the tears navigating south down your face
may have once wet the cheeks
of Alexander the Great
for the same reason.

.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.

It's a while until the Directional is brought up again. Hiyori's rehearsals start running later and later, and as it creeps towards the holiday season, her appearances grow shorter. She always seemed busy when he saw her, sitting down for a fifteen minute break to explain something to Yukine or hand out new homework before dashing off again. To Yato's surprise, their interactions evolve past order-taking and tipping to small talks over the counter as she waits for Yukine to finish equations.

She's just as curious as Yukine is, and her personality quickly unravels until Yato is looking at a complete person from afar. She's an open book, turning pages every time she smiles and points out a mistake in Yukine's work. Yato steals glances at her from the counter, pretending that he doesn't notice the way Yukine looks at her like she's the sun.

He doesn't blame him, not really. She certainly is pretty.

Yato drops his eyes back to the countertop. He reaches out to fiddle with a stray coin that missed the tip jar, dragging it closer with a finger. It's a five yen coin, (those seem to cropping up a lot recently) and studies at the rice design along the edge.

He wonders if he should save the kid the trouble; crushes on older girls never went well. Not as if Yato would know personally.

"Oh!" Hiyori pipes up from the table, hair slipping over her shoulder as she turns to look at him. "I almost forgot to tell you guys. My winter concert is coming up. You two should come!"

Yato raises a brow. "Us?"

"Us?" Yukine parrots automatically, and Hiyori gives them both glances as she stands up.

"Of course. I have two extra tickets, since I paid for my brother and his girlfriend. They can't make it, so I figured I could give them to you." She brushes her skirt off, glancing away. "If you don't want to come, it's alright. I was just putting it out there."

Yato is about to open his mouth to politely decline; going to a place his father was going to be sounded like a bad plan wrapped in a horrendous plan, but Yukine interrupts him before he can get a word out.

"Yeah, sure!" He says a little too excitedly, and Yato grits his teeth while Hiyori isn't looking. He doesn't know if he's ever seen Yukine smile before, and he's disappointed the moment was tainted by the fact he wants to punch the kid in the teeth.

Hiyori turns back to him, her face inquisitive, and Yukine clasps his hands behind her, shooting him a desperate look. Yato is tempted to say no anyway- it wasn't his job to accompany some kid to his crush's concert if he couldn't walk by himself- but something keeps his mouth from wrapping around the syllable.

Sighing, he leans forward against the counter. "I'll try to clear my schedule." There, no definite agreement, but not a 'no' either. Still time to back out, should shit go south. Yato crosses his arms. "When is this, anyway?"

"Next weekend!" Hiyori chirps, gathering her school bag from the booth. "Here, I have the tickets here." She pulls two slips out of her bag, printed with the location and time along the edges, and she gives Yukine one before turning towards him.

The white stub glares at him from the wood counter as she slides it over, and Yato pauses hesitantly before reaching out to take it. Their skin tones are just different for him to notice, the pale tone of her slender fingers contrasting with the tan of his sore hands. Hiyori shoots him a smile that reminds him of Christmas lights. "If something comes up, let me know, okay?"

"Y-yeah." He says back, disguising his stutter as a cough. His hands feel wet, and he winces as he picks up the ticket. Could he smudge ink just from sweating nervously? It would be harder to give the damn thing back if he'd worn all the words off. He folds it between his fingers as Hiyori turns around, and he sees Yukine's grateful glance over her shoulder.

Stupid kid.

Yato props his chin his hand, glancing sourly in the other direction. Hiyori catches his attention, and her hair flutters as she bows in the direction of the register. "Thank you! Both of you." She adjusts her bag on her shoulder, shooting them both smiles as she trots towards the doors. "I'll see you guys there!"

Yeah, he supposes he will. Yato gives the doors a half-hearted glare as they close behind her, and as soon as he's sure she's out of earshot, he whirls on Yukine. "You can't just make plans for me, kid."

"Oi, it's one concert." Yukine says defiantly. "Besides, I can't go alone."

