Disclaimers: SM doesn’t belong to me. Rights reserved to Naoko Takeuchi. And…whatever else I need to put here…. =\
Makoto sat by the window in her apartment, her chin resting on her hand. She was busy looking down at the populace of Tokyo as the world revolved, seemingly, ever so slowly. No doubt she was bored. Slowly her mind drifted, drifted until it landed on an island of misery. It has already been two months since she broke up with Yuuhi and his wounds along with many a ‘sempai’ left deep scars in Makoto’s heart, criss-crossing into a complex infrastructure of buried emotions. She was glad that Ami lent a silent shoulder for her, not expecting her spill out what was bothering her, as Makoto still liked to keep to herself on such matters. Human emotions are just a paradox that Makoto didn’t want to linger on. It was too confusing to just figure out what exactly a person is feeling. Love and anger border each other, each have the same intensity as the other. Sadness and joy is the same.
Makoto silently berated herself for being so naïve still after so much of the same experience. But she was thankful, thankful that Ami stood by her. However, if Ami had heard her “speak such nonsense” she would have kicked her butt all the way to Jupiter. They had gotten close in the past weeks following her break up. She knew that Ami loved her more than as a friend but Makoto, at the moment didn’t want to get that close to anybody, not even Ami. They kept a close relationship that was somewhat distant, expressed with a slight touch or a hug but they never ventured beyond that.
Absently, Makoto watered a plant and moved it into the sun. She got up and prepared herself for work and then school. Shortly after her decision to apply to Le Cordon Bleu, she was accepted with much enthusiasm, however she did not move. Makoto stayed, for Ami’s sake, and her own, though she sacrificed some valuable time. But that was all right. She picked up what she needed and headed out the door, reminding herself to lock the door, close the lights and that she had to pick some stuff up from the market later. She’d been planning for a while to cook dinner for Ami and her mother, but free time hadn’t come by easily for a while.
Because of her attendance at Le Cordon Bleu, Makoto was forced to work part-time at Mr. Yukishiro’s restaurant, seven times a week to make enough money to sustain her living and pay for tuition. Giving her less time as a senshi, less time with her friends, and even lesser time for leisurely things, such as cooking for her friends, just for fun. Sometimes, she dully regretted applying for Le Cordon Bleu, sometimes, she was glad to be able to experience working with top chefs in a professional kitchen that was far better than her own.
Makoto got home sometime in the late afternoon. It was an exhausting day. First she worked half a shift before going to Le Cordon Bleu. Directly after her classes, she headed to Mr. Yukishiro’s restaurant and worked for a few hours before she had a chance to go to the market and then come home early enough to allow her enough time to prepare dinner. She flopped on her couch for a few moments to regain her breath and clear her head before planning the meal.
About an hour and a half later she had finished cooking a meal suitable for a king and enough for his entourage too. Makoto had fixed traditional Japanese cuisine and some of the French cuisine she had learned. For dessert she made a simple cherry pie.
Her guests arrived just as Makoto finished setting the table. She greeted them at the door and invited them to seat themselves. Mrs. Mizuno’s eyes nearly popped out of her sockets when she saw the meal that was prepared. It was too much and she commented on it.
“Oh, well, that means you get to eat more!”
They ate, mostly in silence, with small conversation or comments about the food every now and then. Somehow, the conversation got wrapped around Ami and her future education.
“So Ami, have you decided whether or not you are going to the University of Tokyo yet?” he mother asked, waving her pair of chopsticks around. Ami looked down, mulling over her thoughts.
“Toudai? You’re going to go to the University of Tokyo?” Makoto asked, thoroughly surprised.
“I… might continue my post graduate studies there.”
“I say you go for it. The school of medicine there is excellent I hear.”
“Jikei Medical College isn’t bad either,” Ami replied in defense of the school she is now attending. “But I must admit, the University of Tokyo is a prestigious school and earning a degree there… I can barely imagine.”
“What about that school you were talking about a few years ago, the one in Germany?” her mother asked.
“I’ve decided long past that my place is here, in Tokyo, with my mom and my friends.”
“Are you sure?” Makoto asked, uncertainty and a tone of doubt evident in her voice. “Don’t hold yourself back on account of us.”
“Makoto…” Ami looked directly at her. “There are always times when stuff like that are not as important-”
“And, Ami, there are times when people have to move on.”
Ami’s mother tilted her head, listening to their exchange. “Honestly, girls, both schools are excellent choices and I’m sure that whichever one Ami decides on will be Ami’s choice only,” she gave a meaningful glance at Makoto and Ami.
Ami and Makoto nodded. Makoto gave Ami a look that told her this conversation would continue later. Ami returned with a challenging gaze of her own. Changing the subject, Ami’s mother complimented on one of Makoto’s French dishes. “This is very good. French cuisine suits your cooking hands,” she smiled. “Maybe one day you can teach me how to make this.”
“Anytime you can, call me and I will. It’s rather simple really. The French just like to make it more as a piece of art rather than a meal.” Mrs. Mizuno nodded.
Mrs. Mizuno stood up and stretched. “That truly was a wonderful meal, Makoto. I’m sorry; I have to go take care of something at the hospital. Thank you again for the dinner,” she stood and began to leave. “I’ll see you later Ami. You’re staying for a while longer right?” Ami nodded. Makoto showed Mrs. Mizuno to the door, Ami’s mother bowing and thanking her host. Makoto returned the gesture and told her to come for dinner more often.
“Not going home yet?” Makoto asked Ami.
