Part Twenty-Nine: Want to Live
Aya’s fingers are laced through mine; I am sitting on the stool beside her bed and watching her sleep. She was not awake for long, and even though it is sad to see her sleeping again, I content myself with the knowledge that she will wake up. This is not like before, when I would come and see her and assure myself that one day she would walk again. It is a glorious sort of knowledge that my sister will be awake in just a handful of hours, and that she will not be confined to this bed much longer.
My sister will walk again; my sister will dance again.
I lift my sister’s hand to my mouth, touching my lips to her knuckles. I’ve watched her for three years as she slept, and now I can watch her as she lives again. The thoughts that bothered me just hours ago- the realization that she will be moving on to college and having a life of her own after I’ve been living for her for three years- do not seem so terrible now. I can watch my sister flourish; even if she leaves she will always be there. We can visit and call each other, and maybe if she attends the University of Tokyo she can still live with me…I would have to find a larger apartment but it wouldn’t matter. It’d be easier to afford without the medical bills; I would have to talk to Birman to see if the help they gave me with my sister’s hospital bills would help me with rent instead. Loans can help me put her through college, and after three years of sleeping I will get to see my sister excel at life again.
And as she moves on and leaves me here, I will find myself in a familiar role. My sister will dance in the sunlight and I will watch her from a distance, just like I have watched her these long years. She will always need me, even now that she has woken from her sleep. I am her brother; I am the only surviving member of her family. She will always need me; it’s just the way that she will need me that will change.
I will be happy with that.
I reach out, smoothing her bangs from her face. She will be confined to this hospital for a while longer, enough time for me to talk to Birman and find a new place to live. After three years of lying down, her muscles have degenerated. Dr. Nakashima discussed it with me when I visited her earlier this week. She has to undergo rigorous physical therapy to build the muscles back up. She won’t have to stay here the whole time, however…In a while she’ll be able to come home, though she’ll need a wheelchair for a while and a cane after that. She can either come here for her sessions or we can pay to have a therapist come to the apartment. As painful as it might be to watch my sister in a wheelchair, I will cling to the fact that she is actually moving around after three years of silent sleep and I will rejoice over her progress.
Things are going to be very different from now on…
I release her hand because I spot something on the nightstand. Gently and reluctantly, I disentangle her fingers from mine and lean over to investigate. A gold earring rests beside the vase of flowers I brought her earlier this week, an earring she has been clinging to for three years. It must have fallen from her hand when she started moving today…I reach up to my ear, running a finger down the matching earring that dangles there. I have been wearing it in memory of my sister…Now my sister is awake, and the earrings are rightfully hers. They are a present three years late in being delivered. Fingers pry the back off of the one I’m wearing and I tug the earring free.
The familiar weight is gone; I gaze down at my palm where the earring rests. It feels strange to not have it on…I haven’t taken it off in three years. Finally I hook the back onto it and reach out, setting it beside its companion. I wonder if Aya will still want them, three years later…
I am drawing back my hand when everything flashes white; I hear the blaring of a horn and suddenly the world explodes in pain. It is enough to send me off my stool and I land on the ground, gasping for air as I cling to my head. It is as if someone has rammed a blade through my skull, and I suck in desperate breaths of air through clenched teeth.
Fuck, what is this??
But even as I wonder, I know.
It’s a long time before I can get to my feet; the sharp pain makes it hard to move and when I finally am up I am so dizzy and nauseous I have to hang onto Aya’s bed so I don’t fall back down. I creep along the edge of the bed, moving with unsteady steps towards the door. At her bedpost I send a final glance Aya’s way. She’s still sleeping. She’ll be safe here.
~Schuldich…Schuldich, answer me…~
I know instinctively that something is horribly wrong with Schuldich. This is not my pain; this is something bleeding over from his gift. I’m don’t know why I’m so convinced it’s him, but I’m positive it is. I tear my eyes away from my sister, stumbling towards the door. The world is twirling around me and I have to stop at the door to try and force it to calm down. God, it hurts _so_ much. I struggle to breathe, taking several deep breaths. When I can tell up from down once more, I push open the door and stagger out. The nearest phone is at the nurse’s station, and I ignore the startled inquiries from the orderlies as I make my way there. Every step hurts, every breath sends ice through my lungs.
