Haruka lay back against Baron on the floor of her room, his furry bulk heaving underneath her with the strength of his panting. The morning sunlight rained down warmth on her skin, and the summer breeze nudged the wind chime in her window into making music, but her mind was a thousand miles away. On the other side of the storeroom door, to be precise.
She could almost see him, sitting in the corner where he always sat, looking up at the sound of her voice with intense, frightened eyes like a cornered fox. Eyes that saw all the way down inside her like no one's eyes ever had.
The night before, when time had stopped, he'd reappeared in her room no more than a moment after the woman who'd tried to kill her had vanished. He'd nearly fainted until Haruka threw herself into his chest to push him upright, and then, balance regained, he had gently pushed her away. She hadn't wanted him to. Until that moment, she hadn't known she hadn't wanted him to.
His eyes had looked so tired. So sad. They were Yuu's eyes, and at the same time not.
She could still feel his hands on her shoulders more strongly than the breeze blowing through her window.
Haruka curled into Baron's side, remembering even further back -- or forward -- to that horrible place that could be their future (she pushed that thought down, hard). She'd been wet and cold and coughing up water, or whatever they'd tried to drown her with, her vision wavering too dark, too bright, too strange -- and she'd never felt so safe as she had curled against his chest. The memory of his arms around her, the hardness of his muscles beneath the fabric of his cloak, lit a spark of warmth inside her like nothing she'd ever felt. The newness of it left her a little breathless, and she curled more tightly around it to shelter its light -- a secret for her and her alone, like Karasu himself had been, when this all started.
"I don't ever want to lose her again," he'd said to the Ai of that awful future. It sent a jolt through her like she'd touched a live wire, and she pressed her face into Baron's fur. Maybe she hadn't heard him right.
But he hadn't been afraid to hold her then.
Her legs a little shaky, she stood and turned toward the storeroom door. The breeze felt different against her skin than it had just minutes ago, but it wasn't the breeze that had changed. While it still seemed like a thousand miles between her and the door, Karasu had shown her that, under the right circumstances, you could cross not just miles but years in a single night.
Her hand hovered over the doorknob, her heartbeat thrumming all through her body.
Haruka turned aside and left through the door to the hall.
Outside in the yard, she ran and ran -- twice, three times around the house until she lost track of time and laps both. If she kept running, she could pretend that was what made her heart race and her breath come short, and not the man who sat hunched in the corner of the room next to hers.