Kouto ended the phone call by insisting he would come over to check on her, hanging up before Hiyori could refute.
She got out of the car, annoyed that her half-day was taken up. She rather liked her talks with Yukine. He seemed to look forward to them and so did she.
The front door shut quietly and Hiyori was greeted by noise. It was a strange, common occurrence for someone who technically lived alone. Hiyori crept into the kitchen - the coldest room currently - expecting to see Yukine but knowing the noise came from something with a stronger presence.
Yukine was there. He floated over the kitchen stove as a man in black stood before it. On the counter beside her, the tv was on, a nice man talking about a pasta dish. Too loud.
"She said you make the food too salty." Yukine was saying. The man - Yato, she knew - stepped away from the boiling water to chop up some mushrooms she didn't know she had. He worked extremely well with a knife.
"How is it too salty? I follow the recipe. It's soy sauce, it's supposed to be salty." Yato turned from the cutting board only for the knife to continue moving on its own with the same precision and expertise. Yato shifted to a pan with sauce as he spun his finger. A spoon, alerted by the command, levitated and stirred the pot at a gentle pace.
'Witch' was the word that came to Hiyori's mind, rather than 'ghost.'
"I'm just saying, if she's the one eating it you should at least listen to her. Especially when you pout in the corner all day when she doesn't."
"Yeah, well, not everyone can have fits of madness where they sit in the corner and mutter to themselves."
"At least I don't stare at people!"
"Be sure you keep the temperature low so the mushrooms and diced tomatoes can cook." The television reminded.
"Is this guy stupid? You cook the mushrooms in a different pan and keep the sauce at a simmer so it thickens, my god." Yato flicked his wrist and the channel changed. Mushrooms were dumped in a heated pan and the dirty dishes went in the sink. Scrubbed immediately.
"Oh baking," Yato hummed, "Yukine, get me the red pepper flakes, please?" This seemed to occupy the kid enough, Yukine struggling to nudge the spice drawer open one centimeter at a time.
"Well if you just-!" Yukine stopped when he noticed Hiyori, a smile slithering on his face.
"Hiyori, you're back!" Yukine announced so loudly that Yato and Hiyori jumped. The ghost spun around and Hiyori felt her heart squeeze at the intense eyes he had. That night flashed before her mind. This time it was Yato who screamed; visibly bristling before he disappeared into thin air.
"Ah, you got him," Yukine snickered.
"W-wait! Did he leave?" Hiyori almost sorry about offending the maybe-murder.
"Nah, if he did this stuff wouldn't be moving." Yukine gestured to the utensils, still cooking in his place.
He was right, Hiyori knew. She could feel Yato's staring.
She glanced around the corners of her ceiling, finally feeling his gaze somewhere below. Spotting the ghost, Hiyori saw nothing but two blue eyes peering up at her from the shadows below the lower cabinets. His irises were so bright it was a wonder he was able to hide from her all this time. It was strange how Hiyori was able to tell the emotion behind a gaze with no face. He wasn't angry or hateful, not curious or even perverted. No, his eyes reminded her of a cat that hid under the bed when its owner had friends over, weary and alert.
She scared her ghost, Hiyori realized.
"Hello," Hiyori knelt down and the eyes followed her faithfully, "thank you for the food."
Hiyori was met with unblinking silence.
"I know we haven't formally met yet, but my name's Hiyori. Yukine has told me a lot about you, Yato."
His eyes were such an unnatural color. Like foxfires.
"I left you a gift by the shrine. Did you like it?" The pot was starting to boil over but Hiyori didn't dare touch it.
"Ugh, he loved it. Don't even get me started," Yukine scoffed, rolling over in the air to cross his arms, "now he'll never turn the craft show off." The teen watched the staring contest for a little longer before floating between them. Hiyori hissed at his brash nature with such a skittish creature.
"Hey, you're doing it again. She's trying to talk to you! I told you she can hear us."
The air around them buzzed with some sort of energy and Hiyori had the idea they were talking beyond the plane.
"Well, yeah, she's afraid of you cause you freaked her out and won't talk to her. She wouldn't be so afraid if you answered her. Like right now."
