Heaven's Not Enough
"Tsubaki? Tsubaki, hey! Answer, will you? Tsubaki?"
The warm, familiar voice got gradually closer, pulling the dozing girl out of her light sleep.
"There you were, Tsubaki." Ah, she never grew tired of the soothing sound of this warm individual's voice.
She made an effort to lazily open her eyes to look up at the tall person standing above her and casting a shadow over her laying form.
"What is it, brother?" she asked softly, not entirely awake nor asleep.
Her brother smiled lopsidedly at her.
"You really shouldn't sleep outside like that, Tsubaki. You'll catch a cold one of these days," he cajoled her but she didn't seem to be paying much attention to his attentions. "Ah, yes, as I was saying, mother is looking for you. She needs your help with dinner, she said."
The raven-haired girl pulled herself into a sitting position, gently rubbing the sleep from her eyes.
"I'll go see her right away," she promised while stretching her stiffened limbs. There was nothing quite as gratifying as having naps under the blazing summer sun outside in the yard of your wide, cozy home.
Her brother nodded to her and went off somewhere before she could ask him where exactly he was going. She shrugged and yawned, deciding she was going to meet him at dinner anyways, so there was no need to rush – he wasn't going anywhere for a long time anyway, so all was well.
Enjoying a carefree life with your wholesome, lovely family, spending days upon days of just helping out around the house and being endlessly happy – she felt that this feeling of content was only worthy of heaven's inhabitants. She didn't know what she'd done to deserve such a wonderful family and such worry-free days, but she was grateful to whatever deity had granted her this happiness.
"Now let's go see what mom needs help with," the girl said to herself merrily, getting up and dusting herself off from the small tresses of grass that were still clinging to her clothes. She set off in direction of the large house of the Natsukasas, humming a merry tune to herself.
"She must have taken quite a hit, but you can rest assured – she's going to be alright."
The tension that had kept the small group of people completely wired seemed to finally loosen its hold on them as they heaved a collective sigh of relief. They had been beyond worried the past couple of days so hearing some good news for their friend's welfare really help them unwind a bit.
But one sole individual did not seem at all comforted by this information.
"Your face looks like there's something else you're not telling us yet that isn't at all as pleasant as what you just said." The person spoke in a tight, almost offensive voice. His words drew everyone's attention, making them consider as well.
"You are quite a sharp young man. Indeed, there's a bit more," the man with the glasses said, adjusting the frame of his spectacles higher on the bridge of his nose. "Even though your friend's vitals have stabilized and her life is no longer in danger, she refuses to wake up. She won't react to any stimuli at all so we are guessing it is her wish to stay unconscious."
The worry-ridden looks seized hold of all youngsters' faces at once as well at this piece of information, and their elder informer immediately felt bad for having to be the messenger of the bad news.
The most heart-wrenching was the expression of the adolescent who had prodded the information out of the man though – the poor thing looked shell-shocked and mortified at the same time, and at a complete loss as to how to take in what he'd just heard.
"Then… what you're saying is that she might… not wake up?" His friend group all stiffened as he said the words they were all thinking but no one dared voice. "Ever?"
A small droplet of cold sweat rolled down the side of the face of the perceptive teen.
"Not unless she decides otherwise, I'm afraid."
It felt like the words of the specialist were a life sentence.
Tsubaki didn't know how much time had passed since she had first felt that she was in heaven. She couldn't even remember anything from before a little time ago, how such great fortune had befallen her family and how weapons no longer seemed necessary in the world, so both she and her brother had gone out of service. He had successfully mastered the way of the sword and had returned not a few short months ago, thus having her whole merry family gathered together under the same roof, much like in the earlier days.
This was complete happiness.
The world was at peace, her family was together and she felt surrounded by more love than she thought anyone had been recipient of in their whole lives.
But lately, she felt like there was something amiss in this whole situation of utter idyll. She couldn't put her finger on what exactly it was, but there was just something generally very wrong about the picture.
This was happiness. This was Heaven.
So why did she feel like there was something not quite right with it?
"Mom?" the navy-eyed girl began, drawing the attention of her mother who was currently weaving a brush through her long raven hair. The elder Natsukasa woman had always loved to style and play with her daughter's hair.
"Hmm?" she murmured, continuing her ministrations without halt.
"I don't think I've ever been happier than the past couple of weeks."
The elder woman smiled brightly.
"Is that so? I'm really glad you feel that way, Tsubaki."
The addressed girl pinned her gaze to the floor guiltily.
