"What's wrong, Hevn-san?" Ginji asked as he assisted Ban in pushing Hevn's wheelchair out to the waiting Lady Bug. Hevn felt rather silly. She was perfectly capable of walking despite the fresh dressings covering her still recovering skin. The hospital still forced her to ride out in a wheelchair, no matter how much she protested against it.
"The fact that they didn't manage to catch Clifford the accident," Hevn answered, voice dull. Ginji made a sad face, tightening his grip on the back of the chair.
"At least he doesn't stand a chance of inheriting your family fortune after Marci's confession," Ban reminded, hands itching to take out a smoke the minute they got outside of the smoke-free environment of the hospital.
Hevn looked down at her bandaged hands, folded solemnly in her lap. "According to the police report, she's going to claim she did it because of jealousy over me. How I was always the perfect daughter, and she felt smothered in my shadow." Hevn sighed deeply. "While I know money was her actual motivation, I can't help but feel that those statements are true."
"It isn't your fault that someone could become so jealous of you that they'd try to murder you," Ban said, opening the Lady Bug's doors. "If everyone went around worrying about what everyone else might be thinking about them, this world would be even more messed up than it is."
Hevn shook her head vigorously. "No, Ban, I think you're wrong. What we need is more people to worry about others. Then maybe we'll stop being so blinded by ourselves that we let these kind of things happen."
She was speaking also metaphorically of her relationship with Akabane. Since she'd confessed her feelings, she hadn't seen or heard from him once. She could understand not visiting, as she'd been surrounded by television reporters and large public gatherings didn't seem to be his thing. She couldn't understand why he wouldn't answer her phone calls or her text messages. She could understand if she figured that she'd frightened him off by throwing unwanted emotions at him. Of course he didn't love her. How could love have made her so blind that she couldn't see that he was incapable of returning such feelings to anyone?
Across town, Akabane looked down at the text messages on his phone. There were two that were troubling him at the moment. The first read "I'm getting out of hosp. today. Please come visit?" The second one, more blunt, read "Your things are here. Come get them."
He turned off the phone without making any action on the messages, sighing and leaning back. Every time he thought about how he hadn't visited her, even after the media blitz had died down, he got a funny twinge in his heart that bothered him. Maybe he was on the brink of cardiac arrest. Maybe the twinges were heralds of his impending death. At least he knew he wasn't in love with Hevn. After all, love didn't feel like someone trying to rip your heart out of your chest and stomp on it repeatedly.
"Jackal, stop grabbing at your chest," Himiko said suddenly, drawing him back out of dreamland. He hadn't realized he'd been doing that, and was rather embarrassed by it.
"I am sorry," he muttered, looking down at his shoes. They were starting to wear out. He would need a new pair relatively soon. "I think I am having cardiac failure. I keep getting these twinges in my chest…"
Himiko sighed and picked up a pair of chopsticks from the fast food table, bopping Akabane with the head on them. "That's guilt, doctor," she informed him. "You're feeling bad about not visiting Hevn in the hospital."
"I… am not."
"Then why has our entire conversation tonight revolved around you justifying exactly why you can't go see her in the hospital?" Himiko asked, waving the chopsticks at him. "Stop making excuses and go see her. You'll feel better and I won't have to hear about it." She put her share of the money in her pocket and pushed the rest at him in an envelope.
He looked down on the square of paper as thought it might bite him. "You are right. I at least should get my possessions from her and thank her for the interesting week she gave me." He pushed his chair back. "Goodnight, Himiko-chan."
She nodded. "Goodnight, Akabane-san." It was about five minutes later that Himiko would notice that Akabane had failed to pay for his share of the meal, despite the fact that he'd ordered more expensive items than she had. Akabane continued to stare down at the envelope, carrying it in both hands. He felt bad about it, as though he should have been visiting Hevn instead of going on a job…
Wait, he was actually thinking there was something he'd rather be doing… than going on a job?! He paused long enough to hit his head repeatedly on the glass window of a store front, hoping that he would knock some sense into himself. Love was the most pathetic of weak emotions. There was no place in a heart like his for such nonsense, only for the basic essentials needed to fight and grow stronger. He didn't need an additional weakness. He…
"Could you stop hitting your head on our window-front, please?" a woman asked, sounding irritated. "You're bothering our customers!"
Akabane paused and blushed. "Excuse me. I am a bit not well today."
The woman looked him over. "You can say that again, you're as pale as a ghost," the woman said, holding up a mirror. He jumped backwards, shocked. He really was as pale as a ghost!
