Chapter 1: Homecoming
A/N: November 9, 2006: "Always There" has now officially been edited. At the request of a couple of clearly know-it-all reviewers, I have removed my author notes. I would just like to say to both new readers, past and re-readers, that I really, really appreciated all the types of feedback I received. From praise, constructive criticism and near-flames, it was what kept both my muse and inspiration intact. Future comments are also welcomed.
It was excruciating.
Not only the throbbing pain originating from numerous sections of her body, but just the mere thought of being turned away once she dared to take that one, final step across the threshold caused her to cringe. Against all odds and beliefs, she had returned alive…although just barely. And even though it had been a rather arduous, slow, doubtful and especially reluctant journey, here she was, finally…home. Where he lived.
'Kaede House is your home right?'
She could only hope he still felt that way.
Her legs were now fighting to hold her up as her vision began to darken. Somewhere off far in the distance, she could hear the clock she had worked so hard to fix begin to chime, seemingly signaling her presence as Wanta yapped relentlessly at her shadowed form from the other side of the door.
"Oh, do we have visitors? I'll go and see."
The voice was unmistakable, it was him.
Suddenly, Lucy felt her heart beating madly against the restraints in her chest despite the fact that she could only be considered scarcely alive. What would he think? Would he want to see her? Would he even recognize her? Her trademark horns that distinguished her from an ordinary human and the only defining feature that would indeed give away her identity in the bloody mess she was in were gone. Not knowing exactly how bad her wounds were, Lucy lifted an incredibly shaky arm and pressed her palm to her head, enticing a loud wince of pain as she did so. Carefully, she removed her hand and when brought back down within her somewhat clouded vision, it was absolutely covered in the tell tale sticky red substance.
"It's working…" Kouta mused in astonishment as the clock continued to sound.
Her eyes clenched shut in anticipation and mainly, absolute terror as she noticed Kouta's dark outline approached the door.
"This soumen is delicious!" The young, pink haired Diclonius was now currently on her fifth bowl, knocking the noodles back so fast that one would think she hadn't eaten in over a month.
"You have to eat slowly Nana, otherwise you could choke," Maiyu informed her ever clueless friend, trying hard to stifle her giggles from seeing the rather hilarious sight of Nana's mouth completely stuffed with noodles as well as having most of her meal currently stuck to her cheeks.
"Oh don't worry about me! I'm fine-"
Nana's head abruptly began throbbing with another well-known heartbeat, causing her eyes to widen in horror as she subsequently began to choke on her food as she struggled to let air into her lungs. Yuka and Maiyu were instantly at their friend's side, trying to ease and console her.
"Didn't Maiyu just finish telling you to eat slower?" Yuka sighed in exasperation as she continued to rub Nana's back in an attempt to silence her choking. But even after she had stopped, the horn-headed girl still stayed curled over on the floor, this time instead clutching her head in agony as she panted and sweated profusely.
"Nana? What's wrong?" Yuka and Maiyu exclaimed in unison as they crowed around, this time in genuine worry as they waited for some kind of response.
The teenage Diclonius' body jerked upright as Nana removed her hands from her head, as she began to shake, clenching her arms at her sides in a rather pathetic attempt at self soothing.
"S-she's…h-here," she forced out through a tight throat. "Sh-she's b-back."
Her adoptive mother and best friend only furrowed their eyebrows in confusion, not understanding exactly what it was that she was trying to say.
'She's supposed to be dead!'
"Who's back?" Yuka questioned the trembling girl softly, while placing a supportive hand on her shoulder.
"I-It's her. L-Lucy."
Maiyu and Yuka only gasped at Nana's revelation, a million questions passing through their minds, the main one of course being…
"How is she alive? It doesn't make any sense!" Nana screamed at the top of her lungs, both because she didn't want it to be true and also, she just wanted the pain to end.
'What if she comes after me…?'
"A-are y-you sure?" Yuka felt quite uneasy all of a sudden. In a way, she was glad that Nyuu was back…she really did like her, but…with the declaration of her return, she felt the all too familiar feelings of jealousy and envy resurface once again along with another feeling that had just recently come about. Hate. She hated her for just existing sometimes, whenever she was around, Yuka felt like Kouta worried about Nyuu and nothing else. She was resentful of Nyuu for having won Kouta's affections so easily. At one stage she thought that she had secured Kouta's love when they had both shared a wonderful kiss at the shrine in the rain…
'At least this is a little warmer right?'
'But my skirt, I'm getting mud all over your pants.'
'I'll get a little muddy, so what?'
Obviously though, Kouta had never really reciprocated. He apparently never would.
