In the middle of Ayame and Hatori's dance, Kureno's ears started to ring, and the phantom noise just got louder as it dragged on. He bit his lip, trying to sit still and hold back a grimace. This was, after all, the first banquet in centuries to host all twelve, thanks to special permission to let them have the young sheep and tiger along, and nothing should be allowed to ruin it.
At the pulsing emotional center of it all was their God, vibrant and drunk on emotions. After all, they had all come to this banquet for her, she was the special, loved one who finally united the discordant spirits. Kureno couldn't bear the thought of pulling her down from that high.
It was all coming together.
It was all falling apart.
After the dance was over, they could move from their assigned seating and group off however best suited them. This was a problem for Kureno, he never did quite seem to fit into any place in the zodiac puzzle. He was always too old or too lame, birth order a constant hindrance to him.
With sickly certainty, Kureno thought that he had barely even talked to most of these people in the last year.
He took the easy way out, sliding into place next to Akito, who was already deep in negotiations of some kind with Hatori. Briefly, he made eye contact with Yuki before the mousy little boy turned away, clenching a small fist into his baby blue sweater. Yuki was a given if you wanted to be near Akito at a social event, the slightly younger boy always trailing behind her like a shadow. Kureno wasn't sure he'd ever heard the kid speak.
"Kureno!" Akito crowed, "Tell Hatori to let me hold Kisa!"
Kureno was abruptly jolted back into focus. Despite trying to boss him around, Akito was beaming up at him in an uncomplicatedly joyous way that made Kureno want to grin too. When Akito did get to be happy it was infectious, like her smile could light up the room. Maybe that was their bond.
Always one to douse the mood if it got too intense in any way, Hatori cut in before Kureno, who was too out of it for a quick uptake, could speak.
"Akito I told you, she's barely 2 and I dont want something to happen if you're not strong enough to keep a hold on her. Her mom said-"
"But it's no fair, I'm God and Shigure is holding Hiro for the whole banquet."
Kureno glanced over to see that Shigure was, in fact, holding baby Hiro, and looking rather bored for it.
"Hiro's even younger and he cries every time you get too close, the bond is just too strong for him."
Akito pouted and Kisa, evidently intrigued by the hullabaloo, looked between the two. She was a remarkably good baby, quiet and curious, always staring at people with her huge, lamp-like gold eyes. Now that Kureno thought of it, her quiet nature was probably why Akito was gunning to hold her and not the whinier Hiro. Making a small noise, Kisa reached her pudgy hands out towards Akito. Akito looked insufferably smug.
Hatori sighed "Akito, I dont want you to get her hurt."
Akito cocked her head to the side, looking thoroughly puzzled. "She's my tiger, my baby tiger! Why would I hurt her?"
Hatori caved, he never did stand a chance against her. Carefully, he passed Kisa over. The small toddler looked almost large in the arms of her frail elder.
Kureno looked away. Really, what was he doing invading on other people's conversations. Tracing the swirling grain of the table with a single wobbly finger, he noted that the ringing was louder.
He could see the other cursed from the corners of his eyes, all of them. All of them, he kept fixating on that point. There was something off about its perfection.
Or maybe there was something off about him.
There they were: Hatori shuffling off to get a drink, Ayame and Shigure absorbed in conversation with Hiro as a hapless observer, Ritsu and Kagura braiding the tufts of Momiji and Hatsuharu's short hair while Rin stared from a near distance, Yuki calmly eating his rice as Akito played with Kisa. Kureno felt like there was an uncrossable invisible boundary between them and him. Speech and music blurred and mixed with the ringing, and Kureno felt a wave of anxiety crash over him.
Quietly as not to draw attention, Kureno stumbled to the outside facing doors, fumbling with the latch. When he had thoroughly cut himself off from the cacophony inside, safe in the dark, frigid night, Kureno sank down onto the wooden deck, head in his hands and gasping for breath. He couldn't shake this feeling, could barely think. As best as he could describe it, It felt like he was being pulled apart, like there was one string on his left arm, one on his right, and one strung between himself and the others and they were all being pulled in opposite directions. It was a great, crushing wrong , so bad it seeped into the physical. Kureno's head spun and he felt like he might be sick. The ringing still hadn't stopped.
Kureno breathed in deep lungfulls of winter air, the cold digging into him like a thousand tiny knives. Time was spinning, turning out of his reach, he had no idea how long it was before he was disturbed. With a loud clack, someone forcefully slid open the door behind him. Kureno turned swiftly, the speed of it sending his stomach tumbling and spots flying across his vision. The golden light from within the banquet hall seemed as bright and harsh as sunlight, silhouetting the small figure in the doorway so starkly that Kureno couldn't make out their features.
"Kureno, why did you go?" Akito said with a crack of urgency in her voice.
The whining in Kureno's head conceded a little, some of the dysphoria abating with the arrival of his God. It was like a switch had been flipped, sending the building crescendo back to a dull hum. He blinked rapidly, trying to ground himself. His mouth felt dry.
"Where's Kisa?" Kureno inquired.
Akito tapped her foot on the ground.
Kureno grimaced at the thought of the puny six year old trying to wrangle Kisa, gentle as she was. Standing shakily, Kureno dusted off his pants.
"I was just getting some fresh air."
Akito met his gaze, and Kureno could have sworn he saw her eyes widen for a moment, could feel something wild and desperate coursing through the bond between them. But, just like earlier, it shut down. Akito narrowed her eyes, and Kureno was struck by just how very dark they were. Turning back towards the inside, Akito grabbed his hand tightly, possesively, pulling him into the bright room. Something about it made Kureno's stomach curl.
As he gave the nighttime scenery one last look, Kureno couldn't help but focus on the offness lurking on the edge of his very being.
Something is wrong .
Something is going to happen.
Something is ending.
Kureno just finished drawing in one final, sharp breath before he was cut off from the brisk air with the telltale snap of paper doors.