"Long, handwritten note deep in your pocket…"

Tomoe. He was her only thought, his name echoing through her mind like a broken record, over and over. She had to get there! She had to tell him not to go, not to leave her here all alone... He couldn't do that. Even if he thought it was for her own good, even if it was because he didn't want her to see him suffer. How could he not even say good-bye? Her breath caught at that horrible realization, and her eyes stung from the cold. With a frustrated cry, Nanami reached up to swipe the water from her eyes, refusing to acknowledge that it wasn't the cold, but the fact that he had left her side after promising to stay, that by leaving, he had somehow managed to break her so entirely…

Perhaps it wasn't until she learned that the price of loving her was his own death that she realized how much he meant to her. Sure, she had known for a long while that she loved him, but never had she fully realized how much of her heart he held… and now, with him leaving, how much of her he was willing to destroy for her own sake. Reflexively, Nanami felt her fingers curl around the slip of paper buried deep in her coat pocket. It was a last resort, her deepest fear, that if she couldn't persuade him to get off that train, then at least he would have something of her to take with him, even if it was a simple letter that told him all the things she had never had the courage to tell him herself. With a stifled sob, Nanami buried her face against the sleeve of her jacket, wiping away the tears that were now cascading helplessly down her face, freezing against her cheeks. Still, she pushed on through the swirling snow storm. She would get there. He had promised.

"Words, how little they mean when you're a little too late…"

There. She could see the train station up ahead, could make out the outline of the huge, coal black train in front. The snow swirled about it, passing it in and out of visibility, as if it were merely a wavering illusion. Like…everything…

Nanami's breath tore at her throat as she stumbled ever closer, her whole body numb from the cold and the exhaustion of having run three miles through a snowstorm. All for him. It was then, as Nanami staggered up to the depot platform and paused, bracing her hand against a snow-crusted column, chest heaving as she fought for breath, that a single, shrill whistle pierced the night air. Her head jerked up and ice-cold fear was suddenly gripping her heart, suffocating her. No. This can't be happening. And then the train lurched forward, the screech of its wheels against the frozen steel of the tracks shattering the quiet. Nanami's eyes flew wide with panic and despair, sudden realization crashing down on her and she flung herself from the platform, lunging towards the train. It was picking up speed, the protesting wheels finally finding purchase on the tracks, faster, faster… Nanami felt the toe of her boot catch on a pile of snow, and her body lurched forward into the cold slush. Even then, her hand still reached out to the train as it- as he- disappeared down the tracks. Out of her life.

"Noooooo!" The scream tore itself from Nanami's throat, a single, piercing note that carried in it all of the pain and the loss and the brokenness in her heart. It meant she knew. She was just a little too late.

"I stood right by the tracks, your face in a locket.
Good girls, hopeful they'll be and long they will wait…"

Nanami struggled back to her feet, took a few more steps until she stood just beside the steel tracks, and then fell to her knees, the tears falling freely now, dripping onto the muddy snow. "You promised..." Her voice was a breathless whisper, raw from the cold, and the tears, and her screams. As she knelt beside the tracks that had taken him away from her, she felt her fingers curl once again around the letter in her coat pocket. Trembling, she managed to bring it out, the pale parchment clutched tightly in her fist. Still visibly shaking from the tears, Nanami unrolled the letter, the thing that told him everything that was in her heart. Her breath caught when she saw the mess it had become. The ink, the practiced calligraphy that he himself had taught her, had smeared and run down the page. It was undecipherable. Clutching the page to her heart, Nanami felt herself sink down onto her legs, and then sideways until she was lying with her face pressed into the cold snow, obscuring her vision until all she could see was white. Now he would never know. She would wait for him, though. Wait for him to come back, because he always had before. Wait, because even if he could abandon her, she had promised, and she wouldn't abandon him. Eventually, she felt the snow begin to settle over her body, blanketing her in white, just like everything else. Eventually, her body began to go numb until she couldn't even feel herself breathing anymore, couldn't hear her own heartbeat. Eventually, her heart would start to numb, too, and she wouldn't feel this pain anymore. Eventually, it would all end.

"We had a beautiful, magic love there…"

Tomoe stood beside the window of the train, his forehead resting against the chilled glass, letting the cold seep slowly into his body and, in turn, his heart. It hurt to leave her, but it was something he would only have done if he knew beyond doubt that it was the right thing to do, that in the end, it would be best for both of them. He knew the pain was intense now, both in his own heart and hers, but he also knew that it was less intense then it would have been if she had been forced to watch him die, day after day, slowly losing himself. He couldn't bear it and neither could she. But this… was it really any better? Tomoe raised his violet eyes to the rushing forest and swirling snow that whipped by outside. Was it any better? With a broken moan, he let his head once again fall to rest against the frozen glass. It was too late to second guess himself now. It was too late for everything. But that didn't make it any less painful. It didn't make it any less wrong. "Nanami…" Tomoe closed his eyes as her name misted on the glass. How could I possibly leave?

