our gods, porcelain thrones and medical sharps.
Eichi makes sure to smile placidly but as soon as the nurse turns her back, her expression shifts dramatically. There's no politeness or patience in her pale blue gaze. She grimaces and gingerly presses her polished fingertips against her chapped lips. There's still dry blood, bile, and post-sleep slobber, and all she really wants is a bath. A warm bath in the extravagant Sicilian Tenshouin summer house. Marble flooring and overly excited housekeepers, the bright sun. A bathroom specifically tailored to all her ultraprecise needs and wants. A massive custom collection of bath bombs and shower gels, made by companies that wanted to woo the current heir. There were thousands of places she would rather be than a dreary private hospital in ugly, regulation scrubs. She can imagine the warmth of water, toes dipped in the Mediterranean sea. The sundress in her head is any color but white.
Instead, she gets the company of an IV drip. There are more than enough pillows to make any commoner comfortable but the scion of the Tenshouin clan desires more than that. It is her fatal flaw, she wants to eat the world raw. The world doesn't appreciate her drive like it should. It scorns her and leaves her writhing. Eichi tucks a long strand of pale blonde behind her ear, and closes her eyes. It would only take a moment, and a click of a button. She could ask for morphine and go to bed. There would be nothing but dreamless sleep and aimless wandering. It would be welcoming, really. She would be grateful.
"It is I, your loyal jester, your beloved magician--"
Wataru Hibiki laughs like a symphony, arms outstretched. They do not bother with formalities, instead reaching Eichi's bedside with ease and speed, throwing themself at her. Wataru buries their face into the space between Eichi's jaw and shoulder, breathes into her neck. Blue hair, color of cornflower and color of dress silk, it spills all over the standard bed and it doesn't take long for Wataru to join Eichi. There is a tangle of limbs and Egyptian cotton bedsheet. They shift so that Wataru can wrap their arms around Eichi's waist and Eichi can lie on her side. She places a manicured hand on their chest and fumbles with the scarves and jackets until she can feel Wataru's skin.
"Merry Christmas." Wataru smiles, stupidly bright, dazzling, and it makes Eichi want to choke them. The emotion subsides. Their eyes burn aubergine and Eichi wavers under their intensity. She sighs.
"Merry Christmas. Didn't you have something more important to do?"
More important than me? Eichi wants to laugh, of course there isn't (
there must be) anything in the world. Wataru winks.
"Natsume-chan invited me to her party, she was very upset when I told her I would be a little late." There's a pause, before they continue. "I always make sure to show up and cause a spectacle, you know. It's very difficult work, pleasing someone so much like you."
Eichi is half listening, half pulling at Wataru's hair. Wataru doesn't say anything, they never do, and that frustrates her more than the ire bubbling behind her teeth. She feels a second episode coming through, it ravages her throat. She clutches at her chest and stands up, doing everything to make it to some cubicle. Wataru makes magic. They heft her up, it's only a short struggle getting her in their arms, bridal style. They're the same height, still, even after so long. It's awkward at best but they make it to a stall and Eichi makes amends with porcelain. Wataru rubs her back and provides a spellbook of honeyed words.
"There there, the emperor should not kneel to something like this."
Eichi spits. Right, of course. Blinks back tears and immediately wipes them away. Weakness was not an option, even when Wataru was pulling her onto their lap. She sits with her back pressed against Wataru's chest and refuses to turn around and look at them. There is no winning in that. She will choke before that. It's fine. (It's not fine).
Wataru hums an old melody. It's been years since their professional debut, it's been so much longer than anyone's ever imagined for them, doctors and teachers alike. It turns into a song, soft and sacred in the empty bathroom, Wataru's perfect pitch bounces off the linoleum.
"I will entertain you as long as you need."
"We aren't children anymore, Wataru."
"Even at twenty three, you are spoiled to the core, love."
Eichi knows. Wataru helps her back up, and walks her over to the sink. She cleans up and they make the familiar journey to her room.
They let her out a week later. One complication led to the next and she wondered if she would live to next Christmas. Wataru stays by her side, they sleep on the couch with a beige trenchcoat draped across their thighs. When they had to kick them out for tests, they waited right outside, ready to return at any given moment. The doctors tease Eichi about it, but she doesn't play along. She wants them to go home. She doesn't deserve them. Wataru returns with tea and gluten-free scones and feeds her, piece by piece.
And now, Eichi is free. It's nearly New Year's and the only thing she wants to do is sleep. Sleep in Wataru's arms. Sleep in their bed. But there's no rest for the wicked. She has a long itinerary of things to do, the Tenshouin family driver meets her in the hospital parking lot and Wataru finally pulls a disappearing act, after so many days she's taken their presence for granted.
She props her chin on her palm, and stares at the window. The bulky coat is unfashionable and hideous. It's nothing like the cashmere knit she was admitted with. The sky is dark and the air is cold.
Life goes on.
For New Year's, Tori invites everyone over for a party. Twenty years old and bright eyed, Eichi finds his behavior amusing. He wants to throw an extravagant affair with music and lights and guests. Nothing like a traditional hatsumode trip. Eichi attends dutifully, with Wataru dressed to the nines in a killer dress that Eichi wishes was only for her. They move, and the world moves with them, each strand of silver spun silk clings.
There's champagne and vodka and tequila and sake, and every time Eichi turns to look at them, Wataru's carrying a new glass. It's not until Yuzuru taps Eichi's shoulder and leads her to one of the guest bathrooms that the nausea hits her. The deja-vu comes next, but she presses forward. Wataru is sprawled on the floor like a decadent bride, so she takes Wataru's long hair and starts to braid it. She makes sloppy plaits because she's never had to do it before. She tries her best. Wataru makes some sort of derisive snort and Eichi allows herself to laugh, too.
"We should stop meeting like this."
"I strive to entertain. But even this is a little..."
"It's fine. Come here."
Eichi dabs the corners of Wataru's mouth with a monogrammed handkerchief. It's a way to repay the favor. She won't ask what drove them to this point. That will come in time. She rubs circles into their back, the dress is more off than on and pools around their waist. Carmine, scarlet. The color of blood. There's a shift, once again, and they look at each other. There's nothing but cold violet and ice blue.
Eichi leans forward and kisses them.