If I Could - Chapter Sixteen
The dimness in the room was only disturbed by the
light shining from the door; the nurses were going about their rounds,
and Kohana knew that one of them would soon be in to check on her.
Familiar routine. The hospital. The lowest points of her life were
always the hospital, the antiseptic halls and the dusty smell, the
underlying scent of disease and decay. White-robed people wandering
around, caring for the sick, the weak, the dying. It made her nauseous.
She supposed she might have slept for a little while—the
sedative seemed to have worn off, and she could still feel the dim
fuzziness of her body that told her she was under an extremely mild
anesthetic. If only there was a way she could trust in them to put
her mind under as well—it would have helped. The hospital
was the only time in her life she ever wished she didn’t have
And what else is there to think about, except the hospital?
I’ll be spending the last of my life in a place like this.
It wasn’t something she ever wanted to think about, but here
in this sterile, unfeeling place, with the mindless doctors and
nurses scurrying around like ants over carrion, it was something
she couldn’t help thinking about. The day of her death. Another
day in the hospital. Her thoughts had danced around it ever since
she was brought here, edging closer and closer, and she could do
nothing to stop them. All she could do was wait, struggling as hard
as she could not to think about it, her thoughts moving inexorably
The headaches grow worse.
She knew what to expect. She knew, and it was the only thing she
could actually admit frightened her. Four years old, and she’d
been in the hospital because of chicken pox. They hadn’t found
anything but a few anomalies then—she’d been released,
but the yearly checkups had been increased to three times a year
because of the strange reactions of her body and the small headaches
that a four year old child had no earthly reason to have.
Decreased muscle control, first symptoms: loss of fine motor
control, trembling hands.
At six, she’d fainted while on a swing. The teachers had
called her parents, frantic, because she wouldn’t wake up.
She had a hazy memory of this event—her head had hurt all
day, and then suddenly the pain had sharpened and stabbed through
her so fast that she couldn’t even slow the swing before she
felt herself fall. She didn’t remember hitting the ground.
The hospital was what she remembered, waking up to the pale, strained
face of her mother, her father looking anxiously down at her. She’d
been in the hospital for a week while they ran tests, ruling out
viruses and tumors and rare forms of anemia, although they’d
known she was slightly anemic since she was four and nothing seemed
to help it. They’d sent her home, puzzled.
Physical deterioration accelerates. Muscle mass begins to decrease,
and confinement to a wheelchair becomes necessary.
The tests had gone on. For a year, her parents hadn’t told
her anything but that she had to go see the doctor. Confused and
scared at first, she’d soon found that there was no point
in asking what was wrong with her—no one would say anything,
and they all insisted that she was fine. Looking back, perhaps they’d
insisted a little too much. At the time, however, she grew accustomed
to it and bored with it. Her head hurt sometimes. She grew accustomed
to that too.
Internal organ degradation. I won’t be able to breathe
or eat properly because it’ll be too much strain on my body.
The next time she had a bad attack, she was sent to a different
hospital. She’d read her files; the doctors who had worked
on her were among the best in Japan. Some of them were the best
in the world, called in to consult on her case and paid great amounts
of cash not to reveal the name of the patient who had been of such
interest to the genetic researchers in the medical community. At
the time, she knew none of this. She’d wanted to go home—her
head hurt and she wanted to rest. She wanted to be left alone, without
the needles and the prodding and the questions, they always asked
the same questions over and over… She wanted her own room
instead of this white room that her parents tried to make friendly
by buying her flowers and balloons and stuffed animals. Could she
have a kitten? Kameko had a pretty little silver kitten with a little
white bib on his chest… Her mother had smiled and kissed her
and said that they would have to wait and see.
When it gets bad enough, I’ll need machines to help me
The ride home was strange. For once, her parents hadn’t been
with her. The driver had picked her up, and they’d silently
traversed the streets to her house. There had been nobody waiting
for her except Akiko, and the house was deathly still. When she
asked where her parents were, the smile had slid from Akiko’s
face, and she was told that her parents were busy. And the next
day, when she was in the garden, paying no attention to the way
her head throbbed and pounded because it always did now, her mother
had come to her and coldly said that she was dying. If her condition
progressed as it had been, they didn’t expect her to live
The pain—I’ve been living with it all my life.
What would pain so bad that even I need painkillers be like? I don’t
want to be addicted to them, but Sato said it would probably happen…
Kohana shuddered. The memory of her mother’s face and the
cold, dead hurt in her eyes wasn’t enough to start her crying
any longer—her parents were nothing to her now. Genetic disorder.
That was the best term they’d been able to find for what was
wrong with her, and there was no way to fix it. She didn’t
remember much of the next few weeks. She hadn’t gone to school.
The house had been silent. They thought she didn’t understand,
but she did, and she made a decision. She wasn’t going to
die. And since they’d abandoned her, she wasn’t going
to need them anymore.
I don’t need anyone.
She began to study her illness. She knew the effects and she knew
the terms they used, and she scheduled her own appointments with
her doctors. She fought it off every way she could. Her health,
never really a problem before, became excellent—she made sure
of that. For years she fought, doing everything she possibly could
to stave off the death that inched closer and closer with every
I won’t be able to eat anymore… they’ll have
to feed me with IV’s. I’ll look like some sort of drug
addict, with all the holes in my arms.
And she won. There was a marked improvement in her condition. By
the age of twelve, she was as healthy as she would ever be, except
for the constant headache. Mentally, however, she was exhausted.
Depression haunted her every movement, her silent house filled with
it, and the infrequent intervals where she heard her mother’s
yelling coming from the study sent her shaking to her room. Intellectually
she knew that it wasn’t her fault her parents were on the
verge of divorce—she’d studied them too, and found that
they weren’t the wonderful people she’d thought them
when she was still a child.
Will my muscles fail before or after I can’t eat? Before,
I think… does that mean that I won’t have the strength
to feed myself even while I can still eat solid food? I’ll
be stuck in a bed…
When a twelve-year-old girl tries to commit suicide, it often fails.
