Actions

Work Header

know i'm gonna stay right here

Work Text:

Hanae never knows if Abeno will be in class or not. Every day, there’s a fifty-fifty chance that there will be a blond boy slumped over the desk directly behind his. It used to worry him when he’d show up and find it empty, but over time he’d learned that it didn’t mean anything except that Abeno was probably working (he says probably because he still isn’t convinced Abeno isn’t just straight-up skipping half the time).

Abeno is also terrible at keeping in touch. Hanae sometimes wishes he’d at least send him a text on the mornings when he’s not showing up to school just to let him know what’s going on. The few times he’d tried asking to be granted such a courtesy felt utterly futile, because Abeno had only stared at him blankly and asked why it mattered so much. Hanae didn’t know what to tell him. “I just want to know where you are” was a lame and creepy-sounding response, one he knew his employer wouldn’t bite. Hanae doesn’t worry, exactly, but is it so strange to feel a bit uneasy when he doesn’t know Abeno’s whereabouts?

In the end, he’d dropped the matter. It seemed a bit selfish to ask the exorcist to go out of his way to update him about him everything just for Hanae’s own peace of mind.

He tries not to think about the fact that it kind of hurts his feelings more than anything. He often wonders about the status of their relationship from Abeno’s perspective, and has concluded that it must not be very high priority. Friends don’t treat friends like Abeno treats Hanae. Hanae is just an employee, and Abeno doesn’t owe him anything but a paycheck.

So he doesn’t overthink anything when he shows up to class one morning and Abeno is absent. He’d seemed pretty tired yesterday after exorcising a family of toad spirits, and Hanae wouldn’t be surprised if he’s sleeping today. Or if he’s already on a new job. There’s no way to tell, really.

Hanae tries not to think about which it could be so he can focus on his schoolwork. It doesn’t exactly work when he finds himself adding to the piles upon piles of doodles of Fuzzy in his notes and the lonely feeling in his chest only grows as the day goes on. He shouldn’t be lonely—Saga and Fusshi are always happy to hang out, and he can go and find Zenko at lunch if he wants to. It’s not the same without Abeno there, though (which is something else he’s reluctant to admit).

It’s a little sad that he finds ordinary things a bit boring, now. He was so excited for them when he started high school. He used to look forward to doing homework with friends and playing sports and going to see movies on the weekends. Now those things are beginning to seem…a bit irrelevant. It isn’t satisfying to restrict himself to the mundane when he knows exciting things are going on in the spirit world without him.

That’s probably why he can’t sit still through his lessons today. He’s able to distract himself a little during P.E., but as soon as he’s back at his desk he’s fidgeting again. He watches the clock tick slowly and counts down the hours and minutes until he can leave and hopefully meet up with Abeno to work.

 

 

The wind chime dings. That’s the third time in less than a minute. With a groan and a lot of reluctance, Itsuki lifts his heavy head from the pillow and squints at the Mononokean’s scroll.

How are you doing?

Itsuki groans again and lets his head drop back down. A series of forceful, chesty coughs shake his frame.

That sounds like it’s getting worse, Itsuki.

“I’ll be okay,” he murmurs, voice muffled by the pillow. He doesn’t feel like it, currently, but he knows it’s true. That’s how illnesses work, right? He doesn’t remember the last time he was ill. Not from human pathogens, anyway. And he’s assuming that’s what this is.

I really think we should get Hanae.

“No.” That’s the last thing he wants right now. Not only is Ashiya hyper and loud, but he’ll fuss. Itsuki would much rather lie here in misery and wait whatever he’s caught out on his own. It’s annoying enough to have the Mononokean asking after him every five minutes.

But I’m worried about you. You need another human to look after you.

“I don’t want him here. I’ll be fine on my own.”

You haven’t eaten or taken medicine or anything. Look, even Fuzzy’s worried.

Itsuki feels a nudge on his hand and, sure enough, the little fuzzball is gazing up at him with what’s probably the closest he can come to expressing concern.

Itsuki smoothes a hand over the soft fur. “I’m okay, Hairball. Don’t worry.”

Fuzzy doesn’t appear to believe him.

