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~Suzette~

༻Chapter 34༺

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     “Not those,” the woman says with an exasperated sigh as my hand hovers above the large mushroom. “Not unless you’re trying to kill him faster.”

     “Are there truly not any mushrooms here that are not poisonous? He should have something more hearty than simply crushed apples…”

     “Well, there’s not any. Not anywhere we’ve looked.”

     I let out a quiet sigh as I stand up and dust off my apron. Swiftly I turn on my heel to face her—the thin woman who I can now see is nearly twice my height, wearing the ornate dress of an aristocrat, her arms crossed and face gazing away from mine. I frown deeply as I look upon her, who is seemingly scarcely paying attention.

     “Why do you not heal him? Can you not do that, is that not what you were—”

     “He won’t let me, all right?!” she spits, her violet tinged face distorting harshly. “He said he would throw that damn thing into the fire if I try, so I can’t,” she adds, pointing down towards me; or more precisely, to my chest. The clay crescent Moon, adorned with swirls…

     “All right,” I reply softly, gazing away from her, “Yet, you need not be so harsh.”

     “Ugh,” she groans, and rolls her eyes, “And you need not rub it in.”

     “What do you mean?”

     “…Nothing,” she sighs. “Let’s just go back.”

     And with this, Maiden Moon dissipates into the air.

     I slowly trod through the woods, returning to the musty house, a question lingering in my mind…

     “Did he truly say that to you? Not to heal him?” I mutter quietly, my voice overtaken with the cracking of dead leaves below my feet.

     “I don’t know how terrible he told you I am,” she replies within my mind, “But I wouldn’t leave him like this of my own accord.”

     “He did not tell me of—”

     “Shut up,” she moans, “I am not that stupid. Aside from knowing how he is, how else would you know to put the necklace on?”

     “Please do not be angry at him…”

     “I’m not; at least not for that,” she sighs. “But I will be angry at him for this shit, for not letting me heal him and at last done with it.”

     “W-Why is he being that way?” I ask, shivering slightly at the early autumn breeze.

     “You should ask him. He won’t tell me.”

     “I will,” I reply, and soon her voice quiets, once more leaving me entirely alone. I frown as I continue along the darkening path…

     I have never understood Hikaru so well as these few weeks. The days go by slowly, so dreadfully slowly—and quietly. He is only recently growing well enough to speak any true amount. The first few days were certainly the worst, before I decided to wear this necklace… Only the sounds of creaking wood and his hoarse breathing could be heard within this house, and even the surrounding area continues to have an unnatural stillness—and foreignness—to it.

     Although this home is technically in Florêvêr, I still do not quite precisely know where the true town of Florêvêr is, and unfortunately, the memories still revealed to me in my sleep do not show me its location either. We are at the edge of a large field surrounded by a mostly pine forest, and behind the house the massive blue of the mountains reaches far into the Sky.

     I gaze up to that Sky, the leaves of the overhanging trees steadily transforming from green to red, brown, and gold. Normally autumn is quite pleasant; though the air grows colder, the world is filled with a sense of warmness to it that is incredibly delightful.

     I wonder if the Equinox has since passed, what the date is—I wonder if it shall soon be my birthday. Depending on how one looks upon it, this may be the first year I have ever received a gift for the occasion…I believe I preferred not receiving anything.

     And with my thoughts meandering thus, I continue onwards, returning to our former home.

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     Near the end of dusk, when the world is so dark I can scarcely see, I at last return to the house. Somehow, it appears even more worn and desolate than usual. Steadily I make my way up the short steps, wincing as they bend below me, and proceed to walk into the parlor. Yet, what I see—

     “…Hikaru?”

     He sits on the couch, staring at a lone oil lamp sitting on the coffee table, alighting the now dark room. He is wearing the clothing I had cleaned for him, old clothing Alex bought for him long ago, that has somehow still survived well enough even now. They fit him well, which I suppose is good…yet, I still cannot help but frown at the sight.

