chapter three ; so when she falls their tears go with her
"I thought I told you not to go to the hospital," Namie tells him tersely, "And I certainly had no expectation of you bringing back a patient with you. Especially not a heart patient that-"
"Ah, Namie-san, you have no sense of compassion, do you?" Although that question seems strangely hypocritical coming from his mouth. Nonetheless, Izaya strides past the glaring secretary to go over to his computer. And left in his wake is Megumi, who seem to be studying Namie with some faint degree of interest.
"Are you his..."
"No," the brown-haired woman growls out. "I am his secretary."
Despite being in the cover of Izaya's office, Megumi is still dressed in her hospital gown – and being out on the streets in such attire seems to attract attention. So, although she has not been properly introduced, Megumi bows her head toward Namie. "Well, it is a pleasure to meet you, then. I am... Ah, that's right. Takano. I am Megumi Takano."
"That sounds like a lie," Namie tells her blatantly with the twitch of an eyebrow. She breathes a sigh to herself, muttering under her breath. No doubt that she is livid with Izaya, although her anger seems to be directed toward Megumi.
"Well, I already know your name, so it's fine you don't want to introduce yourself, Namie-san." Megumi smiles pleasantly at her, which renders Namie a little defenseless despite however much she disapproves of all of this. "Orihara-kun said that I might be able to ask you for a change of clothes. Do you mind? Traipsing about the city in this gown – beautiful as it is, I know the color is in fashion about this time of year – is not really my idea of keeping a low profile."
"The police are going to be all over this," Namie warns as she glances briefly back at Izaya.
He does not dignify that with a response, but fortunately, Megumi offers to give Namie some assurance. "I left a note behind to explain that I was leaving. Don't worry, they shouldn't do anything rash. Well, I can't give any guarantees about my sister. She always has been a little overprotective."
And Namie has half a mind to call this madness, stupidity, and every other word in the book that she can think of to insult the idea of bringing Megumi out of the hospital... Yet there is a small part of Namie that understands where the girl is coming from. Dying in a stuffy old room that is not your own is not what many people think of as the ideal way to go. But maybe it is because Namie, herself, is a doctor, that she wants to encourage Megumi to hold onto the hope that, even if her days are numbered, a transplant could still come. Against her better judgment, she does not push the subject.
"I'll try not to comment on the idiocy of this anymore. Yes, I have a change of clothes."
While the two women go off, Izaya returns to his usual activities, typing away at his keyboard in the various chat rooms that he takes part in. After Namie assists Megumi in getting changed – into a long-sleeved, green blouse and black leggings – the two return. In the days that follow, where Megumi seems to be in fairly good health, she insists on helping Namie with her secretarial work. Surprisingly, Megumi proves to be of some assistance.
And while Namie is still convinced that this entire idea is foolhardy, everything seems to be normal. Izaya is being his usual self, leaving occasionally to troll either Ikebukuro or Shinjuku. He continues his usual antics; devising plans, collecting information and selling it for his own benefit and amusement. In fact, even Namie comes to appreciate how quickly Megumi seems to fall into the pace of their monotonous routine.
For at least three days after her arrival, Megumi shows no signs of being anything other than an ordinary girl. She is twenty years-old, as it turns out, though she chooses only to confide that to Namie. And Namie finds herself becoming like an oddly doting mother, glancing up from her laptop more than occasionally to see where the girl is or has wandered off to.
There are a few occasions when she disappears and Izaya is out. So Namie wanders around calling out her name, bitter about feeling like a babysitter and nevertheless relishing in the feeling. And when she finds Megumi nowhere in the office, Namie hikes up to the rooftop to discover that it seems to be Megumi's hideaway.
"What are you doing up here?" Namie asks.
And Megumi smiles back at her while saying, "Bird watching."
Yet the way she stands on the edge, as though debating whether or not to jump, tells Namie that the whole bird watching spiel is nothing more than a cover-up. Still, she does not bother to address the front that Megumi puts up.
Especially because, by the forth day, Megumi is beginning to grow pale. In the midst of helping Namie sort out the paperwork, she pauses frequently for breathers, clutching at her chest. When Namie makes a remark about it, Megumi assures her that a little chest pain is inevitable.
Namie knows betters – knows that it means an attack is coming soon.
By the fifth day, things have worsened drastically and for the most part, Megumi spends her time sprawled across the couch. And while her face shows no signs that she is in agony, her hand is always hovering over her heart, clutching at the blouse that Namie has lent her.