“I don’t feel like it just yet. Can I stay a while longer?” Makoto nodded as she cleared the dishes. Ami began to cover the leftovers with saran wrap and shoved them into Makoto’s large refrigerator. “What?” Ami said when she caught Makoto staring intensely at her.
“Oh no, you are not starting this again.”
“I said I’d continue this conversation. What better time than now?”
Ami frowned at Makoto. “The choice is mine, remember? You don’t have a say in it and I’m sure that whatever I choose is still good.”
“Ami, I just don’t want your choice hindered by thoughts of friendship. I mean, don’t be held back on account of us. I know you. You threw away the chance of a lifetime to study in Germany because of us. I don’t want you to lose another opportunity.”
“I don’t see why you’re making such a big deal out of this.”
Makoto was silent for a while.
“Makoto, all these things, friends and family, are very important factors that I have to consider. You guys aren’t hindering me. The University of Tokyo is great, Germany’s schools are top-notch, even Jikei Medical College is an excellent school. You don’t have to worry about any of this stuff. It’s my choice,” she told her firmly.
“I know. But-”
“But! But! Makoto… I know you want me to go to the best medical school there is, but that’s beside the point. A lot of students these days just worry about what school they graduated from, what honors they get and all that stuff. They forget the reason they went to medical school. I want to be a doctor so I can help people, like my mom. I just want to be a doctor. Being a good doctor doesn’t depend on what school I graduated from.”
“You will be a great doctor, I have a feeling, if you can spout stuff like that.” Makoto laughed. “So…I’ll make a deal with you. I won’t mention it if… you tell me where you honestly want to go at this very moment. And I’m your opinion can change, but I just want to know.”
“Deal.” She shuffled up behind Makoto. “Right now, number one on my list is the University of Tokyo. But,” she paused for a while. “I’m not so sure.”
“For one thing, it’ll take a lot a time from me considering the distance. And I don’t see you as often as I’d like as it is. I can barely imagine how I’ll get to see you in I do go to Toudai.” Ami’s arms snaked around Makoto’s waist.
“Well… at least I’ll be close by. I mean, if you go to Germany…”
“I know. That’s why Toudai is where I would go now.”
Makoto smiled. Yes! Haha! She allowed Ami to hold her a while longer before shrugging out of her embrace. “I have to finish washing dishes, and I can’t if I have a little worm clinging onto me.” She was answered with a not so gentle poke to her side. “Honestly, Ami, you can act so childish sometimes!”
“Must be the environment,” Ami muttered indignantly.
Makoto suddenly found herself yawning. Ami pushed her gently away from the sink as she dried her hands. Ami relinquished Makoto from kitchen duty and ordered her to take a shower. Makoto was all too happy to comply as she dragged herself into her bathroom. Ami plunged her hands into the dirty sink and began to wash the dishes. Ami was finished long before Makoto got out of the shower. She settled herself onto Makoto’s couch and began surfing channels on the television. She was bored. With a glance in front of her, she noticed various books, binders, and sheets of paper were splayed on Makoto’s coffee table without any semblance of order. She began to gather them up and tidy them up when she noticed that they were texts on business and management. She leafed through some of the pages and honestly found the text boring.
“How can she find this stuff interesting? Business people.” She snorted as she neatly piled the books in one corner of the table. She shuffled the sheets of paper in a stack and placed them on top of the books.
“And I don’t see how myocardial infarctions can be interesting. Why is beyond me. Medical students,” she grunted derisively. “And I’m a chef, thank you very much.”
“You look tired,” Ami simply stated.
“Yeah and you look like shit.” Ami furrowed her brow and glared at Makoto. “Sorry, sorry, just don’t look at me like you want to make me into some piece de resistance for some dinner party.” Makoto gave her coffee table a scrutinizing look, “Not bad. But I was just going to start working on that stuff. You’ll do as an “ok” housewife one day.” Makoto winked at Ami, who was blushing furiously. “Though we’ve got to detour you from ‘sandwiches for breakfast, lunch and dinner’ as your motto.”
Makoto sat down in front of the table and spread her books out on the table. She stared at it. “I don’t want to do this.” She groaned and fell back onto the floor.
“Don’t then. You really look tired.”
“What time is it?”
Ami looked around. “It’s… almost nine.”
“Nine. I don’t know if that’s late or early anymore.” Her head rolled as she faced Ami. Ami did look haggard and exhausted. Her posture sagged a bit and her eyes looked a bit dull. “I was right. You do look like… I mean you do look tired too. Been studying late again? You should go home and sleep, Heaven knows you need some beauty sleep,” she added the last barb so Ami would loosen up.
“Kino Makoto, what is that suppose to mean?” Ami slugged her with a couch cushion. Makoto was knocked flat onto the ground. She didn’t move. “Mako-chan, I know you are playing dead. Come on, I can see right through it.” Makoto did not move. The joke was a classic one that still worked most times. A person just needed the right amount of patience and enough genes from an opossum. Ami hurled another pillow at Makoto who didn’t flinch. “Mako-chan?” Ami scrabbled next to Makoto. Her voice trembled. “Mako-chan? I’m sorry, I didn’t think I hit you that hard.” She shook Makoto by the shoulders, calling her name. Suddenly Makoto’s arm shot out as she exaggerated a stretching motion.
“I told you I was tired. Stop making all that racket and let a poor girl sleep.” Ami socked her in the shoulder. Makoto yelped; it really hurt. “Ami, you really don’t know your strength.” Makoto laughed.
Ami gave her a crossed look. She folded her arms and grunted. “That wasn’t funny you know.”
“I thought you knew I was just playing: you said so yourself.”