My head- Fuck, it feels like something’s been shredded. Whatever I realized was missing now before, that small nag it used to be, is a full blown crater right now. It’s Schuldich’s gift; it’s his telepathy. And something’s happened to Schuldich that he’s taken it away. Something bad…
I don’t bother asking the nurse for the phone; I reach over the counter and grab the receiver. She starts to ask but subsides when she sees the look on my face. I take a deep breath as I dial the number for Schuldich’s apartment. Nagi answers on the first ring.
“Hello?” he inquires, and there is a strained edge to his voice.
Nagi felt Schuldich’s gift vanish, too. Now that I’m on the phone, I wonder how I’m supposed to speak. I feel like I’m just a breath away from getting sick. I swallow hard and take a deep breath, and manage to get out, “What happened to Schuldich?”
Is that my voice? It doesn’t sound like it. I’ve never heard it twist like that.
There’s a startled moment of silence as Nagi registers who’s on the phone. When he responds, his voice is cold. “What do you want?”
I close my eyes because the light is making my head hurt. “What happened to Schuldich?” I repeat. Schuldich isn’t at home? He didn’t make it to the apartment? Then where is he? He could be anywhere! “I felt him- he’s hurt.”
“What do you mean, you _felt_ him?” Nagi demands.
I’m going to be sick; I can feel it. The pain in my head is getting worse and my hands are clammy where they cling to the phone. The nurse at the desk is beckoning to a nearby doctor, and he starts approaching me. My fingers dig into the phone and I turn away from him, leaning against the counter for balance. “He’s hurt,” I tell Nagi. “He’s hurt very badly. Nagi….” Nagi doesn’t respond. “Nagi, listen to me!”
“Sir, are you all right?” the doctor wants to know, reaching out to touch my shoulder. “Sir, I think you need to sit down for a moment…”
I try to yank out of his grasp and end up losing my balance. The phone hits the floor and the doctor grabs at me. I struggle in his grip, trying to get the phone back. Another orderly takes hold of my other arm; they’re saying something but I’m not paying attention to them. Schuldich is hurt…Schuldich is hurt and Nagi doesn’t know where he is. Someone has to find him. He’s all Nagi has; he has to be all right.
Schuldich has to be all right…
I manage to escape their hands and flee down the hall. They chase after me and I end up taking the stairs, knowing I can’t afford to wait on the elevator. I fly down the steps, taking them a handful at a time, and it’s a small wonder I don’t break my neck. The doctors stop at the doorway to the stairwell, giving up the chase. I ignore them, taking the stairs down to the ground floor and shoving through the door when I reach it. I almost hit an old lady but barely spare her an apology as I rush across the floor towards the door.
My hand freezes on the handle, and I slowly turn to stare off to my left. There is…something…
A hallway is off in that direction, and a sign denoting it to lead to the emergency room hangs above it. I abandon the door, following some bit of instinct I don’t understand, and race down the hall. I tug the door open and step inside, coming to a halt just a few feet in to look around. The waiting room is full; the ice, the crowds, and maybe even some drunk drivers have sent people here in throngs, it seems. It’s a holiday, a very big holiday…And on big holidays, a lot of people get hurt.
I turn in circles, searching the room for familiar orange hair. I tell myself that I shouldn’t panic, that I have no reason to believe that he’s here in the ER. But the pain is less sharp here…
I don’t see his face, so I head towards the desk. The nurses there are looking frazzled; the room is noisy as babies and children cry and doctors shout to each other. I have just reached the desk when double doors slam open, and a cart comes reeling in from the parking lot. The nurse looks up to ask me what I want but I’m staring at the cart. Through the throng of doctors that surround it I see orange hair.
And there’s so much blood…
“Schuldich!” I abandon the desk for the cart, grabbing hold of one doctor’s arm to try and see past him. Schuldich is so very pale. A mask covers his nose and mouth and his head is lolled to one side. Blood decorates his head and chest. “What happened?” I demand of the doctor. “What happened to him?”
“Who are you?” he wants to know.
“I’m his roommate,” I answer, staring past him as Schuldich’s cart is rushed past in a flurry of color and snapped orders. A door is kicked open just down the hall; the blinds on the room’s window are open but I can only get a glimpse of Schuldich due to the number of doctors around him. My fingers dig into the doctor’s arm. “What happened to him?”
“He was in a car accident,” he answers, reaching up to try and loosen my death grip on his arm. Another cart races by with a moaning man, and I wonder if he was the other driver. “A car ran the red light at this intersection and clipped the back half of his car. He’s lucky he got hit there; it could have taken out the driver’s seat easily.”