Kohana came close to succeeding.
I won’t even be able to bathe myself then—I’ll
get bedsores because I won’t even be able to turn over without
The realization that she would never be healthy again was too much.
Even though she won, she would still lose in the end. Her parents
had never told her that they expected her to die at the age of ten
at the earliest—she found out that she had a few more years
to live. She could see twenty. Perhaps even twenty-five. And she’d
wasted four years of her life, hiding her illness, fighting it off,
worrying only about it and about how long she had left.
Senses begin to fail. I’ll go blind. Will I forget what
colors look like?
That was the end of her worries when it came to death. Why bother
anymore? Why not enjoy life, so that she had something to look back
on and remember with fondness? Why not have fun? She wouldn’t
save up her life, always fearing, always wondering, always careful
and watchful for any sign of weakness. Who could live like that?
Will I be able to remember music clearly enough to listen to
it when I can no longer hear?
So she carefully folded up her worries and put them away. She had
a choice—she could die, never having lived, or she could die
knowing that she’d seen more than just the insides of hospitals
and lived more than some people would live in fifty or seventy years.
They think I might go insane from the isolation.
And it was better, as long as she wasn’t in the hospital,
where she was sharply reminded of the things that faced her.
I wonder, how long can a mind stand being cut off from everything?
How long will it seem? I won’t be able to move or feel or
talk—how long will it be before the deterioration interferes
with my thoughts?
Kohana stared up at the ceiling, unblinking. Fear paralyzed her,
cold and dry, as if she’d been completely frozen. The thin
blankets they provided in the hospital were never enough to warm
her. The ceiling was shadowed, white and speckled with black.
I should just kill myself when it starts to happen. I’ll
do it right this time. Sato’s said that it’s impossible
to predict when it’ll happen—I could go on like this
for years, or my body could fail tomorrow.
Brisk footsteps in the hall outside her room alerted Kohana to
a nurse. Closing her eyes, she carefully made her face blank and
tried to pretend that she was sleeping. She had a lot of practice
doing that—the nurse didn’t disturb her. She didn’t
want to talk to anyone right now.
Softer footsteps approached her room, hesitated outside the door,
and then entered. Kohana heard the nurse stand up straight; it wasn’t
someone who worked in the hospital.
Touga, is that you?
She didn’t open her eyes. He would know that she was upset.
He moved around for a few moments, setting things down in places
where Kohana assumed she would be able to reach them. Finally, something
soft and comfortingly heavy was drawn over her with the greatest
care for her injuries. A blanket. She was still cold, but it started
to get a little better after that.
“She looks so sweet when she sleeps,” the nurse said,
and Kohana could hear the smile in her voice.
“I know,” Touga murmured. A rustle of cloth from the
chair beside the bed told Kohana that he’d sat down. “Angelic,
“Are you her boyfriend?” the nurse asked.
What does it matter?
"What?" Touga sounded surprised that she would ask. After
a moment of thought, he said, "I don't know. It's complicated."
That was strange. Why wasn’t he flirting? It was what she
would have done if she’d been in his position.
Laughing, the nurse replied, "You know, that's exactly what
she said. You must know her very well." Kohana decided that
she was going to strangle her if she laughed again. That was far
too loud with her head the way it was.
There was a sudden amusement in Touga's voice. He must have noticed
that she was awake. "I suppose."
Not yet. Please don’t make me talk to you yet.
The nurse continued, seemingly unaware of Touga's silent amusement.
"I wanted to ask if her parents really were as bad as she said.
She seemed alert enough, but we have to be sure she wasn't just
reacting badly to the sedative and imagining things. We would really
like to contact them if at all possible; they have a right to know
that their child was in an accident."
"What did she say about them?" He kept his voice even
and disinterested, even though this was almost like asking him if
his parents were as neglectful.
The nurse hesitated before answering, but evidently decided that
it couldn't hurt to tell him. "That it would cause more trouble
than it was worth if they even bothered to come see her."
"She was telling the truth. They're not parents. They're a
place to live and money to spend." Only Kohana heard the undercurrent
of bitterness in his tone.
There was a short pause before the nurse replied. "That's
"You two must be very close—that's what she said, too."
Now that was amusing. If the nurse knew even half of it, she'd probably
bar Touga from coming to visit in case either of them decided to
continue their feud.
Naturally, Touga decided to steer the conversation away from how
alike they were. It wasn't something either of them wanted others
to discuss. "I know enough about her to know that she's awake
and has been for a while."
Kohana forced a grimace, keeping her eyes shut. “I was
trying to sleep.” It was a mixed blessing. She didn’t
want to hear about how similar they were, but she still didn’t
want to talk to Touga just yet. There was no help for it, though…
and somehow, she felt a little better now that there was someone
with her. “Touga…” she said, her eyes fluttering
"What is it?" As she'd expected, he was seated beside
her bed. The uniform was gone; in its place was a black silk shirt
and black pants. Along with his pale skin, blue eyes, and that beautiful
scarlet hair, he looked absolutely edible.
Smiling to let him know that she appreciated the way he looked,
Kohana asked, "What did you do with Sakura?"
"I drove her home." Kohana waited for him to say something
more, to indicate somehow what he had said, but he only smiled at
her. "Everyone else is gone, now."
Arrogant bastard. Another thought made itself suddenly known, demanding
attention. "What time is it?"
He seemed surprised that she would care. "It's eight o'clock.
"I think Ichida and Saionji must have wondered where the rest
of the Seitokai was." Poor Ichida—stuck with Saionji
while the rest of the Seitokai was skipping a meeting. Saionji couldn’t
have been pleased.
"I talked to Saionji at five thirty, but I didn't tell them
how badly off you were. I could hear Ichida demanding to be put
on the phone, but Saionji wouldn't let him speak to me." It
figured. Saionji was probably just being irritating to alleviate
whatever concern he might have. "I'll call them later on to
tell them exactly what happened."
Kohana chuckled weakly. "Saionji's a moody bastard. Tell him
that if he doesn't come to see me, I'm going to break his katana."