True to Megumi's words, her family has not made any move to contact the police about her disappearance from the hospital. Yet, according to Izaya who frequents Ikebukuro more than usual, they have been looking around for her. The news does not seem to faze Megumi, who remains insistent that she will not go back to the hospital.
And when the sixth day comes and Namie arrives at the office in the wee hours of the morning, neither Megumi nor Izaya are anywhere to be found. Instead, there is a note left on the coffee table that is addressed to Namie.
I am going out bird watching with Orihara-kun. See you later, Namie-san!
Although her name is signed at the bottom, there is something about Megumi's note that makes Namie believe that all of it is a lie. They aren't really going birdwatching and she probably won't see Megumi again.
"The way you are going, Megumi-chan, you may not make it off the train."
True enough that, even as she gazes out at the scenery, Megumi is clutching her chest tightly. Perspiration is almost pouring down the length of her face as she takes short, shallow breaths. Still, Megumi has enough strength to smile as she says, "I'll be fine." Her lies are beginning to be less and less convincing. "I just want to go bird watching one more time."
Though he is not sure just how many birds – aside from seagulls, he supposes – that they will see by going to the beach. Especially not at this time of year, when spring is on the horizon but far enough away that the weather keeps the sandy shore fairly deserted. But at least it is not snowing outside.
Still, sitting adjacent from her, Izaya can make out the strain in Megumi's face as she sits there. Eventually, during the course of the trip, the gray-eyed girl leans her head against the window and drifts off. It is only at that point that he sees the true extent of her exhaustion, her face riddled with a noticeable lack of sleep. To Izaya, it is also quite obvious that the days she has spent away from her family and the hospital have really worn on her.
And he wonders to himself why he bothers with all of this – but maybe he is compelled by curiosity. True that he has seen people die before. Death is not something unusual. He has watched someone plummet over the edge willingly. Megumi, however, is a person standing on that edge, trying to balance to keep from falling, even though she cannot step away from that precipice.
He cannot say entirely what it is that drew him in from the beginning. Her blatant lies, the way she fiddles with the truth, or her general nature that seems to be a borderline between predictable and lacking all reason. Maybe, for that reason, she is neither someone he will remember nor someone he can forget. Perhaps she will always linger between the two – always at the back of his mind.
When the train finally reaches their stop, he nudges her knee with his foot. "Megumi-chan~"
Though heavy with sleep – and perhaps with the death that is fast approaching – her eyelashes flutter as she stirs. "Ah, are we here?" She struggles but manages to get up onto her feet and the two of them file out of the train together, barely in time, as the door almost shuts on them.
It is a short walk to the beach, but one that seems to be agonizingly slow. Izaya finds himself walking backward, purely out of boredom, keeping an eye on Megumi who struggles to make it all the way. The pain in her chest must be unbearable because she is covered in sweat and panting the whole time.
But the moment they hit the sand, she kicks off her shoes and heads straight into the path of the waves. The salty water licks at her feet and wriggles in between her toes. She shivers from the cold, because it is surely freezing. Yet there is a smile on her face despite her exhaustion.
"So, Megumi-chan, why the beach, of all places?" Though he suppose it is the most cliché place to want to die. Everyone seems so enthralled by the ocean. Such captivation is lost on him, since he prefers the commotion of the big city, where large crowds give way to more interesting observations. "Don't tell me the love doctor brought you here once, or that-"
"Bird watching," she tells him again after a sharp inhale. "I told you before, I wanted to watch the birds."
And he is beginning to wonder if he is ever going to get a straight answer out of her. Yet, Izaya supposes, there is little more that he can expect to extract from Megumi aside from her lies. If there is anything wrong with her, it is the way she compulsively spits them out as though it comes second nature to her. She does not seem to delight in revealing the truth.
"Aha, Orihara-kun, you seem to look annoyed every time I say that." She steps away from the water and plops down in the sand, crossing her legs. Megumi cocks her head back to look at him, still smiling regardless of how tired she must be. "Would you rather the truth? I told you before that it isn't as exciting."
He begs to differ. "Since you lie so much, doesn't that reveal some complex of yours? Feelings of inadequacy?" For as much as she runs away from the truth, she cannot cover even her tracks in lies.
"Or maybe I want to keep you guessing. What is the real me and what is fabricated?" Once again, she is trying to deny him the satisfaction of a solid answer. "Wouldn't it make you curious if I told you it was a lie that I had any feelings for that doctor?"
"No, because that would be lying." She can try to confuse him as much as she likes, Izaya remembers clearly the expression on her face when the doctor came looking for her. No lies can disguise the feelings that were all too obvious to begin with.