"But even so, it feels like there's something still missing. I feel like… there's something I'm forgetting and it makes me feel uncomfortable…" Incomplete…
"You're probably just missing your friends, dear," her mother supplied helpfully, pulling her daughter's hair into a neat, loose braid. "You haven't gone to play with them at all lately, so you're probably growing lonely without them. Why not go see them tomorrow?"
The Natsukasa heiress considered her mother's words and found that she might be quite right and that that was the reason she felt discontent with the positively heavenly setting she was living in. No idyll was complete without Kid-kun's wailing in anguish about probably not having triple-checked that the candles on both sides of his father's portrait were the same height and Maka-chan's bashing of Soul-kun for being molested by Blair-chan again.
A brilliant smile lit up her face.
"Yeah, I'll definitely do that! Thanks, mom!"
The other woman only smiled warmly at her offspring and nodded once reassuringly at her.
Yes, this was definitely complete happiness.
She stood on the threshold of the doorframe, flowers in her hands but an intensely burning look in her eyes as she saw him there again, on the chair next to the sickbed, watching over her vigilantly again.
Her hold on the flowers tightened.
She entered the room and placed them into the already packed vase. She made small-talk with him and he answered jubilantly, in that all-familiar tone that she knew well and that had at times annoyed the daylights out of her.
It annoyed her now as well.
"Shouldn't you try to get some real sleep at home every now and then? I understand why you'd want to stay by her side at all times, but there's no guarantee that she'll—"
"A man greater than God like myself doesn't need to sleep in a bed to be well-rested! The day I need small folks to worry about my big self is the day of my complete downfall!" He laughed raucously, making a vein pop into visibility on his friend's temple.
"Will you be serious for a moment? I'm trying to make a point here—"
"I've told you a million times – I'm always serious," he said confidently, interrupting her again. The girl gritted her teeth and eyed him warily.
"Black Star, why do you refuse to make your peace with the situation and just take a bit better care of yourself? If she could see you now, Tsubaki-chan would definitely be appalled—" It annoyed him endlessly that the way she said it made it sound like she was already dead or something.
"Why do you keep trying so hard to make me leave?" he asked her, cutting her off before she could say anything else that would spike his short temper.
"Because the doctor said that there's no guarantee she'll ever wake up from her coma. It's all in her mind, so all you can really do is just—" Here she struggled for a word. Then she noticed the positively murderous look her friend was giving her from across the hospital room.
"I get it now," he said, rising to his full height that was a head and a half higher than the visitor's. He advanced menacingly towards her and—despite herself—she couldn't help but flinch back a bit. "You want to get me to give up just because you have. So you can feel better about yourself."
The grass-colored eyes of the girl widened and an offended look seized her features.
"That's not what I was saying—"
"Of course it is. You just don't want to admit it, because that would make you the bad one." He stopped when he was right in front of her, glaring at her without fully facing her, a malignant look in his eyes. "What, do you begrudge Tsubaki getting to take a "rest" while you have to face the ugliness of the world that's getting more and more warped every day? Do you wish you could also just "take it easy" for a while, getting to not deal with Arachnophobia and the insanity of the Kishin for a while too?"
He was only inches away from her face now, making the silent accusations of his words sink in sharper as though amplified by the close proximity.
"Do you think she's having a field day almost having herself killed for us and then needing so much time to recuperate mentally?"
Black Star's words cut deep because—though she was loath to admit it even to herself and she'd die before ever saying it out loud—they were true. She felt like a horrible person to think those things, not to mention talk about it with him of all people, and he brought all of those ugly thoughts to the forefront of her mind, making her feel even more horrible about herself.
"Do you really believe that Tsubaki is someone capable of running away from reality, Maka?"
Maka shook her head vigorously, turned on her heel and ran away from the sick room where lay the person who had always infallibly believed in her on whom it had taken her only a week to give up on. She couldn't face her partner who saw through all her masks and exposed her for her ugliness in front of that same warm, wonderful person whom she couldn't find the strength to believe in.
The ugliness of the world had warped Maka's personality to match.
Black Star stood on the same spot for a few more moments, then he heaved a sigh and went to sit down by the sick bed where his sleeping partner lay motionless for a second week now.
"Seems like I let my mouth run a bit more than absolutely necessary again, Tsubaki. So hurry up and wake up to fix this mess for me, will you?"
All the answer he got from his comatose partner was the slow intake and exhaling of air and the slow, rhythmic rise and fall of her chest.
Tsubaki had met with her friends and they had had a great time together. They'd had some real catching up to do so they'd talked and eaten ice-cream together and gone to the river for a whole day.