     When he was young, he was always quite thin; once I encountered him in this lifetime he looked quite different, being somewhat more muscular—a form he has had for as long as I have known him. That is, until now…it is clear he is quite emaciated and frail, his face sunken in and looking at least a decade older.

     He continues staring into the lamp as though he had not heard me at all.

     I close the door, and gently go and seat myself beside him. I take a sharp breath once I am situated; it almost feels as though I may push him over, he is so weak…

     “Sâlêzj, Suzette,” he replies in a very quiet, gravelly voice.

     “Nykhte bon, Hikaru!” I softly reply with a grin. “Is this the first time you have come downstairs since we have arrived here?”

     “It is. I’ve felt better today than I have in a while…”

     “That is lovely,” I say, putting my arm around him. “Hopefully soon enough you shall be entirely well, and we can gather our things and return to our new home!”

     At this, he stays entirely still, looking upon the lamp with a face that betrays no emotion. Almost as though I have left once more, and he is all alone.

     “Are you not excited, Hikaru? I—I know this has been a harrowing experience for you especially, yet—we are so close to dawn arriving…”

     He stays silent for a few minutes longer. A concerning amount of time.

     “Hikaru, I have something to—”

     “I’ve been lost in thought,” he mutters abruptly.

     “Oh? What of?”

     “I’m incredibly worried for you, Suzette.”

     “You need not concern yourself so deeply,” I reply, “Especially since you are the one in such a dreadful state. And, though I know it may not appear as such, I truly am quite capable of caring for myself…”

     “That’s right,” he replies, “You are quite capable…that, I’ve never doubted. Especially not now.”

     I cannot help but grow uncomfortable; though he is agreeing with me, something feels off about this exchange…terribly, terribly wrong.

     “I’ve something important to tell you, Suzette,” he nearly whispers.

     “Hmm?”

     “For me, within the depths of my soul, I’m your husband. I was always meant to be.”

     “Of course,” I chuckle, “We are—”

     “But as for you,” he interrupts me, “Please, I…I beg of you to simply forget about me. View this summer as a pleasant dream, but…please continue on your life without me.”

     Suddenly, it feels as though time itself ceases its march onwards. For a moment, everything is frozen in an eerie, dreadful quietness.

     “…What?”

     “Look at what’s happened.”

     “You saved my life,” I reply in a voice tinged with—anger? Or desperation?

     I gaze up to him, and at the same moment he looks down upon me, the flames of the lantern alight his sorrowful face.

     “And why did you need that?”

     “Surely you do not blame yourself for what had happened?”

     “Maybe you didn’t hear them,” he says, furrowing his brow so deeply, the lines upon his face become like ravines, “But they said so. Screaming, laughing about bringing death to the damned one that had the audacity to walk into their home.”

     “That is simply their excuse!” I exclaim, quickly growing incredibly emotional. “Ones such as them, do you truly believe they are not simply searching for a reason to harm others?”

     “But they found it. They found it…and many wouldn’t disagree with their actions.”

     “That does not justify it—!”

     “Does it matter?” he sighs, “If society says it is justified, how does our opinion affect anything?”

     For a moment, I grow still.

     “Hikaru,” I whisper, “For one such as you, that happily goes around with hair longer than he is tall, wearing the clothing of your homeland, bearing a necklace of the Moon upon your neck…since when does the views of society affect your actions? Why do you suddenly care?”

     “Because this isn’t about me anymore…it’s about you.

     “How am I meant to support you and protect you if I’m the one attracting disaster your way?”

     “That has never been—”

     “That has always been who I am, in this life and the last—I’ve always been little more than a parasite, leeching off of the love you’ve so graciously given me.”

     “Do not ever say such things about yourself!” I snap, “That is not true, nor has it ever been! In regards to Alex or myself!

     “Do you—do you somehow not recall the innumerable lovely things you have done for me, so sparkling and wonderful that I—that I never know how I may compare…? Where would I be, if not for you?”