“Well…” Ami muttered. Her eyes flashed in anger, “you scared the living hell out of me! Don’t you ever do that again or I’ll have you hung from your toenails and-”
“Quiet you. All right! I just wanted you to relax a bit. For what it’s worth, I’m sorry.”
“You’re sorry,” she snorted. “You could have fooled me, you…” Ami sighed; she hated it when Makoto looked at her like that; like a little child, with big puppy dog eyes, being scolded by a mother. “I forgive you. Next time you want me to relax, give me a book.”
“Just not anything on business management, right?” Ami nodded as she picked up the cushion. “You know…” Makoto tilted her head in thought; “you’re kind of cute when you’re angry like that.”
The cushion came flying back at Makoto who deftly dodged it. “You’re as bad as Haruka! And besides, I didn’t think Kino Makoto flirted with anybody.” Ami stopped suddenly and knew she stumbled into enemy territory. “I-I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have…” Makoto sobered up, and turned almost depressed.
“It’s all right. I know I should be over Yuuhi. It’s been a while. I just…don’t feel really secure about myself right now. I’m sorry for any pain I am causing you.” Makoto laughed at herself then. “Pain seems to be the only thing I am causing you.” Makoto shook her head when Ami reached out a loving hand. “I…” Makoto sighed. “Why is this so hard?” she questioned herself. “Honestly I am just scared. Scared of loving someone outright. It’s nothing against you, Ami, but when you get dumped over and over, it just makes me question myself. And here I am, questioning myself and in the process hurting the person that cares most about me.”
Ami didn’t know what to say. Here was the strongest person she knew, both physically and emotionally, telling her how much she doubted her own self! “Idiot Mako-chan. Why should you question yourself? I have full confidence in you.” Ami knelt next to Makoto. “Let me be here for you, please. Let this little worm weasel herself into your heart…”
Makoto smiled and looked at Ami awkwardly. “You sure got over being Shy Ami fast.”
“Open your heart to me.”
Makoto sat up. “I don’t know…”
Ami pinched her in the arm. “What do you mean ‘you don’t know’?”
Makoto shuffled back in honest fear. “I don’t think your mom would approve of her daughter turning into such a little savage.”
Ami glared at her.
“I can try. No guarantees though,” Makoto whispered.
“You only bring out the worst in me, honestly. Try is all I wanted to hear.” But to Ami, this is the most secure she had ever felt in her entire life. She felt more at ease around Makoto, setting free the emotional chains on her and allowing herself the joy of running wild like the unruly child she never allowed herself to be. Fortunately for her, Makoto could take the physical abuse that Ami gave whenever the child inside her took over. She was glad; though it took her over ten years to find someone that would make her feel as protected since she felt the strong arms of her father secure around her as a child. Since her parents divorced, the only strength she was able to draw was from her mother, the pillar that supported her. Now she had Makoto too.
Rei paced back and forth and they waited for Minako to arrive. Usagi looked at Rei fondly and commented on her punctuality and Minako’s tardiness. Makoto was busy looking at the slight groove that was beginning to appear in the ground from Rei’s pacing.
“She said she had something important to tell us! It would be nice if she was on time to tell it,” Rei snapped back at Usagi. Ami glanced at Makoto, who only gave her a bewildered glance of her own, and returned to studying her text. Obviously, neither one of them knew what was going on. Makoto turned when she heard footsteps clamoring up the stairs of Rei’s shrine.
Minako came bursting into the living room, a large smile plastered on her face. She took a moment to capture her breath before Rei gave her an irritated look and Usagi ushered her to a seat.
“Sorry I’m a little late-”
“Little! Little?” Rei began but stopped when Usagi gave her a stern look.
“So, what’s the big news? Well? Spill,” Usagi asked, eager as usual and getting anxious because of her friend’s restless glee.
“I got offered a modeling career…” Usagi yelped in joy. Makoto began cheering and Ami gave her a trademark smile.
“And?” Rei pressed.
“By a major company in France!”
“France? You’re kidding me! That’s wonderful! Congratulations, Minako,” Rei hugged her.
Minako sat back down, a sudden thought clouding her joy. “But, it’s in France. If I accept I’ll be contracted for three years. What if something happens here in Tokyo? And I’m not here to help? I want your opinions on this before I accept it.”
“Well,” Usagi was the first to respond. “I honestly think you should go for it. Youma are only random occurrences now. And we can handle them.”
“Yeah, but kicking ass won’t be the same without Venus,” Makoto commented. “But, I seem to be saying this a lot, but there are times when people need to move on.” Makoto looked down for a moment before continuing. “Don’t throw out this opportunity.”
She let Usagi continue, “Mako-chan’s right. I know you feel a need, a responsibility to be here, but you also have a responsibility to yourself to become the best you can at what you want.”
“But it’s a one year stint at a time.”
“Then you’ll be back here at the end of the year right?” Ami asked. Minako nodded. “You’ve fulfilled your responsibilities as a senshi. Look at Haruka and Michiru. They’re not allowing being a senshi hinder them from living. We haven’t done so either and I hope we can continue life that way. This is just another step.”
“And,” Rei added with a smirk, “I’m sure I can handle any youma better than you. But if we need help, I’ll personally drag you back here.”
Luna peeked out from behind Usagi and addressed Minako for the first time. “Destiny,” she stated. “Destiny will always draw the Sailor Senshi together. Remember that you have a Crystal Tokyo to protect in the future.” Minako nodded firmly in understanding. She would be back to protect her princess.
