Part Thirty: Missing You
Nagi and I are afraid to breathe for a long moment as the cardiac monitor starts blipping again. We hang onto each other, staring through the window at the doctors’ relieved faces. They set their equipment aside and go back to working, seemingly assured that Schuldich is going to hang on for good this time. And slowly I feel the touch of Schuldich’s gift, weak but there once more, and I know then that he will make it. I exhale shakily, slowly lowering Nagi to the ground. The nurses moved back when Nagi went still, and they eye him for another moment before stepping back.
“He’s going to be all right,” I murmur at Nagi’s ear.
“Aa…” he answers, sounding weary, and he sags against me for balance. We watch as the doctors continue to work around the German, noting the way their movement has slowed from rushed to steady. I close my eyes, taking a deep breath. The pain is gone with the return of Schuldich’s gift, but it leaves behind a painful throb that will be slow to fade. I let my hands slide free of Nagi and lift them to my head, long fingers working at my temples in an attempt to work the ache away.
Nagi slants a look up at me. “You felt him,” he says. His voice is almost too soft.
“You didn’t,” I observe, offering him a small frown.
He doesn’t bother explaining why I felt Schuldich’s mental drop out so much more intensely than him; instead, he turns his attention back on the telepath. At length the doctors settle down and a few leave to head to other rooms. Schuldich’s blood bag is secured and they start to roll him from the room. Nagi straightens, moving towards the door as the bed comes out. He reaches out, snagging a doctor by the sleeve.
“Where is he going?” he wants to know.
“Room 213, just upstairs,” the doctor answers, reaching out to give Nagi a reassuring pat on the shoulder. “He’ll be all right. He just needs to rest for a while. Take the next elevator up and come sit with him if you’d like.”
Nagi nods in response and the doctor turns back to help push the bed. We turn as it rolls behind us, watching it as it makes its way towards the elevator. Nagi takes a step to follow and I realize we’re being watched. Amethyst eyes lift to lock with green; a familiar face is standing just a short distance away. Yohji abandons my gaze for a moment, flicking his eyes towards Nagi and then looking after Schuldich’s bed. My fingers tighten on Nagi’s sleeve, an unconscious movement on my part, and Nagi looks up at me. He follows my eyes and spots my teammate, and he looks back towards me.
Past Yohji, Makiko is at the nurses’ station. She has a thick file in her hands but she is watching Yohji and me; she offers me a slight smile when I spot her. She called him- she told him I was here. Yohji must have just gotten here…He hurried; I can see his shoulders rising and falling as he tries to catch his breath. Rain drips from his hair and his jacket, and green eyes turn back to mine.
I slowly unclench my fingers from Nagi’s shirt, giving him a light push towards the elevators as I do so. The doors are closing on Schuldich’s cart…Nagi should follow after him and watch over him. Schuldich is safe but I still think someone needs to keep an eye on him. Obviously, that someone isn’t going to be me.
Nagi glances up at me again, dark eyes guarded. He hesitates for a moment, then says haltingly, “I’ll have him contact you when he wakes up.”
I manage to tear my eyes from Yohji’s to look down at Nagi, and I offer him a thin smile I don’t feel. “Thank you,” I manage. Nagi doesn’t say anything else, but leaves me to head towards the elevators. I watch him go, unable to look back at my teammate. Nagi doesn’t look back, waiting by the elevator doors with his arms over his chest. He really should find something dry to wear…He’s soaked through and now I’m wet as well from hanging onto him. Where’s my jacket? Didn’t I bring it?
It’s in Aya’s room, I remember…I took it off there because her room was warm.
The noise of the emergency room seems to have dropped out, and the silence is deafening. Minutes tick by; I watch the lift open for Nagi and watch him disappear behind the doors, and I stare at the closed doors because I’m not sure what to say to Yohji. I’m exhausted, suddenly. The events of the past half hour have been a nightmare and hell on my mental state. I want to curl up somewhere and sleep for a long time, but I know that’s not going to happen, not with Yohji here. Not when Yohji’s seen Schuldich and Nagi, and he’s seen them both with me.
Yohji’s voice is quiet. Fingers tighten on the arms I’ve crossed over my chest and I slowly drag my gaze back to Yohji’s. I can’t read anything on his face, maybe because I’m so tired. “Aya, we’re leaving,” he says.
I start towards him, and he doesn’t wait until I’ve caught up before he turns to leave. He says a farewell to Makiko at the desk but the words are a jumbled mess. I keep my eyes on Yohji’s back because the floor doesn’t feel completely steady beneath my feet. I feel so drained; it’s all I can do to follow him.
