Part 27: Dropping ByUpdate 24: Dropping By
EMI: "You worry too mu Come in! The door's unlocked."
So it is. I open the door and step in, which is about where my thought process comes to a grinding halt.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Lullaby of Open Eyes
Emi is sitting up in bed, her hair tousled from a day spent asleep. I think this is the first time I've seen her without those familiar beads in her hair. Her gym shirt and bloomers, obviously hastily pulled on before I came in, are creased and folded from less than proper storage.
Her legs lay bare on the sheets. I've never seen Emi without prosthetics before. Yet here she is, slender legs terminating in stumps just below her knees. But as odd as the sight is, I find myself more captivated by everything north of the waist.
It seems that Emi had finished her conversation with whoever was on the phone with her, and is now watching my reaction closely out of her one open eye as she wipes sleep from the other. Her expression, far from being embarrassed, is rather one of a surprisingly wide yawn. One perhaps appropriate from such a small mouth. A grin that for a brief moment seems almost flirtatious tugs at the corner of her mouth as she takes the sight of me in. I can do nothing but remain in a state fluctuating between fear, confusion, and not a little bit of lust. Emi hastily sweeps her hair out of her eyes, fixing it back into place before addressing me.
Wait, did she just put the beads back in her hair?
EMI: "You seem a bit caught off guard, Hisao."
A wave of laughter erupts from her, and I find myself grinning and rubbing the back of my head ruefully.
HISAO: "Sorry, I've just..."
Never seen someone so disheveled look so attractive. Never seen you without your legs on. Never seen you look so...
HISAO: "Um, sorry."
Emi giggles again and moves to sit up a little straighter. I'm caught up in the movements of her shirt, very nearly losing myself.
EMI: "I was wondering what your reaction would be. The nurse called and told me you were going to drop by, you see. And I know you haven't seen me... well, you know. Without legs."
I respond in a tone of casual surprise.
HISAO: "Oh, you don't have them on? I didn't notice."
This is almost the truth. I very nearly didn't. I'm not trying to be suave or anything, mind you. Somehow I think Emi would get offended by that.
Instead, she sticks her tongue out at me and chucks a pillow at my head.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Hokabi
I deftly catch the pillow and take careful aim before throwing. Emi laughs and rolls to one side, dodging my shot, the shifting of her shirt distracting me enough so that the next thrown pillow hits me right between the eyes.
I retaliate, of course. And once I've retaliated twice, well, a war was bound to break out sooner or later. And really, when Emi appears to have far better aim than me, well... It was just a matter of time before I'd have to resort to a suicidal charge.
How the hell do I transcribe comic book-style sound effects?
(Bam! Pow! Biff!)
Yeah, sure, thatll do.
And once the charge was accomplished, well, of course I'd have to wrestle the pillows away from her. And with that kind of struggle, of course we'd wind up in this sort of position.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Lullaby of Open Eyes
And so I find myself staring down at her from my position atop her. She's grinning, eyes sparkling with amusement, maybe a little sweaty now from our tussle.
Her chest is heaving up and down, sucking in air. The small bit of my brain that is not currently enraptured by the sight and the smell of her observes that she must still be ill, because her stamina's not what it should be. We stay that way for a while. I'm not sure how long, because everything seems to go fuzzy. Everything that isn't her, anyway. Her eyes meet mine, and deep inside them I almost catch a glimpse of... what, fear? Longing? Hope?
Katawa Shoujo OST - Standing Tall (Emis Theme)
A cough suddenly convulses her, and I'm almost stumbling in my haste to get off, to apologize for everything.
HISAO: "Sorry, I shouldn't have..."
EMI: "It's fine, it's fine."
She gives me a reassuring pat on the shoulder.
EMI: "So... what brings you here?"
She's still breathing hard, and that causes her voice to shake slightly.
HISAO: "Well, before I was so rudely assaulted by pillows, I came to see how you were doing."
This earns me another shove, and I very nearly fall off her bed. Emi's eyes sparkle again, and I wonder how I never noticed how attractive they are before.
EMI: "Consumed with worry, were you?"