"What a sad, beautiful, tragic love affair…"

Mizuki waded carefully through the snow, making his way along the train tracks from the depot.

"Nanami! Where are you?!" he cried, lifting a hand to shield his face against the cutting wind. He had tried everything to stop her, yet she had still left. Was that fox really worth all of this? "Nanami! Please come home! Let's please talk this over, Nanami!" No reply. With a huff of breath that he idly watched swirl away from him, Mizuki continued along, the scarf he wore about his neck flapping behind him as the wind blowing about him steadily increased. I have to find her soon… Even if she was a land god, she was still human, and Mizuki had learned enough about humans in the time he had spent with Nanami and Tomoe to know that if his master stayed out much longer in a storm like this, she would freeze to death. He couldn't let that happen. Tomoe had entrusted him with Nanami and he wouldn't let Tomoe down. And he wouldn't let Nanami down, either. Becoming desperate, Mizuki picked up his pace until he was running full out down the railroad tracks, calling her name. She had to be along here somewhere, right? He knew that if he were Nanami and he were that upset, he would have followed the train. But just how far had the girl followed it?! It was then that Mizuki tripped over a particularly large drift of snow and crashed headfirst onto the ground beside it. Swearing quietly, the snake familiar began to pick himself up, brushing the snow from his clothes and muttering to himself, when he spotted the scarf. It was red plaid and dusted almost completely over with a fine layer of snow and ice. In fact, if he hadn't tripped, he probably would have never noticed it at all. But the most important thing was that it was protruding from the drift of snow that had caught him off balance. With a stifled gasp, the familiar fell to his knees at once and began to dig with both hands, ignoring how the ice cut at his fingers and how the blistering cold began to creep into his body.

"Hold on, Nanami! I'll get you out!" The words fell in pants as Mizuki fought with increasing despair to free his master. What if it's too late? What if I'll lose another-" No! He wouldn't allow himself to think like that. Nanami was strong for a human. Of course she would be all right. With that thought, Mizuki managed to break the last layer of snow and lifted the land god from where she lay, curled on her side in the snow. "Nanami!" her familiar gasped, quickly lowering his ear to her chest, listening for a heartbeat. For a second, Mizuki's whole world stopped, held its breath, and simply waited. And there it was. A single, definite beat. A relieved hiss of breath escaped him as he stood, cradling his master to his chest. She was unconscious and most likely very sick, but she was alive and that was all that mattered.

" In dreams, I meet you in warm conversation.
We both wake in lonely beds, different cities …"

As Tomoe stepped from the train, whatever small amount of luggage he had gripped tightly in his hands, he was lonely. At least, he believed that was the correct word for it. He had never been great with human emotions, but since he had met Nanami, they had become almost normal, a part of him. At the thought of her, he had to close his eyes for a moment, steady himself and compose his face into its usual cold visage. The way it had been for so long, after he lost Yukiji, but before he met…

With a frustrated snarl, Tomoe shook himself from his thoughts and walked to a window in the station, pausing to gaze awe-struck at the millions of glowing, glittering city lights. He didn't know where he was going to stay for the few months he had left, as he didn't exactly have Kurama's apartment here, but he remembered her explaining to him one night when they were talking about her life in the city and what it was like to live there how it was possible to rent a house or apartment for a small fee every month. In a city this big, he was bound to find something, but for now, he supposed he would stay at another place she had told him about… what had she called it… a motel. With a sigh, the fox demon set off, aware that no one was giving him strange looks because she had always reminded him to disguise his ears and tail, and because of those many times before, he had remembered now. With a shuddering breath, he tried to ignore the ache in his chest, and pushed her from his mind. He wouldn't think of her again.

"Tomoe! Please don't do this! You promised!" She was crying. That was the first thing he noticed.

"Nanami… Hush, now. I'm not going anywhere. What are you crying about, silly? I said I would stay!" Tomoe instantly stepped forward and enveloped the crying girl in his arms, holding her tight against his chest, his first thought to comfort her. "It's all right now. I'm right here. Don't cry anymore." He whispered, gently pulling back so he could wipe the tears from her cheeks. Nanami stepped back, her lip still trembling and her wide brown eyes still glistening with tears. Her voice was a mere whisper, but he still heard her clearly.