"You're starting to get irrational. Go to sleep." Touga
pulled the blanket up to her chin and adjusted the bed so that she
was lying flat.
"Yes, Touga-sama. Don't forget to tell them which hospital
this is." Kohana relaxed again, allowing herself to become
limp. It was easy to relax when someone else was there. She might
even be able to fall asleep, as strange as that was. Even the chirping
of the ECG didn’t bother her much.
"I will." Leaning back in his chair, Touga picked up
a book from the nightstand and began to read, seemingly absorbed
in it. Kohana continued to watch him, fully aware that he knew she
wasn't trying to sleep, smiling slowly as she saw a smile growing
on his face. He continued to read until his cell phone rang, when
he glanced at the number and shut it off. The nurse checked the
instruments once more and rustled some papers, filling out charts.
Finally he gave up. "What is it?" he asked, blue eyes
still turned to the book.
She hadn’t really had anything to say, but before she thought
about it, soft words had leaped to her lips. "You don't have
to stay here, you know."
"I know." As he glanced up at her, his eyes seemed weary.
"Do you want me to leave?"
They really were much older than they should have been at fifteen
and seventeen. So old and suspicious of each other than Kohana found
it impossible to say what she wanted to. "I didn't say that.
I just said you didn't have to stay."
"I know," he said, and looked back to his book. Kohana
continued to watch him for a long time; this time neither of them
smiled. Eventually the nurse left the room, nodding to Touga as
she closed the door behind her. After a moment, he asked again,
"What is it, Kohana?"
"I... Thank you for bringing my things." Again, it was
impossible for her to say what she meant.
She wasn't sure whether to be grateful or angry when he replied.
"I'll stay as long as I can. Get some sleep."
It was too hard to look at him any more. How could he calm her
so much just by being there? Part of it was because someone actually
cared enough to keep her company… but she knew that wasn’t
all of it. Kohana shut her eyes, trying to push away the waking
world, and found that the harder she tried, the more elusive sleep
became. Instead, she settled for lying with her eyes closed, listening
to the steady beep and hum of the machines. Pages turned near her
every so often. In time, her ruffled thoughts began to fixate on
a point somewhere between them, the tiny connection that seemed
to be slowly growing no matter what she did to stop it.
I don't want to care. I hate you.
It didn't fill the empty air, but it was something to concentrate
on aside from her weakness. Endless silent moments passed before
the nurse opened the door, saying softly, "Visiting hours are
There was a rustle from where Touga was sitting, and Kohana's eyes
popped open. "Thank you," he said, gathering his keys
and his book and rising. The nurse shut the door again.
Touga looked down at Kohana, smiling apologetically. Kohana sighed,
ignoring the rivulet of pain that ran around her right side. "I
suppose I should sleep now."
"I'll be back tomorrow." The look in his eyes was almost
soft, for once, not the cold steel buried under the prince's facade
that she usually saw. It could have been a trick of her mind. She
might just want to believe that he was there because he cared a
little and not just because he wanted to watch her fall apart.
"Good night," Kohana said, letting her eyes flicker shut.
If she couldn't trust them, she might be able to trust her ears.
"Sleep well, Kohana." That purring voice was tender,
and she knew it wasn’t just her imagination. This didn’t
amuse him any more than it amused her—and he did care, at
least a little. It wasn’t just that he felt guilty.
That thought, as welcome as it was, frightened her.
Oh, Touga, don't sound like that when you talk to me. We’re
The next day saw Kohana able to walk around without much pain.
'Without much pain' by her standards, not the doctor's. It wasn't
the crippling, faint-inducing pain of a migraine, though, so it
was endurable. And walking around meant that she could have a shower—cleanliness
was paramount. She could swear that she still felt dried blood in
her hair, though they'd washed it once already. It didn’t
matter. Concentrating on normal things was the only way to drive
back the claustrophobic fear that had held her that first night,
and if shampooing her hair again to get rid of the imaginary dried-blood
feeling would help, she would do it.
Naturally, Touga had brought everything she needed. Shampoo, her
favorite scented soap, toothbrush, a few changes of clothes, the
little makeup she kept at his house, a towel that was much bigger
and thicker than the hospital's towels, and, of course, the blanket.
He could be so considerate—everything was approximately where
she kept it at home or at his house. It was so normal that she unthinkingly
reached out for a chocolate while she was reading and startled herself
when she'd decided they weren't there and found that they were.
She could almost forget that she was in the hospital—the last
time anyone had ever cared enough to bring her an extra blanket
was when she was seven.
Flowers started to come in; bouquets of all sizes came from almost
everyone she knew. Obviously someone had told her admirers that
she was in the hospital. There were probably rumors flying around
that she'd been attacked, that she had a terrible disease, that
she'd saved a child from an oncoming car—who knew what those
people would think up without her to guide them and keep them straight?
Probably whatever Touga wants them to think—he's on rumor
Touga had called, leaving a message that said he would be a little
bit late because he had some people to speak to at the school. That
meant that he was a) going to find some willing girl to waste an
hour or two with, and b) going to start some new plot. If it was
against Kohana, she didn't care. She couldn't do anything about
it until she got out of the hospital anyway.
At any rate, the flowers made the room look like a bower, mercifully
hiding the jungle of medical machinery with a jungle of greenery.
There was a modestly-sized arrangement of pink roses from Miki—Juri's
name was signed as well, but Kohana could picture the way she would
toss back her curls and sign abruptly, dropping the pen on the table
and turning away. The only reason she had signed it was that Miki
had asked her to. Touga had sent a large arrangement of red roses;
the romantic streak in him had prompted him to have them delivered
before she'd even woken, so that the first thing she'd notice was
Ichida, too, had gotten her flowers—carnations in different
colors. Had he even found out, yet, what had happened? Kohana was
forced to assume that Touga had kept his word and told him about
it, otherwise he wouldn't have written that he'd always known that
she was soft in the head and the skull fracture only proved it.