“Is he going to be all right?” I want to know, refusing to let him pry me loose until he’s answered. He was just here. He was just in Aya’s room, maybe ten minutes ago at most. He was just there walking around and offering me a farewell smirk. Now he’s bleeding and lying so very still. “Is he going to be all right?” I demand again.
“He has a head injury,” the doctor answers, “and two broken bones. He’s losing blood quickly, but he should be fine. I need to tend to him,” he says pointedly, tugging at my fingers again. “It would be a tremendous favor if you would please fill out a form for him at the desk. Just wait out here, and we’ll take care of him.”
It’s a fight to make myself let go, but somehow I manage. The doctor leaves me with several quick strides. I remain where I am, frozen to the spot, and watch him go. The pain in my head is flickering; something sharp and harsh beats against my skull. I fold my arms tightly over my chest, digging my fingers into my upper arms. This pain- this pain is from Schuldich. This pain is because Schuldich isn’t there anymore, because his gift isn’t there anymore. I’ve grown used to the feel of his touch in my mind, and only now I realize that it’s gone; only now do I realize it’s been here even this week. And it hurts _so_ much to have it gone.
He has to be all right…
“Sir,” the nurse at the desk calls. She’s holding up a clipboard; she listened to the doctor’s entreaty to write out Schuldich’s personal information for them. I stalk over to the desk, taking the clipboard just to set it down again.
“I need to use your phone,” I tell her. My voice sounds uneven. “I need to make a call.”
She nods and hands over the receiver. “Dial 3, then the number,” is her response.
I dial Schuldich’s apartment again, turning my back to the desk and sliding down it. I end up sitting on the ground, leaning against the desk and holding the receiver to my ear. Nagi answers before the first ring is through. “Hello?” he asks.
“Nagi, you need to come to the hospital,” I tell him. “You know which hospital Aya’s at, don’t you? Do you know how to get here?”
“What happened?” Nagi wants to know, ignoring my questions.
“Schuldich’s in the ER. He’s been in a car accident. The doctors say he should be fine…” I reach up with my free hand, digging my fingernails into the side of my head as if trying to claw out the pain. I hear Nagi’s sharp gasp; it’s his only response. “You need to get here- you need to get here as fast as you can.”
There’s a sharp click- the phone being rammed back into place, and I know Nagi is on his way. I don’t know if I have the strength to stand up again, so I reach up and tug the clipboard down into my lap. I can’t read the words on the page; it’s all a blur. I can’t focus, not when my skull is being torn apart. Does it hurt Nagi this much? He sounded fine on the phone. Why does it feel as if someone has struck me with an axe? I blink several times, trying to focus. Paperwork will stop me from worrying about Schuldich. I need to focus on something; I need to calm down.
But it hurts to breathe, so I finally let my eyes slide closed, giving up on the forms.
I know that voice. I force my eyes open again and find myself staring up at Yamaguchi Makiko. She’s dressed in a nurse’s outfit and is holding a clipboard, staring down at me with some surprise. I stare back, confused for a moment as to why she’s here. She’s an emergency room nurse? Where’s Tunio while she works, I wonder…Schuldich never told me what she did and I never asked, but this isn’t what I thought she would do. She looked so beaten down when her husband was alive; how could she survive between the chaos of this and the bitterness of her home life?
“Fujimiya-san, what are you doing here?” she inquires, kneeling beside me.
“Schuldich was in a car accident,” I answer, fingers tightening on the clipboard that’s resting in my lap. “He was just brought in.”
“Shurudehi?” she attempts, frowning in concentration. “He was…the orange haired man?”
That’s right…Once I wondered if she even knew their names. Schuldich doesn’t seem the type of person to just introduce himself to random people, even people that live in his building. When he was home he stuck to the apartment, and when he was gone he was working long hours at work. He didn’t have the time or interest to make chitchat with his neighbors, even if he allowed himself to investigate their lives with his telepathy. I nod, and Makiko’s face twists in dismay. She looks down the hall and I know it doesn’t take her long to spot Schuldich’s room. His orange hair is like a beacon, shining from his window. The angle may be bad because his room is on a corner, but the hair shows.
“Oh dear,” she whispers, sounding horrified. Her dark eyes bounce back to my face and she reaches out, giving my hand a small squeeze. “Are you all right?”
“Fine,” I manage, and we both know I’m lying. “They said he’d be all right…” I tilt my head in his direction. I can’t see him anymore; the doctors are in the way.
