“Katou?” my voice sounded thin and disbelieving in my own ears. I still hadn’t recovered from the shock of looking into an open pair of golden eyes, eyes full of worry.
“Iwaki-san,” he croaked, squeezing my hand weakly. “What is it? What’s happened?”
“Katou!” I finally got my frozen limbs to work. I jumped to my feet and did the best I could to hug him, which wasn’t easy when he was prone on the bed and I had to be careful because of his injuries. I was crying even harder now, but out of pure joy and relief. “Katou,” I murmured as his arms lifted a little to embrace me. “I’m so glad…Please tell me you remember who you are and everything!” I said, lifting my head to look anxiously at his face. I couldn’t forget the doctor saying that he might have irreversible brain damage.
His brows furrowed. “Of course I know who I am,” he said. “Why wouldn’t I?”
“Please, for me…tell me your full name, and the name of your sister and nephew,” I said.
He studied my face. “My name is Katou Yohji,” he said, “And my sister is called Youko. Her baby’s name is Yosuke, named after both you and I. Anything else you want to know, Iwaki-san? I can recite my date of birth, the number of my locker in high school, what have you…”
“No, no,” I assured him, choking on a laugh, “That’s okay. Oh, Gods, Katou, I’m so glad!”
I buried my face in his chest again, and one of his hands stroked my hair. “What happened?” he murmured. “Why am I in the hospital, Iwaki-san?”
I lifted my head a bit to look at his face. “You don’t remember?” I asked in concern.
He shook his head slightly, and then made a sound of pain. “No. All I remember is that Kaneko-san and I were driving home, and he was saying something to me about an interview I had the next day. After that, it’s all a blank.”
“You were in an accident,” I said. “A really bad one. You…you hit your head pretty hard, and they had to do surgery on you, and…you’ve b-been in a coma for five days…”
He stared at me in shock. Then his face softened. “My poor Iwaki-san.” He said softly. “No wonder you look so awful.”
“But I’m better now,” I assured him, closing my hands on his arms as tightly as I could without hurting him. “I can’t wait until Sawa-san and Yukihito-kun and Youko return from shopping. Everyone’s been so worried about you.”
“I’ll bet,” he coaxed my head down for a gentle kiss, and I seemed to feel the touch of his lips all the way to my toes. “So where are we? Did I make it back to Tokyo?”
I shook my head. “Actually,” I said, feeling light-hearted and almost impish, “You’re in Iwaki.”
His eyes went blank, as he started at me in non-comprehension. “Not right now, I’m not,” he said, making me blush.
“No, no” I said, laughing even as I turned red, “This is the city of Iwaki, in the Fukushima Prefecture. You were air-lifted from the highway after the accident to the hospital here.”
“Well, what do you know,” he said in amusement. “Seems like I can’t get away from you wherever I go, huh? Not that I’d ever want to,” he added, his fingers caressing the top of my hand.
Suddenly, he looked anxious. “What about Kaneko-san, Iwaki-san? Is he okay?”
I nodded, happy to be able to give him this news. “He wasn’t as badly injured as you were, and they released him from the hospital a couple of days ago.”
“Great,” he studied my face. “Were you afraid that I was going to die, Iwaki-san?” he asked me seriously.
I nodded minutely. He made a snorting sound. “You should know better. I told you once before that I could never leave anyone as cute as you alone. And I meant that.” He went on firmly.
I found myself smiling. I now had no worries about my Katou being brain damaged – or any more than usual, anyway. “I should go and get the doctor,” I said reluctantly. “Now that you’ve woken up.”
I got up, but he patted the space beside him on the bed. “Go in a little while, Iwaki-san. For now, sit down and talk to me.” He coaxed. He didn’t have to do so very hard; I never wanted to leave his side again. I carefully sat down so as not to jar him, and took his proffered hand. We held hands, as I told him a bit about the last five awful days, and his fingers occasionally stroked mine in a comforting gesture.
