If I Gave You My Love
The pressure rises over the next few days. You cram for the first exam, then when that's over, you have to start getting ready for the next one right away. I get my almost-wish of not getting to spend much time with Hisao, or at least, outside of studying in the library or one of the empty classrooms. Club meetings aren't suspended this week but they might as well be, no one has time for things like that. As exhausting as keeping up with the frantic pace of the tests is, what little free time I have is spent worrying about what's coming afterwards. For some reason, once exams are over with, we still have an entire week of class before they let us go for summer break. I have no idea why, everyone is so braindead and burned out by that point that even the teachers don't want to be here anymore, and it's not like we won't forget anything that we learn in that brief time over the course of the next month. I certainly intend to try, at least. But after that, people will start going home, or they'll leave on trips, and a few unfortunate people with nothing better to do will hang around the empty grounds and probably melt in the heat. And after that...
Once we get back from break, the third trimester is when things really pick up, even worse than now. I remember what it was like last year, when all the third years were freaking out about getting their grades up before graduation, or preparing for college entrance exams, things like that. At the time, I wasn't able to even fathom what it was like being in their shoes. I guess I figured that I would never find myself in that kind of situation, I would never have to worry about things like that.
Part of me still thinks that.
I don't want worry about that right now, though. I've been so tired at night--well, all the time, really--that I've been lucky enough not to dream very much. Over the last few days, I haven't so much as roundhouse kicked a masked henchman in my sleep, and I haven't seen any endless, starry night skies. But I don't want to think about that either, maybe even thinking about it is like a bad luck charm. So instead I squint at the textbook in my hands, most of my body submerged in one of the oversized beanbag chairs in the school's library. Warm afternoon light pours through the windows, and Hisao is seated at a nearby table, where he leans over his own textbook, copying down bits and pieces into his notes. Miki is... somewhere around here, I think. She may have slipped away, either because she doesn't really care for the library or, or maybe she was just hungry and stepped out to grab something to eat. I don't see her anyway, I hope she hasn't just given up on our next exam and decided to just go running.
Hisao certainly isn't giving up. Tomorrow is our English exam, and it's not his best subject. It's actually something I'm not that bad at, so for once I'm not stressing out about this one, I've even been able to help him with a few things so far today, which is nice. I want to make up for all the times he's explained things for me in our other classes, if I can. I want to give back, I want to help him too.
Hisao is frowning now, looking a little frustrated. Maybe it's time for Suzu Suzuki, English tutor extra... okay, just ordinaire. Or... averageaire? I'm okay at it. Anyway, maybe I can help.
I lurch forward in the beanbag, but I'm unable to achieve liftoff on the first try. After my second attempt, Hisao is staring at me incredulously, argh. Almost... almost got it...
There. I finally manage to pull myself out of the beanbag chair, standing up. I dust myself off for a moment, glancing around in case anyone else was watching, but all the other students are absorbed in their studying. Right, okay.
I take a few steps over to stand next to Hisao, glancing down at his paper. His notes have come to a dead stop, I think I can make out a few swear words scrawled here and there. But they're in English, so points for that.
Hisao looks at me expectantly, and I chew my lip for a moment.
“That's an ampersand.” I say, pointing to one of the symbols in his textbook.
“You just made that up, that's not a real word.” Hisao scowls.
“No, I mean it!” At my prodding, he flips to the glossary in the back.
“Well it certainly sounds like a made up word.” He says upon finding that I'm right, trying to play it off all cool.
I shrug. “That's English for you.”
Hisao's grimace tells me that he agrees. Even though I'm hardly a master at this, it feels nice to know something that he doesn't. Wait, I don't mean that like, look I'm smarter than him at something. I mean like maybe I can help him with this, and he'll see that we can help eachother. That he doesn't need to take special care of me. That I can be there to take care of him.
“Are you worried about the exam tomorrow?” I ask with a smile. I can fix this. I can prove it wasn't a mistake to tell him.
Hisao looks thoughtful for a moment, but then shakes his head. Oh.
