Part 2 of 2

Kayashima woke with a strange, uncomfortable pressure on his forehead. When he tried to move his hand to figure out what it was, he found it trapped within the confines of someone else's, their contact slightly sweaty but…oddly warm and familiar. He turned his head to the side and was blinded by orange outlined in blood-red, spotted with pale blue. "Nakatsu…" he mumbled.

"Ah!" Nakatsu screamed, falling out of the chair he'd placed next to Kayashima's bed in Dr. Umeda's office. "I'm awake!" he yelled to no one in particular. "I'm awa—oh, Kayashima! You're alive!"

"Yes," Taiki agreed.

"How are you feeling? Does it…hurt badly anywhere in particular? Can I get you anything?"

"I am fine," Taiki reassured him, but asked, "What is on my head?"

"When…when we got back, and none of us could wake you up, Dr. Umeda found a big bump on the back of your head. I was worried, man! We all thought you had died or something! I mean, you were just—and—I was—"

"Nakatsu," Kayashima reminded, "I am alive."

"Right," Nakatsu nodded, righting his chair and sitting in it once again.

Kayashima tentatively pushed himself up onto his elbows, a half-frantic Nakatsu jerking as though making a move to help him but stopping on second thought. "I am sorry that all of you had to…that you had to witness such a thing because of me," Kayashima ducked his head slightly. "As I said before, being a burden upon anyone is farthest from my wishes."

"What the hell are you talking about?" Nakatsu huffed. "No way it was you who started something with those guys!..." Nakatsu paused, glancing through his lashes at Kayashima. "You didn't, right?"

Kayashima avoided Nakatsu's eyes, glancing down into his lap.

"Whoa, wait a second. I know that's not true. Kaya-…Taiki, you can't possibly be telling me that it was you who started the whole thing. I refuse to believe that."

"It is a very long and painful story," Kayashima replied softly, unconsciously clenching the starched white hospital blanket in his pale fists.

"Umeda sensei left after taking an urgent phone call, so I don't think he'll be back for a while. We have time. Can you…can you tell me what happened?" Nakatsu's cheeks flushed just slightly, and Kayashima felt a pang quicken his heart. "I mean…I know I'm not…And I don't mean to be…but…" He heaved a sigh. "I can tell that this is eating you up inside. I know how…how you told me, before, that people weren't…weren't always accepting of your abilities. Is that…what this is? Were those guys messing with you because they knew what you could do? Because if so, Taiki, it's NOT your—"

"We used to be best friends," Taiki breathed, closing his eyes as the memories, both good and bad, assaulted him.

"You were…but then why…?"

"They called us the 'Ai' brothers, me and Daiki. He thought…he thought my powers were cool, and he would always jokingly ask me if there were any spirits any time we walked into a room. It was so… He was…he was like you, Nakatsu. I mean, he didn't judge me. He…He was…really…my friend. And because he was there, I could survive. I could deal with all of the…hate, all of the prejudice. Daiki was…my everything."

"I don't understand! How could he do that to you if you were so close? I hate those kinds of evil bastards the—"

"No, Nakatsu. You do not…know everything." Kayashima shifted, wincing when the movement pulled against the bruised skin of his abdomen. "Daiki had an older brother, Kenji, who was in university at the time. The two are-…were…very close. Kenji attended the local university and would often come to pick both of us up after we were dismissed from school. I started to see him like my own brother, and everything was…really perfect for a while. But…" Kayashima felt his throat closing up and coughed a little, which sent Nakatsu scurrying to fill a glass with water from a pitcher.

"Kayashima, don't press yourself too hard," Nakatsu insisted. "You can stop now. It's okay. You need to rest and recover! I'm sorry I pressured you into this when it's so difficult…"

"No," Taiki shook his head after accepting small sips from the glass. "I do not know if I will be able to work up the courage to say this again. And if I must explain to someone…I want it to be you, Nakatsu. I think you of all people deserve a little honesty from me, after everything you've helped me…after all you have done to accept me." He handed the still-full glass back to a worried Nakatsu.

