The first thing Kurumi was conscious of was her breathing. It was deep and slow, despite her shivering. A welcome respite from the frantic screams and shallow gasps from earlier. Why was she so cold? She couldn’t remember what happened. Was she lying down? Reaching out slowly, her fingers brushed against a blanket. She tried to pull it closer to her, but her right arm throbbed painfully. Gently, she explored her upper arm with the fingers of her left hand. She felt bandages, and her fingers came away wet. I must have bled through … she thought idly. She couldn’t quite bring herself to care. It felt as if everything was muted. Her senses were muffled, mind still cloudy with sleep and the freezing cold that seemed to fill her chest, weighing down each limb. But why was she bleeding in the first place?
Everything came flooding back at once, and Kurumi’s eyes snapped open. She sat up quickly, gasping for air, suddenly aware of the sweat pouring down her neck like ice. Fear stabbed at her stomach as her hands automatically searched for the familiar shape of her shovel. She couldn’t find it. Trying to move her legs, she realized she was trapped. A great weight pinned her where she lay.
Hardly daring to breathe, she looked down. The breath went out of her in one great, heaving sigh. With a shaking hand, she reached out and gently stroked Yuki’s hair. The girl was fast asleep, curled up on the couch with her head nestled in Kurumi’s lap. Despite the cold, empty feeling, her mind was suddenly on fire. Was she alive? She glanced back at her arm. Her skin had maintained its color, hadn’t faded away into the awful mottled gray of the other infected. Had she not been bitten, after all? No, the throbbing was all to real, the memory of Megu-nee’s teeth sinking into her all too fresh in her mind. She hadn’t made that up. Besides… there was a terrible line of bulging veins creeping out from under the bandages, crawling up her arm and neck and onto her cheek. What, then? How was she here, in her right mind?
Glancing around her eyes found Yuuri, fast asleep, head bowed over a desk. They must have done something, to be sleeping so calmly next to her. Saved her somehow. She couldn’t have fought off the infection alone. The cold fog still hovered around the edges of her mind, and she decided to drop it for the moment. It was too tiring to think about. Besides, they would explain upon waking, she was sure. For now… her gaze dropped back to Yuki, and she smiled softly.
She would let them sleep. There were dark circles under Yuuri’s eyes, and Yuki looked so peaceful, she was at loathe to even move, though she managed to gently shift into a more comfortable, upright position. Slowly, as the bright pink of the early morning gave way to blue skies and sunshine, Kurumi felt Yuki’s warmth spreading to her, chasing off the last of the chill and bringing her back to the world of the living. Hearing the desk creak, she looked back over at Yuuri, who was yawning deeply. Suddenly, Yuuri snapped up, seeking out Kurumi, eyes widening in shock. Slowly, Kurumi raised a finger to her lips, grinning.
“Shh!” She said, still wanting to let Yuki sleep, but it was too late for that. Yuuri’s eyes flooded with tears, mouth working furiously to hold back sobs. She threw herself on Kurumi, gasping her name and desperately pulling her into a warm hug - squishing Yuki between them in the process. Yuki squeaked like a rubber chicken, before registering what was going on, face immediately splitting into a smile. Before the three of them could say anything else, the door to the room slid open, and Miki stood in the doorway, her momentary surprise quickly replaced with a soft look of relief.
“Good morning, everyone.” She said.
“Good morning!” The other three said, drinking in the feeling of being alive.
Kurumi sighed as Yuuri undid the bandages on her arm. It stung like hell, and Kurumi could still feel the deep seated throbbing from the morning that felt like it went down to the bone. The bite mark was a bloody mess. It would leave a nasty scar.
“So…” Kurumi fidgeted, trying to break the silence as Yuuri began dabbing at the wound with a wet rag. “How did you all bring me back?” Yuuri smiled.
“It was Miki. She read through the manual again and discovered that there was medicine in the basement. She volunteered to go herself because of… well. She wouldn’t be caught off guard like the rest of us.”
“Did she… say goodbye to Megu-nee for us?” Kurumi asked, trying to swallow down the lump in her throat. The hand Yuuri was using to clean up her arm slowly lowered, and she used her other hand to swipe at her eyes.
“... Yes, she did.”
“I’m glad,” Kurumi leaned back against the couch, looking up at the ceiling and trying not to let her tears fall. “I was… I wasn’t able to do it. That’s the reason all this happened, I-”
“It’s alright, please don’t blame yourself. I don’t think any of us could have- I mean, if we didn’t have Miki…”
“Thank goodness Yuki heard her that day in the mall, huh?” Kurumi chuckled weakly.
“Yes. Thank goodness.” Yuuri let out a shuddering sigh, then resumed work on Kurumi’s arm. They were both silent for a time.
“... Were you scared?” Kurumi finally asked, licking her lips nervously.
“‘Of course I was,” Yuuri paused in her work once more, not meeting Kurumi’s eyes. “You started screaming, nonstop. I was so scared you were going to turn… I didn’t think there was going to be a way to save you, that I’d have to say goodbye right then and there-”
“Rii-san…” Kurumi tried to interject, comfortingly, but Yuuri was getting too worked up. Tears were gathering in the corners of her eyes, and she was shaking like a leaf.
“I chained you to the bed and sent Yuki away. I didn’t want her to have to see anything that happened. Miki was gone and it was just us and I-” She was crying in earnest now, and Kurumi had never felt more helpless. “Kurumi, I was going to kill you!! I had the knife and I… despite everything we’ve been through, despite what you mean to me, even though I knew Miki was going for medicine I was still going to- I just couldn’t bear the thought of-”
“It’s okay, it’s okay…” Kurumi said quietly, putting her hand on Yuuri’s shoulder. Yuuri’s shook her off.
“IT’S NOT OKAY! I was going to KILL you!! ” She screamed, as if saying it again would convey the magnitude of her crime. She glared at Kurumi with tears streaming down her face. “I had the knife right above you, I was going to stab you! Take your life, with my own hands! If Miki hadn’t come in, I-”
“It’s okay , Rii-san.” Kurumi said with more force. She leaned over and gently cupped Yuuri’s face in her still-cold fingers. “You were scared, I know. More scared than you’ve ever been. I felt it, too. As soon as I got bit, I was terrified of what I might do to you all. If I really had turned- if there wasn’t any medicine in the basement… I’m just happy to know you wouldn’t have let me go through the pain of killing the people that mean the world to me.” Kurumi gave her an encouraging smile, dropping one of her hands off of Yuuri’s face to grab her hand. Yuuri looked down in her lap.
“And,” Kurumi continued. “Despite everything, it turned out alright, didn’t it? I’m still alive, and none of you got hurt. We’re alive , Rii-san.” Yuuri didn’t say another word, just looked up and met Kurumi’s gaze. Still crying, she suddenly lunged forward, grabbing Kurumi’s face in her hands and planting a desperate kiss on her lips. The two didn’t dare break apart for a long while.
Finally, when they were both fighting for air, they parted. Looking at each other, they both broke into a nervous fit of giggles, trembling from the high of simply living. Being alive was a luxury in this world of theirs, and they intended to fiercely savor every moment of it.
“Look,” Yuuri said, sniffling a little, and reached down to grab the handcuffs still chained to the couch leg. “Yuki must have taken them off in the middle of the night.”
“That idiot,” Kurumi sighed. “She has more faith in me than I do in myself.”
“She was right, though.” Yuuri smiled. “You’d never hurt her.”
“We’re lucky to have her.” Kurumi said.
“We’re lucky to have you, too. I’m so glad you’re still here.” Yuuri said, and leaned in for another kiss.