A sharp rapping alerted Sylvette to the presence at her door, and she hastily placed the dish she was cleaning in the sink. She twisted her moist rag once, exuding from within it a murky liquid, before setting it down as well, and swiveling her chair to face the hallway preceding her home's entryway.
"Coming!" she said, before wheeling herself to the door.
Her worries regarding Lag were put to rest, although she had been expecting him home from his delivery sooner.
He probably took a wrong turn or something, she thought.
She turned the knob and swung the door open, preparing to greet the friends that she now regarded as family.
"Welcome h-" her cerulean eyes widened, and a hand hovered over her mouth in disbelief.
Just beyond the threshold was Niche, slightly bent low. Lag was situated on her back, his gloved hands dangling over Niche's shoulders, his face heated. His Bee uniform was scuffled and shredded all over, accompanied by gashes and scrapes. His breath came out in short, ragged gasps, and his eyes were furrowed in pain.
Niche herself bore a few injuries, but her headstrong gaze told Sylvette that she needn't worry about anyone other than Lag at this moment.
"Oh...Oh my God. Niche, what happened?" Her voice carried an alarmed tone, and she felt fear spiking up her spine at Lag's predicament.
"It was a Gaichuu," Niche explained. "Niche and Lag were fighting a Gaichuu, but Lag fainted in the middle of its attack. Niche couldn't let Lag get hit, because she's Lag's dingo! B-But..."
Niche lowered her head.
"...Lag still got hurt anyway. The Gaichuu didn't completely miss."
Sylvette placed her hand atop Niche's head, and rubbed it.
"You did everything you could have, I'm sure. Lag couldn't ask for a better dingo than you." She smiled. "N-Now, quickly, come inside, Niche! We need to hurry and treat his wounds..."
They laid Lag on top of his head and removed his uniform, leaving him in only his ivory undershirt and boxers, after which they applied bandages to his injuries.
"Niche..." Sylvette began. "You said that...Lag fainted in the middle of the fight?"
Niche bobbed her head up and down in response.
Sylvette bit her lip, and placed her hand on Lag's forehead.
"Oh no. He-He's burning up. He must have tried to complete the delivery even while sick..."
"Should Niche go and get that "meddy-sin" we got for him before?"
Sylvette paused, musing.
"Could you do that, Niche? I mean...can I trust you to handle that for me while I look after Lag?"
Niche nodded rapidly, her pigtails flying every which way.
"Yes! Niche can take care of it."
Sylvette hesitated, but relented after a moment.
"Al-Alright, then." She went over to the living room and dug through a few things, fishing out some money. She then came back and handed it to Niche.
"Okay, Niche. I want you to go over to the same store as last time and ask only for medicine that can bring fevers down. And if you don't know where it is, go over to the Beehive, and ask someone to go with you. Aria, perhaps. Can you do that for me?"
"Yeah!" Niche piped up. "Sylvette can just stay here and take care of Lag! After all, Sylvette is better at nursing than Niche."
Sylvette smiled at her, and Niche ran to the doorway, before bounding off.
Sighing, Sylvette turned back to Lag's sprawled form. He was panting heavily, his eyes closed but still moving behind his eyelids. Every inch of his body was sweating profusely.
He must have been so exhausted, overworking himself day after day...going overboard on deliveries just like big brother once did.
Sylvette remembered the day that Lag promised to bring Gauche back to her without fail, before he promptly burst into tears, which had caused her to do the same.
Could it be...that he's worked so hard, done all this...for my sake?
And now here he was, as good as passed out from exhaustion, pushing and prodding himself to the brink, almost over the edge, just so he could keep his promise to her.
She gazed down at her hands, which were balled into fists at her lap.
About every emotion imaginable swirled about in the recesses of her mind, but there was one that stood, prominent, above all the others.
She was furious with herself.
How could she not even take the slightest note of Lag's recent condition? How could she have so thoroughly ignored what went on in his mind, to the extent of not being able, at the least, to look past his smiles and gestures and expressions and assurances that everything would be fine, that he would absolutely bring Gauche back, and see that in his endeavors, Lag was working his spirits and bones to the limit without rest?
What made it ten times worse was that he was doing it all for her.
Sylvette failed to see how in all the worlds she could have missed so much.
But then, her brows furrowed in self-loathing and her expression darkened.
If she was perfectly and completely honest with herself, she knew exactly why. She herself knew best the reasons for which she was so mind-numbingly, unacceptably oblivious.
It was because of her fixation. Her now-unbearable, but undeniable, fixation with her brother. It was something she now recognized as bordering on obsession, a desperation to see her brother home safe and sound, and - she took a deep breath as she admitted it to herself- something potentially detrimental to the people around her.
Most particularly, Lag.