Saionji, of course, sent nothing. Kohana didn't expect him to.
She had just gotten out of the shower again when the first of the
visitors arrived, and was seated on the bed, one of her black silk
pajama sets on and a towel around her head, brushing up on her Italian.
The language was so fluid that it was hard to get her mouth around;
she was more used to the staccato sounds of Japanese and the modest
knowledge of English she'd gained while traveling. Kohana had ordered
a few books from the bookstore nearby; there was no point in being
completely idle while she was in the hospital. That would only give
the fear an edge again.
"Awake already? You usually sleep until the afternoon when
you're not feeling well." Touga was carrying another flower
arrangement, irises and greenery in an elegant vase, and dropped
the card in her lap before finding a space to set it down. "From
Naoko—all of your friends wanted me to pass along their hopes
that you'll recover soon. Everyone at school knows that you were
in an accident."
"It's so nice to be admired. Will you tell them for me that
the flowers are beautiful, and that I'm glad that they thought of
me?" Kohana set her book down, taking a chocolate from the
bowl and letting it slowly melt on her tongue.
Touga nodded. "The Rijichou's version of what happened is
the prevailing version, though Sakura is trying to promote a version
where you were actually fighting Juri. No one is listening; your
angelic nature is known far and wide, and I've told others that
I was there as well and that it didn't happen that way."
What would he have told her? Kohana looked sidelong at him, noting
that he was again wearing his uniform, and then decided to ignore
the question. He wouldn't tell her anyway. "No doubt she's
trying to smear my good name in other ways as well. That's so disappointing.
I'd thought her better than that." Smirking at Touga, she tossed
a chocolate at him. He must have said something particularly nasty
I'll repay you for that.
He caught it easily, savoring the taste with a small, triumphant
smirk on his face that had nothing to do with the chocolate. "I
can't accuse you of looking for the best in people. If you thought
her above that sort of thing, she probably was." Picking up
the book she'd been reading, he looked it over, seating himself
near her on the bed. "Traveler's Italian? Are you planning
"Of course. I think I'll go there for winter break. I haven't
seen the Sistine Chapel yet, and I'd like to try to get a tan this
year. There's no point in putting off learning some of the language."
There was so much that she wanted to see, and so little time left—she
would have to leave school early to be able to visit all of the
places she wanted to see in Italy.
"Are you going alone?" he asked, raising his eyebrows
at her. When she nodded, he continued, "You'll only be sixteen
by then. Is it wise to take a trip like that alone?"
"Are you looking for an invitation, Touga?" Strange,
that. Kohana had some vague idea that most people didn’t toss
around invitations for trips overseas, but it wasn’t as if
she didn’t have the money. And if Touga wanted to come with
her, she had no objections to his presence. After all, their feud
would probably be well over by the time winter break came.
"Maybe I'll join you, if the invitation is open. I'll have
to think about it." He put the book back down on the table,
most considerately making sure it was within her reach, and then
said, "Speaking of invitations, we might have to put off your
party. Depending on how long the doctor keeps you, you might not
be able to have it on your birthday, and I had planned to have the
invitations sent out by the end of this week."
"Thursday is an awkward day to have a party anyway. There's
school on Friday and Saturday." There was a slight pain in
her right arm. Checking it, Kohana found that the IV needle was
loose, and she adjusted it properly, ignoring the sting. She wasn't
especially interested in birthdays, not even hers, and this one
was likely to be especially annoying. Touga couldn't be touched
at this one; he was the one throwing the party, and she didn't want
anything to happen that he could turn to his advantage. Ungratefulness
was something she couldn't afford to have the populace of the school
"Stop playing with that and look at me." Waiting until
her amused gaze was on him, he continued, "Saturday would be
a better day, I suppose. That's Halloween, and everyone likes costume
parties. Do you think you can convince the doctor that you'll be
well enough to leave the hospital by then?"
Rolling her eyes, Kohana said, "I convinced him that I was
well enough to walk this morning." It had been almost easy,
too. Aside from the obvious, there had been no sign of complications,
and the young doctor she'd had wrapped around her finger yesterday
had been assigned as her doctor for the day shift. It wouldn't take
much to get his consent if there weren't any complications at all.
She'd made a bit of a mistake—Touga was watching her suspiciously.
"Are you well enough to walk?"
That protectiveness was something she could understand—he
didn't like to see a woman hurt, and someone who understood him
was doubly precious to him. If it had been Touga who was hurt, no
doubt she would have been as protective of him. Despite all this
rationalizing, Kohana heard the tiniest note of shrillness in her
voice when she replied. "Of course I am. I can walk, can't
I am NOT weak!
"But it's still very painful, isn't it?" He sighed and
took the book away from her reach, standing and pulling the covers
that had been crumpled at the foot of her bed up over her legs.
"I should have noticed that—you're paler than usual,
and your movements are slow."
"Touga—" There was no reason to treat her like
an invalid. She wasn’t helpless. She didn’t need to
be fussed over like she couldn’t do anything for herself.
Muscular deterioration, resulting in confinement to a wheelchair
and eventually, a hospital bed.
Fear rippled through her, but she didn’t dare fight him.
That would show him that she was afraid if he hadn’t noticed
"Don't argue. You’ve been hurt badly enough as it is—I
won’t have you hurting yourself further by trying too much
too quickly." If there hadn't been a flash of satisfaction
in his eyes, she wouldn’t have obeyed. She couldn’t
let him know how afraid she really was. Once she was safely tucked
back into bed, he sat down again, continuing as if they hadn’t
just reached another stalemate. "Now, what would you like your
costume to be? I know of a few seamstresses that would be willing
to make one for you."
I have to answer normally. I have to pretend.
Shoving away her fear, she concentrated on what she would normally
have thought if she wasn’t in the hospital. It helped a little.
"I have no idea. If this hadn't happened, I could go as a belly-dancer,
but I think the stitches might be a little too obvious." Why
was he so set on having a party at all? He had something in mind—but
it would be pointless to try and embarrass her publicly. She didn't
get embarrassed that easily, and it wouldn't make any difference
how many people were there to see it. She vaguely remembered a party
where some girl's dress had fallen off or something; that sort of
thing wouldn't work on her.