We reach the doors and stand outside under the awning for a moment. Rain falls all around us, and I stare through it to try and find my car. I’m parked on the other side of the building; I can either go back through the building or through the rain, and right now both options are equally undesirable. I can hear sirens and see lights- a moment later I can spot the police cars, and I think they’re at the intersection where Schuldich had his accident still.
I don’t think I can drive myself home. I keep my eyes fixed on the rain, knowing Yohji’s gaze is pointed there as well, and ask, “Drive me home?”
It’s a quiet entreaty, and I wonder if he’ll be able to hear it over the sound of the rain drumming against the vehicles. Long seconds tick by, and I am debating whether to ask again or leave it be when Yohji takes a step forward. “I’m over here,” he answers.
I follow him through the rain, neither of us with an umbrella and me without my jacket. It won’t be long before I see Aya again; I can retrieve my coat then. Right now, I don’t think Yohji would let me go back into the building, and I’m not sure I would be able to make it to her room, either. Yohji unlocks my door first and I let myself in, knowing that I’m going to get his upholstery wet. I reach over, pulling the lock on the driver’s side so Yohji can get in, and retreat back to my seat. I’m cold and tired; Yohji’s car is chilly and being wet doesn’t help. I fold my arms tightly over my chest once more, leaning back against the seat as if there’s some warmth to be found there. Yohji closes the door and buckles himself in, twisting the key in the ignition.
The ride back to the Koneko is silent, a tense and unhappy quiet. Neither of us moves when Yohji parks outside of the shop. We stare out our respective windows, Yohji probably thinking dark thoughts and me just trying to stay conscious. Finally Yohji turns, and I feel his eyes on me.
“Let’s go upstairs.”
He doesn’t mean, ‘Let’s go upstairs to our own apartments and go to sleep.’ He means, ‘Come with me. We’re going to talk.’
“Can this wait until morning?” I want to know. I’m so tired.
“I don’t think it can,” he answers.
I accept this in silence, and we both climb from the car. I go up the stairs first and Yohji follows close behind. I can feel his eyes burning into my back as I move. I lead the way to Yohji’s apartment, standing to one side so he can unlock the door. He gestures for me to go in first and I obey, moving aside so he can enter as well but returning to the doormat to drip after he is in. He closes the door and locks it before leaving the room. I am left alone, and I stare around at Yohji’s place. It isn’t the first time I’ve been here, though my visits were infrequent. Yohji’s apartment has such a lived-in feeling to it…It is a far cry from the lonely, quiet place I have upstairs. It reminds me of Schuldich’s place.
Yohji returns with towels, offering one to me. I take it with fingers numb from the cold and we dry ourselves off the best we can in silence. I am left holding onto my towel when we are done, and I gaze at it for some sort of inspiration and energy to speak. Yohji has white towels, just like Schuldich.
Yohji points at his bed, and I obediently cross the room to sit on the end of it. I’m not completely dry; I’m going to get his sheets wet. But Yohji knew it would happen, so I don’t say anything. He vanishes again, and in a few moments I can hear the sound of a coffee pot bubbling. Yohji is gone until the coffee is done brewing, and I use the silence to try and clear my head. He returns shortly, a mug in each hand, and holds one out in offering. I accept it, taking it in both hands, and lifting my eyes to his gaze. I can’t read his green eyes; his gaze is guarded. I can’t tell anything from his face, either…His expression is carefully blank.
He doesn’t sit, but chooses to stand in front of me. He picks a spot far enough back that I don’t have to strain my neck to stare up at him, a move done so I will keep eye contact with him. I lift the mug to my mouth, letting it burn my lips and ignoring the pain.
“I want you to start at the beginning, and I want you to tell me everything.” It’s a soft command.
“It’s a long story…”
“I have all night,” Yohji answers, “and the coffee pot is full.”
I accept this in silence, and quiet stretches between us. My fingers tighten on my mug and I take another sip, letting it burn my tongue to try and jumpstart my thoughts. It helps a bit…The pain in my head is more dull now, leaving just exhaustion behind. I gaze through Yohji, searching my thoughts. There is no Schuldich here to blank Yohji’s thoughts now, and even if Schuldich was awake, I don’t know if I could have him tweak Yohji’s memory a third time. Yohji has trusted me for so long. He deserves more than that. But what is the truth anymore?
Start at the beginning. When did it begin? How did it begin?
It began with an empty bed almost two and a half months ago, with a kidnapping and deal that changed my life forever.
It seems so long ago…
“Aya…” Yohji presses, a soft demand for answers.
