I groaned, my head pounding worse than anything I had ever felt. My eyes stayed tightly clenched against the way too bright light that was burning them through my closed lids. Every muscle in my body felt ridiculously weak, and my stomach seemed to be trying to eat itself. To put it frankly, I felt like shit and almost wished that I hadn't woken up.
The only reason I could think of that I could feel so horrible was that another one of Komui's damn robots got free and ran me over. That couldn't be right though. Something in the back of my mind was telling me that we hadn't seen the mad scientist for weeks. Now that I thought about it, that little voice was kind of loud and was irritating the hell out of me. Why the hell couldn't it just leave me alone? Didn't it realize that I felt like someone was trying to slowly drill into my head?
Of course I know that you feel horrible, the voice groaned, sounding to be in just as much agony as I was. We share a body, remember?
Share a body? Oh yeah, that was Neah's voice. I must have been really messed up to forget about the Noah who had made his home somewhere in my brain. Finally, I remembered that I had limbs, so I draped my arm over my eyes, finally blacking out that damn searing light. Relief was instant, allowing me to think somewhat coherently again.
That's right, the damn top brass of the order ordered that Neko be sent out for her first mission. Komui sent Lavi with her and gave Kanda and me a blank check and told us to use our vacation time in a roundabout way of letting us go after the little girl to help protect her. Then we were captured before we could go through with it and put in that damn dungeon where they barely fed us. Well, that explained why I felt awful. My body must have been trying to devour itself in an effort to support my innocence.
It hit me then that whatever I was lying sure as hell wasn't the filthy stone floor of the cell Kanda and I had been in for who knows how long. Sure, it wasn't as comfortable as my own bed or even some of the beds in run down hotels I had stayed at during missions, but it was a considerably better than straight flagstone.
Finally, my curiosity became too much to handle, so I carefully uncovered my eyes a little bit at a time to allow them to adjust. Once my arm was no longer acting as a shield, I squinted my eyes open, blinded for just a moment before I was able to get a look at where I was. I almost groaned again as I realized that I was in the infirmary. Oh well, at least that meant that we had been found, which was good even if I did have to deal with the demon woman of a head nurse.
For a while, I just lay there staring at the ceiling, waiting for feeling to come back to the rest of my body. So far the only thing on my body that seemed to want to work was my left arm. The rest of me appeared to be giving me the bird and telling me to take a long walk off of a short pier.
After a while, the numbing feeling from being unconscious so long seemed to wear off enough for me to finally notice that there was something warm gripping onto me on my right side and some kind of breeze or something hitting me at regular intervals on my left.
I looked to the right first, as whatever it was clearly closer and, most likely a body. It was doubtful that whoever it was meant me any harm since they were cuddling into me and had a death grip on the stupid hospital gown I had been put in. My eyes instantly locked onto head of thick, wheat colored hair that belonged to the little girl that Kanda adopted and I helped take care of. I couldn't help but smile tenderly at her and lightly pet her head. She sighed softly and snuggled further into my side with a little smile, but didn't really stir.
Satisfied that she was okay and suitably comforted for the moment, I then turned to the left to investigate the puffs of air there were hitting the arm that contained my innocence. To my surprise, the little puffs I had been feeling was the light breathing of Kanda as he slept in the chair pulled up next to the bed I was in. He was hunched over, using his own arms as a pillow. His face was so close to me that it was a miracle that I hadn't whacked him when I moved my arm earlier. Knowing that he had to be extremely uncomfortable, I lifted my hand and placed it on his shoulder.
"Kanda?" I called, giving him a light shake. His brow furrowed a little, but he didn't react, so I shook him a little more forcefully. "Kanda."
At last, he let out a small grunt and sat up, wincing in discomfort as he straightened his back. I almost winced as well as I got a good look at him. To put it mildly, he looked absolutely terrible. His was paler than usual, his hair half fallen out of its typical ponytail and unkempt. There were dark circles around his eyes that could have rivaled the Bookman's.
"You look like a mess." The man stilled his stretch, cobalt eyes instantly fixed on me in shock. In a matter of seconds, though, they softened with what I could only guess was relief and he leaned back into the chair he was planted in.
"Like you're one to talk," he scoffed lightly. As he spoke, he began to try and untangle his hair tie from his long, midnight locks. "I could probably count your ribs. You barely have enough meat on you still to not be considered a sack of bones."
"True." I chuckled watching him still fighting his hair to force it to relinquish its corded hostage. Man was I happy that I didn't have such high maintenance hair. "How long have I been out?"
"A week." He let out a small grunt as the tie he had been fiddling with finally came free. Then he leaned over and pulled a bag onto the bed. After a moment, he had a brush in his hand and was trying to coax the large knots out of his hair. "Lavi figured out what was going on when he and Neko returned from their mission and Komui told him that no one around here had seen us all month. Luckily, they had Tyki to help, so it didn't take as long as it could have for them to find us. Another day or so and you would have died."
"Tyki?" I asked, feeling my eyebrows rise in shock. What was the Noah of pleasure doing in the order helping our friends find us?