“This is your dream isn’t it?” Usagi asked gently. “The chase for your dream is coming to an end, don’t give up before you catch it.”
“Minako-chan, since we are all spouting some words of wisdom, I would like to tell you this: Being a model is a once in a lifetime chance, being a senshi is for a lifetime,” Ami spoke solemnly.
“And mine is,” Makoto interrupted, “let’s go out to celebrate!”
“I think I like Mako-chan’s words of wisdom the best!”
“And,” Makoto shouted, “traditional French cuisine dinner at my apartment to get our model here a little taste of French life.” Suddenly, with a glance at the clock, she jumped up and started apologizing. “Uh…you guys are going to have to celebrate without me. I have to work. I forgot I had to sub for someone. I’m sorry.” She began to pack up her belongings.
“No problem,” Minako said. “We’ll pick you up after work. Call it a date,” she winked, much to Ami’s dismay. Ami frowned without realizing it, making Makoto laugh aloud. Ami quickly looked down and replaced her frown with a façade of happiness. It was a joke, she mused, just a joke. Ok, haha.
“All right. I have to go, see you.”
Usagi screamed. “Oh! I just can’t get over it Minako! This is big time! France! I’m so happy for you. But you have to promise to be back and lead the senshi in Crystal Tokyo.”
“Don’t worry. You guys make it so dramatic,” Minako sighed exasperatedly. “I promise.” Though we can’t always rely on destiny, can we?
“So when do you leave for France, Minako?” Usagi asked. They were at Makoto’s apartment, and, after an extravagant French meal with all the trimmings and such, the group of friends gathered around in Makoto’s living room. Each body carelessly slopped here and there, resting like old times with no hint of order or grace. It didn’t matter.
Minako contemplated for a short while before answering, “About a week.”
“That fast? A week?” Usagi shot up from her position on Makoto’s couch. Her look of distress was actually more comical than anything else.
“I know…it’s only a short time. It doesn’t leave me much time to take care of things here. But I want to forget all that tonight. I want to forget the feeling of being rushed. I just want to be having a good time with friends.”
“Like old times?” Rei asked conspiratorially.
Minako nodded with a flourish and downed her drink. “Like old times,” she stated loudly with resolve. Rei glanced at Usagi, Makoto, and Ami, then a sly grin formed on her face as she nodded slightly, signaling their attack. All at once Minako found four of Makoto’s couch cushions slammed into her face repeatedly before she had the sense to scream and jump up. Diving out of their reach, she grabbed a cushion of her own and joined the fray with a war cry.
“Why are you all teaming up against me?” Minako cried when she found herself outnumbered and cornered by what she thought was her friends. They smacked her hard on the head with the pillow.
“A parting gift,” Makoto stated as an evil smile formed. Rei smirked and back down.
“No fair, you guys get Mako-chan on your side.” As Minako pouted, Makoto plopped on the floor, claiming exhaustion. Ami accidentally ‘dropped’ a cushion on her face. It was returned in force as Ami walked away. The cushion hit her square in the back of the head. Ami turned around, her look full of anger, only to see Makoto pretending to be asleep.
“I’m getting something to drink, anybody else want something?” Ami asked as the others settled down. Cries for water rang out immediately. Ami shook her head and smiled to herself. She shivered as her bare feet touched the tiled floor. Ami dug out cups from Makoto’s cupboards and filled them each with water.
A voice from behind startled her into almost dropping the last cup. “Need a hand with that?” It was Makoto.
“Mako-chan, you startled me.” Ami turned as handed Makoto the cup she had almost dropped. “If you would be so kind as to help me with these…” Ami motioned to the cups filled with water. Deftly, Makoto scooped up the rest of the cups in her hands. They were quickly relieved of their burden as the girls grabbed a cup and gulped it down.
Just as Makoto settled onto her couch, her phone rang. She picked herself off grumpily and maneuvered herself to the kitchen where the phone was. “Kino residence. Hello?” Her expression took on a serious tone immediately. “Yes, this is she… Shinosaki? Is that you?”
“Yeah. I’m sorry to disturb you Mako-chan, but… I just needed to talk to someone.”
“Oh no, it’s no problem. Where are you? Maybe we can talk face to face?” Makoto was concerned that her longtime friend, Shinosaki, sounded so dead on the phone line. He didn’t answer her for while. “Shinosaki? Are you all right? What’s wrong?”
“Sorry… Uhm, yeah. Can I come over? You still live in the same…”
“Yes, Shinosaki. I haven’t moved. I’ll see you soon?”
“Thanks Mako-chan.” He hung up abruptly, leaving Makoto to stare blankly at the receiver for a moment dumbfounded. The friend she’d lost touch with for close to seven years surprised her with a phone call late at night asking to see her. She plastered a smile on her face to cover her shock and walked back out to her living room.
“Who was it?” Usagi asked.
“Just some guy trying to sell something. They train them to be more relentless each year.” She shook her head.
“Oh,” Usagi muttered. Ami gave Makoto an odd look that told her Ami knew she was lying. Makoto shook her head slightly, mouthing, ‘I don’t want to talk about it’. Rei caught the exchange and sensed something amiss. She glanced at Minako who was busy staring at the television. Rei had her own suspicions about the nature of Ami and Makoto’s relationship and how deep it went. The only surprise to her was that they didn’t show it much; they didn’t even act like a couple. She saw that they had hit it off as friends instantly when they first met in junior high and something like this was bound to happen. Her suspicions were only proven after Yuuhi left Makoto. Rei also chanced that Makoto was really oblivious to those feelings.
