Rin winced at the dull pinch of the IV plunging into the crook of her elbow. Above her, the nurse muttered a monotone apology that made Rin want to tear her hair out. Upon checking that the IV was securely in place, the nurse left, her white trainers thudding in rhythm against the tiles. Rin stilled and listened closely. As soon as the door clicked shut, she laid back down and shut her weary eyes.
Sleep had been difficult these last few nights. Ever since she woke up - they told her she had been unconscious for nearly twenty-four hours - the pain had made resting impossible. Her back was marred by a grotesque line of stitches that itched madly, the aching in her head wouldn’t seem to go away no matter how many medications they gave her, and her limbs felt like they were being dragged down by invisible weights. Whenever she tried to settle down and finally rest, the discomfort seemed to amplify and worsen until she could barely handle it anymore. That’s when, to her annoyance, the nurses would come running in. Apparently, she became so panicked during these moments that her heart rate spiked to an almost dangerous level.
She wished they would just let her go home. The room was freezing and smelled so strongly of chemicals that it made her sick. Besides, there was no real reason for her to be here now. She’d had all of her surgeries, learned what was wrong with her. If they let her go, surely the family doctor could look after her instead. In truth, she didn’t want to deal with him either, but at least he knew what had actually happened to her. Everyone in the hospital kept talking about some bullshit story where she tripped and fell off a ledge. She knew they couldn’t find out the truth, but it still made her angry. She was tired of dealing with these people. They were cold and insincere; they didn’t care about her. Most days, they could barely remember her name without looking at a piece of paper first. The only reason they put up with her is because they were being paid for it.
A sharp knock sounded on the door and snapped her out of her sulking. She groaned and carefully propped herself up as a young nurse, a different one this time, approached the bed.
“Sohma-san?” the nurse asked. “There’s a young man here to visit you. He’s quite insistent on seeing you, but I needed to check that you were well enough for visitors first.”
“He can come in. It’s fine,” Rin mumbled.
Smiling, the nurse turned and left.
Rin felt her heart sink into her stomach. She had known he would be here sooner or later. Haru was loyal, almost to a fault, and even more so when the matter involved her. If anything, it was surprising that he hadn’t tried to come earlier than this. He was always there, even when she knew he shouldn’t be.
Ever since they were children, Haru had put himself at risk for her. She had always been amazed by his willingness to do so, when she could give him nothing in return. Yet, he never complained or made her feel guilty. He only held her and promised he would always be by her side. He was strong, he told her, he could handle whatever life threw at them. Not once did he think of himself; as long as she was safe and secure, he said, then he would feel happy.
The two of them had been able to live that way for a little while. It had been a nice game to play, but the harsh reality was that Haru wasn’t able to protect her from everything, no matter how hard he tried. Akito had learned the truth, despite their best efforts, and she got hurt because there was nothing Haru could do about it. Still, what scared her the most wasn’t the idea that she might get hurt again. Underneath it all was the consuming fear that Akito would end up hurting Haru too, and in a much worse way than he had hurt her.
It had been on her mind since she first woke up in the hospital. Initially, she tried to ignore the fear. She reminded herself of what she knew to be true - that Haru could handle himself - but that soon gave way to gruesome mental images of Akito pushing Haru from the window, cutting him, beating him, killing him. When it came down to it, Rin didn’t know the true extent of what Akito would do to someone that made him angry. And there was nothing she could do to stop it, not while she was here, not unless she…
The door creaked as it swung open. Rin’s breath hitched as a set of footsteps, much louder than the nurse’s, rapidly grew closer. She took a deep breath. Somehow, she would handle this. She had been through worse, or at least that was what she kept telling herself.
Finally, Haru emerged from around the corner. Rin stared at him, fighting to keep her expression neutral. He looked the way he always did. White hair carelessly spiked with black roots shaved close to the neck. Leather pants even though the weather was far too warm to justify such an item of clothing. The same set of jewelry he always wore, with one new thin silver chain that was tucked beneath the collar of his shirt. Something about him made her want to laugh. He looked so perfectly familiar, so beautifully normal. It made her happy. Yet, here she was, about to burn the only remaining shred of normalcy in her life.
“Hi,” he said.
“Hi.” Her mouth suddenly felt uncomfortably dry, like her words were stuck to the inside of her cheeks.
“Are you doing okay here?”
Rin gave him a look that she hoped would convey just how pointless the question was.
“Sorry,” he sighed, “I know you hate hospitals. I wanted to come see you sooner, but Hatori and Shigure said to give you some space so you could recover, and I didn’t want to get in the way of that.”
“I’m really sorry this is all happening, Rin. Accidents like that are so shitty.”
She nodded. “Guess I should have been looking where I was going.”
“No, no. Don’t say that,” he said. “You couldn’t control it.”
He smiled at her then, an endearingly lopsided thing that made her insides feel warm. “Maybe it’s a bad time to say this, given where we are... but you look really pretty, Rin,” he said gently.