"You promise, Tomoe?" He felt the intensity in his eyes soften as he looked at her, her anxious expression as she awaited his reply, her eyes still so full of anguish. The pang of guilt he felt was unexpected and it saddened him. Was he really the one who had caused that anguish? He, who had sworn to protect her, first out of duty and then out of-

"Yes. I promise. I won't ever leave you again." He murmured, his voice low and firm in his answer. With that, he pulled her back against him, vowing to never let her go, never again…

With a start, Tomoe's eyes flew open, and he found himself staring up at the wooden ceiling of the inn he had stayed at for the night, his chest rising and falling rapidly. With a shuddering sigh, he realized that she wasn't here, that she was still back at the shrine, and that he was still miles away from her. Tomoe sat up and rubbed a hand across his eyes, frowning, and wondered if she was crying now. He prayed that she wasn't. He hoped that Mizuki was taking care of her. Never would he have imagined himself ever hoping for such a thing, but with him gone, he knew that she would need someone strong to depend on until she got herself together and got on with her life.

Tomoe raised a hand to his chest, violet eyes blinking in surprise at the pang that again struck there, sharp and precise. Wasn't that what he wanted? For her to move on and not be troubled by him, for her to keep up with her duties as a land god, maybe find someone else she could be with? A snarl rumbled through Tomoe's chest at that thought. No. She had said she would never get married anyway, so he had nothing to worry about. Pushing himself up from the bed, Tomoe crossed the room and pulled open the velvet curtain to peer outside. The snow had stopped, though the sky was still an ominous gray, so there was no way to be certain how long the weather would last. He had to get a move on today and find a place to stay until he- He just had to find a place to stay, that was all.

"And time is taking its sweet time erasing you.
And you've got your demons, and darling, they all look like me…"

Nanami drew her knees up to her chest and wrapped her arms around them, raising her head to study the cherry blossom trees just outside the shrine entrance. Seated on the front steps of the shrine, she could just make out the bare branches waving listlessly in the breeze. They were so much prettier in the spring, green and beautiful. Biting her lip to keep it from trembling, Nanami lowered her head into her arms as the snow rushed against her face, whipping her hair out behind her. A week. It had been a week since he had left her, and under Mizuki's watchful eye, she had gotten better in only three days. But what did that matter when she had to go about her normal life like this, pretending that everything was okay when it wasn't because he wasn't here making snide remarks about how useless she was around the shrine, or cooking their wonderful meals, or sneaking off to the demon market late at night. He was gone. And so, as it seemed, was her purpose as a land god. Raising her eyes to the frozen cherry blossom trees again, she remembered that time so long ago when she had been working to strengthen her land god abilities in that same grove. And then, of course, he had shown up, studying her with that forever unchanging look of amusement glittering in his eyes, watching her and her failed attempts to make the flowers bloom. But then, when Himemiko's assistant had insulted her for being a human later that week, he had stood up for her. Even now, Nanami could still remember what he had said that day. "One day, she will surely be able to make the flowers bloom." Nanami closed her eyes against the memory, willing the tears that burned in her eyes not to fall. She could make the flowers bloom now, but what use was it if no one would see? No, that wasn't true, Mizuki would be there to see them. Still, he wouldn't be there to watch her from these same steps, his lips curving into that trademark half-smile that bordered on a smirk. Nanami raised her eyes to the gray sky and wondered if, as time went on, his image would become less clear in her mind. If she wouldn't be able to picture that smirk so easily, or the concern that could so easily be perceived as amusement in those purple eyes of his. Scowling, Nanami wiped a hand across her eyes and gathered her legs beneath her to stand.

"Nanami! What are you doing out here in the cold?! I told you to stay inside until you were absolutely better! Come on now, you don't look well. Why don't you go lie down for a bit?" Nanami was numb as Mizuki fussed over her, but she managed to cast a last glance over her shoulder at the cherry blossom trees as her familiar led her back inside the shrine. Idly, she wondered if Tomoe saw her as often as she saw him.

"'Cause we had a beautiful, magic love there…"

Tomoe frowned as he fought his way through the streets of downtown. He wasn't sure he liked living in the city. Perhaps, in time, he could have gotten used to it, but he supposed he had lived on the outskirts of things for too long. With a sigh, he continued to push his way forward. He had gone out today in search of some things to cook with, as the apartment he had rented had been virtually bare, save for a few pieces of threadbare furniture and a broken TV set. It was nothing like the shrine he had lived in for so long. Glancing up to step around a taxi parked half-on, half-off the sidewalk, he felt his breath catch in his throat. In the shop window across the street, he could just make out the thing that had caught his eye. Crossing quickly, and dutifully ignoring the cars blaring their horns at him, Tomoe made his way to the store and leaned forward until his nose practically touched the glass. It was almost the same hairpin he had bought for Nanami so long ago at the demon market. On closer inspection, he could see that it wasn't the exact same pin, though it did come quite close. Drawing back, he raised a clawed hand to his face, brushing his silver bangs back only to have them fall forward again immediately. He hadn't counted on missing everyone so much, for it wasn't only Nanami he longed to see, but he also missed Mizuki picking stupid fights with him, and Onikiri and Kotetsu getting in his way as he tried to clean up the shrine. He missed going to school with Nanami and having to put up with that insufferable tengu who still somehow thought that the position of land god would one day be his…