Rei looked at Makoto’s clock. It was a quarter past eleven. She faked a yawn and announced that she was tired and should go home, hinting the same to Minako with her expression. Usagi caught on and said that she had an early class the next morning and should go home and get some sleep. Slowly they filed out of her apartment, leaving Ami bewildered with no reason to leave also. She told Makoto that she’d help clean up.
“Mako-chan…who was that really?”
“Why do you ask?”
“You just seem really bothered by it. I know that was not a telemarketer,” she stated flatly. “You are a horrid liar, even if you try, Mako-chan.” Ami wiped dry the last of the plates and placed them neatly back into her cupboards.
“Someone from a while ago in my past. You’ve met him once, Shinosaki.”
“What did he call about?”
“I don’t know. But I’ve never heard him sound so tired and… it worries me. He’s coming over.”
“Oh.” Ami couldn’t quite identify the sudden pang in her stomach and the fire lighting in her heart. Was she a bit jealous? Of Makoto’s best friend…? She hoped not. The man was married, last she heard. “Should I leave?” she asked, knowing Makoto might want some time alone with her old friend.
“No, it’s all right. Actually I want you to stay, if that’s all right with you. I’m not sure whether I am happy that he called me or angry that he finally called after these years. I don’t know what my reaction will be.” Makoto smiled. “I need an Ami to keep me…well, me.” She chuckled softly.
The doorbell rang. “Wow, that was quick,” Makoto commented before she went to open the door. Shinosaki was haggard looking but he still had his strong stature and presence. She stared at him for a long while and he stared back. Makoto could tell he was holding in his sobs and tears. She motioned him in, but he took a step forward and collapsed into Makoto, who took him into her strong arms. He cried into her shoulders as she led him to her couch. She sat herself on the couch, Shinosaki still in her arms. Ami went to fill up a glass with water.
“You are getting me all wet, Shinosaki. This is supposed to be the other way around. Here, drink some water. Thank you, Ami.” She handed him a glass of water. He sat up and greeted Ami, almost shamefully, her having seen him bawl like a child. After a few minutes, Shinosaki managed to compose himself. Ami told Makoto she would be in Makoto’s room if she were needed. Makoto nodded.
“So… it’s been a while, Shinosaki-san.”
“It has.” He paused. “I’m sorry for not keeping touch with you… it’s just been, well, difficult lately. I’ve had a lot on my mind.”
“Care to share? It wouldn’t hurt. Maybe I can repay you for all those times you had to hold a soaking wet, emotionally distraught girl in the rain while you could have been off somewhere warm…”
Shinosaki sighed and buried his head in his hands. “You’ve grown up a lot since I last saw you, little Mako-chan. Not so little anymore… As you know, I got married, and I have a child now.”
A child? Makoto thought. You never told me that.
He caught her look of disbelief and began digging for his wallet. “Yes, a child. She’s four… her name’s Makoto.” He pulled a picture and handed it to Makoto. She looked at it for a long while, absorbing the feature of his daughter.
“She’s beautiful,” Makoto smiled at a thought, “and she looks just like you.” She returned the picture. She’s four? A secret of four years…
Shinosaki nodded dully. There was a long silence that was yearning to be broken, but Shinosaki found that he no power to speak. Makoto waited and prodded, “What is it you wanted to talk about? ”
“Suzu… my wife, she’s sick. She’s been sick a long time now. I didn’t realize…” he broke off, trying to suppress the tears that were threatening to spill. “It turned out to be cancer…of the brain.” He shuddered, as tears racked his body.
Makoto cursed softly. “Oh Shinosaki…I’m so sorry to hear that…” She hated to see her old friend suffer like this.
“They can’t make her stop hurting. She’s going to die from it. We caught it to late and there’s nothing the doctors can do!”
“There’s got to be something, Shinosaki.”
He only shook his head dejectedly. “The doctors said that… they’re trying their best but I know for sure that…she won’t…” He felt a gentle hand on his shoulders. He began to shudder wildly as tears began to flow. Shinosaki couldn’t fight the tears anymore; he has been doing that for almost two months since the diagnosis. “I’m sorry, Mako-chan.”
“No, it’s okay. Is there anything I can do?”
“I don’t want to trouble you…”
“Please do,” Makoto smiled oddly.
“Well, there is one thing I hope you can help me with,” he stated hesitantly. A look of distress crossed his face and refused to leave. “I was…hoping that maybe, you can help take care of…Makoto for me, while I deal with some things about Suzu… I haven’t been there for her lately, and I feel like I’m neglecting Makoto leaving her with a hired babysitter all the time. I just…”
“Say no more,” Makoto’s grip on his shoulder tightened. “I’ll do it, if it will help. Just give me a call before you do drop her off here, okay?” Shinosaki visibly relaxed and he slumped deep into the couch, exhausted. “Where’s your daughter now?”
“Home, with a friend of mine.” He glanced at the clock and was shocked by the time. “I should go, she’s waiting for me.” He stood up and swooned on his feet. Makoto grabbed his arm to steady him.
“Here, I’ll come with you.”
“No, it’s all right, I can get home myself. You don’t know where I live anymore,” the last line came out more coldly than he intended, but Makoto was not offended.
“Yes, but you do.”
“Makoto, you are kind to me. I made it here just fine and I will go back the same way, alone and unharmed. Besides, you look like you need rest.” He looked into her eyes and saw the tiredness ringed in them. “Remember, I was the one that took care you?”
Makoto just nodded. She backed off the subject, understanding that he wanted some time by himself to think. Shinosaki took in the rest of his surroundings and then said, “Your apartment’s a mess. What happened?”