And while she'd had immense fun with Maka-chan, Soul-kun, Blair-chan, Kid-kun and the Thompson sisters, the happiness of the moment still felt somewhat inane. Incomplete. Hollow.
An inexplicable rift had opened between Tsubaki and her world that day, growing larger and larger as the days passed.
She could not understand its origins therefore there was no way for her to fix it.
Wasn't this supposed to be complete happiness? Wasn't this place supposed to be her heaven?
She had her friends and her family; she was lavished with love and attention and she rained those same on the people she held dear as well.
So why did she feel like she didn't belong here anymore?
Why was it that she felt she was forgetting something incredibly important?
This time it was Soul, eh?
Guess Maka still refused to see his face.
"I understand you well for wanting to stay here, Black Star, but I really do think Maka is right. You'll make yourself collapse, spending days upon days in that chair, in this room. How long has it been since you've last eaten something decent?"
"I am a man bigger than all of that, Soul!" he exulted, striking a pose. "Even without the proper nutrients for a while, it will take more than some sleeping in a chair to bring this great me down!" He laughed loudly with his hands on his hips.
Soul eyed him warily. And not only because his friend was behaving totally outrageously for someone in a sickroom where a comatose patient was stationed.
"Are you sure you don't want me to stay here for a night or two to keep her company while you get some sleep? I wouldn't mind, you know."
"Thanks, Soul. But would you agree to that if it was Maka lying there in that bed if the situation was reversed?"
The white-haired teenager sighed heavily, scratching the back of his head in frustration.
"I get it, I get it. Fine then. But I'll definitely come by later to bring you some real food – the stuff this canteen serves is just beyond hope."
Black Star grinned widely at his friend, lifting his fisted hand for him to knock their knuckles together.
"Thanks, Soul!" He then seemed to remember something just before the young man exiting the hospital room could shut the door behind him. "Oh, and, will you tell Maka sorry for me for going too far with the teasing last time? I think she might really hate me right now."
The young Scythe waved a hand without a backwards glance before setting off for home.
The happiness she once felt in this place was now gone. The plaguing thought about having missed something important, about forgetting something really crucial didn't let her sleep well or spend a minute at peace before resuming to gnaw at her mind.
Just what was it that was causing her such distress? She wasn't a person who usually gave into these sorts of emotions.
"What's your dream for the future, Tsubaki-chan?" Maka asked her one day, pulling her out of her reverie. It took the dark haired girl a moment to adjust to reality.
"Hmm, I don't really know, Maka-chan. I can't think of anything I particularly want to do." Because all she could think about lately was what it was she was forgetting, widening the rift between herself and her friends and family.
"Mine is to become the strongest and coolest Death Scythe in the world!" Soul proclaimed, flashing the pair of girls his trademark toothy grin.
"Yeah, yeah, we've heard that a million times already," Maka complained good-naturedly, shrugging her shoulders.
"Should you really act like that? After all, you promised me you'd help me train for it, right?" Soul asked slowly, making sure his friend wasn't going back on her word. She smiled reassuringly at him.
"I promise I'll help you become a Death Scythe, so relax already." She turned to her female friend again. "So what is your dream, Tsubaki-chan?" She didn't get an answer, so she looked oddly at her friend. "Tsubaki-chan, are you all right?"
The Natsukasa daughter had frozen in place, her face completely unmoving, making her into the perfect impersonation for a statue. But she didn't have time to worry about that because the exchange between her two friends had made her experience a strong sense of déjà vu that alleviated some of the feeling of loss that had accumulated in her the last couple of days since she'd discovered that there was something she was forgetting.
Something about becoming strong, about Death Scythes. Something about a promise.
A very important vow that had meant the world to her.
Then she remembered and she couldn't believe how it was that she could have forgotten in the first place.
Something so important, someone so important, and yet she had been in a complete, oblivious bliss when he was nowhere to be seen or found for weeks upon weeks.
Black Star's promise to make her into the strongest Death Scythe. Black Star's promise to achieve her brother's dream.
"Tsubaki-chan, hey! What's wrong? You look really pale! Do you want to get inside? Should we call someone?" Maka's urgent words finally began reaching her ears when she forced herself out of her stupor.
The intensity and urgency of her navy gaze when she fixed the girl with it brought her worried rant to a stop though.
"Black Star! Where is Black Star? Why didn't anyone mention anything about him? Did something happen to him? Tell me, Maka-chan!" She all but shook the girl senseless when she grabbed the younger girl by the shoulders.
The sandy blond female looked at a complete loss as to what it was that her friend was asking her.