With a firm shake of his head, Tomoe banished the thoughts and continued on past the shop window. Sentimentality had never been a strong point of his and he didn't intend to make it one now. Sure, he missed putting up with everyone, but he had left with their best interests at heart. That they shouldn't be made to watch him suffer. It was then, as he looked up, that he saw her, walking just ahead of him. Nanami. She was here! Had she come for him?! Springing forward, Tomoe reached out to snag her shoulder.

"Nanami! I'm here, it's-" As the woman swung around to face him, Tomoe dropped his hand from her shoulder and stumbled back a bit. So it wasn't her. He should've known.

"Excuse me?" the woman asked, staring at him in confusion. "Do I know you?" Tomoe blinked and shakily took another step back.

"No. Sorry. I thought you were someone else." The woman gave him a half-smile, shook her head and turned, hurrying away from him. With a sigh, Tomoe felt his ears droop, and he absently glanced up at the sky, which was quickly darkening as yet another day came to an end. The ache in his chest was as intense now as it had ever been, especially now that the fleeting hope that she was here had been crushed. How long would this keep up? He saw her everywhere.

"What a sad, beautiful, tragic love affair…"

Nanami lay in her room, face flushed from the cold and one arm draped lazily across her forehead. He eyes were glazed and emotionless as she watched the roof of the shrine, her expression unchanging even when Mizuki entered the room with a tray of tea.

"Nanami…" he murmured, going to her. She turned her blank gaze on him as he crouched by her side and placed the tray beside her. She could see that Mizuki appeared troubled by something, but she couldn't find the energy to ask, instead simply watching him and waiting for him to talk. He seemed to be struggling for words as he studied her, and finally, he told her what he knew in as plain a matter as possible. "Nanami, I think I found out where Tomoe went." At the mention of the fox familiar's name, feeling flared back to life in Nanami's eyes and she struggled to sit up, staring up at Mizuki in shock.

"You did?! Mizuki, where? We have to go! Come on, help me up…" Mizuki quickly held out a hand and gently pushed the girl back down.

"Wait, Nanami. Listen to me. I've tried several different locations, but through arduous research in the train station, I've found that he's in Kyoto." Nanami blinked, her eyes still wide.

"Kyoto?" she breathed, her voice soft. "But that's so far away… Mizuki, are you certain?" The familiar frowned at her, his opaque eyes looking slightly injured.

"Yes, but I don't think we should go." Nanami paused, startled.

"Not go? Why not? Of course we have to go! Mizuki, you don't have to come, but-"

"That's not what I meant, Nanami. I think you should call him first." Sitting back, the land god stared, shocked, as her familiar brought out a small slip of paper, a number scrawled on it in Mizuki's neat handwriting.

"A number?" Nanami whispered, reaching forward to take the piece of paper from him. "Does Tomoe even know how to use a phone? Mizuki, how did you possibly get this?" A slight smile ghosted over Mizuki's face, though his eyes remained tense.

"It took a while, Nanami. I just thought you would have more luck that way." Nanami smiled, trembling slightly, and reached forward to wrap her arms around the snake familiar's neck.

"Thank you so much, Mizuki…" she breathed, feeling a tear trickle down her cheek. Even with this development, she still refused to acknowledge the hope in her chest. There was no reason calling him would make anything better, but the fact that Mizuki had tried so hard to find Tomoe's whereabouts just to see her smile again… Nanami closed her eyes before sitting back and studying the piece of paper she now held onto as if it were a lifeline. It was her last hope.

"Distance, timing, breakdown fighting,
Silence, the train runs off its tracks…"

Tomoe stood at the window of his apartment, watching with fascination as people hurried by beneath him, holding coats or umbrellas over the heads. It had started to rain just after Tomoe had returned to his apartment, and just to top things off, he had next to nothing to show for his shopping troubles. He might as well have just stayed inside. Idly, he wondered if it was raining at the shrine where Nanami was. He wondered if she was sitting on the front steps, reckless as usual, just so she could feel the wind and hear the thunder, as he had seen her do so many times before. With a faint smile, he imagined Mizuki scolding her for her carelessness and going on about how she would catch a cold if she stayed out much longer. Tomoe's smile faltered for a moment, though, when he remembered how he would always come to Nanami's rescue and persuade Mizuki to let them stay out and watch the storm.

