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today you ran out of time, tomorrow i started to move

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The moon has always been one of Shinobu’s favorite things to look at. It came and went, always returning to shine bright every night. It is especially pretty this winter night, but it is not the moon that has her attention. It is the man under it, his figure illuminated by the moonlight.

“Tomioka-san,” Shinobu says, catching the man’s attention. He turns to face her, his expression content. Years later, he was still so beautiful. “You should be in bed.”

He smiles at her, warm and tired. These days, his health has been failing him. Shinobu knows why, and Giyuu knows why, and so does everyone else in the Butterfly Estate. The final battle against Muzan had taken so much from them, and because the gods are cruel, it is continuing to take from them, even now.

Tomorrow is his twenty-fifth birthday.

“I’m sorry,” he apologizes, quiet as always. “I couldn’t sleep.”

“That makes two of us,” Shinobu responds. There was too much to think about, especially tonight.

“I was thinking about Tanjirou-kun and the rest of them. I know that they just came to visit yesterday, but I was wondering how they are, and if they’re watching the moon as well.”

“Well at this hour, I would hope that they’re sleeping,” Shinobu quipped back easily. “Unlike us, and actually getting rest for tomorrow. But it’s possible that they’re awake, especially Kamado-kun. I know that he’s fond of moons like these. Did you know that the first time I had the chance to truly get to know him was under the moon like this?”

This catches Giyuu’s attention. He stares at her, remaining quiet but keeping his gaze on her eyes. She knows this look well. Tell me more.

She points her dainty fingers up towards the roof and turns to face the moon. “Kamado-kun was practicing his total concentration breathing when I came to greet him. I was the same as I always was back then, with my sister’s smile. But he saw through me right away. And apparently, he didn’t actually see through me, but he smelled my anger. I didn’t even know anger had a scent,” Shinobu laughs at that, and Giyuu lets a small smile slip. Tanjirou had changed them all for the better, but they had to admit his sense of smell was beyond their understanding, acting like a compass for a heart. “He was right, of course. I think Kanao-chan knew as well, but he was the first to tell me.”

Giyuu can read between the lines. He was the only one who saw. Everyone in the Demon Slayer Corps knew that Shinobu was angry, but no one knew the extent of her anger until the very end.

“Shinobu,” Giyuu starts. “I’m sorry—”

“Don’t,” Shinobu interrupts. “By that logic, I should have seen what your silences really meant. I used to think they were a sign that you had nothing to say. That it was all your cowardice. But now I know. You said nothing not because you did not want to say anything, but because you believed that you did not deserve to be heard, right?”

Giyuu remains silent. It was a truth they both didn’t like hearing, and still didn’t. But Shinobu preserveres. “In the end, we were both saved by everyone else. We wanted to pretend that we had nothing else but our promises to the dead so we could join them someday. We never saw everything that was around us. And I wouldn’t be here,” Shinobu pauses, finally finding the strength to return Giyuu’s gaze. “If not for you and Kanao-chan.”

Giyuu shakes his head. “That’s not true,” he responds firmly. “You saved yourself. Your tsugoku and I could only have made it in time if you had held out long enough for us to make it. And now you’ve created all of this,” Giyuu motions with his hand at the other rooms in the mansion. “This hospital was all of your making. You and the girls save lives every day. If anyone is impressive, it is you.”

Shinobu glows a little at the praise. “My, such a charmer, Tomioka-san. I didn’t know you had it in you! You used to be—you still are such a mute, sometimes.” Giyuu laughs at that. “Like that, you see? You can smile and laugh now. We’ve both managed to find some happiness.”

They both know that sometimes that statement isn’t always true. There are still terrible days where the horrible sensation of being left to survive on his own is stuck in Giyuu’s chest, and he is despondent and unable to even speak, wondering why he is still here while his family was lost, and it takes hours for Shinobu and the girls to help him come out of it. Likewise, Shinobu’s veins are still filled with poison from her emotions, and there are days where she will scream and scream until her throat is raw from her unresolved anger at the demons, at being unable to fulfill her purpose on her own.

That is time they will both never be able to take back. Time, time. There isn’t enough of it.

“We were both happy,” Giyuu agrees. And then finally, with his cheeks somewhat flushed under the dark he says “I’m glad I met you.”

“And I am too,” Shinobu responds sincerely. “The time we had, it made our suffering a little easier.”

The former water pillar takes a deep breath and steels himself. There’s something he needs to say, a promise that must be made before he goes on. Giyuu has so many regrets, but he knows that if he doesn’t say this, he’ll never be able to face Sabito. He’ll never be able to face Tsutako if he willingly subjects his close friend to a farewell in which her last memory is of him leaving her behind without any piece of him to remain.

“I know this is selfish of me, but I want you to make a promise with me. Promise me you’ll move on and find someone else after me.”

She swallows. “Tomioka-san,” she says softly. “Even when you’re gone, there will still be things I need to do, and the girls will still be here. You don’t have to worry about me being lonely.”

“That’s not what I mean,” Giyuu says. His eyes are clearer than they’ve been for months. “Please, Shinobu. You deserve so much more.”

Her breath hitches. “Even now, you’re asking more of me, Tomioka-san? My my, you’re still so selfish.”

She reaches her hands out to grasp his remaining one. It was rough, worn with callouses and scars. She marvels at the fact that even years later, his hand still dwarfed hers. It was so warm.

She felt loved.

“I will,” Shinobu eventually says. “I don’t think—I don’t think I’ll ever find someone like you again, but I know what you mean. I promise I’ll be fine.”

Giyuu smiles sincerely at her, and it’s so radiant she almost has to look away. Even though his illness had taken much from his body, it never took his smile. Years ago, she would’ve laughed at the idea of his smile being so kind and so warm.

She would’ve laughed at the idea of loving him so sincerely.

“Thank you,” he says. “I think I’ll go to bed now. Would you come with me?”

“Of course,” Shinobu answers, her hands still in his.

They return to his room, and she tucks him into bed before sitting by his bedside. Like this, he looks peaceful.

He looks ready.

“One last thing,” Giyuu requests. “May I hold your hand again?”

She laughs. “Silly Tomioka-san. Of course you can,” she answers, reaching her hand out to grasp his again.

Giyuu hums softly. It helps calm her heart, a little, but even now, she’s nervous. She has one last thing she needs to say.

“I love you,” Shinobu says, and Giyuu closes his eyes with a smile.

“I’ve always known. You didn’t have to say it.”

“But I felt like I should, even if you know. I haven’t said it enough.”

“Then you can tell me again tomorrow when I wake up,” Giyuu lies. Shinobu’s hands, still grasping his, clenched tighter.

In the end, they were never in love. In the end, they had never crossed the line between friendship and love, straddling the line and never making a choice. In the end, they were two lonely people who had lost and gained immeasurably. In the end, there would only be one.

“Tomorrow,” Shinobu repeats softly. “Rest, Giyuu.”

“Thank you for everything, Shinobu.”

Shinobu bites her lip, and looks up at the moon. It was still beautiful, even now.

Under the winter moon, she watched his chest rise and fall. Until he breathed his last, her hands remained entwined with his. But by morning, she let go.

After all, she has a promise to keep.