She squeezes my hand again, offering me a small smile. “He’ll be fine,” she assures me. “He’ll get better if they say he will. I will go look at him, yes?” She rises and holds out her hand towards me- not to help me up but to beckon me to my feet. Somewhere I find the strength to stand and follow her towards the room. I bring the clipboard with me because I don’t think I can unclench my fingers from it. We pass the rows of people waiting to be seen, and Makiko gestures for me to wait at the window as she slips inside the room. I can’t pick out her voice over the rest of the noise, but I can see her mouth moving. There’s a bag of blood hanging on a stand beside Schuldich, and a tube runs from it to his arm. The doctors are looking at his face. He’s missing some hair- they shaved some off near the injury so they could get a better look at it. I can see the orange locks on the floor.
But most of all I see the blood that decorates both him and the doctors, and I feel the sharp sense of loss that is tearing my skull apart. Makiko ducks out of the room and comes to stand beside me, offering me an encouraging smile as a nurse down the hall calls her name.
“I’m sure he will be fine,” she tells me. But her reassurance is cloudy when it reaches her eyes, and I feel something inside of me twist as she turns away. I look back through the glass at Schuldich, watching as the doctors exchange hurried comments.
“Ran!!” I turn at the call to see Nagi racing across the room. He’s soaked to the bone- it must be raining out there now. He skids to a stop by me, but he’s going too fast and his shoes are too wet to stop on his own. I reach out, catching his arm to stop him from sliding. He sees Schuldich through the window then, and I hear his horrified gasp. Fingers dig into my arm and he plants his other hand against the window, staring in at his companion.
I latch onto Nagi’s presence, trying to use him to fight the swirling panic and unease, trying to use him to forget the pain. “A car ran a red light,” I tell him. “Luckily he was at the intersection right outside the hospital, so they got him in here quickly.”
A pale face and splintered blue eyes turn on me. “Is he going to be all right?” he wants to know.
“He has a head injury and some broken bones, but they say he’s going to be fine…”
I’ve barely gotten the words out when an alarm inside the room starts beeping. One of the doctors rushes to the door, shouting down the hall for something. A nurse scrambles to get it and the doctor vanishes back inside the room. The orderly activity before is now replaced by a flurry of movement; eyes jerk towards the alarm before they begin snapping orders, and Nagi’s fingers are tight enough on my arm that I’m sure he’s going to break the skin.
Something in my head seems to give a wrench; my free hand flies up to my face and I stumble under the strength of the pain. Nagi glances my way, just because I pull him with me in my stagger, and a look I can’t identify flickers across his face. And through the doctors’ sharp words is a sudden high pitched whine.
It’s the cardiac monitor-
Nagi whirls back on the window at the sound of the alarm, at the way a frantic edge has laced some of the voices from that room. He places the whine easily with his eyes, and he sees the flat line that races across the monitor’s surface. “IYA!” he screams, releasing me to beat both fists against the window. I grab him around his waist, yanking him back before he can break the glass. I end up having to pick him up off the ground, since he is digging in his shoes to get away from me. An orderly starts to approach, probably to help me restrain him, and I snarl at her to go away. I can’t breathe through the pain; it’s all I can do to hold onto Nagi. He struggles in my grip, harsh denials spilling from his lips.
“Clear!” a doctor snaps, and there’s a small thud. The whine continues, and moments later, “Clear!” again.
I loosen my death grip on Nagi, lifting my head from where it has fallen against his shoulder. We both stand, frozen in place, letting it register that Schuldich’s heart has started again. Nagi’s breaths are ragged and he clings to me, staring through the window in silent hope.
The hope is shattered just a few seconds later, when the monitor flat lines again. The doctors abandon what they’re doing to answer the alarm once more, and Nagi goes tense in my arms again.
“Clear!” and nothing…
“No no no…” Nagi whispers harshly. “You can’t do this to me…”
“You can’t do this!” he screams, struggling in my arms once more. He gets an elbow to my face but I can barely feel it; it feels as if someone has wrapped their hand around my heart and is squeezing. Two nurses are at my side, grabbing at Nagi to try and still him. He fights with them and every eye in the waiting room is on us. I don’t see any of them; above Nagi’s voice is the whining of the monitor and the thud of the defibrillator.
