid.
She’s said it before and she’ll say it again. Now she sympathizes with Dad when Mom yells at him.
Although Mom never breathed fire and destroyed the front door.
“Do you want to explain to me why you’re home at almost one. In. The. Morning?!” she shrieks and neighbors’ lights are starting to flick on.
“Will you calm down?” she hisses. “And if we’re explaining, maybe you can explain to me why you almost blew me up?”
“It’s not a big deal, what’s a big deal is-”
“You nearly killed me, tell me how that’s not a big deal!”
“You should’ve just slept at the office if you were going to come home so late!” she stamps her foot and oh, she’s madder than Kobayashi has ever seen her. Barring the time she got in that fight with her father, anyway.
“I wasn’t late-”
“Don’t you lie to me!” she brandishes a finger and this lecture may take till two. She’s on a roll and she’s had hours to build up steam about it.
“I’m not lying! I wasn’t late, a cat tried to kill me and made me late!”
“A cat? Really? You’re trying to tell me you’re more than five hours late because of a cat?”
She shouts the last word and one of the neighbors pokes her head out the door to look disapprovingly.
Is this rock bottom? No, she’s been at rock bottom. But this isn’t far, getting caught by the neighbors like this. Flat on the ground on her stomach, being thoroughly screamed at by a frilly cosplay maid who the neighbors by now surely have figured out isn’t really her maid, with a door that’s visibly charred and smoking with a hole in it and twisted hinges barely hanging on.
She can just imagine the conversations.
Oh look, the lesbians from downstairs have blown something up again. Sounds like she’s getting yelled at again too. I wonder why the one wears that maid costume so much…
Is there a way to melt into the ground? She’d like to melt into the ground.
“Yes, but can I explain inside?”
“You can explain right here”
“But the neighbors-” she jerks her head to the left to indicate the woman peeking disapprovingly through the crack in the door. Tohru nods to her.
“Good evening,I’m sorry to disturb you. But you can thank her for the disturbance-” she points at Kobayashi.
“Ah, I just wondered if you could quiet down? I have young children,” she grimaces, more than a bit peeved.
“Me too. You can bring them out here if you’d like, I’ll bring Kanna too. They can learn what happens if they come home at one in the morning to their wives with no call, it’ll be a useful lesson!”
She turns back to Kobayashi at the last part, snappish. So they’re married now, apparently? Well if the neighbors wondered at all about the relationship dynamic they don’t anymore. And she didn’t even get to have a wedding before Tohru broadcast it to the neighbors.
“Tohru can we please go inside?”
“Fine,” she sniffs and turns tail, slamming the burnt door. At least she’s aware that they should probably stop terrorizing the neighbors. Kobayashi scrambles through the gaping hole.
“Can you at least fix the door?”
She throws an arm behind her without looking and Kobayashi has to flatten against the wall to avoid the spell as she mends it in an instant. She hopes the neighbors didn’t see that too.
Kanna is up still, blinking sleepily.
“Kobayashi!” she exclaims, a little tearful. She holds up her little arms, asking to be picked up and Kobayashi does it dutifully. She’s a bit big to hold for long, but she’d never tell her, especially not now when she’s been very clearly frightened.
“I’m sorry, Kanna,” she pets her head and Tohru grumbles.
“Oh, I see, she gets an apology immediately, but I don’t get anything.”
“You didn’t give me a chance! You just started yelling!”
“Put Kanna to bed, we’ll talk about this in a minute.”
She doesn’t want to argue in front of her. The neighbors evidently are no problem, but she’s at least grateful she’s not going to grouse much in front of Kanna.
Kanna falls asleep in her arms before she can even get her to the bed. She’s exhausted after having tried to wait up for her to come home.
She tucks her in carefully and goes back to face Tohru. She’s not looking forward to dealing with her wrath.
Except when she comes in, Tohru is sitting on the couch, hunched over with her face in her hands, bawling.
“Are you cheating on me? You are, aren’t you?”
Where does she always get the idea that she’s cheating? It’s honestly come up so many times at this point.
“No, I’m not cheating.”
“But you’re so late and you smell like another woman-” she sobs. What?
“Huh? Oh! That’s the woman who helped me up. See, you didn’t even ask me why I was so late-”
“Because I already know. At first I thought something had happened to you, and then when you showed up and smelled like that-”
She’s really upset.
“No. A cat ran across when I was walking to the other train station. I fell and slid down a hill because of the ice-”
Her head snaps up and her eyes go wide. Even if she’s convinced herself she’s cheating, she doesn’t like hearing that she fell.
“That seems a bit far-fetched-” she sniffles, but at least she’s listening.