He doesn’t believe you, the Mononokean so helpfully confirms. And neither do I.

He gives another miserable groan and curls up tighter under the blanket. It’s usually a comfortable temperature inside the Mononokean, but he can’t seem to get warm. Another fit of coughing seizes his lungs and shakes him to the core, and all he can do is hug his ribcage and ride it out. The coughs are wet and unproductive and only serve to tighten the invisible band wrapped around his chest.

Please, Itsuki, let’s get Hanae.

Alright, so maybe he’s not okay. But that doesn’t mean he needs Ashiya here. He’s absolutely certain he’ll be fine by himself. He has to be.

He just…doesn’t have enough energy to voice it again. His silence doesn’t count as consent. But if the Mononokean takes it that way, Itsuki is too tired to do anything about it.

 

 

After class is dismissed, Hanae politely turns down Fusshi and Saga’s invitation to go get ice cream. He says he has work, which may or may not be true, since he still hasn’t heard from Abeno despite sending him a slew of texts throughout the day. He isn’t sure what he’ll do if the Mononokean doesn’t come to collect him. He might actually have the afternoon to do homework… But he already has an inkling he’ll spend most of it trying to call Abeno and being distracted when he can’t get in touch.

With an exasperated sigh (because even thinking about Abeno and his frustrating habits makes him feel exasperated), he packs up his books and heads up to the roof. He hopes his employer isn’t doing anything fun without him. He’d like to see Fuzzy today, at least, even if Abeno is busy. Neither of them are very happy when they have to go a day or two without seeing each other.

He makes it all the way up to the roof (through approximately three doors) with no interception from the Mononokean. He’s honestly disappointed. He still isn’t sure when he began looking forward to attending the job he was forced into, but it had happened at some point. Now, as the minutes pass and he wanders around the concrete expanse aimlessly, it looks like he’ll have to come to terms with the fact that he’s got the day off. It’s a little concerning, but it isn’t the first time it’s happened and it certainly won’t be the last.

Hanae sighs again and slings his bag higher up on his shoulder. Time to go home, then. He walks back across the roof, lifting his face to the sky and enjoying the feel of the spring breeze in his hair. At least it’s a nice day, and now he can take a while to enjoy it.

He opens the door to the stairs. And freezes when he finds himself inside the Mononokean. “Huh?”

Immediately, he’s assaulted by a flying furry projectile and staggers back a step or two under the weight suddenly on his shoulder. A pair of large violet eyes gazes up at him happily.

“Fuzzy!” He grins widely and rubs the spirit’s head. “I was thinking I might not get to see you today.” He drops his bag on the floor and toes off his shoes. “Where have you been, Abeno-san?”

The silence he’s answered with has him raising his head from his feet. His brow furrows in confusion.

Abeno is lying on the floor near the alcove, curled up under a blanket in a nest of pillows. His back is facing Hanae, and all he can see are a few tufts of blond hair jutting out from the folds of fabric.

“Abeno-san?” Hanae repeats, feeling faint tendrils of worry curl in his stomach. “Are you okay?”

The chime rings softly and Hanae glances up.

Itsuki is unwell, the scroll reads.

“Unwell?” Hanae blinks, stunned.

Abeno is…sick? The thought that his employer could fall ill has never occurred to him before. Logically, he knows it’s always been a possibility, but he’s never actively thought about it until this very moment. His heart is already melting in sympathy.

His head, however, is telling him that he needs to approach this situation with tact. Over the past weeks, he’s slowly been learning how to better deal with his employer, and right now he’s thinking that this is a delicate matter that could go south if he says or does the wrong thing. He isn’t exactly sure what the right thing is, but he at least knows to ignore his first instinct telling him to freak out and smother Abeno in questions. He’s never responded well to that in any case.

Hanae approaches the blond slowly and kneels beside him. He reaches out to touch him, but then thinks better of it and lets his hand hover awkwardly by the ill boy’s shoulder. “Abeno-san? Are you awake?”

He’s awake, the Mononokean says.

Hanae sighs. “Abeno-san.”

Abeno stirs a bit, then, pushing his head into his pillow and groaning quietly. “What do you want, Ashiya?”