Tsubaki let go of her buddy, getting up from her seat, eyes scanning the surroundings frantically.
How could she have thought that this was heaven even for a moment? A world where Black Star with his raucous laugh, his silly antics and his ever-encompassing confidence was nowhere to be found could never be a truly happy place to live in.
Try as she might, she couldn't remember what had happened to her. She couldn't see beyond this fog that was clouding her mind, corrupting her thoughts, trapping her inside her own head. She'd got herself a headache just recalling her partner's name and face.
Angry tears of helplessness welled up in her eyes as none of her friends could tell her where her most important person in the world was.
This was not heaven – it was torture.
They had made a promise together but he was nowhere to be seen. He had promised her he would help her achieve the dreams she had not realized she had had, but now he had gone somewhere she couldn't follow him. Instead, she was left behind in a residual, lying heaven, where you only see the things you want to see, live a lie in a protected bubble where no one gets hurt, where nobody dies.
Even if it was a lovely notion, if it was a heaven where when she got there she didn't remember him, she did not want it.
She had thought she'd found it and it had lost her.
Tsubaki collapsed on her knees on the grass under the sunny skies, crying with large, full tears for all the things she had lost irreparably.
For having slowed down and let him speed on ahead of her, leaving her behind in his wake where only the memories of him remained.
She didn't want to stay in this place where she couldn't see through her promise of helping Black Star become the strongest, of aiding him in his quest to surpass the gods.
If this was a bad dream, she wanted nothing more than to wake up from it.
She just wanted to hear his voice again…
Tsubaki's eyes snapped wide open. She felt the urge to scramble into a sitting position, whip her head around to take in her surroundings in a panic she did not understand in her barely awoken mind. But when she tried to all her limbs and her body felt like a dead weight, as if her whole being was made of lead.
This served only to further unsettle her. She did not remember what had happened before she had last closed her eyes but something told her that a lot of time had passed since she had last been conscious.
She couldn't remember the reason she'd been out cold for God knows how long of a time and neither could she remember what kind of dream she had just had, but it felt like it had been important somehow.
Her initial state of paranoid panic settled down into a mellower mood once her exhaustion and drowsiness overcame her overwhelmed mind.
When she shifted slightly in the purely white hospital bed, she felt something small and moist tickle the sides of her face. After exerting a ridiculous amount of effort for something as mundane as raising her hand to her face, she was taken aback by the evident tear tracks down her cheeks. Had she been crying in her sleep?
The questions rushed her faster than her slow, gradual realizations of her surroundings could answer them.
She couldn't see anything well since there was no source of light in the room she was in and since it was completely dark she supposed it was nighttime. Everything was extremely white around her from what she could see in the darkness and from the few objects she could discern around her, she could tell she was in a hospital.
So now the most important question remained – what for goodness' sake had she been doing to land her in a hospital for a prolonged period of time without her remembering any of her stay in it?
The notion scared her. Her ignorance doubly so.
That was the moment when Tsubaki felt an acute sense of loss and loneliness.
She was alone, clueless and in the dark, in an unfamiliar room for unknown reasons, having spent an unknown amount of time there.
The face of the person who came to mind immediately in this kind of situations sprung to the forefront of her consciousness just as something that she had not taken any note of moved to the left side of her bed. And if Tsubaki hadn't been bound tightly to the bed by her own lead-filled extremities, she might have leapt a foot in the air in surprise at the sudden movement.
When she moved her eyes to see what it was that had given her such a scare, she thought she might still be asleep. Because these things didn't happen in real life – you don't just think of something—someone—and then voila, they instantly materialize before you. No, this was not how the real world worked. There were no fairy tales, no miracles, and there was hardly any beauty left in it.
In the real world, slumbering people did not appear out of thin air by your side. In the real world, people stayed by your side relentlessly, refusing to leave before you do, falling asleep in the process sometimes.
And there he was, her partner, her meister and her friend, Black Star, sleeping on the left side of her bed on his crossed hands, his brows drawn together in his uncomfortable sleep.
Despite the exhaustion and complete emotional and physical depletion Tsubaki felt, she couldn't help a smile at the sight her technician made, crumpled in that painful-looking pose by her bed. It was truly wondrous how the presence of a single person could make your demeanor take a 180 turn in the time span of the bat of an eyelash.
Despite the exhaustion and complete emotional and physical depletion Tsubaki felt, a serene calm settled over her, her initial panic now not even a vague memory. It suddenly didn't matter where exactly she was, why she was there and how long she had been there. Because he had kept vigilant watch over her, stayed by her side the entire time, made sure he was there when she awoke.