After a little thought, he smiled wickedly at her. "I thought
I’d go as a devil, so why don’t you go as an angel?
I’m assuming you’ll want Ichida on your arm—your
closest friend should be your escort, since you’re not currently
attached. See that he has an appropriate costume."
He was trying to elicit some sort of reaction from her, to see
how sensitive she was to a sidelong reference to her illness. She
banished the thoughts she could feel stirring at it—it would
never have bothered her at any other time, and she was determined
that it would not bother her now. "I do hope you won't dress
in red. It would be too much with your hair."
"Of course not. Black. I'll have to find a place that will
make wings for you that are light enough to wear with your rib the
way it is." There was a tiny frown on his face, enough to deepen
the worry lines and make them more noticeable. She could tell from
the way he carefully did not look at her that he was thinking about
her—and that his thoughts weren’t pleasant for him.
Don't. Just don't. I don't want you to care. Hurt me if you
must, but don’t truly care, because I will not stop hurting
you until I have what I want.
She had to take a short breath before she spoke, to help clear
her mind. "I'm sure you'll figure something out. I do like
the idea—you'll actually be what you are for once." He
did look so delectable in black—he would be a perfect devil.
And as for herself, she would look the perfect angel. Their admirers
"Devilishly handsome?" The smile on his face told her
that he enjoyed that idea immensely. Slowly bringing her hand up
to his mouth, he kissed it softly, sending a little shiver of desire
"That too," Kohana purred, smiling in return. When he
acted normally, it was most reassuring; she could almost forget
that once he had been in love, that he was still different from
her in a way she hadn't entirely grasped yet and therefore dangerous.
"You do look angelic, as long as you don't smile that way.
Ichida will be the perfect counterpart to that." Leaning down
to kiss her, his eyes reflected only the spark of desire that he
felt at her seductive tone. She'd known she affected him in the
same way as he affected her; it was good to know that it hadn't
faded any even though he felt guilty for hurting her.
I'll let you know soon enough that it was my doing. You won't
underestimate me after that.
Almost possessively, he bit at her lips, tracing the line of them
with his tongue. Kohana gave in to it completely. In its own way
it was almost as intense as the kiss from Ohtori had been, though
with Touga she knew that it wasn't only her body he wanted to own.
It was her will, her mind; he wanted to make her into an extension
of himself. Their personalities were so similar that the matching
desire in her only felt like a desire to control a part of herself.
Without hinting at the satisfaction she felt, she let him take control.
If he thought she was weakening he'd only be underestimating her
Long, slow, and sweet, it nearly had Kohana shivering with need.
Just as she thought he was about to go further, however, he drew
back. "You're not even well enough to walk yet," he said,
as if reminding himself.
Not well enough? I’m FINE!
Scowling, Kohana snapped, "I'll be the judge of what I can
and can't do. If I can walk, I will, and if I want more than just
a kiss, I'll have it, from you or anyone else I take a liking to."
Suddenly she realized that her retort had been a mistake—he
had a better idea of how much being in the hospital bothered her.
The smugness resurfaced, and he smiled down at her, though she
could tell that it wasn’t entirely real. "Kohana, don't.
You're in the hospital for a reason, and I don't want to make it
any worse. Just rest for now."
Smiling nastily at him, she threw his mistake back in his face.
"I'll have you know I managed quite well before you started
interfering in my life, Touga. I don't need you to take care of
me—you’ve done quite enough already.”
His eyes widened slightly, and the smile faded a bit. It soon hardened,
becoming almost cruel, and the look in his eyes was cold, though
it couldn’t hide all of what he was feeling "You obviously
didn’t take very good care of yourself before I came along,"
he said smoothly, satisfaction and guilt and hurt mingling in his
eyes. "Anemic, undernourished—it's a wonder you haven't
been for a long stay in the hospital in the last few months. You
should be grateful that there’s someone willing to care for
you, as you can’t do it yourself."
Nerves strained to the breaking point, Kohana forced her mind to
stop whispering to her of hospital beds and intravenous feeding.
There was no point in yelling at him—it would just be proof
that he’d gotten to her. Instead, she said quietly, “Have
you ever thought that I might not want you taking care of me?”
For a moment, she thought he was going to retaliate again, but
he suddenly looked away. “If you ask me to leave, I will,”
As desperately as Kohana wished she could force those words out,
she couldn’t do it. Instead, she sat silent, staring at her
hands and thinking of how good it could be if they weren’t
so close. If they’d been different…
Touga silently took her hand, holding it for a moment, and then
said, “You’re still so cold… I’ll bring
another blanket from the house.”
Kohana felt a crooked smile appear on her face, and glanced up
to him. “That would be nice of you. Thank you.”
A small smile touched the corners of his mouth. She knew he was
feeling the same relief she was—everything was safe beneath
their façades again, for now. They could pretend it was all
right. “It’s no trouble at all.”
They passed the time idly chatting after that, Touga making plans
and phone calls about the party, and Kohana giving him ideas. He
really was superb at organizing things like this—an area that
she hadn't concentrated on, being too absorbed in the pursuit of
pleasure in solitude or groups no larger than two. Three, now. The
nurses checked on her once in a while, and one of them commented
on how sweet it was that her boyfriend spent all this time with
her. Touga and Kohana had displayed the appropriate reactions, and
once the nurse had left, glanced at each other and chuckled. People
could be so naïve.