“Oh, Ami and the rest of us had a wild “fling” at my house. Minako is making it big, Shinosaki. She got modeling contract for some big company in France. I don’t know how they’ll truss her up, but this is her dream and it’s coming true. We were just celebrating.”
“Oh, sorry I crashed it,” he said sincerely. “Give her my congratulations, yeah?” Makoto nodded. “Good night Mako-chan.”
“Call me when you get home?” He nodded slowly and shuffled out her door, but not before saying, “Thank you… Mako-chan.”
Makoto dropped onto her couch and glanced at the clock. It read one thirty. Makoto yawned and remembered that Ami had been locked up in her room for almost two hours. It hadn’t felt like they had been talking for two hours, when most of their talk contained a period of silence.
She pressed an ear against the door and heard no sound. She knocked softly and gently called out Ami’s name. There was no answer so she assumed Ami was asleep. Makoto silently made her way in and saw that Ami was indeed asleep. In the dim moonlight, Makoto stood by and watched the soft glow on Ami’s face. Her features were softer and not strained as they were earlier in the day. Admittedly, Ami looked very much beautiful in the effects the moonlight had on her as she did in daylight. Makoto fought the sudden urge to brush a stray lock of hair from Ami’s face and disappeared into the closet. She did not see Ami stir and wake.
“Mako-chan…?” She turned to face the light coming from the closet and waited for her bleary eyes to adjust. She yawned and the next moment, found Makoto looking at her, a bundle of clothing in her hands.
“Sorry… did I wake you?”
Ami nodded. Makoto apologized again and suddenly found her cheeks flushed and began wondering if Ami had known she had been watching her for a while.
“What time is it?” Ami looked around for a clock. Blaring red numbers read one thirty seven. Ami groaned aloud. It was too late to go home, though she wouldn’t mind staying at Makoto’s apartment…
“Way past your bed time.”
“What was that about?”
“What? Shinosaki?” Her face turned serious as she related to Ami the news she heard tonight. “So I offered to take care of his daughter… I hate seeing my strong protector so…haggard, broken. I could never have imagined it… Though I really can’t blame his wife for getting cancer, making him so sad. I wish there was more I can do!”
Ami sighed. “The best you can do is to keep him comforted, help him alleviate stress but don’t make him feel alienated. Simply put, just be his friend. Taking care of his daughter means a lot. Childcare puts a large amount of stress on anyone.
“Do you think I can stay the night again? It’s late and I really don’t want to wake my mom up, she just finished a thirty seven hour shift at the hospital.” Ami yawned.
Makoto nodded. “Of course, of course. Go back to your slumber, sleeping beauty.”
Makoto’s eyes snapped open as she heard a loud thud come from the room adjacent to hers: the living room. She jumped onto her feet and warily walked into the living room, noticing the light that was on. Not to her great surprise, she found Ami and several of the textbooks she brought with her open. However, she was surprised to find Ami lying on the floor clutching a knee. Makoto was by her side in an instant.
“Ami! I bet you walked into the coffee table huh?” Ami nodded, and grimaced as the pain slowly subsided. “What are you doing up anyway? Studying?” Makoto shook her head, and, against Ami’s wishes, slammed shut her textbooks. “Look at that, a bruise.” Makoto pointed at Ami’s knees as she stood up and went to the bathroom to find something to rub on the bruise.
When she came back out, she found Ami sitting on her couch patiently waiting. She looked like a little child who scraped her knees sitting there swinging her feet back and forth. Sighing, Makoto kneeled down next to her and began dabbing some medication on and gently rubbed the bruise.
“It’s nothing really, Mako-chan. We’ve had bruises before.”
“Yeah, but this is swelling into the size of a ping pong ball at the least.” Ami’s leg almost kicked when Makoto used too much strength. “Sorry, tell me if I rub it too hard.” Changing the subject, Makoto asked what Ami was doing up so late at night.
“I couldn’t sleep after you woke me… so I decided to catch up on some studying.”
Makoto looked at the titles of the textbooks and remember Ami studying them a while ago. “Ami, you have this stuff down cold. I know you won’t study material you already know. Maybe you’ll review, but not study them in the middle of the night! What’s bothering you?”
“Nothing. Exams are coming up, I just want to make sure I pass.”
“Undoubtedly you will. Now back to sleep.” Ami shook her head and rubbed her temples. She felt cold all of a sudden. Makoto looked up and into Ami’s eyes, she couldn’t see them because Ami had her head hanging down. “What’s wrong? If you are still worry, then don’t. I have my complete faith in you that you will pass and be true to the name Mizuno Ami. You’ll be a great doctor, Ami. I see a passion fire up in your eyes every time you stoop to help someone. That’s all you need; the passion for healing.” Makoto reached out a hand to gently brush the hair covering Ami’s face. Ami swallowed.
Makoto abruptly stood up and went into the kitchen. She came out with a glass of water and handed it to Ami. “Here, drink this. I don’t know about you, but I’m going back to sleep. Don’t expect to come back out here the next time you bump into something. I have to work in the morning,” Makoto commented in a cheerful mood, completely breaking the sentimental atmosphere of before. “Good night, Ami.” Makoto paused before turning back around. “You know what Ami? One of these days, I would be really happy if you said ‘Exams are over, let’s go have fun’, instead of ‘Exams are next week, I have to study’.”
“I really wish I can do that. But the openings for an internship to the hospital is filled based on next week’s exam results. I really want that internship, Mako-chan.”
Ami sighed and shivered. “Is it always this cold in here?” Makoto scrutinized Ami for a moment and walked back to Ami from her bedroom door. Makoto shook her head.
