Light flickered across his eyes, and he turned away from it, unable to hold back a soft moan. An unbelievably gentle hand brushed his hair off his face and ghosted along his cheek. Instinctively he turned his face towards the warmness of it.
"Enjeru?" a soft voice asked. "How do you feel?"
"Dizzy," he answered quietly.
"Still?" He faintly heard the rustle of clothes, as if someone were turning where they sat; the sheets under his bare back tightened, so the person speaking was obviously sitting on the bed. "Is this normal?"
A feminine voice spoke. "For that stubborn guy, it is. Oi! Enjeru-kun! Wake up, or I'm gonna put snakes in your sock drawer!"
That seemed familiar. The first voice spoke again, turning back to face him. "Do you think he's going to be okay?"
"If he'll ever wake up, he should be okay." Another voice , sounding like it belonged to an older woman, said that. "Oi, gaki. Open your eyes, so these two will quit bothering me."
He wrestled his eyes open and waited for them to focus. A dark shape was the first thing in his line of vision. Squinting hard, he identified it as Aku. The younger man looked down on him with a worried expression on his face, turning his already dark eyes even darker, so that they looked almost totally black. It was his hand still held against his cheek, and he couldn't find a single reason to protest against it. Looking just past him, he decided the white and blue blur had to be Suzu. On his other side, the old, weather-beaten woman was the ancient healer, Deborah. He saw an even fainter black and tan mixing of colors that he assumed was a person, Miki most likely, on the far side of the tent.
"What?" he whispered. "What's going on...?"
"You wouldn't wake up," Aku explained quickly, his voice just a bit shaky. "I was afraid you were dead..." He trailed off, glancing over his shoulder at Suzu.
She picked up smoothly. "He came and got me and Miki, and we got Deborah-san to come check you out."
"Baka gaki," the old woman scolded, packing needle and thread into her medical bag (he was glad he'd been out through that), "you almost bled to death, then where would we be?" She shuffled out of the tent immediately after that.
"Gomen ne." The words fell out of his mouth before he was able to stop them.
Navy, golden, and probably sapphire blue eyes too all stared down at him in shock. "What are you sorry for?" Suzu asked softly, apparently beating Aku to asking the same thing.
He tried to shrug and found it hurt too badly to try, wincing sharply. "Not being strong enough." He opened his eyes and let them focus slowly on Aku, their eyes meeting. "For making you worry."
"Daijoubu..." the young man returned softly.
"And you don't have to be some kind of superman for us, Enjeru-kun," Suzu continued, slowly sitting down on the other side of the bed and running white fingers through his hair. "We like you just the way you are." She glanced over her shoulder. "Now that you're awake, why don't you and Miki-kun apologize to each other so he'll quit kicking himself in the ass for hurting you?"
He started to sit up in order to talk to his - friend? - but a pale hand pushed him back down before he got more than a few centimeters. "Deborah-san said not to let you move around too much till you heal a bit more," Aku explained. "Miki-san, why don't you come over here?"
"It's all right," Enjeru jumped back in quickly. "You don't have to if you don't want to, Miki. I'm sorry for being such a pain in the ass and a bastard -" he faintly noted Suzu rolling her eyes at him "- and I'm sorry for picking a fight with you before. It was unbelievably stupid of me, I know." He sighed, faintly noting Aku doing the same thing and exchanging a weary look with Suzu. "And... I'm sorry."
"It's not all your fault, Enjeru," the taller man answered, slowly stepping over to sit beside Suzu on the bed. "I lost my temper. I apologize for that." He bit his lip and held out his hands. "Friends still?"
"Of course." He took the offered hand in as strong a grip as he could manage.
"Well, if we're all friends here again, I'm going back to sleep," Suzu stated, standing quickly and stretching. She winked down at him. "Aku-kun here woke us up to come check on you."
"Gomen ne," the young man apologized softly.
She patted his shoulder gently, and Enjeru found himself reaching out softly squeeze his hand. "Don't worry about Aku-kun. You saved his life by doing that, and that's all that matters. You look like you could use some more sleep yourself. Why don't you turn in as well?"
"I will in a few minutes."