"Yes. Apparently the Earl had his human friends killed, so they fought. From what I've been told, Neko and Lavi were there when it happened. Mikk saved her from a cave-in and was injured. While he was recovering, she told him about you and Neah. He decided that he would join us to stop the Earl. Once the others realized that we were missing, he used his ability to move through objects to search for us more quickly than the others could."
"So he's on our side now?" I looked at the slumbering child in awe. "What do you know? She can even melt a Noah's heart."
"Indeed she can." He finally managed to pull his hair up into its ever present ponytail. Once done, he simply let his arms fall back to his side, his hands resting in his lap.
The air became thick with some strange kind of tension as he simply stared at me. Those dark, blue eyes felt like they were boring into my very soul, searching for some hidden answer. To what, I had no idea. All I knew was that he seemed to be having some kind of inner battle, desperately trying to figure out if he should word his thoughts. Just when I thought that I couldn't take that intense gaze anymore, he made up his mind and spoke.
"Neah told me something very interesting just before you collapsed and we were found." I had to strain my ears to hear him.
I did? the Noah said in my head, sounding confused.
"He doesn't remember," I said, knowing that the samurai couldn't hear the fourteenth like I could. Those dark eyes closed for a moment, the man's head shaking slightly.
"I'm not surprised. You were so weak from the lack of food and the exposure we suffered in the cell, that it was really more like drunken rambling than anything. I don't think he even realized what he was saying." Again, his gaze focused on me, sending a shiver up my spine. "That's why I'm asking about it now. I need to know if he meant what he said or if it was just something that he said while delirious."
"W-what did he say?" I gulped, a feeling of dread washing through me. His eyes locked onto mine, hands tightly clenched.
"He said that you love me." My whole body tensed as my mind screeched to an abrupt halt. It took only a few seconds for my brain to reboot and I was immediately screaming curses at the being living in my mind. He had no idea how lucky he was that he didn't have his own body.
Oops? Was his only response. If I could have strangled him, I would have. What the hell was I supposed to do now? I was nowhere near ready to let Kanda know of the feelings I had been developing for him. What if he didn't share them? We were both taking care of a little kid together for heaven's sake. If he rejected me, then what would happen to her? He had already claimed her as his daughter and had every right to keep me away from the both of them if he wanted to. I could only pray that he didn't hate me!
"Aren," he said, the sound of my name being said so softly with that deep voice of his breaking me out of my panicked thoughts. I focused on him again. He didn't give his thoughts away, but there seemed to something about the air around him that felt softer than normal. "Please, Aren, tell me the truth. Is what Neah said ture? Do you love me?"
I looked at my lap, unable to handle that intense gaze anymore. Taking a deep breath, I decided to bite the bullet and just tell him. He deserved to know the truth. The only thing lying would do was hurt the both of us. Hoping for the best, I said one word.
"Yes." My answer was soft, but I knew he heard it. There was no other noise that could have possibly drowned it out.
Silence reigned supreme as he processed this. I didn't dare look up. My hands were softly petting Neko's hair to try and calm my heartbeat and I relished feeling her soft hair for what could be the last time. In a moment, her adopted father could rip her from my arms in disgust and forbid me from seeing her and being a part of her life anymore. Komui may have ordered that we both take care of her, but Kanda was her primary guardian. If anything, I was just the person who was there to answer any questions she had about her parasite type anti-akuma weapon.
I plum near jumped out of my skin as a large, calloused hand gently cupped my cheek. It easily moved me to where I was facing the dark haired man, looking him in the eye once again. A gasp escaped me at the tender look I received. I had only ever seen him look at Neko with such care and affection. My heart almost burst with happiness as he delicately lifted me to his chest as if I was made of glass and embraced me.
For a second, I couldn't help but tense at the unexpected contact. Finally, though, I near went limp and leaned into the other man's hold. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that he would hold me like this. His scent washed over me and there wasn't anything in the world that could have made me happier.
"I think that might I love you too." Correction, there almost wasn't anything in the world that couldn't have made me happier. Even with how freaking awful I felt at that moment, I could have leapt with joy, climbed onto the roof of the order, and screamed my ecstasy out to the world. That would have involved no longer being surrounded by Kanda's strong arms anymore, though, and that wasn't an option. "I do know that I care about you and Neko more than anything, though. I don't think that I could possibly live with myself if anything happened to either of you."
I wrapped my arms around him and nuzzled into his chest. He may not have flat out admitted that his love was the same as mine, but I could understand that. He wasn't very experienced with such emotions, so a little bit of doubt and confusion was to be expected. I could wait, though. Together, we could help him understand what he was feeling and, one day, he would be able to say those three words with certainty. I just knew it.
We pulled apart as a little groan rang through the room. Our eyes immediately fell to the little girl lying in the bed with me. She sat up slowly, rubbing her bleary eyes. Those beautiful emerald orbs snapped to awareness as they landed on me.
"Daddy!" she cried out, throwing herself at me and hugging me with all she was worth. I automatically wrapped my arms around her to steady her and keep her from falling over. It was then that what she called me sunk in. Tears of happiness fell from my eyes as I tightened my hold on her and buried my face in her hair. I was barely aware of Kanda sitting on the edge of the bed and held us, one hand running gently through my hair. Life was freaking perfect.