In a few moments, the eyes disappeared and Hiyori's vision was covered in black. Another yelp got stuck in her throat when she found herself in front of his knees. Her eyes drifted up to see him standing over her, watching her expression closely. Taking a deep breath through her nose, Hiyori worked to steady her beating heart and stood shakily. If he saw how scared she was he might wait until after she was dead to come out again and Hiyori couldn't live with that awkwardness.
"Hi," Hiyori brought up a hand.
Yato glanced at it, then back at her, "hi."
Now that she was this close to him, Hiyori saw that he was a lot younger than she pictured. They stood like that for a bit and Hiyori offered a smile. She comically peaked around him at the stove. The water was pouring onto the floor now.
"I see you made pasta today."
Yato looked too, then back at her, "yeah." He suddenly appeared at the stove. The pot was pushed away - no touching required - with more force than necessary and the stove clicked off. He flickered out of view and for a moment Hiyori worried he would flee again. But the water was cleaned in a blink of an eye and Yato was back to stirring. Yukine looked between them.
"Well…that was more awkward than I imagined it would be." Yukine frowned. Yato kept his back to them as she stepped a bit closer. The spoon tapped on the edge of the pot.
"My friend is coming soon, Kouto?" Hiyori oddly informed her new roommates. Yato whacked the spoon once more with force and the other two flinched. He looked at her from over his shoulder and Hiyori felt her muscles tighten.
"Oh no…" Yukine breathed to himself. He floated a bit closer to Yato, looking between them nervously.
"That monk isn't welcome in our home." Yato spoke with a ghostly frost in his voice.
"He's my friend and he's coming," Hiyori stated.
"I didn't invite him," Hiyori sighed, "he just wants to check that I'm okay." She might have imagined it, but Yato seemed to soften at that. Just slightly. (It was hard to tell with translucent faces).
"Well he can't. He's dangerous to us," Yukine huffed with more sass than his partner, "and he can't have any food."
"That's rude," Yato and Hiyori said together.
Yato turned up his nose.
"There's not enough," he hmphed.
Hiyori knew that wasn't the case. There was always a small, medium, and large portion of every meal. It helped with her lunch.
He saw the look she leveled him with as the pan poured on sauce without him. The dishes were packed away in a dishwasher, floating into their proper spot.
With a sigh, Yato scooped Yukine up by the back of his arms and lifted them through the ceiling.
"He can't leave this floor," Yato ordered, "and if he breaks anything, I break him."
Keeping a secret while Kouto sniffed around was hard to do. It made Hiyori uncomfortable in a new sort of way, tense, like she thought he would randomly start breaking things. Yato wasn't watching them, but she knew he was listening.
Kouto had praised her cooking. Hiyori thought it was good too.
"I'm sensing at least four spirits," Kouto brought over his monk's staff to show her. He used it to poke at things like her closet door and trash can.
"Four?" Hiyori was positive there was not.
"Powerful ones," Kouto said, "which makes it hard to sense any more."
The base of his staff clanged against a very old floor vase beside the front door and Hiyori flinched.
"Is that so?" Hiyori watched Yato glare from the wall, only for Yukine to spring out and push him back in.
"We will have to find what ties them to this world and destroy it. Any ideas?" Kouto spun around. It frightened Yukine, who tried to escape through the wall only to slam into it, causing a loud boom.
"See I told you!" Kouto ran forward. Yukine jumped far above him.
Yato's arm stuck out of the wall and set her purse lightly on the floor.
"Hiyori, this house is cursed. It's not safe for you here. We have to get rid of it."
"My house is not an 'it," Hiyori's brows pinched, "and you knocked over my purse."
The man was flabbergasted when she pointed, head moving back and forth, jaw opening.
Yato tucked Yukine under his arm and brought him into the next room.
Kouto took a deep breath, regaining his composure, and stepped in front of Hiyori. She didn't like the way his finger ghosted her chin, or the way her body grew cold when he reached.
"You look pale, Hiyori," he pitied, "spirits naturally pull humans to the other side. Being close to them is dangerous. I worry."
Hiyori found it was hard to take him seriously with the craft channel so loud in the other room.
He dropped his hand with a sigh, "can you think of anything that might belong to a spirit? Something you sense is off? Come on, I know you do."
Of course she did.
"No, none that are particularly special." Hiyori answered.
Kouto's nose wrinkled at her answer, narrowed eyes darting around.