     Swiftly, tears begin pouring out. For a moment he remains quiet, his face entirely stoic.

     “I don’t know,” he whispers. “I suppose that’s it, I’ve played my part in this story, helping you leave that house, finding your brother, funding your bakery; yes…” he mutters, as though he is talking to himself.

     “Yes,” he continues, “I can’t express how grateful I am, how grateful I am to have met you, to have known someone so perfect as you…but I’ve outlasted my usefulness for you. Our summer is coming to an end.”

     “No it is not, I refuse it! You have not ‘outlasted your usefulness’—I do not love you because you are ‘useful’ to me—!”

     “And I refuse to actively put your life in danger, because I’m so selfish to put my desire to be with you above your own safety! What kind of husband would I even be to do such a thing to you?”

     “But—but—” I stutter, taking his hand into my own, “But I wish for a life with you, Hikaru. I do not care about—”

     “You should. You’ve so much more to live for beyond me…you shouldn’t give up your dreams for anyone, and certainly not me.”

     “I am not,” I frown. “We shall still go to Bydlin, I shall still begin my bakery—surely you do not believe terrible things only happen when you are around, and I may not perish tomorrow for reasons entirely unrelated to yourself?”

     “You could,” he whispers, “But don’t tell me you’ve not noticed how misfortune follows me around like a phantom that refuses to leave.”

     “Is everyone not at least a little unfortunate? Consider how nothing ill has happened until now; we have traveled through the majority of Soléiâ, and no ill fortune has befallen us. That was merely an unfortunate circumstance—”

     “How many ‘unfortunate circumstances’ can one man have, Suzette?!” he nearly shouts, and I jump back, taking a sharp breath.

     His deep voice, generally so soothing…can also be quite terrifying.

     “Every human I have ever loved has died; the men were right, I am cursed, damned—”

     “You have never been either of those things, Hikaru!” I shout back to him. “Have you not listened to me a whit?!”

     For a moment, he says nothing.

     “I have,” he whispers, his breath now growing uneven once more. “I’ve never met anyone so endlessly kind and loving as you, so talented and beautiful; all that anyone could ever desire, in every respect—and that’s why you, above all, must live.”

     “Together.”

     “How likely do you think that is to happen?”

     “No one bothered us in Bydlin—”

     “I believe I’ve told you before, what happened when I was young. When I tried to be a physician, but even those who would never so much as say one ill word to my face still wouldn’t support me.

     “Even if Florence is well liked, you’re not established. And with someone like me as your husband…

     “Sâ pšyku vrémond, Suzette. I can’t live knowing it’s at your expense.”

     “You would not be—!” I begin weeping even harder…and to this, he once more turns to the lamp, closing his eye with a terrifically pained look upon his face.

     “I-Is, is this your way…of telling me you do not desire me anymore?”

     Suddenly his face shoots back to mine, a look of abject horror upon it.

     “Gods, no—no Suzette, not ever,” he says, pulling me into an embrace. “Everything I’ve ever said to you, and all I have done…I swear on my soul, it’s genuine, all of it. My greatest dream is that you succeed with your dreams. Sincerely.”

     “Yet how shall I be satisfied all alone…?” I mumble into his chest, still crying.

     “You won’t be,” he whispers, stroking my back. “You have Florence, your new friends; and I’m certain you can find a man far more incredible than you can imagine, far more what you deserve than me.”

     “No!” I exclaim, pulling myself away from him, “I love you Hikaru, only you! You are my other half, no one else!”

     “The same for you, Suzette…and that’s why I refuse to be the death of you.”

     “Damn it!” I cry, putting my hands to my head, “Have you forgotten—forgotten…”

     “Forgotten…?”

     “…Nothing,” I mutter, looking down.

     Have you forgotten the day upon the lake? That I may be with child?