“No…it’s cool, but not shivering cold… You look sick.” She placed a hand on Ami’s forehead; it was burning hot. “That’s it. No more studying.”
“It’s nothing. Just that the fluctuations in weather lately makes the human body more susceptible to the cold virus. I’ll be fine.”
“Fever, Ami. Congratulations, you worked yourself into a fever,” Makoto smiled grimly. “Staying up so late…you could at least put on a jacket. Nights are cool…your body temperature doesn’t adjust as well when you’re tired. Come on,” Makoto groaned as she picked up a protesting Ami.
Makoto ignored her and asked her a question. “Feel tired now that you know you are?”
“Cold.” Ami curled up as tight as she could in Makoto’s arms. Makoto brought her to her room, and slipped her under the covers on her bed. She went out and a moment later came back with a glass of hot water. After making sure Ami drank at least half, Makoto went into the bathroom and came back with a moist cold towel. She placed the towel securely on Ami’s forehead. Ami had her eyes closed but she was still shivering. Makoto made her drink the rest of the hot water to warm her up on the inside.
Makoto sighed. If Ami did not get well enough by the morning, Makoto would have to call in sick or use a vacation day. Not to mention she might have to skip class, but it’s doubtful if Ami’s mother doesn’t have another shift the next day.
She sank back in the chair next to the bed. A moment later, she fell asleep only to waken an hour later by Ami’s fitful sleep. The poor girl was back to trembling again, Makoto noticed. Digging another blanket from her closet, Makoto thought to make some soup; simple soup that could be done in less than an hour, or at most, two. She placed the blanket on top of the covers over Ami and took the towel that was messily thrown off.
While the soup was busy cooking, Makoto kept an eye on Ami. Ami began to toss in her sleep. She kneeled next to her and laid a gentle hand on Ami’s arm. “Hey now…” Makoto silently cooed. Ami began mumbling incoherently and the tossing became more violent. “Ami,” Makoto leaned closer and placed a cool hand on Ami’s forehead. It was still burning. Ami calmed down a while later as Makoto stroked her face. Opening weary blue eyes gazed in bewilderment at Makoto. “You okay?”
Ami sighed. “A nightmare.” From the looks of her face, taut and drawn, it must have been a horrible nightmare. It took a while before relief flooded Ami’s face. “I was…in a burning inferno. Evil… I felt the presence of evil in that dream, Mako-chan.”
“Shh…it’s all right, it’s just a dream.” Makoto stood up. “I’ll be right back.” She came back with a moist towel in one hand and a bowl of soup in the other. Ami protested only a little bit before she subsided into Makoto’s care.
“Drink this. It’ll help warm you up.” Makoto wiped sweat from Ami’s brow and placed the cool towel on her forehead. “You’re supposed to be the doctor here, remember?” Ami smiled weakly.
“Going to be, not yet,” she murmured.
“All the same.” Makoto smiled down at Ami and she could feel something opening up inside her. “You’ll be a good doctor.” The feeling was overwhelming.
“Not if you’re the one who keeps on doing the doctoring.”
“Ah, I see you’re well on the road to recovery, what with you making jests,” Makoto announced in a mock regal voice. “Go to sleep, it’s late.” Makoto took the bowl away from Ami and set it aside. Makoto took the towel off her friend’s forehead and placed it in the bowl. Unconsciously, Makoto reached out and brushed another stray strand of hair. Ami blushed as Makoto’s hand rested against her cheek. Makoto withdrew her hand. “Sorry,” she muttered. Her face heated and was tinged red.
“Uh…Oh, um. It’s okay…”
Makoto got up and bid Ami a good night. She took the bowl and towel and left them on the kitchen counter. After lying down on the couch, she promptly fell asleep.
The sun shone bright in Makoto’s eyes early 6AM the next morning. First thing, she checked up on Ami, making sure she was all right. Then she took a shower. She came back out, hair washed, with a towel around her shoulders to keep her hair from dripping onto her clothing. Ami was still asleep by that time. Maneuvering herself to the kitchen, she made a simple breakfast for herself and Ami, though she kept Ami’s covered for the time being.
Around six thirty, she decided to give Mr. Yukishiro a call and tell she could not make it to work due to personal matters. Of course he consented and wished that nothing were wrong.
Makoto went to check on Ami again. She looked in on the sleeping form and noticed that her friend was peaceful. The fever must have subsided, giving her friend rest. The notion was confirmed when Makoto felt for a temperature. Makoto took the seat next to the bed and observed her patient for a long while; for what seemed like hours.
Suddenly out of nowhere, the question popped out in her head. Do you love her, Makoto? Bewildered at first, she let the question linger a while longer. Slowly, she nodded her head. Heck yeah…
“Why do I always have to reassure myself this?” Because, your heart’s been fooled before…
Ami began to stir around eight ‘o clock but fell back to sleep a few minutes later. Makoto had called her mother beforehand telling of Ami’s situation. Relieved, Ami’s mother was already on the way. She can get back to work and earn a few dollars and not to mention that Ami will be in better hands. Going out to the kitchen, Makoto set a pot of water to boil, hoping to have tea ready by the time Ami’s mother came.
The sweet melody of Makoto’s doorbell rang, and she rushed to answer the door. Ami’s mother wore a professional, yet worried look on her face. Makoto welcomed her in and ushered her into the room where Ami lay awake, while Makoto went to get the tea.
When she slid into her room with a tray in hands, Ami was sitting upright with her mother checking her temperature with a thermometer. Ami was looking better, though still a bit flushed from the fever.