“I think I'll be alright, even though English isn't my best subject.”
I try to roll with it. “You're bad at English but you're in the literature club? That should be illegal.”
Hisao smirks at me. “If I get arrested, then it's your fault for letting me in.”
I let out a little laugh, my fault. For... for letting him in.
Yeah. Maybe. Maybe so.
But he continues. “I think I'll be able to get through it though, and besides, my grades in the rest of my classes will be enough to get me by. Mutou says I shouldn't have any problem getting into a good university.”
Well that's, that's great.
“Well how about going over-” I want to move this conversation back a couple of steps, but Hisao looks up at me.
“Have you thought about what you'd like to do, Suzu? After graduation?”
I stare at him for a few long moments, trying to keep the smile on my face, feeling the excitement in my chest get snuffed out.
I sit down on the table next to his books, suddenly aware that I haven't touched the one that my mother gave me. I found it though, I remembered to pack it after all. I just haven't looked at it yet.
“Have you thought about maybe doing some job shadows, or looking at internships?” Hisao asks. I give him a weak smile, but then go back to staring at my hands, clasped in front of me.
“No, I haven't thought about that.” I mumble. Why is he worrying about things like this when the exam tomorrow is going to be hard?
“Well...” Hisao cocks his head to one side. He almost looks like our teacher now, when he's revving up to give us a speech about the parts of the scientific community he enjoys so much. Or, or he looks like my father.
“You don't always have to know what you're interested in before you go to a college. Here, I have some more brochures that Mutou gave me.” He reaches for his bag, please, please Hisao, don't.
“You sound like my parents.” I mutter, a little more bitterly than I intended. But he doesn't seem to catch it. He laughs, and continues digging around for the pamphlets.
“But I haven't even called you girly yet, girly.” He says.
“That's weird, don't do that.” I manage a smile and he smiles back, but I mean it, please don't call me that, Hisao. Don't call me girly, or, or Snoozu, and please, please don't call me Suki. Just call me Suzu. I just want to be Suzu to you.
“What if I called you Hicchan?” I tease him, eager to step away from colleges and graduations.
Hisao grimaces. “Then I would just call you Misha.”
I laugh, then close my eyes and suck in a deep breath, intent on giving my best impression of our classmate's booming laughter, but Hisao speaks up.
“Here, I thought you might like these.”
I open my eyes to see him thrusting several brochures at me, and my heart sinks again. You don't give up, do you? I wish you did. And maybe you're not as good at taking hints as I thought.
“Thanks.” I say flatly, taking the papers from him and pretending to give them a glance over.
“That first one there is out in the country, it reminds me of your house. It looks peaceful.”
“Huh.” I wonder where Miki is.
“And this one has a really good general credit program, you could use that to-”
“Hisao.” He stops, looking like he was in the middle of some pre-prepared speech. I wonder if my parents put him up to this.
“I can't deal with this right now.” I give him a strained smile. “Not on top of exams and everything. Please.”
His face says 'I'm just trying to help', and I know he is, but it's not what I need right now. It's not. No matter what he or anyone else thinks.
“Okay.” He says. “I understand. I should probably be more worried about exams myself anyway.”
“Maybe you should.” I flash him a tired grin, suddenly feeling very worn out.
“Are you still coming over later?” I ask, sliding off the table. Hisao glances at my legs for a moment as I do, uhm. But then he looks back at me.
“I wouldn't miss it.” He says, giving me that warm smile of his.
“Okay, good.” We had made plans to try to get through some of the movies that we bought at the convenience store last week, as well as maybe do a little extra studying, and, um, yeah.
“I'm going to find Miki.” I say. “See you around eight?”
“Sounds like a plan.” He nods, and I smile.
“Okay.” I walk over to the beanbag chair to retrieve my bag and begin to head towards the exit, but then stop. I make my way back over to Hisao, who watches me curiously, his eyebrows raised.
“Forget something?” He asks.
“Yeah.” I mumble, trying to resist the slight blush that's creeping into my face. I want... I want...