     Yet, I know the truth…the idea that my body is not so broken, malformed, that it is even possible for me to bearhave a child is pure fantasy. I wished to believe such a thing could be possible, that he and I may have a beautiful family together; yet, of course such a thing is not meant to exist in this world. To pretend so, just so he will not leave…would be quite manipulative. Therefore, I remain silent.

     Suddenly, I stand up, quickly moving myself away from him.

     “Suzette—”

     “I-I…” I begin choking on my words, yet I force them out regardless, “I need to be alone, Hikaru.”

     Before he may say another word, I run from him, going up the stairs with rushed, thunderous steps, straight into the bedroom. That old bedroom, once full of our happiest and most sorrowful memories…

     With a bang I slam the door shut behind me, and fling myself upon the bed.

     “Damn it, damn it all!” I cry and shout into a pillow, my body shriveling up, feeling as though I am shrinking into nothingness. “Why, w-why would you do this to m-me, Hikaru…”

     I attempt to blame Hikaru—I wish to hate him, to loathe him with all my being, taking my heart and making it whole, only to tear it asunder—yet, yet—I cannot, I simply cannot…!

     “No…” I say hoarsely aloud, “It is not Hikaru I hate…it is this wretched, horrendous shit world…!”

     For nearly half a century, since the time of his birth, it has been planted within him—he is broken and damned by the most beloved goddess herself, there is no place for him, there can never be a place for him. All because…what? For what has he done?

     He was born wrong, he was born “broken”…to an extent not even a pathetic woman such as myself can compare.

     I turn over to my back, still sobbing loudly.

     Although no lights are alit within the room, to the right of myself is a faint glow. And so for a moment I quiet, looking over to the goddess, looking at myself with a queer look upon her face.

     “Are you h-happy, Maiden Moon?” I chuckle through my sobs, “Hikaru, he—he told me you are very attached to him…are you happy it shall be you two alone once more…?”

     I close my eyes, and begin laughing loudly and crying, all together in unison as my body grows weak…

     And then—

     My body goes entirely limp as a thin woman wordlessly embraces me.

     “Why…why do you hug me so?”

     She mutters something incomprehensible under her breath.

     “Hmm?”

     “I don’t know,” she replies in a harsh tone. “I don’t know…just take it, or leave.”

     “Mâzjêr vrémond né…Maiden Moon.”

     She simply says nothing as I continue to sob in her arms, until at last I weep myself to sleep.

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     If every day before went by in a dark haze, then every day thereafter goes by in a delirium. I do not know whether to enjoy our remaining time together, here away from civilization—or if, perhaps, I should begin my process of detachment from him. I attempt to proceed forth with the former; yet in spite of myself, shades of the latter cloud my every interaction. It is difficult to be near to him, to kiss him and embrace him with the same passion when I know it shall change nothing.

     Because, truthfully…that is not what I desire at all. Yes, touch is pleasant and wonderful, yet for myself what I desire is not his body, not even his mere company, yet him—his soul, who he truly is—and for him to never stray from my side. Yet, that certainly shall not be so; and, I have noticed…he himself seems quite different too. We are both merely continuing our part in a play, until at last the curtain closes, and we shall continue on…

     I would almost believe he had lied to me, that truthfully his love has rapidly dried up, if it were not for the weeping that softly resounds in the night, from the dark corners of the house when he believes I am asleep. The quiet conversations he whispers through the darkness…the ramblings of a now truly broken man.

     “I’m amazed you care so much…but it doesn’t change anything.”

     “What do my emotions matter? She’s strong, I know she’ll move on…”

     “No, I’d rather stab myself now than let that happen to her.”

     “She already died too early once, I won’t let it happen again…”

     And no matter how much I plead, how gently or forcefully, nothing ever changes…until I say nothing at all. Until at last our distance is complete, and we scarcely speak a word…until somehow, our only connection is not our relationship with one another, yet our relationship with her.

