Misaki rings the doorbell twice. She knows Ruka will have heard it the first time, but she wants to make it clear she's dead serious. She's not going to be sent away with an excuse like the last couple of times.
The wait is long, though, so long she begins to wonder if Ruka is as serious about avoiding her as she is about not letting that happen. Finally, Ruka does come to the door, looking wary and tired. Misaki would like to push past her into the house without waiting for an invitation, but she quashes the impulse. There was a speech she planned as well, about the island and Madoka and not being alone for full moons or anniversaries, but the look on Ruka's face says she knows it all already.
So Misaki shrugs and gestures at the overnight bag slung over her shoulder. "Can I stay or not?"
Ruka stands silently back and lets her in.
Ruka's aunt isn't home, which is a good thing. She never talks about Rougetsu Island, and finds it more convenient to believe that Ruka went back there under Misaki's devious influence than to acknowledge that if she'd told Ruka a little more about her family, Ruka might not have been driven to go looking for the truth herself. She'd certainly never trust Ruka and Misaki alone together on the night of the autumn full moon. For once, Misaki's relieved to avoid a fight.
"I brought coursework," she says, as Ruka leads the way up the stairs to her room. "You don't have to entertain me. I just - "
"I know," Ruka says. Her voice is distant, but the fact that she's talking at all is encouraging.
Ruka's room feels more like home than her own home now. Ever since the island, there's another version of Misaki, an insistent echo to all her thoughts. She brought back the ghost of the little girl she used to be, and that girl doesn't acknowledge the rebuilt house, the different school, or the older, more human versions of her parents. She rejects the things Misaki thinks of as her life. She answers every thought with a wave of homesickness, unable to accept that the home she remembers hasn't existed for years.
But she knows Ruka, and Ruka knows her. Miya is gone, and Ruka is the new north - only it seems like she doesn't want to be.
Misaki wants to talk about it, this thing that they both know is true, but Ruka has made it clear that talking is off the table. She sits at her desk with her back to Misaki, scribbling on blank score sheets and sometimes humming phrases to herself. The humming should be irritating, but it isn't. Misaki can almost follow the progression of the tune.
She can't concentrate on her coursework any more. When she closes her eyes, she can see the silhouette of Rougetsu Island, the way it looked from the boat. Home, she thinks, before she can stop herself. I have to go back home. It doesn't matter where you're from; once you've been there, the island doesn't let you go easily.
She wants to ask if Ruka feels it too, but if Ruka wanted to talk, she would start the conversation herself. Instead, Misaki makes a show of stretching and looking at her watch.
"It's getting late," she says. "I'm going to take a shower."
The window in the bathroom is frosted glass, but some deeply-embedded instinct tells her it faces the right way. While the water takes its time to run hot, she cranes her neck and tries to see the moon, even just a sliver, though she knows if she sees it, blurred and distorted, she'll regret the sick impulse.
Before she can find the right angle, the window starts to fog over with steam, and Misaki makes herself turn away.
The shower door has fogged up as well, and for the first time she notices markings on the glass. Shapes and squiggles drawn in the steam with a fingertip and never wiped away, reappearing like ghost images. There are lines and lines of them, layered over each other so it's impossible to make them all out, but she recognises the treble clef, curled at the outer edge of the pane, and that tells her what the rest must be. It's a musical score, or many of them, sketched rough and feverish in a place where no one was ever supposed to see.
When she comes out of the shower, Ruka isn't in her bedroom, but Misaki can guess where she must be. She's not worried. She towels off her hair in the yellow lamplight, changes into her pyjamas, then heads down to the basement, where Ruka has her piano.
She still can't see the moon through the high windows set in the ceiling, but its light floods down on Ruka as she plays. There's no other illumination. Misaki stands in the doorway, unwilling to interrupt, but after a moment, Ruka tilts her head in acknowledgement and says, "They're folk songs. I've been collecting them from old books in the library."
Ruka doesn't stop playing. Her hands move without faltering, up and down the scale. "So they wouldn't be lost. A song that no one plays is like a memory after everyone who remembers it is dead."
Misaki has no idea what a meaningful response to that might be, but she doesn't think Ruka's looking for an answer. Like the voice in Misaki's head always wanting to go home, there's no answer anyone could give that would be right.
