Weirdly, this is my least favorite chapter to write so far. It seems so dull compared to Chapter 3, and to chapters in the near and not-so-near future. But it's actually really good. Character development and such.
Randomness- my WeatherBug just popped up to tell me there's a tornado watch around where I live. Then it says, "THIS IS A PARTICULARLY DANGEROUS SITUATION." Isn't that funny? Yes. Yes, it is. Look for this line in later chapters.
My WeatherBug aside, I've also been busy thinking about where this fic is headed. There's a REALLY cool plotline I just came up with. Here're some hints-
"Behold a Pale Horse"
Feel free to Google those, except for Yakesukhan. I made that up.
I've also been compiling a sort of soundtrack for this fic (I'll post the songs on my profile later, 'kay? SO LOOK AT IT). One of the future chapters is actually gonna be a songfic of sorts (it WILL make sense, don't worry). It's awesome.
Anyway, this chapter is dedicated to Obsidian Feather for her story Letter Bound. It really inspired the main plot for this story, which will start with Chapter 7. Thanks, Obsidian!
(Actually, it has nothing to do with her story. It was just inspired by it… stop looking at me like that!)
DISCLAIMER: I own no Pucca, but… THE DVD COMES OUT THIS TUESDAAAAAAY (March 18th)! And I will own those. Takeshi still mine.
By the way, it's Pucca's POV for most of the chapter.
Chapter 4- "This Little Light of Mine…"
I sighed and lay back on the pillow. My uncles had just left, after giving me the longest lecture on safety, then telling me how glad they are that I'm okay. You know, the usual stuff.
There was a soft knock on the door, then it opened. It was Ching.
"Pucca!" she squealed as she jumped on my bed. Won clucked irritably from her head.
I laughed and sat up.
"Here, I got you this," she said, rummaging around in her purse. "Hold on… here!"
She pulled out a small pink notebook and a feather pen. "This way we can talk!"
I took it from her, then paused. There were a dozen questions burning in my mind. I hesitated for a moment, wondering which one to ask first. What's up with Garu? How long have I been here? Only little, completely insignificant�things like that. Then I remembered something, something that had popped into my head when I saw Ching and Abyo- I took the pen from her.
'Ching, how'd your date with Abyo go?' I scribbled. I remember how anxious she had been to ask him. If it had gone well, she'd be ecstatic...
Please let it have gone well, please please please-
She immediately gasped and clapped her hands to her face.
"I can't believe it, Pucca, it actually worked! I was so nervous, though- but he said yes!"
I threw my arms around her, then wrote, 'So what happened! Tell me! XD.'
"Well, I was waiting for him in the Goh-Ryong. He and Garu finally came in, so I waved them over. I was a little worried about Garu being there at first- it's hard to ask something like that in front of someone else, you know?"
"So they sat down, and we ordered the usual. I was so nervous! I couldn't think of anything to say. But when our food came, I finally pulled myself together. So I asked him if he wanted to go out with me." She stopped, giggling a little. "And he says, 'Today?' You should've seen the look on his face! I've never seen him look that dumbfounded before." Her giggles subsided and she began staring off into space.
I waited for her to go on, but she didn't. So I waited a little more. And more.
Finally, I shook her arm and wrote, 'That's great, Ching, but what did you guys do!'
"Oh! Sorry. Guess I kinda lost track there."
I stared at her impatiently.
"Fine, fine. Anyway, we just walked around town for the day. That's all."
'Then why are you blushing so much?' I was not letting her get away with this one.
"W-what! I'm not blushing!"
'Ching, your face is redder than my shirt. What would you call that?'
We were both laughing now. It was all so exciting; Ching had been going after Abyo for nearly as long as I had been chasing Garu. Now, at least one of us had finally gotten her man.
Ching stroked Won's beak as she finished laughing. "All right, so we might have taken a little stroll on the beach."
'And that's not all, is it?' I scrawled back.
She swatted my arm, blushing even more now.
"Of course it's not! Anyway, I might have kissed him. And," she took a deep breath, "he might have kissed me back."
My eyes nearly popped out of my skull.
'Are you kidding me! ABYO kissed you back!'
This was great!
But then I sighed. If only it were so easy to win my Garu's heart…
Ching immediately recognized the look in my eyes.
"Hey, Pucca, don't worry about it. Abyo's a lot different from Garu, you know. He's just grown up a little more, while Garu's always been… well, Garu."
'I've known that, Ching, but how does that help me? Garu's always so indifferent to me.'