“Well it’s what happened. And then someone helped me up but I couldn't get back up the hill. So I ended up trying to bus to the station, but got on the wrong one and ended up halfway across town. That made me miss the last train, I had to take surface routes the whole way.”
“I’m sorry. But you couldn’t have called?!”
“I didn’t think it would be that long and then by the time I figured it out, the phone was dead!”
“It just seems unlikely to me,” she pouts.
“Well it’s not my fault if you don’t believe me-” she crosses her arms. “I don’t know why you always think I’m cheating, it’s frankly a little dramatic.”
That was not a good thing to say and she only realizes in the split second after escapes her mouth. Tohru goes red and the tears speed up and Kobayashi doesn’t know how to fix it now. What does she want? She’s told her she’s not cheating, she’s home now, she explained what happened. And now she’s at a loss.
“You think I’m dramatic?!” she wails and oh god, she’s done it now.
And well, yes, she does think her a little dramatic, but not necessarily in a bad way all the time. She also knows not to say that right now.
“No, no, I didn’t mean that-”
“Then why did you say it?”
“I’m sorry. Can we just go to sleep?”
“What?! No, we haven’t resolved anything!”
What is there to resolve? She explained herself and there’s nothing to do about it now anyway.
“I just want to go to bed-” she groans.
“You’re just going to come home, after all that, and just go to sleep?”
“What? Of course, why is that a problem?”
Queue fresh tears and now she’s really at a loss.
It’s just very intense, everything she does is very intense. And it’s part of what’s so appealing about her but sometimes it’s so overwhelming it feels like drowning. Kobayashi isn’t used to anything like this and she’s so tired. And wouldn’t it be better if they just put it behind them right here and right now?
“Tohru, this is pointless, I just want to go to sleep.”
“I’m sorry it’s pointless and dramatic to you!”
She’s this impossible combination of teary and angry and Kobayashi is too tired to parse it out. It’s utterly incomprehensible to her right now.
“Just come to bed-”
“No! I’ll stay out here since I’m too dramatic for you!”
She flops down on the couch, with her back to her and her tail lolling on the floor.
“Fine, if you don’t want to come to bed, I’m not making you. Kanna dealt with this better than you.”
“But you apologized to Kanna and-”
“Okay, I’m sorry!”
“If I have to ask you to say it, it doesn’t mean much!” she sniffles, shrill.
“Well I can’t go back in time. I’m going to bed, Tohru, I can’t force you to do the same.”
“See? You don’t even care-” she wails.
She can’t take it anymore and walks out, leaving her on the couch. She knows there’s probably something in the how to be a good girlfriend manual against doing that. But she’s also fairly certain they’re both too exhausted to be having an argument like this.
Or she is. Dragons don’t really sleep, she remembers. So why is Tohru in hysterics, angry and sobbing at turns and making obvious bids at getting her to come back in the room just so she can yell at her again?
Normally her vibrancy is so welcome. It’s what’s beautiful about her but right now it feels too close and it burns too hot, white hot in a way she can’t understand and doesn’t want to entertain.
Tohru keeps crying. She can hear her out on the couch and there’s guilt writhing in her over it and also a fair bit of anger. Why does she insist on making this a huge to-do when it very obviously isn’t? Why does she insist on making Kobayashi have a drawn out conversation about it when she knows how maddeningly difficult that is for her, how it makes her want to run back outside because she doesn’t know what she wants her to say and if she says the wrong thing it could ruin everything.
She goes to bed but sleep isn’t following, not when she can hear the sniffles and the nagging question of what she did wrong and, worse, what she’s supposed to do to fix it makes her want to cry a little bit too. She’s messed something up and she doesn’t doubt they both have culpability here and what in the world should she do?
It’s a desperate, lonely feeling. What if she doesn’t do it right and the apartment goes stark and empty again?
Her hand is on the phone before she can really stop herself. She doesn’t even know if it’ll help but two in the morning without her in here isn’t a rational place anyway.
She’s surprised he picks up. He sounds, understandably confused and alarmed.
“Oh. Hey, sweetheart, are you alright?”
Of course he’d assume it’s an emergency she shouldn’t have called him for this. He doesn’t even approve of them being together.
“I’m fine, there’s no emergency or anything. I’m sorry, I should let you go to sleep I-”
“No, as long as you’re alright. And you don’t have to hang up, I’m actually up already. When you’re my age and you overindulge right before you go to sleep, the reflux is enough to wake you up at any hour.”
“Are you sure? It’s late.”
“I’m going to be up anyway. Plus, it’s not the first time I’ve been up all night with you, and it’s probably not the last even if you are twenty five. So what brings you here this time of night?”