     How did this happen? What a strange world this is…

     One morning I awake when the leaves have grown quite colorful, and scarcely a speck of green is in sight—and to my surprise, I find Hikaru sitting at the end of the bed, looking out into the distance as he is wont to do recently. In his hands he holds quite a large bag, yet not his own; and soon, I notice the barrenness of the room around me.

     “Ašon bon, Hikaru…”

     Slowly he turns over to myself—a subtle, sad smile upon his lips.

     “Sâlêzj, Suzette,” he says just the same as he always has, “I’ve packed everything for you. All the paintings, what money is left—if there’s anything else you want, don’t hesitate to take it. I’ve given this bag the same sigil as mine, so it should be able to hold whatever you need…”

     “Mâzjêr né, Hikaru…” I mumble shuffling across the bed, taking the bag from him. “I presume you are well enough that…”

     “Yeah,” he says so quietly I scarcely hear him. “I can’t tell if the seasons have always changed so swiftly, or if it’s just autumn that’s rapidly approaching…but either way, you should probably go home as soon as you can.”

     “Yes indeed,” I sigh, and rummage through the bag to see its contents.

     “Is this your map…?”

     “It is,” he replies, “If you look closely, it will help you find Florêvêr; it’s just a few hours walk from here.”

     “Do you not need it?”

     At this, he chuckles for perhaps the first time in weeks.

     “I’ve traveled across Soléiâ for so long, I can easily find whatever I might need.”

     “All right…” I reply, continuing looking through the bag. I find another pouch inside, quite large and lumpy—and once I attempt to pick it up, heavy.

     “Is this pouch full of money?”

     “Yeah, that’s what was left of our savings…I buried it to keep it safe. It’s all yours now.”

     I open the bag, and even I am terribly taken aback by the amount; perhaps hundreds of or and ârzje, gold and silver coins. Well over what most make within a year, at the very least.

     “Did you take any for yourself?”

     “I don’t particularly need money, as you’ve seen.”

     I sigh, and begin pouring out the coins, and counting through them.

     “Suzette, those are—”

     “If they are mine, then it is my decision what should be done with them,” I reply before he may finish. “And…you deserve something for this journey, for bringing me here. I will likely still have far more than this regardless.”

     After a moment, I count through them; fifty or, a very respectable amount. And just as I imagined, there is still far more left, not even including the paintings. I gather it all in my hands, as much as I can muster, and set it all beside Hikaru.

     “I don’t think I need—”

     “It does not matter,” I whisper. “Please, for everything…take it.”

     “All right,” he sighs while closing his eye.

     I look through the bag a little more, and find my bag in there too…

     Taking it, I look inside, and find there is something still in there—something that need not be. I gaze up to him, and notice he is not wearing his bag either. It is probably still within the parlor.

     “I shall go downstairs for a moment,” I say.

     “All right,” he mutters, not asking why.

     I take a deep breath and grab this new bag, and make my way down the worn steps.

     Though it is in the middle of the day, the house still feels terribly heavy and dreary. How fitting, as our dreams of the future come to an end—as do the dreams of the past. As Hikaru has grown more well, relatively, in the waking world, Alex has steadily been growing ever more ill…

     I cannot imagine there are many dreams left now. They are almost over.

     Soon I find his satchel sitting upon the coffee table, collecting a layer of dust. Gently I open it, and slip what I wish to inside—

     And just as I look over, I see her. A faded, hazy apparition; yet she is certainly there.

     I wish to say something, and yet I cannot precisely parse what…

     “So you’re about to leave,” she says quietly, yet whether it is from her speech or my faded perception of her, I cannot tell.

     “Yes…” I whisper, “W-Would it be too much to ask that you…visit me once more, tell me how Hikaru is? Or perhaps, even exchange letters between us, wherever he goes… I am terribly worried for him, he—he is not himself anymore…”

     She frowns, eyes darting away from me. I notice her nails claw into her arm…

     “…I can.”

     “Mâzjêr vrémond né,” I gently reply, “I appreciate the thought…and for helping me look after Hikaru.”