Starting after school, there was a steady stream of visitors. The
'one visitor only' rule had been lifted; Touga supervised all of
her conversations. Miki had made the tape and shyly gave it to her;
Ichida made some disaffected remark about how she was never going
to learn kendo if she slacked off, trying to cover up his very evident
concern, and had agreed to go to the party with her; Saionji looked
her over disdainfully, grudgingly saying that he hoped she would
be out of the hospital soon and threatening to put her back in if
she so much as touched his katana; and even Juri had unexpectedly
shown up, asking how she was feeling and glaring at Touga. It seemed
she'd decided that it was his fault after all, and most likely she’d
wanted to speak to Kohana alone. This supervision was annoying,
but she couldn’t allow Touga to see her reaction to it. He
already knew—if he knew exactly how much it bothered her,
he would only try to increase it. She’d had enough of his
torture for the day, and she suspected he’d had enough of
The only time that Touga annoyed her to the point of sharp words
again was when Ohtori strolled into the room. By then it was late,
nearing seven o'clock, and Kohana was exhausted. The visits throughout
the day were as wearying as any kendo practice, only without the
sweat, and the nurses had woken her up once an hour all the previous
night. She absently listened to Touga’s deep purr while he
talked to someone on the cell phone and contemplated adjusting the
bed so that it was flat and taking a nap. As long as they weren’t
at each other’s throats, it was good to have him around, even
when the only attention he paid her was the distracted stroking
of his thumb on the back of her hand.
To tell the truth, that was all she wanted at the moment. Just
to know that he was there.
But when Ohtori entered, closing the door behind him, Kohana's
interest was piqued, and not only because of his unspoken promise.
Her exhaustion began to fade away as she saw him. The soothing air
congealed into tension as Touga's eyes landed on Ohtori's lean frame
and he began to excuse himself from his phone conversation.
"Is he ignoring you?" Ohtori asked, his smile implying
that he would not ignore any of her wishes.
Kohana glanced back to Touga, frowning. "He's good company,
in most ways."
Uninvited, Ohtori seated himself on the bed. Touga was using the
only chair in the room—lucky for her. That delightful raw
silk voice set her skin tingling as he asked, "Do you think
he would leave if I asked him to?"
Snapping the phone shut, Touga said, "Of course not. Kohana
needs her rest if she's to heal quickly, and I already know that
what you have in mind won't be restful." The ice in his eyes
also reached his voice, and he watched Ohtori warily.
Well, that was confusing. Touga had attacked her earlier with her
weakness, and now he admitted that it was only temporary? It was
a bad move, and he wasn’t usually that clumsy. Frowning, Kohana
said, "I'll make my own decisions, Touga. I—"
His eyes met hers, and she had the curious feeling that again there
was something he wanted to tell her. He seemed protective—that
meant that there was something to be protected from. Even she knew
that he wasn't protective for no reason. Her suspicion concerning
Ohtori had been correct, then; he was dangerous. "And I'll
make mine. I'll stay here."
What was so dangerous about sex? It wasn't as if she wanted anything
more from Ohtori, and she’d assumed all three of them were
accustomed enough to it that it was meaningless apart from the pleasure
it gave. It wasn't like she was going to allow Ohtori anything more
than her body.
"Have you appointed yourself her guardian? You're doing a
poor enough job." Ohtori's eyes were narrowed as if he were
amused. "Perhaps you should have been more vigilant yesterday,
when she was being thrown into the mirror."
This was what she had wanted, Touga's guilt to eat at him for a
short time, while she held the knowledge that would end it. The
pleasure wasn't entirely unadulterated, though; she was careful
to keep both it and the slight dismay she felt from her expression.
It was good to see Touga being attacked, but… "If there
was any way I could have prevented that—" Touga began.
"And the last time she was hurt? It seems strange that you
should be so concerned when she is hurt, but that you never manage
to be there in time to stop it from happening." Leaning back,
Ohtori braced his arm on the other side of Kohana, apparently utterly
relaxed. He was enjoying this. Sea green eyes turned to Kohana,
flicking over her body though it was covered by the blankets. "I'm
surprised you let him around you at all."
Now that was a little too much for Kohana's façade to bear.
She would have to defend Touga. "He's been nothing but kind
to me, Akio-san, and most of the time I appreciate his kindness.
It's only my bad luck that he hasn't been there to rescue me, as
I know he would."
If anything, that only thickened the tension. Oh, this was wonderful;
she'd just managed to balk Ohtori, and needle Touga at the same
time as she absolved him of blame. Poor Touga wouldn't know whether
to be satisfied or hurt. None of this was betrayed by his eyes,
which had gone as blankly reflective as pools of water: impossible
to read. "If there's nothing else, Rijichou..." It was
a plain request that Ohtori leave.
"But there's always something else, isn't there?" Chuckling
softly, he turned to face Kohana. His long silvery hair, restrained
by the green clip, dangled invitingly over his shoulder. The hungry
feeling Kohana always got when he was around intensified as she
reached up to toy with the ends. There was no harm in teasing Touga
a little bit—she wasn’t going to sleep with Ohtori now,
but she could let Touga know that he didn’t have any sort
of authority over whom she slept with.
"Of course there is, or you wouldn't be here." What would
he look like with his hair down? She had a feeling that he might
look even better, but she'd always had a preference for long haired
men. The lock of hair slid through her fingers easily, soft-rough
and thick, and she tugged it gently. "I don't expect that you'd
come without a reason."
Full lips slowly parted in a smile. "Of course not. But I
suspect you're more than enough reason, and I'd dearly love to find
out." The prickles on her skin were definitely caused by the
look in his eyes; they looked as hungry as she felt.
Touga's voice snapped her attention back to him; the ice in his
tone had hardened into glacier cold. "Find out some other time,
Ohtori. Skull fracture. Multiple lacerations. Concussion. No matter
how they came about, she still has them. If she's not well enough
to get out of bed, you certainly shouldn't be tempting her into
anything more strenuous than conversation."
Thank you for shattering that moment for me. I honestly and
truly appreciate it. Really.
Ohtori too had glanced at Touga, faint annoyance in his eyes. The
annoyance dissolving into a grin, he chuckled, "I wouldn't
let any harm come to her." Lightly running his fingernails
down her cheek and the side of her neck, Ohtori leaned toward her,
and Kohana looped his ponytail around her finger. "Would I?"
he murmured, obviously sure of her answer already.
