Hi, first fic in this fandom. Don't go gentle on me. I would not have posted this if I didn't want criticism. :3
Arakawa Under the Bridge is owned by Hikaru Nakamura.
Maria was never one to wake up eagerly in the mornings.
Most of the time, her obligations to tend to the farm were more than enough to necessitate dragging herself out of bed. Her pride and disdain for men prohibited her from hiring farmhands to take care of the myriad of tasks about the house. So, every morning, she'd wake up and tend to the animals on the small farm along the riverbank.
That's not to say there weren't those certain days she simply refused to move or was simply unable to. Today was one such day.
Small gusts of wind grazed against the closed windows of her house. The curtains were drawn, so as to block light. The woman was sensitive to even the subtlest of differences in the lighting in her room; sudden differences in light would awaken her. On a normal day, she would awaken at the absolute latest point in the morning so she could barely skate by with tending the animals. However, this morning, she was awake quite early, and she remained on the bed listlessly.
She made a few distinctions among how she was this morning, what was causing her not to be able to sleep, and how she was most mornings, and noted that she just didn't feel right. She couldn't plant her finger on a single cause for her sleeplessness, but all she could do was lie in bed, fully alert and not wanting to do anything.
In her sluggish state, she ran through a small list of possible causes in her head: Tired, but unable to sleep; Unusually scratchy throat that necessitated an occasional and rather raspy cough; Always cold regardless of how many blankets she piled on; Wheezy and just really didn't feel right overall.
Glancing over to the clock, she pulled one of the blankets over her head and shuddered. She still had a few hours before she had to tend to the farm. At this rate, she thought, she wasn't going to be rested enough to tend to all of them.
Closing her eyes and attempting to sleep, she occasionally bellowed a few raspy coughs and wriggled about the bed in an effort to make herself more comfortable. After having realized the futility in doing so, she surrendered herself, lying on her back and staring at the ceiling in a disappointed manner.
Placing one arm across her forehead, she thought of how she had never felt this miserable in her life. Her thoughts drifted into a delirium, eventually spiraling into thoughts of how she was weak, so incredibly weak. Yes, she convinced herself, she was so incredibly weak for allowing herself to catch this strange disease.
This was God's punishment for all of the sins she committed, she mused, and for her to die a swift death would be a very ill-fitting punishment.
Several large, full tears rolled from the sides of her face and onto her pillow as she was consumed with her thoughts.
When nothing could have gone any better for her, the sounds of a knock at the door emanated through her house. The visitor was persistent in his knocks, remaining at the door and continuing until she trudged through her house to answer it.
Cracking the door open, she leaned against the door frame.
"C-can I help you?" she wheezed.
The man at the door peeked through the opening and, upon seeing the light fall upon the woman's face, gasped.
She attempted to close the door as soon as she noticed just who it was that was looking at her. Her efforts were countered, however; the man nudged the door open before she could completely secure it.
Rubbing her forehead, she responded, "Oh, why, if it isn't Sister. What a lovely day it is, isn't it? And yet God still curses me with your existence."
"And you're even worse. What brings you here so early?"
"Originally I came for the usual milk and eggs. But you're in no condition to be romping around."
"And who are you to tell me-"
The sudden stress from her insulting him caused her to go into an uncontrollable coughing fit. Soon, she found herself at her knees, uttering her strained cursing in between coughs; she blamed him for her sudden state of distress, of all things.
"Just go away," she hissed.
The door slammed shut in front of Sister. He sighed and remained at the door briefly as he debated whether or not he wanted to force himself to help her. He weighed his options, wanting to decide on the best course of action. On one hand, he wanted to impress her and to finally make her look more favorably upon him. But, he understood that imparting that sentiment upon her would be a very difficult task, and, given her stubbornness and pride, he wondered if she would even allow him to help her out for the day.
Concluding that he had nothing else better to do around the church for the day, he decided to force his way into the small house she lived in.
"Maria, I'm coming in."
He could only open the door about three-quarters of the way; it had reached the end of its path when it struck against her legs. As soon as he noticed that she was asleep on that section of floor, he jumped back slightly.
After he stepped more inside the house and closed the door after himself, he effortlessly hoisted the woman over his shoulder. "Honestly, it's one thing to be sick and not want to rest. But if you rest in the middle of the cold floor, you're not going to get better."
The sudden jostling awakened her and prompted her to respond. "Carrying me like I'm the damsel in distress. You must have such wonderful fantasies, pervert."
As he'd never been inside the house before, Sister took his time in guessing where exactly her bedroom was located. Once he found it, he walked in and gently placed her on the bed, haphazardly covering her with several blankets; he felt her cold, piercing glare after he had done so. Instead of questioning her intent, he closed his eyes and calmly took a seat on a nearby chair.
Realizing that he didn't react at all to her glare, Maria turned to face away from him.
Several minutes passed in an uneasy silence. She attempted to sleep, but her various spells of coughing happened just as she was about to fall asleep every time. He felt the strong desire to comfort her, but he understood that the likelihood she'd take his kindness and stomp all over it with her spitefulness was high.
Deciding that his best course of action was to stay quiet and disguised, much like a fly against the wall, he remained motionless on the nearby chair with his eyes closed. Suddenly, he remembered that her animals still needed to be tended to, and she was laid up in bed, unable to do anything. He very silently stood and maneuvered his way to the door of the room to exit, but not without being questioned by the woman.
"Where do you think you're going?"
"Don't strain yourself. I'm going to tend to your animals."
"Oh, how cute."