Youko burst into the room about an hour later, laden with bags and on a shopping high. “Iwaki-san, you should see the cute sweater that I got you…” she began, then her eyes widened as she looked at the bed.
“Hello, little sis,” Katou said, sounding almost merry.
“Yohji!!!” She squealed, darting across the room and practically hurling herself on her brother’s chest. “Oh, this is wonderful!”
He smiled at her as she wiped a few happy tears away. “Iwaki-san told me that you guys have been having a pretty bad time for the last five days,” he said. “Sorry if I made you all worry.”
“That’s okay. It’s just great to see you awake. And you’re all right?” she asked him but looked at me, wanting to know about potential brain damage.
I nodded slightly. The doctor had checked him out, saying that he was very lucky. The lack of memory about the time surrounding the accident was normal, he’d said. Many people never recovered those memories after a head injury. But otherwise his reflexes were all normal, and his replies to questions as well. He should recover fully, Dr. Nobunari has said with a pleased expression on his face. I’d felt such relief at his words that I’d practically turned into as pile of goo right there in the chair I’d been sitting in.
“Perfect,” she kissed his face, and then turned to the two men who’d just entered the hospital room. “Sawa-san, Yukihito-kun, looks who’s awake!” she cried, coming to retrieve her sleeping son from Sawa’s arms.
The author smiled widely. “Katou-kun. It’s wonderful to see you awake at last.” He and his lover came over to the bed side, and Sawa took one of Katou’s hands.
“Thank you for coming here with Iwaki-san and taking care of him, Sawa-san,” Katou replied gratefully. “He told me that you hired a driver when he was too upset to make it to Iwaki by himself.”
Sawa shook his head. “My dear Katou-kun, I wasn’t feeling in any good shape to drive, either,” he said. “I didn’t want us to get in an accident, too.”
“I’m going to go and call Mom and Dad,” Youko said, handing Yosuke to me. She hurried out of the room, and I started to carry the slumbering child back to the chair. But he awoke just then, blinking big, sleepy eyes up at me.
“Waki,” he mumbled.
“Bring him over here,” Katou called to me, seeing that his nephew was awake. I carried Yosuke over to his bed side, and my lover smiled at the baby. “Hello, Yo-chan,” he said affectionately.
The baby turned in my arms to look at his uncle. His golden eyes lit up. “Haku!” he cried, and his uncle grinned.
Yosuke began to squirm in my arms, wanting to go to Katou. He hadn’t really associated the silent, sleeping man in the bed with his lively uncle before this. I didn’t really want to put him on the bed, lest he jar Katou. But my lover made a movement with his hands. “It’s okay Iwaki-san,” he said reassuringly, and I gingerly set Yosuke on the bed.
The baby began to swarm up his uncle’s body, making Katou grunt in pain. But he didn’t complain as the toddler reached his chest and perched there, looking into his face. The boy frowned, reaching out to lightly touch his uncle’s cheek. “Owwie,” he said, indicating the fading bruises mottling Katou’s skin.
“Owwie,” Katou agreed mock-solemnly.
Yosuke began to chatter to his uncle, curling up in the crook of Katou’s arm. He seemed to have found a position that wasn’t hurting my lover, so I didn’t try to take him away. I only watched, feeling unbelievably happy, as Katou talked to his nephew. Sawa came over and touched my arm. “How are you, Iwaki-san?” he asked, studying my face. He understood that the acute relief that I was feeling was in its own way as overwhelming as the grief and despair had been before.
“I’m fine,” I replied, meaning it. The shakes would subside, and right now I was feeling so blissful that it didn’t matter anyway. He smiled as he looked at my face. Then he sobered. “Have you told him about…the cause of his accident, yet?” he asked me softly.
I shook my head. “I only said that the brakes had failed on his car, not why,” I told him. “I want to give him more time to recover before I tell him. There are guards outside his door to protect him, and it would only upset him to learn that I have a stalker. I don’t want him getting worked up right now.”
