"Michiru-san!" The cry of the mechanics and race car drivers was loud enough to even drown out the sound of the motor being tested nearby, causing Haruka to grimace at the enthusiastic reaction her former team mates had to her partner; next to her, Michiru beamed at the men, glad to see that she still recognized them all and remembered their names, even though it gave her heart a slight pang to realize that the only one who had been replaced since the accident had been Haruka, making it obvious once again how well this team had and still was working.
"And Haruka-san!" one of the older mechanics finally seemed to notice the blonde as well, his gaze moving to her as he smiled brightly, the taller woman noticing that he was making quite the effort to not look at her leg and cane, "how nice to see you here again, after all this time!"
"Yeah, that pleasure's likewise", Haruka told him as he gripped her free hand with both of his for a few moments, giving it a tender, but still hearty squeeze; his smile widened even further, only to vanish from his face seconds later as he asked her how she was doing, now, finally, glancing down on the cane, the rest of the team listening in breathless silence as they waited for her answer.
"Oh, well, you know", Haruka tried to avoid giving a too detailed answer, "I'm hanging in there. Michiru's helping a lot, and of course so are Setsuna-chan and Hime-chan… and business is going well, so I won't need to worry about money anytime soon."
Even though he knew how awful things had been Haruka and Michiru, having heard the rumours which had been all over the racing scene after the accident, the mechanic just nodded and smiled; the blonde smiled back at him, then her gaze found the young racer she'd met with a while ago, a smirk curling her lips when he immediately blushed the very second her eyes fell on him.
"Tenoh-san", he immediately started to talk, making several of his team mates roll their eyes, "I'm really sorry about what I said at our meeting", at those words, he went as far as bowing, forcing Haruka to bite back laughter, "I didn't mean to be inconsiderate or rude, I just tend to thoughtless when I'm excited", yet another bow, and next to her, the tall blonde could hear Michiru snort as she struggled against giggles as well, "and I never meant any harm with my words, I'd be forever honoured if you'd forgive me and be my manager!"
"It's alright", Haruka reassured him while he bowed for a third time, and the sharp intake of breath she heard from Michiru made it clear that holding back laughter just had become even harder for her partner, "I have to apologize too, for storming off like that, but sometimes, my temper gets the better of me."
"Don't we all know that", another one of the racers laughed, making the others chuckle as well, the violinist taking the chance given by this and letting out the giggles she had been holding back, "I still remember the time Haruka-san put a dent in a hood because she hit it with her fist so hard!"
"You never told me that", Michiru immediately admonished, giving her partner a strict look, even though her mouth twitched when she saw Haruka blush; clearing her throat, the blonde shot the tattling racer a dirty look, then looked at the man she would manage again soon once more, asking him if he had a moment so they could speak somewhere in private.
"Of course, of course", the young man replied eagerly, looking as if he was about to bow yet again; before he could do so though, and perhaps send Michiru into hysterics at his expense after all, Haruka moved over to him as quickly as she could, for once not self-conscious about her labouring walk, and asked him to follow her, something he gladly did with a huge grin on his face.
While Haruka was talking to the young racer in the break room, the only room they could use for their little meeting, Michiru spent the time with the mechanics and other racers; they all knew her from the races she had attended when her partner still had been driving, and were overjoyed to see her again, leaving their work be for a while just so they could talk to her.
"Long time no see, Michiru-san", one of them beamed at her, almost bouncing on the spot and forcing her to hold back a giggle, amused and touched by their enthusiasm, "how come you haven't been here for so long?"
"What a stupid question", one of the racers threw in before the aqua haired girl could reply, shaking his head, "of course she didn't come here because Haruka-san wasn't coming here! Did you expect her to visit us alone?"
"How is Haruka-san doing?" the eldest mechanic of the team, and the one who always had cared the most about the couple, almost seeing Haruka as some sort of daughter, was the next one to speak up, changing the topic from the playful banter to a more serious one; giving him a kind smile, Michiru was secretly glad that he asked her this now, when the blonde finally started to accept what had happened to her, and that she hadn't run into him during the time Haruka had been constantly angry and bitter about the accident.
"She's getting better", she thus told him, not wanting to reveal too much, knowing Haruka wouldn't be happy to know that she had told her deepest emotions to the man, even though they always had gotten along very well, "of course her leg will never get better, but she's starting to accept that…"
"It's a shame that this had to happen to her", the mechanic sighed, shaking his head, "such bad luck. After I heard what had happened, I looked it up and it said that muscle death is really rare."
"It is", Michiru nodded, "they'd never treated it in that particular hospital before, and at first, they wanted to amputate the whole leg… They weren't sure how removing the dead muscle tissue would affect her in the long term, it only has been done once before…"
"I imagine Haruka was quite upset when she woke up and heard of this", the mechanic grimaced, making Michiru nod; and even though she didn't want to remember these dreadful moments, she couldn't help it, but had to think back to the moment she'd been forced to face Haruka about her decision, her heart clenching up at the unpleasant memory, but unable to keep the pictures from resurfacing from the depths of her mind.
Just when Michiru approached the door leading to Haruka's room, it opened and the blonde's doctor stepped outside; he gave her a brief, but sympathetic look, making her wonder what was up, but before she could try to ask him, he had turned away and was marching down the hallway, making his way to the next patient.
Shrugging it off, Michiru entered the room, smiling slightly as she stepped inside; the moment her gaze met Haruka's though, her smile faded, as one look on the taller woman's face told her that Haruka knew, that she knew what had been done and why it had been done, and that she hadn't taken the news lightly.
"Haruka", she still said, giving her best to sound cheerful and not as if her heart was now hammering up to her throat, "I came here the moment they told me you woke up, I'm so glad you'll be fine…"
"Fine is a generous word, isn't it", Haruka gave back, her voice even hoarser than usual, still weak from how long she had been comatose, "considering what the doctor told me."
"It had to be done", Michiru gave back at once, all her worst nightmares ever since she had made that decision coming true in that instant – from the moment on she had told the doctor what to do, she had lain awake at night, thinking of all the unpleasant changes this would mean to Haruka's life, asking herself if she had done the right thing after all, and clearly, the blonde had been having the same thoughts ever since she had been told what they had been forced to do to her leg, the knowledge showing in her darkened gaze as she looked at the violinist.
"Haruka", Michiru tried again, moving closer to the bed and reaching for the blonde's hand, hurt clearly showing on her face when Haruka pulled away from her, "I'm sorry… But we had no choice, it was poisoning you and…"
"So you told them to remove it", Haruka almost snapped, her gaze darkening even further, "and ruin my life?"
"The only other option was amputation", Michiru still tried to reason, "or letting you die! Would you rather have died?"
"Get out", Haruka flatly replied, now looking away from her and out the window, her gaze suddenly not dark anymore, but empty of all emotion, "now."
"Haruka…" Michiru tried once more, and suddenly, the anger was back in the racer's teal eyes as her gaze flickered back to her partner, the raw emotion nearly making the aqua haired girl flinch.
"Get out!" Haruka snapped at her, clenching her fists on the blanket, "I don't want you in here! You ruined my life, Michiru, so get the Hell out!"
And that was just what Michiru did, turning around so fast that she nearly lost her balance and rushing towards the door, tears blurring her sight as she hurried out of the room, suddenly knowing that everything Haruka and she had been fighting for had been destroyed, that any chance for a happy life they might have had now that all threats were gone had been removed along with the dead muscle in her partner's leg.