"But…it's not like I need repayment, if that's why you feel obligated to tell me. I like you, Kayashima, and that's not something that's the same as a favor needing to be returned. I like you cause you're you, and I assume you like me cause I'm me. There's no obligation in friendship, just…you know…being there for each other. Ah, I'm bad at saying these kinds of things!" Nakatsu burst, hand rubbing furiously at the back of his orange head, almost disturbing the solid presence of his aura.

"No, Nakatsu, it is not…precisely…obligation. I…I want to tell you. I want, perhaps selfishly, to lighten this burden slightly. Unless…you…do not wish for me to…?"

"No! No! Please…please tell me," Nakatsu insisted sincerely, resettling in his chair and watching Kayashima with an avid eye.

"A few months before our middle school graduation," Taiki began, "Kenji changed. His became severely paranoid, jumpy, and any question posed to him was taken as some kind of affront or accusation. Neither I nor Daiki could understand why he was acting the way he was. But…then I saw her. Really saw her. A little girl, a spirit, not more than ten years old. Everywhere Kenji was, she was too, haunting him, following him, disturbing his peace of mind. Even though he wasn't exactly aware of what she was, or even that she was there, it was clear that he knew something was around him that intended him harm."

"Did you…did you tell him that…?"

"Yes," Taiki nodded. "I…I took him aside as Daiki went to buy us drinks and explained the presence of the spirit…I…had never seen such a desolate reaction in any human being before. He grew pale, started shaking, then became outraged and physically violent. I…almost feared for my life, the way his eyes looked at me like they intended to…" Kayashima could not hold back the tiniest shudder. "Needless to say, things changed. Kenji…Kenji just shut down. He wouldn't leave his room, or eat, or speak to Daiki or his family. Daiki desperately tried to get him to come back to reality, but…he was just too far gone. And so Daiki started to blame me. Of course I had told him about the girl. He was my best friend."

"Well that ghost being there is hardly your fault!" Nakatsu said indignantly. "To attack you because his brother got depressed is completely—"

"I am not finished," Kayashima interrupted sadly. "One day, Daiki went to his brother's dorm room to try once again to draw him out of his shell. Only, Kenji wasn't there. Daiki was so…he was so happy, because it meant that Kenji had finally gone outside to return to…living…" Kayashima paused, sadness overwhelming him at the memory. "But then he found Kenji's suicide note. Kenji wrote that he had had too much to drink one night, but still chose to drive, and on his way home had struck and killed the little girl that had taken to haunting her murderer. He just…he couldn't handle the guilt, the stress, and turned instead to death as the answer to his pain."

Nakatsu looked a little shocked, unsure of what to say or how to act in order to make Kayashima's hurt go away.

"Daiki…just needed someone to blame for the tragedy, and of course because his brother wasn't there…I became the target. My life after that…became…unpleasant. He began to call me a murderer…and maybe I-maybe I am…"

Nakatsu wrapped one of his larger hands around Kayashima's clenched one. "No…no, Taiki. Kenji killed himself for what he had done. You even said that he could already tell that girl's spirit was trying to hurt him. You…you did nothing but be your awesome ghost-boy self and try to help him, and screw Daiki for taking it out on you, the bastard."

Kayashima felt the remnants of yet another unwilling smile creep onto his face. "Why do you always have so much faith in me?"

"Well…I guess…you've never given me a reason not to? What the hell kind of screwed up question are you trying to ask me?" Nakatsu joked, trying to lighten the heavy mood. "Look here. Kayashima. I got great taste, which means all my friends are great. See how that works? Good. Now shut up, lay down, and get better."

"I…will facilitate the process through meditation, if you wish. However, it would greatly diminish my—"

"Just sleep, man," Nakatsu shook his head, pushing Kayashima gently back down on the bed. "Just sleep. I'll be here keeping all the bad dreams away."

"I generally do not dream," Kayashima replied, settling in, "but I will keep that in mind."

END

So this was really just a ONE-SHOT that I posted in two parts because I felt this part needed to be fixed a little. To be honest, I'm still not all that happy with it, but…

Should I write more Nakatsu/Kayashima fic? Or I was thinking about doing Tumbling too, but the fandom is just so small that it's sad, and I'm not sure that the story will get enough attention to stroke my ego…