There'll be time to do this later, probably. I hope. But before I go, I want to know that things are still okay between us. That he's not upset with me for cutting him off, and I want him to know that I'm not upset with him either I just, I need to not think about things like that. For now. For a while.
Hisao is twisted in his seat to face me. I take another step closer, and then lean down and towards him. His smile returns, he leans forward and presses his lips to mine. I savor the warm sensation for few moments before pulling back. Luckily, there's still no one else paying attention to us in the library. A part of me wonders if I would have ever done something like this in the beginning of the school year, but then again, it's been a season of firsts, apparently. For good and for bad.
“Was that for luck?” Hisao asks, wearing something of a stupid grin. Ha.
“Why, do you need it?” I smile back, wishing my face wasn't so hot right now.
His expression weakens for a moment, and he almost looks more tired than me. “Yeah,” He says. “I do.”
“Hm?” I perk up at his sudden change, maybe I should stay, maybe I can do something for him after all. But he shrugs it off, tilting his head towards his books.
“I've got to get back to work, especially if we're going to goof off tonight.”
Goof off. I wonder what the technical definition of that is. “Oh, okay. Bye.” I know this conversation is over, and retreat with a smile. Hisao gives me a wave before retuning to his studying.
Where am I? I can hear... uh, thrashing, and I think... is someone screaming? What's...
I let out a moan as I open my eyes. Hisao is still sitting on my floor next to me, we're still leaned against my bed with a couple pillows behind us for comfort.
“You might not want to wake up just yet.” He says nervously, one hand on his mouth. He steals a glance at me and then turns back at the movie playing on my television.
“Wh... why? What...” I slowly look from him to the screen. The tinny screaming coming from the TV's speakers gets louder before coming to an abrupt end.
“Wah!” I cry, jumping in my seat. I stare at the scene playing out in the movie and then back at the boy sitting next to me. At his chest, specifically.
“What. What?” Hisao grimaces at me. “Nothing is about to burst out of my stomach.”
“How do you know that?” I ask through grit teeth. “Maybe your disability is aliens!”
“Maybe you're an alien.” He grumbles as he picks up the remote. I give a weak laugh, I think that was actually the first time I'd ever watched that scene. I'd seen the movie with my dad when I was little, but he made me close my eyes for all the “gross parts”, as he put it. In hindsight, I think that only forced my imagination to come up with even more horrible ideas of what must be happening on the screen, in fact, maybe that's why I have such a morbid imagination at times.
“Come on, I was just kidding.” I say, reaching for the remote with a smile.
“Nope, nope, I am officially freaked out now.” Hisao pulls it away with a grin. He stops the movie and I sigh. I lean into him, enjoying the sensation of his warm body next to mine. I must have nodded off, but I don't think I missed too much. I'm glad he's still here.
“Probably a good idea anyway.” I mumble, resting my head on his shoulder. “Should people with heart conditions watch scary movies?”
“Hey, I'm tougher than you know.” He quips back, laying his head on mine. I really like it when we do this, it feels nice, it feels peaceful.
“But maybe you're right.” He says. “We should probably be watching 'Sleeping Beauty' or something.”
I pull my head away, turning to look at him with narrowed eyes. He stares back innocently, but I begin glancing around for a pillow. Ah, there. I lean forward to grab it.
“No, no. No.” Hisao gently takes a hold of my wrist, preventing me from equipping my weapon.
“Yes, yes. You deserve it.” I mutter, straining against him. Eventually he relents, I snatch the pillow and turn to deliver my sleepy wrath, but the sleepy part suddenly outweighs the wrath or just about anything else. I end up just slumping against him with the pillow resting between us.
“Hey.” Hisao raises an eyebrow. “I thought you were going to punish me.”
“Next time.” I say groggily, looking up at him. I think... I think I need to wake up again.
“And besides.” I release one hand to point towards my desk. “'Sleeping Beauty' is over there.”
Hisao looks over, squinting for a second, and then suddenly lights up. “So you do have it.” He says, grinning.