“I don’t know if-”
“Two in the morning is no place to be proud, sweetheart. Better to just spit it out. You’ll feel better, trust me.”
“Fine,” she sighs. “I fucked up and I don’t know what I did wrong.”
“What? Oh! Your girl-”
“Tohru,” she reminds him. He still doesn’t really know what to call her or how to refer to her but in the current moment it’s a small detail.
“How bad are we talking?”
“She’s been crying for an hour on the couch, won’t come to bed, and thinks I’m cheating.”
“Ouch. I remember plenty of those. Not the worst but definitely not the best. And are you cheating?”
“No, Dad, I’m not cheating!”
“Hey, I’m just trying to see what we’re looking at here! And that’s good, that’s half the battle. So why does she think you’re cheating?”
“I came home late.”
“Okay, yeah, she’s going to think you’re cheating. What made you get home that late if you aren’t actually cheating?”
“A lot of things, mostly involving icy sidewalks, falling, missing the train, and taking buses home on icy roads.”
“Yeah, that’d do it. Is she just crying, yelling too, what are we talking?”
“Yelling in front of the neighbors, although not in front of Kanna, angry crying, yelling while crying, telling me I don’t care, getting mad at me for apologizing to Kanna-”
“Did you apologize to her?”
“Yes of course I did.”
“Without her asking you to?”
He laughs a little.
“Well there’s at least part of your problem.”
“So I’m just stupid apparently.”
“No, you’re not, it took me years and plenty of arguments to figure that one out. I’m shocked you didn’t hear some of them, even though we tried not to let you, of course.”
“I never did.”
“I’m glad to hear that.”
“But what does she want from me? I told her I wasn’t cheating, I told her why I was late. What does she want me to say?”
“Here’s the secret. She doesn’t really want to hear much in particular other than maybe an apology. What she really wants to know is that you don’t hate her.”
“What?! Why the hell would I hate her?”
“I didn’t say it made sense. But it took me years to figure out that when your mother cried and yelled like that she was usually absolutely terrified.”
“The same things I usually was, funnily enough. I thought if we fought something was wrong and it would get worse if we kept fighting. So if it happened, I tried to shut it down as quickly as I could and I couldn’t understand why she’d fight me so hard on it. It seemed like she wanted to fight. And she did, in a way, but more like she thought if we didn’t hash it out right there, everything would get worse. So of course if it seemed like I didn’t want to talk to her it seemed to her like I didn’t care. And vice versa of course.”
“Seem about right?”
“Seems kind of exactly right.”
“Good. I hope I saved you a few years of trying to figure that one out, it took me a long time. And her too, of course. Also worth noting that understanding that doesn’t mean it won’t still happen. Neither one of us are wired very well for talking it’s still going to be hard sometimes.”
“I feel terrible.”
“Welcome to the club. It’s not a very fun one. The good news is you know how to fix it a little better. And don’t feel too awful, she’s probably not blameless. She wants to hash everything out, talking is hard as hell for you. You’ll have to work out something that works for both of you. Let me know if you figure it out, I’ve been trying for years and haven’t quite gotten there.”
At least it makes a bit more sense now, even if that is succeeding in making her feel so terribly guilty no matter what her father says about it.
“I’m still not sure what to do.”
“That I can’t tell you for sure. I will say though it always helped me to comfort her ah… physically. B-but not like that! I just mean sort of platonically, whatever calms her down. I don’t need to know what that is.”
“Didn’t plan on telling you and don’t really want to know on your end either.”
He sighs, relieved.
“Good. And uh. I don’t know if I really understand your relationship. And I still worry sometimes but. I hope it works out. I’ve been there and it’s ah…it’s a painful place to be.”
“I’ll probably try to go to bed now and you should too if you want to make it in tomorrow. Wish me luck, this reflux is brutal.”
She laughs a little.
“Good luck. And cross your fingers for snow so neither of us has to go anywhere.”
“You know they’ll just make us come in anyway.”
“That’s true. Thank you for letting me bug you in the middle of the night.”
“It was a lot more interesting than sitting out here on my own. Goodnight, sweetheart.”
Tohru’s sniffles have quieted. She tiptoes out to see and it looks like she’s finally fallen asleep. Her cheeks are pink and her nose and lips are swollen from crying and it makes Kobayashi feel like the worst person in the world. And she’s still going to get up at four to start cooking even after all of it.
Kobayashi elects not to go to sleep that night. She deliberately turns off the alarm Tohru has on the tiny phone she’s placed on the coffee table. She didn’t forget. Even after all of it she didn’t forget.
Tohru wakes up at seven and when she sees the light outside she panics and tries to leap off the couch and Kobayashi has to run in to stop her, a gentle hand on her shoulder.