A spark immediately lit in Ching's eyes.
"And that is where you're wrong, Pucca."
I gave her a skeptic look.
'All right, then, shoot.'
"He-llo! Why else would he stay with you all night! And he did look pretty cozy with you this morning."
I blinked. She was... right.
How, exactly, had I forgotten about that?
"And you should have seen him when he brought you in! He looked ready to pass out - he did, actually, later - and he never let go of you. He wouldn't even let them put you on the ambulance! The chefs had to persuade the paramedics to let him ride in the ambulance with you. You still call that indifference?"
A slow smile began creeping up my face. 'He really did all that?' My hands were shaking in excitement.
"Of course he did! Pucca, I have never seen a guy look so anxious before." Her eyes suddenly widened. "You know, he actually cried while we were in the theater. Cried, Pucca! Have you ever seen Garu cry before?"
There was no way that Garu could have cried over me.
Ching was smiling at me triumphantly now.
"Anything else you'd like to-"
She was interrupted by a soft knock at the door.
"Come in!" Ching cheerily replied.
A doctor walked in, carrying a clipboard in her hands.
"I'm glad to see you're awake, Pucca. Feeling any better?" she asked.
Ching scooted over to the chair as I nodded.
The doctor smiled. "That's very good. Now, I need to check a few things, okay?" She removed the stethoscope from around her neck. "Take a deep breath."
She checked my heartbeat, then my blood pressure, temeperature, and all of that doctor stuff.
"Well, your fever's nearly gone now. Your monitor indicates that it spiked to nearly forty-one degrees Celsius last night, but it decreased to thirty-eight after a few minutes (1)."
My eyes widened and Ching grinned back at me. Was that why Garu had held me?
"It's almost back to a healthy thirty-seven now." She scribbled something on her clipboard. "Could I see your arm, please?"
I pulled back the covers a bit so that my left arm was exposed. She pushed on it gently. It barely hurt, but that was only because of the pain meds they had me on.
"Does this hurt?"
I shook my hand- only a little.
"Good, good," she murmured as she continued to scribble on her board. "Okay. Do you feel any pain when you sit up, move around…?"
I shook my head.
"All right, Pucca, you're looking great. We can let you out tomorrow if your fever's back down, but you'll need to be in a wheelchair for about two weeks or until your ribs are fully healed. It shouldn't take long; they were only fractured."
She finished her scribbling, then sat up and walked towards the door.
"I'll come back to check on you later."
"Oh, and Pucca? Go easy on Garu, 'kay? He's had a rough time." She winked cheerily at me, then left.
There was a short pause. It didn't last very long.
Laughter bubbled out from both of us as Ching rushed over to hug me again.
"Can you believe it, Pucca? He so cares about you!"
I laughed and nodded. Never would anyone have thought that Garu - silent, stolid Garu - would do something so tender, so caring… especially to me. Pen in hand, I quickly scribbled a note to Ching-
'I guess you were right.'
"Of course I'm right, Pucca! And you know what? I'm going go get Abyo to help me get you two together."
An odd sensation came over me. The kind of feeling you get when it looks like rain after a drought.
We sat for a few minutes, laughing and hugging one another, when someone knocked at the door for the third time that day.
"Come in!" Ching called.
The door opened slightly.
My heart did its usual flip upon seeing him- my Garu.
He walked into the room, looking a little overwhelmed by all of the hugging.
I resisted the urge to giggle. He was so cute.
Ching stood up and, giving me one last hug, said, "Hope you feel better soon, Pucca," and left.
'Good luck!' she mouthed, smiling.
Ever the gentleman, Garu held the door open for her as she walked out, then closed it behind her. He stood there a while, fidgeting nervously.
There was a heavy silence over us.
It was an uncomfortable silence. The kind of silence where you want to say something, but think that whatever you say will shatter the moment forever and leave you worse off than you were during the silence.
It was that kind of silence.
I sighed. He clearly wasn't going to do anything anytime soon, so it was up to me to take action. I patted the space next to me on the bed.
He jumped slightly at the sudden movement, then slowly walked over to me. He sat down.
My cheeks flushed as I remembered the last time he had been on this bed… Was he thinking about that right now?
I looked up at him, and our eyes met. He quickly looked away, his face coloring slightly. A small grin lit on my face. Apparently, he was.
He looked back after a while, and hesitantly extended a hand to my face.
My pulse sped up.
His hand gently touched my forehead. He nodded to himself, then withdrew his hand.
That silence began circling around us again, waiting for a chance to strike.