“It's my favorite.” I mumble, and then yawn.
Hisao laughs. He tries to stand up to get the DVD, but I reach past the pillow to grip his sides tightly, pulling him back down.
“Hmm?” He looks back at me.
This is nice, the two of us together like this, just getting away from the pressure of exams for one night. And here in my room, there's nothing to fall on, there's nothing to hurt me. Hisao doesn't have to worry about... about protecting me or anything like that. We can go back to the way we were, before I must have made him realize just how dangerous my condition can be, before he started seeing me as someone who needs a constant guardian. Hisao. I can, I can walk around the school grounds by myself, most of the time. I can get my own lunch, and you don't need to make those huge study guides for me, I don't need that, I just need a little help going over the things I miss because of my narcolepsy.
I want to tell him that. I want to set this straight, before it goes too far, before he cements some image of me in his head as a broken little girl. Lost her brother, good thing Hisao came along to save her, isn't it?
It... well, it is. It's a good thing he's here, I'm glad he's here. But not like that. Not like this, this isn't what I want from him.
What I want from him is...
I don't want to ruin the moment we have here, I don't want to risk screwing this up. Right now he isn't looking at me like I'm fragile or weak, and he isn't saying anything about graduation, either. I want to keep it that way.
“Can you help me wake up again?” I ask.
Hisao stares back at me for a few moments before grinning sheepishly. “I could give it a try, yeah.” He says.
He leans backwards until his back is resting on the floor, and I move with him, laying on top of him. The pillow is now the only thing separating his body from mine. Well, that and, that and our clothes. But.
Hisao gently reaches for the pillow and pulls it aside, there goes that. I lean down and kiss him, resting my chest on his. I can feel my heart beating firmly, and even through his shirt I can make out Hisao's heartbeat as well. Its erratic pulses are nowhere near in time with mine, but that's all right.
We're not so different. We're not so strange.
I press myself against him, our eyes are closed. Hisao carefully wraps his arms around me, one hand cupping my head to bring me closer, to kiss me deeper. His other hand slowly smooths across my back, down my sides. I try not to shiver at his touch, I'm actually trying hard to resist the trembling that spreads through my body. I'm comfortable being around Hisao now, I like holding his hand and, and waking up with my head on his shoulder, he's even carried me from place to place during one of my sleeping spells, when I needed to be somewhere. But this is different, and I'm scared but I don't want to be scared, I want to feel more of his touch, I want to. I, I want to know him better.
My head feels so hot again, that fuzziness is coming back, it's different from the usual cloud of fatigue that follows me around. Some part of my brain is shutting down, and... and other parts of me are waking up, I'm beginning to sweat. Still on top of him, I place my hands on his shoulders and push myself up, pulling my face away from his.
Practically sitting on his stomach, I stare down at the boy below me. Hisao looks up at me, eyes heavy with... with what's probably lust and maybe, maybe love.
I wouldn't know. But I hope that's what it is. Because I'm pretty sure that's what I feel as I take in the sight of this messed up, suave, embarrassing boy.
He isn't like anyone else I've ever met. Sometimes he says and does things that remind me of other people I've known, but overall, I've never met someone like Hisao. Things haven't been perfect for us, I've messed up a bunch of times, I almost killed our chances of being together with my dream of the amusement park. But he was okay with that. He, he didn't mind, and he didn't mind me falling asleep on him all the time, and he even put up with my dancing around his questions and flat out refusing to answer him, when he wanted to know why I was scared. Now that he does, I don't know, I'm not sure. Things are changing, even being here with him now, like this, means that our relationship is changing. I don't like all the directions it's going in. I don't think I want him to keep looking at me the way he does in school, I don't want him to think of himself as my protector.
I don't want you to shield me from the world, Hisao. I just want you next to me, I want your hand in mine, when the world comes knocking on our door.
“Are you okay?” The boy below me asks softly, still staring up at me. I nod, my breaths coming hard and fast.
“A-are you?” I reply with a nervous smile. Hisao smiles back.