Now, she would most definitely be inside, complaining about how unfair it was and putting off doing her school work even though she had nothing better to do. Stepping back from the window, Tomoe let the curtain drop, leaving himself in relative darkness. He wondered if they would ever stop haunting him during these last few months, if there would come a time where the rain was just the rain and no painful memories were attached to it. It was then that the phone on the countertop began to ring and Tomoe jumped nearly a foot in the air at the pain-staking sound. When he had first met Nanami, he remembered her showing him how to use a phone at a payphone booth outside of the café they had eaten at, as the shrine most certainly didn't have something so modern. So hesitantly, Tomoe reached for the foreign piece of technology and answered it as he had heard Nanami do so many times before on the mobile thing she had often carried with her.

"Hello?" he asked faintly, hoping he was doing it right. However, he almost dropped the thing when he heard the voice on the other end. It sounded strained and tight with tension, but he was sure of it.

"Tomoe? Please don't hang up." It was Nanami, most certainly. Tomoe could barely breathe around the sudden constriction in his chest, but he managed to choke out her name.

"Nanami?"

"Yes…it's me. Listen Tomoe, I understand why you left; I really do. But…"

"…Yes?" Tomoe breathed. She wasn't really going to make him do this, was she? If she really understood, she wouldn't request of him what he was afraid she would.

"I know you don't want to hear it, Tomoe, but it's really hard here without you. Please… I know I can find something that will cure you! If you were here, we could think of something!I know we could! Just-" Her voice was increasing in its force and the words came faster and faster as she went on, leaving Tomoe valiantly trying to ignore the desperate note that had crept into her voice. Begging wasn't something he'd thought she would ever do and it pained him to hear her sink to such desperate measures, especially for someone of her own pride and dignity.

"Enough, Nanami!" he snarled, "I left for you. Do you think it would have been better for you to watch me die a little more day by day? Do you think that would do anything for either of us?!" he spat. There was silence for a few moments and Tomoe felt a pang of guilt when he heard the tears in her voice.

"It would be better than you leaving us, Tomoe. I swear I'll stay away from you, if that's what you want. Just…please… don't make yourself go through this alone. Don't make everyone here do that, either. It isn't right…"

"Nanami, I don't think you understand." Tomoe's voice had grown icy and for the first time, Nanami felt fear trickle into her heart. It was like the first time she told him she loved him. That same feeling of desperate helplessness was back and she could feel the conversation spiraling out of control. Tomoe felt it as well, but he had steeled himself for this last part. He wouldn't let them down. "I'm dying, Nanami. At least let me live out my days without being demeaned to watching you and the others sobbing over and pitying me." Nanami could feel anger coiling in her stomach at those words and she spat back her retort quickly, making the greatest effort that he shouldn't hear the tears in her voice.

"Yes, well, excuse me for caring! I know you probably think it was noble of you to leave and spare our feelings or whatever other nonsense you've thought up, but it was wrong! I know you don't think so, but it was wrong! I know you would never think of it as abandoning us, either, Tomoe, but you have!"

Tomoe was silent for a moment. Abandoning them? What he had done was anything but abandoning them. When he didn't answer, he heard Nanami's voice stiffen and she spoke softly now.

"You know, what do I care, Tomoe? Do what you want. But I'm going to find Mikage and I'm going to make him take this wretched mark back." Her voice was deadly serious, and Tomoe felt his lips curl back in a snarl. He didn't need to see her to know that she was speaking about the land god's mark on her forehead. He spoke slowly and carefully, but there was no doubt in his voice.

"You won't do that. You wouldn't leave Mizuki alone again."

"Kiss me, try to fix it, could you just try to listen?
Hang up, give up, and for the life of us we can't get back…"

Nanami was getting tired of him rebuking her, simply because he was wrong. She would give up her position as a land god, because as it had been in the week since Tomoe had left, she couldn't stand it. If he was going to stay away and die in some big city all alone without a word of parting to any of them, so be it, but it would shatter her. She couldn't bear to live her life out as the land god when her familiar had something so seriously wrong with him that he left her side and died alone.

"Tomoe, I will do it. I won't be known as the land god whose familiar was terribly sick and she let him go off to die alone without a fight. I couldn't live with that. Did you ever think of that?" Tomoe's voice had grown exasperated. He still didn't believe her.

"Nanami, for once, don't be so thoughtless. People depend on you as the land god and you would let them down if you resigned. I also know you well enough to know that you would never grow accustomed to the life of a normal human again. Do you think you could live with the guilt of abandoning that duty?"

Nanami felt her patience finally snap. How dare he lecture her on abandoning her duties when he had abandoned all of them! How dare he expect her to simply get on with her life as if he had been nothing, just brush off his death as if he were nothing more than a beloved pet that had died. She was shaking with fury, ignoring the tears now streaming down her cheeks.