Sylvette can't bear the pain of losing her brother, but in the process of wanting him back, she's caused even more harm to her loved ones and friends, all of whom share her desire for the safe return of Gauche.
Sylvette softly touched her hand to Lag's cranium, brushing aside strands of silver hair. Her other hand instinctively reached for her own hair, fingering her similarly tinged tresses.
She gazed at Lag, and realized that he was here. With her. Helping her, laughing with her, crying with her, warming her heart and creating new memories even whilst promising to retrieve someone from memories past. She found, in Lag, someone to welcome home.
And now, while stupidly dwelling and ruminating so much over someone who was gone, she failed to appreciate and wholly understand the one right in front of her from the beginning. Meeting Lag back then had made her the happiest she'd ever been in God knows how long.
Because she passively sat back and allowed Lag to do everything for her, Sylvette didn't even realize until now that Lag was walking down the path Gauche had walked. Gauche, for her sake, had forced himself forward until he lost his heart. Now Lag too, was risking his heart in order to fulfill his promise to her.
Sylvette clenched her teeth.
She would not, could not, merely let her brother overshadow everything and everyone else who is now important to her any longer. Lag is in the present, in her vision, and Sylvette would not let him be swept away by the past. She can't afford to lose him as well.
She blinked when her ears picked up a groan from beneath her.
Lag, amidst his heavy breathing, had opened his eyes, exposing the dimming violet underneath.
He groaned once more as he struggled for a bit, before sitting upright, the blanket sliding off his torso to pool at his legs.
"L-Lag, you shouldn't get up! Lay down and rest."
"I-It's okay," He smiled at her. "The blood was rushing to my head anyway."
Sylvette stared at him, before frowning sadly.
"Lag...why did you...go on that delivery in such a condition? If you were feeling sick, you should've just told me."
"I-I was just feeling a bit tired, was all. I can't just neglect my duties as a Bee so easily, not when Gauche is still out there somewhere."
Sylvette bit her lip.
Lag smiled at her.
"There's no way I can waste any time when I've got that promise to keep, right? I swear, Sylvette, I'll restore Gauche's heart and bring him back to you if it kills me."
Sylvette flinched at his words, as if slapped. She kept her head bowed as her lips began to tremble.
A tear slipped out of the corner of her eye, before sliding down her cheek and dropping to the floor.
"S-Sylvette? Wh-What's wrong?" he shouted, in a panic.
Suddenly and without warning, Sylvette launched herself forward and flung her arms around his neck. Tears stained Lag's shirt as Sylvette continued to sob.
Lag's eyes widened in astonishment.
"Wh-wh...Sylvette! What're you..."
Sylvette, still quivering, buried her head in Lag's shoulder.
"Lag...I'm so sorry..."
"S-Sorry...? Wh-What for?"
"I've put y-you...through so much...all because of my own s-selfish needs."
Lag stopped blushing and contemplated what she just told him.
"No! I...I was the one who promised you that in the first place..."
Sylvette disentangled herself from him, and grasped both of his hands in hers. Lag felt warmth spreading from the point of the touch.
"Lag...make me another promise."
"Promise me that you'll take better care of yourself from now on, and to not disregard yourself just for my sake. And...promise me that you'll let me help you more, to let me shoulder some of the burden."
"Please," Sylvette implored, with glistening eyes. "Promise me. I...I don't want you to end up like my brother..."
Lag stared at her for several long moments.
When he continued to say nothing, Sylvette tightened her grasp, and whispered.
"Aria once told me that the heart is a fragile thing. If it means your heart disappearing, Lag...then having my brother back isn't worth it. So, please..."
Lag looked into her eyes, before nodding.
"Alright. I promise, Sylvette. In...In exchange..." Lag trailed off.
Sylvette glanced quizzically at him.
"In exchange, could you...think of me...that is, regard m-me...as part of your family? So that...all of us, in this house," he gulped.
"So that we live together as a family?"
Sylvette, upon hearing this, broke out into the warmest smile that Lag had ever seen in his life. A light blush dusted his visage.
"You dummy..." she whispered.
The pair, at that moment, heard a door creaking open out in the distance, accompanied by a little girl's excited cries.
"...I've thought that ever since the day I first met you."
Author's Note: After watching fifty straight episodes of Tegami Bachi, I think I would've considered it a crime if I hadn't written something to unload my feelings regarding such a great anime. I've had this bit of potential character interaction between Lag and Sylvette floating around the inside of my head the entire time I watched it, if not only because I feel that there could have been so much more said about the two of them. That, and, to put it bluntly and shamelessly, Sylvette is my favorite character. The Wheelchair Leopardess is far scarier than any Gaichuu, in my humble opinion.
Random Quotation of the Day:
"Then for the following 777 days, the king of demons will appear and stick his finger up your nose. Every. Single. Day."
-Presea Combatir, Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World