“Are you not feeling well?”

“M’fine,” he grumbles hoarsely. “There’s no work today. Go home.”

Hanae ignores the command. “Have you eaten recently?”

“Don’t worry about it.”

Obviously, that means no. Hanae has no doubts that his boss has been doing nothing but lying here all day, and that absolutely will not do. He frowns. “Have you at least taken some medicine?”

“I said I’m fine.”

Hanae crosses his arms. “Then look at me.”

He can see Abeno tense under the blanket. And then, ever so slowly, he pushes the blanket down and turns his head until his eyes meet Hanae’s.

Worry swells in Hanae’s stomach instantly. Abeno certainly looks ill. His complexion is white as a sheet underneath the scarlet flush staining his cheeks. His hair is wild on good days, but now it’s matted all on one side, tangled and plastered to his forehead with fever-sweat. He looks at Hanae through glassy, heavily-lidded brown eyes that seem to have trouble focusing on him. He’s probably trying to scowl as he usually does, but there are hardly even traces of his familiar irritation in the expression. All Hanae can see is pain in misery. It’s actually quite pitiful.

“Abeno-san!” he gasps instinctively, and the blond boy winces. He scoots closer on his knees, tossing out all previous warnings of not invading personal space, and covers Abeno’s forehead with his palm. The heat there almost makes him reel back. “You are not fine! You’re burning up! And you look terrible. How long have you been feeling ill? What are your symptoms? Do you have a thermometer or anything around here?”

Abeno merely shakes his head, and then turns back around as his frame begins to shake with horrid coughs. Hanae can hear the crackling of matter in his chest, the congestion that refuses to break up no matter how forcefully he hacks. It makes Hanae’s own chest ache with sympathy pains.

“You definitely need something for that cough,” he muses.

How long has he been lying here on the floor, with no food or water or medicine and no one to take care of him? The thought almost puts Hanae in tears. His employer is grumpy at the best of times and insults him constantly, but Hanae really is fond of him. He certainly doesn’t want to see him in pain like this.

“Don’t trouble yourself, Ashiya,” Abeno says. His voice sounds stopped-up and thick. “I just need to rest.”

“You need a lot of other things, too.” He rises to his feet and returns to where his shoes are. “Mononokean, could you please drop me off at my house? I’m going to grab a few things and then I’ll be right back.”

Of course, the spirit says.

Hanae pats Fuzzy on the head and exits through the door.

 

 

When Itsuki is sure Ashiya is gone, he lets out a long, low groan. The boy’s voice had made the throbbing in his head ten times worse. This is exactly what he did not want to happen. Ashiya will probably spend the rest of the day here, fussing and nagging and constantly talking. Itsuki can’t put up with it for too long even when he feels completely well.

He feels… He feels absolutely rotten right now. His entire head is one huge aching mass. The throbbing pain in his temples is bad enough, but it’s moved down to his sinuses, too, so his face hurts and he can’t breathe properly. His throat feels swollen and tender, rubbed raw from the coughing. God, the coughing—that’s probably the worst part. It’s persistent and annoying, but it hurts. Every spasm makes his chest feel tighter and tighter, packed too tightly with gunk that he can’t get to budge. His abdominal muscles are already sore from his efforts. And with the fever that’s making him feel chilled and achy and muddy-headed on top of everything else, he’s almost ready to die.

He doesn’t want Ashiya here to see him like this. No matter how nice his cool hand felt on his own burning skin.

Hanae certainly knows what he’s doing, the Mononokean says with a chime. Itsuki can almost hear the smugness in its tone. He’ll help you feel better in no time.

“I won’t forgive you for bringing him here.”

You’ll thank me later.

“Unlikely.” He pulls the blanket closer to his chin. Then he feels the now-familiar itch start up in his lungs. Dread pools in his gut when his chest hitches, and then he’s being wracked by coughs again. His ribcage squeezes, growing tighter until he can hardly pull in any breath at all. He hugs his middle as pain lances through his chest and stars begin to bloom in vision from lack of air. It feels like forever until it’s over. When the band around his chest finally lets go, he gasps, pulling in huge, wheezing breaths to replenish the oxygen the fit took from him. Afterwards, he can hardly move.