"Could you just try to listen to me, Tomoe?! You're the one who doesn't understand! You don't have to know that someone important to you is out in some big city dying alone! You don't have to go through that by yourself! Don't you care at all?!" She was almost screaming at him, but she couldn't help it. How had this managed to happen to them? She would give anything for things to just go back to the way they had been before, for Tomoe to not have this curse that would not only take him from her, but tear them apart in the process.

Trembling, Nanami slowly lowered the payphone back onto its hook. It was so late at night, no one had even passed her, though it was snowing again. Not even Mizuki had come along, as Nanami had requested that he let her speak to Tomoe alone. It occurred to her as she stepped from the booth and began the walk home, that it would be Christmas soon. Perhaps in a few more weeks, even. But she couldn't feel anything now. Just numb. It was the same numb that she had felt when she had lain in the snow beside the train tracks the day Tomoe had left, only now she couldn't feel anything either. She walked on, still shaking, though whether it was from the cold or from her argument with Tomoe was unknown to her. Tomoe… How could he?

"A beautiful, magic love there.
What a sad, beautiful, tragic, beautiful, tragic, beautiful…"

"Nanami? Nanami?! Nanami!" Tomoe slammed the phone back onto its hook, and backed up, visibly shaking. What had just happened? He couldn't even recall the gist of their conversation now that it was over, but he knew that Nanami had every intention of removing her status as land god. "Oh, please, no…" Tomoe whispered, retreating back to the window and staring down at the city streets once again. Had he gone too far? He had been certain that she would never really stoop to such drastic measures, but if he had upset her enough… If she resigned because of him… Forcing himself to take a deep breath, Tomoe reached up and pressed his hand to his temple in thought. Every fiber of his being was urging him to pack up his things and leave now, right this moment. He had to find her and talk some sense into her. But then, another part of him screamed that if he went back now, he would never be able to make himself leave again and all this would have been for nothing. Tomoe stood, swaying slightly, mentally arguing with himself.

That was when the image of Nanami out on the street alone, sleeping on a park bench because she had nowhere else to go presented itself to him, and with a hiss of frustration, Tomoe slammed his fist into the window. No choice, then. He could never let something like that happen to Nanami. Turning away from the window, Tomoe stepped forward and made his way to the apartment door. He would catch the first train back tonight.

"Nanami… please don't do anything reckless without me…" he panted, quickly making his way toward the stairwell. "Wait for me."

"What we had ‒ a beautiful magic love there…"

As Nanami made her way back along the road to the shrine, she still couldn't process anything that had happened that night. Everything was a blur. As she rounded the final curve in the road and saw the shrine come into sight, she noticed Mizuki waiting for her on the front steps, and saw the snake familiar rise to his feet and wave as he caught sight of her. When she didn't respond, the familiar hesitated for a brief moment before launching himself off the steps and racing across the yard to meet her.

"Nanami? Are you okay? How did it go?" Mizuki asked, quickly gripping his master's arm and supporting her. Nanami was sure she looked exhausted, and she felt the same. She wanted nothing more than to make it up the steps of the shrine and collapse in her room. Then she could sleep. Maybe if she was lucky, she wouldn't wake up anytime soon.

"Nanami?!" Alarm had crept into Mizuki's voice when she hadn't answered him, and he shook her slightly, concern evident in his eyes. Nanami blinked and brought her head up, forcing herself to focus on the familiar.

"Hmm? Oh… I don't know, Mizuki. It wasn't good." The familiar opened his mouth to speak, but Nanami shook his arm off and continued forward on her own. "I don't really want to talk about it now. Please, Mizuki." She called back as she reached the steps and half-climbed, half-stumbled up them. Mizuki was instantly by her side, sliding the door open for her to enter, though Nanami saw that that along with the concern, there was something bordering on disappointment in his eyes. Though he would never admit it, she was certain Mizuki must have missed Tomoe as well. He hoped he would come home. Nanami realized. Feeling what she feared were inevitable tears fill her eyes, Nanami brushed past Mizuki and made her way to her room, not wanting to see that disappointment in his eyes anymore and not wanting to acknowledge the disappointment in her own heart. I really thought I could bring him back. She thought with a wry smile as she lay down on her futon. I really thought… Burying her face in her arms, Nanami closed her eyes and focused on battling the tears. She had cried enough for Tomoe in the past week as it was. She really needed to stop now, when she was certain he would never walk through these doors again. She would never hear him yelling at Mizuki in the morning now, never have to pick shiitake mushrooms out of her meals, and now she would never have him to run to when things had gone wrong.

