title: the burning sun

fandom: Ao No Exorcist

pairing: Rin/Shiemi

prompts: mandarin/Christmas oranges/mistletoe/something pink

dedication: for Sara. you are one of the funniest, most genuine people i know and also one of the most talented. merry christmas, gorgeous; you deserve to have the most fantastic new year.

It is snowing again.

Rin presses his face closer against the window and watches his breath fog up the glass, watches the pale proof of his existence momentarily hide the world. Snow. Cold blasts of air on his skin and the knowledge that nothing would ever be right ever again.

He isn't sure, because parts of it have melded together and blurred like swirling paint in a jar of water, but he thinks it might have snowed that day. Not the funeral. Before that.

Around him class continues in ordinary fashion; Bon studies furiously, Izumo answers every question perfectly and beside him, Shiemi diligently copies down notes from the blackboard, somehow making sense of Yukio's illegible white chalk scrawl. Her hand holds the pen carefully between her small, slender fingers and her thigh lies ever so softly against his own. He can feel her gentle warmth washing over him, quiet sunshine hidden in the folds of her clothes and her corn silk hair. And normally it would be enough to keep him doubly distracted – especially in her school uniform – but outside it is snowing and the world is washed to white. Rin recalls screams and blood and a terrible gate, portal to Gehenna. To Satan.

Christmas is in the air, he observes, swiping angrily at the sheen on the window pane until it is erased; Christmas and happy families and laughing children.

Rin remembers a monastery blown to pieces and the wet whistle of air between his father's lips, of the terrible suck of blood gurgling at the back of his throat.

It has been almost a year, he thinks hollowly. It rattles down his spine and settles into the empty spaces between his bones.

What he wants is simple; to slip away into the shadows and cradle the guilt in his arms, cradle it and bury it in his bloodstream.

"Here," Shiemi says later, bright eyed and flushed from the cold. Rin looks up. She looks cute in her woollen hat and thick, winter coat. "Have a piece."

She sits down beside him on the fountain edge and starts peeling something – an orange, he thinks and remembers Christmas's gone by, the small orange fruit at the bottom of his and Yukio's stockings.

Rin takes a segment from her offered palm and frowns.

"You're not wearing gloves."

Shiemi smiles guiltily. "Neither are you. You're not even wearing a coat."

He bites into the orange piece – it tastes sweet and sharp on his tongue, but not bitter. Rin is almost glad for that, in a way.

"I'm not cold," he murmurs. He feels the long, searching look she gives him and ignores it.

When she reaches over and takes one of his hands in her own, though – that he cannot ignore.

"Liar," she says softly and it is only when faced with her warmth that he realises his own hands are almost frozen. "Put these on."

She pulls a pair of pink gloves from his pockets, expression uncharacteristically firm. It brooks no argument. He thinks he should feel ridiculous sitting in the snow in a thin t-shirt and wearing pink girl's gloves, but strangely, he doesn't.

"What are you doing out here?" he asks instead of objecting. "Shouldn't you be inside with the rest of them?"

There's a party going on. Rin can imagine it easily; Shima drinking too much, Izumo's disapproving frown, Yukio sitting stiffly among the proceedings. Shiemi belongs there with them.

"Shouldn't you be?" she counters with a funny little smile, as she looks away.

"I don't belong there, Shiemi." Not today.

"Then we'll have our own party," she decides and he watches the snow land and settle in her pale hair. He can see her breath on the cold air, white and opaque. He can see the slim white column of her throat and a teasing inch of bare leg between her long white socks and little-girl school skirt. His mouth is suddenly very dry.

"Come on," she tugs him to his feet and he obeys because really, he's been helpless since that first day he met her, lonely girl that she was, afraid in her grandmother's garden. Even then, in that first glimpse of her wide, startled eyes, he thought that she was lovely.

Even then, he knew that he could never have her.

Shiemi takes him home.

Except it's not home, not really. It is a dorm he and his brother share, but not home. Home is lost forever.

"I don't feel very good," he confesses, stumbling on the stairs and she puts a hand to his forehead.

"You're burning up," Shiemi says, worrying her bottom lip between her teeth. "That's what happens when you sit in the snow like that, Rin. You get sick."

Everything else is a blur as the fever sets in. His bones ache and he is only vaguely aware of Shiemi bashfully tugging his shirt off and shucking his wet things over the bathtub. His hair is wet and she smoothes it back from his face, brushes his bangs away from his head and settles him into bed with a warm drink. It's not the snow or cold that's making him sick though, he thinks.

"Then what is?" she asks and Rin is startled to realise he's spoken aloud.

"You should go," he says instead of answering. "Wouldn't you rather be with the others?"

She smiles, perched on the edge of the bed, all green, green eyes and small hands. She looks like the most beautiful thing he has ever seen.

"No," she whispers gently, the only light thing in the darkness of the room. "Not at all."

"But it's Christmas."

You should spend Christmas with the people you love.

"I am," Shiemi says very, very quietly but Rin has already fallen asleep. His dark hair falls into his face, sticks to his damp skin and she curses herself for not being quick enough, for not finding him fast enough. Very carefully, so as not to wake him up, she brushes his hair back and it is silky beneath her fingertips. Even in sleep he looks broken.

Shiemi thinks about leaving, about re-joining the party she left to find her damaged, dark-haired boy but finds herself staring at the pale planes of his face instead. Rin.

She curls up against his side, tucking the bedsheets around him and praying that it'll be enough to sweat the sickness out. She thinks of his eyes, like blue bottleglass and stars exploding.

"You need someone to look after you," she thinks aloud to the dark.

She imagines she is someone else for a moment, someone braver and bends forwards until the ends of her hair brush his skin, a ghostly butterfly kiss. She tricks herself, imagines mistletoe above their heads and presses her lips very gently against his.

He tastes like oranges and vulnerability.

notes: yeahhh. Consider this part 1/2.