He feels like he got hit by a train.

He can hear the wind chime ringing faintly, but he’s too exhausted to look up at the scroll. His head is in a fog, and when sleep comes to claim him, he welcomes it eagerly.

 

 

When he wakes up a short time later, it’s because something’s banging around loudly. It takes a while for him to orient himself and remember what’s been going on, but when he does, he’s instantly annoyed. He painstakingly turns himself onto his other side, trying to ignore the ache in his muscles and the pain in his head. He’s unsurprised to see Ashiya struggling to open the door with no hands, dragging a—

“What are you bringing that in here for?” he snaps, dismayed by how quiet and raspy his voice has gotten.

Ashiya gives him a sad, sympathetic look. “Oh, you sound worse than before.” He nudges the door further open with a foot and continues to back into the room. “You don’t have a futon in here. You’ll be a lot more comfortable on this. I brought the quilt from my bed—it’s really warm.”

Itsuki only blinks dazedly at him. He’s dragging in a huge pile of bedding. It’ll be a pain to pack all of it up later. “I told you not to trouble yourself. Besides, this is a place of business, not a—” He pauses to cough a bit, relieved when it doesn’t turn into another attack. “Not a bedroom.”

“You don’t get to give orders today,” Ashiya says, in a surprising display of insubordination. “And you won’t be doing any business any time soon, so it’s fine.”

Itsuki can’t come up with anything to say to that. Probably the fever. He watches drowsily as the dark-haired boy spreads out the futon in the middle of the room and piles it with blankets and  pillows. He’s frustrated by his desire to crawl into it—it does look a lot more comfortable than the floor.

“Come on, up you get.” Ashiya takes him by the arm and helps him up. He stumbles a few steps over to it and is being helped back down just as the lightheadedness starts to make his vision blur. Ashiya does a thorough job of covering him in the blankets and propping him up on the mound of pillows to ease the coughing. He takes a moment to run his palm over Itsuki’s forehead again, gently smoothing back his bangs, before turning to rummage through a bag Itsuki hadn’t noticed previously. “Alright, now, open up. Let’s see how high that fever is.”

Itsuki surprises himself by compliantly opening his mouth and letting his employee place the thermometer under his tongue. He really…didn’t expect Ashiya to have this good of a bedside manner.

He has to remove the thermometer a few moments later when Itsuki’s coughing starts up again. The spasms knock the air out of his lungs and fold him in half, and he’s horrified to realize that, this time, the force of them brings tears to his eyes. He’s nearly gagging, choking on the nasty matter illness has put into his chest.

It’s not until the fit dies down that he realizes Ashiya’s slender hand is rubbing soothing circles on his back. When he looks up, though, the boy looks genuinely scared. “Are you alright, Abeno-san?” he asks intently, voice wrenched up in worry.

He gives himself a few seconds to try to catch his breath again before nodding. “Yeah.”

Ashiya frowns deeply, worry eating up his entire expression. It’s a strange look on him, Itsuki thinks, and not a particularly good one. He’s seen it before, but it’s different now that it’s directed at him. Ashiya bites his lip and looks down at the thermometer. “It didn’t even beep and it’s already at 39 degrees.”

For the first time since falling ill, a wave of unease rolls through Itsuki’s stomach. There’s no way he could have come down with something serious… Right?

Ashiya’s eyes snap up again, and this time his face is hard-set with determination. (His rapidly fluctuating emotions have never made sense to Itsuki.) “Don’t worry. I’m going to nurse you back to health. You’re going to feel better in no time, you’ll see.”

Itsuki doesn’t need to read the scroll to know what words the wind chime’s ringing heralds.

He really has lost control over this situation completely, he realizes. Not only is he feeling too weak now to resist Ashiya, but he’s starting to think…maybe he doesn’t want to. It’s been a very long time since he’s been cared for like this.

Suddenly he begins to smell something—something thin, but savory. He turns his head to see Ashiya opening a thermos and pouring an steaming amber liquid into a bowl.

