Ai jolts awake in his bed, eyes wide and breathing shaky. Sweat sticks his shirt to his chest, and his heart is still pounding– what a nightmare. He sits up, sucking in deep breaths, and presses a hand to his forehead, trying to calm down.
It’s not easy. The moon is full tonight, and while Ai is a pretty damn good hunter, the full moon brings out all the lunatics. He’s surprised he even managed to fall asleep; most full moons are spent in that grey area between reality and dreams.
Tonight, it’s particularly difficult to dispel the feeling of doom that always settles upon him on full moon nights. He almost wishes Momo hadn’t gone home for the weekend; however annoying the boy is, he always seems to know when Ai’s feeling down and never fails to cheer him up.
Most of the boarding house is empty, actually, which is good– if anything does decide to attack, Ai will be able to handle it without too many people getting in the line of fire. Only six students and Kagayama-san, their houseparent, are in this weekend, and while Ai had been too embarrassed to ask to ward all the rooms in the house, he’d warded 201 and 210, after confirming it was alright with Momo, Rin and Sousuke.
Ai closes his eyes and extends his senses. Everything seems normal: Yashida and Furukawa are both snoring; Tanaka and Sato seem to have fallen asleep while watching a movie. Kagayama-san is mumbling something in his sleep, and Rin…
Rin’s still awake, studying.
Ai sighs with fond exasperation as he comes back to himself. Rin always does this, stays up late to finish his homework on a Saturday night. (Granted, it’s so late it’s probably Sunday morning already, but the point still stands.) It’s unhealthy, and Ai’s told him that, but Rin’s adamant on finishing all his homework to leave Sunday free for relaxing. Ai can picture him now, hair tied back and much-hated glasses perched on his nose as he works on Chemistry worksheets. It’s familiar and comforting, and it makes Ai smile.
A chill runs up Ai’s spine, and he is suddenly alert, ears pricked up and back straight as he looks around the room. There’s something supernatural around, he can feel it. His hand automatically goes for the blessed silver knife under his pillow, curling his fingers around the handle cautiously. He brushes a finger against the lightning-bolt-shaped rune on its hilt– Sowilo, his favourite– to ground himself.
He feels his wards being pushed up against, and grits his teeth. Whatever it is, it’s strong– and, Ai realises with a shock of bone-chilling fear, it’s not the wards in Ai’s room that it’s trying to get through.
Ai is out of bed in a flash. He grabs his hunting belt out of his Emergency Duffle Bag and hastily straps it on, tucking his knife into its holster and quickly checking that everything he might need is in there. He fights to remain calm– the thing keeps ramming against his wards, and Ai doesn’t think it’ll take long for his wards to break.
No time to waste. As quickly as possible, he dips his fingers in a vial of holy water and draws Ihwaz, the rune of defence, on the wards around his room, then dashes across the hall and bursts into Rin’s room.
Rin, ponytail and glasses and all, jumps and stares at Ai like he’s crazy. “Ai, what the hell?” he demands. “It’s four in the fucking mor–”
“Senpai,” Ai cuts him off as authoritatively as he can, “you have to get out of here!”
Rin frowns. “What are you talking about?” he asks, eyes flitting down to the vial of holy water still in Ai’s hand. “And why are y–”
Ai huffs impatiently. “There’s no time!” he snaps. “The thing will break through the wards any second now–”
“What thing?” Rin asks, exasperated– and of course, that is the moment that Ai’s wards break. A faint, haunting cackle sounds through the room, and a twisted dark spirit with long, thin tendrils suddenly lunges into the room at Rin. Ai barely manages to pull Rin out of the way and chucks the vial of holy water at the monster. The spirit screeches with agony, its skin melting where the water touched it, and Ai takes the chance to shove Rin at the door.
“Go into my room,” he orders Rin firmly, leaving no room for argument. “Lock the door. Don’t leave until I come and get you!”
“But what about you?!” Rin demands, stubborn as always.
The spirit turns and roars at them. Ai immediately draws his handgun and flicks the safety off before putting a rock salt shot into its body. It wails in pain, but it won’t stay down for long. “I’ll be fine,” he tells Rin tersely, keeping his gun trained on the spirit. “Go!”
Rin does, and already Ai feels so much calmer about the situation. He puts the gun back into its holster– even with the silencer on, he shouldn’t make too much noise, in case someone hears and comes to investigate. He doesn’t really need it, anyway; he’s taken on spirits bigger than this one with much less before, and with Rin out of danger, Ai’s feeling far more confident.
