Natsuki's grumpy, Mai's worried, and Nao... well, she's being her usual self.
I hate the smell of this place. The disinfectant on its own is bad enough, but it doesn't mask the odour of futility that shrouds here with its dark miasma. And yet, I've spent so much of my life in places like this. I step aside within the elevator to make room for the trolley an orderly has just pushed in, bearing another patient, this one a child.
"Third floor please," asks the orderly, so I hit the button; I'm heading to the second myself. Same thing I do every day, every single damned day. I look down at the child and her face is calm as she sleeps; seeing her soft expression makes me feel sick and I just want to smash everything.
A bell tolls out and the elevator stops, the doors sliding open. I step through quickly, making my way through the familiar corridor and up to the reception desk for this floor. The nurse takes one look at me and smiles, giving me a nod of her head. I nod back for lack of anything to say and carry on past until I reach the room I'm after. I slip inside quietly, stepping around the curtain to stare down at the inert form lying on the bed in exactly the same position you're in every time I see you. Your chest rises up and down with each breath the respirator forces into your frail body, but that's the only movement within this chamber. Walking to the head of the bend, I lean over and push a lock of hair away from your forehead before placing a kiss there. "I'm back mama," I whisper, before sinking down into a chair.
Every day I come here to watch you breathe. Even the nurses don't bother to come in to keep me company any more, they only turn up to check you're doing alright and then they leave the two of us alone again. I used to talk to you, but I've already run out of things to say, so all that's left is just to sit here and watch.
I remember when you materialised in my arms, when that interloping bitch Mashiro finally did something useful. I was so happy, my mama was back. But you're still broken, and so am I. It didn't really fix anything, didn't make it any better. I'm still alone. There's only one thing left I can do for my mama and as I wipe at my eyes, I realise I'm already doing it. Tears are all I can offer you now.
I'm not sure what time it is as I leave the hospital, but it's not like it really matters. Get home, eat food, sleep, work, come here. It all just keeps repeating; I hate to admit it but I actually miss school, even if I didn't pay all that much attention. At least then I could waste my time being scornful, now I don't even have that.
Finally reaching the apartment, I let myself in and collapse onto the sofa. Doesn't seem like my roommate is back yet and I'm starving, so I pad over to the fridge and open it up. You'd think I'd know better by now. Mayonnaise. Lots of bottles of mayonnaise. Goddamn Kuga. Goddamn school administrators sticking me in the same apartment as her. Their reasoning was since there was only a few students staying in the dorms over the holidays, and I'm not technically a freshman until the new term begins, they couldn't leave me in a room on my own. Goddamn Aoi going back home. So of all people who are staying here, the administrators pick Kuga bloody Natsuki as my temporary roommate. I don't think it really could have been much worse, though thankfully, they didn't throw me in with Tokiha and the midget. Speaking of them, I'm really hungry and I don't think there's anything other than mayonnaise here, so I head over to their apartment. I know Tokiha won't let me go hungry, she's way too interfering not to.
As I'm walking down the corridor, I see Kuga coming the other way. If anything, she's been as bad as I have about all this; ever since that psychotic bitch left she's been in a funk. Personally, I'm glad to see the back of Fujino, she creeped the fuck out of me, but Kuga's gone all boo hoo about it. Makes me sick, I swear. I mean, at times she nearly made me respect her, but right now I'm not even close. Still...
As we pass, neither of us look at each other, both ignoring each other. I get half way down the corridor before biting off a curse. "Kuga!" I shout out. She turns to face me, a look of surprise on her face. "No food in the fridge, 'cept your mayo. Wanna come get some grub from Mai instead?"
She hesitates, before turning away from me again and just walking on. "Yeah, fuck you too Kuga," I mutter before I continue on to Tokiha and the midget's apartment. The big-boobed one tries to get me to talk whilst she's cooking me food, but I'm not particularly interested. I guess I should say something since she doesn't have to cook for me in the slightest, but how do you make small conversation? Let's face it, if I'm talking to someone, I'm either being nasty or seducing them; I don't know how to be nice, and I doubt Tokiha's about to let me into her panties.
...Well, probably won't.
"Kuga's ignoring me," I say, between mouthfuls of ramen. "She completely blanked me when I was on my way over here."
Tokiha sighs, crossing her arms across her chest as she leans onto the table. Is she doing that on purpose? "She's really not taking Shizuru's leaving too well, is she?"
"That's a bit of an understatement."
"I mean, towards the end, she was starting to really open up to me, but now it's like she's regressed back to how she used to be. Worse even."
I pause, uncertain of how to phrase my next question. "Do... do you think she was then?"
"Was what?" Tokiha asks.
"In love with Fujino."