She leans backward until she falls against her back, splayed out across the sandy beach. The yellow grains mingle in her long, dark hair. And those granite eyes of hers look up at him as he trails over toward her. "Maybe it's not a lie anymore."
"Heh... You're a fickle one, Megumi-chan." He says that offhandedly as he slips his fingers into his pocket, producing his cell phone. And while he fully intends to check the new text message that he has just been sent, he notices a blur of movement out of the corner of his eye. Izaya is quick enough that he could move away in time, but he does not bother to dodge Megumi's lunge.
She manages to pry the cell phone out of his hand. As soon as she has it, she darts across the sand and into the way of the waves, which gently push against the back of her calves. "Hey, if you don't want me to drop it in the water, come out here. You always seem so disinterested, Orihara-kun. Pretend it's interesting."
He sighs to himself. Playing along with her antics is solely for the purpose of observing her – seeing what action she will take next. She fails to surprise him, and despite that, Izaya continues to cater to her whims. Except this time. "I'm only here to watch," he shrugs at her, "If you really want to throw my cell phone because I won't join you, then do it." Izaya says that not because he has no regard for the fate of his cell phone, but because he knows that Megumi's aim is to elicit a reaction from him. So he does not grant her the pleasure of getting one out of him.
"Really? You don't care?" she tests.
And he is certain that she'll give up. "If it will make you feel better, then throw it~"
Laughter tears through her throat as she chucks it into the distance, much to Izaya's chagrin. "Well, since you said you don't mind. I really do feel better now that I got rid of it." She turns back around to face him with a lofty grin. "Now you'll watch birds with me, won't you?"
He sighs. She really did throw his cell phone. Maybe – and he only grants her this because he does not want to admit his own lack of foresight – she isn't as predictable as he first thought. "Bird watching, was it?" Rather than chance the waves as she hopes he will, Izaya pulls his coat tighter around himself. The fur tickles against the base of his chin and yet his skin is still alight in goosebumps.
It makes him feel... almost human.
"Ah, such a spoil sport. You won't go if I don't come and get you?" Hair fluttering behind her, she traipses back over toward him and loops her arm around his. And although he is steadfast at first in refusing to be pulled along, she manages to coerce him into stumbling out into the waves.
Begrudgingly, he stands with her, until the water pours into his shoes. Izaya's brow twitches because, unlike Megumi, he does not like this feeling. The slosh of it as it soaks into his socks and the cold as it washes over his feet.
"You still have that look on your face," she remarks.
And maybe it is not because of the water. Izaya isn't quite sure himself. The feeling of dread that he is entirely unused to – a feeling he often observes in others, that he creates in others. Never before has he been plagued by it himself.
Megumi seems to notice this, too. "You seem like a real oddity, Orihara-kun. Your office and Namie-san – it wasn't what I had expected, asking to stay with you for a little while before my time came. And as strange as it may sound, it gave me a realization."
"Something life-shattering?" he remarks dully, not really interested.
"Hm, maybe... Something like that..."
Megumi's arm is still looped around his and so when she suddenly stumbles, she ends up falling into him. It's an abrupt move that sends the two of them tumbling to the ground, where she falls neatly on top of Izaya, who could not be more bitter about his now thoroughly-soaked fur-trimmed coat.
She struggles to work her way up onto her haunches and off of him, but it is a fruitless attempt. Her hand finds its way to her chest as she curls against him in pain, gritting her teeth as her face contorts. The impending attack that she knew was coming has finally started.
Rather than burden the air with words, Izaya just silently watches her, lifted up onto his elbows. Tears form in her eyes as she clenches her jaw. He sees as it visibly tightens. All of it – he observes it. Because he cannot help even if he wants to. He knows just as well as she does that this is the end of the line.
And yet, in a vain attempt, she manages to speak some words. "In the end... I'm only human..." She manages to lift her head just enough to smile up at him weakly. What she says – it is just Megumi speaking the obvious, or so he thinks at first. But maybe there is something more profound within. A realization that no matter how strong one tries to be, they cannot change the fact that they have something in common with every other living thing – a bond that holds all people together. Life is what they share, however much inequality riddles it.
In his curiosity, stone-faced as he watches her, Izaya lifts a hand, slick with the salty water it has been submerged in, and presses it against her cheek. She is pale and trembling. It is a sight that defies everything he has seen before – girls who are goaded under the pressure of his taunts to throw their lives away. They look peaceful, almost serene as they begrudge the world, falling to their end. The plummet and the sound of it ending. He has seen – has heard all of that.
