Kosame was not having a good day.
Perhaps that was an unfair assessment of the situation: Kosame did not usually have good days, Kiyoharu was well aware of that, but today she was doing worse than usual. It was obvious enough when Kiyo heard that Kosame had stayed home, but she could feel it, too. Kiyo felt the bite of the razor on her own arm, so stinging that she had to look to make sure she had not actually been cut. But her arm was unharmed. It was just in her head.
Despite Kiyo's efforts, she could not be with Kosame at all times, could not ensure she did not hurt herself too badly, and it took a lot of talking to convince Kosame to let her into her mind. At school, they were close enough that Kiyo could come to Kosame's aid, but once the bells rang and they went on their way, she could not tell if Kosame was in need of help. Until now, that was.
"Are you sure this will work?" Kosame had asked, just two days ago. Kiyo was standing before her, eyes aglow, some of her sight obscured by her own falling blood. They were in Kiyo's home, where the two could have some privacy.
"I'm never sure of anything," she said, focusing on Kosame, "but it's worth a shot. I want to be there for you."
"I'm not your burden," Kosame mumbled. Despite Kiyo's strict instructions, she was not looking at her straight in the eye, and had to be told to do so again and again. "You don't need to take care of me."
"I didn't call you a burden," Kiyo said, almost offended that Kosame would describe herself like that, "and I'm not taking care of you. I'm helping you. There's a difference."
The difference didn't seem to mean very much to Kosame, but, be that as it may, in the end she allowed Kiyo to enter her mind, linking the two of them. When they were done, Kosame picked up a wet cloth, and gently she rubbed it against Kiyo's forehead. It was such a weak motion that it looked as if Kosame was scared of hurting her. Kiyo took her by the hand, and said that it was okay, and together they wiped away the sticky blood as well as they could. Still, when they were done, Kiyo didn't want to let go of Kosame's hand. She continued to hold it for a while, feeling the scabs and blisters on her fingers. Kosame did not ask her to stop.
She felt Kosame's happiness, then. It was small, almost imperceptible, but it was there, so she stayed close to her, their heads touching as they rested on each other, until at last Kosame had to leave. Kiyo wondered if she should have asked her to stay a little longer. The time they had together was precious.
Ever since that day, Kiyo hadn't felt any joy coming from Kosame, only fear, pain, worry. She, of course, did not share all of Kosame's feelings, only a small part of them, but even that was already overwhelming. Kiyo was just walking back home when she felt the pain of Kosame's razor. She asked Kosame where she might be, but there was no response. The pain continued, and the panic. Did you remember to take your medicine? Again there was no response.
Kiyo tried to enter deeper into Kosame's heart, right there in the middle of the street, with so many people passing by her, in a hurry. As she tried to reach Kosame, the world around Kiyo became entirely separate from her. The shapes around her became vaguer blurs, the sound of cars speeding by had become distant, like she was immersed in water and they were all coming from outside. Kosame, she cried out, and she felt something. A touch, a tip of her finger. She felt blood on her hands, slippery and warm, repulsive. She saw Kosame in her own home, locked away in her own bedroom, underneath her sheets. Then, she knew where she had to go.
She returned to the world, her blood dripping on the sidewalk. Some people had stopped to ask her if she was fine, and a woman even helped her back to her feet, offered her a bottle of water. Most people pretended not to see her, kneeling on the ground, her palm on her own face. This was foolish of her, she should not have done this in public, where she could be seen like this. But, since she was already using her powers…
She felt the thoughts of those around her. From each she pulled a single thread, the brief memory they had of her. Once it was stolen, they would all forget about her, her fall, her magic. Kiyoharu did not look at her wrist to see how much time this had cost her. It didn't matter now.
Kosame's home was not too far from here, Kiyo knew she could make good time. I'm coming, she warned her friend. She didn't expect to receive an answer, but she heard an okay in Kosame's frail, soft voice. The word filled her with urgency.
She moved as fast as she could, hoping that she would not be late. Kosame was hurting, she felt it, but she didn't want her to spiral into panic, either, so when she sent her messages to Kosame's mind, she spoke calmly, and pretended she was not freaking out. She wouldn't want Kosame to think she had done something bad, after all. Kiyo kept her calm - rather admirably, she'd say - until she finally reached Kosame's house, and rang the doorbell. Then she waited, hoping that it was Kosame who would answer.
Instead it was her mother. She had never liked Kiyo much, to tell the truth, she didn't think she was good company, what with how thanks to her, Kosame was always out, and only returned home late at night. Still, she was polite enough, welcoming Kiyo in, telling her that her daughter was too sick to go to school. She knocked on her daughter's door, and a groan told Kiyo to come in.
It was dark inside, the windows closed shut, the only light coming from Kosame's sheets, as she fiddled with her phone. Kiyo always felt uneasy in this bedroom. So poorly illuminated, the rows of teddy bears on Kosame's shelves and tables looked quite terrifying, and the smell of alcohol and perfume, thick in the air, was nauseating.