"I can't do it…" she whispered to herself, feeling the tears begin to trickle out from her closed eyes. "I can't do it anymore. I'll find Mikage. I'll find someone, anyone to take it away." Reaching up, Nanami brushed her fingers along the mark on her forehead before dropping her hand back to her side and giving into sleep, along with the blissful ignorance it granted her.

"What a sad, beautiful, tragic love affair…"

Tomoe braced his fingers against the window of a train for the second time that week. He estimated it was sometime after midnight now, though he knew he wouldn't reach the shrine until roughly mid-morning. With a sigh, Tomoe turned his gaze away from the window and closed his eyes. He couldn't help but feel that this whole dilemma was his fault, right down to Nanami getting upset enough to even consider removing the land god mark. Of course he had known it would be hard for her. He knew that she cared for him. He simply hadn't realized the extent of her feelings, let alone the extent of his own. What if I'm too late…? Shaking his head, Tomoe dismissed the idea immediately. He wouldn't -couldn't- be too late. She wouldn't do anything in the early hours of the morning anyway, would she? Certainly Mizuki wouldn't let her do something like that without thinking it through first; especially if it meant leaving him behind.

Tomoe was shaken from his thoughts, as well as the half-doze he had sunk into, when the train lurched beneath him, and with an ear-splitting screech of metal on metal, began to slow. Tomoe was on his feet in an instant, craning his neck against the window pane in an attempt to spot the locomotive in front, but in the darkness, all he could see were the sparks the wheels threw up as they skidded against the tracks. All at once, fear gripped Tomoe's chest, though it didn't have to do with the train; it didn't look like they were about to fly off a cliff or anything like that. No, Tomoe's fear had to do with getting home. If this was a delay of some sort… Nanami! With a sharp intake of breath, Tomoe flung himself from the window and made his way down the aisle of confused passengers, making for the door to the next coach. By now, the train had screamed to a complete stop, and Tomoe knew now was his only chance. He had to see how long the delay would take. Immediately. It was then that the voice crackled over the loudspeaker, and Tomoe froze in his tracks.

"Attention, passengers. We are experiencing some technical difficulty with the engine, most likely due to the extreme drop of temperature we are experiencing tonight. The delay will most likely be another two to three hours while we call in a mechanic. We're sorry for the inconvenience." Click. That was all.

Tomoe remained frozen in the aisle-way as the uproar of grumbling and complaints erupted behind him from the other passengers, but all he could hear was her name, all he could see was her, lying on that park bench and trembling with cold because all she had to wear was that too-thin jacket that Mizuki kept trying to indiscreetly throw away. Tomoe threw open the compartment door and disappeared, unnoticed by the other passengers, who continued to grumble and make phone calls to relatives, oblivious to the fox who had been in their midst mere moments before.

"We had a beautiful, magic love there…"

"Nanami, please! Please think this over! Just wait another day! I'm begging you, Nanami!" The land god stood on the shrine porch just outside the door, deaf to her familiar's desperate pleas. She jerked her sleeve free from where Mizuki had been clutching it, destroying his futile attempts to drag her back inside.

She couldn't bring herself to feel anything as she prepared to leave on her mission to find Mikage. She planned to go to Izumo first; that way even if Mikage wasn't there, she was likely to find another god who could tell her his whereabouts. From there, she intended to impose on Mizuki's hospitality just long enough to find herself an apartment or some other temporary means of living until she finished high school. Then she would leave for good. Whether she got a summer job or borrowed money, she was leaving this city and she would never come back. She knew she wouldn't be able to bear it, either seeing the shrine or the risk of running into Mizuki or someone she knew. Nanami knew what to do. As far as she could see, she had carefully constructed her whole life from here, and it was flawless.

"Nanami…" Mizuki tried again. But his master had gone completely rigid beside him, her eyes fixed on some place at the front of the shrine. As he straightened up, the girl began to tremble uncontrollably, letting out a sort of choked sob. "Nanami?!" Panic now laced Mizuki's tone as he tugged his master's sleeve desperately, before turning to see what she was looking at, if anything. In her state, that wouldn't have come as a surprise to him. But when he saw what Nanami was so focused on, he froze as well, simply staring as the bedraggled demon dragged himself through the shrine entrance. His head was lowered against the cold, and he was walking with a slight limp, but it was definitely him. His silver hair was dripping with melted snow and had been plastered down over his forehead, just enough to hide his eyes. Nanami raised a hand to her mouth, barely daring to believe it as he took another step forward, toward home, towards her. That was when he looked up, and his violet eyes locked with hers. However, that simple contact was enough to snap Nanami from her daze.

With a startled cry, the girl leapt from the steps and tore across the yard, all but falling into Tomoe's waiting embrace. Nanami was aware of little else except his arms folding around her tightly, holding her close to him, and she buried her head on his shoulder, closing her eyes.