Her tone is mocking, haughty. Teasing. She throws her arm across her forehead dramatically, grin still apparent from underneath."
EMI: "Couldn't bear the thought of me laying deathly ill?"
As we both recover from our brief wrestling match, Emi appears to fall back on teasing me.
HISAO: "Well, I wouldn't say consumed with worry, but after you didn't show up this morning like a total wuss..."
Emi pouts, crossing her arms petulantly and sticking her lower lip out.
EMI: "It's not my fault. Nurse wouldn't allow it."
HISAO: "Sure he wouldn't. I completely believe you."
Emi sticks her tongue out again.
EMI: "You're such a jerk, Hisao."
HISAO: "So how was your day then, eh? Did you enjoy slacking off?"
EMI: "Not really, the phone woke me up pretty early on."
HISAO: "The phone?"
EMI: "Yeah, the captain of the team called to make sure I was doing okay. Also to let me know it was okay to skip practice."
Good, at least she wasn't alone all day. Someone checked up on her. Although I can't help but think that it should have been me.
HISAO: "Oh, that's good. He really keeps an eye on you, huh?"
EMI: "It's his job. Part of being the captain means you know where your team members are when they're not in school. Still, I guess it was nice of him to call, huh?"
HISAO: "Yep. Sure was."
Emi yawns and shimmies down into a more comfortable position.
EMI: "So how was your day?"
HISAO: "Kind of uneventful, you know? I went ahead and ran by myself, and talked with the nurse about how you were doing...
I meander through the day's events, none of which are particularly engrossing. That's when I'm distracted by an arm finding its way across my waist. It seems that Emi fell asleep while I was talking so I draw her blanket to cover us.
She's rolled over on to her side, and now one leg is thrown over my legs, effectively trapping me.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Comfort
It seems a shame to wake her, but I have things to do. I gently shake her, but in response she only tightens her arm's grip on me and sighs a little. My resistance to this position crumbles rather quickly. The feeling of her body breathing steadily is both calming and incredibly stimulating at the same time. My breathing cannot decide if it wants to relax or speed up. Relaxation wins, and I find myself putting an arm around Emi.
HISAO: "I think I'm in love."
The words slip out and hang in the air unnoticed. At least I hope they've gone unnoticed.
Emi whimpers weakly through her dream, and her grip suddenly tightens again. For the first time since I've known her, I see tears running down Emi's face. It feels like my heart is about to break. I instinctively tighten my own grip and stroke her hair in what I hope is a soothing manner. Words of comfort, meaningless in this situation, spring to mind. Maybe I should wake her. Are you supposed to wake people having nightmares? I can't for the life of me remember. The decision is taken from me as Emi suddenly jerks awake with a cry.
This is... more than I think I want to hear without her knowing. I quickly sit upright and gently shake her shoulder to stir her.
HISAO: "Hey, you okay?"
What a silly question.
EMI: "Huh? What? Hisao?"
She shakes her head as if to clear it and quickly wipes her eyes.
HISAO: "You had a nightmare. I think."
Emi shudders again and glances up at me a little cautiously, as if unsure whether or not she's actually up.
EMI: "Y-yeah, I guess so."
HISAO: "You wanna talk about it?"
A speedy internal debate seems to be going on in her head, which resolves itself with a shrug.
EMI: "Nah, I don't really remember much of it."
I'm pretty sure she's lying to me, but somehow I don't think I should press the issue. Emi shudders again and turns toward me, looking a little sheepish.
EMI: "Sorry for falling asleep on you like that."
I keep my voice as soothing as I can.
HISAO: "Hey, don't worry about it. You've been ill."
EMI: "Yeah, I guess that cold medicine's just made me a little drowsy."
HISAO: "I guess so."
Emi does not strike me as the sort of person who'd fall asleep at the drop of a hat. Rin, maybe. But Emi's far too energetic. Emi gives a half-smile at my response, and then just like that she's back to her old self.
EMI: "Well, prepare yourself for tomorrow morning Hisao! We'll have to go twice as hard to make up for today!"
HISAO: "But I went running this morning!"
EMI: "No excuse!"
