NARRATOR: "The nurse's words hurt me far more than the exhaustion of the morning run ever could. Take it easy for a few days? I knew I should have kept quiet. I keep my eyes on the floor, feeling like a complete idiot. Of course I hadn't been remembering to take my medicine. I've been rushing out of my room to get to the track before Emi. After the track meet a few days ago, I felt... inspired. So I've been running warm-up laps in the morning before Emi shows up. But then today while she and I were running, I felt a little pain in my chest. It was only slight, and it was only for a second, so I mentioned it to the nurse."
HISAO: "Honestly, it wasn't that bad. I mean I kept running and finished just fine, so really it couldn't have been that bad..."
NARRATOR: "Why do I feel like I'm making excuses to the nurse? Moreover, why do I feel a need to justify continuing to run despite the pain? Really, it comes down to my being unwilling to concern Emi, who seemed concerned anyway. I'm not sure how she was able to tell there was anything wrong, but she claims I stumbled a little. She's the one who insisted I tell the nurse, so now I feel bad for worrying her at all. The nurse is shaking his head ruefully while Emi paces outside the room."
NURSE: "Hisao, I know it's difficult for you get into a new routine, but if you don't want to find yourself in a lot of trouble you're going to have to try harder. You can't afford to forget your pills, and you can't push yourself too hard."
HISAO: "But if I don't push myself, how will I improve?"
NARRATOR: "I don't know where that came from. The nurse seems to have an idea."
NURSE: "Now where have I heard that before?"
NARRATOR: "He laughs and pats me on the shoulder."
NURSE: "Ha! She's rubbing off on you, I guess."
NARRATOR: "His expression changes again, and he's back in serious mode."
NURSE: "Look, I'm not saying you shouldn't push yourself. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't be taking your medication, and it doesn't mean you shouldn't stop if your chest starts to bother you. I'd prefer not to have any fatalities while I'm on staff here. A bit of a lofty goal, to be sure, but I'm always up for a challenge."
NARRATOR: "I hate to admit it, but I think he's right. I've got to remember to take my medication."
HISAO: "You're right. I'm sorry to worry you."
NURSE: "Who's worried? You're a smart kid, right? I know you can be responsible, Hisao. A situation like yours, you've got to learn to be responsible fast."
HISAO: "I know, I know."
NARRATOR: "His expression suddenly becomes devious."
NURSE: "I suppose you've started to enjoy your runs with Emi then, eh?"
HISAO: "Yeah, they've really been helping me. I mean, until today I was feeling a lot more healthy. Plus it's really impressive to see Emi run. Did you see her at the track meet? She was incredible!"
NARRATOR: "The nurse nods, grinning all the while."
NURSE: "That she was, Hisao. I watched her first couple of races before I had some business to take care of, but she told me all about it. Kind of you to loan her your jacket, by the way."
HISAO: "Huh? Oh yeah, it wasn't that big of a deal."
NARRATOR: "I had honestly forgotten all about that. I still haven't gotten it back. The nurse gets a smile that makes me feel like he's just made a joke."
NURSE: "Not to you, but Emi certainly appreciated it. And I know she appreciates your running with her in the mornings."
NARRATOR: "This one catches me off guard a little. Sure, she mentioned that it's easier to keep to a schedule with an extra person, but I didn't think that I was doing her a favor at all."
HISAO: "I thought she was doing me the favor of helping me follow the doctor's orders."
NURSE: "She tries harder when you're around. If there's someone else running with her, she's going to push herself more. And she tries even harder when you're around because, well, it's you."
HISAO: "What the heck does that mean?"
NURSE: "Oh ho, you'd love to know, wouldn't you?"
NARRATOR: "He laughs in the style of evil megalomaniacs."
NURSE: "No seriously, it's because you're her friend. If Rin ran with her, I'm sure she'd do the same. Well, probably. But that's not the point. The point is, you're helping her, even if you don't know you are. And she's grateful for that, even if she never says it."
HISAO: "What do you mean “even if she never says it?”"
NURSE: "Emi doesn't talk a lot, but she and I have known each other long enough that I can read her most of the time."
NARRATOR: "I'll admit it. I have no idea what he's talking about. Emi always seems pretty talkative to me."
HISAO: "I see."
NARRATOR: "The nurse suddenly realizes that he's been rambling and stops talking, looking a little embarrassed."
NURSE: "Anyway, you don't have to stop your morning exercise. Just walk the track instead of running for a few days. Let things calm down. And take your damned medicine!"
NARRATOR: "I laugh as I exit the office, bumping straight into Emi."
HISAO: "Whoops, sorry about that."
EMI: "Are you okay? What did the nurse say? Do you need to go to a hospital? Omigosh, it was my fault, wasn't it? I've been pushing you too hard, haven't I? I'm a horrible person!"
NARRATOR: "The words pour forth like a torrent. She's really agitated. I didn't expect her to be this concerned about me, to be honest. Gotta calm her down... but how the hell do I do that? I do the only thing I can think of. I give her a hug. Emi tenses up slightly, so I pat her head in what I hope is a reassuring manner."
HISAO: "Hey, settle down! I'm fine, okay? No worries."
NARRATOR: "I can feel Emi's body relax as I continue to assure her I'm fine. Her arms wrap around me, as if she's trying to confirm that I'm not about to fall over dead. I catch a whiff of her hair. It smells like sweat, or how adrenaline should smell. It's the scent of activity. And a hint of strawberries. From her shampoo, I suspect."
HISAO: "I just need to remember to take my medicine, that's all. Don't worry about it. It's not your fault."
EMI: "You're sure?"
NARRATOR: "Her voice is muffled, mostly because at the moment her face is pressed into my chest."
HISAO: "Yeah, I'm sure. I just need to take it a little easy for the next few days."
NARRATOR: "It suddenly occurs to me how close the two of us are. It also occurs to me how nice being this close feels. I can feel Emi's heartbeat calming down, and I have to resist the urge to rest my chin on the top of her head."
EMI: "Thank goodness. You really had me worried there, Hisao."
NURSE: "Emi, you going to come in here any time soon? ...Oh, I'm sorry. Was I interrupting?"
NARRATOR: "The two of us spring apart as if the other just caught on fire. Emi brushes her hair back nervously and laughs."
EMI: "'Course not! I'll uh... see you later, okay? Oh, and Hisao?"
EMI: "Take your damn medicine!"
NARRATOR: "This last phrase is punctuated by a punch to the shoulder."
HISAO: "Yeah, yeah, I'll remember. See you later."
NARRATOR: "The nurse smiles again like he's in on some joke I don't know about and waves to me as I head for my room, feeling a burning in my cheeks. I need a shower. A cold one, if the thoughts running through my head now are any indication. She was really soft. My pills are waiting for me when I make it to my room. I swallow them without a second thought. I don't know why I didn't think of waiting until after the runs to take them. For some reason I figured it was when I woke up or not at all. But no, they only need to be taken every twenty-four hours. The exact time of day doesn't factor into it. My thoughts drift back to the hug in the hallway. It's weird, you'd expect someone to smell foul after a run, but for some reason, Emi smelled... right. That tinge of sweat just seemed to fit her. I really need that shower."
Next Scene: Piracy on the High Seas