Narrowing his eyes, Yato gives him a look. "Why not. You need a chaperone for your date?"

Yukine sits up quickly, face flushing. "Not a date, you perv." He slumps back in his seat, folding his arms. "She's three years older than me, anyway."

"Oh, the older woman woes." Yato says sarcastically, and Yukine growls.

"What would you know?"

Not much, truthfully. His life had been filled with other concerns, the lightest of which being when he was going to eat next. Yato rolls his eyes anyway. "More than you, runt." He lets his head loll to the side, chin propped in his palm. "Why can't you go alone? You waltz around by yourself all the time during the day, what's a stroll in the dark?"

The question must strike a chord, because Yukine tenses, his flush flaring into a dark red Yato can see from the other side of the room. "I just don't like walking in the dark." he says quietly.

Scared of the dark, huh? Yato closes his eyes and breathes a heavy sigh. "Fine. You cornered me. I'll go to the fu-" he corrects himself quickly. "-concert. I'll go to the concert."

"Why are you so opposed to it anyway?" Yukine questions. "Didn't she save your life?"

Yato's eyes snap open, and he gives the kid an incredulous look. "How did you know about that?"

Yukine glances boredly at his nails. "Kofuku told me."

Dammnit, he knew he shouldn't have told her that. His blind confidence in her blabber-mouth was starting to really bite him in the ass. She could barely hold a plate without dropping it, he should have known better than to trust her with a goddamn secret.

Tired of fighting, Yato turns away to glance at the wall. The kid won, fair and square, and Yato was outwitted, at least this time. Didn't mean he was going to drop it, though. "You do know you owe me double now, right?"

"Fuck off." Yukine says back. Yato can't help the smile that pulls at his lips.

.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.

Yukine skips the shop on a Friday. Yato spends his break tracing designs on the tabletop with his fingertips, watching the window with a heavy weight on his chest, but the kid doesn't show.

He finishes his shift like usual, not bothering to say goodbye to Kofuku as he leaves. She's asleep in the breakroom anyway, drooling all over the table Daikoku has put in front of the heater. He grabs his tracksuit jacket and leaves, readying himself to brave the winter wind all the way back to his apartment.

He's almost to the end of the block when footsteps echo behind him, and Yato whips around, half expecting a dim mugger. He almost nails the kid in the face, but Yukine drops at the last second, heaving breaths over his knees. His knuckles are white against his jeans, and Yato spots crimson as the kid lifts his head.

His nose is bloody, the left side of his face sporting a pretty bruise. It's painted onto his cheek in lavender and dusty rose, and the score of red running from his nose drips unsightly onto his upper lip. Yato reaches out, drawing back when Yukine flinches. "Jesus- The fuck happened?"

Yukine stumbles back, and the stretch of concrete between their feet feels farther than two feet. "I just-" He shuts his mouth, throat convulsing. "I got in a fight." Blood drips from his upper lip to splatter on the concrete, and it's a deep red in the dim light of the streetlamp.

"You can't feed me the same shit twice, kid." Yato says, forcing steel into his voice as he moves towards him. Yukine almost steps back again, out of the circle of the streetlight, but he hesitates, letting Yato get closer.

Yato tugs the knot of his scarf free, and Yukine holds his hands up to stop him. "No. You'll get blood on it, stupid."

Even bloody, the kid was still a mouthy little shit. Yato holds it up to face-level, almost wishing the kid was taller. He's too short, and Yato feels too old looming over him like this. "That's the point, you dimwit. Now c'mere."

Yukine looks like he's about to turn tail and run, but he lets Yato press the scarf to his nose anyway. Yato holds it there, swatting the kid's hand away when he tries to interfere.

"I can hold it to my face myself." He says indignantly, muffled through the cloth, and Yato glares at him.

"Is the face of a guy that cares about your pride?"

Yukine shuts up after that, not fighting him when he moves to gingerly wipe the drying blood from his nose. Yato tips his chin up once he's done, studying his face. The bruise is quickly making shapes, although he can't tell if the concentrated purple circles are from rings or knuckles.