"Well, that's the billion yen question, isn't it?" Tokiha grins as she leans backwards. Seriously, I swear she IS doing that on purpose. A serious expression crosses her face. "Seriously though, I don't know everything that was going on towards the end, but I was kind of hoping you'd keep a close eye on Natsuki. She seems pretty fragile right now, and she could do with our help."
I'm none too pleased with the idea, but I guess Tokiha is right. But would Kuga do the same for me if it were the other way around? I doubt it. Still, I nod my head. A wide smile takes its place upon Tokiha's face as she lets out a sigh of relief. "I'm glad you're helping. What with all the shifts I'm working at Linden Baum, and Mikoto taking up most of the rest of my time, Natsuki comes a poor third I'm afraid. Though..." now she hesitates. "I suppose you have problems enough of your own right now, Yuuki-san."
"It's not like there's a lot for me to do at the hospital, so I guess I can spare a few hours for Kuga-sitting. She won't like this at all though, I can tell you that!"
"No kidding, she hates having other people care for her. Still, we may well be able to remedy that."
Can't fault her for her optimism. Oh wait, yes I can. But she fed me, so I keep my comments to myself. "Where's the midget then? It's been pretty quiet in here."
"Oh, she's playing with the cats most likely. She'll show up when she gets hungry. Actually, she's been staying out later and later recently. I think maybe she's getting a bit bored, what with the school being virtually deserted and no Orphans to fight. Since Nagi was the one spawning them, and he disappeared when the Carnival ended, I think we've seen the last of them."
"I guess I should be heading back to my room," I say as I rise to my feet. "Uh, thanks for the food."
"Please, come back any time you need feeding. I'm pretty used to cooking at all hours to satisfy the bottomless pit, so one or two other people are just fine. Try bringing Natsuki with you, will you?" she says as she walks me to the door.
"I wouldn't get your hopes up with that; I tried today and she was having none of it. Still, I'll give it a shot." With that, I let myself out and make my way through the silent corridors back to the gloomy dorm room I'm stuck in for the rest of this month. I can feel the mood permeating its way through the door as I steel myself to enter.
I slip in quietly, noting the pack of beer sitting on the table and the door leading to the balcony open. What the hell, I might be criminally underage, but I'm not gonna turn down a free drink, so I grab a bottle and open it with my teeth, spitting the cap into a nearby bin. Taking a quick swig, I go onto the balcony where Kuga is huffing away on a cigarette, her bottle hanging limply from her free hand as she leans over the side. She turns at my appearance, her expression for a moment unguarded before it quickly changes into a glare at the beer in my hand.
"Who said you could have one?" she asks angrily as she turns to look back outwards.
"Well, you could get all hissy and demand I leave them alone, and then I follow you around and make sure you don't get served anywhere in town, or you can leave me be and keep on buying them. How's that for a compromise?" I grin as I take another pull, but the result of my nettling is unexpected as Kuga's shoulders slump. "What's the matter, Kuga? No glib remark? No pithy comeback?"
"Just leave me alone Nao," she mutters. Well, that takes all the fun out of this. I turn to leave, but thoughts of the recent conversation with Mai stop me. "Look, I... well crap, I don't know how to do this stuff, but if you want to talk or something, I can listen."
"Offering to lend me a sympathetic ear, Nao?"
"Hah, yeah right. I'll call you on your bullshit and you know it, but that might be just what you need."
She whirls around to face me, her expression a taut grimace. "Don't even think to know what it is I need!"
"I know what you want at least. Not that I'm all teary-eyed at seeing the back of her," I sneer.
She flicks the still-lit cigarette over the side, and pausing only to send me another glare, she whirls back inside, grabbing the pack of beer as she retreats to the bedroom.
"Well, I don't know about her, but I'm sure feeling better about myself," I mutter with a smirk. "Most fun I've had in days."
I have the good grace to leave Kuga a while before I head to the bedroom. She's curled up on the bed, the sheets strewn all over the place. She looks... lonely. I guess that's something I know a lot about, facing this big bad world all on your own, nobody there by your side to back you up when you need it. She doesn't even have an anchor here any more, now that psycho-bitch has turned tail. She's lost and there's no one to show her the way.
I'd never admit it, but I really did respect her. She didn't take any crap from anyone and always stood tall, but now she's just a shell of the strong person I used to admire. I wrap one of the sheets around her, trying not to disturb her as she sleeps, before I sit down on the bed furthest from her, my arms holding my head up as I watch her.
I'm not used to this goody-goody crap mama, but still, Tokiha's right, isn't she? Kuga does need somebody to help her through this, and I guess I'm in the situation where I should hold out my hand to support her. Just, this would all be so much easier if you were here, if you could support me while I support her. How am I supposed to help her when I can't even help myself? Why won't you wake up mama? Why can't you be here for me?