“Some tea, Mizuno-san,” she placed two cups on the nightstand, one for Ami’s mother and the other for Ami.
“Thank you Makoto-chan, for the tea, and taking care of Ami last night. I am sorry for any inconvenience-”
“Oh, no, no. It wasn’t a problem.”
Mrs. Mizuno looked lovingly at her daughter and smiled. “Ami hasn’t been sick since she was…oh a long time ago.
“Now, I understand that you missed work earlier this morning. I’ll take care of Ami, while you get yourself to work. I’m sorry for that, you being late.”
“Oh, no. My boss understands. Thank you, Mrs. Mizuno… for relieving me of your little savage.” Makoto winked at Ami, as Ami’s mother choked down a laugh adding much to Ami’s embarrassment. Then Ami frowned, not liking being the butt of a joke, especially hearing it from the person she is undeniably in love with and her mother!
“I’ll see you later, Ami. I’ll bring something to eat after.” To Ami’s mother: “Feel free to use anything in my apartment, since I gather Ami won’t have the strength to go home in the subway.” Ami’s mother nodded appreciatively.
Ami sat, leaning against the wall against Makoto’s bed, listening to the noise her mother was making in the kitchen. She felt like such an idiot; getting sick like that and having Makoto take care of her like a child. Not to mention she made Makoto miss part of her work shift. And to make things worse, she felt that Makoto was openly flirting with her with that comment about her being a savage and winking conspicuously at her with her mother in the same room no less!
But the night before… she had been so close. She had seen it, felt it. Makoto was opening up to her. She blushed at the thought. She was so busy having a fever that she had no time to actually realized what Makoto was doing; comforting her, hand against her cheek. Warm and loving. Yeah… She blushed. At that moment her mother walked in with a tray, disturbing her thoughts.
She saw the color on Ami’s cheeks and wondered if the fever was back.
“Mom, I’m a grown woman! You don’t have to take care of me as if I can’t myself.”
“I know you are. But I have two days off and the first I spent sleeping. The second, I want to spend with my daughter, even if it makes her feel like a ten year old again. Here, eat some of this.” She passed Ami a bowl of porridge. “Be careful, it’s hot.”
Ami hissed as the hot stuff burned her tongue and throat. “Now, you tell me!” Her mother laughed at her.
“You can take care of yourself, remember?” Her mother sat on the edge of the bed. Ami didn’t like the sly look that suddenly appeared in her mother’s eyes. “So… did you get the girl?” She asked in with such bluntness that left Ami stupefied, unable to conceive of the thought of her mother speaking so candidly. Her mouth opened to speak but shut as red tinged across her cheeks.
Abashed, Ami stuttered out a weak, “W-What do you mean?” After a short pause, Ami replied with an “oh”. She shook her head. She let out an abject sigh. Her mother smiled. “I have to be patient. I feel that…she’s lost and that she is afraid to come out, afraid to repair a scarred heart.” She shoved a spoonful of porridge in her mouth; it did not burn her throat this time.
“But, I can be patient for only so long… This is good, I didn’t know you can make this.”
“Ami, I may be gone several days at a time, but I do know how to make something to eat for my child… that is edible at the least. I would absolutely abhor not having any culinary knowledge.” Conversation from there abated, dwindling into a stretched silence.
“This thing with Makoto-”
“Mom, can I ask you something-”
They spoke at the same time. “Sure, Ami, anything.”
Ami hesitated for a while and when a minute passed and nothing came out, her mother prodded her. Ami looked down and muttered, “Nothing, never mind. I’m a little sleepy mom. The medicine must be kicking in.” Her mother nodded, noting to herself the aberrant behavior her daughter exhibited towards her in expression her feelings. She took Ami’s half eaten bowl of porridge outside and left her daughter to her thoughts. The dull ache in her head made a strong presence in her mind as it refused to go away. She sank back into the pillow and pulled the covers tight around her body. She shivered. Ami cursed herself for getting sick. How? How? How? I need that internship. I can’t possibly get it like this! And with the exam next week! Damn it Mako-chan! If you weren’t on my mind all the time!
She squeezed her eyes shut as hard as she could to keep the headache from invading her being. No use. Might as well sleep. She slept until later in the afternoon when Makoto came in with lunch boxes in hand. She took a few minutes to change out of her work clothes into something more casual before she went to Le Cordon Bleu for an extra evening class. She woke once more when Makoto placed an extra blanket over her sometime during the night. Ami’s mother went back home to get ready for another 36-hour shift.
A few days later had Ami gotten well, though she still had some symptoms of a cold and Shinosaki stopped by Makoto’s apartment sometime after Makoto got off of work to drop his daughter, Makoto, off.
“Thank you very much, Makoto-san.” To his daughter: “Be nice to Makoto-san. Please, or I’ll tell mommy.” Little Makoto grinned back and said nothing, but nodded. Shinosaki patted her affectionately on the head. “Take care you guys.”
“I’ll see you later, Shinosaki.”
“Bye, Daddy!” She waved. She looked at Makoto expectantly.
Makoto studied her little charge. She was the spitting image of her father, with the same brown hair and bright chocolate eyes. She saw a physical grace in the little girl’s walk, though she was small for her age. There was still time to grow.
“So…what do you want to do?”
“Okay…” she was interrupted by the familiar ring of her communicator. “Shit…” she cursed.
End of Part I
This is a continuation of my first story, If I Was the One
Note: I’ve kept Ami’s mother nameless for one reason: I don’t feel right giving this character a name.
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