And I give him them; I give him all of them. I start at the beginning, and I tell him everything, everything except cinnamon kisses. Yohji listens in silence, never interrupting. It was the soft way he told me we were leaving, standing just a few feet away from me in the emergency room, that helps me speak. It is remembering his anger and feelings of betrayal the first time he found out the truth that makes me talk. It is because I am tired and so much has happened and I don’t know what’s going on anymore. It is because I need to talk to someone, and Schuldich is unavailable right now.
It is a very long story. Our coffee mugs are long empty by the time I finish, and the mugs are cold in our hands. Yohji has not moved to refill them yet, as he didn’t want to leave when I am sharing so much. When I finish, the new silence in the room seems deafeningly loud. I don’t think Yohji knows what to say; I don’t think he knows how to react.
But I want him to say something. I want someone to say something. I want someone to tell me what I’m supposed to do.
I am so very tired. I am only dimly aware of Yohji taking my coffee mug away; I let it slip through limp fingers and watch him go. My head hurts again, but this time it is because my body wants desperately to sleep. Yohji returns, standing just a short distance away from me, searching my face. His eyes sparkle with a million things I’m too tired to identify, and his mouth is pulled in a thin line.
“Go to sleep,” he finally says. “I’m going to go smoke and think. We’ll talk again in the morning.”
I start to struggle to my feet but he rests a hand on my shoulder, stilling me. I watch as he leaves, watching as the door whisks shut behind him. I look around the room, wondering what to do. He doesn’t want me to leave- either he doesn’t want me falling on the stairs going to my room or he thinks I might lock the door to avoid another conversation in the morning. I slowly rise from the bed, using up the last bit of strength I have to cross the room to one of his chairs. I am asleep almost as soon as I am sitting down, and the cool black of unconsciousness is welcome.
I wake to the smell of food. My eyes slide open, and my surroundings confuse me. Slowly I raise my head from where it is resting against the back of a chair, and I look around, disoriented. I recognize this furniture, but it belongs to neither Schuldich nor me. It takes several moments before I remember that I am in Yohji’s apartment, and the events of the previous night come spilling back to me. I lift a hand to my face, rubbing at my eyes to try and erase the lingering sleepiness.
/Good morning, cat,/ comes a familiar nasal voice.
I close my eyes at the sound, soaking it up in relief. Last night had been horrible…Hearing his voice reassures me that he really is going to be all right. I’m sure Nagi didn’t sleep a wink last night, worrying himself sick about Schuldich. I wonder if he thought to change into dry clothes so he wouldn’t get ill. I take a deep breath and let it out, letting my hand drop to the chair’s armrest. ~Good morning,~ I answer.
/Nagi said I’d better pop over to say hi,/ he says, sounding amused if tired.
~I’m surprised he remembered,~ I answer dryly. ~Just so you know, if you pull a stunt like that ever again, I will strangle you myself.~
/Now you sound like Nagi./ There’s a grin in his voice. /Ah, lovely. More meds. How I love being hospitalized…Doctors have the best shit, you know./
~I’m sure they do,~ I return. A few moments later Schuldich offers a soft mental sigh, and I can feel his voice slipping away as the drugs enter his system. I’m feeling awake now, enough to slide off of the chair and find Yohji. I’m feeling reassured and encouraged by my conversation with Schuldich, however brief it was. He’s going to get better, just like the doctors said.
I find Yohji in his small kitchenette, standing over the stove and watching whatever he’s cooking. The clock on the counter past him reads it to be seven in the morning- rather early for Yohji to be awake on a day off. He glances up when I enter and lifts a spatula in greeting. I search his face for any signs of condemnation. What I see instead are tired lines around his eyes.
Yohji’s awake because he never went to sleep.
“You eat this, don’t you?” Yohji asks, gesturing to the pan.
“Aa,” I answer without really looking at the food. I lean against the doorway as Yohji goes back to his cooking, studying him as I try to figure out what’s going to happen and what he’s going to say. He didn’t really react last night…He took everything I said and went to think on it. Apparently he’s been thinking about it all night long. What has he decided? What is he going to do? It’s not like he can order me to stay here and to keep away from Schuldich and Nagi…Our deal is over. Schuldich is done with me.
Yohji divides the food in half, spooning it onto two plates. He hands me mine and we retreat to the main room, each taking a chair. Yohji turns them with his foot as he passes so they face each other, and we gaze at each other over our breakfast after sitting. Yohji starts eating first and I follow his lead. It isn’t until we’re done and our empty plates rest in our laps that Yohji speaks again.