"Maybe not on this floor, but perhaps I'll take a look upstairs. In your room too. And the basement, for sure-"
Hiyori swallowed the bile in her throat and hoped her palms weren't too clammy. She rested one on his hands (they were gripping the staff tight) and the other on his shoulder. He looked just as shocked as she was uncomfortable, but she's had a lot of practice lately with masking her unease.
"Kouto, there's nothing in this house I want disturbed," Hiyori smiled softly at him. A smirk grew across his pink cheeks.
"Please leave it alone. This house is important to me and I don't want my grandmother's wishes to be dismissed. I'm…I'm happy here…"
Hiyori didn't know when she started to feel safe here, somewhere deep (deep) down, but she did. Even if it didn't quite feel like home yet.
Kouto's smile was shaky, "of course, I understand. I'm sorry, I just worry about you."
Hiyori's hands slipped off him. She knew he didn't understand.
Above her, his nose sucked in air as she reached across him. He leaned in a bit and she smiled until she was able to open the door.
"I know, and thank you, but it's not necessary."
After a pause, mind catching up to him, Kouto stepped through. Taking one last, long look around. She promised she was meeting some childhood friends with him later and shut the door.
"Is he gone?" She asked the air. A dark presence loomed a few steps behind her.
"Yukine's watching. He's scooping out the yard," Yato answered, "freak."
Hiyori frowned but didn't refute.
"Is it true what he said? That something is tying you here, and if it's destroyed you will be too?"
"…is it true what you said?" Yato's frigid breath was on her neck, "that you're happy here?"
Hiyori hugged herself, rubbing her arms.
"Almost. I think we need to get used to living together, that's all." She turned her smile onto him, genuine. Yato's face softened so much he looked like a completely different spirit. Or not a spirit at all.
"It's been so long…since someone's been happy here…"
He floated up and away from her, turning on his back to lay.
"In that case, we do. But don't think you can use it to threaten me into doing renovations."
"I would like a new bathtub."
"No movers or changes!"
"And the electricity doesn't work in some rooms."
"It's fine! I can turn it on!"
Hiyori thought for a long moment.
"…Is it the shrine?"
"...No…" Yato said like a sigh, "though, I wish it was."
"That…was a gift," his voice was cryptic like ghosts could be, "from one of your ancestors…"
"Are you sure you don't want me to get rid of him?"
They fell into a routine after that. Living together as comfortably as roommates from opposite planes could.
Yato cooked her meals, remembering which were her favorites. Hiyori was happy to give him the space of the kitchen. As a thank you, Hiyori followed his shopping list, even the most obscure. Grateful someone kept track of the amount of laundry soap she (they) (he) had left.
In exchange, Yato kept out of her room and the majority of her clothes. He remained more conscious about vacuuming at night and he agreed the tv could be at a lower volume (it had to be on at night because Yukine got scared).
She was even allowed to change channels. Finally experiencing cable.
The man wasn't a raging spirit so much as a restless one, always needing something to do.
Yukine had less to offer. His powers were getting better every day, but Hiyori didn't expect anything from a child. (I'm older than you, Hiyori).
She got him books from the local library, along with Yato's craft and cook books. Yukine's topic of interest ranged widely like the temperature in their home. But as long as it discussed things far beyond the property, Yukine asked for it.
The local librarian probably considered her an academic with how fast her ghosts blew through books.
No, Yukine couldn't offer her much except comprehensive conversation. Which Hiyori valued above all else. He waited for her by the door and followed her about the house.
Well, as much of a conversation they could have with Yato.
Right beside Yukine, Yato also waited by the door (or high in the sky) for Hiyori to come home. He babbled about his day and cheered about hers, talking about made up dreams he can't have and all the things he could paint (pigeons and flowers). Unlike Yukine, Yato did not have boundaries and did not take a hint on when to leave the human alone. Only when she yelled did he grin wider, disappearing and reappearing as he pleased in the worst spots.
A new seal was placed on her bedroom door.
Yato even started baking for her.
"He only does that for people he really likes," Yukine informed her during a rare blessed moment of peace. (There was a raccoon in the basement).
This got her attention away from watering the plants.
"Does that happen often?"
"Mmm, only once in my afterlife. Some senile, old, blind woman that lived in one of the apartments. She talked to herself and Yato always responded. He was convinced she could see him."
"Huh." How sweet.
"He makes really good lemon meringue."
"Yeah," Yukine drooled at the thought, "I could eat the whole thing."