So she stands in the doorway, waiting until Ruka's done. She's dimly aware that she shouldn't be as calm as she is. She came here looking for a confrontation, and Ruka's being about three times as vague and evasive as usual, which is normally enough to drive Misaki crazy. But now she's here, she feels at peace. All the usual imperatives that run around her head have grown quiet, and it's so much easier just to let things run their course.
Finally the song runs out. Ruka holds it as long as she can, but in the end she has to let the unresolved chord fade, and close the lid of the piano. For a moment she and Misaki just look at each other, waiting to see if the other will say anything. Ruka's hair is even more disarrayed than usual, as if she's been running her hands through it, and her eyes are the fragile blue-green of sea glass. Something about her now makes Misaki think of things that have been broken, only smoothed by time. They're both the same, trying to put back together pieces that might never make a whole again.
"I'm tired," she says finally. "Come on."
Usually, when she spends the night, Ruka makes up a bed of blankets for her on the floor, but tonight, without discussion, they both climb into Ruka's bed. This is the only thing, Misaki thinks, that will stop her sleepwalking down the street in the middle of the night, trying to find her way back to Rougetsu Island.
Ruka's hand brushes against her arm under the covers. Her skin is freezing cold. Misaki tells herself if she's going to risk touching them and getting a chill, it's going to be on her own terms - that's the only reason she takes both Ruka's hands between hers and holds them tight as she falls asleep.
In the middle of the night she wakes with a sudden start, her hands empty. The other side of the bed is empty, too. Misaki tries to blink away the confusion and wake herself up properly. There's no clock in Ruka's room, and she can't tell how long she's been asleep - it could have been hours, or only minutes. Some lingering remnant of a dream she was having insists that she might have slept for years, and when she goes outside, she'll find she's the only one left in the world.
She kicks that thought aside and pushes out of the bed, stumbling around in the dark until she finds some indeterminate piece of clothing she can pull on over her pyjamas. I'm going to feel stupid if it turns out Ruka just got up to get a drink of water or something. But she didn't, and Misaki knows it.
The whole house is in darkness, but the light of the moon through the windows is strong enough to see by. That makes Misaki uneasy. She checks the basement first, but she knew Ruka wouldn't be there. She goes to the kitchen next, and finds the back door wide open, letting in the cool autumn breeze.
Ruka is out in the garden. She sits with her back to the house, in the middle of the dew-soaked lawn, gazing up at the moon. For a moment, Misaki's stomach drops, seeing her like that, but then Ruka looks over her shoulder, and it's still her, eyes clear and aware.
"We shouldn't still be doing this, should we?" Misaki says, shivering on the step.
"Why not?" Ruka says. "People have looked at the moon for thousands of years."
"For one thing, it might make our friends worry about us," Misaki grumbles, then picks her way out over the grass to sit down next to her. The dew immediately starts soaking into the seat of her pyjamas. She grimaces. It never seemed to get cold like this on Rougetsu Island.
"It feels good," Ruka says dreamily. She's looking back up at the moon again, and unwillingly, Misaki follows her gaze. It does feel good. The cool celestial light, the perfect silver circle. Even with its craters, the scars of something it can't forget, it's still whole and perfect, remade every month.
"I have been avoiding you," Ruka says finally. "Like I've been avoiding this. Because I want it. Because it feels too good, and I don't trust things like that any more. I don't know if it's coming from me, or..."
"Yeah," Misaki says. She can remember how it felt to be with Sakuya. The good days felt better, and even when they weren't good days, even when they were both on the verge of crumbling into chaos, it still felt good. Resonating with another person, being in tune with her. Feeling, simultaneously, more and less herself than ever before.
What she feels with Ruka is nowhere near that overpowering. Still, she wonders if Ruka might be right, and all that connects them is some kind of spiritual gravity, a lingering symptom of that old sickness. She hasn't failed to notice, for example, that there are no mirrors in Ruka's room.
"I don't care," she says, surprising herself as much as Ruka. "I've had enough. I'm not going to spend any more time worrying about whether I do things because I want to, or because I'm a medium, or because of any of the things that happened on Rougetsu Island. I can't pull it apart. It's all me. And you know what else?"
She reaches out to touch Ruka's cheek, and turns her face away from the sky.
"The songs aren't lost if they're still in library books, you loon," she says, and kisses her. And for a little while, all the voices in her mind are quiet.