Characters: Teru, Light, Kiyomi, Ryuk, Nakajima.
Word Count: 3,848
Notes: Poor Teru is just so easy to be cruel to. In this story, he comes down with the chickenpox, and comes to believe that he's going to die. Later, he runs into God. Er, I want to thank hervictory for listening to me babble endlessly about this fic as I wrote it, and for letting me bounce ideas off of her. ♥
Warning: I know that in canon, Teru actually lives in Kyoto while Light and Takada live in Tokyo. I decided to ignore that fact for this fanfic—given the distance between the two and the cost from getting from one to the other, it doesn't even make sense for him to live there. So…they're all in Tokyo, I suppose? Please don't eat my brain for this.
It's five minutes until his alarm goes off, and though Teru is lying stiff as a board in his bed, he hasn't slept for more than half an hour all night long. This is making him crazy. He requires at least eight hours of sleep to function at work (he can manage on six, but not as well as he'd like, and if it's only six then at the end of the day he's too tired give God's work the attention it deserves) and he has had 29 minutes. Not even thirty. Twenty-nine. If he could have stayed asleep an extra minute, it might have been okay. Maybe if he had slept for an even number of minutes, he could have somehow rid himself of the reason that he isn't sleeping in the first place. Maybe that doesn't make sense, but he doesn't care about that, not now. Not with his skin shrieking and spitting the way it is.
He seems to have developed a rather hideous rash. Hundreds of angry red pustules coat his arms, legs, and torso, each one punishment for an unnamed and inexcusable sin. The pustules itch terribly, more like fire than skin, and he can't sleep with this, can't think about anything other than why this is happening. He showers every morning at 6:15, and he hasn't eaten anything that hasn't graced his lips a million times before. Except for tonight, he gets eight hours of sleep every 24-hour period. He hasn't touched anything unusual, hasn't spent time with any sick people (he wouldn't, ever), so there's no logical reason for these fiery red bumps.
Despite being so tired that getting up seems about as easy as scaling Mt. Fuji on foot, Teru drags himself from his bed at 6:00 AM. He doesn't hit the snooze button (he's never touched it in his life) and he doesn't collapse onto the couch for a nap. He eats his breakfast, chokes down toast that he lacks the appetite for, and then he takes a shower, gets dressed and leaves for work. The blisters on his face can be explained away as bad acne (maybe that's what this is, but acne doesn't itch and doesn't stop him from sleeping) and he sees no reason in the world why he can't ignore the itching during work. He won't let this interfere with his routine. Nothing short of God Himself will interfere with Teru Mikami's routine.
After a deluge of morning meetings he could hardly keep his eyes open for, Teru sits at his desk and examines his forearm. Red spots and bulging blisters obscure his veins and wind round his wrist like a bracelet, and he scratches it, knowing he shouldn't. Once he starts he rakes his nails down the length of his arm, bites his lip when he accidentally draws blood. He knows that he should disinfect it, shouldn't do the exact same thing to his other arm. But the unevenness bothers him (his arms are lumpy and uneven enough as it is), and both of them are still itching terribly. He wants to tear his skin from his flesh and be done with it, but he resists, Drags himself to the sink and washes the blood from his arms.
By the time he gets back to his desk he's so exhausted that he doesn't see how he'll make it through the day. This kills him. He has to make it through the day. Teru has a lengthy afternoon meeting, and hours of preparation for the court session coming up three days from now. And after that, he has to research criminals, fill up a page in the Death Note. He has a schedule to adhere to, and it doesn't matter how horrid he feels. And oh, he does feel horrid. His head is beginning to pound, and the toast he ate in the morning is sitting uncomfortably in his stomach. Every so often, he's seized with a coughing fit, and that's the only time he's distracted from the maddening itch.
Something is wrong with him. Something is dreadfully wrong with him. He combs through a scanty list of possibilities—purposefully small to stave off hypochondria, he doesn't know more than he must about medicine—and all he comes up with is skin cancer. Which doesn't make sense and he knows it, but all the same he can't get the thought out of his head. And so he stares resolutely at a stack of important documents on his desk, reads through them in a vain attempt to distract himself. Ten seconds into this he's raking at his skin again, and fifteen seconds after that his secretary, Nakajima, is hovering over him with crossed arms and a concerned smile. "Mikami," she says, leaning up against the wall. "It may not be my place to say this, but do you really think you should be here in your condition? Chickenpox is pretty contagious, and while I'm sure most of us are immune to it, some of us might not be, and I have no idea whether your clients are or not. You really ought to be quarantining yourself."
