Karoushi

Epilogue

"Is it okay if I turn off the lights now?" Arthur called, standing by the doorframe with his finger on the light switch. When he didn't get a reply, he looked over his shoulder down to the futon.

Arthur saw there, Kiku with his eyes closed softly, the quilt only covering him from the hips down. The Japanese man was still naked, very uncharacteristic of him for he never fell asleep without wearing a yukata, his night attire. Without another word, Arthur switched the lights off and quickly went to join Kiku under the quilt.

"Everyone must've really worn you out today, eh?" murmured Arthur, running his fingers lovingly through Kiku's hair. He remained like this, indulging in the silky touch of Kiku's hair and inhaling Kiku's scent, like fresh tealeaves…

"W-wh…?" Kiku's lips quivered slightly.

"Hm?" Arthur's fingers stopped moving when he heard a soft sound come out of Kiku's lips. He leaned his face in a little closer to Kiku's to be able to hear him more clearly.

"Why does everybody…" the small voice continued. Arthur smiled to himself, realizing Kiku was talking in a semi-conscious state. Combining the events of the long day, the amount of sake he had after dinner—and the light exercise they had just finished doing—would explain why he was so exhausted, to the point where his body was taking over his brain.

"They are all so…" Kiku trailed off, taking a few quiet breaths. "...everyone tried so hard to help me today."

"Kiku." So the Japanese man saw through it all. He knew that everyone was trying to cheer him up. It wasn't much of a shock to find this out, honestly. Kiku was smart, he'd probably suspected something was going on right from the start. But Kiku was also caring, probably the reason why he hadn't spoken a word of his suspicions to anyone.

"W-why?" Kiku's weak mumbling was even smaller now, hardly audible. "Why would you do this…"

To this, Arthur wasn't sure what to say or feel. Had Kiku been offended by his and everyone's actions? Of course they had gone behind his back but surely Kiku understood why…

"Why do you try so hard?" Kiku went on. "Why go to so much trouble…for me? When all I am is just a mess…I only ever disappoint you…"

"K-kiku," The name rolled off Arthur's tongue helplessly. He placed a hand gently over Kiku's cheek. When he looked closely, Kiku's eyes were no longer closed and were making small blinking movements every so often.

"Why—?"

"—Shh," hushed Arthur, lightly touching Kiku's lips with his thumb to stop him from speaking. The man—although far from being fully aware—was clearly distressed. Maybe it was easier for Kiku to be more honest to his feelings this way. He was so vulnerable, a completely new side of Kiku not many had the opportunity to see.

"Just listen okay, love? We all just want to help you," Arthur said gently, his low voice vibrating through his chest. "Everyone really cares about you. We want to see you happy again. That's all."

"Why?" Kiku repeated. He couldn't understand why they kept at it. Surely, soon they would all give up and turn away from him. There were plenty of better people to be around. "Why do I always disappoint you all when you are all trying so hard for me? I must be such an ungrateful person. That must be it…"

Arthur felt an ache in his heart at the sight of Kiku's anguished face. Slipping his arm around the other's shoulders, Arthur drew Kiku closer toward himself.

"Kiku, listen to me," Arthur murmured into Kiku's ear. Kiku seemed to have woken up considerably now, his eyes opened but with a somewhat confused look etched into his face.

"Kiku, everyone loves you for who you are. Now then, why do you hate yourself so much?"

"Me?"

Arthur gave a small nod. "You never disappoint us, you know. It's just that you're disappointed with yourself."

"Is that true?" Kiku asked tentatively.

"Damn straight it's true, Kiku," Arthur replied with a warm smile but immediately the smile was replaced with sadness. The lack of self care, the mistreatment from his superiors, the pressure, the responsibility—it was all torture.

"Asa-san…" Although Kiku wasn't completely aware of the details of his current situation because his head felt fuzzy, the sad look in Arthur's eyes was simply unbearable. Arthur was right, somewhere deep inside, Kiku thought he deserved the pain.

"If only you could see yourself how I see you…then maybe you'll stop torturing yourself so much."

Somewhere in his head, Arthur expected Kiku to protest in some way, because Kiku was never comfortable with people expressing worry for him. He was too humble. However, Arthur was pleasantly surprised by the words that came from Kiku's lips.

"Thank you." Kiku said this with his dark eyes looking straight into Arthur's green ones. "I love you, Asa-san."

"I love you too, Kiku," Arthur returned. "And you should love yourself just as much."

Kiku smiled weakly. "Yes, I-I'll try," he said with a hint of playfulness.

Arthur grinned.

Yes, this was a step. Things never stay the same. Things can get better.

Only if you want them to.

Fin.

XxXxX

NOTE: *gasp* Wow, this is finally done! And with such a sappy ending…(sorry for that!) But, I truly hope you enjoyed reading this. Please, leave me some reviews, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this!

Have a wonderful day! Thank you sooooo much!