Major spoilers for the end of volume 4, Fairy Dance. This is my shot of how things would have played out if Sugou got to Asuna first, so exclude the whole parking lot fight scene between him and Kazuto.
Disclaimer: I do not own Sword Art Online. I also got some lines directly from the translations at Baka Tsuki (which I also do not own).
At Long Last
Kazuto Kirigaya sped through the streets of Saitama on his bike, pedaling as hard as his still slightly-malnourished legs would carry him.
Sickening feelings of doubt still crashed about in his mind like the waves of a violent ocean, scenarios of Asuna not actually having woken up at all.
So many times he had visited her hospital room, unable to suppress the small flicker of hope that would bubble in his chest, only to have it continuously shattered by a crushing disappointment when he found her still asleep.
Snow pelted at his face and cold shivers constantly raked his body, but Kazuto pedaled onward relentlessly, not willing to waste another second.
He could still hear Asuna's voice in his head, the last words she had spoken to him before her spirit had finally, finally been freed from Alfheim Online. "Ah... finally, it ended. I will return... to that world." She had murmured as she laid in his arms.
He clutched the handlebars tighter as he continued to speed down the sidewalk, swerving to avoid a pile of snow. "Damn it!" He growled, knowing that even his fastest arrival would never be fast enough.
He just kept picturing Asuna's final image before she disappeared from his arms. He remembered the words she had said to him, the promises they had made to go see many places together. But above all, one phrase rang repeatedly in his mind: "...I believed... Yes, I believed. ...Up until now, from here on. You are my hero... You will always come to help me..."
When Asuna had said that in her clear voice that shook his very soul, Kazuto had felt hopeless inside, for it was obvious that she was far stronger than he was. He truly believed he had failed in protecting her because if he had played his role correctly, he would have made certain she had been logged out with him when Sword Art Online was cleared.
Now, as he replayed the words she had spoken, Kazuto felt a terrible foreboding creep up his spine, threatening to consume his entire body, like some demonic serpent.
"You are my hero... You will always come to help me..."
Why did those words sound so terrifying at that moment?
Indescribably unsettled by the despair he was feeling, Kazuto sped on toward the hospital.
It had been over two long years since Asuna had last opened her eyes.
Although her world was still shrouded in darkness, she was aware of herself; her conscious had returned to her world.
She was aware of a dull feeling that encompassed her body that had not moved in years, and as the moments passed by, her body began to register her environment. She could feel her skin that was dressed in a light fabric with a heavier cover on top of her. There was a faint softness beneath her back and legs, what she assumed to be the hospital bed. There was a dizzying weight on her head, seeking to suffocate her face.
It took many minutes for Asuna to finally remember how to blink her eyes open. Her eyelids shuddered as she forced them up, trying to focus her hazy eyes on the pale, moonlight-stained ceiling above her. Opening her eyes alone exhausted her significantly and she did not manage to move any further just yet as her eyes adjusted to the faint light.
Her hearing was nearly depleted, but she was still somehow aware of somewhat of a ringing or buzzing sound coming from nearby, and she soon realized there was a long wire connected to her finger, hooked up to an IV machine. Pins and needles assaulted her arms as she attempted to move them, a massive, unpleasant prickling stabbing at her skin from within.
Although her concept of time was likely off, it must have been five minutes before she finally managed to gather enough strength in her arms to push herself up, leaning heavily against the support of the bed. She let out a hissing breath as she raised her arms bit by bit before firmly grasping the object on her head. The Nerve Gear, her brother's Nerve Gear which she had taken without his consent, and she had been punished dearly for it.
Although it had been her tormentor for far too long, she knew she also needed to be grateful to it, for allowing her to meet the love of her life.
Although the wires were still latched onto her finger and forearm, Asuna managed to grasped the helmet, which was now flaking from age alone, and exerted an enormous amount of strength. Panting with effort, she pulled it off, her head feeling fresh air for the first time in years, her long, slightly frazzled hair finally being let down completely.
As Asuna held the Nerve Gear in her trembling hands, it somehow felt unnatural to have it off of her head, but as the cool air seeped into her skin, she let out a long sigh. Finally. I am back... She thought, still unable to locate her vocal chords.
