Disclaimer: I don't own any Azumanga Daioh characters.
Note: This story was only supposed to have one part, but I thought of a reply and decided to give it a go. Language warning.
Osaka cracked open her eyes. The colors of the world she had visited were gone and replaced with a fuzzy grey hue. She was laying on the balcony in a mess of shredded newspaper and beer bottles. The diving mask was around her neck and she was clothed only in a large button up shirt that she had never seen before, and a pair of Kagura's boxers. Her entire body tingled and her muscles seemed extremely weak. Trying to lift her arms and legs was like trying to peel herself away from a floor covered in super glue. After several attempts she gave up and laid still.
She didn't know how much time had passed, but it was still dark outside and the light in the living room had been turned off. She closed her eyes and sighed. She should have known better than to trust Tomo. The wildcat had never been harmless a day in her life.
The balcony door slid open and Tomo stepped outside. Her hair was rumpled and her cheeks were slightly red. She was sweating walking with an unsteady gait. Along with her there came the scent of beer and something else that smelled like burnt husk. She paused when she saw Osaka.
"You're still out here?" she scoffed.
Osaka tried to turn her head and meet Tomo's gaze.
"I can't move," she replied.
"Yeah, that happens sometimes." Tomo staggered over to sit beside her and leaned back against the wall. From the pocket of her boxers she pulled out a crumpled pack of cigarettes and shook one out.
Osaka watched her. Without her glasses she couldn't see very well, but she knew that something wasn't right. Nothing was ever right when it came to Tomo. She listened to the sound of rumpling cellophane and then the click of a disposable lighter.
"Aren't you gonna help me up?" she suggested gently.
Tomo took a long drag from the cigarette and blew the smoke in her face. "I already did."
Osaka held her breath until the smoke dissipated. "That's not what I mean." Her voice expressed only the smallest hint of anger. She was afraid to express much more.
Tomo laughed and bent her knees up, forearms resting on top of them.
"Shut up. You know you liked it."
"It was mean."
"And you liked it. You should've seen yourself…Smiling like a fucking idiot."
"It wasn't real."
She sneered suddenly and smacked Osaka across the head. "Would you fuck off about that bullshit already? Give it up!"
The impact sent Osaka's head spinning and she nearly felt ready to throw up. Closing her eyes made the sensation worse so she focused on the closest thing to her face that she could see clearly, that being Tomo's left thigh. She quieted and waited for the world to stop swaying.
Tomo sat back and frowned. She sucked in another drag and expelled the smoke in a series of rings, watching them as they disappeared in the air.
"I didn't know you smoked."
She glanced to Osaka.
"I don't," she replied bluntly, inhaling another lungful. She brought the cigarette over Osaka's face as though she meant to let it drop. "This is a figment of your imagination, isn't that right? It's not real. Nothing is real."
Osaka looked to the door and prayed that someone would come to bring her inside, or at least take Tomo away from her. She had never trusted Tomo not to harm her, and this was especially true when Tomo wasn't in her right mind. She shut her eyes. The last thing she needed was to looked as afraid as she felt.
Tomo laughed and took one last hit from the cigarette before snuffing it against the ground. "Stupid Osakan. It's people like you that piss me off."
Osaka kept her eyes closed and tried to decide whether to say something or not. It wouldn't do her any good to get offended by someone more confrontational than herself. Tomo would have been only too happy to escalate an argument to violence, but she wasn't just going to lay there and takes jabs like a dummy.
"Don't say that," she said calmly. "Why do you have to be so mean?"
Grinning, Tomo narrowed her eyes.
"Oh, but how do you know I'm being mean?" she jeered. She grabbed Osaka under the arms and turned her onto her back. "Don't you mean to say that your perception of 'mean' isn't the same as mine? How can 'mean' exist if nothing is real?" She dragged Osaka back between her legs and leaned back against the wall.
The motion sent a tingling pressure throughout Osaka's body. Though she meant to protest the treatment, her body still felt ten times heavier than she was used to. Again she looked to the door and was crushed when she couldn't see anyone inside. One of Tomo's arms came around her waist and she could hear her lighting another cigarette.
"I always hated that about you," Tomo drawled, her voice dark and empty. "You can't just see things for what they are. You have to ask questions and then you actually try to convince me that this isn't real. This is real. What proof do you need? You think you can just step back and act like you're not a part of anything?"
"But didn't you used to-"
She snatched Osaka by the hair and wrenched her head back. "Shut up! You make me sick. I can't even look at you when you start talking about stuff like that."
Osaka's breath caught and she looked at the wildcat in the corner of her eye. Tomo's face was twisted with a fierce glare, the dangerous kind that she had seen before. It made her nervous, but she frowned and squared her shoulders as much as she could. If she was going to be a doormat, she would at least be one that kept to her opinions.
"I told you there's nothing wrong with it," she stated.
"And I told you that there is something wrong with it. The world is rotting. It's a fucking cesspool of shit and blood and cockfaced people."
Tomo held her cigarette between her lips while she yanked away the diving mask and then undid the top button of Osaka's shirt. "People like you are a waste. You think it's so difficult to find your answers, and meanwhile the rest of us are working like dogs to keep ourselves afloat. People are suffering and you want to sit back and ask why. Or even worse, you want to tell them they're not."
Osaka looked at the fingers at her shirt and then back to the door. Her heart began to pound and she held her breath to try and keep it down. When the second button was tugged undone she grew tense and tried to lift her arms, but her muscles were incredibly weak. Instead she tightened her fingers where they rested against Tomo's knees.
"What are you doing," she whispered.
"You've seen everything of this world and one that doesn't exist, but you still can't see. I'm going to make you see."
Tomo undid the rest of the buttons and then pulled the shirt open. She took the cigarette from between her lips and held it like a pencil with the burning end facing down.