"Leave her alone, Ohtori," Touga snarled, his voice low
and dangerous. It shocked Kohana into losing her grasp on Ohtori's
hair. She could only stare at him while the anger smoothed out into
calm again, wondering when he'd grown so possessive. This hadn't
been a part of her plan.
Ohtori, however, only glanced at Touga, and then looked back to
her. "You see?" he said, drawing her attention back to
him. "Jealous. I can't blame him." Tilting her chin up,
he gave her a long and melting kiss, though nowhere near as intense
as the first one had been. When he broke away, he said, "I
hope next time your chaperone decides not to join us." Tossing
a smirk over his shoulder at Touga, Ohtori quickly stood and left
After she was sure no one could hear them, Kohana hissed, "If
he's right, kindly keep it to yourself. I'm not your girlfriend."
"And if he's not right?" Touga was slowly relaxing, as
if he didn't quite care that she was angry with him.
"If he's not, I don't see your problem. It's not like I want
anything more than sex from him." Glaring, Kohana rearranged
the blankets and sighed irritably. Either he was jealous or he was
worried about her. Either way, it was bad.
The machines whirred on, oblivious to her anger. Finally, Touga
said, “It doesn’t matter.” With a small smirk
on his face, he picked up his book and opened it, adding quietly,
“You should get some rest.”
I really hate you sometimes.
The week continued on much in this way; Kohana healed slowly, though
her doctors seemed amazed at her progress. Doctor Sato had been
in to see her a few times, each time commenting on her remarkable
resilience, and had held murmured conferences with the doctors who
were attending her. Knowing her sensitive hearing, he'd been cautious;
she did not hear a word of these conferences.
As for her visitors, people came to see her every day, and always,
Touga was there. He wanted to make sure that she didn’t hear
anything that wasn’t already approved by him. As irritating
as it was, she kept her mouth shut—she had a feeling that
she could use her passivity to hurt him more. She just needed the
There were a few times, however, when they were alone, that made
her regret the whole business. The feud was necessary, but…
there were times that it seemed prudent, for a while, to be careful
with each other. It was too easy to get caught up in arguments that
furthered neither of them, that only increased their tension without
actually gaining them anything. And so they would back off, warily
making sure that all of their masks were in place, and treat each
other well for a while. When they did, it was almost as if they
Near the end of her stay, Touga could no longer use Kohana’s
weakness as an excuse to keep her in bed—and that was a great
relief. She was obviously strong enough to be up and about, and
her doctors encouraged it. The hospital didn’t seem so bad
when she was allowed to walk around. She didn’t feel so helpless
as long as she could stand.
Alone on an outdoor walkway, on the third floor of the hospital,
Kohana shivered as she lit her cigarette, staring down at the cars
below. They came, they went, oblivious to her. Sato had snapped
at her earlier on; it was one of the rare times Touga had left her
alone, as he’d gone to get their assignments from school.
“You should quit whatever foolishness you’ve gotten
into at school. In fact, you should quit going to school altogether.
It isn’t helping your health,” Sato had said.
Kohana had just laughed and told him that she wouldn’t be
an invalid until she was one. As much as she hated him, Sato was
a good doctor, and he was more concerned about her than her own
parents. She could have gotten along well with him if he hadn’t
reminded her so much of her sickness. For his bluntness and his
honesty where other people would have wavered, he had her respect,
even though she didn’t always listen to him.
Leaning on the rail didn’t hurt too much. Her chest ached
all the time, along with her head, and both pains were easy to shut
out now that she’d grown accustomed to them. Even breathing
deeply was all right—she felt the familiar rasp of the smoke
in her lungs and slowly exhaled.
Footsteps sounded behind her; she paid no attention. It was probably
a couple of doctors or nurses going to the other building.
A familiar voice behind her startled her, almost making her drop
her cigarette. “Hello, Kohana.”
For a moment, she felt six years old again, turning to face them.
“Mama?” she asked, and instantly regretted it.
Her mother’s eyes hardened, and she looked away. Behind her
mother, her father watched her dully, tiredly, a cigar between his
lips and his hands shoved in his pockets. “You’re costing
us quite a bit of money,” her mother said, looking back at
her with a tiny and malicious smile. “Maybe you should get
The six-year-old feeling was gone, banished as quickly as it had
come. “I’m paying for it,” Kohana said quietly.
“I have more money than I need.”
Glancing back at Kohana’s father, her mother smirked at him,
and then looked back to her. “We only have a few minutes—there’s
a charity dinner we’re attending, and we can’t be too
late. I suppose you’ll be back at the house sometime. When
you are, you can make sure that the Tokyo apartment is cleaned and
aired for us. I’ve decided to accompany your father on an
overseas business trip, and we won’t be coming back here afterward.”
“I’m not your secretary,” Kohana said dully,
lifting the cigarette to her lips and taking a long drag. “She
can do it.” Smoke puffed out with her words.
“You might as well be useful for something, while you’re
alive. My secretary is overworked as it is—she doesn’t
need to be bothered with such trivial things.” Her mother’s
smile grew a tiny bit wider, more malicious.
“Hire another one,” Kohana said, turning away. “I’m
not your employee, and I don’t have time for your ridiculous
When her mother spoke again, her voice was ice. “Turn around
and look at me. As long as you live in my house, you’ll give
me the respect I deserve as a—“
“A parent?” Kohana chuckled, feeling her eyes sting
and her breath shorten. “Maybe you were my parents once, but
you haven’t been that in a long time.”
“After raising you as best we could, this is all you can
say to us?” her mother asked, feigning hurt. “I wish
you’d never been born. All you ever did for me was ruin my
That was almost comforting. That was what she was used to—with
a little shrug, Kohana answered, “You made me what I am. Don’t
be surprised if you don’t like having me around.”
There was a long pause; Kohana watched the cars below, coming,
going, oblivious. Finally her mother spoke, and her voice was glacier
frost. “Then we’ll have to fix that. Find somewhere
else to live. Have your things packed within the week, or I’ll
have them sold.”