To his surprise, the woman began to laugh. "Calm down, this is a novelty mirror! It makes you look pale!" She gestured over his shoulder. "We have a great supply of them, if you'd like to stop damaging our store front and come and look."
Akabane looked down at the envelope of cash still held in his trembling, gloved hands. Suddenly, he knew the perfect use for its contents. He only hoped it would work to alleviate his guilt symptoms.
Back at Hevn's apartment, Ban and Ginji helped her get situated and then stayed for a drink of tea and, of course, to take advantage of all the food Hevn had that they could get into their mouths while still looking like concerned friends. Hevn didn't particularly mind; her parents had gone back to America as soon as possible and her sister remained in jail, awaiting a trial for murder. She didn't want to be alone yet, not after what had happened that week, so she was willing to give up a few weeks worth of groceries for the companionship.
Eventually, however, it did get late enough that Ban and Ginji had to depart for the night. They'd kindly offered to stay all night, sleeping on the couch, but Hevn had felt that it was best for her to be alone with her thoughts for awhile. She could tell by the down looks on their faces that they'd been hoping to not sleep in their car for a night and get breakfast to boot; but she really needed the space. She needed to work out how to bundle her feelings into a little ball and send it up in flames.
She'd been alone with her thoughts for all of fifteen minutes before she heard a soft tap-tap-tap-tappity-tap at her balcony window. She whirled around in her chair, surprised to see Akabane sheepishly waving at her from the other side of the glass window. A large, bulky package tied in twine was resting under his left arm.
She didn't know if she was glad to see him or angry and hurt to see him, and thus, she didn't know if she was planning on letting him in. After realizing that he'd probably just cut the glass off and let himself in if she didn't, she eased herself out of her chair and shuffled over to open the latch.
"You've got a lot of nerve showing up, after not visiting me in the hospital or returning my phone calls."
"I know," he said. "I have a million excuses why I did not, but as Lady Poison has told me they are all nothing but excuses, I will not bother you with them," he shrugged. "This is for you," he said, pushing it into her bandaged hands.
Hevn looked down at it in surprise, and then slowly undid the wrappings. Her hands shook when she saw what was inside. "A… mirror? A MIRROR? Are you trying to mock me now?" she asked, eyes stinging with tears.
"No… no… it is a funny mirror. See? I thought you might feel better if you could laugh at yourself looking funny."
"Get the hell out," she snapped, throwing the mirror back at him. He caught it and set it down, giving her a pitiful look. "GET OUT!" she screamed, picking up a glass.
"I still have to get my things…"
"I'll throw them on the balcony. Just get out of my sight!" she demanded, waving the glass threateningly.
"I did not mean to offend you, Hevn-san, I thought…"
"How heartless can you be?" she snapped, throwing the glass at him. Rather than catch it, he let it sail past his shoulder and shatter on the wall. Tea dripped down the paper, staining it with a brown spider-pattern. Leaving the sobbing woman alone, Akabane disappeared back out the sliding glass door.
It took her about twenty minutes to regain her composure, after which time she stomped over and grabbed the mirror. As she lifted it up, intending to smash it, she finally did catch a glimpse of her mummy-bandaged face in the mirror. The way the mirror twisted and distorted it… it actually was funny, very funny.
Her arms felt like rubber as she lowered the mirror back to the floor, guilt washing through her body. She'd just seen it was a mirror and assumed he had intended to hurt her, and she'd been wrong. She rushed to the sliding door and threw it open, hoping he would be waiting for her to give his things back. "Akabane, I was wrong! I just looked at the mirror! I was wrong! I'm so sorry!" she called. She got no answer back except the howl of the wind, ruffling through what remained of her hair. Her legs started to feel as rubbery-heavy as her arms. "I'm… so sorry…"
Akabane was, by that time, across town. He was sitting in a plastic chair that was uncomfortably small, holding his chest and trying not to make odd faces. His heart hurt so badly he could hardly stand it, and not just his heart. His entire chest felt like it was burning up. Every beat was painful, as though his heart were a hammer against his ribcage.
A nurse attendant came over, bringing a wheelchair. "Can you move enough to get into the chair?" she asked. He nodded in the affirmative, uncharacteristically giving himself over to assistance as the nurse pulled on his arms. They'd decided to treat him as an emergency case since he'd come in complaining of heart pains and feeling like he was unable to breath.
"Such a tragedy," one nurse said to another as he was taken into a back room. "So young and thin for a heart attack…"
Akabane, for his part, lay very quietly and still. He hated wearing hospital gowns; it felt like being consistently naked to him. They had the hospital robe pushed down around his hips, running a machine over his chest that tickled. He was trying his best not to giggle and mess up either the readings or his cold countenance, but his chest was really sensitive.
