Et P uis J e Fume
The next thing she knew, Kaoru woke up on an uncomfortable hospital bed with an intern by her side taking her blood pressure. As she looked down to inspect her body, the dark-haired woman noticed that her hands were covered in dark red. Her once grey sweatpants had also absorbed quite a lot of the liquid, hence there were crusty brown patches all over the material. A breathless voice in the back of her mind whispered that it's her son's blood that's almost done drying. Even as the horrors of what was only supposed to be nightmare started flashing behind her sad blue eyes, Kaoru refused to believe it. Kenji had to be alright.
A slight movement at the foot of her bed caught Kaoru's eye. It was another intern, scribbling something in his notebook. In moments, he noticed that she was staring at him and started asking all kinds of questions the dark-haired woman couldn't even begin to wrap her head around.
"Stop, the reading will be off." An annoyed voice interrupted what seemed to be a flood of never-ending questions. It was the first intern, clearly dissatisfied with having to share the work he believed to be fully capable of doing by himself more efficiently.
"Whatever. I'll go talk to her family." The second intern stood up and left her field of vision.
A soft click echoed throughout the room and Kaoru realised that the room she was in was deadly silent. There was no beeping of various machines, no sound of children crying, or the hushed whispers of the patients which one would usually be able to hear in the ER. The dark-haired woman came to the conclusion that she was confined to a private room. Her mind wandered back to the abundance of blood she was covered in. The hospital staff probably didn't want to freak out any of the other patients with the horror show her appearance was.
The door opened once more and a tall man rushed into the room. A blur of red followed his suit, however, the second person walked slowly, as if he didn’t want to believe what had happened either.
Kenshin kept himself in the back of her room, but Sanosuke sat down next to her and took one of her hands into his. It was all grimy but the older man didn't seem to care about that at all. Once she looked up from their hands, the dark-haired female could clearly see all the sadness, anger and tiredness evident on her older brother's face.
Sano tried to say something, anything. He even opened his mouth, but the words just didn't seem to cooperate with him. So, instead, Kaoru spoke.
The question hung heavily between the two siblings. With a pained expression on his face, Sanosuke looked around the room, trying to figure out if she needed to hear the answer she wanted or the truth.
"Could you leave the two of us alone for a minute?" It was Kenshin who spoke. His voice was strained, it sounded nothing like the usual velvety sound which usually tickled Kaoru's ears when he spoke.
Relief flooded Sano's features before it was changed by shame and guilt. The truth would be unbearable to admit out loud to him, yet he was forcing his best friend to face it when it, without a doubt, affected him even more.
"It's okay, I can handle it." It was as if Kenshin had read his thoughts.
A fake reassuring smile graced the redhead's lips. Clearly, it was not okay. Sanosuke wanted to put up a fight, tell his best friend that he'll do it, that it wasn't a big deal even if it was a lie.
"I need to do it, Sano." The man in the corner of the room spoke again, without waiting for his friend to formulate an answer to his previous statement.
After checking the IV attached to Kaoru's vein both interns left, followed by Sanosuke. Slowly, Kenshin neared her and sat down on the chair her brother was sitting on only moments before. As her husband's face entered her field of vision, Kaoru didn't need to wait for the answer to her question. From his expression, the dark-haired woman knew, like a mother, like as a wife does.
"No... no, no, no, no, no." She started crying.
"Kaoru, please..." Kenshin hunched down, wiping away the tears from her face.
"Tell, me that it's not true...!"
In turn, her husband started whispering sweet nothings, gentlest words of assurance in hopes to soothe her, but it was all in vain. The loud ringing of her own screams in Kaoru's ears drowned out any other sound that she could ever hope to hear.
... ∽∾●∾∼ …
When Kaoru woke up the second time the two interns had returned with a doctor in toe. As she talked to Kenshin, the professional stated that aside from a few bumps and bruises she was physically fine. However, the woman also went out of her way and made a point to inform Kaoru herself that she will be referring her to a psychiatrist and is putting her on a suicide watch for the next 72 hours.
A silent voice, claiming that she wasn't the kind to kill herself died in Kaoru's throat.
"Kaoru, do you want something?" Kenshin asked once the female doctor was gone. His voice was quiet, almost non-coherent, but it wasn't like he needed to speak up any louder in order for Kaoru to hear him in that white and dead silent room.
"Could you leave me alone?" The woman's voice was weak, strained from screaming and shedding all those tears she would still be crying if she had any of them left.
"But, Kaoru..." He snapped up his head with every intention of disagreeing with her. However, the way she looked at him killed every bit of resistance the man had left.
The look in his wife's eyes was just so void of anything. It was as if someone had ripped out her soul and torn into shreds, without any intention of returning it to the said woman. Not like he was handling the situation any better himself though.