He either got punched or backhanded, one of the two, and Yato wonders how they didn't break his fucking cheekbone. Kid had a delicate facial structure, after all.

Yukine jerks his chin away after a second, bringing a hand up to rub tenderly at his nose, and Yato sees the half-dried blood on his fingers. The kid moves to wipe it away on his jacket, but Yato lunges to catch him.

"Fuck- wait. Don't ruin your coat."

"What are you, my dad?"

Yato scrubs away the blood from his fingertips with the ruined scarf, not making eye contact. "What are you, six? Only kids wipe their hands on their clothes." He snaps back, and Yukine huffs, turning his face away.

When he's done, Yato let his hands go. They drop limply to the kid's sides, and he watches the side of Yukine's face. "You gotta tell somebody, you know." Yato says seriously, and Yukine whirls on him.

"What the fuck do you know? You don't even know me." Anger tints the kid's pale face a stark red, and Yato narrows his eyes. Good question. He didn't know the kid, he just knew that someone was giving him bruises, and it wasn't some middle-schooler with a debt to collect.

Yukine's expression melts into confusion as Yato yanks up the sleeves to his jersey, and the scars on his arms are glaringly obvious in the light of the street.

He shoves his forearms in Yukine's direction. "The fuck do I know? Why do you think I'm here, working some dead-end job for tips, just to pay my rent?" Yato says forcefully, voice dangerously low. "Why do you think I'm eighteen and half-homeless? Why do you think I have these scars, kid?"

Yukine's mouth moves like he's trying to say something, but a long moment passes and he closes it. Yato reaches out to grab his arm, pushing up the sleeves to his olive-green coat, and Yukine doesn't fight him. There are bruises up his arms, a garden of purple-pink fingerprints, and Yato's gaze moves to his face. "Who's doing this?"

Orange meets blue, and Yukine swallows hard. "M'dad."

Same boat, then. Yato feels a pang of sympathy. He tugs the kid's sleeves down gently, letting go of his arm. Anger is boiling in his chest, but he forces it down into a simmer. Now wasn't the time. Breathing out, Yato forces himself to relax. He sees a glimmer of wetness on the kid's bruised cheekbone, but Yukine turns his face towards the street as he dashes it away.

Yato pretends he didn't see it.

Sometimes it's better that way.

After a long moment, he reaches out to ruffle the kid's blond bedhead. "Let's go get something to eat."

.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.

Yukine eats an entire plate of American-style pancakes, before moving on to steal from Yato's, and Yato lets him. For once, he's not really interested in food at all, too caught up in the blood pounding in his temples. He's glad the kid is eating, though, even if it was starting to look like he hadn't eaten in a week.

"You look like shit." Yukine comments through a mouthful of food, and he swallows. "Have you slept?"

He hasn't, but he doesn't think that's why he looks like shit.

That blame could be placed on the bloody kid who ran up to him half an hour prior. Not that he was gonna say that. Yato plays with his unused fork, twirling the tines over the table. "No." Looking up, he catches another glance at Yukine's bruised face. "I don't think you should be commenting on other people's appearances right now, though."

Yukine snorts and forks up another bite of pancake. "I wouldn't make quips, if I were you. The waitress already saw the bloody scarf in your pocket."

The glances from the restaurant employees were the least of his concerns; it was none of their business why he was treating some bruised kid to pancakes anyway. Yato rolls his eyes. "Uh-huh. I'll just tell them you busted your face on a swingset."

"Smart." Yukine comments, dragging the last pancake off Yato's plate to plop it onto his own. He reaches for the syrup, and Yato nudges it towards him with his elbow. "Are we gonna talk about it?"

Yato watches him numbly as he douses the pancake in maple syrup. "Not if you don't want to."

"Good." Yukine says, picking up his fork. "I'm not really in the mood."

"I'll wait." Yato replies, and it's not a lie.