She felt so foolish. She had thrown away her dreams and left her family in order to come and live with him…she had given up everything she once knew for a chance to be with the one person she had loved since she was little and would never be acknowledged for her sacrifice. Yuka felt her fists clench together in her lap as she watched Nana shake helplessly at her unseen enemy, tears threatening to spill from her eyes as memories about her beloved cousin and Nyuu together began involuntary began forcing themselves into her mind.
'Kouta…you're so nice…you're so nice…Kouta!'
'Kanae forgives! Forgives Kouta! Forgives!'
'I like you too, Nyuu…'
"Kouta…you're such a jerk!" Yuka slowly opened her eyes, mentally kicking herself as she realized she had just said her last thought aloud. Maiyu was just staring at her, either in complete shock or legitimate bewilderment. Even Nana, although she was still shaking and panting, couldn't help but glare at her perplexed as well. Yuka quickly waved her arm in the air, as if dismissing what she had just said as harmless and rose to her feet quickly.
"I-ummm…I'm just going to check on Kouta," with that, she quickly ran down the steps and slipped into her sandals, her cheeks flushing a deep crimson color as she fumbled with the straps, trying to get them on her feet. She stopped suddenly when she caught a glimpse of what was happening at the door…
He opened the gate slowly and before Kouta even had the time to think, a mysterious figure collapsed into Kouta's arms, absolutely covered in blood and random debris.
"Oh my god!" Was all Kouta could say in panic as he tried to examine the now seemingly lifeless thing in his arms. Unexpectedly, while taking a closer look at its head, he came across two protruding, jagged, white lumps of bone and all of a sudden…everything clicked, he felt his heart instantly jump into his throat.
In response, Lucy tried to say something…anything that would let him know that it was indeed her, but the only thing that came out, which was hardly even audible, was a small groan.
"Oh my god," Kouta muttered once again. Everything that had just happened within the last three seconds was just too much for him to process all at once…he couldn't believe it was her, but how…?
'Worry about that later…right no she needs help!'
"Y-Yuka!" Came his unsteady voice from at the door, but all she could do was stand there staring in utter disgust the thing currently sprawled carelessly in Kouta's arms…she couldn't move.
"YUKA!" Kouta called again, this time with quite a bit of desperation in his voice. It was enough to snap her out of her trace and although she had to force her legs to move, she did…the whole time she kept her eyes glued on it, never shifting her gaze away for a second. When her cousin finally came within earshot she decided to call out, rather then risk getting any closer.
"W-what's wrong?" She whispered, unable to keep a slight quiver out of her voice. "W-what is that…thing?" Yuka hurriedly covered her nose in an attempt to block out the absolute putrid smell wafting from it; even from a safe distance away the smell was unbearable. She studied Kouta's face cautiously and was astonished and a little miffed to find Kouta…crying.
"I-it's Nyuu, she's…been badly injured…we have to help her!"
At hearing that was Nyuu, Yuka was both excited and disappointed at the same time. Of course she wanted to help Nyuu in any way she possibly could and she did miss having the young, innocent and energetic girl around, but at the same time, she realized that everything would just go back to the way it was before…Kouta laughing with and playing with Nyuu, while she was forced to watch in the background. She could see it…he really did love her and yet, she couldn't for the life of her admit it to herself…maybe because she was still holding on, hoping that Kouta despite what she may have heard, still might care.
"Okay, well…we had better…uhhh…get her inside," Yuka suggested quickly. "But before we do, I think I had better tell Maiyu to take Nana into another room so she doesn't see…it'll most likely upset them both." She turned back towards the house, about to run to the dinning area where the youngest members of the house were currently sitting when she heard a strange voice from behind.
It was Nyuu.
Kouta held her closely as he mumbled words of encouragement and reassurance to the horrid looking girl. "It's okay Nyuu, you'll be better soon…don't worry I won't leave you."
Instantly, Yuka's rage began bubbling furiously to the surface.
'Hey Kouta? If I went away, would you cry for me, like you did for Nyuu…?'
'Do you even care about me at all?'
"I'm right here you know! The least you could do is wait until I'm gone before you start declaring your love for her!" Tears were brimming at the corners of her eyes as she struggled to withhold her emotions. All Kouta could do was look on at her in astonishment.
'Now is not the time Yuka…'
"Yuka I-" he tried.
"I don't want to hear it Kouta," she interrupted. "I'm going to get Maiyu and Nana to go out the back for awhile…when I give you the signal you head down the hall to the bathroom, okay? We'll fix her wounds up there." Without another word from either one of them, Yuka started back towards the house as she silently let the tears fall…
'Kouta, your such a jerk!'