"Tomoe..." she breathed softly, "You came back." And with that, she finally let the tears fall.

"What was once a sad, beautiful, tragic love affair."

Tomoe could barely stand when he made his way through the gate into the shrine. In fact, he wasn't even sure that in his exhausted stupor, he had taken the right road. At that point, he had just hoped that he would find some house that would be willing to take in a traveler like him and offer him a place to rest and something to eat. Yet, when he had looked up, it was instantly into those familiar brown eyes, though they had shone cold and unforgiving. But as he had watched, shock and disbelief had crept into those eyes he knew so well, and all of the hurt and pain that had been reflected there only moments before had vanished.

It was her. She was here. He was barely aware of her, of how she flew down the steps and into his arms. It didn't matter. All he knew was that he was wrapping his arms around her as he had longed to the whole while he had been gone. Tomoe could just barely make out the words mumbled into his shoulder, but when he did, he held her even more tightly if that was possible. Like he would never let her go, just like in the dream he had had. "You came back."

"Of course I came back." Tomoe murmured, dropping his face into her hair and breathing in her familiar, comforting scent. The scent that had so often appeared in his dreams. Whenever he thought of her, it was always there, in the back of his mind.

Suddenly, a thought struck him, and Tomoe pulled back abruptly, holding Nanami at shoulder-length. The girl blinked at him, puzzled at the suddenly panic-stricken look that flashed briefly across his face, but Tomoe had thoughts for only one thing as he reached out and gently brushed Nanami's hair back away from her forehead.

With a shuddering sigh of relief, the fox demon lowered his forehead to her own, murmuring a quick prayer of thanks. "You're still a land god." He breathed gently, feeling his racing heart begin to calm. Nanami sighed against his shoulder.

"Of course I am. You were right. I would never, never leave you or Mizuki." Tomoe let out his breath and finally drew back, his eyes wary as he considered her, thinking of his words before speaking.

"Nanami…I'm sorry. I-" He paused, searching for a way to tell her how much he regretted leaving her side, causing both her and Mizuki so much worry, with not even a word of farewell to either of them. However, Nanami must have seen it in his eyes, because she leaned her head back against his shoulder with a soft sigh.

"It's okay. I know, Tomoe. And I'm sorry, too. I shouldn't have said those things…"

They stood like that for a moment, a moment in which Tomoe wished would last forever. A moment in which Nanami was enfolded safely in his embrace, Mizuki was watching them with that silly, knowing grin on his face, and the peace was there, the kind that came with knowing that all had been forgiven.

"Nanami…I won't ever leave again." He felt her draw back slightly, her head tilted back so that her eyes could meet his.

"You promise?" she asked, an anxious note creeping into her voice. Looking into her eyes, Tomoe felt one corner of his mouth quirk upward.

"Yes. I promise." He was never certain of the exact moment in which it happened, even to this day. However, he felt himself lean down, his eyes studying hers, watching all the different emotions play through them, and then her lips were on his. It was a careful, gentle kiss at first, so unlike the other times he had kissed her. Before, it had usually been to seal or reseal the familiar contract, but now it was an act of complete free will. Tomoe pulled Nanami closer and deepened the kiss as he felt her hands weave themselves into his hair and find his ears, gently tracing the soft edges with her fingers. Tomoe felt a rumble vibrate through his chest, his ears flicking spasmodically under the attention.

They finally drew apart when Mizuki scampered down the steps, a mischievous glint in his eyes, and pushed his way in between them, claiming that he was starving and that he hadn't had any real food since Tomoe had left. Ignoring Tomoe's glare of daggers, Mizuki looped his arm through each of the others' and the three of them made their way up the steps of the shrine, Tomoe protesting loudly and trying to jerk his arm free of Mizuki's; a futile attempt.

Nanami smiled to herself as she paused on the porch for a moment, casting a last glance back at the cherry blossom trees. She knew that although Tomoe had returned, he was still cursed, but somehow, with the three of them together, she knew there was still hope yet. Somehow, they would find a cure. And no matter what happened, she refused to lose either Tomoe or Mizuki in the years to come. After all, the bond between them was something that would never die.

~The End~

A/N: Well, this is just a one-shot I wrote the other day when the idea hit me. It is a song fic; "Sad Beautiful Tragic" by Taylor Swift. I'm not even really into her music too much, but that song was just really pretty to me! Also, I'll put the disclaimer here and say that I don't own either Kamisama Hajimemashita or "Sad Beautiful Tragic." They're property of their respective owners. In any case, I hope you enjoyed the story; please feel free to drop me a review! It really does mean a lot to me, even if you just take the time to read this. Merry Christmas! Also, I apologize if the dividing lines are messed up. I did attempt to fix them, but I can't guarantee that I did...