Kiyoharu sat on Kosame's bed, by her feet. They shrank away from her, Kosame curling into a tiny bundle of blankets and teddy bears. Kiyo pulled away the blankets, revealing a crying Kosame. She was not wearing her eyepatch now, so Kiyo could get a good look at her eye, awfully red from crying. Embarrassed, Kosame covered it with a hand, while Kiyo came closer to her. Her phone's light was shining on her, let Kiyo take a better look. There was no blood, she noticed. Kosame's pale arms had no new wounds. Kiyo would know, she remembered them all.
"You… You didn't cut?" She asked, and Kosame shook her head.
"I wanted to," she said softly. "I wanted to real bad. But I know you get worried when I do it, so I didn't. Wasn't easy… I had to let my razor fall down, on the bottom of my bed, so I couldn't grab it easily… But I didn't cut."
"If you didn't…" Kiyo was relieved, but confused. "Then why did I feel it as if you had? I felt your pain, Kosame, that's why I came. I figured you were hurting yourself."
"I'm in pain," she admitted, "but I didn't do anything to myself. Maybe you felt it because I imagined it really hard. I imagined the blade sinking into my skin," she dropped her phone on the bed, and made a cutting motion with her free hand. Kiyo took hold of it, and pulled Kosame up so that she'd sit next to her. "I'm sorry. I really didn't want to worry you. I took my medicine and everything, it just didn't help much. I did what I could, but…" She hesitated.
She wiped her tears on the closest teddy bear, a small lavender one with an ugly, fake smile. Kiyo felt the urge to wipe those tears away herself.
"Guilty… I felt really guilty… I made you worry about me, when you shouldn't… I'm gonna die anyways, Kiyo, you shouldn't worry, because it doesn't matter."
"It matters to me," she said. "And it matters to you. I felt that, too. You shouldn't say otherwise."
"Still, you used your magic for this," she said. She crawled to the edge of her huge bed, and reached into a drawer of her end table, and from there she took out a white eyepatch. "To take care of me. You used your lifespan for me, when I'm really not worth it. I… I…" Kiyo squeezed her hand, so that she'd feel free to speak. "I feel guilty for liking that you've done this for me. That day, when you used your magic, when you linked us… I felt happy, then, I'm sure you felt it. I was glad you did that for me, but now… Now I want to apologize…"
"Is that why you were suffering?" Kosame nodded. "Ah, Kosame… You should have told me. You know I won't intrude in your thoughts, it was just your feelings I reached for, so you need to tell me what you're thinking, what is worrying you…"
"Don't apologize," said Kiyo, holding both of her hands, pulling Kosame close. The girl was hesitant, at first, but finally she allowed Kiyo to approach. Their foreheads were touching. "Come here. I want to show you something. Or, rather, there's something I want to give you. It's not much, but…"
She closed her eyes, and thought of Kosame in front of her. She was so near, she could feel her anxious breath, her fingers shaking… She entered Kosame's mind, and gave her a small gift. Then, she opened her eyes.
Kosame was smiling.
It was the sort of smile that few would have been able to notice. Kosame's every gesture was small and dainty, easy for someone unaware to disregard. But not Kiyo. Kiyo noticed everything about her. She loved everything about her.
"What…?" Kosame only stopped smiling a moment later, when her brow furrowed in confusion. "What did you give me, Kiyo? I felt-"
"Happy?" Kosame's fingers entwined together with Kiyoharu's. "Yes. Telepathy is not just about sending my thoughts into your mind. I sent you a feeling, too… The happiness I feel when I'm by your side. I couldn't possibly give you all of this feeling, of course, but I hope it was enough for you to understand why I wanted to do this. Why you're not a burden, why you shouldn't feel guilty. I do love you, you know."
Kosame had nothing to say. Right now, there were too many feelings inside her for Kiyo to make sense of them. She just looked at Kosame, gave her as much time as she needed to process things. Kosame let go of Kiyoharu's hands, and slowly she lifted her arm, her hand reaching for the back of Kiyo's head, pulling it closer to her own face, so close that they touched.
"Thank you for telling me that," she whispered. "I don't think I would have had the courage to say it myself. I always wished you'd enter my mind and see it for yourself, ha… Here, Kiyo… You gave me some of your happiness, so it's only fair you have some of mine, too… It's not much, but I hope you like it."
Her lips touched Kiyo's, faster than she had expected. Warmer, too. It was brief, just a moment, but the feeling lasted longer. Kosame fell down on her own bed, and Kiyo collapsed next to her. The two looked up at the ceiling, and when the light of Kosame's phone went out, all was dark. And that was fine: Kiyo could hear the sound of breathing next to her, she could feel Kosame's arm brushing up against hers, and she could feel that small happiness inside.