"How…do you know?" Hiyori truly wanted to know how a ghost could taste.
"Because I-" Yukine stopped suddenly and stared at her. His gaze looked terrified and confused, like he couldn't see the danger right in front of him.
"Yukine?" Hiyori stepped closer, reaching. The air grew cold, frost stretching across the walls and plants like spider webs.
"Yuka?" He responded.
"Yukine- ah!" She reached too close and was slapped away. The watering can clanged to the floor. In a blink of an eye, the boy vanished, and so did the cold. She went running to the shrine, begging for Yato.
"What happened?" Yato listened closely, frown tight, as she explained.
"How long has he been able to touch you?" Yato spoke with urgency. Only corrupt spirits with hatred towards humanity could physically touch a living human. Her grandmother warned her as such.
"Not long." The teen wasn't often aggressive.
The ghost was silent.
"Is he alright?" Hiyori fretted.
"...He'll be out of your sight for a while. And if you see him mumbling to himself in the corner, leave him alone." The water was cleaned up.
For the first time in what felt like ages, Yato glared at her.
"Don't ask him questions." Yato vanished from her sight as well.
Hiyori had only seen the boy have his 'ghostly fits' twice since she moved in. But they were becoming more frequent. Mostly happening at night, the coldest room in the house sat Yukine facing a corner, whispering to himself and rocking back and forth. Frost damaged the walls and floor, but Yato was quick to make it right again. Yukine himself, never seemed to remember them.
"That's wonderful, Yukine!"
"Nice work, kid!"
They applauded as Hiyori's textbook dragged itself across the table.
With each passing fit came more ghostly powers. Yukine was able to push around heavier things, rather than pick them up. Walls were less of an issue, but things of different density, such as the couch or table, was another story. He did much better with the temperature when he could help it and Hiyori was thankful for that.
"You're a natural," Yato beamed, "a super natural!"
The teen groaned, sticking his head in the wall.
"So, what else does he have to learn?" Hiyori asked the man floating beside her. (He never sat down).
"Well lots of things…teleportation, possession, automatic writing, pyrokinesis, dream telepathy, automatic anything, better telekinesis." Yato's fingers helped keep track until Yukine flew over to whack him. The elder giggled as the two wrestled in the air.
"How many can you do?" She asked Yato.
"Oh me? All of them." He smirked at Yukine, "I'm just that good."
"You're just that old." Yukine shot back, "come on! You won't even tell me how you do it! Some teacher…"
Yato only pouted and poked the teen's forehead.
"I told you, you're still thinkin' like a human. You can't do ghost things if you don't think like a ghost."
Hiyori giggled at the silly logic.
"You mean like sitting in a chair?" Yukine jeered.
Hiyori wanted to play this game too.
"Or keeping track of time?" She added.
"Or turning the lights on at night."
"Or paying bills."
"Or not ironing socks."
"Alright, enough!" Yato waved his arms as the two laughed.
"I work hard to make this house a home!" He whined.
"You do." Hiyori agreed. They wrestled for a bit longer and Hiyori almost wanted to join.
There was a wrestling match later the three promised to watch together.
"And you!" He pointed in Yukine's face, "it doesn't help that you don't practice! Give me three laps around the house, go through every wall of every size! Move, move, move!"
To her surprise, Yukine groaned but drifted out the back window. She wondered how he would do.
"He's getting stronger," she mused.
"Has he hurt you?" Yato was staring out the window. Hiyori swallowed. There was a hand shaped bruise on her arm. One she got while trying to leave one day.
"I know you have questions," he started, "it's not good to question. It's not good to know. You or him.
"I'm sorry," Hiyori apologized and she meant it.
Somewhere, Yukine ran into a wall with a thump, misjudging the distance.
Yato floated away to check on him.
Hiyori was - at this point - fully aware of how dangerous the other side could be. She was comfortable in her new routine with her roommates, yet she still had nightmares of her grandmother and Kouto's warnings.
That, despite their friendliness, they could just as easily turn on her.
Whether they wanted to or not.
"Hiyori?" Yukine called from the light at the top of the stairs.
"Down here!" Hiyori answered.
Somewhere in the basement was her mother's old photo album. She wanted it to be sent to her.
"Hi-hiyori! It's dangerous down there, you'll… die?"
"Yukine, it's okay! Yato said it was safe here now."