I wanted to talk to him so badly… but what could I do?
Inspiration hit me like a bolt of lightning
I pulled it out from under the covers with the pen, then held it out to him. He eyed it apprehensively, then looked at me. Clearly he didn't understand.
Again it looked like I would have to be the one to do something around here.
I was about to write something down, when a sudden thought hit me-
It's been nearly ten years since we've said a thing to one another.
The gravity of the situation hit me then.
But was I gonna let that stop me? Of course not!
'So, how are you?' I wrote. Painfully simple, but a good way to start nonetheless.
Understanding finally dawned in his eyes as I handed him the pen and paper.
He looked at the question for a minute.
'I guess I'm all right. How are you feeling?'
I felt the old ease of our friendship return as he handed the pen back to me. Sitting up so I could write more easily, I wrote back, 'Much better. The doctor says I can leave tomorrow, actually. As long as my fever doesn't go back up.'
His eyes widened. You know, he actually looked… happy… that I was doing so well.
'That's good news. Do the chefs know yet?'
I shook my head, then took the pen from him.
'Anyway, how are you? Ching told me about what happened.'
For a minute, he looked annoyed, but he shook himself and the look quickly vanished.
'It's nothing I can't handle,' he shrugged.
Again, I resisted the urge to giggle. He could be so stubborn sometimes.
We went on like that for hours, talking about meaningless things. I asked how Mio was doing, and he asked about Abyo and Ching. He actually looked surprised when he heard what had happened between them.
Ironic, isn't it, that the best ninja in town was completely clueless when it came to love?
But all too soon the visiting hours ended and it was time for him to leave. He winced a little as he stood up.
Before he could leave me, though, I grabbed his hand and mouthed, 'Thank you,' to him. He grumbled and blushed a little, but I could have sworn I saw a small smile.
And then he was gone.
I lay back on my pillow, smiling.
Things weren't perfect yet, but they were definitely getting better.
It must have been hours until I was exhausted enough to go to bed. I didn't even bother to pull the blanket over myself.
Four hours had passed since I had left Pucca's side.
Four hours I had trained and practiced and meditated until I was ready to collapse.
And yet a fog persisted over my mind.
I felt completely numb, like everything that had happened was only a dream.
Hell, maybe it was.
Tossing and turning, I only just managed to make myself comfortable. Everything felt too hot and too cold at the same time.
Just ignore it and get some sleep, Garu, I chastised myself.
Surprisingly, that seemed to work. The numbness in my mind spread throughout my body as sleep overtook me. I was dimly aware of Mio wrapping himself around my head.
All right, Mio, you can sleep here tonight.
His comforting purr rumbled through my head as I fell further and further into sleep.
I suppose he does deserve it, after all he did yesterday…
Then it hit me-
I must've jumped ten feet in the air as the full reality of yesterday's events slapped me full in the face.
Great Kami, had I done what I thought I had?
Mio was growling from across the room. He clearly disapproved of my actions earlier.
Well, whatever. He could deal with it. I, on the other hand, had more pressing matters to deal with.
Like that fact that I had-
I could hardly even think it. It was just too much for any one person to take in all at once like that. Right?
Angrily, I clutched my face and groaned. There was no way I was going to get any sleep now.
I stood up and headed for the door. Maybe a good long bath would calm my nerves…
And I'd better make it extra hot.
It seemed to take less time than usual to reach my secluded haven. Nothing like a busy mind to make time fly, I guess.
I snorted slightly.
The air around me began to heat up noticeably as I entered the clearing. Even in the darkness of night the steam was clearly visible.
But something felt off-
I could hear something, almost feel a presence there…
Drawing my sword, I took a step forward.
For one crazy moment, I thought it might be her- but then my rational mind quickly extinguished that thought.
I took another step forward, but to my eternal shame, I-
I stepped on a twig.
And it broke.
To a ninja, such an act is nigh unforgivable. But there was little time to think about that as I heard a loud splash and-
As usual, it was easy to dodge Abyo's attack. He landed just behind me, his back turned, and apparently hadn't even seen me. I rolled my eyes and sheathed my sword. Even with incidents like this one, he continued to insist that kung fu was better than ninjitsu.
I tapped him on the back.
He whirled around, looking ready to yell again, then stopped dead as he saw me.
Raising an eyebrow, I looked him up and down- What the heck do you think you're doing?
"Oh, uh, Garu. It was just, um…you," he said, looking rather chagrined.