The spirit shrieks at Ai, then pounces. Ai rolls out of the way and pulls a small, sealed plastic bag of his purification mix out of a pouch on his belt– containing angelica, garlic and dandelion leaves among other things, crushed then blessed with holy water. Ai has yet to meet a spirit that can withstand it.
The spirit wraps a tendril around Ai’s ankle, yanking and causing Ai to fall flat on his face. The spirit continues to drag Ai closer to its mouth, but Ai draws his silver knife with his free handand slices the tendril off. He kicks the spirit in the mouth for good measure, then scrambles to his feet and puts some distance between him and the spirit.
Ai tucks the knife away and retrieves a small bottle of table salt from another pouch on his belt, then shakes salt on the spirit a few times just to keep it occupied. Quickly as possible, he draws a crude circle around the spirit with the salt, effectively trapping it. The spirit shrieks and throws a tantrum, but its tendrils meet an invisible wall when they try to cross the line.
Ai keeps the salt in hand just in case anything happens and rips open the bag of herbs with his teeth. He gently sprinkles its contents over the spirit, watching the dark, frantic tendrils slowly fall limp. Soon the spirit is soft and peaceful, and Ai gently picks it up and tosses it out of the window. The spirit glides away gracefully, negative energy temporarily cleansed from it.
Ai closes the window and latches it shut before letting himself sigh with relief. He sets about rebuilding the wards in the room and cleans up the salty mess he’s made on the floor, because that’s just polite. He tries not to think about how Rin will react later, when they inevitably have the conversation about Ai being a hunter.
…Rin probably never wants to look at Ai again. Ai’s weird and believes in ghosts and has at least two weapons on his person at any point of time during the day. Who’d want to be friends with him? Or anything more, because Ai’s had a crush on Rin forever and now his chances are absolutely shattered.
Ai sighs. Hunting sucks.
“Oh, thank god, you’re alive,” Rin gasps when Ai returns to his room, gathering the smaller boy into a tight, fierce hug. “What the fuck was that thing?”
“An evil spirit,” Ai mumbles into his shoulder, hugging back with just as much intensity because it’s suddenly hit him that Rin could’ve died today. “I’m glad you’re alive, too.”
“Evil spirit,” Rin repeats, with wonder in his voice as he pulls away. He’s looking at Ai up and down, like he’s seeing a whole new person. Ai doesn’t like it.
“I- I understand,” Ai begins shakily, looking at his feet because he can’t look at Rin, “if you don’t want to have anything to do with me anymore.”
“What?” Rin sounds genuinely startled. “Ai, what are you talking about?”
Ai doesn’t reply, just braces himself for rejection.
“Tch, you’re such an idiot,” Rin huffs, and ruffles Ai’s hair. Ai blinks in surprise and hesitantly looks up at him. Rin’s smiling at him, soft and fond and a little exasperated, and it really isn’t what Ai expected at all.
“You… don’t mind?” Ai manages timidly, hope blooming in his chest. “That I… I’m weird?”
Rin laughs. “I don’t think you’re any weirder now than you were before,” he says, grinning. “Besides, saving my life from evil spirits isn’t anywhere near as weird as liking spicy jellyfish–”
“It’s really tasty!” Ai protests as he always does when Rin brings it up.
“No, it really isn’t,” Rin laughs, shaking his head.
And just like that, a huge knot loosens in Ai’s stomach. Rin’s alive and doesn’t hate him. He can see the sun starting to rise through the window– the full moon is over. They are safe.
Ai is exhausted.
“You okay?” Rin asks, sounding worried.
Ai smiles. “Just tired,” he yawns, and suddenly the world is lurching sideways–
“Whoa,” says Rin, catching Ai easily. “C’mon, time for bed.” He loops an arm around Ai’s waist and starts towards Ai’s bed. Rin’s old bed.
…Their bed? The thought makes Ai feel warm.
“Stay with me?” Ai pleads when Rin starts to leave. Rin hesitates only for a second before lying down beside Ai and curling up around him. They have to squish a little, because the bed was really made for one person, but Ai doesn’t mind– in fact, it’s the safest Ai has felt all night. He can already feel sleep tugging at him…
“We should talk about this,” Ai slurs, sleep-drunk. “I know you have… questions…” he trails off into a yawn, and Rin huffs a soft chuckle.
“It can wait till tomorrow,” he whispers, more petting Ai’s hair than ruffling it. “Goodnight, Ai.”
“Goodnight, Rin-senpai,” Ai replies, smiling, as he drifts off to sleep.