“I brought my mom’s miso,” he explains. “I didn’t know what you’d be in the mood to eat, but this should be light and easy on your throat. It’s good, I promise! I have rice, too, if you’re up for it.”

Itsuki blinks. “I’m not hungry.”

Ashiya gives him a stern look. “You have to eat, Abeno-san. I don’t want to give you medicine on an empty stomach, plus you haven’t had a thing all day. You’re not going to get better if you don’t stay nourished.”

Damn him. When did he get so…reasonable? Itsuki sighs heavily, covering his mouth when it tapers off into a few coughs. “Alright… Fine. But if I throw up, it’s all your fault.”

Ashiya fairly beams, and digs a spoon out of his bag. He scoops up some of the soup. “Open up!”

Itsuki is in the middle of pushing himself upright, but he pauses on his elbows and gives his employee a horrified expression. “You’re not going to feed me!”

Ashiya looks at him inquisitively. “But—are you strong enough to do it yourself?”

“Of course I am, you idiot.” He’s blaming his compliance with Ashiya so far on the fever and feeling like death itself, but this is where he draws the line. “I’m not an invalid.”

Ashiya purses his lips almost in a pout, but he hands over the bowl and spoon.

The worst part of this day so far—the absolute worst part—is that he’s only able to manage about four spoonfuls of soup (which he can barely taste) before he begins to feel dizzy. He doesn’t say anything to Ashiya, but sitting up like this is making him feel weaker and weaker. He can only pray the other boy doesn’t notice the way his arm trembles when he lifts the spoon to his mouth, or the way he starts to sway where he’s sitting. But soon he wants nothing more than to lie back down, and it’s a good thing he’s also beginning to feel nauseous, because that gives him a better excuse to hand the bowl back.

Ashiya frowns again, inspecting the broth. “You didn’t eat very much.”

“I told you, I’m not hungry.” Itsuki pulls the blankets up to his chin and closes his eyes stubbornly, relishing in the feeling of lying on his back once more and watching the black dots in his vision dissipate.

Ashiya hums. “Well, we’ll try again later. Do you think you can take some medicine now?”

He opens one eye and looks at the dark-haired boy with irritation.

“It’s just some pills,” Ashiya’s quick to explain. “You can handle that, can’t you?”

Itsuki grumbles, but slowly pushes himself back up onto his elbows. Ashiya hands him the pills and a glass of water, and he downs them quickly before his employee notices the way his biceps quake under his weight.

He tries not to think about how humiliating this situation is. Having Ashiya baby him like this is not something he thought he’d ever experience, and it’s certainly not something he ever wanted to experience. Sure, it’s nice to have someone here to do things for him while he doesn’t have the energy or motivation to do them himself, but he doesn’t know if he’d go so far as to say he’s thankful for it. Because it’s Ashiya. He’s loud and boisterous and dramatic and…thoughtful. Itsuki closes his eyes. Annoying.

He’s startled when something cold is draped over his head.

“Go on to sleep, Abeno-san,” Ashiya says in a quiet voice, adjusting the cloth under Itsuki’s bangs. “I’m not going anywhere.”

If Itsuki feels the most relaxed he has all day, it’s most definitely because of the medicine taking effect and not the other boy’s fingers in his hair.

 

 

Abeno falls asleep quickly, and Hanae feels an odd mix of worry, exasperation, and fondness swirl within him. The blond boy being resistant and irked by his attempts to nurse him are not surprising, but it doesn’t make his job any easier.

Abeno isn’t in good shape, though. His fever is high and his coughing fits are frightening to witness. Hanae hopes it doesn’t come down to taking him to a doctor, but if morning comes and there’s no improvement, they might not have a choice.

That brings Hanae to another thing that’s been bothering him, and that’s Abeno’s apparent lack of family and friends. It isn’t something he’s given too much thought before now—Abeno seems wise beyond his years, much older than any of their peers and perfectly capable of taking care of himself. The notion that he even has parents seems odd to Hanae. But he has to have family, doesn’t he? Surely Hanae isn’t the only person available to take care of him.