"All right." She nodded in both of their direction. "Good night, you guys." An extremely playful wink immediately followed. "Be good!"
Aku blushed until he was nearly the same shade as Enjeru's hair was as Suzu drug Miki off. "You get used to her," he offered the younger man softly.
"I hope so." He chuckled slightly, staring down at the sheets. "I'm getting kind of tired of blushing around her so much." He twisted part of the sheets around his wrist then released it. "So how do you feel, Enjeru?"
"Like hell warmed over," he honestly answered, absentmindedly rubbing the heel of his left hand against his forehead to try to drown the pounding behind it.
Aku's other hand gently moved it, and he moved his fingers across his forehead softly. "Isn't that supposed to be 'death warmed over'?"
He laughed shortly again. "You have an interesting sense of humor when you don't feel well. Why don't you go back to sleep? The more rest you get, the quicker you'll get better, Deborah-san said."
He couldn't hold back a jaw-splitting yawn even as the other man spoke the words. "Will you be okay?" he had to ask first, even as he struggled to keep his eyes open.
"I'll be fine. I'm going to sit here for a few and make sure you'll be all right, then I'm going back to sleep myself."
"All right." He yawned again. "Night..." His voice trailed off as sleep overtook him.
"Good night, Enjeru," Aku whispered to the sleeping man. He moved back over to the chair Deborah-san had made him sit in while she stitched up Enjeru's arm and leg.
It had been terrifying, how touch-and-go his friend's life had seem for a long time earlier in the night. Even now, with two healing spells (one from Deborah-san and one from Suzu) cast on him, his skin was still bleached almost an ash grey instead of its normal palely tanned color. They'd even had to change the bed sheets under him just from the sheer amount of blood that had soaked into them. And... if he hadn't been sleeping lightly enough to heard Enjeru's faint, faint groan of pain... his friend might very well be...
He shook his head sharply against that line of thought. Iie! I heard him and helped them save him, and that's all that matters! He saved my life, in a way, and now we're even... I think. I still feel like I owe him something, for... I don't know... trusting me, as much as he can. He certainly didn't have to take me in, or let me stay in his tent, or take me around with him (for my own protection or not), or be my... friend, when he doesn't even know anything about me. He shivered. He probably wouldn't want to be my friend if he knew anything about me beyond what he knows now. Whether he admits or not, he's so perfect, and I'm dirty, so... unclean, and so... unworthy of someone like him...
A faint moan sounded from the bed, and immediately he found himself back at the other man's side in a heartbeat. He took one of the suddenly pale hands in his own and brushed his fingers against Enjeru's forehead, wiping away the beads of sweat gathering there. "Daijoubu," he whispered as kindly as he could make his voice go. "It's okay, Enjeru. It's all right."
After a long moment, the dream or pain or whatever had disturbed his sleep passed, and Enjeru settled back into a peaceful rest. He started to move back to his chair but was startled to find he could remove his hands from his friend's; the other man's fingers had curled around his and refused to relinquish their surprisingly firm grip. He chuckled lightly, grabbing the chair in the other hand and dragging it over beside the bed.
"Don't want me to leave?" he asked the unconscious man. As if in response, the fingers curled tighter around his own, and a very faint smile graced the older man's lips. "All right, then I'll stay right here, Enjeru. I won't go anywhere."
With his other hand, he reached out to just barely trace the scarcely evident smile on the other man's face. "Is it really so uncommon for you to smile, Enjeru?" he asked, letting his hand move over to brush along his cheek; again he turned into the touch, and Aku smiled at the simple unconscious gesture. "Well, I'm going to do everything I can to make sure you start smiling more often, okay?"
Predictably, the other man didn't answer, and instead Aku settled himself to watch him all night, just as he'd watched him two nights before.
17 July 2001
Here's your next chapter. Remember that I love reviews and/or e-mails. In fact, it makes my day, particularly if they are nice. ^_^
Especially dedicated to lirpa because she asked me for a few of the scenes that appeared in this chapter!
I'm still waiting on the piccies from P-chan, so no, I'm not holding anything (much) back on you. ^__^
See you in the next chapter!!