He grunted and remained relatively expressionless as he exited the room. After she was no longer able to sense his presence in her house, Maria smirked. A bit of time and intermittent coughs later, she finally lulled herself back to sleep.
Later that evening, Sister slipped inside the house and back into her bedroom to report that he had finished with the work around the farm. Upon entering the room, he noted that, though tangled very well in her blankets, she was soundly asleep; she did not even twitch when the door made its usual slight creak. He heaved a sigh of relief, as seeing her asleep was one of the things that he had been hoping for this whole time.
He took his usual seat by the bed, debating whether or not it was necessary for him to stay around longer. First, he figured, he'd have to see if she was still running a fever. To his understanding, when he had picked her up to carry her to her room, though he only very lightly grazed her forehead with his forearm, she felt very warm.
But, to confirm whether or not this was true, he'd have to take a huge risk in getting close to her. He'd have to essentially beg God for sanctuary if he should happen to wake her in the process. Still, his conscience dictated that he simply couldn't leave her alone while she could possibly still be ill. He took a deep breath before he scooted to the edge of the chair he occupied.
With an unsteady hand, he attempted to pull his coif and veil away slightly. Unfortunately, he ended up accidentally tearing those completely from him in the process. The shock of steadily approaching her sleeping body caused him to promptly forget that he had ruined another perfectly good outfit. Without regard to the bangs that were scattered across her face, his forehead gently pressed against hers.
His eyes widened and then closed after he realized that her bangs and the rest of her forehead were drenched in sweat. He smirked. The knowledge that her fever finally broke calmed him. Just as he proceeded to lean back into his chair, the woman began to mumble.
"The... enemy... has us."
Wondering whether exhaustion had finally started to overtake him, he froze, staring at the woman in a state halfway between horror and confusion.
"We... must... die... together... with honor..."
At this point, he began to make more sense of this confusion. In his experiences on the battlefield, he often heard of people having bizarre dreams while they were sick or incapacitated. To him, those were merely tales. He had never experienced this for himself. Though Maria wasn't on a battlefield in a literal sense, she was still suffering. She was still under a more extreme duress than what she was used to. Since he never heard anyone talk in their sleep, he decided to lean a little closer to her to see if he could make out any more of what she was saying.
He reflected on this moment as the biggest mistake he could have possibly made.
In a subconscious moment of passion, she suddenly grabbed him by both of his ears and pulled him closer to her. In reality, the two were so close that their noses were pressed firmly against each other and he could feel the warm air exhaled from her mouth as she spoke. As he had no indication as to what her intent was, he grew increasingly apprehensive; he wanted nothing more than to simply escape from this nightmarish situation. Understanding that he would probably face a far worse fate than death if he woke her, he reluctantly stayed in her grasp, remaining as calm as he could.
"...Don't...leave... me here... to die... alone..."
Before he could think about what she uttered, he found his lips locked in with hers. Like a snake sinking its fangs into its hapless prey, she started by fusing her mouth to his and progressing to forcing her tongue past his clenched teeth. It wasn't until he realized what she was trying to do that he finally relaxed his jaw and let her do her work. A bigger realization hit him several moments after, a realization he wished he'd made sooner: Asleep or not, this was likely the only occasion she'd ever show any sort of passion toward him. The anxious sickness in his stomach turned into a giddy fluttering as he reciprocated her kiss.
A few minutes passed before he suddenly came to the conclusion that taking advantage of an unconscious girl for pleasure was immoral, even if he was only kissing her, and even if she initiated the kiss. His facial expression reflected his disappointment well as he slowly and silently pulled away from her. After he straightened the disheveled blankets, ensuring she wouldn't become cold as she slept, he shifted back into the chair and wondered exactly what had just happened.
The thoughts he had as he sorted through the progression of events caused him to drift away in a slumber, not to be disturbed until very late in the morning the next day.
After a much-needed rest, Sister woke up to find himself on her bed, buried underneath her pile of blankets. Burdened by this weight, he glanced around to find someone he could question. Though she was nowhere in sight, he happened to find a small piece of evidence that she left behind.
He removed the note that was taped to his forehead and promptly began to read it.
I expected you to have gone back to that filthy rat's nest you call a domicile, but instead you decided to stay around. I've gone out for the day, but I will ask that you kindly remove your presence from my farm before I return.
Good job taking care of my animals. I very much appreciate your efforts. It probably was an easy job for you, though, considering you were among your own kind. I'm feeling much better now, so you can take the milk and eggs I set aside for you and go home. I gave you enough so you wouldn't have to show your offensive face around here for a few days, at least.
By the way, I had this really strange dream last night. I'm not exactly sure how I should feel about it, but I thought I'd let you know that I dreamed I was you on the battlefield. My partner and I were captured by the enemy and we were on the verge of committing suicide. But all along I had been madly in love with my partner and never had a chance to express my feelings, until that moment came. And then we kissed. He tasted rather grainy, but that's what you expect when you kiss a llama. I never thought I'd probe into your deranged imagination, of all things.
Anyway, I left you on my bed after I woke up because you'd probably pass out again. You looked rather pale this morning. I hope you didn't catch my cold.
P.S. I think...
He turned the note over to the reverse side to see the continuation and smiled in anticipation of what it might say; the rest of the note was actually not as bad as he had expected. But then...
...you're still boring.
...those words cut through his soul, forcing the blood to gush from his scar again.
Maria's assumption was correct. Having lost a significant amount of blood, he fell unconscious. The final image in his mind as his world turned dark was one of her giggling at his misfortune through her puffed cheeks.