But Abeno has never mentioned any family. Besides Aoi, he’s never mentioned anyone he’s ever been particularly close to. And no one he’s ever had any sort of relationship with has been human, as far as Hanae is aware. He knows Abeno regards humans with a certain degree of contempt, but he is human himself. So what happened to his human family?

Hanae suddenly feels unspeakably sad. Is Abeno really all alone in this world, with no one to take care of him when he’s ill or injured or even just lonely? The thought almost makes him cry.

“Mononokean…” he says softly, gaze still on his employer’s sleeping face. “Where are Abeno-san’s parents?”

It takes a while before the spirit answers, and the hesitation makes him uneasy. I do not know.

“He does have a family, doesn’t he?” Now Hanae looks pleadingly at the scroll on the wall, growing increasingly upset. “Why aren’t they here right now? Why didn’t Abeno-san call them when he got sick?”

That is something you’ll have to take up with Itsuki. It is not my place to say.

When he looks to Abeno again, he can’t help the tears that well up in his eyes. “Why am I the one caring for him? He needs his mother. He doesn’t… He doesn’t even have a bed.” Oh, god, does Abeno even have a place to stay besides this room?

The longer he spends with the exorcist, the more he realizes that he doesn’t know a thing about him. Not even where he sleeps at night.

For a few long moments, he sits silently and listens to Abeno’s labored, uneven breathing as it crackles in his chest. Even in sleep, his sharp features are drawn and tense with discomfort. Hanae can’t help but feel irritation flare up again. How long will it be until Abeno trusts him? Until he finally opens up to maybe the only human with whom he has a real relationship? Hanae wants to have that kind of relationship with him. He doesn’t want Abeno to feel like he has to hide things.

Especially something as important as being ill.

Would Hanae have even known he was sick if the Mononokean hadn’t gotten him?

Fuzzy, likely sensing his distress, sidles up and rubs his head against Hanae’s thigh.

He scratches the little spirit’s head fondly. “Why do I even bother, Fuzzy?”

Fuzzy has nothing to say to that.

 

 

Hanae doesn’t mean to, but he dozes off at some point. He’d tried to get some homework done while Abeno slept, but he must have fallen asleep, because suddenly he’s opening his eyes and blinking away confusion.

Then he realizes what woke him. Abeno is coughing again. When Hanae comes to his senses, he’s in the throes of an attack, curled up on his side with one hand over his mouth and the other hugging his abdomen as he hacks so violently he’s nearly gagging with the sheer force of it.

Hanae scrambles up instantly, dislodging his textbook, a flurry of papers, and a napping Fuzzy in his haste. He crawls to Abeno’s side and doesn’t hesitate to start rubbing his back, hoping that it does at least a little bit of good, even if it doesn’t seem like Abeno has the presence of mind to notice it. The coughing seems to take up all of his attention. Hanae’s stomach somersaults uncomfortably in his gut as he watches his employer struggle for breath in between the spasms and clutch the fabric of his shirt desperately.

After what seems like too long in Hanae’s book, the fit dies down. Abeno is left wheezing and limp the futon, sweating profusely and gasping like a fish out of water. Hanae is quick to retrieve a cup of water for when he’s strong enough to drink it, and dabs at the sweat on his face with the cloth in the meantime.

“Ow,” is the only thing Abeno says when he has his breath back.

“Are you alright?” Hanae asks as he brings the cup to the ill boy’s mouth. He drinks without protest, letting Hanae hold the cup, which is concerning after his adamant insistence that Hanae not feed him.

He twists onto his back and rubs at his chest. “…I don’t know anymore.”

Alarm courses through Hanae at the confession. “Maybe we should go to a doctor.”

No.” Abeno turns glassy amber eyes on him, and they’re alight with fever and indignation. “I’m not going to a doctor. I refuse.”

Hanae’s face morphs into a glare. “Abeno-san. You’re very ill, and it’s affecting your breathing. You may not have a choice.”

“I’ll be okay, Ashiya. This is just some stupid mundane illness. It can’t be that bad.”

“But it is! Mundane illnesses can kill you, you know!”

“I know,” Abeno snaps.But I’m not going to die. Stop being so dramatic.”