There was a moment of silence so dark, Hiyoir's muscles stopped moving.
"...I don't want to go into the basement."
Hiyori moved a box harshly. It caught the lip of the floor and the basement echoed with a screech.
A loose replacement wood board revealed a deep, dark hole with a fridge covered in ripped up papers. Someone gasped behind her and Hiyori saw a teen with wide, tearful eyes and glowing white skin.
Something was wrong.
Yukine appeared in front of her, then through her. Hiyori shivered.
He stared down in the hole.
Something told her she needed to get out. Now.
"Yukine? Yukine, what's wrong?"
Suddenly, he screamed.
Icy wind picked up inside the house, howling from the abyss in the floor. A ghostly winter settled in, staining boxes and happy family photos with frost. The house seemed alive, breathing with the shuddering breaths of a crying child.
The boy curled up in the air, silhouette glowing with a supernaturally white fire. It oozed off him, dripping upwards and blowing across the house with each of his heart-broken cries. The ghostly wails of a child were grating on the ears and turned trembling hearts to stone.
"She will be coming back soon. He has to get me out. When? Who?"
"Yukine? Who are you talking about? I'm right here, it's me!"
"Don't leave me in here!" Yukine threw his head back and howled. Hiyori covered her ears as the house shook, window shutters and doors slamming in his rage.
Yato would surely hear him.
"Yukine, please!" Hiyori stepped towards him, fighting the wind and iced floor. Things were thrown, Hiyori was cut by a broken frame hurling across her legs. When she reached him, Yukine's head whipped around.
Hiyori was frozen to her spot.
His head turned completely around. The empty black circles of his eyes stretched as if someone poked holes in clay, extending to black tears that dripped off him.
"Don't leave me! Lift it! Get me out!" Yukine's hands, long and curled, gripped her shoulders with strength greater than any living teen. Pointed fingers sank into her arms.
The stairs banged, like someone stepped down slowly, carrying something heavy.
"He's coming." Yukine's grip loosened and Hiyori lurched out of the hold, falling to the floor.
Panicked, Hiyori looked towards the stairs.
There was no one.
"It was you."
"Huh?" Hiyori saw the outstretched finger pointed at her.
"You- human-! Yat- Father…" he sniffled, "my father…"
"Killed me!" Yukine howled, his being translucent and delicate as it stretched across the planes and flickered like a fire fighting for its life.
Hiyori covered her face as papers flew about the room.
Suddenly, her stomach dropped and her neck burned with a familiar feeling.
Yato stood behind her, his flare of shadows blending into the darkness of the room. His sword unsheathed.
Blue eyes burned, their light shining brighter than Yukine's malicious glow.
The child was terrified.
"No!" Yukine's voice was distorted, a jumble of unnatural pitches.
"Don't kill me, dad! I don't want to die!" He scratched at his face, pulling the clay-like skin to reveal nothing but black underneath. The house groaned. Wood fell from the ceiling. Something heavy tumbled upstairs. Windows shattering.
"No, Yato." Hiyori rolled onto her stomach, only able to see the spirits through the pitch black.
"You can't. Please don't. He's just- it's not his fault. Please. Don't." Her nails scraped the ice on the floor.
Yato - gaze hauntingly fixated - came closer. He disappeared and reappeared every few feet. Fast, yet terrifyingly slow.
"No, Yato don't!" Hiyori reached as he brushed past her. His aura made her fear for her life.
Something clattered behind her. The wood board was fastened back over the hole and Yato faced the raging spirit with his sword pointed. Yukine shook at the sight of his predicted doom, sobbing.
"We all have to live here, together!" Hiyori screeched. Yukine peered beyond his fear of the threat.
Yato muttered an apology.
"To…geth…er?" Yukine warbled. Yato stopped. Black tears dripped from empty sockets.
"We all have to live here together! This is our home! You can't take one of us away!" Hiyori continued her desperate shouting, "I was happy here! We were happy here! Together! I want to keep being here with you both! Please…" she tucked her tears into her balled up fists on the floor. Like a prayer.
"I want us to keep living here together, forever."
The wind stopped.
"You…will stay?" Yukine continued in off-key tones, "you want to live here with me?"
"With us," Hiyori promised, "with Yato. He's been by your side this whole time, hasn't he? He'll be with you forever too."