“Never better. And I mean it.” He says. Hisao reaches up to gently touch the side of my face. I close my eyes, turning my head to embrace his hand. I place my own hand over his, his skin is so warm.
Things aren't perfect between us. But I would never want to take back all the time we've spent together over the last few months. If, that day he first walked into my class, I had known that we would be here like this, I definitely would have sat up straight as he gave his introduction. I, I would have made sure to smile at him as he walked past, and I would have talked to him before waking up in the nurse's office.
Or maybe... maybe if I did that, things would have happened differently. Maybe we wouldn't have ended up spending the festival together for some reason, and none of this would have happening. In that case, I don't regret a thing, even the awkward bits, even the mistakes I made.
“Hisao.” I whisper, opening my eyes. I'm almost about to cry again, but I don't feel hurt, I don't feel pain.
“I'm glad you're here.” I say.
“Suzu...” He breathes, but before he can say anything else, I guide his hand lower, to the first button on my blouse.
I close my eyes again as our fingers work together to undo it, I guess I should be happy that he seems to have no idea how they work.
The first button comes undone. Confident that I can leave the others up to him, I begin to untie my bow. I was right to have faith in him, by the time I get it off Hisao is three buttons lower. My heart is beating faster and faster.
I drop my bow on the floor, opening my eyes. Hisao is almost finished unbuttoning my blouse now, he's frowning, hopefully not with concentration, I don't think it takes a genius to get one of these off. No, he looks pained but not at the same time, like he...
Like he doesn't want to screw this up.
The last button comes undone. I peel my blouse away, hoping that he doesn't notice my shoulders begin to tremble as I let it slide off of me. Hisao takes in the sight above him, my somewhat pale skin, marred with scratches and bruises, and scars and the occasional bandage. I hope... I hope he doesn't mind those. His eyes are drawn to my plain, powder blue bra and I glance away, embarrassed, but he's smiling at me.
“Suzu.” He says again, I look back, look into those warm brown eyes. “You're beautiful.”
I don't know how to respond to that. I... I don't, I... damn it, damn it, crying, stop. Stop. I lean back down to kiss him again, letting out a soft whimper as I melt into his embrace. Now it's my turn to try working his buttons, Hisao, Hisao, I want to tell you how much you mean to me, how much this means to me. Hisao. Hisao, I love you, I...
The room goes dark.
I wake up some time later, lying in my bed. I stare up at my ceiling for a few moments, trying to remember where I was and what I was... ohh no, oh...
Sitting up, I look down to see that I'm wearing my shirt again, and it's buttoned all the way up. My bow is missing, that was probably a little much for him. Hisao is sitting on the edge of my bed, watching the end of the movie I had woken up to, only... actually, I don't know how long ago it was. Hearing my moving, he turns to look at me and smiles.
“Hey.” He says simply.
“Hey.” I try to smile back but... damn it, I can't, I can't believe that happened, right when we were... um.
Interrupted again. I hate it.
I think Hisao takes my frustrated look as something else, because he quickly speaks up.
“I didn't do anything while you were out.” He says.
“I... I know.” I blink a few times, shake my head a little. Hisao scoots a little closer to me and I swing my legs over the side of the bed, moving to sit next to him. The movie is over, the credits are playing. Good riddance.
“Are you worried about that?” Hisao asks softly, giving me a concerned look.
Worried about... about falling asleep and people... people touching me? Doing things to me? That's another thing I try very hard not to think about, not to imagine. But it's still a possibility. It could, it could still happen, as much as the idea terrifies me.
I shut my eyes, then open them again. “Not with you.” I say, looking back at him. “I trust you.”
Hisao narrows his eyes, clearly thinking about it, about what could happen if I fell asleep around the wrong people. “Suzu,” he says. “I will never, NEVER let that happen to you.”
“I know.” I try my best to smile at him. This is one thing I don't really mind him being protective about. I would probably do everything in my power to prevent him from... to prevent him from getting raped if he was in danger of that, too.
“I mean it.” He stares at me intently. I lean closer, wanting to change the subject.