But at least, the two of them were alive. They needed to get on with their lives, no matter how much it hurt and how hard it was. He was sure the two of them could do that because they had each other.
"Let me stay." Kenshin tried again, with a newfound strength. "You might not need me, but I need you. I need to know that you're going to be okay."
"I'm sorry." The red-haired man could swear he witnessed her eyes softening for a moment when she talked. "I'm sorry for being so selfish. Stay."
... ∽∾●∾∼ …
In all honesty, Kaoru knew that she did a stupid thing by turning on the TV and breaking one of the rules she set for herself at the very beginning of all of this. It was just so dull staying between those four white walls. Especially, since she forced Kenshin out to take a shower. After all, he had been by her side most of her hospital stay and, without a doubt, needed to deal with his own feelings instead of trying to care for hers. In her mind, it seemed a great plan at first. She was sure, they could both do with some alone time.
Kaoru hoped to catch a day-time melodrama. One of those sappy, romantic ones, which sucked you in and made you forget the reality. Unfortunately, the channels available to her were populated by reruns of various talk shows.
The dark-haired woman sighed in disappointment. She had never really been a fan of those. However, due to the lack of better alternatives, she switched back to the first one she encountered, and let the voice of the host fill the room as background noise. It took the woman mentioning Kenji's name to pique her interest.
In contrast to a few days ago, the host talked about her family as the victims. The woman even went as far as showing photos containing her, Kenji and Kenshin happily spending time together from one of her personal social media accounts. The story ended up being a real tearjerker and, unsurprisingly, more than a few people in the audience were crying by the end of it.
That was what got Kaoru the most. Mere days ago, mobs were ready to publicly crucify her and Kenshin and now they faked pity, pretended not to look at their tragedy as an act of the divine justice.
In what she viewed as a state of complete tranquillity, Kaoru picked up the mug on her bedside cabinet and got out of the bed. Slowly, she walked up to a still turned on TV, with the host wrapping up the talk show and smashed its screen to pieces.
... ∽∾●∾∼ …
Kaoru's hospital stay got extended. This time, with more medication, more doctors coming to see her every day and a higher degree of supervision. She was officially admitted into the psychiatric ward, with group therapy every other day and a visit to her psychiatrist twice a week.
The rules of visitation also were a lot stricter there. Kenshin could only see her for a few hours at a time and rarely two days in a row. He would've never said it aloud but the redhead wasn't as disappointed as he should've been by the new arrangement.
His wife had changed after her meltdown. Those once lovely blue eyes, now made Kenshin shiver. The coldness in them was unfathomable to his mind. On the rare occasions the dark-haired female chose to talk to him, the redhead hated her voice. The staleness of it, to him, was something of a grim reminder of what had been, what could have been and how they failed. At night, Kenshin was unable to sleep, haunted by the shadow of her dead eyes and emotionless voice.
His visits became more out of duty and the necessity not to stay in the house where their son was murdered, rather than genuinely missing her.
... ∽∾●∾∼ …
It was about a month later that Kaoru got released. Diagnosed with severe depression and a few bottles of prescription drugs, she was deemed to be of no danger to herself or others. Her psychiatrist claimed that it was better that way – to let her deal with her loss without the constant watchful eyes of the professionals.
Preparing for her return, Kenshin decided to clean up the house. It was something he didn’t even remember the last time he had done. This also meant facing his nightmares – going to Kenji's room for the first time ever since the incident which had taken his life.
The redhead wasn't the one to find them. Rather, one of their neighbours had called the police after hearing a bloodcurdling scream while walking their dog. The public release of the local police department stated that the policemen sent to investigate found an incredibly gruesome crime scene. That the woman holding her son's body refused to release it and was on the verge of attacking a couple of officers when she lost consciousness.
Kenshin never got to see his son's room the way it was described in the media. The courtesy of crime scene cleaners... He hadn't even seen Kenji's body. There was a morbid curiosity willing him to go to the morgue and request to see it. But he had seen what the sight had done to Kaoru, and though the man was never able to admit it to himself, he was afraid of seeing those once cheerful eyes dead, his son's body drained of blood. If he saw it with his own eyes, without a doubt, it would become real. Too real for his liking. It was a very stupid fear, just as much as it was a real one.
... ∽∾●∾∼ …
A lot of fears attacked Kenshin at once upon Kaoru's return. One of the biggest of them was they had grown too far apart to patch things up again. Regretfully, it ended up coming true when one day Kaoru moved her things out of their bedroom, into the one where their rare guests would occasionally stay. The same day, was the first time the redhead smelt cigarette smoke on Kaoru once again.