I drift in a lazy haze of black for a while before a floor finally appears beneath me. I stretch out my foot, touching it with my shoe, and gravity returns. Walls surround me suddenly; I’m standing in a dark corridor. I look around, wondering where I am. Finally I start walking, as it seems to be the only thing I can do. There’s a patch of light under my feet that lights up the hall for three feet to the front and back of me; it moves with me and is the only source of light. I wander, arms folded over my chest because it’s cold in here.
I can hear voices yelling, but it’s hard to tell what they’re saying. I strain my ears, continuing forward. I cannot tell if I’m getting closer to them or further. My steps echo in the hallway and I finally stop, tilting my head to one side to try and hear them better.
Nagi? I whirl around, trying to find him. His voice- I’ve never heard it sound like that. “Nagi?” I call, taking a few steps back the way I came before looking over my shoulder. “Nagi!” I call again. I can’t hear his thoughts, but his scream echoes down the corridor. I turn back in the direction I was going, speeding up and reaching out, struggling to find Nagi’s mind. What’s wrong with my gift?
I skid on something and have to grab at the wall for balance. Light sparkles off of a thick red liquid, and I gaze down at it in surprise. Blood- Nagi’s?
I hear a horn blaring, see white lights flood my car.
I straighten, looking around warily. So where am I now? Am I dead? The thought chills me to the bone. Is dying really this lonely and cold? Fingers tighten on my arms again and I take a careful step forward. I can feel the heat of the blood through my shoes.
“Nagi?” I call again, grabbing hold of a shredded gift and shoving with everything I have.
Everything flashes around me; I’m greeted briefly with the view of half a dozen faces hovering over me. I can hear a blipping in the distance; my eyes flicker open for only the barest of moments. I don’t have the strength to keep them open. Waking up brings the pain back; it feels like my chest and head were smashed in with a jackhammer…I gasp for air, but the breath sounds ragged and thin.
I feel myself slipping again, and I don’t have the strength to hold on.
The floor is giving out from under me. The last thing I see is Balinese’s face as I tilt backwards and fall with the rubble to the next floor down. I hit it, slamming into the jagged edge with enough force that I feel something tear. It hurts like hell, and I cannot stop myself from yelling at the pain. The floor is lifting and twisting, breaking beneath me again. I scrabble at it but my blood has made the surface slick and I cannot get a good hold. I slide off of it and the sheer sensation of falling makes my breath catch in my throat. I have never been so afraid; this feeling is horrible and I realize in this moment that I am going to die-
A hand grabs mine, fingers lacing through mine with an almost savage force. I find myself staring up at Farfarello. Then I hit something else and suddenly I’m staring down at him. There’s a high pitched whining noise surrounding us, carrying over the horrendous sound of the building shattering around us.
“Don’t give up,” someone pleads. There’s a deep thud, and the whine starts up again.
And why shouldn’t I, I want to know. I’m dying, right? Well then, shall I die here, trapped in the memory of my lover? What a splendid way to go, isn’t it…?
“You don’t want to die,” someone else says, a breathless voice. I think I can hear Nagi in the background, but I’m not sure. I don’t know if I want to identify it. “Don’t let go.”
“Because you don’t want to,” Farfarello answers.
“I want-” I start to say, but Farfarello interrupts me.
“What you can’t have.” It’s such a simple response. We’ve cleared the building; we haven’t hit anything else. I’m bleeding but the only blood that decorates Farfarello is my own. The ocean is far beneath us but rapidly getting closer. I can see the waves past Farfarello’s shoulder. I already know they’re colder than ice. I remember how it felt to hit them last time; it felt like it shattered every bone in my body. Will I die this time? A shiver laces down my spine. “But you don’t,” Farfarello says again, and I tear my eyes from the waves to meet his gaze once more, “want to die.”
“I do,” I answer, almost savagely. What’s so wrong about wanting to die here?
“You want to live,” he tells me, tilting his head up to brush his lips along my cheekbone. “So go,” he says, speaking right in my ear. The water is right there- so close I can almost feel the spray. My fingers tighten unconsciously around Farfarello as I watch the waves rush closer.
That _is_ Nagi…and Ran…
“Live,” comes Farfarello’s voice at my ear.
And he lets go…
I reach out for him, but he’s suddenly falling faster than me. Within seconds he hits the water. There is no splash to mark his impact, and the waves swallow him immediately, tearing him from my view. I never hit the water; pain explodes throughout me and once more I find myself staring up at the doctors. I’m gasping for breath; I can’t breathe. The faces around me are relieved and I close my eyes against them. In the distance I can hear a steady blipping; it fades with everything around me.
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