Michiru was not unfamiliar with the sensations of falling. Amusement park rides had been her primary source of education towards such a thing. How her heart would race as the air whipped around her. The feeling of her heart dropping as she plummeted from a sharp drop, only to level out moments later. She had always enjoyed such rides, loved the rush of adrenaline they gave her.
However, free fall was a completely different experience.
As she was flung through the air, it felt as though time itself had slowed down. She could see everything in perfect clarity, the streets so far below her and the various buildings that littered them. The shadows that stretched out and covered the ground.
She could feel the warmth of the setting sun as it rolled over her, the chilling bite of the wind and the sensations of her heart slowly hammering away in her chest. A constant, heavy thud, thud, thud.
And, in the back of her mind, she swore she could hear someone shouting her name.
A broken scream tore its way out of her chest as she felt her descent intensify, the wind now slamming into her. She could feel the heightened pressure of the air smothering her, strangling her, and it took all of her strength to let out another fragmented wail.
A cry for help, her words failing her.
The tower whizzed by her, nothing more than a blur as her panicked eyes remained fixated at the approaching ground, unable to shift their focus to anything other than her swiftly approaching death. It was only when she plummeted past one of the attachments to the side of the tower that she noticed the streak of white and grey fur that almost looked silver in the setting sun.
Hope overtook despair as Michiru instinctively reached out towards the one who had deemed himself her protector, even as she fell past him. For a second she felt her heart stop beating and time slow down as he stared at her from his perch.
His eyes wide with worry, with fear.
And then he jumped.
Determination and protective instincts driving him to do whatever he could to catch her, trying to grab onto her outstretched arms. He would not allow her to get hurt, to die before his very eyes, he refused to let such a thing happen.
To let it happen again-
With that final thought, Shirou reached out and grabbed Michiru. With the tanuki now in his arms, he quickly pulled her close, practically crushing herself against him. She let out a gasp at the pain that jolted through her arm at the tug, but she ignored and instead chose to press her face into his collar, hands tightly clenching the front of his trench coat. She could feel the hand on the back of her head that pressed her all the closer to him, and how his grip tightened.
The muttered words that could barely be heard above the roaring of the winds. “Don’t look.”
Even facing such dire odds as the ground drew closer, Michiru knew one thing.
Shirou would protect her.
So she shut her eyes and held tight to her guardian, and waited for their descent to stop.
If only it was that simple.
At first, her lack of sight was somewhat reassuring, it was easier to focus on Shirou and control the panic threatening to take hold, but then-
She could hear the sounds of his bones cracking and breaking as he landed heavily on the lower portion of the tower. Her eyes snapped open, widening in horror, but there was nothing she could do as they started to roll.
Roll, and roll down the incline.
Michiru was forced to continue listening to each brutal impact, with most primarily seeming to be centered around his upper back, as they bounced and rolled. Fortunately, his trench coat did aid in protecting him from friction burns, however it was obvious that he was accumulating a large amount of other injuries. She wanted to do something, anything, but the tightening of Shirou’s grip on her as well as the potential damage that would be done to her if she was accidentally let go.
Even then, she was not completely safe from harm.
At one point her legs were harshly scrapped against the rough surface, cuts immediately opening up as blood stained the surface. She yelped in pain and felt Shirou try to curl up around her, block out any other sources of potential harm. This process repeated itself once more, this time her arms getting banged up.
Fortunately, moments later the pair entered free fall once more, although it did not last long. At this point tears were starting to escape Michiru’s shut eyes as she whispered to herself over and over.
“Please let it be over, please let it be over-”
The sound of glass shattering and Shirou’s strangled hiss of pain showed that this fall was far from over. She cringed as she felt his fingers dig into her scalp, an instinctive reaction to the stabbing pain of glass slicing into his back, though he was quick to let go a moment later.
As the duo were currently distracted with their own problems, Michiru unable to move lest she risk injuring her protector further, they were unable to stop themselves from falling further, which resulted in them slamming into the cold, hard street. It cracked and fragmented on their landing, and a plume of dust and dirt rose into the air.
Shirou took the brunt of the impact, Michiru forced to listen as his bones creaked and cracked upon making impact with the unforgiving ground. She was unable to move for several moments, her shock paralyzing her as tears started to fill her eyes. It was only when she realized that Shirou had not moved yet that she was able to snap out of her stunned state and ignore her tears.