“I know.” I whisper, before begging another kiss from him. Our lips meet softly, our passion has boiled away and left us raw, left me brittle. As we part, Hisao begins to laugh, and I know we've moved away from dark, scary things.
“You fell asleep.” He grins, but he's looking at me fondly as he says it.
I groan. “Sorry.”
“It's okay.” He replies, standing up and off the bed. “There'll be time later. After exams, maybe.”
Maybe nothing. I hope. “Are you leaving?”
“Yeah.” Hisao says apologetically. “More tests tomorrow, I don't think I'll have time for the whole cloak and dagger thing in the morning.”
Even though I'm sad to see him go, I can't help but grin at the memory of sneaking him out of the girls' dorms. It's happened a couple times by now, we're starting to get the hang of it. Among other things, if tonight was... was any indication.
One last kiss, one last hug that lasts for maybe a little longer than it should, but he doesn't mind. We say goodnight and Hisao departs, and I know. I know that there's hope for us.
The last day of exams. It feels like all the previous ones were building up to this, science is my worst subject and it just happens to be the one thing standing between us and summer vacation. Although I'm in no rush to get back to my parents' house, I can't help but feel my body tense up as I sit at my desk. Me, Miki and Hisao spent hours preparing for this one, even though he clearly feels pretty confident about it. While the rest of the class is nervously paging through their notes trying to get some last minute cramming in, he's up at the teacher's desk, talking to Mutou. Asking... asking about his time at university, asking if he knows many researchers or people who work in laboratories and what it's like. Asking about the future.
I feel kind of shallow for only caring about the upcoming test when he's looking forward to more important things, but... I still, I can't deal with that right now. I can't. I don't know how to do any of those things, how to apply to colleges, how to take entrance exams, how would I get there? What would I do? A part of me can't help but think that, if only... if only Seiji were here, or if he had been around long enough to be doing those kinds of things, then maybe I could have went with him, I could have learned how to do it. But then again.
Then again he probably would have. He, he'd be at university right now, if it wasn't for me.
The bell rings, signaling the start of class. There's an electricity in the air, and it's completely different from the one that gave me the strength to push open the doors around my memories, back home. I feel like I'm sinking.
Someone's standing in front of my desk, I look up, Hisao.
“Ready?” He asks, even as Mutou begins passing out our exams.
Ready for the test? I don't know. Probably.
Ready for the future?
No, no, no.
I open my mouth to say something, but our teacher requests that the boy in front of me take his seat, and Hisao complies, giving me an encouraging wink. "Remember the hypotenuse." He says.
"You just made that up." I reply, but he gives me a worried look as he retreats to his seat. I begin to panic for a moment, that's a real thing? And I'm supposed to know it? But I stuff it down, there's no more time for cramming.
He's still been treating me differently. He's still been trying too hard to do things for me, going the extra mile to make sure I don't get a single scratch. While my sore limbs might thank him, the rest of me is in distress. I can't let this continue, I don't want this cloud to hang over us for the next week and into summer vacation, whatever ends up happening.
But that will have to wait, as a thick--really thick, urgh--stack of stapled paper lands in front of me, chaining me to the present.
I stare at the exam on my desk, the last thing thing standing between me and summer break.
The last thing keeping the future away from me.
“Please begin.” Mutou announces upon returning to his desk. I glance over at Miki, who gives me a quick, determined nod, and then pick up my pencil.
It's getting harder to focus as I chew through the test. Every second that passes takes me further and further from the world I know and into the unknown. Every problem finished feels like a shot into the dark.
A car accelerates uniformly from rest to a speed of 7.10 m/s over a distance of 35.4 m. What is the acceleration of the car?
0.712 m/s/s. B6.
Your classmate Saotome is capable of jumping to a height of 2.62 m. Determine his takeoff speed.
7.17 m/s. Miss. G10.
You drop your phone into a well--oh no I do not think so--and you hear it hit the water 3.41 seconds after being dropped. Determine the depth of the well.