She felt the irresistible desire to do it.
So—feeling weak and powerless—she did not resist and did it – she placed a hand softly on his arm, a tired, barely-there smile on her face. She didn't mean to wake him – she just wanted to touch him to make sure he was real, that this was not a dream and that he wouldn't disappear if she blinked too much, that she wasn't just seeing things in the dark.
His encompassing warmth emanated from him in waves as it left his sleeping form and it was exactly that all-familiar warmth of his body and soul that she had sought out as she'd reached out for him in the dark.
He stirred then and she felt slightly bad for her selfishness that had woken him. The boy blinked slowly with bleary half-lidded eyes, obviously surprised that it was still night out when he'd roused. He then noted with his sleepy mind the dainty hand on his well-sculpted arm and smiled in his delirium at the owner of the appendage.
"Tsubaki… Why are you awake at this hour—you should go back to sleep and we'll do what you say tomorrow…" he murmured, slurring words together, before settling into a more comfortable position into his hands crossed over her bed.
"Bla—…ck… St—…ar…" Her voice was embarrassing, raspy and scratchy with disuse, her throat tight and uncooperative when she struggled to talk. His name came out torn and strangled in her mouth but she managed to say it regardless.
And it seemed that it was the moment she did that that he snapped into awareness, wide-awake at once to what had just transpired and what he was seeing. He jolted into a sitting position, his face beaming with excitement.
"Tsubaki! You're awake!" he exclaimed in a voice that was way too loud of the wee hour of the morning that it was.
But she didn't mind because if she could, she would've probably yelled as well in her relief.
"You wouldn't believe what kind of crap those moronic doctors spewed while you were asleep, Tsubaki! I was really close to giving them a piece of my mind a few times but decided to postpone it for after they fixed you up. And now you're awake and I can't wait to tell the guys you've come to! Boy, will they be relieved at the news! I should go tell them right now!"
She didn't bother to remind him—not that she could, even if she tried to—that it was probably three in the morning and neither Maka and Soul nor Kid and the Thompson sisters would be too happy about being woken up in the middle of the night by his loud raucous laughter and yells about greatness and good news that could be delivered first thing in the morning.
Instead, the girl pulled on all her strength to grab him by his short sleeve to keep him from taking off as he claimed he would and as she didn't doubt he would unless she requested otherwise.
When her fatigue-ridden hand was on him again and she parroted the strangled version of his name on her weary tongue in an urgent tone, all will and strength to go out left him.
Black Star sat back down in his seat at her bed, a small, tired smile on his face. Weeks of brooding, worrying, fighting with non-believers and traitors caught up to him and he suddenly felt all their weight topple down onto him, slowly but surely dragging him down with them.
He was glad for the veil of darkness that hid the overwhelming relief on his features from her sight and the slight tremble of his lower lip when he placed his hand over her own.
"Alright, I promise I won't go anywhere. So you just rest for now, okay? I'll be right here when you wake up tomorrow." He gave her a reassuring squeeze and she smiled tiredly at him, letting her drowsiness seize hold of her once all her fears had been quelled.
Her eyes drooped closed and she drifted off, comforted by the warmth that her dainty hand was enclosed in.
When she awoke the next day, she'd be smothered—as gently as possible—by her worrywart friends and reprimanded for making them fret for such a long time over her well-being. She'd get more flowers for her get-well than the room would be able to hold and her heart would overflow with the love she'd feel for them for being who they were, for being so lucky as to have them, which would in turn make her eyes well up and overflow with tears of happiness.
When she awoke the next day, Tsubaki wouldn't remember choosing her technician over her personal, blissful oblivion.
Quick explanation: The point of the story is to show how strong the connection between those two really is. Even in her self-created personal "heaven", where her brother is alive and happy, and she has all her friends, Tsubaki can't be happy unless she knows Black Star is alive and well. On the other hand, even when everyone else gives up and can't continue believing in Tsubaki, Black Star knows her best and refuses to give up hope, knowing she's not going to run away from reality in such petty ways. And I had Maka be the "traitor" because she seems to have a habit of being a disappointment before realizing her mistakes in her lapses of judgement and becoming better. So, yeah. Hope that cleared up any questions you might have had. :)
A/N: You'll need to listen to Wolf's Rain's song, "Heaven's not Enough" and check out the lyrics to completely grasp the meaning of the fic, maybe. I've meant for a really, really long time to write something because that song inspires me and I finally have.
Sorry for the extremely lengthy author's note and do tell how you liked it – good, bad, weak. Opinions are made of love and win. :)