“I-I’m sorry I woke up late!”
She’s nearly in tears again and it’s almost too much to watch.
“No you didn’t. I turned off your alarm on purpose-”
“Why would you-”
“I’ll tell you if you just listen, okay?” she murmurs, carefully petting her head and hoping it calms her. It seems to work. She deflates and nods. “Give me just a second, okay?”
She steals into the kitchen and grabs two plates. She breaks her own rule about only eating at the table to bring it to her where she’s rubbing her eyes on the couch. Her eyes go wide.
“I felt so bad I got up and made you breakfast. Or stayed up, technically. I made lunch too for myself and Kanna.”
“But I was so mean to you, I don’t deserve it I didn’t believe you and didn’t even tell you I was sorry you fell and-”
She starting to cry again and Kobayashi shakes her head frantically.
“No, Tohru, stop. I did some stuff wrong too.”
“No you didn’t, I-”
“Yeah, I did. We both did. It takes two to tango, I know that.”
“Huh?” she tilts her head, confused.
“Sorry, it’s an expression. It just means that when you have a problem between two people, both of them are usually at fault in one way or another. There are exceptions, but I don’t think last night was one of them.”
“I’m sorry. I know it’s hard for you to say things and I should know that.”
“Maybe, but you were pretty understandably freaked out and I should’ve known you’d need a little attention after that. Even if you did almost blow me up, maybe don’t do that again. “
“I just got so afraid something had happened to you or that you’d left. I always am. All the time, “ she whispers. “And then I got so upset and got afraid all over again after that because I got upset.”
Well, that makes two of them. She wonders if everyone who finds something this wonderful is also this scared to lose it. It’d be hard not to be scared to lose her
“I’m sorry. You should know I was a little scared too.”
“Yeah, when we started arguing. That if we kept going it’s all going fall apart. So I left.”
“Oh. I didn’t know that was why, I thought you were tired of me.”
“I know, even if I figured it out a bit late. Trust me when I tell you I like you and I’m not going anywhere, okay?”
She nods and Kobayashi lets her cuddle up to her on the couch. She’s so clearly relieved to be close to her and Kobayashi hates that she’ll have to leave soon.
“I wish it were going to snow enough that I didn’t have to go. As it is now they’re just going to expect me to leave early to get through it all.”
“I wish you could stay too. Even though it didn’t seem like it I’m sorry you had a bad commute. I would’ve come to get you if I’d known.”
“I would’ve had you come get me if I’d known,” she laughs and Tohru sighs happily and hugs her closer. “I don’t suppose you or Kanna have snow powers hidden away anywhere?”
“Unfortunately not,” she sighs before she freezes, going stiff against her frame. A slow grin works its way onto her cheeks. “But I know who does.”
She pads over to the phone, yawning and Kobayashi would normally tell her not to interfere, but she hasn’t slept and if she’s being honest with herself, she wants to know that Tohru isn’t mad at her a little bit too.
“Elma? How much candy would it cost me to have you bury this place in snow? For how long? Just for one day but it needs to be enough for businesses and schools to close. That much?! Ugh, fine, whatever. Just make sure it’s enough that no one can possibly go to work. Huh? Oh and Kobayashi is telling me to tell you to make sure no one dies, it has to be just enough, we don’t want a state of emergency. I’ll give it to you tomorrow I’m not tricking you! Fine, bye.”
“This’ll be the first snow day I’ve had since I was a kid,” Kobayashi comments. Tohru smiles softly.
“I’ve never had one at all. What do you do?”
“Usually play in the snow but I’ll have to take a nap first if you don’t want me to pass out in a snow bank.”
“Can we just stay inside and keep warm?” she raises an eyebrow but the tone of her voice is soft and sweet.
“Yeah, that sounds pretty good too. Make up for last night,” she smiles back and Tohru goes a bit pink and hugs her arm.
Elma does an efficient job. The snow starts falling so heavily and quickly that people are on their balconies to watch it, commenting that it must be one of the worst snows Tokyo has ever gotten. Children are ecstatic. Kanna’s no exception. She wakes up on her own and comes to watch it, still in her pyjamas, little head bumping up under Kobayashi’s elbow. She gets the call from work near-immediately that they’ve been advised to close for the day.
Kanna flies off to go play in the snow with Saikawa. Kobayashi is worried at first, but Tohru assures her that her vision is sharp enough to navigate a thick blizzard and she’ll blend in with the snow anyhow. There’s no way she’ll be seen or be in any danger.
She doesn’t think Tohru slept very well because she’s asleep before Kobayashi is, lulled by the warm kisses she gives her and the way she strokes her hair and the reverent hush of snow outside.