“It’s been a very long night,” he finally says. “Probably smoked an entire pack of cigarettes on the porch and still didn’t know what to do.” He tilts his head to one side, gazing past me. “I went back to the ER to talk to Makiko…She doesn’t know much about Schuldich but she knows that both you and him lived in her old apartment. She brought me to his room, and I’ll tell you…That kid has a serious mouth on him.”
He means Nagi, and I feel my lips twitch into the faintest of amused smiles. I manage to swallow it before Yohji looks back at me. “He wasn’t really interested in talking to me.”
“He isn’t interested in talking to anyone except Schuldich,” I answer.
“Feh,” is Yohji’s response. He reaches up, rubbing at his forehead as if warding off a headache. “I don’t… know what to think. I don’t know what to say. I can’t believe you didn’t tell me two months ago when this started, but I also understand why you couldn’t. It’s just…Jesus, Aya. All of this was going on and none of us had a clue.”
I don’t answer, because I’m not sure what to say in response. Silence falls between us as Yohji struggles to accept everything I’ve said. “I’ve had nine hours to think this over, and I still don’t know what to do about it…” he says.
“I’ve had two months,” I tell him, “and I don’t know, either.”
“I can’t,” Yohji manages to say, giving a shake of his head, “say that I like this. I don’t know if I like it at all. You can say they’ve changed…You can tell me all these things you’ve seen and heard, and you can tell me all about the people they’ve become. And even though I believe that people can change, I can’t say that I trust them. Schuldich- he’s dangerous.”
I understand his difficulty in believing the best of the German, and I offer him a small nod to say I don’t blame him for it. He sighs, letting his head fall back so he can stare at the ceiling. “Two months,” he murmurs. “You lived with them for two months. Damn.” He shakes his head, raking a hand through his hair. “I was happy to think it was a girl,” he says, “and I guess it was simpler if you let me believe it… I wondered who you could be going to see that would change you so much.” He looks back towards me, green eyes searching my gaze. “We were all scared for you,” he tells me softly. “Back before this happened… It was like we could see you fading away in front of us, and there was nothing we could do to stop it.”
I can dimly remember what life was like before Schuldich…It’s a dismal memory, and I can remember Omi approaching me to try and talk to me about it. I remember wondering then what about me was changing, wondering how much of my apathy towards being alive showed, that my teammates would pick up on it.
“I guess the days surrounding Schuldich’s entrance are where you really scared us…” Yohji considers. “You were falling apart at the seams. What had been a gradual erosion gave way, and you were crumpling under us. But then…it got better.” He makes a face, his mouth twisting in a thoughtful frown. “Just a few days later, you were better. You were like you used to be, as if you actually had some investment in being alive. Our old Aya was back, withdrawn and simmering with anger. We were so reassured that we didn’t want to wonder about what had happened…Whatever it had been, it was enough to fix you.”
I pick at my plate as he talks, fingernails scratching lightly at the edge. Yohji wraps his fingers through his hair and tugs at a few locks. “And you started changing again…In the beginning, you didn’t want to leave the shop. I could see it; there was something that made you want to stay here. And then slowly, your interest was caught elsewhere. You stopped showing up so early for your shifts, you stopped volunteering to take more, and you would leave as soon as it was done. Your silence wasn’t so much apathetic as it was thoughtful.
“And this last week…” He waves his hand around. “This last week I can see you collapsing again.”
This last week…
“Last week you moved back into your apartment…” Yohji murmurs, echoing my train of thoughts.
I look away from him, lowering my eyes to my plate. An uneasy silence sits between us. Yohji is unsure of where to go from here. I slowly push myself up from my chair, taking the few steps towards him so I can take his plate from him. “They were…very eventful months,” I tell him. “It’ll just take some time to readjust to things being…normal.” Is this considered normal? I’ve forgotten.
“Will it?” Yohji inquires, giving me a measuring look. I don’t hold his gaze for long; it’s almost as if I know what he’s looking for and I don’t want him to see it.
“Aa,” I answer, turning away from him and heading towards the kitchen. I rinse the plates off in the sink, ignoring Yohji when he comes to the doorway to watch me.
“Either way,” Yohji says, sounding a bit tired, “congratulations on your sister.”
I offer him a faint smile, setting the plates in a rack to dry before turning to face him. “It means I’m going to move out of the Koneko,” I tell him. “She has to go through a lot of physical therapy to get back on her feet again, and I should be with her while she’s recovering. My apartment here isn’t big enough…I need to start looking for a place soon.”
Yohji accepts this with a nod before sighing. “I can’t believe Kritiker would do something like that…”
He doesn’t regret Manx’s death. I told him about it, but informing him of the event doesn’t help him. Schuldich blotted not just her death but also her life from everyone’s memories; Yohji doesn’t remember her to mourn her passing. If Yohji ever asks, I’ll be happy to inform him that he never liked her much, anyway.