Teru bristles, says that he hasn't got chickenpox, that's ridiculous. He must have had shots for that at some point when he was younger, all children do. "What makes you so certain that that's what this is?" he says, voice small and slightly strangled from the coughing fits he's been enduring all day.
"Oh," she says, chuckling softly and brushing a lock of hair behind her ear. "My little ones all had it a few weeks ago. That rash is burned into my brain, I'd know it anywhere." Her smile fades and she leans in close (too close!) and says that he really ought to go home. "You might have to pass your upcoming case onto one of the other lawyers here, too—you're only going to get worse from here, and you'll be in no shape to go to court in three days."
Teru shakes his head, balls his itchy fingers into fists (fists! Teru would never use his fists against Nakajima, but he's upset right now. He might have skin cancer). He tells her that he can't go home, he has too much work to do. "I have to prepare for the case," he says, gnawing on a pustule that's erupted on his lower lip.
Nakajima seems to accept this, because she fades quickly into the background, goes to speak with someone less busy than he about getting the copy machine fixed. There is no reason in the world to believe that this is cancer—cancer takes far more time to develop than this. He's never had chickenpox, and a shot is something he'd remember vividly. He'll schedule a doctor's appointment, take time off to avoid infecting his coworkers and clients (though the idea of wrecking his schedule makes his guts feel full of shifting pebbles). For now, he'll do what he can to distract himself. For now, he will do his job.
Despite Ryuk's repeated requests that he do something interesting, Teru spends the twenty minutes between doing God's will and his self-imposed bed time scouring the Internet for information on chickenpox. The disgusting pictures he finds of the associated skin rash match his, and the symptoms they describe are spot on. After consulting a thermometer, he finds that his temperature has climbed to 103°. No wonder he's shaking so hard, no wonder Ryuk's horrific grin keeps shifting in and out of focus. So, until a doctor tells him otherwise (he has an appointment for tomorrow afternoon) he has chickenpox. And all the risks associated with having the disease as an adult.
Those risks are terrifying. All the complications are far more common in adults than in children, and they've got long names like varicella meningoencephalitis. Teru does not want varicella meningoencephalitis. He does not want shingles or pneumonia or transient hepatitis. He doesn't want chickenpox in the first place, but these side effects seem infinitely, intolerably worse. Inevitably worse, because Teru can't see himself making a clean recovery. Not with every square inch of his skin sizzling like meat on a grill. Not with Ryuk saying, "hey Teru, want me to tell you what your lifespan is?" again and again with no intention of actually telling him. Teru doesn't want to know, but every time Ryuk offers, the numbers dwindle further in his head. By the time he switches off his computer, he's convinced that he will die.
And Ryuk says, "y'know, it's probably that lady's fault…what was her name, Nakajima? You humans spread germs to each other; she probably picked some up off her kids and gave them to you. So you should thank her for that when you go back to work." Teru does his best to ignore her. He won't place the blame on anybody, or he'll have anger broiling in his head along with the fever. He comforts himself with the fact that, if he dies from this, Nakajima may have to pay some sort of penalty. Perhaps not. Teru can't remember anything about the law right now, can't think of anything except his own impending doom. So. Bed. If he can sleep, he'll deal with this in the morning.
Morning comes and Teru can't bring himself to leave his bed. Despite shifting his work obligations onto his coworkers for the day, he still has to go to the doctor, and he still has to meet with Takada. If she's immune to his illness, that is. Infecting one of God's helpers would be reprehensible (even if he sometimes wishes she were gone so he could take her place beside Lord Kira), and they can do this over the phone if need be. He likes spending time with Takada, but he doubts he'll be good company today. Doubts he can do anything today except lie in bed raking claws down his spots and whimpering to himself about how he's going to die. His throat is burning, it's as raw and itchy as the rest of him, and his eyelids are dotted with pustules. His stomach feels like somebody stomped on it. Every time he coughs he thinks it's pneumonia, and every pulse through his head is meningoencephalitis. This is awful, and Ryuk's endless complaints about how there aren't any apples in the house aren't making things any better.
All the same, he'll acquiesce. He can't stay in bed past 9 AM at the latest, no matter what he has planned for the day. Ryuk isn't going to shut up until Teru makes a trip to the grocery store, and as much as he loathes the idea of going before grocery day, he forces himself from the sweaty confines of his bed and dresses as quickly as possible. Dons a mask because he doesn't want to infect people, doesn't want to catch something else while his immune system is preoccupied. Wintertime means that the world is teeming with germs, and the last thing he needs on top of oozing skin is an ocean of snot to contend with. He shoves his hands into a pair of childish, Keroppi-stitched mittens that were far too big when his mother bought them sixteen years ago, tells himself he'll keep them on and not tear himself to shreds while he's outside.