She could cry later, she could cry later-
Arms shaking as she tried to push herself up, ignoring the burning pain coming from her legs and how weak she felt at the moment, she planted her hands on Shirou’s shoulder as she shook him.
Please don’t be dead-
Probably a horrible idea considering the potential spinal injury he might have, among other wounds that had been gained during the fall, but at this point she was a bit too panicked to consider such a thing. Fortunately, the sound of his voice helped to calm her down.
“I’m alive.” Despite the curtness of the response, Michiru grinned in relief. Or, she was smiling until he spoke again.
“Can you move?”
She flushed with embarrassment, what if she had hurt him further, and quickly scuttled backwards. Once she was clear of him, Shirou sat up and quickly shook his head to try and rid himself of the dizziness he had gained during the fall. He was only somewhat aware of the blood that dripped from his forehead and stained the ground.
And was completely oblivious to the thought racing through Michiru’s mind as she watched him bleed.
Is he okay?! Does he have a concussion?! Is he bleeding inside?! Should he be moving-
Her prior panic started to return and her heart started to race. Her hands shook and she distantly felt the tears building up in her eyes once again. Each shallow, wheezing breath was a struggle.
What was going on? Why did she feel so, so-
It was at this point that Shirou noticed something strange going on with Michiru, the heavy stench of fear, and he stood upright. He ignored the calling of his name and cautiously walked towards her, not wanting to scare her. Once he deemed himself to be close enough, he called her name.
Wide, watery eyes looked up at him, and he easily noticed other signs of her breakdown. The shaking and strained breathing. His eyes narrowed and he let out a sharp exhale.
Of course, she would experience some kind of shock after such a fall. First things first, she needed to calm down as soon as possible.
Shirou reached out, gently placing a hand on her shoulder and ignoring the faint cringe. With her focus now fully on him, even if she was a bit disconnected from the world at the moment, he started slowly inhaling and exhaling. After several seconds spent staring at him, he noticed her breathing start to slow down as well, her unconsciously copying him.
Once he was certain her breathing was mostly back to normal, he let go of her shoulders and crouched down to inspect the various cuts and abrasions on her legs. His movement, sudden from Michiru’s perspective, caused her to blink sharply and look around.
She was painfully aware of how bad everything ached, and a part of her wanted to go back to her previously numb state so she did not have to deal with anything, did not have to pretend she was okay when she was the furthest thing from it.
She had nearly died-
“Shirou?” She croaked, voice cracking painfully. “Are… are you okay?”
“I’m alive-” His words were momentarily cut off as he pitched forward, grabbing at his shoulder. Michiru was quick to crouch down, practically collapsing as agony raced down her legs, and wrapped her arms around him to stop him from falling.
The wounded pair stayed like this, taking the time they needed to partially recover from the pain caused by their injuries. Shirou was, naturally, the first to move. He straightened up, easily suppressing the urge to wince as he felt his bones pop and snap back together, and looked down at Michiru. She was still leaning against him and seemed to be shivering. He reached up and gently placed a hand on the top of her head, her ears twitching at the touch.
“I’m sorry,” Michiru mumbled, looking everywhere except at Shirou. “You… got hurt because of me.”
“I promised I would protect you.” He bluntly stated while carefully ruffling her hair. “But it’d be nice if you stopped getting into trouble all the time.”
That got a quiet laugh out of her as she shakily nodded her head. “I’ll try!”
It was the obvious wavering of her voice and the trembling of her frame that clued Shirou in on the fact that she was still in shock from what had happened. This resulted in what could be considered to be a rather poor decision on his part were it not for the fact that he was mostly healed at this point.
In other words, Shirou scooped Michiru up into his arms.
He ignored the startled yelp and her somewhat frantic questions as to what he was doing as he strode away from the tower, doing his best to keep his shoulders back and not convey any of the occasional twinges of pain.
He would be fine, but he could not guarantee the same for Michiru.
Some time later after the duo had returned to the Beastman Co-op, the tanuki had been forced to stay in place and sit in a chair for the past several minutes as Shirou tended to the injuries she had gained. At first she had put up a fight, demanding that he take care of himself before worrying about her and it was only after he relented and agreed to her demands that he was able to start patching up the various cuts and scrapes.
The bandages that had been wrapped around Shirou’s previously bleeding forehead were a bit annoying as they occasionally fell and got in his face, but he had not expected Michiru to be a professional in covering up head wounds.