     “He cannot be my priest if he’s dead.”

     “Right…”

     I turn around to leave, before I hear something, a muttering from Maiden Moon.

     “Did you say something?” I ask, turning around to her once more, an even more upset expression on her face.

     “Pšyku…Suzette.”

     I simply blink, slightly confused as to whether I did indeed hear her correctly.

     “You are apologizing to me?” I ask, slightly incredulous.

     “Believe it or not, I can do such a thing.”

     “What for?”

     “For all of this…I’m sorry.”

     I gaze to the ground, my mind growing entirely still for a moment, unsure in how to reply to her.

     “M-Mâzjêr né,” I whisper. “Well…vwârdnie, Maiden Moon…”

     “Until we meet again.”

     “If we indeed do,” I mumble, looking away with tears filling my eyes…

     “I doubt he can stay away for too long,” she says quietly, yet still with a slight harshness in her voice. “So, until we meet again.”

     I simply nod wordlessly, and return up the stairs, into the desolate bedroom, for the last time…

     “Are…are you prepared, Hikaru?”

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     Outside the air is not simply cool, but cold, so dreadfully cold it feels as though my skin shall become ice. I stand silently, looking out towards the dreary gray Sky that makes even the colorful leaves look faded. I cannot help but chuckle at it…

     My birthday must surely be soon—what if it were perhaps today? Ah, what a farce…an utter farce!

     Soon light footsteps resound on the wooden porch behind me, and the door lightly creaks shut. Hikaru’s tall, now thin figure walks up to me. Slowly I face him, attempting to keep my face emotionless…

     To my surprise, he lowers himself to his knees, and pulls me into a tight embrace; or rather, as tightly as his still meager strength can muster…

     “Hikaru…”

     “Sâ pšyku vrémond, Suzette—I…” his voice trails off, his tone sounding a tad dazed. “I’ve gone about this…horrifically. If you don’t want to forgive me, you don’t have to.”

     “W-Whatever do you mean?” I mutter, voice shivering terribly; although I attempt to reign in my optimism, lest it fails me…

     “I can’t allow myself to go back with you, I can’t put you in danger like that,” he sighs, and swiftly my hope shrivels up.

     It sounds as though everything is much the same…

     “But I…” he continues, “I did let my anxiety overwhelm me and overreact. If you’ll have me…I still want you in my life, Suzette.”

     I cannot help but hold him tighter than I perhaps should, and begin to shake—and absolutely lose myself in tears…

     “I…I hope within your absence you may discover some sense, Hikaru!” I cry in frustration, sorrow, relief—a nauseating, confusing concoction of emotions. “You continue to play with my heart thus, always succumbing to your worst fears in an instant, all your logic falling into the abyss…!”

     Though he continues to embrace me, his grasp loosens, and he slowly descends to a sitting position.

     “I understand,” he whispers hoarsely.

     “Hikaru!” I huff, pulling away from him and gazing into his eye as tears still descend down my cheeks, “I am saying…of course, I absolutely, positively, always wish for you to be within my life.”

     He blinks and his mouth sits slightly agape, as though he did not understand a word I had said. I release one of my arms from his side, and instead begin to stroke the side of his face…

     “After all that has transpired,” I whisper, “You truly believe I would willingly toss you to the wind?”

     He pauses for a moment.

     “…I’m confused,” he says, as though this fact is not obvious.

     “I adore you, Hikaru, yet…” I trail off, “As much as I would prefer you not leave at all, perhaps this absence may do well for us after all—not so much for myself, yet for you.

     “Yes, I have forgiven you for that evening, and yet—this is becoming a pattern and I cannot handle it! Your fears overtake you, and you begin to sabotage all, almost as though you seek to make your most wretched thoughts of yourself true…and I cannot bear this, Hikaru! It is too painful…

     “If you insist on being away, then…please, I implore you to take this time and attempt to overcome this; not simply for my sake, yet yours as well…you deserve more than this too, Hikaru. You deserve happiness—

     “And do not reply any nonsense that the world will not allow it to you! Once I am well established—please, please return to me then, if you truly love me…”

     “Even if it’s as a spirit, I’ll return. I promise. And,” he sighs, “…I’ll do that. At least…I’ll do my best.”