Turning her sore neck sideways for the first time, she glanced out the window there to see white snowflakes spiraling down from the endless sky, quietly blanketing the sparkling buildings of the city outside. Finally... I can... meet that person...
She was not aware of how many moments had passed. Her sense of feeling was only just beginning to recover, and there was a tasteless flavor on her tongue that reminded her malnourished stomach of its painful vacancy. Her ears could still pick up the faint sounds from the IV machine that was still connected to her wrist; she intended to leave it there until she could hear distinctly again.
She continued to stare out at the beautifully nostalgic scenery, constantly reminding herself that these were real buildings, and not just simulated structures in a game. Just watching the snowfall made her eyes swell with tears that did not yet have enough weight to fall.
At long last, somehow Asuna knew someone was opening the door to her room.
Perhaps she felt it with her overly-susceptible senses, or perhaps her slowly recovering ears heard the clicking of the keycard through the slit in the door.
She could sense him step into the room as she began to turn her head in that direction, a small smile playing out on her lips. She drew in a breath to try and attempt to speak his name, but just then, she was sure she heard something strange.
The door clicked loudly as it locked from the inside.
Asuna had almost no time to be confused as her eyes focused on the shadow standing before her.
The smile on her lips vanished instantly.
Her eyes widened in sheer horror.
Her body began to shake violently.
Her constricted voice cracked as she forced out a single, hoarse sound:
Something was wrong.
Something was definitely wrong.
Kazuto did not know how he knew this fact, but he knew it nonetheless. Perhaps it was in the too-calming way the snow was falling. Perhaps it was the uncanny silence of the town at night. Perhaps it was just his instinct. But Kazuto knew somehow.
As he reached the hospital parking lot, he jumped off of his bike and threw it to the to the ground, snow flying up as he tore off through the automatic doors.
The front desk was empty, so his urge to shout for assistance died in his throat as he was forced to grit his teeth and dash madly on toward the stairs. He flew up them, skipping two at a time as he dug for the keycard in his pocket. Oh god. Please don't let me be too late...
As he stepped slowly across the floor, Asuna prayed this was not reality.
She begged to be back in Alfheim Online; at least there he could only hurt her psychologically, and to her, that was a thousand times better than physically.
He slowly raised his head, his glasses flashing in the moonlight, his eyes sparking with insanity behind them. But there was something else in his gaze that made Asuna's blood turn to ice.
Hunger. There was a lustful, ravenous expression in his eyes that betrayed his crazed motives. The insane grin on his face revealed his teeth, his tongue licking his lips as he stepped closer. She could just barely make out his deep voice as it rumbled within her stomach.
"I've done it..." he sang, as if to himself. "I've got you all to myself... That door's locked and nobody's getting in until I'm done with you..."
He was halfway toward her now and Asuna's panic overwhelmed her. Her eyes widened as tears threatened to fall and she bit on her lip, trying to raise her arms to cover her body protectively, but she could hardly lift them inches off the bed. The Nerve Gear helmet rolled to the floor as she lost her grip on what had possibly been her only potential weapon.
Her mind was racing as she imagined him doing to her in real life what he had tried to do in ALO. She was seized by the utmost terror that made her body go numb all over again, as it was during her coma. She opened her trembling lips and let out the faintest voice.
"N...o..." she choked out.
Her eyes flicked to the door behind Sugou and she saw that there was a small red light on the handle, indicating that the door was indeed locked from the inside.
It was at that moment when Asuna wanted to give up. There's no way... anyone can help me now... not even that person...
She could hear the IV machine's beeping increase as her heart pounded harder, and an idea suddenly sparked in her mind. Surely there was some sort of emergency button to alert the hospital staff in case of a patient's extreme change in condition?
Asuna searched with hazy vision for some form of alert button, all the while willing her heart to pound faster so that a signal might be set off automatically to the nurses.
Evidently, her thesis had been correct, for Sugou's face twisted into an annoyed snarl as he noticed her actions. Having reached the bed, he threw his hand forward and violently snatched her arm that was connected to the IV, yanking the wires off her arm so roughly that a small line of blood pooled at her wrist.
"Now, now, there's no use in fighting it..." he sneered, looming over her.