A short while later and we were both relaxing in the hot spring. Abyo explained to me that he had found this place while searching for Pucca yesterday, and thought it looked like a good place to relax for a while.
He looked almost as sore as I was.
I sighed and sank into the water up to my nose.
There was a calm silence.
Abyo broke it after a while. "The stars sure look pretty tonight."
I looked up at them. They looked the same as ever to me.
"Almost as pretty as when I saw them with Ching." His voice was oddly soft now.
Why was he telling me this? I don't think I've ever shown any interest in his love life before. Or anyone else's, for that matter.
Abyo turned and looked at me with a far-off look in his eyes. "I know it sounds crazy, but I really do think I love her, Garu." He laughed softly. "Last week she was just Ching to me, but now…" He shook his head, smiling to himself.
This is why I stayed away from love. It does crazy things to you.
Then he suddenly turned back to me.
"You know, Garu, Pucca hasn't been so bad lately."
Now this really didn't look good. My body began to prepare itself to run at a moment's notice.
"You should take a chance with her. Hey!"
He threw his hands up defensively as I shot him a murderous look. He knew full well that Pucca was a forbidden subject with me.
"I'm just sayin', Garu. I took a chance, and just look at what happened to me! I'm still alive, aren't I?"
I rolled my eyes. Ching clearly had never knocked him out so that she could kiss him half to death.
Abyo sighed. He knew that things had never been easy between me and Pucca after that day on the beach.
I grumbled loudly and sank down further, praying he would just let this go.
"Garu, I'm your friend, okay? I just want to see you happy. I hate seeing how miserable the two of you are." He got a strange look in his eye then.
"Don't you at least want her to be happy?"
I grumbled again.
There was a short silence. Then, reluctantly, I nodded.
I mean, who doesn't want to see their ex-best friend happy?
As long as it doesn't involve chasing me anymore…
Abyo began to smile triumphantly. "Then don't you think you owe her at least that much?"
I flinched. That had definitely struck a nerve.
"Garu, she's crazy about you. If you're even just friendly to her- would that really be so bad?"
He had me there. So I thought about it-
She actually hadn't seemed so bad lately. Our visit today had almost been… fun.
If you could call swapping a notebook back and forth fun.
I guess it really wouldn't be so bad… especially if it made her happy.
I nodded my head again, this time with a little more confidence.
Abyo grinned and took a playful swipe at me. "See? You'll be fine."
We started a splash fight after that, but Abyo got tired and left after a few minutes.
And once again, I was alone with these strange thoughts.
Could I really patch things up with Pucca?
I knew the answer- I had to.
Like Abyo said, I owed her that much, if not more.
It actually didn't seem that hard when I thought about it… if I could pretend that things had never fallen apart between us, that she had never loved me-
But I knew instantly that I could never pretend that. It was just too much a part of our relationship… thing… whatever we had.
If even that much.
I had all but ignored her for the past five years. My schedule was mapped out so that I would see her as little as possible.
What had that ever done for me? Abyo was right, I was close to miserable living this life of hide-and-seek. It was most unbecoming of a ninja.
Things needed to change. If I had learned anything over the past couple of days, it was that.
With a smile I remembered how adorable she had looked with her hair down around her shoulders. Almost like when she was little…
I shook myself. The last thing I needed was to blend those two Puccas together. The Pucca of my childhood was dead to me now. She had entirely taken her place.
And yet that, too, was untrue. The feelings that had been evoked in me- the protectiveness, the worry, the relief- they all said something different.
I thought for a moment about what Abyo had said. Maybe, then, I really did-
Walls immediately flew up inside my mind, shielding me from the forbidden.
All I wanted was for her to be happy. And safe.
But my heart sang a different song.
(1) Forty-one degrees Celsius is about one-oh-six Fahrenheit. You'll actually die if it gets over one-oh-seven. Thirty-seven is the norm (98.6 F).
This chapter actually feels short. See what Chapter 3 did to me? SEE! I actually had to put myself in writing rehab for a day or two, it affected me that much. Totally worth it, though.
Quick tidbit on Garu's character- He doesn't believe in love, and is really hard on himself about it. A lot of that is because of his father's death. He also feels a very strong sense of duty/honor and the need to fix what he's messed up. That's why Abyo managed to manipulate him like that- the guilt trip. So Garu's not really OOC, he's just got psychological issues! W00t.
Chapter 5 will be up next week- and twenty reviews would be wonderful, don't you think? I think so. So review, and Chapter 5 MIGHT be a day or two early (hint hint)!