The doctor looked very uncomforting as he picked up the read outs and studied the fuzzy mechanical ultrasound image of the heart. "Your aorta wall is incredibly weak."
"How weak?" he asked, trying to sit up. The doctor put a hand on his shoulder.
"Don't get up. Weak enough that if you'd waited another day to come in, you'd probably be dead." He set down his clip board. "I'm sending you into surgery the first thing in the morning."
Akabane blinked. "Repeat… that?"
"If you don't get a supportive mesh into your aorta, it is going to burst and you are going to bleed to death in a matter of seconds. That is as simple as I can say it." He gestured to the nurse. "Wheel him downstairs and start preparing for surgery."
"There has to be a mistake. I want a second opinion," Akabane demanded.
"I can bring in another doctor, but you can see the test results for yourself," the older doctor said with a shrug. "You need that surgery."
Akabane felt his numb as he resigned himself to that, sinking limply into the pillows as the nurse adjusted plain white sheets modestly over his chest before taking him down the hallway. Another nurse picked up the plastic bag containing his possessions and started carrying them down to the baggage hold. Right as she lifted the bag, the cell phone inside began to ring. She extracted the phone commenting, "Wouldn't want to run you out of batteries, would we?" as she turned the small hand-held off.
Back at her apartment, Hevn set down her own phone. He wouldn't answer. Well, there could be a logical explanation for that. He could have it turned off, or be somewhere he couldn't hear it. It didn't mean anything had necessarily happened to him, or that he was so angry he wouldn't come back. She still had all his things. He'd be back for them. She'd throw herself, apologizing, at his mercy when he did.
That plan didn't end up working. She found herself calling him once an hour, growing more and more frantic when he didn't answer his phone. When an entire day passed without word, she began to panic. She left a large apology note in her apartment on the off chance that he was waiting for a chance for her to go out to return for her things, then shuffled over to the Honky Tonk.
"Hey, Hevn," Ginji said as she entered. "Fresh dressings?" he asked, not knowing what else to say. Usually, he complimented her on her makeup. Since he wouldn't see it this time, he figured complimenting her bandages was the next best thing.
"Yo," Ban said. Kazuki, sitting at the far end of the bar with Shido and doing a crossword puzzle, acknowledged her with a nod.
"I have an unusual request for you guys," she said. "I need you to help me find Akabane-san. I have some things of his, and he won't answer my phone calls."
"Didn't you hear?" Kazuki asked, lifting his head from his puzzle. "He's in the hospital."
"Hos… hospital?" Hevn asked. "What happened to him?" she asked, terrified that she might have been the cause.
"I didn't hear that, just that he was in the hospital," Kazuki answered, his bells gently jingling. "Sorry I can't give you any more info-" He didn't finish because she was already out the door. A moment later, however, she sheepishly returned in order to ask Kazuki which hospital she would be immediately rushing off to.
By the time she arrived at the hospital, she was turned away as visiting hours were over and strictly enforced. By strictly enforced, it was meant that her throwing a hissy fit about needing to see him only got her forcibly escorted out the door by two security guards. She tried to sneak in the back way but got caught again, and stopped only when they threatened that they wouldn't let her in during regular visiting hours the next day.
They almost wished they had let her in, as she was there bright and early the next day to stand waiting at the nurses' stand, continually asking if visiting hours had started, and generally making a nuisance of herself. For her efforts, they let her in a full half hour early. Hevn didn't feel bad about putting on such a childish display. A squeaky wheel gets the grease, and she'd often found it necessary in her line of work as a mediator to be aggressive about pursuing things to the point of annoying.
The rooms she passed by were bright for the most part, a sort of artificial cheer hanging in them. People came, bringing flowers and cards, all acting as though every illness was one that could be pulled through. Everyone spoke of how good their ill beloved looked, and the sickeningly sweet scent of heavily perfumed flowers covered up the very real aura of death floating about the care unit.
She knocked cautiously on Akabane's door and, after getting no response, let herself in. He was curled up on his side in a position that looked like it couldn't possibly be doing his IV line any good, eyes shut tightly and snoring ever so slightly. He looked exactly as she'd last seen him, asleep on the mat beside her. He'd had more color in his skin then and a lack of tubes leading out of his body, but he was still the same man.
She set her small vase of flowers on a counter, feeling pity. His was the first room she'd walked to completely devoid of signs of friendship. No bright cards lined the walls; no get well drawings by small children. No flowers or fruit baskets sent by well-meaning friends, even if he'd been willing to send them baskets when they'd been sick. She wished she'd brought more than just her small vase. She would have to jump on Ginji's case about returning the favor when she returned home.