“I’ll stop being so dramatic when you stop being pigheaded!” Hanae nearly shouts. He feels a small satisfaction at the way Abeno seems startled by the outburst, but he’s really just fed up with his boss. “Why are you so against getting help when you need it? It’s obvious that you don’t want me here, but it seems like I’m the only person that can look after you, and I’m not going to let you just lie here and be miserable when you need a doctor!”

Abeno blinks at him a few times, looking slightly stunned. “Ashiya…”

“You’re scaring me, Abeno-san.” Hanae hates the way his voice wavers slightly, but he doesn’t bother trying to hide it. “You’re the first friend I made in high school and I want—I want to take care of you. I don’t know if you have any family, or where they are, but I’m the only one here now and it’s my responsibility to make sure you get better.”

“Ashiya,” Abeno repeats. He wheezes slightly, and his voice is weak, like the short conversation has drained him. “You’re doing a great job, and I really appreciate you being here to look after me. I’m sure I’ll be a lot better by tomorrow, so don’t worry. There’s no need for a doctor.”

Hanae can’t tell if Abeno’s saying this just to placate him or if he really means it, but his congested, hoarse voice is anything but convincing. “That’s for me to decide. If I think you need to see a doctor, you’re going to a doctor.”

Standing up to Abeno like this usually makes Hanae very nervous. Under normal circumstances, he would probably cower and try to rescind such a bold statement immediately after making it. He knows Abeno could pummel him for saying it after he’s better, but at the moment, Hanae finds he really doesn’t care. Maybe it’s because his employer looks so poor and miserable right now, shivering under a mountain of blankets, flushed with fever and weakened from relentless coughing, or maybe it’s because of the strange protective instinct that’s come over him upon caring for Abeno while he’s like this. Maybe it’s a mix of both. Whatever the case, he doesn’t plan on backing down from this one. Abeno clearly doesn’t know what’s best for himself.

The blond boy glares, but it’s far less threatening than it usually is. He’s obviously about to protest again, but then he starts coughing. They’re gentler this time, thankfully, even if they don’t sound any less painful. When he finishes, he has to catch his breath again before gasping, “Alright. Fine. Whatever. I don’t need a doctor, but clearly I can’t convince you.”

Hanae will take a grudging surrender. “I hope it doesn’t come to that, either, but it might if you get any worse.”

Abeno only groans and pulls the blankets up to his chin.

Hanae sighs wearily and reaches over to smooth them out where they got tangled in the midst of the coughing fit. Then his hand instinctively goes to Abeno’s forehead, smoothing the hair back the way his mother always has for him when he’s ill. The fever doesn’t feel any cooler, so he re-soaks the cloth in cold water and presses it to Abeno’s brow.

Brown eyes flutter open again, and peer up into Hanae’s face. His expression is a bit softer now. “Really, though… Thank you for taking care of me. You didn’t have to.”

Hanae blinks in surprise. “Wow, Abeno-san, you must be sicker than I thought.”

The exorcist scowls. “Hey—”

“You’re welcome.” Hanae smiles. “I’m glad I’m here to look after you.”

Now Abeno looks surprised. The irritation melts quickly and he gives a single nod.

Hanae almost cracks a joke about how this better go towards his debt, but he bites his tongue at the last second. This might be one of the most sincere moments he and Abeno have ever shared, and he doesn’t want to mess it up. Instead, he continues to tend to his fever, mopping up the sweat and cooling his burning skin.

It’s strange, being this intimate with his boss. He doesn’t know if Abeno will remember any of it after his fever breaks. It’ll be embarrassing if he does. But maybe this will go a ways in convincing him to open up more often. He hopes so, in any case.

“I’m going to stay the night,” he says softly.

He fully expects Abeno to object and to have to argue again about it. So when his employer merely sighs and mutters a quiet, “Okay,” Hanae doesn’t quite know how to respond.

Sleepover! the Mononokean says, breaking the silence.

He laughs. They’re not in a very desirable situation, but Hanae is strangely thankful that this is something they’re going through together. Even if he doesn’t get much sleep, at least he can show Abeno how much he really cares.