57 meters deep, but I would never do that. A2, it's your turn Seij--
I look up from my exam. The classroom is gone. My desk and chair sit on a thin gravel path, and above me is a brilliantly lit summer night's sky.
The stars again.
I feel the presence beside me before I see it. There's nothing here, nothing but the path at my feet, the twinkling sky above, and the skeleton, draped in black, at my side.
Death stares at me silently for a long time, I almost wish he would open that bony mouth and say some sarcastic remark. But he continues to study me. Finally, he turns and, without a word, begins walking past my desk, following the small trail of stones on the ground. Everything else is drenched in an absolute, dense black.
“Where are you going?” I ask, although I don't mind his departure at all.
“Don't know.” He replies, looking back at me. “But you should come with me, Suki.”
“I'd rather not.” I say softly. I need to... I need to finish this exam. That I now can't read, it's just a blur of ink on paper. Damn it.
Death lets out an irritated sigh. “Then stay here.” He says dismissively, continuing on his way.
Well this isn't so bad. I consider doing just that and waiting my dream out, maybe whistling something, but movement catches my eye. It takes a few moments for me to figure out what's happening. But then I realize that the stars above are going out.
One by one.
Fear slowly starts snaking into my chest. The sky gets darker, a little bit at a time, above me. Down the path, I can see the stars winking into existence in the space above the already blurring outline of the hooded figure that walks away from me.
Okay, okay, maybe this isn't all bad. It's just dark, it's just...
...now my desk and chair are sinking. Okay, this is... kind of all bad and... damn it. Damn it. I can't believe I'm... damn it.
“Wait!” I call, standing up. My feet immediately begin to sink and I struggle to free myself from the growing black. As I move forward, the path reappears underneath my feet, and I run to catch up to the only other person around.
“I told you.” Death mutters as I shakily fall into step beside him. I still hate this, of course, I still hate being here. But being under the stars again is better than being back there, sinking into the unknown.
Only now do I notice how cold it is here, and I shiver. The two of us don't say anything for a little while, we just keep walking, and I hope I wake up, I hope I wake up.
A few more minutes of this, and I'm still here. “Where are we going?” I ask.
“I don't know.” He repeats, his tone grating. And even so, there's nothing I can do but follow him.
Eventually, he stops, and I do the same. I look down to see that the gravel path has ended but there's nothing here, in fact. In fact.
I glance up. The stars are gone.
There's nothing here. Only the dark.
“Take my hand, Suki.” Death says softly. He reaches towards me but I shrink away, suddenly terrified.
“No. No.” I take a step back, I don't want to go anywhere else with him, I don't want to be here in the first place!
“Suki.” He says, his tone hushed. “Please.”
I can't see the skull beneath the shadow of his hood anymore, I think I can almost make out a pair of sad, green eyes, but it's too dark, it's so dark, I...
“N-no, no, I don't want to.” I take another step back, but my feet are starting to sink again. “Seiji, I don't want to.”
He extends his hand again, I can barely see anything now, all I can make out is white emerging from his sleeve, whether it's bone or pale skin, I can't tell. Something is wrong here, something is so very wrong, this feels ten times worse than the last game of battleship that we played. Then, I felt like I was on some small island in a vast, black ocean, and I was afraid of sinking but, but now I...
I think I'm already underwater.
The figure in front of me, I don't know what to call him anymore, he steps closer, reaches forward, but he doesn't say anything now. I can barely even see him, even though he's right next to me by now and--
I'm sorry, Seiji, I'm, I'm sorry but I can't, I don't want to, I'm so scared. I don't know what else to do.
I turn and run.
I run through the dark, through the black, and my feet are sinking into nothing and I can't see anything at all and--
My hand hits something. Light and heat and sound rush all around me, suddenly I'm gasping for air.
I'm touching a door frame, I'm, I'm... I'm halfway out of the classroom. My classroom.
My desk is knocked over, my exam is on the floor. The other students are... are all staring at me in shock, a few mouths are open. Even Shizune looks concerned, Hisao is halfway out of his seat already and Miki's body is tensed like a leopard, about to come after me.
