Winter’s Night

Gods do not feel heat and cold the same way humans do: they exist only temporarily in that brief world, and so pass through the changes of the seasons without much incident. One’s elemental alignment can also be counted in the balance — the summer heat feels like another part of Guren’s own self, while the winter cold is hardly enough to touch him.

On the other hand, humans are fragile and feel the changes of the seasons acutely. Seimei complains with good cheer about the ache in his bones as the cold begins to set in, and remarks about how difficult it will be to make his rounds once snow falls and ice forms on the streets. It’s only partly a lie — Guren has never seen Seimei stumble gracelessly before, though his old master has definitely slowed with the onset of winter in his age.

And Masahiro of course is very small, and he gets cold easily. Tsuyuki takes good care of him, but there have been nights where the drafts are strong against the walls and the little baby shivers under the piles of blankets heaped atop him, and his small breath is visible in the air. He doesn’t cry, but he makes sad plaintive noises, turning restlessly and shivers so hard his entire small body is shaking. Guren, sitting on the other side of the shouji and watching the shadows in the night, finally gets up and goes inside.

Masahiro’s eyes open immediately; though it’s very dark, he looks unerringly at Guren and holds up both hands. He makes a vaguely grumpy noise, almost a demand, but he’s shaking in the cold and Guren is pretty sure he doesn’t know how to hold a baby properly, but he fits his hands under Masahiro’s arms, his fingers spanning the full width of the child’s back and chest and lifts.

If the position is uncomfortably, Masahiro doesn’t complain; instead, he beams and reaches out with his tiny hands, patting across Guren’s cheeks and nose — aha, there you are.

“Cold, isn’t it,” Guren says, keeping his voice low. The baby in his hands is warm, but Masahiro is still shivering, even if he’s ignoring that for now. “You don’t like it, huh.”

Masahiro giggles at his expression, cupping his tiny hands over Guren’s nose.

“I thought so.” Guren lowers the child, Seimei’s favored grandson, into his lap. “Is this better?”

Masahiro sticks a finger in his mouth, staring up at Guren’s face. After a moment, he yawns widely and leans his small dark head against the warm skin of Guren’s stomach. He blinks a few times, each a little slower than the next, and eventually his eyes don’t open again, his little body slack.

He’s no longer shivering.

The position is a little awkward — he’s a bit hunched with his legs crossed to make a proper cradle for Masahiro, and even straightening will move them enough that it could wake the boy, and well — Seimei probably already knew what was going on (ultimately there was very little that could approach his precious grandson without the old man knowing), but if the others knew Guren was here, surely they would argue; even if they wouldn’t accept Masahiro as Seimei’s heir, he was still a grandson of Seimei, and still important in that way, and to leave him in the care of Touda, of all creatures …

He would stay, Guren thinks, until he was certain Masahiro would not wake if moved.

And the boy is no longer shivering or whimpering because of the cold — that in and of itself is enough reason to stay.

(The next morning, Tsuyuki will find Guren slumped in place with her youngest son in his lap; rather than wake them, she will smile and close the door before going on her way.)

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