She could only look at him, her lips pursed together in a feeble attempt to hold back whatever emotions were threatening to break through the wall she had built up.
Haru shifted his feet and played with an unruly strand of his hair. “Um, I brought you something,” he said quickly, burying his hand in his pocket. She watched as he lifted a strand of silver into the air. Teasingly, he swung it back and forth, a goofy grin lighting up his face as he moved closer to the bed.
“It’s just like mine,” he said, pointing to the new necklace she had noticed when he came in. “I made them matching. I thought it would be special for us.”
Eagerly, he extended his hand to her and the chain draped along his tanned fingers. She looked at it, dazed, taking in the way the fluorescent overhead light hit the metal and made it sparkle. Slowly, she reached up and took it, relishing the coolness of the metal against her skin before placing it on the table beside her bed. “Haru,” she began, his name hanging heavily on her tongue.
“Yeah?” he asked. He looked almost like a puppy; so oblivious and wanting for her attention.
“I need to tell you something.”
“Okay, shoot. I’m listening,” Haru said. He was sitting on the end of the bed now, hands tucked neatly into his lap as he waited for her to speak.
She shut her eyes for a moment, letting the nightmares of Akito hurting him fill the blackness. This was what she needed to do. It might make him sad now, but he’d be happy again someday. Happier than he would be if Akito beat him within an inch of his life. Digging her nails tightly into her palms, she opened her eyes and steadied her gaze, penetrating the soft brown eyes before.
“Haru,” she said, the hardness of her own voice taking her by surprise, “I want to break up with you.”
Haru blinked, seemingly unsure of what she had said. He shifted against the sheets, a nervous chuckle bubbling up from his throat. “What?”
“I said that I want to break up with you.”
A strange expression crossed his face, and she noticed tears welling up in the corners of his eyes. Roughly, he wiped them away and disbelievingly shook his head. “I don’t understand,” he said, words cracked and broken as he visibly tried to hold himself together, “I thought that… did I do something to upset you? Why do you want to break up with me?”
“Because,” she started, lifting her chin defiantly in an attempt to gain some sense of confidence in what she was doing to him, “I don’t need you anymore. I’m just sick of you.”
“What are you talking about?” he choked. He wasn’t bothering to hide his tears now; they flowed freely down his flushed cheeks and pooled along his jaw. “Things were going great, this just… this doesn’t make any sense to me.”
Rin groaned and crossed her arms. “Why do I always have to explain everything to you?” she spat. “You’re annoying. You never leave me alone, and you’re always trying to do everything for me. It drives me crazy, and I’m tired of dealing with it.”
“No, that’s all wrong,” Haru cried, springing up from the bed. “I wouldn’t do that to you. I was just trying to make you happy, that’s all. I thought I was making you happy, Rin.”
“You know,” she said coldly, summoning all of the venom she had left, “if you’re not able to understand something as simple as this, then I guess you really are as stupid as everyone else says you are.”
“Rin,” he whimpered.
“Can’t you just leave me alone, already? Your crying is making me sick.”
“Rin, please don’t do this. I don’t want to lose you.”
“I said, leave. I don’t want to see you anymore.”
He paused for a moment, staring sadly at the floor and breathing heavily. “Yeah, I’ll go. It’s probably for the best.”
She watched silently as his deflated body quivered beneath its layers of black and leather. Finally, he shyly took once last glance at her; the lively eyes she had always loved looked so achingly dull and lifeless now. “Goodbye, Rin,” he said as he turned and strode out of the room, hands balled into tight fists and long legs carrying him out of her sight within seconds.
Rin shakily exhaled, and her chest burned from the breath that she did not realize she’d been holding in. It was over. Akito had no reason to hurt him anymore. He would be okay. Haru was gone now, and he was safe. Her lower lip began to tremble at the gravity of it all. He was gone. He wasn’t going to come back. Maybe he didn’t want to leave, but she told him that he needed to go. This was what she said she wanted, and Haru always did what she wanted without a single thought for himself. He loved her too much to do anything else.
Blinking away the tears that threatened to cloud her vision, she reached for the necklace on the table. She ran her fingertips along the chain until they settled on the set of pendants that hung from the center. They were smooth, and no bigger than a small coin. She hadn’t noticed them before. Craning her neck to look closer, she found that, engraved into the metal, were their names. One name on each disk, held together tightly by the chain.
She buried her head in her hands, her long hair forming a heavy black curtain around her. It was a silly gift, one that only Haru would come up with. He had probably stamped their names into the pendants himself with one of those odd machines he used to make his jewelry. The thought overwhelmed her, and she finally let herself cry, tiredly and wretchedly, mourning what she had lost. “Haru…” she gasped into the emptiness of her room, “please come back. I don’t want… I don’t want to say goodbye to you.”
The only answer was a faint echo of her own words against the walls.