“I’m going to go see my sister today,” I tell him, “and I should probably start looking for a new place to live.” I can walk or take a bus to the hospital, and pick my car up there for house hunting. I’ll probably be gone the majority of the day between these two things.
Yohji wags his finger at me. “Now, you know that just because you move out and have your sister to play with, you can’t start ignoring us, right?”
“Don’t worry…I’ll have an answering machine to take all your calls,” I assure him lightly, moving past him out of the room. Yohji looks startled for a moment, then laughs and pokes my shoulder as I pass.
“At least your sense of humor has improved…” he notes.
“Am I joking?” I ask him, sending him a bland look over my shoulder.
He makes a face at me. “Aya…”
I don’t respond, but let myself out of his door. I rest against it for a long moment, ignoring the cold wind that washes against me. I gaze outwards at the city. It is early but Tokyo is awake and busy already. The streets and sidewalks are full. I take a deep breath and let it out, watching as it forms a cloud in front of me. Fingers brush through the white air and I close my eyes, searching. It doesn’t take me long to find Schuldich’s touch. It’s still there…His voice may have quieted but his gift is still there. I wonder when he’ll draw it back; I wonder how long it’s been there. Will it hurt when it goes, like it hurt so much when he was in his accident?
Nagi didn’t know Schuldich was hurt. He knew Schuldich had dropped out on us, but he didn’t know what was going on. Why did I? I want to know; I need to know, but I don’t know who will give me the answers.
For now, though, I content myself that that familiar weight is in my mind, and I let myself into my apartment to get ready for the day.
Aya is asleep when I get there. I rest on the stool in her room, watching her sleep and listening to the sound of her soft breathing. The doctor couldn’t tell me when she’d be awake, saying instead that she would be slipping between sleep and wake randomly as her body adjusts. I am content to sit here, even if I don’t know if she’ll wake up while I’m here. I sit with her for almost two hours, lost in my thoughts. It’s the nurses that interrupt me, coming in to check on her and give her more medication. She stirs as they adjust the sheets but she isn’t bothered enough to wake. I nod to return to the nurses’ smiles and they leave us in peace once more.
I reach out, taking Aya’s hand in my own once more. It’s a shame Schuldich seems to have such a grudge against her…I wish that they could meet, that she could see the man who has made her waking possible. At the same time…I don’t know if I can ever tell Aya that she lost three years of her life on purpose, that someone willingly drugged her so she would sleep. I can barely stomach the truth myself, and it’s not my life that was so cruelly interrupted. I don’t know if I can look her in the eye and tell her that the people I worked for made her sleep like a puppet, keeping her from doing everything she should have been able to.
I take a deep breath when I realize my content thoughts have derailed to bitterness, lifting my free hand to rake my fingers through my hair.
But it still seems wrong that she would never know Schuldich. Even if she won’t ever understand what he’s done for her, he has done so much for the both of us. To let her live without ever knowing him seems to be very wrong.
But I wonder if there’s anything I could do about it. Schuldich may have woken her up, but he made it very clear that he didn’t care for her. He was very bitter over her when he taunted me over her or spoke to me about the reasons behind her waking. Even if I could convince him to meet her, whether it’s sitting with her in this room or coming with us to lunch or something, I don’t know if I would be able to trust him to be polite.
I’m no longer surprised to find that my thoughts have slid to the German anymore. Instead I sigh, laying Aya’s hand back down on the mattress and moving over to the window. He is just three floors down from me, and I wonder if I should pay him a visit.
In the end I decide that it probably wouldn’t be a wise thing to do. Schuldich is sleeping- though I won’t bother wondering how I know- and there’s a chance Nagi will be there. He won’t want to see me, and if Schuldich wakes…Well, I doubt he’d be interested in me visiting them.
I turn away from the window, letting the curtains whisk shut. I offer my sister a small farewell smile, focusing on Aya to erase the lingering feeling of regret. “Shall I find us a new home?” I ask her. She doesn’t answer, but that’s all right. I straighten the blankets around her and leave the room, focusing on thoughts of a new apartment to try and wash away things I don’t want to think about.
It’ll get better. It’ll get easier. Life is changing and I’ll let it take me where it wants. The days will lessen the sharp realization of what has been lost, will help me find a new place within my team so I don’t feel a stranger to them, and will bring Aya and me to better things.
And one day, I won’t miss either of them, because I know they’re not missing me.
Today’s just…not that day.
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