Nothing like this. It captivates him, arouses his interest – to see someone fighting against the course of life that they have been given. And maybe he was wrong when he assumed that by doing all of this, Megumi was giving up. This is not what surrender looks like.
So, in repayment for what he has learned from this observation, he burns the image of her into his mind. He keeps his eyes open, barely blinking, just watching her. Until she takes one last shallow breath and her eyes flutter for a moment. Still open, they turn glassy as her body goes rigid and she collapses into his chest.
Suddenly all he can hear is the sound of his own breathing and the waves licking at the shore, gently rising and then falling. And for a little while, despite how half-frozen he thinks that he is, he sits there with her lying motionlessly on top of him.
"You're not going to her funeral?"
"Are you, Namie-san?" he shoots back from his position, sitting in front of the computer. His hands have been hovering over the keyboard for some time, but he has not managed to type a single message. Even in all the chat rooms he is apart of – and people keep addressing him – he does not bother to respond to them. His mind is elsewhere. Has been elsewhere for some time.
The brown-eyed secretary glances down at her laptop and promptly shuts it, leaving it on the coffee table as she stands up. "It's only right for a person to pay their respects to the deceased." She says that as though she does not think that Izaya has enough decency to do it. "I'm leaving now to get ready. I'll be back later to continue my work." And yet as she leaves, Namie pauses briefly at the door to glance back at him, as though she expects him to get up from his chair at any moment and announce that he is going as well.
"Have fun, Namie-san~"
She frowns at him. "What happened to your cell phone?"
"Ah, that?" He pauses for a moment then grins. "Seems like I must have lost it. I wonder if a little bird carried it off somewhere?"
Namie huffs, muttering something beneath her breath about him being a weirdo creep before she leaves, slamming the door behind her.
Left to the silence, Izaya tries to resume his usual routine. It is an effort that proves ultimately futile. Nothing is progressing in his chat rooms, nothing new to occupy his time. Eventually, he abandons the endeavor and shuts off his machine. Then he takes his fur-lined coat – dry-cleaned after its last adventure – and heads out the door.
As he meanders, he entertains the thought of going to the funeral, after all. But he thinks about all those people who will be crying. The tear-filled look on the face of Megumi's sister, all of the mourning that he is not sure he can stomach. As interesting of a place as it might be to observe, there is something in him that purposefully wants to avoid it.
Plus, he thinks a framed picture of her could never quite compare to the real thing. The mysterious smile and her way with weaving words into a clumsy lie. So instead of going to the funeral, he heads to the hospital. Passes by all of the white-gowned patients, many of which in the courtyard are being visited by their loved ones. He even passes by the love doctor, who seems to have dark circles beneath his eyes. But Izaya does not give pause to observe the gray-shaded, uninteresting inhabitants of the hospital. He heads straight to the staircase.
Step by step until he is at the top. And part of him half-expects to see her silhouette standing in front of the blinding rays of the morning sun as it mounts the horizon. Yet when he opens the door, a vast emptiness is all that greets him. Still, he makes his way to the railing, leaning up on it as he has seen Megumi do many times before. The wind whips across his face and he has to squint through it.
"Ah," he breathes out, feeling some vague sense of relief. "You really were planning to jump after all, weren't you, Megumi-chan?" From this vantage point, he can tell by looking at the ground below – people have definitely fallen from this height before, purposefully.
Izaya figures that, in her line of thinking, it probably would have been easier to jump and end it all instead of clinging to the hope of an eventual transplant. But something, apparently, had changed her mind. Whether it was his presence or something else – Izaya will never know the answers. There are many answers he will never know. And the fact that his curiosity remains insatiable because of her stubbornness to keep the truth from him – it makes her all the more unforgettable.
And when he returns back to the office, it is late into the night. Namie has already finished at the funeral and changed into her usual attire, a blouse that mirrors the one she had allowed Megumi to borrow just a week before. When he enters, she is typing away furiously on her laptop. But as soon as she notices that he is back, she pauses to glare at him.
"Where were you?"
He pauses for a moment and grins wryly. "Ah, I was bird watching."
Author's Note: Thanks for the reviews, guys. I think I liked how this ended. It was short and simple, not over-the-top with sentimentality but hopefully touching enough that the message it held was conveyed properly. That life is important and it is something we all have in common, and how simple decisions can change the course of your life and others. (Such as Izaya's random decision to wander up to the rooftop one day.) Well, hopefully you enjoyed it. Thanks again!