Asuna could not keep herself from staring up at him, her petrified body completely useless as her eyes overflowed with horror. With one last attempt, she tried to build up her voice within her throat.
"Someone..." she murmured. "Someone... help..." her voice was still cracked and almost inaudible as Sugou leaned down, still smirking, the picture of madness and lust itself. He grabbed her shoulders and easily threw her down onto the bed, climbing on top of her. Asuna's head was spinning as it hit the wooden backboard.
He stared down at her with a fake expression of love as he licked his lips again.
"I was going to be gentle," he growled, forcing his weight onto her. "But after what that Hero-kun did, I'm very angry now." Leaning down more, he crushed her further, grabbing her arms and pinning them to her sides.
Asuna felt her conscious starting to slip away as her feeble attempts to throw him off lost what little strength they had to begin with. Her ribs felt they would snap at any second. She wanted to cry more than ever before, but still that first tear stubbornly refused to fall.
With her last breath being crushed from her lungs, she shouted as loud as she could manage.
At last her voice managed to gain volume, although it was still hoarse and weighed with fatigue.
Upon her outburst, Sugou's smirk twisted into an enraged expression, his teeth bared menacingly as he took on the appearance of a demon.
Releasing one of her arms, he roughly pressed his hand down over her mouth. Asuna involuntarily tried to push him off as her defenses were raised to the maximum as a last resort.
"Just go back to sleep!" He hissed.
Asuna could feel her breath stopping, her lungs straining painfully as she tried to bite down on his hand. She felt her teeth graze his skin, but there was no force behind them, and it only made him angrier.
Sugou pressed down harder, suffocating her as Asuna's feeble thrashing died, her eyes closed with that first tear still unshed. Her fleeting mind was faded quickly, and the only thing she could hold onto was the image of that person.
She could have sworn she had heard him call out her name.
I'm sorry... She prayed he could somehow forgive her for going on ahead of him.
She felt Sugou's other hand grab her shoulder, pulling the hospital rob down her arm. She heard him snickering, smacking his lips together as he leaned down, pressing his body onto hers as he shifted.
I never... got to meet him... Asuna could no longer breathe and she felt her throat constricting, her lungs no longer functioning. I'm sorry... Kirito-kun...
Kazuto raced up the staircase two steps at a time.
He grasped his key card tightly in his hand as he reached the designated floor, dashing down the hallway with all his power, grabbing the wall to propel himself around a corner.
He did not know how or why he was aware of it, but he simply knew that something was wrong, and he had a terrible sickening feeling of what it was.
It seemed to be hours before he finally reached Asuna's door and he stomped to a halt, catching his breath. He froze immediately when he noticed the small red light blinking on the handle where the card fit in, indicating that it had been locked from the inside.
"No..." he muttered. "There's no way... this can't be..."
A haunting, frigidness gripped his entire body as reality crashed over him.
He was inside. The bane of Kazuto's existence, the only person he would never, never be able to forgive for as long as he lived was inside that room right now. And Kazuto could do nothing about it.
He had failed.
As the helplessness tried to break him from the inside out, he swiftly forced it away. He had to run. He had to get help.
But just as he felt the energy ready to push off in his legs, he heard a terrifying sound that rooted his feet to the ground.
There were muffled sounds along with an indecipherable low voice coming from the other side of the door, and horror and rage clashed within Kazuto's mind.
But what had stopped him was what came directly after that. It was a strangled cry that defined two years' worth of being comatose, a scratched and desperate sound that caused tears to overflow from his eyes.
It shook his very being when he heard that voice. And just like so many times before, she was calling his name.
Kazuto slammed his fist against the door full-force as he shoved the key card into the handle. But the unforgiving red light continued to blink indifferently back at him. "Damn it!"
He kicked the door as hard as he could, fully intending to break it down, but his still-recovering body did not allow for such an event. "Damn it!"
He yanked the handle and slammed his shoulder against the frame, but still it did not budge. "DAMN IT!"
He should have run to get help right away. He should have gone to get help first, as soon as he had felt the foreboding sensation upon his arrival. He should have gone straight to the hospital's security before even approaching her room.