And a quiet part of him hoped she would never be, never have to worry about such a thing, but it would be good for her to learn eventually in case anything else happened…
Michiru, who had noticed how long his silence had dragged on for and the halting of the bandaging of her legs, shifted to catch his attention. When he looked up at her, the loose loop of the bandage falling into his face once again, she winced.
“Shirou… are you okay? Do you have a headache? Do I need to get anything-”
“I’m fine.” He was quick to shake his head while offering her a somewhat awkward, reassuring smile.
She laughed a bit at the sight before her humor faded and all grew silent once more. As Shirou finished up cleaning her wounds and wrapping them, she quietly contemplated whether to speak to him about her… concerns.
The approaching ground and the crushing weight of the winds smothering her-
It was only when he sat back and took in his handiwork that she hesitantly cleared her throat, causing him to look up at her while raising a brow. Previous confidence wavering, she knit her hands together and looked towards the ground, feeling unable to meet his eyes. Her tail swayed anxiously as she tried to figure out what to say, and when she did…
“Erm, Shirou?” At his nod she continued speaking.
“How do you deal with… all this?”
“Can you be more specific?” Shirou raised a brow at her question. “And are your legs hurting you still?”
“N-No! They’re a lot better, and…” Michiru fidgeted in place as she struggled to piece together the words that would explain what she was feeling.
The sensation of the tail wrapping tighter and tighter around her neck. How lightheaded she was getting.
She couldn’t breathe, she could not breathe-
Michiru stiffened as she felt Shirou carefully wipe away the tears that had started falling from her eyes. She remained perfectly still when he finished cleaning up her face. It was when he started speaking that she hit her breaking point.
“I was scared!” She sobbed, fully breaking down at this point as she buried her head in her hands. “I was s-so scared!”
In what she considered to be a surprising display of empathy, Shirou quickly moved forward and pulled her into a hug, her head pressed into his shoulder. Despite how comforting the warmth of his body was, her sobs grew louder as she openly wept into him.
So many memories, those of her fall and the various other life threatening situations she had been forced into ever since arriving in Anima City. How many times, how many times had she nearly died-
“I don’t wanna be scared.” She whimpered, eyes shut tight as she tried and failed to control her panicked breathing. “I shouldn’t be scared, I’m fine now-”
As she continued to cry and ramble about the knot of emotions filling her chest, the sound of the door creaking open could faintly be heard. Shirou shifted while still holding Michiru close to him and noticed the mayor peeking into the room. Barbara’s eyes landed on him, quickly taking in the situation. She nodded her head, a sign that she would speak to him later when things had settled, before silently leaving.
Shirou sighed in relief and turned his attention back to the still weeping girl in his arms. While she seemed to have finished her scattered explanation of her feelings, and the mentioning of the various traumas she had been forced to go through so far, each one making him cringe.
It was a bitter feeling, recognizing that in a sense he had failed to protect her from harm. Of course, he had assumed there would be challenges in trying to help her due to the fundamental differences between them, but this-
How his ears had perked up, somehow sensing that Michiru needed his help as he sprinted to one of the higher floors of the tower. The faint screaming of his name, her distant plea for help.
This was something he was woefully unprepared for.
So, he did what he could and stayed with her, doing his best to help her calm down. Her crying began to fade and she eventually passed out, face stained with tears as her hands desperately clutched as his shirt like it was a lifeline.
Of course, he tried to return her to her room and get her settled in bed, but this was an ultimately fruitless attempt on his part as her unconscious mind refused to let him go, and the second he detangled one of her hands she let out a distressed noise and clung to him even tighter.
This had resulted in Shirou being forced to spend the night with her, staying awake the entire time and comforting her during the occasional nightmare.
At some point he had passed out, and by the time he had woken up she was gone.
The next time he saw Michiru she was acting like her usual self, being energetic and loud and making it seem as though she was truly fine after what had happened the day before. Her act was enough to fool everyone into believing she was actually alright.
Everyone except Shirou, that is.
He had seen the bags under her eyes, seen how uncomfortable she got when too close to an open window. For as tough and brave as she tended to act, he knew her fall had shaken her. But he did not confront her about this and instead offered support in his own way.
By being with her.
Staying by her side and comforting her when she needed it, not that he needed to search for her all that often as she tended to seek him out and practically attach herself to him. He did not want to force her to talk to him, to tell him about her woes, but if she ever decided to reach out to him and ask for help, he would be there.
No matter what.