     “Mâzjêr vrémond né, Hikaru…”

     “I don’t know how I’ll contact you yet, but—”

     I interrupt him with a quiet laugh.

     “I have already asked if I may send you letters upon the wings of the moonlight…it is comforting to know I am not a fool for such a request.”

     “Lêm sâ tsiâ né, sâ sâule pozjdya,” Hikaru whispers to me.

     I love you so much, my other half.

     “…Lêm mo sâ tsiâ ne, sâ sâule pozjdya.”

     With this, he deeply embraces me in a warm, passionate kiss. Yet, simultaneously, I cannot help but weep even more—

     Oh Hikaru…why do you insist the world is so dangerous, when I feel so safe within your arms?

     Why do you believe I shall never achieve my dreams, when with you I feel I may achieve anything?

     Yet, in the end, this has certainly illuminated something for myself…regardless of our past, even if our souls are indeed two halves of one whole—even if we are bound by a string of stardust…in the end, he and I are truly quite different people. Each with our own experiences, our own emotions that, in the end, we can never truly express to one another… All we may do is attempt to express our heart; yet, in the end, sometimes the boundary is too steep…where even love may not connect it.

     And so now, I slowly release myself from his grasp and step away, taking a final look upon him, that strange and lovely person I call my beloved. Though I am immensely grateful that we may at least keep correspondence with one another…

     Why does my soul still ache so?

     I face away from him, and quietly descend into the dark autumn forest.

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     {“Alex, what are you doing?” Hikaru sighs as he sits beside me on the bed. In front of me sits the easel; and to the side of it, a small table holding at least some of my paint on it.

     “Look with your other eye, Hikaru!” I laugh, attempting to lighten the mood—but as I look to him, he simply frowns deeply.

     “The physician said you need to rest…”

     “I’m sitting on the bed, aren’t I? Normally I paint standing up.”

     “Painting is still working…”

     “Does it count if it’s fun work, though?”

     “Yes, work is work!” he says, clearly growing quite upset. “Alex, how are you ever going to get well if you don’t rest?”

     “Well, you know—” I begin, before a terrible coughing fit interrupts me.

     At this, Hikaru simply puts his arms around me, and gently leans me down on the bed along with himself.

     “There, this is better…” he says, laying his head upon my shoulder.

     “Um, Hikaru…should you be so close to me? The physician doesn’t know what my illness is, you might—”

     “I know,” he whispers, “It’s all right.”

     “That’s very much not all right—”

     “And?”

     “And I won’t let you get sick just because—!”

     “What does it matter if I get ill? If you are too…”

     Gently I try to nudge him off of me, but he simply increases his grasp.

     “Why are you being this way…” I reply, dejected. “I don’t want anything bad to happen to you…”

     “And neither do I with you,” he mumbles.

     “Why are you being so…so stubborn? This is unlike you…”

     Normally, it seems as though he goes along with everything—sometimes even to a concerning degree. Yet now, he won’t listen even slightly…

     “I just want what’s best for you, Alex,” he says, “And, if something does happen to you, it’d be—it’d be dreadful for you to be alone.”

     “Something worse could happen to you…”

     “I don’t mind, as long as you’re well.”

     I frown; but, I must admit…it is comforting having him here, his warmth with my body that always seems to have at least a slight chill among it. I don’t know how to feel, never do I want him to hurt himself for my sake…

     But also…I don’t want to be alone.

     If this illness truly is as wretched as it seems it may be…I don’t want to be alone.

     Even if I worry horribly about you, I must say—I am happy you won’t leave me alone, Hikaru.}

⋅•⋅⊰∙∘☽✧☾∘∙⊱⋅•⋅

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