The wind makes the itching more bearable, and the cold, biting air is something else to focus on. Ryuk tries to convince him to take a different street than he usually does, because they have better apples at a shop he used to go to with Kira, but Teru is having none of it. The grocery store where he buys all his food has perfectly acceptable apples, and Teru's routine is wrecked enough as it is. Ryuk's whining means nothing in the face of this.
But Ryuk's whining isn't all that deters him. Two blocks into the trip he spots Takada, bedecked in a luxurious fur coat that swallows her neck whole. She's laughing loudly, manicured fingers splayed out in front of her mouth. Her companion is staring blandly in her direction, feigning interest in whatever she thinks is so funny. Teru doesn't notice much about what he looks like. He doesn't notice anything once his eyes land on the name floating over his head. That's all it is, a name. There are no unreadable numbers dancing beneath it, there's nothing, and if Ryuk was telling him the truth then that means that this person, Takada's bored companion, is God. Teru is standing twenty feet away from God with his skin coated in hideous spots and blisters, wearing a surgical mask and Keroppi mittens.
The fact that he always takes this route to get to the grocery store means nothing in the face of God. Despite his exhaustion he's tempted to flee, but he doesn't get the chance to do that. God is staring up at Ryuk, and Takada is waving him over. She's rewarded for this with a jab in her side. Teru doesn't know if he ought to respond to her, if God wants Teru to leave this place. God hadn't meant for him to know who He was, but Teru would never use that information against Him, never write the name Light Yagami down in his Death Note. Still God looks upset and Teru doesn't know what to do. He stands motionless until Ryuk floats over to God and says, "yo, Light, move out of the way. Teru here's gonna buy me some apples."
God must realize that there's no escaping the situation, so He heaves a sigh and tells Ryuk that he'll get his apples soon enough. "Hello Mikami," He says in a voice like silk ties and gourmet coffee beans. "I was certainly not expecting to see you today…or, to be frank, ever. At least not until I was ready. Anyway, I suppose everything can't always go as expected. It's a pleasure to meet you." And with that God reaches out His flawless, silky hand and…what? Does he expect Teru to take it? To shake His holy hand with ancient Keroppi mittens that are sticking to the pustules on his fingers? Would it offend God more to offer such a hideous hand or to withhold it? Teru doesn't know, so he stalls by giving into a flurry of coughs that has been threatening his throat for the past two minutes. God withdraws His hand and asks if Teru is feeling alright.
He shakes his head, tells God that he might be contagious and that he ought to get going, shouldn't stick around to spread his germs. "You're wearing a mask," God says, as if that will be enough to stop a viral rampage. God should be plowing down the street in a crazed attempt to escape him, but God is standing there staring at him with a bemused smirk.
"Do you have some sort of skin disease?" Takada asks, squinting up at his forehead, the only visible skin on Teru's body. "You've got spots all over your forehead—they look uncomfortable. You said you're contagious, is it chickenpox or something?" When she says this Teru's feels his face sizzling. He doesn't see why this needs to be talked about, why he can't simply extract himself from God's glow. He doesn't want to be seen like this, too weak to stand up straight, hair uncombed and eyes barely focusing. This shouldn't be God's first impression of His loyal servant.
He nods, tells Takada that he thinks that's what it is. "If either one of you is not immune, then I sincerely apologize…I…I should be on my way…"
"Don't worry," God says, extending His hand again, briefly eyeing Teru's childish mittens, but ignoring them and taking his hand all the same. "I had a horrible case of chickenpox when I was seven, so if life is even remotely fair, then I should be immune. Kiyomi had a shot, so she should be fine too. I must say, I'm surprised that you aren't immune—I would think that someone as intelligent as you would have thought to get a shot if they'd never caught it. You do know that chickenpox can be fatal in adults, don't you?"
Teru doesn't know which part of God's small speech is the hardest to deal with. It seems absurd, unacceptable that God's perfect face was once marred by searing spots. And the fact that He knows Takada's medical history—something that could only come up in conversation that did not pertain to Kira!—doesn't thrill him, either. Worst of all (he knows this now) is God's blatant disapproval of him. Of course he should have gotten a shot. He'd never gotten one as a child due to his mother's lack of health insurance, and after that it had simply never occurred to him. This oversight is unacceptable. If he's missed something so simple, then how can God trust him with anything anymore? "I…my apologies," he says, stifling a coughing fit and then giving into it seconds later.
"There's no need to apologize," God says, loosening His grip on Teru's mitten, which falls to the floor once He lets go. "It's just something I thought you might have done. Some people don't believe in vaccinations. I'm sure you have your reasons. In any case, I hope this isn't interfering with your work?"