"Yato…?" Yukine's face was nothing but a sad teen with big amber eyes and fluffy blonde hair.
The house was quiet.
Yato watched Yukine's body go slack.
He turned to the older ghost, "you…you were there…"
Yato remained silent, watching him.
Yukine wiped his blotchy cheeks and sniffed. The air still terribly cold.
"…I remember you. You were here when I- in our apartment. You, you looked after me... talked to me…And always cheered me up and you- you were my-" Yukine looked to Yato for a word. One Yato didn't dare to name.
Yato closed his eyes, head bowed, and floated still for so long Hiyori thought he might fall asleep. Until he sighed. Sword away, he reached for the boy.
"You always could see me," Yato held Yukine's face like it was the whole world.
"You would cry so loud when I was out of sight. It made those wicked parents of yours so upset…used to stare at you for hours till you fell asleep," thumbs wiped away tears, "when I floated away, you would try to follow. You never ate unless I cooked and treats were a must for homework."
"…I wanted you to stay with me forever, but not like this…"
In his arms, Yukine sobbed and trembled. The air becoming slightly warmer. The house groaned.
Yato smiled so softly, "Always such a cry baby…"
Yukine…chuckled…as best he could…
"My sister thought you were my imaginary friend. I remember, you often tried scaring them but my dad…"
"Self centered people are the least sensitive to us," Yato frowned, "ironic, really."
"You were the only one who listened. The only one who stayed," Yukine weeped, "the only one who- cared."
The home was silent once more. Dark, but no longer cold.
Hiyori stood apart for their moment but was soon fretted over by ghosts who cared too much…and for far too long.
Yato and Yukine had been gone for the last week, leaving a note on her wall that they both needed rest. Yato was the first to pop back into sight yesterday, Yukine following later that night. They assured her they were alright, and Hiyori felt it to be true now that she could see them.
The house was back in tip-top shape. Hiyori came home from another get-together to find them in the sewing room (one of the many odd rooms Hiyori finally explored). (Next to Yukine's green room and Yato's art studio).
Yukine stood on a stool, arms outstretched, as Yato pinned fabric. Only the fabric showed in the mirror.
"This is stupid."
"It's Hiyori's Halloween costume. She asked me for it."
"She did not 'ask you for it,' you insisted."
Yato seemed to stab the needle with more force than needed.
"That did not hurt. You're a ghost."
Hiyori stepped in and gave her greeting. Her ghosts flew over with glee.
"Hiyori!" They cheered. The fabric thudded to the floor.
They were always so happy to see her. Waiting for her to come home.
"I do like the outfit." Hiyori offered.
"Thank you~, Hiyori~" Yato sang as he rolled in the air. He tried to hug her and Hiyori shivered, stepping out of his cold embrace.
"The laundry's done for the day! And I fixed the downstairs bathroom sink! Dinner is almost ready too! Oh, Yukine? Finish it for me, would ya? And the surprise?" Yato babbled to them. Giddy, Yukine drifted through the floor easily, as if he never had an issue and did it his whole afterlife.
Yato and Hiyori were left alone. Hiyori's cheeks warmed.
"I know you have questions," he repeated, "it's not good to question. It's not good to know. You or him."
"But I'd rather you know than him so if you have questions, you can talk to me."
"Talk to me." He repeated.
Ghosts liked to repeat themselves.
"…is he alright now? Will he talk to himself? Is he…"
Yato sighed and looked ahead. "We all have fits. Without memories to understand them, they can become sporadic, like his were before."
"Now, he will have them when triggered. Or on certain anniversaries. I used to have about eight or so a year, now I'm down to three…he'll grow tired of them some day."
"What happens after that?"
"…I'm not sure."
"It'll be okay, though?"
"It'll be okay."
"Thank you for telling me," she smiled.
Yato smiled back, but not as wide as he often did after her praise.
"He and I have one coming up soon. The day of his murder," Yato drifted this way and that, "He'll be in the basement for a while and I'll be at my own spot. Don't come near us."
"Okay," Hiyori's nod was filled with worry.
They left for the stairs, Yato floating above her like a winter storm cloud.
"…is it the kitchen?" She asked.
"No." Yato replied.
Hopefully she would learn what tied him to the house soon enough.
The surprise was homemade lemon meringue pie, with a little crown cut out of the middle. It was delicious.