HISAO: "Oh fine, I'll be ready for you!"
Emi nods, satisfied.
I take this as my cue to exit.
HISAO: "Well, I'd better get going. Especially if I want to get enough sleep for tomorrow."
I hop off the bed and head for the door.
EMI: "Hey, Hisao..."
I pivot neatly on my heel and face Emi.
She opens her mouth to say something, and then in another first, I see her falter slightly. She closes her mouth and opens it again.
EMI: "...Thanks. For dropping by, I mean. You're kind of the first visitor I've ever had who wasn't Rin."
Now that's surprising. I would figure that Emi'd have people dropping by all the time. She's certainly popular enough, or so I thought. Always talking to people in the hallways. Emi hesitates again.
EMI: "And thanks for staying around after I... well."
A look of pain flits across her face.
EMI: "You know. It helped."
She brightens back up and waves cheerily at me.
EMI: "See you tomorrow!"
HISAO: "Yeah, see you later."
I'm just about to exit the door when something makes me turn around again.
HISAO: "Hey, Emi."
HISAO: "Anytime you need to talk, let me know, okay?"
Emi seems taken aback by this offer. Her grin gets even wider.
EMI: "Sure thing, Hisao. See you in the morning!"
I exit Emi's room with my head in a whirl. Should I have even left? Was she really okay? I want to turn around and march back down the hallway, open the door and tell her...
Tell her I love her, tell her I think she's beautiful, tell her that I'll be there when she needs me. I want to stay with her, to hold her close as she falls back to sleep. How many nights has she woken up like that? Only to find that nobody's there. I want to be that person she can be with when that happens. It's a silly thought, I know. We don't know each other that well, do we? The whole idea, while exhilarating, also makes me feel worry. Worry, perhaps, that I'd overstep my bounds.
And now to add to my troubles, it seems as if Emi herself already has an interest in someone else. This track captain of hers who seems so interested in her well-being. True, I've only seen the two of them together a few times, but that doesn't change the fact that they seem better suited to one another. There's really nothing to be done about that. I need to take my mind off of this whole situation.
I've got homework to do. Maybe that will distract me.
Katawa Shoujo OST ~ Passing of Time
A night of restlessness has left me feeling fairly groggy this morning. The events of the previous day keep intruding upon my mind.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Moment of Decision
Listen to that track. Do it. Its important.
The memory of how Emi felt against me. The memory of our wrestling match. And most bothersome, the memory of her nightmare. She was in so much pain. I can't stop wondering what it must be like for her to wake up with nobody there.
The shower shocks me awake with hot water. Awake, but still worried. What will happen today? Will things just go back to normal? End of the episode, back to the status quo? There was a connection yesterday. Something that nearly pushed us past the boundaries of normal friendship. Would that have been so bad?
My mind goes back to the look in Emi's eyes after our pillowfight. It almost seemed like she was daring me to go on.
Almost. But I can't know for sure.
Anyway, the track captain's probably first in her affections. But even as I say that, my mind is already snorting derisively. I'm just looking for an excuse. A reason for everything to go wrong. A reason to not try. It's not as if I've even seen the two of them together outside of track practice. And clearly he's never visited. Emi said as much herself. If they were close, surely he'd visit. I'm such a wuss. I ought to just go for it anyway, damn the consequences. That's what Emi would do, I think. Hell, I know that's what she'd do. Which is partially why I'm convinced there's no interest on her end. She hasn't acted either. Maybe because of this track captain. It's possible she's got a bit of an unrequited crush thing going on.
But who would be able to clarify their relationship? It sure as hell can't be Emi. She'd probably just laugh and ask why I wanted to know... and I'm not ready to answer that yet. Rin... Rin would probably just give me some cryptic answer or something. And then with my luck, she'd just ask Emi, who would ask me why I wanted to know, and I've already covered that problem. I wonder... Could I get away with asking the nurse? He seems pretty protective of Emi. I'm sure he'd know if something was up... And he owes me for not letting Emi know he forgot to tell me about her being ill, so he'll keep quiet. What if he asks me why I want to know, though? I can shake him off. Just say I'm curious as a friend. He'll buy that, won't he? Of course! That's settled, then. After the run, I'll talk to him while Emi's waiting outside the office.