I take deep, panting breaths, no one says a thing until Mutou carefully breaks the silence.
“Suzuki? Are you all right?”
I look over at him, and he's frowning in concern. I don't know what to say, I don't know what to do, it's like nothing has changed.
So I keep running.
“Suzuki!” The teacher's voice calls after me but I just keep going, I bolt down the hall, almost trip down the stairs wouldn't that be nice and I don't stop until I'm in front of the first place I can think to go, the library. Somewhere along the way I notice that I'm crying. When I walk through the door and make my way past the empty aisles to the literature club room, I still am.
Some time passes, I don't know how much. But eventually, I can hear footsteps outside the door. Someone knocks. I don't respond.
The door opens, a little slowly, it's heavy and that fact has only further cemented this room as some sort of dungeon in my mind. A dungeon, like where people go to rot. But it's also cool, and dark, at least until the light switch is flipped on. I wince, shielding my eyes.
“I knew you would be here.” Someone says. I was expecting Miki or Hisao, or maybe even Yuuko, but it's none of the above. Standing in the doorway is Lezard, frowning at me.
Of all the people to chase after me, I didn't think he... I mean, I guess it kind of makes sense.
“How'd you know?” I mumble. I'm sitting in a corner, hugging my knees to my chest. My tears have dried by now but I don't want to go back to the classroom, I don't know what to tell them, I don't know what to tell myself.
“I've known you since we were first years, remember?” He replies, crossing his arms.
Right. That's true, even though I don't really remember talking to him that much. I don't think we were in the same class that year, but we've both been a part of the literature club for a long time, so...
“Suzu, you need to come back. Just explain to Mutou that it was a narcolepsy thing. You need to finish your exam.” Lezard says. I look up at him, he still seems more irritated than concerned. Is he just that bad at expressing his feelings? Or is he that afraid of looking weak?
I guess I know what it's like to be afraid. And he's right, he's right. I have to go back. It's not that unusual for me to sleepwalk, or... or sleeprun, I've done that before. I'll just tell them the truth. Another bad dream, I have to finish my exam.
I have to do this. Everyone has worked so hard to help me get here, and, and if I fail now they'll all be disappointed. And even as... even as scary as my dream was, I'll always be a narcoleptic. I'll always have dreams, hopefully they won't be as bad as that, but I'll always sleepwalk too.
I can't give up here, I can't--
“Hey.” Another voice growls from the other side of the door, this one familiar. Lezard whirls around.
“Piss off, Nakai.” He replies, glaring. I look up.
“Is Suzu in there?” Hisao asks.
“Yeah, she is, but since you've been doing such a marvelous job of helping her out, you should have known that already.” Lezard spits.
People are... people are fighting over me again. I don't want that, I still haven't managed to patch things up between Hisao and Kenji. The last thing I want is for someone to get hurt because of my stupid dreams. Because of my stupid head.
“Get out of here, Lezard.” Hisao's tone is threatening. It's not a request. The boy in the door glances at me for a moment, before disappearing from sight, replaced a second later by my boyfriend.
“There you are.” He says, walking over to me. “I looked everywhere, Miki is checking the dorms right now.”
“I'm okay.” I mumble. He's doing it again.
“Did he do anything to you? Did he say anything?”
“What? No, Lezard wasn't-”
“Has he been following you?”
“Hisao.” I frown at him. I'm worn out from my sprint here and from all the days of exams and from, and from walking in the dark, why is he being like this?
“Lezard didn't do anything, he was just trying to help.” I say. Hisao almost looks doubtful for a moment, but then he relents.
“Fine, good. Come on.” He reaches down to pull me up and I tentatively take his hand, but there's no strength in my knees anymore, I fall back down, the impact on the cool floor stings.
“Suzu.” Hisao says firmly, quickly. “Come on. I won't let anything happen to you. I promise you'll be okay.”
I stare up at him, my back still pressed against the cold wall.
“I'm going to keep you safe.” Hisao says, offering his hand again.
[I have to endure.]