Osaka fixed her gaze on that cigarette. She forgot about trying to control her heartbeat and her breath quickened. Her cheeks flushed and her ears began to roar with blood.
"Proof is what you wanted right? I'll prove that you're here. You're here and this is real."
"You're drunk. You need to go inside."
Tomo lowered the cigarette until it rested an inch away from the soft span between Osaka's breasts. She tightened her other arm around the girl's waist and smiled, nuzzling the side of her neck.
"You're here with me," she whispered and crushed the cigarette against her.
Osaka was hard pressed to contain her squeal. Though it only took a few moments for the cigarette to burn out, the intense shot of pain on such a sensitive area seemed to last for minutes on end.
Tomo lifted the stub. Left in its place was a smear of ash and an angry red dot. She dropped it and shook another from the pack to light. "All life is suffering. Isn't that what you believe? Life is suffering. That's all the proof you need."
Osaka watched the second ember as it was brought to her chest.
"Stop it, please," she begged and tried to lift up. She did what she could to get her arms to move, but only ended up squirming against her antagonist who kept her in a vice like grip. The ember was touched to a spot a few centimeters below the first burn. She gasped and clawed her fingers into Tomo's legs. "Stop it!"
Instead of crushing the cigarette, Tomo twirled it slowly and let it burn out of its own accord. She smiled at Osaka's reaction, watching the delicate tufts of smoke that curled from the wound.
"It's ok," she murmured. "This is real. You're alive." When the stub stopped smoking, she dropped it and drew yet another.
Osaka heard the cellophane and began to panic. She arched her back and managed to bend her knees, but the exertion of so much energy made her feel sick. After only a few moments she had to fall back and catch her breath. Tomo waited patiently for her to give up before lowering the third ember, touching it below the second burn. Osaka could hear the soft sizzle of skin and she shut her eyes, turning her head away.
"Why are you doing this," she cried.
Tomo ground the cigarette in and leaned her head against Osaka's.
"I'm doing it for you," she said. "The reason that you can't accept this reality is because you haven't suffered enough. I'm bringing you life right before your eyes."
Osaka shook her head and tugged at the bottom hem of Tomo's boxers.
"This isn't reality," she replied, her voice beginning to shake. She had meant to say that the suffering of life was not at all like the suffering of cigarette burns, but it would have been impossible to argue this. If there was only one reality, and her entire issue was that she could not prove otherwise, then there could be no differentiation. Tomo was taking her logic and using it against her.
Tomo's grin faded. She dug the cigarette into the burn until Osaka yelped loudly.
"Fuck you," she hissed. "Fuck you and your realities. There is no false world. This is it, and you're in it."
Five cigarettes later, the pack was empty and Tomo picked up her lighter instead. Osaka now had a seam of dots down the center of her chest. Tomo clicked the lighter on and let the flame hover over them.
Osaka's eyes were glassy with tears. She was breathing hard and pushing herself as far back into Tomo as she could to try and escape the flame. After several failed attempts at moving the lighter away, her arms had curled weakly under Tomo's knees and her muscles trembled with the effort of keeping them there. Tomo skimmed the lighter down along her stomach and she felt her skin inflame and become gently seared in its wake. The pain was unbearable, and that it was constant made her want to scream.
"Tell me it's not real," Tomo whispered through her teeth. "Tell me you're not feeling anything."
"You're hurting me," she whimpered, her voice long broken.
"I would never hurt you. I would only make you suffer. The more you suffer, the more you understand."
"That's crazy! Let me go!"
"Crazy? You don't know the half of what crazy is. You don't even know what this is." Tomo grabbed Osaka's hand and brought the flame under her palm.
"I know what it is!" Osaka curled her fingers and tried to drag her hand away. Tomo let it drop and it landed back on her leg.
At last Tomo dropped the lighter and bent her knees slightly. She rested one hand to the center of Osaka's chest and the other to the top of her head, smoothing her hair back. The hateful sneer disappeared from her face and was replaced with the calm one that had been there before. She sighed and rested her chin to the shoulder below it.
"I've done everything I can for you, but I can only do so much. I only wish that I could make you suffer enough, and then maybe you might see."
Osaka gazed ahead, now more than ever wishing that she had her glasses. Tomo's voice was soft in her ear and her hand was cool against her chest. She tried lifting one of her arms and found that it was only slightly easier than it had been before. Her arm dropped and she closed her eyes. Earlier she hadn't understood Tomo's animosity towards her behavior, though she did at that moment when she remembered what night it was.
"Tomo," she whispered.
Tomo made no reply but dragged her nails down the middle of Osaka's chest to rest against her stomach.
Osaka winced and forced herself to keep still. No one was coming to help her because no one was in the house. They had gone to the summer festival. She turned her head towards Tomo and made sure to keep her gaze down. "You think that I don't understand…"
Tomo paused. Something in Osaka's voice made her skin run cold.
"…but I do."
She shoved Osaka away and grabbed her lighter before stumbling up. She kicked the crumpled cigarettes off of the balcony and then went to the door.
"If you tell anyone about this, I'll kill you," she said and stormed inside.
Osaka laid still on her side, almost in the same position in which she had woken up. Her strength was returning and it wouldn't be long before she herself could go inside, but for now she laid peacefully and closed her eyes.
She had been angry before, but now she realized how justified Tomo had been. It had been wrong of her to suggest in Tomo's presence that no experience in the empirical world could hold true significance. Now she would bear Tomo's seam for the rest of her life for a similar reason that Tomo would never again wear a kimono. In this way, their subjective realities were defined by suffering. Perhaps she could see after all.
Note: I know what it seems like, but this isn't a Tomo/Osaka story. There's no affection taking place.