Teru shakes his head, assures his Lord that he would never neglect something so important just because he was feeling a little under the weather. His blister-specked lips catch uncomfortably on the face mask as he speaks, but he keeps at it, asks them where they're headed off to. "Oh," God says, gorgeous smile spreading across His shining, unmarked face. "I'm taking Kiyomi to the street where her chauffeur will be picking her up. And if Ryuk's face is any indication, then you're about to get him some apples. After that Mikami, I would advise getting some rest. You'll need it if you're going to do your job properly."
He raises a dainty eyebrow, makes it clear that what He means is that if Teru doesn't do it right, there will be consequences. He nods slowly, not wanting to disturb the burning blisters on his neck and chin. Ryuk whines about how long it's taking for anybody to buy him apples, and so Teru thinks that it's probably time to move on. He doesn't want to acknowledge that the mitten on the floor belongs to him, but Takada stoops to pick it up for him, moving only briefly from her death grip on God's arm. He takes it with his eyes squeezed shut, tries his best to disassociate himself from the embarrassing garment. "Oh, Keroppi?" God says, chuckling slightly, apparently deciding to comment on his horrible mittens after all. "My sister really liked him when she was little. She threw a huge tantrum because our mother bought her a Hello Kitty lunchbox instead of a Keroppi one. I didn't think that was something you'd be into, Mikami."
"I…I'm n-not, m-my Lord, I just…" He trails off, responding to the hard line of God's mouth. Ryuk cackles and says that if he calls Light that in public, he's going to get pissed off. Makes another inane comment about apples, which makes Teru want to shred his leathery bat wings to pieces. "I'm sorry. That was out of line. And I…don't like Sanrio, I just…just don't have anything else, and I needed something to keep myself from scratching, I…should be going. Ryuk. Apples. Uh…I hope that you and Takada have a n-nice…nice day."
With that he whirls around, walks away as quickly as his trembling limbs will allow him.
His doctor's appointment is fast approaching. If he intends to arrive on time, he'll have to drag himself out of the nest he's made on the couch out of his coat and several pillows. He wasn't even strong enough to stagger to his bed, and that kills him. Teru eats a balanced diet, Teru goes to the gym several times every week. Even with chickenpox (fatal in adults!), he shouldn't so pitifully dizzy and weak. His skin is crackling and spitting and screaming at him, and his head is being beaten into the couch with a rock. His breath is like steam from a tea kettle, his body the kettle itself. Moving is unthinkable. Thinking is unthinkable. If he lets his mind do anything, it races headlong to the humiliation he had suffered at the hands of God.
God must think such terrible things about him. God cannot possibly want Teru Mikami, the plague-carrying, Sanrio-loving, useless, idiotic failure helping him with something so important as cleansing the earth of criminal scum. Any moment now, Takada will call him and tell him it's over, that Kira no longer has any need of him and that he should expect a heart attack soon. As if she'd even waste her time telling him. As if they'd let him off the hook with something so quick and easy as a heart attack. Oh God, it feels like he's dying already.
Teru hugs a pillow to his chest, ducks his head and presses his face into it, tries his best to suppress his tears. He loathes the messiness of crying, and he doesn't want to deal with Ryuk's snarky commentary. In time, he does succumb to a brief sobbing fit, segueing off into a coughing fit, and ending finally with pulse-racing panic when his cell phone rings. He stares wide-eyed at the unfamiliar number, and opens the phone with shaking hands. "H-hello?" he mumbles, voice jagged with coughing and still muffled by the face mask he hasn't had the energy to remove.
"Is this Teru Mikami?" says a voice so beautiful it nearly breaks him. Teru can't believe that anyone so lovely would deign to speak his name. It is God on the line, God Himself calling to tell Teru of the torturous death that awaits him. But God does not speak to him of death. Instead God says, "I just wanted to make sure that you got home alright. You looked dreadfully ill, and I'm a little concerned. I should have offered to walk with you, or we could have had Kiyomi's chauffeur drop you off…it didn't occur to us at the time for some reason. I apologize for being so inconsiderate."
Tears leak from his eyes with abandon, and Teru assures his God that He's done nothing wrong, that despite the fact that he feels like he's been stung by a thousand bees and slow-roasted on a spit afterwards, he's fine. When God offers to accompany him to any doctor's appointments he might have made, Teru has to bite the insides of his cheeks to keep from squealing. He doesn't want to put God out, and tells Him so, but in the end, he accepts the offer, makes plans, and then waits for Him in his cocoon of coat and pillows. A manic, sloppy grin stretching across his blistered face.