“That makes sense,” he agreed. He looked at the bed, where Youko was sitting on a chair at one side, chattering away at her brother just like her son was. Instead of being overwhelmed, Katou was merely listening and replying when he felt like it. She had called her parents to tell them the good news, and they were ecstatic. Now that Katou was awake, I supposed that I’d have to hold a press conference. I sighed; I wasn’t looking forward to that. But I did want to reassure his many fans that he was going to be all right. They deserved to know that.
Later, everyone had left the room but me. It was after visiting hours, and I knew I needed to go. Besides, Katou was getting tired again. His eyelids were flickering as he fought off sleep. But I hovered over the bed, not wanting to leave. I was afraid that if I did, he’d fall back into a coma or something. He chuckled tiredly. “I’ll be fine, Iwaki-san” he said. “You should go get some dinner and also some sleep. You look tired.”
I had to smile involuntarily, in spite of my baseless fears. That was Katou – he was the one in the hospital bed, but he was still trying to take care of me. “Go” he said firmly. “And I’ll see you in the morning. I’m not going anywhere, Iwaki-san.” He added wryly.
I hesitated for a moment longer, then bent over and kissed his cheek. “All right,” I said reluctantly. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Katou.”
I started to leave, but his voice stopped me at the door. “Iwaki-san,” he said, I turned to look at him.
He looked like a tired little boy as he smiled sweetly at me. “Aishteru, Iwaki-san. Never forget that.”
I felt tears prickling at the backs of my eyes. “And I love you, Katou,” I replied. “Always.”
I slept deeply and peacefully that night in my hotel room. My only dreams were good ones, in which Katou and I were doing simple things like eating dinner or watching t.v. I awoke on the morning feeling refreshed and rested, sitting up with a yawn as I ran a hand through my hair. I jumped out of bed and went into the bathroom to take a shower and shave. I knew I’d have to set up that press conference for today, as the reporters wouldn’t be put off much longer. So I wanted to look as put together and neat as possible. And of course, I could admit to myself that I wanted to look good for Katou when I saw him today. I was practically humming as I carefully shaved in front of the mirror. I remembered how Katou had snuck up on me once, just after he’d first moved into my apartment, and had put his arms around me affectionately. He’d made me jump in surprise, and I’d given myself a deep cut. I smiled at myself at this memory, seeing how bright my eyes were in the mirror.
I dressed in a nice suit, the only one I’d brought with me. There was a knock at the door, and I went to answer it. The policemen on guard wouldn’t let anyone unknown near my door, so I knew it was safe. Sawa and Yukihito were standing outside, ready to go out to breakfast with me before we went to the hospital. “Good morning, Iwaki-san!” the author called as his cousin smiled silently at me. “I’m starved. Are you ready to go to breakfast?”
I was. For the first time in almost a week, I had an appetite. I nodded, which made him look pleased. Everyone had been worried about me because I hadn’t been eating much. I knew it, but while Katou had been in the coma I just hadn’t been able to choke much down past the permanent knot in my throat. Right now, I could eat a horse - tail, hooves and all. I closed the door of my hotel room behind me. “Youko-san will meet us at the car,” Sawa added. “She’s just getting little Yosuke ready to go.”
Youko had taken to driving us around in her car, to save us having to rent one. We walked toward the parking lot, the policemen trailing right behind me discreetly. I saw only one person around, a man with his hood up as he peered at the engine of his car. He glanced over at us as we made for Youko’s car, and then went back to his ruminations on his engine. I would have offered to help him, but I knew next to nothing about mechanical things. I climbed into the front passenger seat, while Sawa and Yukihito got in the back with the baby seat. The cops would follow us in their own car, keeping an eye on us. I buckled up my seat belt, seeing that the single other person in the parking lot had closed the hood of his car. He looked up briefly, and for a moment it seemed as though our eyes locked. But then he got into his car and drove away without a backward glance, so I shrugged off that odd moment. Most likely it had been my imagination anyway.