But now, there was no one in sight. It would not take long for him to rush down the stairs and fetch help, but it would take long enough.
It very well may have already been too late. Sugou was a madman after all, and he would not waste time in getting exactly what he wanted.
Kazuto felt his knees beg to give out, his body trembling as tears fell to the floor one after another. Guilt, rage, fear, helplessness, they all seemed to drown him as he stood there, still mechanically swinging his keycard back and forth under the red light. Asuna...
He was at an absolute loss for what he should do. He knew he should keep trying to break the door down. He knew he should shout for Sugou to stop. He knew he should still run for help. But he simply could not bring himself to move. He was disgusted with himself.
He must have wasted thirty full seconds, standing there, doing nothing like a fearful child as Asuna was assaulted just meters away from him, behind that accursed door, but still he could not move.
Then, past his own sobs, he made out a faint sound.
It was a single, familiar beep he had heard many times before.
He looked down to find the red light had been replaced with a green one.
Perhaps it had been a glitch. Perhaps Yui had somehow found a way to hack into such a place. Perhaps it was Kauzto's own passion to override the system. He was never sure of what it was exactly, but that door unlocked.
His emotions from earlier increased tenfold and then were completely swallowed entirely by an explosive rage. His tired body was granted a newfound power as he thrust open the door which rebounded against the wall behind it.
He had already envisioned the image of Sugou blatantly assaulting Asuna, therefore when he saw the deranged man on top of her bed, Kazuto barely hesitated from the shock. His vision went red as his target became the only thing he could see.
Kazuto ran over to the bed as he gritted his teeth tightly, snarling as he lashed his arm out. Before Sugou could even look up from his prey, Kazuto had grabbed the back of his neck in his fist and pulled him up.
Shock and anger registered on Sugou's face briefly before he managed to grab Asuna's arm, attempting to threaten Kazuto by announcing he still had her.
But Kazuto did not waver. Instead, Sugou's actions only caused Kazuto to find more power within his rage. "DON'T TOUCH HER!" He roared.
Darting forward, he viciously dug his teeth into Sugou's arm, feeling satisfaction as the skin tore. Sugou yelped like a dog and released Asuna's arm which limply fell to her stomach.
Kazuto released his teeth, straightened up and gathered his strength that was feeding off of his emotions. His knuckles that were gripping Sugou's collar had turned white and Kazuto violently lifted the older man off the bed with his fist alone before violently throwing him to the ground.
Sugou hit the floor on his back, temporarily dazed, but Kazuto was not in a mood to mess around; mercy was not even an option in his mind at this point.
Kazuto spun around to look down at his opponent before raising his foot. Then, with all the force in his body, he brought down his shoe, digging his heel relentlessly into Sugou's lower abdomen.
The scream that ensued made Kazuto feel terrible and satisfied at the same time.
Left barely conscious from the impact, Sugou was limp when Kazuto lifted him up by the collar again, dragging him to the still-open door of the room. "Killing you would have taken too long." Kazuto snarled before dropping the man into the hallway.
He slammed the door shut and locked it, no longer caring what happened to Sugou; it would be best if he was cleaned up by the janitorial staff and thrown into a flammable trash heap.
Kazuto leaned his back against the closed door as the boiling rage within him finally began to settle. He gazed at the floor as he quelled his anger, and then slowly raised his head, another tear falling off his cheek.
The Nerve Gear helmet, her crown of thorns that had trapped her spirit somewhere so far away, was lying on the floor.
The blankets of the bed were strewn about and ruffled.
A girl with long, chestnut hair lie quietly in the bed, her beauty somehow just as captivating as ever. However, her hospital robe hung loosely off one shoulder, and her head lie limply to one side, her eyes closed and her mouth slightly ajar in her final plea for help.
Kazuto felt his strength leave him as he approached the bed, stopping as he stared down at her.
He could only imagine the frozen terror she must have felt, having finally woken up after two years of being captive to a game, expecting to see someone who would make her happy.
But he had failed her. Instead, he had let her see a monster, the very same monster that had haunted her up until this point, even before she had entered Sword Art Online. He was probably always there behind the scenes, harassing her in every little way possible.
And he had been the first person she saw in the world after two years, and Kazuto hated that fact.