Sharp grief arrowed through Kohana; she had to force herself not
to turn and… what? Ask them to take her back? Tell them she
didn’t mean it? She waited a moment to make sure her voice
was steady, and then said, “Sell my things. I don’t
You were supposed to love me. I’m your child.
She shut her eyes tightly, forcing herself not to move. She couldn’t
give herself away, not when her parents were there… and not
when she knew that somewhere, Touga knew this was happening. He
was the one who had set this up.
You’re killing me.
Distantly, she heard her father say in his flat, unemotional voice,
“I suppose that’s over, then. We’ll be late for
the dinner if we waste any more time.”
Somehow, that hurt more than anything else. Kohana bit her lip
hard as she heard their footsteps receding, so hard that she tasted
blood, and she forced herself not to look at them as they walked
away. The cigarette burned down and went out, still between her
When the pain had subsided into a dull ache, she turned and began
to walk to the hospital doors. Touga stood beside them, watching
her with apparent satisfaction; she walked past him as if he wasn’t
even there, and ignored him when he began to follow her inside.
After a long while of silence, he said quietly, “Lovely people.”
Underneath his calm, almost flippant tone, she could hear the effort
it took to say the words.
Kohana couldn’t think of anything to say to that. She just
continued walking until they came to her room, and then began to
unbutton her shirt as she walked toward the bathroom. “I’m
going to have a shower,” she said, and it sounded to her like
she was speaking from far away.
“Kohana,” Touga said, laying a hand on her shoulder
and trying to draw her backward. She paused and looked back at him,
clear-eyed. It was easy to see what was beneath the surface now—he
was worried, upset, and she knew he wished he hadn’t done
it. Gently but insistently, he pulled her back, trying to make her
lean on him, if only for a moment. “I…”
Mustering up the last reserves of her self-control, she forced
a smile. It came almost easily, perhaps due to the numbness she
was feeling, and a tiny part of her gloated over the surprise in
his eyes. “I suppose I’ll have to apply for a dorm room
now,” she said, and felt his hands slip away. Before he could
answer her, she walked into the bathroom, continuing to unbutton
Once safely inside, she locked the door and turned on the shower,
ice cold. Then she leaned over the sink, staring at her reflection
and forcing herself not to feel. She stayed that way for a very
By the end of the week, the doctors had made the decision to let
her go early, as long as she had supervision for the next few days
and transportation to the hospital if anything should go wrong.
With Touga's assurances that he would stay with her night and day,
they released her. Kohana stayed passive, not reacting to anything
he did, too wounded to fight back even though she could tell that
Touga was beginning to believe that he’d won.
He hadn’t won yet. She just needed a little time, and a little
rest, away from the hospital. When the day came, she gave her flowers
to the nurses—she doubted Touga would care if she took them
with her, but it would be too much trouble to keep them around.
A few of the nurses came to see her off when she was wheeled out
of the hospital in the wheelchair she'd graciously acceded to, admiring
Touga's car and fawning over both him and her like they were adoring
fans from school. It was pathetic, really, and both she and Touga
knew it. She’d waved politely as they drove away in his car.
Once she was safely ensconced in his bed, they'd sat for a long
time in silence, Kohana relaxing in the comfort of his room. She
was out of the hospital now, and she felt much better. The doctors
had firmly impressed on her that she was supposed to have two days
of bed rest, and that she wasn't to have anything more than light
exercise for at least a month. That she could disregard; kendo was
important, more so than breathing. Two weeks at most, and she would
have to pay careful attention to how her body felt, something she
wasn't used to doing outside of sex. Ignoring her pain was habit.
The days of bed rest were mandatory, however, and she didn't think
she was strong enough yet to flout Touga's obvious intention to
force it on her. She had a feeling that he would tie her down if
"Welcome home, angel," he finally said, the words mocking
on the surface, sharply biting underneath that, but there was a
subtle undertone to his voice that Kohana could identify. He truly
was glad to have her out of the hospital.
“It’s good to be back,” she said quietly, not
allowing herself the luxury of anger or sadness. He was only making
sure that she was too broken inside to fight against him; he was
wrong. She wasn’t broken yet. “Are you going to school
Glancing toward her and then away, he started to undress and said,
“I’d thought to stay home, if you want the company.
There’s no real reason for me to go to the school.”
“I’d like that,” Kohana said, smiling at him.
It was easy to make it seem like she’d given in—too
easy. She shoved back the worry that she felt. “But if you
don’t mind, I would like you to pick something up from the
school for me.”
He knew what she was talking about—the dorm application.
When he looked at her this time, he seemed strangely amused. “Don’t
worry about it. I’ll arrange things however you like, but
you’re welcome to stay here for a while.”
The hidden order in the statement irked her, but she paid it no
mind. It would be far preferable to live with him for a short time
than to live in the dorms, and though she no longer had a permanent
address, she had income from various investments her father had
made for her and she still had her bank account. It wasn’t
as if she couldn’t leave whenever she wanted. She had to consider
him, now, however. “I’d like to, but if it would cause
trouble…” She glanced meaningfully toward the door.
“You know they’re hardly home,” he said, shaking
his head and stepping out of his pants. Sliding underneath the blankets,
he carefully gathered her close, his movements slow and gentle so
that he wouldn’t cause her any pain. Once he was satisfied
that they were both comfortable, he reached up to set the alarm
and turn off the lamp. As he wrapped his arm around her again, he
shivered. “You’re always so cold,” he said softly,
and she could hear his amusement.
“I can’t help that,” she replied, letting her
head rest on his chest and closing her eyes. There was no reason
to miss a chance to sleep—he would wake her in an hour. He’d
already told her that he’d follow the doctor’s advice
to the letter.
The silence in the room deepened until she drowsily wondered what
was bothering him. He wasn’t asleep; his breathing hadn’t
changed. Just as she was dismissing it from her mind, sliding further
down into dreams, he murmured, “Neither can I.”
A flare of mixed emotion burned through her; she sighed softly
to cover it up, and moved closer into his side. “I know.”