There's no sign of Emi when I arrive at the track. Is she still too ill? I decide to give her ten minutes. I'm a little early, and she was ill yesterday, so if she takes a while to show up it shouldn't be surprising. Still, I'd hate to just waste my time, so I occupy myself by stretching and pacing back and forth anxiously. What if I went too far yesterday? What if she doesn't come because she's embarrassed? What if...
EMI: "You're early again, Hisao! I'm impressed!"
Just like that, I feel some of the tension leaving my body. Emi seems to be bright and cheerful as usual, with no sign that she even was ill the other day, much less had a less-than-restful sleep. Still, I have to ask.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Lullaby of Open Eyes
HISAO: "Sleep well last night?"
It's just a throwaway question. Small talk. The sort of thing people ask someone they bump into in the cafe while getting their morning coffee. But not for us. At least, not for me. I don't know if Emi realizes that I'm actually concerned about how well she slept last night, but the question does give her pause.
After a short moment of what seems like her genuinely pondering this, she nods."
EMI: "Yep! Sure did!"
Was it because of me? Did I actually help? Or are you just saying that to get me to stop asking questions?
HISAO: "Good to hear."
Emi grins and begins warming up.
EMI: "So, ready to begin?"
HISAO: "Pfft, am I ready? Of course I'm ready! I was born ready!"
Emi laughs at my bravado, and we take off running. I keep a steady pace the whole time, breathing steadily. I still feel dead at the end, but at least I don't gasp like a fish out of water now. Emi is positively beaming after the run today.
EMI: "Nice job, Hisao! You're improving! You'll be half as fast as me in no time!"
This last line is delivered with a teasing grin that I've grown all too used to.
HISAO: "Oh, how exciting."
Emi begins to run her sprints while I take a cool-down lap. She's really pushing herself today. By the time I'm done with my lap, she's laying across one of the bleachers, looking exhausted.
HISAO: "Goodness, not pushing it a little too much today, are you? You did just have a cold, you'll recall."
Emi gives an annoyed snort and sits up.
EMI: "Bah! I'm just trying to make up for lost time, that's all. I went twice as hard today, you know. A good run always gets the kinks out, you know.
EMI: "Clears the mind, too."
Emi nods vigorously.
EMI: "Yep! It's a great outlet for that sort of thing."
She does not explain further, and I don't ask. I suspect I know the real reason she went so hard today. Being sick had nothing to do with it. Something's bothering her. Maybe the nightmare. Maybe something else. But it's not my place to pry. She'd tell me if she wanted me to know.
HISAO: "I'm sure that comes in handy."
EMI: "You have no idea."
The sincerity in her voice confirms my suspicion. The only problem is... Even though I know she'd tell me if she wanted me to know, I still want to know.
HISAO: "Something on your mind, then?"
Emi doesn't seem surprised by my question. Instead, she shrugs.
EMI: "Nah, it's nothing worth getting worried about."
She seems as if she's trying to convince herself as much as she's convincing me. I open my mouth to ask if yesterday is responsible for her current state of mind, but think better of it. Too much risk of her taking the question the wrong way. Besides, I'm not even sure myself what to think about yesterday. Really I can only get about as far as how it felt to have Emi sleeping next to me before my brain shuts down. Having her before me now, covered in sweat and looking wryly at me, she's making it difficult to think.
HISAO: "Yeah, I hear you."
EMI: "We'd better hurry to see the nurse. We're running short on time."
HISAO: "Aren't we always?"
Emi laughs at this, a dry chuckle that seems most un-Emi-like.
EMI: "Too true."
For a brief moment, she looks old, worn down by some old hurt. But just like yesterday I can almost see her shouldering the burden and straightening up slightly.
And then she's back to being Emi again.
EMI: "Come on then Hisao. Race ya!"
With a sudden smile, she darts off.
HISAO: "Hey! No fair!"
I take off after her, knowing I won't catch her but not caring. Even if there's no chance of catching her, I'll still run after her.