But then, as he looked down at her still figure, he began to wonder if she had even woken up at all.
He tentatively reached forward, scared that if he touched her, she may shatter into thin air all over again, terrified that he would never get to feel that warmth again. He barely made contact with the fabric of her robe as he pulled it back up onto her shoulder. Several tears fell from his eyes and landed on her collarbone, and it was then when he realized she was not breathing.
Either the wires connected to her IV machine had been removed, or her heart had stopped beating.
"Ah..." His voice failed him as his legs began to shake.
For the first time, he saw just how emaciated she was, her cheeks sickly pale and her features almost gaunt. Sugou's weight would have been more than enough to literally crush her.
"Ah..." His voice slipped free again as his fingers found her soft hair, still afraid to make contact with her skin, afraid that he would find it cold and still.
"Asuna..." At long last, he managed to say her name. His hand finally found hers and he winced when he noticed a harsh line of scarlet trickling down her wrist. He pressed his palm over the wound and held it tightly.
A long moment of stillness passed.
Then, her eyelashes fluttered slightly before slowly opening like a butterfly's tattered wings.
Kazuto's eyes widened as he found himself gazing directly into those familiar golden-hazel eyes. The enervation that showed past her irises melted into recognition, joy, and finally, love.
"Asuna..." he whispered again.
A smile emerged from her pale lips.
This was only his second time hearing that voice. It was faint, but it shook the air, shook his sense of hearing; that voice that called out to his soul, his reason for existence.
He sat on the edge of the bed and slipped his other hand beneath her shoulders and carefully, carefully lifted her up.
He was at a complete loss for words as his tears continued to fall.
"Asuna..." he bit his lip dreadfully as he forced himself to ask. "Did... did he...?" He could not bring himself to finish as he bowed his head before her. He felt her trembling fingers squeeze his, causing him to look up at her again as she shook her head; although she could not properly hear what he was asking her, she seemed to comprehend.
"I was saved... by Kirito-kun... again..." She breathed, her almost inaudible voice hitching in her throat. "My hero..."
Finally, her first tear in over two years fell into this world, passing her smile on the way down. She fell forward into his open arms, burying her face into his chest as she wept silently. Kazuto gently embraced her and let his tears fall as well.
Finally, finally, he could hold her at long last.
Resting his chin on her shoulder which was shaking from her sobs, Kazuto closed his eyes and let the tears fall freely, taking in her comforting, familiar scent that was much stronger than ever before. Her warmth spread throughout his cold body, and her heart thumped steadily against his chest.
They remained that way for a while, holding and being held by one another.
He opened his eyes again when he heard her small voice sounding from beside his ear.
"I thought... I truly thought..." she sniffed, repeatedly gasping to fill her sore lungs as she spoke. It was painful to listen to, but he just held her tighter and let her continue. "I thought... that I was going to die... here..." she sobbed. "But I-I... didn't want to die in this world... before having met Kirito-kun..." her quivering fingers clutched his shirt and he stroked her hair. "I would rather have... died in that world... the last world where Kirito-kun held me..." Unable to go on, she burst into tears again, struggling for breath as she moved closer to him.
"Shh. It's okay..." he murmured. "It's all over. The final battle... has finally ended. You're safe now." He did not know if she could hear him, but he made sure she understood by soothingly stroking her back, holding her as tightly to him as he dared.
Several more moments passed before her sobbing was quelled by his strong embrace.
They moved away from each other, just enough to let their gazes lock again.
"It's finished... finally... finally... I meet you." She breathed. Her silver tears continued to stream down her cheeks as she smiled, holding out her upturned palm to him. "Nice to meet you. I am Yuuki Asuna. – I'm back, Kirito-kun."
He answered the words that were like a dream to him, fighting off the crying in his voice as he took her hand.
"I am Kirigaya Kazuto... Welcome back, Asuna."
Their faces came together and their lips came into contact. Lightly.
Then again. Strongly.
He placed his arms around her delicate body and embraced her, at long last.
A/N: I hope you enjoyed it!
My friends and I have been concocting ways to make Sugou pay for everything he did, and this was my own personal idea (also within Kazuto's limits).