He looked so pretty when he was asleep, a halo of black hair surrounding his pale skin against white sheets. Almost angelic, if she hadn't know the true personality lurking inside. She sat down and brushed her fingers against his, touching each finger one by one. Finally, she broke down.
"I'm so sorry about the mirror. I looked in it after you were gone. It really was funny. I should have looked at it before judging you." She hesitated. "It may have been a funhouse mirror, but I think it reflected better than any real mirror you could have purchased; don't you?" she asked. He shuffled in his sleep. She leaned back in her chair. "I told mom and dad that we weren't really engaged. They're rather furious at me. I probably would be out of the will if Marci weren't in jail for attempting to murder them. As for Clifford… he's still out there, so you have to get well quickly. He might come after you." She looked over, feeling bolder than she had before by the fact that he was still in a sound sleep. She could say everything she needed to say to him in a practice run before she had to say it to him conscious.
"You were also right in that… I can't have fallen in love in four days. But I definitely felt something, whether it be lust or infatuation. If you're willing, I'd like to find out what I felt. I don't suppose you will be, after I rejected your gift and the way I've treated you this week… and the fact that I'm indirectly responsible for landing you in the hospital. If you hadn't carried me to the hospital and worn out your powers, you wouldn't be here…" She said, beginning to choke on her words as tears welled up in her eyes.
"I blame Marci for that one, but feel free to kick yourself for the rest all you want. I will not stop you."
Hevn jumped a good three feet in the air at the sound of his voice. "You were AWAKE?" she asked, shocked
"Mmm, you made so much noise arranging your vase that I could not help but wake up, but I was a little bit mad at you so I childishly pretended that I had not." He scooted himself upright and grinned at her. "I am glad I did now, because you seem to have poured your guts out with the intent that I would never consciously hear those words."
She was blushing as red as a tomato by that point. "You… you… I am at a loss for words to describe you!" she said, throwing up her hands in disgust. She was not amused by the fact that he started laughing at her gesture. She was glad that she'd made him laugh on the other hand.
She plopped herself down in her chair, rubbing her bandages. "Here we sit, me in bandages and you with an IV and a bunch of wires sticking out of your arm. Don't we make a sorry couple?" she looked up and met him squarely in the eye. "By couple, I mean what I said. I want to explore this feeling."
He hesitated, and then looked away. "I can not. Love is a weak emotion."
"How can you say that?" she asked. "Love is… to quote an old movie, love is the greatest force on Earth, greater than gravity!"
He blinked at her, cocking his head to the side. "I do not think I have seen that movie."
She smacked her head in frustration. "That's another thing. Drop the 'do nots' and the 'have nots' and the 'yes ma'ams.' Talk to me like I'm your friend."
He studied her for another moment before rebelliously answering, "Yes ma'am."
"Oh, you're impossible!" she sighed, flopping down in the chair. "I give up! You stubbornness has outpaced mine. You win, great king of the jack asses."
Akabane, however, was busily letting the gears in his mind work. Love was the greatest force on Earth? Well, love did seem to be the power that let Ban and Ginji consistently beat him in battle… the way they almost knew what one another were thinking and feeling although separated by great physical boundaries… the way they could move in unison without even speaking. Maybe he'd misjudged love as badly as Hevn had misjudged his present of the mirror. If love could give him that kind of power, perhaps he should try love.
"I think this relationship is currently carrying too much baggage to go anywhere."
She nodded, sighing miserably. "I understand. I'll let myself out." As she was standing up, she felt a hand grasp her wrist. She looked down to see luscious purple eyes gazing up at her.
"Hello, Hevn-san. My name is Akabane. I do not- don't- think we've met before. Would you care to go on a date?"
She grinned more broadly than she had all week. "Why certainly, stranger. I would love to." She leaned down, placing what unburned parts of her lips she could against his mouth. She put an arm around his head, lightly touching his neck, as she began to kiss…
"Excuse me!" a female voice boomed from the doorway, causing the two to jump. "I don't think the patient is healthy enough for horseplay yet."
Hevn turned absolutely red. "Of… of course not…" she blushed. She looked over her shoulder at him. "Call me when you're ready to go home. My apartment is open if you need a place to convalesce for awhile."
"I'll remember you offered when its two am and I can't get out of the bed to get myself to the bathroom," he answered earnestly, waving as she disappeared out of the hospital room. Obviously, this was either the start or something beautiful or horribly disfiguring. Neither of them was sure which, yet.
There will, eventually, be a squeal to this story. It's just a matter of when.