Author's Note: The last chapter! PARTY! The ending is kind of weird... um, yeah. It seems kind of abrupt, I know... I just knew I had to end it there or it would end up turning into... something else... Anyway, I decided to leave the ending kind of up for interpretation.
Reviews loved and appreciated. Enjoy!
Oishi's Point of View
It didn't take Eiji long to fall asleep.
I stroked his cheek as he dreamed. I knew things had been slightly awkward between us that evening, and I knew it was mostly my fault. As I tried to look back, I really could find no clue as to what had happened. I only knew that the harder I tried to make things less awkward, the more awkward they became. I truly couldn't help it.
"Do you know what you do to me?" I whispered to my sleeping doubles partner. He responded with a soft, dreamy smile, and by snuggling a little closer.
Eiji was always like that. Utterly oblivious.
Unless he was just trying to do this to me…
No. Not Eiji. Not my Eiji…
I sighed, knowing I should try to sleep, and try harder not to think. I had done too much thinking that day; that's what had made everything awkward. Yes, sleep was a better plan.
As I slept, dreams came and went. All involved my best friend. Some were nice, some were beautiful, but others were disturbing. One in particular troubled my slumber. I was standing, and Eiji was kneeling in front of me. Everything was dark. I was holding his hand in mine, and I wouldn't let go. I felt cold. I heard the ring of Eiji's bell, and I suddenly realized that the black ribbon was choking him. He could not speak, but he begged me to let go of his hand and untie the bell. I didn't move. I didn't try to comfort him, or even say I was sorry. I just stood there, watching him suffer. Watching him die.
This dream woke me up. Needless to say, I was a little shaken. Such dark dreams weren't normal for me. I looked at Eiji, and was relieved to find that he was sleeping peacefully in my arms. But I think he could sense that I was awake. After about a minute, he opened his eyes.
"What time is it?"
"Shh… Go back to sleep, Eiji. It's two o'clock in the morning."
"Is something wrong, Oishi?"
"Just a dream, Eiji. Sleep now."
"Was it a bad dream?"
I couldn't lie to him. I ran my fingers lightly through his hair. "It was terrible, Eiji. You were hurting."
He yawned and closed his eyes again. "You're right. That's awful."
I couldn't help smiling. Eiji looked so sweet and cozy in my sweatshirt, sort of curled up… I suddenly wondered something.
"Eiji, do you dream of me?"
He opened his eyes again. Now I wondered why I'd asked such an odd question. But this time, Eiji didn't seem to think the moment was so awkward. He gave me a little squeeze. "Every night, nya."
He was back asleep in an instant. A strange happiness welled up inside of me. As I closed my eyes for a moment, I hoped that his dreams of me were happy ones. I hoped that I never hurt him in his dreams.
Eiji shifted slightly in my arms. I heard the sound of a bell in my head. It sent a shiver up my spine.
I turned to look at the object, which was sitting on my nightstand, reflecting moonlight. I felt cold again, and my dream came back to haunt me as I stared at the bell. A wind was coming from its direction, through the open window. Suddenly, I was scared. Even though I was freezing, I was starting to sweat. Eiji stirred again. I held him closer so he wouldn't move. I heard the bell again. He opened his eyes, and everything went blue. I was kissing him…
I woke up again. This time, I let go of Eiji and sat up, relieved to find that I had fallen asleep again, and it was only a dream. But I was still sweating. I looked over at the window. It was closed. I always kept it closed. I didn't look at the bell on my nightstand, afraid of what might happen, even though I knew nothing would.
Eiji, of course, woke up again. "Oishi?"
I didn't answer him.
"Oishi…" I felt his arms wrap themselves around my waist, and he pressed against my back. I quickly pried him off of me and turned to face him, still holding onto his wrists.
"Eiji, no. I can't…" I let go, not knowing how to explain.
"Shh, Oishi…" He rubbed my sweaty cheeks, trying to soothe me. "You're soaking wet," he whispered.
Then he kissed me on the cheek.
It was the first time he'd ever kissed me.
Then I knew.
I stared into my best friend's deep blue eyes and took a long breath. Then I got up and grabbed the bell. "Eiji, we won't need this again for a while." And I locked it in the top drawer of my desk, which was empty before I put it in.
Eiji didn't understand. I knew he wouldn't. Not for a while.
The bell, I now realized, had brought us closer. During the time that we had used it back in seventh grade, it had somehow caused our friendship to grow very rapidly. This helped us, at the time. Once it had disappeared, developing our relationship had been harder, and it took longer.
Something about having the bell in my hands again had made me want that quick pace back. But we were already so close… It was just too much. It would have made us maybe too close.
I placed the key to the drawer in Eiji's hand. "Eiji," I said. "I want you to keep this for me. Don't give it back to me unless you think we need that bell again. But never until then."
He blinked, sensing that he wasn't supposed to know exactly what I meant. Obediently, he put the key in his bag, and crawled back into bed, back into my arms. We both fell asleep, and I had no more nightmares that night.
It's been a long time since I've seen that bell.
I'm standing here, looking at my doubles partner, trying to figure out what he's thinking. Things have been this way between us for quite some time now.
Things haven't been bad in any way… On the contrary, they've been wonderful. I know for certain that I have the best friend in the world, and I wouldn't trade our relationship for anything. I know I should be content. Right now, he's smiling at me. As always. I try to smile back, but it's an old smile. I miss the way Eiji always put a brand new smile on my face, every time I saw him. That just doesn't happen anymore.
I sigh and turn away. Maybe things are meant to stay this way.
I turn around.
Eiji's holding the key.